A Better Class of Villain

[WP] You are a villain, but you have standards: when lesser villains try to hurt your arch-nemesis’ wife and kids, you show them why you are the biggest fish in town.

“Karl,” he calls, bursting through the door, onto the rooftop.

Karl stands at the edge of the roof with his arms crossed. He turns back casually and nods. “Stan, so good of you to join us.” Karl gestures to a corner of the roof. “Your family is just there and are otherwise unharmed.

Stan rushes over to embrace a scared wife and two young daughters. They are sobbing and eagerly welcome Stan’s open arms. “It’s alright,” Stan insists. “The way is clear. Get our girls back inside and head back down to the lobby. I’ll be there soon.” His wife nods and Stan leans in to kiss her on the forehead, then brushes the cheek of his girls. The two of them hug against their mom’s leg, concerned only about their mother being upset. “Go,” Stan says with a head gesture and they’re off. Stan closes the door behind them, then bows his head as he places his hand against the door.

Stan turns to see Karl still standing in the same place, looking over the building’s ledge. “Are you a fan of calisthenics Stan?” Karl asks without looking back. “I dare say, I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I hadn’t enjoyed them so.”

“What’s this about Karl? Why get involved like that?”

Karl grits his teeth but still doesn’t look back. “Lazy is what it is Stan. No one wants to work for anything anymore. Everyone’s after a handout. It sickens me.” Karl then gestures towards the street with his forehead. “This city deserves better, and I won’t tolerate cowardice. You and I work too hard for our ideals to have them trampled on by those vision-less worms. Let them flounder around in the dark, I say. Whenever they break through the surface in the rain or in the night, we step on them, driving them back where they belong…or sometimes, we drag them out and let them wither in the sun. It really doesn’t matter as long as everyone is in their proper place.”

Stan shakes his head as he approaches Karl wearily. “What are we talking about here Karl? You seem a little…off your normal.”

Karl finally turns to face Stan. “Oh Stan. I’m sorry about that. I suppose I’m just not in the mood for our usual lighthearted banter.” He pauses. “Circumstances have me in a bit of a foul mood.” He looks at Stan appraisingly. “I’ve always appreciated you, Stan. You should know that. You work hard for your ideals, and I see that, I really do…it’s why you are my one true rival. But,” he raises a finger, “I am a fierce competitor, and I don’t like underhanded tricks.”

Stan finally sees beyond Karl, to his powers in play. Tethers have materialized from portals in the air and strands run down the face of the building. “What have you done Karl?”
Karl shrugs. “I restored order. Nothing more.”

Stan rushes past Karl and looks over the building’s ledge. Two men are restrained at the end of the tethers. They are six stories above the ground and swung together, like two pendulums poised to swing away from each other. The only thing keeping them from doing that just that is the death grip that they have on one another. Stan’s eyes them move away from them and sees another two other portals in the trajectory of their swing…a wall of spikes for each of them.

“The only thing they can rely on now is one another and their calisthenic aptitude is about to communicate each’s worth. That sort of muscle failure has a unique way of putting your strength in perspective because once it’s gone, you can know its limit.” Karl turns to walk back towards the door. “It won’t be long now, Stan.”

Stan grips the ledge of the building, helpless as the two men cry and plead for anyone listening. Their grip on one another begins to fail and they start to hyperventilate. Suddenly, they fall away, then stop abruptly as they slam into the walls. Stan closes his eyes and looks away. He rises again and looks to Karl standing in the doorway. Karl nods and lets the door close behind him.