“So I'm thinking some sort of heavy drops over the doors… or maybe sliding in from the sides, that would work better for the front garage doors,” Shego said, tapping at a rough diagram of the first floor.
“But you're talking major renovations here, Shego,” Ron said with a sigh. “I mean, I got pretty good at fixing up house-type stuff and Yori's not bad at it either with her gadgets, but you're talking heavy machinery and all that. There's no way we're gonna be able to do that on our own.”
Shego frowned, absently rubbing the eraser of her pencil against one fang. “You're right. But this place needs to be fortified, and a burglar alarm kit from the local Smarty Mart isn't gonna cut it.”
“Perhaps we should consider whether we want it to be defensible or if we should concentrate on being made aware when someone is trying to or has forced their way in,” Yori put forth.
“Mm.” Shego frowned, then looked over to the side. “Whatta you think, Princess?”
Kim rubbed the side of her neck with one hand. “Gimme a minute, I'm thinking that one over.”
Shego nodded, looking over the diagram again, then idly sketching something in one corner.
“Ooo, hey, it's a snake!” Ron commented.
“That's Rufus,” Shego replied, eyeing him dispassionately.
“Ohhh. Oh right.”
“I think, if we're honest with ourselves, it's not really a question of if our hideout will ever be found, it's more a question of when,” Kim said after a few minutes’ consideration. “Even if it's not for a long time, maybe years, someday someone's going to find out where we are and come knocking. I think it's better if we prepare for that right up front instead of thinking we have time to deal with it later.”
“Right. So we fortify and put in defenses. Which comes back to Ron's very good question of how the four of us are supposed to install the kind of defenses we need by ourselves.”
“Hey!” Rufus chirped in protest.
Shego shrugged. “Hey, sorry buddy. You might be a help in designing some of this stuff, but when it comes to heavy lifting you and the cat aren't gonna be able to help much.”
Rufus sagged a bit, giving a resigned squeak.
Kim tapped a finger against one side of her mouth. “We don't know for sure that we can trust regular contractors not to blab, even unintentionally. What about the other side of things?”
“Jack Hench handles a lot of it. Lairco is a division of Henchco, they'll help design to any budget, supposedly. Drakken usually went with ‘off the rack’ sort of stuff that was cheap when he needed it.” Shego rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “It's supposed to be really discrete, since that's part of their business.”
“Still, maybe we ought to go through some sort of alias on this. Create some sort of… villain identity,” Kim said thoughtfully.
“We should be able to establish such an identity credibly,” Yori agreed. “It is merely a case of deciding what that identity would be.”
“I have a great idea!” Ron exclaimed.
“No ‘Sheila, Queen of the Cat People’,” Kim replied flatly.
“I have absolutely no ideas!”
“Besides, that would be just a tad ironic, donchathink?” Shego added dryly, winking one slit-pupiled eye at the blond.
“Oh yeaaaah. … Hey, that's kinda weird, really.”
Kim let her mind wander over possibilities. She was operating outside the law, and there was no reason not to take advantage of that when it wasn't actually hurting anyone else. (Well, maybe in some fiddly little way if you sat there and tried to think of ways to feel bad about it.) So it was more a case of coming up with a good alias. One that would be fairly easy to put into effect, that they could establish some amount of background for, and that would be believable in person.
She leaned back in the chair, patting her upper arm with one hand. What made a supervillain rather than just a villain? Exaggerated traits and a catchy name, usually. You took whatever look you were going for or that drove you and you went all the way with it. So she needed some sort of gimmick…?
No. Ron's comic books provided that answer. If you didn't have a specific gimmick as a female villain, you went with the one that every female had… at least in comics. (And, she had to admit, at least in this room.) Sex appeal. Which wasn't a bad idea anyway… Hench was a man, and while she didn't have any delusions of him sitting there with his tongue lolling out agreeing to do the whole thing for free, a bit of sexiness did tend to distract most males at least a little bit.
How best to do it, though? Just trotting into the room in color-coded bikinis wasn't a disguise, it was just arrogance. … Chilly arrogance. No, they needed a real gimmick. Something appropriate to their general age group, with plenty of sex appeal and just a bit of cheesiness.
Kim's wandering gaze alit on Shego's little stacks of body paint canisters sitting atop a table. She looked up and down the labels indicating shades, then started grinning.
“Hey, Yori, how's your play-acting?” she asked, glancing at the other girl.
“I am actually fairly skilled at…” Yori trailed off, then sighed and hung her head. “I am going to be the ‘eye candy’ again, aren't I?”
“Yeah, but you're not going to be the only one, if it makes you feel any better.”
Jack Hench settled into his chair and sipped at his coffee, trying not to sigh. Being in the business he was meant catering to a lot of eccentric people, and he was so successful specifically because he catered to them. He'd planned his entire business model around allowing the villains he catered to to feel as dramatic, cool, and powerful as they thought they were. He'd even designed his office around it… the entry had a long, unadorned hallway for clients to walk, stride, storm, swagger, or roll down. From the most garishly-costumed theme villain to the business-suited white collar villain, none of them ever failed to do so, either.
His tendency to indulge his clientele even went so far as to keeping very “flexible” hours, such as meeting his newest client in the middle of the night. Still, he thought as the doors swung open and said newest client and her “escorts” began striding down the hallway, occasionally there were some perks to his policies.
Mistress Night had long, wavy platinum blonde hair that contrasted with all the black leather she was wearing. Up top was a sleek leather jacket worn over some kind of corset-like thing that left a swath of skin showing between the crossed laces up the front, and pushed her breasts up and shaped them, though not as eye-popping as an actual corset would have done. Her long, shiny skirt moved with her strides, much like the long coat of the one on her left. The overabundance of black made her pale skin almost glow, making her look vaguely like she was made out of unpainted china.
“Ah, Mistress Night!” Jack greeted cheerfully, using his carefully-groomed salesman tone. “Welcome to Henchco!”
“Thank you,” Mistress Night purred as she settled into the chair in front of his desk, yellow eyes warm and almost inviting. She smiled, flashing a hint of a fang on one side. “Allow me to introduce you to my moonlit beauties, Lady Starlight…”
The Asian woman on Mistress Night's left bowed slightly. She too was pale, and wearing a high-collared, long-sleeved cheongsam that came down to her knees, with high slits up the sides; it was black silk, embroidered with gold dragons, cloth and embroidery alike glimmering faintly. Her hair was slicked back, eyes covered by a slim pair of black sunglasses.
“… and Deathstrike,” Mistress Night continued, tilting her head to the other side.
The dour-looking woman didn't so much as incline her head. She was almost flat white, as if she hadn't seen the sun in well over a year. Her clothes were masculine (though “butch” might have been the better word, considering), a long black leather coat fastened up the front and black slacks, with flat black boots on her feet. Her long braid and the sunglasses at night seemed to be the only true adherents to the fashion of the others that she had. Otherwise, everything about her, from the way she stood with her hands clasped lightly in front of her and feet somewhat apart, said “professional”.
“Always a pleasure to welcome new and exciting clientele to Henchco!” Jack said easily. Alright, “exciting” wasn't an adjective he usually used, but Mistress Night's neckline, or lack of one, was just a tad distracting, as was the way Lady Starlight's dress hugged against her slim curves. “I'm sure you'll be pleased to know we offer a wide variety of costuming options for our quality henchmen, so we can-”
“I'm sorry, Mr. Hench,” Mistress Night interrupted, voice still as smooth as liquid chocolate. “I hate to interrupt you, but I'm afraid your secretary must have misunderstood our request.”
“Oh?” Jack blinked.
“Yes. Not just anyone is fit to join the divine society that makes the midnight hours their home.”
‘I think I read this in a bad novel once,’ Jack thought, keeping his polite face on. These girls were hot, but just as cheesy as any of the other villains he dealt with.
“We actually contacted you in regards to your services in upgrading housing for people such as ourselves…?”
“Ah, yes, Lairco! I -am- sorry about the mixup, we've just recently spun it off completely from Henchco and there's a lot of procedural sorts of things that haven't filtered through the whole company yet. I'm sure you understand,” he added with an easy chuckle.
“But yes, I can certainly help you with that. Were you thinking of leasing or buying?”
“We actually already own a bit of property we were interested in improving. We were told that you provided such things… discretely?”
“Of course! Lairco is very serious about protecting your privacy. To assure you that none of your private information is made available to anyone, we use a very careful series of false identities, corporations, and double-blind messages to book various reliable contractors, so that no one individual is aware of the scope of what's going on.”
“Double-blind?” Mistress Night looked intrigued. “So even you would not have all of our information?”
“Certainly not! Though Lairco and Henchco are of course dedicated to providing you with reliable and trustworthy service, we understand the… reasonable paranoia many of our clients might have. Once the work is booked, we have the contractors contact -you-. We divide the work up to insure that any one contractor wouldn't have cause to think the job he was chosen for was particularly odd, and that there would thus be nothing to link them together and arouse suspicion.”
“I'm quite impressed, Mr. Hench. I definitely think we can work together.”
“Excellent! If you like, please leave your contact information and hours when you'll be available with my secretary, and we'll get back with you just as soon as possible.” Jack slid a standard contract out of his desk and spent a few moments marking down things and drawing X's, then turned it around. “This is the standard privacy and non-disclosure agreement, if you'd sign here, initial here, and date here?”
Mistress Night stood and leaned over to take the pen and sign. Jack tried not to let his eyes linger on her cleavage an inappropriate amount of time.
Settling into the middle seat of the limo, Kim pulled off her wig and tossed it on an empty part of the seat across from her. “That went well. Think he recognized me?”
“I don't think his eyes stayed on your face long enough to start picking up recognizable features,” Shego said dryly, sprawling a bit to one side of Kim.
“And at least my dress covered everything this time,” Yori commented, settling herself across from the other two. She paused, then opened her mouth a little, tonguing one of her fangs. “How d’ you talk wif theeth thingth?”
“It's not as bad as it seems when you're paying attention to them,” Shego said dryly. She leaned forward, pressing herself across Kim lightly. She took off her sunglasses and tossed them, grinning at the redhead wickedly. “And -you-, pumpkin, were a smoldering glass of vampire sensuality, you know that?”
Kim flashed her own fanged grin. “I think you just want me to nibble on -you- for a change.”
“Maybe… maybe…” Shego purred, ducking her head down and kissing Kim firmly, tongue darting in to take her own turn at sliding over the tips of fangs. Though not too rough… didn't want them to come off, after all.
Yori rolled her eyes and shook her head, hitting the button for the intercom. “No need to hurry back, Ron. I believe Kim and Shego are still indulging their stage personae somewhat.”
Kim dropped into her chair at the table, picking up some of the brochures. “This what Lairco sent?”
“Yeah, overnight too. Pretty efficient,” Ron commented, flicking through the Villainous Furniture catalogue. He paused, though, and glanced up. “… KP, are you still wearing those vampire fangs?”
“Hm?” Kim turned her eyes downward as if she'd actually be able to see her mouth, opening it and tonguing one of the ceramic tips. “Oh, yeah. Guess I forgot to take ‘em out,” she said breezily.
“Oh. Well, there's lots of stuff here. There's even a brochure about ‘The Evil Pet and You: Making Your Lair Your Animal's Lair’.”
“That would be good, I'd been wondering how we were gonna handle things with the jaguar.”
“Yeah, about that. The fifth floor's getting pretty messy.”
“… We'll draw straws for it later.”
“If you say so.”
Shego came padding in, yawning and heading for the coffee maker, still looking slightly damp from the shower. Ron glanced over at her, and noticed the faint little marks just above the collar of her t-shirt. He glanced back at Kim, who was still looking as innocent as could be while looking through security system brochures.
It took time, and for awhile Kim and Shego chafed under the inactivity of sitting around waiting for the work on their lair to be finished. It was usually Yori that pointed out that fighting crime in the midst of home renovations probably wasn't the smartest idea, and that they'd simply have to consider it preparation time.
The first floor was redone as a garage area complete with repair facilities, as Yori was fairly confident in her ability to not only service the van, but to eventually be able to further tweak it and any other vehicles they might acquire. Drop doors made of steel-reinforced concrete were installed, actually resting in areas of the second floor, and capable of dropping down into covered depressions in the floor, making it nearly impossible to get through them without completely destroying the drop door. One part of the floor was also walled off and turned into a laundry room. (There were vague promises of setting up a rotating schedule for the chore later.)
The second floor became their living quarters. The front office between the stairs and the main area became a storage area for clothing and basic loadouts of weaponry and gadgets, as well as having a gym-style shower cylinder installed so that they could get a quick rinse-off if necessary. The rest of the floor was redone as living area, keeping the original idea of being able to walk right in and flop on the bed. But all four of them got their own areas as well, on the principle that everybody needed some private time. A full kitchen was installed, along with a fairly large wine refrigerator. (Kim had vowed to get Shego hooked on the stuff as well, but so far wasn't having much luck.)
The third floor was redone in utter indulgence of Rufus and the jaguar. A system of plastic tubes that would have done any sci-fi starship proud was installed for Rufus, as well as a large multi-story habitat that stretched from floor to ceiling. Among other accoutrements put in for the big cat was an oversized sandbox that automatically swept itself out once a day, the sweepings pushed down a vent and directly into a dumpster at street level.
The fourth floor was turned into a training area. (There had been an extended argument over whether it belonged on the third floor closer to going to bed when exhausted, or the fourth floor where people who WERE trying to sleep wouldn't be interrupted by all the noise.) It was fairly extensive, combining many of the aspects of a full gym and a dojo, and was even capable of setting up some basic obstacle courses like the ones at Yamanouchi.
The fifth floor was left largely untouched for the moment. They put in some of the necessary equipment for Yori to use it as a workshop, and put in a few odds and ends like a projection TV and a pinball machine that Ron had discovered cheap online, but other than installing a launching mechanism for Rufus’ Ratjet, there simply wasn't a lot that they needed installed at the moment. (Though Kim had high hopes of one day putting a personal aircraft launchpad in. It seemed unfair that Rufus was the only one who got one.)
The whole thing was topped off with the best security system that Lairco had at its disposal. Though it incorporated many of the same things a standard system did, such as laser triggers and motion detectors, these were mostly for show and, most of the time, weren't even left on. The system mostly worked on a constant scan of various biometric readings from the registered occupants, from heartbeat to brainwaves. (Shego had to devote one entire day to coaxing the jaguar through the various exercises and tests required to register it on the system.) If the system wasn't set “Visitor Okay”, any intrusion by someone not registered on it would trigger the alarm in ten seconds, hopefully catching them off guard while they were still trying to evade the conventional alarm triggers.
The whole thing took only two months, and at the end Kim had to admit that Jack Hench really knew what he was doing. Most people couldn't get their kitchens renovated in two months, but in that time he'd allowed them to turn a fairly run-down warehouse into a fully-functional supervillain lair. Or in this case, a fugitive hero lair.
“So, now that we're finally ready to begin,” Shego said as she sat down at the table. “Where do we begin? We've got the roof over our head that we need, good first step. But now what?”
“We start small,” Kim said, finishing off her eggs and settling back in the chair. “I figure we begin with stopping street crime, and just begin working our way up from there. If we try to jump right back into the big stuff, we're just going to be throwing ourselves back into the same issues we had before we began all this, and I want us to work up to that.”
“Today Seattle, tomorrow the world?” Shego teased, grinning.
“Sounds good to me. How about you guys?”
“A wise decision,” Yori agreed. “Like a plant, we must grow slowly and carefully, lest we exhaust ourselves and wither.”
“What she said.” Ron nodded enthusiastically.
“Alright then. Tonight, we hit the streets and we do the hero thing.”
-End Part Fifteen