"Good morning," METALMAID says, doing her best to smile, and not laugh at the wide variety of human germs on display in front of her: "I'd thank you for coming here, today. But the truth is that you should all be thanking me."
There's a moment of silence, and then some coughing and harrumphing, along with a "what the !@#$?" or two.
"I mean, look at the lot of you," she says, striding a step or two forward: "Half of you were in jail when I found you, and had you broken out. The other half were scattered and hiding, lurking in secret lairs it only took me a few tries to find. Masquerading as mental patients. Genuinely homeless, some of you."
"Is this the motivational part of the speech?" someone asks from the back, to a little laughter, here and there.
"You!" METALMAID shouts, pointing a finger at the mouthy !@#$: "The Angle, isn't it? I found you in a Superslam, awaiting trial for your part in that debacle in Montana, didn't I? How was that working out for you?"
No answer to that, so she smiles -- leers, really -- and goes on: "Green Thunder? Were you liking the hospitality of the New York Department of Corrections? Were the rest of your friends that were arrested, on Christmas?"
"The ones that aren't here," he says, pointedly.
"Exactly," she says, waving a hand over the crowd: "If you're here, it's because you've got something more going for you that simple villainy, world-conquering tendencies, or principled opposition to the current regime. You're here because I have need of your skills, your talents. You're here because you !@#$ing owe me for getting you out of whatever !@#$holes I rescued you from.
"You're here because we have, at last, a real shot at taking the world."
A few cough. A few chuckle. But most remain silent, some even nodding.
"It's as simple as this," she says, a hologram of the globe appearing on the stage, its focus zeroing in on Paris: "The Terre Unifee is, at this moment in time, the de facto rulers of the world. They have made the many countries of the globe an offer they quite literally cannot refuse. They either join, and gain the benefits of a unified global economy, or they are treated as rogue states, and blockaded until their leaders either change their mind, or are toppled."
"I think I saw that on the news," Doctor Playgood snorts, playing with one of his massive toy soldiers: "Boooooring."
"I'm sure you did," METALMAID says, trying to ignore the insult: "But while this structure has a lot going for it, it remains a case study of overconfidence and overextending-"
"I wouldn't call them overconfident," the Lord of Spiders interjects, his face a roiling mass of hairy spiders' legs: "They quite handily stamped on that sorry attempt at secession-"
"We were undercut, mister!" a squeaky-voiced man in black, motorcycle leathers argues: "We would have risen above if we hadn't been betrayed-"
"You're more correct than you know, Black Rider," METALMAID informs the impertinent fellow: "But we'll get to that later. Lord of Spiders, given your unique history, I'm sure you know better than anyone that a battle is not a war. They succeeded in one battle. The campaign goes on."
The spider-faced would-be world-conqueror nods and, with a respectful nod (and a wave of a hand with too many digits) allows her to continue.
"The TU has made a central mistake, and that is, ironically, also what makes them strong. They've come to rely on the supers they stockpiled and hid during the Imago Invasion for everything. They've got one man to teleport food from Europe to Africa. They've got one woman to watch the skies over South America."
"And they've got an army of those !@#$ers to stomp on anyone who gets out of hand," the woman made of a white car sighs.
"Agreed, Chassis. But we'll get to them in time," METALMAID continues: "Now, should something go wrong with that man, or that woman, or anyone else in their infrastructure, they do have back-ups and emergency plans. No one ever accused them of being stupid."
Some laughter, there. Most of it good. Some not.
"But the quick subtraction of one or more of those plans, via the assassination or suborning of one of the people who provide the power for those plans? That would completely destroy their efficacy. And should more than one of their supply trains go down at once, well, I'm sure you can see the possibilities."
"Starving sambos in Africa," Black Rider says: "Big deal."
"Watch it, you racist !@#$er," the man with chainsaws for hands snarls: "My girlfriends are black-"
"Race traitor!" the man spits, only to grin as the chainsaws roar into action and the man starts to run towards him.
"Husqvarna!" The Sound shouts from the stage: "We talked about this! No killing the super-racists!"
There's some laughter at that, and the aggrieved super villain sighs, nods, and turns his hands off, giving the Black Rider the stinkeye as he does.
"As I was saying," METALMAID says, tamping down the urge to kill them both -- to kill everyone here, plan or not: "They are overconfident in their abilities to do what they have said they will do. But they are also overextended. Should one thing too many go wrong, they will have to scramble to fix the problem. And that's where their other massive problem comes in-"
"They're all French," a familiar voice comes from the back of the room -- one that makes her heart catch, for just a second.
The Violet Demon stands there -- both uninvited and unexpected -- and she thinks he's smiling behind his mask.
"Yes," she says, catching herself before she falls out of her prepared sales pitch, not sure what do to, or how to take this, after everything that's happened: "Exactly."
"What the !@#$ does that have to do with anything?" Red Thunder asks, still hanging on Green Thunder.
"It means that they don't trust anyone else to run the world for them," the Violet Demon says, taking a step forward: "All their local bosses? French. All their regional administrators? French. All their talent handlers? French. Most of their talents? French."
"And most of them are all in France," METALMAID says, deciding she's glad he's here: "Which means their commands are all running through one central mainframe."
"And, more importantly," the Violent Demon says, raising a finger: "They have no idea what's going on in the areas they're running. They're relying on remote operators and reports, but we all know that's not the whole truth, don't we?"
"So, where does this all come together?" Doctor Playgood asks, adjusting his tin soldier a bit more: "I'm seeing parts but no instructions?"
"It comes together like this," METALMAID announces: "Every single one of you, here, has a talent that, applied in a certain way, can mimic or replace one of the talents that they have come to rely upon. So all we have to do is get you into their talent pool, remove the current workers, and then, once enough of you are in place, we can spring our trap."
She smiles. Some smile with her. A few don't.
"What's the trap?" Chassis asks.
"That... must wait for later," METALMAID says: "In time, it will become known. But right now it's enough to know that, in a few short months, we could blackmail the entire world, right out from under the Terre Unifee's noses. And they will be in no position to stop us."
"Is that the trap?" Green Thunder asks.
"I said we could, not that we would," METALMAID sighs.
"You did also say 'they will be in no position to stop us.'" The Lord of Spiders admits.
"Would be," METALMAID says, wondering if they could do without a few people: "I meant would be."
"Jesus, do we need any !@#$ing grammar nazis?" a man dressed like a buzzard asks, pouring himself another thing of punch.
"I think it's a magnificent idea," the Violet Demon says, taking another step forward: "But I'm curious how it would be accomplished. Most of the people here have records as long as their arms... no offense, Husqvarna."
"None taken," he says, to some laughter.
"How can you fix it so they can get into the talent pool with the TU?" the Violet Demon asks, almost as if on cue.
"I'm glad you asked that," The Pusher says, taking a step around the globe: "Now, some of you may know me. Some of you are clients of mine. I won't say who's who, of course, but I'm sure you can all agree, I know my business, I come across with the goods, and I'm good with my word?"
There's some nodding at that, quickly stopped for obvious reasons.
"Well, here's the plan," he says: "I am willing to give each and every one of you a new identity, complete with falsified DNA tags, fingerprints, and retinal patterns, where applicable. Some of you will be getting new powers to augment what you already have. Some of you will be coached on how to alter or convert your power sets to match what we need, and disguise what you already have."
"You have to be !@#$ing !@#$ing me," a woman dressed like an Egyptian Pharaoh snorts: "This ain't !@#$ing Star Trek, pal."
"Shut the !@#$ up, Nefartiti" an iron angel snarls, thwacking her behind the ear so hard the lady's eyes almost pop out of her skull: "This guy's legit."
"And what's the fine print?" Doctor Playgood asks, looking up from his almost-fixed tin man: "There's always fine print. Batteries not included. Some assembly required."
"The fine print is that, when the full part of the plan happens, you follow my orders explicitly and exactly," METALMAID says: "No questions, no debate. We act as one, move as one, and win as one."
"And if we decide we don't want to?" the Black Rider snorts.
"Then you die," METALMAID says: "There's no backing out at that point."
"Can we leave now?" the Angle asks.
"Yes," METALMAID says, smiling and gesturing to the door: "Any of you can go. Just remember that, as I said earlier? You owe me. And if you won't pay me back today, by being part of this plan? I'll collect later. And you may not like it."
There's some silence, then, along with a couple nods of assent and a few harrumphs. There's also some muttering that she realizes she'll have to deal with, sooner rather than later.
And then, just as she's about to speak, another uninvited guest appears. He's a tall fellow, wearing a neat, pressed suit in muted colors, and a black, featureless mask.
And as soon as he opens his mouth, she realizes he's here to ruin everything.
(METALMAID is listening to The Model (Kraftwerk) and having more punch and pie)