The stamp makes a satisfying kachunk as I bring it down on another loan application. Form 1087-B joins its brothers in the out pile. I grab one more from my inbox, giving the typed entries a cursory glance, letting my lizard-brain sort out any inconsistencies automatically. I stamp this one, too, and add it to the pile, grabbing another out of pure reflex. It's a rhythm I've built up over the years, moving paper from the inbox on the right to the outbox on the left.
My cubicle is dark, the only light from the window behind me and my neighbors' desk lamps. On either side I hear my coworkers, both named Steve, stamping their way through their own piles of forms.
There's a muffled boom. Something outside is wrong; the building vibrates in a way in which buildings should not vibrate. The double Steves get up and walk to the window, the smaller Steve holding a mug of coffee as he trails along behind.
"It's that creep with the power armor again," he notes, taking a sip. "Looks like he's trashing First National."
"Again?" Big Steve is holding a notepad with some figures on it. "He did that last week."
"At least it's not our lobby this time. I was going to head down and get another bagel."
Small Steve nods. "I expect Captain Reptile will be along any time now. Or maybe Cat-apult."
Big Steve nods.
I stand up and tell nobody in particular I need a bathroom break.
Captain Reptile has a job to do.
I take the back way out of the office. We mostly store boxes of signed and stamped paperwork here, all neatly labelled in sharpie on the side, sorted by date and department. It's a musty place and shadowy. The soft smell of slowly decaying paper and unused printer toner tickles the back of my throat.
I change as I jog, in more ways than one. I stow my work clothes in a dusty cabinet by the corner window, stripping down to the emerald spandex I wear beneath at all times. By the time I finish neatly folding my blouse and skirt, my body's covered in scales and ridges and I'm a hundred pounds heavier. I lay my high heels on top of the clothes, letting my clawed feet dig light gouges in the carpet, along with all the other gouges there—I use this exit a lot.
With one practiced motion, I'm out the window, barely even taking note of the fact that I'm fifteen stories up in the air. I stretch and the folds of skin beneath my arms flare out. I'm gliding down the street before I even realize it, operating solely on muscle memory.
First National. And I'm pretty sure I already know who's there.
Sirens. People panicking in all the predictable ways. There's a cloud of smoke billowing around the corner. Police are already blocking traffic. There's a mass of cars, buses, a few cabs, all honking merrily. But they also do that for road construction, traffic lights, jaywalkers and just for the hell of it. People are bastards here.
"It's Captain Reptile!" A tourist yells, pointing at me as I glide in for a landing. I pose for his benefit. Most of the people around me continue on their way—it's lunch hour and corporate time waits for no man. Or scaley woman.
From here, I can see the tall glass frontage of First National. It does indeed have a big hole in it and, yes, by all indicators, it's General Disaster again. I'm not quite sure why he does what he does. Every week, it's the same. Kidnapping some minor public figure. Threatening to destroy a local landmark. Knocking over a bank. Frankly, it's not the destruction that gets to me. It's the sheer routine of it. Having an archnemesis is four parts tedium, one part stress.
I leap, bounding across the street nearly instantly. A construction worker, glumly eyeing the hole in the front of the building, waves half-heartedly at me. The shattered glass on the lobby floor crunches as I land. The lobby is a mess—cowering bank tellers, broken gypsum ceiling tiles, bits of wood and broken lights. The air is thick with shredded paper and dust.
General Disaster is giving his usual speech, which I don't bother listening to. He blasts at me a few times, which I dodge out of reflex, taking care to draw his aim away from bystanders. His armor, a dull olive drab, designed to look like some high level military official's uniform--complete with scrambled eggs on the shoulder plates--is covered with powder from the ceiling tiles.
He's tall, perhaps ten feet in that get-up. He lumbers across the room, scattering a group of teenagers out of the way, grabs a section of granite counter, rips it free and swings it at me, with a wide overhead stroke I see coming from a mile off.
I roll forward to avoid it, slide between his legs and pause a bit, watching the slab of rock smash into the floor. Good, he didn't hit anybody this time. As usual, his recovery is slow so I take a moment to study his suit's design. Looks like it's the same as last week.
Deftly, as if I'm stamping a pile of forms, I reach up and unlatch it. There's a hiss, a series of beeps and the chest plate of his suit slides open. The Major falls out, landing face down. With a series of practiced motions, I cuff him. This is getting really old.
The police are already here. They know the drill.
The branch manager, a gelatinous egg of a man, walks out from back.
"This is the fourth time this year. Can't you guys do something about this asshole?"
The police and I share a glance.
"He keeps escaping."
The General comes to. He's short and has a buzzcut. He looks Swedish, but I know he's actually from Bulgaria, a naturalized immigrant. I think I even met his wife once.
"That's right. I'll be back. I'll escape like I've always escaped. I'm the thorn in your side, the bat in your—"
He goes on for a while. It's the usual speech. The cops and I share notes. I suggest they try Cell Block B this time, knowing he'll probably be out again soon. The one in charge, Brenda, has gray hair and the petrified look of someone who's been doing their job way too long. She flips her notebook shut, nods and takes the Major away.
I shrug at the branch manager, who has the resigned look of an ant who's had his hill smashed flat by a jogger.
I amble off. Now that the fight's over, people begin to return to their routine. I stop to pose with the tourist. I look up and try to find my office out of the mass of windows crowding the buildings above me. I can't find it without counting up from street level.
I try to think how many times I've fought this guy and I come up blank. Twenty, maybe. That's the thing about being a superhero. You can't take a break because something's always breaking. You always have to respond because crazy doesn't sleep.
Just because I'm stuck with this job doesn't mean I have to take it seriously.
Maybe it's time to shake things up. Change my costume.
Bunny ears, perhaps.