Zeroes

A check-cashing place. SLITHER-O, some sort of “man-snake” or another, waits impatiently at the counter.

THE VOICE: (voice-over) In a check-cashing place in a bad part of town, Slither-O, former king of the Viperian, an ancient reptilian-like species from caverns beneath the surface of the Earth, has been left waiting for almost twenty minutes.

EMPLOYEE returns with paperwork and such.

EMPLOYEE: I’m sorry for the wait, Mister… (double-checks) Slither-O?

SLITHER-O: Yeah-huh?

EMPLOYEE: So, I just spoke with my manager…

SLITHER-O: Here it comes.

EMPLOYEE: I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we won’t be able to help you cash your check today.

SLITHER-O: And why the Hell not?

EMPLOYEE: Well. You are a, uh…

SLITHER-O: A what?

EMPLOYEE: You know…

SLITHER-O: No. I don’t know. So, why don’t you tell me?”

EMPLOYEE: Because you’re–

SLITHER-O: A man-snake?

EMPLOYEE: –a supervillain.

A beat.

SLITHER-O: Oh.

EMPLOYEE: Anyway. Mr. Slither-O. Because of your, let’s say, history with our, and other – many, many other – financial institutions…

SLITHER-O: Financial institution? This is a check-cashing place in a stripmall.

EMPLOYEE: True. But you were the one who went around robbing us. And I do mean us – this location – specifically. On several occasions.

Slither-O throws the equivalent of his hands into the air.

SLITHER-O: That was years ago!

EMPLOYEE: Also true. But because of that very true history, you’re officially banned from this location.

SLITHER-O: You’ve gotta be shitting me.

EMPLOYEE: And all our sister locations.

SLITHER-O: This is ridiculous! I served my time!

EMPLOYEE: Also, the whole “man-snake” thing.

SLITHER-O: Wow.

EMPLOYEE: Do man-snakes even have a valid form of identification?

SLITHER-O: I gave you my driver license.

EMPLOYEE: Yes, but aren’t man-snakes from like, Mars, or something?

Slither-O writhes in pain and groans a loud, frustrated groan.

SLITHER-O: My family and I are from Arizona! (beat) Well, the caverns beneath Arizona.

CUSTOMER #1 interjects themselves into all this for no good reason at all.

CUSTOMER #1: Hey! You can’t call it that.

SLITHER-O: It?

CUSTOMER #1: Snakemen. Not “man-snakes.”

SLITHER-O: Can we go back to how you called me a fucking “It”?

Yet another voice (CUSTOMER #2) thinks it a good idea to open their damned mouth at the worst time possible.

CUSTOMER #2: Snake-people, Dear.

CUSTOMER #1: What’s that?

CUSTOMER #2: They prefer to be called “snake-people.”

SLITHER-O: No. We don’t.

CUSTOMER #1: (to CUSTOMER #2) Oh, right. (to SLITHER-O) Sorry. Snake-people.

Slither-O blinks at the smiling pair of oddly shaped people in front of him.

SLITHER-O: I should have incinerated you people years ago.

Employee gasps, clutches at non-existent pearls.

EMPLOYEE: Excuse me?!

CUSTOMER #1: Did he just threaten us?

CUSTOMER #2: I think so.

EMPLOYEE: Fascist.

SLITHER-O: What the Hell is happening? Are you hairless-apes serious right now?

The hairless apes gasp a collective hairless, ape-like gasp.

CUSTOMER #1: Racist.

EMPLOYEE: Robberies are one thing to overlook, Mr. Slither-O. But I will not tolerate racists in my financial institution!

Employee slaps a big, red button labeled SECURITY ALARM. A high-pitched, rather annoying alarm shrieks.

The hairless apes eye the equally hairless Person of Scale. Slither-O looks about for a wall to bash his skull against a wall until he no longer can.

SLITHER-O: What’s next? Is some “caped-crusader” asshole gonna show up and–

CRASH! GNAT-MAN enters, shatters a big fucking pot atop Slither-O’s skull.

GNAT-MAN: Pot today, Slither-O!

Slither-O howls in excruciating, confused pain.

GNAT-MAN: Everyone okay?

HAIRLESS APES: (together) Thank you, Gnatman!

GNAT-MAN: I heard the alarm from the parking lot. (beat) I mean… my gnat-sense was, uh… buzzing?

SLITHER-O: Did you seriously just hit me with a potted plant?

GNAT-MAN: Stay down, Slither-O.

SLITHER-O: I think I have a concussion.

Gnatman cackles like a damned maniac. 

GNAT-MAN: Good thing they have a wonderful doctor down at City Jail!

SLITHER-O: This is such bullshit.

GNAT-MAN: It’s true, Mr. Potty Mouth. They keep Dr. Magician on retainer.

SLITHER-O: (rolls eyes) Huzzah.

GNAT-MAN: Though, I think he’s technically a registered nurse…

SLITHER-O: I don’t care.

GNAT-MAN: Anyway. The police will be here any minute to deal with you.

Police sirens bleat, pull into the stripmall.

DETECTIVE-MAN, an unseemly anachronism wearing a trench coat in the middle of a pleasant summer afternoon, enters with several OFFICERS.

DETECTIVE-MAN: We’re here to deal with Slither-O, Gnatman.

GNAT-MAN: Detective-Man! Just in time!

SLITHER-O: Me? I was trying to cash my goddamn paycheck before The Craptacular Jack-ass here–

GNAT-MAN: Hey!

SLITHER-O: –conveniently shows up “out of nowhere” and assaults me!

DETECTIVE-MAN: Assault? You’re a supervillain.

Slithero stomps what he calls feet and screams.

SLITHER-O: Retired! I’ve been retired for like, five years!

DETECTIVE-MAN: Yeah, yeah.

Detective-Man cuffs whatever passes for Slither-O’s wrists.

You can blog all about it while we process you down at the station.

Detective-Man and Officers escort Slither-o out the door.

SLITHER-O: “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer, Gnatman!”

GNAT-MAN: (to EMPLOYEE) So, uh…

EMPLOYEE: Yeah?

GNAT-MAN: Slither-O did try to rob you, right?

A beat.

EMPLOYEE: Yes?

GNAT-MAN: (shrugs) Good enough for me.

The Heart of a Hero

The parking lot of some godforsaken shopping center. PETER stands there, looking at a car in which a COUPLE are currently engaged in a bit of medium petting.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Peter Protagonist, a thirty-something nobody, stood in the parking lot of some godforsaken shopping center in the sort of Californian city where people with far too much money buy overpriced things from people with far too little of either.

And by “stood,” we mean in the sense Peter intensely watched on as his girlfriend, Ann Plot-Device, had coffee with another man.

And by “had coffee,” we mean, of course, in the sense that they engaged in some form of sexual intercourse in the backseat of a twenty-year old, mostly primer-colored Honda Civic.

But then the sky opened, Hell followed, and the hideous car – and its preoccupied occupants – were instantaneously vaporized as someone falling from said Hellhole in the Sky subsequently landed on – and, I suppose, through – all of this.

A HELL HOLE IN THE SKY opens. Someone falls out of this, onto and through the car. There’s a bit of fire, a sort of explosion. Peter is shock-waved several yards through the air. All fantastically gratuitous, we’re sure.

A crowd of LOOKIE-LOOS gather around and tend to the poor, helpless smoldering hole in the ground.

LOOKIE-LOO #1: Are you okay?

LOOKIE-LOO #2: I think they’re moving.

LOOKIE-LOO #3: Someone survived that?

LOOKIE-LOO #4: Is anyone getting a signal?

Peter drags himself bleeding and internally bleeding to the smoldering hole, sees what all this not-calling-me-an-ambulance business was all about.

REVEAL: a CLOWN in the bloodied, tattered remains of some kind of fancy Halloween costume, wriggling about and crying.

CLOWN: They’re coming! They’re coming! Good God, someone get me out of here, they’re coming!

PETER: Who? Who’s coming?

Clown points a broken, mushy stub to the sky.

CLOWN: Them!

REVEAL: an ALIEN ARMADA more or less gathers on this side of the Hellhole in the Sky.

LOOKIE-LOO #4: Alien invaders!

LOOKIE-LOO #3: They’re going to kill us all!

LOOKIE-LOO #2: It’s the end of the world!

LOOKIE-LOO #1: Everyone duck and cover!

CLOWN: (pained dying noises)

PETER: Sorry. What was that?

CLOWN: I said, the Libertitans aren’t here to kill you.

PETER: Then why are they here?

CLOWN: To conquer you… to steal your world, strip mine it… and enslave your people in soul-crushing, backbreaking low-paying jobs as they profit and feed off your perpetual misery and labor.

Peter blinks at this.

PETER: Uh-huh.

CLOWN: I think I’m a bit too far gone now…

Clown coughs, spits blood and viscera.

Only you can stop them now.

Clown opens their chest cavity with far too much ease, revealing a beautiful GEMSTONE where their heart should be.

PETER: Ew.

Clown coughs, spits again. 

CLOWN: My name is Heckles… I was just a party clown from Anaheim. Until I got this.

PETER: What is it?

CLOWN: A piece of the Black Star.

Peter blinks at this as well.

PETER: Okay.

CLOWN: When you take this, it will grant you power beyond imagination.

PETER: But?

CLOWN: But what?

PETER: What’s the catch, the gimmick?

CLOWN: (sighs) The Black Star will replace your heart and consume your life force until you either die in battle… or you burn out like a battery.

PETER: Why would I ever agree to something so ridiculous?

CLOWN: Because this is your chance to become a hero and save the world!

PETER: Yeah, but I don’t see an upside for me.

CLOWN: Are you shitting me? There’s an alien armada directly above us, and all you can think about is how this situation can benefit you personally?

PETER: Now. See? That’s not fair. You’re the one that came crashing down atop my cheating girlfriend and wrecked my car. And now here you are, a literal clown in some spandex getup…

CLOWN: Supersuit.

PETER: Thank you. A literal clown in some spandex supersuit insisting I give up any semblance of autonomy for the sake of saving a world that has proven time and again to not give a super-shit about me, themselves, or much of anything else, really, even when repeatedly faced with one self-inflicted global crisis after the other. Quite frankly, we could use a change in management around here.

CLOWN: Bit cynical, don’t you think?

PETER: Maybe. But we’re not only talking about choosing between one form of lifelong, cosmic indentured servitude over the other. We’re talking about unfair expectations of selfless self-sacrifice from others when, really, you’re coercing someone to act on pure emotion – in this case, fear – without all the facts.

CLOWN: That’s fair.

PETER: And even worse, you’re handing over the equivalent of a doomsday weapon to a random stranger on the street. Do you go around handing out guns and bombs at the local park on weekends? What makes you think I’m not only emotionally mature enough to wield such power without proper training, but to also do so without any selfish inclination to use such a weapon to force my own will on others?

CLOWN: I… I didn’t think about that.

PETER: Of course not. You didn’t think about this at all, did you? I suppose you’ve been gallivanting all about the multiverse, having one detached adventure after the next, oblivious of any consequences for swooping in and utterly upsetting the natural order of any particular corner of reality, and then being so utterly incompetent as to ensure that your troubles followed you home, where we are incapable – militarily, psychologically – of comprehending such threats, let alone actually fighting with such things.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) But before the clown in the Halloween spandex supersuit could fully process the fault in his logic and the string of mistakes that brought him here – in fact, just a few short miles away from where he had wasted much of his previous life on hard drugs, cheap liquor, and one open mic and dating app after the other – the alien armada unleashed their veggie-ray across the globe. And as the collective consciousness of humanity was locally deleted, but backed up to a server somewhere on the other side of the galaxy, Peter took solace in the fact that, at the very end, his and everyone else’s life was a complete waste of time.

Orientation

The foyer of a super-secret, skull-shaped island headquarters. GIRWIN, a schlubby middle-management type, speaks to a TOUR GROUP of new recruits.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Sometime before lunch next Tuesday, in the sunlit foyer of a giant skull carved from the lone mountain on a small island in the Pacific…

GIRWIN: And that, my sweet, supple henchmen–

JEFF interrupts with some grotesque, phlegm-clogged bleating.

GIRWIN: My apologies. (starts over) And that, my succulent, savory hench-persons, concludes our tour. I hope you found today’s experiences not only enlightening, but informative, as I would hate to have to kill any of you before your ninety-day review. But more importantly, I want to be the first to welcome you to the E.V.I.L family!

Girwin leads a flaccid round of applause.

Now. Are there any–

Jeff enthusiastically raises a hand.

JEFF: Excuse me, Girwin?

GIRWIN: (frustrated sigh) Yes, Jeff?

JEFF: It’s pronounced “Jeff.”

GIRWIN: What did I say?

JEFF: (considers this) I forget.

Girwin reaches for the company-provided emergency DISINTEGRATOR RAY strapped to his hip. 

GIRWIN: Well, Whoever-You-Are. Would you like to get to your question before I shoot you dead in front of all your soon-to-be former colleagues?

JEFF: (considers this) Yes, I think I’d like that.

Girwin looks on at this artistic display of intellectual failings with a delightfully fruity cocktail of confusion, contempt, and subconscious positioning of his hand in such a way that he, more or less, now touches and/or holds the aforementioned company-provided emergency disintegrator ray.

GIRWIN: Care to give us a hint, then?

JEFF: Oh, right. It’s about the company mission statement.

GIRWIN: And what of it?

JEFF: (confused) Oh. I thought you were going to guess.

Jeff pulls out a mangled, dog-eared copy of the E.V.I.L. HANDBOOK from somewhere.

Well. It says right here… (reads) “E.V.I.L. seeks one goal, and one goal only: world domination.”

GIRWIN: (disappointed) Oh. You’re not one of those soft, tender-loined liberals, are you, Jeff?

JEFF: (laughs) No-no-no. I’m a real cold-hearted son-of-a-bitch, Sir.

Girwin’s fingers trace over the slick chrome casing of his company-provided emergency disintegrator ray. 

GIRWIN: Such a shame I have to kill you after this.

JEFF: Agreed. But, “world domination” does seem a bit vague and open-ended.

GIRWIN: Is that right?

JEFF: Yes. Sounds like a hassle, really.

GIRWIN: (genuine interest) What do you mean?

JEFF: Well… If Adjunct Professor Conniption already has the technology to access alternate realities and create parallel worlds, why doesn’t he just, I dunno, go to some perfect world of his own making instead of resigning himself to a life of micromanagement?

Girwin and the group deeply consider this for a moment, talking among themselves in hushed whispers.

GIRWIN: You know what? To Hell with this.

Girwin casually shoots, disintegrates Jeff right where he stands.

GIRWIN: (to group) Are there any other questions?