This is a Supervillainverse story, which features several returning characters! The narrator is The Reptilian from The Wonders of Planet Earth, and it also features The Constellation Crusaders from A Glass of Beer, Team Universe from Darkedge (again, thanks Bogleech for the runner-up place in his Cookoff) and even characters from Daryl and Denise!
As Zaebos’ reign of terror spread throughout the galaxy, Lance Strengthold vowed to eliminate this threat once and for all. He had trained for years under the watchful eye of Morbarat, and together, they set off to find more allies in the fight…
William J. Bandersnatch III was born on Planet Earth in the United Kingdom and lived in a large mansion in the countryside. He enjoyed drinking tea, attending plays, and going out on hunting trips. On one such trip, he shot and killed a Spotted Purragar, which belonged to a powerful wizard. As punishment, the wizard transformed William into a badger…
I had been inspired.
My meeting with Diddy and Nessa, and later Mum’s insistence during a phone call that I listen to Team Universe’s podcast (‘It’ll give you a laugh after a hard day’s work,’ she said) inspired me to study the galaxy’s most famous heroic teams to the point where their origins circled around my brain and refused to leave.
Lance and Morbarat searched throughout the galaxy to find those willing to assist them in their quest, battling Zaebos’ forces along the way. On the planet Gobob, they encountered a vast army of robots created by Zaebos’ scientists for the sole purpose of terrorising innocent creatures. There, they met Cara, a fierce warrior and her robot companion B87T. Together, they destroyed the malevolent forces…
William stole the wizard’s bag of magic dust in hopes of changing himself back, only to find that the effects were more random than he thought. It made custard pies appear out of thin air which launched themselves at his face, and turned the leaves on the ground into spiders. It did have some positive effects, however; William gained the ability to make the pockets of any garment he wore bottomless, and brought life to one of his rosebushes…
Though I studied lesser-known teams like The Space Stars and the Far-Away Fighters, The Constellation Crusaders and Team Universe were who I mainly focused on; they were the galaxy’s most famed and most prominent protectors.
Cara and B87T vowed to fight alongside Lance and Morbarat, and that was when they called themselves The Constellation Crusaders. Everywhere they went, they let the people know that one day Zaebos would be defeated and his tyranny would end once and for all. During a journey to the planet Habberia, they encountered a huge fanged worm which attacked them, but were rescued when one of the planet’s natives, out selling dinnerware, plunged a knife into the worm. This Habberian was called Diddy-Dee and he was a member very temporarily…
The wizard told William he would return him to human form if he and his living rosebush would go to the planet Corkala and retrieve for him a powerful crystal. William agreed, but he was not the only one recruited by the wizard to seize the crystal. He had also hired Larat, one of the finest soldiers of Perferer, and “Spaceman Steve”, an Earth man who became a space hero because it was the only job he could get after graduating uni…
They were the teams that had the most words written about them, the most fan clubs, the most merchandise. Their origins had been told and told time and time again, and I was certain I could recite them off by heart.
Diddy proved more a hindrance than a help and, after accidentally causing one of their escape ships to be eaten by a babblag, was made to leave the Constellation Crusaders. They continued to battle Zaebos’ forces until Zaebos demanded Lance face him man-to-man. Lance won the battle and from then on, the Constellation Crusaders travelled the galaxy, battling evil and protecting the innocent.
The wizard had promised Larat a chance to redeem herself after failing to stop the destruction of her home city and Steve a higher-paying job where he could better use his degree. The four proved effective at keeping away those who wanted the crystal themselves, fighting the monsters that guarded the crystal and evading the traps in the castle that held the crystal. With the monsters and traps taken care of, the wizard claimed the crystal, which increased his power and he refused to give what he promised the four. When they fought together, they defeated the wizard, so Steve, Larat, William and the rosebush, named Rosebuddy formed Team Universe. From then on, they travelled the galaxy, battling evil and protecting the innocent.
Why was I doing this, you may ask, and well, I was asking myself that as well. One answer I came up with was that I had to do this because it helped to know the enemy. I was wanted, after all, and I had encountered the Constellation Crusaders in the past. I also felt it was only a matter of time until Team Universe tried to capture me, and it was good to be prepared.
I read books about the two teams while drinking coffee from a mug with B87T’s picture on it and eating cereal endorsed by Rosebuddy. Maybe, I sometimes wondered, by doing this, I would be picking up a little bit of their essence.
When I studied the teams, I thought of Nessa and Diddy, who I encountered on Earth in the process of attempting to make their own space-hero-team. When I looked over my research material, I found myself taking the card Nessa gave me out of my pocket with my tail and looking at it.
Another thing I found myself doing while researching was thinking over how Team Universe had become so popular by making jokes and having a playful attitude to their work, and when they entered the scene, the Constellation Crusaders tried to make more jokes themselves while on missions.
After I had finished my research for the day, I would stand by my mirror, striking a pose with my gun, saying lines like ‘Son of a gun!’ and lines referring to my reptilian nature: ‘I’m tipping the scales in my favour!’ ‘You’re lizard lunch!’ etc. My trade required me to be stealthy, so it was unlikely that I would ever need a one-liner, I thought at the end of every one of these little sessions, but it still paid to be prepared for every possible scenario.
It was after one such session of mirror-mocking that I received a phone notification of a new job, another one on Earth, with a subject that I couldn’t help but keep looking at the picture of.
A reptilian creature like me.
Not exactly like me, though. It was a dragon.
There were times that I had entertained the notion that I was a dragon, and that some magic force had removed my wings and the ability to breathe fire. Once you know magic is real, almost nothing seems too far-fetched. Looking at the dragon, I thought that, were the wings gone, this was someone who could pass for my brother.
There was one other significant difference from me, however – this dragon caused monsters to appear out of his head whenever he got stressed or upset. That’s what made me take the job; the fact that it would be a mercy killing.
After making sure half of the money was transferred into my account, I set off in my vehicle to the planet Earth, again thinking of the greenery I would be able to blend into and the cool air. When I landed in the woods closest to where my subject lived, I made sure that my brown coat was zipped up, and to scout the woods for anyone or anything.
I wasn’t the only one in the woods. I wasn’t even the only one with a spaceship.
As I slunk between the trees, it didn’t take long before I came across another spaceship – one that resembled a large metal frog – and four familiar figures leaving it. A human in a grey jacket. A blue blob with tentacles for appendages and three eyes. A badger in a tweed suit. A rosebush with roses for eyes, crawling around on its vines.
Spaceman Steve, Larat, William and Rosebuddy. Team Universe.
I stood with my back against the tree, internally begging myself to leave them and move on with my work. Though I knew they would most likely capture me if I directly approached them, yet there was a lot I wanted to say to them. I had listened to their podcast on the way to Earth, after all.
Larat was one of the few remaining Perferians, hoping to find as many others as she could. William, as far as anyone knew, was the only talking badger in the galaxy and Rosebuddy the only sentient rosebush. I was the only tall, talking lizard without wings and fire breath.
I lay down, making sure I blended in with the leaves on the ground and the other greenery, and crawled towards them as they spoke to each other. Right as I could make out Larat saying, ‘Let’s get going,’ a blinding white beam pierced the scene, upsetting the leaves on the ground, making me scramble back behind the largest tree. Just looking at the light made it feel like my scales were on fire.
In the beam, there descended a muscular man in a white jumpsuit, a woman with a matching jumpsuit, a tall robot with a head that reminded me of a stovepipe hat, and a green cyclops in brown robes.
Lance, Cara, B87T and Morbarat. The Constellation Crusaders.
As they plopped down onto the ground and the beam disappeared, I climbed up the tree, grabbing onto the wood with my sticky gloves and boots like the lizard I resembled.
‘Well, well, well,’ said Lance, arching an eyebrow, ‘if it isn’t the clowns.’
‘I know you are but what are we?’ snapped back Steve, pointing at Lance’s gigantic chin.
‘Stand aside,’ said Lance, lowering Steve’s finger, ‘we have work to do. Let the real heroes handle…’
‘We’re the real heroes!’ retorted Steve, pressing his thumb into his chest, ‘You’re so not-real you don’t exist! You’re imaginary friends! You’re Happy the unicorn!’
‘That sounded better in your head, didn’t it?’ replied William, before pulling out a large bag of popcorn from his pocket. ‘I do enjoy it when you try to get into a fight with another space hero though.’ He then gave the popcorn to Rosebuddy, who happily munched on it before William pulled out a tray of hot cross buns from his pocket.
A little voice in my head was telling me to leap off the tree, run towards where the dragon was and finish the job, but my feet found themselves stuck to the branch. After researching the two teams thoroughly, now was my chance to get up as close as possible and observe them. I imagined myself as the narrator of one of those nature documentaries I often binged on; ‘Here we see how a space hero team reacts when another encroaches on their territory…’
‘How you lot have survived so long is beyond me,’ continued Lance, looking in William’s direction, ‘especially with that Peppa Pig reject there. See, I can make pop culture references too.’
‘Here we go again,’ sighed Cara, rolling her eyes.
William gritted his teeth, with Steve holding his hand and saying, ‘Don’t let him get to you, Bil…William.’
I could kill them, I thought. I had my gun in my hand and was at a good vantage point, said a voice in my head, so just kill them. They’d never bother me again. Inwardly I told that voice that they were not who I was here to kill, but that voice retorted that doing so would make this job easier.
‘Look,’ said Morbarat, raising his bony hands, ‘we may need your help. We are dealing with a creature with the ability to create monsters from his head…’
Overhearing that almost made me fall off the branch.
Larat slithered in front of Steve, forming a “T” with her tentacle-arms. ‘We were sent here to capture a dragon too. This might be a trap.’
‘Speaking of traps,’ added Steve, ‘those Constellation Creeps need to shut theirs.’
‘It might be,’ said Morbarat, ‘that, as I was saying, whoever called for us felt we needed all the reinforcements we could get.’
Steve chuckled. ‘You guys couldn’t reinforce…um…’
‘Quiet,’ snarled Larat before continuing, ‘anyway, something’s fishy and I don’t mean what’s wrapped in newspaper in William’s pocket. I think we’re being set up.’
‘It could be that whoever hired us,’ suggested William before taking another bite of a hot cross bun, ‘wanted the Constellation Crusaders to see how it was d…’
‘No, this is most likely a set-up.’ She looked upwards. ‘I mean, what about The Reptilian who thinks he’s been hiding from us?’ She raised her gun.
I couldn’t help but lightly punch myself on my left temple. Before I could say anything in my defence, Spaceman Steve, Lance and Cara all raised their guns, with B87T transforming his hand into a buzzing laser.
I extended my “tongues” in hopes of slapping the guns out of their hands, only for them to be grabbed by two more extendable tentacles: Rosebuddy’s vines. They wrapped tightly around my tongues, and with a yank, I was ripped from the branch before being bounced around in the air and lowered onto a pile of leaves. When Rosebuddy released me, both teams approached me with guns pointed at my face.
‘What do you know about this?’ asked Larat, narrowing all three of her eyes.
‘I’m in the same boat as you,’ I replied, reaching for my own gun.
‘Very funny,’ laughed Cara, ‘we saw you from that vantage point, waiting for us to drop our guard.’
‘Wanted to eliminate the competition, didn’t you?’ snarled Lance.
‘Wanted to print t-shirts with your own face?’ snarled Steve.
Right as I tightly gripped my gun, my bones seemed to turn to ice. An inky shadow materialised before me.
‘Well, well,’ said the shadow, forming into a pale, bald woman in a black robe, ‘I have to hand it…’
I crouched down as low as I could as the woman was met with a barrage of laser blasts, tightly closing my eyes as the sound of the attacks made my ear-holes sting. When the noise died down, I looked up to see the woman still standing, before she grabbed me by the wrist.
‘Unhand our prisoner!’ snarled Larat, her tentacles on her hips.
‘You know what I’ve found out through studying this world?’ said the woman, ‘It has too much guilt…’
‘Big evil villain monologue,’ said Steve, ‘in three, two…’
‘I mean, Larat, is that not why you’re attempting to arrest The Reptilian? Because you feel guilty? Because you couldn’t save…’
Larat let loose an angry laugh. ‘You think I haven’t heard that before?’
‘Is this the “join me” part of your speech?’ Steve asked the woman.
‘Of course!’ replied the woman, twitching, ‘With me, you’ll never feel guilt ever again! Not like that dr…’
‘Oh yeah,’ said Lance, ‘I’ve had several of those speeches.’ His teammates all nodded.
‘That treacherous dragon felt guilt for what he did, but it didn’t erase it! He…’
William snorted. ‘We’ve fought more monsters and magic-users than you’ve had hot dinners, and you’re not bringing anything new to the table here. In fact, were you about to say that if I join you, you’d break the spell on me?’
‘Forget it, I’ve grown to quite like my new form. Very useful at times.’
‘Indeed,’ mused Morbarat, putting his finger on his chin, ‘you remind me of…’
All of a sudden, I found myself away from the forest and in the hallway of a flat, outside a resident’s door. ‘Hopefully you’ll be more trustworthy,’ she said, gesturing towards the door, ‘get in there and complete your job! You want to get paid, don’t you?’
A job’s a job, I said to myself. Payment is payment. It was a mercy killing.
I took a deep breath, then another, and walked towards the door, readying myself to open it.
With another breath, I slowly opened the door, observing my surroundings. A small, almost colourless living space, where a figure in a porkpie hat sat watching football. I crept towards him, raising my gun towards his head. Once I had a good angle, I rested my finger on the trigger but didn’t press down.
There were questions I wanted to ask. Questions I should have asked Larat.
One involuntary “hmm” and the dragon turned. Upon seeing him look at me, I pressed the trigger, only to end up cracking a window. ‘Who are you?’ blurted out the dragon, as I noticed his hat shaking. Before the dragon could grab onto his hat, a large claw shot out of a crevice in his head, knocking my gun out of my hand.
Out crawled another reptilian creature, only larger than even the dragon, leaving me wondering how that could even fit in his head. As I backed away, I let loose my metal tongues in hopes of attacking the creature, but in seconds, it bit into them, rendering them useless.
The creature had its own tongue, what looked like a fat pink tentacle shooting out of its mouth. As soon as it did that, I ducked, rolling on the floor towards my gun. I shot again, this time aiming solely at the monster. None of the shots stopped the monster from fully escaping the dragon’s head, and completely smashing the window I had shot at with its fist.
‘You’re paying for that!’ the dragon cried at me before flying through the hole after the monster. After taking the hat the dragon left behind and a coat off a coat rack to disguise myself, I looked through the hole to see the dragon flapping around in the air, breathing fire. The monster crawled down the flat, its feet sticking to the walls like it was wearing my gloves and shoes. One window near the monster was open, with a woman attempting to attack it with a kitchen knife.
Neither she nor the dragon seized the monster, however. It was a certain frog-shaped spaceship, which let loose a metallic claw on a metallic tentacle that reminded me of my own tongues, that grabbed the monster off the building and tossed it into a familiar beam.
‘Great work, guys,’ came the voice of Larat to the Constellation Crusaders, ‘now, I think I see The Reptilian; we capture him, we split the reward money eight ways.’
At that, I ran.
I managed to make it back to my vehicle and on the way back home, I kept repeating “coward” inwardly.
The following week, as I followed the news, I concluded that the trip wasn’t a complete waste of time. Though I may have evaded their capture, both the Constellation Crusaders and Team Universe brought the monster that came from the dragon’s head to a place where it would be happy; apparently, it liked having people ride on its back. An image of both teams at a bar, raising glasses of beer (or a teapot in William’s case or an oilcan in B87T’s case) spread around in various publications. They found they did have some things in common, and I was there when they did, even if it was noticing how cliché a witch was.
Seeing that image made me look at that card again. I dialled the number, imagining my own face on a mug or a cereal box.