Regularly breaking out of prison is actually a pretty successful strategy in my line of work.
The logic is simple. Quick surrender tends to save resources and cause heroes to underestimate you. It strikes fear into the hearts of the public whether you’re in prison or not, and doesn’t give a lot of glory to a hero who captures you, since the whole point is that you’re constantly being captured and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. That causes the showier heroes to strike you off their list and reduces interference with your plans. Of course, you have to be careful not to overdo it or one of the more violent heroes might kill you just to remove the irritation. That or you find yourself becoming a training dummy for wannabes. But if a supervillain plays their cards right, the ‘cardboard prison’ strategy can often net them a single nemesis to worry about by their third or fourth prison break. The trick is to pick someone not quite as smart or ruthless as you and make it personal.
Me, I hate prison. I don’t even have the right skill set for that sort of strategy. Yes, here I was, making my third break, but it was largely out of necessity. Just between you and me, two of my surrenders had been because the attackers were genuinely winning, and the third wasn’t even a surrender. I’d been knocked out, and woke up in chains.
So if I felt any sense of accomplishment as flecks of brick thudded against the bed I was shielding behind and CYBR strode through the resultant hole, it was at the thought of walking free in the fresh air again, of being able to tinker with electronics for hours on end without some busybody guard incinerating my creation for the public good, rather than PR. Although I did laugh as four guards turned up and aimed their guns through the bars, only to have CYBR make an irritated arm gesture and knock them all off their feet, but that was because it was hilarious.
CYBR lifted me in one arm and threw me over her shoulder. I resented being treated like a sack of grain, but she was a lot stronger and faster than I was and had presumably reasoned that if she didn’t carry me I would probably get myself shot. CYBR herself was quite tall, if heavyset due to all the gadgetry inside her. I’d never seen any biological part of her, and I’d seen an awful lot of her. Oh, not like that – she often came to me for repairs. She’d never told me what her acronymous name stood for, though; it probably just sounded good.
Last I saw her, she had worn synthetic skin in an attempt to blend in, but it seemed that she didn’t bother with that any more. Sunlight glinted off her titanium body, although I noticed that the parts of circuitry visible under her spine plates were a different design than the one I’d left her with. The damn woman had been seeing somebody else.
At least she carried me with some consideration for my inferior musculoskeletal structure, not pulling manoeuvres that would break my bones. She showed no such regard for the bruises that littered my body, but even if she really understood the concept of pain I don’t think she would have cared. Wait, I worded that poorly. Contrary to popular belief, most androids I know have a greater concern for pain than biological organisms, because damage is so much more expensive to repair for them; they don’t heal. But they tend to consider a lot of our pain to be irrelevant, because we do heal.
The prison was, of course, built on a small island in the middle of the ocean with cliffs on all sides. The authorities thought that this amounted to security, but it tended to stifle their attempts to chase anybody down more than prevent actual escape. Once free of the buildings, CYBR activated the rockets in her heels and jumped off the cliff.
I angled my body so that I could face her ear. “What exactly made you think that breaking me out of prison was a good idea?”
“I need some upgrades.” A bullet pinged off her back. “And repairs. I can’t wait out your sentence.”
“I was handling it.”
“I gave you three months to handle it. You haven’t.”
“I’m a roboticist, CYBR. Once you break out twice using improvised electronics and explosives they don’t let you touch anything not made of plastic, and they keep an eye on that.”
“Then you did require my assistance.”
“Not really. You see, now that a robot from outside has broken me out, they’re going to be a lot more careful next time they capture me. More guards, reinforced cells further in the prison, that sort of thing. And somehow I doubt that you can get in there. It’s going to be even harder to escape again now that you’ve got me out using force.”
“Then don’t get caught again.”
I gave up. “Bring your upgrade ideas over in a couple of weeks and we can discuss your situation.” The price of my freedom agreed upon, I slumped back down just as CYBR cut her rockets and plummeted. That or they simply went out. You never know just how screwed you are with CYBR; she doesn’t panic when things go wrong, so nobody else knows if they should either.
A moment later, though, I knew why she had cut them. Metapatrol on three sides, doing a grid search. The superpowered guard force, put together especially to stop superpowered criminals from escaping. It seemed like cheating to send them after us. I wouldn’t call rockets in one’s feet or an extraordinary brain superpowers, as such. I mean, ordinary guys had been enough to keep me in check inside prison; these guys were usually reserved for people who were extremely strong or could fly or shoot lightning from their hands. Damn, they’d turned up faster than I’d hoped; they must have followed the rockets. This is why I hate escaping at night. At least there were only three of them, and I was willing to bet that flight was the most significant of their powers or they would’ve become vigilantes like everyone else. We could take three, couldn’t we?
It was only a matter of time before they spotted CYBR’s metal glinting under the light cradled in the palm of the woman to our left (well, CYBR’s left, my right I guess). Sure enough, the guy in front of us, barely a kid judging by his voice, gave a shout and doubled back. All three began to close in on us. CYBR had the presence of mind not to activate her shoulder rockets and roast me alive. She just flipped herself upside-down and used her heel rockets again.
The water rushed up to meet us, and I hoped that she realised that if we hit it at this speed it might as well be concrete as far as my squishy human body was concerned. She did; we began to slow up and then skim inches above the water. She took hits to the back; some kind of energy weapon, I think. It jolted me a few times but I was beyond caring about pain. Then something hit me, hard, on the top of my skull, and I managed to take a breath before CYBR dove. I had just enough time to ponder that I took an awful lot of blows to the head for a roboticist before the world went a fuzzy grey.
A web series about those who wear masks
- Veldron's Saga 2: Cardboard Prisons