The villain is fully aware of the hero/villain, plot armor, good always wins mechanic. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try their best to make the hero suffer before they go down.
The familiar whine of sirens approaches from the distance. They stare blankly up at the charcoal-grey smog blooming across the sky from the remains of their latest attempt as a weapon of mass destruction - the fourth one that week, to be exact.
It was only Thursday.
Clicks of cameras, cracks of glass and rubble under the feet of the crying crowd, the cheers and claps of the masses as they flood the streets to catch a glimpse of their beloved hero, the same, old, boring rehash of the same, mundane routine. They don’t even have to look to know that people are sobbing, maybe a couple on their knees, probably a dozen or so knickers sailing through the air like banners of gratitude. There’s been full nudity before at one of these victories: they’d made liberal use of the liquor cabinet to erase that image from their mind.
They consider for a moment whether they’d prefer lounging on their couch in front of a millionth rerun of Friends over suffering this mad Groundhog Day, where somehow there’s always some baby born just in time to be named after the Superhero.
Not willing to stick around to see how many mad fans have to be escorted away by the police, they slink away from the cacophony into a blissfully empty alley and call for a cab.
The wall in front of them is old, pockmarked, slicked with slime, waste left untouched for an age, rotted down to rancid gunge and the residue of a thousand lost, drunk and directionless souls who persistently return to the same filthy spot to get more lost, more drunk and fall further away from a direct path; peeling of their black mask, they close their eyes and lean against the bricks with a sigh, trying to draw comfort from the rigidity.
They know they’ll go home now, order a pizza and retreat to their lab to work on one of the many incomplete projects holed up in there for the next few hours. They know they’ll come up with a seemingly brilliant new plan. They know they’ll go through several stages of pride, doubt, anxiety, resolve and determination, only for all that to be crushed the next day by the same spandex-clad twit who’s currently being stroked and groped by the desperate hands of a million indebted sycophants two streets over.
They know they won’t win. They’ve lived through this cycle enough times to recognise that they just aren’t destined for the greatness they so desire.
But at this point, winning isn’t even the aim. They know that success isn’t meant for them.
Their new goal - the one goal keeping them going - is knowing that with each battle, in every kick, every punch, every freeze ray, every ball of fire and lightning, they’re throwing in every ounce of hatred, every gram of frustration, every single speck of burning fury contained within their soul -
“-okay yeah, anytime Mr Mayor, you can count on me!”
The city’s favourite hero rounds the corner and casts the alley a look of disgust. She bestows the same look on the pitiful figure slumped against the wall in front of her and rolls her eyes behind her mask.
“You look like crap,” she says, bluntly.
They turn their head towards her and raise an eyebrow.
“I suppose you’re quite proud of your handiwork,” they reply. They turn back to face the wall: it’s a much preferable sight.
The hero snorts and rips her mask off.
“If you were any good in a fight then you might not have to rely on those dumb robots all the time - I mean, what was that last one made of, a microwave? You’re running out of inspo, John.”
John doesn’t answer. They rub their eyes and scowl at the grubby takeaway napkin stuck to the bottom of their boot instead.
The hero lets out an exasperated puff of air. She strides forward and forces John’s chin up with her index finger.
“Look, man,” she starts, her voice low, her face uncomfortably close. “You were the one who signed that contract. You could’ve backed out. Hate me all you want, but this one? This is on you, buddy.” She bears her teeth in a wide grin, slow and cold. “Better buck up and start coming up with something good, or the citizens are gonna get bored. And we don’t want that, do we?”
John shakes their head. They tug on their sleeves and back away as far as possible.
The beep of a cab causes the hero to step back.
“I’ll send your next payment through tomorrow. You’d better show up with something f*cking spectacular this weekend at the Mayor’s Christmas Ball, or you’re in for it.”
With a last dark, warning look, she swings open the door and slips inside.
John watches as the vehicle pulls away from the curb and rolls out of view. They let out the breath they’d been holding.
They would never win. Success isn’t meant for them.
It was there in writing when they signed the contract: “You will terrorise the city. You will fight the hero. You may destroy property. You may injure.
“You will not tell anyone of the agreement.
“You will not attempt to renegotiate the agreement.
“You will never win.”
They would never win.
But they can sure as hell go down fighting.