The bus came flying across the street. In that split second, Todd thought it might be all over. He’d been Champion’s sidekick for nearly a year now, and in that time, palling around with his supercat, there had been plenty of close calls. One of these times, Champion wouldn’t save him. He’d read enough comic books to know that plenty of sidekicks were killed or maimed to give the hero a little drama to deal with.
This was real life. Or what passed for real life in a world where some animals had gained mysterious powers. It didn’t necessarily play by the same rules, but even if plot points had nothing to do with it, this was a dangerous job. It was inevitable something bad would happen.
Champion deflected the bus with a telekinetic shove. It bounced over their heads to come crashing down behind them. Todd bent down and petted Champion. “Thanks.”
She rubbed her head against his hand. “Sure.”
The thirty foot tall mech constructed of a mishmash of salvaged car parts, several refrigerators, and a dented washing machine stomped its way toward them. It picked up a Volkswagon in its metallic claws and shoved the vehicle in its mechanical jaws. With a sharp crunch, the car was crushed and spat out.
The red and black dog sitting in the glass dome atop the machine glared down at them. “So we meet again, Champion.” For reasons Todd could never figure out, the dog had a slight German accent.
“Give it up, Fido!” said Todd. “We’ve stopped you before. We’ll stop you again.”
“It’s Professor Fido, you fool!”
The mech fired a bright red ray that would’ve roasted Todd where he stood if Champion hadn’t grabbed Todd by the shirt and pulled them both out of the way with a mighty leap. The pavement bubbled.
“Stay here,” said Champion. Her blue and green fur glowing brighter.
She pounced onto Fido’s mech and shattered the dome with one slash of her claws. Before she could wrench Fido from his machine, he smacked her with one of his colossal arms. Yowling, she flew into a storefront.
Fido cackled. The mech stomped before Todd. It ripped fire hydrant from the ground and shoved it into its jaws.
“Fido, why are you doing this?” asked Todd, hoping to buy some time while Champion recovered. He was the sidekick. Distractions were what he was good at.
“It’s Professor Fido!” growled the mad dog. “And why? Why? You dare ask me why? Very well, I’ll tell you why before I crush you underfoot, like this world tried to crush me. Before gaining my impressive intellect, I was merely a mongrel wandering this cruel streets, loved by none. My life was nothing but pain and fear and starvation, and now, that I have the power to enact my revenge, I shall take it. And not you, nor your accursed cat, shall stop me.”
Fido raised a fist.
“Damn,” said Todd. “That does suck.”
The mech paused. “Don’t try to empathize with me. You shall pay for the sins of your kind.”
“I’m not empathizing,” said Todd. “But I get it. Underneath all that evil genius, you’re just a good dog who got a raw deal. I’m sorry, Fido. I really am.”
Snarling, Fido drew back his fist. “It’s Professor Fido, you insolent fool!”
Champion flew out of the storefront and with one slash, cut away one of the mech’s legs. It hopped, taking a few clumsy swings at her. She removed the arms with two more slashes, and landed beside Todd, watching Fido’s scrap machine struggle to stay vertical.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’m good. Thanks. Now stop playing with your prey and finish the poor guy off.”
She telekinetically hurled a car at the mech, knocking it off its feet. The police waited for the all clear sign before moving in. Todd didn’t give it.
Fido limped out from his broken mech. “If you think this will stop me, you are sorely mistaken. I shall fight you to my last breath. I shall have my vengeance.”
“Should I kill him?” asked Champion.
“No, I don’t think so.”
Todd approached Fido, who snarled.
“I think you’re not such a bad dog, after all. I think you’re a good dog who wants a home. Would you like to come and live with me?”
“What?” asked Champion
“What?” asked Fido.
“The world was lousy to you,” said Todd. “I get it. But you have to ask yourself. Do you want to be a good dog or a bad dog? And I think you’re a good dog. I think you’re a very good dog.”
Fido’s snarl dropped. His tail wagged once.
“You insipid moron, do you think all it takes is a few condescending words to soothe my fury? I am the premiere intellect of this planet. I’m this close to cracking the mysteries of time travel.” He held his paws together. “And yet the approval of a primate simpleton is supposed to matter to me?”
“If it didn’t matter, then why attack the city in the first place?” asked Todd. “Now, who wants a head scratch?”
“I’ll take one,” said Champion.
“Certainly not me,” said Fido.
But he didn’t step away as Todd gently Fido’s head. Todd scratched behind Fido’s ears.
“I’ll admit that does feel . . . rather nice.”
His tail wagged, and he sat. “Don’t think this will prevent you from destroying your accursed world. You’re just delaying the inevitable.”
“Sure, sure,” said Todd. “Who wants a belly rub?”
“Well, I suppose one wouldn’t hurt.” Fido rolled over.
“Is he really going to live with us?” asked Champion.
“I guess so,” said Todd. “No prison can hold him.”
“Quite correct,” said Fido. “A little more to the left, please. Yes, that’s the spot.”
Champion swished her tail and walked away. She’d get used to the idea.
Fido said, “I should warn you. I do plan on getting on the furniture. Any attempts to stop me will result in your summary destruction.”
“Sure, sure. Come on, Professor. Let’s go home.”