It was finally heist day, which meant two things.
1. Something was going to go horribly wrong.
2. They had to ride in the Villain Van.
2.2 The Villain Van was shit.
2.3 Like, really a piece of shit.
Blackout stopped in front of the scratched glass door, hand on the iron handle, looking back at Fern and C.K. He had his finger over his lips.
Fern crossed his arms, letting his eyes roll back as far as they could in his head. He knew what was coming.
“Gram can’t know we’re using the car for a heist, again,” Blackout whispered.
“We know, we know,” came Fern, in a voice as loud as his impatience.
“Shhh!!” hissed Blackout.
C.K. edged to the door, gold hat tilted back on his head, gold gloves gripping his golden tablet. Nobody was really sure if he was in costume, or if this was just how he dressed. The kid really liked gold. If it wasn’t gold, then he was wearing black, to act as a foil for his other gold accessories. “I’m driving,” he said.
“No, I’m driving,” retorted Blackout.
“I should drive,” jumped Fern.
“Last time you drove you melted your handprints into the steering wheel, hot-head,” Blackout explained. “And I had to get Gram a leather steering wheel cover so she stopped complaining ‘bout how it hurt her hands every time she went to the store, ‘All because you hanging out with them loser friends of yours all the time. Ain’t got nowhere to go and ain’t going nowhere. Just sit up in the house all day and talk about—’”
“We get it, Blackout,” C.K. cut in. “Fern can’t drive.”
“Does anyone remember how much traffic we hit last time we tried this??” said Fern. “You’re telling me you all weren’t upset? By the time we got to the bank it had already been robbed, for fuck’s sake!”
“Didn’t mean you had to melt my Grandmama’s steering wheel like a damn fool.”
“Another reason I should drive,” C.K. chirped.
“I should have melted your ass to the carseat, since you love that shitty van so much.”
C.K. tried to push past Blackout into the driveway. Fern grabbed his black jacket.
“You’re not driving, C.K.” said Fern.
“I never melt anything.”
“You also never use turn signals and don’t know how to parallel park,” Blackout reminded him.
“At least I don’t go 45 miles an hour on the highway all the way there.”
“I told you the van overheats easily, especially in the summer.” Blackout threw his hand in the air. “You two act like you’re driving a fucking humvee.”
“Forgive me if I tried to put a little ‘Villain’ in your Grandmother’s lame-ass mini-van.”
“It’s a 1997 Honda Odyssey, Fern! The most villainy it’s capable of is having poor fuel-efficiency!!”
“Actually, the Honda models are surprisingly efficient for—”
“If you’re so smart why don’t you learn how to outfit the Villain Van with some rocket boosters and shit?”
“Last time I tried to modify the van Blackout yelled at me,” C.K. said, shrugging.
“I told you Gram can’t know we’re using the car! Slapping rocket boosters on the side of it isn’t a dead giveaway at all.”
“Oh, no,” cringed Fern. “If Gram gets angry she’ll hit you with her house shoes, again!”
“Big talk from the dude who lost to China Pot.”
Fern uncrossed his arms and lit his hands, “Say that, again!”
“China Pot! China Pot! China Pot—”
Then they all froze. They could hear Gram moving around upstairs, preparing to come down. It was now or never.
Blackout regained his composure and opened the door to the driveway. They creeped outside. Fern watched Blackout hop into the front seat. He motioned for Fern to sit shotgun, and C.K., reluctantly, climbed in the back.
“Okay, we’re doing this,” Blackout said.
“Yeah,” said Fern. “It’s time for the Hospital Heist. You got the directions, C.K.?”
“Maps already loaded,” he flipped his tablet around.
“What’s traffic look like?” asked Blackout.
“It’s all clear up to Northside.”
“Perfect,” Fern chimed.
“Let’s get to it,” said Blackout, starting the engine. It made a low, calm sound. They backed out of the driveway and hit the road.
Not for long, though.
It wasn’t ten minutes before Blackout ventured a question nobody wanted to answer, “Do ya’ll hear that?”
“That rumbling sound?” replied Fern. “Yeah, that’s not normal.”
“I think we have a flat tire,” C.K. informed them both. “There should be a spare in the back.”
They were nearly on the highway, but Blackout pulled over to the shoulder next to the exit. The rumbling got worse when he slowed down.
“Something just has to happen, doesn’t it?” mused Fern. “We can’t even get to the damn place.”
“Always so negative,” Blackout said. “Instead of trying to lend a hand.”
“I’ll look up videos for how to change a tire.”
“Wait,” said Fern, incredulous, “you don’t know how to change a tire?”
“Are you serious, C.K.?” Blackout joined.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Fern and Blackout looked at each other, then laughed.
“Aren’t you the Super Genius?” said Blackout.
“And you don’t know how to change a tire by yourself?”
“Yeah, ‘Super Genius’ is actually another term for car mechanic,” C.K. shot back, looking up from his tablet.
“I feel like you should be able to figure it out,” Fern snickered.
C.K. squinted his eyes and glared at them both. “What? Am I supposed to know everything, now?”
“Yes,” said Fern, confidently.
“I mean,” began C.K., “this is pretty basic stuff…” He looked at Fern again, and they both chuckled more.
“Changing a car tire isn’t exactly in the genius category of activities,” C.K. said, obviously offended.
“And what, exactly, is?” Fern asked. “You don’t have a physical superpower, so we kind of expect you to come through in a situation like this. You know, problems with the Villain Van and all pretty much fall under Evil Genius in my book.”
“Can either of you change a tire?”
“I usually call highway services when something like this happens,” Blackout said.
“That’s irrelevant, C.K.”
“I don’t want to hear it from you two if you can’t change a tire, either.”
“Well, somebody has to do it,” Fern pointed out. “And I think the responsibility falls on Mister ‘Super Genius’ over here.”
“It’s not my car,” C.K. replied.
“We’re changing the tire,” stated Blackout. “Or else everybody is being put out on their asses when Gram finds out we’ve been using her van for heists.”
That seemed to resonate with Fern and C.K. But neither of them made a move to pop the back of the van and get the tire out.
“Look,” Fern began to explain, “the Villain Vehicle is always in the hands of the Super Genius. I don’t make the rules.”
“Then why don’t I get to drive?” C.K. shot back.
“Because you don’t know how to park and last time you almost got us killed merging without a signal,” said Blackout, matter-of-factly.
“I still don’t see how a genius doesn’t know how to change one, damn tire,” Fern persisted. “Come to think of it, how do we know you’re a genius at all?” he mused.
“Yeah…” Blackout looked suspicious, as well. Now that they thought about it, there was really no way to tell how much of a genius somebody was. They just kinda trusted that C.K. wasn’t completely full of shit and thought he had some good ideas.
“Is this really happening because I don’t know how to complete one, inane task?” said C.K., defending his position. “Do people get mad at Stephen Hawking when he can’t work a lawnmower?”
“He’s got a point,” Blackout said, looking at Fern.
“No, he doesn’t,” Fern said, still skeptical. Cars kept passing unconcernedly, some people looking out of their window at the obvious group of villains surrounding their busted minivan. “We don’t know Stephen Hawking doesn’t know how to work a lawnmower. He could have made that up.”
“Check it for yourself, then,” said a confident C.K.
Blackout tilted his head to the side a bit, then asked, “Are you really a Super Genius, C.K.?”
“Is this really happening right now?”
“Answer the question,” Fern jabbed.
“I shouldn’t have to answer the question,” he said. “You’re not going to believe me if I tell you I am or not.”
“Maybe you’re just really good at looking things up on the internet,” Blackout ventured. “That’s why he always has that tablet with him…”
“Clever Knickers over here has been trying to play us.”
“Are you seriously making fun of my villain name, now? This is coming from the guy who’s best idea for the car is the ‘Villain Van’?”
“That name is kinda lame, Fern,” Blackout agreed.
“Shut up, Blackout,” flared Fern. Then he returned his attention to C.K. “You don’t know how to change a tire?”
“This is a stupid conversation to be having!” C.K. yelled, exhausted.
“We do have a heist to get to,” offered Blackout. He walked to the back of the car.
C.K. whipped his hands around his tablet, again. “There should be a jack fixed to the underside of the spare tire hatch.”
“Well,” said Blackout, “that seems pretty genius-y to me.”
“He found a page on the internet!!” Fern challenged. “I could do that!”
“Then why aren’t you?” said C.K.
“Because my phone doesn’t get very good service out here…”
“A likely story,” Blackout shook his head, putting together the jack.
“Are you honestly that easily convinced?”
“Make sure it’s under the axel,” then C.K. flipped his tablet around to show Blackout the video he was referencing.
“Wow, that’s really convenient. Thanks, C.K.”
“This is ridiculous,” Fern said, throwing his hands up in the air.
“At least SOMEBODY is trying to help,” Blackout said, “instead of sitting up there complaining.”
A pile of smoke fell from Fern’s lips. But he slouched over to where Blackout was, helped him loosen the tire bolts, then raise the Villain Van. With the video C.K. pulled up giving them a play-by-play, it was actually pretty simple. They got the spare tire on. Fern was going to torch the other one, but Blackout stopped him.
“Maybe they can fix it,” he said.
“They can’t fix a flat tire, Blackout,” Fern said.
“We still haven’t discovered the cause of the flat tire, yet, so it’s possible that we could salvage it, if provided with the right tools.”
Fern looked obviously deflated, so he threw the tire in the back. He still didn’t trust C.K., but there was no denying his usefulness.
They climbed back in the Villain Van. Fern stared at C.K. from the side-view mirror through slitted eyes. Had C.K. even lifted a finger to help them with the spare tire? He hadn’t, had he? All he had done was give directions.
Blackout started the engine, again. “Everybody buckled up and ready?”
Fern and C.K. both nodded unconsciously, like they were children.
Reconsidering that somehow he and Blackout had gotten stuck with all of the tire-changing work did seem to point in the Evil Genius direction, and he let the doubt pass with that idea.
The Villain Van was back on the road. Another 10 minutes and, hopefully, they would be at the hospital. Everyone needed to be ready. This time, certainly this time, they were going to do some real villainy. Fern would make sure of that.