Chapter 13

You may have heard there is a pandemic. I did not cause it. I just want to get that out there before people start pointing fingers. I have my personal suspicions about one or two evil geniuses I know, because I remember one panel from the evil genius convention two years ago where the prospect of a world-wide epidemic that resulted in significant loss of human life was presented in a series of glossy slides. But I personally prefer to wipe out swathes of humanity first-hand with a giant, fire-spewing robot. That's just more my style.

But now that a shelter-in-place order has been imposed on the community where I make my primary residence, I have discovered the true downside of living with a nymphomaniac. I may die from sex. Alexander is bored. You cannot possibly understand the true horror of that statement. Oh, sure, the first few days were kind of fun. But the tenth straight day of getting relentlessly ravished for hours on end when your plan was to spend the day welding together a really great new robot design is enough to drive even an evil genius mad.

I finally knocked together a steel cage with bars eight inches thick and locked him inside.

Alexander was able to bend the bars out of shape, but not enough to give him room to escape. He stared at me mournfully. "Thomas! Let me out!"

"No!" I refused to look at him. "I need to finish this robot."

"Why? People will die without your help. Let's have sex."

"People are always dying without my help," I retorted heartlessly. "But a giant killer robot will distract everyone from the difficult situation the world is in. I'm doing a public service."

"You just don't like me anymore."

"You know that's not true, Alexander," I said patiently. I still refused to look at him. "Just look at the amazing mantis arms on this robot. You have to admit it's a beautiful design."

Alexander was quiet for a moment. "Are you going to add wings?"

"I was thinking about it."

"I've always like praying mantises."

I smiled. "It has been a while since I unleashed an insect-shaped robot."

"But how is anyone going to fight it?" Alexander asked. "My parents are under a shelter-in-place order."

I rubbed my chin. That was definitely going to be a problem. "They really should have specified that superheroes are an essential business." I got back to work. "Let's not worry about that yet. I have several more days of work to do anyway."

"You should let me out. I can help."

I heard the undercurrent of lust in his voice and his pheromones wafted around the lab. I turned on the fan and lit some incense. "Not a chance. You'll just distract me. I want to get this done." I resumed working, but I did remember to order dinner for him. But mindful of our discussion, I called Astounding Man a few days later.

"Good afternoon, Albert. How's quarantine treating you?"

"It sucks!" Albert growled. "We had to close the fabric store! We're losing money hand over fist. Estelle insisted on keeping everyone on the payroll, so I'm spending my savings on healthcare premiums and paid time off."

"That sounds difficult. Three of my fourteen businesses were declared nonessential, so I'm in the same boat." I tried to make it sound sympathetic. I'm pretty sure I failed. "Anyway, I was wondering how you would feel about fighting a giant killer robot next week."

"What?!" Astounding Man didn't sound pleased. "We're supposed to be staying in the house! How am I supposed to fight a giant killer robot while I'm sheltering-in-place?"

"Everyone is bored, Albert," I said reasonably. "Think of how excited the world would be watching a news broadcast of a catastrophic fight between a giant killer robot and superheroes? I'll send it someplace safe so no one has to worry about exposure to the virus."

"Why don't you just send us all masks?" he said sarcastically.

"I can if you really want me to."

He made strangling noises. "If you have masks to spare," he finally choked out, "send them to hospitals."

"I have been," I said. "Alexander made me when he found out I could convert one of my production lines to making masks and ventilators. But you haven't answered my question. Do you want to fight a killer robot or not? It's one of my best designs. It might take you hours to destroy it."

Albert didn't answer. In the background, I could hear Estelle asking who was on the phone. Albert's response was muffled, but understandable. "It's the Gorgon Master."

I heard a yelp as Estelle snatched the phone out of his hand. "How is Alexander? Is he holding up all right stuck in the mansion?"

"He's fine," I assured her. "The cage has a big screen TV and a toilet, and the bed is really comfortable."

"WHAT?!" Her shout caused ringing in my ear. "You locked my baby in a cage?!"

"He was killing me," I said. I thought my explanation was quite reasonable.

"I'm going to kill you if you don't release him right now!"

"I'll make a deal with you." I did my best evil chuckle. "If you and Astounding Man destroy the giant robot I plan to release next week, I'll release Alexander and send him home for the duration of the shelter-in-place."

"Are you telling me you don't love my sweet Alexander anymore?" The threat in her voice sent a shiver down my spine. Fashionista would have made a really good evil genius, I suspect.

"Not at all," I said hastily, "but surely you would like to have all of your family with you."

"You are Alexander's boyfriend," Estelle said in a deadly voice. "Go ahead and release your killer robot. We will take care of it. But the second it's destroyed, if I don't get a selfie of you and Alexander snuggled up in bed getting ready to demonstrate your undying love for each other, I'm coming straight to your mansion to explain how unhappy I am about your treatment of my little boy. Is that completely clear?"

I no longer suspected Fashionista of being a potential evil genius. The sudden chill in my blood made me certain of it. "I understand completely," I rasped out.

"Good. We are looking forward to destroying your robot. Here's Albert back."

I drew in a shaking breath. I heard Albert doing the same thing. "You married a scary woman, Albert."

"Did I ever mention she was the one who proposed?"

"And you were too afraid to say no?"

"I love her dearly."

"Good answer." I drew another breath. "I'll text a few hours before the rampage is scheduled to start and give you the location."

"Thanks. Should I call anyone else?"

"I shouldn't think so. It's important to maintain social distancing. It might just take you a little longer."

"Well, a few extra hours out of the house doesn't sound bad right now."

"I hear that. I'll be in touch." I disconnected and went down to the lab to see Alexander. He was lounging on the bed in his cage watching something on the TV. "I spoke to your parents. They're on board to destroy my robot next week. Your mother made me promise to let you out when they're finished."


I scowled. "And to take a selfie with you to prove it."

He sidled up to the bars and eyed me suggestively. "I hope she doesn't mind if it's a little smutty."

"You may not text a naked picture of me to your mother!"

"She won't mind a little skin showing."

"It depends on the skin!" I glared at him. "No nudity! I will allow one chaste selfie and that's it."

"All right." But the lascivious grin on his face had me worried. I just hope whatever filthy image he ends up taking does not end up as my profile picture on LinkedIn.

I finished my mantis robot a week later. It was beautiful. It looked just like a fully mature female praying mantis. The forearms had razor sharp serrations on the underside and scythe-like knives at the tips. It could jump nearly half a mile on its powerful hind legs. But the wings were my crowning achievement. I had finally solved the problem of mechanical winged flight at scale. At rest, the robot's wings lay along its sloped back. But when needed, it could take flight, reaching speeds of close to two hundred knots and altitudes of over five thousand feet. It was magnificent. Regarding its perfection, I felt a twinge of disappointment knowing Astounding Man and Fashionista would grind it into burning chunks of metal. But we all need to make sacrifices in hard times. As a responsible citizen, I need to do my part to help society get by until the opportunity to crush the world into obedience presents itself.

So, I programmed my praying mantis robot to fly south and start ripping up the border wall in southern New Mexico and sent a text to Astounding Man. I also called in the impending robot attack to the news networks to give them time to get camera crews to the location. Then I turned to Alexander.

"I'm going to let you out," I said. "You have to promise to allow me to remain clothed until we are safely in the bedroom, in bed, under the covers, with the television on and tuned to CNN so I can watch your parents destroy my robot. When they are finished, you may take one picture that does not reveal any parts of me that I prefer to not have on public display to send to your mother. After that…" I heaved a deep sigh. "You may do with me as you wish."

Alexander grinned at me through the bars. "You promise to let me do whatever I want?"

I shuddered at the eager tone of his voice and the burning lust in his eyes. "I promise," I managed to rasp out. "But perhaps I should check the status of my will first."

"No more conditions!" Alexander stated firmly. "I agree to your terms. Let me out."

Positive that I was making a terrible mistake, I released Alexander from his cage.

He did not pounce on me. He put his hands on my shoulders and kissed me warmly on the cheek. Then he whispered into my ear, "I'll meet you in the bedroom. I want to get the shackles from the dungeon."

I think my heart stopped. Alexander grinned at me and leaped up to the landing and dashed away. I followed at a more sedate pace taking the stairs. Alexander was not there when I arrived in my bedroom, so I turned on the TV and switched to CNN. Two reporters, seated a safe six feet apart, were excitedly discussing the impending robot attack.

"The Gorgon Master hasn't released a killer robot in close to a year, Andrew!" the female anchor said excitedly.

"That's right, Lisa!" the male anchor responded, equally excited. "The pandemic has been hard on a lot of businesses. Let's hope no one is driven from their homes and put at risk of infection by this robot attack."

The woman turned to the camera. "We'll try to get a crew down to the reported attack site within the hour. Stay tuned to see live coverage of the latest giant robot attack right here on CNN." They cut to a commercial which, amusingly enough, featured an employee of one of my companies explaining how we had converted a production line to produce ventilators. It seemed appropriate.

Alexander strolled in swinging a set of shackles in one hand. I swallowed. "What are you planning to do with those?"

He grinned lasciviously. "I'm going to shackle you hand and foot and ravish every part of your defenseless naked body," he said. "And you'll love every minute of it."

I took a step back. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"It's a great idea. Take off your clothes." He leered at me. "Or do you want me to do it?"

Hastily, I started stripping. In the end, Alexander got exactly what he wanted, but true to his word, he let me watch the entire fight between my mantis robot and his parents. From the look of it, Astounding Man and Fashionista were really happy to get out of the house. In fact, it seemed to me that they took far more time than was needed to defeat the robot and only finished it off because it was starting to get dark. Afterward, they were interviewed by the CNN crew wearing stylish masks that matched their outfits.

"Those are nice masks," I remarked.

"Yeah, Mom makes them."

"Do you think she could make a few for me?"

"Sure. I'll ask her when I send the selfie." He snuggled against my side with his camera in hand. "Say cheese!"

So, Alexander texted his mother a selfie of us with me shackled to the bed, but at least I was covered from the waist down. And if I survive the night, I'll get a couple of custom masks out of it.