PROLOGUE

It all begins in the bone-chilling bowels of a madman's lair. There resides the cold, calculating genius busy architecting his diabolical scheme. He sits before the monitors of his observance chamber with clenched fists and a keen eye locked on each subject on screen.

Monitor one displays the armory. A buxom young lady with bunny ears sprouting from her scalp polishes one of many guns inside with an enthused grin.

"Zippy Boom, my old flame. Feisty and foul-mouthed firespitter with a step as quick as a thunderclap and eyes trained for uncanny accuracy."

Monitor two focuses on the training dojo. Most of the frame is occupied by a mountain of a man with legs crossed and eyes sealed in meditation.

"Hooks, my old rival. Keeps cool as steel under pressure, and about twice as durable physically. A weapon's expert that literally uses them as an extension of himself."

The final monitor appears almost empty save for a small creature sleeping balled up in the corner of the room. It could nearly be mistaken as a dog if not for the wings growing from its back. The extra legs and lack of eyes is pretty freakish too.

"And finally there's Skyy. He's... their new mysterious dragon mascot thingy? Honestly, not quite sure what to expect from him just yet."

He pauses the voice recorder to think of something more to add. Leaning back in his chair, he considers all three monitors at once. Seeing them all together, the tiniest hint of trepidation creeps into his mind as he regards the daunting task ahead of him. But as he scrutinizes each face individually, that doubt is roasted to cinders by the infernal flames of hatred that swell within his heart. Emboldened by his passionate disdain, he continues his speech with a sinister smirk.

"A marvelous team of teens, vowing to protect their city from any threat, whatever the stakes. A tightly knit unit fighting on behalf of society." His evil grin spoils to a rotten, rancid grimace. Fury flares within his eyes as he studies each screen.

"And the most sour thing about the whole party? The one soul-irking, sanity-ebbing detail igniting my most flammable nightmare fuel? I'm not invited!"

The hidden cameras installed to spy on the unsuspecting trio lose power, failing to relay any additional information to their master. An acceptable failure, as he has already gleamed everything he deems necessary for his fabulous plan of vengeance to succeed.

It is a plan involving deceit and treachery. A plan whose backbone relies on one brilliant mind's cunning, and many able bodies prepared for war. A plan that can only be classified as the utmost foul scheme in the history of villainy.

"What right do they have to deny me while they fly through their concrete playground like gods? Such simpletons shall pay for doubting my superior prowess. I may be unable to spark flames from my fingertips, or crush cars with my bare hands, or manipulate my appearance at will. But who cares? Those are pathetic powers anyway. Nothing special. Some gasoline and a lighter will set a blaze just fine. And a well-placed strike with a sledgehammer will smash most anything to bits." Fingers trace a rounded chin as the young man ponders.

"And what can you honestly achieve by morphing your molecular structure to alter your shape and size that a well done disguise cannot? Even a freaking toddler can wear a mask and look different!" His head nods slowly, finding solace in his sage logic.

Gloved fists slam down in anger on the armrests of his observance chamber's master throne. Stubby legs reach the floor to spin him away from blank screens. Boots click against his lair's smooth marble surface, carrying the short, pudgy man through the maze of machinery scattered haphazardly around the room. He relies solely on his substantial subconscious memory to mindlessly navigate a field of mechanical marvels as the conniving machinator continues to conspire.

"None of those abilities are truly impressive. I can challenge them all with my inequivocabile intellect alone! Only an imbecile would worship such simplicity." A metallic door slides open at the end of the hall, sensing his heat signature approaching. Pausing at the end of the doorway, he grins wolfishly as the wheels of wickedness whirl even faster in his head.

"If Dive City is gullible enough to fall in love with such wimps, then it will be a cinch to steal its heart away from three goody two-shoe punks. I swear on the broken bodies of my enemies, this wretched city shall become the capital of my own empire soon enough." His doughy cheeks are spread wide with a smile as he pictures the city erecting massive monuments of his likeness in his honor.

"Yes, yes! And that will only be the beginning! First, I'll topple this puny little city, and then the world!" A sinister snicker possesses him. The giggling fit causes his belly to jiggle hard enough to nearly knock him over. Sore and winded by the time the chortle decides to die down, the cynical man wipes away a spec of spittle oozing off his chin before interrupting his own rant.

"But first, a new episode of The Pink Marshmallow comes on tonight! The coolest crime-fighting kitty cat comedy cartoon on television!" He gives an ecstatic, but still manly squeal of glee, and dashes madly to the darkest, dankest area in the madman's dreaded lair: the living room.

"Wait a minute!" The boot-drops stop a few footfalls from the lair's foyer. "Going in there to watch cartoons will leave me another victim claimed by the vision tube's heinous spell of laziness, and my world domination scheme will crumble completely! I'd better record a timed reminder that I'm on a mission. Yeah... yes, yes!" He pulls the voice recorder from his utility pouch, and holds it to his lips.

"Voice message number one! On a mission to conquer the world. Phase one of the plan: Only allowed to watch The Pink Marshmallow for an hour. Phase Two: Find a competent and considerably gifted lackey for training. One with some emotional scarring is preferred, psychotic or damaged is suitable. Phase three, the best phase of them all: Get revenge on those who would doubt my superior being Final Phase: World domination!"

Sinister laughter resonates from the device as he plays back what was said an hour earlier, after the alarm clock sounds. "Wow. Do I really sound so deranged when I'm excited?" He questions his reflection in the large mirror acting as a wall.

"Oh well. Hopefully it's only noticeable when I'm talkin to... myself." Shrugging, he pivots on the ball of his foot to exit the steel doors of his lair, marching into Dive City's cool night air in his purple supersuit, on the prowl for a troubled youth.