Edward Nigma took another sip of his Glenondrumm, looked at them again, gave up, and turned to the bartender. "Hey, Sly. Got a riddle that I was hoping you could solve."
"Sure, Mr. Nigma. What's the riddle?"
"A SHREW EGO YOUTHS?"
A second or two passed before Sly responded. "'Who are those guys,' Mr. Nigma?"
"Right. Specifically, those guys. Over there, next to Pammy's table."
"That would be one of the Z's talking to their new client," said Jervis, coming up to the bar. He was remarkably lucid, given his penchant for nonsensical ramblings that would do Lewis Carroll proud. Then again, he was in what criminals and crime fighters alike called "Gossip Gertie mode."
"And that new client is?" Sly asked, his hands automatically reaching for a Jack Daniels, which he passed over to Jervis.
"Calculator," Jervis replied, taking the Jack Daniels with a nod of thanks.
"Calculator," Eddie repeated. "Noah Cutler Calculator? The guy who thinks he's the anti-Oracle Calculator?"
"And he wants a lair here in Gotham?"
Everyone who was anyone knew that, if you wanted a lair set up in Gotham City, you went to the Z's. Why do a cheap and half-assed DIY job when you could go to the experts? They could set them up exactly the way you wanted, right down to whatever theme you might follow, no questions asked. Of course, their services didn't come cheap. Especially with their "extra expenses." Which brought up an interesting point...
Eddie turned to Jervis. "Does Cutler know about their reputation—"
"Nope," he responded.
Eddie looked at Jervis. Jervis looked at Eddie. They both looked at Sly, who looked back at them.
"I'll cover the left side of the Lounge," Eddie said.
"I got the right," Jervis said.
"I'll take care of any newcomers," Sly concluded.
This was going to be fun.
"Yeah. That whole magical addiction thing sounds like a cool storyline to follow."
"You know they're just there to up the hotness factor on their side, right?"
"Well, let's see. They've got orcs, trolls who spent too much time in Jamaica before moving to Kalimdor, walking cows, and zombies. After that, anything's going to up the hotness factor."
The one thing most civilians don't understand about lairs is that they're very much like houses. Setting up a lair is very much like buying your first home. For example, take the first thing you think about when it comes to houses: location. Location, location, location. You can't just pick some random abandoned warehouse. You have to cater to the wants of your client.
Oh, sure, any idiot knows that a lair for Two-Face has to have an even-numbered street address. A halfway-competent dimwit knows that a lair with three odd numbers and one even number probably won't cut it. But only a professional knows that Two-Face would want a lair in a respectable part of town—and ever since Catwoman did that Broadway performance, everyone knew the "respectable" part of Gotham was "anywhere outside the East End"—and within walking distance of Vietnamese restaurants—because, lately, he'd (or they'd) developed a hankering for Vietnamese cuisine.
And the Zs were a bunch of professionals.
"Cimmerian. Gotta stick with my main man, Conan."
"I'll pick Aquilonian."
"How 'bout you?"
"Haven't picked a race yet. All I know is, it'll be a woman."
"You have to ask? Your avatar starts the game practically naked, and it just gets better from there."
"So it's not about the grinding, or the visceral combat."
"It's just about the jugs?"
"I'm a simple man, with simple tastes."
"You got the first part right, that's for sure."
Food was the second thing the Zs considered when they set up a lair. They would never forget that sad, sad story about the hench that set up a lair for his boss. Had the swankiest security system around, fifty-inch plasma screen TV with surround-sound, stainless steel appliances up the wazoo... and an empty fridge. And that's how the boss got caught: when he left the lair to go to the nearest McDonalds because he had a serious case of the munchies.
Sometimes, you got lucky, and got someone like Catman. As long as you had fish, a mini-fridge and a hotplate, you were golden. Someone like Penguin, though, that was far trickier. Most expensive caviar. Most expensive steak. Most expensive champagne. Trying to acquire all that stuff while minimizing the paper trail was a serious pain in the ass.
Thank god Cobblepot went legit ages ago.
"I always wanted to check it out."
"We invited you time and time again to join us."
"That's when you were playing the tabletop version, not this online version."
"And the problem with the former is..."
"Laboriously removing each part from the tags, assembling each and every figurine, and getting cramps and lead poisoning from all the painting."
"He's got a point. Breathing in all those paint fumes when you're trying to paint your army can do funny things to your head."
"I know that. I've known you for how many years?"
"So what race are you going to play?"
"Why am I not surprised?"
Plumbing is also a big deal. You'd be surprised how many henches, Rogues and other criminals forgot about that. Everyone has to go sometime, right? Porta-potties will do in a pinch, but most criminals expect a little better. Even Mr. Freeze takes the wallet out for a working set of pipes, and he's stuck in a freakin' cryo-suit!
In all honesty, the Z's did consider plugging up the toilets to prank one of their clients, but quickly changed their minds. Even they had their lines that shalt not be crossed, and that was most definitely one of them.
"You know, I couldn't believe it when I read it."
"By all accounts, it's pretty good."
"Tolkien would be rolling in his grave."
"Or he'd be honored that people are so enamored of his work, they want to expand it while still staying true to what made it so great."
"Tell me you're not going to pick Elves as your race again."
"What do you have against elves?"
"Had to watch each Lord of the Rings movie with a bunch of giggling nitwits behind me shrieking over Orlando Bloom as I'm-so-goddamn-sexy Legolas."
"Could be worse. Could be an entire theatre of giggling nitwits shrieking over Whats-his-name as Edward oh-my-god-he's-so-dreamy-even-if-he-is-a-totally-emo-creepy-obsessive-totally-abusive-stalker Cullen."
"Oy. Got a point there. Anyways, that's why I picked Dwarves. Seemed as far away from Elves as possible."
"Sounds about right."
Access to electrical power was the third most important factor. Back in the dark ages, when typewriters were considered a big freakin' deal, electricity wasn't a factor. Nowadays, it was. Everything needed power. Power to run the security systems and traps. Power to keep the fridge, microwave and other appliances running. Power to charge your cell phone. And, of particular importance to this client, power to run your computers.
Sometimes, you got lucky. You might find a lair that may be abandoned, but still has access to power, mainly because the adjacent buildings still have businesses, and you couldn't cut power to the former without affecting the latter. In this case, though, the client wanted a completely independent power source. Claimed it would help avoid pesky heroes or feds (didn't seem to have a high opinion of the GCPD's computer crime division) who might want to track him through power usages.
Eh, whatever the client wants, the client gets. Customer's always right, and all that. Besides, finding a generator with enough juice wasn't that tricky.
"I can't believe it."
"It's not fantasy-based."
"Hard to believe, huh?"
"Hey, I see you're customising your ship to carry lots of cargo."
"Yeah, I picked Gallente as my faction. Gotta love free market entrepreneurship."
"Can't argue with you there."
The computers were the trickiest item by far. Usually, clients wanted something basic, something you could pull off of the Dell or Apple computer website. Half the time, they brought their own laptop (easier to transport if you have to bail in a hurry), so all they needed was the right connection. But this client... he wanted custom jobs. And the list of components read like something you'd find in a Tom Clancy techno-thriller. Stuff like "quantum-optic cables" and "nitrogen slurry coolant pipes."
Even worse, you could count the number of companies who made those components with your hands (sometimes only one). It was a hell of a job trying to figure out a way to buy or steal all that stuff without leaving a trail of bread crumbs (virtual or otherwise).
Thankfully, the Z's weren't above contracting out when they needed an extra set of hands to launder the funds through or assemble those computers. God knows some of them weren't what you'd call computer-savvy.
"Oh my god. This is so funny."
"I know, and so topical, too."
"You think any of the Rogues play this?"
"Why would they pretend to be villains who commit crimes when they already are villains who commit crimes?"
"Yeah, I guess you got a point."
"So who're you going to be?"
"A hero. Be nice to try seeing things from the other side, even if it's only in a game. Now then, what color should I choose for my cape?"
Noah Cutler had to say, he was definitely impressed.
He was expecting some bare-bones abandoned warehouse with the bare essentials sticking out like sore thumbs. But this... this looked like something out of those home renovation shows that seemed to pop up left and right like weeds. It actually looked like a normal house that a law-abiding citizen would want to buy. Warm, earth-toned walls, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances... and, most importantly, a network of computers that would make any gamer think he'd (or she'd) died and gone to geek/nerd nirvana.
He decided to forego dinner (even though the half-bowl of jambalaya looked delicious) and go straight to the computers. Boot them up, take them for a spin. That sort of thing.
Then he noticed the stapled booklet of papers lying next to the keyboard of the nearest computer. Probably the bill.
Cutler picked it up and idly flipped through the pages. Yep, definitely the bill. Hefty price tag, but well worth the cost from what he saw...
What the HELL was this?
"Miscellaneous Gaming Expenses"
World of Warcraft + monthly fee
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade + monthly fee
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King + monthly fee
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures + monthly fee
Art books of games
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning + monthly fee
For anyone who doesn't know, the MMOs
referenced are, in order of presentation:
World of Warcraft (yes, the title of this fanfic is a play on WoW)
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
City of Heroes