Twenty minutes later I was pulling up at the home of Ted Vente.
When I think of a super genius' home, I usually imagine some sprawling mansion filled with all the latest gadgets plus some technology you've never heard of. What I wouldn't think of is a three bedroom ranch-style home smack dab in the middle of suburbia. Ted, known as Tinkerer to his friends and colleagues (and, frankly, anyone else who wasn't his mom), obtained the home as part of his reward package from his part in repelling the robotic crab invasion of '09 (a fairly local and, in my opinion, overblown bid for world domination by yet another in a long line of super-villains). He really didn't have much part to play as can be evidenced by the amount of his reward. Supers who are instrumental in the defense of the planet often receive enough compensation for a normal "tippy" to retire. Of course, like all supers, Ted thinks he was the lynchpin in the success of the operation (and will speak at length on the subject). Since then, he's been biding his time, as he likes to say, until he can get what's coming to him. A super-villain in the making? That'd be my bet. Luckily, he's young, brash and a little too easily distracted to focus on world domination. So far.
The mailbox on the curb had a hidden panel that reacts to individual bio-prints (as Ted often told me). Again, not exactly sure that a bio-print is a real thing, but it seemed to work. I've never known Ted's lair to be compromised.
I pressed my hand firmly onto the side of the mailbox. It looked and felt like real brick, but after a moment, my hand began to sink into it. A familiar tingling sensation ran along the palm of my hand, radiating slowly outward down my fingers. A moment later, my hand, again, felt like it was pressing against solid brick. It wasn't a painful experience, but it wasn't something I would look forward to. I always felt the urge to wash my hand afterwards and no matter how many times I did, it always felt weird for at least an hour or two.
After a moment, a small cloud of mist started spraying into the car from the mailbox. A holographic face appeared in the mist in front of me. It was faint and semitransparent, and I guessed that from the street, my own head would completely obscure it from view. On my lap the orb hissed and crackled as the condensation landed on it.
"Yes? Can I help you?"
The bubbly blonde with Scandinavian features and perfect bone structure wasn't someone I'd ever seen, but that was nothing new at Ted's.
"Ted, I need your help. Quick," I glanced down at the angry orb.
"Hey, who are..." The holographic face studied me more closely. "Bob? What the hell, man, I was about to go out!"
She went on, "Come back another time," and tipped back what looked to be a cosmopolitan in a stemless martini glass, emptying it. "Tonight, I'm on the prowl."
"Ted, I'm calling in a marker," I replied, keeping one eye on the orb on my lap, crackling under the relentless misting of condensation. The flames had reduced slightly, but I didn't let that lull me into thinking that it was any less potent.
"Man, you ran out of markers a long time ago." Her head moved out of the picture for a moment, reappearing a second later with a wide-brimmed, floppy hat.
"Well, how about I give you some advice and you give me a bit of help?" I said.
She looked confused for a second, her perfect lips pouted in consternation.
"You first," she replied, her eyes suspicious.
"Lose the hat."
"What?" she looked to the side, obviously at a mirror, "I look fabulous!"
"The only things you'll pick up with that hat are little old ladies coming home from church," I retorted. "Though a good, stiff breeze might let you fly for a bit."
"Ha, ha, funny man. Checking sensors now." The girl disappeared from the projection and I could hear buttons being pushed in the background. "Looks all clear. The boy across the way has taken to night gazing. I've already had to wipe his memory twice. Come on in." The mist and the girl disappeared. After a moment, the crackling from the orb ceased and I exhaled.
In front of the car, the end of the driveway nearest to the home started to descend. The front wheel of the car, which was just on the other side of the pivot point, started to dip. As soon as there was enough room for the hood of the car, I started to pull in. A moment later I could fit the whole car through the opening. I pulled in quickly and the driveway retracted with an audible slap. This was quickly followed by a hiss as Ted's lair pressurized.