‘Here’s your order ma’am. I hope you enjoy your food and have a happy happy day.’

It was Wendell’s first day working at Happy Happy Burger, the city’s beloved fast food restaurant chain. After studying for 5 years at medical school, his sudden change of mind about his career had paid off. Now, as he stood wearing his customary burger hat, he felt like he was ready to take on the world… or at least the Savon City branch of Happy Happy Burger.

The fast food joint was not the best, but it was cheap, so it was popular. It was originally called Happy Burger, but the owner felt this wasn’t positive enough, so as part of a very expensive rebrand, it was renamed to Happy Happy Burger. The staff were mostly young post-graduates, desperate for a successful career but too lazy for a worthwhile one. Wendell was no different. With his spotty face and square glasses, he looked like a stereotypical nerd, his naïvely optimistic outlook gleaming in the sparkle of his braces.

The morning had gone well, with a series of happy customers and an even happier manager. But things took an unexpected turn after one young girl took her Cheery Cheeseburger meal and a group of people in home-made costumes strode up to the counter. Wendell clung a little tighter to the till for support, struggling to maintain his professional manner as he sheepishly greeted the first of the costumed customers.

‘Hello sir, what would you like today?’
The Flush leaned in and spoke with a low, gruff voice, ‘I’d like a city full of law abiding, respectful people with a side order of justice.’
‘Um… wh… I uh…’ stuttered Wendell.
‘I’m just kidding,’ laughed Flush. ‘A Happy Hamburger meal with fries and a milkshake please’

Wendell breathed a sigh of relief and gathered the items that made up the man’s meal, including a little toy with arms, legs and a big smiley face on. He handed the meal to the masked man and continued to serve the rest of the squad, minus Faucet who was back at the base working through the physical training routine that Cap had set him. Cap had never actually trained anyone from scratch before, so he mainly stole ideas from The Karate Kid and mixed in some cleaning tutorials from YouTube to personalise it a bit. Faucet didn’t mind, he was just enjoying being part of the team.

‘Where’s the Captain?’ asked HyJean when they’d all got their meals.

They looked around the restaurant and suddenly spotted Cap in his trademark outfit. He was currently having an argument with one of the staff about the cleanliness of the tables. The girl was also in her late teens and was clearly not paid enough to care about giving each table a thorough clean between customers. Nevertheless, Cap started scrubbing a table with his sponge – he always carried one with him – and aggressively lecturing her on the importance of using anti-bacterial spray to make sure there was no leftover sauce or grease that could contaminate a customer’s meal.

The squad walked over to break up the lesson. Suds calmly pulled Cap away while HyJean apologised to the girl who was on the verge of tears.

They sat down in a booth and began eating their meals. Despite being obsessed with sanitation, the squad all enjoyed eating at the unhealthy Happy Happy Burger. It felt like a bit of a break from their hygiene focussed work. Cap did not share their feelings and was always reluctant to meet at there. He even brought his own sandwich to avoid eating the poorly prepared food. He laid a handkerchief out on the table and pulled an anti-bacterial wipe from the dispenser on his belt to give his hands a quick wipe.

‘So, any news on Faucet’s history?’ Cap asked as he chewed his ham and cheese sandwich .
‘I’m afraid not,’ said HyJean. ‘I’ve searched the city’s records and there’s nothing. It’s like he doesn’t exist.’
‘And we’re absolutely sure he does exist?’ asked Flush.
‘I‘m pretty sure he does,’ said HyJean. ‘I poked him quite a bit.’
‘Have you spoken to the police?’ asked Suds.
‘Well I’ve emailed them, but you know what they’re like. It’ll take at least a couple of months until we hear back,’ said HyJean, dipping a French fry into a little cup of something that looked not unlike ketchup.
‘And what about the laboratories?’ Cap asked.
HyJean held her finger up, gesturing for Cap to wait a second while she finished what she was eating. She was polite like that. When she was finished, she answered, ‘I’ve found three in the city that could be connected to him in some way.’
Cap was just about to reply with a plan when he suddenly felt a gentle tap on his back.
‘Can I have your autograph please?’ came a young sounding voice behind him.
Cap turned around to see a young boy, no older than 7, standing by him, shyly holding a Happy Happy Burger napkin.
‘No,’ said Cap. ‘Go away.’
HyJean kicked him under the table and made a little grunting noise.
‘Sorry,’ said Cap, ‘No, go away please.’
The boy sulked off and Cap turned back to face his team.

‘How could you do that?’ fumed HyJean, ‘That little boy considers you his hero and you just tell him to go away.’
‘I said please,’ said Cap.
‘She’s right Cap,’ agreed Flush. ‘That was a bit of a douche move.’
‘Go and apologise to him now,’ HyJean insisted.
‘But I’m eating!’
HyJean quickly leant over the table and grabbed the sponge that was clipped to his belt.
‘Go, now! Or you won’t get your sponge back.’
‘Fine,’ Cap sighed.

He unwillingly got up and went over to a table where a family were sitting.
‘Sorry kid, here you go,’ he scribbled his name on a napkin and gave it to the young boy.
‘Who are you?’ asked the young boy with a confused look on his face that matched those worn by the rest of his family.
‘I’m Captain Clean, you just came and asked me for an autograph.’
‘No I didn’t.’
‘Yes you did.’
‘No, I really didn’t.’
‘Yes, you really did. Right over there,’ insisted Cap, pointing over to their table. On second glance, he noticed HyJean was mouthing something and pointing to a different table where a familiar looking boy was sitting. ‘Okay, sorry to bother you.’

Cap went to the correct table and gave the correct little boy the autograph. The boy got very excited and even Cap could see how much it meant to him.

Meanwhile in the base, Nelson himself was busy taking his anger and frustration out on an unfortunate punching bag. He’d drawn an angry looking face on it that grinned at him as he stood before it.

‘Hey, you lookin’ at me? You want a piece of this, huh bag guy? Well here it is!’

He ran forward to hit it, but missed his footing and fell face first onto the bag, bouncing back and falling to the ground. He quickly stood up and brushed himself off.

‘Oh so that’s how it’s gonna be is it? Well in that case, have some foot!’

He threw his leg in the air and struck the bag a roundhouse kick. Sadly, it seemed to do more damage to his foot than the bag.

‘Argh!’ he cried. ‘Right then, time to play dirty.’

He left the room and seconds later came running back in, screaming and holding a knife.

‘Surprise attack!’ he shouted as he jumped at the bag from behind and slashed it open.

Sand poured on the floor and the grinning face slumped down as the material dropped down.

‘Ha! Didn’t see that coming did you?’

‘Okay, so Mick and I will visit these labs, while you two work with Faucet and see what you can find out. Any questions?’ Asked Cap.
‘Just one,’ said Flush, who was playing with a little plastic figure of a smiling burger with arms and legs, the mascot for Happy Happy Burger. ‘Why is the burger happy? Does he not understand his only purpose in life is to be eaten?’
The others smiled while Cap gave a dissatisfied look.
‘Any questions about the plans?’
The rest of the squad shook their heads and continued their food.

‘Hey Will,’ said Suds.
‘Yeah?’ replied Will, who was still playing with his little burger figure.
‘Don’t you have work on Tuesdays?’
‘Yeah, why?’
‘Well… today is Tuesday.’
Flush paused and looked up and suddenly realised he was late for work. He jumped up, climbed over the others and ran off. A few seconds later, he returned to pick up his Happy Happy Burger toy.
‘This is your fault,’ he said to the toy and then once again he was gone.

Cap was just about to take a sip of his Merry Milkshake, but as he did so he noticed a young boy who had been waiting patiently with a hand-drawn comic book in his hand. Cap sighed.

‘See, this is what happens when you do it once,’ said Cap to the squad.
‘Oh shut up,’ said HyJean.
‘Let’s have a look son,’ said Suds, taking the boy’s comic and flicking through it to show the others.
‘Wow, this is amazing,’ said HyJean. ‘You’re so talented.’
‘This is fantastic,’ added Suds.
‘My legs aren’t that short,’ said Cap.

The squad all signed the cover of the comic and handed it back to the boy with more encouraging remarks and cheery smiles. The boy happily skipped off and the squad returned to their food and conversation.

However, within seconds there was a cough behind them requesting their attention. Cap turned around and saw a dozen little boys and girls queued up in a line holding napkins and drawings.

‘Oh great,’ Cap sighed.

Later, in the base, HyJean was in her room working on an upgraded version of Faucet’s gauntlets that would enable him to project his water. As she hummed and tinkered, Faucet himself wandered in.

‘Hi Jean,’ Faucet said and then instantly realised how it sounded. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean… I meant hello Jean.’
‘Hey Nelson, don’t worry about it. The boys do that joke all the time.’
Faucet pulled up a chair and sat down, looking in awe at the wall that was covered – top to bottom, end to end – in sheets of paper with notes scribbled all over them.
‘Couldn’t afford wallpaper huh?’ he chuckled.
‘Oh, those are just my notes,’ she explained. ‘Helps me think. So, how’s the training going?’
‘Yeah, good. It’s going well. I mean if were ever attacked by an army of punch bags I’ll definitely be ready.’
HyJean laughed. ‘Well these should be ready soon, so then the real fun will start.’
Faucet continued to study the wall of notes, while HyJean worked. For a few minutes there was silence, until HyJean suddenly remembered something that had happened a few days before. She put her tools down and turned around.
‘I’m sorry about the other day by the way,’ said HyJean. ‘Y’know, the… flirting. I was just messing about, I thought you were asleep.’
‘Ah don’t worry about it,’ Faucet replied.
‘It’s just that I’m married with a son, so I don’t get to do much flirting anymore.’
‘It’s fine, honestly.’
HyJean smiled.
‘So does your husband know what you do?’ asked Faucet.
‘Yeah, I told him. I know you shouldn’t, but it’s easier than coming up with excuses why I come home bruised and stressed all the time.’
‘That’s fair enough. What does your boy think of it?’
‘Oh he loves it. He’s not allowed to tell anyone about it, but every night he asks me to tell him stories about fighting grime.’
‘Aww, that’s cute.’
‘So what about you? Any family or… anyone?’
‘Nah. I’m a bit of a loner. My parents died when I was young, so I’ve just been on my own.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry. How did it happen?’
‘They were both shot in an alleyway as we were leaving the cinema. We’d been to see a Batman film, so I thought it was like a sign that I should become Batman myself. I bought a cape and everything. But that didn’t last long. I fell off a roof and broke my leg.’
‘Ouch.’
‘Yeah. So anyway, how are the gauntlets coming along?’
‘Yes, I just need to calibrate the force indicator. But I need to…’ she trailed off as she searched her desk for the tool she was missing. ‘Ah, I know. MOP, I need you!’

It appeared as if HyJean was calling out to the air, and Faucet gave her a puzzled look, but she just gave a little smirk, as if something impressive was about to happen.

A few seconds later, a little robot trundled into the room. It was a little smaller than a vacuum cleaner, with three appendages on its midsection that looked like arms. It was amateurly built, with lots of loose wires, mismatched buttons and a small screen on the front. Overall, it looked like a Henry hoover had mated with the robot from Short Circuit. It rolled across the room on its tracks and stopped in front of HyJean, who proudly smiled at Faucet.

‘Woah! What is that thing?’ exclaimed Faucet.
‘It’s our mechanical office pet – MOP for short. I built him myself.’
‘Ha, you guys are crazy,’ he said and put his hand out to greet the robot. ‘Well, it’s nice to meet you MOP.’
‘Yeah, he can’t talk.’
‘Oh, okay. How about a high five?’
‘You can try.’

Faucet held out his hand and the robot glided over to him, raised one of its arms and sprayed Faucet’s hand with antibacterial gel.

‘He’s still very much in the development stage,’ admitted HyJean. She picked up a piece of paper and held it out towards the robot. ‘MOP, I need you to input this code into the computer.’
‘Oh, you have COMPUTER too? What does that stand for? No wait, let me guess. Is it… Complete Organisational Machine Providing Users Technical Exterior Resources?’
‘Um, no. It’s actually just a normal computer. But I like that name though.’

***

Meanwhile, Cap and Suds had left the base and were now standing outside the third of the three laboratories that HyJean had found in the city.

‘I don’t like the look of this place,’ said Cap. ‘Something smells fishy.’
‘Maybe because it’s a marine biology research centre?’ offered Suds.
‘No, that’s not it.’

They entered the building and located the reception area. Sat typing at a computer was a sweet looking young girl, late teens with a genuine smile on her face as visitors approached.

‘Maybe I should speak to her,’ suggested Suds.
‘No no, this requires the soft approach,’ said Cap.

They walked over to the girl and Cap slammed his hands down on the counter. ‘Who’s in charge here?’ Cap asked the receptionist.
The girl jumped
‘Uh… sorry sir… can I help you?’
‘I want to know who’s in charge.’
‘That’s Dr Shoal.’
‘Where is he?’
‘His office is on the top floor.’
‘Thank you.’

Cap gave her what he thought was a smile and Suds gave a little apologetic gesture as he followed.

‘Need to work on your soft approach,’ he told Cap.

As they walked across the foyer, they received many bemused looks from passers-by. Cap and Suds were used to it by now though, as they found themselves in costume in the most unlikely of places. They called the elevator and when it arrived, they got in, standing next to a woman who was not wearing a white coat.

After a brief moment of awkward silence, the woman asked ‘Are you two stripper grams?’
‘No miss,’ said Cap, ‘we’re grime fighters.’
‘Oh,’ she said. ‘That’s a shame.’

The rest of the vertical journey returned to the awkward silence, partly because the woman was wondering if she could get similar outfits for her husband and partly because Suds had farted and didn’t want to draw attention to himself.

After stopping at the 16th floor to let out the woman, Cap and Suds eventually arrived at the 20th floor. They walked out into the hall and were surprised to see that the wall in front of them was entirely painted to look like a shark underwater. They looked around for a door but couldn’t find one. Cap knocked on the shark’s tail and a few seconds later the shark’s fin swung open. A man of average height came out to greet them.

‘Guten tag,’ he said in what sounded like a German accent. ‘Can I help you gentlemen?’
‘Dr Shoal?’ asked Cap.
‘Yes, zat is me.’
‘Hello, Dr Shoal, we’d like to talk to you about one of your experiments,’ Suds said before Cap could scare the poor man.
‘Oh, zen please, come in,’ the man said with a smile.

Cap and Suds stepped through the gap where the shark’s fin had been and entered the doctor’s office, although to them it felt more like stepping aboard a boat. The bottom half of the walls were wood panelled, while the top half were painted like a sky scene that was so realistic it was hard to believe they were still indoors. Dotted around the room were barrels and ropes, and in the middle of the room there stood a mast pole that stretched up through the roof. On the tables were tanks full of every kind of fish – big, small, colourful, pretty, ugly, pretty ugly. The room stank, but the doctor had clearly gotten used to the smell, as he didn’t apologise on the smell’s behalf.

‘Velcome to my office,’ said the doctor as he sat down behind his desk and gestured for the two grime fighters to pull up a barrel ‘So, vat vould you like to know?’
Cap pulled out his phone and held it in front of the doctor.
‘Do you know this man?’ he asked.
Dr Shoal looked at the photo on the phone and nodded, ‘yes, of course.’
‘Really?’ asked Cap, a little surprised.
‘Yes, zat is me.’
Cap checked his phone and realised he’d got the wrong photo up. He’d opened the photo of Dr Shoal that HyJean had sent him instead of the photo of Faucet. He swiped across and brought up the right photo.
‘What about this man?’ Cap asked.
‘No, zis man I do not know.’
‘His name is Nelson Gush,’ explained Suds. ‘He recently came to us leaking water profusely,’
‘What did you do to him!’ shouted Cap. Suds gave him a little nudge. It was a nudge he was used to giving Cap – one that meant he needed to calm down and stop shouting at potentially innocent people.¬¬
‘I am telling you I have not heard of zis man,’ said Dr Shoal calmly.
‘Don’t play games with us doc, we know it was you,’ said Cap with a menacing stare.
‘Do we?’ whispered Suds to his colleague, who just shushed him.
‘Please, I am telling ze truth. I’m a marine biologist, vat interest vould I have in… vater?’
‘Aha!’ cried Cap. ‘See, it all fits.’
‘No, vat I meant vas, my sole interest is fish. It is not my plaice to experiment on humans. Feel free to look around my office, I have nozing to hide.’
‘It’s okay, we don’t need…’ started Suds.
‘Yes we do,’ Cap interrupted.

Cap walked around the office, looking in every tank and barrel. He didn’t really know what he was looking for, but he was interested to see how Dr Shoal would react if he did find anything unusual. He stopped at a large tank and stared inside. Inside, a squid was swimming around, suspiciously Cap thought, probably plotting elaborate schemes in its head.

‘What do you know?’ whispered Cap.

The squid didn’t know anything, or if it did, it wasn’t saying. After a while of investigating, Cap suddenly spotted something on a table.

‘Ah, look! What’s this? Doc, this isn’t a fish is it?’
‘No, zat is a croissant.’
‘Oh… right.’

Suds, now feeling very embarrassed by Cap’s behaviour, stood up.

‘I think we’ve seen enough, thank you Dr Shoal,’ he said, giving the doctor another of his well-rehearsed apologetic smiles. He walked over to Cap and pulled him away from a tank containing a frightened looking clownfish.

‘Time to go,’ Suds whispered, pulling Cap away and out through the door.

‘I’m watching you Shoal,’ said Cap in what he thought was a threatening tone as he left. He put his fingers up to point at his eyes and then pointed them at Dr Shoal. ‘Always watching.’

The two heroes left through the fin-shaped gap and Dr Shoal slumped down in his chair, returning to his work.

Suddenly, Captain Clean burst through the door and shouted, ‘Still watching!’

The doctor jumped and dropped his pen. And then, just as quickly as he’d arrived, Cap left.

***

‘Any luck?’ asked HyJean as Cap and Suds entered the base.
‘Nope. None of them knew anything about it,’ replied Suds.
‘I’m still not sure about that Shoal guy though,’ added Cap. ‘I don’t trust a German that eats French pastries. Keep an eye on him.’

***

‘Give it to me, I’ll do it.’
‘No, I can do it.’
‘Just give -‘
‘No, get off, I’m doing it.’

It was late and Happy Happy Burger had not long closed for the night. Wendell had gone home to another box set of Star Trek and a microwave meal for one. His girlfriend preferred home cooked foods, so she made her own dinner.

At the back of the fast food restaurant, a pair of figures in masks were trying to pick the lock of the staff exit. The slightly taller one dressed all in black was a man called Gerry, known to the criminal underworld as Blackhead. His partner was a younger woman dressed in maroon called Nell, known as Pimple. They were quick, they were strong and they were married.

The two had met at a weapons expo a few years previously and had hit it off when Gerry was trying out a new crowbar and accidentally hit it off Nell’s head. Luckily, she was testing a new metal helmet and only suffered mild embarrassment after the loud clang that echoed around the hall.

The two villains had mildly successful careers as robbers, but now enjoyed working together to commit bigger robberies and other nefarious deeds. Although “enjoyed” may not be right word, as they were currently in the middle of one of their regular squabbles, which was about to be interrupted by a click as the door unlocked.

‘Aha!’ cried Blackhead. ‘See, I told you I‘d do it.’
‘Oh yeah, after 5 minutes of picking,’ argued his wife. ‘You’re hardly Harry Houdini.’
‘Oh, shut up,’ said Blackhead as he pushed open the door.

They crept into the room and over to the alarm system on the wall. They had 10 seconds before the quiet beeping stopped and loud wailing alerted the whole road to what they were up to.

‘What’s the 4 digit code?’ whispered Blackhead.
‘4, 6, 3, 5.’

He tapped the numbers on the pad, but the beeping didn’t stop. In fact, it got louder and a little red light started flashing on the panel.

‘Oh, for Christ sake. Now what have you done?’
‘Nothing, I put in what you said. 4, 6, 3, 9.’
‘I said 5, not 9!’
‘You said 9!’
‘I did not!’
‘Well it sounded like 9!’
‘Well maybe if you listened properly, you’d get it right.’
‘And maybe if you didn’t wear a balaclava over your mouth, I could hear you properly.’

At which point their argument was interrupted by a loud wailing noise that was attempting to alert the whole road to what they were up to.

‘Quick!’ screamed Pimple. ‘Make it stop!’
‘What’s the code?!’ cries Blackhead.
‘I don’t know!’ she said in a panic. ‘Try bash, bash, bash, bash.’
‘Right!

Blackhead whipped out the hammer on the other end of his lock picking device and bashed four times on the alarm. It fell silent and the couple breathed a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, in a base not far away, Captain Clean looked up from his paperwork in response to the loud wailing noise coming from outside. He went to get up, but then it stopped.

‘Huh,’ he said to himself, ‘must’ve been Will singing again.’

Back in Happy Happy Burger, there was silence once more. Blackhead and Pimple returned to their van and opened up the doors, revealing a large hose connected to a pumping machine that was connected to a glass container.

‘Right, let’s get this grease and go,’ said Pimple, handing her husband the end of the hose. ‘Think you can handle that?’

Blackhead gave her an unimpressed look and headed into the main kitchen area of the restaurant, the hose unravelling as he went. He dropped it into one of the fryers and barked like a dog to signal his wife to turn it on. While the thick, brown liquid made its way down the pipe and into the container, Blackhead helped himself to some leftover fries and perched on top of the counter.

After a few minutes, the grease was drained and they moved onto the next fryer. Soon, all three fryers were empty and Pimple meowed to signal that the glass container in the van was full. Blackhead pulled the hose out of the fryer and returned to his wife.

‘Here, I got you this,’ he said, handing her a cookie he’d swiped from the counter.
‘Aww, thanks sweetie,’ she said.

They packed the hose away and closed the van doors.

‘Should we lock it back up?’ asked Blackhead, gesturing to the back door of the restaurant.
‘Yeah, best had,’ said Pimple. ‘Don’t want anyone breaking in while their alarm’s not working.’

***

The next morning, Suds entered the base and found Cap, HyJean and Faucet.

‘Hey guys, did you hear the news about Happy Happy Burger?’ he asked.
‘What, are they serving actual cow meat now?’ Faucet replied.
‘No, they were robbed last night.’
‘Seriously?’ said Cap.
‘Yeah, they broke in and stole all the grease from the fryers.’
‘Well, we’ve all thought about doing that,’ said Faucet.
‘That’s weird,’ said HyJean, who was sat at her computer. ‘That’s the third fast food place this week that’s been robbed.’

She pulled up two news articles about other fast food restaurants in the city that had also been broken into.

‘Are there any patterns?’ asked Cap.
‘Well, the only thing they stole from each restaurant was a large quantity of grease,’ she explained. ‘But who could need all that grease?’
‘A John Travolta tribute act?’ suggested Faucet.
‘Or maybe someone who wants to use the grease as a weapon,’ reasoned Cap. ‘Mick, I think we should pay Happy Happy Burger a visit.’
‘Hey, can you bring me back a burger, I’m starving,’ said Faucet.
‘We’re not going to get food,’ said Cap. ‘Jean are the new gauntlets ready?’
HyJean nodded.
‘Great, you can help Nelson try them out then.’

***

‘Chief Inspector Hamm, what are you doing here?’ asked Cap as he entered the Happy Happy Burger manager’s office.
‘I’m investigating a crime Mr Clean, it’s what I’m paid to do,’ came the cop’s reply.
‘It’s Captain Clean actually.’
‘Until you provide me with evidence of your being granted the title, I will not be using it.’
‘I was in the army y’know,’ chipped in Suds.
‘Really?’ asked the Chief Inspector. ‘Did you shoot anyone?’
‘No, but I washed a few dead bodies.’

There was another man sat at a computer who Cap recognised. It was the young, spotted man that had served him the day before. Wendell was frantically skimming through CCTV footage and suddenly piped up when he got to the footage of the break in. Cap and Suds moved in for a closer look.

The footage was dark, because it was night and the cameras were cheap. On the screen, two shadowy figures could just be made out picking the lock and entering the building.

‘Well that’s bloody useless,’ said the Chief Inspector. ‘Can’t see a thing.’
‘Do you have any other angles?’ asked Cap. ‘Perhaps showing them arriving or inside the restaurant?’
‘No, sorry,’ said Wendell. ‘The boss said one camera was enough and any more was a waste of money.’
‘Of course he did,’ tutted Suds.
‘Can we get a copy of this footage?’ asked Cap. ‘HyJean might be able to-’
‘No,’ said Chief Inspector Hamm firmly. ‘I’ve told you before, if you and your lot want to run around throwing soap at everything, that’s fine, but you’re not using official police resources.’
Cap paused for a moment and then just said, ‘fine.’

The heroes and the policeman asked Wendell a few questions and then they left the restaurant. As they were leaving, Suds seemed confused by the captain’s response.

‘You didn’t look that bothered when he said we couldn’t have a copy of the footage,’ said Suds.
‘No need,’ grinned Cap. ‘I filmed it on my phone.’

***

‘Okay, we’re going to have to be quite quick changing these gauntlets,’ HyJean told Faucet.

They were in the shower room, trying out the new gauntlets that she’d recently finished developing. Faucet had his arm resting on a table and HyJean had placed the new gauntlet next to it.

‘Try and concentrate on holding the water in,’ she said.
‘Will that work?’ Faucet asked.
‘No idea,’ she smiled. ‘I just want to try and stay dry here. Okay, on 3?’
‘Sure, go for it.’
‘1… 2… 3…’

HyJean pressed the lock release on Faucet’s existing gauntlet with one hand and grabbed the new gauntlet with the other. However, what she didn’t count on was the huge gush of water that had been building up in Faucet’s wrist and now came gushing out and soaking her face.

She fumbled about, trying to deflect the water and put the new gauntlet on. Meanwhile, Faucet was panicking asking her repeatedly what he should do. Obviously, HyJean didn’t answer him because she didn’t fancy her lungs being drowned with water.

Faucet quickly remembered HyJean’s advice and strained to try and hold in the water. After a few seconds, it started to take effect and the water simmered down to a light spray, calm enough for HyJean to affix the new gauntlet.

‘Sorry about that,’ said Faucet, with an embarrassed look.
‘It’s fine,’ said HyJean, although it wasn’t fine at all. Her hair was soaking wet, her make-up was ruined and her eyes were stinging so much she could barely see.
‘Do you want to give it a minute before we do the other one?’ Faucet asked.
HyJean nodded and slumped down onto one of the chairs.
‘Try that one out,’ she said, rather breathlessly. ‘Make a fist and tense your arm.’

Faucet held out his arm and tightened. The sudden jet of water that came spurting out from his wrist and down his hand forced him to stumble backwards, swinging his arm around so that his arm was now aiming at HyJean’s face. He quickly relaxed his hand and the water stopped.

‘I think it works,’ said Faucet sheepishly.

***

‘I’ve enhanced it as much as I could,’ said a now dry HyJean as Cap, Suds and Faucet gathered around the computer to look at the footage Cap had recorded, ‘but it’s still pretty poor quality.’

She played the footage and when the two criminals appeared on screen, Cap thought he recognised one of them.

‘That looks like the Scarlet Pimple,’ he said, referring to Pimple’s alias before she met her husband. ‘We got her locked up a few years ago. But I don’t know who the other person is.’
‘Maybe it’s her boyfriend,’ joked Faucet, little realising how close he was.
‘Well, at least now we’re one step ahead of the police,’ said Cap with a grin. ‘And I know where to start looking.’
‘You do?’ asked HyJean.
‘The Scarlet Pimple used to hide out in a warehouse just outside of town. I think you and I should pay her a visit.’
‘What about me?’ asked Faucet.
‘You need to train.’
‘Oh come on, I’ve been training for days now. I need some action!’
‘Fine, you come with me, Jean see what you can find out about the Scarlet Pimple’s new partner.’

Cap and Faucet got ready and called The Driver. He took them, at great speed, to the warehouse on the outskirts of the town, overlooking the river.

‘Eurgh,’ Faucet groaned as he got out of the taxi. It was his first time experiencing The Driver’s crazy speeds and it made him feel a little sick.
‘Want me to stick around boss?’ asked The Driver.
‘If you wouldn’t mind,’ said Cap. ‘We might need you.’
‘I could come in if you want, help beat them up?’
‘That won’t be necessary, thanks. Just stay in the car.’
‘You got it.’

Cap and Faucet approached the warehouse with a degree caution, which you should always do if you are approaching something bigger than you. You should also approach things that are smaller than you with some caution too, as you never know how powerful it could be. In fact, you should approach everything in life with caution. People who live carefully generally tend to live longer, even if their lives are incredibly dull.

Cap had seen the warehouse before several years ago when he’d caught the Scarlet Pimple and got her arrested. It now looked a little older, but a lot nicer in the daylight. On the side of the building was a ladder leading up to the roof. The two heroes climbed it and crept around the roof, keeping low and quiet in case anyone was around. Cap pointed out an air vent and they headed over to it. With one swift pull, Cap removed the cover and gestured that they’d both go inside in much the same way he had done the last time he was here.

Cap went in first, but unlike last time, he got stuck. He was slightly too big to fit and wriggled his arms and legs as he struggled to push himself through.

‘You’ve put on a few pounds since last time huh?’ asked Faucet.
‘No, they must have had new vents fitted,’ argued Cap.
‘Or you need to cut down on the Happy Happy burgers.’
‘Just shut up and push me!’

Faucet pushed and after a bit of force, Cap finally dropped through. Faucet followed with much more ease. Inside they stood up on a narrow metal ledge that lined each wall.

‘Is this a bad time to mention I’m afraid of heights?’ asked Faucet.
‘What?’ asked Cap. ‘Really?’
‘Yeah, I don’t do well with heights,’ he said as he clung on to a pipe on the wall.

While Faucet tried to overcome his fear, Cap looked down into the warehouse. As he scanned the area below, he was surprised to find the room was filled with boxes, all stacked up. In the middle of the room was a table with a few men sat around it. Despite their smart suits, they did not look like respectable businessmen. Cap heard them muttering in New York accents, talking about shipments and guns. At this point he knew: they’d stumbled in on the rumoured black-market dealers known as the Wet Mafia.

It was the right warehouse, but the Scarlet Pimple hadn’t been based here in years and the Wet Mafia had since taken over the place. Cap didn’t want to stick around to find out what they were capable of, so he turned back to Faucet, who was still clinging to the pipe.

‘We’ve got to get out of here,’ Cap whispered.
‘Why?’ asked Faucet.
‘The Wet Mafia are down there. We need to go.’

Faucet let go of the pipe, but as he did, he noticed the big drop below them and suddenly felt very dizzy. He stumbled around and Cap grabbed hold of him to try and calm him down. But it was no good. Faucet’s legs had other plans. He dropped down to the floor, taking Cap with him, and together rolled off the metal ledge.

Fortunately, the two heroes grabbed hold of the edge of the ledge and dangled in the air. Unfortunately, the men down below had heard them and were now looking up at the two heroes with angry looks.

‘Hey! Who are you guys?’ asked one of the men.
‘Um… we’re the window cleaners’ lied Cap.
‘Then why are you wearing a cape?’
‘Uh… my back gets unusually cold this time of year.’
‘And why are you wearing toilet roll around your head?’
‘I uh…’ Cap turned to Faucet and whispered, ‘help me out here.’
‘He’s… he’s on his way to a fancy-dress party and he’s going as the invisible man,’ he shouted down.

Cap rolled his eyes and was about to shout something down when he heard a sound that he’d been hoping not to hear. He looked down and his eyes confirmed it – the Wet Mafia had pulled their guns out and were pointing them at the two dangling heroes.

‘Please, don’t shoot!’ shouted Cap.
‘Have mercy!’ shouted Faucet in an overly dramatic fashion that he’d seen in a film once. ‘I’m too young to die!’

But it was too late. Cap and Faucet had trespassed on their property, interrupted their meeting and were refusing to tell them who they were. The men in suits all fired their guns.

‘Noooooo!’ shouted Cap.

In a display of perfectly synchronised violence, long streams of water burst out of the guns and soaked the two heroes, causing them to lose grip and come crashing down onto the pile of boxes just a few feet below them.

You see, the Wet Mafia were a group of dodgy businessmen selling knock-off goods, including a new line of water pistols. The meeting was about a shipment of stolen trainers that they were going to pick up the next day.

The businessmen pulled Cap and Faucet down from the boxes and demanded to know who they were and what they were doing on the property.

‘We were tracking down a criminal called the Scarlet Pimple,’ explained Cap. ‘She used to be based here.’
‘She ain’t been here for years,’ said one of the men in suits.
‘And who are you anyway?’ asked another man in a similar looking suit.
‘I’m Captain Clean and this is Faucet, we’re from the Sanitary Squad.’
‘We’re a group of grime fighters,’ added Faucet.
‘Grime huh?’ said the first man, who was now not only wearing a suit but also wearing an inquisitive look on his face. ‘So you don’t deal with crime?’
‘Well, we sometimes deal with crime,’ said Cap without thinking.
‘But only sanitary themed crime, right Cliff?’ said Faucet nervously.

The businessmen turned away and muttered to each other. As the heroes awaited their verdict, Cap whispered to Faucet, ‘please stop using my real name. Nobody is supposed to know my secret identity.’
‘Oh, sorry Mr Cane,’ said Faucet.
‘Just call me Cap when we’re in public,’ said Cap.
‘Right, sure thing.’

After a brief conversation, they turned to face the heroes once again.

‘Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do,’ said one of the men in suits. It was hard to tell which of them it was, as they all looked so similar. ‘We let you go free, but if anyone asks, you ain’t seen nothin’ here.’
Cap thought for a second and then nodded, ‘Deal.’

***

‘Okay, so tomorrow is the big one,’ said Pimple as she ironed her outfit ready for the big day. ‘Once we’ve got this last vat of grease, we can initiate the final phase.’
‘And then everyone will be spotty like us!’ said Blackhead dramatically, staring into the mirror at the grim reflection of his face which was so covered in spots, blackheads and pimples that it made the mirror look like a dot-to-dot book.

His wife’s face was also plagued with the same unhygienic dots. Despite washing regularly and always keeping clean, the two had been cursed with skin complaints. They’d been bullied as children and their hurt and anger led them to a life of crime to take revenge on the world that had been so cruel to them.

Their plan was to collect all the grease from the four main restaurants in the city, mix it with various chemicals to hide the smell and colour, then dump it into the city’s water supply. They presumed that infecting people’s water with grease would irritate people’s skin and cause them to break out in spots. Their lack of scientific knowledge meant they didn’t know whether it would actually work, but even if it didn’t, it’d be a fun prank.

Pimple picked up the map and located the small square that had been circled with a red pen. This was it. Finally, the city would pay for how they’d treated her and her husband for years.

***

The driver dropped Cap and Faucet back at the base, where they were greeted by HyJean.
‘Was she there?’ she asked.
‘Nope,’ said Cap, taking his gloves off and throwing them down on the table in a huff.
She looked at Faucet who filled him in on the warehouse break-in and the Wet Mafia.
‘Where’s Mick?’ Cap asked.
‘It’s his night off,’ HyJean said. ‘It’s their anniversary, so he’s taken Mary to Greasy Pete’s for a slap-up meal.’
‘Aww, that’s sweet,’ said Faucet. ‘How long have they been together?’
’13 years.’
‘Wow. What’s that? Is there like a gold or ruby thing for 13 years?’
‘Yeah, it’s lace.’
‘Oh, that’s a bit rubbish.’
‘On the contrary, Mary showed me some new lacy lingerie she bought for tonight, so Mick’s in for a treat.’
‘What did you say?’ asked Cap.
‘I said she’s bought some new lingerie,’ said HyJean.
‘No, before that.’
‘About the 13 years?’
‘No, before that, where did you say they’ve gone for food?’
‘Greasy Pete’s Steak House.’

Cap smiled.

‘I think I know where our dermatologically challenged duo will be heading next.’
‘Oh, of course!’ said Hyjean, realising what Cap meant.
‘What?’ asked Faucet, who hadn’t quite caught on.
‘They’ve robbed the three fast food joints and now they’re going for the big one,’ said Cap.
‘And going by the news reports, they’ve been robbing a place every 2 days,’ said HyJean, ‘so all we have to do is go there tomorrow and wait for them.’
‘Wait a minute,’ said Faucet. ‘You mean we’re going to stake out a steak house?’
‘Exactly,’ said Cap.

***

‘It’s been really nice getting away from work for the night,’ said Mick.
‘I thought we agreed not to talk about work,’ said Mary.
‘I’m not. I was just saying it’s nice not to be at work.’
‘There, you’ve done it again!’
‘Fine, what do you want to talk about?’

Mary sat and thought for a moment.

‘The Captain!’ she said in a surprised tone.
‘Now who’s talking about work,’ smirked Mick.
‘No, the Captain’s just walked in,’ she said, pointing across the room.

Mick span round and saw that Captain Clean was indeed walking into the restaurant.

‘Oh jeez,’ sighed Mick. ‘Can he not leave us alone for one night!’

As if on cue, Cap caught sight of his two colleagues sat amongst the crowd of tables. He gave them a little wave and Mick gestured back to go away. Cap realised he was interrupting. He sheepishly mouthed an apology and tried to conceal himself behind his cape. He slowly crept over to the front desk, little realising that most of the restaurants was now staring at him.

‘Go sort him out will you,’ Mary said to her husband.

Mick quickly walked over to his boss and pulled his cape down.

‘What are you doing here?’ he asked angrily.
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Cap. ‘We think Blackhead and Pimple are going to rob this place tomorrow, so I’m going to try and get the manager to set these hidden cameras up.’

Cap held up a bucked with a pile of small cameras inside.

‘This is my night off with Mary,’ Mick said. ‘Why are you doing this to me?’
‘I know, I’m sorry. I did try to be inconspicuous.’
‘How? How did you try?’
‘I’m wearing the dark blue cape.’

He held up his cape, which was indeed dark blue instead of his usual mustard yellow.

‘You know what would’ve been more inconspicuous?’ said Mick. ‘Not wearing a cape!’
‘But the cape completes the outfit,’ Cap argued.

Mick was just about to grab Cap and throttle him when he was interrupted by a waiter.

‘Excuse me sirs,’ said the waiter in what was clearly a posh voice he was putting on, ‘can I help you?’
‘Yes, I’m Captain Clean from the Sanitary Squad,’ said Cap.
‘Really, I never would have guessed,’ the waiter replied in a deadpan tone.
‘I need to speak to the manager immediately. The restaurant is under threat.’
‘Very well, I will take you to the manager,’ said the waiter before turning to Mick. ‘Are you with the Captain sir?’
‘Um, no… I just wanted a spoon,’ Mick lies.
‘Don’t we all,’ said the waiter, leading Cap away to find the manager.

***

The following night, Cap, Suds, Faucet and Flush sat in the Cap in the of The Driver’s taxi – Flush in the front because he’d called shotgun, the others in the back, with Cap squished in the middle. The car was parked in the car park on the opposite side of the road to Greasy Pete’s Steakhouse. HyJean was back in the base, keeping an eye on the restaurant via the cameras Cap had installed.

As they waited, The Driver tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in time the Indian music playing on the radio. While his colleagues had requested different music several times, Flush was really getting into it; performing his own little dance that he’d come up with and singing along with what he thought were the right lyrics but sounded more like noises of pain.

They’d been in the car for just under 2 hours and Cap was getting restless.

‘HyJean, is there…’ he tried to reach for his communications headset, but his arms were jammed between the two men either side of him. He turned to Suds on his right and said, ‘Can you?’

Suds reached across with his free arm and pressed the button on Cap’s headset.

‘Thanks a lot,’ he said.
‘What for?’ asked HyJean on the other end.
‘No, nothing,’ said Cap. ‘Is there any action on the cameras?’
‘Hold on, let me check.’

HyJean put down her magazine and looked up at the monitor to see a van had appeared in the Steakhouse car park.

‘Damnit,’ she muttered. ‘Yes Cap, they’ve just arrived.’
‘Okay, let’s go! Go! Go!’ shouted Cap.

The men piled out of the car, took a brief moment to stretch their legs and then dashed out of the car park and across the road. However, in all the excitement, they forgot to look both ways and Flush was the unlucky one to get hit by a car, which suddenly screeched to a halt as its driver saw the costumed men appeared from nowhere. Flush tumbled onto the cars bonnet and slid onto the floor, his friends stopping to help him up.

‘I’m okay,’ he said wearily.
‘He’s okay!’ Suds called to the driver.
‘Do you want to go back to the car?’ Cap asked.
‘No, no,’ said Flush insistently. ‘You carry on and I’ll limp over in a minute.’

Meanwhile, on the other side of the road, Blackhead and Pimple had hooked up their machine and were draining the Steakhouse’s kitchen of its grease.

‘You know love, I’ve really enjoyed doing this grease stealing operation with you,’ said Blackhead with a smile.
‘Me too,’ Pimple smiled back. ‘It’s been so nice to done something together for a change.’
‘And maybe if we have some grease left over, we could…’ his voice trailed off and he gave her a cheeky wink and a playful grin.
‘Ooh, you like a greasy woman do you?’ she asked, seductively wiping a bit of grease off the top of the fryer and seductively licking her finger. She immediately spat it out and wiped her tongue in disgust.

Suddenly, they heard a commotion outside. Pimple went to take a look. Seeing the members of the Sanitary Squad jumping about in the middle of the street, she ran to the van, switched the machine off and rushed back into the Steakhouse to warn her husband.

‘Honey, I think it’s broken,’ Blackhead said as he fiddled with the fryer.
‘It’s not broken, I turned it off,’ she explained. ‘The Sanitary Squad are outside, we need to go.’
‘Holy crap,’ said Blackhead as he detached the tube. ‘Oh damn. Why didn’t we think about the possibility of this happening?’
‘Just come on,’ called his wife.

They rushed back to the van, but it was too late; the Sanitary Squad was standing next to the van waiting for them, Captain Clean and HyJean by the van, with Sergeant Suds and Faucet spread out in case they tried to make a run for it. The Flush was sat on a little wall, still nursing his aching leg.

A defeated looking Pimple stepped forward slowly to be taken into custody by the squad. Blackhead, on the other hand, was not willing to give up so easily. He hurled the big plastic tube at the squad members by the van, splashing them with excess grease, and made a run for it. He didn’t get very far though, as Faucet jumped out in front of him.

‘Stop!’ shouted Faucet, lifting his hand up and using his new gauntlet to spray Blackhead in the face.

The jet of lukewarm water sent Blackhead flying back and down onto the ground. As he slowly got to his feet, Pimple let out a cry of. Although the water had not harmed her partner in crime and life, it was dripping down his face, taking with it many of the spots and pimples that had once prominently adorned his features.

‘Gerry!’ she cried, running over to help her husband up. ‘Your spots are falling off!’
Blackhead suddenly looked worried and quickly tried to come up with an excuse.
‘Uh… oh wow,’ he stuttered, ‘It must be something in his water!’

Pimple swiped some of the water off his face and splattered it on her own face, rubbing it into her spots.

‘Is it working?’ she asked excitedly.
‘Um… no,’ he replied.
‘Quick, spray me,’ she said to Faucet.

Faucet looked unsure what to do and slowly raised his hand, looking around to Cap as if asking for permission.
‘No, stop! It’s not going to work,’ Blackhead warned Faucet.
‘What do you mean?’ she asked. ‘Why not?’
‘The grease didn’t clear my spots,’ he replied sadly.
‘What? Then what happened? Why has your skin cleared up?’
Blackhead sighed. ‘You know that new cream you bought a couple of weeks ago, the one that didn’t work… I tried it and it worked on my skin. It cleared up some of my spots, but I didn’t know how to tell you.’
‘So you lied to me for weeks?’
‘I was going to tell you once we’d done this grease thing. See if there was something we could do for your spots.’
‘You liar!’ she said, hitting her dirty (although comparatively clean) stinking liar of a husband.
‘Darling, please, just listen…’ he begged.
‘No you listen! I’ve had enough of you! How could you do this to me? All this time I thought we were the same, but now you go and do this!’
‘But I didn’t mean to, I…’
‘Ahem,’ coughed a voice from behind them.

They turned around and saw Captain Clean holding a pair of handcuffs.

‘Sorry to interrupt,’ said the captain, ‘but you two are-‘
‘You can wait a minute,’ snapped Pimple.

Cap stood stunned and let her finish her argument. She continued to shout at her husband about how he never respected her and how he always took the toffee sweets when they had a tin of Quality Street. Blackhead tried to defend himself, but quickly gave up and let her yell at him, completely embarrassing him in front of the local superheroes.

Eventually Pimple seemed to run out of things to berate her husband for and finished her tirade. HyJean gave the captain a little nudge and he stepped forward once again.

‘Right, if you’re finished,’ he said with a disapproving look at Pimple, ‘you two are coming with us.’

The two criminals were cuffed and when the police arrived shortly after, they were stuffed into the back of a police car while the crime scene investigators commandeered the van for evidence.

‘I guess I ought to congratulate you Captain,’ said Chief Inspector Hamm.
‘All in a day’s work Inspector,’ smiled Cap. ‘And another little tip: you might want to check out the warehouse on Fforde Street.’

Cap left the Inspector to contemplate his tip off and Faucet was quick to question him.

‘What are you doing?’ asked Faucet. ‘They made us swear not to tell anyone.’
‘No Nelson, they made us swear that we “ain’t seen nothin’”. That’s a double negative, so he was making us promise to say that we had seen something.’
‘Oh,’ said Facuet. ‘I still think they’ll be pretty mad though.’

***

A short while later, Gerry was being led down the corridors of Scumbucket Prison by a bald, muscly guard who looked so mean that a rumour was spreading around the prison that he lost his hair when he ripped it out and ate it a fit or rage.

‘So what’s it like here?’ Gerry asked the guard. ‘Is the food any good?’

The guard just grunted and gave him a shove to carry on walking.

‘I’ll take that as a no.’

The guard stopped him outside a cell and opened the door.

‘In you go,’ he said.

Gerry entered his new home and was horrified to see a familiar face sitting on one of the two beds that furnished the dark, damp room.

‘Oh no,’ he sighed. ‘Hello dear.’