In the past 24 hours, Marinette had gotten 1 hour of sleep. The rest of her time was spent doing school work, helping at the bakery, saving Paris, catching up on schoolwork she missed because of saving Paris, finishing commissions for various people she knew, and thinking about how she was totally screwed for tomorrow.
It was a horrible way to live, and she wasn’t paid enough to deal with it.
She sat up in bed two seconds before her alarm went off. “I’m not paid enough to deal with this!” She said to the room at large.
Tikki looked at her, concerned. “You aren’t getting paid to be Ladybug, Marinette.”
“Well, I should be,” Marinette decided. “I’m dying anyways, might as well die with enough to be worth putting into a will.”
Tikki stared at her Chosen. “How are you going to get paid for being a superhero, if people can’t know who you are?”
“Gang, I’ve come to a decision.”
Ladybug folded her arms as she looked out across the roof that the heroes of Paris had gathered on.
“Oh yeah?” Queen Bee said.
“We are unionizing,” Ladybug said. “The mayor can pay us. He’s rich and we do enough for this city.”
“These are true statements,” Rena Rouge said. “So are we, like, going on strike, or…”
“Yes,” Ladybug said.
“You want what ?” The mayor asked.
“We want to be paid,” Ladybug said. “Do you have any idea how much of our life obligations and careers this gig interrupts? We deserve funds.”
“Yup. This cat is feline very underappreciated. We put in at least as much work as you do protecting Paris, if not more.”
The mayor gawked at them, glancing from hero to hero as if they would change their minds. “Surely you must be joking. The city couldn’t afford something like that, what would the people say?”
“Probably something like ‘raise the minimum wage’,” Rena said. “Heroes work hard, but so do grocery clerks, and I’m not the only person with kids in my house.”
“You what ?” Mayor Bourgeois sputtered.
“Siblings,” Rena said. “Little’uns. I have to babysit sometimes, and sometimes akuma attacks interrupt that.”
Mayor Bourgeois looked at his daughter, “Surely Chloe, you don’t agree with them, do you?”
Chloe popped a gum bubble. “They’ve saved my life, like, ten times this month. Remember the last akuma almost crushed me with a car before I could transform? Ladybug punched the car. Pay her.”
“I punched a car . I might be superhuman, but heroes still feel pain, Mr. Bourgeois. Pay us.” Ladybug said.
“I’m not gonna be on my dad’s health insurance forever,” Chat added. “What if I broke a bone and couldn’t get it treated, and then my bone healed bad and Paris was down it’s best cat?”
“There are other heroes, Paris doesn’t need this- this disrespect!” the mayor shouted, rising from his desk.
The other heroes looked to Ladybug.
“Fine,” Ladybug said. “We’ll just have to get them to strike with us.”
Hawkmoth had never heard of working-class solidarity, so of course, he sent an Akuma the next day.
“Is Hawkmoth even working class?” Carapace asked, munching on a bag of chips while sitting on a beam of the Eiffel Tower.
“Good question,” replied Chat Noir, frantically scribbling on what appeared to be his homework. “He certainly keeps odd hours if he is.”
“The Ladyblog posted about the strike,” Rena said. “The city should know by now.”
“Everyone does check that,” Queenie said.
“It specifies we want to be paid in cash, right?” Ladybug said. “We can’t exactly go to the bank as civilians and cash checks for superhero money.”
“Yeah, it says,” Rena said. “Shouldn’t you be getting the other heroes by now?”
“Oh. Right. The other heroes.”
Ladybug stood up, stretched, and swung off the tower, making a face at the Akuma as she went.
Luka turned to Ladybug. “This about the, uh…” He waved vaguely as something exploded in the distance.
She handed him the Snake Miraculous. “Join our union,” She said. “We’re on strike.”
Luka nodded and took the box. “Benefits?” he asked.
“Just pay, for now. Can’t expect too much from the mayor at once.”
“True. I’m in.”
“Unrelated, but do you know where your sister is?” Ladybug asked.
Ladybug was peering in the windows of the Couffaine’s houseboat. It was great to know that Juleka was in her room, but Ladybug had never been the strongest at remembering where things were.
A head peeked out of the window to her right. “Uh… Ladybug?”
“Hi. How would you like to join the heroes union?” Ladybug asked.
“But I’m not a hero,” Juleka said.
“Not yet, you aren’t. How would you like to be?”
“I-What?” Juleka sputtered out, looking at the smug hero dangling off the side of her home.
“Juleka, this is the Tiger Miraculous. Join my union.” Ladybug said as she held out a wooden box.
Max and Markov were busy with Max’s new game, although the Akuma blowing up parts of the nearby neighborhood was beginning to make focusing hard.
There was a knock at the window, and when he turned, it wasn’t stray debris, it was Ladybug.
Max popped open the window, and Ladybug crawled in.
“Join my union,” she said. “We’re pay striking.”
“Will you playtest my new game?” Max asked.
“If you join the union.”
“Of course. Union time it is then.”
Ladybug was on her way to find Kagami when Kim waved her down.
“Ladybug!” He called.
“I’m on strike,” She said.
“Ladybug, I can h-- huh?” Kim stopped. “What do you mean, you’re on strike?”
“The heroes of Paris are going on a pay strike,” Ladybug said. “Unfortunately, I don’t know who the last Guardian gave the monkey miraculous to that one time, so I can’t get him, but I’m on my way to pick up Ryuko, and a few others, and then we’ll have everyone else, so hopefully that’s enough.”
“Here’s a thought,” Kim said. “Give me the monkey miraculous for the strike.”
“Hm,” Ladybug said. “Promise?”
Now that she thought about it, Kim and King Monkey were pretty similar. Same hair, same sense of humor, same bad dance moves…
“Promise,” Kim said. “I’ll strike with you.”
“Great,” Ladybug said, handing him the box. “Go somewhere private and transform. Meet everyone else at the Eiffel Tower.”
“Hey, Kagami!” Ladybug landed next to where Kagami was sheltering in place.
“Please tell me you’re here to give me a power up,” Kagami said. “I hate feeling helpless like this.”
“Of a sort. Unionizing is powerful, wouldn’t you say?” Ladybug said, box in hand.
“Oh, we’re finally unionizing?” Kagami said. “I was wondering when we’d start getting compensation for our time. Next, can we strike for Parisian healthcare?”
“We can only do so much at once,” Ladybug said. “But yes, that will go on the list of things to eventually ask for.”
“Wonderful,” Kagami said as she took the box.
Alix tackled Ladybug in midair. “What are you doing ?” She demanded. “Paris is being blown to smithereens!”
“I’m on strike,” Ladybug said, catching herself on a lamppost with her yoyo. “I’m getting the rest of the hero population in on it, too. I’m actually mostly done.”
“Oh,” Alix said.
The two lowered to street level and Alix let go.
“Could I help?” Alix asked. “Future me had that rabbit miraculous.”
“She did,” Ladybug agreed. “You know what? Here.”
She handed Alix a box.
“Find somewhere private to change and meet everyone else on the Eiffel Tower.”
Alix gave a thumbs up and ran off.
Ladybug swung up to her balcony and ducked into her bedroom. It wouldn’t do to recruit all the others, and not be seen giving Marinette a chance.
She paced around her room a few moments, before swinging out. She might be a hero, but she still couldn’t be in two places at once, at least not full-sized.
A small gaggle of reporters had gathered below the Eiffel Tower.
“Eugh,” Queenie said. “What do they want?”
“They probably want to know about the strike,” Rena said. “Press coverage is good for this sort of thing, Bee! If the populace knows, the mayor can’t ignore it.”
Ryuko cut in. “I’m pretty sure the people know, Rena. Half of Paris is on fire.”
“Okay,” Rena said. “But do they know why ?”
“I’ll go have a chat with the reporters,” Chat said. “Dial up the charm, and all. Maybe end this whole thing quicker.”
“You’re not even done with your homework!”
“Chemistry is hard, Rena!”
Chat slid down the tower and landed in front of the reporters, who immediately bombarded him with questions.
“One at a time, please!”
“Chat Noir! Is it true that the heroes of Paris are on strike?”
“We are! We have whole lives outside of this and we need compensation for our work. Ladybug has at least one other job.”
“How long do you plan to be on strike?”
“Until the mayor agrees to start paying us.”
“How’s the mayor supposed to pay salaries for all you heroes?” This reporter stuck their microphone farther out of the mob.
“Pay us by the time we spend fighting Akumas. I’m fine being hourly. I spend at least three hours daily fighting Akumas, and I’m sure the others agree. Taking time out of our days to fight for Paris is hard, and we should be paid for the work we do.”
“No, but how’s the city supposed to afford it?”
Chat Noir leaned in very close to the mic. “Tax the rich,” He said.
“Don’t you think the mayor should focus on underpaid salary workers, like shop clerks and factory workers?”
“Those people should definitely also be paid more,” Chat Noir said. “But we want to be paid, like, at all. Solidarity.” He thumped his chest with his fist.
Ladybug had returned to the group on the Eiffel Tower. King Monkey was there, which just confirmed her suspicion that Kim had been King Monkey the first time as well.
“Okay, I’ve gathered as many heroes as I can and recruited some new ones. Everyone say hi to Tigresse Ecarlate.”
Tigresse waved at the assembled heroes, as various greetings were shouted at her.
“M’Lady but what about Multimouse? She was great, and I’m sure she’d support the union.” Chat piped up.
“Multimouse has two other jobs, on top of being a hero. If she went on strike with us, she’d lose those, and I’m not about to do that to her.”
“Understandable,” Chat said, quietly reassessing his opinion of Marinette.
“So. We stay here until the mayor breaks. You can do whatever, as long as you don’t deal with the Akuma. I’d prefer you hang out up here, but do what you need to do.”
“I brought a game,” Pegasus said, holding up his laptop. “It’s still being playtested, but we can play it now.”
“Awesome,” Ryuko said. “How do we play?”
The heroes settled in, spreading out across a few beams to comfortably hang out, chat, and do schoolwork.
“Yo, I got school tomorrow,” Carapace said. “What do we do if this keeps up?”
Something else exploded.
“ Do we have school tomorrow?” Tigresse asked. “Like, do we really ?”
“Point,” Carapace said.
Ladybug looked out at the Paris skyline, half-destroyed, and part aflame. At least it wasn’t underwater. Whenever the mayor decided to be decent, she could undo the damage.
The Akuma came up to them. “Ladybug! Chat Noir! Give me your miraculouses!”
“We’re on strike,” Chat said.
“Oh,” The Akuma said. “My bad. I’ll wait.”
A purple mask appeared over the Akuma’s face.
“Hawkmoth, they’re on strike. I’ve gotta respect the picket lines,” the Akuma said, seemingly arguing with thin air.
The mask dissipated, and the Akuma zoomed off, probably to go destroy more things.
Ladybug sighed. Unionizing was harder than she thought it would be.