Excerpts

Fractured Fragment Friday: Super Villain Questions His Own Ultimate Awareness

I was wondering how Super Villains acquired their henchmen, and imagined the interview process with someone who didn’t seem to quite fit the villain mold. “Ultimate Awareness” coupled that idea with the “Why?” of a particular villain.

Here’s the Blurb

Omnius has relied on his Ultimate Awareness to dominate the city as well as any supervillain could, but an interview with a prospective sidekick casts doubt on both his own limits and his career path. How much does he really know?

And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt

Omnius sat in his throne-like desk chair, one hand fiddling with the clasp of his clichéd black-with-red-lining villainous satin cape, the other resting on a column of folders – resumes of potential minions that his Ultimate Awareness had scanned in mere seconds. It was so difficult to find good – no, he was not looking for good – to find competent help these days

His secretary had stacked the files on his desk before she left for the day. Omnius should have made herUltimateAwarenessCover stay to help with the vetting process; he could handle it himself, but it might set a bad precedent if the applicants noticed that the office help wasn’t afraid to cut out early on him. The might think he was soft. Hell, sometimes he himself wondered if he was losing his edge. He had a mind to fire her as an example, never mind the fact that her mother was on her deathbed. Yes, he might just do that.

He turned the back of his swivel throne to the desk and adjusted his red, bulbous cowl in the window’s reflection as the city became enveloped in dusk. He loved this view – he could see most of his domain from up here on the 90th floor. It was a lot of area for even Omnius to dominate; he could have easily maintained it a few years back, but he just didn’t seem to have the energy for it lately.

Sometimes he feared it might be age getting the better of him, but more than likely it was having to carry the load that had returned to his shoulders with Rancor’s defeat by Brutus – damn that meddling hero, forever disturbing the proper order that Omnius had built around his dominion. He had counted on his former minion’s overweening malice to help keep his thumb on the populace; if they suspected the pressure was easing up, he might find himself with an open rebellion on his hands. Already, he sensed the undercurrent; he could not let it swell.

Omnius crossed to the door, and focused his awareness on the other side. Five applicants waiting for their shot to be his right hand man, all with the typical collection of uncontrolled random thoughts and emotions – impatience at having to wait, anger aimed at a host of subjects, and especially fear of Omnius himself, of course, which was as it should be. There would be no control issues here.

He opened the door, and paused. He had only noted five presences, but there were six applicants seated in the reception area. This reinforced his concern that his abilities might be slipping along with his determination. But no, it must just be that he was distracted by the extra load he was carrying since Rancor’s demise. All the more reason to get on with the interview process.

One of the applicants caught his eye, as though a beacon had been activated: a clean-cut young man, garbed in a forest green cape, with a tunic and tights of a lighter green. He was average height and build, with wavy red hair framing a freckled, boyish face. Not the typical look that usually dominated henchman cattle calls – that look was amply displayed by the other five applicants, especially the drooling cyclops to his right. The redhead wasn’t a hunchback. No hideous scars, beady eyes, or suspicious ticks. This one had an angelic face that anyone would trust, which could prove an advantage when going for the element of surprise evil.

Omnius had wondered for some time why the standard for villainous henchmen seemed so often to involve obvious signs of evil, depravity, or at the least unpleasantness, and no, you couldn’t just commission a portrait to hide in the closet. It was why many of them had to resort to masks to be less noticeable in public. That’s saying something, when wearing a mask makes it so you don’t stand out. Maybe it was time for a change.

Omnius’ probe for the man’s name was oddly unproductive, so he was flummoxed into a “You there,” and when all six stood, he pointed and added, “Freckles.”

“Sorry, fellas,” the chosen one said in an apologetic whisper. That didn’t stop his competitors from shooting deadly grimaces in his direction. If looks could kill, then those stock candidates would still be worth considering.

“Come in and have a seat,” Omnius said.

Freckles nodded as he stepped past into the office and Omnius closed the door behind him. The man wasn’t skittish at all; most people in this business would be glancing back over their shoulder to ensure that someone behind them wasn’t preparing to unload an Obliviator or some other device in their direction, especially if that someone was the notorious Omnius, but Freckles just walked nonchalantly in and took his seat in front of the desk. It was as though this were an interview for a JAVA programmer with a typical HR staffer rather than as a henchman to the super-villain voted The World’s Most Wanted for twelve years running. This one was either dangerously cocky, or too stupid to know better; he didn’t seem either – just supremely confident.

Omnius strode around the desk and sat in his high-backed swivel chair, and since he still couldn’t get his usual read on anything about him, Omnius resorted to the mundane “Now, you are…?”

“Timothy Thompkins. You can call me Tim.”

“Thompkins,” Omnius said as he sifted through the stack of folders on his desk. “Well, Timothy, I don’t seem to have your resume.”

“Really? My agent should have sent it over.”

“We shouldn’t be conducting an interview without proper documentation and references, union rules being what they are,” he frowned. Henchmen United could be a real bear in labor negotiations – even with Omnius – if you didn’t stick to their guidelines. “The forms must be followed, after all.”

“Must they? What’s wrong with breaking a few rules?” Tim asked, a mischievous grin lighting his face. “I mean, considering who we are?”

Considering who we are, indeed. I have been in this business too long if I need a youngster to remind me who I am, Omnius thought, then mirrored Timothy’s grin.

“You’re right – to hell with the rules,” Omnius said. “Let’s get to know each other. How do you feel about people dying?”

“Happens to everyone sometime – well, most everyone.”

“No, that’s not what I mean,” Omnius said. “How does it make you feel when someone dies and it’s your fault?”

Timothy shifted in his seat, his casual demeanor and confidence giving way to obvious discomfort.

“Well, fault can be such a misleading concept…,” Timothy said slowly.

“Someone has died at your hands, haven’t they?” Omnius asked. “Do not trifle with me.”

“Well of course it’s happened. How couldn’t it in this business?” Timothy asked. “I point out that anyone I’ve killed put themselves in those circumstances.”

 “So say we all,” Omnius said. “But you shouldn’t allow such piddling labels as fault and guilt to concern you.”

“I took no particular joy from it – it was just part of the job.”

Omnius found this a peculiar thing for a prospective henchman to say. Even though he himself might say the same, the business usually drew the type who took pleasure in causing pain, or worse. But then, this often clouded their judgment, and they would throw caution and ultimate success to the winds, in exchange for a gratuitous sadism fix. There might be an advantage to a detachment that made death and destruction ‘just part of the job’; still, the most successful employees exhibited a passion for their work.

“You’ll excuse me, but I don’t sense a sufficient commitment to villainous principles. Do you have any special skills and abilities that might mitigate this perception?”

”There isn’t a lot to tell.”

“Your interview skills could use an upgrade,” Omnius said. “Everyone in this profession has something special. What’s yours?”

“Well, I tend to go unnoticed,” Timothy said.

“I doubt that very much,” Omnius said. “I chose you specifically because you stood out.”

“I wasn’t trying to blend in just then. I wanted to be chosen.”

“Where are you from?”

“Right here.”

“Nonsense. I’ve never seen you, and I’m aware of everyone here,” Omnius bristled. “That’s one of my abilities – Ultimate Awareness.”

“I know – and yet I’ve been in the city all my life.”

“That is not possible!” Omnius said, even though he already had evidence that it was. He was intrigued – it had been so long since he had felt truly challenged. “Prove it.”

 

So, why did Omnius choose the villain route? And is he getting more than he bargained for from this mysterious Timothy Thompkins?. “Ultimate awareness is a fantasy short story in a comic-book hero – sorry, VILLAIN – vein. It’s available at many online retailers, including, but not limited to:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/608558?ref=NoTimeToThink

collection8ebookcoverAmazon: https://amzn.to/3EGdo4U

The story is also included in the collection Some More, And Yet Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/685614?ref=NoTimeToThink 

Amazon:   https://amzn.to/3C4Y9jZ

“Ultimate Awareness” is also included in the CollectionTheLast3Covermega-collection The Last Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’ :

Smashwords (50%-OFF with coupon code ZH72Nthat’s only $2.50 for twenty stories!):  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816158?ref=NoTimeToThink  

Amazon:  https://amzn.to/3jOjMgt   

Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated. Hope you enjoy it!

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In a Flash Detective Jimmy Delaney eBook CoverPurrMission-MainTall_025For information on my current promotions (including the FREE Presale and reduced price preorders for Cats of War III, my participating books in the 14th Annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, as well as FREE starter eBooks for my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series and my Detective Jimmy Delaney series), look HERE on my CURRENT BOOK PROMOTIONS page.

Reaching Out

William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

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