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And Me Without a Camel

July 8, 2010

Look, I’m not trying to point fingers here. I know how things work in an organization such as this, and sometimes stuff things can slip through the cracks. I remember when we lost power to the electrolift for the sentry tower in Sector Two, and I had to spend three weeks trudging up and down five flights of stairs until someone remembered that they hadn’t ordered the replacement part from Singapore. That was both a sweaty inconvenience and at the same time a much-needed aerobic fitness regime, which proved that mechanical breakdowns can sometimes have silver linings. Not in our current situation, however. I realize that management might think that the sub-level air conditioning being down would not be a serious problem, since the ambient temperature would presumably be quite low given the subterranean nature of the areas in question, but come on! We’re living on an island with an active volcano! Once the A/C goes down, going from the reactor maintenance room on 14 down to the prison sector on 22 makes you feel like Lawrence crossing the freaking Sinai Desert, and at least he had a camel.

Something needs to be done, I tell you. It’s bad enough having to worry about the occasional magma flood down there without having to think about heat stroke as well.

Like I said, I’m not pointing fingers, but if I were going to, I’d be pointing right over there at Number 7. Yes, Number 7, I see you on the far side of the cafeteria, chatting up my beloved Vergina Monologue. Like you would ever have a chance with her, with your flabby cottage cheese ass and your manboobs clearly visible beneath your form-fitting jumpsuit. All you need is a top hat and monocle to look like a lycra-covered Mr. Peanut! Give it up, you filthy hobo. Stick with your fantasies of Victoria’s Secret models and the Vietnamese laundress up on Level 3, whom I have seen you ogling like an obese child does an unopened box of Ho-Hos.

I know all about you, Number 7. Those who would attempt to woo Vergina end up on a very special list of mine, one written in an ancient form of Sumerian hieroglyph, then translated to Mandarin Chinese before being coded through a special cypher of my own design, and then finally committed to memory and the original documents destroyed, so that none shall know who are my truest and most sincere enemies.

You do not even rate in the top ten, Number 7. Vergina would never have any interest in a weak-willed fumble-munch such as yourself, and while you are hardly even worth the inevitable focus of my attentions, it would be bad form of me to not ultimately punish you for your transgressions against her. Even the nocturnal ones which I’m sure the Vietnamese laundress must cleanse from your bed sheets every Monday morning.

Yes, that’s right. I went there.

Moving on, I shall be reporting to you, dear blog, from the frozen wastes of our Antarctica Echo Base over the next week or so. I have been assigned as part of a fact finding team to scope out that old crashed alien ship that was buried down off the Bentley Subglacial Trench. You know, the one that they made that movie about. No, not the Predator vs. Alien one. The one with Kurt Russell. The Thing, that was it.

Hey, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Also, John Carpenter cashes a check every two weeks from Dr. Kismet, just like the rest of us do.

Don’t worry though, that shape-shifting alien isn’t at the site anymore, so it’s all perfectly safe. The Doctor has it in suspended animation up on Level 17, in a barrel or something where he stores all of his classic 1960s English racing cars. I admit it does make me a little bit nervous when I’m waxing the Austin-Martin knowing that it’s in there someplace, but what can you do, right? Unless we can teach it to grow six arms and start waxing them itself, it’s probably better off frozen.

And now I must be off, as I promised Number 31 that I would help him dye his hair this evening, vain creature that he is. Our jumpsuits feature cowls! Nobody can see his hair! However, I do owe him a solid for helping me dispose of the dismembered corpse of the late Number 18 back in May, so there’s really nothing to do about it.

Note to self: Number 31 knows too much. Perhaps an autopsy would later reveal that he had a strong and until now unknown “allergy” to the chemicals in the dye, a sadly fatal reaction mirroring the effects of the poison of the deadly blowfish. I think I still have some of that stuff laying around here someplace.

At any rate, I’m off!

Yours, etc.,
Number 28

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I Love My Evil Work

July 4, 2010

Look, it’s not my fault that some henchmen can’t seem to get their minds around a very simple concept: when the klaxon goes off, you need to get your jumpsuit on and be ready for danger, be it animal, mineral or secret agent. Not to sound too much like the orientation materials we were given upon arrival at Skulk Island, but seriously, you’re much less likely to have a hole blown through your chest cavity by a random projectile with your suit on than off. Let that be a lesson for you in the next life, Number 36! I’ll miss the way you would never keep your mouth shut in the auditorium on Movie Mondays. We all know Benjamin Button is aging backwards. It’s the whole plot of the movie! Maybe if you could age in reverse, that bloody hole in your sternum would be able to repair itself. Think about that, Chatty Cathy.

And yes, I did in fact say “Skulk Island.” It’s a little joke amongst us henchmen, taken from a typo in our first manual, Henchmen: Your Evil Benefactor and You. Obviously, based upon the stereotypical cranial-shaped rock formation on the north side of the base, the true name of our little lair-away-from-home would be “Skull Island.” Some instructional design major apparently fell asleep at the spell check wheel and let that one slip on by. I hope he was dealt with quickly and severely and has learned to function almost normally with the three remaining fingers that I would have left him with, but the universe is decidedly unfair like that. He’s probably editor in chief at Houghton-Mifflin now, or blogging for the Huffington Post.

Skull Island. It’s like it was taken straight out of a Lego Build-An-Evil-Scientist’s-Island-Facility kit. Is a little originality that hard to come by when naming secret lairs?

So anyway, we had a little problem this afternoon with a break-in up at the Solar Proton Ray Room, which is what set off the alarm I was talking about earlier. Apparently some daredevil agent managed to parachute himself down from a military cargo jet above the island, and he landed on top of the Ray Room, where he cut his way through the ceiling with a high-powered laser disguised as—and this is sheer genius—a dime-a-dozen laser pointer. Props to his research and development team there!

Nobody knows who he was working for, since agents don’t generally go around actually carrying their license to kill in their wallets, and after the security bots finished with their razor-spewing flechette guns, there wasn’t enough of him left to answer any questions about who was signing his paychecks. Apparently Dr. Kismet is just going to have to file this one away in the “Who the Eff?” cabinet. It wasn’t like he caused any real damage, other than the hole in the ceiling of the Solar Proton Ray Room. Well, and for blowing Number 36’s spine clean out, but whose fault was that, I ask you? The agent’s, for doing his job, or Number 36’s, for not following standard safety procedures?

You don’t blame the fox for blasting the hen with a high-powered gas-projected titanium bullet, do you?

At least now that 36 is out of the way, 37 will move up one in the rankings. He’s a good egg, that one. Quiet, keeps to himself, fond of the works of Wallace Stevens and bukkake pornography, always cleans up his work area when he’s finished with the metallic carbide drill down on Sub-Level 29. If I were not destined to eternally be his superior, I like to think that he and I could be friends, or at the very least acquaintances with the same taste in poetry and pornography. I think he’ll enjoy being the new Number 36, even though it is effectively a lateral move at that position, with neither an increase in wages nor in authority. Still, it’s better to be moving toward the 20s than the 40s, I always say.

It takes a lot out of you, waiting to move up in this organization. At any given moment, Dr. Kismet has between a hundred and a hundred and fifty henchmen working the facility, depending on if he’s got an imminent grasp at world domination coming up or not. I was originally hired out of a temp agency as Number 157, back when the doctor was going to simultaneously detonate fusion bombs in London, Washington and Moscow. Oh, the heady days of youth! The cold war had just ended and the world was a fresh new political landscape just waiting for a young Turk upstart evil scientist to attempt to wrest control from the hands of the lesser-minded. What a figure Dr. Kismet cut, with his robotic hand and his genetically-enhanced mind. When he and  Agent Granite Sloan fought in hand-to-robotic hand combat at the top of Mt. Rushmore, I was on the edge of my hovercar seat. When the doctor fell to what appeared to be his doom from the forehead of Abraham Lincoln, I was inconsolable with grief. When he reappeared three days later at our Arctic base like Christ emerging from the sepulcher, I knew that there was nothing in my life that I ever wanted to do other than to be a henchman.

And so I set myself to my work like a character out of an Ayn Rand novel, putting my struggle for greatness and self-perfection ahead of everything else in my life. I divorced myself from family and friends, put aside my civilian name and history all together, and set myself on the path to promotion within the organization. Attrition-based advancement, there was some of this, yes. You can’t be in the evil works businesses without expecting a few casualties along the way, be they secret-agent induced or the occasional flood of magma through the lower levels of the facility. However, I’m proud to say that the majority of my advancement has been through my own strength of character, and the judicious application of my policy of what I like to call forced retirement. You’d be surprised to learn just how far you can move up in a company with a few drops of manta serpent venom in someone’s latte, or a little rewiring of power of the hydrogen battery from the bionic quadriceps to the cerebral implant. That one’s rather “mind blowing,” if I do say so myself.

Henchman humor.

Nearly twenty years into my career, and I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a single moment that I’ve questioned my path: no regrets, no looking back. Every beating in high school that I took from a testosterone-addled drone, every woman who laughed in my face when I failed to perform up to her expectations, every breakdancing move I practiced on the mean streets of Spokane… all of it was leading me here, to this, my perfect life amongst the evil and the wicked.

The new Number 36 can only hope to achieve my excellent level of job satisfaction on our quarterly in-house Human Resource surveys!

Strive, 36, strive!

My Kingdom For a House

July 3, 2010

Easily the thing I hate the most about my current ranking of 28 in the henchman hierarchy is the living arrangements. Number 1? He’s got the entire floor below Dr. Kismet’s penthouse, complete with a spectacular view of the volcano’s summit and his own private Norwegian sauna.  He’s got a small army of personal servants to take care of his every need. Number 1 hasn’t had to wipe his own ass for over three years now, the self-satisfied son of a bitch.

Number 2 has it almost as good, what with the anti-gravity carriage house that he calls home. Some days I think I’d rather have it than Number 1’s penthouse, really. You wouldn’t have to worry about people dropping by unannounced, not unless they were hang gliding from the lip of the volcano’s crater to get over to your front door. Nothing like hovering two hundred feet above a magma pool to dissuade the Jehovah’s Witnesses from pamphleting your door, am I right?

Numbers 3 through 10 live in an opulence only realized by the Roman emperors, the Popes and Bill Gates: stone flooring made from liberated blocks of Egyptian tombs, wall-sized three-dimensional flat screen televisions with DirecTV and all the HBO channels, purified water from Lourdes flushing through the bidets. It’s like Heaven on earth, only with concubines.

Oh yes. They also have concubines.

Numbers 11 through 20 are where it starts to fall apart. Oh, not that there’s anything wrong with a two bedroom apartment off the main bubble shuttle line. It certainly does make commuting convenient when you’re headed down to Sub-Level 12 for the daily dose of tedium that is the morning meeting. It just feels more than a little mundane, if you ask me. I know that I certainly didn’t enter the glamorous world of henching just so I could live in the same sort of flat that I’d have had if I’d gone ahead and become a high school guidance councilor, like my mother had suggested. Uh uh, no way. It’s marble floors for me, buddy, not Pergo flooring, thank you very much.

Which brings me to the horror that is the home life of Numbers 21 through 30. It’s like living in off-campus housing during my college years. There are five of us to a unit, three in one apartment, two in the other, with a shared kitchen and bath. We have one toilet between us! Do you have any idea how disgusting that is? Just the other day, I went in after Number 25, and he hadn’t even flushed. There was a turd the size of a Swiss Colony beef log just floating there! I mean, who does that?

He’s definitely next on my list, let me tell you.

Nobody has any respect for the fridge, either, which drives me up the wall. The bottom shelf is mine, which means, Number 27, that you keep your pudding cups on your own shelf, or run the risk of having them end up in the incinerator unit along with 26’s half a jar of moldy Newman’s Own spaghetti sauce. And hands off my goat cheese! The container is clearly labeled with my number, and I have secretly marked the level of cheese with a special invisible ink, so if I find any of it missing, someone’s going to get vibro-bladed in the middle of the night.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we at least had co-ed housing, but no. If you’re one of the few female henchwomen on the island, you get your own private quarters down on the beach. We men aren’t allowed down there, so I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of what it’s like, but rumor has it that it’s like Sappho week at Cabo Wabo: tequila flowing like water, pornographic orgies straight out of the mind of Larry Flint, animal sacrifices, the works. Mind you, these are just rumors spread by lonely, horny henchmen, and I tend to not take them on face value, but hey, whatever gets a guy through a long, soapy shower, right?

Crap, is that the lockdown klaxon I hear? Must be a hero trying to destroy the island, or maybe another radiation leak from the atomic core. In any case, dear blog, I must log off and go slip into my jumpsuit. It’s radiation-proof, which is always a bonus, as well as bullet-proof, which again can only be helpful in the long run, but also? If I’m going to die I don’t want my body to be found clad only in my ball-hugging lemon-yellow tiger-striped banana hammock.

I only wear this when I’m home with the other henchmen. It’s my vengeance on them for touching my collection of rare, unopened 1983 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi action figures, which were clearly stationed on the third shelf of our collective book case, a shelf assigned to me when I first moved in to this accursed apartment, and therefore off-limits to any other henchman.

My vengeance is brutal and fierce! Look upon the power of my banana hammock and weep tears of bitter despair!

Dammit, stupid klaxon. Okay, must run before the radiation burns my cell walls away.

Dearest blog, I remain yours,

Number 28

The Henchman Files, Episode One

July 2, 2010

As some of you know, I am employed in the Evil Genius field of work. I don’t mean to imply that I myself am an Evil Genius, although I did score very highly on an IQ test back in high school, and I am prone to getting testy when suffering from low blood sugar. You don’t want to cross me when I’ve missed breakfast. If I am asked to re-calibrate the death ray laser or clean out the shark tank in such a state, you are likely to be subjected to a slew of exasperated sighs and withering looks, unless I manage to find a donut in the break room or can score a bag of Skittles from the vending machine on Sub-Level 14.

Don’t even ask what I’m like without my morning cup of coffee. Number 17 asked me once, and they were finding shards of bone and hair in the casing of the Fusion Vortex Generator for weeks. “What’s that noise?” the engineer would ask, and then they’d power the whole machine down and find a ring finger with the ring still attached rattling around in the centrifuge.

We have a very generous benefits package here at Evil Works, Inc., and I’m certain that Number 17’s wife and children were well-compensated for his “accidental” demolecularizing. It’s not like there was much love in that relationship anyhow. From what 17 told me, his wife was having an affair with a carpet salesman who may or may not have been a rogue CIA agent, though if you ask me he was almost certainly just a prematurely balding college dropout with three-quarters of a Liberal Arts degree under his belt and a taste for that mixture of dishwashing detergent and despair that sometimes wafts off of lonely housewife flesh.

If Number 17 had been my husband, I’d have made a cuckold out of him, too. He wasn’t the brightest of lasers in the array, if you know what I mean. When maintenance has to disable the emergency defensive toxic neurological gas dispersal unit in your living quarters because you have activated it on three separate occasions instead of your air conditioning, you know that someone’s a few rounds short of a full magazine.

His work ethic was nothing to tight-beam home about, either. Why, just last week the island volcano base was infiltrated by a certain MI6 operative with a license to kill that you might have heard of, who sneaked in through the underwater dock in this submarine car of his—a submarine car! He couldn’t just scuba in like a normal agent on Her Majesty’s secret service. No, he had to drive his magic waterproof DeLorean or whatever the hell it was, just so that his tuxedo wouldn’t get all wet and salty from the swim over from the mainland. I don’t know what kind of budgeting magic those guys over at MI6 are working, but I wish we could get a little of that fairy dust to sprinkle over our accounting department here on the island. My Honda Civic can’t even go through a car wash without water leaking in through the driver’s side window and making my jumpsuit moist for the rest of my shift, and let me tell you that there’s nothing that chafes more than a damp bulletproof titanium alloy fiber jumpsuit.

Anyway, the fact that double-oh-expense-account got into the facility was one thing (hello! Submarine car!), but it’s another thing all together that he even made it out of the dock without being spotted. Yes, we don’t usually have guards down in the dock, because I don’t know, you’d probably need something weird like a submarine car to get into it in the first place, but we aren’t some low-grade factory of evil here. We have security cameras throughout the complex, and we’ve got men monitoring them at all times. Except who was on shift at the surveillance room when we were being infiltrated? Yep, you guessed it: Number 17.

Wait, here, let me read you part of the transcript from the interview 17 had with the security chief once all the fires had been put out and the Komodo dragons had been penned up again:

Interviewer: I’m still not sure I’ve got this. There are over a hundred cameras routed into the surveillance room. We’ve got dozens of motion detectors set up throughout the restricted areas on the island. The intruder had to pass through at least three separate sealed doors requiring both retina and fingerprint scans in order to unlock them, as well as requiring you personally to enter a six digit security code from your terminal here before he could proceed. At two separate instances alone, he had to walk over a retractable gangway that passed through the volcano’s core and over a lake of molten lava, a gangway that can be instantly pulled back into the walls at the push of a single button from your console, which would have dropped the intruder into the magma below. He even had sex with Dr. Kismet’s girlfriend in Dr. Kismet’s private quarters while Dr. Kismet was in the next room working on his planet’s core dissolver drone, which I should add, was completely destroyed in the thermite fire that the intruder apparently started with a disguised ball point pen before he escaped the island in the doctor’s private helipod escape vehicle. The company is out millions of dollars in destroyed equipment, and the plan for world domination has been pushed back at least two years because of all of this. How in the world did all this happen on your watch without you sounding the general alarm? What can you possibly say for yourself, mister?

Subject: Hey, don’t ask me! Who do I look like, James Bond?

How in the world 17 wasn’t thrown into the acid pit over all of this, I just don’t know. He must have pulled in a lot of favors is all I can say, because Dr. Kismet? He’s not the most forgiving guy in the world. Of course, in these jumpsuits we do all generally sort of look alike, so maybe that explains why Number 42 went missing the next day. Given the average mental capacity of the Executioner Squad agents, it’s very possible that they simply disintegrated the wrong henchman and never bothered to check the paperwork.

I’ll tell you, I can get over the destruction of the dissolver drone. It’s no big deal to me, really. You expect these sorts of setbacks in our line of work. There’s always an agent sneaking his way in and garotting the head of the science department or decompressing your atom chamber and flooding the facility with deadly radiation. It’s just part of the job. As a henchman, you buy your ticket and you take your ride, and it doesn’t do anybody any good to complain about it. What really gets me though is that this guy had the cajones to take a break from his infiltrate-and-destroy mission for the sole purpose of getting jiggy with Dr. Kismet’s girlfriend.

Vergina Monologue.

Her very name is like music to this poor henchman’s ears. She is the sole beacon of angelic light in my otherwise sterile and shadowy existence. She is like a cool chemical wash on sulphuric acid-burned skin. I’ve been in love with her since the moment she set her Versace-heeled shoe on the island’s helipad. Nobody knows where the Doctor found her, but theories are a dime a dozen around here—henchmen have a lot of down time that is easily filled with daydreaming and fantasizing. Some say she was the queen of a lost Amazonian tribe who saved the Doctor from being buried up to his neck in the dirt and eaten alive by mutant jungle fire ants. Others theorize that Doctor Kismet grew her himself in a test tube in his biogenetics lab, but this is patently absurd in my book: there’s no way the hand of a mortal man could have created such a perfect specimen of the female being, not even the bionic machine hand of Dr. Kismet.

Where she arrived from doesn’t matter to me in the slightest, it only matters that she is here. There is a statistically low number of female henchwomen on the island, a result of what I can only imagine are completely discriminatory hiring practices on the part of the HR department, even though we are theoretically an equal opportunity employer. Number 17 agreed with me on this point, at any rate.

“Henchwomen can be just as evil as you or me, buddy,” he’d say, putting his feet up on his console and paying no attention to monitoring the core temperature of the Fusion Vortex Generator. “Hell, for at least a week a month or so, I’d say they’re totally way more evil than we could ever be!” Then he’d laugh that stupid horse-laugh of his and spill some of his coffee down the front of his jumpsuit, and it would be all that I could do to not drive my atomic spanner right through his eye socket.

Henching can be a lonely life, you see, especially for someone like me. I don’t have anything in common with the average henchman. Most of them are completely content with their careers, satisfied to turn dials and tweak knobs all day long, to remotely detonate suitcase bombs in diplomats’ armored limousines, to strap enemy agents into elaborate death machines that the agent will inevitably escape from after the henchmen are distracted by something shiny and wander out of the room.

That life isn’t for me, not in the long-term. I’ve got bigger plans than that, friend. Much, much bigger. Not, you know, to take over for Dr. Kismet or anything like that. Being the top guy is the surest way to end up being dissolved in your own acid pit or nuked by your own retargeted death ray. Uh uh, no way. I’ve got goals, man, but I’m not suicidal.

My plan is simple, as all good plans should be: to work my way up the ladder, either through my dedication to the world-domination cause or through accidental-death induced attrition (it’s no coincidence that after Number 17’s unfortunate demise, my own number went from 29 to 28—I’m on my way!), and into a position of power and authority. Not Number 1, because who’s the first guy that the boss will throw at a murderous secret agent in order to try to save his own hide? That’s right: Number 1. Number 2 is no good either, because he’s the one that always gets hurled into the pirana tank or takes a speargun bolt to the face by the agent on his way to his confrontation with Number 1.

Number 3, though. That’s the magic rung on the Evil Works, Inc. ladder. Enough power that you can delegate the bookkeeping and menial assassinations to your lesser-numbered henchmen, plus access to the store of finer wines from the cellar and your own DIRECTV feed into your personal quarters. Also, as Number 3, you are assured that when the CIA or MI6 man rampages through the facility on his way to a showdown with Numbers 1 and 2 and Dr. Kismet, you will have a pre-booked ticket on the first escape helipod to bail on the whole doomed enterprise.

All of this is secondary to me, however, because the main job function in the position of Number 3 is to facilitate and ensure the continued happiness of that most spectacular of women, the exquisite Vergina Monologue.

Imagine it! Getting paid to jet around the globe with the Platonic ideal of a woman as she shops for expensive and form-fitting silken dresses created by the most talented designers of questionable sexual preferences in the free world. To dine with her on rare and endangered animals that were raised by hand in a life of ease and privilege by the finest chefs of Europe, who then lovingly smother their bestial children in order to serve them up with the finest sauces and wines. To begin as her aide and protector, then make the transformation into trusted friend and confidant, and finally, inevitably, to become her lover and master, a union which no secret agent, super villain or robot-handed freak of science can tear asunder!

I will stand atop a veritable mountain of the wasted corpses of my rivals and lesser henchmen, stand proud with my mighty sword of vengeance held high, my oiled and defined pectoral muscles glistening in the fires of destruction that dot the island’s surface, while my beloved Vergina kneels at my side, arms curled around my bare and extremely masculine thigh, her clothing ripped and torn from the battle that has just been waged, yet still discreetly hiding her womanly treasures from anyone’s eyes but my own.

I will not be denied, and if I have to push another twenty-five henchmen into the Fusion Vortex Generator to climb my way to my coveted Number 3 position, you can be damned certain that I am ready, willing and able to have more blood coating my fire-resistant azure gloves. There is nothing on earth that can keep me from she who is my destiny, my love, my immortal beloved: my Vergina Monologue.

Number 17 was just the beginning.

Numbers 4 through 27… that uncomfortable yet strangely soothing and moist heat you feel on the back of your necks is the flame of my determination and will approaching you each in turn, getting nearer and nearer, hotter and hotter…

Oh, wow. I think I need to sit down for a minute. I’m feeling a little lightheaded. Anybody… anybody have a Snickers bar or something? No? Maybe some cheese or fruit?

I think I need to lie down.

But continue in my short absence to both fear and be strangely sexually attracted to me, for soon I shall be your Number 3, with all the magnificent and terrible powers that are awarded the position, as listed by HR in the Evil Henchman Handbook we were all given during our orientation seminar!

Okay, yeah, definitely need some Starburst or something.

Wow.

Whew.