by LaShawn M. Wanak
LaShawn M. Wanak has been published in Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, as well as the anthologies Dark Faith: Invocations and What Fates Impose. She served as Associate Editor at Podcastle, and has also written nonfiction for Fantasy Magazine, The Cascadia Subduction Zone, and the anthology Invisible 2, edited by Jim Hines. She is a graduate of the 2011 class of Viable Paradise.
Memo #1: The Meeting
Meeting opened with Olivia Washington (me) going over our Supreme Overleader’s plan to change the name of our organization from “EvilCorp Subsidies” to “Supervillain Hero-Inversion Technologies”, effective this Thursday. Ten minutes was spent bemoaning on how this is a bad idea. Not only will it mean ordering new letterhead with a new name for the third time this year, but also because, in the words of Colton Smoker (Risk Management), “People are going to take one look at the new name and laugh their heads off.”
Phineas Flathead (Legal) pointed out that our organization is a laughingstock as it is and a name change won’t help any.
Fifteen minutes into the meeting, our Supreme Overleader, Frazier Jeske the III, burst into the meeting room claiming his favorite mug was missing–you know, the Peanuts mug, the one that has Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Peppermint Patty all laughing hysterically against a red backdrop that made them look insane and tortured. Yes, that mug. We needed to stop what we were doing to find it right now. As our Supreme Overleader was a three-time Heavyweight Champion boxer before coming to Evil Corp Subsidies, everyone scrambled to obey.
Forty minutes later, mug was eventually located beneath the Supreme Overleader’s desk.
The Human Resources Team reconvened and was finally ready to discuss the next item on the agenda: overthrowing the current Supreme Overleader and installing a new one, preferably someone more sane, but not too sane, in accordance to article 12 of our bylaws. I (Olivia) reminded everyone that this really needs to work, because the last time we failed to overthrow our Overleader, he made us wear signs around our necks that read, “Suck it, losers.” Also, he made me memorize the entire contents of the 1919 New English Dictionary, Volume 9 parts 1 and 2, then recite it out loud to him, from memory, so he can go to sleep.
I really, really really don’t want to go through that again.
Colton and Olivia (me) will facilitate the call for resumes and applications. We shall reconvene in a week’s time at a secret place so the Overleader does not find out what we’re doing.
Memo #2 – Candidate Approval
Due to the nature of our agenda, our next meeting was held in an abandoned building on Watts Street at 9:52pm. LaSandra Green (Benefits) couldn’t make the meeting because our Supreme Overleader had pulled her aside earlier in the day to aid him on a secret project involving planting a nuclear device in the center of New Chicago (where the old John Hancock center used to be). We felt this to be a necessary distraction, so we approved her absence.
In total there were 32 applicants. Olivia (me) had narrowed the candidates down to three supervillains: Olfactory, known for his overpowering smell, and not much else; Melvor the Barbarian, cousin of superhero Theseus the All-Powerful and thus nursing a grudge; and (my personal favorite) the Mud Skipper Pirate and his armada of Zeppelin Sharks. (see attached applications for reference)
Colton Smoker (Risk Management) then distributed a fourth application packet, telling us this was a last minute addition, but to keep an open mind.
The application packet was for the superhero known as the Math Beatnik. His modus operandi is to fight crime with the power of mathematics and word problems in the form of beat poetry. We have dealt with him and his ambiguous sidekick, the Pink Erasure, usually on the wrong end of his Subtraction Ray. But now it appears that both are applying as a single unit for Supreme Overleader’s job.
Phineas (Legal) recited section 1 of the Supervillain Policy Manual which states that all employees of EvilCorp Subsidies must be of supervillain origin. Colton said that this only applies to those on the field; EvilCorp employees stationed in headquarters only need to score 30% or above on the Evilness Aptitude Test. The Math Beatnik and the Pink Erasure scores combined equaled 85%. Which is…surprisingly high.
I suggested an additional interview with them. This could be a ruse by the League of Superheroes, sending the two of them over as spies. Colton and Phineas agreed, then said that since my superpower is having a photographic memory (which only lasts for a month) I am the best person to interview them.
As if I don’t have enough to do.
Memo #3: Interview with the Math Beatnik and the Pink Erasure
I interviewed the subjects at O’Grady’s Bar on Monroe Street. If I’m going to do this, then at least I’ll get a decent meal from it.
Math Beatnik is male, Caucasian, late 30s, bowl haircut similar to 1950s era Beatles, but with more gray hairs and slightly balding. Black t-shirt, black skinny jeans, pot belly. Wearing a belt that contains a slide rule, calculator, and a 1960s tape recorder that, when pressed, emits a jazz melody of drums and saxophone from a tinny speaker.
The sidekick, Pink Erasure is–I’m not sure. Can’t tell if male or female. Venezuelan, long brown hair pulled back into ponytail held by a pink rubber band. Pink leotard, pink tights, pink cape. Asked if it was all right to smoke; I said this was an evil organization–breaking rules is mandatory.
I administered the questions: why were they, as superheroes, interested in the Supreme Overlord position? They explained that there are three tiers in the League of Superheroes. Tier One contains the most popular heroes. Tier Two has the semi-popular heroes–they do a few commercials here and there, but they’re still famous enough to be in the paper. Then there’s Tier Three.
“We do the jobs no one else wants,” the Math Beatnik explained. “Traffic stops. Handling petty crime. It’s a step above police, but we don’t get paid the superhero popularity rates, and we get no benefits. Some of us tried to negotiate for higher wages, but the League wouldn’t do it. Said that the knowledge of keeping New Chicago safe from evildoers should be compensation enough. Can’t tell you how many times I get shot at, stabbed, and then I got to spend my own money on repairs. It’s a drag, a real drag. Allow me to scat my sadness.”
He pressed a button on his tape recorder and was soon lost in his own rhymes. The Pink Erasure blew smoke and asked me, “Tell me something. Do you consider yourself evil?”
I said no…if anything, I consider myself chaotic neutral. I just wanted a job that worked well with my superpower. The League of Superheroes didn’t feel it was good enough, so here I was.
The Pink Erasure sighed. “Wouldn’t have mattered even if the League had taken you. Stopping the same heists. Arresting the same criminals, giving the same speeches over and over. After a while, you start to wonder if doing good isn’t enough. You need a way to shake things up. Make people pay attention to you. Show them what evil could really look like.”
I’m beginning to understand who did the actual scoring on the Evilness Aptitude Test. I wrote “EXCEPTION” on their applications. Maybe what EvilCorp needs is not so much an insane villain, but a jaded superhero.
Memo #4 Final Interview/Termination of Supreme Overleader
The Final Interview began with all five candidates being sent to Supreme Overleader’s office to serve termination papers while rest of EvilCorp employees hid behind their desks. As predicted, our Supreme Overleader was not happy and immediately squashed Olfactory with his bare fists. This was actually a relief, as those of us observing could now remove our gas masks.
Melvor the Barbarian was eliminated next, crying that he had a “boo boo” on his knee and running out the office to find his mommy to kiss it to make it better.
The biggest disappointment was the Mud Skipper Pirate. His armada of zeppelin sharks had looked promising on paper but in actuality, all they did was float around, snapping their jaws in place. One punch from the Supreme Overleader took them out; the pyrotechnics that followed did cause significant damage. Colton Smoker (Risk Management) kept moaning as he hunkered under his desk, “Oh God, our insurance premiums…noooo…”
This left the Math Beatnik and Pink Erasure. Their strategy involved a working knowledge of calculus, string, and some badass moves that for the sake of time will not be included in this report. They were successful in delivering the termination papers to the Supreme Overleader, and among the cheers of the entire organization, booted him out of the building.
With our Supreme Overleader finally overthrown, the Pink Erasure then proceeded to attack the Math Beatnik. This caused a bit of confusion, as to when the two applied, they applied as a single unit and were going to share the role. Their battle was fierce, but brief, and ended with the Pink Erasure hog-tied at the feet of the Math Beatnik, who stood, arms akimbo, laughing.
“So. Trying to betray me, eh. But I got your number. I had it for a long, long time. I win.”
Our employees emerged from their desks, clapping politely. I (Olivia) was flipping through the Math Beatnik’s application to sign the line that makes his Supreme Overleadership official, when I said, “Hey, there’s a signature missing.”
The Math Beatnik spun around. “That’s absurd. I filled it out. Every page, every question, every stupid fill in the box.” A manic gleam began to shine from his eyes. “I signed everything that I possibly could.”
I pointed to page 372. “Except here. You typed your name but you didn’t add your zip code to the end, validating it as a digital signature. Which makes this whole page, and thus, your application, incomplete. Our rules state that the last candidate who successfully terminates the previous Supreme Overleader and has a completed application becomes the new Supreme Overleader. The only other candidate that meets that criteria is–” I flipped through to make sure. “The Pink Erasure. So all hail our new Supreme Overleader.”
There was polite applause. The Pink Erasure was untied. The Math Beatnik was led away, but our new Supreme Overleader stopped him. “I should fire you, but not even I am cruel enough to send you back to the League of Superheroes. I’m sticking you in Marketing.”
The Math Beatnik brightened at that. “Well, it beats Accounting.”
Memo #5 – Aftermath
Met with our new Supreme Overleader, who was going over the organization name change. Our new Supreme Overleader actually liked the new name, providing that “Orientating Horizons” is added at the beginning. “If we’re going to have a scatological reference in our acronym, let’s use it to our advantage.”
I requested permission to ask a question. Earlier in the week, I (Olivia) had watched the Math Beatnik fill out the 500 page application. Standard procedure. And, well, he was right. He had signed every line he was supposed to, including the zip code. How did I miss that one signature? I could’ve sworn that he did sign it correctly–
Our new Supreme Overleader sat back from the name reports. “You know, it’s funny. When I was a superhero, no one really asked me what my superpower was or why I was called Pink Erasure in the first place.” The Supreme Overleader gave me a sidelong look. “Would be a shame if you found out the hard way.”
Without batting an eye, I said no problem. I can conveniently forget the whole matter if I was given a month-long vacation with pay.
For the first time, our new Supreme Overleader laughed. “Now that’s evil.”
My request was approved, effective immediately.
Originally published in PodCastle 384: Flash Fiction Extravaganza! Vintage PodCastle, in October 2015.