Salutations all! It’s been entirely too long since I put a post up. Part of that is that I’m actively searching for a new job and the doing so of is taking up the vast majority of my time. Even so, I’ve come up with a few ideas for short content that people might enjoy. The reason for the ‘?’ mark in the title of this one is that I’m a bit hesitant to label this a short story. Mostly, this is because it’s only around 1,000 words, which is shorter by at least 500 or so than anything else I’ve put up (and more typically, my shorts run between 2-6k). It’s not quite short enough to be considered ‘flash fiction,’ but I hesitate to call it a full fledged short story.
Anyway! It’s actually intended to be one of a series of these on the same general theme. Which will become apparent as I post more of them (once they are written!). I’m also trying to get back into reading a little bit each day, so that I can put up reviews again. I haven’t really read anything at all in the last two months, which is most unnatural for me. Mind you, I’ve gone through several old favorites in audiobook format, but no actual reading. I think, in truth, that I got a little burned out by a series of disappointing reads while I was doing the reviews. Regardless, hopefully I’ll get a few of these short-shorts and at least one book review up this month!
Without further ado, I present to you….
Villains in Distress
“Gentleman, welcome to the most important panel at this year’s villain expo. How to deal with new age damsel’s in distress.”
Polite applause filled the mostly male audience.
“Right. As you all know, my name is Rodrick Verenhiem and I’ve taken nearly a year off from mainstream villainy at the request of this body, in order to address this all-important issue.”
A few taunts, mostly good natured, flew from the crowd at his mention of time off. Rodrick was too well respected a villain for more than that, even if he’d been effectively inactive while researching. Besides, the topic was important. His findings were to be the highlight of this year’s conference.
Rodrick tapped a control on his podium and the projection screen behind him flickered to life, showing the first slide of a presentation. “Now, the main issues we’ve all experienced, the ones that led to the need for this panel to exist at all, are the effects of the rise in feminism on our damsels in distress and the increasing number of female superheroes for which DiD’s aren’t suitable.”
There were irritated mutters from the crowd as he mentioned both problems and Rodrick paused to nod along with a few shouted half-rants. Once their neighbors quieted the ranters, he picked up the thread of his presentation. “Yes, some of you immediately noted yet again the various problems caused by these factors, as well as the abject failures or mixed successes of attempts to address them.”
Rodrick moved away from the podium, taking a presentation clicker with him as he began pacing back and forth in front of his fellow villains. “In particular I would like to note, with their permission, the critical failures of Sir Pain and Super Twist.” There were groans from both villains but they nodded and tried to keep up a stoic face.
“Super Twist, as you all know, attempted to reverse the old methods by capturing a dude in distress instead of a damsel. While others have managed this with limited success, Mr. Twist’s failure is notable in the backlash that was caused by the revelation that his heroine nemesis is a lesbian. What followed was no fault of Mr. Twist, as her orientation hadn’t been previously known, but the fifteen-minute lecture she gave him on making assumptions, on national television, was rather embarrassing to the entire community.” There were a few chuckles but most of the auditorium was dead silent. Star Girl had been vicious. They almost all felt a little sorry for Mr. Twist and were extremely glad it hadn’t been them.
“Mr. Pain’s issue was, in many ways, even more concerning.” There were sharp glances and any hint of remaining mirth had vanished. “While there has always been some risk of particularly willful damsels effecting a self-escape, it was a known and manageable issue. The damsel managing to put out a facebook post to a feminist group and the riots that said group staged all around Mr. Pain’s lair, however, are an entirely new and worrisome escalation.”
Mr. Pain closed his eyes and took a steadying breath as one of the few female villains in the room patted his shoulder reassuringly. Rodrick nodded gratefully to her. Mr. Pain hadn’t been the same since then and that was a genuine shame. He was one of the best of them and Rodrick sincerely hope the man would get over the trauma. He understood that the man was seeing a villain therapist, certified and provided by the Villains & Henchmen Guild. Aside from that, all they could do is comfort him and pray to whatever good or fell gods they believed in that the man would be alright eventually.
After a solemn moment of commiseration, Rodrick moved back to the podium, leaning on if for support. “As most of you know, the aftermath of those riots was so concerning that the League of Heroes sent an ambassador asking us to work with them on a new joint policy about how to handle such things. They had encountered a few lesser instances of the same issue and were quite afraid of escalation to what Mr. Pain suffered through.”
There were quiet hisses at the mention of the Hero League, but few were surprised. Indeed, it had been because Rodrick was respected by both sides that he’d been asked to handle the villain side of the joint research study. He’d worked all-to-closely with a few of the heroes in the last year.
“Yes. I more than anyone am aware of how unpleasant that fact was.” That got a few laughs, and Rodrick grinned before turning serious again. “All the same, I’m afraid even Mistress Giggles would agree that this is no laughing matter. Those riots caused more devastation to the city of Hillsberg than Mr. Pain’s original plan was intended to.”
There was dead silence in his audience as he continued. “Not only did the rioters, these supposed ‘justice warriors,’ cause roughly 3.5 million dollars in property damage purely in ‘protesting’ Mr. Pain’s ‘sexist’ choice of DiD, but they lasted long past Mr. Pain’s arrest by his nemesis. The city is still suffering from lost revenue and a great deal of bad press nearly fourteen months later. It has even been the site of additional rallies and demonstrations that have gotten nearly as out of hand as the original riots.”
Rodrick took a deep breath. “As such, it is with the utmost seriousness that I have taken on this assignment, even when it meant working closely with the League of Heroes. While our conclusions at the end of the study were obviously divergent, both organizations have shared their data and come up with working models for DiD handling in the future. I shall begin with our recommendations on how to handle LGBT heroes, heroines and DiDs…”
Every villain present leaned forward and listened intently to the critical presentation, occasionally glancing at Super Twist and Mr. Pain to remind themselves why the panel was so important. It would be remembered for decades to come as the most useful presentation any of them had ever seen at the yearly villain expo.