A Good Word

This is a short story I’ve had simmering within me for a while.  I wrote most of the first half about a month ago, but I had the wrong main character.  Yesterday, I reworked it so it would be more entertaining.  I hope you enjoy it.

“Everything seems to be in order,” the hunchbacked minion sniffed.  He shuffled his papers and folded his glasses into his pocket, glaring in the boy’s direction.  When he turned to his master, his attitude changed from haughty to humble.  It was like seeing a fox turn into a worm; even his hunch grew less offensive.  “The supplicant is ready,” the minion said.

The chief examiner, a blue-hued silhouette in the window, turned his head.  He spoke softly.  “He has passed all the tests?”

“He is intelligent for his age; he is fluent in three dead languages and has killed a fourth.  He has a suitable pocket watch, though it isn’t the finest example of timekeeping I’ve seen.”  The minion sniffed again.  “His name is Mor, which technically begins with ‘Mor’, but that seems to be the full extent of it.”

“And the last test?”

“I watched him make the spaghetti myself, m’lord.”

“And did you taste it?”

The minion sniffed, as if loath to give another compliment.  “It was excellent, m’lord, though it wasn’t the finest example of culinary work I’ve seen.”

The chief examiner glanced at the boy, Mor, who fidgeted slightly in his seat.  The testing process always felt long, especially for the supplicants.  Mor looked over his shoulder at his minion, who didn’t make eye contact.  That was probably better for both of them.

“How much longer can we draw this out, Minion?”

“Law dictates we must add another few thunderclaps and a smokescreen.  You haven’t even begun on your quota for evil laughs, m’lord.”

“Haha,” tried the silhouette.  “How are we now?”

“We’ll work on it, m’lord.”

“You say he passed the tests?”

The minion sniffed.  “Yes, m’lord.”

Mor sighed in relief.  The chief examiner turned toward him, but remained in the blue light of the spotlight outside.

“Come here, boy.”

“M’lord!”  The minion handed him an official-looking paper.

“Sorry, Minion—I meant, let the supplicant come forth!”  His voice boomed through the room.  He saw the boy flinch.

Mor rose.  He almost fell back into his chair, but his minion held him up until he could position his crutches and move slowly toward the window.

“Kneel,” said the examiner.  Mor blinked in the bright spotlight.  “Or… just do your best.”

Mor stayed where he was, leaning on his crutches.

“Not the finest example of kneeling I’ve ever seen,” muttered the minion.

The examiner waved him away and cleared his throat.  “By the powers vested in me, thrust upon me, and pounded into me by falling meteorites—“

“M’lord!” hissed the minion.

“I know,” the examiner hissed back.  “It’s just so dull, sticking to the script.  By the powers blah blah blah, and with the big stick of evil—“  He waved it.

“The scepter of maleficence!” croaked the minion.

“Yeah, that, I pronounce you a junior member of the Evil Genius Organization, with limited rights.  These include the right to combat goodness, virtue, and nobility of spirit with all that is within you; the right to attend all official EGO conferences, at which you must show your junior member’s badge.”  Without looking up from his paper, he waved a laminated card.  “And the right to swindle just about anyone in the city, apart from fellow members of EGO.  Only full-fledged members get to do that.”  The chief examiner offered Mor the badge and his hand, which Mor shook, carefully balanced on his crutches.  The minion snapped a picture.  “Congratulations, Mor,” said the chief examiner.  “You’re all set.  Now let’s pack up and go home.”

“Yes, m’lord.”  The minion scurried from the room.

Mor sighed again and licked his lips.  “Slave, go help our guests find everything they need.”

His minion made a few rapid signs with her hands.

“No, I’m fine,” said Mor.  “I’ll get myself something later.”

Expertly navigating past the furniture, his minion disappeared from the room.

“Again, congratulations,” said the chief examiner.  The room suddenly went dark as the spotlight behind him switched off.  “I don’t think it’s a surprise to you that you’re one of the only cripples in EGO’s history.”  Mor winced.  “Because of that, you’re easy to pick on.  People aren’t going to like you much, so you’ll have to work harder than anyone else to be flawless.  That reminds me: this is for you.”

Mor took the book from the examiner’s hands.  Before he could open it, his minion appeared holding a glass of water.  She presented it to him, but his hands were full with the book.

“Oh, you’re so thoughtful,” said the chief examiner, taking the glass.  He emptied it in a swallow and gave it back.  “Thank you so much.”

The minion left, probably satisfied that her master was no longer thirsty.

“You have a worthy minion there,” said the examiner, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief.  “How does it navigate, may I ask?  It has no eyes.”

“Smell,” said Mor.  “Her sense of smell and hearing are powerful.”

The examiner ignored it.  “And it is dumb as well as blind?”

“Speech doesn’t equal intelligence,” said Mor.

“Don’t worry, I’m not trying to insult you,” said the examiner, sensing his irritation.  “It’s an extraordinary creature, I’m sure.  You have a good minion.”  The examiner pointed to the book.  “That’s a collection of rules and penalties EGO has set up to keep everyone obedient to the organization.  Usually you would get this once you graduated to a full member.  We like to watch all the juniors mess up, you see.  You would not believe how many times I’ve seen a junior walk into a conference without appropriate headgear.  But since you’re a cripple, I figured I could do you a favor and let you have this.”

Mor nodded, but didn’t thank him.

Try to do someone a good deed and they just nod at you, thought the examiner.  Young people these days.  The examiner slapped Mor’s shoulder roughly, almost knocking him off his crutches.  “You’ll do fine, boy.  Just play it safe.”  Whistling softly to himself, he left the room.

Down in the driveway of the suitably evil-looking mansion, his minions were just packing the large speaker system into the back of the truck.  He climbed into the back of his limousine.  It only had one speed: ten miles per hour over the speed limit.  Taking out a piece of paper and an extremely leaky pen, he practiced forging politicians’ signatures until his minion arrived in the front seat.

“Take me home,” he ordered.  “We must begin preparations for tomorrow’s EGO conference.  I am spokesperson, after all.”


“I am proud to announce that we have four new members with us today!” the chief examiner said into his microphone, smiling at the applause.  “At least, I hope they’re with us.  They might be in jail, working on their full rank qualifications already!”  The audience laughed.  “Their names are Morecoffee, Morbid Dude, More-evil-than-you, and Mor.  Please, welcome our new junior members!”  Applause rose up again like a dedicated hero.

“Next, I would like to announce the latest addition to the EGO rulebook: ‘Automobiles may not be painted in flamboyant colors unless in direct opposition of all righteous laws.’”  There were several groans from the audience.  “All automobiles found to be violating this new rule will be destroyed immediately.”  The parking lot outside came alive with many car alarms, which were abruptly silenced with the shriek of twisted metal.  “As you were warned a few seconds before the law came into effect, all pending lawsuits will be ignored.”

The examiner cleared his throat.  “Now for some rather important business: we—”  He stopped and checked his microphone as his voice stopped going through the speakers.  “We need…”  The audience couldn’t hear him.  He glanced over at his minion, who was jumping up and down and waving his arms.  He shrugged at it, and it pointed behind him.  He turned.

Mor climbed laboriously onto the stage.  He raised a microphone, hastily taped into the speaker system, to his mouth.  “Hello, everyone.  My name is Mor.”

“Hi, Mor,” the audience chorused.

“I was just made a junior member of EGO yesterday.”  Applause.  “I have sought to join your ranks for years and years, ever since I met my first hero.”

The crowd cheered.  They loved hero stories, as long as there was a happy ending for the villain.  The chief examiner sat down to listen.

“That hero came into my town, killed my father, and left me crippled in the middle of a road because he claimed we, as beggars, were polluting the town.”

The crowd was silent.  The chief examiner shifted in his seat—this sounded too much like a good deed.

“My father owned a respectable inn.”  A few boos from the back.  “When he lost all his business, he sold the inn and was turned out into the streets.  We begged here and there, but we never stole.  My father was too honest for that.”  Several more boos.  Mor ignored them.  “But then, a man came into town with an enormous voice and bigger self-esteem.  He stirred up the crowd with righteous talk of freedom and purity, and then began by eradicating the contaminants from their midst.”

The chief examiner rubbed his forehead.  Too many good deeds!  He would get a headache if this kept up.

“So they went out, burning witches and building bridges and killing people with strange hair.  I don’t know where the police were that day.  The last thing the hero led them to was the destroying of beggars.  The crowd had gone along with him until that point, but when they saw my father and I, they stopped.  But the hero didn’t.”  Mor swallowed.  “That day, my slave saved me, and we decided to oppose that hero and everything he stood for.”

The crowd cheered again.  Now they were on familiar ground.  Spiting heroes was always a respected occupation.

“So I applied to join your ranks, with success.  And that man,” Mor pointed at the chief examiner, “gave me my license to do evil.  And then he told me something very important.”

The chief examiner wracked his brain, trying to remember what he said.  He had just signed Mor in, hadn’t he?

“He told me I had a good minion.”

Silence in the hall.  All eyes turned to the chief examiner.

“I looked it up in the rulebook that night: evil is forbidden to consort with good.”

The chief examiner pinched his nose.  There went his job.

“It was a test, I realized later.  A test requiring me to do away with my slave in order to continue to your ranks.”

The examiner looked up slowly.  It hadn’t been a test; it had been a slip of the tongue.  That idiot was saving him.

“I thought about it all night and decided: if that’s what was required of me, it wasn’t worth it to me.  I might not like what that hero did—“

Someone cheered weakly.

“—but I won’t agree to what you require of me.  I’m handing in my badge.”

Mor tossed the badge, the rulebook, and the microphone down on the stage.  Those three sounds echoed through the hall as the boy’s minion helped him down from the stage.

The chief examiner stood, deliberately smoothing out the creases on his pants.  His minion motioned to him—they had gotten his microphone working again.  He cleared his throat and smiled weakly at the audience.



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