The interlaced beams of the construction site lay in a grid format above me. A cool wind blew in from the north, and the shifting dirt and gravel of the in progress building was at my feet. I took in the orange and yellow glow of the city at night that seemed a mile away, the bright white lights the construction workers would use during night shifts off so to hide our operation.
Deep within the construction pit was an old relic. It was beyond powerful, or so the legend foretold. Our boss, Captain Devil, wanted it more than anything, with it he believed he could conquer the city, then the world. He promised a new world order, where the holders of power would bow down to us.
However, tonight, I was not helping Captain Devil uncover the relic. I was standing outside, in the cold blanket of darkness, holding a large machine gun of some kind that I didn’t know how to use, listening to a man I had never met before.
“And I said to the pharmacy lady, you know the short, curly brown haired, possibly illegal alien, I said, ‘bitch, you better not tell me I have to pay more then $50 for my medication. Bitch I have shakes!’ And you know what she said to me?” he asked me, his voice so high-pitched it was on the verge of squeaking.
“I imagine you’re going to tell me,” I somberly replied.
“She said because I don’t got no insurance, it going to cost me more than $1000 for a few pills. Can you believe that horse shit?”
“That’s right you can’t! I mean I ain’t eligible for insurance! I’m a career henchman, you hear me? This shit don’t have no benefits!”
I sighed and bobbed my head in agreement. In a way he was right, this shit really had no benefits. We were both what you called, career henchmen. Most of the super villains who got locked away would escape jail eventually. However, it was expensive to bust your henchmen out with you, so only the really high tier ones had a consistent crew. The rest would hire their henchmen through an underground service like the one I worked for.
The only benefit I received for going through them was guaranteed bail if it was less than $500. And normally when a super hero was the reason you’re arrested, bail isn’t bad. However a super hero usually had very little regard for the henchman’s well-being.
“Maaaan, I should’ve signed up with Yellow Devil when I had the chance. He was taking on full time henchmen. With dental and mental!’
I perked up at this, and actually looked over at my associate with curiosity.
“Yellow Devil was? When?”
“Like two weeks ago I think. He offered but I was all like no I got this great gig coming up with Big Bear, I don’t need no full-time!” he explained to me.
I frowned, and looked forward while hugging my gun to my chest in some sort of false hope that it would comfort me.
“Man, I worked with Yellow Devil like three weeks ago. Why didn’t he ask me?” I muttered to myself.
My partner waved his hands to dismiss the notion as he explained, “Hey my man don’t take it personally. Yellow Devil isn’t exactly fan of…uh…you people.”
I tilted my head to the side, confused.
“What do you mean, you people?”
“I mean… white.”
“Yeah man…white people. He not a big fan of working with the white people,” he elaborated.
I took a hard look at my partner. He was wearing a toque, an old dusty jacket, and torn jeans. His face was marked by scraggily facial hair, and while he wasn’t that young, he was clearly young enough that he still hadn’t outgrown his prepubescent chin hairs. That wasn’t the most notable trait I was taking in though.
“Kid…you’re white,” I argued.
“Pfft. Only on the outside,” he shot back.
I raised an eyebrow and my lower lip drooped in disgust. Then I shook my head and looked away.
“Whatever,” I commented.
“Don’t take it personally man. I mean do you know any good white henchmen? I mean besides you, obviously,” he said apologetically.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“White henchmen are just…goofier, then your typical, anything else. They’re more prone to bumble around and screw up. Or they’re less likely to see the super hero descending from above to punch them both out because they’re goofing off,” the kid continued.
“You’re serious? You really think that bad things happen on these heists because of white people?” I asked.
“I’m just saying it because it’s true. I was reading about it online.”
“What kind of horse shit website told you that?”
“It was on the career henchmen subreddit. That shit is legit,” he argued.
This was the problem with young henchmen these days. They thought the internet could teach them everything they needed to know about being a good thug. These kids would browse websites, read forums, and suddenly they thought they were experts in the field.
Unlike me, these kids hadn’t been out here for 20 years. They hadn’t been getting their jaws cracked by super powered punks, been getting their ribs kicked in by abusive cops, and they sure as hell weren’t there for the great super villain eradication of 2007 where it was open season on henchmen’s testicles. I’m still bummed I would never have any more kids.
Like, I don’t mean to get ahead of myself. I’ve been using this assault rifle for 20 years and I still didn’t know how to aim it properly, or let alone reload it with someone else’s help. I was also a terrible, terrible, getaway driver, but that wasn’t the point.
I put in my time. I wasn’t a poser like these punk-ass kids who read something online and suddenly they were experts. I had seen things in my tenure as a career henchman, super heroes and villains who were so defying of all logic that my head had almost popped. But I was still here, still standing. We’d see if these kids would last.
Having said all that, you’re probably asking yourself why I’m still doing it. If I’ve acknowledged all the problems with being a career henchmen, surely I’m smart enough to not be one?
Well the thing is I can point these out because being a henchmen is all I’ve ever known. I’m not particularly smart or talented, I’m not attractive and I really don’t have any interests. I just want a pay cheque, pay my child support, and move on with life. If I could actually save enough money, than maybe, maybe I would go back to school and get an education.
I have no idea what in though. I could get into business management, but then what, I’d manage idiots like this kid here? That’s not a life. Arguably this isn’t either, but I’m alive. Super heroes at least don’t kill. Well, most. It’s ignorant but I try not to think about anti-heroes. If you can’t tell I have enough problems already.
A cool chill ran through the air, making me and the kid shiver. The moment was only a temporary respite from the kid’s prattling, as he continued.
“Know what else I saw on there? I read that there is a huge bounty out right now for any super villain, or even henchmen, that can kill Super Fantastic,” he added, eager to shift the conversation away from my seniority. It works as the concept strikes my curiosity.
“But, that’s impossible,” I replied. “Super Fantastic is made of…made of justice or something.”
“I know right? The dude took a nuclear explosion to the face and was fine! It didn’t even phase him. It was like he got splashed in the face with water!” the kid said excitedly, his voice starting to carry through the construction site. Generally when you’re on guard duty the idea is to stay quiet, you don’t want to tell the super heroes where to start punching.
“Well, didn’t that billionaire philanthropist guy, Chaz Newman or whatever, hurt with some rock or something?” I asked, assuming the kid will know since he obviously was more informed than me. I had heard about the story years ago but it was a rumour, essentially a myth, among the henchmen.
“Nah man I don’t buy it. You don’t just get near something and start to feel weak at the knees! That’s just not how that shit goes down!” he argued with me.
“Well it is if it affects your biology,” I argued, starting to become annoyed with the ignorance again. “That’s the idea. That it’s affecting him on a microscopic level.”
“Pssh that’s lame as hell,” he dismissed with a wave of his hand. “Big tough guy getting beat up a little things. Bigger guys should be able to beat up big guys, that’s how that works.”
The kid got to me and I finally turn to address him. I admit, I’m not super passionate about super powers or how they work, but goddamn it I’ve been around them long enough to have some knowledge. And I was going to drop that knowledge bomb on the punk ass kid.
“Listen, son, you don’t-“
My thought was interrupted by a flowing cape and a kick to the nose. Having descended from a beam above us was a man in a dark cape with black military grade armor. His mask pointed downwards leak a beak and shimmered in even the darkness.
Shit fuck. Crow Man.
My co-worker was already on his back and I stumbled backwards, barely maintaining my footing. Crow Man quickly grabbed the kid by the forehead and lifted it up to give him leverage. All the while the kid was pleading pathetically with the obelisk.
“Hey come on man I just got to make payments on my car and I got to support my kid man you know child support is a real bitch-“ the rapid fire string of made up excuses ended with a bone crunching punch.
Well I’ll give the kid one thing. Two white assholes were goofing around and gotten taken out simultaneously.
However, like I said before super heroes don’t tend to care how they leave the henchmen, no more evident than that moment when he signed my colleague up for facial reconstruction surgery.
I desperately, frantically, tried to cock my gun and aim. I looked down, pulled back the safety, and then took aim. But then Crow Man was gone.
I drooped slightly, letting my gun point to the ground. I knew this trick and I knew it was over.
“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” asked a gravelly voice from all around me.
I nodded, resigned to what’s about to happen.
“Can you just…maybe not my left shoulder? That just got better after that operation with Yellow Devil,” I asked.
No sooner than the last word leaves my lips than I am flipped by me shoulder onto my back and with a debilitating pain my right shoulder was dislocated. I screamed in pain but then I saw Crow Man’s fist coming in hot. I had a single moment of clarity, when I realized he actually listened to me.
“Thank you,” I muttered out, and then my world was darkened.
Tomorrow I would wake up in the jail hospital being treated for my injuries, and then my bail would come through in 24 hours. So that would mean 24 hours with prisoner guard Joe, or if I was lucky it might prisoner guard Bob who kicked like a girl (yes I have nicknames for the guards, I’ve been to all of them enough times), but then I would be out on the streets again.
Then like the big dope I am, I would sign up for another one of these jobs, get my ass kicked by another super hero, and the cycle continues on and on and on.
Could I change? Maybe. But like I said, this is all I’ve ever known.
That’s just the life of a career henchmen.