The Animal Trainer

I kind of cheated and used the same prompt again:

Write a story about someone larger than life (superhero, werewolf, sorcerer, movie star, rock star, super spy, etc.) in one of the following situations: dealing with the mundane, on vacation, on a blind date, changing sidekicks/minions/personal assistants.

I really haven’t done much with super villains. I guess that’s kind of strange, given that I’ve written a bit about superheroes. But villains, on the whole, just don’t interest me as much. I get why they’re fun and everyone loves them, but for the most part I don’t care. I guess there’s just not as much variety in villainy – I almost feel like they can write themselves. You can plug a villain into a story without really explaining much. Most of the have pretty much the same motivations and goals, so you end up treading a lot of the same ground over and over again. Plus, I feel like it’s easy to be a villain. The world gives us plenty of opportunity and reason. It’s pretty much the natural state of humankind to be dicks to each other.

That’s not to say there aren’t great villains that buck the trend. But a lot of times they feel interchangeable and disposable. Not everyone can be Magneto or Doctor Doom, I guess.

Anyway, I need some villains for my world of heroes, so here’s a fun one – Lord Drak of the Imperium, a cluster of conquered parallel dimensions over which he rules with an iron fist. Of course, the heroes of earth have frustrated him several times. I put in this idea of a time shift between the dimensions, so time passes more quickly on Earth than it does in the Imperium. Presumably, Drak would try to conquer Earth, get defeated, then flee home to come up with new weapons and strategies. After spending a couple of years on this, he returns, prepared to annihilate his old foes, just to discover a whole new generation of heroes for whom he’s completely ill-equipped. Thus the cycle begins again. It amuses me.

I also mention a new hero, Astro Jack. I’m imagining him as a ’40s-’60s era Superman-type. I may explore him more later.

Drak is probably the most generic alien warlord name ever. Drak’s little pet is heavily inspired by jinxlets, but not nearly as cute. About 900 words.

The Animal Trainer

Jerry wiped the sweat from his brow and sat, utterly failing to avoid eye contact with the metal skull resting at the center of the table. Across from Jerry, absorbed in paperwork, sat Lord Drak, pan-dimensional war-monger and master of the Seven Imperium. Drak wore the battle armor he’d become so famous in, though the helmet rested on the arm of the chair. Drak’s dark hair was neatly combed, and a pair of glasses perched on his crooked nose. Deep scars criss-crossed the dread master’s face.

Or at least Jerry was pretty sure those were scars. He’d met so many aliens in the Imperium, he’d long since given up on what was normal or healthy.

“So,” Drak rumbled, “Jerry Simth.” It was Smith, actually, but Jerry had also long since given up on that, too.

“Yes, Lord.”

Drak peered over his glasses, and Jerry met his gaze. Jerry had heard of Drak’s famous tachyon vision leveling mountains. He fervently hoped to never see those purplish beams erupt from those dark eyes.

“According to this,” Drak gestured at the paperwork, “you were captured by a raid against…Terra? Where is that?”

“Ah, just outside the Imperium, sir. Two sectors north of the dimensional fold.”

Drak cocked his head. “Ah, yes, that one. Frustrating place. What was his name…”

“Astro Jack, sire,” Jerry mumbled. Nobody liked their failures flaunted, least of all Lord Drak. Astro Jack and the Liberty Gang had repelled three Imperium Invasions over the course of a decade. It was during the last of those crusades that Jerry had been captured. That had been eight years ago, by Imperium reckoning. By his calculations, some twenty years had passed on Earth, and Astro Jack had likely retired. Jerry hoped that someone new had come along, or the next Imperium attack might be a little more permanent.

Drak sighed. “Yes. Bastard. Anyway, you’ve apparently adjusted well to life in the Imperium. The slavers say you’ve been invaluable to the teamsters.”

Jerry cleared his throat. “Yes, sire. My parents owned a farm. I’ve grown up around animals.” Not animals with claws or razor tails or three heads, but really, there wasn’t that much difference between a Galadron Chameleon and a bull. Just had to watch out for the acid manure, and really, wanting to keep both feet intact wasn’t the only reason not to step in shit.

“Have you ever handled insects?” Drak leaned back in his seat, the plates of his armor clanking.

Jerry wracked his brain. Honestly, he’d left the farm at 18 and hadn’t looked back. Most of the time when he was in the slave pens, he was bluffing because working with the animals, no matter how smelly or dangerous, was better than most of the alternatives.

“Well, we had a few cicada swarms,” Jerry offered. “And grasshoppers. Fire ants could get pretty bad.”

Drak seemed interested. He leaned forward again. “Tell me of these fire ants. Are they like the ravager cants of my homeworld?” His eyes grew distant. “My brothers and sisters and I used to capture wild cants and ride them to neighboring villages to set them upon the other children. A single cant, propertly prodded, could maim several youngsters before tiring.”

“Fire ants are nasty buggers, sire. They’re small…” Jerry held up a pair of fingers. Drak looked unimpressed. “…but they come by the millions. Mounds big as this table.” Drak brightened. “Practically had the nuke the queens to get rid of them.”

“Glorious!” Drak growled. “We had to do much the same when the great mutation of 1547 happened. Took an orbital bombardment. Half the planet’s population died along with the cants. I lost three of my brothers.”

Jerry wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Good times,” Drak said. He flipped a few of the papers over. “Well, everything looks in order here. When can you start? Hah! When can you start?” he laughed, that dire, merciless laugh that so many of his fallen enemies had heard.

Jerry pursed his lips. “Yes, sire. Because I’m a slave, sire.”

Drak pressed a button on his wrist controls, and a small platform lifted from beneath the floor nearby. Chained to the platform was a creature the size of a small dog, but with none of the furry slobbery disposition of a cute pup. It was a metallic green color, with a hard, chitinous shell and six segmented legs that clattered violently against the platform to which it was bound. Antennae probed the air above a multi-faceted rainbow of eyes. A small but sharp mouth gnashed at Jerry despite the distance between them. Jerry resisted the urge to leap from his chair and flee.

“My youngest daughter has been begging for one of these…things,” Drak grumbled. “I can’t stand them, but I suppose they’re the latest in cute accessories.”

Jerry gulped. “Oh, yes, sire. Very fashionable.” He’d never seen the critter at this stage, but he’d seen the grown-up version at the gladiator pits. This was a very, very young and downright cheerful specimen compared to its big brothers.

“If I’m lucky,” Drak continued, “One of them will eventually eat the other, and we won’t have to worry about it anymore. At any rate, your job will be to take care of this thing while she’s busy doing whatever she does all the time. You’ll be provided with a room in the Spire and whatever you need to carry out your duties.” He eyed Jerry and smirked. “Congratulations, boy. You’ve just gotten out of the slave pits.”