Mastermind is an aspiring super villain and genius inventor. He specializes in making devices that can control people’s minds and transform their bodies. But he’s short on cash and needs to raise a lot of money quick. So he decides to sell his latest invention to the highest bidder — and he uses his unsuspecting henchman to demonstrate its new gender-bending capabilities in front of a bunch of online voyeurs.
Note: This was previously published as “The Intern.” It has been revised and expanded. If you already purchased “The Intern,” you may download the updated version of this story for free by entering your email address here.
In the back room of a rundown office building somewhere in the middle of a sketchy area of the bustling Riverside City, a well-dressed man sat in front of a computer monitor, running encryption software and network masking algorithms.
The room was filled with all sorts of half-built inventions and devices. Loose wires, spare parts, and exposed circuit boards were everywhere. A video camera sat on a tripod, facing a blank wall.
The computer screen revealed: “all connections secure.”
He grinned. Showtime.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, stepping in front of the camera, “thank you for responding to my little ad on the dark web. We are ready to begin.”
He stood about 6-foot-2, appearing somewhere in his thirties. He was a good looking fellow, well dressed and neatly groomed, clean shaven, and carried himself with a very professional demeanor. He wore a black business suit that easily cost more than most families earned in a year. But one thing that really stood out about this man was his eyes — they were alert, keen, clever, constantly devising. Always thinking. He was smart.
So smart, in fact, that no one knew his true identity. He was simply known as “The Master” or “Mastermind.” He was a genius inventor in his own league — and a genius among geniuses.
On this particularly fateful evening, he transmitted an encrypted video broadcast to several select high profile (and high income) individuals around the world. Mostly — actually, entirely — the not-so-legit kind. People who rose to power using, one could say, “other than legal” methods.
They were all anonymous. But his IP address tracing software helped him identify some of them. One person was watching from a government building in Russia. Others were logged in from Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Dubai, New York, and even Honolulu. He was sure they were using their own masking software, to hide their real identities and locations. But Mastermind was more than an inventor. He had advanced knowledge in quantum physics, computer engineering, and even fancied himself a philosopher from time to time too. Hacking computers wasn’t that hard for him.
Truth was, Mastermind could’ve done anything he wanted with his life — be a doctor, a lawyer, or heck, even the president of the United States if he wanted — but instead, he chose a different path: he became one of the world’s first super villains.
It was the only “true” challenge for him.
He didn’t bother with petty crimes like robbing banks or fixing the lottery. Not even things like hacking into the CIA database or planning the assassination of a foreign leader, although he was certainly more than capable of doing all those things. No, Mastermind was interested in something much more … eccentric, with a far grander vision.
Something that would make him go down in history.
Call it cliché, but he was going to rule the world one day. He just needed the resources. And after today, he was sure to have it.
“Today,” he said to his carefully selected audience online, “is a new day. Whatever you thought possible in the world when you woke up this morning, ladies and gentlemen,” he said with a light chuckle, “is wrong. I’m going to show you the so-called impossible. But I assure you, it’s very, very real. But enough talk and hype. It’s time for my demonstration.”
He stepped off camera for a moment. For that moment, the camera recorded the blank wall. Then he returned, trying to hide his smile of anticipation.
“You and I are mortal. We’re born, we age, and we die. We’re stuck with the DNA, for better or worse, that we inherited from our parents and ancestors. We’re vulnerable to disease, sickness, injury, and death. This is a fact of life. Or is it? What if I told you my latest invention can grant you a power previously only reserved for the gods? The power to create. The power to transform. The power to reverse aging, change appearance, and even alter the mind. Today, ladies and gentlemen, Mastermind Technologies brings you that power. Whether you’re running from the law, sneaking into enemy territory, planning revenge, or just bored with the way things are — what I’m about to show you, my friends, will change everything.”
He looked off camera. “Rex, come here!”
A young man, early twenties, walked in and stood in front of the wall, facing the camera. He was an average guy, short black hair, regular build, nothing special. He wore a basic pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and awaited his orders.
“Allow me to introduce my assistant for today’s demonstration, Rex. He’s one of my employees — you might call him a henchman — who I recently recruited into my organization. He graduated from Yale in the top third of his class. Very impressive. Say hello, Rex.”
“Hello,” he said, waving into the camera. He looked around, waiting patiently, not really knowing why he was here or what was expected of him.
Mastermind looked into the camera with a grin. “He remains a faithful and obedient servant under my employ thanks to my very own proprietary mind control technology. If you’re wondering, no, my mind control tech is most certainly not for sale. But allow me to demonstrate its efficacy.”
Mastermind faced his young henchman, a nice looking fellow who never had any plans of joining any evil organizations while he studied in college. But one fateful day at a job fair changed all that.
“Rex,” said Mastermind, “take off all your clothes, right now.”
The young man didn’t question or hesitate, not for one moment. Sure, he was aware of what he was doing. And yeah, under normal circumstances, it’d be weird. But he just felt an overwhelming instinct to listen and obey. To perform what was asked of him. It was like his body moved on its own, following Mastermind’s instructions, whether he wanted to or not.
Rex immediately and obediently began to disrobe — he pulled off his shirt, took off his pants, and removed his shoes, socks, underwear and all. The naked young man stood there, in front of the blank wall, still facing the camera just as before.
“Good,” said Mastermind.
The super genius moved in front of the camera, blocking their view of Rex for just a moment. “Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to show you the future.”
He looked back at Rex and grinned.
The poor kid had no idea what was coming.
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Note: This was previously published as “The Intern.” It has been revised and expanded. If you already purchased "The Intern," you may download the updated version of this story for free by entering your email address here.
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