Mischa Petrovitch sat trembling at a gigantic conference table deep in the heart of the Pentagon. No one else was sitting there, and there was in fact only one other man in the room at all, who had opted to stand instead: Josiah Malum, the newly appointed Secretary of Evil.
In recent years, the government had created a number of new Cabinet offices. One of these was the Department of Evil (surprisingly and disturbingly enough, the least controversial new addition). What it actually did was a complete mystery to most Americans, and so it shall remain to you, because I’m willing to bet you’re no better than the average American.
Mischa was by nature a very nervous man, having had abusive parents. Whatever creative potential he might have had was thoroughly squelched by the efforts of his father, who was determined that Mischa not amount to anything. After emigrating from Russia, Mischa was almost immediately chosen by Josiah Malum to be his new assistant, a job he was remarkably bad at.
“Mischa, it is imperative that you understand the importance of this assignment,” said Josiah flatly, his face betraying no emotion as he took a drag from his cigarette.
“Y-yes sir, I do understand, sir,” sputtered Mischa nervously.
He was always nervous while in the same room as his boss. Josiah Malum, tall, fit and always well-groomed, gave the impression of possessing a boundless, maniacal energy; yet he always remained perfectly calm. Few men could stand to be in his presence for longer than a few minutes, a fact attributed in part to his eyes, which were, in a word, unpleasant.
“Well good, good,” said Josiah. “You do, of course, realize that the mission I’m about to send you on carries with it an extraordinarily high risk of failure, do you not?”
Mischa nodded, then hastily added, “But I won’t fail you, sir!”
“You’d better not. Because should you fail, there will be consequences. You are aware of the consequences, aren’t you, Mischa?” asked Josiah, a cloud of smoke shrouding his face in darkness.
“Y-yes! Yes s-sir, I’m aware, sir! I-I know what the consequences are, sir!” said Mischa, a bit louder than necessary.
“You remember what happened the last time you failed…don’t you?” continued Josiah.
“YES! I r-remember, sir!” yelled Mischa, his nerves now dangerously on edge.
Josiah put down his cigarette.
“I do not tolerate failure, Mischa. I taught you that the hard way once. I don’t want to do it again. But if you force me…”
“No sir! Not my X-Box!” pleaded Mischa.
“Yes, Mischa! The X-Box! If you fail, no X-Box for a month!”
“I won’t fail you, sir! I’ll succeed! I’ll do it!” proclaimed Mischa.
He stood up abruptly and hurried to the door, which was locked. He looked left, then right, then left again. Finally he looked back at Josiah, who was now comfortably seated directly in Mischa’s line of sight.
“One more thing, Mischa,” added Josiah, a sinister grin spreading across his smoke-obscured face.
“Y-yes sir?” asked Mischa, trembling.
“You have to go out the other door. That one’s broken.”
Josiah pointed to a door located a few feet to Mischa’s left.
“Oh. Thank you, sir.”
“Don’t mention it.”