The Generic Villain on Shining Star Minions

I’ve already talked about the minimum standards to which minions should be held—but that’s not the only problem one can have with minion training. But what about those minions who are too good? They’re shining stars of your organization, an inspiration to your redshirt brigades. You’re getting spectacular results from them on a redshirt salary. You’d think it’d be an endless blessing, right? Watch the heroes come in expecting mooks and have to deal with someone who is practically a weapon of mass destruction.

And sure, your theory’s sound. At least, up until the part where your shining star, most often by having exposed to an overdose of protagonism or having decided that something you did crosses the line, goes and turns lightside. And since this was your one and only, your secret weapon, to say that the new lightsider goes through your forces like a knife through butter, picking up skills at the same rate as any protagonist might, would be rather like saying that walking through a parched gully in the middle of monsoon season is just a tad bit risky. When that star falls on the rest of your minions, it does what falling stars always do—leaves a disproportionately large crater.

What, instead, do you do when you have such a shining star among your ranks?

First, figure out that they’re there. Really, you can’t get anything else done until you know who it is you need to take proper care of. This also means making sure, if you’ve been hearing about great deeds and found someone you’re pretty sure did them, that they actually did. There is nothing that stirs these people up to leave like losing all their credit to smooth-talking fellow squad members or lazy lieutenants.

Second, recognize them for what they do. One primary cause of early-onset minion protagonism is dissatisfaction; they’re out in the field, run into a potential commander who praises them to within an inch of their natural lives when in your organization they’re lucky to get an extra helping at the mess hall or a pat on the back, and next thing you know they’re being fawned over as the best thing that’s ever happened to the other side. Give them reason to stick around. My personal suggestion would be promoting them a step or two—or three, or four—and then giving them a combination of plum assignments and cushy duty trying to train their teammates up to their level (which helps to start mitigating the issue of the severe difference between their skills should they fail anyway—and if they choose one or two special students and you can keep them loyal, gives you angst-fodder to throw at them if they go lightside anyway).

Speaking of which—remember my old riff about prejudice as a sloppy shortcut to villain cred? This is one of its primary means of coming around and biting you; as often as not, the reason why you’ve got a shining star in your ranks is because they’re having to work twice as hard to get half the credit, and when the protagonists don’t happen to have a bias against that one for gender, skin color, pointiness of ears or what have you—well, honestly, if I were them I’d be sorely tempted to jump ship too. This is why insititutional isms do not end well.

Figure out where they draw the line, and try to avoid letting them catch you crossing it. The other primary cause of early-onset minion protagonism is violation of their moral codes to the point where they find their former organization worth opposing with all their strength. Then get one of your psych people in there and see what you can do about moving the line—no direct brainwashing, mind you, just a little bit of inculcation in cold hard battlefield logic.

Go and catch your shining stars. You’ll get far less collateral damage than if you try to stand back and watch them burn out.


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