Monday, February 9, 2009

Concerned Citizens

Kim had time to think, as the iron-winged seraphs of Archangelina Jolie rained fire and destruction down on the city of New York like capricious and vengeful children, that this was all Toby Park’s fault.

Granted, she didn’t have much time to think, what with having to dodge the occasional checker cab tossed her way and negotiate through the panicked stampede away from Times Square, but in the manner that one’s life is meant to flash before one’s eyes, Kim laid all the blame squarely on the shoulders of Toby Park, the Unstoppable Alloy-Man.

Toby Park, who started it all. Toby Park, the billionaire wunderkind who built a seven-foot tall indestructible flying suit of armor, then took that armor over to Waziristan and pummeled to death the entire al-Qaeda leadership. It was because of Park, however indirectly, that the apocalypse had come to midtown.

Screw charity fundraisers. Screw adopting underprivileged Third-World babies. Alloy-Man changed everything. At his press conference, Park referred to himself simply as a “concerned citizen.”

Well, didn’t that just get everybody started.

Bill Gates and his twin-holstered freeze-ray guns. Oprah Winfrey’s Justice Wagon. Paris and Nicole’s Simple Life: Hooded Vigilantes. Diddyman. Not to mention all the innumerable sons and daughters of Rockefellers and Waltons and Vanderbilts, all come out to play. Overnight, punching someone in the face became the new AIDS ribbon.

Kim ducked in through a mutilated storefront window. The place used to sell shoes, before the seraphs bombed it. What to do? What exactly was the protocol when the mechanized flying army of Hollywood’s top actress got hotwired and repurposed as an unstoppable killing force? And where the Hell was Toby Park?

It was her way in. Kim was a hanger-on. She had money, she’d been to the parties, but really she wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar. It was either accidentally end up on the wrong side of a celebrity sex-tape or become a superhero.

Of course, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. There was the whole thing in LA where Alloy-Man shot a black teenager because he was sure the kid had stolen a car. Then there was Mecha-Hannity. With the justice system in freefall (or liberated, depending on how you looked at it) Fox News managed to get their hands on a decommissioned Soviet nuclear assault suit and sent Sean Hannity to the Mexican border to report on/atomize illegal immigrants.

Things started to get out of control. Lawyers were called, and as Kim was being photographed foiling her very first jewelry heist, the Justice Lobby of America was called before Congress. In order to prevent these sorts of misunderstandings, the burgeoning superhero class invested in a class of supervillains to keep themselves in the papers and out of the news. Hannity left the Mexican frontier to do battle against Alan Colmes, the latter’s battlesuit an off-market diesel killing machine made in Poland.

Which is how the world got Professor Zodiac. The Professor represented no special interest group, he always hit big-ticket public works projects, and made sure the caper in question was over in time to make a last-minute appearance on Leno. He was the prefect bad guy, the kind you could scoff at as he vlogged his list of demands but could secretly cheer on as he fought Ben Affleck over the skeletal remains of the Ghost Fleet of Zanzibar. Plus, he killed on Leno, speaking of late night.

Only now it seemed to have gone a bit wrong. Kim could imagine Zodiac atop the Empire State building (his customary threaten-the-world post) trying frantically to reboot the Oscillator and stop the seraphs from providing the kind of redecorating service usually reserved for places with names like Dresden and Hiroshima.

She had to get to him. The thought popped in to her mind in the absence of something sensible like run screaming for the hills. She was going to have to fight her way to the Empire State through panicked New Yorkers and bloodthirsty angels and shut down the Radiomagnetic Oscillator herself or…

Or die trying.

Kim stood up. She brushed the ground glass from her knees. She took one step through the shattered storefront window into the street beyond, her fists clenched, ready to do righteous battle.

“Excuse me?” A voice, meek and small from inside the store. “Can I have your autograph?”

Kim turned back. That was when the seraph got her.

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