Written by castor :: [Sunday, 29 December 2013 13:35] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 09 February 2014 06:03]
The computer displayed no displeasure when things went wrong. If it did have anything to say about events, it would have remarked upon how ironic the situation was. The three hundred canisters in the cargo hold contained enough fuel of various types to get the small unmanned cargo vessel across the known universe several times over … But not one of them contained the right kind, the kind of fuel that now leaked steadily from a fresh gash in the large drone’s fuel tank.
Emergency protocols kicked in, and the drone changed course. A scan of the nearby solar systems revealed a safe location, and soon the fifty foot cargo drone entered the atmosphere of the third world. The computer searched the coastline and found the perfect place to conceal itself. Before it did so, the ship carried out security protocols.
All drones of this model were equipped with short range teleporters, designed to make unloading quick and easy – even without access to a dock. Range was sufficient to unload through most atmospheres, and though almost any solid substance. This was something the company that owned this vessel took advantage of in situations like this. With only enough fuel to cover a small area, the ship traversed the landscape depositing the canisters of fuel safely beneath the surface of this strange landscape. It then returned to the bay, where it buried itself deep under the mud … far below the crystal clear waters. There it would await its owners.
What the computer didn’t know … what it should have known … was that the emergency signal it was sending was not being transmitted. It would have been, but the transmitter wasn’t physically there. Just enough of the mechanism remained to fool the computer. And so, unfortunately for them, there was no way for the owners of the drone to know their precious cargo of various fuels and chemicals was safely hidden and waiting for rescue …
Its situation was completely hopeless, but as it system slowly decayed over the long centuries into senility it couldn't display that either – for it was a machine.
This was happening.
Correction: This was happening to *her*.
Belinda had never ready much in the way of comicbooks growing up. She grew up poor in a lumber town, and there wasn't much money. What’s more, well, she was a girl.
She knew of characters like Superman, the Incredible Hulk, what ever. She had seen a movie or two on an airplane. She remembered having fond memories of Batman Returns, and Catwoman.
But this …
She dropped the newspaper on the table. The Story of what happened earlier that day. The story of how her city whould change.
Belinda Hollins, Mayor of the City of Cape Hope, sat in her office. With her was District Attorney Andrew Tompkins, Police commissioner Bill Brander, and Chief of Police Francis Ledbetter. With them were several press attaches, and assistants.
She knew her words were important. Even without microphones, even without cameras, what she said in this room mattered. How the entire situation would develop, how it would evolve, would happen because of what she did now, what she said. From the first word to the last.
"So where are we going to put the batphone?" joked one of the assistants.
Belinda stared at him.
"We have entered a new reality," she said at last. "How we respond to these events, how we deal with it … "
"Well we have two options here," said Brander.
"I say we lock ‘em all up," Said Ledbetter "We need to take a hard line on these people. Even the ones you guys seem to think are so damn heroic. They’re vigilantes. And they should go before a judge like any other public menace. Even that flying girl from the other day … whatever contraption she used, we can charge her for flying without a permit."
"Is that a wise course?" Brander pondered. "From what I’ve learned, these are people who you don't want to piss off."
"It’s the only sensible approach," said Ledbetter. “Today has been a very crazy day. I’ve read the occasional story for months now, but I just thought it was a bunch of loony-toons who should be in straight jackets. Now …"
"This makes it worse," observed Tompkins, picking up the newspaper and looking it over with discomfort. "A thousand times worse. It’s not property damage … we can clean that up … it’s the fact that it’s out there. Everyone knows about these … people. We’ll get a panic. If we’re not on top of this, people could riot in the street. We should get all officers on high alert."
"Pandora’s Box has been opened," observed Brander. "And we can't put it back in. It’s not going to fit. This is ludicrous. I mean, declare martial law … bring the national guard in, whatever. But Tompkins … I’m not a lawyer … but do you think you can get a jury to convict someone for saving a kitten from a tree without a permit?"
Belinda looked out the window. Currently no-one was flying through the sky above her beautiful city. It was a cloudy day. Still quite pretty actually. The sky. Currently.
"We have something," said Ms. Hollins. "Something very powerful. Something they do not. The good ones, the bad ones … if that’s even the word. Whatever they can do, we have he greatest "superpower" of them all."
"And what is that?" Ledbetter asked, unable to completely disguise his annoyance.
"The city," came her smooth reply. "It’s not your police, it’s not your courts, it’s not any of that. The common people look up to us, they respect us. We are its elected government – and you can't lift that idea up and toss it around like the door of a bank vault. No strength can. Not even the most mighty of these people can even touch it. We have will."
"That, and a buck-ninety, gets you a cup of coffee," said Tompkins.
"If we play our cards right, if we act intelligently and smartly … and don't make jokes about batphones, or underwear on the outside … or any of that. We keep our heads, and we do not panic … because all of them want that. They want that most of all. We must stay together, and strong. And if we need to use some of these people to keep others like them under control, then we use them."
Ledbetter grumbled but nodded. Tompkins smiled. She watched that smile.
"We should get some keys fitted up," said Brander.
"Not quite yet" The Mayor countered. "Be stingy with your love, and they will love you more. The good ones, the heroes, whoever. They want that … the approval, for us to cheer them and tell them they are doing right. Control that love, and they will go to the ends of the earth for you."
She turned her head to the window. And saw her, A flittering presence in the sunset, the details were hard to make out, just a shape, almost a mirage, but she was there.
And she was flying.
No strings, no ladders, no airplane. Just flight.
And Belinda breath left her face, her eyes went pale. She was in awe.
And she doubted her own words.
In a corner of the room Mr. Brown Stood smiling. He watched her face go white. no emotions traced his lips except a smile. He knew how to do that very well, and with much practice.
He walked forward.
"I don't mean to be a bother," he said, "But I have been authorized to share some detailed information, about our … situation. How it relates to things that happened in the past. This is highly classified information, so I hope it goes without my saying, though I’m going to say it anyway, none of the information I’m about to share leaves this room."
"Oh great. Spooks," Ledbetter almost spat the last word. "I never had much time for spooks.” He turned to regard Brown with ovious distaste. “So, did the little aliens come out of Roswell, and..?”
"Not exactly," Brown cut him off. "Not exactly."
But Belinda ignored them all.
She was too busy looking into the sky. It wasn't a bird, it wasn't a plane …
But she hoped it was alright, that whoever she was she was there to help.