Defenders Save the City!
Mason City- A group of superheroic individuals, styling themselves “The Epic Defenders,” did battle against villain Lord Grimlaw and his intergalactic henchmen in downtown Mason City yesterday. The Defenders, composed of the bionic Mighty Man, the lightning-quick Chaparral, sharp-shooting assassin Deadshot, and the nation’s foremost warrior, Corporal Clash, defeated Grimlaw’s invaders in an all-day fight that left a number of civilians wounded and untold millions of dollars in property damage…
Walter Van Troes crumpled his copy of the Mason City Register in disgust. He glanced around the subway car that he shared with a crush of humanity, all heading into the Mason City. Many of his fellow passengers were also absorbed in that day’s news; some with newspapers, others concentrating on their smart phones. Normally, Van Troes wouldn’t be caught dead taking the subway to work. However, it was the only mode of transit not damaged in yesterday’s fight.
He had spent much of the previous day in anxiety, sitting in front of his large screen TV watching a continuous stream of news reports about the battle that was being waged in the heart of the business district. The recently constructed and awe-inspiring Van Troes-Daumfip Tower, of which he was the senior partner, was located in that district. He made call after call, trying to reach anyone who could give him information about the state of his beloved building. Late in the evening, a call came through from his frantic P.A. stating that he had been a witness to that day’s architectural carnage, and that yes, the Van Troes-Daumfip Tower had been hit hard—at least the exterior was. He wasn’t actually able to enter the building due to the police barricades.
So now here was the all-important business tycoon Walter Van Troes, wearing an expensive suit, squashed in a subway with the unwashed masses. He glanced up in distaste at a shaggy-haired young man standing above him who was holding onto a strap with one hand while thumbing text messages with the other.
Getting out at the 43rd Street stop, Van Troes pushed his way through the crowded station and up the stairs toward the morning sunlight. The scene that presented itself when he emerged topside stopped him cold. From where he stood, it seemed that the entire downtown was in ruins. The pavement of 43rd Street was completely torn up; overturned cars, traffic lights, downed power lines, and futuristic-looking weaponry littered the landscape. Sprinkled liberally over these were chunks of masonry and broken glass from nearby damaged buildings. He weaved his way through the gawking crowds and the police who did their best to maintain a sense of order.
After stumbling south on Billings Avenue and heading several blocks east on 44th, his building came into view.
He let out a pent-up groan.
Although the impressive structure was still standing, it looked far worse than he had feared. The surface was pock-marked with holes and scored in various places with what looked to be very large claw marks. Nearly all of the outer windows were missing. Numerous letters had also been knocked off the large “VAN TROES-DAUMFIP” sign that had been hanging on the front of the Tower; they were now lying twisted and smashed on the street. The only letters that remained attached to the building were the “T” and “R” from his last name and the “U,” “M,”and “P” from his partner’s.
“Oh swell,” Van Troes muttered as he gazed at the ruined signage, “on top of everything else, I’ll probably get sued by…”
His P.A., exiting the scarred building, had spotted him and rushed over.
“How is it?” Van Troes said bluntly by way of greeting.
“I’ve just been with the building inspector. He assured me that there is no major structural damage. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed, but it’s a big mess right now.”
Van Troes snorted in disgust.
“Why couldn’t those wretched superheroes have saved the world somewhere else?”
“You’d think they’d be more careful…”
“Is that a headless robot over there?” Van Troes pointed to a metallic heap that was lying crumpled in the street.
The two men entered the Tower and stepped into what was once a magnificent glass atrium with a decorative fountain at its center. The glass walls and ceiling were shattered; the fountain was a pile of marble rubble with a bent and forlorn water pipe sticking out; the large reception desk that had once greeted visitors was tossed off to the side like so much kindling.
Van Troes and his P.A. moved toward the elevators which were, miraculously, still operational.
“I’ve been to all of the floors,” said the P.A. as the elevator glided upward. “Most of them escaped damage except for broken windows. The 88th floor though…”
With a ping, the elevator doors slid open.
The 88th floor was a wreck. Anything that was breakable was broken; desks, computers, the water cooler, everything. The carpets had huge tears in them. A number of walls had superhero-shaped holes smashed into them. File cabinets were dented and toppled over and important papers strewn about. It appeared that the brunt of the battle was fought here.
Van Troes observed all of this with mounting rage.
He stomped past the office of his partner Otto Daumfip. Daumfip sat slumped in his leather desk chair staring disconsolately out of his broken windows at the city below. Van Troes quickened his pace as he moved down the hall. He entered his own wide-open office (the solid oak door which had been locked was now blasted off its hinges). The destruction was complete. The final straw came when Van Troes located the missing head of the robot, sitting atop his smashed antique desk. Its dented metallic face seemed to sneer at him.
“That does it!” Van Troes shouted, his anger spilling out from every pore. He hoisted up the head and flung it out of the glassless window. Moments later, he heard a faint crash, followed by the wail of a car alarm.
He stormed back to Daumfip’s office.
Daumfip looked up listlessly.
“We have some calls to make.”
“To whom?” Daumfip asked, slowly rising from his chair.
“To some very important people.”
As the two men stepped out of the office, Van Troes noticed his employees resignedly beginning the process of restoration. He jabbed a finger in their direction.
“Don’t touch anything, any of you! In fact…take the rest of the day off. I’m going to have a clean-up crew take care of everything.”
“Sir,” said the P.A., who was holding a broom and dustpan, “I’ll arrange for a crew to come in…”
“No,” said Van Troes firmly. “There’ll be no need. I have a special crew in mind…”
“This is absolutely ridiculous!”
“It’s only fair…”
“I did not sign up for this!”
“It’s all a part of the job.”
“Really?” Deadshot slammed down the bottle of window cleaner that she was using on a newly installed window and spun around. “Doing chores is part of a superhero’s job?”
Corporal Clash, paint roller in hand, shrugged.
“Well, we sort of caused the mess in the first place.”
“We saved this city, and this is the thanks we get.”
From behind them came a clicking sound. The superheroes turned around to see Van Troes grinning and holding up his phone. He snapped another picture.
“Look at it this way,” the mogul said, “this will do wonders for your P.R.”
“As opposed to just defeating a super villain?” Clash asked sarcastically.
“It’s setting a bad precedent,” Deadshot countered. “How are we supposed to defend the world when everyone starts expecting us to do their maid service after every fight?”
“Shouldn’t Lord Grimlaw be the one cleaning up?” asked Chaparral, suddenly appearing. Everyone jumped.
“What the—”stammered Van Troes.
“Chap,” sighed Corporal Clash, “I’ve told you. You’ve got to announce yourself. Don’t just…appear.”
“Sorry,” Chaparral said. “Hey, I finished Van Troes’ office. What’s taking you guys so long?”
“What?” Van Troes sputtered in astonishment. “You were only in there for ten minutes…”
“Here,” Deadshot replied, snatching up the window cleaner and tossing it to Chaparral, “make yourself useful.”
Van Troes jumped again when he glanced out the window and saw a tall stack of desks slowly rising up. Lifting them from beneath was Mighty Man who was being propelled upward by jet pack.
“Hey,” he shouted through the glass, “can I get some help here?”
“Do you have something against freight elevators?” Deadshot shouted back.
“This was quicker.”
Van Troes’ camera clicked again.
“We didn’t install the windows in the conference room yet,” Corporal Clash said, “bring the desks through there.”
“Right,” the hovering superhero replied, moving away.
Clash turned to Chaparral.
“Hey Chap, you want to help him…”
With a blur of speed, Chaparral shot off towards the conference room. In a matter of seconds, he had delivered desks to the main floor, both of the partners’ offices, and was back to where he originally stood, a mischievous grin on his face.
“…out?” Corporal Clash finished lamely.
“Whoa…” murmured Van Troes.
Moments later, Mighty Man clanked his way out of the conference room.
“I’ve installed the conference room windows.”
“And just so you know,” Clash said, turning to Van Troes, “the glass we put in is reinforced and bullet-proof.”
“Oh, that’s…” began Van Troes.
“Deadshot,” Clash cut in, looking over Van Troes’ shoulder, “give him a demonstration.”
“No, really…” Van Troes stammered, turning to Deadshot and holding his hands up, “that’s not neces-WAAH!” The businessman ducked as the assassin pulled out two guns and began to fire at the windows. As promised, the glass remained intact, the spent bullets plunking to the floor.
“Not a scratch,” Deadshot grinned wryly as she slipped her guns back into their holsters.
“Wha—” Van Troes blurted, still on floor.
“While you’re down there, Mr. Van Troes,” continued Corporal Clash as if nothing unusual had happened, “you might notice that the new carpeting is made of a high tech blend of fibers that renders it completely flame resistant.” Van Troes heard an ominous clicking sound coming from Mighty Man. He looked up to see the mechanized man pointing downward with what appeared to be a flame thrower mounted on one of his arms.
“NO!” screamed Van Troes.
A concentrated jet of fire burst from Mighty Man, the flames licking the carpeting before the superhero. After a few seconds, the flame thrower was shut off. The carpet was completely unmarked. Everything still seemed to be in good shape. However, the same could not be said for Van Troes.
“Please…” he whimpered, “no more tests. You are all free to…”
“I haven’t gotten to the best part yet,” grinned Clash broadly as he set down his paint roller and gestured to the wall behind him. “This is no ordinary paint that I’ve been using. It’s a specially developed blend that actually reinforces the wall, making it virtually impossible to damage. Watch this…” At that, Corporal Clash spun around and threw a punch at the wall.
His fist went right through it.
“Hm,” said Clash thoughtfully as he pulled his hand out and reached for the paint can he had been using. He studied the label. “I might have brought the wrong paint…”
“Out!” Van Troes had now stood and was pointing angrily at the door.
“You mean we can go?” Deadshot asked eagerly.
“But what about the…” Clash began, pointing to the hole.
The Epic Defenders filed out of the room.
“Shesh,” muttered Chaparral to Mighty Man, “not even a ‘thank you.’”
“That’s normal people for you,” Mighty Man replied.
Van Troes slammed the door.