Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Confident (07/05/07)
TITLE: Superman vs. Metropolis
By Sherrie Jackson
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People along the street were jumping up and down and waving, hoping to be singled out. Superman chuckled, gave them his patented wave, and soared into the sky. He had twenty minutes left on his lunch break.
The Daily Planet was abuzz when Clark returned. He hurried to his desk and looked up at the flat-screen televisions mounted to the column nearest him. They were all tuned to CNN, and star journalist Julianna Diamond was reporting breathlessly.
“For those of you just tuning in, a story is developing in Metropolis concerning the outcome of a car chase. Delivery man Sam Shaker is suing Superman for damages to his vehicle. It’s not clear at this point the extent of those damages…”
Clark grabbed a pencil and squeezed until there was a pile of shavings on his desk.
“Let’s go now,” Julianna was saying, “to the scene of the accident where Metropolis mayor Red Pierce is making a statement.”
The crowd on Forty-Third had grown, and Mayor Pierce stood amongst a cluster of news cameras and microphones. “The incident today only exemplifies the growing problem of Superman versus Metropolis,” he began. “There’s no denying the good that he does, but what of the aftermath? What of the good people who have property destroyed due to the careless manner in which Superman dispenses justice? Which,” he said, eyes gleaming, “is beginning to look more like braggadocio than altruism.”
Clark sank heavily into his chair, and it cracked in protest. How had this gone wrong? To make sure the criminals didn’t crash through the windshield, he’d needed to add a few seconds and a few feet to the stop and as a result, had tapped a van that had the right of way. Its sliding door had a Superman-sized indentation, but it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed, and he had assured the shocked delivery man it would be.
I should have checked, he realized, and the sounds of the world faded to this one singular thought. I should have made sure he was okay with it.
The mayor had never been a fan. But Clark was blindsided by this – a public attack on his methods. It wasn’t that he was careless. He had a quiet agreement with Met Insurance that all damages incurred in the course of duty would be taken care of by him; many times he made the repairs himself. But the public didn’t know this, and with the mayor grandstanding in the middle of Metropolis, what could they possibly think? Would they believe Pierce, and revolt the next time Clark smashed something up?
As troubled thoughts tumbled in his mind, gradually one sound grew louder and more insistent. It was the sound of a runaway train.
Clark leapt to his feet – and stopped.
What if he did more harm than good again? What if he couldn’t solve this problem without breaking something else? Clark was filled with an uncommon sense of dread.
He heard their screams.
This was ridiculous. He couldn’t stop doing what was right because of technicalities, because of opportunism or political manipulation. Saving people was what he was put on Earth to do.
Be confident, he implored himself, walking quickly to the stairwell. Be confident!
Superman zoomed down thirty-six flights of stairs, out of the building and into the sky without pausing.
The elevated metrorail’s brakes had failed, and instead of making its final stop was speeding toward the end of the rail, below which was a fifty foot drop. His indecision back at the Planet required an extra burst of speed and, as he latched onto the head car, a bit more force to bring it to a stop right at the edge. Instantly, ripples formed in the metal of the train’s first two cars. The damage was done.
The terrified passengers shouted with joy and chanted his name.
Superman didn’t linger. He flew to Forty-Third and landed smoothly; the news cameras turned to him. He walked briskly through the parting crowd.
“Mayor,” he boomed, “I’d like to have a word with you.”
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