(This is part one of three in my epic battle against Baron von Blitzkrieg.)
I’m at work, it’s around noon, and I’m trying to decide whether to hit the food court on Sixth or just eat the usual ninth floor buffet. That’s right, suckas, everybody working on QuantumWorks gets free lunch every day, and good coffee, too. There are some perks to working for supervillains, after all. Anyway, as I’m trying to make this monumental decision, Chad lunges into the doorway, breathless with excitement.
“Connor! You gotta check this out!” Then he runs down the hall and out of the QW security area.
I’m intrigued, so I follow. I pass through the security door and out into the main office. People are rushing to the windows on the east side of the building, excited.
“…there an air show in town?”
“What are those? Balloons?”
“…we call the police or something?”
Making my way to one of the windows, I look outside. Not far from our building, a strange blimp hovers over downtown. Briefly I’m irritated that Chad got me out of my office just to look at a fucking blimp, and I wonder what the big deal is. Then I realize what I’m looking at.
It’s not a blimp; it’s a fucking zeppelin, a huge scarlet cigar-shaped thing, easily five hundred feet long. The bow and keel gleam with gold filigree. Four huge propellers hang from various points on the fuselage, spinning lazily. A control car droops down in the bow and what looks like a passenger compartment with windows runs along the keel of the airship. A giant black Iron Cross adorns one of the vertical fins in the rear. It’s retro and quaint and menacing all at the same time.
The KLUB news helicopter passes overhead.
“That looks like bad news,” I say to nobody in particular. I’m a superhero, I talk to myself.
Chad sidles up next to me at the window. “You see the balloons?” he says, pointing.
Then I see them. Big white balloons drift out of a large hatch in the passenger compartment on the bottom of the zeppelin. It’s hard to tell, but the balloons look pretty big. They seem to be attached to each other by a line, and they hang over downtown like a string of patio lanterns. What the hell is going on?
“What do you think’s going on?” Chad says. “Some kind of publicity stunt? Supervillains?”
“I don’t know, man. Nothing good. Let’s go turn on the TV in the lounge.”
The lounge is packed with people, watching KLUB’s breaking news coverage of the weird airship. They have aerial footage of the zeppelin, and girl reporter Leslie Milton is breathlessly narrating from inside the helicopter.
“…appeared over the skies of Evergreen City less than an hour ago and has not responded to any attempts to contact it. This strange craft is now disgorging what look like balloons over the city – for what purpose, we can only guess. We’re flying in for a closer look…”
I gotta hand it to the pilot of that helicopter; he’s got cojones. They pull level with the zeppelin and zoom in on the control car. Behind the windows you can see men in scarlet and gold uniforms of some kind.
“We can see the crew of the airship,” Leslie Milton says. “They seem to be… wait… Jim can you get a shot of that?”
The camera pulls back a little and we can now see a hatch opening on the bottom of the control car. A big metal donut-shaped object lowers down from the control car, attached to a thick shaft. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it’s a Tesla coil. An arc of electricity surges from the donut object.
“It appears to be some kind of we—“ Leslie Milton says, and then we get a brief shot of a brilliant tentacle of electricity whipping toward the camera.
A collective gasp runs through the room. They just killed Leslie Milton.
Somebody switches the TV to KOMA, which also has a chopper in the air. Their camera spins crazily and we get a shot of the KLUB helicopter burning, disintegrating, and falling to Earth. The KOMA reporter on board says, “Holy shit!”
Then the TV goes dark. Everyone begins yelling at the guy with the remote control.
“I didn’t touch anything!” the guy says. “It just turned off.”
The TV isn’t dark for long. It winks back on, but now the image is in lurid Technicolor, like they suddenly switched to an old film stock or something. A man appears on the TV screen, grinning out at us from inside the control car of the airship. We can see scarlet uniformed crewmen scurry around behind him. He’s an older cat, about sixty, with a handlebar moustache and a long nose. He’s wearing a double-breasted deep red uniform that looks positively Napoleonic, with gold epaulets and an ornate high collar. On his head he wears a shako, a tall cylindrical hat with a crimson plume adorned with a golden skull and crossbones that was en vogue a few centuries ago. I’d laugh, but there’s something in the man’s black eyes and weird smile that gives me the creeps.
“Good citizens of Evergreen City,” he begins, speaking directly into the camera with a German accent. “Greetings. My name is Baron Johann von Blitzkrieg, and for the next several hours I am the total master of your fair city.”
I feel a hand on my shoulder. Margo is next to me, looking as scared as everyone else.
“Is this real?” she whispers. I nod.
“Perhaps you have taken notice of my flagship, the zeppelin Donar, hovering over your city center. You may also have noticed the balloon bombs that I have unfettered into the air. Even now as I speak these bombs disperse over your homes, your places of work, your schools. These balloon bombs are more than capable of transmogrifying your city by the sea into a hellish inferno – I need only say the word, and all that I see shall be laid waste. I shan’t hesitate to do so if my entirely reasonable demands are not met forthwith.
“Ah, but you doubt. Perhaps you think I jest? Allow me to demonstrate both my sincerity and my abilities, so that you may doubt me no more.”
Baron von Blitzkrieg tips a gloved finger at someone off-screen, and we hear somebody shout “release!” in the background. There’s a pause as the Baron looks down, waiting…
From inside the TV lounge we hear a distant boom. Somebody starts crying.
The Baron returns to the camera, smiling. “There. I have just destroyed the autobahn leading into Evergreen City… and slain quite a few motorists, I may add. More will die, and unnecessarily so, if my instructions are not followed. Submit to my will, and the Donar and I shall depart within a few hours time with no further loss of life and property. Deny me, hinder me, obstruct my plans, and this unpleasant process shall be repeated writ large, and your entire city shall burn like so much dry kindling.
“I trust I have conveyed how resolute I am in this matter. What do I ask of you? My request is simplicity itself: do nothing.
"My troopers will descend from the Donar into your city’s financial center, and will in short order plunder every bank in the city. Any attempt to impede them or to attack the Donar will result in the death of countless innocents. If your police try to stop them – your city burns. If any superhuman do-gooders intervene – your city burns. If any flying craft approach the Donar – I'll shoot them from the sky, then your city burns. If the military respond – ah, but I belabor the point.
“Good folk, ask yourself: is the treasure in your bank vaults worth the death of thousands? Would you gamble the lives of your children to protect someone else’s money? The algebra is straightforward: resistance equals death. I know you will make the correct decision. I bid you good day.”
And with a mocking touch to the brim of his shako, Baron von Blitzkrieg signs off.
I’m already out the door, running for my car.