25 May 2012

"Can't Get Arrested"

By Curtis C. Chen

"Who the hell are these girls?" Dani muttered.

She knew she should be paying attention to her own console, but her eyes kept wandering back to Monitor Three, at her left elbow, where two sandy-haired teenagers were taking apart a mechanical minotaur using nothing more than their bare hands and what appeared to be a couple of liberated parking meters.

"Dani!" the producer shouted. "Where's my next bumper?"

"Coming right up!" Dani called back. She jumped at least two centimeters off her chair when she realized Harvey was standing right behind her.

"What goddamn feed is that?" He jabbed a finger toward Monitor Three. "And where the hell is—"

"Piped to bravo!" Dani hollered, swiping across her control surface to move the rendered bumper graphics into the second of several video buffers on the big board. But now Harvey wasn't even paying attention, and his assistant had to yell across the room to cue the next commercial break.

Dani could smell the pungent aroma of Harvey's lunch as he leaned down and touched Three to zoom in on the taller of the two girls. "Gladiatrix?"

"Hell no," said Peter, the beanpole working Three. Unlike Dani, he actually seemed excited about the managerial scrutiny. "That's a news feed. Live from New York."

Harvey's head whipped around. "There's a ground battle in Manhattan and we haven't cut to a special bulletin yet?" He stood up straight to yell at his assistant. "Are the fucking phones down again?"

"Oh, no, boss," Peter said, waving his hands frantically. "It's an exhibition match."

Harvey squinted at Peter as if the kid had just sprouted an extra head. "The City of New York authorized these people to demolish an entire block?"

"Yeah!" Peter nodded enthusiastically. "It's the latest PR thing for unaffiliated metas. You get some sponsors, file for a permit to help clear a block that's going to be razed anyway—this one's on the Upper West Side—and line up some non-human, non-sentient heavies to beat down—"

"Okay, okay, I get the picture," Harvey said. "This is really a thing?"

Peter shrugged. "How else are you going to get noticed in the big city?"

"Wait a minute." Dani had been wondering how long it would take Harvey to remember that this was highly irregular. "Why do you have this feed up?"

Peter blinked. "Um, research?"

Harvey smacked a palm down on top of Monitor Three. "We're in the middle of a fucking show here!" He waved at his assistant. "Are we still in commercial?"

"Forty seconds back," the assistant replied.

"You." Harvey pointed at Peter. "Are on notice." He stalked back to his control station. "Dani! I want the rainbow bumper in, with a paired ad block!"

She was ready for this one. "Up on alfa!"

By the time the show wrapped, the two superpowered girls in Harlem had gone through a junkyard's worth of sponsored robo-wreckers. Dani headed to the nearest balcony for a smoke and a personal phone call. The Mentalist would want to hear about this.


Image: uprooted by Justin Henry, September, 2007