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Chapter 17
GENERAL DESTRUCTION


Determination does not necessarily make for an end to struggle.  At best, it only helps.  Superman was determined to put and end to the destruction that was promised by Kristin Wells.  When he dove from the sky to find Kristin merrily prancing up Sixth Avenue, the following things had already gone wrong:

1.  The Pan American Building was upside down, standing on its heliport above Grand Central Terminal.

2.  The statue of Horace Greely was running around Journal Square pinching tourists.

3.  A geyser of crude oil was spurting out the top of the Exxon Building and tying up traffic on Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

4.  All three hundred people inside Radio City Music Hall for a revival of Singing in the Rain had grown too big to fit out the doors and were caught in a downpour from the malfunctioning sprinkler system.

5.  Fifty-second Street from Eighth Avenue to Park Avenue had become a chasm at least forty feet deep.

6.  The steering wheels of all the cars in midtown had suddenly vanished, whether the cars were moving or not.

7.  Fifty-sixth street and its restaurants were infested with frogs.

8.  A supersonic wail permeating the air in the vicinity of Christopher Circle was driving a horde of dogs crazy.

The biggest problem was the Pan Am Building.

After Superman smashed through the pieces of the Horace Greely statue, the pieces lay twitching on the ground for a few moments and stopped.  After minor accidents, all the drivers in midtown, with expressions ranging from spooked horror to resigned annoyance, abandoned their vehicles where they were.  Platforms full of garbage and landfill that Superman carried from various dumpsd around town were an adequate temporary solution to Fifty-Second street.  When superman saw that the oil on the Exxon Building was apparently originating from nowhere but the base of the gusher itself, he quickly rigged up a well and a pipeline from the metal of junk cars, and the supply of crude oil ended after less than a barrelful drained into the fountain forty stories below.

When Superman sheared the corners and removed the walls from the Music Hall, three hundred people shrank back to their normal sizes.  The three hundred, all soaking wet, wandered about their respective businesses.  Superman was careful not to damage the walls of the national monument to pop culture.  Superman had a soft spot for pop culture.

When Superman couldn't find the source of the supersonic whistle—it had no source but the air itself—he airlifted fifty-four dogs from the area.  The sound ended as suddenly as it had begun.

He pulled a water main from the ground under Fifty-Sixth Street and flushed most of the frogs off the street into the river, while citizens too stubborn to get out of the way—there were three of them, two restaurant owners and a chef—held on to a fire escape ladder and two light poles.  The frogs would actually have been good for the river's damaged ecology, but they vanished soon afterward.

In the Pan American Building, only the inorganic things were upside down.  People walked on the ceilings, sat on turned-off light fixtures, and looked up at their desks and chairs hanging from above.  Superman had the superintendent of the building call floors and get the occupants ready for evacuation.  The elevators did not work, since the cables that had depended partially on gravity had no weights to pull them, and the stairways were useless.  Superman stretched a system of ramps and wooden staircases from the top of the Pan Am Building all the way up to the bottom.  He spent most of the afternoon, after the building was emptied, lifting the building and slowly, gently, moving at super-speed to buttress scores of points on the surface of the building at what seemed to be the same time, flipping the Pan Am Building back onto its foundation and sealing it there the way it belonged.

What was she trying to do?  Superman screamed in his mind as he finished his job.  Kristin Wells was sitting on the stone wall that marked the southern border of Central Preserve, filing her fingernails.  She was surrounded on all sides by a circle of flames a few centimeters high that flared up menacingly whenever anyone among the crowd watching her ventured too close.  When a man tried to throw a rock at her it boomeranged back at his head; she said something about he who is without sin casting the first stone, but seemed unable to remember the source of that particular quotation.

The crowd threw stones of verbal abuse at her instead as she sat impassively.  That was until the wall of fire rose again and Superman flew through it to land with his livid face an inch from hers.  In a soft, painfully controlled voice he asked her, "What are you trying to do?"

She looked up blankly for a moment and went back to her filing.  He grabbed the file from her and tossed it over his shoulder into Connecticut but long before it landed another nail file appeared from nowhere.  Resigned, he waited for her to look up again.

When she looked up she said, "I am C. W. Saturn, Superman, and I have come to make you unneccessary."

Then she laughed sweetly and disappeard in a puff of black smoke.


Superman visited Lena Thorul, but when he knocked on the door she pleaded with him to go away. He persisted, and when she finally opened the door she shrieked and fainted.  She would have been a highly sensitive woman, even if she had never been psychic.


In his apartment in Los Angeles, Max Maven was practicing card tricks.  Before Superman knocked on the door, he heard Max say, in a voice low enough so that only he and the cards could hear it, "Come on in, it's open."

"Hello Max."

"Lena's going to be all right, or at least as well as could be expected.  You look a little peaked, though.  Sit down.  Sorry about Kent.  Here, pick a card."

"I'd rather not.  I need some information."

"I don't know much."

"You don't know much?" the hero bellowed.

"Quiet," Max whispered and sat Superman down on the couch.  "Half the neighbors are trying to meditate the evil spirits away.  They're scared out of their minds.  You'll disturb them."

"Meditate?"

"This is California," Max said, motioning in the direction of his head.

"What do you mean you don't know much?  A few weeks ago you were a regular fountain of inside information.  You were a guidebook to Hell, a half-baked cross between Virgil and Rona Barrett.  What happened, smart guy?"

"Nothing happened.  Saturn's got the girl, as you've doubtless figured out, and there was nothing you could do about that."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing."

"What about exorcism?"

"Exorcism?  Out of the question.  I'd laugh if it were funny.  You can't exorcise C. W. Saturn.  You're not dealing with one of Lucifer's handmaidens.  This is the arch-demon, the agent of Hell on Earth.  This is the entity that sits at the elbow of Samael.  This is the Robespierre, the Rasputin, the H. R. Halderman of the Underworld.  This is the snake in the Garden of Eden out to make its biggest killing.  You can't exorcise it.  You've got to defeat it.  And let me tell you, you aren't inspiring a whole lot of confidence in me right now."

"How do I defeat it?"

"How should I know?  I'm no hero, I'm just a lousy stage performer trying to earn a living.  I can't tell you the game plan, all I know is the gossip."

"You're saying it's up to me."

"I'm telling you it's impossible, but you're in the hero business.  You're supposed to thrive on stuff like that."

"Then tell me this, Max.  Exactly what's at stake?  What happens if Saturn wins?"

"Okay.  As far as I can tell, first of all, the laws of physics go out the window.  Disorder is the rule of the day, at first in the vicinity of the Earth, and eventually throughout the physical Universe.  Time no longer has any meaning.  Ultimately, all four dimensions break down.  The past disappears, and if through some miracle even a time traveler from the future were to come here, he would be caught in the mess too.  Matter, space, time all become a mishmash and the Universe reverts to the state it was in before the Creation.  I don't know what that looks like, but I don't suppose it's an environment that's very pleasant for living things."

"What you're talking about is a complete breakdown of the space-time continuum, am I right?"

"I'm no scientist, but I think it goes further than that.  Here, pick a card."

But Superman was gone.


The next day the following things went wrong:

1.  An American communications satellite fell on the White House lawn.

2.  The President of Kenya, suffering a migraine headache for the first time in his life, was testy enough to order that his nation's air force attack Entebbe.

3.  A school of sharks leaped out of the water onto the deck of a tourist boat off the coast of Virginia.

4.  At the same instant, cables of elevators in six buildings in Metropolis snapped.

5.  It snowed in Death Valley.

6.  The water supply of the city of Silver Springs turned to formaldehyde.

7.  The Panama canal was filled with soil.

8.  Anchormen of news programs all over the world laughed through their accounts of the day's news.

And so forth.  This went on for weeks.

Around this time, Superman left a lock of his hair for David Skvrsky at the Center for the Study of Short-Lived Phenomena.



S!


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words by Elliot S! Maggin
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