“This is stupid and dumb and a bad idea,” I say, walking with Karina towards the Recall Epstein Campaign headquarters.
“How else are we going to do it?” she asks.
Karina’s just gotten out of class an hour ago and skated over here with her rocket boots as fast as she could. Already she’s plunging herself into danger without a second thought. I, on the other hand, very much wish to do this sort of stuff alone because I don’t like Karina being by my side when there’s potential danger. I’m worried I’ll be too busy trying to protect her and I won’t be able to keep myself safe.
But she always insists…
Right now Karina is holding a bowl of pasta and sweeping it into her mouth so she can finish before we get there. She seems distracted by something, though.
“Anything happen at school today?” I ask. She’s zoning out. “Karina?”
“It’s not fair. I can fight too,” she says, her mouth full of spaghetti. “I’m trained in Judo, Karate, AND Iaido. I can disarm opponents in like, a hundred different ways. How come everyone acts like I’m some pudgy tomato?”
Should I be rude and inform her she sort of is a pudgy tomato?
“Uh, what happened, Karina?” I ask.
“Well when I was done with work and headed over to class I saw a mugging across the street. A couple of my classmates were at the crosswalk with me and when I tried to run over to help the person being held up they all grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. That poor person got completely robbed and I couldn’t do anything about it…”
“Well, what about the lights?”
“Was it a green light?”
“No, it was red.”
“So you were going to run across eight lanes of traffic, causing car crashes and possibly getting yourself killed, so that you could surprise someone who was armed with a weapon and attempt to defeat them with your martial arts skills?”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
“Not everything is black and white,” I tell Karina. “Sometimes not acting is the right thing to do, too.”
I use that as an excuse quite a lot when I don’t feel like I should get involved with things. But it’s not untrue at all. Those old Spider-Man comics used to talk about great power begetting great responsibility, but you also need clear judgment, and sometimes people don’t have that.
I try not to act if I don’t have clear judgment on what I’m about to face. Sometimes I fail, because I’m a huge hypocrite.
Sometimes I feel like running away from everything so I don’t have to deal with my problems. I guess that makes me less Spider-Man, more the Flash.
Karina continues to pout at her inability to solve the world’s problems of violence and unhappiness. She has spaghetti sauce all over her face. “I just want to help people. I could disarm any bad guy I faced in three moves if I got the chance…” Her whining is disarming enough. “I’m just too out-of-shape to do anything.”
I dig into my jacket pocket and hand her a couple napkins. “Being perfectly-toned and muscled isn’t everything, Karina,” I say. Though in the case of crime fighting it actually kind of is…
“It doesn’t matter unless we get in a big fight or something, I guess,” Karina says.
Don’t jinx it. I’m really hoping a fight doesn’t break out at a political campaign office.
We find the building, a large office complex not too far from the Capitol building where most of the lobbyist groups set up base.
The Recall Epstein Campaign started here about a month ago as Mayor Epstein’s cheating scandals started coming to a head, though the entire movement has been largely buried by the Social Media Killer and the frenzy of coverage surrounding that.
Even though Mayor Epstein had just begun his fourth term last year, it was clear after all his recent scandals, especially with the Social Media Killer, he was probably not going to make it through the next three years.
The New Hope Party, despite Epstein’s long reign, is still the fastest-growing political party in the city with its fiscally-responsible messaging and socially-progressive bent. So if he were to be put out of office it would not be surprising that the party would still win the next election anyway.
Kendrick Deal hasn’t made it official that he wants to run for mayor against his party’s own incumbent, but he sure does spend a lot of time on this project and even has an office set up in the headquarters. That’s why there’s guards hired from… a criminal mercenary organization…
It’s suspicious beyond belief.
But it would come to no surprise that Kendrick Deal is being treated like next in line to the mayorship. He’s the only candidate with a real, sizeable chance of winning an election if it were held today, unless something drastic were to happen. Though in this current environment, that is not at all unlikely.
We enter the building and sign in and everything, and a young woman recruiter shows up to show us around.
“Y’all come down here and I’ll show you the main offices,” our volunteer recruiter and current tour guide Trisha says. “We’ve got all the paraphernalia plastered up, so you can see exactly what we’re going to be sending out there in a couple weeks.”
“What’s the progress on this campaign?” I ask, trying to play my role as a hapless naive political worker who is eager to push for great ideological change as if it would ever affect Atlanta in any important way.
“So y’all are really that interested in the Recall Epstein campaign, huh?” Trisha asked. “We haven’t done a big outreach push yet, but we sure hope you’ll join us. We’re waiting for the right moment to really start doing some work.”
“Oh, when will that be?” Karina asks.
We are both wearing matching yellow-and-blue t-shirts, since that is the same color as the Atlanta flag. We want to be just naive enough to look like perfect grunt work volunteers, but not too much that it will creep people out.
“Probably another month or two. Once the May Holidays pass, we think we will try to recruit a lot of university students getting out for the summer who might want to work to change Atlanta for the better.”
She’s the perfect political organizer, this Trisha woman. Friendly but suave in that car salesman kind of way, always trying to rope everyone into helping, or at least voting. It’s cynical to harness the power of the angry young activist, but it’s how politics works.
You see, our city has four major political parties: the pro-union, anti-robot Labor Party; the pro-business, moderate New Hope Party; the socially-conservative Values Party; and the classically-liberal Silver Republican Party, or the Sipubs (pronounced like psy-pubs, not see-pubs) for short. We have some smaller ones, but these are the four that really matter. And these four parties hate each other much more than anyone is willing to admit. The voters? Not so much. But if they keep voting in the same ugly-tactic politicians term after term, nothing is ever going to change.
Deal, and Trisha by extension, are using the rhetoric of angry change-driven “revolution” to catapult themselves into further power and it might just work. It sucks, but it might work.
“You know, this place is great! I never thought I’d get to see the inside of Deal’s own office,” Karina says. She’s amazing at playing the wide-eyed kid.
She IS an aspiring actor.
While she’s hardly ever acted in front of me, I guess pretending to be campaign volunteers is a good test of our in-character skills, and she’s doing a better job than me right now.
“Just wait ‘till you see the break room,” Trisha laughs. “We’re going to be working all day and night to get out the message about recalling Epstein so we’re gonna be stocking it full of food for all the volunteers.”
“Where do you guys do the most strategizing?” Karina asks. “That conference room over there?”
I stay mostly silent as Karina talks to this woman and we are shown around everywhere, I’m trying to figure out if there’s any sign of that Marco Marcucci. He’s supposed to be playing guard, and there’s a few security guards standing around, but I don’t actually know what the guy looks like, just his robotic hand If he’s wearing gloves I’ll never figure it out.
As Trisha rambles about her own history with the campaign, I lean into Karina and say, “This is a waste of time.”
“Nah, it’s fine,” she whispers back. “It’s fun toying with New Hopers and indulging them anyway. I can’t believe she really believes in all this crap.”
I don’t say it, but my entire family has been pretty solid New Hope Party voters, aside from my very conservative mother who prefers the Values Party and has been the source of many, many Thanksgiving dinner debates. I don’t tend to care too much about it, but I do feel pangs of annoyance when Karina insults them.
Karina looks at a desk covered in pamphlets and squints to read it. Even with glasses she seems to be having a hard time figuring out what it says.
“It says, ‘Join up! Band together! Create a New Hope,’” I whisper to her.
“Oh,” she whispers back. “That’s so… wow.”
“What?” Trisha asks. “Did you say something?”
“Umm… what I said was, all of this is great, but what will we be doing?” Karina asks. “I want to know how we can help take down the mayoral administration. Do we make attack ads and try to rally everyone’s anger? Or what?”
“We don’t want it to look like this is all a campaign for Deal to steal away the mayorship,” Trisha says, despite the fact that it’s EXACTLY what this is. “So we will try to stay positive, towards the New Hope ideal that Mayor Epstein has strayed so far from.”
Karina rolls her eyes, but before she can make any more remarks towards Trisha, I step in and ask, “Are we going to get to meet Councilman Deal? I really want to see him.”
That’s an answer all right. Not that I would want to meet the guy, but I have more than a hunch he’s involved in the fact I was beat up, considering he is apparently hiring one of the same guys. Hunches aren’t very useful, but they’re a good tool to follow, or something.
Unless Marge was just spouting off a bunch of crock.
“I’m going to go back to get some paperwork,” Trisha says. “You two just stay right here and make yourselves at home. Have a bagel, they’re still warm.”
As the woman leaves, I start eyeing everything in the office, just to make sure nothing looks out of place. There’s plenty of computers, but only a few people working today. Considering the recall campaign hasn’t even officially begun, it makes sense.
I pick up a bagel and chomp at it.
That’s definitely cold.
There are more guards in this office than you’d expect, though. I guess Kendrick Deal may be in his office room right at this moment, since there’s a guard right in front of the door, one who has two black eyes… and…. why is he looking at me like that?
He completely breaks from his position and charges at me, his jade-colored fist swinging straight at my face.
Ah, so this is Marco Marcucci.
I dodge and leap over an empty desk beside me. The thug picks the desk up and flips it over at me.
Karina backs up a few steps, visibly shaking as this sudden brawl breaks out. I shake my head at her and wave. I don’t need her. A one-on-one fight is easy.
The man keeps swiping at me with his robotic hand, as if that’s the only body part worth attacking with, and that’s going to be his downfall. I pick up a stack of “Create a New Hope” fliers and toss them at him, paper scattering everywhere and blocking his path from me.
Marco swats the papers away with his robotic hand, leaving himself open for a critical moment–
I kick my left foot forward and slam it into Marco’s chest.
He falls onto the ground, with a couple new broken ribs I’m sure.
The campaign volunteers start scattering and scrambling for the doors. The other security guards pull out guns and point them at me and Karina.
“On the ground! Now!” one of them shouts.
Before we can react, there’s a scream coming from Deal’s office.
A moment later, he emerges from this office, wearing panic on his face.
“We have to get out of here!” Councilman Deal shouts. “A shitstorm is about to go down and we have to hurry before– What the hell is going on here?” He takes a good long look at me. “Are you…”
Suddenly, the computers in the room freeze and turn into blank white screens.
Some text appears, in gigantic font, reading:
“I love taking bribes!”
It flashes slowly between black and red text.
Deal’s face turns blue with terror.
“Oh God, it’s finally happening,” he mutters.
I can’t imagine that it is a coincidence that I keep falling into these situations, and it’s extremely annoying,
The Social Media Killer has attacked once again while I am in the vicinity of the victim.
The security guards start rushing everyone out of the building. Karina and I pick a still-dazed Marco Marcucci up and carry him by the shoulders.
As we are leaving, I notice Trisha reentering the room carrying some papers. “Wait, are you still going to fill out the forms?”