I was a hero. Kids looked up to me. Girls swooned over me; boys wanted to be me. I was the shining example of truth, justice, and the American way. Golly shucks I just wanted to make a difference in the world.
Being a hero was easy at first. Muggers ran when I was nearby. Bank robbers would give up at the sound of my voice. Even The Masterminds, the city’s greatest threats, were no match for me. Reporters joked that soon I’d be out of a job if I kept up.
The city changed before that could happen. It started with the muggers. They started cutting or shooting their victims instead of just roughing them up. Park sidewalks were stained with blood. They knew I couldn’t leave the victims to chase after them. Then the bank robbers got into the act. They used to give just up when they saw me. Bullets bounced off me harmlessly, what else could they do? Then one shot a hostage and said more would follow if I didn’t get out of there. Soon they were all doing it. What choice did I have? What choice, I ask you?
The Masterminds, seeing that I could be cowed by a mere bank robber with a gun, become bold. No longer did they simply hold the city hostage with the threat of attacking until I could find their underground lair or floating fortress. They launched waves of attack robots against the citizens. Again what choice did I have? I couldn’t just leave the people to fend for themselves, could I? I had to protect them but the more I fought the more damage was caused to the city. The more people got hurt.
Four days of constant fighting, until The Masterminds ran out of robots. Only then could I find and face them and when I did, they laughed at me. “How long until we break out of prison again?” they taunted me. “Next time we’ll have five times as many robots,” they boasted. What choice did I have? I looked out at the still smoking city. Could I call myself a hero if I let this happen again? I took matters into my own hands that day. To hell with a justice system that would let such threats to the common good continue.
They laughed until I smashed the first one’s skull flat, then they just screamed.
After that, I stepped up to the challenge of bringing order to the city. I was strong but strength alone wasn’t an effective threat, so I bought a gun. Again they laughed at me. They didn’t think I would shoot them. What choice did I have? I put down a few bank robbers and they stopped laughing. A few dead muggers and park was safe again. Empty but safe.
Using the Masterminds’ flying fortress I monitored the city. Watching for trouble wasn’t enough. They had to know I was watching, so I announced a curfew. They scoffed saying one man couldn’t enforce a citywide curfew alone. I showed them. When the time came for the streets to clear and they were still out and about. What choice did I have? I enforced my curfew. A hundred people the first night. Twenty-five the second. Five the third. One hundred and fifty-three in a protest rally the next and then none after that.
I was no longer the hero they looked up to. I was a vigilante, a murderer, a villain but I made the streets safe. Tell me, what choice did I have?