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When he first saw reality-pop superstar, Kirsten Gushwa IRL, she was in a voluptuous white dress, waving her arms atop an obviously burning building. The dress did cover her recently silicone-implanted body, but it was tattered and burnt at its edges, and jeez, this little girl still just looked as radiant as white gold. You could take her age, multiply it by 5 million, know about how many followers she has, and then multiply by about $3 for her total personal net worth; you could say “she has no talents” rather objectively. The Gushwa’s reality network was giving itself awards five stories down, just minutes before, consummating a political-media alliance brilliantly engineered by Tuck Gushwa and humanely executed by his four daughters, Kirsten being the youngest of such. Our hero, by the way, Guy Thompson, National Guardsman, Navy Seal, and Chief Crewman for Billy’s Zorn’s Helicopter Removal Executive-Private Evac Services (in that order) was a violently normal individual, morally unsure of America’s near-legitimate meritocracy wherein online likes and view count largely determined financial status, indifferent to media politics in the post-Trump (Ivanka I) Administration era, and endlessly infatuated with perfect images of Gushwa Daughters, especially Kirsten the youngest, which swept into his daily media feed deluge-like. He was too neutrally tempered to be on reality TV, got by on his hideously masculine physique, by day airlifted billionaires and mid-birth Real Housewives out of penthouses, by night occasionally masturbated to the Gushwa’s network of celebrity sex tapes, hardly well read.

But now he glimpsed, through powdered boulders of black smoke, another day at work, another momentarily-powerless powerful person to be saved. Gushwa Family press conferences to come never quite explained why dear Kirsten ended up alone along the downtown skyline. She fled that way, upwards, maybe out of instinct, as commotion of a kitchen fire enlivened and dispersed the guests of the 23rd Annual Television Media Incentivizations awards ceremony. TMI was among the more stable children of Tuck Gushwa’s brain and his four daughters attended such galas like it was what it was, their job. Within the national media, speculation as to why Kirsten ditched a room full of the nation’s socio-economic 1% reduced itself to some variation of the childish logic that flames rise, so one must always rise above. Of course, there were jokes about anything being preferable to “incentivizing” 108-year-old politicians while your father emcees. Years later, in a trite and rather choppy tri-memoir by Kristine, Kwisten, & Khristin Gushwa, the latter let slip that the romantic thought of being heroically saved by some hunk with a throw ladder on the top of a burning building was just the type of fixation that Kirsten often peppered her poolside daydreams with, like “a scene she’d want in her bio-pic,” the apolitical one. (Tuck promised his girls each two major motion pictures in his living will.) Possibly true enough, this Die Hard-esque romantic death wish was, but Guy did not spot anything remotely romantic and dreamy on her tear-streaked face.

The chopper swung uneasily about the rooftop.  Yet it circled Miss Kirsten Gushwa steadily. Typically, Guy would be only one of a four-man team that could repel into danger and lift whatever panicked client into safety. Tonight, as it happened, most the seats were occupied by a film crew, following the pilot of Billy Zorn’s HREPES for a new reality show that followed helicopter pilots of variously dangerous persuasions all across America. Guy unpurposefully remained indifferent to the producers’ hype, refused to sign a consent form, idiotically ruined any chance of appearing in a spin-off, and all around lost much respect from his co-workers and superiors. Nonetheless, all supervisors’ supervisors agreed that since you could only fit one pilot and one operative along with the film crew, Guy would have to be running the show, so to say, for tonight’s evac. Guy’d call the shots. Despite such obvious social career opportunity mishaps, he was at least sensible and safe and damn trustworthy on the job.

So Guy ordered the chopper pilot to get closer, and, as it happened, they say, great gusts of black smoke plumed into the chopper. The camera guys coughed and said fuck it and lens capped their own equipment, then radioed down to ground crew for cover shots. Guy said fuck it likewise to them, and ran over a routine evac procedure with the pilot, then clipped his carabiners and repelled heroically downward into the opaque smog.

The girl looked wild, frightened, speechless, but never into his eyes. Guy glided down the rope, nearing her foot by foot, arm outstretched automatically. She was live. She was shaking. She was completely unmediated, Guy realized, which was uncanny. But he recognized the look of her type, the type who was never grateful when she saw someone like him coming to help her, to save her, to free her, no, she instead was the type who bore looks of solipsism, wherein their rescue was flatly expected. He’d seen her type before and more and more often, it seemed, these days.

And it occurred to him then, at that moment, the next day, for years after, how they at least should have had one romantic moment of eye contact, for maybe then it would have registered to the other just how completely opposite of what they were was what they were actually feeling.

Now, believe you me, Guy, in his heartest of hearts, he never once considered the personal gain one could inherit out of that nation’s monumental pop-tragic mourning nor could he ever speak eloquently on the Gushwa Daughters’ symbolic marriages with elite Asian government leaders. What he did, ultimately, was mistake infatuation for love. What did happen, according to the legal evidence, was that he rapelled downward, and, watching her, was very, very still.

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