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Karma kitty goes to comi.., p.1
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       Karma Kitty Goes to Comic Con, p.1

           Mari Mancusi
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Karma Kitty Goes to Comic Con

  Karma Kitty Goes to Comic Con

  By Mari Mancusi

  Comic book creator Hailey Hills has no idea what she's in for when she arrives at New York City's Comic Con for the first time. But when a pair of magical boots manages to turn her into a real life Karma Kitty--the superhero of her own design--she suddenly finds herself battling ninjas, pirates, and the guy who got away.

  Chapter One

  “Whoa. Have you ever seen so many people in one place that wasn't Disney World in your entire life?” Hailey Hills asked, stepping through the hallowed doors of the Javits Center, home of this year's New York Comic Con. She scanned the room, her eyes taking in the myriad of colors, lights and sounds. To her left, Captain America stuffed foam muscles into his latex shirt. An Elvis Stormtrooper crooned to a bevy of bikini clad Princess Leias on an elevated stage. And Captain Kirk challenged Captain Picard to a World of Warcraft duel over at the Blizzard booth down the aisle.

  Comic Con. Geek heaven. She was finally here.

  Her artist, Thomas Carol, shook his bleach blond head. “No way, Jose,” he said, his voice filled with appropriate awe. “This place is more colorful than a parade in P-Town. I can't believe we're actually here.” He turned to her, his eyes sparkling (and not just from the glitter he'd applied in the cab.) “Squee!” he cried, grabbing Hailey's hands in his and jumping up and down.

  “Squee, indeed.” Hailey said with a laugh. This was the day she'd been waiting for her entire career. She shuffled her heavy bag to sit better on her shoulder. “Come on, let's find our booth and get situated for our signing.”

  Thomas consulted his map. “According to this, we're in 2134.” He looked up at the numbered banners flying high above them. “Which is approximately the other side of the universe,” he added. “We'd better start hoofing it.”

  They weaved their way through the crowd, trying to stay focused on their destination and not be sucked into the exciting displays flanking their path. After all, they weren't here as spectators. They'd been asked by their publisher, Straylight Comics, to do a signing of the latest issue of Karma Kitty. Straylight was a smaller publisher and only asked a few of its authors and artists to sign each year, so it was a huge honor for Hailey and Thomas and their little comic book that could, to be amongst the chosen ones. And they planned to make the most of the opportunity.

  “I wonder if Collin's here,” Hailey mused, half to herself, as she ducked under a fierce lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and a somewhat pot bellied Vader, who'd obviously taken Yoda's “Size matters not” mantra to heart when hitting the old Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine for a few brews.

  Thomas rolled his glittery eyes. “Girlfriend, please do not tell me you're planning to spend the best weekend of your life moaning over Mr. Hollywood. I simply will not be able to take it and will be forced to commit hari kari with some savage sword stolen off a hunky Conan cosplayer. And you know how I hate having to borrow my suicide weapons.”

  “I'm not!” she protested, feeling her face heat. “Please. I couldn't care less if he's here or not. Honestly. I was just making casual conversation to pass the time during our million mile march to Straylight's booth. If you like, I could go back to chatting mindlessly about the weather. Would that topic be approved by the thought police?”

  They pushed past a seven foot cave man robot. “You're at Comic Con!” Thomas cried. “The best you can come up with is ex boyfriend extrapolating or whether it's going to rain tonight? That is sad, Hailey. Truly sad.”

  She sighed. Thomas had a point. She should be overjoyed to finally be here. It was an opportunity of a lifetime and one she'd waited years for. A chance to promote her beloved Karma Kitty, meet fans face to face, and get her serious geek on with likeminded folk.

  And yet, despite all of this, all she'd been able to do for the last few weeks was create wild scenarios in her head about running into Collin Robinson and what she'd say to him if she did.

  Collin Robinson. College boyfriend and former love of her life.

  They met in Film 101. Him, a straight-laced corn-fed Midwesterner. She, a hippie dippie artist from San Fran. And yet they hit it off right away when they both burst out laughing during the final scene of Citizen Kane as they realized Rosebud (SPOILER ALERT!) was just some stupid sled. He asked her out for coffee, she said yes, and the rest was history.

  A year later they'd started sketching out ideas for the original Karma Kitty. Hailey would write the stories of the superhero cat and Collin would draw the pictures. She found him to be an amazing artist--totally self-taught--and really helped her vision come to life. They spent hours working on the first issue, staying up late every night and ordering pizza as they drew and wrote. Hailey couldn't remember a time before or since that she'd been so happy. It seemed, up until their wedding day, that everything would have a happily ever after.

  Until two things happened.

  The first was Karma Kitty's rejection. The second, well, we'll get to that in a minute.

  Collin and Hailey had finished the first issue of their comic book and had been sending it out to publishers. Problem is, while every publisher under the sun seemed to praise Hailey's writing and storylines, they always, in the next breath, criticized Collin's art.

  Hailey never understood why. To her, Collin's Karma Kitty was beautiful--exactly how the character should look. But for some reason, his style was not going over well with the publishers. And let's just say their rejections were not going over so well with Collin. He started becoming more and more discouraged by the whole thing and though he put on a brave front, Hailey could tell he felt like he was bringing her down. Finally, one day he told her he was done drawing and ready to get a real job. She needed to find herself a new artist. She tearfully begged him to reconsider--Karma Kitty was nothing without him--but he'd made up his mind. He signed over his rights to the comic to her and never drew again. Not even a doodle. Which was really sad, because he had loved it so much and was really, really good, no matter what those stupid publishers thought.

  But Hailey hired a new artist and they were still in love and still going to get married.

  Until the Hailey Curse kicked back in.

  You see, while at first glance, Hailey Hills seemed your typical normal free spirit twenty-something, the more time you spent with her (and Collin spent quite a bit, seeing as they were in love and all) the more you started to realize there was something odd about her experiences.

  Weird things happened to Hailey. Really weird things. You know that “friend of a friend” they always mention in urban legends? Well, that was Hailey.

  Sometimes she'd see dead people. Other times animals would talk to her. She'd once spotted a blind albino alligator down a NYC drain. The cactus she'd brought back from Mexico really had been filled with spiders. And on the same trip, she'd adopted a big rat she'd thought was a dog. (He ran away from home, sadly.) She'd even once found a piece of chocolate that looked just like the Virgin Mary. (Problem was, before she could alert the media and become rich beyond her wildest dreams, the hot sun melted it into a more Jabba the Hut-like shape--which, oddly enough, still ended up fetching $14.95 on eBay.)

  The problem was, these things only seemed to happen when she was by herself. And when she tried to explain them to people later, she often had a hard time getting anyone to believe her. In fact, no one, except maybe her mother, bought any of it at all. And since Hailey's mother was currently whittling away the remainder of her life in a locked psychiatric ward after one day waking up in a bathtub with a stolen kidney and a note suggesting not to move and call 911, she honestly didn't make the best character reference.

  Some would dismiss Hailey as crazy, others called her a flake, while still other
s would decide she was flat out lying in order to make excuses for her aforementioned flaky behavior. That was Collin's deal, anyway. Mostly because every time something weird happened, it ended up interrupting something he'd have planned for them. And when she'd show up, hours late, blaming the ghost who'd begged her to help him avenge his death, Collin just assumed she couldn't admit she'd forgotten, got tied up, or just simply hadn't wanted to go to event in question in the first place. And no convincing on her part would get him to change his mind.

  In a way, Hailey didn't blame the guy. If the weird things didn't always happen to her, she probably wouldn't believe in them either. For example, She'd never forget the time Collin's dog, Skippy the Schnauzer, informed her there was buried treasure in Central Park. Excited, she'd dragged Collin to the location in question to help her dig. Which would have been fine, had it not been Superbowl Sunday--the Superbowl Sunday when the Patriots eeked out a win over Collin's beloved Rams in one of the biggest upsets of all time. Collin accused her of being jealous of his sports addiction. Worse, the only treasure they found after digging in the supposed spot, was an old can of hash. (Though to Skippy's credit, to him this might very well have been the Holy Grail.)

  So for Collin's sake, she tried to reverse the curse. When Elvis called out to her from the Frozen Foods section of Stop and Shop, she pretended she didn't hear him. (Even though she'd been sorely tempted to suggest the Lean Cuisine over the triple pepperoni pizza he'd tossed into his cart.) And when Big Foot attempted to kidnap her on her trek through the Appalachian Mountains, she'd had her Taser ready.

  But on her wedding day, she'd been distracted, and naturally let her guard down. So when the kitty cat meowed that it was stuck in a tree, she'd walked out of the house to rescue it. An obvious trap, of course, and soon she found herself spinning away from Earth in a flying saucer, minutes before the ceremony. She was greeted by cat--like aliens and informed she'd been chosen to star in their new reality show, Who Wants to Live with an Earthling? When she got back to Earth three weeks later $52,000,000 Catonian dollars richer, (not that you could buy much with Catonian dollars, save kitty litter and catnip) Collin had been nowhere to be found.

  After some intense Googling, she learned he'd moved to LA by himself--just as they'd once planned to do together. She dialed him up and tried to explain the whole alien reality show thingie, but as you might guess, she didn't get much past the initial abduction part before he cut her off. He told her if she didn't want to marry him, she should have just told him so, instead of making him stand up there at the altar like a loser, while his friends and family shot him pitying glances from the groom's side of the church. (And let's just say her vegan eating, goat milking, harvest co-op shopping family whooping it up after they realized Hailey must have come to her senses and damned the misogynistic tradition that Collin had intended to trap her in didn't go over that well either. Nor did PETA member in good standing Uncle Earnest's Free the Doves campaign or AA member in very poor standing Aunt Edna's Free the Vodka one.)

  He loved her, he said. But he just couldn't take it anymore. He needed someone reliable. Someone who was there for him. Not stuck on Mars.

  She tried to argue that they had been light years and light years from Mars, but he was in no mood to listen. Finally, she gave up, realizing it was a lost cause. And maybe it was for the best anyway. How could she agree to spend the rest of her life with a man who refused to believe her?

  That was five years ago and though she'd forced herself to go on a string of disastrous first dates, she'd never met anyone who could live up to Collin. She thought about him all the time and Googled him on a daily (okay, sometimes hourly) basis. Their breakup certainly hadn't hurt him career-wise. In no time at all he'd become one of Hollywood's top producers--with a special knack for developing movies based on comic books. Everyone and their fan boy brother was in love with him, if one believed livejournal blogs. They linked him to movie stars and waxed poetic about his life of red wine and red carpets.

  It should have been her life. He should have been her guy. If only that stupid alien abduction reality show hadn't happened at the worst possible times. If she ever ran into Executive Producer Fluffy McGee again, she'd have some words, for sure. (Bad Kitty, came to mind, for one. The others would be unprintable in the more polite publications.)

  “Hey let's go throw on our costumes,” Thomas suggested, nodding towards the bathroom sign at the back of the convention hall. She'd hired Thomas after Collin quit and he ended up working out quite well. (Though Hailey would always be partial to Collin's sketches.) Karma Kitty sold to Straylight soon afterwards and they'd been working on the comic ever since.

  Hailey nodded, pushing thoughts of Collin to the back of her mind. “Good idea.”

  Wanting to make a good impression on their publisher and impress their fans, she and Thomas had created their own custom costumes, based on characters from Karma Kitty. Hailey, of course, was dressing as Karma Kitty herself, with a short plaid skirt, white button down shirt, school girl tie, and glittery thigh highs. She had clip on cat ears and tail to complete the outfit.

  After much protest, Thomas had agreed to go as Big Kitty, the evil cat pimp. He'd original wanted to play Fifi, the frisky flirty sidekick, but Hailey had ultimately vetoed the idea, saying she didn't think even Comic Con was ready for a six foot, three hundred pound bikini and fishnet clad drag queen walking around. (Though now that she was actually here, she realized that perhaps Thomas may not have even gotten a second glance. Still, at least her own eyes wouldn't have to bleed, which was always a plus.)

  She entered the bathroom stall and started peeling off her street clothes, replacing each item with its kitty wear counterpart. Once outfitted, she pinned the ears to her head and the tail to her skirt. Then she reached into her beg for the piece de resistance--the boots.

  They were golden colored, lacing up to just below her knees, exactly the type of shoes her feline heroine wore when fighting crime. Of course, the real Karma Kitty could effortlessly kick ass wearing five inch platform soles. Hailey would be lucky if she could walk them to booth 2134 without breaking an ankle.

  Still, she thought, as she pulled the first boot out of its box, they were absolutely perfect. She'd so have to thank her Aunt Dottie for the web link. Usually overbearing matchmaking Aunt Dottie never forwarded anything to Hailey except and eHarmony profiles. Then, out of the blue, one day, she'd sent Hailey a link to a website called, suggesting she peruse the footwear ASAP. The site was actually pretty odd--not surprising, considering it came referred by Aunt Dottie--and had a lot of mumbo jumbo about the power of shoes. In fact, Hailey had been about to close out the site altogether, when suddenly she spotted THE boots. It was almost uncanny how exactly they looked like Karma Kitty's. As if the site had read her mind and produced the footwear from her imagination.

  Which, once upon a time, wouldn't have seemed too unusual to Hailey. But she'd turned over a new leaf and had abandoned the weirdness, she decided to just deem it a coincidence.

  She sat down on the toilet and slid on boot #1, praying it'd fit. The pair had arrived by airmail yesterday--some weird foreign postage stamped on the box--and she hadn't had a chance to try them on yet.

  But lucky for her, the boot slipped onto her foot as if it were a glass slipper and she Cinderella incarnate. She reached down and slid on the other boot--also a perfect fit.

  She stood up, ready to go show Thomas her outfit, when a sudden dizziness came over her. She had to brace herself against the bathroom stall walls, so as not to fall and hit her head on the toilet. A tingle tickled her stomach, flushing her skin and prickling at her fingers and toes. She felt panic rise to her throat as her heart picked up its pace and butterflies in her stomach trampled the remains of the Starbucks' cheese Danish she'd consumed back at the airport.

  She sat down again, closing her eyes and sucking in a breath, trying to regain her composure.

  “Hello? Hailey? Are you in here?” She c
ould hear Thomas enter the ladies' room, unconcerned, as always, about the gender requirement. He banged on the stall door. “You do realize that I'm the queen, right? Therefore I should be the one that spends way too much time getting ready, not you.”

  “One second,” she cried, exhaling the breath. She unzipped her boots and kicked them off her feet. No way was she going to walk to the booth in those when she was feeling faint. She'd put them back on when she got there. Then, she unlocked the door and swung it open.

  “Are you okay?” Thomas asked, squinting at her. She giggled. It was hard to take him seriously in his purple faux fur pimp daddy suit. “You look weird.”

  “Hello, pot, I'm kettle,” she quipped, already feeling a bit better. She grabbed the boots off the floor and slid on her flip flops.

  “Seriously, Hail, you look really pale.”

  “Yeah, I felt really weird there for a moment,” she admitted. “Like dizzy and faint.”

  “Maybe you're dying,” Thomas said helpfully.

  She rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”

  “Or more likely, maybe you're nervous about seeing Collin,” he added, with a sly wink.

  She groaned, realizing that made a lot of sense. Stupid Collin. Stupid, stupid Collin. It was so not fair that he retained the power to make her weak in the knees (literally) after so many years. With his deep, soulful chocolate eyes and hair so black, it was almost blue. She could picture him now--dressed to the nines, his full mouth quirked into one of his amused smiles, shaking his head at one of her antics. He used to tell her no one made him laugh like she did.

  She sighed. Wonder who was making him laugh now?

  “You're probably right,” she said, grabbing all her bags and following Thomas out of the bathroom. “I'm just stressed. But I'm fine.”

  “You're more than fine, sister. You're fab,” Thomas proclaimed, putting an arm around her shoulder. She smiled. Thank goodness for good friends.

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