The beginning of the end was not subtle.
Over thirty thousand restaurants giving out free toys with their meals? That's a lot of toys. And each restaurant also kept a contingent on site for when they grew into giant heavily-armed cybertronic robots for the purpose of taking over the world. When the time came, they filled the sky of most cities, in most nations. Only those who directly opposed American capitalism got off lightly. The rest...
The robot army had only been active for a few minutes and casualties had been light, but much structural damage had been done. In the grip of a worldwide economic recession - again, caused by American greed - civilisation was left struggling to cope in the aftermath.
Not that civilisation couldn't hold on by the skin of its teeth. If the Middleton Space Center could get funding for the Kepler II after the original was turned into a hypersonic rocket car, things couldn't have been that bad... as long as they cannibalized the original for parts. So it wasn't the end of the world.
But then Mother Nature chimed in.
"Whoop whoop! Overreaction alert!" Kim told Ron as he expounded on the latest subject of Barkin-related irritation.
Her boyfriend was not impressed. "Which side are you on, Kim?"
"Whoop whoop!" she repeated with a smile before taking a bite of her salad.
"You know, I'll prove you and Barkin wrong. Not only will I keep eating at Bueno Nacho, I'll eat nothing but Bueno Nacho from now on!" And with that overhyped declaration, he was off to the counter to order more of the food that only had one virtue: it was better than Cow and Chow.
Okay, that might be a narrow viewpoint, Kim silently considered, but mystery meat is in a whole other class. "What about you, Rufus?" she asked the hairless rodent as he chewed on a tortilla chip. "I know you're big on cheese, but that can't be all you eat, right? How about a baby tomato?" She offered him one from her salad.
The molerat finished his chip quickly before taking the tomato from Kim and sniffing it carefully. It seemed to leave him puzzled. Kim was about to offer him encouragement when he suddenly dipped the vegetable in cheese and swallowed it whole, then smiled enthusiastically. "Better than nothing, I suppose," Kim conceded as she watched him dive back into the tortillas.
She knew there was little to no chance of dissuading Ron from his latest decision, but she didn't want a fat boyfriend. Because it would be unhealthy for him, she quickly added to the thought, not just embarrassing for me. Then another thought occured. What if he's fat when we decide to... go all the way? It'll be awkward enough without that! She briefly contemplated refusing to go through with it until he got back in shape, but it's not like either of them knew what they were missing. Maybe she should have her way with him now and then refuse to do it again until...
Ron returned to their table with another tray. It was the same meal as before, only grande sized. "So you're going to begin your new diet by eating two lunches?" Kim asked.
"Yeah, to make up for breakfast," he told her as if it should have been obvious. Kim sighed as she watched him dig in. At least Rufus would get to eat the rest of the smaller meal...
But Rufus wasn't eating. The molerat was standing upright, whiskers twitching furiously. Then he leapt out of the tortillas, hopped off the table and into Ron's pocket.
Kim caught movement from the corner of her eye when Rufus abandoned his lunch. She looked out the window and saw what was probably every bird in the area taking to the sky.
"Hey, little buddy," Ron said around a mouthful of processed cheese, "What's-"
He was interrupted by a tremendous thump as their surroundings began to shake violently. The volume of the accompanying rumble wasn't quite enough to drown the sound of rattling fixtures and shattering glass.
"Waaah! Is Bueno Nacho under attack again? Why don't they ever come after us at school instead!"
"Earthquake, Ron!" Kim corrected him before raising her voice. "Everyone outside!"
The other patrons (along with Ned and his staff) were as quick to respond as the ground allowed. It's behaviour was somewhere between vibrating and lurching, so it took some attention to remain on one's feet. Soon enough, however, everyone was standing, sitting or crouching on the street outside. Ron almost cried as the hat-shaped roof of Bueno Nacho split in two and collapsed into the restaurant.
The entire event lasted only a minute or two, but it felt like forever. The end was punctuated by a short series of further thumps that seemed to make the ground heave before things finally settled down. A different rumbling, off in the distance, drew Kim's attention to Mount Middleton. The snow that capped the peak was making its way down the mountainside. There was nothing she could do about that, so she looked around and saw the others had suffered nothing more than bumps and scratches.
It took Wade a minute to answer her kimmunicator signal. His equipment had been displaced and there was a large crack down the wall behind him. "Kim! You okay?"
"Ron and I are fine, what about you? Are you safe in there?"
"I think if the house was going to collapse on us, it would have done it by now," the genius replied.
"What about the hospital and the space center? And the house, I think the tweebs are home right now."
"Just a moment..." Wade adjusted a few items and started tapping at his keyboard. "Both are running on internal power, so they musn't be too badly off. Your parents should be fine. Your house... hold on, I'll need to hack into satellite imaging... oh, uh... it looks like the stilts under the living room didn't hold up. They were probably experimenting in the garage, though..."
"I'll head home first," Kim decided, heading to her car with Ron close behind. He was already hitting the speed dial on his phone to check on his own family. "What about your parents, Wade?"
"Mom's here, she's on the phone with dad right now. They're good."
The two teens got into the car. "Wade, can you use the satellite to check on the ski resort on Mt. Middleton? I know there's less snow at this time of year, and there aren't many people up there, but..."
"Tracking over now." A pause as Wade waited for the orbiting hardware to follow his commands. His face then fell. "I can't see the building at all. Hopefully it's just buried... lucky this didn't happen during a winter holiday."
"Phone's busy," Ron muttered from the passenger seat. "Probably mom and dad talking."
"Good. Do me a favour and answer mine if anyone calls?" Kim handed Ron her phone before she started driving. "Wade, how did this happen? I mean, earthquakes in the midwest..."
"No idea yet, Kim. As soon as I know anything, I'll contact you."
"Please and thank you," Kim managed to get out before Wade cut the communication.
They were amost at the Possible residence when Ron answered Kim's phone. "Hi, Mister Doctor P... she's fine, she's driving right now... heading home to check on the twins. Is... you did? She is? Oh, that's... uh, too bad. Yeah, I imagine it's about to get a lot busier. What about the space center... huh, cool. Yeah, I'll tell her. She'll call you back as soon as we find them. Okay." He hung up.
"Both fine. Your mom was in the middle of an operation, she lost the patient when the quake hit. She's going to stay at the hospital and help. Your dad's planning to send up everything they can so it'll be safe from any aftershocks, so I guess they're not doing too badly there either. And he loves you, of course."
Kim sighed with relief, an action that soon repeated itself as they pulled up to the curb in front of her house. Her brothers were on the front lawn, crouching over what turned out to be an A3 sized pad of graph paper. "Are you two okay?" she asked as she ran up to them.
They both looked over their shoulders at her as if nothing had happened. "We're fine," Jim told her.
"The phone's out," Tim added, "So we've been designing a new living room while waiting for someone to show up!"
"How's mom and dad?" Jim finished.
"They're okay too." Kim got her phone back from her boyfriend, called dad and let him talk to the tweebs. "You'd better head over to your place, Ron."
"What're you gonna do?" he asked.
"Fly up to Mt. Middleton and rescue anyone left at the resort."
"What? What about me?"
Kim placed a hand on his shoulder. "You should be with your family right now, Ron. And I'm gonna be with mine." She turned to the tweebs. "Did you two ever rebuild that snoman-melting machine?"
"The ionic heat particle beam?"
"Sure! It's in the garage."
"Go get it," she told them.
Wade was watching the newsfeeds on another screen when he noticed the satellite image began to shift. A discrete inquiry showed the government was controlling it, which was fair since it was theirs to begin with. Someone was probably wondering why it had been focused on Mt. Middleton, but right now the image was zooming out and sliding west.
It was still zooming when it reached the coast. "That's not right," Wade muttered, and started pinging networks located across the Californian coast. Only Crescent City responded.
He looked back at the satellite image, and his jaw went slack until he could summon the presence of mind to call for his mother, who quickly popped her head in.
"Wade? What's wrong honey?" She watched him point weakly at one of his screens, and she walked over to take a closer look. "What am I looking at?" she asked.
"It doesn't look like California."
It took a moment to sink in. "You mean... oh my. Oh my goodness."
"Kim," Wade murmured, "Gotta tell Kim." Her car was in flight mode. He'd call the car.
"And remember to watch where you use that thing," Kim ordered the tweebs. "I don't want you two melting too much off the side and bringing the rest down on top of us."
"We get it, geez!"
"We know what to do!"
Wade's haggard face appeared on the dashboard screen. "Kim... the earthquake..."
"Did you find the cause?" The redhead was busy watching where she was going, but the twins noticed his expression.
"You... should see this." Wade's face was replaced by the satellite image.
"Woah," the twins chorused.
Kim spared a glance, then froze. She had to watch where she was going, especially when heading towards a mountain, especially at this speed. She had to...
She took another look. "...Wade?"
Kim heard the teen genius gulp before speaking. "I think the entire west coast just fell into the ocean."