The world was both new and old to him at the same time. Silver Paladin found it exhilarating to explore the city of New Amsterdam while searching for candy spread out by the Spirit of Halloween. He had never done it before, as he never had a childhood.
The memories he carried from being linked with Chaz Hamilton when he was created were ephemeral. The specifics on Trick-or-Treating weren’t strong. There were vague recollections of getting flavors of candy his template enjoyed, but the primary characteristic that Silver Paladin retained was the thrill to delve into haunted houses and explore them.
Silver Paladin didn’t understand the desire to frighten one’s self on purpose. Fear served as a guidepost to danger, and should be conquered, not enticed.
Finding a small, glowing plastic baggie of chocolate in the shape of bats on the ground, Silver Paladin picked it up and placed it into a backpack. Fortunately, either by plan or serendipity, the candies he looked for came in easily identifiable packaging. Otherwise, he imagined that some heroes would be reaching into the colorful buckets in the shape of carved pumpkins the children carried with them.
“I like his costume, mommy.” A small girl walking hand in hand with a middle-aged woman pointed at Silver Paladin as he passed by them. She shared a wide smile, opening her lips enough to show her missing front teeth. “You’re shiny.”
“Thank you.” His suit of modernized medieval armor was quite mirrorlike, enhanced in its creation by the presence of a supernaturally charged Fae artifact. Silver Paladin studied the little girl, her hair braided down to her side and tied off with a golden bow. He tried to figure out what her costume was but didn’t recognize who it represented. “Who are you?”
“I’m a princess, silly.” Her glittery purple dress and sparkling tiara now made a bit more sense.
“Which king is your father?”
The woman holding the child’s hand coughed.
“I don’t have a father. I have two mommies.” The girl giggled.
“Oh,” Silver Paladin said, understanding his mistake. “A kingdom with two queens is very lucky indeed.” He turned his head to the child’s mother. “You have a lovely princess. I meant no disrespect by my assumption.”
She smiled back, but not in the same friendly manner the child did. “Have a good night, sir.”
Silver Paladin watched as the two of them continued to the next house, the girl twisting at her waist and waving farewell to him as they went.
Having been coalesced from the combination of various energy cores and Morphon particles while the search for ruby shards went on, Silver Paladin understood large concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, with ease. The tiny details of day-to-day life baffled him, though. He was created to battle villains, so the skill to fight was built into him. Conversations and social graces were not.
Focusing his magical sense, he divined the location of the next closest candy present which had been dispersed by the spirit. He headed to the next neighborhood over to claim it. While doing so, he decided to try something new. He took off his armor. The undergarments he wore were more than enough to be considered adequate coverage of his body for social standards, he believed. Some heroes wore far less.
Keeping his cape on, he left the rest of his gear in a pile beside an oak tree covered by strips of white paper.
If the world was safe enough for children, it should be safe enough for him for a time to explore it like one instead of as a hero. Being able to take time to search around the new community he found himself in without danger or interruption suited him well.
He garnered as many looks in his underclothes as he had while dressed as Silver Paladin. He politely nodded and waved at local citizens as the gawked at him.
A group of older children walked up the street and met him before a house with a line of people standing in front of it. They were dressed as members of the Avengers league.
“Who are you supposed to be? Captain Underpants?” The pseudo Heretic asked.
Silver Paladin shrugged. “Sure, if you say so.”
“No, really. Who are you? I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
Picking a normal name had been a task he had still not mastered. Even Silver Paladin had only been a description Catalyst gave him that over time became his codename. He glanced down at his undergarment and spotted the brand name’s logo. “I’m Captain Adidas.”
The assembled group laughed and pointed at him in a huddled mass.
“He must be drunk. Did you just come from the Antarctic Bar and Grill man?” Another young man said. This one wore a Moonrider costume. “Come on. We need to get in line instead of hanging out with this loser.”
Flashes of light ignited in the air as their cameras became trained on him before the group moved away to join into the line.
“This guy always gives out the best candy. Fumo Hanzo is the bomb.” One of the kids shouted, the anticipation for a tasty reward observable in his voice.
Silver Paladin considered waiting in line with them, curious what candy they found best but decided to move on to hunt for the Spirit’s candy instead. He waved farewell to the adolescents, wondering if they would act the same had they not been in costume. We’re they modeling the Avengers they imitated or were they as they would be any day of the year?
Moving on, he enjoyed the walk to his next destination.
He found it freeing not to be dressed in his armor. Not that his gear was uncomfortable, it had formed to him perfectly while he was created. In combat, he wouldn’t be without it, but it also isolated him from the touch of a cool breeze or warm sunlight. The smell of fragrant flowers and smoke from a bonfire at a party. The sensation of touch as he gripped the nylon straps of his backpack.
The visceral input from his senses heightened significantly while free of his defensive gear.
The next bag of the Spirit of Halloween’s candy contained yellow, orange, and white bits of candy corn. Inserting in into his pack with the other treats, he continued his search.
“Aren’t you cold in that costume?” An elderly man on his porch shouted out.
Silver Paladin shook his head. The elemental aspect of his creation had been from water, granting him a strong tolerance against shifts in temperature. “I’m quite well. The cold doesn’t bother me in any way.”
The man harrumphed. “Some things never get old, do they? Have fun building your snowman.”
Although the comment made no sense to him, Silver Paladin gauged the man meant it in good humor.
With a brief wave of acknowledgement, he waved and sauntered on to the next divined location.
The younger children and their escorts thinned as the night went on. Porchlights went off at many houses, indicating an end to the evening’s festivities. The Spirit of Halloween’s candies became more and more scarce, requiring more time to search for.
Glass shattered from a dilapidated house isolated by fencing at the four corners of the wooded property it sat on. Clearly the sound of a window shattering, Silver Paladin shifted back into hero mode.
Still possessing better than average physical strength, he leapt over the barrier to investigate the noise.
Two beams of light, likely from flashlights swept over the hedge in the rear of the house. Silver Paladin cautiously approached until he heard a voice. “Go on. Break another.”
“You said I only had to break one,” An adolescent girl’s voice said.
“Now you have to do three.” A different girl spoke this time. “Break it, or we’re not going to let you join.”
Silver Paladin crept forward and spotted five girls in the house’s back yard, surrounding a small garage with several missing or broken panes of glass in the windows around its side. A smaller, younger girl was flanked by the others. She picked up a stone from an overgrown rock garden and clutched it in her hand. The flashlights held by two other girls were trained on her while one other girl held her phone in the air, filming the face of the stone-bearer.
“No buts. Do it!”
None of the children wore costumes and seemed older than the ones who had been trick-or-treating. Silver Paladin understood a rite of initiation, as many knights needed to complete tasks to be found worthy of fealty. This clearly was such a gauntlet, but not one that served a noble purpose. He crouched behind a shrubbery and watched the scene unfold.
“We’ve all done it, Brie.” A girl with large glasses urged.
“Yeah. It’s no big deal. There’s nobody here that’s going to catch us.” Another girl, taller and skinnier than the others said. “Are you scared? Little baby-girl scared?”
The four older girls chanted along with her, repeating the taunting of the tall girl. Clearly, Silver Paladin decided, the pack was trying to determine how far they could manipulate their initiate.
He didn’t care for it at all. The young girl’s hesitance showed she didn’t want to obey but feared the consequences should she not. Empathizing with her, he debated whether to act or not.
Just as he needed time to find out who he wanted to grow into, she deserved the same opportunity to choose her own path. To decide if she had to courage to stand up for her beliefs or to succumb to the will of others.
The Star Force league he joined did their best to help him decide his fate, but he knew their efforts to be well-intentioned, but in the end, biased. They were forged by their successes and failures He needed to experience the world for himself rather than relying on advice from their own points of view.
She drew in a deep breath and dropped the stone to the ground. “No. This isn’t right.”
Silver Paladin smiled. Her choice was her own.
“Pick it up and break the window, Brianna,” the large girl said. “If you don’t, you can’t sit with us anymore at lunch. Nobody likes you. We’ll make sure it stays that way, new girl. I’ve already got plenty of stories I can tell the other kids about you that will keep you sitting alone for the rest of your life.”
Silver Paladin had heard the phrase ‘mean girls’ before, but seeing it first-hand felt like watching a supervillain strike blows in an attack. The young blond girl didn’t deserve to be pressured to do wrong, even if it was only breaking a few panes of glass. It surprised him to see how small evil could be.
His fights were typically large and loud, fighting against powerful villains and fiendish sorts. Her battle was no less defining. In the end, a battle was still a battle, large or small.
“Don’t make me do it. Please, Cassie,” Brie pleaded.
Silver Paladin could sense her fortitude to stand resilient for her moral code faltering. He yearned to help her but knew disturbing the scene would only leave it to play out again at a future opportunity. She needed to find her strength now. And the large girl needed a lesson in decency. How could he manage to do both at the same time before it was too late?
“You have until I reach three, Brie,” Cassie said. “Three…”
Brie reached down and grabbed the rock from the ground.
Silver Paladin stood up and spread his cape out wide, rushing silently up behind Brie while waving his cape. He needed to time this perfectly.
“On—Aahhhh.” The fat girl screamed as she saw a man running at her from out of the darkness. The other three girls facing Brie saw him at the same time and screamed as well.
As Brie turned around, Silver Paladin jumped high into the air and over her head, leaving nothing for her to see behind her. He landed on the roof of the garage and quickly flipped onto his belly on the opposite side of the peaked roof, out of sight of the group of girls.
“What are you screaming for?” Brie asked, finding nothing behind her. She spun back and searched for the other girls who had taken to hiding behind whatever cover they could cower behind.
“Didn’t you see him? He was running up behind you and was trying to kidnap us all.” The large girl said.
“Where is he?” Brie asked.
“He jumped over you and up into the air.” A different girl said. One of the two with flashlights. “I think he must have been some kind of sex vampire. He was only wearing his underwear.”
Brie looked up and around the backyard. “There’s nobody there.”
“He must have turned invisible. You need to hide before he gets you.” Cassie shouted.
Silver Paladin had one mental attack, where he could summon a shadow clone to attack and enemy the pure force of his will. He aimed his thought at Cassie and whispered the lightest fraction of his will at her, less force behind it than what would be needed to blow out a candle.
Her mind brushed by a faint Shadow Clone of him, Cassie ran out from behind the tree she hid behind and ran alongside the building to the front yard.
“What kind of game are you all playing at?” Brie shouted. “Sit with me. Don’t sit with me. You’re all nuts. I’m going home.”
“No. Don’t leave us.” The other three girls rushed to huddle around her. Together, they moved together out to hole in the fencing and one by one, retreated from the property.
Silver Paladin rolled onto his back and stared up at the full moon for some time. It wasn’t fair for him to use his powers against a child, but it felt right to do so. He thought of Brie, a newcomer like him trying to find her way in a new environment.
He took his time working back to his armor, picking up a few more pieces of the Spirit of Halloween’s candy as he did so.
Being born into being a hero had proven to be very exciting and fulfilling but seeing the world from a different point of view, that of an adolescent, proved to be very educational. There were challenges he never had to face that were as difficult as he faced as a hero. Without superpowers, there were still challenges to be faced and evil people to stand up to.
He wondered which had it harder? A hero or an average person who simply lived from day to day in this ordinary world he could only visit.
A phone rang. Repeatedly. Unceasingly. Annoyingly.
Chaz Hamilton reached out from under the covers of his bed and slammed his palm over the end-table beside his bed until her found his phone. He fumbled to grab it, finally lifting it free from the table’s surface and pulled it into the dark below his blankets.
He swiped the phone on and squinted at the text sent to him from his Editor-In-Chief at the Sentinel.
CARE TO EXPLAIN THESE?
Opening the attachment, Chaz found pictures of him in athletic underwear walking down a street filled with little children. Tight-fitting, athletic underwear and a long cape.
What did Silver Paladin gotten himself into this time? Sharing a face and body, well, Silver Paladin had a much more muscular and defined body, with a costumed hero had not been an advantageous position.
There were also copies of social media comments accusing him of accosting a group of young girls in the same neighborhood, trying to lure them into his vampiric sex pit as well as him trying to ‘normalize’ a family with his antiquated gender beliefs.
Chaz threw the phone out from under his bedding. After the events on the BADGE orbital platform and the Spirit trying to scare him to death, Chaz hid beneath his covers. “I officially hate Halloween.”
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|