EPILOGUE

50 YEARS LATER


The old woman entered the park, her back straight and her head held high, the black pea coat pulled tight around her, warding off the late afternoon chill. Autumn had arrived and the old woman looked at the trees clothed now in their cloaks of red and gold. She walked purposefully ahead, hardly using the black cane in her hand. She smiled knowing her daughter would scold her. The old woman could almost hear the girl invoking the name of the "most respected doctor in the city" and her response would always be the same: "You know why they say they’re practicing medicine? Because they’re practicing on us!" Her daughter would roll her eyes and shake her head and the old woman would wonder when she had become the child in that relationship.

She approached the bench in front of the monument and a cool breeze flowed over her. She reached up and pushed her hair from her face. It was gray now, almost white, but it still bore a streak or two of the jet black of her youth. She sat gracefully and read the plaque again for the thousandth time. It started with "On this spot" which always caused her to smile. The actual spot was about 300 yards to the left and up a little hill.

She sighed and read the rest of the plaque again. It told what happened and how Top Ten had won out. It listed the dead and it concluded with "They saved the city. They saved the world. They saved us all."

The old woman had always thought that was rather pompous but the city never checked with her or the rest of Top Ten about any of the tributes they created to remember that day. She thought back through the years and it seemed to her like yesterday.

The funeral had been interminable to her. Dignitaries and officials had come to "pay their respects" but it was just political posturing. Statesman had given a speech, speaking with familiarity about heroes he had never met. The old woman remembered she had bristled at that, growing madder and madder. Only Valya’s calm hand had stilled her.

Then the procession through the streets of Paragon City, through every zone. The old woman thought that she wouldn’t make it but the sight of the people lining the route, standing four or five thick, had caused her to stand straight and hold her head high. She looked up at the sky, it’s blue showing between the tall buildings, and out of the corner of her eye saw a shimmering.

She had looked closer and on the rooftops of two adjacent buildings, no more than six stories tall, materialized 100 Knives of Artemis standing two deep. When the procession moved past them the assassins snapped to attention, saluting the honored dead, but the old woman had known they were saluting only him. At the corner of the last building she saw a small, muscular figure with short spiky blonde hair. She and Hecate exchanged a nod and she never saw the Knife warrior again.

The old woman shivered, pulled from her memories. She sighed, staring at the monument again. She thought it was nice, that he would have liked it. It was a simple large square slab of black marble, shot through with veins of gold and red. It raised up slightly and, at it’s top, an eternal flame burned. The letters of raised silver told the story.

A story everyone knew. And the Tablet was right about another thing. The Beast shall be slain, scattered to the Four Winds and an Age of Gold shall reign thereafter. When the people of Paragon City learned how close they had come to absolute destruction, when they learned the price that was paid to stop it, to save them, something changed in the city.

They began to take notice, to see the violence and crime around them. And they said, "Enough." Citizen patrols formed. Day care centers, after school programs, sports activities, education and job opportunities were created and expanded. Within a year the Hellions, Skulls and Warriors were almost a memory. Crusading police and district attorneys cracked down on the Family and the Tsoo. Countess Crey was arrested, tried and convicted, Dr. Vahzilok was stopped once and for all, his minions put to their final rest at last.

An Age of Gold indeed.

The old woman sighed and looked at the actual spot where it ended. The little crater was still there, covered now with grass and wildflowers. A large tree grew just above the small depression, almost at the place where he died. She smiled a bit thinking he would have liked that, the shade and the grass.

Her thoughts moved on, swimming in a sea of memory, to Top Ten. After the battle and the funeral, it seemed as though every hero in the city wanted to join them, be a part of this legacy. But Top Ten never recruited another member. Their ranks were filled by the children and now, a few of the grandchildren of their founders.

Cadecus two girls joined the super group and the old woman smiled, shaking her head. Cad had been a healer of extraordinary power and probably the most compassionate man she had ever met. But his girls had turned out to be possibly the deadliest tank and scrapper the city had ever seen. "Funny how things work out," she whispered.

Like Bzald. The doctors said he would never walk again. But the dark controller had his own demons to deal with. He blamed himself for a time, for what had happened. If he had been there, he thought, he might have been able to… So he worked, and trained and pushed himself to his limits and beyond. Four months later he took his first unassisted steps. Seven months after that he was able to take on some of the day to day responsibilities in their headquarters. And two years after that he was back on patrol, finally able to come to some peace with that day.

"Grandma? Grandma, are you here?" a young woman’s voice rang out over the park.

The old woman lowered her head and smiled. Then she stood, putting a stern look on her face and turned toward the girl. "I swear, child," she said in mock anger, "I’m here every week, at the same place, at the same time. And every week you ask if I’m here." The old woman made a show of frowning greatly. "I’m going to ask Dr. Silver to take a look at you again and see if there’s something wrong inside there," she said, pointing at the girls forehead.

The young woman grinned broadly. "Aw, Grandma, I’m just busting your chops. Uncle Johnny says we need to keep old people like you on their toes so their brains don’t get soft," she said brightly.

The old woman rubbed her forehead, her hand finally pinching the bridge of her nose. "Busting my chops." She blew out her breath. "You’ve been hanging around Johnny Cognito too much. And he’s not your Uncle!" The girl smiled at her grandmother. "And if you think I’m soft…try me." The old woman’s hands began to glow white and her eyes crackled with power.

"No. Not stupid." The girl held up her hands in surrender. She looked past her to the memorial and crossed to it. She sighed sadly. "I wish I could’ve known him."

The old woman stood next to the girl and put her arm around her shoulders.

"I mean I’ve seen the discs of him," she continued, "but I wish…"

The two stood in silence leaning against each other.

Then the girl said softly, "Do you think he would have liked me?"

At that moment a breeze kicked up. Even though it was cool in the park, this wind was unnaturally warm. It swirled around the two women, flowing against them, caressing their faces. The old woman regarded her granddaughter. The girl had gotten the best of both their powers. Energy and fire; fire and energy. And her skin, although a paler shade, was almost as red as her grandfathers, her hair just as blonde. The old woman smiled. "He would have loved you."

The girl smiled back. "He’s here, isn’t he?"

The old woman touched the scar above her eye and traced it around and down her cheek. "He’s always here," she whispered.

The two women looked at each other and at last the girl said, "Ready?"

The old woman nodded and they clasped hands. They hovered there for a moment and then, like rockets, they shot out of the park and over a City of Heroes.

And the eternal flame flickered and burned a little brighter.



THE END
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