There are some days where I don't know who I am, what I know, or even what memories are mine. Sure, some heroes in this city have two souls in one body, some have spectral helpers, or are just plain schizophrenic, but I have an even better excuse.

I'm a clone of myself. At least, that's what they told me.

My name is Stephanie Curtis. I think. As of today, I've been a registered hero in Paragon City for three months, but I'm not even sure exactly how long I've been alive. It makes doing my job a bit…difficult at times, to say the least.

"How is the subject progressing?"

"On schedule, doctor."

"The genetic enhancement?"

"Taking hold as expected, sir. Though…there have been a few minor issues."

"Such as?"

"Subject demonstrates unusual amounts of rage and uncontrolled aggression, marked by sudden loss of higher brain function when provoked."

"Does this lessen subject's effectiveness in any way?"

"No, doctor."

"Very well. Continue monitoring."

I woke up the first day in a small cell. No idea of where I was, who I was, or what was going on. I know it's cliché, but I can't deny the truth of the first memory that is truly mine. I wore a white jumpsuit with "Crey Bioengineering Department #43104" printed in blue lettering, and nothing shared the cell with me save a stark white cot and a small camera mounted on the wall.

I stood, staring at my surroundings. I could smell things in the air, scents I could tell were far off, yet still strong in my nostrils. I could hear footsteps and whispered conversations from people I couldn't even see. I could see the minutest detail in the room, from the cracks in the floor to imperfections in the bars on other cells yards away, almost down to the microscopic level.

Glancing at myself for the first time, I took stock of my appearance. Stark white hair, almost to my waist. Grey skin, covered in a fine grey fur. Tiny claws in place of fingernails on each hand and foot. I had no way of seeing my face. My muscles were toned, though I didn't know why.

Paced the cell. Called out for someone, anyone. No response.

"Have we determined the extent of the improvement?"

"No, doctor. Subject's sensory awareness and agility remains at near metahuman levels, but we will not know the level of the auxiliary enhancement until more rigorous testing is undertaken."

I woke again, this time to several white-masked men entering my cell, accompanied by something vaguely robotic, glowing with blue sparks and looking very powerful.

"You will come with us," the robot said, but I could tell it was human, and very, very powerful.

I followed them meekly out of the cell, down a brightly lit cement hallway into a pitch-black room. The robot-man strode to the other end of the wall, and the other men left, closing and locking the door behind us. Lights were lit, stinging my already-sensitive eyes.

"You have but one option, subject. Fight," a voice called from an unknown speaker.

I merely stood, weak-kneed, leaning against the nearest wall.

"Fight!" the voice ordered again, and this time the command was punctuated by the robot-man rushing at me, fists raised, now bathed in red energy.

I instinctively leapt into the air as high as the room would allow, narrowly avoiding the strike. He seemed to be moving slowly, but I knew it had to be a trick of my senses. He lunged again, and I ducked down and nimbly scampered between his legs, again dodging the attack.

This technique would not last, as I soon realized he meant to do me real harm. Giving up on the fist attacks, he instead aimed his hands at me and they exploded into a blue and white corona, and the blast struck me full in the chest, knocking me off my feet and searing my jumpsuit. I could smell my singed fur, and the pain dizzied me.

He sensed my weakness, and followed the bolt with a savage uppercut to my chin. I flew into the air, and fell limply to the floor. The taste of blood was strong, metallic in my mouth. I could sense myself falling into and out of consciousness, and wondered why this man had beaten me so savagely.

Stepping back, he regarded my immobile form.

"Some fighting machine you are. I've bested better children at the company picnic."

I suddenly felt a rage build inside me, and suddenly the blood vanished from my mouth, my burned chest knitted back instantaneously, and I began to crackle with energy of my own, only it was green, and seemed to revitalize me.

He noticed the change as well, and nodded.

"Very good, Power Tank 26. You may exit the exercise," the voice boomed again.

"Subject seems to have taken to the engineering well, doctor."

"Yes, the last eight took the hit to the chin and expired immediately. This subject possesses great potential, but there is one piece missing."

The days that followed were the same routine: wake, fight, sleep. Only as time progressed I learned to fight back against my attackers, and they always changed. Some set me on fire, others savagely beat me with fists, still others used bladed and blunt weapons to try and damage my flesh. Through it all, I always emerged unscathed, as the green energy instantly healed any wound I received, and let me concentrate on subduing my opponent.

I was a gifted acrobat, nimble and almost supernaturally fast. I found I could move at breakneck speed, becoming a blur and nearly invisible. I used this to my advantage in the scuffles, reasoning that at some point there would be a reason for my confinement and all the fighting.

"Subject has retained super speed ability, and is progressing well in hand-to-hand combat, and has bested some of our top trainers without use of a weapon, doctor."

"Very well, then. It is time we explain to the subject its mission, and provide it with its means."

"Yes, doctor. Immediately."

The gloves fit perfectly, almost like a second skin. They were black with green circuitry, encasing my hand and wrist, throbbing with power.

"Subject #43104, it is time you were given your purpose. You are charged as the first of your kind to defend Paragon City from its most dangerous threat: so-called "Heroes." These vigilantes take law into their own hands, costing innocent lives almost every step of the way. They seek to destroy we who have given you these abilities, who have nurtured and protected you. They seek to kill you for what you stand for. The gloves you wear are your tools, use them passionately and without abandon. You must kill those who seek to kill you. You must never lose sight of your mission. You must give no quarter, no mercy. You will be a champion of Paragon. You will be the first of its Protectors."

For some reason, I believed the voice. I believed I combat those who would seek to destroy me, destroy the lives of innocents, destroy the institution who had trained me. The gloves, which I found I could not remove, contained a liquid titanium alloy that, at the merest thought, would oxidize and form razor-sharp claws. I still don't understand the technology behind them.

I couldn't tell you how many days, weeks, months, or even years I wore that yellow and blue suit, complete with shiny helmet. I hunted and killed countless heroes, protecting the city from their lawless and destructive rampages, every night returning to the non-descript building I knew as my "home" to return to my cell.

Until that night. That night I met the heroes who would show me exactly what I needed to see.
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A Protector Reborn
by Zachary Seamas Martin

Part 1
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