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Not the Hero


A Novella of

City of Heroes/City of Villains™ Fan Fiction by

Anthony Harte


Inspired from the short story At the Seams by

D. Heikes

Edited with permission



            “You’ve been hitting the bottle pretty hard, Brian,” Thauma Guard said, sitting on the bench next to her companion.  The heat from the sun in early June filled the air, the park bench on which they two sat nearly hot to the touch.  Thauma had mentored Brian from his beginning a little over three years ago, teaching him to use the magic he had learned and inherited.  Starting out a quick riser, with a wealth of potential, he had slid from grace on several occasions, losing himself in drinking.

            Time had gone by, and Brian Sutter had gained notoriety in his media work, often getting behind the scenes photos of crime scenes and members of Paragon City’s Hero Corps.  Sutter was most known for his many pictures of members of the Onami Strike Force, with whom he was secretly a member known as News Flash. 

            The past years had seen less and less activity organized by the Onami, yet they still acted in groups, mostly made up of tightly knit friends.  Brian was known by most of the group to slip past police lines using his Hero Corps identification to gain scoops for the Tattler.

            It was after any larger gathering of the Onami that Sutter often fell off the bandwagon, going on a few days worth of drinking binges.  During these gatherings, the air always seemed thick with unspoken feelings, as though the members of the super group had things they felt or needed to say, but lacked the words.

If any had paid attention to other details, they would have noticed that early to mid-May often saw Brian in the bottle over his head.

It was just after one o’clock, and Brian looked as though he could still feel the throbbing in his head to which he had awakened.  Not having shaved that morning, his scruffy appearance reflected in the wrinkled brown suit and unlit, but well chewed, cigar in his mouth.  He turned his red-rimmed eyes skyward, and rubbed his fingers through the day’s worth of beard.

“I…,” he stopped speaking.  Looking at his former mentor next to him, his eyes reddened further, barely contained tears threatening to spill out.

“We all miss him,” Thauma said.  She closed her eyes and forced a barrier around her feelings, the rush that threatened to pour out of her mirroring his emotions.

“It’s been three years since he died,” Sutter said.  “I can’t get it out of my head.”

Thauma, who stood well over six feet tall and towered over most people, leaned over and hugged her friend, teammate, and former pupil.  “Aaron would not have wanted you to drink your life away.”

Brian sat stiffly, almost as though afraid to move, and nodded slightly.

“It’s hard, every time we get together as a group,” he said.  “I see him in every one of us.”

Thauma nodded.  “I know.  So do I.  I see him in the apartment we shared, in the symbol we wear.  I’ve tried to find strength in everything he gave us, but all I seem to find is how lonely I am.  I have so many friends, but I still feel empty.”

Brian leaned forward, resting his forearms on wrinkled pants.  A single tear ran down his cheek and dropped to the pavement, evaporating in only a few seconds.

“I should have done something,” he whispered voice cracking.

“What?” Thauma asked him.

“I should have done something.  I could have stopped him from being killed.”

Thauma’s brow furrowed.

“What could you have done?  You weren’t even there.”

Sutter reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a slightly torn, wrinkled, incredibly worn photograph.  It had obviously been taken from a distance with a zoom lens, and looked as though it had weathered many times being crushed in someone’s grip.

The years before had seen a series of times of dark power.  The Circle of Thorns had succeeded in their third attempt to bring a demi-god to the earth, but had lost control of the Beast, losing many members to its hands.  Only when Tropic had sacrificed himself had the Beast been slain.

A year before that the Circle had tried to bring their demon through by sacrificing three individuals whose makeup in the cosmos brought the power into alignment that was needed for the ritual.  Statesman and the Freedom Phalanx had thwarted them, but one of the three, Cyrus Thompson, a former hero who had gone by the name Breakneck, had given his life in the process.

The faded colors showed an island slightly off the coast of Paragon City.  In the background, a group of heroes gathered on the island, two smallish women helping a larger man wreathed in flame, and another woman with a katana from the ground.  Thauma stood among the group along with another woman with red hair and hands adorned in fire.  The foreground of the picture showed PhoenixHawk pinned beneath the huge foot of a monstrous demon, talons descending, almost touching the chest armor the hero wore.  The green fire in PhoenixHawk’s eyes blazed so brightly the color washed out of the photograph showing the snarl on his face.

Three years had passed since the photograph had been taken. 

That had been the Circle’s first attempt of that year to bring the demon through to Earth.  They had summoned an Envoy to negotiate its coming, but the negotiations had been interrupted by members of the Onami Strike Force and Archangels of the Apocalypse.

PhoenixHawk had died milliseconds after the photograph had been taken, giving more of his essence that his life could do without to bring the Envoy down.  Even had the huge talons that impaled him not taken his life, the blast he unleashed would have.

Thauma Guard’s voice was barely audible.  “Where did you get this?”

“I took it,” Sutter said.  “I used my Hero Corps credentials to get into the area the police had barricaded, and a hover unit that I borrowed from Lady Emily.  I was there, I saw him die, and I didn’t even do anything about it.”

He reached his hands under the fedora he wore, wrapping his fingers tightly in his hair, holding onto handfuls of it as though perhaps he could pull the memories through his head and discard them once and for all.

Thauma’s hand rested on his shoulder.

“You couldn’t have done anything.  You were just starting out, nowhere near powerful enough to stand up to the Envoy.  He’d have killed you too, had you gotten involved.”

“I should have tried.”

Thauma shook her head.  “No.  You were right to stay away.”

“I wasn’t right,” he said sitting up and looking into her eyes.  “I was just scared.”

“We all were.  That thing was incredibly powerful.  We have our limitations, and you knew yours, even if you did not realize it.  That fear kept you alive.”

“And let Aaron die.”

Thauma blinked through the tears that ran down her cheeks.  “None of us let Aaron die.  He gave himself for us, on his own.”

Brian’s cell phone rang loudly on his hip.  It was so unexpected that both heroes nearly jumped out of their skin.  Sutter stood up and sighed.

“Damn it,” he cursed answering the phone.

He spoke for only a few moments before hanging up and wiping his eyes with the back of his ruffled sleeve.

“Looks like we have some work to do.  It sounds like we’ll need a bunch of us, too.”


The week ended, and Brian could not remember it except for a haze of alcohol and the smell of, or maybe the bad Chinese food. He was in his Onami uniform only putting it on to take the crease out of the arms and legs. It had not been worn in months. After arriving at the assemblage did he regret the decision to attend. It was only of habit did he even manage to arrive. The week had been full of attacks against from the Carnival of Shadows. The super group met them en masse and successfully reigned in Carnies wave of terror. News Flash never made an appearance helping his friends and Brian Sutter never reported for work. Only work seemed to notice his absence.

The meeting went on; News Flash sitting in a back corner desk paid them no attention. How many more of them would he allow himself to kill before he was stopped? He felt like vomiting again, but he swallowed hard and breathed shallowly. Blah, Blah was all he heard from the discussion.

“… Hold on to that truth”, Shadow Pain finally finished, “And the values that brought us together, because I believe that we are all on our own for a while.”

With that, the team got up and began filing out. The last remaining was News Flash.  With Thauma missing there was not a hello or a good bye, nobody noticed him. Just like nobody was there to bear witness to his true crimes. The air in the room remained filled with the resonant traces of his teammates.  He leaned back in his chair, rubbing his temples, and then pulled a silver flask from inside of his coat pocket.

His phone rang and he let it go to voice mail. He was not in the mood to talk to any one. He punched the buttons to his voice mail and listened to the message left in anger.

“God damn you Brian!” the irate voice of his boss said. “I have had it with your absence this week. I don’t care if you’re dead. You’re fired! Clean out your desk if you ever find the time. If you don’t you can buy what was left next week on eBay.”

“Amen,” Brian said raising his flask in salute. At the moment, he did not care anymore.


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