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Star Trek Saved My Life Tonight
 by Goth Angel
He floated in the night sky over the ocean, serene in repose.  Listening intently to the distant lap of the waves, allowing the white noise of the surf consume his conscious mind.  He was troubled.
They all wanted something from him, not for who he was, but for what he could do for them.  At one time, he could not conceive of the loneliness that was possible when surrounded constantly by others.  The idea still seemed ludicrous to him on its surface, but now he had a better understanding, not of people, but of what it meant to be around them.
These people were still a paradox to him.  At once paranoid and fearful, yet defiant, brave, questing for answers in a universe that seemed hostile to them and their kind.  They embodied the very best of their ideals, yet typically exemplified the worst possible behavior at every turn.  They were all saints and sinners, personified within each being.
He still could not understand them, even after all this time, yet he strove to do so.  He was honest enough with himself to admit that this was something he wanted, needed from them. 

In their searches of alternate dimensions, they had located it, though they did not realize it at the time.  It had existed in a formless void, a null space.  At the time of their intrusion, it was without form, a potentiality floating in a white nihility.  Tabula rasa.  It became aware of consciousness when it became aware of their presence.  Their entrance into its world had brought entropy into what would later be described by their scientists as a “pocket universe”, a universe where God had never started the arrow of time, a completely static dimension.  Their entry gave its being a direction.
It followed them back through the portal, and they were completely unaware that it had “hitched a ride”.  As a being of pure thought, it did not register on their senses or instruments.  Its elemental nature escaped the notice of their mages and telepaths.  Without true conscious thought or real volition, it was essentially back-ground noise. 
It observed their efforts to probe other-space, their researches into the unknown.  It watched the scientists, the heroes, the technicians.  It learned.  Fast.
They first became aware of it thanks to the exceptional talents of a young witch who died early the in the senseless war with the Rikti.  While attempting to probe the heavens in order to find the home dimension of the alien invaders, she touched its raw, unformed being.  Shocked and fearful, she turned away and sought the help of her fellows.  They quickly came to Portal Corporation’s laboratories and extended their magical aerials into the ether.  In all their experiences, they had never contacted such a raw, primitive being, a creature of unadulterated power and innocence. 
Their probing did not harm it, but did arouse curiosity.  Taking the first tentative steps at true identity, it answered.

Paladine had spent years “fighting the good fight,” as it were, to help the people of Earth.  Untold countless battles, constant strife and striving, all directed to giving peace to those who could not protect themselves.  But he was tired of spirit, a condition he had never experienced before.
He lay on his back, his cape swaying in the breeze sighing gently in the gulf separating him from the water below, his arms resting lightly upon his chest.  The normally determined face was clenched in a frown of frustration.  He lay with his eyes closed, his forehead knurled in thought.
Musing to himself, “This must be what self-pity feels like….”  He floated further out to sea. 
Even though he had successfully completed his last mission, it still perturbed him.  The mission had taken him to a parallel Earth, one on which all the humans were dead, only their spirits remaining.  The scientists at PCI were understandable curious and worried that what had happened there, might happen here.  He had been sent to discover why that world lied in ruins, its dead never knowing rest.
After stepping through the portal, he had attempted to talk to the shades, but they had instantly attacked him, indeed had done their best to destroy him.  Thousands of the wraiths had swarmed him, clouding his vision, choking his breath, so thick was their ethereal presence.  He had taken to the air, moving with his preternatural speed, spinning as he rose to impel their essences from his body.  As he ascended into the heavens, they clawed at his face, his costume, clung stubbornly to his cape.  He flung each from him as he fled, setting a pace the dead could not match.  Remembering his mission, he avoided the dead, but searched for clues as to the cause of this world’s decline.
His search led him over much of the remains of an analogue Paragon City.  The decaying remains of this world, haunted by the spirits of the vengeful dead, filled Paladine with a dread he could not name.  Finally, he alighted atop a statue of some long-dead hero.  The statue had been half-blasted from its foundations, leaving its remains tilting at a severe angle.  From the air, he had spotted something lying at the base.  Scanning the area to assure himself that there were no wraiths nearby, he leapt to the ground.  At his feet were the remains of a human, the only such remains he had seen in his fly-over of the city’s remnant.  A mummified skeleton partially obscured a small, steel lockbox.  Gently edging the box from underneath the remains, he looked for some sign of the contents or the owner.  He pried the lid from the vault, finding inside an old journal.  He looked around to ensure himself that no spirits had followed him to this place, and then opened the journal to see what the last, living inhabitant of this world had left.

The entity was able to communicate with them only the most basic level, raw primitive emotions: curiosity, desire, longing.  They fed it with their own curiosities, sensing no malice within the thing.  It soaked itself with their thoughts, their feelings, their attitudes, their memories, and it grew.  The young witch who had first sensed it and had been frightened now helped shape it more than the rest.  She had taken a junior position to the more experienced members of her order, but her power shown to it like a beacon.  Her zesty life-force called out to it with her desires.  It materialized before ever realizing it was both capable of such a deed or that it had a need to do so.  At first it was simply a luminous white mist, barely visible before the awesome energies of the portal.  Then it slowly coalesced into a human shape, as if summoned by the will and desires of those who sought to communicate with it.
Dilatorily the entity took on the dimensions and shape of a man.  It clothed itself in the shapes of those present, a little from each, but the thoughts of the young witch directed its final shape the most.  It assumed the face, the body of a lover, long lost.  She gasped as “he” stood for the first time, inhaling deeply in a first breath.  His eyes snapped open, and his cry rent the air.  The first cry of the newborn.

Paladine could barely see as he sped back toward the portal exit.  Tears of shame and rage poured from his eyes, blinding him in his speed.  More by luck than skill did he elude the ghostly host that pursued him in his mad dash through the heavens and over the blasted earth.  He stumbled through the portal back into his own world.  One of the technicians caught him as he exited the portal and almost fell over the protective railing.  They drug him in a stupor away from the portal, asking what happened and what was wrong.  He was too distressed to even speak, tears still choking from his throat, his eyes screwed shut and leaking.  Never had anyone seen the hero in this state.  He thrust the journal away from him and fled without a word.  He flew up through the huge arched doorway, down the hallway.  Punching through the elevator doors, he shot past the complicated detectors at the security desk and blew out the glass front doors.  He retreated into the skies, away from humanity.
The phone he carried in his belt buzzed with Jill’s ring-tone.  He began to ignore it as he shot away from Peregrine Island, then habit and duty made him pause to answer it.
“Paladine, are you alright?” He could hear the concern in her voice, could almost see her face though she was miles away.
He now realized that he was sobbing as he tried to answer her.  He couldn’t utter a single coherent sound, and was incapable of stopping.
“Pal, please, come back to the island.  Let me help you….”
His sobbing subsided, he choked out, “…Jill, it was me.  I can’t come back!  I might do terrible things…”, and then he shut the phone, pocketing it once more.
With the sunset at his back, he flew into the night, chased by demons.

Though in body a man, his mind was less than a child’s.  Absolute innocence, insatiable curiosity, overwhelming desire to learn, these were the defining characteristics of the young man whom some had dubbed “the world’s first, true innocent.”  He was presented to the leaders of the nation, both political and heroic.  They decided his fate.  He would be trained, taught to be everything he could be, raised as an ideal.  But he would be hidden, he would be their secret.  And above all, he would be watched.
His quick charm and infectious attitude made him a favorite among his teachers.  He hungrily learned all put before him.  Though he did well in his studies, he always had difficulty understanding relationships with others.  He was always well liked, as who could not like such an honest, open, vulnerable creature, but he could never truly understand the motivations of others, their emotional states.  He empathized easily enough with others, but this was not enough to help him overcome this situation which set him apart from humans, making him forever a little uneasy in their presence.  Perhaps it was an eternity of loneliness, perhaps it was a result of being the only thing in your universe to being a very small part of ours.  Regardless of the cause, he never quite fit in with others, seeming the perpetual alien.
His cover story was given to the press.  A vague story of a far-flung alien world, from where he had been sent to protect the Earth, to learn from our heroes.  True enough in its own way.
Before her death, the young witch, who had loved him from the first, was the one who named him.  She saw all the possibility of absolute goodness, the innocence, the pure love from him, and baptized him Paladine.

Floating among the evening wisps of clouds, his phone buzzed urgently.  Lazily, he reached for it and flipped it open.
“You ok?” Jill asked.
He cleared his throat, thinking about the question, and finally answered, “No, but I’m a lot better than I was.  I’m sorry for yelling at you earlier.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it.  I was really worried about you.  You sounded terrible and then you wouldn’t answer the phone…
…Want to talk about it?”

He realized by now she had to have read the journal.  Actually, the whole world probably knows about it by now.  He hung his head in shame as he hovered a mile above the waters in the still night sky.  He was almost surprised that other heroes weren’t hunting him down to destroy him.  He said so.
“Pal, that wasn’t you.  YOU didn’t do that.” She sounded scolding, like telling a rebellious youth to behave.
“It was my writing, it was my name.  I did that to that world, or at least a version of me did.  What makes you think it couldn’t happen here?  I’m not human, what happens if I go crazy?  That Paladine murdered every living creature of that Earth.  Why shouldn’t everyone be afraid of me?”  He rattled out quickly, almost afraid to pause, afraid of the answers.
The phone was silent for a moment as she waited to ensure he was done.
“I’ll tell you why I’m not afraid, why I KNOW it couldn’t happen here.  I know you.  I trust you.  And so does everyone else.  You are good.”  She stopped, pausing to listen to him, then she continued.  “Something I seldom say to a customer. In this galaxy, there's a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all of the universe, three million, million galaxies like this. And in all of that and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don't destroy the one named Paladine.”
He began laughing out loud, tears coming from his eyes, this time in joy rather than pain.  She knew how much he loved Star Trek.
“OK Jill, you win.  I’ll be back in, in a minute, ‘Mom’.” He said smiling, still laughing and wiping his eyes on his sleeve.
He heard her smile as she said, “Good.”
Paladine replaced the phone in his belt and began the flight back to Peregrine Island.  He smiled as he flew and decided that even though he did not understand humans, he loved them.

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