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Birth Of A Hero
(An imaginative rendition of Myth’s second costume mission.)
by Myths n' Wraiths

    When your whole life has revolved around a single purpose, when your every action was in tribute to accomplishing one goal, when your every waking hour was spent in preparing yourself for one certain conflict, what do you do once that conflict is over?
    It had been four days since Myth and Wraith had emerged from the sewers of Paragon after their climactic battle with the villain Bloodlust. With their goal accomplished and their friend Valdien laid to rest, the two brothers were left with a sense of emptiness that not even Myth, for all his empathy, could free them from. It was the first time since childhood that the twins had spent more than a few minutes in each other’s company. It needed no words between the two mutants that whatever differences they had in the past would stay there now.
    They had each taken different roads in their lives, but both roads had led to the same place, the same purpose. They had been there for each other in the moment of truth. They had done together what neither of them could have accomplished on their own. They had avenged their parents’ murder. But it had been at a great cost.
    Now the two brothers stood together for the first time in over ten years, at that spot that was so familiar to them both in Perez Park. They stood underneath the towering statue of a beautiful woman, whose smooth marble form was reaching up to the sky as if she were taking flight. For what had to have been hours, neither of them said a word as they looked up at the massive tribute to their mother, each trying desperately to lay to rest the torment they felt in their hearts. After years of striving and preparation, they had accomplished the one act that they thought would bring peace to their battered souls. Now both of them seemed to be wordlessly asking the statue why they could not grab hold of that peace they had fought so desperately for.
    “She would be proud of us,” Wraith said, finally breaking the silence. Myth could tell by the way his brother spoke that it was both a question and a statement. He knew what his brother was struggling with. Their mother had been a hero among heroes. She had fought selflessly for the good of all those who loved and cherished peace. She had risked pain and defeat time and time again to defend those around her that could not defend themselves, and in the end even given her life in such a cause.
    While their mother’s life had been one of sacrifice and selflessness, theirs on the other hand had been lives of vengeance and disregard. They had spent their entire lives on an all-consuming quest to gain enough strength to hand out their vengeance and many people had suffered on account of their self-centered tactics.
    “We have dealt justice. She would be proud of that,” Myth replied to his twin. But would she be proud of us? he asked himself. His only response was doubt.
    “So tell me bro, why does it feel like justice just isn’t enough?” Myth took a long moment of reflection before he answered his brother.
    “All our lives we have done what we felt we had to do for ourselves. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about what we should be doing… for others. It’s what she would have wanted,” Myth said tentatively to his sibling.
    “I ain’t a hero, Myth, never have been,” Wraith replied, and to Myth’s surprise the usual abrasive edge had left his brother’s voice, replaced by the faintest hint of regret. “I’ve got the skills and I’ve got this nickel slick security clearance, but I ain’t got it inside me to be one of them.”
    Again Myth could sense what motivated his brother’s doubts. Wraith had been an isolationist since he left his brother and their mentor at the age of ten, to seek out his revenge on his own. All things being equal, the two twins would have grown up quite the same, with similar range and strength to their abilities. In reality, however, their powers were quite diverse. While Myth could use his skills as an empath to increase the metabolism and clarity of thought of others, even trigger increases in adrenaline and bring heroes out of unconscious states at will, Wraith’s powers were so self-directed that he was in a permanent state of self-regeneration and he could no more sense the minds and hearts of those around him than a blind man could appreciate a painting.
    It was not until Myth had spent time with his brother on the battle field that he began to understand the cause of the drastic differences between the two of them. The sense of isolation and the overpowering drive of self preservation in Wraith's early years had produced not only a psychological but a physiological variance between the twins and driven his powers to an introverted state. Simply put, Wraith’s self-centered perception of life was so ingrained in his mind that it had turned him from an empath to regenerative mutant. For such a person to lay down his own agenda and pick up the role of a selfless hero was about the same as asking a fish to go for a walk with you in the Sahara.
    Still, Myth could sense the doubt in his brother and even the faintest hint of a desire to be something that they both knew he was not. The question was: was it possible for Wraith to undo his mental reservations about sacrifice and service, reservations that had been forged by anger and built on for more than a decade?
    “If you have proven anything with your life, Wraith, it is that if you want to change who and what you are, want it bad enough, you can do it. We both can. We can become the men we should have been had we not lost our family and our way. We can finally move on with our lives and be the heroes we were born to be.” Myth did not even know where those words had come from. They spilt out of him from some recess of his mind that still hung to the hope that they could be who and what their parents had died to give them the chance to be. He could feel his words sinking into his brother’s heart so he pressed on, letting what little part of his heart had not been consumed in bitterness speak.     “What was all of this truly for, if not to give us a sense of freedom to move on with our lives as the people we should have been?” Myth did not need to be an empath to see the struggle that was going on inside his twin.
    Wraith stared up at the engraved face of his mother as if he expected her to answer in his place. The moments passed slowly before he found the answer to the questions that were tearing at his heart and mind.
    “We were meant to be heroes so…,” Wraith spoke with resolve and Myth finished the statement with equal determination.
    “…maybe we still can be.”  For the first time since before their day of tragedy almost eleven years ago, Wraith flashed his brother the slightest hint of a smile.
    “This ain’t gonna be easy, bro. Can’t think of too many reputable heroes that will even associate with the likes of me anymore.”
    “Me neither, but we can change that. We can make a new name for ourselves,” Myth replied with a sigh of regret for the infamous reputation he had gained as the former leader of The Dogs of War. Wraith nodded slowly, then with an aura of resolve, walked over and slapped his brother on the shoulder.
    “I have some things I need to take care of before I go through this little mid-life crisis we got brewin’ here; some loose ends need to be tied up. I’ll track you down in a week or two,” Wraith said as he turned to walk away.
    “I can imagine. Take care of yourself, Wraith.”
    “Always have,” Wraith replied pointedly.
     And just like that, Myth was alone with his thoughts and doubts about a future that was now looming before him.
    No, not alone, he thought to himself. You have never been alone; there has always been one person you could turn to
    Myth needed direction and counsel right now and he knew just who to go to. He closed his eyes and let his senses spread through out the zone searching for any mental traces of an all-too-familiar mind.

    Night’s Wind had always felt it was a sense of self preservation that caused weaker villains to venture out at night rather than during the day. He thought that in an attempt to make up for what they lacked in strength they tried to use the darkness of night to aid their stealth; it was moments like these, however, that made him realize how wrong he was. Not all villains came out at night due to an affinity for subterfuge and a desire for stealth; some did it just because they were that stupid.
     Wrapped in unnaturally deep shadows, Night’s Wind stared down a dimly lit alleyway at a group of Outcast. He noticed quickly that these particular mobs were not lethal villains or even hardened thugs; they could barely even be considered punks. They were making an obscene racket while blundering attempt after attempt to pry open a reinforced garage door that led to the warehouse section of one of the local drug stores.  
    Deciding to make this one quick and painless, for himself at least, Night’s Wind wreathed a murky essence around his body like shadowy cloak and he began to close the distance between him and the unsuspecting Outcast punks. The shadows seemed to cling to him as he moved down the alleyway and even when he passed under the single street lamp that was between him and the rambunctious gang the light could not reveal his presence.
    The preoccupied Outcast never saw him coming. Not even when they were hedged in an impenetrable darkness and calling out in confusion, did they have a clue about what was in store for them. Night’s Wind grinned to himself, concluding that not until these thugs, which were falling unconscious at his lightest attacks, woke up as guests of the Paragon Penal system would they figure out what hit them.
    The entire conflict lasted only seconds. Night’s Wind had cast a shadow over the inexperienced Outcast, throwing them into confusion, before easily subduing them with a few quick bursts of dark energy. By the time the unearthly shadows had lifted, the Outcast’s unconscious forms were all that was left in the alleyway. The veteran hero sat on top of the warehouse, patiently waiting for Paragon’s finest to come collect what was left of this gang.
    Night’s Wind had not sat there long when a familiar form, dressed in the usual T-shirt and jeans came up from behind him on the roof and sat down at his side.
    “I had a feeling you were looking for me Myth,” Night’s Wind said without looking up at his former protégé.
    “That’s because I told your subconscious to be expecting me,” Myth said with a chuckle.
    “Its good to see you again young man,” Night’s Wind said in his usual rough, even, tone. “I heard about your encounter with Bloodlust and about Valdien. I‘m sorry Myth,” he continued sincerely.
    “Yeah me too,” Myth replied; his face darkened at the mention of the friend he had lost. A long uneasy silence would have followed if the older, wiser hero had not spoken up.
    “You finally accomplished the one thing you have been pushing for since I have known you, and you even hooked back up with your prodigal brother I hear. Things seem to have come full circle for you.” There was no trace of either condescension or approval in the aged hero’s voice, nothing but the usual clear grasp of reality that Myth had depended on for so many years of his life. “So what is next for The Dogs of War?”
    “I removed myself as the leader,” Myth said decidedly. “Desimus will lead them now… and hopefully make some much needed changes.”    
    “It is probably for the best,” Night’s Wind said as he nodded his understanding. “Then what is next for you?”
    “My brother and I want to make some changes as well. We want to put the past behind us. We want to be heroes.” At this, Night’s Wind's face broadened into a smile and a light chuckle escaped his lips.
    “You are heroes, Myth. Your methods have been a bit crude, but your goals have always been true. It is your motivations that separated you from other heroes,” Night’s Wind said smoothly in an infectiously confident tone.
    “Wraith does not think that the other heroes would be to inclined to trust us given our reputations. I have to say I kind of agree with him. Some of the things we have done do not exactly sit well with some of the trainers,” Myth said rather dejectedly.
    “Other heroes have avoided you in the past because of your disregard for procedures and your recklessness, not because of your agendas. You were driven by something they instinctively try to avoid, revenge. Now that the need for vengeance is no longer there, I think many of the changes you want in your life will come quite naturally. It takes time and work to overcome a reputation but I think that if you show others that you have a desire to walk a straighter path, then they will be more receptive than you think,”  Night’s Wind explained, trying to put the younger mutant’s fears at ease.
    “You are probably right, but it just does not seem like it will be that easy. I do not even know where to start.”
    Night’s Wind paused to give Myth a moment of reflection as he heard the quiet hum of approaching teleport drones. The odd Sputnik-looking police devices hovered around the corner and into the alley where they dutifully began teleporting the still unconscious Outcast to the nearest prison. Both heroes watched in silence as the machines worked below them. When they had gone, Night’s Wind spoke again.
    “You know, I think your biggest problem is that you are trying to think of what you can do to show others that you want to change when most of the work that needs to be done is right in here.” With those last words, Night’s Wind pointed at the center of Myth’s chest. “Once you get that in shape, then the outward actions will come naturally. All it takes is a desire to change.”
    “I have the desire,” Myth said with determination.
    “I believe you do,” Night’s Wind replied as he stood up to leave. “And since you have the desire to change the knowledge of how to will come in its own time and way. Just do one thing for me, Myth.”
    “Anything,” Myth replied quickly.
    “Get yourself a decent costume,” Night’s Wind said, letting a tone of severe sarcasm slip into his voice. “What kind of respectable hero runs around in a T-shirt and jeans?” At this, both of the mutants let out a laugh.
    “Here,” Night’s Wind continued as he handed Myth a small business card. “This man will be able to help you out.” Myth took the card with an appreciative nod and slipped it into his pocket.
    Night‘s Wind paused for a moment then spoke his last words with more meaning than Myth had heard the old hero use in many years. “Your parents would be proud of you, Myth, you and your brother.” And with that he disappeared into the shadows of the night.
    Again Myth was left alone, but with more of a sense of purpose than he had felt in days. He had a small task before him, but it was better than nothing at all.
    “A costume,” he laughed to himself. “What kind of costume would I wear?”

    Myth had traced the address on the card to a shop in the North West corner of Steel Canyon.  He stood in front of the store, staring up with uncertainty at the large sign over the door that proclaimed, “Icon”. A thread of doubt still clung to his mind about the whole costume thing, but it did not take much reasoning for him to conclude that if he was going to be accepted as a hero, he would have to look like one. Mustering his resolve, Myth marched through the glass double doors and into the main lobby of the shop where popular costume styles lined the walls of the spacious sales floor.
    After looking a few of them over, Myth searched the room for someone that might be able to help him pick one out and noticed a young girl sitting in an island in the middle of the room, talking feverishly into a telephone. He could feel frustration and anger flowing from the girl’s mind like a tide. Deciding that she would be of no help to him at the moment, Myth picked out another Icon employee to the rear of the store. It was a middle-aged man standing tentatively behind a desk. Not unlike the sales girl, this man seemed preoccupied and flustered too. Still, the emotional reflux the man was exuding was not nearly as powerful as the young girl on the phone, so Myth made his way toward him. He was standing practically right in front of the prim-looking salesman before the man even noticed he was there.
    “Excuse me, sir, but I need to get a costume,” Myth said to the startled salesman, who eyed Myth up and down for a moment before a smirk went across his face.
    “I can see that,” the snide man replied in a fake French accent. Myth scowled back at him.
    “Look, can you help me or not?” Myth asked coldly.
    “As a matter of fact, I can’t.” Myth could feel his frustration building inside him. “But perhaps we can help each other, yes?” Taking Myth’s confused gaze for a “yes”, the salesman went on without prompting. “You see, I have a slight problem. Over the past couple of months, these terrible Tsoo have been trying to cut in on my business. They say that I must pay them for ‘protection’ from the other gangs around here, and of course if I do not, then things will not go so well for me here.” The flustered salesman threw his hands up in frustration. “I simply can not do business like this. It really is too much for me. Those villainous brutes are supposed to be here in an hour and…”
    The idea of helping this snippy little man was sounding less and less appealing to Myth with every melodramatic word the salesman threw at him. Not to mention the fact that Myth was a defender and for him to go up against a Tsoo muscle squad was just asking for a trip to the hospital.
    Still… If you’re going to start acting like a hero, he thought to himself as the salesman ranted on, this is as good a place to start as any.
    “Look, how about I deal with this Tsoo issue of yours, and you see what you can do about getting me a costume?” Myth cut in to the salesman’s tirade.
    “Well, that’s what I have been saying this whole time,” the salesman snapped, casting Myth a condescending look that seemed to be telling the young hero all-too-plainly that he needed to catch up with what was going on around him. Myth just rolled his eyes.

    “Is nothing in this city simple?” Myth sighed to himself. From his vantage point on the roof of a building adjacent to the Icon shop, Myth could see the Tsoo approaching through the back alleys. Uneasiness settled over him when he began to pick out each of the villain’s abilities by their mystic tattoos. There were at least half a dozen Enforcers of various types, who Myth knew from experience he could take easily if it were not for the two Ink Men and the Sorcerer that accompanied them. Had it been just the Ink Men, who could cast powerful spells of confusion, leaving their victims helpless against the deadly Enforcers, or just the Sorcerer, who could teleport himself quickly around a battlefield, restoring his fallen comrades, then this whole conflict would be a walk in the park. As it was, Myth knew that his chances of apprehending this group were slim.
    A few weeks ago, Myth would have walked away from these odds without a second thought. It was not a lack of courage that gave him his moment of pause. The reality was that he was an empath who was only truly effective when around other heroes. Myth’s ability to heighten the mental awareness and physical abilities of others could turn the weakest of heroes into a force to be reckoned with, but alone and unaided his own weaknesses could easily be exploited.
    Myth shook his head, chasing the concerns from his mind. There could be no room for doubt if he was going to do this, and he had made up his mind that he would. He had to prove to himself even if no one else could see it yet that he was willing to sacrifice his own well being if it meant peace for others.
    The group of deadly Tsoo approached the wall of the building that Myth was standing on top of and passed beneath him without casting so much as a glance in his direction. Even though he was not strong enough to attack their minds directly, Myth had enough mental strength to miss-direct their attention away from him. In fact, even if he had been standing down in the alleyway next to the Tsoo, they would have passed him by without the slightest recognition.
    Give them everything you have got; give them Hell, Myth told himself as he began to focus his mind for the upcoming conflict.  And unless you want to spend the rest of your day in the nearest hospital, give it to them fast.
    With that, Myth leapt from the roof and landed noiselessly in the alleyway behind the Tsoo. A mass of dark energy welled up in the mutant’s hand, so dense it seemed to absorb the light around it. Focusing on the Sorcerer at the rear of the group, Myth sent a sensation of impending danger straight into the villain’s mind. The mental assault hit its target with the strength of a physical blow, and the Sorcerer, responding on instinct, disappeared in a flash of light, teleporting to what his mind told him would be a safe distance from the imagined danger. The other Tsoo spun about to see the lone hero standing close to where their leader had been just a second before, but they had no time to react. Myth had already let loose his bundle of dark energy into the center of the mob. Shadowy energy burst out with mind numbing force, completely disorienting the Tsoo.
    Myth did not even have to look to know the Sorcerer was behind him now. He had expected after his initial mental assault that the Tsoo healer would teleport to the back of the alleyway to try to divert their attacker’s attention in two different directions.
    The Sorcerer did not notice the darkness that already seemed to be welling up from the ground beneath him. Before he had any chance of aiding his companions, Myth tore a rift to the dark dimension at the Sorcerer’s feet. Murky tentacles snaked up from the ground and wrapped around the Sorcerer’s body, squeezing with incredible force. Unable to focus through the pain, the Sorcerer could not teleport away from the crushing hold of the tentacles that held him.
    With their leader out of the way for now, Myth turned back to the still-dazed mob and let a relentless barrage of dark energy loose on the closest Ink Man. It only took a moment to take out the first of the mesmerizers, but to Myth’s dismay, by the time he turned his attention to the second Ink Man, some of the Enforcers were stumbling to their feet and shaking themselves from their daze.
    Myth knew he did not have much time. If he did not take this Ink Man out soon the Enforcers would be all over him; on top of that, the Sorcerer would not be held forever. Blast after blast of energy leapt from Myth’s outstretched hands, slamming into the helpless Ink Man.
    A blur of motion to Myth’s side caught his attention and he ducked just in time to avoid catching the business end of a katana in his neck. Instinctively, Myth let loose a blast of negative energy into the chest of the Enforcer at point blank range. The draining effects of the blow left the Tsoo gasping for air and stumbling into some of his still-confused companions.
    Myth quickly turned his attention back to the Ink Man, ready to knock him unconscious with one final blast. To his surprise and confusion, however, the Ink Man was not crumpled against the alley wall but on his feet and ready to fight. Myth had just enough time to see the Sorcerer standing behind the refreshed Ink Man before a ripple of mystic energy sprung from the mesmerizer’s finger tips. Myth leapt backwards, trying to avoid the attack, but he was too late.  The blow sent his mind reeling. The world went into a blur and his body went limp.
    Myth stumbled backwards in a daze, trying to put some space between himself and his attackers, but to no avail. A blow struck the hero in the face with agonizing strength, sending him tumbling into a stack of trash cans. His mind numbly registered hit after hit landing on his prostrate body.
    Get on your feet! Myth screamed to himself. He managed to drag himself out of the horrible daze just in time to see a kama swing down toward his face. Myth instinctively let loose a blast of a dark energy at the weapon, sending it spiraling into the air, and causing the Enforcer that had been wielding the weapon to jump back and cradle his numbed hand. Myth was on his feet instantly and, after breaking free from the mob, bolted down the alley and around the corner in a desperate attempt to put some distance between himself and the Tsoo before the Ink Man could cast yet another spell on him. Myth barely had enough time to catch his breath before the Sorcerer appeared in front of him in a flash of light.
    Take him out! Myth’s mind roared to his body. The Sorcerer let loose a devastating blast of mystic energy. Myth side-stepped the attack and, centering himself, he leveled both of his fists at the Sorcerer and lashed out with a relentless volley of negative energy. Each blow knocked the Tsoo leader back a step until he was pinned between a wall and Myth’s relentless assault. Finally, after a series of draining attacks, the Sorcerer collapsed to the ground.
    There was little time for Myth to recover, because no sooner had he finished taking down the Sorcerer, than the rest of the gang came crashing around the corner, Hell-bent on revenging their defeated leader. Myth was on the move in an instant, running down the alleyway. He launched sporadic attacks back at the Tsoo, mostly directed at the Ink Man, but given the speed at which he was retreating, few blasts actually hit their target.
    I will never take these guys down like this, Myth told himself, mustering his resolve. Time to stop running.
    He quickly dodged around the corner of another building and held his position. He took a brief second to focus and clear his mind before drawing a mass of dark energy into each of his fists.
    The gang of Tsoo rounded the corner at full sprint, Ink Man in the lead. Myth let loose on them with everything he had. The Ink Man took the first massive blow squarely in the chest and collapsed to the ground.
    With their leaders out of the way, the rest of the disheartened gang fell easily under the hero’s assault. In less than a minute, the unconscious bodies of the remaining Enforcers littered the alleyway.
    Myth stood over the fallen Tsoo, struggling to recover from the ordeal. He had been shaken by the fight in a way that he had never experienced before. Something had triggered in his mind during the conflict. It was a sense of responsibility, a sense of concern. In all reality, he never should have won that fight; the odds were stacked against him and the circumstances were all wrong. Yet he had won, or more specifically he had not let himself lose. For the first time in his life he had cared that his actions had an effect on something greater than just himself.
    Myth wiped a trail of blood from his lips and used his mind to send his body into a temporary state of accelerated regeneration. Once Myth felt the pain from his wounds disappearing, he left the alley with a sigh of relief and made his way back to the tailor’s shop.
    By the time he stepped in the front doors of Icon, the only traces of Myth’s confrontation were a couple rips and spots of blood on his T-shirt. His mental healing abilities had completely erased all of the cuts and bruises he had suffered.
    Walking confidently up to the salesman, who still stood nervously at the rear of the store, Myth pulled a kama that he had taken from one of the fallen Tsoo out of his belt and tossed it on the counter. “That is all that is left of your Tsoo problem.”
    The salesman’s bundle of nerves seemed to snap when he saw the weapon and he said, “Oh, what a dreadful thing. Get it out of here; I abhor violence you know.”
    “Only when it’s directed at you, it seems,” Myth noted. “You did not have any trouble sending me out there to cause a little violence when it suited your cause. Now we had a deal, where is my suit?”
    “Yes, quite right,” the salesman replied, frowning deeply at Myth’s critique. “It’s all done, of course. I put together a rather simple but striking outfit based on the information I got from you earlier,” the salesman said and led Myth to a dressing room.
    “Information? I did not leave any information,” Myth said, curiously wondering if maybe he had been hit in the head a little harder than he had thought.
    “Oh nonsense,” the salesman replied, flashing a knowing grin. “You do not think that you are the only telepath on the planet, do you? I am not as strong as you, of course, but I get by. One look at a customer’s body and mind; that’s all I need.” As he said the last words, the salesman opened the door to the dressing room and Myth saw that inside, on a mannequin roughly the same size and build as his own body, hung a white costume with faded gray highlights and emblems. It was relatively plain, with a mask that covered the upper portion of the face, leaving the nose and jaw exposed, and a belt designed more for looks than utility.
    “Now the fabric is, of course, much tougher than your current apparel. The colors should match you quite nicely, and the star on the chest, as I am sure you can guess, is symbol of myths and legends and that sort of thing. So it will match your name as well.” In fact, Myth would not have guessed it but now that the salesman had explained it, the idea appealed to him. “Anyway, try it on and tell me what you think.”
    Once Myth had changed, he stood in front of the full body mirror and was quite surprised at what he saw. He no longer looked like a street wanderer and a brawler; he looked like a hero. He had not expected to get a costume so quickly, especially not one that fit his body and personality so perfectly. He had never been one to care about his appearances enough to do anything more than make sure he wore clean T-shirts,but as he looked in the mirror, an old cliché came to mind about how the ‘suit makes them man’. Myth still did not believe such things, but he had to admit to himself that the outfit did make a huge change in his presence. He had only worn it for a few seconds and already it felt like he had owned it for his entire life.
    It was a small step to take in his attempt to reform his life style, but to Myth it felt like he emerged from the Icon shop a new person, reborn.


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