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by: Rebecca McQuarrie
It’s hard to feel special in a city filled with other special people. I’m not using special in the sense of short busses and helmets, but in the sense of being different…unique. It’s even harder when the people you work with and the friends you spend time with all have exceptional skills that they were born with and you’re just, well…normal. They all have ‘Super powers’ if you will. I hesitate to use that term. In a city of “Heroes” it’s definitely overused, but shooting energy out of their hands and calling up storms qualify as ‘super’ in my book. Me? I’m good with a katana. Big deal. The only reason I even have that skill is because I was raised by a ‘Super’ Group. When my mother and sister disappeared, my guardians were concerned for my safety and trained me to defend myself. Even if I lived somewhere other than Paragon, I doubt my skill would mark me as special. Who would be in awe of a woman with a sharp knife?
With a sigh, Zoe set down her pen and closed her journal. She had kept journals as long as she could remember. ‘Therapy’ is what her counselor called it, but most days if felt like homework. She had to admit though, that it did help to vent her frustrations sometimes. The rest of the time she took it out on the local thugs. Looking up from the park bench where she was sitting, she noticed a group of them across the way harassing an elderly gentleman. She quickly and discreetly stashed her belongings under the bench and headed in the group’s direction. Noticing that the harassment was bordering on something more violent, she picked up speed and pulled her ever-present katana from its sheath. Closing in on the group, she leapt off the back of another bench and landed in the middle of the minions. With her steel flashing, Zoe swung her sword in an arc dealing damage in a wide circle.
“I’ll learn ya to mess with the Outcasts,” the apparent leader said as he landed a lucky blow.
Knocking the thug off of her with an uppercut, she responded, “While this may not teach you proper English, at the very least it should teach you some respect.” She then proceeded to clean up the rest of the ruffians and tag them so they could be transported to the Zig.
“Over-confident punks,” she muttered, as she wiped off her blade and straightened her flack jacket.
“Thank you so much,” said a voice from behind her. She turned to see the man she had protected cowering alongside a garbage can.
“It was no problem sir. Let’s just say it was therapeutic. I’m glad you’re ok.”
“I’m more than ok, I’m alive. That was amazing,” he said, and then continued to shower praise on the heroine.
“It really wasn’t much sir, honestly. Would you like me to escort you to wherever you were heading?” By this time, Zoe was fighting a blush and glancing around at the people passing by, hoping they weren’t attracting too much attention.
“It certainly was something,” answered the man. “Nowadays all you young heroes are all after the head honchos, the big bosses and Archvillains. Not to mention being all tied up with Task Forces and such. I read the paper. I know how it is out there. No one stops to help the little guy anymore. As to where I was going, that doesn’t matter; because right now I’m heading to the nearest restaurant to buy you lunch.”
“That’s really not necessary….”
“Shush. I won’t take no for an answer. My name is Marv by the way. It was a pleasure to be saved by you.”
With a laugh, she took the arm he offered her and said, “My name is Zoe, and it was a pleasure saving you.”
After a detour across the park to collect her bag, the couple headed to a local mom and pop diner that served the best Ruben sandwiches in town. The heroine and her temporary charge were relaxing after their meal with a cup of coffee and a slice of pie when Marv asked, “Do you miss her?”
Slightly confused, Zoe asked, “Who?”
Growing a little more concerned, as the topic hadn’t come up during the meal, she asked, “What makes you think that I don’t see my mother?”
With a look in his eyes that spoke of secrets and knowing and a grandfatherly understanding, he said softly, “A special young lady like yourself typically isn’t raised by an overbearing mother. And if by chance she was, that mother wouldn’t approve and therefore you would miss her.”
“I’m not special. Look around. There are at least six other heroes in this diner alone. Most of the people in this city can save people as well as, if not better, than I can. That makes me normal. If anything it makes me mediocre or inferior.”
“No. Never inferior or mediocre. Don’t let public opinion and envy get the best of you. If you think that you are not as good, then work to become better. I watched you execute Sting of the Wasp and Divine Avalanche flawlessly. Why not Soaring Dragon? Why not Golden Dragonfly?”
“I don’t know those stances.” After a thought filled pause, Zoe glanced up at him sharply and asked, “How do you know those names? Who are you?”
“A teacher, if you would like me to be. It has been many years, and this old body cannot do a lot of things anymore, but in time it will remember and respond.”
A look of sorrow briefly clouded his face and he stared out the window for a short time before he answered her. “I lost my own daughter years ago. You remind me of her. Her mother was not around to see her become a woman and so I taught her what I could in the short time we had together. Unfortunately fate had bigger plans than we, and she was torn from my life long before she should have been. Time may have taken my strength, but it was the loss of her that stole my spirit. When I saw you courageously leap to my defense, I saw the same look of inner strength and pride that once graced Kylee’s face, a looked that once graced mine. Ack, listen to me doddering like a senile old man. We learn from the past so we can teach the future. So tell me Zoe, are you ready learn?”
Not knowing how to answer him, Zoe took a drink of her coffee and watched him thoughtfully over the rim of her mug. If this man was speaking truthfully, then she couldn’t even consider turning him down. There were few Masters left in the world, and this man spoke as if he were one, or at the very least, had studied under one. But, what if it was a trap or a con? Well, she thought, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. After all, he is an old man. What harm could there be in indulging him?
Having reached her decision Zoe looked at her new teacher sitting across the table from her and nodded her head in acceptance. “Where do we begin?”
“Why, at the beginning of course,” he cackled as he leapt to his feet more agilely than Zoe would have imagined possible. He tossed down money to cover the bill and headed for the door. “Are you coming my dear,” he asked looking back at her.
Shaking off her surprise, she hopped up and followed
him into her future.