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To the Victor…
Chapter 10: Foundations
by Tog
(Part 2 of 2)


The reporter came back on camera.  “That was Judge Evers reading a prepared statement regarding the reports of Heroes crossing the line this afternoon.  It certainly sounds like a dark day for Paragon City.  This is Justine Almage, reporting from the courthouse.  Back to you, Dave.”

“Thanks, Justine.  In other news, the first batch of new, environmentally friendly vehicles was delivered to the federal government today.”

Tog turned off the television and sat staring at the blank screen.  There had always been the occasional overzealous young hero that ran the risk of crossing that line between being a hero and being a bully, but this many reports coming in all at once was something he just couldn’t accept.  Deep down, he had to admit that a little bit of him had been expecting it.

The previous month saw the minions of the Winter Lord plague the city.  They were everywhere, and with them, scores of young heroes looking to make a name for themselves.  Once things got back to normal, all those young heroes were lost.  There were no more giant monsters running through the city, but that was all most of these new heroes could do.  It was almost like they had focused so intently on fighting the snowy abominations that they had no idea how to go about stopping a simple purse snatching.  Many felt such petty crime was beneath them, and said so time and time again.  That was the reason Tog had started going around to local schools and colleges.  Most of the new heroes would be coming from those places and it seemed only right to see that the ones that were got started off right.

Lista plopped down on the couch beside him and grabbed the remote.  “You’re done with that, right?

“Looks like it.”

“Good.  There is a show on about the fake lunar base.”

“Armstrong Base?  It’s not fake.  Everyone knows it’s up there.”

“See what you think after you see this.”

“Isn’t this done by the same people that say Boomtown wasn’t destroyed by the Rikti, but was hit with some secret government bomb in an attempt to get rid of a lot of the homeless people while convincing the public to attack the formerly non-hostile Rikti in retaliation?”

“No, that’s a different group.  This one says that Armstrong base doesn’t exist and that the whole thing was a fake, because it’s impossible to leave the Earth’s gravitational pull.  They say that the space is really kind of a solid gas, like a gelatin desert, where all the other planets and stuff are the bits of fruit, but the governments of the world have to keep the whole thing secret to continue to use the money that goes into the space programs to secretly fund other clandestine operations, like hiding the tunnels that connect North America to Europe and Asia that were built to allow for the secret transportation of drugs and electronics from one nation to the other.”

Tog looked at her with concern.  “You don’t really buy into that stuff do you?”

“Nah, not really.  It’s fun to watch though, and it does make you think.  What if it were true?  What other huge conspiracies could be happening right before our eyes?”

“Yeah…okay.  I’m done here,” he said as he got up to leave.  “If Mourning hears this, or sees you watching this show, she’s gonna need to be sedated, and that’s not aggro I’m taking for you.”

“Pfft.  I clean up my own messes.”

“Then explain the bathroom,” yelled Tog as the lift doors closed.

~~~~~

Two weeks passed and Tog had been accepted to speak at a few high schools and colleges.  Currently, he was waiting in the wings at a high school near Paragon City.

“Students.  Attention please.”  The microphone rang out through the crowded auditorium.  When the students failed to calm down, the principal passed a small electronic device in front of the microphone causing an extreme amount of feedback.  “Ahh, there we go.  We have a special treat for you today.  As many of you know, there are many heroes in Paragon City.  We are fortunate enough to have some here today to talk to us about what it means to be a hero and where to turn if you think you might have a future in it.  I’ll now turn the time over to Tog.”

The principal left the stage to his chair in the wings as the half-hearted applause died out.  This was followed by gasps as Lista swooped down across the auditorium and made a few passes before landing and blasting a pair of targets on the side of the stage with a pair of ice bolts.

“Thank you, Principal Frobish.  And thank you, Lista.”  The voice that boomed throughout the hall managed to draw the attention of those few students who had not seen the size of the guy on stage.  Some seemed to be in awe, while others fought to stifle laughs.  Here, at their school, was a guy nearly 7 feet tall dressed like a bull.

“This is only my third time giving this talk, and I’ve learned a few things each time.  I hope this one will be no exception, but first I want to get some things out of the way.  I know I look silly to most of you.  The reason I’m dressed this way is to protect my identity and my friends.  I’m a hero in Paragon City, and that means I have made some enemies.  Not as many as I will, I’m sure, but enough for it to matter.  I don’t wear a cape because that is not how I see myself.  I’m a big guy that takes a beating and hits stuff with an axe.  A minotaur makes sense for what I do and how I do it.

“Those of you who are still fighting not to laugh, go ahead.  Laugh ‘til it hurts.  I’m pretty sure I can take a giggle or two, but I do ask one thing.  Those who feel the need to laugh at me, or this idea, should leave.  I’m here to speak to only those who want to listen.  If I end up talking to one person out of this entire school it won’t be a waste of my time.  As for what those of you who are not interested do with your time, I don’t really care.”

A few students got up to leave, and looked back as if they were expecting to be stopped.  When no one said a word to them, they disappeared into the hallway.  In all it was less than 10 percent of the student body.

“I expected more to leave actually.  By the way, those who chose to stay, if you want to leave at any time, you are more than welcome to.  Now then, for those who have chosen to stay, I’d like to introduce a couple of other people I work with.  This is Dr. Jensen.  She’s a psychiatrist and is here to answer any medical questions that may come up.  The taller woman here is Lista.  She’s a fellow hero and is here to awe you all with some demonstrations later.

“So, why am I here?  I’m here to talk to the very few of you out there that might be going through some sort of change that isn’t covered in that film you watched in health class.  You know, the one where the boys and girls went to different rooms?  I’m talking about changes like being able to control fire, or shoot energy or ice.  I’m talking about getting really mad at something and punching a hole through a cinderblock wall.  I’m talking about feeling so badly about someone getting hurt that a pulse of something radiates from your body and makes the hurting stop.  Most of you are through with puberty.  For people who are likely to have mutant abilities it means that if you have them, they have probably begun showing up in some way by now.  Other people may come across them at a later time through magic or technology.  However you get them, if you get them at all, you have a responsibility to yourself, and all those around you to use them wisely.

“Many of you may not be aware of the attacks on Paragon City a few weeks ago.  Scores of giant snow men covered the city and heroes came from all around to help drive them off.  In the end, we did succeed, but there was a cost.  Many of the young heroes became lost as to what to do or how to do it.  They had focused so much on battling the minions of the Winter Lord that they were not capable of doing anything else.  Some of them are struggling by, while others have moved away.  It is our goal to help new heroes avoid those mistakes by learning how to use and control their powers from the start.  For anyone that may have an interest in it, there is a telephone number on the screen behind me.  Call it any time, day or night.  You don’t have to tell us anything about yourself, but if you think you may be developing powers of any kind, you really should seek guidance.”

The next 30 minutes were spent answering basic questions about being a hero with only a few questions intended to be disruptive.  At the end of the assembly, the three heroes felt that it had gone well enough.   There didn’t seem to be anyone that showed any deeply personal interest in the subject, but that was actually expected.

Once the talk was over, the trio headed back to the base to grab some lunch before heading off to Dark Astoria to find some book on ancient magic. As they entered, the base computer, Athena, alerted them to some messages.

Tog had three.  The first was from HAAL who spoke in an artificial way, like a really good voice modulator.  The second was from Reginald Danforth, the multi-billionaire industrialist.  The last was from Agent Waters.

HAAL’s message was pretty straight forward.  HAAL was an artificial life form that was initially programmed to do whatever it took to keep heroes out of the hospital without interfering in their crime fighting activities.  At first, he would follow small groups and try to keep them safe through the use of force fields.  Eventually he came to realize that teaching a hero how to actually survive worked better than trying to protect them.  When he got word of Tog’s trips to the schools, it seemed only natural for them to team up.

Tog flagged this to save and went on to the second message.

Reginald Danforth was well known as a developer of many of the high tech devices used by many heroes.  Syzygia Industrial also supplied vehicles and equipment to the police and military, and only narrowly got outbid for a new type of ultra small flying craft meant to battle the Sky Skiffs used by the Sky Raiders. 

Tog was utterly amazed that a man like this would contact him.  He was more amazed at the offer Danforth presented.  Danforth was offering to supply a facility and training materials for a school to train new heroes, no strings attached.

Finally, he played the message from Agent Waters.  They had broken the ciphers sent out in the news paper and the poker games.  Things were really big, and she asked to see them all first thing in the morning.

It was too good to be true!  A huge break in the case that brought them together, then HAAL and Danforth, both wanting to help this little pet project of his, and both unsolicited.  He started to call Danforth back, then paused.  It would be best if he were to think this through.  Maybe even to make a few practice calls with Epim or Mourning.

As he went back to the entry way to see if he could find them, the holographic body of Athena shimmered into being in front of him.

“Welcome to our visitor’s lounge, Kym.  I have contacted Dr. Jensen and she should be here momentarily.  Feel free to have a seat while you wait.  She won’t be long.”

Kym looked up at Tog and managed a weak smile.  “You didn’t look that big on stage.”

“Oh, did I speak at your school today?”

“No.  Last week.  It took me a while to get up the nerve to actually come in here.”

“Are you manifesting powers of some sort?”

“I’d rather talk to the doctor about it.”

“Okay.  If you need anything, call out to Athena, and she’ll see that you’re taken care of.”

He excused himself from the girl before him and turned back to Athena.  “Do you know the location of Mourning Angel?”

“Yes.  She got a message from Beau and went to meet him in the park.”

“Guess I’ll have to wing it then.  I need to make a few calls, and short of a new invasion, I really don’t want to be disturbed.”

“Very well.”

~~~~~

Once again the red light appeared to indicate the mic was active.  As each branch gave its report, he listened intently.  Things were back on track.  There was a new code in place, and it would be live in three weeks.  He had an operative in the door of the opposition.  The next phase was coming along ahead of schedule.  It was time to move ahead.





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