About Me

Chapter XI


Chapter XI


Excerpt from the Book I’m In the League

Chapter 9

Johnny, I’m Only Dancing



            My fingers shook as I pressed my palms flat against the tarmac and pushed myself up.  My broken ribs begged me to leave, but I wouldn’t do it.  I couldn’t do it.  I rose up on wobbly knees and then to even wobblier legs.  God, how stupid I was back then.  Youth really is wasted on the young.  I wasn’t thinking that night.  It was like my brain had completely shut off. 

            My left leg took a forward position, with my right leg moving behind as support and pivot.  My hands slow rose to an attack/defense position, and I squared off against Abysmal.  I squared off against Abysmal.  I could write this sentence a thousand times and it still wouldn’t make any sense.  The few times the Holy Avenger and I went up against him, it was never head-to-head.  It was always sneak attacks and distractions.  Smoke and mirrors.  Never would the Holy Avenger try to go mano-a-mano with him.  In short, such a thing would be suicide. 

            Abysmal didn’t have a regular hero he was the adversary to, but had fought Major Tom several times and proved to be rather formidable during those encounters.  And here I was, trying standing up against him saying to him that I – with no powers or special abilities, just hand-to-hand combat and martial arts training, along with a few gadgets – was just as good as Major Tom.  Heh.  If the battle was a contest of egos, that night I could have beaten Dr. 253. 

            I stood there before him.  Abysmal said something as he walked up, stepping out of the shadows of Hangar 7.  I couldn’t hear anything.  My head was filled with the drumming sound of my heart pounding in my chest, and my own heavy breathing. 

            As soon as Abysmal was in full view I attacked.  I leapt forward with a flying kick.  Stupid move.  A flying kick is never a good attack unless your opponent is deaf and blind, or completely defenseless.  Even then, you should think twice.  No matter what, though, you certainly don’t start off a fight with it. 

            Abysmal stood like a statue.  He simply raised his right hand up to block.  My foot slammed into his hand, and for a moment I was frozen in the air.  He didn’t move at all.  His body didn’t budge or waiver.  My foot never even connected with him.  His kinetic force pushed back against me, and the inertia of my kick against his force power suspended me in the air. 

            My defiance of gravity didn’t last long, and a few seconds later I fell to the ground.  I was in rare form that night.  For the rest of the fight, all two minutes of it, it was like I was hovering above my body watching myself.  I was no longer a participant in my recklessness, but a spectator. 

            Let me tell you something, despite everything else, I was amazing.  My attacks, though slightly sloppy and shaky, were fluid and direct.  I pressed the attack and never let up, the combination of hits and kicks were incredible.  I did things I didn’t even think were possible.  Just thinking about those two minutes takes my breath away.  Unfortunately, I can’t think about those two minutes without thinking about the seventy two hours of pain and misery that followed. 

            As I landed from my flying kick, I immediately went into another move.  I had come down on all fours like a cat.  My right leg snaked out and swooped low to the ground, aiming for Abysmal’s legs.  As my leg arced out, my right hand went into the pouch on my belt and pulled out three stunners.  Once removed from the magnetic lined pouch, the marbles sized balls would send a continuous 1200 kilovolt current between them for ten seconds.  It didn’t matter if they hit or not, I didn’t think they would, the object was to keep him off balance and on the defensive.  Eventually, one of my attacks would get through, and then it would be all over. 

            A gauntlet attack like that isn’t a bad idea, but in the end it comes down to endurance, and which one of you can hold out the longest.  You see this a lot with boxers, letting their opponent expend all of their energy until they can’t even put up their arms to defend themselves.  Once that happens – “say goodnight, Gracie.”  

            My leg sweep hit Abysmal’s ankle and rebounded against his kinetic force shield.  As soon as my leg moved back, my hand threw the three stunners in his direction.  The stunners hit his shield and the electricity from them lit up the area for a good eight seconds.  That may not seem like a long time, but as any bull-rider will tell you, eight seconds can feel like an eternity. 

            I had closed my eyes as soon as the stunners left my hands.  In the darkness, the arcing of electricity from those balls can be blinding.  Something I was counting on.  The stunners had given me the time to get up on my feet and move in with a flurry of punches aimed at Abysmal’s head and stomach. 

            You might question:  “Why not go for the crotch first?”  It certainly isn’t because it goes against the hero code of dirty fighting.  Most people in this business make sure, above all else, that they have their Faberge’s, so to speak, protected.  If you don’t protect your crotch, you have no business being a hero or villain. 

            I could go on describing each move I made, but after all, it was only two minutes and in the end, it didn’t mean anything. 

            During the fight, I had made Abysmal retreat about ten or twelve feet.  My last couple of punches had actually made contact with him.  I was so full of myself.  I was winning, or so I told myself.  Even as Abysmal backed away, something inside me said I should, too.  If nothing else, flip on the locator on my belt so that the Holy Avenger would know where I was.  No. 

            Abysmal had taken a step back, after a front kick to his stomach.  I dove in the air, right fist cocked back, preparing to bring the house down on him.  Stupid.  The move was too open, and left me defenseless. 

            Under his mask, I could see Abymal’s eyes.  Cold and evil.  I think he was annoyed.  Inside, he was like all the others.  He felt slighted that a “kid” would dare go against him.  He was insulted, and he wanted to deliver a message to them. 

            Abysmal’s left hade came up, fingers bawled into a fist.  He punched upward at my descending body.  I felt it.  I felt the immense power of the blow as it hit me broad in the stomach.  My back radiated with pain.  White-hot fiery pain that spread out like radio waves from somewhere in my lower spine.  This was different than the hit I had taken to the chest earlier.  I wasn’t knocked backwards.  For the second time that night, I found myself suspended in the air; much longer this time.  I remember my legs aching and then going numb.  The pain in my back continued to throb in my mind, but in truth I didn’t actually feel it anymore.  My entire body went limp as I hung in the air like a used puppet hoisted a foot above Abymal’s fist. 

            Abysmal withdrew his arm, and I fell to the ground.  He looked down at me laying there.  In my mind I knew it was over.  It was all over. 

            I know why people still refer to me as Kid Paladin, and I don’t mind anymore.  Kid Paladin was a hero.  Paladin was a failure. 

            From my peripheral I could see Abysmal looking down at me.  His face was shadowed by the light that hung overhead.  Tears blurred my vision.  I could feel myself losing consciousness, but I heard what he said.  I heard it as clear as anything I’ve ever heard before. 

            “Go tell your gods what I have done.”  My gods.  The other heroes. 

            “Go tell your gods what I have done.” Abysmal said before disappearing into the darkness. 

End of chapter 9




Future City

            Celia didn’t know why she had come there.  She had gotten on the bus to Future City two cities away from where she lived.  She knew her mother and Charles would be looking for her, and it wasn’t that she didn’t care, in fact, leaving them and knowing how heart broken and scared they would be made her decision even harder.  She left because she cared.  Every time the bus stopped she contemplated getting off and going back home, but she couldn’t. 

            Jonni and Charles only wanted the best for her, and neither of them knew that she had this inside her.  Hell, even she didn’t know.  But, considering who her father was, it was inevitable. 

            Most children with powers manifest at puberty.  Makes sense that the changes in the body during that time would cause those cells to activate.  Celia could only guess that for years, she had been suppressing it.  It had to come out eventually, and after being held inside for so many years, when it did, it did with a vengeance.  Of course, no one could guess what shape it would take.  Rarely ever did the child of a person with abilities retain the abilities of their parents.  It was more random than eye and hair color. 

            Had she stayed, Jonni and Charles could have helped her.  They could have shown her how to control her powers; how to live with them.  That would have been great, had she manifested earlier without everyone in the world knowing.  She couldn’t do it now.  Not with everyone in the town watching her, passing judgment.  No, this was better.  Without her being there, it would be easier for Jonni and Charles to resume leading their semi-normal lives.  Once everything had died down, and she could control herself, Celia would come home.  In the meantime, she was here, sitting in the food court of the bus station in Future City trying to figure out why in the hell she had come there.  Of all the places in the country, why had she come there? 

            Celia looked at the cold fries and wrapped them in the waxy paper that her burger had been wrapped in.  She looked around to see if anyone was a watching her and quickly slid them inside her pack.  She hadn’t planned her runaway and only took what money was at hand.  She personally had a little over twenty dollars in her wallet.  She had stopped in the living room on her way out and took the “incidental” fifty that her parents kept in the ornamental box on the fireplace mantle.  Most of what she had was used to buy the bus ticket.  Had she been thinking, or even planned at all, she would have taken some food from the kitchen, maybe a soda or two. 

            So, here she was. Probably the second to last place on Earth she’d rather be, with seven dollars to her name.  She had no place to go, no place to sleep, and after those cold fries were gone later tonight, nothing to eat.  Seven dollars wasn’t going to take her very far. 

            There was one thing seven dollars could do.  She could use part of it to make a phone call and tell Charles and Jonni where she was.  Oh God.  This wasn’t at all how she wanted things to go.  What was she thinking?  Celia dropped her head in her hands and stared at the table top.  This was all a mistake.  She said to herself. 

            Caroline sat quietly on the base of the Future City statue that stood in the center of the bust station food court.  The statue was a copper version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man inside an atomic symbol.  On the base of the statue, underneath where Caroline sat, was a plaque that read: “Future City.  Home of Heroes.” 

            Caroline was hungry, and truth be known, very, very tired.  The bus station was constantly bustling with people, one of the reasons why she felt safe, but the constant traffic made it hard for her to find a place to sleep.  When Caroline slept, she became visible again, something she learned the hard way, and was lucky to have escaped from that particularly unpleasant situation.  She didn’t want to think about that, but knew that if she didn’t find someplace safe where she could sleep soon, she might just fall asleep right there. 

            Caroline saw the teenage girl when she got off the bus and had followed her around for a while.  The girl was nothing special, at least not compared to what she had seen in the city.  The city was so vast and so different then what she was used to back home.  She had seen pictures and movies about the city, but being there was another experience altogether.  The girl stuck out to her, but she didn’t know why.  Something about the teenager made Caroline feel… not so alone.  The teenager was about average height and build.  A little pudgy around the middle, maybe, but not overweight.  She wore torn jeans with fishnet patches over the knee holes.  The back legs of the jeans were ragged and torn from where she had walked on the ends of oversized pants for so long.  She wore a simple black tee shirt that hugged her belly a bit too much and had a tendency to ride up as she moved; to which she would constantly pull it back down.  Her left arm was covered from wrist to mid-forearm with various bracelets; some metal, but mostly rubber or plastic.  Contrast to her left arm, the right had no bracelets, but each finger on her right hand bore a ring, some more than one.  Around her neck she wore a navy blue choker with symbols that Caroline couldn’t make out.  The teenager had a cute heart shaped face with almost no make-up, just heavy black eyeliner and deep green eye shadow.  Her hair was dyed black with streaks of blue and red mixed in. 

            Caroline noticed that, like her, the girl carried one small bag.  As she walked into the bus station, she stopped and stood in place, forcing everyone to walk around her.  Caroline remembered doing that exact same thing.  She had watched people over the past week.  The ones that knew where they were going never broke stride and moved from one place to another with knowing certainty.  Others, who weren’t quiet sure where to go next, walked and looked around with a mixture of fascination and uncertainty.  They would slow as they walked around, and would often walk in circle, looking for signs and directions to tell them where to go.  Then, there were the one like Caroline and the teenager who stopped as soon as they entered the station.  Unlike the ones who knew where to go, and the ones who were a little lost, they had no place to go.  Their goal was to get to Future City.  Once there, they were faced with the unanswerable question: “Now what?” 

            The teenage girl wasn’t the first that Caroline had seen like this, but she was oddly drawn to her.  The more she watched her, the more comfortable she felt watching her, and being near her.  Near, being an objective term, as Caroline had not come within twenty five feet of her the entire time.  Mostly she watched from a distance, invisible to everyone, moving just close enough to keep her in view. 

            Now, as Caroline’s stomach growled, and her eyes grew heavy, she realized that she would need to move a little closer.  She had seen the teenage girl place her leftover french fries in her pack.  Her stomach was telling her that she needed those fries. 

            Caroline climbed down from the statue’s base and slowly made her way over to where the girl sat.  The teenager wasn’t even looking at her, as if such a thing was possible, her head was buried in her hands.  Caroline tried to keep her distance, but still get close enough to do what was needed. 

            Stealthily, she reached out and gripped the tab of the pack’s zipper.  Caroline pulled it slowly, trying to minimize the “ticking” sound as the slider separated the teeth.  As the mouth of the zipper tape opened just enough for her to get her hand inside, Caroline let go of the tab and inched her hand forward.  Her finger felt the waxy paper and closed around it.  Since the teenager had her head down, Caroline hadn’t bothered to watch her like she others before when taking food, so she failed to notice as the older girl looked up and saw her leftover fires leaving her bag on their own. 

            “What the hell?” questioned the older girl.  She reached out and grabbed Caroline’s hand.  A quick shot of electricity ran through her arm, making it go numb and drop the fries.  The french fries hit the ground, but stayed wrapped in the paper.  Caroline looked up at the teenager.  The girl’s grip on her hand tightened as she questioned her. 

            “Who are you?”

            Caroline suddenly realized she had become visible.  The shock of electricity and surprise of being caught, combined with the lack of food and sleep were too much for her, and she collapsed.  

            Celia looked at herself in the reflective surface of the food court table and stared blankly.  She still didn’t know what to do.  She couldn’t hang around the bust station forever.  She’d have to find a place to go.  She needed to find away to get money, get food, get shelter.  None of which she could do until she learned how to control her newfound abilities.  She had shocked several people while on the bus or passing by them.  The shocks were mild, comparatively, and could be easily passed off as static electricity, but the fact that they were beyond her control worried her. 

            Celia sighed deeply.  She moved her hands over her face and spread them out to push the hair out of her eyes.  It was then that she saw the movement reflected in the tabletop.  She turned her head sharply to see it more clearly.  Even seeing it didn’t make it any more believable.  Celia’s back pack was opening by itself. 

            Celia watched, in surprise and fascination as the zipper retracted just enough so that… that her fries could escape?  Celia’s stomach flipped suddenly as she watched the wrapper of fries float out of her pack.  What had she just eaten?  There had to be something in there.  A bug, maybe that she had wrapped up on accident and was now flying the food away. 

            “What the hell?” Celia questioned. 

            Celia reached out and grabbed the fries before they got too far away.  Celia’s hand wrapped around something soft and fleshy, never touching the wrapped fries.  A strong electrical shock pulsed from her hand, and the fries fell to the ground.  To her amazement, a young girl materialized before her eyes.  Celia realized that she was holding the young girl by the hand. 

            The young girl didn’t look homeless, or like some street urchin.  He clothes were dingy and a little dirty, but looked like they were in good condition.  Her blond hair was tangled and disheveled as if it hadn’t been combed in days, not weeks.  The young girl’s face was dirty with food remnants.  She had food crumbs around her mouth, and chocolate and juice stains on her upper lip and the tip of her nose. 

            “Who are you?” 

            The now visible young girl looked at Celia.  Her surprise at being caught and being seen was all over her face.  The girl’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she fell to the floor.  Celia knocked her chair backwards as she reached out and caught the younger girl before she hit the floor. 

            Celia looked at the ten year old girl in her arms, and looked around at the faces of the passersby.  No one paid them any special notice or gave them a second look.  Celia looked back down at Caroline and questioned: Where the hell did she come from?


No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment