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A Sentinel Never Falters

Thunder King

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Arlington National Cemetery, January 15th

Henry sighed and gazed at the stone before him. A friend of his, who had died alongside him decades before, during the Great War. He admired the light blanket of snow on the graves, and felt that his friend would have been proud to be buried there.

"Hey, it's me, Henry..." He said in his slight drawl. His baritone voice betrayed a hint of sadness, and nervousness. "I should have been here, a long time ago. I should have come visit you when they buried you. I should have come visit you when I got back from space..." "Life happened, and I just never got around to it. I've got no excuse or it, but I'm here now."

"I got this psychologist fellow, nice guy. He's a doctor, helped me deal with the 'transition' back to Earth. Now, back when I was still living on Earth, I couldn't see a point to that sort of stuff, but I can now, done me a lot of good. He said that this would help, seein' where you got buried. God there are a lot of soldiers here." He gazed down at the ground, having come closer to crying than he had in many, many years.

"I can't, I just. So many dead soldiers, dead men and women. This is why I quit fighting. This is why, when I got back to Earth, I stopped."

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"So I signed up and became a fireman. I don't take lives anymore, I save 'em. I've saved people, and cats, and dogs. I've saved livelihoods, too. My psychologist suggested that career path. When I go to bed, I see bodies sometimes, and have nightmares of people I've watched die, or killed myself. The job doesn't always help with the nightmares. But it helps me feel like I'm paying a debt. It helps me feel a little bit better inside. I don't know if I deserve to feel all that much better, but I didn't kill people for the wrong reasons. I fought for what I believed was a just cause. Protect my country, protect the innocent."

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"When I was in space, something happened to me, changed me. I have this, power now. Like fire that never leaves me and doesn't burn me. Fire I can command and control. I can lift an automobile as easily as I could a cardboard box. I can fly so fast that I can circle the whole Earth in seconds. I can repair broken bones. When I was in space, it made me the greatest soldier they had."

"Imagine my surprise when I got back to Earth. I'm not special, not even unique. All sorts of people can do some of the stuff I can do, or other, equally strange and wonderful things. Some of those people do bad things. They rob banks, they hurt people. Others do good things. They protect, they save. They fight people who hurt others, and defend those who can't defend themselves."

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"So, I'm fighting a new war now. A war on my own terms." He stared up at the sky, gazing resolutely up at the stars that he once called home.

"This isn't a war for territory, revenge, or anything like that. There are people out there who need help, who can't defend themselves. This is a war to protect those people. No more taking lives, no more dying on someone else's orders. I fight for freedom, and justice, and love. I fight so little boys and girls can live in peace."

He'd been standing there, in costume, talking to the stone. All of the guards and other people assumed that this hero was talking to a comrade in arms, and left him alone.

"There may never be a time where I won't close my eyes and see the dead. I may never be at peace. This isn't about that. I have the power to help make the world a better place, and that's exactly what I plan to do."

He vanished in a blur of blue light, straight into the air. He made his way towards Freedom City, having steeled his resolve. The psychologist was right, this had been good for him.

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