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July 2013 Vignette: Patriotism

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July 2013 


Greetings, everyone. 


Your July 2013 Vignette Theme for Freedom City Play By Post is: PATRIOTISM


A cultural attachment to one's homeland! Devotion to one's country! The last refuge of a scoundrel! It can be all this and more, depending on your character's nature and where exactly is they are from. Heroes in the world of Freedom generally don't work directly for governments (except for Victory and sometimes Cannonade), but some wear their colors like Miss Americana or Lady Liberty, and all of them have a relationship with patriotism - even the ones born in no nation at all still live in one now. Some heroes are proud citizens of their native land; some are refugees from a native land that spat them out like a peach pit. There's a lot to say on this subject. 


If you don't want to delve into that kind of deep character development, concentrating on more serious threats like an alien PC's reaction to all the funny red white and blue bunting hanging around the city in early July, or a team of bank robbers in Uncle Sam on Stilts costumes taking advantage of the holiday to do some bad stuff, that's just fine too. 


This should not be political. (You should know this already.)


Your vignette should be posted by the end of July 31, 2013, EST. 


Go ahead and post them to this thread.


Do it for the original Freedom Eagle...Sam



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July 7th, 2013, 10:55 AM

Freedom City, NJ

Midtown, 800ft above Liberty St.


Jack glided like....well....an eagle through the steel and glass canyons of his city. He was far enough above the street that people on the ground might only notice him as a passing shadow, or see the sun glinting off the golden material of his pseudometal wings. People in the buildings looked out their windows to see his shape fly by at a much more lesuirely speed then he usually was while flying.

He did it so they could see what he was carrying. Some waved when they saw his package, and Jack waved back with a smile.
My city. My country, Jack thought, smiling to himself so broadly he thought his face might split open if he did it too long.

My city sings to me, all those sounds I hear below me, all the sight and smells. It's an American city, and it's happy to be one. I don't know if Freedom City has everything that's best about America in it, but I'd like to think it tries...and people like me try to help it make it more diverse and inclusive then it is before we're born into it.
Jack had spent plenty of time overseas during his time with AEGIS. He knew that the world often thought poorly of the United States, and frankly Jack couldn't always find it in his heart to blame them. The Flag was a symbol, and sometimes symbols could be misused by greedy men who thought nothing of what the symbol was supposed to mean. Jack did his best in AEGIS to make sure Americans didn't always have a reputation like that. He didn't always succeed, but he tried, and he hoped that at least made some kind of difference.
He banked around a skyscraper and the banner he carried trailed behind him, and he thought about what his country stood for, and hopefully what one day it would perfectly live up to. Justice. Equality. Opportunity. Idealism. And what was that last one? Oh right....

"Freedom," he said out loud to himself as he landed slowly cradling his package, letting it drift as majestically as he did himself, a ray of sunlight reflecting off of his wings as he set foot down onto the sidewalk next to McNider Memorial Hospital. The director of the hospital smiled at the sight, shading his eyes from the warm afternoon sun. "Thanks a lot Wings," Director Cross said as he straightened his glasses, using the most common nickname Jack's alter-ego picked up in the newspaper and in popular culture around the city itself.
"Not a problem. Did STAR Squad already cart RIOT off?" he said, halfway folding his cargo. Director Cross smoothed out his brown hair and nodded. "Public Works has already fixed the water pipe below the street SD Ivan froze. I love how quickly this city responds to a crisis," he noted laughing. "Thanks again: if you hadn't come along when you did...." he began but Jack held up a gauntleted hand. "If I hadn't, somebody else would have," he reassured, and he meant it when he said it, which made Cross smile even more.
"And thanks again for bringing the replacement. I know it's not really a big deal, but it didn't seem right to just leave the one Flag-Burner torched flying," he said, looking up at the empty pole above the hospital enterance. "No worries Doctor Cross. I keep spares in my utility belt," he quipped, before flying up to the awning above the automatic doors to the flag-pole, and hanging the flag up himself without another word. The summer wind blew and it flew even prouder then Jack himself did.
Jack stood up and let himself be seen by people one the streets and sidewalk watching, a golden-winged silhouetted against "Old Glory", before taking off into the sky, still smiling to himself. He was going to be late for work, but he didn't regret it one bit.



Edited by BType
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  • 3 weeks later...

Anger Versus Hope: What’s Your Legacy?

Gabriel Vignette: Patriotism


Limerick, Republic of Ireland

Evening, Late May 2013


Carson Finbar Keefe was enjoying being home. Oh, sure, it was always a pain to drag a duffle bag along at hypersonic speeds across the Atlantic. But not having to pay airline fees, or more importantly deal with hyper-paranoid airline security, made it all worth it. Besides, the way his powers worked meant it wasn’t an overly rough flight. Though he had made it in costume, just in case...


For now, he was talking a walk during sunset after a fine meal put on by his parents; his siblings were all out and about with their lives, so it had been a “modest†meal for “three†(there were leftovers aplenty). With Caron’s metabolism, that was probably for the best. The night air was refreshing, carrying all the scents of what still registered as “home†for him. Despite his years in Freedom City and all the friendships he’d made, there was still a fairly large part of him that thought of Limerick as his True Home. Perhaps one day, with the right circumstances, that would change, but for now, it wasn’t going to.


Suddenly, his ears caught the edges of...some kind of rally? Even as he walked closer, he turned his considerable sonic might to better hearing what was going on. What he did hear just made him frown heavily.


“-stand it! How many of you can? Oh, sure, they’re not in our streets any more, but they’re still looming over us! They still hold part of our territory! They’re just waiting until they get a chance to cut our legs out from underneath us, or just BUY us all out! Just you wait! You there, how hard is it for you to find work?â€


The crowd’s reaction was mixed, though the young lady pointed out by the speaker gave a noncommittal answer that the troublemaker took as a resounding affirmative..


“You see! They’re choking the life out of us slowly but surely! Bleeding us dry of jobs and money, all while half the banks taking loans are ENGLISH! They never stopped trying to control us, they just stopped using guns and soldiers for a while! Just a few more years, and they’ll try it again! Are you going to let that happen?â€


A few of the more gullible or excitable people started chanting “noâ€, and soon much of the crowd was taking up the chant. Until a voice somehow cut through all the noise despite seemingly being no louder than a normal conversation.


“That’d be great if it was at all close to the truth.â€


Almost as one, the crowd whirled to look at Carson, who was standing there with his hands in his pockets and a smile on his face. Slowly, he walked toward the stage, and the crowd parted like water around him. His presence was capturing their attention more thoroughly than the original speaker’s. He was “cheating†a bit, but a lot of it came from his classical training. And he figured that this didn’t quite count as “cheatingâ€, considering how nasty things might have gotten. He continued to speak in that same conversational tone as he walked.


“I mean, sure, things aren’t perfect. When have they ever been? And yeah, in the past, the British weren’t the nicest landlords. But they stepped out. And they’ve honored that, more and more as the years have gone on. As cooler heads prevailed, things got better and better. Now we stand as peers on the international stage. Opportunity grows here.


I’ve been working a lot in the United States for a couple years now. And I’ve heard it called “The Land of Opportunityâ€. And you know, they are right. There’s opportunity there, even if it’s not perfect.â€


He paused, his serious gaze sweeping the crowd that was listening with rapt attention.


“But they’re wrong, too. The Yanks have a Land of Opportunity, but so do we! We’re a leading exporter in pharmaceuticals and software! Not just our absolutely delicious food and drink, or our enchanting music and culture, ladies and gentlemen. We’re making and exporting things here that people across the world use! We’re making a difference!â€


The crowd was smiling and nodding, a few people having laughed at the food, drink, and culture comments.


“And way I hear it, we’re starting to make waves in other fields! Science, technology, even the “soft†studies! Ireland’s the home of a lot of great inventors. Not just ones past, but the ones I see before me here today!â€


One of the instigators growled and piped up.


“But the bloody English still control part of our nation! They try to pretty it up, but it’s an invasion, way I see it!â€


Gabriel gave the man a somber look and shook his head.


“Sorry friend, but you’re wrong. It’s unfortunate that our nation’s internal disagreements have brought forth the fruit they have, but the democratic majority in Northern Ireland spoke. We honored their wishes. That’s what civilized, democratic societies do. We upheld not just civilization, but our nation’s honor, when we let them choose their own path.â€


He paused, giving a thoughtful look.


“Perhaps one day, they will make a different choice. That’s for them to decide. I can guarantee you all this, though: Whatever they choose, England, the United Kingdom, will honor it. I know a few English from my time in Freedom City.â€


He gave an exaggerated stage wink toward the crowd.


“They’re mostly tea-chugging stiff-lipped fuddy-duddies, but they’re people just like you or I. They don’t usually throw great parties, but one thing I've found they’re good at is talking and even listening. And they just love it when you get all calm and reasonable with them, too. Now, I like a good friendly row as much as the next guy, but sometimes you have to bottle it up and play nice for your goal. And you know, they've left us alone! Sure, some of them don’t talk very nicely about us. But then, some of us do the same.â€


He gave the instigators a look.


“There’s jerks and saints on both sides. Always keep that in mind. They might be English, but they’re people, too. Besides, the Scots and those crazy Welsh are there to keep them from getting too uppity.â€


Laughter spread across the crowd.


“Anyways! I think there are a few pubs down the street that would appreciate some local business, don’t you? Come on, let’s all go have a bit inside, where there’s light. Old men like me don’t want to strain our eyes too much!â€


More laughter, and the crowd broke up. But the three men on the stage just glared at everyone as they left. Mostly Carson, but all of them.


Of course, they didn't realize that the jovial young man, who was answering questions and cracking jokes with several of the college-aged folks could still hear every word they said, clear as day. If they’d known that, they may have prevented what was to come.


As it was, Carson heard exactly where they planned to meet, and what they planned to do that night. And he was resolved that they’d have a bit of an interruption...


Later that night, eight somewhat shady-looking fellows were gathered in a slightly run-down barn on the farm property one of them owned.


“That stuck up know-it-all who abandoned his home turned the crowd against me! No one called or anything later. We’re not going to get any more support, not for a while.â€


The others nodded, and one that looked like he was the “brains†spoke.


“Just means we move tonight. Maybe make some examples. We start small here, get some momentum, then maybe we can get help from some of those fancy-pants who at least appreciate what we’re trying to do. Then we teach all the “hero†traitors what’s what. The Emerald Knights, and those so-called Archangels.â€


The burliest member gave a grin that was unbecoming a gentleman.


“Yeah, I’d love to teach a lesson to that-â€


His upcoming slew of racist and sexist remarks was cut off when the entire west side of the barn turned into nothing so much as a cloud of sawdust. Floating in, a halo of light streaming from his shining spear, was the sound-wielding hero Gabriel. He gave the men a smile that promised a disagreement if they didn't behave.


“You gentlemen seem to be plotting acts of criminality. Oh, and is that a collection of homemade explosives under your rack of not-likely-registered firearms? Joyous. Good thing I called the police, I’m sure we’ll all get this sorted out. Together. Without you making trouble.â€


The thug who’d been cut off snarled and rushed Gabriel. The butt end of the hero’s spear flashed into the man’s solar plexus, before a sonic pulse sent along the spear sent him sailing to the other side of the barn. Two more rushed and were dispatched similarly. Gabriel shook his head and looked at the other five. Suddenly, his words carried great and terrible weight as he leveled his gaze at them.


“Now, this country’s doing quite well for itself, and doesn't need the likes of you causing this kind of trouble. You’d just hurt things. Maybe there is injustice, but fear and death aren't how you fight them, especially not when you sow those seeds among the same people who already have injustice heaped upon them. That’s not how you fight these things in today’s world.â€


Somehow, they just crumpled in despair under those words. They didn't fully agree, but something about what he’d said just drove them into a dark pit of depression.


When the police arrived about five minutes later, Gabriel was standing in the same spot looking over the hoodlums. He gave a smile and a nod as the officers moved in.


“They should all be easy enough to get moving, gentlemen, though those three might have headaches when they wake up. Such a pity, that. I tried to not do any more damage to the property than necessary, but sometimes a dramatic entrance is just what you need to take the fight out of them.â€


The office in charge smiled as he stepped up and shook Gabriel’s hand.


“No problem, Mister Gabriel. You stopped them before they could do anything other than hold a rally or some such. Way I see it, a bit of barn damage isn't much next to that. At least this sort of thing isn’t, well...â€


Gabriel gave a gentle smile.


“Average? Everyday? You’re right. That’s because Ireland’s a good country with good people. None of us are perfect, but enough people stood up and said “enough†that that isn't how we live our lives any more. I heard about the speech the local gentleman gave, and he was right. Ireland’s got plenty of Opportunity. And it’s thanks to heroes like you and your fellows that it does. Take care, officer.â€


“You as well, Mister Gabriel.â€


With a rustle of fabric, Gabriel was airborne. He stopped about a thousand feet up, his gaze taking in all the surrounding countryside. He couldn’t help but grin.


If home was where the heart was, perhaps he was starting to feel at home in two places. Who said he had to pick just one or the other, right?

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False Glories, True Allegiances

Fenris Vignette: Patriotism

Remote Mountain Castle, Sweden

Afternoon, Mid-July 2013

Two more bolts of glowing arcane energy sizzled down the hallway and spattered uselessly off of the dark grey armor of the metal wolf-man stalking down the hall. Fenris gave another eerie electronic snarl and snapped off a quartet of shots from his Particle Projector Cannons, hitting both of the so-called “wizards†in the face and knocking them thoroughly unconscious, ruining their hair and hats in the process.

Suddenly, two cylinders clattered to the ground in front of him. He simply shut down his external sensor feeds for a few moments as the flash-bangs ineffectually exploded in front of him. Just as his vision returned, he saw he was ringed by paramilitary men wearing body armor and toting advanced-looking assault rifles.

“Oh my. A trap. How terrible.â€

Then he was behind the man on his left, lifting him above his head and tossing him into two of his fellows with a roar that sounded all too real. A flash of light and rush of air, and he was shredding another man’s weapon and armor while leaving him intact. Bolts of man-made lightning flashed out from his arms, and more of the mercenaries fell. It took less than a minute for the whole group to be disabled. Only one broken bone among them, for that matter.

His stalking of the halls continued until he came to a pair of metal double doors. He pushed against them. Locked.

“Well, good thing I’ve got a pair of can openers.â€

His claws extended and arced with electricity before digging in and actually starting to melt the metal of the doors. His suit’s muscles gave off a faint whine as they exerted themselves, before several points in the doors failed simultaneously, and they ripped apart in a sudden crashing sound. Fenris stepped forward, dusting his hands off and looking around.

He didn’t expect the warhammer that beaned him right in between the eyes, especially not the force behind it. He staggered back, his arms coming up in a basic defensive stance as his enhanced vision locked on the target. It was a burly redhead with glowing tattoos covering his bare torso and arms, a warhammer with more symbols  grasped in his hands. The man’s voice started out sounding like something from a Shakespearean play (in Swedish), but shifted to “average businessman†fairly quickly.

“Ha! Truly a fine hit, knave! Yeah, knave, gotta remember that. Anyways. You’re in trouble now, Fenris. Don’t know why you’d name yourself after the wolf that brings about Ragnarok, anyways. No way you match the real one’s power, and I’m just the first. Soon all of us will be running around as Einherjar and Asgardians! Instead of just one or two, we’ll have an entire army!â€

Fenris snorted and was suddenly behind the man, putting him in a half-nelson hold.

“Yeah, sure. An army. You barely know how to hold that thing, you’re just running off of, what, basic enhancement spells? You’re not moving right for someone with real experience, stolen or genuine.â€



“And as for my name, it’s because I spit in defiance of those who would call upon a pantheon of marauders and drunkards to empower their foolish quest for dominance. Maybe some of the Asgardians aren’t totally bad, but I’m not letting you all do this one way or another. I’ll howl my defiance to my dying breath at all of you.â€

His other hand grasped the crown of the “warrior’s†head, before electricity surged through him, shorting out several of the runes and sending the man into blissful unconsciousness. Fenris dropped him and picked up the hammer, idly studying it.

“Trophy, I suppose.â€

Casually holding it in one hand, he flashed out of sight for a moment. In a few eye-blinks, he was outside a flimsy wooden door painted with simplistic arcane symbols. He huffed at the sight.

“Amateurs. Probably going to end up grafting demons and ice giants to their souls at this rate.â€

He wasn’t an arcane expert, granted, but with an enhanced brain like his, he knew enough to understand what they were trying to do, why they were terrible at it, and how he could stop it.

First he kicked in the door before giving a howl and bellowing out a “greetingâ€.

“KNOCK KNOCK, you bunch of backwards dunderheads! Anyone explode into a gibbering pile of flesh from your terrible magic skills yet?â€

Not yet, but there was a domed shield surrounding a half-dozen men who all looked to be the worst examples of self-important nobles, and another half-dozen chanting men who looked only barely competent at the arcane arts. The dome proved resistant to both PPC fire and his probing claws. One of the nobles got right next to the shield and sneered at him.

“Bah. You are too late. The ritual is under way, and in an hour the meldings will begin! Soon all of us shall be joined with the Aesir, and we shall begin anew the proper way of things here in Europe! Nations will fear our names, and the peons of the world shall kneel before their betters. You shall not live that long, though. When I am merged with the All-Father, I shall flay your body and soul. You shall know such unending torment, and my name will be-â€

“What, written on the stars? Please. You’ll be lucky if you don’t end up merged with a Sloth Demon or something with the way these amateurs are going about things. Nothing here looks good enough to draw one of the actual Asgardian deities down. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll get a few Einherjar, but that’s just not the same, is it? Not for a guy like you.â€

Fenris shook his head and waggled a finger at the indignant older man.

“See, the problem is, you guys could do so much with what you’ve got here! Clearly one of you actually understands how to merge magic and technology almost seamlessly. Why aren’t you using that to advance the fields of science? Or become superheroes? Or, hell, sell a bunch of shiny products at exorbitant prices because “magic makes everything better and more expensiveâ€? Anything besides this ridiculous nonsense about ruling the world. You give Swedes, Scandinavians, and Europeans in general a bad name. You think that because you’re nobles, everyone automatically owes you so much. Well, you're wrong. It’s the other way around. You owe others a lot. That’s the way my boss Katasrof sees it, and look where it got him!â€


“Bah! That mewling pup turned in his father for having the same vision we did! He-â€

“Is one of the richest, most accomplished inventors and businessmen in the world, and he’s not even 30 yet. He’s on track to shove us forward a century in a decade. Because he believes he has a responsibility to his countrymen, and the world at large. When he was born, he was given wealth, power, prestige, and resources. So instead of just sitting around in them, he used them! Now he commands a virtual empire of commerce and technology! All of you could have piled money and prestige about yourselves in entirely legitimate ways without ever having to borrow power from some other source!â€

Fenris was clearly agitated as he took several steps back...and started testing the heft of the rune-covered hammer. The noblemen became nervous, but were clearly not willing to leave the safety of the shield. That nervousness was all Fenris needed. His grin was decidedly not a party face.

“Thought so. Your grunt dropped this outside. Enjoy!â€


And the hammer was tossed with all of his artificial might, slamming into the wood-and-metal pole in the center of the ritual. Astonishingly, nothing blew up, though the “arcanists†were blown back and knocked out. The nobles, meanwhile, were left defenseless and powerless. None of their money or prestige would do them good now as Fenris stalked forward, a snarl on his metal lips as he lifted the leader by his fine suit’s lapels.

“You’re all a disgrace to your country and your heritage. You grasp for these ideals of glory without understanding why your ancestors raided like they did. It might not have been good, but it was for survival. They’d be men like young Katastrof today. You’re all stuck in the past even as this country moves to the future! You’re so blinded by your lust for power, for your paper mache` dream of a “better world†that you fail to see the world is already better! Sweden’s not perfect, no country is, but she’s still a shining jewel of peace, prosperity, and innovation! You would destroy that, all because you think your blood makes you a better person than the lowly peons! Well, guess what?â€

He tossed the older man down, ignoring the wince that meant the soon-to-be-stripped-of-title noble had likely bruised a few things.

“To be a better person you have to actually do something to be better! Greatness isn’t just how you’re borne, it’s what you do! Your names will be forgotten by history, while “low-born†men and women will surely etch their names and achievements into the foundation stones of the future of the galaxy! You all would hold back this country, this world from her full potential! Those of us with true vision shall be most pleased when the King strips you of your titles and the courts send you to prison! Behold the fruit of your labors!â€

He pointed to the splintered, burned remains of the pillar, with the twisted wreck of a hammer slowly rusting away.


“Ash and ruin! Sweden shall live on, but your false dreams die today! Aha, the police come! I hope you gentlemen like the color grey.â€

And suddenly a SWAT team poured into the room, the leader nodding at Fenris even as they secured the men on the floor. It was all over.

Sweden was safe once more from madmen with delusions of past glories and “noble†futures.

Safe because Baron Magnus Vilhelm Katastrof made her safe. Safe because she deserved it. Safe because she had a shining destiny that he would ensure she fulfilled, even if he had to drag her there kicking and screaming.

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Duty, County, Honor, Desire

Cobalt Templar Vignette: Patriotism


Kansas City, Missouri, USA, Earth-I-War-4

Morning, July 4, 2003


Twenty years. Corbin Hughes had spent a full twenty years on this Earth. This Earth that was so similar but so achingly different than his home. An Earth where the US was still intact, but some form of the Nazi regime continued. It was all subtly wrong. And every day he saw things that just weren’t quite right; fashions, cars, pieces of everyday technology. Some were more advanced, others less advanced. He’d grown as used to it as he could.


He’d also avoided coming anywhere near this part of the country as often as he could. He knew he couldn’t avoid any interference at all with the “timestreamâ€, though since it was an entirely separate dimension anyway, that was sort of a relative thing. He only worked in Freedom City so much because that’s where the Freedom League based itself and met with the Liberty League, the Allies of Freedom, and other such hero groups. There seemed to be more, smaller groups going about, if only to help better respond to the threats facing everyone. The parade he was attending was playing host to Maverick and Thresher, two individuals that in his own world led the Barnstormers. There was talk of a “Midwest Teamâ€, but at this time nothing was solidified yet.


Perhaps the thing that had torn at him the most for the last 20 years, at least once a week, was how utterly different the woman he loved was in this world. That difference was what drove his mission to help the Allies gain a definitive edge, so that he would feel no guilt leaving this place for good. For on this world, Quo-Dis was not simply Ultiwoman. She was not simply a beautiful heroine and member of the Champions.


She was the daughter of Emperor Kal-Zed and Empress Sa-Ur, Princess of the Supreme Empire, Heir to the Keys of Europe, and someone he’d traded blows with more than once. He wasn’t sure if it was a difference from further back, or her father’s place of continuing power, but she wasn’t the same person. Just the same face.


He bitterly took a sip from his soft drink. Part of him had wanted to grab something with more...bite. The Ring would just burn the worst affects away, but for a few glorious seconds, he could lose himself in the colors and jingoism and noise...He shook his head.


That wasn’t fair. Not to himself, not to the country, and not to these people. This world had spent the last 40 years teetering on the brink of conquest or annihilation. Every day they knew that at any moment, the Supreme Empire, the Empire of the Rising Sun, or even their “alliesâ€, the Soviet Union, could choose to restart a World War. Darkness would rise and people would die. He’d seen plenty of that over the years. So a chance to forget all of that and celebrate the heritage of your own country, your freedoms, and your fellow countrymen? Yeah, everyone had earned that.


He smiled and raised the soda bottle in a toast to Maverick as he passed on the street. The fate-warping hero grinned and seemed to give him a wink (those shades made it hard to tell). They’d had a few chats, talking as equals, despite Maverick looking to have about a decade on Corbin (though they were both rightfully older than they looked). The fast-talking, sharp-shooting, bright-smiling hero had helped Corbin keep perspective and positive attitude. You just couldn’t be sad long around Maverick; Thresher always rolled his eyes at his friend’s antics, but even the dark-clad vigilante seemed more relaxed.


‘Maverick’s what this is about. Him and all the guys like him who are confident we’ll win. They don’t even question the victory of Freedom, Justice, and Good over Tyranny and Evil. Doesn’t even enter their mind. Guess the world needs guys like that. I know America does.’


He smiled and waved at a few people in the parade, before carefully easing himself away from the street and the crowd. He drained his drink in a few gulps and tossed the bottle in the trash on his way to an alley no one was paying attention to. Before you knew it, Cobalt Templar was racing through the skies, and finally was several thousand feet above the American heartland. At this point, he’d be showing up on NORAD systems, but they had his signature locked into their systems, so it wouldn’t be a big deal.


He gazed out over the Great Plains, never really resting on any one feature. A soft smile spread on his face.


‘This world sucks a lot some days. It’s not my home. But these people are still good people. Worth protecting. This place is worth fighting for. So I’ll keep fighting. And one day, when I face my friends, my family, and the woman I love again, there won’t be a shred of doubt or shame in myself. Because I did the right thing, and fought. For my country. For everyone’s country. Because that’s what heroes do.’


This contemplation done, he gave a quick call to Thresher, since the parade was still going on. He smiled at the response, and began flying almost straight down, a corona of fiery blue energy building up around him.


He figured the folks deserved a good fireworks show to finish off the parade, after all.

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The Blood of Patriots


July 4th, 2013


Temperance just didn’t get conceptuals.


Well, that was crude. And possibly racist. She understood conceptuals. She’d had conversations with more than a few. But she didn’t grasp them the same way she did, say, elementals. Now, elements – those you could touch, though in some cases, it would hurt.


But spirits were ephemeral enough things on their base. And something as shifting and intangible as an idea could create a spirit more inconstant than the breeze. Then again, she’d learned that the conceptuals had their own Court as well, and subdivisions thereof – a Court of Joy could be split into spirits of pleasure, contentment, and schadenfreude, for instance. Sometimes, those spirits got along as well as any other Court . But then you had the ideas that got really raw when you split them down to the core.


Tonight, Temperance was out to see the fireworks – but not the kind most of the citizens of Freedom took in. Riverside Park was full of picnicers, settled down with baskets and beer to take in the lightshow that would split the skies. Her eyes, however, were turned towards the Sentry Statue, where a grand battle royale was carrying out, like it did every year.


A man in a farmer’s overalls and work boots stood firm, his tanned skin reflecting the half-light and framing his work-hewn muscles. He took a swing at a man in the clothing of a bike messenger, his eyes reflecting like glass and his veins resembling a subway map. Across from them, a woman with golden hair, dove’s wings, and a sundress like Betsy Ross’s flag had a headlock on a man in Vietnam-style fatigues, whose American flag patches shined like jewels. There were even a few hooded figures stalking the scene, with eagles’ wings and talons to match. They were all visions of America – or someone’s vision of America, no matter where it came from. And, like every other year, they were here to try and establish who was “real.â€


One of the figures got booted out of the melee and landed near Temperance’s feet. He looked somewhat emaciated, and was clad in a gray uniform that hung off him like loose bark on a dead tree. He looked up to her. “Pardon me, ma’am,†she said, “will you stand with me in standing for the noble cause of –“


Temperance gave him a glare that could have pierced glass.


“Sorry.†He drew back quickly and dove into the fray.


Temperance shook her head. There was a reason her dad took the family to Liberty Park for the Fourth celebrations. It was enough he had to deal with spirit politics every day on the job; he didn’t want to have to watch another Court’s departmental disputes during his free time. So why the hell am I doing it?


“Perhaps, to understand.â€


Temperance turned around suddenly. A woman was standing behind her, clad in a white cloak. A lantern, held aloft in her right hand, cast a warm light over the spiritual reflection of the forest; a scroll, resting in the crook of her left arm, shined with wisdom. Temperance took one look in her eyes, and knew.


“There a reason you’re not getting your knuckles dirty?â€


“I know who I am,†she said. She gestured to the spirits engaged in melee. “They have differing arguments about who they are.â€


“So… you’re the top of the chain?â€


The spirit just nodded.


“Makes sense. Somehow, I couldn’t see all that stuff going on in Lady Liberty’s head.â€


“She has one of the greater aspects of me. One that most agree on. Them? They are all a part of me. Base and noble, true and false, benevolent and wicked. This is… what do you do when there is so much within you conflicting at once?â€


“Take a deep breath and pause?â€


“Yes. This is that.â€


That almost made sense. “So, what happens when someone wins?â€


“They’ll think themselves to be the face of me. And they are. But they’re all my faces. Even if they’re ones I’d rather keep inside. Will you watch?â€


Temperance shook her head. She knew there was some sort of order going on here – and if things got out of hand, she’d be a firecracker compared to her companion’s rocket launcher. “Got other business tonight.â€


“Go to it. We will still be here in the morning.â€


Temperance took off. As she left the park, she shook her head. She understood the conceptuals a little bit better now – but they could still be really weird sometimes.

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Bloody Mess and the Hound
July 4th, 2013
The Bloodhound Detective Agency. 
“What a day†moaned Harry “the Hound†Hound as he collapsed into the beaten leather sofa of the Bloodhound Detective Agency. The poor thing was ragged and worn, held together more by thread and sheer obstinacy than the aged brown leather that half covered it. He and Freddy had often considered buying a new one, but it oozed familiarity and, when all was said and done, it was damn comfortable.
The day had indeed been an uncomfortable one. They had been investigating some beating which had left some hard working shopkeeper they knew in hospital. After a few days, using their particular and unique skills, they had tracked down and arrested some right wing nut job who was a racist as anything the Klan had ever vomited up. 
Their ears where still ringing from his ranting as the Mess had hauled his ass to the police station. 
This is America! Land of the free! Its for the white Christian! That’s how it was founded! We will never give it up to the slave race!
Suffice to say, nobody in the Fens, full f every race and colour under the sun, had much sympathy with the man. As he was hauled away, they had to duck a few rotten vegetables being thrown t him. 
“I had half a mind to stuff a mould ridden tomato in his mouth myself†explained the Hound, pressing his hands to his temples.It had in fact been a difficult task to protect the perp from the wrath of the community. And, whilst he didn't condone vigilantism, he could easily confess to wanting to give the man a knuckle sandwich himself. 
“This country stinks, my friend. Its as rotten as those vegetables†he sighed. “The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. It’s a plutocracy, as filthy on the top as it is the bottom. Damn, about the best you can say for it is it’s not as bad as communism…â€
“A Pluto-what?†grunted the Mess, with a more cheerful grin on his face. They had, in his opinion, caught a crook, done a good deed, the sky was alive with fireworks, and the street alive with goodwill. 
“Plutocracy†explained the Hound, to fed up to lecture and berate. “It’s run by the rich. Corporate businesses control this land. Keep the money and power to themselves whilst hard working mugs like you and me do the actual graft†he sighed. 
“I dunno about that†sighed the Mess, scratching his close cut and wild hair, and rubbing his flat nose.
“My old folks, they come from the old USSR, right? Back when the communists where there. They got out, they wanted a better life…â€
His mind wheeled back to the conversations he had with his parents whilst growing up in the Fens. Sure, life had been tough. Money was tight, and luxuries were few. His parents had been fighters, stoical, and determined. And somehow they got through. 
Yeah, life had been hard for them. 
But despite it all, despite the hardships, despite the prejudices against immigrants, his parents never wavered in singing the praises of America. They were American’s to the core. That’s probably why they only spoke English, even when alone together. He drifted back to his father's words over the dining table in their old cramped flat. 
Son, in America, a man is free. Free to make what fortunes and life he wants. In America, if you work hard, you can make it…
The Mess smiled to himself. His Dad had imparted some steel into his heart and soul. True, he had fallen off the path in his teenage years, and fallen off badly. He used that steel for something bent and twisted. 
But now, he felt that steel was straight and true. 
“Here, we have opportunity†he said, sitting down by his partner and pouring himself a Guinness. 
“I heard my folks talking about Lenin, and Stalin, and the bad old days. What did my pa say…the old joke…you pretend to pay me, I pretend to work…†he chortled. 
“Pfah†hissed the Hound, listening but not conceding. “So Russia screwed up. So what? Don’t make this country any more rotten. I love this country, but she’s sick. Something went wrong. We threw off the yolk of the British, and damn, didn’t we celebrate it. No chain’s in Amercia, no sir. Well, as long as you are white…†he scowled, revelling in his cynicism. 
The Mess looked sad for a moment.
“My friend, you gave me a chance, did you not? That is the spirit of America. Here, we have a chance. And I took it, and I made it. Sure, we ain’t livin’ the high life, but we got this…†his arms waved over the agency. 
“And we doin’ good. We are making a difference†he said, proudly. 
He thumped his club like fist on the table. Not in aggression, but as friendly punctuation. 
“I’m proud to be an American. And so should you!†he said. 
The Hound stopped for a while and got up. 
“OK, OK, so that guy just go the better of me today†he explained, smoothing down his crumpled mac. 
“I guess with freedom you get all sorts of whack jobs mouthin’ off. Comes with the territory. And its better than having your mouth stapled together by some booted secret policeman†he shrugged. 
“So for all its faults…†he said, cracking open a beer. 
“And all it’s glories!....†he added. 
“To the land of the free, and the home of the brave!†he said, with a sheepish smile and clinking cans with his partner and friend. 
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Rene de Saens
Paris, 18th July, Bastille Day
Despite living in Freedom City full time – or at least, a goodly part time – Rene always made his way back to Paris for Bastille day. He had not missed one since its inception. He had, in some small way, been part of the history that inspired it. 
The Arc de Triumph had for him, too. The site of a horrible battle between some jumped up dabbler, the ancient evil Gallu, and opposed by Rene, The King of Suits, and his friend, Marcel.
Paris had an ancient order of most peculiar guardians, the Legio de Halbediers. Suitably anarchistic and passionate, the order fluctuated in size and nature, but was always committed to protecting Paris from supernatural threats. From the mysterious, beautiful exotic woman known only as Yasmine, to the ancient and wordy head (without  body) of Count Bonnaire, they were quite a remarkable and often argumentative collection of people. 
Of them, Marcel was probably the most solid. A sewer worker and minor magician, Marcel served his role well. He was very good at cleaning up the sewer system – not just literally, but cleaning it of undead prowlers and reckless kids dabbling in black arts down there. Marcel always claimed that the sewers had some foul history and seeped black magic, but nobody had been able to confirm or refute his history, not even Count Bonnaire’s head. 
Of course, what with Marcel’s job, he never got entirely clean. Even when he scrubbed up well, there was a slightly stale, stagnant smell to him. 
“Goes with the Job!†he explained, smiling as was his nature. 
Today, he had not scrubbed up well. He was wearing his work clothes and taking a very vexed Rene down o the Parisian sewer system once more. 
“Zut Alors, the smell does not get any better does it?†complained Rene, holding his nose. 
“Non!†laughed Marcel, switching on his light to show the way down the filthy tunnels. 
“But I have something to show you. Bastille day reaches everywhere, it seems†he said, enigmatically. His voice betrayed concern, but not danger. 
It was not a long trip, although slow going in the dark. Marcel was no longer a young man but he was still strong in body. Rene, however, was not. The years, far beyond that of mortal men, had taken their toll. He probably had the physique of a healthy seventy year old, not crippled, but worn enough to find a stroll in the dark, up and down ladders and over barriers of concrete a difficult task, sometimes requiring the strong arms of Marcel to aid. 
Not that he would admit it. 
“Leave me be, I am fine!†he muttered, irritably, as inside he swooned with relief when Marcel help put him up the last few rungs of a ladder. His hip ached and his knees moaned their discontent. 
“I hope this is worth it†he grumbled. 
Marcel merely shrugged. “I don’t know what to do about this, Rene. But it is worth seeing, if only to witness such a peculiar sight†he explained. 
But it was not a sight that first struck them, but a sound. 
Click, click, click, click…
It was a scratching, clacking sound, almost faultlessly rhythmic, like the beat of a drum, growing stronger as they came nearer. 
Marcel stopped behind a rusted iron door, his flashlight wavering has he fumbled with his key ring and slotted a suitably large iron key into the door.
“It’s quite something†he smiled faintly, and turned the key. 
It was hard to make out in the darkness, at least until Marcel turned his flashlight to the spot. 
It was a skeleton dressed in rags. Neither cloth nor bone was in good condition, but here and there traces of an old soldier’s garb could be made out. A rusted musket-rifle lay half gripped by a hand a few metatarsels short of the full count. The skull had caved in, but somehow the hollow black eyes looked firm of purpose. 
And it was marching. 
Click, click, click, click…
The sound of skeletal feet kicking against concrete. The Soldier was too broken up to stand, but nevertheless, he marched. He rolled from side to side on the floor as his legs flailed uselessly like a metronome against the floor. 
“Bastille day does indeed reach far†agreed Rene, moved by what he saw. 
The two men watched in silence for a moment. 
“Who knows what his story was?†said Rene, thoughtfully. “Did he die here, or was he washed up here? Was he crook, or thief, or deserter?†he mused. “What was his name, what qualities did his life bear? Alas, we shall not know, it is lost to the wind and the dust†he sighed. 
“But one thing we do know, this unknown soldier was a patriot. He marched for liberty. The power of the day of the Bastille does reach far and wide, indeed, possessing the faithful to ever march on, and for the most faithful of all, that reaches beyond death…†he explained. 
“But I think now, Marcel, this patriot should rest from his march through the centuries†he said, touching the skull kindly. 
“Soldier, you have marched long enough†he whispered to the body. “No man can deny your fervour, and we…and France, salutes you. Rest now….â€
Marcel gave a solemn and long salute. 
And the soldier rested. 
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July 2013 Vignette: Patriotism

El Heraldo: Our Hands Are Joined

Early Morning, July 4th, Monday, 2013

With a mighty *crack* the red-gloved fist of El Heraldo, dashingly handsome young champion of Puerto Rico sent his adversary flying! With a wail of surprise the man dressed in deep red crashed backwards into the ground next to the Freedom Ledger headquarters, rebounding off it with a painful thud and rolling and bouncing to a halt at the foot of its broad steps. His allies in white and blue drew back, their feet walking on air, but the youthful paragon knew by the fierce gleam in their eyes that that wouldn't be enough to send them packing!


The red, white and blue-clad Heraldo kept the Banner of Victory, a battle standard carrying the national flag of Puerto Rico, held lightly in his right hand. For a moment neither side moved so much as a muscle, the Herald doing his best to keep how distracted he was from showing...

'We cannot allow this to become a habit Yeah I know, but the Ledger doesn't do Independence Day editions calling out crazy dudes every day! ...I agree, we must protect the innocent, but we should at least suggest they have someone ready next time they insult supervillains-the white one I see it, let's go!'

Suddenly the Hispanic teen rocketed at his foes, a flash of gold that seemed to materialize right next to the man swathed in white, and his hand, half-raised and surrounded by a nimbus of power, was deftly gripped and twisted by a hand like iron under velvet causing his attempted shot to fire wildly into the sky. "Holy Hell!" the man barked in shock and pain, whirling around and lashing out with a brutal kick right into the boy's neck. This earned him a sore foot and momentary salvation as the patriotic paragon jerked back and clutched his throat in pain, but the triumphant grin under the pale mask was abruptly wiped off as Heraldo lunged forward and headbutted him with enough force to send the man slamming face- first onto the hot pavement!

Steadying himself, El Heraldo quickly adopted a boxing stance and turned his attention to the man in blue, starting as the man raised a hand and said gruffly "Uh...can we talk 'bout this?" Narrowing his eyes in suspicion he replied curtly "Talk? Are you curious why I am taking away your Constitutional right to murder people?" "Hey, that's just low" the man in blue said "We didn't want to kill anyone, just make them apologize for saying me and Red and White are 'patriotically-garbed xenophobic thugs'" he lifted the folds of his mask and spat on the steps of the stately Ledger building, glaring at the smattering of industriously-scribbling reporters and chatting photographers leaning out the windows and lounging on the steps, all of them quite comfortable with working next to a superhero battle.

"They call you that," Heraldo retorted between clenched teeth as he rubbed his adam's apple "because that is how you behave. What else do you call people who target Mexican and Canadian heroes and do everything they can to keep immigrants from coming to America?" "I call it making us more independent!" Blue declared, gesturing at the skyscrapers around them "See this city? This was built by Americans, rebuilt with help from a one of a kind American city-spirit, and guarded by, among other people, a gal with the spirit of American liberty inside her." folding his arms over his azure chest, Blue said coldly "We don't need help. Your people can go make your own amazing places, get your own excellence. I hear Rico's got problems, how about you go back there and help with them? If the good people of the Freedom Ledger care to defend their libelous slander 'gainst me and the others, I'm sure they can do it" He turned coolly to El Heraldo, who was silent and looking at the ground. After a moment he asked   contemptuously "Nothin' to say?"

The reporters below fought back grins. They knew what was coming. It was almost a tradition around this time of year in Freedom City.
'This is why we needed to help Oh? If we do nothing, then people who want to silence others can do it at will, and only their voices will be heard ...Agreed. Without strength, Freedom cannot prevail Want me to tell him, or shall you? Subito I...I am honored, but it would be strange for you to speak with a woman's voice, would it not? I can live with it, and this is about you more than me Thank you. I shall speak, cast yourself into my abyss of time...'

The golden aura around the young patriotic paragon turned from gold to a deep, rich, ocean blue. Raising hazel eyes tinged with sea-gray, Subito opened his mouth, and the deep, powerful woman's voice echoed from it "I am not an American spirit. But the nation that was born on this Independence Day, two weeks and four days from now and  ago helped mine, the Blue Dame of Puerto Rico, win its own freedom from the hands of the Spanish who killed and enslaved my Taino. The votes were cast mere months back villain, and soon the United States and Puerto Rico might well become one nation, by the wish of free peoples!" A flash of light passed over Subito, and a woman dressed in harsh blue armor, a fan of weapons on her back from rifles to spears, long black hair, flashing brown eyes set in a Caribbean face stood in his place. Power and authority flowed from her inhuman height and size, and far off everyone watching heard the shouts of soldiers announcing their triumph.

Blue stepped back, jaw working and eyes widening in amazement, but he kept the rest of his composue and managed to snarl "So? You'll just be parasites, feeding off our glory and might! Borrowing our freedom without working for it!"

"You dare?!" the Dama Azul del Puerto Rico thundered, eyes blazing as she crossed the yards between them in an instant, lifting the man by his collar in one with a few fingers "You dare talk of 'freedom' while you plan to silence anyone who speaks against you? Who defies the wishes of others to be self- sufficient, you who disallow anyone not of your heritage to have what my cousin Lady Liberty offers to all?! Be thankful she is not here, wretch, I doubt she would forgive you as quickly as I!"

By now a large crowd had gathered, Freedonians and tourists watching with considerable interest as the strange confrontation took place above the street. A STAR squad van had to pull up half-way down the block, disengorging several crisp officers carrying power- dampeners and manacles.

She dropped Blue unceremoniously on the ground, who stared up at the glowing woman in horror as she said, face clearing of anger and becoming utterly impassive "For I do. If you want to protest how the writers of the Freedom Ledger portray you and those two, do so. I shall only observe, and stop any violence. Do you still want that?"

The man seemed to shrink "N-no..."

The Dama Azul's words were like the fall of a hammer on steel "Then go. Surrender yourself, suffer your punishment and enjoy the liberties you deny so many. And remember this: you won your independence this day, but nobody ever won a battle on their own. The spirit of France was strong with you. Pray we do not meet again."

In a burst of mist, sea-spray and the air of mountains, the Blue Dame vanished and left El Heraldo in her place, arms crossed and looking down at the beaten villain. " All of us need to be free to act as we want. But when people do stuff like you do? You're destroying the very thing you claim to fight for! That's what America needs immigrants for, to remind the country of how great it can be!"

The reporters and photographers clapped politely, the rest of the crowd eagerly joining in, several whistles of approval and a few scattered shouts of "You tell 'im, Rico Man!" ringing out. Exchanging respetful nods with the STAR officers who were collecting the unresisting Blue and his comrades, the paragon snapped a salute to the gathered crowd and turned to go.

"Hey, Heraldo!" one of the reporters waved up at him, "You got time for a few questions?" she asked hopefully, her pen poised perfectly between her fingers. With a slightly embarrassed look the young man called back "Sorry, I can't! I'd love to, but I've got a..an appointment with a good friend of mine, I'll be glad to talk later if you want!" he added with a warm smile. Smirking a little, the woman shook her head "No problem. And we'll keep an eye out for El Heraldo and his girlfriend on their date!"

Blushing furiously, yet laughing along with the other Freedonians, the young man turned and zoomed off into sky, feeling the rush, the joy of flight as the city passed under him.

'I thank you, Herald I oughta thank you Dama, you handled that guy no problem! Heh, a few small tricks go a long way. They'll remember that, what you said Well it's no cornier than any of the other stuff I say And perhaps one of the most true Okay, we'd better stop or I'm not gonna be thinking straight at the family party, let's fly Dama!'

Spreading his arms as if to hug the world below him, EL Heraldo soared over Liberty Park, descending into the forest and grinning as he caught sight of the massive blanket being spread on the lake shore. It was a fmaily tradition to hold picnics and parties on the 4th and 25th of July, days of great importance to the lands that had given so much to them.

And honor their ability to freely celebrate and remember their past.

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The Second Freedom


28 June 2013. West End.


Jubatus here. There's a construction project in the West End, a couple blocks East of the intersection of Herge and Allen. It'll be a mosque, when it's completed… but it's hard to say when that will occur, because there's a bevy of protestors around the site every day.


No prizes for guessing which religion all the protesters happen to share. Ain't it great how sincerely devout personal beliefs can encourage people to work in harmony to achieve a common goal?


Me, I could care less about the mosque. I'm an equal-opportunity anti-theist; as far as I'm concerned, all religions suck rocks, and the sooner every religious faith bites the dust, the better. Alas, that happy day is not come, and will not for the foreseeable future…


Patience is a virtue, right?


Anyway, the mosque-to-be. I've been keeping an eye on it, on the off chance that one of those Jesus-flavored godbots decides their invisible friend wants them to take a more active role in opposing those Mohammed-flavored godbots than just, you know, walking around with signs and bullhorns.


Idiots. Since no-religion-whatsoever isn't on the menu (much to my displeasure), the next best option is what the Founding Fathers built into the First Amendment: No-religious-favoritism-whatsoever. But it seems like any time a body's humble enough to believe they've got a close personal friend in The Creator And Sustainer Of All Existence, it's real easy for their brain to get fixated on the Law must force everybody to worship our god! and lose the capacity to ask themselves what if some other godbots' religion takes control of the governmental machinery we set up to benefit The One True Church?


Enlightened self-interest. It's not just for breakfast any more. It's also a big chunk of why I'm playing guardian angel here, because when a church lays its hands on the power of the State, unbelievers like me are among the first to suffer, followed closely by wrong-believers of whatever stripe. Not fun—not unless you get your jollies from genocidal slapstick, and I sure as hell don't. And I like living where the laws don't enshrine anybody's invisible friend in a place of supreme honor-slash-authority.


I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Founders had the right idea, but politics is "the art of the possible", okay? And the idea they had, it's as close to right as anybody could decently ask for, given that so many of the Founders were, themselves, Jesus-flavored godbots. That separation-of-church-and-state deal isn't perfect, no, but it's something we can live with. There's a lot of that sort of thing in the Constitution.


Like I always say—the U.S. of A. is the worst nation of all time, except for every other country that's ever existed.


So savor the irony: We got this mosque, a church for a religion that regularly polls as being less popular than ebola in these parts. And it's being watched over by an inhuman creature who (all else being equal) honestly wouldn't even care if the friggin' thing was reduced to inchoate rubble, and whose lack-of-belief is even less popular than Islam.


You gotta laugh, hrrrm?

Edited by Cubist
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Space to Be


July 19th, 2013

9:00 PM


"So," Seth murmured to himself, "we're not British any more."


He closed the heavy history textbook with a heavier sigh, returning it to its shelf; he would have stayed longer, but the library was closing and one of the guards was breathing down his neck. He offered the man a smile, got a tired nod in return, and made for the door, thoughts whirling through his head at terrible speed. It only got worse as he stepped out of the main branch and into the bustle of city center, still going strong in spite of the time of night; it was a Friday, and for many the night was only just beginning.


He stared up at the Federal Building, taller than he could have imagined anything could be until yesterday, and sighed again. Everything was different; everything he had known was gone. His house was warped almost beyond recognition, his city had grown in every direction and squashed what he remembered being where it stood, and his people were all long dead. Only the unmarked grave he'd dug himself out of had been unchanged, the saddest of familiarities. What was left for him in this time and place?


He'd gone to court that morning; not only was his house standing on what was now someone else's land, his public defender had explained as she tried to wrap her head around the most bizarre case she'd ever been assigned, but he was actually an illegal alien. He laughed at the memory, not a little bitterly. "Will they deport me? I'd like to see how." Here he was, broke and unclaimed by any nation, with only the few facts about the modern world that the Twilight Angel had considered important to guide him.


Yet Seth had to admit that there had been gains in the time he'd been gone, gains that far, far outweighed the losses of one man. The vile institution of slavery had been abolished, and progress had been made against racial prejudice. Men and women were equal in the eyes of the law (and usually in practice). People even in the lowest class regularly lived past fifty. Science, medicine, industry, all had made unimaginable progress; they even had those confusing card-catalog computer machines in the library now, and what a library!


And then there was Seth Syme, Gloaming, a man truly out of time. He stood there in fashions three hundred years out of date, staring up in awe at a tower that everyone here took for granted. He cast ancient magics where others used equally mighty technologies to accomplish the same goals. He prayed to a God whose worship was in worldwide fragmentation and decline, and whose most vocal followers remaining were the ones preaching the message most at odds with Christ: hate. Where could he fit in this age?


But he had read about this United States of America now. He was not certain about the efficacy of democracy, and he was not ready to give any country his allegiance; he never had before, even in his own day. But what he had read told a story, a story about diverse groups of people coming together in one space and learning, over the centuries, how to live together. That process was continuing, however slowly. People still came looking for a place to be who they were without fear, and America continued to struggle to be that place.


Perhaps, in such a nation, there was space even for Seth Syme.

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A life not forgotten


Foreshadow II


July 4th, 2013, 1:25 PM
Southside, Freedom City
Erick had found himself reconnecting with a piece of his old life on the Fourth of July going on fifteen years now.  The Zelichonoks, Alaina's two fathers and Erick's former gym trainers, held a yearly cookout at their gymnasium.  The families of all their current gymnasts and alumni were invited which of course over the years became a bit of a meet and greet with the medalist turned socialite, Erick Sloane.  Not that Erick turned down the attention nor the opportunity to go down a trip through memory lane at the gym in which he spent most of his youth training for a far different career path in life.
This year the talk of the event was the young miss Zelichonoks latest suitor.  The man was some college baseball player with rumored bids from a great berth of major teams.  To Erick he was simply the guy who spent a month showing up at the manor incessantly knocking on the door in the hopes of turning Alaina's multiple rejections into a yes.  How he managed to persevere and get her to give him a chance to take her out the heir to the Foreshadow name would never know.  Of course as long as she's happy and our door is no longer being pounded on at all hours, I have no complaints.
Managing to sneak away from the untrained eyes of the crowd Erick slipped inside of the gymnasium and began taking a personalized tour.  The last time he had attended in any official capacity still sat vividly in the back of his mind.  Having opted out at an Olympic bid to represent the United States after bringing Team USA the gold didn't always make him the most popular subject in gymnastics circles.  Least of all during the dog days of Summer.  But ultimately he was proud of the performance he put in.  When his birth parents came to this country the Soviet Union had yet to collapse so they had to fight tooth and nail to come to America.  All in the hopes of some day having a child and providing him with every opportunity the world could give.  I love David unconditionally and all, but if you guys were still alive...I can't help but wonder if you would be proud of the path I chose to take?  I hope so.
There were various pictures strewn about the Zelichonoks personal office.  Including one in which a youthful Erick was playing with a Lady Liberty action figure.  Most boys that age would no doubt have preferred a Centurion toy.  But not Erick, his parents bought him a Lady Liberty figure thereby creating a lifelong fan in the process.  A lifelong fan that to this day could still be found attending the occasional convention held in Lady Liberty's honor.  The irony of the fact that he could potentially have a working relationship with the real thing was not lost on him.  Not that I could ever compare to Lady Liberty's biggest fans.  He thumbed the photo once more taking a moment to stare at his parents' faces in the background.
In part that was why Erick loved celebrations like these.  He was never going to be the guy spouting off on some soap box about how strong his cultural identity.  Sure, he loved the country but above all else he loved the nostalgia.  Every time he saw a flag waving, it was as if his parents were still around holding it up.  Supporting him through and through.  In a way it gave him a lingering connection with them.
"Hey, what are you up to."   Alaina's voice called out as she entered the office. Having torn herself away from her date to check on her best friend.  They were after all as close as siblings.
"Nothing, I'm just reminiscing."
"Well some kids grabbed a few red, white, and blue sparklers and set up a runway.  I think everyone's waiting for a performance from the great Erick Aleksandrovich Lutrova." Her use of his original surname showed that no explanation was needed on his trip down memory lane.  "I think they're all hoping you're finally rusty and out of shape."
"Too bad.  They're about to be sorely disappointed."  A wry smile formed on Erick's face

Edited by HG Morrison
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Fortunate Son


“I’m curious of something.â€


Cannonade rolled his eyes. Great. Here we go. He trained his focus on the Overthrow agent, stuck behind a thick, plastic cage. He and the rest of his compatriots had decided to kick off the Fourth of July with a fireworks show, involving heavy artillery and black market battlesuits trained on Lonely Point Naval Base. A number of them had managed to flee, or had met the consequences of taking on a fully-armed military installation, but Cannonade had managed to rip one of the guys out of his armor and bring him into custody. He was now being held on the base until the AEGIS authorities came by to interrogate him. Which left Cannonade, and a suite of MPs, with babysitting duty.


“If you’re examining your life choices, you probably shoulda done that earlier.â€


“No, I know where I stand. I’m curious about you.â€


Christ, they never shoulda made that movie. Now every two-bit asshole who thinks they’re clever wants to play psychologist. “Okay, you got me. I’m a Scorpio. Next?â€


“I’m not interested in things like that. That helmet of yours. I know whose legacy you’re following.â€


“Congratulations. That puts you up there with nearly everyone who’s read the paper. This supposed to knock me on my ass?â€


“Your forbearer considered himself a patriot, and he ended up quite the warrior. Do you consider yourself a warrior?â€


“If you mean I like to throw down, then yeah, I do. If you wanna get on the high horse about that, I wasn’t the guy unleashing heavy artillery a half-hour ago. If you’re asking me if I’m soldier, then no. No, I’m not.â€


“I took no joy in what I did. It was necessary. And for someone who claims not to be a soldier, you’re sitting here, surrounded by military men, after rushing to intervene on an attack on a naval base.â€


“And if you were doing the same thing in City Center, I’d still be happy to pin you to the ground and wait for the cops to show up. I’m not some pawn of the military-industrial complex, or whatever the hell else you think I am.â€


“No… no, you’re not, are you? I’ve seen you. You’re the voice of the common people. And what a symbol you make for the masses of America. Given to fistfights and stubbornness, wearing regalia that marks you as fearful but swearing you’re righteous --â€


“Y’know, I’m getting a little sick of repeating it, so just go read any ****ing interview from the last five years. And I’m not pretending to be something I’m not, okay? I’m trying to speak to a life that’s --â€


“Yes, I know, the working class hero. Defiant to the end. Your people are happy to shop for the cheapest price even if it means someone in Bangladesh dies horribly, and –“


Cannonade got up from his seat and walked over to the cell. “Is this supposed to be going somewhere?†he said. “’Cause if you think I’m going to break through there just to get you to shut up, you’ve got the wrong idea.â€


“As do you.  You think I’m critiquing you. I’m merely asking a question.“


“Then go ahead and ask.â€


“Do you ever wonder – just possibly – that you are the lie America tells itself so it can sleep at night?â€


There was a pause.


“You’ve gotta be --â€


“Listen. All you stand for. All you fight for. Do you see it in your government? Do you see it in the people? Yes, yes, they look to you. The laborer. The builder. The righteous warrior. All while they’re finding new ways to kill from a distance, collateral damage be damned, or make a dollar while paying the developing world half a penny. They know, deep down, that they have a hand in this farce. But then… they look to you. The man who stands for all the right things. And they sit, and they say, ‘I’m with him. He will do the right thing. There is something good to this country.’ And they go on, believing that someone will fight for them. But the system remains. What good do you think you can do to change it?â€


Cannonade held off, as if thinking on it. Before the Overthrow leader could chime in, he spoke up:


“I can serve as an example.â€


“What? No! Did you even listen to a single word I said? You’re not leading anyone! You’re keeping them complacent!â€


“Bull****. I get the same urge you do. The urge to tear it all down and make it right. I could strike today, if I wanted. But then who’d be behind me?â€


“You don’t have followers? You don’t have fans? They’ll be your army! You can do so much -- â€


“No. It doesn’t work like that. You think I like everything this country does? Hell, no. And I’m sure I could maybe get some people behind me if I decided to tear it all down. But then what? I’m not gonna be some petty tyrant.â€


The door opened behind Cannonade. Two AEGIS agents were here to conduct the interrogation proper, and one was ushering him out. “But that’s what this country already is! All you’re doing is selling a lie!â€


Cannonade turned back as he headed to the door. “No. I’m selling them on a dream. We can be better. We will be. And we don’t need guys like you to do it.â€


As Cannonade left the base and headed back to Freedom proper, he hoped he’d been telling the truth. 

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Ghost Girl and Wraith - See Thee Rise

Parliament Hill, Ottawa
July 1, 2013

“Boy, these guys just aren’t very bright,†Ghost Girl noted frankly as she floated in a wide arc around a handful of Overthrow agents struggling against the rough block of ice that enveloped them up to their necks. “I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything,†the translucent blue teenager continued, turning to the terrorists and placing her hands on her spectral hips, “but attacking Parliament Hill on Canada Day? You had to know True North would be here, they’re part of the show!â€

“It does seem unwise,†Wraith mouthlessly hummed; three large, featureless black eyes giving the frozen goons another look over as she circled opposite Ghost Girl’s arc. “I think perhaps that they were trying to make a statement, but I do not believe guaranteed failure is the statement they were trying to make. Going into the beast’s den does not make you stronger than the beast,†she added, extending her head toward an agent and sounding for all the world like she was trying to give helpful advice. “It only makes you an easy meal.â€

Carrying a set of ruined power armor over each massive, white fur covered shoulder while dragging their unconscious pilots along the ground with her second, smaller pair of arms, the girls’ old friend and recent junior addition to the national super team Wendy Go snorted appreciatively at the idiom, a gruff, animalistic sound. All around the Parliament Buildings dispatched terrorists intermingled with signs of the days festivities, the latter slightly the worse for wear but still standing unlike the former.

The recent Claremont graduates had only arrived in Ottawa the night before, with a typically enthusiastic Kimber convincing her roommate to tag along on a long overdue visit to her home country while they deliberated on their future plans. The attack during the Canada Day celebrations had been an unwelcome distraction but the plucky poltergeist had been thrilled to fight alongside her mentor and his team and, if she were being completely honest, glad to show off the country’s greatest heroes in action in front of Indira.

“Fascinating, isn’t it?†a warm, friendly baritone cut in as a figure in a stately white uniform approached astride a robotic horse. Strikingly handsome for all he was clearly not of Earth, the Cosmic Constable smoothly dismounted and stepped smartly over to the young women. “Tragically misled, but fascinating. I expect you’re right about them wanting to make a statement, miss. Hopefully they can be rehabilitated and set to work for good rather than destruction. Constable J'ou Dorah't,†he introduced himself, offering Wraith a gloved hand and a winning smile of white teeth set against bright red skin. “That was some fine work today, both of you. Glad to have you.â€

“Wraith,†the metal heroine replied, rising up off all fours and reforming one of her arms into a proper, bluntly-clawed hand to accept J’ou’s. “We were pleased to help, though I am certain you did not need us - Overthrow is dangerous, but rarely overwhelming. They do have good taste in metals, however.†Her head turned clear around on her shoulders to eye one of Wendy’s burdens, eyes turning up in a smile at a bit of battle damage that looked like someone had let acid eat clear through the plating. If villains were going to insist on making her place herself between civilians and harm, it was very kind of them to provide a mid-fight meal.

Kimber bit her ephemeral tongue to keep a potentially embarrassing, high pitched sound of delight from escaping. Almost from the moment they’d left the plane at the airport, being back in Canada had lent an extra charge of energy to the teenage poltergeist. It was the little things like familiar businesses on the corner or overhearing a particular turn of phrase that made it feel like home in a way she hadn’t realized she’d been missing. Even amongst the maple leaf decorations and numerous flag all around them, though, there were few individuals more iconically Canadian than the Cosmic Constable, otherworldly origin and all.

Wraith’s head spun around to look forward again - which, somewhat disturbingly, meant it had now made a full 360 degrees. “It is my understanding that they are not very good at being rehabilitated,†she said. “Perhaps you will have more luck here. I have heard good stories of your country from Ghost Girl.â€

“Well now that’s mighty fine to hear, Miss Wraith,†the Constable laughed easily, releasing her hand to whistle sharply, the sound emerging as a two note harmony from his alien throat. At the command his silvery steed whinnied briefly before moving to begin nudging the sizable chunk of ice and Overthrow agents along in the same direction the suits of armor had been headed. “If it’s not prying, you’d be from out Kinigos way yourself, am I right? Warrior caste, I’d wager?â€

Floating back around to join them, Ghost Girl bobbed up and down energetically, biting her lower lip slightly as she addressed J'ou. “Wraith’s only the best Kinigosi warrior around!†she insisted, giving her friend a pair of enthusiastic thumbs up. “And not just ‘cause she’s gotta stick around here where there pretty much aren’t any others.â€

Wraith jerked up straight like someone had run an electric current through her, casting her three-eyed gaze around the area to see if anyone had overheard the conversation. “I...thank you, very much, but it is not...it is a secret,†she admitted, deflating a little and wincing. “I am supposed to be here, but nobody is supposed to know that I am here - it is...complicated.“

“Ah, jams! No no, it’s fine! Probably,†Kimber assured her friend with a stricken expression that made it clear she’d forgotten about the need for secrecy in her eagerness to brag about the huntress’ prowess. “Remember that photo we saw at the museum, where True North visited Kinigos in the sixties? If anyone asks, we totally have an excuse!â€

“You are correct, however - warrior caste.†Wraith straightened back up, mollified, a little pride creeping into her voice. “I am pleased that you could tell; I am not used to being recognized. I am a very long way from a home most of you do not even know exists...it has been several years since I saw our version of your ‘Canada Day’. Though it is not so different.â€

She turned her head again to look at the decorations - albeit some slightly worn - and the human population - albeit some slightly arrested. “Perhaps - the word is ‘patriotism’? - perhaps patriotism is somewhat similar everywhere. I am glad Ghost Girl convinced me to come. Though this particular celebration probably means more to her than to me; I do not know much of your country, other than what she has told me.â€

The Constable held up both of his hands in a calming gesture, apparently more for the fretting phantom’s sake than that of the metallic shapeshifter. “That trip was before my time, I admit, but I’ve read all the briefings. If the wrong sort start asking questions, we’ll make sure you’re not bothered.†He offered the visiting heroine a broad wink that looked humourously exaggerated on his honest features. “You’re not the first immigrant in Ottawa, after all, haha!â€

As they spoke, J’ou’s horse reappeared and began ambling over, an oddly relaxed gait for a machine. “I’ve seen a lot of national and planetary celebrations on a lot of worlds,†the alien anthropologist confided as he rubbed his mount’s nose fondly. “Studied, you might even say. It may just be the traveler far from home in me, but I’ve got a bit of a pet theory there.†Hopping onto the steed’s back just as elegantly as he dismounted, he trotted about to face the young women. “They’re less about where you’re from and more about enough folks getting together and all agreeing they belong until it starts being true. And I figure that’s pretty special.†Taking up the reins he began to head off. “Nice meeting you, Miss Wraith. You two have fun, now!â€

Once he was out of earshot, Ghost Girl ran a hand over her masked face with a small sound of exasperation. “Okay, are there any average looking people in space or are you all just flying around being dreamy all the time? Because that must get exhausting.†While the phantom looked over to the reconstructed stage, Wraith felt a telekinetic arm wrap under one of her own and tug her in the same direction. “You’re right, though. I should stop just telling you about stuff and show you! C’mon, I think the bands are coming back on!â€

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Pale Blue Dot


July 4th, 2013


In some ways, flying through the air while munitions were detonating all around him, trying desperately to avoid backblast and flak, was totally familiar to Kyle Steward. And yet, when it was like this, he hadn’t done it for quite some time.


He’d come out to the Fourth of July festivities with his family. Ever since making planetfall, he’d been spending a lot of time with his family. He didn’t quite know if it would make up for lost time, but he figured it was worth a shot. As the show went on, Kyle felt a need to take to the air. He’d given word to his parents, broken off from the rest of the group, and taken off.


It was interesting resting up here, not needing to move as fireworks burst all around him. One or two of them had almost collided with his armor, but he had exterior plating at full power and had rerouted energy into his visual sensors to protect from blindness. Looking down, all he could see were the lights of Freedom, standing out against the darkened earth. A sight he was a bit used to by now, if from a much greater height.


And, from up here, he started to remember…


Bombs were going off all around them, but there wasn’t any reason to panic.


Kyle was in the conservatory of the Starforger, looking out the window. They were back on Moritus’s homeworld, making a supply run and breaking for general shore leave. But it was more than that. Today was a holy day in the faith of the Divine Engine, and Moritus had scheduled some time so that they could make it back for Ascension. This was the day his people, and his church, had first achieved a model capable of interstellar travel, granting them the potential to spread the word of the holy machinery to those in parts beyond. What had started as just a day for Moritus’s religion had, in the way of many holy days, eventually spread into a general day of celebration for the rest of the planet. After all, this was the day that marked their true entry into interstellar politics.


“What are you thinking?â€


Jellana had made her way into the room, carrying a plastic flute a good quarter of her size and filled with some sort of drink that looked potent and possibly toxic. “I thought you would have had enough of explosions by now.â€


“Hey, at least these ones aren’t right in my face.†A ball of resplendent light flashed right in front of the window, sending up spots in Kyle’s eyes. â€œâ€¦well, most of the time. I was just… reminded.â€


“Ah. I can’t say I’m surprised.â€




“Yes.†Jellana took a seat and looked out towards the horizon. “All worlds have something like this to mark breaking the atmosphere. On Xavanel, it’s less explosive, more… carnal.â€


Kyle could just imagine. â€œBack on my world, it’s… well, it’s not like that. It’s for my country. A celebration of when it all came together. You know. Patriotism.â€


Jellana took a sip. “Ah.â€


“’Ah’? What ‘ah’?â€


“Well, you’d said that space travel was… what it was, on your world. That would explain it. There’s no unified expansion.â€


“What, space travel automatically makes everyone else go all one world government?â€


“No. Not necessarily. But… in most cases, the old divisions start to boil away. They’re still there, on some level, the same way that your neighbor doesn’t live in your house and sleep with your husband.†Janella paused. “Most of the time, at least. But in a lot of cases, patriotism just stops… being a thing. A new identity starts to emerge. The world becomes more… planetary.â€


“So, it’s… what? Globalism?â€


“Not necessarily. Identities just shift. Planetary pride, religious devotion – like with Moritus’s church – racial pride… you stiffen.â€


“Sorry,†Kyle said, â€œthat’s got… connotations, back home. Depending on how you use it.†He looked back to the sky outside. â€œSo, it usually works that way? Nationalism just stops being a thing?â€


“It’s just a general trend. You have Aglistig, Fomerius, Tragallax… about half a dozen worlds I can remember without cracking open my Codex where everyone kept racing each other to get to the stars and never stopped.â€


“What’re they like?â€


“Lots of bar brawls, in my experience.†Janella took another swig, then came over to join Kyle by the window. “From up here, you can see everything. And most often, you see what’s important.â€


A boom way too close to his ears shook Kyle out of the memory. He looked down on the fireworks below. He’d seen things out in the Cloud, things that would be seared into his brain forever. Things that gave him a sense of how grand, majestic, and terrible the world could be.


He’d probably moved beyond patriotism, or at least seen too much to be limited to one country. But… it was still good, being back somewhere so familiar. 

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