The Heroic Order of Paragon.




<Televised Ad, similar items appear in various papers and magazines>

The scene shows a woman walking down a dimly lit street. She clutches her purse as she walks through a dark area of the street that the streetlights don't reach. She picks up her pace as she approaches the corner, gasping as she rounds it. Several men dressed in Skull gang colors and armed with bats and knives approach her menacingly. She screams for help and the scene freezes in black and white.

"Don't take chances with your security," the voice speaks over the scene with a tone of authority. "Can you afford the risk of `hoping' a hero will come to your aid?"

The scene restarts as the Skulls approach the woman; she takes a few steps back and reaches into her purse. The thugs laugh expecting her to produce a weapon but instead she pulls out a small signaling device. It pulses red after she pushes a button.

Suddenly, the closest Skull's face twists in pain and he drops to his knees holding his head. The other Skulls glance around nervously until one points upwards. Floating several meters above the street is a man in pale blue and white. His flack jacket is covered with patches of various corporation sponsorships, his blond hair is perfectly combed back and his eyes are hidden behind expensively looking sunglasses. Upon seeking him, the thugs scatter. Gracefully the man lands beside the woman and puts a heavy combat boot on the back of the writhing thug.

"Thank you, First Strike Security," the woman exclaims looking adoringly up at the hero.

"Don't take chances, call First Strike today! Corporate protection at private sector prices" the hero says looking into the camera and giving a thumbs up, his boot still holding the Skull to the ground.

Screen goes black, briefly flashing "Now hiring, good benefits. Contact ###-####"

[/ QUOTE ]

Silverback leans back from manually changing the channels on his aging television to see a blonde "hero" grinning widely at him. Silverback snorts back, a stream of thick cigar smoke bursting out of his nose at the screen.

He hesitates, then slides his thick, gray hand off of the dial. Sitting back in his leather chair, he watches the rest of the commercial.

At the end, he glances over to a rickety, half-painted chair with a blue T shirt hanging over it. Peeking from beneath the folds, a yellow starburst insignia can barely be seen. On the seat lies a team-issue cell phone.

"So, these fellas are getting paid, and the Order just gives me a T shirt."

Silverback snorts again and scratches his face. The back of his hand reveals a thick mass of hair, some shriveled and scorched--a side-effect of his cigar habits. With the same hand, he pushes his shaggy bluish hair out of his eyes.

With looks like his, he never had any use for uniforms, usually hitting the streets in a white T-shirt and jeans.

But when he joined a group... he figured he'd get at least some kind of snazzy jacket. Nope. They just screen-printed him a T-shirt.

"And these FSS fellas get PAID."

He shakes his head, taking the stub of his cigar out of his mouth.

No, he didn't do it for money, anyway, did he?

His gaze strays to the nearby wall of his Kings Row apartment. The easy smile of a middle-aged woman returns his stare from behind the glass of a picture frame.

Silverback's massive fist clenches, crushing the remains of his cigar. Its remaining embers sizzle as they scorch more hair in the palm of his hand.

No. He didn't need money. And he was going to find his mother.

And the Heroic Order didn't care about money. They were good people. They would help him, if they could.

Suddenly hearing gunshots and screams outside his window, Silverback jolts up, instinctively grabbing a fresh cigar and lighting it.

He rushes to the window, but halts, looking back at the blue shirt and cell phone.

"No, I'm on my own tonight."

He leaps out of his window, clearing the fire escape...