Tanda (( kinda long ))




I never wanted to be a hero. I just wanted to be a normal girl. I wanted to go to parties, school dances, out to dinner with my folks. I wanted to be a gymnast, go to college, maybe start a career, get married, picket fence, dog … you know the whole “American Dream” thing.

But it wasn’t meant to be. I was born different. Oh, the physical aspects are easy enough to see. Golden yellow skin, spots on my face, furry ears popping out the top of my head, a 3 foot tail behind me. There are other differences too, like the time I broke my arm and it healed before we got to the hospital, but those were enough.

I was born in a wealthy suburb of Paragon City. My folks were basically normal. Dad was the President of Paragon National Bank. Mom was head of the society girls (as I called them). Garden club, fund raisers, political parties, you name it, if it got written up in the paper, you can bet mom was on the board organizing it.

I was their first child. They were so proud. They learned early I’d be a girl. Mom was excited about having a little daughter to dress up, show off to her friends, bring up to learn the genteel ways of society living. You might imagine their dismay when I arrived.

Needless to say, mom’s idea of the “perfect girl” didn’t include cat ears and a tail. I heard it took her 2 weeks to get over the emotional breakdown and come home.

I don’t hate my mom. I kinda feel sorry for her, honestly. I suppose in her own way, she tried to cope as best she could. At first she tried to treat me normally. Dressed in pink dresses, bows in my hair, etc. But it was just too obvious I was different. The other girls didn’t like me. Their moms would stare when they thought she wasn’t looking. Eventually she stopped trying to take me along.

Then she started asking me to stay out of the way when her friends came over. Little things like “Play up in your room.” I don’t think she locked me in there. At least not very often. I didn’t try to come out much anyway. Not like I really wanted to be where I wasn’t wanted.

My dad was great. He used to spend time with me whenever he could. We’d go on trips together, play games, he’d buy me presents. When I got interested in gymnastics, he hired a private coach and built a small gym on some property we had in the country. He also hired a Karate instructor to teach me self-defense. He really did try. But even he had problems with my obvious differences. There were just times when, even though it obviously broke his heart, it was easier for him to leave me behind.

School was a living hell for me. I was an outcast even among the outcasts. Ok, I guess maybe that sounds too strong. I did have friends, but not many. And the ones I did have were too skittish about having a “different” friend to invite me to parties and stuff. I’d go to the school dances. I think I mentioned I was pretty limber; so I was a good dancer. The boys liked to have me at the dances. But I didn’t like some of the suggestions they had about what to do after the dance.

I tried out for the school gymnastic team. Well, technically, I went to the tryouts. I was warming up on the balance beam when the coach came over and pulled me aside. I guess the state sports authorities had passed a ban on mutants competing against “normal” kids. I think my dad held me all night that night as I cried myself to sleep.

I did well academically, and caught the interest of several colleges. Unfortunately that interest would dry up every time they met me. I was 18, approaching graduation, and no clear path on where my life would go next.

One night, a friend, Julie, and I were at a play in Galaxy City. When it was done, I left her near the theater to wait while I found us a cab. The gangs were getting out of hand in that sector, I knew it was dangerous, but figured it would just take me a minute. I heard her scream and turned back. A couple of Skulls were trying to grab her backpack from her.

I ran back, a couple of fast kicks and punches and the gang bangers figured they’d find easier pickings. Julie was really impressed and thanked me several times. I told her it was just the karate training my dad had paid for. She still kept talking about how heroic I’d been. I guess it was the word “hero” that caught the cop’s ear.

“Excuse me, miss,” he said all formal and polite like.

“Yea, officer?” I asked

“Can I see your registration ID?”

“ID? Sure.” I pulled out my driver’s license.

“No, miss. I mean your Hero Registration Card.”

I blushed deeply. “Oh. I don’t have one. I’m not a hero.”

“Well, miss, you did break up a crime just a minute ago. According to the city regulations, you need to be registered if you’re going to fight crime in Paragon City.”

“But I don’t want to fight crime,” I complained, getting a bit worried.

“Sure you don’t.” he replied obviously not believing me. “Will you come with me, please?”

I sighed and went along. I was processed through. I didn’t really understand what they were asking me. The guy at the desk asked me what name I wanted to use. I told him my name was “Tanda”. He just nodded and typed it in. All of a sudden I have this HRC with the name Tanda and my face on it.

Dad picked me up from the police station. During the drive home I told him everything that had happened. I wasn’t really mad or excited or anything. Mostly I was jut confused. He listened, smiled, and assured me that we’d work things out in the morning.

The next day, I was in the gym, doing my normal morning workout. He came in carrying a box and followed by some guy I’d never seen before.

“Tanda,” he called. “Come over here. We need to talk about a couple of things.”

I approached slowly, drying my face with a towel as I walked toward them. The guy with dad looked to be in his mid forties, physically fit, his hair was starting to go gray at the temples, his eyes were gray as well.

“Tanda, this is Loup de Quebec.” Dad said as he indicated the guy next to him.

“The Quebec Wolf?” I asked shaking his hand.

“Oui. Yes. That is the name I chose when I registered with the Paragon City officials.” He spoke with a heavy French accent and smiled softly as he took my hand in his. “My name is Pierre.”

“Nice to meet you, Pierre, I’m Tanda.”

“Yes, I know. Your father has told me much about you already.”

“Pierre is from the Hero Corps. He’s retired from active crime fighting and spends his time working with promising new heroes.” Dad explained, looking a little hesitantly at me.

“Oui. I try to make your adjustment from citizen to hero as easy as it can be.”

“But Dad!” I protested. “I don’t want to be a hero!”

“I know, sweetheart, but hear me out.” He led us over to the seating area in the corner of the gym. “You have some wonderful skills. Both your gymnastics and karate teachers are very impressed with you. I know life has been hard for you, but this might be a way for you to use what you can do to help others.”

I sighed. “Dad, I like the idea of helping people, but I don’t want to run around in spandex all day looking for trouble.”

“Zen don’t.” Pierre interjected. “There is no saying that you must wear a costume. I spent much of my career fighting crime just as you see me now.” I looked over the black t-shirt, blue jeans, and cowboy boots.

“Look. Honey.” Dad continued. “It doesn’t have to be forever. Pierre tells me that a lot of people get started down this path, decide it isn’t for them, find something else to do. But it would be something that you could do on your own. A way to use the abilities you have for something positive. And…” he looked at the floor and paused.

“And a way for me to meet some people that won’t look at me like some freak.” I finished for him.

“You are NOT a freak!” he said forcefully.

“Maybe.” I shrugged. “But I’m definitely different. You know, I didn’t ask to be this way. This is just how I am.”

“Yes.” Dad said softly. “I think its time you learn about that. Would you excuse me, Pierre?”

“Certainement.” He got up and walked out the door.

I looked at Dad questioningly.

He took a deep breath and began. “When your mother was pregnant with you, we had a housekeeper / cook from Jamaica called Marda. She was a pretty decent domestic servant. Did a good job with her duties. But your mother was really in a difficult stage. You know she can be difficult at the best of times.” I nodded and he smiled slightly. “Well, when she was pregnant it was much worse.”

“She didn’t seem to be able to control her mood swings. At times she was sweet and docile, other times she was hostile and cruel. And, more often than not, Marda was the object of her wrath.

“There was a week when several things seemed to go wrong. Your mother was constantly berating Marda about one thing after another. Finally, she snapped completely and struck her. Now, your mom knew she was wrong immediately and apologized for it, but I think the deal was done then. Two days later Marda disappeared from the house without a trace.

“About a week later, we round the totem.” Dad grimaced with the memory. “Marda had used Caramel, our housecat to create some sort of curse totem. She hid it under your mother’s side of the bed. There were other things about it, but I don’t want to remember those. We consulted with the university and found that it was some form of voodoo curse. Three months later, you were born.

I looked at my dad in shock. I couldn’t believe that the person I was came about because of some sort of “curse” from a witch doctor.

“So, maybe now you understand a little more about your mom and how she acted toward you. You were a reminder every day of how she’d lost control of herself and brought all of this on you.

I heard a soft sound to my right. I turned and saw my mother standing in the doorway, tears running down her face. I got up and ran to her. “Oh mom!” I cried, throwing my arms around her and hugging her tightly. We stood there for a while, sharing tears and sobs and feeling closer than I ever had to her in my life.

I took mom back to the couches and dad brought Pierre back into the building. “So, Dad,” I asked “what’s in the box?”

“Ah. Well. Why don’t we let Pierre show you?”

Pierre took a pair of red gloves from the box. They were long, almost to my elbow and left my fingers uncovered. A couple pulls on the wraps and they were tight on my arms. I didn’t like how I couldn’t bend my wrist, but Pierre said it was necessary.

“Now,” Pierre said, “Let’s step over here.” I followed him away from my parents.

“Make a fist with both hands,” he said. As I did, I could feel the gloves tighten slightly.

“Now snap your arms down and away from your body.”

As I swung my hands down, three silver metal blades slid out, extending over my hands and locked into place. I looked at them in amazement, then looked at Pierre, then my parents.

My mom smiled thinly and said “A cat must have her claws, right?”

I laughed and looked back to Pierre as he said, “Claws are my special ability as well.” Spreading his fingers wide, the nails on his fingers grew three inches, thick, yellowish and hooked. “Mine are naturale, though. I will teach you how to use your new weapons and then we shall see about letting you loose on the denizens of Paragon City.”