Training Day




I feel like a disclaimer should be here but I am not sure where to start. Unfortunately, my forum name is the same as my first hero in CoH. That hero is a main character in these stories. Any resemblance between me and Mike Halo is accidental. Hope you enjoy.

Training Day

“This must be the place.” She thought as she compared the small piece of paper to the faded sign on the old warehouse. “Talk about your ‘fixer upper!’”

The instructions said, “Enter through the side door and cross the room to the blue door.” The dim light filtering through the dirty windows revealed some equipment, or what remained of it, gathering dust in small clusters here and there, but the cavernous room was mostly empty. And it was quiet. Not even the sound of pigeons competed with the occasional sound of a passing car to make a dent in the silence. She took a deep breath and headed across the room to the blue door.

It was a large metal door with a big handle and it was, in fact, dark blue. She expected it to be difficult to open. The lever moved easily and the massive door swung silently open. She peered in.

The room did not bear any resemblance to the warehouse. For one, it was clean. It was a large open area, as high as the warehouse, but this was finished with a polished dark wood floor, cream-white walls that went way up to a finished white plaster and dark wood beamed ceiling with skylights. Cushions, mats, and various other small items sat on the floor along the walls. It was beautiful, in a stark, simple way. There was very little furniture and even less on the walls. “Okay, this is different” thought Bubbles, as she closed the massive door.

That was not her real name. “Bubbles McSweet” was her stage name, but now, it was basically the only name she went by. She was an exotic dancer, a business owner, and now, a semi-pro crime fighter. Or so she wished. Coming in at exactly five feet tall, 102 lbs, with blue eyes, blond hair, and a toned, curved body any model would have killed for, she was hardly a menacing presence and she knew it. If she ordered a criminal to stop, would he just laugh at her or ask her for a date?

She was used to having men not take her seriously. From former employers to bank presidents, men had either treated her like a sex object or like an idiot. One by one they had learned differently. She had learned to make the “dumb blonde” act work for her. It’s amazing what people will say around you if they think you are an air-head.

Then it had all changed. Five months ago she had almost been murdered in an attempted robbery at the club. When she awoke in the hospital, she discovered she had the ability to move things without actually touching them and she could make a shield out of thin air. The doctors called it “A latent mutation” even though no such thing existed. They had finally admitted they could find no trace of a mutation in her DNA. For absolutely no reason she or anyone else could understand, she awoke with the ability to use the laws of physics the way a child uses finger paint. Unfortunately, she could barely control it. That was making life complicated. During an incident at the club, a customer who’d had a bit too much to drink had grabbed Bubbles and started pawing her. Before any of the other people could react she had panicked and shoved him away. The problem was he had sailed half way across the club. Other stuff had been happening too, weird stuff such as things jumping and floating around when she touched it. She was scared. She was afraid for herself and afraid she might accidentally hurt someone else.

Desperate for answers, she had finally gone to the only person who she thought might be able to help her. Though she was fed up with being scared, she’d done something even scarier: She had asked for help from the most intimidating person she had ever met.

His name was Mike Halo. He had never said so much as a sharp word to her, but he scared her. The night club, The Paragon Dance Party, catered to super heroes. Many heroes of varying abilities came there. She had long ago become accustomed to the garish, bright costumes, the amazing displays of powers and… the incredible arrogance. Far too many “heroes” did not have a very heroic attitude. He was not like that at all. In fact he was not really a “hero” in the usual sense. For one, he did not dress flashy. He dressed all in dark blue, so dark it almost looked black, like navy blue. For another thing, he did not go around shaking hands and introducing himself to everyone acting like a celebrity. He kept to himself. None of the other heroes made any attempt to speak with him. Word on the street was he was more vigilante than hero. Some of his methods made people in City Hall nervous. Other heroes spoke of him with disdain making vague accusations of excessive force, illegal searches, and unauthorized investigations. Yet he was polite in an old fashioned way, like the old guys in the park. When he came into the club, which he did fairly regularly, he did not hoot and leer like the other men. He just watched. He watched her, the other girls, and he watched the customers. It seemed like he was always watching.

They struck up a conversation one day and it turns out he was nice. He was friendly, in a quiet way. However, even in the dim light of the bar, he looked very tough. And yet he was calm. Calm like no one she’d ever met. His casual confidence was so understated, it was strange. And he seemed to look right through her. It was odd at first. He always seemed to be looking at a place somewhere behind her. He had these weird eyes; bright cobalt blue. She had never seen bluer eyes. Did he wear contacts? And, most interestingly, he had blue hair. In a city full of exotic characters, blue hair was not THAT unusual, but it matched his eyes. He wore it long, but it was always tied in a ponytail; A long blue pony tail. It seemed to fit him. But why blue?

And he looked strong. His muscles rippled underneath the fabric of his dark blue costume. He was not sleek, like a body builder; every muscle seemed to have little muscles attached to it, like ropes all twisted together. His costume was not just a set of tights. It was thicker than it looked. But it clung to him like a second skin.
And he was fast. He was not a “speedster” like some of the showy heroes who frequented the bar, but he was very fast. And he was… graceful. Like a dancer, but NOT like a dancer, different somehow. She could not describe it. The really amazing thing was that he could dodge bullets. She would not have believed it if she had not seen it herself.

When the goons had tried to rob the bar a few months ago, they had busted in waving machine guns and pistols, screaming orders. There was almost no one in the club except the staff. Everyone raised their hands and dropping to the floor as ordered. The music blared on so you could barely hear, but when their mouths moved, you knew what they were saying. And then they stopped and stared - at HIM. He just sat there at his table, sipping coffee. She had never seen him drink beer, always coffee. They leveled their guns and barked orders at him. It seemed like slow motion. He carefully put his coffee cup down on the saucer and closed his eyes for just a moment. Suddenly he was NOT in his chair.

And all hell broke loose.

In the blink of an eye, five of them were on the floor. He moved around them, but he was a blur, like he was out of focus, a living shadow. He dodged, spun, and struck, kicking and punching with smooth, even movements. It took a second or two for them to even realize they were being attacked! Then they started trying to shoot him. “They managed to shoot the bar, the floor, the pool tables, the ceiling fan, and even me”, she thought, “but they never even knew where he was!” He had been everywhere at once! Leaping, ducking, and spinning he had FLOWED between them, beating all ten of them into unconsciousness-BARE HANDED!

When she was hit, she did not lose consciousness. She lay there on the pool table, not able to move. Suddenly it was all quiet. It was over so fast. They were all either unconscious or writhing in pain on the floor. He put something on each of them and they were instantly teleported away. He had somehow drifted back into focus. It was so odd.

He looked around the room and she watched his mouth move “Is everyone all right?” Joe, the bartender, pointed at her and his mouth moved. Halo was instantly beside her. She could not talk. She was numb, cold. Her eyes were open. Blood poured from between her fingers where she clutched her stomach. His face had been so close.

He looked into her eyes and said, “Oh God… Sandy…” He put something on her forehead. She remembered how blue his gloves were. They were unexpectedly thick and rough on her skin as he gently held her face. He smelled of gun smoke, and leather, and blood.

He was saying something, “…you’re gonna be ok, they’ll take care of it…” and gently tapped her forehead with the tip of his blue finger. She floated away.

He visited her in the hospital, maybe more than once, she wasn’t sure. But he did not come during normal visiting hours. She’d seen him once in his dark costume, crouched on her window ledge one night. She looked up suddenly and waved, almost startling him off his perch. He gave her a grin and a thumbs-up and was gone. The mysterious Halo was now her guardian angel? How did he get up there? How did he get OFF there without breaking his neck? The day she was released from the hospital, he had not been there. Joe and Candy, her best friends from the club and the only “family” she had, picked her up. Then she had not seen HIM again until he’d shown up in the bar again a couple of weeks later, same as always. He’d never talked to her about it.

Another odd thing was that, unlike every other man she had known, he did not try to hit on her. Bubbles knew she was very pretty; beautiful, even. The mirror did not lie. After one too many cold nights and one too many hungry days, she’d finally become desperate enough to use her natural good looks to her advantage. She’d decided to take a chance and pull herself out of minimum wage poverty by auditioning to become an “exotic dancer”. It had been another scary, but successful risk. It seemed like a degraded and sleazy way to make a living at first, but she was not a degraded or sleazy person. She was just hungry. She’d learned the ropes and had found ways to make it fun. Every day at work seemed like it was not really work, more like a party and a “naughty dress up day”. In short order, she no longer paid any attention to being seen undressed. She decided if they wanted to pay her that much money, then she would keep right on dancing. She negotiated her own contract and formed her own entertainment company. She trained and hired out dancers for parties and clubs. She was working on building up a catering business to go with it. Bubbles still danced, to stay in shape and to train the other girls, and because she loved to dance. She was used to being noticed by men. She expected it. He, however, did not seem to notice her, not in that way.

Now she was about to take another risk. No matter what else she might think, Halo was an unpredictable, dangerous man. Though he had saved her life, he was not necessarily her friend. He was a licensed hero and saving lives was a regular thing for heroes, right? She was nothing to him. He was not what you would call, “approachable”. It was the eyes. He just looked at people and they went away. She couldn’t walk up to him and say, “Hiya Halo, what’s up?” like she could with any other customer. She had begun to think of him as Mr. Halo. She’d gathered her courage two days ago and asked Mr. Halo for help. To her utter surprise, he’d said yes.

And here she was. She was wearing her normal workout clothes consisting of an over sized white T-shirt, light blue sweatpants and sneakers. Her blonde hair was in her customary two ponytails, but she wore no makeup. She was not here for a fashion show; she was here to learn how to do karate stuff, and beat up bad guys!

Silently he stepped into the room from the other door. He was not in his costume. He was barefooted and wore some strange puffy black pants and a black tank top. Without the mask, cape and boots he looked even more muscular and even more dangerous. He was good looking, gorgeous in fact, in a tough-as-nails-rip-your-head-off kind of way. Not handsome, like a movie star. He was just so… scary.

He stopped and made a short bow to the other wall to her right. There was a small shelf with some knick knacks and oriental pictures above it. Then he looked at her and said, “Hi, remove your shoes and socks. Leave them by the door. Don’t come in wearing outside shoes, okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” she stuttered. “Good morning to you too!” She thought, as she quickly yanked off her shoes and socks and dropped them by the door.

“Glad you could make it.” He said. “Sorry about the shoes, I should have told you that in the message. Outside shoes are hard on the wood floor and this…” he said spreading both hands, “this is a dojo. It is like a gym for fighting, but it’s also like a shrine. We don’t wear shoes in here.” He looked at her, expecting an answer. “Okay.” She said.

He continued. “So this is my place. The kitchen and the rest of the place is through there and the bathroom is that door there.” He said, pointing. She waited patiently, watching him move around the room. “You can go in the kitchen and the bathroom. I keep bottled water in the fridge if you need it.” He gestured to the small shelf, “this is kinda special, so I would prefer you don’t touch it unless I ask you to, okay?”

“Ok.” She saw there was a statue of Buddha as well as what looked like statues of a dragon and a tiger. “You collect oriental stuff?” He gave her an odd look, like he did not understand what she meant.

“Uh, no. That’s not a collection, it’s just special to me.”

“Oh, she said, “You pray there?” She’d seen this sort of thing on TV.

He made a slight smile, “Yes. I do.”

“I’m sorry,’ she said, “I didn’t mean to… I mean, this is a really cool place! Like the real Karate Kid. ” She said giving him what she hoped was a charming smile.

He gave a small laugh,”Yeah, I guess so, who is the Karate Kid, a hero?

“No, silly, the MOVIE!” She said.

“Oh, well I don’t see a lot of movies, must have missed that one.” He seemed so normal now. “But that’s ok, are you hungry or thirsty? Need anything before we get started?” And he was nice!

Bubbles felt encouraged and said, “No, and thanks, uh, Sir, I just wanted to say thank you for teaching me…”

He waved his hand and said. “No reason to thank me. You would not be here if I didn’t want you here, so it’s no problem.” He walked to the center of the room and gestured to two flat, square cushions lying on the floor.

“Please have a seat.” She walked over and sat on the cushion. He did too, except he did not really sit down. He just descended into a sitting position.

He sat a few feet away, facing her. She had never seen him up close and in this much light. In fact, the club was so noisy; she’d never really heard his voice before. She noticed his arms, neck, and shoulders were, as expected, a maze of ridged muscles and veins. No bodybuilder was as defined or “cut” quite like this! The muscles were not round and even, they were like a mass of cables twisted together. His skin looked like he had no fat at all and it was marked with dozens of faint spots and lines. There were three faint lines on his forehead above his right eye. “Those are not wrinkles, those are scars!”, she suddenly realized. “He’s younger than I thought,” She said to herself. “But how the heck did he get so cut up?” Then she realized how small she was compared to him. “I barely know this guy, I’m afraid of him, and I’m here alone in his house in the middle of nowhere. What am I doing?”

He sat there for a minute and ran his hands over his hair. She waited, not knowing what else to do. He looked at her and rested his elbows on his knees. Suddenly he was serious again. “Miss McSweet, I want you to know that I don’t usually do this. I… well… I’m not a regular martial arts instructor.” He sat up straight. “After what happened in the club, you know that this hero stuff is very dangerous. See all those statues of heroes around town? They are all dead. If you get killed doing something heroic, chances are you won’t even get a plaque, let alone a statue. Either way, you will still be dead.”

Bubbles’ heart sank. Halo went on. “This is not a business for amateurs. I don’t want you to…”

“I understand”, she said, a cold feeling growing in her. “I understand completely.” She stood up. “I’m sorry I wasted your time, sir.”

She turned to leave and Halo said, “Miss McSweet, don’t get angry. Come and sit down.” She looked at him. He looked up at her from his cushion, his oh-so-blue eyes boring into her.

She said, bitterly, “I’m sorry you changed your mind, that’s fine. I’ll get angry if I want to. I don’t need you telling me what to do.” She turned to him and pointed her finger at herself, “I am not going to change my mind on this and I don’t need you or anyone else trying to talk me out of it. I’ll get my help somewhere else.” She turned to leave.

His expression was mild, his voice was soft. “If I did not want to teach you I would not have asked you here.” He said, “Please sit down”. She stopped and looked at him with her hands on her hips. She gave an exasperated sigh. “Then what do you want? What are you talking about?”

“I just think you need to know what you’re getting yourself into.” He looked into her eyes. He gestured with his open hand to her cushion. She went back over to it and sat.
“I am not going to lie to you. You may not like what I say, but I’ll always tell you the truth. I’m not going to get you into something without you knowing exactly what the risks are, fair enough?”

“Fair enough,” she replied.

“You also need to know that if you do anything stupid with what I teach you, I’m the one who will have to deal with it. Do you understand?” She felt suddenly aware that all of the muscles in his arms and shoulders rippled every time he moved.

Her mouth suddenly went dry. “Um… if I use what you teach me wrong you will be mad?”

He nodded slightly, “What it means is we are all responsible for our choices. I am partly responsible morally and legally for what you do with what I teach you, because I chose to teach you. That does not mean you are not responsible for yourself. If you do something immoral or illegal you will be held accountable.”

A cold shiver ran down her spine. “He will GET me if I mess up.” She thought.

But she was not going to be scared off that easily. She screwed up her courage. “Ok, I know what I’m getting into. I still want to do this.” She said. “Mr. Halo, I have to do something. I can’t keep going on like I am. I don’t know who else to go to. I’m not exactly Freedom Corps material, you know? I mean, they… they don’t like people like me.” She looked at the floor, suddenly self-conscious.

“Miss McSweet...” Halo began. “Oh just call me Bubbles ok?” she interrupted.

“OK, Bubbles. I told you I would help you and I will.”

She looked up at him. “Thank you. This means a lot to me.”

He gave her that look again. “Good. It means a lot to me too.” He said, cryptically.

“Okay, let’s start with a few basic things.” He got up and walked over to the small table and knelt on both knees in front of it. He bowed and said something that sounded like Japanese and lighted some incense sticks.

“There, that’s better.” He said.

“He’s into aromatherapy?” She thought. He walked back over and sat down, crossing his legs.

“Sit like me. Straighten your back and sit up. Head up, shoulders level.”

“We’re going to do yoga?” she asked.

“Nope,” He said. “This is not exactly yoga. Take a slow deep breath. Let it out. Close your eyes and relax your mind a little.”

She did as she was told. “Here we go” She thought, “Off to Karate-land!” She breathed in and out. She was so nervous. She breathed in and out. It felt unnatural, funny. She kept peeking at him, trying to match his breathing. The silliness of it was overcoming her. She got the nervous giggles. She tried to keep taking long deep breaths like he was doing. She could not stop giggling.

She opened her eyes and said, “I’m sorry, um, but this is just so corny, I’m just, you know, this is … “Her voice trailed off as she looked at him.

He had not moved. He sat there slowly breathing with his eyes closed. “I know. I thought so too - once. Sit still and breathe.” Admonished, she closed her eyes again and started breathing again.

“Breathe and be still. Listen to your breath. Feel it. Picture in your mind: You can see your breath flow… like smoke… in and out.” His deep voice was low and slow and soft, almost hypnotic. “You must learn to clear your mind and focus. Your breath comes from the center of your body. Control your breathing and you can control yourself. You need to learn to do this to focus, to be aware.”

She did as he said and tried breathing. She felt funny all over. She was painfully aware of her clothes, her skin, her hair, she felt like she had ants on her. She was also very aware of him. He was at least four feet away, but she could almost feel heat coming off of him. She could feel her breasts in the new sports bra rubbing as she breathed. She felt naked, sitting there. She had been undressed a thousand times dancing in the club. But she never felt naked, not like this. Suddenly she opened one eye a little bit and peeked.

He sat there, eyes closed, slowly breathing, barely moving at all. She closed her eye. “Okay, he’s not looking at me.” She was being silly. She was feeling trapped. She was feeling panicky.

“Wait, okay, this is just confusing me. I mean, I just keep thinking about things. I can’t concentrate, can’t we, you know, do some karate stuff?” She said.

“You have not tried. You must calm your thoughts and try harder.” He said, in that annoyingly patient tone. She was starting to get frustrated. She was mad at herself because she could not do something so simple. She was going to go crazy if she sat here much longer.

“Open your eyes.” He said. Relieved she yawned and stretched and rubbed her eyes.

“I said open your eyes, not “move around”. Please sit still. If you are going to learn how to control your abilities and learn how to fight, you must first get control of YOURSELF.” He had not raised his voice, but it felt like he had.

“Yeah, but you said we were going to learn karate. When can I learn to do kicks and stuff?”

He looked at her and said, “I said I would help you. Everyone is different, Bubbles.”

“But I thought you were going to teach me karate! That’s what I asked you to do, to be my teacher, or sensei, or whatever!”

“Please be still.” he answered, still without raising his voice. “Your gifts are not there. You must look to YOUR gifts, YOUR strengths, and we will work from there. Fighting is all in the mind, Bubbles. It is your mental approach to a problem which determines how you deal with it. If your mind is weak, your fight will be weak. I will teach you fighting. But that is merely as a tool to help you to discipline your mind. But you are not a hand-to-hand fighter. You are more.”

She wanted to complain more but did not know what to say. Was that a compliment? She was feeling confused and embarrassed. “He’s treating me like a kid.’ She sulked. “I’m not a kid. I’m almost the same age he is.”

“We will do this for ten minutes without interruption. So far we have done this for two minutes.” She groaned inwardly, but he continued, “Then we will do something else. But for ten minutes you must be… alone with yourself.”

He paused, to let that sink in.

“Most people have never spent anytime alone with themselves, Bubbles. It can be an unsettling experience. I understand that. But to be able to deal with the ugliness in the world, you must be at peace. Peace with yourself. You must face and accept every thing about yourself. Think about nothing. If your thoughts start to wander, stop them. Look at that thought and accept it. Then return to thinking about nothing. Listen. Listen to your breathing, your heartbeat. Listen to my breathing. Listen to your stomach growl. Listen to the noises coming from outside. Be still. Listen to everything. Think of nothing. Breathe.”

This was perhaps the hardest thing he could have asked her to do. She was in mental agony. All she wanted was to kick and punch a punching bag. She had never stopped talking and moving in her life. Her whole world was a constant blur of talking, sound, music, and motion. She concentrated, she tried to relax. Each moment stretched into an eternity. Her thoughts raced around, disorganized. Gradually, her panicky mind began to slow down and she found her thoughts drifting from one thing to the next.

She gave a yelp when she suddenly realized someone was touching her shoulder. Her eyes snapped open and HE was there, kneeling close to her. “Are you ok?” She mumbled, “Wha, huh? Yeah, what… Why? What’s wrong?” He helped her to her feet. Her legs were tingly.

“I called your name. You’re ok?”

“Oh” she said, feeling suddenly self-conscious. “Sorry, I guess I fell asleep.”

“That’s ok”, he said. “That was just the first time. You’ll get the hang of it.” He picked up the cushions and set them against the wall. “You are a dancer, so you should have no problems with this part. We will do some stretching.”

“Finally”, she thought, “something I understand!”

The afternoon wore on. They practiced foot-work, punches, and kicks and put them together to make a short routine. Her dancer’s skills came in handy as she was able to quickly memorize the moves and the patterns. But they did it over and over again until she thought she would die of boredom. But she quickly understood what he meant about her not being a martial artist. Halo was not the biggest man she had ever met, or even the strongest, but at a little over six feet tall and well over two hundred pounds of solid muscle, she would never be his match physically no matter how good she got at fighting. But she was not giving up.

About two hours later she was completely exhausted. “And I thought I was in shape!” She said, as she sat soaked with perspiration drinking water from a bottle he’d given her. “You are. You are doing fine.” He said, slowly stretching at various angles from a full leg split. “He’s as flexible as I am”, she thought. “And he has not even broken a sweat”.

“It just takes some time. Speaking of time, that’s enough for today. When do you want to meet again, next Thursday morning ok for you?” He asked.

She smiled wearily at him, “Okay, you want to do this, what, 2-3 times a week?”

“Yes, that’ll be okay for starters.” He said standing up. “Okay” she said, suddenly feeling awkward. He walked over to the center of the room. “Come stand by me” He said. He pointed to the table, “Bow, please.” And he bowed. She made a quick jerky bow. He turned toward her, “Turn and face me - bow.” She bowed. “Better”, he said. “Look at me when you bow, not the floor.”

“Can I ask a question?” She asked. He said, “Of course, you can ask me anything.”

“What’s all the bowing for? I mean, I don’t mind, it just seems… you know… kinda formal.”

He looked at her for a moment. ”Yes, it is formal. Bowing is a sign of respect. This is a temple - holy ground. We bow to the symbols of peace, strength, and wisdom with reverence. We must approach the business of confronting and possibly harming people with reverence. Also, I treat you as my student, but I must treat you with respect.”

She suddenly brightened. “You respect me?”

“Yes, of course,” he seemed concerned, “why wouldn’t I?”

She once again found herself speechless, staring at him. “’Cause almost no one does. They think that because I’m a “stripper” that I am a lowlife.” She looked defiant.

“Bubbles, you are not a lowlife. You are a very strong, very sweet girl. You are not nasty or mean; at least you don’t act nasty around the bar.”

She smiled at him. Who would have thought this incredibly tough guy would be so nice?

He continued, “I am not here to judge you, I only want to help you. There is nothing wrong with what you do. You work hard, you make people happy, you abide by the law. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing’s wrong with it, you’re right. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. You did well today. Make sure you practice at home, Okay?”

“Okay, I will.” She replied.

He walked her to the door. “If you want, next time you can bring extra clothes and change in the bathroom so you don’t have to go home sweaty.”

She smiled at him, “Thanks, I will.” He nodded. Another awkward silence settled. Impulsively, she kissed him on the cheek and then ducked out the door. She looked back at him and said, “Thanks, see ya!” and trotted through the old warehouse.

He stood at the door briefly and watched here leave. He ran his hands over his hair and thought, “That’s not the way I planned this.”

On Guardian!
Mike Halo
& a few dozen others.

Our SG: Stars of Paragon

Fiction: Training Day



Training day, Part 2

Three weeks and several demanding training sessions passed. Bubbles arrived a little early that Tuesday. She wore her usual over-sized white T-shirt, blue sweats, and carried a gym bag. She carefully opened the blue metal door and stepped inside. After removing her shoes and socks she looked over at the small shelf against the wall to her right. In spite of herself, she made a little bow. “Well, HE thinks it’s important. I suppose I should keep him happy.” She thought.

The kitchen door, which led to the rest of the apartment, was closed. She set her bag down with her shoes and wandered out into the middle of the floor. Slowly she raised her hands over her head and stretched, then stepped into fifth position and went through several brief ballet moves, entered a grand plie’ and rose into an arabesque’. She held the pose. Then she slowly lowered her hands to the floor and went into a hand stand and rolled out of it into a round over and a front flip, hands free cart wheel, and a back flip. She stopped and slowly descended into a back bend. Her loose T-shirt fell around her neck, revealing her bare midriff and her grey sports bra. It wasn’t a bra really. More like a half top. And it was thick elastic designed to keep her considerable breasts from being bruised while exercising. It was advertised as “extreme sports grade” and had taken her a whole day of shopping to find.

She continued over and out of the back bend into a hand-stand. The T-shirt obstructed her view. She puffed air out of her mouth and shook her face to shake the T-shirt away from her face. Feeling suddenly clever, she shook her shoulders and head letting the shirt fall all the way to the floor, pooling at her wrists. Then she walked on her hands out of the shirt and continued to hand-walk a few feet away, leaving the T-shirt it in a pile where it fell. She rolled in to a somersault and leapt into the air onto her feet, slowly lowering herself into a full split. She tucked her legs in and stood, spun around and saw Halo standing in the door.

Without hesitation she waved and said, “Hi!” and did another back flip.

As he walked toward her, he picked up her T-shirt. “You’re stronger than you look.” He held it out to her, “Need this?” He asked.

“Nah, it’s warm enough in here.” Then she stopped. “OH! I’m sorry, you said this was a temple, did I do something wrong?” She held her arms across her chest.

He shook his head, “No. I don’t think Buddha would mind. But that reminds me of something.” He handed her the shirt and quickly walked back and returned in a few seconds carrying a shopping bag. “I took the liberty of doing some shopping for you.” He handed her the bag.

Her eyes lit up, “Ooh, what’s this? You bought me a bathrobe?” She held up a black jacket. “This is real silk!” She exclaimed.

He said, “It’s not a bathrobe, its workout clothes, Chinese style. There’s matching pants too.” She was already pulling it out. “Wow, this is nice! Hey there’s more! Let’s see… Another suit?”

“I didn’t know which you would like better. Some people like a Japanese uniform better.” He watched her examine the clothes.

“Can I try them on?” She asked.

“Yes, that’s the idea.” He said. She made a face at him and trotted off to the bathroom.

He again picked the T-shirt off the floor and folded it, shaking his head.

She emerged wearing the black silk cheongsam. “This is nice! It feels like PJs. But won’t it get ruined?” She asked, fingering the material on the sleeve.

He said, “Silk is pretty tough. How does it fit, can you move around in it with it all buttoned up?”

“Yep, fits nice,” She said waving her arms around. “Loose, but not too loose. THANK YOU! This is really, great!” She beamed a big smile at him and ran back into the bathroom. She came out wearing the karate uniform. It was black cotton.

“This is nice but it’s stiff. I’ll need to wash it a few times to soften it up.” She held a long black belt in her hand. “Am I supposed to wear this? I’m not a black belt. Aren’t I supposed to start off white and change colors?” she asked.

He said, “It matches the gi. The color business is not that important. Not like you think.”

“Oh,” she said. “I thought you earned, you know, a black-belt.”

He said, “I guess you could if you want, I don’t know how that works. I could find a karate instructor if you want.”

She looked at him disbelieving. “You don’t have a black-belt?”

He shrugged, “No. Why?”

“Oh, I’m sorry I just assumed, you know, you fight so good.” She said.

“The martial arts you might study these days are taught like a sport. They are great for exercise, and for basic fighting, don’t get me wrong, but they are not what I do.” He said.

“What do you do?” She asked, innocently.
“In a real fight, I do a combination of things that work best for me. The only thing that really counts in a real fight is winning. In a real fight someone usually wants to kill you.” He said. “But, if you need a name for how I learned it, it’s mostly what people call kung-fu.”

“Oh, I figured it was something like that. Where did you learn it?” She asked.

His expression softened a bit. “From a very kind old man. We called him Uncle Han, He was a Buddhist Priest. But you wouldn’t think of him as ‘Master Han’. More like a father. He was a great man.” He said, looking at the floor.

“He’s… um… dead?” She asked, immediately sorry she asked it.

“He passed away in ’90. He was 112. He lived a strong life to the very end.”

“That must have been hard, you were a little boy, what, ten, twelve years old?” She asked.

“No, Bubbles, I wasn’t.” he said flatly.

“You were younger?” She asked.

“No. Sit down here and I’ll tell you.” They sat on the square cushions. Halo ran his hands over his blue hair to the band of the ponytail.

“Bubbles, I haven’t been completely up-front with you. I’ve been waiting to see how this would work out.” He looked at her.

“I had an accident that changed me. It made my eyes and hair this color and it did some other things. At first I thought it was a curse, like a disease. Uncle Han taught me to take this BAD thing and make it into a GOOD thing. He taught me to read and write Chinese and to fight. Well, he taught me a lot more. I became a monk and adopted The Path. Then I became a priest. I was honored to be recognized by the few remaining Masters as a Master. But the Shaolin do not really exist anymore as an order. It was more like a family. Anyway, I studied in other places with other masters too. I trained and lived with them for over fifty years.” He was looking at her, but not really seeing her. He looked at a place somewhere behind her, decades away. It took a second for her to let it sink in.

“Fifty years? You’re kidding me. You aren’t fifty years old! You… how old ARE you? You look like you’re my age or maybe a little older.” She said, not taking him seriously.

“I was in the Navy in World War II. Our ship had a very bad accident. A lot of men were killed or went missing. I was hurt, almost electrocuted, but I survived. The Navy discharged me after I got out of the hospital. I was twenty two when that happened. I’ve pretty much stayed twenty two since.” He took a deep breath and looked at her.

“Bubbles, I was born in my parents’ bedroom on a farm in Pennsylvania in 1921. I grew up on that farm. When World War II started, all the boys joined up. I went into the Navy. ” He said, simply.

Bubbles noticed her mouth was hanging open and she closed it. “You… You’re… WHAT? You are eighty…eight three? No way! You aren’t eighty three!”

Halo sighed, “I’m not lying to you. However, I know it’s hard to believe. I find it hard to believe myself sometimes, until I look in a mirror.” He said wryly.

He stood up and stepped back. “I have something to show you. This is the quickest way to show you I’m telling the truth. Please do not be afraid.” He concentrated for a brief second and seemed to tense his muscles. Suddenly, amazingly, he vanished.

Bubbled screamed and jumped up, except she stumbled over the pillow and landed flat on her rear, momentarily stunning her. She looked back at Halo except he was not there.

“I did not expect such a strong reaction. I apologize.” He faded back into view, but only barely… he looked like a ghost. His ghostly face said, “They say; seeing is believing.”

She stood there with her mouth open. Then he faded completely back into view and stood there looking at her.

“Oh my God! Oh wow!” She gasped.

”That’s from the accident. It is not much of a “super-power” but I find it useful in some situations.” He said it as casually as if he were talking about the weather.

Bubbles found out that she could speak. “You, you, you, ah, you’re ok? Uh… you’re not a ghost are you… I mean you’re alive?” She stammered.

Halo shrugged. “Yeah. I’m alive alright. I just don’t age. And there are some other things no one has been able to explain. Anyway, I just live with it. It comes in handy so I use it. Please, sit.” He gestured to the cushion.

Bubbles continued to stare at him as though he would disappear again. “That’s just so wild. How do you do it?”

He gave her a mild look and slightly shrugged his shoulders, “I’m not sure. I focus and think about it and it happens.”

Bubbles sat back down. “Ok, so let me get this straight: you are over eighty years old, you are a Priest, and you can turn invisible. Did I cover everything?” She asked, nervously.

He pursed his lips and scratched his forehead and nodded. “Yep, that’s the Reader’s Digest version, but yeah, that’s basically it.”

“Riiiiight. Well I have to hand it to you, if had not seen you beat those Nazis with my own eyes I would not believe it. Still that’s an incredible story.”

“Bubbles. I didn’t tell you to impress you. I wanted you to know. You deserve to know what you’re getting into. I don’t want you to think I am something I’m not. I know you want to get a hero license and fight crime. You could go right now to City Hall and get one. But you would get yourself killed. I want to help you. I don’t want to see you hurt, not again.” His voice faltered.

“That wasn’t your fault.” She put her hand on his. “Those guys shot me, you tried to stop them.”

“Bubbles, you must understand something; this is basic to… to being a… to being in the crime-fighting business. It may not be my fault directly but it is my responsibility. I could have let them take the money and leave. They might have done just that. Or they might have shot everyone anyway. We will never know because I did not let them make that choice. I chose to intervene. When I did that, I became responsible for the outcome of my actions: MY choice, MY responsibility.” He seemed to change before her eyes. His face hardened.

“When you put yourself into a situation which, in reality, is none of your business, and MAKE it your business, you must accept the consequences of your actions. You must be powerful enough to control the outcome. You are not ‘above the law’, but your actions are held to an even higher moral standard which sometimes eclipses the Law. Sometimes the law is wrong. Sometimes the law is corrupt. Sometimes, all you have is your character, your faith, your trust in your moral standards to guide you. This is the essence of justice. The law does not care about justice. There is no such thing as a court of justice, there are only courts of law. YOU are the justice that sometimes the law can’t satisfy. Your powers, your knowledge, your will, give you the power to act in a way most people can’t. They give you a responsibility most people, even many heroes, can’t even comprehend. People will hate you for this. People will mistrust you, and accuse you of being a vigilante. You can’t be afraid of being unpopular. You can’t rely upon other people’s opinions of you to make you happy and motivated.”
Bubbles looked at him. “I understand what you are saying. I guess I kinda knew it, but just not the way you put it. If you feel responsible for me getting shot why do you want me to go out and get shot at some more?”

He looked at her. “You’re sharper than you act sometimes. That’s good. One thing does not cancel out the other. I still feel responsible, but I can’t fix the past. Luckily no one was killed, so I learn from the experience and do better next time, or, I insure there never IS a next time. You asked me to train you. That was an adult decision made by an adult. I may have accepted you as a student even if the robbery never happened. I have not deceived you into thinking this would be easy. Quite the opposite, I’m doing everything I can to show you how hard it can be.”

Bubble stared back at him. “Trying to scare me off?”

“Nope. I’m trying to scare you ON. I want you to get a sense of how serious this is. You can act anyway you want, but deep down inside, you need to feel the badness of this. This is a bad business, Bubbles. It steals part of your soul, if you let it. So you can’t let it. You have to harden and train you body AND your mind. That’s why we begin with meditation. But there is no reason to dwell on the past. We have to concern ourselves with the here and now.” He stated flatly. “Meditation helps you control your thoughts and concentrate, which you desperately need.” He gave her a meaningful look.

“Aw no. God, do you know how awful meditating is for me? ” She asked.

“Yes”, he said. “It’s good for you.” She sat down.

Once, when he was showing her a move, he had bumped her in the mouth with his elbow. It felt like she‘d been hit with a hammer and it gave her a fat lip. But even getting hit in the mouth was better than meditating. They settled into their relaxation exercise. She found this part to be absolute agony, but she was learning to cope. She had a harder time concentrating than usual. All the things he had said kept running through her mind.

After meditating she put away the pillows and Halo said. “Come here, you tied that wrong, let’s put your belt on and see how you like it. “ He undid the ties on her jacket. Part of her sport bra was clearly visible above the wide deep v the gi jacket made when it was closed. Halo opened up her jacket getting a clear eyeful of her ample bosom barely restrained by the grey spandex. He pointed to her side. “See this tie? This goes here, and this… this ties. Then this one goes here with this one. See?”

“Ah gotcha.” She said. He knelt in front of her.

“And this belt ties like this.” He wrapped the belt first around her stomach and then passed the ends around her back. Doing this brought them together in a brief hug as he wrapped his arms around her tiny waist. She eyed him as he tied the knot in front. He was concentrating only on his task.

“And then around and up behind the first wrap end then a simple knot.” He tugged the knot snug and jerked her unexpectedly.

“Ooh!” She said. He gave her a reassuring smile.

“There you go, all dressed up and ready to fight.” She tugged at the belt and rearranged herself a bit.

“That feels a little weird, but I can live with it” she said.

“Good. You can take it off or loosen it up if it starts to bug you. Let’s begin.”

He walked over to the wall by the kitchen and picked up his own black jacket and put it on. It looked like an older, more faded version of what she wore. Instead of a belt, he wrapped a wide black strip of black fabric around and tied it as a sash. Like her, he was dressed all in black.

He walked over to the corner and dragged out some mats that were stacked there. He spoke as he worked, “The uniform keeps you from getting scraped up and gives us something to grab onto. Today we are going to learn some falls and some basic takedowns.”

The session was rough but fun. She soon realized the tough canvas cloth was necessary to practice grabbing and throwing a person. She was learning fast. And her positive attitude and enthusiasm were infectious. Also, Halo seemed to be having fun and loosening up around her a little.

As he taught her the moves, he gave her situations. He talked about criminals. While he demonstrated, he talked about what motivates men to become criminals. He talked about what they were thinking when they pointed a knife or a gun at someone. She started thinking about people in a different way. She did not like what she was hearing. Were people really that bad?

Almost everyone she knew either worked at the club or were customers there. The men who came into the club were not really bad. Naughty maybe, bored and lonely mostly, or showing off for their friends. But they were not evil, were they? Most men only want a woman to smile at them and make them feel appreciated. It was amazing what just sitting down and talking with them would do for their mood. Instead of being afraid of the customers, she’d gotten to know all the regulars. She even knew some of their families. Were some of her customers criminals?

But he made it clear to her that not all men could be charmed. Some did not care how pretty or sexy she was. Some of those men would see her simply as a threat and try to kill her. This was a lot to digest.

In addition to throws and take-downs, they practiced the usual kicks and punches. This time he held a big square pad for her to hit. She even got to throw him, which she loved. She got the wind knock out of her once, when he was teaching her how to fall, but she quickly got the hang of it. After another grueling session, she was again perspiring heavily and he was not. He walked back from this kitchen holding two bottles of water.

“Can I ask you a question?” She asked.

He raised his eyebrows, “Of course.”

“Um, what should I call you, anyway? Like um, you know, Mr. Halo, or Sensei, or Master or what?” He ran his hands over his hair to the band of his blue ponytail. He seemed to do that whenever he did not know what to say. “I dunno, Mike’s good, just call me Mike, everyone else does.” He smiled at her.

He did not smile often, but when he did, it lit up his rough face. How could someone so tough looking be so cute? “Um, no, I don’t think that’s right. How about ‘Uncle Mike’”? Mind if I call you that? You’re old enough to be my uncle, right?” She said jokingly, giving him a playful punch in the arm. It felt like she had punched a wall. He gave her a funny look and suddenly he laughed out loud. It was so abrupt it completely startled her!

He stopped laughing and apologized, “Oh, I’m not laughing at you! Uncle Mike! Hah, I like it!” He said with a twinkle in his eye. “Do I seem like an uncle to you?“ He asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Yeah, kinda,” She said smiling, “A big scary uncle.”

“Who me? Scary?” He said, in mock surprise.

“Yeah YOU.” She said, poking him in the stomach. “You scare everyone, everyone but me. You used to scare me, but now I know you are just a big [censored] cat; A big… scary… killer [censored] cat with huge claws and fangs.” She made a face with her fingers pretending to be fangs.

“Ah, so my secret is out. I am ruined.” He laughed and then his smile faded. “You don’t need to be afraid of me, ever.”

“Ok, but if you are going to pull anymore scary stuff like your vanishing act I’d like a little more warning next time, okay?” She said in a mock scolding voice.

“Agreed, next time I’ll tell you.” He nodded.

“You mean you have more stuff to show me?” She said, eagerly.

“I mean it is time for you to go. You have to be at work soon.” He said smugly.

“Very funny. Okay. I’m not even going to ask how you know that.” She said as she walked off to the bathroom.

Halo stacked the mats and tidied up the room while she changed. She emerged wearing her white T-shirt and blue sweats. She walked over to him and bowed. He bowed to her. “Eyes up.” He said. “Right.” She said.

They turned to the small statue of Buddha and both bowed. “Thursday we’re going to visit a friend. We’re not going to work out, so wear something casual.” He said as he walked with her to the door.

“Can I ask who it is?” She said with raised eyebrows. “You can ask. He’s a friend, he values his privacy. He is going to give you a check-up and see if he can figure out your powers.”

“Oh COOL! Thank you! I am SO waiting for this!” She said, overjoyed.

“Good.” He said, and opened the door.

Without hesitation she gave him a big hug. “Thanks so much. I’ll see you later.” She said smiling.

Halo was not used to being hugged. He was also not used to smiling so much. It made his face hurt. He grinned at her. “Good by.”

She trotted off and then turned to wave at him before she went though the outer door.

He muttered, “This is ok. This is working out ok.”

On Guardian!
Mike Halo
& a few dozen others.

Our SG: Stars of Paragon

Fiction: Training Day



Training Day 3

Halo looked at himself in the mirror. His newly blonde hair hung wet and loose past his shoulders. The package and bottles he’s used to color it lay scattered on the bathroom counter.

“The eyebrows are always the worst”, he muttered to himself. He gave up on trying to color his eyelashes or wearing contact lenses years ago and simply wore sunglasses. He was not terribly concerned about his secret identity. It was not all that secret. But he valued his privacy. Walking around with bright blue hair and eyes while in street clothes always attracted too much attention.

He cleaned up the mess and tied his long, newly blonde hair back and went into his bedroom. A loose pair of old jeans, a white T-shirt, black socks, and soft black shoes completed his semi-disguise. People who knew him well would still recognize him. Most people did not know him. They only knew him from the occasional photo in the paper, in costume, poorly lit, and always slightly out of focus. Another small gift from his accident: He did not photograph well.

He grabbed a black windbreaker and descended the stairs into the basement. He entered a network of passages once used by the garment industry to shuttle materials from building to building throughout what was once a vast manufacturing complex. The racks and conveyor belts were gone, what remained were a series of interconnecting passages at different levels leading to several buildings. Now it served to allow him to leave unnoticed by any one of several routes. He emerged from another building a block away and walked at an unhurried pace toward the tram plaza. Out of habit and necessity, he reached out with his awareness and took in his surrounding with more than his eyes. The chipped and worn bricks, the cracks in the sidewalks, the lost prosperity of Kings Row, could not mask the stately elegance of the old buildings. It had been such a beautiful town once. The usual teenage gang members loitered here and there, trying to look tough. Ahead, around the corner, he heard voices, and “saw” what was happening.

A young woman was being harassed by a “Skull”, a member of one of the local gangs, while a couple of his buddies watched and laughed.

“C’mon, baby, you don’t need to struggle, you just need to let me see what you got in the purse.” The mugger brazenly sneered at her.

“Let me go! Leave me alone!” The lady cried. Halo mentally awarded her points for courage. If she was lucky, she would escape such a confrontation with little more than her pride bruised. If she was not lucky, she could be in deep trouble. And that was the problem with leaving these decisions up to the hoods, thought Halo, dryly. You can never be sure what they’ll do.

He knew what he would do. Halo walked around the corner and “bumped” into the thug causing him to suddenly let go of the purse. She fell to the ground, but quickly got to her feet and backed away. The thug spun to face him. The other two thugs stopped laughing and stood up straight.

“What do think you’re doing, Man?” the would-be purse mugger sneered. Halo stood there and removed his sunglasses.

“I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?” Halo stared at the thug until he blinked. Dismissing him utterly, Halo turned his back on him and looked at the other two. In an even voice, filled with command, he simply said, “Get going.” Like startled rabbits they bumped into each other and ran down the street. They did not even bother to yell curses at him. They ran past other gang members without noticing them and kept on running. The lady was gone. He could not sense where she’d fled.

“Good. Go home and hug your kids, lady.” He thought.

Such encounters had the tendency to depress him. It would be much harder for gangs to recruit here if the poverty was not so bad. Still. People made choices; they did not have to make bad choices. But it’s hard to preach about good character to desperate people.

But today was not a day to be depressed. Bubbles waved to him from a cross the tram plaza, her usual blonde ponytails waving like flags. She was oblivious to the admiring gazes of the men and the critical looks of the women. She seemed to have no real grasp of how beautiful she was. She wore low cut jeans and a short tight pink blouse which did nothing to conceal her curves. Matching pink tennis shoes and a open pink jacket completed her outfit.

“So much for going unnoticed”, Halo thought. Still, it was hard to be down when you were around Bubbles. She was a bundle of happy energy that never seemed to have a bad day. Her positive attitude was, to say the least, infectious.

“Hiya!” She said beaming. “I LOVE the hair!” she said fiddling with his ponytail. He smiled at her, in spite of himself.

“You could keep it down a bit,” he said quietly. “We don’t really want to attract a lot of attention.”

“OH, right,” she said in a not-so-quiet stage whisper, “Sorry boss.”

“That’s ok. But next time wear something that isn’t so… bright.” He said, taking her by the arm and steering her gently toward the platform.

“Hmm… If we have a dress code, you need to tell me, and then you gotta take me shopping!” She said in a little girl voice.

“Have you always been a spoiled brat?” He said, raising his eyebrows at her.

“That is so impolite! I thought you monks were supposed to be kind and polite.” She said, enjoying herself way too much. Halo just shook his head and went into the tram.

They emerged in Skyway City, a district of Paragon City noted for excessive use of highway overpasses. The traffic had never become heavy enough to justify the cost of construction, yet the soaring highways remained. The net effect was that Skyway was a district in perpetual semi-shade and muffled sound. A few blocks from the tram they stopped at a non-descript brick storefront whose windows were tightly covered by shades.

Instead of using the door knob, Halo placed his hand on the top portion of the metal plate which extended above the knob. A soft click was heard and he pulled the door open. They stepped into a large, empty, silent room. A few old counters and merchandise displays collected dust along to far back wall. The floor was clean, but the place had the faint dusty smell of long abandonment.

There was, however, a softly glowing ring of pale blue light pulsing from no apparent source on the middle of the floor. They entered the room and Halo stopped a few steps in from the door, quietly looking at the lights. “This is exciting.” Bubbles whispered. “Is this the place?” Halo was looking at the blue ring, like he was waiting for something. After a moment he replied to her in a similar whisper “Yes, but… you need to know something.”

“What?” she whispered suddenly concerned.

“You don’t need to whisper.” He whispered back, with a straight face.

“Oh fuuuny.” She said out loud.

The blue ring started crackling softly as the ring of lights rose up to the ceiling onto a cylinder about ten feet in diameter, causing Bubbles to jump.

“Here we go.” He took her hand and stepped into the circle. The immediate sensation was like when an elevator starts moving, but she could not tell whether it went up or down. They emerged in a similar room except this one had a high ceiling and a wide corridor going into another room. Halo walked in and Bubbles trailed slightly behind. They walked through room after room all filled with strange equipment of varying sizes all throbbing, humming, and beeping.

“This looks like Dexter’s Laboratory!” she exclaimed with delight.

“Who’s Dexter?” Halo asked.

Another male voice said, “Dexter is a cartoon character Mike. You really need to get a TV.”

The voice belonged to a young man in a lab coat wearing some strange looking goggles bent over a workbench. At least Bubbles thought it was a workbench. It was not like any table she’d ever seen before and it was covered with tools and parts and wires and all manner of junk. The man in the lab coat stood up and stretched his back and then took off the goggles.

He turned and walked past Halo, ignoring Bubbles. “You’re late” he said.

Halo grinned, “Nice to see you too. Max, this Bubbles. Bubbles, Max.”

Max glanced at her. “Nice to meet you” he said, not sounding like he meant it. Before Bubbles could answer he said to Halo. “I have the prelims from the hospital. They’re junk. I need to do a full work-up. Hmm… Nice hair.” Bubbles suddenly realized how young he was. “He looks younger than me!” she thought.

He walked over to a nearby table which might have been a conference table except for the boxes and stacks of paper on it. He went to the relatively clear part of it and sat down, flipping open a file folder on a clip board.

“They did the basics, but that’s all and they didn’t follow up. Bubbles, I want to give you an exam to see if I can determine the source of your… ah… abilities.”

“Okay.” She said. “Um… are you the doctor?” she said, looking around.

“Yes.” Max said, closing the file. “I’m the doctor.” He said it in that oh-so-adult voice doctors like to use when they don’t want any argument. Bubbles knew how to deal with men.

“Okay, examine away!” she said, giving him a sexy smile and spreading her arms.

Max looked startled for a moment but recovered fast. He turned and went over to a large machine. “Go in there and change. Take off all jewelry, watches, rings, everything. Put on the scrub top and pants. There are some slippers there too.”

“Okay.” She beamed a big smile at him and walked to the changing room, knowing he’d watch.

Once the door was closed Max turned to Halo and said, “Where did you find her?”

Halo looked at the door for a second and said, in a distant voice, “On a pool table in a peeler bar with three bullets in her stomach.” Then he looked at Max. Max looked momentarily startled and only said. “Oh” before returning to his notes.

Halo said, “She’s the real deal, my friend. I can feel the energy in her. She just needs to do a bit of growing up and learn to concentrate. With some training, she could be very powerful.”

Max gave him a long look. “She’s a stripper? I bet she makes a fortune! But dancing on tables is not exactly our specialty. You have your work cut out for you.”

Halo said. “You might be surprised. She is not a dingbat. It’s an act. It’s almost like a disguise. She’s strong and she’s smart.”

Max walked over to another big machine and started adjusting it. He was about to say something when Bubbles came out. She looked even younger and smaller in the over-sized scrubs.

“Stand by this board.” Max said. Bubbles smiled at his rudeness and got a mischievous look in her eye as she strolled over to him. Halo closed his eyes and sighed. This was going to be a long day.

After about two hours, Bubbles was starting to get very impatient. Max had examined her with three different machines that looked like nothing she had ever seen before. Finally Max said. “Okay”, in a satisfied tone. “You can get off there now.” He walked over to a computer console with a large monitor. They followed and stood behind him as he hit buttons. His fingers flew across the keyboard. The display finally stopped changing and it showed a group of three dimensional displays. “You want the details or do you want this in English?” He said, still typing.

“I vote for English,” said Bubbles.

“What did you find?” asked Halo.

“She is not a mutant, at least not in the traditional sense. Her DNA is well within accepted normal parameters. However, her brain is emitting energy that I have not yet identified. It’s like a sphere of neutrinos, or a field. Like an energy field, but it’s inside her head. There are no abnormal growths, no extra lobes, no unusual organs. But this area right here…” he pulled up a small display and enlarged it to fill the big screen until they could clearly see a 3-D revolving diagram of a human brain. Arrows and lines blinked and changed, pointing to various areas of the brain. A portion of the brain was highlighted in yellow.
“…this area is showing abnormally high activity. This is an area of the brain we humans do not use very much. A lot of our brain is like that. We still don’t know what all of those “dark areas” do. Neurology, as a science, still has a long way to go before we fully understand how the human brain works. Obviously Bubbles can tap into areas of her brain that most people can’t. How this relates, and IF this relates to her reported abilities is the real questions.”

“What does that mean?” She asked.

Max turned around and looked her. “I don’t know yet. What it does NOT mean is more important at this point. You do not have an injury, or tumor, or a parasite or something else that could harm you. So that’s good.” He stood up and kept talking. “It means we need to do some more research too. But it also means you should be able to make some use of it with out harming your self.” He picked up a clip board and started writing. “Mike tells me you were shot recently.” She was startled by the abrupt question and was immediately self-conscious. She looked at the floor, uncomfortably, “Yeah about seven months ago why?”

“I’m forming a theory. I can reasonably suspect that you experienced hydrostatic shock and then additional trauma when you fell and hit your head. This could have activated a latent talent you have had in your brain all along. Another theory would be that something happened in the hospital which did not get on your record, but I have nothing to build on that with. The surgery was a straight forward abdominal procedure. No spinal cord injury. No unusual anesthetics or medications, no odd allergies. So I’m ruling out the hospital angle for now. My premise is that you have probably have always been this way but nothing ever triggered it before.”

“Okay, so… what is hydrostic shock?” She asked.

“Hydrostatic. The human body is basically a big bag of water mixed with chemicals. If you slap a rubber hot water bottle, the whole bottle shakes, because the water moves back and forth throughout the whole bottle. When a bullet hits the human body, sometimes it can cause a huge shock wave of fluid to move through the body. Just this shock alone can be enough to kill a person if it is bad enough. Then, after you were shot, you fell down, which could have caused further shock to your head when it struck the table. Pool tables have a slate surface under the green felt cloth. That’s a slab of solid stone.”

“You think that, because I got shot, it jarred something in my brain that was always there…sort of turned it on… and now it’s still running?” She asked.

Max looked up from his notes. “Yes. Exactly.” He looked at her for a moment and went back to his notes. “We are done with your exam. You can change now.” He waved his pen toward the changing room.

“Ok.” Bubbles went into the dressing room, thinking about what she’d just heard.

Max looked at Halo, “She IS smarter than she looks, by the way.” Before Halo could answer, Bubbles spoke from inside the dressing room, “I heard that!”

Max blushed and Halo just sighed. “How do you know that using her powers won’t hurt her?” He softly asked.

Max’s expression became earnest, “The human body is a magnificent and bizarre machine, Mike. A normal human body is not designed to harm itself. I have every reason to believe she is this way naturally. So whatever she can do with her abilities, her body can probably tolerate. Otherwise, there would be some sign by now that her body is suffering damage or deterioration caused by using her powers. The master designer, whether that is God, or nature or whatever, is a great designer. True mutants, on the other hand, are not always so lucky. Sometimes their bodies do not fully adapt to the mutation. Sometimes there are fatal consequences. I don’t see anything like that here.” Halo looked at him, too many questions came to mind. “This is kind of hard to swallow, she’s normal but she is not normal?”

Max sat down, removed his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Without his glasses he looked even younger. “Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this makes any sense. The instruments and the samples don’t lie. She is not a mutant, at least not in the way mutants are defined genetically. There are no chemicals or impurities in her blood. Considering where she works, I expected some traces of drugs, alcohol, etc. She shows none of that, so nothing Scientific has altered her accidentally or on purpose. She has no growths or tumors or implants that would suggest some sort of technological source. And lastly, she has no markings or traces of any sort of arcane influence. All I can do is look at facts. Sometimes the facts lead to strange conclusions. I am not ready to make a conclusion. All I can do is accept what I am seeing and make a recommendation. She falls well within “normal” human parameters.”

Bubbles emerge from the dressing room and Max led them through to another area. He carried his ever-present clip-board and turned on lights along the way. They stopped in a large open area that was about the size of school gymnasium. Various pieces of equipment and a few targets were set up in separate areas. Max went over to a console in the corner and more noises started happening. Bubbles noticed a large square block of concrete toward the back of the empty side of the room.

He turned to them, “Time for a couple of small tests.” He looked at her.
She said, “Okay. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to do deliberately what you have been doing accidentally.” Max tapped on a key board. Bubbles looked at him uncertainly, “Ok. I guess.”
Max looked at her through is thick glasses. “It’s up to you. But my tests indicate it is perfectly safe. This is a controlled area. I have tested people with powers here before. I would like to test you. Bear in mind my theory is only a theory and it’s only marginally supported by anecdotal evidence. We need to collect some more data, and at the same time, give you some more experience under controlled conditions.”

Bubbles looked at him. “For a young guy you sure are smart.”

Max shrugged, “I’m a genius. I didn’t ask to be one. I can remember every word on every page of every book I’ve ever read. I never forget anything. Even some things I want to forget. But I did not earn it. I was just born this way.”

“Like me.” Bubbles said.

“Like you.” Max nodded and said. “You take what you are given and do the best with it, right Mike?”

Halo just grinned at him like it was some inside joke.

Bubbles asked stalling for time, “So what do YOU do with “it”, work here in this lab, do research on heroes and stuff?”

Max turned on some more lights that illuminated a recessed alcove behind her near the door. She turned and saw what looked like a large robot in pieces hung on a rack.

“What’s that?” She asked.

“Work clothes.” He said without looking up. “When I’m not working here, I wear that battle suit and see how many Rikti I can find. The Rikti destroyed my home, killed my family. I’d like to do the same for them.”

“Where did you live?” Bubbles asked.

“At PCSU in Baum Town. My mom and dad taught there and we lived on campus.” Max said.

“I lived in BT, on Willow, near the cathedral. The Rikti blew up my house. I don’t even know what happened to my mom and dad. I never saw them again.

“The whole city would have ended up looking like BT if not for the heroes.” Max said. “I was twelve.”

“I was seventeen.” Bubbles said.

An awkward silence settled on them. Halo had been silent but now spoke up. “When Max wears the suit, he goes by the name, “Battle-Star”. Bubbles turned around and stared at Max. “YOU’RE BATTLE-STAR?!” She exclaimed. She quickly walked over to the suit and got a better look at it. “You’re BATTLE-STAR! You’re a HERO! A REAL super hero! You saved all those people in that office building; and you fought those gangsters, you do all kinds of stuff! I’ve seen your picture in the paper and on the news!”

Max seemed genuinely flattered. He shrugged slightly and said. “I’m not a super hero. I’m a guy with a really good suit. If I have a “power” it’s only right here.” He said tapping his temple with his finger.

“Speaking of which, let’s see what’s hiding in your head,” Max said, returning to his console.

Halo put his hand on her back and guided her up to a line on the floor. “Come over here, and face that block.” Halo said.

“Okay,” Bubbles said, slightly confused.

“I want you to try to hit that block.” He said.

She glanced at him. “But…”

“I know, I know, don’t worry about it, this is not the club and that is not another person. This is just a test. Ok?”

Bubbles took a breath and then gave him a determined look. “Ok.”

“Just reach with your power and try to hit it, like you did that other time, and let’s just see what happens.” He was standing close, looking straight at her with an encouraging smile. Suddenly he seemed more like her father, teaching her to ride a bike.
She took another deep breath and looked at the block. It was across the room, about twenty feet away. Nothing was happening yet, but, since she was now thinking about it, she could feel the power, like a tiny headache, hovering at the edge of her awareness. Awareness. That was the trick, she thought. Focus. She took a deep slow breath and suddenly she was alone… just her and the block. The rest of the room seemed to be slightly in the shadows, like there was a path of light between her and the block. The block was surrounded by six thick blue circles, slowly orbiting and revolving around it. She mentally felt for the small ache and poked at it. Suddenly one of the bands of light stretched and elongated straight as an arrow forming a rope from the block to her hand. One of the rings of light surrounding her suddenly and violently peeled off and shot toward the block in a pale blue stream of throbbing energy. The power sliding down her arms felt like a cold, soft plastic. The effect quickly dissipated, but her senses were now heightened. She could see the rings very clearly now.

Max quickly walked over to the block and examined it. Then he looked back at Bubbles.

Bubbles said, “Aw man! Let me try again.”

Max looked at her. “You moved the block! It’s about a foot back from where it was.

“Oh!” She said brightly, “Then that’s good!” Max walked back toward her, he was looking at her like she was a lab rat. Suddenly he did not look so young.

“How hard did you try just then?” Max asked.

“Not too hard, why?”
“That block weighs four thousand pounds. If that had been a person, they would have been knocked clear across the room.”

“Oh!” Bubbles said. “Then I need to turn it down?”

Max looked at Halo and then back at her. “Yeah, I want to see not only how powerful you are, but also how much control you have.”

“Ok, next time, tell me how HARD you want me to hit it and I’ll try.” Bubbles said.

Max had her try it a few more times. After a couple of tries, Bubbles started to see that she could not change the amount of power in the blasts very much. She did not really damage the cement block, but merely pushed it back.

“That’s enough for now.” Max said. Bubbles was starting to perspire. She took off her light jacket and sat down on a stool. As if he was reading her mind, Halo was beside her with three bottles of water and handed her one. “Thanks.” She drank the water and watched Halo set one on the console next to Max. Max muttered something. Halo opened his bottle and drank water too.

“So Max was really ‘Battle-Star.’” Bubbles thought. “Wow. Was he all brain and no heart?” She wondered briefly what must have happened during the war that made him this way. Sure he suffered, a lot of people suffered. A lot of people died. But he must have had it especially bad. Hmmm…

Her reverie ended when Max turned on his stool and looked at her. “Ok, that was good. The bolts of force you are sending out have a consistency to them that can be measured. I’m still not sure if we are measuring gravity or just the effects of gravity. Raw gravity, as a power-form, does not exist in a theoretical construct, not one that we can use anyway. So what we are really talking about is Gravometrics. That’s pure science fiction, really. At least until now. “Max returned to writing on his clipboard.
Bubbles gave Mike a blank look. Mike looked back at her and shrugged.

“What else can you do; anything useful?” Max said, abruptly. Bubbles was starting to get tired of his bad attitude. “I can cook. I’m pretty good on roller blades.” Bubbles said, smiling sweetly.

“That’s nice.” Max said, sarcastically. “What other things can you do with your powers?”

Bubbles stood up and yawned, stretching her hands above her head and going up on tip-toes. When she finished she looked at him and his mouth was slightly hanging open. She ignored that and walked out to the “firing line” and looked at the block.

Halo came up next to her. “How do you feel when you use your powers?”

“I feel good. It’s fun. Kinda makes me hyper, though.”

“What do you see?”

“Rings. Rings, all over everything. Lots of different sizes. Lots of different colors. Some are very faint, some are bright and thick. The bigger something is, the darker and thicker the rings are.

Halo said, “When you look at the block, tell me about the rings.”

Bubbles looked at the cement block. “It has six thick blue bands all revolving around it slowly. Some are thicker, slightly and some are… softer.”

Max said, “You can… touch them?”

Bubbles looked at him and said, “Oh yeah, I touch them all the time. They are soft. That’s’ how I know if someone is behind me. Everyone has rings and they go out around you. Like, I don’t know…”

“An aura?” Mike said.

“Yeah! Like an aura! But it has hoops.”

“Can you touch the hoops?” Max asked.

Bubbles said, “Oh yeah.” She stretched her hands in the air and reached with her mind and "touched" the rings surrounding the block. She stuck her fingers between them and pulled slightly. The rings collapsed into a bundle and the block suddenly vaulted straight up into the ceiling, smashing into the acoustic tiles and light fixtures. The block then fell to the floor with a thunderous crash, accompanied by a shower of sparks, glass, and other debris from the ruined ceiling. Bubbles did not flinch or even look surprised but muttered, “Sorry, that was too fast… here… here… yes…“ She held her hands up like she was finger painting in the air. Max and Halo moved back behind her, toward the door. Mike whispered to Max “Sorry about that, I’ll help fix it.” Max whispered back, “Don’t worry, I have repair bots to fix it, happens all the time. “

Bubbles was standing there looking at the block, “It’s ok now. I have it held.” They saw with amazement that the block was now suspended a foot above the floor. A small patch of glowing energy was below it. “It will fall down in a few seconds. I can’t hold the knot that tight.”

As if on cue, the block once again slammed to the ground. Max and Halo walked over to the block. It was looking somewhat worse for the wear. The corners were chipped and pieces of glass and ceiling tile were all over. A strand of dangling wire sparked as it slowly swung from the destroyed ceiling.
Bubbles looked at Max, certain he would be furious at her. He turned around and, said, “Excellent.” And make some notes on his clipboard and then walked briskly back over to the console.

Halo quietly said, “Bubbles, what do you see when you use your power, anything besides the rings?” Bubbles thought for a moment. “It’s like I think about it and then I see this web… or a… net. Except it is not just a net, it’s thick…” She stepped a little and turned around the room, looking and pointing at things. “It’s like a tangle of circles, like hula-hoops all wrapped around everything. Big hoops around big things little hoops around little things. Some are thick and darkish some are thin and pale. They are like… like they are alive.”

Max said, “Can you see this all the time?” Bubbles shook her head. “No, only when I think about it, it’s like I got a little headache or a stiff neck. I ignore it most of the time, when I look at them too long… it gets confusing.”

Max was starting to get excited. “Is it like a “wave” like waves of water or air? Or is it like dust, like, uh, like particles or bugs flying around in a circle?”

“It’s like light. And music. Like you could SEE music but not hear it. All the hoops are like light circles tangling everyone together. Every thing too. Its like they are dancing in place.”

Max looked like he was mesmerized. He swallowed hard. “You can see gravity.” He stated flatly. “You can SEE gravity! He stood up and turned around with his hands in the air. “I don’t believe it!!! That’s incredible! That's amazing!

Max spun around and looked at her and, for the first time, smiled at her. “This may be one of the most significant scientific discoveries since Newton dropped an apple! Even Einstein never thought of this!!! Rings! Light rings! Not waves, not particles… music. Amazing. Absolutely astounding! Bubbles, do you have any idea what this means?”

Bubbles shook her head, “No. But you’re not mad that I smashed your roof? I didn’t mean to, really.”

“NO! NO! Girl, you can SEE gravity! Nobody even KNOWS what gravity IS! Scientists have been trying to figure out gravity for centuries, but YOU! You don’t have to figure it out, you can SEE IT! You can TOUCH IT!” As he talked, Max walked up to her, like she was his favorite person on earth. “That is astounding!” For a second, Bubbles thought he was going to hug her.

Halo said, “What do you feel when you touch the rings? Is it like electricity?”

She shook her head. “Oh no, it’s nice! It’s like petting a dog, like running you fingers through dog’s fur. It feels nice.”

Max looked at her and said. “What happens when you touch your own rings?”

She shrugged, “I'll show you...” She slowly moved her hands around, like she was picking at a spider web. “There… there’s a soft string…” She pushed it out and it wrapped around her hand. “I… I can feel it like a sponge or a plastic sheet, its’ soft but… here… I can pull it apart… “ Suddenly a sphere of pale glowing light appeared all around her. “AAAGH!” Bubbled screamed and stood there rubbing her bottom. Halo and Max were on their feet and standing close to her, but not too close, neither wanted to touch the sphere. “What’s the matter are you ok what happened?” They both shouted at once.

Quietly Bubbles said, “I’m ok, It just… snapped me,” in a hurt voice.

“Snapped you?” Max said. “What do you mean?”

“It SNAPPED me, like a rubber band!” She said. “Stretched it around me and it popped into a ball. It… snapped me. On my butt! “

Halo grinned and shook his head, “Oh good grief.”

“It’s NOT FUNNY!!!” she said indignantly. “I let go of it too fast and it HURT!”

Max said, “What is ‘it’ Bubbles?” He touched the sphere and it appeared to dent slightly but it stopped his finger. “It feels like I’m pushing against solid… air!”

“I held two rings and touched them together and they snapped crossways. Now I can’t see them but I can see this ball-thingy.”

Max said, “Mike, try to hit it.”

Halo poked it a few times and then punched it. “It’s like hitting a mattress. It’s like a soft wall or a… “

“Forcefield” Max said. “It is a text-book example of a force field! We will need to test this and see what it can stop.” He looked at her and said, “How do you feel? Are you ok, can you move?”

“Yeah I feel fine, I can move, see?” She walked around the room and the translucent sphere stayed around her wherever she went.

“Amazing” Max said.

Halo looked puzzled, “Why is it amazing? We’ve seen force fields before.”

Max looked at him and said, “Yes, but where is it coming from? How is it powered? A generator? A helmet? A door? No. It‘s coming from her. And she’s not even a mutant. That, my friend, is amazing.”

Halo nodded. They both turned to look at her.

A few hours later Halo and Bubbles emerged into the afternoon shadows of Skyway City. They walked toward the tram plaza without speaking. Bubbles had a swollen lip and a bruise on her neck. Halo walked slower than usual, with a slight limp and a small bandage on his forehead. Halo, as usual, did not say much. He scanned around them by habit, taking in every detail of their surroundings.

They ascended the ramp to the tram station and, as they got to the top, Bubbles touched Halo on the arm, “Uncle Mike.”

He stopped and looked at her. Bubbles gave him a determined look. “I want to go to City Hall. I want to apply for my hero license.”

Halo gave her a long, quiet look. “I think that's an excellent idea.”

Bubbles smiled big and blurted, “REALLY?”

Halo smiled, in spite of himself, “Yeah, really,” and chuckled.

Bubbles was animated now. “Wow, that’s great, what made you change your mind?”

He stepped up the platform, waiting his turn to file onto the tram car. He massaged his jaw with his free hand and he put his other arm around her shoulders and gave her a brief half-hug and whispered in her ear, “I think it was when you sent me flying across the room after I popped you through your force field, you big bully.”

Bubbles blushed and giggled and they entered the tram.

On Guardian!
Mike Halo
& a few dozen others.

Our SG: Stars of Paragon

Fiction: Training Day



Very well-done, indeed!

I've got to put together a story of my own soon...; it's much more comedy-oriented though...think elements of Bobobo crossed with any of the classic Giffen/DeMatties-era JLA stories...pure silliness from start to finish....



I appreciate the feed back.

Training Day 4

Two days later, Halo was finishing up his workout when the computer emitted a soft chime. He put the barbell down with a soft clank and sat up, listening, reaching out with more than his ears. Someone was about to enter the outer door. “Bubbles,” he thought, “She’s early.” He resumed his bench-press exercise on the inclined bench.

He felt comfortable around Bubbles. She was a very likeable, even lovable girl. But she looked so much like his little sister, it was eerie. Because of that, he found he was not really attracted to her, even though her beauty was considerable. He thought of her simply as a young friend. As usual, once he had something settled in his mind, he no longer gave it much thought. It did not have to be any more complicated than that.

“’Morning Uncle Mike!” Bubbles called out as she entered the kitchen. She wore jeans, a short blue blouse under a blue windbreaker, and matching blue socks. She had kicked off her blue sneakers at the other door. Bubbles loved her clothes.

“Sorry I’m early, hope I’m not interrupting. I wanted to pick-up a few things and I thought I’d be longer at the store.” She talked as she unloaded the grocery bags into the refrigerator, “I picked up a just FEW things, you know, ‘cause you don’t keep a lot here, hope you don’t mind.” She closed the refrigerator and walked to the kitchen table. She got a good look at what he was doing and gave a startled, “Oh!”

Halo’s home was not merely a refurbished warehouse. It was essentially an entire house built inside the old warehouse in an abandoned area of Kings Row. It consisted of several rooms; this was the “great room”; a regular kitchen was in one corner, near the door to the dojo. It was a complete kitchen, with an island, but it was sparse. There were almost no small appliances or gadgets. He did not even own an electric can opener. In another corner was the rarely used “living room”. He did not collect books or have a TV, but there was an old stereo system on a shelf with turntable and a few vinyl records neatly shelved.

Diagonally across from the kitchen was a complete weight room with exercise machines, free weights, and some other wooden contraptions Bubbles had never seen before. In the other corner there sat two low tables with some potted plants located strategically beneath one of the skylights as well as a desk with the computer. In the middle of it all was a big dark oak kitchen table with eight chairs around it. Everything was extremely clean and tidy, decorated here and there with plants, oriental pictures, candles and incense burners, though, at the moment, no candles or incense were lit.

Halo continued to do his reps and said “Hi”. He lay on the weight bench wearing green running shorts, white sneakers, and a black tank top. Bubbles watched him move the barbell up and down with ease. She knew he was strong, but she had never seen his muscles under this much strain before. His chest, arms, and neck were a maze of cords, rippling and twisting under his skin. Bubbles caught herself staring. It was disturbing and hypnotic at the same time. Bubbles pulled her eyes away and noticed one of the weight plates on the barbell had a stamp on the end facing her. “Whoa,” she thought, “I couldn’t pick up even ONE of those weights and he has EIGHT of them on there!”

Halo finished and again set the barbell down in the rack with a dull clank. He sat up, perspiring slightly, and said, “Did you get the forms?”

“Nope, they let me file on-line right there. I got a class date and everything!” She said.

“They’re getting efficient. What did they tell you at Freedom Corps?” He asked.

“I didn’t go to Freedom Corps; I went straight to City Hall”

“I thought we talked about this,” he said, walking over to the chin up bar. He hopped up to the bar and started doing chin-ups.

“Freedom Corps will give you the training in basic law enforcement you need to go WITH that license.” He said, as he exercised.

“I know, but they are so snobby. They act so stuck-up and preppy it makes me sick!” She said. She found the sight of him in the rather small running shorts to be very distracting.

He stopped exercising and dropped down. He went over to a large canvas bag and dragged it underneath the chin-up bar. He then pulled some long straps out of the bag and looped them around his shoulders, pulling the bag up to about the back of his thighs. Bubbles realized it was a kind of weight. Halo jumped back up and started doing chin-ups again, with the weight hanging off of his shoulders.

“Bubbles, you can’t judge people by how they look, only by what they do. Freedom Corps has a good record even if they are a bit showy.” He said, never breaking pace.

“Uncle Mike, how much weight is in that bag?” She asked.

“About one-eighty, I think, I haven’t weighed it in a while. Why, is sand leaking again?” He asked, not at all out of breath for all his exertion. He continued to do chin ups with no apparent end in sight.

Bubbles watched spellbound, ”How do you DO that?”

Halo said, “This? Lots of practice.”

“But I mean why?”

“Ever try to carry a person on your back and climb down an elevator shaft?”

Bubbles made a face, “Um, no, at least not yet.”

“Unless you practice, you won’t know if you can do it. Helps to be ready.” Halo said, as he dropped to the floor.

“And you are always ready?” Bubbles asked.

Halo gave her a wry grin, “No. Wish I was, but no.” He stuffed the straps in the bag before sliding back off to the side. He stretched his back, not breathing hard but slightly sweaty. Standing there in his shorts and a tank top, Bubbles was once again, suddenly aware of how good he looked. Not “good” really, more like powerful, dangerous… like someone who could keep you safe. “He LOOKS like a hero, like from the olden-days” She thought. “He could be like a cowboy or a jet pilot or a fireman. He looks like someone who saves people.” She thought, smiling to herself.

“I’ll be right out.” Halo said, oblivious to her staring, he finished his stretching and went through the door between the kitchen and the living room.

Bubbles busied herself making coffee. As she found what she needed, she heard the shower running, making her think about him in the shower. “I have to stop thinking like that. He is my teacher.” She said. Still, she had to admit to herself that he had a certain animal magnetism she could not deny.

“It would be easier to ignore it if he was jerk, but he is so nice. And he is so NOT like the other men I know.” She thought to herself.

In a few minutes, Halo emerged wearing jeans and a white T-shirt and sat down at the table to put on his shoes and socks. Bubbles brought over two cups of coffee. “Smells good. Thanks.” He said and took a sip and then finished combing back his wet blue hair and tied it in a ponytail.

“No blonde hair today?” She asked.

“No.” He said. “So tell me again what you’re going to do about your hero license?”

“I’m already enrolled. I didn’t have to go through Freedom Corps. I went straight to City Hall, they have a class now. Its part of the Police Academy but it is for heroes. They call it A.L.E.R.T: Auxiliary Law Enforcement and Response Training. Most people just call it “Cape Camp”. It sounds fun!” Bubbles looked across the table at him expectantly.

Halo looked into his coffee as he sipped. He gave a slight smile and shook his head, “What will they think of next? Sounds like City Hall is finally getting their ducks in a row.”

Bubbles nodded excitedly. “It’ll be cool! They got this big thing they do at the end, it’s like a big test. It’s called ‘The Out-Break’. You respond to a 911 call in this big riot area. They won’t tell you what it is and you have to sign a form that says you won’t tell after, but people still talk.”

He nodded. “Must be a simulation of some sort - sounds exciting. When do you start?”

“I am all registered, so I show up next Friday and get my room assignment. School starts the next Monday. Eight weeks. I will be free on weekends, sometimes, so I won’t be gone the whole time. They say they keep you pretty busy there, so we’ll see.”

Halo took all this in and sat looking into his coffee. It was mid morning. Hazy light filtered down through the skylight above. They sipped their coffee together in silence.

He sat his coffee cup down carefully in the saucer. “Max called. He wants to see you.”

Bubbles gave him a big smile, “I’ll bet.”

Halo chuckled. “You probably did not make as much of an impression as you think, Max is a different breed of cat.” Bubbles gave him the “Oh really?” look. Halo continued, “He only really cares about two things, one of them being knowledge. It’s like knowledge is food for him. For now, you are something new and he wants to learn all about your powers.”

“Ok, so what’s the other thing?” Bubbles asked.

“You should ask him this yourself, but the only other thing I’ve ever seen him care about is our team. We have a group of people that often work together on tough cases.”

“Wow. Can I meet them?” Bubbles asked.

“Maybe. We all stay pretty busy,” Halo continued, “But Max – Max is really interested only in his work. He doesn’t have time for a girlfriend.”

“What about you?” She asked, suddenly feeling bold.

“What about what?” Halo asked, not really following her.

“Do you have a girlfriend? No wife? Anyone?” Bubbles asked, plunging in. Halo drank some more coffee without answering at first, “No. No girlfriend, no wife.” He said.

“Um, is that ‘cause you’re a priest or because you don’t like girls?” Bubbles immediately regretting she’d asked it.

Unexpectedly, Halo started to chuckle. He put his cup down and laughed. She had rarely heard him really laugh before. Bubbles started to get embarrassed.

Halo held up a hand, “No, please, I don’t mean to laugh, it’s just… wow, I never know what you are going to say next!”

“WELL?! I’m… you know, I wanted to know. You never date; you don’t have any family, no pictures, no magazines. I thought maybe you were gay.”

Halo kept chuckling, “No, I’m not gay, heh, heh, heh. “

“Well then why are you doing all this?” She asked, exasperated.

Halo wiped his eyes with the back of his hands, “All what?”

“This! ME! All this training! Why do you want to help me?” She asked.

“Ah yes, well. “ He said, still smiling. “You think I have some ulterior motive for doing this?” He moved his eyebrows up and down like in an exaggerated leer.

Bubbles blushed scarlet and started to get defensive. “Well yeah! I mean, come on, what am I supposed to think? You won’t let me pay you for the lessons; you take me places, get people to help me, somehow my hospital bills were miraculously paid off. Yeah, I am starting to wonder.”

Halo gave her that calm mild look she was learning to hate, “That’s bad of me. I should have explained it better. I apologize if I have kept you in the dark.”

Bubbles threw her hands in the air, “And that’s ANOTHER THING! Why do you gotta be so nice all the time? It ain’t NORMAL! You are so polite, it’s like I’m talking to my Grampa or, or, a…”

“A Priest?” Halo asked.

Bubbles smiled in spite of her self.

Halo smiled back at her.

“You are making me crazy!” She blurted. She got up to put her cup in the sink so she would not have to endure his unexpected teasing.

He shrugged his shoulders, “Bubbles, there is really nothing going on at all. I just want to help you.”

“Yeah, but why me?” She persisted.

“What’s wrong with doing something nice for someone?”

She folded her arms, “People don’t do nice things for people for free, Uncle Mike, not normally.”

“You do.” He replied.

“I mean normal people.” She argued.

“You are normal, normal for you, and so am I.” He put down his cup and looked at her calmly, “The ability to be generous comes from a position of power. If you feel powerful, or empowered, if you feel confident and calm and in control, you can give of yourself freely and not feel like you are risking anything. If you have nothing to lose, you can give everything. Once you have made a balance, a harmony, within yourself, you can do anything.”

“Harmony?” She asked.

“Yes. Harmony.” He paused for a moment, thinking. “That’s kind of a funny way to put it, I know, but that’s basically it. Bubbles I don’t have many needs. I am in complete control of myself. I am not compelled by lust or greed or hunger to do things or to make people do things for me. Maybe that makes me lucky, or different, but, even so, I am also not a complete person. Like everyone else, I am a work–in-progress. We live each day and forget that each day is a new day. Each day we have a chance to start fresh. The things that happen to us each day affect us, change us, and make us better or worse, depending on how we react to it. The wonderful part of it is that we can all choose to react better, try harder. We can constantly strive to be the best version of US that we can be. I do not want to change. But I want to grow, and be the best version of me that I can be. I do not want to change you. But I hope that you will want to fulfill your potential, whatever that is, just as I want to fulfill MY potential. That means helping you to become the very best version of you that you can be. Part of my “job” as a priest is to pass along what I know. The only real benefit of knowledge is to answer questions, to solve problems, to create solutions, to make things more harmonious in the sense that it balances things out. Harmony is balance. But it is more than that. It is being able to read the out-of-balance and see a way to restore it. One of our teachings on this is a simple one; it is ‘the rule of ten’.” He said, finishing his coffee.

“Ten? Ten what?” Bubbles asked.

“Ten good deeds.” Halo answered, getting up to retrieve the coffee pot.

“Someone once did a good deed for me and helped me. I became one of his ten. I, in turn, have done a good deed for you and have made you one of my ten. You in turn will take that deed and make ten more. That way, good deeds spread; good things happen, problems are solved; Greater harmony results. This does not require government, or taxes, or a program. Each person of good conscience receives the blessing they were given and bears the burden of passing it on.”

Bubbles looked incredulous, “Are you kidding me?” She said. “That sounds like something from a nursery rhyme or Sunday school.”

Halo said, “Most of the important things in life ARE simple, Bubbles. When people make their lives complicated, when they wrap themselves up in plans, and schedules, and possessions, and forget about the simple things, they become out of harmony with themselves, with the world.”

Bubbles said, “Okay, so what happens when you use up all ten? No more good deeds? Or is there another rule for that?

Halo gave her a straight and solemn face raising his hand in an imitation of Buddha, “In Buddhism, counting is not allowed.”

Bubbles smirked. “Ok, whatever.”

Halo chuckled and got up. “Here, watch this.” He went over to the sink and took a very large empty jar out of the cupboard. He went over to the refrigerator and took out a carton of eggs. He went to another cupboard and took out a bag of dried beans and put them all on the table in front of Bubbles. Next he retrieved the can of coffee and a measuring cup. “Cooking class?” She asked.

Halo said, “Watch closely o insolent one. I will reveal to you my Magic Jar. I will show you some ancient Chinese magic, okay?”

Bubbles smiled, “Ok.”

“I place the jar on the table. Next I put the eggs, carefully, into the jar. I fill the jar up with eggs, right?”


“Ah, but no, the jar is not empty, the beans fit into the jar as well. See?”

Bubbles was bewildered, but curious. She shrugged and said, “Ok, so?”

Halo continued. “Now the jar is full, but is it? Now I take coffee and pour it in. I shake the jar gently and all the coffee goes in and fills up all the remaining spaces.”

Bubbles was now very curious, but still dubious.

“Now, I either have the making of a very bad soup, or I have an object lesson.” His eyes twinkled at her.

She smiled. “Ok, sensei, what’s the lesson?”
“The eggs represent the most important things in your life; God, your beliefs, your family, your friends, the things you are most passionate about or love to do. If everything in the world went away, but those things survived, you would be okay. Your life would still be full.”

Bubbles thought for a minute. “Ok.”

“The beans are all the things we fill our life up with, like work, and cars, and bills, and all of your clothes and furniture, all your possessions. These things are possibly both good and bad. They start off as necessary to support life, but end up taking over. They become an ‘end’, instead of a MEANS to an end, right?”

Bubbles nodded.

“The coffee is all the small stuff, sometimes annoying stuff. The things people say, the way you react to things. But it is also fun stuff, watching TV, eating out, having fun. It is also all the little things we forget to do or that we put off doing until it becomes too much. If you put the coffee in and then the beans, there would be not enough room for all of the eggs. If you are absorbed by the small stuff, you find yourself always just reacting to what happens, you tend to look for an escape or relief from the hassle. You focus on a possession, a hobby, a book, to take your mind off your problems without really dealing with the problems. Some people's jars become so full of problems, and useless hobbies, and mental baggage they start to abuse food, alcohol, or drugs, and ignore others around them: ANYTHING to take their mind off of their problems. They tend to ignore other people’s needs, because they are so focused on their own. That is completely out of balance, out of harmony.”

He turned the jar slowly looking at the partially obscured eggs ands spoke softly. “Eggs are fragile, like friendships, like friends. And they hold a treasure inside, like friends, like the ones we love. We must be careful with our friends, treat them gently. Sometimes, the more familiar we are with friends, especially good friends, the more we forget that. The easier it is to really hurt someone you care about. Maybe they are hard-boiled; maybe they are raw. Do you want crack them just to see? No. People have to come first, even if you do not know them. Property can be replaced. The things we own are just so much stuff. But people are different. You can take a stranger who needs help and make them one of your ten. Briefly, you have added them to your jar. Maybe they will go, maybe they will stay. Maybe you will get a bigger jar."

He paused for a moment and looked at her. "When you listen to other people, help them, work beside them, you see what REAL problems are. Your problems shrink, as if by magic. You find yourself taking a less selfish, a healthier, more positive approach to the way you live your life. As if by magic, your world becomes better. That is why this is a Magic Jar."

"That 's really cool.” She said. “Is that why I am here?”

Halo gave her a warm smile, “Yes. You are one of my ten, but you are more. You are one of the eggs in my jar, and I in yours. We come together in mutual respect and friendship to solve our problems. For too long my Magic Jar has been out of order.” His smile faded a bit.

“This is an awful, nasty business, Bubbles, it really is. There is so much bad stuff out there; it will break your heart. It can turn you mean and cold. I began to feel that. I began to question what the point of it all was. I allowed myself to fall out of balance because I lost purpose and started dwelling on my own problems instead of helping others. I started to withdraw, even though my years of training and study have taught me better, I still slid into that trap. It can happen to anyone, it happens to many people and they don’t even know it. I woke one day and I suddenly knew what had happened. I had to fix it. I had to find those eggs and make sure they were safe in the jar. So I went to the club, and saw you guys there. Joe, and Candy, and you, really the only people I know in the city who were not working cases. You were the only people I knew socially, and even then, I barely knew you.”

“You thought of us as your friends?” She asked, “Everyone was scared of you, you're not what you'd call "approachable" you know."

"Yeah, I know. I don't do it on purpose." He looked a little bit vulnerable suddenly, which was jarring for Bubbles.

"I think of my friends as the family I get to pick for myself. I pick them carefully and try to keep them safe."

Bubbles nodded. “Yeah. Especially when all your real family is gone.”

“Yes,” He replied, “But even when your family is there. The child grows to be an adult and adult passes away. The child must learn their own place in the world and find the people they will put in their jar, and they in theirs. The child will grow and find another and make their own children and also add around them all those they trust. The community of people grows through love and trust.”

“And we all hold hands and sing Koom Bye Yah?” Bubbles asked. “I hear what you are saying, but there does not seem to be much “community” or happiness around here.”

“It begins with me. And it begins with you.” He said. “If something is wrong in the community, you must act to make it better. So many things to fix, so many problems to solve, it can be overwhelming. The work is hard and dirty, but it is helpful and it needs to get done. What more can a person ask for? Hard work, nice friends, good food, I try to keep it simple.”

“Simple works for me.” Bubbles said.

"Me too. Let’s go see if it works for Max." Halo smiled and pulled a black knit cap over his blue hair.

“I thought you said we were going shopping?” She said. Halo gave her a blank look and said, “We are.”

They entered Max’s lab from the same building, in Skyway. Bubbles asked, “Is this the only way to get in the lab?”

Halo said, “As far as I know.” Bubbles nodded and into the lab they went. They found Max sitting on top of a giant metal contraption in the room Bubbles thought of as “The Shooting Room.” As they walked up, they could see he was half way into an opening on top of it, with a mass of multi colored wires and cables sprouting out and dangling down like wilted flowers. Bubbles suddenly realized it was a giant robotic arm big enough to fill up the average hallway.

They stood there for a good minute before Halo picked up a fist-sized chunk of metal, held it out at shoulder level and dropped it, producing a satisfyingly loud clang. Max jumped and pulled his arm out of the hole as he faced them. Bubbles was startled to see that Max was wearing what looked like a metal arm.

“Hey, cut it out!” He shouted angrily. “What do you want?”

Halo said, “You asked me over, remember?”

“Yeah, I said noon. It’s only eleven thirty. You’re interrupting me!”

Bubbles waved, “Hi Max, whatcha doing?”

Max looked at Bubbles. “Being interrupted. Go away! Go… play with the teleporters. I’ll be done in a minute.” Max returned to whatever it was he was doing.

“Cheery guy.” Bubbles said.

Halo shrugged. “Ever see a Teleportation Array?” and walked off. Bubbles skipped after him, “No! You mean he was serious?” As they wandered around Halo showed her the equipment he knew. Some of the stuff they just stared at, neither having any idea what purpose it served.

Less than thirty minutes later, Max found them looking at a workbench. “Ok guys, sorry but you caught me at a bad time.”

Halo said, “And?”

Max said, “…and its ok now. That arm still had an active power source in it. I needed to deactivate it.”

Bubbles blurted, “Where did the arm come from?”

Max glanced at her then at Halo, “Yeah, well, before you start learning about that kind of stuff we need to talk.” He walked over to his conference table, strewn with papers and boxes. It seemed to be a kind of giant desk. Max handed Halo a box, “That’s to replace the last one. On this one the kinetic resistance is enhanced through refined micro fibers. There is a higher visible and ultraviolet albedo value so your ratio of incident radiation reflected will be higher.” Halo gave him a blank look.

“Your bullet-proof vest is better and you will be even less visible.” Max said.

“Gotcha.” Halo said and nodded his head, “Nice, thanks pal.”

“Don’t mention it, and don’t forget I want the old suit back for analysis.” Max stabbed at Halo with his ‘doctor’ look.

Halo looked appropriately guilty, “Right, I’ll get them all back to you right away.”

Max gave him a disappointed sigh and went back to his stack of papers, muttering to himself and then abruptly turned to Bubbles and shoved a piece of paper at her, “Here is your City Health certificate.”

“Health certificate? What for?” Bubbles asked.

“You didn’t read your packet,” Max said, “It’ll streamline the hero application process and make it easier for you to get into Cape Camp.”

“I already AM in Cape Camp, smart guy, I start next Friday.” Bubbles said, defiantly.

“You are in-processing on Friday.” Max corrected, in an overly weary tone. “They will decide then IF you can start on Monday. Read the whole packet. Don’t lose that health slip. I’m a Doctor not a photocopying service. Without that slip you don’t get in.”

“Hey, wait, how did YOU know I got in? The only person I told was Uncle Mike!” Bubbles asked. “Have you been spying on me?”

“Yep,” Max said, putting down the clipboard and walking away. He rummaged through some boxes and found the one he wanted. Bubbles had expected a denial and wanted to argue. His admission left her speechless.

“Sometimes I think I’m running a sporting goods store. Here.” He handed Bubbles a box and sat down on a stool.

Bubbles was miffed, but said, “What’s this?” and looked at both men. Both gave her a blank look. Bubbles opened it and almost squealed with delight, “No! You didn’t!!!” and pulled the pale blue costume out of the box.

Max and Halo were smiling. “Yeah, we spied on you. We know Serge too. He told us what you’d been in there looking at.”

Bubbles was so happy she was overwhelmed, “Oh my God! But this was so expensive, thank you!” She came over and hugged Max and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. She failed to notice Max’s discomfort as she turned and hugged and kissed Halo. “Oh guys that was so nice! Oh wow! I got a super-suit!!! YAY!!!” She held it up and laughed and giggled with tears running down her face.

Halo said, “Go try it on.”

“Yes! Yes! Yes! I’ll be right back!” and she took off for the changing room. Halo and Max exchanged glances.

Max looked smug, “Well THAT went well”.

Halo grinned back at him. “Yeah. Standard tracking?”

Max said, “Yes, her frequency is already programmed into your new suit,” he waved his hand at the box under Halo’s arm. “The rest will have it too; next time they key their mics they will upload the new codes.”

“Ok. Well we should be able to keep her out of too much trouble until she’s fully trained. Then I don’t think anything will be able to hurt her.”

Max nodded thoughtfully, “Nice to be able to do this for such a nice girl.”

Halo took a breath and started walking back toward the changing room. Max walked with him. “Do you think she’ll still want to keep the job as a dancer, you know, maybe on a part-time basis?”

Halo said, “Why don’t you ask her?”

Max blushed.

Halo smiled and gave him a gentle punch in the shoulder.

On Guardian!
Mike Halo
& a few dozen others.

Our SG: Stars of Paragon

Fiction: Training Day



Wow...a lot of what Halo has to say in that part makes a lot of sense.... Something to really think about....



Training Day 5

Bubbles stepped into the dojo, and removed her shoes. She wore white Capri pants and a tight red knit top. Her hair was up in her usual blonde ponytails. She carried her gym bag across the dojo, pausing briefly to bow respectfully to the small shelf holding the image of Buddha. It was Tuesday, just four days ‘till Cape Camp. She was excited, but she also apprehensive; what if she failed? She was consumed with butterflies just thinking about it. So she tried her best to put it out of her mind and focus on the moment. That was what she had been training to do.

She went to change into her workout clothes but stopped. She heard someone whistling. Mike Halo NEVER whistled. She had rarely ever heard him move around the house, much less deliberately make noise. Curious, she went to the kitchen door.

She cautiously opened the door and was startled to see a complete stranger sitting at the kitchen table with his feet up.

“Well hello Darlin’”, He said with a startled, yet delighted expression. “And just exactly where have YOU been all my life?” He sprang to his feet and was in front of her and on one knee before she could even move. He took her hand in his and politely kissed it before she realized what he was doing. It was so gallant, so old fashioned, she could not help but giggle.

“Who are you?!” She said, as she snatched her hand back.

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am the one and only Wander, healer of hurts, righter of wrongs, rescuer of damsels in distress, a one-man power plant. Would you by any chance be a Damsel looking for a little distress?” He asked with eyebrows raised. His outrageous behavior and overblown charm were so unexpected that instead of bolting out the door, she just looked him.

He was dressed all in white, white pants, white shirt, and white headband, confining his short hair. He was not a big man, really not much larger than her, but he was obviously very fit and strong. He looked like a track star, or one of those Olympic runners, except he was short.

Bubbles had been dealing with pushy, flirty men all her life. “Well hello yourself, handsome, I didn’t know Mike Halo had a room mate.”

“Now that is easily the very best thing I’ve heard all day.” He purred. He followed her closely as she walked over to set her bag on the table. He sat beside her, and drew his chair up close, placing his eyes at the same level as her ample chest. ”Because that would mean that you are NOT Big Mikey’s girl and poor little ol’ Wander might have the pleasure of your company some fine evening.” He blatantly roved his eyes over her body as though he were attempting to memorize it.

“Hmm… My, aren’t WE the fast mover?” Bubbles looked at him archly.

He shot over to the refrigerator and back to her so fast she almost did not see him leave. On the table before her sat an iced glass of ginger ale!

“Ya don’t know the half of it, gorgeous! Your fondest wish, I’ll lay before your feet in the blink of an eye!” He made another deep bow and sprang back to the table, pulling out a chair and seating her before she realized what he was doing. Then he was back in his chair, knees touching hers with his arm on the back of her chair, looking deeply into her eyes.

Bubbles could not keep a straight face. The obviously contrived attention was still getting to her. He made her feel suddenly like a princess. “How did you know I like ginger ale?” She asked, feeling a blush start.

He sat back and pointed at his chest with a thumb, “I will have you know that I am a world-class crime fighter miss! I’m a detective; it’s my job to detect things. Such as now: I detect that you are lonely and in need of comfort.” He stated with grave sincerity. “I am here, as a dedicated public servant, to give you all the comfort you could want, and then some.” If he had been wearing red horns his smile would not have looked more devilish.

“Do you actually know Uncle Mike, or do I need to have you arrested for trespassing?” She asked, trying to get control of the situation. This guy was unbelievably fast. In more ways than one!

From out of nowhere he produced handcuffs and put them in her hands, extending his wrists in surrender. “I only ask that you frisk me thoroughly! And repeatedly! Until I confess!” He grinned at her hopefully. “And you know…” he gave her huge puppy-dog eyes, “I’ll never confess…” His words ended softly and his mouth slowly drifted toward hers. She was momentarily stunned and felt herself falling into his eyes.

Laughing, Bubbles pushed his hands away from her breasts and moved the chair away from him saying, “Will you please answer a straight question?”

He have an exaggerated sigh and said, “Yes, very well, I am indeed a friend of “Uncle Mikey” A long lost relative actually, I believe he is related on my mother’s sister’s cousin side. But we do not like to talk about the blue sheep of the family.” He ginned maniacally at her.

Bubbles laughed harder and he continued, “Honestly, my rare and radiant beauty, I have known the Mysterious Mr. Mike Halo since the day he came to town.”

It seemed as though she was watching an actor from a Broadway musical. He was so THEATRICAL. Everything he said, he amplified with gestures!

“You might say I picked him up at the bus.” He stood up and was instantly on the other side of her, playing with a pigtail. “I never met a finer fellow, but he’s a bit of the straight-laced sort. Too much rice will bind a man up, they say. That and the fish, yeesh! But he takes his work seriously, he does. Never met a kinder man. He’d stop the world to pluck a kitten from a tree just as soon as he’d stop a mugger.” He shot around the other side of the table and was back with what Bubbles saw was the cup he’d been drinking from when she arrived. He carefully extracted a teabag from it and took a delicate sip.

He took a loud satisfied breath and swerved his lecherous gaze like twin floodlights back onto her. She could swear that any time she was not looking at him he was ogling her breasts, but she could not catch him at it. “Men are so predictable,” She thought, “But this one seems nicer than most, and a heck of a lot more fun.”

“So,” he said, sitting back slightly, “what would a glamorous lady of quality, such as your own fine self be doing in such a private place as this, eh?” His tone was polite and even charming but there was steel in his eyes as he gazed at her over his tea. Any illusion Bubbles had about being in control of the situation disappeared.

“I… take lessons here. Uncle Mike is teaching me how to fight. I go for my hero license this weekend.” She said, feeling self conscious, all of a sudden.

Wander gave her a strange look, “Pardon me, miss, but what in the world could have possessed you to want to go and do such a thing as that?”

In another time, Bubbles might have gotten offended or even angry at his question. But she realized he was not making fun of her. Beneath all the flirting, he seemed awfully sweet.

“It’s just something I need to do.” She said. “Please put your cup down. Don’t move.” Without getting out of her chair, she simply pointed a finger at him.

Before Wander could say another word, he found himself suspended helplessly in the air. “Well whaddaya know? I always did want to fly!” He did an exaggerated swimming motion hanging in the air, chuckling with delight.

Bubbles giggled and gently lowered him to the floor. “Battle-Star says I have gravity powers. I’m learning how to use them. Really, this all scares me half to death, but I gotta see it though, you know?”

“Battle-Star says this he does?” Wander smiled and sat back down at the table.

“Well ever if there was the biggest egg-head on this wide wonderful world it would be the one on his shoulders. If that lad tells you something scientifical, you had best believe every word, never met a sharper knife.”

Halo was covered with blood, all of it his. His uniform hung in tatters. He found that he could not levitate, or become invisible, or de-solidify. He could not do anything, in fact, except stumble down the street. He could not remember when he had ever been in so much pain. His body burned from dozens of superficial cuts. But it was far, far more than just the cuts. He was also completely exhausted. He could not concentrate or get his wind. “Poison”, he thought. “It must be some kind of poison. Must do something. Gotta give it another try.”

He stopped in the alley and took some deep breaths. He shook his head to try and clear the cobwebs and the world reeled underneath him. “Bad idea.” He muttered. Leaning against the brick wall, he steadied himself and forced himself to concentrate. He did not feel despair. He was not afraid. Death and life were as one to him. He believed himself to part of the universe: At one with himself and everything. But he did not wish to die either. His life was useful and had purpose. It would not serve the greater good for him to die here, today, in this alley. He pushed away the crowding thoughts and tried once again to descend into the deep places his training had revealed to him. He felt the futility of it; it burned at him like the poison. He felt his disappointment and he let it go. He felt frustration over last night’s debacle, and he let it go. He felt his worry about Bubbles, about her future. He let it go. He felt his dread, his sense of failure, and suddenly saw it for what it was. He let it go. He mentally entered a dark room. He allowed himself to inwardly smile a weary smile. At last. He knew he was tired, but here he felt better. Here he could pause. Here he could seek. He slowly walked through the dark cool room. Here he was not Halo. Here he was just a man, dressed in the humble saffron robe of a Master. He walked, bare feet on smooth stone. A slow, timeless eternity passed. He turned and then he saw it. A thin silver circle, about a yard in diameter, hung in the blackness. He stood and contemplated the circle. The silver, unmoving circle, around which all other things moved, did not move. Across from the circle, a huge face appeared. It was a gross caricature of a man’s face, a Chinese dragon. The face was all in various shades of blue. The face floated silently above the floor followed by a long body that stretched away into the darkness. When it spoke, it’s voice was the sound of wind and low thunder.

“We know you.” It said softly. The words thudded into his chest.

“All is known to those who are one.”

“All is one. Yet you are here seeking the oneness.”

“Spirit of the Man of the Air. My guardian, my mentor. I seek your wisdom that I may share it. I seek your strength that I may endure it. I ask for nothing, deserve nothing, expect nothing. I merely seek.”

It floated around the circle and came near him. It regarded him with wise and unfeeling eyes for a moment and then floated away. It turned and stopped gazing at him as if it were judging him. Then it moved again, continuing its path around both him and the shining silver ring.

“The ring is the center of all. The universal oneness. Never forget, my son. Nothing else matters. Touch it. Nothing else matters. Stay true to The Path. Nothing else matters.” Halo extended his hand toward the ring.

His body convulsed and his hands went to his sides in clenched fists as a wave of power passed though him. His eyes snapped open. His breathing steadied. He blinked his eyes a few times and rubbed his face feeling a day’s growth of stubble on his chin. He looked down and remembered his gloves were ripped and covered with blood. He blew out a long slow breath, then his feet left the ground and he floated up into the sky, gaining speed and altitude quickly, rising high above the rooftops. Mike Halo rode the dragon. The early morning air was cool on his face. His pain was there, but remote, captured, isolated. Soon it would come back, soon he would need help. But for now, he could do what he had to.

“…I, on the other hand… “ Wander was warming up for another protestation of his good intentions when they heard a loud crash from the other room. The both turned toward the sound and Wander was at the door in the blink of an eye, just in time for it to open in front of him revealing Halo’s haggard face.

Their reactions were simultaneous, but different. Wander said, “Mother of GOD!”

Bubbles screamed.

“SShhh… ” Halo mumbled wearily. His hands left bloody smears on the door jamb. He blinked and looked at them both. “Can I have some coffee?” He said. And then his legs started to sag.

Wander grabbed him before he hit the floor, “Bubbles, make some coffee.” He shot at her, suddenly all business.

“There, there, Mikey, I’ve got you buddy. Let’s get you all nice and comfy here.” He half dragged, half carried Halo over to a chair. He deftly kicked the chair around with his toe and settled him in. “Jeese but you’re a sorry shred o’meat. Who could ha’ done this t’ ya lad?” He said softly, examining the cuts.

Bubbles was in shock, staring numbly at Halo, holding the coffeepot. He was a mass of cuts. His arms, legs, chest back neck and face were sliced, like with razors. His dark blue costume was mostly black, soaked in blood, and hung in taters. Blood was getting everywhere. Much of it was now on Wander’s white clothes.

“What happened to him?” She mumbled, dazed. “Who could have done this to him?”

“Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you. Cost of doing business.” Wander said. Then he looked at her. He snapped his fingers loudly at her and she jumped. “It’s just blood, miss. Let’s make our Uncle Mike some coffee now, like he asked. Trust ol’ Wander to know how to plug the holes.”

He gave her a firm look and returned to his task. He then did something Bubbles would remember for the rest of her life. He placed his hands over Halo’s head and simply healed him. It seemed so normal and so easy; she almost did not realize what she’d seen. Pale green phosphorescence washed out of his hands and spilled over down and onto the floor, washing through the room in a large pool of light. Bubbles felt it too; it made her hair stand up.

Bubbles had seen powers before. Working in the club, she had seen Super Heroes do all sorts of bizarre things. After a while she had learned to tune it out. So much bragging, so much showing off, to see a true Empath actually heal someone, cure someone who was so badly hurt, was… magical, incredible, like watching a baby being born. It was beautiful. The half-dried cuts melted shut to pink lines. And then the lines began to fade.

He expertly ran his fingers over Halo’s chest and pale blue light flowed glowing and pooling. Halo took a short raspy breath, and gagged. He coughed hoarsely and lay back. Wander rolled him over and gently rested his head on his arm, on the table, patting the center of Halo’s back. “There you go mate, a cool breeze to fill your weary lungs.” Without taking his hands off him, Wander walked around him and grabbed him by the shoulders, as if to give him a neck-rub. Yellow light glowed and flowed from his hands. ”C’mon boyo.” He muttered. Suddenly Wander looked older. He looked drawn and haggard, as if the effort to heal Halo was draining him. Halo stirred and sat up, lying back heavily against the chair, breathing, Then Halo opened one eye a little bit and looked at Wander, he made a small smile, “Nice to see you,” he whispered.

A short time later Halo emerged from the shower feeling much better. He still felt weak, but washing off the blood and being rid of the poison made a world of difference. His new costume, or what was left of it, sat in a wad in the sink. It was a total loss. He put on grey sweatpants and a black T-shirt and went out to the kitchen. It was midmorning. Bubbles and Wander’s chatting stopped when he walked in. “Don’t let me interrupt” Mike said, and went for the coffee pot. “How are you feeling,” She asked.

Halo poured some coffee and looked around to see if anyone else wanted any. Bubbles shook her head, Wander drank tea. “I’m fine.” He said.

“Fine he says. You are NOT fine; you need to get some rest!” Wander was surprisingly angry.

“True, and I will.” Halo said, “I just need to check a few things first.” He padded back into the shop and came back and sat down at the table. He set down two metal disks about four inches in diameter. They looked like small saw blades, except a lot more vicious looking. One was in a plastic bag and covered with blood. The other one was not in a bag and was sparkling clean silver steel.

“This one needs to get analyzed.” Halo said, “This one, I’m going to study.”

“What is it, some kind of knife?” Bubbles asked.

Halo did not seem to hear her. He looked at the disc, balancing it horizontally with his index finger under the center. Wander said, “It’s a shiruken, an oriental throwing knife. Nasty buggers often tip them with poison.” Bubbles looked at Halo, “They stabbed you with those?”

Halo nodded. “Yes. Yes they did.” He rolled it over in his hands, revealing intricate and beautiful engravings and oriental writing.”

Wander said, “Can you read that?”

Halo said, “Yes,” he laid it down on the table and slid it over to him. Then he sipped some coffee, “It has an engraving of a Crane on it and it says: “Tsoo.”

“Sue? What does that mean? Is that a name?” Wander asked.

“It is written here as a warning. It means, “’Find your mother’. As if a person were telling a kid to get lost. Basically, it’s a warning from an authority figure to an inferior to go away and mind your own business.” Halo said. “The Crane, however, means only one thing to anyone from southern Asia, when it’s drawn like this: Organized crime. Cantonese Mafia. Tong.”

Bubbles suddenly felt like the room got colder. Wander broke the spell. “Well if that is not the biggest bogey-man this side o’ the Pacific, I don’t know what is. We are on the EAST coast, Mikey, they can’t be many and they are far, far from home. A thing easily done, right? A heap of crooks is just a heap of crooks even if they do it oriental style, right!”

Halo could not share in his joy. “True enough.”

“Well then, what’s wrong?” Wander asked. Bubbles was staying quiet, soaking up every word. She had not seen Halo hurt before, and now she saw something else: He was worried.

“A good catholic like you would feel pretty annoyed if a gang of priests took to organized crime, but still tried to act like they were priests, right?” Halo said.

“I’d be ‘annoyed’ to say the very least”, Wander said, “Is that their game, these Tsoo-people?”

“More or less, yes.” Halo said.

“Well I’ll tell ya what my friend, you get some rest and I’ll take this gastly bit o’ evidence to our young friend and see what he can tell us about that poison. I’ll also see what delightful gadgets he has conjured up in my absence. Care to join me miss?” He eyed Bubbles hopefully.

She turned to Halo, “You do need to rest, we can workout tomorrow, I don’t mind.” She said trying to be supportive. Halo looked at her with that expressionless face he had whenever he was really serious. “Different workout today. Let’s talk about weapons.”

Wander gave an exaggerated sigh. “For the love of God take it easy. You need to recover. “ Halo nodded, “I know. I will. Thanks for stopping by.”

Wander was going to say something else. But instead he just grinned. “And a fine good day to you, Miss. I’ll be seeing for dinner tomorrow night at seven.” And out the door he went.

“He asked you on a date?” Halo asked, surprised.

Bubbles looked startled, “NO! I mean, yes. No, well yes, just now. But… oh… How well do you know him?”

Halo said. “C’mon, I want to show you a few things before I get some sleep.”

He took Bubbles through the dojo in to the unfinished outer area of the warehouse. He set up some straw dummies and some wooden targets. He instructed her how to hang some targets and set some things up and went back into the dojo. Moments later he returned with a large long flat box made of intricately carved, deeply polished dark red wood. Bubbles thought it looked very old.

Halo set it on a small folding table and opened it. It looked like a presentation box, except it held lots and lots of things; enough to equip a squad. It contained numerous swords, knives, shirukens and other things she had never seen. All of the weapons were done in fabulous decoration. She saw that the swords were in sets, in different sizes down to knife-size all with matching colors and scabbards.

“Wow.” She said, “These are beautiful!”

Halo paused and looked at them considering her words. “Yes they are.” He picked up one of the longest swords. “So far we have only talked about guns and knives. There are some criminals who prefer ancient weapons.”

Bubbles listened carefully as Halo described how to deal with a sword wielding opponent and how to cope with thrown knives. They threw knives and shirukens at the targets and he her showed how to strike at the straw dummy with the sword. Bubbles found this to be very interesting and even fun. She even managed to hit the targets with the throwing knives. But there was something nagging at her. During a lull in the session she decided to ask. “I don’t mean to sound critical, but, if you know all this stuff, how did you get… you know… so hurt?”

“It’s a bit embarrassing to say, Bubbles, but I sometimes screw up. That time it almost sent me to the hospital.”

“Oh, you mean the teleporter grid, why didn’t you hit it yourself and get out of there?” She asked.

“I was prideful. I went in there to investigate, do some looking around. I ran into what must have been a huge meeting. There were dozens of them. I was careless, they discovered me, and we fought.” He said. “Lets give these another try here. Stand behind this…”

“How did you get away?” She asked, not letting him change the subject.

He looked uncomfortable, “I just left when it was over.” He said.

“What do you mean?”

“When the fight was over, I left. Why?” he asked, genuinely puzzled.

“You mean you WON?” She gasped.

“I don’t call that winning. I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. I didn’t learn anything, except for a name. I ported, oh, what was it, forty seven, forty eight of them to the receiving center. A couple might have gotten away. But I didn’t learn very much. It was really a big waste.”

Bubbles just looked at him. “You fought fifty guys? Fifty guys with swords, and knives and these things?” She waved a shiruken at him.

He looked surprised, “Well, not all at once.”

“You blow my mind, you know that?” She said shaking her head.

“I think you miss the point,” he said, “I did not WANT to fight them Bubbles. It just went that way. Other than trespassing or B&E or anything else the cops have on them for priors they are probably back on the street already.” He said. “I didn’t find anything incriminating and I was acting on a tip, not a warrant. In Cape Camp they will explain all that.”

“Please don’t try to change the subject. You always do.” She said. “You’re planning to go after them again aren’t you?”

“Yes. But preparation is the key. This time I’m bringing backup.” He gave her a meaningful look.

Bubbles said, “What do you mean?”

“You know that trick you do with the forcefield? Bring it up and go stand right behind that,” He said pointing at the wooden target with the throwing knives and shirukens stuck in it. He walked over with her and began pulling them out.

Bubbles gave him an uncertain look, “Stand behind the target?”

He nodded, “Yes.”

Bubbles extended her hands and raised her force field, “I knew this job would have a down-side.”

On Guardian!
Mike Halo
& a few dozen others.

Our SG: Stars of Paragon

Fiction: Training Day



Good work this is a enjoyable read

/add thread to favorites






I really enjoyed this.



Thank you.

I'm going to break this up and post the next few in a new thread.

I welcome (and hope for) your constructive comments, even if you don't like it!

On Guardian!
Mike Halo
& a few dozen others.

Our SG: Stars of Paragon

Fiction: Training Day



This rocks!



Great work Mike, your fans a waiting for your sequels.
(I am only providing feedback to the author, I would never bump a thread for no reason. )

"I used to make diddly squat, but I've been with the company for 16 years and have had plenty of great raises. Now I just make squat" -- Me

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