The Most Terrible Test: by Rick
Wheeler (the Mighty Ohm)
There's something comforting about the War
Walls. I'm not sure what it is, but its always seemed that no matter
where in Paragon City I go, they're always a refuge. High above the
city streets, out of sight from most of the passers-by and various
criminals down below, lost in the hum and glow of the force walls,
I could find a moments peace.
It also helped that the walls were extremely
cold at night, and that helped numb the pain I was feeling. While
the nanite surgeons were trying their best to undo the injuries I
had taken, I would have killed for an aspirin at that point.
not gone well for me these last several hours. It all started when
I heard the impossible: my friend Oden had been slapped with a warrant
for his arrest. I hadn't seen him in days. All I knew was that he
was involved with some investigation involving the Crey Corporation
and their activities. Norse God-complex or not, Oden wasn't the kind
of guy to do the things he was being accused of. Oden and I had known
each other for a while and worked together many times. He taught me
a lot about aerial combat and about the big threats out there in Paragon
City. He got me to where I am today, to be honest. He was a hero as
far as I was concerned.
The police and Crey security forces had grilled
me heavily for information when it began, and I was under observation
for quite a while. I hated being monitored like that, and only yesterday
managed to get out from under their constant scrutiny. Since then
I'd been staying low, trying to find out what I could from some of
Oden's associates. They weren't that willing to talk, being that they
were being watched too. At least until one of them managed to slip
me a clue as to where Oden had gone and what he was up to.
I've been running ragged, trying to follow in Oden's footsteps to
try and find him. I've gotten into several scrapes with the Crey already,
and I think they're well onto me now.
Actually, I know they are.
Oden was looking into, Crey's Folly was the heart of it. I'd been
rounding up rogue Crey Agents for some time before I finally started
getting the answers I wanted. If I had been a little smarter, I would
have seen the set-up long before I walked into it. They had looked
like such easy targets, it should have been obvious to me. I flew
in to take them down, when I felt searing fire on my back and right
arm. I spun around in mid-air and hit the ground hard. I hadn't seen
the snipers, but they saw me coming from a mile away.
Then they were
all over me. I tried getting back into the air but my vector engine
flight pack was damaged. I also noted to my horror that the armored
casing on my right forearm was gone, and my Medicom was too.
much of a hand-to-hand fighter, so I ran, trying to find cover from
the sniper fire erupting around me, with the Crey still in pursuit.
But that idea failed as soon as I felt something tear through my right
leg. I collapsed to the ground in pain right in front of one of the
Agents, who drew her pistol and pointed it at my head. I knew that
without my Medicom, I was a dead man, and there was nothing I could
do to save myself considering the state I was in.
Imagine my surprise
when I suddenly got moved to the top of a nearby building. I had been
teleported before, but it was still a surprise. I didn't get a good
look at who did it, as my savior immediately leapt over me and down
into the street where I had been previously. It was obvious from my
vantage point that the Crey were no match for this stranger, who defeated
them handily in short order with a style and flair that I could only
As soon as the fight ended, my benefactor teleported in front
of me, and looked down at me. It was a woman, but I couldn't make
out anything more than that basic shape in the darkness. I started
to croak out a thank-you when she interrupted me.
taken aback by this, but she didn't give me a chance to say anything
before she continued.
"I don't have time to go around bailing out
people like you all the time. I have enough to do to protect this
city without babysitting little boys. I know who you're fighting against
and why, and you have no idea what you're getting into. If you can't
handle little threats like this, then you have no business being here.
Now go home."
She turned her back to me and teleported away without
another word to me. I didn't even get a chance to thank her or find
out who she was.
Not knowing what else to do, I turned on my backup
vector engine, and limped away into the night sky.
So that's how I
got here: huddling against one of the huge War Wall pylons, trying
to figure out what to do now. While nanite surgeons race through my
body putting me back together, I'm trying to patch a hole in my flight
pack. The pain of my injuries is giving way to the sting of that woman's
words to me.
I know I could have taken those Crey if I had seen the
snipers beforehand! I'm not some wet-behind-the-ears punk hero wannabe!
I didn't get this far because I had someone holding my hand! And yet,
here I was, nursing my bruises and my ego like some kid whose team
lost the little-league championships.
But looking down at the ruined
armguard where my Medicom had been until recently, I have to admit
that's not the only reason. My hands weren't shaking because I was
cold. I could have died today. I could have crossed that line between
being a hero and being a memory. That fight could have been the last
thing I ever did.
I'm not sure if I can go back out there again. I
feel like every time my heart beats I'm holding my breath to see if
it'll do it again. Some hero I've turned out to be, one scrape with
death and I'm ready to run home and hide under my bed. Images of all
those times I've appeared in the newspaper after besting some miscreant
run through my head, and I start to feel sick. Maybe you can only
cheat death so many times; maybe this was my last warning. Maybe next
time I won't have some stranger there to bail me out.
in these thoughts, I broke my attention away from my flight pack,
and looked up into the night sky. Naturally, my eyes drifted towards
the most prominent thing there at the time: the moon.
How many times
had Oden stared up at that thing? He always watched it whenever it
came into the night sky. He was strange that way. Was he seeing something
I thought back to one of the many conversations we had after
besting some neer-do-well. Oden always liked to stop and gather himself
after big battles. Said it cleared his head.
"Tell me Ohm, tell me
what you know of heroism."
I looked at him somewhat askance. He was
always asking me the weirdest things. "I dunno. I don't really think
about it. I suppose what we're doing is heroism, right?"
his head. "No Ohm. Heroism isn't found in victory or in the cheers
of the grateful. Anyone can wallow in accolades and rewards. Nor is
it found in defeating criminals and miscreants. A sociopath can run
around sending villains to the hospital, but that doesn't make that
person a hero. And again, a hero is not a warrior who feels no fear.
A fool can be fearless, but will only rush headlong into meaningless
struggles without any real understanding of the consequences."
me guess, heroism is where you face off against your fears and overcome
This struck me as somewhat odd. I was
half expecting him to spout off something akin to a typical greeting
card. Instead he went off in a direction I wasn't expecting, again.
Damn the man. I pressed him further. "What do you mean: not precisely?"
"If you face your fears, but never know defeat, have you truly been
tested? You have yet to face something far greater than yourself,
and have not found reason to grow beyond what you are. It is in defeat
that one finds heroism."
He stared up at the moon, and didn't explain
further, as if looking for something I couldn't see.
I pressed him
further, now quite puzzled. "That doesn't make any sense. How does
getting your butt handed to you in a fight make you a hero?"
defeated does not make you a hero, it is what you do after you are
beaten that determines if you are a hero or not."
He looked down at
me and his single eye bored into me a bit more than I was comfortable
with, and he continued. "When you are beaten, and you know that you
are beaten, and you know that it is merely by chance or miracle that
you live, that is where your courage is won or lost. To know that
you will be beaten again, and perhaps be slain, and yet you stand
tall and do battle once again, against that same foe. In your heart
you know you cannot win, yet you fight on, simply because someone
needs you to be there for them at that time and place. And the thought
of allowing that foe to continue unchallenged, makes the risk meaningful
enough for you to put your life on the line once again against all
I didn't know how to respond to that. He continued without
a pause in his dissertation.
"Heroism is not always found in the roar
of victory. Sometimes it is in the quiet voice inside you that says:
I will try again tomorrow. Defeat, and how we respond to it, is the
truest and most terrible test of all who would call themselves heroes."
Damn the man. He was right, as usual.
So, what was I going to do?
Go home as that strange woman had insisted? Or live up to the name
I had given myself, and get back out there? The nanite surgeons were
done with their work. My vector engine was working again. And I could
still get a replacement Medicom at any time. I didn't even know if
Oden really needed my help. For all I knew he could be back at the
In Front Steakhouse, slamming back another drink. But did I want to
take that escape from this situation?
So it was all down to my choice,
right here, right now.
I don't know how long I was there, but the
red smear of the rising sun creeping over the War Walls told me it
had been for a long time.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I stood
up and stepped off the wall, my vector engine flight pack kicking
in to maintain my altitude, and I flew off towards the hospital. I
had a transponder to pick up.
I am the Mighty Ohm. I will be a hero.
I will try again.