Eye of the Beholder
by: David McFarland
Ryan saw his father lying in the bed at St. Louis
Barnes Hospital, with a medical white wrap around his
chest. His fathers labored breathing sounded raspy,
like after times Ryan had ran, ran, and ran for hours
with no water and too little oxygen and no-matter what
he couldn’t make the breathing sound any smoother.
Ryan saw the look in his dad’s eyes; that of someone
in severe pain; that of a war hero and veteran; that
of a loving man. His face was bandaged and scratched,
but his pride was visibly strong.
Ryan’s dad’s face had been grim when his son entered
the room, but it lit up like a spotlight once Ryan was
close. “I love you daddy.”
“Ryan, don’t let me down.” The voice that came out
wasn’t his fathers. It was of a dying man who had seen
more than anyone should in millennia. The sound was
raspy and weak, but full of the love of a father. A
few tears welled up in both their eyes and several
broke the barriers of their eyelids. With that, the
nurse led Ryan out of the hospital room and his mother
took him home.
“Mommy… is daddy… going to…to…” No answer came. That
was enough of an answer for Ryan.
Like after the many dreams of the past before, Ryan
woke up with his head resting on a sweating pillow.
But for once when he awoke, his cheeks were
tear-stained. His eyes still tried their hardest to
retain their watery prisoners, but to no avail. At the
memory of the dream, he sat up and leading forward,
resting his face in the palms of his hands with his
elbows resting in his lap.
The man started to whimper and sobbed, teardrops
soaking his hands. He hadn’t done the same thing for
over a decade when he was nine and he had lived that
dream. Sure, he had cried, but no more than a tear or
two left his eyes and no sound came out of his mouth.
Now, a Hero of Paragon City, Ryan was nearly bawling
so loud his subconscious was afraid of waking his
roommate or those sleeping below or above him.
“Dude, what happened last night? Another nightmare?”
“You could say that…” Ryan came out still whipping his
“You were crying this time… what was it about?” Nathan
thought he might be pushing to hard, but his superior
intellect wanted to know more.
“My… my dad. When I was nine he was shipped out to
fight the war in Iraq. ‘Course, you remember the whole
situation about me being from another dimension and
all the time switches and crap, right? Basically, in
that other dimension, if it goes by the same timeline,
I would have been having that conversation with him
right as I was sleeping.
“Oh… sorry man… your dad shipping out to war made you
cry that much?” Nate asked.
“No. It was his coming back.” Ryan held his head a few
degrees down from his previous position. “About seven
months into the year-round tour, his platoon came
under fire. He ended up saving everyone in the platoon
by getting into a gun emplacement. Unfortunately, this
line might sound corny and old but its true, the only
one he couldn’t save was himself.
“He got hit by AK-47 shots. They tear ya’ up really bad.
He lived and was shipped back to St. Louis where
we lived at the time, after he had been fixed up of
course. The bad thing was the doctors knew he couldn’t
make it. But my mom never gave up on him. She told
them to keep him in the hospital to see if they could
keep him alive longer or actually just save his life
entirely. For about a month he started lookin’ up, he
was getting better. Then, outta’ the blue, he gets a
worse. They called my mom and she brought me in to
have a last talk with him.” Tears once again filled
“He was pretty bad. He couldn’t breathe well. But the
look on his face just said that he was a hero. No
powers. But the villains he had to fight were worse
than any Malta, any Carnival or Vahz. He was a Marine.
My dad inspired me to be like him, I knew he would
have wanted me to fight against terrorism in the Corps
“For a while, I wanted to make sure those terrorists
and their friends paid for what they did. That would
be enough motivation for anyone. But just before I
joined, I realized… my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to
join for that. He would have wanted me to join to do
what’s right, like he did. Not for vengeance.” Ryan
realized his fists were clenched. He let them loose
and looked at the palms which had indents from the
fingernails. “He wouldn’t have wanted me to want to
get the Rikti for revenge for… your know who… he would
have wanted me to get them because… it’s the right
thing to do.
“Revenge eats at you. It makes you do stupid things;
it makes you crazy… I’m glad I could remember that
before it did the same to me.”
“I’m sorry Ryan… my mother… died when I was a baby of
a brain aneurysm.” Nathan was glad Skyburn hadn’t
mentioned X-ternal, it would have been too many
memories for him to handle at the moment. “My dad… was
tortured by the CoLitharian for hiding a mutate- for
hiding me; for making sure I would live. Then they
force me into lowering the temperature of the air so
much that my father died.”
“Thanks Nate.” Ryan looked up at his non-human friend.
“For what?” Chillbain had mixed look of being
uncomfortable, unbelievably sorrowful and puzzlement
all at once.
Ryan patted him on the shoulder. “For reminding me I’m
Nathan stood as tears from the remembrance of his own
parents still flooded back to him. The teardrops
crystallized as they touched his cheek so that he had
to pick them off instead of whipping them off. He
silently patted him on the shoulder and walked off;
the situation being a little too uncomfortable for the
Ryan remembered a quote from an older movie he had
seen as a teenager as he thought of his dad. “When I
joined up, my friend asked me why I was fighting
someone else’s war, ‘Are you trying to be a hero?’ I
didn’t know what to say back then. But now… if he
asked me the same question, I would say ‘No one joins
to be a hero… sometimes it just turns out that way.’”
Sky Burn knew that Delta Force was a lot different
than Paragon City. ‘Heroes’ did indeed join just to be
a hero and for the publicity. To Sky Burn, that was
un-heroic. In his perspective people like that should
pack up and go back to whatever egotistic rat-hole
they crawled out of.
For him, it was a matter of doing good. Before it was
for vengeance. Now, that matter had been entirely
dropped. Ryan had been a hero for well over a year and
was arguably one of the most powerful. Chillbain
certainly had the potential, but needed to learn to
control his powers better. He could very well create a
winter all over the earth worse than any nuclear
winter, but Chill definitely did not want that; he
just needed to learn how to focus his intense powers
without redoing what the Winter Lord had done.
“Ok Chill. This is the meeting place.”
“Are you sure? I don’t see any Malta.”
“Yes, Wallace. This is the place.” Sky Burn said to
the CIA operative. “Don’t worry.”
“What if they set this as a trap?” Wallace asked
“Then we take them out.” Chillbain responded this
“What if they overpower us?” He fingered the trigger
of his M-4 Carbine, glancing over at Sky Burn’s
assault rifle, wishing the Agency had given him as
much firepower as the heroes had.
“But what if-”
“You’re sure you’re in the Central Intelligence
Agency? You seem as scared as the local police.”
Wallace didn’t respond to Sky Burns comment. Sky burn
turned toward the larger portion of the interior of
the warehouse and called out the signal. “Ollie Ollie
Immediately following, over twenty Malta Operatives
seemed to materialize out of the shadows. Sky Burn
smirked. “You guys really need to improve. I saw you
that whole time.”
“Then why didn’t you just tell us we stink at
hide-n’-go-seek?” A gunslinger asked stepping closer.
“Well, we would have, but that would have given
Chicken Little here a heart attack.” Chillbain pointed
his thumb back toward the CIA operative whose eyes
were so wide Chillbain swore he looked more like a
goldfish than a human.
Wallace was speechless. As he tried to mouth something
but couldn’t speak Sky Burn and several of the
Malta-defected operatives burst into laughter, but Sky
Burn tried to regain his composure as Chillbain
reassured the man that he was okay.
“Down to business.” Sky Burn turned toward the
gunslinger formerly known as Colonel Davis Chapman,
now as Junket-Five-Oh-Three. “We brought Agent Wallace
here to so your defection could be known to the CIA.
You may speak with him for a while.” Wallace finally
calmed down a brought out a pad of paper and a pen to
write down answers to his questions such as the number
of defectors, names, the number of weapons and
equipment they brought with them, and any extra
intelligence they had on the Malta.
“They good enough, Wallace?” Sky Burn asked.
“Quite. They seem legit. And I’ve dealt with a lot of
organizations like this. I practically have a sixth
sense about these things now. They are telling the
truth, through and through.”
“Good. What did they want?” Sky Burn asked. “At least,
what did they tell you that they didn’t tell me?”
“Government sanctioning.” Wallace said
“That’s right. They want to be an actual government
sanctioned Special Forces group, to infiltrate and
exfiltrate the Malta.” The agent continued.
“I’m going to do what I can to give it to them.”
“Are you-” A beeping from his eye-monocle stopped him.
“Is your… head beeping?” Agent Wallace asked.
“No… the monocle. I have a … an appointment that I
need to catch up with. A very important one.”
“What now? Have you found a group of the Circle of
Thorns that wants to defect, too?”
“Workin’ on it. Seriously, I have to go. Ask
Chillbain.” Sky Burn sped away at a speed just below
the sound barrier.
Ryan fingered the little box and shut the case that
had contained it. He looked around suspiciously,
hoping no one was watching. Flipping the box open, he
watched its contents glitter, then shut it again, and
walked out of the room and slipped it into his
The tux itself was a gift from the President for all
of the press conferences Ryan went to from time to
time, the first time it had been worn was when Ryan
had actually met the President face-to-face, the first
and only time.
He went out of the apartment and onto the sidewalk,
making sure to look both ways before crossing the
street along with everyone else. Ryan went along his
walk trying to get to Kathy’s apartment, which he was
already five minutes late to.
“Hey, rich-boy. You goin’ somewhere?” A teenager
stepped out from the shadows with a light blue shirt
and electricity pulsing from his hands.
“Yes. And if you Outcasts don’t mind, I’m already
“Well, Duke, Richie Rich here wants to get
somewhere.” Another with a yellow shirt and
stone-hands stepped out behind Ryan.
“You have no clue who I am.”
“Yea, your some rich suit who has a lot of cash.” The
Shocker, apparently named Duke, said.
“If you did, you would be running home crying to your
mothers.” Ryan slid back the cuffs of the tux, just
as the Brick lunged his hand into his pocket, ripping
it, and grabbed the box and ran.
“No!” Ryan yelled as he chased after the fleeing two.
He jolted into the air and flew over and in front of
them and stopped hovering, his toes inches from the
“So you’re a cape huh?” The Brick said. “You want
your fancy box, come and get it.”
“I’m not just a cape.” Energy formed around his
hands. “I’m Sky Burn.”
“Who?” Duke said.
“Nevermind.” Ryan said as his fist collided with the
Shocker, sending him hundreds of feet back and
knocking him out, the other doing the same to the
Brick, who dropped box onto the street. “I don’t have
time for you.” He said as if the thugs could hear him
as he picked up the box and opened it again, its
Ryan realized his ego had inflated a few inches in
circumference sense he had been declared Security
Level fifty, expecting mere thugs to cower and tremble
at his name, wishing they were dead as the lay and
groveled in his shadow. While if he were the only
level fifty that would have been the case, but there
were at least one hundred more, and there was no way
anyone other than a computer could keep track of all
their names and those more that joined the ranks of
the ‘Heroes of the City’.
He finally reached his girlfriend’s apartment she was
waiting outside the door. “Your late. Again.”
“Oh, come on honey, In our line of work you know how
it is. Two Outcasts mugged me. And I was busy when the
alarm to remind me went off.”
“You need an alarm to remind me of our dates, Ryan?”
“Well, you know how guys are… only a one-tracked
mind.” Ryan said trying to find an excuse.
“You’ve got to quit using that line. Anyway, how are
we going to get there? A limousine this time? Your
car?” She asked.
“Sorry, we are going to have to fly or something…”
Sky Burn smiled. “By the way, I love that dress.” He
was trying to get her into a good mood, but he
actually did think the dress was beautiful on her.
“You men…” Kathy said as they headed off.
“Yea, Kathy. The manager owes me a favor… I kinda
saved his life. I’m sorry I couldn’t actually buy you
the dinner, but I spent my last two paychecks on…
“A new entertainment system?”
“Something like that.” Ryan smiled as he fingered the
small, velvet covered-box. Its contents had cost him a
good seventeen hundred dollars, which indeed was two
of his paychecks, but it was worth it for him.
“Get your hand out of your pocket. Its like you’ve
got a diamond in there that you don’t want to loose.”
Kathy said, to which Ryan just smiled nervously, which
she noticed. “What is your problem? Your acting kinda
“Nothing… its nothing.”
“So that about does it.” Wallace said, with Chillbain
flanking one side and Junket Five-Oh-Three on the
“Yea it-” Chillbain was cut off as the report of a
sniper rifle went off, echoing through the warehouse,
and all of the defecting Malta scattered while
searching for the shooter. “What was th-” The hero
turned to Agent Wallace. But the operatives head was
missing, unlike his body. The bullet had severed
through his neck, sending the head off the body and
blood spurted out of the neck where there carotid
artery was severed.
“Get down!” Junket dove for a crate, but the sniper
hit him in the gut, actually moving him backwards
through the air, causing him to hit his head. But the
man was already dead by the time his head came in
contact with the ground. Chillbain looked up where the
shot had come from and saw a Malta soldier standing
“Fire back!” Chillbain called to the operatives who
had defected, and they complied, as did their two Zeus
and three Hercules Titans. Before the shots hit the
sniper, over a hundred Malta poured into the building.
It was a slaughter house. The Group had found out
about the defection and had planned an ambush.
Gunslingers went down, and because of their dress,
Chillbain couldn’t distinguish one side from another,
so he just went after those with their guns pointed
Chillbain drew his ice-sword, knowing he wouldn’t
make it out alive. He rushed a Operations Engineer and
struck his cold sword to the man’s head, but was
thrown to the ground by a blue aura. The ice-wielder
tried to get up but his energy was nearly drained.
Nathan slumped to the ground as he was hit again, then
The couple finished their meals and chatted with each
other afterwards. As Ryan had expected, Kathy excused
herself to the bathroom. Perfect.
He took the time to prepare himself. “Ok, just do
it.” He pulled out the box and held in his hand like
he planned to present it to Kathy, with the lid open.
A man walked over to his table and gave him a pat on
the back, looking at the box. “Good luck, man.”
“Thanks.” Ryan smiled and saw the women’s room open
after a minute and shut the box quickly and held it
below the tabletop. False alarm, it wasn’t Kathy. He
sighed quietly and another minute went by before Kathy
was seated back down.
“Kathy… I… I’ve loved you for as long as I can
“Ryan, what’s this about?”
Ryan smiled. “Just hear me out. Like I was saying,
Kathy, I love you dearly, you are my everything. Every
day when I see you I tell myself, ‘it can’t be
possible to love this woman anymore than I already do.
’ And every day I prove myself wrong. What I’m
saying is…” He moved to the edge of his seat, but was
interrupted as his communications unit buzzed its
special tone indicating a vital emergency. “What
now?” He said in a tone inbetween complaint and
annoyance. He pulled it from his pocket and the
thoughts in his mind instantly changed as he read the
“Crap.” He looked up at Kathy wide-eyed. “It’s Chill.
His distress beacon sent out a signal. He’s in