The Game
The Gamester’s Play
By Myths n’ Wraiths

Do you feel it? It is not the selfless and spontaneous joy and hope that the media portrays it to be but it is there. It is a heightened state inhabitation, a freedom from the average requirement of self-centeredness. It is caring, and it always grows in the hearts of people this time of year. You must be able to feel it.

No, I can’t. All I can feel is disappointment, fear and uncertainty. That is what I feel growing. It is swelling over this city like a storm over warm water and I fear that the people will not be able to weather it another year.

Everything has its balancing factors. Just because you can not feel the hope that accompanies the despair you so keenly focus on my cynically empathic friend, does not mean that it is not there. Just because you are blinded by the storm of depression does not mean that the joy of giving has not built the beach walls high enough to stave off the flood.

Myth opened his eyes and glared at the clean-shaven, bald man that was sitting across from him. Both men were sitting on the floor, with their legs crossed and their hands resting on their knees, in the communications center of the Dogs of War base. The sound dampening material that was built into the rooms walls made it the perfect quiet place to meditate. “I have been called many things but cynically empathic is a first.” He grumbled at Lusion.

The fact that you are an empath can not be disputed. The fact that you’re cynical could be argued with others but not with me. Lusion projected the words directly into Myth’s mind as gently as if they were the empath’s own conscious speaking to him. It was this ability that set Lusion apart as a truly exceptional psychic. The ability to enter ones mind without accosting the host’s thoughts out is a tactic that takes many psychics decades to learn, if they are ever able to. Having his powers awoken at puberty and being only twenty-seven Lusion was something of a prodigal in regards to his ability to speak to another mind without imposing on it.

On more than one occasion Lusion had demonstrated his skill by obtaining valuable information from criminal minds without even alerting their subconscious. A valuable yet risky skill since an uninvited psychic intrusion is illegal without an appropriate warrant, which can only be obtained in matters of national security.

“Perhaps this whole thing was a bad idea.” Myth said with a hint of fatigue sneaking into his voice. He began to rub the slight ache out his temples and stood up to stretch his stiff legs. The two mentalists had been meditating for over three hours and it was beginning to take toll on Myth.

“Since when is seeking self improvement ever a bad idea. Cross training is an important part of any team.” Lusion said, finally abandoning his telepathy and opening his eyes. “You said so yourself. If for some reason I were to be unable to fulfill my role as the psychic blood hound then someone would need to be able to take my place.”

“Well maybe you’re just irreplaceable.” Myth muttered in a poor attempt to cut the subject off before the mild ache just above his ears turned into a full blown pain.

“No one is…” Lusion began to say before he was cut off by the low chime of the bases communication console. Myth quickly walked around to the front of the console, grateful for the distraction, and checked the source of the call.

“It is a priority one.” He said as he hit a key on the luminescent pad in front of him. A large projection screen instantly came to life on the wall across from Myth, showing a grim faced man. The majority of his features were covered by a polished silver mask and red head covering. It was a face that everyone in Paragon new by heart and most cherished as the greatest hero of his time.

“Statesman.” Myth spoke in a professional and even tone but Lusion could sense the threads of nervousness that crept into the empath’s mind in the presence of the famed cornerstone of the city. “What can I do for you?”

“Myth, I have an urgent task for you and your team.” There were few people in the city that Myth would allow to presume on his team without good reason but Statesman was one of them. Even amongst the unconventional and unruly Dogs of War Statesman was respected enough to never be questioned.

“Name it.” Myth said as he hit a few keys on the console to begin recording the transmission.

“I assume you are familiar the Gamester and what he has been doing in our city.” Statesman said in the quick gruff tone that was his norm.

“Yes, I heard the transmission he made and have been following the news.” Myth spoke calmly but already his mind was racing with anticipation.

“These presents he has been spreading around our city are a menace but even more disturbing is how he is able to distribute them without being caught. I have sent out countless patrols trying to catch him in the act but no one has been able to even get a glimpse of this villain.” Statesman said, his irritation at the situation becoming rather blatant.

“I was unaware that he had been officially labeled as a villain.” Myth probed but already he knew what Statesman was going to ask of him. The thrill of the hunt was beginning to swell in his veins.

“The man, if he is a man, is obviously unstable and he is playing his twisted games in the city I have sworn to protect. That is all the reason I need to want his games put to a stop. Sentinel is transmitting all of the information we have in the Gamester so far. Myth I want you to track this Gamester down and stop this tirade.”

That was all Myth had been waiting to hear. A smirk crept across his lips as he spoke. “Consider it done.”

Statesman nodded his appreciation and the screen went suddenly blank. Myth shot an excited glance at Lusion, who had been standing in the corner of the room, out of sight, during the conversation.

“Get everyone into the conference room while I wait for the information to arrive from Sentinel. We have our work cut out for us.”

Lusion cocked his head slightly and his eyes went out of focus for a moment as he let his mind wander throughout the base. “That may be difficult. Wraith and Vindea are not here.”

“Where are they?” Myth said, his excitement draining quickly at the news that his wayward brother was once again missing from duty.

Lusion’s eyes lost focus once again and their lids slid almost completely closed. His mind unleashed itself, reaching out into the city like a gentle flood of receptive consciousness. After a brief moment a mild look of amusement came over his face and he said. “Are you sure you wan to know?”

In a city where you can reside in a veritable utopia yet travel less than a mile to find yourself in an eternally dark miry waste land, contrasts tend make the strangest yet the most common bed fellows.

Anywhere else in the world the sight of a light, gorgeously seductive blonde dancing on the edge of a forty story building, to a reggae tune that only she could hear, while a dark, grim predator of a man hunched motionless over the ledge would have been disturbing to say the least. In Paragon however, such a seen barely warranted a second thought.

A light mist of rain drifted down on the unlikely pair, soaking their clothes and hair thoroughly. The dark figure of a man crouched with his back against the winter mist, seemingly impervious to the near freezing liquid as he glared down into the streets below like a bird of prey hunting for its next kill. His long unkempt hair hung down, shrouding his face, and while the dark, waist length leather jacket had too many tears and wholes to offer any protection against the elements it did a good job of giving him the look of a soul beyond repair.

The queen of motion however; while completely soaked, looked far from cold. A light yet intense energy emanated from her body, warming the water that touched her instantly and causing a light mist of steam to surround her elegant form. Wafts of vapor clung to her constantly stirring body and trailed every motion of her slender limbs giving the impression of some ancient siren of Greek mythology that had come to grace this troubled time.

Whatever song was playing silently in the ears of the demi-deity of dance slowly wound down and she made her way over to the statuesque predator, her hips swaying slightly as she moved up behind him and pulled his hair back gently. Her lips moved down next his ear and she spoke so softly that she could barely be heard of the gentle misting.

“It is so peaceful up here; I could almost believe we are alone.”

“That depends on which direction your looking darlin’.” Wraith mumbled in a low forlorn tone.

“Why do you look if you don’t like what you see?” Vindea asked then sat down on the ledge next to him and leaned forward, propping herself up by placing her hands on her knees.

“Because I won’t turn my back on the truth just because I don’t appreciate it.” The mutant’s eyes moved so slowly over the Paragon landscape that it took his irises nearly a full minute to pass from one side of his lids to the other. The unfocused, dead stair seemed to look at nothing at all but even in the dimmed light of the overcast evening the mutant’s eyes could pierce to the city’s heart.

“And what truth do you see?” Vindea asked in mock seriousness.

“That man will spend the holidays in jail if he doesn’t stop swiping presents for his kids from that store.” Wraith mumbled without bothering to point or indicate who he was speaking of. “That woman will probably die by the end of the week from exposure if she doesn’t get into a shelter.” Vindea peered down into the alleys and streets but could barely even pick out the cars from this distance much less individuals. “And that lil’ girl is about to get her only present stolen by a man who’s only real interest is steelin’ her joy.” In response to Wraith’s prediction the squeal of a young girl’s scream echoed up from the pavement and crested over the edge of the building.

“Sounds like someone needs a hero.” Vindea said shooting Wraith a needy look and a faint smile. Wraith stood and without a word leapt off the edge of the building, sailing over the highway below and disappearing into a dark alley which was little more than a crevice between two towering apartment complexes.

The smile broadened across Vindea’s lips as she watched the mutant vanish into the darkness of the alley; then, deciding it would be best to keep Wraith from beating someone half to death in front of a child, Vindea pushed herself off the edge of the building and, taking flight, drifted after her partner.

Once she caught up with him Vindea was pleased and slightly shocked to see Wraith standing next to the child holding a brightly wrapped present at arms length for the girl to take. Farther down the alley she could see the back of the thief as he ran away from the scene in a blind panic, knocking over trash cans and tripping over his own feet as he fled.

“Here’s your present back. That man won’t bother you for it anymore.” Wraith said in a gruff low tone, still holding the box at arms length. The young girl’s eyes were still wide with fear and she looked uncertainly at the scruffy mutant while taking a step back. She looked to be about eight judging by the youth of her dirty face and her innocently small stature. Her cloths were little more than rags wrapped tightly in layers around her and she clutched a rosary with a broken cross in her trembling hands.

Vindea almost burst into tears at seeing so much fear and desperation in one so young and helpless. She took the present from Wraith’s hand and walking slowly and unthreateningly up to the young girl, knelt in front of her. “Here darling,” She said, her inviting face displaying a warm smile.

A visible change crept over the young girl once she was faced with Vindea’s trusting smile. She was still trembling from her brief encounter with the thug but was growing calmer by the second. After a brief moment’s consideration she took the present from the beautiful mutant.

“T-thank you,” The child whispered. She cradled the present to her body as she shot a wary glance around Vindea at Wraith.

“My name is Vindea and this is Wraith. We are heroes.” Vindea edged her way closer to the young girl as she spoke shielding her small figure from what little rain was being blown into the narrow alley. “What’s your name?”

“Mandy.” The fear was passing form the young girl and it was noticeable in her voice. She still seemed uncertain about Wraith however, and continued to look at him doubtfully. “You don’t look like a Hero.”

“You should judge people by their actions and not their appearances.” Wraith responded pointedly. Both females stared at him in confusion but Vindea’s eyes also scolded him silently. Taking the point Wraith added. “I forgot my costume at home.”

Wanting to put an end to the negative attention Wraith was getting, Vindea spoke up. “Do you live around here Mandy? We could walk you home if you like, that way no one else will bother you for your present.” She suggested in an almost motherly tone as she reached out and brushed the young girl’s grimy blonde hair away from her face.

“No!” Mandy almost shouted in panic. Then catching herself lowered her tone. “I mean I would rather open my present here; if that is alright.”

“Well sure darling,” Vindea responded trying to control her shock at hearing the girl’s fear. “Go ahead.”

“Thank you.” The girl chimed with a broad grin. She immediately tore into the brightly wrapped package with all the fervor her small hands could muster. She made short work of the paper and paused to savor the excitement for just a moment before cracking the lid of the box. Suddenly a blistering cold gale filled the alleyway, sending Vindea sprawling to the ground and blowing Mandy like a kite into Wraith. Caught off guard by the sudden wind, Wraith had no time to react before Mandy’s small frame collided with him and knocked him off his feet.

The gust of wind left as quickly as it came but in its wake it had left a force to be reckoned with. Before Wraith and Vindea could even get to their feet they were being attacked by massive clumps of snow and ice that had been blown in by the heavy wind. Huge snowy arms protruded from abominable white bodies and were swinging wildly at the pair of mutants before either had a chance to realize what was going on.

The heroes had not survived as long as they had by being easy prey however; thousands of conflicts with tens of thousands of foes had honed their skills to a surreal state and the pair found their bodies reacting out of instinct to the attack before their minds could even understand what was happening.

Wraith rolled over, sheltering Mandy beneath his body and then rose to his feet and hurled himself backwards, driving an elbow into what should have been one of the snow creatures heads. While he may not have done any harm to the elemental being he did succeed in pushing it and its companions away from the child. Wraith wasted no time in pressing his attack. Wrapping his hands with the negative energy that so faithfully served him, Wraith let his arms loose on his attackers. He drove his fists into their coldly nondescript forms and pounded away at their bodies with enough force to send snow and ice flying in all directions.

Vindea was fighting before she even got off of the ground. She had been knocked on her back by the initial gale of wind and sent sliding down the rough pavement head first but despite the pain of a few scrapes and bruises she focused herself into the lethal queen of battle that she was renowned as. Reaching between her knees she let a quick barrage of energy fly at an onrushing mound of ice, melting its shoulder sections away so that its arms fell to the ground next to its still charging body. Having bought herself enough time to rise to her knees she cradled her hands close to her abdomen and compressed her energy into a more focused blast. When the deadly beam of brilliant blue light lanced out from her body, all that was left of any of the ice creatures that were in its path was a steaming puddle of water.

Both mutants pressed their counterattack hard, driving the hefty snow creatures into a cluster in the already congested alley. Wraith took several harsh blows as a result of being within arms reach of the creatures but for every hit he took he delivered ten back, bludgeoning the ice forms into little more than mounds of negatively charge slush. His efforts were paled by the destruction that Vindea rained on the cold creatures with her seemingly endless store of energy.

Ducking a stream of Vindea’s energy that burst through the upper abdomen of one of the creatures Wraith fell to his knees then planted his fist into the groin of the snow beast and drove it upward with enough force to split what was left of his body in half. The loose parts of the snow beast’s body hadn’t even hit the ground before Wraith’s fists were wreaking more havoc on their prey. He ducked low again and knocked the legs out from under two of the creatures in one powerful swipe. The pair of beasts fell to the ground on top of each other and were promptly vaporized into a breathable mist by Vindea’s relentless blasts.

It took no more than two minutes for the deadly partnership to turn the entire mob of snow creatures into a knee deep frosty sludge. Wraith brushed a lump of snow off his shoulder with a look of disgust on his grim face and with a quick short leap he made it back to Mandy who lay unconscious in the corner of the alley, sheltered under a few trash cans. He looked her over quickly and seeing no injuries on her fragile form guessed that she fainted from shock. The grim mutant cradled the girls little body awkwardly in one arm and shot the pile of snow a feral glare. “Bastards should have stayed in the box.”
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