The Game: Knight or Pawn
By Sean McDonald
"I have good
news for you, Spectreblade. After weíre done here, youíll be free
to go." It was something the black knight with the possessed armor
was waiting to hear for a long time. "That doesnít mean weíre done,
"I know. Iíll still have to come back twice a week for the
next month, right, Dr. Collins?"
"Thatís right." The empathy therapist
replied as he adjusted his glasses. Dr. Collins had a special talent
with matters of the psyche, more so than most psychiatrists thanks
to his mental abilities. He had a lot of patients, many of them heroes,
but he had never had to treat both a hero and his costume before.
He spent a great deal of time repairing the damage to both their minds,
and now he was ready to send them back out into the world. "Now I
know youíre thinking about going right back to crime-fighting the
second you walk out that door. Youíre still not completely free from
the Gamesterís attempt to control your mind, so take it easy," he
warned. Spectreblade was thankful he only had therapy to deal with
and wasnít in some secret lair somewhere. "Good old Obsidian Shield,"
he thought. The good doctor answered his thoughts with words "Yes,
your armorís mental shielding is quite impressive, but this is serious.
Just stay safe. Iíve never lost a patient and I donít plan on starting
"I know," Spectreblade sighed as he got his belongings together.
"By the way, I got one question before I leave."
Dr. Collins knew
what he was going to ask. "You want to know why I never became a hero,
is that it? Well, to be honest, itís because I value my life. I may
have psychic powers, but Iím not in the best of shape. I donít have
any armor to protect me or anything fancy like that."
Well then, youíve been kind, but I look forward to sleeping in my
own bed tonight, so itís time I got outta here."
"Okay, then. So,
is next Tuesday at two a good time for our next appointment?"
Doc." Spectreblade told the doctor. There was nothing left now but
for the hero to bow out and get home.
He was jolted awake by the cacophony
of cash registers, shattering glass, children yelling, and flute music.
John OíDonnell looked around and saw only his bedroom around him and
his favorite suit of armor in the far corner. He groggily thought
to himself "Typical. My first night back and I get woken up by some
weird dream. Well, I guess I better get back to sleep if I want to
be up in time to see myself on the six AM news. Letís see how much
time I got left." He looked at his alarm clock. It was 5:50. "Funny,"
he grumbled. "No point in going back to sleep now." John shuffled
his way to the living room of his Steel Canyon penthouse. It was a
great location in the Copper District with a good view of the skyscrapers
Steel Canyon was famous for, but the inside was modest and just a
little cluttered. He had a small fortune thanks to the weapons exhibit
he helped put together at the Paragon Art Museum, but there was, of
course, one piece he wouldnít dare sell off.
The news report of his
latest adventure was woefully short, in Spectrebladeís humble opinion.
They were used to snowman attacks by now and they jumped straight
into a story about the latest new gizmo up for sale at the Talos Island
branch of Exarch Industries. It struck a chord with John, but not
because it was a cool toy. He looked back on his dream. "No doubt
about it. Thatís the place," he thought. "Somethingís going down over
there." He went to get his armor.
"Were we not told to refrain from
fighting?" Spectrebladeís armor thought as he ran across the rooftops
of Talos Island through the chilly winter air.
Its wearer thought
back, "Yeah, but this could be our chance to get some of those missing
kids back to their parents."
"We are taking a chance by disobeying
"We have to. The stakes are too high for us to just
Spectreblade soon arrived at Exarch Industries. Sure
enough, something was indeed going down. There were dozens of children
there, carrying boxes of electronics out the back door to masked man
in a red jacket and tights. The feather in his hat gave his identity
away. "Oh, no. Of all the goons the Gamester couldíve sent to lead
this raid, it had to be Piper," Spectreblade griped. This was the
same Piper who made a school gymnasium full of concerned parents dance
uncontrollably. This was also the same Piper responsible for his recent
"We canít risk an encounter with him," the armor cautioned.
"Agreed. I donít want all that therapy to be undone by some clown
with a pipe. Letís concentrate on getting the kids home."
armor faded into a wispy shadow and put up its invaluable mental shield
as he walked into the storefront. The children continued their work,
oblivious to his presence. One boy smashed open display cases and
emptied their contents into a bag. A little girl with earmuffs clumsily
pointed a high-tech pulse rifle at the cashier with one hand and held
a stuffed cat in the other. All around, they worked like a beehive
collecting electronics for the Gamester. These werenít the kind of
opponents Spectreblade was used to, but it didnít take long to figure
out how to win without hurting the kids.
The girl with the earmuffs
started to cry as her shiny new toy was ripped from her hand and thrown
out the window. The others turned toward her in unison. The cashier
was quick to run for the door and escape. With the greatest threat
in the room neutralized and the children closing in, Spectreblade
got to work. His armor began to emit a faint red glow around him,
borrowing some of his life force to keep the nearby kids dazed. The
first of the kids to approach the big scary knight found himself disoriented,
and while he was in a stupor, Spectreblade put a small device on his
back to transport him to the authorities. Such devices were commonplace
among heroes for sending defeated enemies to the police. The boy was
small enough to be transported away even though he was still able
to resist. "Thereís one set of parents who will rest easy tonight."
One by one the remaining kids were teleported out the
same way. The effort to keep them stunned had left him badly drained,
but it was almost over. There was just one left; the girl who was
wielding a pulse rifle a few seconds ago. Spectreblade couldnít see
her, but he could still hear her sniffling behind the counter. The
shadowy knight climbed over it and reached for another device, but
he was out of them. "Not now!" he yelled angrily. "Of all the times
to run outÖ" The childís sniffles turned to screams as she scampered
away in a panic, leaving her doll behind. Then a shout came from the
"Hurry up in there!" It was Piper.
"Help me, uncle Piper!"
the little girl screamed. Piper reached for his flute but Spectreblade
knocked it out of his hand with his sword.
"Itís about time a worthy
opponent showed up," the knight roared, his exhaustion showing in
"Just who do think you are, scaring my kids like that?"
"Donít tell me you havenít heard of Ė"
Spectreblade fell to the floor.
The child stood behind him, pulse rifle back in hand, still holding
"Is it over now, uncle Piper?" she asked.
"Itís over now,
sweetie. That mean man wonít hurt you anymore." He assured her as
he picked his flute back up.
Spectreblade was unconscious, but his
armor still had some life left. "Iím sorry, little one, but I have
to do this." The little girl began to feel something tugging at her
soul. She felt some of her energy being drained away as the shrouded
knight rose up from the floor in front of her. She let out a scream
of fear and pain as Spectreblade took his second wind from her. Piper
immediately started playing his flute while the kid made sure her
earmuffs were still on. He didnít have time to shield himself and
soon he was back on the floor.
Piper walked over to the poor child
as she continued to wail. "Itís okay now. He wonít get up this time,"
he said, trying to comfort her. "Uncle Gamesterís gonna let you have
all the toys you want when we get back home. How does that sound?"
"Thank you, uncle Piper."