Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Superheroes do more than just punch bad guys in the face. Bios uses her powers to heal the sick. The Titanium Warrior uses his talents to design safer cars. And Professor Cognis was using his tremendous intellect, mindreading powers, and knowledge of social psychology to engineer peace in the Middle East. His plan solved the Israel-Palestine conflict with the creation of three states. He was confident that he could guarantee everyone security, liberty, and prosperity. While he persuaded the leaders of the region to adopt his plan, Vector was busy persuading the masses.
He was giving a speech in both Hebrew and Arabic. He could feel the pulses and heartbeats of his audience. Some of them were excited. Some were angry. Some were bored. He explained the merits of Cognis’ plan. Explained how this could be one of the great achievements of mankind. Explained how this could result in stability in the region. One person cheered. Vector kept talking.

At least one person in the audience was decidedly unhappy. Here was Vector, coming in, claiming that superheroes had the right to violate any nation’s sovereignty. That only they could solve the region’s problems. The malcontent would have none of that. What could Vector know about the history and suffering of my people, he thought, as he pulled out a gun. He loaded it, aimed it at a stranger, and fired.

Vector’s powers let him sense movement. He could feel the bullet, as it accelerated towards its victim. Too late, he remembered to act. He slowed the bullet, robbing it of half its speed before it even broke the victim’s skin. It was too little, too late. Vector pulled the bullet out of its target, and did his best to regulate blood flow. He dialed for an ambulance on a stranger’s phone. But he knew that this innocent person would die.
Still standing on his podium, he picked up the gunman. Rage literally radiated from him in waves as he held the murderer in the sky. “Do you realize what you’ve done,” the hero demanded. “Do you understand that you’ve killed a human being?”
“His people-“
“His people? You killed him because of something his people did? You didn’t even know him. And now he’s dead. Maybe you don’t understand death. I want you to imagine everyone you know. Imagine never seeing them again. Imagine never eating again. Never smiling again. Imagine what would happen to you children, your wife, you sick mother, without you. That’s what death is like. That is what you did to a complete stranger.”
Vector didn’t sense any regret. Fear, yes. But no regret. He seriously considered tearing the murderer apart. It would be easy. It was what he deserved. But it would only serve to further enflame the situation, and ruin Cognis’ plans for peace.
Instead, Vector put down the killer and flew away.

Vector flew over the Mediterranean. He watched the waves, trying to calm himself. It didn’t help. He used his power, lifting a giant section of water out of the see. He bent it into a sphere, a cube, a torus, a statue of Santa Claus. Nothing helped. He flew into space, taking the water with him. He dropped it from an altitude of a hundred miles, and caught it before it hit the Earth. He didn’t feel any better.
Vector flew around the globe four times. Along the way, he stopped a nascent hurricane, averted a small earthquake, and stopped all gunfire in the city of New York for three minutes. He was helping people. He was beginning to feel better. He flew to Sudan and used his powers to punch fifty-foot holes in the ground. Instant potable water. He stopped a mudslide in Bangladesh, an avalanche in the alps, and a volcanic eruption in Chile. He was saving the world. He felt good.
Then Cognis called.

“It was interesting how you handled that,” the genius said. "Storming away. Not the first method I'd try."
"To diffuse the situation. You realize that this is the sort of thing that could start a tit-for-tat and prevent my plan from ever succeeding. The fate of the Middle East was riding on your ability to handle the situation."
Vector hadn't even thought of that. "And... how did I do?"
"Could have gone better, could have gone worse. I had to do some fast talking, but fast talking is my specialty. Your actions made it very clear that the supers are against the violence, which suggests we are honestly committed to peace. On the other hand, you did emphasize the fact that someone was just killed. As far as I know, there hasn't been any retaliation yet."
So Vector hadn't ruined everything. The hero didn't think he could survive the guilt of accidentally starting a war. "Glad you were able to fix things."
"We're not in the clear yet. Nobody is ever in the clear when it comes to peace in this region. I won't call the program a success until it survives at least a decade." The world's greatest diplomat paused for breath. "I need to bring up another topic. You seem to be unable to control your emotions. This has some benefits. Your emotions will no doubt push you to greater efforts to protect the planet." 
Cognis had committed himself to spend the entirety of his life solving every single problem on the planet. He allowed himself six hours of sleep per day, and one hour for mealtimes. The rest of his life was spent protecting the innocent and disadvantaged. Vector knew he could never be that devoted.
"On the other hand, your emotions blind you, and there is a chance that the pain you feel for others will drive you out of the heroic fight. Do not let that happen. Remember that the world needs you. Only you can stop natural disasters in progress and villains like Mephistopheles."
"At least until you find a way to duplicate my powers."
"Or the powers of..." Cognis' voice trailed off. Vector's keen senses picked up the sound of frantic typing on the other end. "It appears that Mephistopheles is making a move. He recently raided Igor Cransky's house, and now he is gathering his agents for some sort of assault. This is almost definitely an attempt to take control of the Zoo. We cannot allow such an attempt to succeed. Vector, you will need to take down Mephistopheles before he can reach his destination. The other heroes will be able to defend the Zoo from Titan and the rest. If this goes well, we could achieve a lasting victory over all the world's villains."

1 comment:

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