There were many kinds of Heroes in the city named for them.
Tall and short, thin and heavy, male and female, black, brown, red, yellow, white, and even blue and green.
But to Jon Smith, the strangest of all the heroes were the children.
There weren't so many of them, for which he was grateful. And yet a handful of children, or child-like adults, perhaps, could be found, if you looked hard enough for them.
The strange environment that caused some people to be born different was no respecter of age, any more than of race, creed, or financial position.
He had read enough of the history of Paragon City to know that when the Rikti opened their wormholes over the cities of Earth, children had died. Many children. And some of them had fought back, it being the only way they knew, the only way they *could* have survived.
Some of them lived. And some of them were still dying. And some of them still fought.
He didn't have to like it.
And he tried not to think about it.
He couldn't even remember when or where he was, when he turned a corner and saw the small boy with the sad, distant eyes. The child was facing Vazhilok, hands stretched in front of himself. Fountains and geysers of sand and rock erupted from the earth, pinning the zombies and their handlers.
Then the boy ran forward and began hitting the imprisoned Vazh with his fists.
Jon also ran forward, snapping his claws into position, a far more effective weapon than a child's fist. It took only a couple of seconds for him to dispatch the prisoners. He wondered how long it would have taken the boy alone.
Such power, in one so small.....and yet incomplete, trying to do a Hero's job, with very few tools at his command.
Jon followed the boy. Nothing could have prevented it.
The child never spoke. Time and again, he sought out creatures that a child of his age should have run from, screaming or not. And Jon lept forward and helped with bringing them down.
A too large group, and the two of them were suddenly surrounded. Jon fought with practiced skill, as imprisoning sand castles grew all around him. He kept glancing over one shoulder.....and when a prison failed, and its occupant ran toward the boy, he also turned, running back to swing claws in a murderous arc.
"Get off...!" he yelled to the unresponsive zombie. "Get off of him....!"
The zombie wouldn't listen, of course.....Jon only cried out for his own benefit. Even the boy seemed unmoved.
The child knew where to go, how to find the dangerous mobs of Vazh. Jon thought about trying to talk to him, reason with him, tell him to just go home and be a child. But something in the boy's eyes dissuaded him. He doubted that anything he had to say would have made any difference.
So he followed him....until they were both exhausted and covered with zombie spittle, and he watched the child wander off, headed in the direction of City Hall.
He had trouble sleeping that night.
He started watching for the sad-eyed child in black t-shirt and shabby jeans, and saw him a week or two later, again fighting silently against Vazh. Jon ran up and joined him, without saying a word.
After a while, the boy seemed to acknowledge him, if only by turning and looking at him.
He found himself yelling at the zombies, "get off my buddy!". Little buddy. It was the only name he knew for the nameless child. The name he'd acquired in the privacy of Jon's own thoughts.
Why don't you go home, he thought. Why don't you return to your parents?
Because he didn't have any. Of course. Why else?
So many children had been left orphaned during the war.....and even today, parents met with criminals on the streets of Paragon City, and never returned home.
Jon had no idea why the sad-eyed child aroused such feelings, of sadness, of poignancy, of protectiveness. He only knew that he wanted to keep this child safe, safe from harm, in a world where safety didn't exist.
They were sitting, resting.....in the interval, in a quiet moment, Jon impulsively reached out his metal hand, knowing that it might only invite rejection. "Jon," he said, waiting patiently, his hand extended.
The boy merely looked at him.
"My name is Jon.....Jon Smith. What's yours?" He kept his hand out.
After a long moment, the boy finally inclined his head. "I'm called Quake."
Jon lowered his hand, at least partially satisfied. It was a start.
Copyright terraforming.com, November 26, 2012