Hero (Word count 1,426) Gregory ran up the stairs to the guest room. He had heard the phone ring, and now there was the sound of slow, halting steps. There was no way she could leave now, he thought. She was in no condition to go anywhere. Without bothering to knock, he entered the room. Alicia awkwardly turned to look at him, stopping her slow struggle to cross the floor on her broken legs. Gregory stopped himself from yelling at her, as he saw the grimace of pain etched on her face. Even using crutches, moving her legs had to be excruciating, yet she refused to use a wheel chair. She had always been stubborn. “I know what you’re going to say,” she said before he could speak. “You’re right to. I can’t go out like this. I can’t fight Red Cap and win. But what else can I do?” Gregory broke in before she could continue. “You can let the government do its’ job for once in its’ miserable existence. They have regular soldiers to stop people like Red Cap. Why should they constantly call on you heroes. They’ve already killed most of the original ones, now they’re working on your generation,” he said bitterly. Alicia shook her head. “I know how you feel. But what can a human do against someone who can turn into virtually indestructible steel. Only a hero can stop him without destroying most of the city.” “That’s exactly wha-,” Gregory began. Alicia raised her hand, glaring at him through her pain. “Don’t say that,” she snarled. “We both had to live through that, I don’t need you bringing it up again. The last time soldiers went up against a major villain how many died? I can’t remember exactly from all my concussions. Forty, fifty super soldiers, and at least three hundred civilians,” Gregory nodded. “If I don’t stop Red Cap, he will drown the city in blood. The super soldiers may bring him down eventually, but they will have to use every weapon they have. They’ll do their job, they'll destroy the bad guy. With luck most of them may even survive. But the way they'll do it will devastate the city.” She was right. The collateral damage would kill dozens of people who couldn’t evacuate in time, and it would cost tens of millions to repair all the damage the battle would cause. It still made no difference, she wasn’t capable of fighting yet. She wouldn’t be for months. Gregory lunged, catching her by surprise. She screamed in pain as he pushed her to the ground. Trying to keep tears from his eyes he looked down at her. “Still think you can take on Red Cap?” he asked. “When I can push you down, you know you should be in bed. There are other heroes, you don’t have to hobble off every time a villain attacks.” She glared at him. “I’m paid to do this. This is my job. If they had anyone else available they would call them. But I’m the only one in the area, who isn’t comatose, dead, or in a psych ward. You think I want to do this. I want to get back into bed, watch the latest Jerry Springer show, and try to ignore the fact that my legs were crushed two months ago. But who else can stop Red Cap, without resorting to weapons just this side of nuclear bombs?” “If you go out there like this, they’ll have to use those weapons anyways, when Red Cap rips your head off. You can’t even walk,” he told her, nearly yelling. Alicia glared at him from the ground. “I can still fly. I can still punch. I can still melt metal with my hands. I might even survive another building falling on me. I don’t need my legs for those things.” He was near tears, she was right. Everything she said was true. No one else could fight Red Cap effectively. But she was still so weak, so damaged. “Red Cap isn’t injured. You are. He is stronger then you. He is more experienced then you. He is willing to kill anyone and anything if it means he gains some advantage. You aren’t. He is just as smart as you are. He is at least as good with tactics. You can’t fight him. You will die, he will add your head to his collection. You will die needlessly.” “If I don’t go and at least weaken him enough for the army to take out, this could become another Philadelphia. Too many people died there, because Tony refused to fight. I don’t want my name to become like his. Mom…” She stopped talking, tears welling up in her eyes. "She's dead," Gregory said. "She died from fighting too many maniacs, while the soldiers waited in the wings waiting for her and everyone just like her to save the day. She was spent, on the edge of a nervous break down. I stayed up with her at night while she cried herself to sleep, barely able to stay sane. I watched as her friends became crippled, died, and lost their minds. There was always another threat they just had to fight. No matter the cost, they paid it fifty times over, while everyone else hid and egged them on. Everyone has put too much pressure on you. You almost died in your last fight, this time you will break." His shoulders sagged. He'd never let himself lose control like that, not in front of his daughter. She looked up at him, he wasn't sure if it was pity that he saw in her eyes or not. He did see the determination in her face, the need to save the day no matter the cost. He was used to that look, her mother had had it until the day she died. "I'm sorry Dad," she finally said. She didn't go on. She just looked him straight in the eye, waiting to see what he would do. Gregory felt his body go cold. She wouldn't stop, no matter what he said. He took his daughter in his arms, helping her up. “Go. Save the city,” he told her, hating himself. Alicia smiled, kissing his cheek. He got her armour from the closet. It took the two of them to get her into it. Adjusting the metal leg plates for the casts, and locking the knee joints took time that they could ill afford, but Gregory savoured every second they remained together. Finally she was ready. He watched her form an aura that gave her her super abilities. The light was blinding from just a few feet away. He shaded his eyes, but watched marveling at the supernatural creature that was his daughter, just like he had once marveled at his wife when she had been a hero. Alicia flew out of the large window without saying goodbye or looking back. If she had done that, or if he had told her to be safe it would mean she wasn’t coming back. It was superstitious he knew. It didn’t matter, it was just the way things were. *** Gregory sat watching the news. It was showing the battle between Angel Dancer and Red Cap. He knew he had done the right thing, giving her his blessing to fight. She would have left anyways. This way she wasn’t worrying about him or his approval. He watched as she moved awkwardly, taking longer to recover when she was hit. She shouldn’t be out of bed in her condition, but even horribly injured, she was better then any ordinary human. He watched as his daughter crashed into Red Cap. The villain wasn’t expecting it. They went hurtling into an office building. He watched as the bright lights flashed past the windows, and office furniture became deadly weapons breaking through windows and crashing into buildings across the street. A squad of super soldiers entered the building, trying to keep up with the fight. Gregory waited for Alicia to come back out. She wasn’t thinking properly forcing Red Cap inside like that. She was a flyer, she should have stayed outside. She hadn’t been ready yet, he should have forced her, somehow, to stay away. The reporter shouted incoherently in shock as the building collapsed. Gregory watched, praying that he would see his daughters’ brilliant form flying away from the cloud of dust. Eventually he turned off the tv, walked through his empty home, and sat in the guest room waiting for his daughter to come home.