“You know I didn’t come to be threatened. I have an agenda here,” I said to redirect the conversation.
“And what agenda is that, oh mighty hero man?” She asked, again no longer facing me nor seeming to really care what my answer was.
“Technically it’s to arrest you.”
“I’m going to get arrested by a guy in skintight silk and a speedo? That’ll really prove how serious this city is about fighting crime,” she responded with a scoff and a laugh. This goddamn suit. Alright, time to take care of this.
“I assume you aren’t going to be acknowledging me any time soon, right?”
“Didn’t plan on it, no.”
“Good.” With that, I reached into my backpack and grabbed a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. This is why I never leave without the thing. Setting the pack to the side, I started running in as small a circle as I possibly could. The amount of speed in such a small radius gave me enough of a distortion that at the very least when I took the suit off, I would have created my own “censored” blur like they have on TV. I changed The speed must have at least caused a noticeable draft, and when I planted my feet to stop, I finally had her attention. She looked me up and down, giving one full once over before turning away again.
“I liked you better all suited up,” she said.
“Got a thing for guys in tights?”
“No, you had a mask over your face.” I could nearly hear the smirk come across her face. She was enjoying this too much.
“The city of Polk has given me permission to arrest you. Were I to attempt to do so, should I expect a fight from you?” I decided to try to get serious on her, see if she would buckle under any sort of threat from authority.
“From Zeph and from me. You can move that fast, so I’d say it’s a fair fight.”
“How fair would it really be. The guys up at the surface said it was dangerous down here. How dangerous are we talking. Are there any loaded weapons down here?” My words were succinct and my questions pointed.
“Yes.” Apparently, so were her answers.
“Alright, that unnerves me a bit. Do you have a license for a firearm?”
“I don’t have a gun.”
“What are you armed with?” I asked, dropping my serious tone. I was now more curious than anything. She already threatened me with a dog, what else could she have for me?
“Crossbow,” she stated as she pointed to the space above one of the bookshelves. Lining the walls were paper targets with holes about the size of an arrow dotted throughout them. Most of the dots were within centimeters of the bullseye. This all could be intimidation tactics. She was selling them damn well, though.
“Alright, well that pretty much sums up the portion of the suspect interview where I determine of the subject is a badass. I don’t want to give away your results or anything, but you passed in flying colors. Moving forward, do you know why I’m here to reprimand you?”
“Do you know why you’re here to reprimand me?” she asked in response. It was a fair question because honestly I didn’t. I knew there were anti-authority posters scattered about and I knew that according to everyone else, this was the person behind it all.
“You’re responsible for the circulation of material that elicits anti-government sentiments–You know what? I don’t have to explain anything to you. The city sees you as a criminal.”
“Yeah, well the city sees you as a tool.” She said with pragmatism in her tone. “And frankly, so do I.” It was the first time I felt as though she really didn’t care to have me there, as if those little joking threats from before weren’t so jokey after all. She genuinely didn’t like that I was there anymore. “I’ve been called a lot of things by a lot of people and a lot of them are probably true. But for leadership of this city to call me a criminal has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. You know what ‘anti-government material’ I spread? This. All of this right here on these shelves. These are every book that any government has ever banned for any reason. Alice’s Adventures in Worderland, banned in China for giving animals human-like qualities; Lolita, banned in France, Argentina, South Africa, and the United Kingdom for being too obscene; The Canterbury Tales, banned from being mailed in the United States after being deemed offensive under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act of 1873. This is my work, ‘hero.’ The posters are merely a way to get people curious. My library does the rest of the work. So is this what you’re going to arrest me for, for preserving words and drawing people to them with a few of my own?”
I stood amazed. She never looked at me once during her entire little speech, but she clearly saw right through me. I had no business bothering her, nor any intention to actually stop her. She knew that, but she was going to let me know just how pointless she found my work to be. And mission accomplished.
“I’m not going to arrest you. If anything I was just going to scold you for littering with all these posters, but now I’m just enamored. Can you do that again?”
“Do what again?” Her voice returned back from the deadly seriousness that was spouting out to a more curious tone, wondering what I could have possibly meant with that question.
“Give me that speech again. I have goosebumps. Oh and while I’m down here, do I have to sign up for any sort of membership to start taking books? Also, is there any easier entrance that involves less landing on my ass?” I tried to pick up the playfully tense feeling that the room once possessed, but she wasn’t having it.
“You’re not going to arrest me and I don’t want you as a customer. I’ve given you every indication that I want you gone and yet you are still here. Why haven’t you left yet?” She inquired, almost pleading for me to leave in her asking.
“I don’t know, I guess you just make anarchy look so cute,” I said with a smile and a perkiness to my voice, just to make sure I really annoyed her with my statement.
“You somehow became more of a douche without the tights on.” Even though she wasn’t facing me, there was a sound in her voice that gave it away. That sly grin was back. I could hear it.
It was a solid five second drop before I hit a pile of sheets, pillows, comforters, and other assorted soft things at the bottom. After fighting off some of the excess padding that I had become entangled in, I managed to hop out of the pit of cushion. It was then that I saw a figure up ahead, staring at a row on one of the many bookshelves that were pushed against the walls of the room. It was clearly a girl based on the shoulder length hair that was such a shade of black that it may have been a shadow cast in the perfect place. That and the curves that set in at the hip were telltale signs of an attractive female figure or one hell of a drag queen. Either way, it was probably best to take a shot.
“So do you send everybody down through the human laundry chute?” I asked as I approached her. Startled, she jumped as my words hit her ears.
“Holy shit, when did you get here?” She asked abrasively. Quite the mouth on her right off the bat. I can work with that.
“Is it really possible that you didn’t realize a person just fell from like three stories up onto the floor behind you?” I retorted, a little surprised that she didn’t hear my body hit the pile of pillows or my grunting as I shook blankets off my legs.
“It’s entirely possible that I was distracted by my work. For future reference, sneaking up on me is a good way to get the rest of that little outfit of yours ripped to shreds,” she said from over her shoulder as she turned back to her concentrated stare.
“Why’s that, because you want to rip it right off me?” Yeah solid icebreaker there, asshat. Oh well, maybe she’ll think it’s funny. Or maybe I’m in luck and she has a super hero fetish. She turned her back to her studying of the shelves to respond to me
“You must be wearing those a little too tight, clearly you’ve cut off blood circulation to your brain if you think I want anything to do with you,” she said, waving her pointer finger in my direction as if to circle the parts of me that were unsatisfactory to her. She would have circled all of me, I’d guess. “But Zephyr would happily help you out,” she said, concluding her sentence with a whistle.
“Zephyr? You’re going to summon a Greek god on me? I knew you people believed some weird stuff, but–” My sentence ended with a four-legged, waist-high creature came bouncing into the room. His stubby tail looked like it was wagging, but his entire back end was swaying back and forth in excitement. A white patch on his stomach led up to his chin, stopping right before his slobbery mouth.
“This little wiggly guy? I can’t imagine–” I was again cut short, this time by the sound of two snaps from the mystery girl’s hand. On the cue of the second snap, the back legs of the animal stopped bouncing and were planted firmly on the ground. His front paws dug into an aggressive stance, and the drool that ran down his face suddenly seemed less likely to be from licks and more likely anticipation of his next meal.
“Ok, the teeth are less wiggly,” There was a hint of nervousness in my voice, which the girl must have picked up on because she immediately called the dog off with a third snap. He returned to his previous carefree self, most likely re-finding the happy place in his brain that consisted of never ending games of frisbee and a perpetual plate of raw meats to chew on.
Alright, let’s take a look at the life forms populating this place, see if there’s any one that looks like they know where this poster may have come from. Scanning from right to left: There’s a goateed face in a plaid shirt typing away on the keys of his laptop between long sips from his coffee cup and stares at nothing in particular. I’d hate to interrupt whatever version of the next great American novel that he thinks he’s writing, let’s move on. A girl and a guy sitting too close together for everyone else’s comfort. Public displays of affection in full effect. An arm wrapped around her shoulder, a manicured hand placed on his upper thigh. Longing looks into one another’s eyes with excessive amounts of necking. Fine for a night in or a more secluded location, but in public it’s so sweet that it causes cavities just looking watching it. I’m irritated, disgusted, jealous, and slightly aroused. Probably ought to keep looking. The wooden bench style seat in the corner housed an interesting specimen–a tower raining down dreadlocks atop a wardrobe of earth tones. There was enough dirt on its shoes that he could easily be mistaken for a tree that had taken root inside the building. I hate to stereotype but, this is definitely who I’m looking for.
“Excuse me, do you happen to know who’s responsible for these posters?” I asked, handing him the black backed poster with bright, bold red lettering. He stared at it, examining it as if he had never seen it before.
“I’ve never seen this before,” it stated with a deep, masculine voice. Fitting. It’s not uncommon for people to play hard ball and judging by the garb of this particular one, he’s clearly a person studying the arts. Probably a drama major judging by the performance he’s putting on.
“I asked you a question, I’d like if you answer it,” I insisted. Usually all it takes is a little force with these peaceniks.
“I answered you: I have never seen this before you handed it to me,” he replied, seemingly unfazed by my presence.
“Is there a reason you’re not taking me seriously? I asked you a simple question and I want a simple answer. Who is responsible for these posters? Look me in the eyes and tell me.” My voice grew firm and demanding.
“You’re in bright colored tights so it’s a little difficult to take you serious, but trust me I’m trying to keep eye contact for my own sake. And I honestly don’t know who is putting up the posters, but I would guess that guy with the role of tape and stack of paper would probably better be able to tell you.” To the left of us, looking for an open space on the wall to display one of the hundreds of copies that he held in his hand, was an average looking college student. Clad in worn jeans and a plain black zipped-up hoodie, he handed out sheet after sheet of his papers to passersby between trying to rip off a piece of packaging tape to frame one of the fliers on the wall. Clumsy, unassuming, plain old college kid. So my stereotypes are slightly off-base.
“Nice eye. Thanks for be a contributing member to society for once,” I said walking toward my new subject for investigation.
“I’m an engineering major. I just turned in a design for a car that will run completely on potatoes,” he retorted.
“Whatever, you human compost pile.” My focus was turned completely from the guy that smelled like an activist to the guy that was one.
“Sir, could I get you to take one of these fliers? It’s a little paper that carries a lot of weight,” he said in a slightly discouraged tone, surely acquired through a full day of accumulating “no’s.”
“Cute hook. I’ll bite. Where do I go to drink the punch?” I responded in hopes of scoring a lead.
“If you want to talk about getting involved, you should head downstairs to the Multicultural Club lounge. They’ll take you from there.”
I speak enough Spanish to say “Hello” and enough German to swear and sound anti-Semitic, so this should be interesting.
The Multicultural Club’s door was plastered with words in all different languages. It was bright, filled with colorful images and flags that represented all parts of the world. It was meant to represent the world without barriers, a unified planet free of the cultural differences that so often complicate those matters. I opened the door to reveal a sizable room with tables and chairs set up in front and along the left side for gatherings and meetings, couches in back for relaxing, and computer desks and filing cabinets against the right wall for organization and multimedia. At the tables were a group of Hispanic kids, on the couches were a collection of African Americans, and at the computers were Asians. Way to tear down those borders, guys.
“Can we help you?” a nerdy looking girl said from behind a computer, giving me a look through her thick rimmed glasses.
“Uh, I do think so. I was looking for the Multicultural Club, not the segregation room.”
“Real funny. You found the right place, but I’m curious what you think is here for you,” one of the boys on the couch shouted.
“What, because I’m white I don’t have any culture? There’s a lot of history running through my veins. My family’s history is a rich one, and I won’t have you undermine the struggle we went through,” I explained in a fit of passion, though it was facetious.
“What struggles have you faced then?” Inquired one of the girls on the couch.
“Me personally? None really I guess. I lost my toothbrush the other day and struggled to use my finger to reach the back part of my mouth. But I live with a Jewish guy, so I think transitively I’ve experienced hardships.” Looks of disgust appeared almost universally on faces around the room.
“Alright, you caught me. I’m not here to join. Quit taking yourselves so seriously. Especially when you’ve managed to recreate the demographics of your countries of origin within a single room, like a tiny-scale version of Earth. I came to see where I’m supposed to go to learn more about this,” I said, placing the newly acquired flier down on the one of the tables near the front. A guy in one of the closer chairs stood up to get a better look at it. Once he recognized it he turned behind him to the couches and nodded, then to the computers and gave the same signal. He then turned back to me.
“Your learning has just begun. Follow me,” he said as he walked over to the filing cabinets. He unlocked the top drawer and pulled on the handle of the middle drawer. Instead of the single drawer coming out, every one of them opened simultaneously, welded together to expose a sizable hunk of metal behind it. My escort led me over to the side of the contraption, where there was a huge opening in the metal lining. One could walk into the gap and stand behind the doors of the would-be drawers and actually be inside the cabinet case. I got the feeling that is precisely what this guy wanted me to do.
“What are you going to do, file me away?” I asked, reluctant to step inside.
“Just get in there already,” he contended.
“As someone who uses a hazardous hunk of junk on a daily basis, this looks dangerous.”
“This? This is the safe part. The danger is when you get to the bottom. Now really, get going.”
“You really know how to sell this idea. Alright, let’s do this,” I said as my feet landed on the shaky sheet of metal beneath me.
“Keep your arms tight against your sides,” my guide suggested as he started to push the door closed with me behind it. “Have a good trip,” were the last words I heard as he faded into the darkness. I was now inside the oversized drawers but wasn’t going anywhere. Then I felt the floor beneath me start to move, sliding out from under me. Within seconds it was gone, and I was tumbling downward in the dark.
Back on the apartment level of the justice hub–Paragon’s words, not mine–I grabbed my backpack and take off. It was sitting next to a pile of fluff that must have come out of hiding over the course of the day. As I lifted the pack from its spot on the ground, two luminescent green eyes, a pink nose, and two pointed ears appeared and a tail unwound from the bunching of fur. The eyes squinted for a second as its mouth opened up with a sizable yawn for such a small creature. It was followed almost immediately with a call for attention, which mostly just sounded like a meow. I set the bag down momentarily and instead reached my hand over to the vocal little fuzzball. Ruffling the light orange, black, and white hairs on the top of its head, I spoke to the animal.
“Nice of you to stop sleeping in the darkness and come out to sleep in the light, Eula.”
Eula said nothing in reply, opting to enjoy the petting that hit the sweet spot right behind her ears. The second I decided to remove my hand, the ten year old feline decided to talk again. A disappointed, drawn out “mreoooow,” as if to say “noooo,” accompanied a pathetic look that begged for more attention. I couldn’t tell if she genuinely enjoyed my company or was just too lazy to itch those spots herself, but I usually took company however it came.
“I’ve got work to do, La. We can continue the scratch session when I get back,” I promised.
Her head dropped back on her front paws, letting out what sounded like the cat version of a sigh, and she nearly immediately fell back asleep.
“If I could take you I would, girl. Don’t wear yourself out resting all day,” I warned as I picked up my bag and placed it on my back.
I always take my backpack with on these trips. Not for any particular reason; it doesn’t contain anything that pertains to the act of fighting crime directly, but it does usually hold something that I totally forgot about and need later. I started making it my main companion for trips after a particularly rough quarrel in the laboratory of a self-proclaimed madman. He was trying to develop chemical weapons, which normally would qualify him as a major threat to the well-being of citizens and therefor within Paragon’s jurisdiction, but never created anything worse than a liquid-activated powder that instantly caused the common cold. I made the mistake of going in with a water bottle and he managed to blow a puff of the particles into my face right as I was taking a sip. Within seconds I had the sniffles, which was little more than a mild annoyance. To make matters worse, the asshole only had the cheap tissues in is little chemistry workshop. I use the tissues with lotion because I have sensitive skin but I left them in my backpack so I had to spend the next hour and a half blowing my nose into what might as well have been sandpaper. Never again did I leave my backpack at home.
With the pack secure, I took my leave into the streets and waited for the first taxi cab to pass by. I flagged him down and stepped in.
“Where to?” he asked, preparing to program his GPS.
“Polk University Union, please,” I replied, flashing my government-issued City Protector badge. It was the equivalent of a “free ride” pass, meaning the cabbie could bill the city for it. Upon seeing it, he promptly turned off his GPS and pulled out into the road slowly. Showing the badge usually meant a longer trip since the driver knew I wasn’t paying for it and they’re more than happy to milk the city for all it’s worth. I’m not going to argue, they have to make a living and I usually wasn’t in a rush. If I was, I’d go by foot.
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s not like the speed exerted to punch that guy in the face was from adrenaline. I can do that pretty consistently at varying speeds, but it’s kind of exhausting. I still feel the fatigue of physically running, but it’s more of the strain that a normal person feels after running a handful of miles on the treadmill. I just do it a bit faster, but I’m not like that guy you’re thinking of (I won’t even name him to avoid the comparison). My body is still subject to the laws of gravity and all that science-y stuff. It’s more like being on a really fast roller coaster. I just rarely run that fast because it’s really difficult to stop, and I’m kind of lazy. Also I hate roller coasters, which is pretty much just my luck; I’m pinned with the one power that reminds me of a thing I hate every time I use it. Not to mention it’s really hard to see walls at higher speeds. Only had to learn that lesson once–especially since nose jobs aren’t covered under the city’s insurance plan, even though it clearly wasn’t just for cosmetic reasons. So taxis it is for me most days.
Slowly rolling down Lagoon Avenue, the Union building came into view. It was hard to miss, a landmark built just before the Depression era. At the time it was probably an example of the great wealth that the University had accumulated, with four large arching entry ways, held by perfectly carved stone columns that have been restored multiple times over the generations. Wooden doors from the seventies lead to the multicolored marble tiled-floors that covered the walking surface of the structure, no doubt from a similar era as the forest green-painted entrance. There is little to no sensibility to the color scheme. The 1970′s were a great time for youth experimentation but an awful period for interior design. While those previously mentioned pillars that lined the front of the building usually displayed nothing but some concerning cracks that would eventually need fixing or condemning, they were covered with posters and masking tape. I squinted to read what they said. The first one I was able to make out read, “WHO ARE YOUR MASTERS?” Yeah, I think that’s all I need to see.
“This is my stop, sir.”
The car came to a halt. I went to open my door but was met with resistance. Still locked. This cabbie’s really trying to milk the clock, I guess. I unlock the door manually and hop out, snagging my backpack from the seat next to me before slamming the door closed. As the car started to pull away, I felt a sudden tug that drug me a long for a second. I planted my feet, then heard the sound of fabric ripping. Turning back toward the vehicle I noticed a piece of red fabric, torn and waving in the wind as it rode away in the crease of the doorframe. I reached behind my back, snagging a tattered piece of cloth in my hand. I was wearing a cape. Now I’m wearing a ripped cape. Looking down at the rest of my body, I come to a very upsetting realization: I’m still in costume. This’ll be great. There’s nothing college kids take more seriously than a man in spandex. Walking up the steps, I snagged one of the posters off the pillar and pushed open the double doors.
That goes especially for ones that I deal with. A lot of them aren’t major criminals. That’s not to say that the occasional domestic disturbance call doesn’t land me in the middle of a murder investigation, but those are few and far between. The current case I’m working on is one of those non-essentials: Someone was apparently plastering anti-establishmentarian literature across the campus of Polk University. College is usually known as a place of social dissent and experimentation, but the crack down on communications since the election of Governor Alden McDowell had put an end to much of that above the surface. This was probably just a case of some of the underground movements leaking out, but McDowell’s policy left little room for leniency. He compared it to turning on the faucet after water mains are flushed: “The water is brown and polluted for awhile, but keep the pressure running and eventually only purity remains.”
Frankly, the dissension doesn’t bother me. A little free thinking never hurt anybody, aside from those that it questions. That said, I’m a hired gun without a gun and I need the money and these types of jobs were the easy ones. I can pretty much tell how this’ll play out: I go downtown to where the posters are hanging, as a few questions as to who tacked them up, get zero answers, and then remove the posters, playing my role as a one man clean-up crew. It’s not exactly glorious; I doubt I’ll be snagging any media attention. Poster removal, regardless of how well executed, is rarely celebrated. But it’ll cover this month’s water bill, and I like long showers.
“Hey Parry, can you tell me everything you know about anti-authority communities based on the Polk University campus?” I shouted to get my superhuman roommate’s attention. I called him by random nicknames occasionally, just to see how he responds. It rarely fazes him, especially when followed with a question about criminal activity. It’s like calling a dog: It doesn’t really matter what name you say if you follow it up with, “want a treat?,” they’ll be ready to perform their entire repertoire.
He walked out of the room that housed our homemade supercomputer (super-average computer, to be more specific), slowly approaching before stopping several feet away from me and placing his balled hands on his hips. It’s one of three accepted super hero stances, and it’s standard procedure for him to assume one of those positions while delivering any information that is hero-specific. You’d expect a steady gust of wind to blow through, hoisting his cape into the air as an American flag unfurled as the backdrop behind him.
“I can tell you they’ve become more vocal over the past months, and there is talk of organized protests in the weeks ahead. They have taken to advertising their position more openly, and some walls meant for the promotion of local music acts and artistic talents have been commandeered for the delivery of their message.”
“Such a shame all those guys that learned to play three cords on the guitar won’t have an audience to wear their snapback hats and cover O.A.R. songs in front of, ” I replied.
“You are right to be disappointed. Those cork boards are meant to hold the fliers of future talents, not sheets of injustice.”
“How do you do that?” I asked, dumbfounded that those combinations of words came out of his mouth without a hint of sarcasm or deceitfulness.
“Do what?” Paragon asked in response.
“Say that with a straight face. Done so illegally or not, any person that keeps a band that sings about peace and ‘the children of the world’ or a rapper with a song about weed from performing, then count me as a supporter.”
Paragon’s face changed from stern confidence to stern disappointment. A scolding was coming. Presumably a stern one.
“Any activity that is illegal is a crime. A crime is a crime, even–”
I cut him off. “Even if it’s meant to stop something you believe is a crime. I know. But trust me if one could commit crimes against music, those douche bags would be tried for attempted first degree murder for trying to kill the integrity of music.”
“You have a job to stop actual crime, and Governor McDowell has determined that what these groups are doing is against the law,” Paragon said in a fashion reminding of the task at hand.
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it, I’m just saying if a poster for ‘Ted Stevens and the Mushrooms Experience’ happens to come off in the ball of tape that I pull down, I’m not putting it back up,” I affirmed, while walking away. Another trip up the elevator shaft, which screeched a little with the sound of metal scraping on the way up. I’ll fix that later. For now, I have “crime” to fight.
Walking back into the apartment, the realization hits that it might be better to show than to tell. A quick trip back down the elevator shaft and an immediate turn to the left reveals a wall of text, framed headlines and stories from newspapers across the years. There are plenty to pull from.
“Spandex-Clad Man Saves Family,” from the Polk Daily Post on April 12, 1979. “Polk Has a Full-Time Hero,” from The Madison County Update on June 21, 1982. “A City Safer than Ever Under One Man’s Watch,” from the Chicago Tribune, who developed a friendly fascination with on March 2, 1986. “Sleep Well at Night? Thank Paragon,” accompanied by a side panel article titled, “Police Chief ‘Sickened’ by Dept. Budget Cuts” from The Daily Polk on August 4, 1995. His influence got large enough to travel overseas, landing him as a feature in the New Scientist article “The Morality of Man,” a long form examination how genetics influence behavior. That piece from 1999 gave him one last major wave of positivity and public support that cumulated in the New York Times‘s October 3, 2000 piece, “Mayor Honors Long-Time Hero, Declares April 12 ‘Paragon Day’,” which took precedent over the secondary headline, “Ceremony Goes Smoothly Despite Continued Police Protests.” Hundreds of examples could be pulled from the pieces of gray paper and preserved print, but the wall was pretty scarce after the Paragon Day announcement.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t still make headlines. Quite the contrary, he had been in the news more than ever. There was a stack of papers that sat near the far end of the memorial that contained plenty of stories about him. Most of them weren’t quite as positive as those displayed so prominently on the wall. The dedication wasn’t Paragon’s doing, he isn’t so caught up in himself to honor his own actions in such a way. The framing was my idea, just a reminder for him that what he did mattered–if not now, at one point.
There were a share of dissenters that opposed the rise of Paragon Man throughout his rise. During the eighties, a handful of people from various organizations rose up to speak out against him. The underground press of the area ran regular condemnations of his actions, including the Pride of Polk‘s monthly feature “Para-gone Mad with Power” which recounted every arrest they deemed invalid that occurred over the past thirty days. It ran for 58 consecutive months, finally ending with a “Best (or Worst) of” recap and a small run of a book that featured editorials about Paragon the paper also produced during that time. Those also remain buried in the stack.
The 2000′s have been weird for Paragon. Certain types of crime remain on the rise: Drug use, theft, underage drinking. The odd thing for Paragon though is that when he stops those crimes he’s chastised, berated by pro-marijuana activists, web torrent providers and users, people in favor of a lowered drinking age. The people that once held Paragon up as a beacon of morality–”the only crime deterrent that a city would ever need,” in Mayor Simmons’ own words–had now deemed him to be the enforcer of an outdated rulebook, a hero that has existed for decades but failed to evolve with the times. Despite the lack of public support–the latest support poll revealed only 27% of citizens in the area believe his service is more beneficial than harmful–he remains the driving force of the Polk Crime Fighting Initiative.
The CFI was created as what the city calls a “more centralized effort to curb the causes and minimize the effects of criminal activity. It really was a more public relation-friendly way of nearly completely cutting the police force in favor of staffing Paragon and a bare bones call center and crime lab. It also set aside a minimal budget for doling out excess work–basically the menial tasks like enforcing parking tickets and bringing out people with outstanding warrants. Over the last few years these jobs have expanded in more meaningful work, including the initial investigative efforts and immediate response team.
This is less to do with thinking Paragon needs help; he doesn’t. In fact, he occasionally intercepts calls for work that he could easily handle and takes care of it himself. It has everything to do with the city not wanting to expose Paragon to higher profile cases or put him in a position where he’ll be exposed to the public. They realize his presence at crime scenes often isn’t welcomed by onlookers, so they’ll send someone like me to commence the case and allow Paragon to close it. While the city might not want him to show his face, no one fears it more than a criminal on the lamb.
“Lost it” wasn’t exactly the word I would have used, but I’m not going to nitpick. After all, I had a case to solve–aside from the one that had me as the prime suspect. Calls like that one come in all the time; offers to track down criminals, investigate robberies, save kittens stuck in trees. Everything that your normal police force would usually be tasked with. Except I’m not exactly a cop. The best way I can explain what I do is by calling freelancing. I offer a service that certain organizations require and I will do it for them in exchange for some cash. I sound kind of like a whore, but I’m not. Well, not in the traditional sense at least. Maybe I’m a very progressive whore that doesn’t perform any sort of sex acts and instead attempts to put an end to criminal activity. You know what, I may be onto something here: A hooker task force that is dedicated to fighting crime between selling their bodies to lonely men and fancy business executives too preoccupied with work to form a functioning relationship with their significant other. Good money, good cover-up, and a good time for their clientele. If midway through an unspeakable act of intercourse the call girl received a crime alert and drug you into a car to track down and stop a crime in progress, you would get way more than your money’s worth.
Sorry, I got distracted. I think about hookers too much…That came out weird. Let’s move on. Freelancing. I’m a freelance super hero. I’m not particularly super, though I do have some powers that the majority of humanity doesn’t have. And the hero part is really depends on who you ask. The guys that I arrest? They rarely gush about how thankful they are that I protect the city against people like them. I am not admired among the prison community. I’m not even sure I’m liked in the brotherhood of police officers. I kind of put them out of work. Well, not me specifically. Paragon Man is far more guilty of that than I am, but we aren’t in the same field.
I field calls and get to pick and choose who I bust. Pot smokers, I’ll pass. Thugs and mobsters, I take in. Child molesters, they have a habit of disappearing. That’s the other plus of freelancing: They’re hiring me to do work, but the product I produce is really up to me–I can’t guarantee everyone is brought to justice. Paragon Man is a full-time hero. He has responsibilities and standards to uphold. He put half the town’s police force out of work when he started taking down the baddies around town and the mayor realized that he could cut the budget significantly because Paragon saw it as less of his job and more of his duty. It’s pretty easy to oblige a guy who would do the work for free, especially when he has no understanding of basic negotiating tactics (Seriously, I once traded him a tuna sandwich for a salisbury steak on the grounds that tuna are most moral fish in the sea. I eat well now).
The problem with a guy like Paragon, one that believes he is meant to stop the evils of the world from infecting the virtues of humanity, is that they start to make judgement calls on the morality of people. During the 80′s, much of the city viewed him as what he believes himself to be: a hero. In a conservative era where much of America tightened their belt to cutting off circulation in response to an extremely activist decade before it, Paragon’s idea of good and bad were almost universally shared. He wasn’t out burning down abortion clinics or anything–he reprimanded a few that did, though. “A crime is a crime, even if it’s meant to stop something you believe is a crime,” he once said. Regardless, his adjustment to the twenty-first century has been a harsh one.