Halcyon Days (The Perks Of Being A Paragon)
The True Meaning of Victory
Team-building Exercise. Druid pondered the implications of his newest class assignment. A friendly round of Capture The Flag, with him as Captain of Team Blue. He glanced at the rival Team Red’s Captain, Beatdown. He knew of her, if only by reputation. A young woman of impeccable character and incredible strength. A worthy foe in this case, though he looked forward to the day when she became a powerful ally.
“First pick. Heads, Team Blue. Tails, Team Red.” exclaimed Mr. Wu Xing, their Physical Education teacher. Druid knew he was far more than that, and that this class’ curriculum would include far more than simple PE. Mr. Wu Xing’s ‘Metal’ ring emitted a bright glow, and a steel coin appeared. It flipped in the air, once, twice, three times and… Heads. Druid evaluated his classmates.
He felt that all of them had value and potential. His selection should therefore be based on a specific goal. Team-building. I like that. Some of his classmates had already formed cliques. He had read about Team Trouble in ‘Hot Scoop,’ a junior reporter column of Halcyon City Herald. Written by, oddly enough, one of the potential draft picks standing right in front of him. It would be interesting to form bonds with Team Trouble and test their improvisation by having them mingle with opposing teams, but that could easily backfire. He decided against splitting them up, if at all possible. Finally, he made his choice.
“Cosmos.” At that, the Blue Giant flashed a shark-tooth grin and moved to Team Blue’s side. Cosmos was an obvious choice for a winning team. Yet, that’s not why he picked him. Everyone saw him as a bully and an asshole; admittedly for good reason. Indeed, Druid was about to step between him and Kid Dynamo until Beatdown came to Kid’s aid first. No, the reason Druid picked him was to see if there’s anything more to him. Failing that, to see if he could help make something more of him. It wouldn’t do to give up on someone if you’re meant to build a team.
Beatdown’s first pick. “Kid Dynamo.” Again, Druid was impressed by her strength of character. Kid Dynamo almost certainly had significant power of some kind. After all, he was part of the team that defeated Raging Bull. It was his personality and demeanor that would keep him out of most drafts. Shy, humble, and quiet. Not unpleasant company, but hardly the obvious first choice for an allied combatant. It was clear as day that Beatdown made him her first pick to protect him.
Druid’s second pick. “Chance.” Hearing his name, Chance seemed to break free from his perpetual daze and walked over to Team Blue. Druid knew of the rumors surrounding Chance. He even witnessed for himself how he won the position of Class Representative under highly improbable circumstances. He knew that Chance was another obvious pick towards assuring victory. But he knew something else as well: Chance, in Druid’s eyes, was a good person. Druid’s own work in the community was not limited to dramatic Superhero battles. He also volunteered at soup kitchens and animal shelters. The first time he met Chance was at Halcyon’s branch of Hope For Paws. It was a cold, rainy day. Druid wanted to change the weather, but he kept his mentor’s words to heart: It was not his place to do so. The door opened to a fascinating sight: Chance, with nine kittens attached to him. They were all completely dry; when Druid moved to help them, he noticed they were all completely warm as well. After making sure the kittens were safe and cared for, Chance waved goodbye and stepped back out into the rain. Druid could see each droplet divert away from him as he walked. All nine kittens were adopted into the same loving home the very next day.
Beatdown’s second pick. “Tempest.” Two isn’t exactly enough for a pattern, but Druid’s intuition told him Beatdown would have all of Team Trouble. Or were they now called Team Bold? Regardless, it was for the best. Tempest is mysterious and keeps to his own group of friends, but Druid found his power set interesting. A fellow Ally of the Wind was worth meeting.
Druid’s turn. “Boost.” The entire rest of the class were basically strangers to him, but Druid knew Boost, or Cameron, quite well. Cameron gave him a mock scowl as if to say “I was your third pick?” but Druid knew it was all in good fun. Cameron’s outgoing personality and fascinating power allowed him to make friends easily. They were symbolically linked, in fact; He channels his own power to amplify those of his partner. Likewise, he gives all of himself when it comes to friendship. Druid was proud to have him on his team.
Beatdown’s third. “Spinel Tap.” A Paragon with Super Strength, much like Beatdown herself. They both had something that made them unique, though. Druid theorized that Beatdown’s power is likely mystical in nature, similar to his own. She is never seen without various forms of Draconic Iconography. A simple theory to be certain, but one with some basis. Conversely, the origin of Spinel Tap’s power is a complete mystery. With the hint of sorrow he sees in her eyes, her story may be a tragic one. It’s really no business of his, but Druid still hoped he could get to know her and find some way to help.
Druid’s fourth. The pool was thinning by now. Other than Team Bold members, there was Scoop, RebelLion, Espresso, Spooky, and Narcissus/Narcissa. It would be a pleasure to meet all of them at some point. For now, it was difficult to narrow it down. Until he saw Spooky’s gaze focused elsewhere. He followed it, and it landed firmly on Chance. Love? Likely not; not yet. Some of the class knew each other, such as Team Bold along with Scoop, and himself with Cameron. Also, Narcissus/Narcissa, obviously. But for the most part, the majority of the class barely knew each other, if at all. Infatuation, then. Or admiration. Either way, Spooky didn’t seem the type to be overbearing or predatory, so he felt comfortable giving her the opportunity to meet the one she admired. “Spooky.” At that, she made a stereotypical “Squee!” noise and hop-skipped to Team Blue’s side.
Beatdown. “Scoop.” Scoop looked around hesitantly, then slowly made her way to Team Red. Druid was a big fan of her column and articles. She seemed nervous about anything related to combat. If she were to realize a reluctance to fight need not equate to an inability to fight, she could grow to her full potential. Someday, hopefully. Definitely not today, sadly; she hid behind Beatdown and did her very best to make herself appear small.
His turn. Almost done now. “Espresso.” Espresso is an interesting fellow, if what Druid read was true. On his own, he’s a competent martial artist. When he consumes enough caffeine, though, his real power manifests. Super Senses; to an absurd degree. All Five, in fact. Druid posited that he would excel at every combat role: From scouting, to support, to direct engagement. More importantly, Druid remembered seeing him build a bit of a rapport with Narcissus/Narcissa earlier between classes. If Beatdown keeps to her theme, they’re a lock for Team Blue.
Beatdown’s sixth pick. “Doxx.” Druid felt very sympathetic towards Doxx. He didn’t know many of the details, but on some level, he understood her pain. She was a Transformed, and he knew it was involuntary. Potential Hazard Designations chase such Heroes every step of the way, and there’s not much joy in life even if they avoid it. There’s no way for him to truly perceive the depths of her hardship, but he imagined it was like his own: Growing up Black in his old neighborhood. More literal in her case. Anyway, bad memories for sure. But they can give you the drive to improve your future. He’d share his own experiences with her, if she ever wanted to talk.
Final two for him, but it was practically decided. “Narcissus. If no one has any objections, Narcissa as well for my final pick.” Beatdown nodded. Narcissus/Narcissa sighed with relief. They could not and should not be separated. They held hands as they walked to Team Blue. Certain members of the class thought of them as “weird” or “creepy,” but Druid was more discerning. They are self-absorbed, so to speak, but they are very kind. They were the ones who approached Espresso and engaged him in conversation, when he was hanging in the back alone. Their affection towards each other, if a bit too public, is certainly genuine. They didn’t deserve ridicule. If anyone had a problem with them, they may soon find themselves having a problem with him.
“Powers.” Beatdown’s seventh pick, James Powers, is a notorious delinquent. Still, Druid thought there might be more to him; just like with Cosmos. His Teleportation power’s utility is limited only by his, or his leader’s, tactical acumen. Druid wasn’t sure if he was skilled in direct combat, but his Power Negation is terrifying to any Super. It scales on his opponent’s strength rather than his own. If Druid’s own powers were negated, he’d be practically defenseless; truly, he needed to stop procrastinating and add martial arts alongside his tactical studies.
Final Pick. “RebelLion.” Just hearing that name brought back the memory of Powers turning RebelLion into a chibi lion plushy. Druid struggled not to smile; fearing it would be rude to the poor Hero. It was just so cute! RebelLion’s power appears to be muscular growth when receiving negative emotions, and muscular atrophy when receiving positive ones. His potential strength is staggering; likely spiking higher than Beatdown or even Spinel Tap at full capacity. His practical capabilities are still lacking, though. Druid isn’t one to talk, but RebelLion seems to be all raw power with no actual martial training. That’s what school is for, right? He’s sure to meet friends and put his overwhelming strength to good use.
Mr. Wu Xing clapped his hands together. “Excellent! I encourage both teams to build teamwork skills and unique tactics based on your collective powers. Remember, this is an exercise! We are here to make allies; not enemies. If you have any grudges, settle it on the field. Don’t take it with you. Friendships, however, I strongly encourage. On and off the field.” He smiled. “Good luck, Heroes.”
Druid looked over his team. A spectacular band of misfits. A spectacular band of Heroes. A team-building exercise. The flag is irrelevant. “Winning” this game is irrelevant. By building these friendships, both Team Blue and Team Red have already earned the only victory that matters. Not that we can’t still have fun playing.
“Greetings, everyone. I am Druid, your Team Captain.”