by Aaron Einhorn
What did I ever do to deserve this? Sally Jackson asked herself, not for the first time, as she looked in the mirror.
The face that greeted her was one that she only partially recognized as her own. Which only made sense, since that face belonged to Paragon, not Sally.
Where Sally typically wore her hair tied into a ponytail, Paragon’s wild red hair flew freely, unencumbered by any restraint except for the white cowl which concealed the upper half of her face from nose to forehead. Sally’s blue eyes were concealed behind the green-tinted goggles Justin had provided her. The goggles served both to help conceal her identity and as a high-tech tool. Justin had equipped the goggles with a variety of sensors and cameras. Not only could they give her valuable sensory information, but they gave Justin a Paragon’s-Eye-View of what she was doing, although she could cut the cameras off when she desired privacy. In a pinch, Justin could send her text messages across the lenses of the goggles as well, although the earpiece concealed in the costume was his preferred method of communicating with her.
The combination of the goggles and the mask gave Paragon an almost avian appearance, and Sally often wondered if that made her frightening to children. “You’re being silly,” Justin told her when she brought the idea up a few weeks back. “Years of comic books and superhero movies have more than prepared people for the way you look. Kids love you. You only look intimidating when you’re trying to.”
The costume continued down into a tight white bodysuit with that covered her from neck to ankles. Although the fabric of the suit looked like spandex, it was light weight, breathed well, and was tough – more than tough enough to stand up to the abuses she frequently put the costume through. But there was more to it the choice of the costume then just fitting the stereotype. The fabric contained a multitude of biometric sensors that Justin used to monitor Sally’s health. Originally designed by the researchers Justin worked with as a diving suit, it couldn’t have been more perfectly suited to outfit a superhero. Justin had modified it, adding a red triangular pattern to the upper chest, and coloring the boots and gloves that accompanied the costume a matching red with triangular points that came to her elbows and mid thighs. A golden belt, trimmed in red, sat around her waist, concealing several small compartments and controls for the sensory abilities of the goggles.
She had grown comfortable with the costume, although the first time she put it on she felt more than a little self-conscious. The costume clung to her like a second skin, leaving very little to the imagination when it came to the shape of her body. Fortunately, even before becoming a superhero Sally had been fit and mostly free of excess fat, and the life of a superhero meant that she could eat like a frat boy without fear of gaining weight. Justin told her that he estimated that with her heightened metabolism and the amount of exercise she got now, she could eat in excess of 5000 calories a day without gaining so much as an ounce. On the other hand, the skintight costume also emphasized Sally’s curves, something she normally dressed to downplay, as she had the kind of curves that drew jealous stares from other women and usually brought out the worst behavior among men.
The final element of Paragon’s costume was a scalloped cape in red and white vertical stripes which coordinated with the colors of the costume. Reaching to her mid-thighs, the cape provided her with some slight modesty, but more importantly it helped her feel like an honest-to-goodness superhero.
Me, a superhero. Who would’ve thought? Sally thought as she finished her assessment in the mirror. Although it had been several months since the Sleeping Sickness had hit on New Year’s Day, and she had subsequently first made her debut as Paragon during a fire, the reality of it still struck her as absurd. Superheroes belonged in comic books, cartoons and movies. Not flying above Indianapolis and Chicago. And even though there had been other superhumans who had appeared since she made her first public appearance, the media still seemed enchanted with her.
All of which brought her back to the present. Tapping the earpiece in her left ear, she quietly asked “Justin, do I really have to go through with this?”
“I’m afraid so. The Ebon Streak cancelled on them. Again,” crackled Justin’s voice from the electronic transmitter in her ear. “If we expect people to trust you and the other heroes, then you had better be willing to talk to the media. Besides, the Mayor gave us that nice penthouse to live in. If we want to keep those kinds of perks, it’s only fair for him to expect you to play nice with the morning talk show folks.”
Sally sighed. “One of these days, I’m going to meet Streak. And then I’m going to give him an earful about canceling public appearances. For someone who can run across the country in a matter of minutes, he’s awfully bad about being punctual. He could’ve been here in seconds. I had to get up at four o’clock to fly here from Chicago in time.” She returned her gaze to the mirror. “Anyhow, how do I look?” she asked, knowing that Justin was seeing her reflection thanks to the goggle-cam.
“Super. But you knew that. Knock ‘em dead.”
If only I could… Sally wistfully thought. I’ll take punching Gridiron over talking to morning show hosts any day of the week.
“Thanks sweetie,” Sally whispered. Closing the connection, Sally straightened her spine and turned away from the mirror. With a thought, she allowed herself to slip free from the grasp of gravity and floated a few inches off the ground. She slowly propelled herself forward, out of the dressing room and into the studio where the constantly perky television personalities waited. Streak owes me. Big time. she allowed herself to think as she pasted a smile on her face. Her voice acquired a deeper resonance as she mentally said goodbye to being Sally Jackson, and when she spoke, it was with the voice of Paragon.
“Ok, America. Paragon is here. What do you need?”
Aaron’s Notes: Even though Justin is the first character we meet in the novels, and is probably the character I resonate with the strongest on a personal level (more than one person has asked if he’s modeled after me), Sally was the first character I knew had to be in this world, and most of the novels come from her perspective. It was important to me that the Superman of this world be a woman, not a man. And while I didn’t want the alien birth or the sense of being an outsider to be a part of her, I knew that Sally had to have that same mix of confidence and humility that I’ve always loved seeing in the best Superman tales. Sally is far more comfortable with the work of being a hero than the role of acting like one, and the mantle of leadership that has fallen on her is one that she is uncomfortable with, despite it being a perfect fit. In terms of timeline, this scene falls somewhere in the middle of The Awakening, after Sally’s debut and her and Justin’s reconciliation, but before her first battle with Dusk.
Tales From Children of the Sleeper is a new feature at Comic Hero News where Aaron will share short scenes from the world of his superhero novels. These scenes don’t come from the novels themselves, but are essentially “bonus scenes” like you would find as a DVD extra. Some of them are ideas that just didn’t fit into the books, some are brand new scenes written to fill gaps, others will introduce characters not mentioned in the novels who fit into that world.