Heroes and Villains Part B
After my friends had left, three Bureau agents descended upon Monica and me. Apparently it was debriefing time, whether I was up for it or not.
“Ms. Keller, if you wouldn’t mind waiting outside?” one of them suggested politely, his whole demeanor and appearance shouting “generic government agent.”
“If you’d like him coherent, I’ll have to stay. He has a migraine,” she said a bit testily. She hadn’t been away from me for close to three weeks; someone telling her she had to leave had to be hard.
The three agents looked at each other and nodded.
“Your powers work with line-of-sight, don’t they?” the same one asked reasonably. Monica looked like she’d just swallowed a lemon, nodded, and then stood up to leave, flipping open the shades to the corridor window as she went. When the door clicked shut, the Bureau agents simultaneously grabbed chairs and sat with their backs to the door.
I stared at them in silence, half-buried in the pillows, and wondered what kind of crap I was going to have to answer for now. The Bureau had a habit of beating a dead horse even after it had been buried, upon occasion, and a play-by-play rehashing of what had been both the best (in terms of helping those people who’d never wanted to be villains) and worst week of my life was not something I wanted to do fifteen times in a row. Monica had said they only wanted my reactions to events, but I didn’t think we’d be that lucky.
“Agents Smith,” the middle one said by way of introduction, waving at his two cohorts. I looked over at them and did a triple take; quite literally, the three men were identical.
“Trio?” I asked, and the Agents Smith nodded. A multiplier superhero sort of like Penny, Trio had gone inactive nearly a decade ago.
“In the fleshes. Phoenix, this shouldn’t take very long. I’m going to go over what I know, and then you can fill in the blanks-.”
“Just you guys?” I interrupted. I couldn’t believe the Bureau was going to let me off the hook with just an interview. The Agents Smith looked at each other briefly.
“What would you have said if we insisted on bringing in a psychic to verify what you said?”
“Go to hell,” I said instantly.
The Smiths shrugged with remarkable equanimity.
“We did pay attention to statements from The Dreamer and Ms. Keller. So it’ll be just us. Phoenix, you’ve already given your pound of flesh, and then some, to the cause. We aren’t entirely without heart,” they said, and I relaxed marginally. Despite the name, the Bureau wasn’t a true bureaucracy, mostly because it consisted of and was run by super-powered men and women with very high moral standards. There was a whole lot of government protocol and red tape that didn’t exist in the Bureau of Superpowered Affairs. This was living proof of that; real government agents didn’t have hearts.
I told them what they needed to know, as simply and honestly as I could, explaining the gaps in their own dead-accurate narrative. I seriously doubted they could have understood all of it, like why I’d come close to snapping more than once, why I’d contemplated murderous violence, or gone into near-psychotic fits. But I told them anyway. In this respect, I was glad Monica wasn’t there to hear it. I was brutally honest with the agents, so they’d maybe understand that if I could nearly go postal in a week, what long-term academy residents like Monica had had to deal with.
A half-hour later, the Smiths were gone, though looking mildly shell-shocked at what I’d told them, and Monica was back in the room like a shot.
“You were right,” I told her. “Just the blanks. They believed you.”
An amazing expression of relief spread across her face, and I lifted a weak hand to pull her in for a kiss.
I wasn’t up for dealing with much more than supper and sleep, but apparently there was one more float left in the parade. Right after dinner, there was another visitor.
Monica’s head snapped up as Tobias Battle walked into my room without even a knock. I wasn’t particularly surprised; Tobias acted like he owned everything, whether he actually did nor not. It was all part of his image, like me and my leather jacket.
“Ah, there you are. And conscious no less,” he said, his chin raised so he could look down his nose at me in an undeniably arrogant manner. I almost broke out laughing, and Tobias could see my hard-repressed smile.
“You too. Are you ok?” I asked to prevent myself from snickering. It actually wasn’t that funny, but for some reason I was finding this hilarious. I think I needed more rest.
To be fair, Tobias did look thinner than I remembered, and there was significantly more silver in his hair.
“Well enough, Warren,” he said with more solemnity, crossing to sit in an empty chair. He patted Monica absently on the shoulder, and I nearly gave my eyes whiplash going back and forth between them. “I apologize that I wasn’t here when you woke up, but my children were out on a call. Besides, you needed your mother and Monica more than me.”
“Ah…” I stalled, trying to figure out what to say. Tobias broke the awkwardness by taking my free hand firmly in his grasp, like he was congratulating me, and igniting it. The heat pulsed from his hand to mine, pyro to pyro, kin to kin, warming me down to the core. I let my own fire flow across my hand, and squeezed his as hard as I could.
“You’ve made the Battle family very proud grandson,” Tobias said solemnly. When my dad had used the same words years ago, it had made me nearly incoherent with rage. In my mind there had been no Battle family, just Mom and me against the world. Now I realized this was what it felt like to have a family standing behind you. The whole Battle family had unhesitatingly thrown themselves into a fight they didn’t have to, just to try to save me. Fire Court had, without reservation, and damn well knowing the consequences, given me everything they had.
The Peace family had spoken for me during that week in the academy without any solid proof of my innocence, even if they’d never met me. The Dreamer had thrown her powers into the gauntlet of the academy psi-shields in order to try to keep me safe and informed. Both her and her brother had kept me from being forced into taking Egret’s offer just before I’d gone into the academy.
This was how Zack, Magenta, or Ethan felt, knowing there were a dozen people or more tied to you blood, who’d help you for no other reason than family. I’d made my own family with my friends, but now I had all the Peaces and Battles behind me too. For someone who’d once thought it’d be just Mom and me against the world forever, I’d come a long way.
“Thanks Gramps,” I said, a genuine smile breaking out. Tobias pulled me into a hard embrace for a long moment before finally letting me go. He didn’t quite look emotional when he pulled away, but there was something in his face that let me know he had just gotten something he never thought he’d get.
“Gramps?” he asked though, an eyebrow raised quizzically.
“Either that or Grandpappy,” I pointed out. Tobias sighed in tolerant exasperation, and turned to look at Monica.
“Do try to keep him in line, will you dear?” he asked, rising up out of his chair and kissing the back of her hand formally. I was more than a little flabbergasted at that, because I remembered Emberkeeper nearly attacking Painbreaker on the battlefield. Tobias simply gave me a Look as he strode to the door.
“People having conversations when you’re not around, forging relationship when you’re not aware, keeping secrets… Why in the world would that bother you?” he asked rhetorically.
“Touché,” I commented. Tobias, his parting shot having hit its mark, swept out of the room, head proudly high.
It took me almost another two weeks to get back to normal. I ate like I was hollow, and as soon as I was back to walking, spent nearly every moment I wasn’t eating in the gym, trying to get my strength back. I hadn’t worked so hard since I was ten years old and bound and determined to protect myself from bullying classmates. Luckily the headaches stopped shortly after I was able to feed myself, or otherwise Monica would have had to stay with me the entire time. Painkillers (and indeed most drugs) were notoriously ineffective on pyrokinetics.
Mom, my friends, and the rest of my family couldn’t always be around either. Though I was temporarily inactive, they had work to do; the supervillains of the world hadn’t taken a break just because the academy was gone. My friends were needed constantly, and I didn’t begrudge them a second of time in doing their jobs.
Besides, Monica and I couldn’t stay joined at the hip forever. We’d helped destroy the academy, but there was a whole lot more to sort out before there could be a happy ending. Filling in the final blanks to the Bureau guys was just one piece in the puzzle. Monica and the others who had helped us were being dragged away for conferences that would last for hours. She had said, reluctantly, that she wasn’t supposed to talk about them. Mom, who was clearly one of the several in charge of these things, was also being closed-mouthed about them.
“This is an unusual situation, and believe me, they have a lot to work out on their own,” she’d pointed out.
I didn’t like being separated from Monica, not after all we’d been through, but she knew as well as I that something like this would happen if we’d managed to pull off the attack on the academy. I made a couple of attempts to hunt her up while I was still pretty weak, which resulted in the gang finding someone to stay with me to keep me from doing something stupid. That someone turned out to be Ethan’s fiancé Chloe. Six-foot-eleven Chloe with the black belt in karate, who, while happy to help out, was mildly annoyed at having to study in the little chairs in my hospital room.
I kept my ass in bed after that.
By the time I’d been cleared to return to the field the Agents Smith told me that the full Superhero Council was going to assemble the next day. The full Council. That wasn’t good news at all. At this point, I didn’t know if I was going to be punished, reprimanded, or rewarded. No one had given me any hints at all; as a matter of fact they’d been annoying neutral about the whole thing. But when Mom came for me after the Smiths had left, I knew I was going to get some sort of insight.
She was in her costume as the Peacemaker, but shook her head subtly when I automatically reached for my own outfit. For some reason that gave me a lump of cold in my stomach. Without talking, she lead me to one of the myriad conference rooms, where Monica, and our five ex-villain allies were all seated around the table, all of them out of costume. They all looked tired and a little jumpy, and started visibly when Mom and I walked in. I wondered, as I had often in the past two weeks, just what had been going on behind closed doors.
“I just need you as a witness, Warren,” Mom murmured, and awkwardly I went to sit in a chair against the wall. There was another long moment of silence as the Peacemaker regarded the bevy of ex-supervillains with a complex expression of pity and determination. Most of them started to squirm.
“We’ve gotten some information about the academy psychics and what they did to you. It explains a lot about your actions, and how you ended up in a place far different than you’d ever thought you’d be,” she opened, and I could see a minute relaxation in everyone. “The mental manipulation was fairly subtle and generally short-term, but applied constantly over a long period of time. Think of it like slow mental acid. It was particularly effective on those who were already vulnerable from anger or fear, and Royal Pain made certain each of you was in one of those states before bringing you into the academy.”
Monica and the others looked around at each other for a second in confusion, before the Peacemaker continued, looking relentless. I realized that all the cards were about to hit the table, and unfortunately Mom was holding the aces.
“The psychics went to work on you and every other person in the academy, increasing violent tendencies, shortening tempers, eroding senses of morality, and lowering inhibitions.”
Monica looked mortified and buried her head in her hands. I had a flashback to her out-of-character pressuring for sex when we were both in the academy and must have turned tomato red. From similar expressions on everyone else’s faces, we weren’t the only ones who’d been in that situation.
“Dear, not all of this was your fault,” the Peacemaker said to Monica, her voice calm.
“But some of it was?” Monica asked, her voice muffled.
“All of us are capable of anything, given the right circumstances. For you, certain acts were forced upon you by your circumstances, over and over again.”
“And I did them because I’m weak,” Monica finished, looking up. I kept my mouth shut, as I figured Mom had some reason for wanting to pry at Monica after all this time. This wasn’t just for her benefit, but for the rest of the ex-villains as well. But it wasn’t going to be pretty. Mom wanted me for a witness… because she needed to do something fairly hardcore. It would help, because Mom always helped, but I knew what hell Monica had gone through two years ago when the Peacemaker had helped put her mind back together. This was going to be along the same lines of brutality. The Council, I realized, must have something huge planned. And it better be worth it for what they were putting her through.
“You had four years in that place, and the psychics knew where and how to strike to make you twitch,” the Peacemaker elaborated.
“What are you trying to tell us?” Monica demanded, knowing Mom’s words were as applicable to the others as they were to her. “Is it our fault or isn’t it?”
“You were mentally manipulated Monica, all of you were. But not until you were brought into the academy,” the Peacemaker pointed out.
“So now we’re just dupes?” Monica asked angrily.
“No one was immune to what had been done to you. But you all attracted Royal Pain’s attention before she got you to the academy. Assault and battery, destruction of property, arson, torture, and murder you all did of your own free will. You need to understand this, and realize why you need to pay everything back.
“I refuse to absolve any of you for your personal responsibility in all of this. I know it’s not fair to you, but I want you to feel guilt, and grief, and uncertainty about this. Monica, I want you to remember how you went from college student, to self-serving torturer, to supervillain, to spy, to hero. I need the rest of you to remember the gratitude on the faces of those you saved. I want you to remember how easy it was to sink into the darkness, and how much better it is here in the light,” the Peacemaker concluded, locking eyes with each person in turn, ending with mine.
Mom hadn’t said anything directly to me, but she didn’t have to. Monica was a lot farther along in her recovery than any of the others, and she would be the one to convince them to try something new. And I might need to help her, if she needed it.
There was also something I realized that I needed to do, once the Bureau had figured out what it wanted to do with the ex-villains. And that we’d find out tomorrow.
Mom pulled me out of the conference room, leaving Monica and the others to talk.
“Let them come to their own conclusions, Warren. They’ll be better for it,” she warned, as I half-turned back to the door.
I took a deep breath to calm myself, and Mom let go of my sleeve.
“So I better get ready?” I asked.
“For anything,” she cautioned.
It was the first time I’d worn my costume in a month, and it felt almost strange on me. Someone had replaced the cracked armor plates and repaired the damage from bullets, rocks, and rubble. It seemed almost brand new, which fit my state of mind very well. I knew that when I walked out of the Council Chamber, I wouldn’t be the same as when I walked in.
I was one of the last to arrive, and walked to the center of the stage to be joined by the Peacemaker, Painbreaker, Meduka, Flamewing, Nightsteed, Voidhammer, and Bruin, all in costume. The technopaths, who’d never had costumes, were huddled over to one side. The Council Chamber was just as I remembered from the Dreamer’s visions, but for once it was completely full, practically to the rafters. It was so full that I wondered who was stopping crime.
The answer to that came when I was looking over the dignitaries at the front table. There was the usual bevy of Bureau directors, with Head Director Halo Star in the middle, but on the end was a colorless, androgynous figure in pale silver and blue, holding a tall white staff with an hourglass swinging from the top. That was Chronotrypsis, the Timekeeper; one of the most powerful people on the planet, and very rarely seen, Chronotrypsis only appeared when there was something of earth-shattering importance going on. He could literally stop time, giving the Council the ability to deal with the aftermath of the academy without some villainous plot slipping through the cracks. Right now, beyond these walls, the world was at a standstill.
How the hell did this meeting rate Chronotrypsis’ attention? It was important to me, damn important, but not rock-the-world, apocalyptic kind of important. Why have the full Council here? Either they felt the need to impress Monica and the others… Or things were in play that I didn’t know about, and we were much worse off than I realized.
I found myself praying the Council was just going for theatricality.
Next to me, Monica was very still inside her costume, though the other ex-villains were visibly fidgeting. In the seats just behind me the Champions of Justice, the Peace family, and the Battle clan were arrayed in colorful rows. I could feel their support behind me, like having a solid rock under my feet, and knew the academy guys must have been feeling like they were drowning. I hoped the Council would get it over with quickly, whatever it was.
Halo Star stood up, and the quiet conversations around the room stopped. Despite the superheroic obsession with costumes and catchphrases, superheroes, as a rule, have little patience for rambling speeches that go nowhere. We leave that to supervillain monologuing. So there wasn’t a formal call to start, or ratting off of business. Halo Star just leapt in to the heart of the matter; approaching a judgment in the same brisk manner he’d rescue a citizen.
“Phoenix,” he boomed, “there are some on this Council who’d say we should be stripping you and the Peacemaker of your hero names for associating with known villains. However, you did it with the best of intentions and results. Though your audacious actions you’ve helped dismantle Royal Pain’s supervillain academy and saved more lives than we will ever know. You freed dozens of people from what amounted to slavery, and unhesitatingly risked your life and sanity to save those that would have died. You’ve done the impossible, because you didn’t know it was beyond your reach, and succeeded where others have failed. You’ve been a true hero.”
I bowed my head slightly, lightheaded with relief.
“Peacemaker…” Halo Star trailed off, and I looked back up at him. He was smiling indulgently at Mom, and she was staring back at him, her chin high. There was no deference in her stance; it was all challenge. “You could have told us the truth.”
“You would have overreacted. It all turned out well, didn’t it?” the Peacemaker asked reasonably. A few people in the audience snickered. Halo Star’s mouth twitched slightly, and then he nodded.
“You can trust us to believe you Peacemaker,” he said, and Mom gave him a short bow. I knew she’d been afraid to lose everything she’d gained by revealing that she knew Monica was in Maxville. But with everything that’d happened, the Council had been able to see beyond any of Mom’s past mistakes. She wouldn’t let them bully her anymore.
“Painbreaker, for your previous offences, for your acts of torture, for participating in attempted assassinations, espionage, and kidnapping, we can offer no clemency. Flamewing, for your previous offences of arson, Nightsteed, for your previous offences of assault and battery, Meduka, Voidhammer, and Bruin, for your previous offences of manslaughter and murder, we can offer no clemency,” Halo Star boomed, his voice and face like stone. The Council Chamber went silent, and I nearly spoke, but Halo Star ran right on top of me.
“However, it has been made clear to me that you truly regret your actions, and some of your crimes were undertaken to help the cause of right. Also, we understand the effect powers can have one’s personality. Pyros are hot-tempered, mind-readers are understanding, empaths are sympathetic; it goes with the territory. And understandably Royal Pain convinced you that you had little choice but to go along with her wishes or suffer at our hands.
“We know the psychics at the academy were responsible for pressuring you into a specific mold, honed by a sadistic system of punishments and rewards. Finally, you all risked your life and freedom in a successful attempt to destroy the academy as we know it, forever.
“Painbreaker, you spent years prior to the academy attack aiding Phoenix, not only in the defeat of many supervillains, but at lessening the pain of hundreds of patients that you transported in your cover job as an EMT.”
Gasps sounded around the room, and I saw Monica rock back on her heels.
“Phoenix, this was your cover job as well, and you used very unorthodox techniques to not only neutralize Painbreaker’s threat, but to also help her overcome her many problems. With help from the Peacemaker, you were able to break her mental conditioning, and allow her to make her own decisions on where to stand.”
Unconsciously I reached out my hand for Monica’s, and found hers already searching for mine. We clasped hands, not unbeknownst to Halo Star, or the rest of the Council for that matter.
“You all have power,” he continued to the ex-villains. “And power, once claimed, cannot be discarded, hidden, or wished away. If you don’t take sides in the fight, the fight will come to you.” Which it had; most of these guys had tried to conceal their powers at first. While their chosen uses of their powers hadn’t been good, none of them had sought public attention. Royal Pain had dragged them into it. If they tried to go back to civilian life, some supervillain would come calling some day.
“It’s clear where you all stand,” Halo Star said, eyes raking over the ex-villains, and resting on our clasped hands. His voice had a hint of amusement in it, and Monica squeezed my hand tightly.
“However, we are at an impasse. We cannot simply forgive what you’ve done. But your actions this past months show us that you’ve chosen to do something different in your life.” The assembled former supervillains were looking at their shoes, waiting for the axe to fall. I felt my eyes start to widen as I got an inkling of what the Bureau agents might have been discussing with them over the past few weeks.
“Considering where you’ve lived and what you’ve experienced over the past few years, putting you in prison would be an improvement, or even a vacation. And you have all shown genuine remorse for your past crimes.”
I stopped breathing for a minute at Halo Star’s next words.
“We would have you instead become superheroes, and pay your debt to those you’ve hurt by saving the lives of others.”
Pandemonium erupted in the Council Chamber, and I half-expected Boomer to step up and shout everyone into silence. With a pang I remembered Boomer was dead, and it took Comet flying to the center of the room, her brilliant light distracting everyone into silence, before order could be restored. Halo Star gave her a look of gratitude as he continued.
“We know some of you lack control, and we will help you with your powers. You are also not the only ones who will be offered this chance,” and here he paused to give the technopaths a significant glance, “but in a short time we expect you will be the first ones ready to stand as the world’s newest heroes. Because of your past, there will be people watching, but we will not hover over you. You will be compensated, like we are, but much of what you make will go the families of those affected by your past crimes. You can use your powers as you see fit to serve, and no one will dictate to you how they can be used. Your actions will be your own.”
Translation, I thought, no one will be asking you to do our dirty work for us. Just because we were superheroes didn’t mean we sometimes wished we could take the easy way out. Halo Star was reassuring them they weren’t going to become our “tame” supervillains.
“Putting you with other superheroes would be counterproductive. You wouldn’t know them, and they might not trust you. You might grow to resent them, and that would be a disaster for everyone. We would like you to form your own superhero team, all six of you.”
All six of you, I repeated mentally, feeling a pang. I’d remember saying that Monica could join up with me, once the whole thing with the academy was over. I’d never thought about how that would work in reality. How could I leave the Champions? How could I leave my friends? How could I have asked them to have Painbreaker join us?
Halo Star seemed to be waiting for a response, and to my surprise, Bruin spoke up first.
“That’s fair,” he said, wonder in his deep voice. “We’ve never gotten fair before.”
He shot a glance at the others, and nodded at Halo Star.
“Yeah, I’ll do it,” Nightsteed said, his voice cracking.
“Me too.” “Yeah.” “Hell of a better deal,” the others chimed in. Monica, trembling, also nodded her assent.
“I’m going to station you in the next city over from Maxville. The Champions of Justice are a young team, but they should be able to help out if you’d like any advice,” Halo Star said, and I bit back a smile. He clearly noticed it, and his eyes flicked down to our joined hands.
“Last important thing; you need a leader. I don’t believe I would be going against anyone’s inclinations if I asked Painbreaker to lead this team.”
Monica let go of my hand as she jerked back as if shot.
“Are you insane?” she yelled. Halo Star looked unmoved. The rest of the Council shifted awkwardly.
“I know your team will not have it very easy; there will always be those that distrust you. But I know you will make the right choices. They chose you for this.”
“It’s not right. It’s not fair! You can’t make me the leader- I’ve-,” she sputtered to a stop, and looked over at her new teammates. Their faces were oddly blank, as if they knew what she was going to say and didn’t want to give away anything.
“I’ve tortured all of you! How the hell could you want me for a leader?” she asked.
“You said you were sorry,” Voidhammer pointed out.
“You’ve been out longer than we have,” Meduka said.
“You know these heroes; we don’t,” Nightsteed shrugged.
“You’ve been acting like a hero already,” Flamewing said.
“You had a chance to stop Royal Pain, and you did,” Bruin whispered.
“You came up with the plan in the first place,” I said more loudly. “You put it together, the whole damn plan.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” she protested, shaking her head.
“You risked your life to help all those people. You’ll be fine,” Guardian said suddenly, standing up behind me. Monica turned to look at him, blinking in shock.
“Phoenix is right, you came up with the plan,” he added, and nodded at me. Monica looked from Will to me, and then back at her teammates. Finally she turned back to Halo Star, trembling, and nodded.
“Excellent. Ah…” he trailed off for a moment, seemingly a bit embarrassed, and finally pressed ahead. “I don’t suppose you’d mind changing your name? Painbreaker is a little hardcore for a superhero.”
The new heroes snickered, and Monica actually laughed out loud.
“I was thinking… Mercy,” she said. Halo Star nodded approvingly.
“A good name. The rest you can all figure out later. I think that about wraps up- Phoenix?” he said, as I interrupted him by taking a step forward.
“I need to do something else,” I said. I hadn’t intended to speak, but I realized I just couldn’t let this go. “Look, before ah… a month ago, I’d healed more citizens and villains than I ever had heroes. I want to change that. I need to change that. Before I went to the academy, Egret made me an offer.”
From the side I could see the Champions, Peaces, and Battles all looking at me as if I were insane.
“I want to take it. Not all of it; I still want to fight. But take me off my cover job; I want to split time at the Bureau hospital. I think I can help there,” I said, exhaling like I’d just let go of a heavy weight. Off to the side, Mom was beaming, and I could see Layla giving me the thumbs-up sign.
“I can too,” Monica- Mercy- said, reaching out to take my hand again.
Halo Star seemed stunned by that development, blinked twice, and then nodded, smiling openly.
“The Council accepts your offer, Phoenix and Mercy. And now my friends, I think we have heroics to do. Let’s get to work.”
I held Monica’s hand as I turned to face the audience of superheroes. Some of them were beaming at the whole situation, others holding their faces in masks of neutrality, and some clearly disapproved. I watched them all with a curious peace in my heart. They were my fellow heroes, and even if they didn’t really care for what the ex-villains or I had done, even if they had found the attack on the academy foolhardy, they were still on my side.
I didn’t need their unstinting approval, and for once, that didn’t bother me. For a long time I’d bee desperately trying to prove myself, that I could be a good hero in defiance of my dad’s crimes. I’d seen veiled looks in the Bureau offices, or on the faces of other heroes, and had taken that as a personal challenge to prove my worth to everyone, or die trying.
I’d nearly killed myself in the grandmother of all heroic tasks, but I found I didn’t need everyone to be happy with what I’d done. I knew it had been the right choice, and so did my friends and family. I didn’t need the approval of strangers, and I realized that I never did. I needed my mom, for everything she’d taught me. I needed my family, for letting me know I wasn’t alone. I needed my friends, for giving me reasons to open up. And I needed Monica for showing me that anyone can change if they want to, and that even if you start out one way, you didn’t have to keep going down the same road.
But I didn’t need to have everyone on my side, and now I wasn’t angry with them for doubting me. I knew now that I was always going to be a hero, and now it was time to pass it on. And that was all I needed to know.