Friday: Noon: Check in at the convention center Media rooms and vendor rooms open as the afternoon progresses. 4-7PM: Cocktail party, meet and greet. 6PM: Game room opens. Saturday: 10AM: Opening ceremonies. All day: Autograph signings, media room, vendor room, game room. 11AM: Panel - Government Super Teams, Pros and Cons 1PM: Panel - Supers as Role Models 2PM: Superstrength Demo, followed by Q&A with whichever heroes are available. 3PM: "We Are Not Alone - Observances of a Wanderer" speech by the Wanderer 4PM: World Premiere: Dark Vendetta with Lawrence Jackson 5-7PM: Cocktail party. 7PM: Costume contest, dance contest and ball. Sunday: 11AM: Closing ceremonies. Noon: Check out time. 3PM: Vendor room, media room and game room close.
At the cocktail party, the local lights began to appear. Dapper man about town Simmon Marious and beautiful Patricia Reynaldo were there. Marious' company, IO Mining had donated the large rocks already on display in the ballroom for the superstrength contest on Saturday. He was trying to keep out of the main glare of the spotlight, with some success. Priscilla Fiske, the gossip columnist for the Port Alexander Times was there, as was reporter Jenny Peters. Defender was present, as was Micron, although many of the attendees didn't seem to know who they were -- the one because he was too new, the other because he was too old. Also there was a man calling himself Triton and claiming to be an immortal representative of the ocean goddess. No one was quite sure what to make of him. Other notables including Mayoral candidate Rick "The Bull" Adams and Police Comissioner Roger Williams.
At about 6, The White Knight showed up bearing armloads of White Knight paraphenalia -- it wasn't properly merchandise since he wasn't selling it. He distributed buttons and pencils and so on with his logo and name on it and posed for photos with all and sundry.
Meanwhile, Defender circulated. Few people knew him per say, but the mask and costume broke the ice quite well. He made small talk with this city official and that businessman. Eventually, he worked his way around to White Knight.
"You certainly have a way with crowds," Defender started. "I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Defender. My partner and I were recently working with the Wanderer on a case downtown."
Triton watched the group with awe and amusement. He had only been in the city for a short time and it was good to find a group of people who had similar origins to his own. Already he had met two distinct alien species, one of which was honored the god of the forge with their name and the other that walked around making guttural sounds and wearing impractical weapons. He was looking forward to meeting some of the heroes of this age. There was even a knight appearing according to the schedules. Comparing tales of battle and enemies crushed. Discussions of strategy and tactics and a dance. "These people may be civilized after all." Triton thought to himself as he walked the crowd.
After 7, the official party broke up and people started to wander off to private parties. The hardcore gamers were still up as were the film buffs, and the schedule was shifting to more adult themed films -- some anime and the like.
* * * *The opening ceremonies were on Saturday. The hero attendance was strong here, as well. The Wanderer, the White Knight, and Defender were all in attendance early, which gave the Wanderer a chance to chat with both White Knight and Defender.
Never one to make a bland entrance, the Wanderer strode into the convention area carrying two dozen roses and took a deep breath. In rapid staccato fashion he teleported to and fro staying just long enough to present a rose to several of the women in attendance. His trek ended in near exhaustion beside Defender who had to steady the wobbly alien. "Thanks, my friend," said the Wanderer out of breath.
Defender chuckled as he looked his new friend over. "I have to admire your style with the ladies. Wam. Bamf. Thank you ma'am." Giving the joke a moment. "I actually have to admit that was rather smooth. Points for style. I have much to learn about superheroing."
With an exaggerated yawn, the Wanderer said "The secret is fun. You always have to have fun. Although, when you've been around as long as I have, it does get easier."
The Wanderer kneeled down to sign an autograph and gave some gibberish-like answer to the typical child's question of "How do you do that tele-stuff?"
Meanwhile, Defender was fielding "Who are you supposed to be?"
The Wanderer chuckled at Defender's uneasiness and offered, "Don't worry kid, they'll know you soon enough. Oops, be back in a bit." The Wanderer disappeared and Defender saw him reappear across the room just in time to get snapped in a picture with the Hawaiian Tropic models and some fan. Almost as soon as the laughter started he was gone and beside Defender once again.
"Been waiting to do that all night," the Wanderer said aloud.
"Been looking into the origin of the equipment we found. So far nothing." Defender then turned to White Knight, who had been standing quietly by signing autographs. "I sure would love to get in on some of the research on the gizmos we took."
"Oh my, where are my manners," the Wanderer exclaimed with sufficient drama. As soon as the White Knight got finished signing a child's program the Wanderer tugged Defender over. "White Knight, I want you to meet Defender. He's a real up-and-comer, a good egg, a keen bean, a hero...and I don't mean sandwich."
Defender stood patiently by as the Wanderer continued his introduction and then finished it with, "He's the one who loaned us the physics doo-dads I brought to the Nest."
"Ahh, I see... Hmmm, so far I have only been able to make a few inroads. The devices, or at least some of them, are of types that can be used to generate some kind of energy field, but I'm afraid that I haven't been able to identify what particular variety they may be as yet. I'll keep you posted."
"Can't ask for more than that," Defender stated with a smile. "Best I could reason out was that it was related to the flight/force field belt that SpeeDemon wore. My field is more biomechanics, but I did begin to remember some work a physics professor mentioned..."
Defender slipped momentarily into egg-head mode. When he saw the Wanderer stiffling a yawn, Defender looked a little sheepish. "Sorry. I like gizmos and stuff."
Defender continued. "I think I might have set myself up for a boring Saturday afternoon. I seem to have volunteered for a panel. Any suggestions from established heroes?"
"Be as polite and honest as you can, and remember that at the end of the day it is the 'people' that matter"
"I can do that. Polite is easy. Honest? Well, that depends on the questions. I'm doing the panel on a superhero's responsibilities."
The opening comments were actually fairly good; the required boiler plate was spiced up with some good jokes and few nice pop cultural references.
When that was over, the panel on Government Super Teams began. The panel consisted of Peter Gyroscope from the NSA, Willard Poole of the ACLU, Rick Adams the Deputy Mayor and Mayoral Candidate, and Senator Paul Page. The White Knight was in the audience. The Wanderer was not, he was outside in the courtyard giving teleportation rides to the more adventerous children.
Rick Adams had not been one to pull any punches during his campaign so far and the panel was no different. Rick answered all questions politely and made sure to treat everyone with respect no matter how much their opinions differed from his. was willing to discuss his reasons with any who disagreed.
The panel began with opening statements. Peter Gyroscope went first, "It is my position, and the position of the NSA, that superpowered individuals must and should be under government oversight. Much of what passes for superheroic activity is rank vigilanteism. We do not deny that these "superheros" are often the only way of dealing with so-called "supervillians", but just as normal citizens are not advised to take matters into their own hands when dealing with non-super crime, super-powered civilians are not advised to take matters into their own hands when dealing with superpowered crime. Instead, they should be trained and organized to more efficiently deal with it."
All eyes turned to Rick Adams for his opening statement.
"Well Pete, I have to say that I agree with you to some extent. You're just a bit too zealous in your position. Your statement that Superpowered Individuals must be under government oversight is a contradiction when taken in context of the american ideal. If these people are individuals then the word must should not apply. It has been many years since this country has had overseers based only upon a physical trait with which they have no control and not upon their actions. I for one wouldn't want to go back there. That being said I think that the government, both local and federal, should have an open door policy inviting these individuals to accept sponsored careers similar to the armed forces or SWAT. These careers are strictly voluntary. Heck, We've got some great heroes here in our city. I wouldn't imagine trying to tell them that they are now going to work for the government, like it or not.... and I like working for the government." Adams watches the crowd to see their reaction. His point of view isn't going to change but he knows that there are different ways to get into the end-zone and you don't always use the same one," concluded the Bull.
Willard Poole was next, "The position of superpowered or paranormal persons is a unique one, in that they are not amenable to regulation in the usual sense. Any legislation that attempts to restrict them as a class is by its very nature discriminatory. They must be dealt with as individuals. They have their rights as does anyone else. To coerce any individual into government service, para-normal or otherwise, is an infringement of those rights."
The senator's opening comments were extremely middle of the road, as one might expect from a moderate politician.
* * * *The Supers as Role Models panel was well attended, although whether it was because of the subject or because of the two popular comic book artists, Mike Grill and Howard Chasten, who were on the panel. The presence of The Defender on the panel added a certain cachet as well.
The discussion was a freewheeling one touching on many aspects of the superhero, both fictional and real, and his effect on modern society. At one point, Defender was asked point blank if he considered himself to be a role model, and what responsibilities he had in that area.
"Okay, guys," Defender said to his fellow panelists. "Keep me honest here."
"This is the way that I see it. Mike and Howard here are in a good position. They are artists who create entertaining books. They have the freedom to send strong social messages, if they wish. If they just want to write about some bad guy getting his butt kicked, they can do that as well.
"On the other hand, I don't have that freedom. By putting on this costume... by putting myself between folks who abuse their gifts and those without gifts... by trying to help the police force against super-powered criminals and lawless gangs... I put myself in the public eye. Every child who watches the evening news with his parents or talks about superheroes at school with his friends will know about the things I do.
"Am I a role model? Is any quote hero a role model? Yes. How many children are here this weekend to get an autograph or see their favorite hero up close? To each and every one of these children we have to set an example. Kids, don't do the dangerous things we do. But if you want to be like us, you can do a few things. Learn that fighting is a last resort, but not to back down if you have to. Learn to stand up for yourself and be responsible for your actions. If you broke the cookie jar, then tell the truth and say you are sorry."
Defender paused, thinking for a moment. "Sorry mom. I broke that cookie jar."
He continued, "The bottom line is that by stepping up to be a quote hero, I have to set an example that I'd be happy having my children follow if I were a parent."
An irate, rough looking man stood up and wagged an accusing finger, "I work hard all day in the mines and when I come home all I hear about is what you supertypes did from my old lady. Even my kid wants to grow up to be one of you. That ain't right, I'm sick of you trying to steal my family!" The man found some agreement from the blue collar crowd and then yelled "If you were a real man you'd come down here right here, right now!" while taking off his coat.
"Sir. I don't know your family. Nor do they know me. Heck, my son wants to be a scientist."
Defender stood behind the table. "If you want to punch me a couple of times, I'd be happy to oblige. I'm sure it would make you feel better right now and it wouldn't be the first beating I've taken. But is that the message you want to send to all these people here? That to feel good about yourself, you have to find someone to be jealous of? Someone to beat on? If I were a fire fighter or a police officer would you feel so much anger towards me? I'll tell everyone here that your job is more important than mine anyday. It is."
Defender leapt the table and easily landed in front of the man. He waved the security back. "I won't fight you. There's no reason for it. Being a man is sometimes more than using your fists. Be a role model for your child right now. Unball your fists and shake my hand. I'm not asking you to like me. Just to demonstrate to all the people here that you can rise above simple anger. Prove to them what I already know. That you are a man." Defender extended his hand, hoping for a handshake instead of knuckles to the face.
"Is that right?" the man said scratching his shaggy beard. Then he went off into a tirade waving his hands around, "You don't know me! You don't know nothing! You don't know how to be a regular man!" As convention security moved in closer the man began to rant and rave making a true ass out of himself. "You don't know what a real job is! You don't have to worry about rent, what with your superhero hideout!," he said rolling up his sleeves. "You don't....you don't...." The man began to stutter and sputter, appearing to seethe with fury and turned to stare at Defender. He crouched down slightly and looked him dead in the eye, "why you don't even know how to have fun!" And with that man smiled and disappeared from the room.
"Ladies and gentlemen. I believe I've just been had. Could we please have a hand for the Wanderer giving the new guy grief?"
Defender hoped his relief was not evident to the crowd. He leapt up to the ceiling, crawled over his spot behind the table and dropped down to his chair.
"I do want to point out one thing before we move along," Defender said. "The Wanderer had a good point, although I wonder about his delivery. I dress up like a dork and get the heck beat out of me. Sometimes I feel like I should be on one of those DCW shows. But... That doesn't make me any more or less important to the city of Port Alexander than the police, firemen, paramedics, doctors, janators, teachers, miners, shop keepers... Next question, please."
* * * *Next on the schedule at the Con was the SuperStrength demo. MC'ed by Lawrence Jackson, who didn't neglect to get his plugs in for Dark Vendetta, a variety of local strongmen and athletes joined the White Knight, The Wanderer and Defender on the stage with the large rocks donated by IO mining.
The humans made a respectable showing but they were, after all, only human and the three heroes were soon lifting weights larger than any human could concievably heft.
The White Knight and Defender were pretty equally matched, both topping out on a rock listed as massing a hair under two metric tons. Surprisingly, the big winner was the Wanderer who lifted the three and half ton rock, but could only shift the six ton one.
The Wanderer whooped and hollered, striking a menacing pose in a variety of flexes and even bellowed out "Whatcha gonna do?!" in jest over his accomplishment before going to his competitors with an open hand.
Defender chuckled, shaking his head. When the Wanderer came over, he offered his hand in congratulations.
"That was impressive. Remind me not to arm wrestle with you any time soon."
The Wanderer pulled him near and whispered in his ear, "Don't tell anybody. But I cheated." The he turned with a pumping right fist in the air and continued his celebration.
* * * *Then it was time for the Wanderer's speech, "We Are Not Alone". Sadly, it was a little underattended, as many folks were back in their rooms preparing for the world premiere of "Dark Vendetta" which was to follow at the theatre next to the center.
Despite a sparse crowd, The Wanderer proceeded with his full-blown presentation. Standing in front of a star chart the alien went through a veritable astronomer's library of star systems and galaxies, both discovered and theoretical. The presentation centered on three main points: brotherhood, peace, and prosperity. Each point was richly detailed with his travels and examples of mistakes made time and again; leaving the audience to the conclusion that humankind is really no different than other races.
Expanding on his theme of a brotherhood among all sentient beings, the Wanderer spoke of races whose very survival depended on them working together. Many times mutual extinction hung in the balance until elders stepped in and saw that warfare was not the answer. This illustrated his message of diversity trumping hate.
Whether it was the fantasy dreams of flying through asteroid belts or a real interest on the parts of the crowd, interest picked up as he began to talk of war. Quickly he dispelled the myths of excitement, as atrocities were spoken of matter-of-factly leaving many squirming in his detail. Despite the bleak picture he painted, the Wanderer assured all present that the episodes he spoke of were millennia old and peace did indeed triumph. War was costly and to be avoided at all cost, because as he said philosophically, "there is always someone out there bigger, badder, and meaner than you."
In summation the Wanderer touched on his third point of prosperity. By recognizing and working together one always discovers more similarities than differences. He got a chuckle referring to a race whose waste products turned out to be the main currency of a neighboring planet, and applauded the smuggler's entrepreneurial spirit, wiping away a false tear at their demise once the authorities found out.
Then the fun began as he opened the floor to questions from the audience, prefacing it with "And before you ask Martians were not, and never have been, green."
* * * *At the cocktail party afterwards, the talk was all about the movie of course. Defender had changed into a tux over his uniform, a conceit which worked surprisingly well. Wanderer, Fervor, White Knight and the man calling himself Triton were all there as well.
Defender moved about the crowd with a practiced ease. The tux worked as a great ice breaker. He spent some time talking to the cast and crew of Dark Vendetta. Afterwards, he spend a good deal of time talking with the writer he had escorted to the movie.
Not limiting himself to just the normal party goers, he made sure to introduce himself (and his companion) to the other heroes present.
He had already made the acquantence of White Knight and The Wanderer. With both of them, he took time to introduce the woman he was with.
"Gentlemen, may I present my new friend, Mara Bryce. Mara, these are two of the gentlemen you've read so much about."
The Wanderer bowed deeply with a sweeping right arm. "Don't believe anything you read about me, I'm much more charming than those rags say. Which fine literary work do you work for?"
"Freelance," Mara dimpled. "Mostly I write SF, but this superhero stuff is more than close enough. I enjoyed your talk this afternoon immensely. Even better I can now write the whole convention off as research!"
"I'm glad you enjoyed my little talk. Hopefully the price paid for lessons learned elsewhere won't be charged here, but I have my doubts." The Wanderer looked around and addressed Defender. "Have you seen our bird friend?"
"Yes. He was unfortunately unable to attend do to some personal matters. I'm sure I can get in touch with him easily enough when the time comes."
The Wanderer looked disappointed, "Well, I'm glad somebody has their eye on the city." Turning to Mara, "Ms. Bryce, would you like to dance?" The absence of music didn't seem to faze the man in black.
"Umm, sure, as long as I can ask a few questions as we do. There were one or two bits of your talk I wanted to clarify," she said.
"Wonderful," he said offering his gloved hand. "Then we can both write off this dance as business entertainment." With an off key hum they were swirling around the convention hall deftly avoiding running kids and large groups of fans.
As they swirled, Mara peppered him with questions about space travel and other worlds and races.
Graciously the Wanderer answered each of her questions as honestly as he could. Several times he caught himself making editorial comments about one race's cultural preferences and tried to keep them to a minimum. "And then there are the nomads of Mordor IV whose desert existance grant them an astounding appreciation of beauty," he railed on, "my short time there makes me qualified to comment on your eyes."
Mara blushed and moved on to a new subject.
A moment later, the Wanderer spun Mara through a pirouette that ended her up at Defender's side. He bowed deeply and took his leave.
The Wanderer approached Triton and struck up a conversation, "You look out of place here my friend, let me guess -- you're not from around here?"
"No, I am not. I was hoping that this gathering would give me an opportunity to learn to blend in a bit better. Looking around the room I find that I blend in best by being unusual. I still have much to learn."
The Wanderer looked around the convention hall and looked back to Triton, "In that case we're both blending in fantastically." Speaking in a much more subdued tone, he sought to befriend the newcomer, "I spend a great deal of time myself around the seas, perhaps we could do some exploring or comparing of notes to insure their safety sometime?"
"I would find it interesting to hear of your ideas. What I have seen of so far is that the idea of protecting the sea is unknown here."
"I agree, it seems as if the sea is taken for granted. For example, all those metal monsters which lurk about up to no good," the Wanderer raised an inquisitive eyebrow over his goggles. "Know anything about them?"
Triton's interest was obvious as his body tensed at the notion of some kind of monster in the sea. "What manner of creature are you talking about? What kind of harm are they causing? Where can I find them?" He threw out the questions with hardly a chance to draw breath. "Tell me."
The Wanderer took a step back at the intensity welling up in the hero and then relaxed with a quip, "Tell you? I'll do better than that. Meet me at Pier 14 in three days and I'll show you. Bring some ice cream, I love ice cream." The alien tugged on his hat brim and disappeared leaving Triton to ponder the offer.
A little later, Defender and Mara approached Fervor. "Please, allow me to introduce myself. I'm the Defender. This is my friend, Mara Bryce. She's a writer and I'm a big fan of her work. Seems that her thoughtless husband has deserted her this evening, so..."
"Defender, Mrs. Bryce, It's a pleasure to meet you both." Fervor says with a slight bow that would be considered a bit overdone in any other crowd. (....that didn't have the Wanderer in it (g)) "It is good to get out and enjoy oneself every once and a while. What do you write Mara? I admit that I am not as well read as say the White Knight, but I have been known to occasionally carack a book that doesn't have pictures."
"I've had a few short stories in some of the magazines, and two books: Amaranth-7 and A Nightlong Journey to the Daystar," she replied.
"Those sound like books I could enjoy, though it has been a while since I've read a non-fiction book for pleasure." The hero seems a bit taken back himself when he realizes how long it's been. Maybe it is time for a vacation...Well maybe in a few months when things quiet down a little.
"I highly recommend her work, but I'm a fan. What can I say?" Defender asked. "It is a pleasure to make your acquantence, Fervor. So what do you think of all this?"
"So far so good. I like to spend as much of my time with the fans as possible. It helps me to remember that we are not different at heart and the motivation to keep doing it all."
Defender smiled, pleased by the honesty in the man's words. "I understand. So far, I've scared several drug dealers, and had the heck beat out of me twice by super-powered loonies. Doesn't exactly inspire me to get out of bed in the morning. Why do you do it? Why do you put on the suit and fight?"
"Because I can, and because I enjoy it. The challenge, the competition. The accolades. Having a child ask for your autograph. Those are the things that keep me going. I don't think I'm the idealist that most of the rest of our group is. I'm more of the average Joe. I just really hate losing. That keep's me going as much as anything else."
Defender cocked his head and thought for a moment. "I never thought of myself as much of an idealist, really. I just always thought it was my responsibility to use my gifts in a constructive manner. Not really fighting for Truth and Justice and all that. I just feel I'm defending those who can't defend themselves."
Defender ran his hand through his hair. He looked first to Mrs. Bryce, then back to White Knight. "I guess I am an idealist. That's funny in its own way."
Finally, Defender approached Triton, extending his hand. "Not sure that I've had the pleasure of making your acquantence. I'm the Defender."
Triton extends his hand back in a firm greeting and asks with a straight face.."The Defender of what?"
"If my partner has his way? The 'Parts." Defender smiled. "Not that I'm objecting, but he's pretty driven about that. How about yourself? How do you see yourself fitting into this strange little 'fellowship' of heroes?"
"I have not yet the experience to know where I fit or if I will fit at all. My fate has not yet been decided nor my path yet chosen."
"You'll fit, undoubtedly. At least, in as much as any of us fit." Defender ran his hand over his head. "If it makes any difference, I understand where you are coming from. I'm still pretty new to this whole thing myself. My partner sort of found me and so far it's worked out fairly well. My path was sort of chosen for me."
Defender motioned toward the few members of the press still remaining after the screening. "So, why have you decided to put yourself in harm's way? I suspect they might be the most dangerous thing we will face in our lives as self-appointed guardians of humanity."
Triton seemed not to understand the reference to the press and answered Defenders after thinking for a moment. "You put yourself in harms way when their is something worth protecting that's value is greater then your well being. As far as being a guardian of humanity," Triton laughed loudly. "That is too big a fish for me to pull in."
"Oh, please don't misunderstand," Defender said, feeling suddenly self conscious. He smoothed the lapels of his tux jacket as he spoke. "I'm not so full of myself to think I can be a guardian of all of humanity. I just feel it my responsibility to put myself between danger and my fellow man. Sort of like standing up to the school yard bullies on a grander scale."
"I can understand responsibility," Triton answered the well dressed hero. "but what of the cowards who begin to rely on you to protect them from the bullies? Those who use your feelings of duty to place you in the category of tool. These are questions I have not yet found satisfactory answers to."
"There will always be those who try to use or abuse you," Defender said. "However, what about those who can't defend themselves? If I let concerns about the motives of a few stop me, then I fail the majority who need me. Your typical shop keeper isn't going to be able to stand against the street gangs asking for protection money. He certainly can stand against a man who can shoot laser beams out of his armpits. That's where I have to step up. I don't think about someone trying to use me as a tool. That's why I wear the mask. I can always take off the mask and escape into obscurity. Or change the mask and become someone else."
"Works in professional wrestling," Defender joked.
"I have watched this professional wrestling and I thing that they are acting. Too many of their moves are inefficient forms of combat." Triton appear to be serious.
At first, Defender thought Triton had been joking. With that one statement, Defender realized how out-of-touch Triton was with the regular world.
"Where are you from, if you don't mind me asking."
"The land I am from will be found on no map. It would be difficult to explain, as my home is both connected and separate from yours. You could not get there by ship unless you knew the way and were invited."
Defender regarded Triton as he spoke. Taking a mental count, he spoke. "Okay. I've been doing this superhero thing for a very short time and I've already met three aliens. Wild. But, I have to ask you... Why are you here now? Why leave your homeland and come to Port Alexander?"
Triton was saved from answering that question by a Bunny Hop line led by the Wanderer that parted the two heroes.
The party broke up slowly, drifting into room parties as the con began to wind down. Next day was check out, and return to the old rut.