Posted in One-offs
August 29, 2018

Behind the Mask

Day 1 – 10:48

Sparks had never been so excited to start a new job. Yeah, Dr. Champion had a stupid name, but how many people could say they worked for a superhero? Technically, Sparks couldn’t say it either. They covered that in orientation. Dr. Champion’s security regulations forbade him from talking about his job, but still… superhero!

The spellcasters of Dr. Champion’s support team were called the Circle even though they stood in a triangle. Dots, the lead spellcaster, stood in the middle, holding an action figure. She held the magical connection between the doll and Dr. Champion and conjured the image of whatever Dr. Champion was looking at. At the moment, he was looking at an angry dodecapede. The caterpillar-like alien had an unnerving number of limbs, many of them holding weapons. So far, Dr. Champion had been on the defense. Twitches, who stood to Sparks’ left, provided the super-speed spell that gave Champion the ability to dodge and react with superhuman ability.

“OK, Bubbles,” Champion said. “I’m going to need some electricity.”

At her corner of the Circle, Bubbles performed flowing hand gestures with amazing rapidity. Sparks had never seen such skillful magic. It made him a little self-conscious about his role here.

“On my signal… Go!”

Bubbles released her spell and directed it into the actions figure’s hand. At the same moment, lightning flashed from the real Dr. Champion’s hand and struck the dodecapede. It fell over sideways, but was able to recover quickly due to its overabundance of arms and legs. Dr. Champion called on a few more lightning strikes. Sparks watched Bubbles work and wondered if he would ever be as good.

“Ow!” Champion said. “A laser just got through my shield! What are you doing, Sparks?”

Crap. Sparks hadn’t been putting enough energy into the shield to block lasers. He quickly increased the shield, but he knew he had lost the opportunity for a good first impression.

Day 1 – 11:36

Dr. Champion flew into the Fortress through the open skylight. As soon as his feet touched the floor, Dots dispelled the magic which made Dr. Champion superhuman. Though he was mortal again, he was tall, muscular, imposing, and angry. With the way Dr. Champion was glaring at him, Sparks felt like he was back in high school. That was when he had gotten so good at shield spells.

“What happened there?” Champion demanded.

“I misjudged the energy needed for the spell,” Sparks said with embarrassment.

“How? You knew it would be using laser weapons. Dots, you heard me say it in the briefing, right? Dodecapedes favor laser weapons.”

“Give New Sparks a break,” Dots said. “Remember how bad we all sucked at this when we were new? You couldn’t even fly straight.”

“The real Sparks never let anything through the shield,” Champion grumbled.

“Old Sparks is…” Dots paused awkwardly. “He’s not coming back. New Sparks is here now.”

Day 3 – 14:13

“Why weren’t you helping with those fireballs?” Dr. Champion yelled.

“What do you mean?” Sparks asked. “I was focusing on the shield like you asked me to.”

“Couldn’t you see that Bubbles was having trouble keeping pace with the fireballs? When you see your fellow spellcaster falling behind, you step in to help!”

“Yes sir,” Sparks said because he had nothing better to say. Hadn’t Dr. Champion specifically asked him to focus on the shield no matter what?

Day 11 – 12:07

With one hand, Sparks held the shield spell that protected Dr. Champion from the troll’s ice breath. With his other hand, he helped Twitches manage the super-speed spell. With his bare right foot, he kicked boosts of energy to Bubbles to help her supercharge her fireballs. This time, he would be perfect. This time, there would be nothing for Dr. Champion to complain about.

Day 11 – 12:49

“Why did you push that shield so hard?” Champion complained. “I wanted to get in close to the troll, but you kept pushing it away from me.”

“I didn’t know you wanted in closer.”

“You would have known if you were paying attention.”

“I’M NOT A FREAKING MIND READER, CHAMPION!” Sparks yelled. “You didn’t say anything, so I didn’t know!”

“You don’t belong here,” Champion said slowly. “You aren’t Sparks. The real Sparks would have known. We would have killed that troll in half the time.”

“He sounds awesome,” Sparks said sarcastically. “Maybe he should be doing this?”

The room suddenly got quiet. Sparks got the impression that he shouldn’t have mentioned his predecessor. He looked around, and everyone seemed upset, or maybe even angry. He met Twitches’ tearful eyes.

“Old Sparks is gone,” he said in a cracked voice. “He isn’t coming back.”

Day 15 – 09:38

The bank robbers were no challenge for Dr. Champion. They were ordinary men with ordinary guns. The spellcasters were barely paying attention to the fight. Twitches hardly put any energy into his super-speed spell. Dots allowed the image to get hazy. Bubbles had to take care to make her spells non-lethal, but she was only asked for two lightning blasts. Only Sparks performed his magic up to the usual standard. He was not going to hand Dr. Champion any ammunition.

Dots was entertaining the younger spellcasters with a story about how Dr. Champion chose his name. “It was purely marketing,” she explained. “He said it was because everyone trusts doctors and champions never lose. He was convinced that people would hear the name and automatically worship him. I told him that he was being stu…”

Suddenly, the image changed from scurrying bank robbers to broken floor tiles. Something had hit Dr. Champion and knocked him to the ground. The image immediately sharpened, and everyone was paying full attention. When Champion turned around to face his attacker, all the other spellcasters gasped or cursed.

“Who is that guy?” Sparks asked

“Sparks?” Dr. Champion said. “What are you doing here?”

“I told you I’d be back,” Old Sparks said as he thrust a hand forward and conjured a basketball-sized block of ice. It shattered on impact with New Sparks’ shield.

“What are you doing?” Champion pleaded. “I thought we were friends.”

“I thought we were too,” Old Sparks said. “I thought we were all friends. You, me, Dots, the original Bubbles. You replaced her without a second thought, and it looks like you’ve replaced me.”

“Bubbles wasn’t my fault!” Dr. Champion shouted. “You were there too!”

Old Sparks shrugged his shoulders and threw a fireball. Dr. Champion dodged easily, but Old Sparks anticipated the move and met him with a magically enhanced punch. The shield absorbed the damage, but it still put Dr. Champion on his backside.

“Old Sparks must have his own spellcasters,” New Sparks said, “and he knows Dr. Champion’s moves.”

“He won’t fight back against Sparks,” Dots said.

“We have to do his fighting for him,” Sparks told his coworkers. “Bubbles, get a lightning blast ready.”

Old Sparks was preparing to attack again, but New Sparks pushed his shield spell hard. Sparks’ shield collided with Sparks’ shield and Old Sparks toppled. Bubbles seized the moment and released her lightning. Because Champion’s hands weren’t pointed the right way, she shot from the bottom of his foot. His boot exploded and struck Old Sparks’ shield while the lightning made it glow and fizzle.

“His shield is down! Hit him again!”

Bubbles obliged. Old Sparks convulsed briefly before going still. Dr. Champion crawled to his friend’s lifeless body. The image on the monitor became blurry and wet.

Day 15 – 11:11

“I don’t think you’re the right fit for our team,” Dr. Champion informed Sparks.

Sparks tried not to laugh, he really did, but it was too funny.

“You’re an idiot, Champion,” he finally managed to say. “If you fire me, you’ll die.”

“Are you threatening me?” Champion growled.

“No. I’m giving you advice. Did you notice how I overpowered your precious Sparks? Now what do you think will happen when his spellcasters recruit a new avatar and send him after you? Without me, you’re toast.”

Dr. Champion stewed for a minute. He made a face like he was being tortured. After what must have been some painful deliberation, he responded.

“Well, you do have a powerful shield. Against my better judgement, I’ll let you stay, Sparks.”

“Don’t call me Sparks. My name is Wendell.”

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