by CSyphrett, with Doc Quantum
Pariah appeared in the midst of a party, which he realized was a roast of sorts. The “guests of honor,” a young boy and an older, white-haired man wearing an anachronistic suit from the early nineteenth century, had been tied to stakes in the middle of piles of wood. A spokesman for the crowd wearing a tattered monastic robe held a torch up high, casting the sins of the entire village on the two scapegoats. They were nearly ready to begin the festivities.
Without much further thought, Pariah rushed forward, even as the assembled crowd moved to resist his efforts to reach the front and prevent the wood from being lit.
“Goodbye, Mr. Sage,” said the boy tearfully. “It’s been nice knowin’ you.”
“Good-bye, Dickey,” said the man in the anachronistic suit.
Pariah paused, concentrating on the lit torch. Perhaps he could use his control over entropy to make it go out, the simplest solution for the immediate problem.
The fire blazed up, consuming the torch in the man’s hands in an instant. Pariah shrugged, then elbowed a fat woman out of the way, pushing himself up to the front. The spokesman for the crowd dropped the burnt-out torch, blowing on his scorched fingers.
“That’s what you get, you meanie,” said Dickey with a laugh.
“Shut up, you!” shouted the spokesman, still nursing his fingers.
Pariah stepped forward, sensing something bigger approaching to do harm.
“The witch wants you cooked,” said the spokesman. “So cooked you will be.”
“I think not,” said Pariah, trying to sound forceful and determined, and wondering how the various crime-fighters known as Batman would have handled things on their respective Earths as he finally extracted himself from the crowd. “I think we’ll be going, and you’ll have to strike a new deal with your witch.”
“Stop him!” cried the village chief, pointing a finger at the man in green. “The witch will destroy us if he interferes!”
Sensing something in the air, Pariah started to turn just as a bolt of lightning struck at him, throwing him into the air with great force. Evidently the witch has arrived, he thought dryly.
Pariah picked himself up, noting that he was in better shape than his clothes now were. Looking up just in time, he threw himself clear of another lightning bolt as the witch drifted down on her broom.
At least the villagers had already scattered away from the fight. That left no one to worry about except the boy and his mentor, who were still tied to stakes but were quickly working at loosening their bonds.
Pariah decided to attract the witch’s attention from the potential hostages by taking flight. Weaving through the air, he led his new foe away from the other two. Hopefully that would allow them to finish escaping their bonds and vanish into the forest.
Lightning seemed to dance around Pariah as he swept through the air, avoiding the arcs of electricity. Turning back, he concentrated, and the witch’s broom exploded under her in a wave of invisible entropy. He smiled, glad to have the upper hand for once. The witch screeched to a hard landing through the branches of the surrounding trees. She’s down, thought Pariah. Time to put a stop to this menace.
The wanderer charged forward, his arm cocked back. As soon as he was close enough, he swung with all of his might. His fist impacted hard against the witch’s face, and she flipped over on the ground.
Grabbing the witch’s arms, Pariah pulled them behind her back, looking around for something to bind her hands behind her back. Mr. Sage arrived then, and pulled his tie from his collar. Seconds later, they had the witch’s hands tied with the striped piece of cloth. The witch screeched at the rough treatment until a handkerchief was used as gag to turn off the flow of curses coming from her mouth.
“Thanks, mister!” said Dickey.
“My pleasure,” replied Pariah, grinning. So that’s what a smile feels like. I wonder why I don’t remember ever having one. I guess I never had a real smile before.
“Well done,” said the Mysterious Traveler, suddenly at his side again.
As reality changed for Pariah once more, he found himself in a fantastical laboratory with some of the strangest equipment he’d ever seen. One was a globe of the Earth and the surrounding area of space. Giant red demon bats were descending upon the planet.
Pariah looked around for something he could use in the strange observatory as a weapon. He was unarmed and alone; no surprise there. Pausing to gather his thoughts, he wondered how he should act, then realized he had only one recourse left to him.
Using his powers, he teleported himself in front of the strange bats, his sudden appearance startling the brutes. As the gigantic creatures swerved off-course, six figures wearing colorful costumes surrounded the outcast, holding up round discs in their hands. A moment later, rays from the discs struck the bats, driving them off.
Pariah floated there in amazement, recognizing them as six members of the team of European action-heroes called the Paragons, though he wasn’t sure how they had been alerted in time to stop this strange alien invasion with their coordinated attack. Their names came immediately to mind as he recalled reading about their activities on Earth-Four some months earlier: the Dart of Italy, Jock o’ Kent of Great Britain, Psyche of France, Stardust of Spain, Thor of Sweden, and Wundergirl of West Germany. (*) But with such a powerful team already present, Pariah wondered why he had been needed here at all.
Then one of the giant bats swerved toward him even as the rest of the colony of red bats was driven back. Focusing on the bat, he called upon the feeling of entropy he was slowly getting used to feeling.
The giant red demon bat felt something break in its wings, though it kept moving forward because of the lack of friction in the upper atmosphere. Pariah struck it, stopping the creature with an invulnerable fist, and it squeaked in pain. He then pushed on the creature, sending it backward away from the melee.
As the Paragons rapidly herded the creatures away from Earth, a huge man in a strange blue costume appeared, shouting words of thanks to the European team as he headed for outer space on a beam of light. Kell Mossa recognize this figure as Stardust the Super-Wizard, and knew that he must have used his advanced technology to enable the Paragons not only to breathe in Earth’s thin upper atmosphere, but also to communicate with each other and their foes.
Pariah seized the giant bat he’d fought as well as he could, then concentrated, and the pair vanished in a small flash of light. It was time to take the creature home and let it return to its own roost as well as it could.
Arriving above the red sands of Mars, Pariah let the creature drop to the ground moments after appearing there. Sensing movement around him, he heard a weapon charge up, so he teleported away, crossing the intervening space to the control room of the hostile Luravian people of Mars, whose long-planned invasion of Earth-Four would be set back several years, if not decades.
As soon as Pariah appeared, equipment began to break apart in a circular wave, thanks to his power of entropy. The Martians, who looked nearly identical to humans, drew their weapons as they became aware of the threat, but were dismayed as those weapons fell apart. The wanderer gathered himself up and vanished as one of the leaders of the invasion tried to restore order to his troops.
Then a burst of light in the form of a star appeared in the skies above Mars as the once-famous mystery-man known as Stardust the Super-Wizard arrived. Having taken over the role of Earth-Four’s monitor from the Son of Vulcan, the Super-Wizard saw it as his responsibility to let Earth chart its own course without undue interference from extraterrestrials, and besides, the Martians had already invaded Earth more than once in the past. Playing a variety of rays from his fingertips over the installations, he melted the war buildings as the weaponless troops fled to safety. Then, with a friendly wave at Pariah for his help, he rocketed back to the orbiting satellite laboratory he called his private star. The Super-Wizard was far too busy as the Overseer of the World to stop for small talk.
Concentrating, Pariah teleported back to the Earth in a strobe of light. As he reached the very same sheer cliff at which he’d began, he found that he was not alone.
“Welcome back,” said the chilly voice of the Mysterious Traveler. “Allow me to ask you once more: How do you feel?”
Pariah considered that question carefully. He was in control of his life again, and his powers were operating as they always had, though he now had a better sense of what he could do. Kell Mossa had always considered his powers a curse, a doom dragging him to the forefront of the obliterating assault of antimatter. Now he was able to go where he wanted to, including alternate timelines, and even through the barriers that separated the parallel universes if he wished. It was a freedom that few others had ever enjoyed. Still, with that freedom came responsibility, and that responsibility was what had led his new mentor to him, an extremely strange mentor at that.
“I think… that I am well on the way to becoming a new man, with a better understanding of what makes me the person that I was… and can be,” said Pariah thoughtfully.
“Then I’ll leave you to it,” said the Traveler, “with the caveat that you must keep your activities secret. It would not go well for any of the five Earths if it became known that one man had the power to pass through the barriers at will, having all access to the multiverse at his command, when even the most powerful beings lack that simple ability. Use your power wisely, Kell. But you need not remain a pariah. I’m sure that, if you put your brilliant mind to it, you could find a way to rejoin humanity.”
At that, the Mysterious Traveler stepped away and vanished into the mist, and the sound of an old train whistle could be heard in the distance.
Thinking about the Traveler’s last words, Kell looked down at his old outfit. Despite having worn it for millions of years, it had never become torn, tattered, or stained until now. Perhaps it was time for a change of clothes. A wisp of long purple hair blew over his face, and he realized it might be time for a new appearance altogether; despite being common on his own Earth, purple hair was nearly unheard of on the remaining five Earths, and that would make it hard for him to blend in.
Kell Mossa had never been a super-hero, and he wasn’t about to start thinking of himself as one now, but he knew that super-heroes had been able to carry on normal lives simply by taking on dual identities. In order to pass as a contemporary man, he would need more than simply a new look; he would need a new name as well.
Wearing a genuine smile on his face, the former Pariah teleported away from the lonely cliff, his formerly despondent mind now captivated by endless new possibilities.