Birth of a Hero

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Scott Springer

Lana laughed at him when he said it. Since he was dying, it seemed inappropriate. “Who dies from cancer anymore?” she asked when the laughter faded. “What happened to you?”

“It was from when I first came here,” he replied dryly.

But she already knew that. She had been with him throughout much of his career and was his constant companion during the lawsuit. At court and with the attorneys she had been serious, but now, in the aftermath, her laughter bubbled up again and despite his weakness he had to crack a smile at her black mirth.

“So,” she managed to finally say.

She was still breathless and her red hair lay down in her eyes. Over the years he had grown accustomed to her alien hue and primal bones and now he found her beautiful when she was merry. For her part, she seemed to accept his humanness without repulsion and never squirmed uncomfortably when he touched her. He smiled thinly and she finally caught her breath enough to continue.

“So,” she said, “you’re going to be our new hero.” Her mouth smiled widely pleased and again her frothy laughter rose. “That’s so ironic.”

“Nice of you to find your humor in this; but yes, I’m the founding father of this rinky-dink little civilization. Without me you’d all still be running around mostly naked and believing in your powers.”

Her hand came to his gaunt cheek and stroked down his stubble affectionately. “But my powers are real,” she said softly. “They’re every bit as real as your technology.” And then her eyes narrowed and her voice deepened into the sultry rasp of a chronic smoker when she added, “And they don’t kill me.”

He met her eyes and showed her his sorrow. “If they’re real, then save me,” he implored.

When she met his gaze her lips straightened, the grin and humor fading further away. She became stern and hardened against the reality. But then just as quickly, her face softened and she met his sorrow with wet eyes and an open soul. Her finger came to his lips and brushed across the dryness. “But if you don’t die, you can’t become our hero.” And then, countering his objection before he could even voice it, she added with discipline, “We need a hero.”

Her words made his head heavy. His neck crumpled and his head fell back into the pillow. She adjusted the blanket around his shoulders and he confessed to her, “But I’m not heroic. I’m just the opposite. I’m scurrilous, a sham. I’m a con man.”

“Yes dear,” she replied, tenderly as always. “But you’re a very good con man. And now you’re about to become our god.”

While lying on the bed dejectedly he muttered, “I’d rather be a living coward than a dead hero. Maybe we shouldn’t have sued Interco Corp like we did. Maybe we should have just let it lie.”

“We’ve been over this. The trial is what gave us our historical record. The testimony is already on display. You came here and gave us technology and civilization and economy. You brought us up from the dark ages where my witchcraft had mattered.”

“But the real story…”

“I was just a girl when you first appeared. I didn’t actually see it but the commotion you stirred is a vivid memory still. The people said that our god had arrived. And who can blame them. The way you just materialized from the air, growing from an ether into a being before their eyes, hovering above them omnisciently before gravity finally found something to tug down to the ground. Our planet has never seen anything like it before, and if my prophecy is true, will never again.”

“But the real story…”

“But the real story is gone now. We have repainted history. You came and brought us technology…”

“You didn’t need it…”

“And you brought us civilization.”

“You were already more civilized than now.”

She looked down on him quizzically, and then understanding came into her eyes. “You’re dying, it has made you introspective. Now you regret your life.” Her voice grew sympathetic. “That’s natural. But, have no regrets. You will be remembered the way we need you to be. Not the way you were.”

“But back on Earth I was running from the law. I had had relations with a young girl, a Senator’s daughter. And there was that whole condo time-share thing where the ocean never materialized—and of course I had known all along that it never would. I was running from the law and my creditors and Interco’s quantum teleportation was new and in final testing when I picked the locks and made my escape.”

“And you came here, or at least a pretty accurate copy of you true down to the quantum state came here. And we treated you well. You have always enjoyed respect and celebrity. You have been our leader and have enjoyed the spoils.”

And then her voice grew softer and she fanned her eyes shyly when she added honestly, “I have always enjoyed being one of your spoils. You’re kind and gentle.”

Her hand rubbed his neck sweetly and he turned his eyes to stare away and inward. At last he said, “I just wanted to sue Interco to get some money. For me, it’s always been about the money. I even shucked you guys when I came, selling you all those junk bonds.”

“The bonds matured.”

“Yes, but that’s besides the point. My intentions have always been selfish.”

“They matured, and they paid 22 percent. We owe you so much.”

“But the lawsuit; it was all about the money, and I really thought we had a chance. You said it yourself, no one gets cancer anymore. The fact that I went through the quantum transformation and then the occurrence of the rare disease—they have to be connected.”

“And the ease of which you broke in—the attractive nuisance angle…”

“And Interco is vulnerable. Even today the teleportation is a crapshoot. Prescription only, cash upfront. Ironclad waivers.”

“And you didn’t sign anything.”

“Of course not.”

“Yeah, you had a good chance—but it wasn’t about the money anyway. It was about giving us our hero.”

“Right. A matter of public record.”

“You never actually lied on the stand—you just painted the picture favorably.”

“But we failed.”

“On the money, yes. The corporate lawyers were right. Correlation doesn’t prove causality. The tobacco lawyers have used that little twist of statistics for eons and I guess it still holds true in the quantum age. But we won back our history. We have recreated the origins of our new civilization, have given ourselves a respectable founding father, both heroic and god-like. It’s all a matter of record now.”

Suddenly a knife-to-the-ribs stab of pain cramped up his insides, causing him to contract inward. His body tensed, his face contorted grotesquely, he gasped out. And then just as suddenly the grip released him and he curled back out and relaxed into the mattress.

“The pain is coming more frequently now,” she said.

“How long to you think I have?” he asked quietly.

“No one knows much about this disease anymore. It has been mostly eradicated in all known living species for eons.”

“Yes. But your magic is of the ancient kind. Surely you must know something of this black growth that’s consuming me.”

She remained quiet, seemed thoughtful. At last she asked, “So, does it hurt a lot?”

He nodded.

“I’m sorry, then,” she said. “But it has to be. In your death is our beginning. We need someone to be proud of, to provide us national unity.”

“Wish I could say, glad to help—but, you know.”

“You are glad to help. You are wise and benevolent. You saved us from the ancient black arts. You gave us the modern way—our buildings and roads. Mass transit. Medicine. An economy.” And then after looking down at her robes she added with a grin, “And fashion sense.”

“A fashion sense to die for,” he added ironically.

“Exactly. Look, think of it this way: you’re not dying. You’re about to become immortal.”

“So, you’ve done me a favor. Is that your angle now?”

She looked away and remained quiet. He continued, “So, like I said earlier, it wasn’t the teleportation that caused this in me, is it? Your magic is real, isn’t it?”

Now there was no laughter. While looking away her words came slowly and steadily. “Correlation,” she said, “does not prove causality.”

“Yes,” he said, “but that’s science. And we’re not talking about that.”

“Let’s just say,” she replied finally, “that things all work out for a reason—and sometimes we call that magic.”

“I feel conned,” he said at last.

Again the laughter rises. “Ironic, isn’t it?”


Scott Springer is a computer programmer living in central California and working for the state. He lives in a small town with his family and makes that daily commute into the city. In his spare time he writes a little. E-mail: scott[at]

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