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Sparkling Darkness


The sun was warm on my back and my herdmates were around me while our stallion watched for threats.  I looked up at him and smiled, and he looked back down at me and smiled back.  He was big, night black and with a noble head, wearing a black bodysuit, thigh-high boots, and idly playing with his leather whip.  Smiling I turned back to licking the salty sweetness of the bloody wounds on the back of my nearest herdmate.  He'd had her yesterday, but I was his special one, and today...

I was awoken by the song of The Red Robin perched on my muzzle. Since I'd given her the new birdhouse last week, she'd awoken me with her sweet song, and telepathic comments on the news from CNN the night before.  I'd healed fast from the last strike from Ladybug but it bugged me -- it shouldn't have put me out that badly.  The only reason I could think of was that my struggles with Guardian/Gardian had already weakened me and drained my reserves.  I called out, "I'm up, I'm up!" before the Red Robin started pecking my muzzle.

The Red Robin hopped off and onto a perch I'd built with my improving carpentry skills, telling me all about how the Legal League had dispatched another alien invasion overnight.

"You know, you sound almost like you want to be a powerful superhero."

She immediately went into an impassioned and tuneful denial.

I rolled out of bed and stretched, telekinetically moving some choice seeds into the bowl beside The Red Robin's perch.  That was when Red Kit, sorry Gena McGreggor, came running in and hugged me.  "Auntie Mayr!  Auntie Mayr!"

Yep, The Silver Vixen had concocted a civilian identity for me as an Innocent Bystander caught in a battle between Gremlin[1] and the Sensational Six.  "Now, now Gena.  I'll make breakfast but you do have to go to school.  What will your guardian think if you're late?"

"I was just showing Vivian your new fish."

I snickered.   They were my project for the genetic engineering night class.  "Let me just get ready and I'll meet you downstairs."

"Ok Aunt Mayr!" and she ran off.

"And don't you be bothering that robin again -- I don't want to have to take you in for any more stitches!"  I turned to The Red Robin on her perch.  "And that goes for you too.  Just because she was teasing you, was no reason to try and rip her arm off."

The Red Robin just twittered in laughter.

Snorting, I picked up the fake glasses The Silver Vixen had acquired for me, put them on, and made my way downstairs to check on the fish.  I'd started with simple goldfish and had carefully modified them to increase the fin size, and to add artificial phosphoresence.  In other words, they were even more garish and now they glowed in the dark.  Next week would be the class on limb manipulation, and even better by doing it telekinetically I'd had no problem obeying the teacher's first rule: Spill No Blood.   I could hardly wait!  Gena and Vivian (or The Silver Vixen in her Secret ID) were waiting for me in the kitchen and they'd already prepared the spiced oat-porridge I preferred.  We sat down together and ate for a bit before I once again repeated my concerns.

"Vivian," I began, pointing at the glasses awkwardly perched on my nose, "this is never going to work."

She smiled and put down the paper she was reading revealing the headline NOBODY SAVES 13 CUB SCOUTS!  "Of course it'll work, why..."

"Vivian.   I'm a horse.  I have a mane, pointed furry ears, a tail.  My secret ID..."

"SHHH!   Don't mention that here!"

"Vivian, it's perfectly safe.  And you know that this isn't going to work."

"That's beside the point.  Just wear the glasses, and do things normally.  Trust me on this."

"Trust you?"

"All Swordguy ever had to do was deepen his voice.  That worked for him for 30 years."

"This is the 21st century..."

She sighed.   "Supermare, I'm sorry about this.   I know you've got all that power, and you're enthusiastic and all, but there are certain rules required in a team.  I don't want to be harsh, but with great power comes great responsibility and all that.  I don't want you to get hurt -- remember what happened last week.  The glasses will work, and you will keep it secret."

I snorted my disdain through my nostrils before replying.  "Yes ma'am."

Breakfast continued on quietly for a while until Vivian broke the silence.


It took me a second but then I remembered -- I was Susan Percheron Mayr.  And The Silver Vixen swore nobody would ever figure it out.  Sure.  I turned and looked at her, rotating my ears to make sure to pick up her words as I swallowed the cinnamon spiced porridge.  "Yes?"

"I'm going to have to ask you to take care of that other business.  I have to go out of town today for an on-site photo shoot."

By the Fiery Heavens, her damn patrol route I'd had to memorize for my own good.  I snorted and then nodded.  "Not a problem Vivian."

"Can I go with her Vivian?  Can I?  Huh?  Can I?"

I went back to my breakfast and just listened as Vivian told Gena that she had to go to school and learn, but that if anything major happened, Aunt Mare would call her.  I just rolled my eyes and nibbled as they finished.  Gena hugged me and they both left.  Vivian would drop Gena off at Bayside High School.

After breakfast I started to clean up telekinetically when I remembered that Vivian had ordered me never to use my powers in my secret identity.  Just in case somebody was watching.

As if I wouldn't know if anybody was around.

Well, if it kept her happy it would make her easier to live with.  I thought for a second about just doing it anyway, but the last time I'd done that she'd found out -- there had to be some kind of Silver Fox secret surveillance gear hidden around here.  So I spent the morning clomping around, doing dishes, dusting, sweeping, and all that other fun stuff.   It wasn't until almost noon that it was all completed and I was finally able to slip into the secret passage into the Fox's Lair.

Yes, the Lair had to be secret too.  Construction had taken two days, but Bob's Superhero Warehouse swore that nobody had seen it.  All that was visible now was a small wooded lot owned by Susan Mare who for her own eccentric reasons refused to sell it to developers.  I made my way to the secret entrance and then with a snort of relief just flew myself over and arrived in the main control room to check the multitude of computerized scanning and message systems.  First I checked my own little private search to try and find Ladybug and determined that there was no new information.  I wanted to talk to her to try and figure out what had happened to me.  Then it was on to the official systems: the Trouble Alert was clean -- we only had world protection coverage on Saturdays; the monitoring of all the local news stations came up blank; and the UNCSHLE, FBI, and INTERPOL uplinks showed no additional known supervillain activities within the Crusader's protection area.


I grabbed the Fox's Screech communicator that The Silver Vixen had ordered me to always carry, along with a wide-band police monitoring headset, changed my clothes into my Official Costume, and then lifted myself through the launch tube into the air and began to fly.  Even though the headset was deucedly uncomfortable, I was finally able to enjoy myself.  Of course, I did have to stay EXACTLY on The Silver Vixen's route or she would lecture me about correct superhero procedure again for my own good so I stayed above the roads and paths as I followed her route at her rate of speed.

I've often wondered if there is some kind of law that states that Supervillains will only make their move when the requisite hero is in place.  You never hear of Supervillains attacking at night, or when the Superhero is on vacation.   Sure, some do launch decoy attacks, but they only do it when the Superhero is up and active.  Thus it wasn't much of a surprise when I heard the alert of Supervillain activity over the police band.  Conveniently it was almost right below me, so I dove into action, ignoring the Superhero Battle alarm that started echoing through the downtown core to tell people to run to the Origin Shelters.   Remembering Boelcke's Dicta, I made sure to once again come down out of the sun, adjusting my corona so that it matched the sun's local brightness as I examined the situation.

It was another costumed villain, this time robbing a home repair store of stylized wooden stair railings.   The villain looked like a young girl dressed in a bright red body suit with a coruscating fireburst across her chest, surrounded by sparks as if small fireworks were continuously going off.  The loot was being loaded by five people in black skin-tight body suits wearing the half expected black horse heads.  This couldn't be coincidence, it looked like a Plot was afoot.  I stopped, and carefully launched a telepathic probe into the girl's mind, doing my best to camouflage my action from the presence I knew had to be there.

And, as before, I got the impression of two minds.  One, a young teenaged girl who called herself Sparkler[2], and the other that presence I'd felt before.   This time I approached cautiously, waiting to sense tendrils of thought that escaped the consciousness's immediate attention.  It, he, was indeed controlling the girl.  The thugs were other mind-controlled dupes.  I sensed a darkness, a virility, a commanding presence, and then it noticed me.

*Supermare.   We meet again.* [Phrases surrounded by '*' indicate mental speech.  Repeating repetitively Roger]  The voice was smooth, dominating, forceful.

I immediately put all my mental defenses into place.  *What are you doing?*

*Ah, my dearest Supermare, soon to be mine to love and care for.  The stage has been set, the seed hatched, the egg planted.  All is proceeding in accordance with my masterful Master Plan, my supremely sensuous filly.*

*I'm NOBODY'S filly!*

The voice smiled, and then continued oily, *You will be.*  And then the presence was gone.

By the Fiery Heavens, what was going on?!

And at that point Sparkler suddenly sprayed me with a cascade of exploding lights, blinding me so that I could only hear her voice:  "Allow me to bring a shining spark into your dark existence.  Mares, ATTACK!"

That gave me just enough warning to create a psychokinetic shield as all the agents fired something at me, surrounding me with the heat and energy of exploding plasma.  I just smiled.  Fire was my friend.  With my beginning genetic engineering skills I moved the damaged cells in my retina back into their proper position and opened my eyes and embraced the glorious energy with outstretched hoof-hands.  It was warmth, it was fire, it was the heart of stars, and it was all mine.  I sucked the energy in and let my corona change to a white-hot glare that shamed the sun, and then I neighed in laughter before shouting out my response: "I am the fire of stars, and you expect to hurt me with this?!"

The weapons fire intensified.

Through the acrid glare of my corona, I reached out with both arms and swept all the agents together, grabbing their guns and pulling out the power packs to feed on whilst reshaping the metal into a titanium ring that imprisoned all the agents.  Then I lowered myself until I was hovering just above Sparkler, her bright sparks seeming as dark as a nebula against the light that I was giving off.

"I won't let you take me!" and then Sparkler strained what ability she had and drenched me in a cascade of exploding fire, almost invisible against my own glare.

I reached down with my left hand-hoof and stretched out a hand of fire and picked her up, letting just enough fire lick around her to saturate but not overload, her own energy defenses.   "My dear child, now you are going to give me some answers."  Then, ignoring her struggling, I pulled out my Classic Enemies[3], now newly expanded with all the international information I could get, and looked up Sparkler.  Born in Central America, sold to work in North Carolina fireworks factory which blew up, imbued with the powers of the fireworks that had killed her co-workers.   Impulsive, excitable, and energetic, and takes extra damage from water.

"I won't tell you anything."

Sometimes I hated being a Superhero.  It would have been so easy to just take her down to the river and dip her in.  I couldn't even rip the information from her mind, it just wasn't done.   "Please tell me.  I would really like you to tell me."

"I don't know anything!"

"Who are you working for?  Who hired you?"

"I don't know I tell you!"

Bloody rules.   "Please?"

"I don't remember anything!"

Drat!  I looked around and saw that the forces of law and order had arrived, complete with a waiting SMDU.  Carefully I lowered Sparkler down and let the experts in Supervillain incarceration take care of her with their mobile detention unit.  If only she'd told me something!  And then it hit me, like the force of a supernova.

If Sparkler didn't know, then that meant that one of the agents had to know!

The agents were all still trapped, and a fire rescue team had arrived and was working at cutting through the titanium ring.  One of the policeman looked up and shouted out, "Supermare, can you get them out for us?"

I couldn't ask the agents now, there were too many witnesses.  But one little mind scan, that wouldn't hurt.  One itty-bitty little mind scan.  It was just a little tiny invasion of privacy for a very good reason.  I snuck in a quick mental scan that only proved that if the agents knew once, they knew no longer.  All I caught in one was an echo of oily laughter.

Damn him!


Oh right, get the prisoners out of the ring.  I reached down and grabbed it with two telekinetic arms and ripped the ring apart where the rescue team was working, and held it open wide enough for one agent at a time to squeeze out.  "No problem, take them as you're ready."  The officer thanked me, and when the last of the agents were in the waiting van, I broke up the ring into ingots.  "My gift."

"Thanks Supermare!"  I was too involved in my own thoughts to even wince at the mention of my name.  Or maybe I was getting used to it.

And then I flew off and up high, up into near orbital space for I needed to think.  I didn't care about the rest of The Silver Vixen's patrol route, didn't care that I was probably out of range of the police radios, though the Fox's Lair would relay anything of import to me no matter where I was on the globe.  The information would reach me either by line-of-sight transmission, or through Bob's Superhero Warehouse's ring of Superhero Communication Satellites.

I needed to think, and the peace of near vacuum was the perfect place.  A place where there was only I and...

I stopped and hung there, the blue globe of the Earth stretching out below me, the silver rings of the Legal League Satellite hanging over me, and then silently screamed.  I'd forgotten that near orbital space was just littered, no CRAMMED with secret Superhero and Supervillain satellite hideouts.  In addition to the Legal League Satellite, there were thousands of stations, many with bright neon identification signs.  One particularly garish one clearly stated "This is NOT Asteroid N" and below it in smaller writing a flashing arrow and "It's this way."  I made arrangements with the Orbital Patrol which was always present to enforce the Laws of Celestial Mechanics and cleared a flight path to the Legrange point on the far side of Luna where I could brood in peace.  Once cleared it was a short, though winding, trip, and finally I was surrounded by the silent peace of the endless heavens.

Who was The Mastermind?  What did he want?   The robberies made no sense -- iron rods, cement, lumber?  It was like he was building a little house somewhere.  Was it just me he wanted?  But his agents had been prepared for The Aphid and Thomas last week.  It made no sense.

And pulling out Classic Enemies wasn't any help either.  Sure, there were Supervillains with mental powers, about 100 of them, but they were listed by name and ability, not attitude or feel of mental voice.  It could be any of them, though a couple suggested themselves as more likely candidates.  And then I noticed an incomplete entry, just a name, a note that he was known to possess mental powers, and a comment that he was extremely dangerous.  Nothing else.

His name was Black Stallion.

(1) The article on Gremlin was written by George MacDonald

(2) The article on Sparkler was written by Barry Wilson.

(3) The 'Classic Enemies' Supervillain resource was originally published in 1989 by Hero Games.

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Copyright 2002-2005 Michael Bard.  Please send any comments to him at mwbard@transform.to