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         Chapter 9, part 7

    Paragon's head jerked back from the impact, and the henchmen let go of him, letting his body fall to the ground.
    Their leader didn't wait around to watch, however. He was already walking for the far door, giving not a second thought to the man he had just shot.
    “We have to hurry,” he said as the other two hastened to catch up to him. “The witch surely already knows we're here. We have to act fast.”
    One of the two took the lead, and reached for the doorknob. But as she did, her breath became visible as an icy mist. They looked at her. She hesitated, then removed one glove and placed a hand to the door. A fractal pattern of white frost spread out across the surface of the door.
    “But I thought--” she began, then looked at the other two. They looked from her to each other. Then, slowly and as one, they turned. Paragon stood not ten feet away from them; a flattened bullet stuck to his forehead.
    He brought one hand up and flicked the bit of metal away.
    The icer raised a hand and shot a beam of frost at Paragon, but a force field deflected it.
    Paragon ran towards them, and swung a fist at the intruder on his left, who was the closest of the three. But his target dodged back in the blink of an eye, and the man was suddenly behind him. Just as quickly as he had moved, he assaulted the hero with a flurry of fists.
    Paragon spun around with another punch, but again the enemy evaded the blow with ease. He created a force field around himself, shielding him from another round of blindingly fast attacks, as well as another ray of ice. The force field expanded rapidly, knocking the runner away.
    The icer blasted him in the back with another freezing beam, but the hero turned and rushed at her, shielding his face with crossed arms. He grabbed her by the wrists, though she continued trying to shoot at him, hindered as she was.
    With one swift motion, he pulled her aside and redirected her aim, freezing the runner to the far wall in a layer of ice.
    “Ah, crap,” she muttered.
    Paragon threw her aside, though she landed on her feet. She tried another ray of ice, but found herself in an impenetrable bubble.
    Just as the runner managed to break free of the last of the ice that held him, Paragon grabbed him by the collar and cocked his fist back, like the hammer of a pistol, and swung. But as he did, he heard a voice in his head-- his voice. “Control yourself,” it said, and he stopped his fist mere inches from its target.
    He stopped and took a breath. Then hit the man with a quick, controlled palm strike-- just enough to knock him out. Once released, his limp form slumped onto the floor.
    Without even looking back, he opened the bubble like force field and folded it back into a flat, circular one which he propelled rapidly, knocking the icer back-first into the far wall with a thud. She too, fell to the ground unconscious.
    As he was about to turn to confront the last enemy, a blast of burning green energy engulfed him and seared him.
    Paragon turned and saw his foe standing with hands outstretched, still crackling with residual energy from the attack. He then began charging another blast.
    Paragon threw a wall of force at him, but the enemy disappeared in a blink of light. The hero then tried to run at his foe, but again Alpha Leader vanished.
    As he appeared, another emerald blast of plasma erupted from his hands, once more enveloping the hero.
    Every time Paragon tried to attack his enemy, he disappeared. Every time he tried to shield himself, the attack came from a different direction.
    He then projected a bubble around himself, but then the villain appeared in the bubble with him, and filled it entirely with the burning energy. He teleported out of the force field, seemingly unaffected by his own power.
    “Have you had enough yet?” asked the enemy.
    Though smoke billowed from his body, Paragon stood tall. Though exhausted and in pain, he was far from broken.
    “You ought to know by now,” he replied, “I don't give up that easy.”
    Alpha smirked. “Hm. You are a tough egg to crack, aren't you? But here's the thing,” he said, then vanished for a moment, evading another force field projection, “I may not be strong enough to kill you, but I don't have to. Because right now, you're not strong enough to keep up with me. And you're not even why I'm here at all.” another teleporting dodge, “You're just an obstacle. All I need to do is find the witch and dispose of her. And then...”
    He trailed off when he saw a strange, glowing red symbol appear appear on his chest. Just as Paragon saw the shock of realization in the man's eyes, a burst of fire erupted behind the enemy, knocking him to the ground. He turned, propping himself up on his hands, and saw Sycorax standing in the doorway behind him.
    “Well, one of those objectives won't be very hard at all,” she said with smug satisfaction, and threw another fireball at him.
    He flickered for a brief moment just before the fireball hit him.
    In pain, he grasped his chest and looked at her with a fearful look. Again he tried to teleport, but again his attempts resulted in only a vague distortion.
    “What...?” he muttered.
    “Oh, you dolt,” she said with a smile. “That was an anchor glyph I put on you. It means you won't be going anywhere.”
    “Sycorax!” Paragon shouted. “Becareful! He's gonna--!”
    The invader threw a hand forward and fired a blast of plasma at the witch. But the energy didn't seem to even reach her before he found himself enveloped by his own attack, though the effect on him was minimal.
    Once the energy had dissipated, he saw a flat, black disk floating in front of her, as if hanging from an invisible wall. Another, identical disk floated a few feet above him.
    “It's amazing, the sorts of things these can do,” she said.
    As he stared up at the disk above him, it slowly descended towards him.
    Sycorax reached her hands into the portal next to her, and her hands emerged from the other. She gently took his face in her hands, and drew him towards towards the disk. Once his head was through, the portals closed in around his neck.
    “H- hey! What's going on?!” he exclaimed, his head protruding up from one portal, his body hanging from the other. Both portals rose up, holding him suspended in the air.
    “Put me down!” He looked around, and could see his body-- appearing headless-- dangling from the other black disk just a few feet from. He tried to reach up to where his head ought to have been, but his hands found only empty air. His face plainly displayed how utterly disturbing he found the experience.
    “How...” he muttered. “How were you able to do this?”
    “Uh, magic.” Paragon answered jokingly as he walked over to join his wife, where she gave him a high five. He put a bubble around the intruder, just to be safe.
    “I mean... the priest! We brought the priest for exactly this reason! You should be powerless-- we all should!”
    “Oh Mr. Gatti!” Sycorax called out. “I think it's safe for you to come out.”
    From the open doorway, a white and grey cat appeared and walked into the room. It moved with an awkward gait, lacking the grace one would expect from a cat, as if it weren't used to having four legs.
    The intruder stared in baffled disbelief.
    “But how did you cast the spell if he was blocking your powers?” he demanded.
    “You raise a good point,” Sycorax noted, with just a hint of sarcasm. “How did I do it? Well. Your mistake was in confusing the way magic and powers work differently and how they work the same. Magic is technically a metahuman power, so the priest's anti-power property did block my spell casting. However, the difference between anti-magic and anti-power is that anti-magic suppresses all magical energy, while anti-power only affects the user of a power, even though it affects powers other than just magic. Are you with me so far?”
    The man's head stared at her. “What are you talking ab--”
    “Good. So. The problem is that anti-power stops the casting of spells, but it doesn't affect magic already in place. Magic like this.” She then pulled a small slip of paper from within her sleeve. “Honey, bring him down for a minute.”
    The bubble began to descend, and then both portals did as well. The one holding his head came right to the edge of the bubble at eye level, just a foot from Sycorax.
    “Tell me, what does this say?” she asked, and put the paper up to the barrier.
    “I don't know,” he said. “It's just some weird symbol or--”
    The bubble was suddenly filled with a cloud of dull purple smoke. Paragon released the force field, and out plopped a fat little pug dog and a heap of red and black combat gear.
    Sycorax laughed quietly. “Honey, I think this form rather suits him. Don't you?”
    She then turned to Paragon. “Do I need to continue, or do you think I've made my point?”
    “Doing magic: power,” he said. “Stuff that's already magic: not power. I think he gets it.”
    “Very well,” she said, picking up the squirming dog.
    “With their helicopter broken, they don't actually have any way off the island,” Paragon pointed out. “We should probably go round up these guys and turn them in. There's about a dozen of them scattered around.”
    “You start on that,” Sycorax said. “I'm going to go get the kids. I'll turn Gatti back once we're done.”
    “Right.” Paragon replied. Then added, “Oh! They're in the room across from the bedroom. I hid them there. Because, well...” He then gestured towards the incapacitated Retribution soldiers.
NEXT
epilogue

PREVIOUS
chapter 9, part 6

FIRST
chapter 1, part 1

OH MAN YOU GUYS!
Hero's Dilemma is almost over! I've been posting this for over three years, and I first came up with the story itself about two years before then. I don't really know what I'll do once it'd done.
I do have a few ideas, though. Some projects I plan to work on. Maybe I'll post a poll once HD wraps up, and see which one you'd like to see most.
We'll see.



Questions? Comments? Whatever? Your feedback is always appreciated!

and as always, Don't Forget To Be Awesome!
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:iconrainbow-acey:
Rainbow-Acey Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sycorax!” Paragon shouted. “Becareful! He's gonna--!” <- typo.

the explanation at the end seems a bit confusing to me still :/ I mean I understand that the paper is already magic(and that it doesn't USE the magic) but it still seems a little under-explained. :stare:

that aside, I am so glad she showed up. She's the way coolest :aww:
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:iconwilldabeast-0305:
Willdabeast-0305 Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
You're right-- "Becareful" is definitely not a word. I will be sure to fix that.
Odd how even after years of writing, we still make weird little mistakes like that. I have a bad habit of reflexively typing "ofcourse" as one word. But it is not. There is no such word, of course.

Yeah, I had a lot of trouble trying to explain the whole magic / superpower thing well. I wanted to be thorough enough to be clear, yet succinct enough to keep it from turning into a 'wall of text' or 'exposition dump'. That's even why I have her ask him "Are you with me so far?", so it would read like actual dialog between actual people, and not just me talking at the reader through the characters. I wanted it to convey as much information as possible without the scene becoming boring.

Do you think she should explain a little bit more?
Or I could add an extended explanation in the description?
It's hard for me to gauge the issue because I understand the concept fully, so it's difficult for me to know what is and what isn't being conveyed.
I guess you could say it's the Writer's Dilemma! (I am the lamest.)



And yes. She is the way coolest : )
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:iconrainbow-acey:
Rainbow-Acey Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
the scene could have been described through Sycorax's thought process/point of view, although that would be strange considering it's all normally from Paragon's, but it would be helpful.
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:iconsnailcomicz:
Snailcomicz Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
I'm so excited, I've been following Hero's Dilemma for a long time now and can't wait to see the conclusion! I loved the whole bit about how magic and powers are different, I always love world-build-y stuff like that.

I also appreciate the tone lightening slightly, the darker tone makes total sense given what was going on but I'm glad we're moving back towards the light.

Keep it up, I can't wait to read the finale!
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:iconwilldabeast-0305:
Willdabeast-0305 Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! I'm so glad you're enjoying it!

I can go on all day about world-build-y stuff. But it's hard to talk about stuff like that for too much without it just becoming a Wall Of Text. The key is small doses.

I agree! I wanted the confrontation for this chapter to be a bit darker than previous chapters, but I'm glad it's back to the lighter tone the story was made for.

I'll try to post it as soon as possible. (I'm excited, too!)
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