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    Downtown Argent City was alive that day with the hustle and bustle of any grand metropolis. Only quality public transportation kept the streets from being completely congested with so many vehicles, chugging about all through the day.
    From amid the cars that did travel the streets, a black SUV with tinted windows pulled into a parking lot and soon came to a stop. The passenger door opened, and Paragon stepped out onto the pavement. He was well accustomed to driving, and to being in his hero suit. However, the two did not overlap often.
    As Sycorax stepped out of the car, Paragon turned to the chauffeur. “Thanks for the ride. I would have just flown, but it's not stable enough for two adults and two toddlers, you see.”
    The chauffeur, a tattooed man who could have passed for a body guard or club bouncer, only nodded in agreement.
    The parents each took one of the children from the baby seats and looked up at the building before them. Argent City General Hospital loomed over them like a rectangular mountain of glass and painted white concrete.
    As they made their way towards the entrance to the meta-human wing of the hospital, the doors ahead of them opened and out stepped a tall black man wearing a yellow and grey hero suit.
    “Pharaoh!” Paragon called out. “How's it going?”
    Pharaoh waved back as he approached the couple. “Hey! P-Man! What's up?”
    “What?!” Paragon exclaimed.
    Sycorax snickered at this, and had to keep from laughing. “'P-Man'”?
    “What? No! But, well... if that... then you're P-Man, also!”
    Pharaoh thought about this for a moment. “I'm okay with that.” He then turned to Sycorax. “How're you doing, Mrs. S?”
    “I'm doing finphmf,” Sycorax said, as her little son stuck a hand in her mouth. “Agk! Forest! No. Oh, you think that's funny, do you?”
    “So what are you doing here?” Paragon asked, then turned to his wife. “Honey, we already talked about this. You can't just put them to sleep with magic! It's going to mess with their development or something.”
    “Just a routine checkup,” Pharaoh answered. “Fit as a fiddle, of course. Meta readings are still increasing. Doc even said that at this rate, I might eventually be looking at an official Tier 4 classification.”
    “Tier 4?” Paragon said, almost unbelieving. “Really? That's great!”
    “Ha! Don't act so impressed,” Pharaoh countered in a teasing tone. “Everyone knows you were Tier 4 before you learned to walk!”
    “That is not true at all. I didn't even qualify for Tier 1 until I was five years old!”
    Pharaoh shrugged his shoulders. “Eh. That's not so bad. A year or so later than most, is all. Anyways, you've clearly come a long ways since then, Mr. Big Tier 5! But anyways, what brings you all here? Nothing wrong with the kids, is there?”
    “Huh? No, no, no,” Paragon said quickly. “It's the big day for their initial testing.”
    “What! Has it really been a year and a half already?”
    It was Pharaoh who said this, but Paragon was thinking the same thing.
    “Time flies, doesn't it?” he said quietly.
    “It sure does. I remember taking in my first kid for his initial testing. Now he's taking side-kick training and everything!”
    There was a silence between them all for a moment. It was a moment of nostalgic recollection of the joys of parenthood, but it was also a moment of concern; a realization that things don't last-- that time marches on, entirely too quickly and indifferent to our pleas.
    “Well, I should get going,” Pharaoh said, eventually. “Good luck.”
    “Yeah,” Paragon replied, barely aware of the man's words.
    Pharaoh walked past them a little ways down the parking lot before he turned on a heel to face them again with a smug grin on his face. “P-Man, out!” he said, and dissolved into sand and floated off, gliding through the air like a river of dust.
    “See?” Sycorax said. “He took the same awful nickname and made it work. He owned it.”
    “He's really something, isn't he?”
    “If you like him so much,” Paragon retorted, “why didn't you marry him?”
    “I would have,” Sycorax teased. “But I would have had to kill his wife, first.” After a moment, her eyes widened. “Should I kill his wife? I could. It would be very easy.”
    “You probably should have, but you're too late now. You already married me,” he said, and kissed her on the cheek.
    “Drat. Oh well, I guess you'll have to do.” Despite her words, she couldn't suppress a smile as she thought about where her life had brought her. It had all happened so fast-- a flirtatious encounter, a stolen kiss, secret rendezvous, falling in love, and before she knew it; this. It had all happened so suddenly, and it scared her sometimes. But she wouldn't want to go through it with anyone else. Looking back at her husband, she thought she could see in his eyes that he felt the same way.

    Inside, the receptionist gave them the necessary paperwork to fill out. He congratulated Paragon on the birth of such adorable children. But when the hero looked away, he gave the hero's wife only a brief, suspicious glare before disappearing through a back door.
    As Paragon filled out his portion of the forms, Sycorax noticed four female nurses whispering to each other, and occasionally giggling as they watched him.
    They didn't even seem to see her.
    Paragon saw them, and gave them a slight wave; polite and professional, but a gesture of minimal effort. There had been a time when he would have treated them to his charming smile and a wink. But that smile now belonged to her alone, and the thought made her feel better. Perhaps even proud of him. Especially since two of the nurses were particularly attractive. She wondered if this was selfish of her, but she figured that if she was his, and he was hers, perhaps a little selfishness was okay.

    After the forms were all filled, and an unusually short wait, a nurse with short hair and glasses lead them to a room several doors down the hall.
    “So, we're just going to run a couple of basic tests to try to determine the meta-qualities of your children, and what you'll need to know in order to help them according to their unique needs.” She looked from one toddler to the other. “So who's first?”
    Paragon helped seat Forest on the table, as the nurse put on gloves and retrieved a syringe from a special compartment. Both the needle and the container within were very small.
    “We're just going to draw a tiny bit of blood in order to examine his DNA,” she said to Sycorax. “Okay?”
    The child's mother nodded. “And you'll be able to tell what his power will be?”
    “Sort of,” she replied. “At this age, it's very difficult to tell exactly how the child's meta-qualities will fully manifest, but we can get clues as to what the general nature of those qualities will be. It's important to know ahead of time, even without the exact details, so you can get an idea of what to expect. A child with superhuman strength will need very different sorts of care than one with psionic capabilities.”
    Again, Sycorax nodded.
    Once the nurse finished preparing the syringe, she went to the boy, who looked up at her quizzically. “This may sting a little bit, but only for a moment. Okay?” But when she pressed the needle to his arm, nothing happened. She pressed a bit harder, but the needle still could not pierce his skin.
    “Well,” she said, standing upright and looking at the slightly dulled tip of the syringe. “One thing's clear, at least.”
    Paragon looked flustered at this, and even a little embarrassed. “Um... is this going to be a problem?”
    “Oh, not at all,” said the nurse as she went back to the cabinet. “We do have a backup plan for such things.” And with that, she withdrew another syringe. This one had a metallic red needle.
    “But if we already know what he has, why do we need to do this at all?” Sycorax asked.
    “We can see that he has heightened durability,” the nurse said, “but we don't know to what extent. Also, he could well have other attributes as well.”
    This time, she was able to draw blood without any problem.
    She labeled the contents of the little vial, properly disposed of the needle, and then did the same for the girl.
    They loaded both vials into a machine hooked up to a computer.
    “And this will tell us what's in their DNA?” Sycorax asked. “Their potential, and all that?”
    The nurse laughed quietly as she sat at the desk and typed commands into the computer. “No, a full analysis will take about a month. But this preliminary examination can give us a glimpse into what we'll find.”
    These sorts of scientific tests were alien to Sycorax, who was raised in a world of magic. Where she was from, strange things were allowed to stay strange, instead of being prodded at and examined until they were understood, and no longer strange. Where she was from, there were secrets that did not want to be known.
    The nurse looked up past the screen at the parents. “Ready?”.
    There was a brief silence, save for the key strokes and mouse clicks. “So, we already saw that he has heightened durability, but this shows that it's likely to develop to exceptional levels. Just like his daddy.”
    At this, Paragon grinned sheepishly.
    “However... I'm not seeing any traces of enhanced strength yet. But again, it's too early to say for sure. And it looks like he picked up some kind of magical quality from his mother.”
    Sycorax beamed. “My son's gonna to be a witch?!”
    “Not necessarily,” the nurse said, holding up a hand. “It's unclear whether he'll have spell casting capabilities or not, but it looks like your magical qualities are going to affect him in some way. There are other meta-human genes present, but he's still got a lot of growing to do. That's all I can say for now.”
    “What about Betty?” Sycorax asked eagerly. “What does it say about her?”
    There were a few more clicks.
    “Huh,” the nurse said.
    “What? What is it?” Sycorax replied, sounding worried again. “Is something wrong?”
    “No, no...” the nurse said. “It's fine, it's just that her qualities are a little more subtle at this point. Her meta readings are normal for the child of two high-level meta-humans, they're just a bit... underdeveloped at the moment, so computer is having a hard time finding any solid clues. It's all there, just... unclear. Like a jigsaw puzzle that hasn't been started yet. We'll contact you once we learn more. At that point, we'll have a more concrete idea of her capabilities. Okay?”
    Sycorax nodded as Paragon put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a reassuring smile. It wasn't an it's going to be okay smile, it was a this is fine smile. This calmed her more than words could have.

    After a bit more conversation, the two parents left with their children.
    Once they were gone, the nurse went to the computer again. She brought up a communication program and connected to another user through a secure network.
    “Yes?” asked a female voice in a serious, yet patient tone. Despite the use of a video call, the screen displayed no visual of the woman.
    “Uh... I just finished the preliminary tests for Paragon and Sycorax's children.”
    “Is something wrong?” the voice asked, with no change in tone.
    “What? No ma'am-- in fact, the boy shows a great deal of potential, and has acquired qualities from both parents. He might even reach Tier 4 classification by adulthood.”
    “Well, that's good news,” agreed the woman. “But it's hardly a surprise. And it doesn't merit the urgency that this secured connection is made for.”
    “Well, ma'am,” the nurse said. “It's not the boy I'm calling you about. It's the girl. I, I was instructed to call you immediately if any child ever tested positive for a latent type-V meta gene. And she did.”
    There was a moment's pause before a visual came up on screen; a face to go with the voice.
    “What did you tell them?” Lexicon asked.
    “I... I just said her qualities hadn't manifested yet,” the nurse said, nervousness growing as she spoke. “That her qualities were too underdeveloped to pinpoint at this time. I don't think I said anything wrong.”
    “Don't worry, you did fine,” Lexicon said. Despite her consolatory words, her tone remained neutral and professional. “For the time being, I am marking her testing as high priority. Tell them to expect minor magical phenomenon at random or according to her mood, but it's nothing to worry about. When the tests are completed, contact me immediately. I will tell you what to do from there. In the mean time, I want satellite surveillance on this child twenty-four-seven. But no agents or bugs anywhere near their home-- we cannot let them suspect that something is going on. Not yet.”
    “Is she really... what we were told about?”
    “At this point, it's impossible to know for sure. But that's not a chance I'm willing to take.”
    “But if she is...?” Her voice was starting to crack with fear. “They say the child would be capable of... unimaginable--”
    “This is as good a scenario as we could have hoped for,” Lexicon interrupted. “This is good news.”
    “It is?” the nurse asked, some measure of hope returning to her countenance.
    “Yes. As a matter of fact, she might even be able to save us.”
chapter 1, part 1

chapter 9, part 1

Oh my gosh you guys!
Kind of hard to believe I finally finished this story!
I hope you guys liked it XD

This may be the end of Hero's Dilemma, but there are more Argent City stories to come. We may hear from Paragon and Sycorax again, but I think the next story will focus on someone else. There are a lot of characters in this world. Some have had very little 'screen time'. Some have not yet been introduced at all.
I also have ideas that are not related to the Argent City world at all. Some of my ideas are likely to be written. Others I can see more as illustrated comics. Others... may go either way. I even have some ideas for game design, though I don't have the programming ability for that.
My point is, I have a lot of plans, but I am not sure which to pursue yet. Maybe I'll ask you all once I have something a little more concrete.
We'll see.

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

and as always, Don't Forget To Be Awesome!
Rainbow-Acey Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
oh my gosh I got sad when I read that giant first word :(

oh man, if I was a mom with magic powers, I would magic my kids to sleep too xD
(and threaten to kill somebody else's She's great)

“What about Betty?” Sycorax asked eagerly? “What does it say about her?”
punctuation error.

also, nice cliffhanger :o I do want to see and read more about these characters, and of this series. It has been an awesome fourish year adventure so far!
Willdabeast-0305 Featured By Owner Edited Feb 19, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Sorry, but you don't get to do magic to cheat at parenting
(Let's be fair-- she joked about killing somebody's wife. And who hasn't jokingly suggested taking the life of a human being at some point?)

(fixed the rogue question mark-- thanks for spotting that one)

I'm so glad you liked it!
This is going to be a tie-in to another plot arch further down the line, but whatever happens next will probably have little to do with it.
Then again, I don't even know what I'm going to write next. (but I've got a few ideas)
Rainbow-Acey Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I assumed she was joking, but her sense of humor is still fantastic :aww:

I can't wait for the spinoffs and sister stories. :o
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