CHAPTER 21 – II
Stievo knew exactly what was happening. In that living room in Manlius, when the daytime sky began to dim and the earth began to shake, he knew he had to flee for his life. Under Victor Strife’s tutelage, Stievo had studied efforts by previous Champions to tap into large quantities of energy to unleash unprecedented power upon the Earth. He had never been able to pull off such a feat himself – in fact, he came to believe that it was more of a fairytale. He had forgotten about it for years. But in that moment, the impossible was made possible. Frightened and alone, he knew he had to head home.
As quickly as he could, Stievo made his way to the upstate New York cabin of his childhood, hoping for familiar faces and some knowledge that would aid him in his battle(s) to come. Much to his dismay, the entire farm was scorched. All signs of life were long gone, as were the books and teachings of Stievo’s youth. With no remnants of his old life, and a rival more powerful than had ever been faced, Stievo ventured south to the city, to Manhattan, where he would begin to pick up the pieces.
People there were going about their lives as if nothing peculiar had happened. There was little mention of the crater on the west coast or the tremors that rippled eastward. But this did not surprise Stievo. As had happened in the past when unbelievable displays of Championship supremacy had occurred, people around the world seamlessly integrated the events into a preexisting worldview that they could understand. The unexplainable was assimilated. Superhuman feats of strength were brushed-off as natural phenomena. Only the tiny few who saw the events for what they were would obsess over them. Of this minority, the majority would go insane (or rather, be deemed insane by everyone else). The remaining few would become influential artists, religious leaders, eccentrics, philosophers…and some would join organizations such as the Vicars Salamander.
Weeks/months went by as Stievo sat in a tiny tenement, thinking. He performed odd jobs around the neighborhood in order to survive. He could have used any of his advanced mental or physical abilities to attain money by other means – and could have amassed quite a bit of wealth, in fact – but he didn’t want to go that route. At least not yet. Stievo was trying to find himself. Yes, he was the Champion of Dark. This both titillated and terrified him. Did he really want to do battle with the Champion of Light? Depending on his mood at a given time, he could be rapt with excitement, entertaining daydreams of conquest, dominance, and glory. At other times he was ravaged with anxiety because there was something in him, something purely human, that wondered if he had any agency, any say in the matter. Could he use his Champion’s abilities to achieve what he believed to be honorable? Righteous?
Following the same impulse he had nurtured while growing up on that upstate farm, Stievo set out to instill order upon the world. He made an oath to himself that he would use his abilities – both human and superhuman – to bring about justice. He would use the Darkness, but not succumb to it. It was then that he walked into the nearest police station and got himself a job.
A decision sets off a chain of events
Yet neurons firing precede the intent
Is free will a concept we’ll come to lament?
Can I even grasp all that this represents?