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~:: The Kindness of Strangers - Chapter I ::~

“You look lost,” a deep voice from behind her boomed. “Perhaps I can help you.”

She spun around to find a tall figure standing behind her, his glowing red eyes the only thing she could see peering from the darkness beneath his pure white hood. He wore a long cape, no shirt, and white knee length breeches that were tucked beneath wrapping that covered his muscular calves. An unusual pattern marked his skin, and repeated itself down the side of his breeches. His feet glowed like they were on fire, but did not burn.

“I am Hiroyuki Sato, a Hero of the City, and Master of Olympus. Who might you be, small one?”

DeLara blinked, swallowed hard, and tried to find her voice.

“Cat got your tongue, miss?” he asked, with a gentle smile, which belied his formidable appearance.

“I, uh, I, am…uh….” DeLara stammered, uncomfortably. “Just call me Dee.”

”Very well. Dee it is. That doesn't sound incredibly heroic, but I guess it will do for a start. “

“Heroic?” she queried.

“Yes,” he answered her, slowly. “Paragon City is known as the City of Heroes. Heroes of all types, from all corners of the world call this place home.”

She looked around, and noticed that many were indeed attired in very strange garb. Adorned in body-hugging spandex, flowing capes, and masks, the people here were clearly different from any she'd known in her limited and secluded existence. She looked down at her own worn woolen robe, typical garb for her desert hamlet, but undeniably shabby and out of place here. She suddenly felt very awkward, and confused.

Sensing her apprehension, the Master reached out his hand. “Come with me,” he bade her, in a quiet, soothing tone. “Stay very close to me.” He strode away from the plaza and down the street, and she found herself almost running to keep pace with him.

The streets were crowded with people, some apparently typical humans, and others ranged from creatures that appeared to be large bipedal insects, to the largest humanoid beings she'd ever seen. Her eyes widened in awe as she struggled to take in as much of the city as she could, and still keep up with the tall gentleman who had apparently taken her under his care.

He led her up a large ramp, into the monorail station. On a small control panel, he instructed her to select Steel Canyon as her destination. She did so, and followed him into the car, as the doors swooshed closed behind them.

Suddenly, in the enclosed space of the rail car, she felt very vulnerable. You don't realize what you've done, she chided herself. Here you are, alone with a man you have never met, following him to a place you've never been.

Trying to swallow, her tongue felt dry and swollen. She looked at him, and wondered what his intentions were and why he was being so kind.

Seeing her obvious apprehension, he knew she must be frightened. In fighting his way through fifty security levels, he had not forgotten what it was like, for him, that very first day. He met her gaze, and tried to give her his best, reassuring smile, but was not sure how much reassurance he could convey behind his burning eyes.

Her empathic senses indicated no malice in him, she told herself, as the car lurched to a stop, and the doors swished open automatically.

”This is our stop,” he told her firmly. “You need to stay very close to me. That is very important. There are many beings in this part of town that can defeat you instantly, and they can sense your hesitation, and weakness. They will not, however, mess with one who has achieved security level fifty, so it is imperative that you remain close enough that they know you are with me.”

She nodded her assent, and nearly ran into him, as he stopped to get his bearings. He chuckled and said “Good girl.”

They walked for what seemed like forever, block after city block of endless, towering buildings. The blue sky directly overhead almost looked out place against the towering walls, as they gazed out of the great abyss of concrete and steel. She understood instantly where this place got its name.

Her feet ached after walking for what seemed like many miles. They finally reached their destination – a small shop amid a row of low buildings on the other side of town. He waved his hand with a flourish, and nodded to her, indicating she should precede him through the door.

To Chapter II