Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Pink Paladin

For a long time I've had this idea in my head, set in a power rangers type setting.

This is rough.  Note, for instance, how it starts off in first person and then drops first person forever after.  And, more or less anything else.  It really is lacking in any kind of polish.

- - -

You live in this city and you know how to hide, how to cower, and above all else you know to run like hell when the fighting starts.  Knowing these things, however, doesn't necessarily mean you actually do them.

I was behind cover, but as close as I could get without being damaged.  A second floor bathroom had landed in pieces and made for a good spot.  A positively beautiful tile floor was now a short wall that kept me hidden from the action, and a bathtub on its side could be used as a more enclosed hide-spot if any of the fighters decided to take a look, which they likely wouldn't.

I had a good view.  The paladins were outmatched, but that was hardly unusual.  They tended to start off weak, have absurdly long fights, and win by having greater stamina.

Then everything changed.  A lucky blow, badly placed rubble, a building that just needed one more --insignificantly tiny-- nudge for another piece of fall off.  Put it all together and the pink paladin dropped like a rock.

By the time I got there here opponents had moved on.

"Are you o-- April!?" is what I said.  The armor had receded in the way that sufficiently advanced technological and/or magical armor is wont to do after someone is out of the fight.  It was definitely April.

She even raised a hand in a weak wave and and gave an equally lackluster, "Hi."

I pushed the surprise from my mind as I knelt down beside her and tried to start assessing her injuries.  "How are you feeling?" I asked.

The assessment proved damned impossible.  The armor had protected her clothing, meaning I couldn't actually see her injuries, whatever they might be.

"I've been better," she said, sounded pained, "but I'll live."

"Your unprofessional opinion as a non-doctor brings me great joy," was my response.  "Where hurts?"

"You're no more a doctor than me," she shot back, which was true.

"Whatever, tell me day of the week, where you are, president of the united states, and wiggle your fingers and your toes."

"Thursday, in a partially collapsed building, I'd rather not, and," she showed me her fingers wiggling, but then looked distracted, a moment of fear, some concentration, and finally she said, "I can't feel my toes."

Her shoes were pink and white converse, I took her right foot and felt her toes through the shoe, "Wiggle." I said.

They definitely moved.

"Well, something's getting through, whatever that means," I said.  "We need to get you to someone who actually knows what they're doing."

I really didn't see the, "No!" she shouted at me coming.

"How are the others doing?" she asked at a normal volume.

I had to move around a bit to get a good look.  When I did, I saw about what you'd expect when a team of six that was already losing became a team of five.

"They're getting trounced," I said.  I'm almost positive that's the correct usage of the word "trounced".

"We've got to help them somehow."

"You cant feel your toes," I said, "I don't have mystical magical power armor from an alien planet."

"Alternate dimension."

"Something that's not from this dimension seems pretty alien to me."

"Not really the point," she said.

"You brought it up."

"My team needs help."

I brought myself so we were face to face, said, "Look--" realized how badly I was invading her personal space, backed the Hell off, said, "Sorry," and was about to make a really good point, when she surprised me and made the really good point get forgotten.

"Do that again," she said.

"Um," I said with full on eloquence, "what?"

"Come closer," she said.

I did, and she held up a necklace that I'd never seen before.  The chain looked normal enough, the rock, however, did not.  It was pink, sort of an uneven triangular bipyramid, and might have been reminiscent of bog standard rose quartz if not for the fact it was glowing.

"It likes you," she said.

"You've lost me."

She took off the necklace and offered it to me with her left hand, "Put it on, hold the gem in one hand on your chest," she made her right hand into a fist and held it to her chest just below the neck, "then just close your eyes."

"Are you sure you don't have a head injury?"

"You said you needed mystical magical power armor."

"Actually, I said--"

"Not the point," she said.  "Help my friends."

So I did what she said.

* * *

The change in the fight was unmistakable, but at first none of them were sure what caused it.  Things just got . . . easier.  It wasn't really until a small group of the attackers broke away to face away from from them that it became clear a new combatant had entered the fight on their side.

It was the purple paladin who got the first good look at the person helping them.  Unmistakable pink and white armor.

"April!?" she shouted even though the coms would have made a whisper sufficient, "You're ok?"

"Not April," a male voice replied.  "One word about the color, I leave.  You can go back to getting your asses kicked."

"Got it."

* * *

"What the fuck!?"

Fight over, everyone shut down their armor.  Five of the paladins were used to the changes that could mean, wearing colors that matched their armor was done to minimize it.

The replacement pink paladin, however, was completely unprepared and had taken no steps to cope.

There were a few snickers as the others looked at him in a pink tank top and white skirt with pink trim.  Given his outburst, it was obviously not what he'd been wearing before.

Susan, whose purple and black outfit had remained unchanged laid a hand on the replacement's shoulder.  "It always sucks the first time," she said in a way that was clearly meant to be reassuring.

"If you wear clothing that roughly matches the gem's preferences or expectations or whatever it is that the gem has in mind," Wendy, the green and black paladin, said, "then it usually doesn't make changes."

"It's why we all wear our colors," Matthew, the yellow and white paladin said, "in spite of it kind of screwing with the whole anonymity thing."

Jason, the peach and white paladin said, "Just trying not to laugh," when attention was turned to him.

"Anyway, if you've got something you really don't want to lose, you should take it off like Tim does with his coat," Susan said, pointing to the Blue and Black paladin.

"My coat," the replacement pink paladin said, walking to Tim, snatching the ankle length brown duster, and putting it on.

Tim said, "I want--"

"I saved your life, price was one coat," the replacement pink paladin said, "if you're unhappy with the deal, forfeit your life and I'll make sure the coat finds its way to your casket."

Susan laughed.

"I am not walking around looking like this," the replacement paladin said before closing the coat to hide what the gem had left him wearing.  "April is over there," he pointed, "and needs and ambulance.  I'm going home to change into something less absurd."

As he started to walk away, Wendy asked, "What was your name again?"

"Zach."

* * *

"Hey," April said from her hospital bed as Zach entered.

"Hey," Zach said back.  He looked around the room, found a chair, moved it next to the bed, and plopped into it.  "Couldn't have warned me about the clothes thing?"

"What would you have done?" April asked.

"I have no idea, but --"

"I heard you were in a dress."

"Skirt and tank top," Zach said.  "Still not an experience I have any desire to repeat."  Zach started to take off the necklace.

"What are you doing?"

"I figured you'd want your inter-dimensional trinket back."

"You haven't heard my prognosis, have you?"

"Unless it involved a prohibition on dealing with alien battle armor--"

"If I'm lucky I'll eventually be able to walk short distances," April said.

"Ok," Zach said, "I'm not sure whether I should be reacting with, 'That's great,' or, 'That sucks,' but either way, I'm less than clear on how it relates to the whole battle armor thing."

"The armor was made for someone who could do the whole 'running jumping climbing trees--'"

"--putting on make-up while your up there'," Zach finished the quotation.

". . . thing.  I can't do that, so I won't be able to use the armor properly.  It needs a new host."

"So we'll just hold auditions, 'Do you want to be a super secret warrior?  Try out here, don't think too hard about how we relate to the super secret thing."

"It's already found a new host."

Wasn't hard to figure out what that meant.

"If it wanted to work with me it shouldn't have dumped me in a skirt with no warning."

"You won, didn't you?" April asked.

"I have no intention of becoming a super hero," Zach said.  "Helping out was a special circumstances one-time thing."

"Would you just hear me out?"

~ - ~ - ~
~ Time Passes ~
~ - ~ - ~

"It looked pretty brutal out there," April said.

"If things keep up like this," Zach said, "Tim is never getting his coat back."

"Did it again?"

"It does it always," Zach grumbled.

"Want to talk about something else?

"What's the agenda for today?"

~ - ~ - ~
~ Time Passes ~
~ - ~ - ~

"The others never want to spend time with me anymore," April said, "and whenever they do get stuck talking to me it's like I'm already dead or will be soon.  'Remember those things we used to do?'  I'm trapped in past tense.  We could do those things again if they'd just fucking think of me as a human being!"

There was some silence.

"Done?"  Zach asked.

"I think so."

"Think it over," Zach said.  "Be sure."

"I'm done."

"Ok," Zach said.  "That is the stupidest fucking shit I've ever heard!  You're in a wheelchair not a hearse for fuck's sake!  You can do all kinds of things and if they'd just pull their heads out of their asses and be actual friends they'd realize that."

"I know, right?" April said.

"That's a really shitty way for them to act," Zach said, "but I guess 'hero' is more of a profession than a state of mind."

"I don't care if they're noble or anything, I just wish I still had more than one friend," April said.  "At least you treat me like a person."

"I don't think that speaks highly of me so much as it condemns the rest of the world," Zach said.

~ - ~ - ~
~ Time Passes ~
~ - ~ - ~

For most intents and purposes Zach had dropped off the face of the earth.  That no one else had thought to actually go to his home and check on him spoke volumes for exactly how screwed up things were these days.

The good news was that the temporary ramp they'd set up had managed to be rather permanent in the persistent absence of its oft-delayed replacement.  There was no response to a knock at the door, but April hadn't really expected one.  If you can open a door you can pick up a phone.

The problem was that, in spite of best efforts, Zach's home was very much not wheelchair accessible.

Twice April had to get out of the chair, fold it slightly, push it through a too-small doorway, and then drag herself across the floor, using only her arms, to reach the chair again.  She really, really wished the point when she could walk a step or two would hurry up and arrive.

Still, nothing she couldn't handle.

As she progressed further she began to notice white and pink clothing, likely what the gem had been sticking Zach with, strewn about.

For some reason she didn't feel like calling out to Zach again.  She felt like going to the center of the mess, so she steered herself to where the clothing littering the floor was most dense and went that way.

When she was finally able to see Zach, she found him standing in front of his bathroom mirror pulling on a gray tee-shirt.

He used the gem to transform into the pink paladin armor and back again.  He was left in a strapless pink and white dress.  He spun around and looked at himself in the mirror from all angles.

No part of this made sense to April, but if the pile of pink and white clothes on the floor were any indication he'd been transforming a lot.

"What are you doing?" April asked.

Zach spun to face her, for a moment looked at her in shock, and then slowly let himself collapse to the ground.  He seemed on the verge of tears.

"Are you ok?" April asked as she wheeled herself closer.

"I think it's mocking me," Zach said.

"What?"

"It gives me all of these clothes," Zach gestured all around.  "All of them would look great, but not on me.  It's like it's trying to remind me that no matter how I feel I'll never be a real girl and these things will never fit."

There was a very long silence.

"Ok," April said.  And then she didn't say anything for a bit.  "Let's just make sure I've got this right." She paused again.  "You want to be a girl?"

Zach nodded.

"And you think you don't look good right now?"

"How could I?" Zach asked.

"Ok, you know what?" April then stalled out.

More awkward silence.

"Um, let me start over," April said.  She took a breath.  "I've only found you attractive once.  Just one time.  In all of the time that I've known you only the one time.  You know when?"

Zach shook her head.

"When you were modeling for yourself in the mirror before I let you know I was here," April said.

Zach moved to look April in the eyes so fast April was afraid Zach would get whiplash.

"The thing is," April said, "I'm not attracted to boys, and despondency isn't exactly a turn on either."

"You mean . . ."

"If you weren't so sad right now," April said, "you'd be a really sexy girl."

-
~ ~
-  -  -
~ ~
-

The idea, being, basically, the magic sci-fi armor leaves you in clothing it feels is appropriate, hence the traditional color-coding of even civilian clothes, but it's also trying to work with the user.  The problem it has is that it can't really work out the second half of, "My user would love to wear this, but that's a secret desire."

Thus, with total absence of malice, it's severely fucking with Zach because, since Zach is passing as cis-male, the costume changes end up being both humiliating and also hurtful at a deeper level because Zach would love to wear such things, it's just that everyone looks at the clothing and Zach's body and sees a joke.

It, however, eventually works out in the end, starting with April finding out Zach is really a trans-girl and working outward from there.

April's recovery will eventually take her to a point where she has dull feeling in her lower extremities and the ability to walk a step or two, but no more.  She does not magically revert to a running, jumping, climbing trees capable person.

The five other paladins eventually come around both with respect to accepting Zach as female and recognizing that April is still a full person (even though her mobility has changed.)

4 comments:

  1. What Lonespark said.

    ---Redcrow

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's not everyday I get a chance to bust out my second favorite Power Rangers quote: "Too much pink energy can be dangerous."

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh gee, so many feels. I love it.

    ReplyDelete