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Brian A Seals
May 13th, 2015, 05:49 PM
From The Buffalo, NY Feature Article! (Vs. Random and Rad!Cal)


The Buffalo Scroll

Sunday February 24, 2013

Planned Randomness: Totem in Western NY
by Chuck Wallace

Some reporters catch a lucky break, and turn that fortune into a career. Jon Sentra is an example of this. He was a court reporter that tried to cover politics, and though that never gained traction, a chance encounter with the U.S.Angels made him a household name. "Sentra Central" is one of the highest-rated TV programs today.

There's also another kind of reporter to consider: a grinder. That's guys like Roland Williams, Sly Jacobs, Jane Lieber, and myself. We're the ones in the trenches and back alleys. We're the ones committed to the craft. We're the ones that know, that success has nothing to do with luck.

You pick your path and you stick with it. Then when that fails, you get up tomorrow and do it again. There are plenty of people that have heard of that concept, but I've found that very few understand. Phillip Cole is one of those few.

Phil, or Totem to you and me, has never wanted to be anything other than a hero. As a teenager, he was one of the boys tested with the Shift Stone, a Seneca artifact of great magical power. Phil was deemed a master of the stone, and when the trials were completed, he was also said to be the bravest and most noble of the hopefuls. Unfortunately, the responsibility of bearing the stone does not come with much financial reward.

So, he was a mail carrier. He was a pizza delivery boy. He was a trucker. He took any job that allowed him to keep moving around, while keeping a watchful eye on the lands he was given to protect. Eventually, he landed a job as a police officer.

That didn't last long though. "I tried to get off the graveyard shift dozens of times", he said. "It's tough being a cop all night, then running around in another costume all morning, only to find that Rogues learn your hours of operation, real fast. Then, when I finally got on mornings, something would happen and I couldn't do as much, because I couldn't strip off the blues and reveal who I was."

Both that job, and his secret identity are things of the past. Today, Totem has his own website, partially run by a few of his fans. Along with tales of his exploits and his background information, there's icons on each page, that allow the generous to donate and support him. It's his only source of income.

"I do okay", he said. "I'm not jumping into a Hummer anytime soon, but I can travel a bit, pay for hotels and meals... Plus a lot of people around here know me, and restaurants typically won't charge me anything. The community's great."

It's that community, the Buffalo Niagara region, that has earned Totem's trust and continued service. In return, they know the name of the man they're giving money to.

"That was step one", he said. "There's no way it would've worked, if I had stayed anonymous",

And lucky for me, he did not. I've followed Totem for seventy-five days now. Within that time he's dodged me constantly, and I lost him on three separate occasions. If it wasn't for him doing away with the mask years ago, I don't think I'd have caught him. When I finally did though, he was annoyed.

According to him, it's unsafe for me to tag along. There's frequent run-ins with armed robbers, gang members and the occasional Anomaly. I told him that I accepted the risk. I told him that what I do is who I am and that there's no "Plan B" for me, ever.

He didn't like it, but he saw my eyes and the resolution in them. He nodded and we moved on to other topics. If you're wondering ladies, he's still available; a personal life is hard for a hero on the road. As far as likes and dislikes, he's pro TV but anti-sitcom. Fiction in general, is not one of his interests.

" I like reality TV, of any kind. I want to watch the day through the eyes of ordinary people. That fascinates me. So yeah, I watch 'Pickers', this show on fishing... whatever I can get at the motel I'm at, and hey, if it's 'Housewives'... I'll watch that too."

He laughed but I knew he was serious. During our meal he excused himself, to go to the bathroom. It took me twenty more minutes to realize, that he had left the diner instead. I thought he stuck me with the bill, but true to form, the waitress said the food was on the house.

After that, his trail was completely cold. A week later, I followed a squad of police cars, headed to the Federal Bank on Delaware Avenue. Buffalo's a big enough city that, there's a significant Anomaly Response Team on the force. Even so, the would-be robbers were Random and Radical (or Rad!Cal), Type 2B Anomalies.

To say that the Rogues were formidable, would be an understatement. Radical, the punk one, is able to change his body's density, to become as hard as stone or as immaterial as a ghost. Random, the more goth of the pair, is a teleporter. You can imagine how difficult it is to hold on to these two young men; not that the Police didn't try.

Gas is the most standard tactic and the first out of the rule book; so the authorities sent three canisters over to them. In response, Radical jumped, twisted upside-down, and spun his legs like helicopter blades. Since he's able to change his density, he can delay the effects of gravity and he was spinning fast enough, to disperse the gas. A young cop, high-strung and nervous, fired three times with his nine millimeter.

Random teleported away. Radical just shrugged and let the slugs pass through him. The bullets struck the facade of the Federal Building and passed through the wall, endangering those inside. Before the Lieutenant in charge could reprimand the trigger-happy officer, another voice boomed over the crowd.

"Don't shoot!"

It was Totem, high up on a nearby roof. His hand was on the Shift Stone tied around his neck, and it glowed with a white light. That same energy sprouted and formed wings behind him, which helped him descend to the ground. The cops holstered their weapons and backed off.

Radical smirked. Random said, "I got this loser", and he disappeared, behind a flash of violet light.

More flashes followed, some in front of Totem and some behind, but he was eating cheap shots from almost every direction. Falling to his knees, he grabbed the Stone and a blue energy surrounded him, shielding him from the barrage. When he struck back, the length of his arm was extended by that blue light, and the end of that magical form was the fist of the Gorilla.

Random laughed and ported this way and that. Phil set him up, just like most anyone would. Feinting one way, he waited for Random to pull his trick and then he tagged him at the end of it. The blow was heard by all, and the teleporter was unconscious before he hit the ground.

Radical was not pleased. He jumped towards Phillip then sunk like a stone, changing his position in the air and driving the hero to the ground. Rad was essentially a bouncing ball. He'd leap off of one squad car then another, and then off of a wall, so his attacks were hard to adjust to.

Every time he was in grabbing range he'd sink in the air, to avoid the counterattack, or he'd go ghost and let them pass through. Either way, Totem couldn't get a thing to land and Random was starting to stir. If the two of them attacked him together, it was all but over. We were all cheering for him, but the situation was dire.

Grasping the stone with both hands, Phil concentrated. This time, the aura that surrounded him was gold, and the speed of the Cheetah came with it. As Radical somersaulted away, Totem pursued him with inhuman haste, and sharp claws of golden light. The Rogue avoided the blows, or let them pass through him in time, but I suppose that Radical's tank was on 'E'.

You could see the strain on his face. You could see beads of sweat and the desperation. He let another swipe rip through him, but he winced at the end and it was clear to all of us watching, that the game was up. Rad backed off and tried to jump away, but Totem closed in and pounced.

They collided in the air, and then they came down hard. At the end of it, Phil had Radical pinned. Across from them, Random was shaking his head and gathering himself. He didn't look aware of what was going on, and before he made enough effort to stand, a clear mask was placed over his mouth and nose. I heard a hiss as knobs were being turned, and Random fell back into dreamland.

The Response Team had finally woken up. Within seconds, Rad!Cal was also subdued, and the two of them were dragged to a nearby van. They were, no doubt, en route to the Detention Center in New Jersey. That facility has numerous solutions for Anomaly Corrections, gas being just one of them.

Totem was quickly surrounded with grateful cops. He shook their hands, and nodded and smiled. He told them that no, they were the real heroes, and as cliche as that is it sounded earnest. While he was distracted by them, I pulled out my tape recorder and tried to excuse and pardon myself closer.

Phillip quickly said his goodbyes, while moving in the opposite direction. Before I could catch up, his aura flashed white, and the wings of the Eagle carried him skyward. I ran to my car, an '84 Dodge, and fired it up. He was out of sight by the time I hit the road, but I gunned it, and spotted him in the clouds.

Of course it was in vein, but so was his bid to get away. I'll follow every cop car, watch every ambulance, listen to every broadcast and keep my ear to the street. Totem's role as a hero is more than just his job, it's his passion; I saw that it as soon as I met him.

Well, I have a passion too, and it's telling you all about people like him.

Harper J. Cole
May 13th, 2015, 08:33 PM
Good work! It's an original way of approaching a familiar story, seeing the superhero from the outside perspective; it makes him seem part of the real world rather than a comic book environment.

The writing style was smooth and easy to follow. The only thing I'd say is that sometimes I felt you used commas where you didn't need to, e.g. "It took me twenty more minutes to realize, that he had left the diner instead." and "We'rs the ones that know, that success has nothing to do with luck." (also a typo in that 2nd quote).

You captured the writing style of the young journalist very well.

HC

Plasticweld
May 13th, 2015, 08:50 PM
I also enjoyed the easy manner in which this has been told. The different take on a familiar story adds to its charm. The only part I could not believe, the part I thought stretched the bounds of believability was the line, "Totem was quickly surrounded with grateful cops." I never met a grateful cop so that one was hard to swallow :}
thanks for sharing...Bob

Brian A Seals
May 14th, 2015, 05:25 AM
Thanks guys.

HarperCole: good eyes! Yikes... You know, you check and check and check five times or more, and then someone else walks up and finds a typo! How does that happen? I suppose sometimes, it just takes a second pair of eyes, but I'm still surprised I didn't see that (best argument for editors everywhere). *Fixed*

One note: The other benefit of seeing this story through the journalist's eyes, and writing it in the form of an article is, it cuts down on the length of the piece. I also personally think, it helps with immersion. Any thoughts on that, or anything else is more than welcome. Feel free, and I'll read everything posted here as soon as possible. I'll also be back to share my thoughts on some of the other work in this particular forum, and post more before the week is out. Fantasy, horror and sci-fi are favorite genres of mine, so I'll be lurking here on a regular basis.

-B.