Of Men and Supermen
I'm poor, thus I own neither Buffy nor Superman.
I was working the next parts of 'Lost in Serenity' and 'Thicker Than Water' when my muse suddenly demanded I write this. I had no choice but to comply – she scares me…
Xander nervously adjusted the tie of the sharp brown suit that Joyce had helped him pick out as his name was called to thunderous applause. With one last deep breath Xander stepped out onto the stage and the sounds from the gathered crowd redoubled. It had surprised him and warmed his heart when he learnt just how many had come to attend today. Central Park was filled to capacity with people of every creed and colour and standing; from the world over they came for this moment.
The smile on his face was genuine and brilliant as he approached the podium and shook hands with the man beside it. "Thank you Mr. President," he said whole-heartedly. The older man smiled back and clapped him on shoulder in reply before moving to the side. Then he was alone on stage with the thousands in attendance before him and millions more watching at home.
He tried to keep the nervousness off his face when he turned to microphone, but it showed through anyways. Xander would never understand that that humility was part of what endeared him to so many.
For a moment he just listened as the crowd clapped and whistled and yelled. Then Xander slowly let the smile slip from his lips and the crowd hushed as they took in his serious, yet still open and friendly, expression on the large screens around the park.
"It's been ten years," Xander began. "Ten years since that fateful Halloween when everything changed; when, overnight, the world we knew was gone."
Both those in attendance and those watching from the comfort of home listened with rapt attention to his every word as he paused briefly, seemingly gathering his thoughts.
"I sometimes wonder what Ethan Rayne would think of the ends he's wrought. How his localized bit of mischief could spiral so far out of control. Magic and a Hellmouth never did mix well. Some things would work perfectly while others, not so much. Chaos magic is unpredictable to begin with; there was no way for anyone to know the spell would latch onto the Hellmouth and supercharge itself and spread the world over.
"But," Xander continued. "We will never know for sure what he'd think; as Ethan was one of the first victims of the event we now call 'The Rising'. I, for one, like to think that even a man as disturbed as he would be horrified at the chaos and darkness his actions plunged the world into."
He paused for a moment and swept his gaze through the captivated crowd.
"Ten years later and we still don't know for sure why the spell passed by some and empowered others. There are theories of course, some more credible than others, but we may never know for sure.
"What we do know is what happened afterwards.
"Overnight the rules changed on us," he said as his voice gained in intensity and passion. "The world changed. It wasn't right; it wasn't fair; it simply was.
"Suddenly the world was filled with powers and abilities as varied as the people who wielded them. What was once fiction was now reality. Our nightmares and our fantasies made true. Suddenly, magic was real and the monsters under our beds, those we feared in the dark came to torment us in the light of day.
"It would be easier if we could blame the memories of those they gained their abilities from for the horrific actions taken by some of those changed," Xander told them, a note of sadness entering his voice. "That wasn't the case.
"Power, greed, might makes right, the simple temptation of the darker aspects of human nature. Whatever their reasoning, the world had never seen the level of bloodshed as in the days that followed 'The Rising'.
"Fortunately, there were those who rose to the challenge. Those both empowered and not, who stood firm and strove to drive back the coming darkness.
"I remember the chaos of those first days and the war to follow. I'll never forget. The sight of those I fought with falling beside me will forever be etched in my memory. The faces of the innocents, the children, caught in crossfire dieing in my arms will-" Xander stopped and turned his tear filled eyes up and away. Around the world people were struck by the emotion in this man's voice and their own memories of the war. They watched as hands that could move mountains trembled in sorrow.
Finally he had enough control of himself to turn back to the crowd, though there was still a hitch to his voice. "This is a time to remember," he said with conviction as he reached for the curtain behind him. "A time to remember our past, celebrate our present, and hope for our future."
With those words he pulled the curtain way to reveal a large statue of several costumed children as they laughed and played around a globe. The inscription on the plaque at the base was only two simple words, but no less powerful for it.
"Now," Xander continued. "I would like to ask you for a moment of silence. A moment to remember the lives lost or torn apart as a result of 'The Rising'. A moment to remember the heroes who tried to bring order to the chaos that followed, those who have become legend and those whose names we will never know."
Xander stood tall before them, shut his eyes, and breathed deeply. His words were spoken softly but still carried strongly to every person listening. "Close your eyes, be silent and still, and remember the tragedies that touched us all. Then, take a moment and rejoice at all the gifts we still have."
The world over silence reigned as its people remembered and prayed.
Then Xander opened his eyes, a soft smile played on his lips, and he spoke once more. "Thank you for allowing me to share in this moment with you. This day of both tribute and hope."
A loud explosion abruptly roared through the air and the crowd turned to see a plume of smoke rising in the distance. When they turned back to the stage they saw the man there blur for the briefest of moments but the changes were obvious.
Gone was the brown suit, replaced by a blue bodysuit, a red and yellow 'S' shield prominent on his chest. A long red cape rustled gently in the wind as he rose into the air.
The crowd cheered as he smiled warmly at them before flying off towards the smoke.
To them he was every bit the hero as the man whose shield he wore.