"The Real Hero"

********************

For Kid Nova, it was never about being in the spotlight. The chance to fight alongside his idols was like a blessing to him. If he had wanted to be the hero he would've become one within an instant, but that wasn't what he wanted. All he wanted was to fight evil for the sake of justice, so he honed his fighting skills to the nth degree in the hopes that he would someday catch a hero's eye. And then one fateful day, that was exactly what happened as a hero approached him and asked if he would like to be his sidekick and fight evil by his side.

Kid Nova couldn't have been happier. Sure, it would've been a dream come true if someone like Captain Starshield came to take him under his wing, but even he knew that was pretty unlikely, though wishful thinking never hurt anyone. He accepted the hero's offer and within days he was soaring across the galaxy with the hero to worlds in need, donning his trademark glowing blue goggles. Whenever someone or something called for help, they always answered, especially if it was the Galactic President himself. Unfortunately, like himself, he had joined forces with a rookie hero who really wasn't everything he had claimed to be. On their fifth job on planet Kerwan they were called in to investigate a disturbance on a train normally used for tourists and were ambushed by a group of armed to the teeth robot bandits. Kid Nova managed to escape with few injuries, but the hero he followed wasn't as fortunate.

Now unemployed and without a leader, he quickly began a search for another hero to take him under their wing. Luckily, he found one who just happened to be looking for a sidekick and he resumed his crime fighting duties. Unluckily, this hero was even more inexperienced then the previous one, and had fallen within their first mission. Kid Nova picked up the pieces and began another search, again finding another hero to follow, only to watch her suffer the same fate as well. Battle after battle, search after search, and hero after hero he watched meet their gruesome or unusual demise and each time he became more frustrated and disappointed.

Kid Nova had finally had enough. He sat alone in his home on planet Rilgar and tried to figure out what he was doing wrong. It wasn't normal for heroes to fall so quickly and swiftly. Perhaps he had been following the wrong "heroes" and simply hadn't found a true, honest-to-goodness one yet. Or perhaps his misfortune was actually a fault of his own and he wasn't a strong enough sidekick to support his heroes. Or maybe their enemies were getting stronger and they simply weren't keeping up.

If only he could find a hero like that lombax guy…

In any case, one fateful day he received an answer in the form of a group of large armed robots standing in front of his home, each with a familiar logo imprinted upon their chests asking if he was Kid Nova. He barely had any time to give a reply and his world went dark within moments, darker than it already was.

He eventually awoke in an unfamiliar room with multiple platforms and rather uncomfortable armor wrapped around his body. He shook his head and tried to regain orientation with his body and his surroundings, but within a minute a voice called him from his helmet explaining the exercises he now needed to do. Not one to ask questions, he did so, doing his best to maneuver in his rigid armor and get acquainted with two unfamiliar weapons. After he finished a large screen appeared along with a nasty looking man, explaining just what kind of situation he was in.

And then he felt his body run cold.

He was now being held prisoner by an underground criminal organization owned by said nasty man, Gleeman Vox, something that many heroes had always dreaded. He also found out that this place, called "DreadZone," resided in the part of the galaxy known as the Shadow Sector. He had heard about it from the heroes he had followed and they all described it as a lawless region of space where anyone who attempted to uphold the law here would be a truly brave soul or an outright fool for doing so. The very thought of being held prisoner in a place like this scorched his mind, but with the deadlock collar fastened firmly around his neck, he had very little power and choice. With the collar, any unfavorable actions of his could possibly lead to termination, which didn't sit well in the slightest. He knew he would have to play this deadly game if he was going to escape.

In no time at all he was thrown head first into his first match. Using the weapons he was given, he fought his way through the waves of enemies using the skills and experience he had. He emerged victorious from the ashes of the battle and the crowds screamed and cheered, giving him a feeling of satisfaction and confidence. In a sense it was like fighting bad guys back in Blackwater City, only instead there were countless living and robotic opponents who wanted nothing more than to watch you die at their hands and he had two combat bots fighting beside him rather than a powerful and renowned hero.

However, fighting in DreadZone wasn't the same as fighting criminals. He fought in the name of justice and peace and order for all planetary streets and followed in the hero's footsteps. In DreadZone however, you didn't fight to protect others or put evildoers in their places; you battled for your own life. There was no innocent to save, no crime lord to pummel, and no one to do the fighting for you. Sure, he had his combat bots to watch his back in the thick of battle, but it wasn't the same as watching someone else's. Each match, each explosion, each kill, each cheer from the crowd, and each close encounter with his own demise reminded him that the only things on the line were his own life and reputation.

It always lingered in the back of mind, and he wasn't sure whether he could ever get used to the thought.

With each battle his weariness grew, unable to keep up with DreadZone's constant and never ending demands to see more bullets fly and more bodies fall by his hands. He needed to find a way out of the Shadow Sector and escape home. The transporters were out of the question since they're programmed to self-destruct if its controls are tampered with and seemingly the only way to get the deadlock collar off was to sever your own head. He was by no means a tech-head though and he would rather not risk attempting to break the collar off. He figured if he could fly out of range from the DreadZone Station and the Shadow Sector the collar would no longer have any effect and he would be able to keep his head firmly on his shoulders.

One day he made his move and managed to take over a small ship in the Station, taking out the DreadZone guard within it, and flew out of the Station as fast as he could. Unfortunately, he didn't think that there would be cameras on the little ship and there was one on board that caught his every move. The collar sent an intense shock throughout his body, knocking him out cold. When he awakened, he found himself back in the DreadZone Arena, face to knee with Shellshock himself and the announcers calling him out on his pathetic failed escape. He used every ounce of energy, willpower, and ammo in his weapons, just barely managing to come out alive from his duel against one of the Exterminators.

He was allowed back into his Containment Suite, but his heart was heavier than the day he was captured. There was no hope for escape now, not with the increase in cameras and guards around him. The future looked bleak for him, with nothing but endless matches to look forward to. Even though some of the heroes he followed were weak, they each accepted their fate without question as it would have been honorable to fall in battle and they wouldn't have it any other way. He would have to do the same.

When he began his next campaign, a sudden thought struck his mind as he realized that the crowds were screaming his name. They were actually cheering for him, ready to see how he was going to tackle his next challenge and enjoy every minute of it. And then Dallas the announcer roared his name over the speakers, making the crowd scream ever louder. He even caught the word "hero" being shouted along with his name. He suddenly felt lighter as if the weight of his past experiences was lifted off of him. The spotlight was upon him now and everyone wanted to see him. There was nobody to do the fighting for him, but there wasn't anyone to take the credit for all his efforts either. The reputation, badges, dread points and victories were all his doing and no one could take them away from him.

Well, if it was a hero that they wanted to see fight to the death, then that was what Kid Nova was going to give them; a fighting, brave, honest-to-goodness hero.