Lost and Found

From the Story Arc: The Youngest Champion

Next Story in the Arc: Lost and Found: Part 2 by Shen Fai-Long (Monday, May 16, 2005)

(posted Thursday, May 12, 2005)

"Ni hao, Fei Li," I said as I entered the door. Fei Li, the crossbred kitten I'd rescued from a few contaminated thugs rubbed against my aching legs. I'd hovered all the way from Atlas Park to King's Row in order to prevent having such sore feet, but it was useless. With the exception of a thin layer of wrapping, my uniform required me to travel in my bare feet every day.

I was thankful that my body contained the genes for flight; some of the boys in my training company weren't so lucky. Lei Shing-Ho, for example, could run at extraordinary speeds. I was envious at first, until he and I became bunk-mates. The feeble wrapping we wore on our feet did not protect them at all, and I would not wish the blisters he suffered on anyone.

Fei Li felt so soft even as she clumsily stepped on my bare toes, aggravating a few of the blisters that I meticulously hid from the others. There was no room for weakness in the CCCP, and I would prove myself worthy of their respect even if it meant enduring such discomfort.

I removed my hat and set it on the coffee table. Even though I never complained about my squalid apartment in King's Row, I suddenly found myself disgusted with it. The cracks in the walls and the ceiling would likely never be fixed by the landlord, nor would the chronic roach problem. Even though I spoke fluent English, I could tell the old capitalist landlord did not take kindly to either my uniform or my partners.

It wasn't a total loss, I suppose. My apartment was only two or three blocks away from Althea Nagy's dormitory, and the two of us could have lunch anytime our schedules permitted it. That is, if I had the guts to ask her...

Once I'd removed the wrappings from my hands and feet and placed my uniform in the washing machine, I donned a pair of pajama bottoms and sprawled myself out on the bed. Fei Li crawled into the bed and pounced on my chest. I giggled a little at the sight of the little black ball of fluff pawing away at my bare chest. I let her crawl around on my stomach for a little while before she grew disinterested and leapt onto the green shag carpet. I sighed.

It had been at once the most frightening and the most exhilarating day I'd had since I left China for the anarchy of Paragon City. My only mission of the day was to locate and arrest Smiling Max, a Lost leader of moderate importance. I had no concept of how widespread the homeless problem was in the capitalist West until I entered the abandoned warehouse. There were dozens of unfortunates, the dregs of society, willing to lay down their lives for this "Smiling Max". It was such a shame that they had chosen to follow the madness the Lost preach, but I had no choice. I took them down without a shred of mercy.

That is when the mission grew complicated. Each encounter with the Lost became more and more dangerous, until I found myself ducking and hiding from their energy rifles like crops dodging the scythe. Luring the mutated fanatics into my caltrop patches hardly fazed them anymore as I journeyed into the center of the abandoned warehouse. They simply charged through the spiked contraptions as though they no longer felt pain! Even the devastating sniper blast I'd developed from observing Althea's darkness attacks failed to topple the abberrants lurking about. For the first time since I came to Paragon City, I was afraid. Mao help me... I was afraid!

For a split second, Shen Fai-Long, the fearless agent of the People's Republic of China was lost; and Shen Fai-Long, the fourteen-year-old farmhand from Sichuan Province cowered in his place. Tears seeped from my eyes and my whole body shook as I hid behind a crate and radioed my progress to CCCP Headquarters. I did my best to sound professional, but the words didn't come out right. Chinese words and phrases littered my speech more than usual, and I could tell it was mildly confusing to poor Chug, who was forced to put up with me. I don't know why, but I found it comforting.

When Red Saviour answered my call, a deep swell of dread bore into me. What would she think of my weakness? What could I do, now that Smiling Max and the rest of the Lost would surely find me and most likely kill me on sight? In a moment of weakness, I did something my pride as a warrior would never have allowed. I asked for help.

While Red Saviour had her own mission to attend to, she promised to send another CCCP agent to assist me. How was I to know that she would send People’s Blade, the greatest champion China has ever known? I was both elated and panicked at the news. People’s Champion was known to leap entire city districts in a single bound, how long would it be before she arrived in the warehouse to find a weeping, frightened little boy trembling behind a pile of boxes?

I had only moments to contemplate this when People’s Blade appeared on my in-mission radar. I jumped to my feet and wiped the tears off on my sleeve, hoping that my swollen eyes did not betray me. When she came into view, my heart jumped in my chest and my mind snapped to attention. The scared little Fai-Long from moments before was shattered in an instant, replaced by a soldier of the People’s Republic of China willing to put his life on the line for the Middle Kingdom!

“Ni hao, Comrade Shen,” My cheeks grew warm when her eyes met mine. People’s Blade was a true champion, an exemplar for all the aspiring heroes of China. I knew I would not fail her. I could not fail, given the way she looked at me. In her eyes, I saw the expectations of the Chinese people and the unyielding might of the Chinese military expressed in a single individual. The effect was breathtaking.

“Ni hao, Commissar! Shen Fai-Long reporting for duty, sir!” My voice was unbroken by fear or doubt. This was my moment to prove myself to Xiao Fei Li… My exemplar… My shuai*!

*”Shuai” means “Commander” or “General” in a military sense.