From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Mark Lowenfield had been looking over the material for about twenty minutes without saying a word. He was both impressed with the presentation and awed with the goals of the program. If it could be done it would no doubt go a long way towards building a new era of cooperation and acceptance among people. Of course, there would be little to no money made for whoever made this endeavor happen, but the prestige of being known as the agent for it all but guaranteed more clients with large bankrolls would seek out that same agent expecting the same magic be performed for their organization. He closed the large three ring binder, the gold embossed Kairin Earth Alliance on the cover reflecting from the sun shining in his office window. He leaned over to set the binder on the front of his desk in front of Marsius.
“I have to tell you Crimsonstar, it’s a fine program with an honorable agenda. I would love to see all of your goals reached. I really hope you’re successful in finding an agency to represent you.” Mark Lowenfield said, standing up and crossing to mini fridge in his office.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand, Mr. Lowenfield. Are you saying you don’t want the job?” Marsius asked still seated in the small wooden chair in front of Lowenfield’s desk. He took out a can of diet soda, motioned to the inside of the fridge inquiring if Marsius would like anything. Marsius studied the contents of the mini fridge briefly. “Oh, um, may I have a Mountain Dew? I’ve grown fond of those.”
Lowenfield smiled as he handed Marsius the soda. “One of my favorites as well, it’s not that I don’t want the position Crimsonstar…..”
“Please, call me Marsius.”
“Marsius, it’s that I’m more what you call a talent agent. I don’t have experience in handling non profit organizations. I honestly wouldn’t know to begin, or how to go about properly soliciting donations, filing tax exemption forms, or legal agreements.” He said sitting back down.
“We won’t need charity donations, Mr. Lowenfield. I assure you, the KEA already has more than ample funding now. Both the Star Brigade and the Kairin Empire of my home world, Andromeda 3, has provided for that. No, it instead needs public exposure.”
“Well, to the people of Paragon City I am well known as the hero Crimsonstar. You yourself were barely able to string together a sentence when I first entered your office and your secretary…” Marsius paused as they both looked back at the young twenty something brunette who they noticed kept finding reasons to pass back and forth in front of Lowenfield’s office door since Marsius’ arrival. “….almost dropped all the files she was putting away when I came in. Only the KEA is a new entity, and outside of my family in the Dawn Patrol, no one knows of its existence. If we’re to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves, then we need to make people aware of it. Surely, that is in your line of expertise.” Marsius said.
Lowenfield let out a sigh and sat back in his chair. “Well yes, but this….” He paused, looking down at his desk as thoughts raced through his head. “It’s going to take more than the facilities I have to offer.”
“I’d have to get some more staff. The first thing I’d do is get you more recognizable first. And I mean worldwide, not just here in America. Once that’s done then we’d tackle the issue of promoting KEA.”
“I would agree with that. I find it’s easier for people to support a cause if they first care for the person behind it. That’s true whether it’s here or back on Andromeda.”
“And it’s going to require money, lots of it. Don’t misunderstand me, Marsius.” He tapped his hand on the KEA binder still on his desk. “This is good, very good. I think people WANT to live in a society such as you’re describing here, but the people I’ll need to make it happen, while they may agree with your doctrines, are going to want to see considerable financial compensation for the jobs they do toward making it happen. Sure, many will freely offer their services to charity; it gives them huge tax breaks to do so. Only quite a deal more aren’t going to, and let’s be honest, they need to make a living at the same time they’re doing this work for you, for us.”
Marsius smiled. “You said, ‘for us’. Does this mean you haven’t completely decided to turn down the job?”
“Fine, yes I’m strongly weighing taking the job. Only, I have to be honest with you Marsius, my reasons for doing so are out of a small degree of personal greed. I may not stand to make a windfall by representing you and the KEA, but the world of mouth alone will bring me other clients in droves.”
Marsius stood up, pulling a piece of paper from his belt. “Mr. Lowenfield, I appreciate your honesty, and I don’t expect you to provide your services freely, or at little cost.” And he laid a cashiers check on his desk already made out to Lowenfield. He picked it up looking at the dollar amount, his eyes widening and jaw dropping. “Marsius, this is a lot of money.”
“As I said Mr. Lowenfield, I do have considerable funding by The Star Brigade for the KEA. Will that be enough for you to start my campaign?” Marsius asked. Lowenfield nodded slowly, and then yelled out to his secretary. “Donna, cancel all the remaining appointments for the rest of the week! And bring your notepad, we’ve got some calls to make.” He stood up and crossed around to the front of the desk to stand beside Marsius and shook his hand. “I’m starting now. Marsius, we’re going to do huge things you and I.” Marsius smiled as he shook Lowenfield’s hand and turned to also shake hands with Donna, the secretary. “You have my numbers to reach me, both here and at Dawn Patrol HQ. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”
Three weeks later
The office was packed up and boxes littered the front reception room. The only thing left in Lowenfield’s office was his desk and chair. “I apologize for the conditions; I’m moving the agency to a bigger office in Steel Canyon. In fact, here, let me make sure you get our new address.” He said and handed Marsius a business card with Lowenfield’s new address already printed on it. “Now let’s get down to business, I’d like you to meet Amanda Wheeler. Amanda here is the agent for Sandy Dell.” Mark said introducing Marsius to the tall woman in the office with them.
Marsius politely shook her hand. “Sandy Dell? The actress?” he inquired.
“One and the same.” Ms. Wheeler smiled. She leaned on the corner of Lowenfield’s desk.
“Marsius, there is going to be a premiere of Sandy Dell’s new film, ‘Boundaries of Love’ this Friday in Los Angeles, and you sir are going to be her date for the evening.” Marsius raised an eyebrow at Mark’s statement. “I am?” he asked.
“Oh yes, and it’s going to be good press. The paparazzi love Hollywood premieres and their flashbulbs are going to be going off like crazy, come next week your picture along with Ms. Dell will be in all the popular magazines, like Persons, InTouch, and others.”
“How does this work towards my goal of getting recognition for the KEA, Mark?” Marsius asked him. Mark took a seat on the other end of his desk. “Marsius, first and foremost we need to get you…” and he casually pointed at Marsius. “…into the public consciousness, and nothing does that better than Hollywood. Sandy Dell is THE top actress in Hollywood right now, men want to date her, women want to be her friend, or better yet, be her. She won an Oscar for her last film and she has reached the stage where she can call and ask to see any new script first.”
Ms. Wheeler stood up and crossed to Marsius. “Not to mention, Sandy is a huge fan of superheroes, and she’s followed them for years, especially those of you here in Paragon City. She knows who you are Marsius, she even gave me a ten minute history lesson on your arrival here on Earth and your part in the Rikti war.” Amanda smiled. “As you may also know if you’ve followed any of her publicity, she is also quite busy with humanitarian efforts herself when not filming. She was the catalyst for the benefit concerts to help those who lost all they had after the hurricanes in New Orleans. She’s spoken on behalf of the World Peace Initiative and believe me when I tell you; she’s very interested in your Kairin-Earth Alliance and wants to add it to her agenda of causes she publicly supports.”
“So, I go on this date with Ms. Dell, and I or we, will mention the KEA when interviewed?” Marsius asked?
“Not on that night.” Ms. Wheeler added. “For the premiere you simply make small talk with the press, smile and wave. I have a contact with LIVES magazine that will run an exclusive blurb of your date and speculation that you two discussed it and of possibly involving her with KEA. Then, in another month, you’ll be her guest at her address to the WPI and she’ll mention the KEA as another organization with the same goals. That meeting will be attended by several dignitaries from Europe.”
“Amanda and I are also negotiating for several television ads with you and Ms. Dell promoting KEA, but that comes later.” Mark said. “Marsius trust me on this. We’ll get KEA promoted and as recognizable as UNICEF, Amnesty International, etc, but we need to start off slow and work it up.” Marsius listened to Mark, looked as Ms. Wheeler who gave him a kind smile and small reassuring nod. “Okay, I’ll go.”
“Great!” Mark said clapping his hands together and standing up from his desk. “Now, let’s talk about your wardrobe. Did you get the tuxedo I had sent over to your earlier this week?”
“Yes I did, and I scanned its specifications into my matter transmuter as you requested.” Marsius said.
“Great, then would you be so kind as to ‘change’ for us?” Mark said and turning to Amanda he said; “You’re going to love this.” Marsius let out a small sigh and then accessed the transmuter technology in his gauntlets. His familiar white and red costume was gone as it shifted into more formal clothing.
“That’s fantastic!” Ms Wheeler said, her hand covering her mouth in surprise. Mark nodded his head. “Marsius, this is what we would like. Ms. Dell is going to arrive alone at the premiere, but she’ll wait a few seconds once she exits her limo. We’d like you to fly down beside her in your Crimsonstar outfit and then access your transmuter and change into your tuxedo there beside her.”
Marsius crossed his arms. “Mark, it sounds to me like you want me to use cheap theatrics.”
“Guilty as charged. Yes I do, Marsius. People love celebrities, they love heroes, and they especially love seeing them perform up close and personal. You using your matter transmuter there at the premiere will go a long way towards them remembering you come Monday morning.”
“I won’t do it.” Marsius replied. “My matter transmuter isn't a toy. It’s valuable aid given to me by the Star Brigade.”
“Marsius, let’s talk about this.” Mark started to say but Marsius raised his hand cutting him off. “I’m not going to do it, not there in front of the crowds and this, paparazzi. I’m willing to compromise. I can meet Ms. Dell at her residence, and there I will use them to change and you can have one photographer there to capture it, but at a distance.” He said. Amanda jumped off the desk before Mark could offer another protest.
“That’ll work better actually. It’ll be more intimate and it will provide exclusive coverage that only one source will have. I can even arrange to make sure it’s with a magazine we choose.” She said. Marsius looked at Amanda for a long moment. “Then we’re on agreement on this?” he asked her.
“Totally.” She smiled.
“Wonderful! Now, let’s talk about the after hours parties.” Mark said.
“Parties?” Marsius asked, his eyebrow once again raising with concern.
“Oh yes, Marsius, the premiere isn’t all there is to the evening. You and Ms. Dell are going to be quite visible that night.” Mark said. Marsius went out into the front reception, smiled warmly at Donna who still blushed whenever he looked at her, and asked if he could borrow her chair. He pushed it into Mark’s office. “Then give me the details.”
“So you’re okay with the after premiere plans?”
“Mark, I’m trusting your judgment. I’ll let you know when I no longer do.” He said.
“This is Amanda Byer for Entertainment Observer reporting to you live from The Majestic where the premiere of Sandy Dell’s new movie, ‘Boundaries of Love’ is just a few mere minutes away. As you can see behind me the fans are out in full force and early word from studio insiders is that this is going to be Ms. Dell’s best role yet. We’ve already seen her co-stars, Daniel Holmes and Nathan Jacobs arrive and enter the theater and now, yes I believe this is her limo pulling up.
Yes, it is Ms. Dell and doesn’t she look lovely. We’re told the light blue strapless gown she’s wearing is Versace and that the gown was created especially for her to wear this evening. Also, many of our viewers tonight may recognize the handsome man accompanying Ms. Dell and we can confirm that he is indeed the hero Crimsonstar of the Dawn Patrol. An interesting piece of history, Crimsonstar fought in the the Rikti Invasion and is still active today keeping the world safe, and doesn’t he look handsome in his Armani suit? “
Marsius couldn’t believe the sheer amount of people that had gathered here at the theater for the film premiere. They all cheered, holding their hands stretched out across the crowd control ropes in hopes that Ms. Dell would honor them with a handshake, or sign an autograph for them. In front of them, a veritable army of photographers and television crews kept pace with them, walking backwards as they continued to take pictures and footage of them as they slowly walked along the carpet to the theater door.
He felt Ms. Dell reach over, slipping her arm around his, and rest her hand on his forearm. “It’s all a bit daunting isn’t it?” she said leaning over to whisper in his ear.
“I have to admit, I’m finding that I’m both nervous and excited at the same time.” Marsius said, casually raising his free hand to tug at his shirt collar. “And is it hotter here than your home where I picked you up?”
She let out a small laugh. “It’s all the lights from the television crews. Don’t worry; we’ll be more comfortable inside. Uh oh, here she comes.” Sandy said giving his arm a small squeeze to draw his attention to the approaching reporting. Marsius looked over at the small woman with blonde hair slowly going grey, her film crew in close ranks behind her.
“Sandy, Amanda Byer for the Entertainment Observer.” She said.
“Hi Amanda.” Sandy said. Marsius was impressed with how at ease she seemed to be and that her attitude and tone of her voice with the media felt natural and not forced. She was quite an actress indeed. He stood quietly through the brief interview, smiling and offering polite laughter when it was called for. Then, Sandy politely excused them and they headed into the theater. She gave him a side glance and smile as they were ushered to their seats. “I’m impressed Marsius, I’ve had dates go positively ghost white when we’ve had to stop to talk to the press.” She said.
“I’ve had my own share of the press back in Paragon City, I don’t think Hollywood reporters are much worse.” She giggled as they sat down. “Marsius, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
The movie had been wonderful and the audience gave it and the actors a standing ovation when it was done. They faced another battalion of reporters and photographers outside the Brown Derby as they headed in. Inside they stopped several times as Sandy shook hands, hugged and kissed other famous members of the film industry. It had taken them almost twenty minutes to get their table.
“So did you enjoy the movie, Marsius?” she asked once they were seated.
“Very much so, you are an extremely talented actress, Ms. Dell.” He said.
“Thank you.” She grinned. “And enough with the Ms. Dell thing, I told you to call me Sandy.” She leaned over to whisper. “I have to ask you one question though, and please be honest.” Marsius raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Do you remember the scene where my character goes out to the bar to try and catch her husband in an affair?”
“Yes. The moment when she sees him and just slowly starts to cry, very moving.”
“Did my ass look fat in that mini-skirt?”
Marsius coughed, shifted in his seat. “I’m sorry?”
“It’s okay, you can be honest. I told the director that my character wouldn’t have dressed so slutty, even if she was going in disguise, but he said the film had to have more sex appeal. So I relented and wore that thing, but I was self conscious the whole time we were shooting and even tonight when I finally saw it on the screen.”
“No, it, I mean, you looked fine.”
She slammed her palms on the table, causing him to jump. “Great! Thanks Marsius, you just helped me make my decision to have the roast duck and not just the garden salad.” Marsius started laughing. “Hey don’t laugh; you don’t know what it’s like to have to mentally figure out how many hours in the gym the meal you’re eating is going to cost you.”
Marsius thought about all the cookies he had eaten since joining Dawn Patrol. “Oh I think I might have an idea.” He said.
When they were through with dinner she moved the candles and centerpiece to the side of the table. “Well Marsius, we have at least three premiere parties we’re supposed to put in an appearance at.”
“I know, I was told it would be a long night for us.”
“Except I don’t want to. I have a better idea, let’s go back to my place.” She said and she stood up and grabbed his hand. “Come on, they always let me slip out the back.” Thirty minutes later he was seated at small simple and cozy pine table in her kitchen as she set down a silver serving tray with a pot of coffee and two large slices of cheesecake. She pulled out a chair and passed him a coffee cup and poured for him.
“Don’t tell my agent you saw me eating this or she’ll go nuts.” She said squirting a huge pile of whipped cream on her slice. She took a big forkful of cake and said. “So tell me all about your home galaxy and the Kairin-Earth Alliance.”
A week later
The new offices of the Lowenfield agency were considerably larger than the two room office they had originally occupied. They had upgraded their furniture to new leather couches in the waiting area, new artwork on the walls and a low oak table with assorted reading material for clients. Mark had also added two new staff members, both of them women and both them equally as attractive as his receptionist, Donna. Marsius allowed himself a slight chuckle and grin as he thought to himself that Mark seemed to have a penchant for hiring beautiful young women for his staff. He sat patiently in one of Mark’s new leather office chairs waiting for him to finish a phone call. He hung up and stood up from behind the new massive oak desk that graced his office. Mark Lowenfield wasn’t a tall man and he almost looked like a child playing ‘grown up’ behind the desk. Mark crossed over to a new mini refrigerator, yet another new upgrade to his offices pulled out two cold cans of Mountain Dew and handed one to Marsius.
“Well, you made quite an impression on Sandy Dell.” Mark said sitting back down behind his desk.
“Oh?” Marsius popped open his soda, took a long swallow.
“Yes sir, she called me personally to tell me she had a lovely evening, that you were a very charming gentleman, and the she’d be more than happy to do any publicity work for you and the KEA.”
“I’m happy to hear that. Ms. Dell was very receptive to what I had to say about KEA and our goals for it.” Marsius said. Mark nodded his head, leaned back in his chair. “Well listen, I’m glad you came by. I have some things I want to go over with you.” He grabbed a piece of paper from his desk, scanning it. “I’m glad you sent me this breakdown on the Star Brigade and the officer ranks. Now, the way I understand it, Crimsonstar is actually, or was, your rank in the Brigade, and that you took it as your hero code name?”
“It seemed a logical choice at the time.” Marsius said.
“And you said you were recently promoted to, uh….” Pausing to read down the letter. “Ah, to the rank of Pulsar?”
“That’s correct, yes.”
Mark set the paper back down on his desk, leaned back up. “So are you going to change your registration with City Hall?”
“I haven’t given it much thought, honestly.”
“Good, don’t” Mark said, pulling out another paper from the assorted piles on his desk. “I’ve run some public opinion polls, and while the Crimsonstar name met with an eighty-five percent recognition and approval rating, they hated the Pulsar Denthar name. Now I totally understand it’s a rank of office, much like, say, Captain Smith, or Major Jones, what have you, but people identify with simple, easy to remember hero names. And since our goal here is to get you more identifiable with the public, the Crimsonstar name, well, to be frank, it sells better.” Mark looked at Marsius studying his face to judge his reaction. To his surprise Marsius smiled and laughed.
“It’s okay Mark, you can wipe the worried look off your face. I’ve already had several close people tell me that it’s confusing to them as well. One said that they think of me as Crimsonstar and have a hard time when I mention other Crimsonstar’s in the Brigade. So yes, I’ll still be operating, at least in a heroic capacity, as Crimsonstar.” He said.
Mark nodded but still had a slightly worried look on his face. “Okay then, well, um, about your last name. You told me that despite it’s spelling, it’s pronounced Dent-Har, not the common DenTHar as one would imagine. Now the problem is, despite all our best efforts to stress the proper pronunciation of your last name, it’s going to be a hard hurdle for the general populace to get over.”
Again Marsius chuckled and held up his hand to cut off Mark’s next words. “I know, I know, we’ll go with DenTHar, It won’t be a problem. I had this discussion with Ms. Dell the other week on our date and she told me that part of being in the public eye is letting them have certain concessions. She told me it is common practice for many celebrities to change their names and that I should consider myself in the same position. Did you know her real name is Sandy Delhomme? Her agent advised her to change it.”
Mark sat up straight, his eyes widening in surprise. “So you’re okay with it?” he asked.
“It’s been mispronounced for the last six years, I might as well accept it. Besides, it’s growing on me. Maybe I’m becoming more acclimated to Earth than I suspected.” He said, and held up his Mountain Dew can as further proof.
“Well damn, I’m going to send you on more dates with Hollywood starlets if this is going to be the result.” He said and winked. “Okay, now then.” He tossed the opinion poll to the side and grabbed a small red binder. “I have here the complete listing of delegates and countries that make up the United Nations Security Council. I think one of our next steps is to have you address them and present the KEA agenda and the goals it wishes to accomplish working with all of Earth’s governments. I want you to take the material and……..Marsius, what’s wrong?” Mark said, stopping mid sentence to notice that now Marsius was the one with the worried look on his face.
“I may not be welcome at the UN, I’m afraid.” Marsius said. Mark relaxed his hand holding the UN binder, letting it rest on the desk as he looked at him. “Why? Are you some kind of horrible dictator that denies his people of basic human rights?” he said jokingly. Marsius let out a heavy sigh, set his soda can down on the desk. “I was hoping, foolishly, that I wouldn’t have to address this, but I secretly knew that I’d have to.” He pointed to the computer on the corner of Mark’s desk. “May I borrow your computer? I have a classified file that I can access here from your office that you need to see.”
Another hour passed as Marsius looked out the office window, his hands resting on the ledge as Mark intently read the file Marsius had pulled up for him. Last summer, having grown tired of jokes and references to him as being a ‘boy scout’ and ‘idealistic’, along with his continued observance of what he believed to be a planet wasting it’s potential, Marsius had set out on a crusade to usher Earth onto a path of betterment.
‘Earth can be so much more if only it’s governments would quit fighting one another and worked together.’ He had said at the time. He had been warned by someone very close to him that Earth had to find it’s own way, when the people were ready to change. Only he had refused to believe it at the time. Marsius argued that what the world needed was someone to step up and take charge and be the catalyst to advance Earth forward.
His crusade started at the United Nations, and when he didn’t get the response he wished there, he then wrongfully assumed that the world had to be changed one nation at a time, and proceeded to then fly to Camp David in an attempt to speak with The President. His visit was met with resistance by the armed forces and Eagle’s Claw, a group of superheroes specifically formed to protect The President from superhuman threats. His battle with them had lasted several hours with significant amounts of property damage to Camp David and had was covered nationally by media at the time of the skirmish. In the end, it was a phone call from a frantic and concerned Alumette who pleaded with the Secret Service agent in charge on the scene that all was not as it appeared, and that Marsius’ intents were not violent.
Marsius was subdued by Eagle’s Claw and as penance for his actions, found himself at the beck and call of the NSA to be sent on sensitive missions for the U.S. government. Later he learned it was only a measure of keeping tabs on his actions. That arrangement had only recently ended.
Mark stood up suddenly after having read the full file and started pacing back and forth in his office. “Shit, shit, SHIT!” he yelled. “I’ve got to get damage control measures in place now!” he said and picked up his phone. “Donna, get me Abby Jenson, now!” he said and practically slammed the phone down. He ran his hands through his hair, took a deep breath. “Okay Marsius, this was a HUGE thing to not have told me, but Abby’s the best spin doctor in the business. Now before I have her start working this, is there anything else like this out there we need to address?”
“No, that is it. I’ve….’straightened up’ since then.” He said, not looking at Mark but still watching the city. He finally turned around to look at him. “I would understand if you wish to release me and KEA as your client.” He said. Mark just gave a small nod and dismissive wave of his hand. “Well, I’m not going to that far, just, don’t leave anything out again, deal?” He went to back to his desk, started to rummage through his desk drawer. “I’ve got to start rearranging the schedule of your appearances till we get this mess handled….”
His words were cut off by a loud ‘FWASH’ sound outside and they both turned to see the pale blue energy field of the war walls drop. Then, the city echoed with a loud, horrendous alarm. Mark stepped up to the window to look out with Marsius. “What the hell is that?” he asked.
“A sound I haven’t heard in six years, and was hoping to not ever hear again. It’s the city’s early warning system, the Rikti are about to attack.” Marsius said, his hands balling into fists. He felt Mark move back and behind him. “Rikti? You sure?”
“Yes.” He turned around and headed to the door. “Mark, get you and your staff to the building’s basement.” He said running to the stairway to the building’s roof.
(( Continues in the upcoming 2nd Rikti war story ))