Story: Unknown Hero, Evra Baldinger, and Lauren DeGaine
Writing: Lauren DeGaine
Illustrations: Unknown Hero
Editing: Evra Baldinger
As I stepped out into the dawn haze, my eyes adjusted from the strobing blue darkness of Club Starlight.
It was early, maybe 5am, and I’d spent the whole night trying desperately to talk to the club’s proprietor and resident DJ, Go Ji. Out on the street, the pounding rhythm of her music— Unknown Hero’s music, to be precise— was only slightly muffled by the building’s heavy, sound-resistant walls.
Unknown Hero – Off to the Future
I looked out at the city around me— the city of Arya, my new home. Having been banished from Lunya by Lord Kraven, this place had become my safe-haven.
There I go again, getting carried away with my memories… I should start here:
My name is Lexion Gauge, I’m a private investigator by trade, and I’m in search of the elusive renegade, the Unknown Hero.
I first encountered the enigmatic Unknown Hero on the streets of Lunya, where I stumbled on a strange device that was emitting something I hadn’t heard in so long I’d almost forgotten it existed: music. The object was also inexplicably displaying images of dancing, a form of self-expression that had long-since been banned on my home planet.
As I marvelled at this strange creation, I found myself abruptly restrained in the not-so-loving embrace of General Grattix, one of Lord Kraven’s henchmen. Accused of being responsible for the device, rather than a mere innocent bystander (okay, let’s be real, I’ve never exactly been innocent) I was sentenced to imprisonment or execution.
Being that I’ve never been on Kraven’s good side. I’d resigned myself to living out my days inside a cell, if I was lucky. But Kraven’s daughter, Melody, begged my case for her own mysterious reasons. So, my sentence was reduced to simple banishment.
Which led me here, to Arya, a free city. Still filled with a burning desire to discover more about the figure behind that radical musical device, I went in search of my old friend Go Ji, and found that she had opened Club Starlight.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that Go Ji had connections with the clandestine hero I sought. Forever loyal, Go Ji wouldn’t tell me anything about the Unknown Hero himself. Instead, she set up a meeting with N’ima, the Communications Director of the New Revolt, a group of guerrilla resistors who are interested in opposing Kraven and potentially furthering the mission of the Unknown Hero.
Which brings me back to that early morning on the streets of Arya.
I headed out, walking in the direction of the slowly rising sun, past dark windows and alleyways. Feeling the fatigue of sleep deprivation, but driven— as always— by the promise of unraveling a mystery, I made my way towards the location given to me by Go Ji, about 3 miles northwest from Club Starlight.
Rounding a corner, I found myself on a bright street set against a backdrop of skyscrapers. It was eerily serene, too clean and quiet to be a meeting place for a group of underground revolutionaries— but maybe that was the point.
Warily, I headed to a park halfway down the neatly manicured street. A signpost at the entrance to the park told me I had reached my destination: Undarya Playground. It was surprisingly eerie, empty as it was and covered in early morning light. I saw a still figure resting on a park bench and headed toward her.
“Yeah, that’s me,” I replied hesitantly. For all I knew, she could be a mercenary sent by Kraven to gather evidence supporting his vendetta against me.
Still, there was something familiar about her, as if we were close friends in another life and on another planet. Her ice-white eyes made a stark contrast to the blue-grey of her skin, and although her gaze was piercing, there was a kindness there, too.
“Go Ji told me you’re looking for the Unknown Hero,” she began, a bold opening statement. Not one to beat around the bush, then. Good.
“Yes,” I replied, “Back in Lunya, I was a private investigator. That is, before Kraven banished me for finding one of the Hero’s devices in the street. Do you know anything about him?”
“Not much,” N’ima responded, blinking swiftly, her brow furrowing just slightly to show the faintest hint of vexation. “But we are interested in supporting his cause. Like you, we have a bone to pick with Kraven.”
“Hm… And what about the devices? Why do you think he’s trying to return the knowledge of music and dance to the people of Lunya?”
“Why don’t you ask him that yourself?” N’ima responded, a wry smirk pulling up the corner of her mouth.
It took me a couple of breaths to catch on.
“You mean, you’ve arranged a meeting?”
“Not a meeting,” N’ima said, shaking her head, “A conversation.”
She reached into her pocket and drew out a flat, steel-grey device the size of a paperback book.
“Who set this up?” I asked, in awe that everything was happening so quickly.
“One of our operatives has made contact with the Unknown Hero. But first— what’s your going rate?”
We spent a few mundane minutes hashing out an agreement. The Unknown Hero was of personal interest, so I couldn’t ask for my usual fee. Yet, N’ima knew the value that comes with the kind of dogged resilience we investigators are known for: I knew how to ask the right questions.
She agreed to provide me with her resources and contacts in exchange for full access to any information I discovered.
With that, she activated the small communication device, input a set of coordinates (it didn’t matter if I saw them — the Unknown Hero had been in hiding long enough to know better than have this conversation anywhere recognizable).
I waited for a few breathless moments, the device pinging in my hand. Looking up, I realized with a shock that N’ima was gone. I gazed around, wondering why she would leave just when it was about to get good. Maybe she (rightly) assumed I would do my best work unmonitored, free.
I looked back at the communication device just as a form was beginning to take shape: a dark figure, cloaked in black and set against a backdrop of an ambient blue light that pulsed gently.
“Unknown Hero,” I breathed. This was it.
After we exchanged what could hardly be called pleasantries, brief and guarded as they were, I launched into my first question. The one I had been dying to know.
“Why are you doing this? What is driving you to bring music and dance back to the city of Lunya?”
“It’s quite simple,” he began, his voice a low vibrato that I guessed had been slightly distorted for my benefit, “Music and art are fundamental needs, like food and water. Restricting them is cruel. I want to see that cruelty ended, to see the residents of Lunya come alive with music and art.”
“If these things are so essential, why has Kraven restricted them?”
“Why do tyrants do anything? For power — for control. Freedom of expression leads to freedom of thought, and people might question his rule. If Kraven was to open his mind just a little, I think he might let go of his tight grip on Lunya. But if he doesn’t, I’m willing to fight.”
“But aren’t you afraid of what might happen? Kraven tried to lock me up just for looking at your devices. And I’ve heard through the grapevine he’s sicced The Bounty Hunter on you.”
“Safety is an illusion. When the progression of our people is stunted by Kraven’s choke-hold on expression, are we truly safe now? I’m willing to sacrifice, to take risks to see the people’s liberty returned to them.”
Unknown Hero pauses and grows thoughtful. I am about to interject with more questions when he begins to says something surprising.
“I’m more concerned for those who are willing to fight in my name, but don’t have the training or the technology that I do. People like yourself, and the New Revolt. I may not be discovered, but you’ve already been exiled just for being loosely associated with me.”
I wonder how he knows about my exile, but am not surprised. Instead of pressing the issue, I want to know more about his history, and I ask him where he came from. His answer is succinct.
“I was born on Earth, but I have travelled to many planets.”
He doesn’t elaborate, and I worry he might get cagey if I ask for more personal details, so I shift to the future.
“So… What’s your grand plan?” I ask.
“I should have thought it would be clear by now, Investigator” he says, but I detect a note of humour in his voice. His voice is strong and resonates with conviction as he makes a declaration.
“Even now, more citizens of Lunya are taking up the mantle of this cause. Either Kraven will have a change of heart when he sees that the tide is rising against him, or there will be a revolution. Music and art will be returned to Lunya and we will see the end of the suffering that has resulted from their absence.”
I’ve been an investigator long enough to know when an interview is over, and sure enough, Unknown Hero turns to look over his shoulder and then back to the comm device.
“Goodbye for now, Lexion Gauge. Keep your eyes open and your senses aware, if you want to stay free. And remember: this is a revolution of the spirit, so your strongest weapon is your own self-expression.”
With that, the screen goes dark, and I am left alone in the park with the sun high and hot in the sky. With the Unknown Hero’s words circulating in my mind, intertwining with the memory of Club Starlight’s pulsing rhythms, I stand up, pocket the comm device, and head home.
Read the rest of the Unknown Hero’s tale and discover more music at unknownheromusic.com