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The Heroic Conspiracy of Paragon City

The Hellion, a gang member empowered with magical tattoos that imbued him with infernal demon fire, had been apparently attempting to wrest a purse from the somewhat feeble-looking grandmother all day. They stood in broad daylight on city streets as they engaged in their impromptu tug-o-war over this piece of aged leather with some replaceable knickknacks inside of it. In any other city, this would seem to be a woman bravely (if foolishly) opposing an evil-doer much bigger and nastier than she was. In Paragon City, the City of Heroes, this was something else entirely.

It is a simple, unspoken arrangement between the villains of Paragon City and the citizens. If a member of a villainous group wishes to get into a fight with one of the thousands of costumed superheroes heroes of this city, they need to be caught committing a crime. For this, it would often necessitate inconveniencing a citizen of Paragon City, whose cooperation would be rewarded with not being harmed and possibly being allowed to meet the hero afterward.

The purse snatching is a common crime for low-level hoods to commit. The villain gathers as many friends as they feel is necessary and then proceeds to find a woman carrying a purse. After appearing to ambush the victim in an opportune (highly-visible) location, they start pretending as though they were taking the purse. Back and forth they would tug, for hours if necessary, until a costumed hero arrives. Thug and victim would shout a few lines to get the attention of the hero and, with any luck, battle is joined. It was not uncommon for there to be dozens of purses being stolen, simultaneously, on the same street.

The rules of battle are simple: The hero and villains are free to use whatever powers they have at their disposal in an attempt to defeat each other. Currently, it is considered bad form to uproot street lights or throw cars, but rules of engagement may change over time. At the start of the battle, the victim is free to flee to a safe distance, perhaps in order to thank the hero later. It's considered good form for the victim to pretend they are reporting the crime. It's also considered good form for the hero to pretend they're interested in recovering the purse. Some villains attempt to take advantage of this and pretend to flee with the purse but, upon noticing they are not being chased, will usually return to the scene of the crime to try again. After all, the point was not to get the purse, the point was to start a battle.

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, battles go largely without consequence. Given the astounding efforts of Paragon Public Works it's very difficult to cause lasting damage to small parts of the city. Given time and effort, entire blocks of the city may be restored, such as was the case of the Overbrook district. If the hero is defeated, they are teleported to the nearest medical facility and nursed back to health in seconds. If a (human or derivative human-like creature) villain is defeated, they are teleported to the Ziggurat, a maximum security prison, where they are similarly nursed back to health. This is often considered a boon, as incarceration in the Ziggurat puts them in contact with a vast crime network of criminals who were similarly "arrested". Given that the Ziggurat is perpetually under siege by villainous forces, it was quite poor at actually keeping villains behind bars. Average turnaround time for an incarcerated villain is 2 to 3 days (or in the case of the Outcast leader, Frostfire, 2 to 3 seconds).

Attempting to break this cycle is difficult. Some particularly overzealous participants like to think they're permanently killing their foes. However, short of complete atomization or failure of the city-wide teleportation grid, it's difficult to cause lasting damage thanks to modern Paragon City medical technology. Some villains have taken to attempting to capture heroes, but have yet to come up with a solution to actually contain them. Villains are loathe to resort to killing heroes in captivity for fear that authorities in the Ziggurat may institute a similar policy. Permanent defeat or transformation of heroes or villains is quite rare, even noteworthy. Even mere disappearances of little-known participants usually lead to permanent public landmarks being established.

For the villains, there is often (but not always) ulterior motives to commit a highly visible crimes besides simply to fight. For example, the Vahzilok, a sect of rogue surgeons who seek immortality through stealing the body parts of others, often pretend to be about their grisly business in order to attract heroes. However, given the effectiveness of the Paragon City teleport system, defeated heroes instantly escape the vast majority of the time. The actual goal of the Vahzilok is steal heroic cells of heroic DNA extracted during the battle proceedings. This DNA, once cloned, can be used to forward their agenda or create the necessary parts to stitch together a nearly limitless army of abominations. For other villainous groups, reasons to goad heroes into a fight can extend to testing new battle technology or simply increasing their reputation amongst villains.

Heroes, on the other hand, are mostly interested in fame. It's all very well to be able to fly about and shoot laser beams from your armpits but, unless you actually do something productive with that, nobody cares. The ideal position of a hero is to be a member of a prestigious super group that has amassed enough influence to gain access to even greater power. Then in the event of a major catastrophe (as an invasion from an alternate dimension of aliens) they might just have sufficient power at their disposal to survive.

Such was how the heroism business is conducted daily on the streets of Paragon City.

Writer's Note: This is primarily a piece that plugs a lot of the logical gaps in City of Heroes' plot. Of course, it's secondarily a humor piece. ;)
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