Synopsis: Freddy catches up with Black Adam and the two of them discuss the nature of events that have unfolded within and around Kahndaq. At the same time Black Aadam presses Freddy to realize something quite important while advising him that the Wizard is near. While Black Adam continues the defense of Kahndaq (and swift retribution) Freddy heads towards the mountains to see the Wizard.
BLACK ADAM: Standing upon the shore of Dahab, looking out east across the Gulf of Aqaba, one might mistake this portion of the world as a mythical paradise. Turn west and you would certainly believe yourself to be facing the very gates of hell itself. As the land is marked by all the signs of War. Littered across the visible expanse of sand dunes is a veritable wasteland of the battle that has waged non-stop for almost a week. Over turned tanks. Downed fighter planes. Even a capsized boat or two can be seen sticking prominently out from the sand.
It is only by the very grace of the Mother Nature that you can’t quite make out the death toll. In part thanks to the sweeping sands that try as they can to swallow up the dead. Yet also because that has been the only pause in the Warfare. While Bialya is a army of many, Kahndaq is an army of one. Black Adam must pause when he liberates a village, to see to his people’s safety and well-being. In those times, he loses much of the land he has gained as Bialya returns like ants to a picnic. Swarming in to make him re-fight the battle of yesterday, today. That was the mistake he made early on, as he would constantly advance but was unable to stop the multitude of Bialya forces from simply flanking him and getting their foothold once more behind him.
Now it has become a battle of inches. With Adam forced to accept and acknowledge that he must aide his people. Even if that is simply to arm them with the weaponry that Bialya leaves behind in their retreat. What began as a sneak attack, became a blood bath of vengeance, that soon turned in to something far far worse. A nation of Kahndaq that rallies behind the cry of vengeance that Adam raises at each stop.
Today that stop has hit the Gulf of Aqaba. Where the water separates Kahndaq from Bialya. A choice now looms before the Champion. Does he turn North and liberate his people or does he drive across the Water in order to deal with Bialya directly. Every fiber of his being cries out for him to take the fight to them, but the wisdom of Zehuti has for once given him pause.
It is there. Upon the shore of the Aqaba, that he stands looking out across the water when the silence is broken by a harsh voice. “You have been surveying my progress for long enough. Do you intend to join me or make with fancy words in Hope of getting me to follow Solomon’s advice?”
FREDDY: Try as he may to hasten his approach Freddy stopped every so often to help people along the way. He also needed these moments to consider what he would say when he came face to face with Adam. He knew that the King of Kahndaq, it’s champion would only have a few thoughts on his mind. He knew that he was not alone in one of those thoughts. Conner wanted to join him on this path, to take the fight to the Bialyan army, so he could only imagine what Adam’s people would be thinking. They would want vengeance, but vengeance was easy. It could be pull someone in so quickly, but so much about this felt wrong.
No, one could answer why this happened. So many questions surrounded that, but answers were short in supply. Freddy surveyed the area as made his way to the coast. He considered what he saw in the city and what Solomon had shared with him. He also considered what he the politics of all of this. That all played through his mind. He remembered what he shared with Conner, but he held back, because he did not want to be a source of conflict right now. Freddy didn’t know how Conner felt about his father, not really and saying the wrong thing could set a services of events into motion that he may not be ready to or want to hear. Not to mention it was a complex situation, but right now its all that Freddy could think about upon touching down upon the shore of Dahab.
He didn’t announce himself nor did he think he had to, but he gave himself another moment before he stepped forward, but even then Adam addressed him in the only way that Black Adam could trying to deter him from saying something, “Freddyannaish”.
“A world without hope is a world that sustains itself on a diet of fear, despair, and rage. It deserves better than that.” It could not be helped its who Freddy was sometimes.
Look close enough at the sand, past the mechanical debris you would see the bodies, and even more you would find the blood stained sand. Not the first time that this has happened. He doubted that it would be the last.
“I’m not sure. I’m more curious as to what Zehuti shared with you. It must have been enough to stop your assault. An alternate path or paths must stand before you. You are at a crossroads. Press forward or turn back. Do you continue the assault or tend to your people. Warrior or steward and shepherd. Which will you chose for your flock, Adam? Which would Adrianna as you knew her chose? How best would you serve them. As their avenger or as their leader?” Simple questions. Was there some hope in there, perhaps, but fair questions Freddy thought.
“I am here, because I am needed here. It continues. My journey, your journey it continues. I am here to bring this portion of it to a close and hopefully become the person I need to be. The person that the Wizard saw in me. I came, because my friends people are suffering. He is suffering.” Just as one suffering ended another began. “I came to help, but I also came to see. Do you not see it, Adam? History repeating itself. The board is the same. The pieces may be different, the players may be different, but it is all the same. Some choices are new. Some are not. I saw your city. I saw the capital. There is more here at work than the death and carnage that is spread across your land. We’ve been positioned.”
BLACK ADAM: “Mm. A world without Hope, is entirely subjective and you know it. Do not waste my time, nor insult either of our intelligence with such diluted ideals. Hope is something that springs from many sources. Look at the people in Dahab, you can see hope in the eyes from the mere sight of me. The promise of their lives, gives them hope for more. These are an ancient and prideful bloodline of people. Offer them Vengeance and you’ll see as much hope, if not more than you would if you offered them Peace.”
“In short, be Wary of how you speak to me of Hope in Kahndaq, these people and I define Hope far differently than you Captain America.”
For what it is worth, the two of them have made it much further than normal without Freddy being described as Unworthy or being called a Child. In the way of Progress, this is surely a step in the right direction. Even if Adam bridles at the very notion of ‘Hope’ being what Freddy describes it to be. On the other hand, Adam does not even dignify the would-be champion by facing him yet. His stance is staunchly affixed upon the skyline of the Gulf before him. Oddly pondering precisely what Freddy speaks of. At least, mostly the same things.
“Tread carefully, Freeman, I have not stopped yet. Once the wounded of Dahab are evacuated to the United Nation’s medical center, I move again. You are simply correct in intuiting that I am at a crossroads of where to progress upon next.” A hand sweeps out to indicate across the water, to Bialya directly before pointing straight north to the next village where Bialya has itself entrenched. “You speak well, for once, though. We are positioned. Arrayed at the will of an outside force. I do not care for it, much. Zehuti shows me far more than you might imagine. When you are older, if you are able to stop being such a simpering ninny, Solomon will do much the same for you.”
“Bialya is after something. Have you figured out what, yet?”
Finally though Adam turns, his hands now folded behind his back and perhaps for the first time since Freeman has actually known the former Champion? He does not appear to be about to spring in to Hostility. “Freeman, you are not here because of me. Nor my people. Perhaps you ‘Hope’ it were so. Maybe you even believe it to be so, because you’re yet too young to understand. Stop looking at this all with your heart, boy. You are here because -this- is the Trials.”
“They are Broken. This world is Broken. All of this.” Those hands move to open wide and encompass all of Biayla once more. “Every parent who has lost a child. Every child who has lost a parent. Every death in Kahndaq. Is because of you. Because you persist with your Broken Trial, so this ‘Broken World’ alligns itself to test you in the most dire of circumstances it can to prove yourself a Champion of this broken world.”
“You ask me for Zehuti’s Wisdom? There it is. Rail against it, it is natural, but you will not find a reasonable logical argument. All of this is on you, Freeman. Because the Trials must take the form of a test for Champion needed in the world he must protect. This is your crucible, Freeman. Of your own choosing. Thus you must embrace and accept that guilt and then see what sort of Champion that guilt will make of you.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. If you had walked away, the Rock would simply have selected another candidate. Whom would have gotten his own series of Trials and perhaps this would have happened anyway. Perhaps not. But since you brought up choices, I feel it only proper to remind you that you too had a choice. One that kept you walking down the path of these Trials. Your choice,” one outstretched hand shifts to point towards Dahab. “Your consequences, Boy.”
“Listen. Hear the silence of Solomon. He won’t refute my words, that much I promise you. I speak pure Truth in this moment, Freddy Freeman.”
FREDDY: “I am not wasting your time, Adam. Too much going on for me to do that and we’re not sitting around enjoying burgers.” That was truth. “Subjective or not it is how I live my life.” He didn’t want to debate or verbally barb, so he didn’t go into how truth could be subjective so they might be headed into fact. Solomon’s silence could also mean that he could not aid in this choice that he could not influence the decisions that would press Freddy in either direction. It was a choice that Freddy had to make on his own heart or mind or perhaps with them both working together rather than against one another as it could be for another person.
“Yes, this is my Trial. Whether or not this was my destination it is difficult to say, but..” But the Trials has been corrupted as Freddy had been told on more than one occassion. He didn’t shut his eyes but he looked towards the country that lay on the other side of the river.
“I hear your words, but I also have seen with my eyes. The strikes upon your city. So, precise that someone was picking and chosing what they wanted to destroy. Those things of value remained standing. It had nothing of value to someone that didn’t know what to look for. Historical treasures. Riches that people like you and me we concern ourselves about. Treasures that would interest people like the Batson’s. Curious items with links to past that stretches to the very kingdoms of the ancient world before it was ancient. When it was young and new.”
Relics of a long forgotten past by some, but not all, but even then Freddy stood considering his options.
Each step forward Adam took took him away from his people. “Is there a reason why I can’t be here for both? I choose to see them through. Walking away is not an option.”
“I’m not pointing fingers, but perhaps it’s time to put it to rest, to correct what went wrong so long ago. There are so many possibilities, but me and you here. I am here, because the Trials demand it, but is not the only reason why I’m here. What I’m saying is that this is personal. Someone is striking out at you at what matters most to you. What you hold dear. Your people. It’s killing all the birds with this one stone.” Freddy sighed.
“I have a decision to make, but let me say this and you can call me a fool if you like. Not that you won’t, but. There’s a fear in the pit of my stomach that you’re here. That you pushing the line back is a distraction, that this effort to draw you away from the capital is purposeful. You have given protection of the city away to outsiders.” He wet his lips.
“You were forced into a position where you had not choice to and the continued assaults draw away attention from some who may not be as altruistic as they seem to hunt for what your enemies are after. To go to the buildings who stand to seek out what they want with no one any the wiser. I have no doubt that Bialya is after this themselves surely they have to know of the items that are being sought, but this is very much a proxy situation.”
He took a deep breath. He could be overthinking it. “Nth metal. Whether they are in search of it. Knowledge of it. It the only thing that connects it. Something specific. Something that trails into the past that provides a power that would interest several parties. Including the ones that you welcomed through the gates. Not everyone, but those who have been instructed what to search for. That is a concern a fear.” Perhaps he was wrong, but who else could he voice it to.
“Broken trial. Broken world. Perhaps it’s time to fix what was broken. I persist, because I must, because the world is not a neat and tidy place. Horrible things happen, but it doesn’t mean you give up and go home. My Trial presents itself as it should be to prepare me for all that I will face in the days to come. Good. Bad. Ugly. What they after I have some idea. Why? Not completely clear, but clear enough. Clear enough for me to know they must be stopped” That much was true. That much he knew.
“If it is my crucible then I shall walk through the fire. If I have opened the door then the door is open. I shall go through. My choices have wrought many things. Some good. Some bad, but that is our world. Some good. Some bad. Suffering. Pain. Hope. It is not one thing or the other. It is all these things. I shall fight for all these things. I shall fight for a better tomorrow, because I have chosen to do so. This day was made the moment I said yes, I accept the challenges. If I turn away then that is the guilt that would consume me. All who have fallen, who have died, whose blood stains the sand deserve better. They deserve someone that will fight for this broken world, not because hope blinds me. It tells, it shows me the world that could be and I will fight for that world no matter what.” He tapped off the ground.
“Even if it is the death of me. I accept the responsibility of the choices that I have made. The death and destruction that it has caused. It will not deter mine. You’re right and wrong Teth-Adam. I am not only here because of the Trials. I am here for them. I am here for you. I am here for your people. I am here for me. I am here for the possibility of a better tomorrow. Of a world that is not as broken as they day it was before. As sentimental as it may be. It is who I am. It is the Champion that I wish to be. I fight for both the dead and the living. Every day is a trial. Perhaps that’s it. The trials never end. One victory does not fix what is broken. It may never get easier, but life isn’t easy, and it is hardly fair.”
BLACK ADAM: “You prattle like a baby bird, squawking for it’s mother to feed it. Unaware of the way it’s wings could carry it to food of it’s own merit.”
To the entirety of everything that Freddy has said? There is but a snort, that comes at the cost of simply looking down a very hawklike, imperious nose. Well muscled arms close slowly across his chest, a signal of finality. Of what is yet uncertain. “Even in this Age, I am amazed at the propensity for so many words to spill from one person’s mouth. Do they teach you to blather at school? It is a talent most of your fellow children seem to exude.”
“Allow me to cut to the chase, Free Man.”
“You are not here for me. If you truly believe you are, then you deceive yourself. You are here because of a construct of the Trial you face. Trials, plural. If you are deceiving yourself then you cannot pass your Trial. Which means all the harm your Trial has wrought upon Kahndaq, is equally unforgivable and unacceptable. So let us be clear upon this topic. Continue to speak to me of ‘being here for me,’ and I am going to beat such nonsense from you. War, Country and World be damned. Do you understand me, Free Man? Speak of that ignorance not a single time more to me.”
“Also. You delude yourself, in to thinking that I am blinded by my Rage. I am aware of what Bialya seeks. As I am also aware of what other seek. Though I did not need to see a pattern. Nor did I need to do the work of a detective and sleuth it out.” Those folded arms and imperious look remains even as Adam begins to drift above the sand in to the air. “As my rage carried me across the desert sands, I realized that the forces being put in play against me were being used to stall me. There are but four true resources in Kahndaq and I suspect you need not Solomon to tell you it isn’t our abundance of Sand. Our History and the relics thereof. Our people and the labor force they might represent.”
“The only other thing of value in this land, is the meteor that landed here so long ago.”
“Given that Bialya seems to care little for taking slaves, given the sheer loss of life sustained by my people. It was either the Relics or the Meteor. Quite frankly, the two resources overlap in many ways. A good many relics of Kahndaq’s past are born from the Meteor. I suspect that is why certain villages have been taken, instead of razed to the ground. Certain sites left untouched, more or less, other than looting. But by and large, Bialya is stalling. Buying time to search and locate. Thus they have attacked like very angry bees. Swarming the honeycomb.”
A single hand lifts, allowing Freddy to see that Adam is pointing towards the Mountains behind him. However the next thing he says actually seems to have nothing at all to do with what he’s pointing at. “Free Man, you’re missing small pieces of the puzzle. So, tell me. And for the love of the Gods, all of them. Try to answer me in a single syllable word for once. Yes or No. You know this is your Trial. Therefor you know that interference from outside, will mean you fail. I can tell you the answers. Send you directly where you need to be. You can end all of this killing, this War, the rape and pillaging.”
“All you have to do is say yes and I’ll give you the answers you’re looking for in this riddle of the Gods.”
FREDDY: Freddy Freeman was a team player. He always had been as long as he could remember. Despite the fact that he is currently being dressed down by Adam, because of his prattle is nothing new. It happens…all the time, but when he speaks he says things for a reason. It gives him a chance to empty his head, clear it out to get all the thoughts racing inside of his head. There was no chance to sit down and have a burger and talk things through to get all of his concerns out so Adam was his sounding board despite the fact that Adam was having none of it, but at least he let Freddy get it all out.
Of course that lead him to watching as Adam move and spoke. Attacking like bees and a honeycomb. That was a very specific analogy for you know the desert, which Freddy tucked away while he watched Adam’s hand. He considered for a second everything that unfolded. The precision strikes. The change in performance by the Bialya army.
He had a thought, but he had to put it aside as everything was laid out for him. He could end this, end all the suffering and death by accepting help. Freddy never turned away help. Sometimes you can’t do it alone. Yet despite the fact that Adam put it out there if he accepted any outside help then he would fail the trial…trials it wasn’t failing that Freddy focused on.
His mind and his heart were currently pulling in different directions. He thought about what he said and what Adam said. It was an easy choice. Yes, to get the answers and end this, but he would fail.
Fail. He wouldn’t be champion. That should propel him towards no, because he wanted to be the champion, which was selfish. It’s how the heart played it and the mind. They were together on this if not for something that Adam said and Freddy said.
Freddy chose this. Adam said not to delude himself as to why he was here. He was here because of the Trial. If he said yes he would have the answers, but he immediately absolves himself.
Of the guilt.
Pain. Suffering. Good. Bad. Ugly. Hope. Victory. Loss. As powerful as champions were they were not omnipotent. They had limits. Mistakes would be made. They must be able to carry the pain of those mistakes and continue to fight on. Never forgetting. Yes is easy. It wasn’t the color that drained from Freddy’s face as he lowered to the ground. It wasn’t the weight of guilt, but the gravity of the choice he made. Red pill. Blue pill.
Yes was the blue pill. He got the answers handed to him. It ends, but did it really?
No was the red pill. He wouldn’t wake up. He wouldn’t walk away. He would see it through to the end and fought for the answers. The pain. suffering would continue. The pillaging, the raping, the thefts.
Yes right? It had to be yes!
“No.” He swallowed that red pill. He could feel a tightness in his chest. What had he done?
Freddy glanced up into Adam’s eyes. He knew what it meant. It was like saying yes all over again. If he told Adam yes then he was running away. There was nothing easy about the yes.It would not make things better, but it would provide a quick resolution..maybe, but Freddy would have benched himself. No more blood on his hands.
He looked at his hands and for a moment before tuning his eyes back up to Adam. The Trial would continue. It was not enough to acknowledge the choice. He must own the choice. He said he would step into the crucible. He shut his eyes for a second time thinking about what happened at the first Bank of Fawcett City. What happened in Metropolis. What happened in the ruins of Coast City and now what happened in Kahndaq. What was happening to it’s people, it’s land, it’s people. Adrianna. Conner. Possibly Cassie and anyone else that got involved willingly or unwillingly.
Yes. The blue pill. Just take it. Take back the no.
That’s what any rational person would do right?
No, he couldn’t do that. He could not nullify the choice that was mad so many months ago. Right or wrong wasn’t playing into this. It was about have the strength to live with the choice that had been made and to see it through. To finish it. To carry the blood with you to the end and beyond.
So, there would be no do over. No take backs. He gave Adam his answer. None of it would be in vain.
BLACK ADAM: Through all of this inner turmoil that the would-be Champion is going through, Black Adam is completely silent. Monolithic in his silence, in fact. It isn’t all that hard to figure, that the man is watching Freddy through a pair of eyes that have been on the opposite side of these discussions. Yet, if Freddy thinks that might merit him even a mild amount of empathy? He is wrong.
“Now you understand, Free Man. This is what it means to be a Champion of the Gods. You will be faced with impossible decisions almost every day. You won’t always make the right choice. Somehow, some way, you are going to need to stop talking about hope and start learning to how to cope with the weight of your decisions. Because each one you make will come at the cost of a part of you. Hope can make you stronger, it can drive you, but it cannot comfort you. At night. When you must close your eyes and come to terms with the cost of your decision.”
“For once, I mean no harm when I say this,” by this point Adam has actually halted his ascent and has turned almost casually toward the North and the next encampment. “You’re this creature of Hope and Kindness. Yet now. Every single time you look in to the eyes of my people, Free Man, you must mentally come to terms with the fact that you’re responsible for their pain. Your reasons for making that choice are your own, but how many people in this world would understand that you made your choice for a good reason? How many of them would instead believe your decision was based upon nothing more than your own benefit?”
“Now, you’re going to immediately try to reason. To justify. Yet that is just more blathering bird chirps. Words mean little to people who hurt because of a decision you’ve made. Your justification does not always measure up to their pain and that is the burden of a Champion. You will be judged, not on your own merit. Not on your own justifications. Simply upon what others perceive.”
“That and that alone, will eventually determine whether the eyes of the people see you as a Champion. Or simply Black Free Man.”
FREDDY: Free Man. Free will? Freddy, had nothing to add when Black Adam started speaking. Gods are revered and reviled, sometimes in the same breath. To be Champion meant that it would be something that Freddy would have to learn to live with. His choices whatever they may be could bring hope to some and despair to others. The end of the day the battle may be won, but at what cost. Right now all he could think about was what happened at the high school and all the children.
He had to soldier on, find a way to keep going to bring it to an end no matter the cost, because that is what was necessary. Did he cling to hope yes, did he strive to inspire others yes to draw it out of him, yes. Perhaps that was why, because on some level he knew that sometimes he would have to make the choices that others could not. He was the Champion of six gods and hope wasn’t something that most of them were known for. They inspired it,but they didn’t go out and market themselves on it, but he got it, he understood it.
Did he accept it? Freddy didn’t know, because there was something inside of him that wouldn’t let go. He could take everything that Adam said and move forward, but he also had to remember is that they looked…they sought a champion for a reason. Adam said that he would look for a way to reason, but it didn’t make it any less true? That one of the reasons a human such as himself was sought out was for those traits that may not be inherent to the gods to themselves.
That Hope and Kindness is something he brought to the mix?
He did not feel any harm or slight by what Adam said he would do what he always did when he spoke with Adam. He would take it to heart and learn from what was shared.
True facts. Black Adam didn’t have to say anything. He could pass judgement in silence yet he didn’t. He shared his opinion whether they were solicited or they weren’t. On some level he was paying it forward. Or Freddy was being a optimist in overdrive, but seriously he had no reason to share the information, his insights.
There was only one thing that Freddy could say to all of that.
“Thank you.” Like he told the others once. His relationship with Adam was complicated.
BLACK ADAM: “I will accept your thanks, but only because you will remember this day as the moment you regret most in your life.”
There is a kindly shrug before Adam begins to turn away. It is almost floating that he does, in moving away from Freddy. He does not shoot off at ultra sonic speeds, but drifts in the direction of the North. Almost aimlessly, because while he has made a decision it seems on where to progress next, he does not entirely seem committed to the act.
“Your choice has been made, Free Man. But making a choice is not nearly the same as confronting and genuinely facing the consequences of it. The Wizard tells me that is why you are here.” A glance, thrown back across one shoulder, one thin brow lifted as imperiously as any other. “I told you, Free man. I know far more than you think. You never did find your Wizard did you? Perhaps you should look to the Mountains.”
“Or you can follow me and keep the Blood Shed to a minimum. Life is full of choices.”
FREDDY: It is not the first time that Adam had motioned to the mountains. However, it is the first time that he mentioned the Wizard. The fact that he spoke with the Wizard made Freddy consider what he might say to the Wizard. Was there anything to say? Would the Wizard even want to see him? Perhaps it would delaying the inevitable?
Freddy thought about the boy he saw when everything came to an end in Coast City. He hadn’t shared that with anyone, but now, he had another choice to make. He was ready to walk through the fire.
“I’ll catch up,” he replied. Adam was doing what he had to based on the choices that Freddy had made. There was no changing that. Freddy didn’t know if he had questions for the Wizard. However, this would come to an end one way or another. Moving into the air Freddy turned towards the mountains. It was time to start facing the consequences. With that Freddy moved in the direction of the mountains.
Synopsis: War breaks out in the Kahndaq. Freddy is roused from slumber to be told the Final Trials have begun. Getting caught up on what’s happened Freddy calls Cassie to let her know he’s headed to Kahndaq. Sometime later he arrives in Kahndaq and is brought up to speed by Conner. Afterwards Freddy makes the decision to catch up to Black Adam after getting a sense of what’s happening in the city.
STORYTELLER: Kahndaq: It begins with the roll of thunder over a land that rarely sees a storm.
^Sire! Come quickly.^
People do not summon a King, they are summoned. Such is the first thought to enter the mind of Adam. Who’s sleeping form roused long before the servant broke through the curtains surrounding his sea of pillows. The women who litter his chambers also rouse, but none speak. Their place is known and the silence is assured, except at times when they’re encouraged to break it. That fight or flight instinct was in play in the man before his servant’s voice rang out, but it is squarely in the corner of ‘fight’ once he’s heard the man’s tone.
^What madness drives you to…
^Quickly, Sire! They’re …^
That is when the first explosion rocks the palace. Debris crashes in from all angles. Instantly the serenity that was Adam’s chambers is thrown in to complete chaos. A second explosion sends his chamber maidens scrambling as the danger overtakes their senses. That second explosion is followed by a third, a fourth, then the number is endless. Completely lost in the brutality of the assault.
In the ensuing madness of of napalm bathed flames, keen eyes might find the sight of Adam. Swathed only in silken robe, crouched over the fallen form of the man who had come only moments before to summon him. The body lays crumbled amidst the rubble of the bedroom’s entry way. Blood stains Adam’s hand for only a moment, before a single word slips from his lips.
^^ – Translated from an ancient dialect of Egyptian.
Today, while standing on the White House Lawn, President Lex Luthor announced a joint task force of several major powers within the United Nation’s Security council would be answering the urgent call from war torn Kahndaq. This comes nearly 24 hours after the initial, unannounced, surge of attack made by Bialya on their neighbors. Hailing the attack on Kahndaq as heinous and uncalled for, President Luthor clarified that this would be a joint task force of Peace Keepers. His clarification was made when pressed for what his authority was to send troops, without an official Declaration of War approved by Congressional vote.
“We are not sending soldiers. We’re not deploying the armed forces. We are taking part in a special task force, sanctioned by the United Nations, aimed solely at restoring peace to the area and putting a stop the senseless loss of life.”
Less than four hours after the announcement news crews were finally able to report in real time. Videos began to make the local, national and world news. Images depicting the Canadian hero known to his people as ‘Freight Train,’ and the French born Firehawk and a woman of Italian descent, mostly known outside of Italy for her amazing operatic talents Alessandra Fermi, the Diva, are shown to the world arriving. Unsurprisingly it is the arrival of the blue and red sigil of Superman that is most touted though. Reporters would suggest that many others can be counted among this vaunted task force, each with their own special ability to render assistance.
Soon after that the ‘Humanitarian Aid’ begins with the Red Cross being covered by the task force. Medical assistance and recovery crews are the first to be brought in and kept safe by those heroes. It isn’t long before the task force is tested in it’s resolve to assist, by new attacks from the Mediterranean Sea based naval vessels of Bialya. Camera crews are able to get amazingly clear shots of the team taking to the field, but only to employ non-lethal force in disarming both troops and entire vessels themselves.
On the third day of the attack on Kahndaq, the Capital City of Shiruta experiences the first full hour without the sound of exploding bombs tolling the new noon-time hour. By this point the City is in ruins. The Red Cross tent-hospitals are overflowing with injured. At least three time that number lay dead in the street or beneath tons of rubble. With only seeming handful of people avoiding both injury or death. The sheer numbers rolling in to the major media sources are staggering.
One news clip begins to make it’s rounds on the news outlet, a small but poignant exchange between the Superman and Kahndaq’s failed champion.
“They run, it is time for us to press back,” in spite of the terrible losses he’s face, Black Adam sounds confident and almost shockingly superior.
“We will, but first we need to make sure the people here are safe from reprisals.”
“They will safe when every man with a gun, is driven from our land…” it is almost as if Adam realizes in the middle of his own words, that he is taking the wrong tact and adjusts.”.. if we allow them time to dig in it will take twice the effort to dig them out later…”
“I agree, but we’re here to restore peace my friend. Listen. You hear that? That silence is the sound of peace.”
“Peace?! All that I hear is fear. They run now. Afraid of fighting against those who might fight back. Now is the time to pursue them. To remove them from Kahndaq.” His impassioned plea ends with a very pointed message, as he spreads his hands wide to the toppled city before him. “…to avenge the dead”
“Adam,” the Canadian born Freight Train, with his larger than life personality matched only by his sheer size, finally speaks. “Before you avenge the dead, let’s help the living stay that way, man…”
It is clear, even before Adam’s hand swiftly takes hold of the camera he’s only just noticed, that he is bridling from the ‘Task Force’s’ response. But whatever the response he makes, is hidden beneath the crumbling of the camera’s lense. Shortly there after, the sound of silence is once more broken.
This time it is Kahndaq that attacks. The fury of Black Adam unleashed upon soldiers that were seemingly retreating. This time there are cameras to capture the destruction in living color.
“…Freddy wake up…”
The voice in Freeman’s head is as real as anything he’s ever head. The voice is the same as one he’s heard a hundred times before. It was last heard when he stood in the presence of the Wizard. Though it sounds the same as ever, it is also different. Softer. Less strained. Yet there’s is that foreboding sense of danger that lingers upon whether Freddy does as he is told.
When his open finally, the television that was not on when he went to bed is on. The local news is playing footage labeled as ‘Breaking World News.’ A man at some news desk, somewhere, is talking about footage that is playing over his shoulder. It could be a scene out of any old War movie you might have seen as a kid. Tanks rolling through the desert. Bullets and rockets that look more like lasers on the low quality cameras they’re being filmed on.
“… and in a stunning move Bialya that has shaken the United Nations and most of the world. The Sovereign Country of Bialya declared a state of War on their neighbor Kahndaq. What’s most shocking, is that this declaration was made after a suprising air raid on the Kahndaqian governments Palace….”
anchor’s telecast is interrupted then by the scene over his shoulder changing once more. Whomever was the cameraman, he was trying in vein to keep up with the action happening right in front of him. Even the shaky hand of a novice is able to see the Lightning bolt that crashes down upon a tank division. The explosion kicks up sand in all all directions. Abruptly ending the footage.
“…Kahndaq’s self-appointed ruler, Theo Adam, was quick to respond to the attack. Reports are slim, but we’ve been able to show you only brief footage. President Luthor is expected to make an official statement, but in the name of World Peace, the United Nations has implored the President to act swiftly in the face of the likely super-human war-fare that …”
“…the final trials have started Freddy…”
“…is expected. Given the nature of Kahndaq’s ruler, analysts are calling this failed assassination of Black Adam a grave miscalculation on behalf of Bialya. Those same analysts expect that the attack itself may have been aimed specifically at drawing that very response…”
FREDDY: Since the events, that had Freddy crisscrossing the nation had passed to put an end to an out of control goddess who nearly unleashed a power hungry god Freddy spent time getting acquainted with his new colleagues, but he could not spend as much time as he would have liked learning more about them, because there was work to do. No, there was no threat to steel himself against and fight, no there was healing to be done and none of it could be expedited with wishes or words of power. The healing that Freddy participated in was much like what he did in Metropolis when he, Cassie and Wally went about cleaning up the disaster that the museum had become.
However, for Freddy it went further than clearing debris and rubble and planting flowers. There were people to console, people to meet and speeches to give about the fallen, the dead. People whose lives had been lost in what had been horrible tragedies. Tragedies that could have been avoided, should have been. Life was far from back to normal. While some had to deal with the horrors of humanity the people of Fawcett City had to deal with so much more.
He knew that NOWHERE had come through to deal with the events of the bank and he knew what had been reported about what happened at the school with the explosion of the boiler that killed so many, he knew the truth. He also knew the truth of how many fine offices of the FCPD lost their lives.
There were memorials and funerals, periods of mourning that were going on to this day. There were people coming together and those that withdrew from the world. To be frank Fawcett City had lost some of its pep. A dark cloud hung over the city one that was draped in lies, but lies that were necessary if such a thing existed.
Despite everything that was to come home is where Freddy needed to be, not only to help protect Fawcett City, but to help it move past one of the darkest days. How many more dark days would it have to endure. It lost its favorite son already and now they had lost so many more. It lost the future with the population of children being decimated. They had their lives torn from them. All Freddy could think was it was better for their families to think that it was an accident than for them to know the truth that they had been turned into living horrors to do the biding of biding of a goddess that had gone mad.
One step a time. It’s how they did it, one state a time. The people of Fawcett City got knocked down a lot, but they always got up and they did it together. This was not something they could get through alone, so Freddy did what he could, which wasn’t easy, because even if he appeared as Shazam, there was the difficult question of, “Where were you?” followed by. “Why weren’t you here?”
Freddy was pushed into a room, protected by Chief Callaghan. A move the deposited him into the Metropolis Library. He had to face them and accept their anger, pain and resentment at failing to protect that which was most precious. He could not divulge what happened without creating additional pain. Complicating matters was not what he wanted to do
They did not want his platitudes or excuses. Some did not want to hear he would do better or that he was merely one person. That didn’t want to hear it, they couldn’t hear it. No one wants to hear that. Still he stood there and took it as Shazam, because it was the right thing to do. They were due their pain, their anger, their outrage. They were entitled to it. They needed someone to be the target then he would be that too, because only then could the path to healing begin.
They were difficult days, with difficult weeks ahead, but they could only move forward, not back. Memorials would be erected for the fallen. Including a statue for the mystery hero that allowed for their to be survivors. It was that opening that allowed Shazam to let people know that there will always be people who rise to help.
He considered divulging the identy of the individual, but rather than create an international incident he simply called him a ‘friend’. Someone who was here when he couldn’t be. Someone who acted when he couldn’t. Friend of Fawcett, that is how he referred to him. It was the best he could offer, because to saying they had a complicated relationship was an understatement. He was an arrogant ass, but an honorable one. His alter ego was more amenable. Either way Freddy found him to be like anyone else that walked the earth a complicated, complex individual that he admired on some level, but also knew he had to be watched.
Where Adam challenged and pushed Freddy. Freddy sought to retrain him. To encourage his more noble traits. He was certain Adriana was better suited at that, but there’s was a shared history. Literally given all that Freddy had experienced. It was these thoughts that sent considered along all that he learned upon passing the Trials of Courage and Strength.
Every night it was the same dream the one where he saw the little boy that told him to call forth his name. To take it for himself. Every night he replayed the conversation, remembering the warning, but this night it was different. This night there was a whisper, one that grew louder until Freddy’s eye shot open.
Throwing off his covers his hand moved to his forehead which throbbed a bit. The whisper he heard in his mind was not that of Solomon but another, one that had been missed. “Wizard?”
Padding over towards the glow and sound of the television which he distinctly remembered turning off he cleared the sleep from his eyes until what the newscaster said and the crawl of words along the bottom of the screen register.
Bialya. Kahndaq. Attack. Palace. Explosion.
Theo. “Theo.” He said softly as the whisper returned. As the newscast continued he knew exactly what happened. He didn’t need to see he didn’t need speculation. If they were attacking Kahndaq then it’s defender would respond.
The final trials had begun. There was only one trial left and it in the balance were lives too numerous to count, but even as that sunk in another fact sunk in. The United Nations wanted Luthor to act. Not that Freddy knew the inner workings of administration completely, but it involved a superhuman. One that could easily subdue all others. He was on par with the Wizard’s previous champion.
“Conner.” Conner equals Cassie. Either way it could quickly involved the two of them one way or another. “Cassie.” Modern Day Adam and Isis. He couldn’t let his mind go there, not yet.
He needed to intervene. He had to. Did he know what he was getting into. No. What if it was similar to with what happened with Hercules. Why would Bialya attack Kahndaq? It should matter, but did he have time? That was the question. However, there was only one way he could star to answer that question and more. It begin with a word.
Freddy had to tell Wally several times that he was not going to use the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers jingle as my ring tone for the group. No matter how cool he thought it would sounded and was, it was not happening. Regardless of what his ringtone for the others was going to be he did agree that it should be something different from everyone else, but they should avoid matching ringtones if they could help it.
He was preparing to depart. Destination? Kahndaq.
Freddy stepped out on the back porch ready to leave, but there were a few things he needed to do before he could leave. With the phone in his hand he began dialing. He didn’t know what he would say actually. Oddly enough all he could remember was the conversation about ringtones that was held. Wally said they should use the Power Ranger jingle. Freddy was decidedly against that. It made sense that they would want a ring that was specifically for them, but it wasn’t going to be the Power Ranger theme. At least not for Freddy, but right now he hoped Cassie and Wally were listening.
Either way he dialed them both and left a message, because he needed to let them know what was going on. He didn’t know what it would happen, really.
“Cassie, I’m pretty sure you’re aware of what’s going on. Long story short. I know what I’ve seen on TV. Kahndaq’s under attack. Don’t know why. Reports aren’t saying why. I do know it’s going to put Adam in a bad spot if people think he’s being unreasonable. This can go pear shape fast. There’s another bit of business. The Wizard spoke to me. He told me it’s the Final Trial. I don’t know everything I’m walking into, but if it’s anything like Isis someone’s still trying to manipulate everything including Adam.”
Possibly even Freddy.
“I can’t really say what will happen, and I now it’s my trial, but I’m also worried about Adam. I don’t know if you can get involved, but if there is something you can do I ask that you try and help the people of Kahndaq. Get them out of harms way.” The message beeped. He knew that was going to happen.
Redialed. “It’s me again. See if Wally is willing to help. I’m not asking either of you to engage. Fighting wars totally creates the wrong message, but helping people that’s what we want to do right? I just didn’t want either if you to think that I was cutting you or thinking I can do it alone.” They all had to do what they could right? “I’m going to call Wally and leave a message for him to reach out to you.” Did he even mention Conner?
“I’ll try to call you soon. If I get service.” He ended the second call and put in call to Wally.
“Hey, it’s Freddy. I’m heading to Kahndaq. Contact Cassie. She’ll get you up to speed, but if you can the people there can use your help to get them out of the combat zone. Talk to you soon.” Brief and to the point.
With that out of the way Freddy tapped off from the ground in to the air so he could get to Kahndaq as quickly as the speed of Mercury would carry him through the air. He wanted to tug on Solomon, but right now he needed to keep his head as clear as he could.
––Sometime later after arriving in Kahndaq––
FREDDY: Freddy wasn’t part of the sanctioned group gathered together to combat the army and navies of Bialya, but he could help get Kahndaqians out of the combat area. He could do that, but he also needed to find Theo. Theo he felt could be reasoned with. Black Adam, well he was pretty sure that his self-confidence could take the hits.
Upon reaching the Kahndaq’s airspace the empowered champion began scanning the area to take in what was happening. It was now that he pushed back the emotions choosing to lean on Solomon so he didn’t let himself be overwhelmed by the horrors below. He need to see where he was needed. He couldn’t ignore what was happening in front of him. The people couldn’t be forgotten but he also needed to make sure that Black Adam didn’t take it to the extreme.
CONNER: It wasn’t all that long ago, less than a week in fact, that Shiruta was a beautiful place. No, it is not one of the modern marvels of the world. You wouldn’t have found a sprawling skyscraper with some corporate logo, but you could have seen some of the most beautifully hand-sculpted statues. The people here paid homage to the past, while living in the present, with only a mindful thought towards tomorrow.
While Shiruta was not some idyllic paradise in the desert, it was a thing of wonder. In the years since it’s last Dictator was overthrown the small country had begun a sort of renaissance of the arts. Discovering the beauty in simple things, it’s people went about their days in relative obscurity from the rest of the world but they did it in peace and relative prosperity. While you wouldn’t get a good cell phone signal in most of the country, you wouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble finding one in Shiruta. In the last couple of years it begun to move towards modernization as it’s King slowly embraced the new world he was within. Though this slow creep towards ‘modern’ came under the ever watchful eye towards corruption.
That has all changed now though. A full night of bombs being dropped from sky, launched cruise missiles from the sea, while being cut off from the rest of its populace by a cordon of tanks had seen to the once beautiful city being little more than a shell of that former beauty. The market which is normally the life blood of the populace is empty. No children play in the streets. Nor do they attend the mandated schools.
Point in fact the only true signs of life in Shiruta come from those searching the rubble for survivors or those survivors that were able making their ways to the Red Cross tents. Just beyond the city there is a new sign of life. Tent City. Born from the mobilized hospital that the peace keepers brought with them.
There is little serenity here now, but there is a semblance of peace. Unless you turn an eye towards the East. In the distance, just at the best limits of the naked eye, one could make out the tell-tale signs of explosions. They seem to be growing ever further from what remains of the capital city.
Such a sight is enough to even quiet the every prattling whispers of Solomon. It doesn’t take a God’s wisdom to see all that you need from the air, of what has happened here. There is far more to this than what meets the eye though. With the proper vantage there’s a certain line that one’s mind might draw between the peace-keeper’s camp and the battle-front off in the distance. The Wisdom of Solomon is not merely what can be seen, but also what can be heard, what can be felt… and that is where the God’s aide is most effective. Whispers among the troops speak of the madness of it all. Rescue worker speak amongst themselves of the points they’re most hopeful of finding survivors. Then there’s the wounded, that if only they had just enough insight, they might be able to save one additional life.
For someone like Freddy Freeman he was right to keep Solomon out. To filter his thoughts so as not be overwhelmed. Honing them in to what is important. None seem to understand what is happening, nor why. And even now, as the new Champion arrives can he make out the argument among those dispatched by the United Nations.
“We cannot do that Superman,” the Canadian power house is imposing himself in such a way that he seems to think himself the ‘Man of Steel’s’ equal. “We’re only here to keep the Peace, not to wage his war…”
“He’s right. We’re ‘ere to stop this madness, not take ‘art in it.”
“I know why we’re here. I know what we’re supposed to be doing. It just doesn’t seem right. They’re the bad guys, they caused all of this. Are we supposed to just let them get away with this?”
Among the group is one who actually holds even shorter stature than the Diva. Her red hair, freckled face and glasses, paint her as an abstract in this world of chaos and explosions, but of them all she seems the one most at east. As well as being the only one that ‘Superman’ seems to pay any difference too.
“You were right, when you told Adam we should focus on saving people first. Avenging them second. We’re not here to fight a War for Adam, we’re here to keep rescue these people, Kon-L.”
“I know, Doc, but..” Conner’s voice stops as soon as Fairchild’s eyebrows lift above her glasses.
“No buts. Get your team out there. Find survivors, bring them here. Only engage if there are civilians at risk. Go. Up, up and away and all that.”
FREDDY: “Be the beacon of hope that they need you to be, Superman.” He had no cape, all he had was a red suit with a gold light bolt emblazoned upon it along with a pair of gold boots. It was quite the look, but Freddy did not make his presence known to discuss fashion sense. He was here to stop a bad situation from getting worse.
“The beacon of hope that I know you can be. You’re here to help the victims of this attack not avenge them. They need your compassion not your vengeance. Listen with your ears. Look with your eyes. What do they tell you?” It’s not the first time that Freddy understood Conner’s impulse, but right now it was about managing the situation.
“You’re here to keep the peace. Pulling you away might be exactly what Bialya wants.” That was for the entire audience, but for Superman there was more which is why he lowered his voice to nothing more than a whisper. He had no idea what powers the others possessed, but he knew that Conner ears would pick up what he needed them to.
“I don’t like it any more than you do and it’s obvious that there’s more going on here, but the world is watching, Superman. Watching what you say and do. You can either chose to make billions of fans or billions of enemies, people who fear you. The trials for people like me and you never end. All eyes are on you right here and out there. Be the hero, not the weapon. You’re here to show the best that America has to offer. Uplift them. Adam has their rage and anger. Let that be enough for now. If there is a moment where you need to act you know it. You’ll feel it.” The explosions in the distance were a concern, but right now he needed to make sure this didn’t escalate.
“The people of Kahndaq will grateful for your actions today,” Freddy said his voice louder as he pulled away. “Keep them safe. I assure Adam will be thankful for your aid and assistance.” If they could make sure that his people were cared for, that they were kept out of danger then he could focus on their enemies. If he could slow their approach, then he could start to push them back.
“I will do what I can, but must find Black Adam.” Pushing them back is one thing. Destroying them is another. They needed to answer for their actions, but they needed for them to survive and Black Adam was not one to show such restraint. He was very Old Testament, before there was an Old Testament.
CONNER: How Freddy got there is not really a thing of much concern for anyone at the little gathering. This not some top secret mission, which only has members of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. involved. This is something else entirely, with people assembled from across the globe in order to help bring about a peaceful resolution. Which is in fact where the trouble stems from in the first place.
‘Peaceful Resolution,’ is not what Black Adam is going to agree to at this point. I’m not entirely sure he should either, frankly. Which is probably why this whole ‘Beacon of Hope’ thing annoys me on some level. If I were being honest with Fred, much less the rest of the company here? I’m more of a fire and brimstone sort of Superman, than hugs and handshakes kind. Every where I turn there is another hurting face, an unspoken question of why we let this happen and why we’re not putting a more permanent stop to it.
The question I find myself unable to answer is, ‘If I have the power to prevent these issues, wouldn’t it be better for me to stop them from happening? Rather than trying to render help after the problem has come home to roost.’ I suppose that’s really at the heart of what Wars between Black Adam’s mindset and that of the rest of the world. They certainly do not respond well to Adam, but they sure idolized the first Superman.
“You may not know this, Shazzy, but I didn’t put this uniform on to be a role-model. This wasn’t ever a choice for me. It isn’t always so easy to be a beacon of Hope, when all I want to do is reign down a terrible fury.” Lifting a hand, meant more to call Shazam to a halt before he tries to give his retort. “But. I’m learning. Sometimes the best thing to do is not always the easiest thing for people like us to do. In fact, the hard choice seems to almost always be the right one.”
“Being a Hero. Like Wonder Woman. Means learning to live with making that choice.”
The rest is something I understand all too well. Freddy was putting on a bit of a show. That is something I’m a class act at. I might not be the best Boyscout, but the Luthor side of me sure knows how to make a good show of it. What comes after those few words, is something else entirely.
Clearly I don’t have a lot of time here, but as Freddy is giving me his own personal take on things? I can see it pretty clearly, that this other guy’s role to play is right here. Right now. It’s no coincidence that he is here, this too is some Gods anointed Fate of his.
That’s why I put my hand upon Freddy and take him with me in to the air. Extending the force field that keeps the wind sheer at bay to him, allows me to levitate him along with me as I start to follow the Doc’s orders. It also means we have a couple moments of true privacy, because one of the few things my Hearing can’t penetrate is this very force field.
“Listen, Chum. I’m kinda glad you’re here, because you’re right about one thing more than the rest. I’m here as an appointed envoy. Something screwy around here and … there’s only so much poking around I can do without raising some diplomatic red flags.”
“First thing. The attack. Something is off about the attack. Everything from the timing, to the precision. It’s not my field of expertise, but I took tactical planning 1-oh-1 in the Virtual Simulator. Bialya isn’t this organized. They’re ruled by a jerk that was fighting a guerilla War six months ago. Now he’s leading a surgical strike against a nation with a protector like Adam?”
“Secondly. My Father made Theo sign on to letting Nowhere in. Full scale. My Father does nothing, at all, without a reason. Even if it’s a noble reason, there has to be one. If he made Theo open the gates to Nowhere, then he is interested in why Bialya attacked. Or…” this is where the old Conner shrug comes in to play. “… maybe the reason the attack is so precise is because my Father played a hand in organizing, to get the door opened.”
“Either way. I can’t be the one poking around, but… I’m the one that is going to have to write about it. Because if I’m not. It isn’t going to get printed.”
FREDDY: They all had their parts to play. They all had things they had to do, but there were ways to go about it and having Superman ripping through tanks and jets was not going to help anyone but Adam. It would give him the sense that he had an ally in his tactics and that the United States would become complicit about everything he was doing when everyone knew that wasn’t the case. Luthor from what Freddy could tell, POTUS not Superman was slipperier than that girl who generated frictionless forcefield in the comic books he used to read.
Whatever play he put into motion Freddy felt that he was playing both sides of the conflict. There were too many unknowns. Whoever was at the heart of this knew exactly where to strike Adam, one to charge him up and two put him in to a total Kobayashi Maru.
The moment Conner projected the forcefield around them Freddy focused on what he was saying. He chose to listen rather than interject.
“I agree.” He said honestly.
“And no, I know you’re not into the entire beacon of hope business. I know where you stand, but I also know that you’re important to Cassie, and you said you wanted to try and be friends so friend to friend don’t be the weapon. Not because of the beacon hope business that’s something you have to figure out, but I don’t want a target on your back.” That was what he was more worried about. Right or wrong didn’t always factor in the way people wanted it to.
“I will probably hate myself in the morning for saying it, because I hate this about as much as saying let’s unpack this, but here it goes. Optics.” He sounded like a politician or worse PR.
“The world’s watching. It’s one thing to take care of business on your turf, and I’m sure N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has been deployed elsewhere in the world, but this is different. There are no clean ups. There are no this is what NOWHERE wants you to believe. It’s been seen everywhere. By people on the ground and all over and if you follow Adam’s lead then the world will believe it has one more problem that it needs to solve and trust me, Conner, believe me when I say the world finds a way then it finds a way and I don’t want that to happen. “
They all knew that NOWHERE probably had multiple contingencies in place, but what did the world have in place? This response was unlike anything else Freddy had seen before so the calculus that everyone had put together was now being sorted and reorganized. If the United States would assemble this type of a response to aid, what happens when it feels threatened. Freddy pushed that response through his mind, so he had to make sure that he considered that in every action along with the fact that NOWHERE is also watching to see will Conner “behave” or will they have to consider a better way to keep him inline when he wanted to follow his heart and it went counter to their mandate.
“I don’t want to lose a friend.” Whether it be in death or because it pushes Conner into a fight response, because flight did not factor in. Once that path begins in earnest where did it end.
“Tell me if I’m looking at that through rose colored glasses? Is it possible or am I way off base with those possibilities? Am I overthinking it?”
He could be. Freddy had to consider it and he knew that sometimes you just had to pull the trigger and let it go, but didn’t there come a point when they had start thinking ahead. Consider the consequences? Albeit it was probably the worst timing ever, but considering the stakes Freddy thought they could use this breath before moving forward one way or another.
“If I can be selfish for a moment. I need you,” he said honestly. “I need you to be the mirror. The one that is my counterpoint. The one that prevents me from being in the echo chamber.”
“We do need to know what’s going in Bialya. I won’t say I’ve played chess, but I’ve seen enough matches to know when pieces have been arranged on the board to play into someone’s hand. I’m with you on that.” To what end? Freddy didn’t know.
“Your hands are being tied so what you need, what we need is a third option if there one.”
CONNER: What may be the most surprising aspect of this relatively private discussion? Is how quickly the answer comes to Freddy. “To be honest, I actually know you’re right. I’m just having a problem with the fact that I’m being forced to play a role. It’s frustrating. Because this is my life, Shazzy. I’m never allowed to be myself, I always have to be what someone else wants me to be or tells me to be.”
“But. At least for the moment, I completely agree with you. I’ve got to play the role that I’ve been type-cast in to. Because, for now, that’s the path which also helps the most.” Which as I’m all too sure Freddy is aware, means that I’m doing what I know Cassie would want me to be doing. Motivation, thy name is a teenager’s sex-drive. Mine is a blonde cheerleader demi-goddess. “So don’t you go worrying about me. I’m not going to be breaking my standing orders, unless I think there’s no real choice.”
There’s been a couple times when talking to this guy that it’s been… creepy. Like he can see through you. Past all the bullshit. Right through the carefully crafted secret identity that is Conner Luthor and in to the soul of who lays beneath. I brought that up to Cassie the first time I met this guy, but I’ve experienced twice more since then. This being the second time. He cuts to the heart of it. Slicing away what doesn’t need to be there and just tells you the reality of what is going on. Whether it’s what you’re ready to hear or not.
I hate it.
Yeah, I’m more of a ‘cover it in honey and swallow it before you taste the turd’ kind of guy. I like my truth coated in sugar, so it’s sweet going down and honey coming up. That’s why I’m always rather out of sorts with Freddy Freeman. We are a mirror though, I’m just the other side of it. Which is why the response he gets isn’t always so crystal clear.
“See? I told Cassie you were in to guys. Look, I know you need me dude. Most people do. I’m kind of… y’know… well, hot. I mean. I know. I get it. I’m flattered. But I’m really in to Cassie and all. So we’re going to have to just be friends. I mean… you can still need me if you want. But. Um. We’re going to have to keep this whole need me thing under wraps, okay? Last time Wonder Woman got jealous,… dude… she almost hit me with the God Bolt. Lightning from her Daddy’s ass. Right up mine.”
“So. Just. Need me. Privately. Okay? Cool.”
FREDDY: There are moments when Freddy needs things to crystalize. Some people may think it is from an intense desire to be right. Like he was on the Fawcett High Debate team with dreams of a trophy in a glass case and a scholarship in hand, but it was pretty far from it. He needed things to crystalize, because these were people’s lives. He had to except that not every action would be the right action, not even the best action in the best case scenario. Life just didn’t work that way.
Was Freddy Freeman a shining light of hope, it depended upon who you asked, because sometimes what came out of his mouth was the last thing people wanted to hear just as Conner said. He could be a cold bucket of water that no body wanted, but sometimes you needed to remind them and him of what the score was.
Sometimes it happened at the right time, sometimes it happened when it was the worst time and he was traveling down the spiral into the reads, but every so often planets converge, and there’s a grand conjunction of three suns some where and everything comes together when he needs it.
This was one of those moments. Where Conner laid bare for him what his frustration was. No matter what he was someone’s puppet to a degree, just enough for him to get tangled in things he didn’t want. His response had to be muted if not replaced with another, because of circumstance. It was a good moment it was a hamburger moment that lasted about five seconds.
“You can’t help yourself, can you. You really can’t.” It was either that or he just didn’t grasp that bit right there. Either way? “From what I hear I couldn’t hold that spot if I wanted because it’s what? You, Cassie then your new friend Kyle.”
Yes, he did. “I’m pretty sure he’d scratch my eyes out.” However, now that Conner was going to play ball with his commrades which meant that Freddy had to deal with…everything else.
CONNER: What makes this all the more curious is when that trademark dimpled smirk comes out. No one would ever be able to mistake Conner and Superman as different people if they could see this momentary look shared with someone that I actually trust. Moderately. It’s very telling, because I’m never going to actually tell the truth. Can I help myself? Or did I totally meat-head that moment of heart-to-heart awareness that Mr. Shazam was putting out there? It doesn’t seem like I’m ever going to tell someone the truth in answer to those questions. Even Solomon is going to have a problem reading this expression.
“Honestly, I’m not even sure anymore, Shazzy. It’s mostly just me and Cassie. Then there’s my new friend Kyle, who’s kinda gay in a really not-sure-if-he’s-gay but wow is he hot sort of way? And then there’s Tim, who I’m pretty sure is Gay, but Cassie says he’s not. Oh and then. There’s Flash. Listen. I’m not saying he’s Gay, I’m just saying you’re not going to see Flash and Heterosexual situations in the same room, at the same time, if you know what I’m saying. Solomon that, my friend. Soloman, that. Meanwhile, I’m like surrounded by all these amazingly hot female supporting cast members and no one to set them up on blind dates with. If you ever met the Huntress. I mean. She’s like one of those girls you actually ask to put your testicles in a choke hold. Know what I mean? Flash is just a little to effeminate for her. Then there’s Dinah. Whoah, let me tell you about Dinah. Get a pencil and paper, buddy.”
“Okay. Seriously. I’m going to get to saving poor innocent people. Being all Supermanly. You do that thing you do. The talk a lot, make a point. Things work out in the end thing. When you’re ready, give me a call.” Pausing for just a second, as if the man gifted with Soloman’s Wisdom might actually -not- know what I’m meaning… “Not with a cell phone. I mean, just say my name. I’ll hear you. From like anywhere, pretty much.”
“Superman. Does. Not. Have. A. Cellphone.”
By the time Freddy is ready to actually wade through everything I’ve just verbally regurgitated at him? I’m long gone. Up, up and away, indeed.
FREDDY: Freddy couldn’t quite point out where and when all of this happened, but happened and there was no going back, because it was already coming out of Conner’s mouth. It was best to hold the expression that spread across his features, one that said many things but most of all, ‘What just happened?’ He avoided pinching the bridge of his nose, because he was pretty sure Conner got that from Cassie from time to time (read a lot).
Solomon was uncharacteristically quiet. Freddy was shock and he didn’t lean on him to decipher any of that. That was 100 percent Conner. A hundred percent of what Freddy couldn’t quite say, but he did know that he would do his thing. Whether it was talking or not remained to be seen, because there was a mystery here to unravel and he knew they both knew that Freddy was at the center of it as it related to his trials, but the consequences. No one knew how far that would go.
Conner was off to provide the support that was needed. Freddy he was headed in the direction of Adam. Everything was a strike upon Kahndaq, but what was there anything else out of place. There was the strike. There was response, but what happened in between. A lot of things were happening all at once. Perhaps there was something that was missed.
Would Adam know? Another thing about a well set board is that you can direct where you want people to look to prevent them from seeing what’s coming. Was there somewhere else that everyone should have been looking while all of this took place? Something about what Conner said. A well precision attack. Whether than noddle Solomon’s noggin about what Conner said Freddy decided to pose that question. What was valuable in Kahndaq?
Isis was after the amulet. This was the Final Trial. Was there something here that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Another thing that Freddy couldn’t help but notice was that since things went of the rails with the Trials everything seemed to come back to Adam or something or someone connected to Adam.
Freddy did his best not to rush himself. He knew that he had to get to Adam’s position, but he needed to get a read on the situation. Like Conner said if he was here then there was more to everything that was happening on an entirely different level. While the agents of NOWHERE did what they did with the other members of the UN Peacekeeping force, Freddy was on his own he helped where he could, but when it came to actually engaging the citizens of Kahndaq they weren’t exactly forthcoming. Actually, they were suspicious of a fair skinned, dark haired man who not only spoke their language, but spoke it quite well as if he was native to the area.
Blessings of Solomon one would say. Omnilinguistics was a god send literally in this sense. However, no matter how well he spoke the language Freddy was still an outsider, one that appeared to be dressed in the same garb as their champion. If Freddy was hoping that this would demonstrate some kind of connection Freddy got less than a receptive reaction. If anything, it made them distrust him a bit more. They probably had their reasons. If Freddy had to hedge a guess he was probably being seen as trying to usurp Black Adam’s role as Champion of Kahndaq. Or even worse…they were Americanizing his legacy!
Which as not something that Freddy was intending to do at all. Perhaps he should have visited earlier and taken Theo up on his offer if only to show that he was a fri…acquaintance. He could go that far, because he really didn’t know how Black Adam viewed him. Annoyance. Pretender. The Mistake.
Freddy could go over several more disparaging things that Black Adam probably thought when he saw Freddy coming, and let’s face it holding his tongue was not something Black Adam considered in the least. Either way he Freddy set it aside, because he could be there for hours instead he resumed his survey of the city. He looked over the buildings that had been damaged by the attacks and those that had not. It was a lot to take in, but as he had done before in the past Freddy set aside his emotions and focused on what his eyes were showing him in hopes that they would tell him what he needed to know.
Freddy considered the photographs and videos that he had of war zones before, missile strikes specifically. How many times had the United States done precision drone strikes? How often did they strike only the target that they wanted and not have any significant collateral damage? There were always reports of that occurring. Usually when strikes occurred they were at major installations. Things that helped support the adversary. Supply lines had to be disrupted so sometimes roads, but air fields, supply depots, munition depots, and other types of installations.
There was a strike upon the palace which was for a lack of a better word ballsy, but what would it gain them outside of Adam’s wrath? They struck into the city hitting at residences, hospitals and schools, it was a major attack that seemed to be striking at any and everything. At least that’s what it would appeared to look like from first glance. If you took the thousand-foot view then everything seemed to be under fire, but the closer you got the clear it became. It started to come into focus.
Freddy wanted was information and he couldn’t acquire it from the citizens, so he had to look at the data. There was no terminal for him to pull to besides the one that sat on top of his neck. The strikes. They were clean and precise compared to the strikes of other nation. There didn’t seem to be anything was done by accident. There had been reports of kamikaze type tactics, but that is what made Freddy’s closer look at what had been hit even more critical, because again it was not what was hit that stood out, it was what wasn’t hit that did.
That he could point and pick out. In some cases there was some damage, but more minor damage. Strategic, tactical strikes. That made it stick out again, but this time what Conner had said about the command chain, more specifically, the leader. Outside of the jerk comment the fact that recently he had previously been fighting a guerilla war, which can be effective, but it had a very different set of tactics.
Tactics that apparently utilized missile strikes from sea faring vessels. Freddy couldn’t recall any time in the past when such tactics had been used. Did Bialya even have a navy? How does someone go from fighting a guerilla war to executing strike such as this?
Freddy chewed on that while he went over what he saw when he got closer to the buildings that had not been hit. At first blush one might think they were spared, because of sheer luck, given the fact that other areas had been struck, but the closer Freddy got the more a pattern began to emerge. Antique and curio shops. Ordinarily no one would think anything of it. Nothing at all if not for the fact that Freddy while not trained in the science of archaeology often found himself caught in the intersection of antiquities, myths and legends. It was the reason why he touched down upon one of the roofs of the shops that had not been hit. It was also why he had to set his emotions aside less he would find himself overwhelmed.
“Lets talk it through Freddy. At some point, Theo presented Adrianna with the amulet of Isis. It allowed her to access the power of Isis even ore the spirt of Isis possessed Adriana. It was like a seed that was planted within her that grew and grew until it had complete control of the woman that Theo loved. Black Adam intended to restore his wife in the process, but Isis had other plans.” She meant to restore Osiris by acquiring the amulet that his spirit had been placed into.
Freddy avoided twisting himself around that spiral too many times, but artifacts. Even Adam’s resurgence was the result of an artifact. He searched his shared memories for the information while considering what had been attacked and what had not. Among the curio and antique shops book stores were not attacked and it didn’t appear to be businesses that came about from Kahndaq’s resurgence hey seemed to be in place for quite some time.
The entire region was a wealth of treasures and not every treasure made it into the museum. Think Antique Road show or Storage Wars. How many times had hidden treasures been found within someone’s home or a storage unit. Perhaps they weren’t meant to be found or perhaps…perhaps they were meant to stay out of the obvious hands.
Freddy clenched his fist in slight frustration at not being able to converse with the citizens. Sure, he could speak with them, but what would they tell him? What would they answer? Right now he could only make a hypotheisis based on what he had seen and what he had seen told him that those building sand the ones near them were intact. The buildings around them were incongruous to the ones that seemed to be almost untouched. They were simply in the right place, but it was the shops where someone could acquire information about the past, objects from the past that were not targeted.
Yet the army was pushed back they would never be able to get in.
He paused in his words and his thoughts. He considered what Aunt Minvera was doing in at the bank when he met Cassie for the first time. She was looking for something, but she wasn’t Minvera she was Isis. However, she knew exactly what it was she was looking for at least she knew it was in the bank. What if you didn’t know what you were looking for.
Once the clean up begins people will be allowed back in to check the damage. You can’t impersonate all of them, but. A sinking feeling began, but Freddy continued to play the thoughts through. Someone had to be responsible for all of this and there seemed to be a change in tactics. There were questions in his mind. Who or what? There had been a level up. He needed to know what he could about Bialya, but even more he needed to know what happened there recently. Someone has gotten an upgrade of some kind and Freddy had three scenarios none of them good as he touched off the ground.
He needed to be where Adam was if only to see what was happening in that area of the country was it anything like this or was it different? Someone was seeking something out, they were looking for something or somethings. Whether it was an item, or a record of the item Freddy didn’t know, but something pushed Bialya into action.
What was the scenarios? If Adam returned, Teth Adam why couldn’t someone else. Someone who coveted something Kahndaq possessed. Similar to the Osiris’s amulet, but something different, something more. He didn’t know. There was missing information.
Scenario B. The way that the tactics changed indicated that someone had taken the reigns someone or someones had. They changed the way they waged war to become effective which made Freddy’s stomach twist just a bit. What if it was another god, a war god. Considering the Trial who was left what if it was Ares? Right now, Freddy had to consider the possibility even if for a moment which made scenario C even more frightening. What if it was Athena? Those were the worst-case scenarios, but given that everything that happened to this point, Freddy was going to go with the first scenario.
First more information and the only way he could get that was by heading to where the fighting was still occurring in the direction of Adam. Hopefully, it would begin to lean towards scenario A, not that was desired at all, but it’s all Freddy along with the general notion that this was a attack over resources just resources of a different kind.
Synopsis: Arthur Light meets with former colleague Alan Scott to discuss recent events involving Koriand’r and the attempt by Lobo the Bounty Hunter to complete the contract that has been placed on her. Comparing notes both come to the conclusion that it is time for the Earth’s new Green Lantern to intercede as the attempt on her life has potential far reaching consequences for Starfire, and more importantly the state of the Corps.
ALAN: Ordinarily any request made for a meeting with ‘Former Colleagues’ would be met with an automatic ‘No, Thanks.’ That has been the normal since the semi-quiet retirement that Alan Scott took from the life as a spook. Okay. Let’s be honest, Alan was less of a spook and more of an administrator with field clearance. He’d held the line since the 1940’s, but the Invasion of Earth had left many things in question. What came later had made formal retirement all but certainty. Hal Jordan. His fall from grace had been destructive to so many things, it seemed only fitting that it also destroy any chance Alan had of opposing the new regime too.
Even if the Alan’s Lantern was different than Hal’s, it would make little difference in the ‘Court of Public Opinion.’ Which in itself was a bit of joke, given that he runs one of the largest media conglomerates in the entire world. They knew that too, of course. Which is why Alan’s retirement was a peaceful one. He may not be in the office any more but his holdings were useful and his own meta-human abilities had proven difficult to replicate or even understand. Despite all of that though, it has never been Alan’s earthly connections that ever bought him any good will from the likes of Amanda Waller or Lex Luthor. It’s the unearthly ones that has always been of interest to them.
You can say many things about Alan Scott, but it would be a mistake to call him stupid. He’s all too aware that the powers that be don’t want him in any position of authority, but they also do not want to alienate a potential resource. Once again, this leads to an all too uneventful retirement to a Manor on the outskirts of Gotham City.
Which is where Doctor Arthur Light must come if he wishes a meeting. No, this is not some power play, but actually something of a necessity. It is here beneath the mostly invisible dome ( unless you have a particular affinity with seeing different spectrum of nearly invisible light ), that Alan has been instructing a specific student on the ways of using a Power Ring. Leaving would mean the dome lowers and Kyle would be unable to continue his lessons. Given what Alan knows to be the most basic reason for Arthur’s requested meeting? Kyle’s training may in fact be something that should not be interrupted.
“Arthur, come in,” answering the door gives a personal touch, “Are you feeling more like a library meeting or shall we have some lunch out by the ponds?”
There’s no butler on Alan’s estate. No staff of any sort in fact. At least not of the physical variety. When needed there are specters of the Green that are created to handle various chores. Such as the ones that are, even now, insuring that Kyle remains in his room an out of sight.
ARTHUR: Arthur did not detest Gotham however, he rather avoid visiting the places where he knew things were a little less under the thumb of NOWHERE for these kind of summits. Truth be told he avoided visiting it not because of Batman and his ilk, but because it is where Alan decided to retire to. He made it his home. On some level, Arthur believed that the man had earned his retirement and his secrets, whatever they may be. It may not be the popular opinion, but it was Arthur’s and that was the only one that mattered to the good doctor.
He was reluctant to say much to Koriand’r about the Alan, because the less he said the better for his sake, Kori’s and Alan’s. Sometimes too much information was a bad thing. It had to be controlled and released at critical points especially in the type of work they were involved in.
When he arrived he was actually surprised that Alan agreed to see him, but then again, he had a feeling that the original Green Lantern was already a few steps ahead. When his car arrived at the manor he looked up noting the dome. He was probably one of the few people that could detect it unaided. He decided against letting his mind wander as to why it had been erected instead he made his way towards the door when.
Alan wasn’t the only one that masked themselves. Arthur simply advised that he would be off grid for a day or so. He was only to be reached out to in emergencies. Other than that, it would be radio silence, which was not a difficult thing for him to do when he wanted.
Upon reaching the door he reached out for the door bell waiting for someone to answer. When Alan opened the door Arthur’s raised a curious brow, but offered a smile nonetheless. Old friends, they were not. Colleagues? Perhaps at best. They had a working relationship. That would probably be the best way to consider it.
“Alan. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.” It was a genuine sentiment. One that Arthur saw no issue with offering. Stepping inside the manor he glanced around attempting to recall the last time the two of them stood in the same building let alone the same room.
“As enticing as lunch sounds I’m afraid it’s more of a library type of situation.” He could go for something to eat, but better to focus on business. Best not to get to comfortable. He could say or infer the wrong thing and things could take a turn for the worse.
ALAN: The Scott family is not nearly so robust as the Wayne’s. Though the fortune has grown steadily over the years, thanks in no small part to the steady news feed that the Batman has provided, the Scott mansion is still a tenth of what the Wayne’s have. The sweeping grounds sprawl out in all directions, most of it as untamed wild forest. The entire place is actually a monument not to the people of the Scott Family, but the Green that purveys all around them.
All in all it makes for a very short walk to the Library. Which is cluttered. This is not your average library. It has been pieced together with care over the last century. Most of which was done by hand, by the very man that Arthur has asked for a meeting with. Despite the fact that Alan looks not a day over fifty, those files that Arthur reads and keeps would suggest that Alan was among the very first who came to work for Nowhere. One of the original so-called Mystery Men. Thus he has had a very long life with which to gather the collection of oddities that even now Kyle Rayner devours on a nightly basis.
That also explains the relative clutter that is being tended to by the green hued servants that manifest themselves upon the pair’s entry. “Honestly, after the recent events in Gotham, I was surprised that someone hadn’t called sooner. The business at the Mariposa was horrific. I half expected someone in the company to call me to get my help in explaining the attack. I mean. Meteors, Arthur? Really. Come on has the Company lost all of it’s imagination?”
“It hurt my soul seeing those words put in to print,” gesturing to the veritable glut of places to seat, from single chairs to a large sofa, while heading to the small bar to fix a couple of drinks. “When you didn’t contact me to help with the information flow, I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before someone came calling for something else.”
“This Bialya business, must be taking up a lot of resources if they’ve sent you, Arthur.”
ARTHUR: Arthur had poured over all the files. All the files that he was given access to. There were no doubts in his mind that there were some that were sealed away from him. Some would only be provided in cases of emergencies, others would probably never see the light of day no matter how hard the good doctor attempted to access them. There would always be some measure of restriction. Additionally, Arthur was one of the ‘them’. it wasn’t always apparent, but it was there. No matter how well he towed the company line he was still one of them, he just happened to be one of the more “management” ones.
At least that is what they continued to tell themselves. Arthur Light knew that there was always a target on his back, whether it was from within the Company or outside of the company. It did not matter, he was a marked man. A traitor to some, a resource to others, but the moment he stepped too far out of line then he would find himself in a situation that was all too familiar.
He admired the manor and all its untamed green outside. He was familiar with a little more than the basics of Alan’s story, but there were some things that would always remain a mystery. There was no communion with sentient beings for Arthur. It was all science in his mind though there were times he did wonder and often pondered about how it was all connected. Still he as not here to wax metaphysical or metaphysics. He was here to address the items that Alan was ticking off.
This is why the library was preferably to lunch at the moment.
“M’gann was thinking on the fly. Not the best cover story, but it did get the job done. However, that bit of business is far from over, I’m afraid.” He considered the way Alan phrased everything, placed the events. Perhaps he was seeing how much Arthur would corroborate, even more how much he would share. The tugs at the corner of his mouth hinted a ghost of a smile, because old habits die hard or never died at all.
Walking over towards one of the high back chairs Arthur slid into it almost as if it were an old friend. Perhaps because he enjoyed the style. One never knew.
“Bialya will sort itself out soon enough, but yes, we’re stretched pretty thin at the moment given the direction the President has given. Our more seasoned agents are half a world away. That has left us vulnerable to events such as the one that took place at the Mariposa.” The wring was on the wall there. Why try to dress it up. “However, it was not the Company that sent me. I came of my own volition. I’m due back at headquarters to deal with an inquiry.” After he speaks with another agent to address their response or lack there of. “I am anticipating their direction.” He may even be circumventing by engaging Alan first.
“The events that occurred in Gotham were inevitable due to the intended target. The company will see events one way which if argued they would be correct, but result in me breaking a promise.” Promise to who? That was of no one’s concern. “These events fall under the purview of NOWHERE, but the solution would be one that I would rather avoid. I believe if I have my information in order this situation would under the purview of the officer assigned to Sector 2814.”
ALAN: Oddly enough Alan and Arthur were actually much more similar than you might think at first. Arthur is not one for Human connections, nor is Alan is easily seen by the empty house. Though those beautiful files of Nowhere, whether Arthur had access to them or not, would undoubtedly tell the tale of a man’s life in constant tragedy. From a wife lost to a brutal pregnancy, to life-style choices later in life that did not make him a friendly aspect to the politically correct crowd of the Day. It has long since been the time that Alan preferred the company of another person to that of the Green.
“Mm. It’s been my experience, Arthur, never to think that a poorly made story crafted by a three hundred year old, is ever anything but exactly what she intended,” it is a slight correction, but one with a straight forward truth to it as Alan offers Arthur the drink that has already been poured. “She went with Meteors because it’s something that could be readily accepted by the minds of those she needed to influence. Something that could then be verified by Theodore’s beautiful little satellites -or- pointed to as their being faulty. More over meteor showers that cause damage and loss of life aren’t common. They’re predictable most of the time.”
“It’s the times that they’re unpredictable that is a problem. March 14th, 1977, Smallville, Kansas. Culverton, Gotham, December 24th, 1936. Perhaps most importantly, Coast City, September 19th, 2005. Each of these meteor showers share two common threads, Arthur. The first is that they weren’t actual meteor showers, but essentially the landing of extraterrestrial life. The second is that each time it happened, the results would greatly impact this world and change the course of History.” The opposite glass is raised in something of a salute to the Doctor, as Alan settles across from him on a the sofa. “Never. Confuse M’Gann’s seemingly random, teenage, thinking on the fly. For anything but complete and total calculation. She’s smarter than we are. Accept it first, the spend the rest of your time devoted to wondering if she picked meteors because it’s simply poetic or she has some inkling of larger circumstances that she has chosen not to share with the rest of the class.”
As Alan finishes speaking on the previously innocent topic of the cover story, the glass in his hands seems to become very important. It has his utmost focus for a couple moments. Long enough for the silence to almost become uncomfortable. This isn’t the first time that the Company has come to this very home and put forth the idea that something was happening. Something that shouldn’t be dealt with by the Company, but by people of a larger calling. One by one they’ve each been politely told that Alan Scott is retired. Each one took that to mean that he’d left the Project and wouldn’t assist them any further. Like Arthur they’d each been respectful for whatever reason they chose, whether it be decades of service and a desire not to permanently burn bridges or the knowledge that Alan Scott still holds the very power that keeps him eternally young.
The silence is then broken by him clearing his throat and looking away from the drink, “He’s not ready. Not for this Arthur.”
“The Company and the President think they defeated the entity that destroyed Coast City. They believe they drove it away and that it gave them time to build and re-equip. They did the right thing reassuring the entire world that we won and you might think Luthor is strangely allowing these kids to come out of the closet as Heroes, because it simply benefits him to control them through Nowhere. I’ve stayed quiet, because the truth is…? Luthor is unintentionally doing good work, by taking away the Fear that would come with the truth of uncertainty.”
“Because out there. Beyond Theodore’s satellites. The entire universe is at War, and they don’t even know what they’re fighting. Did your Princess tell you of the Daemonites? The Civil War among her people? Do you even know who wants her back? Who sent the Hunter for her? It wasn’t her people Arthur. They don’t want her back. Not truly.”
“He’s just not ready, damnit. Not yet. Give this kid a chance,” Alan actually comes to a complete verbal halt, blinking and looking up sharply from the the swirling drink with a sigh that seems to make him actually look his age for once. “The truth is, Arthur. You were right to come here. This is bigger than the Company. And you’re right, it should be the Lantern of this Sector’s purview. I just don’t think he’s ready. However, I also don’t know that he… or any of us… ever will be ready for what’s out there.”
“They’ll need to meet. Can you bring her here? Kyle should be the one to decide if he’s ready or not.”
ARTHUR: Arthur found M’gann to be more astute than most. She was the one that eased Kori into the idea of working with NOWHERE by maintaining her association with her associate in Gotham. It was a coup, but it was not done by bending the girl to their will, just a simple conversation that’s all it took and a bit of reasoning. Once upon a time Arthur Light believed himself to be the smartest person in the room, that was a long time ago, but now, he knew better to do so. What he could do is offer assistance and guidance as best he could and work through the system to continue to help the machine keep going.
As Alan prattled on about one thing or another, Arthur took a moment to listen to truly listen what he was saying. As always there were plots within plots and plans within plans. It seemed that this was yet another winding road that they were meant to be on by one person’s doing or another. Not that Arthur fought it. There were times and places for such things, and through his experience he found it best to choose his battles. Not every battle meant dying upon the sword. Sometimes they were waged to test, to gather information, but this, this was different.
Considering the dates that were selected. Each of those moments were the precursor of great changes, shifts in the way that humans perceived their world. The idea that there truly was life beyond the one we knew. That there were words other than our own were no longer theories and random thoughts, but reality. It was a sobering thought, but one that humanity needed to be prepared for one way or another. Hope or fear. They were strong motivators. The loss of <i>him</i> made one difficult, but this younger generation there are a few that carry the banner of hope while others champion the banner of fear, yet Arthur found it was good to have a healthy dose of both.
“Whatever her reasons it’s done, though the insight provided makes me wonder if it was done to subconsciously remind us of the dangers that lies beyond our skies and how significant an impact it might be. Actually, reminds me of a Who episode about the original of the primal fear of the dark.” Perhaps it was a nudge, a reminder that not all of the dangers that everyone should be focused on are the terrestrial ones, and the fact that no matter how hard we try to protect themselves the danger will find its way to them.
As enlightening a conversation this was that they were having he did need to get back on point despite the fact it was all related.
Alan did not think he was ready. Were they ever ready? When he spoke of Kori it seemed that he had gathered more information than Kori was willing to share. “She told me enough to pull at the heart strings, while keeping me at bay. There were tears, but at the moment I am unconcerned with tears. I prefer facts and she kept then held close to her chest,” he said honestly.
“I let it play to see how far it would go. If I press her too hard then she runs making this, more difficult than I desire it to be. I don’t know who wants her. I am inclined to believe that she was given away to the Daemonites.” Civil War.
“I was told her parents were killed. Her planet conquered, and her sister was placed upon the throne. An armistice of some kind was brokered, and she was taken as hostage to keep Tamaran under control.” Arthur’s very tone said that he found it to be an unraveling story.
“After the events at the Mariposa I had her repeat her tale once more to offer the opportunity for truth, but I received more of the same and claim of ignorance.” If he was upset, it did not show. It was merely an administrator reciting what had been shared.
“However, I had thoughts and it appears there are elements of what you have shared that seem to craft portions of a picture I had sketched for myself. I found it very odd that a dying race would be capable of so much destruction. That they were searching for ways to extend their lives, yet she was the only one from her planet selected for their experiments. They had the planet where they wanted yet they pulled back. Her sister rises to the throne. Something didn’t feel quite right about it all.” Then there were the tears so best to take a step back and engage another Arthur thought. Let her take comfort in her story being intact.
“What the larger story was I was not sure, but I would be remiss in my duties if I took everything she said in face value, but…” A promise was a promise and Arthur had to believe since he made that promise.
“I cannot say whether or not your student is ready. Only he can decide that, but if what I have been told is to hold true. He would not possess that which he does if he were not capable, and if I may go a bit further. He had the sense enough to seek you out when your name was shared with him. He went out on a limb. He placed his trust not only in you, but the person who gave him your name. He saw the good in others. The world has gained a good amount of fear just in the past several days. I think it is only fair that an equal amount of hope is offered.”
ALAN: “Careful, if you keep this up I’m going to think you’re actually paying attention.”
That may sound like a joke, but it is only a half-truth. There is always a sort of duality to a discussion with Alan Scott, but in this particular instance it is even more pronounced then normal. A thin smile speaks to his hospitality, but the way he keeps being drawn to that cup says he isn’t all there in the room with Dr. Light. At least not when discussing the potential of Kyle Raynor being given this assignment. There seems to be more than one discussion going on about that and Arthur is only involved in half of it.
He makes a good argument. Hope. Oddly it is Alan that dislikes it most. Is it correct? Maybe, but the damning part is that it doesn’t matter. The circumstances around all of this are questionable. “As for your Princess’ story, did she ask you about the Lanterns? Did she mention the lack of their presence when all of this happened?”
“My power is connected to them. The same, but apart from it. A sort of symbiotic bond between what they call their central battery and what powers me. If a Lantern had been in the vicinity of the conflict, that information would be in the battery. Which means I would be able to find out. It isn’t. Which means that whatever Lantern was assigned to Tamaran, was pulled away.”
“For that reason alone, Arthur, I’m forced to agree with you. Bring this Princess here. We’ll introduce her to the new Lantern and let events run their course from there.”
ARTHUR: Arthur offered a hint of a smile and actually took of the drink that had been provided. “I listen to the important parts. The rest of white noise.” It was good nature teasing, but given all that has occurred recently he needed a bit of humor in his life. He was capable of enjoying moments like these no matter what people tended to believe.
The moment came and went and the smile faded away as certain questions were asked and Alan already knew the answer to the question before he asked Arthur suspected. He had read enough to know that there were reasons for the type of conversations one typically engaged in when meeting with Alan, but this was the first time it felt so front and center so to speak.
“None. Given the story I was provided I wondered why she did not return home.” That quite out of place. She escaped she should be able to return home, but still no information that explained one way or another beyond the horrible things the captors had done.
“Then that is what I shall do.” This turned out to be far more agreeable than he expected, but he was grateful on one hand. The other, well the other was being smothered by metaphorical pillow that Alan had dropped onto its face.
“I shall have here within the day if not sooner. I have one more bit of business to take care off before I depart.”
Synopsis: Kyle arrives in Gotham to meet with Alan Scott the first Green Lantern of Earth who is able to provide additional information about the Lanterns, the status of super heroes in general and provide context around the fallen Lantern, Hal Jordan.
ALAN: Gotham City is known for its special type of scum and villainy. Most people believe that came with the arrival of the Bat, but they’re wrong. It started way back. During the Great Depression. It was a time when the United States was down on its luck. Hard working people did more than an average day’s labor for a dime. People scrambled for food on good days and barely went hungry on others. History records that America came through it, but those books in those classes rarely give a true accounting of how the working class made it through the days. I know, first hand. Because I was there.
My name is Alan Scott, but people used to call me the Green Lantern.
Truth be told, I don’t look my age. You might call me lucky, but more than once I’ve considered myself cursed. I was born here, in Gotham. Just before the Great Depression. So I got a birds eye view of how it happened, what we went through and most of all? I saw what it meant to live in Gotham City when times were really hard. When if you needed a ride to work, you didn’t dare go for something called ‘Uber.’ Because the chances were the Cabby would shank you and steal your shoes to pay for Gas. There were no monorails to carry you place to place. We didn’t have the luxury of buying things from the Amazon, because the only Amazon we knew back then would punch you in the eye if she thought you were going to tell her to get her cute butt in the Kitchen. We suffered. Some of us persevered. Others gave in to the simple baser need to put food on the table by turning to a life of crime.
Sure. We didn’t have Clown Princes, nor Presidents for Life. I’ll be the first to tell you that it was a simpler time back then. Less elaborate. That doesn’t mean Gotham was better than it is now. I don’t see the world’s History through rose colored glasses, I’m rather fond of emerald city green anyway. Gotham was, as it is now, a little too proud of not being Metropolis. Happy to cavort with the dangers of the criminal element if it means being just good enough.
Little wonder this is where I came. This is where I made my home. Her in the City of Gotham, in the state of New Jersey. Not too far down the river from Metropolis, but far enough away from the glitz and glamour that I don’t have to worry about visitors. It was always supposed to be a place of rest, where I could disappear in to retirement. Sure, the place I own isn’t Wayne Manor but it’ll do. Unlike the Waynes, I worked for my money. Scraped by tooth and nail to create the communications network that even now supports Gotham. Not just Gotham, but most of the East Coast. The Scotts have been here since the beginning. We built the first newspaper, owned the first telegraph in town. Eventually that became more. Newspapers, then Radio, before shifting to television. I stopped there, getting out of the way before things became too much about the ‘Intrawebs.’ Not my style. I like to hold, touch and feel the news in my hands. That’s what I’m doing too. Reading the morning paper. Scanning through the terrible images of yet another clash with the world that the Joker is having. When I hear something that I haven’t heard in a very long time. I’d almost forgotten the ring was there, it’s been -that- long.
[:Alert. Energy Signature Identified. Oa Power Ring Detected.:]
KYLE: It wasn’t the first time that I had been to Gotham. We’ve been to Gotham a few times usually for the museums and the architecture. It was a sight to behold, but different from Metropolis. Two sides of the same coin perhaps? I wasn’t sure, but I wasn’t here to take a walking tour of Gotham if those things still happened I was here seeking someone out. The moment I got into the city I found myself determining where to start. It wasn’t like I could land in the city center and announce that I was here. That’s the last thing that I needed. It would draw all the wrong types of attention.
Not that the city needed any more attention. There were talks of ninjas. I didn’t even want to get caught up in that, but if some happened to cross my path and were doing what I felt was wrong they might have found themselves snared for a moment until authorities arrived. That slowed me down while I did my best to stay out of sight as used my phone to figure out where I might be able to find Alan Scott. I was given a name, but not an address so that meant I found myself standing in front of the communication network that Scott built. It had him listed as ownig it. He was the CEO of the Gotham Broadcasting Company, the GBC.
I wasn’t sure how I should go about doing this. Should I go in and ask to speak with Alan Scott. Do Green Lanterns have signals like the Bat Signal? I thought about it for a moment before I moved away from the building. Several minutes later a green light might be seen flying over head landing on the building. Immediately a spider like construct began to make its way through the shaft while goggles appeared around my eyes providing me with what I needed.
“Alright let’s do this spider friend. Let’s find Alan Scott.”
ALAN: One thing is for certain. ‘Alan Scott,’ isn’t hiding in mediocrity. GBC is the biggest, oldest, communication company in the City. One of the oldest in the Nation. With holdings across the Globe in order to stay relevant. It was always important to me, after that Great Depression, to bring something back home. Here, to Gotham. Not the ring, not the power or the crazies that go with it. Jobs. Money. Economic growth, development and the assistance that goes with it.
Security at the GBC is good enough to give people an opportunity to get clear, in the event of Super-Villain Take-Over. Not so good as to keep a Green Lantern from finding an ingenious way to breach the security. I’m not sure what he’s looking for, but by the time I arrive? He’s got fancy goggles on his head and is sending some sort of remote control robot down the air chute. There’s no sound to be made, I’m not really sneaking up on the kid. After all he’s the one breaking in to my building.
“Fancy. Those constructs are intricate. You’ve gotta have firsthand knowledge of that sort of technology to make it work like that. A guy that smart, should probably know that one of the Bat-People are probably going to show up any minute.” Says the man in the business suit and ruffled hair, no costume, who’s making no effort to hide his own similar ring to the one Kyle’s sporting. Similar, but not the same. “So. I’m Alan. This is my building. If you could do me a favor and not break anything. That’d be great. I upped my insurance premiums to cover ‘Damage by Ninja’ but after Coast City? They don’t cover Green Lanterns anymore.”
KYLE: The mechanical spider was making it’s way through the vents checking each area it came in contact with. “Oh, it’s just something saw in a Japanese animation I watched a few months ago combined with the Minority Report. Remember that scene with the spiders when they were searching for the target that was on the run.” I said it so matter-of-fact that it was like something I had done before.
Of course, the voice behind me is usually one that I hear in my head, but it wasn’t in my head it was outside of my head. I blinked a few times and the spider stopped in its movements. “Scrap.” Turrning my head slowly towards the person that wasn’t in my head I hopped back like the roof of the building was on fire.
“Alan? Wait Alan Scott. You’re the person I’m looking for.” Pausing for a second my brow arched. “Oh no no no. I’m not here to…wait. They don’t cover Green Lanterns? Is that a real thing?” There’s specific coverage for superheroes.
“Double scrap.” I’m totally not in uniform. “We can’t start over can we? I’m totally busted. Civilian face and everything.” A green construct starts covering my face and I’m now wearing something that looks very reminiscent of the Green Power Ranger…the original Green Power Ranger. Just over my head though.
ALAN: “Japanimation? That stuff with the tentacles and schoolgirls? Well, I mean. Each person has to find their own inspiration, I suppose. Not really something I’d think of when I think about the things most likely to meet with Guardian approval though. Hey, what I know. This generation of kids is doing a lot of things we never dreamed off back in my hay-day.”
The chipper demeanor isn’t a ploy, it’s the real thing. I’ve never let the world or the things going on bring me down completely. It all goes back to those humble beginnings, seeing my Father scrape by to put food on the table. When a good meal was a can of Soup that the whole family shared. After that I came out the other side resolved, understanding that you have to take the good in life when and where you can. Otherwise the bad in life will drag you down, too far to ever get out.
Maybe this kid understands that too? He seems awfully squirrel for your average run of the mill Space-Cop. “Yeah. Didn’t need telepathy to figure that out, Kid. Just a good security system. When a guy and a power ring show up, breaking in to one of my buildings? That’s too much of a coincidence to actually be one. Can’t be too careful.”
“Also. I’m serious. ‘Act of Green Lantern’ is right next to ‘Act of God,’ in the insurance policy, under the listing of ‘Definitely not covered, under any circumstances.’ I wish it weren’t so, but kinda public enemy numero uno.” With a shrug of the shoulders, I come in closer to Kyle as he’s working on his mask. All around me is the same green hue that surrounds him when he’s in flight. The difference is in the flickering of green flame, that you don’t see with other Green Lanterns. “Sure thing. Do-over. I like a good mulligan as well as the next average skilled golfer.”
“So. Fresh start. Hi. I’m Alan Scott and you are…?”
[:Designation: Rayner, Kyle. Sector 2814, Trainee.:]
“…Kyle, then. Sorry. I never upgraded to the model ring. I’m still fighting against getting a smart phone too. This old ring is as cranky as I am supposed to be.”
KYLE: The entire construct fades away line by line when he says that and my eyes are as wide as saucers that scream. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I don’t speak, because I’m starting to wonder if I give off some kind of vibe. No, of course not. That is totally not the case.
“Japanese Animation of which hentai is a part of, but I’m totally not refer to that. Not at all. No, sir.” My hands move emphatically to ensure that my point is made. “Is that the first thing people think about when they hear that. I mean sure there are some interesting things that the animators like to think about that do that particular kind of work, but I’m too young to be thinking about those things. Don’t I look it. Babyface cherub.” Cue my most innocent smile.
“I wasn’t technically breaking in. I was trying to find you. I mean I didn’t want to walk up to the desk in the lobby and go I need to speak to Alan Scott one Lantern to another. I don’t think that would go over well. Also, there was no guarantee you were here.” I totally should have consulted the ring.
“Act of Green Lantern. Aww man. Does that mean I could get sued?” All of sudden cash registers were around us popping opens CA-CHING! CA-CHING! “Nothing about that in the message, Ganthet.” I say to the ring. This is totally not cool, but given everything that happened I could see why insurance companies would deny claims.
About that fresh start now that I’m exposed again I hold out my hand when the ring introduces me. I’m also zeroing in the green flame that surrounds Alan. He really is a Green Lantern, but different. Definitely different unless it supposed be like that. “Well, as your ring just told you…” I glare at the ring. “…Kyle Rayner.” Trainee? Really? I’m a Trainee?
“Smart phones are the wave and bane of the future. Continue to fight.” I say with a nod. “However, I guess you’re wondering how this all happened? Why am I here? What do I want? Am I here to cause trouble. I can tell you right now I’m not here to cause trouble. Promise. Scouts honor.” Technically I was never a scout, but people say that a lot.
“A friend of mine. Between me and you he’s the number one contender for best friend, but he told me that you might be able to help me. Provide a little context on who and what Green Lanterns are since I’m a trainee and apparently there’s no one here to show me the ropes. ”
ALAN: “Sorry, kid. That thing you’re doing with your face? Just screams ‘nutty pervert’ to me. Don’t do that around Grant or he’ll start calling you Chester.”
Whether or not that too was part of the over-all demeanor of good cheer? Is a little suspicious because of the grave-sound to that warning. Ted Grant gives out ‘Codenames’ that you’re stuck with for life. Whether they’re fun, friendly, cute or unflattering? Ted’s intent is normally easy to figure by the tone of the nickname. Baby Bird? Black Canary, prized student. Numbnuts? Well, not many people talk about good ole Chuck Lane anymore. Poor old Jester, he really did have the best of intentions. One bad joke over a beer with Ted Grant and now? Now he’s numbnuts.
“I wasn’t here,” jerking my thumb back over a shoulder the way I came. “Was back at my little hovel, reading the newspaper. Hostage Crisis. Terrible stuff. Glad for the interruption.”
At the question of being sued? I’m quick to answer his cash register constructs with a convict’s ball and chain forming around one of his ankles. Giving the kid a wink, to show I’m not put off by the zany special effects. “Sued? Maybe. You’d probably be assassinated first. Put in Super-Prison, if you’re real lucky. Speaking of, Kid. Aren’t you..um.. well, I don’t mean to sound rude here, but you seem a little… green … around the ears.”
Then it’s time to listen, and I do that a lot better than most. When you’ve been doing the sort of work that I’ve done, for almost a century at this point, you have to be a good listener. Kyle is quick to profess himself as a good guy. Nice start, but I’m not so easily convinced. The last guy I met with one of those rings was a nice guy too. Until he wasn’t. It’s at that point though, that I want to correct him but hold off doing so. He’s got more to say, a story to tell. Someone sent him to me? Very interesting, that’s a decidedly small number of potential people who would even know to send someone to me.
He’s introduced himself, filled in the blanks that my ring didn’t offer. Now it’s my turn. I should probably make this something Grand. Something awe-inspiring, to put Kyle in the proper mind set. Right? Eh. Nah. “Well, as your friend told you, I really am Alan Scott. About sixty years ago? They called me the Green Lantern. Feels like a life-time ago, to be honest.”
“Wait. Wait. Hold on. Kyle, you really are new aren’t you? Oh, damn, kid. I thought you were putting me on. Taking the whole secret identity thing a step further. Damn. Listen kid, have you learned how to fly? Course you did, that’s how you got to the roof. There are some things you need to know, but if we hang out here in Gotham putting our Schwatz on display like this? One of the bat-kids is going to show up and do this growly voice. It’s extremely disconcerting to have a twelve year old boy trying to sound like Barry White, while telling you to get out of their City. Last time it happened, I almost threw my hip out trying to hold back to laughter.”
Without any further banter the ring on my hand lights up. Literally. The green-white flames spark up all around me as I lift back up in to the air. “Follow me, Kid. I’ll tell you a little story. Hope you like Dramatic Comedies, with a splash of Sci-Fi Horror.”
KYLE: I gave it a little thought remembering how quickly that can happen. I’m in high school it happens every day. Make one faux pas and you’re it for life. You can try to escape it, but the moment you run into someone that knows it starts all over again. I try not to frown, because frowning wouldn’t make the best of impressions.
Chester. I’m not sure I want to know what that means. Some things I’m better not knowing.
Seeing the ball and chain at my ankle I shake my head. “I rather avoid that if possible. My bestie pretty much told me the same thing. He’s putting himself on the line for me.” Con was and that meant something. He could’ve taken me in. I rather not be on the run and have my mom find out about all of this on the television. It’s the last thing she needs.
“Wait…did you say sixty years ago?” Sixty? He was the Green Lantern then? He doesn’t look. I try to work it out in my head without triggering my ring. I rather not telegraph what I’m thinking. “How did you stop aging or has your cellular decay somehow been suppressed?” Could his ring do something like that? Also, how do I know about cellular decay? Star Trek naturally.
“Really? Try to do the right thing and they’re trying to sweep you out like you’re the tress. How rude!” My brows knit themselves together at that one, but flying. We should be doing that. I’ve flown a few places, but I’ve tried to stay off the radar when I can. When he takes to the air I still find myself fascinated by the aura of his ring it’s definitely not like mine. The energy is different.
My ring lights up and it’s simple green aura when compared the green white flames that surround Alan. Of course, I’m following behind him until I’m flying beside him on my sweet looking green Vespa.
Aw yeah! I always wanted to ride through Rome on a Vespa. It looks fun. I even have a helmet. See safety boy!
“I guess I should start at the beginning.” The beginning. “I was in a plane crash several years ago. Only survivor. Short term coma actually along with you know a broken body. I was on a class trip coming back from DC. You know school trip to see how the government works. On the way back, the plane started having trouble. It took a turn for the worse and well, the next thing I remembered I was in the hospital, in traction. Lone survivor.” I think my mom inquired a few times about what brought the plane down. We never got a real answer. Mainly because I was whisked away.
“It was about a year of rehab along with tests from the DEO to make sure there was nothing ‘special’ about me. They couldn’t understand how I survived. I wasn’t super-durable or strong. Couldn’t change shape, but I survived. They needed to be sure.” I glanced at the ring. “It didn’t even look like this in the beginning. It was a simple ring. Nothing special about it. It was dormant. I think it was a safety feature. No one thought anything of it, but after all was said and done. My mom was given a modest amount and strings were pulled and I got into a really good boarding school in Metropolis that had a really good art program, but…” There was always a but.
“Psychiatrist were worried about trauma and gaps in the memory. The fact that I couldn’t recall anything, and I was having nightmares was troubling, but after a while I stopped.” They didn’t stop I stopped. “I didn’t want to talk to them anymore. I wanted to know, but I didn’t want to share my feelings about it.” Not how I was built. I had to work through it may way. “There were reoccurring images a pair of hands, blue eyes and voice. You will do. Always the same, all engulfed in flames. I didn’t tell anyone about it, because what if I was going crazy? What if it was a meta-human that helped me out? It would suck if I snitched. Also, I didn’t want to worry my mom.”
ALAN: “Mhm. Sixty years or so. I found my ring in the summer of nineteen thirty-nine, to be specific.” I’ll let Kyle worry about the Math, because the kid seems a little conscious of such things. Instead I focus on giving him some more information in exchange for his. “Mine was a Train Wreck. Literally. I was also the sole survivor, at least of the train car that I was in.”
The Vespa is actually pretty cute. For a guy trying to attract very little attention, he’s got a certain flare about him. Playful. What can I say? We’re already glowing green and flying across the night’s sky. What is a little personality going to do that we’re not already doing? So I up the ante a little bit. Giving myself a Chariot and two Flying Goats. Chariot of Fire, mind you. Which allows for me to talk, to fly, without having to be the one guiding us to our location: Casa del Scott. Lonely Mansion on the Outskirts of Gotham City.
“Safety feature? Yeah. Kinda. The rings can take the shape of anything you need it to be. It’s connected to you, Kyle. If you were anxious about being caught or worried about them thinking you were a Meta? The ring recognized it and concealed itself. Most likely, it was also waiting and conserving power until you finished your rehab. That’s actually how it worked with me too. Kinda weird. History repeating itself like that.”
Though my Home isn’t Wayne Manor it’s still a pretty sizable ‘Retirement Home.’ I’ve got money, I don’t feel like I should skimp on amenities when I’ve been -forced- in to semi-retirement. So I don’t live in a real Hovel, like I joked about earlier. I’ve got a pool and a tennis court. Actually two. A set outside and set inside. Plus a Bowling Alley, that I keep hidden otherwise Ted Grant would never leave.
Our chosen landing spot? Is the balcony leading in to my study. Oh, and the House? Is actually older than I am. “The Alien in your memories is called a Guardian. They’re an ancient and evolved alien culture. Who decided a long, long time ago to bring order to the otherwise chaotic galaxy. In the Grand Scheme of the Universe, at least my understanding of it? They’re the Good Guys. Which is good news, right? The ring you’re wearing, is a power ring from the Planet Oa, home of those Guardians. It was created to help the Guardian’s empower their a corps of sector guardians.”
“Generally speaking there is a finite number of power rings. One, maybe two, for each Sector of Space that falls under the Guardian’s protection. Normally, when a Lantern is selected, they’re replacing a fallen Lantern.” Now that I’m starting to explain things, and we’re inside, I’m starting to create a small power point presentation upon the walls of my study. Giving the younger Lantern a bit of a quick overview of the ‘world’ he’s stepped in to. “If you’re having memories of an actual Guardian giving you that ring, Kyle, then that makes you a very special young man. It also answers a question for me.”
“You see, Kyle. As soon as that Ring came out of its dormant state. When you were physically able to begin wielding it and learning? You should have been immediately recalled to Oa, for training. In some case,s a trainer would be sent to you, but that’s normally only the case of certain Lanterns that can’t physically traverse space to Oa. All of which means, Kyle. That if you’re not there and someone isn’t here to train you? Then the War that the Corps was waging with Parallax is going very poorly.”
KYLE: Nineteen thirty-nine. Less than 80 years ago. My eyes widen for a moment, which is magnified a bit because of the goggles that I’m wearing along with the helmet. It completes the look with my Vespa. Smirking at the chariots and goats I wonder if he has a fascination with Thor or if this is just what he likes. Interesting. Definitely creates a certain look. “Really?” That is quite the coincidence. We were both lone survivors.
“I definitely wasn’t ready back then. There was too much to focus on I also think…” I think there was another reason it was dormant. I don’t even know how to put together yet. I mean it had to be connected. The fact that my story is remarkably similar to Alan’s is eerie. However, does this mean that I’ll look that good when I’m older. That would be an interesting perk.
Following along I make sure Vespa keeps up with the goats as they seemed to know our intended destination. “Definitely weird, but maybe some events are meant to repeat themselves. People are always talking about how there are certain patterns to life and the universe. I think it’s true to a point. Perhaps it’s meant to help us notice something. Or at least make us aware. I don’t know, but after everything that’s happened sometimes you have to stop and think.” Then again, I shall have to do and what not.
When we arrive at his residence, his hovel I look over at him. “This is pretty nice…” Better than pretty nice. There’s a tennis court and swimming pool. When the Vespa lands it fades away when I stand up looking around. “Really nice.” However, priorities. “Ganthet.” I add. See I learned a few things. A lot of things, but not everything like I had no idea how the rings came to be.
“It was described by my friend as Intergalactic Peackeeper. So pretty much a space cop.” I’m space cop. I’m still shocked by that. Despite my comments I take everything Alan says seriously going as far as to walk towards the projections.
“Which isn’t good.” I don’t full on frown all the tie, but when I do it changes my entire posture. It almost seems like I’m a few inches shorter. “I’ve only been using the ring for a couple of weeks. First is…was a fire in Metropolis. It was bad. No one had arrived. I heard people and it was like the crash all over again. I ran towards it.” Instead of away. “I was inside trying to help some kids get out and had to jump through some flames with only a wet blanket to get to them. That was a little surreal. I saw the eyes, the hands reaching out of the flames, but I had to. I couldn’t just turn away.” Through the flames I went.
“The ring changed and started talking then it just went…it was pretty amazing. Fire truck arrived with firemen to help get people out and take out the fire, but they weren’t real. They were green. I was thinking that’s what we needed, and it happened.” My mind was blown right there. Like Boom.
“If that wasn’t enough I hide out with the fire crew and slipped away in one of their uniforms and I flew. Like up, up and away. Like Superman. Classic Superman.” I say with a spin before looking at him.
“I didn’t know who to tell or who to talk to. However, it did make me think about what happened with the crashed and the voice I remembered. It was then I remembered. I thought all this time he said, “You will have to do,” when he actually said, ‘You shall have to do.’”
I ball my fist and focus, and the projection actually activates like right out of Star Wars. No need to bang on the ring and tell him to release the message that he’s carrying in his rusty innards.
It’s a vivid projection of Ganthet. It’s not just green, it shows everything as it should be like a 3-D image with full colors. However, he wasn’t talking. He remained inactive. I turned to Alan and scanned him with the ring.
[Subject identified. Alan Scott.] The ring stated.
“Replay greeting message. Um…Kyle Authorization. Please?”
[Permission granted.] Just like that the image of Ganthet came to life.
”Kyle Rayner if you are viewing this then not only have you successfully demonstrated that you are capable of overcoming great fear you have provided the correct passphrase to access this message.”
“Sufficient time has elapsed for you to grasp that this is a prerecorded message that I meant for you and you alone to access. Humans have always been clever creatures and despite the circumstances I believe that I have chosen wisely.”
“I am called Ganthet and I am a Guardian of the Universe and yes, you shall have to do, Kyle Rayner. While our exchange was brief I know that I have entrusted the last power ring to the right individual. I wish there was more that I could tell you, but my time is limited. However, I wish for you to know that I sensed within you all the traits that are desired for those who wield a Lantern’s power ring. Let it be known that hence forth from this moment you are the Green Lantern.”
“I offer you my apologies as I am not able to provide as much information as I would like, but my presence will not go unnoticed by the Fallen One. You have been entrusted with a great legacy, Kyle Rayner. One that larger than your wildest dreams no matter how vivid they may be.”
”Perhaps our paths will cross again, but if not know that both I and the ring have chosen wisely. Until then may your ring and power battery serve you well and you them. Farewell.”
The projection fades. “I found out who the Fallen One was.”
Everything else is lip-service. Nothing that we’ve spoken about is as important as that name. Who he is and what he did. How he came to be. “Hal Jordan, to his friends. He was the last Green Lantern on this world. There have been others, but they’re either off world or gone at this point. Ganthet is right, you’ve got quite a legacy, young man. Some of it to live up too, some of it to make up for. Your shoulders are broad, you look like a strapping young lad. If Ganthet is right, you’ve already got all the tools you’ll need.”
Moving over to the sofa in the study and reclining across it. Lazing, almost, but as I do the Green comes alive again. A spark turns in to flame in the fire place. A leggy young maid springs to work in taking my sports coat and offering the two of us drinks. He’d mentioned the firemen who he created, this is something like that. Although there’s a similar difference in how it manifests. That, for now, isn’t half as important as talking with this young man. Putting him at ease and getting him to stop worrying so much.
“Alright, Kyle. Let’s talk turkey, such is the season. You’ve told me your story, so I feel like I should give you mine. Just keep in mind that I’m abbreviating most of a century. When I awoke from my train wreck, I didn’t have an explanation. Nor did I have a ring. The only other thing that survived the wreck was a single train lamp. Which was given to me, by the owners of the Train. Along with a sizable settlement. It turns out that the Lamp was the source of my rescue. Like your Ring took another form? The Lamp was actually a Lantern, in another shape. It had been on this world for a long, long time. Looking for someone it considered worthy. Apparently, I was it.”
“I called your ring a new model. That’s because my ring is spawned from the Guardians too, just from a point in time prior to their having made rings like yours. A long time before, in fact. The Guardians, Ganthet among them. Decided that ‘Magic’ was a chaotic force. So, they decided to contain it. Lock it away from people who would abuse it. They gathered all of the ‘Magic’ they could in to a single vessel, for safe keeping. It was intended to be the original Central Battery, for rings just like yours. What the Guardians didn’t understand at that time, is that Magic isn’t just casual energy. It happens to be alive. It believed in the Guardian’s Goal of Order and Preserving Life, but it didn’t wish to be used as nothing more than a battery. Son it escaped their custody and found its way here. On Earth.”
Making a gesture of my hand, the ring on my hand floats away from my finger. Levitating on its own towards my desk. Towards the small Lamp that settles there. As it draws near the Lamp reveals itself to be a massive Lantern, the likes of which Kyle is sure to recognize. “This is the Starheart, Kyle. Though it works very similarly to your Battery and my abilities manifest similar to your’s, they energy behind them is different. Same Smartphone, different batteries.”
“For a long time, I didn’t know about the Green Lantern Corp. Then a ring came to Earth, by accident. He was fleeing from some sort of battle. His ship was damaged. He was dying. His ring sought out his replacement. That replacement was Hal Jordan. Whom would become Parallax. When the two of us met, our rings identified one another. We helped one another over the years. Through Hal, I was introduced to the Guardians. To Ganthet. Through me they were able to reconnect with the Starheart. Whom they now recognize as sentient.”
“After Coast City… after Hal… fell…the Guardians asked me to be this Sector’s Lantern. The Starheart feared that the Guardians would eventually revert back to wanting to contain it or if circumstances became Dire, they might seek to use it for its original purpose. So, a compromise was reached. The Guardians appointed me as the Guardian Sentinel. Apparently, it’s some sort of honorary position.” Once more shrugging, as I take a drink of what has been brought by the constructed waitress. “I think, it means that I’m your Guardian, Pal. I feel like I owe you an apology. Because, after all of that? This world changed. Tonight, was the first time I’ve even flown in ten years.”
KYLE: Looking at my ring I watch as Alan uses his how the fire comes to life and the maid who comes to take his jacket and take our drink orders. I can already tell that she’s a construct, but the more I understand how different our rings are, but how alike they are. Pressing my lips into a thin line I find a chair to sit in, because I think this is best taken in while sitting.
“Water, please. Thank you.” Have to stay hydrated. It’s what I tell myself. It helps me pace myself. I know a zillion questions could swirl, but I listen, because sometimes you just need to. Sometimes the questions you’re about to ask might be answered if you listen.
Upon hearing Alan’s story it’s like the start of a mythical story. One page flips after the another in my mind. From meager beginnings to something greater. The realization that Starheart is more than tool, that it is alive. When the ring floats away towards the lamp I gasp when the lamp reveals itself to be the lantern that he spoke of. It’s massive and it looks very reminiscent of the power battery that I retrieved in Coast City. They wanted Starheart to power all the rings. I wonder how different things might have been if it had happened?
“Got it. Magic.” That made me think on something, but it could wait. The idea that magic exist still doesn’t make me pause. I take it all in stride. Con talked about magic and now Alan is talking about magic. Sounds like a common thing for certain individuals, those who come in contact with it on a regular basis.
“I want to make a note that I want to come back to the magic business. I have a question. Two questions. One’s magic related the other is related to your business.” I state it, because if I don’t I’ll forget to ask. It’s important, because it could help two people out. One I don’t know, but knows my friend and I know he was concerned about the possibility. Alan could help, but it may become a matter of wanting to help.
“It’s not safe for meta-humans. It’s dangerous. You’re working with the Guardians to protect people. They recognize the relationship you have with your ring, the fact that Starheart is sentient. It’s not simply a tool. In a lot of ways Starheart sounds like your partner.” My ring has spoken, but it sounds more preprogrammed than anything.
“You have nothing to apologize for. This is a less than ideal situation for everyone.” I’m not saying that I don’t want the ring or I wish the ring had never come into my possession, but I know what it represents. “I started doing research on the Green Lantern as much as I could without drawing attention. It led me to Coast City. I saw what Hal Jordan was capable of how he gathered heroes to defeat Mongul, but then I saw how that battle changed him, the birth of Parallax.” I had been given that a lot of thought.
“I want to know more about the Green Lanterns about this Corps. I won’t lie it was a lot to take in to find out that one of the single greatest heroes is now the most nefarious, but my new friend…he said something similar to what you said about carrying on a great legacy and forging our own. There is a lot to live up to, but it can’t define me, because Hal Jordan was Hal Jordan and I’m Kyle Rayner.” Is there a possibility the same thing could happen to me?
“It’s why I’m here. To learn. It’s why I went to Coast City to learn. I could have put the ring away after everything I learned, but I can’t. Surrendering to the darkness is not allowed. I’ve seen what fear does to people. I’ve seen what fear has done to this country, to the planet.” And we’re just one planet among many.
Parallax may have been driven away, but he will return.
“The specter of Parallax can’t be Green Lantern’s legacy. It can’t be the legacy for any meta-human. The shadow that’s been cast must be beaten back. I want you to be able to fly again and again. Our light is supposed to instill hope not fear. The world has had enough of the later. It needs the former.”
ALAN: “Ask whatever questions you need, son. I’ve got nothing but time.”
I also wanted Kyle to see something else. The ring has floated back to the Lantern, but the constructs are still alive and working in the room. I’m waiting for him to catch on, to see it and recognize it. That the ring I’m wearing is little more than another construct actually. The Starheart creates it to give me a focus for the power, but I’ve been working with it all these years now. The ring is something for me to channel through. Like a laser passing through a focus, it gives me a greater deal of control. A finer type of control if anything. It just isn’t needed.
Partner? I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but that actually makes sense. It has me nodding, even smiling and shooting the finger gun at Kyle. “Right on, Kid. It’s a lot like that, really. Though, I suppose we work together for entirely different reasons than your Corp selects it’s ring bearers.”
“Hold on there, Tonto. Let’s take a step back here. I want to give you a piece of advice. Don’t worry about what Hal did or who he was. You’re not him and if you devote any amount of time to thinking about the What If, you’ll lose time to think about the right now. Right now, you’re Kyle Raynor. Green Lantern. You were chosen because you have all the tools to be a good Lantern. The thing you need to focus on, is what kind of a Lantern do you want to be?”
“It’s not even a difficult thought, Kyle. Just close your eyes. Think about your Mom. The woman who raised you to be worthy of that ring. What would make her proud? Start there. Build on it.” Once more I’m taking a drink, but this time it’s more to give Kyle a second to think about what I’ve said. “There’s a lot about the Lantern Corp that I can tell you, but there’s also a lot that I don’t know. Like I said, Starheart was born from an earlier stage of the Guardian’s plans. When she escaped, the Guardians had to re-think their plans.”
“I also know, that the Guardians aren’t perfect. My own story tells you that. They made a mistake with ‘Magic.’ What makes them, normally, good guys? Is that when they recognize that they’ve made a mistake? Ordinarily they admit it and try to correct it. That makes them a source of Good, out there. That ring means you’re not just Kyle Rayner of Earth, kid. There’s a bigger universe out there and the Guardians are a force of good for a big chunk of it.” Putting my hands out, one to the construct for a refill and the other to call Kyle off for a second. “Back to what I said about not focusing on Legacy yet. Kyle, you’re a kid. The ring called you a trainee. So. First lesson. Stop worrying about Legacy, until you even know what the hell you’re doing.”
“Lesson number two? Parallax wasn’t born here. It’s existed for as long as those rings of yours have. For a long time it created a singular impurity in those rings, actually. Parallax feeds on fear. It harvests fear, for power. That impurity in your ring? It awoke when Coast City was destroyed. It felt the fear of an entire planet, it harvested it… and then Hal became little more than my ring to Parallax. A focus, a tool.”
“You’re not a tool are you, Kid? God, I hope you’re not a tool. So. Question number two?”
KYLE: I hadn’t caught on until I saw the ring moving back to the Lantern. I had been caught up with so much that it hadn’t dawned on me. Con said that there was a former Green Lantern in Gotham that I could talk to. He was a Green Lantern past tense. My eyes move between the ring and Alan. I was so caught up in what was happening, that I didn’t focus on what I was being shown.
He said he hadn’t flown in quite some time. Also given the fact that he operated as a Lantern in the past and he was still here suggested something. Logically speaking at least.
“When I did my research, there was a lot about Jordan, but nothing about you. The only reason I know about you is because I was given your name.” Meaning someone removed all records of his activities or they weren’t reported on. I find that difficult to believe.
Alan’s pretty much been leading a normal life. “Why did you stop being active as the Green Lantern?” This is leading somewhere a suspicion. I’m curious now, but I keep watching Alan interact with the constructs. When he tells me to think about what my mom would want. “She would want me to be a good person.” That’s my mom. “Do what’s right. Help people. Appreciate the gift I was given.” I lived.
Be Kyle Rayner. My mind shifts to all of the people who didn’t live. All the lives that were lost. All the lives that might have been. Not to conjure guilt, but to remind me that every victory I have is a victory for everyone. A victor for all the people that were on the plain with me and all the people that believe in me just being me.
“I’m not a tool.” That’s a promise. Have no say in what they do. They are directed from one tasks then the next. Never speaking. Never objecting. Never fighting.
ALAN: Yeah, when the Starheart originally found me, I wasn’t really a member of the Green Lantern Corp. Hell, Earth didn’t even have a Green Lantern at the time. We were considered, as a planet, a bit too backwater for the Guardians. That’s one of the many reasons that the Starheart thought she’d be safe here. Another of those reasons, is that Humanity had blocked the walls off on Magic, but also still had some people who believed. Just the right mixture for her to find a protector, without risking entangling herself in something that might end up being detected by the Guardians.”
This feels like a tale, when it’s really history. Not ancient history, because it sure all feels like it was just yesterday. There’s warmth in my voice for this, for what I’m telling Kyle Rayner. Because this is all important to me and to the source of what power I’m using here. Something as old and as strange as the Guardians of Oa themselves. Created by them in fact. Manifesting in a nearly identical way of their own power. Though at the same time decidedly different.
“During the Great War, I operated as a Lantern. Starheart agreed that we needed to protect this world, since it was her new Home. After it though, we knew right away that we’d be ‘retiring’ sooner than Later. We kept at it for a time, but when the world started it’s first turn against Capes? We were among the first to be approached with the ultimatum.”
“Join them. Be part of their group, act when called upon. Retire. A number of us were offered the opportunity to retire. Thanked for our contributions to the War Effort and recognized as Heroes. We were given special dispensations. So long as we didn’t act out, through becoming vigilantes or through becoming something worse. We were promised immunity. Not just for ourselves but our continued families, which were encouraged to have.” Pausing, long enough to take a drink and leave Kyle to ponder which of the options I’d taken. A rueful smile crosses my face, as I watch this boy. He seems to take it all in as part of some fanciful story of the Ages. “Surprisingly, I initially took Door Number One. I joined with the group, under the pretense of keeping it and the Starheart Safe. Several members of the Society did the same.”
“Our goal was to shape this new group. To work from within to make it a true force for Justice and Prosperity. For a time, it seemed to be working. Which is why you won’t find much of me in the History Books. I was what you might call Upper Management. So I didn’t get out in the field much. That was just fine for the Starheart. Eventually Hal got his ring and I stopped feeling the need to be out there.”
“Most people don’t realize this, but things in the D.E.O. started taking a turn for the worse long before Coast City. It started with the arrival of the first Superman. An Alien of nearly unstoppable power, who wouldn’t agree to work with the ‘Team,’ nor would he be forcibly retired. He threatened the entire paradigm. Forcing the D.E.O. to get aggressive, to seek alternative means to protecting the world. That change, is what lead us to this point.”
“Not very reassuring, Kid, since that’s what a tool would say. Make your own decisions. Out there. Some of them will be mistakes. Own them as much as you own the good ones and you’ll be alright.”
KYLE: I listened to every word that was said considering everything that was being shared with me. The reason why I hadn’t heard of Alan before, why there was nothing in the papers about him. I also considered how well it seemed that Alan and the Starheart seemed to be in step with one another. They seemed to be of one mind. I wondered if they mutually influenced one another over time.
That aside what did concern me was the statement that Alan made about how the government pushed the heroes of his time into working with him. “So, no matter the choice that was made they encouraged you to start families and procreate.” I glanced over at the other. Nothing altruistic about that. “Sounds like when someone shelf life has experienced they would already have a new generation to pick from.” And if they couldn’t do that they would make their own. That made me think about Con and some of the things that were happening right now.
On the logic side it makes sense, but it’s still shitty. That’s the government for you. “There’s nothing more natural than that. If there’s a problem, if a system is broken there’s two paths you can take. Work within the system or outside of it. Given the choice that was handed to you chose the one where you wanted to do the most good from within. Also, someone had to fight the fight from within for the generations to come. If you chose to walk away any access you could hope to have wouldn’t be there. The government would become a black box that no one could see into which would make them far more dangerous, because no one would know what to expect.” I could be way off the mark, but that’s how it makes sense to me, however given the way things are now I doubt I will be taking door number one. I’m not a big fan on the anti-alien talk.
“So, when they come for me…” Because they were going to come for me. It’s not that I didn’t trust Con, far from it. I trusted him I don’t know why I just did and had nothing to do with the big D. Not that I looked! However, they could eventually send someone other than Con the more I start acting out in the open.
“…they’re going to try to go through my mom to get to me.” There were few people in the world that I cared about. It wasn’t like there were gaggles of Rayners in my life or anyone from my mom’s family, so she was the person that I had to be concerned about. Her and Con, because if Con tries to stick up for me, run interference then they would do who knows what to him, probably go after the people that were important to him, like Wonder Woman who can take care of herself, but there’s always someone. Right?
“So, since Superman didn’t play ball they decided that gave them carte blanche to do whatever it took to make people play ball using old and new methods.” He paused for a second wondering something.
“Did you know the first Superman? I met him once, but it wasn’t like meta to meta.” Despite the fact that he’s not human. I was just curious what he was like in that capacity.
“Honestly, I think that’s all we can do. Do the best we can. Learn from our mistakes. Own our mistakes. I try to do that every day. It’s the only way I learn. It can be scary yeah, but life is scary. But you can’t let it paralyze you. Can’t let it make you doubt yourself. The moment that happens it all falls apart.”
ALAN: “I wasn’t the only one, but yes. We thought it best to have some sort of view on what was happening. Take whatever voice that would give us in the ‘Company’ and use it to shape the future.” It had worked too, for decades. A lot of people don’t even realize that and I’m quick to point it out. “We stemmed the tide of that first turn too. When the Keene Act passed it could have been all out war on Metas, right from the start. We disbanded the Society, with a unanimous vote.”
“Right then and there. We agreed on what had to happen. All it took was one of our best friends giving his life to stop some crazy jack ass, called War Wheel. Those of us who went to the inside worked for years to keep it together. As time passed a lot of us worked our way up in the Company. We found roles that suited us, where we could get the most accomplished for the good of the people.” Gesturing at myself, to draw attention to the fact that I don’t look my age. “A lot of my friends have retired, at this point. Somewhere along the lines, it would seem, that I have been Starheart’s Champion for a little too long. I’m infused with her energy. You probably noticed, I don’t need the ring anymore. It’s still good as a focus, but I don’t need it for the casual stuff anymore.”
“Think of it like this, Kid. With the ring I’m a brain surgeon. I can make precise constructs that defy reality, like that Spider-Bot you did. Without the ring, I could still make a fist that would knock you in to next week.”
His last question is something that has me pause though. Even set my drink aside and wipe my hands off on my slacks, before pushing up to my feet. “Kal-El, of Krypton, was the greatest person I ever met. He wasn’t just a Hero, Kyle. He was a believer. A true believer. Everything he did was for Truth and Justice. The Company was sure, even to this day, that he had some sort of secret life, but I’ll be damned if I know how he’d manage it. The guy was always there when you needed him. Cat in a Tree in Metropolis? He’s there. Bomb threat in Ireland? He’s already there. Crashing plane in National City? He’s bringing it down safely in the harbor. The things that happened to him, the things we did to him? Terrible. Unconscionable, really.”
“He left this world to stop Luthor. If he had stayed, Luthor would have won. He would have turned Superman in to the Villain, just like they did with the Batman. Supes left, to deny Luthor his final victory. He got out in time to save his legacy and leave the people with just enough of a good feeling about him, that people miss him. They still worship him. Guy was smart, I think. Because I think he knew what he was doing. Leaving that spark is what kept the door open for people like these kids in the news. Kids like you, son.”
“Now. You said you had another question. About magic. Go on then. Ask away.” Raising my hand once more, I summon the ring back from its place on the larger lantern upon the desk. “When you’re done. We should probably get started, unless you want to be a Poozer your whole life.”
KYLE: I was getting there with the ring, because constructs were being maintained without him wearing the ring, but he beat me to the punch there. I noticed, it was hard not to notice when my water was being topped off and the ring was hovering around the lamp/lantern.
Listening to Alan was like getting a history listen that I was immensely interested in. I had to make sure that my thoughts were just that thoughts. I didn’t want it to be converted into a construct. “Your ring is your focus.” I look at my ring. “They’re the lens through which our thoughts are magnified.” I would not get into how this was much like a focus from Mage: Ascension probably best not to get all geeky. However, it helped me. There were many ways that I could think of the ring.
“There’s only so much that can do to hold such things back. Choices are made and either it can help change things or the course is set.”
Hearing him talk about the first Superman in such glowing terms made me smile. There was a definite impression that was left upon me. “Trust me when I say there’s still a lot of people that believe in him. That didn’t believe the stories or the reports that came out. He didn’t abandon us.” That’s just bull. I didn’t believe that for one bit.
Balling my fist, I consider the sacrifices that everyone made for a better future. Alan, his friends, what they lost in the process. This can’t be the end not in the least.
“Two questions actually. The Superman question just made me wonder. With all your work behind the scenes I wondered. Not many people you can talk to that would know, but yes my questions.”
I needed to get back on track. “Magic question. My friend and I was curious about someone being able to use something made of magic to track someone and possibly use it to surveil on them. The cloth is made of magic, but it was in the D.E.O hands for years and possibly manipulated by its black ops team.” That’s what I call them. “Someone’s using this for good things, but we’re worried that they could be using magic to eavesdrop. I was wondering if Starheart since she…” He did call Starheart she right? “…is collected magic, if she could determine if it has been tampered with.” It was a possibility, right?
“Second question. GBC. I was curious given you’re a news organization if you know anything about Ted Kord. I think he might be able to help my friend. However, I was wondering what you know about him. I know he runs K.O.R.D. Incorporated, but have you heard anything negative about him?”
“And hey! I’m neither a tool or Poozer.”
ALAN: “You bet your ass there are people who still believe in him, pal. We do. All of us. Even those of us who were here before. He was the Best, Kyle. I mean it. The best Man, I’ve ever had the distinct pleasure to meet. He might not have been a Human, but he was everything we should aspire to be and then some.”
There’s just no denying the way in which I speak about Superman. It is so glowing, that it just can’t be faked. You can’t lie and still have this level of unabashed admiration for someone. It is as if I might actually be willing to sock someone in the kisser for saying otherwise. I’ve contained this thought, those feelings, for years. Kyle is a rare specimen that I seem to feel more free in speaking too. How? Given that I’ve known him a couple hours, tops. It’s all about the ring. He wouldn’t be worthy of it, if he wasn’t the real deal.
Once he gets to the other question, I’m actually a little surprised. This isn’t what I was anticipating. More questions about the ring and the Corps? Sure. This is a question of Magic and not even ‘Is it real?’ Kyle gets right to the nitty gritty. “There’s no simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer to that, Kyle. With the right item, paired with the right enchantment? Sure. It could be done. There’s a lot of variables to magic though. Does the Item have a specific purpose? If it does, would the enchantment infringe upon that purpose? A lot of magical items require a certain amount of ‘Worthiness’ to even use them. And ‘Worthiness’ isn’t always good. You might have to hate the exact right type people, to wield a magical item designed to hurt that type of person. Not all items are created equal, so to speak. Your ring is given to a good person. Mine is not necessarily reserved for someone good, so much as someone Starheart would see as a Protector.”
“The Starheart is … I’m not sure how to explain this. She is a collection of magical energies that existed hundred of thousands of years ago. Those energies were stored together, in a single prison. They exist there even now. I’ve found very little limit in what she can do. Other than her own limitation of what she will do. You see her major motivation is self-preservation, Kyle. So, for the most part? Starheart is willing to empower me to do whatever I need to do to protect the ‘Green’ or the Magic of this world or protect this world itself. She is rarely willing to apply her powers directly. Think of it this way. The ring is my focus, it gives me greater, finer, control. I’m the Starheart’s ring. Through me she has greater control of her vast energies.”
“More accurately, through me she takes less risk of losing control of the chaotic nature of her own power or being detected by someone like Parallax.”
I feel as though I’ve literally talked the kid’s ear off by answering that last question. There’s an unspoken apology on my face as I approach and clap him on the shoulder. “Chum, you’re about as Poozer-ish as they come. Just accept it. One of these days you’ll understand and when that happens, you’ll look back on today with a smile.”
“You second question sucks, by the way. Because there’s knowing Ted Kord and then there is knowing Ted Kord. Unfortunately, you can’t run a business-like mine without it being the latter. If you want, I can arrange for you or your friend to meet with Ted. But. Kyle, I’m going to say this exactly once. I’m busy that day. Doesn’t matter what day it is. I’m busy. Ted’s a special kind of guy. The kind of guy you invite to your Reunion. Every ten years. I’ve got sat least six more before I have to endure him again.”
KYLE: I believe what he’s saying about the first Superman. I don’t know how he feels about the new Superman. Something tells me that they’re tangentially on the same team, but they might see things different and I rather not get down into the weeks about it. Not to mention Alan’s been inside he knows how much good the government has tried to do, and how much bad it’s done and is capable of. Rather than jump the track here I keep on target and focus on the things he says about the first Superman.
There’s a reason why I don’t pepper him with questions about the Corps. There are some things that need to be doled out on doses. Getting it all at once could lead to information overload and I rather not experience that right now. There is a lot of information that has been shared during our exchanged. I learned a lot, but I also want to see what my ring will share with me, what will be unlocked. There is a bond that needs to be forged between. I need to know what it’s capable of.
I need to know what I’m capable of.
When we switch to magic I smile, because I can see it in his eyes. I leave myself to open possibilities. We live in a world where people fly, bring it down a building with a single punch, read minds, move things with their mind, be gifted with the privilege of wielding a powerful tool used in peacekeeping. How can I believe in all of that, but not magic?
When he discusses how Starheart behaves how it might come together I give a nod. “Then I think I should put it this way. Wonder Woman stated that she was the daughter of Zeus. She is magic. She is of this world. She wants to protect and help people. Helping her helps you both. If she’s been unknowingly compromised as she tries to bring about hope for a new generation of heroes.” Not based on what little Con shared, but what Wonder Woman said in her press conference. “Then a danger could exist for the planet, potentially magic, because you know Zeus and everything. It’s more of an ask and something to consider. Just think about it.” I say not only to Alan, but to Starheart. Has anyone ever asked. “It’s the most I can do right?” Ask.
When he speaks of Ted Kord in such interesting terms I start to get an idea that the man is a bit…extra. “Alright. If you could set up a meeting I would be super grateful, and I promise I won’t call you at all.” I almost want to ask what happened. It sounds like something happened. Maybe I should ask Ted, but at the same time the way he talks about him I have to wonder does he know him outside of just normal channels.
“Interesting.” I hold up my ring. “Mister Ring. Remember that. Poozer will make me smile when I know what it means.”
ALAN: “Hrm. Maybe not a totally useless Poozer, but a Poozer none the less,” says the man who is eyeballing Kyle in a different way than before. “Smooth. Trying to work the angles. I’m seeing why you might just do well enough, like your Guardian said.”
Kyle wasn’t asking me to do something that I’d just said Starheart wouldn’t be interested in. He’s taking what he wants and putting it in to the terms that might actually appeal to the necessity of protecting Her. Good. I like it. The kid learns quickly and that’s going to be a tool he needs in the coming days. Learning quick, on your feet, that’s something that just might save the world. This world doesn’t need a Poozer, it needs a full-fledged Lantern. Fast.
“So, this item you’re talking about is Wonder Woman’s. Got it. You’re worried that the people I work with might have done something to compromise it or her. ” Yeah, I’m restating it my way because Kyle hadn’t really spelled it out. He wasn’t sure exactly how to say it the first time, but now he’s putting meat on the bones. “You’re in luck Kid, one of my jobs for the Company was ‘Procurement.’ Specifically of items of a certain type. Given my connection to Magic, to Starheart, they thought that would be a task I was specifically suited for.”
“The rope she’s using as a lasso? Was once upon a time the Golden Fleece. Yeah, not joking. That Fleece, from History. We discovered it in a Nazi Germany vault, along with a lot of other toys they’d been playing with. Someone in their Regime had discovered that the Fleece gave it’s holder some pretty fantastic abilities. But. There was some ‘worthiness’ involved in getting it to work. I never told them that part. So they tried for a couple decades to get it to work, then some Brainiac had the idea of turning the fleece in to wool yarn. Bypassing the ‘Worthiness’ aspect all together, they planned to weave it in to something. The problem was, even at that stage it still needed to be worn by someone. So that same Brainiac, decided to try to twine it up even further, using it’s densile strength to make it in to a fine wire. Using it as a conduit they finally succeeded. It would transfer energy across it, then give it’s user momentary flashes of the Fleece’s gifts.”
“They eventually discarded the project because it was still unstable. You never knew which of the Fleece’s gifts you were going to give someone and you could only do it for small bits of time. Depending on how much energy you put through the wire. Eventually, when the project was rejected for being unstable, it got mothballed. Your ‘Friend,’ the new Superman. He broke out of a containment facility. Tore the place down around their ears. When the Company cleaned the mess up, a lot of items went unaccounted for. The Golden Fleece is one of them, but they’ve never moved to take it back because… the truth? They saw it work for her. So they want to see what else she can do with it.”
“So, you’re worried about the wrong thing on this one Son. They’re not using it to spy on her. They’re using her to unlock its secrets. If they ever move against this Wonder Woman? They’ll also be re-taking a very powerful weapon. That they have a much better idea of its uses.”
KYLE: I wasn’t sure what Starheart and Alan might be able to do but it was worth it. I wasn’t even sure if trying to put the question a different way would help, but I had to try. There’s a lot of things that I don’t know, that we don’t know. We’re trying to help the world, change the world a little bit. Keep the hope that people have that keeps growing.
I was hoping for a possible, but what happens is way better than possible. My eyes go wide as saucers again when he shares what seems to be a good amount of information that he has about the lasso. I knew of its origins, but I wasn’t aware of everything that had been done to it. It was pretty impressive when you think about it, but it also gave me another bit of information that I wasn’t expecting. Perhaps not something to share completely with everyone I meet, but a resource I could consult.
“That’s like wow.” I’m not sure if we can keep that information out of the hands of the watchers so to speak, but it is something we can be aware of.
I’m still taking it all in stride, but it isn’t lost on me that it is the <i>Golden Fleece. </i> How cool is that? Pretty darn cool if you ask me, but I think about Alan and Starheart. That’s pretty cool too. So many cool things, all the cool things.
“Thank you.” That’s more information than I could have hoped for. I may not need to be concerned about surveillance like Con’s suit, but there is something to be concerned about for Wonder Woman, and with her announcement there is a potential that she may be viewed by black ops D.E.O. group unfavorably.
“I have my moments. I thought it was worth a…” I start, but think about what he said.
He knows I’ve been talking about Con. Darn his investigative journalist powers! “How long did you know who my friend was?”
ALAN: “Not going to lie to you son,” giving a quick shrug of my shoulders, half-heartedly in fact. “The Project sent Superman to investigate the signature of a Green Lantern’s energy. Then you randomly show up at my company’s doorstep. Now you’re asking about a friend, who’s got another friend, with a magic item she’s concerned about them watching her through. Logic takes me from Point A, of Superman and you meeting, but you still having that ring and no visible signs of a fight. To him being nameless friend numero uno. To Point B, which is Wonder Woman having an item that Conner ‘Liberated’ from the Nowhere lab that he destroyed a couple years ago.”
Now that the ring is back on my finger, I take a moment to look at it. It’s different than Kyle’s. Obviously, an older design, but it’s distinctly older in the style too. My lantern and his are two different things. Though they work almost identically, they derive their power from different sources. It makes me wonder, much as I had with Hal, what could have been if Starheart had empowered other Lanterns.
“Now. I’m going to have my lovely assistant Jeannie show you to a room. Get settled in. Grab a shower or a nap, whatever you need. Mi casa es su casa, Kyle. We’ve just met, so I want you to look around. Take your time. Explore. There’s no hidden rooms. No locked doors. Nothing to hide that you haven’t already seen.”
“While you freshen up, I’ll get my people to call Ted’s people. Set up a meeting.” I’m about to step past him to the desk and the phone that awaits when I clap my hands, at the thing I almost forgot. “When you’re ready. Meet me downstairs. In the Gymnasium. Poozers have to train. So. Be ready. Because if you can’t dodge a magical green wrench, you can’t dodge a punch from Metallo. Seriously, Kid. This might be the only place in the whole world where you’re going to get to go full tilt with that ring, without setting off alarms. They know a Green Lantern lives here. No better place to train a Poozer to not be a Dead Poozer.”
KYLE: My ears picked up on one thing out of that entire explanation which I did listen to. However, there was something I zeroed in on. I go over everything that was said wondering if I missed anything, but I don’t suspect I did. However, if I did I will go over everything. The ring records everything. Which could be kind of creepy, but I guess it helps when going over certain situations. I found that out when I had it replay events from previous nights.
I recall saying that I met the first Superman. However, I don’t recall saying I met the new Superman. I wasn’t sure how he felt about the new Superman, so I kept that under wraps. Does he have someone in the inside or someone that doesn’t think about, because Alan was a company man for a while until things went bad.
Interesting or he’s keeping tabs on Conner.
“Oh.” That Oh says many things. I don’t want to come out and ask, because that would be rude right? However, it gives me an idea, potentially at least at how well-connected Alan is. “Here I thought I was being clever.“ With a snap of my fingers I offer him a grin. “I didn’t want to betray his confidence.” Best buds and everything. However, the fact that I didn’t look like a mishmash of multi-colored bruises should show that Conner isn’t all in with anti-Superfriends.
“A shower would be great. It would be awesome.” A quick nap too, but something tells me I’ll want to poke around. How many times have I been in a mansion? Seriously? “Thank you, Mr. Scott for everything.” Because he could have slammed the door in my face so to speak the moment he saw me.
“Gymnasium…” I had already turned to be shown to the room, but head is turning back towards him. “Right. Right.” Training. Oh wow. I wasn’t expecting that. “Roger that.” As we reach the door way I hold my ring up to my lips whispering.
“What’s a Poozer…” I step out as the ring informs me.
Cue a little grumbling.