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.
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.
“…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….”
The 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…”
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 Callahan. 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 identity 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.
“Today, a reporter from the Gotham Observer has produced the first images of the aftermath from last night’s air-raid on Shiruta, Kahndaq…”
News across the World have taken up the story. As the cover of night’s darkness descended upon the desert City of Shiruta, Capital City of Kahndaq. A daring plan was put into action by the neighboring country Bialya. It was roughly midnight when the first bomb dropped from the bay doors of an airborne destroyer. The payload was targeting the capital Palace; known to be the home of the country’s leader Theo Adam and the late Adrianna Tomaz.
Less than hour after the attack began, which is being called reminiscent of a modern day Pearl Harbor, Kahndaq’s Capital City was almost entirely razed to the ground. With the death toll reportedly in the tens of thousands. Kahndaq’s Champion, known the world over as Black Adam, was quick to respond. He took to the air to defend the country but the fighters and bombers were swarming like an angry beehive. For every fighter that Adam took down two more slipped past him long enough to deal yet more damage to the city. The Bialyan air force taking an almost kamikaze approach that left most of the world’s analysts stunned and speechless.
By two o’clock, Kahndaqian, the ground assault had begun. This was a more formal invasion, that seemed aimed at penetrating deep into the country. Once more the Country’s Champion would respond, but he was fighting a battle of numbers. Images shown by the Gotham Observer, demonstrate Adam’s brutality, but also the Bialyan strategy of taking ground by any means. Losing a tank to Adam’s fury, but gaining another mile with two others. Forcing Adam to protect the innocent, instead of pushing back at every front.
At nearly three o’clock, Kahndaqian, the first shots were fired from a Bialyan destroyer off the coast of Kahndaq from the Mediterranean Sea. To this Adam had little response. He was but a single person, fighting against the proverbial swarm of Bialyan bees.
It was not quite four o’clock when WGBS reported that Theo Adam had managed to finally make contact with the outside world. Humbling himself to ask the Leader of the Free World, President for Life Lex Luthor. for help.
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.
For years people feared that a War in the eastern peninsula of Egypt would rise from the ashes of an overthrown Dictator in the tiny little country of Kahndaq. Such a infinitesimally small blip on the World’s Map, yet it was taken from the hands of an inadequate madman. Taken by the hands of another madman, this one far more than simply adequate. Black Adam had usurped the previous Leader of the tiny nation without much fanfare. His efforts amounting to walking up to the pathetic creature that kept Kahndaq’s people in a constant state of poverty and quite simply murdering him where he stood. News Medias across the globe needed very little else as justification to point at any nation ran by a Meta-Human as the poster child for all that could and would go wrong if they were left unchecked.
Much to the surprise of the international community and the chagrin of those very same News Outlets, Black Adam made no moves to expand. Other than proclaiming his country ‘off limits’ to the meta-human hunters of various foreign powers, opening the doors to Kahndaq being labeled meta-terrorist sympathizers, the new King of Kahndaq had made very little waves in the world around his country. Instead he had focused upon bettering his people. Restoring them to the glory they once knew thousands of years prior.
No one. Not even Theo Adam and the Wisdom of the Gods. Thought for an instant that the violence would come from outside. That it would be waged against this tiny, insignificant country, who’s only true worth could be measured in Black Adam’s power? Seemed almost an absurd impossibility but a week ago.
Yet now in the aftermath of a sneak attack the likes of Pearl Harbor, the world has begun to re-evaluate what it thinks of impossible. As well as taking a very hard look at the possibility of what this world might look like if ever those ‘Mystery Men’ of ages past were to put their power towards ruling their homelands, instead of simply protecting them. For while the combined might of the Allied Nations had pushed away the fight from the innocent of Shiruta, they had truly only afforded Kahndaq’s ruler a chance to finally push back. And push back, he has.
Not more than twenty five miles from the outer edge of the safety camp erected by the United Nation’s Peace-Keeping Task Force? The War still rages. Bialya’s forces have retreated only as far as it took to get those from the outside world to stop pushing back. Once that line was decided? They dug in. Fortifying their positions. Creating supply lines to their troops, in ways that most military analysts would say they intended to fight for every inch of Kahndaq they could get. Those same analysts would also pose the notion that it was ultimately futile in their efforts to do so.
Black Adam does not sleep and he does not eat. He certainly does not take a break. The magic from the Rock of Eternity burns eternal and so to does it’s Champion. What’s more is that the task he has set about is not one waged against other, similar supermen. It is against a people as frail as those Adam would protect. He lights from camp to camp, eradicating each that he encounters. Littering his own country in the wreckage of the instruments of War.
All of which he does without stopping. Thus is the headway he makes. Yet so too does it make for an incomplete picture that he sees. Why dig in? Why fight for land you have no true hope of holding? In his rage, Adam renders Bialya’s assault moot more and more with each passing hour. It is however taking hours. Which in turn stretch in to days. We are even now reaching a week that his country has been under siege.
Synopsis: Freddy races to the Wizard’s sanctum through the broom closest in Fawcett High only to come face to face with Black Adam. After some enlightening conversation the school boiler room is besieged by new group Crocodile People leading to the awe and horror that is Black Adam, a revelation, multiple tragedies and a Pyrrhic victory.
BLACK ADAM: “Welcome, Boy.”
When you think of all the ways to make an entrance? Those two words aren’t likely in it. There are no fireworks. No parade of a theme song. You might even expect thunder and lightning, given what and who we’re dealing with. None of which are present. One moment you’re looking through a broiler room at the basement of Fawcett City High School, home of the Fighting Spartans. You’ve spent a considerable amount of time conferring with the Wisdom of Solomon about what such a ‘Door’ might look like. It never occurs to you that opening the Broom Closet door is going to transport you through time and space.
Leaving you standing at the door to what looks like a Museum of Oddities. The Sanctum of the Wizard is not like the Tales of a Book. In this particular case it looks like something ripped from the pages of a History book. Shazam’s Sanctum would be right at home in Ancient Greece. With all its marble and candle lighting. From experience you know that it’s got several stories and that each one is like a glimpse in to another time period. The Wizard adapted to each Age he was forced to exist in with the passage of time.
But really. None of that is important right now. Because it’s very difficult to get beyond what literally sits right before you. On a throne of books, torn from the walls of the Wizard’s sanctum. His face may be shrouded but nothing stops Solomon from recognizing exactly what Freddy’s seeing. Cloaked though he may be, lightning crackles around him. The sights of just that first room tell Freddy that Black Adam has been waiting upon him for some time.
“I’m afraid the Wizard isn’t at home right now.”
FREDDY: It happened it all came tumbling in ways that Freddy hadn’t expected. He didn’t abandon Chief Callaghan, not in the least. He left him with a warning that not all is as it seems in Fawcett City to trust his instincts and his eyes. The ones that were connected to his gut. Be that bastion of strength and leadership that Fawcett City knew and depended upon. They needed it, because there was far too much happening just behind the veil that seemed ready to push through and they were going to need people with solid and clear-headed thinking so they wouldn’t panic. However, Freddy was panicked to a degree. He was worried about the Wizard.
When he touched the broach he saw, no he lived everything that happened. From Teth-Adam to Mighty Adam to Khem-Adam. The three faces of a man who touched the gods, walked as one of them in a sense then fell and fell again. How does one begin to comprehend that? They don’t. The compartmentalized. With the knowledge that Solomon allowed him to glean Freddy understood on several levels what was happening which lead him to run out of the Fawcett City police department as quickly as he could into the night and down the alley towards the one once he needed to be.
He called out Shazam’s name to empower him not because he believed there would be danger right then and there only to get him there faster. He needed Mercury with him, the wind at his back to carry him to the Fawcett High School. The Fighting Spartans. He was one of them. Once a Spartan always a Spartan they said as he began to seek out the door that would gain him entry into the Sanctum. Solomon aided him in his search until he pulled it opened and stepped through.
Gone where the locker filled hallways and the drab colors of school. Gone where the homecoming banners and trophy cases. It was all replaced with something that looked straight out of a history book. Perhaps a research room of a classical building of some kind. It’s something Freddy would conjure up from Ancient Greece or perhaps a research room from the Library of Alexandria if it had been erected in Athens perhaps. Marble and candle light. Scroll and quills. Books and jars. It all looked quite beautiful, but beautiful. He wasn’t here to take it in instead he searched for someone, but instead he found someone all-together different it was enough to make Freddy to take a step back.
It was like that episode of Charmed (yes, he watched it) where Phoebe was trying to tell Piper that they were standing in front of the Source who had possessed someone through looking through the enchanted glasses. Solomon didn’t need to whisper in his mind who was in front of him, Freddy knew full well who the hooded man was from the stature, posture and bearing.
“Khem-Adam.” He said his jaw tightening. Definitely not a tea and scones moment.
“Oh. Darn. I guess we missed him. Well, if you’d like me to leave note for him let me get to the ink pot and quill there and I’ll jot one down. Back in town. Thought we could catch up. We need to talk. Hugs and kisses, Teth That about covers it right?”
BLACK ADAM: “Jokes? The Wizard is Gone. Your Trial is shattered. You stand before your better and the first thing that comes to mind are Jokes?”
If that’s you think that’s the sound of impatience? You’ve misjudged just how annoyed that tone of voice actually is. The ‘Heavens’ actually seem to roll with ominous thunder with the vitriol that slides off the tongue of Black Adam. His reclined posture broken only then, when he rises off his throne of spell-books and sends them scattered with the force his defiance of gravity exerts. There are no footfalls that bring Adam closer, because he doesn’t consider the ground of this place worthy of his own feet. Such is the broiling power that Freddy is standing in the face of.
Bravado only carries someone so far. Eventually you have no choice but to stand face to face with the object of your fear and make a choice. Stand firm or flee. There are no other choices when you are in the face of one such as him. “Surrender the blessings you have and perhaps you’ll live to actually regret speaking to me thus.”
Beyond Black Adam’s bristling is a Sanctum filled with wonders. The signs of it being ransacked are present. Obviously, the books from the shelves have been pilled upon the floor, but so too are the scrolls. Each one unbound and obviously read. Those candles which seem to burn for an eternity are withering down to the wick. How long has Adam been here, waiting? It’s barely been a handful of days since the Bank Robbery, but this looks as if the would-be God has been here far longer.
“Of course, that depends on if you tell me where she is, Boy.”
FREDDY: Freddy needed the moment precious moments to look upon the room see what needed to be seen. Was there anything here that might give a clue as to where the Wizard where he might have gone. Freddy had come to warn but he himself was perhaps a day or two late. There were things that needed to be done. You couldn’t bust into a police station and demand to speak with the Police Chief or anyone of the sort same goes for any type of law enforcement individual or first responder
Additionally, he did speak with some of the witnesses it’s where he could start as someone not in a kind of official capacity. He had no fancy Department of Extranormal Affairs badge to flash. Nor did he want to from everything Cassie told him, but it would be pretty cool. Psychic Paper would be real handy, but back to the regularly schedule programming.
Interior the Wizard Shazam’s Sanctum. Our intrepid hero Freddy Freeman has come face to face with the man whose life he just lived moments ago, Teth-Adam, who appears to be rather unpleasant at the moment as he rose from his throne of books. Game of Thrones much? He approached Freddy who dared to be an insolent cur in his eyes. He did not walk he floated towards him appearing ready to rend him asunder if he did not acquiesce.
Still moments. This is what Freddy needed. He used all his power of observation to gather what he needed. No blood. No flesh. No pile of ash or charred corpse. The Wizard was not here. He beat feet. When? How long had he been gone? The Sanctum had been invaded. When how? Was it Adam’s doing, another or both? He considered that for a moment wondering when Black Adam arrived.
Freddy considered all of this stared into the dark star itself. Most would turn away. You don’t stare into the sun, but in this case he had to. He wouldn’t say he knew this man, but perhaps he did. Bless you Solomon, he thought. There were somethings you could be told, some things you could be shown, but sometimes you had to live them. To live them is to know them. To breathe them. To breathe them is to know why.
As commanding and authoritative as Adam was being at a moment. This would probably be a bad time to tell him that he probably would make a really good Dom, Freddy thought, there were two things that crossed his mind probably to Solomon’s delight, because let’s face it Freddy had odd thoughts, inappropriate ones at all the time. The candles, the height of them told a store. As did the state of the room. He flashed back to the Bank the desperate search that Isis made. Oh, how that picture and the events swirled in his mind very much like that scene in Jumanji the first movie (there’s going to be a new one!) when the tornado sucked everything that emerged in the game back in. It was like he could see it all before him.
Husband and wife pick up some of their habits. Isis was true to her namesake desperate to bring her husband back to life, but in a different sense bring him back to the life that he had grown accustomed to. Stripped of what he was she bargained for him with the gods of Egypt to restore what had been lost. Give him the life that had been stolen by the villain in this story…the Wizard (more on that to come). Freddy needed to be focused.
There was no sign of Isis after the lightning strike. They escaped. Solomon told him to flee it was Zeus. Zeus you fool.
Confidence. Perhaps, but Freddy finally let his eyes settle upon Black Adam. There was no arrogance in his eyes. Cold hard facts. Confront the brutal truth.
“She broke the rules. The board was reset.” Where she is? There was no escape from the bank. There was no banjo playing as Aunty Minerva and her crocodile boys drove away. She was so close to claiming Osiris…not her husband but her son. A mother desperate to reconnect to bring him back to life as she had been to correct a terrible wrong. To give the Wizard and all the gods a big middle finger. Yet there was the Wizard and there was always Zeus who was to his part trying to keep this fair.
“My Trials remains intact.” Trial. No. Trials. Party’s not over yet.
BLACK ADAM: In approaching Freddie, Adam has put himself momentarily in the path of the young man’s vision. That changes in the span of mere heart-beats though, in demonstration of Black Adam’s own version of the same power that Freddie knows first-hand. Speed which is used to grasp the young man. Strength which is put to pulling him up in to the air several inches. Turning and holding Freddie aloft like a small child that is too repellent to be held close. Yet what Adam does then is perhaps unexpected. He shows Freddie something more.
While the Sanctum is in tatters, there is a certain harmony to the chaos. Books, scrolls and ancient items are strewn all around, but the discarded pile of books which Adam sat upon is different. There the tomes of knowledge all have a common theme. One that Solomon can’t help but whisper in to Freddie’s head about: Osris, Resurrection. Eternal Life, Hades. This theme binds each of the items together. Whom ever did all of this was searching for information in a veritable treasure trove of it. Whether the knowledge that was sought was found or not? Hard to say.
“She came back to me. Rose from the sands of Khandaq. She showed me many things, Boy, but most of all she showed me her disdain for this world’s butchery of our people. We sought to change it, to make it better, but the moment she touched the Amulet of Isis, she was…different. Her disdain for has spread, consumed her.”
This might seem strange. Having a sort of ‘story time with Black Adam,’ but this is no heart to heart. No confession of guilt. There is no remorse to a single word he speaks. No spark of hope that might come with some indicator that Black Adam is here to help. His cruel tone only breaks when speaking of Isis, of her plight and her intentions.
“You think your Trials are intact? You are but a boy, who is a fool. Solomon of not. My Wife has broken your Trials, Boy. You have done nothing but delay her. Already she has stolen the strength of Zeus’ son and eaten the heart that fueled the God who holds the world upon his shoulders. You think Isis needs those powers for her own self? They are but fuel child. No different than the Wax of these candles. Once burned out they are gone. Lost forever.”
“Give me the Amulet, Boy. Give me the Blessings you hold. You are a Mouse, standing before a Lion. Give them to me, before she …”
He was quite clearly ramping up to something when the Sanctum trembles to it’s very foundations. Even Khem Adam is brought to a sort of stunned silence at such a thing. Freddie is discarded, tossed among the rubble of the books on the floor as the lightning begins to course across Adam’s features. Another tremble sends a caress of air through the Sanctum, blotting out the candles and bathing the two ‘Champions’ in utter darkness. Until the door that Freddie just entered through opens once more.
If Black Adam fears whatever tears open the door to Shazam’s Sanctum? It doesn’t show. There is not a split-second of hesitation before he surges with unspoken speed at the first intruder that enters. Freddie gets but a moment to see a horde of Crocodile Men ready to fight their way inside, before Adam tears through them. Even before they’re out of sight he’ll hear the response of gunfire. It sounds like an army is on the other side of that door…
FREDDY: Freddy has cards to play. Cards that present themselves with each passing second. Every word spoken is like another card presented and he can either hold and treasure it or discard it. Was he aiming to win or hold his own. Perhaps a bit of the latter than the former. He could try and reason with Adam, but he couldn’t begin to until he got a little information and the only way to get information sometimes was to play the information you had and frame it into what you believed to be the truth.
Truth is highly subjective, but with a little work the subjectivity can be stripped away and replaced with objectivity until enough information was provided and only the facts remained. Cold hard facts.
One of which Adam believed the Trials to be broken and over, but if that were the case Freddy would have failed and the world would hold a new Champion good or bad. Freddy whether he was wrong or right had to hold onto the idea that the Trials were still in play that he could earn the blessings of the other gods, the other Lords of Magic. Why? The world tilts between order and chaos. Despair and hope. What was has been broken and must be put right one brick a time.
Hope empowers. Not only mortals, but the gods, because Freddy knew from the moment he was tossed about by Isis that not only were mortals in danger, the gods in danger which means magic is danger. This is what he was training for. This is why he was on the trials to protect magic from all. Whether people believed it or not the one that was chosen was meant to protect mortals from magic and magic from mortals. Whether it be mortal or god. Right or wrong he was meant to protect them even if they felt they didn’t need defending themselves.
As quick as Adam was Freddy steeled himself. He focused on Callaghan how he steeled himself through the chaos and remain the bastion of calm and strength. It’s not that Freddy meant to impart that on Adam, but he sorely needed it for himself. He could not allow himself to succumb to chaos and emotions. Freddy lacked the Wizard’s guidance and Solomon only could provide so much, but Freddy was smarter than your average bear. He took in all he could clung to the gifts that Adam lavished upon him in only the way Adam could through fear, intimidation and anger and yes, a little bit of a hate. Hate goes a long way.
He was a foolish. Foolish boy, but even a foolish boy can hear the pain, the agony, the loss. Despite everything that happened the capacity to feel these things were present which whether the Wizard would admit or not or the gods themselves would is the key. The heart of what makes a champion a champion. Pure. Innocent. True. Honorable. These are things that make a good champion, but what makes a great champion.
Empathy. Somewhere Adam lost his. That one moment when you make a decision that darkens your heart. All is not lost, but when it is allowed to fester and only grow as more and more are made then all is lost unless someone intervenes, but who intervened for Adam?
Empathy is what Freddy feels despite the fact that this is not a heart to heart between him and the terrible Black Adam. No empathy is what Freddy summons, because he has to be able to cut through to the fact. Not the power of a god, but a boy, a human a lowly mortal. The most pedestrian of all things when compared to the power of a god or is it?
Adam has unleashed a Pandora’s box upon the world by trying to right what he felt was a terrible wrong. Unite his family. Fix what had gone wrong, but could he had considered what would happen when he presented his wife with the power to right the wrongs that had befallen their people. Instead of empowering magnified her power, her pain and suffering blending it with the pain and suffering of another who knew loss. Freddy could be wrong, but given the few brief seconds to consider it’s where his mind went.
Solomon’s there pushing him to look upon all the things that were searched through. Was it Adam or another. Either way it all of it pointed to death. Life and death. Isis is life. Osiris god of the afterlife connected to death. Death for life. Life for death An atom bomb ready to go off.
Fuel Adam called it and Freddy felt his blood run cold even as he was carried away through the air discarded like a used tissue by a rather odious individual. Freddy landed, but the words pulsed through his mind. Not only his, but Isis’s as well. <i>”The Power of Gods can be used for more than Championing.”</i>
When silence had come to Adam and darkness fell Freddy moved to his feet. Even in darkness he knew where he was not because he could see in the dark, but because he had an eidetic memory. Blessing of Solomon. He knew where he was and knew to move for cover quickly not from Adam, but whatever brought him to silence he moved to a column pressed his back against it ready to act however it was Adam that went forward when the door opened. The light spilled forth and there was a crocodile man and next there was gunfire.
Freddy moved to get closer towards the door in an attempt to catch a glimpse of what was occurring but not offering himself up as a target. Black Adam fully empowered. Freddy Freedman power of two.
The fact that Adam wanted him to give up his powers wasn’t lost on him, but he didn’t seek them for Isis. Perhaps his son? Perhaps himself, but he did have a thought. A cold thought along with an insightful one. If Isis wasn’t in a penalty box and was searching for more power apparently a god of underworld, the god of the dead.
This is where having the Wizard here would be awesome. Think like the wizard. Recreate what he would say.
”Khem-Adam you fool what have you done! She’s taken her over and now you seek my knowledge to undo what you have done! She will ravage the gods themselves to restore Osiris!” It takes power to raise the dead. ”You thought to empower your wife and now she has become possessed by Isis.” Well, maybe that’s what the Wizard would say. Gone was the wife who had the same name of the god he thought to gift her wife like she was a god damned Pokemon and now she’s on a got to collect them all to get Osiris back.
Black Adam’s been jilted and double-crossed? Not the time to spin it Freddy gunshots and divine empowered ex-champion out there who may come back to wrest Solomon and Mercury’s blessings from him.
STORYTELLER: Beyond the door is no mystery. It is a horror show. Freddy peers through the door in time to see Black Adam at his finest or perhaps his worst. Depending on how one looks at it. A Crocodile Man’s throat in one hand and another upon his back. They do to him as they had done with Cassandra in the bank. It’s a swarm of a pack that prey upon the weak. One on one they stand no chance in all of creation against one empowered such as Adam. In small numbers such as the bank job, they stood against Wonder Woman. In the sheer volume of them that lunge at Adam from all directions, there is a true chance to overwhelm any normal man. Even one with the Power of the Gods.
If only Khem Adam was normal. If only he was a man who would fight them, knowing as Freddie does, that these are somehow creatures transformed by Sobek. That beneath the crocodile exterior these are normal people. Perhaps students or teachers of this very school. If Adam were someone like Cassie Sandsmark or Freddy Freeman, the numbers would eventually catch up to him. But he is most assuredly not like them. The sickening crunch of esophagus actually overpowers the other sounds of battle. A fist completely skewers another. While the one upon his back ends in an explosive furry of blood and gore, when Adam flies backward at a super-sonic speed and impales him upon the broiler.
There is no Numbers Game to be played when Black Adam kills each Crocodile Man he touches. Their numbers dwindle before they’re able to overcome him. Maybe Adam knew that. Maybe some spark of reason told him that it was ‘Do or Die.’ That might be what Freddie tries to tell himself later, when he’s replaying his perfect memory of the scene before him. But he’ll never shake the look upon Adam’s face. The cruelty in his eyes, that betrays a small smile when he quite literally pulls a crocodile man in half.
Freddy Freeman has seen enough. Before he can look away there are other details far more important to be seen here. Not all of the Crocodile Men wear the tattered clothing of children. A flicker of golden light catches the eye. The blood scored shape of a badge. Mixed with the gunfire that spatters the room. The Chaos of the Broiler Room is confusing for anyone. Even a trained soldier. But it’s impossible to miss that some of these Crocodile Men were, at one time, Police Officers. As if Freddie needed the confirmation of that…
Chief Callaghan, covered in the gore and blood of the fight that is pressing ever closer to the doorway to the Sanctum, shoves Freddie back. Away from the door, in to the Sanctum. For the second time in as many moments, Freddie finds himself skidding to a halt on his bum. Only this time he’s holding an Amulet. The Amulet from the Bank Heist.
“We tailed you here, Kid, I thought you were part of the problem. Being the only one who seems to not have forgotten what happened at the Bank. We were trying to figure out how you got out of that Broiler Room when the Crocguy from the Bank showed up. He tore through my guys, said he wanted this…”
Half way through the Police Chief’s rambling Solomon kids in to ear again. Only this time he’s showing Freddie something else. Something hidden. Out there beyond the door, people are fighting. Savagely. Black Adam is killing anyone who touches him. Sobek empowers more and more of them to join the fray. But there is a finite number of police officers to turn in to wanton creatures of destruction. As the Chief speaks his hurried explanation, Sobek appears for only as long as it takes him to slash Chief Callaghan’s back. As gruesome as it is to see, Solomon makes Freddie watch as the Chief’s life begin to shift and his skin darkens in to scales. A hue, glowing power forms all about him. Flittering essence flees the Police Chief just as he too becomes one of the Crocodile Men.
.. don’t be afraid…
And with the last vestige of Courage, Callaghan slams shut the door to the Shazam’s Sanctum. Leaving Freddie to sit in darkness while the power of Achilles enters him. Freddie was right. The Trials are not over. So too was Adam right. They have been Broken. When Freddie summons the courage to open the door once more? He will not step in to the Broiler room of the Fawcett City High School, but in to the pristine Labyrinth of Metropolis’ City Library. A television screen is displaying the news, like in most libraries. Only today the News is dominated by reports, coming in live. Of the massive broiler room melt down at Fawcett City High School. A devastating explosion. Unknown amounts of Casualties.
That door to the Sanctum is gone. Physically destroyed. He’s safe. From the Crocodile Men. From Black Adam. From Isis herself. For now. For how long that remains true, seems to depend upon the Amulet that Police Chief Callaghan gave his life to put in to Freddie’s hands.
FREDDY: Unlike most Freddy wasn’t repulsed. He took no joy in this. It wasn’t revelry that spread through his mind it was memory. Memory of Adam in his prime in the past not that he looked past it right in this moment, but the last effects of what he had seen of Adam’s life was strong with in him. It was like raw power unchained and he would not stop until ever last crocodile man dead. The crocodile men were attacking him. They were standing in the way of what was to come. He was no friend to them. Not an ally. Another piece of information that Freddy gathered.
If only that was the only thing that he gathered. The way divined empowered man moved it was a sight to behold it was like being there again, in the past, but he focused on the present. The present that brought into focus that those crocodile men that he was tearing through were wearing clothing, football uniforms, school clothing.
The horror of it settle in as the sounds of bone breaking and flesh rending did nothing to deter the one-man crocodile people killing machine that was Black Adam. Magic like most things in life wasn’t always pretty. It was pain and destruction a ballet of chaos that gave way to nightmarish visions. Unlike the Crocodile Men that he and Cassie face when Adam hit them they stayed down. He didn’t mean to stop them he meant to kill them. They weren’t getting up never again.
Freddy took it all even as Crocodile men came apart at the hand of this man. He could feel his hands balling into fists. There was culling that occurred in the boiler room and only Adam was going to walk away from it unscathed. Still as Freddy continued to look on wanting to yell, but what he could he say all he could do was watch as they kept coming and slowly the clothing changed they changed from that of high schoolers to the police.
The police. The thing about is that they didn’t talk they didn’t even mouth off they were more wild and feral than the crocmaggia like they lost themselves to the orgy of death that they thought they would rain down upon the man instead he was the one sending them to early graves. Compartmentalize. It was all Freddy could do until he found himself being pressed back face to face with the bloodied and gore covered face of Callaghan.
“Chief!” It was the first thing he said the only thing he could say. Freddy was desperate to save someone anyone. “Chief get in and close the door. Get in and close the door,” he said talking over him. He got it. He understood why he would think he was responsible. We’ll face this together…” He pleaded before felt the amulet pressed into his hand as he was pushed back causing him to fall back. He had wanted to grip.
Looking up he stared he couldn’t look away because there he was. It was the composer and conductor of this symphony of death in key of Blood and Gore minor. <b>SOBEK!</b>
Had this been any time Freddy have had a moment of triumph. He knew it! He got something right, but he watched as Callaghan’s hand was torn open by the slash of Sobek’s claws turning him from a pillar of the community, a leader into one of Sobek’s minions. Most would turn away, but Freddy was compelled to watch to see. He couldn’t look away. He was on the floor looking up crying out in frustration as the one person that he could trust with all of this someone that knew what Fawcett City was and could be was taken away from him.
Someone he could look up to someone that Fawcett City could depend on. He was taken from them with just a touch and with that touch his death all but certain by Adam’s hand.
“NOOOOOOOO!” Freddy made his way to his feet, but even with his speed he couldn’t reach Callaghan the man was no longer there, but what he was, who he was fled the defiled flesh settling into where he was meant to be. The glow lasted for a moment, but it settled in his flesh bonding itself to the others. He knew immediately who he was. He was a hero. He was a warrior. He was the bravest man he knew. He was Chief Callaghan the vessel of Achilles he died doing what he did best protecting people. Shutting his eyes Freddy took a moment, the sound and smell of death had vanished.
Walking towards the door he reached for the handle opening it and found himself miles away from home as he stepped out into the sprawling expanse of the Metropolis Public Library, but he couldn’t escape the events that transpired. It was right there on the flat screen to see. Gripping the amulet tightly he took deep breath.
STORYTELLER: News outlets around the world will tell a story tonight. It will be a tale of tragedy; a school in mid-central America that was under funded and ill-equipped. Some will say it was children playing where they shouldn’t. Others will talk about how some ne’er do wells always used the broiler room to deal ‘The Drugs.’ Yet the prevailing story will be about a school’s broiler room malfunctioning. It will be the Tale of a Police Chief and his loyal team that went in to try to get every child out they could. And they did. Many still live because Chief Callaghan followed Freddie Freeman to that school. He did so under the suspicion that Freeman was peculiar. He did so because he thought the young man was connected. Though in the end he was right, he had known in the end that he was also very wrong about Freddie Freeman.
The News won’t tell that story. Strangely enough though, it isn’t like the Bank. There is no cover up to speak of. No clandestine group that went in to wipe the minds of the surviving witnesses. Mostly because the only survivors are the ones that Callaghan’s people saved before things took a turn for the worse. Then another turn for the disastrous. While the Reporters and the Police will never know how it happened, the voice of Solomon can shed some light upon it for Freddie. He had witnessed Black Adam flicker across the room, colliding with the Broiler. He’d seen the desperation of Sobek to get access to the Chief and the Amulet, desperate enough to turn more and more in to his creatures and send them against Khem Adam. In the end there had been no Hope for the Crocodile Men. Not after the Chief closed the door.
Among the news reports is a small sliver of information that few would pick up on. The storm that came, that brought the rain that helped ease the resulting fire. Few people would take notice of the young Egyptian man in the crowd of onlookers. Few outside of Freddie Freeman and the Wisdom of Solomon. Whether Adam caused the explosion to bring an end to all of the Crocodile Men or Sobek did so in a last-ditch effort to stop Adam’s blood lust? It would seem that Black Adam lives.
Out of all of this comes one fleck of good news. Freddie Freeman has passed his third Trial. The Avatar of Achilles has gifted him a blessing. One step closer to being the World’s Champion. One step further away from answers. Was Sobek dead or did he too survive? If Black Adam is searching for Isis too, then where is she? Why was he telling Freddie to surrender the Blessings he already had? These answers and more soon.
S H A Z A M!