Prelude: The Final Trials of Captain Marvel
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.