Synopsis: Freddy stops a few miles out before reaching his destination while reflecting over the conversation that he and Black Adam has. Which brings him to a bit of an epiphany.
My destination was in my sights, yet the closer it became the slower I became until I found myself landing miles away. Yet, I could go no further. During my conversation with Black Adam I considered all that had been shared with me. It had not gone unnoticed that he began to refer to me Black Freeman. I chose not to respond, because what would I say? What could I say? There are times to speak and times to listen and though we both chose our words as carefully as we could there were things to learn, things to be taught, things to remember.
I was here because of the Trials and though he pressed me on the matter cutting through every other reason to bring me to where I needed to be I considered was he right? Was he wrong? Was I right? Was I wrong? To some of it I could say yes. To some of it I could say no. I could become frustrated and reject his notions, but I chose not to, because no matter what all may say there is something to learn from someone who has done this all before.
I suppose that I am stubborn when it comes to many matters, but is it a matter of refusal or a matter of acceptance or perhaps a combination of the two? The fact that I refuse to accept things as they are not, because they are not that, but because I cannot accept a world when I will not and cannot try. There are many obstacles that are set upon my path and to merely allow them to be deterrent would do a me and all that have come before me a great disservice.
Hope is not enough, one must be willing to act, but when one acts without hope what remains? Do I accept what Adam says as truth yes, but truth is subjective. One can use it as a sword, a shield, or club if they choose to, but they can also use it as a beacon, a guiding star. It is a fact that I am here because of the trials. I was told that they are almost at an end so hear I am but is that they only reason why I stand here…I stand here.
I am here to see this to the end, but my path that I travel is not so narrow that I am unaware of what happens around me, because of me. The Trials are meant to test me as much as they are meant to prove to the powers that be that I am worthy, but does that mean that I ignore all that has happened?
From New York to Fawcett City to Metropolis to Coast City and now to Kahndaq, does it mean that all of this has been a simple means to an end? Every step I have taken has taught me something I did not know about the world and about myself. It is shown me the man I aspire to be, the man I need to be, but not every lesson is taught in a vacuum. There are triumphs and defeats, victories and losses. Sometimes a combination of the two. Nothing is given freely.
Why do I seek the Wizard? Am I angry with him? For everything that has come to pass? Am I angry with myself for thinking setting myself upon this path? Am I angry with Adam for the things that he had said. For telling me that I must accept that which I have wrought? The seeds I have sown have yielded fruit of a most dangerous kind.
I have soared and stumbled, sometimes alone, sometimes together with others. Am I afraid? Yes. Am I afraid? No. I chose this. I.Chose.This. There was no accident. There was no gun to my head, no knife at my back. I chose this. Am I afraid? Yes. Am I afraid? No. Fear lies within but fear only triumphs when I do nothing. When I let it consume me. When I allow Adam’s words to shape me into something I am not.
Do I hate him. No. There are things I must here, because to hear them, to know them is to understand them. Understand that each step I take towards the end will mean many things. Good things, bad things, all things. All things that I must be, no matter come what may. I.Chose.This. Good. Bad. Ugly. I chose to be their champion. To prove my worth. To accept the consequences, all of them.
Yet, no matter what I still have a choice. In the end I am Freddy Freemen underneath it all. There are so many ways that this could have come together. So many things that could have been done. Six patrons, six Lords of Magic could make the impossible possible, yet they needed a connection someone to channel what gifts they would into.
That means I get a say in this. They chose this. They live with the consequences and I will live with mine. I live with mine, because that is what is necessary to keep moving forward. If I didn’t I would retreat and lose myself to the guilt. Guilt that would be to terrible to bear. I bear it, because it reminds me why I must keep stepping forward, why I must accept that there are better ways. That there are always possibilities.
I do not shield myself from what has happen. I do not deny the part I have played in setting this in motion. Whether or not another could have stood in my place does not matter. I stand here. I chose to be here. I.Chose.This.
My eyes look in the distance where dark smoke rises. Shutting my eyes, I focus on what I can hear. What I can smile. I think about the bodies that I came across and the fear in the eyes of people of Kahndaq. The sounds of screams of the citizens of Metropolis and Fawcett City. The voices of the children of Fawcett. The sound of Callaghan’s voice before he was taken from this world.
I. Chose. This.
My choices have consequences. How people see me I cannot control, but I cannot deny the part I have played yesterday or today or the part I have to play tomorrow. This is my burden to bear. “My burden to bear.” I say softly before turning towards the west my eyes casting up to the sky then towards the mountains once again. The Wizard awaits, but as I stand there thinking about the words I spoke and mt thoughts my mind flashes to what Adam said. This is happening because of me. This is my fault. My eyes slid shut as I let out a long breath.
There was a lesson to be learned there, but even more there was something to consider. Someone to consider.
To stare upon what my actions of have created. It should bring me to my knees. I should want it to stop, but…” I chose this.”
I draw in another breath letting my mind reach that place where my thoughts settle, and I bring myself down from an emotional high. Not because I feel sad or unhappy, but more that I feel don’t know how to explain it.
“I know you’re there. You’re always there whispering, but you are remarkably silent. Adam said you would, be that you would not refute his words, and perhaps that is part of it, but another part is that there is aid you can render and things you cannot say. As always there are things that I must understand for myself without your aid. Decisions that I and I alone must make. Good or bad. My choices. My fate. My repercussions. I must be able to withstand the weight of them all, endure them. If I cannot bear my own choices, face them, accept them how can I expect to bear all that is to come. Personal responsibility must be assumed. It cannot be deflected. It must be embraced and you must soldier on but it doesn’t mean that it does not affect you. How you allow you to affect you is just as important as being able to bear it, to acknowledge it.”
Wetting my lips, I take a step towards the mountain, but I don’t touch off instead I let my mind continue to clear nodding to myself as I consider my words carefully. I expect no answer. I have no question only a thought and idea.
“I won’t say that this is historically correct as stories take on a life on their own when passed from one person to another, but what I do know is before the time of the Olympians, their predecessors before them the Titans ruled in their stead. Much is always said about Zeus and how he was able to escape the fate of his siblings due to Rhea’s decision to feed his father a stone wrapped in cloth. “ I pause for a second.
“It was Zeus that helped his siblings escape with aid of a drug for a lack of a better of word that caused Cronus to regurgitate the children he consumed in an effort to prevent his own eventual downfall and defeat.“ I would not get into the self-fulfilling prophecy, because that is not the point of my words.
“Cronos defeat was not the end for a ten-year war was raged between his progeny and the remaining old gods, the Titans. For ten years war raged between children of Cronos and Rhea and the Titans upon the fields of Thessaly they say. This conflict was called the Titanomachy. The Titans waged war from Mount Othrys while gods to be fought from Mount Olympus.”
My fall upon the sands, sands that in various areas of in the country were stained with blood barely covering the bodies of fallen people. “Zeus and the new generation of gods prevailed along with their allies. While important it is not my focus. My focus is on one of the defeated. One of the leaders of the great Titan army, not the doomed might Monetius, but his brother Titan of endurance and astronomy, Atlas.”
My eyes move towards the sky once again.
“His brother defeated, struck by one of Zeus’s thunderbolts, and cast down into the underworld, to Tartarus, Atlas was defeated, but he was not struck dead by a thunderbolt, no instead he was given penance. Some to shoulder the world, but it was actually to shoulder the celestial heavens upon his shoulders to prevent it from crashing down upon the earth. Truth they did not need to, but how else would you punish an enemy?” It brings several thoughts to mind, but I do not linger on that instead I focus on Atlas.
“He was forced to endure the weight of the heavens upon his shoulders and though there have been stories of him attempting to remove himself from this situation, he did it without fail save time when Hercules needed his aid, but it brings me to this thought. If I cannot bear my choices how can I accept the gifts of one who was made to bear the weight of the heavens upon him? The death that has come into my life. The war that is being waged. The harm that came to children Fawcett, all over the world that has occurred because of a choice I made cannot be denied. It might be endured. It must not be in vain. Whether it is the weight of the world or the heavens, I must bear the weight of the world I help create and the one I live in and if that means that I must move forward and continue with the Trials then I do so freely knowing that my actions will have consequences that I must always face. There is no turning away. But know this hope will never be a stranger or enemy, because that is who I am. It is an ally.” Pushing off the ground resuming my journey to the Wizard.
Synopsis: Freddy catches up with Black Adam and the two of them discuss the nature of events that have unfolded within and around Kahndaq. At the same time Black Aadam presses Freddy to realize something quite important while advising him that the Wizard is near. While Black Adam continues the defense of Kahndaq (and swift retribution) Freddy heads towards the mountains to see the Wizard.
BLACK ADAM: Standing upon the shore of Dahab, looking out east across the Gulf of Aqaba, one might mistake this portion of the world as a mythical paradise. Turn west and you would certainly believe yourself to be facing the very gates of hell itself. As the land is marked by all the signs of War. Littered across the visible expanse of sand dunes is a veritable wasteland of the battle that has waged non-stop for almost a week. Over turned tanks. Downed fighter planes. Even a capsized boat or two can be seen sticking prominently out from the sand.
It is only by the very grace of the Mother Nature that you can’t quite make out the death toll. In part thanks to the sweeping sands that try as they can to swallow up the dead. Yet also because that has been the only pause in the Warfare. While Bialya is a army of many, Kahndaq is an army of one. Black Adam must pause when he liberates a village, to see to his people’s safety and well-being. In those times, he loses much of the land he has gained as Bialya returns like ants to a picnic. Swarming in to make him re-fight the battle of yesterday, today. That was the mistake he made early on, as he would constantly advance but was unable to stop the multitude of Bialya forces from simply flanking him and getting their foothold once more behind him.
Now it has become a battle of inches. With Adam forced to accept and acknowledge that he must aide his people. Even if that is simply to arm them with the weaponry that Bialya leaves behind in their retreat. What began as a sneak attack, became a blood bath of vengeance, that soon turned in to something far far worse. A nation of Kahndaq that rallies behind the cry of vengeance that Adam raises at each stop.
Today that stop has hit the Gulf of Aqaba. Where the water separates Kahndaq from Bialya. A choice now looms before the Champion. Does he turn North and liberate his people or does he drive across the Water in order to deal with Bialya directly. Every fiber of his being cries out for him to take the fight to them, but the wisdom of Zehuti has for once given him pause.
It is there. Upon the shore of the Aqaba, that he stands looking out across the water when the silence is broken by a harsh voice. “You have been surveying my progress for long enough. Do you intend to join me or make with fancy words in Hope of getting me to follow Solomon’s advice?”
FREDDY: Try as he may to hasten his approach Freddy stopped every so often to help people along the way. He also needed these moments to consider what he would say when he came face to face with Adam. He knew that the King of Kahndaq, it’s champion would only have a few thoughts on his mind. He knew that he was not alone in one of those thoughts. Conner wanted to join him on this path, to take the fight to the Bialyan army, so he could only imagine what Adam’s people would be thinking. They would want vengeance, but vengeance was easy. It could be pull someone in so quickly, but so much about this felt wrong.
No, one could answer why this happened. So many questions surrounded that, but answers were short in supply. Freddy surveyed the area as made his way to the coast. He considered what he saw in the city and what Solomon had shared with him. He also considered what he the politics of all of this. That all played through his mind. He remembered what he shared with Conner, but he held back, because he did not want to be a source of conflict right now. Freddy didn’t know how Conner felt about his father, not really and saying the wrong thing could set a services of events into motion that he may not be ready to or want to hear. Not to mention it was a complex situation, but right now its all that Freddy could think about upon touching down upon the shore of Dahab.
He didn’t announce himself nor did he think he had to, but he gave himself another moment before he stepped forward, but even then Adam addressed him in the only way that Black Adam could trying to deter him from saying something, “Freddyannaish”.
“A world without hope is a world that sustains itself on a diet of fear, despair, and rage. It deserves better than that.” It could not be helped its who Freddy was sometimes.
Look close enough at the sand, past the mechanical debris you would see the bodies, and even more you would find the blood stained sand. Not the first time that this has happened. He doubted that it would be the last.
“I’m not sure. I’m more curious as to what Zehuti shared with you. It must have been enough to stop your assault. An alternate path or paths must stand before you. You are at a crossroads. Press forward or turn back. Do you continue the assault or tend to your people. Warrior or steward and shepherd. Which will you chose for your flock, Adam? Which would Adrianna as you knew her chose? How best would you serve them. As their avenger or as their leader?” Simple questions. Was there some hope in there, perhaps, but fair questions Freddy thought.
“I am here, because I am needed here. It continues. My journey, your journey it continues. I am here to bring this portion of it to a close and hopefully become the person I need to be. The person that the Wizard saw in me. I came, because my friends people are suffering. He is suffering.” Just as one suffering ended another began. “I came to help, but I also came to see. Do you not see it, Adam? History repeating itself. The board is the same. The pieces may be different, the players may be different, but it is all the same. Some choices are new. Some are not. I saw your city. I saw the capital. There is more here at work than the death and carnage that is spread across your land. We’ve been positioned.”
BLACK ADAM: “Mm. A world without Hope, is entirely subjective and you know it. Do not waste my time, nor insult either of our intelligence with such diluted ideals. Hope is something that springs from many sources. Look at the people in Dahab, you can see hope in the eyes from the mere sight of me. The promise of their lives, gives them hope for more. These are an ancient and prideful bloodline of people. Offer them Vengeance and you’ll see as much hope, if not more than you would if you offered them Peace.”
“In short, be Wary of how you speak to me of Hope in Kahndaq, these people and I define Hope far differently than you Captain America.”
For what it is worth, the two of them have made it much further than normal without Freddy being described as Unworthy or being called a Child. In the way of Progress, this is surely a step in the right direction. Even if Adam bridles at the very notion of ‘Hope’ being what Freddy describes it to be. On the other hand, Adam does not even dignify the would-be champion by facing him yet. His stance is staunchly affixed upon the skyline of the Gulf before him. Oddly pondering precisely what Freddy speaks of. At least, mostly the same things.
“Tread carefully, Freeman, I have not stopped yet. Once the wounded of Dahab are evacuated to the United Nation’s medical center, I move again. You are simply correct in intuiting that I am at a crossroads of where to progress upon next.” A hand sweeps out to indicate across the water, to Bialya directly before pointing straight north to the next village where Bialya has itself entrenched. “You speak well, for once, though. We are positioned. Arrayed at the will of an outside force. I do not care for it, much. Zehuti shows me far more than you might imagine. When you are older, if you are able to stop being such a simpering ninny, Solomon will do much the same for you.”
“Bialya is after something. Have you figured out what, yet?”
Finally though Adam turns, his hands now folded behind his back and perhaps for the first time since Freeman has actually known the former Champion? He does not appear to be about to spring in to Hostility. “Freeman, you are not here because of me. Nor my people. Perhaps you ‘Hope’ it were so. Maybe you even believe it to be so, because you’re yet too young to understand. Stop looking at this all with your heart, boy. You are here because -this- is the Trials.”
“They are Broken. This world is Broken. All of this.” Those hands move to open wide and encompass all of Biayla once more. “Every parent who has lost a child. Every child who has lost a parent. Every death in Kahndaq. Is because of you. Because you persist with your Broken Trial, so this ‘Broken World’ alligns itself to test you in the most dire of circumstances it can to prove yourself a Champion of this broken world.”
“You ask me for Zehuti’s Wisdom? There it is. Rail against it, it is natural, but you will not find a reasonable logical argument. All of this is on you, Freeman. Because the Trials must take the form of a test for Champion needed in the world he must protect. This is your crucible, Freeman. Of your own choosing. Thus you must embrace and accept that guilt and then see what sort of Champion that guilt will make of you.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. If you had walked away, the Rock would simply have selected another candidate. Whom would have gotten his own series of Trials and perhaps this would have happened anyway. Perhaps not. But since you brought up choices, I feel it only proper to remind you that you too had a choice. One that kept you walking down the path of these Trials. Your choice,” one outstretched hand shifts to point towards Dahab. “Your consequences, Boy.”
“Listen. Hear the silence of Solomon. He won’t refute my words, that much I promise you. I speak pure Truth in this moment, Freddy Freeman.”
FREDDY: “I am not wasting your time, Adam. Too much going on for me to do that and we’re not sitting around enjoying burgers.” That was truth. “Subjective or not it is how I live my life.” He didn’t want to debate or verbally barb, so he didn’t go into how truth could be subjective so they might be headed into fact. Solomon’s silence could also mean that he could not aid in this choice that he could not influence the decisions that would press Freddy in either direction. It was a choice that Freddy had to make on his own heart or mind or perhaps with them both working together rather than against one another as it could be for another person.
“Yes, this is my Trial. Whether or not this was my destination it is difficult to say, but..” But the Trials has been corrupted as Freddy had been told on more than one occassion. He didn’t shut his eyes but he looked towards the country that lay on the other side of the river.
“I hear your words, but I also have seen with my eyes. The strikes upon your city. So, precise that someone was picking and chosing what they wanted to destroy. Those things of value remained standing. It had nothing of value to someone that didn’t know what to look for. Historical treasures. Riches that people like you and me we concern ourselves about. Treasures that would interest people like the Batson’s. Curious items with links to past that stretches to the very kingdoms of the ancient world before it was ancient. When it was young and new.”
Relics of a long forgotten past by some, but not all, but even then Freddy stood considering his options.
Each step forward Adam took took him away from his people. “Is there a reason why I can’t be here for both? I choose to see them through. Walking away is not an option.”
“I’m not pointing fingers, but perhaps it’s time to put it to rest, to correct what went wrong so long ago. There are so many possibilities, but me and you here. I am here, because the Trials demand it, but is not the only reason why I’m here. What I’m saying is that this is personal. Someone is striking out at you at what matters most to you. What you hold dear. Your people. It’s killing all the birds with this one stone.” Freddy sighed.
“I have a decision to make, but let me say this and you can call me a fool if you like. Not that you won’t, but. There’s a fear in the pit of my stomach that you’re here. That you pushing the line back is a distraction, that this effort to draw you away from the capital is purposeful. You have given protection of the city away to outsiders.” He wet his lips.
“You were forced into a position where you had not choice to and the continued assaults draw away attention from some who may not be as altruistic as they seem to hunt for what your enemies are after. To go to the buildings who stand to seek out what they want with no one any the wiser. I have no doubt that Bialya is after this themselves surely they have to know of the items that are being sought, but this is very much a proxy situation.”
He took a deep breath. He could be overthinking it. “Nth metal. Whether they are in search of it. Knowledge of it. It the only thing that connects it. Something specific. Something that trails into the past that provides a power that would interest several parties. Including the ones that you welcomed through the gates. Not everyone, but those who have been instructed what to search for. That is a concern a fear.” Perhaps he was wrong, but who else could he voice it to.
“Broken trial. Broken world. Perhaps it’s time to fix what was broken. I persist, because I must, because the world is not a neat and tidy place. Horrible things happen, but it doesn’t mean you give up and go home. My Trial presents itself as it should be to prepare me for all that I will face in the days to come. Good. Bad. Ugly. What they after I have some idea. Why? Not completely clear, but clear enough. Clear enough for me to know they must be stopped” That much was true. That much he knew.
“If it is my crucible then I shall walk through the fire. If I have opened the door then the door is open. I shall go through. My choices have wrought many things. Some good. Some bad, but that is our world. Some good. Some bad. Suffering. Pain. Hope. It is not one thing or the other. It is all these things. I shall fight for all these things. I shall fight for a better tomorrow, because I have chosen to do so. This day was made the moment I said yes, I accept the challenges. If I turn away then that is the guilt that would consume me. All who have fallen, who have died, whose blood stains the sand deserve better. They deserve someone that will fight for this broken world, not because hope blinds me. It tells, it shows me the world that could be and I will fight for that world no matter what.” He tapped off the ground.
“Even if it is the death of me. I accept the responsibility of the choices that I have made. The death and destruction that it has caused. It will not deter mine. You’re right and wrong Teth-Adam. I am not only here because of the Trials. I am here for them. I am here for you. I am here for your people. I am here for me. I am here for the possibility of a better tomorrow. Of a world that is not as broken as they day it was before. As sentimental as it may be. It is who I am. It is the Champion that I wish to be. I fight for both the dead and the living. Every day is a trial. Perhaps that’s it. The trials never end. One victory does not fix what is broken. It may never get easier, but life isn’t easy, and it is hardly fair.”
BLACK ADAM: “You prattle like a baby bird, squawking for it’s mother to feed it. Unaware of the way it’s wings could carry it to food of it’s own merit.”
To the entirety of everything that Freddy has said? There is but a snort, that comes at the cost of simply looking down a very hawklike, imperious nose. Well muscled arms close slowly across his chest, a signal of finality. Of what is yet uncertain. “Even in this Age, I am amazed at the propensity for so many words to spill from one person’s mouth. Do they teach you to blather at school? It is a talent most of your fellow children seem to exude.”
“Allow me to cut to the chase, Free Man.”
“You are not here for me. If you truly believe you are, then you deceive yourself. You are here because of a construct of the Trial you face. Trials, plural. If you are deceiving yourself then you cannot pass your Trial. Which means all the harm your Trial has wrought upon Kahndaq, is equally unforgivable and unacceptable. So let us be clear upon this topic. Continue to speak to me of ‘being here for me,’ and I am going to beat such nonsense from you. War, Country and World be damned. Do you understand me, Free Man? Speak of that ignorance not a single time more to me.”
“Also. You delude yourself, in to thinking that I am blinded by my Rage. I am aware of what Bialya seeks. As I am also aware of what other seek. Though I did not need to see a pattern. Nor did I need to do the work of a detective and sleuth it out.” Those folded arms and imperious look remains even as Adam begins to drift above the sand in to the air. “As my rage carried me across the desert sands, I realized that the forces being put in play against me were being used to stall me. There are but four true resources in Kahndaq and I suspect you need not Solomon to tell you it isn’t our abundance of Sand. Our History and the relics thereof. Our people and the labor force they might represent.”
“The only other thing of value in this land, is the meteor that landed here so long ago.”
“Given that Bialya seems to care little for taking slaves, given the sheer loss of life sustained by my people. It was either the Relics or the Meteor. Quite frankly, the two resources overlap in many ways. A good many relics of Kahndaq’s past are born from the Meteor. I suspect that is why certain villages have been taken, instead of razed to the ground. Certain sites left untouched, more or less, other than looting. But by and large, Bialya is stalling. Buying time to search and locate. Thus they have attacked like very angry bees. Swarming the honeycomb.”
A single hand lifts, allowing Freddy to see that Adam is pointing towards the Mountains behind him. However the next thing he says actually seems to have nothing at all to do with what he’s pointing at. “Free Man, you’re missing small pieces of the puzzle. So, tell me. And for the love of the Gods, all of them. Try to answer me in a single syllable word for once. Yes or No. You know this is your Trial. Therefor you know that interference from outside, will mean you fail. I can tell you the answers. Send you directly where you need to be. You can end all of this killing, this War, the rape and pillaging.”
“All you have to do is say yes and I’ll give you the answers you’re looking for in this riddle of the Gods.”
FREDDY: Freddy Freeman was a team player. He always had been as long as he could remember. Despite the fact that he is currently being dressed down by Adam, because of his prattle is nothing new. It happens…all the time, but when he speaks he says things for a reason. It gives him a chance to empty his head, clear it out to get all the thoughts racing inside of his head. There was no chance to sit down and have a burger and talk things through to get all of his concerns out so Adam was his sounding board despite the fact that Adam was having none of it, but at least he let Freddy get it all out.
Of course that lead him to watching as Adam move and spoke. Attacking like bees and a honeycomb. That was a very specific analogy for you know the desert, which Freddy tucked away while he watched Adam’s hand. He considered for a second everything that unfolded. The precision strikes. The change in performance by the Bialya army.
He had a thought, but he had to put it aside as everything was laid out for him. He could end this, end all the suffering and death by accepting help. Freddy never turned away help. Sometimes you can’t do it alone. Yet despite the fact that Adam put it out there if he accepted any outside help then he would fail the trial…trials it wasn’t failing that Freddy focused on.
His mind and his heart were currently pulling in different directions. He thought about what he said and what Adam said. It was an easy choice. Yes, to get the answers and end this, but he would fail.
Fail. He wouldn’t be champion. That should propel him towards no, because he wanted to be the champion, which was selfish. It’s how the heart played it and the mind. They were together on this if not for something that Adam said and Freddy said.
Freddy chose this. Adam said not to delude himself as to why he was here. He was here because of the Trial. If he said yes he would have the answers, but he immediately absolves himself.
Of the guilt.
Pain. Suffering. Good. Bad. Ugly. Hope. Victory. Loss. As powerful as champions were they were not omnipotent. They had limits. Mistakes would be made. They must be able to carry the pain of those mistakes and continue to fight on. Never forgetting. Yes is easy. It wasn’t the color that drained from Freddy’s face as he lowered to the ground. It wasn’t the weight of guilt, but the gravity of the choice he made. Red pill. Blue pill.
Yes was the blue pill. He got the answers handed to him. It ends, but did it really?
No was the red pill. He wouldn’t wake up. He wouldn’t walk away. He would see it through to the end and fought for the answers. The pain. suffering would continue. The pillaging, the raping, the thefts.
Yes right? It had to be yes!
“No.” He swallowed that red pill. He could feel a tightness in his chest. What had he done?
Freddy glanced up into Adam’s eyes. He knew what it meant. It was like saying yes all over again. If he told Adam yes then he was running away. There was nothing easy about the yes.It would not make things better, but it would provide a quick resolution..maybe, but Freddy would have benched himself. No more blood on his hands.
He looked at his hands and for a moment before tuning his eyes back up to Adam. The Trial would continue. It was not enough to acknowledge the choice. He must own the choice. He said he would step into the crucible. He shut his eyes for a second time thinking about what happened at the first Bank of Fawcett City. What happened in Metropolis. What happened in the ruins of Coast City and now what happened in Kahndaq. What was happening to it’s people, it’s land, it’s people. Adrianna. Conner. Possibly Cassie and anyone else that got involved willingly or unwillingly.
Yes. The blue pill. Just take it. Take back the no.
That’s what any rational person would do right?
No, he couldn’t do that. He could not nullify the choice that was mad so many months ago. Right or wrong wasn’t playing into this. It was about have the strength to live with the choice that had been made and to see it through. To finish it. To carry the blood with you to the end and beyond.
So, there would be no do over. No take backs. He gave Adam his answer. None of it would be in vain.
BLACK ADAM: Through all of this inner turmoil that the would-be Champion is going through, Black Adam is completely silent. Monolithic in his silence, in fact. It isn’t all that hard to figure, that the man is watching Freddy through a pair of eyes that have been on the opposite side of these discussions. Yet, if Freddy thinks that might merit him even a mild amount of empathy? He is wrong.
“Now you understand, Free Man. This is what it means to be a Champion of the Gods. You will be faced with impossible decisions almost every day. You won’t always make the right choice. Somehow, some way, you are going to need to stop talking about hope and start learning to how to cope with the weight of your decisions. Because each one you make will come at the cost of a part of you. Hope can make you stronger, it can drive you, but it cannot comfort you. At night. When you must close your eyes and come to terms with the cost of your decision.”
“For once, I mean no harm when I say this,” by this point Adam has actually halted his ascent and has turned almost casually toward the North and the next encampment. “You’re this creature of Hope and Kindness. Yet now. Every single time you look in to the eyes of my people, Free Man, you must mentally come to terms with the fact that you’re responsible for their pain. Your reasons for making that choice are your own, but how many people in this world would understand that you made your choice for a good reason? How many of them would instead believe your decision was based upon nothing more than your own benefit?”
“Now, you’re going to immediately try to reason. To justify. Yet that is just more blathering bird chirps. Words mean little to people who hurt because of a decision you’ve made. Your justification does not always measure up to their pain and that is the burden of a Champion. You will be judged, not on your own merit. Not on your own justifications. Simply upon what others perceive.”
“That and that alone, will eventually determine whether the eyes of the people see you as a Champion. Or simply Black Free Man.”
FREDDY: Free Man. Free will? Freddy, had nothing to add when Black Adam started speaking. Gods are revered and reviled, sometimes in the same breath. To be Champion meant that it would be something that Freddy would have to learn to live with. His choices whatever they may be could bring hope to some and despair to others. The end of the day the battle may be won, but at what cost. Right now all he could think about was what happened at the high school and all the children.
He had to soldier on, find a way to keep going to bring it to an end no matter the cost, because that is what was necessary. Did he cling to hope yes, did he strive to inspire others yes to draw it out of him, yes. Perhaps that was why, because on some level he knew that sometimes he would have to make the choices that others could not. He was the Champion of six gods and hope wasn’t something that most of them were known for. They inspired it,but they didn’t go out and market themselves on it, but he got it, he understood it.
Did he accept it? Freddy didn’t know, because there was something inside of him that wouldn’t let go. He could take everything that Adam said and move forward, but he also had to remember is that they looked…they sought a champion for a reason. Adam said that he would look for a way to reason, but it didn’t make it any less true? That one of the reasons a human such as himself was sought out was for those traits that may not be inherent to the gods to themselves.
That Hope and Kindness is something he brought to the mix?
He did not feel any harm or slight by what Adam said he would do what he always did when he spoke with Adam. He would take it to heart and learn from what was shared.
True facts. Black Adam didn’t have to say anything. He could pass judgement in silence yet he didn’t. He shared his opinion whether they were solicited or they weren’t. On some level he was paying it forward. Or Freddy was being a optimist in overdrive, but seriously he had no reason to share the information, his insights.
There was only one thing that Freddy could say to all of that.
“Thank you.” Like he told the others once. His relationship with Adam was complicated.
BLACK ADAM: “I will accept your thanks, but only because you will remember this day as the moment you regret most in your life.”
There is a kindly shrug before Adam begins to turn away. It is almost floating that he does, in moving away from Freddy. He does not shoot off at ultra sonic speeds, but drifts in the direction of the North. Almost aimlessly, because while he has made a decision it seems on where to progress next, he does not entirely seem committed to the act.
“Your choice has been made, Free Man. But making a choice is not nearly the same as confronting and genuinely facing the consequences of it. The Wizard tells me that is why you are here.” A glance, thrown back across one shoulder, one thin brow lifted as imperiously as any other. “I told you, Free man. I know far more than you think. You never did find your Wizard did you? Perhaps you should look to the Mountains.”
“Or you can follow me and keep the Blood Shed to a minimum. Life is full of choices.”
FREDDY: It is not the first time that Adam had motioned to the mountains. However, it is the first time that he mentioned the Wizard. The fact that he spoke with the Wizard made Freddy consider what he might say to the Wizard. Was there anything to say? Would the Wizard even want to see him? Perhaps it would delaying the inevitable?
Freddy thought about the boy he saw when everything came to an end in Coast City. He hadn’t shared that with anyone, but now, he had another choice to make. He was ready to walk through the fire.
“I’ll catch up,” he replied. Adam was doing what he had to based on the choices that Freddy had made. There was no changing that. Freddy didn’t know if he had questions for the Wizard. However, this would come to an end one way or another. Moving into the air Freddy turned towards the mountains. It was time to start facing the consequences. With that Freddy moved in the direction of the mountains.
Synopsis: War breaks out in the Kahndaq. Freddy is roused from slumber to be told the Final Trials have begun. Getting caught up on what’s happened Freddy calls Cassie to let her know he’s headed to Kahndaq. Sometime later he arrives in Kahndaq and is brought up to speed by Conner. Afterwards Freddy makes the decision to catch up to Black Adam after getting a sense of what’s happening in the city.
STORYTELLER: Kahndaq: It begins with the roll of thunder over a land that rarely sees a storm.
^Sire! Come quickly.^
People do not summon a King, they are summoned. Such is the first thought to enter the mind of Adam. Who’s sleeping form roused long before the servant broke through the curtains surrounding his sea of pillows. The women who litter his chambers also rouse, but none speak. Their place is known and the silence is assured, except at times when they’re encouraged to break it. That fight or flight instinct was in play in the man before his servant’s voice rang out, but it is squarely in the corner of ‘fight’ once he’s heard the man’s tone.
^What madness drives you to…
^Quickly, Sire! They’re …^
That is when the first explosion rocks the palace. Debris crashes in from all angles. Instantly the serenity that was Adam’s chambers is thrown in to complete chaos. A second explosion sends his chamber maidens scrambling as the danger overtakes their senses. That second explosion is followed by a third, a fourth, then the number is endless. Completely lost in the brutality of the assault.
In the ensuing madness of of napalm bathed flames, keen eyes might find the sight of Adam. Swathed only in silken robe, crouched over the fallen form of the man who had come only moments before to summon him. The body lays crumbled amidst the rubble of the bedroom’s entry way. Blood stains Adam’s hand for only a moment, before a single word slips from his lips.
^^ – Translated from an ancient dialect of Egyptian.
Today, while standing on the White House Lawn, President Lex Luthor announced a joint task force of several major powers within the United Nation’s Security council would be answering the urgent call from war torn Kahndaq. This comes nearly 24 hours after the initial, unannounced, surge of attack made by Bialya on their neighbors. Hailing the attack on Kahndaq as heinous and uncalled for, President Luthor clarified that this would be a joint task force of Peace Keepers. His clarification was made when pressed for what his authority was to send troops, without an official Declaration of War approved by Congressional vote.
“We are not sending soldiers. We’re not deploying the armed forces. We are taking part in a special task force, sanctioned by the United Nations, aimed solely at restoring peace to the area and putting a stop the senseless loss of life.”
Less than four hours after the announcement news crews were finally able to report in real time. Videos began to make the local, national and world news. Images depicting the Canadian hero known to his people as ‘Freight Train,’ and the French born Firehawk and a woman of Italian descent, mostly known outside of Italy for her amazing operatic talents Alessandra Fermi, the Diva, are shown to the world arriving. Unsurprisingly it is the arrival of the blue and red sigil of Superman that is most touted though. Reporters would suggest that many others can be counted among this vaunted task force, each with their own special ability to render assistance.
Soon after that the ‘Humanitarian Aid’ begins with the Red Cross being covered by the task force. Medical assistance and recovery crews are the first to be brought in and kept safe by those heroes. It isn’t long before the task force is tested in it’s resolve to assist, by new attacks from the Mediterranean Sea based naval vessels of Bialya. Camera crews are able to get amazingly clear shots of the team taking to the field, but only to employ non-lethal force in disarming both troops and entire vessels themselves.
On the third day of the attack on Kahndaq, the Capital City of Shiruta experiences the first full hour without the sound of exploding bombs tolling the new noon-time hour. By this point the City is in ruins. The Red Cross tent-hospitals are overflowing with injured. At least three time that number lay dead in the street or beneath tons of rubble. With only seeming handful of people avoiding both injury or death. The sheer numbers rolling in to the major media sources are staggering.
One news clip begins to make it’s rounds on the news outlet, a small but poignant exchange between the Superman and Kahndaq’s failed champion.
“They run, it is time for us to press back,” in spite of the terrible losses he’s face, Black Adam sounds confident and almost shockingly superior.
“We will, but first we need to make sure the people here are safe from reprisals.”
“They will safe when every man with a gun, is driven from our land…” it is almost as if Adam realizes in the middle of his own words, that he is taking the wrong tact and adjusts.”.. if we allow them time to dig in it will take twice the effort to dig them out later…”
“I agree, but we’re here to restore peace my friend. Listen. You hear that? That silence is the sound of peace.”
“Peace?! All that I hear is fear. They run now. Afraid of fighting against those who might fight back. Now is the time to pursue them. To remove them from Kahndaq.” His impassioned plea ends with a very pointed message, as he spreads his hands wide to the toppled city before him. “…to avenge the dead”
“Adam,” the Canadian born Freight Train, with his larger than life personality matched only by his sheer size, finally speaks. “Before you avenge the dead, let’s help the living stay that way, man…”
It is clear, even before Adam’s hand swiftly takes hold of the camera he’s only just noticed, that he is bridling from the ‘Task Force’s’ response. But whatever the response he makes, is hidden beneath the crumbling of the camera’s lense. Shortly there after, the sound of silence is once more broken.
This time it is Kahndaq that attacks. The fury of Black Adam unleashed upon soldiers that were seemingly retreating. This time there are cameras to capture the destruction in living color.
“…Freddy wake up…”
The voice in Freeman’s head is as real as anything he’s ever head. The voice is the same as one he’s heard a hundred times before. It was last heard when he stood in the presence of the Wizard. Though it sounds the same as ever, it is also different. Softer. Less strained. Yet there’s is that foreboding sense of danger that lingers upon whether Freddy does as he is told.
When his open finally, the television that was not on when he went to bed is on. The local news is playing footage labeled as ‘Breaking World News.’ A man at some news desk, somewhere, is talking about footage that is playing over his shoulder. It could be a scene out of any old War movie you might have seen as a kid. Tanks rolling through the desert. Bullets and rockets that look more like lasers on the low quality cameras they’re being filmed on.
“… and in a stunning move Bialya that has shaken the United Nations and most of the world. The Sovereign Country of Bialya declared a state of War on their neighbor Kahndaq. What’s most shocking, is that this declaration was made after a suprising air raid on the Kahndaqian governments Palace….”
anchor’s telecast is interrupted then by the scene over his shoulder changing once more. Whomever was the cameraman, he was trying in vein to keep up with the action happening right in front of him. Even the shaky hand of a novice is able to see the Lightning bolt that crashes down upon a tank division. The explosion kicks up sand in all all directions. Abruptly ending the footage.
“…Kahndaq’s self-appointed ruler, Theo Adam, was quick to respond to the attack. Reports are slim, but we’ve been able to show you only brief footage. President Luthor is expected to make an official statement, but in the name of World Peace, the United Nations has implored the President to act swiftly in the face of the likely super-human war-fare that …”
“…the final trials have started Freddy…”
“…is expected. Given the nature of Kahndaq’s ruler, analysts are calling this failed assassination of Black Adam a grave miscalculation on behalf of Bialya. Those same analysts expect that the attack itself may have been aimed specifically at drawing that very response…”
FREDDY: Since the events, that had Freddy crisscrossing the nation had passed to put an end to an out of control goddess who nearly unleashed a power hungry god Freddy spent time getting acquainted with his new colleagues, but he could not spend as much time as he would have liked learning more about them, because there was work to do. No, there was no threat to steel himself against and fight, no there was healing to be done and none of it could be expedited with wishes or words of power. The healing that Freddy participated in was much like what he did in Metropolis when he, Cassie and Wally went about cleaning up the disaster that the museum had become.
However, for Freddy it went further than clearing debris and rubble and planting flowers. There were people to console, people to meet and speeches to give about the fallen, the dead. People whose lives had been lost in what had been horrible tragedies. Tragedies that could have been avoided, should have been. Life was far from back to normal. While some had to deal with the horrors of humanity the people of Fawcett City had to deal with so much more.
He knew that NOWHERE had come through to deal with the events of the bank and he knew what had been reported about what happened at the school with the explosion of the boiler that killed so many, he knew the truth. He also knew the truth of how many fine offices of the FCPD lost their lives.
There were memorials and funerals, periods of mourning that were going on to this day. There were people coming together and those that withdrew from the world. To be frank Fawcett City had lost some of its pep. A dark cloud hung over the city one that was draped in lies, but lies that were necessary if such a thing existed.
Despite everything that was to come home is where Freddy needed to be, not only to help protect Fawcett City, but to help it move past one of the darkest days. How many more dark days would it have to endure. It lost its favorite son already and now they had lost so many more. It lost the future with the population of children being decimated. They had their lives torn from them. All Freddy could think was it was better for their families to think that it was an accident than for them to know the truth that they had been turned into living horrors to do the biding of biding of a goddess that had gone mad.
One step a time. It’s how they did it, one state a time. The people of Fawcett City got knocked down a lot, but they always got up and they did it together. This was not something they could get through alone, so Freddy did what he could, which wasn’t easy, because even if he appeared as Shazam, there was the difficult question of, “Where were you?” followed by. “Why weren’t you here?”
Freddy was pushed into a room, protected by Chief Callaghan. A move the deposited him into the Metropolis Library. He had to face them and accept their anger, pain and resentment at failing to protect that which was most precious. He could not divulge what happened without creating additional pain. Complicating matters was not what he wanted to do
They did not want his platitudes or excuses. Some did not want to hear he would do better or that he was merely one person. That didn’t want to hear it, they couldn’t hear it. No one wants to hear that. Still he stood there and took it as Shazam, because it was the right thing to do. They were due their pain, their anger, their outrage. They were entitled to it. They needed someone to be the target then he would be that too, because only then could the path to healing begin.
They were difficult days, with difficult weeks ahead, but they could only move forward, not back. Memorials would be erected for the fallen. Including a statue for the mystery hero that allowed for their to be survivors. It was that opening that allowed Shazam to let people know that there will always be people who rise to help.
He considered divulging the identy of the individual, but rather than create an international incident he simply called him a ‘friend’. Someone who was here when he couldn’t be. Someone who acted when he couldn’t. Friend of Fawcett, that is how he referred to him. It was the best he could offer, because to saying they had a complicated relationship was an understatement. He was an arrogant ass, but an honorable one. His alter ego was more amenable. Either way Freddy found him to be like anyone else that walked the earth a complicated, complex individual that he admired on some level, but also knew he had to be watched.
Where Adam challenged and pushed Freddy. Freddy sought to retrain him. To encourage his more noble traits. He was certain Adriana was better suited at that, but there’s was a shared history. Literally given all that Freddy had experienced. It was these thoughts that sent considered along all that he learned upon passing the Trials of Courage and Strength.
Every night it was the same dream the one where he saw the little boy that told him to call forth his name. To take it for himself. Every night he replayed the conversation, remembering the warning, but this night it was different. This night there was a whisper, one that grew louder until Freddy’s eye shot open.
Throwing off his covers his hand moved to his forehead which throbbed a bit. The whisper he heard in his mind was not that of Solomon but another, one that had been missed. “Wizard?”
Padding over towards the glow and sound of the television which he distinctly remembered turning off he cleared the sleep from his eyes until what the newscaster said and the crawl of words along the bottom of the screen register.
Bialya. Kahndaq. Attack. Palace. Explosion.
Theo. “Theo.” He said softly as the whisper returned. As the newscast continued he knew exactly what happened. He didn’t need to see he didn’t need speculation. If they were attacking Kahndaq then it’s defender would respond.
The final trials had begun. There was only one trial left and it in the balance were lives too numerous to count, but even as that sunk in another fact sunk in. The United Nations wanted Luthor to act. Not that Freddy knew the inner workings of administration completely, but it involved a superhuman. One that could easily subdue all others. He was on par with the Wizard’s previous champion.
“Conner.” Conner equals Cassie. Either way it could quickly involved the two of them one way or another. “Cassie.” Modern Day Adam and Isis. He couldn’t let his mind go there, not yet.
He needed to intervene. He had to. Did he know what he was getting into. No. What if it was similar to with what happened with Hercules. Why would Bialya attack Kahndaq? It should matter, but did he have time? That was the question. However, there was only one way he could star to answer that question and more. It begin with a word.
Freddy had to tell Wally several times that he was not going to use the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers jingle as my ring tone for the group. No matter how cool he thought it would sounded and was, it was not happening. Regardless of what his ringtone for the others was going to be he did agree that it should be something different from everyone else, but they should avoid matching ringtones if they could help it.
He was preparing to depart. Destination? Kahndaq.
Freddy stepped out on the back porch ready to leave, but there were a few things he needed to do before he could leave. With the phone in his hand he began dialing. He didn’t know what he would say actually. Oddly enough all he could remember was the conversation about ringtones that was held. Wally said they should use the Power Ranger jingle. Freddy was decidedly against that. It made sense that they would want a ring that was specifically for them, but it wasn’t going to be the Power Ranger theme. At least not for Freddy, but right now he hoped Cassie and Wally were listening.
Either way he dialed them both and left a message, because he needed to let them know what was going on. He didn’t know what it would happen, really.
“Cassie, I’m pretty sure you’re aware of what’s going on. Long story short. I know what I’ve seen on TV. Kahndaq’s under attack. Don’t know why. Reports aren’t saying why. I do know it’s going to put Adam in a bad spot if people think he’s being unreasonable. This can go pear shape fast. There’s another bit of business. The Wizard spoke to me. He told me it’s the Final Trial. I don’t know everything I’m walking into, but if it’s anything like Isis someone’s still trying to manipulate everything including Adam.”
Possibly even Freddy.
“I can’t really say what will happen, and I now it’s my trial, but I’m also worried about Adam. I don’t know if you can get involved, but if there is something you can do I ask that you try and help the people of Kahndaq. Get them out of harms way.” The message beeped. He knew that was going to happen.
Redialed. “It’s me again. See if Wally is willing to help. I’m not asking either of you to engage. Fighting wars totally creates the wrong message, but helping people that’s what we want to do right? I just didn’t want either if you to think that I was cutting you or thinking I can do it alone.” They all had to do what they could right? “I’m going to call Wally and leave a message for him to reach out to you.” Did he even mention Conner?
“I’ll try to call you soon. If I get service.” He ended the second call and put in call to Wally.
“Hey, it’s Freddy. I’m heading to Kahndaq. Contact Cassie. She’ll get you up to speed, but if you can the people there can use your help to get them out of the combat zone. Talk to you soon.” Brief and to the point.
With that out of the way Freddy tapped off from the ground in to the air so he could get to Kahndaq as quickly as the speed of Mercury would carry him through the air. He wanted to tug on Solomon, but right now he needed to keep his head as clear as he could.
––Sometime later after arriving in Kahndaq––
FREDDY: Freddy wasn’t part of the sanctioned group gathered together to combat the army and navies of Bialya, but he could help get Kahndaqians out of the combat area. He could do that, but he also needed to find Theo. Theo he felt could be reasoned with. Black Adam, well he was pretty sure that his self-confidence could take the hits.
Upon reaching the Kahndaq’s airspace the empowered champion began scanning the area to take in what was happening. It was now that he pushed back the emotions choosing to lean on Solomon so he didn’t let himself be overwhelmed by the horrors below. He need to see where he was needed. He couldn’t ignore what was happening in front of him. The people couldn’t be forgotten but he also needed to make sure that Black Adam didn’t take it to the extreme.
CONNER: It wasn’t all that long ago, less than a week in fact, that Shiruta was a beautiful place. No, it is not one of the modern marvels of the world. You wouldn’t have found a sprawling skyscraper with some corporate logo, but you could have seen some of the most beautifully hand-sculpted statues. The people here paid homage to the past, while living in the present, with only a mindful thought towards tomorrow.
While Shiruta was not some idyllic paradise in the desert, it was a thing of wonder. In the years since it’s last Dictator was overthrown the small country had begun a sort of renaissance of the arts. Discovering the beauty in simple things, it’s people went about their days in relative obscurity from the rest of the world but they did it in peace and relative prosperity. While you wouldn’t get a good cell phone signal in most of the country, you wouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble finding one in Shiruta. In the last couple of years it begun to move towards modernization as it’s King slowly embraced the new world he was within. Though this slow creep towards ‘modern’ came under the ever watchful eye towards corruption.
That has all changed now though. A full night of bombs being dropped from sky, launched cruise missiles from the sea, while being cut off from the rest of its populace by a cordon of tanks had seen to the once beautiful city being little more than a shell of that former beauty. The market which is normally the life blood of the populace is empty. No children play in the streets. Nor do they attend the mandated schools.
Point in fact the only true signs of life in Shiruta come from those searching the rubble for survivors or those survivors that were able making their ways to the Red Cross tents. Just beyond the city there is a new sign of life. Tent City. Born from the mobilized hospital that the peace keepers brought with them.
There is little serenity here now, but there is a semblance of peace. Unless you turn an eye towards the East. In the distance, just at the best limits of the naked eye, one could make out the tell-tale signs of explosions. They seem to be growing ever further from what remains of the capital city.
Such a sight is enough to even quiet the every prattling whispers of Solomon. It doesn’t take a God’s wisdom to see all that you need from the air, of what has happened here. There is far more to this than what meets the eye though. With the proper vantage there’s a certain line that one’s mind might draw between the peace-keeper’s camp and the battle-front off in the distance. The Wisdom of Solomon is not merely what can be seen, but also what can be heard, what can be felt… and that is where the God’s aide is most effective. Whispers among the troops speak of the madness of it all. Rescue worker speak amongst themselves of the points they’re most hopeful of finding survivors. Then there’s the wounded, that if only they had just enough insight, they might be able to save one additional life.
For someone like Freddy Freeman he was right to keep Solomon out. To filter his thoughts so as not be overwhelmed. Honing them in to what is important. None seem to understand what is happening, nor why. And even now, as the new Champion arrives can he make out the argument among those dispatched by the United Nations.
“We cannot do that Superman,” the Canadian power house is imposing himself in such a way that he seems to think himself the ‘Man of Steel’s’ equal. “We’re only here to keep the Peace, not to wage his war…”
“He’s right. We’re ‘ere to stop this madness, not take ‘art in it.”
“I know why we’re here. I know what we’re supposed to be doing. It just doesn’t seem right. They’re the bad guys, they caused all of this. Are we supposed to just let them get away with this?”
Among the group is one who actually holds even shorter stature than the Diva. Her red hair, freckled face and glasses, paint her as an abstract in this world of chaos and explosions, but of them all she seems the one most at east. As well as being the only one that ‘Superman’ seems to pay any difference too.
“You were right, when you told Adam we should focus on saving people first. Avenging them second. We’re not here to fight a War for Adam, we’re here to keep rescue these people, Kon-L.”
“I know, Doc, but..” Conner’s voice stops as soon as Fairchild’s eyebrows lift above her glasses.
“No buts. Get your team out there. Find survivors, bring them here. Only engage if there are civilians at risk. Go. Up, up and away and all that.”
FREDDY: “Be the beacon of hope that they need you to be, Superman.” He had no cape, all he had was a red suit with a gold light bolt emblazoned upon it along with a pair of gold boots. It was quite the look, but Freddy did not make his presence known to discuss fashion sense. He was here to stop a bad situation from getting worse.
“The beacon of hope that I know you can be. You’re here to help the victims of this attack not avenge them. They need your compassion not your vengeance. Listen with your ears. Look with your eyes. What do they tell you?” It’s not the first time that Freddy understood Conner’s impulse, but right now it was about managing the situation.
“You’re here to keep the peace. Pulling you away might be exactly what Bialya wants.” That was for the entire audience, but for Superman there was more which is why he lowered his voice to nothing more than a whisper. He had no idea what powers the others possessed, but he knew that Conner ears would pick up what he needed them to.
“I don’t like it any more than you do and it’s obvious that there’s more going on here, but the world is watching, Superman. Watching what you say and do. You can either chose to make billions of fans or billions of enemies, people who fear you. The trials for people like me and you never end. All eyes are on you right here and out there. Be the hero, not the weapon. You’re here to show the best that America has to offer. Uplift them. Adam has their rage and anger. Let that be enough for now. If there is a moment where you need to act you know it. You’ll feel it.” The explosions in the distance were a concern, but right now he needed to make sure this didn’t escalate.
“The people of Kahndaq will grateful for your actions today,” Freddy said his voice louder as he pulled away. “Keep them safe. I assure Adam will be thankful for your aid and assistance.” If they could make sure that his people were cared for, that they were kept out of danger then he could focus on their enemies. If he could slow their approach, then he could start to push them back.
“I will do what I can, but must find Black Adam.” Pushing them back is one thing. Destroying them is another. They needed to answer for their actions, but they needed for them to survive and Black Adam was not one to show such restraint. He was very Old Testament, before there was an Old Testament.
CONNER: How Freddy got there is not really a thing of much concern for anyone at the little gathering. This not some top secret mission, which only has members of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. involved. This is something else entirely, with people assembled from across the globe in order to help bring about a peaceful resolution. Which is in fact where the trouble stems from in the first place.
‘Peaceful Resolution,’ is not what Black Adam is going to agree to at this point. I’m not entirely sure he should either, frankly. Which is probably why this whole ‘Beacon of Hope’ thing annoys me on some level. If I were being honest with Fred, much less the rest of the company here? I’m more of a fire and brimstone sort of Superman, than hugs and handshakes kind. Every where I turn there is another hurting face, an unspoken question of why we let this happen and why we’re not putting a more permanent stop to it.
The question I find myself unable to answer is, ‘If I have the power to prevent these issues, wouldn’t it be better for me to stop them from happening? Rather than trying to render help after the problem has come home to roost.’ I suppose that’s really at the heart of what Wars between Black Adam’s mindset and that of the rest of the world. They certainly do not respond well to Adam, but they sure idolized the first Superman.
“You may not know this, Shazzy, but I didn’t put this uniform on to be a role-model. This wasn’t ever a choice for me. It isn’t always so easy to be a beacon of Hope, when all I want to do is reign down a terrible fury.” Lifting a hand, meant more to call Shazam to a halt before he tries to give his retort. “But. I’m learning. Sometimes the best thing to do is not always the easiest thing for people like us to do. In fact, the hard choice seems to almost always be the right one.”
“Being a Hero. Like Wonder Woman. Means learning to live with making that choice.”
The rest is something I understand all too well. Freddy was putting on a bit of a show. That is something I’m a class act at. I might not be the best Boyscout, but the Luthor side of me sure knows how to make a good show of it. What comes after those few words, is something else entirely.
Clearly I don’t have a lot of time here, but as Freddy is giving me his own personal take on things? I can see it pretty clearly, that this other guy’s role to play is right here. Right now. It’s no coincidence that he is here, this too is some Gods anointed Fate of his.
That’s why I put my hand upon Freddy and take him with me in to the air. Extending the force field that keeps the wind sheer at bay to him, allows me to levitate him along with me as I start to follow the Doc’s orders. It also means we have a couple moments of true privacy, because one of the few things my Hearing can’t penetrate is this very force field.
“Listen, Chum. I’m kinda glad you’re here, because you’re right about one thing more than the rest. I’m here as an appointed envoy. Something screwy around here and … there’s only so much poking around I can do without raising some diplomatic red flags.”
“First thing. The attack. Something is off about the attack. Everything from the timing, to the precision. It’s not my field of expertise, but I took tactical planning 1-oh-1 in the Virtual Simulator. Bialya isn’t this organized. They’re ruled by a jerk that was fighting a guerilla War six months ago. Now he’s leading a surgical strike against a nation with a protector like Adam?”
“Secondly. My Father made Theo sign on to letting Nowhere in. Full scale. My Father does nothing, at all, without a reason. Even if it’s a noble reason, there has to be one. If he made Theo open the gates to Nowhere, then he is interested in why Bialya attacked. Or…” this is where the old Conner shrug comes in to play. “… maybe the reason the attack is so precise is because my Father played a hand in organizing, to get the door opened.”
“Either way. I can’t be the one poking around, but… I’m the one that is going to have to write about it. Because if I’m not. It isn’t going to get printed.”
FREDDY: They all had their parts to play. They all had things they had to do, but there were ways to go about it and having Superman ripping through tanks and jets was not going to help anyone but Adam. It would give him the sense that he had an ally in his tactics and that the United States would become complicit about everything he was doing when everyone knew that wasn’t the case. Luthor from what Freddy could tell, POTUS not Superman was slipperier than that girl who generated frictionless forcefield in the comic books he used to read.
Whatever play he put into motion Freddy felt that he was playing both sides of the conflict. There were too many unknowns. Whoever was at the heart of this knew exactly where to strike Adam, one to charge him up and two put him in to a total Kobayashi Maru.
The moment Conner projected the forcefield around them Freddy focused on what he was saying. He chose to listen rather than interject.
“I agree.” He said honestly.
“And no, I know you’re not into the entire beacon of hope business. I know where you stand, but I also know that you’re important to Cassie, and you said you wanted to try and be friends so friend to friend don’t be the weapon. Not because of the beacon hope business that’s something you have to figure out, but I don’t want a target on your back.” That was what he was more worried about. Right or wrong didn’t always factor in the way people wanted it to.
“I will probably hate myself in the morning for saying it, because I hate this about as much as saying let’s unpack this, but here it goes. Optics.” He sounded like a politician or worse PR.
“The world’s watching. It’s one thing to take care of business on your turf, and I’m sure N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has been deployed elsewhere in the world, but this is different. There are no clean ups. There are no this is what NOWHERE wants you to believe. It’s been seen everywhere. By people on the ground and all over and if you follow Adam’s lead then the world will believe it has one more problem that it needs to solve and trust me, Conner, believe me when I say the world finds a way then it finds a way and I don’t want that to happen. “
They all knew that NOWHERE probably had multiple contingencies in place, but what did the world have in place? This response was unlike anything else Freddy had seen before so the calculus that everyone had put together was now being sorted and reorganized. If the United States would assemble this type of a response to aid, what happens when it feels threatened. Freddy pushed that response through his mind, so he had to make sure that he considered that in every action along with the fact that NOWHERE is also watching to see will Conner “behave” or will they have to consider a better way to keep him inline when he wanted to follow his heart and it went counter to their mandate.
“I don’t want to lose a friend.” Whether it be in death or because it pushes Conner into a fight response, because flight did not factor in. Once that path begins in earnest where did it end.
“Tell me if I’m looking at that through rose colored glasses? Is it possible or am I way off base with those possibilities? Am I overthinking it?”
He could be. Freddy had to consider it and he knew that sometimes you just had to pull the trigger and let it go, but didn’t there come a point when they had start thinking ahead. Consider the consequences? Albeit it was probably the worst timing ever, but considering the stakes Freddy thought they could use this breath before moving forward one way or another.
“If I can be selfish for a moment. I need you,” he said honestly. “I need you to be the mirror. The one that is my counterpoint. The one that prevents me from being in the echo chamber.”
“We do need to know what’s going in Bialya. I won’t say I’ve played chess, but I’ve seen enough matches to know when pieces have been arranged on the board to play into someone’s hand. I’m with you on that.” To what end? Freddy didn’t know.
“Your hands are being tied so what you need, what we need is a third option if there one.”
CONNER: What may be the most surprising aspect of this relatively private discussion? Is how quickly the answer comes to Freddy. “To be honest, I actually know you’re right. I’m just having a problem with the fact that I’m being forced to play a role. It’s frustrating. Because this is my life, Shazzy. I’m never allowed to be myself, I always have to be what someone else wants me to be or tells me to be.”
“But. At least for the moment, I completely agree with you. I’ve got to play the role that I’ve been type-cast in to. Because, for now, that’s the path which also helps the most.” Which as I’m all too sure Freddy is aware, means that I’m doing what I know Cassie would want me to be doing. Motivation, thy name is a teenager’s sex-drive. Mine is a blonde cheerleader demi-goddess. “So don’t you go worrying about me. I’m not going to be breaking my standing orders, unless I think there’s no real choice.”
There’s been a couple times when talking to this guy that it’s been… creepy. Like he can see through you. Past all the bullshit. Right through the carefully crafted secret identity that is Conner Luthor and in to the soul of who lays beneath. I brought that up to Cassie the first time I met this guy, but I’ve experienced twice more since then. This being the second time. He cuts to the heart of it. Slicing away what doesn’t need to be there and just tells you the reality of what is going on. Whether it’s what you’re ready to hear or not.
I hate it.
Yeah, I’m more of a ‘cover it in honey and swallow it before you taste the turd’ kind of guy. I like my truth coated in sugar, so it’s sweet going down and honey coming up. That’s why I’m always rather out of sorts with Freddy Freeman. We are a mirror though, I’m just the other side of it. Which is why the response he gets isn’t always so crystal clear.
“See? I told Cassie you were in to guys. Look, I know you need me dude. Most people do. I’m kind of… y’know… well, hot. I mean. I know. I get it. I’m flattered. But I’m really in to Cassie and all. So we’re going to have to just be friends. I mean… you can still need me if you want. But. Um. We’re going to have to keep this whole need me thing under wraps, okay? Last time Wonder Woman got jealous,… dude… she almost hit me with the God Bolt. Lightning from her Daddy’s ass. Right up mine.”
“So. Just. Need me. Privately. Okay? Cool.”
FREDDY: There are moments when Freddy needs things to crystalize. Some people may think it is from an intense desire to be right. Like he was on the Fawcett High Debate team with dreams of a trophy in a glass case and a scholarship in hand, but it was pretty far from it. He needed things to crystalize, because these were people’s lives. He had to except that not every action would be the right action, not even the best action in the best case scenario. Life just didn’t work that way.
Was Freddy Freeman a shining light of hope, it depended upon who you asked, because sometimes what came out of his mouth was the last thing people wanted to hear just as Conner said. He could be a cold bucket of water that no body wanted, but sometimes you needed to remind them and him of what the score was.
Sometimes it happened at the right time, sometimes it happened when it was the worst time and he was traveling down the spiral into the reads, but every so often planets converge, and there’s a grand conjunction of three suns some where and everything comes together when he needs it.
This was one of those moments. Where Conner laid bare for him what his frustration was. No matter what he was someone’s puppet to a degree, just enough for him to get tangled in things he didn’t want. His response had to be muted if not replaced with another, because of circumstance. It was a good moment it was a hamburger moment that lasted about five seconds.
“You can’t help yourself, can you. You really can’t.” It was either that or he just didn’t grasp that bit right there. Either way? “From what I hear I couldn’t hold that spot if I wanted because it’s what? You, Cassie then your new friend Kyle.”
Yes, he did. “I’m pretty sure he’d scratch my eyes out.” However, now that Conner was going to play ball with his commrades which meant that Freddy had to deal with…everything else.
CONNER: What makes this all the more curious is when that trademark dimpled smirk comes out. No one would ever be able to mistake Conner and Superman as different people if they could see this momentary look shared with someone that I actually trust. Moderately. It’s very telling, because I’m never going to actually tell the truth. Can I help myself? Or did I totally meat-head that moment of heart-to-heart awareness that Mr. Shazam was putting out there? It doesn’t seem like I’m ever going to tell someone the truth in answer to those questions. Even Solomon is going to have a problem reading this expression.
“Honestly, I’m not even sure anymore, Shazzy. It’s mostly just me and Cassie. Then there’s my new friend Kyle, who’s kinda gay in a really not-sure-if-he’s-gay but wow is he hot sort of way? And then there’s Tim, who I’m pretty sure is Gay, but Cassie says he’s not. Oh and then. There’s Flash. Listen. I’m not saying he’s Gay, I’m just saying you’re not going to see Flash and Heterosexual situations in the same room, at the same time, if you know what I’m saying. Solomon that, my friend. Soloman, that. Meanwhile, I’m like surrounded by all these amazingly hot female supporting cast members and no one to set them up on blind dates with. If you ever met the Huntress. I mean. She’s like one of those girls you actually ask to put your testicles in a choke hold. Know what I mean? Flash is just a little to effeminate for her. Then there’s Dinah. Whoah, let me tell you about Dinah. Get a pencil and paper, buddy.”
“Okay. Seriously. I’m going to get to saving poor innocent people. Being all Supermanly. You do that thing you do. The talk a lot, make a point. Things work out in the end thing. When you’re ready, give me a call.” Pausing for just a second, as if the man gifted with Soloman’s Wisdom might actually -not- know what I’m meaning… “Not with a cell phone. I mean, just say my name. I’ll hear you. From like anywhere, pretty much.”
“Superman. Does. Not. Have. A. Cellphone.”
By the time Freddy is ready to actually wade through everything I’ve just verbally regurgitated at him? I’m long gone. Up, up and away, indeed.
FREDDY: Freddy couldn’t quite point out where and when all of this happened, but happened and there was no going back, because it was already coming out of Conner’s mouth. It was best to hold the expression that spread across his features, one that said many things but most of all, ‘What just happened?’ He avoided pinching the bridge of his nose, because he was pretty sure Conner got that from Cassie from time to time (read a lot).
Solomon was uncharacteristically quiet. Freddy was shock and he didn’t lean on him to decipher any of that. That was 100 percent Conner. A hundred percent of what Freddy couldn’t quite say, but he did know that he would do his thing. Whether it was talking or not remained to be seen, because there was a mystery here to unravel and he knew they both knew that Freddy was at the center of it as it related to his trials, but the consequences. No one knew how far that would go.
Conner was off to provide the support that was needed. Freddy he was headed in the direction of Adam. Everything was a strike upon Kahndaq, but what was there anything else out of place. There was the strike. There was response, but what happened in between. A lot of things were happening all at once. Perhaps there was something that was missed.
Would Adam know? Another thing about a well set board is that you can direct where you want people to look to prevent them from seeing what’s coming. Was there somewhere else that everyone should have been looking while all of this took place? Something about what Conner said. A well precision attack. Whether than noddle Solomon’s noggin about what Conner said Freddy decided to pose that question. What was valuable in Kahndaq?
Isis was after the amulet. This was the Final Trial. Was there something here that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Another thing that Freddy couldn’t help but notice was that since things went of the rails with the Trials everything seemed to come back to Adam or something or someone connected to Adam.
Freddy did his best not to rush himself. He knew that he had to get to Adam’s position, but he needed to get a read on the situation. Like Conner said if he was here then there was more to everything that was happening on an entirely different level. While the agents of NOWHERE did what they did with the other members of the UN Peacekeeping force, Freddy was on his own he helped where he could, but when it came to actually engaging the citizens of Kahndaq they weren’t exactly forthcoming. Actually, they were suspicious of a fair skinned, dark haired man who not only spoke their language, but spoke it quite well as if he was native to the area.
Blessings of Solomon one would say. Omnilinguistics was a god send literally in this sense. However, no matter how well he spoke the language Freddy was still an outsider, one that appeared to be dressed in the same garb as their champion. If Freddy was hoping that this would demonstrate some kind of connection Freddy got less than a receptive reaction. If anything, it made them distrust him a bit more. They probably had their reasons. If Freddy had to hedge a guess he was probably being seen as trying to usurp Black Adam’s role as Champion of Kahndaq. Or even worse…they were Americanizing his legacy!
Which as not something that Freddy was intending to do at all. Perhaps he should have visited earlier and taken Theo up on his offer if only to show that he was a fri…acquaintance. He could go that far, because he really didn’t know how Black Adam viewed him. Annoyance. Pretender. The Mistake.
Freddy could go over several more disparaging things that Black Adam probably thought when he saw Freddy coming, and let’s face it holding his tongue was not something Black Adam considered in the least. Either way he Freddy set it aside, because he could be there for hours instead he resumed his survey of the city. He looked over the buildings that had been damaged by the attacks and those that had not. It was a lot to take in, but as he had done before in the past Freddy set aside his emotions and focused on what his eyes were showing him in hopes that they would tell him what he needed to know.
Freddy considered the photographs and videos that he had of war zones before, missile strikes specifically. How many times had the United States done precision drone strikes? How often did they strike only the target that they wanted and not have any significant collateral damage? There were always reports of that occurring. Usually when strikes occurred they were at major installations. Things that helped support the adversary. Supply lines had to be disrupted so sometimes roads, but air fields, supply depots, munition depots, and other types of installations.
There was a strike upon the palace which was for a lack of a better word ballsy, but what would it gain them outside of Adam’s wrath? They struck into the city hitting at residences, hospitals and schools, it was a major attack that seemed to be striking at any and everything. At least that’s what it would appeared to look like from first glance. If you took the thousand-foot view then everything seemed to be under fire, but the closer you got the clear it became. It started to come into focus.
Freddy wanted was information and he couldn’t acquire it from the citizens, so he had to look at the data. There was no terminal for him to pull to besides the one that sat on top of his neck. The strikes. They were clean and precise compared to the strikes of other nation. There didn’t seem to be anything was done by accident. There had been reports of kamikaze type tactics, but that is what made Freddy’s closer look at what had been hit even more critical, because again it was not what was hit that stood out, it was what wasn’t hit that did.
That he could point and pick out. In some cases there was some damage, but more minor damage. Strategic, tactical strikes. That made it stick out again, but this time what Conner had said about the command chain, more specifically, the leader. Outside of the jerk comment the fact that recently he had previously been fighting a guerilla war, which can be effective, but it had a very different set of tactics.
Tactics that apparently utilized missile strikes from sea faring vessels. Freddy couldn’t recall any time in the past when such tactics had been used. Did Bialya even have a navy? How does someone go from fighting a guerilla war to executing strike such as this?
Freddy chewed on that while he went over what he saw when he got closer to the buildings that had not been hit. At first blush one might think they were spared, because of sheer luck, given the fact that other areas had been struck, but the closer Freddy got the more a pattern began to emerge. Antique and curio shops. Ordinarily no one would think anything of it. Nothing at all if not for the fact that Freddy while not trained in the science of archaeology often found himself caught in the intersection of antiquities, myths and legends. It was the reason why he touched down upon one of the roofs of the shops that had not been hit. It was also why he had to set his emotions aside less he would find himself overwhelmed.
“Lets talk it through Freddy. At some point, Theo presented Adrianna with the amulet of Isis. It allowed her to access the power of Isis even ore the spirt of Isis possessed Adriana. It was like a seed that was planted within her that grew and grew until it had complete control of the woman that Theo loved. Black Adam intended to restore his wife in the process, but Isis had other plans.” She meant to restore Osiris by acquiring the amulet that his spirit had been placed into.
Freddy avoided twisting himself around that spiral too many times, but artifacts. Even Adam’s resurgence was the result of an artifact. He searched his shared memories for the information while considering what had been attacked and what had not. Among the curio and antique shops book stores were not attacked and it didn’t appear to be businesses that came about from Kahndaq’s resurgence hey seemed to be in place for quite some time.
The entire region was a wealth of treasures and not every treasure made it into the museum. Think Antique Road show or Storage Wars. How many times had hidden treasures been found within someone’s home or a storage unit. Perhaps they weren’t meant to be found or perhaps…perhaps they were meant to stay out of the obvious hands.
Freddy clenched his fist in slight frustration at not being able to converse with the citizens. Sure, he could speak with them, but what would they tell him? What would they answer? Right now he could only make a hypotheisis based on what he had seen and what he had seen told him that those building sand the ones near them were intact. The buildings around them were incongruous to the ones that seemed to be almost untouched. They were simply in the right place, but it was the shops where someone could acquire information about the past, objects from the past that were not targeted.
Yet the army was pushed back they would never be able to get in.
He paused in his words and his thoughts. He considered what Aunt Minvera was doing in at the bank when he met Cassie for the first time. She was looking for something, but she wasn’t Minvera she was Isis. However, she knew exactly what it was she was looking for at least she knew it was in the bank. What if you didn’t know what you were looking for.
Once the clean up begins people will be allowed back in to check the damage. You can’t impersonate all of them, but. A sinking feeling began, but Freddy continued to play the thoughts through. Someone had to be responsible for all of this and there seemed to be a change in tactics. There were questions in his mind. Who or what? There had been a level up. He needed to know what he could about Bialya, but even more he needed to know what happened there recently. Someone has gotten an upgrade of some kind and Freddy had three scenarios none of them good as he touched off the ground.
He needed to be where Adam was if only to see what was happening in that area of the country was it anything like this or was it different? Someone was seeking something out, they were looking for something or somethings. Whether it was an item, or a record of the item Freddy didn’t know, but something pushed Bialya into action.
What was the scenarios? If Adam returned, Teth Adam why couldn’t someone else. Someone who coveted something Kahndaq possessed. Similar to the Osiris’s amulet, but something different, something more. He didn’t know. There was missing information.
Scenario B. The way that the tactics changed indicated that someone had taken the reigns someone or someones had. They changed the way they waged war to become effective which made Freddy’s stomach twist just a bit. What if it was another god, a war god. Considering the Trial who was left what if it was Ares? Right now, Freddy had to consider the possibility even if for a moment which made scenario C even more frightening. What if it was Athena? Those were the worst-case scenarios, but given that everything that happened to this point, Freddy was going to go with the first scenario.
First more information and the only way he could get that was by heading to where the fighting was still occurring in the direction of Adam. Hopefully, it would begin to lean towards scenario A, not that was desired at all, but it’s all Freddy along with the general notion that this was a attack over resources just resources of a different kind.