Slade: “Hmph. You sure know how t’ keep a guy waiting, Birdy.”
Slade Wilson. Assassin. Mercenary. Professional Do-Whatever-The-Fuck-You-Pay-Him-To-Do. Also certified bad ass of extremely epic proportions. Last seen taking on the entirety of the League of Assassin -and- the Penguin’s goon squad at the Iceberg Lounge. Now waiting all too impatiently at the top of the one Dinah Lance’s place of residence and Bar.
Not known for his manners, most of the time. Nor is he usually the type of guy that waits for a Lady to be ready. All of these things tie in together to truly explain what it means that Slade is here in the first place. He didn’t come to Dinah with his hat in hand, he came with something that he knew would entice her. Furthermore he’d come willing to help her, before she helped him. Every little clue tying back to one simple fact: Deathstroke was actually going to be doing something that he needed help with.
“While you’ve been playing patty cake with Bat v.2 over your young stud v.2, I was getting some intel together from my source in Star Cityyyyyyyyyyyy……………”
Superman: Superman. Superhero. Photographer. Doesn’t-know-or-care-how-scrary-Deathstr oke-is-or-should-be. Just threw Slade Wilson 15 miles due north, in to the Gotham Harbor. Doesn’t seem to really blink much over the thought that a normal human body probably can’t handle that sort of fall. Also a badass, doesn’t have a problem reminding people. Frequently. When the opportunity calls for it.
“You live the worst neighborhood, with terrible neighbors.”
There are entrances and then there are entrances. My predecessor would have made with polite chatter and asked Slade to excuse them for a private chat. Or hung there in the air like some monolithic God, waiting for the two Super-Ninja to have their tete-a-tete. Luckily I’m not that ass-clown. My arrival goes from my simply not being there, to Slade simply not being there. Fluttery cape not withstanding.
Once I’ve landed, I simply give her a long look. With absolutely anyone else that looks like Dinah. I’d be looking right through her clothing. With Dinah, I’m intentionally looking at what she is wearing instead. “Star City. What is it is with you and terrible choices? That place is a car fire, stacked on a dumpster fire, being juggled by a clown that’s also on fire. Being chased by a flaming, pink, Bat-like-Vigilante. That’s also on fire.”
Canary: “In the words of far, far too many of my current companions: ‘uh, duh.’ You do pointy blades assassin, I do blunt objects tease. If we all just stick to our roles, everything be fine.”
It’s not as if I’m the old lady of the Gotham Gang. That job falls squarely to Dick, who is probably scowling somewhere about now. But with the teaching role I’d fallen/been asked into, I’m once again stuck with badgering/beating the younger generation. Five-ish years is a vigilante generation? Actually, that sounds sadly about right. But no one told him he had to skulk up here, I would have preferred if he hadn’t. Despite it not exactly being any sort of secret that the place is mine, and frankly at this point my identity is more courtesy than fact to the majority of the supercrew, it’s not the best for business or my healthy sense of paranoia. My demeanor says ‘bored’ more than ‘bothered’ though, as I shake blonde hair back out of my face, and roll blue eyes at the old man’s talk of patty cake, and next I expect to hear about some philandering, so I distract myself with making sure my jacket’s how I want it. I am still listening about the source, however.
Until there’s a very unDeathstroke yelp, a whoosh and when I look up in wide eyed surprise, body already shifting on its own into the defensive posture I should probably have had around Slade in the first place, if I hadn’t already figured out he needed me for all of this. That’s as close to ‘phased’ as I get by what has just happened, I spend a moment looking for whatever trajectory Deathstroke had been sent on, momentarily concerned that something permanent might have just happened.
“We can’t all have penthouses in Metropolis. Then they wouldn’t be fancy. They’d just be normal, and I don’t think you could handle that.”
It’s apparently costume night, at Pretty Bird’s Bar & Bistro, though the last part no one actually uses, and I’m fairly sure half the ‘neighbors’ wouldn’t know what one was, anyway. Higher education and culture wasted on this place. The fact that Superman’s in his is of course much more interesting to me than the fact that I am also in mine, the fishnets, the boots, the not exactly just a corset anymore suit that Tim’s been pathologically incapable of not messing with and beefing up the construction of. None of it’s really what it looks like anymore, though. The fishnets don’tn exactly need constant replacing anymore, on account of how they could probably stop a knife. He’s not here in plainclothes, like the times before, and that makes me just a tad wary/curious all at the same time.
“You’re being awfully judgemental tonight, Supes. Must be Tuesday. I just don’t do nice places, apparently. Or I muck them up when I’m there. A pink one, now? I clearly have been away too long.”
My tone’s got a sing song lilt to it, the Canary persona out to play, just without the edge that takes it from joking and having fun to you’re half a second from my fingers in your Adam’s Apple.
“Not that I’m not happy to see you, but…”
Superman: “…but why am I here, in Gotham, in plain sight, wearing this?”
Frankly, this is comfortable. More comfortable of late than my actual costume, Conner Luthor. Everything has gone sideways or backwards or some other way than how I want them of late. Yet being Superman? Has gone strangely right. To a very surprising, waiting for the other shoe to drop sort of way. Do I say all of this? Hell, no. What Dinah gets is no less the truth, but not exactly the whole truth.
“I’m starting to learn that there are times people listen to me a lot more seriously when I’m wearing this.” A flick of my finger against the metallic S-shield makes a very audible tink. “People who otherwise might not always listen to a guy that ordinarily looks sixteen, going on seventeen.”
“Kind of like the way your pupils dilated when you saw it. Your heartbeat picked up noticeably, after you saw it. It didn’t pick up because of the potential danger, either. It was a good six one hundredths of a second -after- you took a defensive stance. Fear doesn’t move you, Dinah. I’ve known that since we first met. It’s one of the many, many reasons, I’m particularly fond of you.”
“You know if I’m here wearing this, I’m here for something serious. And I am. Part courtesy, I wanted you to hear it from me. One of your people has been arrested. He fashioned himself as a sort of Red Hood, of late. When I heard, I decided to get involved. Personally. He’ll be working in Kahndaq and if he assists with that, I’ll see to it that he is released back to Gotham. Back to you. I’ve arranged for all charges to be dropped and for things to go back to the way they were. Your people police Gotham. We stay out. My predecessor had that arrangement with your predecessor, I’d like to think we can come to a similar agreement.”
“That’s the first part of why I’m here. Dressed like this.”
Black Canary: “All those muscles. The good looks. The money. The ability to pull off that kind out getup and you’re a mind reader, too? Tch. Talk about uneven distribution of luck and talents.”
I know he’s not really. God, I hope he’s not really. The last thing the world needs is a telepathic teenager who can also hear and see everything the regular way from hundreds of miles away. And I say this as someone that actually likes this kid. Again, generations. I get to call him kid. Hell, we’ve practically got two generations between us. More if you go off his chronological age. I feel old, all of the sudden. Not the point though. Banter aside, he’s probably right. Conner Luthor doesn’t scare people who don’t know what he actually is. No one’s going to actually listen to him. Everyone listens to Big Blue. Everyone pays attention. Symbols do that.
Now. I actually have demonstrated that I will listen. Which is telling, because he’s turned up like this regardless. Now. It could just be that it’s what he was already wearing, he’s been all over the news doing Superman Things in Khandaq, so that’s reasonable. But it’d probably take him just as much time to change into plainclothes as it did to do whatever it was he actually did with Slade Wilson. My money’s on ‘it’s on purpose.’ And since he’s here talking to me, instead of wearing his ‘listen to me, jerks’ suit over in the direction of a Bat?
“Awww, you like me. You really like me.”
He’s not wrong, fear is something to ignore and deal with later because reacting to fear, in the face of whatever caused it, probably gets you dead. My new and improved suit might be a lot more resistant to a lot more things, but I don’t rely on that to protect me. That’s also how you get dead. So, I listen for the ‘why’ that he’s here. The courtesy. And as he goes on to tell me, there’s a distinct twitch to my right eye. Damien. Apparently can’t stop himself from getting into it with the flying caped crowd, and that might be more than slightly problematic.
“Mmmn. And the second part is where you tell me what you want me to do for you, because otherwise you’d be talking to BigBat about this and not me.”
Oh, I’m not offended, or miffed, or hurt. No ‘but I thought we were friends!’ whining. Conner’s already done me a favor by warning me about Oliver Queen before now. I also ruptured his eardrums. Even if I wanted to ignore what he’s doing for Damien, though that’s mostly in Damien’s court, I owe him.
Superman: “No, the mind reader is actually a snotty cheerleading shapeshifter. She’s the first real person that I ever met, actually. While I was in the virtual reality simulator, she would use her telepathy to enter my mind and present me with problems. So that the scientists could test my reactions to stimuli.”
See this? This isn’t something just anyone is told. I only talk this openly when it’s with someone that I believe can handle the truth in a very unfiltered way. Conner Luthor is the filter, the mask, the human side of this world that needs boiled down and made pretty before being spoken about. Ironic then, that everyone thinks of him as the crude asshole in this little sideshow.
“She’s also why I’m still alive. Once the scientists realized that my natural reaction to annoyances was to kill the offender, they were planning to abort my project. Megan saved me. She’d realized at some point that my senses were so acute, I could actually hear the real world -through- the fake one of the Virtual Reality. They thought I was some sort of psychopath. Megan realized I was treating the VR like a video game. Resetting the game any time I got a result that I didn’t like.”
“So. When I broke out the V.R. she’s the only one I didn’t murder for real when I leveled the place. Martians don’t like heat vision, you should put that in the old Bat Computer.”
By the time she’s gotten to nudging me about the second part, I’ve floated closer to her. Only letting boots crunch upon the gravel of the roof once I’m within arms reach of her. Those perfectly sculpted features soften quickly once I’m close to her. She’s still defensive. I really do appreciate that. As if she could do anything, should I really choose to be an attacker. I don’t see that at foolish, I love the fact that she is exactly what I said. Not fearless, but not controlled by it. Dinah is able to look past what I could do and I think she really does see what I want to do.
Which is quite simply: Be worthy of Cassie Sandsmark.
That requires something much different than what I’ve been talking about though, doesn’t it. “Buzzzzzz. Wrong. That would suggest that I’m only doing what is right, because I’m motivated by what it gets me in return. I’m helping your friend, because he and your whole group have the wrong idea about Nowhere. At least, part of Nowhere. But talking to you or any one of you about it? Is just going to get me … no where.. fast, pun not intended.”
“The only way I’m ever going to convince any of you, is if we stop talking and start doing the right things.”
“So, no. Part two is not about what you can do for me. Let’s stop making this a habit, could we? People find out that I’ve turned you down twice and it’s going to ruin one of our reputations. Probably your’s.” There’s the charm, the grin that threatens to be a smirk. Teasing the teaser is not exactly something I get to do often and fewer people do it to Canary. “The second part, is also about you.”
“I told you, before. You’re much more than you know. I can’t always be around to protect you. It’s time you started to learn how to use…” fingertip up and pointing at her face, lips, down her throat. “… for something other than being a smart ass.”
“… ahem… not that I’m one to talk, really, but… it’s kind of shitty that the only type of friendship you know is the sort that only does something for you, if they think you’ll owe them something. The way I understand it, friendship starts with trust.” Transitioning from the joking gesture to a very simply, elegant even, open hand offered to a lady, like a proper gentleman. “And ends with it too.”
“Have you ever looked at the drum set on stage while your band is playing? Or the speakers when the bass rolls through them. If you put a quarter on top of them when it’s happening, it’ll bounce. If you direct the bass. Control it.” The grin isn’t just charming, it’s downright obscene. “Before I could fly, I started by leaping over small buildings. I didn’t have someone to help me and make sure I wouldn’t fall.”
Canary: Now that sounds like an even bigger problem for humanity, for many different reasons, and the cynic in me would like to point out to Conner that a shapeshifter, in the employ of NOWHERE, is probably not someone who should be counted on in order to be a ‘real person.’ But it didn’t take long to figure out he’s not half as dumb as he pretends to be, and he might actually be even more suspicious than I am about some things, so I suppose I have to go with his version of what happened to him. I have a whole lot of questions about the wisdom of subjecting a developing mind to that sort of situation, and that’s probably the least of what they were doing. I don’t know if it’s to my credit, or a mark against me, that I don’t even flinch when he offhandedly drops the fact that he killed who knows how many people at a scientific research facility. But. We are talking about the same sort of people that took a teenage meta, put a chip in her brain, and sent her into Arkham with Deathstroke and a pack of others, and then made her forget about it so…
“Now, I didn’t say that. In those exact words. But there’s a whole lot of leeway in being amenable to doing a thing, and seeing the benefit in what people might maybe do in return if you do.”
So. It sounds like someone has actually been listening at least a little, and is even trying, because he’s right. It does start with trust. Not the least of the reasons that I’d prodded Tim about being honest with his supposed friend. If I were actually leery of the man. Boy. In front of me, this conversation would probably be going differently. There’s fear of a thing, or a person, and then there’s healthy respect. Which is what I actually have of our current Superman, because I’m fully aware he could eyelaser me with no warning, and no amount of training I’ve done can stop that, or protect me from it. We’re very, very lucky that he currently has a reason to want to be better. But underneath all of that, he’s still a person. So I interact with him for who and what he is. I do actually have friendships that are built on that, though. Trust.
Not many, mind you, but it takes a lot for me to let someone in that close and allow for that vulnerability. When I do? They become the M word. Mine. And whatever he may be saying about us having the wrong idea, his people currently have one of mine. Well. Two. Apparently.
“You wound me, Blue. Make a girl think she’s going to have to actually try harder, and that’s about where I lose interest.”
The dubious look on my face as he gestures towards it is one part ‘you think you’re going to what?’ with a side of ‘you do realize I’ve taken your advice and pushed my lung capacity up another few notches, right?’ But it ends with a shift to surprise and amusement, as I take the extended hand.
“…somehow I doubt falling is all that problematic for you, except maybe in the ego department. Are you actually proposing to teach me to fly or is this a metaphor?”
Superman: A lot of the people that I associate with think that I don’t listen to them. They couldn’t be more wrong. I listen to everything and more importantly everyone. On a very world wide scale, I’m listening a lot more than anyone would ever be comfortable with knowing. Sure, a lot of that time it’s nothing but garbled, overlayed, background noise, but as I’ve gotten more and more used to focusing on the sounds I want to hear? I truly do listen to far more than I ever should. The secret, I found, is that once I know the voice? I’m able to listen for that specific voice or a tone or even a heart beat’s specific rhythm.
Just because I’m hearing what people say, does not always mean that I’m taking it to heart. Psychologists say that you can never really change the foundation that your personality is built upon and if that’s true, then I’m always going to be the little boy that was raised mid-western parents, with wholesome values at first. Then learned very early in life that consequences for people like me are far and few between. Nothing I’ve learned outside of the Virtual Reality has changed that understanding. If I killed Dinah right this second, what would happen to me? Nothing. I’d fly away from Gotham and the people here would investigate it. While the people at Nowhere would be very happy that I’d removed someone like her from the game board. The two sides would cancel themselves out and life would essentially go on just as it always had.
The true consequence, which I really have learned, wouldn’t come for weeks or months. When Cassie found out, I’d have a lot of explaining to do. With the inherent risk associated with that, in that I’d need to either tell her the truth and risk her unhappiness becoming nuclear or I’d need to lie convincingly enough that she’d believe me. With all my super powers, apparently I have a genetic incapability of lying very well. I’m fine with that, though, because lying to Cassie is one of the few things in life that actually does feel wrong to me.
“No argument there. My observation is that most people do things, whether in general or specifically for someone else, to engender a sense of mutual cooperation. Whether they’re after a favor in return or a payoff in the relationship. And maybe you could say that’s my end game too. I might actually like having a certain beautiful kung fu master as a real friend, but for once.. I’ll let you in on a secret; I didn’t actually put that much thought in to the payoff, because seeing your face when I show you this? Is about as far as I got.”
That’s another thing I’ve caught on too in all my ‘listening.’ Dinah Lance does not have a lot of friends. There are people she’s friendly with. Not to mention the whole bat fam that she’s close enough to that they’re part of her inner circle. I’ve not yet found anyone that she’s close enough to that she opens up, trusts them enough to actually open up too. I get a distinct feeling that one of the rare times she’s shared anything of substance with someone, happened when I took her up in to the stratosphere.
“Mhm, yeah-yeah, save the ‘girls don’t like to make an effort’ routine for someone that hasn’t seen you dismantle an entire Russian flop-house. To get that good you tried very hard and you’ll do it again, if you think it’ll help you learn something that would give you an edge.” Flicking my head back over my shoulder in the direction that Slade Wilson went flying. “You’re hob-knobbing with the likes of that clown, so you’ll take an edge you can get and that means… trying harder is just what you do.”
This? Is the rare side of me that few people other than Cassie get to see. I can count on one hand how many people know that I’m not just some meat-head, that says the first crude thing to come to mind. Kyle saw it. Megan knows the inside of my head better than anyone. Cassie sees it when we’re alone. Somehow, though I still struggle with how, Freddy managed to see through my ‘secret identity’ too. Dinah Lance might be the only one of that list that I make any effort with trying to show it to. In a way I feel like she understands me better than any of them. Even Cassie struggles to see why I can’t be like this all of the time. The world that I live and work in wouldn’t allow it.
My Father wouldn’t allow it. And the truth? The downright scary truth is that I’m not sure I want to be this person all of the time. There is just no reward in it.
“The first step here, is going to be learning the right amount of base to use to get off the ground. Since you’re neck isn’t reinforced with super-strength, you’ll want to be careful at first. Until you learn the right amount to use, but there’s a trick to that too.” In one of my hands is her’s, with the other I gently put it at the small of her back. Looking at us from the outside you might think us about to dance. “I generate a tactile field around my whole body. That’s how I was able to keep a small pocket of air for you to breathe when we were up so high. You don’t have that power, but your Grandmother was able to simulate the same thing by creating a envelope of sonics around her entire body. She would hum. Deep, deep down. Simon Cowell calls it singing from your diaphragm.”
“That’s the easy part, the sonics of you voice will reverb through your whole body. It’ll reinforce you, so that when you start to direct your sonics at pushing? It won’t tear your head off. And… you can thank me later, when you take this lesson and realize you can use it to shield yourself in a fight too.”
“You’re looking at me like I’ve grown a third eye,” one brow raises up, but I can’t help it now, I have to smile at her. “I know. You think of your gift as something to break out when natural skills need just a little boost or a surprise, but… there’s more to it, to you, than that. If you learn this and choose never to do it? Cool. But, after our talk about whether you’d be helpless in a fight against someone like me? Knowing what’s going to happen if things keep ramping up between … people like Luthor and people like your friends here in Gotham?”
“I want you to actually have the choice, Dinah.” There is a timber to my voice in this, that isn’t normally there. I’m too young for regrets that would make me sound so old and sad about the past, but Billy Batson didn’t get the chance to learn his powers. Nowhere sent me to bring him down before he was ever able to harness them properly. They punished him, by way of me, for his inability to use his power properly. “Besides, just imagine Big Dick the Batman’s surprise when he realizes you can fly.”
Black Canary: “Krav Maga is actually my style of choice but. You’re not wrong.”
On the exterior, I look a little young to be a master of two martial arts styles, let alone the dozen I can actually boast. I’ve never been a barbie girl, and when you have a cop for a father that had the raising of you for most of your childhood, your interest in a little physical training may start small but it’s only going to bloom. I always liked the physical portion, and maybe a small bit rather guiltily may have liked throttling the boys my age, and older, because I shouldn’t have been been able to. Before I was even at my angriest, I was put into Wildcat’s ring. You can blame him for a lot of my teaching style, too. I may only be in my early twenties, but I’ve been training since I was four. I’ve been at this for longer than half the Batcave’s been alive.
“And believe it or not, I might actually kind of enjoy your company. But I find that all my best relationships are founded in a little casual assault and battery.”
I think the guy needed someone who took him for what he was, proverbial warts and all, and just listened without a lecture, or a pursed and pinched expression and while I can definitely say whether or not Tim did that from experience, I haven’t met the First Hottest Blonde in person. I’m not sure even she does that. Despite the pretext of our first meeting, I’m not interested in Conner Luthor for any of the reasons people usually are. Maybe it’s going to be kind of a weird friendship, all facts and figures considered, but it’s still shaping up to be one just the same.
“Oh, I meant with the flirting. I’ve been trying very hard to be very good at beating people up for a very, very long time. And anytime I can find a new way to do it? Sold. Dinah’s in. The better I am, the easier it is to look out for the people who need it.”
I.E. my friends. See. I do have a heart, and that’s mostly an admission of it. Even if it had been spoken in a much more general sense. Did I have other things I was planning to do tonight? Yeah, but they can wait, and while he’s said, and I believe him, that there’s no real ulterior motive here the tactical part of my brain always analyzes and measures the timing of things. He has other things he’s supposed to be doing on the other side of the world, faster than a speeding bullet be damned, so I’m just going to take the opportunity as presented. My grandmother was actually alive for most of my life. Unlike a lot of metas in the world, not only did I have someone to help me practice with my powers, I also had that same someone who had the same powers as me, and a particular insight in things to do with them. Was this something she’d ever tried to teach me? Instinct is to snort and blow him off because this is my thing, not his. Except he’s got access to information I do not.
And it’s very believable that Grandma may have tried to show me this, but I was much more interested in screaming the walls down in the basement of their shop. I.E. the building that we were standing on. My head’s cocked to one side, a plain look of consideration over what he’s saying, as the cogs spin. I’d honestly never considered using my powers defensively. Not like that. I should have. Especially since my preferred method of fighting is rooted in defense and aggression in the same motion.
“Actually, I’m thinking you better not let anyone know you actually have a pretty sharp brain up there, or they’re going to expect all kinds of things from you and that’s bound to be exhausting. There’s a reason for that logic, though. Beyond not needing to use it, most of the time, I didn’t want to attract a certain kind of attention, and generally I try to avoid kicking off the escalation here myself. Though we might be a little beyond that, now….”
I.E. NOWHERE’s. His. Which I guess makes a glaring testament to the import behind my actually using them on him. In Metropolis. While I was pretending to just be there for a show. Now, the band is another way of practicing that power that I can do out in the open, with a little bit higher stakes. When I was little, I couldn’t scream without using my powers, and for a long time the solution to that was focus. Willpower and personal control. Then as I got older, it was honing the gift so it only functioned when, and if, I wanted it to. The rock band’s made a perfect outlet. So has playing harmonica, but that’s much, much lamer and we don’t talk about that.
There’s actually a lot that could be unpacked from the last bit. From the tone of voice, and I can’t help wanting to dig into it some, but instead I just opt to go along with why he’s here. What he wanted. A half-gloved hand may just be getting laid on his shoulder in a moment of silent reassurance before I do start to hum. A look of concentration because I have never even attempted to do something like this. Direct my powers outwards explosively, or mute them entirely? Yes. Letting the sound build around me, rather than throwing it out and it’s a very, very peculiar feeling. Then I hear his very, very last comment. For a moment, I’m laughing internally over that, because I do owe Dick Grayson one for tasering me, still, but then blue eyes widen and I’m rattling my own teeth, and brain, with the sonics.
Does he know who’s under the suit? I had the impression that had been kept from NOWHERE, and that transition is recent so if they’re that aware of what’s going on here, we probably have a larger problem than guessed. Or maybe he was just calling him a name, not knowing it’s his actual name. Either way… this isn’t a sensation I particular enjoy. I’m actually normally immune to the force of my powers, which lets me use it in enclosed spaces without fear. So it must be something with the way I was channeling it. The hand that had been on Conner’s shoulder moves to pinch the bridge of my nose as I steady myself with a breath and wait for the world to quit spinning for a second.
“I swear. This never happens.”
Superman: “Batman. The cowl is lined with lead, but the rest of the suit isn’t. Faces are not the only identifying mark people have, Dinah, and honestly I thought you’d be the last person I would need to say that too. Original Batman? Well, hung but old. The one with Wonder Woman and Flash that I met? Eh. The one I met in the ruins of Coast City? Brick shit house. Dude’s jacked and must not do steroids. Me? Genetic perfection, no brag Dinah, I’m designed to be just about as perfectly proportioned as possible. The guy you people have pretending to be Batman right now? His proportions are way off. He doesn’t have to fake that deep voice like the first one I met.”
Head tilting to the side just a bit, so as to show her that I’m being serious and not joking about a word I’m saying. I’m well aware that Timothy Drake was the first Batman that I met, the little jerk told me so after he passed the cowl off to someone else. I’m also well aware that he’s got two older brothers, but -I- am not a detective. Nor do I want to be. In fact after a discussion with Cassie, I’m not entirely sure that I even want to know who’s under that cowl at this point.
The whole thing is a little worrisome, truth be told. Because if Nowhere found out for certain? I’m fairly sure this little truce I’ve negotiated would be a thing of the past. Just as I know they’re working several different angles on finding out the inner workings of the so-called rebellion. Huntress and Miss Martian, are both working in Gotham city currently to that very end. Even as I’m running through all of this, I can’t help but think about how convoluted all of it is. How very close to exploding it all could be.
“Your equilibrium might be thrown off by the act of keeping your sonics internalized. When I first started to learn to use my abilities, I had to learn to focus on the specifics I was looking for or listening for. You wouldn’t believe how shitty it is to walk around seeing everyone’s internal organs and not be able to turn it off. When my hearing first started getting acute, I thought I was going insane. This isn’t going to happen right away. Like I said, leaping small buildings is our first milestone. We’ll get closer to flying by lesson three or four.”
“Here. Let me show you a trick that Megan used on me.”
We were working from a stance that was almost like dancing. The next step is a little different. A hand brushes along her jawline, nudging her to make eye contact with me. “When you’re first learning to dance, that first inclination is to always look down. You want to see where your feet are. But, if you actually want to learn to dance you have to stop looking at your feet and start trusting yourself to move the way you’re supposed too.”
“Follow my lead,” for effect I start us off with a very soft hum of my own, Blue Danube is one of the most famous Waltz renditions of all time and I’m sure that Dinah would know the classics even if she didn’t want the Bat Clan to know she was even an ounce sophisticated. “Doesn’t this make you want to laugh? You’re dancing with Superman on the top of your Family Business, in the middle of Gotham.”
Ah, but if she were to look down she’d realize that I’ve said something slightly untrue. We are no longer on the roof of her building. The solid ‘ground’ beneath her feet is a layer of telekinesis that has expended around her from contact with me. “I’m going to tell you a secret, Dinah. One of the best, cherished, little secret pleasures of my life? Is being equally my father’s biggest success and failure. He loves having his own Superman, but it grinds his gears that Conner Luthor is just another dumb jock to be manipulated to his end goals. He doesn’t even suspect that I’ve been working him, because he thinks I’m just another Dolt in an S-Shield and cape. With no more careful planning than it takes to get my next payoff. Whether that’s a piece of ass or whatever else I can dream up to ask for.”
“To some extent, everyone buys in to Conner Luthor, I think you’re the only person in my whole life that even has a clue.” Clearing my throat finally. “Normally at this point in the song, I’d either kiss you or let you go.”
Canary: “Aaaand we shall file that under ‘more information than I wanted to have, but now do, and can’t un-imagine.”
Especially because I do know who each one, in the progression of Batmen, was. Well hung but old. Christ. That’s going to be a potentially humorous discussion to have at some point. So, boys. It’s not just your facial features you might want to think about covering up, because Superman’s noticed some other identifying features. I’d say it must be a guy thing, but I haven’t bothered with a mask in a long time. There’s other ways than the eyes and cheekbones to identify a person, I rely on makeup to shift and smudge and look just different enough. It’s not as if I’m posing for pictures when I step out in the fishnets. I suppose superheros as a lot have evolved in that respect. Some of them, anyway. I know what the Superman in front of me looks like, what Wonder Woman appears to be, are not what the kids underneath those monikers actually have in the way of features. It’s possible they might eventually but not now. There’s a shrug of one shoulder, as much as I can move without making me shift positions otherwise.
“Literally, I’m sure. I temporarily deafened or knocked out my whole kindergarten class so. No stranger to losing control, I just got a tutor very, very quickly after that. And learned it. I’m not worried.”
I think most of what just happened then was what amounted to a startled sputter, or spraying a drink you’d just taken a sip of, only it just happened to be the Canary Cry’s back-beat I choked on instead when Conner shared his new fun nickname for Batman. Supes also isn’t apparently worried about my controlling it either, because he’s in front of me, still. And he, with all that incredibly amplified hearing, has felt a point blank demonstration before. There’s also a little general level of absurdity going on here, and I hadn’t needed it pointed out to me as we shift stances. If anyone is paying attention, which I’d imagine they have to be because the SupermanInc! Alert has probably already blared.
It always seemed pointless to me, because if he was coming with a head of steam he’d be here faster than it would have a chance to do any good.
I do know the waltz. I know it well, actually, and I do know how to waltz. You want the core conundrum that is me? Clinically unattached, and also a big gooey romantic at heart. I did this with Ollie many times, though the song wasn’t always the same, and the memory makes emotions tug and quirk the corners of my mouth and eyes. Amusement, sadness, tense threats at anger and back again, before I push it all out of my head.
“And I’m actually letting him lead, too. Must be his lucky day.”
I’m not looking down. I don’t need to in order to perform the steps, nor do I need to in order to know we’ve risen off the roof. I take over the instrumental portion of this little scene we’ve set, humming the Strauss piece. It would work without an actual tune, it would also work without me making any sort of audible sound at all, at least not to normal ears, but this is fitting. It’s low, as I shift, and fine tune the vibrations in my throat and out of it, still listening to Conner’s admissions as we go. I have to stop in order to chuckle at him, though.
“Talk about a potentially ominous double meaning. No thank you. On both. Last time you kissed another girl here, I was pretty sure your girlfriend was about to go thermonuclear on the city. But what can I say, you remind me of me. Can’t bullshit a bullshitter, right?”
Superman: Ah, but if I wasn’t looking to steal the kiss then why am I smiling so much once more? The point of this wasn’t a kiss, nor was it that Dinah would suddenly manifest independent flight. It was to get her thinking about something else. Distraction. A tactic that she knows all too well. Good conversation and a little music, has her thinking of far more things that the harmonic vibrations that were tossing off her equilibrium and making her head swim. We’re now hovering above the block and she’s no longer commenting on it, nor forced to stop.
Step one achieved.
“Well, for the record, I’ve been told that I’m an excellent tutor,” you just can’t fake the wolfish grin I’m showing off right now, the tutor thing is apparently far too humorous to be anything but an inside joke she doesn’t get yet. “You should probably make sure that Wonder Woman knows how well I’m doing tutoring you.”
We come to a bit of a stop, such as it is given that we’re airborne. At this point the wind rustling past us is movement of it’s own. Between her hair and my cape there really isn’t a stop. The point is exactly that though. The wind is touching her, no more field from the super boy protecting her from the elements. The chance isn’t something that can hidden, at some point the weight distribution shifted from a sort of second gravity to my arms holding her in the air. What I wanted is for her to feel the actual, sensation of her own sonic field keeping things like the friction of movement, even the breeze, from affecting her too much. Much like the age-old saying that someone must learn to walk, before they can run.
“According to the database, your Grandmother wore a choker necklace that had a harmonic stabilizer in the crest. It did half the work for her, but bringing something like that with me would only make you dubious about where it came from. One of your boyfriends can make you a new one, if you can’t find the old one in that chest of her things you keep in the basement.”
We’ve reached the point in all of this where the casual onlooker that knew me would be waiting for the inevitable moment when I let go. Dropping Dinah would force her to sink or swim and that’s basically my whole M.O. It just never happens. Not with Dinah and it has absolutely nothing to do with fear of the repercussions. Our waltz is nearing it’s end when her boots crunch once more softly upon the insulation of the building we’d just left.
“I’m sure you know this already, but visiting you wasn’t about bringing a gift. It’s about the dance Din-…” In the span of moments between syllables, I turn my head just enough that my eyes aren’t precisely upon her and a blast of heat results in the voice of Slade Wilson letting out a surprised yelp, before the fire escape melts away from the building, depositing him on the ground, in a heap. “..-nah. You’re about to do something dangerous, even silly, but for the right reasons. If something of mine was taken from me, I would do no less. But… isn’t that a little funny? If you really think about it. The reason we met, is because you were sent to distract me from doing exactly what you’re doing?”
“You’re not going to like what you find in Star City, Dinah. You’re going to like what Wilson shows you even less. You’re not in the V.R. but you may as well be. Someone is marionetting you and in my experience that’s more about seeing what you’ll do than caring if you do it.”
Canary: “If I ever talk to her, I’ll be sure to do that. Should I throw in some outrageous winks and an elbow nudge or two?”
Normally, people would probably argue that it’s really unwise to goad someone who can crush your skull without too much effort. Especially when that someone is apparently some degree of a God, and only likely to get more powerful and have a very long time to hold a grudge. I’m not really in for all that, but there’s something that makes her more powerful, just like the alien that crash landed here, or the engineered half-alien in front of me. I do a whole lot of things that conventional wisdom wouldn’t consider all that smart, though, and I make it work. There’s an expression of almost detached fascination as I watch around us. I’m actually not a very big fan of flying like this. I don’t like doing anything that I’m not in absolute control over. This is a little bit different, and it’s not even difficult. Yes, it’s a new power application but that gift is something I’ve been honing just as long as my body. It’s still singing, just a different melody.
“Give me some credit. I ate the cookies without even a stray thought they might be poisoned or drugged. I trust you farther than I can throw you. And I don’t have boyfriends. I have partners. Roommates. Family. And then people I blow off steam with on a very limited and trial basis.”
But I will look through the things in the basement. Something I probably should have already done, but I just hadn’t had the heart at first, and then I didn’t think about it. My grandfather died right before I bailed on Gotham to go to college on the other side of the country, leaving all of it to me. And I do trust Conner Luthor, something very few people would actually say I think, because I trust him to be himself and everything else fits into a narrative around that. When we step down again, combat boots meeting roof, I tilt my head in to give him a shockingly chaste kiss on the cheek. Translation: the thank you that I’m not going to say out loud right now. In part because he’s finally getting to what I was waiting for. The reason for ‘why now?’ in his visit. Because the rest of this could have been done anytime. Any place. And he’d shown up right as I was speaking with Deathstroke. Right as I’m leaving to handle my business.
I don’t care who you are, the eye lasers from that close up? That’ll make anyone flinch, and I don’t even think they’re aimed for me in the first place. My head’s craned over my shoulder, to the slag of my former fire escape and the sound of the least dignified sound I’ve heard Slade make. Something I’ll surely find a time to mock him over. When I face Conner again, my mouth is pulled into a displeased, if determined, little line. Full lips tight and set.
“Your something wasn’t taken against its will while I had you looking at my tits, Conner. But the rest of that… I know you would. I already don’t like everything I know about the situation with Wilson. Hate it, actually. Knowing there’s missing time there makes me more than a little insane. So why did you tell me in the first place? About Ollie?”
Though I’m actually fairly sure I know the answer.
Superman: “Wasn’t it? My life was all about spending the week pretending to need a highschool education, so as to con my girlfriend in to scandalous situations for sex. Now it’s about capes, tights, tactics, and choices people our age haven’t a right to be make. I’m fairly sure our lives were stolen out from under us, while I was looking at your tits. Before that, a child’s innocence was taken away…” This draws me up just short of outlining the whole example, a shake of the head puts me back to the explaining from a different direction. “… the point is that this business, this whole super hero business. Whether it be a vigilante, a cape or even a policeman, it takes and takes.”
“We have to come to terms with that.”
Just before breaking contact with Dinah, I give her shoulders a very serious little squeeze. “Coming to terms with it, doesn’t mean accepting it blindly. It doesn’t mean rolling over and showing them your belly. It means, that when it’s time for righting the scales you don’t just restore balance. You put so much weight on their side, it takes them a lifetime to even restore balance. Much less hurt you again.”
Why did I tell her about Ollie? That’s not such a difficult answer, actually. When the Huntress was being given her time away for her Father’s death, Nowhere was looking at means of destabilizing Gotham. Yes, yes, that’s ironic because Gotham is never stable in the minds of people who live here. To those of us on the outside these people juggle chaos brilliantly at times. The answer to her question, then is actually about as straight forward as possible. But explaining it… doesn’t do much for my desire to get these people thinking we’re the good guys. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can choose not to answer her. Even if I wanted too, I just can’t.
“Okay. Before I answer you, let me give you just a little background. Your Dad was a cop, I know. When the Police thing a group of individuals are bad, but getting credible intelligence on them proves difficult the police send in an under cover unit. Take it a step further, when the FBI finds a terrorist cell, they use infiltration as a means of connecting one cell to the network. You need to accept that the U.S. Government views the Vigilante group here in Gotham on a level beyond that. You’re a terrorist cell that has proven to have connections that aren’t known or even totally understood. You’re insulated from standard action by connections to the GCPD, and through the civilian government. The only way to deal with your group at this point? Is through infiltration, intelligence and disillusionment.”
“While I understand that they have to take this path, as surely as the cops have to use undercover agents, I couldn’t be party to it. I certainly couldn’t condone. I don’t think all of you are the bad guys, but… I don’t think all of us are the bad guys either. So right now, I’m just trying to protect the people I can. While I try to find a way to make this work for all of us.”
“Not exactly the way I wanted to end this Date, Dinah, but I should let you get back to playing with Deathstroke. Remember, be home by eleven. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Actually, on second thought, specifically do nothing. Nothing at all. That I would do. He’s very old, and wrinkly. Things that make you go… eww..”
Canary: “So stop.”
I could debate some semantics with him, because he’s taken the comparison I was making and then shifted it into something else, but like most things in life, I cut straight through to the blunt end. There could have been time spent pointing out that from my understanding, he was the one that kick started that life for his girlfriend. Maybe he didn’t have the exact luxury of making the choice how he wanted to make it, and maybe she could have chosen not to do it again after getting pushed out onto that stage and into the lights of the world’s view. Spotlights definitely don’t bother me, but I sing in them. Not fight. Unless you count that one time with the pit fighting ring.
“Shit. I feel like a broken record lately, because I’ve been saying this to a lot of boys… you’re right. It does take. And take. And it’s impossible, and hard and it’ll kill you or someone you care about if you’re not in it. Really, really in it. Whatever reason it is that you’re in it for. And sometimes, it’ll still manage to do it then anyway. For the people that are really, really in it together? That makes a brotherhood unlike anything else.”
It’s why soldiers are so loyal to their unit. Cops. Vigilantes. Why the death of one, or the betrayal, hits the rest with such personal vengeance. Vengeance won’t keep you in the life if you weren’t already a permanent fixture though. In a way, Batman made sure with one hand that I’d stick with this, while the other was trying to shoo me out the door. Avenging my father would have been an end. I had to have another, better, reason. I’m actually still waiting to see if Tim’s protege is going wash out when her own Dad’s hoisted by his own petard, though there’s still some internal debate on which way I hope that it goes. The smirk on my lips, for the words he’d said after squeezing my shoulder, is much more predatory wolf than a flirtatious one.
“See, now. There you go again. Reading my mind.”
Because I could probably find the black site where they’ve got my. The Ollie. I’ve got resources that are even more resourceful than I am. But breaking in, breaking him out, achieves what? Making NOWHERE right, ruining Ollie’s cover story of a life. Another reason for them to come after us here, despite the fact that I’m the only one that really, technically, falls under their usual purview and I was supposed to be untouchable. I’m going to Star City first to do some recon. To gather some information. Because when I do come for them, I am going to not only make it hurt, I’m going to make damn fucking sure it sticks.
There’s a lot of room for debate, again, but on the exterior of all of that, I know it’s not exactly his call despite all that power he has, and he did warn me when he didn’t have to. Another note I’m going to file into the folder labeled ‘Things Tim’s Wrong About,’ and another reason that I do actually like this kid a lot. Whether or not I agree with his analogy for our situation in Gotham, I can see the validity of the comparison. So I don’t argue it. I just tick my head to one side at his word choice. Reaching up a hand, I pat where I’d smooched a minute ago but it’s a fond gesture, not one of condescension.
“I don’t think you’re a bad guy, either. Secret’s safe with me, and if I can help you keep yours safe, you let me know. I won’t even expect anything in return. Friends, and all that.”
Blue eyes roll after that, and his teasing, before I step backwards from Superman and pivot on a bootheel with a jaunty, and sloppy salute.
“You probably broke the old man’s hip, he may not even be any fun anyway.”
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.