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.