Synopsis: Freddy catches up with Black Adam and the two of them discuss the nature of events that have unfolded within and around Kahndaq. At the same time Black Aadam presses Freddy to realize something quite important while advising him that the Wizard is near. While Black Adam continues the defense of Kahndaq (and swift retribution) Freddy heads towards the mountains to see the Wizard.
BLACK ADAM: Standing upon the shore of Dahab, looking out east across the Gulf of Aqaba, one might mistake this portion of the world as a mythical paradise. Turn west and you would certainly believe yourself to be facing the very gates of hell itself. As the land is marked by all the signs of War. Littered across the visible expanse of sand dunes is a veritable wasteland of the battle that has waged non-stop for almost a week. Over turned tanks. Downed fighter planes. Even a capsized boat or two can be seen sticking prominently out from the sand.
It is only by the very grace of the Mother Nature that you can’t quite make out the death toll. In part thanks to the sweeping sands that try as they can to swallow up the dead. Yet also because that has been the only pause in the Warfare. While Bialya is a army of many, Kahndaq is an army of one. Black Adam must pause when he liberates a village, to see to his people’s safety and well-being. In those times, he loses much of the land he has gained as Bialya returns like ants to a picnic. Swarming in to make him re-fight the battle of yesterday, today. That was the mistake he made early on, as he would constantly advance but was unable to stop the multitude of Bialya forces from simply flanking him and getting their foothold once more behind him.
Now it has become a battle of inches. With Adam forced to accept and acknowledge that he must aide his people. Even if that is simply to arm them with the weaponry that Bialya leaves behind in their retreat. What began as a sneak attack, became a blood bath of vengeance, that soon turned in to something far far worse. A nation of Kahndaq that rallies behind the cry of vengeance that Adam raises at each stop.
Today that stop has hit the Gulf of Aqaba. Where the water separates Kahndaq from Bialya. A choice now looms before the Champion. Does he turn North and liberate his people or does he drive across the Water in order to deal with Bialya directly. Every fiber of his being cries out for him to take the fight to them, but the wisdom of Zehuti has for once given him pause.
It is there. Upon the shore of the Aqaba, that he stands looking out across the water when the silence is broken by a harsh voice. “You have been surveying my progress for long enough. Do you intend to join me or make with fancy words in Hope of getting me to follow Solomon’s advice?”
FREDDY: Try as he may to hasten his approach Freddy stopped every so often to help people along the way. He also needed these moments to consider what he would say when he came face to face with Adam. He knew that the King of Kahndaq, it’s champion would only have a few thoughts on his mind. He knew that he was not alone in one of those thoughts. Conner wanted to join him on this path, to take the fight to the Bialyan army, so he could only imagine what Adam’s people would be thinking. They would want vengeance, but vengeance was easy. It could be pull someone in so quickly, but so much about this felt wrong.
No, one could answer why this happened. So many questions surrounded that, but answers were short in supply. Freddy surveyed the area as made his way to the coast. He considered what he saw in the city and what Solomon had shared with him. He also considered what he the politics of all of this. That all played through his mind. He remembered what he shared with Conner, but he held back, because he did not want to be a source of conflict right now. Freddy didn’t know how Conner felt about his father, not really and saying the wrong thing could set a services of events into motion that he may not be ready to or want to hear. Not to mention it was a complex situation, but right now its all that Freddy could think about upon touching down upon the shore of Dahab.
He didn’t announce himself nor did he think he had to, but he gave himself another moment before he stepped forward, but even then Adam addressed him in the only way that Black Adam could trying to deter him from saying something, “Freddyannaish”.
“A world without hope is a world that sustains itself on a diet of fear, despair, and rage. It deserves better than that.” It could not be helped its who Freddy was sometimes.
Look close enough at the sand, past the mechanical debris you would see the bodies, and even more you would find the blood stained sand. Not the first time that this has happened. He doubted that it would be the last.
“I’m not sure. I’m more curious as to what Zehuti shared with you. It must have been enough to stop your assault. An alternate path or paths must stand before you. You are at a crossroads. Press forward or turn back. Do you continue the assault or tend to your people. Warrior or steward and shepherd. Which will you chose for your flock, Adam? Which would Adrianna as you knew her chose? How best would you serve them. As their avenger or as their leader?” Simple questions. Was there some hope in there, perhaps, but fair questions Freddy thought.
“I am here, because I am needed here. It continues. My journey, your journey it continues. I am here to bring this portion of it to a close and hopefully become the person I need to be. The person that the Wizard saw in me. I came, because my friends people are suffering. He is suffering.” Just as one suffering ended another began. “I came to help, but I also came to see. Do you not see it, Adam? History repeating itself. The board is the same. The pieces may be different, the players may be different, but it is all the same. Some choices are new. Some are not. I saw your city. I saw the capital. There is more here at work than the death and carnage that is spread across your land. We’ve been positioned.”
BLACK ADAM: “Mm. A world without Hope, is entirely subjective and you know it. Do not waste my time, nor insult either of our intelligence with such diluted ideals. Hope is something that springs from many sources. Look at the people in Dahab, you can see hope in the eyes from the mere sight of me. The promise of their lives, gives them hope for more. These are an ancient and prideful bloodline of people. Offer them Vengeance and you’ll see as much hope, if not more than you would if you offered them Peace.”
“In short, be Wary of how you speak to me of Hope in Kahndaq, these people and I define Hope far differently than you Captain America.”
For what it is worth, the two of them have made it much further than normal without Freddy being described as Unworthy or being called a Child. In the way of Progress, this is surely a step in the right direction. Even if Adam bridles at the very notion of ‘Hope’ being what Freddy describes it to be. On the other hand, Adam does not even dignify the would-be champion by facing him yet. His stance is staunchly affixed upon the skyline of the Gulf before him. Oddly pondering precisely what Freddy speaks of. At least, mostly the same things.
“Tread carefully, Freeman, I have not stopped yet. Once the wounded of Dahab are evacuated to the United Nation’s medical center, I move again. You are simply correct in intuiting that I am at a crossroads of where to progress upon next.” A hand sweeps out to indicate across the water, to Bialya directly before pointing straight north to the next village where Bialya has itself entrenched. “You speak well, for once, though. We are positioned. Arrayed at the will of an outside force. I do not care for it, much. Zehuti shows me far more than you might imagine. When you are older, if you are able to stop being such a simpering ninny, Solomon will do much the same for you.”
“Bialya is after something. Have you figured out what, yet?”
Finally though Adam turns, his hands now folded behind his back and perhaps for the first time since Freeman has actually known the former Champion? He does not appear to be about to spring in to Hostility. “Freeman, you are not here because of me. Nor my people. Perhaps you ‘Hope’ it were so. Maybe you even believe it to be so, because you’re yet too young to understand. Stop looking at this all with your heart, boy. You are here because -this- is the Trials.”
“They are Broken. This world is Broken. All of this.” Those hands move to open wide and encompass all of Biayla once more. “Every parent who has lost a child. Every child who has lost a parent. Every death in Kahndaq. Is because of you. Because you persist with your Broken Trial, so this ‘Broken World’ alligns itself to test you in the most dire of circumstances it can to prove yourself a Champion of this broken world.”
“You ask me for Zehuti’s Wisdom? There it is. Rail against it, it is natural, but you will not find a reasonable logical argument. All of this is on you, Freeman. Because the Trials must take the form of a test for Champion needed in the world he must protect. This is your crucible, Freeman. Of your own choosing. Thus you must embrace and accept that guilt and then see what sort of Champion that guilt will make of you.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. If you had walked away, the Rock would simply have selected another candidate. Whom would have gotten his own series of Trials and perhaps this would have happened anyway. Perhaps not. But since you brought up choices, I feel it only proper to remind you that you too had a choice. One that kept you walking down the path of these Trials. Your choice,” one outstretched hand shifts to point towards Dahab. “Your consequences, Boy.”
“Listen. Hear the silence of Solomon. He won’t refute my words, that much I promise you. I speak pure Truth in this moment, Freddy Freeman.”
FREDDY: “I am not wasting your time, Adam. Too much going on for me to do that and we’re not sitting around enjoying burgers.” That was truth. “Subjective or not it is how I live my life.” He didn’t want to debate or verbally barb, so he didn’t go into how truth could be subjective so they might be headed into fact. Solomon’s silence could also mean that he could not aid in this choice that he could not influence the decisions that would press Freddy in either direction. It was a choice that Freddy had to make on his own heart or mind or perhaps with them both working together rather than against one another as it could be for another person.
“Yes, this is my Trial. Whether or not this was my destination it is difficult to say, but..” But the Trials has been corrupted as Freddy had been told on more than one occassion. He didn’t shut his eyes but he looked towards the country that lay on the other side of the river.
“I hear your words, but I also have seen with my eyes. The strikes upon your city. So, precise that someone was picking and chosing what they wanted to destroy. Those things of value remained standing. It had nothing of value to someone that didn’t know what to look for. Historical treasures. Riches that people like you and me we concern ourselves about. Treasures that would interest people like the Batson’s. Curious items with links to past that stretches to the very kingdoms of the ancient world before it was ancient. When it was young and new.”
Relics of a long forgotten past by some, but not all, but even then Freddy stood considering his options.
Each step forward Adam took took him away from his people. “Is there a reason why I can’t be here for both? I choose to see them through. Walking away is not an option.”
“I’m not pointing fingers, but perhaps it’s time to put it to rest, to correct what went wrong so long ago. There are so many possibilities, but me and you here. I am here, because the Trials demand it, but is not the only reason why I’m here. What I’m saying is that this is personal. Someone is striking out at you at what matters most to you. What you hold dear. Your people. It’s killing all the birds with this one stone.” Freddy sighed.
“I have a decision to make, but let me say this and you can call me a fool if you like. Not that you won’t, but. There’s a fear in the pit of my stomach that you’re here. That you pushing the line back is a distraction, that this effort to draw you away from the capital is purposeful. You have given protection of the city away to outsiders.” He wet his lips.
“You were forced into a position where you had not choice to and the continued assaults draw away attention from some who may not be as altruistic as they seem to hunt for what your enemies are after. To go to the buildings who stand to seek out what they want with no one any the wiser. I have no doubt that Bialya is after this themselves surely they have to know of the items that are being sought, but this is very much a proxy situation.”
He took a deep breath. He could be overthinking it. “Nth metal. Whether they are in search of it. Knowledge of it. It the only thing that connects it. Something specific. Something that trails into the past that provides a power that would interest several parties. Including the ones that you welcomed through the gates. Not everyone, but those who have been instructed what to search for. That is a concern a fear.” Perhaps he was wrong, but who else could he voice it to.
“Broken trial. Broken world. Perhaps it’s time to fix what was broken. I persist, because I must, because the world is not a neat and tidy place. Horrible things happen, but it doesn’t mean you give up and go home. My Trial presents itself as it should be to prepare me for all that I will face in the days to come. Good. Bad. Ugly. What they after I have some idea. Why? Not completely clear, but clear enough. Clear enough for me to know they must be stopped” That much was true. That much he knew.
“If it is my crucible then I shall walk through the fire. If I have opened the door then the door is open. I shall go through. My choices have wrought many things. Some good. Some bad, but that is our world. Some good. Some bad. Suffering. Pain. Hope. It is not one thing or the other. It is all these things. I shall fight for all these things. I shall fight for a better tomorrow, because I have chosen to do so. This day was made the moment I said yes, I accept the challenges. If I turn away then that is the guilt that would consume me. All who have fallen, who have died, whose blood stains the sand deserve better. They deserve someone that will fight for this broken world, not because hope blinds me. It tells, it shows me the world that could be and I will fight for that world no matter what.” He tapped off the ground.
“Even if it is the death of me. I accept the responsibility of the choices that I have made. The death and destruction that it has caused. It will not deter mine. You’re right and wrong Teth-Adam. I am not only here because of the Trials. I am here for them. I am here for you. I am here for your people. I am here for me. I am here for the possibility of a better tomorrow. Of a world that is not as broken as they day it was before. As sentimental as it may be. It is who I am. It is the Champion that I wish to be. I fight for both the dead and the living. Every day is a trial. Perhaps that’s it. The trials never end. One victory does not fix what is broken. It may never get easier, but life isn’t easy, and it is hardly fair.”
BLACK ADAM: “You prattle like a baby bird, squawking for it’s mother to feed it. Unaware of the way it’s wings could carry it to food of it’s own merit.”
To the entirety of everything that Freddy has said? There is but a snort, that comes at the cost of simply looking down a very hawklike, imperious nose. Well muscled arms close slowly across his chest, a signal of finality. Of what is yet uncertain. “Even in this Age, I am amazed at the propensity for so many words to spill from one person’s mouth. Do they teach you to blather at school? It is a talent most of your fellow children seem to exude.”
“Allow me to cut to the chase, Free Man.”
“You are not here for me. If you truly believe you are, then you deceive yourself. You are here because of a construct of the Trial you face. Trials, plural. If you are deceiving yourself then you cannot pass your Trial. Which means all the harm your Trial has wrought upon Kahndaq, is equally unforgivable and unacceptable. So let us be clear upon this topic. Continue to speak to me of ‘being here for me,’ and I am going to beat such nonsense from you. War, Country and World be damned. Do you understand me, Free Man? Speak of that ignorance not a single time more to me.”
“Also. You delude yourself, in to thinking that I am blinded by my Rage. I am aware of what Bialya seeks. As I am also aware of what other seek. Though I did not need to see a pattern. Nor did I need to do the work of a detective and sleuth it out.” Those folded arms and imperious look remains even as Adam begins to drift above the sand in to the air. “As my rage carried me across the desert sands, I realized that the forces being put in play against me were being used to stall me. There are but four true resources in Kahndaq and I suspect you need not Solomon to tell you it isn’t our abundance of Sand. Our History and the relics thereof. Our people and the labor force they might represent.”
“The only other thing of value in this land, is the meteor that landed here so long ago.”
“Given that Bialya seems to care little for taking slaves, given the sheer loss of life sustained by my people. It was either the Relics or the Meteor. Quite frankly, the two resources overlap in many ways. A good many relics of Kahndaq’s past are born from the Meteor. I suspect that is why certain villages have been taken, instead of razed to the ground. Certain sites left untouched, more or less, other than looting. But by and large, Bialya is stalling. Buying time to search and locate. Thus they have attacked like very angry bees. Swarming the honeycomb.”
A single hand lifts, allowing Freddy to see that Adam is pointing towards the Mountains behind him. However the next thing he says actually seems to have nothing at all to do with what he’s pointing at. “Free Man, you’re missing small pieces of the puzzle. So, tell me. And for the love of the Gods, all of them. Try to answer me in a single syllable word for once. Yes or No. You know this is your Trial. Therefor you know that interference from outside, will mean you fail. I can tell you the answers. Send you directly where you need to be. You can end all of this killing, this War, the rape and pillaging.”
“All you have to do is say yes and I’ll give you the answers you’re looking for in this riddle of the Gods.”
FREDDY: Freddy Freeman was a team player. He always had been as long as he could remember. Despite the fact that he is currently being dressed down by Adam, because of his prattle is nothing new. It happens…all the time, but when he speaks he says things for a reason. It gives him a chance to empty his head, clear it out to get all the thoughts racing inside of his head. There was no chance to sit down and have a burger and talk things through to get all of his concerns out so Adam was his sounding board despite the fact that Adam was having none of it, but at least he let Freddy get it all out.
Of course that lead him to watching as Adam move and spoke. Attacking like bees and a honeycomb. That was a very specific analogy for you know the desert, which Freddy tucked away while he watched Adam’s hand. He considered for a second everything that unfolded. The precision strikes. The change in performance by the Bialya army.
He had a thought, but he had to put it aside as everything was laid out for him. He could end this, end all the suffering and death by accepting help. Freddy never turned away help. Sometimes you can’t do it alone. Yet despite the fact that Adam put it out there if he accepted any outside help then he would fail the trial…trials it wasn’t failing that Freddy focused on.
His mind and his heart were currently pulling in different directions. He thought about what he said and what Adam said. It was an easy choice. Yes, to get the answers and end this, but he would fail.
Fail. He wouldn’t be champion. That should propel him towards no, because he wanted to be the champion, which was selfish. It’s how the heart played it and the mind. They were together on this if not for something that Adam said and Freddy said.
Freddy chose this. Adam said not to delude himself as to why he was here. He was here because of the Trial. If he said yes he would have the answers, but he immediately absolves himself.
Of the guilt.
Pain. Suffering. Good. Bad. Ugly. Hope. Victory. Loss. As powerful as champions were they were not omnipotent. They had limits. Mistakes would be made. They must be able to carry the pain of those mistakes and continue to fight on. Never forgetting. Yes is easy. It wasn’t the color that drained from Freddy’s face as he lowered to the ground. It wasn’t the weight of guilt, but the gravity of the choice he made. Red pill. Blue pill.
Yes was the blue pill. He got the answers handed to him. It ends, but did it really?
No was the red pill. He wouldn’t wake up. He wouldn’t walk away. He would see it through to the end and fought for the answers. The pain. suffering would continue. The pillaging, the raping, the thefts.
Yes right? It had to be yes!
“No.” He swallowed that red pill. He could feel a tightness in his chest. What had he done?
Freddy glanced up into Adam’s eyes. He knew what it meant. It was like saying yes all over again. If he told Adam yes then he was running away. There was nothing easy about the yes.It would not make things better, but it would provide a quick resolution..maybe, but Freddy would have benched himself. No more blood on his hands.
He looked at his hands and for a moment before tuning his eyes back up to Adam. The Trial would continue. It was not enough to acknowledge the choice. He must own the choice. He said he would step into the crucible. He shut his eyes for a second time thinking about what happened at the first Bank of Fawcett City. What happened in Metropolis. What happened in the ruins of Coast City and now what happened in Kahndaq. What was happening to it’s people, it’s land, it’s people. Adrianna. Conner. Possibly Cassie and anyone else that got involved willingly or unwillingly.
Yes. The blue pill. Just take it. Take back the no.
That’s what any rational person would do right?
No, he couldn’t do that. He could not nullify the choice that was mad so many months ago. Right or wrong wasn’t playing into this. It was about have the strength to live with the choice that had been made and to see it through. To finish it. To carry the blood with you to the end and beyond.
So, there would be no do over. No take backs. He gave Adam his answer. None of it would be in vain.
BLACK ADAM: Through all of this inner turmoil that the would-be Champion is going through, Black Adam is completely silent. Monolithic in his silence, in fact. It isn’t all that hard to figure, that the man is watching Freddy through a pair of eyes that have been on the opposite side of these discussions. Yet, if Freddy thinks that might merit him even a mild amount of empathy? He is wrong.
“Now you understand, Free Man. This is what it means to be a Champion of the Gods. You will be faced with impossible decisions almost every day. You won’t always make the right choice. Somehow, some way, you are going to need to stop talking about hope and start learning to how to cope with the weight of your decisions. Because each one you make will come at the cost of a part of you. Hope can make you stronger, it can drive you, but it cannot comfort you. At night. When you must close your eyes and come to terms with the cost of your decision.”
“For once, I mean no harm when I say this,” by this point Adam has actually halted his ascent and has turned almost casually toward the North and the next encampment. “You’re this creature of Hope and Kindness. Yet now. Every single time you look in to the eyes of my people, Free Man, you must mentally come to terms with the fact that you’re responsible for their pain. Your reasons for making that choice are your own, but how many people in this world would understand that you made your choice for a good reason? How many of them would instead believe your decision was based upon nothing more than your own benefit?”
“Now, you’re going to immediately try to reason. To justify. Yet that is just more blathering bird chirps. Words mean little to people who hurt because of a decision you’ve made. Your justification does not always measure up to their pain and that is the burden of a Champion. You will be judged, not on your own merit. Not on your own justifications. Simply upon what others perceive.”
“That and that alone, will eventually determine whether the eyes of the people see you as a Champion. Or simply Black Free Man.”
FREDDY: Free Man. Free will? Freddy, had nothing to add when Black Adam started speaking. Gods are revered and reviled, sometimes in the same breath. To be Champion meant that it would be something that Freddy would have to learn to live with. His choices whatever they may be could bring hope to some and despair to others. The end of the day the battle may be won, but at what cost. Right now all he could think about was what happened at the high school and all the children.
He had to soldier on, find a way to keep going to bring it to an end no matter the cost, because that is what was necessary. Did he cling to hope yes, did he strive to inspire others yes to draw it out of him, yes. Perhaps that was why, because on some level he knew that sometimes he would have to make the choices that others could not. He was the Champion of six gods and hope wasn’t something that most of them were known for. They inspired it,but they didn’t go out and market themselves on it, but he got it, he understood it.
Did he accept it? Freddy didn’t know, because there was something inside of him that wouldn’t let go. He could take everything that Adam said and move forward, but he also had to remember is that they looked…they sought a champion for a reason. Adam said that he would look for a way to reason, but it didn’t make it any less true? That one of the reasons a human such as himself was sought out was for those traits that may not be inherent to the gods to themselves.
That Hope and Kindness is something he brought to the mix?
He did not feel any harm or slight by what Adam said he would do what he always did when he spoke with Adam. He would take it to heart and learn from what was shared.
True facts. Black Adam didn’t have to say anything. He could pass judgement in silence yet he didn’t. He shared his opinion whether they were solicited or they weren’t. On some level he was paying it forward. Or Freddy was being a optimist in overdrive, but seriously he had no reason to share the information, his insights.
There was only one thing that Freddy could say to all of that.
“Thank you.” Like he told the others once. His relationship with Adam was complicated.
BLACK ADAM: “I will accept your thanks, but only because you will remember this day as the moment you regret most in your life.”
There is a kindly shrug before Adam begins to turn away. It is almost floating that he does, in moving away from Freddy. He does not shoot off at ultra sonic speeds, but drifts in the direction of the North. Almost aimlessly, because while he has made a decision it seems on where to progress next, he does not entirely seem committed to the act.
“Your choice has been made, Free Man. But making a choice is not nearly the same as confronting and genuinely facing the consequences of it. The Wizard tells me that is why you are here.” A glance, thrown back across one shoulder, one thin brow lifted as imperiously as any other. “I told you, Free man. I know far more than you think. You never did find your Wizard did you? Perhaps you should look to the Mountains.”
“Or you can follow me and keep the Blood Shed to a minimum. Life is full of choices.”
FREDDY: It is not the first time that Adam had motioned to the mountains. However, it is the first time that he mentioned the Wizard. The fact that he spoke with the Wizard made Freddy consider what he might say to the Wizard. Was there anything to say? Would the Wizard even want to see him? Perhaps it would delaying the inevitable?
Freddy thought about the boy he saw when everything came to an end in Coast City. He hadn’t shared that with anyone, but now, he had another choice to make. He was ready to walk through the fire.
“I’ll catch up,” he replied. Adam was doing what he had to based on the choices that Freddy had made. There was no changing that. Freddy didn’t know if he had questions for the Wizard. However, this would come to an end one way or another. Moving into the air Freddy turned towards the mountains. It was time to start facing the consequences. With that Freddy moved in the direction of the mountains.