A beacon in the night
by Martin Tremblay

Driving back from the doctor's office, Cavalier was lost in his thoughts. Troubling reports from all over the city had made their way to his desks, one of which involving O-Lan being reported missing, another mentioning the murder of city counsellor Parkinson on Valor Bridge, a Brickstown prisoner escaping without a trace. All these events by themselves, combined with the bombing of the Centaur building had him wondering what was gonna happen next. His train of thoughts were pulled away by his cell phone ringing. It was central dispatch.

"Sorry to disturb you sir, but we have recorded magical activity in Orebanga earlier this morning. We tried reaching the boss, but he was unavailable." Said the female voice over the phone.

"This is odd, was any experiment or study group scheduled in the ruins today?" Asked squared jaw Cavalier.

"None that we are aware of sir, but we can say for certain that the event lasted only a few minutes, than stopped." Continued the base dispatch.

"Send a team out there, and have them report any findings. Turbo and a group of Knights recruits were visiting there this morning, and I would hate to think someone pulled a rabbit out a hat while they were there." Answered the scrapper, with a bit of laughter in the voice. If anything went wrong down there, more than likely Turbo had dealt with it promptly. A lot could be said for his teaching abilities, but when the chips were down, even Cavalier wouldn't dare go toe to toe with the boss.

Exiting for Talos Island, he directed his car towards the HQ. Another duty awaited him this morning, one he disliked every time he had to do it. The burial ceremony for Akritar Bane was scheduled to start in a few minutes, and he was to be making the eulogy. Some of his classmates would be talking before him, which was good, because he didn't take the time to know every one of the students at the academy anymore, too many had come, too many had gone. Was he growing complaisant and distant? He recalled a time when everyone he met was important to know, everyone brought something to the supergroup. Nowadays, it feels more like a routine of waving helloes and being an image.

Entering the underground parking lot of the academy, he stalled his car in the place reserved for it. Was it possible that time had made him indifferent to the needs of others? So many friends had passed away, Page of Sword who had disappeared, Bloodrock who fell in the void during the Zulu war, Star-Crusader decommissioning himself and trying to be a normal person. So many more that had left without saying a word. Yes, he did feel cold and separated from the newcomers.

He walked down the corridor, heading for the Hall of Heroes, a room created by heroes, for heroes. There, Apocalypse people assembled for ceremonies, official duties, and...Eulogies. The room was furnished with taste, reminiscent of the House of Lords in Britain. Beautiful woods and selected tapestries garnished it, long tables and comfortable chairs were present to sit close to three hundred people. There was enough space to accommodate five hundred people, if some were standing. The high domed ceiling was copied from a sixteenth century chapel. Paintings of fallen heroes were presented on the walls, Halcyon, Foalmir and others were there to remind people that sacrifices made for the greater good, was a goal to be achieved.

The doorman opened the doors, to let him in to an empty room. He stopped on the footstep, taking aback by this. He couldn't recall when he ever saw this room empty for an eulogy. Only a handful of recruits were there, sitting in the front row, close to the coffin. They turned to look at him, so he continued walking towards the front of the room, to reach the pedestal, without faltering. No heroes, no family present for this kid, who had died heroically, saving someone else instead of saving himself.

"Would anyone like to say anything?" He asked the few recruits that were present. They looked at each other, then back at him, nodding negatively.

Cavalier cleared his throat, this was taking him by surprise, to say the least.

"Does anyone know if Mr. Bane had any family, were they informed of his passing?" The recruits remained quiet, but Cavalier heard one of them mumble something.

"What's your name recruit?" He asked the girl who had just spoken under her breath.

"They call me Psyphoon, sir, third year recruit, graduating next week, sir." She answered with a sharp voice, a bit nervous.

"All right, Psyphoon, could you repeat what you just said, so we all can hear it?" Cavalier took the tone he used with first year students, when he wanted everyone to know and understand that not speaking your mind was a lack of faith, trust and intelligence.

"I said..." she hesitated "I said who would want to bury the devil's child, sir" She blushed and looked at the floor.

"The devil's child..." Repeated Cavalier, almost amused.

"It was well known that Ak Bane was Voyager's son, sir. We liked him and all, but being the son of the turn coat who betrayed the Riders made him unpopular." She spoke in a small voice.

Cavalier took in that last statement like a slap on the face. He looked at the coffin, looked back at Psyphoon, then looked at the empty room, the pictures of the fallen heroes, the atmosphere this place was supposed to bring in.

"So, the sins of the father fall on the children now?" He took a stern voice. "Voyager may have betrayed us, but only because he thought it was the right thing to do. None of you were there, during the Firebase Zulu war, but I was. And for anyone in this room, this academy, or even this city, to pretend to understand the magnitude of the sacrifices made during those battles, for anyone, they would have to have been there, and have been faced with the same choices we were then. The sheer unforgiving nature of war, makes us all killers, makes us all monsters waiting to be unleashed." Cavalier pressed the all call button on his belt, which transmitted a signal to the head secretary, who would in turn summon all people present in the school to the hall.

"I saw this kid die, and what he did that day, deserves a hero's send off. He gave his life so that others might live, and most of his team was injured too seriously to be here today, but I am sure they would say of him, that he wasn't a coward, or a traitor." He was getting angry, at the ignorance that fed on ignorance. Yes, Voyager won the title of Arch-Villain during the war, but did he really deserve it. The man had followed the orders that Turbo had given him, nothing more. No one, but a chosen few knew this. People were starting to arrive in the hall, to fill up the empty seats that should’ve been full in the first place.

"What is courage? Surely, not the simple fact of arresting the bad guys. Surely not following blindly orders or beating the snot out of low ranking Hellions." The room was almost full now, teachers, students and heroes were listening to him. He started walking on the stage, his voice being carried by the room. "Fear, is the reason behind courage, it's the fuel that makes you burn inside when the others run. It's the tightly wound, unbending resolve that let us say to ourselves: "I will not give up". Without fear, we wouldn't need each other, wouldn't call out for each other when dire times come. We would not wonder if our actions, or lack of, would endanger innocents, or friends. We wouldn't decide, in the blink of an eye, that this life" And he pointed to the coffin "is worth more than mine."

The silence in the room was palpable. Cavalier didn't come here to make a speech about the duties of a hero, but he did.

"You people should be ashamed. None of us deserve the treatment you bestowed upon this recruit. He died a hero, and we bury him a villain? Shame on you, shame on the principles that made you decide that he wasn't worthy to be in the same room as you." Oh yeah, he was angry.

"How dare you treat a Fellow of Apocalypse like this, how dare you?" He screamed that last one. "We come here to learn from each other, to be brothers and sisters, come what may. But what do I see here today? I see a bunch of complaisant people, who would have left Akritar Bane's cry for help unanswered. He stood by his team, died for them, doesn't that say something about the man?" The room remained silent. He looked at them, defiantly staring everyone present down.

"Today, we must renew our vows to each other. Today, we have to look to one another and trust in the fact that we are a supergroup. We are united in the battles to come, and we have to believe that each of us" he pointed to himself, then to the people present "are here, watching the other one's back. Today, we stand as one, and tomorrow, we fight as one! What say you?" He asked to the room

A few mumbled voices were heard.

"What say you?" He yelled once more, pounding a fist on the podium.

"Aye" More voices answered this time

"What say you?" He looked at them

"AYE!" screamed the room in unison

"What say you?"

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