Jade went back into the cave, leaving the frail controller
outside staring at the horizon. She woke them all up, explaining to
them what was going on, what was to happen, and the choice they had
to make. Metal Core and Lil Smoke refused flat out, while Wild-Star
had doubts about remaining in the shard for the rest of his natural
life. Jade who was finally asked what she thought, found herself torn
between her loyalty to her people, and the taste of freedom. If Voyager
could pull it off, really get them all out of here and back home,
it was a chance she was willing to take. On the other hand, once they
did make their way home, they would never again know peace as they
did, for the heroes would hunt them down and capture them, another
jail in a way, was awaiting them, the jail that has no bars, only
running. Her train of thoughts was broken by Voyager, who stood once
more in the entrance, leaning heavily against the wall.
decided?” He asked them, fiery red eyes looking at them, through them,
all was resting upon their choices, and he hoped they would choose
wisely. Metal Core looked at his friends, looked at the old controller,
then took a step forward and walked ahead, to come and stand in front
“We have… We’re not going.” He stared him straight in
the eyes, unafraid and defiant.
“Do you speak for all of them, or
do they have a voice of their own?” Voyager looked over Takeo’s shoulder
to see if one of them wanted to come home, but was afraid to say so,
maybe due to peer pressure, maybe due to heroic ethics, the "one for
all and all for one syndrome.” Yes, one wanted to go home, lost in
thoughts and shifting eyes, were his clues.
“All right, I understand.
I would require to be fully healed before I take on the Rulaaru and
Human armies out there.” He spoke that last one with carelessness,
while taking a few steps inside the cave, to stand between Metal Core
and the little group, looking into Jade’s eyes.
“No, old man, you
leave us alone now, you will get no help from us anymore.” Metal Core
followed him in, grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. Voyager
had gotten a bit closer to the group, and nodded to himself, one of
them wanted to leave this place. He was turned around, and faced once
more Metal Core, but this time, he smiled gently upon him, like a
father to a son.
Takeo fell to his knees, grasping Voyager by the
forearms, wind knocked out of him, endurance drained almost completely.
He moaned once more, and fell back on the rocky floor, feeling heavy
and slow, drained of all speed. The fiery eyes controller turned around,
while at the same time throwing cinders all over the vicinity, choking
everyone but himself. The Exiled coughed and hacked, tears blurring
their vision, he was holding them. The controller turned on himself,
looking down on Metal Core, he used him to fully heal himself. A few
seconds after it began, all the heroes in the cave were locked and
rooted in place, unable to take action and trapped in fire cages guarded
by imps, all but one that is.
“It’s a good thing that I noticed you
were having second thoughts, if not, all of you would be dead right
now.” Spoke the old man.
“Don’t hurt them anymore, they are helpless
and at your mercy. If there is any decency left in you, leave them
be, they are my friends.” Answered Wild-Star who was shaken up by
the fast and furious action the controller had deployed. The fire
controller had shown a side of himself they hadn’t seen yet, that
of a merciless foe willing to show no quarters, and Jaden was taken
aback by such conduct. Voyager had shown his true, selfish disposure.
He didn’t care for them one second, he cared only about going home.
“They would’ve let you go, you know, they didn’t want you here in
the beginning.” Wild-Star came to stand next to Jade Rade, she was
unconscious and trapped in a ring of fire, beautiful and pale.
didn’t you try to stop me, blaster?” Asked the controller, surrounded
by fire and imps, looking more like a demon than a man.
Because I have to go back to earth, and prove my innocence. I was
sent out here for crimes I didn’t commit, they accused me of things
I never could bring myself to do.” Wild-Star answered passionately,
clenching a fist to his sentence.
“We are all innocents here, none
of us deserved the fate the city bestowed upon us. I’m returning to
earth to finish what I had started, and when that’s done, Crey Industries
and the countess will burn in hell.” Voyager decided to play the sympathetic
card, empathy was important when forming a new friendship, and this
young man fit into his plan so well, he couldn’t afford to loose him
“Your friends are not hurt, only subdued. I needed their energies
to restore myself, going home will be dangerous, and if we are to
succeed and live, it had to be done. They will awake in less than
ten minutes, it‘s better if we were not around when that happens,
they are powerful, and anger comes easy when we wield too much power.
Come Wild-Star, when the Rulaaru host reaches the base, we have to
be there and ready.” Voyager ran for the exit and flew up into the
orange sky, eyes burning with anticipation. He felt elation, the kind
he hadn’t felt for a very long time, as he looked behind and saw Wild-Star
follow him. When he would shift the armies and take in all their power,
next to him would be the best channelling vessel he have, a blaster.
The controller looked ahead, towards the base, and smiled.
Hammond is in for a surprise today…”
“On your knees, hands behind
your heads, now!” Yelled officer Johanson while pointing his .38 special
at Shadow-Step and Marrowsnap.
“Hey Vic, we’re heroes tonight, haven’t
you noticed.” Spoke the Skulls leader as he was kneeling down and
complying with the policeman’s orders, a bit of derision in his voice.
“Shaddup Marrow, we got enough evidence on you to put you in jail
for a mighty long time. And as for your friend here, he’s going back
to the Ziggurat as soon as I can locate a transport.” Officer Johanson
was taking out his handcuffs, and was about to use them, when a hand
“Not tonight Victor, they are helping us, and we need
all the help we can get.” Chromium Man who had been trying to console
a broken up Cavalier, had overheard the commotion, and came to the
rescue of the two criminals. “They saved those children Victor, that’s
gotta count for something, at least a delay in their arrest?” Victor
Johanson looked at the armoured hero, property of Winter Industries
and most surely the playboy son of the company’s owner, and nodded.
“All right, until this situation is under control, they are free,
but after that, you two clowns are mine, you hear that?” Went on Johanson
while pointing a menacing finger at the two unlikely heroes. Putting
his gun away, he turned around and yelled orders left and right while
“I would suggest not being here once we resolve this
situation, gentlemen.” Chromium Man then turned around and returned
to stand next Cavalier.
The two of them nodded and stood up, Shadow-Step
letting out a long belch as he did so, which clearly smelled of whiskey.
They went to the food and coffee trailer that had been provided freely
by Good Will Foundation of Paragon city, and helped themselves to
a free meal. They both ate and drank their fill without shame, appreciating
it all, in a caveman sort of way.
While close by, sitting on the ground
and crying shamelessly, Cavalier relived the last few minutes of Mary’s
life. She had looked at him, eyes telling that she trusted him to
bring her to safety, so little, so fragile. The look on her face when
Ghost Starr’s blade had started slicing her neck, the terror that
had taken root in her brown eyes, while he just stood there and let
it happen. Why had he hesitated so, why? He felt tortured and ashamed,
angry at himself and his failure to save one little girl from a horrible
fate. Countless of times in the past, he had been faced with similar
situations, where the life of an innocent was hanging in the balance,
and always, he had prevailed and saved the day, always. What had occurred
tonight had broken the very core of his being, his reactions and reflexes
had failed him, even with all the training and years of experience,
he had failed when he shouldn’t have. Looking about, he saw the looks
on the faces of the people present, darting in his direction, the
lack of understanding or forgiveness in their eyes was there.
man, you gotta pull yourself together, we need you.” Spoke Xanthion,
who felt a bit awkward at having to say this to the one person who
had subdued him. For Xanthion, Cavalier was the only leader he followed,
obeyed only his orders and none other, and to see him broken up like
this, shook him up to say the least.
“I failed her, failed everyone
here, failed myself.” Cavalier held his head between his hands, tears
freely flowing, looking down on the ground like a kid who had just
lost a very important toy, realisation of his failure was crushing
“Get up, they’re looking at you, stop crying over her, she’s
dead.” Xanthion, always one to speak bluntly and true, couldn’t stand
the sight of Cavalier like this. He stood up, wiped the tears from
his eyes, took a long breath that came out shakily. Sheathing his
sword, he looked at Mase, Darklightning, Chromium Man and then Xanthion,
looked at the ground in shame.
“I… I resign my commission, leadership
is yours Chromium Man.” He turned around and used his super-speed
to run into the tunnel, heading towards Independence Port. Everyone
present felt the words Cavalier spoke, and most just stood there trying
to comprehend what had just happened. He had walked away from a fight,
from the field of battle, and abandoned them to their fate, him of
all people. Sure, they understood that he had just suffered a great
defeat, and they all felt it in a way, but since the beginning of
the night, all of them had lost something, be it a family member,
a friend or a piece of their innocence.
The great Cavalier had retreated,
given up on them and himself, Ghost Starr had stricken a terrible
blow without killing him. Ghost Starr had managed to injure his soul
to the core...
Kings Row: hour 5
Cavalier ran and passed the train
station heading towards Bell Point, speeding down the streets, he
was soon running through the factories of Wave Landing. He knew what
was going on in his mind, recognized the situation, he was in a total
state of mental distress. He had seen it happen to others, seen how
it turned them from day to night, from good to evil in a matter of
moments. Xanthion and Voyager could be regarded as good examples of
what goes on in your head when battle stress gets to you, in Xanthion’s
case, it turned him into a somewhat good guy, from the street thug
that he was, fighting amongst the Skulls’s ranks. In Voyager’s case,
it turned the man into a non-caring fighting machine, cold and merciless
with no regard for public safety, only results. And at this moment,
he was going through the same process, an inner battle was going on
inside, and try as he might, mingled through all those thoughts, he
kept seeing again and again, little Mary’s head being sliced through.
Reaching Industry Pier, he turned south towards Patriot Wharf, still
running like the world was on fire. He passed in front of Wilson Eziquerra,
his old friend and contact from the early days without stopping, passing
him and the two corn silos in the background, Cavalier burned down
the street. The smokes stacks and chimneys were giving up their black
smoke, ships were docked and waiting for unloading, all of this he
saw as he ran, but Mary’s eyes were still looking at him. He sped
through the coal yard, black soot dust lifting as he passed through
it, high in the air, he looked in the distance at two flashing beacon
lights, high in the sky. The road sign indicated Terra Volta in a
mile, he turned and followed the boulevard, passing the fence and
guard post leading to Valor Bridge, dismissing the heroic statues
in the distance, he ran onto the bridge and came to a stop right between
the stone lions that ornamented the causeway.
Breathing fast, hearth
pounding and sweating profusely, Cavalier looked at the scene in front
of him. Two figures of angels were guarding the way to the bridge,
one holding a shield, the other one wielding a sword, symbols of valour
and dedication that decorated the condemned construction. He walked
ahead, not caring for the graffiti on the walls, eyes wide and wild,
he came to stand beneath the angel statue with the sword. Unsheathing
his own sword, he looked at the angel, looked at the hold Latin inscription
on the blade :“Tantum dignus mos habitum mihi” he whispered to himself,
words he hadn’t said aloud in years, not since finding the sword in
the old cave near Newcastle, back in England, lying and waiting on
the dusty floor for someone to retrieve it. Stepping forward on the
bridge, he came to a stop in front of an official city plaque, like
the ones they installed all over, to commemorate a moment of importance.
Brushing away the debris and garbage that had piled on it, mostly
due to the wind that was ever present on the bridge, he read it :
"When the Freedom Phalanx became the first legally recognized Super
Group in 1953, Statesman held a conference at Valor Bridge. He said:
The valiant hero Atlas died defending the city on this very bridge.
I do not know how to thank you for your faith in the Freedom Phalanx,
except to say that I, too, am ready to die in your defence.”
In a burst
of anger, Cavalier punched the plaque with all his might, denting
the metal and crumbling the granite that housed it underneath. He
started running again, and jumped onto the access ramp of the suspender
cables, streaking upwards, towards the top of the first tower. He
ran screaming like a lion, using his sword to cut some of the hanger
cables, which sent sparks flying into the night. Upon reaching the
top, he stopped, the beacons were signalling in a regular pulse of
red lights. In the center of the tower, stood a lone yellow light
held by a metal shaft, about twelve feet high, Cavalier sliced it
off and watched it fall to the ground. The metal beam went down silently,
until it disappeared from sight far below. Falling to his knees, he
cried freely, Mary’s face still haunting him, asking him why he hadn’t
reacted fast enough, why he had not saved her. He screamed again to
the heavens, unable to contain the rage, to refrain from the pain
that was visiting him.
He stayed there a good while, until his cell
phone rang. Without looking, he took it out of his belt pocket, and
threw it in the distance, towards the water. He took a few steps facing
the east, to come and stand looking towards the Kings Row tunnel,
where his friends and fellow citizens were fighting for the survival
of the city. He looked long and hard over there, his eyes reflecting
anger and despair, red from crying and tired from being up so long.
He took a step back, and was about to launch his sword into the air,
but something held him back at the last second. Stopped from discarding
the ancient bladd by some unseen force, he looked at it once more,
the Latin inscription glowed a soft green, making the engraved words
stand out in the night.
“Tantum dignus mos habitum mihi, Only the
worthy will wield me.” He spoke those words aloud, looking at the
sword he had been using for the last ten years, sometimes even speaking
to the ancient blade as if it was a person. “I am not worthy anymore,
old friend.” He whispered to it, then turned around, and proceeded
to plunge the sword into the eastern saddle of the bridge. The blade
emitted a long groan, as if complaining at Cavalier, when it entered
the granite, where it was pushed in to the hilt. Cavalier then let
it go, and backed away, looking at it through a blurred vision. He
felt some of his strength abandon him, as if the sword was taking
his life force away. “I’m so tired, so very tired. A worthier man
than me will come for you.”
He turned around, looking in the distance
with Mary’s ghost still haunting his mind, relentlessly present everywhere
he looked, reminding him of his ultimate failure as a hero. “I’m so
sorry kid, I should’ve saved you, should’ve died in your place.” He
was now standing on the edge of the tower, looking down below. Spreading
his arms, he let himself fall towards the dark water of the Independence
Bay, hoping to find rest and tranquility…