The Defiant Challengers

Enter the Viking

Act 1; Scene 4

Officer Kerensky sat in one of the booths at Big Momma’s Kitchen, the finest and possibly only real soul food diner in all of the city, eyes buried in his smartphone. He’d had the Big Boy special, a plate filled to the brim with BBQ ribs, and and he felt the after effects of just having ingested almost a quarter of a healthy cow. Drowsiness and a full stomach was far better than reflecting on the events of the last couple of days.

It had been one hell of a week and the new chatter just wouldn’t stop. Blackbird, the caped crusader, was dead, her killer Collateral Damage was headed to Blackstone prison in an armored convoy, and there was already some creep pretending to be the now dead heroine.

Still the city had to go on, hard as it was, good men and women lost their lives had lost their lives before and they would again. Officer Kerensky was not a philosophical man, but as he slowly sipped on his coffee he mused idly himself that it was about time to find a new place to live, Freedom City was a meat grinder, chewing up good heroes and policeman alike.

Kerensky was roused from his thoughts by a noise coming from the door and he looked up to see a man swaying side to side, obviously drunk, carrying an axe in his hand, sending waitresses and patrons scurrying aside in his wake. Before Kerensky was out of his seat, the figure had stumbled back outside, where Kerensky found him leaning against a pristine yellow Hummer emblazoned with the logo of a local real estate company.

“Sir, put down the axe,” Kerensky said, trying to talk the man down. Cold eyes, the eyes of a killer, fogged with the touch of alcohol met his own, and Kerensky couldn’t help but shiver with fright.

“For two days, for two godforsaken days I’ve been hearing his voice, his self righteous arrogance, his philosophical excuses…and his LIES!” the man said shaking a fist madly at the sky, smelling of an ungodly amount of alcohol even beyond arm’s reach.

Kerensky drew his firearm with a practiced motion, flipping the safety off and aiming center mass, “Buddy, you’ve had too much to drink. Put down the axe and let’s have a cup of coffee.”

“I’ll show you GREATER GOOD YOU COWARD!” the man roared, not hearing or caring what Kerensky had said, raising the axe above his head and then turning to cleave the Hummer in two, sending a shower of sparks flying into the air.

Kerensky felt his mouth fall open and he stood motionless, willing the finger of his right hand to squeeze the trigger of his venerable Glock but getting no response from his muscles. “D- Drop the axe,” he finally managed as the figure turned around with a mad grin on his face and began to walk towards him.

“Little man, I’m in no mood for games, and I have no qualms with you, what say you walk away before I have to send you off to Valhalla?”
“I said DROP THE AXE! Drop the axe and put your hands over your head,” Kerensky shouted, hearing his own voice falter, and praying that the tall stranger couldn’t tell how much his hands were shaking.

A loud clank followed, as the axe fell to the ground and the perpetrator continued approaching. With each step the towering man took, Kerensky felt a strange sense of dread growing within him. Kerensky was a veteran cop, he had years of experience on the beat, few things still startled him, but now, he felt afraid, the figure in front of him seemed less a man and more a terrifying revenant come to devour his soul. Fire, fire, fire, he thought, once more finding that his muscles disobeyed him.

Pushed his shaking gun aside, the man looked him in the eyes, nodding,”What’s your name officer?”

“K- Kerensky.”

“Good, how about you put the gun away now, before someone gets hurt?”

“O- Ok,” Kerensky said, letting out a shuddering breath and holstering his service pistol as sweat began to drip from his brow.

“You know Daedelus, right?” The man said, offering a smile that somehow promised anything but friendliness.

“The Great Invent -”

“Right, him, whatever, just make sure he sees this,” the strange axeman said before picking up his axe again and turning to attack the ruined car once more as Kerensky cowered in fear. When he was done, there was but one word carved into the door:

Coward.

Leaving the axe lodged next to his work, the tall figure stopped next to Kerensky,“Oh, say, you wouldn’t happen to have some cash would you?

“S- Sure,” Kerensky only managed, handing the stranger a fold of bills from his wallet before he collapsed to a sitting position on the curb, sweating, and with a face turned white.

“See you ‘round Kerensky,” the drunken man said, slowly meandering away and offering a final wave of a hand,”Be careful out there, this is one rough city.”

“Kerensky, wake the fuck up and get your ass out of the diner, some punk vandals are skateboarding through the mall again,” static giving way to the voice of his commanding officer on the walkeetalkee he carried.

“Fuck me,” Kerensky muttered, fishing a cigarette and a lighter out of his breast pocket and struggling to light it with his still shaking hands.

-

Departing the Fens, Gunnar made his way to Greenbank, ducking inside of an establishment called the Druid’s Chair to spend his ill-gotten gains. He’d never been to the pub before, but it was an Irish pub if he’d ever seen one and it promised just the sort of predictable environment he desired after the adventures of the day. The antiquated interior was stocked with furniture that evoked long lost decades, reflecting still the skillful work of some long dead craftsman. Wood colored by the passage of years was matched by walls and lampshades painted a dark green. In short, it seemed a comfortable place, if strictly working class.

The ‘timeless’ decor of the establishment clashed with several large flat screen televisions that had been mounted throughout the pub as if in afterthought. The news blared loudly as Gunnar took a seat next to the bar on a rickety bar chair that protested under against his weight,“This is Dakota Smith, Action Seven News, reporting live from outside of Freedom Hall, where a service is set to begin soon for the late hero Blackbird.”

“What can I get ye?” The pretty brunette manning the bar dourly said nodding in Gunnar’s general direction.

“A tankard of mead.”

“That’s a little bit outside of what we offer, I’m afraid we’re not that fancy of a bar” the woman answered with a sullen look on her face and a hint of irritation. “But we’ve got domestic beer on tap.“

“As long as it’s cheap,” the Lion replied, dropping a hundred dollar bill on the counter.

“Righto, chief,” she replied, Americanized, he reflected, but Irish nonetheless.

“Blackbird died fighting the criminal Collateral Damage, who’s since been apprehended thanks to the masked vigilante Skye Raider and another unknown hero. Herb, can you tell us more about- “ the TV anchor said, droning in the background.

Gunnar looked up recognizing a mugshot of the villain he had brought crashing to the ground only two days before. He had been unaware that there had been casualties though…

“Such is life, you can’t fight a battle without losses,” he half muttered under his breath, shaking his head softly, heroics did not come without a heavy cost.

“What was that?” The bartender said as she put a full pint of ale in front of him, casting an idle glance at the television screen.

“We all must die at some point, better to die in battle than in a bed, sick from disease and weakened by old age,” Gunnar mused with his eyes still glued on the screen.

“That’s a bit dark isn’t it?”

“Maybe,”Gunnar replied, draining the glass of beer in one fell swoop. “Another please.”

“Sure.”

Left in peace after she brought him yet another beer, the tall man returned his attentions to the blaring television, rage contained beneath his features, imagining a day when he’d finally send the miserable Inventor to his doom.

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SparksMurphey Julmust_Jaeger

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