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Knights - Fallout (IC)


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Date: September XX, 2009

t had been quite some time since Dark Star had actually been to the lair, or even worked with the other Knights as a group or individuals. Barring that dimensional invasion they had thwarted, he'd been rather busy with other things away from them. Perhaps it was for the best. But Dark Star was not one to shy away from problems. He didn't like how nebulous things had been left. It was time for talk. With that in mind, he had called the others a couple days ago about setting up a meeting in the Lair. Besides the fact that everyone was busy with one thing or another, it was Scarab's home and only polite.

So it was that at the appointed hour, Dark Star had headed down into the Lair. He had originally intended to be early but a had gotten caught up helping a Lor merchant ship limp home. He flew slowly, for him, through the walls and passed through obstacles and entered a conference room. It had been quite some time since he'd been here last...

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Elena sat up from her chair as DarkStar floated into the conference room. "Derrick. Good to see you again. I'm glad you finally wanted to talk." She waved a hand around the room. "I had Archeville's new scarab-bots hollow out some of the unexcavated rock and construct this conference room specifically for the occasion." DarkStar could see a few of the golden beetle-shaped robots scuttling about along the floor and walls.

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Avenger was there. Wasn't he always? Even for the super-sensitive Dark Star and Scarab, it was sometimes very hard to tell. "Nice cave," he commented to Scarab, taking his usual seat near the head of the table. "Like what you've done with the place. Watch the rear shaft, though. Security's not great there." He looked up at Dark Star. "Dark Star. Appreciate the invitation. Glad to have a chance to talk." About something other than Divine's disappearance, anyway. That was an ugly subject he didn't like dwelling on.

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Ace strolled in a few moments later giving Dark Star a friendly smile and nod and ducking down to give Elena a quick kiss on the cheek before he took a seat on her left. He leaned back in his chair and looked to Dark Star, "So whats this all about then? Or would you rather wait until the others arrive?" He said with a friendly smile.

Ace was well aware there was tension between several of the knights over many issues, it was part of the reason he was here after all, but saw it as his place to keep things as congenial as possible, besides he liked Dark Star, saw the ephemeral energy being as a rare breed of hero not common in recent years. Avenger he ignored entirely, Ace was not without his own prejudices after all.

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Phantom teleported into the entrance way of the conference room while Ace was settling himself. After she had solidfied, she floated over to one of the middleish chairs of the table and seated herself. Really, she'd have walked over and sat like a normal person but when one's costume had layers upon layers of billowing fabric, one had to make do. Since half of the assembled members were in costumes, and half were not, it seemed safer to err on the side of caution.

Once settled, she reached up to push the cowl back. "I hope I'm not late."

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Arrowhawk stalked into the room from the shadows of one of the rooms at the rear. He was clad in a slightly different costume than most of the Knights had seen him in before. "Evening." His cowl masked most of his head but the mouth and eyes, with small swept-back wings at the sides. The rest of him wore a flexible-looking, but heavily armoured, black suit with a white hawk logo across the chest. A bow and quiver were visible on his back although mostly concealed by a long, sweeping bwing-shaped cape extending from his shoulders and billowing around his silhouette.

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Avenger felt a momentary relief at the sight of Ace kissing Scarab, along with no little surprise. Nice to see Elena's getting some action. And it does mean Ace isn't harassing me anymore...Unless it's just to get more information on me. But that's crazy, Jack, there are limits to paranoia. _Or are there?_ He repaid Ace's ignorance with his own, carefully not paying attention to the Danger in the room. All in all, it was a welcome relief when Taylor arrived.

"Phantom. Nice to see you." It was hard for Jack to project much friendliness through the mask, so he didn't try. He knew Taylor would know it was there. "Arrowhawk. Good to see you up and around." Arrowhawk didn't get the friendliness at all, but he didn't think the Scottish archer would object to that.

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Gah, what's that kid want now? We've got important work to do back in the laboratory!

I am sure this is important, for all of us. So just be patient.

Archeville used the new teleport beacon to appear in Scarab's directly in the conference room; through the portal the others could see his own laboratory for a brief moment before the portal winked out of existence. "Guten tag, all. I hope I am not de last to arrive."

Phantom still got a weird vibe off the German scientist.

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Phantom had just been inclining her head to Avenger's greeting when she felt the 'good doctor's presence. Really should have gotten the guest roster to this little meeting. Phantom gritted her back teeth and repressed the shudder that Archeville's presence always aroused. Once she was certain that her expression was impassive again, she twisted back and greeted the doctor coolly, "I'm not sure who Dark Star invited, but we've all only just arrived."

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Dark Star nodded at Scarab. "Nice to see you again Elena. Impressive little things if they managed to do this by themselves. He does have great toys."

He nodded at the suddenly there hero. "Avenger. Pleasure as always." Turning, he repeated the gesture as the others came in. "Ace, Phantom," Arrowhawk got something of a more curt nod (only by a hair but there were observant enough people in plenty here), but then Arrowhawk and Dark Star had never seen eye to eye, "Arrowhawk. Good to see everyone is well. Is your leg alright," he asked Arrowhawk. "I can attempt to heal it again if it is still bothering you." And finally he greeted the Doctor as the man teleported in.

He looked over at Phantom. "I called all the Knights. Some are obviously...occupied so I don't think there will be others attending." He waited for everyone to have a seat (if they choose; he stood since chairs were pointless to him). Finally he addressed everyone. "First, it's nice to see everyone together when there isn't an invasion of some kind or other disaster. But I'm stalling. I wanted to apologize to everyone. I failed myself, you and the city." He would have sighed if he had lungs to expel air with. "After the explosion. I left when there was still much to be done. I was...wrapped up in my own thoughts and forgot my duty. I let some of you down that day and I wanted to apologies." The guilt of that particular choice had been bothering him for some time now. "That wasn't really the main reason I called everyone but it needed to be said regardless."

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... what? That's what this milksop called us in for?

We have noted that he has a severely low self-esteem, it may be that no matter what he does he would feel it is not enough. Besides, if you would listen to all he said, there is more to it than that.

Archeville had seated himself, but now a very confused look was spread across his face. "Herr Star, from vhat I haff heard of de explosion, you may haff contributed de most to putting it out. Images of you directing thousands of gallons of vater over it vere splashed all over de newspapers. You cannot be expected to do everything; ve do not expect it, de people of Freedom do not expect it, und you should not expect it of yourself. You are powerful, ja, but you are not all-powerful."

"If anyvon in dis room should be apologizing," he added, "it is me, for being completely absent from de scene. I did not even get vord of it until vell after de fires had been put out, dough I am still facing mein share of hazards from de event." Those who paid attention to business matters knew Archeville had been under heavy questioning shortly after the explosion due to his consultation work for Darts, Inc., the weapons manufacturing company owned & overseen by Eric Micheals, the man now better known as Malice.

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Ace watched each of the other Knights arrive, greetign them each in turn with a nod and warm smile.

He listened with intrest to the begining of Dark Stars explanation his face impasive as the gravtic hero appologized. "You did alot of good that day Dark Star and despite your eratic behavior I think are one of the main reasons there wasn't greater tragedy that day. That trick with the water was a great boon to the firefighters." He said kindly, heroes such as Dark Star were usually thier own harshest critics and while he was certainly curious about the cryptic message that had pressaged Dark Star leaving he felt Dark Star had earned the right to explain that in his own time.

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"What's important is that thanks to the efforts of those who were there, the tragedy was as minimal as we really could have hoped. None of us can be everywhere at once," Phantom said pragmatically. At the time she'd been frustratrated that heroes had vanished during the day, as anyone there would have been. She, however, knew far too well how stretched thin any of them were, "No matter how hard we may try."

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Elena closed her eyes as she returned Ace's kiss, and smiled as he walked past her to take his seat.

"No one here thinks ill of you, DarkStar. In fact, I think everyone would agree that, in every engagement where you've fought by our side, you have contributed more to our success than any other single factor. But your perceived inadequacies, silly as they seem to anyone but you, are not the reason you summoned us here. Why don't you tell them what's really bothering you?"

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Dark Star nodded, glad that the others didn't think less of him for his failure. He'd have blushed at the compliments, if he could. It was still hard though, getting over his failures. Giving himself a mental shake, he returned to the matter at hand with a nod.

"Very well. I know that I am viewed as ...naive, though I prefer idealistic, by most. That my worldview is somewhat more...positive than others. I truly believe in people and what they can and should do. I hold myself to a standard that some might think is a bit difficult. And it is hard, but worthwhile. I truly believe that I should act as a role model for others. Truth, justice and honor. I don't expect others to go to such lengths of course. That's personal choice. But I cannot compromise those beliefs. I will not bend those things, not even the tiniest bit. Not even in the face a disaster. If I did...then what am I that I can't hold true to my own belief, my own faith in people? I have to believe in them. That in the end, those things matter." He shook his head. "I'm rambling it seems." He always did that when he got flustered. Of course it didn't happen too often, baring certain conversations with a special someone, but still.

He tried again. "Everyone here seems to be able to make those concessions. To bend things a little. To choose a different path. I can't; I won't. The odd part was that until 'recently', I wasn't even truly aware that this was done." He shrugged. "But certain events have called that into light. And while some of you can make those decision, and be alright with it, I can't." He caught himself before he rambled too far.

"Basically, to make this much shorter, I think I should remove myself from this august company. Take my name off the rolls of the Knights or however it works. I'll still be here whenever you need me of course. And I do believe in all of you, and consider you to be heroes. But I don't seem to be as...flexible as you nor will I allow that flexibility to stand in some areas if I can do anything about it. So perhaps it is best, if I stepped back from the Knights rather than cause conflict amongst you."

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Ace cocked an eyebrow at Dark Stars rambling resignation. It wasn't really what he expected the meeting to be about but he was flexible. Some of Drk Stars explanations did however stick out in his mind.

Ace stood shaking his head, "So you're going to quit when it gets hard?" He asked, it may not be his usual tactfull way of dealing with delicate situations but it seemed Dark Star was more receptive to bluntness anyway. "You say you want to be a role model, that you hold yourself to a higher standard, that you didn't realize what was being done. But that really doesn't matter becasue the issue is that now when your ideals are coming in conflict you are chooseing to run rather than face them."

He looked to the others in the room, "How little did you know really? I'm sure Elena is still giveing that tired BETRAY ME AND I SHAL WIPE YOUR MIND CLEAN speech to say the least, Avenger is a thug with Ideals, and Arrowhawk is still stuck half in the failed scared straight campaign from the eighties. But they all intend to do good works." He pointed out with a shrug.

"If you think you can serve as a role model and that these cut corners are nto how things should be done why not show them a better way? Running now you just lose what credibility you have earned." He finished with a shrug and a quick apology "Sorry if i spoke out of turn."

It may be harsh words but Ace really felt anything less blunt just wouldn't sink in.

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Jack looked at Dark Star as if Ace hadn't spoken; indeed, as if they were alone together and having a private conversation. Jack was truly concerned for his friend here, the comrade who'd stood by him in the darkest time of his life. Losing Dark Star's friendship would be... a challenge. And a sign of his own moral failure, given the man's high character. "Dark Star. We trust you. We know you're reliable. You mentioned incidents. You can talk to us. What happened?"

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"We do not try to do good, Ace. Despite our mistakes and our missteps, we have done good. All of us. Many times."

Ace, you could have warned me before setting me up to be the Good Cop, or the anvil for your hammer.

"DarkStar, why do you think I didn't just rejoin the Freedom League as soon as I returned? Why do you think I passed up the highest peaks in favor of the darkest alleys? Because the Knights need me more. Because there are problems the League can't, shouldn't, or won't deal with. These streets are filled with souls drowning in darkness, on both sides of the law and caught up in between. I could take my seat in The Lighthouse and rise above it all, focusing on 'The Big Picture.' Or I can stay down here in the trenches, walk into those shadows, and shed some light upon them. That is what you do. You bring light to the darkest corners of this city, and our souls. At best, I can only bridge the gap between those who inspire hope and those who inflict terror. You are that hope. You remind us what it means to be a Hero, like only one other man I've ever known. You are the pure, incorruptible example we can always strive for and never be. You bring balance to us, as we bring balance to the League. I can do more good down here than I can up there, and so can you."

Elena held her hand up at Avenger. "No. They shouldn't hear it second-hand. Let him tell his own story." She turned her chair, facing neither Avenger nor DarkStar. "Tell them why DarkStar's very sense of self has been shaken to its core."

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He looked to Ace, not bother by the directness, but by the apparent dismissal of the other. "You are not giving them the credit they are due. They much better people than that. They do not try to do good. They do. They are good. They are heroes." He shrugged. "And you misundersand. I'm not running because things are hard. I've already showed, I think, that I will keep true to my beliefs regardles of the outcomes. I am suggesting I depart, not because of some form of cowardice, but of friendship. I choose to maintain that bond, rather than loose it by staying and 'rocking the boat' as the saying goes. Because we know that it will."

He shook his head at Avenger. "Thank you but the specific incidents do not matter really." He couldn't lie to save his life, nor would he really. But he kept secrets, because they weren't his to tell.

He look at Elena and nodded in thanks for her rather glowing praise of him, even if he felt he didn't deserve to be compared to that one. No one could be compared to him and measure up. The best Dark Star could do was strive to be that good. He gave himself a mental shake to return to the matter at hand.

He didn't intend to have Arrowhawk arrested or receive punishment or anthing. The man had made a mistake; everyone made them. Sadly this one had cost people their lives. It was the fact that the man felt little to no remorse or guilt at that was something that upset Dark Star. That, combined with 'Hawk and Scarab's acceptance and willingness to blame someone else for a crime he didn't commit, had shaken Dark Star more than he had liked or even expected.

He shook his head. "Elena, it is not necessary. It was resolved. I resolved it after all," he said softly. By speaking truth, even if no one else realized what had motivated it. He hadn't intended any of this to come up. Just speak his peace and go, seeing the others again whenever they needed him. This was her and Arrowhawk's secret. He didn't intend for this.

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We could so easily manipulate this kid right now. So despairing, so lonely, so in need of someone to-

To stop people like you from taking advantage of him!

Archeville had heard much, but sensed that there were volumes more left unsaid.

That would not do.

"First off, Herr Star, sometimes a bit of rocking is exactly vhat a boat needs. Ve need somevon like you to make sure ve do not fall prey to... 'ruthless pragmatism'. To make sure ve do de right dings for de right reasons; doing de right dings for de wrong reasons leads to as much corruption as doing de wrong dings for de right reasons."

"Secondly..." now he shifted to look at as many people as he could, not just Dark Star, "can ve please stop talking around de issues und clearly lay out vhat started all dis? Dis obtuse manner serves no von's better interests. Vhat happened at de Riverside explosion to bring dis about? I know you sent out a transmission to everyvon saying Malice himself vas not directly responsible for de event, dat de explosives vere his but he did not set dem off; dat much is in de public record. Vhat else is dere to de tale?"

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Phantom watched the Knights talk from her chair, fingers steepled together. When it was clear that some sort of confession was expected and with the simmering tension between Elena and Arrowhawk, it wasn't hard to guess who was expected to speak. One look at the archer could gauge his set expression and determined silence.

"I have no idea what this is over but I can tell you that I have no interest in finding out like this. I've shared my identity with the people at this table and with that comes a certain degree of trust. I would never accept this sort of interrogation from teammates, nor will I participate in one." Phantom said firmly, raising her hands slightly. "Let us focus Dark Star's concern. It is clearly larger than any single incident, or any single person."

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Arrowhawk was no idiot. He knew this was largely about what he did. But he didn't particularly want to have to try to justify himself. "I think what it boils down to, is that as a 'team' our methodologies all vary quite a bit, as do our standards," he mused. "But I doubt we can all agree on the same code without some being discontent. "

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'Interrogation'? Oh, if she thinks this is an interrogation, she-

is right to ask that we all remain calm and civil.

Archeville was about to respond to Phantom (who still felt a tad nauseous around the Doktor), but Arrowhawk's words grabbed his attention.

"Dat is an interesting point, Herr Hawk: de Knights do not rally haff any sort of charter, ja? No attempts to form some manner of agreed-upon bylaws und regulations und internal controls, no? How can de Knights police others if dey do not police demselves?"

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"Am sure our respective morals are very impressive. Not the topic of conversation now." Codifying the rules of an organization seemed like a waste of time to Jack. You followed the leaders because they were the best at what they did, and if they weren't, you either replaced them or formed your own organization. He wasn't at all sure that point of view would impress his colleagues, though, or even that it was particularly heroic. "Dark Star. You have concerns. Share them...please."

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