Tear The World Apart, Part 13: Divine Resolve

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(June 25th, 2008)

The street was desolate. A wind caught a few pieces of trash and blew them in a desultory manner, as Judgment slowed and lowered himself for a landing. His armour was stark in the morning light, the grey dull and unreflective, the gold a deep almost-bronze that caught at the light and seemed almost to glow. It was nothing compared to the pale yellow glow that surrounded Judgment himself; as he set down gently on the street, it rolled off him in waves, a soft counterpoint to the hard line of his jaw as he looked across at his former friend.

In return, Eric looked the man he had once fought alongside up and down, deliberately, no trace of fear in his eyes or his stance. “Been a long time, Tom.”

“Very long.” Judgment glanced down the street, made out the shapes of Timebender and the ridiculously-named Lucky Lad crouching behind what they laughably believed to be cover. “Your pet supers seem to be keeping their distance. Wise of them.”

“I figured this was a matter between the two of us.” Eric shrugged easily. “You've killed the rest of the Justicars, after all. After you kill me, we'll all be dead.”

Judgment frowned faintly. Anger, he had expected. Possibly fear, but he hadn't thought that likely – Eric had never been one to feel fear. This almost-bantering tone was beyond his understanding. “I never touched K'Lara – it was age that slew her, nothing more. I never even travelled to Sayleen after she went home.”

Standing opposite him, Eric raised an eyebrow. “I'm surprised.”

“That I deny responsibility for her death?”

“That you accept it for Clarisse.”

There was a surprised moment, and then Judgment's eye narrowed. “And why should I not? It was my failures that caused New York's destruction. I do not take responsibility alone – all of the Justicars could have acted differently, properly. We were fools, and the world paid for it. But I was your leader, and I should have seen the truth earlier.”

“Please.” Eric turned away, looking down the street. In the distance, a plume of smoke rose from the Malefico building, followed by the flare of dozens of laser turrets firing. “Sometimes I think you should have lost both your eyes in that explosion. It would have at least suited you.”

“Your sense of irony is, as always, misplaced. I see more clearly now than I ever did before.” Judgment's voice lowered, and he almost hissed the words across the way. “We preached of mercy and tolerance, of choice and compassion. And where did that tolerance lead? To millions dead, and a government ready to pardon their killers and move on.”

“Well, one of us must be blind, because that's not what I saw. What I saw is a disaster that you're about to repeat.” Eric turned back to Judgment, waving his arm for emphasis. “In case you've forgotten, it was Surge that started the ball rolling in New York, and we'd never faced him. It was heroes that sought revenge instead of justice. That was what killed everyone, Tom, not us. We weren't even involved.” He shrugged easily. “But then, that was always your problem. You think the world revolves around you.”

“No, I simply understand the truth.” Judgment stalked forwards, towering over Eric, and glared down at him. The yellow glow began to intensify, and Eric stepped backwards carefully. “You can preach all that you like, trying to connect me to the monsters, but fate itself supports my actions.”

There was a short pause, as Eric raised an eyebrow. “Okay, you've finally lost me. Care to explain?”

“It is simple narrative law, Eric. You were always scientifically-minded, old friend – consider the evidence. The Antiheroes are outnumbered, and have been since this began. The SEA lies about us, sets overwhelming force against us. And yet our missions are nearly all successes. We have setbacks, but we still march forwards. Luck favours us. Do you know why?”

Eric frowned. “Humour me and explain it.”

“Because our cause is just.”

Eric sighed heavily. “That's it? That's why you think you're winning? It's recursive logic, Tom. You win because you are good, and you are good because you win. Rex Mundi has never been captured – does that make him a good guy.”

“It is interesting that you mention him.” Judgment smiled grimly. “He understood the Laws better than anyone in the SEA. It is the unifying law of narrative, Eric. Good triumphs over evil. Why do you think Rex Mundi was so fearful of direct confrontations? Why do you think so many of his plots relied on our success? He hitched his own victory to the triumph of the righteous.”

Silence settled over the street. Eric was wordless, simply gaping at Judgment, who crossed his arms in triumph. It was Timebender who stood, racing forwards even as Lucky reached out to stop her, screeching to a halt a yard from him. “You're completely insane. There is no unifying law of narrative. It's a myth.”

Judgment shook his head with a grin. “Of course you believe that. Few know the truth. But I learned it from Rex Mundi himself, decades ago. I studied, and researched, until I knew it to be true. Everything I tested proved the conclusion.” He gestured past her towards the city. “Find your precious Dudeman. He knows the truth, and fights to deny it, because he can't accept what it means. New York fell because we strayed from the path of virtue.”

He leaned in, and his eyes were fire and darkness and light all at once. “I am the divine arbiter of truth, and these weaklings seek to stop that truth from reaching the world. But they never can, and they will never understand why. Narrative itself supports my deeds, for I have spent years discovering what the pathways of virtue are. We fight ruthlessly, but confine our battles to those who declare their opposition to us. We strike from surprise, but never from treachery. We accept casualties, but never seek hostages. Righteousness is ingrained in every fiber of the Antiheroes, and when it is combined with our will we cannot be defeated.” He brought up his fists, and Timebender took a cautious step backwards. “Roll over and play dead, little girl. You face more than my power. You face my resolve. And that can never be overcome.”

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