AP Productions: Cavalier #6

Michael and Arthur made their way through the tunnel, leaving behind the Dragon docked in the small hangar. Minutes later, Springheel-Jack emerged from under the craft. Typically, Arthur would often do a maintenance check on the craft after landing but since the mission was a minor one and they were returning later than expected, he opted not to check that night. As for Jack, he believed Arthur and Michael were returning the stolen diamonds to the authorities, not knowing they had already done so. He certainly never expected to end up in The Castle. There were a series of mistakes made that night that would result in tragedy.

When Jack dropped down from the craft, he reached into his pack and retrieved night-vision goggles then, once he put them on, saw Arthur’s armors and gear, instantly realizing where he actually was. “This is a helluva lot better than some diamonds,” he thought to himself. He opened his pack to see what he could fit inside but curiosity and greed got the better of him once he looked to the far side of the room. What was in the long tunnel? More gear that could be stolen and sold on the black market? The money and street cred would be worth the danger of bumping into the Cavalier or his sidekick. He made his way down the corridor as automatic lights turned on to guide him.

“Arthur, what the hell?,” Nancy Hawkwood stood at the top of the stairs facing her husband and son who now had their helmets off but were otherwise still in their armored suits. She had returned from work hours earlier and while it was not unusual for Arthur to be absent, it was strange that Michael wasn’t home. “What is he wearing, Artie?,” she asked, “What the hell is he wearing?,” her voice rose the second time she asked.

“I’m really sorry. I should’ve -,” Arthur began but Nancy cut him off.

“How long has he been doing this?”

“Just this summer,” Michael responded meekly.

“Mike, get to your room and take that thing off,” she stepped to the side as Micheal climbed up the stairs past her, “I’m gonna talk to your dad but don’t think you’re not in trouble! I’ll be there in a second.” Michael said nothing as he retreated to his room.

Arthur waited in the living room while she marched downstairs. Once there, she crossed her arms and glared at Arthur in frustration before beginning, “You know, I heard something on the news about the Cavalier having a partner,” she shook her head, “I… honestly just thought you teamed up with a new hero or something. I never suspected… Why would you do this? And behind my back?”

“I wanted him to be a part of what I was doing. We haven’t spent as much time together as I wanted,” he said quietly.

“Take him fishing, Artie!,” Nancy threw her arms sin the air, “This is not normal, even for you! I don’t get what is going on in your head.”

“I know, I know. I have no excuses. It seemed fun and… Y’know, I never took him on any dangerous missions.”

“Things can always go sideways, Artie. You know that,” Nancy rubbed her forehead, “Okay, I’m gonna go into the kitchen and make some tea. I’ll need something for this headache that’s coming on, too. We’re still talking about this.” She turned and left in a hurry.

She walked past the door leading downstairs, into the kitchen and began boiling water. Arthur sat on the sofa quietly, still wearing his armor without the helmet. Upstairs, Michael slipped off his costume and put on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Nancy placed a tea bag in a cup and poured the water in, then began stirring it as she left the kitchen. Nearby, the downstairs door opened as a very confused Springheel Jack emerged. He hadn’t expected to see a normal house with family photos on the wall and what appeared to be a living room around the corner. Since the lights were on, he decided to turn around and leave. He knew the situation could end in a number of different ways and none of those situations would be optimal. As Nancy stepped out of the kitchen, she was focused on her tea and didn’t initially notice the figure with his back turned but once she caught him out of the corner of her eye, she immediately screamed and dropped her cup. The sudden noise startled Jack and in his panic, he spun into a kick.

His Neutronium enhanced body was designed for high leaps and superhuman acrobatics. It gave him very powerful limbs, particularly the legs. He never meant to use his abilities offensively, at least not against opponents who didn’t wear protective gear or had superhuman stats themselves. Attacking a citizen was unfathomable. There was an audible SNAP, followed by dead weight falling onto the kitchen floor. Jack stood in stunned silence, his jaw open as he began to process what he had done. “Nancy?,” Arthur’s panicked cry could be heard from the living room and once he rounded the corner, he and Jack came face-to-face. Arthur froze in the moment, then eyes moved from Jack to his wife and he shouted once more, “Nancy!” and rushed to her, scooping her lifeless body into his arms as he began to cry out, “No! Nonononono”. Jack, meanwhile, backed into the living room in terror and overwhelming guilt. “Mom? Dad?,” Michael called from upstairs and stopped abruptly when he saw Jack. Again, their eyes met before Michael darted into the kitchen as he continued to hear the commotion. Jack, meanwhile, turned and sprinted out the door, clearing an entire block in a few leaps. Eventually, he came to a stop in an alley and began vomiting.

“Bloody deaths for bloody lives”. That was the Curse of Hawkwood. In the coming years, Michael would wonder if the curse extended to female relatives or loved ones who married into the family. He came to the conclusion that while they were likely immune to the curse, it was the logical conclusion of men who led bloody lives. He blamed himself, mostly, going so far as wishing he allowed Jack to escape with the diamonds. Wanting to be a superhero and trying to lead a life of fighting bad guys in the streets would always lead to death and not just his own. He distanced himself from that desire for years but was never quite honest with himself when feeling the urge to solve mysteries or fight people who he felt were out of line. He convinced himself that breaking the Curse meant running away.

As for Arthur, after Nancy’s funeral, he went to work, staying up night and day, trying to find Springheel-Jack. The anger he felt when his brother and father were murdered years earlier came back. His brother’s murderer was never identified. As for his father, the man who killed him was arrested and sent to prison. This would be the first time he was able to confront his loved one’s killer and when his search became fruitless, he decided to break protocol. He parked the Dragon in the street and approached Sleazy’s bar on a rainy night. If Jack wasn’t there, someone would have an answer. Blockhead, the bar’s superstrong bouncer, met him at the door. “Uh, you here for a drink?,” he asked as he saw Cavalier approach with twin swords sheathed on either side of his belt, “I’m asking `cuz if this is business, you know I can’t let you in.” Blockhead received his powers when an underground Neutronium experiment group captured homeless people in order to be used as guinea pigs. He was never a criminal. He was an unfortunate young man who was found sleeping in an alley at the wrong time and place. He survived the experience but with deformities: rock-like skin, tall stature and a flattened head that resembled a concrete block. Being the bouncer at a supervillain bar was the only way he could survive from that day forward.

Arthur was aware of this but attacked anyway, releasing a sedative gas grenade in his face before ducking under the responsive punch. “What the hell is this?,” he choked as Arthur silently pulled his dual swords. Electric bolts ran along the blades, creating steam as the rain fell on them; lights danced across Arthur’s black armor and with the rising steam, he was terrifying to look at. Arthur viciously began slamming the electrified swords into Blockhead, eventually pushing him through the door. Everyone inside turned as the large rock-skinned man fell into the middle of the floor as Arthur continued to attack. They were stunned into silence as Arthur raised one of his swords and brought it down against Blockhead’s invulnerable skull. The blow didn’t cut him but instead, the top half of the sword snapped off, the blade spinning into a nearby wall. Arthur dropped the bottom half of the blade next to Blockhead’s unconscious body then turned his attention to the bar patrons while holding his second sword.

“Where’s Springheel-Jack?,” Arthur asked as he raised his weapon. The mercenary known as Rampart stood to his feet, “I thought you people aren’t supposed to be here.” He was quickly shushed by some of the fearful criminals sitting near him and he reluctantly sat back down. Arthur paced around the room, sword still drawn, “He came into my house. He attacked my family. Someone knows where he is,” the crowd was still silent and Arthur finally added with a loud voice, “I will start taking limbs unless I get some information!”

Ohm was quite young at this time and had just begun his career as a superpowered criminal. “There’s a drug den,” he began quietly, hoping to get rid of the Cavalier as quickly as possible, “He was here last night asking me about a place to score heroin. I told him. 198 Doyers Street in Chinatown.” Arthur said nothing, sheathed his sword and left. Blockhead woke up and immediately noticed the broken sword on the ground. From that day on, the bar was known as the Broken Sword with Arthur’s snapped blade hung on a plaque above the bar with a warning to the criminals of New York never to go after family members.

Several minutes later, Springheel-Jack opened his eyes in a daze, noticing that there were less people in the apartment than there was a moment ago. The few who remained were passed out or not in a condition to do much. He rose off the floor, tore the rubber tubing from around his arm and brushed the empty needle away from him in disgust. In his stupor, he did not notice Arthur standing above him until metal gauntlets grabbed him by the neck and threw him against the wall. “Oh God,” Jack began to sob as Arthur pulled the sword from his belt, “No, please! I-I didn’t tell anybody what I saw. A-and I didn’t take anything from -“

“You think I care about that?,” Arthur roared.

“I-I’m s-sorry,” Jack quickly became a blubbering mess, “You know I never hurt any body. I’m not one of those psychos who go around killing people for fun. I-I didn’t mean for any of it! Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

“I believe you,” Arthur strode forward, “But that doesn’t bring my wife back.”

Jack began mumbling, “… Just looking for the diamonds… No one was supposed to get hurt.”

“But they did…,” Arthur held his sword firm but found himself hesitating, “… Damn,” he lowered the blade, “I’ve done a lot of things tonight that I’m not proud of, just to find you and yet…,” he dropped the sword behind him, “… I want to kill you and up until now I thought I was going to,” Arthur knelt in front of Jack and removed his helmet; his eyes were bloodshot and his hair and face were unwashed, “I still have my son in my life and he’s still mourning his mother. I gotta do right by him. I spent my life wanting to be the hero and this is maybe the most heroic thing for me to do right now… I’m going to bring you in to the police and you’ll confess to killing Nancy Hawkwood.”

Jack nodded, tears running down his cheeks, “I’ll do it… I’ll m-make it right. I’m so s-sorry.”

“You keep saying that. Would you say that to my wife if you could?”

“Yes.”

“What about my son?”

“O-of course,” Jack’s eyes turned away from him, focusing on something over his shoulder and then he spoke, “I’m sorry, kid.”

Arthur furrowed his brow in confusion and spun around once he made the realization. Michael stood in the middle of the room, wearing his costume but without the helmet. His eyes were bloodshot like his father’s and in his hands, he held his father’s fallen sword. Arthur realized at that moment that his son must have stowed away in the cargo hold of the Dragon. “Michael,” he raised a hand, pleadingly, “Listen to me -.”

Michael ignored his father’s words. He screamed but it was not a scream of rage, it was a scream of anguish and loss, almost animalistic in its inhumanity but too mournful to be aggressive. He shot forward, the tip of the sword passing by his father and finding its way in the corner of Jack’s eye, bursting the orbital socket in blood and ocular fluid. Jack made a strange wheezing sound, his eye turned red and was almost completely removed from its socket; when the blade was removed, a squirt of blood erupted before he slid down the wall and remained still. Michael stood over the dead body, still clutching the sword, the tip now stained red. Arthur remained kneeling, trying to meet his son’s empty gaze.

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