AP Productions: Cavalier #11

After the alien invasion of 1981, the world was introduced to Neutronium, which allowed humanity the ability to give itself powers. World governments immediately seized alien technology and this rare element in hopes that it would not fall into enemy hands. Unfortunately, some Neutronium ended up on the black market before various government entities could fully act. In New York, back-alley doctors, mad scientists and various criminal organizations participated in underground Neutronium experiments. One such group kidnapped homeless people off the streets of New York to be used as guinea pigs with the only survivor being the man known as Blockhead. A group calling themselves Power Grid gave experiments to subjects in exchange for large sums of money, which resulted in the creation of a variety of supervillains such as Springheel Jack, The Energizer and Professor Miles Cady. There were others who had varying degrees of success. While death was not uncommon in these experiments, many subjects survived with a variety of abilities. Of those that survived, a large number were disfigured.

Those that were disfigured found themselves in the New York subways or sewers. It was not uncommon for them to converted the abandoned subway tunnels into their homes. Calling the community Agartha, named from the Hollow Earth Theory, they remained there for decades, creating their own community where outsiders were often unwelcomed. Over the years, Agarthans had children, many of whom were born with powers as well as deformities. Because of this, there has been conflict between those born as Agarthans (Pure Bloods) and those who became Agarthans later in life (Late Bloomers). Arthur Hawkwood had been an ally of Agartha for most of his career and it was Rex Robinson’s decision to introduce Michael to their leader.

“I’m gonna take the armor for a few days,” Michael told his father as they stood in the center of The Castle, “Rex is gonna introduce me to some people and he thinks it’s best I suit up.”

Arthur ran his hand through his hair, “If he’s taking you down to Agartha, it’s probably a good idea to bring protection. They’re mostly good people and I even had to go up against the cops to help them out but…,” his demeanor shifted, “…Well, protection is always a good thing.”

“I know, Dad.”

“You’re not serious about this, are you? Taking up the superhero gig permanently?”

“Nah, but… Rex Robinson wants me to tag a long so I can’t say no, right?”

He nodded and smiled, “That man could sell ice to Eskimos if he wanted to.”

“But it’s not permanent, don’t worry,” Michael hugged his father and left.

“Are you gonna take the Dragon?,” Arthur asked as Michael began packing up the armor.

“No, he’s driving.”

Hyperion’s Light was Rex Robinson’s ship that doubled as a floating base. Reverse engineered from an alien spacecraft, it was roughly the size of a factory but shaped like a golden disc, which was a nod to its namesake. The ship hovered over a building and a tractor-beam lowered Michael and Rex to the ground level while his robotic staff kept the ship in the air. Michael pretended to be nonchalant but being in Rex Robinson’s spaceship was something every little boy had dreamed of since the mid-80s. “I would have taken the sky bikes out for a spin,” Rex told him, “But we can’t get much use out of them underground.” They made their way across the street to an abandoned subway station littered with graffiti and trash. Once on the platform, they followed the tracks into the tunnel. As it grew darker, Michael activated the night vision lenses in his helm while Rex slipped on a pair of goggles.

The inner tunnels were tall with art-deco archways and windows, reflecting architecture of a bygone age. Dim lights flickered, indicating generators or makeshift wiring from the city’s grid, which meant that he and Rex could remove their night-vision gear. Small stands littered the tunnel with art, vegetables, trinkets and other goods being vended. As Michael and Rex made their way, they noticed the people wearing hoods, tattered coats and other identity concealing clothes. The people stopped and stared at the two men and Michael tried not to look their way but caught glimpses of tumors, pock-marked skin and discolorations. Up ahead, they passed an old train on the tracks and when Michael peered inside, he could see children being taught with each car apparently representing a different grade. “Remember, if anyone asks, we were invited by Raphael,” Rex whispered. As they made their way, a slender woman partially stepped out of an old information booth that had been redressed with red Christmas lights and satin sheets. She wore lingerie and at first Michael couldn’t tell there was anything unusual about her appearance, although the left side of her body was still inside her makeshift tent. “Need a date?,” she gave Michael a smile, “Hope you got more protection than just that armor.” A prehensile tentacle slithered out of the tent and beckoned him to enter. They kept moving. An old movie theater stood at the top of a row of steps and Michael could scarcely hear the sound of Tony Montana from the open double doors. As they continued, they entered an area that apparently never completed construction. The walls and ground were mostly rock, bare steel beams reached up into the darkness and various apartments and shacks had been erected. Ember light bulbs hung from above with a few scattered flood lights to illuminate the neighborhood. Somewhere, there came the hum of gas-powered generators. As they went further, the area became more cavernous and a rocky “hill” led to a larger complex at the top that was difficult to make out in the darkness.

Because he was trying to see the structure at the top, he failed to notice the figures stepping in front of them. A catlike man with a full mane stood in front of them wearing a leather tunic and a belt with two large katar blades sheathed on his belt. His partner was a female with white fur and dark spots. She also wore a tunic with a large kukri blade on her back. Rex would later explain that these were two members of the Felidae Guard, Raphael’s bodyguards. When Michael noticed two piercing sets of feline eyes peering through the shadows, he cleared his throat and tried to sound as official as he could, “We’re here to see Raphael.”

“Raphael asked to see the knight only,” the lion-like man snarled and turned to Rex, “You’ll have to wait on the surface.”

“Certainly,” he nodded toward Michael, “Not to worry.”

He was brought to the construct at tue top of the rocky hill. It was apparently cobbled together from stolen material and old chunks of a subway station forgotten to time. Inside, Michael saw a huge library with shelves of books reaching up to the ceiling, lit by gaslight. An African American man in a coat sat crouched at the top of one shelf wearing round sunglasses and long braids tied back. He leapt off the shelf, landing solidly in front of Michael. According to Rex and his father, he was an empath whose connection to the emotional well being of his people led to him becoming their leader.

“You must he Raphael,” he began.

“And you’re the new Black Knight,” Raphael cocked his head side by side as if studying him, “I’d like to understand your emotional state. Would you mind if I removed my glasses?“

“Sure, I guess?”

“You don’t have to look into my eyes. In fact, some find it… unsettling.”

“I’m fine.”

Raphael removed his glasses and Michael could see his face clearly. The skin around his eye sockets was almost completely gone, exposing bone. His eyes were missing; in their place were two chambers of violet energy, almost like doorways into another dimension. A beam erupted out of Raphael’s sockets and Michael could feel an odd sensation like his mind was a book that had been quickly thumbed through.

“You’re conflicted about you role,” Raphael replaced his glasses, “Your predecessor vouched for us and stopped the New York police department from removing us. If he hadn’t, the IMD would have likely been brought in and there would have been bloodshed.”

“That’s what I understand.”

“Some of us were told he died, which generated a lot of fear and paranoia. In a place like this, paranoia is common,” he turned and began pacing around his library, “There are younger citizens of Agartha who were born differently. They don’t trust the surface world. Some of them want to-”

He stopped as if someone called his name. Without saying a word, he pulled Michael away just as the door broke down and the lion-like man was hurled through it. Michael raised his gauntlet, ready to fire a shield-disc as a huge creature stormed inside: he was muscular with greyish-blue skin, no hair and large tusks jutting out from his lower jaw. There were additional tusks along his shoulders and forearms. Michael fired a disc which bounced off his forehead but otherwise, caused no damage. The creature raced across the room and took a swing which Michael ducked under and rolled to the side.

“Tusk,” Raphael stood in front of the behemoth, “You are violating my home and attacking my guest.”

“He’s not a guest, he’s the enemy,” he roared, “We don’t need another knight from the surface world protecting us. We don’t even know who he is.”

“I know enough,” Raphael’s voice rose only slightly, “Stand down.”

“Late-bloomer,” Tusk growled, “You think you can keep making deals with the surface and it’ll solve everything? How do we know the cops will listen to this guy? How do we know he’s not secretly working for them?”

“We can discuss this at the Community Meeting. Right now, I am holding a private conversation and you are not-”

“I didn’t come here to discuss anything!”

Raphael lowered his glasses once again as Tusk clenched his fists, ready to strike. Empathic energy shot out of Raphael’s eyes and seemingly swirled around the large man’s head for a moment. Tusk’s massive lower jaw curled into a smile and he stood still with a serene look on his face, then his fists unclenched.

“I guess keeping the peace means more than just making sure the cops don’t show up,” Michael said as he examined Tusk.

“As it is on the surface, nothing is ever simple down here,” Raphael adjusted his glasses, “The Cavalier defied the authorities to ensure there would be no fighting. He stood his ground and convinced them to let us be. In turn, we promised not to cause trouble on the surface.”

“It’s been a source of inspiration for a while now.”

“Sometimes, being a hero means that one has to address complex situations and even stand in the way of the authorities. Working outside the law can be beneficial and necessary.”

“Speaking of which, what happens to him?,” Michael pointed to Tusk, who remained entranced.

“The effect will wear off soon and we will deal with him our way.”


“If you continue to wear that suit of armor, I trust you’ll be beneficial in… keeping the peace, as you say,” the lion-like guard picked himself off the floor once he woke up and Raphael motioned toward the door, “I’m afraid we have to cut our meeting short but I can sense you have some understanding of this situation.”

“Yeah, I think I do.”

Michael was led back to the surface where he met Rex. “Your dad knew when to do the right thing even if the police disagreed,” Rex told him, “Even to an old fashioned guy like me, I can see merit in that.”

“Yeah, he wasn’t always friendly with the cops. Not like my grandfather or his dad.”

“Speaking of which, the next set of friends I’d like for you to meet used to run around with your grand dad. The Hawkwood Legacy is all over this city. Pick you up the same time tomorrow?”

Michael nodded happily, “Absolutely”.

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