The room was claustrophobically small. Dust floated lazily in the dim, grayed sunlight shone through the chain link over the windows, and the chipped and peeling paint an off-green covering the top two-thirds of the walls, a more off gray the lower section took on a tauntingly sickly pallor. The wooden table, had it been any larger, would have had the room for itself, and the bare wooden chairs creaked loudly and objectionably with each movement, threatening to buckle beneath the person sitting on them. Danny couldn't pace. He needed to pace.He hated closing his eyes. He hated blinking. There was never the warm, comforting blackness one enjoys when they close their eyes, no. It was nothing but red. Blood red carnage. Angus's forehead exploding. Cars and trucks plowing through the village. The pub burning. The Holloway girls mowed down. God! They were just kids! His house collapsing, so many bullets poured into it. Old man Masterson wrestling with a bastard in a black ski mask, getting skewered by his own pitchfork. The town hall in flames.His older sister Mary set her hand on his. He needed to sit down. He couldn't sit down. "Mary, ya shouldn't be here. They got no right
."Though she didn't have the actual physical strength, she did bear the strength of a sister and pulled him down into a chair. "Scotland Yard's got every right, Danny.""Ya dinna do anyt'ing though!""I'm yer sister! I'm stayin' wit' ya!""Damn it, Mary!""Hush!" She clamped a hand over his mouth. "Just hush you! It wasn't yer fault!"His mouth dropped open, moving soundlessly, aimlessly."It wasn't yer fault!"Hinges that hadn't seen oil since the building's first days betrayed the opening door. Three men in suits stepped in and the guard outside pulled the door shut and locked it. The defending barrister, Wright, set a briefcase down and stood off to a side, leaning back on a wall. How the hell anyone could claim to be a competent attorney by playing a fly on the wall was beyond Danny's comprehension. Another was Danny and Mary's cousin, Timothy Bonnar. He enjoyed the image of a detective for Scotland Yards and kept his rumpled slicker on and took a seat at the table, opposite Mary. The one that made Danny most nervous though, the man with the graying temples and gallows eyes, was Stonehouse, the prosecutor assigned to the case."What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Byrne?" Stonehouse asked. Every word that poured out of the man's mouth was pointed, like a finger jabbing into Danny's chest and he couldn't do a damn thing about it."I fucked up.""You fucked up?" His volume increased. The accusations burned hot and deep. "Fifteen people are dead because you fucked up! Another seventeen are in the hospital because you fucked up!""It wasn't supposed to happen!""No, of course it wasn't supposed to happen, Mr. Byrne. You worked for the IRA, Mr. Byrne. You ran guns and explosives for them. You provided them with information.""He was working for us!" Bonnar interrupted. "He was giving us information!""And in so doing, he not only painted a target on himself, he put one on everyone about him!""Sweet Jesus. If I coulda stopped it, don't you think I would have?""He got six people outta there alive!" Mary argued."He could have gotten a lot more out if he tried. Why didn't you, Mr. Byrne? Why didn't you try and fight them?""Everything was blowin' up around us!""Bullets bounce off you!""You could have thrown things at them like cars and tractors!""There were too many a' them!""I did what I could! I'm just one man, goddamn it!""They were all over the village! They were shooting everyone in sight! They were destroying everything around!""What d'ya expect me to do?""People were killed! Innocent people!""I'm jus' one man.""Men and women and children were massacred!""I hadda get Mary outta there!""So you're passing the guilt of this massacre onto her?"Silence choked the room. Danny wished he were any place else right then the bottom of the ocean, cast off on the moon, or even in the fires of Hell any place but right there, right then. He turned to her, his head shaking. "No. It weren't her fault. I was the dumb bastard. I was the one what killed everyone."Mary shook her head and said quietly, "No. It wasn't yer fault. Ya were doin' what ya thought best. Ya were tryin' to get the IRA outta there.""An' all I did was bring 'em down on everyone.""And you painted the biggest target of all on your own sister!"Danny couldn't pull his eyes away from Mary's. Tears welled up in his eyes, and they stained her cheeks. "I'm sorry" was all he could choke out to her.Bonnar slammed his open hand on the table. "Mr. Stonehouse! Need I remind you that without Danny's information, we couldn't have arrested almost twenty IRA terrorists and seized a half a million pounds in weapons?""What about that, Mr. Byrne?" The barrister's volume backed off but Danny felt that finger looking for a spot on his chest that hadn't gone numb yet. "Why'd you go from arms dealer to stoolie?""Ya ever get tired a' wonderin' if someone's stuck a bomb in yer church? Ya ever break up a fight between kids and they weren't fightin' about girls or cars or who was cheatin' but because Protestant and Catholic got to be the dirtiest words on the block? Ya ever seen a good honest man get beat ta death 'cause he refused ta thrown in with yer lot?""Mr. MacBride?" Mary's voice dripped with fear and horror. "He was just a schoolteacher.""An' he was tryin' ta teach tolerance and respect.""And you didn't try to stop that?" Stonehouse found another tender spot and dug his finger in deep.A knock at the door. Bonnar met the man standing in the doorway and hurriedly discussed a matter with him."I was barely seventeen years old! I didn't know my head from my ass!""Do you now?"Danny fists whitened, how tightly clenched they were, and his face deepened in redness.The inspector sat back at the table. "Danny, remember James Bingham?""Yeah, he was that contact yer people set me up with.""He was just arrested for moving explosives. Turns out he was on the IRA payroll as well."Stonehouse turned squarely at Bonnar. "Now I have to wonder if Scotland Yards can tell its head from its ass."Wright set his hand on Stonehouse's shoulder and looked at Bonnar. "Let's talk in the hall."Silence again filled the tiny green and gray room, drowning Danny and Mary as they sat there, drenched in the dreary sunlight, and waited, not looking at each other but never letting go of the other's hand.Twenty minutes later, the three men returned, each resuming their previous positions as if they had never left. Stonehouse took the platform and started with Mary. "You obviously can't go back to Dungiven, Miss Byrne. And I think it would be in your best interests to forget ever returning to Ireland. Your name and your picture, as well as your brother's, will be most everywhere. We can declare Mary Byrne dead. We'd relocate you create a new identity for you.""What about Danny?" Her demand came out as much a plea."Mr. Byrne. We can do the same thing for you and normally I really wouldn't hesitate to do make such an offer. But given your background, given your days as a gunrunner, given how you stood by and watched Mr. MacBride get beaten to death, given how a number of the guns used in the Dungiven Massacre were weapons you provided the IRA "If Mary could find the air, she would have gasped. Danny's face went white and his eyes glazed over."You weren't aware of that?" There were no more tender spots for Stonehouse to poke and prod. Everything was dead inside Danny. "No, apparently you weren't. Given your criminal history, Mr. Byrne, we're not going to let you out of here with a brand new name and a brand new life. I'm not going to let you out of here with a brand new name and a brand new life. I'm going to give you two choices, Mr. Byrne. One, you can take your chances with a trial. You'd be looking at fifteen counts of murder three, seventeen counts of attempted murder three, assault with a deadly weapon thirty-two counts, accomplice to the murder of one Mister MacBride, gunrunning, and terrorism, and all of that's just off the top of my head. As that stands, I can guarantee that you won't see the outside of a prison for the rest of your natural days. Two, you give us names. You testify. And you do eight and a half to twelve in Stronghold, parole reviews after five, after which Scotland Yard will set you up with the new name and new life. What'll it be, Mr. Byrne?"Danny looked from Bonnar to Wright "Stronghold?" Mary asked Stonehouse. "What's that?""It's a prison for super-powered felons and psychopaths. On a clear night with a powerful enough set of binoculars, you can watch it orbiting the Earth." and from Wright to Mary, where his glazed eyes rested."That's not fair!" Her voice was just shy of a scream, her eyes locked onto her brother's. "That's not right!""What'll it be, Mr. Byrne?"Danny forced himself to look again at his barrister. Wright simply, grievously nodded. His cousin turned up a hand, offering only the simplest, most defeated shrug. The Irishman didn't look at Stonehouse, but nodded just once. "Stronghold.""It's not fair."Danny turned to his sister. "I gotta do something to make it right though.""It's not fair. Stronghold?""Your brother could walk out of most any conventional maximum security prison, Miss Byrne. Stronghold's the only option he has."The three men stood, Bonnar guiding Mary out the door."Danny! Remember what we talked about last night! You can still do it! When you get out, go be a hero!" Danny couldn't face her. He had given her his word that he'd do what he could, that he'd do his best to do good by the world, to atone for what he had done. And somehow, somewhere, she had driven it into him to apply to the Sentinels. It was fantasy, pure and simple and hysterical fantasy. But he had given his sister his word. "Go be a hero!"In the hall, Stonehouse let out a small chuckle. "Hero."Mary wheeled on the barrister and slapped him hard. He stared at her, a bug under his microscope, then walked off.Danny was released from Stronghold and fulfilled his promise to Mary and applied for Sentinels membership. He was rejected but was subsequently picked up by the European Union to be a part of their new superhero team, the Dawnstars. Blarney became one of its founding members.After the Dawnstars were disbanded, Danny returned to Ireland where he gradually found himself mostly unrecognised, especially in the south. He slipped into anonymity and lived the life he had wanted - free from trouble. When the Dawnstars came looking for him after several ex-members were killed he hid from them, not wanting to be brought back into the fold.Since then he has lived quietly in Dublin, but at the back of his mind there's always that feeling that one day the Dawnstars or someone else will land on his doorstep and demand he give up his quiet life and risk everything to play the super hero game again. Recently he purchased a pub in Dublin and recklessly called it Blarney's.
Note: Blarney was originally created as a Player Character for the Global Guardians Venice game way, way back and has been updated for the Uberworld. I can't remember who played him, but I think it was Mark someone... if by the weirdest of chances anyone knows who did play him, please let me know.
Mark Hayes was the original player of Blarney (thanks Noah).
He is responsible for the impressive background writeup, but I've
modified the character stats. If anyone knows of Mark Hayes, let
him know what Blarney is up to. He was one of the very first
Dawnstars, even before they were Dawnstars!