Yuri spends another few weeks going about his usual business, his stomach churning at the very idea of going home that night, donning the suit of The Lunatic, and then executing his first sinner. In the meantime, he finds old case dockets and starts compiling a list of people to eventually kill. The lowest of the low. Those who hurt others and never once repented for their actions. Though he investigates his targets electronically, he begins compiling a paper list of names and prisons, because paper burns much more cleanly than computer chips, and just as permanently.
And there's really no harm in continuing practice. There's always more to improve, weaknesses he wants to discover in private rather than in the field. And he wanted to wait until more of the barbecue grill paint came in, so he could both decorate and heat-treat his mask. And the crossbow needs customization, too, so it looks less like hunter equipment and more like an otherworldly weapon. And after that's done, he catches a cough, best wait and go into this with a healthy body. And then he needs to be at court bright and early for a high-profile case. And the day after he's supposed to meet the mayor, that meeting shouldn't be interrupted…
He's ready… except he's not. Especially since every time he thinks he's ready, Legend appears.
The Executive Justice retires. The department's betting pool over how much longer he would last is finally over.
But, to Yuri's extreme shock, he is appointed as the old Justice's successor. Through an incredibly convoluted cocktail of recommendations, votes, appointments, and overrides, Yuri is to become the Executive Justice of the Hero Department. With a hero culture as strong as Sternbild's, Yuri is basically the most powerful Justice in the whole city. As he expresses his astonished confusion to co-workers and peers, hoping for answers, he gets nothing in return but a confusing tangle of congratulations.
How did this happen? Yuri wanted to become the Executive Justice, yes, but he never expressed that desire to a single living soul. He just played office politics, no more or less than anyone else. And no one had approached him beforehand asking for a favor should this miracle come to pass.
This is some sort of corruption. He knows it. There is absolutely no way that a young Justice with only eight years of experience in the Bureau itself, three years as an intern and aide, another three as a prosecutor, only two as a judge, is the choice candidate for this position. Some powerful individual or collective with their filthy fingers deeply entangled in the Justice Bureau has made this decision, and paid, threatened, or otherwise coerced everyone else into agreeing with the appointment.
Yuri accepts the suspect position, almost out of spite. Call it paranoia, but Yuri knows that someday, someone will come ask for him to do something unspeakable, and cite his position as Executive Justice as their advance payment for his help. This might even be someone who knows that Yuri killed his father, someone who will try to blackmail him with making that information public. Well, Yuri has enough records in return to prove that the Legendmobile belongs to the Petrov family, and that Mr. Legend was an alcoholic domestic abuser. Anyone trying to destroy Yuri or bend him to their evil whims will find that Yuri can single-handedly destroy the hero culture of Sternbild. And he is absolutely fine using that weapon against anyone who tries to stop his justice with shady, underhanded tactics.
Whoever decided to illegally advance Yuri into a coveted position of power... will severely regret it.
For all the drama of securing the position, Yuri settles gracefully into the rhythm of Executive Justice. Through the first week, he anticipates a mysterious phone call with every ring or a suspicious visitor around every corner, but his work quickly starts to pile up, and he just can't spare the time to worry about it. His job had three major requirements, all relatively simple and straightforward, but covering a wide array of duties.
First, Yuri must preside over any case that require a hero's presence or testimony, so their secret identities stay restricted. Yuri receives a docket of personnel files immediately after his swearing in, and though he learns their names and faces quickly, he only meets them for court. And the most common court appearances revolve around damages settlements, when a hero breaks a private or public structure and the court has to determine if the damage was necessary: necessary damages covered by the city, unnecessary damages paid for by the sponsors. Yuri hates damage court, but it's by far the largest part of his docket on any given day.
Second, Yuri is the chief legal advisor to Hero TV and all sponsor companies. Rather than using lawyers, who have a reputation of green-lighting actions based on the likelihood of lawsuit rather than the mandate of the law, Hero TV has to use the Justice Bureau to double-check its plans so that no event poses a threat to civilian safety. Yuri plays messenger between these corporations and local law enforcement, which frays his nerves further, but it does grant him access to hero-exclusive facilities, like the gymnasium and training rooms, which Yuri considers invaluable. These heroes will be his enemies soon, and knowing as much as possible about their strengths and weaknesses could make all the difference.
Third, and most infrequently, Yuri evaluates and gives accreditation to new heroes as they are recruited.
Two months after Yuri assumed his duties, Apollon Media Holdings submits recruitment forms for a new hero, a handsome upstart selling his gimmick of not using a hero identity. Practically in the same mail drop, Yuri receives a report that Apollon is about to buy out its competitor, TopMag. Ordinarily that merger goes through the Chamber of Commerce for review, but since it involves the transfer of a another hero contract, Yuri must oversee it as well.
It reminds Yuri of when he bought his house. Apollon is almost dying to clear their new hero's credentials and get him on the air before the 1976-7 Hero TV season ends. They want both the merger and the accreditation to clear as soon as possible, and their representatives badger Yuri endlessly with follow-up calls and progress checks. He hates the coincidence, but after reading through all the files three times, he finds nothing suspicious. Just ordinary corporate trickery, trying to find the next hot thing—in this case, a hero duo—so they can market it before anyone else.
The rest of the procedure is almost exactly like Yuri's evaluation to become a justice of the peace. The new hero's history and records are intensely scrutinized for any inconsistencies or buried secrets, but he's spotless as fresh snow. His biography is perfectly complete—birth certificate, diplomas, medical records, his eyesight is that bad?—and makes him an extremely strong candidate for Hero TV. Yuri almost gets the feeling that the candidate was born in order to become a hero, and it's eerie to think of a child so thoroughly groomed for such a career. But, with no objections, Yuri approves him just in time for his stunning debut on the last episode of the season, with an official introduction during the MVP awards ceremony.
This makes eight heroes who will stand to oppose The Lunatic. Each presents a unique challenge to Yuri—some challenges greater than others, but all of them distinct and varied—and the odds are definitely not in his favor. The Lunatic's debut will undoubtedly draw their undivided attention, and they'll cross corporate affiliations if necessary to take him down.
Waiting has not improved his odds. Waiting never will, even if he waited another fifteen years. He is at a point where waiting any longer will disobey his idea of justice; Yuri will be turning a blind eye to evil, sitting and biding his time.
He's trained. He's studied. He's planned. He's prepared.
He is ready.
Yuri drops the article. It's a last-minute alteration, but he's just fed up with it. Even after all this time, The Lunatic sounds clunky and awkward, like a bad pro wrestler nomiker. He knows people are just going to drop it anyway, and most likely call him 'That Lunatic' instead.
Lunatic. Just Lunatic. He'll adopt it as his third proper name: Petrov, Yuri. Petrov, Justice. Petrov, Lunatic.
He takes a vacation day to sew one more suit. Mimicking his mother's piping, the third and final Lunatic suit is everything Yuri dreamed it would be. He pulls on the suit, clicks his belt into place, and hangs his crossbow and a some other equipment (like a radio tuned to the police station) onto it. He tugs his gloves into place, swings the cape on over his shoulders, and finally dons the mask.
He resists the urge to look at himself before he leaves, but as he journeys through the Sternbild night, he catches his reflection on a darkened skyscraper's window. He's terrifying. He's the Mad Angel of Death, just as he hoped he would be. Yuri wonders, if he suddenly became a time-manipulator NEXT and had the power to go to the past, to his childhood, and his young self gazed upon Lunatic… what would he think? He knows that vigilante murder would be the furthest thing from young Yuri's mind, but if Yuri had known that this would be his destiny, what would he have done differently? Who would he have been, if not for his tortured fire, his eternal scar, his idea of justice?
He'll never know.
There are three criminals awaiting the voice of Thanatos tonight. Tony Smith, Jack Brown, and Bob Johnson; kidnappers, murderers, thieves. As Executive Justice, Yuri easily accessed their records and checked that all three of them were cellmates at Moros Prison. He's decided to strike against incarcerated criminals first, both as a test of his powers and as a test of his courage. If he fails, it won't be broadcast, and he has the chance to try again.
Yuri thwarts the prison's security measures easily with a combination of flight and phase-walking. He soon finds himself a perch on an adjacent building overlooking the cell. It's after lights out, but with the light of a full moon to help him, Yuri watches the prisoners moving through the thin slats of their barred window. It's time.
Yuri expected Legend would follow him tonight, and doesn't look at him. He won't let Legend talk him out of this.
"Listen to me," he continues, a wholly unexpected tactic. Yuri glares out of the corner of his eye, and there he is, standing with his arms and shoulders loose, his mask creased between his eyebrows.
"I understand your feelings," Legend says. "You want to create a world where people will live without fear of evil. Those are the same reasons that I became a hero. I wanted to be a light of hope for others to follow. I wanted to be the greatest hero. The most loving husband. The best father."
Yuri grabs his crossbow and aims it directly at Legend. He'll waste his first shot destroying this ghost if he has to. He is sick and tired of the lies and doubt and confusion! There is no place for that tonight! Yuri is finally about to pursue his justice, and Legend will not stop him!
"Please, listen," Yuri can almost see a human expression behind that mask of his. "What you dream of becoming… and what you become in pursuit of that dream…" He shakes his head slightly, regretfully. "They never match up. Whether it was right or wrong to kill me, I'm begging you: Learn from what I did wrong."
Mr. Legend, the bright and shining star of Sternbild, pursuing truth and justice and honor, ended up nothing more than a lowlife abuser and drunkard. If Yuri had intentions to become the embodiment of Justice itself, what will happen if he loses his way? What if he succeeds in his quest, and finds the world has become something completely different than predicted? Could he deal with such unforeseen consequences? Suddenly, Yuri remembers his mother. He completely forgot to set up safeguards for her in case of his arrest or death. He didn't even say goodbye to her before he left the house.
There isn't much that Yuri considers precious to him. He's lost or sacrificed everything else. Is he willing to lose what little he has left that he still cares for?
"Yuri," Legend smiles. It's the smile Yuri remembers from his blissful childhood. "My son..."
Yuri can't stop it; his eyes ignite, and in a swell of rage, he throws a fireball straight through Legend's heart. Time and time again, Legend has shaken Yuri's faith in his justice—but not tonight. The phantom vanishes, and eyes still blazing, Yuri turns back to the prison. He conjures a bolt of fire in his hands, slides it into the crossbow, and takes aim.
He takes a deep breath. Clenches his teeth. Grips the crossbow tighter.
Then fires his first shot.