Author's Note:

Just little bits of editing this time, really.

So, quick summary that you aren't going to need, but might want anyway: the Justice League is a fairly new institution in Earth-?. I've not thought up their particular origin story in detail, but current members include Superman (Clark Kent), Wonder Woman (Diana of Themyscira), Batman (Batman), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Flash (Barry Allen) and Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz). Aquaman (King Orin) is the world's most badass politician, and between his very time-intensive job and his family doesn't have the spare time needed for being part of the League. They are a spiritual successor to the Justice Society, which punched a lot of Nazi supervillains back in the day and featured Wonder Woman, the Flash (Jay Garrick), Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson), the Spectre (Jim Corrigan) and the original Green Lantern (Alan Scott), among others that people who aren't into DC lore have almost certainly never heard of.

(The team's Green Lantern is Kyle Rayner, since Stewart is busy starting a family with Hawkgirl - she isn't a Thanagarian spy/sleeper agent in this timeline, but rather her DCAU fake origin story is real, so their relationship went a lot better and advanced quicker. Jordan had some Parallax related problems that led to Rayner's selection, while Gardner has, through a series of strange circumstances, found himself leading the Red Lantern Corps after Atrocitus fell afoul of Larfleeze.)

Yes, I've thought this world out far more than is actually relevant to the story. I'll probably end up putting some of my design notes after the epilogue, so if you have any questions, leave a review and I'll share later.

Wonder Woman was not a fan of monitor duty. Despite that, she did a lot of it, because she was good at it and had more time to spend on it than all the others save J'onn, and she had a much better temperament for it than, for example, Flash. Really, it involved a lot of boredom, punctuated by sudden, half-expected moments of adrenalin, after which she got to rush off to help out. J'onn tended to take all of the shifts no one volunteered for, since he actually lived on the Watchtower.

Diana wasn't entirely sure that it was good for the telepath to isolate himself from the people living on Earth like that, but she recognized that J'onn was still scarred from what had happened to the other Martians. Survivors guilt was a terrible thing before you added telepathic linking to the people you lost into the situation.

Monitor duty mostly involved keeping an eye on the Watchtower's sensors while trawling through news outlets to pick out disasters they could provide meaningful aid to. The rest of the job was being there to pick up the phone if another member of the League called for help.

There was the sound of approaching feet, and a hesitant pause, before J'onn knocked on the open doorframe to get her attention. He was still in the process of adjusting to being around non-telepaths, so he made an effort to announce his presence. "Wonder Woman," J'onn intoned, "I sensed a strangeness during my meditations today. I am... unsure of the import or the source, but felt it prudent to inform you."

Diana arched a sculpted brow. "Strangeness as in, unusual thought patterns? Or an unusual being passing by?" Hopefully this wasn't a prelude to some madman's attempt at mass mind control. She was reasonably confident about the protections she had arranged for the Spear of Destiny, but even her gods had their limitations.

"Closer to the second." J'onn somewhat belatedly gestured with his hands. He did not naturally fidget or gesture like humans did, though he sometimes would subtly shapeshift to reflect his emotions. This left him somewhat strange for humans to interact with, because the expected body language cues were simply missing unless he made the effort to consciously produce them. "But... somewhat delocalized. I could not pin down the source's location, though I feel confident in saying that it was located on Earth, rather than approaching from beyond high Earth orbit."

He paused, distracted, and closed his eyes. Diana's attention was caught be a blinking red light on one of the control panels, which almost immediately began to produce an infuriating beeping noise. It had her attention, so it could just be quiet already, right? She followed the prompting to bring up an interior view of the Watchtower's lounge, which was no longer unoccupied. J'onn, opening his eyes to see that he had been preempted in alerting her of their visitors, joined her in a moment of befuddled staring at the sight of... four children?

Two of the children could be described as teenagers, though young ones, while the other two, nervously standing behind the non-glowing teen, were perhaps eight years of age. Three of the children were wearing some unprofessionally modified combination of robes and bandages, with pouches and scrolls tied to them. The last, who they were carefully eying, wore something that reminded Diana more of a white version of the modern Green Lantern costumes than anything else, though there wasn't a ring or mask to complete the ensemble.

"Give her back!" The oldest one brandished a black dagger towards the child wreathed in garb and glow of white. She was very hesitant about it, though she clearly knew how to use the weapon, Diana noted. But more importantly-

"I hear them speaking in the dialect of my home," J'onn's mental voice rang clear to her.

"Themysciran Greek for me," Diana noted, trusting he was listening to her thoughts. "They have the gift of tongues... I see no obvious mystical artifacts, so I would tentatively suspect the child in white is responsible."

"This one has a noble purpose to serve," the child in white said with a reassuring smile. "We understand that this is inconvenient for you, but this one's spirit comprehended the dire need that drove this course and welcomed me, even if her conscious mind could not grasp my message."

"I don't care about any of that!" The thick glasses on the teen's nose slipped a little as she trembled. "Give Shikako back!"

"Please!" The little girl hiding behind the eldest's right side started... leaking a swarm of bugs, was the best way Diana could think to put it. "I'll... My kikaichu will eat all of you up if you don't go away, so... so leave Shikako-neechan alone!"

The girl in white shook her head, even as the little girl on the left did something strange with her eyes and held her hands up, with the beginnings of a glow around them. "It is futile. I possess far greater energy than your entire clan could devour. Accept that this is how things are, now." She looked towards J'onn and Diana. "Good, you have arrived."

"Pleased to meet you," Diana spoke first, hoping to defuse the situation. "Can I ask what the point of contention is, and the reason for your arrival at this station?"

"Enemy action resulted in these ones becoming stranded in this parallel." The child in white spoke calmly, while her elder gritted her teeth. "This one set upon the task of forming a portal to return home of the type wherein a compact region is formed within an unaffected area of space-time, and the topology of the transit is similar to-"

"Shikako got possessed by this crazy energy being and we can't get rid of it!" The eldest interrupted. The child in white, Shikako, beamed at her.

"That is correct. You are incapable of changing the situation. Recognizing your own limitations in this matter is important." Shikako, or rather whatever was possessing her, turned back towards Diana and J'onn. "We will soon enter into combat against our opposite number, in life's name and for life's sake. This one desires that safety and aid be granted to her protectorate." She looked towards the other children as she said that, so her meaning was fairly clear. "This one has imparted knowledge and resources upon them prior to this one's sublimation, however there was not enough time to finish development of the portal. Time grows short, and we must depart now. Will you aid these children?"

J'onn spoke for both of them:

"Naturally, we will not abandon them in their time of need, but-"

There was a flash of white light, and Shikako was gone, ignoring the teen's protestations. The little girl with the bugs broke out in big wet sobs, while the white-eyed child stared stoically out the window towards the planet below, jaw clenched.

William Hand was a man of... unusual tastes. Necrophilia was not the full extent of it, though it was the desire to put his fascination to good use that had initially lead him to taxidermy.

He was long past the point of caring about 'good use' now.

Death fascinated him in every aspect. The remnants, corpses and tombstones alike. The anticipation in hospices. The desperation and release of the event itself.

Once, he had been more... modest in his glorification of death. He had been, and in fact still was, aware that others had differing opinions on the matter. Once, he had cared about that. But now, now he dreamed, and sought to make those dreams reality. Now, he had grown uncaring about what others thought. Now he didn't hold back.

His youngest brother's neck caved inwards with a dull crunch beneath William's unforgiving fingers. William relished the moment that the light left his eyes, the heartbeat stilled, and death, glorious death, stilled his brother's thoughts forever. All the lights had gone out. He breathed deep of the scent of the moment before letting the corpse drop to the floor, joining the rest of William's family. Mother and father, and all three of his brothers, all together in one beautiful display of death.

"Just one left," William sighed happily, a genuine smile on his lips as he reached for the specially chosen knife he wore on his belt. It had a weight to it, a heft. It was what he needed to make this moment perfect. "One more, and then all the lights go out..."

He held the blade, positioned it carefully so it would strike true. If he messed up now, why, that would ruin the whole thing, even if the result would be the same. After all, this death was special.

"All the lights go out," he repeated-

-and drove the knife into his chest, stilling his black, black heart. And that blackness he had nurtured, grew and bloomed in a great withering of the world and the Black Light of Death, Nekron, in that moment chose to-


Barry casually zipped along the burnished metal floors of the Watchtower at a lazy fifty miles an hour, and skidded to a halt as he passed through the door into the lounge. And- small crying child alert.

Quickly accelerating to just below the speed of sound to near-instantaneously reach Diana's side, Barry used the time he could perceive the world in slow motion to take in the ragged-looking threesome piled on the couch. He slapped on his best cheesy grin and leaned an elbow on the Amazon's shoulder as he blurred to a halt. "You called?" He drawled, giving the beautiful woman his seemingly full attention. "Who are the munchkins?"

Barry had passed Batman on the way in, holed up in the security room, which now made sense: he... probably wasn't the best at dealing with distressed children. Or maybe he was good with children, but letting it be known would ruin his image? Barry pondered the thought briefly, before dropping it faster than Diana could blink. Superman strode in through the opposite doorway, controlled power in every motion, while J'onn hovered before the bay window, deep in meditation.

Directing his thoughts back to the kids, Barry was pleased to have caught their attention, but... wow, jumpy. The little crying one stifled her tears and fixed her eyes on him, as did the older girl with the bottlecap glasses, but they didn't relax at all. After a moment, the teen looked away, fingers relaxing slightly from the death-grip she had on a big old dagger. She sagged inwards a little.

The little girl who wasn't crying had something up with her eyes, and didn't seem to react to him at all... blind or some sort of super perception, or both, he guessed.

"These are Hanabi, Shiho, and Chiyako," Diana said softly, looking at each of them in turn. "Girls, the speedster here is Flash, and that is Superman. Batman is off doing his own thing from what I understand, so that just leaves Green Lantern- ah, there we go."

"Sorry to hold everyone up," Kyle scratched the back of his head. "Huh, we don't usually get visitors up here?" He looked at Superman questioningly, but their vaguely acknowledged leader shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm interested to find out myself," the man of steel admitted.

"Shiho," Diana said gently, "can you tell us what happened? The more details we have, the better our odds of being able to help are."

Shiho's head drooped down towards the floor. "I don't know if I should," she whispered, sounding very young. "I, I just..."

Barry could tell that she was pretty near the end of her rope. She was clearly exhausted.

"We need help," Chiyako mumbled, tugging on Shiho's sleeve. "Nee-chan could be anywhere, and she's very strong. With that thing inside her, we, we're too weak to fight her even without it, so now..."

Shiho's eyes drooped, but she forced them open and put a hand lightly on Hanabi's shoulder.

Hanabi nodded slowly, her pale, pupil-less eyes settling on each of them in turn. "They are strong... they don't have chakra, but I can tell they can channel other energies, and a lot of them."

Kyle smiled at her. "You have good eyes-"

Barry watched it happen in slow motion, as Hanabi's stoic fa├žade shattered into an uncontrollable flinch, the girl curling in on herself defensively as if expecting an attack. Shiho and Chiyako's eyes widened, taking in what Kyle was saying and Hanabi's reaction, and they instinctively moved. Shiho practically threw herself to her feet in a defensive stance between Kyle and Hanabi, though her arms shook with fright and her eyes flickered around desperately, looking for an exit. Little Chiyako hurled herself on top of Hanabi the instant Shiho wasn't between them, as if expecting to block an attack with her body, and a swarm of insects flowed out of her clothes, swirling around and obscuring them from Barry's sight.

Kyle was taken aback, and actually retreated a few steps in the face of the near-hysterical children. "I- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. Was I being insensitive? I just..."

Shiho swallowed sharply, eyes darting around, and tried very hard to look nonchalant. "Y-yes. Hanabi was b-born blind. I-it is a very sore spot for us, and there's n-no reason to ever mention her eyes ever again. E-ever. And i-if anyone s-so much as, as even thinks about touching them, I'll, I'll stab them. For, um, for being really insensitive." She nodded several times in a row to punctuate her speech.

Barry stared, in a kind of stunned awe, at the girl who was quite possibly the worst liar he had met in his entire life. (It didn't quite distract him from his dawning sense of horror at what kind of trauma Hanabi had been put through to give that reaction from them.)

Kyle, while no fool, was a great guy through and through, and immediately and profusely apologized while Diana helped smooth the situation over. Chiyako continued to hold tightly to Hanabi, though, even after Shiho sat back down and Chiyako's insects crawled back inside her clothes...

That was a lot of insects, and her clothes weren't exactly baggy, Barry noted as he cheerfully razzed Kyle about scaring children. (Kyle played along.) ...It probably wasn't a good idea to speculate too much on the matter, he decided, and tried to not think about the rather uncomfortable mental images of various ways insects could manage the feat. She didn't seem to be injured, so they... probably weren't burrowing in through the skin or anything like that. He hoped.

"Shikako, or rather the entity possessing her, already told us that you came from a parallel world," Diana prompted gently. "We can try to help you get home later, but to try to help Shikako, we need to know everything you can tell us, both about Shikako and about the possessing entity."

Shiho, after a quiet nod from Hanabi, started to speak.

Batman had already begun his search for 'Shikako' as soon as he had gained access to the image of the girl on the Watchtower security feeds. He now had software running the image, and he expected that if she showed up somewhere populated she would eventually be captured on image. She was very eye-catching, after all.

Batman now worked on the little things an automated program couldn't do - examining news outlets for less obvious clues to Shikako's presence. Unexplained bursts of white light, explosions (so much chaff to work through here; each was a tragedy, but Batman needed to find the abnormal ones, those he could do something about), shadow manipulation... The possessing being had left for a confrontation, so it would only be a matter of time before some clue appeared. But if the fight occurred in a non-populated area...

Well, Bruce Wayne had put up several satellites over the years, and maybe Batman had the access codes to a few cameras. And getting at the raw footage for Google's Google Earth project was well within Batman's capabilities. It might not be enough, sadly. He was largely relying on the (in his experience, well founded) assumption that someone that glowed that brightly would be extremely visible in combat. She could go to ground, or even underground, and he might never find her.

He stopped moving, stiff as a statue, as an atavistic terror filled him. He lunged to the side, half-expecting an attack, but nothing appeared. The room was the same as it had ever been. Yet... he had sensed something. Had he picked up on something that his conscious mind ignored, or perhaps an empathy or telepath had broadcasted at him? He listened carefully, holding his breath, but could not hear anyone else in his immediate vicinity.

His eyes were drawn to the monitor showing the lounge, and he found verification that he had not suddenly developed paranoia. Everyone was on their feet, cautiously searching for the cause of the moment of unnatural dread. With haste, Batman cycled through the interior cameras of the Watchtower. There was nothing to be found, and at the very least none of the obvious signs of tampering were present. He proceeded to check more carefully.

"I feel an oppressive, unnatural pall hanging over us."

Batman listened carefully to the Martian Manhunter's speech as he continued his work.

"But it lays even heavier upon the world below. I sense a great disturbance in the American Mid-West."

Nekron stood in the center of a four-way intersection, head thrown back to see the sky. Slowly, the stars above became visible, one by one, as the balmy evening became proper night. It was a beautiful sight of cold, emotionless splendor, which tonight, and every night to come until the sun expanded and devoured the Earth, would be clearly visible. All throughout the downtown Milwaukee area, car engines failed to start, lights flickered and died, and plants and small animals wilted and stilled. This was merely the beginning, these minor manifestations of death. Nekron's concentrated presence already lapped away at the glow of human lives within the region, and the entire world trembled in unknowing terror.

But to really get the ball rolling... That was easy enough, now. William had already done the hard work. Nekron flexed the hands that had once belonged to William, reveling in the physical might of the corpse he now possessed.

An officer of the law, whose voice Nekron had easily been tuning out for the past minutes, looked down each street carefully before walking out briskly towards the form of William Hand. For a moment, Nekron considered merely letting the fool attempt to accost him. Such a weak light as his would be snuffed out in an instant by contact with the black light that infused and garbed this body. But, perhaps it was a leftover from William's sense of artistry, but Nekron on a whim grasped the dagger on his belt and swung, cleaving the officer's head from his shoulders with the effortless strength his dead form possessed.

As the body and head separately struck the ground, Nekron's presence instantly became palpable. The city's inhabitants weakened, stumbled at the pressure that not only weighed upon their bodies, but upon their very souls. Nekron's black light visibly swirled around him, and the sky seemed to dim as the wind, carrying traces of the blackness, began to howl. Nekron could feel his influence expanding outwards with each moment, and as the downtown area started to choke and die due to his existence, living beings a hundred or more miles away found that it was becoming difficult to breathe. He smiled, all teeth, as the officer's radio crackled, asking what had happened and receiving no reply.

"All the lights go out," Nekron promised. This world was only the beginning. "Starting with you, nameless thing."

The life elemental's borrowed form stepped towards William's, the white light she emitted stilling the black winds Nekron had summoned. "We need no name. We do not act for our own interests, but for the interests of all the lives that give us meaning. We will only say this once: your presence upon this plane is unnatural and deleterious to life. Leave."

"Unnatural," Nekron said with amusement. "Death is a fundamental part of the world. Life ends in its presence. That is the natural order right there." He idly pointed his knife at her. "You are a fool to forget it. Coming here to confront me is merely saving me time. I must thank you for making this so easy for me." He stabbed the blade forward, and the Black Light rushed out, a spear of death aimed for her heart.

The Life Entity reached out, grasped the blade and halted it with far greater strength than a girl her host's size could project, and White Light flared back along Nekron's attack, a flowering vine of white that shattered the blackness it dug into and sought out Nekron's heart.

Nekron, taken aback, vanished the construct into the ether and leaped away, taking note of the Life Entity's host for the first time. A small child in comparison to the full-grown man that William was, Nekron should have felt confident, especially with the enhanced strength and durability an undead host gave him. Yet... something about how the Life Entity had responded defied his expectations. It seemed very confident, for a being in conflict with its natural predator. Nekron drew on more of the Black Light, matching the level that the Life Entity had already-

Realizing that the Life Entity had used his hesitation to prepare its next strike, Nekron leapt off the ground with a thought of wings, leaving carrion feathers of blackness in his wake. It was not a moment too soon, for the Life Entity's White Light erupted upwards and outwards, and also deep down into the earth, forming a vast tree of white that matched the height of the local skyscrapers, its branches and roots smashing apart roads and windows as the great construct swung its branches down at him while its roots spiked up with entrapment in mind.

An impressive opening move, but Nekron sped forward at the speed of thought, and swung an equally vast scythe of darkness through a convenience store on the way to a destined meeting with the tree's trunk. He bit deep, though he couldn't force his way through entirely in one swipe. Rather than draw back for another swing, he merely vanished the construct and drove a chainsaw the size of a bus into the gap, aiming for the pulsing heart of the White Light that was-

No longer there?

The roots of the tree caught him by a leg and slammed him into the ground. He looked around wildly as he blasted it back with his aura, seeking where the Life Entity had secreted itself, but the tree blocked too much from his sight. Taking a page from his enemy's book, he flared his power and thick strangler vines took form, grappling with and choking the White Light construct. As its roots dug in, he eagerly called upon the black light's power and drank deep of the White Light's potency. In fact, it strangely seemed as though he was too effective, and he forced himself to cut off the energy drain as the White Light almost filled William's form completely before Nekron buckled down and subsumed it to form more of the Black Light. The experience was more exhausting than refreshing. Frustrated, he expanded his awareness, and grew eyes upon his vines to aid his search. There, on the opposite side of the trunk in the highest branches-

The Life Entity smiled kindly, as if she were doing him a favor, and pushed the tree with a hand. Obligingly, her construct snapped at the base and began to fall, bringing it all crashing down upon Nekron's head. Nekron turned to look for escape, but the roots weaved thickly together to entrap him in that direction, and with a snarl he formed his Light into a spiraling drill, and dove directly into the oncoming trunk. It was exhausting, pushing through the concentrated life like this, but he burst free on the other side with a grunt of effort. As the imitation of a great and mighty tree crushed a city block behind him and knock-on effects spread the ruin even further as a sky-scraper it crashed into screeched and wobbled, soon to fall, Nekron flashed behind his foe. The Life Entity, caught off-guard, barely managed to bring a skinny arm up to futilely attempt to defend against his undead form's powerful strike-

Except, the child's body had unnatural strength and speed of its own, and Nekron found himself slamming into the ground. That... that was no ordinary girl! The Life Entity had chosen a host with powers of its own! He sneered up at the child in white. No matter, he still had an insurmountable advantage in the conceptual strength of his concept above hers. Life can fight death, but never defeat it. Now that he was aware of what he was facing, he could overcome it. He stood, filled with the certainty of the grave, and leapt aside from a blast of White launched by his foe. However, as he did so he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye- green light, high in the sky.

And not just any green light. That was a wielder of the Green Light of Willpower! The Life Entity, it had contacted this world's heroes! Nekron judged his strength, and found to his disconcertment that he was depleted enough that if those fools in the Justice League arrived to lend his foe aid- And yes, a blur of red moved down the city's streets towards him. They were coming in force. No! He would not be stopped! He would retreat, rest, and strike at his advantage!

With a final hateful glare at the Life Entity, Nekron vanished into the night mere moments before the Flash arrived.

In which: DC characters the average reader is familiar with finally appear, Chiyako threatens to eat someone, William Hand succeeds at all of his life goals, Shikako's companions are pretty close to having nervous breakdowns, the Life Entity doesn't understand the concept of collateral damage, the Justice League really is trying to help (but they are stuck playing catch-up for now), and Nekron is absolutely convinced of his ultimate victory (If It Weren't For Those Meddling Kids).