I do not own either One Piece or Justice League Unlimited.
Beta read by the wonderful rose7anne101 and MasterQwertster. Make sure to check out their stories!
Additional credit to MasterQwerster for being the one to create this wonderful story image!
Chapter 1: The Heroes
Unlike my previous crossovers, this story is meant to be serious, and not a crackfic.
I got this idea from watching some One Piece where the CP9 people and marines were yelling about striving to bring about "justice," and I was thinking about how the World Government uses that word to rationalize everything they do, and I started thinking about how the Straw Hats would actually react to meeting more people who honestly believed in justice. Note that in the Navy, marines who both have noteworthy clout and scruples are in the minority, like Smoker for example.
"So why're we both here, Perry?" Lois Lane demanded as soon as she stepped into her editor's office.
Truthfully, Clark Kent, her fellow reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper, was a little nervous about her coming along. Unlike her, he had a better idea of what they were about to get into, and there were still a few mysteries about this upcoming assignment that bothered him. Still, he trusted Batman's intel, and while Lois was smart and resourceful on her own, he would be there to protect her if necessary.
Having Clark Kent alongside the tough-minded and fiery woman seemed far from reassuring to most, except Clark went to a lot of effort to make people underestimate him. Clothing always slight wrinkled, a habitual slouch that made him appear smaller and slightly overweight, dull glasses that slightly changed the tint of his eyes, and a carefully cultivated air that made people ignore him unless he was firing off piercing and insightful questions as a reporter. Yet underneath that well-made yet unimaginative suit was the red and blue uniform of Superman, the world's mightiest hero.
Gruffly, Editor-in-Chief Perry White put down some papers he was holding to explain. "I want the two of you to check out a new company that's come out in the last year: Cherry Blossom Medical. The reason I want the two of you is because Kent's sources have brought up a few questions."
Lois frowned in thought at the name. "I've been hearing about them a lot lately, now that I think about it. They're making a lot of breakthroughs in medicine, aren't they? Weird logo for a medical company though, a skull and crossbones with pink blossoms all over it."
Adjusting his glasses, Clark nodded. "Yes, but despite that marketing issue, they're getting huge business thanks to their developments all across the medical field. Especially in terms of surgery, pharmacology, vaccinations, and salves that cure regular injuries at a staggering rate. According to my sources," a.k.a. Batman, "they're also selling their products at less than most companies would, despite how people would be willing to pay a lot more for them. Of course, since it's so popular and cheap, they're still making a lot of money, and growing very fast."
"Alright," and then she smiled at Clark, "so what's the catch, Smallsville? What're they hiding?"
"That's what you're going to find out," Perry declared, "especially with what else Kent has to say."
Lois stopped for a moment in thought. "It's something to do with Lex Luthor, isn't it? That many advances from one company, and being so charitable and all."
"Try to be more objective, Lane," Perry warned. "Luthor's not responsible for everything. But no, and in a way it's actually even more suspicious because of that."
"Lots of companies, including both Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp, have been trying to buy the company," Clark explained, "except none of them have been successful."
"Alright," Lois agreed with raised eyebrows, "that is suspicious. I know Bruce Wayne's smart and got good people working for him, and if they think it would be a good deal, they'd do all they could to get a hold of Cherry Blossom. Just legally. But keeping Lex out!? How're they doing that!?"
Unspoken between Lois and Clark was the knowledge, loathe as they were to admit it, that Lex was absolutely brilliant, and if the multi-billionaire thought Cherry Blossom was a good deal, then they should probably think of investing in stock themselves. But what was very surprising was the megalomaniac had failed. The man was very skilled at convincing people that they should 'cooperate' with him. He would use bribery, blackmail, threats, violence, whatever it took to get them where they were vulnerable.
Not that they had ever proven anything.
"We'll find out whatever it is, Chief," Lois promised.
"See that you do."
"But why isn't Jimmy," their main photographer, "here?"
The older man coughed awkwardly at that. "There's some other photos I want him to catch, yet I also thought it would be best not to have pictures this time, might distract from the Daily Planet's image," he explained as he hunted for a particular piece of paper. "The main staff don't get out in public much, but here's a photo of Dr. Nami Mikan," and he showed Lois the image.
"…No way those are real."
It was an almost surreal sight.
The sun was bearing down on an unusually hot day, traffic was backed up for blocks to get onto the bridge, but everyone was patiently waiting. Some of the cars just joining the line started angrily honking their horns, until those ahead of them popped their heads out of the window to calmly explain and/or point at a distinctive green glow that would settle everyone down as they realized who was responsible for the delay.
They trusted the hero to have a good reason, and know what he was doing.
John Stewart, or as he was more commonly known, Green Lantern, flew back a few more meters to survey his work. The African-American ex-marine turned space cop had been flying home, wanting nothing more than his bed, when out of the corner of the eye he had caught something wrong with the bridge. A quick inspection revealed that one side of it over the water, blocked from most viewpoints by trees or from facing the ocean, was starting to look a little unstable. Maybe it would have been safe to wait a few more hours, except it would have been criminal to take the risk. Never mind supervillains or alien invasions destabilizing it, what if an earthquake happened?
A little work via his power ring, creating green constructs to act as the necessary tools, and it was looking much better now. He waved to the people watching in their cars (he had blocked traffic from getting on for a few minutes to be safe, but none of them seemed to mind) and flew off. I'll find out who's responsible for this and let them know exactly what I did so they can double-check tomorrow. They were probably sending someone any day now, but this is safer and saves tax payers money. And if they weren't on the ball after all, then it'll serve as a polite wake-up call. I'll still check them out later, and get Batman to help me go through their records to make sure this isn't the result of shoddy work to pay off any kickbacks, he grimly promised.
From the very start Clark was nervous, and glad he had his Superman costume on underneath his suit.
"Doesn't look like much," Lois noted, taking in the generic, yet newly constructed building. "For an up and coming company, they sure aren't worried about public image."
No, Clark thought, but I'd say they are worried about people spying on them, given how the walls are lined with lead. His X-ray vision was useless here.
They went in to see the receptionist, who verified that they had an appointment, although then the pretty woman took a furtive glance around before leaning towards Lois. "The CEO, he's just all talk, alright? Never touches anyone, and will back off if you tell him to." Before they could ask any questions, she called the CEO to say that two reporters from the Daily Planet were here, and the cheerful voice told them to come right in.
"Well helloooooo~! It's such a pleasure to graced by the enchanting presence of the Lois Lane~!" the man behind the desk cried out, before swooping out to appear before her with a variety of cups on a tray, extended with an exaggerated flourish. "Something to drink~?"
Despite the tantalizing aromas, Lois tightly refused. The way the man looked her over making her feel slimy.
"Uhm, I'd—" Clark began.
"I wasn't talking to you!" the blonde man snapped, grinding on his cigarette, before throwing a lustful look back at Lois. "Can we start the interview please?" she coldly asked.
"Why of course~!" and the supposed CEO all but danced backwards to pull out a seat for Lois. There was none for Clark.
"We'll stand and you can sit," she told him, and he agreeably took a seat behind his desk. "Sanji Kuroashi at your service. You can call me Sanji, Lois~!" he beamed, before glowering at Clark. "Mr. Kuroashi for you, and don't forget it!"
Unbelievable, Lois thought. This guy can't be in charge! They'd never get anything done. . . . No, alright, calm down. It could be an act. Maybe even probably, given how over-the-top it is. If I have to, I'll just turn on the charm with him, telling Smallsville to give us some space. If all else fails, I hit him and scream while Clark gets the police to lock this creep up.
Privately, Clark was vowing to never leave this man alone with Lois, no matter what she said. He was far too dangerous, and not in the way she was probably thinking.
At first glance, Mr. Kuroashi, if that was his real name, had a thin yet wiry build which implied he kept himself in shape, if only casually. Kryptonian X-ray vision however revealed that like his friend Bruce, the Batman, there was more here than met the eye, but on a greater scale. There was a staggering physique compacted under that skin.
Powerful, wiry muscles that were beyond anything a human could naturally develop. The more that he examined them, the more Clark felt they were more like his own in terms of scale, especially the leg muscles. He had only seen such development in the Flash. No, there was no doubt that Kuroashi was a meta-human, and one with incredible strength.
Given the hints of secrecy and his behaviour, it was very possible Kuroashi was also a dangerous meta-human.
"I can't place your accent," Lois began, deciding to lead with some easy questions. "I'd almost swear it was Japanese, but I'm not sure. Where are you from?" Especially since the man sported clearly Caucasian features and hair colour.
"Wherever you want me to be from," Kuroashi said with transparent effort to appear seductive. He then paused to pull out another cigarette to light it.
"You smoke that inside?" Lois noted with some surprise. While she was not one to judge on such a thing, it was something generally considered as unprofessional. Although what about him is professional? Except for that suit. I admit it is pretty classy. Just about the only good thing about him.
"Why not?" he shrugged while retaining his 'suave' smile, his blond hair still covering his right eye. "I'm the boss here after all."
"Your name, 'Kuroashi,' that's Japanese for 'Black Leg' or 'Black Foot,' isn't it?" Clark said, having picked up a little of the language.
"Maybe, what's it matter?" Kuroashi growled.
Deciding that beating around the bush was getting nowhere, Lois switched to the offensive. "It's really amazing what you've done with this company, Sanji," she said with the slightest flutter of her eyelashes. Surprisingly, the man became more serious.
"I'm just handling the business side of things, and part time at that. This is really a favour for my friend, who's the real expert. His dream is to find a cure for all of the world's illnesses."
"So you're doing it to make the world a better place?" Lois sweetly asked, noting how the CEO had said "his dream," while Dr. Mikan was a woman.
"Well, it's good publicity, and keeping prices low makes it more appealing for most people," the CEO countered with a small grin. Surprisingly, once he was focused on this new topic, he almost seemed suave. "That means people are more willing to try our products out, and then find out how superior we are. Give us enough time," his smile turning into a smirk, "we'll put all of the other companies out of business, and be able to expand our operations further."
"And then you'll raise your prices?" Lois accused.
"Oh no, Lois!" he cried out, looking both horrified at upsetting her and infatuated. "I'd never do something like that if it'd offend you! Our prices will continue to remain low!"
"But how did you achieve such breakthroughs," Clark interjected, hoping to rile the man up by 'interfering' between him and Lois again. It made people sloppy. Contrarily, the blonde kept his cool, his smile widening out of pride.
"That's because we've got the best doctor in whole world working here."
He answered a few more questions in a calm, comfortable manner, yet the veteran reporters were not fooled. Not only was he carefully avoiding giving any more solid details, there was an air of rehearsal to this. As if he were playing a role he had practiced for, as opposed to genuinely being a CEO. Granted, he had said he was not really into this, but given the massive amount of money the company was making, and his wannabe-playboy demeanor, such altruism was harder to swallow.
However, Lois also realized he was procrastinating. "Could we perhaps meet with Dr. Mikan?"
"Certainly!" and the maniac edge had returned to Sanji Kuroashi. Pushing a speed-dial button on his desk phone, he quickly crooned out, "Nami-swaaaaan~! Those reporters would like to speak with you~!"
"Be there in a minute!" a bright young voice answered back, yet Clark caught the same accent. Japanese too. Hmm, 'mikan' means 'tangerine,' right?
As much as she wanted to make them suffer, Princess Diana, Wonder Woman, kept herself in check as she tied the scum up to a handy pole with strips of metal she casually bent in her hands.
Some of those girls aren't even ten! she silently snarled to herself as she struggled to keep her face a mask.
Hollow-eyed, they were huddled behind her, desperately trying to make themselves small enough that she might not see them. Afraid that this violent newcomer was but one more in a chain of abusers. Violators. Owners.
It was the ones with rage and pain in their eyes that concerned Diana however.
They know they're being rescued, and want to use this chance to hurt their captors. Not just kill them, hurt them. Torture them to make them feel the sort of pain they've been forced through. But if I let them do that, let them give in to that sort of violence, it'll only be harder for them to come back.
They might think it'll give them closure, but that's not what we can allow ourselves to teach the children. The ones who will inherit this world.
Millennia ago, before isolating themselves from the world and guarding the gate to Tartarus, Diana's mother and sister Amazons had been subjected to enslavement, rape, murder, and torment at the hands of men, and it was on days like this she wondered if anything had really changed in Man's World. But it must, because there is so much potential for good in all of them. That's why it's up to us to protect them from the monsters, and help them heal from the violations and sufferings inflicted upon them, by those who think they can do whatever they wish.
No matter how much it pained Diana to hold back against these human traffickers. Suppressing her own desire to wreak vengeance in the girls' place. And yes, her own mother and sisters had rebelled and killed their own enslavers, except that was a different time, and not the world she was trying to help build here and now; not only one where this sort of thing did not happen, but one where death was not answered by death. Yes, sometimes it was the only solution, yet that did not mean she wanted to teach it to a bunch of young girls. It became a trap that was too easy to fall into…
For if we want to change the world, then we've got to hold ourselves to that same standard, to prove that change is possible. Or as my mother always said, 'Lead by example, or they will not follow.'
While an attractive, smart, and independent woman in her own right, Lois Lane was finding herself having a tough time believing the same of Dr. Nami Mikan from the moment she sauntered into the room. And no, Lois did not miss how Smallsville's gaze snapped to the woman's oversized bust.
It was not jealousy or disbelief that any woman could be both a brilliant scientist and attractive; the veteran reporter simply had a hard time believing that this vision of beauty spent any time doing hard work of any kind. Her waist-length fiery red hair shone with a healthy gleam that bespoke meticulous and time consuming care. While she wore a lab coat over everything, Lois found it hard to believe that someone supposedly working with chemicals and medical instruments would wear a very high skirt, and her very low and exposing frilled dark blouse was open nearly all the way, displaying her massive and obviously silicone cleavage. Does she even have a bra on!?
Then she caught the woman's eyes, and recognized them from her own reflection.
No, Lois knew. She might be a fraud –what kind of self-respecting scientist would dress like that!?— but she's not just some vapid exhibitionist. Dr. Mikan gave her and Clark a quick once-over, but in a way that Lois knew was to judge their own reactions. Subtle calculations directed towards deciphering the reporters' own intentions, and not in a cynical manner either. This was not a woman who dressed herself up for the sake of the men in her life, nor for their attention. She dressed as she wanted, because it was her body and she looked glorious like this.
This is a woman who's used to getting what she wants, and isn't afraid to do whatever it takes to get it. For all that she dresses like that, I doubt she's into casual romance. I'm still going to chew Clark up for staring at her chest however. Ugh, he's still glued to it.
Dr. Jonathan fiddled with his sleeve as he prepared to begin his rounds, looking forward to his newest shift. There were always patients to help at Central City Hospital, but things here were a lot calmer these days, without anything truly serious for a while.
Then he was hauled off his feet and his surroundings blurred around him. Blinking he found himself suddenly in the emergency room, a pair of children stretched out before him, heavily burnt and— a quick check confirmed they were not breathing.
Leaping into action, the doctor raced to save them, assistants and medical instruments appearing around him in flashes of red.
An eternity later, the exhausted medical doctor walked out of the room, finding a man in a full-body skintight red suit anxiously tapping his foot. "They're going to be okay, Flash. You got them the help they needed just in time," he addressed Central City's beloved hero.
With a sigh of relief, the Flash, secretly Wally West, allowed himself to relax. While many called him the 'Fastest Man Alive,' Dr. Jonathan had always privately referred to him as the 'Friendliest Man Alive,' always looking out to help people, and connect with them. "There's new treatments we've started by Cherry Blossom Medical that should keep them from getting any scars. But what happened to them?"
"Big fire in an apartment complex," Flash explained, while an orderly diligently came up with a cart laden down with food. Brightening up a little, the speedster immediately began shovelling down food to appease his hyper metabolism. Continuing, "I think it was someone smoking indoors or something, and it got out of control." Wiping his face, Flash finished off the massive meal, and started towards the door with a determined stride.
"The children'll want to thank you when they come to," Jonathan called after him.
"I'll be back later, I've got to take care of something else first."
Preparing for a massive run, the Flash shot a look back. "Putting smoke alarms in every household and apartment in the city, and checking the batteries of those that're already there."
Braking, Flash stumbled for a moment, before turning back to see the doctor and orderly pulling out their wallets. "The fire department will probably cover the expense, but here's some to help pay for it all," Jonathan grimly yet sincerely offered.
Seeing the speedster smile again was infectious for the whole hospital.
Clark could not take his x-ray vision off Dr. Mikan's breasts.
First of all, he had discovered that despite how oversized they were, particularly for someone whose waistline was so thin, they were –somehow— indeed 100% natural.
Second, like the rest of her body, they were still hiding stuff.
Specifically, crammed between the massive pair was a baton made up of strange and unrecognizable technology, as well as an assortment of other objects.
Moreover, while nowhere in the same class as Sanji Kuroashi, her seemingly flawless body concealed a coiled physique that would put a Navy SEAL to shame.
While she might present herself as a beautiful scientist, this woman could doubtlessly run faster and hit harder than any non-Amazonian Human woman Clark had ever met. Instinctively he knew that this was the result of hard training, born from a desire to survive whatever the world could throw at her. What made such a woman feel the need to develop a body like that?
I don't want to leave either of these people alone with Lois, each of whom had discrete ear pieces hidden by their hair, but if we leave now, we might tip them off. Not to mention I'll never be able to convince her to get out of here! Her courage, despite being so fragile, was one of the things he so loved about Lois. And while it was not a reckless, foolhardy courage, there was nothing he could use to justify why he thought she was in danger.
These people are more than they seem, and they're both fighters. How far would they go to protect their secrets?
Clark glanced at Kuroashi and gave a gulp that was only half-faked. The man was evidently trying to set the reporter on fire with his eyes, visibly struggling to resist the urge to say something or attack. He's jealous? But while he's also treating Lois that way? Clark let a hint of contempt show in his eyes. Shameful.
Shayera Hol, known to the people of Earth as Hawkgirl, gently laid the kitten into the arms of elderly woman. "Hopefully he's learned not to climb trees anymore," she smiled. Then she gently spreading the feathered wings on her back to take off, making sure to not disturb the grateful senior with a gust of wind.
While still vigilantly keeping an eye out as she performed a random patrol, Shayera took a moment to breath in the peace of this planet. A peace that her fellow Thangarians had not known for far too long. And it'll stay that way! she vowed. These people will never have to grow up knowing threats like the Gordanians!
That was why she was here after all. Why High Command had sent such a skilled lieutenant and former instructor in espionage to infiltrate this world with the mission of determining Earth's weaknesses in case the Gordanians attacked them. When she had first arrived, so far away from the front lines of the seemingly endless war and its atrocities, she had been skeptical that the fighting would reach here. As time had passed, and particularly after joining with her fellow defenders and heroes to repel the Imperium Invasion, she had discovered many things that might attract the Gordanians and their depravity.
Technology and people with powers to fuel their war machines. Innocents that the Gordanians would torture for the sheer joy of it.
Yet as Hawkgirl, she was also finding a sense of peace that she had never known growing up on a world geared for a seemingly endless war. As a hero, she struck out with her Nth-mace to capture, not to kill. She worked to help the weak that the cold practicalities of warfare had often forced her to reluctantly overlook. With the Justice League she had found friends she could trust and depend on.
Despite the lies she had to tell, it was her personal pride and pleasure to serve these people and protect them. Even better, as a member of the Justice League she was in the perfect position to do so. Either from the villains of this world, or from the Gordanians should they ever appear.
Lois and Dr. Mikan ignored Clark who was following behind them for the tour, with Mr. Kuroashi picking up the rear. "How do you stand working with that guy?" Lois bit off, hoping to provoke a reaction. Plus, she was genuinely curious as to why this sharp-eyed woman endured all of that depraved attention. . . . She probably abuses it to get whatever she wants.
"Sanji's not so bad," Dr. Mikan lightly defended. So, on first name's basis, Lois noted. "For all that he acts, he's a gentleman to the core," the redhead continued. "Mostly. At the very least, a lady can always feel safe around him. Which is more than you can say about most men."
The incredulously raised eyebrow Lois gave was ignored, and Dr. Mikan went on to explain her work and what her current projects were. While it did not seem rehearsed like Kuroashi's commentary, it was still hard for the reporter to swallow, unless . . . "You use the treatments yourself, don't you?" she asked.
"You're a smart one, aren't you," winked Dr. Mikan, while holding up one flawless hand. "Otherwise I'd have a lot more scars and weathered skin. It's really a miracle worker!"
"Is that why you invented them?"
"No," the scientist reassured her, before acting more serious. "There was a doctor a while back, everyone thought he was a quack for all of his experiments, but he genuinely wanted to heal all of the world's illnesses." She gestured around. "He's the inspiration for this place. The cosmetic applications were solely intended for mental health. For people to feel better about themselves."
Mollified, Lois asked some more questions, but could not shake the feeling that she was missing something. Something big. Perhaps related to why Clark seemed edgier than usual . . .
Later that afternoon
"Well?" Batman bluntly asked once he sensed Superman behind him, the darkness of the Batcave enfolding around them.
Unfazed at being detected despite his silent flight over to the Batcomputer, Clark had already removed his glasses and donned his superhero costume. He gave a small smile to his friend, the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, but really the fearsome Batman. "And hello to you too."
"Out with it, Clark," Batman snapped, noting the slight hints of concern in his frie—teammate. Teammate was the word.
"The entire building's laced with lead," much like the Batcave for that matter, "so they're definitely hiding something. Especially the top people there."
He went on to give his report.
Finally, "So what got you so interested in them that you sent me and Lois to look at them in the first place? Why haven't you gone yourself? Is there something illegal or dangerous in the drugs and medicine they're selling?"
"Nothing so straightforward," his friend denied, except Clark could hear the slight touch of annoyance. "Their company is selling multiple ground breaking advances that cover the entire medical field. Experts have also confirmed that they are selling them at less than they could actually charge if they wanted too."
He's frustrated that he can't figure it out, especially not on his own, Clark concluded. "And it really is ground breaking? Nothing sinister with the medicine itself?"
"I have some in the cave myself." Which, from the posterchild of paranoia, was high praise indeed.
Clark took a moment to think about it a little bit more. "Alright, and you got suspicious when Lex Luthor couldn't make them knuckle under?"
"Partially," the detective conceded, "but at first that was easy enough to explain. They are making enough money already that they might not feel tempted to be bought out. Also, there is little known about the CEO or Dr. Mikan for someone to dig up any dirt," Clark raised an eyebrow at this curious detail. The man known by some as The Detective had not found anything?
"They have no known acquaintances to coerce, and the level of security they maintain would make them difficult to intimidate. So Luthor's failings so far were understandable."
"No details whatsoever?"
"Nothing useful. Even 'Doctor' Mikan's credentials are faked, appearing only on record. No one from her supposed graduation remembers her." And a woman like that they certainly would have. The men at least. "However, that did not change the fact the work they are doing is beneficial."
And his own father was a billionaire who wanted nothing more than to be a family man and a doctor, Clark knew. Then something finally clicked into place. "If what they're hiding is nothing too serious, you're wondering about the possibility of the League working with them. Working to help improve their medical innovations with our own technology, and distributing it to the places around the world that need it more." Then he scowled. "You sent Lois in because you wanted the CEO off-guard," Batman was unrepentant, "and you wanted my original and unbiased impressions of them, so I could get a feel for them, while you do your own quiet investigation."
"More or less," the World's Greatest Detective said with a touch of approval at the deduction his teammate had accomplished. "But yes," straight to business. "I wanted your assessment of them before Superman approached them. People trust you more."
You wanted to help us develop a good relationship with them, to help so many more people, but you can't just say it, can you Bruce? Clark ruefully thought. You're paranoid as they come, but you've got a reason to be, with what we deal with. Yet despite it all, you wouldn't be wearing that cowl if you didn't believe in a better world. If you weren't still capable of seeing the good in it.
Then something else occurred to him. "But you didn't know the CEO was a meta, did you? So then what was it that made you concerned enough to send me in as an investigator, and not Superman? Or with the rest of the League?"
"Before I found out that they're lying about who they are, Fox and the lawyers at Wayne Enterprises brought to my attention that there are discrepancies in their finances," Batman growled. "A lot of their profits go back into safe investments, including building up their own business more so they can produce more and make more money, with only a fraction of those profits going unaccounted for. But given how widespread and popular their products are, they are raking in a lot of cash, so that small fraction is still worth a lot. Money even I can't trace."
He pulled up a spreadsheet, and when Clark saw the total sum of profits, his eyebrows raised at the number of digits making up the total amount of money that was missing. "I see what you mean. So you're worried the company is hiding something darker?"
"Exactly. Alfred suggested it might be for some medical project they want to keep secret from their competitors," which meant that a small part of Bruce had also hoped that if he had brought it up, "but now we know they're likely experimenting on manufacturing meta-humans!"
J'onn J'onzz, the last surviving Martian and now the Martian Manhunter of the Justice League strode along the monitor room of the Watchtower, the Justice League's headquarters orbiting the Earth.
It is a fine team we've assembled, and we've already accomplished so much together.
Some days they seemed to just spend their time up to their necks in pointless violence, dealing with those consumed by greed, violence, or both. Yet J'onn swore to never falter in protecting his newfound home from devastation. Never again.
Moreover, there were so many wonders to discover, like the mission they had just finished where they had discovered an invisible and technologically advanced city run by intelligent gorillas. Despite the danger they had faced –or the beating J'onn had endured by the misguided locals—that had been a fascinating experience, and the celebrations once the city had been saved had been very pleasant.
No, J'onn was proud to be a defender of humanity and all other inhabitants of Earth, and had been ever since they had first all assembled at his telepathic summons a little over a year ago.
Superman. The alien with the powers of a god, but at heart remained a farm boy from Kansas, ready to do anything for the world he loved.
Batman. The man who had turned his pain and grief into a fire that had forged him to the peak of human ability, dedicated to ensuring that no one else would die on his watch.
Hawkgirl. The winged police officer who had been transported to Earth against her will. While she might tend to resort to hitting first and asking questions later (or leaving it to Batman to do the latter), she was relentless and uncompromising in her defence of the innocent.
Wonder Woman. The privileged princess who had refused to abandon the rest of humanity in its hour of need.
The Flash. The speedster who appeared to be an immature goofball, until you saw the purity that had led him to use his powers for the sake of others.
Green Lantern. The space cop, armed with what was regarded as the most powerful weapon in the universe. Unflinching in his resolve to uphold the law, even at personal cost.
The sun peeked over the horizon as the Earth continued to revolve, and J'onn smiled at the sight. Today is a good day.
Clark made his way through a few more of Bruce's investigative reports, finding the information fascinating, while searching for a less sinister motive for what appeared to be such a charitable company. "It's not like making meta-humans is specifically illegal," he reasoned. "It's more a matter of human rights, and Kuroashi and Mikan could have gotten theirs some other way."
"If they're working in secret, it's probably not for any reason we'll appreciate," Bruce snapped. "And they're people with super-powers delving into human biology. We've got to confirm what they're up to, or else we might find ourselves dealing with all manner of trouble. Crime bosses trying to buy powers, or some overzealous military general wanting to 'make America strong again' or something worse."
Looking through the list of the company's products and their benefits, Clark paused as something occurred to him. "If they're making multiple advances throughout the entire medical field, where are they getting this sort of knowledge? Is it actual research, or are they getting it from another source? Although, if it was that, they wouldn't want to advertise it with huge, public company like they're doing."
With a sour grunt, Batman addressed those issues. "Yes, and they're particularly making progress in terms of surgery, pharmacology, vaccinations, and salves that cure regular injuries at a staggering rate. Even cosmetics that make scars fade away. If they're doing research, it would be incredibly expensive to cover such a diverse range, so it must be multiple large projects, and they need lots of funding, except off the books. Or they found some source of knowledge from an advanced alien race or something," while Clark had initially been confident the two he had seen were human, suddenly he was not so sure, "and just got greedy."
"No, they still wouldn't want to advertise what they've got if they have an ulterior motive," Clark argued. "If it's some medical databank or something, it's possible they're just using it to enhance themselves, and they need the money to uncover more secrets."
In their world, an uncovered alien database was far from an unreasonable theory.
"And none of this explains why they are selling for such a reduced cost. If it was pure research, they could've approached any number of backers, including Lex. Instead, they're keeping it to themselves while still working to help people. Why?"
"That's what I'm going to find out tonight," Bruce growled as he pulled the cowl over his face. "I'm going to their headquarters to get some answers."
"Not without back-up you're not," Superman declared, stepping in his friend's way.
"The building is lead lined. You'll be a worthless spy."
"Humor me. Besides, if they really are a threat to the people they claim to be helping, I want to be the one to punch Mr. Kuroashi after the way he treated Lois."
Batman just grunted, but Clark interpreted it as agreement. Neither of them said anything of how they both knew it would be necessary for the Dark Knight to have some more muscle around if the people protecting the building were more than he could handle.
Getting past the first layer of security had been harder than it should have been for a mere corporate building. Obviously someone's personally gone around covering up whatever holes in the system they can find, Batman's practiced eye assessed. It's like breaking into LexCorp. And just like with Luthor's company, it was critical he went unseen. Besides, if these people were actually on the level, there was no need to breed mistrust between them.
Batman made his way inside. Dodging guards, and hacking door codes, he made it to the main lab. It was suspiciously clean of anything incriminating, which was unsurprising. In Batman's experience, even the legitimate scientists had little, harmless things they kept quiet. Here, there was nothing to show it had ever really been used. Just props so it looked like this was the place where the medical magic happened.
Doubling back, he slipped into the security room to study where the cameras were and were not focused on. Wherever they were hiding their secrets, the CEO and Dr. Mikan would want a location that surveillance would pick up someone approaching the entrance. At the same time, they would want their real lab placed in a blindspot where no one would see anything incriminating.
After he had determined where that was, it was the work of a moment to cause a momentary 'technical problem' to the relevant cameras. He slipped by them, and found the concealed elevator to take a ride down. After of course he disabled the alarm that would notify whomever was below that there was an unexpected arrival.
The next levels of security, getting into the sealed off basement, were far, far harder. Whoever had done so was obviously the careful sort with the level of steps taken –the kind that made others call Batman 'paranoid' when he did it, even though it was so obvious that people were out to get him— to keep people out. Going right through the door was too risky, and he was wary about the other alarms on the door, as if a secondary access code was needed to get out, and this one was too secure to readily hotwire.
Still, this was the Dark Knight they were dealing with.
Slipping out of the roof hatch, his miniature laser quickly burned a hole through the wall above the elevator, discreetly avoiding the alarms there. A little cosmetic work while sealing it back up, and only a close inspection would reveal what had happened. Then he cut and dug his way through the wall and dirt to the side of the elevator shaft until he found the ventilation system. An independent system right within their inner compound, 'safely' behind all of the other defenses, so they didn't see any point in putting security in here, he mentally chastised as one professional to another. The Batcave was far more secure.
Looking through the air vents, he determined that what appeared to be the real main lab was empty. Soundlessly, he dropped down to investigate.
He took in the large room that was decidedly not on the blueprints, the reinforced ceiling, and all of the expensive equipment, and smirked.
I could arrest them all just for illegal construction.
"So how're they really doing," asked a concerned Flash, back in Central City Hospital, gesturing towards the room where the two kids from yesterday were sleeping after a visit from their rescuer.
"They'll be fine," she assured him. "They're responding well, and that new medicine is already taking care of the scars. With a little luck, they'll never even know they had them."
"Alright! Great! Thanks!" and with a skip to his feet, he started off down the hallway.
"Oh, and Flash!" the nurse called after him.
"Yeah?" he said, shooting the pretty lady a bright smile.
"Thanks for the smoke detector."
Strange, Batman thought as he looked over the current project in what appeared to be the real medical lab for this place.
It appeared to be a variant of the company's medical compounds to stop internal bleeding while promoting recovery, except that according to the notes it appeared to be a far stronger version. In fact, the amount of trauma needed to require something like this would kill a normal man twenty times over. For super-soldiers maybe? But then he turned to what was truly perplexing about the lab setup: whomever it was for, they were too small.
Table and chair height, location of the various instruments, etcetera. Batman had trouble believing that whoever was creating all of these ground-breaking medical discoveries was taller than his knee. Still, in this world that isn't that unusual. And it does confirm that 'Doctor' Mikan is not the one behind all of this.
Quietly he took out a miniature camera from his utility belt to copy everythi—
His shoulder cracked as he flew into the far wall, his other arm clutching his screaming ribs.
"I don't remember giving you an invitation," someone politely noted.
Batman forced his head up to see the CEO lowering his leg, having evidently kicked him all the way over. "Mr. Sanji Kuroashi," he grunted, stalling for time. Too strong, and I never heard him coming. That fast, or that stealthy?
"I prefer Black Foot Sanji," the man corrected, casually making his way over.
From another room, three more figures emerged: Dr. Mikan, still in what was evidently her costume, and a long-nosed young man with thick, curly hair. The third newcomer was clearly a meta, alien, or engineered animal. A head taller than Batman, a squat body, a wide head and no neck, giving the overall impression of looking like a pill. There were small antlers on its head, and hooves on its short but clearly muscular arms and legs, giving a clear impression that the strange creature meant business. Yet all of them clearly deferred to 'Black Foot Sanji,' who continued to advance and talk. "Mind telling us what you're doing here?"
"I wanted to see if this place was too good to be true," Batman growled. "Guess it is."
Shrugging, Black Foot pulled out a cigarette and lit it with a lighter. "Sorry, but yeah, we're not just a medical facility."
"So I figured. Nice skull and crossbones," and Batman gestured with his chin at the wall visible through the doorway behind the newcomers, ignoring the screams of pain his body was sending him.
"It's a copy of our Jolly Roger!" the furry one yelled indignantly. "Our Pirate Flag! We're the Straw Hat Pirates, and you'd better not have messed with my work!"
"Pirates, you say?" Batman said conversationally, his fingers having finished inching towards a certain device on his belt. Still, if they were willing to be so talkative, and thought him helpless . . . "I must say, I'm impressed, I would not have expected such brilliant work from pirates. Which one of you is the one actually responsible for your medical work?"
"Oh!" cried the animal-like one, wiggling its body in some sort of dance while visibly blushing beneath its (male? His?) thick fur. "Don't think I'll forgive you for breaking in here if you call me brilliant! Idiot! Loser!"
"Uhm, we really don't want him breaking in here," the long-nosed one deadpanned, while the other two gave small sighs of exasperation. Catching the steely looks on the faces of 'Dr. Mikan' and Black Foot, Batman decided they were too clever for him to risk stalling any longer.
Carefully Superman swept his enhanced senses over the building, looking for the slightest change.
As frustrating as it was, he knew that Bruce was right that he should go in alone, given the precautions these people had taken against Clark's powers. Fortunately, his friend had agreed to take a distress beacon that would send a high-pitch alert through even all that metal. Or a "call for assistance if evidence is in danger of being destroyed while I handle business," as the man had insisted. He's really loosening up, the Man of Steel smiled. Guess this League is working after all.
Suddenly a familiar sharp sound hit his sensitive ears, and faster than a bullet he was tearing down through the ground towards the source.
Even as Superman finished smashing his way inside the underground lab, he never took his eyes off the enemy. How they maintained their cool as the debris came hammering at them, casually avoiding it or knocking it aside. Even when they recognized who had come, and everyone but the CEO seemed nervous, they maintained their determined posture; ready to fight if necessary.
Mikan pulled out an object from between her breasts that expanded into a staff, the long-nosed one took a strange slingshot out of his shoulder-bag, and the furry one took up what resembled a martial arts stance. Kuroashi appeared completely disinterested, but Superman knew he was a coiled spring ready to strike.
Sparing a quick glance at Batman to be sure he was okay, Superman turned to look at the others. "Surrender now, this doesn't have to go any further," his voice and gaze confident and sure as he stared them down. Making it clear that while he was not going to kill them, if they wanted a fight before they were hauled off to jail, they would regret it.
Not a lick of doubt on what the final outcome would be.
Kuroashi seemed to be thinking the exact same thing, except that he would be the one victorious. The others never flinched, and Batman knew that they were not going to back down.
"Sorry," Dr. Mikan smiled, despite the beads of sweat on her forehead, "can't do that."
"Still, we don't have to fight him today, and the rest of the League might be on its way," the long-nosed one warned. "Chopper, you don't really need any of those notes, do you?"
"No," the furry one agreed, sounding a little confused.
"I'm more worried about where we're standing," Dr. Mikan added, as the dust specks from the ceiling kept falling down in front of them. "He took out a support beam or two," in Superman's rush to respond to the emergency distress call, and his inability to examine the lead-lined walls in detail as he tunneled in. "So this whole place might collapse if we stay."
"Alright then," and the young man shot at Superman with his slingshot.
Not taking any chances, and familiar with the nasty surprises Batman packed into his baterangs, Superman dodged it, but the projectile exploded mid-air, covering the room in grey smoke.
Playing it cautious, Superman quickly made his way to Batman who –on the same wave-length— popped open one of belt pouches for Superman to pull out two miniature breathers. They barely managed to slip them on before the weird cloud could get into their lungs.
Throughout this, Batman dimly made out the sounds of people running away, while Superman advanced through the smoke. However, a few minute later the Man of Steel walked back to him. Answering the unspoken question, "Lead lined smoke, and too many possible exits they could've taken. Besides, your health is more important if they're only running away."
Hmm, even I and Luthor haven't managed something like that, Batman pondered. "You should've still gone after them!" he snapped. "Use your super-hearing and find them!"
"No, there's also too many echoes in all the tunnels. Plus, they're moving too fast and they're right, this whole place is unstable." Gently Superman picked up his friend and flew off.
"We'll get them next time," Superman said as he slipped out of the underground base. He knew that Batman was upset because of how severely he had underestimated their quarry. "I'll come back after we've gotten you patched up at the Batcave."
Flying quietly but quickly, they were nearly back at Gotham City when Superman finally voiced what had been bothering them both. "They didn't really retreat because they were afraid of fighting us, only because they thought it unnecessary."
". . . Yes," Batman confessed, voicing his own concerns. "Except for Black Foot, I think he did it because he decided there was too much risk of the building coming down on his associates, who are apparently weaker than him. If not for that situation however, they were sure they'd still be able to win."
The Dark Knight took a deep yet decisive breath. "This isn't over."
"Did they tell you anything useful?"
"Apparently they're called the Straw Hat Pirates . . . "
In regards to Sanji vs. Superman, it was at least a fight the former thought he could win. He is not one to back down from a fight after all, but he is also more willing to run away to fight another day than Luffy or Zoro.
To head off any questions, this will be firmly set in the DCAU universe; that is, the animated version of the Justice League. I have done this in no small part because it greatly simplifies the existing threats, the cast, and a thousand other details. Some parts of the comics will leak through however, like the part about the Flash and the fire is inspired from an arc on the failures that the heroes have to bear during the job. In that case, there was a smoke alarm, but the batteries had died and the kids did not survive :-(
Next Chapter: "The Pirates," where their perspective is examined.
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