Prologue

The punch was expected, and not well-thrown, but that didn't mean Alex's cheek wasn't going to smart when some giant brute threw all his weight behind a fist. His head snapped to the side and he worked his jaw against the ache of what might very well have been a missing molar.

"God dammit." He spat a wad of saliva and blood out onto the asphalt and let his head fall forward.

"Aw, pretty boy can't take a punch?" The yeti grabbed the lining of his bomber jacket and cocked his fist back again.

Alex's shoulders shuddered with his laughter and he peeked up at the human behind his cracked sunglasses. From the man's visible flinch, his red eyes were probably glowing in the dark of the alley. "You call that a punch, Tiny?"

Fuck, okay that one hurt a bit. Tiny sent two more punches which snapped the bridge of Alex's nose and knocked Texas clean off. He made a mental note to pick them up once the show was over. He heaved a couple open-mouth breaths.

Tiny tugged on his jacket a couple times and then stepped back. "Drop him."

Alex groaned as the two lackeys holding his shoulders and arms released their holds and let him slump face-down on the ground. "Ha-ugh… rude."

There was a whistling breeze through the air for a moment before something blunt but also laden with pointy objects came colliding down on his back. Damn them. "Ah, asshole. What kind of dick hits a man with his own bat?" It might as well have been blasphemy.

"Jesus, what does it take to kill this guy?" A boot came down on the back of Alex's head. "Freak." Another boot. He was really getting sick of this shit. "Boss, let's just put a bullet in him and be done with it. We sit here long enough and someone's bound to call the cops."

There were sounds of a minor struggle and someone getting shoved against a brick wall. "You want to run off?" that was Tiny again. "Go ahead. But we're getting paid to give this guy as much punishment as he can take. So, either grab that tire iron, or get the hell out of here." Metal scraped against asphalt and then a steel rod joined his lovely bat in crashing down on his back and shoulders.

Alex considered while this was happening, what he'd overheard. They were being paid, huh. Not surprising considering he would safely bet the three idiots standing over him maybe had six brain cells between them. But what was intriguing -fuck, that was a kidney- was that someone wanted this to be bloody. Well, -wow, Tiny was clearly offended by his good looks- at least that explained why the gangs in Alex's cities had been running amok recently. If someone had the balls to put a hit out on Alexander-fucking-Jones, they were either stupidly brave, or just stupid. Did they know who he was? What he was? Either way-

"O-kay, NOT the hair!" Alex snatched the wrist of the hand that had buried itself in his dark hair and crushed it beneath his fingers. Thing One with the tire iron screamed and Tiny and Thing Two both backed off. With the shattered wrist still in his hand, Alex climbed to his feet with an unsteady wobble and tilted his head back before reaching his free hand up and resetting his broken nose with a snap. He released Thing One, who promptly fell to his knees, arm cradled against his chest and crying like a baby. A twist of magic and a snapped neck put him down quick.

Thing Two looked ready to crap himself. "Holy shit."

"Oh fuck." So, did Tiny.

"Yeah," Alex cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders before bringing up both fists. "I'm done with this shit."

Tiny swung with his bat and Alex ducked beneath the swing then palmed his ugly face and pulled him down to meet his lifting knee. The impact left Alex's hand and jeans wet, but he ignored that for the moment, and let Tiny drop to round instead on the quivering form of Thing Two.

"Shit," the scrawny little human was shaking as he backed himself against a wall. "Please man, I don't want to die."

Alex blew his cowlick out of his face and gave a singular laugh as he bent over to collect Texas from the ground. "Should have thought about that before signing up with Tiny."

"Huh?" When the back of Thing Two's shirt grazed the rough brick of the alley his knees seemed to give and he collapsed onto his ass. "Oh god. Oh shit, dammit. Fuck!" He fumbled along the waist of his jeans and then pulled up a handgun. He managed to bring it to eye level with Alex before the irate nation grabbed it by the barrel and tore it from his hand.

"Haven't you heard?" Alex gripped the human by his jaw and hauled him back up to his feet, thumb pressed into his jugular. The human scrambled and pulled at Alex's arm, but for all his effort he might as well have gone after the nation with a flyswatter.

"Less piece, is more peace."

Alex let the human stew, periodically prodding at the delicate artery beneath his thumb and letting the stuttering oxygen flow to the man's lungs take their effect before dropping him to the ground like a sack of potatoes. The human coughed and hacked up half a lung before getting himself under control enough for Alex to even attempt an interrogation.

"Now," Alex planted his boot against the human's chest and pinned him to the wall. "Tiny mentioned you fucks were getting paid for this shit." A snap of his fingers and a spark of magic had Alex's bat flying into his hands. He pressed the blunt end cap under the human's chin. "Speak."

"I don't-" Alex shattered his left knee cap.

"Try again."

"I swear-"

"Say a word that isn't a name again and you lose the other knee. Then your dick."

"Okay, OKAY!"

Alex lowered his bat to a less threatening position and then urged the man along with a wave of his hand.

The human sniffled. "Bill-Tiny, was the one who met him. Not me. It was some corporate guy."

A muscle in Alex's jaw twitched and he resisted the urge to shiver at the chill that went down his spine.

"Not President Fuck Up, was it? Or a crazy sister?"

"What? No!" Oh, thank god. "Some fancy space tech corporation."

Alex quirked a brow and his lips twisted in a crooked grin. "Starfleet?"

"Huh?"

"Forget it," said Alex with a small sigh. "You were saying?"

Thing Two had a suspicious dark spot on his jeans. Poor little shit wet himself. "It was um, it was O-something. Orion! It was someone from Orion!"

Alex frowned. "You're sure?"

The human did his best bobble head impression and managed to look hopeful for a second before Alex pulled his bat back and delivered a single, solid swing. After that, what was left of Thing Two's face was smeared along ten feet of brick.

Alex let his bat rest against one shoulder and huffed. Orion. Some privatized NASA-wannabe from what he could remember. A furrow formed between Alex's eyebrows and he cast a wary glance upwards. Chicago skies weren't known for their clarity, but a muttered spell under Alex's breath sharpened his vision enough to see past the light pollution and into the twinkling pattern of constellations above.

His eyes were drawn on instinct to a bright orange, bordering on red, spot that hovered just over the crescent moon. A comet, a new one, that had appeared out of nowhere and suddenly had everyone in the space industry up in arms. Alex didn't know what all the fuss was about. He, Matt, and the rest of the nations as far as he could tell didn't much care for the cosmic eye sore. It wasn't part of their skies, wasn't even part of their Earth. The new comet was as foreign as you could get, and he. Did. Not. Like it.

Orion, a recent upstart of a science company focusing on producing smaller and more efficient satellites to monitor extra-terrestrials, had been over the moon with the discovery. And now, one of their employees had put a hit on him? They shouldn't even know he existed outside of maybe rumors spread word of mouth about the undisputed leader of the United States' criminal underbelly.

Alex cast his gaze around the alley and considered the three bodies sprawled around him. He snapped his fingers again and let deep purple flames consume the evidence of what had taken place there. When that was well underway he dug out his cellphone and hit speed dial number three. It took three tries and thirty rings on the fourth before his call was picked up.

"What?"

"Matt, your ideas suck."

"Come again," there was an audible growl coming from the Canadian's side of the call.

"Remember when I mentioned some humans not so subtly tailing me?"

"Uh, yeah?"

"And you said to let them catch up and then find out what their deal was?"

"I still don't understand why you're calling me, asshole."

"Turns out some fucker put a hit out on me!"

Alex wasn't sure what he was expecting but, Matt's uncontrollable laughter on the other end was not one of his favored possibilities. "Fuck you, man!"

"Don't be a pansy. Did you at least find out who it was?"

Alex groaned. "Yeah sort of, I'll track him down, end him, send his dismembered limbs over to Ollie for Mother's Day. It'll be great."

"Sounds like fun. But you still better have a good excuse for venting on me or I'll shove my hockey stick so far up your ass, Alfred will feel it."

"Ugh, don't bring the Boy Scout up in my presence. And I did have a reason. You familiar with Orion?"

"The constellation, or the company?"

"The second one."

"Sure."

"Don't they have a branch at your place?"

Matt snorted. "Of course, they do. They have branches at Louis' and Oliver's too. They're practically world-wide."

"Huh. Right." Alex didn't wait for Matt to request more information and ended the call. He gave the unnamed comet in the sky the stink eye one moment longer before bouncing the bat on his shoulder and exiting the alleyway.

Fuck, he thought. If he was going to find whoever was out to get him at some fancy space company he was probably going to have to get a suit.


Oliver was in the kitchen, dough on the counter and flour plastered over his hands, slicing the fifth of six apples with swift and practiced knifework when the call came. The twinkling ringtone was soft and quieter than most, but just loud enough that the pink-haired Brit stilled his hands for a moment to answer and set the phone to speaker before resuming his work.

"Yes?"

"Alex dealt with the assassins."

Oliver giggled and slid the apple slices into a separate bowl filled with a deep red glaze. "Over-enthused human thugs hardly qualify as assassins, dear."He swiped a thumb along the lip of the bowl and sucked the glaze off. His eyelids fluttered at the delightful combination of sweet caramel and iron blood.

The voice on the phone huffed but didn't argue.

"Did he get anything useful out of the poor dears?" Oliver snatched a wooden spoon from the counter and started stirring the apple-glaze mix together.

"No specific names. Just Orion."

Oliver's hands stilled and he cocked his head to the side in quiet consideration before curling his lip in a grin.

"Orion, was it?" He tucked a loose strand of course pink hair behind one ear and peeked over his shoulder. "That is rather intriguing." He left his baking unattended for a moment and turned to crouch beside the pile of bodies resting over a deep blue tarp in the center of his kitchen. He fingered a patch over one of the more intact ones' shoulder and tugged it free.

"Was there anything else?"

Oliver ignored the voice on the phone and hummed as he took in the constellation pattern that made up the company logo before him.

"No, that'll be all. Thank you for keeping an eye on him."

A huff. "Someone's got to do it. I'll keep a close tail, make sure he doesn't do anything stupid."

Oliver bared his teeth. "Careful, darling. That's my son you're talking about."

"Of course."

"Oh, and one more thing."

"Hm?"

"Are you familiar with this Orion business?"

The voice on the phone was quiet for a moment before finally responding. "Not any company called Orion but, I do remember an incident several years ago. The evidence was covered up, but it coincided with the emergence of a comet."

One of Oliver's eyebrows lifted and he stood to his feet. Out of the kitchen window, he spied the astral body in question. "Like the one hovering over us all right now?"

"Exactly. The details might be a little hard to get at, but it was all classified under the same code word: PICTONIAN."

The call ended shortly after that. Oliver spied the glowing spot in the blue sky a moment longer and then returned to his baking. "Well, Chocolate Bunny," he began, holding out a piece of glazed apple to the feral, winged rabbit perched over his spice rack. The spirit purred under the attention and attacked the treat with gusto. Oliver giggled and ran the knuckle of his index finger along the rabbit's spine and between its wings.

"We might need to seek consultation on this matter."

The call ended shortly after that. Oliver spied the glowing spot in the blue sky a moment longer and then returned to his baking. "Well, Chocolate Bunny," he began, holding out a piece of glazed apple to the feral, winged rabbit perched over his spice rack. The spirit purred under the attention and attacked the treat with gusto. Oliver giggled and ran the knuckle of his index finger along the rabbit's spine and between its wings.

"We might need to seek consultation on this matter."

With a lazy tug on the handle of a drawer, Oliver retrieved a clear glass jar and set it on the counter with a small thud. Flying Chocolate Bunny perked up at its contents, a confused squeak slipping free as its hackles raised. The rabbit bat at the jar twice before Oliver shooed it away with a wave of his hand. The spirit gone, he turned his eye on the being within. No more than two or three inches tall, a pale humanoid figure with two curling red horns, a black spaded tail, and dressed in what looked like black jeans and a jacket with a red shirt underneath, stood with arms crossed and an annoyed frown on its tiny face.

Oliver lowered himself enough to present the being with his toothy smile. "Now then, little demon."

The demon kicked the glass wall of its prison and red sparks flew from its arms and shoulders. "I've told you, dummkopf, I'm not a demon, I'm a Joker. A JOKER!"

"Sure, you are, little one," Oliver humored the thing with a nod then turned the jar on its side. He giggled as the pale demon scrambled to remain upright only to inevitably fall on its butt. "But first, why don't you tell me where you've come from."

The demon was not one of his, nor did he recognize it from monitoring the spectral planes of his other nations. And yet, the thing bore striking resemblance to what he had once known as the Kingdom of Prussia.

The joker stood to its feet, slightly stooped due to the new orientation of its prison. "Why?"

"Because," Oliver admitted. "It seems you may not be the only recent visitor to this world."

The little tidbit of information had its intended effect. Oliver controlled his expression as the joker, if it was even possible, turned even paler. "Then they are already here."

"Who." Oliver set the jar back upright, slow enough this time that the joker did not lose his balance.

"The ones who destroyed my world, Hoyle. And they'll destroy this world too unless we find a way to stop them."

Oliver sighed, and without further preamble stuck the jar holding the shrunken joker back in its drawer and shut it. He could still hear the little one's muffled protests but ignored them in favor of looking down at the distinct parts of what had promised to be a delightful blood-apple pie.

"Oh well," he scrapped it all in favor of heading down to his basement. "No rest for the wicked I suppose."


A/N:

Hi everyone! To those of you who don't know this is a sequel to my completed story Dichotomous. While it will make reference to things that happened in that story and certainly does function as a sequel you don't necessarily have to have read Dichotomous to read this. And yes, there will be some cardverse as well. Hope you all enjoy!