Chapter four – Saying goodbye

After regaining my breath, I tapped the commlink in my ear, hailing the Kryptonian ship as I walked over to Wonder Woman's corpse. The AI on the ship answered my call almost immediately.

"Ship. Do you have any vehicles that you can send over to my current location that have enough space to fit a humanoid?"

"Several escape pods can be brought online. The required energy consumption will slow current repairs to all systems by 3.21 percent. Shall I proceed?"

I could almost imagine a blinking Y/N icon awaiting my response.

"Yes, proceed. Send one to my location as soon as possible."

"Acknowledged. Brining up pod CT/1 online. ETA: 3 minutes, 21 seconds. Please stand by."

As much as I hated just standing around at the scene of the crime, there was little that I could do. I knew that, should I trust the ship and simply leave Wonder Woman's body just lying around, inevitably (parts of) it would not be arriving back at the ship. The reason for this could range from mere looters to literal divine intervention.

Considering I have absolutely no desire to face a Zombie Wonder Woman in the future, I'm leaving nothing up to chance.

Even if it means I have to stand next to a beheaded corpse as I hear news choppers closing in. I briefly consider taking them out of the sky with some well-aimed pebbles, but I quickly decide against it. Considering nothing the humans have can harm or detain me, I don't really have to fear or even bother with their perception of me. My only goal is to become as strong, tough and powerful as I can possibly be. I have no desire to overthrow the world's government and install a dictatorship like I'm some Sauron or Voldemort-expy.

As long as they don't bother me, I really couldn't care less about them.

So, let them see me, in all my bloodied, villainous glory. What the hell are they gonna do about it? Invent a new hashtag on twitter? That's just marginally more useful than sending thoughts and prayers.

Besides, if push comes to shove and I somehow do need humanity on my side, I can still twist this situation in my favor. Wonder Woman was obscure at best in this day and age, and history is told by the victors: it's hard to defend yourself from slander portraying you as an evil madwoman hellbent on destroying the city when your dead.

I would prefer to not slander a dead woman, and a hero of Diana's caliber at that, but it's hardly the worst thing that I've been forced to do in this life, even before I stapled my brain to Zod's corpse.

As I've been forced to prove countless times again and again, there's almost nothing that I will not do in order to guarantee my safety.

Still, it seemed that it wouldn't come to that (at least not today) as I saw a slim pod rocketing past the slow helicopters on a direct course towards me. Arriving in the exact number of seconds the AI had promised, the Kryptonian escape module came to a rest a few feet in front of me, hovering over the scattered debris that was all that remained of the top eight floors of this office building.

As the lid opens with a slight hiss, I waste no time in gathering Wonder Woman's body and head, placing it in the pod alongside her sword and her lasso. Briefly I consider tracking down her shield as well, but I decide against it. The sword could have been potentially dangerous in someone else's hands, but the shield, while tough, isn't capable of really harming me.

Even if the person who found it had the capabilities to reshape the magical metal into a weapon (and considering that the vast majority of people with that particular skill were currently residing on a tiny island, I considered those odds to be astronomically low) then that would take quite some time and effort, meaning it was of no immediate concern for me.

And if my future plans worked out, it was unlikely to become a concern at a later point in time as well.

Closing the lid just in time so that the arriving helicopters hadn't been able to get a proper look at what I had put inside, I contact the ship again.

"Take this body to the labs. Research its genetic structure. Once you've decoded it, and you're done extracting the Codex from Kal-El, look for ways to combine the DNA of this specimen with the most ideal Kryptonian strand possible. Create the ultimate hybrid for me, but only in a model: I only want it manufactured after we have found a way for my mind to inhabit the new body, in a manner which doesn't involve horrible mutilation and literal stitches holding together a corpse. This body is proving to be a sufficiently capable stepping stone towards perfection, but only once I have achieved that perfection shall I be satisfied."

"Very well. Extraction of genetic samples from the donor-body shall commence immediately upon return of pod CT/1, alongside continuing extraction of the Codex."

"Thank you. While you're doing that, please contact the governing bodies of the United States of America. Send a message to the president, but also make sure to send a message to those who puppet the president. Use my datafiles from Lexcorp to identify the actual authorities, directory M. Masters, access code AC1:6/19-38."

"Acknowledged. What should the message say?" the AI says smoothly in my ear while the pod takes off at blinding speeds towards the ship.

I turn my back on the scene of carnage surrounding me as I face the direction where I know the lake which hides the Batcave lies.

"Tell them… that in return for a few concessions and favors, I'm volunteering for Task Force X."

And with that, I bend my knees as I flex my muscles and with a mighty jump, which reduces the battered remains of the office building to gravel and dust, I rocket towards the outskirts of the city, towards my next confrontation.

It's regrettable that, in order for me to guarantee my own life, I have been forced to take the life of others. And I'll probably be forced to take quite a few more before my work is done.

It is a price that they will have to accept.

I already have long ago.

It takes me less than ten minutes of flat-out running and jumping from building to building in order to get to Bruce's lake. As in, the entire lake is property of the Wayne family, not just the house that was built on it.

Being extremely rich in a fictional universe meant that you had bullshit-levels of wealth.

Of course, I wasn't interested in the house that sat on the lake: all my attention was focused on the large structure hidden underneath its surface. Coming to an explosive stop in the shallows on the far side of the lake opposite from the house, the water is blasted back several feet by my impact, before the water level slowly rises until it reaches just under my knees.

I barely even notice the wetness (partly because of the waterproof Kryptonian suit I'm wearing, ignoring its slight battle-damage) as I peer through the murky water with my X-Ray vision. I can clearly see the very bottom of the lake and as I swing my gaze towards the house, I spot the large structures that hide the launching mechanism for the Bat-Jet, with a mass of steel and electronics behind it signifying the Batcave.

As I wade deeper into the freezing cold lake (by human standards, that is: I barely even register the temperature at all) I keep trying to peer further and further into the many walls and layers of the Batcave, watching for any anti-Kryptonian traps.

I can spot a skeleton sitting in a chair behind a desk, something slim and metal in one hand, and what I think is a glass in the other.

Alfred, probably nursing a drink and with his finger on the trigger, waiting for me.

As I start to pick up more and more details in the cave, I also spot what I think are the Kryptonite traps, which I can distinguish by the anomalous energy signature they give off and their weird material structure. I can't quite make out how most of the traps are supposed to work, but the majority of them are hidden in the walls and floors and seem to be connected to pressure plates and laser-systems. Most of the kryptonite-traps actually involve only slivers of the stuff, due to the limited amount that Bruce had to work with, but as his weapon had shown, a mere spear-tip is sufficient to take down the likes of Doomsday.

A sliver was all that was needed to put me down, if I wasn't careful.

The slivers were incorporated into explosives, guns and one trap even seemed to be a spear that would shoot out from the floor if I stepped on the panel hiding it from view. Well, hiding it from human view, that is.

Taking no chances, I send heat to my eyes and a moment later, bright red screaming lasers cut through literal tons of water with the fury of an angry god, slamming through the outer layers of the cave with ease on a direct collision course with the traps. Most of the traps perish immediately in explosions, or are reduced to rubble on impact, but some of them survive my laser volley.

Either they were simply built sturdier or with less explosive-prone materials, or they were simply better shielded.

A second volley takes care of that.

And just to be on the safe side (considering this is Batman's inner sanctum) a third and fourth volley follow.

By now, large holes litter the cave, and water is rushing in through the tears in the outer walls. I estimate that within the hour, the entire cave will be submerged. As I focus back on the skeleton (which is picking itself up off the ground, since my lasers and subsequent explosions shook the entire cave top to bottom) I briefly consider letting the water take care of him.

I decide against it though. Not only do I simply not have the time to stand around here for however long it takes for Alfred to die, but there's also a more sentimental reason. There's no denying that I'm the bad guy, no matter what my motivation for my actions is. At this point, I have no choice but to accept the fact that I'm unequivocally evil.

But that doesn't mean that I have to be a dick about it.

Alfred deserves better than a death by drowning. I cannot allow him to live, since he will never forgive me for what I did to Bruce (and I would think lesser of him if he did), but a slow, desperate suffocation isn't the way he should go.

A man like him deserves to die with dignity and, if he's willing to hear me out, with an explanation from me.

So I keep wading further inward until the water is near my collarbones, before I swing my arms forwards and kick off, shooting down in a deep dive that takes me to the bottom of the lake in seconds. After taking a moment to reorient myself, I give a few hard strokes of my arms and legs and within a couple of seconds I've rocketed towards the outer layers of the Batcave.

I don't bother trying to slow myself down, crashing through the metal and stone like a wrecking ball from hell, tearing the entire structure apart in a shower of gravel and metal shrapnel. With the wall even more ruined now, the water is starting to rise even faster, but it's not much of a concern for me.

And after I've had my conversation with Alfred, he won't have to worry about it either.

As I leisurely make my way to where I know the Butler is sitting, I let my eyes roam across the Batcave. There are a number of displays containing memorabilia of Batman's career (my eyes linger for a few long seconds on the besmirched Robin suit) but overall, the Cave is less fanciful than it's usually portrayed as in cartoons and some of the comics. It's mostly just a futuristic hangar, surrounded by the rough rock of the cave itself and lined with workbenches, databanks and several high-grade computers.

All in all, it's rather… bare.

As I look around the spacious cavern, I can see that in several large parts of the Batcave, the power has gone out, either a result of me accidentally hitting some generators or powerlines, or the resulting explosions from the destroyed traps shorting out some of the systems. Looking through those systems, I spot what seem to be cameras, several of which are focused on the large room where Alfred is waiting for me.

In a flash, I realize what they are for: Alfred most likely knows that he is about to die. Maybe he had some slight hopes to kill me with the traps, but if he had, that hope has gone now. He has been at Bruce's side every step of the way in the man's misguided crusade against Clark. He knows the capabilities of a Kryptonian as much as Bruce did, and he probably got an even better read on them if he somehow managed to watch my fight with Diana.

Without the Kryptonite, he knows that his survival chances are approaching zero. But that doesn't mean that he's giving up. Those cameras are either hooked up to a live-feed or an off-site data storage. He knows I'm here to kill him: and he's going to document every second of it. Even if I cared enough about ruling that I wanted to sway the humans to my side, the footage of his death would ensure that my reign would never truly be accepted, not by everyone.

Alfred was trying to set it up so that he could become a martyr for a possible future rebellion against me. He was counting on me being a stereotypical villain, hellbent on giving evil monologues and creating a government in my own image, and he intended to use that against me, even from beyond the grave.

Unfortunately for him, he overlooked two things:

One, as I've said, I currently have no interest in ruling all of humanity under an iron fist. I won't say no to becoming God-Emperor of Earth later down the line (we all need a hobby after all), but I have extremely little interest in ruling much of anything really.

And secondly, I have X-Ray vision.

As I slowly ascend the stairs to the floor where Alfred's waiting for me, my eyes once again glow with a menacing red light, before lasers capable of leveling cities rage throughout the cave, targeting generators, powerlines and the cameras themselves. Once again, the cave rumbles and by the time I burst through one of the walls of the room in which Alfred is waiting, not a single camera is left functioning.

Sorry Alfred. But I'm much too busy to bother worrying about possible future insurrections to entertain your little scheme.

To the old man's credit, the moment I've crashed through one of the walls of the room, he has his arm up and is firing away, three bullets impacting my face and four more impacting my broad chest. Despite his shock, grief and age, their grouping is absolutely perfect. Still, the only reason they even hit me at all was because I let them, and judging from his morose expression, he knows it.

"Alfred." I boom, before I pause, unsure of what to say next.

Sorry I brutally murdered the man you considered your own son? Not that it would have been a completely lie (I didn't regret it, but I am somewhat saddened that Bruce's death was necessary), but it felt far too crude and even slightly disrespectful in the light of what had happened.

Instead, I simply settled on: "Has his will and testament been taken care of?".

For a few long moments, Alfred simply stares at me, his gun trembling in his limp hand, his drink spilled all over the floor and long forgotten. Looking back into his red-rimmed eyes, I can see the telltale cocktail of grief and copious amounts of hard liquor, a combination I have seen in others many times before.

Once I have a little down-time and the opportunity to grab a drink, I intend to do the same myself once I allow myself to process my betrayal of Lex.

The grief, alcohol and my sudden question cause Alfred to be a little slow in answering, and when he does, it comes out soft and broken.

"Wha… what?"

I feel for the man, I truly do. But I'm also on a mission which requires his death, which makes all the time I spend talking to him instead of securing my future survival a sentiment-fueled waste of time. Time that I should be spending on my next steps. Still, seeing him so utterly miserable and broken after what I did to him out of selfish reasons and paranoia, I don't find it within myself to simply kill him and be done with it, so I slowly repeat my question.

"Bruce's will and testament. What happens to Wayne Enterprises and the various Wayne Foundations?"

The old man misinterprets my question, fire coming back to his eyes as he straightens from his slumped posture as he trains the gun on my head again, despite the futility of the action.

"You monster! His death wasn't enough?! You want his money as well?!"

"No, Alfred. I don't care about money. And neither did he, not really. He only cared what was done with the money, that it was used to help people, either through the Wayne organizations, or through the Batman. I just want to make sure that this does not change with his death. The Batman is no more, but Wayne Enterprises employs thousands of people, and the Wayne Foundations provide for tens of thousands. I do not wish to see all that end with him."

"Then you shouldn't have killed him in the first place!" Alfred rages against me, shouting so loud that he nearly loses his balance, tears freely streaming down his sunken cheeks.

For a moment, silence falls between us, only broken by his ragged breathing and the sound of water still filling the Batcave. I briefly mull over what I should say, before I start speaking again.

"Alfred. I know that you won't believe me, no matter how I say this. But I do regret killing him. But he did not leave me a choice: he was so blinded by his own grief and paranoia, he wanted to kill Superman. He wanted to kill the greatest hero that humanity has ever produced. He may have been an alien, but humans raised him, humans taught him to use his powers responsibly and when faced with an impossible choice between the people who would shun and fear him and hisown people… he chose humanity. And Bruce still wanted to drive a spear through his heart. If a hero like Superman had to die for his paranoia… how could there possibly be any coexistence between us?" I slowly rumble.

Once again, anger gives the old man life, and with strong strides (though somewhat uneven due to the alcohol) Alfred fearlessly steps towards me, poking me in the chest with the barrel of his gun as he bares his teeth at me.

"Don't… don't you fucking dare… you don't get to blame him! Not you! Not after… you! You killed him! You took him away from me! My Bruce! You… my…" Alfred trails off as he chokes on his tears, as he desperately tries to keep his eyes open as he continues to ram his gun in my chest, searching for the words.

He seems to have found them, since he takes a deep breath, and leans in even closer, his voice coming out in a furious whisper.

"Rot. In. Hell."

It is said with such venom, I'm halfway convinced that he accidentally casted a spell, and I can't quite suppress a shiver going down my mechanical spine, despite the ridiculously vast gulf in power between us.

"Eventually, Hell will come to Earth, Alfred. And once it does, I do not intend to go quietly. Now, hate me all you want. I cannot blame you for that, not after what I've done to you. But for the memory of your son… tell me, is his will and testament in order? Will his legacy, the legacy of his parents continue now that he's gone?"

For a moment, I think that Alfred is about to strike me in the face, despite the fact that he'd have to stand on his toes in order to actually do so and the fact that it would most definitely break his hand instead of harming me.

But eventually he just… deflates. While the target of his anger has arrived, he has no outlet for it other than simply screaming at me, and between all of the booze that he's been drinking and the fact that he's been awake without rest since yesterday at least means that he's just too tired to do so.

He turns away from me, slowly, numbly picking up a chair and straightening it, before letting himself fall heavily into the stained leather. He lets the gun fall from his hand onto the table in front of him, apparently having given up all hope and having lost the last remains of his fighting spirit. He sits silent for a few moments, before he reaches into his breast pocket with a trembling hand, taking a small photograph from it. I see a younger Alfred standing in a wide field, his hand on the shoulder of a small child, probably no older than six or so.

A young Bruce Wayne smiles at the cameraman, his expressions unmarred by one of the most famous traumatic experiences in fiction. The smile is mirrored on Alfred's face, but instead of looking at the camera like the child, he is instead looking down on little Bruce. The fondness in his gaze is easy to see, even in this small and faded photograph, the love for his adopted child present even then, and undiminished now. Alfred keeps staring at the picture with a far-away gaze, silent tears still streaking across his face. Having no wish no push him and seeing no need to do so, I instead walk over towards one of the cabinets, pulling open the mahogany doors and I start searching for an unbroken glass and bottle.

I quickly find both, and I pour the golden-colored drink into the (probably ridiculously expensive) crystal glass, placing the bottle on the table and stoppering it, before I slowly walk over towards Alfred, extending the glass towards him. It takes him a few moments in order to even notice that I'm standing there and a few moments longer before he decides what to do (he's probably considering whether he should hurl the glass at the wall or my face) before he accepts the drink with a trembling hand.

He throws back about half of it in a single gulp, before he returns to simply sitting there, staring at the picture in his hands, lost in thought. I cross my arms as I wait for his answer, which comes after a few minutes.

He's still looking at the smiling child Bruce Wayne with empty eyes, and his voice is very weak.

"All of his personal estates and belongings he gifted to me. Along with about a third of his liquid funds. Another third is to be distributed over the various Wayne Enterprises branches. The rest is to be gifted to the Wayne Foundation. Lucius is the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises. I'm the new Chairman of the Wayne Foundation. There are several smaller beneficiaries, but that's the important bits."

"What happens to your shares, once you've died?"

The aged butler barely even acknowledges the fact that I've basically just told him to his face that I'll kill him, his gaze still vacant and distant, his voice sounding like it's on auto-pilot.

"My own funds will be distributed amongst my remaining family. The same for my belongings, though several of the artworks and collector's items I inherited from Br… they will be gifted to various galleries. Control of the Foundation will revert to the Board, they'll appoint a new Chairman. I've already sent out the paperwork. Everything's in order." He softly says, his breath occasionally hitching.

Eventually he turns towards me, a complicated mix of anger, despair, hatred and sorrow visible in his eyes. But there's also resignation there.

"You won't destroy his legacy? Wayne Enterprises… Wayne Foundations… you won't touch them? The Foundation… they were an initiative of his mother…"

"I know that you will not value it, but I give you my word: I will not interfere in any Wayne affairs. Should I find that someone else is, then I will do everything in my power to make sure that their efforts are thwarted and that Bruce's and your will shall remain undisturbed. It is not much. But it is all that I can give you." I solemnly reply with a nod, receiving one from Alfred in return, who returns his attention to the picture, a momento of happier times that are now long past.

I remain silent for a few moments, leaving the broken man to his thoughts, before I speak up again.

"The water will soon reach this level." I say, making an effort to keep my tone neutral instead of threatening, no easy task given its low gravely pitch.

Alfred does little more than give a little hum, but does otherwise not react to my words. I'm silent for a few moments, before I try again.

"You'll drown." I say, implicitly offering him an easier way out.

Once again he hums, but this time, he calmly folds up the photograph with unnaturally still movements, the grief-fueled trembling from before now gone completely. Placing the picture in his breast pocket with an eerie calm, Alfred turns to look at me, his gaze filled with anger and stubbornness.

"No. No, I don't think I will."

His next move is so unexpected, it roots me to the floor, leaving me unable to react to his movements despite the fact that I'm many times faster than he is.

Because, without any hesitation whatsoever, Alfred swipes the gun from the table and in a single smooth movement, places it in his own mouth… and pulls the trigger.

As the loud bang slowly stops ringing in the room, I overcome my shock and approach the still form of Alfred Pennyworth, unsure of what to do. Eventually, I reach out with my massive hand, gently closing the man's eyes.

"May you find peace in death, Alfred. I hope you get to see Bruce, Thomas and Martha in whatever it is that awaits us after this life. If you do… I would ask you to give them my apologies, but words are meaningless and I would not deserve it in any case. So, instead I just ask you to be happy there, with them. Leave your hate and misery for the living." I softly say to his corpse, feeling that my words are somehow insufficient.

Killing Bruce and Clark had been a necessity: neither one would be as vulnerable again as in that single, penultimate moment at the height of their clash. Clark weakened by Kryptonite, and Bruce wholly focused on the task at hand and completely blindsided by my recently acquired power.

I had killed Diana in the heat of battle. My far superior physiology meant that the fight inevitably would have shifted in my favor, but her magically enhanced weaponry had tipped the scales in her favor. Her sword was capable of parting Kryptonian flesh with terrifying ease, allowing her a real chance at killing me. But the second that I had gotten my hands on it, the battle had been decided.

But Alfred… Alfred had simply been a human with the wrong connections. While he was a potential threat, he was also merely a man who I had just robbed of his most beloved person, a son in all but blood. This wasn't like what I had done to the Joker, or even Harley. Those had been mad dogs, and I needed to put them town before their Plot Armor kicked into play and they found some incredulously convoluted and incredibly convenient way to become a problem for me down the line.

To paraphrase the great writer Terry Prachett: in a fictional world, a million-to-one chance happens all the time.

Still, as I keep mulling over these thoughts, I cannot shake the sense of melancholy that has been following me ever since I killed Wonder Woman. And even before that, when I put a bullet in the head of my best friend.

Dark thoughts follow me as I descend the various stairs of the Batcave, eventually leaving through the massive hole in its outer wall. And as I return to my ship in Metropolis, I leave the Batcave far behind, where its rooms and the remains of its last occupants are swallowed up by the dark waters, never to see the light of day again.

Fun Fact: Michael's access code AC1:6/19-38 is a reference to the history of DC Comics. Can you figure out what it is? (I don't think it's superhard to figure out, but let me know in the comments)

AN: Sorry this is so short. I wanted to include Mike's meeting with the USA Government and perhaps even introduce the Task Force X as well. But I'm currently in the middle of finals, so I really ought to get back to studying. And this felt like a nice place to cut off the chapter. Most of the complaints about this story say that the MC isn't likeable. So I tried to give him a little more depth here. He's definitely a villain-protagonist at this point, more so than Michael from 12 Steps, who has blood on his hands as well, especially in the early days of his career. I just wanted to show that he's not just evil. He's not evil for the lulz. He isn't hurting/killing people because he's enjoying it, but because he's utterly convinced that it's necessary. If that means that he has to play the villain, then so be it. I was going for a similar villain-vibe/mentality that Thanos has. Let me know if I succeeded or if you think that his character needs more work. Cheers!

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