Killer Moth, real name Drury Walker. Small-time supervillain available for hire in criminal operations as a means of protection against costumed vigilantes, particularly of the bat-themed variety. Equipped with a sophisticated flight pack, an immobilising cocoon gun and a crude but effective boxing-based fighting style. Currently driving back to his suburban home at two in the morning after a sound beating at the hands of the Batman and another failed operation.
Rows of trees bordered the sidewalk on each side of the road, making the moon and stars flicker as they passed in and out of the sparse boughs. Drury nursed his aching chest with one hand and steered the mothmobile, littered with dents and scratches after the caped crusader decided to repeatedly slam Drury's helmeted face against its chartreuse-green bodywork, with the other. The stabbing pain with every inhalation probably indicated some sort of rib fracture - he hoped not - which was sure to make the next few hours until he could get to one of his legally dubious medical contacts a bitch of a time. Of course, before that he would have to go home and fetch the payment. Which would be a considerable chunk out of his dwindling savings. Again.
Drury sighed, briefly wincing at the pain the thoughtless act brought him. These had not been a successful few months by any measure. For whatever reason the big names in Gotham's underworld had been rather quiet. No big moves had been made, and no noteworthy arrests had reached his carefully-cultivated information network. From the looks of things, it seemed like Gotham's A-listers had fallen uncharacteristically silent.
As a result the Bats had been unusually focused on more mundane criminals as of late, hunting down Gotham's petty crooks and jewellery thieves with even more singleminded determination than usual. These crooks and thieves being Killer Moth's primary clientele, it was inevitable that it would eventually impact his business. Every job, from the biggest bank robbery to the smallest transfer of illicit cargo, would be gatecrashed by one of the Bats, sometimes two if he was particularly unlucky, and the whole operation would be a total bust. To add insult to injury not one of them had been at the hands of Batgirl. Well, his Batgirl. He'd encountered the mute one on a few occasions and barely escaped with his freedom each time.
His knuckles went white around his steering wheel as he pulled up to his drive and into the waiting garage, which closed behind him with a mechanical clunk. The longer the unsustainable cycle wore on the more meagre his nest egg grew, until he was left with mere thousands in his bank account. Thousands wasn't enough to sustain his lifestyle for long. To sustain Kitten for long. If he didn't get a well-paying job soon then he might end up having to sell the house, and if his luck didn't pick up after that-
No. He wouldn't entertain that possibility. He needed a successful job, so he would get a job and make it a success.
Drury clambered out of the mothmobile and wrenched off his helmet, enjoying the way the cool garage air rested on the film of sweat that had accumulated on his face, and tossed it onto the driver's seat as he fumbled around in his utility belt. Smoke pellets, no. Caltrops, no. Cocoon grenades, no. House keys - jackpot.
He used all his criminal expertise to retain absolute silence as he unlocked the door and stepped into the pitch-dark house properly, cautious not to wake his sleeping daughter upstairs. Assuming she actually was sleeping, of course. Knowing her she might well be wide awake, bingeing one of her Korean soap operas well past the established bedtime. The lack of any sort of light or noise from anywhere in the house was reassuring evidence against that, though.
Drury whipped around to the direction of the voice and reached for his cocoon gun, but was left grasping at an empty holster. Frantically he went for another weapon, a smoke bomb, anything, but found every single compartment in his utility belt empty. But that was impossible, he'd rummaged through them all just not even a minute ago-
"You were quick to react. The instant you heard me speak, you went for your weapons without the slightest hint of hesitation. That is the mark of a professional. I can see I wasn't misinformed about you."
His voice was one of power and nobility: rich, deep and rumbling yet no louder than a whisper, smoother than liquid silk, reaching out with tender fingers that caressed the very soul. Yet those fingers had wicked talons, for within was contained - not hidden - a harshly gentle darkness, like honey spiked with cyanide of the finest quality. It brought a terrifying, sickly calmness to Drury's heart that set it thundering against his chest.
Drury's eyes, finally adapting to the darkness, could finally make out a silhouette. In the armchair facing ever so slightly away from him was a giant of a human being, long, golden hair cascading down his neck of alabaster skin, upon which was a wine-red tattoo of a star. Above that, like a gruesome smile, was a terrible scar that ran out from the hair, across the throat and out of view. Drury guessed that it ran all the way around, as if an executioner had botched a job.
Wide, powerful shoulders led to musclebound arms, though they were not grotesquely so. In one hand was an intricate crystal goblet full of wine, its deep red colour visible even in the low light. In the other was Drury's cocoon gun, held like a toy between slender fingers tipped with jet-black nails, pale where the occasional sliver of moonlight cut across them.
"...I assure you that you have no need for them now."
Drury could not make out anything of his face. No matter how much he tried, his eyes could not pierce the veil of darkness surrounding the intruder's visage. It was as if the shadows themselves clung to this man, breaking the very laws of space in their yearning to be close to him.
He swallowed, certain that the small act did not escape the stranger's notice. This wasn't a supervillain. He didn't have a clue who this stranger was or why he had entered the house, but he wasn't a supervillain.
Drury shook off the hypnotising atmosphere and gritted his teeth. "Where's my daughter? I swear if you've so much as looked at her-"
"Ah, a family man. Commendable," the intruder interrupted, and Drury could hear the smile in his voice. "Your daughter is asleep and untouched, and you have my word she will remain so for my time in this house. I am here for you, not her."
"Here for me? You're looking to hire me, then?" Drury allowed a grin more cocksure than he felt to creep onto his face. "I gotta say, this is the most unique recruitment I've ever had. Usually people just use a phone."
The man took a sip of his wine, taking a moment to savour the taste. The way the wine seemed to stick to the glass as though particularly viscous made Walker want to shudder. "I prefer to meet in person. Modern methods, while efficient, hold little appeal for me, and I am sure you will agree with me when I say it's important to get a proper impression of a product before its purchase."
Drury shrugged. "I can see that."
"Indeed. I presume you want to know about your payment, Drury Walker. You see, I know about your financial situation. You and your daughter are dangerously close to becoming destitute."
The man turned his face nearly imperceptibly towards him, and Drury, for that tiny fraction of a second, could have sworn he caught a glimpse of a grin. When he looked again, though, the man's head was back where it had always been.
"I would appreciate it if you allowed me to help the two of you with that."
Walker raised an eyebrow. "Excuse my skepticism, but most people who employ me don't do it out of charity. What is it that you need me to do? Distract a cape? Guard a drug deal? Grunt work?"
The man chuckled, a distinguished baritone that pierced Drury's body. "Nothing so crude. This mission is of much greater importance."
"I assume that also means it's of much greater danger? High risk of death?" Drury asked.
Another chuckle, louder this time. "Naturally."
Drury narrowed his eyes. "Then why should I accept? I might be in a tough position, but that doesn't mean there aren't other buyers out there. If you know me then you know the Bats, and that means that when you say it's more dangerous, you're not kidding. My daughter needs money, but she also needs her dad alive. What makes you think this 'mission' of yours is worth the risk?"
The man motioned to the opposite side of the room with the cocoon gun. "The payment."
Drury looked to where the man was pointing and felt his jaw drop. There, piled onto his coffee table from one end to the other, was one of the most varied collections of valuables he had ever seen. Precious stones, jewellery, bars of gold and platinum, jade statuettes, cutlery with the distinct sheen of silver, pearls the size of his fist, jewel-encrusted ornaments- was that a Fabergé egg in the fake flowers? The entire thing rested on a thick mattress of paper bills, and from what Drury could count they were all hundreds.
Altogether, it had to be worth millions.
His mouth gaped open, then shut, then open again. He turned to look at the stranger, who he realised was no longer holding the cocoon gun in the outstretched hand. A familiar weight at his side led him to look down and find the cocoon gun safely back in its holster, as though it had never moved. A few quick pats revealed the same for all his other stolen utilities. When did the man have the time to do that? And when had his own hands started shaking?
Steeling himself and clenching his fists, Drury forced himself back into the conversation. "Okay, that's a hell of a lot of money, I'll give you that. That said, it still doesn't answer my question. That's awfully pretty sitting there, but it doesn't mean much if I die before I can earn it. You haven even said a word about advance payment."
"Advance payment?" the man slowly sounded out, every syllable dripping with mirth. "Drury Walker, that is the advance payment."
It took a while before Drury could muster a shallow breath of a response. "I... what?"
"What you see on your table? That is just a fraction of the full reward," purred the man, golden locks shimmering in the darkness as he flexed the thick muscles of his neck, "a mere taste of what will come to you should you succeed."
Before Drury could speak, the nameless intruder's free hand shot up, the index finger pointed towards the ceiling in a 'wait' gesture.
"However," he said in a darker, more unapologetically malevolent tone, and Drury swore he felt the temperature drop, "once you agree to take this job, I will not permit you to back out. Do you understand, Drury Walker? Should you accept my offer, I expect you to complete your mission or die in the attempt. I want you to understand that I will not allow any outcome aside from those two."
"...Why me?" the supervillain-for-hire finally decided to say. "Why not one of the bigger names? Why not somebody with actual powers?"
A beat passed between them without words before the blond man spoke, back to the smooth, hypnotic voice from before, "I would like to answer your question with another question."
"Uh, okay. Shoot," said Drury with a shrug that sent a lance of pain through his ribs.
"Who is stronger, a pickpocket or a baker?"
The stranger sat up in his seat. "A pickpocket or a baker. Which one is stronger? If they were compared, which one would be the greater man?"
Drury paused for a moment. This had to be some sort of riddle related to why he'd been chosen over the competition. But what could it mean? Did the man mean physically? Possibly, but given the weight of the question Drury doubted it. Were they metaphors? Yes, that seemed like a step in the right direction, but what could they be metaphors for? Fortune and misfortune, morality and immorality, something else entirely?
All the contradicting lines of reasoning buzzed in his head like a swarm of wasps. Contradictions everywhere. Hell, the question itself was awful. A baker and a pickpocket were such different concepts, the entire conundrum was apples and oranges. It was like asking if green is stronger than blue. How could anyone properly compare-
And then his answer struck him, and he gave it wholeheartedly.
"Elaborate, please," came the stranger's voice, audibly intrigued. Drury took it as a positive sign and continued.
"You asked which was stronger, but never defined what that strength was. Strength is relative, and each person has their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages that might put them ahead of someone in one field of expertise, but behind that very same person in another field. So, uh, yeah. It depends."
The shadows around where the intruder's mouth would be shifted into what must have been a grin straight off of the Cheshire Cat. "An excellent response. I trust it answers your question?"
"I guess it does. Something about me makes me the perfect candidate, even without powers."
"I'm glad you understand," the man hummed. "You see, in addition to your skillset, you have purpose."
Drury couldn't help but inquire. "I don't follow."
"Your daughter," he explained, sipping the final dregs of his wine, the thick liquid passing unseen lips and travelling down a near-transparent throat. "She is your world. You must provide for her at all costs. This purpose, this reason to continue living even if life itself seems set against you, is your greatest asset, your 'strength'. Yes, even when faced with the Batman, who aims to embody the superstitious fear deep in the hearts of criminals, you press onward because you are driven by your daughter. It is a purpose like that which allows humans to ascend beyond the reasoning of mere survival, like that of a lowly beast, and enter the realm of greatness."
The stranger leaned towards him, the light just millimetres away from revealing his face. "With a purpose like that, a human can conquer their own fear."
Drury felt a sudden weight in his hands, and looked down to find himself holding the emptied chalice the man had been drinking from. From it wafted a familiar, vaguely unpleasant smell that he could probably identify were he not occupied with a mysterious employer with the ability to make sizeable fortunes materialise from thin air. A creak from the chair drew Drury's attention back to the man in question, who now rested his hands against one another by their splayed fingers, talon-like nails emphasised by the pose as they gleamed cruelly.
"I like people who can conquer their fear, Drury Walker, and I am therefore inclined to like you. If you were to accept my offer, I'd be very glad. So, with everything said, what is your decision? Do you agree to enter my service?"
The world seemed to slow to a halt as Drury pondered his options. This mission would surely be one of the most perilous of his career, if not the most, and there was a good chance he wouldn't come out alive. A good chance that he would never see Kitten again. He might never see her grow up, never buy her first car for her, never send her to college. His daughter would grow from a bratty, spoiled preteen into a woman, and he wouldn't be around for a single second of it.
And yet the way things were now, with his consistent failure to bring in a proper reward for the past months, the two of them were creeping ever closer to homelessness. That advance payment would stop that from ever happening. He had contacts in the underworld, who knew how to convert all of those riches into good, usable money. He good, trustworthy had friends who would gladly look after Kitten in his place and make sure she got every cent of the money. She would be set for life even if he didn't come back, and he had to do was say yes.
Silent seconds that seemed like minutes passed between them, the only sound piercing the tense atmosphere being that of Drury's own laboured breathing. The shadow-clad stranger did not seem to breathe at all, the muscled chest as perfectly still as the marble statues it so closely resembled. They stood, not saying a word, each waiting for the other to make a move.
"...I'll do it."
Drury's voice came first as he lifted his gaze from the floor. Time itself seemed to resume as the voice of the intruder - now his employer, he supposed - manifested in the form of a satisfied hum.
"You have made me a happy man. Consider this sum yours and do with it as you like, but do not forget the price attached to it."
"Wouldn't dream of it. Sir." Drury set his eyes on the blackened silhouette of a face as intensely as he could, still clutching the chalice. "So, any details about the job you can give me? Location, names, dates, restrictions?"
"All in good time. Though I can assure you," the man's voice dropped to a hiss, "if you want to see the end of this job with your heart still beating, you will give this EVERYTHING you have."
"...Thanks for the heads-up."
His new boss gave a single amused huff. "No matter what fate awaits you on the path ahead, you are sure to witness great things. Now go, Killer Moth. Go, and change... The World."
With the instant of that last word, everything changed. Gone was the darkened room with a nameless, faceless client reclining in his favourite TV-watching chair. The lights were all on, and the atmosphere was no longer one of terrifying yet soothing hypnotism, replaced with the familiar warmth of his well-tended suburban home. The coffee table was clear of the mound of riches, the only out-of-place feature being one of Kitten's empty juice boxes she had a habit of abandoning. Even the crystal goblet in his hands was gone without a trace, as if his enigmatic visitor had never even existed.
For a moment Drury questioned whether that entire experience had really happened or it had just been the hallucinatory ramification of one too many blows to the head courtesy of Batman combined with his high-strength painkillers, and was almost ready to dismiss it as such when he noticed something else on the table that he had missed before.
Moving to the table, Drury saw that it was an envelope a little bigger than a sheet of copy paper. He reached inside for its contents, but froze when he heard familiar footsteps coming groggily down the stairs. Thinking quickly, he slid the thing beneath the same armchair his employer had used and whipped around just in time to see Kitten step out of the doorway to the landing.
"Dad?" she half-yawned, scratching at her matted bedhead. Drury smiled softly and gave a little wave.
"Hi, honey. I didn't wake you, did I?"
"Well, five minutes ago I was dreaming about the new LuthorTech plasma rifles and now I'm standing down here at an ungodly hour. You tell me."
Drury rubbed the back of his head. "I'm sorry, sweetie, I really did try to be quiet."
"Thanks for the attempt," she huffed, then looked over his battered form with more scrutiny. "Your costume looks torn to shit, Dad."
"Language," Drury chided. "I ran into Batman again, and only just escaped. The suit got pretty badly damaged, and I think he might have broken my-"
Drury stopped. He prodded his chest, tentatively at first, then with more force and confidence, and took a long, deep breath for good measure. There was no pain there anymore, or anywhere on his body for that matter. He felt as good as new, perhaps better.
His injuries were gone.
"Broken what, Dad? Are you alright?" Kitten's tone took a concerned turn as she stared at her father in anticipation. Shaking off the bewilderment, he put on a smile that he wasn't sure entirely reached his eyes.
"Nothing, sweetie. I guess I just mistook a bad bruise for a broken bone, the pain's gone now."
"Alright, if you're sure," his daughter replied, her arms crossed in a not-entirely-convinced manner. "Anything I can help you with?"
"Thanks, but no. It's way past your bedtime already, and it's Monday tomorrow."
"Kitten. School night. Bed, please." Drury fixed her with his signature dad-gaze, the one thing that Kitten knew no amount of complaining or pleading could defeat.
"...Fine." the preteen relented, her arms flopping to her sides defeatedly. "'Night, Dad."
"Goodnight, honey." Drury went to walk away, but paused. "Kitten, wait."
"Yeah?" The young girl turned around only to be enveloped in a firm yet gentle hug by her father's costumed arms.
"You are my greatest achievement, Kitten Walker. You are the most precious thing in the world to me. You know that, right?" He pulled her closer as he spoke.
"Y-yeah, Dad, I know. I love you too. Is... everything okay?" He felt her crawl deeper into the embrace, angling her head so it rested against the moth symbol on his chest. He simply tousled her hair in response as he released her.
"It will be. Now go back to bed, sweetheart. Try to be asleep by the time I come up, okay? Love you."
"Alright, Dad, love you too. Goodnight."
With that she was gone from view, and the steady thud of footsteps on the creaking stairway told Drury that for once she wasn't trying to skip on her bedtime. Once he was certain she was well and truly gone, the middle-aged supervillain retrieved the envelope from its hiding spot and pulled the contents from within. Papers of various sizes and thicknesses glided out smoothly from the opening, the glossy sheen of instant-camera photographs glinting in the soft yellow light. Dropping his body into the armchair, Drury sat back and began to rifle through the contents.
Among the thick dossiers and photographs of a rather bizarrely-dresses group of individuals accompanied by a small dog, one small strip of paper stood out to him above the others. He plucked it from the pile and fished his circular reading glasses out from his utility belt, squinting through their rounded lenses at the fine print.
"Huh, a plane ticket from Gotham to Cairo. Leaves tomorrow morning, one way..."
Kitten Walker, no alias. Daughter of Killer Moth and professional spoiled brat. Equipped with puppy dog eyes and, should they fail her, a particularly vicious temper. Currently combing the knots out of her hair in front of her personal vanity mirror as she prepared to enter another school week.
The hazy sunlight of early morning streamed through her blinds and lit her workspace unevenly, casting odd shadows across her face that she would have giggled at if she didn't have a reputation to retain as the daughter of a professional supervillain. Not that it was a reputation she was allowed to parade around - she wanted to, of course, and totally would if Dad let her, but she understood why it had to remain a secret from her friends.
A momentary lapse in concentration brought a number of plucked blond hairs and a hiss of pain from the head they were formerly attached to. Kitten cursed her own thoughtlessness, she should really know to get her energy up before attempting such a mentally taxing task. She set the brush down on the desktop and stepped out of her bedroom, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she made her way downstairs and into the kitchen.
No sign of Dad yet. Huh.
"Morning, Dad," she called into the empty space. No reply came.
So, it was one of those days, huh? Kitten wasn't a stranger to waking up to an empty house. It was part of the lifestyle, and she accepted that, even if she did prefer waking up to a hot plate of pancakes to pouring herself a bowl of cereal. Still, the question of where her dad actually was remained.
Kitten's eyes were drawn to the noticeboard on the other side of the kitchen, where her father had the habit of pinning their family photos up for all to see. It was also where he would always leave her a note for where he was and how long he expected to be gone for, along with a lengthy list of house rules and emergency contacts.
Kitten smiled. It was like clockwork. There, in the middle of the sizeable cork rectangle, was a sheet of paper. Grabbing her cereal in one hand and one of the fancy spoons she loved to use when her father wasn't looking with the other, she walked over and felt her eyes widen almost to the point of pain as she absorbed the crucial details.
"E-Egypt?! For at least a week?! And what the- 'call your Uncle Garfield if you need anything'? What the hell for, a house fire?!"
This story uses the /co/ version of Killer Moth, or the "BatMoth" version, which might make it confusing for people who haven't read the threads. Or maybe not, I don't know that much about DC. Anyway, if you want to learn more about this little take on the universe then just check the /co/ archive.
P.S. To my regular readers, sorry this isn't the next chapter of QLWMG. I haven't felt much motivation to write for it recently, but hopefully this story marks a shift in my attitude.
P.P.S. I'm not dead yet.