"I won't accept this!" Kalibak, one of Darkseid's favored sons, a half man half beast looking god. He was a powerful warrior. God-like, but not a god in truth. Darkseid had conceived him in every universe because despite his shortcomings, he was a worthy second in command that had led Darkseid's armies well.
"Accept it or not," I started, having the same conversation over a dozen times at the same time. "The truth does not change. You, Kalibak, I have no use for." I stated in no uncertain terms and Kalibak erupted into flames that startled the other New Gods. I recognized some of them by sight - Granny Goodness, Glorious Godfrey, Steppenwolf, and a few more. They watched as Darkseid's commander was reduced to nothing. Nothing but raw power.
My power was new and fragile. The pain still lingered, but my consciousness was filling the void that I had made. It would probably be millions of years before I was as strong as Darkseid, but I would have that time. Provided that I could swallow what I had bitten off.
I ran a hand through my hair, taking hold of my godly power. "I can't stand how things have been run here. Granny Goodness - release the children in your care," I instructed, striding towards the gods without fear. "Those that choose to remain will torture you. Seems like a fitting fate," I decided, making Granny Goodness's eyes widen.
She looked like a kind old woman. Kind eyes with a few wrinkles around them, and smiling lines around her mouth. You really couldn't ever judge a book by its cover. She was the literal god of child abuse. "You-"
"You will instruct them how to best make you suffer. Is that understood?" I asked her, coming to a stop before Granny Goodness. She couldn't accept it. I saw it in her eyes. "No? Too bad." I reached out with a hand, placing it on her forehead and squeezed. My power was clumsy and ill defined, but it responded to my will. I was the God of Tyranny. The world would be what I wanted it to be.
I grabbed hold of Granny Goodness, the God of Child Abuse, and I burned her away. In this universe and in every universe. I heard her screams overlap as she held onto my wrist, trying to fight me off, but her avatars collapsed. The personification of the God of Child Abuse was reduced to nothing, leaving behind only her godly power. The others watched on in horror and excitement.
Godfrey was the first to kneel, "I expect great things from you, Vergil St. Jude, the New God of Tyranny. Your work on Earth has been most fascinating." He informed, the ashes of Granny Goodness fading away in the wind. One by one, the others began to kneel to me.
"I'm going back to Earth," I informed, striding past the New Gods of Apokolips. "I have some things to settle there, but when I come back, this planet has better be up to my standards." I said, the Fatherbox in my pocket activating a boom tube with my will.
"Of course. Your will shall be done," Godfrey agreed as I left Apokolips behind. I emerged on a white sandy beach to find someone waiting for me.
The death of Darkseid had ramifications and it was noticed by a lot of people. Most importantly of all, it was noticed by New Genesis, the counters to Darkseid and Apokolips. The good New Gods that were destined to clash against Darkseid at the end of time. The ones that were locked in an eternal war with him until a peace was brokered by an exchange of sons.
Highfather was waiting for me on the beach, staff in hand. He wore a set of loose fitting robes, his face showing that of an elderly man with a bushy gray beard and gray hair slicked back. He was alone, as far as I could tell. He radiated an aura of power that couldn't be mistaken - that of a high god. We weren't the most powerful beings in existence, but there were precious few above us.
"I thought it might be helpful to you to meet in this universe," Highfather began. "But, I see that you are rapidly adapting to your new circumstances. Humanity truly is a most wonderful race," he said, greeting me warmly. "However, you must understand that you have done something that cannot be done. Even gods are slaves to the forces of destiny."
I strode forward, measuring Highfather. If it came to a fight right now, then I'd lose. No doubt about it. This power was just too new for me to hope to have a chance. Even with Duality back in my holster, I didn't have another Origin Bullet. Perhaps, in time, I could make another but Highfather wouldn't exactly give me that time.
"I don't care what Destiny has to say about anything," I responded, my voice firm and unyielding. The Endless were probably something I had to worry about now. And I imagine Destiny was rather upset with me. "The only will I will obey is my own. The rest of you can kiss my ass - this universe will be what I want it to be. The gods, Endless, and whatever can all get bent."
Despite my tone, Highfather laughed warmly. "I see. Outsider, you who came from outside of this universe, have not been bound by Destiny. This universe is small, and your actions have been contained here, but the death of Darkseid will have ripples across the multiverse. You slew a god and an old enemy. You are now something that cannot be ignored."
"I figured," I admitted. I had found the final high table. The one when forces of the multiverse played at. "Which is why I'm proposing an alliance between New Genesis and whatever I'm going to rename Apokolips. You've probably noticed, but I'm a bit of a plastic bag in the wind at the moment."
Highfather gave a small nod, "You are greatly weakened. I noticed," he admitted. "You seek the strength of New Genesis in this time of weakness."
"No. Your actions have been limited because of Darkseid. I won't call New Genesis perfect, but it's a good place. I want your help spreading that across the multiverse. I got a start on this Earth. I know it's small in comparison all things considered, but it's a start all the same," I told him and I could see Highfather re-evaluating me with every word said. "I can't say we won't ever butt heads about one thing or another, but I think we're walking in tandem to the same destination - the elimination of suffering."
Highfather laughed, "I did not expect this from a God of Tyranny!" He declared, his shoulders shaking from the force of his laughter.
I smiled back, offering a shrug of my shoulders. "Being a tyrant isn't necessarily a bad thing, you know. It just means unlimited power and the will to make everything exactly as I want it." I took in a deep breath and let it out. It was a little scary how well I was taking to the godly powers now at my disposal. How naturally they came to me.
"A dangerous thing," Highfather remarked.
"Which is why I have my girls to keep me in check before I can spiral out of control," I told him. Highfather searched my gaze for a very long minute.
"You will be welcomed on New Genesis to discuss a formal treaty between our peoples," Highfather decided, holding out a hand for me to take. "But, for now, I shall accept your help in making a better universe for everyone. From now until the end of time when we can give this cycle a send off with a smile and a wave goodbye."
I took his hand and shook it, "I wouldn't have it any other way," I told him, my tone honest. He seemed to pick up on that because his smile widened a fraction and he gave me another firm nod. The game…
The game was over. I had reached as high as I could go. I was an actual god now. The subversion of plans against peers was over. Now was the time to make allies with like-minded people, and use our combined power to enforce our will upon the multiverse. It wouldn't be easy. There would be challenges coming down the road. However, I was confident I could overcome them like I had everything else in my path.
"I shall be waiting, Vergil St. Jude," Highfather informed, using a motherbox to vanish back to New Genesis, leaving me alone on the beach. I just made a powerful ally across the multiverse. It would be an uphill battle, but I could probably bring the various Justice Leagues on side. From there, it would be a slow and meticulous process of weeding threats to the stability of the universes. It was going to be a very long road, but I had the time.
"Now," I started, looking down at one end of the beach, "time for the reason why I'm here in the first place." One of the last strings that needed to be tied off. My three piece suit changed shape since my dress shoes were a bit of a pain to walk in. They became a pair of sandals, my dress slacks became loose fitting red swim trunks with a palm tree on them, and a loose white linen shirt. A huge departure from my usual style, but suits and ties and dress shoes were they attire for those in power. It was expected. It's what you had to wear to important events.
Seems a bit silly now that I thought about it. Either way, I was far beyond the point I had to dress up to fit in. Plus, it wouldn't do if I was overdressed for a long awaited reunion.
White sand crunched underfoot as I walked the beach, spotting my target on a folded out chair to soak up some sun. A lone umbrella stood out when the rest of the beach was completely empty. My target didn't react to my noisy approach, simply choosing to lay there with one arm tucked behind his head and the other reaching for a coconut that had a silly straw in it.
"I was wondering when you'd find me, brat," Oswald Cobblepot remarked, not looking at me as he took a sip of coconut milk.
My hard-light projection embedded in my clothing created a folding chair for me to sit in next to him. "I found you awhile ago, but there was just never any time to pop my head in and say hello."
Cobblepot nodded, "It has sounded like you were busy pulling the strings behind our new world order," he observed. "America lost all credibility with the fall of Lex Luthor - nice trick there. Always hated that guy. China is on track to implode again - first the loss of their most developed province, then you hamstrung their hopes and dreams of becoming the world's factory. Russia? It's always been a hellhole that just had more nukes than what's reasonable."
As he spoke, Cobblepot took out a cigar case from his cooler that was next to his chair, cut the end of and struck up a match to light it. Taking a few puffs to get it going, he let out a sigh. "The EU was the last one standing. Never would have bet on that. But, between a single world currency, your company and the Justice League all pushing for it, the EU is going to grow into a world government. Never thought I'd see the day."
"You make it sound like I planned all of that," I remarked, soaking up some sun. It felt like it has been ages since I last did. I hadn't always been this pale. "It was mostly taking advantage of the circumstances."
Cobblepot grunted, sounding faintly amused. "Hard to imagine that you're the same brat that came barging into my office after stealing from me and killing my men. If I had any idea how big of a pain in the ass you'd be, I'd have shot you then and there."
"I don't blame you. I'd have shot me too," I agreed. "But, you landed on your feet. It's a nice place - isolated, cozy, and secure." It was an artificial island just off of the Cape Coast. Completely unregistered, away from all official trade lanes that saw even less use than before, and it was pretty. In the center of the island was a modest mansion that was loaded up with art and artifacts. There was a small dock on one end that had a yacht anchored. Above all else, it had a great view of the ocean.
"Not secure enough," Cobblepot scoffed. "I expected you when you got my gift from the GCPD. Never imagined what they'd be bringing you in for, but you're a reckless brat. I figured they'd be bringing you in for something or another." He easily admitted to the assignation attempt with a small uncaring shrug.
"Eh, that actually helped me out a bit. Poor defenseless teenager brutalized in police custody? A real tearjerker. I think you might have helped me win my case," I told him, earning a brief scowl from Cobblepot as he gazed out at the ocean. The incredibly blue and vibrant waves crashed upon the shore before retreating back into the ocean. Overhead, I heard a seagull squawking. I was only mildly surprised when Cobblepot took out a handgun from his cooler and started taking shots at the birds.
"You were good at making the best out of a bad situation," Cobblepot admitted, nailing one of the sea rats and making the rest scatter. "I liked that about you until you used it against me."
"You're holding hard feelings about that?" I asked him, earning another shrug as Cobblepot idly took potshots at the retreating birds.
"Would you?" He questioned and for the first time since I arrived, Cobblepot looked at me. He had a tan going on. It also looked like he had lost some weight, even if he still was overweight. He still looked the same, though - a jawline that was lost in a layer of fat, beady eyes, and a too long of a nose.
He had a point. "Oh, absolutely. But, at the same time, I would never expect anything less from a kid I extorted into working for me."
"Meh - you're the type that can accept anything if you're given a good reason. Before you betrayed me, I was in the process of giving you a reason. So, it seems you were spared from becoming my underling for good because of my bad timing," Cobblepot remarked with a smirk in his voice before he turned his attention back to the ocean.
"I won't apologize, if that's what you want," I told him bluntly, also looking back at the ocean.
"Wouldn't believe it even if you said it," Cobblepot returned. "Just let me ask you this - were you going to kill me?" He asked me directly, not sounding at all bothered by what my answer might be. I think his exile had done wonders for his stress and health.
The truth was… "If it was necessary. The plan was to strong arm you after the expo into accepting something like this - an exile called vacation," I told him, earning a huff from Cobblepot. "But, I don't think you would have accepted it no matter what. I'd have given you enough rope and hanged you with it when you tried to get back at me." I never really wanted to kill Cobblepot. Less so now than ever because, in the end, those months under him taught me the lessons I needed to know to be where I was now. To be what I was.
"So, whatever it took to keep your conscience clean?" He asked me, letting out a sigh that took the form of a cloud of smoke.
"Pretty much. I learned a lot from you. I hated that your boot was on my neck, but I never really hated you for it. I understood. More so now than ever," I admitted. "If you had just followed through on destroying those tapes then I imagine things would have gone very differently."
Cobblepot scoffed, "Destroying my leverage? Nah, never would have happened."
It seemed that we were in agreement. There was absolutely no possibility that we could have continued as we had been. We were always going to betray one another.
"That aura thing around you," Cobblepot remarked, "Did you reach it?" He asked me, and I knew what he meant.
"Yeah, I did. I have the whole multiverse in the palm of my hands," I told him outright. There was still more road to go, but I wasn't afraid. "If it helps you at all - turns out you're a universal constant. Like Bruce Wayne's parents getting murdered. It's a sign of a healthy and stable universe."
Despite himself, Cobblepot did seem a bit mollified. "Other mes can eat shit and die," he swiftly decided. "I'm more concerned about my wellbeing than I am some prick that looks like me an entire universe away. But, I am going to take credit for your ascension to whatever you are now. You were a diamond in the rough when I got you, and it was my spit and polish that made you something worthwhile."
"Can't really argue with you there," I agreed. Tiptoeing around Cobblepot is what taught me the lessons that I needed to learn to take on forces like the Justice League, the Light, the Reach, and now Darkseid.
"That's because it's indisputable," Cobblepot asserted. "You're at the top, kid. A height that I'll admit that I never had a chance of reaching. What are you going to do with it?"
The answer was simple.
"Whatever I want."
"Heh," Cobblepot chuckled. "That'll be a sight. Am I going to see it?" He asked me, taking a long drag as he approached the question he had wanted to ask since the beginning. Since my arrival.
Was I here to kill him?
"Retirement suits you," I told him, giving him his answer without saying as much. "Things are about to start opening up, though. The EU is discussing visas with Mars. Pretty soon, the whole world is going to start opening up to everything beyond our little planet. There's a lot to see," I told him, rising to my feet as I cast a final look at Cobblepot. My mentor. My enemy.
Cobblepot chuckled, "I've gotten used to an empty schedule. I'll take my time with it," he said, his gaze meeting mine and he offered the barest hints of a nod. The message had been delivered and heard loud and clear.
"You'll have all the time in the world, Mr. Cobblepot," I told him, taking out my Fatherbox and opening up a boom tube as I lazily waved over my shoulder. "I'll see ya' if I see ya'"
Cobblepot didn't return the farewell before the boom tube closed behind me and I stood in my office. Tifa seemed to be waiting for me, her arms crossed with a distinctly unhappy expression on her face that was immediately lost when I appeared.
Tifa cast me a fond smile, "Everything work out, Vergil?" I had to bring my aura in and crush it down to the point that it was undetectable. At least to the point that most people would miss it. I strode forward as Tifa smirked at me, giving me a once over, "New look?"
"A new me," I told her, Tifa locking arms with me as she led us to the elevator. "Am I late for something?"
"No," Tifa said as we got in and she brought us to the ground floor of Lowtown. The first floor that was ever made. "You're just on time," she told me, giving me a look out of the corner of her eyes. Then she rolled them. "You could at least look surprised, Vergil. No peeking through the cameras."
"I'll do my best to look surprised," I told her, earning a kiss on the cheek as the elevator descended over two hundred floors before the doors cracked open. It was then that I was immediately hit by a wall of noise with near physical force, everyone screaming the same thing at the top of their lungs.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" Everyone in Lowtown seemed to scream as I stepped out of the elevator, spotting 2B and Cass holding out a cake with mutual expressions of excitement. Revy and Miranda looked on. They weren't the only faces I recognized - Waylon, Jason, Dick, Diana Prince, Clark Kent, and more. It seemed like everyone I had ever met was attending the party in one form or another. I even spotted President Bruce Wayne.
"Wow, you really got me. I never saw it coming," I told them, telling the truth, just not about the party.
A lot changed in a year.
I imagine more would change in another.
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