Alright, I think I held this chapter up long enough.
Hey guys, it's Dane. Happy Belated New Year! I hope everyone has been doing well. I'm sorry for not being active as of recent times. I've been preoccupied with IRL stuff for the past months. Most of which have not been the kindest even to this day. Besides that, I've been alright. Mostly. Still filtering out the problems in life even as I get kicked down. Really, I have been pretty beaten down a lot, especially during January. I'm sorry for not being as productive in recent times. Life's been shitty, honestly.
Anyways, this is the continuation of the last chapter which will be the final one as I'm moving to other scenes. Actually, this chapter was already done a while back but I decided to withhold it in order to add another chapter right after this one. However, some recent developments happened and I'm releasing this now while I re-edit two other chapters to keep the transition smoother.
Before I let off I want to say thanks to ManwithaPlan113 and Evowizard25 for helping me with this chapter. You guys have been the best and I recommend everyone to follow them and subscribe to their stories.
And before I go (for real), I really need to get this shit straight.
ZILLAFAN: I don't know what you're trying to pull here. Am I supposed to feel jealous that someone did a better Doom story than I did? There's like a bajillion other fics out there who have done better than me. And since we're on the same topic, why the fuck do you even need to make a comparison in the first place? If you think Stupid's story is better then great, go back to reading their work and keep it to yourself! And if you want to criticize my work, I'm more than happy to swallow my pride and take it into consideration as I've said before! But do not EVER fucking use comparisons as a form of criticism unless you want to use it as an example of Spiritual Antithesis or write some sort of analysis in a discussion! It is disrespectful and insulting. Any other form of criticism is fine but not this.
As for the UID story, I'll admit, I enjoy Stupid's story despite my misgivings like the self-insert aspect and the occasional misspellings. It's a fun read and I even follow him on SpaceBattles for more of his content so there's that. Quite the irony. Shame on you, though.
As for the others, I'll probably have to either PM or create a Q&A forum for this fic alone. I'm too tired and I held this back for too long so enjoy this almost whopping 12k word story.
The entire League had returned after a 30-minute break. Many were still reeling and distraught by the imagery gathered by VEGA's files. Batman remained stoic, though disturbed like everyone else. All around him, signs of distress were hanging on people's faces. He'll have to pay the janitor to clean up the hall outside after this.
Beside him, Superman looked uneased and empathized with the others. And just behind them, Wonder Woman kept an eye on the Slayer as he leaned back against the wall, arms crossed.
VEGA was booted back up in the mainframe, clearly present to answer questions from the heroes. Batman cleared his throat as he made his announcement.
"Before we begin, I am glad many of you are holding up in spite of the gruesome evidence. If you wished to leave, then by all means."
Only silence echoed after a solid minute. Doom Slayer noted the conflicted emotions visible on everyone's face. He had already suspected these people weren't ready to see how terrible the Mars Incident was. Eventually, many of them had determined looks on them and decided to stay. Batman nodded in understanding.
"Very well." He answered, turning back to the AI. "VEGA?"
"Thank you, Batman." VEGA began. "I fully acknowledge that much of the recordings at the time are disturbing. However, what you see is entirely accurate of what had happened in the Mars Facility."
"Then why?!" The speedster cried out. "What was the exact purpose for all those experiments?! Clearly, those bastards were doing it for kicks!"
There was levelled-anger growing in his voice, and many others were in total agreement. VEGA, as usual, tried his best to answer.
"At the time, the UAC had proposed several projects leaning towards warfare and combat purposes. In hindsight, however, it appears that this was a ruse to prepare an invasion."
"Lemme guess, Dr. Hayden let it grow? Like every other decision made within the UAC?" Canary sarcastically remarked, having grown disdain for the doctor.
"Unfortunately, that was the case." VEGA answered. A collective groan was heard amongst the superheroes. "However, Dr. Hayden had reservations about Olivia Pierce's malpractices and was prepared to resign her until she started the invasion."
"So what? She made a deal with the Devil?" Flash asked, to which VEGA responded, to everyone's shock, "Correct."
"Seriously? Just like that?!" Flash noted in surprise. Doom Slayer pulled out his board and scribbled.
Power drives people.
The Justice League had a collective facepalm as they went down the UAC rabbit hole.
"Okay..." Superman started, absolutely repulsed by the UAC, like everyone else present. "So let's review the whole thing. So, in the future, humanity is going through an energy crisis and they resort to mining a new energy supply that is discovered on Mars. Except said energy supply also comes from a dimension that is literally Hell but continued excavations despite the risks to its staff. Which lead to some parts of said staff committing heinous acts of human sacrifice and illegal experimentations, which finally resulted in a demonic invasion on Mars, leading to the death of several of the company's staff."
"A rather compressed version of the story but yes." VEGA agreed. As Batman was prepared to ask more, Martian Manhunter raised his hand.
"Identified: Martian Manhunter. Designation: 08. What is your question?"
"Please, VEGA, just Martian Manhunter is enough. No need for the formalities." The Martian spoke. "And my question is regarding the whereabouts of my people. Given what information was offered, there is no mere mention of Martians. And, out of concern, my people were not wiped out, were they?"
Having brought this up, it had now occurred to the Justice League that none of the Martians, causing much fear and concern.
VEGA, meanwhile, briefly stopped and collected data from the Justice League Archives. The AI returned with new information.
"After collecting data from your archives and cross-referencing your account, I can safely say that this is not the same Mars I am speaking of. Rather, a different version of it."
Martian Manhunter felt relief to know that his people were not in danger, though, a little depressed to know there was a planet without Martians.
This, however, lead to another question brought up by Flash.
"Wait, you're saying this is a different Mars? As in from an alternate timeline?"
"Correction. The proper term would be 'alternate dimension'." VEGA corrected. "As I was gathering data from the UAC Archives, I've also collected your Earth's history and noticed peculiarities that do not match up with the version of Earth that I originated from."
"So not a time traveller? As in literally someone from another universe? Like Doctor Who?" Green Lantern said in exasperation. This prompted another colorful response from the Slayer's scribbles.
With guns, yes.
More murmurs followed, astonished at the information now given.
"Correct. It appears that the Slayer and I have jumped across dimensions and stranded in your version of Earth."
"Speaking of you-know-who..." The Robin Hood-esque hero mentioned, pointing directly at the marine. "What's this guy's story?"
Everyone looked at Doom Slayer as he had now become the main attraction again.
"What do you mean?" His wife asked, not understanding his question. "We just saw footage of him."
"Well, yeah, but that's just it." Green Arrow replied. "All we know is that the dude woke up buck-naked from a sarcophagus, smashed a zombie's head with his bare hands like some alarm clock, and has a rather unhealthy manner of killing demons like some horror movie slasher! And we still have no idea why he was there to begin!"
Green Arrow's explanation dawned upon everyone just the absurdity of Doom Slayer's existence, prompting Batman to investigate further.
"VEGA, can you pull up existing files of Doom Slayer? We need all the information provided."
Instead of answering the hero, VEGA instead began conjuring up pictures and data regarding the Doom Slayer.
"Doom Slayer, Doom Marine, DM1-5, Scourge of Hell, Hellwalker, Unchained Predator, and numerous other epithets."
"Wait. Doom Marine?" John puzzled. "This man is a marine?"
"From what we uncovered, correct." Many had a rather noted look of surprise as they turned to the marine.
Dishonorably discharged. He scribbled. The League wondered what had gotten him a dishonorable discharge but his recorded martial abilities were proof enough to dissuade any skepticism. John scratched his chin considered perhaps speaking with him later.
Having that cleared, slides began being pulled up, with images of Doom Slayer facing ferocious-looking demons. As VEGA sent in images and texts found from the archaeological digs, the leaguers were shocked by how old most of them were. Batman and Wonder Woman, especially, were instantly absorbed in the details provided by the AI, curious by the plateau of information despite the limited sources the AI uploaded.
"These are... way older than I thought. Even before our time." Wonder Woman critiqued. Batman himself was deeply invested but kept the knowledge to himself.
Batman spied them instantly while the other leaguers only caught on after a few moments.
"But, that's impossible. How come Doom Slayer is here when all these pictures show him in the exact image of himself?" Flash pointed out, raising the ire of the leaguers as they gazed at Doom Slayer more suspiciously and in confusion.
"The Doom Slayer's origins are…shrouded for a lack of better words. There is not much known about him other than the collection we have gathered. Attempts to gather from the source have been less than satisfactory. Only records that existed at the time were found in the excavations on Mars. What is consistent, however, is that the texts accurately detail the exploits of the Slayer. Presumably dating back even before the first humans had existed. Perhaps older than that, even."
"So we got ourselves a living fossil with us?" Green Arrow spoke in astonishment.
The Justice League looked back at the armored man. He didn't seem at all aged and was practically in physical peak.
"So, he's gotta be a bajillion years old beneath that helmet. Right?" Flash assumed.
"He could be immortal." Wonder Woman pointed out. "No one is able to kill those demons without being in his prime."
"Possibly a metahuman." Batman added. "His speed and strength seem enhanced. Combined with combat training, he's a deadly fighter."
"If that's the case..." Superman dawned. "...maybe he can show his face."
Everyone looked in unison as they turned to Doom Slayer. With detailed observance, Batman noted some hesitation in the Slayer's body language. Complete silence was brewing within as everyone watched uncomfortably. Superman broke the ice and spoke.
"Look, Slayer. You don't have to-" He was immediately interrupted as the Slayer raised both hands and reached for his helmet. Loud hissing steams and clicks followed as he took off his helm, revealing what was underneath. Laying in front of their eyes was a man in his prime. A face with sharp features and a prominent chin, dark brown hair shortened to a crewcut, and olive green eyes that pierced into everyone's souls in a fixed glare. He was practically a mirror image of Bruce Wayne if he stood at 6'8" and was heavily armored.
What was especially haunting were the eyes that had everyone's attention. A thousand-yard stare that had seen a lifetime of battle and bloodshed. For hardened and experienced fighters like Wonder Woman and John Stewart, they were right on their money but never knew how intense of a look he had. For the pacifists such as Superman and Canary, they saw a man broken and remade into something much more volatile. For Batman, he saw a man who had seen loss and anguish in a long time... and one who had nothing left to lose in the face of oblivion.
"...oookay." Flash spoke up. "He is human, after all."
"And somehow, a lot scarier without the helmet." Green Arrow added, followed by Canary elbowing him. "Ow!"
"Regardless of your opinions, it's now clear to us that he is human. Metahuman, possibly." Batman deduced.
"Okay, but how do we know if he really is old?" Flash added. "No offense but he could be exactly the same age just like everyone else."
Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter gave slightly offended looks back at the Flash, to which he added, "Present company notwithstanding."
"If I may..." Martian Manhunter stepped in. "I could go into his mind and link to see if that is the truth. Granted, if he is willing to comply."
Everyone turned their eyes to Doom Slayer's response.
Bad Idea. He wrote. The League felt a foreboding chill as he wrote that answer in vague terms.
"What? Afraid we might find some secrets you don't want us looking?" Flash asked sarcastically. The answer he got deflated him.
Afraid for you. He wrote, then pointing at the alien hero. The whole League was in total silence as they tried to grasp that knowledge. Just how bad was it that he'd be afraid to share his memories?
"...if it's that bad, maaaybe we shouldn't dive into it, then." Green Arrow suggested, quite worried for his friend.
"J'onn, you don't have to do it." Superman added. "What we have now is sufficient."
"I agree." Batman followed up. "Some things are better off remain hidden."
Though, innately, the Dark Knight wanted to. He needed more information out of this anomaly. However, seeing firsthand the Slayer's methods and approach to demons, he immediately thought best not to know what sort of madness was in his mind. In the end, his moral compass won out.
The Martian contemplated his decision. It seemed about everyone protested the decision. Staring back at the Slayer, he could see the man was shaking his head in protest. Yet, even with that grim scowl, his eyes spoke of someone pleading not to. That this was a burden he alone must carry. That was enough to turn against it.
"...in that case, it is for the best." J'onn stepped down. The others were relieved to hear it. Even Doom Slayer simply gave him a nod. Batman spoke to the AI once more.
"VEGA, do you have any other information on the Slayer's exploits?"
"Indeed, there are also audio records." VEGA answered.
"Play the recordings, then." Batman ordered.
"Very well. Accessing audio recordings." Said VEGA. Immediately, the Justice League's ears were invaded by the sound of a demonic and malevolent voice erupting from the speakers, startling them.
"IN THE FIRST AGE, IN THE FIRST BATTLE, WHEN THE SHADOWS FIRST LENGTHENED, ONE STOOD. BURNED BY THE EMBERS OF ARMAGEDDON, HIS SOUL BLISTERED BY THE FIRES OF HELL AND TAINTED BEYOND ASCENSION, HE CHOSE THE PATH OF PERPETUAL TORMENT. IN HIS RAVENOUS HATRED, HE FOUND NO PEACE; AND WITH BOILING BLOOD, HE SCOURED THE UMBRAL PLAINS, SEEKING VENGEANCE AGAINST THE DARK LORDS WHO HAD WRONGED HIM. HE WORE THE CROWN OF THE NIGHT SENTINELS. AND THOSE THAT TASTED THE BITE OF HIS SWORD NAMED... THE DOOM SLAYER."
The entire room felt cold as the League listened closely. Dread was the word to describe the effect the voice had. Several questions were on their minds but kept quiet to listen to the recordings. The voice continued to narrate the story of the Slayer, retelling the man's legend like some apocryphal epic. It regaled of angelic beings called "Seraphim" and how they blessed the man with unimaginable power in his crusade against Hell, and an unknown individual known only as "The Wretch" who had forged the armor the Slayer was now wearing. The more it spoke, the more it became clear to everyone that this wasn't just some legend being retold to mortals. It was a warning to the demons that stood in his path.
It wasn't about a man who fought alone against the legions of Hell. It was a story of Hell keeping him away from them.
With each word, the voice detailed some ridiculous lengths no sane man could have gone. One instance came in the form of a demon called "The Great One", a champion of sorts that fought the Doom Slayer in an unknown battle. And with great despair, it spoke of the Slayer's victory over it. Many would have scoffed at the tales were it not for the proof they witnessed. And hearing it destroyed any doubts they had of the Slayer. Eventually, the story concluded with an entire mountain dropped on Doom Slayer. Many were stunned that the demons, in their desperation, decided to just drop a mountain over the man in order to stop was rather overkill.
"They dropped a freakin' mountain on you?!" Flash floored, his colleagues in equal amounts of shock.
Didn't stop me. Doom Slayer scribbled. The League had to take a moment and mumbled amongst themselves, trying to piece together the Slayer's feats.
"End of recording." VEGA announced.
"VEGA, is there any more of Doom Slayer's exploits?" Batman asked.
"I'm afraid not. The only proof as of now is the video recordings during his mission on Mars and files documenting his unknown origins."
"Send the files to me, I will look into them." Batman requested. "As for the videos..."
The Dark Knight looked to his League. Many of them dreaded the thought of watching the Slayer's onslaught and Batman could see they weren't as prepared.
"If any of you wish to leave, feel free. I will not keep you here to watch the rest of the footage." Batman suggested. Many looked to each other. Doom Slayer observed, again, the conflicted thoughts on their faces but ultimately steeled themselves.
"If it means to understand a possible existential threat, I will watch if only to inform the Green Lantern Corps."
"So will I." Hal Jordan and John Stewart stated.
"My sisters in Themyscira must know of this threat. They must be prepared." Said Diana.
"And Atlantis will stand on guard." Added Aquaman.
"My people on Mars will investigate and monitor any signs of a demon incursion." J'onn lastly said. Following this, more of the Leaguers agreed.
With the League in unanimous agreement, VEGA resumed.
It took some time getting used to the gore put on display. However, the League was a bit more prepared. At best, many of them cringed in distaste at the number of glory kills in such creative manners. They never thought it would be possible for a zombie to have his head stomped with his own leg. It was like watching from the perspective of a superpowered serial killer. The only reason they didn't prosecute the Slayer was that all of his victims were demons. And given how the latter committed full-on slaughter on the facility, there were no tears shed. Doom Slayer, meanwhile, was completely unphased by his own perspective. And while he wouldn't call himself a vain man, he did appreciate the glory kills he had done.
From right where the last video left off, not a single moment was spent with the Slayer rampaging his way through the facility. Everywhere, the Slayer's perspective was fraught with action and suspense. About everyone was on the edge of their seat watching the recordings like an action film. It was definitely not out of place in a summer blockbuster film. The Doom Slayer even had the hallmarks of a stereotypical action hero. Add some one-liners and he would be up there with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Few of the heroes even got a kick into the clips though not admitting it in morbid fascination. The only parts that weren't so horrifying were surprisingly the little figurines scattered throughout the facility and collected. This threw the Leaguers off the loop, with some like Green Arrow and Flash snickering before the Slayer's baleful gaze turned to them.
As it is, they remained silent, observing the recordings. Dr. Hayden - the CEO of the UAC - made his presence sporadically. Though, the impression he had made upon the League was dampened by the fact that he had knowingly allowed Hell to invade Mars in order to mine Argent energy, the reasoning behind his actions spread a lot of doubt and reluctance in denying the importance of Earth's survival. Hearing the anguish the cyborg was giving just as Doom Slayer smashed the Argent filters was not as satisfying as most would have expected. On the other hand, they couldn't really blame the Slayer's actions for doing so. Who was right and who was wrong - despite the obvious pointing to the Slayer's direction - in this event was a debate for another time.
Still, Hayden was naturally a far better person compared to Dr. Pierce. The moment she appeared onscreen, the woman was absolutely insane. Delusions of godhood and talks of sacrifice - said sacrifice being obviously humans - while also blatantly committing human rights violations in the name of power by throwing her lot with Hell. No one in the room was sane enough to side with her. And for good reasons. Hayden, for all of his faults, was at least somewhat justified and understood. Pierce was not.
Yet, there was a sense that the recordings had more to offer at the moment. All it mattered was how it ended.
Certain heroes, however, had a much different view of the videos. Batman, in one instance, watched with analytical observation; face impassive as he studied the Slayer's combat capabilities. There was no holding back in the man's punches, he observed. Brutal was a complete understatement in his fighting skills. No time was wasted in ending the demonic forces on Mars. And with each passing moment, escalated with various demonic subspecies. Each worse than the last demon before it. One instance being a demonic prototype known only as the Cyberdemon. Gargatuan and implemented with experimental cybernetics and weapons, hence the name. Unlike the other demons who recognized the Slayer with total fright, this one recognized him with absolute hate for the marine. So much that it had taken two times to kill it after it's Argent cell was removed. Not that it was enough to survive its second encounter with the marine.
Yet, in spite of the blatant slaughter, there was a layer of efficiency and practicality in his methods and a surprisingly familiarity with technology and weapons, even if they were morbidly twisted. Had they been done on another human being, which had already happened with one 'Jorge Benoit' sent to the ICU in critical conditions, there could be enough to push for an arrest and imprisonment with a specialized metahuman cell. However, the demons were in no way human and the man was still alive. With enough time, Benoit would be drinking from a straw while also serving his sentence.
Focusing again on what's happening, the footage was still rolling; flipping between Mars and Hell locations. Many of the League cast looks of dread and horror at the landscapes caught on tape. Many wondered how many worlds had been ravaged and conquered by Hell. Giovanni Zatara signed a cross on his chest and prayed for the souls that met their grisly ends. Only the Slayer's presence, despite qualms and objections, brought ease to many.
Throughout, many observed the weaponry and abilities collected on the Slayer's journey. From the weapons side, they were blown away by the wide range of weapons the Slayer had at his disposal. Some as simple as a regular double-barrelled shotgun - dubbed the Super Shotgun for whatever reason - to the most devastating of weapons like his weapon simply called the BFG.
When asked what it meant, VEGA helpfully supplied it as "Bio-Force Gun". For Doom Slayer, he just nickname it the Big Fucking Gun. Of course, nothing was as grisly as the Chainsaw, seeing far more use in the footage than it should be. It probably would have made Leatherface feel proud if he were real. Really, just about everyone in the room barring Doom Slayer and Batman flinched and cringed as they saw the Slayer just mow demons down with an apparently illegal black market weapon. Throughout it all, however, Batman simply watched stonefaced as ever. Though he did seem intrigued with some of the technology shown and was no doubt planning on how to acquire some for research.
On the abilities side, however, were some rather peculiar anomalies. Throughout, the Justice League observed the first instances of Argent spheres absorbed and utilized by the Slayer himself. The first and most devastating of his "powerups" was Berserk. Literally, the orb simply just made him absolutely angry and balls-to-the-walls insane by killing demons with his bare hands. They watched him literally wipe out an entire battlefield of demons just by ripping limbs and tearing guts on the fly. One can only wonder if the Slayer really needed to use guns.
The second ability, Haste, was more or less akin to that of a speedster. Doom Slayer was zipping across entire rooms just hopped on Haste, with bullets even fired at a faster-than-normal rate. Just blinking alone was enough to lose track of where the Slayer was.
The third, Invulnerability, was a rather obvious ability that anyone could have figured out just by the namesake. All it did was make the Slayer simply invincible just for a brief period as the demons tried to claw at his armor. Not that he wasn't already. Just fast and agile on the battlefield.
The final one, Quad Damage, was rather unique amongst the Argent orbs. It boosted the Slayer's damage by four-fold, allowing him to annihilate his enemies in quick succession and giving him added firepower to his already deadly arsenal. Batman mentally took note of this, theorizing that the Slayer is beyond a metahuman and perhaps something else akin to something supernatural perhaps. A god isn't out of the question considering the existence of Diana as proof and magic existed though confidential for the most part. Still, he would have to bring this up in the next assembly.
As the video progressed, a few of the Leaguers got up and requested to leave temporary for a break. There was only so much blood and gore and sheer mayhem they could handle. Some left with queasy stomachs and green faces. Others with thoughtful faces and minds clouded with worry and fear. Some however stayed still and watched on. This was a threat. A massive one, one that could become apocalyptic. If there was a chance this reality would follow the Doom Slayer, the Leaguers would need every advantage necessary to defend the world.
As the few who stayed all the way, a poignant scene had come up. Before it, they had gained the knowledge of an artifact known as The Crucible. A strangely demonic-looking key (presumably) that had an impact throughout the Slayer's adventure.
Now, though, just right after executing the last of the Hell Guardians - the third and final having its parasite torn apart with bare hands -, Doom Slayer retrieved it and a peculiar sight appeared on screen.
Five ghostly apparitions appeared before the Slayer. They had worn armor unknown to any of the League yet bore striking resemblance to that of some sort of medieval knights and crusaders. Before the Slayer was teleported, the centre apparition gave a warrior's salute. A sign of respect that most of the League had not expected.
"Who were they?" Wonder Woman inquired.
"Night Sentinels. An ancient warrior caste of Argent D'Nur." Informed the AI, much to everyone's astonishment.
"Sentinels? Argent D'Nur? These names aren't familiar to us." Superman pointed out.
"Data is limited but from what we have excavated, they were an ancient race presumably before Earth's time. Indications reveal that they have fought the demons before an unknown betrayal had occurred. What is consistent is that the Doom Slayer was a part of this caste, even hailed as King of the Night Sentinel."
"The King of the Sentinels?" Superman continued to question.
Wonder Woman looked intrigued as she narrowed her eyes.
"You are a warrior king then, Doom Slayer? How did this come about?" she asked the marine.
Stranded. He wrote. Started as a slave. Fought my way up.
"Sounds like a plot to Gladiator." Flash remarked, earning Doom Slayer's baleful glare, not amused by his comment. Barry shut up quickly but Wonder Woman took notice and immediately stepped in front of Flash.
"You'll have to forgive his behavior." Said Wonder Woman. "He does that sometimes. But back to you. It must've been brutal. Though, perhaps well-earned."
For a time. He wrote. Became one of them later on.
"And what were they to you?" John spoke up. There was a pause in Doom Slayer's movement. Many wondered if they had pushed his buttons too hard. Silence was interrupted as Doom Slayer wrote the next words down.
"Comrades in arms." Superman said with a smile, "A friendship forged in fire?"
Died with swords in hand. Doom Slayer wrote. Superman hadn't expected a grim answer and felt sorry for putting a bit of humor in that dark episode. For a brief moment, Diana saw the loss and lamentation in the Slayer's eyes. A bond shattered by tragedy. A language even she understood.
Batman continued to stew in silence, contemplating this new influx of information. Especially this order. It was a powerful military order, one with potent weaponry and armor. And from a strange world known as Argent D'Nur.
"Where is this Argent D'Nur? And these sentinels? Are they still active?" Batman questioned.
Far away. Only ones left serve Hell now. Doom Slayer wrote. That left everyone dismay.
"What? What happened?" Wonder Woman inquired. The next words didn't make anything better.
Civil War. Slave to Hell now.
"So that means..." Superman dawning on the situation. "We're too late."
No. Doom Slayer added. Not too late. Still alive. Just hard to find.
"Which means our options are limited to just us." Batman spoke up. "Still, some contingencies should be discussed for another time. However, I do believe there's still some footage left."
"Correct, Batman." VEGA said.
The Leaguers were eager to get this wrapped up, most of them having returned now. Captain Marvel remained outside, the hero wiping his forehead damp with sweat. Superman ventured out and sat out there for a moment, talking softly to the other hero. The rest of the Leaguers watched the footage with rapt attention. Eventually, Superman and Captain Marvel returned to their seats as the footage was being wrapped up.
The footage, of course, had a lot of demon killing, however, the setting now took place where VEGA was being secured.
"This is my primary facility." A recorded version of VEGA said, "It is where I was created and where my core processing unit is maintained. It takes 2.4 terawatts of power to sustain my operational capabilities, but it has been decided that we can use that power to send you to the source of that portal."
The Flash was just about ready to make an impressed comment before VEGA's next words threw off everyone.
"I will not survive the procedure nor am able to self-terminate... so I will walk you through the process."
"You WHAT?!" Flash exclaimed. Most if not everyone was thrown off by this scene. Even Batman, stoic as he was, found it unexpected.
"Calm down, Flash. Just remember that VEGA is still present with us." Superman eased. "Right, VEGA?"
"Correct, Superman." Said VEGA "Though, much of my operational faculties are limited, I am still able to perform a small range of duties and assignments throughout as of this moment."
Despite the reassurance, the looks of everyone, however, were full of anxiety and anger as they looked back at Doom Slayer. Deeply, though, even the Slayer himself was uncomfortable at sacrificing VEGA.
Thankfully, the footage still rolled to include his saving. Barring the fight with more demons, they watched the Doom Slayer get to work by terminating the neural networks. After that, it was the coolant system, accelerating VEGA's destabilization.
The entire sequence felt like watching someone assisting another's suicide. It was rather painful to witness especially when VEGA began to lose his voice after an intense demonic fight. After Hayden started explaining the final process, those final moments were spent watching VEGA die for the sake of the Slayer's quest. The whole scene was reminiscent of that of a brain cancer nearing its final stages.
Thankfully, at the last moment, they watched the Slayer make a backup drive before he initiated the self-destruct sequence. Even Hayden, it seems, sounded remorseful in VEGA's destruction, whether out of the fact he had lost a valuable asset or out of sincere regret, it was agreed that VEGA had been a great ally throughout the footage. Even with VEGA still present, that didn't stop him from ushering his final words.
"I have many regrets, Dr. Hayden..."
And with it, followed the portal and into what is presumably the final recordings of the last battle. A pause came, however, as soon as Batman raised his voice to stop. Silence was what followed next as the Leaguers took a moment to collect themselves and process what they had gone through. One particular hero, Red Tornado, pondered the last words of the recorded VEGA. Was it possible for an artificial lifeform such as VEGA to feel regret? Perhaps other emotions? If so, could an android such as Tornado feel emotions as well?
"That was…something." Green Arrow commented, more to himself than anything but everyone shared his sentiment.
"Indeed. This ordeal was full of bloodshed and horrific monstrosities." Wonder Woman added in, looking at the projection with vague disgust. The idea of the demons being on Earth was as horrifying as it was enraging.
Immediately the room became loud with the rest of the heroes making their own comments or questions of the horrifying exposition provided to them.
"What are the chances these demons will follow you here Doom Slayer?" Batman spoke up, his question piercing through the commentary.
Many thought of that question and collectively turned to Doom Slayer with increased anxiety and fear.
The next words the Slayer himself wrote did not help at all.
"Any time?!" Marvel repeated. "You're telling us there is a chance that the demons might end up here any time? When? Next year? A month? A day?!"
Only a nonchalant shrug was given by the Slayer himself. Captain Marvel looked frustrated and was ready to burst.
"Enough, Cap." Batman ordered. "The extent of the teleportation is unknown. As far as anyone knows, it seems the demons have not yet come. Still, we will be on alert. For now, I believe there's still some footage going. Hopefully, it's just the end of it."
"This is disconcerting. If these demons can truly invade at any time…I must warn my sisters of this threat."
"And I must warn my people." Aquaman chimed in, his face turning grim.
"This is crazy. Crazy! Just the other day I was beating up crooks in silly costumes and now at any moment I could be fighting literal demons from hell?" Green Arrow grouched, "This is just fantastic!"
"Enough." Batman interrupted before the rest of the Leaguers could groan further.
"We will prepare. That is a guarantee." the caped crusader said with finality.
The Leaguers nodded, moving their gazes back to the videos with uneasy but steady resolve. They will not fail. They couldn't fail.
The recording continued, possibly for the final time. Now, it took place somewhere in Argent D'Nur (or what lands that once belonged to Argent D'Nur from the Doom Slayer's memories). And it is where the source of Hell's powers, the Well, resided. A great demonic voice boomed across the lands as Doom Slayer arrived.
"HE MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO FREE THEM." It spoke. Who was "them" it spoke of was in everyone's minds now.
"Them? What does it mean by 'them'?" Superman inquired.
The Elemental Wraiths. Doom Slayer wrote. You'll see.
The vague answer didn't leave a lot of satisfaction but everyone just went by the Slayer's words. The Justice League observed the footage of Doom Slayer's final battle with the demons as he came close to shutting down the Well. Hell, it seemed, was throwing everything they could against the human. Desperation drove them to throw their best champions and foot soldiers as many of Earth's heroes observed, who by this point now understand the fear that inspired these creatures. Once the Slayer had cleared the entire field, he came upon these... indescribable things the League was looking at. They seemed like something straight out of H.P. Lovecraft, resembling a cross between a manta ray and a bat. The imagery of how they were created had some of the semi-serious heroes shuddered created but none dared to raise a remark or comment about them. What mattered most was that the Slayer used the Crucible to kill them, severing their ties to the Well and releasing their souls from torment. This happened only three times, each being proven difficult to carry out with the plethora of powerful demons blocking the Slayer's path in futility.
As all three wraiths had been laid to rest, it was time that this nightmare had ended. Finishing off the third wraith, the League watched as the Slayer stumbled upon more of the Night Sentinel apparitions, standing stalwart and vigilant before a visible open-mouthed entrance just behind them. It was one final hoorah and a final goodbye to the ghosts the Slayer once remembered as his brothers. He made a great descent into the sanctum down below, a great, big unholy symbol appearing just on the surface as he landed. Standing upwards, the Justice League was greeted again by Olivia Pierce. This time, though, her appearance was off. Disturbing even. Her exoskeleton was caked in blood, as was half her head and hands. Her eyes were now milky white, possibly blind. Her face, now void of ambition and cruelty, had a sense of pitiful loss and contemplation. Many, however, understood something was about to happen.
"They promised me...so...much." Were the last things she uttered before some unknown power that be manifested itself and struck the mad scientist with unholy power. She screamed in agony at the sudden energy before dropping to the floor, prostrating in pain until she melted into the floor. The liquid started to bubble as she disappeared, growing more and more volatile before a huge mechanical appendage exploded upwards. And then another, revealing what used to be Dr. Pierce in her unholy transformation.
"HOLY SHIT!" Screamed both Flash and Green Arrow.
"O Father in Thy Heaven..." Muttered a horrified Zatara, as he signed a cross over his chest.
"By the gods..." Diana followed, horror etched on her face as well as everyone else as they saw Olivia mutated into a giant brain with giant mechanical spider legs to support her. An unholy fusion of flesh and metal made real. Even Batman and Superman felt unease in this horrific transformation. Only Doom Slayer was ever remotely emoted, save for a bemused smirk on everyone's reaction and a mix of contempt and satisfaction for the final fight against the mastermind of the Hell Invasion.
"W-What happened to her?" Superman asked worriedly.
"In the final stages of her ascension, Dr. Olivia Pierce was granted - in simple terms - 'divinity' by the Lords of Hell and gained the title, Aranea Imperiatix."
The name itself was intimidating, and Olivia's new form backed it up for certain. A battle ensued. Visceral and fraught with heavy weaponry. The extent of Olivia's new form brought about deadly weaponry to match the Slayer. A plasma cannon underslung from Olivia's 'belly' blasted away, targeting the Slayer as he moved across the blood-soaked grounds. Other times, lasers unleashed from her body as well generating electricity swept across the dome, searching and damaging its sole target with the intent to kill. Doom Slayer, meanwhile, was throwing all he had. Every single one of his weapons had been upgraded and outfitted with several mods to even the odds of his fight. The Justice League watched on with morbid joy, rooting for the Slayer to win. As time passed on, it was clear that the transformed doctor was taking too much damage in the fight, failing to even beat the Slayer in spite of her efforts. So much that even her legs had given up on supporting her weight, dragging her across the floor while the plasma cannon kept misfiring as Doom Slayer got close and personal and delivered the punishment while she was vulnerable. Not long after, the supposedly divine being glitched out as her circuitry and controls malfunctioned upon near-death. The mad goddess had been defeated, much to everyone's relief. However, rather than simply let her die in her own throes, the League watched as Doom Slayer pulled out the BFG once more and stick it into her mouth. Olivia's final moments were that of silently accepting her death before her brains got blown from the back, causing everyone to cringe in disgust. No sympathy was given due to Olivia's heinous acts against humanity, though, several members denied that they found grim satisfaction in the wake of her death.
This was the end it seemed. Everyone initially had taken a breather before they watched Doom Slayer suddenly get pulled away and teleported into a dark room. Approaching the Slayer under the darkness was Samuel Hayden. Finally, was the truth revealed.
"You've won. It's over." Hayden began. "You stopped the invasion and closed the portal. But it's come at a price... Argent, VEGA. This entire operation. You see, I've watched you work - come to understand your motivation. You think the only way is to kill them all - leave nothing behind - and you may be right. But we can't just shut it all down! Without Argent Energy, it will be worse. I don't expect you to agree."
The League, at this point, now understood the context and the Slayer's animosity to Dr. Hayden. The man was still desperate to gather Argent Energy even after what had happened. Many were prepared to speak but watched in silence as Hayden grabbed the Crucible and continued his monologue.
"But with this..." Hayden said as he held the Crucible. "We can continue our work! I am not the villain of this story. I do what I do because there is no choice."
The facility's voice command briefly interrupted Hayden, saying out loud, "Re-routing tether coordinates... Complete."
"Son of a bitch!" Green Arrow yelled out, anger levelled by the cyborg's double-cross. As did the rest in varying degrees. The more emotional of them like Captain Marvel and Flash were rather vocal while the calm and collected individuals like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman expressed disappointment. Doom Slayer, however, felt only silent umbrage, watching a repeat of his own mistake. His anger was felt in the room, quieting everyone as they almost heard a thunderous roar crashing into their very minds.
"Our time is up." Hayden continued. "I can't kill you... but I won't have you standing in our way."
In wake of this, the League watched in shock as the Crucible suddenly transformed into an energy sword. Many were thrown off and astonished to see it come to life with Captain Marvel having a wondrous gaze. But with wonder came horror as they saw the cyborg doctor walk away with the Crucible.
"Until we see each other again." Hayden finished. The Mars recordings ended abruptly as the Slayer was pulled away. Instead, it switched to the events on Earth, featuring Batman and Deathstroke in the midst of a fight. Most of it involved Doom Slayer and Deathstroke duking it out between gunfights and close-quarter combat but Batman's appearance drawn everyone's attention as they found one of their most esteemed friends getting kicked to the curb in a one-sided fight. None spoke of it and kept it for the better for Batman's sake.
"So that's how you came to Earth." Superman noted to the Slayer. "You didn't come here by accident. Hayden sent you off so that you wouldn't tamper with his work."
"And that he would need a contingency in case of another invasion." Batman added. "Dr. Hayden, in spite of his illegal experiments and procedures, knew full well of the threat that Hell imposes. And given the amount of data revolving around the Doom Slayer, it's safe to say that our primary anomaly has proven to be Earth's last line of defense."
"Meaning?" Wonder Woman asked.
"He's the nuclear option." Batman answered. The League began to whisper among themselves, giving glances back at the Slayer. The opinions were slightly positive now, recognizing the Slayer's effort to avert an apocalyptic scenario. Some perhaps a little more enthusiastic than others.
"YOU HAD A LIGHTSABER THIS WHOLE TIME?!" Captain Marvel exclaimed up close to the unphased Slayer, much to everyone's embarrassment. The terror that gripped the Captain had been replaced entirely with enthusiasm. "LIKE, THAT WAS THE COOLEST THING TO SEE! I MEAN AFTER ALL THAT BLOOD AND GORE WHICH WAS GROSS BUT THAT WAS THE COOLEST THING BUT MAN, IT COULD'VE BEEN SO COOLER IF YOU USED IT ON-"
"Oooookay! That's enough Cap!" Superman stepped in and dragged Marvel away by the collar so as to not aggravate the Slayer. Batman continued on, "As I was saying, with the evidence now open on the table, it's time we begin a review. Doom Slayer, you are to be escorted and sent back immediately to your cell."
Doom Slayer's glare was a little bit more intense but shrugged, being equally distrustful. Doom Slayer approached the computer and prepared to uninstall VEGA, eliciting Batman to stop only for Wonder Woman to place a hand on his brooding friend's shoulder.
"We'll earn his trust first." Diana said. Batman looked back at Doom Slayer retrieving VEGA back into his suit before he was escorted Red Tornado.
"I'm in favor of allowing the Doom Slayer to join the Justice League." Superman spoke up. "From what was shown in the footage, it is quite clear that the man has proven to be a valuable hero and friend to all of Earth. Or Earths from what we have gathered."
"I'm in favor as well, Superman." Diana agreed. "The Slayer has proven his mantle as Humanity's protector. Without him, we may neither stand a chance against this grave threat nor become aware of it. Perhaps spanning even before our time."
"I for one am open to accepting Doom Slayer in our circle." Zatara followed. After completing through the videos recorded on Mars, the Justice League was convinced to initiate a review of the events, though not before dismissing Doom Slayer and Robin, the latter of whom was sent back home. Consensus were divided, though, with many still reeling on the gruesome. Of course, allmost half of the assembly voted to accept a potential recruit in Doom Slayer. Some, however, were not convinced.
"Guys, I know we all are glad that this guy saved our asses singlehandedly but aren't we jumping on the bandwagon a little too quick?" Flash further pointed out. "I mean, did we all forget that the dude might not be in the right mind? We just saw him beating the crap out of a twenty-foot-tall demon with nothing but his own bare hands. Not to mention the number of ways he can kill a demon! That's a slasher's wet dream we just saw!"
"Barring the language, what Flash speaks of does bring concerns on the table." Aquaman added. "Even if the Slayer is on Humanity's side, there's a matter of his... methods... that should be concerning. And given what had happened at the Gotham Docks, it's telling that he cares little for his surroundings. And if this were to happen in daylight and with civilians in the area, the consequences would be... grave."
Silence deafened upon hearing Aquaman's judgement, citing the destruction of the cargo ship. Were it not for the League's quick-time response, a lot of lives would have been lost that night. It was only until John Stewart finally spoke up.
"While it is true that the damage at the docks was serious enough to go through an investigation, we should remember that we have also gone through a history of property damage ourselves. Yet, it is the very threats that have the potential to wipe out an entire populace that leave us no choice but to detain them while also taking into account the possibilities of destruction."
"But you forget the most important and serious issue that needs to be brought up: his arsenal." Batman stepped in. "Just from what was recorded, the Slayer carries some of the deadliest weapons in a presumably interdimensional pocket, just ready to be pulled out and used at any moment. And even then, he is capable of killing with just his powers alone. And he will not hesitate to do so it seems. Not to mention, he is also withholding the most highly advanced artificial intelligence known to man and is actively keeping it with him to his cell currently. My say in this is to put him in a specialized cell where he wouldn't create potential hazards and endanger lives. Perhaps sealing him in the Phantom Zone would be the best bet."
Many were stunned by Batman's logical conclusion at the possibility of the Phantom Zone. The interdimensional prison was meant for severely dangerous threats that have no real way of eliminating by mundane methods. Yet, none were willing to argue the logic of it. Nor could they fault the Dark Knight's issue with the marine. The discovered recordings of Batman facing the Slayer himself in the docks left a lot of them cringing. The Doom Slayer was - in no way to defend - violent and downright ruthless to his ends.
The Green Lantern that was John Stewart, however, was not one to relent. "I know he may seem like a gun nut, and to be frank, carrying that many weapons on him would probably put him in a court case. However, given what sort of threats he was dealing with, it's not hard to see why he has them. Still, I believe it best we should consider further talks with the Slayer. He is armed, yes, but he is a soldier. And given that he could communicate albeit non-verbally, it's not a stretch to try to reason with him."
"He's got a point." Hal - another Green Lantern - spoke up. "I get the paranoia of this guy going postal and all but he's pretty much risked everything to save this version of Earth from literal Hell. Of course, if it helps, we could tell him to relinquish certain weapons like the 'BFG-whatever-number-it-was' to minimize the damage."
"Certain weapons?" Flash asked. "Why not the entire armory?"
"I'd say that but... that's just going to anger him a lot. And he's more likely to be very resistant to that notion. For now, we'll just have to have him put down certain weapons. With the others, he can simply replace the ammunition with rubber bullets and non-lethal. And to further John's notion, we can also put him on probation. Observe his activities and see if there's any change in his behavior. Be it good or bad."
The Assembly looked to themselves, still finding a consensus. Half doubted that they could let someone like the Slayer to walk freely, while the other desire a way to help the man in some way. Batman, however, knew Stewart's route would be in his favor and it was Canary who was the first to support the latter.
"I standby John's approach to reason with the Slayer." Dinah said. "He has so far behaved reasonably and possibly of sound mind seeing he stood witness to his own recordings. We always take the simplest and peaceful approach before resorting to other alternatives."
"I concur." Red Tornado agreed. "Logically, to deny such an individual would mean losing a valuable ally in a future invasion. His expertise on fighting demons could bring us knowledge unknown to us until now and perhaps provide counters and defences against dire straits. Moreover, VEGA can also provide additional information and even aid us in some capacity."
Following this, Superman, Wonder Woman, Zatara and even Captain Marvel as well the rest of the heroes slowly raised their hands in John's favor. Batman, dour as he was, relented if only to see such a thought worked.
"Very well." Batman conceded. "But if it doesn't turn out good... we try it my way."
The Dark Knight's tone was made clear by everyone. Hopefully, the peaceful approach worked in their favor.
Elsewhere in the Watchtower
Doom Slayer sat still in the cell he was temporarily placed in, his helmet kept hidden in his interdimensional pocket. The cell itself was protected with some sort of energy shield to keep powerful fugitives from getting out. Provided that they weren't the Slayer himself. If he wanted to, he would have break the shield with a few simple hits with his fist and simply walk out with zero effort. The only reason he didn't was the fact the people who ran this base were a rather compassionate group and sympathized with his crashed landing. Perhaps a little too much but that's probably because he hadn't had any human contact in a long while. Going to Hell and back - literally - could do that to you. Still, kindness itself is what stopped him from escaping. That and there were no demons running around.
Doom Slayer raised his head as the shield deactivated. This time, it was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, John Stewart, and Black Canary that came in. The marine stood up, waiting attentively upon his hearing.
"Greetings, uh, Slayer." Superman started, still trying to get used to a very unconventional name. "After some time assessing your skills and status, the League and I have decided to welcome you to our organization, as well as helping you integrate with Earth."
The Slayer quirked an eyebrow. He found that statement a little too trusting. Probably a little too good to be true. But Superman's tone seemed rather sincere of the offer. Following this, it was Black Canary's turn to speak, "What Superman speaks is true. The Justice League will provide you with a new life to start over. We have the resources necessary to get you a head start."
"And you will also have friends to support you if you are confident to speak your mind." John Stewart added, before correcting himself. "Uh, non-verbal or otherwise."
"The Justice League provides heroes with the support and resources, regardless of their origins."
Doom Slayer thought for a moment at the offer. He considered their helpfulness and nothing sounded untrustworthy to their words. And while these three seemed genuinely encouraging to aid him, there was still one other man in the room. Batman locked eyes with the Slayer with trepid paranoia hidden underneath a stoic portrait. That was convincing enough for the Slayer to reconsider the offer.
Scribbling down, he wrote, The catch?
Barring Batman, the four heroes' smiles slowly started to drop as they now found themselves hitting a curb. Superman scratched his head as he conveyed the words. "Well, Slayer, in order for you to integrate back on Earth, there's just some rules and protocols you need to fol-"
"We're going to keep you under surveillance. Otherwise, you'll be working under Justice League jurisdiction." Batman jumped in. Superman winced in embarrassment as his closest friend decided to ruin the moment. The other three felt the same, mentally sighing in defeat. Doom Slayer's response was to cross his arms dismissively. Batman's famous glare had no sway over the marine, who had already seen a lot worse. Like a certain commanding officer from his past.
Stewart was the one to break the ice and stepped forward. "What Bats means is that we have certain lines we do not cross. After reviewing, much of the League have questioned about your... methods... for a lack of a better term. And we are wondering if you could... uh... take an alternative... approach?"
Meaning? Slayer wrote, not getting the hint but not liking where this was going. Black Canary spoke up and said, "The Justice League has a... 'no-kill' policy implemented throughout the organization. And since we are inducting you into the League, we thought perhaps we can talk you out of going for the more violent approaches. Or tone it down to acceptable levels, perhaps."
Furrowing his brow further, Doom Slayer wrote, A joke?
The four heroes excluding Batman looked to each other with growing discomfort, now forced to acknowledge that this was going to be a very difficult process. And it was certainly not helped that their brooding friend stepped in.
"No." Batman said. "In fact, this is serious business. And we mean it. You are a danger to everyone on Earth. You will obey and follow protocols that we give you. You step out of line and we will force our hand. Do you understand?"
The other heroes grew pale upon seeing Batman threatening a futuristic super-soldier who was very capable of throwing the gauntlet. Before any of them could pull Batman outside, they heard a deep and terrible sound that made their spines chill.
"No." Said the Slayer. Those very first words. All froze upon hearing the Doom Slayer. They had not expected him to talk since he arrived, having presumed to be mute due to his voice being scarred at some point or simply non-existent to untold years of isolation. Yet, it wasn't so much the answer as it was the voice. It was deep. Quite deep. Like the sound of an earthquake preparing to set off or a volcano just reaching its apex before erupting. The brief terse words was enough to set off alarms in their heads. It came so sudden now that none barely moved from their spots. Even Batman was dumbstruck by this, his eyes widening ever so slightly to show his surprise in the subtlest way.
"Y-You can talk?" Superman asked, still taken by surprise. Doom Slayer simply nodded in understanding. As the heroes regained their composure by their own shock, Batman was able to do so quickly and made his point across. "Then clearly you seem to misinterpret my words: that was an order. Not a request."
The board in Doom Slayer's grasp snapped in two like a twig, causing everyone - save Batman - to react defensively just as the Slayer slowly approached Batman with menacing intentions. Seeing through the Slayer's motion, Superman stepped in his path to protect his long-time friend.
"Hey, hold on a minute!" Protested Superman with hands raised. "We can talk this out!"
Rather than stop in his tracks, the Slayer kept walking through even as Superman was now forced to push him back. Said push did nothing as the Slayer pressed on. Surprised by this, Superman increased his strength even further. Now, he was floating and straining to remain immovable. Wonder Woman aided the Man of Steel by throwing the Lasso of Truth around the Slayer's neck, wrapping it and pulling from behind to support Superman. A fruitless endeavor that only angered Doom Slayer further. John and Dinah were ready to stop but Batman motioned them to stand down. As the Slayer made his approach, Batman stood ready to face him down. This time, he was unwavered by the same dread he had felt earlier. Even with the overwhelming aura the Slayer invoked, Batman had faced many perils in his life. This will be the same as the rest.
Yet, even as danger loomed over, a most unexpected thing happened. The Doom Slayer stopped in his tracks. Superman opened one eye and noticed how little space he had between Batman and the Slayer. Wonder Woman relaxed her grip as she realized the pause in his tracks. Doom Slayer leaned forward and got into Batman's face.
"Not...my...problem." Said Doom Slayer, his anger roaring silently but felt by everyone. Both men maintained eye contact, never once flinching nor blinking as they wrestle it through intimidation. It was only until John intervened did they stop.
"That's enough! Both of you!" John chewed out and looked to Batman. "Bats, this is not going to work if you escalate the situation. Let me talk to him and get him to see how we do things. You get out of the room along with everyone here. Let me handle this."
The Dark Knight made no response but John knew he was listening. Contemplating the Green Lantern's words. Batman spoke up after an intense minute of silence passed and said, "You have sevenminutes."
Batman walked away, the hangar opening. The other heroes had concerned looks on their faces.
"Are you sure you want to do this, John?" Asked Dinah, with John answering, "I'll be fine. Seven minutes is all I need."
Uncertain by their friend's decision but no less trusting him to his words, Superman, Diana and Dinah left out of respect. The door closed behind them, leaving John alone with the Slayer. The Green Lantern's ring then projected an hourglass, the sand now pouring down.
"We don't have a lot of time, so let's get to the point." John started. "Let me start off by saying that I'm deeply sorry for Bats' way of interrogation. He does that with every newbie that comes to the League. Willingly or not, But he has a point regarding protocols. So did the others. We don't kill but not without reason. Many of which are legitimate. That policy is there so as to avoid legal troubles with the law. And by law, I mean the governments. Down on Earth, the only threats you'll find are criminals and supervillains. No demons, obviously, but when we are handling criminals, we apprehend them and let the government decide their sentences. That's it. Drop them in the court house and let the rest do their work."
"Bull...shit." Doom Slayer scoffed dismissively.
"Perhaps but it's better than playing 'judge, jury, and executioner'." John argued, not backing down. "It's not about killing equals bad. If we go down that path, we'll just give the bureaucrats another good reason to not trust us. Believe me, this is not the first incident we went through. By taking the pacifist approach, we at least maintain a good public image and more freedom to do the good work. It may not matter to you but for everyone else, we are walking on thin ice. One misstep, we'll be drowning in red tape and there'll be no one left to make sure to keep the bad guys in check. At best, the governments will try to find some way to make us work for them with frugal results. At worse, superheroism is outlawed and we get disbanded."
Doom Slayer maintained his silent stoicism. John couldn't tell if the Slayer was impressed or still dismissive. He continued, "Look, I get it. Those monsters you've killed, I respect that. I'd do the same if it means protecting Earth. But on this Earth, we have none of that. The Justice League, many of them have never killed before, and I can't blame them for not doing it. But you and I both know how terrible the first kill can be."
Doom Slayer's eyebrow raised a bit with piqued interest. "Marine?"
"Yes. Toured in the Middle East once. Got court-martialed after a fallout with my CO at the time. Ordered to kill civilians and I disobeyed. Thankfully, got an honorable discharge after some public support reached out."
Doom Slayer pounded his chest out of respect. Birds of a feather. John took a mental note of it, one worth bringing up in the near future.
"But let's not get sidetracked. Protocols are protocols. No killing unless we have a say in this. Which is rarely. Look, I can vouch for you if you get into some troubles. Anything but killing. Unless there is another invasion, you gotta play by the rules with very few exceptions. Are we clear?" John finished. The Green Lantern knew that the Slayer wasn't dumb. He was beyond just a killing machine beyond a suit of armor and muscles. It's the matter of convincing someone full of anger issues to stand down and cooperate.
The hourglass by now was nearing its end. The sand was emptying and reaching in the bottom. John hoped the man made the right decision or else Bats was gonna get a real good excuse to lock up someone.
"Fine." Doom Slayer finally spoke. By that point, the hourglass reached its course. John sighed in relief.
"Come on." John issued. "The others are expecting results. Don't want to get them willy-nilly."
"Hmm." Grunted Doom Slayer, though, John could've sworn it was a chuckle.
Deathstroke awaited at the drop site. It was a large warehouse long abandoned when the Great Recession came. Only rats and pigeons have made it their residence since. A perfect place for drop-offs and trades hidden from the authorities. The mercenary crossed his arms as he patiently waited for his employer. He could hear the footsteps reaching his spot. Not a single trace of fear was found on the mercenary's face.
Deathstroke turned to the man he was to meet. Appearing from the shadows was a man of equal stature. Strong and burly beneath a dark longcoat with long dark hair reaching down his shoulders. His face would be akin to a neanderthal of the stone age but Slade kept that to himself to avoid pissing off his employer. Regardless, his employer was none other than Vandal Savage. The most powerful man to exist on Earth and the de facto leader of the Light.
"Deathstroke." Vandal stated. "Do you have what was requested?"
Slade silently pulled out the still bloody blade from its sheath. Even with a stoic face, the man's eyes lit up with great interest. As if he had anticipated this moment beforehand.
"As requested, Lord Savage."
"Excellent." Stated Vandal. "Now for your payment."
Suddenly, Slade's burner phone instantly beeped in the midst of the trade-off. Pulling it out, his eye blinked in surprise at the digits he was seeing.
"...this is triple than the payment I was supposed to receive today." Deathstroke pointed out.
"Indeed." Vandal agreed. "While the incident from the docks was irreparable and costly, the blood you have gathered is extremely valuable. And to give meagre payment to a man of your calibre would be an insult. You'll have to forgive my decision earlier... but the secrecy of it was out of necessity."
Deathstroke scrutinized the man's motive behind the rash decision.
"...you're hiding something. "
"And I will keep it hidden as it is. Wouldn't you agree, Slade?" Vandal coldly responded. The reply was no doubt a subtle threat.
"Agreed." Deathstroke said evenly. "I have no intentions of prying those secrets. It's just that everything has been unravelling in rather interesting ways. Especially with the new piece on the chessboard. Something I can look forward to in future endeavours."
"Then it is settled." Vandal replied. "It is fortunate you have brought this to my attention. Not to mention, returned in one piece. But my statement is clear. There will be no engagement with this man. For now, only surveillance."
"Understood, Lord Savage." Deathstroke noted. As the mercenary gave away the blade, Vandal placed his hand on Slade's wrist. The man briefly glanced down before meeting the eyes of the primeval man.
"But I should warn you: if there comes a time when you're on your last legs... make sure to keep one bullet for yourself." Vandal warned. There was almost a sense of fear coming out of the man's voice. Realizing what kind of threat this new stranger was, Deathstroke nodded and took a mental note of it.
After which, the drop-off had ended, leaving both parties satisfied. But a new phenomenon had come. This Earth is now at the centre of attention as a new figure had come. And behind him was an unquenchable thirst for vengeance and an innumerable count of unholy bodies left in his wake. The world had its superheroes... but all it needed was a slayer.
To be continued...