Batman: Dark Side 2 – Dark Prince

Chapter 8: Dark Finale

Gotham City, United States of America, Present Day…

Boba Fett said nothing as the Batman was led down the loading ramp. His internal scanners were now running through the local radio waves for any sign that they had been detected, but he doubted that the primitives of this planet would have anything that could penatrate his cloaking field.

Nightwing paused as he exited the ship and looked at the bounty hunter. "Tell him I'll kick his ass the next time I see him," he said to Arsenal.

The red-haired hero laughed. "He speaks the lingo, Bat Boy. Tell him yourself."

"Don't make threats you can't carry out, kid," Fett said, his hand brushing against the butt of his slung rifle. Not even the threats of the Batman could make him leave it on the ship. "You're only back now because it keeps the peace."

"I'm sorry I didn't just lay down and die for you," Nightwing said with sarcasm. He turned to the Batman, who was being supported by Booster Gold. "Kidnapping is still a crime here, Bruce."

"As if any of you are in any condition to take me on," Fett said, contempt heavy in his tone. He pointed to each of them. "All of you have had your hides skinned and then put back on with all of the delicacy of an enraged Wookie! I don't care about your primitive laws and customs."

Batman stepped closer, shrugging off Booster Gold's aid. "Tell me something, Fett; have you ever fought two Sith and won?"

"You didn't win…you survived," Fett retorted.

"I'm no expert, I'd say that anyone who can do that is a winner. I'm beaten up, not taken out. I don't like you, you're mercenary garbage and I want you out of my galaxy…now."

Boba Fett considered his options and realized that this discussion held no purpose or profit. He needed to get his ship back to the owner and see about collecting a fee for cleaning up the mess. Without another word, he turned and headed back into his ship.

As he sat down, his internal monitor told him that his jet pack's override was slightly out of alignment. He cursed, remembering how the one called Blue Beetle had been playing around with it. He knew it would have to be fixed, but he did not have the parts handy. Mandalorian armor, after all, wasn't something you found in just any junk shop.

Still, if it were to get struck, it could fire off his pack unexpectantly. He fired up the images and choked back a laugh. As if anyone could ever get close enough to hit the override! He was Boba Fett.

Nobody ever got that close to Boba Fett.

The Martian Manhunter floated down to the ground next to Batman. "I trust all is well now?"

Batman nodded his head. "I wish you could have gotten here a little sooner so you could have wiped Boba Fett's memories as well."

The large Martian shook his head. "I do not believe that would be advisable. Without further study of the mind of the individual from this other universe, such an attempt  may prove catastrophic, perhaps even fatal. When I originally made contact with Darth Maul's mind, I was overwhelmed by the complexity of it."

"I don't think I quite understand, but it's unimportant right now." Batman sat down on a rock and took a deep breath. "We need to wipe mine and Dick's identity from the minds of Huntress, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle."

"I am still against this on a moral level. You revealed your identity to these people and they put their lives on the line for you, Bruce. Doesn't that entitle them to something?" The Martian saw that his argument was not going to work.

A few feet away, the Blue Beetle was putting the final touches on a drawing when the Manhunter approached him. "Oh, hi J'onn," the hero said, putting the drawing into his pocket. "Shopping list for Mike's Booster Gold suit… it got pretty beat up."

The alien scowled, detecting a hint of deception from the Blue Beetle, but that wasn't unusual. The man was always hiding some scheme or another. J'onn opened his mind up and sent out the probing tendrils that searched through the Blue Beetle's conciseness. There was no way even for he to comb through the lies, half-truths and exaggerations that filled the human's mind. "Can you make sure I remember to do this list? Otherwise, I know I'll forget."

"Yeah, J'onn! Don't let him forget; it took him six months to fix it last time. How can I be a super-hero without a costume?" Booster Gold added.

J'onn thought for a moment and crossed his arms over his barrel chest. "What a concept to consider…a world without Booster Gold." Booster shrugged and the matter was dropped.

The Huntress walked over to Batman and gave him a large wet kiss full on the lips. "You know, you could trust me."

Nightwing stepped over. "You know, maybe we can't." It was obvious that he was not at all happy about her knowing his secret identity, despite the fact that she had seen him fully out of costume.

Batman looked over at the Martian Manhunter. "John, do it."

It was over in less than a second and the alien immediately excused himself. The request to alter someone's mind left a bad taste in the Martian's mouth. Batman turned to the assembled heroes. "How do you all feel?"

"Just fine, Steve," the Huntress said, obviously fishing for a response. "David? Mike?"

"What?" Booster Gold responded. He immediately ran over to where the Huntress was. "You called my pet?"

Batman shook his head as the Huntress punched Booster in the stomach. Arsenal came over and helped the Caped Crusader stand up. "Donna is coming with transportation back to Gotham City, Bats."

"Don't call me that," Batman responded. He looked over at Nightwing, who was smiling. "Is something funny, young man?"

"No, it's just nice to see someone cares about me."

"Don't get any ideas. You'll be washing the Batmobile for months for this one," Batman joked. Then he got serious. "Welcome home…son."

Imperial Center, a long time ago…

"What is thy bidding, my master?" Darth Vader asked as he knelt before the Emperor.

"Rise Lord Vader and tell me of your quest for the Kaiburr Crystal?" the Emperor commanded, stepping down slowly from his dais. His Dark Side Adepts bowed and moved away to a respectful distance.

"I have failed to aquire the Crystal," Vader said, standing. It was now that the Emperor noted that his pupil was missing an arm. Live wires occasionally sparked when the Sith Lord moved in a certain direction. He had sent his apprentice to the planet Mimban to investigate a sighting of the fabled artifact.

"You should have that fixed, Lord Vader. How is it that a Sith Lord approaches his master missing a limb?"

If the Dark Lord was embarrassed, he did not show it in his response. "I confronted the rebel Luke Skywalker. I lost my arm in a duel with him."

"Really? Against an untrained Padawan of a dead Jedi Master? You seem to be having a run of bad luck Lord Vader," the Emperor said in a soothing voice. Through the Force, Darth Vader could feel the sarcasm. A moment later, the door to the throne room opened and Prince Xizor stepped in.

Vader's lightsaber ignited immediately and he leapt in front of the Emperor. Xizor stumbled back slightly, not expecting such a response. The Emperor laughed and put a hand on Vader's shoulder. "Put your lightsaber away before you cut off your other arm."

Vader burned at the rebuke. "As you wish," he said, deactivating his weapon and replacing it on his belt.

The Emperor bade Xizor to enter. "You remember Prince Xizor of the Falleen?"

"Lord Vader," Xizor said, bowing his head slightly. Vader reached out in the Force to try and get the measure of the alien, but found the thought processes and emotional responses too foreign to discern. Xizor eyed the sparks from the severed arm. "My, that must…hurt."

"Pain is nothing to a Sith Lord," Vader commented. He was now curious as to why this minor courtier was in the throne room at this time.

In response the Emperor explained. "Prince Xizor has become an indispensable advisor in recent months. I expect you to afford him every courtesy."

Vader nearly choked. "My lord, are you certain that is wise?"

"You dare to question me?" the Emperor asked, suddenly his voice filled with wraith. His eyes grew wide in anger. "Don't presume to instruct your master, Lord Vader! I will keep counsel with whomever I wish!"

Vader immediately kneeled again, willingly accepting his punishment. Blue lightning sparked around the Emperor's fingertips. "Don't think I don't know about your little side excursions to Imperial Center or your conflicting emotions! I can smell the betrayal on you, so foul is its stench!"

"My emotions are clear, my master," Vader said. "There is no conflict."

Xirzor fought to keep his color a serene green and his face impassive. He was enjoying the show almost as much as the Emperor. They had already discussed this confrontation, as Xizor had commented that Vader would not be happy with the Falleen's newfound importance.

The Emperor hesitated and then the lightning dissipated. He took in a deep breath, savoring the contrition of his pupil. "Attend to your damage, Lord Vader, and then return to the Executor to seek out the Rebel base. We will discuss all other…matters at a future time."

The Dark Lord stood and looked from the Emperor to the Falleen. He understood that this had only been a demonstration and that his position of power was in jeapordy. He started to say something, anything that would reaffirm his devotion to the Emperor and then he remembered the Dark Knight who had risked everything to save his child. He could still feel the burning pain of the Batman's soul and the torment he had experienced as he started to see himself through eyes that had been blinded for decades.

Without another word, he left the throne room. He exited not as the pupil of the Emperor, but as a fallen Jedi who needed redemption. Was it possible that he and his son could reshape the galaxy? Through Luke Skywalker could Anakin Skywalker regain his lost honor?

One thing was certain he mused as he made his way through the passageways. His life had been changed by the chance encounter with the mysterious Dark Knight. What he did with that life now was up to him.

"I trust he will not hold a grudge against me?" Xizor asked as they began their daily walk.

"Lord Vader holds grudges forever, I'm afraid. You have made a deadly enemy by aiding me in this venture," the Emperor cackled. He clapped his hands together and rubbed him. "Oh, the intrigue does remind me of the days when the Old Republic was falling. All I need is a whining twit of a royal to be a pain in my posterior."

"There is the rebel princess," Xizor offered.

"Ah, yes…sovereign of a dead world; former senator Leia Organna, interstellar harlot! I'd forgotten about her. She does remind me so of someone else…"

Xizor decided to change the subject. The Emperor's taste for young women was notorious and yet the most guarded secret in the Empire. "I was wondering if I might inquire about the blood sample I sent to you of the apprentice to the Batman?"

The Emperor stopped and regarded the Prince. "Curious one, aren't you? Very well, since you asked…the cloning has gone well. The original donor must have been an exceptional specimen. My scientists tell me that we can expect 98% copy of the original DNA."

"That is impressive," Xizor said. His own people had only been able to get 87% copy. Cloning, while commonplace, was not an exact science. It required substantial equipment and qualified staff. Xizor could get the machinery, but the Emperor seemed to have a monopoly on the personnel. "Again, I am sorry I was unable to deliver the actual specimen."

The Emperor noted the hint of anger in Xizor's voice. Mara Jade had already explained that it was she that had freed the apprentice from Xizor's castle. The Emperor already had other agents looking into why a minor Falleen prince had such facilities. "The samples are more than enough. With the right manipulation, I hope to use a cloned body for something…special."

"If there is anything I can help with…"

"You have done enough, Prince Xizor. Now," the Emperor said, laying a cold hand on Xizor's shoulder, "let me ask you opinion about an ambitious construction project I have undertaken…"