Don't own any of these characters. Never will. Wish I did. Major spoilers for "Countdown to Infinite Crisis". I suggest you read that first. I'm not sure if there's another issue out after that one yet, as I haven't actually checked in awhile, but eh. This story takes place after that.
Warning: The Pool is Contaminated
by Alba Aulbath
It was clear blue skies and the sun was beaming down onto each individual of the blue planet that was being vigorously protected by a variety of men, mutants, aliens, and several who would even be considered Gods. Brightly and cheerfully, the sky greeted its people.
Not all greeted back.
No matter the light, there would be shadows. And when in the shade, you had to know how to live without the light; there didn't need to be light in the world, but there was. There had to be shade, though. Without shade, you'd die in the light. Without light, one would just be in the shade. Lost, cold, and frightened, but you'd be alive.
Everything might be a necessity, but there would always be shadows. Every city, no matter how doey-eyed - much like the bright and painfully cheery Metropolis - had those shadows.
Obscured by the gloom of buildings and a worn out trenchcoat, he played along with the darkness while he walked. He could see beyond both light and shadow. He could see between the lines and outside the lines and the lines themselves.
He could See.
Gifted with stealth, gifted with Sight, gifted with a mind not quite right but enough to See, he was well on his way to a brightly lit room that could blind a man as well as the sun could have. Perhaps Michael J. Carter would be asleep during the visit, perhaps not.
Without a nurse's notice or curiosity, he stepped inside the hospital room, not quite looming or meaning to intimidate. He was not a Dark Knight, but someone questionable.
The patient in bandages and exhaustion glanced up to find himself not staring into eyes at all; a faceless face. Disturbed, he was only capable of sputtering out, "Who the hell are you...!"
"Good question," was a typical line this no-faced man played up, and did not spare Michael from. He continued, disconnected from the poor bandaged man's question. "Booster Gold. Michael Carter." That might have been the trenchcoated man's greeting. Or a prologue. "He wonders if the nurses have said what he asked."
"He... what...?" Confusion easily nudged its way into Michael's voice, clueless as to what this man could be talking about.
The no-face tilted his head. "Have they spoken his words? Have they said what he's asked, before you last saw him?"
Booster, as he had preferred to think of himself as, peered at him. "You mean... Ted? Where the fuck is he?"
"Trying to find that out. Have they spoken his words?"
"I don't know squat; just know he left when I passed out."
The man with no face nodded. "Don't blame yourself. Don't grieve. You were his friend - he cared greatly about you. ...And he's sorry." Suddenly, the faceless man looked to the side, away from Booster Gold, completely distracted by something.
"Sorry...? Who the hell are you, and where's Ted!"
"The JLA." There was no answer for any of Booster's questions. "I need a way to contact them."
Booster frowned at him. "Why?"
"Need to know what Beetle was doing. Need to know what they know - or refuse to know." The faceless man tilted his head, then turned it back to Booster, so that there was a face staring at him with no eyes and unnerving him. "Need a communicator, Michael. Need to find Ted. Clear this up."
"How do you know 'im?"
The no-faced man shrugged. "Early days. Eight years ago, maybe. Doesn't matter." He turned his head to the side once again, then looked back to Booster. "He was on a lead - no one listened. Didn't want to, maybe. They can believe a man who went insane, killed the Guardians, killed the Green Lanterns, became redemption, and returned to life. But they can't believe an inventor on the brink of losing everything and somehow keeping his sanity."
Booster might have been inclined to defend Hal Jordan. He might have been inclined to tell this crazy son of a bitch that there was no way he could help or want to help.
Might have been inclined to also say 'fuck everyone else'.
"I still have some numbers you can use."
The man without a face nodded.
One would always expect the Watchtower to be busy, mostly by one mind and one set of hands. Martian Manhunter hardly would budge away from the main console, unless he was required out on the field.
As it was, he'd been doing what he could for both the universe, the world, and individual cities who cried for help.
To receive a call at the moment wasn't particularly excusable. Seeing the caller ID, one might say that the Martian could be slightly irritated, but he was particularly good at guarding his expressions.
Pressing a button to reply the call, J'onn began with, "Booster, I cannot spare a moment for you or-"
"The deaf and the damned have not listened. The fool is a card with little respect, and we've been foolish instead to disregard it. Be damned, for our lack of ears for the fool."
That was certainly not Booster. He narrowed his eyes. "Who is this?"
"Someone with ears. A fool."
It was not so difficult, reaching out mentally for contact. Thoughts, irregular; this man might have been mentally ill, or terribly intelligent. It was not a mystery J'onn was intended to find out; this voice's identity was.
"You call yourself the Question." Civillian name had no meaning for this individual using Booster Gold's communications.
There may have been a nod; J'onn could only sense for it. "Looking for the answer. Ha ha." A pause. It might have been a joke. "Ted Kord. He last spoke to you when?"
"Two days ago. Is there a point to this call, or might you also be a prankster?"
"There are no pranksters on this side. Just a fool, and disappeared fool. Fools for speaking. Fools for listening."
J'onn didn't have time or patience for this kind of talk. "And what might I be?"
"There are classical terms. Moron. Idiot. Dolt. Imbecile. I prefer deaf. Deaf and dumb. Gods who have fire in their eyes, who can breathe ice, who can read our minds, look through our faces. Gods who are deaf and dumb."
"What do you want?"
"To speak for who can't speak. To be heard for who couldn't be heard. Look for what the Amazon believed in. Look for what Ted Kord began. Or the deaf and dumb Gods will be Gods no more."
Abruptly, the Question ended the call. J'onn was capable of a continual mental contact, with a bit of strain; while the man had been speaking with puzzles, it was no prank. It wasn't some meaningless little trick that was being played, which was why he considered.
Perhaps he should speak to Diana.
It was the start of things, and he knew he could not do much more. He began what he could, and he hoped that it could only be finished. Which was what brought him to a dark city; not dark enough to impress either Gotham or Hub. It was enough to make Keystone and Central look spotless, in spite of it.
The man with no face followed directions from whispers in his ear; there were words spoken in a slight conversation in which he took part in, and perhaps the questionable man smiled at the jokes that had to be told in desperation.
They always said I'd lose my mind being friends with Michael was told in a trembling manner.
The Question felt a pulse in his ears; it was familiar. It wasn't his own.
Slipping past security - all electronics - and making his way up a building, it had been no trouble for him to find his way to his goal. The faceless man took a seat before a computer that was certainly not owned by him.
"Show me," the no-faced man murmured.
There was a beat of silence and then a whisper, in which he continued to work afterwards. Through directions, Question keyed in a series of commands into the computer. Technology had never been much his style, but it was a requirement.
Knowledge, far beyond than he suspected, was loaded to reveal itself onto the screen. A broad database, saved away on files that had been carefully sealed by a series of encryptions and passwords. It was peculiar data. Not simply on the League, or a Society, or a family.
"You have a lot of nerve," a voice grated behind the faceless man.
The Question did not look away from the screen. His mouth - an unusual senstation - had gone dry as he continued his search. Never, in such a long time, had he felt such quaking nervousness, and it wasn't due to the fact that he had invaded a home.
"How did you get in here?" was demanded.
"Let myself in," the with man with no apparent mouth, nose, or eyes finally acknowledged the speaker behind him. "Don't have a computer myself. Borrowing. Thought of using Batman's first, but figured he'd have it rigged. You? Didn't think you would have bothered as much, Nightwing." He peered at the screen, clicking a file. "Should I call you Mr. Grayson instead?"
"Off the computer. Now." Something sharp was at the back of his neck.
The Question was not disturbed. "Can't. Busy. Need to find someone... Ah." He leaned in close to look at the screen. Finally, his goal.
"What do you want?"
"Informaton." Question hesitated; he was reading the file, and it almost chilled him. Then, he murmured, "Ted... Why were you gifted with ears? Shouldn't have been your fate..."
The faceless man stood up slowly, turning around to leer his apparent lack of eyes at the dark-clothed vigilante of Bludhaven.
Nightwing almost took a step back, finally recognizing the invader. "The Question."
"Bruce keeps track of me, then."
"What do you want?"
Question tilted his head to the side. "To listen. To find. Won't blame you for not having heard. No one would have told you."
"Blue Beetle. His search. Contacted Batman sometime ago. Not a prank; he found something. Something big."
Nightwing peered at him. "What is it?"
Question answered in a wry tone, "Ask Batman. Tell him Ted's gone. I'm looking for Beetle."
Turning, the faceless man started out.
"Wait. What do you know about Beetle?"
"Not enough. Not enough. But I'm listening, and that's enough," Question murmured. "I'm not deaf. No face, but ears. I'll listen."
That was puzzling, even for Nightwing, which led to his silence. Quiet dismissal for the trenchcoated vigilante.
The Question stepped out and was gone.
He was closer, he could tell. The voices were clearer now.
Don't blame them was desperately requested. Don't, it's not their fault.
It wasn't blame. It wasn't anger. Befuddling, yes. Some frustration; the Question couldn't comprehend the lack of ears that the Justice League- the Gods could give to Blue Beetle. It was blatant ignorance. The only one who listened had been Booster Gold, and he was in the hospital.
It was unforgivable; mortal men were capable of much more, in many ways, than the Gods with enhanced vision and body-shifting powers. The men who had to find different ways of being considered "super" were capable of finding this.
They were also capable of death.
Outside of a complex - abandoned now, no one guarded it, no one there - the Question approached the gates. He climbed over the fence, leaping down to the dirt and making his way inside. It was giant, wide, a labyrinth.
Fortunately, the Question had a way to guide himself.
"Where are you?" the trenchcoated man wondered softly.
Following the direction, the Question continued his way down the dark hallways, dimly lit by the fading sun outside.
It was upon an abandoned room with a broad and dead computer screen he came upon the body.
Kneeling down, he took the blue-suited and stained body lightly into his arms, as though it was completely fragile. Rigor mortis was no longer in effect; it'd been a day or so since the death of this man.
"Simply abandoned. Left behind. Will you linger here?" the Question wondered. Gently, he pushed away the goggles to pull down the eyelids of the dead eyes. "Will you cling to your fate?"
"Should the Gods pay for their lack of ears?"
He shook his head.
The Question resigned. "Then they'll acknowledge your fate. Keep talking. I will listen, Ted."
The screen blinked to life, fizzling with snow but a voice was clear.
"You're not someone I expected," the voice smirked, confident. "Checkmate."
The Question lifted his head, acknowledging with unabashed loathing. "Max."
Bewilderment replaced the ego. "Have we... met?"
"No. Ted told me." The faceless man turned his head in a direction, as if it was apparent as to what he meant.
"In spite of your mental condition..." It was always presumptuious that the faceless man was insane - it might have been true, but it hadn't mattered right at the moment. "...you've found your way here. Bravo. What will you do now, I wonder? What's your next move?"
The Question turned his head back to the screen. "Listen. And tell. The Gods will listen at last."
"Will they?" Laughter. "Will they listen? To a mad man about a dead man?"
"Then they will demote from a God to a fool. And the fool will be their God."
"And you? And what would you be?"
"Eternally a question." Hub City's vigilante turned and walked out of the compound, body limply carried in his arms with care.
The no-faced man knew now he was a target to these people, but that didn't matter.
"I'm your ears, I'm your messager. Speak to me."
The Question listened to the whispers of Ted Kord.
Again, I haven't read anything beyond Countdown yet. Lack of time, lack of money. I figured I'd thrown in the Question, considering the inspiration I received after reading his recent and incredible mini-series, I considered what might have been his possible reaction to finding out the fate of the first superhero he ever teamed up with: Blue Beetle.
What I like writing about him is that you're never quite sure if he's just some insane man running around with a faceless mask, or if he's really actually seeing into 'chi', which is the result of almost all of the mini-series. Half viewed in normal eyes, half viewed into chi. Because of chi, the Question can see some lingering death, and on occasion, they can talk to him. I don't know the extent of it, but I thought I'd have fun incorporating it here in his relation to the unfortunate late Ted Kord. There's some insanity here, some spirituality here, and hopefully some closure here.
At least, I feel satisfied.
Whether or not there'll be a continuation, I've hardly decided. I feel fine leaving it like this... but then, I'm never quite sure what else I'd like to explore in the Question and the lingering chi/soul of Ted Kord.