A Justice League Unlimited Story
Copyright August 2006
Disclaimer: The characters Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Superman & Flash and their respective secret identities are all owned by DC Comics. This story is intended for my own pleasure and is not for profit. It has been posted to this site for others to read. Places and characters not own by DC are my own creation. This story is based on characters from the animated Justice League series episode: Hunter's Moon written Stan Berkowitz and Dwayne McDuffie.
Synopsis: Paran Dul learns Napoleon was right: "Vengeance has no foresight."
Note: Spoilers up through "Destroyer." Not a direct sequel to any previous work, but references material that appeared in Retrograde! - A RUMOURS Story, Living with Shadows, Incident at Amwor - A Lantern's Tale and Bookends.
This story is a small part of the R 'Verse. Familiarization with that series is suggested, but it's not required. A huge shout out of thanks to Merlin Missy for her beta on this story.
"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." - Machiavelli
(A year ago on a small nameless moon)
Paran Dul stood in the tiny clearing, still staring in the general direction her ship had disappeared half an hour earlier. She ached, physically and emotionally, as she replayed in her mind everything that went wrong. As mission leader, the failure was hers and hers alone.
She never took her eyes off the sky as her hand unconsciously slid down her side fingering her holster, feeling for her laser pistol. More than once she'd had opportunities to shoot the traitor and her human 'pets' and she didn't get it done. She'd selected this moon because it was far enough away that it would take the Justice League at least one day to realize the traitor was in trouble and another for a rescue ship to arrive. With a two day head start, the corpse of Shayera Hol would never be found.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sergeant as he landed near her. She swallowed hard and straightened up. Shame and regret washed over her, but she forced herself to look him in the eyes.
"Did you find Ral?" she asked. Her voice cracked and she was sure he noticed.
The sergeant hesitated, sighed and looked down at his gloved hands. Paran glanced at the blood on his gloves and immediately understood his hesitation. "Spit it out," she said.
Finally, he answered, "I found him by a stream bed." He paused, looked away and then continued. "And I left him there. He'd been mutilated almost beyond recognition … I think the human male did it."
Paran closed her eyes, not in horror, but in disgust. She'd been at the commissioning ceremony for Ral's sister, Kyr. She knew how proud Corporal Ral was of his older sibling and while they'd heard no news from Thanagar in more than a year, they both figured that his sister had joined the resistance and was continuing to fight.
At least that had been their hope.
Paran knew she would go to her grave not understanding why the traitor would want to associate with savages who could do such barbaric things to someone like poor Ral.
"I had her and she got away," Paran whispered more to herself than to him. "No - I let her get away." She paused, took a deep breath and flexed her shoulders. "What about Kragger? Ayres? Pak or Aro? What about them?"
The sergeant exhaled loudly. "We're it, Paran. I found Pak and Aro at the landing site. They'd been shot with that human's primitive weapon. They're dead. So are Ayres and the Lieutenant. The poor Lieutenant didn't survive the fall in that suit." The sergeant paused, looking away. "Without the ship…." He didn't finish his thought.
Paran lowered her head. "Without the ship, we're just as good as dead, too. That's what you were going to say, weren't you? If we had the ship, things would be different. We could have gone home and joined the resistance. But we can't now because of ..."
"I wasn't going to say that, Paran."
She cleared her throat and glared at him. "Then let me say it for you: my command and I lose eighty percent of my troops, my ship, our supplies and I didn't get the mission done. Does that sum up what you were going to say?"
For a moment, she thought the gruff sergeant was going to smile. He didn't, but the corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly. "Well, when you put it like that." His tone was flat. It was then that she noticed the blood and dirt in his beard. He was proud of his long beard and despite the difficult conditions they'd encountered in setting up the ambush, had gone to great lengths to keep it immaculate. She reflected that he wasn't going to be able to do that anymore and wondered if he'd cut it to make it easier to care for.
She shook her head. Caring for his beard was not her problem. Her hand slid down her hip to her pistol. "I do put it like that," she said firmly as she gripped her holstered weapon. "I was supposed to avenge the commander, avenge Thanagar, and I didn't get it done."
The sergeant had the look of a nervous man about him. She was aware that he was watching her hand as it held on to her weapon. "It's okay," he said softly. "We're going to get out of this and we're going to kill the traitor. It's that simple."
Paran looked at the sergeant for a long time before she turned her back to him and wrapped her wings around herself. She was ashamed of her failure and she didn't care if he knew it because it didn't matter anymore.
She lowered her head. "Twice, you've called me Paran," she said softly, again more to herself than to him. "I don't remember giving you permission to call me by my first name."
There was silence and then she heard him say, "No. No, you didn't give me permission. I just figured you wouldn't mind since as you said we've lost our ship and supplies and now it's just the two of us marooned here. But, I guess I figured wrong. Anyway, my name is Nurdan."
He paused. "So then, what do you want me to call you? Lieutenant? Commander? Ma'am? Hey you?" There was a smile in his voice that she could hear even if she didn't see it.
Paran snorted, suppressing a laugh. She didn't laugh much and now she suddenly wondered why. She couldn't remember the last time she felt so relaxed, so at ease with herself. She took a deep breath and stood a little straighter. The air had the sweet smell of flowering plants. And at that moment, Paran realized that she could explain in endless detail how certain smells trigger pleasure responses in the brain, but she'd never be able to explain to anyone why she suddenly had a desire to see a smile on the sergeant's face.
She turned, stared into his dark eyes and smiled. "Nurdan. That's a nice name," she said.
And Nurdan did smile. "Thank you," he said not quite making eye contact with her.
Her own smile faded. "As for me," she said, "you can call me dead." In one swift motion, she pulled her pistol out of its holster and pressed it under her chin, closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger.
The last thing she heard was Nurdan screaming, "Nooooo!"
(Three days later)
Nurdan returned to the cave they'd used as the initial ambush site carrying scraps of metal, circuit cards and plastic from the destroyed ship the humans had landed in. Over the last two days, he'd found and gathered most of the supply containers that had been knocked overboard during Paran's fight with the human female. The problem was that only one of the several containers knocked overboard had food in it. The rest had ammunition and spare engine parts for a ship he no longer had.
He'd staged the rations he'd found, about three weeks' worth, near the mouth of the cave along with a couple of missile launchers that had also fallen overboard. The launchers weren't designed to hunt anything other than ships and Gordanian convoys. Anything smaller than a class L speeder would be disintegrated if hit by one of these rockets. They were certainly no good for hunting food. He pondered, however, that it might make a usable signal flare to attract the attention of a passing space ship – assuming a vessel was within range of this moon and happened to be scanning the area. He decided not to calculate the odds of that scenario.
Yesterday, he collected the bodies of his dead comrades and placed them on the forest floor near the site where they'd captured the human female. Before he'd found the food containers, he'd seriously considered cannibalism and was relieved that he could now take that option off the table. To make sure it stayed off, he buried his comrades in a mass grave. It was one of the many hard choices he'd had to make in the last three days.
When he'd seen their ship disappear over the horizon, piloted by the traitor and her friends, he'd known the situation was desperate. He'd found Paran first. She was shaken and dazed, but otherwise okay.
"Are you alright?" he'd asked. When she nodded in the affirmative, he said, "Wait here. I'll find the others."
And he did find the others. Pak and Aro were still alive at the landing site. The human had wounded them both and left them tied up. Nurdan made sure they were dead when he left. He ensured the same fate befell the dying Lieutenant Kragger and Ayres when he found them as well. It would be easy to blame the humans for their deaths. After all, they were the traitor's friends and it was well known that the humans were a violent and savage people.
Still, he'd not been prepared for the horrible mutilation of Corporal Ral.
Nurdan acknowledged that he'd been set to kill Ral. There was no doubt about that. But the human who had saved him that trouble had no right to destroy and torture another being the way he did Ral.
Nurdan had no regrets about what he did when he killed the others. He was only doing what the others would have done once they'd realized the seven of them were stranded without food and supplies.
Six men and one woman.
He'd simply done the math faster than the rest. Two could survive longer than seven and he might as well be one of the two. Paran was a scientist. She'd understand he was increasing their chances of survival. He was sure she'd probably even thank him for saving her life one day.
But he'd not been ready for the stupid clackcor to decide she wanted to kill herself. Nurdan, who had been watching her hands even though he was sure she thought he was looking elsewhere on her body, realized what she was about to do and slapped her arm away just as she squeezed the trigger. Unfortunately, the pistol fired anyway wounding her along the side of her face. The shot split her helmet, blowing the metallic family crest off her mask along with a portion of her ear and scalp.
She'd doubtlessly have a scar on that side of her face for the rest of her life - assuming she lived. He pondered that perhaps the fates would accept her disfigurement as payment for her failure. At least, he hoped the scar would somehow balance Paran's own personal scales of justice.
He barely left her side as she lay unconscious for almost two days while her body tried to heal itself. He'd removed her upper body armor and gloves, as well as her mangled helmet, replacing it with one of those that belonged to his recently dead comrades.
He'd always covered her face whenever he removed her mask to check her wounds, except for the first time. He was embarrassed now that he gave in to temptation and allowed himself to gently stroke the unmarred side of her face and twirl his fingers in her short black hair as she lay unconscious. He caressed the side of her neck with his ungloved fingertip and was surprised when she unconsciously turned toward his touch. He stopped, put his glove back on and immediately chastised himself for what he'd just done.
Part of him said she'd never know and after all, he could be forgiven because it'd been more than a year since he'd had the pleasure of touching a woman. Besides, why else would he want her alive? One could survive better than two.
But another part of him said that she did not deserve to be dishonored and taken advantage of when she was helpless anymore than Ral deserved to be gutted, and this was the part of himself that he listened to. Besides, with her knowledge of the sciences, his chances of survival greatly increased. Nurdan considered that he wasn't as smart as some of the others had been, but with her alive, he was certainly the smartest man on the planet.
What he'd needed most of all and couldn't find was a medkit. It was then that he decided that if Paran died, he'd commit suicide as well. He told himself that he'd killed the others to keep her from being killed by them and if she wasn't going to be around, the deaths of his fellow soldiers would be meaningless.
And every death should have a meaning.
So he was relieved that his comrades' sacrifice on his behalf wasn't going to be in vain because Paran was recovering. Now as she met him at the entrance to the cave to take from him what supplies he'd managed to scrounge, Nurdan admitted he liked their chances together much better than his alone.
As she took this latest batch of supplies, Paran considered that there were still some things she couldn't remember very well. She also considered that there were many things she didn't wish to remember despite Nurdan's assurances that one day she'd recall everything.
"What happened?" she'd asked him when she finally woke up.
"You got hurt, but you're going to be alright. You probably have a concussion. My name is Nurdan. Do you remember that? Remember me? Do you remember where we are?"
"Nurdan. That's a nice name," she said and she froze as she recalled having said those words before. She stared at this huge barrel-chested man and thought that he had a pleasant demeanor, but she didn't like the big, bushy beard that dominated his face. She wondered if she could or should tell him that. She knew that he wasn't a stranger to her and he wasn't a threat – at least she didn't think he'd been up to this point. Her head hurt and she had so many questions and no answers.
Wait. They worked together. They were hunting something … someone. She remembered him smiling at her.
But was there more to it than that? That she was unclear on, and as she quickly looked around her surroundings, she didn't see anything that would have answered the question for her. She sighed.
"I do remember you. But there are so many other details - so many other things, I can't recall at the moment. Nurdan? Are you ... are we mated?" she asked timidly.
He hesitated before answering, "No, we're not. I'd like to be, but you haven't decided yet that we should."
She was silent, trying to remember things that seemed to go out of their way to be forgotten. Finally, she smiled. She had a feeling, an instinct, that she could trust him.
She rubbed the side of her neck. It ached terribly. "Thank you," she said. "You could have said we were and I wouldn't have known the difference. I appreciate your honesty."
She stared at him again and he lowered his head. There was something about his red hair that troubled her and a name on the tip of her tongue that she just couldn't say. The looseness of her helmet bothered her as well. She grabbed it and took it off her head. "Why doesn't my mask fit?"
Nurdan turned his back to her in embarrassment. "Paran! Please! Put your mask back on!"
She was amazed at how much pleasure his discomfort seemed to bring to her. He seemed honest and trustworthy enough. But this display told her what she needed to know. Whatever relationship they'd had, she was or had been the one in charge. She put the ill-fitting mask back on.
"Okay. It's on. You can turn around now. Sorry for embarrassing you." She paused. "This helmet isn't mine, is it?"
Nurdan shook his head, knelt down, picked up a mangled white helmet and offered it to her. Her jaw dropped as she looked at the mask that had been split apart right next to the ear. The burn marks were indicative of laser fire. She glared at Nurdan and then her eyes widened.
"Oh. My. Stars," she exclaimed. In one motion, she removed her helmet from her head again, threw it to the ground and felt the seared flesh along the side of her face. "A mirror! Give me a mirror!"
"Paran," Nurdan said, this time not turning away, but staring her in the eyes. "We don't have a mirror. I need you to focus and listen to me,"
"A bucket of water! A piece of armor! Something! Anything! I have to see what you did to me."
"Paran, I didn't do that to you - not directly." He paused. "You did it to yourself."
"Liar!" she screamed. "Why would I do this to myself?" She swung at him and he threw his arms up to block her blows. She instinctively reached for her pistol but it wasn't there. He grabbed her by the shoulders, holding her arms tightly to her side and she glared at him and slapped him with her wings. She momentarily considered kicking him in the groin, but then saw tears in his eyes. He wasn't trying to hurt her or trying to fight her; he was only trying to restrain her. She took a deep breath, stopped struggling and snarled, "You've got something to say? Say it."
He held her for a moment then released her and stepped back. "Sit with me," he said, pointing to the cave floor. She thought it sounded like a plea. "I'll stand," she snapped back.
He shrugged his shoulders and flopped himself down on the ground. He glanced up at her and then looked back at the dirt floor. "Suit yourself. I'm tired. My back hurts and I'm hungry. We're marooned with three weeks' worth of food and no real supplies and now I find out I'm stuck in a cave with a crazy woman." He looked up at her. Paran frowned and considered that she should have kicked him in the groin anyway.
Nurdan shook his head, but didn't look away as he spoke, "The only way we survive - the only way we can survive is to trust each other. If you don't trust me, then maybe I made a bad decision in keeping you alive. You don't have to stay with me. Here." He reached in his holster and handed her his laser pistol.
"Go outside and use this on yourself so you don't make a mess in here," he said flatly. "I'll bury you with the others and get off this rock somehow and get my vengeance on the traitor without you."
"Shayera Hol!" Paran exclaimed, her eyes widening then narrowing in anger. Nurdan nodded. That's who they'd been hunting and lost. A flood of emotions and images suddenly washed over Paran in vivid detail as she recalled Hro's suicidal gesture, the fight with the human female, her anguish in watching her ship disappear in the sky, the blood on Nurdan's beard and hands. Her knees quaked, but she forced herself to stand straighter.
She took the pistol from Nurdan, looked at the weapon in her hand and then pointed it at him. "And what's to stop me from killing you instead?"
He looked her in the eye. His voice was firm. "If you think killing me will solve your problem, get you off this rock, get vengeance on the traitor, then go ahead. Do it and don't make a mess of it."
She stared at him, then flipped the weapon in her hand and gave it back to Nurdan - butt first. He let out a deep breath of relief and took the pistol back from her.
She sat down next him and ran her fingers through her hair like a comb. "Nurdan?"
"Did you mean it about having to trust each other?"
"I did and I do."
She put the poorly fitted helmet back on. "Then why did you give me an unloaded pistol?"
Nurdan's eyes widened, then he chuckled, reached into his side pocket, retrieved a laser pistol power pack and slammed it into the firearm she'd just given him. He handed the weapon back to her. "Because," he said as she took the weapon from him. "I trust you, but I'm not stupid."
She nodded and unloaded his power pack from the pistol and gave it back to him. She took a power pack from her holster pouch, examined it, reloaded the pistol with her pack and then holstered the weapon. "Neither am I," she said.
Nurdan's smile at the moment would be one that she'd carry to her grave.
Now as she examined the supplies Nurdan had brought, she contemplated that the traitor had underestimated them and Hol would live to regret that mistake.