Author's note: Ok, I know I have other stories I need to concentrate on but this little idea needed to leave my brain and here it is. This really is based on something a fan told me in one of the reviews about writing something with the Earth-3 Joker in it. I listened, and my brain sparked this idea. This is just the first chapter and if you guys like it, then more will follow. It all depends on you now. Please feel free to review.
So here is the premise. Jack is an ordinary man. A successful comedian in a world that has no reason to laugh anymore. When the Syndicate almost destroys his world, he is forced to make some decisions that will lead him to the transformation into one of Earth-3 best known heroes. The only problem is that in Earth-3, heroes are outlawed and only the Syndicate of Crime rules. This is his story.
And now, I'm going to confess. I knew little fo Earth-3 so I had to do a lot of research (I always do when I write but this was like a gargantuan task since there are so many versions of this Earth and this Joker.) Anyways. This version does not follow any particular trend since I liked a little bit of each version of this new universe. So what I did was to mix elements from Crisis of Infinite Earths, Countdown, and the new Animated Crisis Movie (along with other minor storylines like Trinity and all the info I could get in Wikipedia) and let it simmer for a while between the synapses. After adding a little bit of realism (sorry guys, but I'm addicted to realism) and a litlle bit of salt this is the final product. I tried to be original so this story does not follow any particular canon. Hope you like it.
DISCLAIMER 1: I dont own Owlman, Jokester/Red Hood/Jester nor any other character in Earth-3. Some minor characters are my invention and are used for sake of the story only.
DISCLAIMER 2: Earth-3 is not a nice place. Here Crime is King so be ready for some VIOLENCE and the use of MATURE LANGUAGE.
BETA: Hope I will have one soon...in the meantime, bear with my grammar.
Addendum: Someone nicely came forward and let me know of my misconception that in this Earth 3...Owlman is not Bruce, but Thomas Wayne Jr. The error is fixed and I apologize. I've probably have been writing too much Bruce/Joker that it was just automatic to keep them in this universe as well...
It was late evening and a two weeks ago since the Comedy Factory Club was burned to the ground by Owlman and his henchmen from the Crime Syndicate over a money debt. Lloyd, the club owner, refused to pay the monthly allowance requested for their so called 'protection' so the Crime Syndicate decided to make an example of what happens when someone refuses the protection. Lloyd was dead now, and with the club permanently closed, Jack was joining the ranks of the unemployed in Gotham. Who wanted to laugh in a city that was engulfed in terror and misery? Definitely not the time to have a stand up show in Gotham City, the city of darkness.
He leaned over the window and looked at the deserted streets. Removing some wild brown curls from his forehead, he sat on the windowsill looking towards the river. It has always been that way in Gotham, ever since he could remember. The Syndicate, a collection of ill tempered, greedy superpowered criminals ran the city at their leisure and removed anybody that ever opposed them with the flair of a public execution, just to show who was boss in the city. Gotham was not alone. Evil had a talent to slither their way into every small corner of the States and strangle every single city they got their claws into. It happened with Metropolis where Ultraman was the ultimate king and many other places across the country. The thought just depressed him. How was a decent man going to be able to supply for him and his family in this vulture's nest?
"You OK, Jack?" asked the sweet voice behind him. He never wanted her to see him like this, on the verge of tears. Desperate and angry because he was forced by a bunch of bullies to bow down to their greedy whims. He let out a languid chuckle trying to humor his dark mood.
"Yeah, hon. Just thinking," he responded in a playful falsetto trying to hide the anger in his heart.
"Uh-oh. No wonder I smelled something burning."
Jack finally turned around and looked at her. Her bright blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight that entered the small living room and her blonde hair, kept in a ponytail, glowed as it was made of gold. It was such a divine sight, like a Roman Goddess, brought to life from the smooth white marble. He didn't have much, but he had her and that made all the difference. He then looked at the wheelchair his goddess sat on and his heart dropped to the floor smashing to bits. The memory of her pinned down under one of the beams from the Comedy Factory flooded him. The night when he almost lost her to the fire…to the Syndicate. He suddenly felt cold and lost. What was he going to do if he lost her?
"There's that face again…should I call the Fire Department now?" She said eyeing him worrisomely.
He couldn't help but smile. Harley was definitely the Ying to his Yang and the laughter to his tears. Tears that he refuse to share with her, especially now. She didn't deserve his sadness, no after what happened at the Club. Jeannie, his previous love, could never understand Jack's crazy humor and turned him down for a local crime lord with attachments to the Syndicate that overwhelmed her with gold, diamonds and expensive furs. He could never compete with that. Not with what he earned as a comic. Her departure left him empty and without a reason to laugh, but Harley was there in his moment of need with her smile, her whimsical humor and her love. From just being his talent agent, she soon earned a place in his heart.
"That's it…just a little wider. I know you have not forgotten how to smile, eh Jack?" His smile widened and once he got off the windowsill he started to giggle perversely and then laughed hysterically. Still laughing he lunged at her, hands high in the air and once over her started tickling her everywhere he could reach. "NO JACK, STOP, STOP, STOP!!"
"What? You started this. You woke up the Crazy Clown in me." He said as he continued tickling her on her neck and torso. Her laughter was like the water in a mountain lake; pristine and pure. She tried to protest, but Jack could read her eyes, filled with the innocence of a child at the playground, enjoying this moment as much as him.
"Jack, please, stop…" She said gasping between giggles.
"Say the word…break the spell."
Jack suddenly stopped his attack and knelt besides her panting heavily. His curly hair, now wild and untamed fell over his green eyes hiding the joyful tears that now peeked. His mouth extended in a wide toothy smile.
"You…you broke the spell. Thank you…my Princess." He said kissing the back of her hand, then tenderly rubbing her silky hand against his cheek.
"You're welcome my royal Jester…my sweet loving clown."
"Every clown needs a harlequin. You are the joy to my tears, the verses of my poetry, the music to my songs. You…complete me."
"Flatterer…I'm sure you've told that to every girlfriend." She said eyeing him suspiciously.
"Nope. Only once…to my soulmate."
She smiled and brushed the curls from over his eyes. Those eyes that she had loved the first moment they had looked at her. "Alright. Now would you tell me what have you so worried?"
The smile in his face suddenly faded and the spark in his eyes was lost. He shook his head against his hand. "Nothing sweetheart."
"If it takes your smile away, it HAS to be important Jack. So, what is it?"
He sighed. There was no way she was going to be fooled. He set her hands on her lap and pressed his on top of them, feeling her warmth.
"After the fire at the comedy club nobody is hiring any comics anymore. I think I'll need to get one of those 'real' jobs crazy people rave about." He added a soft chuckle, but he really didn't have anything to laugh about.
"Hey, I still have some contacts. Maybe I can hook you up with something." She said. "Everybody loved your routine at the Factory."
Jack shook his head. "You could try, but I already called a few friends that owed me favors and nobody wants to move a muscle until they know they're safe from Owlman and his thugs. They're all terrified that what happened to Lloyd could happen to them."
"But Jack, what are you going to do…you love the stage."
"It's gonna be a temporary job. When things calm down, I'll be back in the spotlight," he said combing his hair with a nervous hand. He wanted so hard to believe what he was saying but he knew that as long as the Syndicate controlled the city everybody's future was uncertain. Just ask the late Lloyd Cameron…burned in this comedy club. "Who am I fooling? Things are never gonna calm down unless someone blows Owl-jerk out of the sky."
She shushed him. Talking like that was dangerous, but Jack couldn't hold his frustration anymore. "It's true Harley. No one is safe in this city with the Syndicate terrorizing us every time their demands are not met. They don't care of anything but how to squeeze more money from the poor citizens of this city."
"Jack, stop talking about that. Someone might be listening."
"Then LET THEM LISTEN! I bet you that I'm not the only one that thinks like this. People are tired of bowing to a bunch of superpowered bullies. They want their lives back."
"See what I'm telling you? Why do I have to be scared of saying what I feel? I refuse to be beaten down by a whole bunch of greedy men and women in tights. I want to tell those costumed freaks to fuck off and let me live my life in peace. I deserve it…it's my divine ri--." He stopped in midsentence when he heard her sobbing and when he looked back at her she had buried her face in her hands. "Honey, what is it?"
"You. Jack, the Syndicate controls this city and we can't do anything to change that. It's a fact of life. That I would prefer it to be otherwise? God knows I do, but I also know that THAT is not going to happen. We can only live our lives the best way we can, and not anger them. And what you do?"
"I just want us to have a safe future, Harley." He responded languidly, with his voice almost a whisper.
"And we will, Syndicate or not Syndicate. Let's just live our lives, in peace. For your sake…mine…and his."
Jack nodded. "Sure, sure. I'm sorry….wait. Who's HE?"
Harley just limited to grab his left hand and set it gently over her belly. "Him."
"OH MY GOD! Harley, you're…"
"A baby," he said as he busted out in a frenzied laughter. The news of the new addition to the family had lifted the black cloud of despair that had enveloped him the last few days only to be replaced by the sunniest day of summer in his life. Jack suddenly stopped and fell on his knees in front of her panting. The look of concern in his face was obvious. "Oh my god, Harley. You should have told me before. I almost tickled you to death, I could…"
"I'm fine, Jack. At least we now know that we'll have the happiest kid in Gotham because he learned to laugh before he was born…"
"Silly, Harley." He said resting his head on her belly. He could almost swear he could hear the small heartbeat of the new life growing inside her. A new life…a new beginning. "Tomorrow will be a new day, a better day."
Jack arrived at the job placing agency early morning next day. He felt anxious, like the first day of school and with good reason. He had not had to search for a job in almost three years when he started his career as a comedian. He remembered. He was out fresh from school, with a bachelor's degree and the first thing he did was to stand under the spotlight and make people laugh. And he was good at it. So good that he had been able to make a good living, but that was the past. It was now time to face reality and his first challenge was to prove he could be like any other citizen of this city
Though the greatest employer in the city was Bruce Wayne from Wayne enterprises, Jack had hopes that he would be able to find something else. He wanted a new beginning for him and his family away from crime, but there were rumors that Wayne Enterprises had ties to the Syndicate. Nobody knew if the rumors were true, but Bruce Wayne was the only investor the Syndicate of Crime had not tried to stop or buy out. It spelled corruption all the way. Better to stay away from him if he could help it.
Jack noticed the four men in their business suits and suitcases already in the waiting room. They looked back at him with the fierceness of a pack of wolves ready to pounce for the greatest chuck of prey they could get, and Jack couldn't help to feel like the runt in the pack. He adjusted his purple bowtie and silently signed his name in the waiting list when a blonde man in a grey suit emerged from his office and approached him. Turning the attendance book towards him he read the names and with a big smile extended a hand out.
"Jack Napier, I'm glad you could make it in time for our appointment." Jack suspiciously shook the hand of the suited man. "Could you follow me to my office please?"
The man in the grey suit lead the way back to his office, and Jack glanced at the men still seated in the waiting room. The look in their faces was one of hatred and envy, and from being the runt of the pack, Jack suddenly felt like prey just before the kill. He held tightly to the folder with his personal documents, in case he needed to use it as a weapon, and followed the man in the grey suit to his office. At the door, the man was waiting and a large picture of Thomas Wayne Jr. stared at them from the wall behind the large desk. The austere look in the millionaire's eyes and the almost life like proportions of the picture made Jack nervous. Then a quote from George Orwell's 1984 popped in his head: 'Big Brother is watching you, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end…What he was getting into?
"Please have a seat, Mr. Napier," the clerk said motioning towards his desk as he closed the office door. "Can I call you Jack?"
"I think you took me for someone else Mr…"
"Collins, but you can call me Johathan."
"Well Jonathan, I think you made a mistake because I don't have an appointment." He said as he remained standing. "And I think there were people ahead of me in the waiting room."
"Of course you had an appointment." Jonathan said letting himself heavily on his leather chair. "I couldn't leave my favorite comic waiting for hours on end in that cold waiting room. And I wouldn't worry about the…others. They probably have forgotten about you already. Now please, have a seat."
A fan, Jack thought, and he was just trying to help. Napier nodded and did as he was told. He could still feel Bruce Wayne's eyes staring down at him as he sifted uncomfortably on the chair.
"God, I can't believe it. Jack Napier, the Gotham Jester…in my office," Jonathan leaned over his desk. "When are you're going to perform next, Jack?"
"Not for a while. Need something more…permanent."
"But you're a great comic, Jack. It's your gift."
"Thanks, but it's hard to be a comic in a city that refuses to laugh."
"Excuse me?" Jonathan said eyeing Jack suspiciously.
"The fire at the Comedy Factory has made work…quite scarce."
"Oh, yeah. Poor Lloyd." Jonatha responded looking down solemnly at his interlaced hands on the desk. "But he should have known better, angering the Syndicate. You don't want enemies like that.".
Why was Jonathan telling him this? "I suppose so."
"And if he was not happy with spitting on the Syndicate's face, Lloyd started to make business with criminals." Jonathan picked a pen from the pencil holder and leaned over speaking in a secretively voice. "He was laundering money for the so called Justice League."
Jack couldn't hold his surprise at the revelation. He had known Cameron for years and though he knew about his dislike for the Syndicate, he never thought that Lloyd would have the courage to start dealings with the group of rebels known as the Justice league. The League was an amalgam of normal citizens and superpowered beings with one thing in common, bring down the Crime Syndicate. Jack praised the goal of the league, but he despised the methods they used to carry them out. Terrorism was never the solution to any type of problems, and Lloyd believed the same thing, so why would he suddenly start making business with them? It just made no sense.
"Yes i know, but let's turn back to you. You need a job, right?" Jack nodded and Jonathan went on. "Great, now tell me what type of job are you looking for my friend?"
"Something in the field of chemistry will be good," Jack said handing Jonathan a copy of his resume he kept in his folder. "But I will try anything as long as it's legal."
Jonathan gave Jack a puzzled look. "I only offer 'legal' jobs."
"It's a joke." There was a moment of tension before Jonathan started to laugh. Jack took a look at Wayne's picture on the wall and smiled. A joke, like your reputation, Tommy boy, he thought as he looked back at Jonathan.
"You got me there for a moment, Jack." The suit answered as he reached for a small binder beside him. He sifted the pages quickly until he found what he was looking for. "And you are on you lucky day. Wayne Enterprises is opening a new subdivision in their main headquarters and they will need scientists of all disciplines; including chemistry. "
"But Mr. Wayne has not seen my resume."
"I saw the Magna Cum Laude in Chemistry, Jack." Johnathan chuckled. "A word from me and you're in."
Jack suddenly felt sick on his stomach. This was the corruption he was so hard trying to keep away from him and his family. He didn't want to owe favors that somebody will ask him to repay later. He felt the need to leave the office.
"Are there any job openings available…somewhere else?"
Jonathan put his pen down and looked at him. "What's the problem? It's just a decent, 'legal' job. Good pay and benefits. Oh, I understand…."
Jack's body tensed as he feared the hatred he felt for Thomas Wayne and the Syndicate had been discovered.
"I know it's hard to comprehend the complexities of the working force for someone who has been in show biz for so long, but you have to understand Jack that this is the way it works. If you don't know someone somewhere, you might not get what you need, because someone else might be on the prowl for the same thing you want, and this person might have the right connections."
Jack felt he was watching a predator special in the Animal Planet Channel. What the hell had this city become?
"The men in the waiting room…'
"Exactly, some of them have it, others don't. The ones who don't have it will go home empty handed tonight to their starving families and start all over again tomorrow. Basic law of nature Jack: survival of the fittest."
Jack really wanted to leave now. A combination of anger, frustration and helplessness filled him. This is what he had fought all his life: to not be part of the system, but the system was slowly engulfing him and will soon reach for his family as well. No. He could keep the system at bay. This was no longer just about him, but about them. And they needed to eat and have a roof over their heads. Besides, it would this deal would not be forever…right?
"I see. I…" the words in his mouth started to burn like acid. "I will take the offer."
"I knew you would understand." Jonathan retrieved a few forms from one of the drawers in his desk and after filling some information in them rose from the chair and walked past Jack towards the door. "I will have these signed and get you a copy in no time. Just wait for me here, OK?"
Jack nodded silently, as he questioned in his mind the choice of accepting a job at Wayne Enterprises. He glared at the picture of the millionaire on the wall with loath. He had to do what he had to do for his family, but from this day on, no more favors and no more compromises. He will make heaven for his family and himself in the middle of hell, and the devil will respect him for what he was.
His thoughts were interrupted by an explosion outside that made the whole office rumble. Papers scattered on the floor and pencils and pens were knocked off the desk. Smaller and more distant explosions followed. Then he heard a murmur on the waiting room outside. Whatever that was, had to be big, he thought as he rose from the chair. As he headed out of the office, the ground shook violently and he fell to the ground hitting his knees on the floor. The glass entrance had been shattered and while the waiting room was empty, there were people screaming on the streets and pointing up into the sky. He tried to get up the floor when he was startled by a hand pulling at his elbow. Jonathan had returned and was now trying to help him to his feet.
"What was that?" Jack asked.
"The League, those murderers…" Jonathan said panting as he pulled Jack aside. "They're attacking the subway, killing hundreds."
"It's the League, Jack, why else?" Jonathan handed him a small folder. "Here, everything is in order, get to Wayne Enterprises tomorrow nine a.m. Now stay clear until the Syndicate takes care of League. It's not safe out there."
Another explosion shook the building's foundation and Jack wondered if the building was a safe place at all. Jonathan had scurried out of sight and left him alone. It might not be safe out there in the streets, but he couldn't think of anything worse than dying crushed by three stories of masonry just before starting a new job. He wasn't going to meet his end here.
Walking gingerly amidst a layer of debris, glass, and paper he reached the entrance and peeked out checking both sides of the street. There was a thin cloud of smoke and dust covering the whole length of the avenue but most of the action was located three blocks north from where he stood. He looked up in the direction the people had pointed at before and the large shadow of the Owlplane passed above him. It was an impressive machine, and it was loaded with impressive weapons as well. Weapons it was firing at armored people in the sky.
A man in a gold and black armor fired an energy beam at the Owlplane hitting one of the engines. The large plane maneuvered erratically out of sight and two more armored individuals joined the golden figure in the air. With the motion of his hands the golden one quickly told the others to scatter. They obeyed without hesitation. More hand signals and Jack immediately knew this guy was the leader of the pack and independently of who he was, if he had had the guts of firing on Owlman, he had his eternal gratitude. Someone should show that cowled freak the same kindness he had showed the city...or Lloyd.
Jack looked down the opposite of the street away from the golden one. If he made a run for it, he might be able to reach his car and drive out of here to safety. It was then that he saw the golden figure been ambushed by two of Owlman's superpowered thugs. Sneaky bastards, but they were not expecting the golden one's force field to thwart their efforts. The golden leader turned quickly towards its attackers and fired a beam of green light from his hand. Both thugs fell to the ground. The golden figure removed the shattered helmet covering his head and Jack recognized him immediately. Lex Luthor, leader of the League. The most wanted man in Gotham, Metropolis and six other states. Luthor crushed the helmet in his hands, screamed some commands to his troops and flew away. For Jack, this was the moment he was waiting for to get away from here.
As he sprinted down the street, he saw a large ball of fire aimed directly at him. With reflexes that could only spring from adrenaline pumping through his veins, Jack ran across the street and up a staircase to the safety of the Romanesque colonnade that ran along the façade of the Weiler Building. The fireball hit just where he had been standing just moments before and left a large hole in the ground. The work placing office lay in ruins as the building collapsed over the now debilitated foundation. He thought of Jonathan and the other men, bystanders in a fight that was taking too many lives. Then from the center of the crater, a figure emerged enveloped in a white glowing light that quickly dissipated. Within the light was a woman with fiery golden hair and without her protective light, Jack saw that she was badly injured and she was bleeding heavily from the side of her yellow costume.
The woman tried to move away from the crater, but only managed to advance a few steps before falling heavily on her face. She spat blood and with undeniable determination she rose again. In her hand she held tightly to a blood stained white bag that she was trying hard to conceal from view. Jack observed the woman fighting to remain conscious, advancing just a few paces at a time, before falling over. The fourth time she fell, the woman didn't rise, and Jack's heart crushed. The memories of Harley pinned under the remains of the roof of the Comedy Factory came back to him. It was like relieving the moment again and again. No matter what side this woman was on, no one deserved to die like this…alone.
Jack carefully looked around and saw the streets still deserted. No one was coming for him…or for her. He then crossed the street and met the woman on the ground. She was barely breathing and the pale look in her face confirmed to him that this woman was bleeding to death and needed to be rush to a hospital…fast. He made an effort to lift her and carry her out of there, when she pushed him and scurried away.
"Wait, I don't want to harm you," Jack said to comfort her as he knelt just feet away. She raised a hand that glowed menacingly with an intense white light. "You're seriously injured. You need a doctor. Please let me help you."
She instinctively looked at the bloody spot on her side, and then glared at him. "If you take me to a hospital…they will let me die."
"Nonesense." Jack was taken aback by her words. "If you stay here, you will die too."
"Why do you want to help me?" She whispered. The spark in her eyes was fading fast and she dropped her glowing hand to support herself.
"Because this stupid war has taken too many lives."
"And why do you care? You're part of the system."
"I'm just a man trying to help, please let me take you to a hospital."
"You're not like the rest of this city." She retched and spit a mouthful of blood. Jack rushed to her side but she threatened him with the white bag she had tried to conceal. "My time here is almost over…I did what had to be done. If you want to help me, take this with you and hide it far away from here. The Syndicate should never put their claws on it. Do you understand?"
"Why, what is in there?" Jack asked timidly.
"The least you know the better for you or your loved ones. Just take it and destroy it." The woman panted heavily. "Please…if you want to save someone…save the city...from the Syndicate."
"Only if you come with me. You need a doctor," he said seizing the bag and getting ready to pick her up.
"Stubborn little man. This is more important than you or me. The whole world…depends…on it. The League is…" With the last word, she exhaled. Her red eyes darkened while they were still staring at him, pleading for him to finish the mission she had started. But why? This was not his war. He just wanted to raise a family away from all this violence, and now he was in the middle of it all. He could just leave the bag there and go, but something told him that doing that would just make this woman's death useless. She had given her last spark of life to keep, whatever it was, away from the Syndicate. Maybe this was his chance to do something worthwhile. Hit the Syndicate where it hurt most.
Jack looked nervously around him. The city was deserted. In the distance, he could see sparks of light in crisscrossing patterns. The fight for the skies continued and hopefully Luthor still commanded his minions against the Syndicate's murderous hordes. Jack grabbed the bag, concealed within his business suit and ran with all his might to the public parking building three blocks away. If he reached his car without any incident he would be out of danger, and disposing of the contents of the bag would be easy. He will tell no one. This will be his anonymous contribution to a better Gotham.
Well, now you let me know if you think this story should continue. (*cups hand to ear*)