Author's Note: Sorry for the delay posting but this have been a few crazy weeks, drawing, painting, working, writing, and developing two Joker sites. Anyways, made time to continue this story that seems to have found a place in your hearts. I really appreciate the time and the support the fans have offered me with this story and I hope I can keep entertaining you all.
Please feel free to drop me a note or a review to share your thoughts on the story. We writers depend on your voice as much as our imaginations to write. Sometimes the best ideas come from fans (like this story that was one fan's idea). For now, just relax and enjoy the chapter that was written with a lot of love for you all.
DISCLAIMER 1: Owlman, Joker, Jokerster and related characters belong to DC COMICS
DISCLAIMER 2: Sometimes there will be instances of MATURE LANGUAGE and SITUATIONS. You have been warned before you read.
BETA: There is no beta in this project, so be kind enough to point out any problems or confusions.
Crime and Justice Chapter 3
By the time Owlman and Talon arrived at the meeting hall at the Syndicate's headquarters all the other crime lords were already seated at the large oblong table on the center of the meeting room. At the head of the table, like always, was Ultraman who used his out-wordly superiority to guarantee his place on top of the organization. And everybody respected that. Nobody wanted to challenge an ill-tempered average human astronaut turned superhuman being with the strength of one hundred men and the ability to burn a hole through somebody's heads with just a look.
"You're late," Superwoman said stretching suggestively on her leather chair. Her black curls fell over the exposed shoulders of her costume and Olwman couldn't hold a subtle smile. He knew exactly what she was trying to do, especially in front of Ultraman. Superwoman loved danger, and Wayne loved the thrill of living on the edge of danger itself.
"Had things to tend to," Tom responded quickly exchanging the timid smile into an angry glare. "You should be glad that I'm here instead of complaining about my punctuality."
"I don't like your tone, Wayne." Ultraman growled from his place at the head of the table.
"Thought we were not supposed to use our names in meetings….Kent." Owlman retorted as he pulled a chair and sat down. "Just keep your girlfriend in line and mind your own business."
"Can we stop the bickering and go on with the business at hand?" Johnny Quick interceded. His voice harsh and tired. "The League attacked another of my shipments last night. I lost three million dollars in one hour."
"And a shipment of your speed juice too I'm sure."
Johnny rose and started to vibrate uncontrollably at super-speed causing the room to start vibrating with him. Ultraman held the speedster by an arm forcing him down onto his chair.
"What is going to hurt even more is the roof falling on your head, Quick. Now calm down and you," Ultraman pointed a blue gloved finger towards Owlman and Talon, "better watch your mouth."
"You really thought that making the attack look like the League's doing would prevent the media from knowing what was on those ships?"
"You did what, Ultraman?" Johnny quick inquired angrily
"The ships are at the bottom of the harbor and thanks to Barracuda, no one will ever tie them to drugs or us. The media can talk all they want, but will have no proof. I will be surprised if anynobody remembers this incident by next week."
"Kent, those where my drugs." Johnny protested.
"Necessary loss, Johnny," Ultraman growled. "Now shut up and stop whining. You'll survive."
Owlman snorted angrily. "It just surprises me that you called this meeting for something so stupid as Quick's drug shipment. The League has infiltrated into Wayne Enterprises and I seemed to have inherited your…little problem."
"Luthor?" Power Ring asked with his green ring glowing brightly in his right hand. "Luthor is in Gotham?"
"A few weeks ago he tried to protect the subway with the spy carrying my transducer and other pieces of technology that were stolen from my developing laboratories."
"So that was not an isolated attack?" Superwoman asked leaning forward with interest. Ultraman rested his arms on the table and glared at the cowled figure.
"No, I have information that Luthor and his League have moved their headquarters from Metropolis to Gotham. He's becoming a real pain in my ass thanks to you, Ultraman."
"So he couldn't handle me." Kent finally said with a malicious smile extending wide. "The coward couldn't take it and ran with the tail between his legs."
"Are you even listening to me, you big idiot? Luthor is in Gotham, probably regrouping with his…criminal team to strike back at us. Aren't you worried?"
There was a few moments of tense silence at the meeting table. Ultraman leaned comfortably on the edge and chuckled.
"Not a bit. And I thought you had killed the spy."
"And Luthor's wife?"
"I killed her too. Your point...?
"Then you got your transducer back."
Owlman took his time to respond. Ultraman became impatient.
"You did, didn't you?" Kent pressed on.
"Astra didn't have it when we found her body."
The Kryptonian rose angrily tossing the chair across the room. "WHAT? You're telling me that Luthor and his stray sheep have a working model of the phasic transducer? You know what he can do to us with that?" Ultraman rose from his chair and the table in front of Owlman started to smoke.
"Before you make a hole to the center of the earth, I can tell you that Luthor doesn't have it either."
"Are you sure?" Johnny said spurting words so fast that it almost sounded like gibberish. "How do you know…there's no way of knowing that with certainty…no way."
"If he had it, he would have used it already, or would have brought it to the public eye to discredit me."
"Maybe he doesn't know how to use it yet."
"Ultraman, what part of Luthor has a spy inside my company you didn't get? He could get the instruction manual if we let him and that is why we have to act quickly and stop him before he can get access to any more of my technology."
"From your tone I take that you have a plan."
"Of course I do and I have the bait to lure him out of hiding. I just need the help of the Syndicate to hit him and his minions with everything we got. Wouldn't it be good to have his cadaver so you can drag him through Metropolis' streets? That will show off your power better than having him escape your police to hide in a neighboring city so he can plan your demise."
"You really know how to make your case, Owlman. Let's hear this plan of yours and see if we can rid ourselves of the League once and for all."
The morning had been uneventful at the Special Project lab. Everybody worked hard on their projects, and thanks to certain insights from colleagues Jack had been able to fix the problems on his polymer design, but there was still the 'Crane problem'. Jonathan Crane had been unusually quiet in his station, working long complex formulas and chemical structures. Napier could feel the tension between him and the scientist. Every time Jack stretched or moved around in his seat, Crane was quick to look at him suspiciously and cover whatever he was doing at the computer at that time. It was getting to be very annoying, but if the scientist dreamed of getting a prize for driving people mad or burying them underground, he was nobody to take that away from him. He just wished that right now Jonathan worked at the other end of the room instead of right beside him.
Jack looked at his watch and smiled. Ten minutes for noon and that meant one hour of lunch away from the scarecrow. He started closing windows in his computer when he got a network alert. He opened the file and read on. He was required to meet with his supervisor before leaving for lunch. Great…now what do these creeps want? He thought as he glanced hatefully at Crane beside him. Maybe this was all an elaborate plan to get even with him. Jonathan just gave him his back and hunched over his keyboard typing furiously. Turning off his station, Jack pulled the flash drive placing it safely in a pocket and headed to the far end of the lab where Dr. Levi was probably waiting for him.
"Please come in," Levi responded as Jack entered calmly into the messy office. Towers of papers and files lay scattered over every single free space on the floor. The supervisor motioned him to a lonely chair by his desk. After removing a few files that were on it onto the floor, Jack took a seat.
"You said it was urgent," Jack started not able to stop fidgeting nervously on his seat.
"Yeah. Security allowed me access to some disturbing video from early this morning right here at the lab and I wanted to hear your side of the story."
"I don't understand…disturbing, sir?"
"You and Dr. Crane…in a fight?"
Crane…that slimy little toad, Jack thought combing his wild brown curls with a hand. He had not even been working here for two weeks and he was already in trouble. Thanks Spooky. That idea of flipping burgers at McDonald's was looking very nice now. Maybe that will be his next job after Levi fired him.
"Oh, that…that was just a misunderstanding. I already apologized to Dr. Crane."
"What was the misunderstanding, Mr. Napier?"
"I thought he had left his flash drive on the computer. I just wanted to make sure that the information on the drive would not leave the lab so I tried to retrieve the drive and return it to Dr. Crane when he arrived later. Didn't work that well."
"No, it didn't. Dr. Crane is very…concerned about his research. It's very important to him."
"You don't have to tell me that. He showed me, very clearly." Jack responded smiling languidly.
"I saw that…and that is exactly what concerns me. I do not need my employees to behave like street bullies, but rather like men of science. What we do here influences lives out there in the real world. We're trying to build a better Gotham."
Yeah, killing willing experimental subjects with poison gas, Jack thought to himself. He nodded silently. "I know sir. I really tried to avoid conflict at all cost."
"I know you did. What I saw was not just video, Mr. Napier." Jack hunched over. Security in this place was tighter than a prison, and he had to be careful of what he did or said in the future. Suddenly, his job reminded him of a concentration camp.
"I'm sorry sir. It will not happen again."
"I know it will not. And just because so far I have no complains about your work I will not take this any further, but I expect more of you in the future. This is not a comedy club, Jack. This is a research laboratory and demands you take your job seriously."
Jack bit his lip and nodded. What did this guy had against comedy? He was just like that Wayne guy, all stiff and humorless. "I will, sir."
"Good, now that we've settled this, just wanted to ask you if you saw what Dr. Crane was working on?"
Jack eyed Dr. Levi suspiciously, not understanding where he was heading with the question. He suspected he was just being sure he wasn't spying on fellow researchers.
"I really don't remember. I wasn't paying attention the research content, just wanted to shut the computer down."
"I see. It is a nervous gas to be used by the military. That is all it is."
"I guess...Like I said, I don't remember what it was." Jack shrugged. "My thing is material analysis."
"Yes, your fire retardant fabric. I heard you were progressing with the project." Jack nodded silently. "Just stay with that project. It will help save lives of a lot of firemen."
"Sure, sir. I will give it my best." Jack said almost emotionless. Maybe smiling will make it less obvious to Levi that he had no interest in any project from this division anymore.
Dr. Levi smiled back. "That be all for now. You can leave. Have a good lunch Mr. Napier."
Talon sat comfortably on the Owlplane's co-pilot seat when he noticed that this was not the usual route back to the Cave. He leaned over the GPS system at the main console to check his location, but Owlman turned the small screen off before he could read the coordinates.
"Hey!" Talon protested. "You didn't tell me we were not heading back home. Actually you have not said anything ever since we left the Syndicate's headquarters."
"There was nothing to say and where we are going is not important."
"I know you. You're planning something very sneaky."
Owlman turned and glared at the young man who silently recoiled into his seat. "When I have something I would want to share with you, I will. Right now I want you to take charge of the Luthor plan. I want to have my claws around baldy's neck before Ultraman."
"But you promised Ultraman the kill…"
"And since when do I care? Anything can happen between now and when Luthor falls. He might even die before Ultraman or I could get his hands on him."
"I see what you're trying to do," Talon responded crossing his arms over his chest. "And that is not going to make Big-U veryhappy."
"Are you defying me?" Owlman warned turning the plane north-northwest. His tone gruff and dangerous.
"No, I'm just saying. We might want to pull the red Kryptonite in case we need to subdue the brute...just in case."
"Good thought. I'll make sure I pull a few rocks from our base in the Artic."
"Is there where we are heading?"
"I told you not to concern you with that. Take the mini Viper and head back to Gotham and once there I want you to get ready for the most important mission of your life. I want you to learn everything about Special Projects, because I'm going to assign you there and I want you to keep an eye on Crane. I will find that spy…and I will find Luthor."
It was already dark when Johnny Flanders arrived at the old dilapidated warehouse by the Gotham River. It had rained all afternoon, and the unpaved parking space was now a thick mass of thick muck, that forced the car to move very slowly towards the back of the warehouse. It was even harder to move when he didn't have the lights on, but he didn't want to alert anybody of his presence. Flanders finally parked by the northern wall and started to move some backpacks from the back seat when a wet noise caught his attention. He turned calmly and saw the mountain of scales and fanged teeth looking down at him from ten feet above. Thick spit dripped from the white gleaming fangs. The large figure growled and Johnny smiled.
"Hiya, Croc. Lovely evening, isn't it?" Flanders responded going back to his luggage. "For a reptile, I mean."
"Funny, Jericho. You sssshould be careful, don't know what lurksssss in the darknessssss." The tall figure hissed as he helped the man with his bags.
"Thanks, but I think that with you around I don't have anything to worry about."
"Not here. Not tonight." Crock responded with a toothy grin that looked more like a menacing snarl.
"He's waiting for you inssssside."
"Great. Can you leave the bags somewhere for our scientists to take a look? I'm sure they will find the equipment interesting."
Croc nodded as he grabbed the bag with one of his large black claws and with a powerful leap disappeared from sight. Jericho adjusted his trench coat to protect him from the soft drizzle still falling and headed to the entrance. Once inside the warehouse, he hung his wet coat on an old screw protuding from one of the metal supporting columns and entered the improvised mess room. Lex Luthor sat at on an old brown armchair holding a small picture in his hand that he stared at lovingly. Around his neck hung a pendant in the shape of a shooting star, the last reminder he had of his wife. It wasn't difficult to guess who's photo Luthor was holding in his hand.
"Commander Luthor?" Flanders said to announce his arrival. Lex folded the picture and secured it in a pocket as he stood to greet his friend.
"Good you could make it, Jericho. What news you have for me?"
"I bought some prototypes that our contact at Lumon Industries was able to sneak out. Some type of light weapon that I'm sure we can use to fight Power Ring or his minions," Jericho said shaking hands with the League's leader. "And sir, they just opened a new Division at Wayne's. They call it Special Projects and Crane is now working in that division."
"Special Projects, hmm?" Luthor said offering Jericho a seat in front of him as he sat back on his chair. "Knowing Mr. Wayne's close relationship with the Syndicate I don't doubt that division will continue developing weapons for them. Do you know what they do over there?"
"I talked to one of their employees but couldn't get much out of him. He's been only two weeks on the job."
"I don't know why Wayne moved Jonathan to that division, but we have to regain contact with Crane before he changes his mind again. We need to find someone close to our target. Someone Jonathan could trust."
"I know, sir, but I'm sure Wayne suspects by now that the attack on his divisions was an inside job and might have coerced Crane."
"I would like to know what Wayne has on Crane. It has to be something big."
Jericho shrugged. "I don't know. But at least we know someone else on that division. He might be able to get close to Crane."
"So you're suggesting this guy you just met, whose alliances we don't know, could help us? That's a risk I'm not willing to take, Jericho. I don't want anybody else dying because of me. Not after Astra...or the others."
"He doesn't like the Syndicate."
"How…Did you use your power to read minds by touch? Jericho, you know how dangerous it is to play around like that inside Wayne's Enterprises. They could tie you to me and that is something neither you nor I can afford now."
"Just a slight trick of the hand, sir. He didn't even notice, but his hatred for the Syndicate is real and powerful. And since he arrived after our attack, nobody will tie him to us. Maybe if we approach him, he will be interested in lending a hand. After all, he works in the same division."
Luthor rested his chin on a crooked finger and thought intensely on what Jericho had said. It was risk enough to have moved to Gotham, home of the Syndicate's more ruthless member…Olwman to now put his trust in a totally unknown ally.
"I don't know Jericho. I don't like the idea."
"Why don't you let me make contact with him? A short background check and he loosening to us will give us a better idea of what team he plays for. I just don't want the Syndicate to get at him first. Looks like a good guy and probably willing to help."
"Alright, but no more showing off your powers inside Wayne's building, OK?" Jericho nodded. "What's this guy name?"
"Napier…the comedian?" Luthor said with a disgusted look in his face. "You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. The same one."
Jack found his car all by himself on the third floor of the multilevel parking garage close to seven thirty in the evening. So much for the idea of leaving early that day after the harsh reprimand in the afternoon, he thought walking slowly to his Honda CRV. He had to prove his supervisor he had what it took to be in that division and that he was reliable, so he opted to stay one extra hour of his shift to show his commitment. If only Levi would have just fired him, he would not feel now indebted to his boss for the charity of keeping his job. He hated to owe favors. That's how everybody got into the system and unknowingly joined the ranks of the Syndicate, because someone owed a favor to someone else somewhere. He just wished it wasn't him.
He opened his cell phone and placed a call as he arrived to his vehicle and reached for his keys.
"Hello, sweetheart? Don't wait for me for dinner. I still have to rehearse my act." He made a short pause as Harley responded. "No, no…everything is OK. Just had to stay a little longer that's all. They will appreciate that later, I'm sure."
Not finding his keys in his pants, he let down his small brown leather suitcase and searched in the front pockets.
"Don't worry, tomorrow's Saturday and I can sleep in late. OK. See ya later…alligator." Jack finally found the keys. "Love yah."
He put the phone away and wished he could tell her the truth about his extra hour. But that would just worry her, and he couldn't put that pressure on her now that she was expecting. Who knows what kind of damage unwanted stress could cause in a baby. He opened the car when he felt a cold hand over his shoulder that startled him. Jack swung his suitcase at a blurry figure that hardly had time to dodge the incoming attack. Napier held to the car and looked to the person now crouching timidly on the floor. Brown eyes glinted back behind the thick round glasses.
"Crane? " Jack said catching his breath. "Have you lost your mind? You don't do that to people man. God…you almost gave me a heart attack."
"Sorry, Napier." Jonathan said straightening up and dusting his pants. Even the cream long-sleeve shirt looked too big for the scientist's thin frame. "Thought you had heard me coming behind you."
"No, I didn't 'cause I was busy on the phone." Jack threw his suitcase on the back seat and picked up the keys he dropped when he was startled. "What do you want? I have not gotten near your computer today…I swear."
"I know you didn't. I just thought…Well, I think I owe you an apology for this morning."
"Well, that is OK. Good, yeah…it's OK." Jack stuttered taken aback by the scientist's attitude. He really thought that Crane was going to hate him for the rest of his life for even touching his flash drive. The scientist's attitude now was a lot less belligerent, and almost sincere.
"I just had…some issues with that research and I thought you were trying to … Anyways, forget it. I just wanted to say I'm sorry."
"Apology accepted only if you forgive me for head-butting you in the lab. That must have hurt."
"It's fine. I deserved it. And you could have gotten me in trouble with Levi but you didn't and that…that was cool of you."
Jack shrugged. "Told you that I didn't want you get you in trouble. We're even."
There was a tense paused between them, each looking away as they fidgeted nervously. "It's late. Do you want to join me for some grub, my treat? I just want to make it up to you, somehow."
Jack looked at his watch. "I have not had time to rehearse, yet."
"We could get something fast and you could use an audience. Hard to rehearse if you don't know people will laugh, don't you think?"
"You got a point there," Jack said with a smile motioning to his car. "Wanna hop in?"
"Oh, no, no. I'll meet you at the restaurant. I'm thinking Santiago's at Miller's and Aparo's Way. You like Mexican?"
Jack hesitated for a moment then eyed Jonathan suspiciously. This was all just too weird for him, especially if Crane didn't want to ride with him. The brown expressive eyes were just too persuasive.
"Ok, but just tell me…Did you already see the dead body in my trunk?" Jonathan's eye opened wide as he unconsciously backed off a few steps. Jack smiled perversely. "Because hat would explain why you don't want to ride with me. And that would mean that I have to kill you now…nothing personal, Crane."
"What the…wha--?"" Crane sputtered nervously as he got ready to sprint away from here and call the closest law enforcer. Jack busted in a hysterical laughter.
"It's a Joke, Crane…just a joke." He said between loud guffaws. "Just getting even for almost causing me a heart attack."
"You're out of your fucking mind…" Jonathan said as the laughter spread readily to his mouth. Curiously it seemed that Jonathan had just started breathing again. "You know that?"
"Yeah, that is one psychiatrist told me a long time. He said that I would make a very good comedian…and here I am." Jack patted Crane on a stiff shoulder. "I'll see you at Santiago's, Jonathan. Ten, fifteen minutes?"
"Sure. Ramon, the owner, is a friend of mine. He will get us a good quiet table. Bye, see you there."
For the Joker fans out there and specially for the Joker fan-fic writers, I have stablished the Jokerlady Never Ending Joker Project. A LiveJournal community dedicated to Joker. Here writers can collaborate in a Joker inspired story made up by a prompt to which authors will contribute to the plot, one chapter at the time, each chapter uploaded by a different author. At the end, we all had fun and the result is a nice coherent story written by a several authors to entertain the community. The site will also include articles to help with the dreaded Writer's Block. Everything to make our muses healthy, right? If the idea sounds something you might be interested on, please feel free to join me at ne_jkr_project in LJ. I'm also working on another Joker site, will update on that one when it is up and running.
Thanks for your support!