Stage Zero: The Life, Death and Rebirth of Red X
The intense light of the burning star only managed to illuminate a fraction of the endless darkness that was space. Every few seconds it fluctuated, breathing out a burst of bright yet unnatural fire against the solid black gloom.
Its colours switched between a fiery orange to an unnerving white, as if it was undecided about which tone to take. Its constant pulsating gave the impression of a slow beating heart.
The kind of heart that pumped at a rhythmic pace…right before the cancer took it and rendered it rotting and hollow.
Observing this phenomenon through the thick veil of transparent-plated glass were the shadowy figures of two darkly dressed characters. The first stood facing the window, arms tightly wrapped around her chest, a look of unease plastered across her face.
"This is a huge risk we're taking; that you're taking…" she thought aloud, turning her pale blue eyes to the man sitting on the large, steel coated chair. She gained no response from him, but continued her train of thought nonetheless.
"Humanity has ascended to such power in such a short amount of time; we have the faith of the entire galaxy, making new technological breakthroughs daily, alliances with other species have never been greater…and still it's not enough" she turned around fully this time, exposing her well-built feminine figure.
She tossed back a few strands of blonde hair that had fallen out of place, putting her gloved hands of her hips, her body language showed discomfort and annoyance at the course of action they were about to undertake. Her outfit was that military style, only tailored to her exact size and trimmed along her arms and thighs. It was dyed a deep red, which only further served to reflect the emblem of the wolf that was stitched under her right collarbone.
"Humanity's saviours have beaten some pretty insane odds; interstellar terrorist organisations, sadist cults, the Cybermen incursion, even the First Contact War, but we both know that's nothing compared to what's coming" she spoke out as she walked over to the man in the chair, a fluent British accent flowing from her voice.
"The Daleks are still out there" she stated.
The man in the chair did not flinch, nor show any sign of agitation. He only lit up another cigarette, and inhaled its contents. The woman could not help but feel slightly unnerved as she stared down at him, his eyes being a perfect blend of bright white and nuclear green. His gaze would have shaken any man, but she held her ground.
"And it's our job to stop them" he declared, exhaling the grey wisps of air in one breath.
The woman sighed, knowing that reasoning with him was out of the question, once he decided on which course to take, there was no way of stopping him, only standing with him or getting the hell out of his way.
"But why him? Why choose him of all people to lead the attack? He's only a thief" she stated, the annoyance of the situation sewn into her bitter words.
The man in the chair simply responded by opening a console by his right hand, and typed in a few key codes. Automatically several holographic images appeared before the pair – each displaying the same person.
The eerie stare of a man where a black and grey mask in the fashion of a skull glared back at the pair. Painted across his right eye was the scarlet red of the letter 'x', covering most of the mask's forehead.
"The suit itself is a powerful tool, but the man inside is only interesting in serving himself, he'll never join our cause" she replied, peering up at the mask.
"Better the devil you know" the man responded, breaking apart the tip of his cigarette in a nearby ashtray.
"We know he won't join us out of freewill, it'd be better for us if we use the man who created the suit, at least he believes in the morals we do, even if he doesn't exactly share our methods"
The sounds of several other codes being inputted cut the conversation; the holographic pictures disappeared and were instead replaced by what appeared to be a large selection of video recordings.
"That group of vigilantes believe in doing things by the book, they'll be no use to us, they'll probably try to bring down this organisation on sight if they knew about its existence, besides…" he pushed last of the key codes in, the recordings began to play, he brought out a small glass and poured himself what appeared to be a strong whiskey.
"This man is far stronger and far more willing to go outside the bindings of the law, as for his ethics…I wouldn't say it was all black and white"
"Who are you?"
"If I wanted you to know that, would I be wearing a mask?" with a swift punch to the jaw, the leader of the young vigilante group fell to the floor, while the clear white eyes of the grim mask stood over him, victoriously.
The recording showed the inside of a warehouse, four individuals dressed in peculiar outfits were surrounding a fifth figure, dressed in a black costume with a skull-fashioned mask. He wore two grey gloves as well as a belt, each sharing the insignia of a blood red 'x' shape. Draped around his shoulders was a tattered cape that fell to the back of his carves, almost meeting the skull-buckled boots that he wore.
"Come on kids, x marks the spot" the man taunted, his voice distorted by a metallic, almost robotic sound, as he pointed to the 'x' pattern over the right side of his chest.
With almost inhuman agility he leapt high into the air, back flipping behind the five. The first of the two attackers; a woman draped in a blue cloak and a man whose body had been half converted into a cybernetic state, charged forward. While one began speaking in a nonhuman language, the other's right arm instantly converted into some form of weapon.
X (that was what he had been referred to earlier) on instinct thrust his hand forward; the 'x' pattern on the inside of his left palm briefly lit up before unleashing a projectile at the pair. As it came close to both of them, its brightness reached its peak and several bursts of red lightning reached out for both of them. The pair screamed as the electricity consumed them and knocked them to the floor.
"Looks like you got your wires crossed" X grinned, but it was short lived as several green bolts of fire rained down upon him.
He smoothly evaded them before reaching the back of the warehouse, he jumped back and pressed his feet against the dusty steel to launch himself into the air, right passed his airborne assailant. She tried to land a hit on his chest, but with sudden grace managed to corkscrew out of the way and quickly meet the ground. He whipped around just in time to see her prepare for another charge, and in response brought both hands together to release a king-sized 'x' pattern that on contact pushed the girl back and trapped her against the wall.
"You know cutie…" X purred as he reached up and brought her chin close to his mask.
"The only crime here is that you hadn't gone out on a-" he was interrupted by the girl's eyes, as they violently turned an emerald green colour and send out a violent wave of energy that knocked X right back across the warehouse.
If the force of impact hadn't shaken him so much, the masked man might have been blushing in embarrassment for such a careless mistake, but he quickly remedied that when he saw another of the costumed crusaders starting to make an attack run; this one having the ability to take the properties of different animals.
Taking the form of a savage bear, the fourth attacker sprinted, heavy paws shaking the ground beneath it. But much to the predator's dismay, the prey had another trick up his sleeve, as he slammed his hand to the ground, releasing a beam of red light that cut the ground in an 'x' pattern.
"Watch your step" X grinned as he watched the bear fall through the earth.
It wasn't long before the final contender began charging, not surprisingly it was the leader from before. Dressed in almost the opposite colours of his masked counterpart, the boy wonder, Robin, clenched his fist as he charged forward.
"I won't let you get away with-"
Robin felt the familiar stinging of his face meeting the hard floor, as an 'x' projectile struck his feet and bound them tight, leaving him momentarily incapacitated. X stood above him, grinning under his mask.
"Better luck next time kid, and thanks for the suit"
The recording switched to inside what appeared to be some sort of chemical facility; X and Robin were caught up inside a dance of death, each evading, blocking and sending numerous gadgets of destruction the other's way.
Snarling, Robin whipped out his signature weapon; the steel bow staff. He stood in a defensive pose, almost inviting the other masked figure to try and fight him. In response, X raised his fists; where the outer 'x' patterns on both his hands took physical shape, turning themselves into deadly blades.
Within the space of a breath, both combatants were engaged a fierce, duel, each trying to either smash or cut the other to pieces. Eventually, both weapons collided, forcing the pair into a stalemate.
"Why did you steal the suit? What are you planning to do with it?" Robin yelled out.
"…Whatever I want" X commented slyly, using the suit's superior strength to force Robin back a couple of steps, he retracted his blades and glared at the suit's original owner.
"Not everyone wants to be the villain kid, I'm a thief; I'm not threatening you precious city, just looking out for number one" he explained.
"So you're not psychotic, you're just selfish!" Robin snarled, anger boiling inside of him that such a weapon was in the hands of a man like him.
"Lighten up chuckles, I'm not such a bad guy…once you get to know me" X chuckled, holding up his hands almost in surrender, before immediately lashing out with two projectiles form his palms, sending Robin flying.
"Uhhhh…okay, who were the moon men?" X thought aloud, in pain as he came out of his unconscious state. That was when a bright light lit up beneath him, as well as several prison bars that rose and left him in a canary-like cage.
"Criminals, just like you" Robin's aggressive was heard as he entered the scene, standing by a computer console that fed directly to the cage X was imprisoned in.
"C'mon kid, you don't think this little play pen can hold me" X taunted, grabbing two of the main bars, glaring at the boy wonder.
In reply, Robin pressed a switch on the console, and several volts of electricity surged through the bars, causing X to fall back in from the bars.
"You don't even care do you? A madman just got enough xynothium to level the city, and it's entirely your fault!" Robin accused.
"Don't you mean; our fault" X responded innocently.
"At least I'm going to do something about it! And if you cared for anyone other than yourself, you'd be helping me!" Robin growled, venom infused into his words.
"Sorry kid, some guys don't like to play the hero"
Robin was holding on for dear life; he was inside the base of the madmen that had taken the mass quantities of the deadly chemical that was xynothium, holding onto a broken ledge hundreds of feet above the ground. Falling meant certain death, but perhaps that would be the lucky way out, as the insane professor had his precious xynothium powered cannon aimed straight for him.
"Okay, good-boy, who should I disintegrate first? You…or your pretty friend" Professor Chang grinned his sick smile, redirecting the trajectory of the laser right towards the scarlet redhead below.
"Starfire!" Robin called out, but it was too late, he lost his grip and he began to plummet.
Chang was laughing in sick pleasure at his conquest, but was suddenly silenced when an 'x' shaped shuriken struck his computer console, followed by a dozen more, causing it to explode in his face.
Robin screamed as he fell to the cold earth, but then felt the wind get taken out of him as a gloved arm snatched his collar and threw him across the other side of the room. He turned to see X holding onto the bars of the ledge, a smug look crossed the boy wonder's face.
"I thought you didn't like to play the hero?" Robin grinned.
"Doesn't mean I don't know how"
It was day now, and the recording focused upon what appeared to be a long stretch of road across a mountainous pass. Clashing midway were Robin and X, each of them on their respective motorcycles, struggling between lashing out with fists and weapons, and keeping their wheels on the ground.
"So what's in the case?" X asked cockily.
"None of your business!" Robin snapped back.
"We'll see about that!" X yelled as he slammed his vehicle into his opponent's
Robin whipped out his bow staff and tried to smash X's masked face into the tar pavement, but was cut short when X's wrist blade cut the weapon into pieces. He then took the lead and revved across the road.
This continued for several minutes until both of them were reaching the finishing line, the villain that had stolen Robin's personal belonging out in front.
"The case means nothing to you! It's only valuable to me!" Robin yelled out over the roar of the engines.
"I don't know about that, I can think of a lot of people who would want to buy it off me after I win!" X yelled back, referring Robin's gaze to further down the track, where a growing mass of villains in their own style vehicles were quickly gaining ground.
The finishing line was mere yards away; the leading villain had decided to make things more interesting, unleashing several bombs on an artificially frozen track. Both masked mean swiftly evaded each bomb, until X stole the lead from Robin – and was met head on with a bomb, causing a large explosion.
Without hesitation, Robin had darted into the black smoke and grabbed the thief from falling prey to a painful end. He landed on the back of the motorcycle, glaring at the boy wonder.
"Saving me was a mistake!" he yelled out, Robin said nothing in response and continued driving.
X looked back to see the growing number of villains that were joining the race, the boy wonder was going up against impossible odds, and even if he win the case – there was no way he could fended of so many adversaries alone.
"The case really means that much to you?" he asked honestly.
"More than you'll ever know" Robin responded, eye not once leaving the road.
"…Then go get it" X declared, leaping off the motorcycle and disappearing in a flash.
He appeared again on the front of an armoured motorcyclist; he slammed his palm on the engine and left behind a red 'x' imprint before teleporting away. Within seconds the vehicle exploded, sending the driver flying.
His next target could only watch as he teleported inside the car of what appeared a brightly coloured limousine; where the drivers could just stare as he unleashed his 'x' wrist blades and cleaved the car in half from the inside.
Continuing his trail of carnage, X placed several explosives on several cars before leaping from one vehicle to the next, leaving a mass pile up of vehicles exploding and drivers screaming as they were scattered flies.
He finally fell onto the window of his final target, a young villain driving a large wheel-shaped vehicle; he took one look at the thief and yelled out in frustration.
"Who's side are you on?"
A single explosive later, and the villain was sent flying down the track, cursing as he went. Teleporting away, he landed on what appeared to be a school bus, he peered down to be met with the amethyst eyes of another vigilante, Raven Roth.
"Need a lift?" she asked in annoyance.
"Tell Robin we're even…for now"
The video recording ended and disappeared from sight, the man in the chair said nothing but light himself another cigarette. The British woman sighed, almost in defeat, knowing that there was no point in arguing now.
"I guess it's decided then?"
"Red X, the infamous thief…we've got a lot riding on him, if we lose X then humanity might well follow" she stated warningly.
The man in the chair exhaled another cloud of smoke, and stared intently at the images of the masked thief in front of him; he crushed the cigarette in the ashtray completely.
"Then make sure you don't lose him"
2038. Humanity is no longer limited to the brittle haven of Earth, and have instead colonised new words with other races, sharing technology and now have influences throughout several galaxies due to the discoveries of the intergalactic transporters known as Mass Relays and it's powerful energy source that can manipulate both time and space; commonly known as Mass Effect.
Recently, all organic races were joined together in an alliance born of fear and resolve after one of the major colonised human worlds, Eden Prime, was attacked by the synthetic sentinels known as the Cybermen. After a series of brief conflicts that battle was brought to a dramatic end when the Citadel (the core station of intergalactic politics) was attacked by a giant sentient ship calling itself Emperor.
Due to the efforts and sacrifices of many human soldiers, the Titans managed to destroy Emperor and save the Citadel from annihilation.
However, the Titans leader - Richard "Robin" Grayson, had discovered that Emperor was actually a Dalek; an ancient machine/organic race with unfathomable knowledge that caused the extinction of millions of species in a cycle of devastation.
Despite pleas to mobilize all races to stop the oncoming Dalek army, the Council of the Citadel dismissed the idea that the Daleks even existed, and blamed it on the Cybermen.
In order to quell the rumours, the Council has sent the Titans as well as a full DWMA crew and state-of-the-art ship into the shadowy areas of the Terminus Systems in order to root out any remaining Cybermen resistance.
Unbeknownst to them, they have an unwanted guest on board, whose very presence shall save and end many lives in the events to come…