AN/ This is part of something I've been planing for quite some time, effectively this will act as a prequel to a story I have planned involving the Justice League and Justice Lords with the working title 'Of Mirrors and Demons' I wanted to write a couple of chapters in order to explain and set up certain aspects without having to dive into a great deal of detail over them in the main story once I begin writing it.
I appreciate any feedback on this especially anything concerning how I have handled the Justice Lords and particularly whether or not I've confused them when differentiating between them and their counterparts. I hope you enjoy reading :)
Of course neither Justice League or its characters belong to me, but rather their respective owners.
Fall from Grace
Eight hours after the Power Disruptor is used on the members of the Justice Lords.
The Batcave was as ever silent except for the silent clicking of computer keys by the only occupant, Lord Batman sat stiffly, working silently and waiting patiently. Knowing exactly what he was waiting for was not uncommon for the Dark Knight of Gotham, but on this occasion the knowledge was less than comforting.
Checking the digital clock located in the corner of the monitor, Lord Batman devised that there were only two short minutes left before he would be able to re-open the portal and the de-powered Justice Lords, his team mates, would be sent through.
Even now he was unable to explain why he had deviated from the original plans laid out by him and the others, but unlike the others he had kept careful watch over their captives, their counterparts, the versions of them that had not been manipulated by the gripping clutches of grief.
Watching them as he had in the observation booth he had deduced that they were what the Lords had been before they had lost Flash at the hands of Luthor. Grief was a funny thing; it affected those around it in varying ways, many unexplainable, even unexpected ways, but differently and sometimes dangerously. At a young age Bruce was no stranger to the embrace of grief, after all grief was what had fuelled his thirst and passion to rid the streets of thugs and criminals, to protect those that could not protect themselves , to stop other eight year old children from losing their parents.
Yes, grief had affected them; rather than bring them closer as a team, as a family it had divided them. Lord Batman himself had become increasingly more secluded, remaining within the Batcave to tinker with various creations, the portal that sat neatly to his right was testament to his boredom and even a subtle indicator that he rejected the world that they had created, even if he gave no sign to the others.
Flash's death had changed the others too, some more drastically than others...Lord Superman was evidence enough, crossing that one simple line between necessary force and lethal force and never again being able to distinguish between the two. Lord Wonder Woman spent increasingly more time in Themyscira, Bruce wasn't sure if the warrior culture made her more comfortable with their actions or not. J'onn had always been stoic in nature as well as reserved with his emotions but it was clear that the young speedster's death had struck him hard, a death in his new family and now he barely saw the others but drowned in the work of monitoring the world below. The other two, Lord Hawkgirl and Green Lantern had been encouraged by their shared grief into each other's arms, it wasn't unexpected at least not to Batman; they had after all been the closest to Flash, the three of them often together laughing and joking. The others found it uncomfortable to be around the two of them but Bruce simply wondered how long it could last.
A loud and impossible to ignore blipping sound declared that the eight hours of downtime required by the trans-dimensional portal were over; his waiting was over...it was time to face the consequences of his decision.
Activating the portal with precise hands, Lord Batman took a deep breath, he wasn't nervous, nor frightened or even guilty, but he expected that his actions would be brought into serious question and even without superpowers Lord Superman would still not be able to distinguish between necessary and lethal force.
Mere seconds after the portal's activation, the horizon shuddered and Lord Batman could distinguish the silhouettes of the travellers before they materialised in front of him. The Justice League's Superman and Green Lantern accompanied the Lords; Batman allowed himself a quick brief glance at each of them to check that they were unharmed. Lord Superman refused to look at him, Wonder Woman just stared at him with hurt and confused eyes, J'onn appeared more vacant than normal, Hawkgirl and Lantern were merely silent and apparently lost in their own thoughts, but Bruce noticed the hot glares being given to the Lantern from the woman beside him.
"As promised" Superman said solemnly and succeeded in bringing Lord Batman back to the current situation.
Batman set his jaw as he clenched his teeth slightly "I trust that the restraints will be removed" He said dryly glancing at the bindings that restricted their movement.
"Here" Green Lantern stated handing over a key card that would undoubtedly release the current prisoners.
Batman took it without comment; he wasn't surprised that the two Leaguers didn't want to be around when their counterparts were released.
"You'd best step back through the portal before it closes" Batman suggested gesturing to the portal with stiff motions.
Superman nodded as Green Lantern stepped towards the portal and glanced back at his counterpart, Lord Green Lantern held the glare unfazed even after the identical man stepped through the door to his dimension.
"You'll take care of them?" Superman asked with genuine concern as he moved towards the portal to follow his friend.
Batman was stupefied by the question, it was so bizarre, so unexpected, such a strong reminder of what his friend, yes his friend had been.
"Of course" Was his grim reply "The portal will close soon" He reminded.
Once again Superman nodded before casting a last glance around at the others and stepping through the portal to return to his own world.
Pausing for a beat as the portal closed, Batman considered his options, he had no choice but to release them they were powerless, if they weren't they could have easily escaped their bonds already.
Moving cautiously Lord Batman went to Superman and careful not to lean down too close, released him. In an instant before he could even draw breath, Batman found himself gripped by his throat.
"Traitor!" Lord Superman barked in rage "I should kill you where you stand" He growled bringing the Batman nose to nose with him.
Batman did nothing, keeping his hands down by his sides and staring at the Kryptonian evenly; he opened his mouth to speak but was instantly interrupted.
"Superman, don't!" Wonder Woman pleaded from her place on the floor.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't" He retorted rounding on her "We are powerless because of him!"
"Because power is all you've ever wanted isn't it?" Batman questioned rhetorically.
Superman swung back to the man in his grip "I did what was necessary; we gave these people peace and stability!"
"We took their freedom Clark, we gave them nothing"
Lord Batman was unceremoniously shoved to the floor, as he made his way back to his feet a fist ploughed across his jaw and threw him back down. Maybe it wasn't a punch of inhuman strength, but it hurt none the less, he didn't need to look up to know that Superman had stalked out, although Superman was just a term...he was after all, just a man now.
Two hours after the Lords are returned to their dimension.
There was nothing, he couldn't feel anything; there were no minds, no thoughts, no emotions, just...emptiness.
The Martian Manhunter sat idly outside on the cliffs of Wayne Manor, he would have returned to the orbiting Watchtower but Batman had explained that he had had the satellite decommissioned. So as it were his one sanctuary was out of bounds and his own mind was hollow thanks to the Batman and his betrayal, he would have felt angry if he could comprehend anything right now...but all he could comprehend was the unending emptiness within his mind.
J'onn was a being of understanding, he understood many things and many beings, it was perhaps his ability to emphasise with those around him that had aided this, but it was also his ability to sense the subtle emotional indicators in those minds as well. Despite this, J'onn still understood Batman's motives, understood that the peace they had placed on this world was nothing like the tranquil golden age that had blessed Mars. Here the peace was just like his mind...empty.
Continuing to mediate the Martian tried his best to communicate with something, anything within his radius, but there was nothing and if Martians could cry he knew just then, that he might have been.
"Why did you do it?"
Bruce didn't turn, didn't move, didn't speak, just remained typing endlessly at his computer.
"I said...why did you do it?" Diana snapped grabbing the back of his chair and whirling it around so that he was forced to look at her.
"I don't need to justify myself"
She frowned aggravated by the lack of an emotional response, the masked face and cold white lenses suggesting nothing to her.
"What is wrong with you?" She asked astounded and unsure as she stepped away wanting to distance herself.
"I shouldn't have to justify myself, if you don't understand why I did it then it proves that I did the right thing" He turned back to his computer and continued to type even if it was just to prove his conviction.
Diana looked defeated as she leant against the work surface of his monitor and folded her arms as if trying to protect herself.
"I know..." She sighed "Great Hera, I know"
Slowly Batman turned his head to look at her, a quick fleeting glance but enough to show him that despite her guarded outer walls, inside her morals hadn't changed, she'd been just as uncomfortable with their actions as he had been.
"You can stay here as long as you need to" Batman said with a level voice "I've offered the others rooms while the Watchtower is being decommissioned"
Diana nodded and placed a hand on his shoulder gripping it with the feeble strength she possessed.
He wondered if the phrase of gratitude was just for the offer of somewhere to stay, or for something on a much grander scale.
She couldn't feel her wings, given everything that had happened and all of the burdens they had carried, whether they had been shared or otherwise, not being able to feel her wings felt more disconcerting than any betrayal could. She wouldn't be able to fly.
Shayera glanced up at John as he sat beside her on the bed and offered her a cup of coffee; she took it of course, even if it was just to detract her attention away from the numbness in her shoulders. Batman had offered them a room seeing as how each of them except for Batman lived on the Watchtower and had no other place to stay, she appreciated that he had at least given them a joint room.
"Ask me later" She replied coldly and ignoring him as he scratched his neck awkwardly.
"I want to know now"
For the time being she chose not to answer, instead she wondered if Batman's actions were unexpected, really they weren't so unexpected, any one of them could have done the same thing if left alone with their doubles...with Flash, alive and well as he had been hours before Luthor had stolen his life and in turn their humanity.
Batman's betrayal didn't bother her.
"Did you see me when you struck her?"
"What?" John asked confused as he looked into Shayera's face fully visible as her helmet sat on the side unit.
"You blasted their Hawkgirl into oblivion, John...did you see me?"
"You know as well as I do that I had to do it" He took a calming breath hurt that she might have thought he'd hurt her, his Shayera "Better me than Superman"
Instantly her temper cooled "You're right...I'm...sorry"
John shrugged nonchalantly "It's fine"
Their room returned to silence as John sipped his coffee quietly, Shayera glanced at his hand and noticed that his ring was absent, she wouldn't ask but she knew that he'd tried to use it since they had returned here; she also knew that it hadn't worked. Briefly she cast a look over her shoulder, of course her wings were still there but the numbness was misleading, her wings weren't the only part of her that was affected either. When Alfred had offered to show them to their rooms she had picked up her mace, in one startling moment she realised how heavy it felt, she could almost barely lift it.
The lack of her strength as well as John's ring and the other's varying assets triggered worry inside of her, a secret she had kept buried for so long was troubling her. A year ago she stopped sending messages to the Thanagarian Empire, she told them that the Earth was more than capable of defending itself against Gordanians, she was confident that Superman would at least lobotomise the invasion leader if the situation ever arose. That wasn't her issue though, she worried that Thanagar would come back looking for its Lieutenant, that Hro Talak would come looking for his promised one, that she wouldn't be able to protect John from his wrath if he did...she could have before, but now? Now she wasn't so sure, and she couldn't bear to lose him. John meant everything to her.
"I need to tell you something...something...very important and you're probably not going to like what you're going to hear"
John was obviously curious by her words and concerned as he put his coffee down and shifted closer towards her.
"What is it Shayera?" He took her hand to reassure her, but she withdrew it.
"I want you to listen, please...don't interrupt me...once I've finished you can leave if you want, I accept it if you don't want to look or speak to me ever again"
"Shayera, please...what is it?" John pleaded with her worry etched all over his features.
She took a deep breath and began.
"Because power is all you've ever wanted isn't it?"
Superman paced up and down outside the front doors of the mansion, glaring angrily at the floor as he marched across it in his rage. How dare the Batman make such a statement, what did he know about power? Of responsibility? Because that was what Superman had been, he had been responsible for keeping Justice and peace, he had delivered hadn't he? The world was free of crime, of immoral citizens, of misleading politics. He had freed them hadn't he?
Maybe his methods were unorthodox, but they had been necessary...if only he had implemented them sooner...Flash might still be alive. He remembered distinctly holding the alternative Flash in his grip, remembered the young man question him. Everyone was doing a lot of that lately, and why? Why now? If they had been so uncomfortable with the implementation of Justice, why hadn't they said something rather than cower around him and pretend that he had their allegiance.
"I can't trust any of them!" He spat angrily as he continued his pacing.
He wasn't embarrassed to admit that he had tested his powers, nor was he surprised when he had found that none of them remained, but that made no difference.
His powers were gone, but Batman had been a simple mortal man fighting crime for years, Superman wondered if Batman had allowed their powers to be stolen because of envy, Superman had always known that Batman felt insecure about his abilities or lack of compared to the Metas of their group, and for some reason the thought didn't surprise him.
Superman reasoned after further pacing, that powers or not, it wouldn't stop him from exacting Justice.
Powers or not... he was still Superman.