Chapter Seven: The Enemy of My Enemy…
Batman approached the Council of Seven tentatively. The original seven members of the Justice League; Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Big Barda and himself, composed the council. Batman stood before his longtime allies, and began to speak. "I've called this meeting to discuss a recent turn of events. I have uncovered the identity and motives of the female assassin who has been killing off Lord Industries employees."
"You mean the same one who made a fool of us a few weeks ago?" Flash piped in, "I'm interested."
"She did not make a fool of me," Barda snapped, "I was caught off guard. I did not expect her to possess superhuman attributes."
"None of us did, especially not on the level that she displayed," Superman added, "But just because we have an idea of what she's capable of now, Barda, doesn't mean that she isn't dangerous. Whatever Batman has uncovered, I'm sure it will prove vital in our efforts to bring her down."
Batman paused a moment to make sure that the discussion was over. When the silence confirmed this, he continued. The dark knight moved to the large supercomputer on the far end of the room, and pulled up his files on the case, displaying an image of the assassin on the monitor, taken by street cameras. She was escaping the vehicle which she had driven off of the overpass and smashed into her target's car to kill him. In the photo, her dark hair was an untamed mess due to the crash, she was covered in ash from the explosion, and blood from her target had splattered her face. Batman was somewhat disturbed to find that she still looked beautiful.
"I don't know her name at this point," Batman began, "So for the time being, I have opted to call her Nemesis."
"Nemesis?" Green Lantern raised an eyebrow.
"The Greek goddess of revenge," Batman explained. "It's more fitting than you might think."
"How so?" Superman questioned.
"This woman is an Amazon."
Batman's fellow Leaguers stared at him quizzically. "As in… the rain forest?" Flash questioned.
"No. The Amazons were a race of warrior women blessed by Hera, and given the remote island isolated from man's world known as Themyscira to live on, separated from man's world for all of eternity."
"That does not make sense," Aquaman chimed. "I've scoured the seven seas in their entirety. If there were some mystical, undiscovered island, wouldn't we know about it by now?"
"We do. Because it isn't undiscovered anymore. For the last thirty years… it has been known as Paradise Island, the business center and luxury hotel of Lord Industries."
"Did Maxwell Lord just buy the island from an ancient race of warrior women, then?" Barda asked.
"No, he stole it from them," Batman changed the image on the screen. This time, it was an image of the security footage from Maxwell Lord's office building… time stamped at December 4th, 3:04 p.m., 1982. The picture showed a tall, blond haired man in a dark suit, carrying a briefcase and a winning smile, entering the building. "That man is Tom Sera. He was the owner of a shady security organization called A.R.E.S."
"The League has investigated A.R.E.S. before," Superman stated. "They present themselves as a legitimated security company, but there is evidence suggesting that they hire themselves out as mercenaries."
"Thirty years ago, A.R.E.S. founder and CEO Tom Sera approached Maxwell Lord in his office building, back when Lord Industries was still making tissue boxes and electric pencil sharpeners. I'm not sure how yet… but somehow they knew about Themyscira and its location. Lord made a deal with A.R.E.S., armed their mercenaries with high-end tech, and attacked Themyscira… killing all of its inhabitants. Except for one."
"And that's our assassin," Superman gave an understanding nod.
"Yes. This woman somehow survived the attack the attack on Themyscira. She is the last living Amazon. And now, she's seeking revenge on the one's responsible."
"But what was the motive? Why would Maxwell Lord and Tom Sera want to attack Themyscira?"
"I'm not sure," Batman replied, "But maybe we shouldn't be looking for Tom Sera's motivations."
"Why is that?"
"Because the man in this picture is not the real Tom Sera."
"What…?" Superman paused, "How do you figure that?"
"That same day, Tom Sera died. An aneurism on his aortic valve burst, and he died in minutes."
"You suspect foul play?" Green Lantern asked.
"No. I brought up the medical records and checked over them thoroughly… there's no reason to believe that his death was not of natural cause. Here's the problem; all evidence suggests that Tom Sera died in his sleep, early that morning. Forensic specialists put his time of death around 4:00 a.m. This photograph is time stamped at 3:04 p.m., that same day."
"Tom Sera was already dead when this picture was taken!" Flash realized.
"Exactly," Batman nodded. "Tom Sera had been dead for eleven hours before he supposedly visited Maxwell Lord that day. Meaning that whoever this person is… whoever signed A.R.E.S. mercenaries out to Lord, to attack Themyscira… it was not the real Tom Sera."
"So whoever this imposter is… they approached Maxwell Lord with an army, and offered him the chance to commit genocide, just so that Lord could build a few buildings on a previously undiscovered island?" Superman frowned, "Something about this just doesn't add up."
"There's something more to it than that. After The Amazons were massacred and Themyscira was turned into Lord's business center, Lord Industries skyrocketed. Before they Amazons were wiped out, Lord Industries could barely pay its bills. Then, all of the sudden, it's a massive world-wide weapons retailer that competes with Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp? Whoever this man who impersonated Tom Sera was… they had a lot of power to offer. The power to make Maxwell Lord a god."
Diana had finally been released from her shackles, only to have her hands restricted by cuffs forged from the same indestructible iron taken from Hephaestus' temple. A man prodded her to move forward, and it took all of her restraint not to kick his jaw off. Lord will have a whole security team armed and waiting if I act up, she thought, Best to keep it under control.
The man led Diana into a conference room of sorts, in which Maxwell Lord awaited with his usual suave and egotistical smile. "Good morning dear," Lord's debonair voice called, teeming with sophistication. Each word that Lord spoke was meticulously paced in an even tone. "Dr. Hamilton has a little presentation for us this morning, I think you'll find it rather interesting. He's finally cracked the immortality nut, you see. All of those experiments on you led up to this discovery. Speaking of experimentation, I see that your scars have almost healed up already… what a luxury it must be, to have the abilities you possess… and luxury that you and your kind selfishly horde away from those deserving of it. That's the point of all this, you see… to rectify nature's error, and-"
"And give the gift of immortality to anyone willing to buy it, I know. You give me that tired old speech every damn day."
"Mouth one isn't she?" Lord grinned, looking over to a man in the corner who Diana had not noticed before.
The man's form was shrouded in darkness, but his very presence sent a chill down Diana's spine which she could not quite explain. "So was her mother…" the man said, his voice a guttural rasp, but strangely rhythmic, melodic even… like honey and knives.
"What do you know about my mother?" Diana growled.
"Quite a bit, actually. But notas much as I know about you… sister."
"What are you talking about…? Who are you?"
"I've gone by many names over the years. Mars, the Warbringer, the Treacherous Son… I was even called Tom Sera for a time. But you would know me best as… Ares."
Diana felt a heavy lump form in her stomach. She glared at Ares' shadowed form, then at the smiling Maxwell Lord, and back again. "You… you were behind it all… that's how Lord knew about Themyscira and where to find it… it as you!"
"Clever girl," Ares cooed. "You certainly didn't get that from our father, the old fool."
"Son of a bitch!" Diana grit her teeth, "Why? Why did you help Lord...?"
"Actually, Lord helped me," Ares chuckled. "I'd been wanting to get rid the Amazons for quite some time… they were constantly interfering with my work, preaching all their 'peace is the answer' bullshit. Then, during my travels, I encountered Maxwell Lord, he was the head of a quaint little company that was about to go bankrupt. I could see in his eyes that Maxwell had potential… a burning, fiery hatred for the world, fueled by his motivation to live forever. I knew that I could use that. But I needed a smart way to approach him… a way to ensure the job got done. Then I found out about a fitting little company called A.R.E.S., a 'security' company that hired out mercenaries to the highest bidder. They were owned by Tom Sera, a despicable creature he was… I created a little aneurism on his aortic valve. It wouldn't have surprised anyone that he had it… fat fucker ate fast food for every meal. I let nature take its course, and Tom Sera died in his sleep of natural causes, leaving no reason for the police to investigate anything. Once the real Tom Sera was out of the way, I took his form for just a little while, before his death was officially announced… and I approached Maxwell Lord in his office, arguing with a tax collector. I offered him power. Limitless power, beyond what he could ever imagine… all he had to do in return was buy out A.R.E.S., equip their mercenaries with weaponry and march them onto Themyscira. He did his job perfectly. He wiped the Amazons out of existence… except for one. You."
"Then why are you still here?" Diana demanded, "If Lord already completed his end of the deal, what are you still doing here?"
"Because I underestimated Lord's aspirations, you see," Ares smiled. "After his company took off and became a major success, with a little help from me of course, Lord approached me again. And he said he had an idea… you see, he realized that if he hadn't killed the Amazons, they all would have lived forever. And that intrigued him. He explained his little idea to me; we find a way to replicate that immortality, and incorporate it into regular people. But for a price. Not only would Lord gain eternal life and a massive profit, but I would get the war to end all wars."
"What do you mean?"
"Wars have been fought over much less, Diana. The humans, they've spent centuries killing each other over land, money, religion, whatever stupid little thing that they can use as an excuse to blow one another up. Humans will go to war over any small little division between themselves… imagine what something like the chance at eternal life would bring about! Everyone would take up arms in a hopeless effort to escape their own mortality. You see, not everyone can live forever, Diana. There will be a limited supply of chances at eternal life… and the people of this Earth will all go mad fighting for it."
"You're planning to start World War III… and Lord gets eternal life and a massive payout in return for helping you!"
"Have you seen the news, Diana?" Ares laughed. "I don't have to start anything. They'll do it themselves in a few years. All we're doing is creating the supply and the demand… the catalyst that will kick start the inevitable."
"For a long time, it appeared that achieving immortality for the common man was impossible," Maxwell Lord chimed in. "Ares and I were almost ready to give up on our search. I'd hired all of the best scientists in the industry, and Ares supplied them with Olympian tech, and still… nothing. We were nearly out of options… when you showed up, and started killing off my employees in your little quest for revenge. I bet you thought that by murdering Lord Industries board members, you were throwing a monkey wrench in my plans," Lord smiled, "But the truth is, dear, you supplied the very thing we needed to move the plan forward. Up until you started making your presence known, we had no idea an Amazon had survived the attack. Once we had you… we could harness your immortality, figure out how it worked from a live test subject. You helped us meet our goals, Diana."
Ares approached Diana, finally revealing himself in the light. His body was covered in a black armor, stained with the blood of countless fallen adversaries. But from within the helmet, his fiery eyes burned, like demonic torches held within the facemask. "This plan of ours comes in three phases. Phase One was killing the Amazons. Phase Two is harnessing your immortality and selling it to the masses, thus jump starting the war."
"What's Phase 3?" Diana demanded, and Ares laughed.
"Phase 3 is the real kicker. I feed off of war, you see. The more violence and bloodshed there is plaguing humanity, the more powerful I become. When we launch World War III, I'll become more powerful than I've ever been! I'll be strong enough to overthrow our father, and take control of Olympus… claiming my rightful place as King of the Gods!"
"Why do you keep saying that, our father? What the hell do you mean?" Diana stared at Ares fiercely, her warrior blood boiling. Just being near Ares drew out a powerful rage within her, a lust for battle. It took every ounce of her willpower to keep herself under control.
"You mean mommy dearest never told you?" Ares chuckled. "Why do you think you're so much stronger than the other Amazons were? Why do you think that they put such a high priority on saving your life, above all others on Themyscira?" Ares ran his hand down Diana's cheek. "Diana… you're a demigod. And your father is Zeus."
Batman soared over the streets of Gotham, his cape spread, gliding through the air. Sirens blared in the distance, but the dark knight was too enraptured by his thoughts to even notice them. He could not stop thinking about the woman… the assassin who he had dubbed Nemesis… the one who had saved his life. Her mission is the same as mine, Batman thought, Vengeance. Retribution. Justice for the death of her family… she watched it happen, she watched her loved ones be shot down in cold blood… sounds familiar. She was just eight years old. Déjà vu.
Batman landed atop a gargoyle protruding off of the Old Gotham Church. I know I have to bring her down, he thought, but why don't I want to?
Out of nowhere, an ear-splitting screech filled the air. Batman was rocked from his contemplation just in time to register a huge, leathery skinned creature sailing toward him. Batman had no time to react before a set of talons penetrated his armor, rending the flesh of his shoulders. Batman let out a pained cry as the creature lifted him from the gargoyle and prepared to drop him onto the streets below.
Batman quickly reached for his utility belt, withdrew a tazer, and jammed it into the ankle of the creature holding him. The creature let out another screech, this one in pain, and flung Batman from its grasp. Batman twisted in the air and extended his cape, dipping into a fast glide.
The creature soared after him, barreling downwards and shrieking into the night. Batman flung himself around, spinning in the air to face the creature as it descended toward him, and hurled a batarang into its row of razor sharp teeth. There was a fierce clash as the batarang collided with the monster's gaping maw, and suddenly exploded into a cloud of smoke, simultaneously blinding and suffocating the creature. Batman turned and veered up, holding his cape like a parachute to slow his descent.
The creature barreled down past him, spiraling as it haphazardly tried to escape the smoke. Once it was beneath him, Batman rotated into a dive-bomb position and tackled the creature in midair. Once he had ahold of it, Batman fired his grappled gun onto a nearby billboard, and began to retract it, pulling the creature with him.
Batman reeled the disoriented flying monster straight into the concrete ledge of the building, as he himself flipped safely onto the top of the billboard. The creature collided violently, tumbling across the rooftop and leaving a streak of blood behind it.
The monster then lay on the ground, twitching, a barely audible growl escaping its throat. Batman was now able to finally get a good look at the creature. It was female, with a large wingspan and sharp talons, but an otherwise very feminine form, complete with a face that looked frighteningly human.
"It's called a Harpy," a voice called from behind, "And there are two more where she came from."
Batman turned to see none other than Deathstroke the Terminator. The assassin stepped out of the shadows, wielding his machete confidently. "That's the second one of Ares' monsters you've killed now, Batman. He isn't going to be very happy about that."
"What do you have to do with this, Slade?" Batman demanded. "Supernatural affairs aren't usually your forte."
"Whatever pays the bills," Deathstroke shrugged.
Batman reached for his utility belt, but found that he was suddenly moving with an unusual sluggishness. His body felt heavy, and his vision began to blur.
"Feeling a little off kilter?" Deathstroke taunted, "You're experiencing the early stages of paralysis, soon followed by nausea, vomiting, tingling around the mouth and heavy salivation. You'll soon lose consciousness, and then fall victim a respiratory failure which will lead to death. Those are symptoms of Hydra poisoning… remember the Hydra, that creature you killed not long ago? You may not know that the Hydra's blood is toxic to humans. So, after you killed it, and a certain someone gave me a call asking me to kill you… I collected the Hydra's blood and coated that Fury's talons with it. The second those talons pierced your flesh, this fight was over."
"You're working for Lord…" Batman growled, fighting the numbness that rapidly crept over his body. "But who is Lord working for?"
"You still haven't put that one together?" Deathstroke took a casual step toward the dark knight, "So much for the world's greatest detective."
Deathstroke flung himself at Batman, machete in hand. Batman attempt to react, but his reflexes were slowed by the toxin, and he was barely able to evade at all. The machete sunk into Batman's shoulder, and immediately a dark crimson pool stained his suit, blood seeping from the wound as Deathstroke twisted the blade.
Batman, working through the pain, withdrew a tazer from his utility belt and jammed the device into Deathstroke's abdomen. While his armor protected him from the majority of the shock, it jolted him enough for Batman to pull away from the blade and deliver a powerful kick to the assassin's stomach. Deathstroke stumbled but did not fall.
Batman began to flee, but the poison was causing his muscles to fail now, and he stumbled across the rooftop haphazardly, leaving a stream of blood behind him. Deathstroke drew a pistol and fired off several rounds into Batman's legs, dropping the hero. Deathstroke approached slowly, confidently, and ran a knife down Batman's cheek, drawing a crimson teardrop.
"I've wanted to do this for so long…"
Suddenly, a beeper sounded on Deathstroke's uniform. Deathstroke pressed a button on his headset, and listened to a message for a moment before sighing. "Well, the bad news is that Lord changed his mind. He wants you alive for the time being." Deathstroke raised his fist and delivered a powerful punch into the weakened Batman's face, knocking the dark knight into unconsciousness.
"Originally, I thought that the Amazons' immortality was derived from an internal source," Dr. Hamilton began, "But then I uncovered something startling… when I pressed my Nth metal scalpel into a small field around the test subject's body, there appeared to be some sort of compulsory feedback… an unexpected reaction. Nth metal is known to possess properties that do not interact favorably with magical forces. So, the only conclusion I could draw… is that there was some sort of magical barrier around the test subject. As a scientist, the dark arts are not my forte, but I was able to get a decent read on the energy signature after several trial runs. I found that the Amazon's body seems to draw from some otherworldly force… and this force is what prevents them from naturally aging past a certain point."
"Other worldly?" Maxwell Lord frowned, "I'm not sure I like what you're getting at, doctor."
"Olympus, Mr. Lord," Dr. Hamilton nodded excitedly, a grin plastered onto his face. "This energy that gives the Amazons their immortality is streaming continuously, directly from a separate realm… Olympus, the realm of the gods."
"I thought Olympus was on a mountain?" Lord still did not seem amused.
"Once humans developed the recourses to discover us, we moved it somewhere they would never reach," Ares interjected.
Lord looked to Ares with a dissatisfied glare. "You… how did you not know about this? If the immortality comes from the gods, how the hell does a god not know?"
"I had nothing to do with the foundation of Themyscira or the Amazons. For that, you can look to my mother Hera and my sister Artemis. They were the ones with their hands in the female-empowerment pot."
"So…" Lord looked back to Hamilton, "How do we harness it? If immortality comes from this other world, how are we supposed to replicate it for the general public?"
"You would have to control the energy source itself in order to direct it, Mr. Lord. You would need to go to Olympus and, for lack of a better word, steal it."
"Defeating my family may be easier than it seems," Ares jumped in. "Almost all of the other gods have grown weaker in the modern age. Everything they are built upon has collapsed. Me, on the other hand… humans are still just as violent as they were before, and I am still at my peak. If we were to arm the A.R.E.S. corporation mercenaries with Nth metal weaponry, then I could easily overthrow my family."
"I wasn't worried about the power play," Lord began to pace. "In the situation of a hostile takeover, I always win. My hang up is how we get there. If the gods built Olympus to be off-limits to humans, I doubt we could simply march an army in."
"I have an answer for that," Dr. Hamilton smiled. "The Law of Conservation of Energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but transforms from one form to another. Magic, at its core, is just a form of energy not recognized by the scientific community. This energy that feeds the Amazon her immortality… it transfers continuously from Olympus, but could just as easily be used to transfer back. If we could harness it in large enough concentration, we could theoretically open a gateway back to Olympus."
"How do we go about that?" Maxwell inquired.
"The Amazon's body has absorbed a mass amount of this energy throughout her lifespan. It continually circulates through her system and prevents her from physically aging. If we were to kill her, it would all be released suddenly… at which point we could harness it and use it to further our own ends."
"Very well," Lord said, "We kill the Amazon."
"What of the Batman?" Ares questioned.
"Deathstroke should be finishing him off right about now…"
-Beneath Lord Industries Building-
Diana had been returned to her shackles, to her prison beneath the building. She had become disgusted by the very thought of remaining in further confinement, but saw no opportunity for escape.
The hidden door, leading in from the caves below the compound, opened up… and in stepped Deathstroke the Terminator, dragging a limp, unconscious Batman into Lord's prison. Deathstroke spotted Diana in her shackles and said, "So you survived? I'm impressed."
"You have no idea what Lord is planning, do you?" She spat.
"I don't ask. I just do my job and accept the paycheck."
The elevator on the other end of the room opened, and from it stepped Maxwell Lord. He caught site of Deathstroke, and frowned. "You didn't have to bring him back."
"What are you talking about?" Deathstroke scoffed.
"You could have simply killed him and disposed of the body. I don't need to see it."
"I was about to kill him, when you sent me a message saying to keep him alive!" Deathstroke shouted.
"I did no such thing!" Maxwell Lord shouted back.
"Then what the hell happened?" Deathstroke growled. And then, the situation began to dawn on him. "Damn it-"
Batman's eyes shot open, and in a surprising burst of strength, he flung Deathstroke into the wall. Lord withdrew a gun, but in a swift motion Batman hurled a batarang and struck the weapon out of Lord's hand. Lord screamed, "How did you-"
"I was dying quickly from Deathstroke's toxin. It was a poison which I'd never encountered before, and I knew I had no way of counteracting it. Luckily, my COM link was on throughout our entire fight. The Oracle heard the whole thing, and was able to hack Deathstroke's radio, relaying him a fake message from 'Maxwell Lord' saying to keep my alive. Thinking that his mission had changed, Deathstroke was forced to give me the antidote. From there, it was a matter of pretending to be out cold while Deathstroke brought me right into your lair."
"Clever bastard…" Lord growled. "Slade! Don't just sit there, kill him!"
"Working on it," Deathstroke sprung from the wall. Batman whipped a smoke pellet onto the floor and shrouded the room in gas. While Deathstroke was temporarily blinded, Batman made a break for Diana's cell, and began to pick the locks on her shackles.
"You're releasing me? Why?" Diana asked.
"Lesser of two evils," Batman said. "Don't think this means I'm on your side. As soon as we take Lord down, I'm bringing you in."
Batman quickly picked the locks and released Diana from her confinement. Deathstroke, regaining his sight as the haze of smoke dissipated, made a lunge for her, machete drawn.
Diana quickly evaded his strike and snapped the blade in half with her bare hands, before plunging the broken blade into his abdomen. Deathstroke let out a pained grunt, and his stance faltered enough for Diana to punch him in the jaw and send him flying across the room. Deathstroke began to get up, when Diana raced over and planted her foot firmly on the blade in his midriff, pushing it in deeper and drawing a scream from the assassin.
"Payback," Diana said, rubbing the light scar on her stomach where Deathstroke had stabbed her in their first encounter. "Let's hope your healing factor is on par with mine."
"Guards!" Lord shrieked. Footsteps sounded as a horde of heavily armed guards began to approach.
"Let's move," Batman ordered.
"But Lord-" Diana protested.
"Lord can wait. Right now, there's a small army coming our way, and neither of us are in any shape to fight them."
"Fine," Diana sighed.
The two retreated into the cave entrance through which Deathstroke had come. Batman tossed a grenade behind them that, upon detonating, collapsed the cave walls in around the entrance, to make sure they could not be followed.
Once they had made it a safe distance, Diana grabbed Batman and stopped him in his tracks. "What does this mean? Am I supposed to believe that you trust me now?"
"I don't trust anyone," Batman retorted. "But I do know about your vendetta against Maxwell Lord. And I know that he needs to be stopped. And I know that he's somehow got an army of monsters from Greek legend at his disposal, and I can't fight them alone."
"What about the League?" Diana questioned.
"The League doesn't know what you know."
"What do you mean?"
"You've spent your life preparing to take Lord down. You know how he operates. You know his recourses, the ins-and-outs of his entire operation, and more importantly, his weaknesses."
"You need my help to bring him down."
"You know the saying. The enemy of my enemy…"
"I'm not your friend," Diana eyed the dark knight silently for a moment, "But I will be your ally… for now."