So here it is – the start of the sequel to Nemesis! I was in two minds about whether to write this, but in the end I've decided to go for it. I have so many ideas about where I want to take this story, and, as many of you have said, the end of Nemesis didn't quite feel as if it gave this set of stories closure. I hope I've made the right decision – time will tell, I guess.
If you have not read Nemesis (or have forgotten where we left things) here is a quick summary:
Lex, knowing Oliver's identity as the Green Arrow, hatched a plot to destroy both him and the Justice League. Recruiting Slade (aka Deathstroke), he first of all took out each member of the League, before turning his attention on Oliver. Lex's plan was a devastating success, leaving all our heroes in various states of jeopardy:
Victor, aka Cyborg: captured by Lex, the contents of his mind have been downloaded onto a flash drive, leaving his body a lifeless shell.
Bart, aka Impulse: tortured by Lex, he has been subjected to mind altering experiments. As a result he now works for Lex, and helped capture both Oliver and Chloe.
AC, aka Aquaman: captured and injected with a drug which paralyses him but leaves him fully conscious, he is suffering a long, lingering death trapped in a pod anchored to the bottom of the ocean.
Clark: in trying to save Oliver Clark's identity was exposed. Lex used kryptonite to capture him, and he is now being held in a secure LuthorCorp facility.
Chloe: captured by Lex and forced to watch Oliver's terrible final ordeal, she too is now a prisoner in a secure facility.
Oliver, aka Green Arrow: his secret identity revealed to the people of Metropolis, Oliver was framed for the murder of a cop. Tried and convicted, he was sent to a top secret prison in North Korea, named Nemesis. There he was tortured by both the guards and the other inmates, but also made a friend in the shape of Roy Harper, another man imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Eventually Lex arrived at Nemesis. He had Oliver tried in a kangaroo court, before presiding over his execution and subsequent burial in an unmarked grave.
As you can see, my stories tend to push the angst to the max! This one will be no different, and I warn you now – not everyone will make it out alive!
So this is it – here we go again!
Chapter One: Just the Beginning….
The following takes place five months after the events of Nemesis.
Ken Hoskins was a happy man.
Five months had passed since Oliver Queen's trial and conviction for murder, five months in which everything had gone right for him. Before those fateful events he'd faced defeat at the ballot box, all the resources of Queen Industries about to be deployed against him as he attempted to secure re-election as Metropolis's District Attorney. How times change; the day before he'd romped to victory over his opponent by a massive thirty points. Everyone was talking about him, the man who had bravely stood up to the Green Arrow's reign of terror and brought him to justice. A week earlier the Daily Planet had run a feature on him, touting him as one of the city's rising stars. A couple of years and he'd be running for state office, and then…. Well, who could tell? He was the man of the moment, and anything was possible in the land of the free.
It was all a lie, of course. Far from being the fearless crusader for law and order, Hoskins was one of the most corrupt and venal figures ever to climb the greasy pole of political ambition. Queen had found out about some of his more murky dealings, and had promised to ruin him; he would have succeeded, had not Lex Luthor intervened. Helping Lex to destroy Oliver had been an unforgettable experience. As he'd watched Luthor's plan unfold he'd felt he was watching a genius at work. Every detail of that plan had been so meticulously crafted, so carefully honed, it was nothing short of a work of art. The capture of Oliver's team, the framing of the Green Arrow for the murder of a young cop, his unmasking, trial and imprisonment – the plan had been breath-taking in its audacity, and devastating in its effectiveness. Queen had been ruined in every sense imaginable. He'd lost his friends, his reputation, his liberty, even his fortune; Hoskins found it deliciously ironic that, thanks to Lex, the Queen Industries money that once threatened to ruin him had in the end helped him to secure re-election. Finally, of course, Queen had lost his life. He'd heard second hand about what had happened at Nemesis. The cover story released to the press was that Oliver had been shot dead whilst trying to escape; little did people know about what had really happened in that secret prison thousands of miles from Metropolis. Hoskins was disappointed he'd not been there for the kill. He'd have loved to watch Queen die, the golden boy of Metropolis society finally getting what he deserved. Lex had promised to show him the film he'd made of the execution – now the campaign was over, maybe he'd take him up on his offer.
A bell indicated that the elevator had reached its destination. It was past eleven, and Hoskins was keen to get home; he'd been forced to work late to catch up on a backlog of emails and files which had stacked up during the final days of the campaign. As the doors slid back he pulled his coat a little more tightly around him. The parking lot in the basement of his building was cold at the best of times, but in the middle of winter the biting wind which whipped around the concrete pillars made it positively glacial. Grasping his briefcase tightly in his hand, he began to make his way towards his car. He walked briskly, eager for the comfort of his brand new Audi, a gift from Lex for services rendered. It wasn't just the cold that urged him on; whatever reason told him, he found the lot an eerie, unsettling place at night. The muted lighting cast long shadows, and his sense of isolation and uneasiness was somehow made worse by the sound of his heels hitting the concrete floor and echoing off the grey, lifeless walls.
He stopped, his senses suddenly on edge. He thought he'd heard something – a noise, a sound that didn't belong. He looked to his left and right, his eyes scanning the shadows, trying to locate its source. There was nothing, just the usual handful of cars left here overnight by people who for whatever reason had found other ways of getting home. You're getting paranoid, he thought to himself, relaxing a little as he continued his walk towards his car. But his pace was a little quicker now; instinctively he felt that something wasn't right, that he wasn't alone…..
As he neared his car he reached into his pocket to find his keys. As he did so he noticed a pool of liquid that seemed to be emanating from beneath the vehicle. He sniffed, the distinctive smell of gas filling his nostrils….
He froze. That voice… so distinctive, so unmistakable. Surely it couldn't be – could it?
He spun round, his eyes wide with fear.
"Who's there?" he demanded.
There was no reply. The lot appeared empty; all was silent, save for the sound of the wind which continued to cut around the concrete pillars.
"If this is a joke…."
A strange sound, as if an invisible knife was slicing through the air. Hoskins felt his briefcase move in his hand. He looked down, to find an arrow embedded in its side….
He'd seen enough. Letting out a half strangled scream of terror, he dropped the briefcase, fumbling desperately to find his keys.
It can't be him – Please God, it can't be him!
The keys were in his hand now. He was trying to find the right one, but his hands were shaking so much he could barely make out one from another….
"Drop the keys."
Hoskins felt the touch of something cold and sharp against the back of his neck. Terrified, he froze. The knot of fear that had been forming in his gut tightened as he realised that it was not a gun that was now pressing deep into his flesh; it was the tip of a crossbow bolt.
"I said, drop the keys."
Without a word, Hoskins did as he was told. He could sense the man behind him, less than a foot from where he stood. He was almost glad that he could not turn around; he didn't want to have his worst fears confirmed.
Slowly, Hoskins began to walk away from the car. Not once did he even catch a glimpse of his attacker, but the press of the bolt against the back of his neck was an all too real reminder of his continuing presence.
"That's far enough."
Hoskins stopped, about twenty feet from his car. Silence followed, disturbed only by Hoskins' labored breathing as he struggled to control the wave of panic that threatened at any moment to overwhelm him. It was an unnerving silence, a silence which Hoskins' tormented mind filled with nightmarish imaginings. Was it really him? Had he really come back from the dead to wreak his revenge?
"Please…. Please, tell me what you want!" he stammered, unable to endure the uncertainty any longer.
"You know what I want."
Hoskins felt sick. He'd hoped the man was after his wallet. He wasn't – he was after something that both men understood, even though as yet it was unspoken.
"Who are you?" he whispered.
"You know who I am, Hoskins."
And he did know – there was no point denying it to himself now. However much he wished it wasn't true, that synthetically deep voice could have only one owner. It was him - incredible, impossible as it might seem, it was him.
Hoskins fell to his knees.
"Please… please don't kill me!" he whimpered, tears beginning to run down his cheeks. "I didn't know what Lex was planning, I swear! He never told me they were going to kill Caruso….."
"Shut up!" interrupted the voice. For the first time he sounded angry, and as if to reinforce the point Hoskins felt the bolt press deeper into the back of his neck, forcing his head downwards.
"I want you to deliver a message for me," continued the voice. "A message for Lex. Tell him I'm back. Tell him I'm coming for him, and nothing – nothing – is going to stand in my way. Tell him I'm going to kill him. He won't know where it will happen, or when, but tell him – I will kill him."
The words echoed around the deserted lot, their vengeful certainty amplified by the absolute conviction with which they were spoken. Hoskins felt as if he were in the thrall of an almost elemental force, a force that would not be denied….
Suddenly the pressure of the crossbow bolt disappeared. Hoskins did not move; terrified, he hardly dared to even breathe. Seconds past – long, agonising seconds, filled with uncertainty and fear. Had he gone? Was it really all over?
"I'll be watching you, Hoskins," repeated the voice. This time it was different; the voice sounded more distant, as if it were coming from somewhere above him.
"If you want to live, deliver the message."
Hoskins caught sight of some movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned, almost without thinking. At first all he saw was the empty lot, but then something made him look upwards, towards the large window high up on the far wall. He gasped. There, silhouetted against the moonlight, was the impossible:
The Green Arrow!
Horrified, Hoskins watched as the hooded figure began to draw back his bow. Thinking he was the target, he threw himself to the ground, blubbering incoherently. He wanted the unyielding concrete to give way, to swallow him up and protect him from the nightmarish reality that now enfolded him. It would not, of course; shaking uncontrollably, he could only wait, horribly exposed and alone…
For a second time there was the sound of an arrow slicing through the air, before an almighty explosion rocked the ground beneath him. A searing wave of heat singed the back of his neck, and as he lay face down on the ground he could hear debris falling like rain all around.
Hoskins looked up. His Audi was a ball of flames, the gas which had been leaking from its tank ignited by a single arrow from the archer's bow. It was a spectacular sight, but Hoskins knew it was more than that:
It was a declaration of war.
He rolled over, half expecting to see the hooded man taking aim for a second time. The ledge in front of the window was now empty, however; his tormentor had gone.
Hoskins slumped back, exhausted. The last two minutes had been the most terrifying of his entire life, and he couldn't quite believe that he had escaped unscathed. However, as he lay motionless on the ground, his heart pumping furiously in his chest, he felt no sense of relief; instead he was filled with foreboding. One thought gnawed away at him, a thought he could not shake:
This is just the beginning…..
I hope that's whetted your appetite for more! Is the hooded man Oliver? You'll have to wait to find out...
The next chapter will take us back to events immediately after Oliver's death. Questions will be answered, but I'm afraid you are going to have to wait a bit - real life is closing in again, and so the next installment won't appear for a few weeks yet.
Have you heard the news about the Arrow pilot? When I found out about it my heart nearly jumped out of my chest, I was so excited. Then I discovered they probably won't cast Justin in the role - seriously, that is a crueller twist than anything I have ever written in my stories! I'm devastated to think of someone else putting on that costume - just devastated. Justin will always be Green Arrow for me, whatever happens.
You know what I'm going to ask for now, don't you? Please do post a review if you can - your feedback will tell me whether this was a mistake, and will fire me up to write more. Reviews have kept me going down the years, so please don't stop now - the fate of this story, the guys, Chloe and Oliver rests in your hands!