Apprentice

A Batman and Superman crossover

Disclaimer: DC Comics holds all rights to the Superman and Batman titles, I merely borrow them to have some fun. I don't generate money with this.

Author's notes: When I read a Superman/Batman comic where Supergirl lands in Gotham of all places and gets whisked away to Darkseid, I thought, well, why not have Supergirl becoming one of the Bats. Clark can admit that Bruce may be one of the few people on Earth who can beat him, with dirty tricks for sure, but then again, if you want to subdue someone, the result counts. Therefore he wants to give his cousin the best possible protection against exactly this. And the best one for this job is none other than our favorite, reclusive Dark Knight. Enjoy.

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Chapter 1: Shanghaied

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"Absolutely not!" a dark, gravely voice cut through the air. It carried an air of finality that would make Death proud.

"Bruce, please reconsider!" a second male voice spoke up, firm, but soft-spoken. The speaker was obviously pleading his case with Bruce, but the Bat was dead set on denying it. "You're the best one I can think of for this! I talked to Hal, John, Guy and Kyle. Diana and Jo'nn said the same." he tried to persuade his friend.

"Clark, your cousin is a teenaged, rebellious girl with superpowers to match your own! And you want to unleash the maniacs of Gotham on her? Do you have any idea how truly dark my city is? This is no place for a Girl of Steel, a Girl of Tomorrow, not if she shall retain a shroud of innocence!" Bruce replied vehemently.

Clark inhaled deeply. "Bruce, I know exactly what kind of Nightmare your city is. I watch over it sometimes. This is exactly why I want that YOU take Kara under your wings. She has some ideas about heroism, but she needs to see the dark side that is to our job. And let's face it; I'd rather face Darkseid on Apokolips again than facing the Joker without 100% knowing that he has no hidden traps. She must learn that we can't always save the damsel in distress, that Heroes can fail and that there are true monsters. Her body might be almost invulnerable, but what about her mind?" he pleaded his case.

Bruce growled. "Well then, follow me. I will show you some dark sites of Gotham. We will not interfere in anything, we will merely watch." he ground out. "If you then still think it's such a great idea to send her here, we will talk further." the Bat commanded. "Follow me!" he said and went to one of the Batplanes.

Several minutes later they came to their first stop. Arkham Asylum. Batman addressed Clark without looking at him. "You know most of the inmates there. The really dangerous ones. Killer Croc, Clayface, Firefly, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Bane, Two-Face, Scarecrow and the Joker. And all the others that don't get shipped off to some other place.

This building doesn't only house them; there are dozens of other patients here, some with permanent mental damages thanks to some of the Big Names and their toxins. These people will never again be able to look at their homes or anything outside their padded cells without literally deadly fear or deadly amusement.

Batman and Superman entered the building and went to the desk. A positively ancient looking crone sat on the reception. If Clark hadn't known better, he'd have thought that this woman was at least 500 years old. "The usual loons are all in their cells, you don't bring any new victims of Crane and or the Joker. However we might be able to help your pathfinder in Spandex. Wouldn't be the first time that we were asked to cure a bad fashion sense." the woman said dryly.

Batman smirked, both at the old secretary's dry humor and Clark's indignant glare. "It's neither of these. If possible, I'd like to show Superman some Autopsy reports, some patient profiles and maybe some camera footage from some of the cells." he said politely. He found that the old woman tended to generally look favorably upon those who showed manners in her presence.

"Oh well, here's our card, unless one of the loons nukes the building, there is always a doctor available to help with emergency cases, even if it is only insane fashion." she said and handed Clark the card.

Clark nodded politely. "Thank you very much. I will recommend your fine institution to my fashionably challenged adversaries." he said friendly.

The old woman laughed. "So you got a spine and know how to give a barb back." she said pleased. Then she nodded to Bruce and Clark. "Do as you wish, you know where everything is. If you want some coffee or snacks, Jötunsson of the night shift is on guard duty for this area, he will bring you anything you require." she added.

Batman went to the archive with Clark, who was still rather nonplussed with the whole procedure.

"She was pulling your leg the entire time." Bruce finally said. "She loves to gauge the reactions of others to her senile old crone act. She loves some friendly banter, but you'll hardly find a person in Arkham that is more competent at their job than she is." he added.

Clark wanted to bring up the guards and doctors, but gave it up before he even could think of uttering the first sound. As far as some of the inmates were concerned, Arkham might as well be an uncomfortable hotel they could leave at will.

"Here we are. The archive of patient's records. I wanted to show them to you here, I have them all on the Bat Computer, but written like this, it becomes more real." Batman said his voice and tone foreboding and dark. "You will see the abyss in which people were plunged thanks to some madmen and women."

"First: Steven K, 16 years old. Patient in Arkham for 5 years. Was brought in at 11. Diagnosis: Long-lasting, recurring intoxication with Smilex (non-lethal version), several variants of Scarecrow's fear gases and assorted other chemical drugs, most prevalent libido-stimulating substances. Suffered irreparable damages to the brain. Prognosis: No healing possible." Batman read out loud. "Steven was an unlucky guy. His mother, his siblings and he got caught in some test runs for Smilex and Fear Gases once too often. Add to this that his mother is a drug addict who also made her children addicts and you get the picture. On a particularly bad Horror Trip his mother decided that she'd need to eat her children to reach whatever goal she had in mind. Steven was 8 at this time." he continued, his voice sounding bitter. "He did the only thing he could think of. He started to lick his own mother to be safe from her. He even helped her butchering his thoroughly wasted siblings and together they ate them. It was only by chance that I found them and managed to bring them here. His mother was pregnant with her own grandchild." the Bat said darkly.

Superman had gone pale at this story. "By god!" he said slowly. "This is like something straight from a twisted nightmare." he added and looked sick.

Batman nodded. "Each file here contains a nightmarish story. The loving family father with the double life as a criminals eating cannibal. The man who used sandpaper to wash blood of his left hand and didn't stop till he had fully removed his hand. The woman who can't bear the thought of being protected by cops and tried to gun them down so the vigilantes could protect her easier. The boy that was raped so long that he was broken so thoroughly that no sense of his self outside of enforced pleasure exists. And this list goes on and on. Each of these persons will leave Arkham in a coffin." he said slowly. "Come, I want to show you just what kind of persons Gotham breeds."

They left the archive, Bruce felt no need to bother Clark with the autopsy details of Joker's or Crane's or Ivy's victims. They went to the surveillance room.

"Can you show us the feeds of Jackie Z and Mallory M?" Batman asked the guard.

The guard, a giant of a man nodded once and enlarged the 2 demanded feeds. Jackie was a young man of maybe 25. He was currently only dressed in short pants. And almost every point of his skin was adorned with Nazi Symbols. "Jackie. Went on a mad rampage when he heard that his maternal grandmother is a Jew. He himself is a fanatic Nazi and Anti-Semitist. When he heard of his predicament he came to the decision to kill everyone that knew about him being a Jew and then committing suicide to stop the Jewish Menace. He slaughtered almost 50 people who knew about his secret, mostly family members." Batman explained.

Clark looked sick. "This can't be true! What kind of human is he?" he asked rhetorically.

Jötunsson looked up. "If you vant my opinion. An evil person. He is merely here, because judges are afraid to admit that not every monstrous deed comes from insanity. Some people are merely evil. Without missing some screws. They decided to do evil deeds. You of all people should be familiar with the concept of evil. Isn't Luthor evil? And I seriously doubt that he is insane. No insane man can build such a business Empire." he said to Superman.

The Dark Knight nodded. "He is right. If people can't understand the motivation of a person, they assume it stems from insanity rather than evil. Otherwise they'd have to admit that the world is a very dark place

"Mallory M is a very unstable person and things easily leave lasting imprints with her. When she got to know a game called Warhammer, everything seemed fine. While it's not typically a game played by women, she enjoyed it. And then she hit the source material and learned about the Chaos Gods. Needless to say that this left a great imprint. She began believing into Chaos, mutilating herself and others so she may gain favor with her gods. I caught her when she prepared to sacrifice some young boys to her Gods. She really believes that the Chaos Gods will reward her sacrifices." Bruce explained.

Clark looked at a young woman that might once have been beautiful. Now her face was disfigured by scars, cut to look intimidating. Her arms showed endless amounts of scars.

"The scars cover her whole body." Bruce supplied helpfully. "She cut out her navel and removed her nipples. She burned the Eight-pointed star of Chaos into her brow." he added. "She mutilated herself further, but these are some of the more glaring mutilations. She has no finger prints, as she used acid to remove them all." the Bat continued.

Superman looked pale. "And she was merely influenced by a game?" he asked.

Batman nodded. "Yes, she was. As I said, easily impressed. She's partially here to train her resistance to outside influences and partially to keep her away from most of my villains. She'd gladly become their minion if they impress her enough." he said darkly. "And most doctors think that she will stay here forever. Same as Jackie." he added.

Superman nodded slowly. "I think I have seen enough here." he said and slowly left.

"Thank you for your time." Batman told the guard.

Jötunsson nodded. "It's my job." he said.

Out in the plane Clark looked at Bruce. "Where to now?" he wanted to know.

"The Narrows." Bruce replied curtly. "The breeding pool for criminals." he said.

The plane took off and shortly after they were flying over the slums of Gotham. "This is easily done." he told Clark. "Computer, show a map of the surrounding area. Put a red marker over every building that has at least one crime report in the last month. Only Drugs and violence." he specified.

Clark paled when he saw the map. "Every building!" he said. "Bruce, tell me you picked this particular area!" he demanded.

"No. I admit that it is a bit higher than I expected, 80% of the buildings are the usual number, but it was to drive the point home. In every building there was at least one crime involving drugs or violence in the last month. I guess that a chunk of them were minor offenses, but still. Do you know that most cops don't care for Stoners anymore? Almost everyone in this town has smoked Marijuana at least once. The stance of the law enforcers is 'as long as they don't use illegal ways to finance it, we didn't see a thing'." Bruce explained. "Possession of Marijuana is registered and dealers are dealt with, but the normal man on the street having some to relief stress is left alone." he added.

Clark looked down on the streets. They were littered, the people looking poor and keeping their heads down. "I think I have seen enough." he said with a thick voice.

"Not yet." Bruce countered.

"What nightmare do you intend to show me now?" Clark asked. If he was honest with himself, he wondered just how many crimes were committed in Metropolis. How the poor people lived in the City of Tomorrow.

Bruce simply steered the plane to a richer part of the town. "Don't believe that Gotham's corruption comes from below." he told Clark. "Computer, indicate all houses tied to the Underworld." he simply ordered.

The map showed again and several big manors were indicated. Bruce explained. "These are known Crime Lords where I haven't managed to crack the chain of command to find conclusive evidence. All their money is washed so often that it's hardly traceable." he told Clark. "Computer, indicate houses of important people of Gotham with blue markers!" he ordered.

Clark had to gulp. The blue markers were often direct neighbors of Crime Lords.

"I don't know how many of the important people have little agreements with the Crime Lords. Oh, there won't be any money exchanges. But how do they say, small favors keep a friendship, big ones a dependence." Bruce told his comrade. "Here a tip for a cheap and skilled artificer, there a tip about a good restaurant, here an overlooked detail in an investigation, there some delayed messages between police and the DA." Bruce explained. "And before you get your hopes up, this is the same in Metropolis. Hell, your employer, most likely unknowingly, sometimes dines with at least 3 minor crime lords. Oh, they outwardly appear as respectable businessmen and even their employees wouldn't look out of place in any office, but they are in fact criminals. Mostly money washing, hardly involved with the true crimes." Bruce told Superman with a tone he could also use to indicate the weather. "Face it, the criminals have established themselves in the middle of the better society and have left the dark and dirty streets behind them." he added.

Clark had wanted to protest, but Batman didn't give out such information when he wasn't sure. The thought of Perry White associating with criminals made him uneasy. If they really managed to blend in normal society this easy, then it was no wonder that crime never ended. "What now?" he finally asked Bruce.

"We return to the cave." Bruce said and the plane sped up.

The trip back was done in silence.

In the cave Batman looked at Superman. "Do you still think it is a good idea that Kara learns here and from me?" he simply asked.

Clark looked Bruce square in the eye. "Yes! Now more than ever! You see deeper than most others. Sure, I have my intergalactic foes and other super-powered enemies. I can train Kara to handle this. But against the common criminals I'm woefully outclassed. Sure, I can beat them. But I would be very hard pressed to find hard proof of their crimes. You know how to do such a thing. I want you to teach Kara. Bruce, I can admit that I would never want to face you in combat when you take your gloves off, so to speak. You'd decimate me." he said full of conviction. "You can teach Kara how to deal with crushing defeats, you can teach her how to deal with an amount of work that will never be done. Bruce, after seeing the things you showed me tonight, I can understand why you call me Smallville. I might stop an armed robbery without problems, but sneaking money washing by me is awfully easy." he added.

Batman was stunned to say the least. He had thought that Clark would reconsider, would relent after seeing just how truly corrupted the world he wanted to toss his cousin into was. But Clark saw it as an opportunity.

"Bruce, we are both hailed as Super Heroes, both with merit, but you can hardly call me a crime fighter. This is something that I always left to you. But I think it is time that I learned about it. You stood your ground against Darkseid and actually managed to force him into doing your bidding. I couldn't have beaten him to the point that he released Kara. I wouldn't have thought of threatening to blast his planet into oblivion. Bruce, you can teach Kara way more about being a real hero than I can. I can teach her to be a good person and teach her morals. You can teach her how to get a job done. You can teach her to not have to rely on her superpowers." Clark continued. "If you take away my powers, what remains? A tall man that has no experience in fighting without powers and could be beaten by Scarecrow in a fistfight. And you? Most people acknowledge that you're one of the best fighters on the planet. Most of us rely on our powers for a fight, you rely on skill. And this is something I think Kara should have the opportunity to learn." Clark added.

Bruce sighed. Clark really wanted this. Hell, he could see this friend's point. Take their powers, rings, suits or enhancements away and most heroes wouldn't put up a match against the Joker or Scarecrow, even less against Bane or Killer Croc without enhancements. Most of his enemies would tear a de-powered hero to shreds. Clark was right, without his powers he was just a large man who wouldn't win a fistfight with the Scarecrow.

"Fine." he finally relented. "I will take your cousin under my wing. I will teach her and I will train her. We will find a cover story for her. And I will design a costume for her. If she is my apprentice, then she will have to look the part." Bruce told Clark.

Clark nodded. He didn't want to announce that his cousin had arrived on Earth just yet, so masking her as a bat would be a good idea.

"I will return and tell Kara about this. I will contact you as to when she arrives." Clark said.

"Don't bother; I'm going to fetch her with the Plane." Bruce said. "She will live in the Manor. I even have a cover idea. She is on an exchange program from Smallville. I think Tim could really use some relaxing weeks down in Kansas." he added with a smirk.

"Very good." Clark agreed. He got Bruce's hint. He was to take care of Tim in the meantime. And Smallville was notoriously short on crimes. The Sheriff and his deputy hardly ever had to work. No one committed a crime in his village. A speeding ticket or parking tickets were the most common occurrences in Smallville.

Clark nodded to Bruce, who turned to his computer to plan for his new apprentice. It promised to become interesting.

Several hours later in the home of Jonathan and Martha Kent.

"So let me get this straight!" Kara said to Clark. "You want me to become an apprentice to Batman. Why can't you teach me?" she said. "Batman doesn't seem very heroic, always keeping to the shadows, Heroes need to be in the light." she added.

"Several reasons. You see, I fight enemies I can overpower or otherwise deal with, relying on my powers. But my powers, which are also your powers, can be taken away. Kryptonite for example. Magic." Clark began explaining. "Bruce on the other hand doesn't have any such powers. Yet he managed to blackmail Darkseid, a foe I have trouble beating. Bruce can't even rely on a fancy armor to boost him. If you take away the various boosts we heroes have, then you have a bunch of people who wouldn't last a minute against Bruce. He has no boosts. Everything he can do is the result of harsh training." Clark began explaining.

Kara nodded. "So far I understand. But why me?" she wanted to know.

Clark sighed, what he was about to tell her wasn't pretty. "Kara, heroes sometimes have to make hard decisions. Save the hostage or catch the criminal or disarm the bomb. And these decisions are hard. Sometimes they will haunt you." he said. "We don't like to admit it out loud, but we don't always save the damsel in distress. And sometimes it is helpful to see how truly evil humans can be. Bruce sees it every day. Gotham is a dark place. Yet he doesn't give up, even though the influential persons of his city are indebted to criminals. No, he continues." he explained. "What he told me tonight shook me to the core. Three casual friends of Perry are in fact criminals. Something I would have never seen. Bruce sees such a thing and he collects evidence to bring them to justice. As I said, I might hold up a robbery without problems, but sneaking money washing by me? Child's play." he continued.

Kara nodded. "So you want me to learn about this to be a better hero?" she wanted to know.

"Partially, yes." Clark admitted. "Bruce is a rough person, but he can teach you much more than I could. I can teach you my values, but they're only a moral compass. Bruce can teach you to stand up after witnessing the horrors the likes of the Joker or Scarecrow can unleash. He can teach you to anticipate the moves of a person. And he can prepare you for your inevitable defeat. Yes, even I was defeated more than once. Doomsday even killed me. But Bruce, he had some of the worst defeats. The Joker killed the second Robin. Bane broke his back. The Joker crippled the first Batgirl, without even knowing it was her. The fourth Robin, a young girl called Stephanie Brown, who otherwise was known as the vigilante Spoiler, was killed by a doctor who had been like a mother for him while Gotham experienced its worst Gang War. Stephanie started one of Bruce's scenarios for such an occurrence without knowing that they shouldn't take place." Clark told his cousin. "And these were only big defeats. All the victims he can't save. Be it people that laugh themselves to death thanks to the Joker or that they die of fear thanks to the Scarecrow. People that are killed by Killer Croc or Poison Ivy. Yet he continues. He catches them eventually and returns them to Arkham or a prison. He doesn't give up. I'm not sure that I could have continued like Bruce after my apprentice was killed by an insane clown." he told Kara.

For her part, Kara was dumb-founded. "Gotham sounds like a nightmare of a city." she finally said.

Clark nodded. "It is. Edward Nygma, a genius technician, became obsessed with riddles. If he was sane, any company would hire him on the spot for R&D. He is known as the Riddler." he began. "Pamela Isley. Genius botanic. She was experimented on by Jason Woodrue and turned into a human/plant hybrid. She hates humanity, males especially. She is now known as the eco-terrorist Poison Ivy. If she could get over her hate for humans, she could do a lot of good for the world. She can grow plants from almost any soil." Clark continued.

Kara was slack-jawed. These people were so unlike anything she got to know until now.

Clark continued. "Harvey Dent, former District Attorney of Gotham City. Half of his face was destroyed by an attack with acid. His trusty lucky coin was marred on one side. It is a rare wrong mint with 2 heads. He became obsessed with chance and the number 2. He is now known as Two-Face." He paused shortly. "Then there is Victor Fries. A master cryogenics expert. When his wife fell terminally ill, he put her in cryostasis. A freak accident with cryogenic coolant made him into a human iceberg. He is now known as Mister Freeze. And only being in deep sub-zero temperatures lets him survive."

Kara gasped. These people, they were dangerous, that was sure, but their stories were also touching, in a way. She felt especially for Fries, he merely wanted to save his wife and was turned into a human ice block. He'd never again be able to enjoy the warmth of his wife, even if he cured her.

"And then there is he. The big unknown. The man without identity or past. The Joker. There is nothing known about him, whether were he was born, nor what made him into the Joker. It is as if he was spawned from Hell to torment the people of earth. His motives are unknown. He is so twisted that most psychologists outright refuse to even attempt a therapy session with him. Make no misconception; he is as intelligent as he is evil and insane. His Smilex gas might be fatal even for you and me. I am not sure about this, but I have no intention to ever test this out. Joker loves to make a grand show. He attempted to poison the entire town with Smilex more than once. And more than once he was able to release large quantities of the gas into the atmosphere. He's one of the most dangerous opponents there is. And Batman has very often dealt with him. Even in prison, in the Asylum or even in court he has managed to kill people." Superman explained to his cousin.

"In other words, you intend to send me to Hell, so I may face the worst there is at first?" Kara asked incredulously.

Superman nodded slowly. "That's part of it. I also want to protect you. Bruce is one of the few persons I absolutely trust. He may be a rather dark Hero, but few would be willing to dispute that he is one of the best there is. And while he might not show it, he will be able to help you a lot. Maybe even more than I could." he explained.

Kara was rather skeptical about this all. And she had no qualms voicing her concern. "And why couldn't it be someone else at first? Why should I go to Hell first of all?" she asked rather annoyed.

Superman decided to start this from a different angle. "Look, you know Diana?" he started. At Kara's nod he continued. "She was the first I asked for help. While she will happily help you later on, she felt that you needed to see what our duty really is about and that you should see what consequences failure on our part can have. And no one can drive this point better home than Bruce. Others agreed with me, too. Even the Green Lanterns agreed. And everything they stand for is pretty much the polar opposite of Bruce. They fight fear and operate in the light. Bruce spreads fear and strikes from the darkness. Ironically enough, Hal Jordan, the first Green Lantern in the JLA would be another very good teacher to show you how costly failures on a Hero's part can and will be. His hometown was totally destroyed and he, while possessed by Parallax, pretty much destroyed the Green Lantern Corps." he told Kara.

Kara was losing focus, too many names she had no real relation to made it difficult to stay on topic.

Clark realized this and drew a hasty conclusion before Kara's attention was fully gone. "Look, everyone I asked, and I asked pretty much every major Hero I could find in the last days, told me the same. Bruce would be an excellent teacher. Not to mention that he has raised children, each of them orphaned, like Bruce." he told his cousin.

Kara took it all in. "So, you want me to go there to learn about duty and about failure?" she wanted to know.

Clark nodded slowly. "Yes. You need to learn this. Every Hero will ultimately fail at one point or another. And we are lucky if it is merely a bank robber escaping with the money rather than having to watch friends or family die or watch a madman slaughter innocents for fun. And don't forget, Bruce can teach you so much more. I know for sure that Bruce can beat me without big problems. I on the other hand would have a very hard time beating him if the gloves are off."

Kara thought about it for a long time. "If you put it like this." she finally conceded. "When will I go to Gotham?" she wanted to know.

Superman smiled, glad that she was accepting the apprenticeship under Bruce. "I'll drop by him later today he will most likely come to pick you up later in the week." he told her.

Kara nodded and went to her room. It seemed like she would have to pack.

John and Martha looked at their son. "So, you intend to send her to Gotham?" John finally said.

Clark nodded. "I think she can learn much there." he said.

Martha smiled. "We are sure it's for her best. She has a chance to learn from the World's Best Detective and someone you trust highly. And honestly, Bruce really needs to lighten up a bit. Why he still is single, there are bound to be some people who have their eyes on him." she said jokingly.

Superman laughed lightly. "Actually, after my last count, he has at least three women who would like to get his attention. Really a pity that Bruce is already married to his work and intends to stay faithful." he said chuckling.

The older Kents laughed, too. "Really, he's missing out on a lot in life." John finally said mirth evident in his voice.

Clark smiled. "I'll tell Bruce about this when an opportunity arises." he promised, full of amusement. Now, I'll head to Gotham to tell him that Kara has accepted and will come to Gotham to learn under him." he said.

Martha was actually a bit sad at hearing this. "Can't you stay a little longer?" she wanted to know.

Clark ruefully shook his head. "I'll visit you as soon as possible." he promised. Then he gave his parents each a hug and a kiss and flew off.

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End Chapter 1

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Author's Notes: As you can see, I'm acting rather liberal with the timeline here, because I really want to spare myself the headache of who was active where and when. Cut me some slack, keeping up with the DC (and Marvel) universe and the rather liberal use of a timeline there can be really frustrating. As far as I am concerned, almost all major and minor players in the DC Universe are active at this time. It happens before Identity Crisis, but some characters introduced after it will make appearances, as I simply want to use them here. I guess I will spare myself with going into the Crises and the Blackest Night, Brightest Day. If I let the story progress beyond these events I will most likely simply skip what happens there. Otherwise I get an instant ancient ancestor of all headaches.

Other things:

Pairings are very unlikely. If anything I'll come up with something almost no one will expect to come.

Deaths: Expect more than one faceless person to die. Heroes or Villains are rather unlikely, though, unless their demise could bring a spin on the story, but I'm not very keen on killing off characters.

OC's: Some will appear, mostly in small, supportive roles without any real influence. They're highly likely to die, too. Such should be the fate of OC's. They should have a small speaking role and their death in the same Episode/Story. Red Shirt Syndrome.

And of course I thank the following bands for inspiring me while writing: Eisregen, Helloween, Motörhead, Slayer, Die Krupps, Nitzer EBB, Spetsnaz and Eisenfunk.