To quote my brother when we saw fans running back to the Chargers game after the Chargers went into a surprise over time against the Chiefs last season, "Get back here! The show's not over yet!"
As you can see there is still much to be told. I guess now it is time to give credit where credit is due and give special thanks to batgirlraven17 who's Youtube music video of Batman titled "Hurt" inspired not only the title of the story but the title of most of the chapters including this one (seriously check it out, it is a good music video of the DCAU Batman). Yes as you can see, most of the titles of the chapters and the story itself were inspired by Johnny Cash's rendition of Hurt. I would advise you to try listening to it when you read the last scene of this chapter.
Lastly five points if you can spot the Doctor Who reference that I have been waiting for two years to write.
Along the River Styx
Diana stood on the little island that she was trapped on. When Hades had told her his plot fifty years ago, she tried in desperation to break free from Charon's boat. So determined she was that she was able to push through the shield, and jump in the river, or so she thought. She hadn't realized until too late, what she had done. In her attempt to escape her fate in Elysian Fields, she had forfeited her own rights to paradise. The minute she broke free and touched the waters of the Styx, her fate was sealed. She forever was cursed in limbo. She would never be living or dead. She could not move on and would always be confined to the waters of Styx. Every time she tried to swim to the banks she was forced back.
All her restless soul could do was swim or rest on the small island in the middle of the river, forever in pain and regret as her soul could not move on. But she didn't care about that. She was more worried about something else. The inevitable destruction of the entire Multiverse by Hades himself. Her doomed fate was irrelevant; she wanted to try to warn the outside world, her mother, just someone! She prayed to her gods for help but they wouldn't answer.
Hades occasionally came by to shout at her across the banks and mock her but she tried to ignore it. In response, he began to project an image of the outside world for her to watch in another attempt to mock and torture her. So for the next fifty years she had quietly remained on the island in the middle of Styx watching and waiting as the world was destroyed by the Sector Leaders. She then watched as the Bat Knights and her own people united with Bruce in their attempt to lead a revolution. But she knew they were all being played for fools. Hades had manipulated them all. Diana had no choice but to watch them all fight until the end where they found out they could not save the past.
She then sadly watched as Bruce was sent away into the Void while the survivors tried to carry the torch of hope. But again she knew it was for nothing. She watched within a month how the world and universe were swallowed in the darkness as Apokolips and New Genesis destroyed each other and took everything with them. The whole universe had been destroyed. She remembered the day everyone died. Hades made sure to create a fog over the River of Styx as Charon ferried Hippolyta and the last of the Amazons to Elysian Fields so they could not see their champion forever trapped between limbo. He wanted her to be alone forever.
Or at least to this moment. For now the important hour had come. The god of death was making his last moves. And with it, the destruction of the Multiverse and the soul of the man she loved…
"Praying hasn't done you any good the past fifty years," Hades taunted. "What makes you think today is any different?"
Diana said nothing and tried to ignore him. She was on her knees praying in vain to her gods even though they never answered her. She knew why though. Hades had forced them to be unable to intervene. Still she refused to give up. After everything, with her whole life destroyed, everyone she loved doomed, and her soul fated to remain wandering in a half-dead hell, all she had left was faith.
Hades seemed to be annoyed that she was ignoring him again.
"Do you know what today is my little Sun and Stars?" Hades asked even though he knew she knew the answer. "Not that time has any relevance anymore!"
Diana still said nothing.
"Any second now, your own beloved Bruce Wayne will appear in the Void. While he slowly dies from the Omega Sanction I will have one last audience with him. I will tell him the greatest secret in the universe and force him to face the truth about himself. With these revelations, he will finally be broken and his destroyed soul will give me the Anti-Life. It's only a matter of time before I finally free myself permanently of this wretched prison and with my power and my army conquer the entire Multiverse! There will be no life, only death! No suns or stars will glow anymore! Everything will burn and sink in despair while I stand triumphant! In the end not only will I be getting everything I want, but my revenge as well! I will become the real Destroyer of worlds! There will be no hope or life left in the cosmos! Darkness and death will consume everything with despair! There will only be either oblivion or death and I will be the only power left in the shadows! I am Alpha and Omega! I am Death!"
Diana still refused to say anything even though she could feel the anger burning inside her. The only thing that was keeping her from snapping back at him was the overwhelming feeling of despair. There was no turning back. Hades had won. There was nothing she could do.
"I'll make sure you have front row seats for the spectacle…" Hades muttered with a little disappointment that he didn't get her to snap at him. He waved his hand and a portal appeared above her. It looked like she was staring at window into pure darkness. She immediately deduced she was staring at the Void.
"He'll be there soon," Hades assured. "I want you to see the very man you loved be reduced to the pathetic piece of dirt he really is. Man is nothing to the power of a god!"
And with that Hades turned around and walked away from the bank, leaving Diana to anxiously stare in the portal, knowing the impending doom that awaited Bruce and the cosmos.
"Please…" Diana whispered softly even though she knew no one would answer. "Hera, help him…"
Falling Falling Falling…
One Gunshot, one scream…
Two Gunshot, no screams, just silence.
Silence, silence, SILENCE!
In the darkness a lamp lights the bodies as he kneels…
A bat flies into the night screaming…
A young man takes to the skies…
An old man in glasses standing by a spotlight…
A woman with bright red hair and a tortured soul…
An old man full of love…
A grotesque clown, a tantalizing leather clad female, a man with two faces…
A man in a green cloak next to a beautiful brunette…
A leader in blue, a young man in red, a temperamental woman with wings…
A woman with raven black hair and blue eyes of passion and determination…
Laughter pierces the air…
"Goodbye Batman…" Darkseid speaks as the omega beams shoot out of his eyes.
The laughter grows…
"You just don't know when to give up do you?" Savage taunted as he hung for dear life on the ledge.
"All the pain…" the laughing voice taunted.
"Shut up bitch!" Chill yelled as he shot a second bullet.
"The memories…" the laughing voice continued.
"We have been played!" the Joker taunted.
"The sudden realization that all this…" the voice teased. "Doesn't matter…"
"Goodbye Batman," Darkseid whispered as his eyes lit up.
"Argh!" Bruce screamed and opened his eyes. His first reaction was he thought he was drowning. He felt like he was just floating around. But then he realized he was not wet or in any water and that he was naked. Strangely he didn't need to breathe either though. Was he dead? It would explain the complete blackness he saw and the fact he was naked. But he didn't feel dead, not yet at least. His body felt like it was being slowly burnt to death. He thought he could feel dried blood in his nose. And he still felt nauseous mainly because he seemed to be spinning around nonstop in the blackness due to the absence of gravity; or was the blackness spinning around him?
He felt clueless at the same time, like a big hole was missing in his life. Where was he? Why was he here? Why did this place seem void of life?
He was in the Void!
Quickly everything started to come back to him. Darkseid's invasion, battling Savage in the past, fighting demons with a flaming sword, riding on a black horse madly, in a shootout with a whip, having Chill at gun point, Terry, Matt, Lobo, Maxine, and Lois. Brother Eye exploding, the Joker defeated, the time machine falling apart…
He cringed in pain. They couldn't go back in time, their plan had failed. They thus had to put their faith in Terry and his generation while the older men like him and Savage faded into the past for good…
Or in his case slowly die. Now that he was able to think straight Bruce quickly figured out why he hadn't unleashed the omega energy yet. They used a lot of it to get the time machine working and send him into the Void. Enough energy that it seemed to have temporarily stalled the energy spill over; temporarily being the operative world.
He could still feel the energy in him and it was slowly rising again. He would be dead soon even though the omega energy was probably the only reason he was alive and not dying from being in the vacuum of the Void. At least though this could give him some time to reflect and think about a few things before he died. He wasn't sure if there really was an afterlife. And then he heard it again. The laughter. This wasn't humorous laughter or the wicked insane laughter of the Joker. No this was a different kind of laughter. A laughter he had gone to hate more than even the Joker's laugh. The laughter of a predator that had just cornered its prey and was now taunting it.
"Hades…" Bruce whispered darkly.
"Even in a different dimension our connection still holds," the god of death observed.
Bruce then noticed out of the darkness Hades's own appearance and form began to take shape.
"Go away," Bruce warned even though he knew it was just an image being projected onto his mind.
"Oh I will eventually. I'll make sure to give you some quality time for yourself to brood about your failure…"
"I didn't fail," Bruce reiterated. "I proved you wrong. Terry and the others will continue the fight. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself, there is still good in the world and it's worth fighting for."
Hades quickly headed towards Bruce before stopping. His face was filled with anger and impatience.
"Did you honestly think that's how it would end? That after everything, you would make a difference and die with hope and content while I anguish in defeat because you proved me wrong?" he snapped angrily, dropping the mocking tone. "Did you think you, a pathetic mortal, could beat a god? No my friend, I'm not done with you."
"I never attempted to challenge you," Bruce responded coolly. "You say you are a god then why would you waste your time with a 'pathetic mortal?' Unless that means deep down you know you're wrong."
Hades glared angrily and looked like he was about to explode but then he forced a calming smile.
"You were always a bit of a fire breather weren't you?" Hades said in a patronizing tone that sounded like an owner talking to its pet. "Always so brave, so defiant, so blindly, stupidly, headstrong…"
Hades then leaned back to float next to Bruce.
"That you sometimes forgot you were fighting a losing battle. And to think that whole life you wasted…"
"My life was never about me," Bruce retorted. "That's something you will never understand."
"Don't act like you are morally superior to me," Hades warned. "We have a lot more in common."
"I don't get any delight in death."
"But you do get a sick pleasure in those you punish by bringing justice on them. How is that different from what I do in Tartarus?"
"What are you planning on doing?" Bruce responded, trying to not snap and give Hades the satisfaction. "Trying to validate yourself by engaging me in debate?"
Hades frowned but still kept his grin of malice. It unnerved Bruce but he refused to show that. He couldn't be seen as weak in front of Hades even though in the back of his mind he knew Hades was probably reading his own thoughts.
"Cute, very cute. I wonder if you'll be as confident as you are right now when I'm done with you."
Hades then sat back up.
"Did you ever wonder why the Christians called their book of the End of All Things the Revelation?"
"I was never one for religion," Bruce muttered darkly.
"Neither was I. Anyways I always just assumed they called their book the Revelation because at the end, when every being is faced with their death, they experience their own revelation. They look back on their whole life and learn what they really were like."
"And let me guess, you're hoping to bring my own revelation?"
"Very good. But not just your revelation. I also believed another reason the book was called the Revelation because at the End of All Things, everyone is given a big revelation on life. They all discover the real meaning of life."
"And you think you have the answer?" Bruce sneered.
"I don't think, I know," Hades emphasized. "If anything you should know it too by now."
"I've never been a big believer of destiny or fate," Bruce countered. "So you bringing up your own interpretation of the meaning of life is irrelevant to me. Unless you plan on boring me to death, go away."
"You misunderstand me," Hades explained. "I, like you, don't believe in fate or destiny. I believe it to always be a lie brought about by others to justify their own actions. I've seen that from my siblings. Always decreeing that every action they did was a product of fate in an attempt try to absolve themselves of any responsibility for all the consequences of their actions."
Bruce tried not to groan in pain as he felt his body temperature rise a little more.
"The notion of fate is just one big lie to enslave those to your will. It is a drug of hope and promise. And the funny thing is, you are perhaps one of the biggest false prophets of fate."
"I told you I don't believe in-"
"You may think so, but you're just like the rest, Bruce! You're just as bad as my siblings were."
"Enough," Bruce snapped. "I've forced you out of my mind before, I can do it again…"
"But not while you're experiencing so much pain," Hades reminded. "The omega energy is slowly destroying you."
Bruce glared at the god of death refusing to admit he was right. As his body slowly burned from all the pain by the rising omega energy, it was getting difficult to concentrate tuning Hades out.
Hades gave a victorious smirk.
"Now that I have your undivided attention, let me continue. I've seen enough to know what the real meaning of life is. So many men have in vain searched for it only to go mad or delude themselves into thinking they have found the answer but deep down know they haven't. But if only they could've seen the bigger picture and open their minds more they would've realized what the answer is. Do you know what it is, Bruce?"
"Don't care," Bruce said while trying to ignore Hades.
Hades didn't seem to notice and continued his speech.
"The real meaning of life, the oldest secret of the Multiverse is simple. So simple I'm surprised not many people have noticed it before. The secret is…there is no meaning at all."
Hades smiled and lifted his hands in the air.
"That's it. There is no meaning of life whatsoever. Every struggle, every trial, all means nothing. There is no personal destiny or reward. Life is cruel and pointless. It is all one big cosmic farce. After the struggle, there is still no meaning to life. It is just a series of accidents building on each other. It doesn't…"
"Matter," Bruce finished. "I heard enough of your nihilism. Do you have anything more than recycling old material? Face it Hades you're nothing more than an overpowered being that can't let it go."
"You're one to talk," Hades fired back. "I've had total access to your mind. I've seen the burning feelings of anger and regret. It's always never enough with you is it?"
Bruce stared back before slowly speaking again.
"I've made a lot of mistakes but I will tell you right now even though I'm dying, I will not die with regret. You may not be able to comprehend it but I know I've done what I could, and that is enough to allow me to die in peace."
"And that is why you are false prophet!" Hades accused. "You think you are above the rest by claiming you do not delude yourself with the false optimism of fate and destiny. Yet at the same time, you still end up promoting yourself as a symbol of that. Every action you did was because deep down, you hoped it would somehow matter. You had hope! And you promoted that hope to others! It may not have been a conventional sense of hope, but it was still hope."
Bruce silently said nothing as the god of death bellowed his judgment. He didn't care what Hades had to say. He only hoped he would die soon so he wouldn't have to hear any more of Hades's rants.
Hades at this point had turned his back to Bruce to stare into the abyss.
"The irony of the meaning of life is not lost on me. The greatest secret is there is no secret! Everything becomes meaningless like a grain of sand in a desert or a tiny speck of dust among the stars. It amounts to nothing! Empires and nations rise and fall. Heroes fight villains and kill each other. Worlds are created and destroyed. No matter what amount of pain and suffering you endure, it all ends the same. No sacrifice finds any real meaning."
"I wouldn't expect you to understand," Bruce accused. "You've never known what it is like to care for someone other than yourself."
"So you admit it now? Even you believed in something?"
"Yes," Bruce said proudly. "I did believe in something. I still do. I believed that it didn't matter whether I succeeded or not. What did matter was that I took a stand for something I believed in and I would die with content knowing I lived fighting for something. It didn't matter if I succeeded or not, all that mattered to me was I knew I did everything I could."
Bruce almost let out a sudden yelp of pain as he felt a sharp jab across his back. The Omega Sanction was destroying him slowly.
"And in the end, my efforts did mean something! We won. We proved the world that fighting for something was worth it. As long as there are good people still around to believe in it, the fight's always worth it."
"Let me ask you something then," Hades prodded. "What if you had failed? What if you died for nothing? Are you honestly willing to tell me that you'd still face death with the same content and confidence knowing all your efforts and struggles were for nothing?"
"It doesn't matter," Bruce countered. "We won in the end, you lost…"
"Oh really?" Hades said with a knowing smile. "Let me show you something…"
"What are you doing?"
"I'm not going to harm you," Hades assured. "We share a connection of our minds. I'm just showing you what had happened the past month to the universe while you traveled across time and space to the Void."
"ARRGGHH!" Bruce screamed as he felt something sharp in his head.
He saw fire and darkness and war. Planets were destroyed left and right while billions, no trillions of lives were exterminated and swallowed by the destruction. He heard screams and begs for mercy that went unanswered. New Genesis and Apokolips, both at war, destroying everything. The whole universe being devoured in a fire. And then he saw the Earth. He saw Terry…
"No…" Bruce whispered in horror.
Hippolyta and the Amazons all frantically running around as the world was destroyed around them.
"No…" Bruce whispered again.
The entire planet was on fire and exploded as the darkness covered it and the billions of screams of pain and sorrow suddenly turned to silence.
"NNNGGGHHH!" Bruce groaned and closed his eyes.
The visions went away and he saw himself back floating around the Void with a satisfied Hades smirking next to him.
"This is a trick!" Bruce accused even though deep down he knew it wasn't. He couldn't explain it but he knew it was real as if somehow sharing a connection with Hades's mind made him realize what he saw was real.
"You don't even believe yourself," Hades chuckled with amusement. "I only gave you a taste of what transpired the past month. A taste of all the destruction and death caused by the New Gods and their war. All the actions the human race and the Amazons made to try to make a better world meant nothing when compared to the power of the gods. Do you understand now Bruce? Not you or your allies' efforts mattered. Within a month everything became unraveled by something outside your control. Doesn't this bother you?"
Bruce said nothing although he was shaking slightly and it wasn't from the Omega Sanction. His face meanwhile was one of shock and confusion. He just couldn't believe it. So many people had died. They couldn't have died for nothing!
"And that's the sad truth about everything. Everything ends in death and destruction. To suffer through so much pain can make one question his own purpose. Are you sure fighting just for principle was worth it?"
No answer came from Bruce. He was shaking even more, his face twitching a little. He was trying to not think about all the lives that had been lost. Terry, Hippolyta, Dana, Artemis…
No! He needed to stay strong right now.
"I can sense the doubt in you," Hades said while licking his lips. "What happened to the almighty, confident mortal a few minutes ago?"
Bruce did his best to push the grief aside and tried to channel it to anger. It is what he did best after all.
"Even if they all died," Bruce began although he spoke in a less confident tone. "They still died fighting for something…"
"Hmmmm," Hades mused while rubbing his chin. "Perhaps then I should tell that it was I who orchestrated this whole destruction and doom?"
"What?" Bruce asked in disbelief. He knew the god of death was just trying to egg him on but he couldn't help it. His body was going through immense pain and he was being bombarded with enough emotions as is.
"I speak the truth," Hades assured. "Not long after you began your journey across time I managed to acquire a few gifts. One was to see the future, and the other was to contact mortals through their dreams. Using my new ability to see the future, I of course saw that everything ended the same way which was an ending of death and destruction. It's just that some of the scenarios took longer to reach the end."
Suddenly Bruce was understanding what the Joker had meant earlier about being played for fools. Hades had been pulling the strings all along.
"You had been contacting the Joker," Bruce accused. "It was you who warned him about everything when I returned."
"Yes. But I first contacted Ra's al Ghul. I convinced him to start his plan for Brother Eye and to recruit your old enemies to help. I then warned the Joker and he betrayed Ra's. I had been guiding and manipulating his actions for the last fifty years to set everything in motion. Meanwhile without the Justice League, Apokolips and New Genesis broke out in war again. A war I knew would eventually destroy the universe…"
"Why?" Bruce snapped angrily in a shaky tone. "Why do all this? What did you accomplish out of all this?"
Hades laughed so hard he had to clutch his sides.
"The reason is simple," Hades said and crossed his arms. "To prove you wrong."
"By destroying trillions of lives?!" Bruce snapped angrily. "All to win a philosophical argument?!"
"It was the only way to show you the truth!" Hades shot back, sounding a little offended that Bruce questioned his motives.
"I needed to create a world that was nearly devoid of hope so when you showed up one last time, you would again prove that you were a false prophet of hope by how you would rally people to try to fight for justice and a better tomorrow. But I knew you would not succeed because not only was the universe doomed but your own fate as well."
Hades leaned forward.
"Why do you think the observer Metron stopped following you around and abandoned that foolish imp? Because he realized what a lost cause you both were. Your whole mission was folly. But you couldn't accept that! You acted like you were above faith and hope and yet your whole mission relied on that! You were aware of the bleakness of the world but blindly refused to accept the hopelessness of your cause! You refused to accept your place as the tiny insignificant speck of dust you are! You refused to acknowledge you were just a mortal who didn't matter!"
Bruce said nothing as Hades continued. His eyes were growing red from the Omega Energy but also from the tears that were falling down his face. After everything, he couldn't fail like this.
"You thought you would be rewarded for your efforts deep down, didn't you? You thought somehow your methods would be validated. Well now look, with a few simple conversations I have not only destroyed those you loved but your entire universe as well. I have proven the futility of your struggle. Everything easily met its end one way or another. Life is nothing, but death is power."
Bruce still stayed silent as more tears began to fall down his face. It was as if he could still hear the screams of pain as the universe was destroyed. He wanted to feel anger but he couldn't. He felt something he rarely allowed himself to feel. Hopelessness.
"And now," Hades continued. "There is nothing you can do this time. No last-minute plan, no deus ex machina. You can't go back in time and try to stall the inevitable anymore. It's over."
"Then leave…" Bruce ordered, although it sounded more like a plea.
"Not yet," Hades explained. "I'm not finished with you. You act like you are above me but now I've shown you what you really are. You are nothing more than a failure and a fraud. You are not the symbol of justice you like to promote yourself as. You let people believe there is hope for something that isn't there and let them die while you continue to live so you can fight your own personal crusade of vengeance. And now look at you, in the darkness begging for death like the pathetic hypocrite you are. But I won't let you go in peace until I reveal the Ultimate Truth about yourself."
"There's nothing else you can reveal to me," Bruce said, trying to put on one last defense of defiance. "I've seen enough…"
"Oh my misguided mortal," Hades cooed. "I've only just begun. Now it is time for your own revelation. I will finally make you face the truth about yourself."
"The truth was I believed in something!" Bruce snapped angrily as more tears fell down his face. He was starting to feel anger again that the pain of the Omega Sanction was temporarily subsiding.
"Even if it turned out to be all for nothing, I still believed in something! So what if I was a fool in the end? At least I had something to die for and to me, that's worth it!"
Hades remained unfazed by Bruce's second wind and leaned in menacingly towards the man.
"But what about those who died because of you?" the god of death pointed out. "What about your enemy turned friend, Vandal Savage? He died because he believed in you. Are you telling me you don't feel guilt over the fact he died under false hope?"
He saw Vandal Savage clawing his way back up to the control panel and shouting before pushing the button and being engulfed in light.
"Oh yes, Savage died because he believed in something. He believed in you. He took the opium of hope and deluded himself. He died for nothing!"
Bruce couldn't help but feel a pang in his heart as the angry look in his face evaporated to one of guilt and shame. Vandal died because he believed it wasn't for nothing. Just like so many who had died in the fight.
As if reading his mind, Hades smiled and moved in for the kill.
"But he wasn't the only one to die in the name of your false hope, was he? How many more? Just think, how many have died because of you?"
He saw Helena dying as the blood drenched his hands, his lips still wet from their first and only kiss…
He saw Bart coughing up blood as he lied in Sir Justin's arms…
He saw Azrael looking proud and defiant despite hunching over from his injuries as the knight shoved the sword into the portal…
Bruce grimaced in pain as he felt his spine stiffen while his eyes began to water again.
He saw Bill walking around drunkenly, the poor man who ended up getting killed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time…
He saw Sheriff O'Hara, a good man who died because of his own arrogance...
He saw Reverend Stiles, a man who believed in him and died because he believed in himself...
At this point the tears were falling again as the guilt consumed him. So many had died. Bruce felt his fists clenching tightly in hatred. Hatred at himself. Hades was right. He had led so many lives to slaughter. But his guilt was not done harassing him yet.
He saw his father being shot by Chill. The gunshot echoing in his head. Then another one was heard and he saw his mother. The faint sound of her scream haunted his head. He had let them die to save a future that didn't matter. They had died for nothing because of him!
At this point Bruce couldn't even keep his head up anymore and looked down as he sobbed and began to shake uneasily some more. He wasn't just a failure but a fraud as well. He fought in the name of his parents only to coldly let them die.
He saw Maxine getting shot by a blast as she tried to help him up...
He saw Matt, the very son he never acknowledged, shot in cold blood in the back...
He saw Lobo flying in the sky in a desperate attempt to save them all...
He saw Batmite, the imp dying in his arms with a look of hope and still childlike innocence...
He couldn't take it anymore and Bruce let out a verbal sob. Hades smile widened when he heard it. Bruce didn't care about saving face anymore. Nor did he care he was dying. The grief, guilt, and pain were too much to bear. He couldn't suppress it or channel it anymore. Not when he knew everything he did was for nothing. Not after finding out he had failed.
"Do you understand now? The Ultimate Truth is you were nothing more than just one obsessive man, all alone and blinded by your own anger, as you embarked on a mad quest for vengeance. You didn't care how many lives were ruined or destroyed in the name of your 'justice.' So many people had been killed because of you for nothing. So you see, you are the real god of death. You led too many lives to their own grave by the illusion of your own imposed morality and selfish sense of purpose. And the most humorous part of the whole situation is, it didn't matter; the universe was destroyed and with it the world! In short, you are nothing but a liar and a failure, all alone as you lay dying in the abyss."
Bruce continued to shake and sob as his body continued to burn in pain.
"It hurts doesn't it? I know the cure to your pain. Just accept the fact you've lost. Accept the fact that your struggle to find meaning in this cruel world is one big cosmic failure. Accept that you didn't matter. In fact, don't you wish you had never been born so you wouldn't have had to experience all this pain? You agree with me don't you? Death would be too merciful and would not change all the suffering you put others through. All that false hope that led people to their own doom. It would've been better if you never existed after all."
Bruce couldn't help but agree with Hades. After everything, he just led almost everyone he loved or cared for to their graves, including his own parents! He didn't deserve death, it was too merciful. It would've been better if he was never born. In fact he didn't want to die out of fear death. He just wished he could fade away forever as punishment for his sins. He didn't deserve peace.
Hades seemed satisfied with his work.
"Well I'll leave you some time alone to regret your very own existence," Hades said in a false tone of generosity. "I just want you to remember one thing though, that despite everything you have done, you are still just a man, and I, am a god. And I've just broken you and shown you your true self."
Hades leaned forward and lowered his voice to whisper.
"I want to remember in your final moments of your life that it was me who put you in your place. It was me who showed you how insignificant and pathetic you were. It was me, Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, who proved that not only do you not matter, but man is nothing. Never was and never will be."
Hades then leaned back and gave a triumphant smile as he faded away into the darkness.
"Goodbye Bruce Wayne. And I'll warn you, if you do make it to the afterlife, you won't find peace. You will always remember the pain and suffering. Oblivion is the preferred way to go. You're better off not existing anymore."
"Yes!" Hades yelled triumphantly. "He is already breaking!"
Hades looked in his palms and saw a glowing white light emanating from both of them.
"I can feel it! The despair! He has been broken! It won't be long until he finally dies and I will have the full power of Anti-Life! In the end only I am going to be the one who wins! Everything will be swallowed by death! For I am Hades, the Alpha and Omega! The true Destroyer of Worlds!"
Hades's gloating cheers as Bruce slowly died in the Void were echoing across the underworld. His own army of demons and undead had begun to get ready. Soon their master would lead them on their conquest of the cosmos. And all it took was the simple breaking of the will of a strong mortal.
But Hades's cries were also heard by someone else.
Diana was still on the island, looking at the portal that showed what remained of Bruce. The man she loved was now floating and crying from the pain he was feeling both physically and mentally. It was clear that Hades had done his work. She knew it was only a matter of time before Bruce would die and destroy his own soul, giving Hades the power he needed to destroy everything. Diana felt like she should began to despair. She wanted to as well. If she could actually cry again she would. She just wished she could be there with him.
But then she felt angry again. Not just at Hades for torturing a good man like Bruce but for her gods and the universe itself.
"It can't end like this!" Diana snapped angrily, finding her fighting spirit again.
She looked up in the air, not caring if her gods could still hear her.
"I don't care what Hades thinks! It's not over!"
Diana received no answer and she stood up on the island.
"I know someone out there is listening to me! Whether you're a god or the universe itself I don't care! You all listen to what I have to say!"
Even though she knew there was probably no one listening, she didn't care.
"Hades has is it backwards!" she accused. "He thinks one mere life does not mean anything to the universe. But it's the other way around. Every life, every soul matters! And the soul of Bruce Wayne, especially does matter!"
She wasn't sure if she was crazy but she thought she saw a strange light staring back at her as if someone out there was listening to her. She didn't care though. She needed to say what needed to be said.
"He may be just a man, but that's what made him so special! He has saved so many lives time and again and suffered through so much pain, and not once did he expect a thank you or a reward! He may've expected in some way or another that his efforts would matter, but he still never asked for anything! He did the right thing and continued to fight the good fight no matter what! Think of all the lives he saved and changed; he deserves better than this!"
Diana then threw her fist up in the air angrily.
"You all owe him!" she shouted. "The whole universe owes him! The man has done too much to die like this! He has always saved others and now it's the universe's turn to save him! You have to save him!"
No answer. Diana just stood there angrily as the portal showing Bruce suffering slowly began to fade away, cutting herself off to perhaps the last time she would ever see him. She also noticed what she had thought was a light had disappeared as well.
Bruce floated in the abyss as his body succumbed to the rising energy while he wept continuously for everything. After all this, Hades was right, nothing mattered. All he had left in his miserable, pathetic life was to cry in pain from all the hurt he was feeling.
In fact it felt good to feel hurt. It made him realize he could still feel something. He couldn't help but focus on both the physical and mental pain he experienced. It was the only thing left he had in his life that was ending soon.
Hades had finally destroyed whatever defenses and walls he had in his head blocking his emotions. He was now feeling the same emptiness he felt when he saw his parents died. He tried to quash it with anger like he did in the past but there was no anger to be had. Instead he was forced to remember every painful memory.
He had been reduced to nothing. He was just a shell of his former self. A broken man who had nothing to live or die for. He thought of all the people in his life who believed in him. The Batclan, Alfred, Superman, the Justice League, and all the people he met traveling across time. They had all died because of him. And now they were all gone. Everybody died in the end. He felt a twang of guilt for those he left in his last time jump; Hippolyta, Artemis, and Terry. He had given Terry the false promise of a legacy. And now his last surviving son would die and inherit nothing but a hopeless cause. He had failed them all and gave them more pain.
Who did he think he was? Why did he have a martyr complex? He remembered Joker taunting him earlier about being the Gotham Savior. Some savior he was; he was more of a false prophet if anything. So many deaths and lives wasted because others believed in the lies. Now he was in ruins confronted with all the guilt and anguish he could not get rid of. He thought of his journey across time and all the memories with it; slowly it began to fade away to be replaced by the painful truth he was forced to face. While all those he left across time died thinking their lives meant something, he would be the last one to die knowing the true insignificance of life.
He had turned into nothing. He was a fraud, a hoax. He couldn't believe there were people out there who actually loved him. Andrea, Selina, Talia, Zatanna, Helena, Gwen, and Diana. He found himself focusing on Diana a bit more. The woman who haunted his memories across time. He at first thought it was his mind telling him something but he now knew it was guilt. She served to him as the best symbol of how screwed up and pointless his life was. He spent so much time focused on his mission only to discover it didn't matter. He could've been with her and had a happy life at least before his death. But it was too late, she was gone now like the rest. He remembered telling Terry to live for the future after regretting his own mistakes. Some future. He had screwed over so many with false promises. And now Terry the son would suffer from the sins of the father.
He did remember what Hades said earlier. He wished he never was born. It would've been so much better. He wished he could fade away forever to end the pain permanently. If only he could have pretended his own birth while travelling across time, maybe things would've worked out for the better. He at least would never have had to live through all that pain again.
He felt nauseous and blood falling out his nose. He was about to detonate soon. Not that it mattered anymore.
"Is this what you wanted?" he shouted at the Void between sobs. "You wanted me to just give up this whole time?"
He didn't care that he was yelling at no one at the moment.
"Well I hope you're happy now! I give up! Bruce Wayne has finally given up! There's nothing left for me to do!"
Bruce coughed out some blood before bowing his head again.
"I'm done this time."
Bruce suddenly jerked his head up in surprise to the sound of something familiar. He knew that sound. He had heard it before. But it couldn't be…
A bright light shined in his face and he felt a sudden wind blowing at him. Bruce reached up his hands in reaction to cover his eyes. He could see a white spiral glowing. Someone was using a Boom Tube? Impossible. The universe was destroyed.
He heard the sound of humming as something long and mechanical shot out and grabbed his right wrist tightly.
"ARRR!" Bruce shouted as he felt a shocking feeling in his right wrist. It felt like it was draining something out of him.
Another humming sound which was quickly followed by the feeling of something mechanical and metal clasping around his wrist and draining him again.
"NNNNGGGGHHH!" Bruce groaned in pain. The shocking and draining feelings in his arms hurt really bad.
The boom tube was still going so he couldn't make out where the mechanical arms were coming from.
"You have fought and struggled so much for others. Yet I promised myself to never interfere..."
Bruce glared angrily at the voice. He couldn't make out who the speaker was.
"But she's right. It's the universe's turn now which I guess means it's my turn to help you, Batman…"
Bruce tried to squint despite the blinding light of the boom tube, forgetting the pain he was feeling in his arms.
"Who are you?"
"I am many things. Scientist, observer, wanderer, a god even…"
"Those are titles, not names," Bruce demanded angrily, the fighting spirit in him temporarily resurfacing and making him forget the guilt and mental pain he was feeling earlier. "Who are you?"
The boom tube suddenly stopped whirring and disappeared. Bruce found himself staring at a strange sight. Sitting on a floating, glowing yellow chair was a strange looking man. He was clad in futuristic looking blue suit. He was hunched over and Bruce noticed he had a very long grey beard that made him look older. Yet despite his apparent age his eyes still showed a sharpness of curiosity and had somewhat of a magic gleam to them despite their outwardly cold appearance.
"I am Metron," the stranger answered. "It's time we talked."