Disclaimer: I own neither Star Wars or DC Comics
Chapter Two: Another day at the Office
The Cauldron, Gotham City, several months after the "April Fool's" incident
Fear was a word that as a high ranking member of the Irish mob, Brandon Kelly did not use often. He had power, money, respect, all of the things that most people could only dream of. If he wanted someone to disappear then that person would most likely never be heard from again. Yes, dear Brandon had little to fear, and he had almost forgotten the meaning of the word. Tonight that had all changed.
There had been nothing unusual about tonight when it had started. He and a few of his boys had gone to a warehouse to carry out a drug deal off the books, a good way to make a little money without having to worry about splitting it with other mobsters. The deal had even nearly gone through to; they had just been in the middle of settling the price. Then out of nowhere the power had gone out. That was to be expected with old warehouses that were in the middle of falling apart, so at first it had been no cause for alarm, and they sent a man to go turn it back on. Before the guy had even left the room, they had all heard a sound. It had been some sort of breathing, heavy and sounding almost forced, yet at the same time not completely human. Immediately their guard had gone up, but the next sound they heard caused every criminal in that room to freeze. It was a sound that meant you were about to die, and there was nothing you could do about it. It was a sound that everyone in Gotham's underworld and beyond had learned to fear. It was that accursed snap-hiss, which would inevitably be followed by a black sword that promised damnation to any who resisted its hellish blade of fire, and its demonic master.
They had tried to resist of course; it was only one man with a fancy sword and suit against twenty mobsters with pistols, shotguns, and automatics. It would certainly be an unfair fight. For the mobsters it had definitely been unfair.
He had moved so fast they could barely see him, one man would fall to a slash of his plasma sword and then another ten feet away would follow mere moments afterward. They had guns and knives, which against their opponent were mere nuisances when he could summon forth storms of lightning from his finger tips, throw his black sword like a boomerang from hell – the memories of the sounds it made caused the mobster to shudder - manipulate the very air around him to cause men to be flung into walls like ragdolls, their spines broken. They had guns and knives, but what were those to a man who could pick a full grown person up into the air without even touching them? One who could crush your insides with a simple gesture, one who could kill with a thought?
They had resisted, and everyone in that warehouse except for Brandon and the monster now pursuing him had met a terrifying death.
The mobster ducked into an alleyway, running as fast as his legs could carry him, not daring to look back at the shadowy mass that he knew was there and oh so slowly gaining on him. This thing was toying with him, he realized. It would let him get ahead by just a little, make him think he could outrun it, make him dare to hope that he just might live; only for the assassin to suddenly be right on his heels, using the very air itself to push his form forward. It was slowly crushing his spirits, showing him that no matter how hard he tried he was powerless to escape the inevitable. Brandon Kelly didn't like that feeling, not one bit.
He continued running, only to stop when he realized the alley ended in a dead end. He quickly turned around, planning on doubling back and maybe going through a side door, when he saw his pursuer standing there, the hilt of his currently deactivated sword in his right hand. Its sickly yellow helmet gave the appearance of a predator analyzing its prey. It made the thing seem even less human. Kelly had heard stories about him, this black suited demon, and he had to say that none of them did it justice at all. It was as if the devil himself had created this entity to carry out his will.
The assassin took a step forward, causing Kelly to stumble backwards and fall against the wall, his eyes wide with fear. "Who sent you?" he asked. "The Italians, the Russians? Was it Joker?"
His executioner did not answer as he continued walking until he loomed over the helpless Irishman. Kelly shrunk back visibly as he brought his hands up to his chest. "Whatever they paid you, I'll double, no, triple it! Just let me go and I'll never tell anyone you were here!"
He visibly yelped when the cyborg ignited his strange weapon's plasma blade, the heat of it making him sweat slightly. He had abandoned all pretenses by this point. Now Brandon Kelly was starting to panic. "P-please! I have a wife and two daughters! They'll die without me! Please, let me go," he whimpered, sounding utterly pathetic in his fear.
The thing hardly even paused as it raised its black blade, but it did stop long enough to mercilessly declare, "Then you can blame your weakness for their deaths."
The blade descended, and in his final moments Brandon Kelly knew true despair.
Once the deed had been done Starkiller promptly began making his way out of The Cauldron. He didn't need to collect the body – one of his infiltrators in the police would pick it up later as they knew where it was. As he made his way back to his hideout he heard the distinctive of police sirens heading towards the warehouse, and he even glimpsed the Batmobile as it raced through the streets to the same location. He wasn't concerned though. They had found plenty of scenes just like the one he had created at the warehouse, and even though Starkiller left a very unique brand of destruction in his wake they would never be able to track things back to him … if they even knew he existed yet. The Dark Side was very useful for throwing off one's pursuers when used properly, and in the months since he had arrived here Starkiller had gotten very good at misleading this world's so-called "Justice League".
The name itself caused him to frown in disgust. Justice League, who were they, wannabe Jedi? The name smacked of self-righteousness and arrogance. After all who could truly define justice? Pure justice in any world, his own or this one was simply impossible. Many called Palpatine's New Order the embodiment of justice, but Starkiller knew more than enough to prove them wrong.
In the end it was a matter of perspective. The slaver viewed his oppression of the slave as justice while the slave viewed the death of the slaver as justice. What the tyrant might call justice and righteousness others might call oppression and slavery. Each being, no matter their upbringing, had their own view of justice. The Justice League merely enforced their brand of it, a very deluded kind of justice at that. How was it justice to refuse to kill a person who was obviously a very grave threat to society, one who had taken many lives with their destruction? Wouldn't that be the best solution? If the threat was destroyed then it could no longer endanger one's life and the lives of others.
They lacked the will to do what was necessary. In refusing to get their hands dirty for the sake of the greater good the heroes of the world showed themselves for the weak beings that they really were. In Starkiller's eyes it merely proved the truth of Sith philosophy. By allowing weak willed beings to gain power over them, the people of the world were made vulnerable to the strong. Chaos and destruction ensued as a result, and the world was in a perpetual state of crisis as the villains that this world's guardians refused to kill repeatedly rose up and wreaked havoc. The strong needed to rule in order for the weak to be properly led and protected.
Starkiller had interpreted the Sith view of the relationship between the "strong" and the "weak" rather differently than his masters. Whereas the classical Sith view was that the strong were destined to crush the weak under their heel as they dominated the environment around them, Starkiller had developed a very different interpretation. Yes, the strong were meant to rule the weak, and would have to use any means necessary to attain that rule which would inevitably involve much destruction and bloodshed. But once they gained dominion over the weak they should not crush them for not being strong, rather they should protect them and guide the weak along the path to a better, more peaceful world. It was admittedly somewhat naïve; there was always the chance that the strong would become corrupt and abuse their position along with other potential problems, but at least it would be a step forward. It was certainly better than the stagnation this world was experiencing. But how to go about it…?
The Sith Stalker was snapped out of his thoughts as he realized he had made it back to his base of operations in Gotham. It was an old warehouse, long abandoned, located near the outskirts of the city. It was a perfect place for him to set up a living space and base of operations for the line of work, i.e. an assassin for hire, he had chosen to start his monetary base though he had long since expanded and varied his operation. As he entered through a side entrance (he almost never used the front entrance as there was always the chance of someone watching) his amber colored eyes, a result of years of using the Dark Side, once again took in the sight of his current home from behind his helmet's faceplate.
It was as it had been when he had found it during his first days in Gotham, if less run down. Now the inside of the warehouse - which was more like an office building with the amount of space and rooms it had - was clean and orderly, the air was fresh, it had adequate if somewhat gloomy lighting, and had electricity and running water, the former of which was due to a pair of high output generators he had acquired. On one side of the room there was a door which led to the training area and armory. In the middle of the warehouse a cafeteria had been set up, complete with multiple tables and a full kitchen. On the other side was the hallway that led to the command center and storage area. Next to the entrance he had used was a stair case which led up to the second floor, which held the offices. Most of these had been converted into living quarters, but a small area had been set off for Starkiller's personal use as his quarters and private sanctum.
This setup would have been rather odd due to the fact that no people would have been around to use it, but that was far from the case as multiple individuals numbering somewhere in the thirties and wearing a black uniform similar to that of Imperial soldiers or an all black version of Stormtrooper armor with silver eye slits strolled about the area, those in the cafeteria which Starkiller had just entered either getting something to eat or chatting with others. Some could be seen entering or exiting the training area or the command center, either on break or returning to work. Upon seeing that their leader had returned, they all promptly stood at attention. One of the individuals, a woman in her early twenties, stepped forward. She spoke in a clipped and professional tone, one which contrasted with the criminal background many of them shared. "Welcome back sir. Was the mission successful?"
Starkiller nodded his head as he replied, "Yes, Brandon Kelly is dead. Where is Captain Alex?"
"He is in the command center at the moment sir. Shall I take you to him?"
Starkiller shook his head. "No, that won't be necessary," he replied before calling out to the rest of crowd in his baritone voice. "You may carry on as you were."
The soldiers – for that was the only suitable term for what they were now – immediately went back to whatever they had been doing as the Sith Lord began making his way to the command center. He walked over to one of the doors that led into a hallway with the same lighting as the cafeteria. It had approximately three doors on each side, each one leading to a storage room filled with wooden crates. Up ahead was the door to the command center. There were two guards wearing the pseudo-Stormtrooper armor armed with assault rifles stationed in front of the door in an intersection with two hallways leading off to other areas of the building. Upon seeing their leader they quickly saluted before one of them moved to open the double doors for him. As Starkiller briskly entered the command center he once again took in the room that could very well be described as his organization's nerve center.
There was no lighting save for the computer screens, which were arranged in a semi-circle in the middle of the room. Each computer was being monitored by a person wearing the same pseudo Imperial enlisted uniform as those in the cafeteria who filtered through the information their individual station gave to them, passing on that which was deemed important to their superior. Said superior was sitting in a high-backed chair in the middle of all of this, garbed in the same uniform as those of his subordinates, with the exception of the Captain's bars gleaming on his chest. The man known as Captain Alex.
He was somewhat plain with light skin, messy black hair and an average face along with a slight build. But to someone like Starkiller, he stood out instantly. It was in the Captain's eyes. They were themselves somewhat average, a deep brown, but if one looked deeper they would see the sharp, dangerous intelligence that lurked beneath. This man was not someone to be trifled with; he could pick apart a situation and come up with a solution in an instant. If his enemies had a surprise up their sleeves he had dozens of contingencies in place to counter it. The man was an absolute genius, almost unrivaled in his intellect. To think he had been left out on the streets to die like most of the others in this building. Starkiller thanked the Force that he had found Alex before he had died; otherwise his organization would not be where it was today. Hell it might not have even existed were it not for the man.
Alex seemed to notice the Dark Lord's arrival as he swiveled the chair around to face him, a cup of coffee in one hand and a clipboard in the other. He bowed his head in acknowledgement. "My Lord," he said as he stood, his tone an uncharacteristic combination of respect and admiration. It was usually dull and bored. "I trust your mission was successful?"
Starkiller nodded, his eyes on the clipboard as he did so. "Yes, Brandon Kelly is dead. The Irish Mafia has been dealt a severe blow they will not likely recover from."
A small smile grew on Alex's face at the thought. "Indeed, the rats had been getting annoying as of late. It will be nice to operate without their interference for once."
"Speaking of that, what's the status of the latest delivery?"
The veritable genius looked down at his clipboard for a moment before nodding in apparent approval of what he saw. "The weapons were delivered to Paris on schedule and with no problems. The payment has already been received and dispersed throughout our accounts. No traces whatsoever. Although, may I ask you a question, My Lord?"
Starkiller nodded, curious as to what Alex had on his mind. "Go on."
"As you know, when you first started building our organization Ascension, our primary source of income was through the various assassination contracts you accepted due to the fact that we lacked our own financial base. Now however we are making far more money through black market weaponry than the assassinations ever brought in for us.
"So why do you still take them up, My Lord? True, they do provide a hefty amount of extra money, but by now they are wholly unnecessary and therefore a waste of time and resources. I don't presume to know everything about you, but you don't strike as the kind of man who is wasteful."
Ah, so that's what he wanted to know. While normally Alex would be right when he called them a waste of time, in this case the man was very wrong. "They provide me an opportunity to maintain my skills," Starkiller said, giving only part of the whole answer. There were other reasons, but Alex didn't need to know them. Not yet anyway. "Simulated battle can only go so far; it is better to experience the real thing as much as possible to avoid complacency."
Alex cocked his head to the side in confusion. "So what you're saying is that the missions are your way of getting practice."
The assassin nodded, glad that Alex couldn't read his face even though he knew he could make it as emotionless as the mask that covered it. There was no telling what the genius might find if he was given even a single miniscule clue. Then again, that was the reason that Starkiller had taken him on in the first place. He didn't mistrust Alex, not completely anyway, but it was far too early in the game to let him know all of his secrets even if the man practically worshipped him. That was for another time. For now it was better that Alex remain blind to the true purpose of the missions, until Starkiller could be absolutely certain of his loyalty.
The Sith Lord's aide de camp cocked his eyebrow slightly, obviously skeptical at his master's answer. Eventually he brushed it off with a sigh. "Each to their own I suppose," Alex muttered before straightening. "Very well then. Will that be all, My Lord?"
The Sith Lord nodded, planning on heading to his chambers to get some rest. "Yes, continue with the good work Captain. I'll be in my chambers if you need me."
Alex nodded. "Yes, My Lord."
Warehouse in the Cauldron, Gotham City
Being the Police Commissioner of the G.P.D., James Gordon had seen some horrific sights in his career. Mass shootings, mutilated bodies, rapes, the list went on, and he had lost plenty of sleep due to the nature of his job.
But this, this was on a whole other level. Never before had the virtuous policeman seen such carnage. The building itself wasn't too bad, but the bodies… he knew then and there this memory would haunt him for years to come. The bodies were in all sorts of states, from mostly intact to literally piles of ashes. Some had limbs severed, others had heads decapitated, and more were completely cut in half. The faces of some of the corpses were frozen in eternal shock and terror. Whatever did this must have been a horrifying sight.
And the smell… Good God the smell made it even worse. The air was thick with it, the smell of burning flesh; it was nauseating. A few officers had already had to empty their stomachs, and while James himself maintained a professional demeanor his face had turned slightly green.
A rustling sound caught his attention, and as the Police Commissioner turned around he was met with the sight of a man dressed in black, with a cowl shaped to give him a bat like appearance. His lower face was the only thing exposed, but even without the sight of the deeper than usual scowl Gordon could tell that even Batman was slightly put off by the sight. "How many does this make so far?" he asked, not bothering with pleasantries. Not that Gordon could blame him.
"The third one this month," he replied as he took another look around at the warehouse, shaking his head at the sight of the bodies. "I've seen some pretty nasty stuff over the years, but if scenes like this keep popping up… I mean compared to this the Joker's a freaking walk in the park!"
The Dark Knight nodded in agreement as he knelt down next to a pile of ash, taking a sample to go over later. "Whoever did this, they're definitely a step up from what we're used to seeing. Were there any cameras still working?"
Gordon shook his head, his frustration evident on his face. That was the first thing he'd thought of, but all of the cameras had either been taken down or simply didn't work anymore. The building was practically ancient after all.
"Damn," Batman muttered, before standing and turning to face Gordon. "So we have no leads, no footage of the culprit, and we have no likely suspects either."
"Well, it could be a rival mob …"
Batman simply cocked an eyebrow. "Gordon, since when do mobsters leave piles of ash and cauterized slash wounds?"
A long pause. "Good point," Gordon replied, before his eyes lit up with an idea. "Say, doesn't that Martian on the Justice League have psychic powers?"
Batman shook his head. "J'onn's on a mission to New Genesis, and he won't be back for another week."
Gordon's face fell slightly as that idea was also thrown out the window. "Oh," was all he said."
Batman quickly put a hand on the police commissioner's shoulder. He didn't need his friend getting discouraged on the job, especially now with this serial killer on the loose. "It was a good idea, and I would even go along with it if J'onn wasn't going to be away for that long. But he needs to do his thing when the crime scene is still fresh, otherwise the signature begins to fade and become more difficult to understand. I don't really understand how his powers work, but they wouldn't be much use to us by the time he returned."
Gordon smiled slightly at the unexpected encouragement. Most people thought that Batman was a man of few words, and usually they were right; however every once in a while his words gave a glimpse of the true wisdom underneath that cowl. "Thanks. Speaking of that, how's the Justice League been for you lately?"
Batman's slight frown gave the elderly police officer an idea of the answer. "It's been… different. J'onn's a pit of depression every once in a while, Superman's a little too naïve for his own good, Hawk Girl and Green Lantern flirt all the time, Wonder Woman has the social awareness of a tree and Flash is, well… Flash."
The veteran officer cocked an eyebrow for a few seconds, staring Batman down. Eventually he simply shrugged his shoulders. "Whatever you say," he replied, before giving a wistful smile. "You know, thinking about the Justice League makes me wish Robin were here sometimes, I miss the kid. Those were-"
Before he could finish that statement Batman quickly put both of his hands on the older man's shoulders, confusing him greatly. "Gordon, that's it!" the hero exclaimed, having a small smile on his face as he whipped out a communicator.
"Huh?" was all the commissioner could manage in his confusion.
"Looks like we'll be getting some psychic help after all," Batman said by way of response as the communicator began ringing up another of its kind. "I just hope they can get from California to here in a couple of days."
The pain was stronger now.
The girl in her late teens cried out as another searing headache came about, clutching her head as she did so in a vain attempt to stop the pain. She was like this for a good ten minutes, curled up in a ball in some alley way unable to stop her tears from flowing as she waited for the pain to pass.
When the headache (or perhaps these were migraines?) finally did pass and she regained the ability to form coherent thought, the girl could only ask one question as she sat against the wall, tear stains still wetting her cheeks.
Why did she have to go through this? Had she done something wrong? Had she committed some horrible sin, had she angered whatever higher power existed in this world? Surely whatever she had done didn't warrant this though, right? She had always been a good girl, had always listened to her parents and had made sure she told them she loved them every day. She had never been mean to anyone, had she? She didn't think so. This girl always tried to be nice to whoever she met; she had never hurt anyone on purpose.
So again this begged the question, why?
Why did she have to suffer like this, when all she wanted was to go home?
Before an answer could be found the pain started up again, and the girl once again curled into a ball as she tried to suppress her pained whimpers.
She just wanted the pain to go away.
Author's Note: Yeah... when I said a long time, I meant a LONG time. At last though I finished this chapter, and the good news is that I will be focusing on this story quite a bit with one of my other major projects being temporarily put on ice for a remodeling.
I only have one thing to say about this chapter.
I'm sure some eyebrows will be raised at Starkiller having a band of followers already. Before I get called out on this let me explain my reasoning. Starkiller has been in the JL universe for quite a few months now, around nine. That's nearly a year. Now if Batman can get away with having a freaking space station ready and in orbit within a couple of weeks with minimal problems then I don't see why our protagonist (or antagonist?) can't have his own organization after a few months. And I must stress that his organization is still relatively small and in the middle of expanding; the Sith Lord is still getting his power base set up and therefore isn't going to be making any major moves (except for his big debut) for a little while. Once he gets a sufficient amount of strength and manpower though... boy are we in for one heck of a ride.
Looks like that's all for now, see you next time.
Edit: A minor change. I went back and altered the name of Starkiller's organization from the Black Hand to Ascension. After a bit of consideration I found this to be both more original and not sounding like the name of some Saturday morning cartoon villain group. Although I give a tip of my hat to anyone who knows the historical significance of the Black Hand.
Edit II: Another change. I went back and took out the part where Batman blushes on Wonder Woman. After some consideration, I decided that it would be better if I didn't pair him with her. Don't worry though, he'll be paired with someone. A cookie goes to whomever guesses correctly.