Disclaimer: I own neither Star Wars or the DC Universe
Chapter Four: Ascension Rising
An ancient power was stirring.
Born of darkness, it warped the environment around it to its will, creating a veil of darkness and malevolent intent. Concepts such as space and time meant nothing to it, all that mattered was its single purpose: absolute domination.
It had slumbered for millennia after its creators had left, devoid of purpose and forgotten even by the oldest of gods. For ages it had been the only thing with access to the unique energy that powered its tireless forges. That was no longer the case.
Its semi-sentient conscious sensed a being like itself, a being that shone like a beacon, radiating sweet, sweet darkness that saturated the environment around him like spilled ink in the same manner as it. It felt joy, or whatever twisted amalgamation that passed for it. A kinsman! A brother in arms! A being strong enough to tame and finally unleash it! Master...
The darkness around it was so thick it was as an ocean, devoid of life and light. Space seemed to tremble in fear as the sacred forges nearly activated…
Then it stopped. The darkness receded, space released a sigh of blissful relief, content that the threat had passed.
But it was not so.
The power stayed at the ready, prepared to wreak its unholy wrath upon the galaxy in the name of its rightful master, but not now. The time was not right. It would wait. It would wake.
Unknown location, Metropolis
The life of a Seeker was, Shadow reflected, overestimated by the rank-and-file. Most people constantly told tales of Seekers doing awe inspiring things such as taking out entire buildings' worth of enemies all on their own or toppling entire countries. And while they did do things like that from time to time, their job required them to have such skill sets after all, that was usually after weeks of observing, planning, and waiting. It was quite nerve racking. It was one of the reasons the training program had such a high dropout rate. Many simply did not have the level of cunning and patience necessary to do the missions required of them.
His jade eyes glinted as he thought of this. That was what made them the only intelligence force worthy of serving Lord Starkiller as his shadow army of spies and assassins. Sure the regular intelligence agents in Ascension were no slouches themselves, but they were not on the same level as a Seeker; they couldn't handle the missions that most would consider suicidal while Seekers didn't even bat an eyelash. If a Seeker couldn't handle it, then who could?
He was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of a knife impacting the wall next to him. He raised his eyebrow slightly as he looked at the knife and then looked over his shoulder at the person responsible for throwing it. "Was that really necessary?" he asked, not at all sounding as if he had been nearly impaled in the head by the wicked, two pronged blade (which was nearly a foot long).
The man responsible simply gave a shrug in response as he walked over to the knife and with a slight tug pulled it out of the wall. As he put the weapon away in his trench coat the man retorted, "You were getting distracted."
For his part Shadow simply snorted as he returned to what he was originally supposed to be doing, observing the Metropolis Museum of Natural History. As usual nothing had changed.
"Any changes?" the man asked, causing Shadow's eyebrow to twitch slightly.
"No changes," he replied calmly. "If they suspect anything they're being very casual about it."
Inwardly he knew that their enemies suspected nothing. The good professor had really come through for them, getting Ascension plans of the building (even the ones the government didn't want people to see) and getting the security codes for the defenses in the basement. Lord Starkiller was pleased, it had allowed them to accelerate their plans for gaining the artifact to a near breakneck pace. The attack would be soon, that much was certain.
"I don't trust him," the man said suddenly, breaking the silence that had ensued.
Shadow put down the binoculars he had been using and turned to fully face the apartment's other occupant. He was an unassuming man of Chinese descent, wearing a black trench coat over a black long-sleeved shirt and black pants while sporting a pair of black, er, slippers. While he did have a rather handsome face, there was nothing truly memorable about him. With average length raven hair, the bangs of which fell down to cover his forehead and dark blue eyes that were nearly black, he could easily blend into a crowd. Could easily pass himself off as normal.
But this man was anything but normal. That trench coat was bullet proof, the slippers were actually worn by martial arts practitioners, the clothing hid the body of an athlete, and under the trench coat was a combat harness containing a wire mechanism which could be attached to the hilt of the knife.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Arguably one of the best assassins in existence, this man had achieved legendary status amongst the Seekers for his perfect mission record and the fact that he had been trained by Lord Starkiller himself in the deadly arts. Add in the fact that the man was a metahuman, and it was no surprise that he was the first Seeker and Starkiller's personal assassin, the best of the best. The Reaper.
Remembering that Reaper had said something earlier, Shadow cleared his throat as he replied. "He has been completely reliable and has managed to come through for us so far. I think he deserves some trust on our part."
Reaper merely stared at him. "You know what I mean," he said in his usual monotone voice.
Shadow sighed. "Yes, his obsession is a bit worrying, but I'm certain it won't interfere."
"And if it does?"
The suit wearing Seeker stared unblinkingly at his colleague. "Then I will deal with him myself. Even if he does cooperate I intend to dispose of him. I'm not leaving any loose ends."
The two Seekers stared each other down for a moment before Reaper looked away and began tossing his mask into the air. "Good," he said.
Shadow smirked at his companion's (he wouldn't call him a friend. Neither of them were capable of such sentiments) response. "I'm sorry, were you looking forward to killing him yourself?" he said teasingly.
The mask fell into Reaper's hands as he stared blankly at him.
He chuckled at the man's response to his jibe. "Don't worry, Reaper," he said, putting extra emphasis on the name as he turned to regard the museum and all the people gathered around it. His eyes were cold as he looked at them like a scientist analyzing lab samples. "There will be plenty of killing to go around once the action starts."
The sound of footsteps answered him as Reaper came to stand next to him. Shadow turned and saw that he had donned the mask, completing his persona as Starkiller's assassin. It was painted to look like a smiling human face, but the effect was unsettling instead of comforting. The smile was thin and cold, devoid of any caring or sympathy, while the eyeholes in the mask were black and empty, the one way reflective glass preventing anyone from seeing the eyes underneath. A purple lightning bolt shot down through the right eye, creating a slightly contrasting effect of the comedic and fear inducing. That was the intent though. If it served to confuse the man's enemies, it would simply make killing them easier. That was all that mattered.
"Not just that," Reaper corrected, prompting Shadow to look at him curiously. Under his mask the first Seeker smirked. "Soon our lord shall set his plans in motion. We'll finally be able to reveal ourselves to the world."
Shadow smirked dangerously as he replied. "Yes, to think that not even a year ago you and I were simple thugs on the street, devoid of purpose."
Reaper had assumed a nostalgic tone as he replied. "I remember those days. They seem so far away."
"And now here we are, the top spies of a metahuman terrorist on the verge of challenging the entire Justice League. How things have changed."
The two stood in silence for a moment before Reaper turned around and began walking away. "We've waited long enough. Contact Lord Starkiller. The time to attack is now."
Shadow's smirk turned wide and feral as he pulled out his cellphone. "Roger that."
He turned his eyes back to the museum as he dialed the number that would change history. His eyes gained an anticipatory gleam as he took in the museum one more time.
For our glorious Ascension.
Once the signal had been sent a series of events laid out through weeks of meticulous planning had been set into motion. Five seconds after the signal, the museum's security network began undergoing maintenance during which time the cameras and alarms would be disabled. At the same time a quarter of the guards, amounting to ten, left their posts for a break. All of the guards who left were new, and no one noticed all of them head to the same storage room as they came in groups of twos and threes. A few blocks away, a group of three unmarked shipping trucks started up and began making their way to the museum.
At the same time Smith entered the basement as usual and the military guards paid him no mind. He always went to see the artifact, so it was business as usual. None of them noticed that instead of heading to the artifact like he normally did, he took a different route before ending up at a little known door which had been overlooked when setting up the basement's security for the holocron. He glanced around before unlocking and opening the door, revealing six figures. Four of them were garbed in the full body armor of Ascension Stormtroopers which bore the colors and marks of Ascension's Fist and were armed with assault rifles. The third figure was garbed in a black trench coat and had a white mask covering his face. Smith ignored the feeling of dread the mask gave him, instead focusing his attention on the person in the middle. He was familiar, dressed in the same all black suit he had worn the day they had met. The only difference in his appearance now was the balaclava that covered Shadow's head, with the eyeholes being covered by black reflective lenses. There was no hole for the mouth or nose, though the material was easy to breathe through.
Another difference was the pistol that Shadow had leveled directly at Smith's face.
The professor barely had time to blink in confusion before the pistol was fired with a silent cough, the bullet directly piercing his brain and ending his life in less than a second. Two of the Stormtroopers rushed forward and quickly caught the man's body preventing it from making any noise. The other Stormtroopers and Reaper rushed in and aimed their weapons, in Reaper's case having his knife at the ready, making sure that no one came around and saw them. Shadow stepped forward and cast a brief glance at Smith's lifeless eyes once the Stormtroopers had joined their comrades. He sniffed before raising his hand to his ear. "This is Shadow, we're in."
With the security guards on break, who surprisingly enough were now wearing Stormtrooper armor in A.F. colors themselves, one of them activated their communicator. "This is Alpha, we're ready."
"Copy that. Alpha, stand by and await orders. Shadow, make your way to the basement security control room."
"Acknowledged, ETA to Overlord's arrival?" Shadow asked.
"ETA five minutes to arrival Shadow."
"Copy," Shadow said as he turned to his Stormtroopers and Reaper. "You heard him, let's move."
The group made their way through the basement carefully avoiding all the checkpoints and any patrols. Within three minutes they had reached the control room and dispatched the guards. Reaper and the Stormtroopers stood guard while Shadow quickly began disabling the basement security systems. Within thirty seconds he was done. "This is Shadow, basement security is disabled."
"Copy that Shadow, Overlord is arriving now. Hold position. Alpha, engage after the signal."
As this was done the three shipping trucks pulled up to the museum's loading dock in the back. This was no cause for alarm, as the trucks were expected. The workers went to open the trucks, and in a small coincidence all three of the trucks were opened at the same time.
To reveal forty-six Stormtroopers with their rifles aimed at the workers and guards who all wore expressions of shock. At the head of the Stormtroopers in the middle truck Starkiller stood with his lightsaber drawn. It ignited with a snap-hiss and was pointed at the now terrified workers. For a moment all was silent before he said one simple word both to his group and the ones over the communicator: "Attack!"
Within seconds all of the Stormtroopers poured out of the trucks as they opened fire, quickly dispatching all of the workers and guards before the latter even had a chance to draw their weapons. It was a foregone conclusion really. Stormtroopers in Ascension's Fist were some of the best trained Special Forces operatives in the world. The guards would have been lucky to even get their pistols aimed.
At the same time the ten Stormtroopers in the storage room burst out and began firing indiscriminately much to the surprise and panic of the crowd and guards. People screamed and desperately made their way for the exit while the guards frantically drew their weapons and called for backup. To their dismay they found they were being jammed.
The guards still tried to put up a brave defense, but they were outclassed and outgunned. Their 9mm bullets couldn't even pierce the armor of the Stormtroopers, further demoralizing them.
Some surrendered and begged for mercy. They were met with a bullet in the head.
By the time Starkiller made it to the basement entrance the rest of the building had been secured by the Stormtroopers. For a moment he simply stood in front of the door, ignoring the bodies of the security guards from when his troops had come through here earlier. Instead he reached out with his senses and immersed himself in the Force, feeling each and every person within the building. He could feel the methodical precision of his soldiers as they cleared out the building, executing anyone they saw. He felt the fear of civilians and guards alike as they desperately hid from the new threat that had appeared amongst them. Going further he sensed the military personnel below readying themselves, preparing for whatever they might face. It would do them no good. They would fall before him like trees before a storm.
He didn't move as he felt Alex step up behind him. The man had officially volunteered to come along to handle the logistics of the mission, but Starkiller felt something deeper. It seemed that Alex was pondering something, but what that was he was unable to figure out.
They stood in companionable silence for an unknown amount of time before Alex decided to speak. "The building is secured, my lord. As ordered, all of the guards have been neutralized, and all captured civilians have been huddled into a storage room."
"And those who resisted?" he asked.
He didn't see it but he felt the macabre smile on the man's face. "Executed."
The Sith Lord nodded in satisfaction. "Well done Captain."
Alex turned his attention to the door. "Would you like the Stormtroopers to clear out the basement my lord? I can have a squadron here imme-"
"No," Starkiller interrupted, stopping Alex midsentence. "I will deal with any resistance down there myself. Meanwhile I want the rest of the Fist to secure the building. Nothing gets in or out. Is that clear?"
Alex gave a short bow. "It will be done at once my lord."
Starkiller nodded before walking up to the door that barred his way. The cyborg raised his hand palm facing the door, and for a moment nothing happened. But then out of nowhere Alex saw something burst forth from his master's hand and smash into the door. It was knocked completely off its hinges and flew down the staircase that led into the basement. Both men heard screams come up from below.
Without a word Starkiller began walking down the staircase, everything silent save for his breathing. His eyes flashed. Soon, the holocron will be mine.
Alex stood there for a moment as he watched his lord walk down the staircase. Inwardly he was in awe. He had never seen Starkiller's powers in action before, but he had heard of them. And he had to say that the stories did not begin to describe what he had just seen. He could feel the power that had radiated from his master, it practically saturated the room. It was something ominous and terrifying, and it sent chills down even his spine.
Alex smiled a devil's smile as his eyes flashed fuchsia. His master was fascinating indeed. A being truly worthy of his allegiance.
His eyes darted to his right at the sound of a child sniffling. A normal human wouldn't have been able to hear such a thing, but he was far from normal. He began walking toward the noise at a sedate pace, taking time to revel in the fear he heard in the child's voice.
He had been the one to suggest that they not avoid targeting civilians. Officially it was to allow their troops an easier time of eliminating the guards and inciting mass panic, but there was another, darker reason.
Alex hated them. Every single one of them. The people who went about their everyday lives oblivious to the fact that their prosperity was built on suffering and corpses. Built on his misery and the lives of those dear to him. All to achieve a pipe dream. He wanted them to know his pain. He wanted the entire human race to know true despair.
His master was the means through which that would be achieved. It wasn't obvious, but Alex could tell. Beyond his methods and appearance, Starkiller was a being born of darkness. There was something about him that was simply unholy, and at times Alex could swear that when the cyborg entered a room the light seemed to recede, as if it were recoiling from some foul thing.
They were alike in that way he supposed. His own original purpose was something truly sinister.
He was brought out of his thoughts as he stopped in front of where the boy was crying. He was huddled over the bodies of his parents, both riddled with bullet holes. From their positions he gathered that they had died shielding the boy. The thought caused his smile to widen slightly.
Fat load of good it would do the boy, now that he was here.
The child finally noticed that he wasn't alone, and when he looked up the Ascension Captain could see the pain and fear in the child's eyes. But there was something else there. Something that did not belong in a child.
Hate. Sheer, unadulterated hate, burning with the intensity of a thousand fires. Alex's inhuman eyes met the boy's hateful gaze unflinchingly. For a moment they stood in silence before he reached out and grabbed the boy's head. The child tried to get away, but his grasp was firm.
The captain's smile turned pleasant, and for a moment the boy was surprised and stopped his struggling. Then without hesitation Alex crushed the boy's skull in his hand. With a thud the child fell, blood puddled beneath him.
The pleasant smile remained in place as the captain began walking away, his eyes having remained in their unnatural color the entire time.
Soon his smile regained its darker quality while blood dripped from his hand. This day was turning out to be glorious.
Starkiller's breathing echoed off the walls of the hallway as he examined the door that led to the vault. Behind him a scene of carnage was all that remained of the guards that had so desperately tried to stop the Sith Lord. They had fared little better than the security guards upstairs, even with their military training and equipment. Such things were nothing next to the power of the Force.
He could practically taste the holocron now. Its aura was the sweet flavor of the Dark Side, and together with the conscious of its gatekeeper it created a siren's song that was simply irresistible to anyone, even those not attuned to the Force. It was practically begging to be claimed, hoping for anyone to come along and discover its secrets. Well, he would be happy to oblige it.
Reaching out with the Force he focused his power on the vault door, bending it to his will. There was an ominous creaking, and before long the allegedly indestructible door came off its hinges bent and dented. Starkiller barely paid it any heed as he tossed the object aside, his focus solely on the pedestal in the middle of the vault. Or rather, what was on top of the pedestal.
His mouth stretched in a cold smile as he saw it. The holocron was of typical Sith design; a three sided pyramid made of black metal with intricate carvings and sharp letters in the ancient Sith language etched all over its surface. The tip of the holocron was an onyx crystal, inside of which a vortex of dark power seemed to swirl with untamed ferocity.
"At last," he breathed to himself as his legs carried him forward. Before he knew it the Sith lord was directly in front of the holocron, and with bated breath he reached forward and finally seized his prize.
Physically the holocron was cold, extremely cold. It was as if it had been shoved into a freezer with the temperature set dozens of degrees below zero. In the Force however, it was different. In the Force it blazed hotter than any super nova, and Starkiller both felt a sense of euphoria and slight pain just holding it. That was to be expected after all. This was the holocron of Marka Ragnos, arguably one of the greatest Sith lords to have ever lived. Oh the secrets it must have held! He could not wait to delve into it later on.
The Sith was brought out of his reverie by the sound of his communicator beeping. Holding the holocron in one hand he answered. "Yes?"
"My lord," Alex's voice sounded slightly distressed. "The police have arrived. They have the building surrounded."
"I fail to see how that is a problem Captain," he replied, slightly annoyed that his aide de camp would even bother him with such a trivial thing.
"That is not the real problem, my lord," Alex answered back. "The Justice League is with them."
The Sith raised an eyebrow, surprised. He honestly hadn't expected the wannabe Jedi to actually show up. It was nothing he couldn't handle though.
"I see. How many of them are there?"
"… All of them, my lord."
Oh. Maybe he did have a problem…
Starkiller had counted on perhaps one or two members of the Justice League showing up, maybe three. While ideally the holocron's recovery would have gone on without any of them interfering he had known that wasn't likely considering the fact that they were in Metropolis, so he had planned for some of the League showing up, just in case. But to have all of them show up… he was in trouble.
He didn't panic though. He was a Sith lord, a being fully immersed in the Dark Side. He had faced down Jedi Masters, Rancors, and fellow Sith and nearly always come out on top. As long as he kept his wits about him and anchored himself within the Force he would emerge victorious.
"Alex, this is an order. Head to the middle of the museum, the Egyptian exhibit if I remember. Have Shadow and Reaper meet you there as well. I will be there shortly."
"I understand, my lord. What do I tell the troops?"
"Tell them to continue patrolling the building until I give out further orders. If they encounter any police they are to eliminate them immediately. If any patrols encounter a meta they are to send out an alert and then engage in a fighting retreat."
"Acknowledged my lord. I shall await your arrival."
With that the link was cut. Starkiller grimaced as he went over the odds. Eight first class metas and that one normal human who possessed an almost unnatural skill in hand-to-hand combat. Add to that however many police were aiding them and the odds definitely weren't in the Sith cyborg's favor. The only things he had going for him was the fact that his troops had far better training than the police, they were playing defense, and the enemy didn't know how many troops he had. Not the best of situations, but he would work with what he had. He'd done it before.
As he went on planning how to win this encounter, Starkiller felt a familiar feeling build up inside of him. He felt it every time he went into battle or faced a particularly challenging opponent.
For so long this world had only offered him paltry opponents that were easily crushed beneath his boot. It was refreshing to finally face a foe that could force him to his physical limit. For this situation he would have to use every available resource to its utmost to win. And perhaps, he thought as he began forming a plan in his mind, he knew just how to do that.
Outside of the museum the atmosphere was thick with tension, so much so that it felt like one was walking through an ocean. Police cruisers filled the street, with officers taking cover behind the vehicles with their weapons constantly aimed at the doors leading into the museum itself, weary of an assault by the terrorists. Other policemen were meanwhile maintaining a cordon to keep the curious and anxious civilians from getting too close. No one was allowed in or out save other police officers or the occasional journalist who had somehow managed to get clearance.
One such journalist was currently busy trying to catch up with a certain blue and red garbed metahuman, her violet eyes flashing in slight irritation at the fact that she was being ignored. Honestly, she hated it when he was this focused sometimes. Though most of the time she was the object of his focus, and in those cases it was enough to make her go weak in the knees. But not today.
"Superman," Lois Lane said with a raised voice, her long legs allowing her to keep up with the levitating meta. "If I could have a moment of your time…"
"No comment," he interrupted, causing the reporter to frown. "Now if you'll excuse me."
He began to move away, but before the Kryptonian could escape Lois had gripped his wrist. For a moment she thought of how easy it would be for him to rip her arm off, but the journalist knew Superman, or to her Clark, would never do that. He was always gentle with her, from a simple touch to their most intimate moments.
She gave a small smirk as he turned around. "You're not getting away that easily," she purred, though the steel in her voice was undeniable.
When she saw his eyes though her attitude fell away. Outwardly he appeared calm and in control, but Lois knew him like no one else. She could see in Superman's eyes that he was furious, but also inwardly weeping. He considered the people of Metropolis his own people, and to see them attacked in such a way, on his watch no less, must not have been easy on the Kryptonian.
"Hey," she said, this time with much more gentleness. "This isn't your fault. There's no way you could have known this was going to happen. Don't beat yourself up."
Superman looked away, trying to hide the sorrow in his eyes, but she still saw it. "But it is my fault Lois," he said, lowering his voice so that no one else could hear them. "I'm supposed to protect them, they rely on me to keep them safe, and I couldn't do it! Some psychopath is on the loose in there right now holding who knows how many hostages, and dozens of people are already dead, and it all happened on my watch!"
She was about to respond when the secret couple was interrupted by a familiar rough voice. "Superman, you need to get over here."
They both turned to see the Caped Crusader standing a few feet away from them, his pose betraying a sense of urgency.
"I'll be right there!" Superman shouted, before turning back to face Lois. "I've got to go."
For her part Lois nodded. "You go do what you have to. I'll be waiting."
With that the man she loved turned around and made his way over to his colleague, and as they walked away Lois could see the two heroes engaged deep in conversation. A little ways off she could see the rest of the Justice League and, if she wasn't mistaken, the Teen Titans circled around a table next to an armored car along with a few senior policemen and SWAT members also in the middle of an intense conversation.
Seeing nothing else for her to really do the raven haired reporter began making her way back to the cordon. As she did so Lois thought about whoever might be stupid and crazy enough to pull this kind of stunt in the middle of Metropolis. She almost felt sorry for them. Her boyfriend was going to make them have a very bad day before this was over for hurting the people he protected.
Upon further thought, Lois found that it didn't disturb her that much that she hoped Clark made the people responsible for this suffer.
Over with the heroes and police, they were currently in the midst of trying to come up with a plan to get into the museum and rescue the hostages while catching the person, or most likely persons, responsible. Suffice to say they were making little progress.
"We should launch a full assault on the front," Hawk Girl was saying while she clutched her mace tightly. "With all of the metas we've got here there's no way they'd be able to hold us off."
"That would work fine if we just wanted to destroy the place," a SWAT member retorted. "But you're forgetting the hostages. We'd never be able to get to them in time. We need a stealthier approach."
"I agree with the officer," a member of the Titans, Starfire, said. "A frontal assault would be most unwise. Especially as we do not know the enemy's strength or numbers. We need more information."
"We don't have time for that," Wonderwoman shot back, placing her hands flat on the table. "They'd kill the hostages long before we could find out anything. We must strike now!"
"That puts too many lives at risk Diana," Green Lantern said. "The little lady and the SWAT are right. Blunt force won't help us here."
That resulted in a scathing retort from the Amazon, which quickly resulted in nearly everyone at the table getting into an argument with one another. For her part Raven simply sighed and closed her eyes as she tried to stave off the headache she could feel brewing. Most of the Justice League were arguing with one another, while only the Martian Manhunter and Batman along with the rest of her team were watching from the sidelines.
She fought off the annoyance that surged within her at their pointless display. Honestly, lives were on the line and they were more concerned with whose plan would get used? It filled the telepath with a cold fury and made her want to rip them limb from limb…
She blinked in surprise at herself. Where had that come from? Her emotions were well in control as far as she could tell. What could have caused her thoughts to take such a turn?
Raven jumped slightly as she felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned to see the Martian looking at her intensely. "Do you feel it?" he asked.
She stared at him for a moment before reaching out with her mind, and for a moment she nearly recoiled. Raven's eyes were wide as she turned to her fellow telepath, though her voice remained calm. "I feel… darkness. There's so much malice in the air, I feel as if I'm being drowned by it. I also sense a… presence. But it's almost as if… I don't know how to describe it. The best word I can come up with is that it feels twisted. As if a person was taken and molded into something completely different from what they used to be."
J'onn nodded, having come up with the same description himself when he had first felt the strange presence. He chose not to voice the fact that the mere feel of the… entity made him want to curl into a ball.
"What do you think it means?" Raven asked, some of her fear bleeding through into her voice.
For a moment J'onn stayed silent, opting to gaze at the museum with piercing eyes, as if he could somehow see into the building and what it contained. Eventually he answered.
"I have a feeling that the visions you and I had so long ago are about to be given meaning," he said cryptically.
For a moment the half-demon was confused by what the Martian meant when suddenly someone shouted, "Look, on the screen!"
All eyes followed to where the person was pointing, and they landed on the massive screen that was placed on the front of the museum.
Raven's eyes widened. For standing there, cast in front of a black background with stylized gray 'A' with embroideries around it, was him.
The being that had made her awake with a wail of despair and fear so long ago now stood before them in all of his terrifying glory. Even with the dignified pose the man assumed, both arms crossed behind him with his back straight, his appearance was that of a primal beast, ready to rend flesh from bone and end life at a moment's notice. His eerily inhuman breath sent chills down the telepath's spine. It sounded almost as if the breathing was forced, as if he was incapable of doing it on his own. Though she supposed it was somewhat fitting. It belied the fact that he had given up his humanity to become something twisted. A being of pure darkness. A demon.
Even though they were only seeing an image of the cyborg (that's how he appeared anyway) everyone looking at the screen felt as if his eyes that were hidden behind the sickly yellow death mask were staring directly at them, judging them, and finding them unworthy.
It was not only on the museum's screen that he appeared. Every electronic device in the world that was meant for viewing media, be it a TV, a computer, or a cell phone, bore the same image of the man (was he? Or perhaps he was something far more sinister) in black.
The reactions differed. Many were shocked, others were afraid, a few were simply curious, while even fewer promptly saluted with a cry of 'Hail, Ascension!' if they weren't in public.
All of them, however, were united in the simple fact that they would listen.
Starkiller – no, that wasn't his name, not anymore, not after what the holocron had told him- smiled his usual icy smile as he gazed directly at the cameras that were set up before him. It had been a simple matter to have Alex hack the planet's media network and override all other broadcasts with their own. The Ascension captain had disappointedly remarked that he 'could have done it in my sleep dozens of times over'.
He knew that it was a bit soon, but he couldn't help but feel a massive sense of accomplishment. Not only would he finally reveal himself to the world, but he had achieved an even higher form of recognition, something he had sought ever since his tutelage under Vader had begun.
He had been recognized as a true Sith Lord. Not just a slave to another Sith's will, but a genuine Sith, a worthy heir – nay, wielder - of the title Dark Lord of the Sith. It was the will of Marka Ragnos himself. And loathe was the Sith Stalker to refuse the will of the being whom, if he were alive, would have been his emperor.
For a moment he was silent, making no noise save for his mechanical breathing, reveling in the brief feeling that there was nothing that could stop him. He knew that the opposite was true, but it was a nice feeling nonetheless.
Pushing those thoughts aside, the Dark Lord gazed directly into the camera in front of him as he finally spoke.
"Greetings. I am Darth Nox, the Lord of Ascension."
Slade raised his eyebrow in interest at this new development. "Oh? What's this?"
"For months now I have observed this world and its intricacies. I have studied and noted its societies, its governments, and its so-called 'Justice League'. I have watched as the heroes of this world clashed repeatedly with villains in a never ending conflict, the purpose of which continues to elude me. From my observations, I have reached one conclusion."
Slade leaned forward, wondering what this Darth Nox's conclusion would be.
"This world is stagnant."
If Brainiac had eyebrows they would be quite the ways up its forehead. What a curious thing to say, though what Nox said wasn't entirely invalid. This, along with possibilities on the identity of this new player, would require further analysis.
"There is no progress. There is no change. Only a status quo that the 'heroes' of the Justice League and everywhere around the world insist on maintaining. They claim to uphold justice, but in reality they only refuse to sully their own hands. The villains of this world constantly rise up and unleash meaningless chaos upon the masses, only to be apprehended by heroes whom, instead of ending the threat, only exacerbate the problem by locking the villains away in standard prisons. Then the villains inevitably escape and repeat the process. It is a cycle with no end in sight, destined to go on for eternity unless a change is made. The fault does not lie solely with the heroes however."
Maximum Security Prison
Lex Luthor snorted. This "Darth Nox" went on about how there was a cycle of meaningless chaos and criticized both heroes and villains for perpetrating it when he himself was committing chaos. What else would you call the show that was happening at the Metropolis Museum of Natural History? Though at least he was getting some entertainment out of this. He wondered about the cyborg's name though. Luthor had the suspicion that it both a name and a title put together, though what sort of title he didn't know.
"Much of the blame belongs to the majority of the common people. They have made beings such as Superman and Batman into practical demigods, worshipping the ground they walk on and espousing their naiveté of non-lethal vigilantism as the right way. They have fooled themselves into thinking that every problem they encounter can be solved through talk instead of action. That if everyone would get along all of the world's problems would just go away. In other words, humanity has become complacent, weak. No change is sought due to fear of upsetting the current balance. The vast majority of the world wishes to go around in circles and live in their dreams of peace rather than face reality."
Superman narrowed his eyes at the screen as Nox paused. By now his fists had gone white and were shaking, so hard were they clenched. How dare this man spit on everything they had done for the world by calling it naïve and complacent?
"This attitude nearly resulted in the extinction of the human race. Everyone recalls the White Martian Invasion years ago, which I will admit was thwarted only through the efforts of the Justice League, but were it not for the actions of one of their members the destruction wrought by the invasion might have been avoided."
Superman narrowed his eyes, knowing where this was going. Everyone else around him was looking on in interest.
"Just before the invasion had begun, the metahuman known as Superman launched a disarmament program to rid the world of its entire collective stockpile of nuclear weapons. A noble pursuit, but one that would cost the world dearly. Entire cities destroyed, families torn apart, governments in tatters, in short the world was thrown into chaos. The White Martians left a battered and bleeding world behind with their defeat, the technological superiority of their machines rendering the actions of the world's militaries largely futile. Nearly every politician and analyst, along with myself, believe that most of the damage could have been avoided if the world had had access to its nuclear stockpile, the one weapon the invaders would have been powerless against. Now, whose fault is it that we were unable to fight back effectively? Why, Superman's, of course."
Selina Wayne narrowed her eyes as she and her daughter watched the broadcast with Alfred standing behind them, ready to attend to their needs even though he was paying just as much attention to the TV as they were. The world had mostly rebuilt since the Invasion several years ago, but there were still areas that had yet to fully recover from the sheer destruction the White Martians had wrought with their war machines. People still remembered how bad it had been, and quite a few pinned the blame on Superman for his campaigning of complete nuclear disarmament. It was a sound strategy actually, she was somewhat impressed.
Well played, Darth Nox, she thought. Shifting the attention away from your murdering innocent people to the mistakes of the world's biggest meta. You're smarter than you look.
Selina was brought out of her thoughts by her daughter tugging on her sleeve. When she looked down she saw a look of fear on the young Lady Wayne's face. "Mommy, why is the scary man saying mean things about Uncle Clark?"
Selina pulled her daughter closer, rubbing her back soothingly. She didn't like it when people didn't get along with one another, it always made the girl sad. Selina adored that about her daughter, and while she feared it would cloud Helena's thinking in the future she also hoped the young girl never lost that quality. "He just doesn't know how to be nice to people honey. Don't worry, Daddy and Uncle Clark will make sure he isn't mean to anyone else soon."
Selina hugged her daughter close, comforting her but at the same time paying attention to the broadcast. Much as it pained her to make her daughter sit through this, she had to make sure she caught every snippet of what this "Lord of Ascension" had to say.
She stood riveted in front of the TVs in the electronic store's display window, wanting so desperately to get away yet simply unable to. For her legs would not move.
"I had hoped Superman would learn from this mistake of his and adopt a more cautious and pragmatic approach to his self-appointed position as Custodian of the World. But I was left disappointed when he decided to insist in pursuing the course of disarmament in an age where Earth simply cannot afford to disarm. There are dangers everywhere, and while Superman is a able guardian, even he is not infallible. He is just as capable of unleashing destruction upon the planet as he is of protecting it. We all know what happened when the being known as Darkseid took control of him and nearly conquered the world. This is why metas such as Superman need to be restrained, kept in check by an impartial power with the strength to confront them if need be. Nations such as the United States have such strength, but instead of checking the Justice League and preventing them from gaining too much power the US works alongside the League to further their own agendas. I cannot allow this."
She stepped back, clenching her head in her hands as it burst into a conflagration of pain. The girl knew, just knew, that the man on the televisions was responsible for what she was feeling now. His words filled her head with a thousand voices, their damned cries merging together in a symphony of madness. It was too much. She ran away, trying to escape lest she lose all hold on reality, but it was to no avail.
She tripped into an alleyway as the voices became too much. She could hear them all, their shrieking words working to deafen her.
Our lord has come, embrace him!
DaRkneSs, DarKness, DArkNEss-!
Power, vengeance, we shall have it!
Rend the flesh from their bones, burn them to ash!
Master, Master, MASTER!
An unearthly scream tore from her throat, and as the girl looked to the skies with wide eyes overflowing with tears, for a brief moment her sapphire orbs flashed a hellish yellow rimmed with red.
And then there was nothing.
Metropolis Museum of Natural History
Alex's smirk was particularly savage as his lord made his declaration. At last, the moment he had waited months for had come. There was no going back, soon the world would be plunged into chaos.
"That is why we, Ascension, exist. To challenge the stranglehold the Justice League, nay, that all metas have established on the world. We will do what is necessary to bring about change to this bygone system they have created and maintained. I will not sugarcoat my intentions, for that would be pointless. We shall ignite a spark that will become an inferno which shall burn away the obsolete and the decayed, and leave in its place a new order, one that will not allow complacency and will avoid the mistakes of the Justice League.
It all begins here, at the Metropolis Museum of Natural History, where I and my forces have launched our first attack against the Justice League. The fact that we have control of the entire building with no losses whatsoever only further strengthens the certainty of my actions. However, I believe in the spirit of equal debate, and will allow the Justice League to answer my accusations by providing them with a challenge. If they are able to reclaim this museum from the forces of Ascension within two hours, then perhaps I will have underestimated their resolve to do what is necessary. If they fail to reclaim the building within two hours however, then the hostages that have come under our custody will unfortunately have to be executed. The countdown will begin… now.
I would advise the Justice League and their esteemed colleagues in the police to act quickly, as I would hate to make a mess inside such a fine museum. Let them be forewarned however, that we are not to be trifled with. We will not hesitate, we will show no mercy. We will use any means necessary to achieve victory, for nothing shall stop us. Come Superman, come and challenge me, test your powers against mine and see if you have the strength of will to contend with me. For I am Darth Nox, and I will not rest until all have received their glorious Ascension."
With that the broadcast was ended, and Nox relaxed his stance as he made his way off the stage, Alex falling in behind him. "Your orders, Lord Nox?"
The sudden name change was a bit unexpected, but Alex was able to adapt to it quickly. In fact, he rather liked it, especially since he knew the meaning of the word.
The cyborg glanced at him for a moment before speaking. "Have all but ten of our troops fall back to the basement. They are to hold it to ensure we have an escape route into the tunnels that run underneath the museum. Meanwhile I want them to plant explosives at these points."
Alex nodded as the locations were listed off, committing them to memory. "And the other troops, my lord?"
"They shall hold the rear entrance under the command of Seekers Shadow and Reaper. They are to hold the line until I give the order to fall back."
The Ascension captain gave a bow. "It will be done my lord," he said obligingly, and after a second he asked, "And where will you be, Lord Nox?"
"I will be at the front entrance of the building. I am certain that the Justice League has not been able to come up with a plan by now, so they will have no other option than to mount some sort of assault on the front alongside the attack from the rear. I will meet them personally so that I may introduce myself," Nox said with no trace of hesitation or fear, in spite of the fact that he could potentially be facing no less than nine of the world's greatest heroes. Alone.
For his part Alex was speechless. He knew his master was powerful, but even for him this seemed a bit too much. "You intend to fight them alone, my lord?"
Nox nodded. "Yes, the troops would be a hindrance to me in spite of their training, and Reaper and Shadow will be needed in the rear to hold off the rear assault which will inevitably come, most likely led by those… what were they called again? Ah, yes, the Teen Titans. While not as well-known as the Justice League they are still quite formidable, but I'm certain that the Seekers are up to the task."
Alex went quiet for a moment, his thoughts swirling, when Nox's question jolted him. "Was there something that you wanted to say, captain?"
The cyborg's aide de camp was silent for a moment. Should he reveal his nature to his lord now? He was still uncertain as to precisely when he should tell Nox about who he really was, but today's events were making him wonder. Was the time now? As he remembered precisely what his leader intended to do, he decided. His life was at his lord's disposal, and would be used as he saw fit. He had made that vow when Nox had rescued him from the hell he had been living, and now was an opportunity to begin fulfilling it on an entirely new level.
With that thought the Ascension captain squared his shoulders and looked his master in the eyes. "With your permission, I would like to accompany you in fighting the Justice League, my lord."
For a moment Nox said nothing though Alex was certain that his eyes had narrowed.
"I appreciate your commitment captain, but as I said with the Stormtroopers, your presence would be a hindrance rather than an asset."
Instead of backing down Alex smirked and allowed his eyes to shift to their true form of fuchsia irises and slit pupils. "I must respectively disagree with you, my lord," he said, his voice shifting to a cultured British accent. "I have in my arsenal a unique set of abilities that you will find quite useful."
With that the unassuming man literally shifted form, his body becoming a mirage as he reverted back to his true appearance after nearly a year. By the time he finished Alex looked like an entirely different person. Even his clothing had changed. His eyes still retained their look however, though perhaps they had gained a more sinister gleam in them.
For a moment Nox was silent, and Alex waited with baited breath for his lord's judgment. The cyborg was completely unreadable, and it frightened him. He had never seen Nox angry before, but he was certain it was a terrifying sight.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity the man in black spoke. "You are dressed as a butler," he said plainly.
Alex blinked, surprised by the somewhat random observation but deciding to answer nonetheless. "Yes, it's a part of my abilities," he said as he looked down at his outfit, which was indeed that of a butler from the Nineteenth Century. "It ties in with what my mentality is at the time whenever I assert my true form. I've never been able to figure out why."
"A butler is a high ranking servant," Nox said, his voice still even.
Alex nodded. "Yes," the Meta replied before he paused, then looked at his master with a small amount of trepidation. "I had expected you to be angrier than you are now."
For his part Nox shrugged. "Oh, I am angry, but I am also realistic. You appear to have abilities which allow you to at least keep up with the members of the Justice League, and I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth," Nox then leaned forward so that he was inches from Alex's face, who didn't flinch as his lord's voice became dangerously low. "However, when this is over I expect an explanation on why this was hidden from me, along with a list of every ability you possess. No exemptions. Is that clear?"
The Ascension captain nodded. "Yes, my lord."
With that the Lord of Ascension turned on his heels and 0nce again began walking to the front of the building. "Very well then, shall we go captain? It would be rude of us to be absent when our guests make their appearance."
Now Alex regained his smirk as he fell in alongside his master. "Indeed, my lord. I shall issue your orders to the rest of our forces immediately."
As the two made their way to the front and the rest of Ascension's Fist readied themselves for the coming battle, they each shared a similar thought, from the lowest ranked Stormtrooper in the Fist to Nox himself.
The die was cast.
Author's Note: Yeah I know it's been awhile, but real life simply takes more precedence. And real life is busy right now.
Ah, but enough of that, let's talk about the chapter. You will note that I've decided to bump the rating of this up to M. After reading this over I decided it would be safer and would give me a bit of breathing room, because this story is going to get pretty dark and possibly disturbing at some points. But then again, what would you expect from a story where the main character is a Sith Lord?
I know I didn't include the fight with the Justice League, but it's been too long since I've updated anything and this was a perfect stopping point. I promise that it will be next chapter, and that I will try to make it as epic as possible.
On characterizations, I've tried to adhere to Superman's and all the other heroes and villains we know and love as much as possible, but as I'm not as familiar with the DC Universe as I would like there might be a few discrepancies.
Lastly, a tip of my hat to anyone who can guess which characters I've based Reaper and Alex off of. Well, based is a bit of an understatement, but I simply had to.
Feel free to offer criticisms, they are most welcome so long as they are constructive.
Til next time.