A/N: Sorry guys for the lack of update, this mini-arc could've went a thousand ways. I'm going to break this up into three parts due to the multi-faceted aspect of the arc. The "Big Three" meeting will still be present but I also have some other ideas that I want to flesh out before we get there. This chapter's got a little bit of Gar, little bit of Raven, and I finally get to flesh out some of Slade's involvement in this story. By the way, writing Slade's fun because he's a character's character, someone I treat with respect but also with a little bit of freedom... Oh, did I mention Gar's not in Jump?
Redux 3 ½: The Guns of April
April 3, 2011:
"Slade Wilson, I've got to hand it to you. I know you're a man of your work and that you could deliver on a promise but damn, this is just amazing." The wide-eyed, beaming Arthur Void looks down upon the Illuminati from on high, content at the sight before him. It's only been forty-eight hours but, amazingly, the once defiant Illuminati appears to have solidified as a tool to be wielded by Slade and, by default, Arthur Void. "Granted the alternative wasn't much better, death does have a way of making man reconsider his loyalties, but I never expected this level of cooperation."
Lacking the traditional bronze-and-black faceplate for the time being, the newly-crowned leader of the Illuminati also has a look of pride on his face albeit it with a much more reserved quality to it. "This is only the beginning. Most of the Illuminati's potential stems from its relative youth; many of those with super powers fall under the 18-25 age range. With time and training they could become a powerful asset."
Clapping his hands together in delight, Void voices his own optimism for the future. "An entire legion of supercriminals working in tandem with an arsenal of Xaviers; the possibilities for expansion are practically limitless."
The veteran doesn't share the same enthusiasm for the Xaviers Void happens to; in fact he appears to be rather stern regarding the androids. "The Xaviers will make good foot-soldiers in the coming war, something the Illuminati will need to help keep the balance high across the city. Without it we could spread ourselves too thin as Light did."
"Speaking from experience Slade? If I recall you've been using androids for quite sometime, am I right?"
Turning a bit so Void can see both his missing eye and his real eye, Slade casually points out the truth. "I've always deployed androids as a means to an end, a tool to carry out my will, but never as an end onto itself. The model you've been providing us handles well and can think tactically but I fear their abilities are limited when engaging real opponents."
His optimism fading, Void happens to look somewhat confused by that statement. "Are you implying the Xaviers have some sort of weakness?"
"They're vulnerable to high explosives or armor-piercing calibers plus people with superpowers can break through their armor at close range. Their reliance on regular firearms is also in need of improvement."
While Arthur Void does feel pride for the androids he's helped spearhead, Deathstroke's words are certainly filled with merit. Consider that in business one can only survive when one understands and, eventually, conquers the weaknesses and risks that can arise. Snapping his fingers as an idea strikes the mind, Void turns on a heel to ask his companion a simple question. "What if we put that theory to the test?"
"It depends on the test."
"It's clear you don't exactly like Xavier in his current form so here's my plan: I give you a week to develop upgrades to the existing model, then we put them head-to-head in a fight, and whichever model wins moves into mass production. What do you say?"
For the first time all day, Slade Wilson actually cracks a grin. "Are you sure that's wise? I would hate to embarrass the head of Void Enterprises by crushing his favorite bodyguard into the ground with one of my own."
Returning the grin in earnest, Arthur Void proudly boasts his support for his Xavier. "My Xavier needs competition if he's going to squeeze the life out of the Titans. I can think of no better test run than to squeeze the CPU out of your concept."
Extending his hand with the chilliest of smiles, Slade warns his opponent with deadly intent in his eye. "Don't expect any pity, Void."
Returning the shake with a firm one of his own, Void matches the smile but with something of a darker gleam than most. "Nor should you, Deathstroke."
"Welcome to Gotham City International Airport. The time is four thirty-seven and the temperature is fifty-five degrees, mostly cloudy, with a forty percent chance of rain."
It's only been a few months since the Watchman last walked through the hallways of GCIA and that time he'd been heading for the West. This time however, the green-eyed man in the black trench coat and duffel bag exits the terminal heading due East. Outside his nose inhales the Atlantic breeze coming in with the tide, his skin tingling from the temperature shift in the air. While the citizens of the North East might be enjoying the winter thaw, for a West Coaster the air might as well be as chilly as the first days of Autumn
But a little has changed for Gar; his haggard head and facial hair looks trimmed down to something more respectable, so much so that he might actually pass for human even if he chose to forgo his usual holoring. About the only thing that's changed out of the ordinary after his return from the coma would be the darkening circles around his eyes. Unfortunately it would appear the ever-present stare so accustomed to his face seems to have stretched from looking a few feet away into a thousand yards or more.
With his towering height, the problem of hailing down a cab is far less than the normal humans that surround him outside the terminal building.
"Where you headed, mac?"
Throwing his duffel bag into the left seat, Gar takes off the shades so the cabbie can see his eyes. Forgiving him for recoiling at his weary expression, Gar relays his order. "72nd Street. Mad Irishman Pub."
Some time and nostalgia later, the Jump City crimefighter finds himself standing curbside of the infamous "Mad Irishman Pub" although now it appears less infamous and more run-down. Given the general "dive bar" appearance and chipping paint, the neon lights seem less inviting and more destitute than ever. Hell even the lack of armed goons at the door triggers an almost sad feeling in the pit of his stomach; the times they are a'changin indeed. "No surprise, it's not like Someone's paying for the joint anymore."
Pushing through the heavy door of the bar, Gar's expression turns to surprise for a moment at the lack of a crowd inside. His last visit was in the midst of a wild party; patrons by the hundreds. Now it appears that barely thirty or more call this waterhole their home for the evening.
"Hey there mate, come in and…"
The muscle-memory reaction only takes Gar a pair of seconds to reach inside his coat for his trusty shotgun. He doesn't aim but makes the firearm known to all inside by raising it skyhigh. "Who's in charge?"
"Hey now mate, we don't want no trouble. We're an honest business, really!"
Now firmly shifting the barrel at the bartender's face, Gar cocks the firearm once for the psychological effect it will surely produce. "Who's in CHARGE?"
"The manager! He's, he's in the office over there! Please don't shoot, we've done nothing wrong!"
The barkeep's pleading readily ignored, the other shocked patrons scurry out of the bar as Gar walks over to the manager's office. In the belly of the beast previously occupied by Someone himself, Gar's large foot kicks through the door with a single thrust, breaking the aged wood with ease. Brooking no argument nor time for complaint, Gar presses the barrel of the gun against the cheek of this so-called "manager." "Pamela Isley, a.k.a. Poison Ivy, where can I find her?"
Johnny Bracus, also known in the Jump City underworld as "Johnny the Bracket", thought he'd be spending another ordinary night crunching numbers for the Illuminati in his low-rent office. Surely this bottom-level money launderer for the city's biggest mob would be the last target for a superhero sting, especially given the recent high-level attack on Titans Tower. Then again, what the "Bracket" failed to understand was that when information on the highest levels of the totem pole runs scarce, the next best source for intel is to scour the power base below. To this end, when a woman shrouded in a cloak steps into the office looking for information on the Illuminati, it's not always the best decision to try and outrun them, especially when said woman can fly.
There's no hope in gaining headway over this woman; with every turn down the alleys he finds she merely hovers over obstacles with the slightest of ease. Each time he tries to turn the corner to give her the slip, she responds by phasing through the walls to close the gap. And the one time he happens to turn his head too long to watch her, two chain-link doors close shut with black energy to send him crashing back onto the concrete ground with a thud.
"Johnny the Bracket", am I correct?"
The words in her throat sound far too ominous to have come from so finely shaped a face. For all his fleeing and running, it seems the only thing he's done is make her already narrow gaze turn into a sharp glare. "What do you want with me? I'm a nobody, I don't know anything!"
Sensing the risk of other people nearby hearing her interrogation, Raven looks up to the rooftops, the urge for privacy taking precedence. "Hold on, going up."
Dropping her hostage with an undignified "thump" onto the rooftops above, Raven gracefully lands onto the shingled roof and stares down the "Bracket." "I have a few questions for you, Johnny, and you're going to be a good little human and tell me everything I need to know."
Taking a peek behind him, he can see the distance between the buildings is enough that if he can just get some distance, he might be able to…
"I didn't say you can go yet, Johnny. We've only just begun." Swiftly raising her hand, Raven creates a bubble of energy around both of them to ensure he stays exactly where he sits.
"What do you want? I told you I don't know anything, I'm just a…"
"A nobody, you said that already. You're a two-bit money launderer working for the Illuminati, a lucky money-man who got in big with the group because he has ties to the Bulletface Gang."
He'd be more cooperative if the woman didn't look so creepy; she hardly changes the pitch of her voice or the expression on her face. "Ok, ok… maybe I run a few accounts for a few local hotshots but nothing big, only the small stuff."
Lifting him into the air with her magic, Raven lays some truth on Johnny Bracus for emphasis: Cooperation, not cowardice, would be in his interest in this situation. "That's not what the Watchman told me. He said you knew where the Illuminati keeps their stolen assets and who else to call upon if one wanted to get closer to those assets." Moving him over the edge of the rooftop, she continues her threat with the more pressing, more threatening truth. "So, Johnny Bracket, are you willing to work with me or should we see how high you can bounce off the sidewalk?"
"Don't drop me, lady, I'll talk! Just don't let me go, I'm begging you, I'll talk, I'll talk!"
She pauses for a moment to let the gravity sink into his mind before pulling him back over the edge. Releasing him once more onto the roof, she closes the gap and looks down on the pathetic launderer. "Then let's start talking numbers, Bracket. Where's the money going?"
With the clock striking eight on the East Coast, Gotham City's resident eco-terrorist starts wrapping up some last-minute pruning on her precious rosebuds. Humming an old tune to herself, she tenderly strokes each plant that she's forced to trim down, apologizing for the temporary pain as a necessary act to ensure their continued growth. So it comes as something of a surprise when the sound of a heavy knock echoes through her home. Putting down the tools for the moment, she moves for the kitchen to slide one of her crossbows onto her wrist before sauntering over to the door.
"Who is it?" No reply, just the sound of silence replies back. "Oh, I see, the silent type, huh?"
Opening the door, her blasé attitude is swiftly twisted into surprise at the green hulk standing on her doorstep. Taking off his glasses, two pairs of green eyes finally see each other ago for the first time in over a year. "Hey Red, is this a bad time?"
It takes her a moment to get over the surprise of seeing the Watchman, here, in the flesh as it were. Then again it doesn't take long for the supervillain to flash him the slyest of grins either. "Can't you animals ever come around during the daytime like all the other human beings?"
To her relief he offers her a grin of her own while playing off their former rivalry. "Isn't it past your bed time, plant-lady? The sun went down hours ago."
"Well well, I see you're still the same smartass from Arkham. So, Gar, what-ever can I do for you?"
Shrugging with his bag in hand, Gar looks a little out of place at a time like this but there's no need for a fight here. "Can I sit down? I've been walking since I flew in."
"It's not much but it's enough when you're living alone and on the run. Tea?"
While the old couch might be rough, sitting on cushions right now might as well feel like sitting on a cloud. "Yes, please, I haven't had any in awhile. Sorry to barge in like this unannounced but I didn't have anywhere else to go and, frankly, it's better if certain bats didn't know I was in town."
If he didn't know any better, Gar could swear she's practically grinning at the irony of his statement. "Aw, that's so sweet of you Gar: Coming to little ol' me instead of the big, bad Bat."
For a moment Gar can take a look around the sparsely furnished one-floor home, taking particular note that the air might be saturated with the smell of flowers but the house itself reeks of a particular scent: Something akin to "old age" might be appropriate. "This place a rental or something? It doesn't smell like a place you'd call home."
Peering out from the kitchen, Ivy throws him a joking wink at the comment, in her ears it might even sound like a compliment. "I'm in the market for a new home. Bats burned down my last home so I've been… borrowing… this place until I can find somewhere more permanent."
It doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out what that means. "Let me guess, the previous owner was compelled to give up this spot?"
Joining the room now with two cups of herbal tea, Ivy's grin only grows darker. "Something like that; that isn't a problem is it?"
Taking the tea into his hand, Gar reminds the Gotham supercriminal of his own status back home. "I sleep in abandoned buildings and alleys; it's no problem of mine."
"You're even more out of touch with reality than I expected, Deathstroke! You imprison us like dogs, threaten us with torture and death, and THEN you have the balls to come down here and demand we make upgrades for those damn robots?!"
His iconic mask once again returned to his face, Slade looks straight into the eyes of one pissed-off Doctor Light. While Light's not much of a threat without his power suit, the handcuffs and chain holding him against the wall are for Light's protection rather than Slade's. "Considering the alternative, I felt work-release fit you better than solitary confinement."
"That's real cute coming from you Deathstroke, let me tell you."
Ignoring the Illuminati leader, the jaded pyromaniac stares at the opposing wall with scorn in his throat. "It's not even work-release, it's forced labor. Once we're done, you'll throw us into the incinerator with the rest of the first-gen Xaviers."
Turning around to face Doctor Light's cellmate Firefly, Slade nods at the insight he seems to possess. "Forgive me if I don't find your fire pun amusing, Firefly, but I'm afraid you're not as clever as you think. If it were up to Void and his lackeys, you'd already be dead for the stunt you've both pulled over the years. Now that Atomic Skull and Captain Boomerang are sitting nice and cozy in League prison cells, you've both become the prime target for their wrath. Consider what I'm offering to be a stay of execution."
Spitting at the thought of being Slade's lackey, Light rails against his chains but to no effect. "Typical short-sightedness of ignorant fools with power! Were it not for our little "stunt", the manpower they've just collected wouldn't even have come here."
"Quite right, Doctor, without you they'd have a hard time gathering the number of supercriminals needed for their plan. Not to mention I wouldn't have the manpower I need for my part of the war."
"Are you going to use then like cannon fodder too? You going to sacrifice them for the slaughter just to put yourself back on the map, Deathstroke?"
Turning to the room's exit, Slade places his hands behind his back and offers some cryptic advice for the two captives. "I have no intention of wasting that amount of talent frivolously, Firefly. Nor do I have any intention of keeping either of you locked away in some laboratory forever, despite objections from Void or his thugs. They place too much stock in their little Xavier program and I intend to make them see just how risky that gamble has been. If you two can reduce his henchman into cybernetic powder, I'll see to it you're treated with more respect by these amateurs." Glaring back at his captives, Slade reminds the two of the obvious cost of failure. "Don't make a fool out of me if you wish to see freedom. I'm counting on you to make this a brilliant demonstration."
"Speaking of sleeping in alleys, when was the last time you got any sleep?"
Gar's answer comes blunt and somewhat unnerving for Ivy. "Friday morning and that time wasn't my choice."
At that comment one of her eyebrows quirks up at the reality of his reply. Quick glance at the calendar might reveal something of an oddity for the Watchman, something she readily points out. "You mean you woke up Friday morning?"
"No, I was in a coma for sixteen days and woke up Friday morning. After a fight with the Illuminati, I apparently fell back asleep for another ten hours. I've been awake since Friday evening."
"How are you still awake? That flight alone must've wiped you out?"
Biting his lip, Gar painfully admits the truth to the botanical criminal. "I've been afraid to sleep since I woke up from the coma. Have you ever heard of the Black Mercy?"
There's a name you don't hear everyday. Still, this should be interesting at least. "Rumor has it Superman had it some time ago, why?"
Lifting up his arm, Gar shows her the veins in his forearm for emphasis. "It's still in me even though I'm conscious. It's why I'm here, Red, I need to know if you can help cure me."
Normally people come to her asking for cures to poisons she's produced, this time it doesn't feel so much like a demand but more of a cry for help. The criminal part of her mind can think of a thousand ways to take advantage of the situation but this one feels different. "That could be a problem. There's no guarantee I could cure an alien infection, Gar, especially one that's still semi-active inside your body. Given your lack of sleep over the past few days, it might be difficult to isolate it and quarantine the strain before you keel over from exhaustion."
If Gar had ever looked more determined to her before, this time he's upped that look by a hundred. "If it means not sleeping for a week, Red, I'll do it."
A/N2: A little suspense, a little humor, a little drama, and a cameo. Gar's mission in Gotham isn't just for a cure, it's also to fulfill a deal. Raven's job will be discussed in the next chapter and I like the concept of a little competition between Void/Slade, keeps things interesting. As to why I keep using "Deathstroke", it's a jab at Cartoon Network for censoring his name. Most of the "older" villains would know him as "Deathstroke the Terminator" whereas the younger ones would know him as "Slade", sorry if that gets confusing. And while Ivy might be a little nicer in this series, call it a mutual respect for the fact that he isn't really a "good guy" but rather someone she can hold an intellctual chat with and not be looked at as "the typical male"
- "The Guns of April" is a nod to the famous book "The Guns of August" by Barbara Tuchman detailing the buildup to World War One (one of JFK's favorite books)
- Johnny Bracus is just a bit character, named by my lovely girlfriend as an in-joke "goon to squeeze"
Once I'm done this mini-arc, I REALLY need to go through this whole series again... NO, NO NOT as a remake but I want to edit, clean-up this series (the grammar, the page layout, and maybe even the dialogue.) I started this series a couple years ago, my style's matured since then, and I'd like to bring the rest of the series up to par as it were.