Disclaimer: I do not own DC. So, I had roughly 85% of this done, then the file vanished and I had to do 60% of this again. This, along with a good chunk of work from a few other stories went kaput, killing my motivation to do anything for a bit.

The moral of the story? If you think you're backing up your files too often and it's annoying you? Too bad. Do it more.

Chapter 44: The Pecking Order


Max had managed to procure two whole rolls of duct tape that went around Rose and the sturdiest chair he could find in the house – easy since Max had invested in a few pieces of metal-frame furniture. Kara had done her part to help restrain the deadly mercenary by leaving the house and returning with rebar, which she then used to bend around Rose's arms.

If Rose woke up and somehow found a way to escape from that, while Max and Kara were in the same room, as far as Max was concerned, she would have earned her freedom.

Once things had settled down, Max busied himself by perusing the weapons and supplies that Rose had brought to deal with him.

"Swords made of non-magnetic alloys... 3D printed handguns..." Max mused to himself while laying all of Rose's weapons out, "Man, she really came to put me down, didn't she?"

Kara pursed her lips at how calmly Max seemed to be taking the idea of his ex-girlfriend murdering him in his own home, "You don't seem surprised."

Max looked up from where he'd been sitting on the floor with all of the weapons, "I mean, kind of, but not really," He said with a shrug, "Rose always had it in her to go off in a heartbeat, but she could get over it just as quickly. This premeditated stuff is new though. Never had her seriously want to kill me for longer than three minutes at a time," He noticed Kara's face twist in displeasure, "Come on. It's not like she ever tried."

"She said she was going to dump your corpse with Black Mask."

"I know. I'm handling it."

"Handling it?" For some reason, Kara didn't like the way that sounded, "Max..."

"-You wanted to talk about me killing Maxwell Lord," Max quickly changed the subject, getting up from the floor to sit down on the couch with Kara, "That was why you wanted to come here tonight in the first place, right?"

Kara looked down at her lap and nodded, fists balled on her thighs, "Kal-El told me about it."

Max figured as much. There was no way it wouldn't have gotten back to her somehow, "What do you know?"

"What he remembers. What he was there for," Kara said before summarizing things from her cousin's perspective, "His mind was twisted into seeing his friends as Darkseid and his minions. When he snapped out of it, he was fighting Wonder Woman. When they went to deal with Maxwell Lord, they found him dead with you."

That sounded accurate enough for Max, though with one notable exception from his view, "Did he include the part before he started fighting Wonder Woman, where I couldn't move because he'd knocked eight shades of shit out of me."

"That would be the 'seeing his friends as Darkseid's minions' part," Kara pointed out.

Max hummed thoughtfully, "Wasn't aware I was friends with Superman. News to me," He quipped before getting back to his point, "I killed Lord because Superman was kicking Wonder Woman's ass, and when he was done there, Lord said he'd turn him onto me. As you can imagine, I had a problem with that."

Kara very much would have as well, both because her boyfriend would have been murdered and because her mind-controlled cousin would have been the weapon used. Neither of those things were preferable to Null going ahead and turning Maxwell Lord's skull into an impromptu firing range target.

She wasn't condoning it. She would not and could not. But she accepted it and understood. Now, she wanted Max to understand why Kal-El couldn't.

"How did he seem to you?" She asked.

Max thought back to how he remembered Superman and Wonder Woman looking at him at the time. The latter seemed to come to terms with what he'd done more readily than the former, "I dunno. Disappointed. Disgusted. One of those 'dis' words that means something bad," He said, "Superman of all people should know better than to hold me to his standards."

Kara took a moment to think, processing all she'd been told up to that point, "...You know what? I don't think it was what you did. It was why you did it."

Max scoffed, "I did it because if I didn't, he would have killed Wonder Woman, then painted the outside of the castle with every drop of blood in my body."

"Uh-huh. And don't you think he knows that?"

At that moment, Max paused to consider what Kara was telling him. Of course Superman knew that. He had to know that. If he hadn't at the time, once the shock from being controlled and what it led to wore off, he had to have realized it.

"...What are you getting at?" Max asked tentatively.

Kara took the opportunity to explain through a story, "When I first crash-landed on Earth, I was terrified. Did you know I landed right here in Gotham City?"

"I'm so sorry. This place shouldn't be anyone's first impression of what Earth is about," Max said, in the throes of making a joke, "You don't start here. You should have to work up to how much Gotham sucks."

Kara couldn't help but smile, even though the story she was prepared to tell was a serious one, "Anyway, someone found me. Just a normal man, a good man. He saw a scared girl and wanted to help," Kara reached out into the open air, "He reached out his hand, and when I went to take it, the same way I would have taken someone's hand on Krypton, I crushed it," Her face fell at the memory, "Control. We have to have control over everything we do, because if we didn't, there's no telling what kind of damage we could do."

Max couldn't relate. He had to put forth effort to draw upon his power. Other than a stray discharge every now and then, he had to actually try to tap into his abilities. Kara's (and by extension, Superman's) abilities worked the opposite. They had to actively make sure to hold back at all times. The yellow sun had made them so powerful, without even trying or meaning to, they could destroy everything around them.

Kara took note of the thoughtful expression on Max's face and could only imagine what he was thinking, "Kal-El... I'm not even entirely sure he's so rattled over what you did as opposed to what he did; what he could have done."

The fact that if Null hadn't killed Maxwell Lord, there was no telling just how much damage Superman could have done - it was a mark of weakness, of vulnerability, that his powers could possibly be used to hinder and harm good and innocent people.

Superman always came off as being better than everyone around him because he literally had to be. The stakes were too big otherwise. If Superman had a bad day, countless people would also have a bad day.

"We don't get to screw up like that, Max," Kara said, "If Kal-El lost it because someone like Lord could control him... or if Kal-El wasn't who he was? If he was evil? I'm not sure anyone could actually stop him."

It had been a nice look into the possible motivations of the world's most powerful being, but it wasn't what Max had cut a meeting short for. He hadn't come home at the whim of a phone call to break down Superman's psyche. He had come for the girl sitting next to him - nothing more.

"That's all well and good, but I don't give a crap about that," Max said, "Kara, I don't care what he thinks. If him being salty at me putting a bullet in Maxwell Lord's head lets him sleep better and keep being Superman, whatever. I care what you think."

As long as what he did didn't end up with him being prosecuted, Max could live with Superman thinking less of him. It wasn't like they interacted at all anyway. But if Kara thought that much less of him, or had a problem with him and the things he did, that was where the problem would lie.

Kara hesitated for a moment, "…Can you make me a promise?"

Max frowned. He couldn't/wouldn't do it blindly, "That depends on what it is," He said, "I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing again. I definitely would if your life was at risk," When he noticed that his remark didn't have an effect on Kara one way or the other, he let out a sigh, "I don't have the same values you guys have. All life isn't created equal to me."

With that, Kara piped down, saying nothing more about the promise she had been about to ask him. A part of Max felt bad about that, but it was true. He would kill 50 Maxwell Lords if it were his life at stake, if it were Kara's life at stake. That was simply how it was, and he wouldn't apologize for it.

Feeling that things were starting to taper down in seriousness, Kara gestured to Rose, "What are you going to do with her?"

Max stared at the mercenary girl for several seconds, wracking his brain for a solution, "I don't know yet. I was planning to sleep on it," He'd probably come downstairs and stare her in the face for a while before making his decision then.

"You should hand her over," Kara suggested.

"No chance."

"Max..."

Max decided to humor the thought with his own reasoning, "Kara, who would I be handing her over to?" He laughed, "I ran with her for a while, and I know for a fact there isn't anything open on her that police can actually tie her to."

Rose had done a lot of illegal things, killed a lot of people, but had done nothing that she could reasonably be charged for. The people she hurt, and those who could testify on what she'd done, weren't the type to report it. And anyone who could drop facts on the truth behind Rose's activities, namely a hero, would have to declare their real identity to the public for their evidence to mean anything in court.

That aside, this wasn't a problem that required such a response. Not to Max, at least. He felt he could handle Rose himself.

Kara gazed down and licked her lips hesitantly before steeling her nerves. Sitting up on her knees, she put a hand on Max's back and held his gaze with hers, "Can I stay?"

Max couldn't help but react with surprise, "Here? With me?" He and Kara had hung out at his place time and time again, but she had always left before it got too late in the evening.

"I don't feel right leaving you alone tonight knowing she showed up to kill you," Kara presented as an excuse, one that Max readily latched onto.

The young metahuman quickly regained his composure in an effort to play things cool, "Ahem. I mean, yeah, if you really want to, I definitely won't try to talk you out of it."

Absolutely not. Two hours prior, he'd expected Kara to break up with him. Now she was planning to stay overnight with him. Oh, how the tables had turned.

XxX

(Meanwhile – Null's Hideout)

Rose hadn't called in, which meant she hadn't put a sharp object through Null's heart. Grant endeavored to get to her later. In the meantime, he needed to set up their contingency plan to make sure they still accomplished their mission. Chances were that Null would return to his hideout eventually. Even if they failed taking him on directly, they could leave a little surprise for him.

"Man, this place isn't that bad," Grant said, concealing the last of the high explosives he'd brought to bring Null's entire hideout down, "Yeah... it's a real shame I've gotta blow it the fuck up."

That Rose knew where Null chose to dwell while working was a huge boon. It wasn't exactly the way Grant liked setting about their work, preferring a more personal approach, but professionals didn't always get to choose their means. They simply got the job done. This time would be no different.

He had to be careful to set the charges in a way that Null wouldn't pick up on. He was aware that Null could idly sense active electronic devices, but the charges had been rigged to go off via laser devices that he had set up amongst other electronics that Null wouldn't think twice about. If everything went the way it was supposed to, the next person to enter the hideout would set the entire place off. Being that as far as Grant knew, only Null and Rose knew where the place was, the chances were extremely high that it would be the target of the assassination that would fall victim.

Grant would have remained nearby to see it through but feared that Null would sense him if he hung around close enough to monitor his scheme. That should have been fine though. If/When the trap was sprung, half of Gotham City would hear it and feel it.

XxX

(Several Hours Later – Max's Townhouse)

Despite having recovered from the body blow that first put her out of commission, Rose Wilson woke up feeling very uncomfortable.

It probably had a lot to do with the straight-backed position she found herself bound in by bent metal rods pulled tight. She couldn't move her arms or legs, leaving her limbs very uncomfortable. Even with her enhanced strength, she couldn't budge her bonds.

Her muscles were stiff, and more urgently, she had to go to the bathroom.

Looking around the darkened living room, she could see her weapons strewn about on the floor, not very far out of reach. If only she could move the slightest muscle. Her captors had been very thorough. She couldn't even generate any motion from her core.

Thoughts of escape were put on hold when she heard footsteps from upstairs move toward the stairs and then down them. A bleary-eyed Max descended in a pair of sweatpants. He looked around the room, half expecting Rose to be out and set to murder him, but his eyes quickly fell upon her sitting right where he and Kara left her, only now she was conscious and glaring daggers at him.

"Good morning," Max greeted.

"Fuck you, Sparks," Rose snapped, "...You all done canoodling with Supercunt?"

Max walked through the living room on his way to the kitchen, sparing Rose a glance as he passed, "Canoodling?" He repeated under his breath, ignoring the slight against Kara.

Rose smirked nastily when his eyes met hers, "Best you're getting. I know she hasn't let you hit it yet."

Max momentarily paused before shrugging and continuing his business of raiding his refrigerator for a drink, "Not sure why that's your business, but whatever," He said, returning to sit with her, drink in hand, "We need to talk."

Rose turned her head away from Max in defiance, "Nothing to talk about."

"You broke into my house to try and kill me," Max replied.

"There wouldn't have been any trying," Rose corrected, "I would have killed you."

"Would have, could have, should have," Max said, dismissively, eliciting an annoyed growl from Rose, "Either way, now your ass is stuck to that chair with nowhere to go. So, let's talk," He didn't give her the chance to decline, "I need you and your brother to piss off."

Rose's head abruptly turned his way before she threw her head back and started laughing, "Sure. Just go twist Red Hood's head off of his shoulders. Oh, and while you're at it, if you could fall on the pointy end of my sword too, that'd be greaaaat," She drawled.

Max spared a glance over to said sword. He figured it wouldn't be that easy to convince her. Rose had always been a stubborn one, "Have you been paid yet?"

If Max thought Rose could be bribed, he had another thing coming, "You can't make this go away with money. We've got a reputation to uphold," She told him.

"You mean you have Deathstroke's reputation to uphold," Max said, an accusing edge to his voice.

"It's the same thing," Rose remarked defiantly, "We took the contract. There's no backing out until you're a goner."

The two stared one another down for what seemed like ages until Max spoke again, "Well, what if the person who hired you can't pay up?"

Rose could read between the lines, but she never expected a suggestion like that to come from Max out loud, "...If you're suggesting what I think you are, you might want to make absolutely sure that Kryptonian Barbie is still asleep before you say anything else."

Max didn't regard the warning in the slightest, "If she's awake and she's hearing this, she can feel free to make her presence known," He'd said nothing overtly damning, even if Rose had caught his drift. And if he needed to keep assuring Kara that they weren't cut from the same cloth, they would have more than just a little rough patch to look forward to in their relationship, "So, if Black Mask bites it, then what?"

For one thing, it would result in her missing out on the rest of her payday. Despite that, however, Rose couldn't find any anger in her belly over it, "...Normally, that would do it. But not this time."

Why wasn't she as upset as she had been the night before? When Supergirl had turned up, she'd been seeing red. Now that she was face-to-face with the person she was meant to kill, she was perfectly cordial. Even restricted as she was, speaking with Max in the peace of his home felt nice.

Why? Why was she so comfortable with him? Even around her own father, even around Grant, she felt like she couldn't safely turn her back. But here, bound and completely vulnerable, she felt as safe as could be.

Unaware of Rose's unrelated inner turmoil, Max continued focusing on his line of questioning, "Why not?"

Cursing her traitorous brain, Rose distracted herself by following suit and getting back to business, "Black Mask may have made the call, but he's got backing from high up. Way high up," She shook her head, "The shit you've been pulling on The Society pissed off the wrong person."

Max stared off into space, running through names and faces in his head. Those had been whirlwind days, and he couldn't remember everyone that had tried to kill him during that time frame, "...You're gonna have to be more specific," He eventually said, "I had to deal with a lot of you pricks when I was with the Secret Six."

"Luthor, dumbass," Rose finally specified, "You pissed off Lex Luthor."

Max's mouth fell open in shock, "Get out of here. There's no way a guy like that even cares who I am."

Max didn't care what he'd managed to pull off recently that people were aware of. He was still leagues away from the kind of important people and subjects that Lex Luthor found himself involved with.

Rose, however, insisted, "I'm serious. He called the other day. He wasn't just onboard with Black Mask delegating murder duties to someone above his rank-and-file goons. He wanted us to make sure we did you first."

Hearing a small bit of the deflating circumstances that led to the Wilson siblings' current occupational residence in Gotham City, Max slumped back on the couch, staring straight ahead blankly, "Fuck," He cursed, tone sober, "All I did was try not to die."

At that, Rose snickered, "Yeah, and apparently, he took offense to that," She said, "...So, now what, smart guy? What's the play now? You gonna take it to The Society just to get me off your back?" Max stared at her, a challenging look in his eye that gave her momentary pause, right up until he jumped to his feet and marched upstairs, "H-Hey! Where are you going?"

Max ignored her, popping upstairs to change into a pair of jeans and a clean shirt. As he sat on his bed to slide into a pair of socks and shoes, Kara slowly awoke.

Bleary blue eyes blinked and slowly focused on the world around her, "Muh... Max?" Kara mumbled, pushing some of her disheveled blonde hair out of her face. A graceful sleeper, she was not.

Max gently nudged her back down, "You can get some more sleep, Kara. I'd left you a note for when you woke up," He said, "I've got to head out."

Kara blinked, as it took her a few moments to process the information, "Oh. Okay," She eventually said, "...Is Ravager still downstairs?"

Max recognized that for someone who got her powers from Earth's yellow sun, Kara didn't seem to be much of a morning person, "Yeah. Don't worry about her though. I'll deal with that when I get back in a few hours," He hesitated for a moment before leaning over and pressing a kiss to her cheek.

Kara grinned, eyes closed again, before rolling over and dragging all the bedding and pillows over to her side of the bed, inadvertently yanking Max up to his feet. He couldn't help but find it funny. Elegant and dignified in her sleep she was not. Not what one would expect when seeing Supergirl out and about normally.

Speaking of out and about, he had to go. Just because it was light out didn't mean he had to lay low and wait. While the worst of the worst only tended to come out at night, there was no shortage of things he could take care of in the daytime.

As far as he was concerned, the plan he'd set up with Red Hood in dealing with Black Mask hadn't changed. Only, there was another objective he needed to achieve in the process.

On the way out, Rose noticed him and spoke up again, "Seriously, Sparks, where are you going at..." She paused to check the clock, "...8 in the morning?" Max waved over his shoulder as he left through the front door, "Hey! Hey, I have to pee!"

XxX

Despite what many assumed, Max didn't do all of his scouting at night while in his Null suit. Most of it, in fact, came during the daytime, in plain clothes, on the street like a regular person. It was a lot easier to go unseen when he could just putter down the sidewalk like the awkward, gawky teenager he was supposed to be.

It wasn't the sexiest part of being a thief, but it was necessary. And it was remarkable just how close he could get to restricted areas without issue when he didn't try to be sneaky. Most places didn't have gates or fences that kept prying eyes out, and if he took his time and remained inconspicuous, he could circle the block and get a good glimpse of the area without issue. Any guards posted around the area were also laxer during the daytime as well, so if Max had to take a closer look, it wasn't too much trouble as long as he minded his p's and q's.

Only idiots wrote down their crimes in the vicinity of where they intended to commit them, so Max memorized everything he needed to know that he would take back to Red Hood later. He'd identified what he felt was the best place for him to begin his attack, the best direction to approach from, and more. He already had his own means of infiltration worked out.

Earbuds hooked up to his burner phone, he sent a quick call Red Hood's way. Despite it being daytime, the vigilante picked up, "Yeah?"

"Just checking in," Max said, falling into step with a group as they crossed the street, "You alright? I didn't wake you up, did I?"

Red Hood let out a laugh on the other end of the line, "Kid, I never sleep. Sleep is the cousin of death, don't you know," He joked, "I spent the rest of the night getting my hands on the kind of hardware I'll need for what we have planned."

Max sent the pictures he had managed to take detailing what he wanted Red Hood to see, then quickly deleted them from his phone, "These are the best ways you're going to get."

There was a moment of silence while Red Hood considered them, "Which one would you suggest?"

Null didn't bother identifying which side of the building they were on. He could save that conversation for when they met in-person again, "I'll be honest, from what I've seen during the day and at night, I don't think it'll matter. We'll pick a number between one and five later."

"Actually, the more we talk about it, the more I'm getting an idea," Red Hood said, a hard to define inspiration in his voice, "Yeah... Don't worry. I'll take care of it."

Max could only imagine what Red Hood was cooking up, "If you say so," He also wasn't sure if he needed to be concerned about how self-assured Red Hood sounded about waging a head-on assault on what would guarantee to be a criminal fortress. Then again, he had been rather enthused about the whole affair since it had first come up.

"So, how was the rest of your night? Did you have that talk or what?"

"Or what," Max remarked, "I had an awkward little run-in with my ex. She was at my place when I got there."

"She lop anything off? Or did her brother?"

"O.G. Rav didn't show his face all night," Max said, "If my Rav was waiting for me at my house, he was probably waiting for me at my hideout."

It seemed to be the logical conclusion to come to. He doubted that Rose had been able to withhold that kind of information from her own family. She knew where his house was, which meant her relatives knew where his house was. She knew where his hideout was, which meant her relatives knew where his hideout was.

"You want to go handle that now?" Red Hood asked, " I'm game if you are."

They were still cleaning up in Chinatown after the last time Red Hood had fought just one of the Ravagers. The idea of it happening again near where he dwelled didn't appeal to Max, "No. There's no way he's still there, especially if he hasn't heard from my Rav. He probably went to go get her," He let out a sigh, "I can't go back to my house or my spot while they're still around."

And when all of this was over, he'd probably have to move again. He'd have to change hideouts too. What a shame. And he had just refurbished the place.

"That's rough, buddy. I mean, I'd offer you a place to crash... but I don't want to."

Max noted, Red Hood didn't seem very apologetic, but kept it to himself. "It'll be fine. It's not like I don't have options. Plus, it's not like it'll matter in a few days."

Hopefully. If what Rose had told him was true, removing Black Mask from the equation wouldn't change much for him when it came to the contract on his head. But one could only deal with the problems they were able to. It was a good thing then, that he'd learned from recent past experiences that he didn't have to do everything on his own.

XxX

(With Rose – Max's Townhouse)

It didn't take long after Max had spoken with her for Rose to find herself alone in his house. Roughly an hour after he'd departed, Supergirl had started to stir upstairs. Another half-hour later after getting herself ready for the day, she headed downstairs and left through the back, stopping to spare Rose a glance as she passed.

The two girls glared at each other for a moment without saying anything until Supergirl departed.

That had been a surprise. Rose had figured Supergirl would haul her off into custody. That she didn't, and that she simply left her there in Max's house was surprising. Then again, Max had always had a soft touch for anything involving Rose. If he had Supergirl's ear it wasn't outside of the realm of possibility that he convinced her to let things slide this once, or that he would handle things himself.

Good old Sparks. The soft spot they had for each other worked to the advantage of the other often.

From the back door at the kitchen, Rose could hear the door open as another presence joined her. Not Supergirl, or even Max, "Grant," She said upon seeing her brother.

"Hey, squirt," Grant dropped a bag behind her, doing a quick once-over of the bottom floor of the townhouse before seeing to Rose, "Alright, let's get you outta here," He reached out to try, in vain, to bend the metal rebar binding his sister in place, "Jesus Christ! How you end up like this?"

"Between Supergirl and a guy who can control metal, take your pick. It's not like I was awake to see which one did it," Rose deadpanned before wiggling as best as she could in her bonds, "Hurry up, would you?"

Grant blew off what he thought were her concerns as he continued trying to get her out, "Relax, Supergirl took off a while ago. I made sure she was long gone before I made my move."

"No, you idiot. I've had to pee for the last six hours."

"Damn," Grant said, finally having given up on freeing her with pure muscle. He dug into the bag he'd brought along, pulling out plastic explosives that he started planting in concealed areas, "Well, I've got some bad news. You're gonna be stuck in that a little bit longer. Don't worry though. I'll cut you out when we get back to the hideout."

"What are you doing?" Rose asked, unable to follow him from where she was stuck.

"The backup plan?" Grant reminded her as he continued laying explosives, "Our boy has to come home eventually, especially if he thinks he still has you all wrapped up. When he does, 'kaboom'."

Rose winced, out of Grant's sight. True enough, she had come to kill Max herself, but it seemed like the sort of thing only she should have been allowed to do. They knew each other, they cared about each other, so it only seemed right that it be her to end Max's life. The two of them were far too close for such an experience to be left to something as impersonal as explosives. He deserved better than that, at least. It left a bad taste in her mouth, but the job was the job.

As much as could be given that she was directly involved, it was out of her hands.

XxX

High in the skies above Gotham City, Kara hovered. Outfitted in her Supergirl garb, she waited, intent on handling a favor before she returned to her standard hero duties.

Max had still left her the note he'd originally told her about when he'd accidentally woken her up earlier. But there had been more on it than him simply telling her he was heading out. It also contained a request. Nothing major, and in fact, it was something that Kara was more than happy to get herself involved in.

The note asked her to leave Rose alone in the house and simply wait.

Rose's brother is in the city too, so it's only a matter of time until he starts sniffing around.

Accurately enough, Grant Wilson did pull up into the alley alongside Null's home and make his way inside through the back. That would have been enough for Kara to step in directly, but Max seemingly had other ideas.

Don't mess with them. Just follow them and see where they go. Let me know where they end up.

It was no issue for Kara to tail them from the safe heights of the near end of the stratosphere. She could still see them with her naked eye, but anyone else would have needed optic assistance to spot her in return.

In the end, Kara was happy to help, even if she had to take a little extra time out of her own schedule to do so. Max never asked her to get involved in anything he was into. Besides, whatever he wanted with the Wilson siblings, Kara was just glad that he seemingly wasn't cutting Rose loose and letting that be the end of it.

Kara kept a close eye on the truck Grant and Rose used to travel from Max's townhouse. She watched as they stopped just long enough for Grant to procure tools to free his sister, before they switched vehicles and continued. She followed them right up until they drove into the underground garage of a building that she couldn't see into.

"Damn..." Kara cursed to herself. The property had been proofed against her potentially prying eyes. Still, she had plenty that she could hand off to her boyfriend.

She wondered what she could get Max to do as thanks in return.

XxX

(Gotham City – The Hill – Society Headquarters)

Despite being free to move around again, Rose still found herself in a bad mood. While one could argue that her default state could be summed up as a bad mood, she had a reason for it. She and Grant had to check in with their 'boss' in The Society.

Neither of them liked the idea of being involved with The Society. They understood why other villains would have seen it as a good idea, but it simply wasn't for them. It felt far too... corporate. It seemed like supervillains were being treated as wage workers, toiling away under a villain put in charge of them, like middle management. That their father was one of the primary members was the only reason they went along with it, and they would be damned if they would accept being teamed up with some other random villain.

They barely listened to anyone other than Deathstroke. Normally, it had to be done under the parameters of hiring them for a job. Some people, unfortunately, didn't realize that while this distinction meant that the Ravagers worked for them, it didn't make them their boss.

'Some people', in this case, meant one Lex Luthor. Neither sibling was eager to spend a moment in the presence of the know-it-all orchestrator of The Society. It didn't take long to have to deal with him either.

Luthor piped up moments after Rose and Grant made their way to his floor of the tower, "It's to my understanding that both Null and Red Hood still draw breath on this earth," He said, matter-of-factly.

"I remember why we never come to this fucking place," Rose muttered low enough for only Grant to hear.

Grant gave his younger sister a nudge, otherwise focusing on Luthor, "We're working on it," "Believe it or not, the little shit is actually kinda good at this. And he's got more raw power now than anyone else regularly operating in Gotham."

Rose spoke again, backing her brother up, "From personal experience, Sparks was always hella hard to kill. It's not like it ever got easier either," She shook her head in exasperation of having to explain herself, "He's not some weakling, Lex. You should have figured that from dealing with the Secret Six."

"Yes, but you're the children of Deathstroke," Luthor shot back, "You're supposed to be superior to the run-of-the-mill supervillain."

Grant preempted whatever irritable, snarky remark Rose was about to make. It was an odd day when he had to be the reasonable one in a conversation, "We've got some irons in the fire, but the guy's hard to pin down even when you get him where you want him," Grant said, "Rose got into his house and still couldn't nail him."

"Supergirl dropped in for some reason," Rose explained bitterly, "Of all fucking nights."

At that, Luthor let out a hum of contemplation, "He has quite the eclectic group of contacts."

"It'd be interesting to get 'em all in a room and see how long it takes for everyone to start killing each other," Grant said with a grin.

"Present company included?" Luthor said, his gaze drifting over to Rose.

At that, Rose put on a vicious expression that matched her brother's, "Hell, I'd probably end up firing the first shot."

Any levity established at that moment was quickly forgotten once Luthor seemed to launch into management mode, "It's been a few days since you two have been put on this assignment," He said before changing his tone, "It isn't too much for you, is it? I would hate to have to call your father in on this."

Both Rose and Grant froze before looking at one another. While they were both wary of their father being informed of a less than stellar performance, they trusted their own capabilities to weather his wrath. They also knew how else he would react to someone wasting his time.

"I would hate for you to have to do that too," Grant started, "Because I can't think of much else that would piss him off more than to be taken off whatever he's doing to be put on a job like this."

Rose followed up, "-And I can guarantee that when you do call him in, you sure as shit won't be rushing him like you are with us."

By now, both siblings were adding onto each other's sentences, working as the image of familial synchronicity they were meant to be, "You want someone else on this? Get someone else on this. You've got hundreds of options. But as long as WE-" Grant emphasized by animatedly pointing between himself and Rose, "-are on this, we're gonna do it our way."

"'Your way' seems to leave a lot to be desired when it comes to efficiency," Luthor replied.

Rose huffed, blowing silver bangs of her long hair out of her face, "I don't know where your boner for murdering Null came from, but you'll get your bodies - his and Red Hood's," She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned her back against the nearest wall, "...You and Black Mask will get what you pay for."

"I should hope so," Luthor said, taking that moment to leave. He had other things that required his attention.

"Bald motherfucker should climb up his own ass," Rose spat once he was gone. It had taken all of her limited self-restraint to stay as cordial as she'd been, "Is this shit really worth it?"

Grant reached out and gave his sister a pat on the shoulder, "Probably not, but we already signed on for it," He grumbled, just as fed up as her, "It'd be pretty unprofessional to back out of it now. Dad would murder us," Not hyperbole.

"Yeah. He'd have our heads if we broke the contract," Rose said, remembering her talk with Null earlier that morning.

"Well, what if the person who hired you can't pay up?"

When he'd asked her that, she had told him that it probably wouldn't get him off the hook, and it wouldn't. But it would probably get him out of the mercenary crosshairs of her and her brother. It would at the very least give her enough of an opening to dig her heels in and discard the assignment. After all, they didn't work for Luthor, and they definitely didn't work for free.

Not only did she want to keep Null alive for personal reasons, but now for the secondary reason of telling Lex Luthor to go screw himself. She would take the first excuse she could get, and she was certain that it wouldn't take much persuading to get Grant on her side.

She remembered that Max sounded like he had a plan, or that he would come up with something. He had never given her a reason to doubt him before.

'Come on, Sparks,' Rose thought to herself, 'Give me a reason to tell baldy to fuck off.'

XxX

(That Night – With Max – Downtown Gotham City)

Gotham City police had blimps. Seriously. In the 21st century, there were still dirigibles floating about, meant to do official work. Not controlled drones with high-tech capabilities, proper, piloted blimps staffed by officers with scopes.

For as long as Max could remember, he noticed them floating high above the city streets in trouble areas in the dead of night. Even before he had become a thief, even when he had been a kid, he remembered thinking of them as impotent shows of force. What good were they when they only seemed useful in open terrain or on rooftops? They were ill-equipped to assist in any meaningful policing in the tight streets nestled between the massive buildings. They were paltry support for the officers on the ground - at best, one of the officers manning them could open up with automatic gunfire if they could get a shot.

No, the blimps just floated there, seemingly waiting for someone to do something illicit, but they couldn't see into the shadowy alleyways where most of the city's dirty dealings were done. They might have been of better use along the river and the shore, but not much else beyond that.

Selina had taught him all about the big eyesores in the sky when she'd first trained him. They had no subtlety. He could see them coming a mile away, before he gained the ability to feel them coming a mile away. They clearly didn't serve as effective deterrents to normal crooks, as crime records would show no decrease in activity since their inaugural flights. The most they ever seemed to do against thieves and burglars like Null and Catwoman was inadvertently screw up easy jobs... which might have meant that they did enough of their share to fight crime. Either way, taxpayer dollars went into keeping them in the skies, despite the fact that seeing them didn't make much of the general population feel safer on the ground below.

Null had always seen them as a joke. He'd found them useless. Or, he had, until he had found a use for them.

Most criminals thought of the blimps as a minor annoyance. If you couldn't see them from the street, they likely couldn't see you from the air. Therefore, they just stayed out of their sights until they passed, trying to ignore them without much of a second thought.

They made for a fantastic Trojan horse.

With his abilities, Null found it child's play to hitch a ride on the top of one of the aircraft patrolling his target area. Over the droning hum of the blimp, he could hear the officers inside.

"This thing feel like it's riding a little funny to you?"

"It always rides funny. It's the air currents from these weird old buildings."

"Yeah, you're probably right. Typical Gotham."

Max grinned underneath his hood as his camouflage helped him blend in with the yellow fabric of the airship, "This is the stupidest ideas I've ever had that's totally gonna work," He whispered to himself.

He'd been inspired with this plan the night before. Someone like Black Mask wouldn't bother giving the blimp a second thought. It was operated by the GCPD, which meant it operated through official channels. Officers inside weren't going to suddenly start dropping in or opening fire on his building. His security would also overlook them, which meant Null had a marvelous place to start from. With the patrol route of his blimp, Max could make tons of passes right by Black Mask's building until he saw what he needed to see, and that was all before he and Red Hood turned the building into the center of police interest for the evening.

XxX

Tonight was the night, and Red Hood was glad the planning process hadn't taken days and days. After all, he'd had most of what he planned to use already. It had just been a matter of getting it all together.

While he had been well-schooled by Batman that careful planning was the most important part of any mission, Red Hood had always been more about the action as a Robin. Even with age, experience, and the knowledge of what rushing in could bring him, he still preferred getting on with things. Thankfully, Null didn't have any problems working with an accelerated timetable. In fact, he had been the one to call him and ask when the soonest he'd be ready to move would be.

That had been several hours ago. Now, Red Hood sat in waiting at his staging area for zero hour to begin the operation.

When the clock flipped over to the appropriate time, Red Hood smirked to himself and flipped open a control pad, "Let's get this show on the road."

The plan had called for him to make things loud on the ground. Red Hood planned on making it noisy enough to wake Solomon Grundy.

Nondescript box trucks parked in nearby areas fired to life, trucks that Red Hood controlled from afar. One-by-one, he navigated them through the streets before crashing them into the sensitive areas that Max had identified earlier in the day. One was sent careening through the metal doors of the underground garage. Another truck crashed through the back gates of the residential parking lot. A third plowed through the glass building front, smashing into the front desk of the main lobby.

The moment things went haywire, Black Mask's protectors grabbed automatic weapons and tore into the trucks with gunfire. There were no drivers or passengers, however. No human ones, anyway.

The backs of the box trucks lifted, revealing automated turrets set up inside. The unmanned weapons utilized thermal detection to pick up on and fire upon any target within range of their sensors.

Unfortunate guards that had moved in for a closer look at the truck were the first to go down, hardly able to gather what was happening before they were riddled with bullets. With the caliber of the rounds and the precision of the turrets, their targets were ripped to pieces.

"Ah, the miracles of modern technology," Red Hood said to himself as he could hear the mayhem from the block away he'd been approaching from.

As destructive as this was, however, it was only a distraction. In time, Black Mask's goons would disable the turrets. But by then, the bulk of them would have moved into respond to the threat. If they didn't, he would make sure the rest did.

The trucks were also needed as a distraction because had Red Hood approached on his own, his footsteps would have been heard long before anyone ever saw him.

Black Mask gangsters began moving to spread out and cover the area. That was when they first saw Red Hood in the flesh. Said flesh was covered head to toe in thick military-grade assault gear - a modern day suit of armor, colored in Red Hood's black, the helmet a shining red.

In his hands rested a high-power light machine gun that quickly sparked into action. Stomping the rest of his way to the building, Red Hood fired at any of Black Mask's men brave or loyal enough to take a shot at the veritable juggernaut.

Red Hood's heavy-duty armor was durable to the point of surviving high explosives with barely a scratch. While Black Mask's guards were well armed, even to the point of carrying rocket-propelled grenades, Red Hood could take a hit or two from them. Still, he wasn't eager to have projectiles explode in his face. In his armor, it took someone as fit and strong as him just to move in it at all. Acrobatics were completely out of the question.

"Oof!" Red Hood grunted, stopped in his tracks for a moment as an RPG went off dangerously close to him, "Null. You moving yet? It's hot down here! Got 'em good and pissed off!" He said as he returned fire with deadly accuracy. Between the automatic turrets and Red Hood himself, things resembled a war zone, "Probably gonna have to make your move soon!"

XxX

"On it," Null replied over the comm. line he had established with Red Hood. He had heard the instant that the commotion started, and simply waited for the blimp he had hitched a ride on to circle the building again before making his move.

Once the shooting started, they probably only had five minutes before the scene became too hot to linger near. In ten minutes, it would likely be impossible to get away without fighting Gotham PD.

Using his position on the blimp to help him scout up close, he had managed to divulge which floor belonged to Black Mask. A honed eye and the ability to sense anything out of place in the makeup of the building floor from a short distance told him all he needed to know.

Null dropped in on the balcony and quickly slipped inside. It was far calmer than he'd expected. No panicking orders being issued. No frantic footsteps running around. Just easy listening playing softly.

Was there a silent alarm triggered by a sensor he might have missed? Seeing as how no hail of bullets came flying his way immediately upon entry, it seemed not. Upon closing the door behind him, the commotion outside ceased entirely. The sound-proofing in the suite had to be out of this world to drown out the kind of noise Red Hood was kicking up down below. The contrast was eerie. Simply the process of entering from outside gave him away. Still, it had always been the plan that things would move fast from that point forward.

What hadn't been the plan was for Null to find Black Mask sitting at a small bar, sipping at a rum and coke. He seemed relaxed, as though World War III wasn't erupting underneath his feet. He had his back turned to Null, even as the thief approached.

"Evening, Null," Black Mask said before taking a long sip, "Gotta be honest. I didn't think I'd actually see you in the flesh. Not with your head still attached, anyway."

Null ceased his approach, eyes darting around. He was missing something. Cornered crime bosses normally weren't so cool about being so exposed, "You're... not running. Or shooting. Why aren't you running or shooting?"

Black Mask glanced at the boy over his shoulder, "You think you and Red Hood are the first ones to ever try and shake me down?" He scoffed and turned back to his drink, "You ain't the first, and you won't be the last."

Wary of any last-minute surprises, Null kept a safe distance from him, "You sound pretty sure about that."

"Kid, I've done this so often, I'm about to let you in on what's gonna happen," Black Mask said, "You got no weapon. And I know you've got powers, but there's no killer intent in how you're moving, which means you think you're taking me alive."

Not that he would likely remain that way for long once he got him outside, but for the most part, yes, "That was part of the plan, yeah," Null admitted. There was no point in hiding it.

Black Mask seemed incredibly accepting of this, "Alright."

His demeanor had thrown Null off completely, "...What is this?"

"Nothing. It's what I said," Black Mask said, "You ain't here to kill me yourself. Which means you're here to get me out of the building in one piece. Good luck with that."

"Are you kidding?" Null asked. What did he mean, 'good luck'? "I'm not frog marching you down the hall and out through the lobby like a cop. I'm gonna tie you up and chuck your skull-faced ass off of this balcony. You better hope I catch you before you hit the ground."

"Now who's sounding too confident?"

Null had expected more kicking and screaming; more fighting; more desperation, "I know you can't hear anything from up here, but you've got to have a security feed. You've got to have people giving you reports. Red Hood is tearing your guys a new collective asshole."

"Question," Black Mask suddenly interrupted, "You know I control organized crime in this city, correct?"

"Yeah?" Null said, as though the answer were obvious, and for him it was.

"Hm. Just making sure," Black Mask said, lifting his empty beverage and giving the glass a shake, "...This drink could use a little more ice, you know?"

As he rattled the ice in the glass, the sound of a weapon discharging prompted Null to jump to safety as the area he'd once occupied had been flash-frozen by a blue beam. Turning to the origin of the shot, he saw a bald man with unhealthy blue tint to his pale white skin. He wore red goggles, yet his most striking piece of attire was the armored battle suit he wore, complete with a glass helmet that surrounded his head.

"I got myself a little bit of an insurance policy," Black Mask said.

Victor Fries, a.k.a. Mr. Freeze. One of the most dangerous men in Gotham City. Cold, and detached, he thought nothing of the people around them, lest of all taking their lives if he had no use for them, and especially if they got in his way. It seemed that Null was in his way.

Another blast of his freeze-gun missed, but formed a large spike of ice on the wall behind Null that he was forced to roll underneath to avoid an untimely death. Rising to one knee, Null reached out, intent on crushing Mr. Freeze's armor with the man still inside. Hardly any part of it budged. There weren't even any exposed metal circuits or tubes to exploit.

"Crap," Null complained, continuing to flee for his life. He took cover behind a nearby corner, but it was a short-lived refuge as a powerful blast from Freeze's gun froze the entire wall and anything touching it solid, "I always thought that armor was metal."

"A new suit," Mr. Freeze said, "It's well-insulated."

"I knew who I'd be dealing with," Black Mask said as he sauntered toward the exit, "He's all yours. Take him out and you can have what I was gonna pay Deathstroke's errant loads."

Null heard him leaving and grit his teeth. If he wanted to head him off, it looked like he would have to go through Mr. Freeze. So be it.

Allowing ironsand to funnel out of his suit, Null exposed himself long enough to fire a barrage of tiny projectiles at Mr. Freeze. The makeshift bullets pinged off of his suit, not even cracking the glass of his helmet. Mr. Freeze weathered the storm and pointed his freeze-gun at Null, who rushed in and kept him from aiming by blocking his arm. One arm still free, he manipulated his ironsand into a ball the size of his fist that he slammed into Mr. Freeze's stomach. The force of the shot sent the cryogenic criminal flying through Black Mask's shelves of alcohol and the entire wall behind it.

Whether that put him down or not, Null didn't care. Mr. Freeze wasn't his concern. He had come to get his hands on Black Mask, and he wasn't about to go back to Red Hood after letting him slip through his fingers.

Bursting through the same door Black Mask had fled through, Null was met with gunfire by Black Mask's guards who were covering his escape. Throwing up a quick magnetic field, Null caught the bullets out of the air and returned them to sender. Lacking the protective armor that Mr. Freeze had, they didn't stand a chance and fell where they stood.

Null didn't have time to sit and think, however. Creeping ice began to spread along the wall down the hallway he had just come down. He could hear the heavy steps of Mr. Freeze's suit and took off running.

As he sprinted, his comm system flared to life, Red Hood on the other end, "Kid, how's it going up there?"

"Not fucking good!" Null shouted, "He got Mr. Freeze to watch his back!"

A surprised Red Hood responded, "How did he manage to swing that? That guy doesn't work for anybody. Where's Black Mask?" He asked.

"I'm running him down now!" Null said. It wasn't just an attempt to assure Red Hood, it was an attempt to assure himself.

"Make it quick, because we're running out of time! Gotham PD set up a perimeter. SWAT will be swarming this place in minutes!"

Null ended the conversation there, but only so he could curse to himself, "FUCK!" He outwardly raged.

Their first chance would be their best. The next time they tried this, it would be more difficult to get this close. It would be harder to track him down. It would be harder to infiltrate whatever fortress he chose to run to. Next time, Black Mask wouldn't just have Mr. Freeze; he would probably have more superpowered muscle to run interference for him.

Anyone that tried to put themselves between Null and the fleeing Black Mask was swiftly dealt with. Null didn't have time to be nice about it. A hidden hallway, a hidden staircase, leading to a tunnel, that let out in a hidden garage. Null sprinted through them all like a madman and found a car just pulling out of the garage he'd run from, tires squealing as it tore out.

He reached out with his magnetic powers and dug his heels into the street as best he could, prepared for a game of tug-of-war. He didn't bother trying to stop the car itself. Trying to pull back 2 tons with full forward momentum wasn't a struggle he thought he could win, so he grabbed onto the rear axle. Between the forward moving car and the force of Null's powers, the axle was ripped clean off of the car. It skidded forward, the rear bumper and the back end of the chassis kicking up sparks and creating a horrible screech until it came to a stop.

Heart pumping in his ears, Null used the axle as a club with his powers, slamming it onto the roof of the car, then the hood. The windshield shattered and the doors swung open. Null swept Black Mask's driver aside with a wave of his hand and a bone-crushing swing of the axle.

Growling to himself, Black Mask pulled a Thompson sub-machine gun from the back seat and opened fire on Null. Null walked forward, letting Black Mask expend the entire drum magazine before sweeping the weapon out of his hand. With a flick of the wrist, he fired an ironsand bullet that hit Black Mask in the meat of his thigh.

"Gah!" Black Mask dropped to a knee, his leg compromised from the wound. He reached for an ankle holster and pulled out a tiny handgun. Again, Null yanked it out of his grasp and threw it away, "You little shit. Who do you think you are?"

Null looked around at the empty street and shrugged his shoulders, "Nobody important, I guess."

"Dumbass brat..." Black Mask muttered to himself with a chuckle, "You have no idea what you're dealing with."

He didn't care. It was too late for those kinds of thoughts.

Null snatched Black Mask up by the lapels of his suit and yanked him in, headbutting him in the face as hard as he could. Null could feel the cartilage of his nose give way upon contact. The crime lord's body hit the ground with a satisfying thud.

With barely enough time to exhale, Null readied himself at the sound of Mr. Freeze's gun. He formed a trail of ice from the rooftops to the street below, jumping down to confront Null again. His face was impassive as he regarded the thief in front of him. Said thief threw up his hands in exasperation.

Mr. Freeze went to fire a blast. Null jumped out of the way and magnetically shoved the car out of the way of the shot.

"Dude, seriously?" Null said, "I have your boss right here. If he dies, you definitely don't get paid."

For the first time, Mr. Freeze's expression shifted, to one of annoyance in this case, "I don't care if he lives or dies, and he isn't my boss."

"Then why are you here?"

"You made me angry."

Oh. That was right. Mr. Freeze was kind of notorious in the Gotham City underworld for being petty. Any perceived slight against him was a decent enough excuse for him to flash freeze you. Simply the act of Null successfully fighting back against Mr. Freeze's attempt to kill him had probably been enough to upset him in the short term.

Null didn't say anything in response as he and Mr. Freeze stared each other down. He quickly reached out to the side and swung it in front of himself. Before Mr. Freeze could point and fire, a different parked car careened into him, smashing him into his own ice monolith.

"Now you have an actual reason to be mad," Null said, having summoned his Gravboard to pick him up as sirens rang out in the near distance, "You're welcome," He said, grabbing Black Mask up over his shoulder. As he took off, he checked the clock to see what time it was.

Thus ended eleven of the longest minutes of his life.

XxX

(The Next Morning – Gotham City – The Hill – Society Headquarters)

A flash of violence under mysterious circumstances. That was how the media painted the events of the night before. While it was an open secret amongst those in the know that Black Mask resided at the building that hosted all of the mayhem, it wasn't on the record. Still, come daybreak, the sheer insanity condensed into under fifteen minutes made headlines.

Of the survivors that remained outside of police custody, the talk was that it had been the result of a direct assault courtesy of Red Hood.

Lex Luthor wasn't convinced he had worked alone. True enough, with a bit more digging he found that Null had been there. Mr. Freeze had verified as much while recovering from the injuries he'd suffered in the fight.

An attempt to deal with an annoying loose end led to significant damage being done to The Society's local efforts. It didn't matter of Luthor tried to downplay things. Others knew better. Talia al Ghul was one of those others.

Talia seemed smug as the news story played for seemingly the hundredth time that morning, "Black Mask was our anchor in Gotham City."

"The loss of Black Mask isn't important," Luthor said tensely, "He didn't matter."

Talia ignored him and the rhetoric he was attempting to spout. That may have worked on the rank-and-file, but it never would on her, "Nature hates a vacuum. The city will burn once everyone realizes everything is up for grabs again. Or do you really think your idea of The Society will keep the worst elements of society from turning on each other once they sense an opportunity at the top?"

"Anyone who chooses that course of action is a short-sighted fool, and someone we would be better without in the first place," Luthor snapped, "Anyone we recruit from Gotham City would just be a body; a foot soldier. No one that we need."

"Alienating and underestimating," Talia said, a mysterious smile on her face, "One could argue, that is how things in Gotham City turned south for us in the first place."

"One city," Luthor said, "What is Gotham City, when the world, the universe is there to be taken?"

True enough, they were looking beyond one place on a map; a place that had always been chaotic and tumultuous. But what had happened in Gotham City could wind up being more of a symptom than the sickness itself.

There was focusing on the big picture, and then there was not seeing the forest for the trees. Luthor would argue he was doing the former, while allowing the undergrowth of the latter to burn away for the health of the overall forest. There was always the chance of course that the fire could spread, especially if no one cared to put it out, and then what?

Before Talia could risk angering Luthor more by bringing this up, the Wilson siblings entered to do that job for her. A day seemed to make quite the difference. Unlike the last time when they seemed more deferential, there was none of that this time around.

"Black Mask is M.I.A.," Grant said, an indecipherable expression on his face as he stood with his scowling sister, "And we found out about a few... complications."

Rose was less willing to mince words, "Another hitter, Mr. Freeze, tried to pinch our target," She informed them irritably, "That wouldn't be much of a problem if Black Mask hadn't been the one to fucking hire him, and us, in the first place."

"Is that really such a problem?" Talia asked, seemingly innocently. She knew better though, and was stoking the flames.

"Why don't you double-book Deathstroke on a job and see how he reacts," Rose replied.

Deathstroke the Terminator having to compete over a hit would end up with the target dead, the competition dead, and a decent chance of the person who hired them all in the first place to also be killed. Putting more than one element on a job was an insult to Deathstroke, and thus would be construed as one to his offspring.

Luthor tried to smooth things over, "We're all part of the same outfit, all working toward a greater goal," despite the fact that it seemed the younger Wilsons had already made their decision.

They had said it before. They were not Society. Just because Deathstroke was didn't mean they were. They took orders from him, no one else, so if he told them to do something for The Society, they would. Otherwise, anyone else thinking they could issue marching orders would be told where they could stick those orders.

"Black Mask was footing the bill, and now he's out of the picture," Grant said, "That means we're out."

Luthor glared at the siblings, "You wanted this," He accused.

At that, Grant let out a laugh, "Not particularly. We like getting paid for our work. But, uh, we took the contract from him, not you. And no, we're not going to pick it up for you. We don't work for you."

"-And we don't fucking like you," Rose interjected before feigning surprise, "Whoops. Did I say that out loud?" The vicious grins she and Grant graced them with signified that her slip of the tongue had not been an accident.

"Anywho, we're outta here, Sexy Lexy," Grant said, bidding Luthor farewell, "We'll tell dad you said hi."

Luthor's face was an impassive mask, though internally he raged. He might have been a man with a plan and a purpose, but one couldn't help but feel a grudge form then and there.

Disrespectful children. Though, it couldn't be blamed on their being Deathstroke's children. Even if they had been related to nobodies, they would have carried themselves similarly. It was infuriating.

"I need to have words with Deathstroke about his unruly children," Luthor said once Rose and Grant had left, "It seems we have to remind him of who he has to thank for the return of his eldest son..."

XxX

(Gotham City – Cape Carmine – Industrial Complex)

When things went dark for Black Mask on that Gotham City street, he never expected to wake up again. However, he found himself stirring life , though his movements were restricted by the chair he found himself bolted tight to. Breathing through his nose was difficult and painful. He could hardly see out of one of his eyes, and all he could taste was blood.

This was all courtesy of the teenage thief standing watch over him, waiting for him to wake up.

Once he had regained his senses and gotten a good look around the open, empty room he found himself in, Black Mask spoke, "I don't have the words to properly convey just how badly you've fucked up," He said, his voice eerily calm, "Please note that this is only because it's taking most of my brain's computing power to properly function through all of this MURDEROUS RAGE!"

Null walked forward, dragging a chair that he set in front of Black Mask where he then took a seat, "I was just having a lark stealing from you. Instead of getting better security, you escalated by like five steps and put a bounty on my head."

"-Consider that bounty unofficially lifted then," Black Mask impatiently interrupted, "You see, it could be so much worse than just killing you. Now? Now, I'm gonna dedicate myself to ruining your life. Anyone who ever cared about you? I'm gonna tear 'em limb from limb in front of you. Anyone who ever helped you out? I'm gonna violate 'em in every way I can think of and send you the slides. Anyone who ever loaned you money? Smiled at you? Watched your place while you were out of town? Dead. And it's your fault."

Null sneered at him and gestured to their surroundings, "You are stuck in a chair in the middle of an empty industrial building at the ass-end of the city," He said, laying out Black Mask's situation, "No one knows you're here. No one thinks you're still alive. And anyone who would care to save your ass is getting processed at the precinct downtown."

Beyond fear, there was a glow of mania in Black Mask's eye, until he seemed to find something to hone in on against Null, "You're Catwoman's boy, right? That's what I heard. She and I go way back. I nearly cut her guts out once. Put a bullet in her head another time," A dark satisfaction rolled through him when he noticed Null tense up, "I can't wait to catch up with my favorite pussycat again. I wonder what we'll get up to this time."

Null stared into Black Mask's eyes for a very long time before saying anything else, "I hear you like torture," He said off-handedly, electricity sparking to life between his fingertips.

"Heh. I'd say it's an acquired taste, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I have it," Black Mask said, not even bothering to regard the dangerous right hand with a glance. In the quiet of the isolated room, snaps of electricity were audible with every wiggle of his fingers, "Even if I'm all for it, you don't have the stomach for it."

At that, Null suddenly clenched a fist, stamping out the electricity, "No, I guess I don't," Null admitted, finding no shame in it, "I've been tortured, you know. It wasn't that long ago either," A deep frown found its way to his face as he thought about the ordeal, "...It sucks. Makes me wonder what kind of sick fuck actually enjoys doing that."

At that moment, the door squeaked open, revealing Red Hood leaning against the door frame. He waved jauntily at Black Mask in greeting. Null felt that if Black Mask didn't have his mask burned onto his face, he would have seen him sweating.

"Sorry I took so long," Red Hood said, dragging in a cart full of tools and equipment "Had to get some amenities for my esteemed guest here."

At that, Null stood and headed for the door, Red Hood making room for him as he passed. Black Mask immediately knew which one he preferred to be left with, "Where are you going?"

Null stopped and glanced back at Black Mask and shook his head, "I don't want to be here for this," He said before addressing Red Hood, "Let me know if you get anything, would you? I need to find a new place to live. Apparently my house is full of explosives."

"For sure."

With that, as far as Null was concerned, Black Mask no longer existed. The crime lord yelled after him once the door closed, "Kid, you don't know what you're doing. This city is gonna erupt once it realizes I'm gone. It's gonna make the big gang war from a few years back look like a scrimmage!" There was no response, "You don't know what you're sticking your nose into! You don't know who you're pissing off! Kid! Kid!"

"The units in this complex are soundproof, you know," Red Hood said, shutting Black Mask up, "I wouldn't worry about him anyway. He isn't in this anymore," Red Hood remarked idly, picking up and putting down several painful-looking instruments meant to be seen by Black Mask, "That was the deal, really. Once we get you, whatever happens next is just between you and me. The kid has a weird way with words. He talked me out of my first idea. The original plan was just for me to kill you and stream it or something, so everyone could see it."

"And let me guess. You won't if I talk, right?" Black Mask said sardonically.

Red Hood was quick debunk that assumption, unwilling to lead him on whatsoever, "Oh, no. I'm still gonna kill you. It'll just be quicker and less humiliating if you talk," He took up Null's previous seat, spinning the chair around so the back faced his target, "So, a little blue and red birdie tells our boy that The Society has a pretty nifty meeting place in Gotham City."

Leaning over the back of the chair, Red Hood dangled a pair of pliers in front of Black Mask before tapping it on his fingernails.

"You wouldn't happen to know anything about that... would you?"


And that's the chapter.

Ugh. I hate the holiday season, because my heart is black, and being obligated to be positive and joyful because a date on the calendar rolls around makes me do the opposite out of spite. This time of year infuriates me. And losing the first version of this chapter did nothing to help that attitude. Oh well. Comes with the territory.

Alright, there's a lot to unpack here if we know where to look. But sooner rather than later, our boy and/or anyone associated with him will find themselves in over their heads yet again.

Until the next time, guys.

Kenchi out.