It should be criminal to enjoy jerking around my readers so much. There were many, many assumptions and cheers being thrown about considering last chapter's ending, so much that I genuinely almost feel bad about this chapter. I wondered how many people forget that the First-Person POV is often an unreliable narrator. Ah well ~
Enjoy the new chapter!
Oh, and if you haven't yet checked out my book, Janus and Oblivion on Amazon, be sure to give it a glance!
Sir Lucifer is back and here to stay!
Gotham City was not as he remembered it.
The perpetual cloudiness was gone, and the city was sunnier. The pedestrians walked with an extra step, and he witnessed, for what seemed to be the first time, a man's wallet fall unto the ground, and three different people call the man's attention to it.
The local hot-dog stands possessed vendors giving out discounts, and the song of the ice-cream truck was actually followed by the laughter of children. The air was not thick with an oppressive smog, and instead, each and every intake of air was revitalizing in ways that was beyond explanation.
Then, there were them. The legionnaires. Patrolling the streets in a manner that should have been reminiscent of a police state, a manner that should have sent alarm bells ringing throughout the entirety of his being, yet, somehow, the connection did not link. There were legionnaires everywhere, some of them were shooting hoops with children, others were on skateboards in parks, performing three-sixties and fist-bumping teens, and the rest were taking selfies with pedestrians, helping the elderly cross the street, and assisting in the regulation of traffic.
Dreyer's men were everywhere in Gotham, and somehow, it was better for it.
However, it made things far more difficult for him. As it stood, he was a wanted man, and he could not allow himself to be caught before he managed to complete his mission in the City. The rest of the Justice League was occupied with the Spectre situation, and he should have been assisting them, but right now, it was impossible for him to do so – not as he was.
Extending his hand, the prosthetic limbs he recently acquired from Lucius Fox were considerably well-made, however, they were tools. A tool could not be relied on as confidently as his own body, as something he trained and worked meticulously on in order to ensure that he did not fail in his duties as the protector of this City. The Consultant was the one responsible for this, and following the Consultant's attack, Dreyer applied a continual amount of pressure upon him that eventually led to this situation.
"Excuse me, sir, you with the hoodie."
A truly troublesome predicament.
"Some young women had concerns about a suspicious man in a hoodie and glasses moving around this area. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, but just to be sure, would you mind taking off your…"
The police officer stared at him for several seconds. Each one was an agony, and he immediately knew that his cover was blown.
"Wait – aren't you – Bruce Wayne?"
He turned tail and ran.
He did not expect the police officer to catch up with him effortlessly. He did not expect to see the Taser that slammed into his back and sent shocks travelling down his body. Again the taser came down, a second time, freezing his muscles. A third time, it continued. Enough that he understood immediately that there was something wrong. Police brutality was not uncommon in Gotham, but this was something else. The police officer shot something at him, and as it massively spread and hardened, he recognized it as containment foam meant for metahumans.
"Alpha Division, this is Agent 31 of the Al'tair Squadron. Priority Target: Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, has been found. I repeat, priority target: Batman has been found."
He felt a needle pierce the back of his neck, injecting his system with something that drained his strength. A blindfold placed over his eyes, and for the first time, Bruce Wayne found himself in a situation he could not fathom.
When the blindfold came off, he found himself sitting in a large white empty room. He was bolted securely to an iron chair that was welded to strong steel pipes on the floor, and attached to the concrete walls. It seemed that every single precautionary measure was being taken against him, yet, they did not remove his prosthetic limbs.
"Hello Mr. Wayne, or rather, should I say, Batman?"
He was expecting any significant number of his savvier villains to be responsible for this. Perhaps someone from his rogue's gallery put two-and-two together and discovered his identity. Yet, he was not at all prepared for yet the rise of another nemesis.
The young blond billionaire stood before him in a dark suit and flame-patterned tie. Two of his men, drabbed in their legionnaire outfit stood silently behind him, and the man slowly clapped his hands.
"I'm impressed you managed to make it into Gotham. I watched every airport, road and harbor for your arrival, all with police officers ready to take you into custody. I ensured your butler was followed at all times. Yet, you somehow still managed to enter the city. I am truly impressed. Of course, considering you are the Batman, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised."
"Look, Dreyer, this must be a misunderstanding. I'm not – me? A vigilante? That's not –"
"Let's not waste precious time on pretenses Bruce. I know you're the Batman, and would you care to know how?"
Dreyer dipped his hands into the breast pocket of his suit, withdrawing from it a handkerchief which he used to polish his wristwatch.
"It starts with the question, is Batman human? The answer would be a simple yes. Hence, if Batman is human, does he need to sleep? To eat? To exercise? To train? To relax? The answers to this will come obviously."
"Then, we progress to a higher question. Where does he do all these things?" He said, "It's simple – obvious actually. He has a base of operations, a place where he studies, and rests, and trains. A place to which he goes after a night's work, and a place where he leaves from to perform his business. And then, I asked the next question."
"How do I find this place?"
Bruce did not like where Dreyer was heading.
"The answer, was somewhat more difficult. It required thinking. Calculation. Numerous tries and misses. But, a strategy was formed. Another question."
"How long does it take Batman to arrive at the scene of a crime?"
"So, I watched, waited, observed hundreds of times when Batman appeared, where he appeared, and how long it took him to appear, relative to the start of the crime. The next step, of course, was calculating the speed of his vehicle – estimating and generating a top speed for how fast, and how slow, and then, using GPS camera's in the city, mapping out all the routes for which the black car of Batman was seen."
"The roads that the car was seen most frequently on, were part of the major roads that led to the outskirts of Gotham. 82 out of a 100 times, the vehicle was witnessed passing these roads. The numbers were clear enough to make it certain that Batman lived on the outskirts of Gotham – which, as I realized later, was where the billionaire Bruce Wayne, also lived."
"Although it could have been a mere coincidence, I had to account for the fact that the masked vigilante had sponsors. His vehicle is top model and possesses high-end technology that cannot be attained cheaply. It is unlikely, given his seeming sense of justice, that he stole to acquire these gadgets – so that must mean, he has the money to purchase them legally."
"So, I felt, most likely, that Bruce Wayne was sponsoring the crusader – until, I did the estimates of how long it took Batman to get to the scene of a crime with his car going at max speed, and crossed-referenced it with how long it would take, to get from the Wayne Manor to that location, at top speed."
"The times were a near-perfect match."
It couldn't have been that easy.
"Seven days." Dreyer said. "That's how long it took me to uncover this. Seven. Days."
That's not possible. It's –
"Although other possibilities existed, such as the Batman being your driver, butler, or perhaps even a secret roommate, no other candidate matched the exact height and physical build as you."
"As amusing as it would be to watch you scurry around in the shadows in some attempt to uncover the mastermind behind your recent woes – it has dragged on for long enough, with your absolutely disappointing performance which makes me laugh when I hear your epithet of World's Greatest Detective."
Dreyer outstretched his hands.
"Hence – it is I."
It took a second for it to click.
"You – you're the one responsible for the investigations – the allegations of fraud and tax evasion."
"You are guilty of fraud Mr. Wayne. You have misappropriated millions of dollars from your own company for the purpose of vigilantism, and under the guise of 'miscellaneous expenses' that neither your investors nor board are aware of. While I'm sure you believe your intentions were noble, it is no different from the C.E.O. of a company deciding to take millions out of it to sponsor a voyage of bikini-clad college girls on a trip to find Atlantis, and then claiming it was 'a necessary expense.'"
Dreyer shook his head. "Regardless, my goal is complete. I have reduced the credibility of your name to a point that it is synonymous with hypocrisy and incompetence. Your stocks fell significantly after the allegations, and I purchased them, one after the other. As it stands, I am the majority shareholder of Wayne Enterprises, a company, which very soon, shall find itself merging with a much larger, much better – Legend Industries. And you, Mr. Wayne, shall find yourself enduring a lengthy trial and going to jail for a long, long time."
"Is that a threat?"
"No, Mr. Wayne. It's a half-completed checklist."
There were a lot of questions on his mind, but one stood out above every other.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because," he said, "I have nothing to fear from you."
"As far as the world is concerned, I am the savior of Gotham and you are its disgraced son. Should you go around spreading rumors of me being some criminal mastermind, at best, people will assume it is a bad joke and will chide you on making such utterances. At worst, they will assume you are merely a drowning man attempting to drag others into the depths with him. Your name will only be dragged further in the mud as your reputation plummets and never rises."
"And should your 'friends' decide to pay me a visit, it would be on what grounds? They cannot arrest me – they do not possess that authority. They cannot make claims or assertions without any proof or justifiable evidence, and even if they do have that, I can acquire the best team of lawyers in the world and walk out a free man with the image of someone undergoing false persecution, whilst their credibility plummets."
Bruce hated every word that came from his mouth. He had never hated the truth before.
"The only way you can stop me, is either through equally dubious means, making you no better than I am –or, it would be to kill me." Dreyer slowly pocketed his handkerchief. "But as we both know – you do not believe that it is your right to decide who lives and who dies."
Makarov Dreyer stretched his hands and checked his watch. "As I have breakfast to attend with someone important, this is the end of our meeting. Goodbye, Mr. Wayne. I will not be seeing you at the trial."
Dreyer clapped twice.
"Hand Mr. Wayne over to the authorities, and let due diligence be done."
"Wait," Bruce called. "Why? Why are you doing this? You've been making Gotham better, you genuinely want to improve it. So why go to such lengths to remove me from the picture?"
Makarov Dreyer stood at the door, hesitating for a second, before smiling.
"I'm not a comic book villain Mr. Wayne. You don't have to know my reasons."
The door slammed shut behind him, a needle plunged itself back into Bruce's neck, and the world went dark.
~~~~~~ DC – Remastered Edition ~~~~~~
Blood. Blood everywhere.
No matter where she looked, she saw them. Men, women – dying. Their breaths came out in raspy gasps, their eyes widened beyond all human possibility. They reached out to her – as she stood, alone, being encroached by them.
She tried. She tried.
But she didn't. Couldn't. She was frozen in place, watching, as one by one, violently and without warning, ribcages tore open from chests in a mash of blood and flesh. They screamed. She screamed. The pumping red organ, still covered in thick, flowing blood, flew out from their confines. They all landed on her, shot towards her – covering her in it – burying her amidst a thousand hearts.
She couldn't breathe. Her hand went up, grasping, pleading, for someone, anyone to come and save her –
And then a young man appeared on top the mound. Demonic blonde hair, fangs, and horrifying glowing eyes.
"Hello Batgirl – are you ready to continue from where we left off?"
And she was pinned again. Head deep inside water – drowning, suffocating – as clawed hands reached for her behind, tearing aside her outfit –
"This time…" the voice chuckled "We're going all the way~"
"GET OFF ME! GET OFF ME!"
"Barbara calm down!"
It took her a few seconds to get full control of her bearings, panting desperately, her eyes squinted in the darkness – and she froze when she saw blonde hair.
"No – you –"
Crippling fear overcame her as she lunged forward, a desperate roar escaping her lips as she tackled the blonde to the ground. Her hands quickly grasped around the slender neck, ready to choke the life out of –
She made out the voice – it was – feminine. Slowly, she came to the realization that the neck was far too sturdy to be human, and far too slender to belong to a male. Recognition overcame her as the blonde hair revealed itself – long, far too long, and the face was soft – too soft, feminine.
The realization as to who she was attacking hit her like a wave of cold water. "Ohmygod – Kara – I'm – I'm so, so sorry – I –" She quickly got off the girl, her entire body soaked with sweat, her breathing still unsteady.
"It's alright," Kara murmured. "It takes a lot to actually choke me to death." The blonde girl looked uncertain. "You were… screaming in your sleep."
Her blood went chilled. "I – I'm so sorry – did I wake you up – your folks –"
Kara shook her head. "It's just me and Aunt Martha here Barbara. She's a really sound sleeper."
Barbara took a deep breath, letting out a small sigh of relief. In lieu of the suddenly prominent anti-vigilantism movement, she'd been invited as a guest into the Kent home, to stay and regain her bearings and be safe from significant danger whilst the Justice League thought about what to do about it – not that they could do anything with their hands busy against the Spectre.
She didn't want to spit on that generosity with her problems, and as Gotham City was finding itself lacking a need for heroes more and more, she'd never felt so… lost before.
"Barbara – are you – are you okay?"
She let out a tired smile. "I'm fine – it's just – with everything that's happened so far –" She shook her head. "I'll – I'll get it out of my system."
Kara still looked uncertain. "What is it, Kara?"
"The way you were screaming – and the way you reacted when I woke you –" Her blood ran cold again. "Barbara – did someone… did someone…"
Mocking laughter. Head under water. Hand caressing her nether regions, stroking against her sensitive parts. Her struggle increasing to desperation.
A mocking smile.
"I stole your panties."
"I-I don't want to talk about it."
Kara took in a sharp breath. "Barbara, if you were ra –"
It was more forceful than she intended.
Her friend nodded in slow understanding, before moving to embrace her in a tight hug. She was holding back the most of her strength, and yet, Barbara felt herself unable to escape the tight embrace.
"You know you can tell me anything right?"
"And if you need to get anything off your chest?"
"You'll be here."
"You bet I will."
There was so much she wanted to get off her chest. So much she wanted to say. She wanted to curl up into a ball and scream until her voice went hoarse. She did none of these things. She couldn't afford to do any of these things. Not now. Probably not ever.
"You're… scared that this guy is still out there, aren't you?"
Her body went rigid.
"This… Consultant. You don't think he's dead either, do you?"
She didn't want to admit it. She didn't even want to consider the possibility. But she knew for certain that it was true.
"No." She said, gritting her teeth "He – he's still out there."
The Justice League had been sketchy about it, in the same way they had flat out refused Nightwing, Robin and her from seeing Bruce. They suspected that the Consultant had somehow survived – that he was somehow still out there, despite turning his own body into a bomb.
It worried her.
She squeezed Kara tighter than before, as tight as she could just so she could have some form of comfort. The thought – the realization that the Consultant was supposedly a teenager even younger than her – it didn't bring her peace. It didn't give her comfort. It only made her more scared. Someone that young was that monstrous, and no doubt filled to the brim with all sorts of hormones which will impair any good judgment. What sort of monster would he become when he aged to an adult? When he reached his thirties?
"Do you want… revenge?"
Revenge? No – no – that was not the path that Bruce had taught her. That was not the path that her father had taught her. What she wanted to see, was justice – justice rendered and served.
"He killed all those people and crippled Bruce – but, no – I want to see him put behind bars for what he did."
Kara's grip went slightly tighter. "We will."
"Thank you Kara."
In the end, things would get better. As long as they had hope, Bruce would find a way to bounce back, the anti-vigilantism movement would die out, and everything would return to normal.
Everything would return to normal.
~~~~~~ DC – Remastered Edition ~~~~~~
Makarov Dreyer's Mansion
He was not pleased.
"Eva, I'd like you to meet my butler and second-in-command."
Regardless of his personal feelings on the matter, there was no reason for him to voice his displeasure. Rather, he performed to the best of his ability the role that was expected of him. A formal bow, a tilt of his head, and possessing the air and grace of the gentleman he was supposed to be, he saluted her.
"A pleasure to meet you, Mistress Eva. I am Nezumi, and I serve Master Zack."
"I didn't know you had a butler." The woman, clad in a towel, hanging off the side of his master, opened her mouth to display her ignorance.
"He died when I fought against god's vengeance – long story – so when I went back in time to save you, I made tiny changes to bring him back."
Indeed, he still remembered his failure to protect his master. He remembered how he stood before that being known as the Spectre, and he failed. He – failed! The failure to protect his creator burned an ineffable hole in the center of his being. It spurned him to find ways and manners to ensure that he would never fail his master again, to ensure that his master's goals would all be accomplished without fail, to ensure, without a doubt, that his master never stood alone.
Indeed, he knew that his master had gone back in time in order to preserve him. There was an extra enchantment carved into his soul that did not exist before: Heracles' Law. An enchantment, which if he recalled from the memories of his master and the fictional worlds he loved, originated from a fictional counterpart of the ancient Greco-Roman Hero, Heracles. The enchantment made it so he possessed twelve lives, and each time he died, he could no longer be killed by the same thing that previously destroyed him.
The enchantment had not affected history, for Nezumi had never died before. His first life was taken at the hands of the Spectre, and now, he would not let that happen again. He would not! He would not fail against the spirit, and if tasked by his master to ascend past the heavens and fight with god himself, Nezumi would charge without hesitation.
"Nezumi, this is Eva. She's –"
"Your mother, yes, I am aware Master Zack."
"Well, she's technically more than that."
His master kissed Delilah. The Jezebel gave him a smile that Nezumi would never give to begging man, dying of an incurable disease. Something sparked at him, and it burned at him to ask, to question it, because there was no way his master should not have been able to see it. There was no way, his master, who manipulated the emotions of the fickle-minded humans around him and possessed goals far beyond what their ice-cube sized brains could comprehend.
Could this woman even understand the vastness of his master's plans? Did she grasp the scale and scope of the revolutionary change that the man she so carelessly caressed was capable of? Did she even possess an iota of interest in the manner of which he would accomplish his goals? Did she intend to aid him in those goals, or was her designation permanently intended to be the femme fatale whose only function was to offer advice in hindsight and drain his master of seed?
"Is something wrong, Nezumi?"
The immaculate butler did not hesitate. "My apologies Master Zack, I am merely… curious, as to the manner in which Mistress Eva will be included in your plans."
"Plans?" the Jezebel asked, continuing to display her ignorance at an alarming rate.
"Master Zack's plans for world optimization." He clarified. "Starting with Gotham City, and ultimately ending in a glorious galactic warfare where he stands supreme above all beings in the Universe."
The Jezebel detached her arm from him. "…what?"
His master provided him a look that conveyed annoyance. "I was going to get around to telling you about that, before Nezumi managed to spoil the surprise."
"Wait, what? You – you have a plan to conquer the world? Like – like some action movie villain?"
"Optimize." Nezumi corrected. "Conquering the world is a task Master Zack can accomplish in his sleep. Optimizing the world however, is far different, and something no... action movie villain has the brainpower or nuance to achieve effectively."
"You're rather chatty today Nezumi." His master provided him with another long look. He did not falter.
"Apologies, Master Zack – I merely assumed Mistress Eva would want to know of all your achievements till date, in order to truly understand the scope of what you have done, and how impressive it is."
"More impressive than having a billionaire alter-ego at seventeen?"
The effort he utilized to keep from retorting bitterly to such an asinine question would have powered Gotham for years. "Yes."
There was a familiar Ping!
His master seemed to have received a new quest notification. His weekly meetings with the young Evelyn. There was a functional, fully capable individual who provided merit to his master in the form of intellectual stimulation. The boy, Lucian, provided his master with knowledge of the mindset of his demographic age of such individuals in Gotham, and the woman, Naomi, was an acceptable source of stress relief that his master could utilize. That family was more than enough, and each one contributed something to him without taking something from him. He could not say the same for the Jezebel.
"That reminds me… I've got to figure out how to introduce you to Naomi and her family. They don't really 'know' about my magic yet."
"Purity has kids?"
"Well she doesn't go by Purity anymore, and yes, she has two. One of them was named after you."
The Jezebel smirked. "Did you sleep with her?"
"I'm not going to have sex with a thirteen year old girl."
The Jezebel grinned. "Just pretend your genders are reversed. Problem solved."
"I… that's… wait, are you trolling me again?"
The Delilah smiled. "Am I?"
Nezumi cleared his throat. "Very well Master Zack, it would not be wise to leave a young woman waiting. In the meanwhile, I shall give Mistress Eva a tour of the City and acquire her a new wardrobe to suite her tastes."
"Did someone say, shopping?!"
His master grinned. "Thanks Nezumi. Make sure she feels right at home, and give her anything she asks."
Bowing, as he should, he responded. "As you command, Master Zack."
His master kissed the Delilah, tongues battling for several seconds before he smiled at her in a manner that Nezumi found physically revolting.
"I'll be back soon! Love you!"
The portal that split space opened, and his master stepped through. The Delilah blew him a kiss, and once he caught it in an exaggerated manner across his chest, it closed. The Dreyer Mansion was thus left only to himself and her.
"So when does our shopping trip start? There are sooo many things I want to buy –"
"It does not."
The woman blinked. Clearly she was nowhere near the intellectual genius his master was.
"I don't understand."
"Master Zack is incapable of seeing it, which I assume is caused by his childhood obsession with you that recedes his emotional intelligence to that of a toddler with a rattle." Nezumi began. "However, I am not quite so blind. Master Zack is a phenomenal man, but he does have his flaws and he is prone to error. As his Butler, no, as his creation – I am here to ensure those errors do not become fatal."
"I – I'm not sure I understand where you're going with this."
Did he truly have to simplify things to the basest level?
"You have no emotional connection to Master Zack."
"What are you talking about? He's my son –"
"A relationship you possessed for no more than a year, and one in which you upheld zero responsibilities associated with a parental figure." Nezumi said.
He tapped the side of his head slowly. "Master Zack may forget, but he granted me access to all of his memories. He may also forget, but I have empathic powers granting upon me the ability to sense emotions."
He cracked his neck. The Jezebel flinched.
"Reviewing from what I have – you do not deserve to stand by Master Zack's side. You are not worthy to lick the sand that falls from his feet, yet alone fall on your knees and beg for his attention."
"I. Am. Not. Done. Talking."
The burst of killing intent was enough to send Delilah to her knees. Weak. So pitifully weak. This was the person who birthed his master, yet, she could not even withstand a fraction of a fraction of a decimal of his power? This was the person his master wanted to stand beside him as he conquered the universe?
"Master Zack is blinded to all your imperfections, so he fails to notice, or willfully ignores discrepancies in your behavior. The manner you hold him, like a professional escort guiding her partner. The manner you kiss him, an actress forced into a sex scene against her will."
He took two steps forward, and slowly adjusting his tie.
"You do not love him, and rather than admit this to his face – you choose to play a game of charades because you are terrified of losing the benefits derived from being with him, and terrified of the uncertainty of your future should he ever realize that the woman he loves feels nothing for him."
Jezebel shook like a leaf before him, and he felt his revulsion rise.
"There are two options before you now. You will listen to them, and you will decide, and if you so wish, you will tell Master Zack of this conversation. If you understand me, nod once."
"The first option is that you continue with this farce, you continue to contribute the barest minimum of affection to Master Zack, continue onwards for as much as you can until he eventually realizes it, however long that takes. He sees that your kisses are passionate, but never too passionate. Your concerns for his wellbeing are present, but never fully present. Your hugs are stilted, your smiles empty. Slowly, until he comes to realize the truth: you do not love him as he loves you – that you cannot, and that you pretended to do so, because you were scared of telling him the truth."
"The thing with you humans is that your emotions are easily inverted. Passionate love can so easily morph into fervent hatred. Although Master Zack will not kill you, for there is still love within him, he will remove you from existence. He will overwrite your soul until you become everything he wishes you to be, and you cease to be what you were. Then, he will make himself forget he ever did such, and he will continue, in blissful ignorance, in the fabricated love of his own making."
Jezebel's eyes widened.
"The second choice, is that you end this charade immediately. You tell him the truth, and you demand, no, you plead for him to understand. You explain to him that you cannot see him as anything more than a son, and end it. Yes, Master Zack may be hurt, my knowledge of your human emotions tells me that logic and emotion rarely parley, but in the long-run, you will have what you want. He will give you riches and send you away, where you can have a fresh start, and live your life of debauchery however you so desire."
It was almost effortless to see the turning cogs in her mind. No, not almost effortless, utterly effortless. She was an open book, a blatant screen, readable and visible for his complete understanding.
"I will not force you to make any decisions. However, know that if the decision you make is one that will in one-way or another, be the most long-term and damaging for Master Zack – know that I will take actions into my own hands, and even if it costs me my existence –I will end you."
The Jezebel was shaking.
"Do you understand?"
A simple nod. Nezumi straightened his back and properly adjusted his white gloves.
"Now, as for your new wardrobe, do you prefer Versace, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton?"