"This cave was the original Secret Sanctuary of the Justice League," Batman had said earlier today in the Mount Justice center hall. "We're calling it into service again. Glory Girl and Panacea are still with their family in Brockton Bay. They'll join us in one hour. We-" He held his ear. "Copy that. Shalltear, teleport to Dullsville. Glory Girl needs your help. Black Canary, Red Tornado, with me. The rest of you, stay here."
"But-" Robin started.
Batman walked away. Shalltear reappeared two miles above Dullsville, sensed a familiar presence and heard the voice of Ainz Ooal Gown.
She asked Batman afterwards where the Green Lanterns were. He told her it was some place called Oa. And all the other heavy hitters of the League were at the time facing foes that required their full attention.
Shalltear wondered what kind of enemy needed the complete notice of the man of steel.
"I'm going to be honest with you," Batman had said after the fight. They were seated by a booth in Starbucks with a crowd of pedestrians taking pictures outside the window. She sipped her latte and nodded for him to continue. "I don't think they're ready for this. The failure on their roles in Cadmus and that one-sided beatdown Glory Girl received proves my point. I've given up on even considering sending them as a covert unit. I'll be relying on you to keep them out of trouble Twice now your teammates have been injured and become liabilities in high stakes battles needing you to save them. Twice now you could've abandoned them. Twice now you didn't. The only reason you aren't immediately granted membership in the Justice League is because I believe you're mature enough to know your responsibilities. I've appointed you leader of the team. Take care of them, Shalltear."
"A bunch of kids pulled me down." She sighed. "I should've killed them back at Cadmus and let Demiurge rip Glory Girl's head off."
Shalltear wore a pink jacket. Her silver hair was rolled into a bun under her pink hood. It was accompanied by gray skinny jeans and black shoes. Raindrops pelted her body under the cold streets of Gotham City. She stood on the sidewalk. Cars drove past. Hookers of both genders catcalled her. Pedestrians leered at her. But no one approached her.
Shalltear released a little bit of her aura, just enough to repel the humans from approaching something that saw them as a food source.
"I've learned something from our friends," Demiurge said, one hour ago. He wore a suit and eyeglasses and sat in a red armchair. A fireplace lit up the gloom in a tinge of orange. They were at a suite he 'borrowed' from the brainwashed thug drooling by his feet. Shalltear, already in her civilian clothes, listened. "There is a group of criminals that have escaped the justice of the law. They have settled in Gotham City. They were so clean in their performance there isn't a single proof of their heinous crime. Rest assured I can provide you with the evidence to the contrary." He gently tapped the drooling man's face with his shoe.
"What do you want?" she asked, losing her patience.
"Our benevolent masters Ainz-sama and Suzuki-sama gave us the night off." His spectacles reflected the flames. He made a devilish smile. "Let us do this to prove we are worthy of their affection."
"Just tell me what I need to do," Shalltear growled.
"I'm going to give you a list of names. Under my calculation Batman will become aware of your presence in less than fifteen minutes. You need to finish this in five minutes, tops. And remember." He wagged his forefinger. The fingertip sharpened and cut the air. "No killing."
Shalltear Bloodfallen was one of the most powerful Guardians of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. She possessed a myriad of abilities, when synergized, allowed her to make Ainz-sama work up a sweat (even though he was made of bones) to defeat her. She never wanted to fight him, of course. She'd rather kill herself than make the great sin of attempting harm upon him ever again. But the fact was there.
She pulled up a black face mask to cover her lips and nose. "Time Acceleration," she said. The world became a monochrome of black and white and gray. Shalltear became a pink blur and moved.
Across the street was an expensive club. A bouncer held an earpiece and looked at a list of names from a tablet while a queue of customers lined up in hopes of getting inside. Shalltear ran past them. Inside the club there were booths near the walls, a large space at the center for the dance floor, and at the far end a DJ on top of a platform. There were security cameras attached to the ceiling, the walls, and behind a bar northeast.
Security men wore suits, earpieces and holstered guns under their coats.
She dispelled Time Accelerator. Even if it made her fast to the point the world stopped moving, it neutered her ability to attack. It was only useful to dodge or escape troublesome enemies.
Color returned to the world. Loud music was accompanied by a cacophony of cheers of drunkards and dancers and party-goers making some noise.
There were four security guards on each corner of the room. Two more went down the stairs to a hallway to the back. Five looked on from the balcony of the second floor. Shalltear jogged up the stairs to the second floor.
And there she met trouble.
"Hey girl," a drunk said, hiccuping and squinting his eyes at her. "Aren't you a little too young to be in this club? C'mere, I'll make you feel good outside. Let's go home." Each word was stenched with the breath of alcohol. The drunk reached a hand for Shalltear. She caught his wrist, squeezed and shattered bone. The drunk screamed. Shalltear was already halfway up the stairs.
"Hey! You can't come up here!" She looked up at the top of the steps where a security guard warned her. The security guard pulled out a collapsible baton from under his coat and pointed it. "Go back down and leave before I hurt you, kid." Shalltear rushed towards him. He was a man at his peak. If she were to hazard a guess, the security guard was faster than most policemen with the whip of his baton. In zero-point-five of a second from when he pulled it out the baton was already an inch from her throat.
But Shalltear wasn't human and felt nothing when it struck her. She caught the man's fingers, squeezed and delighted at his pained scream. To her left a security guard called for backup from his earpiece. To her right two more extracted their guns and aimed at her. More security guards congregated down the stairs and rushed up towards her.
Shalltear flung the security guard with the broken fingers down the stairs. He barreled into the group of suits, throwing their backs to the floor. The ones near the balcony opened fire. Shalltear watched a video once about how guns worked, out of curiosity more than anything. When the trigger was pulled the hammer was released from the sear and hits the rear of the firing pin. The pin's front hits and ignites the explosive charge in the base of the cartridge which ignites the main charge of gunpowder in the cartridge case, burning a large quantity of gas propelling the bullet forward. From the muzzle little pieces of lead begin flying. Spent cases clang on the floor and fall off the balcony, ejected and removed and replaced by a new cartridge chambered.
At least she thought that was how it worked.
The enfilade from multiple gunmen would have been enough to kill a normal human.
They were misfortunate enough to face her.
Shalltear caught the bullets with small, dainty hands. Even without her spells she was faster than the common man. She blurred to the nearest security guard and kicked him over the balcony. She made out the shape of the next guard five feet behind him trying to get a clear shot at her. She stole the falling man's gun and threw it, striking the security guard five feet away straight at his forehead. He fell to the floor. She grabbed his shoulder and swung him to the security guard fifteen feet southeast.
She ran down a hallway. The second door to the left, she recalled Demiurge's words. The walls were red. The ceiling black. The floor Travertine. The passed one door. It was white with a glass doorknob. There was a sign attached to its surface that read, 'For Employees only.' She ignored it. Ten meters ahead she found another one. It was identical to the first save it was lacking a sign. She reached for the knob and turned. It was locked. Gunfire erupted from the room. Bang bang bang bang. Bullet holes were formed from the wooden door and hit her clothing and did nothing else.
Shalltear raised a foot, spun and kicked the door.
"S-stay back!" A man said. Shalltear entered the room. There was a couch five feet north east, two armchairs five feet northwest, a closet to her left, a minibar to her right, and a frightened man behind a desk with his back to the wall fifteen feet ahead.
There were others. Five guys in civilian clothing all armed with black Beretta M12. She was going to let them spend their bullets on her when she heard a familiar voice that made her freeze.
"Shalltear?" Robin asked. He was two minutes early.
Fucking Demiurge and his incorrect assessment! Shalltear cursed the demon with all her heart.
"Stay there!" Bullets flew. Her arms were faster. She caught every single 9×19mm Parabellum all the while freaking out and hoping Robin wasn't harmed.
When the men stopped firing and attempted reloading, Shalltear attacked. She started with the gunman two feet away. She kicked his knee, shattering it. She threw him behind her and dashed for the sofa, kicking it to the man behind it, pushing him against the wall. She hefted the armrest and swung it to the two men on the other side, smashing them unconscious. The last man was able to reload and screamed as he opened fire on her. She let the bullets wash over her clothes. When he was done, she flicked his forehead and knocked him unconscious.
She stomped to the man behind the desk. "You and your five friends here are in big trouble, mister."
"W-wait," the man begged. "I have money! I-" His chin made contact with the knuckles of Shalltear's left clenched fist. His jaw was dislocated. He cried in pain. She grabbed his cheek and smashed him over the desk until blood leaked from his head. She threw him aside the piece of trash he was.
Shalltear crouched behind the desk, retrieved a small flash drive from her pocket, stood up and rolled her shoulders. She narrowed her eyes at Robin. The boy wonder made a wave. "Hi?"
She stomped towards him. "What were you thinking? You could've gotten hurt!"
Which was a problem ever since Suzuki-sama ordered her to protect the rest of the team. If even a single inch of Robin's skin spilled blood she would be the one to shoulder the blame. "Where's Batman!?" Shalltear exclaimed. "I need to report a careless teammate that almost got shot if I didn't block the bullets!" She rubbed her forehead. She was getting a headache. She couldn't afford to fail Ainz Ooal Gown-sama ever again. Failure was not an option. She fumed, took Robin's wrist and pulled him out the door. "Come on!"
"Shalltear, it's fine," Batman said, emerging from the stairs. A trail of unconscious bodies littered the steps behind him. Under his cowl he looked at her and then at Robin. "Report," he said.
"Sir." She nodded. "I've had another vision. Apparently the man behind the desk and the people he was with raped a girl five years prior, burned her body and got away with it." She opened her palm and revealed the flash drive Demiurge planted. The video wasn't necessarily false, but it only existed in their memories. Demiurge rectified that and created a solid construct for all the world to see. "But they were stupid enough to have a keepsake of the past." Batman reached a hand. She gave him the flash drive.
"Is that all?" Batman asked, putting the flash drive in one of the compartments of his utility belt.
"Thank you sir." Shalltear then pulled Robin back to the room and handed him a necklace. "Wear this."
"Shalltear, I had no idea!" Robin cackled. "What is it?"
"A magical item. If you're in danger, say, 'Bloodfallen, and I'll come save you right away. Understand?" It was provided by Ainz-sama. He should be grateful to receive a gift from the Supreme Being at all. Shalltear was supposed to give this at the base, but since Robin was with her right now she might as well give it here.
Robin gulped, nodded and put it on. "Thank you," he said, smiling warmly.
"I'll see you tomorrow. Greater Teleportation." The world shifted.
The team pestered Red Tornado to give them a mission. The team included Aqualad to her disappointment, having expected better from him. Superboy on the other hand became meek in her presence, which bewildered Shalltear for she knew he was an angry guy. After Red Tornado told them off they followed her back to the cave.
The team, led by Shalltear (reluctantly) were at the hangar. They looked at the ship. M'gann called it a bioship. Shalltear asked her if there was a hyphen. M'gann didn't know what she meant. Shalltear spelled it, 'b-i-o-s-h-i-p' with no spaces. M'gann corrected her and said there was a hyphen between the bio and the ship. So it was called the Bio-Ship.
It was red with black streaks. Two wings flank the main body which was a black surface with a red rear. The back of the wings split into two. The outer layer pointed outward. The inner layer were side-by-side with the rear of the ship.
The underside of the Bio-Ship split open into a hole. A set of steps slid from the ledge and landed on the whitetop surface. "Wicked," Kid Flash said.
"I know right?" Glory Girl raised a closed hand. Kid Flash fist-bumped it. The two were peas in a pod. Kid Flash dashed up the Bio-Ship. Glory Girl flew after him. Panacea sulked up the steps. Kaldur and Superboy were calmer in their approach. M'gann was going to fly up when she turned to Shalltear and Robin who stayed put.
"You two coming?" M'gann asked.
"You go ahead," Robin said. When M'gann was gone, he turned to Shalltear. "What did you want to talk about?"
"The necklace," she said. "Does Batman know?"
"Yeah. I told him," Robin said. Shalltear narrowed her eyes and put her hands to her hips. "I-I mean not that I had a choice. There were security cameras in the room and he took the recording."
Shalltear sighed. "Robin, why did I give you that necklace?"
He scratched his neck. "Because you like me?"
"You're worried I might get bruises on my handsome face?"
"No." She crossed her arms over her chest.
He sighed. "You think I'll get hurt."
She snapped her fingers. "That's it exactly." She put her arms on his shoulders. "Promise me that if there's a fight you know you can't win, just run away. Okay?" It would make it more convenient for me. You're the weakest member of the team after all. And it'll avoid wasting Ainz-sama's gift too. Your body's so fragile a small piece of lead would go through it with ease.
"Shalltear I'm not just going to abandon the team if you're all in danger."
She squeezed his shoulders. "I'm not letting you go until you promise me." Just say yes already and stop wasting my time you unpowered baseline human piece of shit. Suzuki-sama is the only human I accept. The rest of you can die in a fire for all I fucking care. What does he see in you?
She scowled. He returned it.
"Am I interrupting something?" Kid Flash peeked from inside the ship. Floating behind him Glory Girl held a hand to her mouth.
Shalltear released Robin's shoulders. "We're good." She was behind him and pushed him up the ship. "You are a fucking pain in the ass," she honestly spoke her mind.
He laughed, misunderstanding her words for tough love. "I'm glad you're worried about me. But don't be. I can take care of myself."
"I don't give two shits what the fuck happens to you," she grumbled and grinded her teeth when he cackled and tapped the necklace she gave him as if that would disprove her words.
When they got onboard they found windows on the interior hull. Small areas in the floor bulged and congealed into chairs. The pilot's seat was at the center accompanied by a control console. Shalltear picked a chair at the back of the ship, near Aqualad. He graced her with a smile. She decided then and there once this was all over she would keep him as a slave to torture for all eternity.
Seatbelts wrapped around Shalltear and the others. M'gann asked Red Tornado to open the bay doors. Afterwards the ship took off at the speed of sound. The group of children broke into discussion concerning the ship. Shalltear closed her eyes and tuned them out.
"I've heard what you did last night," Aqualad said. She opened one eye and attempted conveying her thoughts with a glare. Piss off and stop bothering me.
He mistook it for her paying attention.
"I'm glad you are worried for Robin," Aqualad said. "But you should not fret. He is as capable as the rest of us."
"You mean like that time at Cadmus?" Shalltear snorted. She was the one who knocked them unconscious, but they didn't know that. All they thought was that Guardian pulled a fast one and escaped. A lie she was more than happy to encourage. "Capable indeed."
Aqualad at least managed to look embarrassed. "That was an outlier," he insisted. "And we are thankful for you saving us."
"I don't get you," she said, frowning. "From what I've heard, you were living a good life in Atlantis. Why waste it playing hero?"
"For it is my calling." Aqualad's eyes scrutinized her as if he was looking for a kindred soul. "Something I believe you understand."
She recalled her servitude to Peroroncino-sama, and then to Ainz Ooal Gown-sama, and then to Suzuki Satoru-sama. She sighed. "Yeah. I know."
Now she was definitely keeping Aqualad. Not as a slave, but perhaps a pet she would wrap in chains and lock up in a cage.
And if he was good, she would let him eat once a day.
If Suzuki-sama would let her, of course. If Suzuki-sama wanted her to kill Aqualad, behead him and serve his head on a silver platter she would only be happy to oblige.
Fuck she hated these kids.
"Red Tornado to Miss Martian; an emergency alarm has been triggered at the Happy Harbor Power Plant. I suggest you investigate covertly." The voice came from a communicator attached to the ceiling of the ship.
"Received," M'gann said. "Adjusting trajectory. Good thing I'm on camouflage mode already, right?"
I don't care. Shalltear made a silent groan.
"Tornado's keeping us busy again," Robin snorted.
"Like Batman kept you busy last night?" Shalltear chastised him and glared at the back of his chair. Robin flinched.
"Where did this development come from?" Kid Flash wondered aloud.
Shalltear closed her eyes. "Miss Martian. Tell me when we reach our destination."
The ship shook.
"I think we're here," M'gann said.
Even though she didn't need to breathe, Shalltear inhaled then exhaled.
"All of you look for a place to hide. Greater Teleportation." The Bio-Ship vanished and in its place was the skyline of Happy Harbor. "Fly." She gained the ability to fly. "Mist Form." Shalltear's body turned into mist (astral type), making her impervious to attacks not specifically tailored to astral entities. "Invisibility." Her already transparent form vanished from the sense of sight. She would've cast Perfect Unknowable, but it would be counterproductive to what she planned on doing next.
She located the enemy.
A massive tornado uprooted trees, cars, houses and concrete. It spat the projectiles at random intervals. The Bio-Ship was struck. With a spark of electricity its camouflage mode vanished. The Bio-Ship sailed downward and landed near a building with its ceiling ripped off and one side of its wall shattered from an impact with a misplaced truck.
She found the source. It was a seven feet tall metallic creature painted red. Tubes extended from its back and into its forearms. Its eyes glowed blue. A scarf tied around its neck.
It approached the team. It introduced itself as Mister Twister. It pointed its arms to the ground and generated cyclones from each tip as Superboy charged it.
It lost its arms.
Shalltear's invisibility and mist form vanished. She floated next to the armless creature she knew was not human. She held her lance and tapped its head, making it clear she wouldn't hesitate to kill it if it moved any closer.
Superboy stopped his charge. Shalltear made an encouraging smile. "Good job, Superboy. I knew I could count on you."
"Um, I didn't even do anything," he said. She shrugged.
"Wait-" it started.
Shalltear ripped its head off.
"No!" Robin exclaimed. "Shalltear, what are you doing!?"
"It's not a human," she said. Her eyes glowed red. "I can tell. In fact, it's not even made of flesh." Not that it mattered if it were. Shalltear was given two orders. To join the League. To protect the team. She was to prioritize the second. If anything threatened to ruin her mission she would kill it with impunity.
"I'll be going on ahead," Shalltear said. She almost muttered Greater Teleportation and returned to the cave of Mount Justice.
But relying on instinct alone, she cast a different spell. "Perfect Unknowable," she whispered.
And then something wonderful happened.
Mister Twister's chest pushed up and split into two. "F-foul!" A frail old man scrambled out of the armor and fell on his knees. "I call foul!"
"What the-" Kid Flash paused.
"What's up, pops?" Glory Girl floated beside him.
"Hello, M'gann." M'gann spoke to herself. "It was an old man immune to my telepathy! For a second there I thought you were Red Tornado."
Shalltear was grinning from ear to ear. Not that anyone could see her, hear her or feel her presence.
"Y-yes," the old man said, sighing in relief. "I'm sorry for wrecking Happy Harbor. But I promise you I didn't kill anyone. I just wanted to fight Red Tornado."
"Dude, you destroyed a lot of property!" Glory Girl said. She turned a 360. "Where's Ames?" she asked, referring to her sister Panacea, also known as Amy Dallon.
"She stuck in the ship," M'gann said.
"Listen, Mister Twister, sir," Robin said, extracting a pair of handcuffs. "I'm going to have to restrain you and bring you to the proper authorities. What you did was a crime regardless of your intent."
"I'm sorry," the old man said, voice wry. "Here." He offered his hands.
"Thank you for not making this more difficult." Robin cuffed his wrists.
"I just wanted to try this bad boy out, you know what I'm saying?" The old man looked fondly at his broken suit of armor. "By the way, who was that girl?"
"She's Shalltear," Kid Flash said.
"KF!" Robin scowled at him.
"What?" Kid Flash shrugged. "Soon everyone's going to know her name. You know Alexandria's just using the team to prepare her for an actual heroics, right? I mean, look at this. She dismembered Mister Twister without even trying."
Superboy stared at the suit of armor.
"Three times now she did all the work," Kid Flash said. "How many more times are we going to feel useless?"
"I don't mind," Glory Girl said. "I think this is actually a pretty sweet deal. We're already training with Superman's second student."
"Ah!" The old man lowered a fist on an open palm. It was an awkward gesture considering he was cuffed. "I remember now. She's the girl Superman greeted at the Hall of Justice! She was the girl who killed that goat metahuman at Dullsville prison!"
"She saved a life," Glory Girl growled, defensive of her hero.
"I know, I know." The old man raised his hands, as if to placate her. "I don't mean disrespect. I'm just saying that's a lot to take in for a child like her."
"Old man," Aqualad said. "I've been wondering. You built this armor to fight Red Tornado?"
The old man looked sheepish. "Yes. I'm sorry for wrecking the place. But what can I say? I don't have much time left in me. Gotta do what you gotta do, you know?" He sighed and looked up at the sky. Seagulls flew in a v formation towards the ocean. "Life is short. We all have big dreams and manage to accomplish nothing. Gotta make the little moments count."
"Dude, you're making it sound like you're crossing something off a bucket list," Glory Girl pointed out. She then threw her arms. "You ruined a town, in case you forgot!"
"Old man," Aqualad said. "I would like to offer you a deal. Understand that this is in no way official and can be rescinded by the Justice League."
"I'm listening," the old man said.
"Work for us," Aqualad said. "No. Work with us. You've accomplished so much with this suit of armor it would be a waste to spend the rest of your life in prison. Yes, we capture supervillains who have hurt the innocent. But we are not just black and white. We understand that there are shades of gray that require more complex answers."
"Aqualad," Robin said. "What are you doing?"
"Giving a repentant old man a chance," Aqualad answered. "Would it not be better if he became a hero like us? Absolve the bitter feelings. Make it a community service if you're so intent on dispensing justice. But it has to be justice."
Robin sighed. "You're right."
"I don't know guys," Glory Girl said. "This old man's a loon."
M'gann looked at the old man with sympathy, as if she saw a part of herself in him. "I lived a hard time too where I was from," she said. "I… I don't know where I'd be if not for uncle J'onn. He gave me a chance. It wouldn't be fair to him if I didn't do the same."
Superboy looked away. "Do whatever you want."
"Whelp." Kid Flash nudged Glory Girl, who crossed her arms and scowled at the ocean. "You're outvoted, GG. Might as well give in to peer pressure am I right?"
She pouted at him. "You suck."
He grinned. "Come on. You know you love me."
"You wish, KF." Glory Girl pinched the bridge of her nose. "Fine. One chance, old man. I've seen monsters before. Like that maniac from Dullsville who robbed a bank and killed his hostages. If ever you cross the line don't think for a second I won't put you down, because I will."
"Glory Girl!" Robin chastised her.
"Not kill him!" Glory Girl insisted. "Just beat him up!"
The old man chuckled in relief. "Thank you so much. I promise I'll do better. I'll do whatever it takes to repent for my mistakes."
"Come on." Robin offered a hand. All around him the other heroes shared warm smiles. The old man looked grateful as he accepted Robin's hand and was pulled up to his feet.
"Thank you," the old man said.
"Don't worry about it. Batman's going to give you an earful though. Can't escape it. Have to bear with it," Robin said.
"You have no idea what this means to me," the old man said. "I won't disappoint you. I promise."
"Good." Aquaman nodded at M'gann who waved a hand for the Bio-Ship. It flew towards them. "Let us depart. Shalltear must be worried for Robin."
"Hey!" Robin blushed.
"Come," Aqualad said. "We shall surprise her with the fact we've changed a life for the better."
"Implosion." Implosion was a10th tier spell that can cause the target to collapse or burst inward.
The old man was not a human. It was also not a hero. Therefore it fulfilled the two qualities for Shalltear to cast the spell.
Its body burst inward, revealing denting metal skin. The mechanisms of it body malfunctioned.
When Shalltear cast the 10th tier spell, her Perfect Unknowable was destroyed. At the time she stood next to the robot. Therefore she blocked most of the explosion from harming the others.
"No!" Robin screamed.
"Get back!" Aqualad's voice was grim.
"Shit!" Shrapnel pelted Glory Girl's head. Luckily she was unharmed.
"No…" M'gann echoed Robin, tears leaking from her eyes. "Why…" She fell down her knees.
"S-Shalltear. How did you know?" Kid Flash asked.
"A guess," Shalltear said, refusing to look at them. If she did, they'd see her malicious smile as she stared down the robotic corpse where the old man used to be.
"H-he was a robot," Kid Flash said, gaping in horror. "But he was like us."
"He was like Red Tornado." Robin shook his head. "Fuck!"
What was once a triumphant atmosphere turned into one of mourning and despair.
"This…" Glory Girl gulped. "I didn't want this."
"We can't all decide what we want," Shalltear said. The light of the fire glinted from her eyes. "Sometimes we have to roll with the punches and make do."
M'gann kept on weeping.
Superboy didn't. He pulled her into a hug, as if to protect her from the gruesome death.
Shalltear turned towards them with a solemn expression. "I don't know what bonds you formed with the old man. But I could guess. Come. Let's give him a proper funeral, at least."
Robin jerked his head into a nod. "You're right." He looked to the others. "For what could have been."