Working for Vergil St. Jude was an interesting experience, Miranda reflected as she gave her signature on yet another form. He was a taskmaster. Oddly, he was worse than her father had been - not only had he created her to be perfect, but he expected absolute perfection in everything. Vergil still found a way to beat him out in terms of dumping mountains of work onto her.
Only the fact that he dumped an equally large load of work onto himself stopped her from throwing him out of the building sometimes . It made it… acceptable. Misery and company.
"I always wanted to be on TV as a kid. Somehow, this isn't how I expected it to happen. ," Vergil thought out loud , standing backstage as he waited for his cue. The backstage crew were left at a loss as to what to do with him. Vergil had refused to be touched up for his appearance on the G. Gordon Godfrey show. What came out of his mouth in his attempt to justify himself was that he didn't mind looking bad on TV.
Miranda knew that the truth was that he didn't trust the makeup artists not to plant listening devices on him, or poison him. Vergil's paranoia knew no bounds at the best of times, but when he stepped out of Lowtown, it became significantly worse. He hid it well, enough so that most people wouldn't notice, but once you had spotted it , you saw it in every action that he took.
"I would say break a leg, but I fear you would take it as an invitation," Miranda snarked, looking at her teenage boss. Sixteen years old. And a half. Though, saying that made it sound worse. Vergil scratched at his cast, not making a secret that he hated it, but he made no effort to create some sort of supplement that would heal the bone instantly.
Miranda hadn't questioned him about the choice, but he likely had a reason for it.
"If it would get me out of this…" Vergil sighed before the light backstage went green. Miranda heard the cheering of the crowd, and Vergil threw on a practiced smile before he walked out for his introduction. Miranda watched his back as he left for a moment before her gaze slid to a TV that was displaying a live feed of the interview for the crew backstage . Vergil shook hands with Godfrey, the titular host of the show. A a middle-aged, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed man.
He was an absolute ass - as far as interviewers went , Godfrey was the type that would throw nothing but hard ball questions, and then sweep the carpet from underneath you. But, he did appeal to a certain kind of audience. Additionally, if you wanted to prove sincerity, then going in front of a hard ball interviewer was a good way to do it. It showed you weren't afraid to answer the tough questions.
Though, how Vergil was going to talk his way out of this one, not even Miranda was sure. She glanced at the talking points that had been provided, and each and every single one of them were leading to what amounted to a confession. Confessions to the kinds of crimes that Miranda knew he was guilty of.
"Vergil St. Jude… what a name. Is it your real one?" Godfrey questioned Vergil's integrity right out of the gate.
"At this point, Saint Vergil might as well be my real name. How about yours? I know actors change their names to be a bit more catchy - Orlando Bloom, Nicolas Cage, Olivia Wilde, to name a few," Vergil replied, deflecting, and settling in what looked like the most uncomfortable chair in existence as if it were a throne that he owned. Godfrey smiled at the question - trading barbs was something Godfrey seemed to enjoy.
Godfrey chuckled, "It's my given name-"
"Oh, lucky," Vergil interjected, keeping his tone light and conversational. "You had good parents - a catchy name is pretty important in this line of business." He continued, purposefully derailing the interview. An unspoken message between the two - that Vergil could make the interview as painful as possible and utterly worthless to watch if he so chose.
"I was fortunate, I really was," Godfrey nodded, "Yourself, however… I have to say, when I read your history, Vergil St. Jude, it was such a tearjerker that I had to wonder if it was a work of fiction," Godfrey continued, fire in his eyes as he thumped a hand on his desk.
That smile on Vergil's face never wavered, "That's kind of you to say, G. Gordon Godfrey. Rising above my background has been anything but easy, but I like to think I've done fairly well for myself all things considered." He responded, completely ignoring the bait. And never once telling a lie.
In all honesty, it was something that Miranda genuinely admired and respected Vergil for. She genuinely had no clue if Vergil's background was a work of fiction. Jack had once mentioned that Vergil originated from New York once, not exactly contradicting his story, but it certainly cast doubt when Vergil rolled with the assumption that he was born and raised in the Cauldron.
But the truth didn't matter. He found ways to twist it into knots until it was completely unrecognizable. The shades of what laid beneath were a cover for a much deeper rabbit hole. That was a lesson that Miranda had learned firsthand as his secretary. It had been a simple thing to piece the story together - a mass firing of the Lowtown Guard, and the birth of a gang that was still indebted to Lowtown. Revy's connection to the leaders, and the cash influxes on Lowtown's part that weren't entirely explained. Until you connected the dots at least.
Needless to say, when she had confronted Vergil in hopes of taking a less public role, she had underestimated him. Gravely. A mistake that she saw everyone make… and was watching someone make right now.
"That you have," Godfrey chuckled goodnaturedly, "Though, I must ask - are the rumors true? Moonlighting as a child assassin between running drugs for various gangs?" That was a hell of a question to ask.
"I'm afraid not - if I ever killed anyone, it certainly wasn't for money," Vergil said, and it couldn't be clearer what he was doing. He passively admitted to dealing drugs. He implied that he might have killed someone. He might as well have admitted to it. That's how people would take it.
Godfrey saw the bait and it was obvious that he saw it was a trap, but he couldn't see what Vergil had to gain from it. Miranda didn't either. She tried, but it just didn't make sense.
"Oh? So, the infamous Saint Vergil has committed murder then," Godfrey stated, taking the implication and spinning it as if it were fact.
Vergil's smile just widened as he pointedly cocked an eyebrow, "I don't remember saying that, G. Gordon Godfrey. I would be careful about putting words in people's mouths. Who knows what your viewers will think of me if you slander me so," he said. Godfrey had just opened himself up for a slander suit… but that was nothing new to the man. Every other person that agreed to walk onto the show ended up using him for slander. Godfrey's lawyers were well practiced and had gotten very good at their jobs.
"My apologies, you just caught me off guard. Usually, when you confess to crimes, you tend to throw the blame onto a you in a ' different universe' ," Godfrey said, the apology sounding rather insincere. "I mean, what else am I and the whole world supposed to think when there is a sudden rash of murdered government officials in Gotham. All of which were under fire for their approval of Lowtown… men that, heh, ' allegedly ' ," he said, making air quotes while his voice dripped with sarcasm, "A you in another universe extorted, blackmailed, and threatened to legalize what amounted to billions of dollars of 'private property.'"
The speech was blistering. It was the kind that could end a person's career if they failed to answer properly.
Vergil just laughed, not flustered in the slightest. "Interesting how that turned out, isn't it?" He questioned, offering no excuse or deflection. To anyone else, Miranda would assume that they had just shot themselves in the foot.
Godfrey was wary. But, it was his show. He was known as the hard hitting interviewer that used the truth as a cudgel. "I'm not sure you can sue me for slander when you couldn't drop more obvious hints that you ordered these men executed?" He questioned, going for the kill even as he seemed to be bracing himself for the crash.
"Oh, no, I gave no such order," Vergil dismissed with a light laugh. But that's all he said. A leading answer.
"Hmmm… so, you haven't ordered the death of anyone?" Godfrey questioned, and, just like that, it clicked in Miranda's head. Why, of all people, Vergil had chosen this talk show to appear on and do his first major interview since the impromptu one in front of the clinic. Godfrey was the perfect opponent for Vergil. The harder the questions that he asked, the more Vergil could twist the conversation around on him. The more he could lead Godfrey's interview in the direction that he wanted.
"Just one," Vergil admitted, and Godfrey flinched back as the audience gasped.
"Dare I ask who, Saint Vergil?" Godfrey questioned, his tone poisonous and scathing with contempt.
Vergil smiled. It was a rare smile. One that was filled with teeth and resembled a shark smelling blood in the water. "That question will be answered… right about… now-" Vergil said before an emergency broadcast overtook the channel. Something that was reserved for national alerts in America - most often to declare a state of emergency, but it was also used to deliver news of national importance.
The White House was visible as the backdrop, with the President of the United States of America standing before a podium in front of it . There was a proud look on his face as he looked out at the sea of cameras surrounding him , "As of twelve o'clock, EDT, it is my honor to report that the criminal known as the Joker has been killed. Widely regarded as the ringleader of the Injustice League, which has levied attacks on cities all across the globe - endangering millions of lives and resulting in the deaths of thousands. The Joker was previously on the run from authorities the world over, with the label of the most wanted man in the world and a bounty of fifty million on his head."
The president paused, "For years, he has escaped justice for his crimes. Worse, he has perpetrated even more acts of terrorism on US soil, primarily in our own Gotham City , since then. However, as of now, I stand here to inform you that the Joker is dead. Killed by a brave hero known as Rebecca Lee, acting in the interests of our fair country. For this, Rebecca Lee is to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that a civilian can be bestowed by our great nation."
Revy looked incredibly annoyed as the camera panned out to reveal her. She was wearing a black dress that purposely left the tattoo on her shoulder on display. She was also wearing her gun holster, with her signature pistols on display. How she had managed to get the Secret Service to agree to that, Miranda honestly had no clue. Revy turned around, allowing the medal to be placed around her neck, before shaking the President's hand. While he turned to the podium, she fingered the metal, looking especially proud of herself.
Miranda knew it was for the fifty million rather than the medal.
"While the Joker has been brought to justice, may his soul forever burn in the depths of hell for his atrocities, his fellow perpetrators still remain at large. But, to you, the American people, I make this solemn vow - the remaining members of the Injustice League will be found. And they will be brought to justice." The President said, and the screen displayed a channel where you could find the extended interview. After a moment, the Godfrey show resumed, displaying a stunned looking Godfrey and a very smug Vergil.
Godfrey looked down at his notes, processing what had just transpired. The audience recovered faster with thunderous applause and cheering. Vergil gave a polite wave while they chanted his name, overjoyed with the news that the Joker was dead.
"Rebecca Lee… ah… yes… a known associate of yours… an escaped convict arrested for the crime of murdering a police officer and her own father," Godfrey said, still trying to turn the tables against Vergil. Vergil's expression didn't change in the slightest. Not so much as a twitch. Yet, the near friendly and easy-going air around him bled away. Without it, Vergil's gaze and smile were as sharp as a knife, and just as dangerous.
"Of which, she was pardoned by the President himself. Though, of course, the original arrests were a complete joke. The GCPD didn't even bother investigating the murder. Didn't really care why a ten-year-old girl would murder a police officer, just that he had been one of theirs," There was an edge in Vergil's words that Miranda didn't often hear. It was as if there was a threat in each syllable, demanding that everyone tread carefully. "It would also have helped if the judges and lawyers weren't phoning it in and stamping cases across the board so they could kick their feet up. Says something about Gotham that our city's best lawyer was a psychopathic lunatic with half a face."
Godfrey took a moment to recover, but it was clear that he was on the back foot and considering his options. Miranda smiled thinly at what was unfolding - she had done her research on Godfrey. It wasn't often that he was caught on the back foot like this, so thoroughly caught off guard. He came into this interview expecting to grill Vergil until there was nothing left of him but a charred husk - his image destroyed, and likely to be incarcerated after the interview if he got his way. Now, he faced a decision - did he start throwing softballs and risk looking like a sellout, or keep throwing hardballs and hope that Vergil made a mistake?
Godfrey set his notes down, "I'm afraid I'm ignorant of how things function in Gotham city, so it would be remiss of me to speak on matters I know so little about." Godfrey decided, and Miranda let out a huff.
It was incredible. It really was. Vergil… if Miranda had to put it in words… Vergil fundamentally understood the dynamics of power. He understood it. Plenty of idiots in the world had power in their hands - whether that was money in the bank, being the boss of a business or a corporation, political power, or social influence… there were so many forms of power in the world. She had been raised to understand that . To wield them . But, Vergil had mastered those lessons that she had been taught.
That was why she remained in Lowtown. Not for the protection that she didn't need. Or for, admittedly, the rather generous salary for her position.
Miranda had joined Lowtown in search of power. The power to protect herself. To protect her sister. Power to bring low her father if he dared to ever approach them. Lowtown had been a starting point. Vergil had seemed like a young man that was flying by the seat of his pants at all times, completely overwhelmed. That had been her thoughts on him for a long time, until she approached him about taking part in his under-the-table dealings.
There, Miranda had learned that she only saw a fraction of who Vergil was on a daily basis. She only saw the parts that he wanted her to see. Vergil was taking over Gotham via proxy gangs. He was taking on the corporations of the world as Vergil St. Jude. And he was wielding his name as Saint Vergil as a shield to protect him from the many, many, many crimes he perpetrated.
She was tasked with taking over the Narrows, something that she was making considerable progress in. At the rate things were going, in another six months, Vergil would control Gotham city. Miranda hadn't realized it at the time, but now she did - going to Lowtown had been the best decision of her life.
"But, I suppose if Gotham City is looking to a sixteen-year-old boy for salvation, then things must be rather dire . Heaven knows that Gotham can't look to Bruce Wayne of all people," Godfrey said, and Vergil tilted his head ever so slightly.
"That seems rather cruel - I've met Bruce Wayne. The tabloids don't do him justice. I think he's a good man that's done a lot for Gotham city," Vergil, surprisingly, leaped to Bruce Wayne's defense. Though, it was difficult to tell if he was doing so because he honestly thought that, or because he was pushing Godfrey further intoa corner so that no matter what he said, he would look bad. Then Vergil laughed, "But maybe I'm just a bit biased - after all, he was one of the few that didn't treat me like something they had scraped off their shoe at my debut to high society."
Godfrey appeared to be learning that there was no winning in a verbal spar with Vergil. "I do find myself curious about one thing - Rebecca Lee, also known as 'Revy Two-Hands', gunned down the Joker. By your own words, you gave the order. How does that make you feel, Vergil? To be responsible for a life being extinguished, regardless of what… form it came in?" He asked, switching the topic. It was easy to see what he was doing.
He gave up on trying to assassinate Vergil's character, and now he was trying to be the first person to interview the man who had arranged the Joker's death.
There was a coldness in Vergil's eyes in that moment. He almost seemed uncertain on how to answer, but that smile never wavered. "I have to say, Godfrey - it feels good," Vergil said, and that was pretty much the worst thing that you could possibly say to answer that question. "I've had run-ins with the Jokers before. You've done your research, so you know the story… but to those that don't - before there was Lowtown, there was a homeless community in the sewer. The Jokers found out about the community, and they beat some very good friends of mine near to death… because they thought it was funny."
There was real hate in Vergil's voice. It was a subtle thing. So subtle that she doubted that Godfrey even noticed. Perhaps she only saw it because she knew what to look for, but Miranda knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if Vergil could he would slaughter the entirety of the Jokers with his bare hands. In a way, he had.
The Jokers were decimated by the short war with the Blackgaters. And without their unofficial leader, Miranda doubted the survivors would amount to much.
"Funny that the cops wouldn't bother investigating the incident. And, you know what? They're right. It was kinda funny. Because even though we reported the incident, and we had over a dozen people in Dr. Thompkins clinic, the police never bothered showing up, even for a statement." Vergil continued, his tone cold as ice. "People only started caring about what happened to us when we had a little cash in our pockets and an address."
Godfrey nodded, seeing that as an avenue of conversation that would let him keep his image. "Issues with the police, I see." He prodded, his tone lacking his signature fiery speech.
"Can't deny that," Vergil admitted easily. "The only cop that I ever met that I have any respect for is Jim Gordon, the Police Commissioner. On the streets, the saying is that if you ever get arrested, then ask for Jim Gordon. He'll give you a fair shake. He's the only uncorrupt cop in Gotham city," Vergil smiled. "And despite all that praise, he'd still arrest me in a heartbeat if he ever finds evidence of my alleged crimes. That's what I like about him."
He praised Jim Gordon and condemned the GCPD in the same breath. Vergil praised the one uncorrupt police officer in Gotham, one who wanted him arrested while condemning the rest of the corrupt police force. It fed into the image that he had established perfectly, Miranda realized.
Vergil's stance was officially against corruption, but he would abuse it all the same for the benefit of everyone in Lowtown. To the public, it would look like he was vouching for Jim Gordon. That he was beyond reproach. That you couldn't blackmail him or extort him. That he was a figure that you could trust.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but Jim Gordon personally had a hand in the case of the murder of Two-Face, did he not?" Godfrey said, knowing which way the winds were blowing. He was publically exonerating Vergil.
Vergil nodded, "He did." He answered shortly, offering no further elaboration.
"First Two-Face, and now the Joker… some people might call that a pattern. At your own admission, it felt good to have the Joker killed. Should we expect any more of Gotham's villains to suffer unfortunate accidents after encountering you?" Godfrey asked, raising an eyebrow.
Vergil's smile never wavered. "That would be telling, wouldn't it?" Miranda knew for a fact that he had Scarecrow in his sights. And Victor Zasz. Both had gone to ground after their escape from Arkham, not so much as peep since. So, Vergil was waiting. Waiting for them to poke their heads out.
"Interesting," Godfrey noted. "Two-Face and now the Joker - two of Batman's Rogues, as it were. You are clearly a young man that's willing to take action. Decisive and permanent action." He started, gesturing to Vergil, "Which, I suppose, leads us to the topic of the evening. Lowtown. What was once once a homeless community which has now become an official part of the city," he said, pressing a button on his desk.
The wall-sized tv screen started displaying photos of Lowtown. Graffiti of Vergil, some of Tifa - each making them out to be angels sent from heaven. Pictures of restaurants, homes, busy streets, intersections, and so on - Lowtown was almost unrecognizable in such a short amount of time. She knew it better than most. For months, they had slowly worked on a single tunnel. Now, in no time at all, half of Lowtown was under construction, with fifteen percent of it being complete.
"A company built from the ground up, which is now becoming a local powerhouse in Gotham," Godfrey continued. More pictures of various businesses that Vergil owned. Pictures of a factory that had been refurbished and was beginning production. "And now the death of Two-Face and the Joker. You clearly are a motivated young man, shouldering a great deal of responsibility at the age of sixteen."
Then Godfrey turned to the camera, "Sixteen years old, ladies and gentlemen. A sixteen-year-old boy is stepping up and acting as a savior to Gotham City! Since when is it the job of children to pick up the slack of our government by hunting down the enemies of the people? To provide for those in need? Is the land of the free not ashamed? Is the Justice League not ashamed ?" He emphasized the point by slamming hisfist on his desk.
As much as it sounded like he was praising Vergil, anyone who had watched his show knew that he didn't turn down the chance to take a shot at the Government or the Justice League when presented an opportunity.
Godfrey looked back at Vergil, "I will admit, I was rather harsh on you at the start. I wanted to see how much of that show in front of the Clinic was an act," he said, offering an excuse for his behavior and shift in tone without offering an apology. "But spending five minutes with you, it's clear to me that you are exactly as what you present yourself to be - a young man taking action where others will not. "
There was a cue for the audience to clap and cheer, which they did.
"Does it anger you that you've been forced to take on this role of Saint Vergil?" Godfrey questioned, the cheering dying off.
To that, Vergil shrugged. "Hard to say. Do I think I should be in the position that I'm in? Absolutely not. I shouldn't be making decisions of life and death. I shouldn't be managing a multimillion dollar company."
Godfrey looked at the camera, arching an eyebrow, "Who's to blame for that, I wonder?"
"But, I also don't regret being in this position," Vergil said, ignoring the prompt that would end with Godfrey ranting about the Justice League. "I'm here because the system failed me. Because it failed a lot of people. And I hate it. I hate that a system that's so fundamentally corrupt has been allowed to chug along because people with money and power prosper at the expense of those that have neither."
To that, Godfrey smiled, "Most teenage rebellions look a bit different," he said, the audience laughing on cue.
"I suppose so, but at the heart it's still the same. The only difference is that instead of smoking pot with my friends and talking about how trash the system is, I have the money and power to do something about it. The two things that the system cares about," Vergil said, a pleasant smile on his face. "And I'm going to abuse it. And I'm going to keep abusing it until the system itself rejects me, and people like me who abuse its many flaws and loopholes. Either the system rights itself… or this song and dance keeps going until I become emperor of the world or something."
Miranda took a moment to take that in. Someone who went on a talk show and blatantly admitted that he fully intended to break the law. All of America was probably tuning in to watch this show, witnessing his confession. Yet…
He would get away with it. Because of his understanding of power. Because of his proxies. Because… people wouldn't want to see him arrested and punished. People knew that the system was corrupt. They knew it was broken. They knew that the rules were different for those at the top. It was a fact of life.
Yet, his message resonated with people. Vergil didn't claim to be a saint doing good for goodness's sake. His transparency gave him something that any politician or public figure that spouted the same words didn't have - trust. He told them the truth, that he would ruthlessly break the law, but it wasn't for his benefit. He was honest about his corruption. Thus he was trusted more than those that weren't.
There was a reason why the fables of the Anti-Hero resonated with people.
And that was the deepest of ironies.
"You certainly don't aim low, I will give you that much," Godfrey chuckled goodnaturedly. It was difficult to tell, but… it almost seemed like he was starting to like Vergil. Or, at the very least, he respected him more. "Though, much like Jim Gordon, I can't imagine such a change can be enacted by a single man."
"It can't. Which is why I'm not going to do this alone. Even if those assassin's outside of the studio who are putting an explosive on the fuel line of my car right now do somehow manage to kill me, the message won't die with me." Vergil said with an easy smile, and she heard the shouting of security.
Another assassination attempt. The third this week.
"Lowtown has become something larger than just one man. Even if the system does beat me back into place, the lives that place will change alone is more than worth it."
This time the audience didn't need a cue to start clapping.
The interview blew up across the web. Millions upon millions of views across the various streaming sites. Debates sparked across forums and talk shows and more. It almost eclipsed the news that the Joker was dead. Or, rather, the two events fed into each other. The Joker had been an international terrorist, the most wanted man in the entire world. That made his death an international event, which made Vergil's interview something that was going to go international as well.
Vergil St. Jude had just become a household name.
Which is why he revealed the date for an expo for products that Sainthood Enterprises had developed. As a taste of the kind of things that were going to be revealed Vergil presented the Helper Pod - a robotic assistant, though far dumber than Pod , that could help those with living disabilities. As well as the first car from Sainthood Automotive - a sedan that boasted the safety rating of a six out of five. As for Sainthood Entertainment - a teaser for events across the various games were dropped with further teases that more were coming soon.
Tickets for the event sold out almost as soon as the event was announced. Scalpers were selling the fifty-dollar ticket for as much as a thousand dollars. And people were buying them anyway.
"Vergil?" Miranda inquired , standing next to him as he sat at his desk and poured over a stack of blueprints. He idly marked things he didn't care for or things that he wanted to improve with a pen . Each level was the size of a city, and they only got larger as you went down.
Lowtown would be gaining additional levels, each one digging lower and lower into the Earth. The one he was currently working on was the one for housing the factories. The factories that would be used to produce the things he had displayed at the expo. Where people would pay to reserve one , giving Vergil the money needed to further expand Lowtown and start producing what was needed to make the cars and robotics.
"Hm?" Vergil muttered, making a note to expand a section.
"It's a pleasure working for you."
There won't be any updates between the 6th to 13th.
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