First off, I would like to point out a small matter concerning language. In the Young Justice universe, they obviously speak English to one another mostly, but the language used in the 40k Imperium of Man is Imperial Gothic. Now, I have no idea how it sounds or what type of letters they use or anything like that, and in spin-off games and movies, they speak plain old English. so for that reason, I'm going with the idea that Imperial Gothic is just futuristic version of English, just so our main character can understand what other people are saying.
Chapter 2: The Mysterious Soldier
Gotham City. A dark, gritty an inhospitable city that housed some of the most vile and dangerous psychopaths on Earth. It was also the home of the fabled Batman, leader of the Justice League. Some might call his tactics and modus operandi as a bit too harsh and brutal for a hero. But the truth was, that was the only way to keep order in a city balancing on the edge of anarchy. It was, in essence, a never ending battle to protect those that sought to live peacefully in this city.
And it was in the service of this duty that Batman was out patrolling on this dark night. But of course, he was not alone in this mission, had not been for four years now. Accompanying him was his ever trustworthy partner, Robin. So together, the dynamic duo was sailing through the night sky, going from rooftop to rooftop.
"Man, it's been kinda quiet around here, don't you think?" Robin suddenly asked in boredom. Understandable, he was itching for some action. His mentor however did not share his view, as he gave Robin a sideways glance.
"Three muggings and one robbery this night." He stated in that gruff and intimidating voice of his. Naturally, Robin was not intimidated, because he had worked long enough with Batman to recognize it as his default voice when in costume.
"You know what I mean, that's practically what we run into every night. There's been no real action around here for like ages." Robin complained as he performed a somersault over an alley.
"And that likely means that the villains are planning something and we should keep our guard up." Batman countered easily. Robin could not argue with that logic and said no more on the matter. Still, he wished that something would happen. However, there was still one other matter he felt like discussing with his mentor, something really important.
"You know, Bats, I've been your protégé for about four years now." He began a little hesitantly, debating how to approach the matter. Batman said nothing, but gave a small nod as an indication that he was listening.
"And I have proven that I can handle things on my own, so I was wondering if you could consider…" here Batman stopped dead in his tracks and turned to face Robin, a stern expression underneath his cowl.
"We've been over this before, you're not ready to be inducted into the League." He stated with finality. But Robin was not about to throw in the towel just yet.
"Oh come on! I've been up against baddies like the Joker and Mr. Freeze, and I've come out on top." He protested loudly, but Batman remained stoic.
"You never faced them alone. I was always there with you." He pointed out calmly.
"But how many other heroes have ever even met them at all! I'm telling you, Bruce, I'm ready!" Robin countered heatedly, accidentally letting Batman's secret identity slip out of his mouth. Batman gave him a sharp glare over that slip-up, to which Robin finally registered his mistake. Anyone could have been within earshot right now and heard that tidbit of information. He timidly lowered his head while muttering a quiet "Sorry."
Batman's expression softened somewhat and he let out a tired sigh. Honestly, he could understand why Robin was so eager to become a League member. Wherever they went, and whoever they fought, Robin was more often than not dismissed as just a minor nuisance or an annoyance. While that served to give Robin the definitive edge in battle, with his opponents underestimating him, he always became aggravated when he was overlooked just because of his size and age.
To him, becoming a League member was a way to solidify his position as a hero to take seriously. But even if he understood Robin's plight, he was not going to let his protégé go up against the kind of villains that the Justice League fought on a daily basis. It was his duty as not only the boy's mentor, but also as his adoptive father, to keep him safe. Some might call it hypocrisy, given how he trained him to be a vigilante, but he had his reasons. With Robin's parents dead and their murderer walking free, he would have become a crime fighter either way. At least this way, Batman was there to prevent him from going down a darker path from which there would have been no going back from.
"We'll talk more about this later on." Batman finally decided before he fired his grapple gun and swung away. Robin lingered behind for just a few seconds before he followed.
"So not feeling the aster." He muttered quietly to himself.
Normally, one would think that the most valuable items would be locked up in a vault or a secret compound. That however would not be entirely accurate, for there was another site were valuable items would be stored, and in plain sight for all to see as well; a museum. Artifacts from ancient times were often unearthed all over the globe, most of which were nothing more than mere trinkets with purely archeological values. But there were the rare founds that held more to them then what one would assume at first sight. Be they alien tech left behind by visitors during ancient time, or mystical artifacts created by the hands of sorcery, these potent finds were more than once overlooked by the ones that found it.
So, with no knowledge of what those object might be containing, they were often shipped off to be displayed in a museum for profit. Sadly, there always existed someone with at least a fraction of knowledge concerning these lost objects. And when they find the object on open display, they are more often than not afraid to use less than savory mean to acquire it. This scenario was being played out in Gotham City. The object in question was an amulet that had been recently discovered in an ancient temple deep within the Amazonian rainforest. There was nothing remarkable about the object, save for a symbol carved on its front.
In today's society, that symbol held no relevance whatsoever. But in another time and another place, that symbol had become an object of hatred and revulsion in the Imperium; for it was the Eight-Pointed Star of Chaos. And, of course, someone recognized the mystic value it possessed, and sought to claim it for themselves. And in true supervillain mastermind style, that person hired someone else to do all the dirty work. But it was not just anyone that had been hired, oh no. for Gotham was after all the Batman's territory, and only the best could be counted upon to get the job down.
So it was, that the one hired to steal the amulet, was none other than Slade Wilson. Or, as he was more popularly known among heroes and villains: Deathstroke the Terminator, the most lethal assassin on Earth. Some might call it overkill to send someone of his caliber to complete a mere theft, but his employers preferred to call it 'being on the safe side'. Currently, Deathstroke had just slipped inside the museum, avoiding every security system in place like it was child's play, which it in fact was to someone like him.
But skill and experience can easily be trumped by something that is all but impossible to predict, something that has led to the downfall of many great men through history. A simple case of bad luck. And what type of bad luck did Deathstroke come across? The fact that a bunch of amateurs had decided to plunder the museum as well, and they were anything but subtle in their means. Within seconds, alarms were ringing all over the museum, and Deathstroke swore that if he ever found the culprit, he would gut the bastard.
Throwing stealth and caution to the wind, he sprinted down the corridors towards his goal. Gunfire soon reached his ears, indicating that a firefight had ensued somewhere in the building. That at least worked in his favour. Those idiots would attract most of the attention, leaving him free to grab the prize and get the hell out. Soon, he had reached his goal, a spacious room filled with glass cages containing all manner of antiquities. But he ignored all of them, his eye was on only one object, placed against the wall and pushed a bit into a corner. Probably considered as a less interesting object to behold.
Not even bothering with finesse here, Deathstroke merely smashed the glass apart and picked up the amulet. He held it up at eye level, observing it critically in case it was just a fake. Nope, it seemed to be the real deal in Deathstroke's eye. So with a satisfied smirk on his lips, he turned around and walked away. Sadly, he did not get very far before a batarang came flying in and knocked the amulet right out of his hand, cutting open a shallow wound on his hand and sending a few droplets of blood onto the amulet in the process.
"Batman. I must admit that your response time was much faster than I had anticipated." Deathstroke calmly remarked as he turned around to face what seemed like nothing but shadows. And without warning, he suddenly ducked right underneath a kick that came from behind. Catching it in his grip, he threw Batman right into another glass cage before charging the hero. He sent a punch that was ducked under, leaped back to avoid a return blow, latched out with a kick that Batman caught before striking out with his other foot and nailing Batman in the side.
Deathstroke landed on his hands and pushed off right back at Batman, who rolled clear before spinning around with a punch that Deathstroke deflected, followed with a sudden uppercut that nailed Deathstroke. He staggered back and Batman pressed on, but Deathstroke ducked under a swing and drove both his fists into Batman's stomach. He then struck out with a kick, a punch, another punch, an uppercut and a kick before sidestepping a kick and somersaulting over Batman. Before Batman could turn around and face him, a kick in the back sent him sprawling on the floor. Though a bit stunned, he at least had enough sense to roll clear of a descending knee that cracked the floor.
He rolled over onto his knees before he threw smoke pellets to the ground, enveloping them both in smoke. Deathstroke sadly found that he had lost sight of Batman in the smoke, something that never boded well for anyone who had the misfortune of facing the dark knight. Crouching low, he awaited the inevitable attack. It came sooner than expected, as Batman suddenly came diving in from Deathstroke's blind side with a powerful blow to the head. He was sent sailing back, but managed to turn his fall into a roll that brought him back to his feet crouched low. As the smoke dissipated, the two combatants stared each other down, neither making a move.
Yet despite that Batman was foiling his plan, Deathstroke was in fact grinning underneath his mask. He always enjoyed a good battle. The tougher the opponent was, the better. And Batman was indeed a worthy opponent.
"Tell me something, Batman, where is that little sidekick of yours?" he suddenly asked smugly. And he was in fact curious as to where he could be, seeing as he could potentially be lurking about just waiting for a chance to strike. Batman meanwhile did not say anything, but a hardened gaze alerted Deathstroke that he had stumbled into dangerous territory.
"It must be nice, to have someone at your side in battles. A young mind you can mold into what you desire, who could follow in your footsteps when you've grown old and weak." Deathstroke commented offhandedly. "I must admit, there are times I myself wonder what it would be like to have a protégé of my own."
If the two combatants were planning anything else, they never got a chance to carry it out as the amulet that Deathstroke was after began to glow. Both their attention was drawn to it the moment it began emitting a humming noise that grew louder and louder. It rose into the air, blue energy pulsating from it like a heartbeat. That energy soon began to build up, growing larger and larger with each passing moment. Soon, it began shape itself into the form of a humanoid figure. Then, in a shower of sparks and light, it exploded like a shell and deposited whatever it was it had created onto the ground.
A pained groan alerted them that whatever it was still lived, but the light had left them temporarily blinded and were therefore unable to see it just yet. When their eyesight finally returned, they were greeted by a stranger in military styled garbs struggling to stand back up. But while both Batman and Deathstroke could tell that he was wearing a military uniform, neither was able to recognize it. He was wearing a heavy greatcoat, metallic shoulder pads, a gasmask and a helmet. But what was more, he looked like he had come straight out of a battle, with multiple holes and tears in his uniform, blood covering most of his greatcoat, the helmet being heavily dented and the favoritism of his left leg over his right leg telling them that it was damaged.
With its task completed, the amulet lost its shine and dropped back to the floor, not that anyone present seemed to even notice it. Upon catching sight of Batman and Deathstroke, the strange soldier froze up, and they both got the feeling that he was scrutinizing them both underneath that gasmask of his. A tense three-way standoff ensued, as the trio each waited for the others to make the first moves.
But while they all waited for who would blink first, Batman's ever famous paranoia was working overtime. Too many unanswered questions, and way too many bad case scenarios had materialized alongside this soldier. His loyalties were in the dark, how he came to be here was unknown, what type of threat he could pose was unclear and he could go on all day about every other fact that was shrouded in darkness. Then there was the state he was in. it was a miracle he could even be standing at all.
"Who are you?" Batman eventually growled out. Not that he expected an answer that would give much information, but it was a way to push things along. Either way, this soldier was a possible threat, and needed to be apprehended and interrogated.
But while Batman was drawing up plans on how to neutralize this new player should he prove uncooperative, Deathstroke was observing this strange soldier in curiosity. The guy at least looked like he could hold his own in a fight, if those wounds were an indication, but where had he come from?
"I could ask you the same question." The soldier responded coldly, with not so much as a grain of emotion in his voice. But if any more words were supposed to be exchanged, they were put on hold as a fourth player entered the field. You see, sometime after the soldier's appearance, Robin had caught up with his mentor after having taken care of the other gang of robbers. But he hesitated to act upon seeing that there was a third person involved. 'Who the hell is he?' he thought suspiciously. But seeing as Batman was not familiar with this one, Robin assumed he was an enemy and acted accordingly.
And while this was happening Keled was still observing these strange people with confusion and suspicion. However, the one eyed man seemed to show no outward hostility towards him, unlike the bat-themed one, so he had most of his attention on the bat. But he received something else to worry about when a small shape suddenly landed in front of him and kicked him straight in the guts. Keled was knocked back into a display case as the small figure came at him with a rapid barrage of punches that left stinging marks all over his body.
Yet as Robin tried another kick, Keled caught it in both his hands and dragged his opponent off balance before slamming him through another display case, peppering Robin's back with glass. That however did not stop Robin as he lashed out with his other foot and forced Keled to let go. Both put some distance between them, analyzing each other for weaknesses. Once again, Keled was confused concerning this one's attire; black, red and yellow combined on his suit with a cape, gloves and some strange mask that only covered his eyes. Just what purpose was it supposed to serve? His young age was also something to note about. Obviously, strength would not be on the child's side. But from what he had seen so far, speed and agility would be. The fact that he was in fact fighting and planning to kill a child never even bothered Keled.
Robin on the other hand was a bit more cautious now. One look at his tattered and worn down look had convinced Robin that it would be easy as hell to neutralize this man. Obviously he had been dead wrong in that aspect. Robin had to admit, the guy must have had one heck of an endurance and pain tolerance to still be standing and fighting. The distinctive noise of a fight taking place suddenly drew Robin's attention, but not Keled's. Turned out that Batman and Deathstroke had resumed their little battle somewhere along the way.
The reason was that upon catching sight of his protégé getting thrown through a display case, Batman had moved to help, but Deathstroke had suddenly blocked his way.
"Let them fight it out." He had stated humorously. His reason was that he wanted to see what that soldier could accomplish, plus it kept the fight purely one-on-one.
As they continued their battle, Robin felt like he should help his mentor. Unfortunately, he lost focus on Keled, who was more than happy to take advantage of that as he rushed him, hobbling slightly thanks to his injured leg. Robin was caught completely unprepared as Keled tackled him with his armored shoulder and sent him crashing to the floor. But Robin was quick to counter by kicking out against Keled's legs and easily knocked him off balance. And as he had gotten halfway back up again, Robin was already up and ready again. a spinning kick connected with Keled's head before Robin flipped over him and delivered an uppercut to his gasmask.
But even though his whole body hurt like hell, Keled still crawled back up and attacked with a barrage of boxing-like punches, all of which the Boy Wonder kept evading like it was a dance for him. He even let out his signature cackle along the way.
"What's the matter? Am I too fast for you?" he taunted as he slipped under Keled's guard and delivered a quick blow to his kidneys before withdrawing. Keled took both the blow and the taunt without so much as twitching or even grunting, something that unnerved Robin a bit. He expected to hear at least something from a guy who was getting pounded by a thirteen year old. What Keled just did, was what he had been taught to do back on Krieg; detach himself from emotions and feelings and focus on crushing his enemy.
Still, even he had to admit that it was a tad bit frustrating seeing the child avoid every strike he sent at him, and he was starting to tire out. There was always a point to which every man could reach, but then go no further. Keled was fast approaching his. But as he launched another punch, Robin darted to the side and lashed out with a kick that knocked Keled back, as well as knocking his helmet off. Another quick strike with his leg knocked Keled's right leg off balance, and he fell down to his knees. Robin then came up behind him and grabbed hold of his gasmask, and in the ensuing struggle it was torn off.
But as he finally got a good look at his adversary's face, Robin froze up in shock. He was just a bloody teenager! The blood and grit smeared over his face could not hide that fact. But that stone-cold face, and those empty eyes, it was like staring at a dead man. Sadly, his short distraction cost him dearly as Keled grabbed hold of him and flipped him right over his shoulder straight into the floor. Robin got the wind knocked out of him and on reflex rolled over on his stomach and tried to push himself back up. He never got that far as Keled jumped on top of him and grabbed his head in a chokehold. With newfound desperation, Robin tried to push Keled off of him, or at least remove his arm from his throat. But Keled did not budge in the slightest as he methodically put more and more pressure on the child's throat, choking him to death.
Gloved hands clawed fervently on the arm constricting Robin's air supply, but the greatcoat offered ample protection against such a weak way of attack. Gurgling sounds bubbled out of his throat as his lungs were screaming for air, only to be denied. Stars began flicking at the edge of his vision as his struggles grew weaker and weaker. And through it all, Keled's facial expression never once changed from that cold and indifferent look he possessed. No pity, no mercy, no remorse. That was how one dealt with his enemies.
But it was only now that Keled noticed that the sounds of fighting had completely stopped, meaning the other two were done as well. Before he could even consider what that might entail, something impacted against his neck and he was out like a candle. Finally able to breathe again, Robin sucked in greedy gulps of air while Batman removed the soldier from his protégé.
"Are you okay?" Batman asked as he helped Robin back up, who was still breathing a little raggedly and was massaging his sore throat.
"Just give me a minute and I'll be fine." He responded. Batman just gave a slight nod before he turned his attention back to the unconscious soldier. Turning him over to the local authorities was out of the question here, not before at least finding out where he came from and why he was here.
"Where did Deathstroke go?" Robin suddenly asked as he came to stand next to Batman.
"Escaped." He answered before he held the strange amulet that Deathstroke had been after up for Robin to see. "But at least he didn't get this." He added. Robin nodded his head before his eyes landed upon his former opponent. There was something truly off about him. He could not have been older than seventeen, yet that look he had in his eyes was that of a coldblooded killer. Someone who could kill anyone, anytime without remorse.
"What do we do about him?" he eventually asked. Batman's eyes narrowed as he himself contemplated the situation before he voiced his decision.
"He's too dangerous to let walk free, and we don't know anything about him. I'll take him to the Justice League headquarter for interrogation." With that said, Batman hoisted him over his shoulder before walking away, followed by Robin.
"The Hall of Justice?" he asked curiously. Batman however said nothing more on the matter.
The first thing Keled became aware of when he regained consciousness was the unforgivingly bright white light nearly stealing his eyesight when he tried opening his eyes. The second thing was that he was not breathing in the recycled air from his gasmask that he had become so accustomed to during his years as a trainee, instead he was breathing in rich and clean air. The third thing naturally was that he could not even feel the comforting gasmask covering his face, nor did he feel the thick and heavy material of his Death Korps uniform. The part about not wearing his gasmask made him a bit uncomfortable. He had been wearing that thing for so long, that it had become his true face for the simple reason that it showed what he was.
When his eyes finally adjusted to the light, he found himself in a white room with a large mirror mounted on one wall and a single door leading inside. Upon questioning himself how he got here, memories from the battle of Helsink, coupled with his trip through the Warp and subsequent encounter with those strange men came to the forefront of his mind. The last he remembered was a blow to the back of his head, and then nothing. While remaining stoic on the outside, Keled felt a small sense of unease come over him. If the enemy had defeated him, why was he still alive? Whatever the reason, it could not be good, and Keled was not going to face it lying down.
So slowly, he pushed himself up into a sitting position on the bed, taking a good look at himself for the first time. Obviously, someone had stripped him of his gear and uniform, seeing as he was wearing some manner of white gown and some underwear. While the gown seemed to be made of some thin and smooth material, Keled felt more uncomfortable in it. He preferred the heavy weight of his trusted Death Korps uniform. But there was something wrapped tightly around certain parts of his body. It turned out that someone had tended to his wounds and bandaged them up as well. Just what kind of people were they? Giving medical treatment to an enemy soldier? Sparing his life?
His mental confusion over the matter was promptly halted when the door opened and three people entered his little cell. The first one was the bat-themed man from earlier, still trying to look as intimidating as he could. His attempts to frighten Keled broke against him like water on rocks. The second one was a blonde haired woman wearing a leather jacket, a leotard, fingerless gloves and fishnet stockings. She smiled kindly at him, trying to appear friendly. He returned that smile with a dull look. The last one however made him stiffen. It was a greenskinned xeno dressed in red and black with a passive look on his face.
So, these humans were collaborating with xenos. On a personal level, Keled had nothing against their kind, but the Emperor had decreed that all xenos were to be exterminated from the galaxy, and that was all the explanation and motivation Keled needed on the subject. Not about to go down without a fight, Keled got off the bed onto his feet and faced them with fists held high and ready. The trio in front of him appeared to not be intimated by his actions.
"If you're planning to escape, allow me to point out that you're currently detained in the Justice League headquarter, and that there're 17 other members on sight should the need arise." The bat-themed man pointed out. It did not matter to Keled, not even if that man had an entire legion of traitor marines at his beck and call would it have mattered. Death Korps never surrenders to the enemy. So, knowing full well he was going to be met with failure, he charged at the man. And as he had suspected, he did not get very far. But as he had not expected, he was stopped by being lifted into the air. Without anyone even touching him. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that the xeno's eyes were glowing as he held a hand outstretched towards him. So, he was dealing with a psyker as well. Meanwhile, the bat-man was looking at the whole scene with uncaring eyes.
"Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. We took samples of your blood while you were unconscious, and have run your picture through our databanks. No match was found." He began calmly, with that growling voice he always seemed to be using. "So I want to know who you are and where you're from."
Ahhhh! So that was what they wanted out of him. Information. Well, obviously they had never heard about the Death Korps of Krieg. For if they had, they would have known not to waste their time trying to get one of them to talk. So naturally, Keled said nothing, just gazed straight at the bat-man with a blank face and dead eyes. The silence stretched on for a while before the bat-man took a threatening step forward.
"We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Cooperate, and we can work out a deal. Resist, and you'll be here a long time." That threat, coupled with the fact he was still held in the air, might have worked on a lesser man, but not Keled. He had been trained to withstand pain, to shut off his empathy. He could not be intimidated, for fear or even a sense of self-preservation had been ruthlessly expunged from his mind. The woman suddenly stepped forward to address Keled.
"Look, we treated your wounds and you're not locked up in prison. Isn't that a sign that you can trust us?" she asked him kindly. Had he been a more emotionally free individual, this would have been the point where he let out a snort of disbelief. Trust? Who in their right mind would place their trust in their captors? So he still said nothing and his facial expression did not change the slightest. Realizing that he was not about to budge, the woman gave a sigh of resignation.
"This will probably take a while." She muttered to her colleagues. She had absolutely no idea how correct that statement would be.
"Anything?" the man of steel, Superman, asked as he and the Justice League were assembled in their conference room to hear the news concerning their unexpected "guest" on board the Watchtower. Batman just shook his head, having just returned from an interrogation session with the boy.
"One week, and he hasn't said so much as a word." Batman grumbled out. Truthfully, he was running out of ideas on what to do with him. They had tried all manner of interrogation methods, barring torture. Batman tried his usual intimidation techniques, even pressing him up against the wall at one point. Black Canary tried a subtler approach by acting friendly and even motherly, hoping to soften him up. Superman tried his little Boy Scout thing, in an effort to build some small foundation of trust. Heck, eventually they decided that getting a reaction out of the kid at all would be a victory, so they sent in the Flash and Green Arrow on multiple occasions to try to lighten the mood. All of them. Every single one of these numerous attempts were met with the same look of apathy, and that unnerved a good number in the League.
"Not too sound overly pessimistic here, but why are we even keeping it up? It's obvious the kid's not going to crack." Green Arrow spoke out. Though internally he was quite curious, and a bit dreadful, on how a mere sixteen year old could have developed such a stone-cold visage.
"Despite our lack of progress, we have no choice but to press on. The boy is far too dangerous to be let loose now." Batman countered, to which no one felt like objecting. Batman had after all shown them the footages of their little clash at the museum, and from the way the soldier was both willing and able to kill Robin without so much as a single tiny emotion on his face was all they needed to be told in order to draw a logical conclusion: the kid was a threat. It was just a question of discerning who he was a threat to.
"But what else are we supposed to do. We have tried everything to make him cooperative, and we can't keep him imprisoned up here forever." Aquaman suddenly added. And it was true. Sooner or later, they would have to either let him go free, or hand him over to the authorities for prosecution. But Batman still had one last card to play, something he had reserved for last.
"There is one last thing we can try." He said as his eyes landed on a particular member of the Justice League: J'onn J'onzz, more commonly known as the Martian Manhunter. It only took about a quarter of a second for everyone present to deduce his plan. It did however take about a five second gap before the room erupted in chaos.
"You can't be serious! He's just a kid!"
"Another person's mind is not something we have the right to go and root around in at will!"
"What other choice do we have? He won't cooperate with us!"
"I can't believe we're even discussing this!"
"This would not be the first time we've used mind-reading. What's so different this time?"
All of these comments, and about a dozen more were thrown back and forth among the Leaguers, some siding with Batman's idea while others felt it was too extreme. Growing tired of the escalating argument, Batman rose from his seat with his infamous bat-glare in place. It worked like a charm, as the whole room grew deathly quiet.
"We need answers from him, and he can't stay here forever. This is our last chance to get information." He reasoned with the members, adopting that cold and uncaring attitude that many associated him with.
"But he's just a kid. Aren't we going a little too far?" Superman, ever the gentle soul, asked uncertainly. Batman just turned his bat-glare straight at him.
"Yes, he's a kid. A kid who came close to choking Robin, my protégé, to death with absolutely no qualms about it." He countered with a certain edge to his voice. The statement was clear as daylight, he would not budge on the matter.
Sitting as still as a statue on his bed, Keled kept his eyes locked on the door, waiting for the next round of interrogation to begin. They had tried again and again to make him talk, even given him a change of clothes as a sign of good faith, but never once did he break. Not a single moment did he lose focus and let something slip. With the mental discipline burned into his mind from his time on Krieg, he gave them nothing: no emotions, no answers, no reactions, not even a single sound. And he would continue, he would resist these heretics to his last breath. Which he suspected was fast approaching. Their patience was wearing thin, that much he could tell, and he suspected that they would soon decide to merely get rid of him. He accepted that fact, for then he could face the Emperor and knowing that he never once faltered in his service.
And his time seemed to have come, as the door opened and allowed several of these "Leaguers", as they called themselves, to enter. Over the course of his time here, he had learned the name of several in their numbers. The first one to enter his cell, who Keled suspected was the leader of this little group, was the one who called himself Batman. Behind him came the one known as Superman, the one known as Green Arrow, a raven haired woman in very revealing clothes who Keled suspected was the one called Wonder Woman, if the stories that Flash had tried to regale him with were anything to go by, and lastly was the green xeno who Keled never bothered to place a name on.
They together formed a semicircle facing him, with Batman and the xeno stepping forward. This could in no way be good news for Keled, but he remained uncaring on the outside. Let no weakness be shown to the enemy.
"This is the Martian Manhunter." Batman introduced the Martian with a sweep of his hand. "He's a telepath who can read your mind. And unless you decide to answer our questions, he'll enter your mind and take the answer we need."
For the first time since waking up in this cell, Keled displayed a reaction. His whole body stiffened, as if high voltages of electricity were coursing through his body. 'I knew he was a psyker, but he can read my mind?' Keled thought in alarm. He had never received training against their kind before, he could not fight something like that. His earlier sense of fulfillment came crashing down around him. No doubt that foul psyker would tear apart his mind as he took whatever he desired. His last wish of denying the enemy what they wanted before he died was snatched away. But if they wanted what he had, he would make them fight for it. With the look of a man walking towards his execution, he turned his eyes towards the xeno who would soon invade his mind.
"Do your worst, xeno filth." He stated before he spat at his feet. The others present in the room was taken aback by this sudden display hostility and disgust towards the Martian. Seeing as their guest remained uncooperative, J'onn's eyes began glowing as he sought to enter Keled's mind. A fierce mental battle erupted as Keled fought with everything he had to keep the intruder out. But sadly, J'onn had both strength and experience on his side and broke through.
The first thing he became aware of as he entered Keled's mind was emptiness. Even now, Keled was fighting J'onn for all he was worth. It was like a haze had been laid over J'onn's eyes, and he could not see anything just yet, so all he could discern were various sounds: cannons firing, someone screaming in pain, rumbling of tanks, hundreds of boots marching in unison, an officer shouting orders, gunfire, and the clang of steel against steel. But they made no sense without an image to go with them. Finally, with one last mental push, he was inside the inner sanctum of Keled's mind, and all his memories came streaming to him by the hundreds. J'onn instantly regretted ever coming here.
He saw a dead world, where the people lived underground, and where soldiers were trained in the harshest and most brutal way imaginable. Pain, both of the physical and mental kind, plagued this soldier from such a young age. Friends died, loved ones died, emotions died. He became a ruthless killing machine, like the thousand other soldiers getting shipped off on a daily basis. An Emperor was praised, a war was fought in his name. Cities were laid to rubble, spaceships housing thousands of lives were obliterated without mercy. Soldiers marching down a blasted road, survivors peeking out from their ruined houses in abject terror. Mass graves are filled with executed enemies.
Soldiers, all wearing the same uniform as Keled, were charging headlong into enemy fire uncaring for the lives of their comrades or even themselves. All the enemies are killed. Rebels, seeking independence. Innocents are dragged out of their homes, many not living to see another dawn. One by one, the worlds are retaken. Death tolls rising by the hour, yet no tears were shed for fallen comrades. A public execution. Deserters, having had enough of killing their fellow countrymen. Keled just looked on, uncaring about their lives. War rages on, more die. Keled kills more and more, never once feeling an ounce of regret. Flamethrowers burn rebels alive, a single shout echoes along the line. "Don't shoot! Let 'em burn!". Finally breaching the last stronghold, killing everyone inside.
A man with immense power, bargained from deities beyond his comprehension. Keled's comrades are torn apart by unholy power, no one was spared. But Keled still fought on, pain tearing him apart, but he still pushed on. The heretic slain by his hand. Being dragged into a realm of Madness. The Warp. Not seeing anything, not daring to see anything. Noises all around him, the wails of the damned and the wicked. Foul things caressing him, desiring his soul. But something saved him. He was dragged away from certain death, only to end up somewhere stranger. Fighting Robin. Interrogated by the Justice League.
"I failed you, Emperor." With a startled gasp, J'onn was jolted out of the mind link and slung back into his body. Sweat poured down his forehead as he sought to steady himself, being too worn out by what he had seen to stand on his own. Green Arrow was instantly at his side.
"What happened?" he asked in concern. J'onn did not answer, instead turned his eyes towards the young soldier whose mind he had invaded, currently breathing heavily while leaning forward in exhaustion.
"So much pain. So much death." J'onn murmured mostly to himself, but the others in the room heard all too clearly. The moment he spoke up, Keled's head snapped back up, eyes instantly locked on J'onn. And for the first time in years, there was an emotion on his face: Hatred. Unbridled hatred. Batman immediately stepped forward.
"What did you find out?" he asked, straight to the point as usual. But J'onn seemed to have not heard him, as he said nothing and continued to breathe heavily.
"I-I'm sorry, I need some fresh air." J'onn managed to squeeze out before he retreated from the room. The others gave him concerned and puzzled looks before they as well left the room, leaving Keled alone. And during that whole time, even when the Martian had left, Keled never once lost that look of absolute rage. Before, he had no personal reason to detest xenos. Now he had a reason to detest at least one of them.
While the majority of the League had headed back to Earth, crime never took a day off after all, those that had been present during the mind reading stayed at the Watchtower, waiting for an explanation from the Martian. Finally, it seemed like he had composed himself again as they congregated in the garden built inside the space station.
"My apologies for leaving in such a rush, but I was temporarily overwhelmed by what I found inside his mind." He explained to the gathered League members. They exchanged worried looks with each other before turning their attention back to J'onn.
"That bad?" Green Arrow asked, to which J'onn gave a slight nod of his head.
"While I was only able to piece together certain parts and still lack the full picture, yes, it was that bad." He responded with that calm voice that most Martians seemed to have.
"Tell us what exactly you managed to piece together." Batman ordered, to which J'onn's eyebrows furrowed together before he began his tale.
"He is a human, yet his planet of origin is not Earth, but a planet I've never heard of before that is called Krieg. The surface of Krieg is uninhabitable, destroyed during some cataclysmic war that occurred centuries ago, and the people live in underground bunkers."
"We should probably check with the Green Lanterns, see if they know of this Krieg." Batman suddenly mused out loud, before gesturing for J'onn to go on.
"Here is the part that I find greatly confusing." J'onn admitted. "According to what I could gather, he and his homeworld is serving someone called the Emperor, who rules what is referred to as 'the Imperium of Man'. I find it odd, since humans only exist here on Earth." Naturally, he was not the only one confused. An Imperium of Man? What nonsense was that? No such thing existed.
"The boy himself is a soldier, serving in his homeworld's armed forces, called the Death Korps of Krieg."
"Wait! They let children join their army?!" Green Arrow suddenly burst out in outrage, being silently backed by Black Canary and Superman. However, what came next sure as hell did not raise this so called Krieg any higher in their eyes.
"He was not allowed to join, he was conscripted along with every other child his age." J'onn revealed, to the utter horror of his teammates.
"What?" that question came out more like a whisper from Black Canary.
"Apparently, most children born on Krieg are destined from birth to be sent to the army. And it is not an army I would ever want to face." He admitted, elaborating upon seeing the confused looks given to him. "Their training regime is one of the most grueling I have ever seen. Many do not survive to even reach the age of 15. But not only did they undergo physical training, but mental as well. Their minds were deliberately shattered to pieces, in order to be rebuilt as an emotionless killing machine that follows any order without question. What we have here is the foundation of a ruthless and fatalistic army, whose soldiers are willing to go to their deaths if their commanders so wished."
A stunned silence filled the air, as they all contemplated what that entailed. If such an army existed in the galaxy, it sure as hell was not meant to be used as a peacekeeping force.
"Anything else of value?" Batman asked.
"Only that his arrival here seemed to have been an accident. He was partaking in a battle to quell a rebel force when he came up against an enemy with potent mystic power. He was eventually slain, but our soldier ended up being dragged into a realm of utter madness that he referred to as the Warp." J'onn added. Silence followed, as they contemplated what to do next. Obviously finding Krieg was top priority. Such a force they were building was a threat that could not be ignored, and needed to be stopped. But what to do with the soldier in their care?
Once again, Keled was alone in his cell. And once again, he was left wondering why they kept him alive. It had been four days and they obviously had what they wanted now, so why did they just not kill him? Was it to taunt him? To let him suffer through the knowledge that he had failed? Well, he was not going to give them the satisfaction of watching him crumble to bits. He was a soldier of the Death Korps of Krieg, and they never broke down. Not even in the face of certain and imminent death.
The door suddenly swung open, allowing the one known as Flash to enter along with a new figure dressed in green pants and orange shirt with a definitive air of leadership around him, along with blonde beard and hair. Flash gave Keled what he assumed was meant as a comforting smile, he could not be overly sure since he had never experienced such things on Krieg. He answered with a blank stare that knocked his smile right off his face. The bearded one stepped forward to address him instead.
"I'm Aquaman. We're here to escort you to the assembly hall." He said with a sharp authoritarian voice. Clearly he was a man used to giving orders. Seeing no point in resisting, given their superior strength and numbers, Keled let himself be led through the halls of their base of operation, head held high. Eventually, he found himself standing in front of a crescent shaped table with twenty people sitting at different seats around it, all watching Keled with curious looks. The one known as Batman wasted no time and addressed Keled directly.
"You are 769355-637566-Keled, or simply Keled, a soldier in the Death Korps of Krieg. Planet of birth is the military world of Krieg. Am I correct?" he questioned, seeking more to demonstrate that he knew all about him more than wanting confirmation. As usual, Keled said nothing in return, and another League member stood up to address both Keled and the others present in the room. He was a black man with a green and black costume on.
"The Green Lantern Corps maintain order in most parts of the galaxy, but we have never encountered a planet called Krieg." He revealed. "However, if it does exist, we should take measures to stop these Death Korps. Their aggressive ways are too much of a threat to be ignored."
So they planned to go to war against Krieg? Ha! They were even more stupid than he had first given them credit for. Did they not realize the sheer power of the giant they were planning to poke in the back? Well, in that case, he was more than happy to educate them. Put a little fear into their hearts before they even faced his brothers and sisters on the battlefield. As loudly as he could, he snorted at that statement, drawing several looks. Just as he wanted.
"Stop the Death Korps, you say? Ignorant fool, we are but one planet, one tiny cog in the giant machine that is the Imperium of Man. An Empire of over a million worlds that has endured for ten thousand years, protected by war fleets numbering in their millions and armies numbering in their trillions." By now, all the attention was centered on Keled as he continued his little tale. "From his Golden Throne on Holy Terra itself, the Emperor, beloved father of all Mankind, will reach out with his might and crush you. Your Justice League will be trampled into dust beneath the boots of the Emperor's chosen and battle hardened warriors. Fight us, and you will invite death to you all."
Keled had to admit, he never knew he had the skills of an orator within him. But the reaction he received was not what he had been expecting. Instead of the dread and fear he hoped would overwhelm them as their minds grasped just what they were up against, they instead gave both him and each other looks of confusion, making Keled question their level of intellect.
"Terra? As in Earth?" Superman asked curiously. Keled furrowed his eyebrows in thought over that.
"A rather ancient name, but yes.(1)" He eventually answered. A stunned silence filled the air. But something seemed to have dawned to the League members, as their looks of confusion turned to looks of understanding. Something that Keled did not enjoy in the slightest. Batman suddenly rose from his seat.
"Come with me." He ordered while gesturing for Keled to follow. While still eying him suspiciously, Keled did as asked and followed Batman to one of the windows, specifically one overlooking a planet.
"What do you see?" Batman asked. Keled gave a quick look at the planet below before giving an unconcerned shrug.
"A planet, which I suspect is your homeworld." He answered. Batman, who had so far himself been looking down on the planet, turned fully to face Keled.
"That, Keled, is the only planet in the galaxy containing human life, called Earth. Or, as you referred it to, Holy Terra." He corrected him. In that moment, all brain functions seemed to turn off in Keled, and his entire storage of words was emptied out with the exception of one single word.
1. I have no idea if Keled would even know that Terra was once called Earth, but just roll with it here.