Another two weeks had passed since Joffrey had been recruited, but finally everything was ready for Lex Luthor’s large presentation. The Secretary of Defense had appointed a remote military site for the big reveal and so everything and everyone had been transported there, waiting for the big moment.
“I am glad you have all joined me here after our previous meeting several weeks ago,” Lex Luthor said, pleased to see most of the staff from the previous meeting present again, including the Secretary of Defense himself, “I will proceed with a short introduction of each individual team member as well as their talents, followed by an introduction of their leader. They’re still bad stuff, so you will meet them through a viewing screen, while the actual candidates are on the testing area a mile to the west. Following that introduction they will engage in a mock battle against the latest battle drones of Hammer Industries, the military’s official supplier for special weapons.”
The large viewing screen switched on, showing a dessert field and eight individuals standing there in line, waiting. Shortly after the camera zoomed in on one of them, a young boy wearing a pair of jeans and a tank top and a bright red rag which he had donned as some kind of cape. He looked innocent enough, like any other teenager, but the look in his eyes betrayed something different, something like a type of madness. “Tetsuo is a teenager who developed psychic talents after the Japanese government experimented on him and several others,” Lex Luthor introduced, “He is powerful, but the same experiments have also driven him partially insane. Fortunately he is also addicted to a rare drug, giving us a means of controlling him. In addition to that, an explosive microchip has been placed inside his neck which can be remotely detonated by any sign of rebellion, instantly killing him.”
The camera shifted, showing the next person in line, The Purple Man. “Zebediah Killgrave, also known as The Purple Man,” Lex Luthor continued, “Exposure to a unique composition of chemicals has left him with special pheromones that make anyone do his bidding. The only known exception in the world is Doctor Doom. LexCorp has information on his relatives, which will be our bargaining chip; in addition, an explosive microchip has been placed inside his neck which can be remotely detonated by any sign of rebellion, instantly killing him.”
Again the camera shifted, this time showing an elderly man dressed in ragged and torn clothing, his crooked nose giving him somewhat of a creepy appearance. “Gargamel comes from Europe and wields powerful sorcery. He believes his home country is populated by mythical beings known as Smurfs and has requested help from LexCorp in exchange for his services. In addition, an explosive microchip has been placed inside his neck which can be remotely detonated by any sign of rebellion, instantly killing him.”
Once again the camera shifted, this time showing a hulky form of a man, clad in a metal outfit of some sort, his skin a pale green. “Jesus Christ!” one of the generals exclaimed before Lex Luthor had a chance to introduce him, “That’s Apocalypse! Luthor, are you mad, including one such as him in the project?!”
“The team needed some muscle, something on a similar level as Superman,” Lex replied, “You can’t get much closer than Apocalypse, the most powerful mutant alive.”
“The most powerful mutant alive who believes in the extinction of mankind and survival of the fittest!” the general spat, “Do you have any idea how often he tried to destroy our civilization?”
“I have a fair estimate,” Lex replied, “But during his last skirmish with the X-Men a team of mine retrieved him and exposed him to a neural drug which dampens his powers and makes him quite docile. But just in case, should he ever show signs of rebellion…”
“An explosive chip in his neck?”
Lex smiled. “You catch on quickly, general.”
Again the camera image moved, revealing Orochimaru. “Orochimaru is a ninja, specializing in stealth as well as a wide array of deadly and powerful ninja tactics. He comes from a faraway realm which he has fled. He is ours in exchange for protection and a bit of help with some research. And in addition, there is of course the explosive chip…”
The camera moved to the side again, revealing a woman in what appeared to be a clown costume of some sorts, consisting of black and red colors, her own face paled with a white body paint of sorts. “Harley Quinn is the insane and unpredictable factor of the team,” Lex explained, “She’s in love with Gotham City’s number one criminal, The Joker, and absolutely crazy, and here for the fan boys. She asked for nothing when we recruited her and in fact practically offered herself up. We installed an explosive chip just in case.”
The camera shifted once again, revealing the man they had already met before during the first meeting where Lex Luthor had explained the concept of an anti-hero team. “Dio Brando,” Lex introduced, “You’ve met him before. He is also the reason why we are conducting this exercise in the evening. Dio Brando is undead; he can recover from any injury, but he cannot withstand sunlight. In addition he has another talent which he refers to as ‘a Stand’, which allows him to momentarily stop time. This is the talent he demonstrated to you before. We’ve promised Dio The Netherlands after his first mission, but in reality Tetsuo is going to kill him off before the mission ends. We’ve implanted the explosive chip, but since he can recover from that, we’re not sure why we did.”
“That’s quite a team you’ve put together,” the Secretary of Defense said, “I commend you for finding this, although I still have doubts about some of its members; or actually, all of its members. Such a team needs fine leadership however. Are you sure you trust us enough to find someone capable?”
“I have no doubts about your agencies and resources, gentlemen,” Luthor said, “But just in case, I recruited a hero in the field as well, one with just the right attitude to direct this motley crew.”
Again the camera shifted, showing the smaller boy king, Joffrey Baratheon. “This is Joffrey Baratheon, who originates from another world, where he rules as a king over a war torn region. Given his background and character, he’s fit for making decisions in the field, even though he might not fully realize it yet.”
“You’re putting a boy in charge of a team of super powered freaks?” a baffled general asked.
“Only on the battlefield when they’re cut off,” Lex Luthor replied, “Your man will still be in charge, general, don’t worry about that.”
“That’s why we picked him, Luthor,” the general replied.
“Of course you did,” Luthor replied, “And now that we’ve come to that subject… care to introduce your… man?”
One of the people present stepped forward, a younger man with light brown wavy hair and a short, trimmed goatee. He was dressed in a Japanese robes of some sort and was wearing glasses. “Rrrroderick, at your service,” he said with an introduction full of energy and enthusiasm, “You’ve done us a great favor by getting this ragtag group of misfits together, and now I shall step in and lead them to greatness!”
“That is the general idea,” Lex said with a smile, hiding his surprise at the choice of this energetic and obviously inexperienced individual, “Shall we begin with the demonstration then? I’m sure Justin Hammer is eager to throw his tech at us as well.”
“Ready when you are, gentlemen,” Roderick said, donning a headset which allowed him to communicate with his new team through miniature transmitters that were implanted into the Squadron Extreme. Yes, more implants. Because implants are all the rage these days.
* * *
Meanwhile, over at the test site, the Squadron Extreme was waiting for the action to start and growing terribly bored. “So when is something going to happen now?” Orochimaru hissed to no one in particular, “I can understand the need for a demonstration, but not the need for these endless delayssss.”
“Getting what we want in exchange for standing around and doing nothing?” Gargamel replied, “I for one can live with that. Mwa ha ha ha ha!”
“Must you really laugh that way with everything you said, Gargamel?” Joffrey whined.
“Yes! Mwa ha ha ha!”
“I’m getting a bit tired of waiting around for this crap,” Tetsuo grumbled, “If nothing happen soon I’m going home.”
“No need to get all worked up, Tetsuo,” Roderick’s voice echoed through their communication channels, “We’re done with the introductions and set up and we’ll be starting the demonstration now. I hope you’re all ready.”
“Finally, some fun!” Harley Quinn cheered, bouncing up and down which just happened to get caught by the cameras that were monitoring the demonstration
Several trucks came riding up to them and began unloading several platoons of massive humanoid robots. “These are my latest present for the US military,” a voice echoed through the communicators, which had to belong to their owner, Justin Hammer himself, “They’re new and improved battle drones, inspired by the Iron Man designs but stocked with Hammer Technology and void of any human operator and flaws. I call them my Unsullied and they… HEY!”
His introduction was interrupted by Tetsuo who had grown tired of waiting and unleashed a psychic blasts of some of the trucks that were still unloading, causing them to be topped over and explode, destroying any bots still inside. “We aren’t even ready yet!” Hammer cried out.
“And you expect us to play by the rules?” Tetsuo grinned, “We won’t wait for you to line up for the slaughter in actual combat either. Just be faster next time!”
“Using robots as weaponry,” Apocalypse said, speaking up at last for the first time, “Do you really believe this to be the next step in the evolution of war? What a sad mistake.”
“You’ve mocked my creations long enough,” Hammer shouted through the communicators, “You’ve gotten a head start by attacking before I was ready but your advantage ends here. Prepare to feel the full force of my Unsullied!”
The battle was joined after all and both parties shone brilliantly during this violent and quite possibly pointless demonstration. Hammer’s Unsullied robots showed remarkable agility while they attacked with a combination of laser riffles and old fashioned weapons like spears and crossbows, but the Squadron’s overwhelming brutality simply proved too much for them. The fight lasted less than thirty minutes and then the last of the Unsullied robots were crushed by the Squadron, who emerged victorious and uninjured, save for a few scratches and a few bruises.
“It seems my pre-selection proved most effective,” Lex Luthor said, satisfied, “And of course excellent leadership and coordination as well.”
“Thank you,” Roderick replied.
“I am convinced as well, Luthor,” the Secretary of Defense said, “They’ve proven themselves in a simulation; they can now be on standby until we have a proper mission for them. I don’t think we’ll need to keep them waiting very long.”
“I for one am also pleased with these results,” Apocalypse spoke suddenly, and his massive fist reached out and grabbed Tetsuo, his fingers wrapping around the small teenagers head. The boy struggled and screamed and started gathering his will to unleash a blast of psychic energy but Apocalypse swiftly applied more pressure and some energy of his own, causing the boy to lose consciousness. “One down,” he said triumphantly.”
“Did not see that one coming,” Harley Quinn said, speechless.
“I did,” the Purple Man replied, backing away from the crazed mutant. It was too late however, as Apocalypse turned his head and caught sight of him. Within moments the hulking mutant was upon him, delivering a blow to the Purple Man’s stomach which knocked him out as well. “And that’s another,” he said, “But the rest of you are all unworthy. I am done here.”
“Apocalypse!” Roderick shouted, “What are you doing, man? Not cool at all!”
“He’s gone rogue,” Lex Luthor interrupted, pulling out a small device, and pressing a button on it, “But that’s where remote controlled explosive chips are for.”
A cry could be heard across the battlefield. However Apocalypse was uninjured and still standing. Joffrey on the other hand collapsed to his knee, bleeding from a deep wound in his neck. “I am more ancient than all of you combined,” Apocalypse spoke dryly, “Did you truly believe your little toys would be enough to suppress me? I have switched my chip with that of the boy king.”
“Then I will detonate his chip as well,” Lex Luthor said, pressing another button.
Joffrey’s head exploded.
“Or perhaps I did not switch them at all, but only transferred my chip to the boy,” Apocalypse explained, a sadistic grin on his face.
“Explain this debacle, Luthor!” one of the generals demanded, “You said you could control him!”
“The Squadron will contain its own,” Luthor replied, “Roderick. Order them to take him down.”
“Your Squadron would die in their feeble attempts,” Apocalypse replied for all to hear, “But for their demonstration today and as an additional award for the honor of fighting besides Apocalypse they shall be spared… today.”
The hulking mutant picked up Tetsuo and The Purple Man and was then surrounded by an energy field which seemed to manipulate and defy gravity somehow. Apocalypse slowly rose from the ground, gradually gaining speed, and then swiftly flew away to the west, quickly disappearing at the horizon.
“Track him!” the Secretary of Defense shouted, “Shoot him down if need be!”
“We can’t!” an intelligence officer shouted, attempting to follow the rogue mutant, “He’s moving too fast, and… he’s disappeared off the radar grid already! At this speed he’s probably no longer in America..!”
“You have a lot to answer for, Luthor!” a general demanded.
“I guess Apocalypse was a bit too much of a stretch for this team,” Lex Luthor replied. If he was in any way phased by these events he certainly was not showing it. His exterior was still calm and he was still smiling, though weakly. “I will find a suitable replacement. Taking down the mutant shall probably be one of the team’s first missions. Or would you rather leave that to the X-Men? Or the Justice League?”
“We don’t need to rely on superheroes who have no accountability,” the Secretary of Defense said, “I’ll discuss this issue with the president. I still see value in this team, but one more screw up like this and I’ll hold you and your company personally responsible, Luthor.”
“Understood,” Lex replied.
“All right team, that’s it for today,” Roderick announced through his headset, “I hope today’s developments haven’t shocked you too much. Rest assured the project is still a god, and you’ll all get what you want. For now that means some off time in a government supported four star hotel nearby. Heavily guarded to prevent anyone from leaving without permission, of course.”
“A luxury prison,” Orochimaru grinned, “But acceptable. For now.”
And that was that. Justin Hammer’s men swooped in to clean up what was left of his attack force, and the remnants of Squadron Extreme were escorted to their sleeping facilities. Lex Luthor left altogether, returning to his office in Metropolis. There would be repercussions for today, but they would have to wait. He would burden himself with finding suitable replacements for those lost, and then this project would be out of his hands. For now.
That fateful meeting in a secret chamber in the United States of America had been nearly a month ago. A lot had happened in that time, but Lex Luthor’s team was on the move as well. This chapter starts out in a maximum security prison called The Raft, a special facility specifically designed to detain super powered criminals, where normal prisons would be insufficient.
Zebediah Killgrave was one of The Raft’s prisoners and a man with an extraordinary talent. Originally a from Europe he was exposed to a unique mixture of chemical compounds during one of his missions as a spy, which resulted in his body creating a unique kind of pheromones which allowed him to control the thoughts and actions of any and all in his vicinity. An additional effect had rendered his hair and skin color a clear purple color, later earning him the nickname of The Purple Man.
After realizing the extent of his powers he embarked on a criminal career which resulted in several clashes with authorities and super heroes and eventually resulted in his incarceration in The Raft. His prison cell had been equipped with air filters which specifically filtered out and neutralized his unique pheromones and his food was mixed with an odorless and tasteless compound which further dampened his abilities, effectively making him powerless to escape using his unique special talents. Any means of getting out would have to come from outside.
With nothing better to do with his free time Killgrave had taken up the hobby of painting, a hobby that consisted of viewing all material of celebrity painter Bob Ross, mixed with some creative experiments of his own, all of them featuring a prominent role for the color purple.
His marathon session of The Best of Bob Ross was interrupted by a tap on the reinforced glass window of his cell, caused by the baton of one of the regular security guards: “Killgrave. You got a visitor.”
“You don’t say,” The Purple Man smirked, putting down his brush, “Who is it? Your daughter? Please, do let her in; I’m sure she’ll have no regrets.”
“Cute, Killgrave,” the guard replied, “Your visitor’s a big shot, so do try to behave.”
Several men entered the hallway as the visitor was not alone but accompanied by a security detail. But Killgrave recognized his special visitor right away among the crowd, as it was no small time celebrity that had arrived. “Mr. Lex Luthor,” Killgrave said, rising from his chair and approaching the glass wall, “I do not get many visitors, but this meeting was one of the last things I would’ve expected during my stay at the colorless facility of The Raft. To what do I own the pleasure?”
“Mr. Killgrave,” Lex Luthor replied, “A pleasure meeting you at last. Your reputation…”
“…My reputation is anything but good,” the Purple Man interrupted, “Save it, Luthor. Even without my pheromones I know how to work people, I know all the tricks. You’re not here to make friends with me or shower me with compliments, god forbid. You’re here to talk business. So: talk business.”
Lex Luthor paused and was silent for a moment, startled by The Purple Man’s sudden interruption, then smiled again. “I’m glad there is no need to waste each other’s time then,” he replied, “Very well then, Mr. Killgrave. Let’s talk business. I’m forming a team of gifted individuals, and your talent is exactly the kind of talent I need.”
“If you’re looking for someone like me, it must be a pretty interesting team setup you have there,” Killgrave grinned.
“You have no idea.”
“But what’s the catch?” Killgrave insisted, “With my talent I can get pretty much anything I want. And this prison? Sooner or later someone will slip up and I will walk out of here just as easy. Or some weird super freak orchestrates another jail break. A bit messy, but that works just as well.”
“True,” Lex replied, “But there’s no guarantee when that would happen, if at all. I on the other hand can guarantee your release within two weeks’ time. And as for your talent… that too has it limits, and there are still things that I can get you much more easily.”
Even though he was not convinced yet, Lex Luthor’s words seemed to have caught The Purple Man’s interest. “Oh really?” Killgrave smirked, “Then tell me, Luthor, what can you get me that I could not get otherwise?”
“This dossier,” Lex replied, holding up a patch of paperwork, “Holds the names and current locations of each and every child you ever conceived with women who were under the influence of your power. They’re constantly being relocated after your previous attempts to find them, but no secret stays hidden from Lex Luthor for long. I can give you your children, Killgrave. All of them.”
“Alive?” Killgrave asked, just to be sure.
“Of course,” Luthor said, “That’s the deal. There are some details to be worked out, but that’s basically it. Take it or leave it.”
The Purple Man’s lips curled into a dark purple smile again. “Do tell me more.”
* * *
It was late in the afternoon and it was rush hour at Heathrow Airport, London’s largest and busiest airport. As such things were just a little more hectic than normal and delays were no uncommon thing, and neither were arguments. But this chapter is about neither of these things. It is however about a single person, a certain passenger about to board a plane to the United States.
This person, a male of fairly young age, was all too eager to get on board and leave this country behind. England had been just a temporary stop where he wanted to stay no longer than a few days, leaving it behind as he had done with previous destinations in France, Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia, from where he’d come originally. Somehow the man managed to avoid drawing attention to himself, despite the fact that he was dressed in heavy clothing, obscuring most of his figure, and despite that his skin was a pale complexion, bordering white, which contrasted all that much more with his dirt black hair.
The plane had a small delay, with no actual cause given, but eventually permission to take off was given and, following the lengthy and monotone safety instructions by the plane’s crew, the airplane finally took off for the United States.
It was a long flight, and the mysterious traveler seemed bothered by that, while curiously enough he seemed less bothered by his warm clothing style. Still, the stewardesses and the other passengers paid little heed to him. And in turn the traveler paid little heed to those around him, though he was fully aware of everything that occurred around him. Which is why he became somewhat alarmed when the passenger sitting next to him suddenly got up and left for the toilet, and moments later another passenger sat down next to him in his stead, not saying a single word initially. Then suddenly his new neighbor asked: “Aren’t you warm in that getup? “
The traveler did not answer, trying to ignore the questions of his nosy neighbor.
“It must be very warm indeed,” the stranger continued, “Of course you’re from a warm region, originally, so you’re used to something. But still, on a plane like this…”
“Do not presume to know me,” the traveler replied, not even bothering to hide his annoyance, “You do not know me at all.”
“Oh, but I know plenty about you, Orochimaru, one of the three Sennin, Rogue Ninja on the run from justice,” the other continued. This startled the traveler, for everything the man had just said was true, but there was no way for anyone to know, no one but his enemies. He reached in his coat to pull out something, most likely a weapon, but stopped when the other continued: “Please, don’t do that. I am not your enemy. But you will draw their attention if you act now, if this plane’s security team does not kill you first.”
“I’d like to see them try,” Orochimaru hissed, not quite standing down yet.
“You have a large bag of tricks and a history of survival, but you’re not bullet proof,” the other warned, “Trust me. Listening to what I have to say is the better part of the deal.”
Orochimaru hesitated for a moment, contemplating the stranger’s words. True, starting a fight now would not end well. And while he would most likely survive, the incident would still make the news, and that in turn would attract the attention of his enemies, who would recognize his style in this. “Who are you?” he finally asked, standing down and relaxing a little.
“As I said, I am not your enemy; however I am also not your friend,” the stranger began his introduction, “However I do believe we can benefit from each other. I am Lex Luthor.”
“A name that means nothing to me,” Orochimaru admitted, not sounding too impressed.
“I am not surprised,” Lex Luthor replied, “You are from a different world altogether after all, in a manner of speaking. And I hardly know you as well, Mr. Orochimaru,” he continued, “First records of you show up in northern China about a year ago, a man of mysterious origin with even more mysterious talents. Some call you a ninja, others a wizard, and others refer to you as the devil himself.”
“People tend to give names.”
“I am fully aware of that,” Lex Luthor smiled, “But in this case I do not mind, for it brought you under my attention, even though you were totally unaware of my existence. I’ve studied you and even your past, Orochimaru.”
“I would be surprised if you had uncovered anything at all then,” Orochimaru said with a hiss in his voice, “I did a very thorough job at burying everything.”
“I am a very thorough burrower,” Lex replied, “Even a skilled ninja like yourself won’t keep secrets for long once you’ve really peeked my interest.”
“And, have I?”
“We would not be having this conversation here, in this plane, if you hadn’t.”
“You obviously have some influence,” Orochimaru concluded, “A man of such influence could arrange a lot of things. Make a lot of things happen. That makes me wonder… why would you need me then?”
“I don’t,” Luthor replied coldly, “At least, not you in particular. But I am looking for a series of people with unique talents, talents I want to shape into a special team. I want you to be on that team, Orochimaru.”
“Interesting. But what do I stand to gain from this?”
“I can help you to protect you from your enemies,” Lex said, “But that’s only part of it, call it protecting my investment. But before you started running, you were working on something, looking for something.”
“Something which has no easy answer,” Orochimaru interrupted, growing wary again.
“Indeed not. And I do not have the answer, and I believe you will have to make that discovery yourself. However I can give you the means you need, the tools you need. My resources are not unlimited, but they are as close as it gets.”
“I have some very specific needs,” Orochimaru pressed, “Some may be hard to get by.”
“You would be surprised at my resources,” Lex persisted.
“Some might be of a darker nature.”
“As long as it’s not linked directly to me,” Lex assured.
“Some might even cost lives.”
“But not mine,” Lex replied coldly.
“You are a sinister man, Lex Luthor,” Orochimaru smirked.
“I am a business man,” Lex Luthor corrected, “Men of business sometimes make challenging decisions and proposals. Has mine peeked your interest?”
Orochimaru’s lips curled into a smile: “We have a deal.”
“Excellent,” Lex replied, “A pleasure doing business with you. Even though you are a snake on a plane.”
“I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I just don’t get it,” Orochimaru replied.
* * *
A horse and wagon carriage was slowly making its way through a meadow, and within it Lex Luthor was seated, accompanied by a single bodyguard. It had been two days since his meeting with Orochimaru and this rural scenery was an extreme but pleasant change, compared to the busy streets of London, or his home town of Metropolis. Most of his new team had already been gathered, with The Purple Man and Orochimaru being among the last ones, but there was one recruit he still wanted and needed, someone special to lead the team. Yet the person he wanted was unconventional in many ways, including the location where he could be found, which could not be reached by means of conventional travel.
“We’ve almost arrived at our destination,” the coach driver announced with a calm voice. Lex Luthor took a quick peek out of the coach window, and indeed he could see a massive medieval city looming up before them, behind it the crystal clear waters of the ocean beyond. “As magnificent as they said it would be,” Lex Luthor mused.
The carriage was halted momentarily by the guards at the city entrance, but after a quick look at its passengers they were allowed to continue. But even though they had arrived at the city, the trip to their final destination, a massive keep made dirt red stone bricks, still took nearly half an hour to complete. “Mr. Luthor,” an elderly man in modest robes said, greeting the billionaire as he exited the carriage, “Welcome to the city. His Majesty is expecting you inside.”
“Then I shall not keep his Majesty waiting,” Lex replied, “Please, lead the way.”
Lex Luthor followed the advisor into the keep and through large and well maintained hallways until finally they reached the throne room. There a man sat on an elevated position on a throne made of steel and from what appeared to be swords forged together into a single piece of furniture. “Welcome, Lex Luthor of Metropolis, you are hereby present before His Grace, Joffrey of the Houses Baratheon and Lannister, the first of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.”
“Quite a title,” Lex mused, then bowed before the King, who was as young as his informants has told him, no more than a boy, “A pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.”
“We welcome you in our company, Lord Luthor,” Joffrey replied, “I understand you are not from the Seven Kingdoms but from a realm even further away.”
“A great distance further away, Your Majesty,” Lex agreed, “Not just another land, but another world. It is difficult to explain, but I would love to show you.”
“You are here to invite me to visit your land… world then, Lord Luthor?”
“Not exactly,” Luthor replied, “I am here to extend an invitation. I would request that you leave the affairs of the Realm to your chancellor, The Hand of The King, for certain periods of time, and that you join me in my world, where I am putting together a team of unique and gifted individuals that will require an unique leadership.”
“You seek to take His Majesty away from us?” the bearded chancellor protested, “Preposterous! I…”
“Not so fast, Pycelle,” Joffrey interrupted, “Indeed, this stranger asks for a lot, but he has traveled a great distance to make this offer. He would not do so without reason… or proper compensation.”
“I would not dare disturb a King’s time like that,” Lex Luthor confirmed, “I assure you that any compensation I offer will be more than worth the effort.”
“What is it you have in mind, Lord Luthor?”
“As I stated before, I want you to lead a team of special individuals in my world. Each of them has a unique talent unlike anything you have ever seen before, a talent that makes them each as strong as an entire army.”
“And what do I stand to gain here?” Joffrey continued, though the twinkle in his eyes betrayed that he already knew.
“This team is only required for special missions, small assignments you’ll complete after which this team disbands. Normally they return to wherever they came from, in some cases that would be prison. I understand you have some enemies here?”
“Betrayers to the crown,” Joffrey replied.
“I can send some of these individuals here to assist you in securing the realm. Just a few of these individuals, and you’ll be ruling unchallenged again within weeks, perhaps even days.”
“And you’re just going to give us such power, just like that?” Pycelle asked, still wary.
“Just like that,” Lex Luthor reassured.
“Your highness,” Pycelle continued, an eagerness in his eyes as he turned to King Joffrey, “Perhaps we should consider this proposal. The King in the North still poses a threat to your rule. But if we strike swift and hard with these super soldiers…”
“No,” Joffrey said.
“No, My Lord?” Pycelle repeated.
“Oh?” Lex Luthor asked, not expecting refusal.
“You offer me servants who are stronger than myself. I believe in power, Lord Luthor, and I do not believe that a servant will obediently serve when his might goes unopposed. Accepting your offer would be the end of me.”
“My servants are loyal, and I can give you means to assure it,” Lex Luthor protested.
“Perhaps, but means provided by you, leaving you in charge of it all,” Joffrey protested, “No, Lord Luthor, your offer is insufficient. But allow me to offer you a counter proposal.”
“You come from a place where these super powered people walk around amongst you, yet there are not many of them. That means they’re either a dying breed, or they are created, not born. I want that power, Lord Luthor. I want you to use your resources to make me powerful.”
“A bold proposal, Your Highness,” Lex complimented, “Yes, I can accept that as part of our deal and I have the means to make you stronger. But know that it is not without risk. Are you still willing to step forward, knowing as much?”
“Not a shred of hesitation is in my body,” King Joffrey replied.
“Very well,” Lex Luthor said, “It is a deal. My men will be here with a special escort to pick you up in three days’ time, make sure you have your business taken care of before then. I expect you will be gone for two weeks, maybe three.”
“Acceptable,” Joffrey said, “And your part of the deal?”
“After your first mission,” Luthor replied, “But I have good faith in you. I will start making preparations for your transformation as soon as I get home.”
“I look forward to seeing the results,” Joffrey said.
“And I am sure that your enemies won’t,” Lex Luthor replied, and with that he bid the King of the Seven Kingdoms farewell and left back home again, pleased; the first part of his recruitment had gone according to plan. It was now time to bring the team together for a final demonstration.
It had been three months since Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States. His first order of business had been as spectacular and outrageous as pretty much his whole presidential race had been: to recruit the mighty hero Superman as a soldier to fight against the Islamic State.
Of course, not too surprising, Superman’s answer had been to flat our refuse. He was a hero of the people, after all, and had sworn never to intervene in differences of religion, ideology or other beliefs, not only because he did not want to be judge, jury and executioner, but also because such a display of power would only frighten the people he sought to protect.
But Donald Trump would not take no for an answer in this, and what had started out as a simple request, perhaps a demand, quickly turned into a matter of saving face. When polite asking and blatant ordering failed, the president resorted to more extreme measures employing a dark magician to gain Superman’s obedience using a spell of mind control. The ploy worked, for a while, but eventually the spell was broken and Superman regained his own free will. However not after having slaughtered hundreds of soldiers, leveling several rural villages in the process.
Superman was outraged at what he’d done and what Trump had made him do and returned back to the USA, demanding to speak with him. The president however feared Superman was demanding revenge and would come for his life, so declared the Kryptonian hero an enemy of the state. Things quickly escalated from there and an all-out war against the hero began. Finally, seeing that things were going nowhere, Trump agreed to meet with Superman on a remote island a few miles of the American West Coast.
When Superman arrived the island was abandoned, and the caped hero waited, unaware of the danger that was waiting for him there. Moment later the island was engulfed in a bright green flare as a nuclear explosion empowered with Kryptonite (in case you did not know yet: Kryptonite is Superman’s greatest weakness) completely obliterated the island and everything on it. After that Superman was not seen again and the world had lost one of its greatest heroes.
What followed next was chaos. The world had become more divided and its heroes were busier than ever and unable keep up with one threat popping up after another, not just from criminal organization or super villains, but also against other heroes who saw things differently.
And when things go bad people tend to make worse decisions.
In the eyes of some parts of the US government these superheroes were uncontrollable vigilantes, super powered vigilantes in fact. And if there is one thing that government officials dislike that would be not being in control of something. And so more and more voices called out for an alternative solution, a team of heroes under direct control of the US government, yet without repeating the same incident that had happened with Superman.
It was none other than billionaire business magnate Lex Luthor who finally presented the government with an adequate solution, calling for a meeting of staff where he could present his ideas to put them into practice.
Several weeks later was the day of the meeting, with members of the military present as well as government officials in suits, but the two most important characters at the meeting were probably the Secretary of Defense and of course Lex Luthor himself. All eyes were focused on the business man with the plan, whose aura of confidence drew more attention than his perfectly bald head ever could. “Well now, Mr. Luthor,” the Secretary suggested, “Now that we have all gathered here, won’t you present us this miracle solution of yours. And please include all the details, including the costs of this little ploy, and how much of this will end up in your pockets.”
“Why, Mr. Secretary, you insult me,” Lex Luthor replied with a calm but confident smile, “I may be a business man, but first of all I am an American citizen. Sure, this little proposal will leave me with some amount of profit, but I’m mainly doing this because I want to help make our land safer and greater. Isn’t that what our president wants as well?”
“Our president wants a lot of things,” the Secretary replied, but refrained from any further comment on that, “But for now this little project falls under my jurisdiction. Tell us what you have planned, Luthor. How do you propose we set up our own team of super powered warriors, without repeating the Superman debacle?”
Lex Luthor nodded and snapped his fingers. This prompted his assistant into action, who began distributing dossiers with paperwork to the various members present. “The problem with super heroes is that they feel a need, a drive, perhaps almost an instinct, to do the right thing,” Lex Luthor started, “You can bind them by contract, but if a complicated situation arises they will follow their own judgment, and that judgment is often colored by emotion. Best case scenario the mission is delayed only a little or a failure, worst case scenario the hero turns on you and becomes an opponent. Not a pleasant sight.”
“Then what do you propose?” one of the present generals interjected, “We can’t exactly put them on a leash. The public opinion respects our heroes.”
“True,” Lex grinned, “But they detest our villains.”
A moment of silence arose after that. “What do you mean, Luthor?” another general finally asked.
“Please open up the dossiers my assistant has just handed to you,” Lex Luthor asked, and as they did and began to review the contents, he continued: “In these files you’ll find a selection of some of the nastiest folk around, people with unique… talents, yet with a moral compass that has been damaged, quite possibly beyond repair. I plan to take these individuals and shape them into a team; a disturbed and brutal but effective team.”
“You want to entrust our national security and perhaps even the safety of the world with a bunch of lunatics?!” the Secretary spat, rising from his chair, “Have you even reviewed this selection, Luthor?! Harley Quinn? The Purple Man?! Some of these names don’t even make sense to me. Who the hell is Joffrey Baratheon?!”
“A charming lad,” Lex Luthor replied, “With a unique story. They all are. And yes, I’ve read all their files, and I’ve made the selection personally. They will bond quite well, I believe.”
After that the meeting quickly descended into chaos as everybody was talking at the same time and no one was listening anymore. Finally it was the Secretary of Defense who took charge of things again, restoring order and dictating for his colleagues to be quiet. “I think this more than demonstrates how we currently feel about your proposal, Mr. Luthor. But say that we’re actually seriously considering this for a moment: these villains you’ve listed here have committed multiple crimes against either this country or its people and have shown no desire to do any good. What makes you think they will?”
“Everybody has a weakness,” Lex Luthor replied, “And those weaknesses are included in their dossiers as well. Having your sentence reduced is a start, but has little effect if you’ve been sentenced to forty times life in prison. But there are other… motivators. I am absolutely convinced that they can be controlled.”
“And who will be in charge of this powerful team, Luthor?” the mouthy general that had first spoken up said, “You, I presume? Wouldn’t that be convenient.”
“Oh no, I wouldn’t dream of it,” Lex immediately responded, “I am hardly qualified for such a job, and I can imagine such a scenario giving you nightmares, general. No, that’s best left to an independently appointed capable individual. My job will be provided by providing a selection of candidates as well as means on how to…. Best convince them.”
“I am not convinced yet, Mr. Luthor,” the Secretary of Defense replied.
“Very well, Mr. Secretary,” Lex said, “Then I guess I’ll have to get a bit more extreme. Please die for me.” And suddenly he was holding a gun belonging to one of the security agents in his hand, firing it at a baffled Secretary of Defense. Everybody panicked, not even the security agents present had the time to respond and the Secretary closed his eyes, feeling his end coming. But the end never came. And when he opened his eyes again the same gun was placed down on the table in front of him ,with the bullet Lex Luthor had fired resting next to it, still hot to the touch. “A demonstration,” Lex replied.
“What… what did you do?” one of the generals sputtered, “You nearly caused a blood bath, Luthor! How? Why?!”
“To prove a point,” the Secretary said, leaning back in his chair, “But you are not one to possess special powers, Luthor. So how did you do it? Who did you smuggle inside? Your assistant?”
“Not quite,” Lex grinned. And suddenly there was another man next to him, a muscled figure, with long blonde hairs and oddly colored green lips, “Gentlemen, meet Dio Brando.”
“One of the candidates in your dossiers,” the Secretary recalled, “The vampire, right?”
“The vampire,” Lex Luthor replied, “But other than that Mr. Brando has a special talent that allows him to perform feats such as the one you just witnessed, making him the perfect spy, or bodyguard.”
“I guess this meeting is not over yet after all,” the Secretary said with renewed interest, “Very well then. Let’s continue, shall we..?”
And so they sat down again, though several of those present, in particular the security guards, were more on edge after that. But nonetheless it proved to be a productive meeting, and gradually Lex Luthor was able to convince those present of the feasibility of his plan. And even though it never did settle well to use condemned criminals in such a way, eventually they realized (or at least decided) they had little choice and came to an agreement. “Very well then,” the Secretary said, rising up and shaking Lex Luthor’s hand with a firm handshake, “It is decided then. We will discuss the details in another meeting, but for now let it be concluded that we will start up this project of yours.”
“I look forward to the results, Secretary.”
“Do you have a name in mind for this little band of yours..?”
“Just one,” Lex Luthor smiled, “The Squadron Extreme.”
So another year has passed, and while the veil to the other side is at its thinnest, humanity prepares for what comes next: another November, another Nanowrimo.
What’s Nanowrimo again? Here’s a reminder:
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.
On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
And that’s that. And on that note, I’ve been pondering about what to write, and decided to have a go at one of this year’s biggest blockbuster anticipations, Suicide Squad, in which a group of DC villains is forced to work together to save the world in service of a shady government organisation, in order to get their sentence reduced or in order to not die.
So I figured I’d take that idea a little bit further (as has happened in previous Nanowrimo exploits…) and expand the idea: what if it’s not just DC villains, but shady characters from all corners of human’s creative exploits: books, movies, games, anime, and comics of course.
And there you have it. I am ready for Nanowrimo 2016 now.
It was a beautiful afternoon at the planet Aproxas, an afternoon unlike the planet had seen in a long time. It was almost as if the powers that be had willed it to be so, setting a perfect mood for what was perhaps one of the most unique gatherings in all of creation. It had started as a Facebook Event for a small group originally, but it had grown out to be so much more. And now, at this celebration, a very diverse group of individuals had gathered.
Sam and Dean were there, with Sam serving drinks and Dean manning what was perhaps the largest grill in all of creation. Bobby was there too of course, sampling the whiskey and telling old war stories to those interested in listening, which were in particular Spider-Man, Batman, Naruto and Megatron. Sasuke was sitting at a table, discussing politics with Doctor Octopus while J Jonah Jameson was wandering around the party area, complaining about Spider-Man and President Obama to anyone who would stop to listen.
Meanwhile the crew of the USS Enterprise was sitting at a large table together, enjoying Dean’s cooking, except for Captain Picard, who was discussing ethics with Optimus prime. Loki meanwhile was found exchanging childhood stories with Mumm-Ra, while Odin was reading a newspaper and Thor was holding a drinking contest with Naga.
On one of the small wooden benches the Borg Queen was cuddling up to Ultron, who was doing his uttermost best not to be cuddled up to. Betty Ross and Bruce Banner sad on another bench and in turn did their best to get noticed cuddling as much as possible. Meanwhile Mumm-Ra was having some issues, after having used the bathroom and getting tangled up in some toilet paper, but fortunately Lord Voldemort was there to assist him in getting things separated again.
“Can you toss up some extra beef on the grill?” Ganon asked, walking up to Dean, wearing a pair of light purple shades, “I’m feeling extra hungry tonight.”
“No bacon for you?” Dean asked.
“I think I’ll skip.”
Ganon returned to his chair, sipping a soda while at the same Piccolo and Princess Zelda were exchanging gardening tips. Luke Skywalker meanwhile was making shish kebab with small pieces of meat and lightsaber-pricks, assisted by Lelouch who provided advice on how to best distribute the meat to create the perfect portions. Guy Gardner at the same time was seated on a table with Erza Scarlett and Lina Inverse, doing his best to impress them both while not noticing that the two ladies were only pretending to be listening to the Green Lantern, while they were otherwise occupied, fawning over each other in a most peculiar and unique way. At another table Man-at-Arms was judging an arm wrestling competition between Xelloss the Trickster Priest and Gaav the Demon Dragon King, which seemed to be tied… for now.
“Do you require help with cooking the meet?” Superman asked, approaching Dean after Ganon had left.
“Nah, I’m cool,” Dean said, “Besides, room for only one on this grill I’m afraid; else we’ll just end up being in each other’s way.”
“That’s okay,” Superman said, “I don’t need a grill, I can cook this meat myself… watch.” – and he began squinting his eyes, focusing on the meat. Then suddenly tiny red lasers shot out from them, scorching the meat and instantly turning it black as charcoal. “Oops. Guess I didn’t tone down enough yet.”
“Tell you what, pal,” Dean said, patting him on the back, “You go and get the majority vote for your cooking skills, and in the meantime I’ll continue behind the grill. Ok?”
Superman sighed softly and returned to his table, which was close to a TV that was being powered by Pikachu. “Anything on?” Superman asked Skeletor, who seemed to be watching with great interest.
“Boring crap, mostly,” Skeletor replied.
“You lied… didn’t you?”
Skeletor smirked. “Maybe.”
“You boys play nice now,” the Sorceress said, settling down on an empty chair and grabbing the remote control, “Besides, lady’s choice, wouldn’t you say? How about an episode of Power Rangers?”
“Nice,” Skeletor replied.
While they continued to amuse themselves with another rerun of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd teaming up against a better team of super powered teenagers, The Doctors meanwhile had gathered together with The Master and Lex Luthor at a larger table, discussing the greater and lesser periods of the 20th and 21st centuries. It was a heated debate, but the atmosphere was good. Generally speaking, it was a very nice party, as if all existing grudges of old had been erased for a day.
And as the sun slowly began to set over these partying heroes, at a hilltop nearby a single figure was watching it all, observing the party and pleased with the outcome this entire ordeal had gotten. Those partying below did not see him, for he chose to remain unseen, though perhaps those attuned to him could sense him, if they focused their minds enough. And he doubted that would happen anytime soon. For now, let them celebrate until the struggles of everyday life would start anew. Yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi was pleased.
“Stay in peace, my young friends,” he said, though they would not hear his words, “And May the Force be with you… always.”
“And may the stains in your pants always come out and the odds be forever in your favor,” the ghost of Deadpool said, having suddenly appeared next to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“What? What are you doing here? Why didn’t you revive like the others?”
“I will in a minute,” Deadpool said, “Let me have my end credits moment here. Story’s over after all, got to make it look cool.”
“Wouldn’t you rather have it look cool with you eating the meat? All the meat?”
“Point taken,” Deadpool said, and his spirit disappeared. Moment later his living, cheerful body appeared at the party too, immediately going for the table where Dean was stacking the grilled meat.
“Stay well, friends, and live well,” Obi Wan said, and then his spirit faded away, just as the light of day with.
For now this tale was truly over.
word count: over 50000.
Sam and Dean had no idea where the Doctor’s mysterious time machine was taking them. Perhaps to another galaxy far away, or another time period, in an attempt to give them time to come up with a plan against the Unraveler, perhaps somewhere safe, if there was such a place. What they did not expect was for the TARDIS to materialize in the middle of the largest library in the universe, a collection of books and knowledge both digital and written that literally spanned an entire planet. And yet they did.
“Where is this?” Dean asked, “We’re getting help from the galaxy book club?”
“Shut the door, idiots,” a familiar voice called out.
“Bobby?” Sam asked, “Is that you..?”
“Of course it is, idiot,” a grumpy middle aged man with a lumberjack vest and a short trimmed beard said, “Who’d you expect? Lucifer?”
“Not in a library,” Dean commented.
“We thought you were… dead,” Sam said carefully.
“Of course I am dead, what do you think this is?” Bobby grumbled, “This is the universal library, the collective consciousness of everyone, everything in creation. It shows up in many myths and legends, and shamans belief this is where the spirit travels when you’re dreaming. Of course this actual manifestation of a library is just how our little minds translate it.”
“So are we dead?” Dean asked.
“No, that crazy Doctor brought you here with his phone box. He came here before, you know, asking my help. He told me about his mission, said he might need a backup plan in case his quest failed. And guess what, I’m the backup plan.”
“A weapon,” Sam said, “Something to stop this creature with. That’s sort of what the Doctor said. He’s sending you to do research.”
Bobby nodded his head. “Yes. And the fact that you two are here now can only mean that the first plan has failed and the Unraveler is free. Balls.”
“So did you find anything, Bobby? A way to kill it?”
“A possible way,” Bobby said, “I found it days ago, but I’ve been cracking my skull over it ever since. The ingredients make no sense. Let alone how to get them.”
“What are they?”
“A brick from the Fourth Wall, dipped in the blood of the Last of the Time Lords.”
“I saw a bottle in the Doctor’s TARDIS,” Dean said, “It contained blood definitely. It was labeled. ‘convenient plot device, use when needed.'”
“Damn Time Lords and their advance knowledge of things,” Bobby grumbled, “But that still leaves us with a brick out of the fourth wall! Where the hell do we get that?”
“That would be my department!” a man dressed in a red ninja outfit said, “Deadpool’s the name, deux ex machina is my game!”
“What the hell? How did you get here?” Dean asked.
“Are you kidding?” Deadpool said, “I died so often, I know my way around this place by heart; but if you must know: I traveled here through a plot hole.”
Deadpool shrugged. “Why else? To help wrap up this story of course. You need a brick from the fourth wall, then you need someone who can break the fourth wall. And trust me, young ones, no one has broken the Fourth Wall more often than good old Deadpool!”
“Good old Deadpool had better get a move on then,” Dean shouted, coming back out of the TARDIS carrying the bottle of blood, just before the TARDIS disappeared, “Mr. Uncreate is coming to this place, and I doubt he’ll be here to read universal porn!”
“He’s right, Deadpool,” Bobby said, “We need that brick fast, or all of this will be over.”
“Not yet,” Deadpool said, “This story won’t be over until 1800 more words have been written.”
And plop. Instantly a brick appeared, as if it had been written into the story solely for that purpose.
“Is this it?” Sam asked, picking up the brick, which almost seemed to be glowing faintly.
“Any more fourth wall and I’ll be sitting on the writer’s lap,” Deadpool said, “I’m not quite sure if either of us will like that.”
“Sounds like you’ve really got that fourth wall thing under control,” Dean replied, “Even I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
“We have that in common,” Deadpool said.
And then Deadpool faded away, without even a chance for a last witty remark or sneer. Behind him was the Unmaker, who had finally found his way to the Universal Library and seemed not very amused at the whole ordeal of having to chase the two Winchester Brothers across creation. “If there is ever a new reality after this one, I will do whatever I can to make it one without the two of you,” he said.
“That would be a loss,” Dean commented.
“Boys! No sticking around here!” Bobby shouted, suddenly pulling out a crossbow from god knows where and firing a bolt at the Omega. Not very effective, of course. “You two use that TARDIS and get out of here! NOW!”
“What about you?!”
“I’ll be fine, dammit! I’m already dead after all!”
“But soon you’ll be dead -and- non-existent!” Dean shouted.
“Then make a baby together and call it Bobby in my stead, you little whiners! Now GO!”
But before they could the TARDIS disappeared, leaving an empty spot where the time machine used to be. “What happened?” Sam shouted, “He didn’t touch it, did he?”
“I already unmade the original TARDIS that your friend the Doctor used,” the Omega explained, “It took a while for time to catch up on it, but eventually it should disappear from all of time and space; as it just did here.”
“Balls!” Bobby cursed, firing another crossbow bolt. The shot hit the Unmaker in the back, who simply turned around, giving the old hunter an unimpressed look. “Take a good look at my crossbow!” Bobby tried, “The next shot’s gonna be a special bolt! The only weapon in creation that can destroy you!”
The Omega smiled weakly. “There is no weapon in creation that can destroy me.”
“You sure about that?” Sam said, drawing the Unmaker’s attention away from Bobby again.
“Hey asshat!” Dean shouted, “Catch THIS!” -and he threw the brick, which had already been soaked in the Doctor’s blood. The Omega smirked, uttering a final “So this is true desperation, you’re resorting to bricks now..?” before he was struck by it, then felt its power beginning to affect him. And he realized he had made a mistake. “Dammit. At the last possible moment too… that is one convenient plot device!”
“Blood of the last of the Time Lords, soaked in a Brick out of the Fourth Wall,” Dean said, “Even I wouldn’t make up a crap combination like that. Choke on it, bitch!”
The Omega said nothing, instead simply sinking to his knees, breathing heavily. Breathing intensified.
“We did it!” Sam smiled, “We actually killed a force of nature, the uncreator..!”
“Nay,” the Omega gasped, “You think… A force like that can really be killed..? Nay…”
“Son of a bitch, still alive?” Dean cussed, ready to pick the brick up a second time.
“No, no… I am done for,” the Unmaker said, “But I am not destroyed. Creation, destruction… these are powers that always were, and always will be.”
“So… was this crap for nothing?” Bobby asked.
“You’ve found the one thing in all of existence and beyond…that could defeat me,” the Unmaker said, his body glowing weakly as it became slightly transparent, “All will be… as if I had never been here, as if nothing has ever happened. For your valor, reality will receive a new chance. A chance to do things right. Remember much this great event, and learn from it.”
“Rather hope the bad guys learn from it,” Bobby grumbled.
“So this crap…this unmaking, will it occur again?” Dean asked.
“That… is up to you.”
And then the Unmaker exploded, sending a shock-wave that washed over everything, over all worlds and all time periods, destroying everything, unraveling everything completely. And at the same time recreating it as it was, as it had been so long ago… before any ambition to revive Unmaking had come to be. However hidden deep within the minds of all mortal and immortal creature knowledge of this event remained. And they knew not to seek it out again. At least not in this time and reality. All was at peace once again.
word count: 49010/50000