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|Wednesday, September 21st, 2005|
|Justice League: Shadow in the mind pt 5
Taking a cab, the Question arrived at the city Morgue nearly twenty minutes later, the ride giving him some time to think about what the DNA samples could hold. If Batman's DNA was present there as well...what that could mean was a truly frightening thought and held the potential of striking a serious blow in the ranks of the JLA. Especially among the founding members.
He was met by Doctor Nick Johnson, a man in his early thirties with dirty blonde hair and hazel eyes. "It's an honor to meet you sir," Nick said, offering a hand wearing a surgical glove and a big smile.
Question moved to shake the hand but stopped and pulled back when he saw the glove. Nick looked down and a nervous laugh escaped his lips. "Whoops. Sorry," he said with a sheepish grin. He turned and said, "Come on to my office and I'll show you the samples," as he removed the gloves, tossing them into a garbage container as he passed by.
The Question followed him down a long hallway, past several doors leading to examination rooms and storage rooms, finally reaching one that held the Doctor's name. "So what do you think?" Nick asked as he headed toward one wall where a picture of the human body was hung. "You think the government is behind this thing running around?"
"I'd be more concerned that the government is using common house plants that release microscopic germs that, once breathed in, allow them to see your dreams every night than I would be that they're behind these attacks," Question answered as Nick moved the picture aside to reveal a wall safe.
Nick glanced back at the Question, wide eyed, before opening the safe and removing a tray filled with sealed containers. He set the tray on his desk and opened the lid, removing one of the containers. "Will one be enough?" he asked.
The Question shook his head. "I need samples from each victim."
Nick nodded. "Sure thing," he said, removing six of the little containers. He transferred them into another case and handed it over.
"Thank you," the Question murmured. "I'd appreciate it if you would alert Amber if any more come in. And...forgetting I was ever here."
Nick nodded vigorously. "Of course."
"A pleasure meeting you Doctor Johnson. I'll show myself out." The Question turned and left the building quickly, eager to examine his samples. He would have to come back for the extra samples if Nick hadn't given him all of them. There was no doubt in his mind that there would be more samples coming. Once outside, he called for a transport and vanished from the dark streets.
"Thanks Oracle," Superman said. "We'll check it out right away." He cut the communication link and looked J'Onn. Oracle had just relayed reports that bloodless bodies had been turning up in Chicago over the past few days. Before they could discuss a course of action, the door to the monitor womb slid open and the Question entered, striding purposely toward them.
"He's in New York," the detective announced when he reached them.
"New York?" Superman exchanged a surprised look with J'Onn as the Question nodded. "Six bodies have been found over the past couple of weeks, all drained of blood. I was able to get DNA samples for each compliments of the city morgue and got the same results that I got off Jason Waters."
Superman glanced at J'Onn again before saying, "We just got off the line with Oracle. She's gotten reports of bodies being found in Chicago."
"Chicago?" Question repeated and Superman was sure an invisible eyebrow was being raised. "Hmm," the conspiracy theorist mused. "So the question is, which city hold the freshest kills?"
"We'll send groups to cover both cities," Superman decided and J'Onn added, "Those with flight abilities and powerful hearing would be best to send." He paused, then added, "And Flash."
Superman nodded. "Good idea. Flash could spend the night covering the ground of one city and I'll take the other. If he's in either one of them, we're bound to find him."
As the pair set to work on deciding who would go where, neither noticed the Question silently slip from the room.
"Ya know, I'm starting to think he's playing with us," John Stewart declared, gazing around the table at the other five. "New York, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Phoenix....he's bouncing all over the place. There doesn't seem to be any kind of pattern, just a lot of bodies with no blood."
"It's been nearly a month now," Superman said, pinching the bridge of his nose wearily. "We've got to figure something out here and now before we end up with wide spread panic on our hands."
"What about magic?" Flash suggested. "We haven't tried that yet. Zatanna's around here somewhere isn't she?"
"I had her try a location spell when the missions in Chicago and New York failed," J'Onn replied. "She was unsuccessful. As with my telepathy, she experienced a block as well. She and some of our other magic users are currently trying to find a way around whatever blocks them."
J'Onn suddenly stiffened, his eyes glowing brightly in the signal that he was using his mental abilities. The others exchanged surprised and concerned looks but said nothing, just watching for the moment.
When nearly five minutes had passed, Superman was about to try and bring his friend out of it when J'Onn relaxed, his eyes returning to normal as he wearily pinched the bridge of his nose. "J'Onn?" Superman questioned.
"The block came down," J'Onn explained. "But I was unable to reach him....or discover his location. There was an overwhelming amount of confusion and urgency. I'd never felt anything like it in him before. I was unable to break through it before the block returned."
Silence descended on the table, worry for Bruce increasing with J'Onn's statement. The silence was broken when Steel's voice came over the communication line. "Superman, sickbay is reporting that Jason Waters is awake."
"Thank you, Steel," Superman replied as everyone stood at once. "We're on our way."
Upon arriving in sickbay, the little group saw that Jason was, indeed, awake and sitting up. The color had returned to his cheeks and he looked healthy and alert, like nothing had ever happened. He was also eating like there was no tomorrow.
"He requested food the second he woke up," Julie, one of the medical personnel said as she came up them.
"How is he?" Superman asked.
"Well, he seems just fine," Julie answered. "All vitals are normal....he's perfectly healthy just as he was before he was attacked which, incidently, he doesn't remember."
J'Onn left his friends to talk with Julie and headed toward Jason. "Hello, Jason," he greeted, sitting down in the chair next to the bed.
Jason smiled at him and gave a little wave, most of his attention focused on eating.
"I am glad to see you awake," J'Onn continued. "How do you feel?"
"Great," Jason replied around his food. "Starved."
J'Onn nodded. "Understandable. You've been in a coma for nearly a month now. Julie has told us you don't remember what happened."
Jason nodded his agreement, swallowed and said, "Yeah, last thing I remember was going downstairs to check the supply room. Next think I know, I'm waking up here, starving to death."
"Do you mind if I look inside your mind to make sure everything is all right?" J'Onn asked.
Jason gave him an uncertain look, then shrugged and nodded. "Okay."
J'Onn's eyes began glowing softly as he connected to Jason's mind and went inside for a tour. He examined the boy's mind carefully, eventually coming across the memory that eluded Jason of the events nearly a month ago. He gathered and analyzed the information that was there, then left the memory where it was. There was no need for the boy to remember the terrifying experience if he didn't have to. Once he was satisfied that everything seemed okay, he left Jason's mind, reached out and lightly touched the young man's arm. "Thank you, Jason. Enjoy your meal."
Jason smiled and continued wolfing down his food while J'Onn stood and went back to his friends, leading them into an outer room. "Well?" John asked.
"His mind seems to be all right," J'Onn answered. "I managed to find the memory of his attack. There is very little there that wasn't on the surveillance tape. Mostly the sounds of something rustling and the Batarang flying past him."
"So we're still left with no answers," Diana said, a frustrated note in her voice.
"The only thing we can do is keep chasing leads until one them finally takes us somewhere," John said.
"I will continue to monitor the block keeping me from Batman," J'Onn said. "Maybe if it goes down again, I will be able to reach him."
"In the meantime, we'll continue having groups patrol the cities that have been hit," Superman decided. "This can't possibly last much longer."
"Famous last words," Flash muttered as he glanced into the other room at Jason before following the others out.
He crouched in the darkness and covered himself with his cape to keep out the cold. It was more of a habit as it tended to cut wind resistance and camouflage better. He looked across the rooftop to see a refection of himself across the street staring back at him...about to end yet another brief lull that had appeared in their battle.
How long had he been fighting his twin....this imposter? Hours? Days? Weeks or even months? He didn't know. Time seemed to have lost all meaning....all control. But that didn't stop his body from screaming out its exhaustion in protest, demanding an end to this seemingly never ending battle. He would grant his body its wish. He would end this now....
As if in agreement the Batmen darted from their hiding places at the same time, meeting halfway and beginning another round of vicious blows. The moves were lightning quick, each switching from one form of martial arts to another in attempts to gain the upper hand. A number of times, Bruce came dangerously close to defeat, but somehow managed to escape and continue the fight, constantly trying to discover a way to beat his twin.
It wasn't until, laying on his back with the other on top of him, baring razor sharp fangs, that Bruce realized he had fangs of his own. Why he had fangs would have to be pondered later for an idea had come crashing through his head, screaming out a possible way to defeat his enemy.
He threw a punch, distracting the other just long enough to grab the stun gun from his utility belt. Turning it on high, he jammed the device into his twin's side and turned it on. A scream was ripped from his reflection's throat and Bruce wasted no time in pushing the other off him, reversing their positions and, before the imposter could recover, Bruce sank his fangs into the exposed neck....
With a yell, Batman sat bolt upright, eyes darting around in what was, at first, unfamiliar darkness. He struggled to bring his rapid breathing under control even as he tried to figure out where he was. Pushing himself to his feet, he spotted a computer terminal, a motor bike, a transporter and a first aid station. He wasn't home.... he was in one of his many hideouts. But which one?
He stumbled over to the computer, collapsing in the chair and activating the locator. Los Angeles, California. What the hell was he doing in L.A.? He closed his eyes, fighting to remember what he had been doing that may have brought him there. The last thing he could remember, albeit hazily, was being up at the Watchtower looking for J'Onn. But why had he been looking for the Martian? Confusion and exhaustion were dominating his mind. It felt like he hadn't slept in months....like he had been fighting a constant uphill battle.
Battle. Why did that seem so important? Something was very seriously wrong, that was all he knew for certain at this point. The Tower...he had to get to the Tower. J'Onn could help...could tell him what was wrong.
Urgency and fear pushing him, he gathered his strength, got to his feet and stumbled over to the transporter. He had made sure all of his hideouts had a transporter, only allowing the rest of the league to know about a few of them. His vision going in and out of focus, it was a job just getting the coordinates put in but he finally felt the familiar and bizarre sensation of being pulled apart and put back together again as the machine activated and teleported him away from Earth to the base above it.
"Batman? Batman!" He opened eyes that he hadn't realized were closed and watched a blurry image of John Stewart running toward him.
"John....." He took a step toward his comrade, wondering why the floor seemed to be coming toward him so quickly. An arm stopped his descent as Green Lantern caught him, offering his support. Batman was barely aware of the other man barking out orders to the people around them. Darkness was closing in on him too quickly for him to fight. Darkness he was too tired to fight....
"Wally, would you please sit down? You're driving me nuts!" Shayera said from where she leaned against the wall, watching the speedster pace. She, Flash, Superman, Diana and John were in one of the waiting rooms, trying to be patient as they waited for J'Onn.
It was three in the morning. Nearly an hour earlier, they had all been roused from sleep on the emergency band by John, who had been pulling the night watch. They had all be shocked and relieved when told that Bruce had shown up and had been taken to one of the private medical rooms. The relief had turned to worry when they had gotten a look at him before being shooed away by J'Onn so the Martian could examine their comrade without distraction.
"I can't help it," Flash replied as he paused in his pacing. "I'm nervous. Bats disappears for over a month, then pops back up again looking like death itself...." he trailed off as the door to the medical room opened and J'Onn stepped out.
"He's sleeping," the Martian reported. "Probably will be for a while. He's physically and mentally exhausted....been fighting something, but I can't determine what yet."
"You haven't gone into his mind?" Diana asked and J'Onn shook his head.
"Just enough to know he's been fighting a seriously dangerous mental battle. Bruce's mind is....well, it's not something I wish to wander too far into without him being aware of me. When he wakes up, and after we have learned all we can about where he has been, I will do a thorough examination in his mind....with his permission of course. Until then, he should be kept here, under guard to ensure we do not lose him again."
"I'll stay with him," Superman said. "Go get some rest, J'Onn, you're probably going to need it."
J'Onn nodded his agreement and silently left, Flash, Shayera and John following at Superman's gesture for them to go. The man of steel looked at Diana, who had remained and said, "You should go back to bed, Diana. J'Onn said he'd probably be asleep for a while."
Diana shook her head as she pressed the button to open the door. "I couldn't if I wanted to," she said as she led the way in." She moved to the bed where Bruce lay and sat in the chair next to him, looking at him with deep worry in her eyes. "Besides, it's probably better if there are two of us here. You know how unpredictable he can be."
She frowned, reaching out to brush aside a piece of his hair. "Hera...I've never seen him look so awful. He looks so...."
"Human," Superman finished and Diana nodded. Having fought by the Batman's side for so long....having seen the things he had done, the odds he had faced and survived....she often forgot that he didn't have the gift of superpowers. He did not have immense super strength or fantastic speed or magical abilities. All he had were his wits and his willpower. But the way he used them...it was no wonder she often forgot that behind that mask, he was only human and from the look in Superman's eyes, it was obvious the Kryptonian thought the same.
They looked up at a knock on the door. "It's Question," Superman said as Diana grabbed Bruce's mask from nearby and slipped it over him. The Question probably already knew the Batman's identity, but she felt the mask should be on just the same.
"Yes Question, what is it?" Superman asked as the door slid open.
"Heard he was back," the Question answered, holding up a needle and a small vile. "Thought now would be a good time to get a blood sample since he's asleep and won't protest."
Diana's eyes darkened and she stood but Superman held up a hand, shaking his head. "He's right, Diana. His blood should be tested as well. Just in case whatever is wrong isn't in his head."
Diana pursed her lips and nodded, sitting back down and watching carefully as the Question entered the room, going around to the other side of the bed. He cleaned a little area of Bruce's arm, took the sample and stowed it in his coat pocket. He then gazed silently at Batman for a few seconds before turning and heading for the door. "I am glad to see he's alive at least," he said before leaving the room, the door sliding closed behind him.
Diana removed Bruce's mask, her hand lingering on his strangely cold cheek. ‘Yeah,' She thought, ‘Me too.'
It was almost five in the afternoon when J'Onn was summoned to the medical bay. Bruce was finally coming around and would hopefully be coherent enough to give them some answers. News of the Batman's early morning reappearance had spread fast and, after several dozen inquiries, J'Onn had sent out a telepathic message to the entire league, advising them of the Dark Knight's condition and that they did not yet know anything concerning where he had been for the last month. That had stopped the questions, but the curiosity was still thick in the air and gossip was steadily making its way throughout the Tower.
A couple of hours earlier, the Question had pulled J'Onn and Superman into a private room to show them the results of the blood test he had performed on Batman. J'Onn was grateful that the conspiracy theorist had brought the results to them in private when he saw the findings. The last thing they needed was more gossip flying around, especially considering how disturbing the results were. The unknown DNA source that had been present along with Batman's DNA on Jason Waters and on the bloodless bodies that had been found, was also present in Batman's blood test. Strongly. The question now was, what was inside Batman, and could they get rid of it.
J'Onn entered the room Bruce was being kept in and found the others scattered about the room, watching Diana coaxing Bruce awake. He stood at the foot of the bed and watched, lightly touching Bruce's mind and trying to sooth the confusion currently running wild within. It took a bit of time, but Bruce was finally brought into alertness, his eyes moving around the room as he asked, his voice rougher than normal, "Where am I?"
"You're in one of the private medical rooms," Superman answered.
Bruce's gaze moved to Superman and he asked, "What happened?"
"We were hoping you could tell us," Superman answered, coming to stand next to where Diana sat, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Where have you been, Bruce? We've had the whole league looking for you for over a month."
Bruce frowned. "What are you talking about? Why would you have the whole league looking for me?"
"What is the last thing you remember?" J'Onn asked before anyone else could answer.
Bruce's frown deepened and J'Onn once more tried to smooth the waves of confusion rising up. Bruce closed his eyes and it was a long minute before he said, hesitantly, "The last thing I remember....I was talking with Diana. I...think I went looking for J'Onn and then....the next thing I know I'm waking up in my sanctuary in Los Angeles." He opened his eyes, revealing the confusion that currently dominated his mind. "I can't remember how I got there though."
Coming back to Superman's comment about having the whole League looking for him, Bruce's gaze moved Diana, a seldom seen look entering his eyes. Fear and vulnerability. Two things the Batman was a master at keeping hidden but was unable to this time. "Diana....how much time has passed since we last talked?"
"Over a month," Diana replied quietly. "That's how long you've been missing."
"What!" Bruce sat bolt upright, shock mixing with the confusion running through his mind. A month? How was that possible? What in the hell had he been doing for a whole month that he had no memory of?
J'Onn, without taking his gaze from Bruce, said, "Would you all leave us alone, please? This will be easier without an audience." He knew Bruce would be more likely to open up if they were alone.
Bruce looked up at J'Onn, who instantly felt a cold, dark suspicion and mistrust fly through the shock and confusion of the man's mind, disappearing almost as fast as it had come. "What will be easier?"
Diana gave a gentle, reassuring squeeze of Bruce's shoulder before vacating the chair, which J'Onn immediately took possession of. As the others left the room, the Martian tried to fill Bruce's mind with reassurance. "There is something wrong, you know this, do you not? The day you spoke with Diana, you had come up here to seek my assistance. Do you remember that?"
Bruce ran an agitated hand through his hair, searching his scattered memories. It was another full minute before recognition filled his startled eyes and he nodded. "Yes..." He closed his eyes, pressing a hand to his head. "I think something's in my head....making me feel and think ludicrous things." He paused, then added, "And I keep having the same nightmare night after night." He opened his eyes and frowned. "At least I was. I can't remember anything about the last month so I can't confirm if it's still coming."
"What is the dream about?" J'Onn asked, adding a little more strength to his calming efforts on Bruce's mind.
"I'm on a rooftop watching the city," Bruce replied slowly and carefully as he recalled the events of the dream. "I decide to go to another area so I head for the next roof but I'm not using my grapple gun. I'm have wings just like a bat and I'm flying. I hear a scream and look down to see a couple getting mugged. I follow the mugger to an alley and rough him up a little and then...." He stopped speaking, staring off into space as he replayed the last part of the dream over and over in his mind's eye.
"And then what?" J'Onn pressed, giving Bruce a gentle, mental nudge.
A tremor slipped through Bruce's body as he answered quietly, "As soon as I've terrified him enough...I drink his blood." He turned haunted eyes on the Martian. "What's happening to me, J'Onn?"
"That's what we're going to try and find out," J'Onn answered. "I'm going to go inside your mind now. Something is there that does not belong. I will find it and remove it."
Bruce nodded and lay back down as J'Onn closed his eyes to gather the energy he would need to have a thorough look inside his friend's mind. When he was ready, he opened his eyes, which now glowed brightly as he connected with Bruce's mind. He moved through the mental doorway that had been opened, and fully entered the mental realm of the Batman.
|Justice League: Shadow in the mind pt 4
J'Onn nodded as he watched the monitors displaying the missions of a number of heros. Occasionally, he issued instructions but mostly he just watched, ensuring everything was going as smooth as could be.
Feelings of intense fear suddenly slipped into his mind, startling him and causing him to straighten up, his body tense. "J'Onn?" Mikey, the tech man next to him asked, "You okay?"
J'Onn didn't answer, his eyes glowing as he tried to find the source of the fear that he had quickly determined was somewhere on the Tower. Just seconds after he located the source, it abruptly ceased. But at least he had found it. He quickly pressed a button to get a video feed of the storage bay down below, only to find complete darkness.
"John, come in please," he said, activating the communications council.
"I hear ya, J'Onn," came the response, "what's up?"
"Something has happened down in the storage bay. Would you check it out, please?"
"On my way," John replied.
As J'Onn cut the communication, he was suddenly knocked off his feet as a terrible, dark coldness like he'd never felt before raced up the link he shared with the others and slammed into him. His defenses immediately kicked in, struggling to force the coldness away from him before it caused serious harm while startled tech's tried to find out if he was all right.
He was vaguely aware of Flash kneeling next to him, having been attracted by the sudden commotion, but was unable to respond to his friend just yet. What an intense darkness this was! He was having difficulty isolating it to prevent it from hurting any of the others on his link. He would have to temporarily sever the link to protect the others while he tried to figure out what this was and why it had seemed to originate from it.
He gathered his power together, neatly severing his connection with the others while at the same time, trying to track the darkness. It wasn't as easy as it should have been considering the magnitude of it but he finally did it. Locating the source, he forced himself to pass through it, struggling to keep the awful coldness of it at bay just long enough for him to discover where on the link it had originated.
No....! "Batman!" he shouted even as horrible pain engulfed him, ripping a scream from deep within his soul....
He sat bolt upright, breathing hard and fast, sweat pouring down his face. "J'Onn!"
His head snapped to his right to find the worried eyes of Superman gazing at him.
"Easy J'Onn," the Kryptonian said, putting a firm hand on the Martian's shoulder. "Just breath deep....you're okay...."
J'Onn struggled to do as instructed, his gaze zipping around the room and discovering he was no longer in the monitor womb, but on one of the beds in the medical bay. "What...."
"You've been in some kind of trance for two hours," Superman said. "It looked like you were in trouble so we had to move you here to monitor you. J'Onn...what happened?"
J'Onn closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He was having some difficulty remembering, especially with the headache he had. Slowly, it started coming back to him. "I was in the monitor womb....I started picking up on feelings of fear that I traced to the storage room. I asked John to check it out...."
"And I found the unconscious body of Jason Waters, along with a smashed light control panel," John interrupted as he appeared on the other side of J'Onn. "There are couple of needle sized holes in his neck and he's missing quite a bit of blood," he added. "We checked out the security tape but whoever or whatever attacked him stayed out of camera range until the lights were blown out."
J'Onn frowned and Superman said, "What else happened J'Onn?"
J'Onn focused back on his memories. "Something came up the link. Something very cold and very dark. I...had to sever the link to protect the rest of you while I attempted to locate the source..." J'Onn's eyes widened and he gripped Superman's arm. "Batman!" he exclaimed. "It had come from Batman's part of the link! Kal, we must locate him quickly! It is urgent that I look inside his mind!"
Superman nodded, looking up at John who immediately hurried from the room. "All right, J'Onn. We'll work on locating Batman. In the meantime, I want you to rest. It looks like that little trip you took drained a lot out of you."
J'Onn wanted to protest....wanted to help find Bruce, but knew Superman was right. He was exhausted from that search through the link and he did need rest. So he nodded and lay back down, accepting the cold compress a medic handed him and tried to fight back the after affects of his encounter with the cold darkness.
The Question gazed silently at the destroyed light panel, seeking any secrets it held that would aid him in discovering who or what had attacked Jason Waters. He flipped the switch off and on and, encountering resistence, took out a small flashlight and started going over every inch....every nook and cranny with extreme care, humming softly to himself as he did.
He paused the light when he caught sight of something that didn't belong. Something seemed to be wedged in between the switch holder and the switch itself. Pulling out a pair of tweezers, he reached in and pulled the object out, holding it up for closer inspection. It was the edge of something black and sharp and reminded the Question of something he had seen many times before. He searched his memory carefully and didn't particularly liked what popped up.
"Not very encouraging," he murmured, putting the object in his pocket and searching the panel again.
Finding nothing more, the Question left the supply room and headed back to the upper level where a couple of maintenance men waited for permission to fix the light panel. "All yours," he murmured as he passed them.
He headed back to his quarters, surveying the room closely to ensure that nothing was out of place and that there was nothing there that didn't belong. When he was satisfied that all was as it should be, he closed the door, locking it securely. He then moved over to a bookcase filled with books from various conspiracy theorists built into the wall. Pressing a button hidden under one of the shelves, the bookcase slide aside to reveal a display case filled with weapons and gadgets he had collected from other heros. Secretly of course.
There were various smoke and gas pellets, mini crossbows, arrows, laser and magical weapons. He zeroed in on one tool in particular, one of Batman's Batarangs that Batman had thought destroyed in a battle. Picking it up, the Question retrieved the object from his pocket and held it up for comparison. Had he a visible mouth, it would have been turned down in a frown.
"Definitely not encouraging."
3 Days Later:
Flash sighed as he gazed around the table at his teammates. "Three days and nothing," he said. "I can understand the rest of us having trouble finding him. If he doesn't want to be found, then he won't be until he's ready, but how is he staying off your radar, J'Onn?"
The Martian Manhunter shook his head. "He is being blocked from me. By what or who, I have been unable to determine."
"How can we be certain he's still on Earth?" Shayera asked. "Or even in this dimension for that matter?"
"Hmm," Superman glanced at Shayera with a nod before looking over at J'Onn. "Could that be what's blocking him from you, J'Onn?"
J'Onn considered the question for a moment before shaking his head. "If he were no longer in this dimension, he would indeed be blocked from me, but not like this. This is cold and evil. Whatever blocks him from me...I fear for his life."
"At this point, I don't think it's his life you should be afraid for." The little group looked toward the door and found the Question standing there, hands in his pockets, hat pulled low over his face.
"What do you mean?" Superman asked, unable to keep the wariness out of his voice.
The Question approached the table, one hand withdrawing from his pocket to place a black object down before them.
"What this?" Diana asked, picking it up to examine it.
"I found it lodged in the light panel down in the storage room," the Question answered. His hand returned to his pocket and pulled out another object which he placed on the table. It was one of Batman's Batarangs. "That," he said, nodding to the object Diana held, "Is a piece of a Batarang. It's likely that whoever destroyed the light panel is also responsible for attacking the boy."
"Whoa! Hold on now!" Flash exclaimed. "Why would Bats attack one of our maintenance guys? You finding a piece of his Batarang in the light panel only says that someone with a batarang broke it. That doesn't prove that *Bats* attacked the guy! And what about the marks on his neck and the missing blood?"
A slight smirk crossed Flash's lips. "You going to tell us Bats siphoned it out or something?"
"Flash," Superman started, but the Question held up a hand, stopping the man of steel from speaking.
"That is indeed the biggest question of all right now." He looked toward Diana and said, "You spoke with Batman the day Jason Waters was attacked, correct?"
Diana nodded. "Yes. He'd come up to speak with J'Onn. He seemed rather....distracted and a little jumpy. Not at all like himself."
The Question nodded, like he had been expecting that response. "I check all the logs for that day. Someone eliminated all traces of Batman having been up here that day." He held up a hand again to stop questions. "It gets better. I had examined Jason Waters before examining the light panel. I gathered a sample of DNA from the marks around his neck for analysis and after finding that piece of Batarang, compared it with a sample of Batman's DNA I obtained some time ago thanks to the transporter logs."
He ignored the raising of eyebrows and, after a quick pause, continued. "Traces of his DNA were present, along with another I couldn't identify. I sent it to a contact at STAR labs who was only able to determine that it wasn't human. I suggest you get the word out. Batman must be found and examined immediately. He could be a serious danger both to himself and to others."
Superman cast a worried look around the table before nodding. "We'll put an alert out right away. He may be good at hiding, but he can't hide from the entire league for long."
The Question nodded and turned to leave. "I will keep you updated on my own progress."
Once he was gone, Flash looked at Superman and said, "You don't really believe Bruce went Vampire Bat on us do you?"
"That thing of the Joker's was draining people of their blood and it bit Bruce," John said.
Superman sighed. "Right now, we need to worry about finding him. We'll cross this other bridge when we come to it. Oracle? You still there?"
"Yes," came the electronic voice as the holographic head representing the Oracle shimmered into existence. "I'll alert all my contacts and the second I hear anything, I'll let you know."
Superman nodded, standing. "Good. Lets get to work."
He moved soundlessly in the darkness of the warm night. More silently than he ever had before, his senses more alert than ever before. Some part of him knew he shouldn't be out...shouldn't be hunting. He should be fighting right now. But...fighting what? He couldn't remember. Hunger was all he knew right then, and satisfying it was his top priority.
The scent of death caught his attention and he turned toward it, following its call, knowing that where death was, the chances of a good feed was greatly increased. The scent led him to the aftermath of a gang war. From the rooftop, he watched paramedics sort through bodies, searching for survivors they could aid. Police worked to keep spectators at bay while at the same time questioning witnesses and arresting participators who weren't currently dead or dying.
No...there were too many people here. He would have to hunt elsewhere this night. He turned to leave, pausing when a shout rang out. He turned back and watched as one of the wounded broke through the crowd, running swiftly down the street, a couple of cops chasing after him.
A smile touched his lips and he set off after the runners, easily keeping pace. The wounded man was surprisingly fast considering his condition and the cops were beginning to fall behind. Anticipating where the boy was going, he increased his own speed, getting ahead and dropping down into an alley.
As his prey started passing by, he reached out and snatched the boy's arm, yanking him into the darkness of the alley and slamming him up against the wall. His prey let out a surprised yell that turned to fear and pain as he sank his fangs into the soft neck and proceeded to feed.
The boy's struggles slowed as what was left of his life blood was drained from him and when there was nothing left, he stepped back, allowing the body to fall lifelessly to the ground. Hearing the approach of the boy's pursuers, he headed to the roof and watched as the cops stopped, spotting the body laying half in half out of the alley.
He licked the bit of blood from his lips as he watched one of the cops check to see if the boy was still alive while the other called it in. There had been a kick to the life source that he had enjoyed. Perhaps it was the adrenalin rushing through the boy's system that had caused it. Or maybe the narcotics he had used earlier that day. Or perhaps both.
A smile passed his lips. New York. What a town.
VAMPIRES STALK NEW YORK!!
A special edition of We know the truth newsletter
by Amber Grey
That's right folks! Vampires are among us and I don't mean those pitiful souls who paint their faces in black eyeliner, listen to heavy music and claim to be the sons and daughters of the legendary creatures of the night. No, I'm talking about the real deal.
According to a reliable source, bodies have been turning up in the city morgue, completely drained of blood and bearing the infamous calling card of the vampire...two needle sized holes in the side of the neck. Of course, just as they deny that bubble gum releases toxins into children that slowly mutate them and will eventually turn them into the government's own private version of the JLA, authorities are also denying what we know to be true, claiming it to be the work of regular human crackpots who will be caught and brought to justice.
I have seen the pictures ladies and gentlemen and my source has seen the bodies. This is not the work of normal human beings. We have a supernatural killer on the loose and this is a call to arms! A plea to those hunters out there who know the truth....who know that Vampires exist despite the attempted cover up. Please, free New York from the predators stalking her streets....
The Question sat back, staring thoughtfully at his computer screen. Finally! After nearly two weeks, a lead had finally turned up. And what better way for it to present itself than through the work of an acquaintance.
Turning the computer off, he stood and left his room, heading for a transporter. He set the coordinates for New York city, stepped inside and vanished.
Amber Grey had never liked being called paranoid. Paranoid was such an ugly word. It made her sound crazy and she was most certainly *not* crazy. It was those people who chose not to see what was truly going on around them there were crazy. Honestly, who in their right mind would choose to ignore the fact that the government was in complete control of weather patterns and was using it to keep the common cold circulating in order to keep bringing in the billions of dollars a year made from cold medications? Now *that* was crazy.
Currently, the twenty nine year old raven haired beauty was pouring through e-mails from people claiming to have information on all types of conspiracies. Those that caught her interest, she saved for further inspection later on. She was skimming through one e-mail from someone who claimed that rats were incredibly intelligent beings plotting to take over the world when there was a soft knock at her door.
Mulling over the rat theory, she answered the door and her blue eyes widened in pleased surprise behind her glasses. "Q!" she exclaimed, smiling as she opened the door further to allow her visitor to enter. "Long time no see! I guess the league has been keeping you pretty busy huh?"
"A little," the Question answered as he turned and gave her a quick hug. "It's good to see you, Amber, but I'm afraid this isn't a pleasure visit. I need your help."
"Sure," Amber answered, leading him over to sit on the couch. "What's up?"
"I read your latest newsletter concerning Vampires. I need to know everything you know."
Amber raised an eyebrow. "You've become a Vampire hunter now too?"
"No, not yet anyway. I have a missing friend who may be connected to these reports. It's imperative that I find out everything I can about what's been happening here. And I'd like to get a look at one of the bodies to gather a DNA sample."
Amber nodded and hurried over to her computer. "My source works at the city morgue. He's one of my biggest informants. He contacted me about a week ago with these."
She pulled up an e-mail, then sat back to allow him to read.
‘Amber, something really bizarre is going on. A few nights ago, some casualties of a gang war were brought in. While performing autopsies, I discovered that one of the bodies had been completely drained of blood and there were two needle sized holes in the side of the neck. Considering he had been in a gang war and was a drug user, I dismissed it. However, since then, three more bodies have been brought to me in the same condition, none of them having any history of drug use. I am starting to suspect Vampires. I have sent you pics and will let you know when any more come in, which I'm sure they will.
Amber pulled up three pictures of the bodies mentioned with the focus being on the wounds in their necks. "He's e-mailed me every time another one comes in. So far, he's up to six."
"Can you contact him?" the Question asked. "I need to see the bodies."
Amber nodded, brining up a messenger window. ‘Nick,' she typed, ‘You there?'
It was a moment before a response came. ‘Yes Amber, what's up?'
‘Need to know if any new vamp victims have come in,' Amber typed.
‘No, not since my last e-mail to you,' came Nick's response
"That was three nights ago," Amber told Question.
The Question nodded and said, "Ask him if he still has the bodies."
Amber typed in the question and received a negative in response. ‘I was forced to release them for burial or cremation right away. Three guesses as to who's behind that.'
"Ask if he took any DNA samples," Question directed.
‘Yeah, I have them in storage in my office. Didn't tell anyone of course.'
"Excellent. Tell him I'm on my way," Question said.
Amber nodded and typed, ‘Listen Nick. I have the Question here with me. He's investigating this case and needs to see your DNA samples. He'll be there soon, give him what he needs. He's okay, he can be trusted.'
‘Are you serious!?' came the reply and Amber laughed softly.
‘Completely,' she answered. She glanced up to find her friend had already gone. She smiled and typed, ‘I have to get back to work. Let me know how it goes with Question. Later.' She signed off, pulled her e-mail back up and continued reading the rat conspiracy.
|Justice League: Shadow in the mind pt 3
He crouched on the edge of a high rooftop, looking down on the city, listening and watching for trouble. After a while, he decided to move on and stood, leaping from the ledge. The realization that he wasn't using his grappling hook to soar through the air hit him after about thirty seconds. Looking around, he discovered he had wings! Not wings like Hawkgirl, though. These were leathery and were attached to his arms. Like a bat. Exhilaration filled him as he flew through the air, feeling more and more like his namesake.
Feeling more powerful than ever before in his abilities to inspire terror. A scream reached his ears and he looked down, catching sight of a man running from a couple, one of whom was laying motionless on the ground. With a growl, Batman tracked the running man into an alley, swooping down after him. He landed silently behind the thug and crept up to him, grabbing him when the man turned and slamming him up against a wall.
The man screamed and Batman grinned, enjoying the pure terror in his prey's eyes. The next thing he knew, his teeth were sinking into the man's neck and sweet, sweet blood was flowing down his throat, giving him strength...more power to inspire fear. When he finished, he dropped the body and looked down, finding blood pooling at his feet and rising rapidly, getting deeper until it was waist high. Laughter slipped from his lips, slowly getting louder and more fearsome until it was all anyone could hear....
With a sharp gasp, Bruce bolted upright in bed, breathing hard as he looked around. A dream, his rational mind told him, just a dream. He lay back down, slowly regaining control, hands covering his face. A dream, but so real.... His eyes strayed to the door as it opened and Alfred slipped inside.
When he saw the younger man was awake, he smiled and said cheerfully, "Good morning," as he crossed over to the massive curtains. "How are you feeling?"
'Lousy,' Bruce thought but out loud said, "Better."
Alfred made a noise of approval as he pushed a button and the drapes slowly pulled back, letting the bright morning sun fill the room. Bruce winced at the light and put a hand up to shield his eyes, holding back a groan. Alfred switched on the TV, then went back into the hall, returning seconds later with a cart holding breakfast and the morning paper.
At the sight of food, Bruce's stomach rumbled but he wasn't sure if it was from hunger or revolution. He sat up, however, as Alfred brought the food over, accepting the tray. He frowned as he looked at a little bottle full of dark liquid. "Alfred, what's this?" he asked, picking it up for a closer look.
"Ah yes, Mr. Kent was here earlier. He said that your Martian friend, J'Onn, had been studying the virus you had been infected with and believed this concoction would kill off anything that may be lingering. He recommended you take that following a good breakfast."
'Poison,' something whispered in this mind. 'They're trying to get control of you. They're up to something.'
Bruce blinked and shook his head to clear it. What the hell was that? "Master Bruce? Are you all right?" Alfred asked, concern crossing his features.
"Yes, Yes I'm fine. Thank you, Alfred." Alfred studied Bruce for a few seconds, then nodded and left the room. Bruce turned his attention to the food, wondering at the sudden loss of appetite despite being ravenous. He managed to eat the majority though, then picked up the bottle J'Onn had left. Ignoring the voice whispering nonsense in his mind, he downed the contents, then got up and slipped on a pair of sweat pants.
He got down on the floor and began his morning ritual of pushups as he listened to the news, stopping when his shoulder began protesting too much. At that point, he put on a sweatshirt and headed downstairs, intending on going for his morning jog. He opened and the front door and hesitated, staring at the sunlight outside, beyond the shadows of the door. Finally, he shook himself and growled, stepping outside and continuing his morning exercise. ++++++++
A week passed and the dreams persisted, each a little different but always ending the same way. Batman up to his waist in blood, laughing hysterically. And things changed. Day three ended Bruce's morning jog. His appetite was nonexistent, making it an extreme chore to eat. By day four, he was sleeping until sunset, leaving strict orders not to be awakened.
By day five he was sleeping in the cave. Alfred was becoming deeply concerned for his health and Tim Drake, the current Robin, who had been watching one to many horror movies of late, continually made references to the 'undead' which Alfred repeatedly told him were ridiculous. Robin kept a close watch anyway. One night, a couple of hours before dawn, Batman interrupted an attempted rape. He perused the offender, catching him easily and throwing him roughly into an alley.
"Time for a lesson in how to treat a lady," he growled as he picked the man up and threw him against a wall.
"I..I was only kidding man!" the punk cried out. "I...I wasn't really gonna...gonna hurt her!"
Batman smirked. "And I'm not really going to hurt you either," he snarled before smashing the goon into another wall.
The man groaned, slumping limply in Batman's grip, blood tricking down from a hidden head wound. Batman froze at the sight, watching the red substance slowly making its way down the thug's neck. He stared at the neck, could see it pulsing...racing with fear that he could smell...
The sound of sirens startled him and he jumped back, allowing the rapist to fall to the ground. Moving quickly, Batman tied him up, then took to the roof tops, watching the police search the area until they found the piece of scum. Feeling a little shaken, Batman then turned and headed for home.
Surprisingly, Alfred was waiting for him when he returned. "Master Bruce, we need to talk," he stated the second the door to the Batmobile slid open.
"Not now, Alfred," Batman replied wearily as he left the car.
"Yes now. Master Bruce there is something wrong and I am deeply concerned. Your behavior lately has been highly erratic, even for you."
Batman turned and fixed Alfred with a stony stare. Alfred stared back, not the least bit intimidated. After a moment of staring at each other, Alfred said quietly, "Bruce, this is absurd. This aversion to the sun you've developed, not the mention food, is unhealthy. Have you looked in a mirror lately? You look dreadful!"
He paused, then began to fight dirty. "Think of Tim. If you won't seek help for yourself or for me, then do it for Master Tim. That boy needs you, Bruce. You have a responsibility to him, one that you can't possibly acknowledge while on the path you are currently walking."
Batman stared at Alfred, then sighed and removed his cowl. "Alfred," he said softly, closing the distance and putting a gentle hand on the older man's shoulder. "Alfred, I want you to take some time off. Go home. Visit with your relatives and your old friends."
Alfred gave him a startled look. That was the last thing he had expected to hear. Before he could protest, Bruce continued, "Something is happening, Alfred. I'm not sure what but I'm certain it's dangerous. I don't want you here where you could most likely get hurt."
He paused, then added, "Take Tim with you. I'm sure he'd love to spend a few weeks in England."
"And what do you plan to do?"
"I'm going to see J'Onn. If there's something in my head, he'll know it."
Alfred went through an obvious internal struggle for several minutes, sorting through Bruce's words and his options. Finally, he nodded. "Very well. I will pack immediately."
Bruce squeezed his shoulder gently, offering a ghost of a smile. Only when the older man was gone, did he sit down heavily, running a hand through his dark hair. Through the entire conversation, he had watched the pulsing in the other man's neck and had imagined he could hear the beating of his heart. God, what the hell was happening?
'I'll say goodbye to Alfred and Tim, then go to the Tower and talk to J'Onn,' he thought.
That decided, he stood and headed for the stairs, stopping half way as his mind clouded and his body began demanding sleep. Almost in a daze, he turned and went to the cot he kept in a corner, asleep the second he laid down. ++++++
Superman followed the signal to a deserted back road near the Gotham City Airport, wondering why Bruce hadn't used the comm. Link or why he hadn't just gone to the Tower. 'Find out in a minute,' he thought as he touched down lightly near the waiting car.
"Bruce?" he called out. The door opened and Alfred Pennyworth, followed by Tim Drake, stepped out of the car.
"Master Bruce is not here, Mr. Kent," the Englishman said.
Superman raised a brow. "What's up?"
"I have something of importance to discuss with you." He looked down at Tim. "Master Tim, would you kindly wait in the car, please?"
Tim looked up at Alfred in surprise. "What? How come?"
"Master Tim, you are my charge. Please do as I ask and wait in the car."
Tim grumbled something, but did as he was told. Superman had a concerned look in his eyes. "Alfred what's going on?"
"I am deeply worried about Master Bruce. He's been behaving very strangely ever since his return from the Tower. He barely eats, he sleeps down in the cave from sunrise to sunset and...well..."
He trailed off and Superman put a light hand on the older man's shoulder. "What is it, Alfred?"
He went on to reveal everything he knew. "He insisted Master Tim and I go to England for a couple of weeks. Said he was going to seek help from Mr. J'Onnz, but I felt I should alert you just the same."
Superman frowned, remembering his conversation with J'Onn nearly two weeks earlier when Batman had still been unconscious. "Thank you, Alfred. We'll certainly watch him and I'll have J'Onn do a scan."
"Thank you, sir," Alfred said and the pair shook hands.
"Have a safe trip," Superman said, then took to the skies, heading back to Metropolis.
Batman moved silently through the halls of the Tower. His mind felt numb...cloudy. He was having trouble clearing it. And he was hungry, but he didn't know for what. He stopped moving, staring ahead at nothing. Why had he come up here again? He couldn't seem to remember, which prompted a low growl of annoyance. "Bruce?"
He looked up to find Diana a few feet away from him, a concerned look in her eyes. "You okay?" she asked as she closed the distance between them. "You look like you're a million miles away."
"I'm fine," came the automatic response...the automatic lie. He wasn't fine and he knew it. Something was wrong as Alfred had stated.....
Diana raised an elegant eyebrow, giving him a critical look. "The last time you said that, you ended up spending four days unconscious in the medical bay." Suspicion flashed through her eyes and she reached up, pressing her hand against his cheek before he could snatch it. "At least you're not burning up. So what brings you up here? You're not scheduled back for at least another week and you don't normally come up here unless you need to." A small, teasing smile played across her lips. "You run out of thugs to terrorize in Gotham?"
Why *was* he up here!? Something was wrong....J'Onn! That's right, he'd come looking for J'Onn to see if the Martian could help identify what the problem was. "Looking for J'Onn," he answered. "Need to talk to him."
"He was in the Monitor Womb last I saw. Probably still there."
Batman nodded and turned to go, stopping when Diana said, "Bruce." Turning back to her, he found the concerned look once more in her eyes. "You sure you're okay?"
‘Annoying bitch,' whispered that voice he'd been hearing a lot of lately. ‘Should teach her to mind her own business.' He gave himself a quick, mental shake, startled by the thought. He held nothing but respect toward the Amazon princess and that thought was just one more reason he needed J'Onn to have a look in his head. Still, he couldn't bring himself to tell her that something was indeed wrong. So, he simply nodded, turned and walked away.
Agitation was steadily creeping over him. Or maybe it was the hunger which once again brought him back to hunger for what? Nothing in the four basic food groups had appealed to him lately and junk food was definitely out of the question.
He rounded a corner and paused, watching a lone maintenance man open the door to the stairwell and disappear inside. So what? He was probably checking out the supplies on the lowest deck. Shaking off a desire to follow him, Batman continued on, but paused once he reached the door, staring at it like it held the answers to all his questions.
He was halfway down the stairs before he realized he had even gone in. "What the hell...." he muttered, stopping and looking up toward the door. He started to go back up, but stopped after only two steps and looked back down to the door the maintenance man would have gone through. Why was he so drawn there? It wasn't like what lay beyond that door needed his undivided attention. Right?
With another growl of annoyance, Batman finally gave in to the urge and descended the stairs, silently slipping into the dimly lit room beyond. Melting into the shadows, he moved until he spotted the young man, stopping to observe him. As he had figured, the boy was taking stock of supplies, carefully counting and marking things off on his clipboard. The soft rustling of his cape as Batman moved caught the man's attention and he turned, looking for the source of the sound, his name tag coming into view. Jason Waters.
"Hello?" Jason called out. When he got no answer and the sound did not repeat, he shrugged and returned to his work.
A little grin crossed Batman's lips as a strange, almost mischievous feeling overcame him and he moved again, quick enough that his cape rustled a little louder, once again catching Jason's attention. "Hello? Jeff if that's you, haha. Come on out."
Batman moved again so that the noise now came from behind Jason, who turned quickly, a nervous look entering his eyes. "Come on, Jeff, enough," he said, moving a little toward the area Batman was in. "Quit screwing around and help me with this stuff. J'Onn's expecting the report before the end of our shift."
Batman was beginning to become aware of a scent in the room as he watched Jason. A scent he couldn't really identify but was aroused by nevertheless. He moved again, allowing Jason to see an indistinguishable shape that caused the boy to jump and draw in a startled breath as he took a step back. The scent increased and some instinct buried within Batman stirred and told him it was fear he smelled. More instincts were stirring and rising up to take over as the scent of fear continued to increase, nearly driving him crazy with the intoxication of it all.
He watched Jason making his way to where the light switches were to reveal whatever it was that was in the room with him. A smirk made its way across Batman's lips as he removed a Batarang and made another noise that had Jason turning his head sharply in his direction. Batman let the Batarang fly, smashing into the switches and plunging the dimly lit room into complete darkness. The scent of fear spiked as a cry escaped Jason's lips.
The fact that he didn't have his night vision lenses in place and yet could see his prey as though they were never occurred to him as he shot forward and lightly touched Jason's arm as he passed him. He growled softly in pleasure at the terrified yell Jason let out and decided he had better silence his prey before he attracted attention.
He moved up behind Jason and grabbed him, one hand clamping down tightly over his prey's mouth while the other encircled the boy's chest and held him tightly against his own chest. He felt the terrified pounding of Jason's heart, beating so hard it felt like it might burst from his chest at any second. Now completely driven by instincts, Batman forced Jason's head to tilt to the side, never feeling the fangs that slid down from some hidden place, though he did feel them sinking through skin like it was no more than soft butter.
As wonderfully warm liquid slid down his throat, understanding suddenly filled him. The life source of all living beings....*this* was what he'd been hungry for....what he'd been needing. A strength and power he had never felt before washed over him like a wave as an inner door was opened and something emerged. Something that was going to bring a new terror upon the world like none seen before....
A sudden, terrible pain crashed through Batman's head and, dropping the unconscious Jason to the floor, he grabbed his head and stumbled back a few feet. No! This was wrong! He was *not* a monster! He would not succumb to whatever was in his head!
He had to get out of there....had to get somewhere safe to fight this power....had to get it under some semblance of control before seeking J'Onn's help.
Somehow, he managed to get out of the storage room, ripping his batarang out of the light control panel along the way, and half ran half stumbled to a transportation unit. When he was back in the cave, he pressed a button to activate his highest security system, and then collapsed to the floor with a terrible cry that echoed throughout the cave and seemed to go on forever.
The battle had begun.
|Shadow in the Mind pt 2
Superman and John stood in front of the cell that housed the Joker, ignoring the activity of the other inmates in the cells around them. "Joker!" Superman called out.
Joker raised his head from where he lay and broke into a wide grin. "Well, well!" he exclaimed, jumping up onto his bed and sitting on his haunches. "Isn't this a pleasant surprise. What happened boys? Did ya finally commit old Batsy?" He giggled and bounced a little.
"No," Superman replied, his voice cold. "We've come to ask about that pet of yours Batman took down."
Jokers' face crumbled. "Poor, poor George," he moaned, flopping over with a sob. "He was just a baby! A baby has to eat ya know. And that mean old Batman killed him!"
"Cut the dramatics!" John snapped, causing Joker to raise his head inquiringly. Green Lantern took a step forward, his eyes and ring glowing softly. "What kind of poison did you put in that thing? Some kind of snake venom?"
Joker stared at them, then grinned. "Old Batsy not feeling so good eh? Serves him right I'd say, killing an innocent little baby."
"We've seen pictures of that thing, Joker. Saw the chunk it took out of Batman. That was no baby. What did you put in it?" Superman demanded, his own eyes taking on a red glow.
Joker burst out laughing. "Uh oh! The Boy Scout is getting angry!" He stuck his tongue out. "I hereby exercise my right to the freedom of no talking!" He grinned. "I'll never teeeeellll," he sang, before bursting out in a fresh round of hysterical laughing.
Superman sighed and looked at John. "Come on. We'll never get anything out of him. Let's get back and see if J'Onn came up with anything." Green Lantern threw a disgusted look at the Joker before turning and following Superman out.
Joker stopped laughing and got up, moving to the door and peering out. In the cell across from him, Harvey Dent, A.K.A. Two Face, called out to him, "Just what did you do to the Bat?"
Joker grinned. "Harvey my boy, the Bat is about to go through an identity crisis he won't soon forget." As the Joker went back to insane laughter, Two Face shook his head and turned his back, flipping his coin.
Bruce didn't know where he was, or what was going on. He hated that. Hated not being in control of a situation. Hated not knowing where he was. Hated...everything. But no...he didn't. Not everything. Just those who preyed on the weak. Who lived to cause death and pain. Where was he? He was surrounded by darkness. Normally, he had no problem with that. The darkness was his friend, his ally. But this darkness was different. It was thick with malice. With discomfort and, he suddenly realized, he wasn't alone. There was something there with him.
"Who's there?" he demanded sharply. Show yourself!" He tried to activate his night vision but it wouldn't work. He would have to rely on his senses. A cold breeze washed over him, causing him to shiver.
Then a voice, soft and silky whispered, "I cannot show myself, for I have no form." "Who are you?" "I am everything, and anything."
"What the hell does that mean?"
The breeze moved over him again, caressing his face. "I am your innermost desires, your fears...your darkness." The breeze became warm and seemed to penetrate his body, wrapping around his heart and his soul and causing him to gasp in pleasure. "I represent what you truly are."
"What are you talking about?" Bruce whispered, struggling against the wonderful feelings coursing through his body. "Stop talking in riddles!"
"I know you don't understand. It's okay, don't worry....I'll take care of you. Everything will be fine. Rest now, rest..."
J'Onn was injecting Bruce with something when Superman and John got back. "Find anything out?" Flash asked and Superman shook his head.
"No, he refused to say what he did." He moved to stand next to J'Onn. "How is he?"
"I think I managed to isolate the virus. I just gave him what will hopefully be the cure."
Superman nodded, patted J'Onn's shoulder and left the room. He went to the communications council in another room and dialed in a number. After a moment, Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler, appeared on the monitor. "I'm sorry sir," he began, "Mr.."
"He's here, Alfred," Superman interrupted, then explained what was going on.
"Oh dear," Alfred responded, worry plain on his face. "I told him he didn't look well and should have stayed home. Is he all right?"
"We're working on it. I thought you should know, though."
"Thank you sir. I shall inform Master Robin and Batgirl at once."
"I'll keep you informed," Superman said, then cut the connection. He sat down with a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed when a voice said, "The serum is working."
He looked up to find J'Onn had slipped into the room. "I think he will be all right," the Martian continued.
"I sense a 'but' in there somewhere," Superman replied warily.
J'Onn was silent for a moment, then said, "I am troubled. I have sensed the movement of a shadow within him three times now, but when I scanned, I was unable to find anything and I do not wish to venture too far into his mind while he is unconscious."
Superman frowned. "Are you suggesting that we keep an eye on him when he wakes up?"
"I think that would be wise until we are certain beyond any doubt that he is completely normal."
Superman was silent a moment, then sighed and nodded. "All right. I'll let the others know." As the Man of Steel left the room, J'Onn sat crossed legged on the floor, clearing his mind as he slipped into a meditative state.
The darkness was becoming tiresome. The voice had been silent for some time now, causing Bruce to question whether there really had been something there, speaking with him. He had no idea how long he had been in this place and, with a growl of annoyance, decided it was time to find a way out.
He began walking. True, he had no idea where he was going, but at least he was doing something. He judged about a half hour had passed when that cold warm breeze washed over him and that voice whispered, "This way."
"Where?" Bruce asked and felt himself being turned to his right. Straight ahead, a pinpoint of light appeared.
"Go to it," the voice said and again, he felt that warm pleasure wrap itself around his heart and soul. He began walking toward the light. As it grew brighter, the pleasure coursing through him began melting away, replaced by pain. He stopped and moaned softly.
"Bruce?" He looked up as another voice echoed around him. One that he knew. Diana? "Yes, it's me. Can you open your eyes?"
He frowned. How had she heard him say her name? She wasn't a telepath. Unless she had been keeping something from them...
Soft laughter floated around him and then suddenly J'Onn was standing before him. Bruce took a startled step back. "What...?"
"Easy," J'Onn said then held out his hand. "Take my hand. I will guide you back."
'Do it,' the voice whispered faintly and automatically, Bruce reached out and took J'Onn's hand.
A bright light enveloped him and then pain and grogginess assaulted him. Slowly, faces began swimming around murkily above him. He blinked a few times and the faces of his teammates slowly came into focus.
"Hey, welcome back, Bats," Flash said with a grin. "You gave us a real good scare there."
"What happened?" Bruce asked, his voice weak and more gravelly than usual.
"You went a little crazy at the dock and passed out," Flash replied. "Don't you remember?"
"You were poisoned," J'Onn said before Bruce could reply. "The creature you fought the other night," he added at Bruce's confused look.
"Four days," Diana supplied.
"What!" Bruce immediately started trying to get up, but Superman easily held him down.
"Easy," he murmured. "Everything's fine. Your boy Robin has been looking after things and we've been pitching in too. Relax and rest."
'Everything will be fine. Rest.'
Bruce frowned as those words echoed in his mind. Something was trying to make itself known, but he couldn't grasp what. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to get his thoughts together and when he opened them again, was startled to find only J'Onn in the room.
"Where did they go?"
"Left to allow you time to rest," J'Onn replied, coming over to the bedside. "How do you feel?" He must have sensed Batman's state of confusion for he added, "You have been asleep for nearly three hours."
Three hours. He had closed his eyes for a moment and that much time had passed? Damn, he really had been knocked for a loop. He looked back at J'Onn as the Martian began speaking again.
"I want you to stay here overnight so that I might observe you. Make certain there are no side effects."
"I'm fine," Bruce replied, carefully sitting up and fighting back the dizziness as his gaze searched for his uniform.
"I request that you remain," J'Onn said, putting a hand on Bruce's shoulder. "The virus you had been infected with was highly unusual."
Bruce slowly got to his feet, putting a hand on J'Onn's own shoulder and squeezing lightly before heading to where his costume had been stored.
"I'm fine, J'Onn. Thank you for all that you did, but I can look after myself from here."
J'Onn stared at Bruce for a few seconds, then nodded and stepped aside, allowing his friend to leave the room. As he watched the man go, the sense that not all was right crept over him, leaving him with a sense of foreboding.
|Justice League: Shadow in the Mind: pro-pt1
Ok, here we go: Batman/Justice League and everything associated with them is property of DC comics. Except for something that pops up later. That's mine.
Rating: Pg 13-14A at this point or T as the case may be on FF.Net
Synopsis: Batman begins to change and the League must either help him or take him down.
Justice League: Shadow in the Mind
The night was dark and cold. But for the creature that stalked the inky black streets and alleys, the conditions were perfect. Cold darkness best inspired fear. And fear was what the creature craved most. And death. Before the night was over, it would have both.
The alley was marked off by yellow police tape, hiding the horror that lay in the darkness beyond. Barricades kept the morbidly curious back, allowing the police to do their jobs. Nobody, as usual, was watching the rooftops and so nobody saw the dark shadow land silently to investigate the scene below. When the crowd began getting rowdy enough that it drew the attention away from the body, the shadow took advantage and dropped down for a closer look. It was as he had feared. The woman's throat had been torn out, all the blood drained from her body. The only trace of the life source left was the small amount that clung to her fear frozen, white face and some spatter on the walls.
He melted back into the shadows as medics entered the alley, preparing to remove the body. He shook his head. This was the fifth death in three nights and whatever was responsible had been leaving no clues behind. Still...He slipped his night vision lenses into place and carefully and methodically searched, just as he had done at the other four scenes. But unlike the other four, this time he found something. Bloody, animalistic footprints.
Now there were two things Batman found strange. First, why could they only be seen with his night lenses? There was just enough light coming into the alley that the investigators should have been able to see the bloody prints. The spatter on the wall was proof of that. The second strange thing was that the prints were going up the wall, like the killer had just simply walked up there. Hmm. He hadn't had a mystery like this in a while. The killer was at the very least half animal and whatever it was, it wanted him to find it. Or maybe whoever was controlling it wanted him to, if someone *was* controlling it. Taking out his grappling gun, Batman returned to the roof and followed the trail.
Half an hour later found him in the one of the more dangerous areas of Gotham City, which didn't surprise him in the least. The people in this area tended to be closed mouthed. Keeping a secret here was easy, as people didn't see anything beyond their own pathetic lives. The tracks led to one of the many buildings that should have been knocked down years ago and would probably come down on its own any day now. Silently, almost invisible, the Dark Knight, gained entrance to the building through the roof access. He moved carefully through the darkness, every sense alert to unseen danger. He stopped when he saw light pouring up from a room below. As he crept toward the opening to see what lay below, a familiar laugh rang out, prompting an inward sigh.
"Figures," he muttered as he looked down on the room.
Sitting in a chair, giggling like a psychotic school girl, was Batman's most deadly enemy, the Joker. Draped across him, stroking his face lovingly, was his girl, Harley Quinn. The pair had broken out of Arkham months ago and had simply vanished into thin air. Now that they had resurfaced, it was time to shut down whatever they were up to and send them back.
His eyes carefully scanned the room, looking for the pet Joker was obviously keeping. Finding no signs of anyone or anything but the two of them, Batman decided to drop in and get things started. Taking out a batarang with a rope attached, he sent it soaring. Harley shrieked as it wrapped around her and he yanked her off Joker, then sent another batarang flying as he dropped down into the room. It plowed into Joker, knocking him and the chair over backward.
"Batsy!" he exclaimed in a happy voice, watching Batman approach from where he lay. "I knew we'd run into each other sooner or later."
"You led me here, Joker," Batman growled back softly, reaching down and pulling his adversary to his feet. He pushed him up against a wall.
"Lead? Now how could I do that when I've been here enjoying a quiet evening with my sweet Harleykins?" His eyes moved to where Harley lay on the floor, struggling to untie herself.
"Don't play with me tonight Joker!" Batman snarled back, slamming Joker against the wall. "Tell me what the hell you set loose on the streets!"
Joker grinned. "Don't want to catch up eh? All right then. Harley dear, show our friend our little pet."
"Sure thing puddin'," Harley replied brightly, springing to her feet as she got free of the rope and skipping out of the room. She came running back in a moment later, spinning around to watch something else come into the room.
The...creature looked like a brutal cross between a wildcat and a hyena. It was strangely hairless and dark gray in color. Its yellow cat like eyes gleamed with madness and a terrible pain as if every moment it lived was agony. It opened its mouth, revealing two razor sharp, blood stained fangs. All other teeth were missing.
"What have you done?" Batman whispered, tightening his grip on the madman.
"Well, you know how you're always hearing the Hospitals and such crying out for donations? It broke my heart hearing how they're continually running short and are in desperate need, so I decided to help. And in the process, I created life!"
Joker talked as though he were giving a ground breaking speech. "Batman, meet my pride and joy...George! He's a revolutionary breakthrough! He's the ultimate blood collector. Granted, he's still got a few bugs in him. I haven't quite figured out how to get the blood he collects out to give to the hospital but..." he shrugged and giggled.
Batman responded by hitting the lunatic hard, tossing him into Harley and then rolling out of the way as 'George' attacked. The beast was amazingly fast and, naturally, extremely angry. Batman took a few hits, but thankfully its claws didn't penetrate his armor. The fight went on for several minutes, with Batman managing to inflict a few wounds before the unnatural creature turned the tables and brought him to the floor. Batman cried out in pain as fangs sank into the vulnerable part of his shoulder, attempting to rip down and take him apart.
He struggled one handed with the blood sucker while his other hand rapidly searched his utility belt for a weapon. He came out with an electricity gun, which he jammed into the 'George's' tongue and turned on to full power. A horrible scream split the air as the electricity coursed through the mangled body. The eyes grew impossibly wide and blood began to ooze out of them. Batman kept the electricity going a few seconds longer, then turned it off. 'George' shuddered, eyes rolling into his head as he fell to the side. A shudder of breath ran through his body and then all was still.
"Huh," Joker said from where he stood next to Harley. "Weak against electricity." He looked at her and shrugged. "Who knew?" Looking back at Batman who was struggling to his feet, he began backing away. "Well Bats, the reunion was fun, but we gotta split now. People to see and all that."
The two criminals turned to run, but Batman sent another rope flying, wrapping around the both of them and tying them tight together. "Oh no!" Harley shrieked as they went down, landing with a heavy thud.
Batman grimaced as he pressed an alert button that would bring the police, then pressed a hand to his wounded shoulder. His gaze raked the couple over, satisfied that they wouldn't be getting loose anytime soon without assistance. He wrote a quick note for Commissioner Gordon, who he knew would be coming, then slipped out of the building. Time to head for home and care for his wound.
Two Nights Later:
Batman perched motionless on the roof of a warehouse, watching a couple of men on the dock below. He was doing his best to ignore the fact that his body was telling him he should be at home, resting instead of jumping into something that could have been handled without him....
"You don't look well. Are you all right?"
He managed to retain his control and therefore did not jump. Damn! He hadn't heard her come up on him. His senses were starting to agree with the rest of his body. "I'm fine," Batman replied shortly. ‘But you're not,' something whispered in his mind. ‘You know you shouldn't be here. You should be at home, resting....'
He shook himself and silenced the voice. Tonight was too important to be at home in bed. He and members of the League, those being Diana, Flash and Green Lantern, had been working on taking down a major smuggling ring for several months and tonight was going to see the end of it. This ring had been responsible for a large amount of drugs circulating Gotham streets that had resulted in the deaths of several kids, both street and 'normal.' Nope. It didn't matter how he was feeling. Nothing was going to make him sit this night out. Princess Diana, better known as Wonder Woman to the rest of the world, studied him closely. He looked pale, more so than normal. The night was cool, but she could see sweat on his face and she was sure she caught a grimace of pain quickly pass over his features. "I don't think you are," she murmured. She reached out to touch his shoulder, starting when Batman snatched her hand, stopping it from reaching its destination.
"I said I'm fine," he repeated without looking at her, a note of warning in his voice.
Diana narrowed her eyes and was about to argue when John's voice came over the comm link. "Look alive boys and girls. We got lots of company coming."
"Bout time," came Flashes' voice. "I'm dying for some action here."
"Quiet," Batman murmured, watching as four cars arrived on the dock. From the water, two motorboats approached. All in all, twenty men had gathered. The cargo from the boats was quickly unloaded and placed in the cars while the leaders of the two groups shook hands and talked like they were old buddies. Probably were.
Batman waited patiently, ignoring the throbbing in this shoulder and suppressing the annoying urge to throw up and when he heard the cue, gave the order to attack. The group swooped down and all hell broke loose. Batman threw all his concentration into the fight and, oddly, the ache in his shoulder and the turning in his stomach abated, replaced by...excitement? No, that couldn't be right. Battles and hurting people, even evil people, didn't excite him. So what was this he was feeling? The sound of a boat gunning its engines reached his ears.
Looking up, he saw three men in one of the boats, about to attempt a desperate getaway. With a growl, he finished off his current opponent and ran to the dock, jumping and landing hard in the speeding boat, immediately disarming one of the men and tossing him carelessly over the side. He took out the second man just as easily, but the third gave him a run for his money. He was admirably skilled in the martial arts and fighting on a runaway boat didn't seem to bother him at all which was fine with Batman. It didn't bother him either.
Both combatants were so involved in the fight that they didn't notice where the speeding boat was heading. Even when Batman got the upper hand and had the other man pinned to the floor, crying out in terror, he still took no notice. He was too wrapped up in the fear the other man was displaying. Fear that seemed to provoke him into wanting to cause more, not caring that it could possibly kill the weak mortal below him....
On shore, Flash dumped one of the men in the pile with the others and glanced around, taking a quick head count. Hm, Bats was missing... His gaze moved out to the water as a speed boat motor reached his ears, seeing two more of the men treading water before spotting the boat and his missing teammate. Alarm surged through him as he watched and a few second later, he called out, "Hey! What's the Bat doing? He's gonna crash!"
Instantly, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman took to the air, rushing as fast as they could after the runaway boat. Just seconds before it was going to go up in a ball of flames, Green Lantern let loose the power of his ring. The field of light surrounded the boat and picked it up from the water and Batman still didn't seem to notice anything beyond the terrified man beneath him.
"Get him off me! Get him off me!" the man was screaming.
"Diana!" John exclaimed, opening part of the field. Wonder Woman soared inside and grabbed Batman, pulling him away. Batman responded with a savage growl and began struggling violently in her grip.
"Batman!" she exclaimed, "Batman stop!"
When John's energy field went out, Wonder Woman leapt from the boat, slipping into a fighting stance as an enraged Batman jumped out after her. As the others started toward him, Batman stopped moving, swayed, then slipped bonelessly to the ground. Diana quickly knelt by his side, pressing two fingers to the side of his neck.
"He's burning up!" she exclaimed as she felt the intense heat of his skin. No wonder he'd been sweating earlier...
"He's insane!" the man in the boat, being held firmly by Flash, shouted, eyes wide, skin as white as a sheet. "He's not human! He's a monster!"
"Diana get him back to the tower. Flash and I will wait for the police to pick this bunch up," John said and Diana nodded, carefully picking Batman up and heading for the nearby hidden shuttle.
"What do you think is wrong?" Flash asked and John shook his head.
"Don't know. But I got a real bad feeling."
"I came as soon as I could," Superman said an hour later as he entered the room outside the medical lab. "What happened?"
"The Bat went nuts!" Flash replied, then went on to explain what had happened.
Superman frowned, then looked to the door as it slid open and J'Onn emerged. "How is he?"
"Gravely ill," J'Onn replied. "He has a dangerously high fever and is in a state of delirium."
"What's causing it?" Flash asked.
"I'm not sure," J'Onn answered. "I've found traces of some kind of toxin in his system but I'm having difficulty isolating it. Hopefully it will be identified soon."
He turned and went back into the room, the others following. He moved to Bruce's side and pulled back the sheet covering his sweating, trembling body. "I believe whatever caused that is responsible for his current state," he said, pointing to the man's exposed right shoulder.
The group pressed closer to have a look and discovered a stitched up, nasty looking wound that resembled the bite mark of a large animal. Flash whistled low.
"Wow. Would hate to run into whatever did that."
John's eyes were narrowed as he gazed at the wound, then he snapped his fingers. "Wait a second. Computer, access news archives for the latest out of Gotham City concerning Batman."
There was a pause, then a beeping as a TV screen was lowered down and a news cast from Gotham began playing. "Our Top story tonight," the anchorwoman was saying, "The killer that has been stalking the streets for the past three nights has been brought down by Gotham's own, The Batman. The mind behind the killings, the infamous Joker but it was not he who had been doing the actual killings that claimed five. It was a creature he had created.
The beast," the screen switched to a picture of a very gruesome, very dead thing, "had consumed all the blood of its victims which, according to the Joker, was a simple attempt to collect needed blood for the hospitals....."
The screen went blank as Superman switched it off. Shaking his head in disgust, he said, "Think I'll go have a visit with Joker."
"I'll go with you," John said, heading for the door. Superman nodded, lightly touched Batman's good shoulder, then followed his friend out.
As Diana looked at Bruce's shaking form and listened to his unintelligible rambling, a deep sadness filled her. She sat down and put a hand on his arm, looking up at J'Onn.
"I will not let him go without a fight," the Martian answered her unasked question, then turned to study the readouts the computer was reporting. Flash sighed inwardly, an image of the dead beast slipping into his mind, causing him to shiver.
Hearing voices in the outer room and recognizing that they weren't Clark and John's, Flash decided to play messenger and brief the other league members who would be coming to find out about Batman's condition. It was better than doing nothing and would allow J'Onn to work uninterrupted. As he headed into the other room to brief those who had gathered, he silently asked whoever was watching and listening to help pull Bruce through.