Dark Knight, Rising Son, Pt. 4
<< Continued from part 3
Part 9: Lazarus
in eerie accord along the walls of his chamber. Even the room itself
bore an air of menace.
He had specific
reasons for choosing the lower chambers of the Gammak base for his
personal dwellings. Temperatures were lower here, since the reactors
directly above the room sent the heat upward to all the levels.
Up there, it was cool by human standards, comfortable for Sebaceans,
but unsatisfactory to him.
was the other reason. Just as much out of fear his enemies could
discover his secret as out of personal vanity, he would not let
anyone on the base- or under his rule for that matter- bear witness
to the object of his addiction.
tub sat in the center of the chamber, its diameter nearly the length
of a Prowler. A spiraling network of valves and pipes snaked up
and around its girth, and an ochre-colored liquid bubbled and churned
within it, releasing a stink of chemicals that permeated the room.
The red headed
nurse observed him from the shadows under the catwalk, preferring
to make herself less obvious. Except for Captain Braca and herself,
no one else was privy to the ritual. His chamber acted as cathedral
and med station all in one. Bathing in the large pool he stood in
front of had become a sacrament for him since discovering its properties
a generation ago.
it splendid, Niem?"
her chin and stepped forward. The question had no genuine relevance;
Scorpius never needed an honest answer. Not so much as he wanted
affirmation of what he had already said.
sir- most splendid."
He nodded thoughtfully.
"It is. It's so perfect- my healing and my rebirth combined.
The finest single creation ever spawned by Earth, and worth every
effort to bring it here. So simple in design and yet so intricate
is its use. I was fortunate to discover it." He kneeled down
and dipped his fingers in the chemicals, inspecting the shine on
his gloved hand. "I wonder if Ra's al Ghul ever dreamed that
it would serve someone besides himself. Foolish he would be to think
there was no one else who would desire the Lazarus Pit."
the clasp to the purple cloak he wore over his thermal regulator
suit. He left on the black carapace that encased him, as it held
his body temperature to a bearable level, fighting back the heat
his Scarran half craved. If the suit served as protection, the Lazarus
Pit served as salvation.
the cloak from his shoulders. He descended the metal stairs and
immersed himself in the chemicals, allowing their lucidity to seep
through the crevices of his suit, into the pores of his skin, feeling
its effects throughout his body. Chemical radiance reached its tendrils
into him, regenerating dying cells, repairing genetic structure
and prolonging an already ancient life.
He threw back
his head and exhaled. "Again, I feel reborn. I feel eternity
touch me every time I immerse myself. I would have liked Ra's al
Ghul to see how his creation has sustained me." He paused for
a moment, and then smiled. "But then, I seem to remember I
snapped his neck after he divulged its secrets. Did you know his
name meant 'The Demon's Head?' Such a disappointing opponent he
was. I wonder why the Batman had not dealt with him permanently
long before I did."
Her face remained
expressionless. She had heard the translation of Ra's al Ghuls name
before. Ironic, it seemed, he did not use the name for himself.
not have your vision, Scorpius. Perhaps through this, you'll live
He cocked his
head slightly, giving the remark serious consideration. "Perhaps.
In the meantime, however, I will be content once our other guest
above us reveals the information that I desire, since the human
will not cooperate. Once the wormhole device is successfully deployed,
then I might ponder my immortality."
His eyes looked
up at the skeletal framework of the chambers ceiling. He began to
laugh- a rare occurrence for him. He slowly immersed his head under
the liquid and completely disappeared from view. There was only
the sound of the bubbling of the chemicals as they broke the surface,
disturbing the silence.
them on all sides. This was where his father dwelled when he was
a boy. He told his father once when he was still alive that he hoped
to follow in his footsteps one day. His father only smiled weakly,
never answering the remark. The Peacekeepers permanently grounded
him after the conquest- then killed him later as an example to anyone
who might try and make a stand. The only humans who set foot into
space afterwards were slaves or prisoners.
But no more-
if his father could only see him now.
the Batscape's monitor to verify the location. It was right
on target, exactly were Aeryn had indicated it. Just beyond Earth's
evening side and above the event horizon was the leviathan ship.
It floated solitary, faintly reflecting gold tones under the dim
starlight. Only the front of the ship, covered by a clumsy black
control collar, gave any evidence of the Peacekeeper's control.
There was no
Prowler escort and no other ships nearby to interfere with their
intentions. This was the perfect opportunity for a hijacking. It
would be score one for humanity, even if they were not aware of
it. It was already becoming a day of firsts.
just have to figure out how to get on board," he said, studying
the scene before him. "I imagine this would be second nature
to you, Aeryn."
at him but did not answer. He meant what he said. Bluffing their
way onto a starship had never been part of the Batman's training,
either past or present. Space itself would have been a new environment
for Bruce as well as for him. He had no clue how to handle it.
Her eyes brightened
up. "Leave that to me, and turn off your stealth mode."
As soon as
he shut it off, a transmission came through. "Unidentified
craft, you are approaching Peacekeeper prison transport Moya. Identify
her headset. "This is Officer Aeryn Sun, retrieval hunter,
Peacekeeper Law Enforcement Liaison, Gotham City sector. I'm delivering
a human prisoner for transport."
There was a
pause. "Officer Sun, your delivery was not expected. Furthermore,
visuals indicate you are flying an unidentified ship not found in
our data stores."
the prototype of a new Peacekeeper hunter ship. My prisoner has
the highest-level priority. Will you let me on board?"
An even longer
pause kept the silence in the Batscape's cockpit. Standard
Peacekeeper personnel were unused to abrupt changes in their schedules.
will need you to transmit your identification code."
the ident-chip from around her neck and inserted it into the compatible
port on the Batscape's instrument panel. "Let's hope
they haven't cancelled my code yet. I've only been a traitor for
a few arns."
the lights on the screen blink in a random pattern as the code transmission
went through. The prison ship grew steadily larger through the Batscape's
canopy with each second. John craned his neck up towards it, taking
in its dimensions. It was hard to believe it was actually a living
creature, and a slave, at that.
A green light
flashed in approval. "You are cleared for arrival, Officer
Sun. Please allow the docking web to guide you in."
the ident-chip out and handed it back to her, smiling. "I always
knew there was a reason this was a two-seater. So, are you prepared
for what we have to do now?"
do it." She looked at him assuredly.
He nodded back.
It was now just the two of them against all of the Peacekeeper forces.
Somehow, he did not mind the odds.
Aeryn: that had a certain ring to it.
For just a
moment, he thought he heard someone calling to him.
a handful of guards that met them in the Moya's docking bay
was simple enough. They were substandard grunts at best, easily
surprised. Getting to the lieutenant, who had barricaded himself
in the control room, was a slightly different matter. As Aeryn rewired
the door key, he ordered the ships pilot to send out a distress
call, to alert reinforcements.
pilot had a different idea. It knew an opportunity when it saw one.
A slave always turned on his master, Bruce had once said.
Aeryn guaranteed the pilot would defy the Peacekeepers in a microt.
Just before the lieutenant tried to send a pain pulse to the control
collar, a batarang struck the back of his skull sending him into
unconsciousness. The prisoners, freed by a simple push of a fail-safe
switch on their tier, quickly dealt with any remaining personnel
that had remained hidden below in the lower levels.
was easy enough," John said, reaching down to hoist the stunned
officer over his shoulder. "But I think we need to introduce
ourselves to the pilot and the prisoners before they get the wrong
checking the ships roster. "At least there's not too many.
According to this, there are only three prisoners currently onboard-
a Luxan, a Delvian and a Hynerian."
is enough to make it count, I would say."
quickly at the sound of the voice. A giant stood in the doorway,
tattooed and bearded, with what looked like tentacles coming through
the locks of his braided hair and a bony plate on his nose. He was
dressed head to toe in blood red.
widened slightly. It had to be the Luxan. He had heard of them,
but never seen one before. He was imposing; even more so because
of the large sword he held in his hand. He wondered how the Peacekeepers
could have even held him in the first place. A set of metal rings
protruding from his collarbones told him.
two others flanked him on each side. One was a female, Beautiful,
bald and blue from head to toe- the Delvian. The other could only
be described as a two-foot tall frog floating in some type of gold
hovering chair- the Hynerian. All of them stood there recently liberated
from their cells and pointing weapons at Aeryn and himself.
John put down
the unconscious Peacekeeper and held up his hands. "We have
no quarrel with you. We're here to free this ship- we need its help."
her help," the Delvian corrected.
the Hynerian said sarcastically. "But we need her help too.
I need to reclaim my throne as quickly as possible, so we are getting
the frell out of here now." He turned to face a clamshell shaped
instrument. "Pilot! Do you hear us? Starburst us away from
An image appeared
on the clamshell. This time, John's jaw dropped. A large four-armed
crustacean-like creature appeared on the monitor- Moya's
pilot. He blinked again to make sure he was not hallucinating. A
giant crab with eyes like Albert Einstein's was flying the Moya.
It said. "We still cannot starburst with the control collar
on, Dominar Rygel. A Peacekeeper vessel would easily catch us."
The Luxan growled.
"Then I will remedy that right now! I'll tear out the wiring
in the command console. Something has to give!"
Aeryn brushed past him, facing the pilot's screen. "Pilot,
we need both you and Moya's help. But we need you to keep the control
collar on for a bit longer."
Pilot was taken
joke, Peacekeeper?" The Luxan pointed his blade at her. "We're
free now, and I vow I will never be taken prisoner again. Now, I
don't know what the frell he's supposed to be in that outfit,
but you, I recognize easily- Peacekeeper huntress. Your kind is
responsible for my capture in the first place!"
not a Peacekeeper anymore," John said. "I said we had
no quarrel with you. Now, lower your sword. We'll need your help,
The Luxan turned
to face him again. His stare could burn a hole through the bulkhead.
"And if I don't lower my sword?"
we will have a quarrel."
face softened. "D'Argo, wait, I sense no evil from them. Perhaps
we should listen to what they have to say-"
The Luxan roared.
Rational conversation was not customary for him, particularly when
foaming-at-the-mouth enraged. He charged John with his sword raised,
ready to hack off a limb- or two- or all of them. John stepped aside
at the last moment and struck the giant from behind, using his forward
momentum against him. Even through padded gloves, it felt like striking
But the end
results were achieved; D'Argo went careening into a table, and struck
the floor with a resounding crash that echoed through the
adjoining corridors. John turned and sent his batarang airborne,
knocking the pulse pistol out of the Hynerian's chubby fingers.
Aeryn completed the disarming, kicking the remaining pistol out
of the startled Delvian's hand.
of this!" Aeryn shouted. "Just listen, will you? We're
not your enemies."
reappeared. "We must prepare to leave! Moya senses a Prowler
patrol in the area. If they should suddenly hail us·"
them, hyper-rage fueling his temper beyond its normal limits. It
was yet another unfortunate facet of their race John had never experienced
until now. While the others stood back, he braced himself for the
assault. His size made the Luxan a walking earthquake in his current
The sword came
down hard and fast. John blocked the stroke with his gauntlets crossed
over him. The blow sent a shockwave through his arms. The gauntlets
held- Bruce had constructed them to serve as shielding and as weapons-
but the Luxan might just push them past their limits. He ducked
as D'Argo swung the sword in a lethal arc over his head, and kicked
hard at the inside of the Luxan's knee, toppling him again. A second
kick liberated the sword from his hand.
John held out
his hand to help him up. "I'm through fighting with you. Will
you listen to us now?"
his hand. "Only upon your death, Peacekeeper."
He was unmistakably
not done with the fight as he yanked John forward and smashed him
across the jaw with a burly fist that sent him reeling. His world
spun around erratically- a sledgehammer would have hurt less. D'Argo
stood back up on his feet and moved in to finish him off.
and stooped down to take the full weight of the Luxan as he swung
his fist wildly and stumbled over him. Before D'Argo could stop,
he was lifted up over his head and threw him across another table
to strike hard against the bulkhead. Hair and tentacles flailed
around his head for a moment and they slide down the wall with him
to the floor. He pulled his feet under him and prepared to stand,
but his face met a black-gloved fist halfway up. D'Argo looked perplexed
the split second before he fell. He saw the queerest thing happen
as the floor suddenly rushed up to meet him.
triumphantly over him, as the others looked on, alien faces masked
not a Peacekeeper."
appear you now have the advantage," the Delvian said. "We
are at your mercy."
John bent down
to pick up the Luxans' sword. "We're at your mercy, too. We
came here to stop the Peacekeepers from deploying a new weapon.
We could use both yours and Moya's help." John handed out the
sword to D'Argo, who was shaking his head, still dazed from the
punch. "Again, we're not the enemy."
you believe us?" Aeryn added.
said the Delvian. "I am Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan of the planet Delvia.
This is Rygel the Sixteenth, Dominar of Hyneria."
can we depart now?" Rygel said, ignoring any pleasantries.
Sun, former Peacekeeper huntress."
do you want with us?" D'Argo asked.
are about to deploy a device to create wormholes," John said.
"They could reach any system, at any distance in just moments.
No one, Earth or any other world would be safe. We need your help
to stop them. Now, do you understand?" John extended his hand.
"On Earth, this is a sign of respect to show the person is
not holding any weapons."
down at the gloved hand, shifted the Qualta Blade to his left, and
clasped the hand with his right. "I am Ka D'Argo. Never has
an opponent such as you struck me down. Who are you?"
straight and faced him. If there was ever a time for the Zen moment
he was looking for, this was it.
Part 10: Angry
what is the time till arrival?"
reappeared on the clamshell. "Arrival is in just under a
half arn, Batman. Moya senses the Gammak base on the far side of
the planet. "
Keep us posted, and watch for the Zelbinion and other ships
that may be in orbit."
disappeared, leaving him and the others to discuss the next move,
whatever that might be. After making their peace, they quickly placed
the unconscious Peacekeepers aboard one of Moya's transport pods
and ejected it, to be picked up by any approaching patrol. Only
the five of them along with Pilot now occupied Moya.
the forward viewscreen; the image of Mars grew larger and filled
the window as it drew closer. Across from him, Aeryn and the Luxan
worked on the wiring on the control console before them.
done?" He asked, watching them disconnect semi-organic wiring.
another milky white cable. "That should do it. As of now, the
control collar is purely cosmetic. We have to wait before total
disconnection; otherwise all the collar pieces will detach and float
for what?" D'Argo asked. "Do you even have a plan to infiltrate
this Gammak base? Both of you may have impressive fighting abilities,
but this ship is totally unarmed, so what do you intend to do?"
base is where the wormhole project is to be tested," said John.
"The entire project's significant data has been transferred
to there. So now, the base- and possibly the Zelbinion- is
the project. I'm going to have to deal with them both."
at him, perplexed. "How are you going to do that?"
I said before, I'm prepared for all contingencies. In the Batscape,
I have that shipment of Radium isotope I liberated from the supply
convoy a week ago. We're going to make a weapon of our own."
is a highly unstable element," Aeryn said. "Furthermore,
there are about 50,000 men, women and children on a command carrier
at any given time, not to mention the population of the Gammak base.
You're not planning to send them all to their deaths, or did you
plan a 'contingency' for that, too?"
his hand. "We'll make sure they all have time to evacuate,
but we have to act quickly. We're going to get down to the base
somehow, and sabotage the device. It's got to be in the form of
some attachment that's put on a ship like a Prowler or Marauder,
that's what part of the project was about."
sound like you're certain," D'Argo said. "How do you know
things will be where you're saying they are? You've never even been
He did not
want to say he was acting primarily on instinct. Since leaving Earth,
it felt like a voice was guiding him, but he could not pinpoint
the exact reasons. "Let's just say I'm following my nose,"
he finally said.
case, I'd better go with you," D'Argo grunted. "Humans
and Sebaceans have frelling terrible noses."
all due respect, I believe Moya and I may require your assistance,
Ka D'Argo." Pilot's image reappeared on the clamshell.
"Since you deactivated the control collar, we sense it will
be shortly setting off a Paddac beacon that was hastily installed
to warn Peacekeepers of any escape attempt. It will be necessary
to disconnect it, but it won't be easy as it will put Moya in a
great deal of pain."
tell us what to do, Pilot," Zhaan said as she walked into the
command chamber with Rygel floating in behind her. "I am a
P'au; I can help take Moya's pain away."
them, Pilot," John said. "Aeryn and I will handle the
base. Just make sure·"
leviathan transport, this is the command carrier Zelbinion. Your
presence is unauthorized. You will identify yourself and your purposes
for approaching this Gammak base." The transmission was
abrupt and totally unexpected. The Zelbinion, wherever it
was broadcasting from, was nowhere in sight.
to answer them immediately," Aeryn said. "Pilot, was Moya
scheduled to stop at this Gammak base?
Officer Sun," Pilot responded. "But, we are a full
solar day early. Surely that would arouse suspicion."
handle it Pilot," she answered. "John, you need to do
it, Moya's captain was a male."
for a moment then pressed the response switch. "Zelbinion,
this is the captain of the prison transport Moya. We're expected
here for a prisoner transfer."
a solar day early captain. What is the reason?"
was a revolt at the prison we were scheduled to do pick-up for.
The intended prisoners all died in the fighting. We were given permission
to depart early since there was little reason to stick around."
by, Moya. The transmission paused.
don't believe they'll buy that story for one microt," Rygel
said sarcastically. "You are clearly not skilled when it comes
came back. "Attention, Moya, This is the Zelbinion. You
are cleared for orbit. Follow these coordinates down with the transport
pod to use for prisoner transfer."
John exhaled with relief. "That was a little close, wasn't
Aeryn said. "Something feels off. They should be more suspicious,
what with the wormhole project about to take place. And how did
they know where we would be?"
They all looked
through the forward view screen. The Zelbinion came into
view on the horizon line. Its position was fixed, pointing away
from the leviathan ship. Off to its hammond side was the shape of
what looked like a whirlpool fluttering and shimmering against the
stark contrast of space - Wormhole.
to go now," John said. "There's no time left."
pod passed harmlessly by the command carrier as it descended into
the Martian atmosphere. The giant ship focused matters completely
on the wormhole off its bow, not concerned with a mere prisoner
delivery that occurred so frequently as to go unnoticed most of
good," John said. "We'll have to sneak into the base once
we've landed and do our best to avoid detection."
the flight coordinates on the pod's computer. "That may be
easier than you think. Did you know we're flying a stealth trajectory?
Our approach will be totally unnoticed if the Zelbinion didn't
notify the base we're approaching."
do that often when special testing is taking place?"
her shoulders. "It's been known to happen, but why would they
do this for a prisoner transfer?"
too late to turn back," he replied. "It would look suspicious.
If they don't know we're coming, we'll use it to our advantage.
Any indications they spotted us?"
systems of any kind are detected, nor are there any hails for us
to respond to. So far, we're going in invisible."
That was the
third time that he heard the voice.
The pod leveled
out beneath the clouds and headed for the tall black spire of the
Gammak base. John frowned at the sight of it. Its architecture was
not the least bit surprising; it was almost identical to the Peacekeeper
tower in Gotham. But the thing he saw that lay before the base was
look at that!"
the view screen, Aeryn indicated to a giant stone face that looked
up from the Martian surface. In addition to that, there was a pyramid
in the distance beyond the Gammak base; much like the ones in Egypt,
but far bigger.
He heard the
theories when he was younger about a civilization that may have
existed on Mars long before the human civilizations emerged. There
were even Earth scientists who presented evidence from photographs
by landing probes that were once sent to chart the surface and analyze
the soil. The governments had dismissed the photos as tricks of
light and shadow, and berated the scientists as quacks for thinking
the red planet ever held life. This was all before the Peacekeepers
arrived to change any preconceived notions.
you suppose built them?" Aeryn asked.
his head. "No idea. Maybe someone's been watching Earth long
before the Peacekeepers ever did. I wish I had the time to study
enough once we're finished." She shifted the controls, and
the transport pod slowed, maneuvering onto a landing zone on the
very top of the base. There were no personnel around, or any querying
transmissions challenging them, only the blinking of landing lights.
They disembarked from the pod and made their way down a metal stairway
off to the side of the landing zone and into the base. John shifted
the bulky container of radium from hand to hand, allowing each arm
to evenly handle the load.
The upper levels
were dimly lit, showing mostly skeletal framework, the humming of
generators and the occasional emergency hatch. There were no guards
at this level, since the weapons systems up top were fully automated.
to get to the bottom levels," John said.
you know that?" Aeryn asked. "The science and laboratory
levels on a Gammak base are in the middle sections."
someone down there who can help us. Don't ask me to explain, but
he's been calling to me. I think he's a prisoner."
sure of this?"
"We need a freight lift, one that will take us down without
interruption. Is there one close by?"
She began to
scan the area. "There should be. I've never been on this Gammak
base before, but they all have similar layouts. That's what they
taught us, anyway."
several tiers, ducking behind doorways and staying in the shadows.
With each level, soldiers and techs began to appear, walking in
pairs or alone down the corridors and reappearing around corners.
They crept to the end of an empty but short causeway where she lifted
open a square door that revealed an empty freight lift.
us down to the prison levels," John said, sliding the isotope
container in first.
Aeryn pushed the button and the lift quickly descended. Pushing
the full length of his arms against the wall, John felt his stomach
come up to meet his throat. The lifts were not designed to carry
people, either comfortably or uncomfortably. Still, it was manageable.
a minute, the lift slowed and came to a halt. Opening the door,
the corridor they entered into was empty, but a distinct moaning
sound softly echoed along the walls.
I take it," John said in an angry whisper.
"They bring many humans here for interrogation- other species
too. The distance makes escape impossible and makes them more likely
to cooperate. Plus they can work on high level weapons testing here
without Earth resistance intervention."
going to end as well," he said.
corner, they saw the entrance to the main prison block. A pair of
guards stood at either side of the doorway.
stood rigid, with heavily powered versions of the pulse rifle at
their sides. A sudden clanging sound caused them to break their
frozen stance to see what was approaching. Before they could respond,
a heat grenade bounced in front of them, flashed brilliantly and
knocked them unconscious.
neither of them are half-human," Aeryn said, smiling.
down the corridor, they jumped and knocked out another pair of guards
that stood watch over a massive door with several locks. After retrieving
his batarang, John placed a small black box with several buttons
over the door's keypad. The scrambler that Bruce developed would
decrypt and open any of the Peacekeeper's electronic fail-safes.
The box emitted a low beeping noise and the door opened with a soft
into the cell and stopped dead in his tracks at the sight before
him, with Aeryn crashing into him from behind. The prisoner who
stood in front of him was unmistakable.
be you· Dad?"
in the opening with a knife. "Here you are, Dominar Rygel."
to use this?" Rygel held out the knife with two pudgy
fingers. "This is a Luxan Tokkar knife. Do you know what this
is used for?"
of course. Luxans use it for circumsi-"
Was it even cleaned? Get me something else that's more appropriate!"
her head. "We cannot use metal knives to cut the wires loose,
the beacon's defense systems are programmed to fire at anything
metallic. If we are going to remove the Paddac beacon, that bone
knife is the only thing we can use, and you are the only one who
can fit in there to do the job."
I expect it back undamaged," D'Argo said through the comm.
in disgust. "Easy for him to say, he's remaining in the command
chamber while we risk our lives!"
necessary, Dominar," Zhaan said. "I'm the only one who
can take Moya's pain, you are the only one who can cut away the
Paddac beacon, and D'Argo must remain on guard if the Zelbinion
is alerted to our escape. We each do what we can."
always warned me about days like this," Rygel said, shaking
prepare yourselves," Zhaan said. "I will now join with
Moya to take away any pain from the removal. Dominar Rygel, do not
begin cutting the wires until Pilot signals you to do so."
be quick, both of you," D'Argo said. "If the Peacekeepers
turn their attention to us, we'll be recaptured again quickly. I,
for one, will never be taken prisoner again."
perked up. "How long were you a prisoner?"
The small Hynerian
shook his head. "I was a prisoner for over one hundred and
thirty. You had it easy."
Zhaan, we are now opposite of the orbit of the command carrier,"
Pilot said. "Moya and I are now ready for removal of the
work as quickly as we can, Pilot."
placed her hands against the wall surrounding the neural cluster
and closed her eyes. She focused on the colors floating through
the blackness as her mind reached out and joined Moya's. In the
dark field, a streak of red lined with yellow appeared at the edge
of her consciousness- the Paddac installation. Her thoughts covered
the streaks in white light to hold back the pain.
as Zhaan went deeper into a trance, her body frozen against the
bulkhead. Her eyes abruptly opened. The whites of her eyes had disappeared,
replaced by orbs of pale blue.
Rygel, Zhaan has completed her joining with Moya. You may now begin
cutting away the connections to the Paddac beacon."
into the small portal and began cutting the first cables. "I
hope this is all worth it. We have put our freedom in the hands
of a man who dresses like a trill bat."
John and Aeryn
faced the tall man standing before them. He was human- at least
he looked it. But the face was familiar even after two and a half
decades- Jack Crichton. He was much older than the man John had
remembered from his childhood. His dark hair was now gray, and there
were more lines on his face, but it was him.
can't be him. I watched him die- along with my mother."
The man smiled
slightly. "My real name is not pronounceable to you, but you
can call me Jack. We've been waiting for you for a long time, John."
his head. "How do you know who I am? And who is we?"
runs deep throughout the galaxy. The Ancients have been studying
Earth for a long time. We foresaw this happening many cycles ago,
and we believed that Earth held the key to defeating the Peacekeepers.
The rest of my people have moved on to find another home. And I,
I stayed behind to wait for the one."
her head. "I don't understand· the Ancients? What are·?"
the remains of the civilization we built here to watch over your
world," Jack continued. "Long ago, there were many of
us. But, over time, the Peacekeepers found our home world and destroyed
much of our people. If they master the wormholes as we fear they
might, my people will gradually perish as there will be no barriers
to prevent them from conquest."
what we're here for," John said. "We're ending this project."
"I know. Your father was right. You finally get the chance
to be your own kind of hero."
narrowed, looking hard at the man. "It was you wasn't it? You
were the one who provided information to Bruce about my past. You
were the one who called to me."
I'm sorry. But we had to reach out across the distances and explore
your mind to know if you were the one we seeked." Jack looked
at the container of radium John carried. "I'm glad you bought
that. We'll need it."
wish to interrupt, but we have to get out of here quickly,"
Aeryn said. "They'll discover those guards soon and start sending
reinforcements. We can't lose our subterfuge just yet."
Sun is correct," Jack said. "I can take you to where the
wormhole device is being prepared, but we must work quickly. And
we will need a distraction to reach it."
his head. "I know just the thing."
The three of
them moved quickly from the cell and crept quietly along the walls
of the prison block, avoiding any armed guards that walked down
the corridors. They followed Jack around corners, through doorways
and up one level to reach the master chamber to all the cellblocks.
A trio of stun blasts from John's gauntlet quickly eliminated any
resistance from the bored and ill-prepared guards.
which control opens all the doors to the cellblocks?"
a black lever on the far left side of the command console. "That
one. But be advised, there are some truly dangerous individuals
incarcerated here in these cells."
and then shook his head. "We have to chance it to get the maximum
distraction. Besides, we're outnumbered here, so this will even
the odds." He looked over at Aeryn. "Would you like to
do the honors, Miss Sun?"
over to the console and pulled the lever down. The simultaneous
clang of hundreds of doors opening echoed through the adjoining
chambers, as well as a klaxon alarm indicating the release.
Now, let's get going," John said.
The man watched
as the door to his cell opened amidst the wail of the klaxons. It
was surprising, as it was not time to deliver his meal and there
were no unexpected visits from Scorpius this soon after their last
must be my lucky day!"
The two guards
appeared in the doorway. "Stay where you are! We don't know
what's going on, but you're not going anywhere until we get this
I wouldn't worry about little old me. Actually, there are about
a hundred others coming up behind you that I would be seriously
are you talking about?"
guard could finish, a dozen prisoners pounced on him and his companion
from behind and proceeded to tear them apart. The man stood and
watched the scene, doing nothing.
guys, you did tell me to stay where I was!"
Once the prisoners
finished, he stepped out of his cell over the remains of the guards,
and he could see that all of the doors on the cellblock had abruptly
opened. There were prisoners of many races and varieties running
about, fighting the overwhelmed guards. The shouts and voices of
alien tongues were drowned out over the wail of the klaxons. The
man walked down the corridor to the central chamber, oblivious to
Scorpius, what will we do with you? Maybe it's time to have that
little talk with you, after all."
The man pulled
out another clove cigarette and lit it off of the smoldering body
of a dead guard. "I think this Gammak base of yours has become
an inflamed ass and I'm now the suppository."
long and hard and let the aromatic smoke drift through his lips.
"I've really got to find a better pun. That one is so bad it
hurts my feelings."
is going on?" Scorpius said irritably. The alarms were loud
and growing very distracting.
the comm. "Sir, I don't know how, but there is a prison break
going on! All of the cells abruptly opened and the guards are being
with rage, his Scarran half quickly emerging with his rising emotions.
"We have no time for this! I want reinforcements sent to the
prison levels! Execute all prisoners on sight!"
what about the human?" Niem asked.
had enough of him! He no longer suits my amusement. I want him killed
as well!" He turned to his officers. "Bring those responsible
for this to me!"
guards report the fighting is descending into the lower chambers."
Kanor said, worried.
The Lazarus Pit; it could not be touched. "Dr. Kanor, you stay
here and oversee the wormhole devices installation to the Prowler.
I am going to the lower chambers to deal with this myself. Understood?"
Scorpius, his assistant and his senior officers disappeared through
the hangar entrance. Below him, the techs continued the installation
work and the Prowler modifications. He was relieved. Scorpius was
not angry with him this time, plus he was still alive. He could
now literally taste his rewards.
Kanor, are you there?" A voice sounded over his comm.
now, I'm busy."
sir, there has been an infiltration of our lab section. The prisoners
might get their hands on the intellent virus we're developing!"
He knew the
name. It was the other weapon Scorpius had tried to develop in addition
to the wormhole device. If it fell into prisoner hands, its use
could be equally as deadly. Surely Scorpius would understand his
trying to prevent its capture or distraction while he was occupied
saving his secret private chambers.
watch over this, I'll be back as quickly as possible," Kanor
said to his assistant. He walked over to the lift, pushed the button,
and descended to the lower tiers to the laboratories. It seemed
hard to grasp, but he might actually be recipient to two rewards
and Jack peered down at the hangar from the shadows. It took time
to reach the hangar, avoiding the Peacekeeper fray that was busy
engaging the prisoners on the many levels of the base, but they
made it. Surveying the area, there was now a skeleton crew working
on the installation of the wormhole device, and little security
to watch over them.
like our little distraction worked," John said.
Aeryn said. "Shall we finish this?"
down to the floor, quickly knocking out the guards and techs. After
placing them outside the doors, the hangar was sealed off, barring
any access. With the way cleared, Jack walked down to the craft
with the radium container in his hand.
time do you need?" John asked.
a few of your minutes," Jack said. "I only need to make
a few modifications- ones that they hopefully won't notice. But
I need both of you to find quick shelter while I open the container.
The dose of radium would be fatal to either of you."
are you making?" Aeryn asked.
engine. It will make a wormhole. But it will collapse quickly and
the strain on the device will cause it to self-destruct."
species can create them, why didn't you already?" John asked.
Everything was happening too fast, and he was still waiting for
the proverbial hammer to fall.
require too much energy on the part of my people; it would kill
us. I'm afraid the time I have spent here being interrogated, they
managed to wear down my defenses and retrieve some information-
just enough to pose a threat."
we rectify that," John said. "What about afterwards? What
will happen to you?"
you John, I am prepared for that. Also, I have no intention of leaving
his hand. "Enough for now, we have little time. Leave the room.
I'm going to begin work."
the lab section to the hiss of its transparent sliding doors. There
was no one in site. Had the lab had been evacuated already?
Officer Runin? What is the problem here?"
continued wail of the klaxons in the background, there was no sign
of damage or prisoner infiltration. Kanor scanned the room, the
tables and all equipment had been undisturbed, and rows of tubes,
beakers and mixers were all in place with no fires to be seen.
But there was
a smell. It was bitter to his senses and completely foreign. He
did not recognize it, but it caused a slight pain in his side as
he inhaled. Whatever it was, it was still fresh in the air.
over to the rows between the lab tables, and gasped in horror at
the sight. The scientists and guards were lying there out of sight-
all dead. There were no signs of pulse weapon injury and no blood.
But their faces·
one of them had a grotesque smile on their faces. Somehow, the muscles
in their faces peeled back to impossible angles. Teeth and gums
all the way to the backs of their mouths were clearly visible.
He heard a
sound behind him. Turning, he saw a human standing in front of him-
or what he thought was human. His skin was dead white. He was balding,
but still had locks of oddly colored hair on his sides. His eyes
bulged out maniacally and his mouth, like the others, was twisted
in a wide grin. The man pointed his finger at him.
A stream of
gas shot out from under the man's pointing finger through a nozzle.
It had the same odor he had smelled when he entered the lab. He
could not catch his breath as he inhaled a mouthful of the gas and
he began to choke. Shades of red filled his vision, and he struggled
to breathe as it felt like blades were shredding his throat from
the inside. He coughed and hacked uncontrollably as his eyes watered
and his insides burned. He started to lose muscle control and collapsed
on the floor over the legs of one of the dead scientists.
wall there was a cabinet with a mirrored surface. He could see his
mouth beginning to pull back into the freakish smile the others
had. Before he went completely numb and his vision went black it
was the last thing he saw. Death claimed him as his life functions
the man walked away and went through the doors whistling a tune.
Except for the alarms, all was silent in the lab again.
it going?" John asked.
working on the phase stabilizer. "Almost done, the displacement
will cause the density to collapse, and it will draw any matter
within close proximity into it."
a minute," John said. "Are you talking about a black hole?"
one. It won't be permanent, and it will take care of the Zelbinion
floating above us."
up, shaking her head. "You would be dooming everyone on board,
maybe even those on Moya. I'm not comfortable with that."
am I," John said. 'We're not killers. I want to defeat the
Peacekeepers as much as you do, but not like this."
you have to find a way to get the base and the command carrier to
abandon them," Jack replied. "Do you have a plan for that?
I think your friend Bruce Wayne would have."
has never been in this situation before," John said angrily.
"And the Batman is not an executioner. I'm not about
you have important knowledge that will be given to you."
you began to help to construct this device, you helped to unlock
something that has been unknown for thousands of cycles. It's your
obligation to us·"
John said forcefully. "I'm the Batman. I will not be anyone's
the door to the device. "Then we have chosen wisely. I'm now
finished." He stepped off the Prowler and faced John. "When
it opens it will pull matter into it and deposit it on the wormhole's
other side, including large ships, without any harm coming to them."
"That's the better alternative."
Aeryn put her
hand on John's arm. "If we're done, then we need to get out
of here, and find some way to get the others to evacuate. Those
outside the door will be waking up and getting help."
She spoke too
soon. An explosion rocked the hangar and buckled the doors behind
them. Peacekeeper pulse rifles stuck through the cracks, taking
shots at them.
a back door NOW!" Aeryn shouted as she returned fire with here
crossbow/rifle. "John, protect Jack, while we-"
It was too
late. A strafing blast hit Jack dead center in the chest and he
collapsed. John pulled him out of harms way as Aeryn continued defending
the failing door.
stroked the dying man's hair, trying to comfort him. "Hold
on, Jack, we'll get out of this somehow."
he rasped. "Here." He reached his finger up to touch John's
forehead. "Take this."
A myriad of
images filled with symbols and equations rushed into his head. They
were formulas he had seen glimpses of before, but were always confusing
and incomplete. Now, suddenly it all made sense.
they were so simple. A child could have done them.
the beings life slip away. His body felt lighter. "Don't worry,
Jack. I'll keep them all safe."
to close his eyes but stopped. Jack's body slowly morphed into an
insect like form, with impossibly thin arms and amber eyes that
were now extinguished of life. It was now twice in a lifetime he
saw Jack Crichton die.
Aeryn ran up
just as the transformation finished. "I can't keep them back,"
she said. "They'll be in here any microt."
open the door to a vent. "Jack is dead. I want you to go."
No! It's suicide!"
to me," he said. "Go into the vents we hid in earlier.
One of us needs to remain free. You have to help the others. We
have to finish this."
He gently held
her face in his hands. "I will see you again. I promise."
She said nothing.
He felt her soft trembling lips brush against his for a moment,
and then she withdrew with one last look his way. Then she was gone,
disappearing into the vents.
He turned his
attention to the rushing soldiers bearing down on him across the
hangar. He expertly dodged pulse blasts, while his fists flew out
to strike jaws and stun weapons knocked over wave after wave but
their numbers were too great. A moving black mass pinned him to
the floor and the butt of a rifle struck him in the face. John's
mind fought against unconsciousness. It must have been like how
DK felt in his last moments.
to Scorpius, we have apprehended the human called Batman."
work, Lieutenant. Bring him down to interrogation. When I'm finished
down here, I wish to question him."
wail snapped Zhaan out of her trance. "Pilot? What is that?"
sorry Pa'u Zhaan, the Paddac beacon has activated!" Pilot
replied. "We weren't fast enough in removing it!"
working as fast as I can!" Rygel said, sticking his head through
the vent opening. "You try working under these horrid conditions!"
yourself, Rygel. There is no blame here- we knew it could go off."
Zhaan turned to the clamshell to face Pilot's image. "Pilot,
can you turn off the noise?"
eliminating the noise now. But I fear the command carrier has detected
the signal it transmits. They are already hailing us!"
handle this part," D'Argo said. "I'll try anyway. Maybe
we'll get lucky and they won't ask for a visual."
no time hailing them. "Attention, leviathan Moya, this is
command carrier Zelbinion. We have detected a Paddac signal emanating
from your ship. Visuals indicate your control collar is still attached.
Explain the cause."
a moment. He had rehearsed several responses in his mind, but none
of them seemed proper to convince the Peacekeepers there was no
cause for alarm, especially since the alarm already went off. "Uh,
this is the captain of Moya. We had a minor malfunction in the neural
cluster. No cause for alarm, we're working on repairs."
will send a tech ship over to assist. Registers indicate you have
minimum crew to affect repair and watch prisoners at the same time."
We, uh, have a small reactor leak. We're locking down until we can
contain it, but we're all fine here. We're fine. Um, so how are
is this? Transmit your visual and enter your access code into the-"
his Qualta Blade and sheared the console in half. "It was an
awful conversation, anyway. I'd like to see a human do any better."
on the clamshell. "I'm sorry to say this, but the Zelbinion
is beginning to turn to pursue us."
goddess," Zhaan said sadly. Closing her eyes, she began to
recite a prayer.
next lifetime, Luxan, let me do the talking," Rygel said sarcastically.
"You are complete yotz at the art of deception."
onto the Zelbinion's bridge to observe the image of the leviathan.
"What is its status, lieutenant?"
lieutenant looked up from the command console she was reading and
snapped to attention. "Sir, the captain on the Moya
has ceased responding to our hails and gave no logical explanation
why their Paddac beacon is activated."
and smiled. "I can think of a good one. We just received a
message of a distress call from Earth orbit from the members of
the Moya's crew, including its real captain. They
were ambushed by the Batman and the huntress Aeryn Sun, probably
cooperating with the prisoners on board to come here to stop Scorpius'
the transmission log, sir. A few arns ago, someone on board gave
the Moya permission to stay in orbit for a prisoner transfer."
"No such order should have been given."
remained stiff. "What are your orders, sir?"
should be obvious. Find who gave the order, prepare the frag cannons
and pursue the leviathan."
from the vents below the main hangars and held back in the shadows
until the squads of armed guards and soldiers passed by. The lower
levels had gone dark as a result of the heavy fighting going on.
Blast marks peppered the walls and ceilings, destroying much of
the light sources. On the floors, the bodies of dead or dying prisoners
and Peacekeepers lay on the floor. The newfound part of her wished
she could have found a way to save them, but she was all too familiar
with conflict against the Peacekeepers- death was unavoidable.
But those that
remained could be saved. She simply had to find a way to remove
everyone from the base before it was destroyed, but how? John seemed
better at figuring out something like that, not her. By now, he
was no doubt captured, or even dead.
She would not
allow herself to think about the alternative. He needed her to stay
alive and free to finish the job.
the corridor for any activity. Most of the fighting was rapidly
moving through the base and slowly being contained. She padded lightly
from door to door, hiding in any alcoves, using the dim light to
There was the
base reactor. An overload would destroy the base from the bottom
up, but it would take time for buildup, giving all personnel time
to escape in the emergency ships and anything else presently docked.
shifted to a large doorway surrounded by pulsing red lights around
its opening. It went to a hangar along the walls of the base. Technically
it was more of a mooring than a hangar, used for larger ships. She
stood in front of the entrance, debating if it was worth investigating.
She never heard
the female coming up from behind and striking her. The kick sent
Aeryn reeling and she struck the far wall hard, knocking the breath
out of her.
hair out of her face, she looked up to see Jenavian standing before
her, hate smoldering in her eyes.
he's waking up."
There was a
thrumming sound vibrating in his ears as he awoke. He winced; sharp
pains shot through his arms, legs and body as he attempted to stretch
his limbs. Restraints around his wrists and feet held him in a chair.
He inhaled deeply only to feel the soreness magnify itself.
the armor he wore they managed to hurt him. His last memory was
the mass of Peacekeepers hurtling themselves at him, desperate to
bring him down. Fists, clubs and rifle butts came down hard on every
inch of his body. He could resign himself to the satisfaction that
it took so many of them to finally capture the Batman.
to speak with you, Dr. Crichton."
towards the voice, ignoring the pain as he shifted in the restraints.
Scorpius stood to his immediate left, leaning against a thick metal
rod that was mounted over the chair and continued on to connect
with a monitor that faced him directly. Over Scorpius' shoulder
a red headed woman manned a console where his cape, cowl, utility
belt and gauntlets were sitting.
just made an appointment."
amused. "I rarely wait for those who are at my disposal- or
mercy." He walked around the length of the chair and its contraption.
"You've caused us quite a bit of trouble, with your costumed
charade; going around destroying our valuable equipment, assaulting
my soldiers and bringing a false sense of hope to your people. How
long did you expect to do this by yourself?"
I beat you and sent you packing with your S & M army."
It's a shame really- I heard only good things about you. You were
one of our most important scientists, you know. I should thank you
for helping to bring the wormhole project this far."
at his restraints. "You never gave me a choice. My family and
friends are all dead. You should've finished me off as well."
time. Meanwhile, let me demonstrate something for you." Scorpius
raised his hand.
a series of buttons, bringing a padded metal plate hanging over
him down to press against John's forehead. A surge of energy from
the device caused him to convulse hard at the pain that shot through
him, bringing a series of distorted images on the monitor in front
of him. His body strained, agony covered him in like waves like
hot wax pouring over him.
And then it
stopped, just as quickly. "This chair can explore your neural
pathways- tell me your deepest secrets that you try to hide,"
Scorpius said. "For instance, I know you were with the Ancient
before he died. Tell me, what information did he give you about
John said, straining to speak. Fighting the chair took a chunk of
energy out of him, and they only used it once- only once.
now, Dr. Crichton. You really don't expect me to accept that, do
you? While we now have a device to navigate wormholes, it's still
not perfect. I know the Ancient held the wormholes secrets, but
he was so good at keeping it from me, no matter how much I interrogated
him. You, however, I do not think could be so resilient."
get ready for a rude awakening Scorpy," John said, spitting
out the words.
his hand again. "I look forward to it."
the button, and the chair sent another surge into him. John growled
through his teeth, refusing to scream out loud as a mental battering
ram slammed into the wall he built in his mind.
It rarely happened,
but she was losing badly.
strikes at Jenavian started strong, delivering several blows that
knocked her former partner down, but she recovered quickly, retaliating
with an attack that reduced Aeryn to a desperate defense. Jenavian's
disruptor training made her more experienced in close quarter combat,
and she used it to her advantage.
at the blow to her jaw. Unable to reach her crossbow/rifle due to
the speed of Jenavian's assault, she continued moving down the corridor
to the lighted access door where the mysterious ship was moored.
kick to Jenavian's right knee knocked her off balance for a microt-
just enough time for Aeryn use the opportunity to flee. She ran
through the doorway where the ship was and disappeared into the
shadows of the dimly lit craft. Jenavian followed quickly, scanning
the corridor as she covered it with her rifle.
hide forever, Aeryn. You and your pathetic Human are vastly outnumbered.
If you surrender, I promise you a quick death."
thoughtful of you," Aeryn's voice echoed from the distance.
"But I'll pass."
Your defection means my demotion, and I've worked too frelling hard
to get this far. Only your execution will redeem that."
fighting on the wrong side, Jena. It's not too late. If we stop
this wormhole weapon, we'll be saving billions of lives. I believe
this, and so does Batman."
"You're pathetic! The Human has contaminated your mind. You've
become as weak as your mother!"
A tense silence
was all that answered her. "That's right, I was able to read
your file. I never knew I was working alongside a half-breed. I
could've easily overlooked it, but you're too far-gone now. It's
a pity I wasn't around to execute your mother as well, I may have
saved the Peacekeepers cycles of waste."
her teeth and kept moving. She refused to be coerced into revealing
herself by taunting. The distance already between them needed to
give her enough time to get a second wind.
of the ship were odd-looking. The organic structuring was very reminiscent
of a leviathan, but with the colors and designs of a Peacekeeper
warship, and the oblong doors of a normal leviathan were replaced
by circular hatches. There were even red and black DRDs gliding
back and forth around the corners, stopping to observe her.
A symbol over
the next hatch she crossed by indicated the command chamber. Entering
it, the interior lights activated, showing the chamber and the vacant
control consoles where the captain and crew would stand. A large
circular light source on the ceiling pulsed, emitting a series of
noises. Aeryn walked to the center, looking up at the dais. She
had never seen anything like it.
and squeezed off several shots at the approaching Jenavian, but
she somersaulted, dodging the pulse bursts. Jenavian threw herself
forward and struck Aeryn so hard she landed on her back, heavily
stunned. Lightning would have been slower.
The sound of
Jenavian's wrist stiletto extending reached Aeryn's ears before
she could get back up. An arm wrapping around her neck told her
it was already too late.
finished," Jenavian said.
There was a
loud scream, but not from Aeryn. Jenavian's back arched as a metal
tentacle that had extended from an opening in the floor appeared
and impaled Jenavian square in the base of her neck with it's pointed
end, holding her in place and releasing her grip on Aeryn.
and rolled as a pair of pulse guns with blades mounted under them
shot out from the ceiling and targeted their sites at the pinned
huntress. Jenavian's screams continued as the weapons fired down
repeatedly, her body erupting into fire and disappearing behind
The pulse fire
ceased and the guns retracted into the ceiling, leaving only a faint
scattering of ash billowing to the floor where Jenavian once stood.
Aeryn got up from where she watched the whole incident and slowly
walked under the center light again, watching it pulse to the noises
it emitted. A video monitor to her left was translating the sounds
into Sebacean as the ship spoke to her.
sir, there doesn't appear to be any tampering with the device. Shall
we go ahead with the testing?"
lieutenant, I want the device thoroughly checked. The Batman and
his companions had ample time to perform alterations on the device.
I want no further delays to sabotage this project. That will be
all." Scorpius turned back to John. "Did you and the Ancient
do anything to the phase stabilizer?"
slightly, despite the trembling throughout his body. "Don't
you hate it when a plan doesn't come together? We didn't do anything,
leatherface, there was no time."
see." Scorpius leaned towards the monitor where images from
John's consciousness materialized onto the screen. "So, you
witnessed your parents being killed in an alley?" The images
of two Human's laying dead through a child's eyes filled the screen
before him. "Such a pity, that is. Is this the catalyst that
encouraged you to take up Batman's mantle and fight this alleged
battle against injustice?"
plenty of reasons," John rasped.
grunted. "There was a time when I was much more subtle. I should
have been more considerate and ordered their execution when you
weren't around. Children should not be privy to such things, don't
That was more
than he could take. John's eyes bulged and he screamed in rage as
the Aurora Chair re-activated. It felt like a thousand nails pounding
into his head simultaneously.
can you release from your moorings?"
over Aeryn's head flashed and the video monitor showed the translation
while the floor beneath her began to vibrate violently.
front view of the ship, Aeryn watched the moorings strain and tear
as the leviathan ship tore away from the dock where it had been
secured. It hovered momentarily, drifting away from the mass of
the base's wall. The ship's energy readings had to go off the scale-
it freed itself from the magnetic dock with barely any effort.
good, ship, you're very powerful."
see." Aeryn checked the control console. "Your control
collar is now deactivated. Your weapons analog says you possess
a sonic accelerator cannon. Can you shoot the collar off?
you like to be free?"
The ship went
silent for several microts.
rose up through the hole on top of where the leviathan's head was
located. One well-placed shot decimated the collar and its fragments
flew across the window where she now stood.
done, ship. What is your name?"
name, you name me.
She did not
answer. A frantic signal from Pilot on Moya interrupted her train
Sun, are you there? We need help immediately!"
Peacekeepers have confirmed our escape, and the Zelbinion is now
in pursuit. I don't know how long I can continue avoiding them.
We cannot starburst, and they are firing their frag cannons at us!"
knew this plan would not work!" D'Argo interrupted. "We
should have fled when we had the chance!"
on, all of you," Aeryn said. "I have something here that
can help. I'll be right there."
now, that is not a comfort to us," D'Argo responded sarcastically.
placed her hands on the command console. "Ship, listen to me.
There is a leviathan like you orbiting this planet, and it is being
attacked by the Peacekeepers. If we don't do something to help her,
they will either enslave her again or destroy her. None of us want
that to happen. Will you help?
Could Moya be his mother? She had no way to tell. The time spent
on her was far too brief to know if she was ever used for breeding.
"I don't know if she's your mother. But I know the Peacekeepers
have killed leviathans in the past to breed hybrid warships. Help
me to save Moya from that."
But first·" she scanned the outer walls of the Gammak base.
Looking for the vents where the reactor would be located. "I
want you to destroy the base reactor."
swerved, and floated downward to adjust its position and target
the lower section of the base. Its sonic accelerator cannon swiftly
locked onto the reactor walls.
onto the edge of the Aurora Chair's frame as a sudden rumbling shook
the floor violently around him. Niem stumbled from behind her control
console and fell. The overhead lights dimmed and went out completely.
John breathed a sigh of relief as the Aurora Chair lost power and
is happening?" Scorpius growled into his comm. "What happened
to the power?"
A frantic officer
responded. "Sir, the leviathan hybrid has broken free of
its mooring and has attacked the reactor section. The core is burning
and will rupture soon if we don't extinguish it!"
The Lazarus pit was directly connected to the reactor itself. "Send
a containment crew immediately; I want all access in the reactor
section secured. I will meet them down there." He turned to
face John. "It seems you have a temporary reprieve- Batman."
the reflection of Scorpius and his assistant in the view screen
in front of him as they walked away and disappeared through the
doors, leaving him alone and unguarded.
accident would have felt better. His breathing was labored. His
eyes had difficulty focusing. Tried as he did to resist, an arn
in the Aurora Chair had been enough to drain his strength and turn
his mind into a Petri dish. Even if the trauma went away, he was
still strapped in the chair ö all his equipment lay on the nearby
table out of reach.
the chair has yet another victim."
up, and strained to focus on the face in front of him. He looked
human- or Sebacean. His one eye was soft, and displayed a gentle
sympathy. The other half of his face was covered in a copper-colored
mask. John continued staring in surprise, not noticing his restraints
the man said. "I know the pain this chair has wrought."
forward, but the effort needed to move turned painful. "I need
to get out of here," he finally gasped. "I have to stop
The man opened
his mask slightly. A brilliant yellow light streamed out of the
crack and bathed John's face in a soft glow.
and felt his body relax. Whatever it was, it healed him on all levels.
Words could not describe it, but in the light was the most beautiful
thing he ever saw.
is this?" He asked.
a place I saw once," was the man's only explanation. "Your
strength is returning to you by the microt. But you must hurry.
This base will collapse shortly. A leviathan gunship has damaged
the reactor and it will explode soon."
himself to his feet and quickly reclaimed his utility belt, cape
and other equipment. "I appreciate this. Who are you, anyway?"
The man tilted
his head. "I am called Stark. Will you kill Scorpius?"
to make him accountable for his actions. I despise what he's done
to Earth and what he stands for."
fear him, too?"
to answer. "For the longest time," he finally said.
"Fear is good. But travel light. Lose the hate, and your victory
take me to him."
reached him again as he followed Stark out the door. They were oblivious
to the figure that followed their path through the levels.
Part 11: Cataclysm
at Pilot's image on the clamshell. "How soon?"
eighty microts," Pilot said, unable to hide his despair.
"I'm sorry, Moya can no longer evade the Zelbinion, and she
still cannot starburst with the control collar on."
is not a way for a warrior to die," D'Argo said, his anger
rising. "We don't even have any defensive capability without
starburst. We should never have waited for that Batman and that
I add I was in agreement with that?" Rygel said.
their sincerity, D'Argo," Zhaan said. "And I still do.
We all knew about the possibility of wormhole weapons. If we ran,
there would be no place to hide from the Peacekeepers."
his head. "But now it was for nothing. I will NOT be taken
a prisoner again."
said that three times already," Rygel said. "We got it
the first time."
meant it every time I said it!" D'Argo rushed in front of the
viewscreen. "Peacekeeper cowards! I spit in your face! I stab
at your ta brushkva! I WILL BEND ALL OF YOU OVER A CONSOLE
AND SPLIT YOUR EEMAS WIDE WITH MY-"
little faith in us, Luxan? You should have more."
all turned to the sight on the main viewscreen following Aeryn's
voice. What looked like another leviathan was approaching. But this
one was sleek and angular, and moving with tremendous speed. Its
body was cloaked in Peacekeeper black and red.
is that you?" Zhaan asked. "What is that?"
me, Zhaan, and I brought a friend. Tell Pilot to maneuver Moya to
the far side of the volcano Ascraeus Mons on her treblin side. Nightwing
and I are going to give the Zelbinion something else to pick on
while she gets some distance."
his brow. "Nightwing?"
after my father, a human freedom fighter."
"Still an awful name."
instruction, Moya turned hard as the sleek leviathan warship raced
past her and charged the giant command carrier. It was only a sixth
the size of the Zelbinion ö hardly an even match by the standards
of any species.
prime main cannon and acquire target."
sonic accelerator cannon instantly rose up and aimed at the Peacekeeper
vessel. In their short time together, Nightwing already trusted
the ex-Peacekeeper huntress without question.
three shots before banking hard to the left. The Zelbinion
shook as the bursts erupted across the front of the carrier's fuselage
and blended into one tremendous explosion.
lost his balance but caught himself on the edge of the main command
console. "What is the damage assessment?"
checked the incoming data streaming in from across the ship. "We
have some surface damage on our forward hull. There are fires on
several levels, and tracking is damaged. Whatever that ship was,
sir, it's firepower is massive."
lieutenant, would be Scorpius' other secret project, a Peacekeeper/leviathan
warship. It seems it's easily persuaded to rebel without a control
engage and destroy it. After we finish it off, we continue after
frag cannons turned on their huge rail carriages and fired at the
hybrid ship. But it was far faster and more maneuverable than the
average leviathan. It easily dodged the rounds and returned fire
in kind. The approaching Prowlers and Marauders were barely flies
buzzing around the heavily shielded warship, and more than a few
were shot apart by Nightwing's cannon.
doing very well, Nightwing." Aeryn said. "Continue evasive
maneuvers, they can't seem to move fast enough to lock onto you."
are you there?"
Her face brightened,
relieved to hear his voice again. "John? Where have you been?"
story. What's your status?"
I have control of a prototype gunship and I'm currently holding
off the Zelbinion from destroying Moya. But I don't know
how long we can fend them off. Are you any closer to destroying
the wormhole weapon?"
have a plan. I need you to try and lure the Zelbinion over the Cydonia
region where the face is located as quickly as possible."
do my best."
Nightwing to sweep across the Zelbinion's orbital path a
second time before hailing them. "Attention Zelbinion,
this is leviathan gunship Nightwing. You would be advised to stand
down and cease harassing the Moya, or suffer the consequences."
There was a
long pause before any reply came through. She pictured in her mind
Peacekeepers standing on the command deck with their jaws dropping
in total shock at someone's audacity to threaten them. Command carrier
officers were said to have egos the size of their ships.
sounds like the traitor Aeryn Sun," came the reply.
"This is Captain Braca. I can assure you no such thing will
happen. However, if you surrender, we can promise mercy. Refuse,
and you and your ship will certainly be annihilated."
her head. The answer was so typical it was embarrassing. "I'll
take my chances, Captain. If you want us, come and catch us."
away and sped back towards the Cydonia region, to the Gammak base
and to a waiting Batman. At no surprise to her, the Zelbinion
turned hard to pursue.
the internal lenses in his cowl over his eyes against the dark acrid
air swirling in front of him. In contrast, the Banik slave seemed
completely indifferent to it.
were filled with smoke, not so much from the heavy fighting that
had taken place between Peacekeeper forces and the prisoners, but
from the burning reactor. Stark had said a rogue leviathan/warship
hybrid had broken free from its moorings and blasted the base's
power source. He figured it for the ship Aeryn mentioned on the
comm. Evacuation protocol had begun when Scorpius failed to answer
the base commander's hails. The Prowler with the wormhole device
still remained in the hangar, which was surprising considering its
importance to Scorpius. What could be in the lower levels that he
considered more important than that?
way," Stark said, indicating a light through a large circular
even lower into the Gammak base, and John worried about he will
reach the hangar above. Prisoners and soldiers alike shared the
same thoughts as fighting was all but abandoned in a desperate flee
to the evacuation pods and any ships still functional. He was confident
Scorpius would save the wormhole craft for himself, but why would
he come down here when everything was falling apart around him?
order a contingent of techs to salvage the pit's chemicals immediately.
Tell them refusal to come will mean execution."
John held out
an arm to keep Stark behind him, and peered around a corner. Scorpius
stood over a circular pool filled with toxic fluids that struck
a chord of familiarity with him. It was something in Bruce's data
stores regarding some of the criminals he had fought in the past.
out from behind the corner. "Scorpius, stop and face me."
There was a
slight exhalation of breath, and a wry smile as he turned and faced
John. "You're very bold to come down here- John." His
smile turned into a frown. "And very stupid. This is my realm
you didn't notice, your base is burning up. The pooch is screwed.
It's over now."
slightly. "Oh, far from it. Do you think you will make me your
prisoner? Where do you think you will take me? I still control Earth,
and no pathetic leviathan you fly in can match the Zelbinion."
He began to walk towards John. "You are only one man, while
this-" he gestured towards the Lazarus Pit- "this makes
Pit- I thought I recognized it," John said, remembering Bruce's
notes. "You think you will live forever using this?"
dies, Scorpius, even you," Stark said, stepping out of the
"You disappoint me, Stark. There is so much I could have done
for you if you only gave me the knowledge you had- but this treason?
I'm afraid I cannot overlook that."
to be dead than to live to serve you. I haven't forgotten what you
did to my people."
talk!" John said. He produced an explosive grenade from his
utility belt. "Stand away, Scorpius. You want to look young,
and lunged forward grabbing John by the arm, knocking the grenade
from his hand- detonation pin still intact. Niem produced a pulse
pistol and fired wildly as Stark rushed around the length of the
pool to disarm her.
John used his
free hand to strike Scorpius repeatedly in the jaw, but he barely
flinched. The half-breeds strength was immense, more than John had
imagined for such a thin, haggard body. Even with all his gear on,
Scorpius lifted him off the ground by his neck with ease and held
him there. Even through the cowl, he could feel his air being cut
can see, Batman, I have physical superiority to you as well!"
his torso and bought his leg up in a hard kick that knocked Scorpius
back releasing his grip. He could breathe again, but a second assault
could be fatal. He was out of the fuel that powered the Tavlek gauntlet,
as well as his batarangs. He was not about to give in now.
Scorpius said. "Prepare a cooling rod after I finish with this
She did not
respond. She stood silently glaring wide-eyed at Stark with her
pulse pistol pointing directly at him. A grotesque grin was forming
on her face and growing even larger.
what are you-"
Her face remained
frozen in the hideous smile as she collapsed to the floor, already
worry, Scorpy," a voice said in the shadow from behind the
dead nurse, "I got a special rod just for you."
The man stepped
out from the shadows and into the light. John's eyes widened. He
recognized him instantly. Bruce's data stores were filled with more
files on him than anyone else he ever fought. He was much older
now by his wrinkled skin, and his green hair had mostly fallen away
revealing a bald head, but his pale color, the insane grin and the
killer's eyes betrayed him instantly.
chin tilted slightly. "Batman! The ghost of Christmas past
returns! It's been a while, hasn't it?" He looked at John for
a moment, closing the distance between him and Scorpius. "Then
again, no. You're not him."
on his legacy," John replied.
The Joker laughed,
more of a cackle than anything a normal person would do. "That's
so noble, bat-brain, I'm going to start crying in a microt. Not
that I should- your mentor never cut me any slack, but these reunions
are always so touching."
here," Scorpius growled. "I will show you mercy if you
comply." A curl of smoke was beginning to waft out of the side
of his head.
you show me the sights, Scorpy. Since the total destruction of your
Gammak base here is happening right now, I would need the total
package tour." He looked back at John. "I got to hand
it to you, for a beginner, you got quite the panache for fighting
Peacekeepers. Prisoners and PKs lying dead, everything is falling
apart around our ears and the gimp himself is overheating. I love
away from Scorpius. "I'll deal with you once I've taken care
The Joker held
up the grenade John had dropped. "I think I can do us all a
favor here and help rid Scorpy of his favorite drug. I'm sure Ra's
al Ghul would've liked that."
A sudden explosion
above rocked the foundation and caused all those present to stagger
as the reactor began to reach critical.
is mine!" Scorpius roared, his Scarran voice taking over. "I
have succeeded him as the sovereign of immortality!"
The Joker laughed
again. "Lemme tell ya, Scorpy. I knew Ra's al Ghul, I worked
with Ra's Al Ghul, and you, leather-boy, are no Ra's al Ghul."
went into slow motion as the Joker hit the trigger and tossed the
grenade backhand where it landed in the pit and exploded, blowing
a gaping hole in the side of the pool where the chemicals began
rushing out in a torrent.
There was a
tremendous explosion above and the base buckled hard as more debris
began to fall. The base was collapsing. The reactor was ready to
detonate any moment.
eyes bulged. And he charged into the pool, desperate to salvage
any remaining sustenance he could get from it.
Bats, nice talking to you, but that's my cue!"
the Joker jumped into the pool and grabbed Scorpius by the neck.
Scorpius now screamed in rage and began struggling with his former
prisoner. Chemicals sprayed wildly, obscuring them as they disappeared
into the pool, only the flaying of their limbs disturbing the rising
smoke as the two enemies battled to the death.
John by his cape and quickly led him to the side of the chamber.
There was an emergency lift.
must hurry, you have only microts. Here, take this." Stark
handed him a coding device. "This will give you access to the
Prowler. No one else has it. Scorpius's nurse was holding it for
him." Stark indicated humorously at his pants. "He has
his shoulder. "You come with me. I can get you out of here."
his head. "Do not worry about me, I'll be fine. Go, now. Stop
the Peacekeepers, and remember what I said." Stark pushed him
into the lift and the doors sealed shut.
John held on
to the rails as the lift shot upwards at tremendous speed. He could
feel a thick wave of heat pass through the chambers as he rose above
the reactors. It would be any moment now, he only hoped the Prowler
was intact. Stark had told him on the way to the chambers no one
was to leave in the ship until Scorpius was present.
As the lift
slowed, stopped and opened its doors, he saw the Prowler waiting
for him. The hangar was smoke-filled, empty and the last of the
ships were departing. No one was left to challenge him. The explosions
were coming more frequently now and the trembling under his feet
was continuous- the reactor was building up to critical.
device attached to the lock easily indicated by its shape. With
a press of a button, it fell off and he was in the cockpit before
he realized it. Bruce's training had covered Prowler operations,
and the ancient had given John just enough information on how to
use the wormhole device. With blinding speed, he ignited the Prowler's
engines and the ship moved forward.
He made it
out with seconds to spare. As the Prowler cleared the hangar opening,
the base collapsed. From the air, he saw the upper part of the tower
fall straight down abruptly to the reactor in the center. A massive
explosion shot out around the base like a spiral and the entire
structure fell at an angle, the large spire trailing black smoke
as it crashed down to the Martian surface.
for the comm. "Aeryn, can you hear me?"
here, John. The Zelbinion is following us, but Nightwing's shields
are weakening. I don't know how much longer we can hold them off."
done enough. The ship is in range now. I'm going to go EVA in a
few microts. I need you and your ship to stay out of the path of
watch and go ooh!"
gunship shot past and the mass of the Zelbinion was bearing
down on him. Aeryn and the leviathan hybrid fought a magnificent
battle, but the smaller ship was outgunned. It was draining all
it's stored up energy and shields were weakened.
reaction was to smile. "Right about· now."
There was a
bright burst of light and a swirl of blue and green as the bloom
of a massive wormhole opened up in front of him, right in the path
of the Zelbinion. John stared on in amazement. The great
secret of them was that they were everywhere, one only needed to
know the equations to locate them. Scorpius had set the base on
Mars for a reason: he knew there was one here. He managed to torture
the information from the Ancient, but little else. Now, John commanded
all the knowledge.
Prowler into a loop, he activated the device. A bright band of yellow
began to form along the mouth of the wormhole. The color blended
into the funnel and it began to shimmer. John shifted the controls
and flew free of the maelstrom.
lock on my signal. I'm ditching this boat!"
bubble slid downward from his cowl and gave him an airtight seal.
The Bat suit was designed for surviving underwater or even the vacuum
of space. That was the perfect thing because right now he needed
ejection rockets sent him free and tumbling away from the Zelbinion
and gave him the perfect view of what was about to happen. The wormhole's
increasing gravity pulled the command carrier towards it like a
magnet, and their forward momentum made them unable to stop.
The lieutenant shouted. "The wormhole is pulling us in!"
to panic. "Do something! Take evasive action! Pull hard to
too late, sir!"
rocked and buckled as it's mass hurled directly into the mouth of
the wormhole. Braca looked around at the viewscreen's broadcasting
images all around them. On one monitor he could see the smoking
remains of the Martian Gammak base. Beside the base was the giant
face staring up at them.
Perhaps it was the distortion caused by the edge of the wormhole
distorting the image as they entered it, but he could swear·
It looked like
the face was smiling at them.
did real good, Batman."
his comm. He did not recognize the male voice speaking to him. "Who
a friend repaying a debt for his brother. You got a lot of work
ahead of you. Make it count."
The voice sounded
like the one that had given them permission from the Zelbinion
to fly down to the Gammak base. "I'll do my best," he
watched from a distance as the leviathan hybrid picked up the Batman.
He set the controls of his Prowler for Earth. It had been a long
time since he saw his brother. It would be good to catch up on things.
fortune," he said quietly.
so it has Begun
do you think they went?"
John did not
hear the question. He was watching Moya's control collar finally
fall away. After being picked up by Aeryn and Nightwing, those on
Moya had assisted with picking up survivors from the Gammak base,
Peacekeepers included (though they were under house arrest). The
wormhole that had sent Zelbinion to another part of the galaxy
had closed up again, as if it were never there.
He turned to
Aeryn. "What did you say?"
"I said, where do you think the Zelbinion ended up at?"
to the bell ringing in my head, they are currently drifting through
the edge of the Uncharted Territories, where they have no jurisdiction."
happens when they reach Peacekeeper High Command?"
they will tell their leaders to beware of the Batman," D'Argo
said, walking up to them with Zhaan and Rygel. "You did good.
For a human."
take that as a compliment. I heard you had quite an ordeal up here
yourself while I was on Mars."
up a hand. "Don't go there."
It really felt good for the first time in a long time. "Now
that Moya is free. Where will you all go?"
from behind. "If the coordinates you gave Pilot are accurate,
we will enter a wormhole between the planets Neptune and Pluto,
exit into known systems and after several starbursts we will all
be returned to our home worlds."
any way we can repay what you did for us?" D'Argo asked.
your leaders what happened here. Tell them the Peacekeepers can
be beaten. And if you happen to come across Zelbinion trying to
come back, tell them I'll be waiting."
dramatic for a species like yours," Rygel said. "But I'll
be sure to pass that on."
about you, Officer Sun?" Zhaan asked. "Life will be very
dangerous for you on Earth."
to that," Aeryn said. "Besides, Earth is part of my heritage.
And he needs someone to show him how to do things right," she
indicated to John.
He shook his
head, not amused. "Whatever. It's time to go now. Good luck
to all of you."
and I are forever grateful to you, Batman. And to you, Officer Sun,"
said Pilot, appearing on the nearby clamshell. "Do not
worry about us, Nightwing says he will accompany us back to the
good. I figured he could use a mother," Aeryn said. "Mother's
are important to a child."
them behind Earth's moon, Moya departed in a spectacular starburst,
her first in many cycles. The Batscape was more than able
to make the journey back in stealth mode.
happens now?" Aeryn said. "Word will spread fast now that
Scorpius is gone and the Zelbinion is no longer around. There could
be there. I would say tomorrow is going to be very interesting,"
comm system began beeping, indicating a signal coming in.
be calling? No one knows we're coming back, not with stealth mode
the screen on and Bruce's face appeared. "Hello John. If
you are receiving this, it means you and Aeryn were successful in
your mission. In fact, I knew you would succeed, because you are
the best at what you do. You will be happy to know that I always
have a Plan B for any situation, so if you follow the coordinates
I'm broadcasting, you will find your secondary base of operations.
ALFRED is waiting with a hot meal for both of you. There is a hangar
for the Batscape and my program has been uploaded into the new computer
so I will still be around to provide you with information, assistance
and the occasional morale boost, so don't think you've gotten rid
of me so easily."
John and Aeryn
looked at each other, total surprise etched on their faces.
and welcome home· Batman."
A gentle hand
touched Johns. He looked over at Aeryn who smiled thoughtfully and
everything suddenly fell into place. Home beckoned to both of them.
The night was
surprisingly quiet here.
no sounds of traffic or klaxons or people shouting in the streets.
Nor was there the deathly silence of the Batcave while he slept.
Here, there was a gentle breeze blowing through the trees outside
the windows and the chirping of crickets in the meadow nearby.
On the outside,
Bruce's old summer mansion in the far mountains north of Gotham
still looked like it was abandoned, as it had been thirty years
before. Inside, ALFRED and the utility robots had been busy converting
the insides into the new base of operations. It was quite homey
inside, but with all the necessities the Batcave had provided. Bruce
always managed to find homes with large basements and underground
hangars. How he managed it he would never say.
the shadows of the trees as they played against the windows near
the bed. His body still felt stiff from the ordeal on Mars, but
he felt more relaxed than he had in years. There was a completeness
to everything he did that had not been there before.
He turned his
head to listen to Aeryn sleeping quietly next to him, the scent
of evergreens in her hair filling his senses before he fell into
slumber. She was soft and warm to the touch as her chest rose and
fell with the rhythm of her breathing. For once, he felt like he
Halloween in Gotham, though few really observed it anymore, for
fear of Peacekeeper intervention. He decided tonight would be different.
It would be his surprise to the Peacekeepers and humans alike. He
had meant it when he said he expected the next day things would
He rolled over
and drifted into sleep with his arm around Aeryn. It was a calm
and peaceful transition for him- the nightmares were gone.
In the last
days of Peacekeeper occupation, there were rumors of massing by
resistance forces on all the continents, even talk of races from
the Uncharteds coming to lend assistance. All supply lines had ceased
and the ore mining and other harvesting had halted.
watched the light in the sky from his office. He was not overly
concerned. If anything he was pondering what to have for dinner
with his brother, who was currently visiting. He merely left orders
to all security forces to prevent looting and make certain no one
is hurt if rioting breaks out.
his shoulders as he closed the curtains. Maybe he would take his
brother to look at the ocean tomorrow. Earth was such a beautiful
place, after all.
up at the sky from where she sat on the old building, enjoying a
glass of wine. She had been waiting for years to enjoy this moment.
She could almost cry, as it reminded her of the old times- back
in her wilder days. But the sight usually meant it was time for
her to run. This time around, she looked forward to seeing the Peacekeepers
do the same.
had tucked in her daughter for the night when she looked out the
window and saw the sky. She wanted to wake Caitlin to share it with
her, but decided to let her sleep. After all, the nights were much
safer now for the humans. Caitlin's hero, the Batman, lay beside
her as a stuffed doll Vicki stayed up to make.
tight, sweetheart. He's back for good."
across Gotham flooded into the streets to look at the object in
the night sky. Prowler and Marauder patrols circled above trying
to locate the source that the light came from, but there was none
found. It appeared to be a hologram of unknown origin. But Gotham
citizens, both old and young, recognized the Bat signal, as it held
steadfast against the passing clouds.
across the city all cheered and celebrated. Witnesses were said
to have seen the expressions of the Peacekeepers as they looked
up and saw fear there for the first time.
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