A Reflection of Myself
Slade eased off the throttle, leaning forward to take in the distant shape of the island off in the horizon. Shutting off the engine completely, he pushed the button to drop the anchor. The prison would be on full alert with the escape of Robin and their arrival upon the island. He had only one open shot at this.
Entering the captain's quarter, he popped open the bunk revealing a knife, shotgun and pistol. It was enough to fend off intruders who tried to take the boat by force. But not enough for the type of job Slade had planned in breaking into the prison. Grabbing the weapons, he tucked the pistol behind his back and placed one knife on his side. The shotgun would be left behind in the lifeboat.
Lowering the lifeboat, he hopped in and broke away from the boat. The soft thrumming of the propeller was the only sound as the sun set behind him. The golden rays shooting over the blue water provided the perfect covering in that anyone looking towards him would be blinded by the sun.
A few miles off shore, Slade cut the engine and began to paddle his way to a small cove. His heightened senses were scanning the area for any sounds of footsteps, talking or the flash of clothing. Nothing seemed to peek out beyond the dense jungle. Laying the paddle next to the gun, Slade quietly slipped into the water and pulled the boat on shore. Eye flickering across the beach, he quickly tied the boat to a tree and covered it with some debris.
Halting, he allowed himself a brief pause to gather his wits. The silence was not a good sign. Could it be that the prison was already abandoned? If so, he better be quick and find any clues before the trail went cold. Running swiftly through the jungle, he made his way towards the center. It was the only direction Robin seemed to have come from when he had erupted out onto the beach.
Losing himself in the hunt, Slade halted when his eye spotted the worn tracks of running boots. Kneeling down, he touched the imprint softly. The dried dirt meant that the track was about a day or two old. Eying the ground, he spotted the next footstep and began to creep along the route.
The animals were silent except for the humming of awakening bugs. Suddenly, a foreign sound broke through the trees. Pausing, Slade crouched behind a large palm-leafed bush. Brushing back a branch, he spotted a guard shifting his pants while pushing back a rifle on his shoulder.
"Done yet?" yelled a high voice in a clustering of words that Slade did not understand.
"Yeah, yeah," The guard straightened himself once more before turning his back to Slade to rejoin his companion.
Too bad the man never made it any further. Slade lunged out at him with a cobra's precision. One quick snap of the neck and the guard was down. Undressing the man free of his coat and rifle, Slade slipped on the coat and gripped the rifle hard. In a couple steps, he saw the waiting companion near a truck.
Taking off his hat, the guard slammed it against his thigh, "About time."
Looking up, the guard realized that the approaching man was not his companion. Before he could even scream, the rifle butt slammed into his face killing him instantly. As the body collapse to the ground in a heap, Slade ripped the hat away from limp fingers. One swift tug and the hat covered the metal plating, shading the orange in darkness.
Hopping into the truck, he fired it up. Glancing down at the map, Slade allowed himself a smirk before turning the truck around and driving off towards the prison. The putting of the engine encompassed the small drive till a rickety prison appeared to rise out of the jungle. Parking the truck near the entrance, Slade eyed the towers for any presence of the guards. Nothing greeted his sight except the barbed gate. Images of Robin's bloody hands flashed in his mind in the light of the cause of such wounds.
Shifting the truck to park, Slade slipped outside, swinging the rifle on his shoudler and glanced around once more. He could hear voices marking the presence of the guards, but otherwise they were beyond his sight. Jerking his hat lower down, Slade walked towards the gate, shoulders tense for any type of attack to come raining down on him. Yet, all that answered him was the slight rusting of the wind through the trees. The whole situation screamed to his doubtful mind to not follow through, that he was walking straight into a trap.
Yet, since when did Slade listen that voice of reason. Already his body was buzzing with anticipation for whatever this Maura lady would throw at him. She played with his toy and now he would destroy hers. The laws of the playgrounds and sibling boundaries of playing with one's things would be the only lines in this confrontation. No imposing adult figure with their views of justice and morals would get in the way of this fight.
Spotting a latch, Slade opened the gate ignoring the groaning sound of the gears. Laying the gate's lock on the edge of the frame so that it remained open, Slade swept his gaze around the open field that was littered with explosive burns. Tiny huts rimmed the field, a few of them damaged with debris or were totally gone.
Flickering his gaze, the villain caught sight of a small hut of what appeared to be the guardhouse. Men were clustered around the inside and entrance. An important meeting seemed to the only explanation of why all the guards were in one place, which made Slade's job both easier and harder.
Now, he just needed to find Maura or someone who knew anything about what had transpired here. Marching quietly down the courtyard, he gazed into the huts giving off the air of doing rounds. When he gazed into one near the end of the field, Slade stopped in surprise when startling green eyes peered out at him from the darkness.
"Wow, never conjured up a guy before. The probability of such an event occurring is .001."
A mumbled voice broke from the corner of the hut as a man raised himself off the ground. "Curt, what are you blabbering on about now…" Kyle spotted the immense figure in the doorway, "Oh, never seen you before. Guards usually don't come down here."
Slade tilted his head downward a bit, "New guy."
Kyle nodded, "Need help or something?"
"Actually," Slade tucked his hands into his coat pocket to look less intimidating, "I was wondering what happened here? Looks like a war zone."
The two prisoners shared a quick glance with each other. Whatever did happen it seemed that they did not or were forced not to tell anyone about it.
"Don't worry you two; I'll explain everything to him." The velvety voice of a woman with a hint of an Italian accent trickled over his shoulder.
Peering over, Slade locked his eye onto a woman in her mid-forties standing across from him. The chestnut brown hair was held up in a loose bun beneath the guard hat. Gray eyes sparkled with an intense intellect that made something click in Slade's mind: dangerous.
"Boss?" called out Kyle.
"Just get some sleep," replied Maura. Smiling, she rolled her shoulder, "This way for some whiskey?"
"Sounds good," muttered Slade, his mind now razor sharp.
Breaking away from the hut, Slade walked quietly off to Maura's left and slightly behind. This small, ordinary woman was the Boss seemed impossible at first glance. But now taking a closer look, he could see tell-tell signs of a viper. Arms uncrossed, walking at a regular, confident stride he could see the small tilt of the head to hear anything coming from his direction but also to keep an eye on him. Yet despite the relaxed aura, Slade could feel the tightening of caution build up in how her back shoulders began to straighten up ever so slightly.
Reaching the end of the prison, Maura glanced around before pushing away some massive branches from the wall. There was a large hole, the charred edges revealing that something explosive had been thrown at the wall. Ducking through the hole, the pair entered the jungle and trekked a couple more minutes before reaching a tiny cabin. Ferns draped the straw roof so densely that not even the smallest of moonlight could pierce through. From the damp soil, grass sprung upwards into a tangled mess that would make a knob of fishing line seem like heaven. Somehow, Maura found a small path through the wild grass reaching the rotting, moss-cover door first. Her hand turned the rusted knob and gave a little push. Stepping right after her, Slade took in the cobwebs and musky smell. The scrap sound against wood sent the keen eye flying to the source where a small flame leapt from the match to the wick of a lantern. The warm candlelight created a glow in the small cabin enough for Slade to take in his surroundings. No one had been here for awhile. Only a collapsed cot and a small metal box remained in the small enclosure.
"Our prison used to expand out a bit more. This cabin used to be one of the guards sleeping quarters. But, they all now sleep in barracks right next to the wall so this one fell out of repair." Maura carried the lantern with her and set it next to the metal box. Bending down, she lifted the lid and flashed a smile. Reaching in, she pulled out a half bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. "Will this do?"
Slipping off the rifle and leaning it against the wall, Slade nodded, "Yep." Watching Maura produce two glasses, he let the question slip. "How did you know it was still here?"
A slight pause and Slade knew that she was weighing her words carefully. "That's an odd question."
"I'm a bit of a critical guy," added Slade, letting a bit of nervousness enter his tone, "It's just that you said it was-"
"Abandoned for awhile and it was, but you see…" Maura's lips twitched downwards for a split second, "I put it here yesterday."
Truth. Slade's eye narrowed as Maura poured the golden liquid into one of the glasses. Her lips continued to move, "And why? Because I knew."
In that instant, Slade realized that Maura had seen through him, that his cover was blown away in three words. Time slowed as his hand reached behind his back for his pistol while the other ripped the hat off his head so he see the last look on his enemy's face. In front, he watched as Maura grabbed the glass and threw the liquid right on him. His hand latched onto the rubber hand and he smirked mentally. With a quick snap of his wrist, Slade pulled the pistol free from his pants. Yet just as the gun reached his rib cage the lantern hit his chest. Flames spilled out catching the beads of whiskey, setting them on fire.
Maura rose from her crouched position, her eyes narrowed into slits as an indifferent expression fell over her face. In front of her, Slade's form staggered backwards, the pistol falling out of his hand in pure shock at what was happening to him. The large body twisted while his arms tried to beat out the flames that danced across his skin and close to his face. As the uniform jacket brunt to ashes, the black body suit that was his armor was revealed to the world.
Stepping forward, Maura grabbed the pistol, aimed and fired straight at Slade's heart. The force from the shot sent the failing body to twist and slam through the door. Collapsing a few feet away in the dense grass, the fire sizzled out leaving behind a smoking corpse lying face first into the dirt.
Empting out the barrel, the five remaining bullets fell onto the dusty floor. Grabbing the bottle of whisky, Maura walked outside, picking up the rifle and cocking the barrel with her single hand. "I know you're still alive Deathstroke. Your immortality status is as terrifying as your skill with the blade." Taking a sip, she turned slightly to fix her gray eyes onto the twitching bare hands. "Gloating is a common trait amongst us villains and as much I as know one shouldn't do that, I cannot but help myself…Slade."
A truly dark smile brightened up the glint of satisfaction that danced in her eyes when those black fingers clutched weakly at the dirt. "I know all about you Slade and your little sessions with Robin. Yes, he was here in my prison and yes he screamed and yelled till his lungs gave out. He was quite a strong-willed bird."
Maura took a step back as Slade's arms trembled with exhaustion or pure rage. She couldn't tell but it didn't matter. Not anymore. She was a retired woman now and she deserved one more wild night. Laughter bubbled up her throat. It was time to drop all the illusions of a dignified Boss and become the corrupted, manipulative villain that would make her father proud. Like an old saying said 'when you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you' and she had become the prime example for it in all her years at the prison.
Letting the laughter spill from her lips, she let it fall onto Slade's ears knowing that it would anger him some more. Him and Robin were truly alike that it wasn't much of a challenge in finding what made this infamous criminal explode.
"Oh yes, I said 'was.' Taking another sip, Maura stared off into the jungle. "Unlike you and your blackmails, I broke the bird's wings. You should have seen him crawling, begging, screaming, shrinking away from human touch…" She paused as movement caught her attention from her peripheral vision. Slade was trying to rise himself on two shaky arms.
Driving the nail into her coffin, Maura lowered her voice into a seductive whisper full of dark pleasure, remembering how Robin described that unearthly purr of Slade in one of their sessions. "I made him shed rivers of tears. To cradle a broken, crying hero…Mmmmm, nothing can replace that." Shaking her head, Maura sent a smirk straight at the blazing gray eye that was glaring at her from over a broad black shoulder, "It's a shame you never witnessed such a fall from grace."
That small figure of the woman was a major contradiction to that twisted smirk on her face. Tucking an arm under his chest, Slade dug his fingers into his wound, plucking the bullet out of his heart. The melted vest could not stop the bullet from piercing his skin, but it did slow down the bullet, making it stop almost halfway before it completely went through his heart. If that had happened, he would be out for the count for at least a couple days. The half-injured heart immediately finished repairing itself. Dropping the bloody metal on the ground, Slade groaned as he rolled onto his feet, his black, charred, skin on his hands pulled at raw nerves. His skin would take a bit longer to heal than his heart.
Yet, this physical pain was nothing. Nothing could compare to the raging inferno that was his pride. Maura was mocking him, dragging him through the mud of shame. She had broken Robin. Try as he might, Slade might have gotten a tear or two from the boy in response to pain, but not rivers. He had seen Robin beg but not the begging that accompanied screaming and crawling. From the geniune glee emitting from the voice, he knew that Maura wasn't exaggerating. What she had made Robin do was real and it fueled that rage even more.
Where before Slade might have killed Maura of quickly; the woman now earned a slow, torturous death. Slade rose upwards and turned as if he was some nightmarish creature. White teeth grinded against each other, making the captured snarl sound like a rabid dog. His chest, which was on the verge of explosion, heaved painfully.
"How…dare…you…" snarled the darkness.
Raising a hand to cover her mouth, Maura giggled quietly creating an appearance of a shy school girl. "How dare I? That's one weak comeback, reminds me of something my grandmother might say."
A burst of wind roared past her ears. Leaping to the right, she watched as the freight train that was Slade complete a punch. Yet, she realized that the moment his fist hit air, Slade pivoted on his right ankle to turn around and bring his left fist flying at her once more. As the arm came closer, Maura stepped forward and slammed the bottle straight upon it.
Glass and whiskey flew everywhere. Some of the sharp projectiles embedded themselves into his arm. Ducking behind the right arm, with the remaining neck and jagged top, she drove the weapon into Slade's stomach.
Backing away, she halted near the cabin wall, taking in a few needed breaths. She should have kept up her training but then again, she knew that Slade bested her in stamina, skill and agility no matter what.
Slade took in a sharp breath as he removed the bottle from his stomach. Blood oozed out him, dripping onto green leaves. Eying his injured left arm, he dropped the glass bottle and began to pick out one of the major pieces in his arm. The pain was able to take to his mind off of the agonizing healing from the lower wound. The fight was something he had not planned. He figured to take this woman out in less than five minutes, ten max. But the burns still rubbed against his nerves making it hard for his body to move forward and not collapse when wind ran over the sensitive skin. It was all about mind over matter for now…and buying himself time.
Arching back upright, Slade focused his attention on Maura. "Is that all you have?"
"The question is," Maura titled her head downwards, "Is that all you've got? For, let me tell you. Robin put up a better fight even when he was scared to death."
Cracking his neck, Slade tried to keep Maura talking. "Why are you telling me such things?"
Maura shook her head, "Not telling." Without another word, she raised the rifle, aimed and pulled the trigger. Only a soft click was heard between the pair. Maura blinked, letting her disappoint flash briefly on her face.
Then to Slade's surprise, he watched the woman run straight at him swinging the rifle over her right shoulder. As her left fist flew at his face, Slade raised his right arm to block it. With a quick shift, Slade was able to dodge a kick aimed directly at his knee. Applying weight to his right, Slade pushed the woman off of him catching her off balance.
Not one for standing idly by, Slade took in a deep breath to ease him through the throb that was now his skin and attacked. A rifle butt slammed into his face with such ferocity that it rattled his teeth as the rifle snapped in half sending splinters of wood into the air. Joining the wood was a cracked metal mask. The two-toned mask fell on the forest floor, spinning on its edge till it slowed in speed and clambered to a stop with the front of it face down.
Maura soaked in the revealed face of Slade and could only smile, quirking her eyebrow at his features. "Never pictured you to be so…dignified."
The answer to her statement was a flash of a metal blade and before she knew it blood gushed out from a major cut near her right wrist. Her hand dropped the remains of the rifle quickly and for a split moment she thought she was going to bleed to death. But thankfully, the cut had not hit a major artery and was running up and down her arm. Maura found herself opening her mouth when a charred fist rammed into her temple.
It no longer mattered that his hands were still throbbing with burns or that the skin had cracked allowing blood to ooze onto pitch skin. All Slade could think about was to hurt this woman. Red filled his vision and drowned his soul. Punch, punch, slam against her face with the bottom of his forearm, Slade let satisfaction fill him as her body collapsed on the ground, blood spilling out of her mouth. Twirling the bloodstained blade in his hand, Slade drove it home into Maura's hand, nailing it to the ground. Hands shaking badly, the villain realized that from here on out, he would have to fight with his feet in order to allow his burnt hands a chance to heal.
Maura gurgled out a scream as a lose tooth fell out of her mouth. Her honor drove Maura not to scream too loudly and her mind thanked itself for telling the men to ignore any sounds that came from the jungle tonight. This was her problem and she would deal with it in her manner. Lying in green, Maura blinked away the white flashes of pain and fought to find the yellow rage that was waiting to be unleashed. Nothing came to call except the stability of the brown soil of which was her goal. Funny how she secretly always wanted to break from the ground and now all she wanted to do was return back to the earth.
Her blurry vision caught a growing shadow. Rolling over her injured hand, Maura saw the steel boot land where her head was a few seconds ago. Pulling out the knife, she slashed at Slade's leg only watching as it was kicked away. Glancing around, she saw a thick branch. Reaching out, she grabbed the branch and used to block an oncoming kick. Feeling herself being pushed into the ground, Maura kicked upwards hoping for the best.
Slade immediately leapt backwards as he saw her foot go between his legs. For a millisecond, he let himself be relieved that the foot did not make contact before snarling out at her. Maura didn't waste time and rolled up onto her feet, sprinting out to the side as she slammed the branch into his stomach wound. It didn't matter how fast the man healed, such a wound would still sting.
And it did for Slade keeled over. The villain felt his newly rebuilt muscles tear slightly allowing for fresh blood to leak. Growling, Slade lunged at Maura, shifting his body so he collided with her with the side of his shoulder. Tackled backwards, Maura felt her body slam into the shaky side of the cabin. Slade pinned his eye on the squirming woman and drove his elbow into the woman's sternum resulting in a painful gasp of air.
Black dots swam into Maura's vision. "You al-" gasp "ready have the answer you seek…"
Slade found himself frowning, "I doubt that."
Those gray eyes shimmered with mockery, "Why you were, ugh…pinned…and" another groan escaped her lips, "why Robin…is differ-rent?"
Knowing that Maura was trying to distract, Slade kept his pressure up. "Yes, that's one of the many questions I have for you. And you will answer them all in time."
Maura weakly shook her head, "It…is…simple…It is why-gasp- you came out here in the…the first pl-place."
Slade felt himself slack briefly as a memory of him coming out to the Indonesian islands flashed in his mind. How had-
Maura quickly took advantage as she rammed a palm hard into his shoulder, popping it out of its socket. Staggering backwards, Slade cursed briefly and popped it in. Spinning around, he pushed away Maura's words and focused on the task at hand. He saw Maura regain her footing and swing the branch straight at his head like a baseball bat. He couldn't help but admire this woman's tolerance to pain as her bleeding hand that had been stabbed drove the branch forward.
But it was too late for Maura. The tables had turned on the Boss who once had control over a whole universe within a volcano.
Grabbing the rest of the glass shards from his left arm, Slade used the arm to block the branch as he flung out the glass at Maura. The woman ducked but she wasn't lucky enough. Deep cuts on her face and shallower ones on her neck blossomed upon her dirt stain skin.
Twisting his left arm, Slade grabbed a sturdy hold on the branch. Giving one strong tug, he smirked when Maura's gray eyes widened ever so slightly when she spotted flakes of charred skin fall like snow.
"Here's the first question, did you first break Robin's arms or legs first?" Slade couldn't help but chuckle at the flash of fear in that once cocky face. Then that chuckle faded and Slade pursed his lips tightly. Maura's fear died out and that annoying confidence was back again.
"Arms?" quipped Maura.
The simple joking tone made him tremble with rage. But the single thing that finally made Slade snap were those gray eyes gazing up at him with a metallic glint of a steely soul. Those eyes that he saw for first the time were staring up at him much like how a single eye would stare at him every time he stared into a mirror. Maura was him despite the swollen and bleeding face and cut up body. There was no doubt about that now.
Memories of Robin's ease around him fell into place. Of course, if the boy had been broken by Maura then it would be safe to assume that he had developed a sort of Stockholm syndrome. And trust back into the real world, he would seek out anyone who resembled his torturer.
And this mere fact that he was staring at himself made Slade realize that this woman had not only smeared his name and took his bird, but in a sense stole his identity. If it was intentional or not was irrelevant to him. All that mattered was there could only be one of him.
The dam that was restraint exploded in a massive show of force. Pulling back his arm, Slade drove his fist into Maura's side feeling sick glee as he heard and felt the crack of ribs. Maura's scream was soft but her hand let go the branch as she collapsed on her knees. Cradling her chest, the woman had no time to react when Slade's knee made contact with her face. Slade saw a mixture of colors as contact was made: thick blood-red rage, boiling yellow tension, pitch black intent, piercing white clarity. And in his mind's pulsing gray steel eye, Slade clutched onto tattered green feathers of a bird he once owned.
From this chaos that was Slade, hissed an unnatural voice, "He was mine! False accusation can be erased, but breaking something that doesn't belong to you!"
Maura didn't even fight back when she felt the large hand grab her left ankle and with a defiant twist dislocated her leg. The earth shattering scream was abrupt, yet it was music to the man's ears.
Grabbing the back of her shirt, Slade hauled the bleeding woman up to his chest. Grabbing her chin, he twisted her head so that her semi-conscience eyes stared up into his. "You might look like me, woman, but-"
Maura let out a gurgle laugh, "You're…you're mistak-ken…Robin's not yours…he's mine…no matter what…"
Slade bit back a snarl, trying to reign in the bloodlust to kill her here and now. "This is far from over."
With that, he took her right wrist and snapped it in half. A silent scream escaping from her lips was all that marked Maura's journey into oblivion.
Slade blinked his eye and found himself reclining on a metal chair with a blank computer screen in front of him back in the present. His whole body ached from the extraneous activities he had done in the past two weeks. For a moment, Slade wanted to be lazy for once in his life and just sit on the chair. He felt utterly drained. It had been a very long time since he let himself loose like that. Every memory he sought was all a blur of colors. Giving up, the only villain left now with granite eyes sighed softly into still air.
"Had your lazy day already," muttered Slade as he glanced over to a small room. The door was wide open revealing the blood-stained floors, walls and metal table. The blood was now a rustic color reminding him that he had deposited what remained of Maura's corpse in the trash dump outside of Jump City a couple days ago.
The woman had survived a long time and when her final breath exited her smiling lips, truth dawned on Slade. She had been ready to die since the moment she had spoken her first word to Slade. Every action and word was placed with accurate precision in order to push him to kill her, to make him lose his temper. The victory of destroying his enemy was short lived as Slade saw the fruition of her plan come into the light. He had done exactly what she wanted: to end her life. And somehow, she had managed to carry her secrets to the grave.
To be played like a violin made Slade's blood boil once more. Yet now, reflecting back at the 'quality' time he spent with Maura, something peaceful settled over him. Batman and Robin provided Slade with challenges he much needed. But, he could always beat them or allow the heroes a short victory. Maura, on the other hand, had provided Slade with a challenge in terms of dealing with himself.
To both defeat and lose to her made him ponder if in the end, he had learned anything. In truth, Slade learned more than he needed about her past life in the Mafia. But when regarding Robin, the prison or her methods, Maura went silent…only allowing screams to burst into the air.
"She truly was something…"
The soft sentence made a tiny wave of guilt rise in him. She had been an enemy that had pushed all the right buttons in him. In the short time he had known her; Slade now knew that there would never be another one like her. No one to taunt him like she did, fight him with such conviction, smile at him with calculating eyes…
To let his emotions take control of him like that and destroy a good challenge was something he would slap himself for awhile. Slade had acted like a rampaging animal, with no sense of logic, his only goal to administer pain. If anything, he had acted like Robin.
Slade eased forward, his mind halting on that name. Wait a minute. He was wrong. There was one person out there that resembled Maura could even surpass her and present him with the ultimate challenge.
Smirking behind his mask, Slade reached out and powered up the screen. As the soft blue light gathered force, the mastermind knew it was time to see if his own plan had come in fruition.
Robin stopped and watched as his door slide quietly shut. A void filled him ever since reading Maura's letter. She had sounded so…finite, like she knew that death was knocking on her door. And considering that Slade had left them, he knew that the villain and Maura would have to meet some time in the future. Fear and grief welled up in him, leaving Robin to question why he felt such feelings at a woman who caused him so much pain but at the same time eased it away.
Walking down the hallway, he pushed away his uneasiness and gathered up his courage to face the Titans. Each time it was becoming harder and harder and at times the faces of his captors took the places of his friends.
Reaching the entrance to the lobby, he eyed each Titan. "Hi."
"Rob," whispered Cyborg.
The soft tone made Robin's lips twitch slightly. It was then he noticed that the Titans were gathered near the computer consol. And on that massive screen was Slade's metallic mask, his ever piercing gray eye staring straight at him declaring a silent declaration that only he could hear:
You're still mine.