Out of the Flames

By theamerican91

Thriller / Action

Merry Christmas


"Your Majesty," the guard bowed. "We have brought Vox."

"Bring him in," Audrey ordered. The guard bowed again as the doors opened. Two larger guards entered while holding a prisoner at their side. It was a tall man with scars around his eyes. He had a strange device around his neck. His whole body was a disheveled and bruised mess, indicating much abuse the past year. Queen Audrey looked at her prisoner with disgust before nodding to the two guards who then violently threw him to the ground.

"You are fortunate that I am merciful enough to give you another voice box, considering you tried to take my kingdom from me."

Vox didn't say anything but looked at the queen calmly.

"Are you wondering why I summoned you from your cell?"

Vox still remained silent, forcing the queen to explain herself.

"Savage has broken free. I want to know how he did it."

The prisoner still said nothing but finally cracked a smirk.

"You know, don't you?" Audrey demanded. "Tell me!"

Vox still said nothing and his smirk had become a gloating smile.

"Where is he?!" she yelled and lost her bearing. "How did he escape? You helped him somehow! Tell me!"

Refusing to answer, Vox proudly stood in silence with his knowing grin, frustrating the queen to her breaking point.

"Take him away," she ordered as she turned her back to him. She didn't want to see his smug face anymore.

"I don't know where Savage is," a robotic voice spoke from the neck brace. "But I do want to talk about something else."

Audrey paused and turned around. Vox looked back at her with calm patience while her guards remained unsure what to do next.

"Alone," Vox specified. Audrey reluctantly looked around before nodding her head at her guards. All of them quickly bowed and exited the room quietly.

"My time is precious, what do you want Vox?"

"Colonel Vox," the man corrected her.

"Not anymore, you lost that title."

"And I'm interested in reinstating it," the man assured.

The young woman laughed.

"Why would I even consider that?"

"Because you need me," Vox replied.

"I don't need you!" she snapped. "I see where your loyalties lie! I don't need a traitor to tell me how to do my job!"

"Others don't feel that way," Vox countered. Audrey snapped her head back at him.

"What did you say?"

"Even though I've been in prison your Majesty, I still hear things through the walls. These past few months have not been easy for your reign. Kasnia is on the brink of another civil war. So many factions pitted against each other and tearing our homeland apart."

"I don't need you to tell me what goes on in my kingdom!"

"Then you understand why it'd be in your interest to listen what I have to offer."

Audrey folded her hands and frowned.

"I know you do not think much of me, but I can assure you I am a true patriot to my country. I was one of the leaders against Serbian hegemony mind you during the Second Civil War. I even lost my voice and have been forced to communicate through this crude device in the name of the country I love. Don't forget your father rewarded me for my sacrifices."

"And you betrayed him by trying to usurp his rule!"

"I was doing what I thought was for the glory of Kasnia!" Vox countered.

"Glory? What glory?" Audrey demanded. "My father is now in a coma, my palace in ruins, and our reputation in shatters!"

"Kasnia was and always has been on the brink of war since we broke away from Yugoslavia," Vox reminded. "I thought your father would be the one to unite our people but then he let himself become weak, especially during the Third Civil War. In trying to please the world he let his enemies survive."

"What are you getting at?"

"Kasnia needs a ruler who knows when to strike down their fist. A ruler who will not let themselves be bound to the whims of foreign nations. A strong ruler who can rule with respect and fear."

"And you think you can be that ruler?" Audrey replied with disgust.

"You misunderstood me your Majesty. I was referring to you."

Audrey paused at the compliment. Or was it a compliment?

"Everyone only sees you as the spoiled heiress but I disagree. I know what you did to Savage as punishment for trying to take your throne. How would the UN feel about those 'human rights' violations you committed against him? It is fortunate that he can completely heal from any wound and thus the physical evidence-"

"Savage was different!" Audrey denied. "He deserved it! Besides he can't be killed!"

"But we both know the truth," Vox reminded. "We know what lengths you are willing to go to keep your rule."

"You're still stalling," Audrey snapped, brushing off the accusation. "What does this have to do with you?"

"I offer you my services my Queen," Vox said and got to his knees. "Unlike your father, you are strong. You have the potential to finally bring stability to our country. I can be of some assistance. I'm still considered one of the leaders of the Black Hand-"

"A bunch of militant, right-wing extremists who believe they should purge our own people," Audrey replied dismissively. "I know what your allies think we should do with the Sacrians and Muslims."

"The Sacrians in the north don't see themselves as Kasnians!" Vox snapped angrily. "They have even allied themselves with the Northern Kasnian Resistance led by Nardoc! They are just remnants of the Turkish dogs that must be exterminated from our homeland! They don't even believe in our faith but instead practice that barbaric cult known as Zoroastrianism! You need to deal with them like how I dealt with the Serbs during the Third Civil War! Your father-"

"I've had enough! Take him away!" Audrey called.

The guards all rushed in and began to drag an angry Vox away.

"There will come a time when you need me!" Vox yelled through his speaker. "You will need the support of the Black Hand and a military leader who can expel your kingdom of the filth!"

Themysciran Embassy-Christmas Eve

Diana yawned and looked out the window. Even though Metropolis wasn't getting much snow this Christmastime there was still some sleet falling. She had been very busy that day though. Due to it being near Christmas, a lot of the ambassadors at the UN wanted to vote on some new issues before the holidays and the New Year. Unfortunately that meant Diana had to spend many hours up all night talking to people, going to meetings, and reading briefs and memos. Despite not requiring much physical strain, the work still exhausted her mentally. She may have been Wonder Woman, but she couldn't be in three places at once. Currently the Amazon mulled over whether she should put some work off for later and get ready for her Christmas Eve dinner with Erik when a loud knock startled her.

"Etta," Diana called in frustration knowing that Etta would only knock if a guest had arrived to speak to her. "I told you know visitors today."

"I'm sorry," Etta stuttered nervously as she stumbled through the door. "But it's her…"

Diana looked back up and saw staring back at her was her own mother.

"My Queen," Diana got up and frantically tried to brush the wrinkles in her pantsuit out before bowing down.

"Diana," Hippolyta snapped. "I told you when in private you don't need to be so formal."

"Sorry Mother," Diana smiled with a little embarrassment. "Force of habit."

Etta smiled awkwardly in the background and watched as the mother and the daughter stared at each.

"Etta I like to speak to my mother," Diana explained. Etta nodded and continued to stand in the doorway smiling.

"Alone," Diana emphasized.

"Oh!" squeaked Etta nervously as she walked out and closed the door behind her.

"Mother!" Diana said excitedly and walked up to embrace Hippolyta in a hug.

"Hera! You act like we don't see each other anymore."

"I'm sorry Mother," Diana replied. "It's just I've been busy lately and its Christmas-"

"Christ what?"

"Christmas, it's a Man's World holiday," Diana quickly explained. "Usually people spend it with family and loved ones."

"Well it looks like then I picked the right time to visit. And a visit that will bring such good news."

Diana looked at her mother bewildered.

"I would like it if you could take a seat."

Diana quickly complied and sat on the couch in her office. Hippolyta looked at her daughter with a proud smile on her face yet there also seemed to be a sense of sadness to it.

"What is it Mother?" Diana asked.

"I guess there's no way to delay it any further," Hippolyta admitted. "I'm giving up my crown."


"The gods have decreed it's time for me to join them in Olympus now. My term of exile has been served."

Diana was totally speechless by the sudden bombshell. She had known her mother for over two millennia and now she was going to leave her just like that?

"You're leaving me?" Diana asked, trying to not hide the hurt in her voice. "I thought you were going to bring me some happy news."

Hippolyta smiled sympathetically.

"Daughter," Hippolyta cooed and took a seat next to her daughter on the couch. "You will still see plenty of me. I'll be sure to visit to make sure you're doing a good job as Queen of the Amazons."

"What?" Diana asked, snapping her head forward. Did she just heard the word "queen?"

"By the gods Diana!" Hippolyta replied, a little shocked by Diana's own surprise. "Surely you knew you'd be next in line for the throne?"

"The crown doesn't always pass down a bloodline," Diana corrected. "All the Amazons have a say in the successor."

"And they did. It was unanimous. They all agreed that you would be the perfect one to take my place on the throne. They all know you are the rightful heir."

Diana was still stunned by the news. A few minutes ago she worried about negotiating some water rights treaties with the UN and now her mother had proclaimed the crown would pass to her now.

"Well?" Hippolyta asked impatiently. "Are you glad?"

That seemed to snap Diana's focus back a little.

"I won't lie Mother, I am truly honored and humbled that you and our sisters want me to be the next queen. But at the same time I don't think I'm worthy-"

"Nonsense!" Hippolyta replied with an offended tone. "You are not only the greatest champion and ambassador we ever had but probably one of the greatest heroes to both Amazon and mankind!"

"But I was exiled from home."

"Which I ended!" Hippolyta reminded her daughter. "Do you honestly not think you are worthy of the title to be queen? Do you think our sisters and I made a mistake by nominating you?"

"No! Of course not!" Diana quickly assured. She of course did feel happy that she had been selected to be queen but at the same time so many things nagged at the back of her mind.

"Then why do you seem to be looking for any excuse to not accept the title? Why do I sense there's something you're not telling me?"

"It's just..." Diana began, unsure how to proceed. Her mother had grown used to living just with their gods and their sisters. She hadn't really formed strong bonds and relationships to others from the outside world. In fact Diana hadn't even told her mother about Erik yet.

"What about my friends?" Diana asked after a long pause.

"Oh, I see," Hippolyta nodded. "Forgive me for being insensitive. I forgot being here in Man's World you have formed strong bonds with many companions here."

"I'm just afraid I'm not ready to leave them yet," Diana quietly explained sheepishly. Hippolyta bowed her head with her eyes closed and didn't say anything for awhile that it unnerved Diana. She always hated when her mother remained silent to signify she was in deep thought.

"As a queen, I cannot lie I'm a little disappointed by your reluctance but as a mother, I will promise you that I will support you in whatever decision you make. You will always be my little sun and stars."

Diana smiled and let her mother pull her in an embrace. Diana couldn't help but let a few tears fall down her face.

"Can I have some time to think about this?" Diana asked.

"I do not officially give up my title until a year from now. You have until then to decide."

Hippolyta then broke away.

"However I warn you if you do not accept the crown, our sisters will be forced to select a new queen and your claim to the throne will be forfeit."

Before Diana could even think about that, the doors opened and in stumbled a nervous Etta.

"I'm so-sorry," Etta muttered. "But-"

"Etta I told you I wanted to talk to my mother alone!" Diana snapped.

"I know!" Etta pleaded. "I'm sorry but the Kasnian ambassador keeps calling. He's very insistent on speaking to you!"

"Tell him I'll speak to him when I'm ready," Diana replied back with disgust.

"I know but-"

""If he can't wait another five minutes for me to talk to him, then remind him of the last time I had to shut him up during the Kasnian Space Crisis."

Etta chuckled.

"That's a good one Ma'am."


"Right, sorry!" the secretary said as she bumbled out of the room and shut the doors. Diana sighed and looked back at her mother who was looking at her with mild amusement.

"I will say you would be a good queen based on how you're able to make snap decisions and give curt orders."

"Don't try to flatter me Mother," Diana teased back.

"Well, I must get going," Hippolyta said as she stood up. "Remember Diana, you have a whole year to decide and whatever you choose I will support. It is your decision."

Diana embraced her mother tightly.

"Thank you Mother," Diana said quietly. "And Merry Christmas."

Hippolyta smiled although Diana saw her still slightly confused by the holiday greeting. Diana watched as her mother slowly exited the room. The minute the door closed, Diana sat on the couch and buried her face in her hands. How was she going to break the news to the others, especially Erik? In fact she was due to go out to dinner with him in a few hours.

"Hera, give me strength."

"Are you alright Diana?" Erik asked, noticing she was out of it.

"Fine," Diana assured although her tone wasn't convincing. She kept trying to focus on the handsome young Nordic man with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. They currently dined at a five-star restaurant close to the embassy. Erik had finally gotten back from his Christmas tour in Europe and the two planned to spend Christmas Eve dinner together. So far it had been nice and romantic, save for the fact that the paparazzi somehow got wind of it and ambushed them as they tried to walk inside the restaurant. Didn't they have plans for Christmas Eve or did their whole lives revolved around butting their noses in other people's business?

"Was it those obnoxious photographers?" Erik asked. "I can have my bodyguards go down there and force them back some more when we walk out of here."

"No its fine," Diana assured. She hadn't told him yet about her mother's visit.

"Diana," Erik said softly and gripped her hand. "It's okay, I already know."

"What?" Diana asked in surprise. How could he have possibly found out?

"Etta told me," Erik quickly explained.

"Oh," Diana said as her mind quickly began to think of some angry thoughts towards Etta.

"Yes, she told me how the Kasnian ambassador gave you a hard time today."

"Oh that," Diana said, feeling tremendous relief that Erik completely attributed her absent-mindedness to petty politics.

"Yes I know you are not particularly fond of Vox."

"No, I'm not," Diana quickly agreed as a waiter began to clear their tables. "The man was practically a miniature Stalin or Hitler. He just got lucky and managed to cut the right deal at the right time."

"I'm glad I don't have your job," Erik pointed out. "If it was up to me, I would've made sure he got tried and punished for his war crimes."

"Believe me no one would love that more than me," Diana admitted.

"So what did Vox want anyways?"

"The usual," Diana explained. "Blowing smoke and raising Hades over something trivial just to antagonize me. He's been especially a pain since the environmental treaty has gotten closer to ratification. Due to his country's key involvement in it, he has tried to subtly sabotage it to spite me."

"Surely there's someone you can report this to?"

"He's not worth it. The treaty will get signed anyways. Enough about Vox and the UN. What about you? How was Europe?"

"Fine, as always," Erik explained. "Not quite the same though as this country."

"Why?" Diana asked curiously. She was just eager they had steered the subject far away from Vox and her mother's earlier news.

"Because you aren't there," Erik explained and began to stroke her hand. Diana tried to smile at the romantic gesture but couldn't help but feel guilt boiling up inside her. She needed to tell him the truth.

"In fact, being away from you so long has made me think, not just how much I miss you, but how much I love you."

"What?" Diana asked, trying to not feel any more guilt.

"In fact I debated on whether to do this tonight or tomorrow while we celebrate Christmas but my heart can't wait any longer."

Before Diana could say anything, Erik got on a knee and began to reach for something in his pocket.

"Erik…" Diana replied, feeling her whole body tingle nervously and her throat clogging up. Her heartbeat had gotten faster by the second. Erik meanwhile had pulled out a small black box. As if on cue the box flipped open on its own, revealing a large expensive diamond ring.

"Diana," Erik began and Diana noticed how nervous and scared he seemed to be in contrast to the brazen confidence he usually displayed. "Despite my fame my whole life has been focused on trying to make the world a better place. I've devoted so much time and money to try to help people and the environment I never thought I would meet someone who shared the same passion as me. In fact you've done way more than I could ever have hoped to do for the world. That is why I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Erik swallowed deeply as Diana seemed to have frozen into a statue.

"Diana, will you marry me?"

A million thoughts soared through Diana's mind at the moment. She thought of all the things going in her life, including the issue on whether she should accept the offer to become queen. The Amazon knew she definitely shouldn't accept Erik's proposal right now, especially when she hadn't made a decision on her own future yet. But it seemed her body wasn't on the same page as her mind. Instead her throat cleared just enough for one word to escape her as tears of joy fell down her face.

"Yes," she cried as the warm feeling of euphoria washed all over her body.

"So you said yes?" Shayera asked over the phone. "Without even deciding whether you're going to become queen?"

"I know, I know," Diana snapped. "Gods Shayera, what am I going to do?"

"Well I'll tell you one thing, you're going to have to at least start looking for a dress! I take it this makes me your Maid of Honor?"

"This is serious Shayera! The Queen of the Amazons can't be married to anyone!"

"Well why don't you just become queen and change the rule?"

"It's not that simple," Diana countered as she sat down on her bed. Erik was in the shower currently and thus couldn't hear Diana's conversation. It was almost midnight so that meant Christmas would officially start soon.

"Well Di, considering my love life is not the most stable-"

"You're happily married with kids!" Diana corrected.

"Yeah but look the road John and I had to take to get there-"


"Shayera?" Diana asked with alarm as she heard something breaking on the other end. "Are you alright?"

"If you don't get to bed right this minute I'll make sure Santa won't just give you all lumps of coal but take the toys you already have away!" Shayera's voice shrilled over the phone. Diana could hear the faint sound of someone running frantically up some stairs in the background.

"Word of advice Diana," Shayera said in a tired voice. "Never let your kids stay up late on Christmas Eve."

"We haven't even began to think about having kids!"

"I was just…nevermind," Shayera said with an annoyed sigh. "Look I'm not going to tell you what to do but tell you what you shouldn't do. Diana you can't try to string both decisions along until the last minute. You need to decide whether you want to be queen or have a happy life with Erik. It's up to you and no one else. All I can say is after everything you've done, no one should think any less of you if you chose to spend a happy life with Erik because if they did, I'll make sure they have a taste of some Nth metal."

Diana smiled at her friend's promise.

"Thank you Shayera."

"Anytime girl. I need to go help John bring out the presents from 'Santa.' Merry Christmas Di."

"Merry Christmas Shay," Diana said and hung up. She then let out a sigh and fell back into her bed. Shayera's talk did help her feel better but it didn't change the fact that she still had to make a difficult decision soon. Should she embrace her Amazon duty and accept the title as Queen or choose to stay in Man's World and spend her life with her friends and loved ones? Did she even love Erik? Of course she did. Not only did they share similar interests but he understood her priorities and commitments to her mission. Perhaps then he would understand why she would have to reject his proposal. But she didn't have the heart to do that to him. After everything, he deserved better than her hurting him like that. Yawning Diana rolled over and prayed to the gods that they at least let her sleep and not fret about this for the night. She would have plenty of time to think about it in the days to come. And to think, earlier that day her biggest concerns involved dealing with some angry diplomats.

Gotham City

Stephanie rode up the single street. Earlier she had stopped by the orphanage she grew up in to drop off some presents on behalf of Mr. Wayne. Technically Bruce had nothing to do with the donation other than Stephanie "borrowing" his credit card to buy the gifts, but a billionaire like Bruce wouldn't care. As she rode along the single street, the secret turn to the hidden entrance of the Batcave came upon her and she made it sharply. She actually had made good time so far on her way back from the orphanage. If she changed quickly and got back to the city she would be ready to patrol it well before midnight. Gordon wouldn't be around to talk since he spent Christmas Eve dinner with Dick and Babs in Bludhaven so she figured she would get an extra half hour on the streets at least. Normally she would've asked for time off considering it was Christmas Eve but she had learned quickly that Batman, or in this case Batwoman, never took a holiday. And neither did crime. Already she had reached the entrance to the cave. Hearing the faint sound of the body scanners reading her as the security measures ahead were turned off, she sped along and made the last bend as a few angry bats brushed past her face. As usual she ignored them and saw the faint illumination of the Batcomputer.

Hitting the brakes into a halt, she immediately jumped off the bike. Right away she noticed Bruce wasn't in the cave. Perhaps he was upstairs, waiting for her or more likely passed out on the couch after drinking himself to sleep. Stephanie shrugged it off and quickly made to change. By now she had mastered the technique so she could be in full batsuit with a fully stocked belt in less than a minute. Quickly she stepped back out into the center of the cave while half expecting to hear the sound of Bruce limping his way down the stairs to visit her. Yet she didn't hear nor see any signs of Bruce. Stephanie internally debated on whether she should make the effort to head up the stairs to at least report to him and let him know she was about to go on patrol when something raised her suspicions.

The Batmobile was missing.

Immediately she jumped in a defensive stance as she scanned around the room. Did he go on patrol without telling her? It wouldn't be the first time he had done that. He was still the Batman after all. But nowadays he would give her a heads up at least. Cautiously Stephanie slowly backed to the Batcomputer and turned her back to the rest of the cave, ready to turn around and face anyone sneaking up behind her. She quickly tapped a few buttons on the Batcomputer and watched as the screen began to fizzle before showing a video recording of the Batcave which it quickly rewound. Stephanie suddenly hit pause when she saw the Batmobile backing into the cave and someone walking backwards out of it. She quickly noticed it was someone with a cane. That was when an alarm rang in her head.

"Why the hell is he driving the Batmobile out of costume?" Stephanie muttered angrily although knowing Bruce he was probably high or drunk or both at the moment. It was then Stephanie finally realized what Bruce was up to.

"Of course," she muttered. How could she forget? To everyone else it was Christmas Eve but for him it was something different. Just to be sure, Stephanie activated the homing GPS on the Batmobile and not to her surprise discovered it was currently outside of Gotham Cemetery.

"Jesus Bruce," Stephanie swore as she pulled on her cowl and headed towards her Batpod.

Bruce stared at the middle gravestone. It was smaller than the big one it was next to. Yet it was obviously a newer one even though it was about a decade old. The words were still legible and not covered with as much moss or cracks like his parents' tombstone. On the other side of the small gravestone was another one that looked slightly newer. The words were in a bigger font and read:

Alfred Pennyworth

June 10, 1920-October 23, 2009

War Hero, Beloved Father, and Friend.

Bruce sighed and regretted that he didn't have a rose for Alfred's grave but understood at the same time why he didn't bring one tonight. It was the same reason why he hadn't brought one for his parents' tombstone either. He came tonight to drop a rose on one specific grave; the small one in the middle. Bruce, shaking slightly, popped a few pills in his mouth before balancing on his cane as he cautiously lowered himself so he could place the single rose on the smaller grave in the middle that read:

Timothy Drake

August 3, 1991-December 24, 2007

"It was meet that we should make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead and is alive again; and was lost, and is…"

The rest of the Bible quote and the citation were hidden by some frozen mud, but Bruce didn't bother to remove it. He instead dropped the rose and bowed his head.

"Merry Christmas Tim," Bruce whispered softly and ignored the temptation to let some tears fall down from his face.

"Are you crazy?" a voice snapped. Startled, Bruce turned around to find Batwoman stomping towards him.

"What are you doing here?" Bruce demanded angrily.

"Making sure you're not dead. Based on how you parked the Batmobile, something tells me you've been driving under the influence! You know there's an autopilot function?"

"I didn't need it," Bruce assured. "I'm fine."

"Sure you are. I'm no doctor but your pupils are dilated right now!"

"Leave," Bruce snapped. "Don't you have to go on patrol?"

"I will, as soon as I make sure you make it back safe and sound."

Bruce glared at her again but Batwoman refused to budge and crossed her arms daringly. However her eyes showed the scant hints of sympathy.

"If you want some more alone time, I understand," Batwoman said with a softer tone that contrasted the confrontational one she had earlier. "I'll back away a bit."

Batwoman began to step back a little.

"No," Bruce whispered softly. "You're fine."

He then ignored her and looked back at Tim's grave. The oncoming snow had already started to bury the single rose.

"I'll uh, make sure to set the Batmobile on autopilot so you don't have to drive," Batwoman offered, a little still put off by Bruce suddenly backing out of the impending fight they almost had. Bruce still didn't say anything and continued to stare at the grave as if it had an important clue on it. Batwoman uncomfortably went up and patted the older man on the back.

"Merry Christmas Bruce," she whispered softly before looking at the grave to read the Bible quote on it. She always wondered why Bruce, probably the most nonreligious man she ever met, would choose a quote from the Bible, let alone one from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but she never pried. Bruce deserved his privacy and had his reasons. She kept her hand comfortingly on Bruce's shoulder and with him continued to stare at the grave. Suddenly Bruce shifted and brought her focus back.

"You should start your patrol," he warned gruffly and walked abruptly away from her.

"Sure," Batwoman said, a little uncomfortable and perplexed by the sudden end to the tender moment they had shared. "Right on it Old Man."

Gotham City-2009

"Where's Ra's?" Batman demanded angrily.

The man he had in his hands gave a twisted smile.

"You cannot stop him infidel!" the man laughed.

"Try me," Batman shot back through gritted teeth. His leg flared up again and he tired to focus on interrogating the suspect to distract him from the pain. It wasn't real. If he focused enough it would cease to exist.

"I'll start breaking your fingers one by one," Batman threatened as he began to bend the pinky finger back.

"The Demon's Head will bring the end and the beginning," the suspect warned. "He has finally found someone to carry out the Purge. He will lead the Society to our ultimate triumph!"

"Who?" Batman demanded. Ra's had another apprentice now?

"His name will strike fear in all those who speak it. He will bring everlasting suffering to our foes. And he will bring the end of everything, for his name is DEATHSTROKE!"

And before Batman could question anything further the suspect suddenly bit down his teeth and swallowed something.

"NO!" Batman grunted as foam spilled out of the suspect's mouth. The suspect's body then began to convulse all over the place.

"Damn!" Batman swore and tried to do all he could to resuscitate the choking suspect. But it was too late. The cyanide pill had done its job. Batman angrily dropped the body and stormed away. He had been stupid and careless. Even Dick would've known better to check for something like a cyanide pill before interrogating the suspect. Ra's always demanded fanatical devotion to his cause. Well one thing was for sure now though. Ra's had a new disciple who apparently was worthy enough to stand out among his usual peons. Batman knew he would have to go to the Batcave and learn more about this mysterious Deathstroke.

Metropolis-December 24, 2017

The truck drove quietly along the narrow alleyway. He was supposed to take the longer, less conspicuous, path so the truck would not be seen by many witnesses. The driver and the passenger up front said nothing to each other and kept staring ahead. Soon the truck would reach its intended destination.

"Look," the passenger noted and the driver screeched to a sudden halt. Up ahead in the road were a few shadowy figures standing in the way. They were armed with crude looking weapons and bats. Some even had guns.

"Ho-ho-ho," one hoodlum said sarcastically as he walked forward to the group. "Superman may take time off for Christmas but not us! Ya usin' our alley so now ya gotta pay the toll."

The driver remained unfazed and instead looked down at the lead hoodlum who had approached the truck. The driver then quietly rolled down the window.

"Please get out of our way or your life will be forfeit," the driver warned.

"Oh look here!" the hoodlum laughed as his fellow gang members snickered along. "Looks like we got someone who doesn't want to pay!"

The hoodlum then flashed his gun and pointed it up at the driver.

"But we can fix that!"

The driver sighed and closed his eyes while he chanted something in a foreign language.

"What the hell?" the hoodlum asked.

The driver ignored his cries and continued to chant his prayer. The passenger next to him follow suit.

"Hey! I'm talkin' to youse! Come out here with your hands up or I'll-"


"Argh!" the lead hoodlum cried as the door suddenly swung open and knocked him down. The driver and passenger both stepped out armed with their own large military rifles that they had kept wisely hidden in the car. Without hesitation, the two men had managed to mow down the entire gang in less than thirty seconds. They even shot the gang members who had quickly turned around and attempted to flee. The two men said nothing and quietly began to walk back to the truck.

"We must hurry," the passenger warned. "That sound will attract attention."

"Superman is not around for the night," the driver assured as he checked his mirrors before starting the car. "And the Metro Tower is on the other side of the city. We will be fi-"

It was then the driver realized as he checked the mirrors that the door of the container transported by their truck was open in the rear.

"No!" the driver said with alarm and quickly got out of the seat.

"What is it?" the passenger asked with worry as the driver stepped outside and rushed to the rear of the truck. The driver clutched the container door as he ran up to it and looked around to find the container was empty now. Their cargo was gone!

"Yes?" the big man asked as he answered the hotel room phone. "Has the cargo arrived?"

The man paused as he listened on the other end. His face immediately transformed from calm to pure horror and anger.

"What do you mean she's missing?" the man asked angrily.

"What is going on?" a female voice asked.

The man turned around nervously to face his mistress. She had just exited the shower and was in a bathrobe. Her dark wet hair stuck to her face while her almond eyes showed fierce, never-ending anger.

"Madame Zara," the man said as he dropped the phone and got to his knees. "Please I beg you for forgiveness but apparently, the cargo was lost."

"What?" Zara demanded angrily as she stomped over to the bowing man. "What happened?"

"The truck got into a skirmish with a random street gang. They think she got out when they were fighting."

"The container was bolted," Zara corrected. "Someone let her out!"


Zara turned around and ignored her sniveling bodyguard.

"Someone is on to us," Zara noted, not really paying attention to her servant.

"Should we then perhaps delay our plans?" he asked uncertainly.

"No!" Zara turned around and snapped angrily, causing the bodyguard to cower again.

"I've come too far to stop now! Everything will proceed as planned. This is only a minor setback. I want the two who were driving the truck to be dealt with and then I want you to get a hold of Deathstroke and tell him we have another job for him in Metropolis. I want him to find her and find out who took her from us."

Zara then stepped further away from her servant.

"She needs to be found. Otherwise we will not be able to implement our revenge against Wonder Woman next week."

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