Checkmate: Operation Outsiders #11 Nov 21, 2010 9:33:58 GMT -5
Post by Rik (capricorn116) on Nov 21, 2010 9:33:58 GMT -5
Checkmate: Operation Outsiders #11
Head Games, part 1: Pure Venom
Written by Scott Morgan Cook
Edited by Don Walsh
Cover by Rik (capricorn116)
He lived in squalor. That’s what this hole was. Squalor, pure and simple. He had been a king in his prime. A king of scoundrels, thieves and psychopaths; but a king nonetheless. And then he cashed in his chips. ‘Sold out,’ as others would say. He gave his secret, his power, to the highest bidder. And he spent most of the money creating a new life and a new identity and paying off every crooked lawman in Gotham to keep away from him.
All this went through the mind of the lone figure in the decrepit apartment. And all of this went through his mind because it was soon to be the past.
There was a knock at his door. One that would change everything. He opened the door and was met by a young man with a tough, powerful demeanor but an inviting, clever look on his face; as if he was going to befriend someone before he inevitably killed them.
“Mr. Dorrence, I presume?” he said rhetorically.
“I’m working now,” Alexander Dorrence answered. “Better call me Bane.”
* * * * * *
The Outsiders quickly walked down the long hall of Belle Reve toward the hangar. Gene Nigma walked alongside them, explaining what they were doing at two-thirty in the morning.
“You guys remember Alexander Dorrence?” the White Queen’s bishop spoke quickly. “That guy who used to be Bane? Well, he’s up to his old tricks again or something like them. Our man inside the League of Assassins says that some big deal is going down at his apartment tonight in…” He checked his watch. “…God, is it that late already? Look, it doesn’t matter. Just get there, bust it up, you know what to do.”
“We have a man inside the League of Assassins?” Animal Man asked.
“Yep. His name’s Luke. Nice guy. Look, we’re here!”
They were indeed at the hangar. As the rest of the team was ushered by Gene to border jet 206, Lian stopped. She faced the White Queen’s bishop and said “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. Fine. Good. Why?” Gene was especially jumpy as he said this.
“Gene,” Lian asked, “when was the last time you took your meds?”
He checked his watch. “I…uh, I may have missed my last dosage. But I was working on this operation and it was really chaotic and I, uh…”
“Gene!” she interrupted him, speaking in harsh tone and giving him a look that inspired feelings of guilt.
“Hey!” Rachel said, sticking her head out of the jet. “C’mon, we gotta go!”
Lian turned and stepped onto the plane, but not before saying to Gene “Go take your meds. Now. You’re in intelligence; start using it.”
“Heh. That’s almost clever,” he responded with good humor as she shut the door. Gene stepped back as the jet took off. Immediately, he pulled the bottle of medicine from his pocket and headed for the nearest water fountain.
* * * * * *
“What a dump,” the young man said as he inspected Bane’s apartment, pacing the floor absent-mindedly as he looked at the dull colors and unkempt floor.
“I’m sorry the room isn’t up to your standards,” Alexander said in annoyance. “Tell me, who exactly are you?”
“It’s something of a funny story, actually. What’s important is that I work with the League of Assassins and am here to pick up their prize. Do you have the package?”
“It’s not much of a package so much as it is a vial,” Bane answered. He walked over to his refrigerator, opened it and picked up a glass tube with red liquid inside. “This is Venom. Pure Venom. The formula I sold years ago was an inferior copy. But this is the real stuff; fast acting, limited side-effects and it’s twice as potent. And logic dictates I sell it for twice the price.”
He looked at the young man expectantly. He lifted a briefcase and presented it to Alexander Dorrence. “Fifty-million dollars, all for a few ounces of juice.”
Slowly and carefully, they exchanged the two items. The young man took to inspecting the red liquid with fascination while Bane counted his money.
“This all seems to be in order,” he said as clasped the suitcase shut. “It was a pleasure doing business with you.”
“Likewise,” the young man answered. As he was about to leave, he stopped and said, “You asked me about who I was, did you not?”
“Well, yes.” Alexander said, a note of confusion in his voice.
“Then let me explain,” the young man said. “See, the League of Assassins wanted a better soldier. Stronger, smarter, undyingly loyal…you know, all the best qualities a killer could have. The only way to ensure that all of these qualities made it through was controlled breeding. Hence, me, a genetically engineered soldier supreme made using the genetics from all of the greatest fighters on Earth; David Cain, Ra’s al Ghul, Bruce Wayne and a dozen others. They trained me from birth not only in how to fight and how to kill, but also in when the the best time to betray someone. In most cases, it’s after the deal has been made.”
Bane suddenly felt an intense pain in chest. His breathing became difficult. His left arm began to hurt. He dropped to the ground, grunting as he went down.
“They also gave me some super powers,” he continued. “Well, just the one: telepathy. They actually taught me to manipulate brain functions to trigger ‘natural’ deaths. It tends to look less conspicuous for an old man to have a heart attack.”
“You…” the old man grunted.
“Yes? Last words from the illustrious ‘breaker of men?’”
“You…talk too much…”
Bane grabbed the young man’s ankle with his left hand and swung at his now foe with the other, the suitcase still clutched in his right. In an instant, the young man lifted his leg and stepped down on the suitcase.
“You’re to slow, old man,” he said smugly.
* * * * * *
As Checkmate jet 206 headed toward Gotham City at top speed, the Outsiders waited to arrive. Sarin dreaded returning to the surface world’s filthiest rat-hole. Elasti-Girl embraced the chance to fight the League of Assassins again. Lian worried over Gene. But to everyone’s surprise, none of them could pick up what was going through Cassandra’s mind. This was her first mission since her undercover work in Japan. This was her first mission under the title ‘Soultaker.’ Most significantly, it was her return to her old home.
Cassandra hadn’t been in Gotham for a long time. Not since she left her family. None of the Outsiders knew what she would do or how she would feel upon her return to her old stomping grounds. All Cassandra did during the flight was sit in silence, fully costumed and masked, staring out the window.
Maxine was the only one to approach her. After their rescue of Rachel Dibny from the Yakuza, Maxine felt she had a certain bond with Cassandra. As she sat down in front of the silent hero, she asked, “So, how you feeling?”
She didn’t answer. She didn’t give any response. She continued staring in silence.
“You’re going back home,” Maxine pressed. “Kind of…kind of big, don’t you think?”
“No,” Cassandra gave response.
“Really? Like, no old wounds or memories or anything?”
“Ten years and one month. Three broken fingers, two cracked ribs, five concussions, and countless stitches. And two Batmen,” she explained without any emotion. “There’s not much else.”
Maxine was instantly quiet. Trying to hide her embarrassment, she turned around quietly and returned to her seat.
Looking down, Cassandra saw a familiar landmark. “I beat Killer Croc down there,” she quietly remarked with a hint of nostalgia.
* * * * * *
“You sure don’t die easily,” the young assassin remarked as he sat in a ratty old recliner, marveling at the vial of pure Venom. “I have to respect that. And it’s not very easy to earn my respect.”
As Bane continued to grunt on the floor, his foe took the suitcase from him and gently put the vial into it. “You’re probably wondering why I talk so much. Well, I actually know that you’re not. Your mind right now is a mix of pain, anger, and…I’m going to say…annoyance. But now I’ve put the thought into your head, so I suppose I’ll remedy it for you. See, I was raised without the luxury of relaxed human interaction. I prefer to jump onto any opportunity for conversation I can find, even if it’s one-sided. I’ve got quite a lot to say.”
“SHUT UP!” the old man barked as he finally got to his feet and stumbled forward. Bitter, the assassin delivered a powerful kick to his foe’s head, toppling Bane.
“Just lie down and die, you ancient bastard!” the young man, having quickly lost his patience, shouted at his victim. “Lie down and die!”
While the assassin berated the old man, he failed to hear a knock at the door. It did catch his attention when the door broke down to reveal Arsenal, Tempest and Soultaker.
“Oh no,” Bane muttered upon seeing Sarin. And tragically, it was his last sight.
Lian drew a gun with lightning quickness and pointed it at the assassin. “Freeze!” she shouted.
The assassin slowly closed his eyes, opened them and grinned.
Cassandra pulled out a pair of handcuffs and approached the young man. With surprising quickness, he snatched the cuffs and threw them at Arsenal. She fired off a shot that went wide as she avoided the incoming object. By the time she regained her aim, Soultaker had already engaged the assassin.
It was truly a spectacle watching the two duel. Cassandra’s movements with her katana were smooth and natural, as if she had wielded the weapon all her life. In contrast, the assassin kept up with fast, powerful hits, never blocking attacks but avoiding them and returning with quick strikes.
“My god,” he remarked. “You’re Cain’s daughter. You’re actually her. I’d heard of you but I never expected to fight you. This is exhilarating!”
Soultaker didn’t give response. She just kept fighting.
“He said you’d say that,” the assassin continued. “I mean Cain. He told me that if I ever fought you, wouldn’t speak.”
She continued her assault as if not hearing him. She’d spent a lifetime learning how to tune out distractions; this was child’s play.
“Strong silent type. I like that,” he added with a discomforting tone.
Suddenly, the young man felt his legs get bound together. He was paralyzed. His arms followed suit and he was toppled to the ground. He looked over his shoulder to find the face of Rachel Dibny, her elastic body being the force that kept him from moving.
“You shouldn’t talk so much,” Arsenal said. “You’ll end up losing your focus.”
He said nothing. He merely glared at her.
“You don’t scare me, kid,” Lian said as she prepared to contact the team’s ride back to Belle Reve.
“I’ll do better next time,” the assassin answered.
* * * * * *
Before becoming a Checkmate headquarters, Belle Reve was a prison, and its lower facilities still functioned as high-level security cells. The young assassin sat in one of them, silent and alone, staring out of the plate-glass barrier between him and the outside.
Gene Nigma watched him through a security feed from the control room. This man was a complete mystery. No given name, no identification, not even any DNA matches; it was as if he came out of nowhere.
The bishop’s thoughts were interrupted by familiar voice saying “Hey.” He turned to see Lian Harper standing in the doorway.
“Hey,” Gene responded. “Great job bringing this guy in. Quick, efficient, and nobody on the team got injured. It’s a shame Mr. Dorrence had to die, though.”
“He was old,” she said. “And he was dealing with the League of Assassins. Chances are he would have died before we got there.”
Gene sighed. “You’re nineteen years old, Lian. You shouldn’t be this numb to death.”
“I didn’t say I was happy about it.” She answered. “Listen, did you take your meds?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Sorry about that. This was kind of a hectic mission and we had to plan all of this at the last second…”
“Stop,” Lian interrupted him. “Just please don’t let happen again. We all worry about you.”
“You told the team about my condition?”
“I mean Checkmate.”
“Oh,” Gene said. “Does that include Carrie?”
“Gene.” She gave him a look. “Don’t let it happen again.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know. I’m sorry”
“Okay,” Lian said. “Goodnight.”
As she left, Gene turned back to the monitor and watched the still prisoner. “Who are you?” he whispered.
* * * * * *
The young assassin knew he was being watched. He sat in silence on an uncomfortable cot, going over his situation and his actions over and over again in his head. He had been defeated by someone worse than him, imprisoned in an inescapable cell and was to be subjugated for a harsh interrogation from these idiots.
He smiled to himself, and even laughed a little. Everything was going according to plan.
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