By Ravager4 21 Comments
As per our fearless leader, DC Mayhem continuity.'s request, I have collected the finished (for now) story of Deathstroke and Ravager into a single, easily accessible post. This story belongs to the
Disclaimer: I do not own any DC Characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain all rights to original characters, organizations, and locations
Rated: T+/M for strong language, violence, and themes. The first chapter also does not include censored language, because it didn't feel right to censor a journal, something someone would have written. Regardless of it being a fictional writing, it just seemed awkward. Plus, if you read on past here, having seen this rating, you accept the fact that you are old and mature enough to handle a few harsh swears without moaning or complaining about it.
Deathstroke & Ravager #1
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #1
December 25, 2002
Failure. A word that defines my life, ever since my early years. I grew up a failure in my father's eyes, unable to make him proud in any way. So, I joined the Army to better myself. To prove that I wasn't a failure. That's where I really shined, where I pushed myself beyond what I thought possible. I was the best... until the accident. Lost my eye, lost the feeling in my legs, very nearly lost everything.
When they said they had an experimental treatment to restore my body, I jumped at it. Anything to get back into top form. But it failed... for a time. For years, I was crippled, broken. The Army discharged me, said I wasn't fit to serve anymore. Once more, I was a failure.
Then, something remarkable happened. My toes twitched. The treatment they gave me had a delayed reaction in my body, and overnight I transformed. Not only did I regain mobility in my legs, I gained so much more. I was faster, stronger, smarter than ever before, and it felt good. Great. The Army still wouldn't take me back, though, said they didn't need me anymore. I suspect there was a deeper reason, but I didn't look into it.
Because I met her.
The woman who made me into a better man, the love of my life... Adeline. Addie. In an instant, any thoughts of my past failures were gone, and I was a new man, a good man. We dated, we married, we had kids. Grant and Joseph, wonderful boys they were.
But I couldn't leave well enough alone.
With what that treatment did to me, with how it changed my body... I had to do something to challenge myself, to give me the thrill I felt I needed. If I couldn't fight for my country, I thought I'd fight for myself. I took on... odd jobs. Shady jobs. The kind of jobs people go to jail for. But I knew I never would, because of who I am. What I had become. I was paid to eliminate certain... targets, you see.
Yes, I killed for money.
But I had morals, ethics. I never took a job that would compromise or harm the image of my country in any way, and I never killed innocents. Most of the people I killed were criminals, on a hit put out from other criminals, or foreign despots, terrorists and the like. The underworld grew to know me as The Terminator, but I called myself Deathstroke.
Deathstroke the Terminator. Has a nice ring, now that I think of it.
Six years, that's how long I continued this second life of mine in secret. It worked well enough. My family believed I was an international consultant for some vaguely defined company. I never elaborated much on it. Things were good... But then it happened again. Failure. It always comes back to that for me, doesn't it? Turns out, I was sloppy on one of my assignments. I was followed, watched. And then, a rival in the business came knocking. Jackal, I think he called himself, hired by my most recent victim's family. He didn't just come after me, though, no. He came after my family.
My wife, my sons...
By the time I got there, Joseph was already gone. All that boy ever wanted was to be a famous musician. He was young, but he dreamed big... and that's all those dreams will be now. Just dreams. So Jackal threatened my elder son next, Grant. I don't think I'd ever told him how proud I was of him, especially in that moment. The defiance he had in him, the fight... and the care for his mother. Selfless, is what he was. Strong, too.
But none of those qualities was going to stop the situation. Jackal made me choose... give up the name of the man who hired me on my last assignment, or watch my son die. One thing to know about me, I never give up a client. Ever. But did that mean I was going to give up my son's life in exchange? No, of course not. I foolishly thought I could have both. I saw an opening and I took it. I had my gun up, I had the shot, and I took it...
But I missed.
I never miss, not when it counts. But that moment... I can't explain it. I made a mistake. It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose. Just had to be when I had the most to lose. I did injure the bastard, at least, but it wasn't enough. He killed Grant and then fled. I would have chased after him, but I couldn't... I couldn't leave Addie. I couldn't leave my dead sons. I didn't have the will. It should come as no surprise that Addie left me after that. After all the lies, after I got our sons murdered... I was dead to her. She didn't even flinch when she cut me out of her life, but how can I blame her?
My failures, my mistakes, my fault.
It's been a year since those events, since I lost everything. Again. I can't tell you exactly what drove me to start this journal. Guess I just needed to get my thoughts out on paper, or else go insane. Or maybe it's just the date bringing back happier memories – memories tainted by the painful sting of everything I've lost. I don't expect to write in here a lot, but... at least I have it, just in case I need it.
I have... almost nothing left, you see. Just my assignments. Just my thoughts. My doubts. Failures. That's it. I'm a man without a purpose, a gun for hire, for others to use. A tool, nothing more.
Slade Wilson is gone.
Now, there is only Deathstroke.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #2
March 3, 2003
I don't know what to write here. What I've just learned... I could never have expected it. I thought I had nothing left. I thought my life was over. I thought I'd continue the rest of my days as nothing more than Deathstroke the Terminator, a criminal's tool, a killer. Slade Wilson was gone from this Earth, gone from existence. Everyone I'd ever cared about, everyone who knew me by that name, they were gone, in one form or another. At least... I thought. There was one other who knew me as Slade Wilson, one other person who fulfilled some missing piece of my life...
I have to be honest here. I wasn't always true to my wife. I wanted to be... by God, I wanted to be. But when under the mask of Deathstroke, when out on those assignments, halfway across the world, there were times when I... I was weak. Times when I'd hate myself afterward for giving in. This had been just another one of those times, at first. Her name was Lillian. The locals called her Sweet Lili. Sweet, sweet Lili. A real Cambodian princess, in the eyes of many. One of my assignments had been to protect this woman during a time of war, to bring her to safety... I succeeded. It hadn't been easy, but I was Deathstroke. I never failed.
Not at the time, anyway.
In the aftermath, Lili and I, we... talked. Just talked. For hours. She grew to know me beyond the mask, and I grew to know her like I'd known very few people. I felt... close to her. It was just talking, after all. What could it hurt? And so after that, I left, returned to my family, returned to my work... but I had to come back. I told myself it was just because another assignment came my way that brought me there, but in truth, I went out of my way to find one that would. I found Lili again, and we... well, we didn't just talk this time.
We met again several more times that year. Addie never knew, and I felt like the lowest scum on the planet every time I looked her in the eyes, every time we kissed, every time we made love.... So I broke it off with Lili. I couldn't keep seeing her, I wouldn't. She said she understood, but I knew there was a part of her that was hurt. I just didn't think I'd ever learn why.
I was wrong.
She came to the States a few years ago, as it turns out. Been living in New York, from what I understand. It was only chance that we met up again. I was visiting, meeting a client to hammer out the details of a contract... and that's when I saw her. In a bagel shop, of all places, just buying coffee. But she wasn't alone. She had a young girl with her... her daughter.
Her five year old daughter.
Her five year and seven month old daughter.
The last time I'd been with her? Six years, two months ago.
When I broke things off with her, she'd been two months pregnant.
Yeah, I have a daughter.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #3
March 6, 2003
That's her name. Beautiful name. She's the sweetest, most adorable damn child I've ever seen, I swear. So much of her mother is in her, but I can see a little of me in there, too. She's got a sharp mind, especially for one her age. Never met her father, but it's almost like she knows me... Lili's been telling her stories, it seems.
Stories about her father.
Stories about me.
She wants to get to know me. And I... I want to get to know her. I really do. After all my mistakes, all my failures, this is my chance to make it all right again, my chance to finally succeed in something, for once in my life.
I can be a father to this girl.
A real father.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #4
September 23, 2005
It's been more than two years, hasn't it? Time... it goes by so fast now. It used to drag, like a lead weight on a chain. But now... I haven't felt this good in a long time. I haven't touched my mask in ages, and to be honest, it's been liberating. True to my word, I've been as good a father to Rose as I can possibly be. That means leaving my mercenary life behind and being there for her. I have more than enough money to last three lifetimes, so work isn't required. Lillian runs a... personal escort service, I'll call it, but she doesn't do it for the money either. A lot of immigrant women come to this country with nothing, no way to make a living. She gives them that opportunity, if they're willing.
But she isn't some two bit pimp working girls on the streets, mind you. The business is very high end, and the girls who work for her are treated very well. Health insurance is included, and I believe they're given a 401k plan in there somewhere, too. They get to pick and choose their clients, and they make a very nice living. It isn't an ideal business, of course, but it works, and from what I've seen, the women working for Lillian are very happy with their current lives. That's what matters, isn't it?
Anyway, enough of that.
Rose is... better than I ever could have hoped for. I really don't know what I've done to deserve her, after all the mistakes I've made in my life, but I thank God for her everyday. She's given my life a new meaning, a new purpose... and this time, I don't plan on screwing it up. She's such a smart girl, too... I'd give her an IQ test, if Lillian allowed it. Doesn't want to turn it into a contest, or something, is how she put it. We home school her, though. Lili teaches her most of the time, but I do my share.
I've been teaching some different things, though. Mostly self defense. She's a natural at it, I swear. Karate, Judo, Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo... she absorbs it all, like a sponge. And she's only seven! Lili doesn't like it, says I'm trying to turn her into a soldier, like I was. But that's not it at all.
I just don't want her turning into a victim.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #5
January 5, 2006
I can barely grip the pen as I write this. My whole hand is trembling... I think the ink is smudging. Are those tears? No... when's the last time I shed a tear for anything? I can't recall, but... this is a good place to start, I guess. I'm writing this from my daughter's bedside. Her hospital bed, to be more precise. The doctors, they... they don't know if she's going to wake up. How did things turn to shit so fast? How did I lose it all again?
I'd been good this time around. I'd been straight. But now... It's my past all over again. Lili is gone, Rose is in a coma, and I'm pretty sure I have internal bleeding (that I'm not letting the doctors treat me for. I'll heal just fine)...
I can't write anymore. My fingers are starting to go numb. I... I'll write more later.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #6
January 6, 2006
My hand is finally steady enough for me to write more, to explain things. I wrote before that Lillian is gone... she is. Killed, murdered right in front of my eyes. The worst of it? It was by the same man who killed my sons: Jackal. I don't know why... he didn't say. He didn't want anything from me, didn't demand anything... he just attacked us. In our own home. I fought back tooth and nail, just like I always do.
But I was rusty. Been out of the game too long, and he had the advantage of surprise. It was over when he drugged me. I couldn't move after that... couldn't do anything.
Why did he do it? Revenge? Maybe... But I'm the one who should have been taking revenge, not him. He came after me all those years ago. He destroyed my life. And now he's done it again. Taken everything... well, almost everything. Rose is still stable, but she hasn't woken up yet. I'm still... still holding out hope.
My mind is still all over the place right now... scattered. Every time I close my eyes, I see Lillian's final moments. I see the knife cutting her throat, I see the blood, I see the life draining from her eyes. I... It'll drive me insane, I swear it will.
But what he did to Rose... that breaks me most of all. The way I found her... the things he did to her... right in front of me. She's only nine years old for fuck's sake, and he...
I can't write it. I won't write it. I won't relive that nightmare.
The only saving grace of that entire night... He didn't take into account my increased metabolism. That drug he stuck me with, I burned through it a lot faster than he anticipated it. When I recovered, I tore him off my daughter and I unloaded in a way I've never done before. I don't think I've ever hit anyone or anything harder than I hit him. Bone shattered under my fists, flesh split open, turned to pulp, sprayed blood. Couldn't tell his face from an elephant's fucking birth canal when I was done.
But it all comes back to failure, doesn't it?
I never got a chance to finish the job. I never got a chance to kill that bastard. He wasn't alone... Turns out, he had backup ready, waiting. They jumped me, pulled me off him... but damn if I didn't take some of them with me. None of that mattered, of course, once the explosives went off. Those bastards came prepared, I'll give them that. Leveled my home right to the foundation. Rose and I survived, miracle that it was, but the blast is also what put her in the coma.
And we weren't the only ones who survived...
Jackal got away. As bad as I beat him, as much as I hurt him, he's still alive. Joseph’s killer. Grant's killer. Lillian's killer. Rose's tormentor. The bane of my fuckingexistence... is still out there.
I'm going to find him. One way or another, I'm going to track him down.
And I am going to end him.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #7
January 13, 2006
Rose finally woke up. Yesterday, actually. She's a fighter, just like her dad. The explosion took one of her eyes, though, and her hair... she used to have the most beautiful, strawberry blonde hair. The doctor said it's a myth that intense psychological trauma and shock can cause a person's hair to bleach pure white, that it's likely some autoimmune disease... but after what happened, I have reason to doubt his opinion.
She doesn't remember most of that night, thankfully... she shouldn't have to remember it. But she isn't taking the news of her mother’s death very well. Can't blame her... what nine year old girl takes the death of a parent well? She does remember bits and pieces, though... like the face of the man who did this. She remembers Jackal, knows that he's the one who killed her mother, that put her in the hospital, remembers that she hates him... even if she can't remember exactly how or why.
She wants revenge.
I do, too, and if it were just me, I'd be out there right now taking that revenge. But it's not just me. That revenge belongs every bit to her as it does to me, and I'm going to make sure that she gets it. I'm going to train her, harder than I ever have before. I used to teach her martial arts as self defense, as something on the side. A sort of father-daughter bonding activity. Now, she's going to live it. She's going to breathe it. And she's going to use it to help me end the man who took everything from me.
Who took everything from her.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #8
August 28, 2006
Rose's lack of depth perception is proving to be a real hindrance. I think it frustrates her a lot more than it does me, though. With only one eye, she'll never come close to achieving her full potential... unless she has a way to compensate. If her other attributes and her other senses, if they were enhanced somehow, it would give her an edge that would more than make up for her missing eye. If she were enhanced... like I am.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #9
September 5, 2006
Rose is resting right now. The treatment... took a toll on her body. Let me backtrack a little, though.
Two days ago I infiltrated the old Army base I used to be stationed at. The same one that treated me when I loss the use of my legs, the treatment that enhanced me... I knew there would be back-up samples of that serum. I took all three doses in stock. To compare, I was given a single dose. It took two years for the treatment to kick in with that single dose... I'm no doctor, but I'm willing to bet that using all three doses on her... well, we'll have to wait and see.
She should wake up soon.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #10
February 6, 2007
Rose is coming along remarkably, better than I could have imagined. Only ten years old and she already reminds me of myself in my prime. She excels most in hand-to-hand (and in just about every style I can teach her, too), but she's really taken to the bo staff and swords, in particular. She learns so quickly... it really is astounding.
Our daily schedule is intense. Wake at dawn, get a workout in before breakfast, train for six hours straight, break for lunch, train for six more hours, break for dinner, and then train until she can't go anymore. She won't let me take it easy on her, won't let me stop early... There is one thing that I can say for certain at this point.
She is going to be better than I ever was.
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #11
May 11, 2009
Two years since I've written in this thing? Not a surprise. Barely have time to think, let alone write in a journal. It's been non stop training for the past three years. Rose has... come such a long way. Just looking at her, you can tell she's strong. Fierce. Powerful. She's turned her body into a weapon of unsurpassed talent and lethality. Now, she just needs the experience.
I've been doing some digging these past few years, too. Jackal? Turns out that he's a part of something bigger. Much bigger. They call themselves The Syndicate. An international organization of criminals and assassins. It's almost scary how much they control behind the scenes... but it doesn't matter. I don't care about The Syndicate. I just want Jackal, and nothing is going to protect him from me.
Because Deathstroke is back, and he's not alone this time.
This time, he has help.
This time... he has The Ravager
Deathstroke & Ravager #2
“Remember the objective, Ravager,” came Deathstroke's voice, hissing over the weakening signal of their comm links. They used the best equipment money could buy, but up in the mountains of Tibet, even the strongest comm signals were at static's mercy.
“I know the objective, Dad,” Ravager whispered in response, poised atop a rocky precipice.
Below her, the an ancient fortress spread out between two mountains, some of it carved into the rock face. According tot heir research, the place was thousands of years old. At one time, it was a hideout for an warrior civilization long extinct. Now, it was used as a major base of operations for the Syndicate. She and her father had beat through a lot of underlings, a lot of trash, these past six months, but they had finally discovered where their target's current believed residence.
“What did I tell you? When we're in uniform-”
“Use codenames, right, I got it,” Ravager countered, before her father could finish his sentence. “I know the objective, Deathstroke.”
Another soft hiss of static came over her comm, before her father's voice finally reappeared. “Just remember to wait for my signal.”
Rolling her eyes slightly, Ravager breathed out an annoyed sigh. “I know how to wait for a signal. You act like I've never done this before.”
“As good as you are, Ravager,” Deathstroke explained, “you're still a rookie in the field. You only have six months of experience under your belt. You're greener than a Martian.”
“Whatever,” Ravager answered, huffing out a sharp breath of air and waiting. “Just hurry up.”
As much as her father's lectures annoyed her, she knew he was right. As far as raw, refined talent went, she was nigh unbeatable. Enhanced to an incredible degree, years of rigorous martial training under her belt, a moderate healing factor, and a sixth sense of sorts that let her see danger before it happened... she had a lot of weapons in her arsenal.
Problem was, she had spent very little time actually out utilizing that skill. It led to sloppy maneuvers, dumb decisions, and missteps that could have easily been avoided. If not for Deathstroke backing her up, she probably would have been dead a long time ago. And so, she obeyed his orders. She sat there, waiting and ready to act at a moment's notice. It didn't take long.
A massive explosion ripped into the far side of the fortress, blowing apart one of the large stone guard walls. A bright wave of bright orange flames lit up the night, black smoke billowing upward into the inky dark sky.
Well, there's the signal.
She waited another couple of moments, watching as the guards atop the wall closest to her immediately ran off to investigate the disturbance. Within seconds, the entire east side of the fortress had cleared out, allowing Ravager to leap off her perch and land nimbly atop the wall, unnoticed and unopposed.
Instantly, she sprinted across the wall, turning at the first bend in the path and ducking into the interior tunnels of the fortress. The corridors were lit with flickering torchlight, a rather primitive method. But, when your hideout is a centuries old fortress atop a mountain, might as well go the whole nine yards with it.
When she rounded the next corner, a group of four guards carrying spears. Understandably, they looked a little surprised to see her rushing down their tunnel. That brief moment of confusion gave her an opening that she didn't squander, darting up close to them and taking the first two out with crippling blows to the throat and spine. The remaining two gathered their wits in time to attempt a counter attack, thrusting at her with their weapons.
Ducking beneath both attacks, Ravager spun and delivered a shockingly powerful kick to one of the men's abdomen, knocking him through the wooden wall behind him. She turned effortlessly to evade another spear thrust, spinning and trapping the shaft beneath the pits of her elbows and yanking it from from the guard's grasp. Flipping the spear around, she swung the butt end upwards and cracked the man's head backwards. In under fifteen seconds, she had cleared the way.
Too easy. It's like they wanted to get their asses beat.
Grinning triumphantly to herself, she continued down the corridor. A hiss of static erupted in her ear, followed by a very familiar voice.
“I'm in,” she said, slowing up her stride and cautiously peering around a partition leading into a separate room. It looked like some kind of armory, with rows and rows of weapons, both ancient and modern. Several boxes of explosives ran along one wall, along with dozens of oil drums, no doubt filled with some kind of volatile substances. “I'm passing through the armory now.”
“Good, the temple should be just beyond the following corridor,” Deathstroke explained. “Our intel states that-”
“That he's most likely in the inner most sanctum of the fortress,” Ravager interrupted. “Which is the temple. I know, I studied the information before we left.”
A small pause followed. “That's my girl.”
“Any chance he responded to your distraction, though?” she questioned.
“I've already taken care of everyone who responded to it,” Deathstroke said, his voice carrying an ominous tone. “He wasn't among them, and I haven't seen a second response team, or any other abnormal activity in the outer courtyards. That tells me he hasn't made a move yet.”
Ravager moved swiftly through the armory, towards the exit doors at the opposite end of the chamber. Another pair of guards awaited for her on the other side, but she put them down before they even knew she was there.
“Understood,” she said, slinking through the shadows farther inside the fortress.
“Now remember,” Deathstroke started, “you find him and you subdue him only. I'll find my way to you eventually, but we're doing this together.”
“I know, Da- Deathstroke,” she replied, pushing open another door. She was outside now, near the center of the entire structure that was the fortress. A tall, steep set of stone steps led up a raised, rocky incline. At the very top, a separate building stood perched over everything down below. “Don't worry, we'll get him. We have to get him. After everything he did to you, to me... to Mom.”
Deathstroke breathed outwardly, the heavy sigh drifting in over the comm signal. “I know, Rose... he'll pay for everything. I promise.”
It was her turn to smirk now, as she bounded up the stone walkway. “Codenames, remember?”
“Of course,” came the reply, mixed in with a subtle chuckle. “My mistake, Ravager.”
No guards outside the entrance to the temple... it should have seemed odd to her, but her mind was so focused elsewhere that she didn't even consider that something was off. Instead, she pushed straight through the large wooden door and walked inside. The interior was mostly dark, save for a ring of candles near the center of the main chamber. Cautiously, she approached, concentrating her senses into the darkness and preparing for anything. He didn't know that they were coming for him, that they would be here, but that was no reason to let her guard down.
“Where are you...?” she muttered quietly to herself, taking a few careful steps forward towards the circle of lit candles. Obviously, someone was still around the temple, or the candles wouldn't still be burning.
Another hiss of static erupted in her ear. This time, however, she could barely mae out what her father was saying, understanding only a couple words. “Ro – ssskkkss – of th – ssskkksss – ow! – sssskkk – know we're – ssskkkss – mb!
Ravager paused, holding a hand to her ear. “What? Repeat that, I couldn't understand-” But her words stopped mid-sentence, as a frightfully clear image of the immediate future flickered through her head. Eyes going wide, she immediately turned back around and sprinted towards the door. Moments before she cleared through them, chaos erupted.
The explosive charges rigged all along the interior of the temple exploded. Ravager felt the resulting shockwave lift her off her feet, throwing her forward straight through the wooden doors. A wave of heat engulfed her, just before plummeting forward onto the rocky embankment. Her body bounced once, twice, three times until finally spinning out over open air. And then... she was falling.
“ROSE!” Deathstroke shouted, watching from the other side of the fortress as the temple disappeared in a blinding flash of red and orange flames.
He went to take a step forward, but stopped instantly, staring down the fifty or so rifle barrels now pointed at him. It was supposed to be easy, simple. He and Rose were supposed to get in, kill Jackal, and get out. They had gone over the information, come up with a plan, run through that plan a hundred times to be sure... but they had been expected. Somehow, someway, the Syndicate knew that they were coming, and not just that they were coming, but that they were coming tonight.
A small response team had been sent to investigate the distraction, while the real guards, the much more... well armed ones, waited until Deathstroke foolishly ran out into the open, expecting no resistance. He'd gotten jumpy, overeager with their goal so close, almost in reach... And now about two dozen commando operatives had him surrounded.
Even Deathstroke, with all his skill, couldn't fight his way out of this one. They were smart, kept their distance, and even if he drew his firearms, he'd take down only maybe a dozen at most before they lit him up like the Fourth of f**king July. What he needed was an opportunity, a distraction, an opening. His mind immediately began to calculate the situation, running through all possible scenarios, but a silky smooth, accented voice broke his concentration.
“Slade Wilson,” the woman spoke. “Deathstroke the Terminator. Under different circumstances, I might actually feel honored to be in your presence.”
He turned, locked his eye on the Chinese woman. His gaze slowly narrowed, mind brimming with recognition. “I know you... seen your face. You're an assassin.”
“Much like you,” she replied, holding a single had to her hip. The long black leather coat she wore flickered gently in the cool breeze. “But unlike you, I didn't disappear from the radar for near eight years. I've been... active.”
“If you call aligning yourself with a group of crooks and scumbags remaining active, then sure, congratulations,” Deathstroke retorted. “You want a f**king merit badge?”
The woman chuckled, a smirk curling across her face. “Is that what you think we are? No, no, Slade, we're much, much more than that. As big as you think we are, we're ten times bigger. Now, tell me...” She took a few steps closer, glaring coldly at him. “Why are you attacking the Syndicate?”
“It's not the Syndicate I'm after, you ignorant c**t,” he growled. “I want Jackal. No more, no less. He's our target, not you."
“Oh, Jackal?” Her eyebrows lifted, lips pursing as she contemplated his words. “I see... well, I'm afraid that is still a problem. Jackal has been... indispensable to our cause for quite some time now. I cannot give him to you.”
Deathstroke's gaze narrowed further. “Then it sounds like we have a problem...”
“So it does,” she replied, turning her back to him. “Kill him.”
Ravager moaned, blinking her eye rapidly. The sky spun wildly round above her, a few scant snowflakes fluttering down onto her exposed cheeks. She tried to move, twitching first a few fingers and then her arms, but a sharp jolt of pain ripped through her body like lightning, forcing her to remain still a while longer. When finally everything stopped spinning, she sucked in a deep breath and forced herself to roll over.
Shit, shit, shit... something's broken. Something is definitely broken.
A rib, it felt like, maybe multiple, and her left wrist was beyond a little stiff. She could barely make a fist with that hand. A sudden series of coughs racked her body, mouth spraying out several droplets of blood past her lips; the crimson mist painted the white, snowy ground beneath her. Wiping her lips clean, she slowly staggered back up to her feet, teetering there a few moments before able to straighten herself back out. She glanced around briefly, noting that she had fallen into one of the interior courtyards of the fortress.
I'm fine... I'm good. No problem.
“You know, I'm actually glad the explosion didn't kill you,” a mocking, sadistic voice chided at her. “It's more fun this way.”
Ravager's body stiffened up, seemingly paralyzed just at the sound of the voice. She had prepared herself so much for facing this man again, the man who had taken everything from her, including her innocence... but the moment that frightfully familiar tone reached her ears, she was a little girl again, shaking with terror.
“But then... you know all about that, don't you?” he said. “After all... we had a lot of fun together."
Ravager turned towards the voice, barely able to swivel her head. In her chest, her heart thumped a million miles a minute, pounding wildly, out of control. She expected to see that face, too, to go along with the voice. What she instead was a full coverage mask. It was at that instant that she suddenly relaxed, exhaling a breath and almost smiling.
“I see you’ve grown up nicely,” Jackal said, hand moving to the sword at his belt. A handgun strapped to the other side of his hip, but perhaps he felt the need to be more physical, more personal.
“Nice mask,” Ravager riposted, ignoring the previous comments. “Then again, after what my father did to your face, I can't blame you for wanting to cover it.”
A small pause followed. Jackal tilted his head slightly to the side, then drew his blade. “Hilarious. The thing about your father, though, we already have him. He's probably dead, now that I think of it.”
Ravager's eye narrowed, heart skipping a beat. “I don't believe you.”
As if on cue, gunfire rang out, splitting the quiet of the night.
“Alright, now he's dead,” Jackal said, adding a brief chuckle to cement his point.
But the gunfire continued, a lot longer than it should have. A couple of small explosions followed, and then came the screaming. It was Ravager's turn to smirk. “Or maybe he's a lot tougher than you thought.”
“Hmph,” Jackal stated, drawing the blade and flipping it around in his hand. “Doesn't matter. I still have plenty of time to fillet you before he gets here.”
“I'm not the helpless little girl you molested anymore, a**hole,” Ravager said, reaching up over her shoulder to draw one of her own swords. She would have drawn both, had she been able to use both hands, still unable to even form a fist with her left. “I'm stronger.”
“We'll see,” Jackal stated, sprinting across the ground.
His boots crunched across the snow, sword whistling through the air as he swiped it at her midsection. Ravager turned her body to the side, ducked below the swoosh of the blade, and then spun through with a counter blow of her own. Jackal recoiled, staggering and trailing a line of blood behind him. She had struck with expert precision, cutting between the protective plates of his armor. The gap between those plates were mere fractions of an inch wide, but to her, they might as well have been a giant target.
“I'm better,” she added, flipping over his next swing and belting him in the face with a flying knee. He stumbled backwards, caught his balance too late, and then slid back onto his ass in the snow. “Better than you! Better than people like you! And better than everything you stand for!”
She leaped at him, springing through the air and pulling her sword back for a crippling strike. While she had to wait to kill him until her dad was there to take part in the moment himself, that didn't mean she couldn't give him pain, couldn't make him beg.
But she never got the chance.
Maybe it was the lingering damage from the explosion, or maybe just her overzealousness clouding her mind, but in either case, she didn't see Jackal's leg lifting to intercept her attack mid-jump. She landed squarely on his raised boot, the impact further damaging her broken ribs. The resulting pain locked her body up with a sharp, numbing sensation, as if paralyzed. When she landed on her back, she could barely breathe, let alone stand back up to defend herself.
“That was dumb,” Jackal said, rising back to his feet. He pressed a hand to his bleeding wound, limping slightly off balance. “Word of advice, never leave yourself thatastoundingly open. Nowhere to go when you're in midair like that.” He paused a second, then shook his head, laughing. “Then again, you're not going to be able to use that advice, are you?”
He took a few, casual steps forward, a small trail of scarlet dripping behind him in the cold powder. Ravager raised her head, watching him carefully as she did.
Little more... just a little more you slimy p**ck.
One more step, and Ravager clicked the small device in her hand. A bright red blinking light lit up beneath the very top layer of the snow, linking the detonator with the small explosive marble she'd dropped behind her when he catapulted her through the air.
Jackal stopped, staring down at his feet. “Oh fu-”
The explosion wasn't impressive by normal standards, but as far as power relative to a single person standing almost directly on top of it... it did its job. Jackal flew backwards like a rocket, hitting the ground hard and sliding violently through the slush. When he finally came to a stop, he lay there motionless for several moments, until finally rolling back over and stumbling to reorient himself. A sharp blow tot he chest forced him back to the ground.
“Thought I was helpless, huh?” Ravager said, standing with her boot atop the man's chest, blade held firmly against his throat. At that moment, the snow began to fall harder, swirling around the pair like a frigid hurricane. “Thought I'd just lie down for you again? Did you!?”
“Heh... not bad, kid,” Jackal wheezed, sucking in a deep breath. “Just one problem with your little plan that you didn't take into consideration.”
Ravager's eyes narrowed hard. “And what might that be?”
A different voice answered her. “Me!”
The snow swirling around them suddenly picked up stronger, a gust of chilled wind blasting Ravager off the man and lifting her into the air. She fell a moment later, landing with a crash against the ground and flinching at the sharp, jolting pain in her midsection. She tried to get up, but found her arms cemented to the ground beneath a thick layer of ice.
“What the hell?!” she exclaimed, thrashing around in attempts to free herself. She kicked her legs upwards, only to have them, too, plastered to the ground, encased in solid blocks of ice.
“I wouldn't bother struggling,” came the icy, half-deranged voice. “Won't do you a bit of good.”
Ravager raised her head, catching sight of a woman approaching, a very odd looking woman. Arctic blue hair and pale, greyish blue skin... not the features you typically found on an ordinary person.
“Wh-who... are y-y-you?” she stuttered.
“Oh me?” the woman said, flashing a devilishly sinister grin. With a snap of her fingers, the ice spread over the rest of Ravager's body, up to her neck. “I'm Frost. Killer Frost, to be exact.”
Cold... so cold... f-f-f**king freezing.
“Just relax,” the frigid woman said, her voice soothing, calming. “Go to sleep.”
The rapid loss of temperature clawed at Ravager's consciousness. She tried to speak up, tried to struggle, tried to remain awake... but her body could only drift away, relaxing into a motionless, dreamless state. Dark blotches started to form in front of her vision, until finally consciousness left her behind.
Deathstroke sucked in a deep breath of air, lowering his large arms. In one hand, he held an automatic pistol. In the other, a large claymore blade, easily wielded with his enhanced strength. Surrounding him lay dozens of bloodied, motionless bodies, streaks of bright crimson sprayed across the white ground. Apparently, he had underestimated his own ability. Apparently, he could fight his way out of that.
But things were far from over. Tucking his weapons away, he sprinted across the ground, leaping over several low walls and scaling another taller one. He landed on the other side in a low crouch, glancing both ways for any signs of danger. When he saw none, he continued, darting across the courtyard. He had to find a way up to the temple, had to find his daughter. He had to... had to... had... to...
He stopped. Halfway across the courtyard, he just stopped. Everything went numb. He knew this feeling well. He'd become familiarized with it. It was the feeling of having your entire world ripped away in the most violent, horrible way possible. He shouldn't have brought her here. He shouldn't have trained her. He should have just... he should have kept her safe. This... this wasn't keeping her safe.
With a pained, weak breath, Deathstroke took several more steps forward, then collapsed to his knees. He reached up and removed the faceplate to his mask, discarding it to the snow, and held a gloved hand to Rose's cold, pale face. He made sure to turn his head away from the sword, the blade piercing through his daughter's chest and pinning her to the ground. He didn't want to look at it, couldn't. Instead, he reached out a weak hand and plucked the long piece of steel from her body, throwing it somewhere behind him.
Deathstroke remained silent, his gaze locked on her face, on her lifeless, glossy eyes. For the longest time, he just stared at her. Didn't move, didn't speak. Just stared. Then, he bowed his head, touched his forehead to hers, and held her in his arms, held her close to him and fought back that numb, sickening sensation of sorrow clawing at his throat.
Atop a nearby wall, the female assassin leaned over the edge, holding herself up with her elbows. She gazed out at the courtyard, watching the pitiful man hovering over the cold bundle of snow. So easy to fool, the mind of a man was. At one time, she had looked up to and admired Deathstroke, the greatest mercenary/assassin in the business. But now... now she felt sorry for him. For what he had become. A mere shadow of his former self that she couldn't be any happier to destroy.
“We should just kill him,” a figure spoke from the shadows behind her. “If he was a thorn in our side before, I don't want to imagine what he'll be like now that we've gone and given him nothing to lose.”
“You overestimate him, Psimon,” she spoke, glancing to her left. The man with the overly large and exposed brain slithered out of the shadows, joining her at the edge of the wall. “Look at him. He is but a husk of the man he used to be, no longer fit of the title 'assassin'.”
Psimon breathed outwardly, holding a hand to his chin. “That may be, but even a dying animal can cause problems, if you're careless.”
“I am aware,” the woman said, turning from the scene. “And I would just kill him, if it were not much more satisfying to break him.”
Fifteen minutes ago...
Jackal grunted, slowly hobbling back up to his feet. “Just shatter her poor frozen body already and be done with it.”
“And finish your own job for you?” Killer Frost said, narrowing her eyes at him. “I don't think so. Besides, the new orders from the boss. We're to take her alive.”
“Huh... alive,” Jackal muttered, glancing back at the girl. “Suppose that works, too...”
Killer Frost's glare grew colder, Raising a hand, she blasted a burst of arctic air out of her palm, aimed straight at his crotch. Jackal yelped out loud, recoiling and hopping up in down in discomfort. “Don't get any ideas. She's mine, boss' word.”
“Ha!” Jackal mocked. “Anything I'd do to her, you'll do ten times worse. I've seen the way you handle your 'pets'.”
“No, no...” Killer Frost said, grinning wickedly. She moved her gaze back over to the near frozen girl. “She's pretty... I think I'll keep her.”
Jackal scoffed, limping towards the end of the courtyard. “Whatever. Ten to one she ends up like that last two.”
Killer Frost glared a hole through the man's back, as he disappeared through a door. Then, she raised a hand, causing the block of ice encasing Ravager to hover up into the air. A wave of her other hand, and a small collection of snow formed into the shape of a small, human body lying on the ground. Lifting her gaze, she winked at lame brain up atop the wall.
“You're on, Psimon,” she uttered quietly. In seconds, she disappeared through the same door as Jackal, the ice encased Rose following behind her.
“Up and at 'em,” Killer Frost spoke, smacking her hand hard across the girl's face. She should be able to wake up just fine, now that the temperature had been returned to normal. Heck, the space heater kept the room nice and toasty warm anyway.
Rose let out a tiny groan, blinking a few times before regaining her full senses. The moment she realized where she was and who stood in front of her, she made a move to attack and escape... only to find out that thick steel cables bound her to a chair.
“The hell do you want?” Rose asked, biting sharply with her tone. “Why am I still alive?”
“Oh, disappointed at that?” Killer Frost asked, leaning in close across the table between them. “I could always rectify it...” When Rose didn't answer, a grin spread across the icy woman's face. “That's what I thought.”
Turning from the table, Killer Frost brought her attention to the small television set behind her, placed atop a VHS player. She clicked the television on, then began fiddling the the player.
“What are you doing?” Rose asked, still attempting to wiggle her way out of her bonds.
“Oh nothing much,” Killer Frost replied. “Just loading up some security footage taken from earlier. Yeah, did you know this old relic of a fortress is equipped with security cameras? I was shocked, too.”
Rose paused, confusion lingering over her face. “Why would you want to show me security footage?”
“To show you something on it, obviously,” the woman said, uttering an annoyed sigh. “Your daddy sold you out, you know. Why do you think we knew you were coming?”
Stiffening, Rose's eyes hardened. She was silent briefly, until finally shaking her head. “No, you're lying. We were in this together from the start. Nice try, but I'm not buying your crap.”
“Seeee?” Killer Frost stated, grinning wickedly. “That's what this is for.”
Clicking the play button, the frosty woman backed off and folded her arms across her chest. Rose blinked curiously at the television. The image that came on screen showed Deathstroke surrounded by those commandos in the courtyard. They had him at gunpoint, nothing out of the ordinary there... but then they all lowered their weapons, and another figure walked onto screen. It was a woman, looked maybe Chinese in descent. She barely paid attention to their conversation, until she caught a few words that grabbed her.
“The girl,” the woman said, holding her hands to her hips. “You give us the girl, and I let you walk out of here alive.”
“What kind of person do you take me for?” Deathstroke asked, glowering at her.
“The kind with particular interests.” The woman snapped her fingers, and soon another person ran onto screen, this one carrying a briefcase. Opening the briefcase, the woman continued, “I have here an amount totaling one million American dollars. This, plus your life, for the girl.”
Rose grit her teeth, scowling. “What does that bitch think she's trying to-”
“A million and a half,” Deathstroke said, cutting her words off. “A million and a half, and you got a deal.”
Unable to formulate words, Rose froze, vision going slightly blurry as she stared at the screen. Something inside her burst like wildfire, but she wasn't sure exactly what it was... some vile combination of hate, pain, betrayal, and anger.
“Deal,” the woman stated, handing over the briefcase. “We'll wire the remaining amount to your account.”
Deathstroke took the briefcase, closed it, and then walked away... leaving the fortress, leaving the mountains... leaving Rose. Leaving her behind, all for a briefcase full of money. When the television flickered off, Killer Frost walked back into view, tilting her head tot he side and grinning.
“So,” she said, “how was that?”
“It... it's not... true,” Rose uttered, clenching her jaw tightly. She closed her eyes, squinting them shut and trying to fight back the tears she knew were already coming. Her heart felt heavy, broken, a numb sensation clawing at the pit of her throat. And then... then, she lost it. “IT'S NOT TRUE! IT CAN'T BE TRUE! HE WOULDN'T DO THAT! HE WOULDN”T LEAVE ME!”
Killer Frost snickered softly to herself, eyes lifting up to look into the corner of the room, behind where Rose sat. She stared at the quiet Psimon, her grin growing wider. “I think I'll leave you here, let you... deal with that. But don't worry, little Rosie... I'll be back.”
Slade Wilson Journal Entry #12
November 21, 2009
Anything I write now just seems redundant. I’ve already written about my mistakes, my failures, and how it defines my life. It should come as no surprise that it happened again... only this time, I really have lost everything. Jackal is still at large, the Syndicate murdered the last person I had close to me in this world, and my drive to continue is nearly gone...
My gun is on the counter, sitting in front of me. Mocking me. If I had the guts, I'd stick it in my mouth and be done with it. But I won't... because if I did, they would win. They butchered Rose, and let me live... to break me, I imagine. To make me suffer more loss. In a way, it's worse than death. But the thing is, with leaving me alive... I'm still around to cause problems. And whatever that insufferable bitch might think, I'm still perfectly capable of causing problems.
It used to be, I just wanted the Jackal. Just wanted my quick revenge.
Not this time. Not anymore.
This time, I'm going after them all. The Syndicate. Everyone involved with them, everyone on their payroll.
I'm going to kill them.
Deathstroke & Ravager #3
“I'll k-kill you... I s-s-swear I'll k-kill you,” Rose muttered, breathing in deeply from the floor. She looked up, barely able to move her tired, chilled bones, unable to feel her fingers or toes, lips shuddering and numb. Even her clothes had mostly frozen and broken to pieces by now, leaving her near exposed in the frosted room, tiny little frozen flakes clinging to everything.
“Oh you'll try,” Killer Frost said, flashing that wicked grin of hers as she sat atop the chair in the center of the room, which was nothing more than a mostly empty space save for a bed, a desk, a chair, and a cold, stone floor. “And please do... I love it when they fight back.”
Rose groaned, clenching her frigid fingers tightly, trying to get any warmth from them she could. “F-f-f**k you.”
“Mmm... no, not the way it works,” Killer Frost said, wagging a finger teasingly. “But then you've already figured that out. Now, have a good night, my dear. I'll be back tomorrow.”
With that, the icy blue woman stood up from her seat and blew a mocking kiss at the girl, carrying with it a surge of extra chilled air. Rose cringed, shaking harder as she curled herself up into a ball, desperate for warmth. When Killer Frost finally left the room, that warmth did arrive, slowly but surely. The temperature grew, and feeling returned to her extremities. Within ten minutes, her breathing steadied and she could no longer see her own breath.
Is this what my life's become? she wondered. Is this... is this how I'm supposed to live now? As a prisoner? As a pet? A plaything? All because my dad, because he... he sold me out... we were supposed to be in this together, but he gave me to these monsters!
She still couldn't wrap her head around it, why her father would done that to her. He'd been so good to her, been a real father. He loved her, trained her, was there for her when her life fell apart... but she'd seen it with her own eyes, seen him accept a trade of a couple million dollars for her imprisonment by these b**tards that called themselves the Syndicate, or at least a small part of of the Syndicate. This was only one of their strongholds, somewhere deep in Tibet.
It was bad enough... what Jackal did to her. But now this? Her father selling her out, and... and that Frost b*tch? Why did she find herself in these situations? Why was her life so full of... so full of sh*t? What had she done wrong?
When I get out of here... I'm going to kill them all. I don't care who gets in my way. They're all dead. Every last one.
“Wake up,” a cold voice stated, calling her from her sleep.
Rose quivered, squinting her eyes tightly and pulling her blankets closer around her body. Finally, she eased her eyes opened and looked up from the bed, vision slowly coming into focus. Standing above her was... a different woman, not Killer Frost. This woman, she hadn't seen before.
No wait... yes she had. In the security footage that showed her father taking the deal that left her here... this was the woman who had offered it.
“You!” she shrieked, bolting upright in bed. She sprang forward, lunging at the woman with every intent on crippling her. No, not crippling... killing. “You did this to me!”
The woman took a step back, watching with careful eyes as she brushed aside the wild attack. She stepped left, then ducked, then came forward with astounding speed and delivered a powerful blow to her attacker's gut. “Sit down.”
Rose's eyes went wide, body seizing up and a nauseous sensation bubbling in her stomach. Staggering backwards, she collapsed against the bed, gaping for breath.
“I did nothing to you,” the woman claimed. “Was your father that left you here. Your father, who sold you to us for cash. He did this to you. You know this, don't you?”
Rose swallowed, clenching her jaw and lowering her gaze. She squinted her eyes shut, tears already stinging from behind the lids. “So what, you're just gonna rub it in my face, huh?”
“Merely getting the facts straight.”
“But you're still keeping me here,” Rose said, tilting her gaze upward again, with a glare that could have stopped a charging bear. She winced slightly, hands clutching at her gut; the woman's strike had been astoundingly powerful. “I'm still your prisoner. You still work with the b**tard who ruined my life. And you give me to... to that b*tch.”
The woman considered the words a moment, nodding casually. “All true. But I have a question I'd like to ask you about that: would you like revenge on them? Would you like them to suffer?”
“What are you talking about?” Rose asked, eyes narrowing. “What kind of... of question is that? Why wouldn't I?”
“I thought as much. What if I told you that you could?”
“I'd wonder why the f**k you're telling me, when they're your friends.”
The woman smirked, chuckling lightly. “My friends... no. Pawns, more like. I have no regard for them, they merely do their part.”
“So then... what?” Rose paused, swallowing a lump in her throat. “You expect me to believe that you're going to let me get back at them?”
“Let you? No.” The woman shook her head, arms folding across her chest. “You're going to have to earn it.”
“I'm going to train you.”
Rose blinked, sitting up straighter with a puzzled expression. “What?”
“You're very talented, little dove,” the woman said. “But I could make you better. You could be the best... and you could get back at everyone who's hurt you.”
For a very long moment, Rose sat there, breathing in steadily and saying nothing. Finally, she bowed her head and stared at floor. “And why should I?”
“Because you will not get out of here any other way.”
Rose swallowed again, fingers tightening against her thighs. “And if I do this... let you train me... you'll let me go? Let me have them?”
“I said you'd have to earn it,” she replied. “If you learn enough, if you grow enough... then you will be able to do it yourself.”
Another pause. Rose turned her head, considering the woman's words. “Can you at least keep that c**t away from me?”
The woman shook her head. “Again, you have to earn that. Killer Frost... enjoys the strong ones like you, the ones who fight back but whom she can overpower... Become stronger and keep her away yourself. Consider that your motivation.”
Squinting her eyes shut, Rose took in a deep breath and bowed her head again. “One last question... just who the hell are you?”
“Oh, I had a name once,” the woman replied. Then, her lips slowly curled into the slightest of smiles. “But now, I go by a title. One handed down in my village for generations. They call me... Shiva.”
“You must be faster!” Shiva said, whirling the hard wooden stick around through the air. The end tip caught Rose's chin, snapping the girl's head back and sending her staggering to the ground. “And I know you can be. I've seen it!”
Rose pushed herself up to her hands and knees, but Shiva didn't give her a respite. Before she could return to her feet, the stick came down again squarely across her back. She uttered a tiny yelp, only for her breath to catch as a second blow came across her shoulder.
“You are not a normal girl, little dove.” Shiva paused a moment, waiting for Rose to get up to her knees, then brutally whipped the stick across Rose's cheek. The girl staggered again, but remained up right. “You are strong, fast, better than the normal human. You are special. But you your mind is clouded. You are hindering yourself, and until you clear your head, you will not improve. Now, dodge!”
The stick whistled through the air again, moving faster than the normal person could see. But Rose wasn't normal... she was like Shiva said, special. Faster, stronger, smarter than the average human, and she could see the attack coming. Or, at the very least, sense it. Bringing a hand up, she placed her palm directly in the stick's arc, catching it and then snapping it in half with a quick jerk.
“Stop... hitting me,” she said, glaring at the woman.
Shiva straightened slightly, pulling back her broken half of a stick and tossing it to the side. “That's better. Now, show me what else you can do.”
Rose didn't hesitate. She ran in full force, spinning her body and whirling in her hands expertly, aiming at the woman's pressure points. Shiva reacted far faster than she expected, twisting her arms away and then delivering a powerful knee to her gut. Rose's eyes went wide, lips bursting open with a silent gasp as she doubled over and then fell to her knees.
“You have skill, but you do not utilize it well,” Shiva informed, sending another kick to the girl's face. Rose snapped backward, landing on her back in the snowy ground of the fortress courtyard. “You attack like a wild animal, no focus, no sense of direction. You're very raw... and you must be sharpened.”
Rose groaned, rolling over and bringing a hand to clutch her split lip. But she didn't grow frustrated, or back down, or try to make excuses. This woman was just better than her, plain and simple... no getting around it. “Then sharpen me.”
Lady Shiva smiled, turning her body and preparing to attack again. “Exactly what I hoped to hear, little dove.”
“Oh Rosey,” Killer Frost said, pushing the door open. A frigid chill followed her, instantly frosting over the room. “I'm baaack.” She stepped into the room, looking around carefully... but saw no sign of the girl. “Rose?”
The door suddenly slammed shut. Before Killer Frost could react, Rose charged from behind the door and lunged at the woman, bringing a kick to the back of her knees, causing her to stumble. She followed with an elbow to the back of the head, and then moved in for a finishing blow... but in mid attack, a thick layer of ice abruptly surged up around her legs, up to her knees. She tripped, falling hard to the ground.
“Oh that's good,” Killer Frost said, holding a hand to the back of her head. She staggered back up to her feet, clearly woozy from the sneak assault. Turning around, she sneered, a gleam in her eye. “Do it again.”
“I swear... when I get my hands on you, you frosty b-mmff.” Rose recoiled sharply, as a thick casing of ice froze across her lips, silencing her.
“No no no.” Killer Frost shook her head, coming forward and driving her heel against Rose's chest, forcing her to the floor. “I'm still in charge here.”
Deathstroke & Ravager #4
“You're getting better,” Lady Shiva said, offering a hand.
Rose stared up from the ground, chest heaving with exhaustion. A wet trail of crimson leaked down her chin, fueled by her split lip and bloody nose. Shiva did not make a habit of holding back during their training lessons, and although Rose was both enhanced and exceptionally skilled, Shiva was on an entirely different level. No matter how hard she tried, Rose could barely last a minute against this deadly woman. At the very least, she was improving... several weeks ago, she couldn't last fifteen seconds.
Taking Shiva's hand, Rose hoisted herself back to her feet, where she teetered for several moments before steadying herself. “You... you're really amazing.”
“Yes, I know,” Shiva replied, curling her lips into the slightest of smirks. “And so are you, little dove, for one so young.”
“Um... thanks, I guess.” Rose paused, leaning forward with her hands pressed against her knees. God, she felt like she was going to puke. “I just... can't figure it out.”
Lady Shiva lifted an eyebrow. “What's that?”
“Why... why you're doing this. Helping me. Training me. Offering me a way to... to take my revenge, but at the same time allowing that woman to... torment me. I don't understand it.”
“No, I suppose you wouldn't,” Shiva said, holding a hand to her chin. “And perhaps I'll tell you some day, but for right now I think it's best if you return to your chamber for the night. We've trained enough for one day.”
“No... no we haven't,” Rose muttered. She gave Lady Shiva a narrow look, widening her stance and holding her arms at the ready. “I'm never going to get to your level by slacking off, and it's not even sundown yet. Yesterday, we went to sundown.”
“Yesterday, your face wasn't a bloody mess.”
Rose's gaze grew harder. She turned her head momentarily, spitting out a glob of blood, then wiped some of the crimson from her face with her sleeve. “I don't give a damn. I've never slacked off before, I'm not going to start now. We go to sundown.”
Lady Shiva hesitated a moment, until finally shifting her body into a fighting stance. “Very well... if that's what you wish.”
“You know what I love best about this?” Killer Frost asked, twirling a finger around in the air. The thin, clinging layer of ice particles coating every surface of the chamber suddenly grew thicker, colder. “It's the fact that you still think you're going to get out of here.”
Rose lay on the top of her bed, curled into a ball and shivering madly. She'd fought back again, like she did every time this woman came to visit, but it wasn't enough. She still couldn't put Killer Frost down before the heat left the room, chilling her bones and nearly shutting down her body. Every time she moved, she thought she felt her bones shattering, or her joints popping. In truth, such feelings were merely an illusion, because in reality most of the feeling had abandoned her body entirely.
“But I have to say, you're getting better,” Killer Frost added, holding two fingers to her crooked nose. She tentatively gripped down on the bone and twisted it back into place, flinching only briefly before lowering her hand again. “If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were trying to make this more enjoyable for me.”
“Sh-shhh-shut-t-t up y-you b-b-bit-tch,” Rose stammered, frozen lips barely able to push out the words. She tried to uncurl herself, tried to form a fist, to make another move to attack... but she couldn't. Her body shivered too fiercely, desperate for any source of warmth whatsoever.
“Aw, don't be like that.” Killer Frost took a few steps forward, reaching an icy hand down to grip Rose's cheeks and turning the girl's head. “You'll make me sad.”
With her face now staring up at the woman's, Rose made a desperate attempt at insult, spitting. Unfortunately, her saliva went about an inch before falling back to her own face and freezing solid. At the pitiful sight, Killer Frost tilted her head back and laughed, genuinely amused.
“Oh my, that was priceless!” she exclaimed, still giggling under her breath. “Oh, do try it again. Please? For me?” When Rose did nothing, Killer Frost lowered her own face towards the girl, their mouths only inches apart. “No? Shame.” Exhaling, she sent out a frigid breath of air surging into Rose's mouth and down her throat.
Instantly, Rose recoiled, coughing and sputtering as she clawed her hands at her neck. For several moments, she couldn't breathe, body heaving with shock and pain. Finally, she managed to settle down and suck in deep, cold breaths, as her lone eye leaked tears that froze flat against her cheek.
“I bet that was uncomfortable, huh?” Killer Frost said, smirking wickedly. She then gently traced a finger along Rose's shoulder, across her chest, and down her midsection, all the while siphoning more heat as she went. “I have to say, I'm glad you're so much more... durable than the others. All my past pets would have been dead by now, frozen from the inside out. But you... you can take it, can't you?” Her smirk grew wider. “Yes, you can... I like that.”
When at last Killer Frost left, when she had had her fun for the night and took the frigid air with her, Rose was finally able to curl herself up in the blankets of her bed. No more frost coated the walls, no more ice or snow. Things were dry again, and she could no longer see her breath, but that did not instantly take away the chill. She lay there for what felt like hours, clutching the thick blanket tight around herself and just hoping, praying, that feeling would soon return to her body.
Rose wasn't sure what time she fell asleep, or how long she'd been out when an abrupt noise awoke her, but at least her body no longer shivered uncontrollably. For a brief moment, she remained still beneath the blankets, staring into the darkness. Then, the noise came again, the soft, shrill creak of the door opening. With it came a sudden glow of orange light, a dim candle burning away the inky blackness of night. In that light, a small silhouette appeared, one that gradually came forward into the room.
“Hello?” Rose uttered. She cringed at how weak and hoarse her voice sounded. Apparently, she had still not completely recovered from Killer Frost's most recent assault.
“Hey, who's there?” Her voice expressed no fear, no nervousness, simply curiosity. Who could be visiting her at such a late hour?
Finally, the figure holding the candle drew near enough that Rose could make out features. It was... a girl. A small girl, Asian, maybe twelve years old, short scruffy black hair, and a look of intrigue on her face.
“Uh... hi there?” Rose said, lifting an eyebrow. Well, this was definitely someone she hadn't seen around the mountain fortress before...
The girl spoke no words, merely tilting her head to the side and furrowing her brow slightly.
“Um... do you speak at all, or...?” Still no reply. “Do you have a name?”
The girl nodded.
Rose sighed, rubbing her eyes slightly. What little patience she had was already beginning to wear thin. “Are you going to tell me your name...? Or maybe what you're doing here?”
Again, nothing. The girl came a little closer, leaning in and giving a long, curious look.
“Okay, listen, I'm trying to sleep here,” Rose insisted. “If you could, I don't know, shoo, or something, that would be great.”
Before anything more could be said, however, another voice from the open doorway interrupted them. “Cassandra!”
The girl whirled around suddenly, stiffening up and holding her candle tightly against her chest. A much taller figure walked into the light: Lady Shiva, dressed in a fine, red silk robe and carrying a lantern of her own. She looked so much different, when not garbed in some sort of battle uniform... more natural, gentler. Of course, one would be foolish to allow such looks to be deceiving.
“What have I told you about wandering around at night?” Shiva asked, coming forward and taking hold of the girl's hand. “Back to bed with you.”
Rose watched, more confused than anything, as Lady Shiva urged the girl back out the door. Rather than follow, however, Shiva breathed out a long sigh and looked back.
“My apologies, little dove,” she said. “My daughter... has a habit of wandering off and exploring things. She must have found you interesting.”
“Wait... your daughter?” Rose lifted an eyebrow, sitting up a little straighter. “I didn't know you had a daughter.”
“That's because I never told you,” Shiva said, plainly.
Rose paused momentarily, bowing her head. Eventually, she worked out another question. “What's she doing here? I mean... this doesn't seem like the best place for a kid, is all I'm saying.”
“I brought her here with me, because it is far safer a place for her than where we came from.” Lady Shiva stood there calmly, placing her lantern down on the nearby table and sighing outwardly.
After another moment of quiet, Rose tilted her head and asked, “Where... where did you come from?”
Shiva didn't answer, at first, instead folding her arms and glancing up at the ceiling. Eventually, however, she looked back to Rose, eyes softening slightly, and explained, “A place very far from here. A small village, in the jungle... a place of pain, and violence.”
Rose remained quiet, now sitting at full attention as the master assassin told her tale.
“In my village, there is a tradition,” Shiva said. “Each generation, a young girl is selected to be molded into the perfect warrior. Graceful, agile, quick, precise... deadly. That girl takes on a title, one that has been passed down for centuries: Lady Shiva, the same title I now bear. Somewhere along the way, however, the tradition grew... warped. They stopped waiting for full generations to pass before selecting a new Shiva, instead forcing the title down a single familial line, and doing so with less and less time in between.”
Shiva went silent a moment, exhaling deeply as she stared at the floor. “I was already chosen to be the next Shiva before I was even born, just like my mother before me, and her mother before her. I began training on my fifth birthday. Every day was a constant battle, a never ending struggle just to survive the training. It was difficult... but I can at least say it made me strong. Still, I never had a chance to be anything other than Lady Shiva.”
“Wait, if your mother was already Shiva...” Rose said, scratching her head slightly, “and you were training to be Shiva... when, or... how is the title officially passed on?”
“She who bears the title of Shiva is, by definition, an assassin,” she explained. “The very first target that the one in training is given... is the current Shiva.”
Rose's eyebrows lifted, eyes widening slightly. “Oh...”
“But that is not all,” Lady Shiva continued. “That very first assignment is given to the Shiva-in-training when she reaches puberty, the first time she... bleeds. Afterward, a man is selected to lie with her and create the next Shiva.”
“Wait... you mean you...”
“I was fourteen when I had Cassandra.” Shiva went quiet for a long moment, maintaining her long stare at the floor. “But by then, I already knew that I didn't want this life for her. It took a while for me to work up the audacity to break the tradition, but on the eve of Cassandra's first birthday, I fled with her. I left behind my village, my home... my entire life, all to keep Cassandra from having to go through what I had gone through. There was, however, a small problem with that. The father did not take kindly to my taking our daughter away.”
Rose folded her arms, shifting slightly in her bed. “The father?”
“A man named David Cain,” she stated, with a striking venom in her tone. “A very dangerous, very powerful man. He tracked us down within two months, ambushed me... left me for dead and abducted Cassandra for himself. I spent years looking for them, all while putting the skills I had to use in order to make money, money that I put into tracking down my daughter. I just found her last year, managed to take her back from Cain.”
She closed her eyes, bringing a tired hand to her forehead and sighing again. “The things he did to her... I took her away to keep her from becoming what I had become, but he erased any chance of that. He taught her things... how to fight, how to kill... he hurt her in ways I can't imagine, to turn her into an even greater assassin than Lady Shiva, nothing but a mere tool to use. And through all that, he never even taught her how to speak, how to communicate normally... her only language is through action, through violence.”
“Well, that's... terrible,” Rose admitted, glancing to the side. “But... I mean, she didn't really look all that... well, violent.”
“A rose is beautiful, yet its thorns can still prick, can't they?”
Lady Shiva looked back to the open doorway, staring into the darkness. “Now, I keep my daughter here with me, where Cain can't get to her.”
“Where you... what, hope she'll live a normal, quiet life away from violence?”
“If only it were that simple.” Shiva turned her attention back to Rose, flickering firelight from the lantern dancing across both their faces. “No, the people I work for, they've already seen what Cassandra can do. They're already planning how to use her for their own goals.”
Rose narrowed her eyes, confused. “So... just leave. No one's keeping you here, right? Take your daughter and just, I don't know, vanish or something.”
“I am far too invested now to simply abandon my position,” Lady Shiva insisted, shaking her head. “Besides, were I to do such a thing, they would find us, and they would kill us both.”
“Okay... never mind, then.” Rose huffed out a small breath, arms folding. Well, that was a depressing thought.
“In any case, I've spoken far too much.” Shiva grabbed the lantern and turned back towards the door. “I'll let you get your rest now, little dove. You'll need it.”
Deathstroke & Ravager #5
“King me,” Rose said, grinning.
Cassandra furrowed her brow, leaning over the checker board and carefully examining the piece that Rose had just jumped into her back row. She frowned slightly, leaning back again and finally placing a second checker on top of the piece. Then, she grabbed one of her own few remaining pieces and moved it forward.
“Hey, don't feel too bad,” Rose said, moving her new king piece back a space. “You're getting really good.”
Scratching her head briefly, the young mute girl moved another piece.
“Actually, I think we can try chess soon.” Rose slid another checker forward, holding her finger on it for a lingering moment before letting go. “It's a lot more interesting than checkers, and really helps you think strategically. I used to play it a lot with my... dad.” She went quiet a moment, breathing outwardly.
Looking up at her, Cassandra softened her eyes and tilted her head to the side. She wanted to ask a question... but had no way of expressing what that question was.
Rose knew what the question was regardless, able to sense it from the girl's sympathetic gaze. “My dad, yeah... he's a bad man. I always thought he loved me, but... well, I guess I was wrong.” She leaned forward against the table between them, watching as Cassandra moved another piece. “Your dad's pretty bad, too, huh?”
The girl suddenly froze, body going rigid and gaze becoming blank. Eventually, she bowed her head and slowly nodded.
“Yeah...” Rose uttered, pushing another checker forward. “I know the feeling.”
Cassandra looked at the checker board a long time, eyes shifting back and forth. Finally, she picked up one of her pieces and jumped it over three consecutive checkers of the opposite color.
“What the-” Rose said, sitting up straighter. She blinked curiously, staring at the board and wondering how the hell she had missed that. “Huh... nice move.”
Folding her hands in front of her, Cassandra gave a triumphant smile, legs swinging below her in her seat.
Rose took in a deep breath of cold mountain air, as she arrived in the snowy courtyard of the ancient Tibetan fortress. Despite the cold, the weather was actually pretty nice. Clear skies, bright sun... at least she wouldn't be training in the middle of a blizzard like last week. That had quite possibly been one of the worst training experiences in her life.
“You're early,” a voice stated.
Turning around, Rose noticed Lady Shiva approaching from across the courtyard. “Well, I think by now I've learned not to be late.”
The assassin smiled slightly. “Yes... after two years, I would hope so.”
“Seven hundred and forty-three days, to be exact,” she said.
“Yes... seven hundred and forty-three.” Lady Shiva shifted her stance, bringing her arms into a fighting position. “That's seven hundred and forty-three days of improvement.”
Taking in another deep breath, Rose shifted herself into a similar stance. “That's right. Care to see just how much?”
“As always.” And with those words, Lady Shiva lunged in with a quickness she very rarely showcased in a fight. This was different, though. This time, she wasn't holding back.
Rose watched carefully, waiting for the woman to come within striking distance. As the first strike whipped inward, time seemingly slowed down in her mind. Raising her arm, she blocked the blow and twisted her body to the side, countering with a palm thrust. Lady Shiva ducked, evading the attack and then driving her fingers into the girl's side.
With a subtle groan, Rose stepped back, catching her balance and fighting through the sudden explosion of pain in her ribs. Another attack lashed towards her, but she dodged, spinning around with lightning quickness. In less than a second, she found herself behind Shiva, using the opportunity to kick the back of the woman's knee. When Lady Shiva stumbled forward off balance, Rose followed up with a vicious kick to the back of her head. Shiva fell briefly before recovering and whirling back around to face her opponent.
“Very good,” the assassin stated, showing no visible sign of pain. “Now, again.”
They continued like this for the next seven hours, breaking only once for lunch. By the time they finished for the day, neither could stand straight. Rose walked with a limp and could barely move her left arm, while Lady Shiva bled from a cut lip and couldn't properly bend her knee. When the sun finally set behind the mountain peaks, they collapsed into the snow, remaining there for several moments to catch their breath.
“You have come a long way, little dove,” Lady Shiva said, wiping a line of crimson from her chin. “I am proud.”
“Yeah, well... being trained by the world's greatest assassin certainly helps,” she replied, with a long breath. “Though I still don't know why you're training me.”
“The time is not yet right... but perhaps soon.” Slowly climbing back to her feet, Shiva waved for her pupil to follow her. “Come with me, little dove. I have something to show you.”
Rose lifted a curious eyebrow, then quickly hobbled up to her feet. “Uh, sure thing, coming.”
Lady Shiva led her through the mountain fortress, deep into its lower levels. In the two years that Rose had been here, she had never gone anywhere other than the courtyard, her bedchambers, and the corridors in between. These subbasements, lit only by a series of blazing torches along the wall, were entirely new to her.
“In here,” Shiva said, opening a thick wooden door.
Rose followed the woman inside, closing the door behind her. When she turned her attention to what the room contained, her single eye went wide. “Whoa...”
The large, round chamber within was lit with the same kinds of torches as the previous corridors. The floor was not man-made, but rather a natural formation of the mountain on which the fortress had been built, and at the center of the floor sat a deep pool of bubbling water.
“What is this?” she asked, taking a curious step forward.
“A natural hot spring,” Lady Shiva explained. “But not a normal one. It is... special.”
Rose knelt down next to the spring, running her hand through the hot water. “Special how?”
“It possesses healing properties.” Turning around, Shiva began disrobing, stripping off her silk gi. “Soaking within its waters will revitalize our bodies, and mend our injuries.”
“...seriously?” Rose glanced up at the woman, crossing her eyebrows. “And you waited over two years to show this to me because...?”
“Because you hadn't earned it,” she replied, kneeling down and folding her clothes into a neat pile. “But now... well, this is a special occasion.”
Rose blinked, briefly shaking her head. “If you say so.”
Lowering her nude form into the water, Lady Shiva gestured for her pupil to join her. “Come, soak in the spring.”
“Uh...” she uttered, pausing briefly as she stood up straight. “I don't think that's a good idea.”
“And why not?”
Rose fidgeted slightly, glancing over at Shiva's clothes, then down at herself. “Well, it's just... I mean... I have scars. A lot of scars.”
Lifting an eyebrow, Shiva waded across the spring towards her. “You are... ashamed of your scars? Self conscious, perhaps?”
“I don't know... I mean, I guess,” she said, with a shrug.
A brief pause passed between the two, as Lady Shiva hoisted herself up onto the edge of the spring. Calmly, she scooted herself over into direct torchlight, highlighting her own body with a bright orange glow that revealed numerous markings all across her body, some small and thin, others larger and bumpy. “You are not the only one with scars, little dove.”
Rose widened her eye, as she lowered herself to examine Lady Shiva's body. She very tentatively held out a hand, running her fingers along the woman's shoulder, feeling the scars. “I... I didn't know.”
“Scars are nothing to be ashamed of,” Shiva explained. “They are merely another part of us, no different from our hair, or the color of our eyes, and each one tells a story about who we are.”
“I... never really considered that,” she muttered. “I always hated my scars, because they... they remind me of some things in my life I'd rather forget. Bad things.”
Turning slightly, Lady Shiva gently brushed a hand against the girl's cheek. “No matter how bad, you should never forget the things in your life that have made you who you are. Don't let your scars remind you of the bad things in your life, but rather how to move past them, how to become stronger.”
Lowering her gaze, Rose exhaled a long breath. “I... guess that makes sense.”
“Now, come join me,” Shiva said, slipping back into the spring. “You'll be glad you did.”
After a brief moment's hesitation, Rose stood straight again and slowly disrobed, shivering slightly at the cold air against her naked flesh. Looking down at herself, she closely studied her scars, faint white markings that marred a fair portion of her body. Lifting a hand, she also briefly traced a finger over the scar that slashed across where her left eye used to be. Finally tearing her gaze away, she lowered herself into the bubbling water of the spring.
“Oh, wow,” she uttered, eye instantly going wide. The moment she submerged herself into the hot water, the muscles in her body fully relaxed, any and all pain vanishing completely. Leaning against the edge of the spring, she tilted her head back and groaned out a satisfied breath, eye closing. “Just... wow.”
“It is a wonderful feeling, isn't it?” Shiva said, closing her own eyes as she relaxed in the healing waters.
“I'll say...” Breathing in deeply again, a wide smile curled across her face. “Wish you'd told me about this place before. I'd have worked twice as hard to earn a dip sooner.”
“Worry not about missed opportunities in the past,” Shiva stated, “and instead enjoy the now.”
The two remained quiet for a long while after, taking comfort in both the silence and the restorative properties of the spring. Tight muscles loosened, bleeding cuts closed up, sore joints relaxed, and peace found their stressed minds.
Eventually, Lady Shiva opened her eyes again, glancing at her student and breaking the silence. “You and my daughter have grown quite close, I've noticed.”
Rose opened her own eye, giving the woman a small shrug. “She's a good kid.”
“She likes you,” Shiva said. “While with her father, Cassandra did... interact with other children, but not how you'd think. Those other children were also assassins-in-training. They were only permitted to fight with Cassandra, to attack her. Cain wouldn't let them speak so much as a single word to her.”
“She... wow,” Rose muttered, lowering gaze to the water. “And I thought I had it rough.”
“That's why I'm glad she has you now.” Lady Shiva closed her eyes again, holding her arms around herself. “I rescued her from that life, and I am her mother... but what she really needed was a friend.”
Breathing outwardly, Rose folded her arms across her chest and bowed her head. “But even with a friend... The Syndicate still plans on using her as a weapon, don't they?”
“Yes,” she replied, nodding slowly. If ever Lady Shiva had shown an expression of true pain, it was now. “Yes they do...”
Rose sat cross-legged on the floor of her bedchamber, breathing in deeply and slowly, eye closed. She ignored the frost particles sticking to her body, and the shiver running through her spine. Though anyone else would be curled up into a ball right now, desperate for heat, she remained calm, breath steady.
Killer Frost stood over her, frowning. The icy blue woman paced around the girl momentarily, hands balled into fists and eyebrows cross. “You really... really like to spite me, don't you?”
Rose made no response, maintaining the meditative state that currently regulated her internal body temperature. It had taken her a year and a half to learn it, but now Killer Frost could no longer cause her pain, could no longer torture her like before. Now, she was the one in control.
“Did you hear me?” Killer Frost asked, leaning closer. “Say something!”
Again, no answer.
“Scream, damn it!” she exclaimed. “Or... or whimper. Or cry. Or something. At least attack me!”
Killer Frost groaned loudly, bringing a hand to her forehead. “Come on... just a little smack?” She brought her face close, pushing her chin out. “Just like you used to... you know you want to.”
“Damn it!” Finally out of patience, Killer Frost wound up her arm and clubbed Rose across the face, forcing the girl to the floor. “If you just want to get it over with, then fine. But you take all the fun out of this, I hope you know.”
Rose slowly sat up, rubbing her cheek. “What's the matter, Frost? Lost your cool?”
The woman's eye twitched slightly at the comment. With a vicious kick, she buried her heel into Rose's chest, pinning her against the floor. “I'll make you scream, do you hear me?”
“Go ahead, give it your best shot,” she replied, grinning. “If you think you're woman enough.”
Rose uttered a small groan, as she blinked her eye open. She saw nothing, only the blackness of night. With a small yawn, she sat up in bed and squinted into the shadows, waiting for her sight to adjust. Something had awoken her, some kind of sound... but what? When at last she could make out shapes in the darkness, she focused her sight on a small bundle in the middle of the normally empty floor.
“The hell?” she uttered, climbing out of bed. She briefly rubbed her tired eye, then fumbled around the table for a match and a candle.
When the candle finally lit, burning away the inky darkness around her, she turned once again to the center of the room, gaze focusing on the bundle one the floor. At first, she thought she was hallucinating, or that maybe she were in the middle of some kind of dream. To be sure, she knelt down and carefully examined the items on the floor. No, she wasn't hallucinating. Then, she pinched her arm. Nope... not a dream.
Placing the candle on the ground, she reached for one of the two swords, hand grasping firmly around the handle. “Hel-lo,” she said, drawing the blade out of its scabbard. A wide smile formed across her face, as she inspected the sharpened edge. “Come to mama.”
Sheathing the sword, Rose then picked up the black and silver outfit. No, not just an outfit... armor, and it looked to be exactly her size. “What on earth...?” And then, she lifted her gaze. What she saw next charged her body with adrenaline.
The door to her bedchamber, the door normally locked from the outside... was wide open.
Deathstroke & Ravager #6
“<This way!>*” one of the guards shouted. He raced around the corner of the fortress corridor, leading his team along with him. Along the way, they passed the bodies of other fallen guards, lying motionless in pools of blood on the cold, stone floor. “<She was heading towards the East wall!>”
(*Translated from Standard Tibetan)
The guards, consisting mostly of Tibetan natives dressed in old fashioned armor and carrying spears, burst through the doorway leading into the stronghold's eastern wing. There, they ran by several more bloodied bodies, most of which were either dead or about to be.
“<Where could she be going?>” a guard asked, trying not to look at the fallen men surrounding them. “<She can't be escaping this way, it only leads farther into the mountains.>”
“<I don't know,>” another answered, pushing through a second set of doors. “<Maybe she's- hhrrck!>”
The man's words suddenly ceased, as a blade whipped out from the dark shadows, slicing through his neck. A second later, a figure burst from her hiding place and ran through the men, ducking and weaving around their pathetic attempts to subdue her. Sidestepping, she thrust one of her blades, piercing through the chest of one man while spinning her second weapon around behind her and cleaving another's head from his shoulders. Within moments, all six men lay dead at her feet.
“I'm not trying to escape, idiots,” Rose muttered, slipping back into the shadows. A moment later, she took off in a dead sprint. “Not yet.”
Leaping through one of the open, stone cut windows nearby, she landed softly outside atop the fortress' eastern wall. A swirl of cold air and snow hit her like a blade, piercing through the fibers of her armor, but she ignored it, pressing on. A little chill wasn't going to stop her, no this time. No, this time she'd have her revenge.
Blinking a few whipping snowflakes out of her eyes, Rose quickened her pace as another group of guards approached from the opposite direction. Lifting one of her swords, she threw the blade with inhuman precision, driving it home through the gut of the nearest man. When she finally reached the opposition, she slid low beneath a spear strike and cut upwards with her second blade, slicing cleanly through another guard's armor. On her way by, she ripped the thrown sword out of the man's body and spun wildly, both blades held close until the last moment, when she cut wide with them. The four men that had been converging on her from all sides went down instantly, bright crimson spraying from their wounds.
Rose wasted no time, immediately continuing along the top of the wall. She could already see her destination in the distance: a separate temple tower rising high above her on a mountain peak. He thought he was safe up there? Oh no... he wasn't safe. Not in the least. She was coming for him, and she would gut him like the pig he was.
She reached the end of the wall, coming face to face with a sheer cliff side in front of her. Sheathing her blades, Rose leaped upward, grabbing tightly to a handhold and climbing. She stumbled momentarily before driving her foot into another hold and pushing up. Within minutes, she made it a hundred feet up the cliff face, never slowing, never slipping. Her instincts and physical prowess compelled her along the right path, never missing a handhold.
Fifteen minutes after she began her climb, her hand latched onto the ledge above her. She pulled herself up slightly until her eyes peered over the snowy precipice, carefully scanning the area. Almost instantly, a spear point lowered itself in front of her gaze. Glaring coldly, she slowly looked up to see several guards already waiting for her.
“<Surrender immediately!>” one of them commanded. “<Or we will throw you from the ledge!>”
In retrospect, the stairs might have been the better route to take...
Snaking a knowing smirk across her face, Rose lashed her hand forward and gripped the spear shaft. With a firm tug, she yanked the man off balance, causing him to stumble forward and teeter there on the edge for a brief moment. The two other men moved quickly to catch him, but by that time Rose launched herself up and over. She landed nimbly on her feet, immediately sweeping her leg to the side, catching the three guard's in the ankles. With horrified screams, they plummeted over the cliff side and disappeared into the swirling snow beyond.
Straightening herself back to her feet, Rose took in a deep breath and pressed forward, already drawing her swords once again. It felt astoundingly good to have three feet of sharpened steel in either hand again. She hadn't realized how much she missed it until just now.
“Now then...” she muttered, racing towards the steps of the temple tower. “Where was I?”
“What the hell is going on?!” Jackal shouted, racing through the corridor. He struggled to pull on his armored suit and mask as he turned the corner, having only awoken a few minutes ago. It was the middle of the night, after all.
Several guards ran by him, one of them looking back. “<The prisoner has escaped!>”
“What?” Jackal muttered, eyes narrowing. “Speak English, you idiot! I don't speak native!”
“Prisoner escape!” the man replied, his English broken.
Jackal grumbled, smacking his forehead. “Oh you gotta be kidding me. How the hell did that happen?”
But he didn't receive an answer. Instead, the guards ran on ahead, bursting through the exit of the temple, into the swirling blizzard beyond. The doors closed behind them, and by the time Jackal approached, he heard cries of pain and horror. His hand paused momentarily, as he reached for the handle in front of him. Bringing his other arm behind him, he drew his sword and then finally pulled the doors open.
“Son of a b*tch,” he said, squinting his eyes.
The snow was really starting to come down now, bringing with it a near white out. Clicking a button on the side of his helmet, he switched the eye lenses over to thermal and scanned the area. The still warm bodies of the guards lay nearby, motionless in the snow, but no sign of their attacker... not yet.
“Jackal!” a voice screamed over the howling wind.
The man spun around suddenly, eyes going wide as he leaped backwards to defend two sweeping sword strikes. Though he blocked one of the blades, the second cut cleanly through his armor and spilled warm blood down his arm. Before he could make a counter attack, a boot planted itself against his chest and pushed hard, sending him stumbling backwards.
“Murderer!” Rose cried, lunging at him again. She attacked with a ferocity that she had very rarely ever shown, practically lost in bloodlust. “Rapist!”
Jackal turned his body in desperation, spinning out of the way of a sword thrust. He managed only to move directly into the path of the second blade, cold steel ripping through the meat of his thigh. “Gaaah! Fuuu-!”
His words cut off when the hilt of Rose's blade battered against the faceplate of his mask. He staggered momentarily, trying to maintain his balance. That proved impossible when Rose followed up with a spinning roundhouse kick to the back of the head that dropped him face first into the snow.
“You took everything from me,” Rose stated, pure ire fueling her voice. “My mother... my innocence... my whole life.”
“Wait a minute now,” Jackal uttered, pushing himself up to his hands and knees. “Let's talk about th-”
Rose silenced him with a stomp between the shoulder blades, forcing him back to the ground. “Don't you dare get up!”
“Nngh...” he said, barely holding himself up on his elbows now. He wore rather durable armor, and yet he still felt this girl's blows, as though he were fighting naked. She hit like a freaking truck.
“I want to know why,” Rose said, swallowing a numb lump knotted in her throat. If the cold air hadn't frozen her tears before they could fall down her cheeks, she'd be wiping her face dry right now, too. “Why did you do it? Why did you ruin my life?!”
Finally, Jackal made it back to his knees, kneeling upright. Rose seemed to allow it for now, eye narrowing as the man looked up at her. “Was... just business. Honest. I... I got the order. They sent me to... to do it.”
“They?” Rose questioned. “You mean the Syndicate?”
The man slowly nodded, remaining quiet.
“WHY?!” she screamed. “What the hell did I do to deserve it?! What did I do?!”
Jackal shook his head. “No... not you. Him.”
Rose's eye gradually widened in understanding. “Slade. My... father. He...”
“That's right,” Jackal said, chuckling softly under his breath. “It was all to get to him. You were just... the means to the end.”
Her jaw clenched tightly, as she imbibed the information. As if her father selling her out as a prisoner here for the past two years hadn't been bad enough... the entire reason that she had been tormented, that her mother was dead, her entire life ruined... it was all because Deathstroke was her father. Suddenly, a surging anger, an anger she hadn't felt in a long time, burned through her body. Over the past couple of years, the hatred she'd built up for her father had gradually diminished. Now, however... now, that hatred was back tenfold.
“B**tard...” she uttered, taking a step backwards and lowering her swords. Her attention seemingly wandered, lost in thought.
Jackal hesitated momentarily, gaze shifting to his left, where his sword lay just a foot away. He looked back briefly to the distracted Rose, hand twitching slightly, and then made his move. Grabbing his sword tightly around the handle, he lunged up from his spot on the ground and thrust it at the girl's chest. His attack, however, struck only air as Rose spun out of the way.
“Wha-” he started, eyes going wide.
In one fluid motion, Rose whirled around the man's backside and cut her swords across her body like scissors. The sharpened edges cleaved through Jackal's neck, dislodging his head from his shoulders and spraying out a fountain of crimson from the remaining stump.
Slowly lowering her bloodied blades, Rose watched the headless body teeter there for a split second before crumpling to the snow. “That was for my mother, you son of a b*tch.”
Sheathing her blades, Rose turned and began a dead sprint through the blizzard. With that bit of business taken care of, she had a fortress to escape from. The only question was, how? She didn't know much of the stronghold's layout, or the surrounding area. She'd be liable to get lost in the mountains and freeze to death before she made it to civilization. And that wasn't even the biggest question on her mind.
Who let me out of my room? Who gave me the armor, the swords... who's on my side here?
Rose returned inside the main part of the fortress, relieved to be out of the cold for the moment. She had to come up with a plan, some way to get out of here without getting herself killed in the frozen wilderness. It didn't matter who tried to stop her, she'd already proven she could cut her way through anyone who got in her way.
As she ran through the long, empty corridor, however, ice crystals abruptly coated the walls and the floor. At first, it looked like a simple, light frost, but within moments it was snowing. Inside. That could mean only one thing...
“Killer Frost,” she muttered, glaring at the woman at the end of the hall.
The icy blue woman grinned widely, holding a single hand forward. “Well, well, if it isn't my little plaything. Out for a midnight stroll, are we?”
“Out of my way, Frost. I'm not f**king around right now.”
“Oh I know,” she said. A swirl of cold and ice erupted from her palm, shooting forward in a wide, sweeping wave. “That's what makes it so fun!”
Rose acted quickly, leaping to the side and planting her feet against the wall next to her. Pushing off, she catapulted herself over the icy wave, landing nimbly on the other side and taking off in a sprint at the woman.
“You think you can torture me for two years and get off Scott-free?” Rose asked, sliding beneath another blast of ice. She popped back to her feet and leaped through the air, drawing her blades. “Think again!"
Killer Frost slid backwards on a path of ice, evading the attack and grinning. “Now this is what I've missed... go on, give me everything you got. I love it when you fight back.”
The remaining heat in the surrounding corridor suddenly disappeared at a rapid rate, temperature dropping like a rock. Rose shivered, body beginning to shudder as ice crystals formed over her armor. Her hair froze, lips chapped and split, and fingers became so numb that she could barely keep hold of her swords.
“Aww, what's the matter?” Killer Frost asked, strolling forward with a finger raised. “A little chilly?"
When another frozen wave burst from the woman's hand, Rose forced her body to move, jumping to the side and tumbling through a side door into the room beyond. The warmth within soothed her near frozen body somewhat, returning a little feeling to her extremities. Wasting no time, she kicked the door closed behind her and kept moving.
“Oh Roooosey,” Killer Frost called, pushing the door open and glancing around carefully.
It was dark in here, the only light coming from a couple torches along the far wall. The room itself was nothing more than a small dining room that the guards used for dinner. No windows, no other exits, a few pillars rising up near the center, and large tapestries hanging from the high ceiling.
The woman grinned, moving forward slowly across the floor. As she went, she began siphoning the heat in the room, frosting over every surface in the place. “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”
“Come on, you're not seriously going to hide from like this, are you?” she asked, pouting with mock disappointment. “I was so looking forward to playing with you again.”
Killer Frost moved towards the far wall, idly glancing at a tapestry to her left. “Don't be a poor-”
“Hey Frost-” Rose said, her voice abrupty splitting the air.
The icy woman looked up sharply, just in time to catch sight of Rose letting go of the tapestry next to her and lunging down through the air. She attempted to bring her hands up in time to freeze the girl in mid jump, but she never got the chance. Rose led her attack with one of her swords pointed forward like a spear, piercing through Killer Frost's chest cleanly up to the hilt.
Killer Frost gurgled slightly as blood built up in her throat. When the blade withdrew from her chest, she collapsed to the floor, twitching slightly in desperation.
“Later, b*tch,” Rose said, giving the woman a mocking salute before sprinting from the room.
“N... no...” Frost uttered, feeling the life slipping from her body. Weakly, she pressed her palm to the gaping wound in her chest and let out a subzero blast of air, instantly freezing the injury shut. “Not... over... Rosey.”
Rose sheathed her sword, now only walking through the fortress corridors. Her body still didn't want to move correctly, not yet having recovered from Killer Frost's work. At least now she had an opportunity to think, to plan how she was going to escape. Now she could-
“AAAHHHH!” she shrieked, agony exploding through her skull. She instantly dropped to the floor, clutching her head and whimpering with excoriating pain.
“Now, now,” a sickeningly mocking voice chided. “What do you think you're doing, hmm?”
Barely able to open her eye, she glanced upward, just managing to take notice of the man standing in front of her, a man with an oversized, transparent head. If she wasn't in so much freaking pain, she'd probably be a little creeped out by that. She made a desperate attempt to get up and attack, but agony in her skull only burst to new extremes, eliciting another inhuman screech from her throat.
“You've made quite a mess of things,” Psimon stated, shaking his head. “But I'm afraid that ends now. Back to your room, now.”
Rose abruptly lurched back to her feet, as if gripped by some kind of invisible force. She winced, her eye only half open as she began to float through the air towards him. “Wh... who are... you?”
“Who am I?” Psimon chuckled, smiling. “Why, I'm- nnff.”
As Psimon crumbled to the ground unconscious, the psychic hold on Rose's body suddenly disappeared. The pain in her skull, too, vanished completely, allowing relief to flood her body. She took several moments to kneel there and recover, breathing in deeply, until finally looking up to see who had saved her.
“Shiva?” she uttered, blinking several times. Standing before her was Lady Shiva, flanked by a pair of men dressed in full tactical commando gear and armed with assault rifles.
“So, little dove,” the assassin stated, eyes narrowing, “you've finally attempted to escape.”
“I...” Rose paused a moment, returning to her feet. “Why are you standing in my way? You're the one who was preparing me for this, training me, making me stronger.”
Lady Shiva breathed calmly. “While that is true, I never said I wouldn't attempt to stop you when the time came.”
“Then why attack brain dude over there?” Rose glanced down at the unconscious Psimon. “Why not let him take me?”
“Because if you are going to be stopped,” she explained, “it will be in a fair fight.”
Rose glared, lifting her hands into a fighting position. “Three on one, seems like a fair fight to me.”
Shiva glanced back and forth between the commandos next to her. “Yes, well... you're armed. I am not.”
“I don't want to fight you, Shiva.” Rose shifted her stance slightly, inching forward. The commandos raised their weapons in response, pointing the guns at her chest.
Lady Shiva turned her own body, now in a prepared fighting stance. “Then be like a bird, little dove.”
Another team of commandos moved through a corridor, rifles at the ready. They stayed in formation, never letting their guard down no matter how quiet it got. With how the prisoner had already torn through the stronghold, there was no telling what could happen.
“Where is she now?” one of them asked. “Do we have a position?”
“Last I heard, Lady Shiva took a team to take her down,” another answered.
The man uttered a cool breath, as they pushed through a set of doors. “Oh, well then nothing to worry about. Right?” His question was met with silence. “Guys?”
Turning his head, he looked forward, where the others were staring. Their target stood there, holding a bloodied and beaten Lady Shiva by the shirt collar. The pair of commandos that had been accompanying her lay dead nearby, each with a sword jutting through his chest. Rose looked up quickly at their arrival, dropping Shiva to the ground and ripping the blades from the men's bodies.
“Oh sh*t!” one of the commandos shouted, taking aim. “Open fire!”
By the time the air lit up with hot lead, Rose had already made it to one of the stone cut windows along the wall. She leaped through the open space, plummeting twenty feet down the wall into a snowbank below.
“Double back to the east steps!” a commando shouted, leading the team back down the corridor. “Don't let her get away!”
“Where is it, where is it?” Rose muttered, rounding the corner of the courtyard wall. She counted off the passageways along the west wall as she went. “One... two... three... there!”
Sprinting through the fourth passage, she clambered down a winding set of steps, through a long hallway at the bottom, and finally into a large garage, equipped with mechanical equipment and a small fleet of vehicles that looked like snowmobiles, but were much larger, with built in storage containers in the rear. At the far end of the garage was open space, leading out onto a snowy mountain trail beyond.
“One... two... three,” she said quietly, selecting the third one from the left, in the front row. The keys were already in the ignition. “Alright, time to get the hell out of-”
Bullets fired, ricocheting sharply off the various transport vehicles. Rose ducked low as she hopped onto the back of her snowmobile, revving the engine and gunning the machine forward. Just as she made it through the open exit, however, racing into the blizzard beyond, a pair of bullets ripped through her armor, piercing the back of her left shoulder.
“Son of a mother-!” she shrieked, as her left arm suddenly went half dead.
She could barely grip the handlebars now, which made controlling the beast of a vehicle incredibly difficult while trying to navigate through the dark in the middle of a snowstorm. The headlights did very little to clear the way for her, but as long as she kept to the trail, she should be okay. In theory. Then, she heard the bullets again, felt a third dig into the meat of her ass.
“Are you f**cking serious?!” she cried to herself, lurching forward on her seat. Glancing back over her shoulder, she spotted the lights of several other snowmobiles in hot pursuit. “Come on, come on!”
Fortunately, the pursuit didn't last very long. Within moments, the men chasing her veered off the path, lost in the snowstorm and more than likely crashing off a cliff or something. Whatever, as long as they didn't catch her. It was time she got the hell out of here.
Roughly an hour later, Rose slowed the snowmobile. By now, the snowstorm had subsided, with only a few light flurries still falling. In the distance, she could make out a few bright lights coming from the windows of small wooden homes.
“Well... there's the town,” she muttered, easing the vehicle along.
When she finally reached the edge of the small collection of buildings, she hopped off the seat and stumbled, barely maintaining her balance. Her left arm didn't want to move right now, and every step she took sent a sharp pain shooting through her right ass cheek. First chance she got, she was going to have to get those bullets removed. Doing it herself would be... interesting. Maybe with a mirror and some tweezers. Maybe...
For now, though, she had something else to take care of. Moving around to the rear of the snowmobile, she unlatched the lid on the large storage compartment and flipped it open.
“How you doing back there?” she asked, gazing inside.
Almost instantly, a small figure leaped out of the compartment and pulled Rose into a tight hug.
“Nggaah,” Rose uttered, as a sharp pain flared through her shoulder. “Good to see you, too, Cassandra. Now come on, let's find the inn.”
About an hour ago...
“Then be like a bird, little dove.”
Rose's eye went wide at the statement. Be like a bird... it was a very simple, even nonsensical statement, at least to anyone else. But Shiva had mentioned it before, several times, in fact. She had never told Rose what the phrase meant, only to remember it, and that its importance would reveal itself when the time was right.
“Be like a bird...” she repeated, quietly. “...and fly free.”
In a lightning quick motion, Rose drew both her swords and whipped them through the air. Before the commandos had a chance to react, they went down in a heap, each with a blade sticking through their chests.
Once both men lay on the floor dead, Shiva relaxed, breathing outwardly and lowering her guard. “Very good, little dove.”
“It was you, wasn't it?” Rose asked. “You let me out of the room. You left the armor, the swords... you wanted me to escape.”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“But why now?”
“Because I finally believe you are ready.”
Rose narrowed her gaze, confused. “Ready for what?”
Stepping forward, Lady Shiva placed a hand on the girl's shoulder. “Would you like to know the reason I decided to train you?”
“I saw something in you,” the woman explained. “Something great, something... unexplainable. I knew you could be the one.”
“The one to what?”
“To protect my daughter,” she replied.
Rose lifted an eyebrow. “To... what now?”
“Cassandra has no future here.” Bowing her head, Lady Shiva uttered a deep sigh and shook her head. “These people will use her as a weapon, and that's all she'll ever be. I cannot flee with her or they will hunt me down and they will kill us both. So, I want you to take her. I want you to flee from here, I want you to never let her out of your care, and I want you to keep her safe. For her sake, not just mine.”
“But... but what makes you think I can do that?” Rose asked, expression softening. “You said yourself, if you left The Syndicate, they'd hunt you down and kill you. And I'm... well, not you.”
Lady Shiva smiled slightly. “You might as well be, and you will only get stronger. But more than that, by staging your escape and allowing them to believe you kidnapped Cassandra, they will put me in charge of finding you.”
Rose raised her eyebrows in understanding. “And you'll intentionally mislead the search.”
“But how do I get out of here?” she asked. “How do I find Cassandra, how do I-”
“It's all taken care of,” Shiva explained. “Go to the main courtyard and take the fourth passage along the west wall. At the end of the corridor beyond, you'll find a garage with several snow transport vehicles. Cassandra is already hidden within the storage compartment of the third one in the front row, along with blankets, some money, and a first aid kit if you need it. Follow the trail beyond to the bottom of the mountain and continue straight west until you make it to a small town. Rest at the inn for the night, and in the morning find a way to the nearest major city. I don't care where you go from there, just please... protect my daughter.”
Rose went quiet a moment, making sure she had the information correct. Then, she nodded and turned to leave. “I promise you, I won't let anything happen to her.”
“Before you leave,” Shiva said, stepping forward. “There is something we must do. You must beat me.”
“Uh... excuse me?”
“To make it believable, it must look as though you defeated me and got away.”
Bowing her head slightly, Rose uttered a cool breath. “Right...”
Lady Shiva smile, dropping to one knee and lifting her chin forward. “Make it look real.”
A short few minutes later, the doors at the end of the corridor burst open. Rose turned her gaze to see another team of commandos entering, caught in apparent shock. Dropping the bloodied Shiva to the ground, she ran forward to grab her blades and then lunged out the nearby window as bullets filled the air.
When the commandos doubled back through the hallway, Lady Shiva slowly pushed herself back to her hands and knees. Wiping a line of blood from her mouth, she looked up to the window that Rose had jumped out of and smiled a very small smile. “Fly free, little dove.”
Deathstroke & Ravager #7
The screaming wasn't something that Rose had been prepared for. She never thought that someone who couldn't speak a word could exclaim such pure terror so loudly, but Cassandra proved her wrong on their very first night together away from the fortress. Then again, perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised. From what Lady Shiva had told her, Cassandra's vocal cords functioned perfectly... she had just never been allowed to learn how to communicate through speech, rendering her essentially mute except in certain circumstances.
Like right now, with the screaming.
“Cass?” Rose uttered, lurching straight upright in bed.
She looked around the dark inn room, enhanced eyes quickly adjusting to the lack of light. A panic began to surge through her, as the girl's screams grew louder, more frantic – had the guards from the fortress found them somehow? Were they here now?
Scrambling out of bed, Rose tripped her way across the room to find the light switch, flicking it on. When the ceiling light illuminated the room, her vision found Cassandra thrashing around the other small bed, fingers tightly gripping the sheets and eyes squinted shut. The poor girl's lips parted wide, inhuman screeches of terror erupting from her throat.
“Cassandra!” she called, arriving at the girl's side and gently taking hold of her shoulders. “Cassandra, wake up!”
Suddenly, the screaming stopped. Cassandra's eyes flew open and she bolted upright, chest heaving. For a brief moment, everything was calm, but soon she broke down into tears, slouching forward and whimpering.
“Hey, hey,” Rose said, pulling the girl closely into her arms. Cassandra hugged back tightly, her grip like iron. “Shhh, shhh... it's okay. It was just a nightmare.”
Just a nightmare? she thought. No, whatever that was... it was much worse.
It took twenty minutes before Cassandra finally settled down and stopped crying. As the sobbing gradually softened, Rose absently took to brushing her hands through the girl's hair, trying desperately to comfort her. She wasn't really qualified for this, looking after someone like Cassandra... They were only a year apart, and yet Cassandra was like a child in many ways.
Whereas Rose had seen so much in her short fourteen years of life, matured well beyond what someone her age should have, Cassandra had been... sheltered, taught only how to fight and how to kill. Cassandra really didn't know anything about the world, and now it was Rose's duty to introduce her to it, to help her grow and to protect her. All they had was each other now, each the other's only friend. She'd be damned if she was going to fail at that.
“You okay?” Rose asked, giving the girl a concerned look.
Cassandra looked back up at her, eyes carefully studying Rose's expression, posture, tone, everything. She couldn't actually understand most of the words, but she understood the body language, and thus the message. Slowly, she nodded.
Rose paused a moment, still holding her arms tightly around her friend. “Do you... have nightmares a lot?”
“I see...” she said, shifting her gaze to the side. What the hell had Cain done to this girl? “I'm... I'm sorry, Cass. I wish I knew how to help you.”
Then, Cassandra gently tugged on Rose's arm and pointed back at the bed.
Rose furrowed her brow a moment, trying to understand what the girl was telling her. “You want... to...?”
Again, Cassandra tugged her arm and pointed down at the bed. This time, however, she pressed her palms together and tilted her head to the side, bringing her hands up against her chin.
“...to stay with you?” Rose glanced back at the bed and nodded slowly. “Right, you want me to sleep with you. Is that it? Here?”
She pointed at the mattress and gave the girl a questioning look. Cassandra quickly nodded.
Breathing out a small sigh, Rose shrugged and started to move off the bed. “Alright, I guess, if that's-”
As she went to get up, Cassandra's hand suddenly flew forward and grabbed onto Rose's wrist with a surprisingly powerful grip. The look on her face was one of absolute terror.
“Oh, hey, no, I'm not leaving,” Rose replied, holding up a hand to reassure the girl. “I'm just getting the light, alright? I'm coming right back.”
When Rose pointed across the room at the light switch, Cassandra visibly relaxed and loosened her grip. When the light finally flicked off, Rose returned to the bed and curled beneath the covers. Almost instantly, Cassandra reached out to hug her, pulling herself close and not letting go. Within a short few minutes, she was asleep again.
Rose sighed lightly, holding her own arm around Cassandra and shutting her eyes. “Night, Cass.”
The next several days were... taxing, to say the least. Rose would have been perfectly at home fighting her way through murderous goons trying to kill her, but spending endless hours sitting around the U.S. Consulate in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, awaiting them to sort out a way to send her and Cass back to the States without passports... it was, quite possibly, the most boring and mind numbing thing she'd ever been through.
At the very least, the consulate appeared to believe Rose's story that she and Cassandra were sisters visiting Tibet with their parents, when their parents were suddenly killed and they kidnapped. Through sheer luck, they were able to escape and find their way back here. The next several days had been spent arranging their flight home to stay with other relatives, while opening an investigation to search for the missing dead parents who didn't even exist. Of course, by the time the consulate discovered that the story was a fake, Rose and Cassandra would hopefully be long gone.
Now, the two sat front row on a large jumbo jet getting ready to take off down the runway. The engines rumbled as the plane picked up speed, and poor Cassandra held onto the arm rests with a death grip, pushing herself back against her seat with wide eyes.
“There's nothing to worry about,” Rose assured, leaning close to her. “I've been on a plane dozens of times before. They're perfectly safe.”
Cassandra slowly turned, eying Rose's relaxed body language. Several moments later, she, too, began to relax somewhat, although her fingers never left the arm rest. Once the jet lifted up off the runway into the air, however, Cassandra squinted her eyes shut, face contorting with fright. This lasted for roughly ten minutes, until finally the plane reached its cruising altitude and leveled out. Finally, she opened her eyes again and breathed out a heavy sigh.
“See?” Rose said, holding a hand to the girl's shoulder. “Nothing to worry about.”
Cassandra glanced back at her momentarily, then quickly turned her attention to the window. Almost instantly, she brought her face close and gazed outside with her eyes and mouth wide, just watching the almost surreal world of clouds in the sky below them.
“Yeah, I remember my first time flying,” Rose said. “I was pretty amazed, too. I won't say I was afraid, because I totally wasn't... but it was definitely strange.”
Several minutes later, Cassandra leaned back in her seat and sat up straight, hands on her legs. She gently swung her feet below her, breathing outwardly.
“So... bored already?” Rose leaned forward, pulling out her small carry on bag from below the seat and rummaging through it. “I figured you'd need something to do for the next twelve hours, so... damn it, where are they? Oh, here we go.”
A second later, she sat straight up and placed a stack of index cards on the foldout tray in front of her. Cassandra idly tilted her head to the side, staring with subtle intrigue.
“I just figured since, you know, your dad never taught you how to talk – or read and write – I might, you know... teach you,” Rose said, writing down the letters of the alphabet with a pen, one per card. “These are called flashcards. They... well, they're a pretty simple way to help learn stuff. In this case, the alphabet. We'll start with this.”
Rose lifted the the first card, with a large letter 'A' written on it, and placed it down on Cassandra's tray table. Then, she placed a blank card next to it, along with the pen. Cassandra stared at it a while, then tentatively took the pen into her hand.
“This is the letter A,” Rose explained. “It makes the sound – here, hold the pen like this – it makes the sound aaaah, or ay, or ahhhh. Go on, give a try.”
Cassandra blinked a couple times in confusion, staring down at the letter. Eventually, she forced out a quiet “aahhhh”, uttering the sound a few times.
“That's good,” Rose said, curling her lips into a slight smile. “Now try writing it.” She briefly lifted her hand, pretending to hold a pen and writing across the air.
Scratching her head briefly, Cassandra brought the pen down to the paper and squiggled a very shaky, wavy letter 'A'. Actually, it barely looked like the letter 'A' at all, but hey, it was better than nothing.
Rose held a hand to her chin, watching the girl work. “Not bad, not bad... give it a few more tries and we'll move on to B.”
“Aaah,” Cassandra said, scratching out a few more letters on the card. “Ahhhh.”
Suddenly, Rose noticed something out of the corner of her eye. Turning towards the aisle, she noticed a couple people staring at them with odd expressions, as if somehow annoyed by Cassandra's lessons.
“Problem?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at them. When their stares only grew more bewildered, Rose turned fully towards them, rising out of her seat slightly. “I said, you got a problem? No? Then mind your own damn business!”
Though the people across the aisle finally looked away, her outburst drew the attention of almost the entire other plane. She paused briefly, glaring around at everyone. “Nothing to see here... assholes.” Finally, she sat back down and folded her arms, ignoring the stares.
Throughout all of this, Cassandra retained her attention on the index cards in front of her, scribbling away. “Ahhhh. Aaahhhh. Aayyy.”
Breathing out a heavy sigh, Rose lifted a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. “This is going to be a long flight...”
Sixteen hours and two layovers later, the duo arrived on the streets of quite possibly the most infamous city known to man: Gotham. It certainly wouldn't have been Rose's first place to go when returning to the States, but there were a few specific reasons why she'd settled on it. One, they needed a place to live for the time being, a safe place to call home. Gotham contained one of the many safehouses that her father had set up during his time as Deathstroke. It contained food, clothes, money, weapons, jus about anything they could want right now. While they couldn't actually stay there, they'd need the supplies.
Secondly, her father had done a lot of business for people in Gotham. From the stories had had told her, he took jobs from clients all over the world, yet astoundingly a large majority of them happened to be based in this city, go figure. Rose had only two goals right now. One was to look after and protect Cassandra, but the other... the other was to find Slade, her father. He was the reason that her mother had been killed, the reason why her life fell apart, and not to mention the reason she'd been captured and imprisoned for two years in a foreign country by the Syndicate. She was going to make him pay for that, but she'd have to track him down first. His most frequent clients would be a good place to start in gathering information on where to find him.
“Tttuh,” Cassandra muttered, as they walked down the street. “Tteee. Tttuttuh.” She held the index card with the letter 'T' close to her face, staring at it intently.
“This way,” Rose said, gently tugging the girl's hand. “The safehouse is right around this corner.”
The safehouse was nothing more than an old, fortified apartment in an abandoned building. According to Slade, he'd renovated it and made certain arrangements with some powerful people to make sure no one ever went near it. She just hoped that it was still...
“There,” she uttered, breathing out a relieved sigh as the building came into view.
She led Cassandra through the entrance and up the darkened, musty stairwell. Abandoned was right... it looked like no one had lived here in near a decade. When they reached the top floor, Rose had to stop for a moment to remember exactly which of the old apartments had the safehouse built into it. Was it 3B? 3D? No...
“Three E,” she muttered, heading towards the end of the hall. When she opened the door, she was greeted by a second, this one thick and metallic, with a built in security panel. “Well... should have known that would be too easy. Hold on a second, Cass, gotta think on this for a bit.”
Cassandra barely paid any attention, instead continuing her flashcard study. “Aarrrr... rrrrr... rrruh.” Evidently, she was on 'R'.
“Adeline?” Rose muttered, punching in the letters. The panel blinked back a bright red 'denied' in response. “What about... Grant?” Denied. “Joseph?” Denied. “Lillian?” Denied. “Deathstroke... Terminator... Slade... Rose...” Denied, denied, denied, denied. Then, suddenly, something clicked in her head. “Wait a minute, the hell am I doing? Cass, step back a second.”
Looking up from her flashcards, Cassandra took a step back and watched as Rose squared herself up in front of the metal security door. Breathing in deeply, Rose raised her leg and then exhaled sharply at the same time she thrust her boot forward, smashing it firmly against armored surface. Had she been a normal fourteen year old girl, she likely would have simply bounced off, but given her enhanced attributes, her foot instead dented the face of the door and tore it straight off the wall. With a loud, metallic thud,the door crashed against the floor, allowing them entry inside.
“See? Who the hell needs a password?” Rose said, walking inside. Cassandra quickly followed.
The apartment within more or less resembled a large panic room, with secured, armored walls, floor, and ceiling. The space was meticulously clean for a place that hadn't been used in years, and the furnishings simple and scarce. Moving through the safehouse, she did manage to find exactly what she'd come here for, though: money, clothes, and weapons. Mostly weapons. Grenades, swords, guns, ammunition, you name it, Deathstroke had it. She'd be sure to put all of that to good use in the coming months.
“Here, help me pack,” Rose said, pulling out a few large, heavy duty military style duffel bags. She began filling one of them with stacks of cash and boxes of ammo.
Cassandra looked up from her flashcards, moving closer to the storage container. When she saw the guns inside, however, her eyes instantly went wide. Screaming loudly, she ran towards the corner of the room and curled up into a ball, hands held around her head as if to protect herself.
“Huh?” Rose said, looking over at the terrified girl. She briefly brought her gaze back to the box full of guns, and then again towards Cassandra. “You... don't like guns.” She said it more to herself than to Cass, and suddenly felt a sinking feeling bubble into her gut. “Well, shit.”
Quickly, Rose packed away everything she needed into the duffel bags and hoisted them around her shoulders. Then, she walked over to Cassandra, who now sat up against the wall with her flashcards in her lap, staring at them.
“Ppuuh,” she muttered, rocking back at forth slightly. “Puuh ppuh pppuh.”
“Hey...” Rose said, softening her eyes. “You ready to go?”
Cassandra stopped rocking, slowly looking back up at her. After staring for several long moments, she picked up her flashcards and stood up, taking Rose's hand.
Rose sighed, bowing her head slightly and leading the girl out into the hallway. “Alright, come on... let's find a real place to stay.”
She hates guns... why does she hate guns? Rose wondered. It's almost like she was afraid of them... like she had some kind of bad experiences with them... Goddamn it, what did her father do to her?
The individual known simply as Mockingbird sat quietly in the sitting room of his home, a fire flickering in the fireplace. He took small sips from his wineglass, as he gazed into the flames, thoughts lost on in the past. Failures, so many of them. The team, his Secret Six... they had proven utterly useless. They had bickered, fought, and torn each other to pieces long before any of their missions had a chance to get off the ground. Perhaps he had put far too much faith in such volatile individuals. He should have known better than to think they could work together.
Still, all was not lost. He could always try putting together a new team, a new Secret Six. He'd just have to be... much more considerate in the team members he selected. Yes, that was it. He merely had to learn from his mistakes. He would improve and come back even better next time. But no right now, no. He'd need time to think on it, to plan... if he was going to try it again, he was going to do it right this time.
A crash of broken glass suddenly pulled his attention away from the fire. He showed no surprise or panic, however, when he turned to look at the shattered window across the room, or the shadowed figure now standing there. Instead, he merely set his wineglass on the end table next to him and uttered a sigh.
“Let me guess... you're here to kill me,” he muttered.
“I'm here for information,” the reply came.
Lifting an eyebrow, Mockingbird sat up straight in his seat. “Information, is that right? And who's asking?”
After a brief hesitation, the figure moved forward into the firelight, revealing an armored costume and two toned mask. “Call me Deathstroke.”
“Deathstroke, you say... yes, I've heard of you,” Mockingbird stated. “Not in a while, mind you, but you were quite well known over a decade ago, weren't you?”
Deathstroke said nothing, merely folding his arms across his chest.
“Not a big talker, I see.” Mockingbird brought a hand to his chin, thinking carefully. “And what exactly do you want to know?”
“The Syndicate,” Deathstroke said. “I've spent the last two years digging up what I can on them, but I still don't have enough to go on. They're bigger than I could have imagined... and I need to know exactly how big.”
Mockingbird scoffed, sinking back in his armchair. “What makes you think I know about the Syndicate?”
“Don't bullshit me. I know all about your Secret Six. You've crossed paths with the Syndicate before.”
“The Secret Six,” Mockingbird said, standing up from his seat, “were a failure.”
Deathstroke narrowed his eye. “Not completely. They got you information about The Syndicate's inner workings, their higher ups, their confidants... I want everything you got on them.”
“What for?” Mockingbird grabbed the fire poker, absently stoking the flames. “You trying to bring them down? That's a losing battle, you know, fighting them off all by yourself. I don't care how good you think you are.”
“What I do is none of your business,” Deathstroke retorted, taking a step forward.
Mockingbird paused a long time, until finally he replaced the fire poker next to the fire and brought his hands behind his back. “Deathstroke the Terminator, trying to bring down the largest criminal organization on the planet all by himself. Hmph. Deathstroke the Fool.”
Reaching back behind his shoulder, Deathstroke grabbed the hilt of his sword, drawing it partway out of its scabbard. “Keep in mind, I don't need you, just the information.”
“Oh, I'm well aware of that,” Mockingbird said, slowly turning towards the mercenary. “But perhaps... we can come to an agreement, hmm?”
Deathstroke & Ravager #8
“So, you heading to the bar later?” Jason asked, as he walked slowly along the office building corridor.
His friend, Earl, walked beside him, hand resting casually on the gun holstered to his belt. “Nah, I gotta get home to the wife, soon as the boss lets us go for the night. She'll kill me if I come in past midnight again. I swear, she'll use any excuse to accuse me of cheating.”
“Heh, and that's why I'm not married,” he replied. “Women, they're too high maintenance. As far as I'm concerned, they're good for one thing and one thing only, and I get plenty of that without a committed relationship.”
“Oh sure, that's nice and all, but you got no companionship,” Earl said. They turned the corner of hallway, continuing their rounds. “Sure, Denise can be a real paranoid bitch sometimes, but she's good to me.”
Jason just shook his head. “Whatever you say, man.”
As they moved down the corridor, watchful eyes followed their movements from above, through the slits in the air duct. Ravager had crawled her entire way through the ducts on this floor, after scaling the interior of the elevator shaft, and as enhanced as her natural abilities were, even she wasn't immune to annoyance and over exertion, not to mention the subtle creeping effects of claustrophobia. She took deep breaths, though, to calm her nerves, waiting patiently for the security guards to disappear around another corner. Finally, she eased open the cover of the vent and dropped down below to the floor. Standing straight, she took in a deep breath of fresh air and then looked around. Dark, quiet... pretty much to be expected at this time of night. As far as she knew, though, her target was still here, and so she pressed onward down the hall.
She had been all over the country this past year, chasing lead after lead that might bring her to her father, the man she desired revenge against. It had been slow going, though. Not only were her investigations cumbersome and annoying, but she had Cassandra to look out for, as well. Between teaching that girl how to read, write, and speak (a process that had made painfully little progress thus far), interrogating Slade's former clients, and traveling from city to city, there had been little downtime in her life recently. She knew she needed a break, but she wouldn't allow herself to take one. If she waited too long, the trail might go cold, and if the trail went cold there was no guarantee that she would be able to pick it up again.
Of course, with as many places as she had been during the past year, it seemed almost... insultingly ironic that she now found herself back in Gotham, the city where she had started. She felt like she was going in circles at this point, and she didn't like that much at all. Still, she knew she'd break open her investigation eventually... it was all just a matter of time. And patience. It was that constant thought that allowed her to keep her poise as she marched towards the thirtieth floor corporate office of Daggett Industries. Roland Daggett, another one of her father's former clients, had used Deathstroke's services on numerous occasions. With any luck, he would know where he was now.
When Rose kicked in the door to the office, the man sitting behind the desk at the end of the room bolted upright immediately, staring frozen at the girl marching across his floor. A white haired girl with a mask, armor, and two swords on her back was no doubt one of the last things he would have ever imagined barging into his office that night.
“What is this?” he asked, taking cautious step backwards. “Who the hell are you?”
“That's not important,” she said, moving straight up to the desk. She drew one of her swords in the process, flipping it around in her hand. “But I know who you are, Roland Daggett. I also know that you've hired the mercenary known as Deathstroke in the past, on three separate occasions to guard various illegal imports across seas.”
“You don't know what the hell you're talking about,” he muttered, reaching his hand towards the intercom on the corner of his desk.
Ravager brought the edge of her blade down with lightning quickness between his hand and the intercom, preventing him from reaching it. “I wouldn't do that if I were you. And don't play stupid, I have written records of your contracts with Deathstroke.”
Slowly pulling his hand back, Daggett frowned. “So what do you care, anyway? That was more than fifteen years ago.”
“I'm looking for him,” Ravager said, narrowing her eyes. “My search brought me to you... I figure he might have contacted you again to let you know his services were on the market again.”
“Are you out of your mind? I haven't heard anything about that man since the last time I hired him.” Daggett took a small step back, his hand slowly moving down to his side and behind his back. “As far as I know, he's retired. Or dead.”
Ravager shook her head. “Not according to some other sources. He's been working again, though I don't know for what... If he's back in the business, someone has to know where to find him.”
“Well, I'm not that person, sorry. Now, if you'll kindly leave me to my business, I have a lot paperwork...” His fingers suddenly gripped the handle of his pistol stuffed in the back of his pants. He pulled it free and swung it around in front to shoot at the intruder, but before he ever got that chance Ravager caught his wrist, twisted the gun out of his hand, then snapped his elbow in the opposite direction it was meant to go in. Daggett toppled against his desk a moment later screaming, his crippled arm flopping uselessly at his side. “F**k! My arm! You broke my goddamn arm!”
“You're the one who tried to shoot me,” Ravager said, with a small roll of her eyes. “Idiot.” She then moved around the side of the desk and brought her blade near his throat. “If you don't know anything about Deathstroke, I'm willing to bet you know someone who does. You're well acquainted with the other dirty scum in the city, am I right? All you cockroaches tend to crawl around together, from my experience...”
“I swear... I swear I don't know anything, you crazy b*tch.”
Ravager shook her head, gently tsk tsking at him. The edge of her sword moved a bit closer, just drawing a trickle of blood from his throat. “Wrong answer.”
As the blade pushed even closer, Daggett closed his eyes and threw up his one good arm in protest. “Alright, alright! Thorne... Rupert Thorne, try him. He heads one of the local mob families here in Gotham, I know he's in the business of hiring guys like Deathstroke on occasion. He might have what you're looking for.”
“That's a little better...” Ravager muttered, pulling her blade back a little. She only did so momentarily, however, as she reached to grab her other sword. Pulling it free, she then brought them both around his neck in a scissor-like pattern. “Now I can get rid of you without feeling too bad.”
“Wait, what? No!” Daggett cried, backing up as far as he could against the desk. “I told you what you wanted to know!”
“You say that like it makes a difference,” she said, without the slightest shift of tone in her cold voice. “You're still a lying, cheating, murderous piece of scum. I've found that the world is better off without people like you.”
“No! Please! I'll- I'll do anyth- is it money? I'll give you money! Whatever you want!”
She simply shook her head. “Sorry, don't need money. Now, just suck it up and take it like a man. At least try to go out with some dignity.”
As she went to make the killing motion, however, a tiny blur ran across the room and grabbed at her wrists. The tugging did very little to actually move her swords away, but the realization of who it was made her hesitate. Standing there, desperately trying to yank Ravager's hands backwards, was Cassandra Cain.
“Cass, what the hell are you doing here?!” she exclaimed, pulling away slightly. “What have I told you about following me at night? You're supposed to be at the hotel!”
The girl said nothing (well, because she couldn't say anything), and instead pushed herself between Ravager and Daggett, arms held out wide at her sides. Then, she firmly shook her head.
“Cass, get out of the way,” Ravager said, trying to move past the girl. “I have a job to do here.”
But Cassandra didn't listen. She brought her hands forward, planting her palms firmly against Ravager's chest and shoving.
“What the hell, Cass? Let me by!”
Again, the girl shook her head.
“Cass, get out of the way!”
Ravager paused, dumbfounded. She had to take a moment to make sure she had heard correctly, blinking back at the girl in shock .”You... spoke.”
“No... kill,” Cassandra said, shaking her head again. “No kill.”
“You don't get it, I have to do this,” Ravager said, giving the girl a hard stare. “You don't know what kind of man this is. He's no different than people like my dad... or your dad.”
But Cassandra held strong. “No.”
A long moment of silence passed between them. Ravager stared into Cassandra's eyes for the longest time, those steely, adamant eyes. Yet, as fierce as they were, there was also a hint of desperation in them... as though she were pleading for Ravager not to go through with it. With each passing second, Ravager felt the knot in her stomach grow just a little tighter, until finally she forced herself to look away and step backwards, sheathing her swords.
“Fine,” she muttered. “Have it your way.” As she walked back around the side of the desk, she turned to give Daggett one more look. “But you stick around, I'm sure the cops will love some of the dirt I have on you. Take care, now.”
About an hour later, Rose lay back against the lone bed in the hotel room, just staring at the ceiling. It seemed pointless getting a room with two beds, when Cassandra had taken up the habit of sleeping with her. (No, not that way, get your mind out of the gutter). Ever since their first night together, the only way Cassandra could get through the night without any nightmares was with Rose sleeping beside her. Perhaps she just felt safer that way, more relaxed. Whatever the reason, she very seldom slept alone now.
Across the room, Cassandra sat in the chair near the table, staring at the carpet and swinging her legs gently back and forth. She knew that Rose was upset with her, but it wasn't her fault, really. She hadn't meant to make her angry. She hadn't meant to follow her that night. She just... didn't like it when Rose went out and left her alone in the room. Not that she couldn't handle being alone for a few hours, that wasn't it. It was when Rose came back, how distant she was, how... sad she looked, or frustrated. Cassandra suspected that Rose's nightly escapades had begun to take their toll, and if she didn't step in to help her, then... well, what kind of friend would she be?
“Sorry for yelling,” Rose said, still staring at the ceiling.
Cassandra looked up slowly, bringing her legs to a stop.
“I just... I wasn't expecting you to be there,” she continued. “You weren't supposed to be there...” Breathing out a heavy sigh, she brought a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. “You don't like it when I kill someone, I get it. But you have to understand that sometimes... it just has to be done.”
“No.” Cassandra was on her feet now. She made her way over to the bed and lay down next to Rose, staring at her with knowing eyes. “No... kill. Ever. No... rree... reaaz...rayzin.”
“Reason,” Rose corrected, glancing down at the girl. “You mean 'no reason'. And that's a nice enough sentiment, but things just don't work that way. Not when you're me, not when you're dealing with my father.”
Cassandra was quiet for a moment. She looked away, gaze drifting idly up to the ceiling. Then, she rolled over slightly and wrapped her arms around Rose, nuzzling close as she often did before sleep. “No kill... please?”
“You really have something against it, don't you?” Rose asked, giving the girl a hard look. When Cassandra failed to meet her gaze, she exhaled and looked away. Eventually, she returned the embrace and wrapped her own arms around Cassandra. “Fine... I'll try, alright? But one of these days, when you're able... you're going to tell me what happened to you, okay?”
The only response she received was a tiny squeeze around her midsection. She took that to mean a yes.
(That's it for now. Look for Rose and Cassandra to return in the upcoming chapters of DC Mayhem: Secret Six!)