Their blades were like lightning. Their strikes were that fast. Weapons that had found their place here in this battle. Without his Armor, Deathstroke would have been no match for the youth and energy that Mary had. The woman was an animal in battle. However, he now had something that evened-them out. The Red Guard was finally making up lost ground against the Empire’s forces. They were almost at the palace. Some of them got a view of the two combatants. With the fire of battle now shining in through the window, both of them were fighting that much harder. For Mary, it was her survival. For Deathstroke, it was his rage. Years of revenge was being visited upon this woman. Every time he looked at the pictures he kept of his daughter, he thought of her death. This was vindication, for him.
Mary grabbed his weapon, pulling him in close. She whipped out a pistol, which he grabbed. They wrestled over it, and she threw him behind her. The man landed perfectly, bringing his blade back up.
“Time to die, Franc!” She took aim. He threw the weapon at her. She slid to the side. He reached behind him, pulling out a collapsible staff. With perfect timing, the staff snapped onto her arm, knocking the gun away. Mary grabbed her blade, along with his on the wall and the battle continued. Deathstroke was just as much of a master with this weapon as he was with the sword. Even with two swords, he was keeping pace. If anything, only having one weapon to work with was making him more focused. Mary was seeing just how good her opponent was, quickly realizing that she might die in this battle. All soldiers who could gathered, eager to see how this fight would turn out. Deathstroke finally had the upper hand. Mary was losing focus. His rage was giving him laser-focus. It was like everything she was going to do was in front of him. The fighting just got more and more fierce as the staff was going to work on her. He was getting closer and closer. Where his staff wasn’t, his feet were. Now she was to the point where she couldn’t block fast enough.
The man was in berserk mode. The swords had actually hit him a few times. He didn’t seem to notice or care. He brought the staff down, taking out her legs. He vaulted over her, smacking her stomach with his leg. The girl groaned, trying to right herself. She got onto her feet, just to find the staff smacking her in the face. The girl was practically sent flying, landing on a very ugly position on the floor. She barely had time to look up before she saw the staff smack the side of her head. This had her land right where her gun was.
“I’ve got you now!” She brought the gun to bear.
With perfect grace, Deathstroke slide down, bringing the front of the staff to bear. There was a crack. Both of them looked at each other. To everyone outside, they wondered – who had won? That was when they saw Mary’s face contort. She fell backward, with blood pooling around her. The end of the staff had been a handy hidden-weapon with piercing rounds. He got back up, his muscles making him a thousand promises of pain in the morning. He dragged himself over to where she lay.
She looked up at him. “Well, it looks like you’ve done it. You’ve gotten your revenge! You beat the Princess of the Empire! Congratulations! Do you feel better? Did this bring your little girl back?” The cold distance in her voice was telling.
He shook his head. “No. But it had to be done.”
That got a dark and gurgling chuckle out of her. “Now you know how it was for me.”
Picking up her gun, he took aim at her head. “The difference being – you did what you did for fame and glory. I did it for the person I love. That is what will always separate us, Mary. Goodbye.” There was another crack. The top of her head exploded. The cold and dead look remained in her eyes. The man’s face was blank as the helmet of his suit came back up. He started to limp his way out. The fighting at the palace was coming to an end.
They walked up the stairs, toward what was the main audience chamber in the palace. Wolf was quiet. This man, the last of the Knights, was not attacking her. He seemed somber, sad. Like he was in great pain.
“Why are you helping me, Knight?” she asked. There was no answer. They got in front of a massive door leading in to the room.
“I have a request for you, Wolf. One which only you can grant. I am helping you so that you will hear my request. You follow?”
“End my torment! Take this curse away from me! Make me a human again!” He held out his mutated and crystal-ridden arms. It was truly disgusting, how the crystals had ripped out of his skin. “I beg of you, please. If you cannot do that, then allow me the peace of death. That is what I ask, Creator! All I ask.” He fell to his knees in front of her, crying what almost looked like crystalline tears.
She felt so much kinship with this creature. It didn’t want to suffer. It just wanted to be free. Freedom or death. A beautiful sentiment. She took off her glove, putting her hand on the forehead of the creature.
“I can’t guarantee that this will work. If it comes to it, I’ll make it quick.”
The man rubbed his mangled face that also had beautiful glistening crystals coming out of it in her hand. “I understand, Creator. Thank you.”
She focused on the man. Truly, this was like nothing she had attempted before. His talent, it was amazing. If it were refined, he would be able to make this crystal grow and shrink on his skin as he saw fit. It would become the greatest biological shield. The toughness of diamonds with the durability of rubber. The man was a living fortress. However, since the power was so raw, she couldn’t up and steal it. Not without it being refined. Which, she could feel, was something she could do. Through her arm, some of her blood came into the man. It circulated through his system. He cried out, not in pain, but in uncertainty. His body contorted as she backed off. The crystals were changing. They were no longer mangled and mutated. Instead, they became scaled. Like a snake. It was a seamless merging with his skin, and over his entire body.
The man stood up, filled with rage. “What have you done to me?!”
She took off her mask, smiling at him. “Calm down. Focus. Concentrate on the scales going away! You can do it! Think about you with normal skin. See it in your mind.”
He closed his eyes. As he did, sure enough, the scales started to vanish. Soon, he was a young man, who actually looked pretty good.
“Open your eyes, Subject.”
He did so, looking at his hands. Tears formed in his face. “You’ve! You’ve done it! I’m me again!” He ran over, hugging her tight. “I’m not a monster anymore!”
She returned the hug. “I gave you control of your talent. I refined it. Now, you rule it, instead of it ruling you. You are the man with the diamond skin. You could do anything. Focus, and you will find the talent comes back! What’s more, you can make the scales into daggers on your skin. Turning you into a human porcupine. It will take some practice, but should the talent ever appear, just focus on your normal skin, and it will come back. You’re free of the curse!”
There was so much joy in the eyes of the man that she almost thought he was going to marry her. He got on one knee.
“You are the Wolf! Command me, and I shall serve!”
The mask came back on. “As you wish. You shall become a Knight of the Wolf! To serve Winter’s Shadow in its battles, from this day forward. Do you accept this charge?”
He stood tall, saluting. “I do, ma’am!”
“Excellent! Now, I want you to go and join up with the forces outside. They are friendly. I’ll let them know you’re coming. It’s a new day, Knight.”
He did as bidden. Now, it was just this door to the end of this.
Prince Adam was sitting in a chair at the front of the room. It was like a throne. Wolf entered, removing her mask again. She tossed it aside. This was to be the last time she wore it.
“Eleanor. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Adam. It’s an honor, to be face-to-face again.” She thought back to their chess game. “So, have I underestimated the White King again?”
There was a chuckle. “I think not. I think I underestimated the Black Queen. You are quite something. But tell me, who are you? I don’t buy that you’re Eleanor. There is something about you. An intellect that she never had. It’s almost like you’re not human. So who are you, really?”
The girl was in awe. “Of all the people I have gotten to know over the course of my revenge, you are the one who I expected to figure it out.”
“Figure what out?”
“Who I really am. All the pieces have been right in front of you this whole time. Your father figured it out. Though I suppose I put you at a disadvantage. He knew everything. You only had bits and pieces of the story.”
She was now very calm. It was clear that a fight wasn’t going to happen. “You’re right, I’m not Eleanor. The first name I’ve ever had was Subject Zero. I was born when the original owner of this body died, in High Orbital Station One. I was born that day. I came back, to Earth and ever since then, I have been working to destroy your father and the Empire that he made.”
That got his attention. “Why would his destroy his Empire? I mean, you took his life, so why not just leave it for me? Why do all this?”
A compassionate look came to her face. “Because you’re just like your father. My people wouldn’t have been safe. Not in your world. I did what had to be done, for the greater good.”
“I see. So, what happens now?”
She walked forward. “I can’t trust that you will just let this go. However, killing you would be a waste of a good mind. So, I think I’ve found a middle-option.” She closed her eyes. When they opened again, they were glowing blue. “You shall serve the Wolf and your brother, Thomas.”
“You never intended to kill me, did you…?” He drifted off, becoming a little confused. Then, the man stood up. “Of course. Command me to do whatever you wish, Empress. My life is yours to command.” He bowed on one knee.
“Your willingness to destroy everything for the sake of your greater objective is what made you easy to predict. You shall make a valuable asset to the work I have ahead.” She cued up the video footage from the room. “Oracle, set this link up to the out to the entire world.”
“You got it, boss!”
In the ghetto, Eloise was sitting at a noodle bar, looking at TV. The image was suddenly interrupted.
“Attention, entire world! My name is Eleanor Ann Fox! I am the Empress of the Imperial Nation of America, in both name and deed! Adam has surrendered to me! As a result, the last vestige of resistance from the old guard has been destroyed. There are no longer ANY of those who stood against me who are left to oppose me! To those in Europe who would stand against, know that you no longer have a safe haven to run to.”
Adam stood behind her, his face a cold mask of loyal reverence. Outside, all of Adam’s remaining forces surrendered immediately. They didn’t want to feel Wolf’s wrath.
“If any of you still choose to resist my authority, then I shall rend you from this Earth, grinding your house and bones into dust!”
A series of older men sat gathered at a table. All of them were shaking.
“From this day, from this moment on, the entire Empire is under my supreme authority. From this moment on, all of it belongs to me! Now, I am no longer the Empress. That title is dead. The Wolf reigns, now and forever!”
Among the cities, in the armies, on the airships, the call rang out.
“All hail the Wolf! All hail the Wolf! All hail the Wolf!” It was clear that now, there was no one left who could stop her.
At the house, the remaining Imperial family was sitting in both awe and terror. She made an imposing sight, in the pale light of the moon. It shined on her perfectly, along with the amber lighting of the room. The Empire was now hers, and it was never going to be challenged again.
Enigma found Riddler’s corpse, covered in liquids from the ship.
“Well, how did working for the defunct prince work out for you? Your title is now mine, old man. Forevermore.” He got up and left the man. This deep in the wreckage, it was unlikely anyone else would look find him. Enigma has just known where to look.
She arrived back on the Odysseus. Adam was with her. Seeing him walking beside her, so coolly and confident, it was profound. She explained that he was on their side, and not to be harmed. It was a hard sell. They had gotten the rest of their forces out. The airships were headed to the temporary capitol in Boston. Wolf was told of Emily’s being injured and quickly ran to her side.
When she awoke, seeing Quinn by her side, holding her hand, she smiled. Her lover saw her awake.
“Hey. Well, isn’t this a nice change.”
She gently moved the hair out of Emily’s face. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, a change from when I was by your side, taking care of you. It was so painful. But now we’re together!”
“Together forever! The moment you’re back on your feet, I want us to get married.” She got up, sliding into bed on the uninjured side. “I love you, Emily.”
“I love you too, Quinn. With all my heart.” They gently kissed, watching as the sun was starting to come up.
The fallen Fortress was left where it fell. Bodies were removed, to be given a proper burial. The entire site was being declared a place of remembrance for the Empire. A symbol of their sacrifice, and how far they had come. For Winter’s Shadow, it was the same. As the sun shined on the airships, almost everyone was getting a well-deserved day’s sleep. Matthias himself took one last look on the bridge, before heading to his quarters. Eager to be in a quiet place for a while.
Until next time, a quote,
“I revel in this! We are as two titans. Gods who battle for the soul of this city.” -Bane, Batman: Arkham Origins