Darkseid, supreme ruler of Apokolips, strolled along the corridors of the Wing of Agony of his palace where the New Gods brought their prisoners to torture them and brainwash them into embracing Darkseid as their only lord and master. He
enjoyed hearing the exquisite cries of pain and agony that echoed in this part of the palace. The walls here were especially designed to lack sound insulation, so that neighboring prisoners would hear each other's screams, a good way of foiling the emergence
The large doors to every individual torture chamber were in fact one way windows, looking like an opaque wall from the inside and transparent from the outside, so that he and his followers could enjoy a good show.
He glanced from side to side while walking down the corridor, observing the different prisoners that were under the care of Desaad's and Granny Goodness' apprentices. Having a perfect memory, he recognized every one of them, although he only was genuinely curious
about a small number of them.
On his left, he saw Hal Jordan the Green Lantern, or former Green Lantern as he didn't have his ring anymore, it now rested in a secured vault so that the Guardians of the Universe couldn't have it back. The human was one of the few heroes who had escaped the
wrath of his armies as he was taking care of a problem on another planet. Hal tried to convince the Guardians to send a few dozen of Green Lanterns to rescue his fellow heroes from Earth. They ordered him not to interfere, he disobeyed, foolishly thinking
he could make it on his own. He was dead wrong.
A couple rooms further, he could hear the cries of agony of Peter Parker aka Spiderman. The young hero, he had been told, had fought valiantly until his friend the mutant Wolverine had ordered him to retreat and run away with his girlfriend Mary-Jane Watson.
Logan had sacrificed his life to give his friends a chance. That wasn't enough. The Parademons caught up quickly with the young hero and ambushed him at Ms Watson's apartment. Beaten up and restrained, Peter had been forced to witness the rape and murder of
his girlfriend, leaving him in an unresponsive state. He was left to wallow in his self-pity for weeks before finally being brought to a torture chamber where he was reminded of the existence of pain.
As Darkseid neared the end of the corridor, he saw Desaad and Deathstroke, his newest recruit, waiting for him in front of his personal torture chamber. Slade Wilson had been a pleasant discovery. The mercenary was one of the deadliest humans of Earth and his
regenerative powers made him a fine addition to his elite. Darkseid had given a decade to Deathstroke to prove himself worthy of being made into a New God.
"My Liege, the prisoner is ready for you," Desaad announced to his master.
"I must say, I was surprised to discover that a mere mortal had been resisting your worst treatment every day for the past eight weeks, when it never took you more than one week with any of the other Earthlings," Darkseid commented.
"Forgive me, my Lord. I swear it wasn't for lack of trying. We lost three telepaths seeking to probe his mind. They're all laying in a catatonic state, brain-dead," he explained lamely.
"I could have told you," Deathstroke cut in. "I have faced him many times in battle and, I assure you, there is
nothing mere about that man," he added when the two New Gods turned to look at him questioningly.
"I have heard a lot of rumors about his... uniqueness. So much in fact that, I admit, it made me think he was being overestimated. As a result, I've underestimated him. But no more," Darkseid spoke darkly. "I shall see for myself what kind of being he really
is. You two, leave. "
After his two servants bowed to him and left back the path he had walked, he entered the room to meet his new toy. The prisoner was hanging from the ceiling by his wrists like a raw piece of meat clad only in a used pair of pants. Darkseid was surprised to
discover the numerous scars that littered his body, their sheer number made the fresh wounds from Desaad's work look like cat scratches. Obviously the human had a high tolerance for pain.
But what amazed the Lord of Apokolips even more was the harsh glare the dark haired human was sending him. The prisoner's face didn't betray any pain or discomfort, nor any other emotion. Darkseid felt like he was facing an equal.
"Greetings, Batman," the New God taunted, but he was given no reply. "I admire your resilience, but your efforts to resist are futile. For, in the end, no one can withstand my wrath." No answer again. "I am curious about how did you manage to overcome three
of my best telepaths when you yourself have no powers," he continued after a short silence. "Humor me."
But the Dark Knight didn't say anything. He just kept glaring. The Batman doesn't take orders from anyone, Darkseid had heard,
not even from Superman.
If an animal didn't obey orders, he had to be punished. He backhanded Batman with enough force to make a trickle of blood flow from the side of his mouth, but the human didn't even wince. "You will obey my command." He backhanded him again. "Darkseid's word
"And I thought I was the only one to talk about myself at the third person," Batman joked, though his face remained perfectly unemotional.
"So you do talk... and joke," he commented slightly amused. "Let's see if we can make you scream." He reached for a torture device that looked like an helmet with bizarre protrusions. "It would seem you are able to withstand the setting intended for humans,
so we're going to send in more juice."
The machine worked by directly stimulating the center of pain inside the brain. At twice the setting for normal humans, Batman's jaw clenched, but he gave out no other reaction. At trice the intended setting, Batman's breathing became deeper, nothing else.
At five times what should have been his limit, Batman started shivering from the pain.
Darkseid could feel a scream coming and then... Nothing!?
Batman's breathing evened out and his body relaxed. He never stopped glaring.
Impressive, thought Darkseid as he almost gaped. He found a way to disregard the device's actions.
A result achieved through sheer discipline of mind.
"Your resistance to pain is nothing short of impressive. I have witnessed both your combat skills and strategic prowess. I could use someone like you at my service," Darkseid praised the mortal.
"Flattery. Is that how you recruit them nowadays?" Batman asked sarcastically, never losing his perfectly unemotional poker face. That really unnerved Darkseid.
"You dare mock me," he growled angrily, hitting his prisoner again. He almost expected to see him glare again, instead Batman smirked.
Darkseid's eyes widened unnoticeably. He just managed to draw first blood by angering me. He is my prisoner and he was successful in making me loose my composure. And I've let him. It was the first time it happened to him in centuries.
Batman was glaring again. Enough was enough, it was time for Darkseid to see for himself what laid inside this mind that sent three telepaths into a catatonic state. "It doesn't matter if you don't talk. I will uncover your secrets on my own," he promised ominously.
His glowed red and he entered the Dark Knight's mind. He encountered the usual barriers that anyone trained to resist telepathy possessed. Nothing extraordinary. He probed further, circumventing or breaking Batman's mental defenses, and fell on... nothing.
The human had cleared his mind using a meditative trick.
Is that the mind that broke three powerful telepaths?, he thought in disbelief. Darkseid entered his mind with more intent, penetrating into the recesses of Batman's psyche. He couldn't read or feel anything. Nothing but darkness.
He pushed more of his mind inside Batman's. I'll break him if I have to. Then he felt a slight trembling sensation.
Is he luring me inside? He deepened his invasion and felt a presence surrounding him.
What is happening? It was as though shadows were crawling up on him.
It was then it appeared to him. The first sign of true resistance to his intrusion came in the form of two orange slits glaring at him and a powerful voice that blew at him like a cold harsh wind and shook him like a tremor.
You don't belong in here, he heard/felt its warning. Get out!
In the real world, Darkseid blinked, barely able to stop himself from jerking. He took a moment to regain his composure and think things through.
Now that makes sense. I always wondered why Kal-El surrounded himself with those seemingly pathetic beings and why he chose the Batman as his second in command, his general, a mere powerless ordinary mortal.
Because he isn't.
Darkseid left the room in silence, not wishing to give his prisoner any more reasons to gloat. He stumbled on a dreadful realization.
Fear. For the first since he became the ruler of Apokolips millennia ago, he felt fear. And a morbid curiosity for what the Dark Knight was truly capable of.
In his cell, Batman smirked once more. Strike One.