Old Ventures 2, Ch. 5

Five, North of Paris, 4/10/45

“How’s your German?” Fleming asked in German, as they walked towards the security gate.

“I get by,” Jack replied in kind. He retrieved the counterfeit papers Fleming provided from his pocket, and handed it to the guard who approached him.

“What is your business?” the guard asked.

“Do you need me to read the instructions to you?” Jack asked, pushing his chest into the guard.

The guard sighed, and stared at the typed note. “Prisoner? For interrogation?”

“Will we have a problem? Because I can speak with your Leutnant. He sounds like the kind of man who appreciates his subordinates wasting his time on nonsense.”

The guard handed the papers back. “I must have him processed. Then you can interrogate him.”

“Nein. I do not have time for processing. The Resistance will notice soon that he is missing. If we do not find them and arrest them, these rats will scurry back into the shadows. You may send your Leutnant to me, if you believe he will need to hear it directly.”

“No,” he said. He waved for an NCO to come to him. “Take this man to the interrogation cell. Give him whatever he needs.”

Jack and Fleming followed him through the gate, past a flagpole in the central courtyard flying the Nazi flag, and into the nearest building. He led them down several hallways, and finally unlocked a room. The table was covered in dust. “Will you need anything else?” he asked.

“Assistance with the interrogation,” Jack replied, “if you wouldn’t mind.”

“No, sir,” the NCO said. “I am eager to assist a-” Jack seized him by the collar and pushed him against the wall, holding him there with his forearm across the NCO’s throat. He kicked and flailed, before going limp. Fleming took the Mauser out of the NCO’s holster as Jack let him slide to the floor.

“That’s the first part out of the way,” Fleming said, and slipped a ring of keys off the guard’s belt. Jack dragged him across the floor, to the table, and used the guard’s own shackles to secure him against it. “If our intelligence is correct, then the barracks opposite this one is where most of the prisoners are housed. I’m likely to be a liability, out in the open; aren’t many dark-skinned Nazis roaming about. So I’d propose I stay here, and rouse some trouble. I’ve had more than my share of experience working as a saboteur. Unless you think you’ll need me to take the barracks…”

“No,” Jack said. “But you should bide your time.” Jack checked his watch. “Start your distraction at 2:37. I’ll be ready for it, then.”

“And how distracting would you prefer for me to be?”

“The flagpole is in the middle of the damned courtyard. I’m going to need the biggest distraction you can think of.”

Fleming smiled to himself. “I’ll see what I can accomplish.”

Jack locked the door to the interrogation room, then grabbed Fleming by the arm. “I’ll escort you through the building, so you can get the lay of it, first. Probably best if I don’t stroll right across the courtyard without you, after making so much noise about needing to debrief you myself.”

“I’m not going to turn down the cover,” Fleming said. “Though I’m keeping the sidearm.”

“Fair enough. Just keep it out of sight, or it’ll blow our cover no matter how roughly I treat you.” Fleming stashed it inside his jacket.

They walked together past a stairwell, then some administrative offices, and an officers’ lounge. “This is where we part ways,” Fleming said.

“Godspeed,” Jack said, and let go of his arm. “It’s been a pleasure.”

“Maybe that would sound more convincing if you hadn’t said it in German,” Fleming said, smiled, and walked back the way they came.

Jack looked through the windowed door, to be sure the lounge was clear, then walked past it to a door into the courtyard. The barracks formed an L shape, surrounding the administrative buildings on two sides. That put Jack close to the main rear entrance to those barracks. The door was locked, but the lock was distinctive enough it only took Jack two keys to find its mate on the guard’s ring. He locked the door behind himself, and nearly knocked over an old man inside.

“They don’t usually come in through the rear,” he said in French, eyeing Jack suspiciously.

“Pardon my French, but I’m not one of them. I’m no Nazi.”

“Then you have a very strange fashion sense, my friend,” he replied with a twinkle of amusement in his eye.

“I’m here, with the Resistance. We plan to take the camp.”

“There are only a few hundred here,” the old man snapped. “Most have already been shipped out, by train.”

“That’s the next step,” Jack said. “But to get there, we need to take this camp quietly. That means, most importantly, preventing reinforcements and keeping prisoners safe. Do you know where their radio room is?”

“Across the way,” an older woman said in somewhat broken English. “I heard distorted screaming, orders, in German.”

Jack wondered if Fleming knew already, if that was where he headed when they parted. Either way, he wasn’t going to be able to safeguard the prisoners, and raise the flag, and blockade the radio room. He was going to have to trust that Fleming would find the radio room and deal with it. “What about guards?” Jack asked.

“Most rooms have one armed guard,” the old man started again. “There is one rover, who-” They all froze, at the sound of keys in the interior door. “Hide,” he told Jack, and dove into his bunk.

“Nobody scream,” Jack said as he ran at top speed towards the door, at the last second flattening himself quietly against the wall as the door creaked open.

“How are you, mein little sheep?” the roving guard asked, jangling his keys as he closed the door. “Docile and fluffy?” he said, the hint of a laugh in his voice. Jack wrapped his big arms around the guard’s head, one hand covering his mouth and nose, with the other gaining purchase on the back of his head. At the last moment, the guard realized what was about to happen, and he screamed through his eyes and mouth, but the latter couldn’t break through Jack’s grip. He twisted, fast and hard, so when the guard fell onto his chest he was still looking up at the ceiling.

One of the women gasped, loud enough that it set off noise in the next room.

That room’s guard came to the door and yelled, “What’s the noise for?”

“Nothing,” Jack called back. “Stubbed mein schnitzel.”

“You know I can’t ignore that much noise,” the other guard said, then, “Why is this door unlocked?”

Jack hit him with a bladed hand in the throat, then covered the guard’s hand at his holster with his own. Gasping for air, the guard attempted to stumble backward, but Jack used his holster to pull the man towards him. When he fell forward, Jack rammed his bicep into the man’s throat. He tumbled to the ground, gasping, his breaths wet and broken.

“What is wrong with him?” a small boy asked.

“Crushed larynx,” Jack said.

“May I attend him?” the older woman from before asked.

“If you like. He’ll die without it. But take his weapons, first, and someone watches him.”

The old man who first spoke to Jack extended a shaking hand. “I’m Mordecai, and I’m sorry I did not believe you before. The Nazis play games with us sometimes, pretend to let us escape. And when we get into the courtyard, they beat us, they shoot us. To them it is a sport.”

“They keep score,” a younger woman added.

“Everyone stay here,” Jack said. “Barricade the back door, be prepared to fight at this one. Anybody comes through other than me, you attack them, en masse. Fists and knives, if you can accomplish it. Guns only as a last resort; gunfire will bring more.”

Jack worked his way through the rest of the rooms, fifteen in total, in each dispatching the guards quietly, then giving their weapons to the prisoners. When he was done, he checked his watch. He had seven minutes before Fleming’s distraction.

The front entrance into the barracks faced the courtyard, the guard at the gate and the guard towers in either corner. It was too exposed as an exit, so he instructed the prisoners to pile up their bunks in front of the door, then started back towards the rear. The armed prisoners he divided in thirds, a third he sent to the front, a third to the back. The rest he told to move their bunks to block the windows, and be prepared for Nazis to try to break in that way.

At the back, he disassembled their barrier, then gave Mordecai his gun. “I have to raise this,” he said, removing the American flag from his bag. “That’s how reinforcements will know they can take the camp. This will likely make them realize that the prisoners are free. You have to hold them off until the American troops can arrive.”

“Raise a flag?” Mordecai asked. “I’m more use out there, with the flag, than in here with a gun. Somebody help me get into one of those uniforms,” he said.

Jack nervously eyed his watch. Any second now, Fleming’s diversion was going to hit. Only nothing happened.

Had Fleming been caught? That didn’t seem likely, because if he had, they would have scoured the rest of the base for him. But if he was stuck someplace, waiting for a patrol to pass, that could account for the timing.

“I look like a kilo of potatoes in a 2 kilo sack,” Mordecai said, sauntering up wearing a Nazi uniform several sizes too big, holding it up at the crotch so it didn’t drag on the ground.

“You’re sure about this?” Jack.

“You give me cover from that cannon, and I’ll get the flag up,” he said.

“Fire!” they heard the Nazis scream from the courtyard. “The administrative buildings are on fire!”

“That’s our distraction,” Jack said, and opened the door. He turned as he shut it. “Barricade this behind us.”

“It’s a beautiful day for a walk,” Mordecai said.

Jack had noticed the two guard towers on his way in. They were each near the corners of the front gate, spread enough apart to make it all but impossible to approach both stealthily. “Wait until I’ve taken the first tower to lower the flag,” Jack said. “That you can probably get away with. But once you pull out the Stars and Stripes, the game’ll be up. That you’ll need to do fast, and dirty.”

“My specialty,” Mordecai said with a mischievous grin. “Just ask my wife.” His smile suddenly faded.

“You’ll see her again,” Jack said, and slapped him on the back, before walking away from him. Jack worked his way to the ladder leading up to the guard tower. Most of the Nazis were consumed with the burning buildings, to the point where no one noticed Jack until he reached the top of the ladder.

“Who are you?” the first of two guards asked.

“Out of breath,” Jack said, elongating the words as he wheezed, punctuating it with a cough. “I was in the building when it caught. The Leutnant ordered you two to help with the fire, while I recover here.”

“No,” the second said, looking up from his rifle scope. “You are that intelligence officer. You shouldn’t be-”

Jack grabbed the first guard by the shoulder and threw him off the tower. He screamed as he fell, before abruptly stopping when he hit the ground. The remaining guard tried to bring around his rifle, but Jack was too fast, and smashed him in the nose with his pistol. Jack pulled off his helmet, and hit him several more times with the pistol’s grip, before the man slumped against the guard tower wall.

The guard at the gate was screaming, roused by the falling guard. Jack thought he could make out them calling for a medic. Jack watched him stride off through a rifle’s scope, past Mordecai. Mordecai panicked, and started pulling down the Nazi flag. That got the gate guard’s attention anew, and he reached for his pistol. Jack exhaled, curled his finger around the rifle’s trigger, and squeezed.

The guard’s shoulder exploded in a mist of blood, and Mordecai covered the flag with his body. Jack trained the rifle on the opposite guard tower, but there were no openings facing him. They had been deliberately designed to protect even from each other. Jack slung the rifle from its shoulder strap, and slid down the ladder. With each step he cursed himself a little more for not realizing how exposed Mordecai was. Finally, about a third of the way towards the flagpole, Jack got an angle into the further tower, and dropped to one knee.

The guard was prone, rifle trained. It was a race, and the guard had a head start. Jack forced the rifle steady, settled the crosshairs over him-

The guard fired first, and Jack squeezed his trigger.

An instant later he was running towards Mordecai, who was teetering, blood flowing from a wound in his chest and onto the flag in his hand.

Gunfire stopped Jack in his tracks. The second guard in the tower was firing at him. Jack raised his rifle, sighted him in, and fired. The guard toppled out of the tower silently, before smashing on the cobbles below like a dropped pumpkin.

Jack glanced around, to be sure there were no more gunners headed towards them, then started back towards Mordecai. He had the flag attached to the rope, and was pulling it up. His hands were slicked with blood, and he was waving in the wind nearly as much as the flag.

Jack put his hands over Mordecai’s, and they continued to raise it together. When the flag reached the top of the pole, Jack tied it off.

Without the rope to hold him up, Mordecai collapsed onto the ground. Jack tore the Nazi flag into strips, and used them for a makeshift bandage. “How bad?” Mordecai asked.

“If you were a younger man, and I were a skilled surgeon, and you were already on my operating table…”

“That good?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Feh,” he said, with a shrug. “My wife was a goy. When they first brought us here, she’d tell me, every day, if we ever got separated, she’d see me again, if not in this life then in the next. She died here, standing up to those bullies. I couldn’t save her… but at least I finally got to make her proud. And maybe… maybe I will I get to see my wife again, like you said.”

“Is there, anything you want me to do?” Jack asked.

“Punch Hitler’s goddamned head off,” he said, coughing, “and tell him it was from Esther.” Jack heard the sound of armor moving down the road; he’d been at this long enough to know it was Allied armor, not German.

The speakers at the camp whined, before a voice came over them. “This is Resistance radio,” Fleming said. “If you’re a Nazi, know that your defenses are compromised, American armor is knocking on your front door, and your only shot at surviving the day is to surrender yourselves to that strapping chap in your courtyard. And do be polite about it, because he may well be looking for any excuse to tear your limbs off. This is Resistance radio, signing off. And Jack, I’m afraid our schedule is more rigorous than originally assumed. A train departed here not an hour before our arrival. If my figures are correct, you may be able to catch them by plane, depending on your skill at hitting something with a parachute.”

Pitchgiving 2020 Bonus: Birds of Prey 2

We open on a mugging/assault in an alley, filmed to remind of the opening of Batman 89, taking place on top of a rooftop. In swoops a younger woman in black, rubber armor, without Bat accoutrements. Underneath it is Cassandra Cain. The rescuer throws the attacker down, and the victim squeals while fleeing, and the camera follows her, revealing Harley, watching from the shadows, whispering, “You got this.”

Cassandra tries to make herself bigger with each word, building dramatically towards the ellipsis, “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am… still working on the name. What do you think of Bian-Fu?” The attacker turns his head, then dives at her, and they both roll over the edge of the roof.

Harley runs to the edge of the roof saying, “Shit shit shit shit shit.” There are two cracks, followed by the sound of zipping rope.

The attacker is suspended just above the concrete, close enough he could lick it, while Cassandra is holding onto a grapnel beside him. She drops down to the concrete. “You okay?” a woman asks from behind her. Cassandra spins to see Batgirl, looking really cool in her costume, but also confident and personable. Cassandra nods, a little starstruck. “I won’t be a hypocrite and tell you not to do this, but I will tell you it takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of training. Give me a call some time, if you want some tips, or just somebody to talk to.” She gives her a card with a bat symbol and a phone number on it.

Harley, a freaking wreck, runs up as Batgirl grapnels away, huffing and bent over. “Y’okay?” she wheezes.

“So cool,” Cassandra says, barely aware of Harley’s presence.

Cut to Harley’s car, as they drive away.

“So I’ve been thinking about the name. My whole thing kind of keeps petering out. How about Bat-Woman?”

“I’m not sure the homage comes through if you’re one-upping her in the name. Plus there’s already one of them.”

“Bat… wing?”

“There’s already a guy. Or person.”

“Bat… Rock… the Lepper?

“That is the stupidest name I’ve ever heard. How about Black Bat?”

“But I’m not Black.”

“Aw, honey, it’s not the 60s anymore. Black heroes don’t have to put ‘black’ in their names just so the cops don’t shoot them.” Very quick cut to Bat Wing getting shot by cops (he’ll survive, because of the armor- but it still stings). “Right, Bat Wing got shot by the cops just last Thursday; should have went with Black Bat. But there aren’t a lot of ‘Bat’ names left. Unless you want to be a Bat Hound.”

They sing spontaneously together with an Elvisy twang, “You ain’t nothing but a Bat Hound- you ain’t never caught a Riddler and you ain’t no friend of mine,” and then go back to the conversation as if nothing happened.

Harley: “Or, you could choose to name yourself after another woman who selflessly saved your life.”

“Yeah. I could be Harley’s Hemorrhoid.”

“Turned out that was just Chipotle. I wonder if that counts as product placement?”

“That depends on where you put the Chipotle.”

Harley’s phone alarm goes off. “Oh, we’ve got to meet the girls.” Harley drives out into the Gotham Hills, to a plant sanctuary. They get out of the car, and Poison Ivy descends from an open window of a glass dome atrium, riding atop a magnificent, vicious looking plant, looking both elegant and terrifying (if you’re looking for a casting suggestion Lake Bell is great and voices her on the animated series- a nested suggestion: go watch the Harley Quinn animated series).

“Hey, Harles,” Ivy says.

“Great, she’s babysitting again,” Catwoman says, melting out of the shadows. Cassandra flips her the bird.

Harley leans in to Cass and whispers, “Okay, I see why you didn’t want to go with Cat Girl.”

“That, and the weeaboos would never leave me alone.”

“We ready?” Ivy asks.

Harley: “Joker’s taken so much- from all of us. I think it’s time we show him how loss feels.”

Actiony scene, where Catwoman sneaks in and disables the security alarms, Ivy infiltrates the guard station and subdues them, all while Harley and Cass create a distraction.

They all meet up inside the warehouse, planning to mop up, only for it to turn into a shoot out. See, the warehouse in question is a weapons cache- most of the Joker’s arms storage. So the few remaining goons are able to arm up, and quickly, so we get a high caliber fight scene.

“I thought if we cut off their weapons supplies, the rest would be easier,” Harley says as bullets whiz past her.

“I don’t think we should let her do the thinking anymore,” Catwoman says, whipping her way up into the rafters. She drops behind one of the shooters, taking him out. Ivy uses undercooked broccoli in one of the gunmen’s stomachs to grow, popping out of him like an Alien. Harley fires a novelty gun that shoots a boxing glove wrapped around a brick into the third shooter. There’s a fourth, surprise gunmen that Cass takes out before he can shoot Harley in the back.

Cut to later, the Birds of Prey surveying the damage. “We’re too late,” says the Question (Montoya); and yes, she is wearing the faceless mask. There are burnt crates of weapons and ammo still smoldering.

“What the hell happened here?” Canary asks.

“Arms smuggling seems a given,” a new voice says, as Batgirl lands right behind Huntress. Huntress reacts by spinning, and jabbing with a knife from her belt. Batgirl rolls her, peeling the knife away and dropping her on her back fluidly. “Didn’t mean to surprise you. But these guns have been illegally modified, and there are enough to assume this is more than just a personal stash. It’s enough to arm a small army. Or a gang. Name on the deed is Jack White-”

“The White Stripes guy?” Huntress asks, dusting herself off.

“It’s probably an alias.”

“So we assume these are gang related. Who would trash their weapons? A rival gang would take them for themselves.”

“That is the question, Question; your name is kind of confusing.” I’m suddenly hearing Rachel Brosnahan as Batgirl… and I really like that idea.

I think we stay with the Birds, as they try to figure out where the next strike on Mr. White’s holdings will be, back at Barbara’s Clocktower. It’s here we meet Oracle, Batgirl’s logistics expert (in a wheelchair, and I’ll reiterate my support for casting Kiera Allen from Run because she- and it- are amazing). Babs saved her, once upon a time; for my money, I think it’s more compelling if she was already in the chair. Oracle used her savvy with computers to track her back down to repay her- by saving her life (I think her original attack was designed by Joker to smoke Batgirl out- which Oracle figured out, preventing Joker from shooting her). Since then, she’s been feeding her, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Bat Family, with leads, intel, research- whatever they need that she can provide remotely.

This includes an extensive web of Jack White’s holdings. She notes that Jack White doesn’t exist (Canary asks who wrote all the White Stripes’ music, then?), but that several of his businesses are definitely fronts for illegal activity. She theorizes that either he himself is dirty, or his anonymity or even his name are being used by someone as a shield. Oracle and Batgirl have figured out the five most likely targets, and each one of them is going to sit on one- not to engage, but to observe, and call in backup if and when anyone of interest shows. The targets are divided into the likeliest attackers: a rival gang would likely look to cripple White’s biggest money maker, a night club, on the assumption that it disrupts his legitimate cash flow, but also disrupts his ability to clean cash from his clandestine enterprises. A vigilante or rogue law enforcement would try to expose him as a criminal, which means hitting his shipping warehouse, likely the point of entry for the guns and also likely any other illicit substances. Anyway, they all take one, with Batgirl handing out assignments. Batgirl takes Ace Chemical, bought by White for pennies on the dollar after Harley Quinn destroyed it. Rumor has it that White uses it as a sort of de facto headquarters. She’s able to listen through the vibrations in an unbroken window to White making plans, but doesn’t see him, and is just about to confront him when Canary calls them in.

She admits she thought about taking Harley herself- until she saw her entourage, and thought maybe she’d need the backup, after all. They arrive after the fighting is done, as the Sirens are torching more of White’s merchandise (I’m going to say it’s a chemical supply company). The Sirens flee when the Birds arrive, and they give chase. The Sirens run into a sewer, and Montoya hopes they won’t have to fight any killer crocs down there, when a sewer plant grows to the size of a person (giving the middle finger), and blocks their entrance. Batgirl calls Oracle for a map of the sewers, but unfortunately they’re right at a junction point- the Sirens could have gone virtually anywhere. Batgirl, conspiratorially, asks Oracle how their tracker is working, and she says they’ve got a clear signal.

We zoom in on Black Bat’s new cape, black and fringed like Batgirl’s. There’s a tracker attached to it (with a blinking light, if it’s too subtle- but I otherwise want to be subtle with it). The Sirens are triumphant. They’ve not only knocked over two of the Joker’s places, but they managed to get away from Batgirl and ‘those other dorks’ (Harley’s words). They feel on top of the world.

Harley argues they go for the kill, now. If they keep nipping around at the edges, it’s only a matter of time before “Puddin’- I mean, Mistah J, sets us up an ugly surprise. He almost got the Bat a couple of times, with those surprises. He’s got a real knack for hurting people.” Catwoman argues the counter- wanting to be methodical. She wants to take his empire away a piece at a time, so that a broke, disarmed and alone Joker is their prey- and they don’t have to wade through an army of goons with guns. Black Bat sides with Harley, but Catwoman argues she’s a sidekick, and a trainee, and Harley’s Hemorrhoid, so she doesn’t get a say. So it all comes down to Ivy, who sides with Harley, because she knows him, and not just as a gross ex, but as a patient- about as intimately as a person can know someone like him. Catwoman refuses to get killed for their vendettas, and leaves. They ask Black Bat if she can handle Catwoman’s part of the plan; she reminds them she was a pickpocket and a thief.

Cut back to the Clocktower. Batgirl plays back audio for the rest of them of the end of the last line in the previous scene. She tells them she got a tracker on one of them, and Oracle picked up audio with a drone- that they can put an end to these break-ins if they work together. The Birds aren’t sure about her- especially her compartmentalizing, but reluctantly agree. Cut to later, them on an adjacent rooftop outside of Ace. They watch as Harley kicks in the front door, and we follow Harley inside. She doesn’t get far, before she’s picked out by a spotlight.

Jack White emerges, looking human for now, giving her a slow clap. He threatens her, not too subtly, pretty much confirming he’s who we think he is in the subtext, but with just enough gaslighting that we can’t know completely for sure. The lights go off, then all the lights come back up. White’s gone, and Ivy and Black Bat have arrived. They’re attacked by the Birds of Prey, who gain the upper hand until Catwoman emerges from the shadows to even the odds, telling Black Bat “Cats may seem fickle and disloyal- independence and stubbornness are in our nature. But we always come back for those we care about.” And they are very even, with Ivy as the only really super-powered one (Canary’s cry notwithstanding), it’s a very street-level fight; Barbara takes on Ivy, and has a bevy of gadgets Bruce has used on her in the past so she’s able to keep her at a manageable threat level.

Eventually, a disgusted Jack White emerges once more from the shadows on a gang plank. He’s having a good time, even if it’s clear he’s roiling with anger over the damage done to his operations. He tells his henchmen to end the stalemate and kill them all. There’s lots of possibilities, here, but probably I’d throw in Firefly (who I imagine fights Ivy and Batgirl), who’s always a colorful, visually interesting villain, and then some regular hench people for the rest of them to kick. When it looks like he’s winning, a triumphant White removes his mask to reveal that he is in fact the Joker.

Harley and Black Bat are able to break away from the fighting to chase him (because I like the idea that this mirrors the first BoP). He uses several joke shop gag weapons, all of which Harley is able to dodge while pursuing him. He stops, spins around, and says they’ve got him, only to drop into a folding chair, onto a whoopie cushion that fires a bullet in slow-mo into Black Bat. He tells her she can catch him- but her partner will bleed out by the time she gets back. She punches Joker, breaking his jaw (it dangles sickeningly in an exaggerated rictus grin). “That wasn’t funny,” he says overly seriously, standing by a hole in the wall that used to be a door leading to a fire exit. He grabs a life raft off the wall, steps to the ledge, and inflates it. It rips him into the air as it rapidly inflates with ultra light gases, carrying him away. He can’t help himself, laughing as he flees.

Harley attends to Black Bat. She can’t stop the bleeding herself- even her medical training can’t compensate for the fact that she doesn’t have any supplies and they’re in a filthy derelict chemical plant. Until Batgirl arrives. She has an adhesive to stop the bleeding, and one of Oracle’s drones is actually equipped with medical supplies; together they get Black Bat stable enough for transport to the hospital. As an ambulance arrives, Batgirl supplies them with one more item; a pair of surgical scissors. She tells them Cassandra Cain might have to explain a gunshot wound to the ER staff, but Black Bat would almost certainly be arrested on site. Black Bat says, “You knew?”

Batgirl says she knew the whole time, that she recognized her picture from juvenile records. She tells them both her secret is safe with her. Montoya comes in, barking orders at the medics, explaining the GSW. Batgirl swings Harley away from the police, dropping her off on the neighboring rooftop. Harley asks where that leaves them- are they going to fight now? Batgirl tells her she isn’t prepared to judge anyone else who chooses to fight for a better world- at least not while they’re picking worthy targets like the Joker. She says she likes her- and likes the kid even more- so she hopes they’re never going to be on opposite sides of that divide. As she swings away, Harley says she’s all right, for one of the bats. Then she realizes she’s been stranded on a rooftop, and looks over the edge and asks, “Wait, how do I get down?”

Back at the Clocktower, Huntress is annoyed she let them escape. Batgirl clarifies that they let Harley and Black Bat escape from the Funhouse (in the previous movie). Canary adds that they also let Catwoman and Ivy go, too. Batgirl smiles, and says she’s sure they’ll see them around. To black, with the text, “The Birds of Prey will return.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene. Ivy and Harley, in civilian clothes, are dragging a clearly uncomfortable Catwoman into the hospital. Cassandra’s eyes light up at the site of them. Harley’s got an oversized beaver for her, Ivy’s got a potted plant, and Catwoman has a jewel case, which she opens to reveal the Bertinelli Diamond from BoP1. “Helena’s going to be pissed,” Harley says. Things are kind of awkward, and it’s sort of clear Ivy and Catwoman are kind of looking for a reason to exit. Harley brings up their next big score. She says she’s been thinking, and the Penguin’s always been a dick. Last time she ate at the Iceberg Lounge, he pinched her ass- and not over the clothes, either, he got his flipper up her skirt. Prick’s just asking for it.

“The Arctic Bird does have a lot of nice ice,” Catwoman purrs.

“He bulldozed the only natural habitat for the Gotham Lilly to build his tacky little lounge,” Ivy says angrily.   

Camera pans to Cassandra, and the others are waiting for her reply. “Uh, I’m pretty sure he has fish-breath.”

Close on Harley. “Gotham City Sirens,” cut to black, as she says, quieter, “assemble.”

We’re going to play some games with text. First, white text on black: The Gotham City Sirens Will Be Back.

“We’re already here,” Ivy replies.

A red marker rearranges the sentence to, “Will The Gotham City Sirens Be Back?”

Harley: “Then it’s Clobberin’ time.”

“What does that mean?” Catwoman asks.

We do a circle zoom in on Cassandra. “Wait, I think I got it. Stop: Hammer Time.” Back to black. Over the rest of the credits, Harley, with her big mallet, Hammer Dances in Hammer pants to “Can’t Touch This.” You’re welcome.

Old Ventures, Ch. 4

Four, Jack, Canton, Ohio, Present

Jack was driving too fast, too recklessly. He could feel the wind in his hair, which meant he hadn’t grabbed his helmet, either, but he couldn’t force himself to care. His son was dying, but not today, not if he could help it. He weaved between two cars, coming so close to smacking into the nose of one then rebounding into the tail of the other he held his breath. When he exhaled, he could feel his breath’s heat, his anger warming it like a dragon’s fire.

Joey had been on government benefits basically his whole life. He earned those benefits, from a lifetime of service- something the government hadn’t always agreed on. They tried to take them away when he was drummed out of the Army for being gay, tried to take them again when his utility as a spy went when they decided who he was was more of a liability than the skills he had honed under Jack over damn near twenty years.

Jack went to bat for his son to get those benefits restored; it was the absolute least Uncle Sam could do for a boy who had been serving his country longer than most men who retired with full Army benefits and pay. But there was a new Commander in Chief, a petty man who always remembered every slight. Jack’s anger was the one at the wheel, and even he was surprised when he arrived at the hospital in one piece.

Joey had been in the long-term care wing for months, so Jack knew the way. He was lucky, to catch up with another family visiting, so he didn’t have to wait to be buzzed in. Hot as he was, he may well have just torn the door off its hinges.

He didn’t smile at the doctors or nurses on his way, tried not to even recognize they were there, because he was angry, at them, at the entire system. He was looking for an excuse, and he knew it. He heard one through the cracked door to his son’s room. “…we can do, but we’ll get someone up here with a wheelchair, to take you out to the pick-up area. Unfortunately, I’m going to need to start unhooking you from the monitors, and since we can’t leave you on your meds without them, I’ll have to disconnect those, as well.”

Jack slammed the door inward, “You’re not going to do a goddamned thing,” he bellowed, before realizing that he was reeling back to throw a punch at the doctor.  

Joey was there in an instant, catching Jack’s fist in his palm. “Can, we, uh, have a few minutes?” Joey asked, smiling to defuse the situation.

The doctor, visibly shaken, looked at his watch. “It’s probably my lunchtime,” he said. “This’ll keep, until after that,” he said.

“Thanks,” Joe said, as the doctor left the room. The moment he was clear, Joey stopped forcing himself to stand up straight, and his spine curved, his face contorting in pain. “You know you’d have taken his damn head off,” he said, as Jack helped him hobble back to bed. “He was just doing what he was told.”

“Following orders has never held much water as an excuse with me,” Jack replied.

“Dad,” Joe said, “there is a whole world of difference between a doctor caught in a bureaucratic bind and a Nazi. You know that.”

Jack sighed, and his voice broke as he let all of the air from his chest, deflating like a balloon as he collapsed into a chair. “Yeah,” he said, the word coming out almost a sob.

“Hey,” Joe said. “It’s going to be okay. Doctor’s say my numbers have actually improved, even.”

“You, you shouldn’t have to cheer me up.”

“Why not? I’m just happy you’re here. So happy,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. “Just because I’m sick, doesn’t mean the world suddenly has to revolve around me,” he said, wiping a tear from his cheek. “We’re all grieving. You’re losing a son, and… I’m losing you, too.” Joey took up his hand, and squeezed it.

“I’m sorry,” Jack said, “that I haven’t been here more.” “Shush,” Joe said. “You’re here now. Let’s not waste the time we’ve got worrying about the time we didn’t.”

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 12: Kingdom Come

Starts just a few years in the future, with Superman failing to save Lois from the Joker at the Daily Planet. Superman is frog-marching him into the Metro PD building, when Joker is shot by Magog, essentially a Cable parody, wrapped in some trappings of ancient Egypt/Sumeria. Cut to the future, Clark tending to his farm. Wonder Woman and Batman visit him, trying to get him to rejoin the modern world, that a world without a superman is a lonely place (in the timeline of the story, this is shortly after he first disappears- it’s also a very trailer friendly sequence). This is the superhero movie Zach Snyder always wanted to make, full of epic grandiosity, pretentiousness and a conservative mindset, and would serve as a fitting denouement to his DC Universe, so I’d say let him make it; just give Mark Waid final cut, a cattle prod, and keys to the Snyder residence, to keep some of his worst excesses in check.

A further note: you can get more bang out of your buck with this concept by hiring old Hollywood legends, folks usually thought of as past their prime. Imagine doing what Tarrantino’s been able to do for a handful of older stars for a whole Justice League.  

We tweak the story to cut out the preacher man, and instead keep an aged Wesley Dodds around as our viewpoint character. The reason is this: we’re going to have our cake in this movie, and in subsequent JSA movies, older Dodds is going to get a message to his younger self to try and get him to eat this cake before so many people have to die unnecessarily. And here you thought I was pitching a JSA movie just to exploit Power Girl’s cleavage window. We see one of Dodd’s visions, mostly impressionistic but terrifying, before zooming out to see Dodds talks to Norman, who I won’t cut out entirely, who views the superhuman conflict- and the nuclear detonation in Kansas- through a very human lens. But he’s got a sermon to get to, and doesn’t know how he can find the hope he’s supposed to give to his congregation. Norman leaves, and Wesley is confronted by the Spectre. He tells Dodds that the dreams he’s having, of superhuman annihilation, are visions, that there is a coming calamity- that they must bear witness.

Dodds is curmudgeonly about it- his heroic side refusing to accept that there’s nothing to be done to change things. He and the Spectre talk, about the new breed of metahumans, who lack the discipline, care and empathy that made their forebears heroes- they are a collective menace, and their danger grows daily, to the degree that it will boil over in time, burning the world.

Wonder Woman returns to Superman’s ‘farm,’ and we discover it’s a hologram in his Fortress of Solitude. She tells him that Kansas is gone- and he flies through the wall. His parent’s farm is gone, the home flattened by the compression wave, the untended fields scorched by the fire that followed. He picks up a headstone, knocked over by the blast, and repositions it in the earth, and we see that it’s his mother’s headstone. His eyes are full of emotion as Diana lands behind him. “How many?” he asks without turning to face her.

“Early estimates are 2 million dead. There’s another million suffering from severe burns radiation sickness… best guess is half of those die soon, the rest have a greatly increased chance of cancers.”

“Lana?” he asks, this time turning to her.

“Her family were away at the time, staying in Metropolis.”

“How did it happen?”

She shares footage of the fight, as recorded by a news crew. We watch a pitiful, shrunken parasite pleading for mercy. Magog’s team grants none. In his flailing, Parasite manages to tear Captain Atom’s containment suit, then sucks the nuclear energy out of him, growing immensely, unstably. He screams that he can’t contain it, and an explosion tears through the gathered heroes before hitting the camera.

“Magog,” Clark whispers, angrily. We cut back to the Joker’s still smoking corpse. Superman takes Magog’s weapon from him, and marches him into the MPD building instead. Cut to a courtroom, where a judge is summing up. “I concur with the Jury’s verdict, but feel I must go a step further. In light of the Joker’s crimes, the thousands of deaths and the tens of thousands of lives mutilated in his wake, you did not just protect innocents, but you did what our system of justice is designed to be incapable of. We may never be able to fully thank you for what you’ve done today, but I hope your acquittal is a start.” Magog, a free man, stands and smiles.

Cut to the blackness of space, as we watch the Earth spin placidly beneath us. We see a red streak across it, again, and again. Suddenly, there’s a second, criss-crossing in the opposite direction, on a collusion course. We cut in, to see Superman flying, rage and anguish playing across his face. He’s struck by Wonder Woman, the force of her blow knocking him into a mountain. He emerges an instant later. “Clark,” she says.

“No,” he answers. “Everything that Clark was is gone. The world he lived in is dead. I’m not him anymore.”

“Wait,” she puts up her hand, but he’s gone.

Cut back to the present, the pair of them standing in the ruins of his family’s farm. “Cla-” she stops herself, “Kal.”

“I could have stopped this,” he says. Her eyes are full of empathy; inasmuch as you can get across the words “this wasn’t your fault” with a look, she does. “I should have tried.”

“That doesn’t matter. It’s too late to stop what happened here. But there are more fights like this one coming. The world has been too long without a Superman.” His eyes flash, filled with anger, or purpose, we don’t quite know.

We cut to the Statue of Liberty, where a group of fascist ‘heroes’ have decided that there isn’t enough space in America for immigrants, and are attacking boatloads of them. Superman’s new league, including most of our key players, like Diana, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Power Woman, descend and save the day.

“They look familiar,” Dodds says, scratching his head. Spectre tells him he knows some of them, but they have all changed profoundly since he was last active, and we do the montage of character introductions from the book, that Green Lantern has a floating emerald satellite where he monitors for extraterrestrial threats, that Flash isn’t so much a person as an unseen force righting even minor wrongs in his city. Dodds asks about Batman, and we find out Bruce has a swarm of robotic Bat sentries that keep Gotham safe. Superman flies over the ruins of Wayne Manor, and finds the Batcave beneath. Superman asks what happened, and he says that when he was outed as Batman, Two Face and Bane destroyed the mansion. Batman wears an exoskeleton over his suits that lets him move about despite years of injuries. Bruce is stand-offish, though I’m not thrilled with how that works in the book. See, I think Batman needs a better reason for it- that he’s seen the statistics, that metahuman accidents are on the rise, even though they’ve ostensibly eliminated all of the villains. That they’re on this path, where eventually either humanity or metahumanity is going to go extinct- likely the one at the hands of the other.

“I don’t believe that,” Superman says.

“Doesn’t change the math one bit. Right now you’re asking me to side with the few at the cost to the many, Clark.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Isn’t that what Martha named you?”

“Don’t say her name.”

“Isn’t that who Lois married?”

“Don’t say her name!” he booms.

“Or what, Clark? Either you’re Jonathan Kent’s boy, or your Magog’s father.”

“I had nothing to do with-”

“I’m not interested in your denial. You had as much of a hand in creating him, as the Kents had in creating you. I notice you haven’t tracked him down, yet. Would it help if I told you where he is?” He turns, and Superman is gone.

Superman arrives in front of the UN, where Wonder Woman is standing at the podium. She smiles graciously, before stepping down. “You’re late,” she says. “And Bruce?”

“Playing his own games.” Superman gives a speech, about how the superhumans were wrong to step away, to leave the newer generation unheeled, that it’s their job to correct them- that these are but the first.

Cut to Superman’s Fortress. They set up their captured fascists in cells, but it’s already a problem, with alien animals from his menagerie displaced. Superman is perturbed. “I hadn’t wanted to be anyone’s jailer,” he says.

“This never occurred to you?” Wonder Woman asks, wielding the second largest lantern in this story, after Alan Scott. “We’re fighting a war, Kal. There are going to be prisoners- unless we decide to give no further quarer.”

“Don’t even joke-”

“I wasn’t. Paradise Island didn’t become a paradise because we spared the rod. Our justice is firm, and severe. Very few people infract, and none infract again.”

“No,” he says, and she shrugs.

“That’s what I thought,” she says. “I’ve also thought about some possibilities. I want you to go to Apokalips. I’ll see if we can make a deal with Arthur in Atlantis.”

Cut to Atlantis, an aging Arthur and Mera on the thrones. “The answer’s ‘No,’ Diana.”

“But it wouldn’t even need to be near your subjects.”

“The ocean is already home to far too much of the surface’s refuse.”

“Then at least lend us your strength.”

He chuckles at that. “You have 30% of the planet, and 99% of its metahumans. I rule the other 70%, just myself and Mera beside me. You even have my children fighting in your war, Diana. Atlantis has already given enough.”

Superman Boom Tubes to Apokalips. He floats overhead, his senses drinking in the hellscape of the world. Then he flies into the throne room, where a dark figure sits, mostly in shadow. Menace radiates off of him, and those who know should be permitted a moment to quake at the thought that this is Darkseid. He leans forward, and we see that he is Orion, looking more like his father every day.

Superman starts, “I came to ask-”

“I know what you would ask-”

“What happened to you?”

“We won. Overthrew Darkseid. Freed Apokalips- only to find there was no true way to do either. The people, if you would stretch the term to cover these wretches, refuse freedom- refuse anything but the yolk of Darkseid. Even dead, this world remains his slave. I may look its ruler, but I am just another prisoner here.”

“Then why not leave?”

“Because the only thing crueler than leaving this Hell in place, would be abandoning it. So yes, if you ask me to house your wretched refuse- what, I would ask, are a few more damned souls in Hell? But I would ask, as a friend, if your soul could handle damning them so… and I suspect we both know the answer. But if you are interested in constructing a better, more humane mouse trap, the best possible engineer is nearby.”

Superman arrives at Barda and Mr. Miracle’s place. “I need your help,” he says.

The smile conspiratorially to each other, before saying in unison, “We’re in.”

“Don’t you want to know what I need?”

“In due time. But we know you. We trust you. We’re in.”

We cut to a board room, where an older, bald Luthor sits at the head of the table. Luthor is attended at all times by a body man he calls Bill. “We’ve all worked together before, on various enterprises. We’ve called them various silly things, like an Injustice League, or a Legion of Doom. But I believe, at our core, that we have always operated on the same core value, that humanity was not meant to bow and scrape at the heels of gods, but to be master of his own fate. Allow me to make introductions. To my left is Damian Al Ghul, perhaps better known as Ibn Al Xu’Ffasch, head of the League of Assassins as well as the rest of The Demon’s vast empire. To his left is Lord Naga, head of Kobra. To my right is the King of the Royal Flush Gang- now King of… well, some island nation in the Atlantic. His companion is Vandal Savage, who makes up for his lack of tact with millenia of experience. The return of a certain Kryptonian has accelerated our plans- though not significantly altered them. Metahuman events continue to escalate- even before our… encouragement. Through various channels, we have warned them that they’re playing with explosives. Their response has been to gather them together in a single powder keg. It’s not surprising that self-styled heroes are victims of their own hubris. It might surprise some of you, then, the newest member of our enclave. Some of you know him; other perhaps fear him. Bruce, would you like to introduce yourself?”

Bruce Wayne clears his throat before dramatically stating, “I’m Batman.” We pull back, and can see that Batman has his own entourage of heroes, mostly second-generation leaguers.

We cut back to the superhuman prison. Superman and Wonder Woman are on a platform that lets them look down at the gathered inmates. Its designed to look as little like a prison as possible. She tells him, “Nearly every metahuman is accounted for, either joined our side, or housed below. Nearly.”


“It’s time, Clark- Kal. He began this. You’ve known where he is; you had to. He’s practically living in the shadow of this place. It’s past time you deal with him.”

Clark flies to a hovel, assembled from materials clearly scavenged from the fallout. It’s dark inside, lit by candles. There’s simple furniture, three chair, a coffee table, and a cot. Magog is sitting farthest away from the door, watching as Superman enters. We circle around the room as he talks. “I grew up here. Did you ever know that? Kansas, born and raised. Like you- except you not being born here. Maybe that’s why, when I got word Parasite was in Kansas I thought, ‘Not in my backyard,’ and formed a posse. We weren’t even all that green; between us we had fifty years under our belts. I ever introduce you to my folks? This is my dad; he don’t say much; and opposite him is mom. She never shuts up.” We finish panning over the occupants of the two chairs, skeletons, burnt badly in the explosion, tattered rags and baked flesh all that keeps them upright in their chairs. “I grew up thinking you were a pussy. That if you just took things seriously, put a hand through the Joker and every other psycho, that the world would be a Norman Rockwell painting. I thought I was doing what you didn’t have the strength to do. I learned it’s easier to break things, than it is to fix them, with maybe one exception.” Magog holds out his gun. “Can you fix me?”

“Not like that I can’t,” Superman says, and pushes the gun towards the ground. “But I’d like a chance to try me way.”

“We need to talk, Luthor.”

“Lex, please. Bruce.”

“You got your coup. Now we need to talk strategy.”

“And you don’t want to share with the rest of the class?”

“The rest of your board might have organizations behind them, wealth, power, but no vision. Without a plan to deal with Superman, none of our plans will come to fruition.”

“I have a Marvelous anti-Superman strategy.”

“So you’ve said. But he can tear through my robobats like tissue. He’ll make short work of all of our countermeasures, unless we neutralize him.”

“I’m sure your stock of kryptonite has decayed just like mine; doesn’t have the same punch as it used to. Meanwhile, Kent has spent years soaking up solar radiation. I tinkered with a kryptonite atomic weapon; all the test device did was give Power Woman bronchitis.”

“Stop telling me things I already know.”

No. You’ll forgive me, if your convenient last-minute conversion isn’t entirely taken on faith. Or you won’t. I don’t see as you have an alternative.”

“Alfred, my coat.”

“My god. Pennyworth is still alive? Did you drop him in a Lazarus Pit? There really is no escaping the Batman, is there? Not even in death.” He leans into Bruce, eyeing him, before menacing, “I’m afraid you’ll find me equally inescapable,” before he exits.

“John?” Bruce asks ‘Alfred.’ Alfred transforms into a feeble-looking version of the Martian Manhunter. He is all but completely broken, and stammers out his replies.

“I know what you want, but I can’t,” John says. “I can’t stand the thoughts. I can’t let anyone in. You don’t understand what it was like.”

“I know what it did to you,” Bruce soothes. “And I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I need to know if Bill is Marvel.”

“There’s so much noise. So many voices. Too much.” He gasps, collapsing into Bruce’s arms. “Too much,” he whimpers.

“Is Bill Marvel?” Bruce asks. John nods.

“What now?”

“Now you rest. This was already almost too much.”

“I can help.”

“You have. Every time you’re asked. I’m trying not to ask too much. Rest now. If it comes to the worst, I’ll call you again. But only as a last resort.”

Cut to Green Lantern’s satellite base, which has become the headquarters of the new Justice League. We’re following Red Robin as he runs through the various halls to get to the main hall, where Superman is watching earth below through a window. “It’s happened!” Dick yells. “The prisoners are rioting.”

Superman hesitates, and Wonder Woman leaps to fill the void. “Flash, Green Lantern, Power Woman, subdue the rioters.”

“With reasonable force,” Superman tries to assert.

“By whatever means necessary,” Wonder Woman barks over him.

“Everyone else, form up in your battle groups, and prepare in case you’re called to join the fray.” Everyone scrambles, quickly clearing the room. Wonder Woman and Superman retreat to a side chamber. “You undermined my authority.”

“I acted when you hesitated,” she corrects him. “Now control yourself. We’re overdue at the UN. I’m sure by now they know about our prison.”

His eyes narrow. Match cut, to a room at the UN. Superman and Wonder Woman are being upbraided by the US Ambassador to the UN, furious that they’ve built a superhuman prison in the middle of a US state. “We tried to find another way- another place,” Superman says.

“Most of these prisoners are Americans,” Wonder Woman says. “Americans you let run roughshod for years.”

“To be clear, Princess,” the US Ambassador starts, “am I talking with the Ambassador from the Amazons, a woman whose dedication to peace and diplomacy most at this table have admired for years, or am I listening to the general of an alien warlord whose set up his own Gitmo in the ruins of the state of Kansas without so much as asking Uncle Sam what he thinks about it?”

“We’re trying to solve a problem,” Superman says. “I hear you; we should have spoken with you about this sooner.”

“You mean before your little prison had its inaugural riot?”

“You two are hanging by a thread,” the UN Secretary says, stepping in. “If you want to work with us, first you’ll put down that riot. Then you’ll come back here and we’ll figure out next steps, as equals. But know this: both of you are subject to justice at the International Criminal Court, both of you on a trajectory for a long stay at the Hague. Measure your next steps accordingly.”

Superman and Wonder Woman fly away. He’s angry. “You didn’t think they’d wait forever for us to solve this, did you? Like it or not, you’re a public figure- a world leader. They need you to take decisive action- we need you to. Before things get so bad there’s no coming back from them.”

We cut back to Luthor’s shindig. He’s popping champagne, thrilled at his good fortune. “The riot is bubbling over. The UN has been made aware, and are furious. Our moment of maximal leverage is at hand. One little push- and we can rid the world of these tyrannical Ubermensch once and for all. And for that, it’s time we finally loose or secret weapon.” Luthor strokes Captain Marvel’s cheek. “Tear the walls of their prison down. Start the last battle of this war, so we can finally finish it.” He says he’s scared, and Luthor tells him that he has faith in him- that he’s humanity’s last hope for peace- but that he’s secure in that fact.

Suddenly, Batman punches Marvel. “Hello, Billy.” He tries to speak, but Batman crushes down on his windpipe with his shoe. “Billy Batson’s been missing for ten years- as has Captain Marvel. You’ve kept him that entire time, twisting his young mind, terrifying the hell out of him. I suspected it, and John confirmed it.”

“But our goals,” Luthor stammers.

“My goal was figuring out your secret weapon. Marvel was a wild card- and I hate wild cards. So I’m taking him off the table.” Green Arrow asks if that’s the signal? Bruce smiles, and says, “Strike,” and the members of his second generation Justice League attack Luthor’s goons.

Billy manages to twist out from under Bruce’s foot, and he gives chase. “Billy, wait! I understand better than most what happened. This dark, new reality, it’s been hard to adjust to. Captain Marvel was the best of us; fools saw it as naivete, but he was an inspiration, and an aspiration. But all the death, all the pain, and horror, and hate… one day it gets to be too much. I hid in my cave. He hid inside a scared little boy. But it’s time we both stopped running.”

He runs down a different hall. “I know Luthor found you. Took fear and turned it into something worse, guilt, paranoia, and paralysis. And it only got worse, because with each passing day, you felt more responsible for not doing more- and more terrified of what the other part of you would do if you let him out. Luthor’s lost. We can still fix things. We just have to-” Billy crashes into a tank filled with mind controlling caterpillars. He’s buried under a wriggling pile of them, more traumatized than we’ve seen.

“The worms secrete chemicals that eat away at you. What Luthor did to you was torture. And I know you’re scared. But if you stay calm, we can-” Stuttering, Billy eventually gets out the magic word, “Shazam,” and is gone, leaving Batman alone with a hole in the wall. Green Arrow catches up to Batman. “Marvel’s no longer a wild card,” he says, as they both stare out of the hole in the wall. “God help us.”

Cut to the orbital HQ, where Wonder Woman, dressed in her metal bird armor, unsheaths a sword. “I can’t sanction lethal force,” Superman protests.

“We don’t all have heat vision.”

“We’re better than this. We have lines we don’t cross- because human life is too precious.”

“No,” she says. “You have lines. And because you’re invulnerable, you can afford to. But your rules won’t save our friends here. And they won’t prevent the next Kansas if we fail. You’re welcome to join us, and save as many as you can. But I’m don’t fighting with an arm behind my back, and I’m through asking anyone else to.”

The silence for an instant is deafening, before we hear a transmission from Green Lantern, pleading for help. He tells them the walls are breached, that Captain Comet is dead. Wonder Woman smashes the table they’re gathered around, and walks out. The rest of the League follow her, leaving Superman alone.

He flies down to Earth, smashing through the Earth’s crust and emerging in the Batcave. He pleads for help, which Batman refuses. He explains that the League has the prison surrounded, ready to bring it down on the prisoners’ heads.

“Did you ever consider this might be the optimal outcome?” Batman asks. “That perhaps humanity’s only chance is for the superhumans to swallow each other up?”

“I know you don’t believe that. We don’t always see eye to eye, Bruce, but when you scratch everything else away from Batman, you’re left with someone who doesn’t want to see anybody die. Please, tell me you’ll help me.”

“I don’t know that I can. Captain Marvel’s back. Luthor had him, spent ten years turning him inside out. He’s header for the prison, to break it wide open. You don’t need Batman, you need a m-” he turns, realizing Superman’s gone. “So that’s what that feels like,” he says with a smile on his face.

We cut back and forth between Wonder Woman, as the horror of Marvel’s intervention dawns on her, and Superman, flying faster than he ever has in an attempt to stop what he knows he can’t. From over Superman’s shoulder we see the prison, but also a red and gold streak that’s going to get there faster, and it does, blasting the prison open.

From here on out it’s a lot of punching. Superman vs. Shazam (he’s pretty vulnerable to magic so Superman doesn’t really stand a chance), the League vs. the new breed of heroes.

Cut to the Oval Office. The US Ambassador to the UN delivers the news, that the General Secretary agrees with his assessment- that if they let the Superhuman threat outside of Kansas, the human race is lost. The Defense Secretary tells him that the bombs and bombers are hardened against superhuman powers- that one ought to do the trick, but three guarantees success. The President is tentative, and wants to be sure the world will stand with him, and aren’t going to leave America holding the bag. “They’re behind us, 100%. It’s the only way for the human race to survive.” The President asks for his speech, says he needs to be talking at the UN when it happens. They need as united a front as they can have.

Fight fight fight, going badly for Superman and the League. In fact, they’re losing, perhaps definitively. Until Batman and his young league arrive, him in his mechanical Batsuit. This might be harder to get across on film, but Batman’s forces in particular try to stem the loss of life, intervening to stop both Leaguers and bad guys from killing.

Batman stops Wonder Woman from running through Von Bach, subduing him instead, and then they get into it. He pokes at her over the inconsistencies in the Amazonian philosophy (peace through strength); she’s mostly just got her blood up and angry, perhaps fighting more with Superman than with Bruce when she screams that she won’t be judged by him (it’s subtle, but in the fight she damages his communications). Their fight takes them above the fray, above the clouds- and they see the incoming bombers, and realize what’s about to happen. They break off the fight immediately to deal with the bombers.

We cut to the ground, Superman pleading with Captain Marvel to remember that they’re friends, to remember their shared goals of helping people. When that doesn’t work, he asks him to say something, to which he says, “Shazam,” hitting him with magic lightning. We pan around and see the rest of the fighting as we hear the thunder again, again, and again.

Batman and Wonder Woman each take out one of the bombers, (Batman trying but failing to raise help via his comms), but one remains, dropping its payload.   

Back to Superman and Marvel, but this time Superman springs forward, picking him up and putting him in front of the lightning while covering his mouth, and Marvel is transformed back into Billy. Superman sees the bomb, and tries to use heat vision on it, but it glances off. Superman is full of rage, but he catches sight of Billy’s eyes, full of fear, tears welling up. “I don’t know what to do, Billy,” he tells him. He holds Billy so he can see the fight raging around them. “Every decision I’ve made, everything I’ve done, has been wrong, has brought us here. Bruce says if we survive this fight, we’ll unleash this Hell on every corner of the globe. If the bomb drops, almost every good person I’ve ever known dies in an instant. I can stop the bomb- but I don’t know if I should be allowed to. Lois used to say I too often put the man before the super; I know lately I’ve put the super over the man. But of all of us, you were always the best of both. I’m sorry to put the weight of this whole world on your shoulders- especially given how many times I’ve buckled under the same. But I’m not fit to choose. You have to.” Superman lets him go, and flies up towards the bomb.

We close in on Billy’s face, a tear sliding down his cheek as he says, “Shazam.” Marvel rockets out of a cloud of smoke and lightning, grabbing Superman by the ankle and hurling him at the ground. Marvel continues upward, grabbing the bomb and screams, “Shazam!” and both he and the bomb disappear in a cloud of smoke and lightning, that becomes a blinding white light.

Superman, kneeling in the fallout, screams silently.  We pan over the battlefield, covered in bleached skeletons. Superman struggles to his feet, his eyes glowing, a being of pure, incandescent rage. He flies off.

We linger on the smoke and stillness a moment, and start to see signs of life. Green Lantern has preserved a small bubble of people, and there are others who survived, as well.

We cut to the UN, with the President speaking at the front. “It was with a heavy heart that humanity severed the bonds between our community and superhumanity.”

Superman bursts through the wall, spraying chunks of rock into the assembly. He flies to the ceiling, and presses against it, spiderweb cracks forming out away from him as diplomats scatter. We see Wesley Dodds and the Spectre, witnessing the scene as Wonder Woman flies in through the hole Superman made. “Clark,” she says, “Don’t.”

“I know anger, Clark,” Batman says, flying in. “And you have every right to be. But you’re forgetting what it feels like to be a human in the presence of a Superman.” Bruce nods towards the people below, continuing to scatter, or staring up at him in awe.

“You’re not real. You’re not here. You both died.”

“Not all of us,” Green Lantern says, as a whole slew of those who survived, filing in.

Wonder Woman strokes his cheek. “This won’t solve anything. Because you aren’t angry with them. You’re angry with yourself. You’re angry it came to this. But you have to let that go. Right now, the world doesn’t need a Superman, it needs Clark Kent.” He lets go of the roof.

Clark lands, collapsing even under his own weight. “How?”

Wonder Woman: “Marvel detonated the bomb above ground zero. Green Lantern and others were able to shield some of us.”

“How many?”

Batman: “Enough that we have the same problem as before. The same impasse. The same dangers. Distrust. Everything.”

“Then it’s time we tried a new solution.” Superman walks towards the President and the UN General Secretary. “Years ago, we let those we protected drive us away. We saw ourselves as… superior, above it all. We were wrong. But I’m tired of dwelling on past wrongs. What we need- what we all– human and superhuman- need, is to come together, to build a better tomorrow. So many of our mistakes come from trying to solve problems for you. I realize now, we need to solve them with you. As partners. As equals.”

Superman hands Captain Marvel’s cape to the General Secretary. “I asked Captain Marvel to choose between humanity and superhumanity. It was the wrong question, but still he found the right answer. Which is life. We’d like to join you, formally, with his cape as our flag.”

Cut to Superman, in Kansas, building a memorial with rows of tombstones spanning as far as the eye can see (remember, we’re talking 3 million dead in Kansas). Superman is putting the finishing touches on the nearest one. Wonder Woman flies in. “Quite the memorial.”

“As it should be. Not just to those who lost their lives to the bomb, or to Magog, but in memory of all those who lost their lives to our mistakes.”

“I hope it helps you let them rest in piece, Clark. Remember what they taught you, but don’t let their loss haunt you. Speaking of which…” she hands him a hand-carved wooden box. “A gift,” she tells him, handing it to him. “To help you see more clearly.” They’re a pair a spectacles. He puts them on, and smiles. His hand brushes hers, and he pulls her in for a kiss.

It’s the present day, and a younger Wesley Dodds wakes up, a little freaked out. “That was a messed up dream,” he says, yawning. Then he sees the reflection of the Spectre in a portrait, and nearly jumps out of his skin. “Oh, crap,” he says, and we cut to black, and roll credits.

Mid-credits scene. At the Planet Krypton restaurant. Clark and Diana are seated, Clark rolling his eyes at the cheesiness, and Diana soaking in the adoration, as she puts it, “accustomed to seeing mortals pay tribute to the gods.” They speak conspiratorially. Bruce sneaks up on them, surprising Clark. Clark asks him about his kids, and Bruce asks how much time he has, mentioning Dick is making a swift recovery Damian just might clear the fog of his brainwashing, Tim’s well, Barbara’s still not speaking to him but otherwise healthy…

A man at the table behind taps Bruce, and asks if he… is using the ketchup, because they’re out. Bruce smiles and hands it to him. Depending on how much epilogue we want we can get into lots of the little world-building, but the important point is this. Diana’s about to make an announcement, but Bruce, not bothering to even look up from his steak, says, “You’re pregnant.”

“Always the detective,” she says. “So I’ll test your escape artistry. I want a commitment from you. I want you to be the godfather.”

“My record as a parent is hardly spotless,” he replies.

“There are things Batman can teach our child that Clark or I couldn’t. Some we would never even think of.”

“Our child more than any other will need the leavening influence of a mortal man,” Clark offers, “a moral man. One we can count on. And despite our differences, I’ve always counted on you.”

“So have I,” Diana says. Bruce is touched. And shocked. And shocked he’s touched. “So it’s settled, then?”

Bruce rubs his chin. “The child of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Almost makes you pity the villains of the future.”

“Really?” Clark asks.

“No. Not really.”

And resume credits.

Old Ventures 2, Ch. 3

Three, Outside Paris, France, 4/10/45

Jack was tense. His contact in the resistance was late, and he’d never known her to be anything but punctual. From the roof he could see past the outskirts of the Parisian suburb into the forests beyond.

“Sorry, chap,” a man’s deep voice said from behind him, closing the only door up onto the roof quietly behind himself. By his accent he was British. “Unforeseen setbacks.”

“Where’s Marion?” Jack asked, turning to see a well-dressed Black man. He had a pistol, inside his jacket, where his hand was, but was trying not to be conspicuous about it.

“We were detained at a Nazi checkpoint. Ian and I managed to sneak away from the car, but… Marion will be late, and we’re on a tight schedule.” For the first time, Jack noticed a small boy hiding behind the other man. “Captain Simon, Fleming,” he said, and held out his hand. “And this is our son, Ian.”

“Didn’t realize Marion had one.”

“Yes, knowing her these four years, I can agree that’s a shock. But, war makes for strange bedfellows, resistance fighting still moreso.”

“He’s got her eyes,” Jack said. “But I don’t think this raid is any place for a child.”

Fleming smiled. “He’s been with the Resistance from the day he was born, while a Nazi search party ransacked the building looking for us. Silent as a church mouse, even from a babe; they would have killed us several times over, otherwise.”

“He’s shy,” Jack said, as the boy clung to his father’s pant leg.

“He’s not certain he likes Americans. You did, after all, take your sweet time riding to the rescue. He has… reservations about trusting you now.”

“Smart kid,” Jack said. “I can’t speak for my country,” he said, and knelt down in front of Ian, “but I’m here now, and I’m not leaving until we set things right. My friends call me Jack,” he said, and held out his hand.

The boy took it, and his hand disappeared when Jack closed his hand it and shook it.

“Now what can you tell me?” Jack asked, rising to his feet.

“The camp is to the north of here. Originally, the plan was for Marion to be your prisoner, but desperate times, and all that. So Ian’s going to wait here, this rooftop, for her, and you’re going to take me. Resistance member, suspected Jewish heritage, that ought to be enough, but the dark skin should put us over the hump. We have a nearly pristine Nazi uniform for you, and your cover is Nazi intelligence, if you’ll indulge me the oxymoron, with orders to interrogate me within the prison’s walls.”

“That’ll work?” Jack asked.

“I have no reason to believe it won’t,” Fleming said with a grin. “Everything prepared on your end?”

“The Colonel’s sending men. How many make it through is an open question, but the plan is for us to secure the prisoners as best we can, to keep them safe while American troops liberate the camp.” Jack took his pack off his back and unzipped it. “The signal is the flag- we take down the German colors and raise Old Glory.” Jack pulled an American flag from the pack, folded into a triangle. “That’ll tell our back-up that they’re clear to take the camp. And your intel is solid?”

“Well, you must always consider the source, but insofar as you can trust the word of a Nazi, this concentration camp functions largely as a transit station, for moving prisoners deeper into Nazi territory. If the rumors are true, you’ll find your answers at the other end of those rails.”

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 11: Justice League: Interplanetary

Lobo has been hired by Darkseid to snatch up Kryptonians. He manages to get Superboy in the prologue, listening to a voicemail from Clark in San Francisco. “I know we haven’t known each other long, and I know you don’t always feel Kryptonian, but you’re family. Whether you’re living in Kansas with mom, or if you decide to stay in Titans Tower in California, if there’s anything I can help with, let me know.”

He makes quick work of it, sticking mostly to the shadows (I suspect his has a kryptonite hook on his chain to help). Cut to Martha Kent, calling Clark. She hasn’t heard from Connor and is getting concerned. Clark is fighting Metallo, talking on a Bluetooth headset. He suggests Martha send Kara (Supergirl) to try and find him, and tells her to call if she finds anything strange, and he’ll be there in the blink of an eye. We dissolve to Kara, landing in San Francisco, touching a footprint where Connor stood, noticing the brick where his heat vision scorched it. We notice Lobo’s silhouette in the alley behind her, punctuated by a pair of red eyes, then he leaps out and we cut.

Superman flies through the air as a message from Martha plays in the background. “Clark. Kara still hasn’t checked in, and I checked her phone. She made a call to you that didn’t go through. I’m getting worried.” Superman lands in the alleyway. We see red eyes behind him as a dramatic sting plays. Out of the alley steps the Martian Manhunter. “Power Girl was taken from her home, following a struggle. I followed the energy signature of an alien craft here. I think someone has been collecting Kryptonians.”

“Manhunter. Good to have you along.” A chunk of the first act is a hard-boiled mystery being investigated by Clark, an investigative reporter, and John, a detective. Things get worse with the arrival of a Green Lantern (I’d go with Hal, personally, as I think he fits most into this scene, but Stewart could work, too- either way playing the part of more an official policeman). He’s tracking a New God, who he believes has violated treaties not to interfere with the Earth that both they and Apokalips have signed. Really, Scott Free is there because intelligence pointed to a plot to kidnap and turn Kryptonians into an asset for Darkseid, who he believes has taken Barda, as well. The Hawks show up, largely because they view themselves as a rival influence to the Lanterns, and don’t want to give the Corps too much sway over Earth affairs. I imagine Blackfire shows up, frustrated that Tamaran is being excluded from this now intergalactic meeting. Essentially, there are supposed to be non-interference treaties they’ve all signed, which they all think the others are violating. There’s a big old brawl, mostly destroying Clark’s orbital Fortress of Solitude. Lobo returns, fights Superman basically to a standstill; the fight is bombastic enough the others stop fighting, and start watching. Superman eventually asks for help, and Lobo gets walloped by the rest of the assembly.

Lobo puts in a call to his boss, and a Boom Tube opens up, dropping Granny Goodness (it all but has to be Kathy Bates, right? Offer her all of the Aquaman money, it will be worth it) and a selection of Furies, including Supergirl, Power Girl and Big Barda (Superboy is acting as Granny’s personal protection). Superman and Mr. Miracle plead with them not to hurt their friends, and try to talk down the Furies. They fail, and a new fight ensues. They’re pretty evenly matched, but Lobo, fighting the Martian Manhunter, overhears Superman trying to reason with Connor (Lobo buys himself a moment spitting a liquor fireball lit on his cigar at John, who recoils in horror at the flame). Connor’s trying to fight his programming, but it’s clear he’s terrified, that he didn’t fit before, and now, after all this, there’s no way he won’t be an outcast. “You’re family, Connor. You have a home, with us. People who care about you, and who know that it doesn’t matter if you screw up- what matters is that you try to do better, to be better, every day. We want you back, but you have to want to be back.”   

“Ah, what the frag,” Lobo says, shrugging, and face turns, smacking Superboy from behind with his hook. He and Superman share a moment. With Lobo on their side, the fight turns, and Granny’s forced to crawl off, humiliated. But obviously there’s a huge, looming threat from off-world that none of them can ignore. The New Gods argue that they should all join war against Apokalips, but the rest largely argue for containment; they need to be able to protect themselves against Apokalips, and form an alliance to that affect, but aren’t ready to declare an interplanetary war (I’m sure you all see where this is going, though). If there’s too much overlap between this and DuVerne’s New Gods, you can swap in Mongul and War World with relatively little fuss (we’d just have to increase his power levels accordingly).

There’s a tense moment at the end, where no one is sure what to do about Lobo. He’s kind of stand offish, before asking, quietly, if Superman meant what he said. “Bout having a home. The main man hasn’t had a home since Czarnia.” Superman puts out his hand, and Lobo shakes it.

“It’s a big universe. If you want to help us keep it safe, you’ll always be welcome here.” Lobo walks into the living room and drops onto the couch, putting big, gross boots up on the coffee table, and drinking the rest of his bottle of booze. A subplot going forward will be an Odd Couple dynamic between Clark and Lobo at the Fortress, because that should be funny.

Bonus: In part 2, Mongul is used by Darkseid to start a proxy war with Earth’s heroes, scooping most of the Interplanetary League up to join his games. They free Battleworld and end Mongul’s reign, in the process recruiting Adam Strange and freeing the planet Rann, and discover Darkseid’s influence, teeing up part 3. In 3, we feint towards Brainiac, but he’s really just working with Darkseid (as he has since the destruction of Krypton), and weakens our heroes in preparation for Darkseid’s invasion. The movie ends with Superman shoving Darkseid through a Boom Tube, and being swallowed up with him, lost, presumably on Apokalips. Part 4 would be an invasion of Apokalips to liberate the planet, as well as rescue Superman; I would expect this to be an Avengers 3/4  style crossover with the New Gods, likely bringing in even more of Earth’s heroes for at least cameos for part 4.

Old Ventures 2, Ch. 2

Two, Jack, Canton, Ohio, Present

Jack’s entire body felt heavy, and heavier still every day. It wasn’t the weight gain, though he hadn’t been able to make himself go to the gym or even run laps around the property. It was the force of a world he wasn’t sure he was a part of anymore, slowly grinding him into a boneless paste. Joey had barely left the hospital since they got back from Israel, but Jack could hardly summon the energy to even be sad. He had fought fascists before, even lost to them, on occasion, but it was the first time he felt alone with that loss, alone with his grief, with his pain.

He was thankful Rose wasn’t home. It was worse, when she was here, because then he had to hide it. It wasn’t right, to pawn his suffering off on her- a suffering, he knew, she couldn’t help him out from under, a burden she couldn’t help shoulder. It would just make her miserable, too, and she was already dealing with losing their son.

Joey and Jack didn’t always see eye to eye. There were times past Jack couldn’t help but feel his son was embarrassing him, not with who he was, but the way he lived his life. Jack knew, now, that he was wrong, that Joey’s wild years had all been a pursuit of something stolen from him in his youth, or perhaps even trying to fill a hole he was born with. But he loved his son, and if he was honest with himself- which, he wasn’t, always- watching him waste away was weighing on him, too.

He couldn’t burden, Joey, either. The boy had been through enough; he’d seen enough before the end of WWII for a lifetime.

The sounds of the news only occasionally broke into Jack’s reverie; he kept the sound low, absorbing the carousel of horrorshow imagery mostly through osmosis. He was an old, old man, and sometimes… sometimes he wondered if he was just waiting to die, waiting for this world or God or at least his old bones to finally release him. But after the experiment that gave him his strength, his durability, and yes, his longevity, he wasn’t sure if it ever would.

Through exposure to him, his wife and Joey had both lived longer, healthier lives than most could hope for; Joey’s HIV lingered decades longer than his counterparts, before finally overtaking his immune system- long enough that anti-retrovirals gave him still more time. Just, not much more.

Jack sighed. He wanted to cry; he wished he could. If he were crying, grieving, anything would have been better than just sitting in his recliner, waiting either for the world to end or for him to, it would have felt like something. Like he was doing something with his life.

His phone rang, and his heart skipped a beat. Maybe this was something he could do, some problem he could solve, or even some sick kid he could hug and tell he hoped she got better. He unlocked it, and saw it was his wife, and tried not to be disappointed. “Jack,” she said, her voice fluttery, “they’re taking Joe off the machines.”

“God,” Jack said, his voice rattling hollowly in his chest. He wasn’t ready for this. No parent should have to bury their children, but… Joey still should have had so much more time. “I’ll be right there,” he said, uncertain he could move himself from his chair with anything approaching the urgency in his voice.

“No, Jack, he isn’t dying. They say his insurance has been cancelled. They’re forcing us to leave the VA.” Jack’s phone splintered into dozens of tiny shards, as his grip tightened into a fist. He didn’t remember even standing, but he was already moving towards the door. Finally, he had a mission, a distraction, a wrong to right, a place to put his anger, his frustration and his woe- and God help the bastards who got in his way.