The Deal: this is the eighth in a series of pitches for the rebooted DC Movies. I’m leaning on AI art to mock-up these pitches, because it adds some truly glorious chaos into the mix. The usual caveats apply: a story about Black characters should be written and directed by Black creators; skill and empathy can only get you so far when trying to talk about experiences you haven’t had.
All due respect to Ray Fischer, he’s too old. Cyborg is a Teen Titan, or at least should be plausibly able to play 19 by the time that first Titans movie comes out, which I suspect will essentially be the Cyborg sequel.
Because we’re mostly avoiding origins, this will mostly not be one. But we are going to have some flashbacks, because I do want his past to influence this story- and because Cyborg is the rare hero whose origin isn’t well-trod in the public consciousness.
Cyborg narrates. “I was a guinea pig.” We start on a literal guinea pig in a cage in a classroom. The cage is sitting on an overburdened bookshelf, already tilting from the weight. Above it is a light, barely suspended by a set of fraying wires. We pull back, and see a young Black child staring sadly at it, almost communing with it. “My parents experimented on me, giving me a genius intellect. Too bad they didn’t test it on themselves, or they might have been smart enough to see where all of this was going lead.”
Victor flicks his pen, and it bounces off the wall, hitting the lamp, bouncing off the opened window and knocking off a plastic sprinkler head, causing a field filled with birds to get sprayed, making them all fly into the air, hundreds at once, pulling the kids of out of their seats, and the teacher out of hers to deal with them. The lamp falls, and the force is enough to overcome the bookshelf’s remaining strength, causing it to collapse, sliding the cage into the wall, where one of its glass walls shatters, allowing the guinea pig its freedom. The teacher glances back, but Victor is nowhere near any of the chaos on the other side of the room; she goes back to trying to get the rest of the children to calm down. But there’s one other student who didn’t get excited about the birds, and that’s because he saw what Victor did, and is giving him a thumbs up from the other side of the room. This is young Ron Evers.
“They weren’t satisfied stopping at the human limits of intelligence.” Young Victor is strapped into what’s basically a dentist chair as his parents, in surgical gear, install computer components into Victor’s head, now. “It started out simple; my motherboard, RAM and processors needed power, and coolant. There was a hard limit to the storage capacity of a human brain, so they installed 500 terabytes of flash memory into my back. But with the added weight, I couldn’t stand up straight, and modeling showed I’d need a metal rod in my back by 20- or an upgraded spine.
“I hated that they gave me enhanced hearing; with human ears I might not have heard every horrible thing they said, to each other, or about me. But I heard everything the night my mother died. Mom was drunk; she’s been drinking a lot, lately.
“I never should have let you do that to our son,” Elinore cries.
“Let me?” Silas is angry, but a lot of it is at himself. They both have seen what their quest has done to their son, and neither know how to make it right, or process what they’ve done. “You were driving me.”
“We were driving each other, Silas. Farther than we ever should have gone. And I’m going to take him away from you. This has to stop.”
“You’ll take him? You’re a lush- one who gets so stupid when she’s drunk she doesn’t know not to drive. You honestly think any sane judge would give you custody of our son?”
“I think anyone who spent five minutes talking to you wouldn’t give you custody of anyone.”
“I’ll ruin you before I let you take him. Don’t forget- you were the authorizing physician for every procedure. You signed off on everything we did. Makes you at least as responsible as I am.”
“We’d both lose him.”
“Maybe we should,” he says, but it’s more out of cruelty than a moment of clarity.
She takes one last pull from a bottle, and storms out. Silas is upset, but doesn’t follow, until he hears her car start in the driveway, and tries to run after her. But Victor is two steps in front of him, in part because he is now more machine than man. “Mom!” he yells as she peels away. He tries running after her, but his metal skeleton wasn’t really designed for that kind of speed.
Silas catches up to him in his own car, and has Victor get in the car. Victor’s cold to him. “You didn’t have to talk to her like that,” he sulks.
Silas tries to explain that parents fight, that they both only want what’s best for him, and sometimes they don’t agree what that would be. But the important thing is making sure his mother doesn’t get herself into more trouble- or hurt. Just then, her taillights, which they’d been following, disappear.
She ran off the road. It needn’t be a terribly violent wreck, but she won’t survive it. She says goodbye to both of them tearfully, and it’s clear Victor will continue to blame his father for this night.
A week later, it’s raining. Victor, in a hood, is living on the street. “Victor, come home,” he hears his father’s voice in his ear. “Your mother wouldn’t want this.”
“And she’d want you hacking into my auditory processor like some manipulative Jiminy Cricket?”
“Please, Victor,” his dad’s breaking; he doesn’t want to have to bury his wife alone. “Help me say goodbye.” But Victor’s angry, some of it likely displacement from years of their experiments, but some of it justified, too.
“How about you do the world a favor, and jump in the hole with her?”
“Victor, I,” we see, “Message terminated” on Silas’ screen, and we linger with him as he whimpers. “I’m sorry. So sorry. For everything. Oh God…” his head falls onto his keyboard as the fact that he’s lost both his wife and his son overwhelms him.
Then we’re back with Victor, in the rain. It’s kind of miserable. It’s a weird angle, somewhat distant; it won’t be immediately obvious, but Victor’s being watched through a scope. “Hey,” someone says from the dark, and Victor moves. “Tough break- I heard, about your mom.”
“You remember.” It’s his old friend, Ron Evers. He’s now running with a teenaged gang, and they’ve got a place up the street. Mostly they use it to hang, or occasionally, to store stuff they’re trying to hide or sell. But it’s dry, and has a TV, and, most importantly to Victor, wi-fi. See, Victor’s outgrown his implanted storage capacity, and has been remotely storing parts of his mind. It means when he’s connected to the internet he’s even smarter- and when he’s not, he feels the loss of that information, and that capacity, like he’s missing a part of himself. It also gives him access to do a lot of cool stuff; just as a note, I want to limit Cyborg to what’s actually possible- that means if it’s hooked to the internet, he can access it. If not, he can’t (so only access to government files available through say Interpol’s sharing network, but not things that wouldn’t be on a server). As Victor leaves with Ron, we cut back to the scope view, and see it lower, and the man holding the gun taking his finger off the trigger.
“Getting soft in your old age?” Ravager taunts Deathstroke over an earpiece. He chides her. She’s observing to learn, and one thing she needs to learn is discipline, and patience. Ron Evers, one of Victor Stone’s few known associates, is a local gang leader, one who the police keep tabs on. If he goes missing, the police will look into it, inviting more scrutiny than their employer wants on this job. He wants Stone to simply vanish- so that his father can believe that he used his implants to drop off the grid. It’s the only way to guarantee there won’t be a trail leading back to him.
The next day, Cyborg is woken as Ron and several other gang members arrive at their stash house with rival gang members in pursuit. Cyborg takes them down, in scenes that should feel vaguely RoboCop-esque. Ron tries to recruit him into the gang, but Cyborg refuses; he’ll stop bloodshed, but he’s not going to help them do anything illegal- including babysit whatever they stole. Ron wants him to stay, both genuinely, and because he has a plan, and agrees to move the stolen merchandise elsewhere.
That night, Cyborg is attacked by members of the rival gang again. He takes them apart, and is interrogating one, and finds Ron told them the stuff was there, that Victor took it from them and it was ripe for taking back. Just then, Cyborg is attacked from behind by Deathstroke, who uses an electrical device to short Cyborg out.
Cyborg restarts in safe mode, and an access panel for external memory opens up, and Slade jams in a thumb drive, which Cyborg boots from. Victor wakes in Deathstroke’s garage. Deathstroke tells him his parents were gifted surgeons and chemists, but some of the tech had to be made custom by experts- and his employer purchased plans from those. He’s now booted into debug mode, which should prevent Victor from being able to use any of his extra resources- leaving him with only his human components. Deathstroke gives him an option- if he agrees to assist his employer of his own free will, he’ll be compensated for his time until such time as they can reverse engineer his upgrades and how they interface with his organics.
Deathstroke takes a sample of Victor’s cerebral spinal fluid with a sci-fi needle, and when it turns blue, injects it into his own spinal cord. This was part of his compensation- upgrading his own mind the same way Vic’s is- at least the chemical portion- Slade isn’t comfortable with the idea of putting a bunch of metal crap inside himself- it would become an exploitable weakness.
Victor asks what the alternative is. Deathstroke tells him door number 2 is he cuts his implants out of him. His benefactor believes there may be organic portions that are integral to the system, that it would ultimately be faster to learn from the functional system as a whole- but isn’t willing to lose out on this kind of an advancement just because they can’t come to an agreement.
This pisses Victor off- he’s not willing to work with someone so barbaric. He stands up, snapping the restraint, and removing the thumb drive, clearly in control of all his faculties. He’s also connected up to the internet, and pulls up files on Deathstroke, a mercenary nicknamed ‘the Terminator’ because for years he specialized in ‘termination’ contracts- little more than assassinations. He’s worked, officially and unofficially, for a dozen world governments, though those files are all compartmentalized and kept far the hell away from an internet connection- but there’s enough publicly known to paint pretty nasty portrait of Deathstroke.
Deathstroke is smart, and planned a half-dozen ways to take Victor down. Unfortunately for him, Cyborg has been upgrading himself without his parents knowing- so Deathstroke’s intel is largely out of date. Quickly Deathstroke realizes he’s outmatched, especially with the upgrade only beginning to rewire his brain, and burns his safehouse literally, taking a go-bag that, and as he lifts it it pulls the pin on a series of white phosphorous grenades that set the entire place on fire, escaping.
Cyborg helps people on the nearby floors out of the burning building; a firefighter gives him one of their coats so he can sneak away as they cops arrive. Cyborg is walking back through the rainy streets when his ears, scanning passively for keywords like ‘cyborg’ pick up chatter from the rival gang. They know Deathstroke took him, so they’re planning on hitting Ron’s new safehouse while it’s vulnerable. Cyborg goes to help, but also feels manipulated by Ron. He stops the rival gang, but just as he’s about to pivot to deal with Ron, he’s attacked by Deathstroke again. This time Deathstroke isn’t using nonlethal weapons, having decided Vic’s going to force him to kill him anyway. Deathstroke tries to use Ron as a bargaining chip, but Cyborg lures him away, in part by calling the police to ensure Ron’s been caught with the stolen goods.
Cyborg takes on Deathstroke, who is getting smarter and more dangerous with every passing moment. Eventually, Cyborg jury-rigs some tech into a sonic cannon; given the amount of explosives and detonations Deathstroke has been involved with, he surmises he likely suffers from tinnitus, making the attack extra effective against Deathstroke. It’s effective enough Deathstroke retreats.
Cyborg drops in on the rival gang, to make sure they aren’t going to retaliate against Ron in prison. They appreciate him taking Ron off the street, but he still stole from them. They tell Cyborg it’s a two-fold problem: this rival gang is modeled on the Black Panthers, and they do a lot of community outreach, so the loss of that money hurts those who can least absorb it. Worse, Ron attacking them makes them look vulnerable, and will lead others to do the same.
Cyborg asks about the value of what was lost, then drops him a Venmo for three times that. The gang leader is concerned the money’s going to lead to federal scrutiny when some bank reports the money missing.
“I took one dollar from every person who used a racial slur on social media in the last minute.”
“We cool, then.”
Victor is about to leave, but turns. “A penny of that goes to guns or drugs, and I’ll make sure you get a cot a cell or two down from Ron.” The other man shrugs, and explains he sees them like the government; they’re basically an army and a safety net rolled into one. Drugs or more guns than it takes to keep the peace would make his neighborhood worse, not better- and that’s not what he’s about.
Victor returns home. His dad hugs him, but he’s still not ready to warm to him. “I understand,” Silas tells him. “I know how much I blame me. I can hardly imagine how much you do. I can’t undo any of it, and I know I’ll never make it right. But I can try to make it better than it is. If you’ll let me.”
“I can try,” Victor responds.
They attend Elinore’s funeral. It’s raining again. Silas tries to take Victor’s hand, and at first he pulls away, and Silas stops. But then, after a moment, Victor takes Silas’ hand, and squeezes, and we roll credits.
In an end credits scene with Deathstroke, we find that his employer is Lionel Luthor, who praises the Stones’s work as revolutionary. They refused to sell it, even in part. Luthor had hoped Elinore’s car accident would soften them up- but he would never have sanctioned her death, comparing it to burning da Vinci at the stake to get him to sell a painting. “I told you cutting somebody’s breaks is an inexact science,” Deathstroke says. “You choose between plausible deniability or predictability.”
“I didn’t call you to hear excuses,” Lionel calls him off; he’s seen news copter footage of Deathstroke trying to shoot Victor in the face, that they can’t take Stone’s opus through force, and instead need to try more finesse.
In one final credits scene, Victor finds a piece of tech in his home because it turns on. At first, it displays a holographic bat symbol, then we see Batman talking. “These aren’t the circumstances I was hoping to contact you in. In fact, I was hoping I’d never need to. I was content to confine my activities to Gotham, and leave you to your own. That option’s off the table.”
“What the hell?” Victor asks.
“Divided, we’re easy prey. Together… we might stand a chance.”
We cut to black, and white text appears, one line at a time:
Cyborg will return
vs. the Suicide Squad