Batman/Warlock: Soul Brothers #1
Written by Anomaly,
Edited by Marvelite
***This story continues from Shards of
To read that storyline, go to the Marvel/DC Cosmic Crossovers Archive***
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." --Mark Twain
"I'm glad this is over," said Batman dryly, shaking his head from side to side. The Batman was a darkly clad being. A creature of the night. He bore a mask and a cowl that covered over the better part of his stern visage, as a long black cape whisked across his form. And on his muscular chest stood a yellow circle with a bat symbol proudly standing against the gold rim.
"I am afraid, Dark Knight, it is only the beginning," stated Adam Warlock. He was a looming presence, much like the Dark Knight himself. But unlike the dark figure that he now stood side-by-side, his attire had a much brighter feel to it, and yet, at the same time, keeping the dark menacing effect that hued about him. Warlock bore cloth of gold and red hues, as well as an elaborate golden belt and wristbands. A coin-sized skull upon the front of his collar served as the clasp for a long, elegantly rippling red cape with gold on its underside. A long golden staff with the same skull symbol at the top that bore wings was firmly in place within his iron strong grasp.
"I was afraid you would say that," retorted Batman, whose cape was indefinable from the night.
However Adam Warlock did not fear his presence - Warlock did not possess any emotion at all, for that matter, or at least tried to suppress it deep into the darkest reaches of his soul, or so it seemed. "It seems that the merging of the universes has brought out another threat, that I fear might dawn upon us since Access and the Living Tribunal first contacted me. Its true nature is still hidden from my gaze, but my plan is already in progress."
"And what's that?" he asked, his vision glazed over, as his mind raced recalling the trials and tribulations that he endured through the last time that he was nothing more than a pawn for one of Warlock's - not to mention the Spectre's - schemes. "Because if you want the truth I'm getting a little sick and tired of being used all the time," Batman clenched his gloved fists and his knuckles cracked under the tremendous pressure.
As a man who can relate to the same feeling of being used as nothing more than a means for an ends, How routine can so often take the excitement out of life, and how boredom can eventually settle in, Warlock mused to himself. "It is not this moment you must focus in on, but the long term, the sacrifices that you will make to achieve the ends, even Death." He forced a not-so-reassuring smile in the Dark Knight's direction, he said, "And it is never a boring experience."
This baffled the Batman for a few moments. His brow, cloaked behind his mask, furrowed slightly at the comment, and then realization dawned upon him. He concluded, logically, "You have died more then once." He tried to keep the astonishment from his voice - and, even though he would never admit it, he did not accomplish the feet in stride.
"Yes . . ." he sagged slightly against one of the dark jagged pillars of rock, his vision glazed over, Warlock tried to remain focused. It seemed that separation from his Soul Gem, an after-effect of the merger of the two universes, was causing him separation anxiety, he could no longer remain focused and determined, as he had been. This had never happened before! For he had been from time-to-time separated from the gem of soul, why was it happening now? And right when there was so much at stake, the fate of all the population on earth hinged in the balance. " . . . And I . . . am about to do so . . . again," uttered Warlock, staggering backward a few steps, as the strength began to leave his body, and weariness brought him to the floor in the Batcave. He did not even try to fight it, he merely gave way into it, he was now on his knees, struggling for air to be brought into his lungs, air that refused to come.
The Dark Knight bolted toward the golden figure, kneeling before him; he rested thick muscular hands upon Warlock's shoulders so he would not be compelled to collapse. "There . . ." he continued out of breath, his piercing gaze now wavered as he tried his damnedest to focus upon the form of Batman before him " . . . is a great evil on the rise and my Soul Gem has temporarily been affected by . . . it . . . and joined sides with the enemy . . . but I am too weak to look for it now. Besides that I must sleep and rejuvenate." His tone, in spite of his body giving up firmed and took on a dark edge to it. "You!" he rasped. "You must get me the Soul Gem! Before all is lost . . . There . . . will . . . be aid . . . coming soon . . ." with that Warlock closed his eyes and collapsed, his body going limp in Batman's gray muscular arms.
"Alfred!" Batman snapped, into the darkness.
No answer was forth coming.
He called forth once again, still the same response. This piqued his concern, normally his manservant and his sergeant father responded in a moment or two, before he even called forth once. And twice was extremely abnormal. Something was wrong! Extremely so.
He allowed Warlock's body to gently sag out of his arms, and thudded motionlessly against the cold stone of the Batcave's flooring. Making sure that there was no threat of Warlock's body descending into one of the enormous pits that composed most of the cavern, Batman bolted toward the exit in a dark blur, his cape whipping around him from side to side.
He entered a small passage way and quickly darted up several wooden stories that rose upward.
"He's . . . kind of cute, you know?" Came a voice from behind the Batman. The voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.
It started coming from the darkness. At first he thought it was a mirage, then he thought it might have been Batgirl because it seemed to have a feminine form. She was 19 years old at the oldest, her face was pale, and she wore a small tank top that barely covered her petite form. Her pants were baggy, and she was wearing an ankh around her neck, the kind associated with Egyptian culture.
"How did you get in here?” asked the Batman.
"You know you’re definitely the tense type, always serious and too full of yourself, never opening up. Didn't you ever see Mary Poppins? Super-cali-fragil-istic-expy-ali-docious!"
"I didn't get the name,” said Batman dryly.
"I didn't give it,” she said and began to jump around as if she were dancing to her favorite song.
She extended a pale hand and said, “I’m Death.”
"Look,” said Batman, who appeared to be getting hot under the collar, "I have nothing against young people, and even your Goth look is fine, but I don't tolerate drug use in any way."
The Caped Crusader suddenly felt as if a knife hewn from primordial ice had struck him in the shoulder. It then felt as if he had a corpse’s arm sewn to his torso, because it hung lifeless and cold. The cold began to work its way into his chest, and then he gasped. He turned to see Adam Warlock standing and holding his spirit staff, a metaphysical representation of himself, in his right hand. The staff was golden and was roughly the same size as he was. On the end was a bird of prey, whose eyes glistened a deep jade. But Warlock was no longer in his physical form, because Batman could see him, and he could see by looking through Warlock himself who stood as an apparition. He seemed much more imposing in his spirit form, and just the proximity of Warlock’s spirit self next to Batman’s caused his mortal coil to shiver, and sweat. This was followed by Batman vomiting all over.
"Forgive me, Batman, my spirit has different reactions to human physiology, it will pass in time. The women you see is indeed Death, and her and her family, the Endless, have decided to help us against the Gate Yog-Sothoth Guards, but there are those that have already crossed the Gulf of S'glhuo that they may be known by their sound. In that gulf the very worlds are of sound, and matter is but known as an odor. Translation, they have smelt us and are hungry and soon they shall feed unless they are stopped."
Batman could just feel something at the tip of his finger, it was as if a thousand knives were thrusting in and out of his hand, but this was welcomed when movement finally returned to his appendage.
"Mr. Warlock, you’re spooky, just like my brother Dream was, and he seemed quiet and complicated.”
"Where is he now?” asked Warlock.
“He’s dead,” she said, her intonation happy and uplifting, despite her
position as a taker of lives. Warlock then vanished and his body which had been
laying in the Batcave was now wrapped in a cocoon that looked like a mattress
that had been sitting in the Gothom River, lumpy and covered in sludge and a
bunch of strange nodules which ran up and down both sides of the cocoon.
They vanished and were suddenly transported to a gallery with paintings of various people posing in different garbs and even from different centuries. “Where are we?” asked Batman.
"This is the gallery of the Endless, and this is how we are going to contact them."
“Are they from alien races or travelers from different times or even Angels, like Zuriel?” asked Batman, who looked as if he was trying to comprehend something strange and fanciful.
"They are ideas plain and simple: Dream, Desire, Destruction, Delirium, Despair, Destiny, and myself. We are ideas, we are older than gods, older even than angels, and being ideas we can’t really die, except my brother who sort of died, but really didn't, it was just his point of view that died you know."
Batman said nothing, as he just waited as the girl who called herself Death looked at a painting of a woman, who was hunched over and had an awful maw with no teeth, and a hook at the end of her finger.
“Oh, Despair, we stand before you picture, and call you. You, who hook
men’s hearts and slowly rip at the living matter, show us the gate that is
Bodies were scattered all about the room, with the entrails and innards hanging about the furniture, and something horrible was feeding its horrific physiognomy, unnatural to look upon, causing the Batman to vomit and look away in disgust. The cavity with such force and rage at the indignity heaped on a poor family that was killed in an unspeakable manner his hand went completely through and out the other side. The sound was like sticking wet muck. Batman struck with multiple attacks, hitting them with small concussion grenades and gas. At first it appeared that he had been successful but a large tentacle from one of the elder beings quickly changed his mind as it encircled the Batman’s hand in an unbreakable grip of death. "I don't like public affection,” he said as he used the batarang to cutaway the great tentacle that did not seem very solid, but almost liquid, as every part of it seemed to move like quicksilver. Using maneuvers that would put him in a class of maybe 10 gymnasts in the world, he easily dodged the rest of their clumsy attacks and perched himself at the highest point in the room, at the top of the stairs.
But where physical attacks had failed against the steely sinews and spring like reflexes of the Dark Knight, an attack to his psyche had found a hook as it embedded itself in all he held dear. "WHY DID YOU LET US DIE, BRUCE, WE LOVED YOU, BUT YOU MURDERED US, WHAT GOOD IS IT NOW, YOU SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT FIGHTING EVIL WHEN IT COUNTED!"
Inhuman tentacles came from his parents’ orifices and wrapped tightly around his chest. One thing was clear, Batman had never really dealt with the guilt of his parents’ death in such fashion, he thought himself to blame, as if he, a mere boy, could have done something.
In his mind’s eye, he could see that terrible night - his mother struggling
as the mugger grabbed her hair and caressed her body in an unfit manner. He
wanted to do something but found himself frozen. He was a kid, but he was also a
coward, and that same coward now hid behind a bat.
Despair, who was standing next to her sister Death, looked on as she ran the hook that fit upon her finger against the open air.
"He will soon give into Despair, I have hooked him. Dark Knight he may be, but his armor is chinked"
"I wouldn't count him out yet, he reminds me of Lassy, and you just know Lassy is going to do it," said death who was holding her ankh in her hand.
"Take him, sister, he is yours,” said Despair as she dragged her hook across the air. But behind them there was the rush of wind, as something moved quickly past Death and Despair. Tentacles were cleaved and strewn everywhere, as the mysterious figure stayed in the shadows and dispersed his foes painfully and efficiently. Batman’s head began to clear, as the voices were gone. Although he knew that he had to confront this problem at some point, he was glad he didn't have to do it on this dread night. For if he was honest, he might not have stood the test. But The Dark Knight stared at the figure standing in front of him and mirroring his every move, even quick jerks and feints did not fool the creature as it supernaturally stayed in perfect synchronization. The creature was palest white and had a great cloak of crimson that seemed to hover as its feet did not appear to touch the ground. And as fast as Batman saw him disperse, it was quite apparent that he would be in for the fight of his life.
The crimson cape burst open, revealing twisted and horrible runes carved against his white form "Sorry, I didn't get here earlier - all the busses had stopped running," his face was like stone as it was impossibly smooth for any mortal. "I have been sent by my father, Adam Warlock." A small scrawny old man with gnarled hands and a rasp voice began to chant in a voice that did not seem human. His chant grew louder and louder until a great mouth opened up behind the old man and swallowed him whole. It was a large hideous mouth that had smaller mouths attached by lengthy vine like things, which writhed in a continuous motion. Inside the mouth were great shark teeth that were now draped in crimson and in the air was the smell of the morning dew.
“I AM THE GATE THAT IS YON SOGGOTH, PREPARE TO BE DEVOURED WITH THE REST OF YOUR WOLRD!" Batman and his new found ally prepared to fight for their lives against the freakish sight before them while Death and Despair waited patiently.
"Despair, don't count your chickens before they hatch."
"What does that mean sister?” asked Despair.
Batman held his stomach as it began to blow up like a helium balloon. He looked like a pregnant women as he held his stomach and was now curled in a fetal position. When he felt the release, he thought that his innards and entrails would be scattered everywhere, but instead, a man came forth who was dressed in green and white, he was to all those that walked the ethereal plane as the Spectre.
“I AM THE HAND OF VENGEANCE, YON SOGGOTH, YOU SHALL TASTE MY WRAITH IF YOU DO NOT DEPART!" the Spectre was both impressive and imposing, as raw power just radiated from his being, his skin was white as wool and his face like a great sun. But if Yon Soggoth was impressed, he did not show it nor the proper respect, as it opened its maw and swallowed the Spectre completely. And then even Death realized that even she might soon die.
Continued in Soul Brothers #2
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