Spoiler Alert

August 30, 2014:

A group of unlikely people wind up in a haunted Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum

The infamous home of the insane, tonight Arkham is haunted by an ineffable force of Darkness

Characters

NPCs: Arkham Inmates, The Fallen

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Jericho is full of magic. Not, you know, magic that he can use. He's been filling up with it, and it's started to attract some rather odd things. Mostly it's nothing. He's noticed strange sounds at night. Odd lights in the sky. Mostly it's nothing. Heck, he's got an actual demon hanging about and there's pretty much nothing that happens that's more magical than that.

Er, mostly. Some parts of the world are more magical, less stable than others and they don't always react predictably to Jericho's magical charge. He was the in Bus. Flying to Morocco when they passed through one such region. The area around him flickers like bed reception on a television set. Bus. Pepper's Office. Bus. Pepper's Office.

There's abruptly a Jericho standing in Pepper's office. And a K'nert. "Um…" Abruptly, the scenery is flickering again. Office. Horrible place. Office. Horrible place. Then it stabilizes.

""Er…" Jericho looks around. Hallway, cell doors, bad lighting, damp smell… and there's Pepper and Jim. "Hi?"

*

Pepper has become sufficiently accustomed to Fenris' abruptly appearing in her office that the first flickering appearance doesn't startle her. She looks up and… watches with widening eyes as Jericho does that Star Trek 'flickering in and out of phase' thing. She stands quickly to see if she can help, and then her entire office starts to flicker, and they end up in a dank hallway.

"What just happened?" Pepper asks slowly and deliberately.

*

Jim was bringing up a tablet to Pepper's office with notes for upgrading the R-QA section of Stark Industries, playing with it a bit as he walked along. He doesn't have nearly enough money in his budget to afford one of these state - of - the - art babies, but he's working. Honest. And definitely not playing Galaga or Minesweeper.

Nosirree. Pepper would KILL him if he was wasting company time, or worse, be exceptionally disappointed in him. So he doesn't realize, even, that the scenery has changed until he unceremoniously bumps into a wall. A wall that was NOT there five minutes ago. And that is *not* a Stark Industires wall. That's…

"What the hell?"

*

A figure detaches herself from the wall, using the shadows to move softly away from group, her caped hood lifted to conceal her features, the purple and black easing her through those shadows. A visit to your father to deliver some well-earnt messages about tense familial relationships can be complicated by suddenly appearing people. The Spoiler finds a dark shadow, going still, watching the confusion with a touch of amusement in her blue eyes, crouching there.

*

K'nert hisses from down at Jericho's feet. The hacker holds a hand up to forestall any more comment from either him or anyone else. "Hang on. My network's updating. Getting our location. Give me second."

The hallway is eerily quiet. The lights are dim. There's a drip-drip-drip somewhere in the background and every so often Jericho's face is thrown into demonic relief by a flashing red lamp up near the cieling to his right.

"Oh for the love of…" There's a snap as he reaches down to his hip an unholsters a gun. It bears mentioning that Jericho is in desert fatigues and full tactical harness. And very very armed. He looks up at Pepper. "We're in Arkham Asylum… and it's on lockdown."

*

Pepper Potts pulls her phone at about the same time that Jericho says he's getting a location. And, JARVIS via her phone agrees with the very thoroughly armed man. "JARVIS, can you get me a map of this building?" She look she turns on the hacker is one that silently promises that they WILL talk about this later.

"One moment, Miss Potts. I have also taken the liberty of notifyin Miss Cricket and Security that you and Mr. Reha are attending an off-site meeting."

Pepper would hug JARVIS if she could. Seriously.

*

Jim looks at the tablet in his hand. Sure enough, there is the tell-tale sign that its connection to the network is off-line, and that it has about forty percent battery charge left. Well, he's not a one to waste resources when they might come in handy later, so he turns the thing off and carefully stows it in his left inside jacket pocket. He'd managed to get one of those ones with the bigger pockets because, well, he's a big guy.

"This is two, mister. The third time my partner is gonna find all of your email addresses and register them to every single spam-server on the planet. That's not me talking. That's it through me."

Jim points at his eyes with two fingers from his right hand, then at Jericho.

"You really think that's a good idea in an asylum on lockdown when there are probably very armed and dedicated guards looking for any sort of danger?"

All that's going through Jim's head tactically right now is that this is the place where the really really really f'd in the head folks from Gotham end up.

Then JARVIS comes through for Pepper, and Jim relaxes a bit. It's all gonna be okay. At least.. he hopes so.

*

That shadowed figure steps forward, tilting her head slightly, the hood concealing her features still. "This is interesting. Welcome to Arkham. How may we direct you?" She folds her arms, resting her weight through one leg, watching them from the darkness of her hood, her voice reflecting her grin.

Despite the humor, there is something in her tone, a hint of wariness, preparation to move in her posture. "The guards should be along any moment now. It takes them only a few moments." Helpful.

*

"Do I know you?" Jericho remembers Corvinus, but he's only glimpsed Jim once… when he ended up in his house with a minigun. Long story.

"If you do that you will literally fill my head with spam and cause me to develop a very good reason to spend a considerable amount of time dedicated to finding ways to make you take a dirt nap." So please, don't do that. It's not nice to send spam to his brain computer. On the other hand, if he hacked the spam sites… that might make a good weapon for later. "As for the weapon, anyone notice how quiet it is in here?"

That's when Spoiler speaks. Jericho spins and points a .45 at her. "Who the hell are you and why-" His question never gets answered. As she says, the sounds of running down the hallway. They sound like they're about to come around the corner when there's a cry of surprise. Guns go off along with the sounds of batons hitting flesh. Then a roar. Then screaming. Then silence.

"Faiiiiirly sure that isn't normal…"

*

Pepper Potts looks at Jim for a moment, then startles and turns to look at the hooded woman who 'greets' them. Sarcasm? Really? Honey, two can play that game. Looking COMPLETELY out of place in this dungeon-like hallway, her expression doesn't entirely match her polite-seeming words. Her eyes are unamused under furrowed brows, and she looks to be on the verge of starting to frown.

"Thank you. Cou…" That's when all of that noise happens and she gasps in surprise and all but throws herself against the nearest wall to hopefully get some vague semblance of cover from … silence. What on earth?

*

Jim squints at the new arrival warily, taking a half step to put himself more fully between Pepper and whoever this unknown party is. He's not a bodyguard, but he owes Pepper at least that much, if not more.

He watches the corridor and the newcomer and Jericho. Thankfully, in this relatively tight environment, it's not too hard to kind of keep a close clumping.

Jericho gets a meaningful look when he asks the question, then the veteran retailer shrugs.

"Partner says 'Don't—' Crap.. you said it."

Jim's attention gets distracted by the sounds of guns, a roar, and silence.

He holds his hand out, palm down, and kind of makes a waving motion down at the floor to indicate silence would be a good thing, as well as getting down and small. The man's a bit challenged on that last bit, but he is trying… and not too badly at it, when all is said and done.

He crouches down close to the wall, attempting to use the intervening corner for cover while guiding Pepper down to minimize her profile. Internally, Jim's telling his partner to be ready, this is definitely not sounding good. Even though it is quiet. That just makes it worse.

*

Jericho's reaction to Spoiler's appearance earns him a reply, a softly murmured one, "Visiting hours are over, I think. Were you hoping to visit someone in particular?" Despite the calm imposed, she straightens, turning towards the barred doors, words spoken over her shoulder, "I'm the Spoiler. Why are you here?"

*

The little demonic lizard hisses again at Jeri's feet and tugs at his leg. "Good question. I wish I could say…" The hacker peers into one of the cells. It's empty. Frowning he looks into the next one… it's empty too… so are the rest of the cells in this part of the hallway. "Okay… Spoiler, is it? I could use some. Is this an action adventure movie, or more horror."

*

Pepper Potts looks at Jim, then considers for a moment before speaking into her phone very quietly, "JARVIS, can you get into the asylum's systems? Find out what's going on here." She reaches to pull Jim back to standing upright, preparing to run if it comes down to that. Because whatever is going on, she doesn't really want to stay here and find out.

*

Jim has been horribly spoiled by having an awesome partner. The Corvinus has really insulated him from all the stupid names people come up with as 'callsigns' and 'heroic identities'. He visibly bites his tongue to prevent making some witty comment as he keeps his eyes moving around that area by the intersection, not locking on any one particular place for too long. He includes the ceiling and the floor in his search, watching for any hints, shadows, oddities, or the like. It's just like standing watch, wayyy back in the day. Only, you know, being a LOT more terrifying than any watch he'd ever been on.

He doesn't 'shush' Jericho on his ranting — he's savvy enough to know that regardless of genre the person that does that is always the person that gets nailed by the Whatever that is lurking nearby.

Jim allows himself to be pulled upright but he raises his left index finger and points to himself with his left thumb.

If it's big and nasty, he'll buy time for folks to get clear.

*

Spoiler turns her head, giving Jericho a look that is frank amusement, "I think it depends on if you are you, or one of them." A hand slides into the belt at her waist, withdrawing some small devices, her deft fingers opening a lock with practiced ease. "Do you want to stay here and find out if you are the actors that go to investigate the noise?"

Almost an invitation from the slight figure in that cape, and if you were watching closely, it is possible the mask moved in such a way to hint at a grin.

*

"Rather not. Do you know a way out of here?" Jericho looks to Jim, notes him watching Pepper's back. Then his eyes slide over to Pepper apologetically. He hadn't really done anything other than get blinked here, but he certainly hadn't wanted her mixed up in it. Moving seems prudent. The hacker moves in behind the Spoiler as she pikes the lock and opens the door.

"By the way what happened to the inmates?" There isn't a single cell here with a patient in it. The next hall looks rather the same. Damp, decaying building, locked doors, dim lights and flashing red.

*

Pepper Potts is more than ready to get moving, so when Jericho steps to follow the hooded woman — Spoiler, she called herself Spoiler — she can step forward to follow on a moment's notice. "JARVIS picked up an event notice on the asylum systems. They're on full lockdown, the inmates apparently all in a common area. The sooner we get moving the better, if you would, please." That last was aimed at Spoiler, and she tucks her phone back into her pocket before reaching to relieve Jericho of one of his assortment of weapons, which, if he lets her take it, she will promptly hand to Jim.

*

Jim is remaining quiet, almost dead quiet, as he backs up slowly using Pepper as a guide for his motion. No groping, perfectly legit back to Pepper as he keeps watching down the corridor, eyes dancing over the key locations as he moves. Spoiler does not get an answer from him, at least, not for the moment.

*

Pepper is the link to the outside world as well as being the boss that's been watching out for him. That's the kind of loyalty that inspires such in return. He really wishes Jericho would get a bit quieter, but he's still not going to speak up about it, not right now. The portly guy may not be a special operations commando with years of experience, but he has enough common sense to know that this continual conversation is endangering the party.

If a sidearm or the like ends up in Jim's hands he's actually reasonably competent about checking it over, making sure that the safety is currently 'on' if a sidearm. No need to discharge if there isn't a visible threat, and all it takes is a slight thumb twitch to flick it off if it needs to be.

*

"Maybe." The reply is brief as she opens the door, stepping through with a seeming disregard of if they are following or not. "I think they are trying to escape." Those words, murmured thoughtfully, are offered to Jericho in reply to his question, "It happens. Sometimes." There is a touch of grimness to that tone, and she seems to wait, pausing for them to catch her up. "Why are you here?"

*

Jericho shakes his head. "Not sure." He murmurs. It's true as far as it goes though if Spoiler has noticed the demonic lizard thing creeping along at his side, that may be part of the answer. Ahead the lights flicker. There is, for a brief instant in the flickering light, a pair of inmates standing around at an intersection in hospital gowns. When the lights come up again, they're gone. Nor is there any sign of them in any direction when they reach that intersection. Somewhere off to the left there's an echoing, rumbling growl that dies away in the distance.

Under these circumstances, Jericho is quite happy to hand Pepper his sidearm to hand to Jim and unsling his AK. Yeah an AK. It fits in at Syria, okay?

*

Pepper Potts passes the sidearm on to Jim, and pulls her phone out of her pocket again while following Jericho and Spoiler. And that is probably more of a problem for them than conversing. Because when the lights flicker, her phone's screen stays very brightly lit. She becomes a beacon in the dark hallway.

*

Inwardly, the heavy-set Stark Industries employee is rather thankful that he ended up with some sort of reasonable conventional weaponry. It's not that he doubts his partner, but this is Arkham Asylum. It's a lot easier to convince guards that hey, one picked up a weapon and was trying to make one's way out and hey, there's some backing ID for it versus some strange ancient alien bird-thing that looks potentially lethal. And that's *before* it talks.

Plus, with that option saved as the Holy Hand Grenade, it definitely has a surprise factor to it.

The partner is a bit disgusted at the subterfuge and actually wants to go talk to who or whatever made the roaring noise. But it definitely defers to the local expertise of Jim, for it seems to be working so far.

The inmates flickering in and out sort of leave him a bit shaken for a second or two, but he holds off on switching off the safety. Calm, casual, just like Halloween. And then the earworm starts. 'This is Halloween' starts looping in his head. He blinks at the sudden brightness from Pepper's phone and starts scanning a bit more frantically with the safety now *off*.

Damnit Bo — er, Pepper!

*

Spoiler freezes at the sight of the two inmates, and a moment later, she is part of the shadows deepened by Pepper's phone light. "I think you are in a horror." The whisper is low, meant for Jericho, "And she is the one that draws the axe murderer to you." The hood turns to look at Pepper, the purple mask hiding any features beneath it, as the shadows fall away.

*

Jericho looks back at Pepper and her phone. The growling sounds out behind them now, along with a creeping feeling of dread similar to when Fenris is around, but a) definitely not him and b) much stronger and more directed.

"Pepper." Jericho whispers. "What are you doing?"

He brings his rifle to low-ready and swallows. "We need an exit, Spoiler. Quick."

*

Pepper Potts gasps faintly and presses her phone to her chest, muffling the screen's light against her jacket. At least she has the presence of mind to not apologize aloud. She looks back in the direction of that sensation of dread, then at Spoiler again, who seems to have become their 'tour guide' after all. She nods to the woman. A way out would be very much appreciated.

*

Jim keeps scanning the area that the growling sound came from. And oh, hey, it's kind of like Fenris… but also kind of like C'taghn the Stank. He backs up with the rest of the group, keeping the borrowed sidearm up a little bit more than low ready — while he's decently competent with it, he's not an expert nor has he handled one in… about two decades. Still, in this sort of scenario all that might matter is getting enough lead down-range fast enough to dissuade any pursuit.

At least, that's the contingency. Exodus is first priority. Shooting bullets into the dark is far below that.

The turn away from them flares her cape, the cowl hiding her mask once more as she leads them forward, away from the noise, turning to the right, towards the main visiting area of the Asylum. "It isn't one of them." The observation is a low whisper, and her pace is fast, her movements graceful as she begins to run, the cape flaring out behind her.

*

Jericho stays on the other side of the hallway about five feet behind. He doesn't know this place though Pepper has a map on that phone of hers thanks to JARVIS. As they move through the desserted hallways to the occasional sound of growling, it may seem to Spoiler as though things are not where they are supposed to be. She knows the exit is the way she's going but every time she rounds a corner it's like some other part of the building has jumped in the way. If Pepper is following her map it makes no sense at all. According to Javis they're walking through walls and rooms, even though they never leave the hall, all drawing inexorably toward the rec room. Which isn't far now.

There's a flicker in the light that covers the entire hallway. When they come back up, half a dozen inmates with knives and straight razors are right in Spoiler's face!!

*

Pepper Potts has tucked her phone into an interior pocket, letting the display go dark. The hallways they're taking make NO sense at all but she doesn't speak up about it. At the next flicker she stops, then gasps at the sight of the inmates right in front of Spoiler and again moves to get out of the way.

*

Jim keeps his eye on the corridor behind, scanning frantically then… stopping the frantic part as he comes to a realization. He takes a slow, deep breath and lets it out. Calm. Serene. It all good. This is all about herding and pushing on fear. And sure enough, he's got enough fear to fill up a wing of the Asylum, and the partner has enough to cover a small city. But if this thing is drawing on fear, the last thing it needs is to get even more ammo.

Jim denies the fear as best he can and continues to provide over-watch behind., back to Pepper.

*

For a moment The Spoiler is there, and then the next, she isn't. She is simply vanished, no longer standing between them and the inmates, and for a long moment there is a standoff. Then abruptly, behind the inmates, in front of the tour group's gaze, a table is picked up and thrown, aimed at the back of the inmates' heads, followed by the self injury of an inmate, whose razor is suddenly in his own face, a slash that bubbles blood, but fails to be fatal. Then, in a poorly timed moment of fail, there is a flicker, a fittzz noise, and Spoiler appears, moving as if she is a figure in an old-fashioned flick, here and then gone, and then, fully there, a whirling figure in the middle of the inmates, fighting.

*

Jericho raises his weapon to high ready, but then Spoiler's among them. "Hell…" He mutters and lunges. No group of inmates, no matter how insane are a match for two trained combatants… though it's possible Spoiler is more trained than the commando. Still, it's not long before all six inmates are on the ground, five of them unconscious, one of them with a broken neck. Jericho, it seems, does not play with men with knives. Not when there are civilians around (At least Pepper, perhaps not Jim).

He seems to be ready to say something when the double doors at the end of the hallway open of their own accord and all the lights come up. There's a crowd of inmates and a few security guards in the next room, which appears to be the rec room.

*

Pepper Potts keeps up against the nearest wall while Spoiler and then Jericho make sure those inmates don't start doing something unfortunate. When those doors open, she looks toward all of the inmates and guards but is a bit wary of just proceeding forward now. No telling what's going to happen with the next flicker of the building's lights.

*

The sounds of combat are enough to get the sidearm-wielding person's attention, but he resists the urge to turn and help. He's providing a potentially crucial task, even as he takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

Too. Easy.

Not with paranoia, but with natural-born caution he'll back up with Pepper

Well, the group seems to have reached whatever was pushing them was sending them towards. Or is this just the next level of whatever sick game is going on?

Another slow, calm breath, another slow exhalation.

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself It was a Roosevelt quotable, appropriate for the moment.

*

The Spoiler lands in a crouch, a look over her shoulder at Jericho and a small nod, acknowledgement of his part. "You aren't meant to kill them." That whisper is soft and then she straightens, facing the lit room with the guards and inmates. "What now…" A murmur to herself, in the tone of "dear diary, today I found some people wandering the asylum and lead them into a trap".

*

"You want to debate the ethics of it with me, talk to me later." Jericho says with narrowing of his eyes. Part of that, though is for the room ahead. Lights start to shut off behind them until Only the hall in which they're standing and the room ahead are let. "Subtle hint much?"

Another growl sounds in the darkness behind them.

*

Pepper Potts can't help it. This is just too crazy, and her brain is pulling things at random. She half whispers half breathes to herself, "Home, home, home" like the Geena Davis character did in the movie Beetlejuice. And she actually looks faintly disappointed when nothing happens.

*

Okay, that simply confirmed what Jim had been thinking. He shrugs a bit and backs up some more with Pepper as he keeps the sidearm ready. Clearly something about these guards is not right, because real sanitarium guards would have been all over the group by this point, even in a lock-down scenario.

No. None of this fits. The only thing that the duo can agree on inwardly is that splitting up is very bad, so he is keeping as close to Pepper as possible without incurring the wrath of a harassment suit.

And… the earworm shifts. Why on EARTH does he have 'Ghost of a Texas' Ladies Man' sounding off in his head? Buddha Bird trolling him?

*

"I will, it's the rules." Spoiler glances up at the lights, the mask lit up for an instant, and then she shrugs, becoming a whirling dervish of activity, that mostly results in non-lethal damage to those inmates and guards near her, the cape swirling as she kicks, punches, and moves with a practiced grace that hints at training.

Of note in this room is the fact, Spoiler will realize as she gets through her fifth or sixth inmate that no one is reacting to her. They're all standing, staring at a young inmate, a young boy in fact, sitting in a chair, head down, breathing hard. Something is… over him. A darkness. Some kind of… presence. Jericho is up at the doorway looking at the shifting, writhing dark aura about the boy. "I don't think that's something I can shoot." As if that needed pointing out.

The boy looks up, eyes red and his gaze settles on Pepper and Jim. He beckons to the two of them as the hacker carefully moves into the room. Everyone is just… staring at that Aura… with the exception of the ones Spoiler has KO'd.

*

Pepper Potts catches a glimpse of the boy past Spoiler's beat-'em-up routine and, probably against better judgement, moves away from Jim and toward the boy, ducking under that dark cloud over his head and reaching as if to gather the child into her arms to protect.

*

The heavy-set fellow was watching Pepper's lead and when she starts to advance to the child, he responds by quickly handing off the sidearm to Jericho and advancing. If there's going to be mind-whammying, it's best it didn't happen with a weapon in hand. And if it isn't on him, but on Pepper, best that at least someone remain aware.

Slowly, calmly, with the Bird in the wings, waiting for the moment things go south.

*

Spoiler drops to the floor, her gaze fixed on the darkness, her chin lifted and she just stares. "Not good." The murmur is soft and she glances at the windows, as if she hoped to see something there, something to improve the situation. But then she turns, her gaze moving around the room, watching for that other shoe to drop. "We should just get out of here."

*

The boy can't be older than twelve, which makes it odd that he'd be here without unusual circumstances. The moment Spoiler suggests departing the doors slam shut and all of the (still conscious) inmates snap their gaze up to the nearest non-resident in eerie unison. The boy looks up at Pepper and Jim and then speaks in several voices. "More visitors. Are you here to take care of us?" There's a pause and a hiss from K'nert as he jumps up onto Spoiler's shoulder.

"We came here, seeking to understand. We found enlightenment in that which people call madness. Now we shall share it…"

It eyes Jericho and Spoiler carefully. "The demon-tainted and the waif are unworthy. We will purge them."

Jeri's jaw tightens and his rifle comes back to the low ready as he eyes the inmates.

*

Pepper Potts kneels down and reaches to gently touch the boy's forehead as if to check for a fever. "I guess we're here to try to take care of you. But I don't know how much I will be able to help if I don't have all three of my friends here with me." Funny how Spoiler is so instantly and easily lumped in as one of Pepper's friends. But, um, she seems to have neglected to include K'Nert in that. "How can we help take care of you?" She doesn't look back at the others as much as she wants to, very purposely focusing her attention on the boy.

*

Spoiler startles, her reactions from the near K'nert experience, but the boy's words straighten her. Pepper's soft reply earns a tilt of Spoiler's head, a brief questioning moment, as she moves towards the door, a slow movement to ensure none of the still people stand between her and the very closed exit.

*

Jim glances over at Pepper and lets out a low sigh, eye rolling when the child drops the Enlightenment argument. He gets a bit of a glassy and far-off stare as he starts speaking in an almost archaic fashion, his whole demeanor changing to something bit more reflective, a bit more… Zen.

*

"This one would caution one to the ultimate burden of Enlightenment. Namely that one can never fully attain it. Even in the eye of madness, one must always be learning, always be growing, always be searching. If one cannot do this, then one is lost and any claims of Enlightenment are false, self-delusional. These three fellow travelers seek Enlightenment as much as this one or one might. This is lesson the second of Enlightenment. It is individual development. One will stand down, release one's captives to allow them to pursue their own development. Now. Please. And thanks to one in advance."

Pepper may recognize the intonation, Jericho might, even. It is rather… distinctive.

That does sound familiar, Jericho notes. He's busy eying the inmates nearest him though. K'nert bounds off Spoiler's shoulder and back to Jeri.

"Enlightenment is an evanescent thing. Its essence is change and chaos and only through the lens of a chaotic mind can it be understood. The inmates here taught us enlightenment. Now we bring it to all within our reach."

Pepper gets an odd look. "You remind us of this one's mother. Do you wish to be enlightened as well?"

Bird-Jim's enlightenment spiel is greeted with a curious look. "Come closer, and tell us more." The aura around the boy seems to writhe a bit more as if inviting. "Do pardon me while I dispose of these distractions though."

In an instant the inmates and guards launch into a frenzied attack on Jericho and Spoiler. Like the eye of a hurricane though, none come near Pepper or Jim.

Jericho is suddenly lost in a press of human flush, but the distinct rapport of a fully automatic rifle echoes in the room.

*

Pepper Potts does turn away from the boy at that, looking toward Jericho and Spoiler in clear dismay. "No! Please." She turns back to the boy. "You can stop this. No one needs to be injured." And then, a flash of what she hopes is enlightenment. "How can they gain Enlightenment if you dispose of them?" She puts her hands gently on the boy's face, her thumbs gently brushing along his cheekbones just below his eyes.

*

The zen-like glassy-eyed fellow shakes his head. "What one is terming 'distractions' are actually seekers as much as this one or one. One needs to cease and desist this activity. All methods are valid, all approaches equal. This is what feeds the Chaos of such a matter, and counters Order."

Jim steps a bit closer to the child, Pepper, and the aura-thingy. "Enlightenment does not have to come at the cost of individual freedom of choice. Wisdom sought is secured in time of conflict and lost. Thought begets action. Action precedes thought. In all matters, at the accounting of things. This one has given one an opportunity to stand down. One should accept this Wisdom and grow. To continue on this path… will be the death of Insight."

That's a perturbed tone sneaking into the intonation there. A very old, dangerous, cranky perturbed tone.

*

The pile of inmates on Spoiler seem to have no response to the pain the whirling dervish is providing, and she switches tactics, running up a wall to kick off it, her intent to damage but not kill, to hurt legs, to bring her frenzied attackers to the ground. The cape flares around her, and the mask beneath it shows purple to the lights above as she moves. "Yeah, how can we be enlightened if we are disposed of?" Her voice calls across to the boy, echoing Pepper's words, not even breathless, her foot connecting with the head of a guard.

*

As if someone hit a switch the fighting stops. If one is keeping score, Spoiler has downed another half a dozen inmates in that short sharp fight. Jericho has downed four using… rather different methods. They seem to have a difference of opinion on this whole lethal force thing. The inmates that Spoiler had downed though are still looking up at her, ready to crawl at her and gnaw at her knee if the fighting resumes. Well, except for the two she seems to have concussed.

"The one is demon tainted. His soul is damned and cannot accept the Way." Says the possessing force through the boy's mouth. Drink in the irony. "The other is bound up in her search for approval and acceptance. She cannot actualize herself and cannot accept the Way. They are unworthy."

As if that were self evident. "Enlightenment should be shared, do you not agree? Is this not what you yourselves are doing? Allow us for but a moment and we will bring your minds into alignment with the Way. Is it not the highest form of morality to show others the best they may be?"

Maaaaaybe this thing can be talked down?

*

"How do you know that they cannot accept the Way if you are not willing to at least try to give them a chance?" And, looking at the boy's face she takes a chance. "And what of this child you have here? Is this the way to show him the Way? By teaching him that anyone who does things differently is instantly wrong and 'unworthy'?" She glances up at JimCor, then back at the boy. "That seems counter to what I've learned of Enlightenment so far."

*

"The one that is demon tainted is this one's pet project. This one has the perspective of the Ages to work with, and one has not seen this angle of approach. He has potential. One skilled in such things would realize that one's first steps upon such a journey are small, weak, faltering. It is only through the personal development of these beginnings akin to a seed taking root that such growth can occur. Self-actualization is a very advanced topic for humanity. They are a very young race. It is why one has found one so readily invited into their minds. They are children in Time. They need to skin their knees, burn their hands, learn their own Way, so they can reconcile with other Ways over time."

The tone shifts, tinged with… sorrow?

"This one once felt as one. This one was empowered by its Creators to bring Wisdom to the Client People of Thanagar. This one showed them a Way, a Way of Being. And this one failed. Failure. It is another step on the path. Another method of learning. Enlightenment involves sharing of perspective, not enforcement of dogma. Allow those who are aspirants on the Path to gain their Wisdom, on their own. If one is as Wise as one has carried itself, then the waiting of a few hundred thousand light-cycles will not alter one's quest, will it?"

*

Spoiler crouches, giving the bodies on the floor a look, and Jericho another one, a silent commentary on his lethal force. She doesn't move then, though, waiting on the others to fix this, and her face, hidden behind the purple mask, is unseen.

*

The dark force hovering the boy seem to still for a moment. "Failure is a setback on the road to enlightenment, is it not? It is a detriment to enlightenment. Yet you claim that it has empowered you…" The darkness reaches out toward Jim… "How?" Clearly it wants to see inside Jim's head. Poor Jim.

Is it does, red eyes fix on Pepper. "We showed this one enlightenment because he was lost. Frightened. And to repay him for teaching us much. For ultimate enlightenment, ultimate control is required. We cannot allow the unknown factors. The girl may remain. There is hope for her. The other is damned. He is unrecoverable. He may not remain. If you wish to send him away so that he does not need to be purged, we shall allow this."

There's a sort of awareness coming into the eyes of a couple of the ones Spoiler beat to hell. As if the pain is disrupting the thing's control of them.

Jericho makes a face. Some ineffable forces of darkness are so rude.

*

Pepper Potts glances up at Jim again, then looks back to the red-eyed boy. "No, failure isn't a setback. Especially for humans, failure is an important part of Enlightenment. Sometimes it's the only way we can learn the most important lessons — the only way for us to know we need to seek enlightenment is by realizing that we haven't achieved it yet." Please, please let this end peacefully. "If I ask my friend to put away his weapons, will you allow him to stay? For me?"

*

The strangely talking heavy guy shrugs a bit. He really doesn't seem the least bit concerned about the entity's attention. Either he's completely nuts, completely sane, or has an ace in the hole. He shakes his head… and grins?

"What doesn't kill one,
makes one stronger,
Stand a little taller,
Doesn't mean one is lonely when one is alone
What doesn't kill one,
makes one a fighter
Footsteps even lighter…”

Did he just quote Kelly Clarkson??

He throws his arms wide open.

"Control is an illusion, Extremism is blindness. Understanding the many and varied Ways of Being is a challenging course that even this one has not fully attained. The unknown factors are what make it all fun and interesting and CHALLENGING for one!"

*

Spoiler gives the bodies near her feet some consideration, and the nudge of a foot is an experiment, her eyes narrowing behind the mask, the talking left to the others for those moments. Then she looks up, considering the words the others spoke, her blue eyes thoughtful.

*

"You seem to misunderstand, fellow seekers of enlightenment… The tainted one cannot be recovered… His eternity is already set." The boy sighs at Corvinus. Either he's not a Clarkson fan or the point hit home. Maybe a bit of both? "However, since you have both been so helpful to us, we shall refrain from purging him. We shall retire elsewhere, to meditate on this. Perhaps when we return, these enlightened mortals will have more to teach us." It's… coming back here? Yay?

The darkness seems to recede. The light fades out of the boy's eyes and he slumps in Peppers arms. When the last of the darkness is gone, every single inmate and guard collapses like a destrung puppet.

*

Pepper Potts keeps the boy from collapsing completely to the floor, even if as a possibly twelve-year-old, he's probably close to as tall as she is. She sits on the floor while holding him, and speaks in a more normal volume. "JARVIS?"

The AI's voice is muffled, but audible from inside her jacket. "Yes, Miss Potts."

"I think the worst is over now. Could you maybe let someone outside know for us?"

*

Jim blinks a bit and shakes his head vigorously, pounding the sides of his head for a few seconds before letting up and dropping his hands. His eyes have lost that sort of glassy stare, momentarily being replaced with the strangest look of exhilaration. It's almost like he hit the winning home run, and he was never that good at sports…. Well, actually, to be fair and honest it was probably Corv as much as him, but at least they got here, got to talking… and inwardly, Corvinus is hoping that perhaps the entity will come back someday, so they can chat again.

"Any day we all walk away learning something new is a good day."

*

The retreat of the darkness releases some tension in Spoiler's body, and she glances between those left standing. "We should leave." The statement comes as she turns, exploring the door, those useful gadgets leaving her belt once more to open it. "We can let someone know from the outside." There is a note of urgency to her voice and she turns her cowl, facing them, her masked features hiding any sign of the emotions behind her words. She opens the door with a flourish, offering a sweep of her hand to let them pass out through.

Jericho sets the safety on his rifle and follows Spoiler's lead. This time the hallways are well lit and behave as they should. It's only a matter of minutes before she's able to find an exit. It's even open for them, conveniently.

*

Pepper Potts looks after the fighty pair then up at Jim from where she's still sitting on the floor with the boy in her arms as Spoiler and Jericho move to leave. She's not leaving the child here unless JARVIS says he's supposed to be here. And she really doubts that he is.

*

"Pepper, as much as you want to help on this, if he's not supposed to be here how on Earth are you going to justify him getting out, on your watch, and under your care? No offense, but you're the flippin' CEO of Stark Industries, ma'am, and you can't be doing that kind of thing. There's no way you can take that kind of hit. If he's not supposed to be here, Corv'll make sure he gets to somewhere he can get taken care of. But you should probably clear out regardless. 'cause things are gonna get dicey in here in a bit, because they WILL be investigating all this."

*

Spoiler waits, standing by the door, her gaze flickering towards the cells, her tension obvious. "Would you like me to hold the door until all the inmates wake up?" A touch of sarcasm there, but an undertone of something else, something less brave. "CEO of Stark Industries, are you?"

*

"There's a perimeter." Jericho says from near the door. "No one's going anywhere. I think we'll be-" He's cut off as his form flickers like a holograph. "Crap. Not again."

K'nert jumps up onto Jeri's shoulder just in time for him to vanish entirely, leaving Pepper, Jim and Spoiler an Arkham full of unconscious prisoners and guards.

*

"No, it's…" Pepper startles when Jericho abruptly disappears again, and looks at the others a bit helplessly. "Maybe you should go," she tells Spoiler. She doesn't anticipate being able to leave so readily OR explaining how she's here and who this child is. But, she's worked for Tony long enough that she knows she'll figure something out. Maybe.

*

"Miss Spoiler, if you've got a cover to keep, you'd better bail now. We'll get something figured out here, but wearing a mask and all is bound to get you into a bit of hot water and they might not be so keen on that. We're unarmed, and there are many reasonable causes for us to have gotten caught here off-guard. So go on now, go."

Jim kind of smirks at the woman, then gives her a two-handed snap shot like a certain entrepreneur is infamous for.

"And thank you very much for your help. Kept things from getting too far out of hand. And the partner really appreciates your stance on the no muerte."

*

Spoiler twirls, staring at the spot where Jericho was, before a word that might not be appropriate for the vocabulary of a heroine passes her lips. The look at Pepper is less than friendly in this moment. "Does he always leave you in places like this?" The glance at Jim is thoughtful, and then she lifts one shoulder, the cape turning to swirl behind her, an exit worthy of Jericho himself, the door slamming shut behind her. A few moments later, a figure in black and purple can be seen, moving over the rooftops. Towards Gotham

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