Justice League Xander:

Question Everything

 

By Paradox761

Paradox761@mail.com

http://members.tripod.com/~Paradox761

 

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor do I claim to.  No copyright infringement is intended, so please don’t sue.  I don’t have any money anyway.

 

Summary: When Xander uncovers a conspiracy involving Cadmus and time travel, he gets a look at his own dark future.  And the more he unravels this evil plot for world domination, the more the dark path his life has been set on seems inevitable.  How much will he sacrifice to save the world?

 

Spoilers: “Question Authority” (JLU)

 

Author’s Note: This story is part of my “Justice League Xander” series and follows “No Answers, Just Questions” and “Choices We Make”.  I know I originally promised another story in between, “Q is for Quarry”, but this story is much more interesting and fun to write so I hope you don’t mind.  Enjoy :)

 

*

(1/?)

 

No man should know too much about his own future.  I remember hearing that from some time travel movie when I was a kid.  Back then time travel was just an interesting plot device used in science fiction.  I never once considered what the real implications could be, or how dangerous it could be to know too much about your own future.  It’s one thing to second guess a decision that you’ve made in the past, but to be put in a position where you’re second guessing decisions that you’re going to make in the future, that can really mess with your head.  There’s a fine line between dedication and obsession, and my friends were starting to worry that I was in danger of crossing it.  I thought I had things under control.  Knowing what I know now, I’m not so sure.

 

It all started one night back in Hub City.  The night that I started to question everything.  There were these mysterious figures dressed all in black that the slayers kept running into all over town.  Just general mischief and mayhem, nothing terribly organized.  Or so I thought.  Huntress and I began the evening in an office building downtown, conducting an investigation.  And by that I mean, breaking and entering.

 

*

 

Question sat typing furiously at one of the computer terminals in the cubicle farm that was the fourth floor of a rather innocuous looking office building in downtown Hub City.  The glow from the monitor cast an eerie light onto his Pseudoderm mask, making his faceless appearance all the more ghoulish.  He seemed oblivious to the commotion going on behind him, but he was simply focused on the task at hand.  A desk lamp crashed into the wall a few feet from his head.  He glanced up only briefly before returning to his work.

 

Behind him, Huntress was taking apart a half dozen security guards.  “You sure know how to show a girl a good time, Q,” she commented as her fist connected with another guard’s jaw, sending him to the floor in a heap.  She looked around the room again and didn’t see anyone left standing.

 

“Nearly there,” Question responded, checking on the status of his download.

 

Huntress sauntered over and leaned on the back of Question’s chair.  “I’m serious Q, when are we going to do something fun?  We’ve been an official item for weeks now and the only thing we ever do together is bust heads.”

 

“You’re saying busting heads isn’t fun?”

 

“Well,” Huntress said, her brow scrunching together in thought as she considered the point.  “That’s not…I’m talking about a date, a real date.  An evening together that doesn’t involve vampires, or demons, or breaking into office buildings to steal classified materials.”

 

“Well, there’s this…”

 

“No stakeouts either,” Huntress amended, cutting him off mid sentence.  Question sighed as he looked up to face her.  “Don’t give me that look.”

 

“Did somebody add X-Ray vision to the list of slayer powers when I wasn’t looking?”

 

Huntress smirked.  When she first arrived in Hub City the mask had unnerved her, but the more time she spent with Xander the more she learned to read his body language and the tone of his voice and associate those with facial expressions.  She knew him so well now that sometimes she forgot that he was even wearing the mask.  “What can I say, I’m just that damn good.”

 

The computer beeped, signaling that the download was complete.  Question reached under the desk and pulled the flash drive that he had brought with him out of the USB port on the front of the machine.  He stood and turned to face Huntress.

 

“Finished then?” she asked.

 

“Not quite,” he said.  He reached behind him and with one motion pulled the flat-screen monitor off of the desk that he was just sitting at and hurled it through the air just past Huntress’ head.  Huntress turned just in time to see the monitor collide with the head of a security guard that had been sneaking up behind her.  He collapsed on the floor, unconscious.  “Now I’m finished.”

 

Huntress nodded in thanks, then reached out and took the flash drive from Question and looked at it.  “So what’s on this that’s so important it warranted this little after hours visit?”

 

“These computers are connected to Cadmus’ central network.  I just ran a few keyword searches and downloaded everything that came up.  I’m hoping to find out what they’re doing here in Hub City.”

 

“Right, Cadmus.  Who are they again?”

 

“The most powerful organization in the country, maybe even the world.  They’ve got a finger in every pie there is, politics, organized crime, big oil, organized religion, overseas government contracts for everything from private security in Iraq to construction in Dubai.  There’s no telling how many judges, politicians, and corporate CEO’s they have in their back pocket.  They’re in the business of world domination, and they’re not going to stop until they have it all.”

 

“Here we go again with the conspiracies,” Huntress sighed.

 

“Not conspiracies.  Conspiracy, singular.  Cadmus is connected to it all.”

 

“You make them sound like Keyser Soze, Bill Gates, and the Boogie Man all rolled into one.”

 

“Throw in Wolfram & Hart and Dick Cheney and I’d say that’s pretty accurate.”

 

Huntress frowned.  “I’m worried about you,” she said, her voice laced with concern.  “You’re becoming obsessed.  Don’t you think that maybe this rabbit hole goes a little too deep for us?”

 

“Maybe,” Question conceded.  “But they’re setting up shop in my own backyard.  I can’t just ignore that.”

 

Huntress was about to say something else when the cell phone on her belt started to vibrate.  She pulled it out and flipped it open, looking at the screen.  “It’s a text from Tamika,” she said.  “Spotted another MiB by the docks.  Chased but lost him in the abandoned warehouse by fish market.  Headed home now,” she read from the screen.

 

“That’s the fourth one tonight,” Question said, referring to the previous reports he had gotten from his other slayers.  They all described the encounter the same way.  A figure, dressed head to toe in a black body suit with a mask that covered their entire face and goggles over their eyes, lurking in the shadows, acting suspicious but not really doing anything, and when confronted they took off running into the night.  Four encounters and none of the slayers had been able to catch one of them.  “Who are these guys?” he asked rhetorically.

 

“They’re probably just gang bangers, messing with us,” Huntress said, closing her phone and sliding it back into the pouch on her belt.

 

“The Dragons have been getting bolder since Mandragora went up.  It’s only a matter of time before there’s an all out war between them and The Locos,” Question said, referring to Hub City’s two most prominent street gangs. 

 

“They do keep the same hours as us, there’s a good chance they’ve seen our girls in action.  Maybe they’re just trying to determine if they’re a threat,” Huntress surmised.  “Or maybe they’re looking to recruit them.”

 

“Great, on top of everything else now we have to deal with gang banger rush week.  Come on, let’s get out of here,” Question said, reaching out for his flash drive which Huntress was still holding.

 

Huntress pulled her hand back.  “What about our date?” she asked.

 

“It’s going to take me weeks to sort through all that data,” Question complained.  Huntress took the tiny drive and slipped it down the front of her pants.  Question paused and stroked his chin.  “Dinner?  A movie?”

 

*

 

Question and Huntress made their way out of the office building and around the corner to an alley where Question’s car sat next to a Honda Ninja with an electric purple paint job.  “Are you sure this was such a good idea, Q?” Huntress asked.  “Won’t there be consequences for this little B&E tonight?”

 

“Cadmus won’t report it to the police.  If they did, they’d have to tell them what was stolen.”

 

“I’m not talking about the police.  If this Cadmus organization is really as powerful as you say they are, should you really be pissing them off like this?”

 

“It’s a risk,” Question admitted.  “But I have to find out what they’re doing in Hub City.  Whatever they’re planning, it won’t be good.”

 

“So what’s our next move?” Huntress asked, straddling her bike.  “After all, the night is young and so are we.”

 

“Why don’t you head back to the house and do a head count, make sure everyone made it back okay.  I’m going to go for a drive, I’ll be there shortly.”

 

Huntress frowned.  She hated it when he did that, pushed her away.  It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her, he trusted her implicitly, she knew that.  But somewhere deep inside of him the gawky teenager of his youth still lived, and still felt the need to prove himself.  Especially to those he cared about most.  “A drive?  Let me guess, down by the docks?”

 

“I’m just going to do a little recon.  If I run into anything that I can’t handle I know who to call.”

 

Huntress just shook her head as she reached back to pick her helmet up off the seat behind her.  She knew there was no talking him out of it.  She put the helmet on and started her bike.  “If you’re not home in an hour, I’m coming after you,” she shouted over the noise of the bike’s engine.  She gunned the throttle and took off down the alley, her cape blowing in the wind behind her like a cloud of black smoke.

 

Question got into his car and started the engine, his thoughts once again turning to Cadmus.  The big puzzle was finally starting to come together, and Cadmus was at the center of it all.  Maybe Faith was right, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to antagonize them.  But Question wanted to send them a message.  That Hub City was under his protection, and he wasn’t just going to sit by and let them destroy it without a fight.

 

*

 

Question parked his GTO in a small parking lot next to an old wooden sign that read ‘Hub City Fish Market’.  This time of night the docks were deserted, save for a few dozen stray cats licking the remnants of the previous day’s catch off of the pier.  And of course, the occasional vampire looking for a quiet spot to feed, which is why it was always a stop on the slayers’ nightly patrols.  The only reason this mysterious man in black would have any reason to be here, assuming he wasn’t a demon of some kind (or a cat), would be if he had been tailing Tamika.  The odds that he was still lurking around were probably slim, Question thought.  But there was no reason that he couldn’t take a look around, make sure that the abandoned warehouse in question wasn’t the headquarters for some demon or doomsday cult.  Demons just loved abandoned warehouses.  He had a theory that Hell must look exactly like a giant abandoned warehouse.  Why else would demons feel so at home in them.  Pushing that thought aside, Question pulled a flashlight out of his coat pocket and started toward the warehouse.

 

Finding a way inside wasn’t difficult.  An old steel roll door that was stuck halfway open from rust was his point of entry.  He ducked inside and turned on his flashlight.  He passed the light over the room slowly, scanning as much of the large space as the light would reach.  It was mostly empty, anything of value that had been left behind had been pilfered long ago.  There was an old set of rusted metal shelves in one corner, and next to the door that he had entered through there was a stack of old wooden pallets about twice as tall as he was.  An old oil drum here, a dead rat there, nothing to write home about. 

 

Question was about to turn around and leave when out of the corner of his eye he saw something move in the darkness.  He shined his light up and saw a loft on the other side of the warehouse with a metal railing separating it from the main floor.  There, he saw it again, something moving in the shadows of the loft just beyond his light.  And he heard a noise this time too, like something scraping across the floor.  Could it be an animal?  His question was answered when a lone figure stumbled out of the darkness and slammed against the metal railing, as though he had been pushed.  He was dressed all in black, and nearly invisible in the dark warehouse.  When he turned and looked down toward Question, the flashlight beam glinted off of the goggles that he wore over his eyes.  The two stared at each other for a moment before the man in black bound over the railing, leaping down the twenty foot drop to the floor like a housecat leaping from the window sill to the couch.  He landed with barely a sound and started running toward the metal roll door that Question had entered through.  Question clicked off his flashlight, and in the dark he ran to the other side of the stack of pallets by the door and pushed it over.  The pallets toppled to the ground with a crash.  A dull thud and a low groan was enough to let Question know that he had hit his mark.  He clicked the light back on and saw the man’s head and arms sticking out from under a pile of broken wood.  He walked over and sat on the pallet that lay across the man’s chest, placing his feet on the man’s arms to pin them to the ground. 

 

“You guys may be fast, but you aren’t too bright, are you?” he asked rhetorically.

 

The man shook the cobwebs out of his head before looking up at Question.  “You!” he spat.

 

“Me,” Question confirmed.  “Now we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.  Who do you work for?”

 

“You’re too late!  Even if you knew anything you couldn’t stop us, and I’m not going to tell you squat!”

 

“So, the hard way then.  Suit yourself.  Let’s have a look at that pretty face of yours,” Question said, reaching for the man’s mask.

 

The man yanked his head back.  “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” he replied.

 

“I bet you say that to all the guys.  Come on now, don’t be shy.”  The man was still pinned so he could only move his head back so far.  Question grabbed a handful of the mask and pulled it off the top of his head, taking the goggles with it.  The face that greeted him was not something that he had expected, and Question was glad that his mask hid his surprised expression.  His features were human, but his skin was red and scaly and his eyes were narrow and yellow.  He opened his mouth and bared multiple rows of sharp, pointed teeth.  Question recovered from his shock quickly, much to the creature’s dismay.  “Not human, eh?”  Question reached into his coat and pulled out an eight inch blessed silver dagger that he carried for just such an occasion.  “Good, that means if you don’t tell me what I want to know I get to kill you.  So what’s it going to be, Red?”

 

Any hopes that the demon had of intimidating the faceless vigilante with his appearance were immediately dashed, and his expression showed that as he started to look around the empty warehouse in a panic, no doubt trying to figure out a way to escape.  Finally his eyes fell onto his left bicep and a silver armband that he wore there.  Question followed his gaze and eyed the armband suspiciously.  It could be a weapon of some kind, he thought.  He inched his foot closer to it and the demon reacted instantly, wrenching his right arm free of Question’s other foot and nearly knocking him down in the process.  He grabbed the armband, activating some hidden release mechanism causing it to hinge open and clatter to the floor.  The second it fell the demon winced in pain.

 

“Not today, Question,” he hissed through clenched teeth.

 

Unsure of what exactly was happening, Question stood and backed up a few steps.  The demon continued to writhe in pain, his face a display of pure agony.  His entire body seemed to be fading out of existence.  The light from Question’s flashlight rippled around him like heat distortion coming off of a hot desert highway.  A few seconds later, he was completely gone.  The pallet that had been lying across his chest thudded against the ground.  For a moment, Question didn’t move.  He just stared at the spot where the demon had been laying just seconds before, trying to wrap his mind around what he had just seen.

 

After a moment, he walked over and picked the armband up off the floor.  It was about a half inch thick with a single hinge.  On the outside it looked like an ordinary piece of jewelry, but the inside surface was studded with some kind of intricate circuitry.  He studied it in the light for a moment before deciding that it wasn’t going to explode or anything and slipped it into his coat pocket.  He made a mental note to give it to Tot later to see if he could make heads or tails of it.  In the mean time, he needed to make sure that his girls were warned.  He fished his phone out of his pocket and called the house.

 

“Hello,” Tamika’s voice answered.

 

“Mika, it’s me.  I just had a run in with your MiB down by the docks.  Whatever he was, it wasn’t human.”

 

“Was?  Does that mean you killed it?”

 

“Not exactly.  He just sort of…disappeared.  Left behind a souvenir though, I need to get it to Tot.”  Question checked his watch, it was getting late.  An image of Faith’s disapproving glare floated across his brain as he recalled her and Tamika’s constant admonishments that he not work himself to death.  “Not tonight though.  Just let the girls know to be careful around these guys, they’re definitely not gang bangers.  Might be something big, we’ll have to start researching tomorrow.”

 

“Joy,” Tamika replied sarcastically.

 

“If you see Faith, let her know I’m on my way back.”

 

“Sure thing Boss, take care of yourself.”

 

“You too, Mika.”

 

Question closed his phone and slipped it back into his pocket.  He thought about the demon and what he had said, that Question was too late to stop them.  Bravado to be sure, but still it begged the question what exactly was there to stop?  He had no doubt now that this was organized, whatever it was.  Demons don’t get all dressed up and spy on slayers just for shits and giggles.  So were they raising something, casting something, or trying to end the world?  And what part did they play in the central conspiracy?  Question paused when that last thought crossed his mind.  Maybe Faith and the others were right, maybe he was becoming obsessed.  If he’s actively looking for connections, maybe he’s starting to see them where there are none.  Be objective, he reminded himself.  Don’t assume anything, assumptions leave us blind to the truth.  It works both ways, he thought.  Assuming that there are connections can be just as dangerous as assuming that there are none.  And with that thought, Question clicked off his flashlight and started for the door.  That’s when a voice came out of the darkness and stopped him.

 

“He was human, you know,” the voice said.  “Mostly, anyway.  And oddly enough, a gang banger as well.  Of a sort.”

 

Question whirled around, turning the flashlight back on and sweeping the room with it.  The voice echoed inside the large empty space, making it hard to determine exactly where it had come from.  “Who’s there?” he called out.  “Show yourself.”

 

“Just a friend,” the voice answered. 

 

It was female, and definitely familiar, Question thought.  But he just couldn’t place it.  He detected no malice in the voice, and something in his gut told him that she was telling the truth.  “He certainly didn’t look human,” he said, keeping his voice even as he continued to scan the room for the source of the voice.

 

“They call themselves Brids,” she said.  “They work as muscle for Intergang.  They’re genetically enhanced with demon DNA.  It makes them stronger, faster, and in most cases more than a little mentally unhinged.”

 

“You’re talking about gene splicing,” Question said.  “I didn’t think that was possible, not like that.”

 

“That’s because the process hasn’t been invented yet.  The Brids are from the future.  They’ve been sent back in time as foot soldiers in a Cadmus plot for world domination.”

 

Question just let that statement hang there in the air for a moment.  “And people call me crazy,” he finally said.

 

“It’s the truth, and you need to listen,” the woman insisted.  “You’re the only one who can stop them, and there isn’t much time!”

 

“All right, I’m listening,” Question said.  He wasn’t sure why, but when the woman became agitated he felt the need to calm her down.  Maybe it was because if she was telling the truth, he would need as much information from her as possible.  A year ago he probably would have dismissed her out of hand, but a lot had changed since he became the Question.  He had learned to believe in the unbelievable.

 

“The armbands are what hold them here, in this time.  They’re like…pins stuck into the space/time continuum.  When he took it off, the timeline corrected itself, violently.  He probably didn’t survive the trip back without the armband.  Traveling through time is not an easy process, at least not with the machine that Cadmus has.  That’s why they made a deal with Intergang to use the Brids.  They’re tougher than humans, and easier to control than demons.  A normal human couldn’t survive multiple trips through time, the radiation would kill them.”

 

“So why here, why now?  What’s so special about Hub City?”

 

“With Steven Mandragora out of the picture, there’s a power vacuum here, and no shortage of lowlifes clambering to fill it.  Cadmus is positioning themselves to take advantage of that and use Hub City as a foothold.  They want all hell to break loose, so they can be the ones to step in and clean up the mess.”

 

“The private security contracts,” Question said in realization.  “If Cadmus is given a contract in an American city…”

 

“Then it’s just a short leap to them imbedding themselves in the military and declaring martial law.  Then once they have control of the country, they’ll turn to the rest of the world.”

 

“Oh my god.”

 

“At least, that was the plan.  But what they didn’t count on was that you were here to stop them.  They were never able to trigger an event serious enough for the government to even consider hiring them, and they eventually scrapped the plan.  Until thirteen years from now when they somehow come into the possession of a time machine.  They realized that they could use it to manipulate events in this time to make the plan work.”

 

“How?”

 

“The Brids have been traveling back into this time for months now, doing recon, laying the ground work for tonight.  They’ve been keeping a low profile, the only reason the slayers spotted them tonight is because they wanted them to.  They were testing them, their speed and response time.  They’ve been doing the same with the police and the local gangs.  They’re going to trigger three specific events tonight that will cause a riot so huge that it will destroy half the city before it starts to spill over into the rest of the country.  A perfect storm of violence and chaos.  Hub City is a powder keg right now, and all Cadmus needs to do is light a match.”

 

“Who are you?  How do you know all this?”

 

Question heard footsteps, and realized that they were coming from the loft.  He shined his flashlight up and saw a figure step out of the shadows.  She was wearing a pair of dark slacks and a shirt of the same color.  Over that she wore a blue trenchcoat that was identical to the Question’s, with a silver armband around her left bicep, the same kind that the Brid had been wearing.  He moved the light up and saw that she was wearing his hat as well.  She had long dark hair, mocha colored skin, and no face.  “That,” she said, “is a good question.”

 

*