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Fireborn

Chapter Text

For a moment, Mon-El was sure he was going to die.

Actually, it was an extended moment. From the time the Earth’s atmosphere filled with lead, to the wormhole in the sky, to now, when the rocky surface on the planet was careening closer, Death was hovering over his shoulder—waiting, toying with him.

Mon-El figured that it should just leave him alone already, or get it over with: the constant suspense was getting to him.

Or maybe that was the lead in his lungs.

Or the de-pressurizing space pod.

Or the fast-approaching planet he was about to go splat on.

Yeah, there was a lot of things going around in his head right now—most of which were intent on making him suffer.

Mon-El had stopped trying to regain control of the pod after the weird space portal sucked him up and spat him out in an asteroid belt. He had attempted to salvage control, but after a few minutes of panic, Mon-El was willing to suck it up and watch his doom approach. After practically killing his own mother—and who knows how many of his people—this was probably what he deserved.

He just hoped that Kara will never know how quickly he died after she tried to grant him a chance at life. But honestly, no matter what Mon-El said to her—about being better—whatever life he might have lived wouldn’t have been the same without her.

This was for the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3018, just above planet Rimbor – approximately 10 months later

 

“Brainy and Phantom Girl—you get to the control room, and take as much data as you can. Cham, Saturn Girl, and Triplicate Girl—you try to contain the crowds: don’t let anyone in or out. Ultra Boy, Lightning Lad ‘n’ Lass—you guys are with me.” Cosmic Boy turned from the Brainy’s virtual projection. “We’re going to cause as big as a riot as we can, and give Brainy and P.G. a suitable distraction.”

Ultra Boy pounded his fists excitedly. “Chaos, I can do,” he grinned.

Rokk resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Jo really was easily excitable, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He just hoped that the kid mellowed out once the novelty of being a Legionnaire began to wear off. But that was neither here nor there at the moment. They had work to do.

“Alright Legionnaires—let’s move!” With his rallying cry, the Legionnaires took off for the freighter.

Cosmic Boy found the team’s surge oddly gratifying. For a couple of years now, the Legion had received phantom whispers of some trafficking ring that permeated their universe. It was terrible, the thought that something like that could be out there, but the entire thing was obscure and slippery—there wasn’t enough evidence to confirm it even existed, let alone where it operated. Rokk hated to continually put something like that on the back burner simply because they had few credible leads to follow—and he knew that the Science Police had even less. Whenever he did spare a few Legionnaires to chase some whisper, it always ended up being a dud, and they wasted time and precious manpower in the process. They had to focus on what was prominent.

However, a lead—a good lead at that—fell into their lap: an arena. Fight clubs were not uncommon, but based off of the testimony of the whistle-blower, and the whispers in the black market—this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill cash grab: this was a business. Not to mention that word was that fighters had been ‘supplied’ from the far corners of the galaxy. There was a good chance that some of the fighters had been trafficked. And even if there was no connection, the Legion would still break up the club. And Cosmic Boy would be happy to do so.

The arena had cleverly hidden itself in a freighter ship, allowing it not only to appear innocuous, but to stay mobile, making it less likely to pin down. Now, it hovered in the airspace of Rimbor, no doubt benefitting from the planets seedy underground that found illegal activities pleasant—though luckily for the Legion, Rimborians weren’t good at subtlety.

And right now, the Legion of Superheroes didn’t have to be either.

Cosmic Boy took a hold of the side of the ship and ripped the metal hull apart in his magnetic grip. The Legionnaires dove inside around him—though Brainy and Tinya phased in at another point—and he closed the hull up enough to preserve life-functions inside the ship, their own space-suits from their rings fading once inside.

 

“Whoa,” Lightning Lad paused mid-flight, gawking at the sight before him. Cosmic Boy, just behind, didn’t see what had Garth of all people spooked until he rounded the corner and saw the stadium open up. Yeah. Stadium.

The place was huge. They had taken out many fight clubs and ‘dog’-fights in their experience, but nothing at the enormity that this must have been. It was an arena fit for gladiators, with thousands of spectators safe behind the energy dome that held the fighters. It was hard to make out, but it looked to be some sort of humanoid duking it with a Gregonian—a big, nasty reptilian race known for their brute strength. It was a blood bath down there.

And Rokk would make sure the fighters were dealt with too. But first… “You are under arrest by the Legion of Superheroes,” Cosmic Boy bellowed at the now squirming and screaming crowd. He had already contacted the Science Police, to clean up this mess after the Legion did the heavy-lifting. “Go quietly, and—” The establishment’s guards came piling in through the wood-works, energy blasters at the ready. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Honestly, why did he even bother?

“It’s more fun this way, anyhow,” Ayla grinned, before flying up over the stands with her twin. Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass conjured up an electrical mass and proceeded to short-circuit every light and panel in the place, which did well to heighten the panic of the sleezy spectators. But Cosmic Boy could see Saturn Girl herding them inward, with Chameleon Boy as a large six-armed beast behind her; they had it handled.

Meanwhile, he pried the energy blasters out of the hands of the guards while they were fruitlessly trying to take down Ultra Boy. (His invulnerability was quite useful.) “I’ll take those for you,” he sniped. Rokk had to admit, after drowning in the political wa-wa of being team leader, this felt nice. Especially since these guys had obviously been woefully caught unaware of an attack. Self-assured bastards.

The majority of the guards successfully de-armed, things fell apart for them from there. The rest of them were only armed with high-voltage shock rods—which, against the Ranzz twins, were a joke. But then there were the ones below, too, with the fighters. “Lightning Lad, Ultra Boy—you handle the rest of these guys. Lightning Lass, let’s handle the floor.”

He and Ayla flew down to the floor of the stadium, where the circular arena stood. The energy dome fizzled out of existence before them, no doubt a gift from Brainy, leaving them undeterred.

“No one gave them the memo that this was over,” Lightning Lass mused as the Gregonian bellowed. A few of the stadium’s foot-soldiers had entered the ring with shock-prods, but the Gregonian and the humanoid still went at it—though it was mostly the former beating on the latter.

“Mynor will be victorious!” he screamed, the humanoid in his grip.

“Not going to happen, buddy.” Cosmic Boy flew at the Gregonian and landed a nasty uppercut on his midriff, causing the reptilian gladiator to lose his balance, leaving the humanoid to make a surprisingly speedy get away. Rokk wasn’t sure if any of the fighters were willing—though the Gregonian sure seemed to be—but either way, no one was going to die on his watch.

“Desist!” the guards yelled. He wasn’t sure if that was directed at them or the fighters, but both proved to be a safe bet when they went for them both.

The fighters both dropped to the ground, writhing in pain— “Lass! The collars!” Each of them were outfitted with a slim black piece, which seemed to the emitting a shock directly to them—no doubt a tool of enforcement. But Lightning Lass made short work of draining them and overloading the controls. From there, it wasn’t difficult to take the guards out in their bewilderment at their lack of control.

“No, NO, NO!” The Gregonian didn’t seem to get the memo that they were helping. “My fight! The Daxamite dies!” He lunged for the humanoid, but Lightning Lass knocked him back with a burst to rival their shock collars, and the reptilian slinked motionlessly to the ground.

The humanoid—the Daxamite—made no move to attack them as well, and stood up slowly. He looked normal enough; tall, about six feet, with brown hair and a stubbly chin. Not to mention a few open wounds. Cosmic Boy could only stand and wonder. A Daxamite. Rokk could recall learning of how the pirate-like Daxamites died off centuries ago; their planet, Daxam, supposedly died centuries before that. Yet here was one now, alive.

He didn’t seem violent now, just wary—which was nearly as bad, wrenching at Rokk’s gut. “I’m Cosmic Boy of the Legion of Superheroes,” he introduced instead, softening. “We’re here to help.”

The man stared at him a moment longer, distrust and weariness in his gray-blue eyes. “I can show you where the rest are,” he finally answered. “And—”

He paused, and Cosmic Boy could see how the pit had worn on him—but he could also see an undeniable fire in the man’s eyes, and Rokk was reminded that he must’ve survived this place somehow.

“I’m Mon-El.”

 

Valor

Chapter Text

"I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege. I was not allowed to make any inquiries of my master concerning it. He deemed all such inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and evidence of a restless spirit."

- Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave


 

When Mon-El awoke, it was to a bright light. He might’ve even fancied he was finally dead, if it weren’t for the pain and the sheer awkwardness of the position—that was only reserved for the living.

“Wha—? Where…?” Mon-El tried to lift his hand to block the light, but found himself unable; his arm was too heavy, too sluggish—it wouldn’t move.

The light shifted, boring into his eyes. “Subject is awake—optics are responsive,” a disembodied voice drones.

What? Subject? What was going on? “Who—?” His mind was foggy, his words slurred. Everything felt wrong.

“Subject displays verbal habits. Language unknown.”

Language unknown? Mon-El could understand the voice just fine… What was it? Interlac, he thinks—it had been a while since he’s heard it. He thinks that he might have spoken in Daxamite, his native tongue. Mon-El tries to respond in Interlac, but he thinks English slipped out instead. He wasn’t sure; it was confusing.

“Who are you?” Mon-El croaked. His throat was dry and sore. “Where am I?”

“Hmm. Subject is proficient in English, but not human... Species yet to be identified. Aortal organ on right side, skin density at—” The voice rambles on details and facts about his body, and the uncomfortable feeling escalates to a primal wrongness that made Mon-El want to flee with his proverbial tail between his legs. (That was the saying, wasn’t it?)

It was like Cadmus all over again.

Mon-El tried to squirm again, and this time, he could feel some of the strength surge back into his limbs, buzzing as they awakened themselves. Metal bands held him down, his arms pinned to his sides; grunting, the metal screamed with his effort.

“Subject is displaying signs of distress. Reaction: physical struggle, expedited heart-beat, heavy breathing—”

He screamed. “Shut up!

The metal that held him tore, and Mon-El surged off of the table he laid on. In his unsteady gaze, blurry from poor use, he could barely make out the room around him: white, sterile, cluttered, cold.

The man that had stood above him, clad in a white coat and a polarized visor, scrambled out of the way. “Sedation has worn off! Call security!”

“Call this!” Mon-El sacked the guy in the jaw, feeling satisfaction as he fell. Now…

He still had no clue where he was. What happened to him. How he survived. Though the clarity of his senses was returning rapidly, Mon-El felt his heart quicken unnaturally as he busted the door down and burst into the metal hallway. Wherever this place was—whatever it was—he wanted out.

“Subject 6189 is in the east corridor!” A cacophony of boots rounded the corner. Shit. Didn’t know who they were either, but Mon-El was willing to bet they weren’t friendly.

He picked a direction and ran—through walls, if necessary. Until one stopped him, that is. The metal surface pushed Mon-El back like he was just a human, and he barely recovered from it before the goons chasing him caught up. More metal slabs slammed down in front of him, and suddenly, Mon-El was trapped.

He was sunk and he knew it, but rounded on his captors anyways, knuckles bared. Mon-El isn’t sure what precisely happened in that moment, past the crunching of bone and the hiss of lasers, but he remembered the sharp and all-encompassing burning—electric fire—that overwhelmed him.

Mon-El doesn’t remember hitting the ground.

—o0o—

It had been days since they locked him in the dark room. The cell. Prison. Whatever he wanted to call it, because he was the only one in there to call it anything.

Mon-El isn’t precisely sure how long it has been since he woke up on the metal floor of the place—metal, everything was metal, metal he could no longer break—but it had been long enough for his stomach to start screaming at him, a constant wailing that wouldn’t cease.

There was no light in the room, which was approximately seven feet by seven feet because it was just long enough for his body but not long enough to pace the wall and be satisfied; he knows, because all he has had to do in there was explore it. And there was nothing. He could see nothing, and feel nothing but cold metal. Just metal and metal and walls and metal and nothing and metal and himself and metal and walls and cold and metal.

Isolation wasn’t new to him. No, it had been his parents’ favorite form of punishment, but usually, there was at least something to look at—and food. They weren’t cruel, he didn’t think. But this…well, there were no pictures or things to get acquainted with here, so he had to get acquainted with himself.

And he was the most interesting thing in the room; the only interesting thing. They took his clothes from him—the DEO suit, but it was still his—and placed him in something similar. It felt different—thinner, scratchier—but it was hard to tell just how much so in the dark.

There was the collar, too. Mon-El scratched at it and pulled, but nothing he did could remove it, even with his strength. Though in this damned room, where nothing changed or budged, he was beginning to wonder if he even had his strength. He couldn’t hear anything either: just himself.

“And isn’t that depressing,” he grumbled. At first, Mon-El wondered if they were listening to him, but after screaming himself hoarse he came to the conclusion that they didn’t. Or they didn’t care. So if they were listening, they could hear him ramble, because Mon-El wanted to hear himself ramble, dammit!

His stomach groaned. “I know, buddy. I know.”

How long did it take to die of starvation? No, he would die of dehydration first. Mon-El remembered Alex saying that humans could survive a few days—up to five and even six—but he’s a Daxamite and he isn’t sure if the same rules apply. It could be longer…it could be shorter.

Of course, it doesn’t quite feel like he is about to die, but Mon-El also doesn’t trust his judgement on that one.

“What do you want from me?” He couldn’t scream anymore, but his whisper was just as loud in the cell they kept him in, otherwise utterly silent.

Something hissed—a mechanical sound that Mon-El did not create. Or maybe he did because he was finally going crazy. It whirred again—louder, this time—and Mon-El pressed himself against the wall that was farthest away.

Starting from the floor, and blinding light overwhelmed him. He had wished for light for so long in that damned darkness, and now that it was there, Mon-El was squeezing his eyes shut and throwing his arm over them.

They were coming for him again. “Get away from me!” For a moment, Mon-El had the resolve to fight, but then his neck was on fire and hands were grasping his forearms and he was being dragged out, and Mon-El couldn’t bring himself to do anything. He was weak, tired, and disorientated. Still couldn’t see.

Wait, his eyes were still closed—something Mon-El did of his own volition. He tried to pry them open.

It took him a while—the light burning him after so long—but finally his blurry and painful vision cleared so he could see the metal floors beneath him. Well, damn; he hoped for something more interesting.

“Where are you taking me?” he croaked.

No one responded to him—they didn’t even look.

They dragged him into a glass-walled room, and a woman with an icy gaze and a bored countenance turned around to greet him, clad in that stupid white coat everyone here thought was fashionable. “Let’s get this over with,” she muttered, before motioning to the two monkeys that flanked him. “Bring 6189 here.”

They dropped him at the indicated spot. Wait, since when was he ‘6189’? “Uh, that’s not my name, lady. I think you have me confused with someone el—agh!

Electricity ran down his spine and Mon-El crumbled even more than he was already; even after the fire receded, he was left panting on the ground, trying to regain himself.

The woman held the remote coolly. “Silence, 6189.” She bent down and grasped his chin, and Mon-El found he couldn’t shake her grip; he couldn’t move, save for his shaking limbs.

Her skin was lilac, her eyes were sharpened diamonds; her skin was ice against his. “I’ll straighten you out just this once,” she hissed, eyes boring into his. “You are ours. Nothing you might have been matters anymore. You will cooperate, or we will dispose of you.”

She straightened, dropping him abruptly. “Now that I have made myself clear, let us continue.”

Nothing Mon-El could do deterred them, not that he could do much. He was still frozen in her gaze, petrified to the core. It wasn’t that they displayed any large amount of malice or contempt to him—not like Cadmus. They were stone-faced, calculating; they continued their process, impervious to Mon-El’s protests and screams.

—o0o—

When they deposit him in some other holding cell, Mon-El is exhausted and all he wants to do is cry but he can’t muster the strength. His stomach hurts and his shoulder aches—rejecting what has been forced upon it—and his entire skin shivers at phantom touches. Murmurs arouse around him, but Mon-El paid them no heed.

A voice breaks through to him—timid, but warm—and clear amidst the wordless whispers. “Do you need help?” it offered.

This cell has other people in it, of all shapes and sizes and species. They all wear the same bland gray tracksuit that he has been forced into. It’s a man that holds his hand out to him, peach-skinned and bald with tired brown eyes.

Mon-El takes his hand, willing to bite. “What… what is this place?” He isn’t even sure he wants to know; it’s a nightmare. But at the same time, he needs a name to curse.

The man smiled sadly at him. “This is Slaver’s Moon, my boy.”

Chapter Text

"Where are you now?
Are you lost?
Will I find you again?
Are you alone?
Are you afraid?"

— Red, "Hymn for the Missing"


 

Mon-El crashed into the far wall with a sharp cry of pain, and let himself collapse bodily to the floor. The ‘Whites’ jammed at his side with the prods, but honestly, his nerves were so frayed that he hardly noticed the difference.

He had been running for so long—at speeds he couldn’t properly explain. The Whites had herded him onto their damn treadmill and upped the speed until he finally slipped and flew off at mach…whatever. All he knew was that it was fast, and he hurt.

They must be testing his abilities, his limits. For the past few days—at least, Mon-El thinks it has been days; a week, even—men and women dressed in stark white would drag him away to various hell-rooms and make him jump around to their whim. He thinks they are especially fascinated by him, because he is called more than the others; that, and Mon-El is rarely accompanied by any of the other prisoners here. They cannot withstand what a Daxamite can do.

Slaver’s Moon had hit a jackpot with him, and they knew it.

A jackpot for what, he wasn’t entirely certain.

“Get up,” a voice commanded. He knew the drill by now: obey or get hurt. Mon-El attempted to pry himself off of the ground, but found himself unable to. He got prodded for his efforts, but thank Rao he couldn’t feel it anymore.

—o0o—

When Mon-El woke up again, it was in the cell. This, he discovered, was one of the few mercies of Slaver’s Moon.

But this was not the same Slaver’s Moon that he and Kara had encountered; that much was clear. Everything else was…decidedly not so. The white walls and cold steel were not the dungy slave colony as before, but the people were the same—the victims, the slavers. It was sick.

Mon-El hated, now more than ever before, that his family had once participated in this.

He hated the fact that his hatred grew only now, on the inside of the cell, then it ever had the first time he was on Slaver’s Moon; a problem with him, he was sure. Kara would be disappointed in him; if she wasn’t, then she should be.

This must be his penance, for the crimes of his family. Since he had killed them, it was only fitting for this to fall on him.

It’s not that he had given up. It’s just…his options were limited. The solid field that acted as their cell door and wall was not easily breakable.

He had tried.

And security was…tough.

“Here, son. Drink.” Blinking the rough haze from his eyes, Mon-El found that Karimu was kneeling beside him with the drinking cloth. (Which was nothing but a torn strip of clothing used to distribute water from the faucet, but it was given name and purpose anyways, simply because they could.)

“Thanks,” he breathed, taking the proffered item. Water was the only thing they were given freely, so might as well make the most of it.  

Karimu silently settled beside him, and Mon-El’s knuckles twitched at the familiarity.

“I—I can still try…” he choked. He ached, his knuckles ached, and his entire body shook. It didn’t matter how hard he punched or how much force Mon-El threw at it, the barrier would not budge; it only sparked and shocked him for his efforts, and now his nerves screamed.

“No.” Karimu, the man who first helped Mon-El when he was tossed in here, shook his head sadly. “Whatever strength you give it, it will use against you. It is no use.”

Mon-El stared at the white wall, shimmering in its hidden power and mocking him. Kara would have found a way out—found a way out for everyone here, like before—but Mon-El wasn’t her, and no matter which way he looked at it, he couldn’t do it.

These people might rot here or be carted away to a life they didn’t deserve because he wasn’t strong enough—good enough—to save them.

He reached for the empty spot around his neck. They had taken away Kara’s necklace somewhere in the process; he couldn’t even keep that safe, despite his promises.

“This is not solely on your shoulders, you know,” Karimu rumbled.

Mon-El resisted the urge to laugh. Perceptive though he was, it seemed the older man was not fully informed. If he knew what Mon-El could do—who he was and had been—he would be right to blame him.

Karimu chuckled softly, the sound not lifting the strain from his eyes. “On Titan, we did not hide our feelings—we could not, some would say. I have since learned that others with different gifts than ours were better at saving face and burying their emotion. You, Mon-El, are not. I do not need to be a Titanian to know that.”

“Yeah, well, maybe I’m not trying to hide it,” he retorted, not taking his eyes off the wall.

He didn’t notice when Karimu moved away.

—o0o—

“5908, 5967, 6005…”

Don’t say it, don’t say it…

“6074, 6082, 6103…”

Don’t say it, don’t say it…

“6122, 6151, 6187.”

Mon-El closed his eyes and breathed. They didn’t call him. He shouldn’t be grateful, but he was, because he was tired and he ached and he really didn’t think he could handle another round of…whatever.

A woman from his unit fidgeted. “No, no, no…” she muttered, over and over again. She held a little boy close to her, letting him hide his face in her hip. The unit door slid open, revealing the guards. “Stay away from us!” she hissed violently.

“Come willingly 6122, or you will be taken by force,” a hard-faced man droned.

She growled, baring her sharp teeth at him. “Harrigai! I will slice your throats and present your blood to Lady Nwoihi for your crimes, I swear it by—agh!” She was cut off by a strangled cry and she buckled to the ground; the burly guard held the stunner over her.

Mami?” the boy sniffed, eyes brimming with tears.

“Shut up,” the guard snarled, shoving the now crying kid to the wall; Karimu held him there.

That’s it. He couldn’t take this. “Pick on someone your own size, huh?” Mon-El snarled. Sure, the guard had a foot on him easily, with fancy toys to boot, but Mon-El knew he could get a punch or three in before there was an intervention and Mon-El was taken down.

It’ll still be worth it.

“Know your place, slave,” he growled, waving the stun-gun threatening. Heh. That wasn’t the one they needed for him.

Mon-El snorted. “You don’t know me.” He threw a punch straight at the man’s jaw; it wasn’t enough to kill him, but it was damn near close if he was a human, or anything similar.

The second guard, thin and red-headed, looked ready to wet himself, throwing his hands up in the air and backing off. Sirens erupted overhead, following by a high-pitched whining that cut into his ears and stabbed at his brain. “What the hell…?” Mon-El gasped in pain as the sound drilled into his head.

He wasn’t sure how long it had been: it felt like hours and seconds at the same time. Regardless, more guards or enforcement officers or whatever the hell they were had him surrounded before he was aware of their approach.

“Desist at once—”

“—stay back—”

“—Mami!—”

“—down or we will force you!”

SCREEEeeeeeeeEEEEE!

“Mon—”

“—don’t touch me!

“Make it stop! Make it stop!”

“—step away—”

Agh!

“Don’t move—”

eeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeee!

Mon-El might’ve screamed—he wasn’t sure. All he knew was that his ears and his head pounded and hurt and that people were everywhere and he didn’t want them to be.

The cacophony of piercing noise faded to white noise.

Chapter Text

"When you're falling in a forest and there's nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?"

— "Waving Through A Window" from Dear Evan Hansen


 

These were the things Mon-El had learned thus far:

     One: he was in a place called Slaver’s Moon.

     Two: he was considered a slave, but he was not yet the slave of anyone.

     Three: therefore, this must be some sort of processing hub.

     Four: it had been at least a week and a half; this was only a tentative figure, and most likely conservative, but giving this hell a measurement of duration made him feel better.

     Five: anyone that participated in this madness was crazier than Cadmus, dogmatists, and a complete ass.

     Six: his entire family name was a blood-line of dogmatic asses.

     Seven: he was freaking tired of solitary confinement.

     Eight: there was no way out.

     Bonus: sonic weapons freaking hurt.

Ever since the skirmish in the group cell, Mon-El had been held in solitary confinement. It wasn’t the same sensory deprivation room that he was thrown in earlier in this fun little shit-fest he found himself in, but it was close enough: boring. Which, as an added little tidbit, did not happen to everyone who was captured for the intent of slavery, as he had learned from some of his old cellmates. Everyone did, however, get tested; no, not everyone had to bench-press the moon and get tested almost non-stop.

Golly gee, he guessed he must be special.

Now that he was alone, in this forsaken little white-washed closet, Mon-El had even more time to think and ponder. Whether that was a good thing or not was yet to be determined. In contrast to the rollercoaster he was being dragged through, this was the first real chance he had to consider his position and all that entailed, and not just reacting to it.

He pondered the merits of using his status to lever himself out of this situation, but there was a number of things both undesirable and faulty with that. For one, Mon-El never wanted to call himself a prince of Daxam again. And then, on the more logical side—a dry little voice that sounded suspiciously like J’onn—they hadn’t recognized him. Before, they had. Of course, this was obviously a different Slaver’s Moon, which was terrifying in his own right, but he was under the impression that his mom had posted his Missing poster all over the galaxy so that was hardly an excuse. At this point, they might not even believe him.

Maybe once he was sent off, he would find a chance to escape, assuming he was sold to someplace like Daxam. Although, escape from that point would be made more or less feasible by the presence of a yellow sun.

Then there was the matter of everyone else.

Mon-El didn’t want to leave them. Kara wouldn’t leave them. But… no matter which way he spun it, it wasn’t possible. Everything he had attempted either ended in him getting shocked, blasted, ear damage, or with someone else getting hit.

He tried to think about what Kara would do, but he felt like he was in a rut.

Wait…what was that? Mon-El tilted his head towards the door, straining his ears. His hearing was really the only useful thing in this box, so he had been trying to push it to its limits. Clomp clomp clomp. As it neared, he recognized it as footsteps.

Coming closer.

“Aw no, no, no.” Mon-El pressed himself in the corner, rubbing his face harshly with his hands. No, he wasn’t ready! He braced himself for them to come for him anyways, because what else would they be here for?

A small flap opened instead of the door, and a bowl of food slid through. Well, ‘food’ was an overstatement: it was mush. It tasted awful and probably only eighty percent edible, but that was still eighty percent more food than he had had lately. The last time had been in the group cell—a ravenous affair among all involved, when Mon-El found himself fearing his cellmates more than his captors—and this would mark the first time in solitary confinement.

“Eat,” the command came, like he was going to starve himself otherwise. Well, that might be kinder than actually eating it, but Mon-El didn’t fancy not living. “You need it.”

“How do you know?” Mon-El replied sarcastically, because why not. They couldn’t prod him in the cell. (Wait, they could turn that terrible noise on again…) “I could feed off of photosynthesis for all you know.”

The guard actually chuckled. What kind of dream was this? Mon-El tensed again. “We know you have a stomach.”

What?

Did he…respond to him? Normally talking to these guys was like talking to a concrete wall. (Was that how the saying went?) “Congratulations then.”

The guard remained outside the door, but stayed silent. Finally, after a heavy moment between the two of them, the young man went on his way, apparently unable to say anything more to the guy he was condemning to slavery.

 Mon-El exhaled slowly through the nose, taking the bowl in his hands.

This was better than nothing, he supposed.

—o0o—

“What do you want me to do—stare at the wall? I’m really good at that, you know,” Mon-El quipped dryly. As per the usual, nobody responded.

Mon-El, being a Daxamite, was really good at pushing his limits. He had discovered that most of the time, when he talked, they ignored him. And that talking—strangely enough—made him feel better even when nobody responded. (Except for the food-guy, which, sadly enough, was a fluke.) Utilizing language, at least, made Mon-El feel less like an animal.

Except around the lilac-skinned woman or either of the twin burly blond guards—they took him talking as an excuse to shut him up. On rare occasion, Mon-El would say something anyways, just to relish the way they reacted—which, it is to be noted, that when a purple skinned being turned red, it is hilarious. (It’s less hilarious when she turns on the ScreecherTM, but that’s a moot point.)

They had dragged him out of his room like they always do when testing, but then they threw him into another room, only this time, with what Mon-El recognized to be a window. It was cleverly concealed as a wall on his end, but he could hear them clearly on the other side; further inspection proved that the wall was not solid, but instead consisted of a bunch of little bits pressed together on a clear surface. If he had to guess, Mon-El would say it was a one-way window, but certainly not one of the reflective ones that Earth had. Which was probably for the best, because he really didn’t want to see himself right now; he probably looked like a wreck. Mon-El could even feel some stubble starting to come in. And that right there was probably a sign that it had been well over two weeks at this point. (He felt really sorry for any humans stuck in here, because their facial hair comes in crazy fast, as he had discovered…)

Focus, Mon-El! Focus on…what?

“Wall staring?” Nothing happened. “Yup.” Wall staring it was then.

His fingers twitched in anticipation. It was…too quiet. Mon-El was acutely aware of the Whites’ presence, yet nothing happened. Were they intent on just studying him from a distance now? He preferred it to their ‘hands-on’ approach, but the lack of privacy was equally disturbing.

A thin sort of metal screech caught his attention, and Mon-El quickly turned to the far wall. It was…moving?

A hatch slid open; Mon-El watched it with growing apprehension, taking a couple of steps back away from it.

The drone shot out, whirring and clicking with mechanisms that Mon-El couldn’t even begin to understand. “What the hell?!” It sped right towards him, leaving Mon-El to clumsily dive out of the way to avoid collision.

That’s when it began to fire at him.

The blue shot come in fast, nailing him in the shoulder. It burned, eliciting a sharp gasp as he staggered backwards, but it didn’t seem lethal. At least, not to him. The flying drone spun and whirled some more, and began to fire again; Mon-El scrambled.

He had no idea what their intention was—to test his reflexes? to execute him?—but Mon-El was no longer focused on whatever game they wanted him to play. He wished that he might have been able to say that it was Kara’s training that came to the forefront of his mind, or maybe the need to carry on for the good of all the people trapped here, but it was something far baser: Mon-El felt the inexplicable need to survive.

The drone continued to harry him, but Mon-El was faster. He sped past it, ducking underneath its blows, but he only ended up at the wall. This place was a damn box! What was he supposed to do?

It kept flying out of reach, and Mon-El kept running and dodging, with neither succeeding in really doing anything. But, Mon-El was starting to slow; he legs began to wobble beneath him, and his stomach and chest felt hollow. He couldn’t keep this up forever, but the machine could.

He just needed to get up there somehow, but he couldn’t fly and fire lasers through his eyes, or anything useful like that. All Mon-El could do was run around in circles and hope he didn’t die.

Mon-El miscalculated his position, and slammed into the wall, bouncing off with a jarring collision. The drone took advantage of his weakness and fired upon him, burning into skin like Daxam’s hot rain. Damn wall…

Wait, that was it! “Bingo.” Mon-El ran straight for the wall, and leaped. He kicked off the wall and immediately twisted his body; the drone had been heading directly for him, as it had been, but this time, Mon-El met it with his fist. It crashed to the ground, just for Mon-El to land on it, crushing what remained.

He stood over it, panting, but it didn’t move any longer.

—o0o—

Mon-El sat in the corner, because it felt the least exposed. The solid and unmoving presence behind him wasn’t exactly a comfort, but the cold air and the uneasy knowledge that anything could happen out in the open was worse than the cool surface.

“Hold it down and inspect the abrasions.”

“W-wait, don’t!” He bucked, and they jabbed the prod into his back. Mon-El screamed.

He used to wonder why the servants—the slaves—back on Daxam flinched; why they feared the open as much as they hated the enclosed.

The cold metal surface bit into his bare back; the burns alighted in frozen fire. “Don’t let it move!” The straps biting into his limbs tightened. He felt heavy, like lead hung above him; he couldn’t move.

If there was anything—anything—he could take back, it was what he had done on Daxam. Who he was. Had been. Nobody deserved this kind of treatment—this kind of terror. Except for maybe himself, because Mon-El had allowed this to happen to who knows how many innocent people, because he had turned a blind eye and did nothing.

“Take blood samples too. Maybe we can finally figure out what this thing is.”

“I’m a person, damnit!”

“Feel free to shut it up, too.”

Mon-El shivered, even though he could still feel the burns on his body. Maybe the drone had just been a ruse all along, to tear him open; maybe he had thwarted their attempt to make sport of erasing him, and decided to take advantage of his weakness instead.

“Ma’am, we could never draw blood before…”

“Take it from the open wounds.”

They were going to kill him. If it wasn’t his body that will die, it might very well be his self. A future with only this in sight didn’t seem livable.

He remembered when he was seven years old, one of the maids jumped off the roof. His father had been furious, and strictly forbade any other personnel to access the roof, and tightened security all around. Mon-El, having wanted to earn the grace of his father, emulated him, and learned to curse the slaves just as the King did, for taking away what wasn’t theirs in the first place.

Lar Gand had been wrong, and Mon-El had been wrong to ever want to be like him.

The maid had been the lucky one that day, he realized now. And he didn’t even know her name; he wished he did. And now there was no one left to tell her story to the cosmos, because by Rao, she deserved more.

Mon-El would share her fate if his situation remained. Not death—that would not be a curse—but rather isolation. Kara didn’t know where he was; neither did Winn, or M’Ghann, or Alex, or J’onn. His parents were dead; his people gone and estranged. He has nobody. He was nobody.

Mon-El would die alone, and no one would even know.

Chapter Text

"I don't mean they mean they want your dead life; they want your living life."

— Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon


 

Strangers began to watch him. The usual gang of ugly-mugs were there, of course, but new faces—clad usually in fancy clothing or dubious cloaks—would appear at their shoulders while they shoved him through the motions of their circus acts. If Mon-El couldn’t see them, he could hear them: their quickened breath, their pensive grunts—their desire.

It didn’t take long for Mon-El to determine what they were: prospective buyers.

As Mon-El shoved the weight off of him, panting slightly at the strain, he turned to the window he knew they were watching out of, and lifted his middle finger in an act of Earthen expression; the scandalous gasp—a woman, this one was—on the other side was worth the shock to the neck he received.

He may not have a way out of this, but he’ll be damned if he goes down easy.

“Desist 6189!” the sentry barked, waving his prod over Mon-El threateningly. “Continue the exercise, or I will put you down.”

Mon-El couldn’t help it. He laughed—a low, dark chuckle that bubbled its way to hysteria. That was their threat? Put him down?! “Make my day, krangor!” As always, the Daxamite tongue was lost on the white-clad captor, but the insult wasn’t.

The sentry roared, bearing down on him fasting than his weary limbs could manage to move. He went right for the scar on the front of his shoulder, and Mon-El entire right side exploded in white agony. Dammit, it wasn’t healed yet… He hadn’t seen the sun, and especially after they—

Mon-El wrenched his eyes shut as he sank to the ground. The pain. The pain was an anchor, and if he focused on that, the worse things would fade back to the depths of his mind.

He stilled himself and listened to his veins throb. Usually, when he was still, they didn’t bother him any longer—unless they wanted him to move—and right now he wasn’t sure if he could take another hit.

“…not very tame, is it?” The nasily voice of the buyer drifted down to him, grating on Mon-El’s already frayed nerves.

Tame? Tame? If this was them trying to break him in like some sad horse, then they were doing a terrible job. Mon-El didn’t bother to listen to anything else they said up in the room. He gritted his teeth and rose. If the sentry saw it coming, it was too late; Mon-El bore down on him, grabbing his forearm and crushing it in his grip.

Screams filled his head before the sonic device overwhelmed it. For once, they weren’t his, and somehow that made it better.

—o0o—

“I hear you’re trouble.”

Mon-El glared icily. It really was a shame that he didn’t have a Kryptonian’s heat vision.

The man laughed, the sound chilling Mon-El in a way no hearty laugh should. He was rather large, but more hefty than muscular; his head was shaven, and his eyes were small, and without knowing where he was from, Mon-El knew that the slick red suit he wore was meant to be a sign of high status. It was far too showy to be anything else.

He stood on the other side of the glass, up high so Mon-El had to tilt his head upward to glare.

“Talkative, ain’t he?” he quipped. Mon-El snorted. Somehow, talking when somebody wanted him to wasn’t nearly as much fun. “It does talk, right? Are Daxamites dumb, or something?”

Mon-El didn’t move. They knew he was a Daxamite now? It’s not like he ever made an effort to hide it, but he wasn’t forthcoming either.

“No, Mr. Karraar. He has proven to speak English, Interlac, and what we assume is his native tongue.”

“Hmph. They still have one, eh? It doesn’t make any difference to me,” Karraar laughed. “The thing can fight.” He gestured emphatically to the remains of the room. Mon-El was once again vividly aware of the broken attack drones that littered the ground around him; without paying any heed to the people that watched him, Mon-El had fought. He had fought and destroyed until the onslaught stopped, and Karraar’s voice accosted him.

“You’re a fighter, ain’t you?”

Mon-El had hardly moved since. He had been able to scare off every stranger that came to stare at him, until now; now, everything he did seemed to please the man.

It was then that Mon-El realized that he was terrified.

Having his life in someone else’s hands wasn’t new to him, but before, Mon-El had been able to carelessly ignore it and convince himself he was free. But now, when the stakes were higher, it was impossible to deny that he had no control over his fate. If he was strong enough to free himself and tear down this forsaken slaughter-house, then that would be a different story. But since he wasn’t, he was doomed to live for someone else.

And he knew first hand how mad that could make someone.

“I’ll take ‘im.”

It was in that moment, that Mon-El knew that he had lost his autonomy, and he couldn’t do a single thing. The sheer horror of his situation crashed down on him in the worst way that it could. He couldn’t get out of this; it didn’t matter how much he wanted to, or how much of a coward he was, the truth was unescapable: his life was no longer his own. It didn’t matter who he was. Mon-El. 6189. Slave.

He stood, frozen, with tears welling in his eyes as everyone left, and he was ushered out. He sat in his pathetic little cell, missing it already, with the weighty knowledge that his world was about to change again, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

“I’m sorry, Kara,” he choked. “I’m not as strong as you thought I was…”

—o0o—

He was moving today. Mon-El had figured it would be soon, but he hadn’t quite expected them to be there when he pried opened his eyes. He could only assume it was morning now, if they had let him be that long. He hadn’t slept, though, because he couldn’t; nightmares flooded his thoughts and bile rose in his throat, trapping Mon-El in a fitful wakefulness he hoped never to experience again. The best he could manage was to close his eyes.

The blond guard jerked his chin hastily. “Come on.” Mon-El was tempted to throw himself past the guard and into the hallway in some hysterical attempt to escape, but he was just so tired. He knew he wouldn’t make it.

Mon-El followed the guard sullenly. He was smaller than the usual breed, with a rather unassuming build and a smaller stature. He looked…young. Perhaps his age, even. Perhaps just as clueless. He recognized the voice though: it was the one who would bring food.

This guard didn’t restrain him, and Mon-El didn’t try to attack. He knew that the collar he wore, and the tasers they possessed, would be enough to take him down. He just followed, because he couldn’t think of anything else to do that wouldn’t end in pain. Rao, he was a coward, but it was the truth.

The hallways were labyrinthine and just as aggravating as the cells. Mon-El tried to keep up with their route, but that fell through quickly when the rights and the lefts became muddled in his brain. The apprehension was getting to him. It pricked at Mon-El neck and trickled down his spine, and it squeezed his heart until it couldn’t beat anymore. He felt like a corpse being led to a morgue.

“You…have no questions?” he spoke suddenly, hesitantly.

Mon-El looked down at the guard, peering back at him with curious eyes. “You have answers?” he returned dryly.

The guard said nothing and snapped his head forward again, stopping at a door. Mon-El watched him fumble with the key and go through all the electronic hoops to verify his authority. Maybe this was why caged animals at the zoo were so apathetic to their own condition; they grew tired of fighting, and simply…curious. Because that was all they had.

Until one of their jailers ventured too close…

The room was small and cluttered with drawers and shelves. Hundreds of trinkets, gathered with no recognizable pattern or reason, lay around them. Just a prisoner, a guard, and the spoils of a one-sided war.

“I have your stuff…” the guard clarified, voice sullen.

“Oh.” Mon-El was not expecting that. He didn’t know what he was expecting. “Why?”

“The warden has us pull anything that looks valuable to be pawned, but…” The guard laughed. “We take it all to the collectors so infrequently, though, that I found nobody notices if some of the things go missing. I, uh… I figured you guys have better use for it.”

Mon-El didn’t know what to say. He found himself confused, and that was a terrible thing to be in the face of some strange kindness. The guard yanked open a drawer and rifled through its contents. “Come on, I remember you… Blue, blue…” he muttered. “Aha!”

He yanked out the idea, and Mon-El felt his heart flutter at the sight of Kara’s pendant. “There,” the guard declared, holding out the pendant to him. “I knew I didn’t forget.”

The chain found its way into his fingers, and for the first time in weeks Mon-El felt insanely grateful. “Thank you,” he managed around the lump in his throat. This guard was probably still a terrible person, but he was once too, and right now it was small gesture that Mon-El cared about it.

Mon-El pulled the pendant over his head immediately, letting it fall down under his shirt so it would remain unseen by outsiders. It bounced against his chest and cooled the skin above his heart. In all practical senses, it didn’t mean a thing; but Mon-El felt stronger, somehow, knowing that he didn’t lose the last thing he had of Kara—that she was still with him.

“I can’t do anymore,” the guard confessed.

“I didn’t expect you too,” he admitted in turn.

The blond smiled tightly. They had to leave, course. Mon-El was taken back to the main hallway, where two more guards marched him away.

He hated Slaver’s Moon. There wasn’t a thread of him that didn’t loathe the white walls that trapped him. Yet, there was a spark of panic as they shoved him aboard a gray airship. It was terrible that they should be able to make Mon-El miss his own prison, but it was easy when the unknown was the bigger of two evils—at least at the moment. There was no way of knowing which outcome of his life would prove to be the worst, especially when it all looked bleak and hopeless.

Mon-El was the only one on the airship. At least, he was the only one in the cargo hold. He had seen groups of people leave in the past, but he was left to suppose that he was sold alone this go around. How special.

There were no windows, because cargo didn’t need any, so Mon-El had no way of knowing where he was. There were no stars to map or planets to spot. He was as lost as he was in the asteroid belt, spinning out to his doom.

The ship shuddered to a stop suddenly. “What?” He verbalized his confusion to the nothing that was around him. That was strange; regardless of the size of the ship, he would have felt them enter a planet’s atmosphere. So, either there was none worth mentioning, or they didn’t land down on a planet at all.

The door slid open, and two guards welcomed him in silence. They were different from the white-clad personnel of Slaver’s Moon, who didn’t care about anonymity; these were darkly dressed in some type of Kevlar, with masked helmets that obscured them as they gripped their steel spears stoically. Honestly, they kinda screamed shady in every way imaginable, like they were students of something cliché and ominous, like ‘the dark arts’ or something. Mon-El had to laugh; they didn’t find it nearly as amusing as he did, though.

“Nice place you got here. Real ominous. Love the long, dark hallways—is that aesthetic, or cheap lighting?” He couldn’t shut up. Rao, what was wrong with him?! “I mean, come on guys—at least Slaver’s Moon was well lit. Unless you guys are cave people, or something. What d’ya got for me: mines?” Someone, shut him up! It was a nervous babble that sprung up suddenly, and Mon-El couldn’t seem to control his own tongue. Some people might piss in the face of certain doom, but no not him—Mon-El’s got to verbally vomit. “Tell you the truth, I can’t think of anything but mines. What do slaves even do nowadays?” Rao, kill him. Kill him right now.

“Would you shut up?!” the sentry hissed irritably, rounding on him with his prod.

“Thank you.”

What?

The other sentry sighed. “This one’s already crazy…” he muttered. “Look, Daxamite. Just be quiet and do your thing, and there won’t be no trouble—got it?”

Mon-El swallowed quickly. “Got it.” He didn’t ‘got it’—he still had no idea what was going on. But he could sense the aggression quickly escalating in the sentry’s form and decided he really didn’t want to deal with it right now.

He was shaking. His frayed nerves manifested themselves physically after previously trying to hijack his mouth, and now he was literally shaking in his boots. What was he so scared of? Maybe… Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. Maybe he could get used to it. Hell, maybe he could escape? They only needed to underestimate him once. Unfortunately, he had wasted those opportunities being delirious before.

They reached a dead end. Mon-El realized that he really should’ve paid better attentions to his surroundings in this new place, but he was too scatter-brained to do anything useful like that. The sentries slipped behind him, leaving Mon-El to face a wall.

“Have fun, Daxamite,” one of the sentries jeered. “Don’t die.”

“’Don’t die’? The hell is that—? Woah!” The floor moved beneath him, raising under his feet and sending him upward. A dull roar made itself known, pounding in his ears and mirroring his wild heart.

A sleek steel floor surrounded him, and thousands of moving and shouting figures past that. He couldn’t focus: everything was so loud. People screamed around him, at him, and Mon-El became acutely aware that everyone and everything was staring at him.

“—present to you, the one and only Daxamite!” a voice declared, full of fervor.

What? Mon-El spun in a tight circle, trying to ascertain his situation, and why it was so important that he was a Daxamite, and where he was. Everything was blurring together in his vision, however, just like the raucous din that pressed in against him. His gaze landed on yellow eyes instead.

Another figure was there too. They were hunched over on all fours with stretched brown skin, and they watched him with a dull hunger.

Oh no. Oh no, he knew what this was.

This was a damn arena.

“Fight!”

Chapter Text

"I've had to resist and to attack sometimes—that's only one way of resisting—without counting the exact cost, according to the demands of such short life as I had blundered into."

— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness


 

“Fight!”

The four-legged alien launched itself at him at full speed, compelled by the excited command. Mon-El scrambled out of the war path, still trying to comprehend what was happening. This was an arena. This was an arena, and that meant that he had to fight.

It was a simple conclusion, yet somehow, he still couldn’t grasp the implications. It was when the alien turned on its paws and headbutted him half-way across the arena that Mon-El’s instincts kicked in. He had to fight. He had to fight, otherwise, this thing might kill him! And as selfish and terrible as it was, Mon-El didn’t want to die.

He dug his heels into the ground and caught the beast by the horns when it came for him again. The crowd went absolutely ballistic at his display of strength, their excited cheers ringing in his skull and threatening to bleed his ears out. It overwhelmed him, giving his attacker the chance to swing his head and throw Mon-El from his footing.

He tumbled across the ground, shoulders scraping against the hard floor, before he was able to claw his way back to his feet. The beast roared at him, beaded eyes filled with primal rage. It charged again, ready for another collision of strength, but Mon-El rolled out of the way this time, chest heaving. What the hell was he supposed to do? Defeat it? Kill it? For all the fights that he had been to, back when he was some wayward Daxamite prince, he had never really paid attention to the semantics; he never thought he would need to.

Right now, Mon-El didn’t want to have to kill anything, but this opponent of his sure as hell wanted to kill him, as it would seem.

He had no weapon. Most likely, the people who threw him here assumed he could handle anything with his ‘amazing strength,’ or whatever. It’s not like he hasn’t fought before, or sparred in abundance, but this was far baser than anything Mon-El had been prepared for. Not that anyone could ever prepare for this…

Mon-El glanced back upwards. The crowd was still tumultuous and annoying, but he was more interested in the open architecture that was above them. They were still in an enclosed space, sure, but it was better than nothing and worth a shot.

The beast was circling back for him, but he ignored it, bent his knees, and jumped. Mon-El couldn’t fly like Kara, but his super strength did allow him some fairly impressive jumps. He catapulted off of the ground, straight for the top of the stands. The crowd wasn’t his priority in the slightest, but rather, the freedom that might lie on the other side of the screaming mass. He might have to fight tooth and nail for it, but Mon-El was willing to take that chance.

Except that it never came.

The air at the top of the arena suddenly turned electric, coalescing into a pale blue and gray field that blocked him from his path. His trajectory slammed him into it, and the field latched onto his side like a blanket of fury, screaming in his nerves like the jeering crowd and filling his veins with fire. A scream tore from his throat before it finally released him—the jump lasted mere moments, but agonizingly long ones—and Mon-El fell to the ground in something of a heap. He tasted char on his tongue, and his pounding heart joined the cacophony of sound that imprisoned his thoughts.

Whatever plan he might have had died when he slammed into the energy barrier, and now his mind was nothing but a jumbled mess of searing pain and piercing noise. What was he doing? What was he going to do? There was something important that loomed just beyond the frayed edges of his thoughts, but Mon-El was unable to reach it. Maybe it was another test. He wished that he would hurry up and lose consciousness, so that they would drag him back to his room and leave him alone.

An enraged roar split into his swirling head and drowned out everything else, rattling his bones and yanking him back to the present. The shadow of the beast loomed over him, teeth bared in a snarl.

Oh, right; he was going to die.

The fear of its imminence somehow managed to clear Mon-El’s head of the confused clutter.

He was in no position—writhing on the floor—to defend himself, not to mention that his shaking nerves weren’t going to cooperate anyways. Ever since the battle with Livewire, electricity had been overwhelming and unkind to even a tough physiology like his own, and the weeks he spent getting a prod rammed into his back didn’t help. He thinks his nerves had electrophobia by now.

The creature’s spittle sprayed down on his cheek, eliciting a small wince. Rao, was this thing going to eat him in front of a live audience?! That was almost worse than anything his nightmares had managed dredge up for him, other than the fact that he got to die sooner rather than later…not that he wanted to at all.

“Hey.” The voice was strange and garbled, but gentler than the racket that surrounded him. The husky brown creature bent lower. “Hey, I no want to hurt you—but this fight. It need look good.”

“…What?” Mon-El was at a lost for words, the primal fear slowly draining but leaving nothing behind. The creature—which was more of an animalistic sentient being, Mon-El realized—spoke to him in broken Interlac rather than chewing his face off. It was an unusual turn of events, welcomed though it was.

“No kill,” he stressed again. “Just fight good. Then they happy.”

“Okay…” So this was just a fight to entertainment, not a slaughter. That was good. Mon-El was a little reassured by the fact that they weren’t supposed to kill each other, though he wasn’t sure what ‘fight good’ entailed, exactly.

Without warning, his opponent roared again, spraying in his face, and suddenly grabbed his leg with a claw and tossed him across the arena. Mon-El tumbled to the edge, finding the angry edge of the electric barrier once again, and he quickly had to tear himself out of its grip before he got caught in its charge. The crowd returned to an excited roar.

Ah, okay. They just needed to beat each other up for the amusement of others. Great.

Man, he was such a dogmatic asshole in his past life.

His opponent charged again, growling incoherently—or in a guttural language Mon-El simply couldn’t understand, he didn’t know—and he had to scramble back to his feet in time. He leaped over his back, landing roughly on the other side and in reach of the male’s tail. Mon-El felt bad, having to fight the guy that tried to help him earlier, but… Well, this was for throwing him into that barrier without a warning.

Mon-El yanked back on his tail, heaving him backwards before throwing him across the arena floor. The four-legged alien yelped shortly—evidently surprised by the maneuver—but he seemed to be recovering fairly quickly. Shit. What was he supposed to do now? Knock him out? Yeah, yeah, that was probably it…

His opponent recovered quicker than he would have liked, scrambling back to his paws and charging him. Mon-El returned the favor, running for him headlong. He grabbed at the dude’s horns, their collective strength pushing against each other. He just needed…a grip… Finally, Mon-El managed to gain footing and the stability it gave him, using his better stance to shove his opponent’s head downwards and into the ground.

The male gave out a groan with the collision. Mon-El really didn’t want to hit him again—he probably had a concussion by now. Luckily, he stayed laying on the ground.

The crowd managed to grow louder.

Mon-El stepped back, aware of what he had done. He was once again reminded of all the terrible things he had participated in back on Daxam, and of the time back on Earth when he actually wanted to take people down for hire. It was sick. So, so, so sick. He felt the bile rise in his throat. Oh man, he was going to be sick.

He didn’t even hear the men approach him from behind until hands were wrapping around his biceps, yanking him up from his knees and dragging him away. Mon-El didn’t even try to fight them; he just numbly watched as two more sentries came and pushed the other alien back to his feet and took him in the opposite direction.

It would have been a good idea to pay attention to what where they were taking him, but Mon-El blanked out somewhere in the process. It wasn’t until they reached a narrow stairway that he came back to the present—probably because he nearly tumbled down the steps.

“Watch your step, Daxamite,” the sentry warned dully. Mon-El ignored him, but did what he was told anyways.

The second sentry unlocked the door at the bottom of the steps and roughly shoved Mon-El inside. He froze on the other side. Two long rows of cells stretched down the corridor, sectioned off with humming energy screens like a grid. Dozens of eyes turned to him with muted curiosity, though luckily, their apathy won out and most of them turned away shortly.

The sentries marched him down silently, one in front of him and the other behind. There was a wide array of aliens—some he recognized, some he didn’t—all trapped in their own clear-sided, cookie-cutter cell, each about eight by eight feet in size. Some aliens fit comfortably, some looked far too cramped, huddling in the middle of the space. Mon-El didn’t want to stare at them, but he could scarcely keep himself from watching everyone as he passed. They were prisoners here, just like he was; mangy and dull-eyed, they were what he would become.

“In you go,” the first sentry ordered. An empty cell opened beside him, the front wall of the energy-shield shimmering out of existence long enough for Mon-El to be strongly encouraged by the sentries to step inside. The barrier snapped back as soon as he was inside, and the sentries hurried off without another word. He was stuck there now—his brand new-cell. Joy.

His gut instinct was to reach out and touch the walls, but that was a mistake. It wasn’t quite as bad as the energy dome above the arena, but his body was instantly seized by the painful current, causing Mon-El to snap back away from it.

“Careful,” a voice intoned. “It’s electric.”

“No, really.” Mon-El turned to face the speaker, which was none other than his neighbor. He was humanoid, with bronze skin, a shaven head but prickly black beard, and small brown spikes that made lines up his thick arms to his temples. The man sat in the middle of his cell, cross-legged, and rather unbothered in demeanor, yet there no coldness in his dark gaze as it set itself on Mon-El. He didn’t recognize the species, though that wasn’t the biggest surprise—the universe was far bigger than Daxam and its allies. Former, allies. Whatever.

The man snorted gently at the response, though he didn’t address the matter of the field any further. “You have questions, I’m sure.”

His new-ness was obvious, he was sure. Mon-El sat down slowly, somewhat uncomfortable with carrying on a conversation while he had to look down. Finally, someone was offering answers. Now that he was no longer in processing, anything he gathered could give him a shred of stability—environment aside. He took a deep breath and started with the obvious. “So… this is an arena. We just…fight?”

The man nodded. “Very astute, I see.” Mon-El huffed as the sarcasm was returned to him—he deserved that, sure. But honestly, he was thrilled that he was speaking to someone with a personality for once. “They call this the Pit,” the man explained. “They travel the shadows of the cosmos, offering up the venue for whoever wishes to partake in this. We, the gladiators, simply must fight whoever they want us to. It’s simple, really.”

“Simple and sick,” Mon-El grumbled. He didn’t expect anything different, however. Unbidden, he wondered how many of the gladiator fights he had attended with the royal family were of slaves… He swallowed down the bile quickly. “Wonderful.” Okay, now that his fate was confirmed, Mon-El was going to move on to something better for once. “I’m Mon-El,” he introduced. “And you are…?”

“I am a Verumite,” the man replied stiffly. “And where do you hail from?”

Mon-El blinked. That wasn’t what he meant… He didn’t want to say it, his people’s sins pressing against his shoulders, but he squeeze the word out anywhere. This dungeon was hardly a place for him to be judged, right? “Daxam,” he sighed.

The Verumite raised his eyebrows slowly, the surprise clear on his face. Mon-El suddenly wished that all the walls weren’t translucent, so that he could hide in peace.

“A Daxamite?!” somebody else shouted. The speaker was from down the hall, being a rather brawny female with russet fur and a single beady eye above her beak. “If you’re a Daxamite, then I’m a human!”

A laughter began in the cellblock as everyone within earshot seemed to find his declaration hilarious. That…wasn’t quite what he expected. Mon-El flushed, unsure of how to respond.

His neighbor huffed irately as they finally settled down. “Don’t mind the Gaxian,” he advised. “She’s rather dramatic.”

“Hey!” she squawked distantly.

“But you shouldn’t bait them like that—though it was funny. Where are you really from?”

Now he was starting to get confused. “…Daxam.” Maybe it was because Daxam was destroyed? Sure, it wasn’t as bad as Krypton, but with that in mind, he could understand their inability to believe him. “There were survivors, you know.” Less now that he helped the DEO poison the majority of what remained…

“Hmm.” The Verumite leaned back slightly in thought. “I suppose so.”

The atmosphere dissolved back to bemused silence, making Mon-El uncomfortable. Not that he thought that he would ever be comfortable here, but the people he was currently surrounded by seemed decent enough and not particularly bloodthirsty, like an outsider would expect them to be. He didn’t want to be isolated again if he didn’t have to be.

“You never answered my question,” he spoke again, bringing back the original topic. The Verumite raised a horned brow at him. “Your name. What’s your name?”

He hesitated for the longest time. Evidently, it wasn’t information he was willing to share, because it came with a heavy sigh. “I am…Alwan,” the Verumite finally replied, sounding almost defeated.

Mon-El smiled at him through the shimmering barrier between them, simply glad for some shred of normalcy. “Nice to meet you.”

Alwan sighed heavily. “There is nothing ‘nice’ in the Pit.”

Chapter Text

"...but these men could be no stretch of imagination be called enemies."

— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness


 

The sentries—or, as the others called them, the facilitators—only came back twice: once to take two more fighters, and the second time to return them. Just like with his fight, they came back only a little worse for wear, not, well, dead. So at least that was a comfort. He supposed.

After they returned, the facilitators dimmed the lights, which signaled whatever sense of ‘nighttime’ they received. Alwan informed him that the period was never consistent; Mon-El found it wasn’t hard to believe him.

There was a light murmuring throughout the hall, the gladiators exchanging a few words and jibes amongst each other. Mon-El just watched. He had questions—of course he did—but a sudden onslaught of fatigue assaulted him, bringing with the numbing realization that this would probably his life for the rest of his days alive.

“Hey.”

The low sound that rumbling throughout the hall was not the silence he had been plagued with, but in the aftermath of the screeching arena, it might as well have been to Mon-El. He shouldn’t want to drown out the people, but he did anyway.

“I don’t think he’s up to it, Nymian.”

“He looks so sad though.”

“It’s his first day. Let him be.”

The fragment of a conversation managed to drift to him, especially when the conscious part of his mind realized that they were discussing him. Like dragging himself through a thick fog, Mon-El managed to tune back into the present.

Across the aisle, a Nymian is staring at him earnestly. Her wide, yellow eyes are excited and piqued with curiosity, and she rocks on her patchy green knees as her long, striped tail—the one that makes her distinctly Nymian—sways gently behind her. Mon-El had never been to Nymia, but he’s heard enough about them from his old tutors that he isn’t surprised. They’re emphatic creatures with a knack for empathy, but they manage to survive the harsh jungle planet of Nymia somehow, so Mon-El can imagine how the female has survived this place so far.

“So,” she began, pep in her voice. “If you really are a Daxamite, then what can you do? Are you strong? Can you fly? Were you a pirate?”

“What? No!” Mon-El can barely keep up with the hyperactive Nymian, but he recognized the nonsense of it.

She tilted her head, pouting slightly. “Sooo you’re not a Daxamite?”

 “No!” He groaned briefly and very loudly. “I am a Daxamite, and I guess I’m strong, but…no. I can’t fly, and a pirate? Really?” That came out of nowhere.

Alwan sighed heavily, a sound that Mon-El is already becoming familiar with. “Remember number three, Nymian.”

“Number three?” Mon-El repeats. He felt perpetually lost, nowadays, but if these people were actually speaking to him, then he would take advantage of that.

“The rules of the Pit, gladiator edition,” a dry voice replied. It’s the man across from Alwan’s cell. He doesn’t recognize the species, but he notes that the blue-skinned male was quite large and six-armed, though he sat erect and serenely. “I honestly don’t know why it’s bothered with.”

“Because otherwise, we’re just animals,” Alwan rebutted evenly.

The six-armed giant huffed but said no more on the matter.

“Rule number one,” the Nymian piped, “is no fighting outside of matches. That’s probably the only one the facilitators will enforce, but that’s just because the showrunners get all sour when fighters damage themselves with no audience.”

Mon-El was no less confused than he was at the beginning of this conversation. He gestured to the energy barrier that divided. “Wouldn’t that be a little hard to break in the first place?”

“Fifth day cleaning day,” another voice added, in really rough Interlac. It came from a bored looking creature from the cell to his right. He—Mon-El guessed it was a male, judging by the deep tone of his voice—was large and unwieldy, with rocky green skin and thick appendages that rested just a hair’s breath away from the barrier. “Takes us to big cleaning room.”

“Wow, the Corshan spoke!” the Nymian exclaimed. Her pupil-less eyes sparked excitedly. “He must really be interested in you too!”

“Uh, thanks?” Mon-El was still processing the Corshan’s answer. Cleaning day… He guessed that was why the hall wasn’t a complete wreck, though the stench was still none too pleasant.

(There was a single, very narrow hole at the back of every cell. It was a better gesture than Slaver’s Moon, but that was as far as the courtesy—if it could even be considered that—went.)

“Anyways, rule number two: don’t get attached.” The Nymian gives Alwan a smug and knowing look as she said that one.

“There is death and injury among us, usually preformed by our own hands,” Alwan explained gravely, sensing whatever jibe the Nymian threw out him. “We respect each other here, yes, but friends are dangerous. It’s best to keep our distance.”

Mon-El…understands. It’s a coping mechanism if he ever saw one, but he of all people understood how effective it could be to push people away. Hell, he tried to do that to Kara and Winn and everyone at the DEO when he first met them, because that’s what he did on Daxam. However, he also knew very well how lonely it was. How easy it was to wither away slowly until all that’s left is a façade.

“Go on,” Mon-El prompted with a small wave of his wrist. He wanted to know the rest, as well as avoid his spiraling thoughts for as long as he could.

“Right!” The Nymian cleared her throat dramatically. “Number three: don’t snoop. If somebody doesn’t want to talk, then don’t push ‘em.” She stopped to glance at Mon-El rather coyly—at least, that’s what he can assume given her solid yellow eyes. “Unless you wanna… It gets really boring, ya’ know.”

“Number four,” Alwan continued. “Is that in the Pit, we don’t hold back. We can’t. Both for our sakes, and for our opponent’s.” His round dark eyes bore into Mon-El’s, portraying their intensity. It was unsettling, to say the least. “We fight like we mean it.”

Mon-El looked down at this, subconsciously clenching his fist. That…was a heavy order. He couldn’t say the power or might of any of the other gladiators here, but he knew his—and he knew how easily he could kill. The divide was greater among the humans, of course, but he remembered Kara’s lesson all the same: their power was dangerous.

Alwan softened marginally, setting his dark gaze on Mon-El. “It doesn’t mean you have to go overboard, if that’s what you fear.”

“And if I hurt them…?” Mon-El asked uneasily. He was reminded—somewhat unwillingly—of the time he hurt that guy’s arm while arm-wrestling, or when Mon-El had actually agreed to become a thug for hire. It made him sick now.

“That’s life,” the Nymian shrugged. “But trust us, nobody here wants anyone holding back.”

“It’d be insulting if you did,” Alwan continued. “It is not a matter of safety here, or even right doing. Honor and respect are all we have left here.”

“So the best way to respect someone is the deck them. Got it.” The whole situation left a bitter taste in his mouth, but that couldn’t be helped.

“…that’s a rather crass way of putting it, but yes.”

“Anyways!” The Nymian punctuated her interjection with a sharp clap. “Not that this hasn’t been fun, but I’m tired, so y’all can shut up now, thanks!” She waved a final ‘good night,’ turned around, and curled her tail around herself; Mon-El could hear her breathing even out almost immediately with the tell-tale pattern of sleep.

Alwan shook his head with an amused huff. “I always envied her ability to sleep like that.”

“No kidding…” He honestly didn’t think he was going to be able to sleep at all.

“She has the right idea though.” Alwan shifted his position to reach for a small bin in the back of his containment and grabbed a pillow. Huh. He didn’t think that they would be allotted any such luxury—of course, Mon-El could determine from a simple, cursory glance that he definitely hadn’t been. Maybe the facilitators played favorites.

Regardless, Mon-El couldn’t find the muster to question it. Not tonight, anyways. Alwan turned over to prepare for sleep, leaving Mon-El once again to his thoughts.

He should probably try to sleep, too. He didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, and he would be lying if he tried to claim that he wasn’t tired. Determined now to at least try, Mon-El appraised his cell sadly. An experimental touch to the wall confirmed that it was, indeed, still electric, which was a shame because his one comfort back at Slaver’s Moon was that he could squeeze himself into the corner to sleep. Now, the floor would have to do.

After shifting from position to position, Mon-El settled for lying on his back at staring at the dark, flat ceiling through its own shimmering glean. Even though the back wall and the ceiling looked solid enough, they were still electrified. Damn. These guys really pulled out all the stops, didn’t they? Which was a shame, because Mon-El was sure that he could have torn through that steel if he was desperate enough.

Eventually—somehow—Mon-El drifted off to sleep. It was a surprise, given that he was essentially surrounded by strangers in this new incarnation of hell, the Pit. However, these strangers weren’t particularly threatening, because when it came down to it, they were still people, just like he was. 

Chapter Text

 "Inside I’ve been shaken, my sanity taken
Our broken halves, they intertwine
From once was yours and once was mine
I’m breakable, unbreakable
I’m shakeable, unshakable
I won’t let you contaminate me!"

— Tokyo Ghoul, "Unravel" (translation from AmaLee)


 

“…Julraean is up against the big Kilgar. Daxamite, you’re fighting the Polba. And finally, the Myshon is fighting the Verumite.”

Mon-El had been in the Pit for three and a half days. Three days, he knew, because this was the third time he had heard one of the Facilitators rattle off the fights of the day before they began. This was, however, the first time since his arrival that he was slated to fight.

The Facilitator chuckled slightly, having apparently seen Mon-El’s face given their proximity. “You and the Polba are both newbs, Daxamite.” It was the closest thing to an assurance that Mon-El could possibly be given, especially by a Facilitator, so he elected to take it silently and a little gratefully.

The man cleared his throat and glanced upward, gaze traveling to the inside of his visor. If Mon-El had to guess, there was probably a screen in there that he was reading from. “Alright, first two are up now. Get.”

Two of the doors popped open, but only one that Mon-El could see. A female-looking fighter with scarred leather skin and a bored look on her face came from upwards of him, walking down the aisle without an escort but behaving nonetheless. Mon-El could make out the second fighter joining her further down, and finally the Facilitator as the three exited the chamber altogether.

It was obvious, from his time here, that most of the gladiators were indifferent towards their condition here. Whether they didn’t care or had simply lost hope long ago, there was no fight against the system. No attempts, at the very least. And painful though it was, Mon-El knew why that was, given his experience on Slaver’s Moon. It wasn’t worth it to most people. The pain, the heartache of broken hope… However, if Mon-El let go too, then he didn’t think there would be anything left of him. The gladiators he was surrounded by obviously had some secret to this, because they were still fighting to survive. That alone gave Mon-El some measure of hope, because if they were still fighting, then perhaps they could fight together. Not that he had any bright ideas… His uselessness in the matter hadn’t changed.

For now, he should focus on the present, however.

“So…a Polba, huh?” Mon-El looked around, wondering if the Polba was in his vicinity. He wasn’t familiar with the species, but that seemed to be the norm for him, at the moment. The universe was far bigger than what Daxam knew, and that shouldn’t surprise him.

The Nymian winced, looking at him with sympathetic yellow eyes. “Sorry kid.” She shrugged and then turned back to…whatever she was doing. It was all she said on the matter. Ouch. Polbas must be rough.

Alwan side-eyed him but said little. Mon-El spots the pity in his eyes as well, which was really making him nervous at this point. Unless pity was the norm here. No, that couldn’t be right, because the norm was apathy.

“That bad?” he squeaked.

No reply.

Mon-El pulled his knees up to his chest and sighed to himself. It looked like he had a few hours to psyche himself up for this—a few hours too many.

—o0o—

As it turned out, Polbas were rather unimpressive in stature. The dude he was fighting was half his size with limbs like twigs. However, he was fast.

“Hey, we don’t need to—ACK!” The Polba clawed at him, and though it didn’t do much damage, it stung his cheek. He wasn’t seeing reason. Mon-El didn’t want to hurt him too badly, so he was hoping that the Polba would let him get in a hit (the sucker was fast) so he could knock-out and they could go on their merry way. He recalled the Facilitator reciting that the Polba was also a ‘newb,’ so he knew that the Polba probably had no idea what was going on. Mon-El couldn’t quite say he did either, but from the way things were going so far, he could guess that the Polba didn’t have someone as sensible as Alwan to explain the ropes to him.

Not that this was playing out in some violent manner: it was mostly the Polba running away from him, occasionally trying to scratch at his eyes. Briefly, Mon-El wondered why in the cosmos the Pit wanted to buy him, as terrible as the question sounded in his head.

Meanwhile, the crowd was laughing. Apparently, they were just some comedy gold down there.

Great.

Grinding his teeth, Mon-El tried to reach out to the Polba again, in the hopes that they could possibly speed this encounter along. “We just need to make this look—”

“Get away from meeEEEEEEEEeee!”

The Polba’s terrified cry turned into an ear-curdling screech. Mon-El’s close proximity did him no favors, and neither did his heightened hearing. He might have screamed too, the pressure exploding in his skull and ringing in his ears and blotting out his eyes. He wasn’t prepared for the severity of the blow, or for the Polba’s defense mechanism.

 

 

 

The screech tearing at his ears was the last thing Mon-El remembered. If anything happened after that, he wasn’t lucid enough for it. The Facilitators must have dragged him back to his cell, because he woke up there with a splitting headache.

Wow, he lost to a twig…

If he wasn’t so disorientated, he might have been embarrassed. As it was, he wanted to throw up. Which way was up again? He was on his back right now, so the opposite direction, he supposed. Mon-El could only hear muffled sounds at the moment, which only contributed to his growing nausea.

Tentatively, he reached for his ears, which seemed to be the source of most of his pain once Mon-El stumbled through his mental what’s-wrong process. Sadly, it seemed to be something he was becoming accustomed to after all the ‘tests’ he underwent on Slaver’s Moon, with no one but himself to figure out how to pick himself back up in the end. He vowed never to take the DEO’s medical staff for granted again…not that he would probably ever have the chance to.

The flakes of dried blood came off on his fingernails as he pulled his hand away, wincing. The largest source of pain was definitely the sharp jab inside his ear canals, but it seemed that he ruptured something. Great. He had no idea how to fix it… Not that he had much of an opportunity to do so even if he knew.

Mon-El laid down with a groan and covered his eyes with arm, trying to block out the harsh lights from above, and frankly, the entire world. It didn’t work that well, but eventually, Mon-El was able to slip back into the bliss of unconsciousness.

—o0o—

Luckily, Mon-El didn’t seem to be scheduled for anymore fights in the next couple of days, so he was able to lay down in his cell and simply be miserable.

Everything was a haze, but occasionally he could catch a muffled thump or shout. He began to suspect that those things were probably louder than he perceived them, but there was little he could do about it. He was also really hot—or maybe cold. That was an added nuisance. Either way, he preferred to try to sleep, because at least then he was free from whatever misery he would suffer if he was awake. Granted, his dreams were tumultuous and as hazy as his waking hours, so they weren’t always ideal. Not that any of this was ideal…

It didn’t matter, he decided. At least when he passed out, he didn’t have to think about it.

—o0o—

“Daxamite, you…up.”

“He can’t…you.”

“…kid…got to…”

“Forget about…leave.”

“Mon-El!”

Something was touching him, grabbing hold of his shoulders and yanking him from his daze. He could barely hear anything that was going on around him, which was really unnerving when he dwelled on it, especially from having super-hearing—especially when hearing things past the walls that held him had been his only relief. Being touched was more jarring still, because it only meant bad things. Mon-El jolted, panicked even through his feverish state of being—fever, yeah, that was it: he had a fever—and grabbed the arm that grasped him, only he doubted he would have been able to do anything about it.

His gaze sharpened, however, to finally reveal Alwan standing in front him, trying to coax him off the floor. Wait, how did he…? “What’s happening?” he managed to slur.

“It’s wash day,” Alwan replied. “If you miss it, you…next week.” He didn’t catch all of what the Verudite said, but he thought he understood the gist of it. He had to do something, and he had to do it now. Not that he understood what that was, exactly. Regardless, Mon-El tried to push himself up, compelled by the urgency. It didn’t really work, his weak body failing him and his equilibrium useless.

It didn’t matter, though. Gentle arms grabbed at him, roughly pulling him out of his cell. He doesn’t really remember much of what happened, but Mon-El figured it out eventually. Alwan carried him to the washrooms himself.