Joseph William Wilson could barely remember when his life had been normal, when he lived with his parents and older brother, Grant. But even then he'd been different.
Being different wasn't a bad thing, he liked being different from the rest of his family. The Wilsons were a military family; his mother trained soldiers in the army, and that how she'd met his dad: Slade had been one of her charges.
They were married, and Joseph's big brother Grant had been born before Slade's name had became famous throughout the army. Grant was a year old when Slade agreed to undergo experimentation; they'd hoped to make him immune to enemy truth-serums. All his senses became heightened; he became their ultimate super-soldier - until the side effects set in. He started having blackouts. When they became more and more frequent the army saw him as a liability and kicked him out.
Even when the side effects stopped, they wouldn't accept him back.
That was how Joseph had known his father as a very young child, bitter after what had happened to him. Slade took up hunting to try and substitute his army life. But he'd always tried to be a good father to Grant and Joseph.
Grant was very much like his father, he grew up hoping to one day follow in his father's footsteps as a soldier. He was the true definition of his father's son, training every day to become the best soldier he could be. He often went on hunting trips with his father, leaving his mum at home with his placid little brother who refused to shoot the 'poor innocent animals'.
Joseph didn't like fighting like the rest of his family; he was more of an artist than a soldier. His parents accepted that, and they helped him to develop his artistic skills.
His mother always encouraged her son's gentle nature, often inviting friends round to marvel at his paintings, or listen to him play the piano or sing. But he never connected with his father the same way. He could never be as close to him as his brother was - Grant was on his way to becoming an even better soldier then their dad had been, and Slade was determined to make it happen. Sure, Slade had been very proud of Joseph as well - he was very a very talented child - but he knew that he'd have more time to spend with his youngest son when Grant was at military school.
But Joseph was clearly his mother's son, not his father's.
Joseph may have been a sensitive artist, but both his parents always tried to encourage him into combat training as well, insisting that he needed to learn how to defend himself.
Slade started taking on private missions not long after Grant started at military school. Adeline left her job at the army to stay home and look after Joseph. At first Adeline thought that Slade was working for the army again.
But she was quickly proven wrong, during the day that would haunt her nightmares for the rest of her life.
The day that Joseph lost his voice.
He was only seven years old. Grant was away at military school and he'd been enjoying spending time with his mother while his father was away with work.
It was two o'clock in the morning, he knew he should have been asleep hours ago. But was he sat up in his room, sketching a picture of a girl he's seen earlier that day, daydreaming.
A low hiss snapped him out of his thoughts. Being from a military family made him more aware of quiet noises. Even the quiet noise of a gas grenade slowly detonating in his bedroom.
He took a deep breath and silently slipped out of bed. Leaving his room and edging along the wall towards his mother's bedroom, to make sure that she was okay.
He could hear the sound of a hand-gun being cocked, whoever they were, they were on the stairway, and they were armed. His heart was beating so fast he felt sure that they would hear it. There was no way he be able to get past them undetected...
'Who are they? What do they want?'
He could hear muffled screaming from his mother's room, followed by sadistic laughter. At least three more people were in the room with her. His mother was gagged, but still alive.
He bit back tears as his fear threatened to take him over, Grant wouldn't be scared, he'd know what to do. But Grant wasn't here right now, and Joseph was starting to regret not having any military training like his brother.
"Kid's gotta be under by now by now, right?"
He froze as he heard footsteps approaching, his breath caught in his throat as the dark-clad figures rounded the corner, heading straight towards the young boy's room. They'd have to pass him any second, hiding in the shadows of the hallway scared out of his wits.
"Dunno. If he's anything like the rest of 'em, he won't 'ave gone quietly."
Joseph had been forced to take enough combat lessons to be able to take them out, but they would make enough noise to put the others on the alert. He wasn't good enough at fighting to stop all of them at once, he wasn't even sure that he's be able to take these two at the same time.
"Go on in Mark, I'll cover you encase you can't handle the little brat." One of the figured laughed teasingly as both men pulled out their hand gun.
"Stick a sock in it or I'll see if ya can handle a bullet in ya brain."
Joseph took a deep breath, and waited until the first man was inside the room to strike. He was counting on their surprise to work in his favour.
He leapt at the second man's legs, taking his legs out from under him and smacking his head against the floor, knocking the older man out instantly.
He grabbed the guy's gun just in case he needed it later, he hated using guns but in a life-or-death situation he liked the idea of being able to defend himself.
He leapt at the other man, but he was faster than his friend had been, the man easily sent the young boy flying across the room and into the wall with a crack. His left arm broke on impact, but he had no time to worry about that now. He could hear footsteps outside in the hallway, he'd made too much noise.
Not sure what else to do, he desperately held up his stolen gun in his right hand and prepared to fire, aiming to harm, not to kill.
The man mirrored his movement, raising his gun towards the kid.
But something strange started to happen at the same moment he heard the shot - his bright green eyes met steely grey and he felt himself fading away.
A calm sensation passed over him, he felt as if he was flying. He was light-headed and free, like the first few moments between waking and sleeping on a lazy morning.
For a moment his body seemed to disappear into nothingness, as if his soul had separated from him body.
What felt like minutes in his dream-like state, were in reality only a matter seconds.
His calm trance was shattered as he felt his feet firmly on the ground once more. White-hot pain was radiating from his neck.
His head was muzzy and he felt something painful fighting against the back of his mind. He felt the bullet buried in his neck, he couldn't speak, but the adrenaline forced most the pain to the back of his mind. He whirled around to face the newcomers as the footsteps reached his bedroom door, he spluttered over words that he wasn't even trying to say. He grabbed at his throat, coughing up blood onto the bed, for fear of chocking and drowning on the scarlet liquid.
"Mark, what happened? Where's the kid?"
The man seemed to be talking directly to Joseph. He gripped his neck tighter to try and stem the bloodstream as he looked around, he was the only one in room, the man had disappeared.
But that couldn't be possible; no one could have left the room without him seeing.
Joseph also remembered being thrown against the wall of the bedroom; he had a broken arm because of it. So how was it that he was in the middle of the room now, next to the bed? His arm was hurting but clearly not broken. He was still holding the gun in his left hand.
'Wasn't it in my right hand before?'
One of the other men came forward and inspected his neck.
"Looks worse than it is." He assured him. "Brat got away though. Boss ain't gonna like that."
'Got away? I'm right here!'
But the pain in the back of his eyes became unbearable, he felt himself fading again and felt to the floor in front of the men. His arm was broken again, but neck was uninjured. He groaned from the pain in his head as he started to pull himself to him feet.
Joseph looked up in time to see the guy he'd been fighting earlier collapse to the floor behind him, still holding his gun in his left and grabbing at his throat as it poured blood.
"Where the hell'd the kid come from?"
"Dunno, but he's gonna pay for whatever the hell he did to mark."
"Easy Jule. We need him alive, remember."
His head was throbbing and he didn't understand what had happened, but he didn't have time to dwell on it before he felt a sharp blow to the back of his head, plunging his world into darkness.
It was impossible to say how long he was unconscious for. When he tried to open his eyes all he could see was faint light through the cloth that was being used as a blindfold.
"Kid's starting to wake up boss." He felt someone adjust his blindfold, effectively blocking out more of the faint light. "Still wanna know what he did to Mark. Heard he just 'fell out of him, like he was inside o' him'. whatever that means."
"No matter. His daddy should be here to pick him up soon."
"Better hope this plan works. We don't get that information, we're as good as dead…"
"We got Deathstroke's kid. He'll talk. He doesn't like to lose, and I think his son would be a pretty big loss."
Joseph screamed out in pain as he bumped his broken arm against a wall while trying to push himself to his feet. He was surprised to find that he hadn't been tied up.
"W-what do you… w-want with me?" He croaked out, putting on a brave face regardless of the fear and pain in his voice.
"Calm down kid, if Daddy spills his secrets you're free to go." Joseph was roughly shoved back to the ground. "And if he don't, well, that arm's gonna be the least of your problems." The voice was cold, smooth and sadistic; it sent a chill down the young boy's spine.
The walls seemed to shake as an explosion detonated nearby, he could feel the force of the blast as debris rained down meters in front of them.
"I believe you have something of mine, Jackal." This voice was just as cold but unmistakably familiar.
"Dad!" Joseph shouted out, relieved to hear someone who could help him out of this nightmare.
"Don't worry Joey. Everything's going to be okay." He allowed himself a weak smile at the sound of his mother's voice.
He completely tuned out all of his father's conversation, feeling someone moving behind him. He tried to move out of the way, but a strong hand grabbed him by his hair and forced him to his feet, jerking his head backwards to reveal the soft skin of his neck. Joseph struggled against his captor until he felt something cold and sharp thrust against his throat.
His whole body was suddenly frozen with fear.
"D-dad…" Tears were flowing freely now as his brave face gave in to sheer terror, unable to see or move.
"Slade, for God's sake he's going to kill our son!" Adeline cried out.
"No." His father's voice was eerily calm. "You underestimate my abilities, Addie. I could have both these men dead before that blade could do any harm to Joseph."
"Your choice, Terminator. Which is more important to you? Your word? Or your son?" The cruel smirk was evident in his voice.
"I never break my word."
"Then you've just killed your son."
The knife suddenly bit deep into Joseph's neck, forcing an agonizing scream out of the innocent child as his blood flowed freely from the wound. His scream turned into a croak as the blade was dragged across his throat, slitting it from one side to the other.
Everything started to go fuzzy for young Joseph after that. A mixture of distorted sounds and lights as his blindfold was ripped from his eyes. Flickers of what was happening swam into focus, like some sort of horrific dream. Bodies hit the floor of a warehouse with a deafening thud. He saw an orange masked figure as he was lifted into strong arms and sped away, and that was the last thing he saw before the world went black once more.
He was only seven years old.
The first things he noticed were the bright lights, then the white walls. He was lying in a hospital bed. He could feel a tube in his arm, pumping fresh blood into his veins. He had thick bandages on his throat and his arm was in a cast.
"Joey?" His mother's voice was soft and concerned, he could feel her squeezing his hand tightly, as if she was afraid to let him go.
His couldn't see if his father was there or not.
'What happened?' His lips moved but there was no voice, only a strangled croak. He sat up slightly to look at her and tried again, still no sound.
"You shouldn't talk. The doctors said… They said that your vocal chords might have been severed." Her voice was broken as she tried to hold back her tears. "There was so much blood I… I thought…" She couldn't hold back her tears any longer and broke down sobbing, tightening her hold on his hand even more.
He lay back down and stared at the ceiling, still not taking in everything that had happened. So much had happened to him in the last twenty-four hours, but it didn't feel real to him.
It felt like a nightmare.
He was going to wake up the next morning and all would be fine.
He didn't see his father again after that; he'd lost his father and his voice at the same time. His parents split up that night and Slade had left without saying goodbye.
He'd sometimes see snippets of 'Deathstroke the Terminator' on the news or in the newspaper, but it didn't really sink in that that was his father under that mask.
How could it be his father?
Deathstroke was the one responsible for what happened to him. How could his father have cursed his own son to silence?
He hated Slade now.
His brother still idolized him though, even talked about becoming a mercenary when his mom wasn't around to hear him. But he hadn't been hurt yet like his brother.
He felt isolated from the rest of the world, communicating through sign language. No one seemed to understand him anymore.
Joseph now understood what had happened the night he was captured.
He had learnt of his mutant powers, being able to jump into someone else's body and take control. If the person was unconscious he could even use their vocal chords, allowing him to speak, but only through their voice.
He swore to use his power to help people against villains like his father.
But he stopped calling himself Joseph Wilson, that name reminded him too much of his father.
He took on the alias of Jericho instead.
A few years after that he was contacted by a team of teenage superheroes, they handed him a Titans' communicator and told him that they'd be there if he even needed help. He believed them.
At sixteen years old, he helped them destroy the Brotherhood of Evil.
He met people like himself, people with powers that just wanted to help.
He liked being part of a team. He finally felt like he was part of a family… not even his father could mess up his life any more. His team would always be there for him and they didn't mind that he was different.
The Teen Titans accepted him completely for who he was: an artist, a mutant…even the son of a killer.
Jericho could barely remember when his life had been normal, when he wasn't a teenage superhero trying to make the world a better place.
Maybe being different wasn't such a bad a bad thing after all.