To kill or not to kill

Summary:
September 04, 2014: Spoiler and Jericho have that debate

Gotham

A nameless alleyway


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:

  • None

Sometimes Jericho needs a second opinion. Today is such a case, so he’s turned to his contacts. Ordinarily you’d expect info brokers to be shadowy types operating out of backrooms and cluttered storefronts. You might not necessarily expect them to be college students, but that’s the case here.

“Definitely an One Time Pad, Aspect. Sorry I can’t help you more.”

“Eh, it’s fine, Jared. I figured that was the case. Thanks for looking at it. I’ll see you ‘round.” Jericho slips the young man a $50 before nodding and turning back up the walkway back toward the rather awful coffee shop he parked near.

*

From above, you can watch a lot of action and Spoiler is perched on the ledge peering down. She is watching Jericho, curiosity in her blue eyes. Then, when the hacker leaves, she lets herself down, landing neatly near him, her cloak flaring as she does so. "Do you plan to flicker and vanish now?" The question is sarcastic almost and she leans against a wall, her face thoughtful, the grin widening.

*

Jericho turns at the voice rather sharply. It's not often that people get the drop on him. He's very very cautious. Paranoid even. And he can jack into cameras and watch all the people. Except, apparently for Spoiler.

"Why is it I run into someone like you every time I come here? No, I'm not planning on vanishing. I never do. That entire thing was rather unplanned." He pauses, crosses his arms and regards the costumed heroine before him. "To what do I owe the pleasure?" By the tone of his voice, he's not certain it is a pleasure.

*

Spoiler returns the look, mimicking his posture, her arms crossed over her chest. "I was just passing, as it happens." She grins at him, cocking her head, her blue eyes laughing behind the mask. "Someone like me? What does that mean?" A challenge, from a smart mouth, as she straightens and steps forward, facing him easily. "What are you doing here? Buying something useful?" The hands drop, resting on her hips, her chin lifted.

*

"Consulting with an expert." The hacker replies mildly. "Getting a second opinion as it were. And it means like it sounds like it means. Capes, cloaks. That or folks who want to beat me into an early grave." Clearly, looking at him, it hasn't worked out for anyone yet. "Or Slade Wilson." Deathstroke. Ick. He's right at the top of Jericho's nope list right now, and the nope list is fairly extensive, truth be told.

*

"Oh an expert. Riiight." She steps closer again, her eyes narrowing behind the mask, her hands resting on her hips, as she studies him. "You left your friends there. I can see why people want to beat you into an early grave, but with friends like you, Pepper Potts doesn't need enemies." She stares up at him, her lips curving into a smirk. "Nothing wrong with my cloak."

*

"Okay. Get this through your apparently thick head." The hacker sounds kind of annoyed now. "I did not have any control over that. I didn't plan to leave Pepper, I didn't plan to bring Pepper, I didn't even plan to go to Arkham Asylum because what sane person does that? If I wanted to get shot at, I was getting plenty of chances to do that in Syria, which is where I was before I wound up in that little haunted hellhole." Beat. "But no, nothing wrong with your cloak so far as it goes, I suppose. Certainly more stylish than the last irritating mask who decided to give me less than helpful commentary. Nightwing, I think he called himself."

*

"Ohhhh touchy. Feeling a little tense?" The reply suggests the annoyed tone didn't touch her and she grins up at him, "I went to the Arkham Asylum and I planned to, and aren't you glad I did? It isn't usually haunted though." She laughs at his comments on her cloak, lifting a hand to tug at the cowl, her face shadowed by it. "So, is it tech that is out of control, on the blink, or something else?"

"I'm fairly sure it doesn't actually have anything to do with any technology…" Jericho sighs. "But if I knew for certain I'd have taken steps so the best I can tell you is I'm not entirely sure what it is. Second time it's happened though, so…" He gives Spoiler a one shouldered shrug. "Figures that when I flick over that something weird is happening." Just because that seems to be his lot in life, even before random teleportation events.

*

"Hah, so it just happens, out of nowhere? Ftttz, and you are in the middle of an asylum." The cock of her head and she turns away, the cape flaring as she strolls away from him. "You shouldn't kill them." The comment is thrown over her shoulder, cocky and mocking, smartarsed as ever. "It isn't right, it makes you as bad as them when you do that."

*

Jericho smirks a little. "Firstly, yes. That's apparently exactly how it works. Since that's what happens." The second comment just provokes an eyeroll. "Mmmmhmm. Right." Dismissive much? Perhaps. "Certain of that are you?"

*

"Since when?" She glances over her shoulder, then turns back to him, her face hidden by the mask, her arms folding over her chest. "Yes." The certainty in her voice is obvious, as is her age, a moment of nativity perhaps. "When you kill them, they win."

*

"Since a couple weeks ago." The older man gets a completive look on his face. "Look, Spoiler, you were pretty solid back there and I really didn't come here to have an argument but I have to ask, how old are you? And how long have you been doing this?" Call it a hunch but Jericho's going to guess not that old and, perhaps comparatively not that long. In which she would not be alone. A lot of the people he's met recently are quite a bit younger than he is. It's enough to make a guy feel positively ancient.

*

The roll of her eyes is speaking, her hands thrown up as she turns away from him. "Oh here we go. My age makes it so I can't see that killing people is wrong, and it takes you down, turns you into them. I've been doing this long enough to know that." She folds her arms, resting her weight through one leg, her chin lifted, the body language speaking loudly. "You came here to figure something out, to see if what you thought was something was real."

*

"I'm thirty one years old." Jericho volunteers. "I've been fighting in life or death situations for about a third of that time. Do the math. If you think I haven't considered when it is and isn't appropriate to kill someone, maybe think again. You don't agree with that, fine, but I don't frankly see what makes your informed opinion on the matter any more valid than mine."

"I came here to get a second opinion on something. And now I have it." He's not sure if she caught the bit about One Time Pad encryption, but if she did that's probably a juicy little puzzle.

*

Spoiler turns her head, giving him a long look in silence before she casually leans forward, putting her hands to the floor, walking on her hands, her voice faintly muffled. "I never said it was more valid. I'm nineteen." She flips back to her feet, turning to face him with a swirl of her cloak, her arms crossing her chest. "What is a One Time Pad encryption?" A question asked oh so casually.

Jericho doesn't have time to waste really. So he was just going to leave. The other capes here? They've been long on lectures and short on conversation. Nineteen. So he's been fighting for more than half her life. Good to know. "It's a way of encrypting something that can't be cracked without the proper key. All decrypting relies on pattern recognition. If the key has never been used, ever, then there's no pattern to detect. The scrambling is effectively random and there's no way to figure out what it says. Gotta have the key and know that you have it." He motions to Spoiler. "Walk with me why don't you?" He's headed toward a little used side path. Not a whole lot of chances of being seen. "So… what made you decide that killing isn't a thing, mmm?"

*

"Hrmph." The reply is muffled, as she turns back, casually walking on her hands, flipping over at random moments. "That sounds useful." The words are thoughtful, but the snark comes back as she rights herself, walking beside him, "Batman explained to me why it is bad, he made sense. We're better than them, we do this to stop them." She turns back to him, spreading her hands, "What they do is wrong. Killing people, robbing them, hurting them, it is wrong." An impassioned speech, and she means it, her face lifted to look up at him. "Killing is a thing. But it isn't a thing we should do. We're better than that."

*

Jericho shakes his head. "Better than them. Them being criminals right? Or the insane. Or whomever it is Batman is trying to stop. Better than them…" The hacker considers that. "Maybe. I might argue the point that no one is really better than anyone else. It's what people do, not what people are that makes them good or bad."

"Do you know why policemen sometimes kill, Spoiler? Have you thought, I'm curious, of why soldiers do so? Is it a question of not being as good as, say, Batman? Or you?" There's no malice in the question. He wants to know what she thinks. "Killing people is not wrong. Murdering people is wrong, but the two aren't the same, don't you agree?"

*

She turns to look at him, tilting her head, thinking about her reply, "I think they don't always have a choice, but they would avoid it if they could, the police. They are there to do what we do, to protect the innocent." She is speaking more slowly than before, "I think soldiers are different, they don't have that choice, because someone else made that choice for them already, that it was necessary to do what they do." She lifts a hand, pushing the cowl back slightly, the purple mask revealed, her voice earnest. "What makes it different, when you killed those people, from it being murder?"

*

"Legally? Very little I suppose. But then legally there's very little to distinguish a policeman's actions or a soldier's actions from such. And, if you follow the news, you'll note that it is frequently and publically questions if any given act of killing is one or the other." There are times Jericho hates the media. Thank goodness special operations don't often have to deal with them. "Morally though…" He pauses. "Mmm, well let me back up a bit."

"When someone begins a fight with you and you reasonably believe that they intend to kill you, what are your options to stop them? You must either remove their willingness to fight, or their ability. Do you follow so far? I mean, if your enemy removes himself from the fight- if he surrenders or runs away - well and good. But until that happens it is dangerous to you and anyone you're protecting to assume that your foe will do anything but strike at you with every means at their disposal."

Jericho turns a corner down an alleyway. It's dirty but then even in this part of Gotham that is often the case. "Most nonlethal methods use the first. Tasers, tear gas, joint holds and so on, give advantages to the person using them and apply pain as a means of dissuading one party from continuing the struggle. It works a lot, but it won't actually prevent anyone from continuing the fight. A sufficiently angry, trained, drugged, determined or what have you combatant will push through it and find a way to kill regardless. That's one reason those kinds of things don't see much military use. You can't rely upon them."

Another pause, another corner turned as Jericho makes his way toward a park, keeping to paths that won't expose his cloaked walking companion to too many prying eyes.

"So that leaves you the second option: Make them unable to fight you. Thing is, that's not easy. It's really, really hard actually. The human body is designed to resist incapacitating injury. The only sure ways to render someone unable to fight and kill are to render them unconscious or paralytic. And most of the ways of doing that are only almost killing them anyway." The hacker pauses to make sure Spoiler follows. Yes, there is a point to this, his expression says.

*

Spoiler tilts her head, considering him, her hands clasped behind her back. "I follow, it isn't hard." Snark, just one more service we provide. "You disable them, if you can, you knock them out, knock them down." Her voice is that soft, passionate, belief in the black and white world, the right and wrong, good and evil. "You get that I'm young, not dumb, right? I know its hard, the two sometimes look the same, especially if you don't look too closely…" If he could see her face, he would see the smirk that is wholly obvious in her voice, and she turns back to him, adding "If I can knock them out, if I can do it, what makes it impossible for someone like you? What makes it too hard for you?" She hesitates, adding quietly, "What if they could turn it around, learn not to do that?"

*

"I didn't say impossible…" Jericho smiles. It's not a smirk, it's a smile. "So, if we both agree that disabling someone in a way that is safe for you and those you're protecting, because at that point they're trying to kill you so screw them, is much harder than killing them then we're left with a bit of a moral quandary. Because, of course, you have to expend that much more time and effort not killing people who aren't backing down or running away and are certainly trying to kill you, you expose yourself and anyone you're trying to protect to significantly more risk, especially as the fight drags on. So you have to ask yourself a question: Is it worth exposing yourself, your fellows and anyone you protect to that risk - risk of death or gave harm mind - to protect the life of the person trying to inflict it on you?"

Jericho pauses to let that sink in.

"Pretty much every military in the world says 'no' it's not worth it. Their life isn't worth risking yours or those you protect. Police forces around the world draw that line at different places, many will accept some level of risk, but there comes a point when they too come to the conclusion that a person's life is forfeit because of what he is doing. What he might do if given a chance is comepletely irrelevant in the face of what he's doing right now. So understand, when I kill, it's because I've made that call. Those inmates that ambushed us in the hallway? Sure, between the two of us we're probably more than a match, but I wasn't willing to risk Pepper just because a man with a knife might have a chance if I took a risk on him. Frankly, his life wasn't worth mine, or hers. Had the person at risk been you, despite not knowing you, I would have made the same call."

*

Spoiler's blue eyes narrow behind the mask, watching the smile with some suspicion and she replies softly, after a moment's thought, "Yes. Yes, it is. You know why? Because they are a person, someone whose death makes me less of a person, less humanity, and more like them." She drops the snark for a moment, letting her reply be serious, sober, "Because there is a chance that they made one mistake, that they made a bad choice, and that they might make good ones. The chance is worth the risk…" She hesitates then, considering him, before she nods, adding, "To a point." She turns away for a moment to stare out at the distance, some thoughts tracking across her mind, but her mask and cowl, that protects those thoughts from a gaze before she is ready to share them. "There are some people who are intrinsically bad, who are evil. Even so, killing them reduces us, makes us less when we chose that option. Even if you want to kill them really badly." There is a world of emotions written in the subtext of that last line, an emotion powerful enough to transcend masks and expressions, to show that knife held ready.

*

"That's your call." Jericho nods amicably as the keep walking. "Where you draw your line of not worth it is frankly your business. I'm sure you have your reasons. People draw that line in different places. For me? The risk is never worth it. Why would I sacrifice, for example, Pepper's life - in fact why would I even put it at risk - for the sake of what one mentally deranged person may or may not do in the future? You can speak of giving people a chance, but what of Pepper? Or myself? Or you? Are we all not entitled to our own defense? Where is the rectitude in demanding that I risk my own safety, or hers, for the sake of a maybe?" Coming from someone else that may be adversarial, but from Jericho it's just philosophical. He knows what he thinks. He's comfortable with the decisions he's made. He wants to know what she thinks, and more importantly why.

"I agree with you that killing does something to us. I don't necessarily know that it makes us less… I've been a soldier for a long time and while I feel changed by the experience I'm not sure that I'd say diminished. Why you do what you do matters, after all. Which is why, I think, it's important to enter a fight, any fight, with clear ideas on what's at stake and why you're fighting because once you're in a fight… well, frankly, once you're in a fight if you're not willing to do whatever it takes to win it, you're wrong. If you're not willing to go as far as is necessary to secure victory, then you have no business fighting in the first place. All you're doing is inflicting suffering for something you don't really believe in."

*

Spoiler listens, her face hidden by the cowl, and then she turns to face him, her eyes darkening through the masks. "You are right about a few things. You don't know why I fight, what I fight, who I am. You know I can fight though, you know I can win it without killing someone and you are wrong. Batman doesn't kill and he fights. He doesn't like killing." An alliance declared there, and the flatness of her voice comes as a warning before the snark, "But you know, if you don't think you can keep up to his standards, then you have to do what you think you are capable of, I guess. I mean, those of us who try to live up to them, we'll keep doing what we do, you just keep being pretty much like the people we're fighting." She reaches up, seeming to hold her breath for a moment, before she vanishes, and a disembodied voice adds quietly, "You know, this gig would be so much cooler if people didn't keep telling me to get out of it. Too weak to fight and shouldn't kill. Don't believe if you do kill. You guys need to get together, sort out your messages for when you old people retire."

*

"Batman hasn't made a damn bit of difference either." Jericho snorts. "I'm sorry if that's a bit close to home, but he hasn't. Gotham's still wallowing on the brink, it's infrastructure crumbles, criminals rage out of control, the SRD puts hits out on people like they're the Gestapo and the people either flee or suffer as they're able. Maybe you can say it'd be worse without him and maybe it would be, but from where I'm standing, it hasn't been enough. I don't think anyone can argue that it has been."

He chuckles. "I didn't get on my high horse with you Spoiler, so don't you get on one with me. You don't like the calls I make that's your business, but just like I don't know about you, you don't have a damn clue what I've done in the past ten years. I don't care what the Bat's standards are because they're his. I don't dictate to him or to you how you do what you do regardless of how ineffective I think it is. Don't you dare presume to dictate the same to me." Jericho shakes his head. Wasted breath, maybe he was wrong about her being more reasonable. "See you 'round Spoiler." He murmurs softly.


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