Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 43.b.

“Stop squirming, Maxie. You’ll give us away.”

Shrek eyed me warily but did as I said, sinking his chin into his collar. I leaned away from and pulled my jacket closer to my body, crossing my legs and smoothing my dress.

I’d changed on the way to the docks, being sure to conceal my whip beneath the jacket, and had forced Shrek into one of the Joker’s sleazy coats. The dress was frumpy and mundane and I’d managed to tame my hair. I couldn’t help but laugh; I looked so much like Selina Kyle.

And to everyone in the ferry, save for the man beside me, I was just another civilian anxious to get off the island and escape the Joker’s threat. I was the only one, however, who knew it was useless; we were doing exactly what he wanted.

The boat was teeming with people. Business men and women, small families, and single stragglers sat shoulder to shoulder while others crowded the floor. Police officers chatted amiably at the head of each aisle; I’d earned hardly a glance from any of them. Oblivious as always.

I turned my face slightly to the window behind me; across the water, gleaming with yellow light was the other ferry boat filled with convicts - namely Harvey Dent’s convicts. I vaguely wondered where he was as I peered up at the Prewitt Building, my eyes lingering on the uppermost floor. All I saw was shadow but I knew who lingered within.

It was then I noticed we weren’t moving; that the pier and the city were no longer shrinking in the distance. The boats had stopped in the middle of the bay. Like a car on the train tracks.

A low murmur broke out over the crowd and I tore my gaze from the city. The lights flickered overheard and the officers were looking skittish, ducking in and out of the captain’s quarters and talking in whispers. As the passengers exchanged worried glances, I fixed my eyes on the clock.

A quarter to midnight. Any minute now…

The intercom overhead crackled and let out a low beep. I felt my face stretch with a knowing smile.

“Tonight you’re all going to be part of a social experiment…”

Recognition rolled over the crowd; everyone knew the voice that was now filling the ferry.

“Through the magic of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate, I’m ready right now to blow you all sky high. Anyone attempts to get off their boat, you all die…”

I eyed the staircase at the head of the aisle, which I knew led up to the roof. My mind raced as the Joker went on, further rattling the crowd.

“Each of you has a remote – ″ My gaze flitted to the officers who were now carefully handling a small brown package, “At midnight, I blow you both up.”

Happy New Year, I thought bitterly and watched the passengers shift with unease.

“If, however, one of you presses the button, I’ll let that boat live,” the Joker cleared his throat and I could just see him lick his lips, “So who’s it going to be: Harvey Dent’s most wanted scumbag collection, or the sweet innocent civilians? You choose…”

I leaned over to Shrek. “In a few moments, this place is going to erupt. Where I go, you follow and make it fast,” I whispered through my teeth, “Understood?”

He gave a quick, nervous nod and I settled back in my seat just in time to hear the Joker finish his little speech.

“Oh, and you might want to decide quickly, because the people on the other boat might not be so noble.” The intercom crackled once more and shut off.

The impending chaos descended swiftly upon the ferry.

Across the aisle, a man stood up. A guard handed what could only be the detonator to a fellow officer and turned to the passenger. “Now, stay back…”

“Who are you to decide?” called another man, leaping up from his seat. He looked around at the other passengers. “We ought to talk this over, at least.”

The crowd voiced their agreement and the guards glanced around warily.

“We don’t all have to die,” cried a woman in my row, clutching tightly to her children who were equally horrified, “Those men had their chance.”

The guard shook his head, struggling to keep his voice calm and convincing. “We are not going to talk about this.”

“Well, why aren’t we talking about it?” the man from before was shouting now and I took that as my cue.

Grabbing Shrek’s wrist, I got to my feet, yanking him up with me. We moved quickly through the crowd, toward the stairway. No one noticed. No one ever noticed. They were too busy shouting and griping, caught up in their own terror and insisting that a vote be taken. The officers were too busy trying to pacify the crowd.

I was invisible, just as I used to be. Not once did I look back as I mounted the stairs, dragging Shrek along with me as the noise of the tumult fading quickly.

Security had had enough to foresight to place a guard at the door to the roof but he posed little threat. A swift kick to the jaw left him bloodied and unconscious at the top of the stairs. I threw my coat over him only after slipping the taser from his belt and into the pocket of my dress for future use.

The frigid air came as I shock and I gasped as we stepped out onto the roof. I threw my head back to smile at the black of the sky, savoring the chill and the rush of mania.

And then came the unmistakable click of a gun. A ready gun.

I peered over my shoulder, chuckling. “A gun, Maxie? You’re no fun…”

“Turn around,” he barked, though there was fear in his eyes.

I did as he said but not before unwinding the whip from my waist. A smirk settled over my face. “I have to admit, Shrek, I underestimated you. Didn’t think you’d be smart enough to cheat.”

We began to dance across the roof of the ferry. I would sidestep and he would do the same. We were boxers in the ring, circling one another as the wind howled around us.

“You really think I’d just let you kill me?” he returned, the gun following me with each step. “I had to be holding the ace.”

“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong,” I purred, twirling the whip playfully, “Check you’re watch, Maxie. How much time do we have until the Joker makes good on his promise?”

Shrek’s eyes quickly flitted to his wrist. “Five minutes.”

I smiled and bowed out of our dance; I had Shrek exactly where I wanted. I just had to keep him occupied.

“Well then, Maximilian” I chuckled, tilting my head at him, “Time is of the essence. You killed me. Batman killed me. The Joker killed me – twice. That’s five lives left.” I nodded to his gun, my smirk growing into a wicked grin. “Got enough bullets to finish me off?”

He looked completely thrown, the gun shaking in his hand as I began to laugh. That seemed to egg him on and he adjusted his grip, blinking the sweat from his eyes. “One way to find out…”


The SWATs had arrived. I could hear their raucous. Could hear them try to take down my men. Or who they thought were my men.


I watched the ferries waiting on the water and idly twirled the crow bar in hand, squinting down at the boats, trying to catch some decisive movement. I glanced at the clock and felt my scars stretch with a grin. Ten minutes.

From behind me, came the growl of the dogs and the slick splatter of their slobber. I turned just in time to see the Bat emerging from the shadows, poised for a fight.

My grin soured and my fist clenched around the crow bar. “Ah, you made it. I’m so thrilled.”

“Where’s the detonator?” he gurgled, lurking closer.

I made a face. Why did he always ask? As if I’d answer. I looked to the dogs and clapped my hands. “Go get him! Go!” And they galloped, growling and latching onto his Kevlar.

But they were taking much too long. I bounced impatiently on my toes, beating the bar against my open palm. I snarled, pacing, feeling the mad anger rush through my system and watching the Bat writhe under the dogs.

I could take it no longer. With a shout, I leapt into the throws, bringing the bar down on the dogs and the Bat. The cackling started up alongside the growls and I let loose.

Bang, bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon his head…

The Bat managed a kick at my stomach and I flew, laughing maniacally, into the other room; and watched through tears of mirth, as the man in black got rid of the last dog.

My turn…

I was up in a flash, dirty shoes dancing across the dusty floor. I leapt like a tarantula, crow bar swinging. Batty stumbled into a curtain of netting and struggling with his restraint, he fell and I towered over him, savoring each hit and the fleshy sound it made.

Bang, bang! Jackie boy'ssilver hammer made sure that he was dead…

“Oh, of all the old familiar places,” I sighed, slipping a knife from my pocket and plunging it into his side. He let out a gargled yell and threw me from him. I stumbled back as he tore off the netting and I watched amused as he glanced around, frantic, searching for me as the lights in his eyes flickered.

He blacked suddenly and I knew he was blind.

Blind as a bat.

I cackled as the lights returned in his little mask and as he whirled to find me, I caught him across the face with a violent blow. It sent him through a window, stumbling out onto a small platform. I followed after, pinning him to the ledge.

“We really should stop this fighting,” I panted, leering at him as I slipped the detonator from my pocket with my free hand, “Or we’ll miss the fireworks.”

“They’ll be no fireworks,” he garbled and I shook my head, smiling. Knowing. Soon there’d be fire.

“And here…we…go!”

I waited, watching the boats.

I felt my face twitch.


Pure, disgusting silence.

I glanced at the clock. Two minutes till midnight.

Then suddenly, there was the inimitable sound of gun fire. Two shots ringing in my head.

I glanced out across the water, searching wildly for the source of the noise.

And I found it. Standing on the top of the civilian ferry. Two figures, tiny and slanting in the gloom.

I recognized one of them immediately. And felt the air seep from my lungs.


And everything had been going so well.


The first bullet tore through my arm. And the second buried itself somewhere in my thigh.

The pain was indescribable, but strangely anticlimactic. I’d expected to die. But Shrek was only making cheap shots. Out of fear or mercy, I couldn’t tell.

I couldn’t stop laughing, the wind ripping through my hair as my mirth filled the night. “Stop teasing me, Maxie. Aim for the hotspots.”

But the gun was shaking too much for him to take proper aim. He was genuinely horrified. At me. At all of the blood, blossoming across my dress. And he wasn’t a killer. Not really. Charlotte had been his first. And he’d only killed her, dumped her into the river to get to me.

It had worked.

“My turn,” I cackled, cracking my whip violently. Stumbling forward, I snapped my whip at Shrek forcing him up against a hulk of machinery – a generator.

His nerve had vanished and I easily tore the gun from his sweaty hands, tossing it over my shoulder. I coiled the whip around his neck and pulled tightly.

“Why?” he gurgled pitifully, his eyes tearing as I further hindered his breathing. “Why bother with all this?”

“Had to give you a chance,” I smiled, licking my lips, “Unlike you, I play fair. But you’re not looking at the bigger picture.”

With one hand pinning him to the generator, I reached down and grasped his left wrist, wrenching it up to his face. “Pray tell, Maxie, what is the time?”

He blinked at his wrist watched, completely nonplussed. “It’s a minute past midnight. How-How…are we still here?”

“I needed something to get the Joker’s attention,” I crooned, holding up a finger gun, “Bang, bang.”

Comprehension washed over Shrek’s face. “If he knows you’re here, he won’t blow up the ferries.” He narrowed his eyes, “If being the operative word.” I growled, sneering and tightening the whip around his neck until he was only sputtering again.

“You know, Shrek,” I hissed, cocking my head at him, “It’s been fun. And I know we’ve had our disagreements. You killed me, I cut your face, you shot my cousin in the head,” I smiled wickedly and watched the sweat gather at his brow “But, it’s a new year. And I’m willing to put it all behind me – right after I put you in the dirt.”

I slipped the taser from my pocket and it sparked to life. My grin widened manically as I plunged my hand into the generator, tugging and ripping at random wires.

“How about a kiss, Maxie?” I purred, bringing the taser between us, “To ring in the new year?”

And in one swift movement, I brought the taser to my mouth and crashed my lips onto his.

The upshot was both fantastic and gruesome. I cackled horribly, the electricity surging across my skin, burning, searing. We bucked violently as sparks flew, as the generator exploded with brilliant white light. I could smell his flesh roasting as strongly as I could smell my own.

For a moment time was still and everything was noise and smoke and fire. And then suddenly, the air was still.

I felt my knees buckle as the taser slipped from my fingers. Though the haze, I saw Shrek, reduced to ash and gooey pink flesh.

A small hiccup of a giggle rose in my throat, as I fell away from him. My back met the roof, hard, and I coughed miserably. A plume of smoke snaked from between my lips and I watched it curiously, wanting badly to laugh.

Instead, very sweetly, with ash coating my tongue and my teeth blistering against my gums, I died.