Planet Zod. Part 7. The Joker’s Wild

JOKERContinuing on with our Planet Zod fictionalized series of Savage World RPG play-throughs, our heroes are just managing to keep their heads straight as enemies become allies and vice versa. They’ve managed to stop Bruce Wayne and his brutal servant Albert from wrecking their game plan to stop General Zod — but can they really work with Wayne’s hired homicidal maniac?

“Can we really go through with this?” Detective Irving Stone whispered out loud as they approached the old “abandoned” hotel where the Joker supposedly had set up shop. “We’re cops, damn it.”

The courier who’d showed them the route was long gone. They were on their own.

“Don’t see as we have a choice,” his partner, Detective John Bottom replied.

Luthor shrugged. “You’re already working with me. What’s the difference between one killer and another?”

Stone frowned. “You’re not a murderer. We all know what happened at S.T.A.R. Labs was an accident. But I first heard about this Joker back in Metropolis. He’s a real nutcase. He gets off on killing.”

“Wayne’s directing the Joker’s killer instinct to where it’ll do some good,” Bottom said. “These Church of Zod scumbags deserve what they get.”

Stone always knew Bottom had a dark side. It seemed like the stress of the last few days was bringing out the worst of it. Stone wasn’t sure he liked it; then again, maybe they needed to push the envelope a little. You didn’t get a shot at killing a planetary tyrant by being nice guys.

The Joker’s lair was a nightmarish place; a den of skulking henchmen with mad eyes amid mouldy brick and greasy black walls. Stone was thinking they’d made a bad mistake by agreeing to Wayne’s plan even before they were shown into the Joker’s “office”, a large artist’s studio-sized room where the windows were covered with cloudy plastic gauze.

The Joker was a tall, thin man, almost emaciated, in a dusty gray-purple suit . His features were obscured by what looked like thick white makeup and greasy dyed-green hair. He looked crazy. No… He was crazy. You could see it in his eyes.

“Bruce Wayne’s paying me a lot of money,” the Joker said in a guttural, doglike sputter. “A lot of money. That’s why you aren’t dead yet. I don’t like cops. Or friends of cops,” he noted, nodding towards Luthor.

“Can you do the job?” Stone asked. “That’s all we need to know.

“I don’t know what the job is,” the Joker said. “Wayne wouldn’t tell me over the phone. The man’s very secretive. I think he’s got issues.”

Stone paused. He wasn’t sure he should just blurt out the plan. Who were they dealing with?

Savage Worlds Gameplay for Planet Zod Campaign
Dave. I want to make a Knowledge: Psychology roll and figure out what makes the Joker tick. Maybe figure out how we should deal with him.
GM. Sounds good to me.
Dave. (Rolls). 16!
GM. Holy smokes. With 5 minutes of conversation, it’s like you’ve gotten inside his skull with a roto-rooter. You understand his thinking… and he feels like you understand him, too. He’s not sure he likes it, but it is what it is.

Stone laid out the plan to take out General Zod at the parade outside the White House with a customized rifle capable of firing the only chunk of Kryptonite anywhere on planet Earth. He set out the pieces one bit at a time, interspersing little comments and subtle questions that forced the Joker to reveal little bits of himself. By the end of it, the Joker was on board — and Stone felt confident he could actually work with this batshit crazy fuck.

“It’s not every day I get to help someone kill God,” the Joker said with a wistful look. “If I wasn’t so busy murdering Church of Zod idiots this week, I’d take care of it myself. You’ll have your weapon by this evening.”

“That’s great,” Luthor said. “So, I guess we’ll just, uh, wait on that sofa over there until…”

“This isn’t a hotel,” the Joker snapped.

“Actually, it is,” Bottom said.

“Get out,” the Joker said, looking seriously annoyed. “When the gun is ready, you’ll have it.”

The team left the building together, mostly glad just to have got out of there alive. “Where the hell do we go from here?” Luthor asked.

“Donut shop,” Stone said. “Where else?”

“I know a place,” Bottom said. “A friend’s place. They’ve got the best jelly donut anywhere and a place where we can hide out in the basement.”

Stone smiled. You never knew when Bottom would come through with something like that.

“How will the Joker know where we are?” Luthor asked.

“He’s watching,” Stone said, looking back at the condemned building. “He’ll know. Don’t worry.”

Bottom’s tip was good. They were resting up in the basement level of his friend’s establishment, watching television and relaxing for the first time in days when Bottom thought he heard something outside.

Savage Worlds Gameplay for Planet Zod Campaign
GM. The Joker isn’t the only one who’s keeping tabs on you. Do a Stealth roll for while you’re trying to lay low.
Ali. I’ve only got a d4 in Stealth.
Dave. I’ve got bupkis.
GM. Well, Dave, you get to make the roll. d4 and your Wild Die, both at minus 2.
Dave. I rolled a… -1.
GM. I see.

The door to their hideaway smashed inward. “FBI! Everybody down on the ground or we’ll shoot!” Agents stormed inside.

“We surrender,” Stone shouted, throwing himself on the mercy of the law. His companions followed suit. There were six agents, including his connection at the Bureau.

“Traitor,” Agent Rose snarled at Stone. “Working with a murderer. Nice friend you’ve got here.”

“You don’t know what’s really going on here,” Stone said.

“You can tell us all about it downtown,” she said. “I know we go way back, but right now, all I can do for you is keep you boys out of general lockup. And I’m not sure I want to.”

The interrogation was going nowhere after an hour and a half. The three had clammed up, figuring that even if they told the truth, it wouldn’t help them. Agent Rose was putting forward three different conspiracy theories, none of which made the least sense. She was probing, looking for weakness. “Tell me about this green rock,” she said, placing the Kryptonite on the table.

A glass of water on the table fell off the edge on to the floor. They could feel the air heating up in an instant. “Get down!” Bottom shouted as everyone dove to the floor.

A series of explosions rocked the building. The concussive blasts were followed by bursts of automatic gunfire and a telltale manic laugh that seemed like it would never end.

Two minutes later, the interrogation room door fell inward. Flames licked the hallway outside. The Joker walked in nonchalantly, carrying an AK-47, flanked by two of his henchmen. He pointed his gun at Agent Rose, who was crouched in the corner and had her hands in the air in a futile defensive measure to stop bullets.

“Don’t,” Stone said. “Please.”

The Joker paused. Smoke wafted in from the hallway. He shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said. “My work is done here.” He handed over a large black violin case to Detective Stone, turned and left with his henchmen.

Agent Rose turned to Stone. “You saved my life,” she said.

“You would have done the same,” he replied, not sure whether that was the truth.

She fished in her pocket and brought out a set of keys. “The car’s parked just outside the building on the northwest corner. There’s a false license plate you can use in the trunk. Take out the transponder in the glove compartment so they can’t track you. You’re on your own, now.”

The three made their way past the carnage of dead bodies and smoke and got to the car. They managed to peel away from the building and blend into traffic just thirty seconds before the first police cruiser could respond.

They were on their way to Washington, D.C.

Continued in the final chapter of  Planet Zod. Part 8. A Time to Kill


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