Although Killer Moth is an established Bat-villain, this new version is an original creation. This story is dedicated to Boneyard, the world's biggest Killer Moth fan (probably).
A Tale Of Gotham
by Owen Allaway
"How you feeling, Moth?"
"How the hell do you think I'm feeling? I just got splattered by the Bat. I feel lousy. I think he broke one of my wings."
"Tough break. But we hired you because you said you were the best. You said you'd get rid of the Bat so we could conduct our business without him interfering. We don't like failure, Moth."
"But I didn't fail."
"Look at yourself. You're one big bruise and it looks like you lost half your teeth. You were lucky to get away."
"Yeah, but I kept him busy, didn't I? That's what you're paying me for, to keep Batman out of your hair. That's what I did."
"Well, all right then. But you better be fit for next week. And get that wing fixed. You got any idea how ridiculous you looked flying away with a broken wing, spiralling round like that? I reckon you only lost the Bat because he was laughing so hard."
"I'll do better. Next time."
"You better. Now get out of here "
"' before I change my mind.' I've heard it before, Frank. See you next week."
I leave Frank's place with as much dignity as I can muster and start the long walk home, my costume in a suitcase. Allow me to introduce myself properly. My name's Scott Rogers and I'm a super-villain. The Killer Moth, to be precise. Not Killer Moth, The Killer Moth. All the decent villains have 'The' in their names. The Joker. The Penguin. The Cyborg. The Huntress. Oh, she's meant to be one of the heroes, isn't she? I forget that sometimes. Okay, I'm not in the big league yet, but I've only been working one night. If you're confused, yeah, there was another Killer Moth before me. But something happened to him a while ago, so I thought I'd take over. It's still a few blocks to my apartment building so I think we've got time for the whole origin story.
We'll skip my childhood. Nothing relevant there, I assure you. All perfectly normal, no events that explain why I chose the dark side. I chose to be a villain because it pays better than being a hero. And I'm not a real villain. Not a bad one, anyway. I'm not a psycho or a madman. But I'm getting ahead of myself. So I was born, grew up and left school. My Dad was a mechanic and wanted me to join the family business, but I wanted to make my own way in life, you know? Plus, I'd spent my entire life learning to fix engines. I wanted to do something different, so I joined the army. Made it through training without excelling at anything in particular.
A couple of months later, my unit was posted over to Eastern Europe, to make up part of the UN peace-keeping force over in Malagia. You've probably never heard it. I hadn't. Anyway there'd just been an uprising against the dictator who ruled the place, a civil war started and the UN jumped in to calm things down, which pissed off both sides. Our job was to protect the civilian population, which basically meant shooting anyone with a gun. Our first week there was uneventful and was actually quite pleasant. We were stationed in a small village in the middle of the country. Nothing but farmland for miles about. We were assured that it was a sensitive area and important strategically, but, to be honest, we weren't complaining. We just wandered around with our guns on show and posed for news crews. Nice and easy.
On our eighth day there we were out in pairs, doing spot checks, knocking on doors of suspected members of the local militia and asking them if they had any guns. We weren't allowed to search their homes, so when they all denied they had any weapons we just moved on to the next house on the list. My partner, Jeff, and I took turns speaking to the people. We learnt how to say 'Do you have guns?' and 'Thank you anyway' in the local language and that was all we needed. It was about two in the afternoon. The sun was shining and there was a breeze blowing, just enough to stop us getting too hot. We reached a house on the edge of the village. A small place. It was in bad shape, but the front garden was beautifully tended. I guessed that whoever lived there was a nature lover. I made way through the garden and knocked on the door, Jeff hanging back a bit. A man answered, about forty, moustache, pot belly showing beneath a grey T-shirt. He smelt of the local spirit and didn't seem to be able to focus on me properly. 'Djave fea tol gest?', I asked him, expecting the standard 'Njet' as an answer. But he just looked at me for a while. I asked again, worried that my accent wasn't penetrating the alcohol clouds in his brain. He stared at me some more and then shook his head. I turned to go and actually got halfway down the garden path before I realised that shaking your head actually meant 'yes' here.
I spun round and brought my gun up to hip level. The doorway was empty, but was still open. The sun was in my eyes and made the interior of the house seem much darker than it actually was. I could see movement inside, but that was all. Jeff ran up and stood beside me. He didn't have time to ask what was going on. The guy I'd just talked to emerged from the house carrying an ancient looking shotgun. For a spilt second I thought he was going to hand it to us. Then he raised it. Before he'd got it up more than forty-five degrees Jeff got off a shot, but it was too quick, he'd reacted without aiming and the bullet hit the doorframe. It splintered a little, but it was built to local standards and the bullet lodged in it. I saw it stop, dead. I watched as the guy with the shotgun brought it up further. It got to hip height, same as my own. There was another shot. Not Jeff's gun. This wasn't a sharp crack, this was a deep boom. A sound from another age of weaponary, like the gates of Hell slamming shut. But the gun was just as deadly as our modern weapons. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jeff fall. I didn't turn to him. I didn't even look as my friend fell to ground. And I didn't shoot the guy who'd killed him, either. The shotgun was pointing right at me. The guy holding it stared at me. I swear, I could see the alcohol haze fade from his eyes. He glanced down at Jeff, then back at me. I was still holding my gun, but I didn't fire. He launched himself towards me. My finger stayed steady on the trigger. And then he was past me, out of the garden. Out of the village. Gone.
I couldn't shoot him. I just couldn't. When it came down to it, I couldn't kill another man. As simple as that. I don't think it was a moral decision, there wasn't time for that. It was purely instinctive. My finger just wouldn't pull the trigger. It wasn't fear, or least I don't think so. I didn't feel afraid at the time. I didn't feel anything. I was frozen, physically, mentally and emotionally. I wasn't really there. I was just observing the situation unfold, as if I were back home, watching a movie or reading a book. I'm not sure how long I stood there, numb to it all, still staring at the doorway. I watched the shadows move across the wall of the house. Eventually they reached the doorframe and touched the bullet Jeff had left there. And, at that exact moment, I collapsed.
What happened after I woke up wasn't pretty. As soon as I'd been checked over by the medics I was taken away and asked what had happened. I told the truth. It didn't go down too well. I'd let Jeff die because I was a coward, they told me. There was no place for me in the army, they said. I was ordered to go back to my barracks, collect my things and then I was to be escorted to the nearest air field and sent home. At the barracks was a reception committee, made up of a few guys from my old unit. People who had been my friends. People who had been Jeff's friends. They beat me until their anger was gone. It took a long, long time. They didn't break anything and they didn't touch my face. When they'd finished I was still able to walk. But I'd rather be beaten by the Bat a million more times than go through that again.
I came home to Gotham. My father offered me a job, again. I refused, again. I wanted to make my own way, again. This time it was going to be different. But it's not easy to get a decent job with no skills and a dishonorable discharge on your record. The only thing I was any good at was engines, and that was out. I was watching the news on my TV one night, trying to take my mind off the roach-infested dump I was living in. There was an item on The Riddler and how he'd supposedly been captured by The Batman. Again. I still believed that the Bat was an urban myth at this point. I don't know why I thought that, or why others still continue to think it. It's probably the Robin thing. They could probably stretch to believing that a guy in black and a cape was capturing criminals every night, but tell them that he had a kid dressed in red and green with him and you've lost them. Once you've seen the guy you don't forget him, believe me. But if you tell anyone else you've actually seen him well, you might as well tell them you spent the evening having dinner with Elvis and JFK. But I knew that the criminals in town did believe he existed. So I decided that I could make them pay me big bucks for keeping him busy while they went about their business. Sort of like selling insurance against alien abductions.
So I tried. I put on my best K-Mart suit and went round to a number of bars in the worst parts of town. I spent a few months getting to know people, keeping my ear to the ground. I trained a lot and built my bulk up. I brushed up on the hand-to-hand combat skills I'd been taught. It got so I looked pretty good. Hard. Mean. Eventually I plucked up the courage to go up to 'Big' Frank and tell him that I could protect him against the Bat. He's just a small-time boss, but I thought if I started there I could work my way up. I introduced myself and made the usual polite conversation for a bit.
"Get to the point, kid. You want something from me. What is it?"
"A business proposition. For a fee I can keep the Bat out of your business." I told him.
"With what?" he asked, looking dishearteningly sceptical.
"I have my means." I said.
His eyes narrowed.
"What means, exactly?"
I didn't answer. I hadn't actually anticipated this. I thought he'd just name a fee he was willing to pay, on condition that I got the job done. Then as the Bat wouldn't show up, because he didn't exist, I'd walk off with the money. But he'd asked for details. I desperately tried to think, but I took too long.
"I don't like mooks like you trying to hustle me, kid. But I'm in good mood tonight and I don't want any violence spoiling my evening. Now get out of here, before I change my mind. Do you think you're Killer Moth, or something?"
I left in a hurry, followed by the sound of cruel laughter, my cheeks burning. Obviously I wasn't as impressive as I thought I was. I needed something more. Of course, Frank himself had presented me with the solution. It was ironic, being called Killer, but the criminals didn't know that. Anyway, I couldn't kill the Bat if he didn't exist. All I needed was a costume. I got my Mom to make something up, telling her it was for a costume party. It's grey, with these big eyes and antennae. Looks pretty cool. I needed to be able to fly. I don't know if the old Killer Moth flew, but it seemed pretty essential to me. I made myself a jet pack with enough fuel storage for half an hour's flight. It's steered by wings controlled by moving my shoulder muscles. I'm quite proud of it. Look, I know what you're thinking. If I can make my own jet pack why can't I get a job? I told you, I won't work with machines, I want make my own way in the world.
I stood on a rooftop opposite Don's Bar and waited. It was a cold night in Gotham, but my Mom had thoughtfully insulated the costume. I saw a couple of Frank's goons leave the bar. Frank himself wouldn't be far behind. I shrugged and the jet pack kicked into life. I floated down to the ground and landed just after Frank emerged from the doorway of the bar. A heavy wooden doorway. I felt myself freeze. I was back there again and I could see a shotgun and and then I felt the comforting vibrations of the jet back against my back and it was all okay again. Frank froze. The goons brought out guns and pointed them right at me.
"Who are you?"
"The Killer Moth, at your service."
He looked at me through narrowed eyes.
"The New Killer Moth. New and improved."
He motioned at his goons. They lowered their guns. My confidence soared.
"I deal with the Bat. Five grand a job."
"Five grand. Get out here, punk. The old Killer Moth only charged five hundred."
"But was he effective?"
"Well, a grand. Final offer. And that's after the job's been done. Okay?"
"Be back here next Thursday at eight. And leave Thursdays free. If you can do what you say, then I'll be needing you regular."
"Thursday. See you then."
I shrugged again and flew off into the night. When I got home I was elated. A thousand bucks. For doing nothing except flying around a bit and looking cool. I was on my way up in the world. My way.
I didn't sleep Wednesday night. I spent all day checking and rechecking the jet pack and my costume. I landed outside Don's Bar at eight, as arranged. Frank was waiting.
"What's the plan?" I asked.
"There's no plan, Moth. You just hang around and make sure there's no interference. Get in the car. Don't want you running out of fuel before we start." Frank replied.
I was sandwiched in the back seat between two goons. Frank and the driver were up front.
"You gonna kill the Bat then?" asked the goon to my left.
"No. I won't kill him. I'd be out of a job if I killed him. You can understand that, can't you?"
"Guy's got to make a living." said the goon to my right and the conversation stopped.
We pulled up outside a jewellers uptown. I got out the car, flew up to the roof and settled back to wait. If I heard sirens I'd fly off, otherwise I'd just sit here and take in the view. The goons went round the back of the jewellers. Frank and the driver waited across the street. A few minutes went by. A few more. Frank was tapping his foot and glancing at his watch. I was relaxed. And then the night got darker. I jumped to my feet and turned round. I immediately wished I hadn't. Seven feet of black and cape and ears. I would've been less shocked to see Elvis and JFK. And the Bat didn't want drinks with me.
He nodded and then my head flew back as a massive fist crashed into my jaw. That's not a good opening move. You can break your knuckles pulling that sort of stunt. But the Bat didn't feel it. I tried a punch to the gut. He grabbed my arm and threw me across the roof. He advanced quickly, in a fighting pose. I needed an advantage. A surge of warmth spread across my back. I lifted into the air and hung above him. I wasn't sure what to do next, so I flew around randomly. He tried to get me with a grappling hook of some kind a few times, but missed. I was starting to enjoy myself. I saw the goons run from the jewellers. The Bat saw them too. He started to turn away from me. I saw my fee slipping away. I did the only thing I could and angled myself straight towards him. I hit him hard and he stumbled back a few steps. Then he grabbed a wing. I tried to fly but he had me and I couldn't lift us both. I kicked out, hard and desperate. It worked. His grip slipped from my wing. A few more punches connected, but he couldn't get another hold. I saw Frank's car moving away. The goons were nowhere to be seen, so they must have been in it. I flew after the car, zigzagging this way and that trying to compensate for my injured wing. It was hairy and sometimes the buildings got closer than I'd have liked, but I made it. I made it back in one piece. I earned my grand. The Bat may have beaten me tonight, but he caught me off-guard. There's always next week. Thursday. At eight.
All characters are DC Comics
This story is © 1999 by Owen Allaway.