If you’re reading this, it means something has happened to me, or is about to. Never in a million years did I think I would fail, but I had to be prepared for that eventuality. Before I explain how it happened, first I must say: I’m sorry.
My name is Slade Wilson, and this is my confession.
I don’t know who is reading this, so it’s best we start at the very beginning. That way you’ll understand.
I, Slade Joseph Wilson, was raised in a broken home. Father was a shit, and Mother didn’t give a shit. I grew up dreaming of escaping their toxic environment, and I got my wish when I managed to lie my way into the army at 16. I had so much rage, and channeling that rage made me a useful weapon. It was there that I met my wife, Adeline Kane. We married young, maybe too young. Then, after climbing our way to the top of the military ladder, I was drafted into an elite project known as the Veritas Initiative. The goal was to chemically heighten adrenal activity to boost physical aptitude and resistance to truth serums. In a world filled with Supermen, the armed forces needed an edge. I pretended to understand the science, I signed away my rights, and the testing began. 74 subjects entered that study. 73 died within the month.
When I awoke from my coma four months later, my life was changed forever. My senses were heightened to superhuman levels, I was nigh indestructible, and I had a newfound mental capacity higher than any man. But, more importantly, Adeline was five months pregnant.
But, before my son was born, my newfound physiology presented… problems for us. They told me the results were far more positive than they ever expected, that my abilities were greater than they could have predicted, and this was a problem. See, even then, a United Nations treaty had strict rules on metahuman involvement in international conflict, and my superiority was far too apparent to hide. So I was honorably discharged. No, I was fired. When we had a kid on the way.
But my luck changed. And old family friend, William Wintergreen, got in contact with me, and together we created a more than lucrative enterprise. If the army didn’t want me, the world’s deadliest soldier, then I’d charge an appropriate fee to whoever did. I’d be a private mercenary. But, to protect my family, I wore a mask. I created a persona. I became a myth, a boogeyman, known by many names. The Terminator, the Amber Shadow. Personally, my favourite was Deathstroke. I earned a lot of money, more than enough to care for Adeline and our son Grant, but I couldn’t let either of them know how I did it. For their own protection.
A few years later, our second child came along. Joey. As they aged, my boys couldn’t be more different. Grant was a hooligan, constantly getting himself into trouble, acting out. Meanwhile, Joey was more quiet, more sensitive, maybe too much. He liked his books and his music, while Grant was too busy being loud to cultivate many hobbies. Joey idolised his father, Slade Wilson the insurance agent, a retired war hero. But Grant resented me. And in a weird twist of fate, Grant - who hated his pencil-pushing, hardass pops - began following news reports and message boards, idolising the enigmatic Deathstroke. He hated the man he thought I was, while praising the man I couldn’t tell him I truly was.
As the boys grew, Adeline began working again. But her army days were behind her, part of the agreement we made for the hush money. Luckily, an elite, clandestine organisation known as HIVE was interested in her skills. It was that year that Joey learned he was special.
Joey had latent metahuman abilities, an uncanny power to project his consciousness into the bodies of others. I always theorised it was due to my genes, altered by the Veritas treatment, but that didn’t matter. Joey, ecstatic and far too good-hearted for his own good, wanted to be a hero, and there wasn’t much we could do to stop him. So, we began training him, and Grant along with him. Then, months later, the New York City streets were introduced to the ‘hero’ Jericho. It only took a few months more until they found him.
They called themselves the ‘Teen Titans’. They were a group of teenage sidekicks desperate to prove their worth, led by the original sidekick with a burning inferiority complex, Robin the Boy Wonder. Dumb kids with more emotional baggage than sense. And when they saw my son and his incredible abilities, they decided to use him, to turn him into a weapon against their enemies. And they had many enemies. Psimon, Shimmer and Mammoth, Mister Twister, Trident, and many more other villains of renown. You didn’t have to be a New York local to have a hate boner for do-gooding kid heroes. That led them to me.
Billy came to me one evening with a message from an organisation known as Checkmate. They were a group mostly responsible for finding jobs for assassins less talented than myself, a catalogue for killers. An anonymous client had a job he thought only I could pull off. Get rid of the Teen Titans. But how could I do that when my kid was one of them?
Easy. They never asked for the Titans dead, though they obviously didn’t care if I put a few in the ground. So I created a plan. If I broke past the defense of their giant ‘T’ tower, if I made them acutely aware of how much danger they were in, if I made it explicitly clear that being a Titan was a death sentence, they would disband and cause no more trouble. I suspected that at least one of them would have to die to pull that off, however I never took the time to decide who that would be. Instead, I prepared for every eventuality.
The first time I stepped foot in Titans Tower, it was a cakewalk. In the dead of the night, the first of the Titans I faced were the insomniacs Hawk and Dove. Evidently their shared danger sense alerted them to my presence. And though they were strong, especially the wrathful Hawk, they were no match for me. Next was Omen, the precog. Her abilities made her especially formidable, anticipating my every move, but she simply didn’t have the physical prowess to avoid defeat.
Then came Wonder Girl and the Green Lantern. Well, not the Green Lantern, the younger one. Lantern tried his best, erecting an emerald dome to try and contain me. Though, even if I didn’t have a magic cock ring to show for it, I had willpower in spades, more than enough to shatter his will-based construct. Wonder Girl was so angry, I remember that vividly. She was the youngest of the Titans, barely a teen, but had a rage disproportionate to her size. She threw herself at me with no regard to her safety, and it caught me off guard for sure. If it hadn’t been for further intervention, I might have been forced to make her the one I’d kill.
It was the Tamaranean that spared her that fate, thundering her green energy bolts against the gravity sheath of my armor. After I’d dealt with her, I was confident that all that was left was my son and the Atlantean, Aqualad. The amphibian was the one I’d predicted would be the easiest to make an example of, and after tousling with the rest of the Titans, I suspected I was right. There was, of course, their leader Robin, but I was smart and had assaulted the tower on a day the brat was back in Gotham playing sidekick. One less child to worry about.
And Aqualad did what he could to keep me back, using his aquakinesis to splash water at me, not that it did any good. But before I could throttle him or run him through with my blade, something unexpected happened. In his white, blue and pink, the body-hopping Jericho stood between me and the Atlantean boy. My son.
“Stay back,” Joey spat at me, “Slade.”
My eyes widened, back when I had two. Here was my son, standing directly in my path. But more importantly: he knew his father was Deathstroke. How long had he known that?
“Why do you think I got as far away from home as possible!?” Joey growled. “I knew. And they knew too.”
I look around at the several Teen Titans as they scraped themselves off of the floor, the last, Aqualad, cowering behind my son. It all made sense now. That was why Robin targeted him. To get to me. I was certain.
I tried to tell him, “Get out of my way, this is for your own good.” But Joey didn’t listen. My first visit to Titans Tower was a failure.
⬢ ⬢ 🌓 ⬡ ⬡
Some days passed. I had to formulate a new plan. One way or another, the Titans had to fall. My employers made that explicitly clear. Even if it weren’t for Joey, they were only kids. Stupid and dangerous, but ultimately misguided by their costume-wearing mentors. There had to be a way to stop them, for all of their sakes. I had to hope.
But the second time I stepped foot in Titans Tower, it was a disaster. The employer had picked me out of the Checkmate catalogue for one specific reason: they wanted discretion and they wanted the job done fast. And when I began to climb the levels of their New York City headquarters, it became immediately apparent that they had gotten impatient.
I rushed up and up, passing through floor-after-floor that each looked as if a storm had blown through them. Checkmate had dispatched a second assassin. As I climbed, I found the various Titans laid out on the ground, alive but bloodied and beaten. Hawk and Dove, Lantern, then Starfire, Wonder Girl. As I approached their mission room, a hand wrapped around my ankle. Robin’s.
He struggled through the pain but uttered a single word. ”Joey…”
I burst into the mission room, where I found the rest of the Titans in a standoff. Aqualad, the coward, held his hands high in surrender. Omen struggled to stand, and Joey…?
A man clothed head-to-toe in red and blue throttled my son, a knife pressed against his throat. As I panicked, I ran his attire through each of my reputable rivals. Deadshot? No. Cain? No. Bronze Tiger? Definitely not, I could see the bastard’s white fingers.
“Deathstroke!” the assassin purred in a gravelly voice. “I guess it pays to be second best sometimes.”
“Dad!” Joey cried out, barely able to even resist in the killer’s tight grip. As he did, the assassin turned, surprised to hear what he did.
“Dad...?” he smirked. “Oh, Slade. If I knew that I would have accepted a much smaller fee.”
Who was this prick? It made no sense. He was clearly more familiar with me than most, but I didn’t so much as have an inkling towards his identity. With my superior brain power, I scanned the scene for any and all opportunities. I was fast, but not so fast that I could take him down faster than he could move his blade a half inch.
“Go on, make a move,” the prick beckoned me. “Make me react. It’s better if it’s your fault.”
With no other option, I resorted to bargaining. “What do you want?”
But his answer revealed just how futile it was. “For this to hurt.”
His grip on the knife tightened. This was it. Now or never. Joey cried out for the last time. I had to try, but in my fear… I froze. But someone else didn’t.
The room was suddenly illuminated in a violet glow as purple light shone out of the measly Aqualad’s eyes. This same light manifested around the Atlantean’s raised hands as he channeled a magic I didn’t even know the boy was capable. A powerful magic that, in a single second, sent the assassin tumbling out of the glass window behind him, falling into the night.
But, as Joey dropped to the ground, free from the killer’s grasp, we all realised we weren’t fast enough. Blood hemorrhaged from Joey’s slashed throat as I screamed out in terror, rushing to his side. I tried my best to lay my hands on the wound and apply pressure, but I did no good in slowing the blood loss.
“Boy, use your magic!!” I screamed at Aqualad, my own throat swollen as if I were gargling glass. But he had no such ability to save him.
On my second visit to Titans Tower, I was a failure.
⬢ ⬢ 🌓 ⬡ ⬡
Shortly following that awful night, Joey made a miraculous recovery. No ailments apart from a nasty scar and the loss of his voice. The consequence of having your larynx cleaved in two. It was better than any could have hoped for, apart from me.
After the actions of the assassin I later learned to be known as ‘the Jackal’, I sought out any and all aid that might save my son as he lay in critical condition. I exhausted all of my contacts, from Lex Luthor to Ra’s al Ghul, but even the waters of the famed Lazarus Pits would do Joey no good.
That was when I was approached by a man. This man claimed he could do the impossible, that he could perform just about any miracle I could imagine. And while I wanted to be skeptical, I had already led a life among the impossible. And, most importantly, I was desperate. So we made a deal. He would use his demonic might to save Joey’s life, to undo the plethora of my own mistakes that led Joey to his awful fate, and in exchange I agreed to buy into his game.
The terms? I had five years until the demon Neron got my soul, but only if my son continued to hate me by the time that period elapsed. At first I objected. How was I ever to win back Joseph’s love after what I did to him? But then the demon smiled. He told me that it was Grant I had to keep close. Grant, the son who always idolised Deathstroke the Terminator. I agreed. After all, it seemed simple. I would bury Slade Wilson, the father Grant resented, and Deathstroke would be Grant’s father. That was the way it had to be. The contract was signed.
And for my sacrifice, what did I get? A bullet through the eye. I suppose it was only fair. For all Adeline knew, I may as well have slit our son’s throat myself, and he only survived thanks to fate. My pride would recover.
After that, I had affairs to get in order. So I stepped foot in Titans Tower a third time. But this time, I didn’t take on the Titans. Instead, I met their leader quietly on the roof. There, we made a contract of our own. I made my intentions and demands clear to the boy. The Teen Titans could continue to operate until they inevitably got themselves killed, but they would leave Joey out of it. I told Dick Grayson that he was to make it explicitly clear to Joey that Titans Tower was no home to him, be that due to his brush with death, or his close association to the villain Deathstroke. I told him that he was to make it clear that it was his decision, that not even his fellow teammates could know about the deal we had made. In return? I vowed not to massacre each and every person to inhabit the Godforsaken tower. And, naturally, he agreed.
I am sorry for keeping secrets. But I had to ensure my family’s safety. But, if you’re reading this, it means I have failed. It means that, in my hubris, I was unable to keep to the simple terms of the Neron’s gambit. It is only my hope that you remember me as I truly was. A father striving to do right by his children.