Zero, Year Three

Zero Method

Members of the Bronx underworld begin to turn up murdered with each victim found beneath a spray painted Zero logo. As word gets around that Zero has returned and is using lethal force, the NYPD and local gangs both start a violent search for the vigilante. Will is disturbed by the reports and decides to return to the streets in order to find his copycat before they bring more death to his neighborhood. He adopts a new costume intended to differentiate himself from the would-be Zero he's hunting.

Despite his efforts, Will is also hunted by the police and local criminal organizations, resulting in several chases trough the city streets. He is able to locate his imitator after several days of investigation and confronts them on the roof of the Kingsbridge Armory. They fight but are interrupted by a force of corrupt SWAT officers paid off by the New York Mafia to kill both Zeroes. Escaping from the dirty cops to the Harlem River, Will and the wounded copycat retreat to a dockyard. 

Questioning the injured man about his motives, Will learns that he is in fact Peter Lawson, the estranged father of the boy Vonzell, a corner kid who had acted as Zero's informant two years previous. Returning to the Bronx after news of the gruesome murder of his son reached him, the guilt ridden ex-con had gotten involved in trying to get revenge on the parties responsible. Zero had retired before he could talk to him about his son's demise, however, and the increasingly unstable Lawson decided to take up his guise during his quest for vengeance.

As Lawson finishes his story, Will is considering whether or not to bring him in to the police. He is unable to make a decision before hired assassin David Cain appears, having hunted the two vigilantes down after the Armory gunfight. Lawson leaps to Will's defense when Cain fires his sniper rifle, taking the bullet in his place and saving his life, and Will ends up back in the Harlem River as a result of Lawson's push. 

In the icy river, Will experiences more flashbacks to his time as an operative of “the General”, including memories of a similar swim taken after he was shot by a shadowy gunman. Not seeing the now concealed Will, Cain assumes that the dead man in the Zero costume is his target and his contract has been fulfilled. The assassin departs the docks and a distraught Will returns home to the Bronx, aware that most of his enemies now believe him to be the late Pete Lawson.

0.2

Deciding that he should reconsider his retirement after Lawson's death, Will begins getting back in contact with the network of allies known as the Lowest Common Denominators. With their assistance he is able to establish his new headquarters ("Zero Point") in the subways beneath Manhattan, and he once more begins to patrol the city streets by night. 

His seeming return from the dead after the copycat's rampage strikes fear into the hearts of criminals and causes no end of aggravation to the Bronx PD.  With his new duties as city councilman, Zero shares more of his investigative work load with the LCD, being careful to help cover their tracks to avoid more attacks on his assets. 

Dead Center

One of his first cases after returning to crimefighting is to investigate the demise of several radical publishers on both sides of the political divide. His inquiry results in him teaming up with the enigmatic Question, a faceless hero who has an interest in the death of a particular newspaper editor from his own past. While the two have differing opinions about the motives behind the killings and the politics of the victims, they ultimately decide they need to work together. 

Tracking down the murderer to an old printing facility, the two heroes learn that the party responsible is the villain Libra. Seeking to bring balance to the American media, he had begun attacking those journalists or editors he deemed too biased or extreme. The heroes defeat the villain, let the police to pick him up, then agree to share information in the future should their paths cross once more. 

Extreme Prejudice

Zero takes some time off from his councilman business for a “vacation” in Russia. Following some scattered memories of his past as a secret operative, he learns that a Muscovite journalist named Alexi Popov was assassinated and he may have been the culprit. Shaken by the realization and a flood of other memories, he looks into Popov's body of work in order to try and find why someone would have him killed. All the time, he is tailed by mysterious figures he initially takes to be Russian agents. 

After finding the reporter's hidden backup files, Will discovers that Popov was digging up dirt on a prominent East European businessman with connections to Checkmate, a Global Peace Agency answerable to no government. He is attacked by the strangers who were tailing him, resulting in a fight over the rooftops of Moscow. He is knocked out and then interrogated by his metahuman assailants, one of whom he recognizes as Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot. He uses an alias (Grady Grant) and is able to conceal his real identity, but not the fact that he was inquiring into Popov's demise. After determining that “Grant” is not with Checkmate, they reveal that they are members of the Suicide Squad, another secret organization composed of convicted supervillains. 

Using the threat of a stay in a Russian prison as leverage, the Squad's boss Amanda Waller forces Will to help the team find and eliminate Marek Sepp, the man Popov had been investigating. He is able to decipher clues that point them to Sepp's estate in the remote reaches of Siberia, where he is protected by a small army of mercenaries which include a cybernetic killer called KGBeast. The Suicide Squad quickly begins decimating Sepp's guard force while Will confronts KGBeast and learns the Russian hitman knows something of his role in Popov's death. Telling Zero that he knows Sepp's number is up, he offers to tell what he knows in exchange for being allowed to escape the Squad. 

According to KGBeast, Sepp had sent him to take out Popov as a result of his stories on his illegal side business, but Will and another black ops agent had gotten to him first. Realizing that they had been seen at the crime scene, the other agent shot Will and then turned a gun on himself, committing suicide before he could be caught. While he had certainly abetted Popov's murder, therefore, Will was not the lone triggerman. True to his word, Zero lets KGBeast go, but warns him to steer clear of his homeland in the future since he obviously has powerful enemies. 

When “Grant” and the Suicide Squad finally locate Sepp, they learn that all of them (including Waller) have been manipulated by Checkmate boss Maxwell Lord, who wanted Sepp eliminated due to him embezzling from Lord's organization. Deadshot shoots Sepp anyways, reasoning that he still has to abide by the orders he was given by Waller. Released from his obligation to Waller after Sepp's death, Zero departs, disgusted by the ugly affair and his role in it. 

Where is My Mind?

Some days later, Zero finds Lord's hideout and confronts him in person, learning that he had been “loaned” to him by the General but had failed to live up to Checkmate's expectations due to his ethical limitations. Presumed lost during the Popov mission, Lord hadn't bothered trying to locate him again. Before Will leaves their meeting, Lord uses his power to “unlock” more of his lost memories, reasoning that it will result in Zero leaving him alone.  Lord is nearly knocked unconscious by the sudden rush of conflicting images, then lets Will leave him.

Will is overcome by a flood of images and faces from his past, including the realization that his true self is from an alternate Earth which was destroyed by some terrible cosmic calamity as he watched. His consciousness somehow left his body as it died, however, transferring itself across the multiverse to the body of Will Symes – an Earth-1 boy from Oklahoma who entered a coma following the car accident which killed his mother. Will also recalls seeing a man in a blue suit and fedora (the Phantom Stranger) observing him awaken in his new body, apparently overseeing some part of the transformation. 

Reeling from the idea that he's not Will Symes, Zero returns to his home in the Bronx. He falls into a deep depression which eventually results in him starting to drink again, and he decides not to run again for election for the City Council. When Brother Donovan comes to visit, he is aghast at Will's terrible condition. Helping to purge him of the alcohol in his system, he suggests that he take a sabbatical somewhere remote and peaceful so he can get his act together. Zero agrees and asks the Blue Lantern to take him to the Gobi Desert in Asia.

created at: 09/19/2012

Crisis on Existential Earths

Walking the desert by himself for two weeks, Zero sees few other human beings. He survives mostly by his wits and pure grit, willing himself to continue as he ponders his true identity. His memories seem to suggest there have been other worlds and other selves before that, meaning he has been through several incarnations over many years. 

Deciding to try and unlock the ability that let him jump between bodies and realities, he wanders back into the edge of civilization with some Mongolian tribesmen. When he asks for spiritual guidance, they advise him to seek out a monk who keeps vigil in the Himalayas. He treks across the border to Tibet, evading Chinese patrols, and finds the monk sitting in a small shack with only one window and few amenities.

The wise old man tells him that he once was a wealthy, handsome man who had became involved in an affair with a rival's wife. When their secret was discovered, his beloved took poison and he tried to join her in death by leaping from a mountain peak. Instead of dying, however, the monk claims his spirit left his body and entered that of his rival. Perceiving the world from the other man's perspective, he achieved a form of enlightenment and then returned to his own broken, battered form at the bottom of a ravine. 

Crippled by the experience but filled with compassion and love for his fellow man, he set up his little shack in the wilderness and abandoned his past. Every day, the monk said, he spent all of his waking moments praying for peace and goodwill toward the other suffering people of the world. He had now become a fixture of the region, receiving tribute and even a visit from the Dali Lama some years past. All these decades later, he continued his quiet watch, knowing that even in isolation he could be a part of the greater consciousness. 

Moved by the monk's story, Zero asks to study and meditate with him, hoping to find some balance in his own troubled mind. The monk agrees, but tasks him with several difficult chores to prove his dedication. Zero performs the duties and is accepted as a student and aide. 

Months pass in nearly silent contemplation, and Zero learns to guide his mind through the confusing memories and painful experiences of his strange past. He also begins to sense the presence of other minds sympathetic to his own, tied together by some sort of psychic collective. They are not himself, yet they are close enough in belief and feeling that he can closely identify with them. 

With the monk's assistance, he learns that he can temporarily swap bodies with the old man simply by meditating and willing it to happen. Once he is successful in using his new found power, the monk tells him that he is again needed in the world at large – his path is as a righteous hero, not as a passive priest. Zero agrees, thanks the monk, then departs, returning to his home country after several more days of traveling. 

0.3

After his reunion with his friends in the Bronx, Zero is again confronted by the hardship and injustice in his home country. The Community Center is in danger, this time as a result of pressure by a local Congressman to level the block and put in a new shopping center. Accepting that he will always be Will Symes whoever he was originally, he shocks his associates by announcing his bid to enter the upcoming congressional election. 

While he works on fund raising and learning to make the leap from councilman to congressional candidate, Will starts recruiting more members of the Lowest Common Denominators on the internet. While many of them are based in New York, others he finds live overseas in the other countries of the world. Cultivating psychic bonds with each through trained meditation, he explains his plan; he will continue to be based out of the Bronx, but he can now use mental transference to switch bodies with his network of agents worldwide.  When a situation arises that an LCD member believes requires Zero's help, they can contact him by mundane means and then enter a brief trance to exchange bodies with Will. While he's running around inside their body, however, they'll be responsible for upkeep of Will's body.

With several of his best and most trusted agents now ready to act as conduits, Will alternates between working on community events, preparing his congressional campaign, and then acting as Zero, the mysterious vigilante who now appears worldwide in many guises.