Follow TV Tropes


Fanfic / Less Than Zero

Go To

Less Than Zero is a DCU Fan Fic written by Kenchi 618.

It's one thing to enter the world of heroes and villains, it's another thing entirely to find your way back out again. That's a bitter truth to swallow when you want no part of the life to begin with. A hasty decision from a young man with his back against the wall sends him down a path of which there is no return.

Less Than Zero follows the adventures of Maximilian Gabriel, an orphaned, down on his luck high schooler who has the misfortune of living in Gotham City. After stumbling upon an experimental supersuit designed by his late parents, Max, desperate to improve his lot in life and seeing few other decent options, decides to use the suit to commit small-time thefts to keep food in his fridge and his lights on. Finding himself under the tutelage of Selina Kyle, it isn't long before Max eventually draws the attention of the Dark Knight and his younger sidekicks. And as Max continues to operate as Gotham's newest thief Null, he finds himself making both friends and enemies among the worlds superheroes and supervillains, for better or worse.


As of Aug. 17, 2022, the story is complete.

This fanfic provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Deathstroke. He may be the only person Rose has in the world, but she readily admits that he's a terrible excuse for a father, who generally treats her more as a tool to further his own ends rather than family. After the kryptonite theft fiasco, he gives Ravager a test to prove that he hasn't wasted his time training her in which she has to figure out a way to make 4 million dollars on her own as a mercenary while also dodging assassins after a bounty on her head that Deathstroke issued. And if he's not pleased with her progress whenever he randomly decides to check in on her, he'll just kill her himself.
  • Action Survivor: When Max takes on the identity of Null, he's just looking to swipe a few knick-knacks to sell to improve his financial situation so he can live a normal life. Instead, he winds up getting involved with the dynamics of the worlds superpowered hero and villain communities.
  • Advertisement:
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: After Null reveals that Zatanna mindwiped several villains, Catwoman regains some of her old memories and starts freaking out over how her more altruistic personality could be completely fake.
  • Asleep in Class: The story opens on this. Max, running himself ragged between trying to keep up with his schoolwork and making enough money at his crappy job at a convenience store to pay rent, barely has enough time to get any rest, causing him to fall asleep during class. Thankfully for him, he's got Barbara to wake him up.
  • Atrocious Alias: A self given one at that. Max chose the name Null because he felt it was a good summary of how much he feels he sucks at trying to improve his life. Even after he becomes more competent and makes a name for himself as a successful villain, he continues to use the name.
  • Advertisement:
  • Ax-Crazy: How does Firefly celebrate breaking out of prison? By immediately attempting to burn down half of Gotham for kicks, naturally.
  • Batman Gambit: When Deathstroke sets up an auction to sell the plans for the kryptonite radiation towers, he previews the plans just long enough so that a genius supervillain would know exactly what he's selling. Why? Because Lex Luthor is among the potential buyers, and Deathstroke expects him to recognize what the plans are for and then vastly outbid the other villains for another chance to kill Superman. He's right in that expectation.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After a brief chase between Null and Beast Boy, Null stops and tells the hero he no intention to run and that he'll fight the hero in whatever animal form he wants. Beast Boy responds by turning into a tyrannosaurus.
  • Being Good Sucks: Null's reasoning for not wanting to be a hero boils down to this. As far as he can tell, heroes tend to live awful lives full of danger and at the end of the day, their reward for all they do is usually more trouble and heartache. Plus, Heroism Won't Pay the Bills, which is a big deal for Null.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • So far, Null has relationships with Ravager and Supergirl. The aggressive and villainous Rose is Veronica while sweet and shy Kara is Betty.
    • A gender inversion with Supergirl, Power Boy and Null. Null was obviously "Veronica" as he was a thieving villain while aspiring hero Power Boy was "Betty", only for Power Boy to reveal his true colors as a Yandere and Null to show himself nothing but nice towards Kara.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just before Copperhead can eat Null whole, Wildcat intervenes and beats down the snake man to save him, since he assumes that Null is some rookie hero who picked a fight with the wrong villain.
  • Boisterous Weakling: Electrocutioner talks big about how he'll kill Null and Batgirl, only for Null to fight him alone and knock him out with one kick without taking a hit.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Null kills Maxwell Lord with his own gun before the latter can use his telepathy on him.
  • Bound and Gagged: After Ravager is taken down by Supergirl, Supergirl and Null restrain Ravager to a chair using duct tape and some rebar.
  • C-List Fodder: During the night when every criminal in Gotham goes out looking for the bounty on Ravager's head, the Trigger Twins Tad and Tom show up just long enough for Ravager to brutally gun them down.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Max’s suit was originally a Power Armor prototype that his parents made for the U.S. military to combat the ever growing number of rogue metahumans. It uses the body's natural bioelectricity to amplify it's wearers physical abilities and grants Wall Crawling abilities, a built in stun-gun, and an adaptive camouflage function. That being said, Max quickly realizes that the suit only improves the already present physical abilities of its wearer, meaning that he still has to train in order to get the maximum use out of it.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • The Secret Six gets put through a particularly long and graphic session in chapter 34. Even the infamous Deadshot and Cheshire get pushed to their breaking points.
    • Later, when Null has Black Mask at his mercy, he admits that he doesn't have the stomach to torture someone. Unfortunately for Black Mask, Red Hood has no such qualms.
  • Cowardly Lion: Null's first instinct is to run from anyone gunning for his head, but when the chips are down and he feels he shouldn't walk away, he will stand and fight.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Deathstroke pulls out all the stops to rig the fight in his favor when Batman and Catwoman infiltrate one of his hideouts before they even show up. Batman tries to ambush him from above? Deathstroke set up a harness system on the ceiling to avoid him and quickly get to more advantageous ground. Batman and Catwoman dodge his gunfire from there and duck under a pool table? He rigged some C4 under it. They survive that and the fight drags on for too long and Deathstroke runs out of ammo? The entire hideout was rigged to blow after a set period of time and he uses the detonations to get away.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Null’s first encounter with Batgirl and Robin ends with him getting his ass kicked, which is a given considering that Null is a rookie thief who only has one month of training from Catwoman under his belt, while the former two were extensively trained by Batman. The only reason he manages to get away from them is thanks to his suit’s adaptive camo ability and luck.
    • Wildcat delivers an absolutely savage beatdown to Copperhead to save Null, as mentioned above.
    • Null’s “fight” with Batman following the bombing of the Wayne Industries warehouses makes all the other curb-stomps look tame by comparison. It’s short, brutal, and every bit as one-sided as one would expect from a rookie facing off with the Dark Knight himself.
  • Cutting the Knot: Mentioned and invoked a handful of times, notably when Null executes a telepath currently controlling Superman (much to Superman's discomfort) and when he kills a homicidal rogue A.I. by destroying its primary satellite in space. There is also a scene where a thoroughly exasperated Null interrupts a villain posturing session, pointing out that they got shot at and had their lives threatened less than half a day ago and there's nothing the other can do that can scare them.
  • Dating Catwoman: Supergirl is interested in Null, and he's not adverse to the possibility of a relationship with her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Max speaks fluent sarcasm as a second language. Rose also regularly gets in on this as well.
  • Determinator: Catman volunteers himself for an extra round of torture just to make sure his team stays together. Right after that, Null willingly mutilates his hands to get them out of their restraints and cell.
  • Didn't Think This Through: During Null's first encounter with the Teen Titans, Beast Boy transforms into a t-rex to fight the thief, only to quickly change back after realizing that there wouldn't be much he could do to Null in that form that didn't end with him killing the thief. This stunt also alerts Batman to Robin having gone behind his back with the Titans after calls come in about a green tyrannosaurus in the middle of Gotham.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Joker. He’s at the very top of Max’s list of criminals not to get involved with. Early in his training, Catwoman advises Max on how to deal with Gotham's various supervillains while on a job. Her advice for dealing with the Joker? Run and pray the clown doesn’t see his face.
    • Superman is the heroic version of this. One of the first lessons that Catwoman drills into Max is to NEVER go to Metropolis, because it’s where he will inevitably run into the Man of Steel, who Null would have absolutely zero chance of getting away from.
  • Eldritch Location: Gotham itself, maybe. Null can only describe the spirit of the place as dark and notes that after he left to visit New York City, he felt better just by leaving Gotham, although he can't even accurately explain why.
  • Electric Torture: After Null seemingly fails to stop Anarky from crippling the world’s economy and making all of Null’s money worthless as a result, Null settles for taking his rage out on the terrorist in retaliation, relentlessly zapping him with his lightning blasts over and over again with an unnerving calmness until Batman intervenes.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Despite being a thief who does his best to avoid danger, Null will go out of his way to try and stop a rampaging supervillain, but normally only if there are no heroes around and innocent people are in danger. And even then, he's not particularly thrilled about it.
    • After finding out from Zatanna that the Miracle Slate requires mass human sacrifice to grant it's user's wish, Null decides that no wish he has would be worth it.
    • Both Robin and Batgirl are genuinely uncomfortable with Batman’s plan to let Null take the blame for Anarky bombing a Wayne Industries warehouse so as not to alert the terrorist that they’re onto him, even as they go along with it.
  • Evil Feels Good: Really downplayed on the evil part. Max admits that he has earned enough money that he no longer needs to steal and could simply quit being Null. But he keeps doing it anyway because he loves the sense of power and freedom it gives him.
  • Fake Arm Disarm: Null magnetizes KGBeast's prosthetic forearm to a passing train when he and Ravager escape from him in the Gotham subway, tearing the weapon out of his limb. In a subversion of the usual use, the result is far from Bloodless Carnage as the prosthetic was grafted to KGBeast's body, which leaves a bloody stump when it's ripped off.
  • Fantastic Racism: Averted. Supergirl assumes that Null is uncomfortable around her and the other kryptonians because he doesn’t like aliens. Null explains that he’s fine with aliens, he’s just instinctively wary around anyone who can effectively kill him with a finger flick.
  • Flawed Prototype: The reason that the suit Max's parents made never got picked up for military use. As Max finds out, it's lethally flawed. While the suit harnesses the body's electricity to function, it also causes the wearers atoms to go haywire, storing more and more energy until the body overloads and shuts down. It's all but outright confirmed that this is what led to the demise of Max's parents and since he's been using it for an extended period of time, his days are numbered as well unless he finds a cure.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: After Catman demonstrates his willingness to step up for the team, Cheshire jumps him as soon as they get back to their base.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Rose is jealous of Supergirl for being Null's new girlfriend. She tries to invoke this on the latter by revealing that she was Null's ex, but this just relieves Supergirl, who takes the fact that Null chose to start a relationship with a superhero after being dumped by an assassin as a sign that he's changing.
  • Groin Attack: Supergirl deals Power Boy one after she finds out that he's trying to kill Null out of jealousy and wants to control her.
  • Had to Be Sharp: Considering what a Wretched Hive Gotham is, the villains that rise to the top of the criminal hierarchy are basically required to be as smart as they are ruthless. This is ultimately what sets apart villains like KGBeast from ones like Penguin or Joker. While KGBeast is far more deadly than either of them in-person, he's ultimately less dangerous or powerful than them in the grand scheme of things because his skills as a killer are really all he has.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: After his electromagnetic powers begin manifesting, Null spends a lot of his free time trying to figure out how they work.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Supergirl struggles with the fact she's mainly identified as Superman's cousin instead of merely Kara Zor-El. She starts to crush on Null because he was the first person to not care about her Kryptonian status.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Null kills Alexander Luthor by firing an iron sand bullet through his throat.
  • Likes Clark Kent, Hates Superman: Barbara is one of the few people at school that Max interacts with enough to consider a friend and the same could be said for him to her. Null and Batgirl, on the other hand, have a much more antagonistic relationship.
  • Logical Weakness:
    • Zeiss's cybernetic enhancements amplify his reflexes to the point that he can fight Batman one-on-one, but as Batgirl proves, they're only effective against attacks he can see coming. When she ambushes him from behind, the villain goes down quickly.
    • Even if Metallo's cyborg body is incredibly hard to damage, his head still contains his very fleshy human brain, so blows to it can make his brain rattle around inside and hurt him the same as anyone else.
  • Magnetism Manipulation: Null’s primary power after awakening his metagene. He becomes extremely proficient and creative with it as time goes on, using it for everything from subtly redirecting attacks from metal weapons to affecting someone’s polarity to stick them to a metal wall.
  • Mistaken for Racist: After Ravager slaughters a group of what she thinks are Russian arms dealers after the bounty on her head, one of the surviving members angrily clarifies that they're Ukranian, not Russian as he tries one last time to gun her down. Ravager makes sure to apologize for getting their ethnicity wrong as she chops off his head. The whole thing is naturally played for Black Comedy.
  • Moment Killer: In chapter 45, just as Max and Kara are getting comfortable, they are interrupted when Max's phone rings. It turns out to be Red Hood, who's calling because the Secret Society of Supervillains is planning on destroying Gotham with a bomb.
  • Mugging the Monster: After his first run-in with Batgirl and Robin, Null gets the wonderful idea to rob a supervillain after they’ve already stolen something. He targets Copperhead, thinking that he's one of the few villains Null can safely fight and win against based on what Selina told him about the contortionist. After Null blindsides him, he quickly finds out that Copperhead isn't a simple contortionist assassin, but a full-blown snake man who is a bit out of his league.
  • Mythology Gag: As mentioned above, Electrocutioner talks big right before being taken out in a single strike, just like in his appearance in Batman: Arkham Origins.
    Null: Huh...That was really easy.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When confronted by Anarky on why he helped Blue Beetle, Null responds it's because he saw himself in the hero.
    Null stood up and started pacing around, hands fidgeting, "You're right. It wasn't just about what Blue Beetle could do for me. I looked at Beetle, and I saw myself in his shoes. The guy was in trouble, and no one cared enough to help. No one gave him the time of day. No one bothered to throw the guy a lifeline. Not until we proved it was everyone's problem."
    Null had been there before. The circumstances had been very different, but before he'd ever put the suit on and started down his current path, he'd been that guy – getting pushed around by forces unseen, and no one aware of his situation bothered to lend a hand. He'd had to resort to relying on a criminal to give him a leg to stand on.
    "The people who care enough to help usually can't, and the ones who can help usually don't care enough to," Null reasoned.
    It was why he'd had respect for most superheroes, despite being on the wrong side of the alignment spectrum in many cases. The bulk of them at least tried to go out and make things better for others.
    "Blue Beetle was willing to take my help," Null continued, "That's how desperate he was. That was all I needed to know. The rest of them? They don't need my help," At that, he scoffed, "And if they did, I don't think I'd give it to them. Because there's no way I'd ever get it back."
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Null gets recruited into the Secret Six when their mysterious backer threatens Catwoman. In the next chapter, he learns that the rest of them were made similar offers.
  • Oh, Crap!: Catwoman is horrified when Batman reveals that Null stole kryptonite for Deathstroke. Max later has the same reaction when he finds out exactly what he stole.
  • Only in It for the Money:
    • One of the things that sets Null apart from just about every other villain in Gotham is that he's only interested in stealing money. To this end, most of his crimes are done with the intent of attracting the least amount of attention possible while also hurting the least amount of people.
    • Deathstroke provides a darker example. He isn't interested in killing people if there's no money involved and passes up chances to potentially kill Superman and Batman respectively simply because there would be no monetary payoff.
  • Only Sane Man: Null for the Secret Six — something that completely horrifies him. Remember, he's an apathetic kleptomaniac teenager, but the others are nothing short of bonkers.
  • Outside-Context Problem: After facing off with heroes and villains whose powers range from mundane to scientific, Null is completely blindsided by the magic wielding Felix Faust when the sorcerer comes looking for the Miracle Slate.
  • Parental Neglect: Max's parents spent more time working on their projects than they did paying any kind of attention to him. When they died, Max wasn't even that sad as he felt that their work had taken them away from him long before death did.
  • Personal Gain Hurts: Completely averted. While he does get in trouble with the law from time to time, Max’s decision to use his new powers to benefit himself leads to his life improving.
  • Pet the Dog: Selina's decision to teach Max how to be a successful thief boils down to this. Having once been in similar circumstances as him, she feels a bit of sympathy for the boy trying to take on Gotham City by himself. She later admits to Batman that the major reason she trained him was because she saw Max as one of the few people in the world that someone like her could genuinely help.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Null, Nightwing, and Cyborg vs. Metallo, with it going both ways. Metallo has the ability to integrate metal and machinery into his body to become more powerful, which works against Cyborg, who is captured and absorbed by the villain. This in turn allows Null to further learn and develop his magnetic powers over the course of the fight as he works to tear Cyborg free from Metallo's body. Finally, while Nightwing is no match for Metallo physically, his electric Eskrima sticks works wonders against Metallo's metal body.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Deathstroke opts to simply sell the plans for the kryptonite radiation towers instead of using them himself. As he puts it, personally waging war on Superman and his relatives does nothing for his bottom line. Providing another supervillain with the means to do it for an exorbitant price does. If they actually manage to kill the Man of Steel and get him out of the way, then that's a bonus.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Despite being a criminal, Null has no desire to really hurt anybody, nor does he harbor any grudges against the heroes for trying to stop him.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: After Cheshire betrays the rest of the Secret Six to The Society, Deathstroke kills the traitor.
    Deathstroke: Sorry, Cheshire. We don't need any traitors in The Society.
  • Sarcasm Failure: When confronted by Kid Flash for having helped Deathstroke steal from S.T.A.R. Labs, Null asks if he can have a headstart in his escape. Kid Flash finds himself caught off guard as no supervillain has ever seriously made that request before.
  • Self-Healing Phlebotinum: Null's combat suit is capable of regenerating small tears on it's own and can assimilate fabric to repair larger damage.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Tim Drake really doesn't like Null for beating him during the S.T.A.R. Labs heist. On Max's side, he considers Robin as completely annoying.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Brother Eye believed that it had everything under control and the the O.M.A.C.s would kill all metahumans, aliens, and any humans with super-advanced technology. It didn't expect Anarky using a Boom Tube to send Null to its location, a satellite. This results in Null easily taking down Brother Eye, disabling all of the O.M.A.C.s.
    • Null ends up being this in Alexander Luthor's master plan. He's incredulous to learn that a 'bottom feeder' is ultimately what defeated him.
  • Starter Villain: The Tally Man serves as Null's first villain opponent when the hitman comes looking for his daylight identity. He's not a skilled martial artist or superpowered fighter, he's just a psychotic gunman with good aim. Once Null gets in close, he's able to beat him down easily enough.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: Actually enforced by Batman, who doesn't like other heroes coming into Gotham and operating independently of him. Case in point, the Caped Crusader is livid when Robin goes behind his back and brings Beast Boy and Kid Flash to Gotham in an attempt to capture Null.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: After seeing Null's fight with Copperhead, Wildcat assumes that Null is an up and coming hero, and decides to give the teen a bit of training so he doesn't get himself killed. Null goes along with his assumption, partly because he really needs the training and partly because he really doesn't want to explain that he was actually trying to rob the villain Wildcat just got done beating the crap out of.
  • Thicker Than Water: Deathstroke treats Rose worse than shit, yet she stubbornly sticks with him because he's her only blood relative left alive.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Null goes from easily getting his ass kicked by Batgirl and Robin to being able to put up an impressive fight against either of them after a month of learning how to properly fight from Wildcat and another few months of training with Ravager, though he is still noticeably behind both of them in terms of skill. And then he starts developing superpowers.
  • Too Much Information: Max's visible response when Selina mentions how Wildcat performs in bed.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: As the Atom explains to Null, this is how the metagene works. Even if someone has it, it lays dormant in a blank state until awakened by stress and physical trauma as well as a catalyst to imprint on the metagene. In Max's case, all the beatings and stress involved with being Null awakens his metagene and his bioelectricity powered suit imprints on it, causing him to develop electromagnetic powers. His powers awakening also has the wonderful side-effect of nullifying the electro-cancer that killed his parents.
  • Twerp Sweating: Superman accidentally does this to Null who almost faints when he meets the guy able to melt him with his eyes, and whose baby cousin he finds really nice and pretty.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Copperhead believes that since Wildcat has no powers, he shouldn't have any trouble dealing with the hero. It doesn't end well for the assassin.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: After Null helps Ravager from being double teamed by Batgirl and Robin during the S.T.A.R. Labs heist, Deathstroke responds by putting a bullet in Null's thigh and berates him for not immediately escaping the crime scene like he was instructed to do. As far as Deathstroke is concerned, following his orders is more important than saving his daughter.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Catwoman throws Null a job meant for her under the pretense that she's not that interested and knows he could use the money. In truth, she just understandably doesn't want to work with Deathstroke. Deathstroke takes advantage of the situation and has the newbie thief steal kryptonite for him, with Null being ignorant of what it is. After finding out the details later, Catwoman is horrified by what she accidently set in motion.
  • Villain Team-Up: During the search for Deathstroke, Nightwing, Cyborg, and Null encounter Metallo, who was hired by the mercenary to guard one of his safehouses in exchange for a new kryptonite heart.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Max and Rose are constantly snarking at and insulting each other, yet they function surprisingly well together. Deconstructed when Max ponders how toxic Rose actually is for him.
  • Woman Scorned: Rose feels this way upon learning that Null is dating a superhero, despite the fact that she's the one who left him in the first place.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The mob sends the Tally Man and Zeiss after Max in retaliation to his parents dying before paying back their loan to them. Tally Man especially is all too eager to try and gun down the teenager.
  • Wretched Hive: Gotham, naturally. Max wonders if there's something in the air or water that brings out everyone's dark side.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Null constantly assures he's only looking for himself and helps the heroes just because it's convenient for him. Supergirl isn't really convinced by his arguments.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: This is Ravager's reaction to learning that Null is dating a superhero. She does it again after finding out said superhero is Supergirl of all people.
    (after running into Supergirl in Null's hideout) "I don't believe it," Rose said, "You? Sparks is fucking you?" She asked with an incredulous laugh.
  • You No Take Candle: KGBeast speaks in broken English, emphasizing his Russian roots.