Dinah: At some point, my movie had come to an end. Not really a problem, but it wasn’t one of those ‘new fangled’ DVDs, which meant that when the honest to god tape ran out of the VHS that I’d had literally forever, the whole thing clicked over to what few channels I actually get up here in my apartment. I learned very quickly exactly how fast it takes me to sober up from a bottle of cheap whiskey. The answer is: in the amount of time it takes for the Joker to complete one of his sick, twisted routines. What the #$&* happened? It’s Gotham, so you expect a degree of escalation but….that escalated quickly. The only flippant thought I really have a chance to have is that I’m glad we hadn’t dug into the good liquor that Tim had brought to help me wind down for the night.
“Go. Find your brother, and then point me where to go.”
Tim’s not dressed for this. I’ve at least got my suit here in my apartment, and for once I don’t really have to even boss the kid twice. He’ll be able to find where Damien is, far faster than I could the old fashioned way and time spent suiting up is going to be time in the way of that. Unless he’s got a robot that does it for him, which isn’t really outside the realm of possibility. I feel sick, and I know it’s got nothing to do with the alcohol I’ve had. Probably not the fancy French cookies either. I feel sick for Damien. I feel sick thinking about what Damien is probably out there doing right this second, too.
I’ve had years, and years of practice at high speed costume change, and this time I’m moving faster than most others. Out the door of my apartment, that Tim’s already left through, and down the stairs. I skip the last half flight and vault over the railing, on my bike and back out the door before the thing has even fully opened. Guess we’re not down out here for the night after all, only this time? I’ve got an entirely different sort of problem to tackle. Probably literally. This one’s just going to put up more of a fight than that entire room of mafia had earlier.
“What’s our status?”
Communicator on now, and I’m regretting missing the alerts that had been going earlier. We should have been more ready for something like this, but it was completely outside the pattern. Pattern. Joker. There’s the first problem…
Tim: Finding out what happened with Oliver Queen had taken me ‘Home.’ If by home you were to mean the couch at Dinah Lance’s House. I’ve been staying there since returning to Gotham, because it’s easier than living at Home. The Manor no longer seems like home-sweet-home to me, now that Dick and Barbara moved in. I feel like an intruder in my own Home and nothing seems to cure that. Even Alfred’s crepes are a wash. Dinah’s place is utilitarian. Providing me with a place to sleep and be seen coming to and going from as ‘Timothy Drake.’ With that acceptance of it being my ‘Home,’ for now, also comes certain knowledge that my housemate is hurting. Like all of the extended family, I’ve taken to keeping tabs on them through a network of drones known as Brother Eye. It might be a little big-brother-ish, but the fact is that with Bruce gone? I’m not willing to lose anyone else.
Comforting Dinah? Hah! That’s a misnomer. Showing up with a better booze, lending a comforting ear and offering her very detailed, intimate plans for extracting her friend. Not to mention making certain of the culprits paying for it? That was how you comfort Dinah Lance. Well, that and a half eaten box of macaroons, along with the entire bottle of terrible whiskey. Lucky for me, I keep some detox pills in my utility belt to mute the effects of such things. Otherwise I’d be under the couch, instead of on top of it when the V.H.S. player rolls over and the news plays. ( Honestly, this might be the first time we’ve ever been lucky Dinah wouldn’t let me upgrade her to free-cable. )
“On it,” is my response to Dinah before she’s even off the couch herself. “My gear comes with me.”
She was barely back in to the Costume she’d been wearing for a certain amount of Mafia beating by the point that I’ve turned her coffee table in to a make-shift desk. Pulling things from my backback, connecting them to the breastplate of my uniform. Streaming data through the Wayne Enterprises satellites and down in to the portable dish that is erecting itself on the floor next to the couch. Furious typing is Dinah’s only answer to the parting ‘Stay safe,’ that we exchange before she’s off in to the night. Leaving me to work, all the more furiously on lines to our target.
“He’s disabled the tracking software in his uniform, same with the Red Hood helmet. Jesus. He’s even disabled the redundancy… and the redundancy’s redundancy. Standby,” it isn’t often that someone put the Black Canary ‘on hold’ but I need a moment to tap in the Nest’s server. Watch the last few moments before Damien left. Stephanie was still there. Good, I was worried she’d try to keep an eye on him. “Okay. Hold on. Drones had him, but… someone’s attacking them! Oh. Shitfuckballs. The League is already here. Er. There. Everywhere, I mean. They’re disabling the Drones.”
“I need a minute, he stole the prototype bike I was working on for you. Damnit, he disabled that tracker too. Boy. He’s really good at breaking my things. It’s a little disheartening. Still working. I’m triangulating the direction of the destroyed drones, in correlation to the fourth redundancy tracking system in the Canary-Cycle. I know, I know. But I’ve already lost one partner this year, call me a little paranoid about losing another one. Let’s focus on how lucky I am that I put four layers of tracking systems in to a bike, without you noticing the hardware shall we?”
“Okay. Got him. Sending you the coordinates,” there’s another hitch, a pause, then a low, low whistle. “This is strange. Someone has been monitoring my work… Canary, you need to hurry. Someone’s tapped in to my secure servers for the Nest. They know where Damien is too.”
Dinah: Should have known, really. Because I know Tim Drake-Wayne, and because I’ve seen it in action enough times. Guy’s more prepared than a whole jamboree of boy scouts on a bad day, and borderline precognizant on a good one. Today’s not really a good day. My bike’s taking me through the alleyway and out onto the street. Without a definitely direction to go, I start first in the direction of the Nest, because that’s where Damien had been. There’s this helpless feeling of spinning my wheels as I wait for a destination. I don’t like being dependent upon technology of any sort, because if it fails or you don’t have it with you, you’re lost. Good ol’ fashioned groundwork is more my style, but even I’ve gotten used to drones. And while there’s signs of a set of tires peeling out of the chute that we use for small vehicle/personal entry to Red Robin’s personal hideout?
Once they hit a certain point, I can’t really follow them. You can no longer tell which way they went, and I’m left one more with just a general direction in which to head.
“I had no idea he was such a tech wizard. That’s really inconvenient.”
All those boys are going to be, to a degree. They were trained by their father, after all, but finding all the work arounds and disabling them? I’m not used to hearing my friend and partner stymied. He gets to hear me do something that they’re all very used to though. Swearing. A literal colorful parade of foul diatribe when he says the League’s ‘already’ here.
“They were probably already here. And now Joker’s kicked the damn hornet’s nest.”
They must have been. It only makes sense. If Talia al Ghul was here to be nabbed in the first place, she was surely not alone. What were they doing? Probably the same thing we are, especially with Ra’s advice to Bruce before his murder that he would be best served by running. Whether they were digging on their own, or waiting for those of us left to fall? I couldn’t really say.
“I’ll bitch at you about it tomorrow. Tonight we’ve got bigger worries.”
I can still mentally grouse for a half second about how many times I’d told him to keep his hands off my bike. Bikes. I could admire his, but I still prefer mine. There’s the audible sound of brakes and tires complaining about the speed with which I’ve stopped, wheeled around, and then kicked back into gear again to head in a different direction, because my heading had been off.
“Not far. Three minutes tops.”
Someone’s already tapped into Tim’s stuff? Again, not something you hear him say terrible often, and I lean lower to my handlebars as I roar through another alley.
“What are the chances that someone is Penny-One or our newest Batman?”
Or the person who broke into the real Batcave, as Dick had told me earlier today. Jesus that feels like a long time ago. The someone that could maybe be a Ghost, and was the only simple explanation at all. My arrival is probably easy enough for him to discern. Between damn trackers, and the noise of my bike cutting off. I only get part way into the building before my boots skid to a halt. And skid they do, because the floor is blood soaked. Death? Is a feeling as much as it’s a smell or a site, and I almost audibly grind my teeth.
“Not in here. They’ve moved on or…”
Then I hear the scream. Up in the air getting higher and thinner, changing in pitch as the distance grows and grows. I get back outside the door in enough time to watch in momentary confusion, before the screaming stops with a spectacular, firey bang. The trajectory? Started from near here. The bodies are still warm. They’re here, or were a minute ago.
“Hood! I know you’re up there.”
I don’t chase him up to the roof. I’m not stupid. I just back my way out of the building, to where I’ve got another wall at my back, and a better view if they choose to simply ninja-run off the roof to somewhere else.
Damien: Damien was ready to jump when he heard the familiar voice from the other side of building. ”Stay here.” telling his group of League of Shadow Ninjas. Walking to the other side of the roof, he stops at the edge of the roof, then takes a step back, knowing full well what Dinah’s capabilities are.
Storm clouds start to converge overhead, with a strike of thunder, and a flash of lightning. Looking at her just over the edge, he yells down to her. “Do not stop me, Canary. I do not wish to hurt you. I assume you know what is going on. Tell Red Robin to stay where he is. And you as well.” but he knows Dinah, she’s not going to stop. Her method of tough love was literal. Turning around, he steps away fully from the edge and starts running towards the other side of the roof.
”Come. We are heading to the Iceburg Lounge.”
Dick: Red Robin was fast at work, already, tracking down the leak in his system. Checking, then re-checking to see who had accessed his ‘Private Server’ and how had they done it? Only a few possibilities presented themselves immediately. One of those scared the absolute crap out of Tim to even consider. He worked furiously for long enough that Canary was able to clear the building. She’d managed to find Damien, even engage him before she once again had a blurting of sound from her commlink.
“Canary, I’ve got a lock on who got in to my system, I think. It looks like Bruce left a backdoor in to my mainframe. So that he and Alfred. Ugh. I swear to god, if Bruce was alive I’d kill him. It’s actually called ‘Baby Monitor Protocols.’ I think you’ve got company inbo-..”
Though the sky has darkened and the storm is playing dramatically across the sky. It is perhaps only giving further cover to the moon, which blots out the sight of the sleek, black super-sonic craft. The crescent shape of the wings seem to give highlight to the canopy. Which isn’t normally open, as it is right now. In this case it’s open, because the passenger has already evacuated. Cape unfurled, giving a wide angle to the approach. Even as the Bat-shaped shadow descends toward Damien his hands unload a payload plasti-gel grenades at the feet of the League of Shadows.
“I’m not here to fight them,” landing in a perch at the edge of the building in full sight of Dinah Lance below. One by one those grenades explode, spraying the Ninja with high-tensil gelatin which will solidify almost instantly, to trap them in place. “But you’re not going down this path, Damien.”
Damien: Turning to look at Batman. Too tall to be Tim, must be Dick. Damien doesn’t even respond to the ninjas being enveloped in the gelatin. Slowly turning around, he stares at Dick through the helmet. Unstrapping it, he pulls it off as rain starts sprinkling down for a few minutes, then it starts absolutely pouring down.
“No. It needs to end. This all needs to end, Richard. Penguin has information on why my mother was at his lounge. And with the Joker giving his deadline, we do not have time to dawdle. You are either with me, or you are against me, Richard. And I hope for your sake, that you are with me.” telling him, hoping that by Dick seeing his face, Dick lets him go.
“The choice is yours, my brother. I do not wish to fight. But, I am in no mood to dawdle anymore.”
Dinah: Well, that’s definitely ominous and it’s hard to say if that’s just Gotham being helpfully thematic, or if somehow Damien’s mood has reached levels that allow weather manipulation. Mind. I understand. I really do. If I’d had the opportunity to save the life of either one of my parents, I would probably have been going berserk through the city as well. But I lost most of my family to the bitch that is life, and my father was murdered before I entered this life. He’s why I did. But I didn’t know it was going to happen. We just found out with a knock on the door. My chest hurts for Damien, but… that’s also why I’m not about to do what he says. We spoke to him about this line before. He’s already over it. And no matter how bad he hurts or how justified someone might say he is? This can’t stand.
He’s smart to back off, but the truth is if I wanted to scream him off that roof? I could do it whether I can see him or not.
“Well, that’s insulting.”
Whether that’s to Red Robin over the comms, or Damien himself is iffy. It works for both. The company inbound I have to assume is going to be whomever got in through his …whateverwalls. Which means I’m tensing for either potential. Fortunately? It’s the friendly sort, at least friendly to me. Usually. Unless you count what he did this afternoon with his damn escrima sticks. Batplane, at 3’clo…
I take the opportunity of Dick up on the roof already and engaged, to turn around and run. Not away, but around. Finding my way to the other side of the building, before I launch and kick myself off one wall, twisting and grabbing hold of a railing on the other side to make my way up and head off any fleeing attempts. Ninjas or Damien but frankly…I only care about one of the two. The other’s are just worries by necessity.
Dick: “You’re right, Damien. It needs to end,” rising to my full height in order to let the storm frame the Batman, instead of Dick Grayson. “This can’t continue. What have you done?”
Down from the roof’s ledge, to the gravelly substance lining the roof. There’s simply no doubt about this. I’m not here as Nightwing. This isn’t some Halloween Costume Party, where I’ve come half-naked for entertainment value. My voice lends itself to seriousness, because this is just about as serious as I’ve ever been.
“Stop it. Stop the condescending. Stop the passive-aggressive, ‘I do not wish to fight’ garbage. Who do you think you’re talking to? I’ve been here. Right here, where you are right now Damien. Except I’ve been here twice. I’ve lost my parents twice. So I’m not going to stand here and lecture you about right and wrong. Because you damned well know the difference. Our Father showed you the difference.”
All of this talking, brings me closer to the other Man. My brother. The true son of the Bat, Heir to the Cowl. “No. I’m not going to lecture you. I’m going to play your game, Damien. I’m going to call your bluff. Go on. Walk away. Let your Anger keep controlling you. Go find the Penguin. Beat answers out of him. Because that’s a lot of time you can waste, Junior. Of course, you’d know that. If you stopped letting the emotions rule you.”
“Have you even asked them?” Gesturing a single gloved hand at the trapped Ninja. “Did you even think to ask the League of Shadows members you’ve been commanding, why their Leader’s Daughter was at the Iceberg Lounge? Or why -they- are here in Gotham? You think they have a super-sonic Troop Carrier in Nanda Parbat?”
That other hand reaches up and gently thumps the ‘Red Hood’ helmet that he’s taken off. “You’re not thinking, you’re feeling. Which way gets your Mother back faster, Robin?”
Over the comlink in Black Canary’s ear comes a hushed little voice. “ I’ve been running a triple diagnostic on my firewall. Something isn’t right. Alfred wasn’t the only one monitoring my systems.”
Dinah: It doesn’t take me long to get up to the rooftop, though it’s still longer than I might have really liked. Grappling hooks are a bat-thing, not a Canary thing. At least in ‘standard issue gear,’ though I know how to use one well enough. I can catch snatches of conversation, or argument perhaps, on the wind. The inevitable declaration that someone doesn’t want to fight, the answer that comes back to it, the rain starting to kick up in earnest and really, truly provide mood lighting and atmosphere that we really don’t need right now. We all can provide our own angst and noir, thanks very much. Still. When I get up there, the situation isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.
For one, Damien’s taken off his helmet. Not immediately gone to attack Batman. I’m not entirely sure I agree with the challenge that’s being laid down because I know how I would have taken it, if this were me six or seven years ago. And that was before I’d even lost everything. I still had my grandfather, but I would have probably walked away and made a poor choice. I could pretend like the Shadows were responsible for everything that I just saw downstairs? But I’m not an optimistic idiot, no matter what my taste in movies might say to you.
“The Bat makes a great point. And I say that as someone who’s not real happy with him right now. They got here awful fast. Were you guys already having a Gotham family reunion, and they just happened to forget to invite you? I’d like to know how they beat those of us that live here to the scene, personally…”
Swinging my arms back and forth like I’m warming up my shoulder joints and getting ready to do some physical ‘asking’ of my own, of the good and stuck ninjas. I don’t, though, and there’s only one reason that I don’t. Damien. Not because I think he’d stop me, but because these should be his questions to get answered. And because I’m listening to the little Redbird chirping in my ear. Firewall. Right. That’s what it’s called. Alfred patched in and likely sent Dick here. So who else was in there? The mystery man from the Cave or something else? It leaves me shifting my stance. No longer facing Damien’s back, but twisting to the side, trying to get an opposite view of what either of the Wayne boys has. Is something coming..?
Damien: Looking at them both, and listening to Richard. Damien looks to the ninjas by his side, then back to Richard, shifting his gaze to Dinah as she speaks. They all have a point here. Grinding his teeth together, he steps up to Richard. Almost as if sizing him up, looking him dead in the eye. There’s a whirlwind of emotion in Damien’s eyes as he tries to figure out the best path for all of this. Damien isn’t aware there *was* an intruder into the Batcave, but for now, he didn’t care.
“The soldiers would know nothing. They are only taking orders. And they only take orders from very few. Me, My mother….” trailing off as he steps away from Dick, looking out over the city. Seeing various dark dots jumping through the city.
“And my Grandfather. Ra’s Al Ghul.” taking a deep breath.
“He’s here.” staring out over the city, rain pouring down over all of them.
“I will come with you. I will do it your way. But, Once I confront Joker? I cannot allow him to live. I do not care what you say. I will do what our father could never do. I will make sure Joker, and his band of misfits, no longer walk this Earth. Do you hear me?”
Damien may cut ties and leave. It wasn’t that didn’t feel like he belonged. Maybe it was that this city just had too much memories, to much emotion.
“I will kill The Joker.”
Dick: Do the grunts know why Talia was here? Doubtful. What they likely do know is where to meet up with the senior leadership of whichever Leader is here in Gotham. Whether that be Rhas or Talia, or whomever would take Talia’s place should something happen. The League has a hierarchy, I know because I’ve worked with them before. Before I even knew Damien existed, in fact. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll get immediate answers out of them. It it is however a start.
“Your Grandfather was here, I’m not sure he still is. He was here to talk with your Father, before he was killed. I just told Canary about it earlier, I came to talk with Tim, then I was going to hunt you down to tell you, but there was a crisis in Metropolis.” I’m not discussing, at least not yet, why I’m the one wearing the suit. This isn’t the right place to talk about Tim asking me to take it, before he got himself killed. Nor is it the place to talk about what we’ve found out about Bruce. There are too many eyes. “Just because you’re thinking with your heart, doesn’t mean you weren’t on -a- trail. Canary can follow the Penguin lead. We’ll meet with your Grandfather.”
“Oh and Damien. There was never a question of whether your Father could kill the Joker, so much as if he would do it. There’s a question about whether you should do something, just because you can and the answer isn’t always ‘Yes.’ It’s especially not the answer, when it involves taking someone’s life.”
Reaching out to put my hand on Damien’s shoulder, I want to give him a hug but there just seems like something wrong about doing that in front of these League of Shadow goons. Which reminds me. “I can’t have these guys running around the City. My City. I’ve signaled the Commission to send the Special Crimes division over to pick them up.”
“Canary, can you escort Damien back to Robin’s Nest? I’ll stay to insure GCPD doesn’t have a pro–…” Just as I’m giving out ‘marching orders,’ something changes. There’s a shrill whine in the background, that has nothing to do with the rain and storm all around us. I’ve heard that sound before and it has me grabbing Damien, to bring him with me off the side of the building.
Even as I’m reacting, Dinah’s changed her footing. She can see the steady hovering Bat-Wing, as it suddenly veers. Then accelerates. At the roof we’re all standing on. It’s twin jet engines going in to full thrust. In her ear, a little bird chirps once more. “…Dinah, someone’s jacking in to the Batcave’s mainframe now… they’re locking Alfred out of… sweet baby jebus…. get the &^%$ out of there…”
Dinah: “Ra’s is here? Well, today just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it? I hope Batman’s right and he’s not any more.”
Because even if in the loosest definition of the words he might be working on the same side as us? He’s still Ra’s al Ghul. I don’t even like that Talia is in town, or any of the rest of them. If anything, I think it enables Damien to give in to that side, and if they weren’t here in the first place? I highly doubt that Joker would have gotten his hands on her to begin with. Averting everything that is happening right this second. He would have found another target, but maybe it wouldn’t have been so personal of one.
“You continue to make the same thinking error. Over and over. It nothing to do with ‘could’ or ‘could not.'”
He could have ended Joker’s life at any point. I could have. We are not god, or judge and jury, to decide who lives and who dies. And you do that? You’re no better than he is. I held my father’s killer’s life in my hands once. Literally, throat in my hands, a far more painful death than what my father suffered. Damien’s killed. The more he does it? The easier it gets, the less he’s going to remember the other way he was shown. Those are all things I want to say to him but. Not here. And not while I’ve got an itchy paranoia creeping up my spine.
“Cobblepot does like Birds. I’ll make sure he’s doing the singing, though.”
I’m not going to just let this go. No. Not what Damien’s doing. What’s happening to someone important to Damien. His mother, no matter what else she might be. If for no other reason than her life might be worth keeping him from losing himself further. Maybe I can actually have this discussion with him, much as I hate opening up on principle, on the way to the Nest. Then there’s sound. That whine in the air, and Dick moving and taking Damien before I even really get moving.
“Go! Something’s hacked the Cave!”
I’m sure I can be heard. I’m not quiet, even when my voice isn’t vibrating with sonic force I can make it carry. It’s carrying as I throw myself off that edge that I arrived over. Sprinting and diving, in a way that’s probably going to hurt but not nearly as much as getting crusehd by the Batplane.