Tim: It has been a whirlwind of a last couple weeks. Months, even. Starting with the Death of Bruce Wayne the city of Gotham had gone crazy. Culminating in the invasion of a clan of killers, known as the League of Assassins. We’ve been on a merry-go-round of insanity through it all. Discovering more new questions than uncovering answers. We still don’t know who killed Bruce, but now it is worse than that because some of us aren’t sure he’s dead. Or, rather, I’m not sure. Since I don’t know that the others believe me. Just like no one seems to buy in to Stephanie’s suspicions about her Father.
Not that I blame them in either case, to be honest. I mean the whole idea of Bruce still being alive is insanity on it’s own. If you can’t accept that, then why would you even even think of Cluemaster upping his game to real player status? Rhetorical. You wouldn’t. The evidence at hand for both of those ideals is murky, with the line of thinking on Bruce forcing you to consider that he also was behind the hacking of the Bat-Cave computers. That perhaps Bruce felt the only way to control the evil of this city was to become the the truest version of a Dark Knight. Thus making Stephanie’s dilema even more of a curious offering, because it would be a tale of two father’s changing their acts entirely.
These are the thoughts that plague a certain teenage genius in the middle of the night, while he toils away in the lowest levels of the Nest. Yet another puzzle really, if you consider that the Nest itself is build beneath the city of Gotham. In one of the many station dumps for Batman’s original network of railway cars that allowed him to traverse Gotham City so quickly. A supply depot that was by it’s very nature already deep beneath Gotham’s sewer and rail system, that boasts an impressive four levels. The upper most appears to be a run-down gymnasium, bearing the face of a certain Cat-themed Boxer of Black Canary’s past. The second is a true basement, which is mostly a security level people have to pass through in order to begin a search for the levels below. Then there’s the upper level of the nest beneath those, which boasts an impressive computer system on par with the Bat-Cave. It also has housing elements which once served as a certain Boy Wonder’s home away from home. Then there’s the training and equipment rooms.
Below that? Is the room where no one else ever bothers to go. Call it the Garage if you must because this is where that aforementioned boy wonder comes when he wants to work on various items. Tonight’s project is more a retooling than a rebuilding. With a new face being put on the bike of old, if the sparks flying in all directions is any indication. In spite of the welding mask he’s wearing and the sweat that trickles down his arms and chin. Not to mention the strange garble of nearly unintelligible music that blares from the speakers. Somehow there is still a glance in the direction of the stairs just as the silhouette of a visitor appears.
“Sorry, I disabled the elevator,” calling out above the din of the music. “Most people who come to the Nest are too lazy to take the stairs.”
DInah: “We both know that’s not true. The sorry part. Not the rest.”
Being heard over the music, no matter how loud and awful it might be, is about as much of a problem for me as descending the stairs had been in the first place. I’ve always been loud in basically every sense of the word, the trick for me had been in learning how not to be when I wanted. Volume, without the sonic projection that used to go along with it every time, was impossible when I was younger. I was okay with that back then, because I was angry and blunt force trauma, volume cranked to eleven suited my wants. I may have had skill starting very early, but age has brought finesse. Or at least the years and years of practice that goes along with it has.
Maybe the second part is partially untrue as well, but in general? It still fits. Either reading the disabled elevator, in the midst of the techno-marvel of the obsessive Tim Drake as what it really is: deterrent. Or maybe not having a good enough reason to bother. Often when I’m here, my attire is decidedly non-formal. At least for visiting the ‘lair’ of a typically masked vigilante. Hell, yoga pants and workout gear are non-formal anywhere you go, I just happen to be someone that gets away with wearing whatever I want. It’d be more concealing than what I’ve got on now, the latest iteration of the Canary suit. Everyone that comes here knows who I am at this point, so I don’t feel the need to hide it from anyone.
Which means I was probably ‘working’ before I came over here. Or en route, as it were. It’s not exactly hard to find places to blow off that kind of steam in Gotham City in the best of times, and I wouldn’t call now that. Maybe that’s why I felt the need, if I’m being honest with myself. Having things that I need to do elsewhere, with the timing of it? Frustrating. But Tim looks like he’s been working harder than I did. Maybe it’s just the power tools involved in what he’s doing though. Which. I’m fairly sure he shouldn’t be doing with his shoulder. My judgement, for the moment, rests only in the set of my mouth though.
“Please tell me you’re just reinventing your color scheme and that you didn’t somehow wreck that thing…”
Tim: “It kind of depends on how you phrase the question. Was I involved in a car wreck with it? No, but I did sort of wreck it first in order to rebuilt it…”
The original iteration of the Cycle was this sort of wicked little crotch rocket. The kind you might find on the roads anywhere. A little suped up by Wayne R&D to be a gulch runner and cliff jumper. The project had been abandoned when Wayne Corp decided not to pursue that particular government contract. I then inherited the blue prints. One night, I added rockets. A couple weeks later, I needed a security system. Then a rebreather for underwater submersion. Some rockets, just in case…. eventually a third wheel was needed to hold the balance. Then the Bike was more of a Trike. Which in reality was more or less a tank on three wheels.
And now? Now it’s undergone some more changes. The bright reds and yellows have been replaced with blood-red and black. The weight has kicked it up another couple notches, what with the added armor I’ve been welding on as Canary sauntered down the steps. I may have replaced the blunt rockets with sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles. And maybe there’s an outfitting for a railgun (or two), but it’s mostly the same bike. Er. Trike. If you look closely enough.
“No no, I’m genuinely sorry. It’s not untrue. I truly did think I locked the stairwell doors too,” she can’t see the smile beneath that mask, but I know she’ll hear it in the banter. That’s what we do, after all. “Nice pick up though, it’s a little more invasive than a color change.”
Putting down the soldering tool with one hand and lifting up the mask with the other, gives way to both laying eyes on the canary -and- wiping the swear from my brow at the same time. Those gloves are next, because they’re big and bulky. Good for keeping you from being burnt by the work, but not really good for anything else. Especially conversation, if thats what Dinah is hear for. Another long look at her tells me a little more to it than that. She’s in uniform. That makes this either an official visit or she’s playing the ‘more distracting than usual’ card. Hell, it may even be a both scenario in which case I need hands free and mind focused.
“Plus, I wanted to test out the microbes,” there’s a momentary hitch, then a sigh, before explaining a little more. “Bruce’s oldest friend, Lucius Fox, had been working on an experimental microbe. Once injected in to your system, it repairs damaged tissue. Speeds up the process. His microbes are rebuilding my shoulder. Much more efficient than being sidelined.”
Dinah: “I guess I’ll take it. Plus, this way you’re busy with a machine that’s not mine.”
There’d been some death threats involved the last time I thought he was about to get to chasing that wild hare. Part banter, every conversation I have ever had with Tim Drake has been at least 50% that, part very, very serious. I guess that’s how you know when I really mean it. The sliding scale of sass to whatever else is mixed in with the conversation. I’m the only one of this family, extended weird cousins or otherwise, that isn’t all in for making use of his many, many upgrades. I like my bike as she is, much like most of the rest of my gear. And no amount of gratitude would really offset my healthy, or maybe paranoid, dislike of advanced technology. It’s mutual. We just don’t get along. Anything involving insides that are more electronic than good ol’ fashioned mechanical is exponentially more likely to implode in my presence. Invasive. His word for what he’s doing to his trike makes me smirk because… that’s about what I think of it, too. He’s just into this kind of stuff. He really can’t help it.
“Just a sorry, not sorry situation. Well. Then I’m sorry, too. Lost opportunity to test out me versus your door.”
I would have, after all, just seen it as a challenge or an admission that he was doing something he shouldn’t be down here and therefor I needed to pry. The latter isn’t necessarily out yet, but I was headed this way regardless. His explanation? Necessary, as one eyebrow lifts, the other squinching downwards in accusation because that just sounds like he’s testing… well. No. Maybe it’s exactly what it sounds like.
“How experimental, Tim?”
Going back to the not trusting tech bit… it’s not even just that, though. He’s only barely been taking it easy since his injury, despite my getting bossy about it, but I know putting him down in any real way is going to involve me doing more damage to him in order to offset… everything that makes up Tim. Still. Are these ‘microbes’ of theirs good enough to repair tissue even as he continues to maybe injure it?
“Because I gotta tell you. Trying new things in Gotham lately doesn’t seem to be working out well for anyone. One of the gangs out there tonight was showing both a shocking amount of subtlety and ineptitude at the same time tonight. Don’t be like the gang bangers, Drake.”
Tim: “For the record, the next time I upgrade your bike? I’m going to be so subtle about it, you’ll never know. Just to prove how subtle I can be.”
See? Two of us can play the game of words. Because in a single swoop I’ve all but promised to test her boundaries, just as she did about the door. And I’ve made it clear that I already did. Not to mention set up a challenge of her even discovering if I had or will do so in the future. It’s a good thing I took off that soldering mask, because it lets her see the sheer amount of smirk involved with this bit of gaming with her. This feels a lot better than being told to sit on the sidelines.
I may or may not hate being told what to do. Especially by someone that doesn’t heed their own advise. That doesn’t mean I lost the ability to see their rational truth of their worry. Nor that I’m unaware or unappreciative of the concern that drives it. Maybe that’s also why I answer her next question. “Experimental enough that Lucius was making a Locutus of Borg joke in my ear when you tripped the alarms by entering the stairwell.”
“There’s nothing to worry about, said only the stupidest people ever. Which is why we hard coded a kill command. Lucius can terminate the microbes with a single word. I’m an evil genius, Dinah, but I’m not stupid. The government wanted the OMAC project to create repairable super-soldiers. Wayne Corp dead-ended the project when they tried to strong arm Lucius in to not putting a kill-switch in. With it, even the government knew it was more or less harmless. No evil robots. I promise.”
“Nothing to worry about. My arm will be as good as new by tomorrow. Better than new.” Waggling my brows. “Let’s stop talking about my arm and talk about the real best application of these babies. Let’s just say no one is ever going to need the blue pill again…care to give it a test drive?”
Dinah: That judgmental, displeased set of my mouth? Yeah, it’s back. If only for a very brief moment. I let him see that, more than let him get the reaction out of me because he may just be trying to get a rise out of me, and if that’s the case I don’t really want to give him the satisfaction. We’ll just let him think I might believe him. Mostly because I don’t doubt that he may try. It’s easy enough to let that look be wiped away by one of blank incomprehension though, like I do not get the reference he just made.
Because I don’t get the reference he just made.
“Well. That sounds like something only you special supernerds would understand soooo…”
But government projects and why they’re not great things to want to facilitate for us? That’s right up my alley. In fact, it’s part of why I’m here right now in the first place. Making sure he’s not doing what I already suspected he was probably doing? That was happening anyway. I already knew he’d been going out. Maybe not throwing himself down any stairs to save the ladies this time, but there’s still the threat anytime you go outside. Or. Live in Gotham. I know that. But I also know heknows that, which is why I didn’t break his knees for him to keep Tim ‘safe’ and at home. Do I think his current ‘partner’ for these excursions is fully able to look out for him? Well. No. I don’t. But I also don’t think she’s so inept anymore as to be an actual threat to Tim out there. Which is the other reason I’m actually here.
“That sounds like something an evil robot would say.” Pause. Coupled with an overly dramatic roll of blue eyes as I park my half-covered ass on top of a crate, emblazoned with the WayneTech logo that I can only assume had something in it that is now inside his ride. Or is going to be later. “And that sounds like something a teenage boy would say. Who should have no reason to know what a blue pill is even for. Maybe you should see a doctor…”
And no. I don’t mean Dr. Drake, with his half dozen phds, if he hasn’t increased that number in the last month while we’ve all been distracted, self-diagnosing in the mirror. But I know he’s not going to, if he hasn’t already, and so it’s a tease. Accompanied by the grin that’s every bit as shit-eating as the one he was aiming at me.
“Tempting as that offer might be to someone else… not why I’m here. I need you to take over with your Spoiler for a little bit. Teach her a weapon. I don’t really care which one, though I wouldn’t really recommend anything pointy because… well. You’ve met her.”
Tim: “Oh, come on. Do you really expect me to believe you’ve never seen the single greatest storyline in American television History? When Captain Picard becomes the bad guy, it’s the most riveting moment… oy, this is what they mean about knowing the customer you’re selling too. Gotcha. Not a Star Trek fan. You’re more a 90210 kinda girl.”
The whole point I was trying to make, was in fact that I do not need to see a Doctor. I’ll take the happy side-effect that she’s at least moderately playing along with the blue pill commentary, that means we’re not about to fight. At least, not a fight that she’s going to start. I can feel the room spinning, so to speak, as she gets to the point. One of the points.
“Take over with my Spoiler? You said a whole lot of things in those five words. First, she might actually punch you right on the nose for saying she’s my anything. Second, taking over with her means you’re going somewhere that won’t allow you to keep doing it. Starting her on a weapon, means you think she’s ready for the next step. Just not a big pointy step.”
“..and this is where I should start by telling you that you shouldn’t go. Or that you should let me go with you. Except that you didn’t let with where or what you’re going. So while you’re ready to accept that I won’t be sidelined, you’re still not ready to accept that I’m ready to be back entirely. Which means that you either don’t think I’m ready to be back enough to help you, which would be insulting and lead to our fighting about it. Or, perhaps more likely, you’re using it as an excuse to not let me put myself in more danger.”
“Or. You’ve thought this through and have decided on a proper allocation of resources,” it’s the free hand that gestures to her at this last bit. “Which would also mean you’ve finally decided to take an active, even decision making, role. Which is what I’m choosing to believe, whether or not it’s true. Because… I really don’t want to fight tonight. Not with you at least.”
Giving her this half-incline of the head, that says I’ll struggle no more with that decision of her’s. Whether or not any of my ‘deductive reasoning’ was sound or just an elaborate mental construct that allows me to compartmentalize her not taking me with her. I realize, this is what I used to do with Bruce too. When he was the partner that didn’t want me along for the ride.
“So. Ollie or Slade? Because I’ve got the information on those tags you wanted me to look at.”
Dinah: “Uh. Yes. I do, in fact, and I’m not even going to get into arguing about using Star Trek and ‘greatest American anything’ in the same sentence with you, either.”
See, he’s baiting me again and while I definitely know what 90210 is, both iterations in fact, they’re not exactly my jam. The guy’s been rooming with me, or at least sleeper sofa surfing in a long-term kind of way. Which should really be the first of the questionable choices he’s opted to make we talk about, but at the time it was having a skulking ex-Robin hanging around my place, or just keeping him where I could see him. Since then, well. I actually don’t mind the company, also there’s perks. Poor boy’s OCD takes care of my usual mess, and keeps the fridge stocked. I happen to like Tim, and when I don’t think he’s too injured to be in the field, I like working with him, too. See? Far cry from my outlook a half-dozen years ago when I treated him like the annoying kid brother. To be fair, that was kind of how Dick looked at me when he was around so… vicious circle I suppose.
“She could try. Does that pretty regularly. She’s just hasn’t managed to succeed.”
Then I find myself letting him… go. I mean I partly want to interrupt because he’s getting going about like ‘his’ Spoiler does. In the you’re probably not going to get in a word, and she’s not actually going to notice if you try because something’s either gotten her so excited or riled that she just can’t. The truth is, I’d only assigned ownership in that he brought her in, in the first place. His problem, that he made my problem because.. well. He’d asked, and I don’t want anyone getting dead out there anymore than he does.
Watching and listening to Tim’s mind spin out all the potentials and angles to be read into a ‘simple’ request from me might be even more funny, if I wasn’t fairly sure this was like a duck floating on water. Relative ‘calm’ on the surface, and paddling like crazy underneath. I’m sure that for as many points as he’s verbalizing there’s twelve more he’s gone through, discarded, and reworked. It’s what I do with a fight, and my angles there. I’m pretty it’s what he does with everything. Evil robot genius and all.
I didn’t lead with where I’m going because… I really don’t need to. I’m not going to sneak and hide, because even I’m not good enough to escape all his eyes in the sky, and… maybe he did mess with my bike so he’d figure it out anyway. As for all the rest… typically I don’t feel I owe anyone an explanation ever, and it’s not why I answer his rumination.
“Believe it or not, this time it has nothing to do with the fact that I might kind of like to punish you for not listening to me lately. You wouldn’t be coming even if you were 110%, because it’s not in anyone’s best interests. Mine. Yours. Gotham’s. Take your pick.”
This isn’t just some fight. Which is probably why I’m so cagey over the whole thing. ‘Just a fight’ I could handle in my sleep. Most of us could. They had to go and make it bigger than that. And so the way I need help from Tim isn’t in the backup category so much as those tags I’d given him, which Slade had given to me. Which apparently he’s already handled.
“Unless I want to teach Spoiler a different fighting form, which I don’t because I think it’d be counter-productive right now, she just needs repetition and practice as far as hand to hand goes. But something else she can use out there as a tool if she needs to…”
It’d also seemed something that might be a suitable distraction for him to occupy time with. I hadn’t known he was down here reinventing the Big Wheel so to speak. If the two of them were in the Nest, working on a ‘project’ then that meant they weren’t out there, one of them lacking a functional arm and the other half-trained. If he picked up on that, at least he didn’t say it out loud, and I guess I further soften the potential with an… admission made as I fold my arms and have a moment of almost sheepish expression cross my face.
“I also may have taken it a little… too hard on her yesterday. For once, not even because she deserved it. So she could probably use a little change of pace from Dinah’s School of Hard Knocks, and I realized it was kind of telling that Ineed to go handle this.”
Reactionary, despite how I might act, isn’t really me. I provoke and make others react. Not running off after that voicemail, and subsequent throttling of someone who I wasn’t actually angry at, took some self-control though. Buttons clearly have been pushed.
“Little of column A, little of column B, but mostly A. If they weren’t basically the same problem, anyway. So I’ll happily take what you’ve got. And maybe even say thank you.”
Tim: “Alright,” now my head is cocked to the side and looking more than a little unhappy at several of the things Dinah has said. “So. Now I’m settling upon ‘She’s already realized that while she could kick my ass ten ways to Sunday, as much better she is at fighting I’m that much better at following people who don’t want to be followed.’ Which means… that you’re taking a different route to waylaying me.”
While not being sure if I should sigh or grin, I do the only thing left to me. Rise. Standing up and stepping around the bike itself. Snatching a towel along the way, from one of the other crates littering the garage-like room. It’s hot, dank and dark here. All the things a Batman would like. As much as I seem at home here, it isn’t until the light is behind me that Dinah can see the bruising along the shoulder is actually gone. I may be playing upon that, to amble closer to her. Piece by piece picking up armor that’s been discarded as I worked in the heat. The wrist mounted computers being the most important, as I need them to put the projected computer image along the walls for her to view.
“Let’s start with the fact that I was able to confirm that the tags were legit. They’re not forged. These are some sort of microchips implants. The were filled with a neurotoxin of some exotic sort. Only trace elements remain, not enough for me to isolate and track. Along with that are lingering traces of DNA, which allowed me to identify who had each implant. Somewhat. A couple sets of DNA belong to people that Bruce had no files on.”
“You and Slade are definitely two of the bearers.”
“The chips track every thing. I mean. Everything. From your heart rate to your serotonin levels. They knew what you were doing, saying, everything. This is next level tech and it’s fifteen years old or more. Thats where it gets a little crazy. I tried to jack some of that information out of them and right away they shorted themselves out. One by one. Each time I got a little more. Until finally, I got a location.”
Pause for effect? Yeah. Also to put myself close enough to Canary that she can see a ripple of movement along my shoulder. Beneath the skin. “I thought I knew everything about you, Dinah. Then I find out you were in Prison? Jail Bird. Tch. If Dick knew he’d have a crush on you. Why were you in Belle Reve Prison? And who is Kurt Lance?”
Dinah: “And I’m also telling you that ass-kicking, and sneaking skills on our parts aside, I don’t think you coming with me. This time. Is the good play. Because that thingthat’s pretending to be Oliver Queen right now is naming names.”
There’s a lot of reasons for Tim to get honest ‘whys’ out of me right now, as much as I might not normally like to operate that way. Biggest of them possibly being that I don’t want him trailing behind me because he thinks I’m excluding him because he’s hurt. Or because he thinks I think he’s not good enough. Which I would just tell most people, but… I guess I’ve got kind of a soft spot. Just not the one that his brother might like to tease/accuse me of.
I’m not into all this tech. I don’t use it. I can’t deny that other people using it that know what they’re doing? Useful. So I’ve uncrossed my arms and leaned in towards the projection, as if that’ll help me see it better than I already can.
“Fairchild. Bronson. Trevor. Waller. I don’t have first names for them, except Amanda could… or might not be… the same Waller, and our good buddy Superman works with a Dr. Fairchild. Again. Could or couldn’t be the same, I don’t know, but frankly when your circles are small, things are pretty rarely coincidences. Which means those are probably ones you do have files on.”
There’s no hiding, or even trying, the mounting annoyance and frustration on my face now. I’m a control freak on occasion, a fact that’s no mystery to Timothy Drake or really… anyone in his family at this point. I hadn’t been able to come up with any possible reason why it would benefit Slade Wilson to make this whole thing up, or come to me with it in the first place, if he wasn’t telling the truth as he knew it. What I’m being told right now erases any small, comforting doubt I might have managed to summon up. He’s also making as many new questions as he is filling in blanks. That’s a lot of information, and price probably paid for tech, for it to have just been that one night in Arkham. Which means more time lost and missing. More unexplained.
When he stops, I’m waiting. Eyebrow lifting again as I pull my eyes from the projections to look at Tim properly again. It’s probably only the seriousness of what we’re talking about now that keeps me from commenting on his shoulder, and the rather unsettling sight of something. Things. Wriggling under his skin. Microbes sound tiny, so I can only assume what I’m watching is muscles and tendons being rewritten and repaired like they were no more than one of his strings of code. I can’t decide if that’s creepy or amazing or both, so I keep Alien references to myself. Can’t quite manage to skip clucking my tongue about his brother though.
“Oooh, Grayson likes the bad girls, huh? It explains so much… if I’d known, I’d have a crush on me too to be fair. I mean. Look at me.”
The blank on drawing, which is clear enough on my face, is legitimate.
“I don’t know, Tim. On any of it. Frankly I’d been hoping Wilson was tripping balls on some bad combination of drinks and ninja blood from the Iceberg. I’ve got no memory of any of the things he said happened. Or of being in any prison for any reason other than the usual here in Gotham for us, or the couple of tours I went on in Star for school. Whatever reason I was there, I assume is the same reason that we were all made to not remember it after.”
Tim: “Actually, that explains the neuro-toxin,” keying a couple touches of the wrist controls the illuminated screens turn upon the tiny pellet-shaped microchip. “See this? It contained two small amounts of toxin. Each of them with a purpose. I think one of them was putting a timer on you. You had X amount of time to finish your assignment and get the antidote. Which was the other. Once triggered, I think it stopped the toxin from killing you by eliminating the poisoned brain cells.”
“Sinister, but effective. Either you died or succeeded with no memory of succeeding.”
“Hmm. Interesting. Soo…” Another set of touches along my wrist and faces start to splash the wall beside Canary. “… so if we extrapolate your timeline, this happened a little more than a decade ago. You were Stephanie’s age. That means the Dr. Fairchild that I know from Conner, would have been eight. Too young, so perhaps this means our Fairchild in question? Is one Alex Fairchild. Caitlyn’s Father. He works, currently, for the project that created Conner.”
“Bronson? There’s a Bronson in Bruce’s files. Part of the overall same project that Alex Fairchild and his daughter work for. That created Conner. According to our intel on that Project, Bronson was some sort of early subject of testing for majestic gene therapy.”
“I don’t need to research Steve Trevor, Captain Trevor. Decorated U.S. Army, Green Beret special forces. Because he happens to be one of the sources of Bruce’s files on the entire project. Somewhere along the line, Captain Trevor discovered the fountain of youth. He’s been alive since the 40s, and he looks like he could still go ten rounds with you. In a ring or bed. Take your pick. Maybe even both. He’s gone silent since Bruce’s passing. I’ve been unable to make contact, but I’ve actually been working on the assumption he just doesn’t know me or trust me. If you could make contact maybe that could be changed….”
“As for Waller…” That’s where I just turn the gauntlet’s projector off. “It doesn’t take a detective to know you’re right about it being Amanda Waller. It makes sense when you connect the other dots. They’re all interlaced. It also solves a mystery that Bruce has never figured out.”
“Your Grand Mother. She made a deal with the Agency, scored her whole family immunity for her service. A little more than decade ago she suddenly quit…. and… not too long after that, you know.”
Arms crossing over my chest, I take a moment to nudge my jaw at the trike and the work I’ve done on it. “No fight this time. Go, I’ll hold down the fort while you and Dick are gone.”