Steph : There’s always some little, teeny tiny part of me that wants to believe I’m wrong. That inner four year old that thinks their parental unit can do no wrong and worships the ground they walk on.. Not five though. Before kindergarten I was pretty sure my Dad was a Grade A Douche Rocket, I just didn’t completely understand why. I just knew we’d been ditched. Again. And again.

That’s the problem with addicts though, yeah? Even when they get clean, unless you’re an idiot you kind of get the feeling it might happen again at any time. You get suspicious. You start peeping on their private business in case it’s time to stage an intervention. This time, that intervention was me. This intervention also comes with a heavy dose of danger and adrenaline. I hear some people say addiction is a genetic thing…

I might have been wrong that first time. It was possible that maybe that bank robbery that I interrupted (that Red Arrow interrupted me interrupting) wasn’t on my Dad. He wasn’t there. None of those goons were his usual goons, but he’s a little too smart for that. I know what he’s doing, I just don’t entirely understand why. That first night, there’d been one group. Tonight, it’s two.

“Try to guess where the ball is…”

Muttering, I hunker down on the edge of the roof, watching the progress of the pair of dumdums cutting the heavy padlock and chain to the warehouse across the street. It seems empty, which could be an act but it looks way too unused to be easily faked. Maybe I’ve picked the wrong cup.

Either way, it’s more ‘pawns’ off the board. Hopefully. I even remembered to bring a grappling hook this time.

Tim: You pretty much learn immediately that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this vigilante thing. There’s the wrong way that has some schmuck going to the closest sporting goods store and putting on some second hand pads, carrying a hockey stick, in their zeal to fight the good fight. Then there’s the right way, which involves years of training and preparation. Not to mention Money. Lots and loads of money. Which are invested in to inventory that doesn’t come from Dick’s Sporting Supply.

Me? Well, I’m the show up two hours early for class type, just to read ahead. The stay after class to ask questions type. In short? Preparation is really the name of the game in my world. You might say my whole life was about preparing. Learning from the best, to become the best. Taking each lesson in order to apply it to whatever I was seeking to accomplish. Add that to a natural knack for all things computer and some people might think I prepped for a night out on the town like I was some geek prepping for a Warcraft Raid. Building up my supplies, in order to not go in to the field empty handed.

I always hated that guy who showed up without pots.

“I’m not sure where the ball is,” noting from above, but not far behind her in the shadows, concealed by the black cape that drapes over slim shoulders. “But if that’s a metaphor meaning you’re looking for something? I’m pretty sure you’re not going to find it in that Warehouse.”

“Too clean. Those guys are operating in plain sight. If there was anything worth stealing down there, the security would be much tougher to hack in to.”

Steph: I’d like to say there’s something stoic, smooth and put together that comes out of my mouth when it becomes abruptly apparent that I’m not alone up here in the dark and the wind, or that I manage some nonchalant look over my shoulder like, what up. I knew you were there. I just wasn’t acknowledging you. What comes out is some hybrid of a hiccup and a swear word, as I spin around on the balls of my feet, yanking a baton from my belt.


No, it didn’t come from Dick’s Sporting Goods. It came from eBay, thankyouverymuch. Great, Steph. While a face mask and hood should imply some level of mystery, I don’t think it’s nearly enough to overcome that moment right there. What was it Arrow had said about tripping over other vigilantes? I appear to be two for two, and since this one isn’t attacking me, blue eyes narrow over the top of the lower face mask in a bit of an accusatory look, before I turn back to watching them finish destroying what little barrier was provided on that gate.

“Not really a metaphor.”

But that ball must be under a different cup in this particular shell game. And my not getting what they might be after here isn’t because I’m slow on the uptake, but because there’s maybe just nothing here.

Is there even any? The place looks empty. Why are they bothering…”

I’m not even really asking him. Or talking to him so much as muttering to myself, grumpy because there doesn’t even seem to be much worth interfering in. Other than out of a general sense of spite. And I’m not one to underestimate a good dose of spite.

“Maybe they forgot their keys. Wait. Hack into? Like. Speaking generally or did you already…?”

That time was directed at him. Subtle differences. There’s definitely no blaring of alarms as they roll the gate open, and the engine of the van they’d arrived in stops idling around the corner and makes its slow way over, and then through. Maybe it is just a warehouse. Maybe it’s even their warehouse but that wasn’t the impression I had gotten. They’re not supposed to be here.

Tim : “Yep. Already. Doesn’t look like there is anything there to actually steal. Which leaves me to wonder why those guys are trying. They’re either really bad crooks or…”

Or they happen to be better than they appear. Whether that means they’re more skilled or just well schooled. “If there’s something in there to steal, then it’s not on the Warehouse manifesto. Which means it’s off the books. That leads to a whole slew of questions. Like how they knew it was there, if no one knew. Inside job, maybe. It’s a bit of a mystery, I like those.”

“But, I suppose that leaves us with a choice. Do we wait to see if they’re just terrible at this or do we go down there an stop them?” There comes just enough of a pause, that it might seem this was a question for her to answer, before I’m moving right through and leaving it rhetorical. “It would be a shame though. To get all dressed up like this and then stand up here watching the whole dance like a wallflower. We did go to all the effort to get these suits. Seems like a shame not to use them?”

“You do know how to use that thing right?” By now I’ve stepped out of the shadows of the roof-access doorway and she can see a little more about who she’s talking too -and- see that I’m pointing to the grappling hook, more so than the baton she’s holding. “I can carry you down, but it’s going to look awfully awkward if we show up together. We really should try to keep up the appearance of not knowing one another. Just for sake of appearances.”

“Small town. Word gets around. We don’t want to start all the talk.”

Steph: “Or they’re not stealing anything.”

Which goes one of two ways, I guess. Either it really is a shell game, and they’re a distraction, or they’re bringing something here. Or maybe just gaining access to do that later? Except I would have said this was way too ‘small fry’ to attract any sort of attention from the caped crusader sort of crowd. Except y’know. Me. Judging by what steps out of the shadows, either ‘bigger fry’ happened to be in the neighborhood or the game’s working.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, these are my pajamas.”

I don’t dignify the question about my grappling hook with an answer, though what can be seen of my expression is telling enough I suppose. What with the ‘are you kidding, yes of course I know how to use this thing’ narrowing of blue eyes and all. Even if it’s new to the rotation of gear I’d packed for the night. Some recreational rock climbing, combined with gym class means that yes, I can in fact rappel down and scramble up ropes.

“Yeah, no. They’d probably get all kinds of wrong impressions. We don’t want that. Or you dropping me on my head on the way down.”

Shoving the baton back where it had been tucked in the first place, out comes the hook which I may or may not have practiced with a few times (okay just once) before I came out here tonight. But really. There’s plenty of easy enough anchor spots that I’m not worried about dropping myself on my own head. The descent just might be a little faster than really wise/necessary when I swing off that edge, and down the face of the building.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Inside head voice, Steph. No matter how tempting that rush of air makes it to turn it into outside head voice. I don’t wait. It was his idea. One I maybe probably shouldn’t have gone along with, since I was just originally planning to watch. Maybe do some light vehicular sabotage, and mostly just try to not get caught. Once I hit the bottom, it’s with a bit more noise than I really intended, but either it sounded much louder to my ears than it was and no one heard me across the street and inside the warehouse where the lot of them has disappeared, or they’re just not on the lookout for the likes of me.


Tim : If there had been any doubt over whether or not she could use the grapple hook? It wasn’t erased when she sets about using it. Not one bit. Part of me is sure that she’s going to go splat. The other part of me is preparing to swoop in before that happens. In the end I’m left somewhat marveling over the fact that she even survives, that I’m not overly displeased with how she’s managed to alert everyone in a two block radius of her arrival.

Or rather, she would have. If they were listening for the sounds of a small animal dropping from abnormal height. It would seem that they’re not. Another clue to the fact that these guys aren’t at all what they seem to be.

My entrance is a bit different. No grapple hook to the ground. Instead it’s a zip-line fired across from the perch we had been upon, to the building we’d been observing. On the way across, I’m pulling up the building schematics. Looking for points in the blue prints that might service a variety of things. Exits, of course. But also those sort of places you might want to hide something that wasn’t on the normal ledgers.

By the time I’m making a much softer landing on the adjacent building? I’m prepared just a bit more for what is going to go on in just a few moments. Sadly, where my erstwhile comrade’s inner voice is ‘wheeee.’ Mine happens to be questioning the fact that I just used her as bait.

I’ll have to worry about my moral compass later. After I finish opening the warehouse skylight to allow for roof access deployment. Strike from above. One of the first lessons that I ever got from Bruce. He told me it scares the hell out of even the most insane, to be attacked from the last place you expect. By a kid wearing a ninja suit and carrying a staff, no less.

Steph: I landed much harder the other night. Of course, then I was landing on someone (on purpose!), and from a much lower height. Air duct vs Roof top, I just slow my descent a bit…slowly and a little bit late, so there’s more momentum than there probably ought to be when I meet the pavement with my feet. My pause is not only waiting to make sure no one heard that and came looking, but watching the jerk launch himself across the street from the get go.

For two seconds I seriously consider using that outloud voice to say what I’m thinking. Oh, c’mon. A zipline? Really? You didn’t say you said a zipline!. Where do you even get one of those? Looks a hell of a lot more effective for entry, and getting around and just general fun. Two outings in a row I’m being shown up by stupid boys horning in on my action (so maybe Red Arrow got there before I did, but still) with clearly better gear than me.

I’d be offended, but I’m not exactly in this for the same thing I assume they are, and who am I kidding I’m still a little offended. This is my offended sprint across the street and through the little gap left in the gate after they’d closed it behind the van. There’s no one out here, and no sign of anyone as far as I can see. No alarms, speaking to the lack of security he’d mentioned. I get a lot less ballsy with my approach once I’m through the gate though.

Inside, the place is about as abandoned looking as it was outside. Disuse, misuse, and lack of general use at all showing in the dust. It makes the tracks of the van and the people inside of it fairly obvious as well. The loading docks on the other side, the general use entrance that I’m trying to make my way silently in through. An upper area that probably served as an office/supervisory area.

And crates. Uniform size, and shape, and looking far newer than the building and its’ use as a whole. Matching the ones in the back of the van that are being offloaded by the pair that had ‘broken in’ in the first place. The driver, having left his post in the vehicle, giving a shove to another box on the end of a row like he’s testing the weight and if he can shift it solo.

This one, and the one on the end over there. Swap ’em and lets go.”

Tim : First order of business? Tracers. On the boxes that are pointed out. Easy enough. Shot from above, placed on the top of crates. A place where few people would even take notice of unless they were looking. Especially crates that seem to give the men trouble lifting solo. Men do not like to be shown up, even if there’s not a potential mate nearby to witness. So they certainly do not take the time to inspect the lids of such things.

Then it’s time to make a second entrance. Now as I’m descending from the roof, I could put one of the toys on the vehicle. That might seem like the smart play. As it could shut down the engine. Stop someone from making a getaway. But. That would also remove any chance these guys have of making off with the crates they’re targeting and taking one of the tracers with them.

So. Instead of disabling the vehicle? I go for the man in the lead. The one directing traffic. Dropping from the roof. Once more a tether line to the rafters keeping my fall controlled. Giving me enough force to bring the bo-staff to bear upon the leaders skull, but not enough to break my ankles on the landing. Which I’ve just stuck with Olympic precision.

Batman would have something to say right about now. Something threatening, scary. Me? Quite frankly, I don’t have that going for me. Most people don’t turn tale and run from me. Especially not hardened criminals. What I’ve got is the element of surprise and about one hundred and sixty more I.Q. points.

“You know who I am. You know who I work with. Surrender and you won’t have to eat tomorrow’s breakfast through a tube.”

Steph: Slipping inside? Easy enough I guess. They left the bay door wide open. That seems strange. Admittedly I’m kind of new to this version of up close and personal with criminals. I’ve dealt with another version of it basically my whole life, mostly focused around one particular criminal. This still is. Centered around that one, that is, I’m just not sure yet how it ties back. The entrance wasn’t really line of sight from the road so maybe they felt secure?

The other maybe is that I got this all wrong and that they’re not stealing, and they actually belong here and what…forgot their key? Maybe they just figured this would be a quick in and out. Inside the warehouse is dim, light from the overcast moon and not much else outside of headlights that are illuminating the crates they’d come for. It means they’re not paying any attention to me when I sneak in through the doors.

…or it’s because there’s a ninja dropping down from the roof and landing with a whud that makes less noise than the crack of Bossy’s skull, and his subsequent dropping to the ground like a sack of potatoes. God. I feel like I should applaud right now, maybe hold up a sign with the American judges score, with a tenth of a point deduction because he’s not perfectly centered in the spotlight of the van’s lamps. It’s like he planned the whole thing.

As for the two still conscious thugs, jury’s out if they’re shocked, impressed, or also contemplating scoring numbers from Russia and Italy (if we’re being judgey about their complexion/build/nationality anyway). The crate’s released with a thud by one of them, and a ‘watch it fuckwad’ from the one who was trying to set it down carefully. Clearly they don’t really know what they want to do either, and their final ideas are as mismatched as their builds. The crate dropper turns tail to run. The more cautious of the two throws that care to the window and charges Red Robin with a bellow. Probably more impressive if he’d had time to work up some speed.

The Russian representative from the Warehouse Entrance Committee seems pretty hell bent on just getting the hell out of Dodge, and not doing much looking except over his shoulder, and in front of where he’s going. Which leaves me lined up to do a little of my own charging. Well. Lunging. Going from a three point stance, to launching my smaller body into a passing set of knees. Sure, he’s bigger but if you’re not expecting someone to crash into you there’s kind of one inevitable response.

I hope.

“What, no ‘this is a terrible misunderstanding, bro?’ I mean, you could at least try. He’s not that scary if you’re innocent… thoughthestrawthingwasalittleintenseo of…”

My merry bit of conversation and admonition, as I’m righting myself after the tackle is interrupted with a knee coming up and shoving a bit of the wind out of me. Mostly because it caught me off guard than out of any real lasting injury, and I double over for a moment before coming back upright with baton in hand.

“Rude. Seriously.”

Tim : In reality this all boils down to planning and skill. With a bit of excess in the planning stage. Hacking in to the computer system of the Warehouse, if only to find what wasn’t on the manifesto and to find that there was very little in the way of security to bypass. Then a tap of the mask to switch through several fields of vision, so make a count on the men inside. A little night vision to make certain of what it was they were after, specific crates. Tagging them to insure we’d find them even if they escaped. Back to thermal, in order to account for radiation and positioning, before dropping in to the room with purpose.

First the leader. The threat, infighting terror. People fear Batman to such an extent that most don’t know or believe him to be gone. Even though he has been M.I.A. for a bit. At any moment it could be his return, it’s happened before. That splits the difference. Planning, once more, positions my back to the Van’s lights and leaves the brave one charging in to them.

So. When I sidestep like Caytona Ordonez the swish of cape allows only a moment of darkness before the van’s lights spray the man in the face. The butt of the bo-staff is then quick to catch him in the chin, to rear him upwards. So that the heel of a boot can catch him in the back of the head. Putting both his own momentum and the swing of a back-kick in to driving him face first in to his own van.

In turn, it leaves me once more facing away from the van’s lights and taking a visual scan of the young woman’s efforts. “I’d get a sippy cup delivered to your hospital room, but I did warn you.”

I’m far too far away to directly assist, Stephanie. But I’m perfectly distanced away that I can fire the grappling hook in to his back, for a yank. She needs an opening and it’s really the best I can do from this far away.

“Knee. Then Ribs. You need one of them able to talk.”

Steph : It’s all very impressive, and smooth I might add. Or would if I was watching anymore. Stepping out of the way at just the right moment to let environment and positioning be taken full advantage of. Red Robin over there is occupying the opposite side of the fighting spectrum than I am. He’s acting and forcing reactions, which leads them into an impromptu ‘trap.’ While I’m not really on the defensive, but still reacting to the actions of someone else. Namely tall, pockmarked and mule kicky here. At least I think they’re pockmarks. Either that or he’s gotten a whole lot of shmutz on his face.

Jeeze-o-Pete. I was trying to avoid fighting but this Robin guy is clearly a really bad influence. Fighting leads to bruises I have to lie to my Mother to explain, and while I’m a pretty great liar (thanks Dad) I don’t like doing it to her. I guess if I was really all that worried about what I was going to ‘do to her’ I would have taken up a new hobby, though. Not the point. Taking the baton in both hands lets me use it to ward off another kick that seems to have been attempting to knock it away from me.

Luck, more than skill but whatevs. I’ll take it. Puts me in position to yank the telescoping end out and then… I really don’t want to hit him in the knee because he just told me to like some sort of fight coach/shot caller, but it’s right there. The crack makes me let out an almost sympathetic noise to the howl of pain, which gets cut off about as quickly as my banter did when the next swing connects across what’s now a really easy target.

Followed by another knee for good measure. And because I want to feel like I did something under my own initiative here. Kicking over the writhing goober probably doesn’t really make him more capable of ‘sharing time’ but…it feels kind of good.

“I had it. Thanks. Hey, bro. Sounds like he’s got questions for you, maybe sippy cup’s still on the table for you.”

Fuck you, bitch

“Ouch, really? That’s what you’ve got? Unless the question is ‘what is the most expected and least emotionally damaging thing you could say to me,’ I don’t think you’re getting the two hundred… Jeopardy? …okay never mind…”

Tim: Zzzzzzzack!

That’s the sound that emits from the grapple hook’s tether, miliseconds after Stephanie’s jerk spends a few moments being juiced with the taser element. I’m not sure, really, if he actually heard anything that she said to him. But that’s more or less immaterial. The point of this exercise was to let him know that he was going to be jolted, perhaps repeatedly, until he actually shares the information that we’re after. However, I’ve yet to ask a question.

On the flip side? I’m also showing Stephanie that she was actually in no real danger just then. Quite the opposite. I could have tasers the jerk if she couldn’t have handled him once the hook got it’s grip on him. So then that makes the rest of what happened a test of her skill or maybe her ability to follow directions. Probably both. I’ve spent way too much time with Batman. Actually. I have literally spent way too much time around Bruce, I’m doing exactly what he’d do. Except I’m a little ashamed that I’m immediately recognizing that he did it for good reasons.

A couple moments later, I’ve secured the other two readily enough to be sure there will be no recovery. Then I’m making my way in her direction. Juicing the man up every time he says anything that sounds remotely like it’s anything but the information Stephanie was looking for. Even though I haven’t a clue what it is she’s looking for. And I’m getting pretty sure that she doesn’t know either.

By the time I’m standing near again the cape has once more settled around my shoulders. Draping me in the black veil that conceals everything beneath. It doesn’t stop people from recognizing that I’m ‘a stupid kid,’ but it does leave most of them wondering what’s going on beneath the cape.

“I’ve alerted G.C.P.D.. So they’re on their way. So if you have any useful questions for this one, you better ask quickly. Otherwise, if you can keep up, I’ll tell you what’s in those crates over a root-beer float. My suit should be done scanning their contents by the time you’re done asking questions.”

Steph: Boy. I don’t really know if I want to feel irritated or victorious right now. I mean, yeah I clobbered the hell out of the guy, but it becomes pretty clear pretty immediately that Red Robin let me. Which. Is fine. I guess? Except when it comes with the realization that he probably also would have stopped any of the fighting at all if he thought he should or needed to. So I just settle for hands on hips, hooded head cocked to one side as I watch our poor new ‘friend’ writhe from the taser.

And decide yup, it’s fact. Everyone has better gear and cooler gadgets than me. But this one gets to shop at Bats’r’Us, so I guess I shouldn’t really try and compare.

“What’s in the crates, sparky?”

We could probably open them ourselves and look if we really wanted to, and I kind of do but that can wait a minute. Interrogation, huh? Well, this is new to me but I suppose it’s like playing a really aggro game of twenty questions. Since what I get is mostly swear words, and return questions. Not tellin’ you shit. Why are you taking them? Don’t know. Where are you taking them? Don’t know. The answers, after repeated jolting, are getting increasingly frantic and emphatic though. Alternating panting, howling, and swearing that they were just swapping the boxes, and he was just there to do the heavy lifting.

“I don’t think he knows anything. Plus I’m starting to imagine this smell of toasty wet Russian in the air and I mean… I can’t smell it but it’s probably really unappealing…”

P.S. I don’t know what I’m looking for. I just knew there was something going on, and assumed I could wing it from there. Eyeballing Robin sideways around the edge of my hood is partly cape appreciation, maybe a bit of jaw profile, and lingering resentment about being bosses around by someone horning in on my night. Without being asked. If I had to guess I wouldn’t pin him as a whole lot older than me, if older than at all. No grizzly, well worn look to him or the gear. Letting out a soft huff of air through my nose, I walk briskly while he’s talking to the crates they were going to make off with.

Curling my fingers into what looks like the place the lid should pry up, I give it a test before I start looking for something resembling a crowbar. The lid doesn’t come up, which was to be expected. The fact that the whole thing shifts startles me into dropping my hands. Just for a second anyway, before I’m rocking it back and forth again.

“…I don’t think there’s anything in here… were these dummies really stealing empty boxes?…”

Mostly rhetorical with a side of my thinking out loud and forgetting about the inner voice/monologue options available to me. But there’s no noise, no feel of anything shifting inside.

“I don’t even get to call the cops? I suppose you’ve got a button for that, too. Wait. If I can keep up? You have a freaking zipline. How am I supposed to keep up? And seriously. What is it with you guys and wanting to go out for snacks after the asskicking? Is that like. A thing that no one told me about?”

Clearly I’d ignored the suit scanning bit, in favor of doing some of my own checking. Because I’m really starting to feel superfluous here. But the two they’d indicated taking are well and truly what I’d guessed: empty. Without even packing material to indicate what was in them previously, if there was ever anything at all. The ones that they’d brought with them are another story. Those are well padded and secured to prevent the shifting of bottle after bottle of Metopryl.

Tim : “You didn’t ask the right questions.”

It’s a soft correction, but a correction none the less. One that is offered in the midst of a round of tasering the guy. “You want to know what’s in the crates, but we already have access to them. Along with the truck. What you want to know is where he was delivering them. Who is paying him. Who contacted him for the job in the first place. We have pieces of a puzzle in front of us. If you want to put them together, you need to have the context.”

In spite of that coaching, I’m not really asking the questions myself. There’s a rather arched brow that is afixed to her the entire time she gets side-tracked with the boxes. Then there’s a soft, slow, shake of the head that does manage to wait until she’s not looking. Rookies. Ugh.

“I also have a motorcycle parked around the corner. So you’re not supposed to keep up. It was a test. All of this was a test. To see if you’re ready to be out here. I wanted to know if you’re one of those starry eyed girls who is trying to do this to meet their heroes. Cape Groupies are the worst, aren’t they Tracksuit?” He’d answer if he wasn’t being tasered again. “I’ve decided you’re not. By the way.”

“A cape groupie. Or. Ready to be out here. So you either need to get ready or you’ve got to go. Which is going to depend on how you answer the next question.”

“Why are you here?”

The intonation is made perfectly to emphasize specifically what I’m after. Why is -she- out -here-? What is she doing? Why is she doing it? Is there a real reason or is she just some adrenaline junkie. More importantly, is the shift in stance. Because it says very clearly that the wrong answer is going to mean she’s left here for the G.C.P.D. to be picked up too.

Steph: I mean, I’d like to tell the guy he’s wrong, or dumb, or I don’t know. Have some sort of rebuttal to anything that he’s saying. The problem is that he’s not really wrong. Those would all have been good questions to ask, and great answers to get. If the thoroughly zapped goober on the warehouse floor had them anyway. And while Robin’s not asking the questions, aforementioned goober is trying to provide them anyway. Or at least to provide the right combination of words to convince us that he just doesn’t know. Shifting the blame/responsibility to the one that paid him, who was apparently paid by someone else to make the swap. He’d been under the impression it was not quite legal. Just not with any idea that what they were taking was just a big empty set of boxes.

“…ugh. Wait. You mean like….you? Batman? Yeah, no. Do people really do that?”

There’s got to be way easier ways to do that. Like. I don’t know. Committing a minor, misguided crime or putting yourself in harm’s way in the hope of a rescue from someone tall, dark and brooding. Or in this case, not as tall, broody and kind of cutely insufferable. Or just insufferable. The latter part needs to the muttering under my breath as I collapse my baton again and make my way back over.

“…yeesh, vigilantehallmonitorwhoknew…Ahem. Seems like we need your landing mat conscious to get a lot of those answers. Seriously, who steals empty boxes and if you’re going to drop something off to hide it, how do you know about the empty boxes to swap? Did your fancy computer, whereeveryou’vegotthatshoved, tell you who owns the warehouse?”

I think I probably should process some of what he’s actually said to me, rather than just word vomiting my thoughts on what’s going down here around us which. Hey. He probably knows because apparently this was just a test. It can’t be though. Just a test. Maybe his following me here was, but this was setup by someone else. And this is my business just as much as it is anyone else’s.

“Go…where? Like. Vegas? Home? I’m here because something fishy is going on and I’m going to ruin it…are you trying to menace me? We’re kind of on the roughly same side here.”

I hesitate for a second in putting the baton back into my belt. I might be a little…uh… new at all this but I’m not stupid. He’s got a taser and fancy gear and seems pretty clearly more capable at kicking my ass than I would be his. I mean. Not in a head on fight for sure.

“The other night was a bank break in where they seemed to think they were going to get something really great. There’s these punks, and their dumb empty box swap. Who I picked to pester tonight, because it seemed more legit than the boat I heard about at the docks. It’s like they’re fishing.”

There’s a pause and a roll of my eyes, as I realize that maybe it sounds like I meant something other than I really did just then.

“Not the guys on the boat. I mean. Maybe they are, I’m here, not there. There’s your metaphor.”

Tim : “No. Not why are you here in this moment.”

Taking a step away from the Russian, towards Stephanie. Menace has nothing on the way I’m going all Gandalf at the moment. Making my size appear to grow as I ‘menace’ closer to her with each footfall. Of course this is nothing more than a trick of mind, the shadows cast by the van’s lights feeding in to it. This is a trick that I’ve seen a thousand times. Sort of like a Batman Mind Trick. It lacks only in the hand waving, but makes up for it in the simplicity of the fact that she’s genuinely aware I can throttle her.

“Why are you here? Normal people have no business here. Wearing the pajamas out to the scene of a crime. Two crimes apparently. Are you an adrenaline junkie just out spoiling for a fight? Because you’re green. You almost died jumping off that roof. Your gear barely took that shot to the ribs. You’re exuberant, sure, but you’re not trained. So that means is you’re eventually going to get yourself killed.”

“Or. Worse. You’re going to get someone else killed.”

That is why I want to know what you’re doing out here. Because if you’re just out here for the thrills then if I don’t put a stop to it? Whoever you get killed is on me.” This time when I stop? It’s to let her see my hand sliding out of my cape, so that she can see what’s in my hand. “Gas pellets. Neuro-toxin. I’ll give you the antidote if your answer is a good one. Otherwise you stay here, for the G.C.P.D. to pick up.”

Steph: Who died and made him the King of telling people who they’re allowed to snoop on and what they get to do with their nights? Especially when coming down here and fighting was actually his idea. I was just going to watch and tail from the rooftops originally, or creep in after they were gone and see the aftermath. But I wasn’t originally going to get so hands on at the bank either. Someone else just walked into my ‘trap.’ Even standing here right now though, really can’t deny that whole adrenaline thing. It’s just a side bonus for getting in the way of whatever big plan this is that’s trying to unfold. I’d just be better at obstructing it if I really knew what was happening.

I’ve already stood next to this kid, unless he’s got hydraulic lifts in his boots (not discounting the possibility, it seems to have basically everything in it) I know he’s not really getting taller than he was then. It still looks like it though, and it’s hard not to react to that. Psychological responses, probably some fight and flight, who knows. I force my face into something a whole lot more stoic than what I feel like, and it probably isn’t totally convincing but hey. Scowling is better than shrinking away like I’m about to turn tail and run.

Which might not be the worst plan but hey. I already watched the Taserface Show, I don’t want to be next in line.

“…seriously? You do realize how creepy that sounds or does your suit not have a Jimminy Cricket in the souped up package?”

Starting to sound a little frantic there, Steph and he hasn’t even buzzed you yet. I’d be so dead. Like. Beyond dead. Grounded, ground up and dead. Assuming at least that I make it to GCPD and then get turned over to one of the parental units. Well. To Mom. There’s not really any reason it’d be Dad. Not unless some judge was smoking something really potent. So what have I got to tell him to pass his stupid little test?

“It’s personal, okay? Which is why this…”

Making a wide gesture to take in the warehouse, the goonies, the van and crates. All of it.

“…is something I have to do.”

Tim : What happens then and there is the equivalent of ‘Parental Figure folding his arms in awaiting of more.’ Only I am not folding my arms, but equally making no effort to do anything else either. The longer we wait the closer the G.C.P.D. is to making their arrival. Which leads to a ticking clock that is not even of my doing, but it’s good enough.

“I’ve seen Batman break someone’s knee(s), plural, to send them home and save their life. Not to mention the lives of others who they might have gotten killed. A little neurotoxin is actually a step up in the Humane department, really.”

“Personal. Hm.” There’s just enough worry in her voice to tell me that she’s at least speaking the truth about that. She used the right key words too. ‘Have to do,’ instead of want to do. “Alright. if this is something you have to do then you need to learn how to do it right.”

“The first lesson is free,” pointing with the free hand at the pills in the other, which I’m summarily tossing to her. “Those are gummy poppers. You didn’t even look. I could have demanded anything. You’re not very good yet, so you need to make up for that by taking stock of everything. Make a plan. Even if it’s just a small one. Make people play your game.”

Turning just slightly enough to fire the grappling hooks’ auxiliary cable up at the roof we only just recently vacated. “Second Lesson. Always have an escape plan. Need a lift or do you want the cop-cams to see you scrabbling up the side of the building?”

Steph : “You guys have a real knee thing going on, don’tcha? I mean. Won’t deny it’s effective…”

Given how I just kneecapped the Russian myself. Twice. Painful, and makes it hard to do anything important very easily. Like running, for example, or fighting back effectively unless you have a gun. Not that I’d really know about the latter, outside of knowing how to fire one properly. Again. SuperthanksDad. Clearly I learned all my useful/worst skills from the man.

But at the very least, out of all of this, he at least seems to believe me enough that I’m still conscious and not in a heap waiting for the police to roll up and apprehend the assorted crew of ne’er-do-wells in the warehouse. The shoulder slumping sigh I let out is just as much relieved as it is exasperated at Red Robin. Especially with the revelation of what the ‘pills’ actually are. Really. I mean. Really. All I have to say to my credit is that I manage to snag them out of the air.

And then resist the kind of childish urge to chuck them at his head.

“How do I know you guys don’t manufacture your knockout drugs in gummy form? Maybe Batman’s the Willy Wonka of crime fighting.”

Here’s the thing. Even when you know you’re not very good at something? It still pretty much sucks to have someone tell it to your face no less. Talk about smug superiority over there. Fortunately I’m not stupid enough to discount what he’s saying because of the delivery. I can still be grouchy about it, and just a hair on the ungrateful side though. Lips pursed, thankfully hidden underneath my mask, I spend a moment considering my chances with option two.

“…Ineedalift. Please.”