Dick: Rapid City.
What can be said about Rapid City? It is largely unremarkable. In fact it’s remarkable only in how unremarkable it is. Ordinary is the key word for this city. Rarely making the news for anything other than being not-quite as good at anything as the other major cities of the world. It lacks the scope of Metropolis. Not nearly as idyllic as Fawcett City. Crime doesn’t quite manage to reach even the levels of Star City, much less Gotham. It had an economic collapse a few years ago, but even that didn’t make much waves as Coast City was being wiped from the face of the planet. Aliens didn’t invade here, in fact much of the town thinks that was all just sensationalist news casting from Hollywood.
All in all when Dinah Lance steps out of the sports car that she and Dick have been driving in for the last two days? She’s going to be stepping into the most Mayberry place she’s been to in a very long time. There’s just nothing to latch on too beyond the surface of Rapid City being a virtual lake placid.
As luck would have it? She has had two and a half days to do the leg work. More accurately she’s had two and a half days to let other people do it for her. Mostly. Based on Superman’s information she was able to direct Alfred as to where to look for some sort of historical reference points. One dead end that was particularly frustrating was the sudden silence of Slade Wilson. Had she used up her good will and he’d ditched her now that she was clearly working more with Grayson than him? Or had something happened with him, during his attempted escape from Star City when things went south? The answer to that question wasn’t an easy one to answer. Alfred couldn’t pull anything from public sources. Even contacting Boy Blue hadn’t merited any inside information, because he was currently being held out of the loop following him going cowboy on the organization. Adding to that mystery, Alfred was reporting that both Stephanie and Tim had not reported in. They too were off the grid since their last check in said they were headed to Stephanie’s dad’s flat to do some research on his machinations.
The bad news just kept coming too. Alfred could find nothing that even suggested a point to look into about all of this. That turned out to be the only silver lining, because the whole thing was so clean that it was actually too clean. Just prior to 2007, when Ra’s Al Ghul was engineering the destruction of Gotham and the subsequent ‘No Man’s Land’ that befell it, Rapid City became a hot-spot for military distribution. This coincided almost perfectly with the decommissioning of their sole military base, which one would logically think should mean the opposite. Military funding should be getting decreased, if the sole military asset was being shut down. Rapid City saw a distinct increase.
Which is why the unmarked S.U.V. rolls up not far from those very gates. The naked eye can see all too well that the former base is exactly as it should be. Closed down and sealed off. With all the proper signs that show it being in a state of non-use and shut down. All of Dick’s fancy technology confirms just that too; No life signs, no power readings. Nothing that would hint to them a direction to go from here.
Speaking of her cohort on this trip? Dick’s been a lot more quiet than she’s used too. Though it wouldn’t take Dinah long to figure out that it was all due to him being acutely focused on trying to piece together some sort of plan that would allow them to not go in blind again. The trip only took as long as it did because they had to detour to one of the Bat Family safe houses that Bruce scattered across the country. They needed new outfits and supplies.
At the hood of the car, Dick is bringing up the known blueprints of the military base in the form of a holographic display on the hood of the vehicle. “The problem, right now, is that we have too much information. We’re trying to connect too many dots. That’s one of the reasons that serial killers do calling cards. Most people think it’s all about taunting, in order to challenge the cops to catch them. However most serial killers do it for the purpose of supplying red herrings. It’s a taunt, only in so much as they’re trying to outsmart the profile.”
“Of all the information you’ve learned. We need to start looking at the important details. Talk about the four things; Who? Your former team. What. Do we know what they were doing? When? We know it happened while you were young, but old enough to actually -do- some sort of military operation. Where? Here, Rapid City. Why? Did Conner or Slade give you any sort of clue as to why that team was formed or put in the field?”
Dinah: I clearly wasn’t cut out for small town living, even when said small town isn’t actually that small. Every place that I have ever lived has just been both considerably larger, and a lot more insane. Maybe places like Star and especially Gotham breed a level of paranoia into you, and I can’t decide if I don’t trust this place, or I just don’t like it. Overall, my tension level really hasn’t decreased. Being unable to solve my own problem, on my own, isn’t helping and the big picture has only gotten larger the deeper we delve into this. If I’m honest with myself, I knew it would. There was a reason I hadn’t wanted to make a move until I knew I’d have information that I could make stick, because I was aware that my opponent is technically the law. I’d gone to Star City hoping to have something to use, and they’d gone and pushed me along into action more quickly than I’d anticipated.
Conner’d told me that I was being marionetted, and spoke towards his experience with that sort of treatment. So the question really is, are they making me dance on those strings because it’s what they wanted, or because I was getting too close to something else?
I have to let other people help though, I’m not so stubborn as to not recognize there’s things I can’t do. It’s why I’d given Tim those chips in the first place. It’s not just about me anymore, or maybe it never was in the first place and I just didn’t see it. But the fact that we’re here, in the middle of nowhere, with a lot of people either important to us, or connected to this, or both unable to be reached? Yeah. I’m tense when I need to not be, I need to focus and not second guess, and more importantly I need some kind of clarity. If I’d noticed Dick being quiet, for once I didn’t even needle him about it, but I’m in much the same state.
Boots crunching on the ground, one hand’s jangling against my thigh like it would if I were being restless with a set of keys. I don’t have any, so it just results in a thumb tapping an unsteady rhythm against the limb, the other shoved into a jacket pocket as my eyes wander over the blueprints that he’s pulled up. Dick’s asking some good questions, and I use them to ground my thoughts and try to put the pieces I’ve been laying out in a nonsense order in my mind.
The pause gets longer, despite my having just opened my mouth to answer him. I close it to purse my lips, blue eyes widening in a mix of recognition, and surprise, like I’ve had a eureka but I don’t actually trust it’s what I’m after.
“To combat Ra’s. Slade said that he was trying to purge Gotham, but not because Gotham is, well. Gotham. He was trying to burn out an enemy, and that enemy pulled a whole lot of very politically connected strings to mobilize a force to defend Gotham against the League. Self-preservation, and ten bucks says that enemy is the same one that you’ve been trying to find even a shadow to of to chase since Bruce died and fuck why do I have to always be right…”
I’d been half-flippant way back when about it all being connected. All going back to some neat little package. But it clearly didn’t stop there. Why would it? Channels had been opened, things set in motion that probably couldn’t be taken back nearly as neatly as a little neurotoxin took all of our memories.
“I was probably fourteen. Maybe fifteen. You met me right after and I wasn’t a whole lot more developed at that point. I didn’t look as old as I was, and I’d been training as long as most career soldiers already. Tim’s work with the chips placed me at Belle Reve. Slade said we met on a plane on the way to Gotham. I don’t have a solid timeline, because he doesn’t really remember reliably either, he’s gotten his information somewhere else. It clearly wasn’t a one time deal, and this is a healthy dose of supposition and informed guessing but…”
But my gut, and instincts, are usually pretty good when I’m working at full, untampered with, capacity. Now I’m pacing, the drumming of my fingers intensifying as my mind goes back to rolling through scenarios.
“Alfred said things were picking up here, when they should have been winding down. I may not be a tech wiz, but I assume as advanced as Tim said the chips were that they took some prep time, and would have had to be in the works. So either Ra’s enemies got wind of what he was doing well before he got to Gotham, or someone was doing some non-kosher experiments ahead of time. Superman said Rapid City was our last mission. He also said, much like you and your blueprints and my eyes right now, that there’s nothing here. Considering how you’ve got a Batcave hidden in your basement, I don’t know that I believe that.”
Slade also told me the team was the first time I met him. Not Deathstroke, who clearly came later. After the team? Conner’d also given me a lot of information on Slade, and psychotic is not actually a label I’d put on him, not in the actual definition. A daughter that no one else remembers. Much like a perhaps brother of mine, in the same boat?
“We need to get in there. I. Think we also need to track down Steve Trevor.”
Dick: Fourteen? Would you believe that out of all the things that have been up for discussion of late it is that information which brings Dick Grayson to a complete halt. Even if he’d been sporting his mask, Dinah would have seen the surprise. Because it’s about as genuine an expression as you’ll ever see on the Boy Wonder. She’d been about that age when she showed up at the Cave. Full of piss and vinegar at the time, but damaged to the point that anyone who knew her then would have saw that something was deeply effecting her. The Death of her Father? Sure. We’d all been there. Dinah just had so much more Rage than the rest of us. Add in a life-time of her dad wanting her to never be the weak link and…
“Someone made you run tactical missions at Fourteen? I’m so torn right now. On one hand that’s deplorable. On the other, it explains why you were so…” Oh, look at her face right this second. Let’s pick a different word than damaged. “Hot back then. Fourteen is an early age to develop in to the Hot.”
Right. So moving right along. Steve Trevor? Check. The Bat Computer was compromised, so that puts us constantly behind an eight ball. Or rather it would have, if not for Timothy’s obsession with redundancy. The Nest has it’s own system, which is off the Cave’s grid. It’s lacking access to a lot of Bruce’s secretive server information, but it’s basically a copy of the mainframe that formed the Bat Computer. Meaning? Dick don’t need Barbara or Tim to find Steve Trevor in Bruce’s files. He can use the Nest’s systems to access alternative systems like the Homeland Security and Department of Extranormal Operations, to find information. If Dinah was looking closely she’d see that there’s not even a hollywood amount of hacking involved. The Boy Wonder actually credentials.
While Dick works on the first thing that she’s said, it’s Alfred that chirps in with the second avenue that she’s talking about. ‘It would seem you are in fact correct, Canary. While there are no records of official activity at the base you’re standing before. Off-site records actually do show an active power grid. Along with that the local reservoir’s power station has been at work for the last fifteen years or more, without actually sending so much as a joule of electricity to the city proper. It was never redirected to the city, after the base’s decommission date.’
“Yahtzee! Steve Trevor was part of the task force sent here to decommission this base in 2006. When the base was shut down all personnel were transferred elsewhere. Except for Trevor and his task force. According to official records they were also decommissioned. The reason we couldn’t find any additional military records for Trevor? Is because his file ends there. Tim assumed he went black site with Nowhere, but… he’s actually in the PNC. Sheriff Steve Trevor, Rapid City.”
With a wave of his hand, the digital display shifts and soon enough an entire profile is right in front of Dinah’s face. Steve Trevor. Less blonde hair than white at this point. The beard definitely alters his face quite a bit, but if you’ve ever seen him it’s hard to forget someone that looks like him. Maybe it’s the blue eyes. They are rather piercing. Like hollow point bullet kind of piercing.
“Are we breaking and entering? Or going to visit the Sheriff?” Dick Grayson is a man of his word. He promised to follow her lead and not push his own agenda. Hence the Nightwing costume and giving her everything but the keys to his car. “There’s two of us. We can split up. Two birds. One stone. So to speak.”
Dinah: “Tactical suicide missions. With brain chips loaded full of neurotoxin. You’re leaving out some important keywords. And it could’ve been thirteen, depending on how far ahead of the Arkham raid it all truly started but, semantics on exactly how bad of an idea it really was based on hormones alone… Tim did say it was a good thing you didn’t know I’d been to prison back then, though.”
Which is what’s had me thinking this entire time, even with less information than I actually have now, why me? Because it seems like a spectacularly bad idea to bring a teenager into anything life or death, let alone with with superpowers no matter how well controlled. And mine had been. Controlled. There was a singular outburst when my metagene first manifested, but despite the rest of my attitude that was always on a tight leash. My grandmother was to thank for that, especially after my Mother died. The more I learn about this Team 7, the angrier I get at NOWHERE, and the more I think that the original Black Canary’s passing shortly before was no coincidence. Whose demented experiment was it, or whose version of payback? My tone is awfully cheerful through all of that, but that’s not exactly comforting since it’s more at home in Full Canary or I’m Going to Murder You Mode.
“I figured I was at least kind of entitled to be angry, what with the domino affect of dead family members, but then you add in a traumatic brain injury or several that I didn’t even know about and…”
I may not be an anatomy whiz, except when it comes to what parts hurt most if you hit them with the least effort, but I’d have to assume anytime you have portions of that tissue destroyed outright it qualifies. And how many times had it happened? I’d have to assume that the fact that I was still actually growing and developing is the only reason it’s not a lot worse. So is that why they’d thrown someone so young into the mix? How would it have affected Slade differently? Or this Trevor? Maybe it’s why Wilson’s got fragments and flashes and I have absolutely nothing. My brain might have been still growing and just patched over the trauma while he had bits and bobs.
I’m just going to get even more angry the more I think about this, and I need a semi-level head right now.
“Huh. Seems a little convenient. I’m learning to not like convenient.”
I blow out a huff of air strong enough to rustle my bangs a little, turning towards the hood of the SUV and bracing my hands on the hood.
“Here’s where I’m at.” Being not terribly Dinah and discussing plans and thoughts, for one thing. “I really want to smash something, but I’m pretty sure that’s a bad option. I figure you wouldn’t have even put the option forward unless you felt semi-confident in being a ninja because we both know you didn’t mean me for that.”
I smirk at him through the curtain of my hair before straightening my posture once again.
“I’ll go talk to Sheriff Trevor and leave the stealth to you, as long as you can promise me you’re semi-prepared for the chance there’s not nothing down there. I can’t lose anyone else this week.”
Dick: “Tim said that? Ass.”
‘Master Drake is extremely astute, ordinarily.’
‘You do, after all, have a very bad history with very bad women.’
“Oh. I get it now. All these years. Now I’m starting to understand why Bruce was such a loner.”
‘Perhaps to wear the cowl one must have a predilection for ‘Bad Girls?”
One moment Dick Grayson is palming his face. The next moment he’s sighing in complete helplessness. Accepting his fate as the Boy Wonder that has a tendency for girls who run a little on the wrong end of the law. How exactly does someone defend against such indictments? Well you can’t exactly point out the long, long looooooong list of women who were on the right side of the law. Not when standing right in front of one of the very topic of conversation.
So, the only natural course of action? Deflection to the point and purpose of why they’re here to begin with. “Actually, Dee. Given that we are here for the purpose of looking in to all of this -and- based on the supposition that it isn’t just nothing down there? I would say that isn’t convenient. It’s strategic. Look at it this way. If something happened here that required an entire base to be shut down, then do you just leave the cover-up exposed and available for people to snoop around? What better cover for someone to keep this all on the downlow than the law enforcement officer that would logically be responsible to keep people off this old base?”
“A bottle of Alfred’s best and night of the winner’s choosing, says when you find him? He’s a plant.”
This is the point in the planning efforts where Dick finally puts that Bandit mask on and completes the visage of Nightwing. A couple seconds later the costume’s entire blue motife fades away. Leaving him little more than a smudge in the background of what she’s looking at. Ninja? Dick has told her (and anyone that would listen) about three hundred times that he’s simply not the straight forward ground and pound of Bruce Wayne. This is almost a tailor made assignment for him, but he wasn’t about to even suggest himself for the job. Not when Dinah might feel a need to do this as a much more frontal assault. He’d prepped for that too, just in case.
He lingers for a second. Just a second. Eyeballing her for a second, as he thinks through whether or not that he should say something encouraging or make a joke. With a twist of his lips there’s a jaunty salute, followed by a circus bow, before he’s springing in to action to go look around the old Military Base.
Taking Dick’s ride to town isn’t much of a problem for Dinah either, because as luck would have it Wayne Boys do nothing in half measures. Dick’s vehicle apparently converts in to two separate ones when need be. Leaving behind what amounts to the shell of the sports car, Dinah’s off to Rapid City on a bike that is more crotch rocket than she’s used too. But the damn thing basically unfolded out of the trunk like some sort of escape pod.
The little thing cooks too and there’s not a hint of burning gas to accompany it. Alternate power source? You betcha. What? Did she think Tim got all the toys? Not a chance.
Finding the Sheriff of a town this size isn’t exactly difficult. We’re not dealing with Metropolis. By the time she’s nearing the City Limits, Alfred’s got her dialed in to the local P.D.’s radio frequency. Dispatch has deputies going all over the place, but the Sheriff is always ‘1PP’. Call sign for ‘First Police Person.’ The chief or sheriff is always the first police person as a symbolic gesture to the old west, when a sheriff would often police a town alone. Until deputizing every day citizens to help in times of need. 1PP happens to working a disturbance at a truck stop just outside of town.
Alfred’s cool ‘Oh, my.’ in Dinah’s ear probably tips her off that it’s not exactly a casual family dining experience. Neon Lights in the shape of women dancers properly spell out what Dinah’s heading for even before she rolls in to the parking lot. The lack of police strobe lights say the only disturbance is likely to the sheriff’s wallet.
Dinah: “Penny-One might be onto something…”
I do stifle some of the laughter at his expense, but the same effort isn’t put into keeping the smirk off my lips as Dick’s called out on his tastes and proclivities. I’m not judging, I’m not that big of a hypocrite, but I can certainly still be amused. The air is saved for the derisive snort, as I shake my head.
“No bet, do you think I haven’t been paying attention? I’ll be shocked if he’s not waiting in some large swivel chair with an evil looking pet in his lap and a sinister ‘I’ve been expecting you, Ms. Lance.'”
I half expect there to be commentary in response to my moment of verbal vulnerability, especially after the ribbing he’d gotten, but there’s nothing. Just the bow, and the disappearing act, and knowledge that I should probably be more anxious about leaving him alone out here like this. I’m not though, because I know Nightwing is a hell of a lot more suited to the task than I am. Would I have preferred a frontal assault? Absolutely. But I expect them to be expecting us. Somehow. I’m much more likely to tip off a welcome wagon. Now. I may gripe and bitch and refuse to let Tim do anything to my own bike back in Gotham, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of fun riding this one into the city. There’s not much worry about getting pulled over, not when we know where all units are, and I’d already opened the throttle anyway. The adrenaline doing the opposite of what it would do for most sane people and settling me, before I angle in to the truck stop.
I’m already laughing before Alfred’s remark is finished, taking in the lights, or more importantly the shape thereof.
“Gee. I might stick out like a sore thumb in here…Maybe we should have swapped jobs.”
I’m shrugging out of my jacket before I’m even off the bike, shaking fingers through my color altered hair to fluff it up some in the wake of my bike ride, in order to look for the back door and let myself in that way. I might be slightly more covered up than your average pre-show stripper but not by a whole lot. See. Knew it would come in handy someday. This may not be my Gotham City Black, but it’ll function just fine. The sheriff shouldn’t be hard to find, even if I didn’t know what he looked like. Then it’s a matter of going up to ‘introduce’ myself. So many ways that I can play it, but if we’re just going to assume a plant that’s not particularly into cooperating with me? Assuming his lap is actually vacant, I’ll help myself right to it, looking to pin the sidearm I also assume is there, with a thigh.
“You’re an awful hard fella to get in touch with, for someone in public service.”
Trevor: With a name like ‘The Grin and Bare It’ it would be hard for someone that looks like Dinah Lance to ever be out of place. Unless you mean that she finally found the one strip joint in the entire United States that she’s far too classy to fit in. As it just so happens, she isn’t as out of place as you might think. Once she’s inside she’ll understand right away why that is. Is that Wonder Woman giving a lap dance in the champagne room? How did they get Harley Quinn to pole dance center stage? Don’t look at the V.I.P. lounge, because there’s a blonde over there who is doing a very good impression of the original Black Canary. The Bar Tender may as well be O.G. Supes too, because he’s got muscles in all the right places. Don’t look now but Batgirl just shot Dinah a nasty look for cutting her off, as she was headed for the same lap.
“That tells me you haven’t been looking very hard.”
From the moment that he opens his mouth there’s just something different about Sheriff Trevor. He’s well spoken. Crisp. Not a hint of slur in the voice, in spite of the fact that the neighboring table has what looks to be the remnants of a sixty four pack of ‘Miller Light.’ Light on the carbs, but heavy on the alcohol. Less filling -and- it tastes great. Not that she would think he needs less weight, because the moment she’s in his lap she’ll get a sense of a man who doesn’t need to go to the gym any time soon. He’s physically fit and that might be an under-statement.
Pinning his sidearm is tactically sound, but about three seconds after she does that she’ll get the understanding that he might not need the gun.The rules of the House say that the Guests can look but not touch. The Girls can touch, but the Guests can’t. The Sheriff follows the rules, per say, but only after a single hand touches just the small of her back to bring her in snug to his hips.
Of all this posturing there’s sure to be one disappointment. Despite his eyes showing a very clear spark of recognition when they take her in completely, there’s no sinister cackle. No move to violence. No immediate turn to some sort of evil monologue. Just a hand that moves from the small of her back to the table next to them and the other beckoning to Batgirl. “Bring one for Canary.”
“You’re legal to drink by now right, kid?”
Dinah: “Well, to be honest it was some friends of mine that had the trouble. I only started trying about thirty minutes ago.”
I really can’t decide if this place is offensive or incredible. I may have missed out a really great opportunity with my bar in Gotham, and I’m sure someone with a better business head could churn out merchandise for days. Given that being a vigilante isn’t legal, you probably can’t trademark your own codename and that means anyone can use it however they like. Maybe I better look into trademarking my codename after this. And a whole lot of other people’s while I’m at it.
Sheriff Steve Trevor’s pictures didn’t exactly do him justice, and given his age, which is not nearly as advanced as it should be, I guess Tim wasn’t that far off in telling me he must have found the proverbial fountain of youth. Or the experimental side of science. Given what I know of his career path afterwards, it seems definite more than likely. I can hold my booze pretty damn well for any height and weight, but the aluminum fort he’s building on the adjacent table, combined with everything I’m reading off him and can feel in the way of very solid body underneath me… red head cocks to the side as I survey his still mounting total. Oh, goody and one for me.
“Let me guess, don’t do jack shit for you?”
I remember what Superman had said on my rooftop when I’d offered to share. They won’t do a whole lot for me either, unless I were to have that many. I might actually be under the table if I had all of what he’s been through, but who knows how long he’s been sitting here enjoying himself.
“Sure am. I suppose that answers question number one for me.”
The recognition in his eyes already had, though it’s possible he could have just known me from briefings if he was still ‘in’. Steve Trevor had been Bruce’s source on the whole project in the first place though, so either he’s doubling, or he’s somewhat sympathetic, or in enough disagreement with what he’d seen or done to be in a sharing mood. I can only hope there’s at least some of that, still.
“Your record you could settle down anywhere. Why Rapid City?”
Trevor: “Well, to be honest, it was more like fourteen years ago when you started looking for me. You only remember starting to try thirty minutes ago.”
Those same words out of the mouth of someone else, said with a different tone or just the slightest change to even his own inflection would sound equally ominous and douche baggy. When Steve says them it’s like having someone deliver the worst news, while handing you an ice cream cone and promising you cotton candy later. He takes exactly what she said, turns it around and confirms so many things all at once with a simple tease back to her like returning serve in tennis.
All of that while having her nestled upon his lap and multitasking to get a beer from the Batgirl pastiche to go with the one in his other hand. Not blinking away from her or failing to meet her gaze for a second. Self-Assured Confidence in the Canary that borders on cockiness, meeting even more Self-Assured Confidence but his seems downplayed. Pulled back upon, so that others don’t know the entire bar couldn’t take him if they acted as one.
“No. Not really. They kind of taste like warm piss too, half the time, but I’ve never given up hope that just one more will do it. Or maybe the right company might convince me it did, at least.”
One beer for her, the other for him. Steve offers it to her in just about the gentlemanly way that he can, to a woman that’s perched in his lap as she is. It’s no sooner in Dinah’s hand that he’s offering a tip of the beer to her. “Someone’s got to keep the lid on Pandora’s Box shut. The way I had it figured, sooner or later one of you was going to come looking for me to get answers or looking for it to get some pay back.”
“Which is it for you; the Box or Answers?”
The way his eyebrow tips upwards suggests that he actually expects an answer. Perhaps this whole discussion hinges on it being a two-way street in so much as information exchange. Or maybe he’s just taking stock of her honesty, because his eyes seems to take in everything about her all once. Those eyes are really windows to the soul and Steve Trevor’s is a very old soul it would seem.
Dinah: And there’s the rest of my answer. There was the way I didn’t dare hope this would go, the way I was prepared for it to go, and a whole lot of grey area in between with one side being Dibney, and other being Conner Kent. It’s simple enough to not act defensive, because I have a great deal of practice. Where Steve Trevor seems a little restrained while still being all that, especially in a place like this? He’s probably King Shit, or would be if he wanted to be. I’m all cocky all the time because I can be. A lady can be the biggest badass in the room and still underestimated even if she tells it to your face. Maybe it takes two supremely confident people to have a conversation, in a place like this, positioned like this. He wasn’t phased by me climbing on board, and getting pulled in closer didn’t bother me.
“Half the time? Honey, that sounds like wishful thinking, but cheers. Here’s to the right company.”
Miller Lite always tastes like that, if you ask me. Even when it’s cold. But it sure as hell isn’t going to stop me from drinking it. A tick of an eyebrow and a returned ‘toast’ and I’m having my first swig. Ugh. Better than nothing, though, and I haven’t had a drink since before Star City went ass over elbows on me.
“And now there’s two of us. I think it’s not even a brag, or a lie, to say I’m the nice one. That’s a hell of a question.”
I have to do my very best to not shout Brad Pitt movie lines right now. Mostly avoided by another drink from my beer, and propping an elbow on one shoulder. Yow. Solid.
“From my point of view, box is already open. Open box is why I’m here in the first place. I’ve got enough half answers, and out of context facts to be dangerous and totally unable to let it go and move on with my life, and I’m smart enough to know it’s probably not even a scratch on the surface. Now, that smaller, specific box out there, outside of town? Maybe there’s not a reason for me to kick it open and stomp on it. You gonna tell me that reason?”
Trevor: “Well the other half of the time, I’m drinking them too fast to taste them. I can remember a time or maybe two, that I’m even enjoying the sights too much to remember what the beer tastes like.”
A time or two. It’s the tone of voice that makes that simple phrase sound literal. Twice. No more. Twice this man has found the sights in a strip club worth not remembering that the beer is terrible. The rest of the time he’s dutifully chased a buzz and ignored the sights. How is that for diligence and honesty all at once.
On top of that while Dinah’s entire motif tends to intimidate insecure men or tempt the secure ones? She’s getting a whole lot of casual gaze from the Sheriff. Though Steve spares her more than a passing glance, all but giving a smile that would melt most women in to the ground when she leans in, there’s just no biting the forbidden fruit as the two of them circle one another figuratively. He hasn’t decided if she’s friend or foe yet, so there’s just a very healthy dose of taking in the sights but not being taken in by them.
Trevor seems to have a lot of practice not being taken in by anything. “Three. I know, it’s not polite to correct a lady but… there’s the Beauty, the Beast and the other guy from the train. I’m a cards on the table sort of guy, Dinah. I’ll even go first.”
“Lets say there’s two ‘Pandora’s Box’ in this discussion. One of them is your memory, I’m not on board with people’s memory getting ‘redacted.’ You want me to help connect some dots for you? Sure. The other Box is literally Pandora’s Box. If it’s opened, it’s going to end the world. Our world is a dung heap stacked taller than the President’s Bald Headed Ego, but I like having a world so… I save it every single day, by just not opening that box.”
“Pretty good reason, right? Say what you will about our little dirt ball,” eye contact is positively king right now and Steve is looking at Dinah like she just might be the only person in the room. “…but it sure has some good sights to see.”
Dinah: I’d say that I might judge a guy for making eyes at someone he knew when they were barely a teenager, but I’ve got a whole lot of no legs to stand on in that particular arena, mind control or not. I still did it. The part of me that cannot help banter, like it’s part of my livelihood and job, which it is, wants to chase that remark. Coo about how rough it is to have lived this long and only had that happen twice, but it could just be once, maybe twice, in the last fourteen years. You’d think at some point he’d move on from Miller Lite, but we’ve all got our poisons. Mine’s usually cheap, terrible whiskey. Despite the fact that I’ve got better stocked.
I cluck my tongue, with a soft sigh, though truthfully I wasn’t going for deception. I was naming those that I knew of that were coming back for those answers, or comeuppance.
“Yes. Three. The other one from the train is one of mine, and I was kind of mentally lumping him in. Unless he’s the Beauty, I’m the Beast and someone else was hitching a ride. But I appreciate that, really. Hasn’t exactly been a cards on the table kind of week, and I’m all in for a refreshing change of pace.”
See. Steve Trevor, in the whole five minutes that I’ve known him that I remember, doesn’t strike me as much of an exaggerator. I absolutely believe that he absolutely believes that whatever is in the Big Box is that bad, that monumental. I want those answers, Christ, I need them because I’ll never let this go. I have to imagine Slade Wilson is even less likely to because he remembers just enough. Knows just enough in fragments and bits of real or maybes. He was willing to play nice with me, because he thought I’d be able to help him in some way, get something that he couldn’t, and…
I let out another sigh, this one’s a little self aggravated and I more or less finish my beer before I’m leaning my chin into my hand. There’s a whole lot of up close, really direct eye contact going on right this moment. Doesn’t make me uncomfortable, does make me want to be really damn honest which is a weird change for me. I blame Superman. Or maybe Dick. There wasn’t much pretense in the beginning, but I drop what little I had going for me.
“You sure have that unassuming charm down pat, you know that? You do. Steve, I have had a pretty crappy month. I got mind controlled. I found out that I don’t remember entire chunks of my life, and that I apparently did some really terrible things, for reasons I can’t even guess though I’d like to say I had no choice, or that it was the best one available. I need those blanks filled, but if the choice is whole me, or making sure it never happens to anyone else ever again? I’m going with the latter. Because that’s me. Now. The other one. Who I have a really sinking feeling I just played hunting bitch for like a big ol’ chump, so we probably better make this fast… He’s probably more of a fuck the world, because it deserves it guy.”
Trevor: “I know,” it is really that simple, without bragging Steve puts even that card on the table. “I don’t mean to sound like that guy, but I do. Know that is. Nightwing was a good kid. His Father was very proud of him. Probably should have told him once or twice, but that’s not my business really. He’s here with you. Not here-here, but at the base.”
“There were only a couple places you’d be headed after the train, and trust me when I say this because I was that kid once, good kids are hard wired to follow even the most capable of dames in to the absolute worst crap they can get themselves in to. Especially if the dame has has legs like your’s. Do they ever stop? I plum gave up trying to follow them once you made yourself at home.”
He’s touched Dinah exactly once up to now. She’s done all of it. So it is pretty telling that the second time he touches her, it’s to push a lock of hair out of her face so that nothing impedes that eye contact they’ve had this whole time. “Damn, that’s rough. Kind of kicks my having to write a citation for drunk and disorderly and give it to myself, sort of month. I wasn’t even drunk, I just needed an excuse for the disorderly bit.”
“Alright. Let’s start with the memory thing. For what it’s worth, the memory thing was done to try to give you some sort of normal life after everything that happened. If you want the gory details, let’s get another round of beers and I’ll tell you everything, but trust me that part was a good thing. When Batman came asking the same questions, when you first landed in his protection, he needed the gory details because he’s Batman. The fact that you don’t have them? Tells me he agreed with them on taking them away. Which doesn’t make it right or anyone else’s choice but your own now that you’re old enough to make that choice. It should, however, be a gauge for you to give you that inkling as to how bad those details are going to be.”
“The other natural question, that Batman asked too, is why take a fourteen year old and her brother along on a Black Ops mission. Amanda Waller picked your brother, because your Grand Mother was too old at that point and your Family owes a debt of some sort that hadn’t been paid. Now your involvement came because… and I’m going to quote you… ‘Fuck you, if you think my little brother is going without me.’ He was a few years your senior, by the way. Not that you really had much say in the whole she-bang, but I think Waller liked seeing your Gran so pissed off when she agreed.”
“Fourteen. You looked too good to even be legal, if you were, which you weren’t. You still have that look going for you too, Kid.” That unassuming smile is then twisted just a bit, but it’s smothered by turning to signal Bat Girl to bring another round of drinks. “Slade played you? Surprise, surprise. That one is crazy like a whole box full of kittens.”
‘Pardon the interruption, Canary, but Nightwing believes he has found what you were looking for at the Base. He’s gone silent, due to the shielding that is preventing scans of the area.’
Dinah: “Preaching to the choir on that one.”
Here’s hoping he gets the opportunity to fix that, once we dig ourselves out of this shitmire that we’re all in. But then, it’s Bruce. The fact that he didn’t tell them he was disappointed basically amounted to the same thing. It just doesn’t always amount to the same thing when you’re on the receiving end. There had been no chasing Batman/Nightwing/Dick off, no matter how hard I’d tried at first, but that was when I needed fixing and he knew it. Now that I don’t, I guess I really haven’t tried again, have I? I probably should have, but at that point it was too far, too deep, and he was already so in I don’t think it’d mattered. Plus he saved my ass. Then Conner did. And I’m getting saved a whole lot more than I’m comfortable with this week. Maybe I should go for a hat trick and then never again.
There’s another cluck of my tongue, a wry smile pulling up the side of my mouth as I lean over to add my can to his mountain.
“The law’s always at least a little crooked. Knew you were too good to be true. I feel like that makes sense for me. Special snowflake and all that, but the neurotoxin and the brain chips I assume were something else. But Slade? He’s a box of kittens that it seems off for the same mercy. And unfortunately, someone gave me just enough of the gory details that my mind’s going to be forever trying to fill in the blanks.”
Apparently his dishonesty comes in turning on himself. Suddenly all I can think of is the ancient Templar in that dusty adventure movie. Doing his duty for literally ever and bored out of his goddamn skull. Only instead of prayer vigils, this one has strippers and beer and South Dakota. I pipe down, as the man answers the ‘why me’ question in a way that. Well.
“Sounds like me. Especially that too good to be legal part. Did Kurt at least have… training? A power? Fuck, even asking is just… how could I have forgotten a whole person?”
A person who I killed. A brother who I killed. And I actually think the utter lack of remembered emotion and trauma attached to that is right now worse. There’s a decision here, waiting, after Alfred’s voice sounds in my ear and it also feels like my time’s about out to make it, without getting as much as I really wanted. But if where to go from the train was a timer winding down, this is the real branching point, isn’ tit?
“What I really need to know. Big Box. Is there enough of NOWHERE to be worth left standing?”
Trevor: “You didn’t forget a whole person, Dinah. Those memories were surgically removed because, not just for your age by the way, you might never have recovered if you kept them.” By this point Steve’s actually rearing back just enough to stop lazily looking in to her eyes and sort of taking in the whole picture one more time. “Wait. Implants and neurotoxin? He didn’t tell you anything did he? Ah-hah. Boy Slade’s really playing both ends against the middle here. I told the Company if they didn’t either fix him or neutralize him it was going to bite them in the ass.”
“Except now it might bite everyone in the ass. That man is full of piss and vinegar, in equal parts.”
“Sweetheart, when I said end of the world? I meant that as a literal construct. Pandora’s Box is a cell. Created by your Grandma and her crew to contain… something. We called it Vertigo. It’s an entity that possesses people. Whole sale. It doesn’t just mind control them, it inhabits he, she or it en masse.” For the first time in all of this talk there’s a hitch in that beautiful voice, actual emotion that is playing out inside of him as he’s telling her this part. Does she need to know? Yeah. Is she ready for what she’s about to hear? Well, if what she’s saying about Slade is true then she’s lead the Wolf to the Sheep’s Den. “You ever read about World War One? That’s the first time I ever saw that thing. It was behind the first Reicht. If it wasn’t for… that weird Purple Healing Ray and those islander girls… Vertigo would have ended this world right then and there.”
“Second World War? Replay of the first, mostly, but your Grandma’s Society figured out a way to contain the entity. Until that Parallax thing hit the planet. Waller put a team together, because Superman and Batman had morals. Vertigo eats those for breakfast. Those implants with the Toxins? They were to put us down if Vertigo got to us.”
“…and… it did. That kid brother of your’s and Slade.”
Being brought up short is a real knocker, because it entails being derailed from what was finally being explained. Her question actually merits enough that that Trevor is looking down the barrel of his bottle for a long, long time. Maybe that gives Dinah time to process, but that isn’t what he’s silent for. His answer is a measured one.
“Believe it or not, that’s the most complicated question you’ve got for me. You need to think of Nowhere like you would a building. It has many levels, floors in this metaphor. The foundation was solid. Most of the floors have some feng shui going for them, but somewhere along the way the design went off the rails. If someone could get back to that foundation? Sure. I just don’t believe that’s possible. There isn’t an alternative to Nowhere, Dinah. You tear them down and what did you really win? You aren’t fourteen anymore. So don’t try to fool yourself in to thinking this is the only Pandora’s Box out there. Someone’s going to need to monitor them. Maintain them. You take Nowhere out of the equation for even a day and someone like Slade gets one box open…”
“For what it’s worth, I had this same conversation with Batman about a decade ago. I told him then, the same thing I’ll tell you now. The only way to take Nowhere down, would be to take Nowhere over and change it from the inside out. By the way. He didn’t sit in my lap, drink my beer or look one one hundredth as good as you.”
Dinah: “In his defense….hrk, those words might make me ill… I don’t know if he knew or not. Someone else told me what the chips did, and what they were probably for.”
I have to imagine, and I’m learning to like that less and less, but it’s a logical supposition that if Slade Wilson knew he’d have gotten from Point A, to Point B with a lot less putting up with side trips, and a lot less needing to bring his information, and the chips, to me. He used me, more than played me. Pandora’s Box. Couldn’t leave it alone, couldn’t forget. I had resources that he wouldn’t have to work for, trade for, or pay for, and I used the ever loving shit out of them until I got myself here. I had my memories taken completely, I lost my brother and then had him taken with those thoughts. And Slade, in the wake of it, apparently escaped with his head still attached, and fragments.
“And Slade’s daughter?”
I don’t need that spelled out for me, what happened after this Vertigo got hold of members of the team. The last mission. The reason for the team to be sent to somewhere where there was nothing. Now. The upside of all of this, is knowing he was talking a literal thing, and hadn’t meant where my mind had taken his comment originally… that kicking that anthill was going to turn over something so sinister about what the government had done that implosion was imminent if it were brought to light. What I’ve got here isn’t the truth, or blackmail depending on how you want to swing it, that I was hoping for.
That input is still important though. This man’s a little more long game than most of us get to be. Or maybe even want to be. And I have perhaps the good grace to look apologetic as I start on my second beer, and sit a little more upright again to let him look, if he wants to look.
“Excuse me one moment.”
Not that I’m going anywhere, other than staying cozily straddling Steve Trevor’s hips.
“Tell him to get out, Penny One.”
As for the someone to police the world’s BoogeyMonsters and Evil Pandora’s Boxes, is that what Tim and his friends think they’re going to do? Trevor’s calling me kid, and most of that group are still in high school. Do they know what they’re in for? What they’re signing up for?
“What can I say? I’m much more charming than he is. Bats was even more of an overthinker than I am, though, and clearly he decided to go another route than hostile takeover.”
Trevor: “Acknowledged, Canary.”
As ever Alfred Pennyworth is succinct in his communications during field activity. Trained as British SAS in service to her Majesty’s Special Forces. He operates on par with the entire crew, but where each of them has a side of over-talking, Alfred gets right to the point during times like these. Perhaps out of necessity, since he might otherwise never get a word in edgewise.
Is it to Dinah’s pleasure that her current sitting partner does exactly what she was allowing for? Sparing no room for a modest gaze, Trevor’s eyes soak Dinah in like a sponge. Every peak. Every curve. Those piercing blue eyes are like an artist’s and an engineer’s all at the same time. Appraising the sleek curves, like one might do with an artist rendition of a statue on one hand. While on the other her harder edges are seemingly valued in the same way a fighter jet’s wings would be, checked for aerodynamics and maneuverability. Regardless of how he looks, it takes little intuition to know that Steve Trevor approves of what he sees. Because he doesn’t hide his gaze, not take it off of her for more time than it takes to check and re-check their surroundings every few moments.
There’s a catch though. Unlike so many men in Dinah’s life? Trevor isn’t drawn in. Approving of what he sees and acting upon that desire are two different things. It would seem that unlike most people (man and woman alike), Steve is not immediately enticed to losing control of the situation to Dinah based simply on her looks alone. One upon the time Dinah was the Mean Girl. Once upon a time Steve Trevor stood in the presence of Gods and was found worthy. His confidence isn’t arrogance and this might be the first time she’s ever met someone so confident that they feel any need to give a voice to what they think of what they see. Steve’s eyebrows lifting in approval is about the most she gets. Unless she counts the fact that he does keep looking.
“Rose,” providing a name to Canary for the nameless daughter of Slade Wilson. “She was not part of the team, nor the mission. She was part of the fall out. Slade was a member of Team7 because, much like your brother, he had certain qualities that were considered meta-human but were not so over-the-top that if he was to fall under the influence of Vertigo that he would be unstoppable. The one in question is that he utilizes about 90% of his brain power. Where the average person uses roughly 15%. That’s why the brain scrubbing didn’t work so well on him, but also why he’s only getting fragments.”
“Slade and your brother were taken by the entity, at one point. We later believed that while they were ultimately freed of the entity, some of the programming remained in those higher portions of Slade’s brain. He acted out. Became unstable. Did some things. Took some jobs. None of which was above board, exactly. As Nowhere rose with Luthor in prominence, his actions had to be disavowed but he needed to be replaced. Would you believe that it just so happens, Rose Wilson has a nearly identical meta-human quality to her brain that Slade does? A lot of metas end up having to pay for the sins of their Fathers or Mothers.”
“Forgive the intrusion, Canary, but Nightwing has already gone in to the dark area of the base. We cannot establish communications until he’s out of that area.”
“Oh yeah? That means you think Batman is still out there? Working his master plan. Honestly, I wouldn’t doubt it if you did say that. I didn’t know him well, but I got the impression that the man under that cowl thought he could accomplish anything with a lit elbow grease and some dental floss.” A soft clear of his throat is meant to pull her attention back to him and away from the hidden commlink in her ear. “As much as I’d like to take your heart racing as a compliment, I think this is where you tell me that your current companion is about to take a look at Pandora’s Box. You hope he’s not dumb enough to open it, but your real worry is that Slade’s right behind him and definitely will?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I like Nowhere to think it’s there, but it hasn’t been there in a very long time.”
Dinah: My focus probably should be split at this point, I should be a great deal more distracted knowing what I just sent Dick into, him and his morals, and the skills to get into exactly where he isn’t supposed to be. We’ve talked about Pandora’s Box a lot, but there’s that experiment with the cat in the box, too. Until I know Dick’s in trouble? I assume that he’s not. I also can’t do a lot about it at the moment either way. Leaving me happy to let Steve Trevor look, and talk, while I drink more of my beer. It’s definitely not the type to be savored slow. Another explanation for his mountain of them.
“So much for saving the world and resting on your laurels and getting easily and gracefully old for an end game goal, huh?”
There’s so many more questions that could be asked, and a large part of me really wants to ask them since I have a knowledgeable, willing, first-hand source to give me the answers. Why’d I do what I did? What exactly lead up to it? When was my brother pulled under its sway and what was he like? What were his abilities, were they the same as mine? I’m not sure that it would do me any good, though. There’s a tiny, subtle line and what I had gotten here in this incredible and awful strip club got me over it. More information might just swing me back the other way.
Alfred’s voice in my ear hauls my attention away once again, and this time my brows do knit. Not being able to reach Nightwing to tell him to not kick the hornet’s nest is problematic, especially now that I know what’s actually down there. These are the moments where situational preparedness being in your skill set is both helpful, and terrible because I’m already trying to plot the what ifs so that I can account for them. Until Sheriff Trevor clears his throat, and then I relax the hair that I’d actually physically stiffened.
“Don’t get me wrong, older, built, sexy eyes and able to kick in someone’s teeth with zero effort is definitely my type, but you got it in one. Makes a hell of a lot more sense, actually. I may only remember knowing you for about two beers…” And I’m finishing the one in my hand. “Exactly two beers, but did seem a little odd that you were sitting here, knowing my other half is out at the base, because unless that’s a jet pack I’m sitting on you wouldn’t be getting out there fast enough to do anything about it. No matter how good the sights made those two beers.”
That doesn’t mean that there’s not another problem following behind though, or that something out there can’t and won’t get Dick into trouble if he doesn’t know that he can leave. Do I ask where he’s hidden Vertigo in the mean time? No, I do fucking not. I don’t want to know. See, Bruce? I can leave well enough alone. Which brings me back to the question of Batman.
“You know, I was expecting a plant. Just not one that planted himself. What Batman could do with elbow grease and floss was shocking, but Lord help you if he had a chance to prepare. I think he’s either working it, or counting on someone else to follow the logical and anticipated steps. We’re just not sure how that’s going to play out.
Trevor: “That stopped being an end game goal after the purple healy ray thing, actually. Did I mention the isle of beautiful women and not a competing male in sight? Let’s just say I like my chances at that after life.”
For Trevor’s part in this continued sit’n’chat, he’s polishing off his own swill as she’s talking about him being older, built and having sexy eyes. Call the guy a lush if you want, but he soaks those compliments up about like you might expect. It’s not the first time he’s heard it, won’t be the last time he’s hearing it. But. Getting that sort of comment from someone he knew as a fourteen year old has him lifting one bushy brow higher than the other, before just breaking open with a legit belly-laugh.
“That’s the second time you’ve made the inference that you made the beers better, instead of the old adage about beer bottle eyes making the girl look better. You almost put Bronson under the table at fourteen. Maybe I haven’t changed, but you haven’t changed one bit, Dinah Lance. Those curves got curvier, the edges got sharper and you’re still lightning in a bottle waiting to be uncorked by the right fella.”
“Mmm, you were anticipating another in a long list of swerves? Sorry to disappoint, but the only curve ball I’m going to be throwing you today is the one where you weren’t expecting someone who’s happy to answer any question you want. As long as you sit right there and take answers instead of dollars. I’m partial to a capitalist world where I keep my dollars and look at you anyway.”
“On the other hand, Nowhere still has the Box Site layered with alarms and defenses. Even if Slade followed you boy in. They’re both in a lot of trouble. The D.E.O. is going to descend upon the place like locusts, because like I said they think the Box is still there.” Which it isn’t and that might lead someone to think that Steve should be worried about them discovering the ruse. Until you truly think about it and realize that the D.E.O. will want to make certain no one opens the Pandora’s Box. Meaning they won’t be able to check into the contents thereof, unless Dinah’s friends do something very stupid. “Which, judging by how you jumped in to feet first with your brother and every other time Waller made people do something you didn’t like. Tells this old lawman that you’re going to want to rush off and play cowgirl hero.”
“Rocket Pack is in my other pants, to be fair.” Yep. Completely serious. How’s that for a straight man? “The only rise I’m getting here is the piss water and the sights.”
“The man I met didn’t strike me as the ‘relying on someone else’ type. You have that in common with him. Sounds against his character, in my experience most men especially are defined by their character for good or ill. Women? Women can change their character every time they change their coat.”
His hand goes up when Batgirl steps in close to ask if they’re going to want more. Steve mouths the words, ‘Put it on the tab’ and shushes her away before she can even speak. “There’s one thing you didn’t ask, but I think you need to know. Because it might change where you go from here. I don’t want you finding out some other time, some other place and thinking that all of this was dishonest after all.”
“We thought he was your boyfriend at first. Kurt, I mean. Your files said your name was Drake. Dinah Drake. His said Kurt Lance. In a room with a clone, a head case and a fossilized world war one spy? No one was going to ask too many questions about the strange team Waller put together. The two of you were closer than any siblings I’ve ever seen, but once you were in the field we saw that he was like a tuning fork for you…”
“I’m pretty sure that if it hadn’t happened the way it happened one or both of you would be in a Box of your own. Waller thought you could break the world with a whisper with a little ‘Help.’ Vertigo thought so too. That creature was in all of our heads. We were all seeing something different. Enticing, is the best way I can describe it. Vertigo was setting up shop in our brains, but to control us he was getting us to buy in to a perfect little mind palace. Truth be told. If it wasn’t for Waller just being an unpleasant and unhappy person by meta-nature? We’d have all died, right there. Or ceased to be, which might be worse.”
“She can’t be pacified. So she brought me out of it. Then you, she was working on Bronson… and then Slade reacted to whatever it was Vertigo was showing him. About twenty seconds later, Cash and I woke up with both ears bleeding. Slade was standing over Waller with a gun in her mouth. And Vertigo was in his permanent prison, thanks to you and Bronson. I’d like to tell you everything, but as much as it pains me to say it once the screaming started you put the normal folks in the room out like a light in a hurry. So, I don’t know how exactly it went down… but I know you did the right thing.”
“I want you to know Kurt doesn’t blame you for the choice you made.”
Dick: “…Barb… this is Dick… are you getting this? I’m in a Nowhere blacksite, working a case with Canary.” I’ve got no way to know if she’s hearing me, honestly. This isn’t my area, I’ve never needed to get better than Tim because of Barb or better than Barb because we had Tim. Not to mention Bruce was as good or better than both and he had Lucious Fox on standby. Best I’ve got is the few tricks I picked up from the four of those people and add in some software -they- designed. “I’m sending you some readings. None of it makes any sense to me.”
“…oh, shit… something just exploded and it wasn’t me..”
“Barb. If you can hear me, and I really hope you can hear me. Call Dinah. Right now. Deathstroke is attacking a Nowhere blacksite in Rapid City. I don’t know whether to get the &^% out of here or stop him…”
Dinah: “Amazons, huh? I definitely don’t blame you. I know a couple guys that are pretty infatuated with just one, and she’s technically only half.”
I hadn’t necessarily put it together when he’d mentioned the ‘islander girls’ the first time around, but if there were any other islands like that the world probably would have heard all about it. I’d still have called it myth and wishful thinking if I hadn’t read Wonder Girl’s file, and seen the attached photographs of her mother. Which I would have called unnecessary but gotta give those Bat Boys some eye candy, I suppose. I can only hope I look half the good when I’m her age. Except I’ll probably be dust, I suppose.
“Nah, I’m not disappointed. Surprised. Maybe even relieved. If I hadn’t been wanting to punch something so bad all week while being figuratively handcuffed, this’d be my favorite interrogation of all time. I got a little less angry at the world, and I’d say more sure of myself but the better wording is probably that I just have a lot more practice.”
Sounds better than saying I’ve matured, which makes me sound old. Aged like a fine liquor, smoother on the senses and that much more likely to put you down for it. Leaning over to deposit my second bottle, I waggle a wishy washy hand at Steve before coming back to center and leaning my weight more forward once again.
“I’d wager you probably would have heard about it already if he actually triggered any of them. He’s good. Which is why you’re not having this conversation with him in your lap and me playing china shop bull out there.”
But he’s definitely not wrong. Clearly I haven’t changed in the essentials at all. As long as Dick’s undetected, I’ve got to hope he has the sense to try to put himself into contact with someone, or to know that he’s been in long enough and get out. If shit hits the fan, well. I probably can’t make it too much worse if I go in ‘cowgirl hero’ style.
“He wasn’t. Had an unintentional habit of surrounding himself with freakishly skilled ‘family’ though. I don’t think it was on purpose. Reminds me of someone else I know.”
A wry twist of my mouth, shifts into a quizzical expression, and I hold it there mostly because I’m having a very hard time not laughing anytime ‘Batgirl’ comes near us, and I can’t decide if this place should be my private mental hilarity once I leave, or if I should share with say. Barb. More information that I don’t have to ask for isn’t going to be turned away. Especially since I don’t think he’s about to pull a Deathstroke on me and upend my world.
“Wait, which was the clone?”
I’m trying to remember exactly what Tim told me about all of the chips that he had, but that’s more idle curiosity that really doesn’t matter compared to what else he’s telling me. A blank that I had assumed the generalities and outcome of, and didn’t think I needed in specific. I may think pretty highly of myself, but even I don’t have aspirations quite as big as what Waller had apparently believed I could do. Given that she probably hasn’t changed her mind in the interim, and following my little cameo in Metropolis, the hard press, ‘or else’ courting makes a lot of sense. As for the last piece he can’t tell me? That’s okay. Truly. What I’d needed, what I came here for, was a reason. The why. And the truth of that moment half a lifetime ago for me was another fork in the road, or at least a branch of intentions. Whether or not I was going to be doing some burning myself.
Cynical Dinah would be demanding to know how he could possibly have known my brother’s mind in that moment, except cynical Dinah also knows that she wouldn’t have blamed him if the roles had reversed. So I just tilt my face in, and press a kiss to the corner of his mouth.
“Thank you, Steve.”
That kiss, and sentiment, ends up lingering a little bit longer than even I’d intended it to, because once again I’m getting distracted by a voice in my ear, only this time it’s one distinctly female that I hadn’t heard in a while. Barb? Why the hell is Barb coming over the… shit. I’m removing myself from the good sheriff’s lap just as suddenly as I’d arrived in it in the first place.
“Tell him to get the fuck out. Sorry, Sheriff. That there’s my cue. Sounds like I was right about the leading, and following.”
Trevor: “Never said the word ‘Amazon,’ don’t know what would give you that idea,” oh Mr. Trevor has just about the most innocent expression he’s ever capable of assuming and it looks damned convincing. “No such thing as a half-Amazon, by the way. You are or you aren’t. The Amazons are just like you and me. They live, they love, the fight and they die. Maybe they live a little longer, love a little harder, fight a little better and die little less, but it’s all the same.”
“Fact is, you remind me of one in particular. Have you read any of Clio’s treatise on bodily pleasures, by chance?”
The two of them have been bantering back and forth in just about the most open, friendly and flirty ways possible. Like two very old friends who just rekindled, even if they only just truly met again for the first time. Steve seems to be completely at ease teasing her like that, if only because he already knows she’s respond in kind if left the opening. It’s all about making one another feel comfortably, uncomfortable, because you know that’s what breaks the ice in what could otherwise be an awkward couple of moments.
“Not sure he’d fit quite so nicely in that particular saddle,” though he’s giving her the sideways smile that only works because his head has tilted in such a way as to compare her bottom with some mental image he has of her companion’s. “Though, I know some fellas who used to think he and the Bat wrote the screen play for brokeback mountain.”
“Bronson. Word has it you’re cozy with his replacement.”
The Sheriff actually comes to a halt in the tale when she gives her thanks. A couple fingertips touch the warm spot her lips leave behind and his new smile makes it all the way to the corner of his eyes. His lips part, hang there open for a moment as if words are on the tip of his tongue. They just never make it out. At least, not whatever it is that he was about to say. Instead she’ll see it clearly pulled back and chewed on. Whether what he says next is what he’d been working on or not is anyone’s guess.
“You’re welcome, Dinah. As much as I’m enjoying the sights, sounds and feel of the trip down memory lane,” those blue eyes traverse her form one more time in a very straight forward, unhidden, trek, made so much easier now that she’s standing up once again. “Parting word of advice: Don’t die owing a fella more than half of a lap-dance. That’s the kind of thing that can keep you out of heaven.”
Dick: “Nightwing, this is Penny-One. I’m afraid that Batgirl is unable to take your call at this time. I’ve misplaced the second headset. Between Ninja Invasion and Sabotage, I’m afraid that I’ve been remiss in my cleaning duties.”
“…uhhhh… okay then…”
“Batgirl did inform me that Canary suggests.. and I quote… that you ‘get the fook out.’ Miss Lance is customarily vehement and succinct in her directions. If training with Ms. Brown is any indication failure to follow the prescribed course of action will result in blunt force trauma.’
“… but I’m literally standing in front of the …whatever this thing is…”
“Probability of blunt force trauma has just risen by seven percent and the potential inflicter of said trauma has doubled. Miss Gordon has harumphed.”
“Urm. Well that’s bad. Was it hrmph… or harrrrrrumph.”
“More pirate than pussycat, Master Grayson.”
“I’m already moving, Penny-One. You’re so. Very. Weird when you’re dating someone. I’m trapped between ‘Go Alfie’ and ‘Eww.'”
“… we now need to add throttled in your sleep and I do know where you live, Richard.”
Dinah: I’m really not out to debate what this particular one is, or isn’t, even if by his definition I’d be inclined to go with isn’t, and that means defaulting to half-god which sounds like a whole lot more of a bad idea in a teenager who may or may not decide the fate of the known world at some point. Which leaves me simply shaking my head at his question, which since he knew fourteen year old me well enough to peg me in my twenties, he already knows the answer to.
“Reading’s not really my thing, there a film version?”
Sounds like a porno. A high class one, but a porno nonetheless. I do him one better on this particular look over, shifting my weight, and rocking a hip to the side to swing my ass a little better into view, toss of the hair, despite the dirty look I’m getting from the actual Black Canary working in here now. Saucy little wink and everything.
“What happens in the Batcave stays in the Batcave, handsome. And clearly, it’s all just a little bit of history repeating… I’d hum you a few bars, but then they’re going to want me on stage, and once I get up there…”
There’s a snort of laughter for his parting advice, and a flippant wave of a hand. The unhurried sway that gets me out the way I came only lasts until I’m out of view though, then it’s bolting for the bike, and roaring back onto the road, back towards the not so defunct base. Part of me feels like I should try and defend the place against Slade, after all I did lead him here to exactly what he thought he wanted. Vigilantism is against the law though. Also, the only one of them I’m feeling even a little charitable to I just gave half a lap-dance to, so we’re on our way to square. It’s a matter of finding Dick, whose hopefully out before I have to go in, and then a joint getting the hell out of here before anyone tries to interfere.