Ultimate Spoilers #2: Under the Purple Hood Pt 2 Jul 21, 2011 13:46:51 GMT -5
Post by The Wonderful Wachter on Jul 21, 2011 13:46:51 GMT -5
Ultimate Spoilers #2[/color][/b][/size][/center]
Under the Purple Hood Pt 2
An Oracle's Tower
Under the Purple Hood Pt 2
An Oracle's Tower
Your father is a criminal mastermind the media has dubbed “The Cluemaster” and you have no proof. What do you do?
A. Go to the cops.
B. Keep it to yourself.
C. Find proof.
D. Tell your teacher.
A was completely out of the question in a city like Bludhaven. To keep it to herself was to be held morally accountable. The third option had the righteous edge to it. And the final… Why was the final one so enticing? What kind of person tattled to their teacher that their father was a costumed criminal?
“Gordon knows the Flash!” Stephanie shouted suddenly, slapping her fist to her open palm in victory.
The other two surrounding the computer stared at her with two distinctly different disbelieving faces. Beth had the right reaction. She obviously thought Steph was one step away from the loony bin. On the other hand, Cassie’s face said how did you know? before she scrunched it up in a poor approximation of the other blonde’s.
Her mouth opened to offer an explanation she didn’t quite have at the moment when the shuffling sound of feet with the clunk of a cane echoed out of the hallway and through the door. Only one teacher had that pattern of step. All three shared a glance that told they knew it would be bad to be discovered in front of Ms Gordon’s desk. They quickly resumed their seats, innocence written across their features.
The stooped, elderly form of John Law entered the room with the speed of old age. He should have retired years ago given his broken body yet for some reason the school kept him on. They were unwilling or just didn’t care enough to let him go. Instead, every day, he taught two classes as opposed to the other teachers’ three. As far as Stephanie knew, nobody complained, least of all Law. His hair white and receding, his clothing out of date, he was nevertheless an able history teacher since from the looks of things; he lived through most of it.
“What are you girls in for?”
“Texting in class,” lied Beth immediately.
Mr. Law fixed her with a stare that spoke volumes. “Texting huh?” he went along with the lie airily enough. “Horrible horrible. Never thought I’d miss the days of notes being passed around. Nowadays, you kids have your phones and I have your parents complaining when I take them away.”
“Where’s Ms Gordon?” Stephanie asked. The answer mattered to her now more than ever.
“Ah,” Law shuffled towards the nearest student’s desk and a relieved sigh escaped him when he sat down. “Had a family emergency it seems and had to leave. Do hope it’s not her father; he’s such a good man. Her brother,” the past flashed across his eyes, furrowing his brow ever more, “I could do without.” He nodded towards Beth. “He was a lot like you.”
Ever miss perfect in front of a teacher, Beth kept her mouth shut. A thin line did purse her lips however.
“Welp, seeing how you girls are only here because of a texting violation,” a smirk of dentures, “you may as well leave. It’s not like Miss Brown has an unusual lump that we all are supposed to pretend is not there. Have a nice evening, girls.”
Stephanie nonchalantly tried to discover where the lump they all ignored was while on her way out the door, shouldering her bag. Didn’t feel anything. She was not even in pain until Beth smacked her hand behind the teacher’s back. Apparently searching for a bruise went against her texting lie that Beth still tried to maintain.
The school was empty by the time the three girls were free. Few students in Elliot Academy remained behind unless they absolutely had to or honestly – sometimes dishonestly – cared about extracurricular activities. Sports teams weren’t all that great though it was a trip to see them go up against Gotham. Seemed to be the only times all the mob bosses would honor a truce and make the family show up in support of their youngest blood. Academics were little less joke-worthy. Fear and bribed grades made up for only a small portion of the student body. It was an elite school in the end.
And, Steph glanced to her left, Elliot Academy did have shining gems like Beth. Two out of three years, a national tennis champion. Some even said she was on her path to Wimbledon and the Olympics but for some reason always denied the claims. She had more agility and acrobatic skills than the entire cheer team combined supposedly but after trying out during her freshman year, she found them too weak and pathetic for her tastes. Instead, she worked towards higher end ventures with far more risk and higher reward.
Beth caught her in the act of staring. “What did you mean about Gordon knowing the Flash?”
“I’m not sure,” answered Stephanie, catching Cassie glancing at her in turn. “I just know things. Like I know Cassandra shares another secret with Gordon, you shouldn’t be going to this school but are, and my father is the Cluemaster.” Both girls hid their reactions to the obvious pretty well. The third revelation, however, hit them with the bang. “Oh, and Cass’s dad is involved but I don’t know in what capacity just yet.”
They were outside now. The sun shined down on them for an afternoon that was always gloomy. Alone in the courtyard, the three girls matched each others’ without breaking it. A triangle. There was something in Stephanie’s words, the worry and love, even the dread and fear that resonated in the other two. It rang with the sincerity of truth.
“Yeah, right,” Beth shook her head in disbelief, fighting against what her heart said. “Anybody with half a brain could tell you that Cain has his literally bloody fingers in every crime that goes unpunished and even more that do.”
In any other city, any other daughter would take the accusation that their father was a murderer as an insult. Cass simply nodded, not quite agreeing with Beth but not yet disagreeing with Stephanie. They were at an impasse in belief.
Stephanie’s body shook with a sigh. In all her life, she had only let one person in on her secret and it had taken weeks for him to believe her sincerity. There was no time for weeks. No time to wait on them to believe her when she needed to find a way to either stop or save her father. They had to believe her, or at least trust her. She knew she needed their help.
“Look, you have a car, right?” There was no use asking Dixon to take her. He almost never deviated from the directions her parents gave her. She’d be lucky to get away with what she had planned in the first place. “Drive me to Gordon’s and then you can leave. Please.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll get all my slacker and dreamer friends to vote you Homecoming Queen,” fired back Stephanie. At that point, she knew it didn’t matter what she had to do. Beth’s body language suggested she was at the very least curious.
“Fine but where does she live? Does your knowing stuff cover that?”
“Yes it does. Cassie… I don’t know what’s going on between you and Gordon but you have to trust me. Gordon needs my help if she wants to get the Flash’s shoes back.”
There was no reading of the slender girl. No reaction crossed her face. No indication she had even heard Stephanie’s plea. Her eyes were on the horizon. Then… A nod. Stephanie had achieved the first stage of her plan.
The drivers of the two girls accepted the change in plans easily enough. Stephanie had lied about Beth helping them get a head start on a research paper and the two men went with it, happy to call it an early day and still get paid. Well, not quite as easy or as happy as it sounded in Steph’s head. Dixon had called her mother who in turn demanded to speak to Stephanie to see why she was late. Yet another lie there. Cass’s driver on the other hand, he looked like he was about to piss his pants when she indicated she would not be going home with him. Steph was quite sure where his fear was directed.
It didn’t matter, in the end; her plan went on without a hitch. They even managed to avoid getting carjacked despite the fact Beth’s car didn’t belong in the neighborhood they passed through and no crackheads battered at their windows at stoplights. Rare for when one passed through the city proper.
Good signs to Stephanie. The semi-peace allowed her to sort through her memories and try to figure out why coming to Gordon was the right thing to do. Turned out to be more difficult than she thought. She was a big fan of the Flash growing up, especially a few years ago. The legacy of the scarlet speedster, one that had passed generations and through wars had appealed to her. Plus, as a little girl, she dreamed of being Kid Flash despite being so clumsy as to not be trusted to walk down stairs.
She knew all kinds of information surrounding the Flash and the criminal Rogues. Most were pointless, minute details involving crimes in Keystone and Central Cities. So much bounced around her head that she found it confusing to try and narrow down the search. By the time they passed under the Green Line and were heading towards Fear Cay, she was no close to figuring out the question that inspired her answer.
Taking a different approach, Stephanie narrowed down her memory search.
Based on Gordon’s degree, the woman had gone to school in Kansas. Keystone City is in Kansas. Double check. A picture on her desk at a party with all kinds of people, all smiling, all seemingly from different styles of life proved her paralysis came late in life. Past few years in fact. Probably sometime during college. Another check.
What if Gordon had been someone the Flash had failed to save? I seem to remember mention of cop who focused on Meta-crimes resigning after an attack on his daughter. Could that have be— PICTURE!!!
Stephanie gasped in surprise, drawing a look from Cassandra next to her. Before her eyes, she visualized the picture of Gordon standing and smiling with a group of people. Not caring that she was getting stared at, Stephanie started cutting people out of the frame.
Get rid of the dad. Bye bye to cute rocker guy staring at Gordon’s ass. Nix the two men around him. No need for the random blond man at the heart of the picture. Cut the short, blurry girl with the greenish complexion and the ginger… That leaves Gordon before her face became permanently grumpy, a young woman with straw colored hair, and an old guy.
Where do I recognize that nose from?
“Booyah!” shouted Stephanie excitedly causing Beth to swerve into the middle lane. “I love being right. That picture on Gordon’s desk has her at a party with Jay Garrick.” The blond scrunched up her own nose in thought. “Hasn’t really aged in the past two decades. Kinda looks lame without the helmet. Weakish.”
“You almost cause an accident because of that?” Beth yelled from the driver’s seat.
“Sorry. I get excited easily.”
“I’d say so,” muttered the other blond. “At least we’re here.” She parked the car in front of an open garage with Gordon’s car inside. “Anyone else find it amusing that a woman in a wheelchair is a lighthouse keeper? Must suck whenever she has to change the bulb.”
Cassandra remained silent but she had the distinct look of someone holding back from violent action. Thankfully Beth noticed it and said no more after remembering Steph’s early afternoon nap.
Despite the ugliness of the bay around them, the lighthouse located near Fear Cay was every bit as picturesque as Stephanie remembered from the textbooks and a few trips in her youth. Not a single patch of graffiti marred its surface – a far cry from the port authority station down the road. It overlooked Bludhaven as a silent sentinel, its light flashing a beacon. The house where the keeper and his family had lived in years past was no less a sight. Built to last, its architecture was very reminiscent of the rest of the city. Only modern additions to it seemed to be an A/C unit and a ramp.
The garage door was closed but Cass readily lead the way up the ramp to the front door. She rang the doorbell and not even a second later, the door was opened by someone Stephanie recognized. No. It wasn’t Gordon. It was another redhead. A much smaller redhead. The girl she had ran into on the stairs that morning.
Who is she? Almost looks like Gordon. Has the same smile as in that picture, pre-perpetual frown. Bubbly. Vibrant. Feels like she lights up the entranceway behind her. She… radiates this innate power. Magical. Is she Gordon’s little sister? Cousin? Twenty-five or twenty-six minus fourteen… Nah. Definitely not daughter.
“Cassandra,” the girl’s voice had a musical quality to it, “you’ve brought friends.” Somehow the airiness of her tone kept the disbelief at bay. “Why?”
The girl in question took a step back to let Stephanie answer. “Uh… I’ve come to see Ms Gordon. I think I can help her friend Jay to find his missing shoes.”
“Jay? Shoes?” So the girl was an actress too. Nevertheless, Steph caught the flicker tell flash across the smiling redhead. “Well, come in. I’ll tell Babs you’re here, Cassandra. She’ll know what to do.” They were led through a hallway of wooden panels and floors, through another era, past unused stairs to an upper floor. “I’m Charlie by the way. Charlotte actually but that sounds so dated so I go by Charlie.”
That’s an elevator. She has a hidden elevator behind a clock. So cool.
“Like I didn’t know who you are,” muttered Charlie.
The three girls found themselves in a library crossed with a study with a mix of a meeting room thrown in. It reminded Stephanie of a museum but there weren’t any proper displays. At least none that she could see. Walls lined with books, what didn’t have books had pictures. In the middle was a battered table that looked older than all the girls combined.
“Please wait here,” Charlie ordered them and then she was gone like she had never been there by the time Steph glanced over at her.
A whistle pierced the room. “Looks like you were right,” Beth nodded up to a large painting above the northern wall, overlooking the table. “She either knows the Justice Society or is an insanely obsessed fan.”
Wow… That’s Hourman, the Flash, Sandman, Starman, Wildcat, so many...
“Who are the guys not in costumes?” Beth asked curiously. “The black guy and the one with mustache?”
Stephanie took a closer look, noticing that the battered table was replicated in the portrait. “Mustache is Gordon’s father. Don’t know about the black guy but those are military fatigues,” there was a frown in Steph’s voice. There had been unsubstantial rumors… “I can’t even recognize some of the others and I’ll admit I’m a fangirl.”
Lazily her fingers grazed the table while Beth searched about the room. As one of her nails caught on an indentation, Stephanie realized the table was covered in scratches; almost like they were marking off tallies. Then there were initials. Lost soldiers and heroes. She recognized one immediately belonging to either Jay Garrick or Barbara’s father.
“Haha. There’s a signed copy of the Daily Planet’s cover of The Race Across the Nation: The Scarlet Speedsters VS The Blue Beetle.” for the first time in Steph’s short association with her, Beth sounded happy. “My father swore up and down for months that the race was fixed.”
“It wasn’t fixed but one could say that the Flash was kind enough to let Jay and Beetle beat him just barely.” The grumbling tone of their approaching teacher clarified. “But my own Father swears Jay’s the fastest man alive, end of story.” Barbara clasped her hands across her lap, staring at each girl in turn with Charlie at her side. “I can’t say I expected this of you Cassandra, you know how much I dislike unannounced guests.”
“My fault, Ms Gordon,” apologized Stephanie before Cass could, “I forced Beth and Cassie to bring me here.”
Another look at each girl in turn, with a focus on the unfaltering gaze of Cassandra. “And why would you do that?”
“My father’s the Cluemaster, he stole the WWII era Flash’s shoes, and I believe him to be working for David Cain in some capacity.”
Gordona’s face registered surprise for an instant. “How do you know this?”
“I just do.”
“She does.” Beth defended her surprisingly.
“I had,” Gordon sighed, “my own theories on the matter.” She spun her chair around, expecting the girls to follow. “Though I remain confused as to why you came to me.”
“The picture on your desk. It had Jay Garrick in it. My money is on some of the others in that pic being heroes too.”
“Hmph. I’ve had that picture for four years? Five? And you’re the first to ever notice that. Most people picture Jay in his prime since he dyes his hair for public appearances.”
They were at the elevator hidden behind the clock. As Gordon’s chair twisted to face it, to the amazement of the girls, a holographic screen popped out of the clock-face, displaying a green almost feminine face with cranial lines. “Watchtower access. Voice authorization Oracle of Delphi. Security Protocol Friendly Guests.”
”Authorization Confirmed. Please wait for room readjustment.”
The clock shifted aside, revealing enough room for all four girls and their to enter.
“I wouldn’t normally allow you girls to see what you’re about to see,” the clock shifted back and the elevator’s doors closed, “but Cassandra is a fantastic judge of character.”
It took only seconds for them to fall what felt like stories before the doors reopened to reveal a massive cavern underneath the keeper’s home. The ceiling was high above, reinforced by some sort of metal and supported by columns made of the same. There were vehicles, including a small submarine submerged in a pool of water, and closed car size doors leading to who knows where on the walls. A second open column was below where Steph calculated the lighthouse to be so that meant there was an entrance there too. But what really drew her attention, nevermind the bank of computers with the green holograms, was along the southern wall and really all over the place. True displays meant for the wannabe museum above were everywhere.
A hall of heroes… That’s Sandman’s mask and gun. Hourman’s cloak. A perfect replica of the every single Flash… But why the hell is there a giant dinosaur, a puppet, weird domey thing with nubs and buzzers and a plunger, a brain in a jar, and… OMG! THAT’S CAPTAIN COLD’S PARKA AND GUN! How’d Gordon get her hands on that?
Stephanie was understandably left behind while she fangasmed. She immediately wanted to run and put on Kid Flash’s boots or to hold Captain Cold’s gun. Maybe try on a mask or two. But Stephanie quickly caught up with the others, catching only the end of an answer.
“…tower. A joke on the nickname Sandman gave my father. Back during the Vietnam War, my father was somewhat a military escort mixed with a jailer to all the capes that had enlisted. They used to swear he looked forward to shooting them whenever they got out of line. Somewhat true if their stories are to be believed. He tagged Jay once by accident and shot Sandman a total of four times.” At the expected gasps, she hastened to add. “Two were nonlethal rounds and one was with his own gun after Sandman stepped out of line. . . The real shot… Well, Wildcat says it was deserved.”
Namedrops aside, Gordon relayed the story as if it was nothing special. Her chair rolled towards the computer banks with only Beth and Steph glancing around. It was an amazing sight. Impossible if Steph understood…
“Who funded this? How’d your father get it built?” Beth asked for Stephanie. “We’re below sea-level. The Atlantic should be crashing in here at any second.”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, my family is rather well connected. And one of them happens to be—“
“Ted Knight. Bet he was Starman too,” finished Stephanie, continuing to look around. “How come you don’t have any of his things?”
“I wasn’t going to be quite so detailed but yes,” Gordon’s face was perplexed. She looked at Stephanie with new light behind her eyes. “You really do know stuff.” A wave of her hand brought up security images from the shoe-heist. In the middle of it all was a man dressed in tacky red. “That most likely explains a few missing details. Is your ability hereditary?”
“My dad thinks so though neither of his parents had it.”
Charlie, who had remained silent since her return with Gordon in tow, spoke for the first time again, “You’re meta?” there was a bit of cheer and hope in the younger girl’s voice.
“No. It’s just a really screwed up learning problem.”
The girl’s face fell and Gordon spared her a reassuring smile. “You are right, Stephanie. I wasn’t sure if it was your father but someone fitting his abilities and know how has been working with an unofficial troop Cain’s security to steal the relics of the JSA and other heroes. Been reports on multiple attempts of someone to gain access to BlueGold Media too.”
Stephanie listened only partially. Her eyes were riveted on the see-through screen displaying one of the warehouse districts in the nearby fishmarket. A memory of the smell of her father’s own shoes wafted through her mental nose. Her eyes glazed over, focusing beyond the hologram at the display featuring an hourglass…
“I don’t have any agents ready to be deployed, sadly,” Barbara muttered mostly to herself, all but ignoring the girls as they explored Watchtower. A flick of her finger brought up a satellite picture of Japan. In its heart flew the image of a small bird. She opened up a channel. “Jade Canary.”
The response was long in coming and it was followed by a loud roar of some sort of bestial creature. “Here. Whatcha need?” Another roar and then the sound of what seemed to be a building come crashing down. “Make it quick.”
Barbara twisted her face into a frown. “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be looking for –“
“I was, I was. I was all innocently taking pictures on the rebuilding for that cute guy at the Planet I’ve been telling you about when you wouldn’t believe it, this giant monster surfaces from beneath the rubble. It’s like a cross between a moth and I don’t know what… It has tentacles.”
“Japan has their own forces for that sort of thing; you need to get back to your assignment, that’s more important to their authorities.”
“Yeah yeah but who wouldn’t want to brag about killing a Japanese tentacle monster?” grunted Jade Canary from half a world away. “Get to the point. Really busy.”
“Someone stole Jay’s shoes.”
“Call her then, maybe it’d get her up off her ass and back in the game.”
Barbara was quiet for a few seconds tapping her finger on her chair. The sounds coming through besides Jade’s heavy breathing and the tankfire quickly indicated that her operative had crashed to the ground. “I already called her and told her I’d handle it.”
“Gave me three days.”
Jade let out a scream of victory quickly followed by a more calm: “Damn. You’ll have to book a flight for me then. Don’t think I have the charge to make it over the Pacific in time.” The sounds of Jade brushing herself off came through. “What about my current assignment? That kid’s been missing for awhile now. The Japanese government is getting really antsy about it.”
“It can wait. I’ll send you the details shortly.” Barbara ended the call with another flick of her finger. She leaned wearily back in her chair, worried and stressed at the same time.
Right here in my own city and I can’t do a damn thing. Maybe Trip was right...
Charlie put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Maybe you could call Jason? He’s always willing to help you with anything.” There was just the right amount of lovestruck jealousy in the girl’s voice and it brought a smile to Babs’ lips.
She had taken in the girl shortly after moving back to Bludhaven and starting Watchtower back up much to her family’s displeasure. Her father had built the place as a Haven for the Capes that Reagan had all but outlawed back in the eighties. From here, her father had helped established an underground connection between active and inactive heroes. He helped trace new Metas who were worried about being freaks when they were special. Kept it running up till a few years ago when he moved to Keystone while she was at University and then he finally retired. A new generation’s time he had said. He’d rather be fishing.
Charlie had been the first Babs had the pleasure of helping. A girl with the special ability to teleport among other things, she was the only survivor of her apartment complex burning down. An act that had taken her mother. Jason, an old…flame…of Barbara’s had found her and brought the young girl to him. It took some time but Babs had finally got through to Charlie that it wasn’t her fault. And now she found herself the guardian of someone half her age.
“Jason would just get himself killed. He’s not bulletproof despite all his bragging.”
The young girl nodded towards the black haired one leaning against a locker near the Lighthouse entrance. “What about…” Charlie stopped, her eyes opening wide in surprise. “Where’s Stephanie?”
“She’s…” Barbara’s own voice ended suddenly. The bubbly blond was nowhere to be seen. Beth was investigating the dinosaur but there was no sign of the other. “Hourman’s costume is gone,” came her horrified cry.
Oh god. Oh god. I did use the correct protocol didn’t I? Unexpected Guests, right? Oh no. No. No No! I said Friendly. Friendly only protects IDs it doesn’t lock down the displays.
Terrified that she would be the cause of Stephanie’s death her shout for help was answered before ever leaving her mouth. Cassandra stood before her, hood and veil drawn up to hide her face. Silver pads protected numerous parts of her body, giving an otherwise solid, formfitting black armor. A utility belt wrapped around her waist, filled with various useful items, and Cass’s logo of a bat. She was ready for war, her stun-saber already in her hand.
“Try the warehouses by the docks. That’s where your father has been moving a lot of material as of late. I think I saw her looking at them earlier.”
Cassandra as the Blackbat nodded and strapped her weapon to her back in a single fluid motion. An offered salute was her only word of goodbye before she slipped down one of the various exits from Watchtower. One that would bring her up close to the docks.
Stephanie… If you don’t die, I may just kill you myself.
With her head buried in her hands, Barbara failed to notice Charlie and Beth conspiring behind her. Both inching towards still unprotected gear.