Ultimate Knights #7: Birds of a Feather Jun 30, 2015 23:21:45 GMT -5
Post by Drake on Jun 30, 2015 23:21:45 GMT -5
#7: Birds of a FeatherBy Drake and Adrini
”I’d really like to know why the hell you’ve been tracking me.”
Redbird inched forward, but Tigress stopped him by drawing a crossbow. The young vigilante scowled as his partner, Cass Cain, reached slowly for her utility belt. In response, the assassin pulled her other crossbow from her back and aimed it at the girl, effectively freezing her in place.
“Don’t play stupid. You know why we’re here,” Redbird spat.
Tigress smirked. “Let me guess? You’re on a mission to kill me in the name of ‘truth, justice, and the American Way,’” The assassin chided, paused, and then said, “Which, I might add, would be stupid as my single most common employer is your government.”
“You think this is a joke?” Redbird roared. “You killed Richard Dragon and kidnapped Artemis—“
“My daughter,” Tigress interjected, “And I didn’t kill Richard.” The assassin frowned, her cool façade breaking for a moment. “I didn’t even know he was dead…”
“Liar!!” Redbird stepped forward, already reaching for a birdarang. Cass grabbed his arm and held him back. He cursed under his breath and looked back at her.
“She isn’t lying,” Cass stated.
“The heartbeat sensors in your mask back up Cassandra’s hypothesis, Redbird. Tigress’ heart rate has beat steadily throughout this conversation.” Riddler admitted disappointedly.
“No,” Redbird pulled away from Cass and threw a birdarang, “She’s lying! She has to be!!”
Tigress shot the projectile out of the air with an arrow. Her crossbow reloaded automatically and she hopped down from her perch, still aiming at the two vigilantes.
“I’m not lying and I won’t hand my daughter over to you. Now, leave or die,” Tigress growled out.
Redbird seethed with anger. “You BITCH!!”
He leaped for Tigress, who instinctively fired upon his attack. Redbird wasn’t a rookie, however, and he twisted his body to dodge the arrow. He then attempted to tackle Tigress to the ground, but the assassin managed to holster her crossbows, flip away and draw her sword on Tim in one fluid motion. She brought her blade down towards Redbird’s neck, but he rolled away before she could decapitate him.
Tigress sensed the threat of a second attacker before Cass had even neared her, and she swung her katana around to cut the girl. Cass used her bladed gauntlets to deflect the blow and kicked Tigress’ feet out from under her. The assassin immediately rolled back to a standing position, but not before Redbird threw three birdarangs, cracking her mask and causing her to lose her balance. Cass sent Tigress sprawling with just one kick and took control by leaping atop her.
“Talk,” Cass growled, fist raised.
Tigress’ lips curled up into a cheshire grin, “You have spunk. I respect that.”
She kicked Cass off of her and then flipped back onto her feet. Redbird tried to slug her, but she caught his fist and threw him to the ground. Tigress plunged her sword down towards Redbird’s heart. Suddenly, the katana’s descent stopped. Cass had grabbed the sword by its blade, ignoring the pain that burned through her body as blood dripped down onto Tim’s uniform from her hands.
“You really are incredible,” Tigress muttered, awe-struck.
Cass flipped up, kicking the katana away so it impaled itself into the ground dozens of feet away. She then proceeded to twist mid-air to kick Tigress in the spine. The assassin caught her leg, but Cass used her momentum to twist herself out of the assassin’s hands, ending up with her thighs locked around Tigress’ head. Letting loose a guttural roar, Cass flipped over, throwing Tigress into the ground.
Now, back in control again, Cass pinned Tigress’ limbs with her own.
“Talk!!” Cass yelled.
“Fine, fine,” Tigress said, “I give up. I’m done with the fight.” And she’d kick my ass if I said ‘no.’
Redbird had since gotten up onto his own two feet and made his way over to Cass. The girl still continued to amaze him.
“Artemis, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is my daughter by Richard Dragon. However, he did not know of her until recently. I kept Artemis a secret, my intentions to…” Tigress sighed. “To train her to be my partner. However, there came a time that my job got…out of hand, and I couldn’t keep her safe. So, I told Richard about her and gave her to him for safekeeping on the conditions that he 1) return her to me when I asked and 2) never take her to Blüdhaven. He agreed…at the time, and near-immediately broke both parts of our pact. When I discovered he’d taken her to ‘Haven I had no choice but to take her back.”
“Why? What’s so bad about ‘Haven?” Redbird demanded.
Tigress stared fearfully into Tim’s eyes as she replied, “There are rumors of a fire coming…a war. You wouldn’t understand. I don’t, entirely.”
“That’s all I know.”
“No,” Tim shook his head, “Finish your story.”
Tigress sighed, “Impatient brat…all that’s left to tell is that I took Artemis, left Richard a message, and left. Now that he’s gone…well, there’s certainly no reason for Artemis to return—no one to protect her from what’s coming.”
“Too bad. We’re taking—“ Cass quieted Redbird by tapping his arm.
“Artemis has no one in ‘Haven. And if there is truly a war coming…” Cass shrugged.
“She’s smart, that one,” Tigress interjected.
“Shut up,” Redbird growled back. He looked at Cass. “We can’t just leave Artemis with her.”
“Yes, we can. We have to,” Cass said, “For now.”
“She talks about Artemis like she’s an object!” Tim argued.
“Redbird…” Cass pleaded.
Tim sighed, took one last disdainful look at Tigress, and then started to walk away. “Fine. Let’s go. We still have a killer to catch.”
Cass paused, watching Tim go, before she abruptly smiled and ran after him. Tigress didn’t even bother to attack the vigilantes as they left. She knew it wouldn’t end well for her.
“Come on back to base, kiddos,” Riddler said, frustration hidden in his playful words, “We’re back to step one.”
“So we’re looking at the east corner of the area. There’s a tunnel system there that might be the main entrance.” Jade was looking over the large map of ‘Haven covering the dining room table. “Unless they know about the secret passageways. They are hidden, but it may be possible.”
“You can check those, though. That’s not the hard part.” Babs was giving up on the net. Whoever this was was not online. “There have to be people in this. Do you know them?”
“If this was the Court, yes.” Jade was highlighting the area. “Those I can leverage with permission to visit Tommy. She’ll jump for it. The gangs weren’t my thing.”
“Then I don’t know what to do!” Babs stood up, frustrated. “The Red Hoods aren’t on the net, they aren’t on the cameras and the people who run the city haven’t been keeping tabs. I can’t run intel without intelligence.”
“There is an option, but you might not like it.” Jade was leaning back, her eyebrow raised. “But you have to put up with her. Oliver will love having her out of his business for a while. Stave off the double homicide for a while.”
“Oh no, if I drag her all the way out here after all it took to get out-“ She needed intel, but this was going to be hard.
“Look, she’s chilled out a little. Gage is safe now and she and Renee have a nice, stable place to call home. Plus don’t you need an in at this point?” Jade was amused. Her face wore the grin her mask bore. The mask she then slipped on, completing her fighting gear with the creepy wide grin. Her voice sounded like something out of a Tim Burton movie through the mask. “Come on, you know you need her.”
“Okay, fine!” She hated when Jade was right. She enjoyed it too much. She could already see the woman gloating. “I’ll call Kate.”
“She’ll be here by dinner.” The tanned woman said as she leaned. “I called yesterday, and you should probably know she’s missing one of Gage’s check-ups to be here. Fair warning and all that. I’ll head back now. You don’t need two of us in your hair.”
‘Haven and Gotham would be that much better off for the help, but Babs knew she would be paying for it.
The D.A.’s office was as busy as always that afternoon as Harvey watched the now energized officers going about their day. They had been marked with a determined desperation when he met them, but now had redirected that energy into more effort than he had ever seen before. Then she arrived.
Tall, thin and severe. Those were the words he thought of. Also, and perhaps most so, unhappy. Even the officers took notice of her directness. They moved out of the way.
“Mr. Dent, your office.” The red haired woman said, walking past him. He automatically followed, though not fast enough. “I said follow, not think about it.”
In the office the young woman closed the doors and took a thick book of papers out of her bag. They were very official, high detailed and all bore his name.
“You’ve noticed the state of the infrastructure. It’s crap. This fixes that.” She sat down and motioned to the pile. He looked at the first pages, it was an exhaustive list of repairs. He wasn’t even looking at this level of work for months. Then he saw something that ruined it.
“No, Kane Industries is part of the mafia here and-“ He began to speak, this woman was from the families. He was not going to back down now that they were falling.
“My father’s Kane Industries.” She corrected. “I’m the Star City branch, Kate Kane. The good guys. “
Harvey took a double take. He knew that name: the playgirl heir that was on the TV show. He had heard she had retired from cable. She didn’t look anything like the bikini-clad starlet he had tried to flip past when watching tv.
The door opened and Barbara hurried in, stopping at the sight of his guest. Ms. Kane actually smiled at her arrival.
“I was just going over the city plan with your DA.” She explained. “That was the full list, yes?”
Barbara hesitated for a moment as Harvey looked at her. He was being played again. There was a connection here. He could smell the secret society. Kate took the silence as agreement.
“Read and sign, you know this by now. The phone number for the currier is on the back and once I have it filled out I can see work is started.” His guest stood up and motioned to the second red heard by the door. “Babs.”
Outside, where Kate’s bike was waiting, Babs watched the woman climb on. She clearly had things to do.
“Clock tower, ‘Haven, midnight sharp. Don’t be late.” She said as she turned the bike on. “There’s work do to.”
Alfred had been startled when Kate showed up at the mansion door, his even demeanor betraying that she was not a face he expected to see again. She didn’t blame him. This was a house she didn’t expect to see again either.
She was led to the parlor, the same where she had once convinced her cousin to take out Di in hopes they would hit it off. It would have kept her away from the Queen heir, but sadly it didn’t take. Even she had to admit that might have been for the best. Bruce had his own troubles.
“Miss Kane for you, sir.” She heard behind her, and stood up. Bruce hadn’t changed.
“You have a problem, and you need help.” Kate said simply before Bruce could speak up. “We’re here. Don’t be a stubborn ass.”
Bruce frowned and crossed his arms. “Ten years ago when I was starting my crusade, you came to me and offered me a position in the Outlaws. Do you remember what I said then?”
“Ha. Funny,” Kate growled, and mimicked her cousin’s position. Snide ran in their blood. “This isn’t ten years ago. The situation has changed. You’ve changed.”
“And so have the Outlaws, I hear. How’s the team doing? How’s your sidekick doing?”
“You son of a bitch!” Kate tried to punch Bruce, but he grabbed her arm before she could bring it around. However, before he could lock her in a half nelson, the red head flipped over Bruce and jammed her knees into the flat of his back, knocking him to the ground.
Alfred sighed and left for the kitchen. “Every bloody time, I swear.”
As he lay pinned on the ground, Bruce did not even try to struggle or fight back. He merely stared sullenly at the ground.
“I apologize, Kate. That was…awful of me,” Bruce managed, genuinely sorry. Kate lightened her grip on her cousin, but didn’t let him up. He continued. “I’ve lost comrades too.”
“Barbara is back,” Kate retorted.
“Even still, I failed her, and I’ve failed Dick countless times. The fact that they’re both still alive…” Bruce couldn’t finish.
Kate sighed and stood up, allowing Bruce to follow after her. “Bruce, I know you prefer to work alone, but…” Kate struggled with how to approach the proposition. “We have a problem too in Blüdhaven. Help us out and we’ll help you out. That way, we’re equal. You’re not relying on anyone.”
“That’s circular logic,” Bruce smirked.
Kate matched her cousin’s expression. “Takes an expert to recognize it.”
“Almost circular again.”
“Shut up, prick.”
Silence fell over the room for a moment. Bruce couldn’t quite decide whether to take Kate up on her offer or not. She had a point. The Outlaws, the Birds of Prey, whoever she had backing her at the moment, would be a tremendous help. Yet, at the same time, if one of them were to be hurt in the line of duty…
“Thank you for your offer, Kate, but I’ll have to decline for now,” Bruce said simply.
Kate scowled. “Your arrogance will cost you your life, Bruce. One of these days…”
Bruce shook his head. No. There was no way. “I can’t die. I won’t. Not yet. Not till my mission’s finished.”
Kate didn’t even bother to reply. His sheer pride drove her mad. She had to get out of there before she did or said something she would regret. Something possibly like what Bruce had the guts to say. Something, maybe, just maybe, Kate hadn’t yet had the guts to admit. She was the reason Jason had died…
The door slammed shut just as Alfred returned, a tray of tea ready.
“Master Bruce….” Alfred wasn’t quite sure what to say.
Bruce turned to his butler. “Forget the tray, Alfred. I’m going out.”
“It’s barely dusk, sir. What could you possibly—“
“I have a man to find,” Bruce stated, already heading for the Bat Cave’s entrance in the living room, “Matches Malone…”
“And it was Cheshire yesterday?” Oswald asked as he leaned back in his seat, his underlings nearby. They were street kids, making a few bucks by selling information to keep their families afloat.
They were at the parking garage and watching. Batwoman and Flamebird were leaving the city for what looked like ‘Haven. Oswald scowled at the sight.
“Yeah, it was her. She had the mask and everything!” It was a young teen, with the extreme thinness all too common in the area. “She even had the nail things, and the belt.”
“And just when business was going well...” Cobblepot sighed. “Any sign of the Canary?”
“Not yet, but if the other two are here she has to be close by.” The brother in the sibling pair said. “Didn’t the Canaries do safe houses first?”
“They did, and contacts. Always with the background work.” It was hard to know who he feared the most. Cheshire meant the Court was aware, and Batwoman meant that Batman was in on it. Two cities and two terrifying threats. The Canary, there was only one now, meant she or her agents had been watching for too long already. He could change hideouts and cities, and hire muscle, but he hated being watched. Suddenly he knew how so many of his operations had been targeted. The Canary hadn’t retired. She had just found a new place to hide.
“How do you know she’s here?” The girl asked, both teens now curious.
“When she lets you know…but I know her friend here, Mr. D.A. himself. Let’s go.”
Batman swung down from his perch on a gargoyle on a grappling line, grabbing his target—one Matches Malone—amidst a crowd of drug-dealing mobsters. The thugs exclaimed in shock and drew their firearms, but Batman and Malone were long gone by the time they were ready to fire.
Batman threw Malone onto a rooftop before breaking his grappling line and leaping to the roof.
“The Court of Owls,” Batman growled, “Tell me everything you know.”
“C-‘Course, Bats,” Malone hurried up onto his feet and began to back up from the Caped Crusader, who matched his every step. Malone was easily as tall as Batman, certainly as wide—if in a far less flattering way—and yet he didn’t even consider taking him on. His mustache quivered in fear as he spoke, “I’ll talk. You coulda just called, y’know. We done this before. You coulda—“
The mobster fell to the ground, a knife between his eyes. Batman cursed and swiveled around to face the Talon, who already was leaping away from roof to roof.
“Not this time, you son of a bitch,” Batman muttered. He pressed a button on his utility belt and instantly the sky lit up as the Batwing hovered into sight. It fired off two rubber rounds, hitting the Talon in his back and knocking him off his feet. The assassin flipped back up, but by that point Batman had caught him. The Talon was stuck between a rock and a hard place—a high-powered armored jet with more tech than he cared to think about, and a pissed off vigilante with more tech than he cared to think about.
“Batman, the Court of Owls sentences you—“
CH! CH! CH! CH!
Four rubber rounds tore through the Talon’s helmet and knocked him out. Batman produced a remote control from his utility belt, pressed a button on it, and the Batwing latched onto the Talon with its grapple and lifted him into it. Batman did not even bother to pick up Matches’ corpse as he jumped into his jet and flew away.
The Batwing tore through the surging waterfall that led to the Bat Cave, and descended slowly to its perch. Batman hopped out of the vehicle and initiated a voice command.
“Arkham 1,” the Dark Knight growled out as he held down a button on his utility belt.
The Batwing hovered off the ground and floated over to the first of the Bat Cave’s four bulletproof glass cells. The top hatch to the cell opened up, allowing the vehicle to drop off the still-unconscious Talon. As Batman approached the Bat Computer, the Batwing flew back over to its pad, landed, and shut itself off.
“Not even gonna say ‘hi?’” Dick teased as he flipped up one level from the training grounds to the Bat Computer. Damian immediately followed after. Both heroes wore their costumes sans mask.
“Father is working,” Damian muttered snidely, as if it was one of the worst insults imaginable.
“And not sleeping, I might add,” Alfred, a newcomer, walked in from the Mansion’s entrance with a tray full of food and water bottles. “For the fourth night in a row.”
“That’s not true. I slept for three hours just last night,” Batman retorted.
“Would you consider trying that again?” Alfred asked, genuinely concerned.
“Take a breather, Bruce. Let Damian and I handle the investigation for the rest of the night,” Dick said.
“No!” Batman swiveled around, and for a second Dick was afraid Bruce would hit him. “For the last goddamn time, I will keep you two safe if it’s the last thing I do!!”
“Bruce, I’m not a kid! Hell, even if I was, I’d have a right to help out on this case,” Dick argued.
“Because the Court murdered your parents? Because at long last you have a chance at revenge? Trust me, Dick, that’s not a path you want to take!”
“I know! God, I know! You explained that to me every fucking day I lived with you, and I get it!! I just want…” Dick’s strength faded for a moment. He scowled. “I just want to help.”
Silence for a moment, before Bruce felt the need to add, “You can’t help.”
“What?!” Dick exclaimed, his fury returned.
“Master Richard, I think Master Bruce—“
“You can’t help, Dick.” Bruce was eerily calm now. “You have never been able to help. You get in the way, time and time again. As Robin, you were kidnapped nearly every week. It’s a miracle Joker never beat you to death with a crowbar.”
“Bruce, you bastard, I—“
Bruce turned away, eyes darkened. “I work better alone. I always have.”
“I can’t believe you are my father…” Damian whispered to himself.
“Are you just going to ignore all the times I saved your ass? Huh?? All the times you’d be dead if it weren’t for me and Babs??” Dick roared.
Bruce sighed, massaged his temples, and said, “I need to sleep.”
“Screw you, Bruce,” Dick growled as his mentor walked past him.
“Alfred, set an alarm for five,” Bruce ordered.
The still-shocked Alfred only managed to protest with, “Sir, that’s in less than three hours.”
“Just do it,” Bruce demanded, and exited the Bat Cave.
Alfred took a long, slow breath and turned to Dick. He set the food down beside him, and put a hand on the vigilante’s shoulder.
“I’ll talk to him after he’s slept,” Alfred promised. “Master Bruce doesn’t know what he’s saying. He…”
The implication was enough. Dick understood, but he didn’t care. Even still, he smiled at Alfred before turning away. The butler glanced at Dick one last time before he made his exit, leaving just the two birds alone.
“I apolo—“ Damian began, before Dick interjected.
“Don’t even try to apologize for Bruce. He’s…” the vigilante sighed. “He’s my father too. He’s my problem too.”
“I never realized Father was such an ass,” Damian admitted after a short pause.
Dick laughed. “Yeah, even when he’s caught up on sleep, he’s still…unique. He always pretends he’s invincible, like he’s some sort of Bat-God, but, well, it’s in his name…”
Damian raised an eyebrow, not quite understanding. “Bruce Wayne?”
Dick chuckled again. “You know, sometimes you’re just as slow as him.” Dick paused, but before Damian could retort he added, “I’m talking about his real name—Batman.”
Damian’s lips parted but he did not speak. Possibly for the first time, he truly understood his father—or part of him, at least.
“So, the Bat-God thinks he should work alone, thinks he can work alone…” Dick frowned, an idea popping into his head. He turned to Damian, and slowly a sly smile ghosted over his lips.
“Hey, Damian, have you ever been to Blüdhaven?”
The freezing winds of an autumn cold front sent shivers down Cullen’s spine as he tried to sleep. The teen was curled up into a ball at the edge of an alley, and Gar had nearly mimicked his position right next to him. The main difference between the two and their comfort ratios was that Gar had transformed into a snow wolf, not that anyone could tell the difference between it and any other type of wolf as his coat was green.
“You can curl up next to me, y’know,” Gar said after noticing Cullen’s discomfort, “I don’t bite.”
Cullen turned over onto his side to look at the other boy and smiled. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” Gar admitted. Suddenly, he glanced away, his face flushed, although Cullen couldn’t tell for obvious reasons. “Just don’t make it weird, okay?”
A quick laugh broke out from between Cullen’s lips. Gar looked at him with his head cocked to the side, confused. Cullen just shook his head in response and moved around so his head was resting on Gar’s back.
It wasn’t much, but he was slightly warmer and he had a pillow. In fact, it proved to be enough. Gar’s steady breathing quickly entranced Cullen and allowed him to slip into a deep sleep. Gar followed shortly after.
If only for a time, the two struggling orphans had found comfort and companionship in one another.
“Barbara.” She looked up. It was a voice she hadn’t heard in a while. Frankly it was a voice she hadn’t thought she would hear again for a long while. Part of the whole breaking the “no crime fighting” rule after recovering from her surgery.
Walking down the short steps she saw her father. She had forgotten that he had a key. He was soaked. She could hear the pounding rain outside. If he came over he normally called ahead. Her computer was on. She never left it on. Even worse, her hacking programs were on…her logo, the whole shebang. She could see the rage building, for her open defiance to stick to the hero life—or, at least as far as he knew, the hero info brokering life.
Only he didn’t let the rage win. He stood there, defeated. His eyes moved over the room, clearly seeing the evidence but they didn’t react. She had no idea what was going on.
“Dad.” She walked to the top of the stairs, leaning on the railing. Gordon slowly walked up the stairs and looked at her. Faced with proof of her disobedience she was almost afraid of what he would do.
He pulled her into a big hug and it was some time before he left go.
“I can’t stop you from joining this.” He said when he pulled back. “And from what I know about what’s out there they need you. But you run if you need to. Here, to me, away from all this. Just run. If your Star City friends aren’t far enough keep going even from there. I’ll make it work, see you have what you need.”
“You have to understand, you’re all I have Babs.” The man was being honest with her. “I lost your mother, lost—everything. But still have you. I need you. I need you to-“
“You won’t lose me.” Babs could barely remember her mother, but she did remember how hard the loss had hit him. He was still changed. “And I do have to do this. But I promise, if I need to I’ll run. We both will.”
She considered telling him the truth for a moment—all of it. But she couldn’t. Not yet. Not till she knew he would be safe.
For now, she was just Oracle to her father.
Deep underground, amidst ‘Haven’s sewer system, a mass of red surged through the muck and grime. Cries of dismay echoed over the walls, but no one stopped walking. After half an hour more of awful slogging, the Red Hoods finally arrived at their destination.
Red Dart slowly walked up the steps to the locked door before her. A neon sign over it read ‘Santa Prisca.’ She turned back to her anxious army and smiled. Harper, standing near the front of the crowd, tightened her grip on Davis’ hand.
Red Dart smiled a toothy grin and raised her dart gun into the air triumphantly. “This is it! This is where the Black Masks fall!!”
A single, unified voice rose up through the crowd: “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime!!”