Ultimate Knights #9: Shaking Foundations Oct 15, 2015 11:11:35 GMT -5
Post by Drake on Oct 15, 2015 11:11:35 GMT -5
#9: Shaking FoundationsBy Drake and Adrini
One Week Later
A couple months ago, if you would’ve told me that the biggest crime war Blüdhaven’s ever seen would break out over the city in just a few short weeks of my absence, I’d have laughed and said, “Yeah, sounds about right.” And then, cut to now, I would have been pissed, because you totally jinxed the entire thing.
You know I’m joking, right? If there’s one thing Batman’s taught me, it’s never to believe in a force greater than yourself, like luck or jinxing, and to always rely on your own instincts and training to overcome your challenges. That’s two things, I guess, but they’re tied together. As you can tell, the one thing I’ve taught myself is humor is the only way to stay sane in this crazy world. You give the light side up, and you give away your sanity. Cough Batman cough.
So, back to the war at hand. It’s kind of a big deal. Some luchador souped up on a superpower drug called Venom took control of the organized crime in ‘Haven (of which there is a lot), and massacred the only force standing in his way: the Red Hoods, who’ve named themselves after a series of ‘Haven vigilantes, most of whom turned out to be criminals. Kinda speaks for itself. What’s left of the Red Hoods are fighting back against Bane—the luchador—and his Black Masks. And the cops? It’s ‘Haven. There are no decent cops to speak of.
And then there’s the rest of the city. Yeah, it’s screwed up too. Martial law’s been enforced, because the Black Masks are tearing things apart. More and more National Guard soldiers get dropped into the city every day, only to wind up dead or kidnapped. Whether that’s Bane’s doing or not, I’ve no idea.
The soldiers aren’t the only ones getting nabbed. Mayor Thomas Elliot—who I’m about 70% sure is as corrupt as the system—disappeared a few days ago. City’s going to hell. People are illegally trying to evacuate, but most aren’t getting anywhere. The only close option is Gotham, and we all know how Gotham is.
Of course, in the middle of all this, I have more to do than just save this city. I have to make sure Batman’s spoiled son doesn’t get himself killed, and find out whether or not my old partner is still alive. God…knowing Tim, he’ll misunderstand the entire situation, and do something crazy, like—I don’t know—punch me in the face.
Act 2: Cityfall
“You son of a bitch!”
Redbird slugged Nightwing across the jaw, as Damian Wayne and Cassandra Cain watched on in amusement. The blue-clad vigilante stumbled back a few steps, pattering into a grimy puddle on the sidewalk. After shaking off the muck from his boot onto one of the dozen unconscious Black Masks around him, he looked back up at Redbird.
“Okay, I probably deserved that,” Nightwing admitted, massaging his jaw. He’d let the boy hit him. He knew Tim needed to let off steam.
Redbird shook his head in frustration, continuing, “’So, I might’ve screwed up a bit.’ That’s the best you can offer after you left me to protect ‘Haven alone—“
Cass cleared her throat.
“Excuse me?” Riddler huffed over the comms.
Redbird glanced at Cass, turning off his comms, saying, “Okay, not totally alone, but without your help,” the anger was back, “for weeks, resulting in the city turning into—into this!!” Redbird motioned around at the ransacked buildings, beaten thugs, and the general war torn nature of the city.
“To be fair, this was probably inevitable,” Nightwing added.
“GOD DAMMIT!!” Redbird turned away and slammed his hands against a wall.
“I trusted you could handle everything alone, if that helps,” Nightwing began, before immediately saying, “Shit. Ignore that. I know how that sounds.”
Redbird didn’t turn back to him, but instead continued to heave slow, painful breaths against the wall. Three of his ribs were broken. His ankle was sprained. His right eye had nearly swollen shut. He’d been fighting for the city day and night for an entire week. He’d barely slept three hours a night. He hadn’t been home in days. And yet, it wasn’t enough.
This was all his fault, anyway. He’d tried to solve a murder case, instead of paying attention to the city around him. In his rage, Tim had let ‘Haven fall apart.
“Tim…” Nightwing tried, stepping towards his ex-partner and protégé.
Redbird quickly turned away, biting back pain. “Cass, let’s go.”
Cass appeared by his side before even Nightwing knew what had happened. The two young heroes fired their grappling hooks onto a gargoyle, and swung off. Nightwing called after them, but Damian quieted him.
“Leave them, Nightwing. It’s obvious the boy feels guilty. He knows he’s incompetent,” Damian said coolly.
“Redbird’s twice the hero you’ll ever be,” Dick growled back, still grimly looking out at the gray evening sky.
Damian smirked. “Tt. Whatever you say.” He turned to the unconscious Black Masks around him, and continued, “Now, what to do with these losers…”
“Third load out.” Dinah heard her husband say over the radio. “That finishes up most of the north part of town.”
“Bane was going to head up there. Anderson find a place for them?” She was looking over a map of the city, and marking off one more area.
“He’s pulling strings. We got the federal grant to pull civilians out until the state of emergency ends.” He was walking to the HQ they were using for the region. “I’m heading out after this, you need anything-“
“We’ll take care of her.” Jade chimed in. “Give Tommy a hug for me.”
“And tell Robby-“ Di tried to say, but choked. She was hurting, being away from her family and son.
“I will, Pretty Bird.” The man said before hanging up. “Remember, you promised to come back to us.”
Kate saw her friend try to stay focused, but it was clear she wanted to go home. None of the Birds wanted to be here again. They had served their time already.
“Look, the sooner we get-“ Jade began to say but Kate and Di, both of whom were also away from their young children, were already back to work.
“So that’s the north east side.” Kate was clearing the section off the digital map. Nearby Babs moved to the area labeled as the Northwest side of the city where untouchables and federal relief workers, guarded with military personnel, were already beginning to move out the new area. It was smaller.
“Two, three weeks. Less if they don’t carry as much. Message, main house.” Babs brought up the video feed from the old Lance house. Untouchables were bringing in a few new broken bodies. “More heroes. Who wants it?”
Jade, knowing the back passages, was working on safe routes for the civilians so Kate and Di made their way to the road outside. Getting on their bikes they got on the road at top speed. Easy as people were staying at home more now.
Di had opened the center two weeks ago, and the team had quickly set to work. Unsure of their reception with the local heroes they had focused on the local population who was more than happy to get a way out. Then slowly, one by one, beaten and hurt once heroes started showing up. They were in no condition whatsoever to fight, but were happy enough to go off to heal and return later. Eventually everyone got enough of ‘haven.
They got to the house to the two bleeding bodies being cared for by the untouchables on staff. Kate walked to the first aid room while Di hung up their coats. The house was packed, scores of terrified refugees. Lucky ones that were on the way out.
Joining Kate she paled at the sight, they couldn’t be more then teens. Barely trained fighters that had no business being there. The aid staff was almost done getting them stable, but that was all they could do here. The staff was waiting for direction.
“Stable enough to move, then out.” Kate said before Di could. “And not allowed in city limits again until they heal up and Ted trains them up. This hell hole is not worth dying for.”
Harper tripped and fell to the ground amidst an open street. Normally, she’d be road kill, but with martial law in effect and the war going on, the streets remained mostly deserted. So, she felt no rush to get back up. Instead, she drank from a puddle at her feet. Harper’s stomach growled. She hadn’t eaten in two days. Food could come later. She needed to spend another couple hours looking for Cullen before it got too dark.
The sky lit up with lightning and roared with thunder, signaling the start of a storm. Harper managed to stand up and look at the dark sky, rain matting her hair against her head. Where was he? Where was Cullen?
Lights, not lightning, but artificial, drew Harper’s gaze. A car. It didn’t slow down as it neared her. In fact, it sped up. She flipped over it, and the car immediately braked and swerved to face her. Within seconds, she was surrounded, her would-be murderers chanting, but she couldn’t hear them. All she could hear was him.
“You’re dead, Harper Row. Useless, like your deadbeat dad,” Jock whispered, just a few feet from her.
Rage overcame Harper. She’d dealt with him for days. She’d killed him dozens of times, but it was never enough.
Harper let loose a guttural cry and ran towards Jock. She dodged his gunfire and kicked him into the ground. From there, she began to pummel him. Other Jocks tried to pull her off, but she leaped up and circle-kicked them all away. When she had finished with the first Jock, she continued onto the next, and then the next.
When Harper made it to the last Jock, his gun in her hand, staring him down under a streetlight, she could made out three more of him, but this time she knew it was simply from her blurred vision.
Jock cackled cruelly, and then roared, “YOU’RE NOTHING, HARPER!!”
The final Jock dropped dead to the ground. As his body slumped against the building wall, Harper caught sight of her reflection in the glass of the shop door behind his corpse. The bullet had pierced through his head and cracked the glass, shattering her terrified reflection into pieces.
Then, Harper saw the truth through the glass’s reflection. The bodies weren’t Jock; they were Black Masks. Still, only the smallest part of her ached for what she had done. However, it was enough to make her dry heave. Meanwhile, atop a nearby roof, a figure in the shadows watched her intently.
When she had finished, Harper stumbled down the street, only one thought on her mind: where was Cullen?
“I guess it’s inevitable, but there they are.” Jade was leaning on the building’s edge and looking at the docks with Di and Kate. Groups of people, upset people, were being ushered onto boats by local crime lords. The city didn’t have enough problems, so someone had added kidnapping and slavery to the list.
The bulk of the attention was going to more newsworthy events, which always meant the more bottom feeding of the area would work under the radar. Nightwing and the other normal ‘Haven heroes would be dealing with the big ticket items. The Birds had worked for the people before and they needed to now.
Jumping down, Batwoman took the attention of the key slavers while Cheshire drugged and slumped the guards. Chaos quickly broke out.
Still the expert in stealth Black Canary worked quickly to unlock chains, direct the terrified people away from the fight, and replace the chains on the new knocked out criminals. Jade had to refill her poisons almost weekly now, but live witnesses helped the effort when the team of investigators was able to dig for intel.
The citizens, mostly women and children, had been traumatized, but still stood nearby as they watched the three finish up the crew and signal for the Untouchables to pick them up.
“Hey, they’re looking at us.” Kate nudged her blonde friend. Di looked over and noticed that they were, as well. She nodded and started over.
Jade nodded in agreement and they walked with her, waving slightly as they got close. The survivors didn’t move at first, but eventually they saw them and were more than relieved. They were beginning to smile.
“You came back.” A woman said, looking longest at Black Canary, who had been said to have been killed. She was carrying an infant and a toddler was standing near her. “I don’t know how.”
“Are you working again?” This time it was an older man, who walked forward. “Please help us, they already taken many.”
“That’s why we’re here.” Di said, nodding. “We can get you out, off to somewhere safe. Just tell us who else needs help, whatever you remember.”
They began to come over, each telling of one tragic loss or another as Jade called for transportation. Their best bet was word of mouth, once people believed they had a chance and someone to call things could finally start getting better on at least this level. It was a start.
“Excuse me, are you Harper Row?”
That couldn’t be right. No one knew her name. Especially no one she couldn’t recognize. Harper squinted, trying to make out any familiar features on the green-skinned boy before her, or his costumed ally.
“Not…Jock,” Harper noticed. With adrenaline and the fear of death, normal appearing people could appear like Jock, could be Jock, but a seemingly peaceful green kid and his super-friend weren’t even close.
“Yeah, I always thought of myself as more of a nerd,” the costumed boy, Nightjay, quipped.
The green kid gently smacked his friend and shook his head. Nightjay sighed and nodded.
“Are you Harper Row?” the green boy asked again, before offering Harper his hand. She didn’t take it. “I’m Gar.”
“Beast Boy,” Nightjay interjected.
Gar sighed. “And this is Aaron. We’re friends of Cullen’s.”
“Not cool, bro! I’ve got a secret—“
“Cullen?” Harper grabbed Gar by the collar of his jacket and slammed him against a wall. The boy was visibly fazed, but he didn’t fight back. In fact, he motioned for Nightjay to stand down, just seconds away from the boy starting a brawl. “Where the hell is he??”
“Listen, if you want me to take you to him, you need to calm down,” Gar calmly said, enunciating each word as if he was speaking to a child.
Harper hesitated, but after a moment let Gar go. She took a deep breath and stepped back. “I’m…sorry. Please. I need to see him. I need to know he’s okay.”
Gar glanced at Nightjay. His friend shrugged. Gar looked back at Harper, his eyes steeled.
“I’ll take you to him, but…there’s something you should know. Your brother…he’s in the hospital. He got hurt bad trying to find you.”
Harper’s eyes widened. She held back the urge to slug Gar. He was only a messenger, she reminded herself.
“What?” Gar replied.
“Question hour,” Nightjay muttered to himself.
“Who hurt my little brother?” Harper said.
Gar shifted weight between his feet, and looked away. “…Bane.”
Fury overcame Harper, and even the slightest fear of her death dissipated. She would kill Bane, make him suffer. But first…
“Take me to Cullen. Now.”
Nearby, Harper’s silent stalker smiled to himself.
She’ll be perfect. Unstable, irrational, violent, and skilled. You want revenge, Harper Row? Just wait. I’m coming…
“Mr. Queen.” The doctor walked over and shook hands. “I’m sorry to call at this time, but you left orders.”
Oliver waved the concern away. While his wife was busy getting civilians out of ‘haven he was seeing to things at home.
“Not a problem. You said the prognosis wasn’t good.” They were walking to the room the man was being held in. It seemed he had gotten violent in transport.
“After violent events like he experienced it’s not uncommon for the awareness to split to a degree. It’s just not common to see it to this degree.” The man explained as he led on. Oliver nodded, there had been trauma here as well. He hoped that one day there wouldn’t be.
Harvey was held to the bed, and clearly being treated both for the burns and the concerning behavior. He wasn’t doing more than looking around. The doctor nodded and left, leaving the two men to talk though the nurse remained to monitor the readouts.
He was half burned, and though the burnt and damaged skin was being treated the difference was still clearly marked. At the hands of not a few but the bulk of the villains of ‘haven no one knew what the man had suffered.
“Dinah?” The man was only half focused, and it showed. “Intel, I need the intel.”
“You’re out of the game for a bit, Mr. Dent.” He sat down. “But you’re getting the best help there is. We’ll do everything we can.”
“Not Dinah!” The man said at first, but it quickly grew to a growl. “You’re not Dinah, I get my information from Di. I can trust no one, no one! Who the hell are you, no, you’re here to stop me! You work for them! Get away from me! I will bring you down! I will bring you all down!”
Stepping back Ollie couldn’t help but glance at the restraints keeping the man in place. They were straining but there.
“Always death! There is always death! Fine, but it won’t be my death! I will survive, I will survive you all. I will gather the wicked in the rich flames and laugh as they scream and melt in pain! It will end all the dark and evil! I will see them plummet into the fiery pit of hell!” Raving, the man screamed at the air. Madness clear in his face. Suddenly his face changed, though. Suddenly terrified. “They’re coming, please – someone come. Hide, I’ll just hide. The officers will be here soon. Barbra will know a safe house, she knows everything. She and Di, they know everything. Hurry, just please hurry-“
Several people moved into the room and quickly medicated the man, who then went docile. He was also drugged into submission. The doctor appeared again and gave a few orders before walking over.
“This is a good day.” She said as they watched. “Now and then he comes through. Mostly we try to track what’s going on. It’s not a chemical we’ve seen before. We’ve managed to stop the damage but repairing it-“
“He’s a good man, he’s worth saving.” His wife wouldn’t like his update but at least her friend was getting help. “Don’t give up. And let me know when he’s lucid again.”
“Do we have another shift tonight?” Babs asked, walking with her team. The pace of ‘Haven was exhausting. Even at their fevered rate the work seemed endless.
“At the computer, but that’s it.” Kate replied, forcing herself a little. She had taken a few hits and, while not hurt, was bruised. “The officers offered to take it, if you’re okay with that. Let’s get some rest.”
“If we can afford to, we need the outgoing centers to be running twenty-four, seven.” Di was just as worn as any of them, but was fighting her weariness with focus. For the moment it was working. “But I worked those charts myself, so it should be solid.”
Following close behind, Jade reached out and grabbed Di’s arm, leaning over her as she walked for a moment. The four kept an eye out, their night’s tour of the city about wrapped up, when they circled into defensive form. Someone was there.
“Canary?” Kate said and Di only nodded. They still remembered and had quickly been reminded not to play with the villains of ‘Haven. Di might have been going hoarse but they were going to stay alive.
“Hey, hey! Friendlies! We’re friendlies!” A dark-haired man waved and made himself visible. He looked at the blonde to make sure he had been heard. Clearly he knew who she was.
The three took a moment but nodded, looking at Barbara for direction. He was one of hers. The man walked closer with a kid following and Di, Kate and Jade stepped aside to let Babs take the lead.
“Great, more wannabe heroes. Just what this city needs.” The child said, before seeing the younger bat-clad redhead, who was glaring at him. “Flamebird, I didn’t see you. Of course, I didn’t mean y-“
“The Birds of Prey.” Dick interrupted, nudging Damian, who scowled, and looking at the four. “You said you knew one of them but I didn’t quite believe it.”
“Friend of yours?” Batwoman asked and Black Canary gave her a look that filled her in. “Complicated. Got it.”
“Nightwing and the new Robin. Allies.” Black Canary said, cutting introductions short. “You know us. We should compare notes. We have a better chance of fighting this together than we do apart.”
“I don’t go by Robin,” Damian huffed.
The others ignored him. The rest of the Birds seemed to understand where Di’s sentiment was coming from, but didn’t seem to expect any agreement. Nightwing’s reply surprised them.
“I’m in, 100%. This battle is bigger than any of us.” He said, leaving Damian a little shocked. “Fighting…alone,” Dick grimaced, continuing, “is part of what got us here.”
“Walls have ears.” Jade said quickly, the full meaning clear to her sisters if not to the males who understood enough. “Base.”
“I’ll go with them, meet you there.” Flamebird said and walked over. “Be safe.”
Barbara had picked up a host of pizzas on the way to the base, the boxes sitting firmly in the trunk of her bike with practiced skill. It was her turn to bring dinner. Following behind, Dick and Damian were careful to stay close as she made her way through the increasingly suburban streets. They stopped at the middle class homestead, their confusion becoming obvious.
“Bring the sodas and sides,” she said simply, talking about the things Dick had in his bike. “We haven’t eaten since breakfast.”
“What are you doing here, Flamebird?” He asked, carrying the items. Damian was watching, curious. “What gangs are you focusing on?”
“We’re not there yet; you’ll see.” It irked her, working with Dick so closely again. But Di was right. They needed to work together. She reached the door and used the knock, the one the other two would need to learn, and it opened.
It was a scene she was used to by now: a handful of escaping teens, families, animals and the sea of Untouchables seeing to all of it. Weaving through it, Di was talking to the refugees while Kate moved supplies into place and Jade helped set up sleeping areas. In the morning, before first light, they’d all be gone and quickly replaced. It was everyday to her, repeated in a number of places around the edges of the city. Dick and Damian weren’t so used to it.
“Welcome to the ‘Haven evacuation and relocation central office.” Babs said, as Di looked up and nodded at the new arrivals. She finished up and walked over shortly. “Birds of Prey presiding.”
“Doing what we can anyway. Sometimes there’s not much to be done. Dinner. There is mercy.” She said when she arrived, picking up half the pizzas and leading the way to the kitchen. “Sorry for the chaos, boys. Emergency response is generally messy, but it gets done. I’ll read you in once we refuel. Kate, dinner! Grab Jade from the back.”
“Holy big crowds, Batman,” Nightwing muttered.
For once, Damian didn’t have a witty retort. He simply stared at the enormous operation before them, mouth agape.
The Masked Man, Bane, stood at a table marked over with a map of the ‘Haven sewer and subway systems. Around him stood half a dozen of his lieutenants, including Jock, who casually flipped his scarred penny. Bane pointed to a location on the map near the center of the subway system, an enormous open space surrounded by red sharpie.
“Daniels, you bring your team through the South entrance. Salvaroli, yours through the North. Kirito and Jock, you wait half an hour, then join them from the North-East, and West entrances. I’ll storm the city last, from the East. Does everyone understand the plan?” Bane asked.
Nods and mumbles of ‘yes’ were all the reply he received. That was, until Jock optioned to speak up.
Stepping forward, Jock caught his penny in mid-air and grinned, “What are we waiting for, boss? Let’s burn Scarlet and salt its land.”
At the edge of the city, a dark jet hovered to the ground between the military blockade and the city limits. After making sure stealth mode remained operational, the pilot hopped out and slipped off into the night. The normally glowing blue emblem on his chest remained dark, even as his lenses glared out with night vision into ‘Haven’s dark streets. Underneath the mask—or more precisely, helmet—his eyes practically bled determination and anger.
Cameron Snow aka Batwing had arrived, and he would bring the Rows home at any cost.