Ultimate Spoilers #9: Red Right Hand May 2, 2012 10:34:29 GMT -5
Post by The Wonderful Wachter on May 2, 2012 10:34:29 GMT -5
Ultimate Spoilers #9
Boys and Toys Pt 3
Red Right Hand
He couldn’t remember when he had first heard the story. It had become an idea that bounced around his head for some time now. He assumed someone had to have told him it. After all, that’s how stories start. A telling. But he simply couldn’t remember the when or the who.
He brooded, taking one last puff on his cigarette before crushing it underneath his feet. The docks were damp. Noise carried about the artificial, haphazardly placed steel walls. And they were dangerous. But he wasn’t in danger here. He was the Inspector. The gangs of the Haven worked through him. He was in their pocket, here in the dark, with them. The shadowy side of the police force. Couldn’t be touched by them or his brothers in blue. He could afford to brood.
Arnot’s mind traveled down a familiar road as his feet carried him towards a group of dockworkers who were not proper dockworkers. The working class simply did not carry semi-automatic weaponry. They unloaded a new shipment out of the metal crates. An emergency shipment that forced him to show his face in person to make sure nothing went wrong. A little bit of security here in these dangerous times.
Could it have been someone on the Force who first told him the story? He could recall Flores mumbling something about a confidential contact delivering her evidence that put Arthur Brown and Harold Aquista behind bars. That hadn’t been that long ago though. This had been going on far longer than that. Missing deliveries. Deals gone south. More dead that he had to cover up than he should have.
More likely it was one of the criminals he dealt with on a daily basis related the tale to him. They were a cowardly and superstitious lot after all. Arnot couldn’t count how many had lucky briefs or special socks they wore any time they tried for the next big score. They spread rumors like wildfire.
“— od has taken over the Aquistas, the Latin Unified, and the remnants of Angel Marin’s old gang,” muttered one of the dockworkers pushing a dolly.
Another hefted up a crate twice as big Arnot and headed towards the truck. “And how’d he do that? Ain’t no way the ‘busters would let that happen without some blood spillin’.”
“Oh, there was some blood spilling alright. The ways I hears it, Hood called a meeting between the three heads of them and the other hard hit gangs but not before he cut off the heads of their lieutenants. Threw the blood-soaked bag on the table and told ‘em: You can either operate under my protection and orders or we’ll see how many more heads I can fit in there.”
“Like hell,” the second laughed warily along with the others.
Arnot coughed politely into his hand. Attention turned to him and faces whitened as all blood drained from their faces. “Who the hell do I look like? Your Union Rep? Get your asses back to work.”
The dockworkers nodded quickly and went to work on the double, clearing the crates and loading them up in the vans. Arnot allowed himself a smile. He ran this show.
Course, a hand waving to him from above a blackened tinted window thought otherwise. Arnot gulped. Why was he here?
Steeling his spine, his footsteps splattered puddles of water onto his pants as he walked quickly to meet the hand. It wouldn’t do to be seen running. Running meant a loss of power. Running meant he was nothing more than a dog on a really long leash. But walking quickly? Nothing was wrong with a set of long strides. Arnot was walking with a purpose that’s all.
He slipped into the luxury car he wouldn’t be able to buy without question until some time after his retirement. Two men were inside. One he recognized instantly as the nondescript Roland Desmond, reclining slightly in his seat in the back, looking light the friendly neighbor next door in his sweater-vest and slacks. The driver on the other hand. . . Well, he made Arnot wince slightly at what the lad had to do to his mother on the way out. Since when did Desmond start hiring muscle with actual muscle?
“Who’s Dumbo the Elephant?” Arnot joked as he accepted a drink passed him by Desmond.
The big man clenched the steering wheel but was otherwise unresponsive. The scars on his arms and the back of his neck beneath scruffy, dirty blond hair nearly glowed in the dim light as the moon hit them just right.
“Baran?” Desmond tapped his leg in boredom, gaze focused out on the dockworkers instead of the Inspector. “His sister and I go way back. Found himself in my city, needing a job. I thought I’d be nice to him. Isn’t that right?” the driver nodded in affirmation. “Strong as an ox. I figure he’ll give the Red Hood a pause if he ever has the nerve to attack me directly.”
“So the rumors are true?”
“That he cut off the heads, quite literally, of the Haven’s worst of the worst and delivered them personally to the various heads of the families? Yes. It’s true.”
“Then why risk yourself coming out to the docks tonight? I can handle this myself.”
“My little Toyman is quite picky when it comes to his equipment. I want to keep an—“ Desmond’s eyes narrowed as a series of lights flickered off between the crates. “I do so love being right. Arnot, Baran, if you would please?”
Now Arnot wasn’t the bravest of souls. So when Desmond ordered him out of the car, the story he had been going over for the past hour wormed itself back into the forefront of his brain. The Red Right Hand of Vengeance. The Spirit of Blüdhaven. Sometimes a force of justice, sometimes a force of vengeance. They said this Red Hood was different than all who had come before. Chaos incarnate. Nobody could figure out his modus operandi. They just knew he had a habit of leaving bodies in his wake.
Stephanie knew she had to get Clockwork Commando and Red Hood out of the apartment complex. That was her training speaking to her. Here, in the closed confines, she had no room to maneuver. Besides that, the android’s gunfire was powerful enough to go through the walls and the floor. She’d be lucky if no one was hurt already.
Red Hood ducked under a powerful blow from Clockwork. He rolled under it, knife gleaming to stab it deep into an opening of the robot’s carapace. Sparks flew. The commando tried another attempt to swat the bleeding Hood away but he was too quick. It brought up its Gatling gun to fire at point blank range only for Steph’s batarang to still be stuck, preventing it from going off. Glowing eyes flashed. With superhuman speed, it kicked Red Hood in the chest, sending the man crashing across the room to land beside Stephanie.
Scrambling for the gun he just dropped, Hood nodded his head towards the window. Stephanie knew his intention intuitively. They both glanced over their cover to see Clockwork crushing the batarang in his metal grasp. No time to think.
Pulling Stephanie to her feet, the Red Hood dragged her after him as they both crashed through the window. Falling. She glanced back up at the Clockwork Commando aiming at them. Her fingers dug through her pouches, searching for the right bombs to use. With the ground coming up and no time to confirm she grabbed what was within reach, Stephanie threw a handful of bombs and capsules back at it.
Hood matched her gesture. Bang. Bang. Bang! His sidearm shot her projectiles in midair with unmatched precision, clouding the sky with smoky-goodness and fire. His other arm held her tight, pulling her close to his armored chest. He was… He was readying himself to hit the pavement instead of her. Well, she couldn’t have that. Struggling free, she fired her grappling hook at the last possible moment.
She screamed in pain as her arm jerked out. There were very precise calculations that went into using the del-cel cables without losing a limb. Babs had stressed that to each of the four girls. And Stephanie just ignored all of them. They swung across the street, decelerating until her grip gave out and they tumbled the last ten feet to the ground.
Red and purple rolled and rolled until Hood’s back crashed them to a stop when he slammed into the wheels of a parked truck. It was his turn to scream. And it was Stephanie’s turn to drag him back to his feet, her left arm hanging uselessly against her side. They dove behind the vehicle as the Clockwork Command jumped down from the window unharmed, his metal frame covered in soot and fatigues singed by flames.
“S04… Now… Now would be a good time for some… bo-bouncing,” Stephanie mumbled into her mask’s mic.
Why did this always happen to her? When would Stephanie be able to face someone superior than her and come out without an injury? She really hoped it would be soon. It was really starting to hurt.
Arnot kept both hands on his pistol as he and Baran carefully made their way through the maze of metal crates. They could hear the baratatatata sound of gunfire echoing about them. They could see the flash of muzzles. Yet they found no one. The dockworkers were gone. Vanished into the darkness of night.
“Shouldn’t you have an uzi or something?”
“Don’t need one,” the big man growled. His large fingers tapped the square patch that broke up the pattern of scars on his arms.
Police training coming in handy, Arnot stopped before turning a corner. Leaning against a graffiti tagged crate, he motioned for Baran to halt as well. He heard footsteps and heavy breathing around the bend. He peeked his head over to see a single loader – the one who had been talking about the Red Hood earlier – freaking out, gun pointing everywhere as he turned to and fro, trying to find what was attacking them. It came from above. An emptiness in the darkness. Flash of gunfire. The roar of its sound.
The man and the darkness were gone.
Arnot took off running out of the steel labyrinth of shipping crates. He didn’t need this. He didn’t need to deal with the Red Hood or whatever monster that was. Heavy footsteps followed and he could tell Baron had a similar feeling. That or he didn’t want to be left alone in the dark.
They came out of the crates and into a gaggle, a dozen or so, of workers of all the same mindset. They had gathered in a circle, searching for the intruder upon their territory. The Inspector was out of breath. He couldn’t find the strength to warn them that the danger was from above.
The darkness landed in the middle of them. One went down with the crack to the knee. Another was whipped into a third. The next collapsed from a prod to the neck.
Arnort caught a proper view of the emptiness. It wasn’t red. It was purple. A purple cloak flapping in the night air as it took down men twice its size. The scream of a man as the purple monster broke his arm. The gasp as a misfired shot tore through the leg of the wrong target. How could someone move that fast? How could a single person fight twelve men with guns… and win?
No way that was a normal human being.
Baran slapped the Inspector aside. “I got this.”
The remaining two dockworkers left standing fled into the night. The eyes of a ghost stared back at Arnot. The emptiness stood still, waiting, as the giant approached.
Baran readied a haymaker that hit empty tartop. The ghost slid between his legs and with three quick nerve strikes, brought him down to his knees. Arnot aimed his shaking pistol at it.
A strange shaped projectile, a… a bat? It was lodged in the back of his hand. His gun clattered uselessly to the ground. He fell too, fear coursing through his body. He didn’t want to die. Not like this. He wanted to live out his days in a condo on the coasts of Florida like anyone else.
The purple ghost stopped before him.
And then… Nothing.
Pink smoke filled Arnot’s lungs. He was all alone among the fallen.
The sound of a gunfight could be heard from a few blocks away. Beth’s car roared down the street and took corners far too closely. It wasn’t technically her car. Making use of the skills Babs had taught the Spoilers, she had jury-rigged a four door blue sedan one of their drug-informants dealt from. He’d never report it missing. Her gloves would hide her prints. Yellow hood would shroud her general appearance. Wasn’t that smart. It was borderline insane but she had done it.
Beth still had access to the Spoiler’s com-systems. Steph was in trouble and though she was an idiot, she didn’t deserve to be turned into target practice for some cyborg. This was the best way she could help given that she was on probation. Probably would keep her in trouble for awhile now that she thought about it.
She came around the corner to see a man in a leather jacket and a red helmet trading shots with the Clockwork Commando. As she barreled down the road, the robot tossed a grenade at the man who rolled out of the way of the resulting explosion. Stephanie’s ghost eyes widened as she caught sight of her coming and did her part in distracting her foe. A frost-rang buried itself in the side of the being’s head, ice rushing out to cover it. Commando turned to face down the Spoiler, unaware of the second’s approach.
The Clockwork Commando opened fire. Stephanie shot off her grappling hook to yank herself out of the way at the last possible moment, bullets ripping through her cloak. Keeping the car going, racing up to over thirty miles-per-hour, Beth opened the door to vault out. Her tumble carried her free as the robot found itself the victim of a hit and run.
Grime fell off Beth’s jacket when she stood. The hood of the car was ruined. She couldn’t tell where it ended and the Clockwork Commando began. Smoke and fire snuck out from the engine. Beth smartly backed off, wincing as she held her side. In the distance, Stephanie landed, safe and sound. Or at least as safe and sound as she could be with her arm out if its socket.
“Effective,” Red Hood whistled, holstering his gun. “I’ll have to remember that.”
Nervously, Beth laughed but she could feel Steph’s glare from across the street. It was done. She had saved the day with relatively little collateral damage compared to the other Spoiler.
Scratch that. A tire thrown free of the explosion smashed through the windshield of a nearby parked SUV next to Beth. She let out a sigh of relief before her eyes widened in alarm. Something was coming out of the flaming wreckage. Like it was from a deleted scene in The Terminator, the Clockwork Commando aimed its Gatling forearm at Beth’s still form.
She was frozen in place. It was impossible. There was a chance it could have survived the wreck… but the resulting explosion? No way. How could the Spoilers hope to take it down?
The barrel of the gun started to turn. The red eyes of the machine flashed in warning. Then it… hesitated. The metal soldier tilted its head. An unspeaking mouth opened in askance. Did it recognize her?
A man in a mask tackled her from the side as the robot finally opened fire.
The distraction was enough. Spoiler leapt through the flames to come down on the Clockwork Commando’s back. She slapped two ionic discs on either side of its neck before backflipping off with an incredibly skilled acrobatic move. The robot stumbled forward for all of a second as a blue pulse of energy rushed through its body. Servomotors ground to a halt. Red eyes dimmed and died.
The Clockwork Commando had been disabled.
“Jesus, do you have a death wish?” Beth’s costumed savior said at the same time she asked, who the hell was he supposed to be.
“I’m the Nightrunner,” he helped her to her feet. The new man was easily a head taller than her and she could tell because of his short sleeves and elbow pads that he was dark skinned beneath the mask. There was nothing special about his costume; it wasn’t even to the level of the first version of the Spoiler outfit. He had on a gray shirt with jagged black vee across his chest. A set of elbow and kneepads protected his limbs. And his mask was just plain unsafe. She couldn’t see behind the white lenses but what she could do was grab him by the ties in the back.
“Uh huh… Right.”
She turned her attention to the Clockwork Commando. It was hunched over. Both Spoiler and the Red Hood kept a wary distance and weapons ready. When they seemed to be confident that it was down for good, Hood tilted his head in confusion at his partner for the evening.
“Didn’t you hurt your arm earlier?”
Spoiler said nothing. Instead, she slammed a knee up only for Hood to block it at the last second. Her boot snapped across his head while he maintained a strong hold of her and bounced off the side of his helmet. He stumbled backwards as she leapt up into a fighting stance.
“Hey! I just saved your life!”
A batarang flew at him and nicked his shoulder.
“I don’t need this.” Hood held up something in his hand that it took Beth a second to recognize. It was one of the Spoiler’s smoke bombs. Somehow he had lifted it from their belt. He tossed it in the air and shot it before it could land.
He was gone before it cleared.
So Cass and Stephanie had traded. Beth was left to wonder when that was as the sirens sounded in the distance. Haven’s finest were finally on their way. Nightrunner took off without a goodbye. Cassie glared at her before she threw down a smoke pellet and a pink puff filled the air between them. Beth guessed the other girl still held a grudge over that sucker punch. Surprise filled Beth’s gut when the night air had truly cleared. She hadn’t expected Charlie to take the robot with them.
The sirens grew louder. With no other choice, Beth fled on foot. All alone.
“ARRRRGH!” Stephanie screamed in pure pain. “It’s not that bad on TV!”
Cassie stood above her, hood down and mask off, holding her still. Babs was close by, her hands wrapped tightly around Stephanie’s arm. The pair of them popped her arm back in place. Cass’s stoic face was as usual emotionless but her teacher seemed to enjoy it far too much.
“Let that be a lesson to you,” Babs rolled away to her monitors. “Should have let that bastard Red Hood fall to his death.”
“Uh, doesn’t that go against our code of y’know, heroics?” retorted Stephanie as she allowed Cass to help her to stand. “What do you have against the Red Hood?”
“I hate all Red Hoods. Criminal. Vigilante. Metaphors for a girl’s transition into womanhood. They’re all trouble.”
A pink puff of smoke forestalled Stephanie’s asking of her to elaborate. A third Spoiler had arrived. Red hair hanging loose over her hood, Charlie was the least sweaty of the three. Of course, she was also the only one of them who did not fight for her life tonight. “C2 is all locked up and sealed away. Tracers have been disabled and I’m pretty sure it’s powered by that Starman rod we couldn’t find.”
Babs’ eyes widened in disbelief. “That’ll certainly make Jack happy to hear. Did you take it out?”
“Eh. Figured it might be better for someone who isn’t scared of getting blown up to do.”
“Seriously, Charlie? Why do three fourths of the work if you’re not going to finish it?” Oracle began to wheel herself towards one of the Watchtower’s many halls that led to untold chambers of secrets beneath the city of Blüdhaven. “I have to do everything my—“
“Wait!” Stephanie shouted suddenly. “Don’t take it out!”
“Why?” from Charlie and Barbara.
“Because… Because… I don’t know?” She thought back onto the evening. What did she see right before Cass took the robot out? “There it is… Charlie. Bounce and get Beth. Need to stop her before she does another bout of larceny.”
“Okay.” The young redhead vanished in a puff of pink smoke after she pulled her mask and hood back on.
“What is it?”
Stephanie dashed to the Watchtower’s mainframe and googled the origins for the Clockwork Commando. “Yep. Sergeant Anthony Ticker AKA Sergeant Tick the Clockwork Commando. He was a soldier during the Korean War who was killed by communist forces and brought back to life as one of society’s first cyborgs. As the Clockwork Commando, he fought against the diabolic Dr. Tock alongside the JSA until he finally avenged his death. All right here in his biography”
“Steph. The Clockwork Commando is not real. I told you that already. He was made specifically for the comic during the early eighties after the Empire Strikes Back was released because of Vader’s popularity.”
“I know but he is now. Someone with a sick sense of humor made him but instead of being Tony Ticker and fighting the ‘Reds,’ he’s Tommy Tink, taking revenge out on the Latin Unified.”
“I’d say that’s impossible but you haven’t been wrong yet,” began Oracle, theories already circulating through her head. “We’ll need—“
“DNA?” Beth finished as she popped into existence with a puff of pink smoke still in her dirty yellow jacket and holding an urn. “I think I have that covered.”
Three pairs of eyes glared at Charlie.
“She made a convincing case.”
Beth passed the urn over to Barbara with little reverence. Not only did the Spoilers need to prove that the Clockwork Commando was Tommy. They needed to prove the ashes weren’t.
A few days later, Charlie came out Dr. Pierce’s office alongside Barbara. It was another annoying hour long session with him. The same one she had to experience every week. They said it was to deal with unresolved issues over her mother’s death. She personally thought after a year, those issues had to have been solved. If they weren’t then they would obviously never be. But Babs made her. Pierce was fantastic she said. He had helped Jen through her own childhood trauma.
Well, he hadn’t helped her. And he wouldn’t so long as she had to keep secret her meta-capabilities.
There was a cloudy overcast in Blüdhaven today. It had been sprinkling off and on since Sunday. Today was no different. It’d make any patrolling as Spoiler tonight even more depressing. It made travel by rooftop such a pain.
“Great…” muttered a grumpy sounding Babs.
Charlie had been looking down at her feet, trying to be sure not to step in any big puddles so she missed the source of annoyance. But when she looked up, all the bad feelings brought on by the psychiatrist visit vanished. Leaning against Barbara’s van was a bespectacled man of his later years. He had a severe gaze yet his eyes were kind as they looked at her.
“Grandpa!” She dashed past her guardian and jumped into the waiting arms of a hug. He grunted like she was a pest, like she was too big for him to still pick up, but he held on tight and kissed the top of her head.
“Charlie, it’s so good to see you,” James Gordon released her with a smile that disappeared when he turned it on his daughter, “safe and sound.”
Barbara rolled her eyes. Now Gordon wasn’t really her grandfather but Charlie had never had one before. Not even back when her mother had been alive. He was nice and kind and extremely doting on her ever since Barbara had taken her in. He spoiled her like she truly was his granddaughter and his eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning every time she called him Grandpa.
“What are you doing here?” She asked excitedly.
“A friend from up north thought I should come visit the old hunting grounds,” his gaze met his daughter’s. “Said I should see what’s changed.”
“Oh? Which friend? Tell me so I can release nude pictures of him all over the internet.”
Gordon smiled but it never quite reached his eyes. “That would be a spoiler.”
Oh… Charlie’s mirth faded away in an instant. This wasn’t to be a pleasant visit where he gave her a gift from his latest trip. They were in deep trouble.
The trace DNA found within the shell of the Clockwork Commando came back positive for one Thomas Tinker whereas the ashes in the urn were an exact match for a John Doe that should have been in the morgue. Barbara had sent Stephanie to the hospital to confirm that the corpse was missing earlier just to be sure. She didn’t know if that was good news or bad. They hadn’t risked reactivating the cyborg since Cassie had taken him down. She didn’t even know if they could. Let alone what they would fine if they did.
Her father glowered over her shoulder, glaring at the monitor like he was Superman and had heat vision. He had been on her case since the family had returned to Watchtower. Said the same thing over and over again. It made Barbara exercise a skill she had perfected back when she was teenager. She ignored everything he said.
“That Cain girl is one thing,” he stated for the twelfth time, “She’s a trained assassin that could give most a men I’ve known a run for their money. But the other two? Charlie? How could you?”
“As I said earlier, father. If I hadn’t taken them under my wing then they would have done it anyway. I thought it better to guide them, to teach them. Unlike a certain hypocrite I know.”
“I’m a hypocrite, am I? I didn’t let you take over Watchtower so you could train a bunch of thrillseekers. That sort of thing that tore this family apart. You know that.”
Barbara gripped her chair and bit her bottom lip to keep from saying something she might regret later.
”S01 to Oracle. Empty freezer here. No body.”
“Return to base, Spoiler. We’ll figure out what to do next when you get back.”
” You let S03 know yet?”
“I’ll think of something to say then.” Stephanie sighed, ”Oh, and Oracle? We really need to work on a mode of transportation.”
Barbara couldn’t help but smile. The girls had been pressuring her to get someone in her network to build them a motorcycle or a jetpack, something, for weeks now. Still too early in their training for that. Needed the conditioning of running through the city by foot, seeing it in person and knowing what it is they fought to protect, before they could get that perk of being a superhero.
“She has the same gift as her father?”
“Has the heart?”
“Why do you even care?” Barbara spun around to face her father. “A second ago, you were yelling at me.”
“I’m still seething, believe me.” He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “But just because I learned long ago that I can’t tell you what to do, it doesn’t mean I should stop trying.”
“I know what I’m doing dad. I’ve been around capes all my life.”
“So has your brother and look how that turned out.”
There was a breakthrough in the air. The Gordons could feel it. But like always, something came up before they could work their issues out. Before her father could bring up the case of her paralysis. That was what it meant to be a hero sometimes. You had to put your personal life off. Focus on the danger here and now.
It wasn’t any life either one of them should have forced on a kid.
Alarms blared. Oracle brought up the emergency and found herself speechless. It came through a series of street cams that were disabled in a linear fashion. She brought up the city’s information and the last bit of feed of each cam. Frame by frame a whirling funnel tore through the streets, throwing cars into buildings and sending people running.
She didn’t need Stephanie’s gift to know what she saw. It was the only explanation for the appearance of a tornado ripping through the heart of New Jersey. They had found the stolen wind elemental.