Chapter 1: The First Day
It was an unusually warm October night in Gotham City; when autumn set in the night air would become cold and biting. Not this night as the two figures moved quietly from rooftop to rooftop through one of the seediest parts of the city, the warehouse district. The man leaped from building to building with all the agility of a cat and just as quietly. Even more quietly was his compatriot, a young girl who flew right beside him through the air, her feet never even touching the ground.
Finally, the two reached their destination, a four-storied building that allowed for a clear vantage point of the surrounding area with plenty of cover to prevent being seen. Their target: a multistory warehouse hidden away among other such buildings. The man raised his hand to signal a stop to the girl who abruptly braked midair. He was dressed in a dark black bodysuit, the only color being a blue bird icon across his chest. The girl was dressed in brilliant, purple dance leotard (with the poofiest sleeves she could find) and matching tights.
His name was Richard "Dick" Grayson, better known as Nightwing and the girl was his daughter, Mar'i "Mary" Grayson, who had just started going by the name of Nightstar.
Noticing that she was still drifting in the air, Nightwing took hold of her wrist and gently pulled her down to the ground.
"Now, what's the first rule of reconnaissance?" The hero asked his young apprentice.
"Um, to get in, get out and take out the bad guys before they get you?" replied Nightstar.
Nightwing half sighed half chuckled. "The first rule of reconnaissance is to see but to remain unseen. You can find out a lot about the target if they don't know that they're being watched."
He pulled out some fancy-looking binoculars and handed them to her, "Now," he pointed to the particular warehouse they were staking out, "Tell me what you see. Any guards around?"
Nightstar looked through the binoculars, which looked simple enough but even she knew that they were far more advanced than they looked, being complete with night vision, thermal vision, even an ultraviolet filter. Her father often used gadgets that were much more advanced than they appeared. "No, no guards around," she said shaking her head.
"What about any homeless around? Sometimes places like these use them to act as spotters, or guards disguise themselves so they don't look suspicious."
"Nope," she replied handing the binoculars back, "Coast is clear."
"So they're probably all inside, but there's still more to check." He handed the binoculars back to her, "Try and find out if there's anything unusual about that building."
The young girl looked through the binoculars once more and scanned the building for about a minute "I don't know, it just looks like an old building." she shrugged.
"That's right. It's an old building, so look for anything that doesn't quite fit."
"Well old, dilapidated buildings won't have anything like surveillance cameras or motion detectors on them. So look for them."
"I don't see anything like that. Or I don't think I see anything like that."
"Okay. Like you said it's a pretty old building so look for anything that looks new, that looks like it doesn't belong even if it's something innocuous like an electrical cable."
"What's innocuous mean?" Nightstar asked looking up at Nightwing.
"Tell you what, when we get home that will be something to look up," Nightwing replied as he took back the binoculars and pocketed them.
The superhero in training floated over to a junked air conditioner and sat down on it, kicking her feet absentmindedly. "Do you think that the bad guys are inside?" she asked.
"If the intel's correct then they most likely are." Nightwing was scanning the area around them, the sky above them, the ground below them, even the dirty skylight atop of the building they were staking out.
"Do you think we'll be fighting them?" Nightwing couldn't help but hear the hopeful tone in her voice. He turned to speak to her directly. "We won't be fighting anyone, this is only a training mission; when I've determined that you're ready for something serious then we'll see. In the meantime, this is strictly recon." Nightstar sighed in the most exasperated manner she could muster and went back to fidgeting atop the broken appliance. "So Grandpa Bruce and the others are going to be fighting then?" she asked.
Nightwing did his best to suppress a groan. Grandpa Bruce, he thought, that's never going to sound right. "Okay, next rule. When we're out in the field we don't call anyone by our family names. Grandpa Bruce isn't Grandpa Bruce and I'm not Dad."
"Sorry." Nightstar looked sheepish.
"It's fine, just remember when we're in costume just refer to everyone by their superhero name, right now we're Nightwing…"
"And Nightstar!" she proudly proclaimed, pumping her fists in the air with excitement.
"You got it-hold up." He took the binoculars out once more. A moving truck was pulling in and he could see two men exit the warehouse; even without being able to tell that they were hiding pistols under their jackets they certainly looked seedy. Nightwing watched as the two men opened the truck's cab and climbed inside, whatever they were expecting had clearly arrived as one began motioning the truck to back up toward the loading dock while the other began opening the shutter doors.
"Okay, here's the plan," Nightwing explained as he beckoned her over. She jumped off the air conditioning and joined her father by the ledge, staring intently at the events below. "After they're done unloading we'll track the truck and find out where it came from. Now let's practice those memorization skills." Nightwing once again gave the binoculars to her. "I want you to try and memorize the license plate and any details about the driver. After they've finished unloading we'll track the vehicle back to its point of origin."
Nightstar huffed at this, "It sounds so boring!"
"Well," her father replied. "Crime fighting isn't all exciting chases or big fights."
But whatever point he wanted to make was suddenly cut short as the two of them heard shouting from inside the warehouse which was soon followed by bursts of gunfire. Nightstar jumped as she saw wild bullets shatter the glass of the building's skyline. The men outside began swearing and unholstered their pistols as they ran inside. Wonderful, Nightwing thought to himself. "Okay, here's the new plan." Nightwing turned to address his daughter. "I'm going in to help out in there. You stay here and keep out of sight, I'll be back soon."
Nightwing took out his grappling gun and zip-lined over to the building and with the grace and agility of an acrobat, dived through the shattered skylight and out of sight.
Nightstar slumped against the ledge of the building in frustration. Mar'i! She thought. Right after he told me we weren't using our names! The sound of fighting increased inside the warehouse and she absentmindedly started peering through the binoculars again. Then she heard the sound of doors crashing open and hurried shouts. Looking through the binoculars she saw three men exit a building opposite the warehouse and were rushing towards it. All three of them were heavily armed.
Mar'i didn't know much about guns, that was a lesson for another day. But she did know one thing, the bigger and scarier they looked the worse they were. And the guns they carried were quite big and scary. She was anxious, in just a matter of moments the trio would be at the warehouse and neither her dad, her grandpa, nor his kids knew they were coming. With only another second's hesitation, she leaped from the ledge and swooped down.
Inside, a man fired his submachine gun wildly at the black and purple garbed figure above him who dodged the shots while weaving expertly through the warehouse's trusses. "C'mon out Bat-Brat!" The man snarled as he ejected a magazine and reloaded. "A couple a bullet holes won't hurt you…much!" The sound of some whirling object caused him to instinctively shield his face and he felt something impact against the gun and spread something warm and slimy across it. Grunting he tried to wipe whatever it was off only to find that his hands weren't moving, they were in glued to the gun's handles. The man let out a panicked squeak as he tried to move his finger towards the trigger just as the teenaged girl he was just firing at landed in front of him. A flashkick knocked the gun straight into his face and a follow-up sweep kick knocked him to the ground.
Elsewhere, a young boy no older than ten was currently engaged with two knife-wielding foes. Despite the fury of their swipes, he dodged with particular ease. Truth be told, hidden behind his mask and hooded cape was an expression of complete boredom. As if every attack was beneath him. Finally, he saw his chance; one of the villains overexerted his attack and the boy side-stepped him completely, letting momentum carry him headfirst into an empty steel drum. Simultaneously he drew his weapon, an exotic sword that looked halfway between a katana and a scimitar. Though unsharpened (his father's rule) the sword was nonetheless effective as he brought it down on the second knife man's arm. The sickening crunch was punctuated by the man's cry and was immediately followed by a strong kick to the knee and finished with the sword's pommel smashed against his nose.
"Well done," the boy said to the girl, his voice dripping with haughty sarcasm. "Getting caught looking through their files. I do enjoy a good fight but these lowlifes hardly seem worth the effort, at least to me." The girl rolled her eyes and started making her way towards their mentor who was currently engaging another group of thugs.
"You wanna run your mouth all night squirt? Or maybe finish what you started?" She asked, pointing towards the first assailant who had collected himself after his collusion. The boy scowled at her before directed his anger towards the unfortunate man.
To the public, they were called Batgirl and Robin. Her name was Helena and his Damian. They were the children and latest protégés of Batman.
Near the loading dock, Nightwing was finishing off the last of the workers stationed there, half-listening to the argument going on between the two sidekicks. He just smiled to himself, grateful that his tenure under Batman had been without sibling bickering. Just then, the doors flung open and three men bearing assault rifles burst in. And right after that, a brilliant green burst of energy exploded behind them, blowing all three of them off their feet and knocking the guns out of their hands. Though, not completely out of reach as Nightwing noted as he rushed towards them before they had the chance to recover. The first thug had almost crawled to his gun when Nightwing got to him, he front flipped and brought his heel to the back of the man's head, smashing his face onto the concrete floor. From the ground, he kicked the leg out of the second man before he had the chance to get up and knocked him out with a roundhouse kick. And without wasting any momentum, drew his twin batons on the third man. Smacking the rifle out of his hands with one and clubbing the man over the head with the other.
The trio finished, Nightwing turned his attention towards his daughter who had floated to the entrance and looked sheepishly up at her father.
"Mar'i." He growled, looking quite displeased with her.
"I'm sorry," she replied, now averting her eyes from his frown. "I just saw them coming and I didn't know what to do and I didn't know if you knew they were coming-"
"It's okay," he cut her off with a sigh. "I was just concerned about you rushing in and-GET DOWN!"
Without even thinking, Nightstar did as she was told, dropping to the ground even as Nightwing threw his baton over her head and birdarang flew past her ear. Looking back she saw a fourth man had come up behind her and had it not been for the birdarang that had embedded itself in the gunman's arm and the follow-up baton that had knocked him unconscious, she might've been shot. She continued to lay on the ground breathing heavily at the near-miss even as Robin walked calmly past her and yanked the projectile out of the downed man's arm.
Minutes later, the henchmen were all secured through a combination of handcuffs, zip ties, and scavenged cords. The ones still conscious sat on the floor glaring at the heroes and children who were busy looking over the warehouse. Well, the two older heroes were, at the moment Robin and Batgirl had resumed their argument.
"Oh please, you blew our cover less than five minutes into the mission," Robin said airily.
"In case you forgot, the mission was gathering intelligence," Batgirl retorted. "So did the high and mighty Prince forget all about that? Or did you think it was beneath you?"
"A wondrous job you've done. The computer you were 'hacking' is now useless." Robin pointed to the discarded laptop that was riddled with bullet holes.
"Because you thought it was a good idea to hit that guy, while he was firing his gun, in my general direction!"
"You're very ungracious towards someone who saved your life."
"And you're pretty smug towards some who saved yours."
"If you're talking about the one with the knife I knew when he recovered-"
"Before that genius, the one who shot up the windows."
"I knew about him too."
"Oh gimme a break!"
The two sidekicks immediately piped down as another figure loomed into view. Nightwing couldn't help but be impressed, even after all those years working with him, Batman's ability to cut an argument short was downright uncanny. The Caped Crusader made his way to the man with a broken nose and glared down at him.
"No cooking vats or storage tanks. And there are key ingredients missing from that shipment. Is Crane using this area for storage or are these components headed somewhere else where the toxin can be completed?"
The thug said nothing but shot a venomous look up at the hero, which was quickly replaced with a look of surprise as Robin's sword was placed right against his neck.
"Speak quickly scum. Or your nose won't be the only thing I break tonight."
The young vigilante sighed and sheathed his sword, walking back towards the other group of heroes. Down on the ground, the lowlife let out a wheezing laugh.
"Jeez. You lettin' little kids do the interrogation now? Heh. You really are gettin' soft in your old a-Aaak!"
Batman lifted him up by the throat and slammed him against the wall. His voice was low and dangerous.
"Where are the toxins being made? And Where. Is. Scarecrow?"
The thug gasped and sputtered but managed to shoot a defiant look back at the Dark Knight.
"That-urk! Doesn't work no more! You-ack! You can scare us, but he can actually scare us to death!"
Batman let go and let him drop to the ground. With a dramatic swish of his cape, he turned back to the group of heroes where Batgirl and Robin had renewed their argument in a hushed tone.
"I'm simply stating that the two-man dynamic has worked so well in the past that your presence here is nothing but redundant," Robin haughtily explained.
"You're right," Batgirl exclaimed in mock agreement. "Which makes me wonder why he thought dragging the second-born along was a good idea. And before you open your mouth, let me remind you that we're not living in your grandpa's backward, patriarchal society. And you don't come first just because you're missing a chromosome."
"I honestly don't know why he insisted on bringing you along, you obviously didn't inherit your mother's intuition or delicate touch as a common thief," Robin sneered.
"And what did you inherit from your mother, huh?" Batgirl shot back, her voice starting to rise. "A sense of entitlement? Certainly not her height. Oh! Maybe that's why Batman brings you along, in case he needs a midget to crawl through some rat holes!"
"Oh-kay then!" Nightwing in an attempt to diffuse the situation placed his hands on both of their shoulders and ushered them outside of the warehouse. Batman soon joined them outside and took a moment to size up the two fuming sidekicks.
"There were mistakes made by all of us, and we're going to evaluate those mistakes and reflect on how we can improve."
"But-" Robin began to protest.
"All of us." Batman said cutting him off. "As soon as we've had a moment to cool our heads." Getting the message, the two of them separated, Batgirl walking over towards Nightstar who was lazily floating in the air, and Robin meandering a short ways away.
Batman could hear the distant police sirens coming closer and approached Nightwing.
"I'll need to speak with the police and conduct a more thorough search on the surrounding buildings."
"And you'd like me to take the rest of them home, right?" Nightwing asked, picking up on his mentor's unspoken request.
"If that's not too much trouble. Just send the Batmobile back for me after to get there."
"Why don't you just use my cycle? I parked it a few blocks away and you don't have to wait for it to arrive in case your investigation doesn't take too long."
"That'll be fine."
The two heroes exchanged electronic keys to their respective vehicles and Nightwing spoke up suddenly.
"Oh, mind if Zeta out from the Cave? I can pick up the cycle later and not have to wait if your investigation does run long."
Batman nodded and Nightwing called out to the trio of sidekicks.
"All right rugrats, time to wrap it up. It's getting late and it's a school night too."
Robin looked ready to protest but a silent glare from Batman put an end to anything he was going to say. And with a huff, he joined Nightwing and the two girls in the Batmobile and drove off. Just as a trio of police cruisers arrived.
As the cops moved to secure the scene, a young woman with bright red hair wheeled up alongside the caped crusader.
"Detective Gordon", the hero nodded to her.
"Batman", she nodded back. "So, what have we got?"
"They're not saying a thing," Batman motioned to the group of thugs being led away by the police. "Scarecrow's name holds a bigger threat than mine does, unfortunately."
"Hmm," Barbara considered, "Find anything of use in there?"
"A delivery of chemicals, but it's still missing some key ingredients. And nothing to suggest they were going to make the gas here."
"Maybe they were using this place to hold their surplus of supplies?"
The two of them said nothing for a while.
"So," Batman said, finally breaking the silence. "Nervous about the procedure?"
"I don't know about nervous," Barbara replied. "More worried that this whole thing is going to lead to a lot of disappointment."
"Holt's work in biotechnology is unmatched," Batman reassured her. "This is going to be a big step in disability treatment."
"But see, that's just it," Barbara explained, her face painted with concern. "Ever since this news broke the disabled community has been more than excited and they're placing a lot of their hopes on me. If this doesn't work, or if something goes wrong. Well, it would be like I've let all of them down."
"If it doesn't work we pick up the pieces and try again," Batman replied, still watching over the crime scene. "That's how it works. You experiment, you learn from the mistakes and you work to the inevitable solution."
"And let's say it does work, what does that mean for me?" The detective asked, her voice starting to waver. The Dark Knight broke his attention away and stared down at her, a quizzical look crossed his face. "After that night I did so many things to reinvent myself," Barbara said looking down at her chair. "I worked so hard to keep fighting the good fight even with my disability. To be the constant support for anyone that needed my help. But I've gotten so used to…I don't know, to leading from behind. And I know what you're going to say, I know that I have put my life on the line. But it still feels different."
Barbara swallowed, taking a breath before she continued. "I don't know if I can go back to trying to live the life I used to have. I don't know if I'm strong enough to stand on my own two feet again."
Batman placed a hand on her shoulder. And even with the dark, foreboding look of his cowl, there was no hiding the look of compassion on his face. "None of us can go back to the life we used to have."
His former protégé sighed and nodded. "We can only hope we were better than we were yesterday."
Inside the Batmobile, a tense silence gripped the occupants as they sped out of Gotham and onto the back roads. Nightwing did a quick check of the passengers who hadn't said a word since they'd gotten in. On his passenger side, Batgirl absent-mindedly drummed her fingers against the window sill and stared at the trees as they passed by. Backseat, Robin was still silently fuming while Nightstar sat anxiously, wanting to say something to break the silence but too nervous to do anything.
"So," Nightwing said to Batgirl, finally breaking the ice. "How's the start of high school been? Freshmen year, that's a big change." Batgirl just shrugged, not saying a word. Nightwing continued, "One minute you're at the top of the junior high food chain, and before you know it, you have to start looking up to everyone again. I mean, that's how things were when I started out, not sure if they've changed things up, maybe made the transition any easier."
Robin sighed derisively, "Maybe she needs it to be-"
"And how about you Damian?" Nightwing asked, cutting him off before he could make another snide remark and begin a whole new argument. "That school program of yours working out for you?"
"I don't even know why I have to take part in this." Nightwing could practically hear the young boy's eyes rolling. "I'm already smarter than everyone else in those classes and that includes the teachers."
"Well", Nightwing explained patiently. "Batman believes it's important for you to take some time and interact with kids your age. We all know how smart you are, but you haven't exactly had the fullest life you could be living. Think of this as a new learning experience, a new opportunity. And besides, you get to hang out with Mar'i, that's cool, right?"
Nightstar looked over to Robin brightly, looking hopeful at his answer. This time it was Robin's turn to shrug, "I don't know, I guess so." At that answer, she slumped back into her seat, looking disappointed.
Nightwing was almost thankful when the ride ended; the uneasy silence lasted until they reached the Batcave. As they parked, Nightwing saw Alfred Pennyworth wake up from what looked to be a deep sleep from a chair in front of the Central Computer. Seeing the old butler, Mar'i flew excitedly over towards him even before the rest of them had exited the vehicle.
"Alfred!" she joyously exclaimed as her flight ended in a gigantic hug, eliciting a surprised gasp and chuckle from the old gentleman.
"Oh, Miss Grayson, please. I'm not a young man anymore. In fact, I wasn't a young man when your father used to do the same thing." Helena and Damian both smirked and Nightwing could only smile and shake his head at Alfred's little dig.
"All right you two," Nightwing said to Batgirl and Robin. "Off to bed. I promised your father that you'd be in bed before he got home, so no sneaking out. I know all the tricks and invented a few of them myself."
The two sidekicks made some half-hearted grumbling but made their way to the mansion entrance all the same; Mar'i was regaling Alfred about the night's escapades.
"And I took out three bad guys all by myself! Daddy only finished them off because I was getting a fourth one who tried to sneak up on me."
"Excellent work, Miss Grayson," Alfred said, his facing beaming. "Why, in no time you'll be toppling criminal empires and the worst of villains."
"Master Dick," Alfred directed his attention towards her father. "Will you and Miss Grayson be staying the night?"
"Not tonight, Alfred. The apartment isn't too far from the Zeta Station. Bruce will bring my bike over later. I'll pick it up another night."
"Very good sir."
The two of them approached a large mechanical platform where Nightwing pressed a few buttons on a console and the machine hummed to life.
"Destination: Set. Please step aboard, Nightwing, Nightstar." The computerized voice announced as the sound charging energy whirled louder and louder. The two of them stepped atop the platform as Alfred nodded a goodbye.
"Goodnight Master Dick, Miss Grayson."
"Goodnight Alfred!" Mar'i waved goodbye.
And with a flash of light, father and daughter disappeared.
Nightwing may not have inherited the over-prepared mindset of his mentor, at least not to the point of being paranoid as some would argue. But he had picked up a few things and knew how to hide the two sides of his life in plain sight. At the top of the building he owned was an inconspicuous maintenance shed filled with the usual assortment of tools, appliances, and junction boxes. Nightwing opened the back panel of one of them and revealed an advanced electronic lock, after typing in the passcode the panel floor slid open to a small flight of stairs. And through there the two of them entered a walk-in closet in their penthouse apartment.
Despite the earlier mishaps, Dick was pleased to see that Mar'i looked optimistic about the training mission, floating about and humming to herself.
"All right Mar'i, it's been an exciting night but it's time to hit the sack. Brush your teeth and get your pj's on."
A large yawn ended whatever protest she may have wanted to say.
"Okay then-oh!" she suddenly exclaimed. "Wasn't there supposed to be a word we were going to look up? Um…'innocuous'?"
Her father slipped the domino mask off of his face and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "How about we look that up during breakfast? I'm a little tired tonight."
"Okay then," she floated up until she was eye level with her father and gave him a hug and a big kiss on his cheek.
As Mar'i made her way to bed, Dick flopped down on the sofa, looking over the living room. Though he tried for a more modest décor, there was no hiding the fact that it was still quite luxurious. But his attention was drawn to the pictures hanging on the wall. Photos of himself in front of Wayne Manor, graduating high school, standing alongside Wally and Garth. Other photos, this time joined with Roy, Donna, Lilith, Rachel, Mal, Karen, Vic, Garfield…
He turned his gaze to newspaper clippings, printed with headlines reading, "Young Heroes Save City!", "Who Are These Fab Five? Meet the Teen Titans" or "Unfrozen Caveman Walks Again!"
And there were the framed magazine covers featuring a stunningly beautiful young woman with flaming, red hair, vivid orange skin, and green on green eyes. Posing in front of a backdrop, cuddling an adorable endangered animal. Always laughing, always smiling.
Dick let out a heavy sigh and began mentally weighing the pros and cons of getting up properly to go to bed or just falling asleep on the sofa.
Despite the foreboding architecture that pervaded most of Gotham City, Widow Creek Elementary stood out with a quiet, humble look to it. Being near Gotham Park gave it an inviting look, suggesting that even with the crime and Gotham's seedy reputation, this school allowed your children to grow up away from it. That was one of the reasons Dick liked it so much as he pulled into the drop-off lane in front of the school.
"Okay, everything all set?" he asked Mar'i who was sitting in the back seat.
"Ready," she replied. Her face was full of confidence.
"Got your backup contacts just in case?"
"Got 'em", she pointed at her backpack. "I look completely innocuous." She beamed in satisfaction with the new word she had learned.
Mar'i had a strong resemblance to her father, with the same pale skin tone, and the same midnight-black hair color. The only outward feature she inherited from her mother was her eyes. Pupil, sclera, cornea, all green. And while Dick's marriage to a famous, alien supermodel and public hero wasn't a secret, he felt that hiding her less human traits (not to mention her superpowers) might be for the best for the time being. There was no way of telling how the other kids would react.
"All right then; now, I have to get to the Watchtower, there's been a meeting called. And I have some paperwork to go over later. But I should still be back in time to pick you up after school."
"Hey, if you happen to, you know, see your friends, could you-?"
"I will be sure to ask since you've been so insistent about it," Dick replied with a laugh.
Unbuckling her seatbelt, Mar'i climbed up and gave her father a parting hug.
"Say hi to everyone."
"I will; now have a good day at school, Starshine."
He watched as she dashed up the stairs and entered the building, certain that she would make someone's day with her boundless enthusiasm or drive someone crazy.
He sat back for a moment and stared out into space, watching other parents come and go at the drop-off. Some kids talking with their mom or dad or both. Some getting hugs or kisses from them. And some not even getting a chance to say goodbye before their ride had driven off. He sighed wistfully to himself before starting his car back up.
"Really wish you were here, Kori."
Welcome to the World of DC Legacies, a kind of Next-Gen story that's been cooking in my brain for some time now. As you may be able to tell, I'm drawing from a lot of different influences: comics, movies, animated series; it's just a veritable salad bar of DC's best characters and stories.
Hope you enjoy the ride.