Summary: Cadmus fears the growing power of the League and Amanda Waller puts a plan into action that she hopes will net her information that will aid her organization should the League ever go rogue
Characters: Batman, Amanda Waller, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Dick Grayson/Nightwing
Tim glanced over at Bruce and tried to ignore the scowl that had become a near permanent scar on his mentor's face. Bruce had been unable to find Dick before he had been ambushed and the inability to find him was quickly wearing on the older man.
Despite his best efforts Tim had so far been unable to pry the details of exactly what had happened from Bruce. He knew that Cadmus was involved and that the organization had attempted to lure Bruce into a trap. While Bruce's communicator had been offline the man had been ambushed but he had managed to fight off his attackers. When the attack had failed Bruce had been forcibly teleported from the base and returned to Gotham via Cadmus technology. By the time Bruce had returned to the base it had been completely abandoned and if Dick had been there it was quickly obvious that he no longer was. Bruce had set him to investigating Cadmus but had not permitted him to contact the League.
Tim somewhat understood his mentor's logic in that. As much as he would have preferred to allow Superman to simply attack every possible Cadmus base he knew that many of the bases he suspected as belonging to Cadmus were most likely American military bases. The second Superman attacked the wrong installation it would make international headlines and the media would condemn the League's actions and the need for Cadmus would be legitimized. He knew that Clark and J'onn were still looking into Dick's disappearance but that was the only aid they were seeking.
If they wanted to find Dick they were going to have to do it on their own and he was going to have to suffer through Bruce's near inapproachable attitude until they did. The man had monitor duties on the Watchtower tonight and Tim knew he would be patrolling with Barbara. The young woman was taking Dick's disappearance almost as poorly as Bruce was but she seemed to push her grief away when they needed to patrol.
Bruce stood and said something into his communications device before disappearing in the shimmer of light that Tim had come to associate with the League's teleporter. When the man was gone Tim allowed himself to relax in his chair. Dick's disappearance was weighing heavily on his mind but he tried to put on a controlled facade for Bruce when the man was present. They needed to be a team, Batman and Robin, and that would not happen if he let his emotions and worries for his older brother show through and impact his work.
Bruce materialized on the Watchtower's teleporter pad and focused his mind on his worries about Dick. He knew that J'onn would be present and that the martian would pick up on his surface thoughts without sensing the rest of his carefully controlled emotions. If anyone was going to figure out that he had been slowly copying the Watchtower's computer files over the last week it would be J'onn.
He wasn't copying everything and he was doing his best to leave out as many details as possible. Things like the latest upgrades to the reactor core were carefully omitted. As were many details about the individual League members. He was also carefully shifting details from the public incident records into the private reports of individual League members. He was not supposed to have access to those files and as long as Waller believed that he could safely hide things away in that fashion.
He only needed to continue this until Tim found where Dick was located. The base where Dick had been kept had been stripped within hours of his forced ejection and he had not been able to pin down the location his son had been moved to.
As soon as he had Dick back he would explain what he had done to Clark and to J'onn and step down from the League. Gotham needed his full attention anyway and he could not justify staying after what he agreed to do. The two heroes would be able to address the security breaches and use the loopholes he had left in the Tower diagrams to their favor. They would not be pleased with what he had done but he was doing his best to make his betrayal as minimally invasive as possible. On top of it all he had realized that Waller had a certain point behind her madness. If the League ever went rogue he would not be able to completely stop it himself.
He approached the computer console and nodded to J'onn. The alien looked pained for a moment before giving him a sympathetic nod in return. The alien walked past him and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder as he passed.
"We will help you find him and the ones who took him will pay." Bruce acknowledged the alien's concern with a jerk of his head but did not speak. When J'onn had left the bridge for the privacy of his personal quarters Bruce inserted a disk into the computer hard drive and began editing the files he copied. He was unaware of the microscopic shadow who was watching his actions in disbelief and made no notice when that shadow quietly exited the bridge in search of J'onn.
The second he was out of Batman's possible line of sight Ray went large and hurried towards J'onn's quarters. The others needed to know what Batman was doing and the danger that it put them all in, even if he wasn't sure of what exactly the man was doing. If Bruce was betraying them than why edit the files he was taking? Why would he edit out the most vital details and only take surface data?
He reached J'onn's quarters and knocked. It took a moment but the door finally opened and J'onn stood before him with a quizzical look on his face. Rather than speak Ray brought the memories of what he had just witnessed to the surface of his mind and allowed the martian the ability to read them directly. He did not want to leave anything out accidentally.
J'onn's eyes widened as he took in the details and he nodded. "I will contact Superman." The man concentrated, using his psychic powers to telepathically contact the Man of Steel and inform him of the situation. Concern and disbelief with a dose of caution rippled across the link and the two of them silently agreed that there was more to this than there appeared to be.
"What is going on J'onn?" The martian came out of his mental link and stared calmly at Ray.
"I am not sure yet. Batman's mind is blank to me. The matter will be handled by the senior League members from here on out. We appreciate your concern over the matter." Ray nodded and headed for his own quarters. He did not want to be present when things got bad. He had always respected Bruce but this colored his respect more than he cared to admit and he hoped that there was an explanation that he could accept.
J'onn made his way towards the bridge and tried to read Bruce from a distance. The only emotions he had clearly been able to read over the last week were ones related to Bruce's son and he now realized that Bruce had been using them as a cover. The worry was real, he had no doubt about that but it was being artificially projected, something he should have realized sooner.
He reached the bridge in time to see Bruce pocket a disk and seconds after his arrival Superman shimmered into view on the teleporter pad. J'onn shared the latest information with Clark and he felt unrestrained white hot anger flare in the man's normally docile mind.
"What do you think you are doing Batman?" The anger was barely restrained as Clark spoke and J'onn could see the man's eyes light up with energy. Bruce turned to the two of them and J'onn got was assaulted by several emotions he had not expected, slight anger and almost overwhelming relief. Bruce's face however showed nothing of what he felt internally.
Batman turned to him and moved closer. As he walked he removed the disk from his utility belt and handed it over. As he did so information about files, things that had been carefully edited and things that had been left untouched flooded his mind. i //That is everything I took. Use the details I left out to your advantage./i
"It was Ray who figured it out?" J'onn nodded, surprised that Batman had been able to guess. "Good." i //I had hoped you would figure it out sooner./i
"I asked what you think you are doing Batman." Bruce turned to Clark.
"What I thought was necessary." It was an ambiguous answer on purpose, one that obviously displeased the Man of Steel, and J'onn could see Clark's eyes glowing brighter.
"Superman control yourself. Your unbridled anger will get us no answers." Clark's eyes lost their brilliant red hue and returned to a clear blue that radiated disappointment and betrayal.
"I am resigning from the League." J'onn returned his gaze to Batman and saw that the man had removed his communications equipment and his identification card. There was motivation behind this that J'onn could not pin down. Something was wrong that he was not seeing.
"That's it Bruce. Just betray our secrets and step down. We were supposed to be your friends. We trusted you with our secrets and you betrayed us." The open hostility that was radiating from Superman's mind was overwhelming him and making it nearly impossible for him to concentrate on Bruce's elusive emotions. It was something so completely foreign in Clark's mind and he wondered what could make someone hate so blindly.
Knowing that Clark would not understand, but sensing the necessity of doing so he took the communicator and the ID card from Bruce. "The teleporter will return you to your cave and you will be denied all access to the Tower until a full council of the remaining senior members can be convened to review your actions and decide a course of action." Bruce nodded and he sensed gratitude behind the man's unreadable facade.
"We can't just let him go J'onn. What are you thinking? Or have you betrayed us too?"
"J'onn had nothing to do with what I've done Clark. If you cannot control you emotions long enough to see what is right in front of you and to prevent yourself from making blind accusations than maybe i Waller /i is right about the League growing too arrogant." J'onn heard the clear and deliberate stress on Waller's name and knew that there was far more to this than he was seeing.
"So you are working for Cadmus now Bruce? Is that it?"
"Superman reserve your concerns and present them logically before the council when it is convened." The Man of Steel whirled away from them without another word and exited the bridge in a huff. J'onn blocked his mind against the fading emotions and turned back to Bruce to find that the man had retreated to the teleporter pad. "There are things you are neglecting to speak of."
"Convene your council J'onn. I will not hide from my sins." i //There are things I cannot yet speak of. Thank you for reserving judgment. /i J'onn nodded, hearing what the man was not saying and accepting that he would have answers when Bruce was prepared to give them and not before. He just hoped they were answers he could accept.
The cave was empty when Bruce was returned to it and he immediately contacted Waller. Anger at himself was chief among his emotions but he kept it deeply buried. He should have better accounted for the Atom's presence and he hoped that being caught before he had gotten the majority of the Tower's files would not put Dick's life in jeopardy.
"Batman you have information for me."
"Than why call?"
"The Atom was working on the Watchtower computer systems when I attempted to access information. I have been removed from the League until my actions can be reviewed."
"I see." Bruce detected annoyance and anger from the woman on the other end of the line.
"We had a deal Waller. I gave you what I could and I would have continued to give you information had I not been caught. Release Dick."
"As you wish Batman. I have no need of a useless agent." The line went dead and when Bruce tried to make contact a second time he realized the line had been cut. Anger overwhelmed him and he threw the communication device across the room. In that moment, if he had not given up on god when his parents had died, he might have prayed.
He dropped into the computer chair and activated the communication relay to Robin and Batgirl.
"Return to base immediately. Both of you." He needed to tell them the truth about Dick, and about his new status with the League. When he had received and affirmative from Robin he lapsed back in the chair and pulled back the cowl. Being found out in the manner that he had been had crashed through his fragile emotional shields and Clark's anger still held strong in his mind. It also raised flags. If Clark had condemned him so quickly what was to stop the man when J'onn was not present to temper him?
Tim leaned back in his seat in disbelief and glanced at Barbara. The young woman had turned away from Bruce and stood with her arms crossed over her chest. He could not see her face and therefore was not sure of her exact emotional state. He did know that none of them were taking it well.
After telling them what had really happened in that base Bruce had closed himself off in his normally emotionless shell and the three of them were left with unanswered questions about how they were going to find Dick or if Waller was going to do something to contact them when she released him.
He had no idea how to handle what Bruce had done to the League. It was not like Bruce to step back from his principles. He knew however, that for as much as Bruce and Dick tried to distance themselves from one another they were close. The two of them needed each other and he dreaded thinking about what would happen to Bruce if he actually i lost /i Dick. He had been unbearable enough with Dick missing.
"He'll be okay right?" Tim turned towards Barbara and he tried to find something to say. It was the only question she had asked since Bruce had ordered them back to the cave and explained the details that he had kept from them.
"I don't know Barbara." The three of them lapsed back into an uncomfortable silence that was broken when Alfred returned to the cave with the tea that he had promised them. The elderly man was attempting to hide his obvious concern for all of them but Tim knew how much Alfred cared for Dick, and about Bruce.
"Will you explain what happened to the League when they summon you?" Bruce pursed his lips shut and nodded.
"I betrayed them. They deserve no less than to know why I did so." He was going to speak further when the computer beeped out an alarm in one of the warehouses surrounding the docks. Tim moved to the computer and brought up the information.
"Are we letting the GPD handle this one?" Bruce shook his head.
"We should be on the streets already. The city does not stop relying on us." Bruce had already pulled his cowl into place and was striding towards the Batmobile. "Head out but stay together. Don't go in alone. If the GPD have already responded leave it and resume your patrol. Tim nodded and followed Barbara towards their cycles. If this was the coping route Bruce was taking than they might as well follow his lead.
The portion of the warehouse below appeared quiet and Bruce eased open the skylight and slipped inside. He supposed that the silent alarm could have been tripped by accident but it seemed unlikely. From his entry point he caught a glimpse of Robin coming in through a window on one side of the warehouse while Batgirl came in from the opposite side.
They met in the middle of the open docking bay and he used hand signals to order them to spread out and search. He moved like a shadow towards the offices with Robin as a tail and began to search the offices on the left side of the corridor while the teen took the ones on the right.
By the time they were halfway done Bruce was starting to believe that whoever had set off the alarm had already fled by the time they got there. He was about to call his partners back when he heard Robin's shout. He was moving immediately and he found the younger hero in one of the offices near the back of the building.
"Dick?" The teen was kneeling beside Dick's unconscious body and relief thundered through his system as he gently pushed Tim out of the way to kneel at his son's side. Dick's pulse was a little too fast for his state and Bruce bit back on his worry as he lifted Dick into his arms. The young man stirred and moaned softly but did not awaken and Bruce silently swore.
They caught up with Batgirl as they made their way out and Bruce stopped long enough for them to regroup.
"Head back to the cave. Patrol will resume tomorrow night instead of tonight." The two nodded and Bruce carried Dick out of the building towards the location where he had parked the Batmobile. Worry dominated his emotions, and fear. He checked Dick's pulse a second time as they reached the car and noticed no difference. It was too fast and he hoped that Waller had not done something to the young man when he had failed to get her the information she had ordered him to get her.
He secured Dick in the passenger seat and drove back to the manor. The brief glances he stole at his son as he drove cemented his fear that something was wrong. By the time he had brought the car to a stop in the cave a light film of sweat had formed on Dick's skin and Dick had started to shiver. He lifted the young man out of the car and carried him over to the medical bay. By the time he had gotten Dick's shirt off Tim and Barbara had returned to the cave and the two of them were hovering nearby as he started to check Dick's vitals.
When he had finished drawing a blood sample he held it up to Tim and the teen took it from him to run it. Barbara approached him and ran her hand through Dick's hair. Dick leaned into her touch unconsciously and Barbara stiffened.
"What do you want me to do?" Bruce did not even know what was wrong with him yet.
"Call Leslie and then take one of the cars from upstairs to go and pick her up. Keep your communicator on. I will call you if she is not needed." The less people underfoot the better he would feel at the moment. When she was gone he stroked his hand down the side of Dick's face and sighed as he reached up to pull back his cowl.
"Bruce." The urgency in Tim's voice pulled him away from Dick's side and he moved over to the lab where Tim was studying the blood sample.
"What's wrong?" Tim looked up at him and he could see confusion written across the teen's face.
"I'm not sure. It looks like a virus but not one I'm familiar with." Bruce studied the image on the screen with growing unease.
"Computer magnify image." The larger image confirmed his suspicions but he had to be sure. "Computer repeat magnification and analyze sample components."
"Analysis complete. Nanoscopic particles not native to the bloodstream detected." Bruce's hand tightened into a fist and he resisted the urge to slam his arm through the computer console.
"Computer run DNA sequencing for Richard Grayson and compare with the sample." Thirty seconds later the computer finished.
"Partial DNA match detected. Computations suggest 98 compatibility." Bruce could feel his hands shaking and he forced them to be still as he dropped into the chair in front of the bat-computer.
Within seconds he was attempting to hack into the Watchtower communications feed. J'onn's image flared to life.
"Batman you are not authorized to access Tower channels. State your purpose or I will feed a virus through the connection."
"I need you, The Atom, and Clark to teleport to my location. I need Ray's help and I need it now. I'll give you the answers I could not before when you arrive." Bruce glanced towards Dick and back at the image on the screen. "I don't expect you to trust me after what I've done but I need your help." J'onn was silent for a moment and Bruce expected his request to be denied.
"Understood Batman." The communication link closed and Bruce leaned back in his chair and glanced over at Dick before allowing his gaze to flow to Tim. The teen looked uncomfortable and bewildered.
"What's going on Bruce? What is happening to Dick?" Bruce took a breath and tried to steady his nerves.
"Waller threatened the possibility of attempting DNA resequencing if I refused to help her. I failed to get what she wanted and she followed through with her threat." He stood and walked over to the medical table, placing both hands on the edge of it and looking down at Dick. He didn't speak for a moment and was about to say something when three forms shimmered into view near the computer.
J'onn looked willing to hear him out, Ray looked reluctant to be here, and Clark looked on at him with open hostility until the man's eyes settled on Dick and he detected Dick's irregular heart rate. The man took a step towards him and Bruce held up his hand.
"Don't Clark. I don't expect you to trust me. J'onn I need you to link your mind with them so they can see what I am going to show you. I only want to show it once." The martian nodded and concentrated and when J'onn gave him the signal to proceed he brought his thoughts to the front of his mind. He kept everything in as linear a sequence as possible and began with the meeting in Waller's apartment, following with Dick's disappearance and the subsequent meeting in the Cadmus facility. He also shared what he had taken and how he had modified it and ended the walk through his memories with what had happened that evening.
As the four of them came out of it Ray approached the table and reached out to touch Dick's arm. "What do you want me to do?"
"Reprogram the particles that are responsible for resequencing his DNA. Reverse whatever was done to him if possible." Bruce stroked a hand through Dick's hair. "If you can't reverse it then do what you must to stabilize him." Ray nodded and disappeared as he shrank. Bruce turned to Clark and J'onn.
"You know why. I don't expect to be welcomed back into the League. I will accept whatever corrective action the senior council deems appropriate."
"Why didn't you ask us for help Bruce? We would have done what we could."
"The two of you were already searching. Involving the whole League would have done no good and too much interest would have tipped Waller off that I had informed you. I made a calculated gamble and it failed. My only comfort is that I believe I gave her only a small portion of the League's files, much of which she already had. She knew my identity which means someone else is spying on us." Bruce saw Clark's hands tighten at his sides and the man looked more angry that Bruce had seen him.
"I'm going after Waller. She can't be allowed to get away with this."
"No Clark." Confusion and anger spread across the Man of Steel's face.
"After what she did to Dick? Your son! How can you stand by and defend her?"
"The League can't touch her Clark. That is why I did not involve you directly. What would you had done if I had told you sooner, when Dick was still missing? If I had had settled on a possible location where they might have been keeping him and it had been the wrong place. You are a reporter Clark. Think about what would it have looked like to the media? I could not risk the League's integrity by risking the destruction of non-Cadmus property, of an American military base or civilian property. It would have legitimized everything Waller already thinks about the League in the eyes of the public."
He would have said more but Dick jerked and cried out softly. Bruce paled and reached out to touch Dick's neck at a pulse point. There was nothing he could do to help the young man and he hated feeling helpless. Dick twisted again Bruce found himself stepping aside as Ray enlarged beside him.
"What's wrong with him?" Bruce's eyes were little more than narrowed slits as he glared at the man.
"I was unable to reverse the process but I was able to stabilize it. The nanites will further stabilize, then deteriorate and pass out of his body through his pores. He'll be okay Bruce and if I'm right..." Ray reached for a knife that lay one a nearby tray and reached for Dick's wrist. Before Bruce could stop him the man had created a small gash in Dick's hand. The cut welled blood for a moment and then miraculously started to close. "...He got very lucky."
Bruce was torn between anger at Waller for putting Dick through this and relief that Dick seemed to be, at least for the moment, stable.
"Will you continue to periodically monitor his condition?" Ray nodded.
"I would not let him go out until the two of you are sure of whatever changes have taken place but so far what change I've noticed seems to be overly positive." Bruce nodded again and stroked his hand down the side of Dick's face. For now he would allow relief to dominate his emotions.
"The three of you may return to the Tower. Ray I will contact you if I suspect he is no longer stable." The man nodded and as they were preparing to teleport out Bruce stopped them. "Thank you Ray, and J'onn I will accept responsibility." The Martian nodded and Clark walked over to him.
"I intend to pay Waller a visit. I doubt Cadmus would appreciate an exploratory piece in the 'Planet'." Before Clark could walk back to he others Bruce caught his wrist.
"She most likely already knows, and not because I told her. J'onn should check the Watchtower staff for someone else who might be feeding them information." Clark and J'onn both nodded and the three of them disappeared.
When they were gone Bruce contacted Barbara to tell her that Leslie would not be necessary and indicated that Tim should head upstairs to rest. He then dragged a chair over to the table Dick lay on and made himself as comfortable as possible. When Tim had gone up upstairs he allowed himself to doze lightly until his senses picked up Dick stirring beside him.
"Dick?" The young man's eyes fluttered open and Bruce could tell that he was still in a great deal of pain from what he had gone through.
"Bruce? What happened?"
"You need to rest. I'll explain later." Dick nodded and Bruce stood to prepare a sedative. It would allow the youth to hopefully rest without the pain he was obviously trying to hide. Dick quickly drifted back off and Bruce hoped that he did not cross paths with Amanda Waller until his anger towards her had cooled. He knew that if he faced her now he would most likely do something he would regret. At least what she had done seemed to have positive consequences. Bruce just hoped that they would stay that way.
I've finished this for now but I might do more if I get enough interested parties so let me know what you think of it. Comments are appreciated.