Disclaimer: Batverse belongs to DC although the CATverse is slowly taking over. Can you feel it? Can you see it? Join us while you still have time...for we will crush all those who oppose us! (CATverse timeline is here: http/ www . freewebs . com / bitemetechie / catverse . html This tale isn't on it as of yet, but it will be as soon as I can get a hold of Mon Capitan for a nice discussion...)
A/N: Before you meet my newest original character, I want you to do something for me. Picture Burgess Meredith. Put him in a tweed three-piece suit. Give him glasses.
Do you have the image?
Good. Hang onto it.
It had been one of those days for Nathan Samuels. Just one of those awful, horrible, good for nothing days when nothing went right and the whole universe just seemed to stop whatever it was doing just to take a few minutes of its valuable time and muck things up for a poor traveling salesman who'd never done anybody any harm.
Nathan was a damn good salesman. That's what came from almost twenty years at the job. He had it all down to a science; from what to wear to just how widely to smile, but over the past few days, he seemed to have lost all his door-to-door charm and hadn't sold so much as a spool of thread. So with his tweed suit looking a little less pristine than when he'd walked into Smallville, Kansas, he had despairingly gotten into his little car and started east, towards Gotham.
It was enough to depress anyone in the business to have failed so spectacularly, but Nathan kept his spirits high, thinking of how well he'd done the last time he'd been in a big city. He wasn't what you'd call an optimist, but Nathan was far from being a pessimist. If you'd passed him on the street the first thought that would have crossed your mind would most likely be "Oh, what a charming little man", because that's just the sort of aura that flowed off him in waves.
He was of the old guard, despite the fact he was barely over forty, and never failed to hold a door open for a young lady that crossed his path; his suit was almost always in perfect shape--a three piece, complete with pocket watch hanging from the vest, naturally--and the little spectacles he wore made him seem even more trustworthy.
Whether it was a combination of personality and dress that made him such a successful salesman, Nathan didn't know, but he was quite proud of his record.
Of course, Smallville was a wash, but a man couldn't have sunny days without a few rainy ones.
With this cheery outlook he traveled along one of the more deserted highways east and as storm clouds started to gather on the horizon, things started rolling downhill.
Smallville was the first event in a what was to be a long series of events that made today the sort of day that forced you to wonder if maybe the powers that be were setting things up so that you'd take a fall for their amusement.
It started with a light drizzling rain that quickly turned itself into a full blown storm. Thunder, lightning, hail…all of it being the humble old automobile that the little salesman was driving so badly that the interior of the car sounded like a war zone with every bang, BOOM and ding!
The first sign that things were going to get worse before they got better was when a splash of water bounced off the brim of Nathan's hat, spelling out in no uncertain terms that the roof was leaking.
This didn't bother Nathan near as much as you might expect; he just picked up the newspaper that was on the passenger seat, unfolded it and perched it atop his head in the shape of a small tent to keep the water off himself and out of his eyes.
He continued with this unusual paper bonnet for nigh on thirty miles before something else went wrong.
There was a clunk and a clatter and a violent BANG from beneath the hood of the car, and Nathan was compelled to pull over to the side of the road by the plumes of grey smoke that rose in front of his eyes.
That couldn't have been good.
He was a decent hand with cars, so, newspaper still on his head, Nathan piled out of the car and popped the hood to take a look at what could have possibly gone wrong.
He puttered around beneath the metal cover, which went a long way to keeping him dry, but after a few minutes and getting grease on his suit jacket, Nathan's face fell.
He was good with cars. He wasn't so good about pulling new spark plugs out of thin air.
Nathan snapped his fingers. There was nothing for it but to get back in the car and call his auto club to come pick him up.
Not as cheerful as he had been before, but still with a pretty positive attitude, he sauntered back to his car door and found…
It was locked.
And there were the keys, sitting there all safe and snug in the ignition.
Much as it pained him to consider the thought that fluttered across his mind right then, he realized he had two options.
He could either stand here hoping someone would come along and pick him up; or, he could start walking, hoping that he'd come upon a gas station.
Either way, he was going to get wetter than he already was…
Well, better to be moving than standing still, his father had always said. So with his soggy newspaper umbrella held firmly between both hands, he started off.
He sang to himself for the first mile and a half.
He opted to whistle to himself for about half a mile after that…
And when his lungs didn't want to let him whistle anymore, he hummed.
At the five mile mark, Nathan wasn't in the mood to do much of anything musical, due to the fact that no matter how loud he might have tried to be, he could never drown out the way his feet were screaming at him to stop and take a rest.
Whether fortunately or unfortunately, depending entirely on your perspective, Nathan decided to ignore his feet and within minutes, he heard the approach of a vehicle coming up behind him.
Now, ordinarily, Nathan never would have hitch hiked, but today he felt he should rely on the kindness of strangers. It might have been all the water in his ears that was making his brain waterlogged, but he turned and stuck his thumb out, letting the wet newspaper flop down in his face as he did so.
He took a moment to peel the paper off his glasses and watched as the approaching VW bus pulled over a few feet from him, doing a U-turn so that he was facing the passenger side window.
The window was rolled down and the sight that greeted him was not one that he expected.
Three young women popped their heads out at him; one brunette, one with black hair and one whose hair was an alarming shade of traffic cone orange. This was aside from the man behind the wheel, who looked like he hadn't wanted to stop.
"Need a ride?" asked the orange haired one disarmingly.
Nathan hesitated when he noticed the way the driver's hands clenched around the wheel so hard his knuckles turned white.
He really hadn't wanted to stop…
The brunette spoke up: "You'd best take her up on it, she spotted you and said you needed a hug and a sandwich. In Captain language that means 'I won't take no for an answer'."
"Well," Nathan cleared his throat awkwardly, pretending there wasn't water dribbling down his collar. "If you're heading towards Gotham?"
"Oh! You're in luck! That's exactly where we're going!" The black haired one disappeared and the side door was flung open. "Hop in!"
Nathan clumsily scrambled into the van. "Thank you, I appreciate it."
"Oh, no problem," the black haired one said, waving a hand (fingerless gloves? Who on Earth wore fingerless gloves?) dismissively. "You got a name?"
The engine roared to life and the van took off and Nathan suddenly felt a sense of dread coiling deep in his gut. "Nathan. Nathan Samuels."
"Hiya, Nathan, Nathan Samuels."
"And you are?"
"Oh, they call me Ops." 'Ops' pointed at the occupants of the front seat. "That's Captain, Number One and the surly fellow behind the wheel is Sq--"
The 'surly fellow behind the wheel' growled and glared at the rear view mirror.
"Er...that is, he's Jonathan."
"Do you want soup?" The one with orange hair asked. "We've got soup…and you look like you could use soup. Ops, give him soup."
"Where's the thermos?"
"Under the brass knuckles, I believe," the driver replied easily, watching with glee as Nathan's eyes went a little bit wider behind his spectacles.
Nathan gulped. "Brass…um…what is it that you do for a living?"
"Us? Oh, we rob banks."
"Last week we robbed convenience stores!" The brunette chirped as a thermos full of soup was pressed into the confused salesman's hand.
The worst part of all was he didn't know whether they were kidding or not.
"How about you? What do you do, Nate, old man?"
"Er…I'm a salesman. Door to door."
"Aluminum siding." He answered, somewhat uncomfortable. "If you'd just drop me off at a gas station--"
"Aluminum siding, huh?" Ops said cheerfully. "You know, Rodney Dangerfield used to sell aluminum siding."
"Oh." What was he supposed to say to that? "Did he?"
"Why aren't you eating your soup? Eat up! You'll catch your death if you don't get something hot in you soon."
"It's chicken noodle, Captain made it herself, and by all accounts it's not toxic," said the brunette in what must've been what she considered to be a reassuring tone.
"Captain?" Nathan said, trying to take the focus off the soup they were a bit too eager to feed him. He'd seen Arsenic And Old Lace, after all, he wasn't a complete idiot. "Were you in the military?"
The orange head turned to look at him and her eyes were narrowed. "We don't talk about that."
"You know, I do hate to be a bother if you'd just--"
"No, no, we're headed to Gotham anyway. Would you like a sandwich?"
"Really, it's very kind of you, but I can just call the rental company when we get to a pay--"
Ops started sifting through the pile of bags full of God knows what. "Are you sure you don't want a sandwich?"
"Yes." Please stop trying to feed me and let me out of here. "It's nice of you to offer--"
"You sure do talk a lot, Nate," Ops said as she dragged a baggie from a backpack and retrieved a rather smushed looking sandwich.
"Not as much as some people," he heard Jonathan mutter under his breath.
The brunette lost interest in Nathan and looked at the driver. "Are we there yet?"
The driver was glaring straight ahead. "No."
"Are we there yet?"
"Are you sure you don't want a sandwich? You look undernourished, Nate."
"I'm not hungry." Nathan's near infinite patience was beginning to wear thin and he was suddenly struck by just how sorry he felt for someone who must have to put up with this kind of behavior all the time...
"Just because you aren't hungry doesn't mean you don't need a sandwich."
"I don't want a sandwich!" What the hell had possessed him to get into this crazy van in the first place?
"We're here," the driver announced as the van passed the 'Now Entering Gotham City Limits' sign. "I would assume you'd like to walk the rest of the way, now that it's stopped raining, Nathan?"
"Oh yes, thank you. I could do with a bit of fresh air." Thank you, God.
"Yes, it does get rather stuffy in here rather quickly," Jonathan said with barely concealed distaste.
"Aw...but we hardly know him!"
"And I'm sure he'd like to keep it that way." The driver nodded curtly at him as a goodbye.
Ops and the other two pouted but shrugged as Nathan climbed out of the van.
"Have a nice day, Nathan! It was very nice meeting you."
"Here." Ops shoved a muslin sack into his hands. "Buy yourself a new suit and a bowl of soup."
"And them's orders!"
Then the door slammed shut and the van puttered off, leaving Nathan to stare at the sack he'd been given.
He spent several minutes debating whether or not he wanted to risk opening it and finally, curiosity won out over caution.
There were hundred dollar bills inside. Dozens--if not hundreds--of them.
They really did rob banks.
God, if he never hitch hiked again, it would be far too soon.