Standard disclaimers apply. Made for practice, not profit.
The dark knight worked in the quiet solace of the monitor womb. A minute, momentary change in the ventilation current informed him of someone's arrival. The cowl's lenses concealed his glance at the window to space, wherein stood Shayera's reflection.
"Welcome back." He greeted formally, not turning to her.
"Thanks." She returned half heartedly and remained at the entrance.
Form time to time, the Bat stole a look her way only to find her in the same spot and pose. Informed on her run in with Grundy, he had a pretty good idea why she was here, but gave her time to open the subject on her terms.
"I understand you know some mental tricks…" She hesitated.
The Bat smirked inwardly at the expected misunderstanding of the subtle technique. "Autogenics is gradual, conscious re-programming of the hard-wired subconscious." He explained. " It can be used for anything from suppressing pain or managing anger to annulling the survival instinct." Came the words of experience. When he turned around, he stared deep into her eyes with those void lenses, his face expressionless. "What do you want to do with it?"
She swallowed under the absolute scrutiny. "Sleep peacefully."
That was a desire he could identify with. "I have become death, the destroyer of worlds." His words gave voice to her troubled consciousness.
"One hour of detective work for every hour of training." His tone allowed no quarrel. "In advance."
Defiant confidence took over Shayera's posture and expression. "Who's my pray?"
"Kasnia. Prisoner. Death." He extended a finger for each clue.
"Savage is on the loose?" She was hovering over the console in a wing-flap, immediately focused on the task. Her eyes darted from screen to screen, taking in the myriad of scattered leads.
Satisfied with her quick reasoning and eager response, he rose to leave. "Simulator 3. One hour. Bring the mace." He ordered on the way out.
Shayera nodded her agreement and with that, the dark knight left her to the data.
Simulator doors opened to a wood-furnished changing area. A small gi waited neatly folded on an oak bench. Shayera noticed the slits in the back of the jacket and smiled. Having changed into the training clothes, she turned round a screen. The dojo itself was sizable and of austere beauty. Plant shadows on paper walls gave the illusion of a vast garden beyond its confines.
Wayne stood unmasked at the center of the mats, sporting the black grand-master's hakama. His posture was balanced, face calm and eyes closed. He released a deep breath and opened his eyes. With a nod he gave her permission to approach.
Replying in kind, she walked to a few feet distance.
"Savage has a sense of humor." She replied with a growing smirk. "He is currently hiding in Batman, Turkey."
Wayne was unphased. "Prediction."
"Stow-away to north-west by freight train, than into Bulgaria or Romania. Given his abilities, I suspect he will swim across the Black Sea and landing on a remote, least-surveyed part of the shore. Once in EU he will be able to hide indefinitely, thanks to the open-border internal politics."
"Capture him before he reaches the other shore, without injury to civilians, leaguers or damage to private and government property. In that order. Method: Jonn performs continuous mental scans of the Black Sea until Savage is located. Have Stewart on 24h standby to make the arrest. I doubt Savage will put up a fight while swimming."
Wayne nodded his approval.
"Batman…" She was anxious again. "Your cold welcome back there and this detective questioning… I understand if you don't trust me with this skill."
"I don't do polite." Wayne's chiding reminder implied a friendly alternative.
Now Shayera was confused . "So you are glad I returned?"
"Who voted for you and who against?" He seemingly shifted topic, forcing her to jog her skills again.
Shayera closed her eyes against a touchy subject. "John said he abstained. Clark said he broke the tie. The rest… Judging by the welcome, or lack of, Wally voted for me and Diana against me." Shayera assumed. "Jonn probably sympathized and you probably went with paranoid."
"Correct." Wayne was pleased. "Except for my motivation." He once again confused her.
"You voted against me. But not out of mistrust?"
He fought off a groan. "Where were you immediately after the battle?"
"In your – home... But why vote 'no' if-?" Shayera paused as realization struck. Her face fell. "Because my best friend thought me a traitor and my lover didn't know what to think of me. And a partner you can't trust is worse than no partner." A dejected sigh escaped her. "So how come you of all people trusted me?" She stole a tenacious glance his way.
"You chose Earth over Thanagar." Wayne was direct. "It doesn't get any more trustworthy. And I already knew."
Her head shot up. "You did?"
"A sole member of a non-extinct specie on another specie's world is, one way or another, an informant." He began. "If that someone is military, than they're definitely formal informants."
"And if they act as if they're not, than they're spying." She finished the thought, feeling guilty. "Batman, I didn't know-"
"Don't lie." Wayne cut her off, trying to keep his cool. "To me or to yourself. You didn't know the kind or scale of your superior's plans, but you had to suspect humanity wouldn't willingly go along with them."
"I did…" She admitted. "So you knew all along, huh? Used me as a source of data on my own people."
"And a misinformant your superiors would believe." He added. "How else could humanity stand a chance against a space-faring specie?"
"And you didn't tell the others because that would increase the chance of me finding out…" She stared at the mats, her morale sinking steadily. "So we're good now?" Shayera swallowed in expectation of his verdict.
"Peachy." He answered deadpan.
"You'll let Jonn put me on the roster than?"
"Aptitude test first." Wayne was stern again. "You've been out of service for a year. It's obvious you can reason through an investigation; let's see how you stand on tough calls." He crossed his arms and his eyes narrowed. "Problem: Two chicks sit in a nest, one just sprouted flight feathers, one without them. The nest breaks and they start falling. Which do you save?"
"It doesn't relate." She insisted.
"Yes it dose." Wayne stared her down, his glare even more intense with eyes revieled. "One or both."
She kept evading and he kept pressing the issue until blood boiled in her veins. Shayera jumped forth and entwined her fingers. With fists substituting for the mace, she swung at him.
Wayne sidestepped with agility unexpected of a forty year old non-meta, simultaneously wringing her elbow further, tossing her back-down on the mats. With a shikko turn he rolled her face down and pressed hard on her twisted arm. "Which. One."
"It doesn't matter." She groaned in frustration, trying to get up but blocked by pain the move caused.
"Three…" He leaned closer, pressing harder. "Two, one… think, detective."
The title came as a mental slap. Her stay with Fate and Inza, her self-searching, the entire last year… She was given her space, given time to reflect, to work through her feelings, anything she wanted. But she needed to snap out of the apathetic self-doubt, needed to think clearly again. Needed not to make up of a new role for herself but to remember who she was.
Pinched to the ground, with nowhere to run and no time to think, it occurred to her that his strange ways made sense.
"The hachling." She blared out. "Save the doomed one and hope the other one makes it."
Wayne let go of her hand. "Correct." He stood up.
She rose to all four. "Nine billion Thanagarians are still dead because of what I did. They're dead even if the rebellion succeeds."
"You didn't break the nest." He walked off to the tarnslucent windows.
Shayera stood up and fixed the gi, mulling it over. He was right, she knew he was right, yet a part of her still doubted.
"Sacrifices are necessary whatever the occupation. In economy its called downsizing. Even doctors have triage. If you can't deal with it-"
"Says the man who never killed." She crossed her arms.
Wayne's head hung low. "I whipped out the Imperium."
She shrugged. "So."
He turned to face her again but kept his distance. "When you thought me dead, before Jonn intervened to mask my presence, the Imperium held me in one of those sacks and mentally bonded with me. I used the link to find out their weakness, but I also found out other thing about them." He recalled. "They evolved to feed on neural energy. They attacked because they were starving, same way our peoples hunt for food." He sighed. "I wiped out a sentient specie and in destroying the wormhole generator I enabled a genocide of another."
"So we're in the same boat. How is that supposed to make me feel better."
"You've got 4 and a half billions on your soul, I've got five. But we've also saved over 6 billion humans dozens of times." Wayne pointed out. "We're in the positive."
Accepting his clarification, she stood straight. "Thank you. I needed that."
"The needs of the league come first." Wayne brushed her off, but she saw a 'You're welcome.' in his tad softer expression. "Do we need to go through this with Grundy?" He dared her to say yes.
Shayera shook her head.
"Bring me the mace."
In a blink of an eye, Shayera flew to the changing room and back, weapon in hand. She placed it in Wayne's waiting hand. After giving the mace a quick look-over, he closed his eyes. Slow seconds passed by before the weapon crackled with odd energies.
Shayera stared in disbelief. "How-? Wha-?"
Sweaty from the brief but intense ordeal, Wayne studied the weapon. "The mace acts as a resonant chamber to environmental energies." He began the explanation. "The control is pseudo-telepathic: a greater stress-related galvanic response causes the adaptation to a greater the frequency, allowing one to deal stronger blows." He handed it back. "Human sweat is different so one has to try harder."
"You're saying anyone could wield this?" She held the mace up.
"Anyone with Thanagarian physiognomy or over twenty years autogenic training." He corrected. "Thanagarian tactics are aggressive, blunt, beyond control and lethal more often than not." He summed the entire Thanagarian military course in a sentence. "For this job and for your morals, they will not do."
"So now what?"
"To control the maces' power, you will learn to control the intensity of your excitement"
She huffed. "Easier said than done."
"Which is why I will show you a non-lethal combat style to use until you do. The liberal translation is art of peace. It is based on immobilization locks and strikes, pain compliance locks and strikes and knock-outs. When performed correctly, neither opponents are harmed."
"What you did with me just now." She put two and two together.
"Precisely." Wayne spoke. "Efficiency requires less effort to achieve more. Supreme strategy dissolves the opposition without fighting it. Like the way you plan to arrest Savage without his resistance."
Shayera understood. "Art of peace."
"Art of war." He corrected. "Oldest combat manual in the world. I suggest you read it." He handed the weapon back.
Wayne took a neutral fighting stance. "Let's begin."
Shayera and Wayne sat on the mats, massaging their strained muscles after the arduous drill.
"I actually feel better." Shayera said in mild disbelief. "Powerful, optimistic."
"Endorphins." Came the curt reply.
She blinked her amazement. "Do you have an explanation for everything?"
"Still trying to figure out magic." He actually admitted ignorance. "Though Clark would say I already robed the world of it." He had no idea why he blurted the last part.
"How so?" Shayera frowned.
"He thinks understanding takes away the beauty of things." Wayne related. "Especially emotions."
"But you would disagree?" She tipped her head to see his face.
"Knowing my mind is based on the physical world and not some ephemeral something..." He found himself opening. Perhaps because he suspected she could relate. "Knowing I'm real, that the world is real and not a dream, mine or another's. Its…"
"Hard to explain." She grinned, fully understanding. "About the whole mind-brain-soul thing… I understand you're a - lapsed?" Shayera was uncertain of the terminology.
Wayne grit his teeth. The subject was related to The Night, and was thus a non-topic. Still… "Yes. Why?" It came out colder than he intended.
"I was hoping you could help me figure out religion." Her eyes pleaded. "One outsider to another."
"What have you found out so far?" He switched back to detective mode.
"Conflicting facts, actually. But, there's no way to tell which are right and which are wrong." Her shoulders slumped. "John would say I don't have the courage to make a leap of faith." She spoke in mock self-scorn.
His face hardened at the patronizing approach. "Believing a kind, all-powerful creature will set things straight is easy." He gave his opinion of Stewart's opinion. "Hoping fallible mortals will be smart enough not to self destruct while they're proving you wrong on a dayly basis..." His voice began to slide into bitter tones.
"So? What do you think of all that?"
"I think it doesn't mater." Seeing her confusion, Wayne closed his eyes and recalled a citation. "Live a good life. If there are just gods, they won't return virtue with punishment if you do not worship them. If there are unjust, you should not want to worship them. If there are none, then your will live on in the memories of loved ones and not waste time on pointless actions."
For a while, both were silent in recollection of the ones they carry, and those that will hopefully carry them.
"How do you know what is good. There are so many rules and they disagree more than they agree."
"In science, there is a thing called independent proof. The more people come to the same conclusion, the more likely it is true." Wayne explained. "One of the things everyone agrees on is the golden rule."
"And the others?" She looked up, curious and impatient.
"You're a detective. Figure it out." He rose to his feet. "For now, just focus on the breathing and call me when you hit a milestone." Before she could ask what it was, he added: "You'll know." With that, he walked to the changing room but paused at the door to looking back at her still figure.
"Shayera. Welcome back."