Fates of Love: Watching Over
Author: BigHead / Everyone here belongs to someone else, except me. I belong to a boatload of taxes, hence no money being made
Summary: There is the One Who Sees. And then, there is the One Who Watches.
Rating: Teen, for now.
Author's Notes: Another side story for Fates. I mentioned this one a while ago, IIRC.
Feedback: YESSSS!!!! PLEEEEAAAASEEE!!
The final roar of the Batmobile echoed over the cave, its driver jumping out of the vehicle as soon as the wheels stopped spinning. He had just come to his hideaway because one of the alarms he had installed on his main computer had been triggered. Worse, it was a physical alarm, not a logical one, which meant someone was actively invading his computer, locally, not remotely.
He had spent the entire trip back from Gotham trying to figure out who could possibly do something like that. Dick maybe, but he was in Blüdhaven. Xander did only have a passing knowledge of computers, enough for him to live by, but not nearly enough to do it. His enemies…only Ra's had the knowledge, but it didn't fit his profile.
None of the alarms of the house had sounded, and a call to Alfred only served to reinforce his fears: the cave was in partial lockdown. Access from the manor had been cut, and except for the Batmobile's entrance, everything else was in the same state. His video link showed only static, and all his queries to the computer came back with the same answer, "Sorry, I'm a bad computer."
Fuming, he walked head on into the very possible trap, walking with sure steps, but checking every inch of the way. When he came close enough to the large computer, he only heard rapid-fire keystrokes. Whoever it was, it was doing something to the core programming of the machine, in a speed which denoted a lot of knowledge.
"Took you long enough, Bruce," a young, feminine voice came over the now nearly silent cave.
Batman recognized it immediately.
The large chair swiveled back, showing the brunette with an impish grin on her face.
"What have you done?" he asked in a tone which would make Clark take refuge in Pluto for a couple months.
"Who? Moi? Nothing," she replied, imprudently, apparently ignoring the risk she was taking. "Ah, you mean the lockdown and everything else? Computer, end program Dawn-Sierra-Golf-One."
Batman faintly heard the heavy steel doors lifting at the main entrance. He continued walking, and only out of respect for both Diana, Xander and Buffy, plus his own moral standards, he kept his hands to himself.
"What have you done, Ms. Summers?" he asked again, Clark flying to the Pegasus Galaxy for a century.
"Well, I have rewritten a few of your security protocols, and plugged a hole in your extremely expensive and sometimes useless firewall. Plus I've added some info on several backdoors to your database. You're good, Bruce, I have to say, but you're not good enough."
That made him stop for a moment, a slight sliver of doubt creeping over him. Besides, she knew who he was. "You can warn Xander his lessons are ended."
"He never told me anything, Bruce, or since we're being all formal like here, should I say Mr. Wayne? Xander would never betray your secret, to anyone. All that I did, all that I found out, I did on my own," she said, standing up and getting into his personal space. "Now, do you really want to know what I was doing? And why?"
He didn't answer, but she apparently understood it as a 'yes'.
"Since you're a detective, I'm going to start from the very beginning so you can make your entire case. Do you know how hard is to live in a family of superheroes?" she asked and started pacing, but then she noticed what she had said. "Oh, sorry, Mr. Wayne. I never intended to…"
"Go on," he said, frostily.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything about fa…"
"I said. Go. On," Clark moving to another dimension entirely.
"Okay," she replied, this time meekly. "It's…hard being the one without any sort of superpowers. I had a talk a long time ago with Xander about it, and it got me thinking. I had answers for him, but I didn't have the answers for myself. Until that point in time, I was the Slayer's whiny brat of a sister, which helped occasionally with research, but I thought that I needed to do more. So, and this might sound stupid, but it was the best I could do back then, I planned to plan about how to help them further if we defeated the First. So, as soon as we sat down on that bus, I started figuring out what I wanted to do. To cut a long story a bit shorter, I decided I wanted to learn. I wasn't needed anymore in the front lines with all the slayers and now the superheroes roaming the world, but we all would need intel. You know this better than anyone else. Know your enemy," she said, and moved back to the computer, where she had stacked a small pile of folders.
"Do you know what this is?" she asked him, passing one of the folders to him.
He opened it to see his own brief file on her. She had somehow managed to hack her way into his database and print the information out.
"I'm not complaining you have it," Dawn said. "In your place I'd do the same. Hell, I did the same," she said, this time passing a thicker folder to him.
Batman scanned the new folder, with all the information she had on both Bruce Wayne and him, and a very accurate connection of information which lead to her finding out who he was under the mask. He closed the folder, his face impassive. "Where are you going with this?" he asked, keeping her folder.
"You can destroy it, if you want," she said, pointing to the folder. "It's the only copy I did, and some of the info I collected that could connect you to Bruce Wayne I dealt with myself. No one else knows. No one."
Batman walked to the large monitor, and left both folders there. He removed the mask, which surprised Dawn a little bit.
"Again, where are you going, Dawn?" he asked, his voice slightly softer.
"You know I have two majors under my belt, Ancient Languages and Computer Sciences. I did them at the same time, which, aside from making me slightly mad during finals, prepared me for what I really wanted to do, help the Slayers save people. I created the Watchers' Council Daemon Codex, and helped turn their library into something a bit less dusty and a bit more twenty first century. In the meantime, I started learning what the Uni couldn't teach me. I got in the good graces of a few of the world's top hackers. I learned with them, and I bested most of them. It's not gloating, truly, it isn't," she said, her nervousness almost making her babble. She took a deep breath, and picked another folder. "Here, take a look at this," she said, calming down a bit, and passing yet another folder to him.
He scanned it once, then twice. "This isn't possible," he said, now looking at her.
"It is. Your bots are good, but like every piece of code, they follow a routine. If you're smart enough, you can bypass the routine, and never be caught. Sure, there aren't many people good enough to do it, but as you can see yourself, it can be done," Dawn replied. "May I?" she asked, pointing to the large chair that faced the so-called Batcomputer.
Bruce took a step to the side, a silent indication of his acceptance. She sat back down at the computer, and started typing, a few screens appearing simultaneously. "No one found this yet," she said, pointing to two specific windows. "There is a way in into almost every computer built, no matter how big its defenses are. Im not using either your secure connection or the backdoor you have hidden away, but a slight different approach, caused by a minor error in a few lines of code, of about a few billion of them."
Dawn typed furiously for a minute more, and in a few moments, Bruce was looking at the core code of the main Watchtower computer. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. "I have two options here: one, I can eliminate the error and close the door, or I can leave the door open and install a bunch of alarms and tripwires on it," she said.
"Why no one saw this?" he asked, eyeing the now mostly obvious hole.
"Luck? Actually, this hole is in a quaternary system, which probably controls something like the soap dispensers at the Watchtower. However, like every layered and complex system, you have to have them talk to each other. If you know how to use the gateways between them, it becomes easier. Well, not easier, since with a normal system it would take me like three years just to get to where I am, your computer has the right amount of upgrades to make it a bit shorter, like a few minutes. But you do have a hole, and in the wrong hands, you have one of the biggest problems the League might have to face."
She wasn't being fatalistic, Batman knew. The entire Watchtower was controlled by computers, there wasn't any other way seven people would be able to control an installation of such size and magnitude otherwise, especially when they were all mostly worried about saving the world. Any one of their enemies could exploit that weakness and turn it against them. Luthor pretty much came to mind.
"Close it down. No guarantees someone will trip any alarms we might leave behind," he said with finality.
Dawn typed for a few minutes. "Done."
He nodded. "You could have done that all and not tell anybody. What's the real reason you're here, Dawn? And how did you get here, anyway?"
"Last question first, I 'ported myself. Learned a cool spell to do it, too. Bit risky, but not much more than crossing the street. As for the real reason…" she said, passing him the last folder in her hands. He opened it to find a few documents from City Hall and the GCPD, all focused on officially creating the Gotham City Cyber Crime Division.
Cyber crimes were starting to grow exponentially all around the United States, in some places more than the others. The FBI had a division that handled most of such cases, and some of the largest cities were starting to build their own CCDs. Gotham currently didn't have one, whenever the cops stumbled upon one such crime, they usually asked for Federal help. It wasn't…pretty, most of the time. Batman had to acknowledge that those cases usually fell into the cracks of his own system. He couldn't deal with everything, in the end he had to recognize that even his limits still fell under human.
A proposal had been made to City Hall, to build the GCCCD, but the Mayor refused, his answer being 'too expensive, besides most of those crimes fall under the FBI's umbrella anyway.'
Dawn made an entire case about it, showing statistic data, what could and couldn't be done, staff who could be picked from within the ranks of the GCPD, external people to hire, a place to build the HQ – which, unsurprisingly, was a mostly unused building owned by Wayne himself -, everything to make it work. Batman speed-read the file, and looked at her.
"You may or may not know what a good hacker can do. I managed to invade your computer and the Watchtower's system, a bank would be a piece of cake. Credit card frauds? I could make you pay for all the slayer's expenses for the entire year with a few keystrokes," she said, validating her point. "The FBI is good, but they're hampered by their own size and bureaucracy, local CCDs are the way to go. And I want you to help me build Gotham's," she said.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because Gotham is way too much like Sunnydale used to be, everything weird ends up here, and you know that as well as I do. Your rogue's gallery speaks for itself, and it'll only be a matter of time before someone decides to be the digital version of the Joker, or Two-Face. You might know enough to stop it, or you may not, but with some backup, it'll certainly ease up your life," she pointed out.
"Probably, but that's not everything. What do you want, Dawn?" he asked, and the young woman looked at her feet for a few seconds.
"I want to be the other side of the coin," she replied, back to facing him.
"If we build the CCD, they'll be good, no doubt, but even they will be hampered by bureaucracy and the law," she said. "I, on the other hand, won't."
Bruce raised one eyebrow.
"Don't give me that silent type treatment, I had enough of it to last me several lifetimes," she complained. "What I want to do, Bruce, is to be the digital arm of the Batman and the Slayers."
"Why do you think I need help?" he asked, not really liking the conversation. He worked alone, and that was final.
"Computer, run program Dawn-Epsilon-Omega, twenty second delay fuse."
The computer once again recognized her voice pattern, a good feat of coding already, and in a moment a countdown from twenty seconds appeared in huge letter against his screen.
"Warning! Warning! Core dump enabled. System shutdown imminent. Warning!" the mechanical voice started repeating.
"Computer, end all external programs, security code Beta-Gamma-Rho-9-0-2-3-6," Bruce said, to no effect.
"Sorry, Bruce, I disabled your access," she said with a smirk, while the countdown remained. Bruce didn't try anything else, opting to stay silently fuming, and the countdown inexorably reached zero, and the entire cave was immersed in darkness.
"You better…" he said, and the lights and his computer turned back on, exactly as they were.
"You were saying? Answering your question, Mr. Wayne, it's because you do need help. You're one man only, the best one there is in what you do, but you are just one man," she replied.
He stopped abruptly. She had nailed that coffin right on, which brought another piece into the puzzle that was Xander and his 'family.'
"I want to make a test with you. If you pass, I shall think about what you want to do, if not, I'll cut Xander completely from training, and tell your sister about all of this," he said, chillingly.
"I said Xander has nothing to do with this," Dawn replied, not bothering with him telling her sister.
"It doesn't matter, these are the terms. Do you accept?"
Her eyes hardened, quite like her sister's when absolutely pissed. "I won't do a thing to harm Xander. No, I won't do it, and if you want to tell my sister, fine. Go ahead, asshole. Only thing that I wanted was to help you and them," she said, turning around and preparing to leave.
"You passed," he replied seriously, when she still had her back turned to him. "Test number two. Computer, search file…"
"What?" she finally turned around, tears spilling from her eyes, disbelief echoed in her face.
"You passed test number one. If you want to work with me, you better be prepared. No slacking, no childish behaviors, no temper tantrums. This one was for free, and it's the last one I'll accept. You either do as I tell you, or you walk. No in-betweens."
She kept crying, but smiling at the same time. "Deal."
Dawn was completely ragged when they finished, some ten hours later, her brain turned into so much as mulch. Alfred had come and gone several times, offering her food and water, only to be stopped by Bruce. The butler was clearly upset with the situation, but he respected his master's decision, so it meant she was thirsty and hungry like hell as well.
"Final test. Where are you going to sleep?" he asked.
"Booked a hotel room," she said, really tired.
"How do you intend to get there?"
"Cab," she replied, looking at him like he was a complete idiot right now.
"What if I said no?"
"No? To what?"
"If I said that you didn't pass muster, that you failed. What would you do?"
She looked him straight in the eye. "I'd do it anyway. Not for you, but for my sister and her sisters. If I can save a single life, it's more than worth it."
Bruce nodded. "You don't need to go to the hotel. You can stay at one of the guest rooms, I'll ask Alfred to set one up for you. Once you're rested, we'll talk about your plans, and my own."
Dawn nodded, smiling tiredly.
Alfred had prepared a hearty meal, which she devoured with a quickness that would have surprised even a Slayer. Sated, she was escorted to a lavish bedroom, almost as great as the one she had back at the Pad, the only big difference was that it wasn't hers.
She hit the bed and was asleep before she bounced twice.
Bruce was sitting at the computer, his mind focused on what he had just experienced. Everyone with a little training and some time in hands could be an average hacker nowadays, but very few people in the world could be what she was. Dawn was a genius, no doubt about it, and one that had found her geniality. All those tests he had made with her showed one incredible aspect, one he didn't believe the young Summers was aware of.
Dawn was a think tank and a data miner, rolled into one.
What it meant was that she could pick up the smallest thread of data, a couple bits of information, think it over, find ten different directions to go and follow exactly the right one.
That conclusion sparked an idea. "Computer, financial background: Summers, Dawn Marie."
"Range?" the mechanical voice asked.
"International, full strata."
Five minutes later, the computer answered back. "Search complete."
"Dawn Marie Summers. Approximate Net Worth US$ 75,590,000.00. Liquid Assets 18,120,000.00. Main source of income, stock market," it replied.
The world's third richest man lifted an eyebrow. The young woman was worth seventy five million dollars.
"Back trace. First investment."
"Twenty thousand dollars, August 7, 2003. Bought three different stock options: Wayne Enterprises, S.T.A.R. Labs and Kord Industries."
Well, not surprising. Except maybe for S.T.A.R. Labs, both his own industries and Ted Kord's were considered sure bets in the stock market. Not a bad option for a beginner.
"Paid in full."
A graph was opened on the large screen, showing all the investments she had made during that time, how much she had invested, and how much each one paid in dividends.
"Compare investment graphs. Alexander Harris, Willow Rosenberg, Elizabeth Summers, Faith Wood, Rupert Giles."
The graphs appeared on screen, and except from values invested and a few absences from one or the other, they looked mostly the same, except Dawn's dates started a couple days earlier than the rest of them.
Bruce looked to the small watch at the corner of the screen. Good, he was probably awake.
Xander was preparing breakfast with Diana's help when the phone rang, or better, the voice activated interface warned him.
"Phone call. Unidentified."
He looked at Diana, who simply lifted an eyebrow. Shrugging, he spoke out loud.
"Answer. Yes?" he asked, the microphones spread through the home picking his voice with ease.
"Xander, it's me," Bruce said. "Can you answer me a question?"
"Sure," he said, wiping his wet hands with a towel.
"Why did you pick Dawn to make your investments?"
"Are you serious? Bruce, that girl is a freaking genius with this money stuff. She seems to know exactly when and how an investment will pay big. Every one of us leave our investment stuff with her, even Buffy, who likes to spend money as if the world would end tomorrow. Wait, bad analogy. But anyway, she invests for us, and she charges a small fee for it. Why?"
"Just curiosity. Thank you," he said, and the line went dead.
He turned to Diana. "Do you think he does something just for curiosity?"
"No," she replied.
"Me either. Computer, dial. Giles' Pad, extension 213."
The phone rang for a few moments, and was answered by a machine. "This is Dawn, I'm not here right now, leave a message."
"Dawn, hey. Give us a call when you get back. Love ya," he said, and the computer cut the connection. "Computer, dial. Giles' Pad, extension 215."
A couple rings and the line was picked. "Xander?" the voice asked.
"Hey, Wills. Know where Dawn is right now?"
"Uh, no. No, I don't. Why? Was she kidnapped again?"
"Not that I know of, but could you check quietly, please?"
"Sure, give me a few," she said, and they waited while she used her magic to find the youngest Summers. "She's not around here," the redhead said after only a few seconds. "Not in Europe… not in Africa…not in Asia…found her…she's in the US…she's…in Gotham. Close to you, actually. What is she doing there? And I think I need to lock up a few of my books."
"I don't think it would do any good, we're talking about Summers women here. Do me a favor? Two, actually. See if she left a note somewhere, and don't mention this to anyone, okay?"
"Buffy will ask, Xander," the redhead replied.
"Tell her she came to pay me a visit. I'll send her home as soon as I talk to her," the one-eyed man said.
"Okay, but call me as soon as you know something?" Willow pleaded.
"Sure thing, Wills. Talk to you later," he replied. "End call."
"Do you think she's with Bruce?" Diana asked, hugging him from behind.
"I'm positive. The question is, why?" he mused, relaxing against her.
"Want to go there and ask?"
"This is Bruce we're talking about, I'm not going to barge in unannounced. Computer, secure call. Voice identification, code Beta Alpha Tango-0-0-1."
"Voice print match. Calling."
The line rang twice before being picked. "She's asleep right now," Bruce's voice echoed over the line, slightly distorted.
"What does she want with you?" the younger man asked.
"Let her? I'm thinking about it," he replied, and Xander cursed inwardly.
"Not front line?" the ex-Watcher asked.
"Never. Intel gathering and electronic countermeasures only."
Xander tensed up, and Diana let him go. He started pacing, and turned to the ceiling. "Tell her…tell her that if she needs help, or a place to stay, she'll always be welcome."
"I know. I'm going to reopen the lair under you, for her. Safest place for her to be," Bruce replied.
"Okay. Tell her to call me and the Pad, we'll work things out between us."
The line went dead, and Xander sighed, resting against the kitchen's table. Diana walked closer to him and sat down in one of the chairs.
"Know what is worse?" he voiced, after a few moments. "I think I'm to blame for her to do this."
"Aren't you being a bit egocentric?" his wife asked.
"Maybe. I know I'd be a hypocrite if I condemned her for what she wants to do, but I think she could do better than get involved in the madness that is our lives," he said.
"Love, do you really think anyone from our family would live the everyday life, with the white picket fence and 2.5 children running around?"
He sighed again. "Faith tried, and look where it took her."
"What happened to Robin was an accident, you know that as well as I do. Her decision on how to deal with the tragedy was her own. It might not be the best one, but it was hers, and we have to respect that."
"We're getting a bit sidetracked here. What should I do?" he asked, leaning against her few centuries' worth of experience and wisdom.
"What you just did, offer her support and friendship. She's an adult, entitled to her own decisions. Besides, she's family," she said, grabbing his hand in hers.
"Okay, I'm going to call the Pad and try to contain Hurricane Buffy before it blows," he said.
"You know what? Invite her over, it'll be a good opportunity for her to see Jason, and perhaps the hurricane might be just good winds coming our way," she smiled, dazzlingly.
"Yeah, and maybe I'll sic her on the true guilty party, it'll be nice to see Bruce squirm," he replied, his smile a bit more sinister.
"It'll be just an act, you know," Di pointed.
"True, but he's a great actor, it'll even look believable," he laughed.