Volume 1. Story 8.
Ozyronian spacecraft were simply not built for this kind of turmoil. A race of intricately connected telepathic creatures, interaction with others outside their commune, the whole of their planet, was seldom but not entirely unheard of. On rare occasion, the elders of their psychic collective would overhear words from the great beyond, their mental state transcending the mortal plane of which they inhabited and to where the gods rested in all their infinite might. So often they ignored the musings of the gods, kindly regarding themselves as inept when it came to the matters of the near omniscient, and in conducting themselves in this way, they were regarded in kind as being quite a humble species. But then, as it happens to be, arose those words, those all too rare words, that compelled them to revoke their status amongst the heavenly deities. These words that formed ancient passages described the horrific tragedies of an oncoming event, a time of great destruction; it was the fate of the universe that was being discussed and decided upon, and for this reason, it simply could not be ignored. A warning needed to be issued to the one whom the gods knew could stop them, to save the universe from their wraith, and thus they sent out one of their own to find her, to tell her what awaited her in the future so that she may prepare and prevent what was to come. Of course, the elders knew not of what awaited their messenger on Earth, no; their concerns were fixated upon that which would threaten the messenger's ability to travel.
The spacecraft that the Ozyronian piloted was a rather compact unit for travel. The pilot sat within a dense black ball, an orb, which was repeatedly circled by a perfectly smoothed saucer section that surrounded itself in a stubborn unchanging hue of metallic blue, clearly indicating itself amongst the black expanse of space. Additionally, the craft was mighty bulky surrounding the central piloting orb before spread outward several feet to the finality of the saucer's seamless edge, the thickness there being no more than an inch. As it was to be, this small Ozyronian ship was the lone spacecraft soaring through the depths of the solar system on a directive course to the planet Earth, but it was not precisely alone. If the sky had been clear this evening, then those beings whom lived upon the planet Earth whom dared looked up would have noticed a strange force of darkness moving throughout the stars, blowing each one out only to have them reignite a mere moment later. While this phenomena of the heavens would have most certainly passed through the minds of those whom observed it as being nothing more than such, a phenomena of some kind, for the lowly Ozyronian pilot, it was everything he dreaded and everything he knew to fear.
The darkness, this solid force of impenetrable black, was upon his craft in mere seconds after first being noticed. It sharpened itself into a blanket seven times large than the craft's whole for which it sought to engulf. The success of this dark entity, however, was never in question, for the Ozyronian's need never had a reason for applying weaponry to their crafts it light of their rather peaceful approaches to the universal order, though that was not to say that this particular pilot was not resourceful. Smothered in swaths of pure darkness, a peculiar event occurred just as the ship blindly stuttered its way into the Earth's upper atmosphere. A slight yet noticeable jitter rung through the black cloth followed rather abruptly by a multitude of thin wired energy blue lightning strikes that shattered the blanket's grasp upon the craft, instantly causing its wholeness to explode into numerous cone pointed peaks that pulsated in their reach and decline at unspeakable speeds; it had been hurt severely, so much so that it was quickly and assuredly pulled away from the craft's direction and seemingly tossed back out into the vacuum of space which it floated through motionlessly.
While the Ozyronian was free, the tactic to which he applied had depleted his ship's fuel source. The saucer section of his craft had lost its metallic blue spark, dropping to a distasteful pale grey, as it descended to the Earth, lifelessly pulled down under the force of its gravitational force with no possible way to balance. In a word: crashing.
"I don't really know how to say it Proxy, but I just sort of want to…retire, at least for a little while," Nightwing stated with a steep dose of uncertainty, more or less leaning towards the downward side of a steep slope that led into the abyss of wondering, quite literally, sorrows. At current, the young hero was nestled snuggly in the pilot's chair of the Blue Bird, his personalized vehicle, not that he thought to keep it after giving up the role that granted him such an excellent craft. Its interior was quite sleek in its design, a terribly strong uniform jet black all throughout the narrow yet incredible depth of space, with an unearthly blue glow filtering throughout, such an ambience presumably being formed through the reflection of his various piloting screens enfranchised within the curve of the vehicle's dashboard against the dense windshield that circled over top and around him, a single sheet that took up a significant portion of the craft's topside. Of important note were of course the steering bars that circled out from the dashboard, one closed ended horse shoe shaped handle to each side of the vehicle, perfectly lined up along the inner ledge so that they would come into easy access with Nightwing's hands. Coming into contact with the handles resulted in his fingers, and subsequently his arms, lighting up in the most elaborate of straight lined designs, circling and running along the breadth of his arm, thereby furthering the blue flavoured ambience of the interior. Despite the connection, the actual control he exerted over his vehicle was minimal, the large majority of its piloting skill being regulated to a computer system miles away from where he operated.
"I don't understand," a distinct voice, chock full of familiarity to the young hero, filled the cockpit.
"I want to stop being Nightwing," the boy's grip around the handles weakened as his head slumped, in part upset that regardless of his finger's exertion around the handles, the craft would hurdle onwards whether he desired it to or not.
"You want to quit?" the voice returned in shock.
"Yeah," Nightwing mumbled in response, softly closing his eyes as he took in a deep breath which was promptly followed by a sharp jolt of his head upwards, slamming with reasonable ferocity against the chair's neck rest, causing it to wobble ever so slightly. The boy's costume primarily consisted of a full black suit, thick and hard in form, but sleek and smooth to the touch. There were various accruements to his body that road above the pristine black such as his floppy grey boots whose excess ankle fabric more or less folded in on itself around the shins, and the narrowed silver dome like compartments that were fitted to the outside of his forearms which carried a variety of his weaponry, the most notable of which being his escrima sticks, one to each side tethered by a high pressured cord. His cowl, if it be called so, was most fitting within the heroic family he was currently a part of, with two bat-like ears rising from the side of his head albeit with a slight arch backwards in contrast to the more recognizable vertical arrangement. What he considered to be the most important part of his costume, well, at least until recently, was the blue falcon that was embedded upon his chest. It was made up of sharp geometric lines: wings lining up to his armpits with trailing almost square like feathers that gradually grew in length as they approached the centre; a diamond shaped tail whose bottom point just trailing touched his abdomen while its top point was understandably buried in the bird's primary body; and, the narrowing neck which protruded from its top two jagged ended beaks. Although it had seen some changes since its former wearer, the boy nonetheless saw it as iconic, thusly raising another issue he had to contend with.
"It's just not what I expected it would be like, my life as Nightwing I mean," Nightwing grudgingly responded, pulling his voice up several octaves so as to be heard more clearly if not only to be perceived as being confident in his words.
"I'm sorry Todd, but I'm not following what you're saying…."
"Well, I'm," Nightwing shot his eyes open with a jittering shake of his head and a shallow gulp, "I'm quitting my position here…I don't want to be Nightwing anymore."
"I don't understand why though…give me a reason, a real reason."
"Well," Nightwing shrugged his shoulders, his hands finally lifting away from the handles to come rest on his lap, the coursing blue lines that ran through his arms subsequently powering down, "I thought life would be different here, now that I had some purpose to live up to in a world that was so clear cut and formed, but from you know, where I'm from, I'm just not seeing much of difference between them anymore, in fact I'd say I'm worse off here than anywhere else given all the stuff that threatens the place on a regular basis…and that's the thing, its regular. I just realised that I might very well be doing this for the rest of my life, and that," he blink rapidly, "that sucks. I decided to this cause it was fun, but now…doing this every day, Nightwing forever…."
"Hold on, where's this all coming from?"
"Nightwing was my hero growing up, I could just about recite every one of his stories from memory," he nodded stiffly, "but that was just it, they were stories, a fictional character on a fictional world. When someone died here, it really didn't matter, I mean, not in any way that mattered, they were just facts…even when Dick died it didn't hurt me like it should have. All I could think of was that I was going to live up to him and even surpass him one day in the role," he bowed his head lowly, "but, you know, now it does mean something, it does mean something to me anyway and it sucks that I wasn't able to say goodbye or anything. I just wanted to say goodbye." He sighed, "everything, it feels more real than it used to and I get it, it's just as senseless and stupid as it was on my world."
"Todd, I don't understand even half of what you're talking about."
"Yeah, I know, I don't expect you too. It's really complicated," Nightwing tossed up his right hand to his forehead, cradling it in his palm as he smashed the point of his elbow into the side railing, just below the touch of the surrounding windshield. "The point of the matter is that, I really don't fit in here. I don't have the nerve, not like I thought I did. I can't be that hero Dick or anyone else has expected me to be."
"No one has expected you to."
"All the same though, I have to live up to it, that's what happens when you take on the name of another hero…that reputation, the legacy, it sticks into the next generation, and I don't want to handle it anymore." Nightwing's voice started to pick up pace, nonetheless remaining clear in articulation, "I don't mean this to sound depressing, cause that's certainly not what I am," he folded his arms over his chest, "see, if I'm stuck living here, well, I want to be happy. I'm young, and I don't to be looking to a future where I become a stalwart of the super hero world, with no life outside of it. That's what Batman is, the never ending fight on crime…well, I saw it. It's never ending, and I hate it. If it means that I have to quit to get where I want to be, so be it. I think I can still be of some help though, maybe I can help you…" his eyes widened with the momentary freezing of his thoughts, "we've never met have we? I don't even know where you live."
"Some place safe, and no, I don't think my kind of work is what you were meant to be doing, you're far too impatient, you need to be out there, saving people with your own hands," a belated pause in the conversation ensued before the voice returned, "if you're regretting some failure on your part, to save someone, or questioning your abilities to perform, well, that's something we can overcome together, that's why I exist, that's why the community is here, we've all had our bad times where we think the pain is never going to end, but It does Todd, I want you to know that. The people you know, they've all been through that. You have friends-"
Nightwing suddenly chimed in with a well-timed scoff, a showering burst of air gushing through closed teeth, "no I don't."
"What is this about now?"
"Well, who are you talking about, Wayne? Terry?" Nightwing shot back with some noticeable cynicism that literally took him to the edge of his seat, arms furiously chucked to their respective sides of the cockpit, "you should have seen his scowl when I brought in my costume for repairs the other day."
"He always scowls."
"More so this time than ever, I know he's just putting up with me because Dick gave me permission," Nightwing was quick to contend. "And don't get me started on those teammates of mine. I started that team because of Dick. He was such a phenomenal leader, with so many connections and friends, a real family of friends that all cared for one another, but those two…I know what they say about me when I'm not around; the speedster and I have got the cave wire tapped. That monotone green coloured Lite-Brite thinks I'm more trouble than I'm worth, and how can I blame him for thinking that? Pretty much everything we've gotten ourselves into is because of me or, at the very least, something related to me. And in the case of Interval, well, he doesn't care about anyone but himself, he's more selfish and arrogant than I am, he's just better at hiding it. He's using us to meet his own ends; needs the Lantern for some power and me for my connections to Wayne Tech…yeah, as a side note," he coughed once with a side sweeping roll of his eyes, "I've given him all the codes to the satellite network."
"What about Cassie?"
Nightwing sighed, "I love her, she's nice and I know she cares about me…but that doesn't change the fact that I was forced upon her. She's very busy with her work which I thought to be stupid at first, she can practically move mountains with her strength…but, although I haven't seen much, what she does in court, well, it's her way of fighting the villains. She's not doing what I've been doing because she believes there's got to be an end for it, someday, somewhere. She got to live her life, defined her life outside of a costume and now I'm pulling her back into it with something she had long since overcome. I just can't have her being worried about me every time I step out to play Nightwing. She's come to my rescue more than once now…even on occasions when I just needed someone to hug. It's just not fair to her."
"Alright, alright…well then, what about me?"
"I don't even know you Proxy. I've never even seen your face," Nightwing's voice became soft, a whisper almost, "for all I know, you're just a voice in my head." He shook his head, "I'm not particularly liked by anyone, and those who do, or at least those whom seem too, do so much it hurts them. I've been shunned away by everyone; Cassie's spends more time at work than at home and my only friend from school, well she's frightened by me for some unexplainable reason. And on that matter, I wish I knew why. I can't investigate that as Nightwing, I have to be who I am," both of his hands reached for the fabric around his chest, pulling it forward enough so that his eyes could look upon the blue of the logo without much contortion, "outside of this costume."
"Are you saying that you're quitting because you want to search yourself? Like, soul searching?"
Nightwing clasped a palm to his chin, allowing to himself an opportunity to carefully think through the question that had posed to him. Nearly a minute had passed before he could work his tongue to give an answer, "yeah," he nodded his head affirmatively as his hand dropped back down to his side, "something to that effect. I'm seeing the world differently now, and I'll be honest, I don't really know who I am. I've got a lot of questions now that need to be answered…and, I know you're right, I can't do this alone, so I'm going to be doing something I really don't want to be doing…."
Nightwing took in a deep breath, "I'm going to go talk to my mom, you know, wherever she is," the serious taste in his mouth suddenly dissolved as he began to vocalize his internal thoughts, "you know, when I find her, so, I guess, I'll be doing mostly that, but when I do find her, I can do this 'soul searching,'" he began to nod his head vigorously, "after a lengthy questioning period of course."
"I have an unidentified flying object."
"So, I'm still going to need your help I think. That's not going to be too much to ask right?" Nightwing raised his chin as silence filtered through the open communication feed, a period in which to foment the kindly Proxy to response; however, when the silence passed on far too long and it appeared that he was not to receive an answer, at least not one to his liking, he crossed his arms over his stomach and slumped down in his seat, "I see it," he grumbled. There was in fact something quite unidentifiable overhead, a streaking ball of steel grey shrouded in a profuse amount of smoke that had been acquired upon its entry and inevitable exit through the uniform cloud formation. There was no flame to be mentioned of, and yet it seemed to be exploding a multitude of times, albeit quite vapidly. There was no command or instruction given, the Blue Bird simply veered off from its standard patrol route to map out the trajectory of the descending object so that it, along with its so called pilot, would be there following its crash.
Colour wise, the exterior of the Blue Bird was much like that of Nightwing's costume; straight jet black across its form with a strong blue punctuated to clean cut regions throughout. The central piece of the craft was primarily oval shaped, the bottom side being particularly flatter than that of the top side which was more smoothly angled on account of the wide brim deep tinted blue windshield. This rounded characteristic, while dominant, came to an exception with the foot thick rectangular shaped box that sat at the back of the vehicle, just touching the top end of the windshield. This box end was remarkable flat though was not without some curves of its own, its top side being curved towards the back like one fourths a circle. On either side of this centre section were spike like wings that bowed outwards more so when closest to the cockpit before narrowing out to a point a good distance ahead of the craft's bulk. On the inner side of the wings were dark blue panels that were enfranchised within a strong black trim; they glowed with great impunity, humming to the ever increasing velocity of the craft.
The crash scene was reasonably clean, with the descending spacecraft seemingly having managed to chart a collision course along a long strip of back-way walking space wide enough to fit its circular saucer through. Even so, balance was a special issue for the spacecraft. The surrounding townhouses, whose backsides made the inside walkway, were particularly tall in stature and thus, the occasional collision could not be avoided. The damage these spot on hits were abysmal at the best, the soft metal of the round saucer section being no match for the solid foundation of the townhouses which suffered no more than superficial paint scrapes to their cold winter coloured paint jobs and the occasional dent, the most severe of which being around one particular straight lined window it hit at near centre on the way down. The most extensive damage to have occurred was, of course, the spot at which the craft hit the ground, churning up the black tar like cement with quite the ferocity, releasing the pressure of its compressed and compacted form to spread outwards into a multitude of small stones and pebbles. Dragged along this crumbling ground, it came to its final resting spot against the clean, windowless wall of another cold blue coloured townhouse nine stories high, no damage to the building's hull, at least none noticeable. All in all though, the absence of people was quite fortunate.
"I don't want to be doing this right now," Nightwing complained, "can you not call in someone else to handle this…batgirl maybe?" The Blue Bird came to a sudden stop just inside the mouth of the alleyway turned landing strip before manoeuvering sharply to the left so that its broad side faced inward of where the crashed spacecraft rested. From this high point, it slowly began to descend in preparation to land comfortably on the cement floor, "have you not been listening to me? I don't want to be dealing with these things anymore; there are these things I've got to take care of and this…this is just so terribly consuming."
"You're the closest we have in the vicinity. Investigate."
"I don't want to know what's in that thing," Nightwing stepped up his complaining demeanour, "could be the start of some alien invasion, or an infectious disease meant to wipe us all out-"
"Or it could be someone that is hurt and in need of our help."
"And you expect to win me over with that?" Nightwing snapped back just as the Blue Bird dropped to the ground with the crinkling of the wings' shocks being quite audible, "someone's always hurt, always needs help…I quit, I'm not doing this anymore." The gears central to the box shaped unit at the back of the vehicle began to stir, prompting the cumbersome windshield to disenfranchise itself and lift up from its slot configuration. With hydraulics pumping away, the windshield moved towards the back thusly revealing the grumpy Nightwing, his arms tightly clamped over one another on his chest.
"Last one then…get moving."
"Under protest," Nightwing angrily slammed his hands down upon the side railing facing the back alley walkway he was to investigate. Next followed his far side leg, and his body henceforth from the multiple points his limbs had attained; soon, he was on the ground, his legs being the first to become swarmed in gaseous fog that that emanated from the fallen spacecraft up ahead. The whole place was covered in the stuff, thicker and higher reaching up ahead, and even then so, the space above where he stood was partially mixed up in it; it would certainly take some time to filter out. As the young hero sifted his way through into the denser areas, he slowly swashed his hands out to his sides, spreading away what he could with the miniature wind storms his open palms caused in their wayward movements. "It's some kind of saucer, a flying saucer." Fortunate enough, the smog that surrounded the saucer had left its surface giving way to an apt view of the rather mangled saucer section of the craft.
"I'm having difficulty acquiring a visual link."
"There's some kind of big black ball," Nightwing brought his hands in reasonable close to one another, spread ahead at shoulder's length so as to give the impression that he was carrying a large invisible exercise ball, "it looks as though it hasn't been touched at all…" he promptly put a foot to a large, curving dent on the saucer section from which he lifted himself up towards the central ball discussed, leaning over it with an inquisitive eye when he acquired some stable footing, "I bet you this is where the poison is kept," he sounded off sarcastically. Investigating more thoroughly, he smoothed his right hand along the ball's surface, further bending his knees downward to get on appropriate eye level, "I'm not finding any imperfections, nothing." So, with such words spoken, he was understandably startled when the black glossy coating of the ball swiftly fell away like liquid compelled to drain under an insurmountable force of pressure. Revealed in the pitch black inside half of the remaining ball was a pleasantly cheerful fur covered chalk white face that appeared to have something to say but made no such movement of its mouth to articulate audible words; however, he still seemed quite able to say something all the same.
'Hello,' the soft, almost sweet sounding voice, but not a voice, pounded into the young hero's head like a rubber ended mallet. One leg gave way to another, and Nightwing was soon facing the ground, rattling his way down the crooked and bent saucer section to the chewed up pebble ridden cement of the alleyway floor. Shaking his head with much strain, the young hero managed to catch a good look at the smallish figure that had startled him, now that he, the alien, had come to stand up and look down upon him. The creature that Nightwing had encountered was dressed neck to toe in a rather bulky rustic red suit which had along its surface several bronze coloured straps that stuck mainly to surrounding his major joints such as his knees and elbows, being that he was humanoid to say the least, as well as the end of his sleeves and the entirety of his ankle high round almost hoof like boots. Perhaps the most striking feature of his being, in certain contrast to the colouration of his suit, was his perfect white face. Devoid of a definable nose or ears in addition to being perfectly round, the best descriptor that the boy in his presence could come to terms with was that he had the head of a snowman. His smile was impossibly wide, quaint and humble while his eyes were just as matching in immensity though the sky bound blue irises were notably small for the expanse of white they existed in. It wasn't long after noticing the fallen state of Nightwing that the alien politely hopped outside the remnants of his ball like cockpit and scuttled down the malformed saucer section at a rushing pace, hand reaching to help him right back on up to his feet, 'I'm so sorry, are you alright?' The alien pleaded, once more, that sweet touching sound of words, but not sound, echoing at the front of his head like a soft mallet. Too much dismay for the newly arrived alien, Nightwing turned away from his gentle hand, bolting straight up to his feet and stumbling backwards to get as much space between them as possible but never once turning the full of his back on the shocked, if not offended, being.
"Who are you?" Nightwing cried out after a significant amount of distance between himself and new arrival. He pulled his hands, forming them into fists as he prepared for the worst. Oddly, the landed alien was outright puzzled.
'I am Ozyron,' the fuzzy faced alien arched his head to a side, his mouth noticeably still not moving, but Nightwing nonetheless understanding full well what was being transmitted.
Nightwing shook his head of the soft mallet; the more he heard the words, but not really heard, the softer each strike became, "What are you doing on Earth? What do you want?" he barked out his questions as though they be commands.
'I have come to this planet to deliver a message on behalf of the elders of my home world, whom have overheard the gods and their words,' the alien allowed his lips to smile once more as his head became more shapely centre with the rest of his body; it was difficult to argue against him feeling pleased by this interaction.
"A message?" Nightwing's fists suddenly dropped down, coming to lay the flat of his palms against his side; for whatever reason, he had come to believe that this being, whoever he is, was of no threat to him or anyone else. "A message for whom?"
'A message for the one whom will prevent the destruction of this universe and many others like it, and do so by standing in between the two rival factions of the almighty gods whom now reign without their leaders, whom are now lost in the lawlessness of their own making and grasping at what scraps that remain of this fragile universe without paying heed to its natural ordering. She will herald them under her leadership and lead them away from their disposition to destruction, as she has done before and will do so again,' Ozyron responded in kind.
"Who exactly is that then?" Nightwing took a small step forward, leaning in the left side of his face as though that ear be more effective at hearing than the other.
'The people of this planet know her name by the name Troy, Donna Troy,' Ozyron nodded as best he could, his eyes appearing to softly close in the process.
"Oh," Nightwing suddenly jumped upwards half an inch, falling back from the one step forward he had taken moments ago.
'Have you heard of Troy?" Ozyron arched his head once more to a side, puzzled and intrigued just as Nightwing was in preparation for his revelation of identity, 'is she as well regarded on this planet as she is on ours?'
"Troy," Nightwing gulped followed by a series of nods in a positive manner.
'That is so,' Ozyron chimed in for affirmation, 'please, if you do know her, it is very urgent that I meet with her…will you take me to her?"
"Troy," Nightwing stated once more, this time with a relieving sigh, "I get called by that name sometimes."
"Sorry, could you please explain to me what it is that you're all about?" Nightwing's chin slipped up onto his shoulder, a point from which he quickly acquired the bright, wide opened eyes of the ever so sweetly smiling face of Ozyron whom he had comfortably seated in the passenger position that pulled up just behind his own pilot's seat following, of course, some minor shifting forward on his part. Well-adjusted to their seats, the wide brim windshield of the Blue Bird swiftly slid back and locked into its standard position, once more creating the blue tinted ambience that permeated the interior. "What's your name?"
'My name is Ozyron of the planet Ozyron,' the alien responded in his usual yet truly unusual way.
"Well, that seems kind of arrogant," Nightwing clambered his hands into the appropriately lined up piloting handles along the sides, the thick lines of electronic pitched blue soon lighting up throughout the breadth of his arms in response, "naming a planet after yourself and all. Are you the designated leader or just the driver? Either way, you're piloting skills leave much to be desired."
'I'm sorry, I'm afraid I do not understand your meaning," Ozyron puzzled.
"Ozyron…Planet Ozyron, no?" Nightwing questioned in jest.
'Oh, I'm afraid you have me misunderstood, the people of my planet all herald under the name Ozyron.'
"Really?" Nightwing's face scrunched up in surprise, "how is it that you…you guys…don't mix one another up?" He started to stumbled and strain through his word choices, but was all in all, concise and serious in his questioning. "Have you all got some kind of identity chip implanted your head?"
'In a manner of speaking,' Ozyron softly closed his eyes thus surrendering his face to the fullness of white fur, 'we are all intimately aware of one another, at all times, confusion, at least in my experience, has never occurred for I am aware of all just as they are aware of me…names hold no meaning save to outsiders whom are not familiar with our ways, hence we are all named so when we travel abroad."
"So basically, if I had to level that down to something I would understand…you're all telepathic, right?" Nightwing zealously questioned.
'Yes,' Ozyron remained straight to his casual self in response despite the boy's prodding excitement.
"Are you reading my mind now then?" Nightwing rang off with more intrigue than concern, "is that how you're communicating with me? How you understand me?"
"I'm afraid that interspecies mental connections are an arduous task for my kind," Ozyron knelt his head, seemingly in shame, "I do not possess such an ability and am unwilling to do so as I am uncertain as what would happen to myself or the others whom I am attempting to connect with…" he seemed to gulp, "it frightens me."
"Alright, fair enough," Nightwing nodded as he turned his focus from his passenger and on to the small piloting screen enfranchised within the dashboard ahead. He promptly pulled back on the piloting handles and instantaneously, the Blue Bird seamlessly lifted up from the pavement it was rested upon. The electronic hum of the vehicle's engine followed suit, its low level pulsating beat soon coming to dominate the occupants' ears.
'This is the way in which I communicate with others as it is for all my kind,' Ozyron continued along with the reopening of his eyes, 'in your understanding as you have judged…I am implanting thoughts. I suppose it is necessarily a far easier a task than the process of extracting them.'
"There's something that I don't quite understand though, uh, one thing really; I've noticed that you have a mouth…" Nightwing hummed off on his final word, the question seemingly implicit.
'There are some on my planet whom have learnt how to utilize their mouths as a form of communication, it is a talent of the poets whom have taken the most meaningful parts of our culture to create harmonies to which all of us, my kind, are especially connected in; we can sing, that is a gift to all,' Ozyron dutifully explained, 'the harmonies of our poets, the praises that we sing, it is the very reason to which the gods above us have taken such a notice in us. I had hoped that one day I would commit myself to the poetics more fully, perhaps then I would have learnt to use my voice for more than just singing.'
Nightwing shook his head back to wakefulness, "Hmm, interesting," he commented in a daze.
'Other than that, eating is a priority of my species,' Ozyron shrugged.
"Oh," Nightwing gasped, "are you hungry?"
'My hunger is satisfied. I departed from my world with three weeks' worth of nutrition stored within my stomachs. Besides, eating on my world is a communal activity amongst my kind and here I am, alone of my species. If it is helpful for your understanding in regards to future concerns, there still remains eight days before my hunger must be satisfied again.'
"Oh, you got me hooked at multiple stomachs. I'd love to say I've got something of that design within myself, multiple stomachs and whatever, but as it is, I'm already beginning to feel a little something at the base of my lone one," Nightwing chuckled.
'Should we first stop then, so that you may acquire a suitable source of nutrition?' Ozyron questioned in earnest, taking the boy's words as being descriptive of a dire situation.
"No, no," Nightwing shook his head, "I've sort of acquired this taste for fine dining and, well, the food in this part of town, it's been terribly tainted recently, so no, I'll be fine for the next few hours."
"Then we are on our way to meet Donna Troy?" Ozyron queried with the suspicion of an obvious answer.
"Yeah, I suppose so," Nightwing dryly responded as he slumped lowly in his chair.
"Nightwing, I've lost connection with the Blue Bird but I'm reading it as active, what's your situation?" The unseen voice echoed throughout the interior.
"I appear to have several connectivity issues," Nightwing responded in haste, "but it's all under control. I'm bringing it back in for a diagnostic now."
"Did you find anything?"
"Nothing worth the effort of our investigative skills," Nightwing sharply replied with his chipper tone now becoming mired in befuddlement, "it was just some broken spacecraft, a type C if I'm not mistaken according to the Batcomputer database…must of fallen out from a larger carrier and accidently wandered into the planet's gravitational pull. It looks more civilian than military however."
"Are you sure? I've been analysing the data on the objects trajectory and it seems to suggest to me that it was being piloted up until about four hundred fifty thousand kilometres outwards from where it crashed."
"Sorry, nothing to report," Nightwing continued to hurry the discussion to a hopeful and sudden conclusion. "Get a hold of the Justice League; see if they can send out a cleanup crew to collect it up."
"But…hold on, my tracking systems on the Blue Bird indicate that you're travelling west, that's the complete opposite of the parking bay…where are you going?"
Nightwing shook his head in frustration, "Fine," he coughed once, "I'm going to go see my mother…."
"Can this not wait? There is something about this ship that you're missing, that we're not seeing."
"No, nothing to report on my end," Nightwing quickly retracted his right hand from the handle and proceeded to mash his index and middle finger against the touch screen of the navigational computer where a thick horizontally lain neon blue bar stood out from the darker shade of the screens whole. His touching fingers proceeded to downwards, taking down with them the bar piece, the results of which being the dimming of the voice he was conversing with.
When the bar hit its end, the communication feed was instantly filled with static which was inevitably brought to a silent ending seconds later; the signal was lost. "And that was the day that I defeated the invisible woman…" Nightwing complimented himself in good cheer, "have to admit, I didn't think that would work, though, it shouldn't take her long to figure out the encryption codes I implanted in the Blue Bird's core systems. She'll probably want to shut us down just to spite me, but maybe by then she'll have put it together that we don't want to be disturbed right now, right?"
Ozyron, however, was quite intrigued by the voice rather than overjoyed with its removal, 'Who was this woman to whom you spoke to?'
"Proxy?" Nightwing popped up a brow while his free right hand wavered up to his chin, "well, I don't really have an answer for that," he squinted, "I've never actual met her, or even seen her really. She's just some super computer genius person that my, uh, boss hooked me up with when I first got started playing superhero," he gave himself into a tight shoulder shrug as his hand slipped back down to the side where it promptly reached and gathered hold of the handle bar.
'Perhaps it would be wise to let her know of your current situation, lest she be determined to put a stop to your current activities,' Ozyron sought to caution.
"No," Nightwing shook his head, a gestured response in the resounding negative, "If I tell her that I've got the pilot of a downed spaceship onboard then there are going to be a lot of questions that I don't think either you or me want to be taking, it's her fault for assigning you to me in the first place. You don't seem very threatening to me, in fact, I'd go so far to say that you're genuinely kind and compassionate, you've certainly got the smile for that kind of character."
'Thank you,' Ozyron nodded.
"No, when it comes to my mother, it all sort of becomes this kind of a personal matter," Nightwing sighed, "as much as I hate it, I know it's something that I've got to be dealing with on my own, so to speak."
'I'd hate to inconvenience you on your personal quests, especially ones involving family; perhaps there is another whom is willing and able to take me to meet Donna Troy."
"Yeah, me," Nightwing sarcastically replied with profuse nodding, "I'm heading over to her place right now. She's got an apartment downtown. Though, I can't guarantee she'll be there. It seems to me that she's always out doing whatever it is that she does. At least, that's how it is every time I try to phone her," He rolled his eyes. His tongue suddenly turned to a serious edge: "you've probably already worked it out, so I'll try to be as blunt and honest as possible…basically, although I know it's just a coincidence that you're here at this time, but you're sort of my ticket in. She can turn me down cold, but not someone as prestigious as yourself, especially since you've come to deliver a message to her. And now, if I happen to be with you at the time, I might get something I want from her."
'I believe I have failed to correctly ascertain the meaning behind your words," Ozyron further humbled himself, "but may I be so bold to ask without any intention to offend, what does this personal quest of yours have to do with Donna Troy?"
Nightwing head bobbled from side to side in disbelief, more of a jitter than a shake, "she's my mother."
'Oh,' Ozyron seemed to gasp, drawing a tight bundle of air into his large fluffy cheeks, "most excellent," he expulsed with a smile that doubled upon his original, "I was most unaware that she had a child."
"You alongside everyone else," Nightwing grudgingly contended as he once against slumped lower in his chair, focussing ever so hard upon the blue sheen of the navigation screen.
A time of silence followed quite shortly in which Ozyron's delicate smile gave way into a frown, 'forgive me once more if I offend by fulfilling my curiosity, but it seems to me that you are not enthused by her mentioning, am I wrong in asserting such?'
Nightwing gulp, "no, not at all."
'May I then proceed to inquire as to the reason behind your distress about her?'
"It's a real story, at least, that's what I've been told all this time…look, it's all kind of complicated," Nightwing held himself up proper, his final line seemingly being his final say on the subject, "hmm, what is it that you see in her?" he piqued up, "what good is she to your people?"
'It is not my people alone to whom she serves wholesomely, not that we are not fond of her for what she has done and has yet to do, but rather she has been preordained to save all, those whom have lived, and those whom have yet to be, that is the destiny the elders have revealed to me as it applies to her, as I must tell her,' Ozyron detailed sufficiently.
"Save the universe," Nightwing commented almost mockingly, "I believe that's how you said it."
'Quite so,' Ozyron nodded in earnest but, as opposed to empowering feelings generated by this monumental moment, that being the delivery of the message to Troy, he found himself dismayed over the fact that her son was less than enamoured by her than he was, 'I cannot help but feel great cynicism in your words, the effect of which has left me distraught. Does it not inspire you, or at the very least, bring you kind feelings to know that you're mother is heralded as a great hero throughout the known universes, that many a people, mine included, sing praises of her most frequently? Does it not affect you, your heart, in the most pleasing of ways?'
"Oh yes, sure it does," Nightwing flippantly responded, "she's simply the greatest person that has ever lived," he clutched a hand to his chest, squarely placed atop his heart, "sorry, the greatest person that has ever lived and is ever to live," he concluded in a pompous character accent.
'Have I done so well to convince you of her greatness amongst the heavens, or have I made a misunderstanding of your words once more?' Ozyron puzzled.
"The latter," Nightwing returned sharply to a serious edge.
'What is it that she has done that you be left so bitter of her?'
"You really want to know?" Nightwing sneered.
Ozyron nodded, 'most certainly so.'
"I do not know if I should," Nightwing slipped into a casual, if not contemplative voice.
'Is it concerns for one's personal life that prevent you from divulging in details?' Ozyron queried.
Nightwing took in a deep breath followed by a coarse ejection of air, "no," he mumbled softly. "She abandoned me as a child, alright," his voice cleared with a gruff cough and subsequent gulp, "I was little more than ten years old when she left me on my own, and made it worse by promising she'd come back, but she never did. It was a long time ago," Ozyron's squinted in befuddlement with the boy's words sinking into him instantly, "I'm not trying to shatter you're world or anything, I totally respect that she's loved by millions…maybe even billions of people across the universe, but it's all different for me, I see, no, I saw her differently because she was my mother…and you know what? It hurt and it goes on hurting every time she climbs back into my life," he shook his head of the matter, "not that I haven't tried to make amends…whatever that means."
'On my planet, it is somewhat traditional that one be most close to their biological families,' Ozyron took in a deep breath before continuing to his question, 'is there not the same tradition on your planet?"
"There is," the young hero felt his head drop, "I had a family once, here I mean. It was adopted, but it felt like a family, my family, the kind of family you see on those old television shows that they don't air anymore." Ozyron calmly and quietly slid forward to the front edge of his seat from which point he proceeded to lift his chin up to one of the shoulder sides of Nightwing's chair. He was very intrigued by the boy's evolving sincerity but was disappointed by the lack of facial responses accounted to his full mask, "I had people around me who actually cared. A mother, a real loving mother, a sister I could do everything with, and a father…I'd never had a father before," he retracted a hand to plant upon his forehead, "this all sounds so stupid when I say it out loud, I never really cared about it all till recently, until it was gone," the hand slipped away from its point of touch, tumbling back down to its corresponding side with a slap against his thigh.
'I'm sorry that I cannot relate,' chimed in Ozyron, 'I have never been without my family. This is…is most startling to hear that Troy, whom her teammates championed as the 'den mother,' did not serve as so for her own offspring.'
"I didn't fit in, or couldn't fit in with her life," Nightwing glanced away from his navigation screen to the outdoors, admiring the architecture of the complex buildings passing by at unspeakable speeds, "those were formative years in my development and she wasn't around to….She just doesn't think of me as her son."
'But perhaps, you could be of great assistance in her in the coming trials, would it not please her to see her own son involving himself in such a grievous matter that she may be so enchanted as to call you her child once more?
"I could care less what she was doing, trouncing the villain as he or she goes to rob their eightieth bank, preventing the invasion of an otherwise peaceful planet with her admirable diplomatic skills, or, as you say, preventing the destruction of the universe by vengeful gods, all those plans of hers, they didn't include me. So why then should I be expected to include her in my life when she needs me? Let her do what she will but I want nothing to do with it. I stopped thinking of her as my mother a long time ago, the very day I realized she had left my life."
'And yet, it would seem, we are venturing to see her in part for your personal fulfillment," Ozyron shyly commented as he slid back into the bulk of his seat, noticeably overcome with grief.
"This is different, it's not about her it's about me, it's what I need," Nightwing coarsely spat back, restraining the rising anger at the base of his gut, "I have questions that need answering," he slowed himself down, "and only she can give them."
'What do you seek ask her, if I may be so bold?' Ozyron calmly asked.
Nightwing took a quick look over his shoulder, catching eye with his passenger for a brief moment before returning slowly to navigation screen, shaking slightly all the way in order to get the pleasantness of the alien's furry face out from his head. He took in a deep breath, "stuff you wouldn't get…like where did I come from, what is this place…those kinds of questions."
'Are you not interested in why it is that she abandoned you when you were so young?'
"Yes," Nightwing grudgingly replied in honesty. "But the answer would fundamentally involve her wouldn't it? And I don't want that," he coughed, "besides, she won't answer anyway."
Ozyron arched his head to a side, 'how can you be sure if you do not ask?'
"Because, I just do," Nightwing responded with a commanding voice but upon realizing so, stifled himself when he spoke again, attempting to return to his more casual voice, "we should be there in the next ten minutes."
'That time is most sufficient,' Ozyron smile widened.
"Time?" Nightwing's head suddenly shot up, "your space ship was a type C," he started to look around the cockpit, not look for anything that had been lost, rather cycling through the database of his mind, more specifically, the images from his recent memories, "propulsion on your ship, it is a perpetual motion machine. The saucer section, its constant turning produces the energy that fuels the propulsion system…there's no way you could have lost power," he hastily looked back over his shoulder, "you were attacked weren't you?"
'You're deduction is most accurate,' Ozyron applauded.
"By what?" Nightwing gasped as he once again returned his attention to the front.
'The Yorg,' Ozyron seemed to cower in his seat.
"The Yorg? Who are they?" Nightwing queried.
'Shadow beings from another dimension,' Ozyron began in his calm, informative manner, 'the surface of planet is unlivable for most, its desert like conditions is acidic to the touch and the winds are ever so relentless, but it is all a necessity for life for the sand and the acid storms form a layer of heat for my people whom have made their living in the catacombs beneath the surface. But the Yorg, they feast off of the acid. They are stripping our home world of its most bountiful resource and have through their might enslaved us. They have long since feared that should one of us manage to escape the surface, than we may return with help…I was one of five others dispatched with the message for Troy,' he lowered his head in grief, 'I am the only one who has survived.'
"And one of these things, a Yorg, it's followed you to Earth?"
'Yes,' Ozyron abruptly raised his head, 'I used all the energy that was available within the ship's fuel cells to stun it.'
"And how long is it stunned for exactly?" Nightwing held his breath.
'One hour,' Ozyron responded in kind, 'enough time it would seem to deliver my message to Troy.'
"Agh, forget the message," Nightwing barked. "How did it find you? Does it track you somehow?"
'The Yorg are telepathically endowed as my kind is, though much stronger. They have managed to stop many of our poets from spreading their music across the planet, but have yet to restrict the elder's connection to the heavens.' Ozyron took in a deep breath, 'I'm afraid that it will not be long after it regains consciousness. It will find me and come after me at which point I expect to die; therefore, it is very important that I see Troy as soon as possible.'
"Die?" Nightwing gasped.
'It is the only way in which to stop the Yorg," Ozyron remained true unto himself in his calmness, 'I shall release my consciousness into it and overload its mental synapses. It is the one weakness of their biology which can be exploited.'
"Yeah, and you're people are enslaved by them," Nightwing cried with strange, if not moody, sarcasm.
'The intentional taking of one's own life in my culture is not looked upon as well as it is in other cultures,' Ozyron dutifully explained, 'even in times of duress and struggle…I do not wish to see that my sisters and brothers give away their lives so that I may live free of oppression. Our society is docile, and as such, very communal. We are one, one song. I would be most lonely without their harmonies.'
"Well, what is that you think you're doing?"
'This is a matter of extreme importance, not to us alone, but to the whole of the universe,' Ozyron seemed to puff out his chest, 'my death is an extreme honour if it means the universe is saved.'
"This is ridiculous," Nightwing coldly stated. "I can find a way to stop it, believe me. And then maybe I can help you take the battle back to your home world…you're here now, you've escaped them. Now let's get some help."
'I am pleased by your gesture,' Ozyron bowed his head, 'but there are more pressing matters at hand.'
"You're right," Nightwing sniffed, "no one dies…I don't care what it's for. No dies while they're with me." His right hand clutched harder upon the handle bar from which he began to pull as hard as he could resulting the Blue Bird shifting gears into a wide swooping turn, "no one."
Ozyron instantly fell into a worrisome when the sharp turn tossed his body across to the outer side, 'are we departing from our intended course?'
"It's fortunate that I'm the one who's picked you up," Nightwing grinned, "there's a place, a safe house, that can dim you're, uh," he shook up a hand wildly, "telepathic stuff. Let's see if we can't give us more time before we have to deal with this Yorg friend of yours. Tell me all that you know about it, maybe we can find another, more humane way of exploiting that synapse, nerve, or whatever…."
'It is the only way which I know.'
"Yeah, well," Nightwing stomped his foot down, "you haven't had me in the trenches. I'm a problem solver. It's how I got this job. I can think of something."
'I believe it would be more prudent that we proceed to Troy so that the message from the elders may be delivered to her,' Ozyron seemed to plead.
Nightwing sniffed, "no. Don't give up…you'll still have plenty of time to study your poetics."
'Even if you were to learn of a way in which I would survive my encounter with the Yorg, it is not as though I can return home. It was a one way trip. I have made my farewells to those I love at home," Ozyron concluded, his heart surprisingly strong.
"I can get us there in twelve…maybe ten minutes if I really punch it," Nightwing pulled hard on both piloting handles at the precise moment that the wing tips aimed straight in the direction he intended to go. "I'll hook up with the safe house's computer," his right hand reached for the navigation screen, index finger once more extended and touching, "I'll have the shield in operation the moment we arrive…" his last word dribbled coldly, a spot of fact that the furry alien could not ignore.
'Is there something wrong?' Ozyron eyes scrunched up the fur above into rolls.
Nightwing let out a heavy sigh, "The safe house's system has been compromised."
'Is that bad?'
"No and…yes," Nightwing fumbled to respond, "the shield may still be operable, but the building itself is occupied. I'm searching through the code used to unlock the system, checking it with all personnel codes on file. Maybe we can figure out whom if we get a match and…." His shoulders slumped but his speech continued at a speed that nearly blurred the articulation of his syllables, "it's been jammed. They must have forced their way inside. I'm switching to the security camera feeds, getting a visual now."
'It appears to me that you are distressed over you're findings, is there not something wrong?'
"Agh," Nightwing's head fell towards his lap like a limp noodle, "it's the Ts," he looked back up to the dashboard screen, a suspicious look in his eye as the several dark trench coat wearing figures passed right on by the camera's eye, "perfect," he concluded in cold sarcasm.
'The Ts' Ozyron became puzzled, 'who are they?'
"They're a street gang, the second largest in all of Gotham City," Nightwing contended, "remember when I said that stuff about tainted food? Well, you can thank their leader for that. He and his goons doped all the city's imports with this heinous steroid drug that the street dealers call slappers. Batman took him down, but not before the F.D.A. found over a fourth of a quart of the drug in basically every canned food in the city. Kids got sick, some almost died in the first few weeks. The people are still waiting for clean shipments."
'Why would someone do such a thing?'
"The same reason they do everything else: competition," Nightwing sounded off with scorn, "their biggest rival in the area is another gang that calls themselves the Jokerz. They've been cutting into the Ts territory ever since Batman took down their leader several months before he got to the T's, some sort of reprisal thing for providing Batman with information about their leaders whereabouts and activities, but," he shook his head, "to the best of my knowledge, that never happened, they're just looking for a reason to start a fight. Both gangs are now without a clear command structure and now their starving due to their own stupid actions. They've fomented their own world of anarchy and their suffering because of it."
'This is a very unfortunate situation,' Ozyron commented,
"Yeah, well, it's not my city. I just use it from time to time," Nightwing smirked.
'I must admit that I have heard of others tales much like it.' Ozyron arched his head as he queried to his nature, 'is their not someone whom can stand between them, not as foe but as their so called shepherd, perhaps to draw them to a better way of life?'
"It's only a matter of time, but for which purpose they get led to…I don't know. Either way, it just restarts itself into another cycle. Batman will take down the new person, and then someone else will step up and we'll be doing it all over again once that person goes sour. And maybe that time round, it'll be something more than food poisoning," Nightwing took in a large gulp of air, "I'll swing in around back. Wait in the Blue Bird till I've taken care of the Ts inside. I'll notify you then…we still have some time don't we?"
There was a sharp pain at the back of this gang member's head, a pain that forthrightly dulled all of his senses, exploiting a vestige of tiredness and thus, defeating his will to survive. The more he reached to cradle the pain at the top of his skull, the more he felt its swelling, the seeming growth of skin that would inevitably become an unsightly dome like bubble on his bald scalp. Every touch of his fingertips exacerbated the pain but he could not stop analyzing its structure; its continued infliction and fascinating feature unintentional benefit of allowing him to power on forward towards his destination, deterring his decline into the malaise of sleep. Down the dark corridor he went, with that brightly lit opening just up ahead alongside the wall he used to support himself.
He was a rather lanky individual, certainly muscled but lacking in overall fortitude. Whatever more he may have had in physical impressions was well hidden behind a large grey trench coat noted for its multitude of straps along the front of his chest, though, only a handful of them were actually fastened. Pitch black military apparel made up the rest of his wear: thick soled, steel toed boots, sleeveless Kevlar like vest, coarse multi-layered pants. Evident enough, the most peculiar feature of this gang member was the blood red 'T' painted at the forefront of his face, the top bar of the letter running across the broad length of his eyes. To further clarify the image of the single letter, his skin was stained chalk white; he was a member of the T gang, and this full body design was the way in which they went about in public. "Batman!" he screamed, the last syllable being gurgled in a vacuum of saliva but nonetheless comprehensible. He reached a hand up for the steel lined door frame, the door itself absent, and leaned upon it in hopes that he would not collapse as his body ever so desired.
The room that led in from the door frame the despondent thug pressured himself up against was quite small or, at the very least, considerably narrow from his perspective, with just over fifteen paces from one broad wall to the other, his left to right. The first section inward, for it was divided nearly evenly into two parts, was the kitchenette, the noted divide being shown through its use of flooring materials, in this case comprised of foot by foot steel faced tiles as opposed to the carpet of the later section. The tiles were noticeably thick to the stepping of feet, absolutely solid through and through to the base of the earth. The stomach high counter creeping out from and surrounding the wall to the thug's immediate left followed in fashion with the floor, being an uncompromised steel finish. With a blue laser sealed refrigerator and attached freezer, a high filtered oven with near body long depth, and a pop up toaster to top it off, along with the usual expected kitchen furnishings, this kitchenette was certainly on the high end of its kind, luxurious in all areas. The second section could perhaps be best described as an entertainment room, the furniture local to this area being a three person black leather like couch lined up against one side, the thug's right, and a wall sized wide angled television screen no more than an inch thick on the opposing wall, the thug's left. The carpeted floor was noticeably thin and as such every bit as solid as the steel tiles; its colours comprised coarse purple and blue blends of threads. Of what both sections shared in full was the low tempo blue colour that spanned the walls and ceiling.
Enfranchised within the wall opposite the kitchenette's counter set up were two steel faced doors. The first of these in line to the front entrance appeared to have been frequently used for its lock box, the formerly square cut object sprouting from the wall with a number of buttons, had been berated with a few hit from a blunt object and thus was in a bit of a tattered state; needless to say, the door had been opened, indeed, even currently, it was no perfectly closed, surviving an opening less than a fraction of an inch. The lock box for the second door had faired a similar treatment to the first, but its door appeared quite sound, the vandals seemingly resorting to thrashing their blunt item against the door itself which certainly showed a number of denting wounds but not a single puncture. Of special note to this room was that there were no windows, no way in which the outside world could be viewed, and thus relied upon the day light inspired fixtures overhead that ran the breadth of the ceiling in thin bars, crossing from side to side, for its lighting.
Of what else could be said of this small living space was not a permanent fixture but rather something devoted to purposes of satisfying hunger, food, that the shelves appeared to have once carried in abundance. There were plenty of grease stains about the area along with cumbersome amount of manufactured, multi-coloured plastic and wax wrappers conglomerated upon the countertop and strewn across the floor of the entertainment section; it was a mess in need of some hard effort to clean, something these inhabiting gang members would be more than willing to put on hold for other, more meaningful activities.
There were five persons within the room aside from the middling entry of the dazed thug, two of which were noticeably younger than the others, kids to be precise, a boy no older than twelve and a girl not that much older, both of which were sitting comfortably on opposing ends of the lone couch. For the longest while, their young eyes were fixed upon the nightmarish cold white glare of the massive screen ahead, but when the beaten gang member exclaimed the name of that all too notable hero, well, they couldn't help but glare in his direction, jaws frozen dropped and eyelids unable to blink.
"Jake? Are you sure?" questioned a fellow gang member whom promptly rushed up to his comrades side to support him, his first act being the forcing of his strong arm around the poor thug's backside from which point he applied a stiff lift to get the man back on his feet. The assisting gang member was a tad bit taller and more so filled out than his colleague, though this would be saying of him that he was a man of average build. As a fellow gang member, his face was just as painted up in white and blood red and similar military styled accruements, though his jacket was noticeably shorter and lacked any proper body wrapping straps.
"Do you know anyone else with bat ears Fitz?" cried Jake in pitiful sarcasm as he hobbled inward of the room with Fitz's support.
"Dylan, Audrey, pull the couch out from the wall and get behind it," Fitz hastily commanded as he tossed out his free hand towards the seated, gawking children on the couch. "Zapista? Can you help them?" he called out to a fellow gang member whom stood nearby, throwing his arm across from the scouring children to the position he wanted to couch to be dragged to. Now a significant distance inside the room, he carefully knelt down to the ground in order to provide for Jake a smooth transition to the floor, sitting him up against the wall between the two steel faced doors he and his colleagues had attempted to breakthrough earlier in the day, however, succeeding only on the one.
The young woman whom had nodded in response to and dutifully followed Fitz's command was Zapista, a lanky individual much like that of her fellow teammate Jake though faired considerably better in height, standing nearly two heads taller than he. Like the others, she wore the thickly sewn pants and steel toed boots, however, her shirt was noticeably single in layering, worn impeccably tight to her torso, sleeveless, and thin strapped, thereby leaving a significant amount of space of showing skin beneath her head; it was simply not as protective of her persons compared to the uniform worn by the others. While her letter was painted in the boldness of red, par in line with the gang, the chalk white glaze over her bald scalp made her face look of stone; never smiling, never ceasing to deprive joy of all those whom looked upon her.
"Man Fitz, I told you we shouldn't have broken into this rich man's hiding hole…they're all friends with Batman, he's everywhere." This squealing voice arose from a rather heavy set individual, noted for his bulky limbs and round fitting head to an impressive herculean shoulder span. Like the others, he was within uniform for the gang but without trench coat or sleeves; his shirt, more of a vest, could be passed off as Kevlar. He shook his massive hands out towards Fitz, watching him with his small beady eyes as the claimant leader ensured that their helpless colleague on the floor was comfortable, a part of which included the ejecting of a black painted box like hand gun from a pocket on the interior side of his jacket and handing it over to the dazed Jake with a simple directive to shoot when deemed necessary.
"Frog," Fitz snapped as he returned to an upright, standing position. He sharply turned around to the large sized member of their group and stared him down with a dishevelled crinkling snarl upon his face, "I'm hungry," he shook his head ever so slightly in a negative fashion, "you starving too?" he suddenly turned towards the entrance way, its lack of a door certainly representing a security issue, "you want to blame someone for this? Blame Tyler for poisoning everything and forcing all our kids back onto the streets scavenging for scraps."
"Tyler?" Frog shook his shoulders in disgust as he took some steps forward and leaned in hard upon the Fitz's side. Despite the impressing of his weight, the lower standing teammate ignored him wholesomely, keeping his keen eyes upon the dark corridor, "why you got to be turning on our friends man? Remember why Tyler did for us, what he's made us up to be."
"Shut it Frog," Zapista scoffed. The tall girl had barricaded herself and the two children behind the bulk of the turned couch, keeping its tall backside, the makeshift wall, facing the room's entranceway just a couple feet back of the steel tiled floor. One of her knees was planted on the couch's centre cushion while her hands cupped and pushed the heads of the kids' whom were knelt down at either side of her.
"Yeah, shut up Frog," Jake spat.
"Would you just block the door?" Fitz shook a hand towards the open entranceway, taking a quick peak over his shoulder to the grimace expression on Frog's face.
The floor maintained its strength under the thunderous weight of the resentful, foot stomping Frog, whom shook his head in disapproval as he made his way into the thin steel lined door frame, his disparaging colleagues looking upon him all the while. "Blaming Tyler just ain't right Fitz," he continued his stream of outrage in his screeching voice. He pressed a hand up to their corresponding sides on the door frame, using the strength acquired by their pressure to lean forward, "you know who we should be really blaming for this?" he lifted his chin up as he immersed his head in the darkness of the corridor, "Batman."
"Batman?" A chipper unknown voice broke in, "really? Where?" Following the sound of those puzzling questions posed, Frog arched his expanse of vision downward, ramming his chin into the plump of his chest, to which he found, to great astonishment, a small character of sorts, dressed in black much like the man he and his colleague feared greatly, but different, and thereby distinct, in a variety of aspects. The height, the silver shine of his gauntlets and boots, and the most striking visual of all, the blue falcon emblazoned upon his chest; this was certainly not Batman.
"Huh?" Frog's browse popped up in puzzlement.
Exploiting the lumbering thug's slow movements of the lumbering thug, Nightwing prepped his legs for a sprint; however, the distance between him and the wall forming thug was short, allotting only two hurdles of steps, the conclusion of which saw him dropping to the ground, sliding with his dominant leg forward beneath and in between the thug's legs.
Rather than dropping the top of his head to the ground so that his eyes could follow the young hero as he slid beneath him, for his chin had reached the solidity of his chest, Frog opted to turn around, pivoting on the flat face of his right foot and swinging around his left to get an even standing facing inside the room. He had only a few seconds time to stabilizing himself properly, and too much dismay, he was once again greeted with another startling sight regarding the young hero whom had, rather than gone into the depth of the room, stayed within close proximity of him, laying on his back with both legs in the air, arched the knee, the bottom side of feet aimed for his knees. "Agh!" He let out a blood curdling scream the moment Nightwing's legs unleashed like springs, deflecting off the sides of his knees but nonetheless inflicting enough devastating damage to drop him to the floor, cradling his legs in pain.
Emulating the squirming of a common worm, Nightwing arched and flattened his back repeatedly at an impeccable rate, doing so that, at the moment of breaking free of Frog's bodily orbit, he could successfully, as he did, perform a backwards, twirling flip onto the flat of his feet, landing in such a manner that he would face the occupants of the room. "You're not Batman," his voice rung out with disappointment, as though he had half-heartedly expected the elder hero of his clan, of who defined it, to actually be present at this gathering. The first of the gang members he was to notice following entry, for he was quickly deemed to be the most threatening, was the moaning, string limbed thug that he had fought with moments earlier, seated on the floor with pistol in hand, its end aimed upon him. In response, he swiftly slid out a standard bat shaped disc, a wingding, from the chamber straddling the inside of his right forearm into his corresponding palm. With a split second pull and release, the wingding twisted on a near perfect curvature towards the thug, the rounded edge of one of its wings coming to slap against the thug's gun totting hand, instantaneously gaining from him a high pitched gurgling scream as the laser spewing weapon promptly dropped from his control.
Moving forward towards his next target, Nightwing made the decision to drop the tethered, steel shined batons, his escrima sticks, from the bulkier outer parts of the compartment, grabbing hold of their tubular form with practiced precision. With a swing of his left arm, he pushed aside the punch that flowed from the group's apparent leader, Fitz. He followed this manoeuver through with the circular end point of the escrima stick in his right hand smashing into the dead centre of the man's forehead. With his current fighting partner dazed, he dropped down on his left knee and laid on a punch from the near flat back side of his left hand into the man's gut, drawing him to lean over and clutch himself in pain. Swiftly straightening up, he proceeded to finish off his opponent, planting a foot upon Fitz's lowered head and sending him sprawling towards the backside of the couch, groaning in wraths of pain as his attempts to stabilize himself only furthered his toppling over.
There was but one gang member left to be dealt with, Zapista, and she was perhaps the most smartest of all her colleagues, for her attack was worked and timed on the angle of surprise in the sense that in the concluding moments of the hero's fight with Fitz, she lunged at him from atop the couch, gliding over Fitz with both hands ready to clutch his torso, doing so with admirable success. Shocked as he fell backwards under her pushing weight, he was nonetheless prepared through his training for such occurrences. In the midst of their falling, his arms swung out to their farthest reaches before inevitably swinging inward with a hefty spark of strength enacted upon them. The broad length of both escrima sticks crushed Zapista's head in between them, like cymbals meant to be clapped. On the floor however, he came to realize that the strength of Zapista, more specifically, her head, was poorly judged on his part, and rather than be knocked out or at the very least, stunned, she was quickly scrambling forward upon him so that her hands could clutch his throat. Within her eyes, he could see that she was now running upon pure instinct. Hard as she may try however, the strength of many would not be capable of breaking through the shielding provided by his costume, let alone her alone. Dropping the escrima sticks, he grabbed hold of her hands and pulled them away from his throat with the expected, albeit supremely weak, resistance she held against him. Slowly, he made his way back onto his feet, his hands sliding upwards of her arms to plant themselves on her shoulders when he came to stand upright. There were signs of duress in her face; the gnashing of teeth, the crinkling of skin around her nose, the blood shot eyes. She had been forced down with nowhere to go and as such, Nightwing pulled away his left hand, twitched it so that the tether cord would bring back the attached escrima stick to hand, and prepared to hammer it across the left side of her face. He was all ready to go when an unexpected plea for mercy crossed and sparkled in his ears.
"Strop!" Fitz cried. The beaten thug reached out a humble hand towards the hero, all fingers distanced and inarticulate to one another.
This outburst certainly had an effect on the young hero; fear, he had encountered before and had long since learnt to use its presence to his advantage in combat, but the sincerity in that cry was something different, far off from the usual cries that street gangs such as the Ts employed.
"Please," Fitz concluded through heavy panting, his arm dropping lifelessly to his lap with a slap when its weight grew to be too much.
The desperation heard in Fitz's voice saw Nightwing's hand slip from Zapista's shoulder. "Kids," he uttered under his breath in confusion. Slowly popping up from behind the couch top were the two frightened kids, Audrey and Dylan, whom were pleasantly plain in their persons as opposed to the uniforms exclusively worn by the gang members. Audrey's face was clean of any paint and sported long strawberry red hair that had been tied into two tails that graced along the sides of her neck in clumps before circling down her backside. Her plain, short sleeved shirt matched her eyes: emerald green. Dylan was perhaps the closest in emulation to the gang members, in that he wore a thick grey jacket like theirs, but, as opposed to the stylized black vests, wore a handsomely fitting light blue shirt. His hair was short and fair, his eyes however, just as green as his sisters. They appeared to be in shock, the beats of their young hearts racing against one another with little to no hope for control, making the common, instinctual act of breathing difficult. "Does someone want to explain the kids to me?"
"They're my siblings. I'm the one responsible for them now since my old man dropped," Fitz groaned as he pressured his back against the couch, using its support to get up onto his feet. He placed a delicate hand upon Audrey's shoulder, shaking her out into a wakeful state before returning his attention to the hero. Proving unable to straighten his back all the way and finding it difficult to muster a lung full of air, he was in evident pain as he spoke, "I had nothing to feed them…" he placed his nearest hand upon Dylan's shoulder next, calming the boy down at a near instant, "we had nothing…but I wasn't going to let them starve, not me. That's why it's me in charge," he shook his head.
After spitting to a floor one foot ahead of where Nightwing stood, Zapista wiped her mouth and began the slow trudge to the television side of the room, mumbling crude expletives as she did so.
A quick flexing of his hands and the tether cords on his escrima stick began to rotate inwards, the sticks themselves shooting back and locking into their corresponding compartments at the speed of a fired bullet. "So you disregarded private property rights and broke into several apartments with your fellow deadbeats until you found something that could be swallowed."
"The well-off man, they've got all that they need. We ain't taking from those like us," Fitz was quick to argue in favour of a perceived collective soul, "all they've ever done is exploit us, leave us broken and homeless, hungry while they continue to stuff themselves in their happy homes. It's about time they gave us some shelter, some place safe from wack jobs-like the Jokerz…is it too hard to ask for a meal?"
"And what are you looking for? Sympathy? From me?" Nightwing scoffed.
"I told you fool, he's a friend of all these rich people, that's why he's here. He's their tool, a soldier armed with their weapons," Frog shouted with a hefty dose of scorn, instantly drawing Nightwing to look back to him. Too much surprise, the heavy set thug had managed to move his broken body away from the door and sit up his backside against the inner side of the door opposite the kitchenette.
"We were just looking for something to eat," Fitz claimed in his battered tone.
"You, you're the ones who caused this, what's going on in the city…and now you're looking some lee-way because you're hungry and scared? And you thought everyone else was just going to put up with it? Sympathy, especially now that you're a guardian of someone else than yourself?" Nightwing abruptly turned around to face Fitz, pressing towards him a menacing finger. "You want to know who's starving your brother and sister, look no further than the company you're keeping. All of you," he briefly looked to all the gang members he had ruthlessly beaten on, "you've all brought yourselves to this."
"This wasn't how it was supposed to turn out."
"There are decent people out there, working hard every day so that they can feed their families," Nightwing rammed up closely to the cowering Fitz, "good, honest people who are now starving because of your stupidity. Dregs like you just can't stand it…it sickens me to think you're the one responsible for your siblings. They look barely older than thirteen."
"This is all Batman's fault," Frog chimed in once more with distaste, "this wouldn't have happened if he didn't put away Tyler for good…we wouldn't be here now, out of your hair as they used to say," his blubbery lips caused him to mumble off his final words.
"Batman?" Nightwing cried in prompt sarcasm before returning to his despondent yet half-angelic character and the voice that rose above it, "don't you see what's going on?" he shrugged his shoulders, "what you dregs are doing? The violence, your stupidity, it's always escalating. You were a common street gang before this all started, a group of rebels with no other goal than thrills, but then you gave yourself away into this blind belief that you were superior to the other gangs like the Jokerz who wanted nothing more than what you wanted. You just had to compete with them. So then you involve yourself in petty thievery, then armed robbery, then organized crime, then drug trafficking, then stolen weapons trafficking, and now this…You're hurting yourselves, a slow senseless death of your own making. We have to overreact, but the people still suffer because it never ends. You dregs just can't help yourselves. It never ends and it just keeps getting worse." He took in a deep breath, "how long will it be before your brother and sister are out there slaughtering kids on the streets?"
"And what makes you so righteous?" Jake spat out.
Nightwing kept a straight face as he looked down to Jake, "this is my place, that's why." He began to stomp his way over to the battered, though unopened door Jake sat next to, "and I'm getting tired of it."
"What is that?" Zapista, with the most disturbed look on her face, pointed towards the entrance way where a pleasantly smiling, white furred creature in a copper coloured pilot's suit was standing. Ozyron, as Nightwing knew him to be, arched his head to a shoulder as his eyes widened in wonder.
Nightwing looked over to him, "that's a friend of mine…be nice now. He also needs a place to stay, thankfully though; he's not stealing food from those who really need it." He slammed his right hand into the broken lock box at the side of the door and frantically began to shake it around. Inevitably, the entirety of his hand managed to slide inward, albeit quite awkwardly, soon becoming fully engulfed by the mixed jagged piece of hammered metals and cumbersome amounts of electrically zapping cut wires, none of which had an adverse effect due to the protective layers of his costume.
"But what is he?" Zapista continued to question as she moved to the centre of the room. The disturbed look that had once dominated her face turned into a puzzled grin as she made the bold decision to approach the smallish alien, only to be beaten there by Fitz's young brother Dylan, whom pattered up on ahead with a quite a large dose of wonderment on his face. All the others, Frog, Jake, Fitz, the young girl Audrey; they were frozen in their positions, simply gawking at the presence of this strange invader.
"He's Ozyron of the planet Ozyron," Nightwing shook his hand out of the remnants of the lockbox in disgust, his attempt at dispelling the lock having failed. As this was, he promptly placed the full flat face of both his hands upon the face of the door, feeling them over the large, robust dents, "what did you people attack this door with?"
"A sledge hammer," Zapista commented with great zeal, "the other one broke open easy, but that one…it gave us too much trouble, more than it was probably worth anyway. Right?" She popped up an eyebrow, "there's not like a pantry in there or something?"
"No," Nightwing spat back, his patience understandably running thin on her intrigue. In order to get the door open, he planted a foot upon the largest dent he could locate on its face and pressed upon it with the strength of several sledgehammers as provided in ample doses by the technology of his suit. The pushing inward eventually revealed on his left hand side the door's edge, its thin, interior siding, which he proceeded to grip onto with both hands. Dropping his foot, he pulled away the door like it was cardboard before harmlessly tossing away to the spot that originally held the couch. He knew he had to be careful with the pressure he had applied, that's why he aimed so low; nevertheless, it appeared that his care was for a loss. "No!" he shouted, this time in disappointment over his ill discovery. Behind this door was essentially another door, a large, dark monolith like object less than a foot inward of the door's frame. The object was for the most part a pure shade of black, but as to what had caught the attention of the young hero were the straight edged, crimson red veins that symmetrically rode throughout its visible face, their multitude occasionally crossing amongst one another and forming standard hubcap sized circles that more or less lined up on top of one another down the centre of it. It was the lowest most three circles which had alarmed him so for they had been crushed, seemingly so by the blunt force trauma of a pounding sledgehammer as it had been described to him.
Nightwing fell into a deep pattern of heavy breaths, the kind that could only arise from sheer disbelief, as he stepped away from the large dark object. "Stupid," he groaned as he spontaneously lurched forward towards the monolith, leaning into a solid kick that completely destroyed the lowest most red circular cap. "Agh," he groaned once more in anguish, this time clenching both fists and hammering them up against it. Additional words of disappointment and disillusionment spewed from his mouth, one to many obviously being far outside his zone of comfort but reasonably fitting giving the situation; for the most part, however, what he said was inaudible for he never rose much higher than muttering. When his hammering fists had given their final blow, the top of his head slowly planted itself against the monolith in shame, his arms dropping and subsequently hanging lifelessly off to his sides.
'Hello,' Ozyron fell down to a knee as he greeted the small boy less than a step away from him. His head began to sway from side to side as he analyzed the bright, innocent eyes of the child, his smile ever so prominent to his snowball like face.
Dylan appeared to be alarmed at first for the method of greeting as espoused by the alien was not one he had expected. But with a reassuring nod, he understood the peace of Ozyron and humbly acknowledged him, "hello." He kindly reached a hand for Ozyron's face, gently touching the fur which laced his jaw, "you're not…from here, right? From earth?" He gingerly asked as the ticklish fur fell in between the scissor like shape of his fingers. "Yes, I understand you," Dylan blinked as he turned away for a brief moment, "I've always wanted to meet someone other…other than from here." He could not help but smile once he noticed that the pleasant alien enjoyed the free flowing movements of his hand along the curvature of his plush, furry cheek.
"What is that thing?" Zapista asked as she approached the young hero.
"It's was a shield generator," Nightwing calmly acknowledged. He raised his head up momentarily for a sigh and then it crash straight on back into the wall like object, "it's broken now."
"Whoa, what is this place?" Zapista continued her line of inquiry.
"Never mind that now," Nightwing's head suddenly lifted from the shield generator, "wait," he suddenly looked over to the solidity of the room's back wall and steadily marched towards it, "do you hear that?" he sharply turned to the clueless eyes of those whom had been paying him some attention, the most notable exceptions being Dylan and Ozyron whom had begun a seemingly one sided conversation.
"How is it that they're communicating," Fitz pointed towards his brother all while keeping a steady eye upon Nightwing, "what's going on there? Why can't I hear what that thing is saying?"
"He's a telepathic, but forget that for right now," Nightwing shook out an open hand to Fitz, a symbolic gesture meaning that his concerns were unfounded, "just listen to that. Can you hear it?"
"Hear what?" Jake grunted as he rose to his feet, spare hand still clutching the bulb at the top of his head.
"Sorry, yeah, my suit's sensors are more acute than the standard human feeds," Nightwing slammed his hands to his head from which they proceeded to pull downwards so that his chin was just barely scraping his chest, "motor bike tire scrapes, broken glass…heinous laughter…" he suddenly popped right back up, a small hop ensuing in excitement just before his face turned terribly sour with the realization of just what it was he was hearing….
Fitz took in a deep, disgruntled breath, one with quite the menacing touch, "Jokerz."
The large grouping of silent, cold coloured townhouse complexes had recently been invaded by five colourful, however garishly dressed, group of characters whose laugh alone caused people to flee into their homes or to the bypassing alleyways to avoid whatever carnage they may bring with every step. They were well known in these parts, the Jokerz, preying on whomever dare remain on the scene at the time of their arrival, be it the weakest of the weak, the strongest of the strong, and whoever lay in between; their strength was in numbers and an unhinged conception of morals. At first, they had been coasting along the clean asphalt of the in-way streets surrounding the townhouse complexes on their robust motorcycle units, but when they encountered a set of tightly spaced bollards, stomach high cylindrical steel flavoured pillars enfranchised in the ground, laid out in a straight line along the gaping entrance way into an interior walkway, they parked their bikes just outside the barrier and departed on foot. They entered this once pleasant, quiet abode with either a menacing grin or uncouth laughter; it was evidently clear that they had a destination in mind, a place where they had to be.
To either side of them was the revisionist classic architecture that had long since come to dominate the city; plastic overlays overtop of steel beams and mixed concrete foundations. These six to seven stories high townhouses were notorious for their perfect brick like faces, rectangular block hard plastic overlays with just the right amount of space in between them to be seen as indistinguishable from one another. Even the floor which separated them was noted for such a form, its intricate design consisting of sandstone coloured blocks that turned on one another in a twister like format, forming large spiralling circles up the entire strip of walking pass. It was all inhumanely perfect, and yet something was wrong. Each window was dark, dimmed by their built in electronic devices. Each Door was locked, secured by a laser lined finish. Only the approaching gang of thugs and bandits in the middle hours of the day could be blamed for such occurrences and yet, for them, the Jokerz, this it was the perfect scenery, the perfect neighbourhood, for their rambunctious activities, and thus it fell under their territory claims.
Trudging his way several strides ahead of everyone else was the largest, most muscle bound character of the encroaching gang. His costume consisted of a colour divided long sleeved shirt, one side devoted to the colour red, the other green. The full view of his shirt however was supplanted by black body suit that covered both legs and just about the entirety of his torso, missing out on the circular top below his chin where it was plainly clear that the red and green fabric of his shirt underneath was cleanly cut down the centre. The full of his face, much like that of a T gang member, was painted over in a chalk white but rather than the letter to identify his allegiance, he had painted on two black triangles, one to each eye. His cheeks were large and bubbly just as his chin was; their bulging presence growing with the increasing openness of his tooth filled smile. The most striking feature of his costume was perhaps the hat, which modelled itself after a court jester's with two long tails, one red the other green, just as it was with his shirt.
There were two other boys in this grouping of Jokerz, both nearly matching to one another in stature but nonetheless dressed in their own unique garish, clown fitting outfits. One of these boys was particularly noteworthy for his long running slick deep green hair that flowed over cleanly shaved sides, the face paint he wore was certainly fitting, with a poorly applied chalk white base and chiselled clean green circles, one covering the fullness of his lips, and one surrounding each eye. His smile was cartoonish but his teeth were stained yellow and engrossed in a thick layer of saliva. He wore a pitch black suit like that of his leading colleague but wore overtop a bright, lime green jacket that was certainly more than three times his fitting size and was notable for a cumbersome amount of pockets. The other boy was almost an inversion of the aforementioned, with red as his dominant colour. With the exception of face busting out through a decently sized circle, his head was covered in a full crimson red cowl that connected seamlessly with the body suit that traversed all the way down to his knees before mixing with horizontal lines of white that turned out rather candy cane like in fruition. His face paint lacked the traditional base layer of white, opting instead for the simplicity of two rosy red circles on the bubble of his cheek bones and a deep purple circling around the interior of each eye. The immensely dark jacket he wore was long, nearly reaching his shins, and despite the multitude of straps that ran down his front side, not a single one was fastened, thereby leaving metal lockboxes roaming free, clanging into one another with low pitched dings as he walked.
The other two of this odd ensemble were two girls whose collective looks passed, with great reason, as twins. Their dark, raven coloured hair was tied up into a bun that sat nicely at the back of their respective heads, while their long fabric, though only thigh high reaching, dresses were coloured the most unusual bright pink with the oddest shades of yellow for trimming. Their faces were pristinely symmetrical, with large bright blue eyes and a razor point chin. Of what could be said to separate them was the face paint they wore; over the standard white cover up, one had red triangle surrounding her eyes, the other, squares.
It wasn't long before the rowdy group of clowns encountered the exiting Ts from their supposed basement dwelling, tapping up the short stepped, tiled stairwell to the swirling patterned brick floor they waited upon. Fitz was the first to exit, followed quickly by their large gun, Frog, then Jake and Zapista rounding out the last. When they had all gotten on level with their rivals, they slowly spaced out to match them, their eyes swiftly caught in the huff of scorn when they locked onto one another. With the clouds blotting the sky in darkness, this was a true standoff, but the Ts, as it happened to be, were short a member, a fact they were very well aware of.
"Heard there was a hotspot here that you and your buddies were exploiting. You're in Jokerz territory," the large, muscled leader stepped towards to Fitz, stopping when they were within arm's reach at which point he puffed out his chest and crossed his arms. His voice was like a coarse whisper that had its decibel level turned up past eleven, "do you know what that means for you and your pals?" He raised a menacing finger and pointed towards Fitz's chest, "do you?" he smirked.
"After a good day of tumbling with the wise guys of Gotham, the Jokerz always break through on their protection of the local neighbourhood," the slick green haired Jokerz member chimed in with his terribly off pitched voice. He tossed his hands out far to his sides, his open palms just a tad bit higher than the level of his head, "we always make good, always, always, always, always," he took several steps forward to get to his brutish leader's side before his arms dropped back to their appropriate sides with a shrug and a slap.
At that moment, Nightwing, with his blue, triangular pointed wings retracted beneath his arms, rocketed from the basement dwelling hole, bypassing the stairwell by turning on a sharp curve up into the sky. Needless to say, the show he put on, in addition to the twirls of cougher's grey smoke left in his wake, caught the attention the Jokerz. Fearful of what time they possessed for brawling while lost in the young hero's image, they were quick to make a poor deduction of his identity.
"Batman!" the Jokerz leader shouted, his following crew just about ready to scatter at the mere mention of the name, but when the young hero made a clean landing just ahead of Fitz - his arms spread out wide, his legs locked together to the base of his feet - their identification of him was appropriately reassessed.
"That ain't Batman," the square eyed girl scream with a finger pointed upon him.
"That's batboy," her sister stepped in, an insinuating finger following suit.
"Batboy?" Nightwing scoffed as he retracted his wings, "do you have any idea how that makes me feel?"
"Could it feel any worse than the pummelling of my fists?" Now, the leader of this Jokerz grouping was certainly taller than much more robust in stature than Nightwing, but to say this fight was to be in his favour would be to make a grave misjudgement. When the first punch flew the hero's way, he nimbly dodged his head around by moving to its outside before springing into a leap that took his soon to be crunched up, shin grabbing body to his foe's head level. He swiftly moved his outside hand across his body towards the thug's shoulder, planting it there and utilizing it as a pivoting point to bring the full of his body around to the thug's backside, knocking into one another back-to-back. In the process of doing so, he fired off the tethered escrima stick from the compartment around the forearm backwards extension of his shoulder planted hand, the speed at which he moved allowing for his other hand to grab hold of the stick just as it past the deranged clown's broad shoulder span. As a result, the Jokerz leader found his neck to be trapped behind a near unbreakable cord. Landing both feet solidly to the ground, Nightwing simply flipped the brute over his own back to the ground, forcing him onto his stomach. At the conclusion of this unfathomably short scuffle, he rammed his knee into his downed foe's spine as he tossed the stick over to his other hand, thereby fulfilling the loop around the gang member's neck.
The startled Jokerz were all but ready to move in when Nightwing clenched tighter on the cord, furthering the struggle of their leader to a clean rush of air, "Stand down," the hero commanded, "or I'll snap him!"
"The Bat don't kill," the leader mustered strength to claim in his already breaking voice, "kick his head in!"
"I'm not Batman," Nightwing remained stern.
"Bunch of wimps need a Batty to protect them," the slick green haired Jokerz member giggled as he pulled out a switch blade from one of the multitude of pockets on his jacket and hastily approached his pinned leader.
"Are you guys hungry?" Nightwing questioned, the understanding of which seemingly reaching the oncoming gang member whom stumbled into a stop, his eyes wide with strange affection for the black clad figure. He promptly let his grip loosen as he slowly rose back to full standing, allowing more cord to flow as was needed. "Anyone?" he looked across the line of Jokerz, "yeah, you," he signalled out the knife wielding joker whose smile had conspicuously disappeared, "is that why you're here now? Because you're hungry? That's why they're here," he waved a hand out over the line of Ts.
"And you're protecting them? The Ts?" the Jokerz leader continued his distaste from the ground though, in feeling the grip lessen around his throat, attempted to get his chest up from the hard ground so that he could speak more properly, "after what they've done? They should be out here and suffering…they're here, in our place, taking our food."
"You're food?" Nightwing stomped his foot down on the leader's back at the exact moment he decided to rise up on the strength of his hands, "how many people did you terrorize today? How many stores did you vandalize so that you could get what you thought rightfully belonged to you?" his hand abruptly let go of the stick, a quick flex and like a bullet, it recoiled back into its forearm encompassing compartment, "owned by you?" he rhetorically questioned, "you're no different from them. Just another war over something that could have been easily shared." He looked over the line of Jokerz once more, "there's plenty of supply inside, it's all mine, but I'll give it to you," he looked over his shoulder, "to the both of you. For once, drop what you're always trying to do to one another and just think, at least do so with your stomachs before you start fighting."
"I hate the Ts," the green haired boy exclaimed under a cold breath.
"Well then you don't have to have anything," Nightwing snapped back, "stay out here and starve. No one gets in there unless their willing to put aside the competition, give it a rest. I don't care, do whatever you have to do to make it work without resorting to stupidity or I'll be back around to cut off the tap and play the drums on your heads."
"You're not staying?" Fitz rushed over to Nightwing, clutching his shoulder with a concerned hand and pulled him inwards of himself to greet him face to face.
"I really don't have time to argue all the semantics," Nightwing sniffed as he caught eye with the open eyed, fuzzy faced Ozyron whom had stepped his way out of the basement dwelling and arched his head in intrigue of the battle lines drawn between gangs and the boy who stood between them, "I've got something else I've promised myself to before this day's over…."
"There's another safe house that possesses a psychic dampening shield. If I drive at top speed and increase the Blue Bird's rate of flow between energy capacitors, we could be there in under a hour, fifty minutes maybe, barring that the ship doesn't explode from gross energy overflow," Nightwing spearheaded his hands through the opening of the piloting handles from which point he clutched them down hard into his palms, the connecting cylinder piece of the handle becoming firmly entrenched in the first joint of his attaching fingers. His voice had become fierce, the results of which being sharp changes tempo and fits of displaced anger. The Blue Bird swiftly rose from the ground under his given command, taking to the skies like a scorching bullet, the air in its wake left blurred in an exorbitant amount of heat.
'Before we are to reach the location you have set, I feel it necessary to state that what I have just witnessed of you…it was truly admirable,' Ozyron applauded. The furry white haired alien had once again taken his seat in the passenger position of the Blue Bird, acting as he always was: humble.
"Really?" Nightwing popped up a brow, evidently stunned by the compliment given.
'Most definitely,' Ozyron nodded in approval, 'you have calmed the storm between two warring people. Your time was short among them and thus you choose to appeal to the base of their nature, from which you utilized as a way to teach an enlightening moral. What prospects for the future they must all now face. What you have done, it was so right and …' he paused, dumfounded for a word but inevitably came to something encompassing, 'heroic.'
"Basest of natures?" Nightwing hummed, "isn't that some old proverb, like food first, morals later? I don't think I've taught them anything at all, nothing that will stick anyway. I just reminded them of their hunger, how much control it has over us."
'Food, then morals…' Ozyron pawed his face with a furry palm, mindfully contemplating the combination of words, 'I must wonder…what morals have you been taught by Donna Troy when she, as you say, abandoned you? So young, did you not go hungry?'
"Yeah," Nightwing responded under his breath.
'With but one stomach to your body, I must further wonder how long it was you went before you realized she was not intending to return to you, when you're hunger was fully realized?'
"Three days," Nightwing bowed his head for a moment, "and I didn't realize it…someone had to remind me. I've never forgotten that, no," he paused for but a few flittering seconds, "I was so hungry…never again," he nodded profusely, "I was going to make sure of that."
'Perhaps, these Ts and these Jokerz will be reminded of your brief appearance among them every time they feel the pains of hunger.'
Nightwing shook his head, "you don't know them like I do, haven't experienced them like I have. They'll be at each other's throats now that I've gone."
'You should not sell yourself so short, son of Troy'
"Son of…?" Nightwing giggled uncomfortably, "is that what you're going to be calling me now?"
'Even the gods hunger and fight amongst one another for whatever they can gasp,' Ozyron kindly related, ignoring the slight interruption.
"Yeah, well, they're the ones judging themselves, so, they should do fine when the dusts settles. They're immortal, they'll just move on to the next thing and fight over that," Nightwing sniffed as he clenched his teeth down, "here though, this mortal plain as the gods are sure to call it, well, we're very much like them as far as the endless fighting goes but you, well, we…we'll actually die. So, I guess, why bother trying to be an arbiter for peace? I have a life, right? One that's only going to exist for so long. I'm tired of wasting it on a goal that's impossible to fulfil without destroying everything and maybe that's not such a bad idea right now."
'I fear that my understanding of what you have said is flawed by my feelings. Could you explain more fully?' Ozyron questioned.
"Well, since I've already explained twice today, why not really nail down today's theme once and for all so that everyone gets it," Nightwing turned to sarcastic drawl before becoming harsh in his detailing, "I'm quitting Ozyron. I'm not doing this anymore. You're my last mission. Once I've found a way to save you, and I will, then Nightwing is finished. And don't go telling me that some kind of event will come along to change my mind because there's something stopping it, namely me…This is why I have to see Donna. She has the answers I need to learn about myself, to define myself outside of this world you just saw. She knows who I am, where I come from, what this place is, what I'm doing here, and I'll find her and force her to answer if I have to; I just have too," he gulped, "somehow."
'This is most troubling then. I must apologize then for the burden you must carry,' Ozyron stated rather erratically, different but still all the same.
"Apologize for carrying?" Nightwing squinted in befuddlement, "what do you mean? Like, saving you?"
'I really do appreciate your decision to do all that you can to salvage my existence,' Ozyron bowed his head.
Nightwing let out a relieving breath, "don't mention it. It's nice to know that my last mission will actually mean something to someone," he smirked. "In the meantime, could you tell me about the Yorg? I need some more facts before we get embroiled in it; you know what I'm saying? Ozyron?"
A period of silence ensued for just under half a minute, at the end of which, Ozyron closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, holding in the massive inflow of air for several seconds before responding, 'the Yorg…' his eyes opened as the deep breath was release, the smile soon returning to his face, 'it is upon us.'
"What?" No sooner had Nightwing exclaimed his surprise over Ozyron's words, he was exclaiming surprise for another reason completely: a pristine sheet of black had appeared overhead; moving, growing, spreading out its shroud of darkness on a collision course with the Blue Bird. It had no detail, no mixture of any individual particles or obscure shapes that would form a body; it simply was what it was: a shadow. He couldn't keep his eyes off it. His jaw dropped without any command given it. "That's alright. Alright," he nodded his head stiffly, "what if we were able to duplicate the same energy shock that you're craft emitted to stun it…I could fry the Blue Bird, heck, it's probably got better safety procedures than you're ship, we can actually eject before crashing," returning to proper order in light of a plausible idea, he sniffed once and refocused on the navigation screen, "we'd have to jettison at the right moment though otherwise we'll become some powerful electrical conductors if we survive." He pulled up hard on the piloting handles, the wing tips of the Blue Bird promptly taking their aim lower on a fast, yet solid, descent. "I mean what was the charge power of your ship? How much do I need to stun it?"
'On Earth? Approximately ninety-four exajoules,' Ozyron responded.
"Ninety-four, ninety-four," the young hero mumbled in a panic, "what's that? Ten, twelve nuclear power plants running at full strength?" He shuddered. Turning from screen to screen on his dashboard, he was made distraught when it was determined he would be unable to find anything worthwhile from within and outside his ship to support his plan, and as such, panting and stress tremors that shook all about and through his limbs overwhelmed him, "I can find that, they've got a plant in Jerhold. It's an hour and half from here. Maybe we can cause a meltdown or something. Heck, you know what? I bet they have better safety procedures than my ship when it spontaneously explodes from gross over consumption of power."
'My time draws near," Ozyron took in another deep breath.
"Please," Nightwing gulped, "just shut up."
The speed at which the Blue Bird moved was simply not enough. The minutes which Nightwing thought he had gained by lowering altitude shrivelled into seconds with the clean sheet of black that followed them seemingly teleporting directly above after just one miniscule blink of his eyes. The dark creature's large folds stretched outwards of the sky and subsequently blotted out all that was once so clearly seen through the thick blue tint of the cumbersome windshield. Throughout this confinement, the engulfment of the smallish Blue Bird vehicle, there were no outlandish shakes, nothing that rocked the craft off its directive course or really anything that would signify the presence of the Yorg save for its visual; what it had done was impeccably smooth, and as such, that much more frightening to the vehicle's pilot.
"I'm going to cycle up the charge into the energy plate covering the windshield," Nightwing hastily pulled his hands out from the piloting handles and set to work on the various touch screens enfranchised in the dashboard, throwing down bars with a slide and pressing brightly lit keys. "Hopefully, ejecting it will give us some sort of gap to escape through, if not," he coughed, "we'll probably burn within the ship…thankfully, we'll be dead before it probably explodes. Heh, that's a relieving thought, isn't it?" he suddenly, and quite violently, shook his head with the stress tremors and fear leaving him at an instance, "no!" he shouted as he suddenly became stern, "we're going to make it. No one dies today." His hands dropped from their position on the screens, their work seemingly done, "are you ready," he turned chin to shoulder, catching eye with that pleasant smiling, white haired face of Ozyron, "hold on," he reached a hand out and with one last bow of his head, Ozyron grabbed hold of the extended limb with both of his snowman like hands. "Emergency windshield discharge!" he cried and almost to the word, the thick blue glass plate broke off like it had been chewed and churned in a powerful tornado, on the plus side, however, in its wake, a short distance, jagged cut tunnel was formed through the impossibly dense darkness, all the way up to the uniform grey clouds that covered the world in its warmth. This interior of the pure black beast was so impossibly silent, adding just that bit more to its frightening image, "come on," he beckoned his comrade to follow suit with him as he rose to his feet, placing his strongest foot forward on the craft's outer railing from which point he planned to jump. He was startled however when he was unable to pull his body all the way up to strength, the tether of Ozyron keeping his back from straightening. "What's wrong? We're running out of time," he turned back.
Ozyron gently pulled the young hero down towards him with his smile becoming ever so weak, 'I'm so sorry, Troy.' And with that seeming finality, his face turned to a scowl and he immediately let go of the boy's arm only to return with fists, the right of which clipped Nightwing in the chin sending him sailing into the pathway the ejection of the Blue Bird's windshield had formed.
All he wanted to do was scream as he fell away from reaching out to Ozyron, but within the stomach of the Yorg, where silence eclipsed all, his vocal cords were unnaturally stiffened. Venturing into the tunnel legs first, the last thing he saw before the darkness took over was Ozyron's smiling face, the timid, docile creature returning to the comfort of his seat completely relaxed. Clearing the darkness, his blue wings pulled out from beneath his arms, immediately getting caught up in the cold air of the low rise sky, leaving him afloat just above several dark tar roof tops of the surrounding townhouse buildings. From up here, the sudden rush of air was unbearable, the sound it made biting his ears with such ferocity that his other senses were left dazed all except, it would seem, his vision which was transfixed upon the enveloping of the Blue Bird by the full darkness that was the Yorg. Despite the focus he kept, the pressure of his descent caused him to blink quite sporadically, taking away large gaps of the transition of the fused Yorg and Blue Bird as it descended to the ground, the most significant of which being its degradation, large chunks of its pristine self-turning into gunk and other blobs of dark slime that dissipated into air before they reached him. It wasn't long before the Yorg was gone, its death ringing off without so much as a shriek. All that remained was the tired husk of the Blue Bird, its named colour having dimmed into a deep, distasteful grey but all else left in generally good condition. Unfortunate as it came to be, there were less than three stories before the ship would connect with the ground, its aim in doing so taking a slight swivel to the side so that one of its wing was the first to smash against the clean asphalt of an in-way walking path, a wide alleyway, that divided two adjacent townhouses with the all too familiar cold coloured, brick lined features.
The crash and subsequent wreckage were similar in their destruction to the ill fortunes of Ozyron spacefaring craft albeit with greater damage to the vehicle itself and certainly a lot less steam and smoke permeating the alleyway as a result, indeed, barely any to mention of as emanating from the Blue Bird itself. Following the sound of crunching metal, snapping support wires, crumbling cement blocks, and various other disturbing violations of the ear, the core of the craft, its oval shaped cockpit, came to rest against a solid, back wall of yet a third townhouse building which ran horizontally across to the parallel two, just as had been seen before. Its wings had been snapped off, one of which having hit the resting wall first, the occurrence of which it broke off, and slipped underneath, resulting in the central piece of the vehicle leaning down on it at an angle. The other wing lay less than a foot away, a couple of the thick black wires having yet to be severed. As was to be expected, the scrapes suffered by the plastic brick overlay of the townhouse were superficial. Additionally, to great fortune, not a single civilian was present at the incident of the crash.
"Come on Ozyron, why would you do this to me?" Nightwing swung in softly towards the broken craft, eager to get to the ground but forced to glide in slowly at the behest of the dwindling current of air caught in his wings, "Why?" his voice was still stiff making each word a battle, nonetheless, he continued to mutter to himself. "Don't you know what I'm going through? Ozyron…." At the moment he landed, the wings retracted into their thin compartments beneath his arms and he was scurrying off to get to the exposed cockpit where the lifeless Ozyron sat in the back, passenger seat, his wide, snow white hair ridden face leaned back on an arch towards one shoulder. He stepped up onto the collapsed wing whose inner side had fallen upon the flat of the ground and leaped up to the cockpit in a single bound. "Well, don't you?" the crash had somehow managed to jostle free the interior softener ring of the cockpit that usually kept the windshield in position and sealed, its break immediately being attributed to the emergency ejection of the windshield. It was thick and somewhat heavy but not terribly strong; the young hero ripped it away like it was paper. "Ozyron?" he was soon engrossed in deep, shuddering breaths as he came to see what he thought to be the lost form of a friend he had made just over an hour ago. He was filled with anger, but not the kind that succeeded into rage, "Ozyron?" he slipped his hands beneath the docile creature's head, cradling it into the inner side of his elbow joint.
Ozyron's eyes began to open slowly before closing once again, but in time, they finally found the strength to open and stay so. 'I am so terribly sorry, Troy…" his telepathic prompts were less hammer like than they were before, weakly touching, but at the very least, still understandable. He raised his chin to catch eye with Nightwing once he came to respect the strength of the boy's arm beneath him.
"No, no, no, don't be," Nightwing shook his head, dropping down to a knee so that he could get an even better hold. When Ozyron's eyes shut again, the vice that was his elbow joint strengthened, "come on Ozyron, stay with me," he gulped, shaking his head a little till consciousness was notified with the reopening, "I can get some help…I'll contact proxy right now, she'll…she'll know someone who can help you," he stammered through, "just stay with me, please."
'My time,' Ozyron took in a deep breath, 'it is almost over. I can feel my essence leaving me now….'
"No, no," Nightwing reasserted his negative opinion on the matter, "you'll be fine, fight it and hold on to yourself. Come on, believe….come on," he shook the dying alien's head a little more ferociously, "no one dies on me, not again, not like this. This was going to be it, my last mission. It was going to mean something. OK?"
'The Yorg is no more, my essence must be let go….' It became evident that Ozyron was trying to muster up his usual smile, but the pain he so felt prevented his mouth from moving effectively thereby resulting in the strangest of scribbles scrawled along the lower half of his face, 'but there is a message I am still honour bound to give….'
"Forget the message!" Nightwing shouted. "Alright, I've got help coming…just hold on." He suddenly became quite eager in his concern, "is there anything that I can do for you? Just anything?" though only a short period of uncomfortable silence had passed, for him, it felt like eons; no answer would have satisfied him. Finally, he snapped, "tell me!"
'I shall, but there is so much you do not know, so young and uneducated in the matters of gods as Donna is,' Ozyron, showing tremendous signs of a weakening state, shifted himself back and upwards against the back rest of his seat so that his head may rest upon the neck rest, regardless, Nightwing's tight fitting arm remained as did the focus of his eyes upon him, 'though it is blasphemous of me to declare them wrong, the elders of my people…they thought it to be Donna Troy whom was feared, for it was the name given. Troy of Earth, a Titan of Myth…."
"Titan of Myth? I've heard someone say that line to me before [NW#9]," Nightwing revealed in haste as his curiosity piqued despite the situation that lay before him, "what does it mean?"
'You must know, perhaps from her you should learn, but from me, my time is short and a message still has to be given. It is him, the god who slayed his father, he is coming for this world first….'
"Ozyron," Nightwing shook his head, "what are you muttering about?"
Ozyron turned away from Nightwing with a slow, awkward lash of his neck so that he could look up to the heavens with wide open wonder, 'he ruled with his brothers and sisters, the Titans. But when his own children, whom had been ceded rule of your planet, rose against them, they lost and were imprisoned in stone, save for him. He was sentenced to wander forever in the desert of lost souls.' Ozyron suddenly planted the flat of his hand to Nightwing's chest as he returned the sight of his large, small dotted eyes, 'his siblings have escaped their prisons from time to time and Donna Troy and her allies have been there to meet them in battle, defeating them on all occasions. But she has never faced him it had never been recorded by the elders till now. He has grown tired of his wandering and he has returned to reclaim his domain. This I have come to warn."
"Who is he?" Nightwing grunted, understandably puzzled by the large dump of information.
'I have seen much of you in this brief time. You have tempered the hunger of a divided people just as the elders foretold Troy to do for the subjects of a divided pantheon.' He knelt his head in shame, 'This decision of mine is brash and runs against all which I hold dear, but at this moment it feels…right. They are never wrong, but on this matter of such importance, I do believe now that that the message the elders conjured was not for Donna,' Ozyron's eyes widened as he stared into the very core of Nightwing, 'but rather for you, the son of Troy.'
"What?" Nightwing fell back.
'You must promise me, son of Troy, that when the time is right, you will say it…' too much surprise, the mortally wounded alien showed great strength when his grip around his chest tightened, each puffy appendage working their way into the outer fabric layer.
With a full fingered grasp of Nightwing's costume and with every ounce of strength available, Ozyron pulled the young hero down towards himself. There was no reluctance on the part of Nightwing, no counter argument against the sharp movement forced upon him. When the strength of the pull had come to pass, Nightwing's ear was above the alien's mouth who now spoke for the first time in a gruff whisper, a voice so filled with sorrow but as such, incredibly meaningful, "No." And with that single word spoken, his hand dropped from the hero's chest and his eyes closed for the last time. Soon, all that could be heard was the crinkling pops of hot metal as it cooled down. In that moment, Nightwing realized Ozyron to be no more.
"Todd?" a familiar voice crying his name throttled his unconscious mind free of the haunting image that lay before him. It was Cassie, the base of her usual sweetness buried somewhere at the lasting sound of his name for it was covered with something quite unbearable opposite: dread. "Nightwing?" the depressing tone the voice contained became ever more so strained and noticeable as it became apparent that she was hovering slightly above him, her long, curvaceous shadow delicately falling upon the snow white fur of Ozyron, turning him brown like the slush usually found at the side of road following rain on an otherwise complete winter day. "What happened here?" she questioned. She was evidently aware of what had been lost here but that, as it was soon to be revealed, was not the reason for which she sounded the way she did. In a bout of curiosity, he turned about face, letting his legs fully stretch down the side of his crumpled craft before looking up to his designated caretaker, the first thing he noticed being the redness that engrossed her eye sockets and the pockets of warm moisture that ran along the smooth lower curves of her beautiful, crystal blue eyes that glistened in spite of the dark, cloudy sky. In contrast however, her clean blond, often curled and closely cut hair was a mess, unkempt so to speak, and in absence of its usual bright splendor. She had to have been crying for some time and had clearly not taken much care in how she looked. "Todd?" she gulped. Her voice was rather brittle and emotionless, "I've been looking for you everywhere…your friend," she shied away from him for a second, "Wayne…he said you had turned off your vehicles communication, but they were still able to track you."
In addition to the features of sadness represented in Cassie's face at this moment, another peculiar aspect was the clothes she wore, that being her ruby red costume she was known to wear when flying about as she was doing now. It was a full body suit, sleeveless with thin, shoulder straddling straps. Around her waist was a silver belt, one that appeared seamless and perhaps even solid. Her boots were shin high and a black shade that faired admirably close to a deep brown. The most crucial part of her costume was perhaps her emblem; like that of Wonder Woman herself, a gold coloured falcon with the stylized multiple 'Ws' was fitted to her chest. She simply hovered there, two feet above the Blue Bird's highest point, looking down upon Nightwing whom simply returned to her a blank stare, a gesture she took to mean that he was driven speechless, and given what she was seeing below her, it was not difficult to deduce why.
"It's Donna," she began once more with a concluding gulp stronger than the lost. She continued to fight her fear of breaking down in front of him for she knew this information must be passed at once, that despite the obvious emotional pain he carried at the moment over this docile white haired creature, he just had to know, "she's dying."