Out of Time, Out of Place
He did not know where he was. This was incredibly troubling to him for a number of reasons, first among them was the fact that he knew where he was not, specifically Wayne Manor. While he had seen and been part of a number of strange occurrences and experiences during his life, suddenly finding oneself to be in one place when you should be in another was always disconcerting and irritating to him. Similar situations had arisen in the past and none of them ever resulted in anything resembling a pleasant experience by the time everything was said and done. It was this sudden dislocation, added to the strange disorientation that he felt, that immediately put him on his guard, ready for an attack from any quarter. The extremely poor lighting only increased the feeling of unease. Almost everything around him was complete darkness, so thick he could only perceive the faintest outline of his had as he held it out before him. He opened and closed each of his hands, exercising each of his arms and legs. They were still functioning properly – better than they had for some time. Immediately his mind logged this as unusual, since body parts did not simply 'get better' overnight, especially for someone like him. He knelt down to touch the ground beneath him. It was composed of damp soil, mixed in with some small rocks. He stood back up. Something had happened to him, and it was likely that someone was toying with him. He decided it would be best to find a place the enemy would not know him to be and Bruce started walking in the direction of the one light source. Probably a trap, but better to confront it in a place where he could see what was around him.
Each step was taken very carefully in order to limit the possibility that he might step on something he would regret. Numerous mental notes were made concerning the feel of the ground beneath him. The coolness of it was not an unpleasant experience in and of itself, but it made him wish for a sturdy pair of boots. Whoever had dumped him here made sure to leave him as vulnerable as possible, with only the clothes on his back. The echo caused by his footsteps suggested that he was in a large expanse, likely the kind of place you could lose yourself in for days without a map or guide of some kind. Had he some of his equipment, he would have been tempted to remain there, find some obscure nook, and then wait for his opponent to come after him. However, he did not have any of his equipment – he did not even have shoes – so a change in scenery was necessary.
A gentle breeze whisked across his face the closer he got to the source of the light. The air was filled with the cool, dank smell of the cave, telling him little about what might be waiting for him on the other side. He resolved to come back here as soon as possible and perform an exhaustive sweep of the area. There were questions he wanted answers to, and this place was his starting point. But that was for later. His first task was to procure clothing and information about the immediate vicinity. Foot by foot, step by step, he came closer to the source of the light, gradually brightening the world around him. He fought the urge to increase his pace, since barging out into the middle of an unknown area could be a fatal mistake. Stealth was something he knew the value of and the only way to keep it was by remaining calm and steady in his movements.
It was when he began closing in on the opening that he heard the footsteps. Heavy, but not trying to be. Coming from behind him, as well. Turning around to look would be useless and it would alert his pursuers to his awareness of them. Surprise was the only thing in his favor at the moment, so he kept walking and gave no hint of the plans forming in his head. Suddenly, he stopped when he was only an arms length from the exit, with nothing blocking his path.
One of the men following saw this as an opportunity and sprinted towards his target, ready to tackle Bruce to the ground. Seconds before his hands would have made contact; Bruce sidestepped the lunge and swept his left leg towards his opponent's feet, causing the man to fall face first into the ground. He tried to get himself up and wipe the dirt from his helmet, but Bruce needed only seconds to grab the man's arm, twist it, and deliver a swift kick to the man's head. His partner, having decided that getting into a fight might not be the best idea, loaded, cocked and aimed a small gun at Bruce. These actions did not go unheard and by the time the man's finger was on the trigger, Bruce had lifted the other one up and used him as a shield, letting the body armor absorb the stun rounds.
After an audible 'click', Bruce dropped his shield and charged the shooter before he could reload. A swift roundhouse kick knocked the weapon into the darkness, followed by a punch that connected with the armored figure square in the face. Momentarily stunned, the attacker staggered back a few steps as he tried to stop the ringing in his head. He might have done so if Bruce had not chosen to press his attack as brutally as possible, delivering a number of kicks and punches to every sensitive point on the body. Still standing, the attacker managed to throw a single punch, which was easily avoided and allowed Bruce the chance to grab the man's arm and hit it with enough force to break it, despite the body armor. Surprisingly, there was no shout of pain accompanying the action, though the man gave clear indication that he felt it by dropping to his knees and nursing the injury. Bruce grabbed hold of his chest and started asking questions.
"Who are you? Why were you following me?" He barked in one of his more threatening growls. The other man did not respond, so Bruce began to squeeze the broken arm.
"This can be easy or painful, it's your choice." Still nothing.
As Bruce went to work on his captive, the other one got up and carefully, quietly, crept over to the other two. He took out a baton, raised it up…
…and immediately dropped it after Bruce grabbed hold of him, spun him around, and exposed his helmeted face to the bright light streaming in. For lenses meant to function in extreme darkness, the effect was blinding and the man fell to his knees and tore his helmet off.
"I'm getting impatient. Tell me what you know. Now." Bruce growled. As his vision cleared, the man looked up, but found that Bruce's face was obscured by shadows as a result of keeping his back to the incoming light. He was unable to tell that Bruce had kept his eyes shut during the entire fight.
"Who. Are. You?" Bruce demanded, grabbing the man.
His opponent's face was akin to a bare skull with pale skin, a lack of a nose, sunken cheeks and bloodshot eyes. Covering his mouth was a breather unit that emitted a strange gas. Bruce dropped the man instantly. After a few seconds he rolled him over to discover that the man's face was now completely blank, his eyes glazed over. A quick check revealed that he still had a pulse, but his mind was gone. Bruce dragged the other man into the light and took off the helmet to find a similar case. Whoever sent them did not want to take the chance that they might give up any information. Now, Bruce had to decide what to do with them. Leaving them where they were seemed the most prudent option, but before he could start looking for something to bind them, a sickly green glow surrounded the two. Barely a second later both of the assailants had vanished.
Bruce cursed his sloppiness. The first thing he should have done was check them for some kind of identification. Now, his only leads had just disappeared and left him back at square one. Whoever his opponent was, he or she knew the value of preparation. They were technologically adept as well, since transporters were not easy access technology, despite frequent Justice League usage. It was possible he was being observed at that moment. None of this shortened the list of suspects. If anything, it forced him to include the names of a few people who are presumed deceased. Deciding that he was wasting time by standing there, Bruce walked over to the cave's opening and got his first good look at the world outside.
It did not look like the most sanitary place. Garbage and rubble were strewn everywhere, so much that every street in eyesight was at least partially blocked. Though there was enough light to see by, it was not from the sun. Instead of a sky there was a ceiling with lights built into it, along with a number of lamp poles dotted here and there. Before him was an intersection, big enough to fit a few houses in, that connected to a number of tunnels leading to unknown destinations. Judging from what appeared to be support pylons, he guessed that there was a structure or possible even a city above the location. This was unfamiliar territory and there was only one way to learn how hostile it was.
Using a nearby lamp as a stop-gap, he leapt down to the ruins, fully aware of how unusual he must look. He was dressed only in a one-piece bodysuit that cut off around his elbows and knees. The lack of footwear of any kind would probably cause him a great deal of trouble as he made his way through the tunnels. Doing his best to keep to the shadows, Bruce began looking for some kind of garbage pile, since that was his only option for clothing retrieval. After several minutes searching he noticed a refuse pile near one of the pylons. Waiting for him were a pair of boots that were falling apart along with a dirty brown overcoat with several holes in it. There were also numerous other pieces of trash and debris strewn about, including things he could not identify. Thankfully, the smell was not so pungent that it would draw attention to him, though the lack of grime on him might be a noticeable mark for someone down here.
Now that his most immediate problem was solved, Bruce could turn his attention to the next one on the list – getting information. He still had no idea where he was and what situation the place was in. The two assailants looked human and their circulatory system appeared to be the same, but that was no guarantee. One of the things he had learned over his career was that when you dealt with the unexpected and unknown, assumptions were a quick way to get yourself killed. Every move he made would have to be done as carefully and cautiously as possible. Compounding the difficulty was the state of destitution he was in. He had no food, no money and only the very shabby clothes on his back. Asking any of the local authorities for help would lead to some very difficult questions, assuming they did not write him off as a mentally ill vagabond. If he could get access to a phone or computer, he could try contacting the Manor. And, at some point, he needed to have his body examined. Something had been done to him, and finding out exactly what was a priority.
As he walked down the crooked tunnels, which steadily filled with more and more garbage of all shapes, sizes and kinds, Bruce took note of his surroundings. Almost an hour had passed with no sign of anyone he might speak with. He had called out in the hopes of catching someone's attention (hostile or not). That had failed. The place was like a maze, filled with twists, turns and dead ends. More than once he had to turn back and choose a new path because something blocked his way. Sometimes it had been a wall, sometimes a pylon base and a couple times it was because the area in front of him had collapsed. The garbage itself told him a number of things. First: whoever was living in the city above (he felt confident that there was a city) had technology that was quite further advanced than anything he knew to be public access. The people likely enjoyed a fairly high standard of living, if certain items were an accurate indicator. Some pieces he simply could not make heads or tails of, seemingly designed for use by someone other than a normal human being. A possibility loomed over his contemplations, one that strengthened as he examined more and more of the refuse, but he did not want to commit to it.
It was approaching the two hour mark when it happened. He had stopped to investigate a discarded rifle and armor, though it both were of a different make than the kind worn by the two assailants from earlier. It was far bulkier and constructed with a great deal of electronics woven into it. There was also a strange, scentless residue inside of it. The rifle was easy enough to lift and seemed to be operable by most humanoid standards. He was considering the merits of dissecting both of them for something he could use when the sounds of a struggle reached him. Acting on reflex, he immediately raced towards their origin. What he found were several men attacking a teenage girl of human appearance. They were wearing the same type of armor that he had just been examining a moment ago. Though he had no mask or any idea of what his opponents were capable of, he leapt into the fray.
There were times when she could not help but wonder if her dreams were just the universe's way of having a bit of fun at her expense. Several hours ago, she had been enjoying some nice, quiet, relaxing time to herself back at the tower. Somewhere during the first half of The Odyssey holo, she had drifted off to sleep. When she woke up some twenty minutes later, she knew she had to go to the Underground. Why? Because that was what she had seen herself doing in the dream, of course. That was why she had come alone, in full costume, and was very ambiguous when Tinya asked where she was going. And that was also why she had wandered around for an hour before getting jumped by guys dressed in Science Police uniforms. The first three had not been much trouble. Their fighting style was incredibly sloppy, relying on brute force rather than anything resembling skill. Defeating them took her only a few minutes. The problem came when three more of them showed up almost out of nowhere. They were considerably better prepared for her than their comrades were. She was in the middle of fighting them when five more appeared and descended on her in seconds. She knew when and how they would attack, but reacting quickly enough to counter was a different story. Her opponents began to land blows, which really hurt, thanks to their armor. Difficult odds were nothing new to her, but in prior engagements there was an issue of scale at work – there might have been more of them, but she had not been fighting alone, either. Now, she was outnumbered eight – no, ten – to one and no one was watching her back.
She could not help but let out a gasp of pain when one of them struck her right across the jaw. She knew it was coming, saw him pulling his arm back two full minutes before he did so in reality. But moving to block him would have left her open to the one she was currently dealing with, and ignoring him would have resulted in a broken leg. So, she chose the sore jaw instead. Desperate to get some breathing room, she flew into the one right in front of her, grabbing hold and ramming him into the ceiling. Even though there had been enough force to merit some kind of noise, her opponent gave no indication that he felt anything other than a suddenly limp body, which she tossed back into the rest. It did not hit any of them and she had not expected it too. What it had done was loosen up their formation, hopefully giving her the chance to fight back without worrying about too many variables screwing up her ability to react to her visions. The one closest to her received a swift kick to the head as she flew back down, sending him to the ground as well. Two more charged at her and she reacted by grabbing the closer one and flipping him over while angling her body to kick the other one directly in his midsection. Next, she could attack the largest by –
-seeing the new one aim his blaster at her from a distance-
She twisted around to avoid the shot, but it was too late. Her body went tumbling to the ground as a result of the blast, leaving her barely conscious. Desperately, she tried to lift herself up and prepare for the one on her left when he would kick her in the stomach. They did not intend to give her the chance and all she could do was wait –
-wait for him to arrive, coming from the shadows behind them-
When the one who shot her got knocked into a nearby wall, the rest immediately lost interest in her and started to rush their new opponent. Two of them were knocked aside when the newcomer kicked on right into the man behind him. That was just a mild start to the performance her rescuer gave. Nothing the armored men did could match him, none of them could touch him, and none of them could keep up with him. He was like a shadow, always out of their reach but never far away. With a sense of ease and display of martial skill that she had only seen rivaled by Val, he took each of them apart, leaving his opponents in crumpled piles of broken bones and battered bodies. Soon, only two of the eleven were left standing. They stuck close together and seemed as though they were trying to be intimidating. Her rescuer only gave a slight smile and motioned for them to come to him. They ran straight ahead would have been greeted by his fist if she had not decided that now was the time for some payback. Her foot cracked open the helmet of one, distracting the other and giving her partner the chance to unleash a flurry of punches and kicks that sent him to the floor in a heap. She delivered a right hook to the one exposed and allowed him to join his companions in unconsciousness.
"Thanks," she said. "That last one managed to hit me with a stun blast. They would have had me if you hadn't shown up."
"It was nothing," he muttered in response. It might have been her imagination, but he acted like he did not want her to get a good look at his face.
"Mmm-hmm. Well, you don't normally see good samaritans in the Underground. Especially ones highly trained in martial arts. How many styles were you using, anyway? I recognized some jujitsu and there was a boxing style I've never seen before."
That got his attention and he turned to face her. He stood a couple inches taller than she did and when she looked into his eyes what she saw belonged to someone much, much older than the person in front of her. Those were the eyes of someone dangerous.
"You're not from here, are you?" she asked. He paused a minute before answering.
"Where am I?"
"The Gotham Underground. Above us is the city. Below us is dirt and metal. Ahead of us are tunnels. Lots and lots and lots of tunnels. The year is 3006."
He took a step back when she told him the year.
"I'm a precog, that's how I knew what you would ask. When I concentrate, I can see into the future. How far ahead depends on the circumstances. The furthest ahead I've ever been able to go while awake is over two hours. When I'm dreaming, my visions can go months or years into the future. It's something the people of my planet are famous for, across the galaxy. Some Naltorians devote their entire lives to mapping out future events, but this rarely helps anyone avoid their future because we know what will happen, but not exactly when or why. I've been called a walking time loop because of this. I try not to use my power when talking to people because it makes conversations difficult, but sometimes I can't help myself. That answers the questions you were going to ask."
"Yes, it does." His face had become like a stone.
"Okay. Follow me, and I'll show you the way out of here."
"You just said you try not to use your power while conversing."
"I don't need to see the future to know you're going to ask me for directions. Someone like you doesn't want to wander the Underground dressed like that any longer than he has to. I can give you some clothes and a place to stay. Least I can do."
"You're quite observant for your age."
"The PreCommandos had me enrolled in a training program when I was fifteen. Natural talent for it, old man."
"Before I go anywhere, I want some information from these men."
He walked past her and knelt down next to the one with the cracked helmet, which he removed. The man's face reminded her of a skull, only with bloodshot eyes and nose filters. Her new friend motioned to her.
"Look at this," he said, pointing to a spot on the man's neck.
"Looks like a surgical scar," she said. "He's been operated on. That would explain why he never made a sound when we fought."
"Are you familiar with anything like this?"
"No. This is brand new to me."
"It's an extreme way of ensuring silence. Also counterproductive. Judging from his physical condition, it's unlikely he would be able to tell us much anyway. So why operate on him?"
"Maybe he can tell us something without his voice." She said and started slapping the man's face. "Wakey, wakey. We've got some questions."
The man's eyelids fluttered open, then went wide at the sight of her face. He moved to get away, but a foot on his arm put an end to that.
"Whoever sent you obviously did some very unpleasant things to your body. Give us some information and we'll help you get yourself back together. Does that sound good to you?"
The expression on the man's face turned murderous and he began mouthing words at her. She could not understand what he was 'saying' to her, but understood the intent behind it.
"You've had your face deformed and your vocal cords messed with. The person responsible doesn't deserve any loyalty. Tell us who he is and we can get you help. This doesn't have to be permanent."
He continued to mouth obscenities at her, even while she was talking to him. The moment she finished, her friend smashed his foot into the man's face, knocking him unconscious once more. She looked up at him with an annoyed expression.
"We might have gotten through to him. We hadn't even tried to lean on him a little bit. Now he won't tell us anything."
"He wouldn't have, anyway," he responded and bent over to turn the man's head and part the hair, revealing another scar running along the side of the skull.
"I've been checking the others and they all have them. The exact same scar in the exact same place. Whoever he is, the man doing this wants uniformity among his servants. I wouldn't be surprised if he's implanted some kind of mind control device."
"That makes sense."
"Is there anything about them that you recognize?"
"They're wearing standard Science Police armor, but that doesn't mean they're members. It's not hard to get S.P. tech on the black market. All it takes is a little bit of credits and a good contact."
"The Science Police…tell me everything you know about them."
The statement caused her to give him a dubious look.
"Everyone on Earth knows about the Science Police. They're the police force for the entire United Planets. The only reason someone wouldn't know about them is if they're from a really backwater planet or…"
Suddenly, everything about him clicked into place.
"You're from the past, aren't you?"
They looked at each other for some time until she broke off. Keeping her eyes on the unconscious man between them, she started telling him what she knew about the Science Police. Their rules, reputation, numbers, equipment, jurisdiction, everything that came to mind. He remained still except for the occasional nod to indicate that he was keeping up with her explanation. Several minutes passed before she finished and her throat was a bit sore from speaking a great deal over a lengthy amount of time.
"Someone is going to use men like these to stage an attack. Is there anything happening today?"
She had to think for a moment.
"There's a conference being held between representatives from Titan and Colu. Rumors say they're going to announce some kind of joint project, but I don't have any idea what it might be."
"Where's the conference being held?"
"In Gotham, I don't know where. I've got to inform the others." She started talking into the ring on her finger, then stopped. "There's no signal. It's still being jammed."
"We'll have to find whoever's behind this. Can your abilities tell us anything about where he might be?"
"Let me try…" She closed her eyes and concentrated on
-a man, giving orders, but not saying anything, watching as his creations horribly butcher those in their way-
"Gods of Naltor," she muttered
"What do you see?"
"The bad guy. We'll find him after going that way." She pointed towards a tunnel heading further underground.
"I'm never wrong."
"Alright. You head back to the surface, contact the police and warn them about what's coming."
"While you run off to fight him and however-many thugs he has with him? I'm going with you."
"I don't need your help."
"You're getting it, anyway. By the time I fly back, it will be too late for me to do anything. I can get us to him in time to stop him and trust me when I say that you will need my help. Don't call me young or inexperienced – this isn't the first psychotic I've had to stop from killing innocent people. I don't care if you work alone, we're wasting time arguing."
"I never said anything about working alone or your inexperience."
"Not yet, but you would have. Consider it saving time on my part."
"Fine, let's go."
"Great. Here, let me carry you," she suggested. The expression on his face was not a pleasant one.
"It'll be better than walking. Don't be such a baby."
Though his expression remained the same, he acquiesced and she picked him up and started flying down the tunnel.
Not that heavy, but I'm glad I won't be doing this for very long. She thought. "I'm Nura, by the way. Nura Nal. When I'm working I go by the name Dream Girl."
She waited for him to answer. He seemed loathe to give up any information about himself, but she knew he would allow her a concession.
"Welcome to the 31st century, Bruce Wayne. Hopefully we'll both survive the experience.
He was a quiet man. He had to be.
Growing up, he had thought that the way to get ahead in life was to be as loud as possible. Make sure that everyone important was looking at you. If they were looking at you, they were not looking at anyone else, meaning that you would be the one they picked. You would be the one chosen to receive the best of everything that was available in the galaxy. Money, prestige, women, all of these were things you could only receive by being loud and making yourself heard. When he was in school, he made sure that the teachers would only hear his voice when getting answers to questions. It did not matter what the subject was or who he made upset as a result – his voice would be the one they paid attention to, and no one else's. If someone tried to use telepathy to get by him, he would make sure that his voice drowned out their thoughts. He had made few friends because he acted that way, but he had gotten the attention of the influential and that more than made up for any hurt feelings. Or so he thought.
Dr. Tarik Laulsk of Titan stood up from his chair, the only one in the building. It was only in the isolation of his study that he allowed himself to sit and ruminate about the past. He walked over to the small window and looked down at his servants below. Each of them had been modified to his liking, and they were preparing the neural link relay for its usage in just one short hour. One hour and then he would take his revenge on those responsible for his silence. He sat back down at his desk and began looking over his notes on the procedure ahead. It was not about double-checking his work, or worrying about any overlooked miscalculations. This was an exercise in memory. What he would do next required complete and total concentration. Summoning that meant he would have to dig deep inside of himself and bring every memory his life to surface. That was the only way to generate enough hatred to keep him focused on the task at hand. That was the only way to make sure that everything he had done with his life would not be for nothing. That was the only way he could enjoy watching his enemies as they died slow deaths as he cut them far, far worse than they had cut him.
His childhood on Titan had been pleasant enough by the standards most sapients set for raising the next generation. Both of his parents loved him as best they could, teaching him discipline while showing him affection. Father would often take him aside and explain how important it was to stay focused, especially for someone from Titan.
"Telepaths," Father had said, "have to be doubly-careful in order to keep their minds from wandering. We can casually learn a person's most deeply guarded secret by pure accident simply because of the way the brain works. Others will find it easy to hate us for that, claiming we invade their privacy because we want to. That's why focus is important. You must keep your mind focused at all times."
Tarik had lived his life according to his father's advice. While other kids were wasting their youth on the most frivolous things imaginable, he kept working towards his ultimate goal of success in life and the respect that came with it. Teachers loved him because of the effort he put into making sure that every single part of every single assignment was completely and totally correct. Errors of any kind could not be tolerated because they meant that he was not paying attention, that he was not focused. By the time he became a teenager, he had started to neglect his telepathy, often making a point not to use it for days at a time. This caused some concern in his parents, but he was doing so well in his studies that they were reluctant to confront him over something that was relatively trivial. It was not as though he had been some kind of social outcast – it was easy enough for him to gain companionship when he desired it. It was, after all, just a matter of putting the problem in perspective and treating it like any other. His academic excellence often provided a convenient excuse for initiating contact in order to provide his services as a tutor and he never lacked any kind of confidence for approaching someone.
His mind was easily his greatest source of pride and no one on Titan was capable of surpassing his intellectual prowess. It was not something he had ever tried to keep to himself – being loud was the best way to get ahead. When he was twenty-one years old, it appeared that years of adherence to his personal philosophy had paid off. A scientist from Colu came to see him, claiming that he had great potential. All his work indicated a level eleven intelligence. Tarik had been researching how the Titanian brain functions and made several intriguing proposals to use artificial means to enhance a Titanian brain's capabilities. Since the Coluan had also been researching mechanical methods of improving cognitive ability, would Tarik like to come with him to Colu so that they could work together on a project?
He could not have said 'yes' fast enough. Coluans were notoriously proud of their intellect, to the point that they placed it at the highest level of importance in their society. Intelligence was so valued that they even went so far as to use the name of one of the most infamous figures in galactic history as a way to designate when someone had reached the famed state of level twelve intelligence. For one of them to offer a non-Coluan a chance to come to their planet and work side-by-side on anything was almost unheard of. Certainly, no one could remember the last time someone from Titan had been offered a chance like this. In less than a standard week, Tarik had packed his things and left for Colu, confident that this would be his chance to make his voice heard throughout the galaxy. He had been nothing less than a complete and total fool.
After the moment he first set foot on Colu, he should have realized his decision had been in error. No one there regarded him with anything less than contempt. It was one thing for Coluans to go among the lower beings that composed the greater mass of the galaxy's population, but to allow one of them to be granted a place on their planet? The planet where anything less than genius was unacceptable? It was an insult and each Coluan he met seemed to take it personally. Even Nran Lon, the Coluan who had invited him to come, regarded him only as a lab assistant and not as an equal. Somehow, they even managed to keep their thoughts quiet whenever he was around, so that he could not 'hear' what they thought of him. It was just as well – even if his father had not warned him about casual telepathy, even if he had not spent his life dulling that part of him, he had no desire to learn what went on in the heads of those green-skinned, self-righteous, arrogant cretins. He had briefly mentioned his unease to his mother, who advised him to return home rather than deal with their scorn. That could not be done. He had made the decision to come to Colu after giving it proper focus. Returning to Titan would not only be a sign of weakness and defeat, it would be an admission that he had lost focus for the first time in his life. That could not be countenanced, not under any circumstances.
So he remained on Colu, working alongside Nran on a project guaranteed to win him the respect of everyone on Colu and everywhere else. They were going to create an artificial brain that, once completed, would act as a model for the construction of mechanical replacements for Titanians (and later all sapients) that had suffered from severe brain damage. It would be a watershed event for both medical and A.I. technology. The main problem for him was the inability to replicate a Titanian's telepathic abilities due to programming limitations. Nran was also having trouble getting the A.I. to duplicate sentient behavior well enough to keep up with the demands of a functioning brain. For a time, his work looked to have hit a dead end when he received a message from an anonymous source pointing him to some research done on Earth around the late 20th century. From there, he did a little bit of digging until he finally found what he had been looking for – a program that would allow him to construct an A.I. capable of matching an organic brain. Without telling Nran, he had constructed his own A.I. brain and started running tests on it. Early results were hopeful, but there was still the lingering problem of how to duplicate telepathy. After a month of frustration, he brought Nran in to help him. The Coluan was quite upset over Tarik's usurpation of his work, but he acted like the opportunity to see their project come to fruition was enough to solve any feelings of betrayal. Tarik knew better than to trust the Coluan, so he once again took matters into his own hands. He constructed implants and placed them in both his skull and later his throat. These implants would be connected to the A.I. brain and he could use them to fix the problems and finally complete the work begun almost two years prior.
Unfortunately, he could not continue without some lab assistance, so he informed Nran of what he had done and told him to bring a few trustworthy individuals with him to the special lab prepared. Once again, Nran was angry, but this time he masked it with concern over what Tarik had done to himself. A Coluan should have known better than to pretend that success did not always come with some kind of price. Nran continued to act reluctant even as he helped begin the experiment, readying the equipment while he checked the connections to the A.I. brain. He should have known better, should have known the Coluan would betray him. When the brain displayed signs of a power surge, Nran suggested aborting the experiment, knowing that Tarik would trust his calculations and not consider the possibility of sabotage. When the surge did hit and send him to the ground, Nran acted like he did not know that Tarik's hearing had been lost. Nran acted like he was trying to save the life of a colleague, when he was discussing with his associates the best way to ensure his silence. The memories of that moment were so vivid, he almost felt like he was there, lying on the ground and watching the Coluans confer with each other. He could not hear a word they were saying and it had been too long since he had used his telepathy, too long for him to remember how to use it to communicate effectively. Perhaps if he had not been in such pain, such panic, things might have happened differently. But that assumes the Coluans would have been willing to help him. He tried to speak, to tell them what to do, but the implant in his throat felt like it was both burning and choking him. He tried to remove it, his hands scratching at his throat, hoping the Coluans would understand what he was trying to tell them. And they did. That is why they gathered around him and held his arms down. That is why Nran cut open his throat and robbed him of his ability to ever speak – to ever be loud – again.
Tarik had tried to regain his voice, using every option available to him. It was all for nothing. Somehow, the implant had fused itself to his throat and destroyed every nerve ending, everything he needed to speak. Removing it was dangerous and his body rejected any replacement tissue grown for him. A hearing aid allowed him to hear again, but without his voice he was incomplete. Nran used the incident to get him removed from Colu, tainting him so that no one would give him the time of day anymore. Depressed, he had come to Earth in the hopes of continuing his work on the A.I. brain and maybe find a way to heal himself in the process. He did not know how many years he had spent in the Underground, toiling away at the brain for hours upon hours upon hours, stopping only because his body could not function without some rest. All he knew was that each day brought him just a little bit closer to his ultimate goal, his chance at salvation. But then he got word about another joint Titan-Colu venture. The same anonymous friend from before had alerted him to what Nran was doing, trying to steal his work from him. The Coluan was not content with ruining his life once; he had to do it again and with a larger audience.
Ending his recollections, Tarik stood up again and exited the room. Around him, his servants continued to go about their work, giving up no indication that they even realized he was there. None of them needed instructions about where to go or what to do – noise such as that had no place here. Voices would only serve as a distraction, something to delay the moment he had been dreaming of for months now. Speaking loudly was no longer the shining virtue that he once believed it to be, and he was better focused because of this revelation. As softly as possible, he walked down a staircase towards the center of the room on the lower level, where his life's work rested on a pedestal, wires coming out of it.
Things would be different this time. It had taken years, but Tarik had finally learned the value of silence. Silently, he had prepared for this day. Noiselessly, he made himself capable of taking revenge against those who had dared to harm him. Silence had a quality to it that he had been too loud and unfocused to notice. When you were silent, no one could hear you coming. No one would be ready when you struck. That was the value of being the Quiet Man.
As they went deeper and deeper into the Underground, Bruce tried to make a mental map of their surroundings. He guessed that they were somewhere in Gotham's old subway tunnels, remarkably well-preserved considering that they had seen several hundred years of neglect. When this was over, he would be spending some time learning ever little thing that had been done to his city between his time and the present. He could feel Nura shifting to accommodate his weight since the girl lacked super-strength of any kind and she could only fly because of the ring she wore. An interesting piece of technology, it was something he would have to dissect when he got the chance. While flying, she answered his questions about the time period, explaining the recent formation of the United Planets, the more noteworthy members of the organization, and the team she was a member of. That part interested him a great deal and she was just starting to explain the legality (or lack thereof) of their operation when she suddenly brought both of them down to the ground, hiding behind a stone outcropping.
"Wait here a second," she said and he did so. Less than a minute passed before two armored men walked past them while carrying large rifles. Bruce had to admit that her precognitive ability appeared legitimate. Or she was leading him into a trap.
"We're here," she said and then peeked her head up. "That looks like the kind of place a super-villain would hide in."
Once he got a look at the structure, Bruce agreed. Ruined structures like the one before them did have an allure to the costumed set. It appeared to have been a station, with tunnels leading in and out of it. Probably had two floors, based on its height. Though there were guards on patrol, they numbered less than he expected. The man inside likely did not expect anyone to attack him here and committed the bulk of his force to the attack on the surface. Instinctively, Bruce reached to grab a pair of binoculars from his belt and then berated himself for stupidity. Even after all this time, he kept making little mistakes like that and forgetting how different things had been for a long time.
"Are you going to share your plan with me yet?" Nura asked. Bruce considered the platinum blond next to him. She was younger than Barbara was in the beginning and wearing a silver leotard with silver boots. Decent enough fighting skills, but could he count on her?
"There's a depressed area near the ceiling on that side of the building, next to the window where the roof collapsed," Bruce pointed to it as he explained. "It's a good hiding place. Wait there until I give the signal."
"You're not going to try and charge in there, are you?"
"I have experience getting into areas undetected. Just be ready to move in when I need you."
He was about to slip away when she put a hand on his shoulder. Nura then removed a piece of black cloth she had around her wrist.
"I almost forgot to give you this."
Bruce looked it over and then tied it around his face. The eyeholes lined ups fairly well.
"Precog, remember? And don't forget, when I tell you to jump, make it your left."
Nura then flew up to the spot he picked out, leaving Bruce to wonder about her for a second time before he began to make his way inside. Having a mask on his face again felt better than he expected it to and he had felt very uncomfortable without it. His body easily remembered the old methods, sticking to the shadows and making no sound as he prowled around his objective. A guard would look left for a second and he would dash to the right, his feet only faintly hitting the ground. He approached in a wide circle, wanting to get as much of a look at the place as possible before going inside. There were no obvious signs of traps of any kind, but experience had taught him that was nothing close to a guarantee. The guards patrolled in very strict, predictable patterns, making Bruce wonder if their employer was simply sloppy or if he knew they were coming. There were still plenty of unknowns relating to the situation, which left Bruce extremely aggravated.
Waiting in the shadows right next to the building, he jumped on of the guards, rendering him unconscious in under a minute. Bruce then examined the rifle – it was surprisingly light for its size, but he had no desire to check its durability or what kind of blast it produced. He dragged the guard into an out of the way spot. There was no kind of radio chatter. Unsurprising, since it was likely the all shared the same scars, but how were they communicating with each other? Some kind of telepathy? No time to ponder it for too long, since the attack could start at any minute. After a quick glance around, he reached the entrance on the building's left side and entered. Inside was a chaotic setting, with all kinds of electronic devices strewn around with no obvious pattern to their placement. Thick clumps of wires ran across the floor, connecting pieces of equipment to each other. Bruce knelt down next to one of the larger devices, which was emitting a loud humming noise. As he studied the writing along the side, he realized that it was a generator. There were more of them down the hallway and the wires were usually thickest around them. He w was trying to power something that required a lot of operating energy. Whatever it was, it likely had a connection to the attack on the conference.
'How very observant of you.'
Bruce spun around, but could not see anyone. Then he realized that he had not actually 'heard' the words. They had come to him the same way J'onn would communicate with others.
"You're a telepath." Bruce said aloud. No point in being quiet now.
'And you are not. But do not worry – I won't hold that against you. I know what it is like to be looked down upon because of heritage and I do not wish to show you the same rudeness. Perhaps you would care to join me in the upper level. That way we could communicate with each other face-to-face, as civilized beings should.'
"I doubt you would accept a 'no'."
'Indeed I would not. We can discuss why when you join me. I shall send one of my men to guide you.'
One of the armored figures appeared in front of Bruce a couple minutes later. Deciding to play along for now, he followed it through the hallways and into the main room, which was just as cluttered as the others. The only difference was that all the devices, particularly the generators, were organized around a central pedestal. It was a machine of some kind, connected to various monitors and computers that were encircling it. At the top was an object encased in what looked like glass, ovular in shape, with a number of diodes and other devices sticking out of it. Parts of it would lighten and darken seemingly at random, flickering like a light bulb that was shorting out. The guard continued to lead him up a stairwell, where a man was waiting for him. He looked like a young human, probably in his late twenties and was dressed in a dirty lab coat, fastened tightly. His neck bore a scar like the others, but it was far wider and uglier. Though Bruce could not tell from both the thick, unruly hair and the goggles strapped around the man's head, he held a strong suspicion that the man also had a scar on the left side of his head.
'Welcome to my laboratory. I am Dr. Tarik Laulsk. Please do not think that the mess is indicative of the way I normally conduct my work. Setbacks have forced me to accept degrade forms of testing areas. Once today's project is complete, I shall be able to move my lab to a higher quality of location.'
"So, you're the one who tampered with the heads of the city's police?"
'I am. It was necessary in order to procure their loyalty as lab assistants and technicians. For what I have planned, a great deal of manpower is required and of a specific type.'
"You need them to do the dirty work for you."
'You make it sound so primitive. I am not some thug off of Rimbor, looking to harm someone for a thrill. This is about exacting justice on those who have insulted me, left me deformed, and stolen my life's work. The Coluans must pay for what they have done to me.'
"Even if innocent people are killed."
'I just told you that I am not some common criminal. These men whose services I have retained? All of them were corrupt in one way or another. The Gotham Division of the Science Police is notorious for its corruption. That is why I made sure only to pick from them. This man next to you received weekly bribes from a drug smuggling ring in exchange for his help in covering up their activities. Those two men down there beat an innocent man for over an hour in order to get him to confess to a murder they had committed. The one operating the power regulator agreed to tamper with evidence in order to clear a public official accused of corruption in exchange for a promotion and an early retirement plan. Right now these men are doing something truly beneficial for society, an action they would never have come to of their own accord. I am a Titanian, young man. I can look into someone's mind and see what truly resides there.'
"Which gives you the authority to be judge, jury and executioner."
'Ah, you're human. That explains your attitude. Earth-born, no doubt. A judge and jury are only necessary when there is a possibility that the accused's guilt is in doubt. There is no doubt when a telepath is involved. All we have to do is open your mind and see what is hidden there. After that, things such as judges and juries become superfluous. This is simple logic.'
"Do all Titanians see things your way?"
'They…do not. What you humans refer to as 'due process' is a common though on many worlds and Titan is no different. Entry into the United Planets has only increased the tendency towards inefficiency. People are losing focus.'
"But not you."
'Of course not. I have dedicated my life to becoming as disciplined as possible. I never lose focus, not even for an instant. Only the unintelligent and barbaric allow themselves to lose focus. I know you share certain sensibilities with me in this regard. That is why I wished to communicate with you.'
"You read my mind."
'Not to the extent you are likely thinking of. Part of retaining focus is strict control of all my mental faculties, which includes telepathy. Unfortunately, something all Titanians admit, it is impossible not to pick up a sense from people in regards to strongly held beliefs. Without speaking or reading their mind, a Titanian will instantly know if someone is driven or lazy, happy or sad, in love or not. The moment you entered the building, I sensed your strong belief in control. I hoped that you would understand my position and help me to complete my work and keep that girl waiting outside from interfering further.'
"If you're such an intelligent, reasonable man, why did you have your men attack her?"
'That girl, and others like her, are part of a group dedicated to preserving the social order, no matter what or how strongly they claim to the contrary. They even allow a Coluan to work alongside of them. Understanding would be beyond them. Even so, I gave orders only to have her detained, not killed. I am not heartless. People will see that.'
"You can't believe that. The Coluan and Titanian governments will hunt you down for what you're planning to do. The Science Police will want revenge for what you did to their people."
'They will not find me. They will not know who is responsible. I have blanked the minds of every single one of my assistants. Without me and the brain to guide them, they would be nothing more than empty shells. When I do come forward, it will be when the brain has been perfected and I can use it to destroy all of Colu. Once I show the galaxy what the Coluans truly are, they will thank me for my actions and I will finally be able to return home. Now tell me, what do you think of my purpose? Have I swayed you?"
"You're a madman."
'No, I am the Quiet Man. I make no sound so that my enemies will not hear me. Sadly, I must count you among them.'
Before the guard could move against him, Bruce kicked Laulsk in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain. While the Quiet Man was down, he delivered a round of punches and kicks to the guard. Nura then came through the window, flying headlong into a group of guards running towards Bruce.
'Begin the attack! Wait no further!'
Before either could do anything, a large monitor blinked on as the brain stared emitting more light. Bruce and Dream Girl could only watch as the Quiet Men began their assault.
When she started chewing her pen, Shvaughn Erin realized that it simply had not been a good day. Granted, good days were usually few and far between in Gotham, but today it was getting to her. The day had started off like any other. She woke, dragged herself to the SPGD headquarters, ignored her partner's usual taunts and got back to work on her latest case. Things started to go badly for her when Captain Girin informed her that she was being reassigned and all work she had been doing concerning allegations against Councilman Tomis was to be handed over to him so he could find a suitable officer to follow up on it. Girin, who had attended fundraisers for Tomis at least twice, then informed her that all departments would be undergoing some 'housecleaning' in order to make them more efficient. Roughly four hours later, just as she had finished getting everything ready, Erin was told to report to the Gotham Technology Institute, where she would then play caretaker to a number of Coluans and Titanians as they posed for the Hyperfeed and shook hands. She had been doing that for roughly the past hour and was starting to wonder if shooting herself in the head would be the best way to deal with her problems. It would certainly break the monotony.
Five minutes after she started fingering her gun, Officer Quian started walking towards the GTI's entrance. Since Quian had not been seen in over three days, Erin felt the need to stop and make him answer some questions about his recent whereabouts. When he pulled his gun on her, she started wishing for the monotony.
"What the hell are you doing, Quian? Even if you shoot me, the other guys will bring you in on a murder charge. Have you lost your mind?"
Quian did not answer. When a shot rang out, Erin flinched and expected to be reunited with her old dog. Instead, she saw the glass door to GTI shatter as two more Science Policemen emerged from the Underground and opened fire on the building. Two of the other Science Police with her drew their weapons and returned fire, only to be cut down in a flurry of blaster fire. More and more S.P. officers were coming out of the Underground and Erin knew she had to do something or she would end up like her two friends lying on the ground. Her opportunity came when a Coluan member of the delegation got a little too close to the door and Quian turned to shoot him. He never had a chance to because Erin grabbed her own gun and fired it directly into Quian's chest, killing him immediately. He made no noise as he hit the ground. Miraculously, she avoided getting hit as she ran inside and started pushing the Coluan to safety.
"What is going on here?!" he demanded.
"A whole lotta people dressed as Science Police are trying to kill us. Now move!" Erin ordered and continued pushing him until they were away from the entrance. Occasionally, Erin would shoot behind her in the hopes of both hitting something and getting the attackers to hesitate in their advance.
"Is that gunfire?"
"Are we under attack?"
"Someone's trying to kill us!"
"Officer, what are you doing about this?"
"Quiet!" Erin shouted, which got the assorted aliens to stop talking. "Yes, we are being attacked by a large number of individuals and if you will please listen to me and do as I say, I promise to do my best to get all of you out of this alive and-"
Before she could finish, the doors behind her began to be pummeled by shots from outside. Erin turned to one of the two remaining Science Police.
"You – get these people out of here. You – get on my flank and open fire when I do."
As the scientists were huddled out, one of the invaders peeked his head through a hole in the door, giving Erin a clear shot. Her fellow officer followed her lead and the two kept shooting for roughly five minutes, after which time they no longer heard sounds coming from right outside the door.
"Let's go!" she said and they rushed out the same exit as the scientists, only to come head long into another group of attackers. A flurry of gunfire ensued and left Erin the only one standing. Hearing more sounds coming from the exit ahead, she raced up a nearby flight o stairs and into a room with the scientists and her last remaining bit of backup.
"Control, this is Officer Erin reporting an attempt on the delegation. Shots fired and there are officers down. Request immediate backup on my position. Be aware – hostiles are wearing S.P. armor." She relayed to her ear comm.
"What do we do now?" the S.P. beside her asked.
"Wait for backup, hope our ammo holds and pray, if you want." Erin then motioned to the Titanians. "Can you get into their heads?"
"We've been trying. There's nothing inside their minds but orders to kill us."
"Wonderful. Okay, we're not going to be able to stay here for long and since they're guarding the front, we have to go up." Erin gestured to the other officer. "Check that exit. If it's clear, start moving the civilians. I've got the rear."
While he saw to his orders, Erin peeked out the door and saw one of them coming up the stairs. She fired off a couple shots and they stopped coming, but she could not be sure if she had actually hit anything.
"Ma'am, should we call, y'know, them?" her fellow officer asked, his voice hesitant.
Erin clinched her teeth. It was understood among Science Police across the galaxy and of all ranks that it was preferable to suffer every type of grievous bodily harm imaginable rather than to call those kids in. Yet, it was not just her life at stake and if one of the civilians died because she struck to some power play, she would have to turn in her badge. On the other hand, if backup managed to secure the area before they got here, she would also have to turn in her badge, albeit for different reasons. She let out a frustrated sigh.
"I hate my job, anyway." She switched the ear comm to the 'emergency' frequency. "This is Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin…"
As his fist smashed into the guard's face, Bruce reflected that the helmets issued by the Science Police probably suffered from poor construction. One good hard blow was all it took to break through and reach the flesh inside. The one he just struck fell backwards into unconsciousness and Bruce was already tearing into the next one, landing blow after blow. The Quiet Man's servants were a decent challenge, but they weren't any more of a danger than the thousands of other cannon fodder he had dealt with over the years. The real enemy was time – the longer he wasted it on fighting these men; the likelier it was that the force sent to eliminate the meeting would succeed. He stole a glance at Dream Girl to make sure she was all right. Despite facing a stiff challenge of her own, the girl was performing admirably. Her fighting style was not one he recognized, but it managed to get the job done.
"There are more of them than I thought, "Nura said as she finished one. " And I'm having trouble seeing what they'll do next."
"That's likely his doing. He's using his telepathy to interfere with your abilities."
"Is that all? If he's a telepath he should be-" she ducked a fist "-doing more."
The fight had moved to the main floor of the building, several feet away from the brain's pedestal. Laulsk did not seem to be doing anything other than standing and observing the spectacle. The brain continued to pulsate.
"There's a reason for that." Bruce said.
"Would you mind telling me?"
"If we survive. Concentrate on destroying the pedestal."
She did her best, using every ability she had. Her precognitive powers might have been dampened, but they weren't completely gone, meaning that she could stay a step ahead of her opponents. With Bruce around to keep her from becoming overwhelmed by numbers and possible futures, the two of them managed to clear the room of guards, leaving only the Quiet Man and his personal guard.
'Your skill and tenacity are both impressive, but they will not help-what are you doing?!'
As the Quiet Man had started talking, Bruce picked up a shock rod and stared battering away at the pedestal's control console. He might have destroyed it if one of the fallen servants had not suddenly sprung to his feet and tackled Bruce. Though he was quickly knocked away, all of his comrades began getting up as well.
'As I was communicating, your skills cannot save you. My Quiet Men may be briefly delayed in their appointed task, but I can always command them to rise. They will not know pain or fear or weakness unless I allow them to do so. Surrender and I will let you live.'
Bruce looked around and considered the situation.
"Fly up there and take out that brain."
"They'll be all over you in a second if-"
Nura was in the air before she realized it. She did not reflect on his temerity in ordering her or how easily she obeyed. Instead, she darted towards the brain, ready to take it apart. She drew back her fist, struck it, and fell after the shock coursed through her body.
'Truly, truly foolish. Did you really think that I would not install a protective device upon my life's work?'
Bruce bounded over the armored figures rushing towards him and caught Nura before she hit the floor, all while berating himself for continued sloppiness. He should know better than this by now. Narrowing his eyes, Bruce decided to put an end to this.
'Give up. You have my word that I will not kill you. I am not an evil man, only a quiet one.'
Bruce set Nura down under the stairwell and kicked back two of the oncoming guards. They got back on their feet, but their movements were more sluggish than usual. Bruce grabbed hold of the railing and used it to vault onto the stairs, kicking a guard out of the way in the process. Moving faster than he had in years, Bruce was up the stairs and several feet away from the Quiet Man.
'What are you talking about?'
"The brain requires you to input commands telepathically, rather than function completely on its own. That's why your men are so sluggish. You can't guide it and do anything else at the same time. The Coluans were right."
"If you had the intelligence you claimed, the brain wouldn't need constant guidance. As I said – sloppy."
'How dare you?! Do you know how long I have spent working on it? The brain works! It's capable of formulating its own thoughts and decisions! Nothing the Coluans have ever done come close to matching it!"
"So it thinks, but ignores you unless forced. Clearly, it understands the kind of man you are."
'Shut up! Shut up!'
"You don't even trust it to run alone long enough to deal with us. If the brain truly worked, you would have been able to use your telepathy to shut our minds down. Hardly the sign of a genius."
The guards in the lab were almost completely immobile. The ones viewed on the monitor continued fighting, but their movements were incredibly clumsy and relief for the Science Police had arrived.
"Poor workmanship, clumsy usage, little adaptability. How someone as incompetent and unfocused as you ever got Coluan attention is a question only a genius could answer. Maybe I should ask a member of the delegation."
'Quiet! I demand that you be QUIET!'
Laulsk grabbed his guard's pistol and started shooting, desperate to kill his opponent. In his rage, he ever thought to aim and when Bruce easily dodged his blasts, they headed straight for the brain. When they hit, pieces of the AI blew off and the rest was a charred, smoldering mess. All the slaves, whether in the lab or on the monitor, immediately collapsed.
'What did you do?! What did you make me do?!' Laulsk's mind screamed and then he rushed at Bruce, who simply swatted him aside. A strange, gurgling sound emanated from the man and it took Bruce a moment to realize that the Quiet Man was trying to speak. Bruce grabbed him by the collar, pulled his arm back and knocked him out with a punch.
Other than the low hum of the generators, all was silent inside the lab. Bruce walked down the stairwell to find that Dream Girl was already up and waiting for him, a smile on her face. Then she spoke.
He did as she told; narrowly avoiding the piece of falling roof that now occupied his former spot. Had he jumped to his right, it was likely that he would have landed on the pedestal and received a sharp shock.
"Told you," Nura said.
Underneath the mask, Bruce smiled and then looked up to see what had caused part of the ceiling to come down. The reason was about 5'9", blond and wore a familiar "S" insignia on her chest.
"Huh. Looks like I missed out," Supergirl said. "Hey, Dreamy! We've been wondering where you went. You should have told us you were going after a bad guy all by yourself. Cos is going to have conniptions when he finds out."
"Cos always has conniptions these days. Besides, I had some help." Dream Girl gestured to Bruce and Supergirl floated down next to him.
"Haven't seen you around before, but thanks for chipping in."
"You need to be more careful about your entrances, Supergirl. Your cousin should have warned you about structural integrity in older buildings."
Supergirl took a step back and her eyes went wide. That was a very familiar voice.
"Wait, wait, Batman? Is that you?"
"Batman?" Dream Girl asked, a bemused expression on her face.
"Our perpetrator is a Titanian named Tarik Laulsk. He calls himself the Quiet Man. We'll need psi-shields to make sure he doesn't escape." Batman said.
"That's wonderful, but what are you doing here? This is a time-travel thing, right? Duh, of course it's a time-travel thing. Don't worry, Brainy will have you back home once we've finished cleaning things up."
"It may not be that simple."
"I'll discuss that later."
"What's wrong with now?"
"He probably wants some clean clothes," Dream Girl said as she dragged Laulsk's limp form over to the group. Supergirl took a second look at the man in front of her.
"Oh! Sorry. There's a costume maker back at the tower. I'll drop this guy off with the S.P. and fly you there. Brainy, you there?"
"I'm inside the institute. The attack has stopped. Did you find who was controlling the S.P. officers?"
"I did, but it was Dream Girl and…and someone else who stopped him. I'm bringing the bad guy up, so make sure the S.P. has psi-dampeners waiting for me. I, uh, I'm going to have to fly back home for a bit. That okay?"
"There's no need for any further combat, so I see no reason to protest. Can I ask you why you have to go?"
"It has to do with the guy who helped Dream Girl. I'll tell you everything once we're back at the tower."
Supergirl grabbed Laulsk by his collar and put an arm around Batman's waist. Soon, he experienced the feeling of being carried up, up and away.
Roughly a half-hour later, Kara and Nura were outside one of the guest rooms, waiting for their new arrival to finish. The Naltoran spent the time relating her adventure and what few details she knew about him.
"The guy just lost it at the end. Does he usually have that effect on the bad guys?"
"Never seen a first-hand example, but right before I left the grapevine had it that he made Angle-Man start crying."
"Tears and everything?"
"Like a scared little baby. Then again, this is Angle-Man we're talking about."
"Not the most terrifying opponent?"
"I'm pretty sure Bouncing Boy is scarier than he is."
They both giggled at that. Then the door behind them opened to reveal the Dark Knight, clothed exactly as he was the last time Supergirl had seen him. Dream Girl took a moment to consider the black and grey look.
"Feeling better?" she asked.
"Brainy's firing up the time machine, so all you have to do is give us a date to punch in."
"That won't be necessary."
"Don't tell me you want to stay and poke around? You hate being away from Gotham." Supergirl said.
"I wasn't pulled from the past like you were."
"What are you talking about?" Supergirl asked. Dream Girl had a set expression.
"My last memory is of dying in a bed as an old man. This is the body of a nineteen-year-old, with no sign of the injuries I accumulated over my lifetime. I should look like a 115 year old man, barely able to move."
"Did someone perform a body swap?" Supergirl asked.
"If they did, it was into a body that's a perfect copy of the one I had at that age. Someone is trying to use me and I won't be going anywhere until I find out who it is."
Neither of the girls were sure of exactly what to say in response to that pronouncement. Batman gave no sign of indecision or hesitancy. His face was the same hard, blank slate that Supergirl remembered it being. Kara was just about to offer to help in whatever way she could when approaching footsteps distracted her. It was Brainiac 5.
"Brainy. Listen, there's something you need to know about Batman."
"What I have to say concerns him as well and it would be best if you allowed me to speak first. I've just returned from trying to activate the time machine. It will not function."
"Can you fix it?" Kara asked.
"No. Whatever happened to it is not the result of mechanical failure. Someone took the opportunity to deliberately sabotage it during my absence. The damage is currently beyond my ability to repair. Batman, you are stuck in the 31st century."
This story is set in DCAU continuity, after the events of Batman Beyond, the Superman episode "New Kids in Town" and the Justice League episode "Far From Home". Any members of the Legion you saw in those episodes will appear in this story, along with a few others that I'm assuming were 'off-screen' at the time, but I can't testify about how large their roles will be. My knowledge of Legion lore is a bit spotty and I'm taking the route of throwing together various bits and pieces that I like about their various permutations. Since we saw very little of the DCAU interpretation, I think this alright.
The Quiet Man is a rather drastic reimagining of an old Legion villain called Tarik the Mute, who founded the original Legion of Super-Villains. When I realized that the new villain I planned to kick the story off with shared surface similarities with Tarik, I went ahead and merged the two.