Nightwing: Out of Time 2 – Time is Running Out
By: Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: Nightwing™ and all other characters and situations contained in this story are ©2002 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for fan-related, non-profit entertainment purposes only. This original story is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in parts or as a whole without the express permission of the author.
A storm was gathering on the horizon as the priest went through the well-rehearsed sermon, treating the entire matter with a complacency that both angered and saddened Nightwing. As lightning streaked across the sky, several miles off and the smell of the coming rain infiltrated his nostrils, he thought about the woman he was saying good-bye to and the waste that her final days had been.
Andrea Lawson had lived a life full of lies, misery and too few moments of happiness. She had grown to womanhood hating the man who had fathered her because he hadn't been there when she needed him. Despite that, she had dedicated her life to trying to help those who couldn't help themselves. In a world where she had no hero, she wanted to be the hero for others.
He choked back the tears that had been coming far too often over the past two days, ever since a jealous teammate had ended her life. Earthian, the son of Geo-Force, a former ally of the Batman, had killed Andrea when she was acting as Black Robin and helping Nightwing disarm a city-destroying bomb. He had been prevented from killing Nightwing only by the timely intervention of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
"Several temporal disturbances were discovered occurring in this particular period," Brainiac 5 had explained in a voice that too haughty for Nightwing to handle given the situation. "We came back, despite the danger, to stop the time-travel before some real damage occurred."
Nightwing still remembered how matter-of-fact the green-skinned alien had sounded as he explained how the Legion had been able to show up to stop the bomb, but not prevent the death of Black Robin. Saturn Girl, perhaps sensing the volcanic rise in emotions within Nightwing, had tried to sooth him with comforting words. It had not worked.
Nightwing had lashed out, verbally releasing his rage, frustration and hurt at the other heroes, not once considering that they had never intended to prevent what was to be only, only what was being manipulated. "Our records are sketchy, but all indications are that she died around this time," M'onel had offered.
Now, surrounded by the current members of the Justice League, minus the renegade Earthian, Nightwing watched as the casket was slowly lowered into the ground. Wonder Woman had informed him that she believed that Andrea had been Catholic, and so the hero had arranged for a priest of the faith to perform the final ceremony. As the casket slowly dropped into the earth, Nightwing could not help but clench his hands into fists.
Not since the night his parents had been murdered had Dick Grayson known such sorrow and burning desire for revenge. The rain started to fall, but he did not notice; his eyes were focused solely on the hole that his daughter now rested in. The priest finished and slowly backed away, making the sign of the cross as he did so. That brought some measure of comfort to Nightwing, as his faith told him that his daughter was now in the hands of someone who would love her more than he had been able to.
He stood for several minutes, trying to somehow absorb a part of her into him with just his gaze. He understood that as soon as he turned away, that would end it. Black Robin…Andrea Lawson would be nothing more than a memory. The finality of the grave would forever silence her presence on this Earth.
"Dick, we need to talk," Wonder Woman said, her eyes swollen from the many tears she had shed over the past 48 hours. Of all of the members of the Justice League, Red Tornado was the closest that Andrea had to a friend, but his very nature prevented him from mourning properly. That had caused double grief for the Amazing Amazon, as she felt the need to carry the burden for the both of them.
Reluctantly, Nightwing allowed the blonde heroine lead him away. The rain began to pour and Wonder Woman produced an umbrella. They stopped a few yards away, while the Red Tornado moved into position next to the grave. "Dick, I've been contacted by the Markovian Embassy. Earthian managed to get back to his home country and they are refusing to extradite him."
"Then let's go get him," Nightwing said, a sudden roar to his tone. "That bastard killed my daughter! He's not hiding behind diplomatic immunity!"
"I must disagree," Red Tornado said as he approached. The rain ran down his metallic face, giving the impression of tears. "The current charter of the Justice League prevents us from apprehending him. He does have diplomatic immunity; therefore, he is beyond the law of the United States and the United Nations…for the time being."
"That bull! He's a killer and needs to be brought before a responsible body! What about the world court?" Nightwing asked, disbelieving what he was hearing. He could tell by the silence that the world had degenerated farther than he had thought. "Fine! I'll fix things in the past when I go back."
Brainiac 5, Ultra-Boy and Saturn Girl stepped forward. They had been standing a respectful distance away during the conversation. Saturn Girl spoke for the group. "We can't allow that, Nightwing. History indicates that you disappeared…"
Nightwing's patience reached its end. "Take me home now!"
Ultra-Boy stepped up slightly, indicating that he would counter any sudden moves. "Take it easy, fella," he said, holding up his hands. "We aren't the enemy. Fact is that a lot of time traveling has been going on and the top scientists of the United Planets believe that it's weakening the barriers…"
Nightwing was unimpressed and he looked at Ultra-Boy with a scornful eye. "Do you think for even one second I care? Have you completely lost your mind?" He slowly turned towards Saturn Girl. "You can read minds, right? Read mine. I was trained by the Batman." He let that sink in and then looked towards Brainiac 5 who was wearing his typical smirk. "You know who the Batman is…do you really believe that someone trained by the Batman is going to let something like time stand in the way of justice?"
M'onel silently landed to the side, exchanging a brief hug with Wonder Woman. "I've got Per Degaton. He wasn't expecting someone like me." It was not arrogance that provided the need for the statement; it was simply a fact. In the mid-twenty-first century, the greatest hero of the 31st century was the last person anyone expected to encounter. "I've got him secured in his time machine."
Brainiac 5, clearly thankful to get out of Nightwing's presence, started to move away. "I'll go make sure he doesn't activate it." It was a poor excuse as all present knew that the machine, which had been discovered almost immediately after the Legion had arrived, had been thoroughly inspected by Brainiac 5 to ensure it would not operate.
Nightwing turned and looked back at the grave of his daughter. The rain began to pour harder, plastering his hair against his skull. After a few moments, Saturn Girl put a hand on his shoulder and he turned to see her crying. Despite the heavy downpour, he could see the pain in her eyes. She had apparently taken him up on his offer to read his mind. "There's so much pain in you."
"Irma," Ultra-Boy said. "We can't…"
"Yes, we can," M'onel finally said, being the one to voice that they were going to send Nightwing back. He knew that time travel would soon be banned all together and that they would never get the chance again. It was a risky venture, but it somehow felt right. "Go tell Brainy to fire up that time machine of Per Degaton's."
Though he was anxious to leave, to return home to a time and place that did not seem so improbable, Nightwing decided to take a moment to speak with Red Tornado. Of all of the beings he had encountered in this future, this hell he hoped to prevent, the android member of the Justice League was by far the most changed from what he knew. Wonder Woman may have had some cosmetic changes, but she was still the same warrior princess on the inside.
Red Tornado had always been gentle, yet courageous; now he was timid, almost afraid to do anything. Nightwing guessed that something had occurred in the past that had caused the robot to shut down, to dampen his emotions. "I see no reason to discuss the past, as it is a moot point," the android said.
Behind them, Per Degaton was screaming for a lawyer while Ultra-Boy threw small pebbles at him. Saturn Girl, Wonder Woman and M'onel were busy making adjustments to the time machine and Brainiac 5 was warming the Legion's own time traveler. "It's important to me, Reddy," Nightwing said, grabbing the robot by the arm. He was surprised by how human he felt. "In the past, both the Justice League and the Titans left you as the mentor of Young Justice. We trusted you to be a calming influence and when I go back, I want to be sure that we made the correct decision."
"My time with Young Justice was…memorable, but short," Red Tornado replied. His voice showed no hint of the passion that Nightwing had come to expect, especially when the subject of Young Justice was brought up. That team, made up of many teenaged heroes, had taken up refuge in the original headquarters of the Justice League when they first formed. It was there that they came across the Red Tornado, who was at the low point of his life.
Through his experience with the younger heroes, the Red Tornado had relearned what it meant to be part of a community, a family. Mentoring had convinced him to try to work out his fractured relationship with his wife and daughter. Though he was artificial in construction and many of his functions were controlled through a complex array of electronics, his soul was that of a being of nature. The Tornado Champion, an alien presence, had bonded with the android body of the Red Tornado when he had been originally created.
It finally dawned on him that it seemed as if the Red Tornado had lost his soul. "What made the Tornado Champion go away?"
"Revenge," was the flat response. The face of the artificial man displayed no emotion, as it was not capable of doing so. Nightwing had been trained to read faces, for they were a direct indication of what someone was thinking. The android began to explain, but then stopped, as if he had violated some protocol in his programming. "When you get back, and if you are truly able to change what is to be, please take time out to…help me."
Without another word, no good-bye or good luck, Red Tornado activated his cyclone generator and headed off into the sky. The wind from his abrupt exit threw dirt and debris into Nightwing's face. It fit the mood since he felt dirty in this era, this half-future that represented nothing but pain and misery.
A strong hand on his wrist caused him to turn around. Wonder Woman smiled. "They're ready for you."
The finale had begun on his adventure. In a short time, he would be back in a familiar world, surrounded by familiar faces with familiar situations. Why did it seem so alien now when he thought about it? An old saying came to mind: you can never go home again. "I'm ready."
She took and wrapped her arm in his. "In the old days, I would probably give you a lecture about changing the past."
He looked at her hard. "Not this time?"
She looked down at her surgically altered chest. "No. Make the changes and temporal alignment be damned. You find your daughter. Do what's right."
They stopped in front of Per Degaton's time machine. She turned him and leaned down to give him a long kiss, full on the lips. When they were finished, he nodded. "You kiss like Donna."
"I'll take that as a compliment," she said, turning to go meet with some police officials. The Justice League was being used for crowd control as citizens returned to New Metropolis.
Nightwing stepped onto the time machine and saw Per Degaton sitting on the deck, hands secured behind his back by energy bindings. "This isn't over," the villain sneered.
Saturn Girl, who was manning the controls, said nothing as Nightwing moved over and kicked Per Degaton hard in the side. "I hold you at least partially responsible for Black Robin's death, scumbag!"
Per Degaton wheezed under the blow, but managed to remain upright. "I told you before that I had no idea that Earthian was going to kill her! He didn't work for me!"
Nightwing kicked him again and called to Saturn Girl over his shoulder. "Let's go."
Slowly, he peeled off the costume he had been wearing for far too long he felt. It smelled of sweat, desperation and of the rain that had fallen when he had buried Andrea. His computer's clock told him he had been returned some twenty-seven hours after he had originally disappeared. There were fourteen e-mails in his inbox; Barbara, Tim, Wally, Donna and even Bruce had been inquiring where he was.
Again, he had the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land and his eyes looked around the apartment for anything that he could use as an anchor. He needed something to tell him that he did indeed belong here, that this was his time.
He almost missed him, as he was so well cloaked by the darkness. "Bruce?"
"You didn't answer my e-mail. I don't like that," the Batman said as he stepped from the shadows. This was not the stuttering, delusional madman whom he had encountered only days ago. "I was…concerned."
"Worried I ran out on you?" Nightwing replied as he peeled off his mask. The mineral adhesive he used was still present and he looked around for a towel. "I'll tell you about it sometime."
Batman accepted that answer for the moment. There was visible relief in his face to see that Nightwing was not hurt. "I got a strange phone call the other night…"
"I know. Like I said, I'll explain it all to you later. You don't have to worry, our secrets are safe."
Batman picked up something that was on an end table. "Whose blood?"
Nightwing looked at him, his mind torn between revealing the truth and trying to decide what the truth really was. "I'll…"
"Tell me later?" Batman finished. He nodded and set the vial of blood down. He turned and headed towards the window. "Get your other costume on. The Riddler is loose and Tim is away on a mission for Young Justice."
"I'd like to take a shower…"
Batman turned. "Hurry it up, Dick. Time is running out…"
Nightwing held up his hands. "Okay, okay. I'm coming. Nothing better than coming home to face homicidal maniacs and grown men dressed in costumes with question marks all over them."
He moved off to get his spare costume and once again thought about the young woman who had been his daughter. He swore an oath, again, and began to get ready for another night of saving the world.