DC Comics Presents: Killing Roy Harper
Chapter 1: Zatanna and Nightwing
By Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: Nightwing™, Zatanna™ and all other related characters and situations used in this story are ©2002 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for non-profit, fan-related entertainment purposes only. This original work of fiction is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in any form, in part or as a whole, without the express permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published to the internet under the title DC Comics Presents: Zatanna and Nightwing. It has been revised and updated by the author,
I will hate you for all of eternity.
Such dark thoughts were common in the brain of Abra Kadabra.
Sometimes, he would wonder about his obsession with the Flash, and then his thoughts would drift to Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, a 25th century villain who died, albeit accidently, at the hand of Barry Allen, the second Flash. This desire to conquer the Scarlet Speedster had led to his death at an early age. True, Abra had faired much better over the years; he was only horribly disfigured and scarred, but he would sometimes ponder if his fixation on this particular super-hero would spell even more dire consequences for himself.
Abra turned to his companion, a man cloaked in black. "You have something to say? I can sense it, you know."
The man smiled from the shadows of his hood. "No, please go on with your story, it's so interesting."
Abra looked across the table they sat at. It was a warm spring day and they were in Paris, France. The year was 2717. A positively mundane time in history; a perfect place for the two of them to meet. "Stop patronizing me," Abra said, his face twisting in anger. Subtle magiks kept the façade of rugged handsomeness in place, or else the entire lunch crowd would be gawking at him. "You asked for this meeting, so speak. I don't know why I agreed to even see you."
"Because you value my opinion, my dear friend. That and you really don't have anything else to do, do you? You talk about having this plan and that plan for taking care of the Flash, but we both know that isn't true." He let the statement hang between them for a moment before he continued. "Have you ever considered that, maybe, you're taking too direct an approach in handling your Flash affairs?"
Abra waved the comment away and sipped at his wine. "Please, I'm the master of intricate plans; I just have a run of bad luck…constantly."
"Bad luck? Funny you should mention that, because I was thinking about the very same subject."
"Really? I wonder why someone of your ability, of your talent," Abra's tone was turning sarcastic, "of your wisdom, would bother considering something so primitive as the concept of luck?"
The hooded man took a sip of his own drink. "You realize there is no such thing as luck, don't you?"
"Bah! Don't bother me with your sermons today, just tell me why we are here," Abra snapped.
"Suppose I told you that I had the most ingenious plan for getting rid of Wally West?"
Abra motioned for the waiter and held up his glass. As the waiter filled it, he spoke. "And why would you share it with me? You've never demonstrated any particular hatred towards the super-hero community."
"True, but maybe I've been biding my time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike."
As the waiter departed, Abra leaned in closer. "I think you've been waiting for a very long time. For years, all you've done is give me bad advice."
The hooded man leaned in as well. "Not just you, my friend."
There was a pause and then both men started laughing and then their wine glasses clanged together in a toast. "I thought," Abra said, "that you would come around eventually. Why now?"
"Let's just say I thought the time was right."
A few minutes later, both men departed the café, each going in separate directions. Abra pondered the plan laid out before him and almost smacked himself in the forehead for never thinking of it. The subtleness of it, but the inherent cruelty, made it a work of art.
The young hero known as Nightwing was enjoying himself as he swung between buildings on a nylon cord. He was in New York, spending the week with his friend Victor Stone as they upgraded the computers in the headquarters of the Titans.
It was costing him his only week of vacation from the Bludhaven police department, where, as Richard Grayson, he spent his daylight hours as a patrolman. It wasn't that he needed the money, because he had millions, literally, hidden away in secret accounts that were never discovered during the standard background checks that all police candidates went through. Instead, he was a little upset that he had to give up the time because he had other plans.
Actually, he had hopes of having other plans.
As he landed on the rooftop of a three-story building, he started counting all of the different women in his life he had been considering asking out for a vacation in the tropics. At the top of his list was Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl and current cyber-sleuth Oracle.
The next likely candidate had been Donna Troy, the Titan known as Troia. The two had been friends for over a decade and recently they had been spending a lot of time alone together. They had tried having a relationship once, but it hadn't worked out. Now they were older and wiser.
The obvious choice was Jessie Quick, another Titan. Jessie was smart, brave, intelligent and beautiful. Plus, she was rich, which meant that they could communicate on a similar level. Richard did not think of himself as a snob, but sometimes it was easier to talk to someone about the problems with your investments when they could actually sympathize.
"Ah hell, Grayson," he said to himself as he scouted the nearby rooftops, trying to decide which way to go. "You know exactly what it is…that tight little costume she wears."
He was about to start heading south, when he heard the sound of a scuffle. Nightwing looked over and saw a young man being assaulted on the roof of a community theater. Immediately, the hero threw a line over and swung to the fire escape on the side of the building.
As he started to climb, he could hear applause from the inside of the theater. Nightwing decided he needed to end this quickly before some unsuspecting theater worker headed to the roof for a smoke.
Climbing over the edge, he saw that the man was down on the ground, next to a large skylight. Without a word, he launched himself at the nearest thug. The man turned, seeing only a dark blur before Nightwing landed a punch to his jaw and then a kick to the side. As he went down, effectively out for the fight, Nightwing turned his attention to the other man.
"Don't move, hero," the man said, drawing a chrome-plated revolver. His voice had the familiar New York accent.
"I don't like guns," Nightwing said, his hand moving to the pocket that held his special shuriken. "Put it away and I promise it won't be too painful."
The man pulled the trigger and Nightwing threw his sharpened weapons. Two shots missed the hero. Struck in the hand and wrist, the gunman dropped his pistol just as Nightwing was getting ready to rush him. A loud crash behind him made turn instead, and he saw the man he was trying to protect falling in. Nightwing cursed to himself; he had thought the man was out cold.
Dismissing the gunman, Nightwing leapt through the broken skylight to pursue the victim. As he dropped into the theater, he saw that they were above the stage and that a shower of glass was just ahead of them. As he fired a safety line with his launcher, he caught sight of a single person on the stage, wearing what appeared to be a top hat. He reached for the falling body of the victim but just missed; he was too late!
"Dnuorg eht ot taolf nam!" a raven-haired woman chanted from the stage. Immediately, Nightwing saw the victim slow in his fall. "Snaeb yllej ot nrut ssalg!"
The shards of glass immediately shimmered and changed form, becoming a rainstorm of jellybeans. Even as his safety line caught and he swung up into the upper reaches of the theater, Nightwing realized that the woman on the stage was actually former Justice League member, Zatanna.
Zatanna, he knew, was the daughter of Zatara, a famous magician from the 1940's and 50's, who had apparently had children late in life. Both he and his daughter had the ability to use magic, by reciting commands backwards. Zatanna had spent several years as a member of the Justice League, the youngest member of the original team. No longer an active member, she had turned to the stage to follow more closely in her father's footsteps.
Nightwing landed and watched as the victim landed softly. He said a silent prayer of thanks and peered down at Zatanna. Clad in her magician's outfit, he couldn't help but notice her long legs in the fishnet stockings she sported. "I should attend the theater more often," he said silently.
She looked up, saw him and winked. He gave her a quick salute and then indicated that he would head down and find her later so that they could compare notes.
At least, that was the justification he was feeding himself at the moment.
"Are you sure that nobody saw you?" Zatanna asked as she closed her dressing room door.
"Afraid of giving away your secret identity?" Nightwing asked. He was seated in her make-up.
"No, I just don't want people to start thinking I'm having a Justice League meeting or something," she said, hanging her hat up and reaching for a bottled water inside a small refrigerator.
Nightwing stood up. "Technically, Batman is in the League, I'm in the Titans."
She laughed. It was an attractive, feminine laugh with a slight snort. "I'm sorry, you're right. It's been so long since I had anything to do with the League…I really don't keep up with it."
He tilted his head and she caught his smile. She returned it, taking a quick glance at his figure. As wicked thoughts entered her mind, she caught the hint of something coming from him. It wasn't physical, but mystical, like a loose thread fluttering in the breeze. A black thread.
The fluttering had stopped, but she could still sense something. "It was fun and exciting back then, but there were problems. Green Arrow always rubbing my shoulders, the Elongated Man always looking for a pat on the back. Lord, how I wanted someone my own age on the team. When Aquaman reformed a more permanent team, I kind of hung on, but it just didn't work out. I don't miss it, but I am thankful for it."
Nightwing nodded. "I never really wanted to be part of the League myself; I like hanging out with people my own age too. I don't think I would take too well to Green Arrow rubbing my shoulders."
She laughed again, choking on the swig of water she had taken. He reached over and patted her on the back. Normally, she would have used it as an excuse to make some statement to gauge his receptivity to her charms, but instead, she felt a cold shock to her body. The fluttering had become something more.
He saw the look on her face and immediately backed away. "I'm sorry, I thought you were choking…"
She wiped a tear from her eye. "No, that's not it…can I ask you a question?"
He nodded his ascent. "Go ahead."
"Have you ever been exposed to mystical energies?"
It was his turn to laugh. "You really haven't been following the super-hero scene, have you? When we were the Teen Titans, every other case was dealing with creatures like Trigon."
Zatanna nodded. "I don't know what to alarm you, but I'm sensing…something coming off of you."
Nightwing lifted his arms and sniffed, with great drama. "I don't smell," he said proudly.
She shook her head, without smiling. "It's not physical, it's something else. I can't describe it exactly, but it comes in waves."
Nightwing looked concerned. "I don't like the sound of this."
"Would you like to get out of here? This isn't the place for this kind of conversation."
The man that approached Zatanna on the street corner was young, handsome and had sureness to his step. He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, a sort of modern-day James Dean. He smiled as he approached. "Still don't know who I am?"
She grinned and had to brush her hair out of her face as a breeze picked up. "You're cuter out of uniform than I thought…kind of what I always thought Batman would look like."
He rolled his eyes. "Like I've never heard that before."
She was about to make a reply when she felt the tendrils reach out again. She could sense them moving towards everything, the buildings, the cars and even the trash on the street. Nightwing saw the look on her face. "What is it?"
"I can't tell you, except that I think something is going to happen…" she paused and then cried out. "Ereht revo ekirts gnitghil!"
A bolt of lighting, ready to strike her, moved off in another direction and struck the middle of the street. There was a loud thunderclap and a small explosion as the concrete gave way to nature's fury. Nightwing lunged for Zatanna and pushed her to the ground. Her head turned to the scene of the lightning blast and she thought that, just for a second, she saw a humanoid form moving in the smoke. She blinked her eyes and the form was gone.
"Are you okay?" Nightwing asked. She turned her head to find him only inches away. His weight was comfortable on top of her.
"I'm fine, but I think we should get up or else you'd better ask me to marry you," she said with a smirk. As they stood up, she smoothed out her blouse. "We need to get out of here. Let's go to my apartment, I have a book there I need to consult."
Zatanna's apartment was filled with candles, books, videos and a Barbie doll collection. "You really collect those?'
"No, I just keep them around so people will leave my books alone," she said as she dug through stack after stack. Nightwing noticed a few titles by Stephen King. He waited patiently and wandered over to the videos.
"No Blair Witch Project?" he asked with a smile.
She stood up. "Please, don't insult me." In her hand was a large book with yellowed pages. "This is a book written in the 1920's about the subject of luck."
"Luck? Someone actually wrote a book about it?' Nightwing asked, looking for someplace to sit.
Zatanna cleared some books out of a chair and sat down, oblivious to her guest's problem. "Yes. There are some that believe that luck is actually a force that can be manipulated magically. Some even say that you can effect luck in such a way as to create it."
"Create it? You mean that when someone says they're having a streak of bad luck, it's true?"
"That's one way of looking at it, but usually when luck is affected magically it's for a specific purpose, such as to cause a certain event to happen. The more complex the spells weaved, the longer the bad luck will last. The tendrils I felt coming from you reminded me of the descriptions I had read in this book once before." She started turning the pages, and had to push a lock of hair behind her head. "Would you say that you are terribly unlucky?"
"I don't believe this," Nightwing said, moving towards a window. "I don't know what you mean by bad luck. Do bad things happen in my life? Sure, but is it anything out of the norm? Not that I can tell."
She looked up from the book, at him. "Look, I don't want to sound forward or anything, but I've worked with Batman, remember? You don't get that intense without a lot of tragedy. You've been exposed to that, plus something more. I can tell. When you don't think people are looking, you show your pain in your eyes."
He turned away and looked out the window. He didn't want to think about what had gone wrong in his life, and the idea that it had to do with invisible magic tendrils was ludicrous. Was he inadvertently responsible for his parent's death? "I have some pain in my life; we all do. There's nothing special about mine."
There was a hand on his shoulder. "People don't normally put on a costume and fight crime unless its something major."
He turned to her and was about to speak when he saw something. A shadow moved. She saw the look on his face and she instantly felt the presence. There was a mystical presence that didn't belong in her apartment. She turned and prepared to launch a spell when she was hit with a bolt of blue lightning. She fell back into strong arms that held her up. "What is it?" Nightwing asked.
"I…don't…know," she struggled to get the words out. Another flash and he pulled her to the side, rolling over her body and coming up in an offensive stance. He saw what was going on. Whenever the shadow passed by the Barbie dolls, he could see it. The dolls, obviously, were some sort of mystical home alarm system.
Nightwing lunged for the shadow, half expecting to pass through and hit the opposite wall. He connected and felt a warm body and he grabbed it tight. He and the figure fell to the floor and began wrestling around.
A magical assault sent him flying across the room. He crashed into a stack of books. Shrugging off the blow he stood back up, to be joined by a very angry Zatanna. "Nobody invades my home," she said. Nightwing looked over and actually saw smoke rising from her chest where the lightning had struck. She saw him staring. "You can look at it later," she said. The she added, "to make sure I'm okay."
He nodded as she cast a spell. "Nezorf niamer wodahs!" Instantly the shadow-thing stopped moving and audible cursing could be heard.
"Who the hell puts a spell of alarm on dolls?" a voice called.
"Kadabra!" Zatanna said, venom in her voice. "I should have known!"
The shadow melted away to reveal the form of the 64th century magician, complete with all of the scars and disfigurements. It was obvious he was using his talents to free himself from Zatanna's spell. "This won't hold me for long, you realize that."
"Long enough to get the answers I need," she said, approaching him slowly. "What is this all about, why are you following him?"
"You wouldn't understand such things, woman!" Abra hissed.
"Try her," Nightwing said, coming up behind her. He put a blanket around her to cover her chest.
Zatanna thought back to the lighting bolt earlier and the figure she had seen in the smoke. "You've been following him, why? I saw you earlier!"
Abra had a surprised look on his face. "What are you talking about? I just got here. I felt your presence in the spell. How was I supposed to know he would have a chance encounter with a mystic of your caliber and perceptiveness? You had to be concentrating pretty strongly on him to sense my spell."
She started to blush as she realized that the passing romantic fantasy had caused her to focus more intently on the hero. "Why did you have a spell on him? Aren't you interested in the Flash?"
His left arm began moving, indicating he was breaking her charm. "Don't you see? He was the weapon I planned to use against West! I traveled back to his birth and weaved my magiks there. An incredible trail of bad luck has followed him through his entire life. He lost parents, friends…so much pain. It was only a matter of time before his bad luck took out his best friend."
"That's a bunch of crap!" Nightwing cried, grabbing Abra by the collar and shaking him. "Are you trying to say I'm responsible for every bad thing that's ever happened to everyone I've ever known?"
Abra laughed. "Your primitive brain could never comprehend what I'm trying to say, fool!" His arms came free and he shoved the hero back with magically enhanced strength. He began to disappear. "Think long and hard about it, hero!
Nightwing jumped the disappearing figure and he passed right through it.
"So, that's it?" Nightwing asked, looking up from where he was laying on the couch in Zatanna's apartment.
She nodded. "It was a fairly simple spell; it was the magic that hid it from detection that was so powerful. It's true, if I hadn't been concentrating so hard on you," she began to blush again, "I never would have detected it."
"Was what he said true?" Nightwing asked, sitting up. It had been on his mind since Abra's admission. "Am I indirectly responsible for every bad thing I've witnessed?" He thought about his parents and then his mind went off on other tangents. Jason Todd's death. Barbara Gordon's wounding by the Joker. Donna Troy's son dying. Joseph Wilson's insanity.
She smiled. "I don't think so. Regardless of what Abra might think, there are powers stronger than magic that control life and death. What has happened in your life, I believe, was meant to happen and is part of something bigger than Abra Kadabra's plan to kill Wally West."
She nodded. "I suppose you'll be going now?"
"Actually," he said with a wry grin," I was wondering if you like to travel to exotic locations…"
The hooded man listened to Abra's explanation of what had gone wrong with the "perfect" plan. He nodded at all of the right places, and shook his head in sympathy when it was required. It was important to maintain the deception, after all.
An hour later, Abra had gone, promising to meet him in the 30th century in a week for dinner. He didn't know if he would actually make it. It was difficult, trying to coordinate so many things over so many time periods.
It had been a good plan; only it hadn't been the Flash he had been after. No, it was someone else, another Titan, the one that wasn't supposed to be there, the pretender. The hooded man had to take a deep breath to keep his anger from welling up and exploding. It was ironic now that he thought about it, that his little plan had actually caused the accident that had brought him here and given him his powers. To think, a simple spell to divert a lightning bolt and here he was, snatched from death.
Death? That wasn't quite right; more like totally wiped from existence!
Oh, now Nightwing would wonder for the rest of his life if he were responsible for all of those bad things! If only he knew that it didn't matter, since all of the events that had already occurred were just predestined. The hooded man knew that for a fact. He had hoped that the spell would actually nail Harper though. How sweet it would have been.
It had been his hope to take care of this in secret, to further his plans in the background. That was why he had cultivated the relationship with Abra after they had met in the 43rd century. It had appeared, at the time, they would be able to accomplish their goals together. The hooded man knew how the heroes operated after all.
He pulled back his hood and ran a hand through his red hair and sighed. A total failure, a worthless venture indeed! No matter, he still had his goals and he had all of the time in the world, now being immortal. He would have his revenge on Harper and then he would claim his rightful place in history.