"You've got to be shitting me."
Dick gave Roy a look.
"Okay, I believe you but this is nuts."
They'd met in a suburb of Chicago, room number 387 of a Holiday Inn along an Interstate. Dick had copies of documents and files on his cell phone which he'd downloaded to a new I-Book, making a point of not connecting to the internet. He wouldn't even tell one of his oldest friends where he'd gotten the information. "It's not nuts...okay, paranoid and compulsive but it makes sense in a warped way."
"Which is the only way Batman deals." Roy looked at the evidence again. "Jesus; so what are we going to do about it? You know that if this is turned over the the League he'll be bounced at the very least."
"You're okay with that? I mean, shit, he's either using you as a guinea pig or he really thinks you're a threat. Either way it's screwed up."
"Not from his perspective and I'm not okay with his; I just understand why he's doing it."
Roy looked over at his friend, shaking his head. "I can't believe you're still defending the bastard."
"I'm not, I'm just saying I see why he did it."
"And you're just going along like this is okay? When did you figure out what game he's playing, f'christsakes?
"Maybe two weeks ago, that's when I was sure. I suspected when I heard about the surveillance tape..."
"Because you didn't take a bribe from Selina."
"Right. I played along because, I don't know—I guess to see what he'd do. I suspected I was being taped wither with audio or video, or maybe both. "
"Because Selina wasn't acting like herself, something was off and then she started talking about the possible repercussions and had I thought it through, thought about what the Bat and the other vigilantes would do. It was almost like she was trying to tell me something."
"Wait, wait—you're telling me she knew this was a set up for you and not her?"
"I think, I don't have proof yet but I think the Bat somehow got her to play along with him on this for some reason."
"I'm still working on that. Maybe he agreed to take her to dinner or get her a kitten for her birthday. I don't know but whatever it was, it worked."
"But I still don't get why any of this happened; what's his motive, what's in it for him?"
"I think he might just wanted to see what would happen if the word went out that one of us went off."
"You're a crazy as he is."
"No, I just know how he thinks. And there's more..."
"Are you kidding me? He set up his own protege, son, whatever the hell Dick is this week, purposely to see how the rest of us would react if he had to be taken down? What a jackass."
"You're gonna love this, it gets better; he has plans in place to take down every one of us in case we flip out or something and become dangerous. He's made a study of our individual weaknesses and ways to exploit them."
Aquaman and Green Arrow were on a com link, knowing that probably half the league, Oracle and maybe the entire friends list on Facebook were listening.
"I think he's gone too far; I think we should talk to the others, get a consensus and see where the majority stand on this thing."
Arthur gave Ollie a hard look. "Are you suggesting some kind of punishment for the Bat? He'll never accept it."
"He can't argue with an unanimous vote to disbar him, throw him out on his ass."
"Well just speaking for myself, I know I don't want to work with him at this point and I suspect a lot of the others will feel the same."
Ollie stared into the monitor. "At least for a while. Diana called a full meeting tonight, we'll see what happens then."
The road trip back east was quiet for the most part. It wasn't until they were pulling into the suburbs of Bludhaven that Patty actually asked the obvious question. "When did you realize what was going on?"
Not that he'd actually told her his suspicions. His actions and a few snatched parts of partial phone conversations were all she had to go on, but they told her where his thought were going.
"I suspected about two or so weeks ago, then finally managed to hack the right computer and the right files a few days ago, that's when I had proof."
"So that's why you called that friend of yours."
"And he's going to do whatever he's going to do to help you and get this mess straightened out."
"But, I don't understand; did you suspect all the time or not. I mean, you knew you hadn't really taken a bribe and I get this has something to do with Batman and the Justice League but you're not in the JLA, are you? Why does this involve you?"
He hesitated and took a drink from the sodas they'd picked up at a McDonald's drive-thru a hundred miles back. "Batman likes to have every base covered, every possibility thought through and an answer to every question before anyone asks."
Patty started to say something but changed her mind. There was no point in trying for details and she knew it.
He signaled for her exit." Patty? You know that you can't ever talk about any of this, right?"
"We've talked about this and of course I do but what I'd really like to know is what you're going to do after all of this is over."
"I'm still me, I'm still Nightwing so I'll just keep doing that, being that—is that what you mean?"
"No, I mean how are you going to deal with the fallout? Even I know this is going to be a very big deal."
"I'll, I'll do just fine." Dick seemed confused by the question. "Besides, there are ways to contain things like this. If it does get into the press, I don't think it will go too far." He'd dropped her off close to her apartment, made sure she'd gotten inside all right and even arranged for dinner to be delivered since there was no food in the place and it was getting late.
"Alfred, I need to speak with Bruce and he's not answering. 'Any idea where he is?"
"I only wish I did, Master Richard. I haven't had contact myself with him in close to twenty-four hours."
"I'm guessing that I'm not the only one trying to find him, am I?"
Alfred shook his head, slowly and sadly. "Several members of the Justice League have called; they seemed –distressed."
Dick didn't bother to say anything; it wasn't like he was surprised. Besides, he knew Bruce well enough to know where he was likely to be, Alfred running interference for him or not.
Nightwing walked into the Batcave calmly, one step at a time down the long staircase, stopping about a yard from Batman who was in the midst of hitting a punching bag.
"You could have told me."
"No—punch—'wouldn't—punch—have been—punch—the same."
Because the reactions had to be real, right?"
"Of course." Punchpunchpunch.
"No matter what I went through?"
The punching stopped, Bruce panting very slightly as he turned and actually faced Dick. "I'm sorry about that, but for it to work, it had to be real. You couldn't know; 'you understand."
Dick didn't say anything, knowing it was useless and not knowing what words to use even if they would have even the smallest effect. He turned and walked back up the stairs, through the empty kitchen, out to his bike and down the long driveway.
A week later the entire membership of the Justice League was assembled in the satellite to hear what, if anything, Batman had to say for himself. The rumor that several members were taking bets that he'd refuse to testify was unconfirmed. Every seat around the large table was taken and emotions, though running high were under control—so far. Everyone turned toward Batman.
"Yes, of course I've drawn up plans as to how to take down any one of us should the need arise. We'd be fools if we didn't have something ready to go in the event... One of our basic premises is to be prepared for any eventuality and having one of us need, at some point, to be contained was among the things which had to be considered. I'd have been remiss if I hadn't."
"Did Nightwing know what was happening when he went underground?" Zantana's voice was quiet in the large room.
"I hadn't discussed it with him, no. He knew me well enough to start looking and he had the knowledge and the abilities to find out what was happening and why."
"May I ask what you'd have done if any one of us had actually apprehended him? What would your reaction be if he were injured—or worse—in some kind of attempt?"
Batman was an unimpressed "I know Nightwing can handle himself."
Clark commented, "Not to split hairs, but we are the Justice League. I think it's entirely possible that either he or one of us might have been injured if this had played out to the end. Had you considered that and what would you have done about it?"
"Like I said, Nightwing can take care of himself; he knows everyone in this room well enough to be ready for anything you might do or try to bring him in. Equally, everyone here is perfectly capable of defending themselves."
"It seems to me that you were placing too much on an assumption."
Black Canary shook her head. "It's beyond me how you put Dick—your nominal son—in that kind of danger without warning him and I also think your reasoning is that you had to have genuine reactions is complete garbage." She looked over at Green Arrow. "And Zantana is right; you pulled this without any kind of consideration as to what might have happened to any one of us, either. With his abilities and training he could well have killed someone."
"Dick wouldn't kill anyone."
Oliver slammed his hand on the table. "You seem damn certain for someone speaking through his ass."
Wonder Woman's voice cut through. "Enough of that. Is Dick here to tell his opinion of this 'Doomsday Plan' of yours?"
"Nightwing isn't available."
"Excuse me? Was he informed that we wished to hear his thoughts on this?"
Clark answered. "He's been informed, yes, but he's refusing to speak to anyone at the moment. I saw him this morning and he insisted—and I think correctly—that he's far too angry to be unbiased until he's had time to cool down."
"I don't blame him." Flash was furious not just at what had happened but that one of his closest friends had been placed in potentially mortal danger for one of Batman's security experiments.
"So the question is what are we going to do about this situation—if anything." Diana looked around the table, inviting comment and debate.
In a group of outsized and dynamic personalities, no one seemed to know what to say. After a too long silence J'onn J'onzz broke the awkward silence. "I suggest that we reconvene in a few weeks when emotions aren't running so high."
Green Arrow violently shook his head. "The hell with that. Decide now. Vote—is he in or out. If he's out then for how long?"
It took two hours but the decision was finally agreed upon. Wonder Woman stood up and made the pronouncement:
"Batman's membership in the Justice League is, by general and mutual agreement lifted and revoked until further notice. The subject would be revisited in due course."
Batman, showing no emotion or reaction of any kind, left the satellite.
Alfred Pennyworth had driven down to Bludhaven since the young master was declining to answer either his phone or his e-mail. "I'm outraged at the League's decision, Master Richard. I truly am." He was pacing, actually pacing in the small apartment. "You must come back to the Manor and speak with him, make him understand that this is just temporary and everything will be back to normal before long., I beg of you."
Dick had listened without comment, letter Alfred have his say them picked an apple from the bowl on the counter. "He made his bed..."
"Richard, you must, you have to..."
"No, Alf, I don't."