Disclaimer : Teen Titans are not mine, they belong to DC Comics and Warner Bros.
Broken Record moment: Aussie, spelling, slang, word usage is all different.
Author's Note: Continuance of Touch and Masks. Read those first please.
If you've been watching my profile (kisses stalker), you know I have a large number of chapters under my belt. The last arch, it's only in skeletal form right now, but it is mostly finished. But as I'm about to hit school holidays (four weeks of kiddies running amok), you'll only be getting two chapters a week for a while. Mondays and Thursdays, Aussie time, most likely in the morning. (Sunday nightish and Wednesday nightish for those in the States). It's either that, or you wait another four weeks.
Dick won the POV poll, which was rather interesting in my opinion. So this is in his point of view. We've gone through a time skip to get to this point.
Those of you that know your lore, might have an inkling of where this could be heading. Let me just say… you're wrong. Lore won't help you in this case.
Evil Orchid. That is all.
Big Fat Warning: It's me. What do you think is going to happen? Rated M for… stuff that may or may not include adult content. But mostly T.
Bones ached. Wrist was probably broken. Face battered and bruised. Blood trickled, dripped on the floor. Chain marks. Broken ribs.
Aching moans above. Two, strapped to a chair, sliced and still bleeding, one already deceased, paying for my overconfidence. My partners. Nothing could be done, couldn't stop it, couldn't prevent it, my fault they're here.
A light fixture swung overhead. Swish swish.
Chest hurt. Gurgled blood. Two bullet wounds. Probably a collapsed lung. Fuck.
There was laughter, why was there always laughter? Taunting in the dark as I struggled to my feet.
"Still got some fight in you, huh, Dick?"
Cough and gag. Spit the pooling blood. So fucking fragile. "You're not going to win." I staggered and stood, braced on painful knees.
"That's what I like about you," the darkness said. "No regard for personal safely."
I wasn't getting out of here alive.
Let's go out with a bang.
Thirty three minutes south of Gotham, it's development hampered by its larger neighbour. Once nicknamed, "Asbestos Town, USA," Bludhaven begun as a whaling town. It grew rapidly to highly industrial sectors which then fell into urban decay as businesses collapsed or relocated to Gotham during the Depression and just never picked up again. It's infamous for its somewhat rank odour and high crime rate. It could have been a major shipping hub, it could have been a major manufacturing centre, but it is neither.
Could've been, should've been, given up and lost to what is. A city stuck in the past, unable to strive for the future.
Crime lords, drug lords, driven away from Gotham by Batman, carve out meager existences among the dirty streets. The police force is as corrupt as Gotham's had been before Batman cleaned it out. Shopkeepers are forced to spend the majority of their profit on blood money, protection detail, which still fails to protect them from the random brick thrown at their window by angry teenagers ready to fall into the criminal life.
In the many bad sections of town the streets are grimy. Malodorous. Littered with refuse of all sorts. Trash cans burn, homeless huddle in stinking alleyways and hookers troll beneath broken street lamps. The windows of the shops are all barred, hidden away behind massive roller doors.
In one district, there is an illegal auto shop on every corner. No car parked there remains with its original owners. The citizens, already battling to survive, are forced to take public transport to their destinations. There is a murder every night, a drug death, alcohol abuse, a battered wife, husband or child.
In another, it might seem peaceful, neat little houses all in a row, tidy little streets, not a car or blade of grass out of place, but this one has a meth lab in its basement, that one operates a child pornography ring and the other one is a blacklisted as a house ill repute.
There are a few well known criminals here. Blockbuster for one. Penguin's been known to play here. Monolith. Black Mask. Just to name a few. Mostly, however, it's the corner street thugs, the drug dealers, the hooligans who think lighting fires in abandon cars is fun, the liquor store robbers which are laid off and desperate dads just trying to feed their children.
It's crime. It's all crime. No matter the excuse.
But there are some, some you can just see people being forced into that kind of life to provide. Some that need that little bit of help, an out of the never-ending cycle of poverty. Some who will take a second chance, if it's offered, and will never look back.
Often someone let go by a hero will turn around and try again, even if they know it's wrong. They need to be given incentive. It shouldn't be up to the heroes to offer the second chances. It's up to the community to open their hearts and wallets to the less fortunate. Bludhaven doesn't have many charities that aren't corrupt, or people willing to go out on a limb. Not yet.
What every city needs is a catalyst.
Someone willing to start. To take a stand and say no more. There is a line, we have fallen as far as we dared, now it is time to claw our way back to the future. For the children. For ourselves. Show us the way to a better life. We want it.
Gotham had Batman. Jump City had the Titans. Metropolis had Superman. Star City had Green Arrow. Keystone had the Flash. Just to name a few. Great heroes who make a difference.
Bludhaven has Nightwing.
Hackle restlessly flipped the pages of the newspaper. He was a tall, broad man who hated his job and always made a point of telling anyone who cared to listen. Brown hair, brown eyes, he blended in with the town and that was just fine by him. He'd never strive for anything better, but at least he'd never give in to anything worse. "Nightwing, Nightwing, Nightwing. God. There's other fucking news in this fucking town, you know? I really don't want to read about some prick wearing tights."
"So, don't read it," Rogers taunted, through a mouthful of takeaway. Rogers was in complete contrast of his partner, light haired, green eyed. He liked his job, was proud of it. Rogers made their partnership work, actually did what they were paid to do, while Hackle was the muscle. "We're supposed to be keeping watch, remember."
Hackle sighed and lit another cigarette.
"Dude. Really?" Rogers said, waving his hand at the smoke permeating from the end. "We're on the job."
"Ain't nothing gonna happen here tonight. Apple put us on a wild goose chase. Notice how she ain't here."
"Bigger fish to fry, I 'spose."
"Bigger fish? It'd better be a fucking marlin. I bet Grayson put her up to this. He's sneaky, that one. And he needs to get laid or something. Not everything's about work. Just 'cause he ain't got nothing better to do on a Saturday night than go on a stakeout, doesn't mean I have to fuck up my plans. I had this hot chick all—"
"Look, let's just do our job. We're told to watch this corner, then it's this corner we'll watch."
They didn't know they were being watched. They never really knew. Part of the reason why they were used. After all, someone had to arrest the criminals once they fled into the streets, and who better than two detectives that did things by the book so there would be no questions, no escapes and no grounds for lawsuit or false arrest.
A shadow crept along the top of the apartment building beside them, bored of listening to their whining and studied the layout of the supposedly abandoned building opposite.
Meth lab. Small one in the grand scheme of things, but it was the last one in this district. Already it was looking like the lab was getting ready to shut up shop, move to a different district but then it would have to be cleaned from that one too. Better to take it out now before it could go underground again.
Also, intel suggested that it was owned by Blockbuster and fucking with him was a bonus.
The stairwell of the three story building which lead to the roof was unguarded, big mistake, when were these guys going to remember that while police used regular doors, there were others out there who believed doors were a waste of time.
Like me. Why use a door when that partially opened window on the top floor could do the job just as well? Especially since none of them would expect to suddenly be confronted with a superhero right in the middle of their operation.
The toes of my boots were dug into the brickwork of the building, bracing me against falling as I pushed the window open a little further. The window wasn't well greased, but it didn't make any noise apart from a little groan. Then I wriggled inside, crouching just below the sill. I tapped my earpiece. "I'm in."
"Countdown to anonymous 911 call, ten minutes."
"Give me five."
"Fine. Just be careful, and don't get cocky."
I smiled and dropped into radio silence. A long, rectangular shaped room. Very dark. Smelt of vomit, urine and sex. Classy. There was a double bed against the wall, looked like it had been used recently. A small beside table with a packet of condoms and a box of tissues. A bin with discarded condoms. Ick. Some people would do just about anything to get a fix.
Taking my sticks from their hoisters on my back, I crept to the door. Wooden, broken hinges, the door handle was gone. It was open just enough for people to slip through and by the look of those hinges, it was probably jammed in that position. Real secure.
Withdrawing a small scope from a secret compartment in my glove, I checked down the corridor outside.
No guards. Lots and lots of half open doors. The lights were all broken, I could most likely sneak the whole hallway and they wouldn't see. Ancient red floral wallpaper peeled from the wall, and the sections that wasn't covered in that, was covered in graffiti. There were holes in the walls, the broken wooden panelling below exposed. The carpet had been ripped, burnt, thrown up on, and torn away in sections to expose the broken wooden floor below.
I could hear voices, male ones, deep and gruff, but they weren't close. I could hear moaning rather close. Sex noises. Next room.
Sure enough, as I peeked in, there was a man standing in the centre of the room, a woman kneeling before him. I didn't have to see to know what they were doing. Would have preferred not to have been able to see.
My gaze went to the girl. Red eyes. Slack jawed, vacant expression of someone whose had a hard life and turned to a harder way of living to cope. Or just an addict. Her hair was greasy, her clothes were dirty and torn, there were healing scabs on her face and track marks on her arms.
Knockout gas pellets at their feet, was about all I could do for the girl. She was willing, that I could tell, there was a small satchel of tablets, one in the man's fist, her eyes kept darting to them. If she'd fallen so far she'd submit to that, a word from me wouldn't help her. Dual thumps in the room told me the gas worked, the man didn't even have time to cry out.
The rest of the rooms were empty, except for one at the end of the hallway.
Four minutes, my brain told me. Which meant I had at least six, the time it would take for Hackle and Rogers to get the call and enter the building. I had to be out by then. Still, fun to race against the clock.
Room at the end of the hallway held three guys. They were watching some sort of game on TV. Popcorn which they threw at the screen. Copious amounts of alcohol and empty bottles. Not really worth my time to take out. I crouched at the door, reached through the gap and placed a couple of movement capsules at the door. Any motion detected near them, like if the men were alerted by gunfire or police entering the building and they tried to escape, the pellets would go off and incapacitate them.
There was a man coming up the stairs as I reached top of the dimly lit well. Easy enough to thump a hand on the banister as I flipped down half the level and plant my boot in his face. I dismantled his gun, checked his wallet for id and memorised the name before I moved on.
The second floor was where all the drug making facilities were and where the money was kept, the ground floor was used for all those deciding to get high right there in the building, where the muscle worked. I'd have to take the muscle out at the ground floor, but first I had to make sure whoever was leading this crappy operation was detained. There's no point taking out a place like this if the leech that runs it gets away with the money so he can start fresh somewhere else.
His name's Eddie, that much I've already gleaned from my research. Eddie. Why is it there are so many criminals called Eddie? Eddie the snitch. Eddie the mole. Eddie the hired gun. Eddie the black-market drug dealer. Eddie the soon to be jailbird.
Eddie, the man already passed out in his dingy, stuffy little smoke hazed room that probably was an office by the looks of the paper on the broken table. Looks like he's been sampling. Blockbuster doesn't like that, Eddie. You're lucky you ain't dead.
What papers you got, Eddie? Anything interesting? Ooooh.
I hit my earpiece. "Hey, Babsie?"
"Yes, honey buns?" she replied, sounding bored.
I grinned. "Log this location would you? Warehouse 42, Eastside Docks. I need eyes on it."
"Will do. Two minutes."
"Yeah, yeah. Also, ahh… damn… Officer Denis Mitchell. Run a trace on him. Says he's been taking kickbacks to ignore this when he's patrolling."
"Sea of corruption is never ending."
"Apparently." I absently twirled a stick in one hand, poking through the rest of the papers with my other stick. "Boring stuff, shipments, deliveries. Police can take care of that." I holstered my sticks and got out a tiny camera to snap a few shots, just in case it was all bungled or lost. "Sending you piccies anyway. Enjoy."
"Thanks. You're a peach."
I could just hear the roll in her eyes. "That's why you love me," I said.
"Just get on with it. One minute."
I headed for the door. "Hey, you took off thirty seconds."
"Blame it on your cockiness."
Couldn't do anything about the cocktails of drugs already in production, there did need to be evidence, but I could rig the chemicals to 'accidently' contaminate once the Police had gotten a good look at the operation, it so that the drugs would have to be destroyed, rather than 'accidently' misplaced. Lots of accidents.
Still the guards on the lower floor to take out. I needed the Police to be able to get as many of them as they could, but I didn't want it to look like it was too easy. Hide my presence and all that. One or two of them might report Nightwing in the building taking them out, but the rest wouldn't know what hit them.
Six guys. Pretty slim picking today. Most of the walls on the ground floor are gone. Lots of support columns instead. There are a few clumps of people scattered around, easy to tell who's a guard and who isn't. The guards are the ones with the guns.
Two over by the front door, two hanging around the middle, and these two here at the base of the stairs. Which were easy, because I could take them out as I came down. Jump from the landing in the middle of the stairs, handstand on one guys shoulders, double kick the other guy in the head while simultaneously twisting the first guy around and slamming him face first into the wall. Disarm.
Two birdarangs at the two men in the middle who were surprisingly alert for drug dealing guards and have turned toward the two soft grunts my first victims made. Two birdarangs to take out those guns so I can rush them.
Leather jackets, concealed weapon. Oh, knife. One of them scrambled for his fallen gun, received a running kick to the back of the head for his trouble. Using his head as leverage, I flipped away from the face planted man as the man with the knife took a stab at me.
Dodge two swipes, retaliate with a kick to the belly and the knife man's back hit a column with an 'oof'. The sudden noise attracted the attention of the two guards at the door. Smoke bomb between us, will buy me a few more seconds. Knife man took another stab at me. Easy to catch his wrist and twist, forcing him to drop the knife before I deliver an uppercut to knock him down.
"Call made," Oracle said.
Time to leave.
The first man through the smoke screen got a punch to the face for his trouble. The second one had his legs swept out from beneath him. I planted a hand on the ground and kneed him in the face as he fell forward.
Leaving all six guards in a state of semi consciousness and unconsciousness and making sure all weapons were dismantled, I headed for the roof. One grappling hook ride later and I was on the roof of the building on the opposite side of the street and able to peer over the edge, just in time to see backup arriving for Hackle and Rogers, and the pair break the door down.
One less drug lab on my streets. I watched as more cops arrived and started to escort handcuffed men from the buildings, including unconscious Eddie. I nodded as the narcotics squad arrived and took over proceedings.
"I do not understand why you put so much faith in the police department."
I flicked my eyes at her, I'd been ignoring her presence, hoping she'd just leave but she never does. "Someone has to."
Catalina Flores, a former FBI agent as well as sister to Bludhaven's assistant district attorney, she's taken up the mantle of Tarantula and become a vigilante, determined to battle the corrupt police officers and gangland criminals of the city. She's rough around the edges, relies on force and brutality techniques to get the job done. She doesn't have the backing I have, Oracle or the Titans, nor does she have the training and I'm not willing to give her any. She just doesn't listen. She's one of those who wants it her way and is not prepared to wait. I don't approve of her methods, at all, and am actually concerned that one day she'll kill someone, but she gets results. We've worked together in the past, but lately she's become a little more personal.
She doesn't realise I've worked out who she is, and there's no way in hell I'm letting her know who I am. Ever.
Tarantula sauntered to the edge of the building to stand by my side, her black hair swishing along with her hips. I really wish she didn't try to put the moves on me so much. "Baby, you have your work cut out for you if you're determined to trust them so much. You'll be catching all the same criminals twice."
I shrugged. "Maybe that's what I want, did you ever think of that?"
She cast me a shrewd look. "Why?"
I shrugged and smirked. Easier to track and gather evidence on who lets them out if I have to combat the same criminals twice. "Why are you here?"
"Same reason as you."
"Somehow I doubt you're doing this out of the goodness of your heart. What do you want?"
"Word on the street is the bounty on your head has tripled. Blockbuster's getting anxious."
I shrugged. "Thinking of cashing in?"
"Just giving my little Wingz a heads up."
I groaned. "I'm not your little Wingz."
"You can only resist me for so long," she smirked, and placed a hand on my chest.
I cursed inwardly at being close enough to touch and moved away. "I think you'll find I can resist you for a lot longer than that. Now, if you have nothing more, I'll be on my way," I said and with a running leap, I was over the edge of the building and onto the next one.
Bludhaven's my home now, has been for well over year. I've been making a difference, carving out my reputation separate from the Titans or Batman. The city is my responsibility; I fight for it on two fronts.
Nightwing soars through the night. Dark and silent, a swift avenger. Protecting the people from the villains they can't see.
Detective Grayson fights the system from the inside. Weeding out corruption. Protecting the people from the villains they can see.
It's hard work. Tiring. An uphill battle at times. There are nights where it almost seems like I'm cutting one arm of crime, only to have two grow back in its place. There are days where it seems I'm investigating the same crimes, putting the same people behind bars only to have the same corrupt Judges who I can't ever seem to gather enough evidence on to charge, release them back into the street.
But rewarding. I can already see the changes occurring within the City. School attendance has picked up. Some of the streets are taking more pride in their appearances. Businesses are reporting fewer breaks ins, home invasion is at an all time low. The homeless shelters and soup kitchens reporting lower numbers of people asking for help or requesting food, unemployment levels are dropping. The charities are funnelling money down to the right people instead of their own pockets.
It's still hard. There's such a long way to go. And I'm doing it on my own.