Chapter 4, away!
Disclaimer: 303kcihc-X seod ton nwo gnuoY ecitsuJ! (Read that backwards, and it'll make sense.)
Robin stared at Nightwing with suspicion. The team was standing on the roof top where the Bio-Ship was parked.
Nightwing turned toward a now-conscious Miss Martian. "How's the head?"
"Bruised, but I think I'll live," she replied. "Thank for saving me and Superboy."
"Hey, I'm a hero, you guys are heroes, it was the least I could do."
"If you are a hero, how come we've never heard of you? Even if you're new, I'm sure we would've gotten word about a 'Nightwing" running around," Robin said, crossing his arms. "What kind of codename is Nightwing, anyway?"
"I used to go by something else, but I decided it sounded too childish. And what kind of codename is Robin?" Nightwing retorted. "Robins don't usually associate with bats."
"He has a point," Kid Flash piped up.
"Shut it, KF," Robin muttered.
"And for your information, I've been at this longer than any of you. I just like to stay under the radar," Nightwing continued. "But we didn't come up here to talk about me. We came to talk about Blank Face. I stuck 20 explosives on that guy, and he didn't even flinch. That's just weird, even by superhero standards."
"What about the monster you helped us defeat?" Aqualad asked. "Where did that come from?"
"I've fought Blank Face before," he replied, not mentioning that this had been about an hour and a half ago by his internal clock. "He pulled a bo-staff straight from his body. I'd bet my inheritance that's where our creature feature came from."
"How big is your inheritance?" Artemis asked. Everyone looked at her. "What? Like you guys don't want to know."
"Moving on," Nightwing said. "The goo destabilized when I hit it with sonics. That same method could be used against Blank Face. Then again, he was the one who told me the weakness, which he wouldn't have done if would be a weakness for him too..."
"Wait, wait, wait, wait," Kid Flash interrupted. "He told you how to beat the goo? Why?
"He said it was because he didn't want us all to die. Yet, anyway," Nightwing replied. "He wanted to do that himself."
"Besides the obvious question of who Blank Face really is, we also need to figure out why he wants the microchips," Aqualad summed up.
Everyone stared at Nightwing.
"What?" Nightwing said.
"Do you know why that psycho wanted the chips?" Superboy asked.
"Suddenly I'm the answer man?" Nightwing said. "Sorry guys, I'm just as much in the dark as you."
"This getting big," Robin said. "We'd better get back to the cave and tell the League about this."
Nightwing clapped his hands. "Great idea, let's go."
"Who said you were coming?" Robin said in a rather rude tone.
"Robin!" Miss Martian gasped.
"I'm with Robin on this," Kid Flash admitted. "We just met this guy! We can't bring him to the cave."
"You mean the one in Mount Justice, located in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island?" Nightwing said.
"How do you know that?" Artemis squeaked.
"I do my homework."
"Miss Martian, read his mind! See what else he knows!"
Miss Martian walked over to him. "Sorry about this."
Her eyes glowed, and after a few minutes, she gained a frustrated expression. Her eyes stopped glowing. "I can't read his mind. He's blocking me out with other thoughts. He's currently translating the Odyssey into Pig-Latin."
"Stay tuned, I'll be doing A Tale of Two Cities in Op-Talk next," Nightwing added chipperly.
"I think that we should bring him," Aqualad said. "He might be valuable to have around."
"Let's put it to a vote," Robin said. "I vote no."
"I second that," Kid Flash said.
"I third it," added Artemis.
"I vote yes," Aqualad said.
"Ditto," said Superboy.
"I make three," Miss Martian said.
"Whoa, if Miss M votes yes, then I totally vote yes too," Kid Flash declared, running over to her and putting his arm around her shoulders. (Superboy gave him a glare for that.)
Miss Martian gently removed his arm. "Thanks, Kid Flash."
"Anything for you, babe."
"Traitor," Artemis hissed.
"Majority rules," Nightwing smirked. "I'm tagging along."
Later, in the Bio-Ship.
Robin stared at Nightwing, who was sitting next to Miss M at the helm. There was something about this guy he didn't trust. And why did he look so familiar?
"Do you mind?" Nightwing thought. "You're boring holes into my skull."
Robin reeled a little. "How'd you-"
"Miss M hooked me up," he replied. "Since I'm temporarily joining the team and all."
"You are NOT part of this team," Robin thought angrily. Then the anger melted a little. "Wait, is everyone hearing this?"
"Nah, I'm blocking them out. If they try to listen in, all they'll get is the Odyssey in Pig-Latin. So, what's with the distrust?"
"You just popped out of nowhere, and you know things about this team that you shouldn't. And I know when a person is keeping secrets."
"You would know all about that, wouldn't you circus-boy?" Nightwing thought in a more serious tone.
Robin's eyes widened, but decided not to pursue the subject. "... Listen, I'm sorry if I'm acting like a jerk. What happened was sort of overwhelming."
"Well it sure as heck wasn't underwhelming," Nightwing agreed, then paused. "Seriously, why isn't anything ever just whelming?"
"That's what I've been saying!" Robin thought happily. He stopped at this. "Just because I agree with you on something doesn't mean I like you."
Nightwing shrugged. "I can live with that."
The rest of the ride was done in mental silence.
Mount Justice, 8:25 pm.
The Bio-Ship landed in the mountain's hangar bay. Batman was waiting for them.
"How'd it go?" he asked once the kids started to get off the ship.
"Despite our efforts, we weren't able to stop the theft," Kaldur reported. "But we did discover that the thief was man who calls himself Blank Face."
Batman narrowed his eyes. A bad sign.
"And we also found someone who can help us tack him down," M'gann added.
Nightwing stepped off the ship. He looked around the room.
"Was it always this small in here?" he muttered to himself. Then he noticed Batman and got serious.
Batman walked up to him. "Who are you?"
"His name is Nightwing," Kaldur said.
"I'm sure the man can speak for himself," Batman said.
"Like Aqualad said, I'm Nightwing," Nightwing said in tone matching Batman's exactly. "And don't be angry with them for bringing me. I already knew where the cave was, and they put it to a vote. If it makes you feel better, your errand boy voted to ditch me."
The kids looked shocked. Few people can actually stare down Batman and talk to him like that.
"Errand boy?" Robin asked to himself.
Batman looked at the team, then at Nightwing, then back at the team. "We'll discuss this later. For now, tell me about this Blank Face character."
So they went to the main room of the cave and told Batman everything that had happened during the mission. He became particularly interested when they mentioned Blank Face's ability to created weapons and men in ugly suits from his body. (Well, the men who became the goop monster, but you get the idea.)
"Did you say that he could pull anything from his body?" Batman repeated.
"Yeah," Connor nodded. "Bombs, staffs, kryptonite..."
"A giant blob of living tapioca pudding," Artemis finished. "Why do you ask?"
Batman pulled up some files on the holo-screens. "A lab in Metropolis was working on a process to create more durable soldiers in the field. The process would enable a soldier to create weapons, explosives, even back-up forces at will."
"Sounds like our Jerk Face," Nightwing agreed.
"Blank Face," M'gann corrected.
"I know what I said."
"The process was also supposed to give a strong regenerative ability, which would explain how Blank Face could live through having a Kryptonian punch through his solar plexus," Batman continued. "But what makes this data important, is that the lab was a independent branch of Project Cadmus."
"Ah, not Project Cadmus again!" Wally groaned. "Let me guess. They tested this process on Blank Face, and now he's a complete sociopath."
Batman pulled up a photo of a condemned lab. "Actually, the process was shut down after the government declared it inhumane. As far as anyone knows, it's never been tested.".
"Then I guess we'll have to figure out how they managed to mutate Blank Face without anybody noticing, alongside why he wants the microchips," said Robin.
"No," Batman said. "You and the team will be staying here. This is officially League business."
"Batman, with all due respect-" Kaldur began.
"This is not open for discussion," Batman interrupted.
"Hey, this was their mission," Nightwing shouted, marching over to Batman. "The least you can do is allow them to finish it."
"Last time I checked, you aren't part of this team," Batman growled. "So, it doesn't involve you."
"Do I look like I care? You're treating them like... like sidekicks," Nightwing said. Then he muttered, "You're never going to change."
Batman didn't show it, but he was slightly taken aback. The tone in Nightwing's voice was soft, but harsh and angry.
Batman turned and headed for the zeta-tube. "Stay put. And 'Nightwing' had better be gone by the time I get back."
Batman disappeared into the tube. The whole cave was quiet.
"Yay team," Wally cheered halfheartedly.
The team sat around the kitchen-living room area. Connor, Kaldur, and M'gann sat on the couch. Wally and Artemis were in the kitchen, sharing a bowl of pretzels. Robin sat in a chair, and Nightwing sat against a wall.
At one point, Wolf wandered into the room near Nightwing. He growled at first, but when Nightwing held out his hand, Wolf sniffed it, licked it, then allowed Nightwing to pet his head.
"Wow. I've never seen Wolf warm up to a stranger so fast before," M'gann said in surprise.
"Animals tend to like me," Nightwing shrugged. Then he stood up and stretched. "Well, I guess I should be on my way."
"Where are you going?" Artemis asked bitterly.
"To find Blank Face and punch in what resembles his face," Nightwing responded. "I should have never gotten you guys dragged into this."
"To be fair, I believe we're the ones who dragged you," Kaldur disagreed, standing up.
Nightwing shrugged again. "Eh, to each his own.".
"Let him go. It's his fault that Batman isn't letting us finish the mission anyway," Robin snarled.
"That's a load of bull," Connor barked.
"I'm with Robin on this," Artemis said. "We brought a stranger to the cave! Batman probably doesn't trust us anymore!"
"Nightwing saved our lives!" M'gann shouted. "Why can't you guys be a little grateful?"
"We're trying to be practical. We don't know anything about this guy!" Wally shouted. "For all we know, him saving us could be a ruse!"
"Oh, I am not hearing this," M'gann groaned.
"We should've just gotten the info from him, and left him on that rooftop. Then we wouldn't be in this mess!" Robin shouted.
"We wouldn't have even been on that rooftop without Nightwing, because we'd all be dead!" Connor shouted back.
"That's enough!" Kaldur ordered. "You are all behaving like children!"
"Newsflash, we are children!" Wally shouted.
This turned the argument into a full-blown screaming match. The teammates were practically at each other's throats. One side was with Nightwing, and the other hated his guts.
Nightwing tried to get a word in, but kept getting interrupted. He heaved a heavy sigh, stuck his thumb and index finger in his mouth, and let out a high-pitched-taxicab-whistle. That stopped the team's argument, since they all had to cover their ears.
"Stop it, all of you!" Nightwing scolded. "You're a team! You're supposed to fight supervillains, not each other!"
Robin scoffed. "Like you know what it's like to be on team."
"Actually, I do know." Nightwing clenched his fists. "I used to be on one, but it failed."
That got everyone's attention.
"You guys wouldn't have heard of us. We were kinda covert," Nightwing began to explain, smiling wistfully. "I had always wanted to make a difference, and this team allowed me to. We were all kids, but no matter how bad things got, we stuck together. Even when one of our own betrayed us. We were more than a team. We were a family."
"What happened?", Artemis asked.
Nightwing frowned. "Like I said, one of our members betrayed us. Nothing was really the same after that. We argued more, and did badly on missions. As time passed, things got worse. Eventually we hit a breaking point. During a Great Crisis, one of teammates paid the ultimate price. And all because we didn't work as a team. That was the last straw. My team broke up. I was sixteen years old."
The team stood there in shock.
"After that, I managed to stay in contact with my best friend, who had been on the team. But the others... it took me years to get back on speaking terms with them. You kids have a good thing going. But you don't know what you have until it's all gone."
The kids were quiet, letting what Nightwing said sink in.
"Nightwing's right," Robin said surprisingly. "We need to stop fighting and get traught."
"But we can't sit here and let the League take on Blank Face. He's our problem," Artemis added.
"Batman ordered us to stay put," pointed out Kaldur.
"Ordered..." M'gann started. "Or gave us a helpful suggestion."
"Babe, I like your thinking," Wally grinned.
"You sure you want to do this?" Nightwing asked. "We might get killed."
"We might not," Robin replied.
"Can't mess with that logic." Nightwing cracked his knuckles. "Let's catch ourselves a sociopath."
Next chapter, the team (plus Nightwing) will begin the search for Blank Face. But will they succeed?