A/N: I could give you a long list of why I haven't updated in 20 years but I figure you guys probably don't care. Bless you guys for actually putting up with me.
This wasn't suppose to happen.
When Batman briefed her for the mission she had a couple of goals: figure out who (contestants, crew, judges) was connected to the betting ring, protect the other contestants from getting hurt (by drawing attention to herself), and get enough evidence of all of this.
So far she has failed every single one.
But hey, they're only to the talent so she still has time.
After the evening wear, two contestants dropped out for no reason (technically they did have a reason but it was obviously fake), a girl got "stage fright" and started barfing behind the stage, and another one sprained her ankle after tripping. Unfortunately, not all of them were even front-runners so there's no real trend for her to follow. There's ten contestants left and Artemis has no idea who is causing all of this.
She tried talking to girls but all of them seemed either freaked out or too in the zone to talk. Almost all of them have stopped eating and drinking and they don't talk to anyone they don't know. The security has been stepped up tenfold to the point where they kicked out Dinah and the other mothers/coaches.
The only good news so far is that she managed to score high on the talent section (finally her bow work came in handy on this mission).
Also good news, Bruce Wayne is a judge.
She probably should have seen this coming considering they always use local celebrities and, well, Bruce Wayne. He's consistently given her good scores and she just hope no one knows that she's friends with his son because otherwise she's going to receive a bunch of bad press after this.
(Although, he marked her down for her bow work and told her he would have liked her to do something more "contemporary." It might have been him having a joke with her or being an asshole.
She's gonna go with asshole.
Or that Dick put him up to it, which is also very likely.)
"Do you need help tying that up?" a girl asked (Natalie? Maybe? She thinks that's what the announcer said. She should probably be memorizing the girls' names considering they could be helpful, but Artemis has never been that good at names. Ask Bette or "Bethany").
Artemis smiled at her, very aware that this girl could in fact be the one undercover and could choke her right here and now—or she could just be trying to be helpful. She's not sure which is more suspicious "Sure. I couldn't get it so that it was tight and my boobs looked good."
Natalie's fingers were cold against the nape of her neck as she tied it into a simple but effective bow, "That's why I choose a top with an underwire, so it wouldn't kill my neck but I'd still look bigger than I am."
"It's a good thing half the panel is guys," and it's a competition half based on appearances.
"Please line up in order for the swimsuit catagory."
She sold her dignity to Batman and all he gave her in return was a bikini.
This was complete shit—this mission was going to hell and she was going to go out on stage for televised event for perverts to record her in a skimpy bathing suit and she is pretty sure she is going to attack someone.
Why the crap has someone not been obvious so she could just bust them and blow this joint and not do this and do anything but this?
Artemis was only a bit irritated.
Okay, if it was up to her she would rip off her bikini and strangle someone with it, so maybe this was not the best situation and she was not in the best mindset. But she had to get this figured out before someone gets seriously hurt.
The girl in front of Artemis (her name was Laura—no Maura?) continued to brush bronzer on her cheeks as she waited in line, and Artemis could see why; the girls face was severely lacking color and the bronzer was the only thing bringing it back to its natural tone—that is it was until one of the stagehands ripped it from her hands. "Later, sweetstuff, you look fine."
She turned to look at Artemis like she was about to demand her to get it back but stopped and cocked her head, "You're in my physics class."
Artemis gaped looking for something to reply with that didn't sound completely horrible but ended up only saying, "Really?" because honestly, she had no recollection of the bronzer obsessed girl. Then again, she didn't remember a lot of stuff from physics.
"Yeah, I sit in the back but I—"
"Hey, stop chatting and start walking, girls!" the stagehand manhandled L(M)aura onto stage before pushing Artemis up to go.
If she thought the lights were blinding before she doesn't even want to try and classify these lights. Someone must have turned the lights up as a way to make sure that the contestants could fully see the stage so there were no tripping mishaps like the last round—or they just wanted it bright enough that they could see the girls in all their swimsuit glory.
As Artemis made the turn of her walk, she could see how unsettled the judges were—they had no idea what was going on with the girls either. Bruce Wayne in particular looked like he wanted to just pause the entire show and figure out what the hell was happening—he wasn't alone. If only Artemis wasn't so busy with trying to stay in the competition then maybe she would have figured it out who was behind it by now.
Each chary girl stood in a pose waiting for everyone else to get out so they could do the dance routine. It couldn't be one of them (at least probably). She hasn't seen one girl go up to another without a bodyguard be there to monitor the activity.
The dance routine went on without a hitch surprisingly enough with the judges eliminating the girls this time (Artemis managed to get second overall for swimsuit. "Although her short statue, she manages to stay in peak physical condition," summarized what the judges said but her favorite comment was, "Man, I wish I was as ripped as her, if I was I would probably have a wife by now," by Bruce Wayne and he gave her a very ironic score of 9.6. The highest anyone had gotten that round. She was going to speak to Dick about this and if he didn't have anything to do with it she doesn't know if this is Bruce trying to have a joke with her and that he actually likes her or what.)
Unfortunately, that was the last round before the finale of having the finale four do a questionnaire—three in this circumstance because a girl immediately dropped the second she made it into the finale, giving no more a reason than "she didn't want to do it anymore."
It was her, Natalie, and L(M)aura left and she still had no idea what was going on and because Batman or even Robin had burst in yet implies that Bruce was also in the dark, which also implies that if fucking Batman can't figure out what the hell was going on that she was screwed and most likely going to end up dead soon and she hadn't even done her questionnaire yet. Great.
Speaking of dead, that was most definitely a gun against her back.
"You know, for a cop, they could have chosen a better one that can actually figure shit out."
In all her years of being a superhero and being an assassin, she has never been called out while undercover, so she froze. She didn't plan for this or if she did, she couldn't think of what that plan was. All she could think was that her dad was going to be so pissed.
She glanced over her shoulder; it was the unmistakable golden hair of Natalie. Figures, the one girl she actually kinda befriends turns out to be the bad one. The only other more stereotypical twist that she can think of is that it was that one person that she never saw until the end (so M(L)aura).
"Listen, I'll out you unless you make a deal with me. See, Kitty up there," it took Artemis to realize that she was talking about M(L)aura who was struggling through her second to final question. How did she even make it this far in the competition—she barely scraped by each round. "She's gonna get one final question, and if she answers wrong, she's out and you're the winner."
Artemis wished that she would give her a bit more of a fleshed out answer because at the moment she still had no idea what was going on besides the fact that she was probably going to die, Natalie Traitor-Who-She-Should-Have-Expected-Because-Reall y-This-Was-A-Very-Poorly-Plotted-3-Parter-I'm-Sorr y, that Batman really should come save her right now, and that all the ways to get out of this hold flew out of her head the instant she realized that she was doomed.
The final contestant on stage was managing to sweat through her make-up—which was no small task, Artemis is pretty sure it is going to at least take four showers before she returns to her natural skin tone and scrubs all of the mud off of her skin—so by her managing to sweat through it means that she obviously knew what was going on, or at least knew that she was screwed.
"So what do you think about Gotham City's problem with the crime families currently running rampant?"
Artemis is almost not sure that she heard the question right when it echoes backstage; they're supposed to get questions about how to improve the cities educatoins or world peace or some other docile shit—they were not supposed to be asked about crime families.
Something managed to click in her.
Her and L(M)aura weren't different. They were both rigged to make it to the end. Artemis as the cop and L(M)aura as the…
She nearly punched herself in the leg to set her emergency beacon—of fucking course they knew she was a cop! They knew who everyone was, not just Artemis, and they chose from that pot who would appeal to the judges the most or who would be the most fun to set up.
They set up the cop to win—Artemis was going to win—and it was going to look so bad for the cops and everyone. God, she should have seen this coming too.
Artemis doesn't really expect it when Bette shows up. Bette just flipped down from whatever rafter she was hiding in above and lands on Natalie like she was Batman from that one game that Batman has forbidden the team from playing (but they still play anyway because how much fun is it to make Batman beat up random people).
Bette threw her a sloppy smile from underneath her mask, "I would have gotten here earlier but we weren't exactly sure who was behind everything, but BG thinks she knows now. No time to explain, go out on stage and save the girl."
Now, when given instructions like that, Artemis surely should have known what to do. Unfortunately, Bette managed to give her a good enough push that she made it into the light and everyone could see her (and all thoughts of wait isn't Robin going to show up soon? were pushed away too). It took her a moment to regain her composure, but she managed to make it over to where M(L)aura was standing (you know what she thinks it's Laura).
Laura glanced out of the corner of her eye to see Artemis and then snapped her eyes back up to one of the higher up rows in the room. The notorious glint of a sniper winked back at her and Artemis suddenly realized why Laura was so terrified. She was about to be shot on national television. Artemis wasn't really sure if there was more behind it then answer, bam, get shot or what, all she knew is she needed to get her out of here pronto.
Man, Artemis hopped that she was as good at thinking on her feet as she thought she was.
She stood next to Laura and glanced out into the audience; who knew who else was also in on this stupid conspiracy. She cleared her throat, but before she could speak the questionnaire buzzed on, "Good to see that you had no problem following the deviation of plans, Artemis, a true sign of a good leader. Wouldn't you say?" The cheer was nothing more than an echo as she ran down who was bad:
That Sniper Guy in the Back
Probably a good amount of security
Her Dad probably messed something up too
"So, Artemis, in lieu of Maura's questions, how do you feel the GCPD does at protecting Gotham?"
Artemis really hoped that that was a hit against her being an undercover cop and not her being a cape.
She smiled like she was trained too, "They do their job just fine for what they're handed. Gotham isn't exactly the most pleasant place to protect and the people shouldn't really get too picky by who does the job or if it's not that good of a job—at least it's getting done. For example, the problem of these beauty pageants getting rigged is being solved by the GCPD right now, and with them, there won't be anymore accidents like the ones that happened tonight."
Maybe Artemis had been a bit too aggressive in her answer as it was obvious to the host that she knew what was going on and she was going to tear it down or maybe she had been just a bit too cheeky too when she delivered the answer (she could tell by looking at the judges and seeing how wary they suddenly were).
Thankfully, a smoke grenade hit at her feet and she grabbed Laura and ran. The shots of the sniper rang behind them—getting close but never actually hitting the mark.
Artemis would like to say that she continued to be a glorious hero the rest of the night and managed to save everyone and fight every bad guy but the second she managed to get Laura back stage she was hit in the back of the head, and well, that isn't very heroic.
When she wakes up, she isn't too surprised to see that she's back at the mountain in the med bay with a bandage around her head. She managed to avoid getting shot by a sniper but ended up getting taken down by a brick (or something of the sort).
Unfortunately, this was also a movie. If her life had been a movie she would have woken up with her friends and family around her ready to congratulate her on a job kinda decently done, but instead, it was her. Alone. Not even a cute guy sleeping in a chair next to her bed or anything. Figures. She debates on getting out of the bed, but decides that she would much rather just lay here than search the entire mountain for someone to swoon over her.
She figured that maybe tomorrow or something she could deal with it. Maybe have Batman explain what the fuck happened and tell her that it wasn't her fault that she didn't fix things until the last moment while giving her a nice cup of hot chocolate and telling her that she never had to go that awkwardly undercover again—that next time it's Dick's turn.