Birds of Prey
Disclaimer: I do not own DC, Marvel, or any other characters outside of OCs.
Chapter six: Restart
Metropolis – January 3, 2066 – 13:41 EDT
The days of Weapon X seemed like a dream to X-23. It was hard to believe that just three days ago, she was sitting in her confinement cell to await her next training session until she was liberated by girls in spandex. And now she was staring out into the city of Metropolis from the Justice League Metrotower, which was serving as her temporary place of residence. The Wolverine clone shifted in her seat with her legs propped on the table, anxiously waiting for the others to show up. Batman had called up everyone that had taken part in the Weapon X fiasco – most likely to get a detailed report – and asked that everyone dress in civilian clothing for the day. A rather odd request, but the girls consented.
Because X-23 didn't have any clothing and couldn't walk around in a hospital gown for the rest of her life, the Martian Manhunter reluctantly – or irritably to be more precise – assisted in acquiring new attire. Though X-23 made sure to set a couple of ground rules: no tights, no capes, and very offensive. The two-clawed clone looked over herself, mentally applauding the pasty alien for her taste in clothing. She wore a pitch-black top with a pair of matching pitch-black leather pants, a pair of pitch-black, knee-length combat boots, a pair of pitch-black, elbow-length gloves, and a black choker. The Martian had also included a golden loop belt with an "X" buckle, claiming it to be 'appropriate'. It was an obvious reference to her genetic template, but she liked it. (1)
"Recognize!" The computer announced, snapping X-23 back to reality. "Flash – 04! Impulse – B03!"
"Hey, Talon!" Irey yelled boisterously once exiting the Boom Tube.
That's right, no one called her X-23 anymore. Since Iris – or Irey, as she liked to be called – and Speedy were X's only regular visitors, they've taken it upon themselves to give her a superhero name since X-23 made her sound like a lab rat – the was one of the few things they could agree on. After rejecting over twenty different names, Iris came up with Talon because of the Adamantium claws on her feet. It was both lethal and appropriate.
Talon leaned back slightly as Iriey zoomed across the room and settled herself on the armrest of the mutant clone's chair – she seems to hold a fascination of the mutant weapon. By comparison to her Impulse persona, Iris looked childishly innocent with her shoulder-length, fiery-orange hair and jade-green eyes. She was wearing a turquoise shirt with a pair of navy-blue jeans and a pair of red sneakers with lightning bolt logos – the soles are most likely resistant to friction. The Flash shook his head and chuckled amusingly as his sidekick was swinging her legs restlessly in anticipation – Talon surmised that all speedsters were constantly moving.
"All right!" Irey cheered, which seemed rather random. "We're not the last ones here!"
"But you're not the first either."
Walking through the door to the communications center/lounge room was Speedy – or Mia Dearden outside her costume persona – alongside her mentor, Artemis. Behind her domino mask was a pair of deep-blue eyes and her golden-blond hair tied into a low to match her teacher. For today, she opted to wear a red plaid shirt with a pair of navy jeans completed with black boots. The younger archer was also holding a glass of pink liquid, which, despite its appearance, held a foul smell and probably tasted worse. Talon was fully aware that Mia needed to drink this liquid in order to combat her HIV and the mutant clone felt overwhelming respect for the girl. For an 11 year-old girl to fight against something that had frightened even the bravest of men showed strength of will worthy of the Green Lantern.
But the archers weren't alone – they had been joined by someone Talon had only met a couple of times, but knew very well. He had the appearance of a young adult despite being closer to his eighties with a very muscular form and jet-black hair cut in military style. His costume was segmented with bright-red shoulders followed by rich-blue torso and arms, and returning to bright-red for the lower half. He also wore bright-red gloves with yellow rings around his forearms and the traditional "S" Shield stamped across his chest. Though Talon was far a girly-girl, she did think that he was…admitted…cute. (Connor Kent/Kon-El – Superman) (2)
"Hitched a ride with Supey earlier." Artemis explained. "The Boy Scout was trying to chase down Metallo in the South End and ended up getting drained by his Kryptonite heart. The big guy is just lucky we were doing an early morning patrol."
"Yeah, yeah, don't need to hear that for the thousandth time." Superman mumbled uncomfortably.
"Batman asked all the sidekicks – and Talon – to show up in civvies, right?" Mia questioned, earning a nod from the other girls. "So that also means Batgirl's going to be showing up in civvies, right?"
"Hey, that's right!" Irey exclaimed excitedly; Talon was starting to regret her heightened senses. "I've never seen Batgirl's face before – she's always wearing that mask and barely ever talks. I bet she's pretty."
"Or looks like Talon." Mia laughed, which was quickly silenced by the mutant's glare. "Not funny, not funny at all."
"Recognize!" The computer announced, directing everyone's attention to the Boom Tube Transporter. "Batman – 02! Oracle – 00! Batgirl – B01!"
The Justice League members and their sidekicks were up to greet their leader, who had made a surprising change in his costume since their last meeting on New Year's Day. The new Batsuit resembled the previous one in many ways, but showed off more of his muscular form, the ears were less pointed, and the added inclusion of a black cape with dark-red inside lining (3). And the young woman joining him must have been the Justice League infamous hacker/information broker: Oracle. She was a beautiful and certainly curvy woman with waist-length blond hair and perfectly flawless skin – the female heroes were starting to feel insecure. She wore an apple-red shirt that hugged her breasts tightly, a pair of pure-white jeans, and pair of red sneakers. She was tinkering with her silver watch, which was actually a personalized computer – isn't the future great? (Delia Dennis – Oracle)
Though curious as to the reason brought in the team hacker, the sidekicks ignored her and focused their attention on the great mystery of Batgirl's secret identity. Batman and Oracle – obvious to their excitement – stepped aside and displayed Batgirl…completely covered. It seemed the Dark Knightess had taken extreme measure to secure her identity. She had chosen to wear a violet-purple shirt with a black jacket over top, a pair of black pants, and matching black shoes. Her face was completely covered by the pair of dark-lensed sunglasses, a violet-purple scarf around her mouth, and the hood thrown over her head – not a trace of her true identity.
"Oh, come on!" Irey and Mia whined.
"Hey, Bats, new suit?" Superman commented jokingly. "Don't you know capes are so last century? The last suit you had wasn't that bad, though it kinda made you look scrawny."
"We've been working on this particular Batsuit for the last eight months." Oracle informed, very aware of Batman's short temper. "We've added a number of special features to this suit including magnetic functions for stealth ops, Vibranium cape for defensive purposes, and an automated computer interface similar to Iron Man's designs. This new suit is a heavy improvement from the original."
"Whatever you say." Superman said mockingly, placing a hand on the bat's shoulder. "I still think it looks kinda – going down."
The others jumped back in surprise and the seemingly invincible Man of Steel dropped to the floor like a lead weight.
"Yeah, probably not a good idea to touch him." Oracle warned apprehensively. "We designed the suit to be powered by a Kryptonite battery. A clean, efficient source of energy and good Kryptonian repellent."
"You couldn't have warned me earlier?" Superman groaned as Artemis and Flash helped him up.
"I could have…But where's the fun in that." Batman smirked, much to Superman's annoyance. "Now let's back to the reason were' all here. Batgirl, Speedy, Impulse, and Talon – the four of you have been selected to take part in a project I've been working on."
"Exactly how many projects do you have?" Artemis questioned exasperatedly.
"You don't wanna know." Batman remarked. "The Justice League has become known to the public and our forces have been spread too thin; even Spoiler and I have difficulty maneuvering around the media. This puts us at a disadvantage against villains like Queen Bee and HYDRA, who will be able to track our movements though the news and other forms of communication. That's why I decided to create separate division in the Justice League roster purposed for Black Ops, infiltration, and, if necessary, reinforcement. The reason you for were selected was because you exist below the radar of their attention and the world knows little about you other than you are sidekicks to the Justice League."
"I'm no sidekick." Talon sneered.
"Be that as it may, no one knows anything about you." Batman continued. "We can use that to our advantage. Originally, it was supposed to be Daken instead of Talon, but after what happened, I had to change a few things around. The purpose of the mission in Canada was for Batgirl to evaluate your performance in the field. Though we weren't expecting…well…pretty much everything that happened. But according to what Batgirl told me, you all handled yourself pretty well when the situation called for it."
"Wait, wait, wait, wait!" Irey shouted; her hands flailing. "Batgirl knew about this?"
"Yes." Batgirl said simply. "I am…sorry…for de-sleeving you."
"Deceiving." Batman corrected, refocusing his attention to the girls. "You four will act as the Justice League's covert team under the name of 'The Birds of Prey' – the name used by the team formed by the original Batgirl/Oracle. You mission: complete all assignments given without being seen." He redirected his attention to the blond hacker. "Oracle will be acting as you mission director and information broker – everything she says goes, got it?" The girls nodded; Talon more reluctant. "I also called in a few favors from some old friends. One will be in charge of your physical and mental training while the other will be living in the Metrotower as your caretaker."
"You mean a nanny?" Mia complained. "We don't need a nanny."
"Yes, you do." Batman said in a final tone. "I'm not leaving the Justice League's Earth headquarters in the hands of a dyslexic mute, a sickly archer, a hyperactive child, and a mutant with a short temper. The others will be here within an hour, so I expect you to be on your best behavior when they arrive. Any questions?" Iris and Speedy raised their hands. "Good. If you need anything, ask Oracle. Artemis, Flash…Boy Scout, you're with me."
"Where're you going?" Talon questioned.
"The grown-ups have some business to take care of downtown." Flash said jokingly, ruffling little Irey's hair. "Try not to mess up the place too much or Waller will have our heads. I'm serious, she has human heads frozen in her basement; it's very creepy."
"We'll be back in a couple hours." Batman informed as he walked away with the other heroes following. "Oracle is in charge until we get back."
For some reason, the girls felt like they were being treated like little kids – in Mia and Irey's case, that was true. Since they had a couple of hours to kill, everyone went off doing their own thing. Mia walked down to the twelfth floor to the Aquaculture Area – a little green spot in the midst of a technological fortress. Irey wanted to play around in the archives and hope to find the Cosmic Treadmill and travel back in time, but Oracle was smart enough to increase security around the tower beforehand. The girl may be fast, but not faster than the speed of light. This left Talon to regain her semi-quiet environment as she leaned back into her favorite comforter, sighing in sweet relief. Unfortunately, she never had a moment of peace these days. Her heightened sense alerted her to the fact that Batgirl was still in the longue room, despite not being seen or heard – this girl was a freakin' ninja!
"What'd ya want?" Talon groaned, leaning back further into her chair. "Can't you see I'm trying to relax here?"
"This…" Batgirl said slowly, digging through the pocket of her jacket. The mutant teenager looked over with minimal interest as the Dark Knightess pulled out a folded piece of paper. Talon remembered; Dr. Kinney left that for her. "Your mother…wanted you…to have this. I think…you should…"
"I don't have to do anything." Talon answered shortly. "That woman was not my mother, just a scientist that wanted to exploit me as a guinea pig for her little Weapon X Project. I don't want anything to do with that bitch and there's nothing in that letter that will make me think otherwise."
"You never know." Batgirl said with traces of certainty in her voice. The hooded sidekick gently placed the folded message on the coffee table next clear in the mutant clone's line of sight. "In case…you change…your mind."
Talon stared at the message for only a short few second before looking back up to Batgirl…only to find the space completely empty. The teenage mutant clone sat up straight in her seat, jerking her head left and right for the Dark Knightess – how the hell do they do that? Choosing to investigate the matter later, Talon stared back at the folded paper. The last words of Dr. Sarah Kinney were written on this little notes and Talon couldn't help feeling a little curious as to what the woman who birthed her had to say in her final moments. But years of anger and tortured overrides her curiosity – she hoped the bitch was burning in hell.
LuthorCorp – once under the name LexCorp – was the world's largest, most diversified multinational corporations, easily toppling competitors such as Wayne-Powers Enterprise and Stark Industries. Though there was a time when LuthorCorp was in danger of crumbling under the weight of its own mistakes under to the power-driven authority of Lex Luthor. And it only became worse when Luthor was finally caught for his crimes against humanity, sending LexCorp spiraling to a financial depression. It took many years for Lena Luthor to repair the damage made by her incompetent father, spending a vast fortune to erase his legacy, even the company name. But in the end, she was successful and one of the most popular business owners in the world.
Lena Luthor was sitting in her office, finishing financial reports that would have taken a man many hours to complete in only five minutes. One of the advantages of being a 13th level intellect is that you have too much free time on your hands. At times like this, Lena would walk over to the fully stocked bar table to make a glass of her favorite Côte de Nuits, curl up into the most comfortable lounge chair money can buy, and read her newest romance novel. What can she say? Lena's a sucker for a passionate story. But just as she opened the cover of her novel…
"Ms. Luthor, you have a visitor."
Lena sighed and closed her book – figures someone would bother her during her relaxation period. The blond business woman turned in her seat to her expressionless and oddly pigmented assistant. She looked mostly like a human teenage girl with the exception of the lightly-colored indigo skin with bubblegum-pink hair and fiery-red eyes. Her attire was hardly considered appropriate for a place of business: a very thin black top with a gap in the center, a dangerously short black skirt, a pair of jet-black boots, a pair of black wristbands. But despite all her oddities, everyone in LuthorCorp didn't bat an eye at Lena's assistant – their brains were too dull from working all day. (Brainiac 8 – Indigo)
"Of course there is." Lena moaned, setting her book aside. "Show them in."
The Brainiac android bow in confirmation and stepped out of the room to invite the new arrives. The best thing about a cybernetic assistant was that they were tireless, efficient, and never questioned orders. Groaning over the loss of her peace and quiet, Lena stood and tried to make herself look presentable just in time for Indigo to return with their visitors. The blond businesswoman smiled impishly when Batman and Superman walked through the doors with her assistant. Lena also noticed the archer of Star City and the speedster of Central City standing on either side of the door, most likely to make sure no one got in or out, before Indigo closed the doors behind them. Lena did like her privacy, especially when it involved handsome superheroes.
"Ah, Connor, Terrance." Lena greeted coyly. "What a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting to see you this early – I was under the impression that Batman burned in sunlight."
"Blade thought the same thing, too." Superman snickered. "But could we ask you not to refer to us like that? You never know who might be listening with super-hearing."
"Of course, of course." Lena waved casually. "The whole secret identity thing – I understand. So…" She took a seat at her desk, grinning playfully at the costumed heroes. "Does the fact that you two are here mean that the Justice League is finally accepting my generous offer of a LuthorCorp sponsorship?"
"Hell will freeze over before we accept anything from you, Luthor." Batman responded coldly.
"And yet, I happen to know you still have Stark Industries sponsoring you." Lena proclaimed casually, turning in her seat to stare out towards her impressive view of the city. "Ever since Howard was killed in that plane crash and due to the younger Stark being underage, Obadiah will be running the Stark Industries for quite a while. And I'm sure Tony – or should I say Iron Man – has informed you of Obadiah's many…unethical dealings."
"Obadiah can be handled." Superman stated with certainty. "The Luthors, on the other hand, are more slippery than a greased eel. Wow, I never thought I would use that analogy.
"Look, you don't trust me because of my father's murky history and that is understandable." Lena said earnestly as she turned back to the heroes. "But I am not my father. I have done nothing but pushed the world to a better tomorrow and have publically supported the Justice League. I just want to help so I can erase the sins of my father."
"You wanna help, huh?" Batman said lowly, reaching into his cape. When he pulled back his hand, the Dark Knight tossed an old fashioned folder on the surface of her hardwood desk – who used folders anymore? "Maybe you could tell us more about a little development invested by LuthorCorp. Something called the Weapon X Project."
The girls were more restless than usual, Oracle noted. Even the constantly calm and collected Batgirl seemed a little fidgety and she was trained to perfection. It wasn't too surprising for the team hacker. She remembered what it was like to be that age, looking for something new and exciting to happen. That is consequently what lead Delia and her twin sister, Deidre, to becoming the Dee-Dee Twins of the Jokerz street gang – not her most glamorous time, but she did look good in tight clothes and a yarn wig.
"Oracle." The computer announced, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. "The supervisors assigned by Batman have arrived and are awaiting access to the Boom Tube system."
"Ok, let them in, Jocasta." Oracle casually waved; her eyes never leaving the holographic computer screen.
"Jocasta?" Mia repeated strangely. "That thing has a name?"
"I am Jocasta, Batman's personalized artificial intelligence assistant program." The computer deity known as Jocasta stated monotonously. "I was personally automated by Mr. Bruce Wayne and Dr. Henry Pym to aid Batman and his allies in every endeavor I am capable of. I have automatic control over the Justice Leagues electric systems as designed by Oracle." Said Hacker grinned proudly. "And if you ever refer to me as a thing again, I will make sure your stay in the Metrotower very…unpleasant."
"A program with an attitude." Talon sniggered. "Nice."
"Recognize!" Jocasta exclaimed. "Judomaster – C08! Poison Ivy – C12!"
That certainly caught their attention. Everyone from Gotham to Star City acknowledged Poison Ivy as one of the most lethal members of the original Batman's Rogue Gallery – people were sure she had wilted by now. But as the Boom Tube closed behind them, the four Birds and team hacker stared down the new arrivals. The first of them was tall and wiry with a crop of ink-black hair tied back into a high ponytail. Her uniform was a full-body red suit with yellow details spread across the surface to give the appearance of shining sun and a single yellow circle stamped on the forehead of her mask – her dedication to the Japanese legacy was apparent. (Sonia Sato – Judomaster)
The second visitor wasn't that difficult to identify even for someone who had never seen her before. Her skin and unnatural shade of venomous-green and her fairy-red hair wavy like a rolling flame, which would seem rather ironic with all things considered. Her costume – as opposed to her usually sensual attire – was toned down to a simple one-piece black suit with leafy-green patches covering half of the surface. Based on the way she was smiling so cheerfully and the fact that Oracle was able to communicate with her so casually made it appear as if she was almost friendly. (Pamela Lillian Isley – Poison Ivy) (4)
"Pam, Sonia, nice to see you made it all right." Oracle commented before noticing the plant mistress looking greener than usual. "Well, for the most part. Don't worry, you'll get used to Boom Tube travel after a while.
"Konnichiwa, Oracle-Sama." Judomaster folded her hands and bowed respectfully. "Arigatou gozaimasu for granting us the privilege of joining you this day."
"Yeah…what she said." Poison Ivy nodded with a hint of uncertainty; Japanese wasn't her specialty. But ignoring that, the green-skinned woman smiled gently as she fiddled with Oracles wavy hair. "Delia, you are looking more and more like your grandmother everyday – minus the face paint, the clown costume, and the handcuffs."
"I think Deidre resembles Nana Harley more than me." Oracle said jokingly before turning their attention to the Birds. "Everyone, these will be your supervisors during your stay in the Birds of Prey. Judomaster is in charge of training and preparing you for the physical aspects of your missions. Poison Ivy has agreed to be your stay-at-home nanny at the Metrotower."
"So you're leaving our health and safety in the hands of an eco-terrorist." Irey huffed with her arms crossed. "There is no way I'm gonna…"
"I've got candy." Poison Ivy interrupted, waving a square of chocolate.
"Pammy!" Irey cheered, hugging the ex-villainess.
"You are a horrible superhero!" Mia snapped at Irey. "Though I don't usually question Batman's judgment, I don't think it's a good idea to have one of the original Batman's most deadly villains taking care of us. I mean, I kinda feel safe with Batgirl watching out for us, but Talon being on the team kinda cancels that out." She bluntly ignores the lethal glare from said mutant. "Why would you want to be our nanny?"
"As you already know, I wasn't the most…upstanding citizen" Poison Ivy said softly, setting Irey on the couch to gorge on chocolate. "When Dr. Woodrue poisoned me and I inherited my powers, I thought I was doing the right thing to protect the earth by ridding the world of the plague of humanity. Though my intentions were good, I went about it the wrong way by blaming humanity – the old Batman showed me that. So once my sentence in Arkham was over, I devoted myself to botanical research and helping in environmentally active organizations around the globe. And besides…" She poked Irey's cheek, earning a small giggled from the girl. "I kinda have a soft spot for children."
"I don't know." Mia said with doubt.
"She is being…Sinclair." Batgirl proclaimed; everyone wondered if they should correct her. "I can…read her body…movements. She honestly…wants to help. I think…we should…give her…a chance."
"All right." Mia mumbled slowly. "If Batgirl says so, we'll trust ya for now. But I'll be watching you – I've got eyes like a hawk. Uh…not to be confused with Hawkeye, I'm just saying…you know."
"Right." Poison Ivy nodded.
"Ok, so we've got a nanny." Talon said arrogantly, sauntering over to the red and yellow heroine. "But why do we need a trainer? I mean, I was trained to be a living weapon from birth and Batgirl could probably kick everyone's ass. What do we need sunshine for?"
"There is more to strength than just physical power." Judomaster said philosophically. "But if you wish to be enlightened, I implore you to face me."
"You wanna take me on?" Talon snickered confidently, ripping out her claws in a menacing fashion. "You are seriously going to regret that."
"Project Weapon X, huh?" Lena Luthor repeated, tapping her chin in thought. "Now that name sounds vaguely familiar. Wasn't that the experiment that turned the Wolverine's skeletal structure into pure adamantium? With an unbreakable skeleton and an advanced healing factor, that would make him nearly immortal. By why are you asking me? As I recall correctly, Dr. Abraham Cornelius was responsible for the project before his…unfortunate demise."
"Don't try to act dumb, Luthor." Superman commanded sternly. "We all know you're probably smarter than both of us combined." The Dark Knight turned to him with an exasperated glare. "Ok, that came out wrong. But we both know you had something to do with Weapon Plus. Batman did a little research and found out that the Weapon Plus and the Weapon X Project both received enormous amounts of funding provided by LuthorCorp in the last five years. We also got a full confession from Dr. Rice saying he was working on the project under your orders."
"Doctor Zander Rice, huh?" Lena hummed thoughtfully. "If that is the case, then I have been funding for Dr. Rice's experiments. But it's not what you might think." Stepping out of her comfortable chair, the blond business woman treaded over to the scenic view of the city. "As you may already know, metahumans – or sometimes called mutants – make up 30 percent of the Earth's population; not counting Atlanteans and sorcerers. While people like the X-Men and the citizens of Utopia have come to terms with their differences, there are some who wish to be free of the burden. When heard that Dr. Rice was experimenting on metahumans genetics, I thought I would finance his experiments in hopes that he would create a cure for mutants who wished to be human again. I really had high hopes for Dr. Rice and his assistant, Dr. Kinney. How is she by the way?"
"She's dead." Batman replied bluntly.
"Hmm, tragic." Lena responded. "But I can honestly say I was unknown to Dr. Rice's side project." She picked up the folder Batman had handed to her earlier. "If your information is correct, this…Weapon X-23 was created nine years before started funding Dr. Rice's research and five years before I was legally old enough to take over my father's company. The facts show that I couldn't have possibly had any involvement in this sort of underhanded dealing – it sounds like something my father certainly would have been interested. But if you still don't believe me." She faced her cybernetic assistant. "Indigo, please download all data file pertaining any to Dr. Zander Rice and/or Dr. Sarah Kinney to the Batman's computer."
"Yes, ma'am." Indigo bowed.
The oddly-pigmented android faced the Dark Knight with her eyes glowing cherry-red and the glowing symbol of three dots connected in a triangular pattern appeared on her forehead – the mark of Brainiac. At that instant, Batman's built-in computer system was activated and released a holographic projection from the suit's forearm. It scared him to know that Lena could penetrate all his defenses in the blink of an eye. As promised, everything involving LuthorCorp's and Dr. Rice was opened to him: financial records, progress reports, insurance statements, and everything in between. There were also some files on other projects Lena had assigned him including…
"Project Venom?" Batman questioned seriously.
"I've recently gained an interest in the functionality of Symbiotes." Lena explained casually. "Once we manage tame their parasitic nature, LuthorCorp intends to distribute them to medical centers across the eastern shoreline. Symbiotes hold unique properties that can effectively cure terminal diseases such as cancer and HIV. I'm sure you understand the benefits it could provide if we learned how use them properly – we could even help poor Ms. Dearden."
Outside the office, Artemis listened intently. She wasn't going to be buddy-buddy with Luthor anytime soon, but the possibility of a cure for her protégé was almost too tempting. Back inside the room, Batman was going through the last of Luthor's files until he came to a dead end. Based on the Dark Knight's frustrating silence, it looked like he had managed to come up with nothing that would incriminate the blond businesswoman – she managed to outsmart them again.
"Well, looks like your off the hook this time Luthor." Superman said, speaking for the both of them. "But you're going to slip up one of these days and when you do, the Justice League will be there to take you down."
"Well, could you do it next week?" Lena said nonchalantly, marching over to the bar to replenish her drink. "I have a ton of meetings this week, then I have to attend a special service in Keystone, and then I be spending the weekend relaxing after a long day of owning a multimillion dollar company. I believe you gentlemen know the way out."
The Bat shot one of his classic glares before turning heel with a flourish of his cape – Lena actually thought the addition was rather cool. As the four members of the Justice League vacated themselves out of her company, the blond businesswoman finally found the time to relax in her comfy chair and read her book.
"Why did you tell them everything, Ms. Luthor?" Indigo questioned interestingly; Lena groaned in irritation. "Won't they be suspicious if they know you've been working with Dr. Rice?"
"As Thomas Carlyle once said: 'Speech is silver, but silence is gold'." Lena recited with a lofty smile. "It's too bad gold isn't worth that much in this day and age. If I hadn't told Batman everything, he would have only grown more suspicious of me and would attempt to infiltrate my personal files. If he had done that, he would have found some things there would be better off secret. No, by giving him that information, he has no reason to mistrust me and he'll believe that Dr. Rice was merely passing blame onto the likely suspect."
"So you were essentially hiding out in the open." Indigo summarized.
"Exactly." Lena smirked.
Talon felt like…crap.
It was night time and the mentors had already come back from…wherever it was they. After everyone had went home with their protégés, Talon was left on the couch to lick her proverbial wounds – her physical wounds had already healed earlier. She was not expecting Judomaster to be so skilled in combat, let alone to be able to kick the mutant clone left and right. It was just like Talon's battle with Batgirl – she couldn't touch the bitch. But the main difference was that Judomaster used all five of her senses instead of just a select few; something she noticed after the Japanese woman had soundly defeated the Dark Knight's sidekick. It was times like this that she regretted not going through with the final adamantium bonding process – an unbreakable skeleton sure would come in handy. At that time, Poison Ivy had returned from the kitchenette in the corner of the room with a pack of ice in hand.
"There ya go…" Poison Ivy said soothingly as she gently settled the ice over the mutant's left eye. "You know, I thought being Wolverine's clone meant you were supposed to heal from injuries."
"Just because my body heals doesn't mean the pain goes away." Talon sighed against the cold package. "First Batgirl and now Judomaster – it like everybody can kick my ass these days."
"If it makes you feel better…" Poison Ivy smiled kindly. "Wolverine fought Judomaster during his stay in Japan and he got his butt handed to him."
"That does make me feel a little better." Talon smirked. "I wonder if she can teach me how to do that?"
"Maybe." Poison Ivy laughed. As the green-skinned woman was tidying up the mess on the table left y Mia and Irey, she found something that seemed out of place. It was the note Batgirl had left behind. "What's this?"
"That?" Talon repeated. "That's just some note Dr. Kinney wanted me to have. Batgirl's been trying to push it on me all day, but I don't want anything to do with that heartless woman."
"But isn't she your mother?" Poison Ivy asked sadly. "She must have spent a lot of time and care to make sure you have this. Aren't you even a little curious about she wanted to say to you?" Talon remained silent; Ivy sighed in a disappointing fashion. "You know, I was born into a wealthy family, but my parents were always emotionally distant from me. They were always busy with work and I spent all my time with a nanny that only cared about me because she was paid to do it. I guess that's why I took to plants. They would always listen to my problems and never judge me because I was different – they were the only friends I had really." She picked up the note, holding it out for the mutant to take. "A lot of people aren't fortunate enough to have a parent that cares enough to talk to their child. I'm actually jealous of you."
The mutant teenager glanced at the woman from the corner of her eye, noting the sincerity in her voice and eyes. Batgirl was right; she did seem trustworthy. Though she was still angry from all the years of experimentations, Dr. Kinney did take the time to write to her – Dr. Rice and Kimura would have rather shot a bullet between her eyes. Taking one last look into Pamela's pleading eyes, Talon set down the ice pack and accepted the message. It was a lot heavier than she expected – it felt like there was something wrapped inside.
Talon opened the paper and was surprised to find a polished locket made from what looked like real gold; it must have cost a lot of money to buy something like this. Curiosity getting the better of her, Talon opened the locket and found a picture of…her? More specifically, a picture of a seven year-old Talon sitting on her bed with Dr. Kinney reading her a chapter from "The Art of War". Now she remembered: Dr. Kinney would show up into her room after hours and read Talon a passage before she fell asleep. That was the few pleasant memories she had of the facility.
Closing the locket in her hand, Talon looked at the final message left behind by the doctor, surprised by the contents it contained.
Dear Laura – I always wanted to name you Laura.
"Please forgive me. Even as I write the words, they ring so hollow. My mistakes… No, my choices… They cannot be undone, much less forgiven. How all this came to pass… and the truth about Weapon X. Had it ended there, would I be less a monster? Or more? Would I even know the difference? Of course I don't have to tell you about monsters. Your life is defined by monsters. Replicating the mutant genome proved difficult but rebuilding Weapon X seemed all but impossible. For every enzyme, for every codon, for every sequence we repaired, or even built back from near nothingness, we seemed to be missing a million more. But I felt alive, the work, the failure, the challenge. It was like a brilliant light, shining inside of me. I felt like my life had a purpose. What a fool I was. I was defiant in the face of my failures. I was determined to succeed out of spite. Weeks passed. I was working on two projects, living two lives. I was used to that. I had kept secrets before. It seems so incredible to me now, that in all that time, given everything that I knew what I was doing and what the end result would bear I didn't give it a second thought. I told myself that you weren't real. I told myself that this was science not life. I was creating a weapon, not a child. I was wrong. When I was little I always believed that everything that happened to me - I deserved it. That we all get what we deserve. Maybe I was right. No longer the experimenter, I was now part of the experiment. A vessel to be poked and prodded. To be violated. They certainly didn't care about me...not with a weapon to train. A team of physicians, psychologists, nutritionists, and military strategists now ran my life. They watched my every move, but they didn't see everything. I asked for forgiveness before. Now I'm telling you don't forgive me. Don't forgive any of us for what we did. Ever. I remember everything...everything we did to you, and you deserve to know why we did these things. Your training was designed to strip you of your humanity. After all, in the eyes of the program, you weren't human, you were a weapon. A weapon I willingly conceived for them. Our orders were to keep you from gaining any sense of self; something they said would compromise our ability to control you. We were never to treat you as a child, only as a weapon, but not everyone followed those orders, for that I'm grateful. Rice was given permission to take whatever steps were necessary to activate your x-gene. He chose radiation poisoning. You nearly died that day. Unfortunately Rice was right. The radiation worked. Now nothing stood in their way, especially me. I only found out later what happened, that your claws were extracted one by one, that he sharpened and then coated them with the indestructible metal, adamantium, outside of our body, it was never supposed to be like that. So much wasn't. I should have known what was coming, not that I could have prevented it, but I would have tried. I'm sorry, so sorry. I wanted to understand why we were doing this. So, he told me. He said: "It's simple. You can't sell anything without advertising." That's what this was all about. The buying and selling of lives for profit. Not saving the world, or taking it over. No, this was about money. A lot of it. You were sold for a million dollars a pound and as you know by now, there were no shortage of buyers. Rice was right. I didn't matter. Not to them. Not to you. Not to anyone. All I could do is watch. While you were forced to kill and kill, and kill, and kill. For three years, you murdered without failure. Every target they marked, you killed. Every time limit they set, you beat. Every rendezvous point they plotted, you reached. They made you a killer. They were the ones using you. But now I see I was just like them. They say in life that we are judged by the choices we make, they are what define us, and I chose to bring you in to this world. I chose to stay in the program even after they stripped you of your humanity and molded you in to a weapon. I'm responsible for everything that has happened, for all the pain all the death for everything you have suffered, because I had a choice when you had none. And I chose to do nothing. I always assumed it was Rice that cut you. He hurt you so many times in the past...he almost killed you twice. I never wanted to believe it was you. The damage I've done...can I ever forgive myself? You couldn't stop what Rice made you do...but somehow you managed to stay human...you showed me we've failed...you are not a weapon, you are a child. Always remember you are not to blame. You did not pick this life. We...I forced it upon you. The blood you have spilled is on my hand, not yours and please understand why I must ask you to kill one last time. Because tonight what you do is right. Tonight, what you serve is justice. Tonight, you take back the life we stole from you. I never wanted a family. My father stripped me of that desire. He took my childhood, my innocence, my life. And then I took yours. I became what I hated and feared most and you became my victim. But then you showed me hope. You showed me that we can chose to be something other than what we are forced to be that we can be something better than we believe we are. And, in that moment, you saved my life; all that matters to me now is that I save yours. I wish we could just run away without any more bloodshed. But if you don't stop them they will never stop. They will do it again. They've already started. After tonight, we'll just keep moving and never look back. We'll start a new life, have a future, be a family. I'm sorry I waited so long to tell you these things. There is so much more I want to tell you, and I will but one thing that you must always remember no matter what has happened and no matter what may come, you are a child, not a weapon. You are my child. You are my daughter, and I love you. I will always love you, Laura.
Your mother, Sarah.
For some reason, her chest tightened and her cheeks felt wet, but she wasn't sad. No, she was actually…happy. These words – her mother's words – spoke more in depth than anything before. Dr. Kinney never though she was a weapons. And now as she recalls all the little moments, the gentle touches, the soft whispers, Talon realized that it was her way of showing that she loved her…her daughter. And though Dr. Kinney had paid the ultimate price, she understood that he mother perished happily knowing that her daughter would be free of this curse. When Talon came to her senses and realized that Pamela was still in the room, she hurriedly wiped the salty drops from her eyes.
"You see, your mother did care about you." Poison Ivy said with kindness. I'm happy for you, Talon."
"Laura." Talon said suddenly, surprising the plant woman. "My name…it's Laura Kinney."
"That's a lovely name." Poison Ivy smiled. "Sensing that Laura wished to be alone, the green-skinned nanny start walking away, shutting off the lights as she exited the room. "Good night, Laura."
"Good night, Pam." Laura answered softly.
With one last smile, Poison Ivy closed the door behind her. Now Laura was alone in the longue room…..no, she wasn't alone. Looking down at the locket her mother had given her, Laura could feel all the love and kindness Dr. Kinney had given her over the years that she was too angry to realize. As Laura made herself comfortable on the couch, she chose to attach the locket to her chocker, keeping the golden memento over her heart.
She wasn't cold that night.
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Birds of Prey Profile
Real Name: Laura Kinney/X-23
Aliases: Laura X, Laura Logan, Yoda of Killers
Relatives: Wolverine (Father), Sarah Kinney (Mother), Daken (Half-Brother), Wild Thing (Half-Sister), Amiko Kobayashi (Foster Sister)
Affiliation(s): Weapon Plus (Formerly), Birds of Prey
Occupation: Assassin (Formerly)
- Regenerative Healing Factor
- Adamantium Claws
- Master Assassin Training
- Expert Tracker
- Tendency to have fits of rage
- A Lacking sense of trust
- Long-time cutter
- Incomplete adamantium skeleton
(1) Based on X-23's appearance in MvC3
(2) Based on Superboy's second costume
(3) Based on Terry's Batsuit in Justice League Beyond #6
(4) Based on her DCnU appearance.