Author's Note: This is a 'fix fic' consider it AU if you want, but basically this is a story about just how much more brilliant Red Hood and the Outlaws could have been, with Cheshire instead of Starfire… and a desperate attempt to save new 52's Starfire from Lobdell. You have been warned.
Disclaimer: Red Hood and the Outlaws are the intellectual property of DC Comics.
Reminder: All my stories are on a monthly update schedule. Please see my profile for the schedule.
Issue #1: Back to Qurac
The hot desert air burned his nose as it blew across the execution ground. Jason stared down at the sand as he saw the commandant of the Quraci guard lift the Red Hood before him and smiled. "So this… this is the face of the avenger… This is the face underneath the Red Hood? This… worn, blemished, and scarred face? You do not look like a hero Mr. Todd."
"Looks aren't everything." Jason Todd growled.
"No… they're not, as that fiery friend of yours found out rather quickly." The commandant said as he tossed the hood onto the ground at his feet. "And Mr. Harper… this is the second time you've stayed as our guest."
"Food still hasn't improved," Roy Harper said from beside Jason as he twisted against the ropes.
The commandant smiled revealing a set of golden teeth. "Still the same… I would have hoped a few months freedom would have improved your disposition. Well… it's time, isn't it?"
The commandant stepped behind a line of men armed with AKM assault rifles and clasped his hands behind his back. He smirked and Jason wished he could rip the purple beret from his head and force feed it to the man. He barked an order in Arabic and the men lifted the rifles one after another.
"You know… sometime I should learn that language." Roy muttered to himself.
Jason smirked faintly. "Bit late, isn't it."
"Nah… you've died once already. Does it hurt?" Roy asked.
"Yeah… it does," Jason cursed under his breath.
"How'd it come to this?" Roy asked.
A week earlier… in the St. Martinique.
Roy Harper rubbed the back of his neck as he sat down at the bar and took a long pull from the Corona he'd ordered. Beside him, his 'boss' for lack of a better description, Jason Todd was drumming his fingers on the bar.
"Isn't it a little early for that?" Jason asked as he turned away from the bar and quickly scanned the patrons.
"Honestly Jason, I don't give a damn... I need a drink," Roy muttered before taking another pull from the pale beer.
"Is Kory up?" Jason asked.
Roy shook his head. "No... I just needed to get out of there. She started sleeping with that old costume under her pillow."
Jason frowned. "I thought she got rid of that stuff."
"So did I, but apparently not... I just can't stay in that bed when she's got it. It's like she's sleeping with him, you know," Roy said. "God help us if he ever ends up on our trail."
Jason snorted. "You kidding Roy, she probably wouldn't even know what she'd done until after she killed him."
Roy rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Whatever..."
Jason's phone rumbled on the table and he snatched it off the table and held it up to his ear, "Red here... shit, are you sure? Send me the location."
Roy's head shot up and he stared at Jason as his "boss" set the phone down. "You got a job?"
"Something like that, get Kory geared up and bring her back here." Roy snapped. "I've got to arrange transport to the most god forsaken place on the planet."
"Fine, fine." Roy snapped before swinging off the stool and dropping a couple bills on the counter. "What's the job?"
"I'll tell you on the flight." Jason said. "Now get going Roy!"
"Fine!" Roy growled before adjusting his baseball cap and heading out the door. What the hell has got Jason's panties in a knot? He thought before breaking into a jog to the small beachside hut that they'd gotten as their base of operations. He stomped his feet as he stepped into the living room and hurried to the smaller of the two bedrooms.
"Kory?" Roy called out as he stalked over to the queen sized mattress and leaned over the orange skinned figure of the woman. Her feet stuck out over the edge of the bed and her red hair pooled around her head as she snuggled into the pillow in her sleep. A worn uniform made of kevlar and nomex peaked out from beneath the pillow.
Roy stopped as he caught sight of the blue bird's insignia emblazoned upon the uniform's chest and swore to himself. He leaned over her and shook her shoulder.
"Grrr..." Kory growled and she tossed onto her stomach and began to hug the pillow.
Snarling under his breath Roy shook her shoulder again. "Kory!"
She jumped from the shake and lifted a hand which was enveloped in glowing purple flames. Her glowing green eyes narrowed at him for a moment before she froze and her angry expression dropped. "Roy?"
"Jesus Kory, you almost starbolted me!" Roy snapped as he stumbled back from the bed and hit the wall. "Calm down."
"I am sorry. You woke me so forcibly..." She sighed and sat upright not caring about how the thin sheets slid off her body to reveal her features. "Roy... why did you wake me?"
"Jason wants us, like right this minute." Roy said quickly. "Get your stuff, I get the feeling this is going to be a long mission."
"Does he tell us anything beforehand?" Kory groaned before rolling out of bed and grabbing a duffle bag from beneath the frame. "I will begin the packing."
Roy nodded and pulled open a drawer. He grabbed a backpack and began to hurriedly stuff a week's worth of clothes inside. Then he grabbed his bow and a quiver loaded with arrows of various types.
Starfire pulled on a rather revealing halter-top and shorts before grabbing her tamaranian battle armor from one of the drawers and began to pack it away. She finished before Roy and swung the two bags over her shoulders. "I am ready Roy."
"You always are." He muttered to himself before swapping his baseball cap and heading for the door. "We're meeting Jason at the pub, he said something about transport."
"I shall grab his bag then." Kory said.
Jason bit his lip and ran a hand through his hair. He could feel the roots of his hair needed coloring again and his natural color was beginning to reveal itself. He shook his head and leaned back in the chair. Kory was an expert at lying to herself, he thought. He wasn't a fool... despite what others thought. Jason knew what Kory was doing with Roy, perhaps more than either of them understood. The talk of self-definition and being her own person that she'd given him when he'd been under her care rose to the forefront of his mind.
He knew the truth. People are all defined by their relationships with others. That was the source of their morals, their thoughts, and their very being came from those relationships. His relationship with Bruce, with Dick, and even with Tim defined him more than his name or anything else. Jason Todd was Red Hood, the second Robin and no matter how hard he tried to run from that fact, it was who he was. Like him, Kory couldn't keep running from her past forever.
"I've got the flight." Jason said coolly as he heard his team stumble into the room behind him. "It's a good twelve hours there. I hope we won't be too late to stop it."
"What is going on Jason?" Kory asked as she dropped his bag beside him.
Jason glanced down at the tabletop. "Talia al Ghul called me, telling me about a contract. A contract she thought I might be interested in interfering in."
"Uh... so what's this contract?" Roy asked.
Jason closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "A couple years ago the League of Shadows stole six of the old Soviet Union's one kiloton nuclear weapons. This... contract was a sale between the Shadows and the Base, one nuke for ten million."
"A nuclear weapon?" Roy asked as his eyebrows disappeared into his hair. "You mean we're going after nuclear arms smugglers."
"The smugglers aren't the problem... it's who they're selling to that worries me." Jason grunted. "The Base... is a Quraci terrorist organization that's made six attacks against the United States with bombings in New York, Gotham, and Metropolis."
"We are going to Qurac then." Starfire observed coolly.
"I hate that place." Roy grumbled. "Are we destroying the bomb or what? I mean a nuke is a heavy thing."
"This one isn't... it's a KGB made backpack bomb, only weights about forty pounds," Jason growled.
"So... we're going to Qurac to grab it, and then what?" Roy asked.
"We'll worry about that when we get to it." Jason said as he stood and headed for the door. "We've got a flight to get to."
A day later, the group was crouched in the middle of the Quraci desert, huddled against a heavy slab of granite that overlooked the camp of the Base. A column of Quraci army vehicles rolled down the road to the camp led by a pair of T-72 tanks.
"Well... this doesn't look as hard as the last time we were here." Kory observed quietly. "There are only two of the tanks."
Jason nodded and smirked. "Alright, me and Roy will infiltrate the base while you provide over watch. If we call for extraction, light them up Kory."
"Easily, is there anything else you would like for me to do?" Kory asked quietly.
"No, that'll be enough." Jason observed. "Keep your radio on, we'll call you if we need you."
"I will be waiting."
"This was such a waste of time." A cool female voice growled from beneath the cat like mask that watched the Quraci woman that sat across from the table along with her husband. Beside the masked woman, a man clad in a soviet-style business suit shrugged before gesturing to the table.
She swung the backpack off and dropped it with a thump on the wood. "Your delivery." She growled under her breath in annoyance.
The Quracis nodded before setting a metal briefcase beside the backpack, which she opened. Inside a tidy sum of American dollars stared up at her and the woman smiled behind her mask. "Excellent."
The Quracis nodded again as she took the briefcase. The woman looked up at her. "We are most thankful for your delivery. The American Infidels will pay most dearly for their abuses of our people."
"I don't care for your morals or your God, Aisha." She answered.
"I understand, Cheshire, your services have been most helpful." Aisha bowed her head toward her once before Cheshire pushed out the tent flap and walked along the encampment.
Her drab green gi and mask were things that seemed easily out of place in this desert land. She tapped the two sai on her hips and pursed her lips, "I expected some sort of excitement."
The sound of a heavy booted foot kicking a loose stone drew her attention and she stepped into the shadows as two men slunk out of cover. One wore a hood of solid red that looked almost like a helmet, the second war red armor and had a bow clasped in his hands with a baseball cap pulled down tight over his head.
Cheshire gritted her teeth and looked skyward in time to see a dull purple light in the distance moving against the stars like an airplane. She pursed her lips, and marched toward a truck piled with munitions crates. The guards stared at her.
"Igla?" Cheshire snapped and one of the guard pointed to a crate. She snarled and scrambled to the five foot long package painted green and covered in Cryllic lettering. With a kick she tossed away the top and lifted the missile from its packaging. With practiced ease she slid it over her shoulder and squinted up into the night sky.
She smirked as she settled the missiles sights on the thermal bloom of the girl and flicked the arming switch. "There are intruders in the base!" She yelled, and then pulled the trigger.
Starfire gasped as a missile streaked up from the base. She dove, pushing her body as fast as it would go as the missile curved onto her tail. She could see its metal fuselage and the little fins that had snapped out from the sides after launch. A wall of condensation enveloped the missile and then it burst through breaking the sound barrier.
"I'm under fire!" She yelled into her headset as the missile closed to within a meter. Then it exploded sending shrapnel in all directions. She felt metal fletching cut into her blue armor, and the shockwave hit her like a punch. The stars spun and she gasped for breath. Her body roared with pain and she looked down to see the ground spinning as it rose up to meet her. Then there was darkness.
Cheshire smirked as the fireball lit up the night sky and dropped the smoking missile tube. Then she glanced at the guards. She scrambled onto the top of one of the piles of munitions and stood looking over the base, searching for the other two interlopers.
"Kory? What's going on?" Roy snapped into his headset as a team of guards scrambled past their hiding place. He growled in frustration. "Kory!"
"Maybe she dropped the com-link." Jason suggested from where he hid behind a crate. "It wouldn't be the first time we lost contact."
"She was in trouble that time." Roy growled. "I may complain about her sleeping with that crap, but she means something to me."
"Does she really?" An all too familiar voice asked from above them and Roy felt a cold chill run down his back. He slowly turned to look up onto the top of the crate behind them as Jason pointed his guns up toward the figure standing at the top of the crates. A mask showing a cat's face with a wide grin that echoed that of the infamous Joker from Gotham stared down at them. "Well… I guess it's a good thing I got rid of her."
"Cheshire!" Roy snapped. "What did you do to her?"
"Nothing personal, just a missile." Cheshire said and Roy could image the wicked smirk that would have played across her face at that comment.
Roy lifted his bow and drew back with an arrow when a knife slashed from Cheshire's hand and cut through his drawstring before thumping against the crate. Jason opened fire as Cheshire somersaulted forward from the crate and landed just behind the gunmen. She drew her sai as Jason tumbled forward and resumed firing, sending bullets cracking through the air around her as she dodged.
"Not bad Jason… Tell me? Are you the best our brothers and sisters in the all-caste could produce?" Cheshire asked with a smirk as she jammed a sai into the slide of one of the guns causing it to jam before kicking Jason's other wrist, knocking the pistol away. "I'm disappointed…"
"Cheshire!" Roy snapped before throwing an arrow from his quiver toward her.
She snapped out, grabbed the arrow from the air, and glared at him. "Is that the best you can do Roy?"
Jason drew a pair of blades from his boots and charged Cheshire from the back. The assassin spun and parried the strikes with her sai's before he clipped her face with a punch that knocked her mask free. Jason stared into the green grey eyes of his opponent who smiled at him. "Better, but not good enough."
With a twist of her wrist, Cheshire tore one of the all-blades from his grasp and knocked it into the ground. The she smirked. "Come on Jason… surely one as well trained as you wouldn't have trouble with a mere assassin."
"Shut up!" Jason snapped before a snap kick from Cheshire struck him in the groin and he groaned in pain. He stumble back against the crates and gasped for breath. "That's not a fair move… bitch!"
"Aww… is the little birdie angry?" Cheshire chided him. "Come on… I was hoping someone would show… jobs like this get so, boring without people like you around."
"Jade!" Roy yelled as he charged forward with an arrow in his hand. Cheshire swore under her breath as Roy tried to stab her and lashed out with a kick that knocked him off his feet and dropped him onto the sand.
"Really… if you wanted to get that close Roy, all you had to do was ask." Cheshire grinned down at him and hurled one of the sai's through the sleeve of his shirt and pinning him to the ground. "You've been a very naughty boy."
"You know this bitch?" Jason asked as he stumbled upright with his one remaining all-blade in hand.
Cheshire spun, kicking the blade from his hand and followed up with a roundhouse that caught him in the gut and smashed him into the crates. Roy watched Jason slump from the impact and swore under his breath. "You didn't… kill him did you?"
"No… life would be too boring without people like you around." Cheshire said as a swarm of guards stormed into the fight and lifted their weapons at him. "Of course… they might have something different to say about that Roy."
"Fuck." Roy grunted.
"Is that an offer?" Cheshire asked with a cruel smirk. "Maybe once I'm off the clock, but you know how business is…" She started to walk away.
"Jade!" Roy snarled before the small army of soldiers leveled their weapons toward him. "Umm…"
"Just surrender, it'll go better for the two of you…" Cheshire said before she looked over her shoulder and winked at him. Roy scowled and slowly lifted his hands as the soldiers closed in.
Starfire felt as if she was on fire, more so then usual… a burning pain ran along her sides as she woke and her head throbbed in protest. She felt a cold metal barrel pressed against the small of her back.
Snarling she rolled onto her back and hurled a starbolt straight into the stunned face of a man clad in local garb with an AK-47 clasped in his hands. It hit with enough energy to vaporize the man's head, sending a plume of smoke rising from the bloody stump that was his neck as he collapsed like a sack of potatoes.
Pain flashed through her limbs from the discharge and she felt her muscles shudder. She bit her lip, forcing the pain down, forcing it under her control. She could deal with pain. It was something she'd grown up with at the hands of the Citadel and the Psions. Still, her control and coordination was shot.
Glancing down at her robin's egg blue armor, she flinched. The whole suit was peppered with shrapnel. Bits of jagged metal were imbedded in the carbon fiber and ceramics of the suit and she knew that the damage to the suit would render it all but useless from this point on. She reached up and touched her cheek and felt a trickle of blood run down from a cut.
I am lucky to be alive. She wasn't invulnerable and while she was strong enough to give Wonder Woman a fight, it didn't mean that her body withstood attacks in the same manner as hers did. Energy discharges she could absorb and all tamaranians were naturally resilient and resistant to broken bones and impact damage from falling, but that did not mean a bullet or piece of shrapnel was not a threat.
The clatter of rock falling down from the hill above drew her attention and she blinked as a figure clad in black slowly walked a camel down a windy trail in the side of the hill. She squinted at him, wishing her nightvision was better, more like that of humans. It was funny that despite all her race's evolutionary advantages humans could see better in the dark.
The figure was swathed from head to toe in black and a well-trimmed grey beard encircled his face. His blue eyes glittered in the moonlight as he came to a stop before her.
Then she saw the AKM hanging from his shoulder and lit a starbolt. The man froze and stared at her for a long moment.
"Stay away!" Starfire snapped.
The man lifted his hands slowly so she could see them and stepped away from the camel. As he did, he focused on her. "Calm yourself… I mean you no harm."
Starfire blinked, in truth she had not expected the man to understand her… this was Muslim territory where the Arabian tongue was dominant, and it was one of the languages she had never absorbed on the world.
"I see you have met some of the more crazed locals." He stated before glancing at the smoking body by her side. "Come… they will be looking for you. I can offer food and shelter."
"Who are you?" Starfire asked quietly.
"My name is Alim Al-Latif." He said quietly. "Come… we must hurry, or your enemies will be upon us. They will come looking for that… fool." He pointed toward the body and Starfire swallowed. "Come!"
She staggered upright and groaned before Alim pointed toward a small building in the distance. "We will go there… it'll be a sanctuary for you."
"What is it?" She asked.
"A mosque, come!" He said again and smiled. "We can talk there… where it is safe."
She nodded and followed, not sure what else to do.