"Are we alone?" Nightwing asked, surprised at the calmness of his own voice as he stared off the rooftop and out over his city.
"No other sentient life forms or surveillance equipment," Jaime... Blue Beetle... said. Not Jaime, Nightwing reminded himself.
"Then let's hear it."
Blue Beetle hesitated. "Which... specific part would you – "
"Don't play games with me!" Nightwing spun to face Blue Beetle and tossed the two halves of Tim's birdarang at him. "Scratched your armour, Blue. Now, Tim might deflect one of these off an ally or, depending on the situation, miss. But that means combat; there are signs of battle all over that room on the War World. A battle you didn't mention in your little 'a boom tube opened up' story. So I'd like to know the truth of everything you lied to me about, why you lied to me, where my Team is, and what happened to the crystal key. Start with whichever of those points you like."
"I lied to you because Green Beetle was right there! I had to protect my cover, and that meant using the Reach cover story."
"Not good enough. You could've signalled. You could've explained afterwards."
"I could barely come here, ese."
"Don't call me that. Don't use his words."
Blue Beetle frowned. "Language does not belong to – "
He sighed. "Green Beetle is a mind-reader. The less you, or anybody organic knows, the better."
"So you decided to shut me out of the plan?"
Nightwing's eyes narrowed. "You realise that to me, this whole thing makes you look guilty as hell. I wasn't sure of your loyalties before and I'm certainly not now."
"Problematic, but easily compensated for."
"I'm going to have to freeze you out of everything. I've already moved all the bases you know about. Can't risk you betraying us."
"You would have to do that anyway. I did just show my face on national television. You doing anything else would be suspicious."
"You think you've got everything figured out, don't you?"
"Only the major variables."
"Prove to me that I can trust you."
"There is no way to do that without risk. Your lack of trust is not a severe hinderance."
"Where is my Team?"
"'Safe' isn't good enough."
"'Safe' is all I can say. They will be rescued in short order."
Nightwing frowned. Blue Beetle had claimed to be his inside man, but it was definitely looking like he was playing a larger game. But whose? Not his own. Not unless his assessment of Jaime and the Scarab had been way off. Nightwing didn't have a problem with being used as somebody else's pawn – most of his crimefighting before the Team had been exactly that, and some of it afterwards. But he liked to know who the chessmaster was. And whether he could trust them. He didn't even know if he could trust Blue, let alone whoever he was working for.
It was probably the Reach. They were probably both playing right into Reach hands.
"Rescued?" Nightwing pressed. "By whom?"
"It isn't important. They are safe."
"Well I'm so glad you were careful not to kill them when you took them all out."
"Arsenal nearly blasted everybody into space, if that helps. It wasn't easy to save them."
"Who has the key?"
"I knew it!" Nightwing stepped forward and grabbed Blue Beetle's arms, completely forgetting that Blue could destroy him in seconds if he wanted to. "You tr – "
"It's sabotaged! They won't be able to use it."
"... Is that so."
"They assumed it was damaged in the fight. I... used it as a blunt weapon. It should take them weeks to figure out how to repair it."
"My assessment of their technology is not infallible. But you may wish to find a way to disable the War World before then. Start disassembly, perhaps."
"Of the space station that's almost the size of our moon? Yeah, sure, we'll get right on that."
A distant scream echoed across the rooftop and Nightwing sighed in irritation. "I have to get that."
"Do you need – "
"No. With you being Reach poster boy all over the news, the last thing I need is to be spotted working with you. Besides, Bludhaven is mine. Go home."
Blue nodded, armoured up, and flew off. Nightwing sighted carefully and leapt.
Twenty minutes later, Blue Beetle landed in an alley, armoured down, and casually walked out to meet a black limousine. A tall, serious-looking woman opened the passenger door and a distinguished-looking gentleman with ice-blue eyes stepped out.
"Blue Beetle," Lex Luthor greeted him. "I trust Nightwing gave you no trouble?"
"He posed no actual risk. He did figure out my role in events, as predicted."
"He's a sharp young man, that one. Still, this was necessary."
"I know. How is your team?"
"Ready to make the extraction, now that you are properly cut off from yours."
"They're untrained. This seems risky."
"It is planned in every detail, my boy. There is no risk. Do you really think that I would allow my teammates to summon a race of conquering aliens to Earth if there was any chance at all that they could take it? I've said all along, Earth should belong to humans. Besides, I still owe you a favour from when you helped me get my team; it's only fair that I rescue yours."
"Then I'll head home and prepare for the next phase."
"As will I." Lex smiled. "You know, I think that this will continue to be a most productive partnership."