Let's paint the picture of a perfect place
They've got it better than when anyone's told ya
They'll be the King of Hearts and you're the Queen of Spades
Then we'll fight for you like we were your soldiers
I know we got it good, but they've got it made
And their grass is getting greener each day
I know things are looking up but soon they'll take us down
Before anybody's knowing our name
They've got all the right moves in all the right places
So yeah, we're going down
They've got all the right friends in all the right places
So yeah, we're going down…
-"All the Right Moves," OneRepublic
It started with a telecast.
Terry thought that cyber-terrorism wouldn't be as much of a problem in 2040 because of the new stricter laws rolling into town after the presidential election two years prior but he was wrong. He'd been in his room aimlessly drawing doodles on his homework and crunching on a Girl Scout cookie when his cell phone went off with Max's ringtone—"Sour Cherry" by the Kills, she insisted—and answered with a relieved voice.
"You just saved my ass. I have no clue what's going on with this Geometry homework."
"Turn on the TV."
He lifted an eyebrow. "To what channel?"
"Any of them."
Instantly, the humor abated. Her tone was urgent and on the edge of afraid. He grabbed the remote and turned it on, his face paling as he recognized the man staring out at him from the plasma television.
"We are many. We are unstoppable. We will topple your government and usher in a new era. Tonight, we are making our first demand. The city of Gotham will reverse its decision to outlaw Kobra. If not, we will target every major political figure and kill them until our demands are met. You have twenty-four hours to respond. If not, Kobra will strike without mercy and all of Gotham will fall prey to its venom."
Then, like magic, the channel went back to its original programming.
"Did you see it?"
"Yeah," Terry said, his mouth dry. "Better get off the line, Max. He'll be calling any second."
"Got it. Call me as soon as you're done."
He hung up and not five seconds later, Bruce's ringtone—"A Superstitious Cowardly Lot", much to the old man's annoyance—filled the room. Terry answered before the musical got through its first verse.
"Suit up. Now."
"On it, boss."
Five minutes later, he was in the batmobile racing towards the Gotham Police headquarters with Bruce in his ear, barking out orders.
"You sure this is a good idea? The Commish isn't exactly a team player," Terry said, unable to help sounding hesitant.
"With a threat on this scale, we have to pool resources. She won't like it but she'll cooperate. I've known her for years."
Terry shuddered. "Don't remind me."
"What was that?"
As expected, the ground floor of the police station was flooded with paparazzi. He parked on the roof and used the magnetic heels on his boots to walk along the side of the building in camouflage mode. He knelt and peeked through Gordon's window, pressing his fingertips to the glass to listen in as she spoke to her officers.
"—they already know we don't have the sheer manpower to put every political figure in this town under protective custody so we're going to have to make due. Prioritize the Governor and the Mayor and then trickle down from there. Research every single name we get to make sure there isn't someone working on the inside. If you even suspect them of working with these idiots, drag them in for questioning. I'll try to keep the feds off your backs in the meantime. We're on the clock, people. Let's catch these bastards and make sure that threat stays an idle one."
With that, her officers nodded and filed out of the office, already on their communication links spreading the word to their partners out in the field. Once everyone was gone, the former Batgirl leaned back in her chair and massaged the bridge of her nose. Then, she hit the button on her desk to open the window and turned to face her visitor.
"You got here faster than I thought."
Terry shrugged, keeping his tone light. "Just installed new jets."
She offered him a thin smile. "Nice. I suppose you have something for me."
He handed her a folder. "Everything the old man's got so far. Anything else we find, we'll share as long as you do the same."
She frowned. "I don't like answering to him now any more than I did back then."
She sighed. "But for the greater good, I'll put up with it."
"Thanks. What's our first move?"
"Right now, there's too much data to crunch. We have to find them all before we can do anything else, but since I'm already spread thin, I need you trying to track down where the broadcast came from, who gave it, and where the hell they are. Can you do that?"
Terry paused. "I can't…but I know who can."
"Then get moving. Inform me as soon as you find something. Good luck, kiddo."
"Ditto, Commish." He saluted her and slipped back out the window, heading back towards the batmobile. Once inside, Bruce greeted him.
"And just where do you think you're going?"
"Got a stop to make. Won't be long."
"You're not going to see her, are you?"
"And if I am?"
He heard an exasperated sigh leave the old man. "She's never going to back down if you ask her to help you."
"No choice. People might die. She's the best chance they have and you know it."
"Fine. But you know where I stand. Call me if she comes up with something."
He hung up and Terry fired up the jets, heading away from downtown.
"You're serious about this, aren't you?"
"And what did the old man say?"
"He's not happy but he backed me up anyway."
"And if I do this, will you take me seriously for once?"
Terry inhaled, trying not to let the stress show in his tone. "One step at a time."
Max scowled, but he could tell the offer was too good to pass up. "Gee, I'm liable to drown in all this gratitude."
Her fingers flew across the keyboard, faster than he could follow. In an instant, she brought up the Kobra broadcast and downloaded it into one of the programs she used to decipher hidden sounds. He leaned across the back of her chair, pulling off the mask so he could see better.
"I've been running diagnostics since it happened. Figured whether you asked me or not, I'd help."
"Awful generous of you."
She rolled her eyes. "You're awful at flattery, McGinnis. Stick to sarcasm."
He smirked. "Yes, ma'am. What've you got so far?"
"Not much. The audio is pretty empty. This was professionally done and they didn't want any slipups. There's a green screen behind him and that won't tell us anything. Facial recognition is basically impossible through that stupid orange mask and that hood, but something might pop with his voice since he didn't alter it. It'll take time."
"C'mon, there's got to be something else."
"There is. Take a look."
She pointed to the corner of the video screen, across the Kobra spokesman's right shoulder. "See that? He may be in a cult, but he's obviously no seamstress. That's a store bought item. We might be able to get the serial number off the tag if we're lucky."
She expanded the video and magnified the tiny sliver of white, peering closer. "Looks like the last few digits are 023. That should narrow it down to a brand and from there, we can narrow the search."
"Got it. Cross reference the addresses of the stores with any Gotham criminals associated with Kobra and see if something comes up."
"Yep. Didn't think any of this detective stuff was sinking in with you," she added with a sly smirk.
"Careful. I'm liable to drown in all this gratitude."
She chuckled, hitting the Print key after her program finished running. "Here you go. That's our suspect."
"Peter Toben. Looks like he's gonna have company tonight."
Max crossed her arms, watching as he pulled the cowl back down. "I'll be expecting my compensation within the week, Mr. McGinnis."
"We'll talk. In the meantime, thanks for your help. I owe you one."
He leaned down and kissed her cheek, surprising her. He flashed her a grin before heading out the window and into the afternoon sun.
Peter Toben lived in the downtown slums of Gotham, where gang violence and drugs were as thick as the smoke billowing up from the factories surrounding the area. Barking dogs and unhappy babies cried out into the night when Terry flew down from his perch on the building across from his suspect's. He went into camouflage mode as he landed on the side of the wall, his breath hurried as he peered into the window. It gave him the view of a living room with a couch and a TV. The walls were bare and Toben was nowhere to be found.
"Anyone home?" Bruce asked.
"Not sure," Terry muttered, flicking out a claw to unlock the hinge. He slid the window up and crawled in, switching on his night vision to see better. The living room spilled into a kitchen and none of the lights seemed to be on. He began searching for any evidence of life but there were only old newspapers and magazines lying around. He flipped through a couple before noticing the similarities they held—faces cut out of them. Each issue had something to do with a local Gotham politician.
"Looks like he's definitely our guy. Better check the bedroom just in case."
He stepped towards that direction when the TV flickered on, blinding him momentarily. He shook his head, turning off the night vision to see the same masked and hooded man from the broadcast glaring at him through red lenses.
"Welcome home, Batman."
He froze, watching in horror as the man smirked. "I figured you'd be the one smart enough to notice the little clue I left you in my message. I doubt the police would catch on but I knew you would because you're no fool. That's exactly why I let you find us. You're a threat. If we want our plan to succeed, then one thing must be done first."
The window beside him slammed shut and a metal sheet slid down over it.
"You must die."
"Terry, get out of there!" Bruce shouted as the TV began to glow white, filling the room with a high pitched static noise. Terry ran for the window, slamming his fists against it but it didn't budge.
"It won't go!"
"Set a charge!"
"This is solid brick, there's no way for the charge to—"
Gritting his teeth, Terry reached for a plastic explosive on his belt and set it for ten seconds, racing towards the other end of the apartment until he reached the front door. It too was locked and reinforced with steel, and there were no other windows in the apartment. He heard the last couple of beeps of the charge but before it could finish, the television exploded, causing a chain reaction to other bombs he knew had been planted in the walls. He hit the floor, crying out in pain as the percussive sound ripped through his ears and the heat slammed his body against the far wall.
He slumped to the floor, dazed, his ears ringing, his eyes tearing as smoke and fire engulfed the apartment once the blasts stopped.
"Terry, listen to me. You've got to get up. The suit can't protect you for long. Get back to the window. That's your only way out."
"Can't…I think…my arm's broken," he gasped out, coughing in between breaths. He strained to say more but then there was an awful, low creaking sound that grabbed his attention instead.
The old man's voice came out panicked. "The roof's about to cave in. Terry, get out of there now!"
Seconds after he spoke, the radio link went dead. Bruce stood in front of the monitor in a horrified stupor.
I know. I'm a sadist, right? Sorry to do that to you but I wanted to start this little journey off with a bang. I'm sorry for the long absence. I've been in and out of work and I'm writing novels for a living and it's hectic. Still, I watched "Final Cut" on the Hub today (God, I love that channel now) and it inspired me to take another run at a multi-chapter, eventual Terry/Max story. I've missed my tempestuous pair so strap in because you're in for yet another one of my shenanigan stories. I'll try to get it finished in a month's time so make sure you motivate me by hitting that Review and Favorite button. Thanks for sticking around and I hope you enjoy the story. See you on the pages.