Summary: Dark AU. Commissioner Gordon confronts Terry McGinnis after learning about his double life.
A/N: The story was inspired by the episode 'Epilogue' of JLU animated series and sepecially the phrase, "When you are making a Batman, genetics are only a part of the story, the rest is tragedy". I wondered what kind of crimefighter Terry Mcginnis could be without Brice's guidance.
* * *
To call New Gotham was a big city was an understatement of a year.
The sky was already darkening when the Commissioner landed and parked the car. It took her almost an hour to reach her destination.
This little district of New Gotham was almost typical. Shadows, dirt, a lot of graffiti on the walls. No green and red smiles, usual markings of Jokerz' territory. Ghost's cleaning crew already took care of them.
"Ace, I Love U!"
"Ghost Strikes Again!"
"King Snake For Major!"
It was all over the city. Hero worshiping became a new form of teenage rebellion. Not-so-secret fan sites created by students of Hamilton Hill, action figures on black market, and now graffiti. Who could have thought forty years ago that a thief dressed as a playing card or snake-obsessed terrorist can become so popular in Gotham?
"Ghost & Ace Forever!"
Barbara had no idea why everybody assumed that Ghost and Ace are a couple. Probably the same reason why in the days of her youth they kept spreading gossip about Superman and Wonder Woman.
"Derek Powers Is A Twip!"
It's not like Barbara needed more proof that the elections of a new Major were rigged. People of Gotham hated Derek Powers with a passion.
"Something is rotten in the state of Gotham, and The Ghost is taking out the trash".
Now Commissioner was surprised. Looks like this graffiti artist had a soft spot for classic action movies.
* * *
Once upon a time, Gotham City had protectors. Knights with the symbol of Bat on their armor were fighting against evils of the world, trying to clean Gotham of crime. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and then Tim Drake. After Cadmus Disaster and her mentor's demise Barbara hung the cape. Eventually she found a new way to fight for Gotham, following her father's footsteps as a police officer.
Barbara Gordon almost forgot that idealistic young woman whose dreams never came true. Years passed, Gotham City became New Gotham, and she learned from bitter experience that sometimes the best course of action is to accept things the way they are. Especially in a world where Lex Luthor can become President-for-Life.
And now she had to convince another young idealist to give up.
You have to protect Gotham. Barbara was arguing with herself. You don't have much of a choice. Do you want Richard Flagg to turn Gotman into a war zone? His trigger-happy cape-killers set two districts of Star City on fire during the Archers' Uprising. You can't allow this to happen again, not in your city.
YOUR city? the little voice in her head was as sarcastic as ever. I thought Derek Powers was the major, not you.
It's my duty to protect them.
Like you 'protected' them from Blight?
Barbara checked the time. She came too early; nobody was at home yet. Commissioner Gordon sat on the bench, enjoying the sunset. McGinnis must come back from school soon, so she can wait.
No need to talk to his mother if it can be avoided. Mrs. McGinnis is a good woman, but who knows how she reacts to the news about her son's extracurricular activities. Now if Terry proves himself to be deaf to the voice of reason... there's always Plan B.
Annoying little voice in her head refused to keep silence. If you tried to persuade Dick or Tim to hang the suit, what would you say to make them listen?
Barbara hunched up when she realized that she just thought about McGinnis like he was a part of Batclan. Of course, he wasn't. And yesterday's events were more than enough to justify her actions.
* * *
The appearance of a tall young man with tousled dark hair was an answer to her thoughts. Barbara steeled her heart, preparing herself for the confrontation, when Terry approached her.
"Sit down, McGinnis. We must talk".
"Something new on my Dad's killers?"
"The case is closed, McGinnis. He was killed by the Jokerz".
"...It was a robbery, blah-blah-blah. Nice story. Too bad I don't buy it".
"McGinnis, I'm not here to listen to your conspiracy theories".
"Then why are you here, Commish?"
"I want you to stop".
"Can you be a bit more specific? If it's about Nelson's black eye, I only finished what he started".
"Don't play with me, McGinnis. You can't win. I'm talking about a certain student in ridiculous costume and his merry band of outcasts and criminals who decided to mess with justice system".
Terry returned Gordon's stare without flinching.
"What gave me away?"
"You know the saying: a man is known by the company he keeps".
"Charles "Big Time" Bigelow. He was your old friend. Soon after he was arrested, the prison transport was attacked by Ghost and Bigelow was freed".
"Charles IS my friend. I don't care that he looks like overgrown Quasimodo now".
Barbara continued, "William Watt. He was mentioned in your records twice, and both times you claimed that you started a fight with Nash Nelson to protect Watt from bullying. Who was behind his escape from prison? Ghost and Ace. And, finally, Zander, the former leader of infamous Kobra cult, studied martial arts in Kairi Tanaga's dojo with you. When Suicide Squad attacked Kobra headquarters, Zander was badly injured in fight. They almost cuffed him, but Ghost, Terminal and Kinetic interfered and he avoided capture".
Terry McGinnis kept silence, allowing Commissioner to finish.
"I still haven't figured out who is a hacker of your team, or how did you get in touch with young Tamara Caulder, Ten from Royal Flush Gang and Terminal, former leader of Jokerz. The details are insufficient now. What's important is that I know who is the infamous Ghost and I can easily prove it".
Terry's face was unreadable. "I see. Who else knows?"
"Nobody. Your image of bad-boy-trying-to-reform is flawless. Judging by your grades, nobody can suspect that you outsmarted Brain Trust. But I've dealt with masters of deception for too long".
"I bet you did," Terry rubbed his chin. "So you want me to stop? I'm disappointed. I hoped you came to offer partnership, you know, the way Batman and your father helped each other".
"I'm not my father. I don't work with the vigilantes".
"Your loss. Masked crimefighters are endangered species these days, and you, Commish, need all the help you can get. New Gotham is a mess".
"I don't need your kind of help. Yesterday you crossed the line. You killed a man in cold blood".
"That's not how I remember it. Booby-trapped building full of hostages, and a freakjob who was going to blow up half of Gotham City. And the police was trying to talk to him. Haven't you learned anything? Nobody can negotiate with Mad Stan! He is called Mad for a damn good reason! Yes, I killed him, when he was about to push big red button. And I can do it again in a heartbeat if it's needed. We are the last generation of superheroes, we can't allow ourselves to fight in kid's gloves".
"Superheroes do not kill".
"So I've heard. And where are those superheroes with their precious non-killing rules now? Lex Luthor ate them alive, one by one, because nobody had the balls to slag him," deep blue eyes of the vigilante burned with azure flame. "You mentioned justice system? Law is not justice. Charlie Bigelow wasn't a saint, but they didn't sent him to Arkham because he committed a robbery or two. No, let's lock him and throw away the key for something he never asked for! You honestly think he wanted to take a chemical bath and turn into a monster? Nobody even bothered to look for a cure to his condition. Where's your justice, Commissioner?"
"I wasn't interrupting you, right? Now it's my turn to talk," Terry raised a voice. "Tamara has an amazing gift. But what kind of future can this world offer to metahumans? You know the answer. Telepathy is a crime, she became a criminal since birth. Her own parents sold her out. I gave Tamara a chance to fight for the future. And now you want me to tell her that she can't be Mirage anymore? I won't do that!"
Barbara felt that she is wasting time trying to convince Terry. He was too young, everything was black and white for him. He'd never accept things the way they are.
Time for Plan B.
"You left me no choice. I can't allow you to continue your crusade. Here's your last chance. Stop being Ghost, disband your team - or suffer the consequences".
"You can't stop me".
"But I can. I warned you, McGinnis – don't play with me, you can't win," Barbara raised her gun, pointing it at the young man's chest. "Terrence McGinnis, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney..."
Terry didn't look scared at all while she was reading Miranda. He listened with a patient smile on his face.
Why he is so calm? Some trick? Secret weapon in the pocket? Better be careful...
When Barbara stopped, Terry suddenly asked, "Riddle me this – what's in common between billionaire, district attorney, police commissioner and communication engineer?"
Moment of truth. That's why McGinnis wasn't scared. He had an ace up his sleeve. The secret that she hoped was buried forever.
Nothing lasts forever.
"You can't stop me, Commish. If I'm under arrest, get ready for your little secret to become a public knowledge. Do you want to sacrifice yourself, your husband, Grayson, Drake and his wife – only to stop me from doing what must be done?"
"You won't dare..."
It wasn't a challenge. And, Barbara saw it in sharp blue eyes, it wasn't an idle threat too.
"You want to ruin five lives – and for what?"
"For Gotham City. I must free it from the monster's reign. You don't want to help? Shway. But don't stand in my way".
"And you think you are old enough to decide what's best for Gotham?"
"You weren't older when you became Batgirl".
That one hit too close to home.
"I was young and stupid. Then I had to grow up and see the harsh reality. You can't change anything by hiding behind the mask. You can't fight against the whole world. Sometimes you had to accept things the way they are".
"Who you are trying to convince, me or yourself? Commish, you hate what's happening in Gotham as much as I do. But your hands are tied. Just being honest cop isn't enough when the whole system is rotten. I don't want to be your enemy. But I have a mission, and you are in my way".
Barbara Gordon felt a burden of her years. Her words were just as empty as her threats. Somehow Barbara knew it long before she came here. Terry wouldn't listen to reason.
Never compromise. Damn you, Bruce, he is just like you!
"Let's assume your little group defeated Derek Powers. I can't see it, but sometimes miracles just happen," It was a last ditch effort to dissuade McGinnis from a course of action he chose. "What's next?"
"When it happens,we'd have a bigger fish to fry. Our beloved President-for-Life".
"Lex Luthor? Are you insane?"
"It's either him or us. He'd never leave us alone. And if we get rid of Derek Powers, Luthor has no choice but to take us seriously".
"And why do you think you can accomplish the task that that was impossible for the whole Justice League?"
"Because Justice Leaguers had these stupid non-killing rules. But there's only so much you can do against the man who is willing to die to get rid of his enemy".
"It's a suicide, you know?"
"Commish, it's New Gotham. People are getting killed every day on its streets. I'd better die trying to make the world a better place, than waste my life by dying in car crash".
* * *
"Ter, I can't believe it! You talked Old Harpy out of arresting you! I was going to sent King Kobra and Ace to the rescue!» Max Gibson grinned. «Are you sure you don't have powers?"
"It was easier than you think, Max. Barbara Gordon was Batgirl".
"I know, I've read her files too. So?"
"That's the answer. She was Batgirl. Forty years ago she fought in the same war. You can't just stop being Batgirl, it's larger than you. I just reminded her of that".
"I expected nothing less from best student of Kairi-sensei," Zander sounded very serious.
Melanie said nothing. She just smiled and kissed Terry passionately, ignoring catcalls and whistles from the others.
Life was good.