Posted by Ravager4 (1627 posts) - - Show Bio

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: T+

Note: The fourth arc in my Ravager series to be remastered into prose format and edited to make it better.

My Fan-Fic Archives: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/ravager4/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/87-79374/

---

Chapter #20

Rose ambled into the women's locker room of the police station. When she sat on the bench in front of her locker, she made no move to begin changing into uniform, instead just staring blankly forward. Her body might have been there, but her mind was elsewhere. She was, of course, thinking about the previous night. What had begun as a rather enjoyable birthday outing with Becky had taken a very bizarre turn at the end. Could she really have been that oblivious to what her friend had been doing, not just that night but in the days before, as well?

Rose had always been a master flirt, or at least an incessant one. Even if her actual relationship experience amounted to zilch, she liked to think she was good at flirting, and able to pick up on when someone was flirting with her. But she had never once taken into consideration that Becky, of all people, could be attracted to her, and so it had all gone straight over her head. Now she just felt dumb for missing it. A lot of embarrassment could have been saved last night, if she hadn't been that incredibly dense.

Breathing out a heavy sigh, Rose brought a hand to her forehead and closed her eye. How the hell was she supposed to face Becky today? They were still partners. They'd still be sitting in the same car together all day. They'd still have to coexist, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it was. Sooner or later, she knew that she and Becky would have to talk about what happened, and try to clear things up in a calmer manner than the stammering confusion of last night.

So what do you do about this, Rose? she asked herself. Turns out your partner is a lesbian and has the hots for you, so to speak. But of course you're not, so that leaves you... where?

Rose sat there a while longer, just waiting. She wasn't sure whether she wanted to change as quickly as possible and get an early start on paperwork before Becky arrived, or wait for Becky to enter the locker room and get the conversation out of the way. The longer she sat there thinking about it, though, the more it became apparent to her that she really did just want to get it over with. Might as well just bite the bullet.

Of course, that only worked as long as Becky actually showed up today. After twenty minutes sitting there in the locker room, Rose checked the time on her phone. Becky normally showed up by now. Groaning softly, she bowed her head forward and opened her locker door. Great, that little incident last night probably made Becky call in sick today or something. Finally, Rose stood up and pulled out her uniform to change.

A short few minutes later, Rose shuffled down the hallway through the offices, hands in her pockets and head down. Under different circumstances, she might actually enjoy a day alone in the squad car. She'd get to drive for once, and she'd have plenty of time to collect her thoughts in peace. But given the situation that led to it, she would have preferred Becky be here.

Acting on perfect cue, Rose's gaze shifted slightly, catching sight of a familiar face sitting in one of the adjoining offices. Dressed in full uniform already, Becky hunched over a desk, busily filling out a form. Apparently, she had actually arrived much earlier than Rose.

Well no wonder I didn't catch her in the locker room...

Pausing a moment, Rose sucked in a deep breath to steady her nerves, then made her way to the office. She announced her presence with a small knock on the open door, causing Becky to look up and freeze like a deer in the headlights.

“Hey,” Rose said, giving a little wave.

Becky shifted uncomfortably in her seat, eyes glancing away. “Uh... hi.”

“You came in pretty early, huh?”

“Yeah, I...” Becky started, rubbing the back of her neck. “I just wanted to take care of a few things... no big deal.”

An uncomfortable silence descended over the pair, both women just staring at each other. Eventually, Becky looked away, turning her attention back to the paper in front of her.

“So...” Rose muttered, folding her arms over her chest. “Are we going to talk about what happened last night or what? You kind of ran out in a hurry.”

“Well hell, can you blame me?” Becky dropped her pen, proceeding to bury her face in her hands. “I've never been more embarrassed in my life! I mean, I... I kissed you, for Christ’s sake.”

Rose cleared her throat, casually glancing off to the side and loosening the collar of her shirt. “Yeah, that... was a bit of a shock.”

“So you'll excuse me if I wanted to get as far away as possible at the time,” Becky said, lowering her hands.

“Well, guess I really can't blame you for that, huh?”

Another awkward pause. Becky fidgeted in her seat, then finally returned to filling out her form again. She said nothing, not looking up again at her partner. She couldn't handle eye contact right now.

“What exactly are you working on there, anyway?” Rose asked.

“Oh, this...” she said, giving the slip of paper a long look. “It's a, uh... a transfer request. I mean, I figure I... well that I'd probably be better off at a new precinct, you know?”

Rose's eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Whoa, hey, wait a minute. Why the hell are you doing that?”

“You're joking right?” Becky snorted out a rather uncomfortable laugh, shaking her head. “I can't stay here now, not after what happened last night. I mean, with me... and with you...”

“Look, I get that you're a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable right now,” Rose stated, taking up a seat across from her partner. “Hell, you think I'm not? But you can't just go and leave.”

“And why not?” Becky questioned. “You really want to be stuck in the same car eight hours a day with another woman who... well, who likes you?”

“Believe it or not, I actually like being your partner, Becky.” Rose softened her gaze, breathing out slowly. “And I like you, too. Just... well, in a different way, I guess? What I mean is... okay, look. Friends aren't exactly something I have a lot of. Actually, I barely have any, if I'm being honest. I don't want to lose the best one I have over something this stupid.”

Becky blinked, sitting up straighter in her seat. “You're... being serious?”

“Why wouldn't I be?”

“So, even after what happened last night, even after I...” Becky paused, clearing her throat. “You'd still want to be my partner?”

“I wouldn't want anyone else,” Rose said, giving a warm smile.

“Then, you don't care about, well, that I'm...”

Rose chuckled. “What, a lesbian? Not what I expected, I'll admit, but I'm the last person to be judging someone else, trust me on that. I'm pretty sure I'll get over it.”

Leaning back in her seat, Becky blinked a couple times and held her hands up to her head. She took a deep breath, a bewildered expression on her face. “Wow, uh... I mean, not what I was expecting to hear you say, I'll be honest. I thought I went and destroyed our friendship last night.”

“You really think I'm that shallow?” Rose asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Wha- no, of course not,” Becky insisted. “I just... sorry. I guess I was just a little mortified, is all. I mean... I haven't exactly 'come out' yet, not completely. My sister is the only one who knows, and she's cool with it, but my parents... well, they're pretty religious, you know? Really... really not a big supporter of that kind of lifestyle. It makes it difficult trying to find a relationship, especially when my family lives just ten minutes outside the city, always coming to visit, always checking up on me, wanting to know what's going on in my life... But, I was so sure that you were, too, and... then you weren't. I just sort of panicked, I guess.” A heavy sigh escaped Becky's lips. “I really misjudged that one, huh?”

“Hey, everyone makes mistakes, right?” Rose said, with a small shrug. “Even me. Well, especially me. I mean, let's be honest, I don't know how I missed all that flirting.”

“Well... it was pretty heavy, wasn't it?” Becky chuckled under breath, a small smile coming to her face. “I thought I was coming on a little too strong, actually, but you kept right up with it. I thought you were just flirting back.”

“See, I'm just as guilty as you are.”

Becky folded her arms across her chest, taking in another deep breath. She pursed her lips slightly, giving her partner a long look. “Suppose that makes it a bit better, ah? But you're really okay with this? I mean, you're not just saying it to make me feel better, right?”

“Yeah, it's fine,” she assured. “Don't worry about it. Besides, so what if my partner has a crush on me, right? It's actually a little flattering... means I have options.”

The comment elicited an amused laugh from Becky. She casually averted her gaze and reached a hand up to her head, curling her fingers in her hair. She tried not to smile too much, but she wasn't doing a great job of hiding it. “Ay caramba... you are a very strange person, Rose.”

“You don't know the half of it.” Smirking still, Rose stood up and headed for the door. “Now come on, we should be getting out on patrol soon.”

Glancing back down at the transfer request form, Becky tapped her fingers a couple of times, then crumpled the paper up into a ball and tossed it into the trash bin. “Si, let's go.”

---

As Becky drove the cruiser around the busy city streets, Rose leaned back in her seat with her elbow resting outside the window, enjoying the passing breeze. She watched the people walking by on their way to work for a few moments, then glanced back over to her partner.

“So, just out of curiosity,” she said, “how long have you known that you... uh, don't like boys?”

“Honestly?” Becky paused a moment, thinking. “I think I've always known, in a way. I mean, I didn't know exactly, but I always felt kind of different. Had a few boyfriends in high school, but nothing ever happened, and I never felt quite right with them, if that makes sense.”

“I suppose, sort of.”

“But if you're asking when I first really discovered I liked girls,” she continued, “was about a month after I graduated. Got a job working at one of the local gyms, nothing special. One of the other girls working there, though, she took a quick liking to me, started flirting. Didn't realize it at first, but I ended up flirting back. Was just having fun, being nice, you know?

Rose laughed, nodding. “Now that I get.”

“Anyway, one day she made a move on me in the locker room. Kinda panicked at first, I mean so many things going through my head at the time. But...”

“But you didn't stop her?”

“Yeah.” Becky nodded, a small, absent smile curling across her face as she recollected the memory. “I think something clicked in my head when she kissed me the first time. I finally realized why I'd always felt so different, and... well, the rest is history.”

“So, whatever happened to her?” Rose asked.

“Oh, we were a thing for a little while, but it didn't last,” Becky explained. “Just like any other couple, you have your differences, your arguments... the relationship just didn't work out. You know how it is.”

“Right...”

Of course, Rose didn't really know anything about that. She enjoyed flirting well enough, but she was a real loser when it came to relationships. She'd never had a boyfriend, or even been on a date for that matter. Considering her track record, she had her doubts that she ever would. Letting out a small sigh, she went back to looking out her window.

When lunch time rolled around, Becky changed course and drove over to one of the local food vendors. “You want the usual?”

“Yeah, but no onions this time.”

“Coming right up,” Becky said, parking the car one the side of the street.

As Becky waited in line to order their food, Rose occupied herself with the newspaper. She never thought that she'd ever take enjoyment out of doing word jumbles, but it did help pass the time. Holding her pen to lips, she stared at the page for a few moments of contemplation, then began filling in her answers. With her attention drawn, she didn't notice a black car with tinted windows turning the corner of the street and quickly increasing its speed. In fact, she had no idea that anything was out of the ordinary at all...

Until her precog went off. Snapping her gaze up from the paper, a momentary jolt of panic ripped through her chest. Hurriedly, she pushed her door open and sprinted around the side of the car.

“Rebecca! Get down!” she yelled.

The warning only caused confusion, however. Turning from her place in line, Becky gave an odd look, having no idea why her partner was suddenly running straight at her. Before she could respond and ask Rose what was going on, though, the black car rolled by, one of the windows drawn down. Rose ran faster, but she knew she wouldn't make it in time. She was too far away. The gunshot went off, and then the car was gone, speeding through a red light and turning the corner.

“NO!” Rose shrieked, quickening her pace. She made it to Becky a second later, dropping to her knees at the woman's side. The rest of the crowd was in a panic, screaming and running. “Becky! Becky can you hear me? Come on, stay with me!”

Becky's eyes were wide, her breathing rapid. Her gaze darted around wildly, finally coming to focus on her partner. She tried to say something, but no words came out, only frantic, raspy breaths. Rose pressed her hand firmly against the gunshot wound, dead center in Becky's chest, trying to get the bleeding to stop. With her other hand, she reached up to her shoulder radio and brought it close to her mouth.

“Dispatch, we have an officer down! I repeat, officer down! I need an ambulance at 1756 Timber Street! Now!”

Lowering her hand from the radio, she held onto one of Becky's hands now, giving it a firm squeeze and maintaining eye contact with the woman. Becky barely managed to tighten her fingers in response, strength fading rapidly. A few moments later, her eyes rolled into the back of her head, drooping closed.

Rose's heart skipped a beat, a sickening bubble of panic and nausea bursting in her gut. “Becky!”

---

Twelve hours. That was how long Rose had been at the hospital now, with the brief exception of picking up Holly from school. After Rose had explained the situation, Holly insisted on going back to the hospital with her; she liked Becky, too, after all. Since then, they'd been waiting. Just waiting. Becky had been in surgery for a long time now, and the doctors wouldn't give any information on the progress. Still, she hadn't left this spot, not even to go change out of her uniform.

Sitting in her seat in the hallway, Rose leaned forward, elbows on her knees and gaze pointed at the floor. Holly lay next to her, curled up on the adjoining seats and fast asleep. It was past midnight now, though the young girl had stayed up as long as she could. They were both worried, especially Rose. Normally, she'd be out patrolling the city by now, dressed up in her Ravager gear and taking out street thugs, breaking up drug deals, or busting weapon smugglers. But right now there wasn't anything more important than being there in the hospital, waiting for news on Becky's condition.

She had never felt like this before about anything, never had something so important to her that nothing else mattered. Then again, she'd never had a friend like this before, either, nor had she ever had to go through having such a good friend get shot right in front of her and carted off to the hospital barely alive. This kind of worry, this kind of... torment, it was new to her, a different type than she was accustomed to. She honestly couldn't imagine losing Becky, not like this.

I'll find who shot her... she thought, coldly. I'll find him, and I'll kill him. Doesn't matter who, he's a dead man.

“Miss Walker?”

Glancing up from her seat, Rose noticed a doctor now standing in front of her. She'd been so enveloped in her thoughts that she hadn't even heard him approach.

“Yes, that's me,” she said, sitting up straighter. “What is it? How's Becky?”

“She just came out of surgery now,” the doctor stated.

“Is she alright?”

“She's stable right now,” he explained. “But her condition is still critical. The bullet missed her heart by less than an inch, nicked the aorta, and very nearly hit her spine on the way through. It's quite honestly a miracle that she was still alive when she got to us.”

Rose swallowed a numb lump in her throat. “But she'll recover, right? You'll keep her alive?”

The doctor breathed out a small sigh. “We've repaired the damage as best we can, but the rest is up to her, I'm afraid. The next forty-eight hours will be crucial in telling us how well she will recover, if at all.”

“Can I see her?”

“She's still under sedation at the moment,” the doctor said, glancing back over his shoulder. “But you can go in briefly, if you like. Her room is just down there, second one on the left.”

“Thanks.”

Getting up from her seat, she checked one more time to make sure that Holly was still sound asleep, then quickly headed to Becky's recovery room. The first thing that greeted her was the steady, rhythmic beeping of a heart monitor, the glowing lights of which offered the only illumination in the otherwise dark room. Taking in a deep breath, Rose walked to the edge of the bed and looked down at the unconscious Becky. If not for all the IV's, tubes, and other wires attached to her, Becky might have actually looked pretty peaceful. Instead, the sight made Rose sick.

This... is how she felt when I was the one in the bed, isn't it? Think I'm starting to understand...

Swallowing another lump in her throat, Rose sat down next to the bed and exhaled deeply, bowing her head. Reaching forward, she took Becky's hand in both of hers. “I'm sorry, Beck... I shouldn't have... I mean, I-

She stopped mid sentence, bringing one of her hands to her forehead and closing her eye.

Goddamn it, I can't even talk straight.

“I saw it happen...” she muttered. “I should have stopped it, but I was too slow... f**k, I should been there. I'm sorry...”

Swallowing again, she leaned back in the chair and held both hands to her head, brushing her fingers through her hair. “Just... get better, alright? Please? I don't... I don't want to lose you..”

Breathing out heavy sigh, Rose finally turned and exited the hospital room. She could probably take Holly home now, and at least try to get some real sleep. It had been a long, long day. Halfway down the hall, however, Rose looked up and froze. Holly wasn't alone. A man sat there next to her, his legs crossed. He was a familiar man, with a dark fedora hat and long coat, round glasses, and a smug grin just begging to be slapped off his face.

“You!” she exclaimed, heart exploding in a panic.

“Shhh, keep your voice down, Rose,” Jerry said, pressing a finger to his lips. With his other hand, he gently stroked Holly's hair. “We wouldn't want to wake her, would we?”

Chapter #21

Rose reacted instantly. Still in her police uniform, her hand flew to her gun. Before she could even draw it from the holster, however, Jerry flicked a small knife from his sleeve into his hand and pressed it dangerously close to Holly's neck. With his other hand, he wagged a finger at her, tauntingly.

“Ah, ah, ah,” he mocked. “You really don't want to be doing that.”

Clenching her jaw, Rose's fingers slowly left her gun. She glanced around the hallway, looking for anyone else, but the wing was deserted. “Hiding behind a child? Classy.”

“Simple insurance.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked, spitting venom in her tone.

Jerry shifted slightly in his seat. “I wanted to chat, that's all.”

“Take the knife away from Holly's neck and maybe we'll talk,” she said.

“Ah, but you see, if I do that, then you go for your gun and try to shoot me.” He grinned at her, eyes glinting behind his glasses. “Not much of an incentive, is there?”

Was worth a shot.

“Just talk.”

“Now you're getting it,” he said, taking in a deep breath. “See, your nightly adventures as the vigilante Ravager–or rather, The Blade, as they're calling you nowadays–make it very difficult to get any kind of hold on this city. Before you came along, oh it was easy, you saw yourself what I had going. But now... well, I'm afraid it just isn't the same.”

Rose rolled her eyes, an unamused scoff bursting from her lips. “Well gee, sorry to ruin your fun. Do you want me to buy you an ice cream cone, make you feel better?”

“Ah, sarcasm.” Jerry chuckled. “It really is unbecoming of a lady.”

“You're breaking my heart, really.”

“Are you quite finished?”

Rose narrowed her gaze coldly. “Oh please, continue.”

“Anyway,” Jerry explained, “as you can no doubt assume, allowing you to continue running around at night unchecked and causing trouble is unacceptable.”

“So this is your big plan to stop me? Threaten Holly and tell me to back off?” Rose's fingers twitched, as if ready to make a move. “The moment you get up and she's safe, I put a bullet in you.”

“Yes, that would be problematic, wouldn't it?” He pressed a finger to his lips, thinking carefully. “I suppose I could take her with me, but then kidnapping isn't really my forte. I'm not Pavoni, after all, I have standards. But there are other ways to get you to do what I want, other... people to go after. As you've seen.”

A cold sensation spread throughout Rose's body. She tensed up, flinching at the indication. “You... you're the one who put her in here, aren't you?”

“Well, not me specifically, but I did give the order,” he said. “Was supposed to be a shot to the stomach, though... much greater chance of survival. Oh well, can't go back and do it over now.”

“You son of a b*tch...” she growled. Tightening her hands into closed fists, Rose grit her teeth tightly and glared a hole through the man. The cold numbness from before was gone, now replaced by seething, hot anger. “You're a dead man, I swear.”

Jerry cleared his throat, straightening his posture. “Rose, there is something you need to understand. The people that work for me, well, they're everywhere. There isn't a place you've been where my eyes aren't watching. Take this hospital, for instance; it's no exception. I have people working here for me, as well, and they do what I tell them. For example, should anything happen to me, they have very specific orders to 'pull the plug' on your poor friend. Would be a real shame, wouldn't it?”

Rose flinched, her eye twitching slightly at the declaration. She sucked in a deep breath, arms shaking at her side now. “So what? You want me stop? Fine, I'm done.”

“My, that was quick,” he said, eyebrows lifting. “One would think that such a decision would at least take some time to come to... how much do you care for that woman, I wonder?”

Rose didn't answer, merely swallowing a hard lump in her throat.

“But no, I'm afraid that isn't what I want, either. You see, I wouldn't have you simply give up doing what you do; you are quite good at it. I would merely see your actions... overseen.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You'll be working for me now,” Jerry stated, matter-of-factly. “That's what I mean. If you even think otherwise, your girlfriend dies. Then, I move on to Holly here. Everyone you hold dear, gone.”

The numbness was back. Rose swallowed, her gaze slowly moving towards the floor.

“Thinking things through, are you? Please, take your time, I don't have anywhere to be tonight. A tough decision, though, isn't it?” Jerry raised his hands, slowly moving them up and down, imitating a scale. “On the one hand, you could just shoot me now. Of course, the aftermath would lead to that cop, and this girl, both dying. You'd stop me, yes, but lose everything in the process. Or, you simply listen to what I tell you, and everyone lives. Your move.”

Slowly, Rose's hand moved back to her gun. She fingered the side of it with her thumb, contemplating whether or not she really should just shoot the b**tard.

Maybe he's bluffing. Maybe he doesn't have sh*t against me, maybe Holly and Becky aren't in any danger... As soon as the thought went through her head, however, she dropped her hand back down by her side again, closing her eye. No, I'm not making that mistake again. No one else is dying because of me.

“Fine...” she mumbled.

“What's that now? Speak up a little, I couldn't quite hear you.”

“I said fine, a**hole. I'll work for you.”

Jerry's eyes narrowed. “Really now, that is no way to talk to your employer. I suppose we'll have to work on that.”

“Just tell me what I have to do,” she said, glaring coldly.

“For now, take dear Holly here back home, get some sleep, go to work in the morning, all that good stuff,” he explained. “Tomorrow night, nine o'clock, come to the old toy factor in the East District. Be sure to dress for the occasion.”

On that note, Jerry removed the knife away from the sleeping Holly and stood up, slipping his hands into his coat pockets. He gave her a small nod, then turned to leave. “Have yourself a goodnight, Rose.”

---

Rose kicked the door open lightly with her foot, her arms occupied by the sleeping Holly. The poor girl was able to wake up long enough to make it back to the car, but then she fell fast asleep again. Rose didn't have the heart to wake her up again, instead carrying the girl into the building and up through the elevator. Letting out a long breath, she brought Holly into her bedroom and tucked her in. Then, she returned to the living room and just stood there, staring out the window.

There was nothing she could do, that's what she kept telling herself. If she wanted the only people in this world who mattered to her to stay alive, then she had to do whatever Jeremiah Belmont told her to do. There wasn't any way around it; the b**tard had her on a leash.

Still, she wouldn't let Jerry get away with this. Somehow, someway, she'd find a way around it. She'd find a way to make him pay without putting Holly or Becky in danger. She just... needed to think on it, that's all. Surely, she could come up with a plan. For now, though, all she could do was go to sleep and prepare herself for the next day.

And what a fine f**king day it'll be.

---

Sitting at the edge of the Becky's hospital bed the next day, Rose leaned forward, elbows on her knees. She had brought her lunch with her, but she didn't eat. The nausea in her gut was too strong, only strengthened by the sight of Becky sleeping and hooked up to all those machines, barely hanging on to life. Instead, she just watched and waited, hoping to herself that Becky would pull through.

“You know, the day, uh... it's been pretty boring without you,” Rose said, bowing her head. “I mean, I finally got to drive the cruiser, but... there's no one to talk to. The day just... kind of drags when you're not there.” She paused, holding her arms around herself and sighing. “Everyone's pulling for you down at the station, you know. They, uh... they already bought your cake; it's vanilla, your favorite. Because you'll pull through, right? Of course you will...”

A long moment of silence passed over the room, broken only by the methodical beeping of the heartbeat monitor.

“I, uh, I just wanted to say, I... might have to do some things,” she continued. “Things you probably wouldn't be happy about. I don't know what, yet, but I will... eventually. But, I'm doing it to protect you, I want you to know that. You and Holly... as long as I keep you guys safe, then I'm still doing good, right? Yeah...”

Swallowing, Rose took in a shaky breath and then slowly stood up, running her fingers back through her hair. “Well, I should probably get back out on patrol... already been here a little too long as it is. I'll be back tomorrow, Beck... just keep fighting, you hear me?”

---

Ravager drove her bike up to the front gates of the old factory, giving the place a long look as she killed the engine. It struck her as an odd place for a meet up, but then villains were never ordinary. Removing her helmet, she hopped off her ride and walked up to the chained, iron fence, wondering just where the hell Jerry was. She got here on time, with a minute to spare, actually. So where was the b**tard?

As soon as the thought went through her head, a phone began to ring, the high, shrill sound grating the insides of her ears. Scowling, she glanced around, searching for the source. Her gaze fell upon a small, pink cell phone taped to the gate in front of her. She stared at it a few moments, then walked over to retrieve it. According to the caller ID, the person on the other end was someone called 'J'.

“Cute...” she muttered, flipping the phone open and holding it to her ear. “Real cute.”

“Ah, you're on time, I see,” Jerry said, on the other end. “Good. I do love it when my workers are punctual.”

“Just get on with it,” she groaned, rolling her eyes in annoyance. “What do you want me to do?”

“Have you heard of S.T.A.R. Labs?”

“The research company?”

“That's the one.”

Ravager paused, narrowing her gaze. “What about it?”

“Well, it just so happens that they have a facility located right here in Silverstone,” he explained. “As luck would have it, this particular facility also contains something of great value to me, something I need you to get for me.”

“So you want me to steal you something from S.T.A.R. Labs?”

“Will that be a problem?”

Ravager sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “Just tell me what it is.”

“Good,” Jerry stated. “Now, what I'm looking for is contained in their storage vault, under the file name C-67. The code to open the vault is 83934.”

“And you know this... how?”

“Eyes everywhere, remember? I just need someone like you to go and get it for me. But do be careful, security is pretty tight around S.T.A.R. Labs these days.”

“Why am I not surprised?” she muttered.

“I’ve uploaded the building's blueprints to this phone,” he added. “Do study them carefully before running in without a plan. When you've retrieved the objective, give me a call; it's the only number on speed dial.”

“I'll try to remember.”

“And keep in mind, Rose-” Jerry's voice suddenly took on a darker, colder tone. “-if for any reason you should fail, Rebecca dies.”

---

It was times like these that Ravager wished she had a little bit more training in the art of stealth. Sure, she was good, but she was certainly no Batman. That fact made itself quite apparent when she tripped the alarm that alerted the entire S.T.A.R. Labs facility of her presence. This included a blaring horn, flashing red lights, and swarms of security guards. A few teams of goons had already tried their luck in stopping her, but they didn't last long. Ravager wasn't screwing around right now; she had a mission to accomplish, and failure meant... well, failure isn't an option.

Turning the corner of the wide, open corridor, she came face to face with another group of five or so security officers. One of them raised a large, bazooka-like weapon, pointing it at her and firing. Ravager saw it coming before he even pulled the trigger, though, in turn jumping up and over the incoming projectile, a glowing red energy net. She landed on the guy's shoulders, kicking off of him and tearing through the other guards in seconds. She threw punches, kicks, elbows, all strikes meant to cripple her enemies. She didn't kill any of them, of course. Stealing from these people was bad enough, she didn't need to add murder to the list.

Storage vault, storage vault... come on, where are you?

She arrived at a fork in the path, stopping only a moment as she tried to remember which way to go. Eventually, she turned left, sprinting down the corridor. Coming around another corner, she halted at a large metal door blocking her path, a door with the word 'storage' written across it in big yellow letters.

Jackpot!

Standing in front of the access panel, she paused a moment, gaze narrowing. With her heart beating so fast and adrenaline pumping through her, she was having trouble thinking straight. Within a few seconds, however, she remembered the code, typing it in and taking a step back as the security panel emitted a loud whirring noise.

“Override recognized,” the computerized voice announced. “Security disabled.”

The heavy door slid open, revealing a long chamber beyond. Ravager sprinted inside, looking around for her target. She saw several rows of storage containers, each one marked with a different label. Finding row C, she ran down the length of the room until coming across the sixty-seventh container. She quickly pulled it open, reaching in to take hold of the object inside. It was a small metal cylinder, no bigger than a ruler, and cold to the touch.

“She's in the vault!” a guard shouted. “Spread out and find her!”

Ravager looked up, peering over the row of containers towards the entrance to the vault. Another team of security goons moved in, these ones wielding what looked like some kind of electric energy weapon, a gun with metal prongs that crackled with sparks.

Mental note: don't get hit by that.

Moving towards the back of the room, Ravager ducked around the side of an empty row of containers. She hid herself behind what looked like a large drilling device, equipped with lasers and computer screens. Not even worth thinking about what something like that was used for. When one of the security guards wandered into range, Ravager jumped out and attacked with a sweeping kick to the head, dropping the guy instantly.

The other men in the room began to converge on her location, but she was already on the move, sprinting towards the door. As she neared the end of the room, one of the guards poked around the edge of a container and fired his weapon, emitting an explosive wave of electricity at her. Unfortunately for him, she saw it happen before he even fired, allowing her to lunge forward, ducking beneath the beam and kicking the weapon out of his hands.

“You don't mind if I borrow this, do you?” she asked, catching the weapon and flipping it around in her hand. Didn't think so.”

Sprinting past him, she fired off a couple of potshots at the morons who got in her way. She had seen the effects of the weapon in her precog, nothing more than a high caliber stun. The men went down hard, but they were still breathing. Wasting no time, she continued out of the room and back down the corridor. Just a little more and she was home free.

---

Ravager pulled her bike into a back alley, away from prying eyes. After her escape from the facility, she had no doubt that people would be looking for her, and she wasn't exactly easy to miss. Staring down at the small metal cylinder in her hand, she briefly pondered what the contents could be. Unfortunately, she didn't really see a way to open it, and so her curiosity went unsated for now. Instead, she pulled out the pink cell phone from earlier and dialed the number.

“Ah, Rose, good to hear from you,” Jerry said. “And sooner than I expected, too.”

“I got your... whatever this is.”

“Of course you did, I never had any doubts.”

Ravager turned briefly, gazing down the alley. “Now what?”

“Now, we meet up so you can deliver the item to me,” he stated. “I'll see you shortly.”

Chapter #22

Ravager glanced to each side of her, eying the two big guards with contempt. She knew what they were there for. They weren't just escorting her through the underground facility to meet with Jerry, no. They were watching her, making sure she didn't do anything unfavorable, as if threatening Holly and Rebecca wasn't enough to keep her in line. Being in this place again gave her the creeps, though; the last time she was here, she was strapped naked to an operating table about to undergo some insane doctor's twisted experiments.

The guards brought her down the long corridor to a set of double doors and stopped outside, gesturing for her to enter. She gave them another scowling look, then walked forward. The doors opened automatically, allowing her to enter inside what appeared to be a laboratory of sorts, with some heavy duty equipment. What the equipment was for or what any of it did, she had no idea, but it sure looked expensive.

Near the center of the laboratory, Jerry stood with his arms crossed, dressed in his plain dark business suit. As she approached, he curled his lips into a pleased smile. “Ah, Rose, there you are. I was beginning to wonder when you would arrive.”

“The traffic on the way here was killer... here's your whatever.” Raising a hand, she tossed the metal cylinder at him.

Jerry caught the container with a single hand, holding it up to his eyes and examining it carefully. “Excellent, this will do nicely.”

“Doesn't look so special to me,” she said, hands coming to her hips. “Actually, looks more like something you'd find in your standard adult toy store... were you that embarrassed to go buy one yourself?”

Jerry ignored her, instead heading towards the back of the lab and placing the cylinder in a small glass container, then sealing it tightly shut.

Ravager narrowed her gaze at him, folding her arms. “So am I done here or what?”

“Oh yes, for now,” he said. “I'll be calling you again tomorrow night for your next assignment.”

“Good, then I'm leaving.”

Turning away from him, Ravager made her way back towards the doors. However, they slid open before she got there, revealing another man on the other side. He was bald, with a bushy grey beard and reflective, yellow-tinted round glasses, and wore a white lab coat over a clean pressed suit. The man gave Ravager a brief, curious look, then switched his attention over to Jeremiah.

“I take it the sample is ready?” the man asked, in a deep, eerily calm voice.

“Ah, yes, you're just in time,” Jerry said, turning to his associate. “Rose, before you go, I'd like to introduce you to a dear friend of mine, Professor Hugo Strange.”

“Miss Wilson, I presume?” Strange said, giving her another close look. “Jeremiah here has told me a great deal about you.”

Instead of answering his inquiry, Ravager uttered a loud, boisterous guffaw, bringing a hand up to her mouth and snickering with amusement. “No way, seriously? Your name is Strange? Real subtle for a villain. Why not go with something like Dr. Evil?”

Strange merely lifted an eyebrow, holding his hands calmly behind his back and gazing at her intently.

“Or if that is your real name, then wow, you never had a chance, did you?” she said, wiping a tear from her eye. “Oh man, that's good, though, I needed a laugh today.”

“Hmm, sarcasm,” Strange muttered, bringing a hand to his chin. “If you're trying to get a rise out of me, then I am afraid I must disappoint you.”

“Well shoot, now you've gone and ruined my day,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

Strange uttered a slow, calm breath, carefully studying her. “I should mention that such passive aggressive behavior suggests a mask of your own insecurities, requiring the use of put downs in order to make yourself look or feel better.”

Ravager's gaze narrowed. “Who the hell you calling insecure?”

“Sarcasm is common in individuals with poor self esteem,” he explained. “By bringing down others, you attempt to make yourself appear more intelligent than you actually are, try to raise your social standing, so to speak. You think it makes you sound clever, but in truth it is the lowest form of wit, and only succeeds in making you appear a fool.”

Glaring at the man, Ravager reached over her shoulder and slowly began drawing one of her swords. “You want to run that by me again, chrome dome?”

“I believe I made my point the first time.”

“That's what I thought,” she said, dropping her sword back into its scabbard.

“However,” Strange continued, “I would like to take this opportunity to comment on your choice in wardrobe.”

Ravager frowned, expression souring. This guy didn't know how to quit when he was ahead.

“In spite of distancing yourself from your father and making it a point to let others know just how much you hate the man,” he explained, “you continue to dress in his style, and his colors.”

“What business is it of yours how I dress?” she questioned. “It's just a costume.”

“Perhaps.” Strange pursed his lips, leaning a little closer and examining her outfit carefully. “However, it could also indicate a subconscious desire to live up to your father's expectations, in turn suggesting a deep-seated love for the man, regardless of how he has treated you in the past.”

Ravager flinched at the comment, but only briefly. Taking a step forward, she lashed out and grabbed the professor by the shirt collar, lifting him off his feet. “You don't know what the hell you're talking about!”

“Ah, did I strike a nerve?” A wicked, satisfied grin spread across Hugo Strange's face. “Yes, I see. Possible Electra complex.”

“You little-”

“Rose, that's quite enough,” Jerry stated. “Release Professor Strange at once.”

Ravager glanced back at the man for a moment, scowling with her teeth clenched. Eventually, she let go of Strange's shirt and shoved him back a few steps. Then, she pushed past him for the door. “I'm out of here.”

“Just remember-”

“I know, I got the phone!” she snapped, disappearing from the lab.

Strange took a moment to straighten his tie. Clearing his throat, he added, “And a short temper, too, I see.”

“Don't worry about her, she's just having a little difficulty... adjusting,” Jerry said.

“Not worried at all. In fact, I very look forward to analyzing her in the coming days.”

Jerry briefly glanced back at his partner. “I can imagine. You've spent so much of your time obsessing over Batman, it must feel good to get a breath of fresh air.”

“Quite,” Strange affirmed. “I suppose it was inevitable, though. The Batman currently in Gotham is not the original, the one I... obsessed over, as you put it. It's just not the same.”

“Always glad to help an old friend.” Turning towards the counter at the back of the lab, Jerry waved him along. “Now, shall I show you to the samples?”

“Yes, please.”

Standing in front of the research table, Jerry removed the metal cylinder from the glass container he put it in earlier, then twisted the thing open by a near invisible seam. Within the container were a dozen vials inserted into separate storage compartments, each one containing a small glob of what looked like putty.

Strange leaned in close, examining the samples. “Interesting.”

“Will this be enough to work with?”

“Oh yes, it should plenty,” Strange said. “However, I will need a few more materials to make this work.”

Jerry grinned. “And I know just the person to get them for us.”

---

Rose walked through her kitchen, carrying a mug of coffee over to the table. She was up a little earlier than usual, mostly due to the fact that she simply couldn't sleep. There was too much on her mind. Right now, though, she planned on sitting down and enjoying her coffee. Releasing a small sigh, she sank into her chair and grabbed the remote for the small television nearby. She clicked it on, turning to the news.

Almost instantly, she spit out a mouthful of coffee, coughing in surprise. A breaking news story was currently in progress, detailing the break in at S.T.A.R. Labs last night. She stood up from her seat a little, staring at the screen and watching as the reporter described what happened.

“According to the lab's security staff on duty last night, the person who broke in was in fact 'The Blade', the mysterious vigilante who has been lurking Silverstone's streets for the past seven months,” the reporter explained. “There also appears to be video footage to back up this claim. Witnesses describe the woman as fast, faster than a normal person should be. So fast, in fact, that she was able to fight her way through facility's entire team of guards, enter the lab's private storage vault, and then escape the building with little effort.”

Rose felt her throat go numb. She swallowed, running her fingers through her hair and sucking in a deep breath.

“The men on duty did everything they could to subdue the intruder, following all standard protocol, but were still unable to do so,” the reporter continued. “This break-in also raises quite a few questions. Though acting outside of the law, The Blade has been known for stopping criminal activity, not for committing it. So, why has she suddenly turned into a common thief? And what exactly did she take? I asked the staff that latter question earlier, though they would not release any details on the matter. This has been Jane Valdera, with another breaking news bulletin.”

Rose dropped back into her seat, holding her hands to her forehead. At first, she was caught in utter disbelief, but it didn't take long to work through that.

Well sh*t, what did you think was gonna happen, huh? You only broke into a facility of the most widely known research company in the world.

Still, this greatly complicated things. The police had always been on the lookout for her before, sure, but they'd never been actively searching for her. With this, though, it was only a matter of time before they'd be on her tail every single night. A few more of these jobs that Jerry had her doing, and what little reputation she had up until this point as 'The Blade' would be long gone.

---

The station was abuzz with the recent news story. It was all anyone could talk about, how The Blade broke into S.T.A.R. Labs and stole some secret item. A lot of the officers had their theories over why their local vigilante would go and do something like this, but of course they were all wrong. That wasn't what concerned Rose, though. Her concerns were in the increased efforts in locating The Blade.

They had all had their fair share of differing opinions around the station about her, some not minding so much to have their very own 'Batman', so to speak, and others wanting to bring her in for going about things outside the law. Now, however, it was a different story. Now, The Blade had officially committed a blatant crime, and they needed to track her down.

Rose kept her head down, trying to ignore all the passing conversations on her way out to her cruiser, but she didn't go unnoticed. A fellow officer, Stevens, looked up just in time to see her marching through the station. Moving around his desk, he hurried up to her, waving.

“Hey, Sarah! You hear?”

Rose cleared her throat, slowing to a stop. Officer Stevens wasn't a bad guy, per se, but he did have a tendency to get on her nerves. “Oh, The Blade thing, right? Yeah, uh... heard it on the news this morning.”

“Crazy stuff, right?” he said, folding his arms casually over his chest. “I mean, I always thought she was one of the good guys, like Batman or something.”

“What if she still is?”

“What do you mean? She stole from S.T.A.R. Labs for crying out loud. Doesn't seem too heroic to me.”

Rose narrowed her gaze, shifting her weight uneasily. “Well, no, right, I just... I mean what if there's a good reason for her to be doing what she's doing?”

“Oh come on,” Stevens said, snorting out a laugh. “What reason could someone have to go from fighting crime to committing it, just like that? Doesn't make sense. Ask me, I'd say she's just been putting on an act, trying to get over with the city, and then bam! She takes it for everything it's worth.”

Yeah, well I didn't ask you.

“Right...” she muttered. “Well, I have to be getting out on patrol, so...”

“Oh, of course, yeah. Hey, you going to visit Becky again today?”

Rose nodded. “Yeah.”

“If she's awake, tell her I said I hope she gets well soon, alright?” Stevens softened his gaze, uttering a deep sigh. “All the guys at the station are really pulling for her. I've been meaning to get out there myself, but the job keeps me busy, haven't had a chance. Been working extra shifts lately.”

“I'll tell her, sure,” she said. “And thanks, really.”

Stevens nodded to her, giving her a small wave as he headed back through the station. “No problem, Sarah. Catch you later.”

As Stevens left, Rose uttered a long breath and brushed a hand through her hair, trying to compose herself. If Becky was awake. The word ran through her head multiple times.

If.

---

When Rose arrived at Becky's hospital room later that afternoon, the doctor was already there, checking up on the patient and making notes on his clipboard. He glanced up as she entered, giving a small nod of recognition.

“Miss Walker.”

Rose approached the bed, crossing arms tightly over her chest. “How is she?”

“Same as before, I'm afraid, which is both good and bad. Her condition hasn't much improved, but at least it hasn't gotten any worse. She's stable, though.”

“Has she woken up at all yet?” she asked, shifting her gaze down to the sleeping Becky.

“For now, we're keeping her on heavy medication,” the doctor explained. “It's better if she's sedated right now. Not only does it help with her physical recovery, but I don't want to put her through the excruciating pain that simple acts such as breathing would give her. Once her condition begins to improve, though, we'll wake her up and go from there.”

Sighing deeply, Rose nodded. “Alright, thanks. I think I'll just sit with her a while.”

“I'll be right outside if you need anything,” he said, making a final note on his clipboard before leaving the room.

Rose moved forward, lowering herself into the seat next to the bed. She gave Becky another long look, then reached forward to take the woman's hand in her own. She remained like this for the next hour. Just sitting, just waiting... hoping.

Praying.

---

It was late, really late. Rose had put Holly to bed nearly three hours ago, and had since been sitting quietly at the kitchen table, staring at Jerry's cell phone. He never told her exactly when he'd be calling, only that it would be sometime tonight. By now, however, she was starting to grow more than a little impatient, tapping her fingers incessantly against the table. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the phone rang.

“About damn time,” she said, holding the phone close to her ear.

“Yes, terribly sorry about that,” Jerry said. “I got a bit held up.”

“Of course you did.”

“In any case, I do hope you're ready to get to work. You'll be heading over to the Sapphire Industries building in Midtown tonight,” he explained.

Rose sighed, tapping her foot rhythmically against the floor. “What do you need this time?”

“Sapphire Industries is a well regarded R&D firm, focusing in the development of very advanced technology to improve the scientific world. I'll need you to take one of their latest prototypes for me. It's currently in cold storage in a laboratory on the twentieth floor.”

“And let me guess,” Rose said, rolling her eyes, “security is tight.”

“Naturally,” he replied. “However, considering the little hiccup you had last night with security, we're going to do things a little differently this time. I've arranged for a chopper to pick you up on the roof of your building in approximately thirty minutes, so be ready. We'll drop you off on the roof of Sapphire Industries, from where you will be entering. I'll also be giving you a wireless comm link. With it, I can track your position and guide you along the best path to your objective. Hopefully, things will go a little bit more smoothly this time.”

A small groan escaped her lips. “Can't wait.”

---

The chopper flew in low over the building. Ravager hung out the side on a rope ladder, which slowly lowered closer to the roof. When she was safely within range, she leaped off and landed flat on her feet, taking a brief moment to look around. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a flat roof with various equipment; some air conditioning units, a large satellite dish, etc. A few moments later, that annoyingly familiar voice echoed in her ears.

“No time to waste,” Jerry said, his voice mixed in with a it of static over the comm. “The night is already getting old. Proceed straight forward and enter through the door. This will take you down into the main stairwell.”

Walking up to the door, Ravager noticed a bunch old rusty chains barring it shut. “Oh look at that, it's padlocked. Guess we're gonna have to abort.”

“Rose...”

“Fine, fine,” she muttered, spinning quickly and delivering a thunderous kick.

The chains snapped, as the door flew violently off its hinges. Ravager paused, briefly glancing back over her shoulder at the chopper disappearing in the distance. Then, she proceeded down the stairs beyond.

“You're currently on the twenty-fifth floor,” Jerry explained. “So, you'll want to head down five levels to the twentieth.”

“I can count, thanks.”

Moving swiftly down the stairs, she kept a close eye on the numbering of each floor, passing the twenty-fourth, the twenty-third, and so on.

Jerry's voice hissed over the radio again. “I've already taken the liberty of having one of my associates disable the building's alarms and security cameras, so you'll only need to deal with physical guards. I trust that shouldn't be a problem.”

“Please,” Ravager scoffed, “who do you think you're talking to?”

“Just checking.” He paused briefly, waiting for her to arrive at the proper floor. Then, he added, “Now, once you go through the door, you'll come out to a small lobby. There should be three security guards stationed there, one behind a desk and the other two somewhere in the general vicinity. You'll want to disable them all before they can radio for backup.”

Ravager inched forward towards the twentieth floor door, taking in a small breath to prepare herself. “They won't know what hit them.

Shoving the door open, she sprinted out into the lobby area, processing the layout of the room and the location of the three men in fractions of a second. In an instant, she turned straight at the nearest guy and leaped forward with a flying kick to the head. He was out cold before he even knew he was under attack. The other two guards began to react now, going for their clubs.

Yeah, that'll work. Morons.

She smirked slightly to herself, as she darted in with superior agility and threw a few deft blows at the next nearest man, disarming and in turn disabling him in seconds. By the time he was on his way to the floor, she was already attacking the last one. He took a swing at her, but she dodged easily and countered with a brutal chop to the back of the head, rendering him unconscious just like the others.

“They're down,” she informed.

“Excellent, now-”

“I need backup on the twentieth now!” a guard shouted. “We have an intruder! It's her, it's The Blade!”

Whirling around, Ravager caught sight of a fourth guard standing behind her near the other end of the room. She lunged at him, delivering a crippling strike with her elbow to the back of his skull.

“I thought you said there were three!” she shouted.

“Did I?” A small chuckle came in over the comm. “Oops, how clumsy of me.”

“You son of a b*tch, you did that on purpose!”

Though she couldn't see it, an amused smirk slowly curled its way onto Jerry's face. “I do hope you're good at improvising.”

Chapter #23

Ravager ran around the corner of a hallway, following Jerry's directions. It wasn't exactly quick going, though, with security guards constantly showing up in front of her, after Jerry went and purposefully allowed them to alert the building. A test, he had said, to see just how capable she really was. Of course, the same rules still applied: if she failed, Becky died.

“Take your next left,” Jerry said.

Sprinting faster, Ravager practically slid across the floor as she turned. She couldn't afford to take her time. Right now, speed was everything. Several guards came around the corner in front of hr. When they noticed her heading straight at them, they halted and raised their weapons, nothing more than basic stun guns.

Idiots.

Ravager ducked out of the way of one of the incoming shock projectiles, then spun away from another one and leaped over the third. Before they even realized that they had missed, she landed in the middle of them and attacked. She assaulted pressure points, broke bones, knocked them out, but still did not kill. That was the last thing she needed, for the media to brand her a murderer.

“The lab is in the next hallway,” Jerry informed. “Second door on the right. It's marked with white and black stripes.”

In a short few moments, Ravager found herself outside the specially marked door and kicked it open. The temperature instantly dropped about twenty degrees. A burst of air pushed past her lips, emitting a visible, wispy cloud. For some reason, the lab was kept extremely chilled.

“Alright, where is this thing?” she asked, walking past a table of laboratory supplies.

“Near the back, there's a hatch on the wall that opens to a small freezer. It's inside.”

Locating the hatch, she spun the handle several times before it finally opened, a small hiss of air surging forth. The compartment within was coated with ice, and empty except for a fist sized: heavy duty metal canister, with buttons on one side of it. Reaching forward, she lifted it into her grasp, feeling the intense chill through her glove.

“Geez, it's heavy,” she groaned, testing the object's weight in her hand. “Even for me. What the hell is in this thing?”

“I assure you, most of the weight is in the container itself,” he said. “What's inside weighs very little.”

“Uh huh, great. Now I still have to get out of this place while carrying-”

“Freeze!”

Turning to look behind her, she noticed a security guard standing in the doorway. Another couple men stood behind him, all wielding pistols and pointing them at her. Apparently, they'd finally decided to bring out the serious weapons. A lot of good it would do them.

“Put the container down, and step away with your hands up!” the guard ordered.

“Hey, is this thing fragile at all?” she whispered.

“Well, no...” Jerry responded, trepidation in his tone. “Why?”

“Just checking.”

“Do it now!” the guard shouted. “Put it down!”

“What, this?” Ravager glanced down at the canister for a second, tightening her grip on it with her right hand. She then turned to the side, wound her arm up, and launched the thing through the air, as if throwing a baseball.

Her enhanced strength projected the object like a missile, drilling the first guard in the chest and knocking him violently backwards. His gun went off, the bullet impacting the ceiling above. The other guards caught the man before he hit the floor, but quickly worked to get into a better position to stop their intruder.

By the time they managed to push past the other man into the doorway, however, Ravager was there to greet them with a flying kick, drilling the first guy in the head. Then, she spun low, sweeping her leg beneath the other guard's feet and flipping him onto his backside. With a quick palm strike, she knocked him out cold, then retrieved the small metal object.

Jerry's voice came in over the comm, through a hiss of static. “You threw it, didn't you?”

“It got the job done, didn't it?”

Jerry uttered a deep sigh. “Proceed back to the stairs and head to the roof. The chopper is on its way back now to pick you up.”

---

Ravager ran out onto the rooftop, doing a full 360 as she scanned the skies above her. “Where the hell is the chopper?”

“Almost there,” Jerry said. “Hold tight.”

Glancing back over her shoulder, she noticed another team of security guards appearing through the doorway. She hurried towards the opposite end of the roof, taking cover behind a grouping of air conditioning units as the men open fired on her position. A few moments later, the hum of a chopper's rotors reached her ears. Turning, she saw the aircraft fast approaching, its rope ladder already hanging out.

“Better get moving,” Jerry urged. “You're only going to get one chance at this.”

Well this is gonna be a blast.

Sprinting out from cover, Ravager headed straight for the edge of the rooftop. The security guards raised their weapons and fired, some shots missing wide, others requiring careful use of her precog to avoid without slowing down. She reached the ledge at near full speed, kicking off and leaping through the air. For a brief moment, she hovered over twenty-five stories of empty space, nothing but the city streets below.

Holding out her left arm, she clamped her grasp around the bottom rung of the rope ladder, just as the chopper flew by. She struggled with every ounce of her strength to hang on without having her arm ripped from its socket, and all while trying to maintain her grip on the canister without dropping it. Within several seconds, the chopper made it out of range of the security guards, flying back to a drop off point.

Jerry's pleased voice echoed in her ears. “Very well done, Rose, you've proven your value yet again.”

“Screw off, a**hole. You alerted security on purpose just to make me sweat.”

“And you still came through, just as I knew you would,” he stated. “I'll see you shortly.”

---

Four days later...

Rose stood quietly at the kitchen table, leaning forward against it with her hands pressed on either side of the newspaper. She stared at the front page headline, which read: 'The Blade Strikes Again, Hits Keifer Chemicals.' Tapping her fingers incessantly against the table, she scanned the article itself, reading carefully for a few moments before pushing the paper away in disgust. Finally, she dropped herself into her seat and gazed up at the ceiling.

I'm a criminal now, plain and simple, she thought, shaking her head slightly. I might be doing it for a good cause, but that doesn't matter to the cops, or the media, or anyone else.

Not to mention, she had also been helping Jeremiah accomplish whatever goal he was working towards. She highly doubted that he was sending her out to steal this stuff for kicks. No, he had a purpose behind it, a plan. If she didn't figure out a way to stop him fast, without putting Becky's life in danger, then there was no telling what kind of ramifications it could have.

As Rose sat there, her cell phone rang. It wasn't the one that Jerry had given her, but rather her actual, personal phone. She glanced at it for a moment, watching it vibrate across the table. She briefly contemplated whether or not to answer; the caller ID read: 'Grayson'. She wanted to answer it, she really did, but she knew she couldn't. He was calling about what she had been doing lately, no doubt about that. With his resources, there was no way he didn't know about it.

She couldn't talk to him, though, not yet, not while Jerry still held Becky's life in his hands. If she spoke to Dick, he'd want to know what the hell was going on. If she told him, he'd want to help her. If he helped her, then Jerry would pull the trigger on Becky. She didn't know exactly the extent of that man's 'watchful eyes', but she didn't want to test it. Instead, she allowed the phone to continue ringing until her voicemail picked it up, then stuffed it in her pocket.

A few moments later, she looked up to see Holly entering the kitchen and sitting down at the table. The girl held her hands up to her chin, kicking her legs back and forth in her seat and just staring at Rose.

“Oh, Holly... I'm sorry, just cereal this morning,” Rose said, breathing out a sigh. “I... didn't get a chance to make anything.”

Holly pursed her lips in thought for a moment, then brought her hands together in several, distinct motions. Rose had been teaching her sign language finally, and the girl's vocabulary with it had actually been coming along rather quickly.

What's wrong?” Holly signed.

“It's... nothing, don't worry about it.” Rose shifted her gaze, glancing back at the newspaper. “I've just had a lot on my mind lately.”

Are you worried about Becky?”

“Yeah... I am.”

Holly frowned slightly, her expression saddening. “I'm sorry.”

Rose smiled gently, shaking her head. “It's alright, really... everything will be okay. Becky's healing well, too. The doctors are even considering taking her off the painkillers today, so she might be awake when we go see her later.”

Holly grinned broadly at the declaration. That's really good!”

“Yeah, it is...” she breathed.

Rose tried to maintain her smile, but the sad, depressed look on her face could not be hidden. Seeing this, Holly got up from her seat and gave Rose a big, friendly hug. Rose swallowed a knot in her throat, returning the hug deeply.

“Thanks, Holly,” she uttered, squinting her eye shut. “Thank you.”

---

Rose knocked very gently on the hospital room door as she opened it, slowly peering inside and hoping for a response. Holly stood behind her, rocking back and forth on her toes, hands held behind her back and waiting patiently. A short distance away, the figure lying down in bed moved a little, turning her head to look at them.

“Hey...” Becky uttered, her voice weak and raspy. “You guys came.”

Rose couldn't hide the beaming smile that spread across her face. After days of watching Becky lie motionless and unconscious, her condition barely improving, seeing her awake sent a rush of relief filled Rose's body, the likes of which she couldn't describe.

“Of course we came,” Rose said, seating herself in the chair next to the bed. “We've been here everyday, you know. Your family was here, too, a few times. They seemed nice.”

“Yeah, the doctor told me.” Becky spread a large, if somewhat pained smile across her face. “Thanks, I mean it.”

“Hey, you did the same for me, right? That's what friends do.”

Becky chuckled, wincing slightly at the resulting pain. “The very best, right?”

Rose nodded. “The very best.”

Holly walked forward with a big smile, then began rifling through a series of hand signs.

“Ha, slow down there,” Becky said, grinning at the girl. “I don't know sign language.”

“She says she's glad you're better,” Rose informed.

“Ah, gracias, Holly. I'm glad too.” A harsh cough burst past Becky's lips, forcing her to lie back flat against her pillow. “Though, I still got a long way to go, ah? Hurts just to breathe.”

Sitting down next to the bed, Rose leaned forward and took one of Becky's hands into her own. “She, uh, she's not the only one who's glad, you know. I... I was really worried there for a while.”

“Easy there, girl.” Becky lifted an eyebrow, giving Rose a playful grin. “You're gonna make me blush.”

Rose blinked momentarily, then looked down and quickly pulled her hand back. Her cheeks were already beginning to flush red. “Oh, right, sorry. I was... just a reflex. I, uh... held your hand a lot when I was here before, guess I thought it would help or something. Stupid, right?”

“Nah, it's sweet. Thanks.”

“Uh, yeah, of course. You're welcome.” Clearing her throat, Rose looked away briefly, fidgeting in her seat. Now she didn't know whether to feel embarrassed or flattered. Maybe a little of both. “So, uh... I don't suppose you've seen the news yet?”

“Si, watched it this morning,” Becky said, a small sigh leaving her throat. “Didn't I tell you that Blade person was bad news?”

Well, guess that was a bit too much to hope for.

“Uh... yeah,” she said. “I guess you did.”

“I mean, I can't say I expected something like this to happen, but I knew she'd be trouble. Looks like we got a lot of work to do once I'm back on my feet, ah? That is, of course, unless you guys catch her before then.”

“I wouldn't count on that...” Rose muttered.

A soft chuckle found its way to Becky's lips. “Ha, yeah, she's a tough one, I hear. Probably one of those metas or something. Boy do we have our hands full.”

A brief silence passed between them. Rose shifted her position awkwardly, bringing a hand to her head and gently running her fingers through her hair. Holly, meanwhile, hopped up onto the other seat and grabbed a nearby remote, using it to turn on the television.

“So, what do you two have planned for today, anyway?” Becky asked. “It's Sunday, right?”

Rose nodded. “Yeah, Sunday. But we don't really have much going on today, didn't really make of a schedule. We'll probably just stay here a while, unless you need your rest?”

“Please, I'm good for as long as you're here.”

A soft smile came to Rose's lips. “Then yeah... we'll stay here.”

---

Later that night, Rose stood in her bedroom and stared down at her mask, taking in a small breath. The more she did for Jerry, the more she hated putting it on, and yet she didn't have a choice. It took her a while to finally pull it over her head and continue getting dressed, but eventually she was fully geared up and ready to go. According to her phone conversation a short while ago, this was her last job, at least for now. That meant she was running out of time. Whatever Jerry had planned, he was almost done. She needed to find a way to stop him, soon.

But I can't do that as long as Becky's in danger. So what the hell am I supposed to do?

Letting out a frustrated breath, she held a hand against the wall, bringing the other up to her forehead. She remained like that for a few moments, desperately trying to think of something, anything. But nothing came came to mind. Eventually, she pushed herself away from the wall and headed back through the penthouse. When she got to the living room, however, the ring of her cell phone stopped her.

Glancing back at the coffee table, she stared at the phone for a long moment, watching it glow and vibrate. Then, she walked over and lifted it up, reading the name: 'Grayson'. Breathing outwardly again, she placed the phone back on the table and continued on her way.

Sorry, Dick, can't come to the phone right now.

---

Ravager leaped through the third story window, blowing apart the glass in a shower of tiny shards and plummeting through thirty feet of empty air. She braced herself for impact, tucking and rolling when she hit the ground. Her enhanced durability prevented any broken bones, though she could still feel a few bruises already springing up, and her ankle felt a bit funny. Still, she didn't let any of that slow her down.

As she sprinted across the grass outside, she looked back over her shoulder to see the building's security staring at her from the broken window, three stories above. None of them were about to make an attempt in following her. Hopping onto her bike, she placed the strange electronic device she stole into the back compartment, then gunned the engine. Within seconds, she rocketed down the street, leaving the GenTech building behind.

“It's done,” she said, breathing out a heavy sigh.

“Very good,” Jerry responded, his voice hissing in over a crackle of static in her ear. “I'm sending someone to meet up with you back at the toy factory. Go slow and stick to the back roads, we don't want you catching the attention of the authorities. That would be most problematic.”

Ravager narrowed her gaze, slowing up her ride a little to a normal speed. Veering left at a fork, she remained on the lesser traveled roads, the ones that would snake their way back into the less busy areas of the city. Getting noticed by the police and then caught up in a high speed pursuit right now would not be desirable.

About ten minutes into her ride, she became acutely aware that she was being followed. Glancing down into one of her mirrors, she watched the vehicle behind her, another motorcycle, maintaining a fair distance; it was just far enough away to be less noticeable, while still close enough to keep an eye on her. When she sped up, so did her pursuer. When she slowed down, he did the same.

“You know, I'm really getting tired of you having your goons follow me around,” she said, uttering a frustrated groan.

“What are you talking about?”

“The guy behind me is one of yours, right?”

Jerry paused briefly, letting out a contemplative breath. “I assure you, he is not.”

This time, Ravager turned her head and looked behind her. Now that he knew he had been discovered, the vehicle sped up, rapidly closing the gap.

“Someone's tailing me,” she said. “Not a cop, though.”

“Deal with it, then,” Jerry ordered. “And be quick.”

Squeezing the breaks, Ravager spun her bike around with a screech of the tires. She faced towards her pursuer now, sitting there and waiting for him. Whoever this guy was, she intended on putting a stop to him quickly. She really didn't like being followed.

When the vehicle came closer, however, she suddenly realized exactly who was riding towards her. She tensed up, sitting straighter and glaring with a mix of confusion, surprise, and frustration. When the bike rolled to a stop, the guy sitting atop it straightened himself.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she questioned, hardening her gaze.

“Rose...” Red Robin stated, lifting the helmet off his head. “We need to talk.”

Chapter #24

Ravager tightened her grip around the handlebars of her cycle, maintaining her glare. Sitting across from her on his own bike was Red Robin, aka Tim Drake, one of her former teammates on the Teen Titans. She hadn't seen him now in almost a year, not since she left the team after screwing up one of their alerts and getting Bart Allen killed, along with a bunch of cops. But what was he doing here now?

“I don't have time to talk right now, Tim,” she stated, leaning forward on her bike.

“Then make time,” he countered, narrowing his eyes.

Ravager paused, arms folding across her chest. “Quite a ways from San Francisco, aren't you?”

“I was already in Gotham when Batman asked me to check up on you,” he explained. “You've been stealing, hurting innocent people, haven't been answering your phone. That's not like you.”

“Maybe you just don't know me as well as you think you do.”

“I know you better than you think.”

Ravager's gaze hardened. “Somehow, I doubt that. How did you even find me?”

“There's a tracer built into your ride,” he said. “Batman put it there in case of emergencies.”

“Of course he did...” Ravager breathed. “Guess I should have seen that one coming.”

“Tell me what's going on with you, Rose,” Red Robin urged. “If you're in trouble with something, I can help. You might have left the team on bad terms, but you're still one of us. You're still a friend.”

“Is that you talking, or is that Dick?”

Silence followed. He turned his gaze slightly, leaving her question unanswered..

“Yeah, that's what I thought,” she said, tightening her jaw. “You guys still haven't forgiven me... probably never will. That's fine, I don't care. I know what I did and I've paid for it. But I have my own life now, I don't need to go running back to your team, begging for forgiveness.”

“I know, and I'm glad you're finding your own way, Rose, really.” In spite of his gentler tone, Red Robin's glare remained firm. “But something is going on right now with you. Something's wrong. You need to let me help you before it gets out of control.”

Ravager's comm suddenly activated in her ear, emitting Jerry's annoying, scolding tone. “Not a word, Rose. You know what will happen.”

“I know...” she breathed, lowering her gaze. “But I can't, Tim. I sorry.”

“Don't suppose there's any way I can change your mind?”

“Not a chance.”

A small, disappointed sigh left his lips. “Then, I'm sorry, but I have to stop you.”

“You so much as try, and I'll snap your arm,” she said, scowling at him.

He ignored her, hopping off his bike and reaching into his utility belt. Ravager's frown deepened, jaw clenching. She wasn't about to let him stop her, there was too much at stake. Best to put him down quickly so she could get on with her job. Jumping off her own ride, she evaded an incoming pair of throwing disks without even trying.

“You'll have to do a lot better than that,” she said. “I could have dodged those in my sleep.”

Red Robin said nothing, instead tossing down a few smoke pellets and enveloping them both in a thick haze. Ravager frowned, straightening herself a little and carefully looking around.

“Smoke?” She turned to the sound of his footsteps, readying herself for an attack. “You're kidding, right?”

“Just tell me what's going on and we don't have to do this,” he said, drifting to her side.

Her precog went off, showing an attack coming in from the left. She spun instantly and pushed the incoming kick away, then countered with one of her own. But she missed, hitting only air as the smoke threw off her aim. Red Robin's shadow quickly disappeared back into the smoke.

“You say that like I'm afraid to.”

Another flash of precog; more disks this time. She twisted her body to avoid them, then jumped backward to dodge a swinging strike from Red Robin's bo staff. He charged in again, thrusting and swinging his weapon. She ducked, weaved, then lunged forward with a flying elbow. The blow struck true, snapping Red Robin's head back and sending him rolling into the smoke. But the haze was beginning to dissipated now, thinning out under the mercy of a gentle breeze. She could see him again.

Wasting no time, Ravager charged at her downed opponent. Now that she could see him, she'd take him out with a single blow. But she didn't get very far before a paralyzing, electric pain ripped through her body. She screamed, muscles tensing up and beginning to spasm, as several thousand volts of electricity coursed through her.

A few seconds later, the pain vanished, leaving her body fried and numb. Heart pounding furiously in her chest, she stumbled back a little bit, just barely maintaining her balance. Looking down at her feet, she noticed a round, flat device on the ground, some kind of stun mine; Red Robin had used the smoke as a cover to place it, then lured right into the trap.

“Okay...” she wheezed, sucking in a deep breath. “That really hurt.”

“Please, Rose,” he said, taking a step towards her. “Tell me what's wrong. I don't want to hurt you.”

“Well good, then,” she said, running at him again. “Because that's the last time you're going to!”

Ravager forced herself through the pain, but her actions were sluggish, body still tingling and numb. She threw a punch, but he dodged, twirling his staff around and cracking her across the jaw, causing her to stumble backward.

“You may want to hurry things up a little bit, Rose,” Jerry chided. “And maybe try harder. Would be a shame if he stopped you, so close to finishing your last job. Just think of Rebecca...”

Holding a hand to her jaw, she glowered and charged Red Robin again. This time, she toughed it up, ignoring the numbing results of the electrical charge. Her adrenaline was pumping now, and she wasn't screwing around. Red Robin readied his staff, prepared to defend against her attack, but as she approached, she drew one of her swords. Seeing her pull such a lethal weapon caught him by surprise, eyes going wide and body tensing. That one flinch was all she needed to capitalize.

Ravager swung her blade viciously, forcing Red Robin to raise his staff to block it. Unfortunately for him, her weapons were a lot sharper than anything he was familiar with. She sliced cleanly through the metal pole, throwing him off balance off as his arms came apart, each hand holding one half of the weapon. This time, when Ravager snapped her fist forward, she caught him squarely across the side of the face. She didn't stop there, however, throwing a high kick to his ribs and then punching again with her other hand, the one holding her sword. The hilt cracked firmly against his jaw, causing him to stumble backward. Finally, she finished the assault with a leaping kick, drilling him flat in the chest and sending him tumbling to the ground.

With a pained grunt, he rolled over onto his front and slowly pushed himself upward. “Rose, you don't have to do this.”

“Stay down, Tim.” Ravager raised her boot, stomping down on his backside and pinning him to the ground. “You can't beat me in a straight fight.”

“I know,” he muttered, inching a hand down to his belt to press a small button. “That's why I brought help.”

Ravager's eyebrow lifted a little, as the sound of an incoming aircraft reached her ears. It was quiet, at first, then grew louder as it approached. Glancing upward, she watched as the Bat-Jet came into view, slowing down above them and hovering.

“You have got to be kidding me,” she groaned.

Suddenly, a large metal net flew out from one of the jet's many on board launchers. Ravager jumped to the side, evading it easily enough. The jet turned, following her, and fired a couple more times, but never hit its target. With her attention occupied, however, Ravager didn't notice Red Robin returning to his feet. As she flipped backward to avoid another incoming net, he pulled out pair of round disks and threw them at her in mid dodge.

Though her precog went off, Ravager was in a poor position to suddenly change her direction. She tried to turn and spin away, twisting her body into an awkward position, but only succeeded in tumbling clumsily to the ground. Before she could get back up, a large weighted net wrapped around her, pinning her against the ground.

“No!” she shouted, angrily pushing up against the metal cables. She could barely get to her knees. “Let me out of this!”

Breathing out a long sigh, Red Robin bowed his head. “Sorry, Rose.”

Meanwhile, the Bat-Jet lowered itself from the air, coming to a stop when it reached the ground. The cockpit slid opens up, revealing another member of the Bat Family inside, a blonde girl in a black and purple Batsuit.

“Awesome!” she exclaimed, hopping out of the jet. “We got her!”

“Yeah, thanks for the hand, Steph.”

Batgirl gave him a firm salute, a big smile on her face. “Always happy to help.”

“You don't know what you're doing!” Ravager shrieked, struggling beneath the net. They ignored her.

Jerry's voice suddenly crackled back over the comm link. “Things not going well? That's a shame. I'm not going to have to make a call, am I?”

Ravager flinched, a bolt of panic surging through her. She gripped two sections of the net with both hands, then started tugging on the metal cables with every ounce of strength she could muster in her body.

“Wow,” Batgirl said, closely inspecting Red Robin's bleeding nose and bruised jaw. “She really got you good, huh?”

“I'll be fine,” he assured, pushing past her to the jet. “Just keep an eye on her while I make a call to Dick.”

“You got it.” Batgirl folded her arms, turning back around to watch their prisoner. A moment later, she paused, lifting an eyebrow and looking back to her partner. “Hey, uh, should she be able to do that?”

Red Robin looked over from the jet to see Ravager yanking apart the metal cables on the net, her arms shaking and muscles straining. She had almost made a hole large enough to fit through. Reacting quickly, he dug around the cockpit and pulled out a stun gun. He didn't want to use it, but he had to put her down long enough to at least get her properly tied up.

“Don't do it, Rose!” Red Robin ran forward, stopping ten paces from her and pointing the stun gun squarely at her chest. “Don't make me use it!”

Ravager didn't listen to him. She continued pulling, harder now. Her arms had gone practically numb with how hard they were struggling. Groaning, she tightened her grip and put everything she had into it. She could feel the net beginning to strain, almost ready to give way. Just a little bit more...

That's when the stun gun's nodes hit her square in the chest, sending a powerful electrical current surging through her body. She worked through it, feeling her entire body tingling and crying out with sharp pain. Not once did she stop pulling, though, her mouth hanging open and emitting a horrifying, agonized scream.

Red Robin's eyes went wide with her surprise, fast growing concerned at how long he had to keep the charge going. “Rose, just stop!”

Ravager clenched her jaw, squeezing her eye shut and giving one last, final tug. “NO!!!”

With a loud crack, the metal net snapped and ripped apart. Ravager instantly thew it around her, stepping out of the newly created hole, then grabbed the cables running from the nodes to the stun gun. Glaring coldly at her attacker, she plucked the wires from her chest and dropped them to the ground. Though her body had gone almost entirely numb, tingling like pins and needles, she didn't let it stop her. Breathing in deeply, she took a shaky step forward, hands clenching into fists.

“Uh... Holy crap,” Batgirl said, blinking in astonishment. “How did she do that?”

“Never mind that, just stop her!” Red Robin declared.

But before they could converge on her, Ravager reached a numb hand to her belt and pulled out a small round device, cracking it down the center. Then, she threw it straight at the ground, in the process covering her eye. A bright, blinding flash went off, temporarily stunning them.

“You're not the only one with toys,” she muttered, turning around to retrieve her sword.

She stumbled towards her bike, legs trembling and threatening to give out at any moment. Collapsing on top of her ride, she revved the engine back up and burst forward with incredible acceleration. She couldn't stay here, couldn't keep fighting them like this. She had a delivery to make

---

As their vision slowly returned, Red Robin squinted forward and blinked a few times, just in time to see Ravager fleeing the scene. Cursing under his breath, he ran for his R-cycle.

“Ow, damn it!” Batgirl groaned, rubbing her eyes. “What the hell was that thing, some kind of super flash grenade?”

“I don't know, but we need to stay in pursuit, Batgirl.” Hopping aboard his bike, he revved up the engine and pulled his helmet back on. “In her condition, she'll end up getting herself killed, if not someone else. I'll follow on the ground, you take to the air. We have to stop her!”

---

Ravager's control was shaky. She swerved, struggling to keep straight on the road, her breaths heavy and arm muscles begin to spasming at random. Of course, taking extended electric shocks capable of turning an ordinary grown man into a twitching mass on the ground would do that. But couldn't can't stop to take a breather or recover; she was still being pursued. Batgirl had passed overhead a couple times, and she couldn't seem to lose Red Robin on the ground, no matter what streets she took. Even though she knew the city a lot better than he did, he was good, and she in poor condition.

“You'd better lose them quickly,” Jerry urged.

“I can't!”

“Well I can't have them following you right to me, now can I?” Jerry's tone hardened. “Figure it out.”

Letting out an annoyed breath, Ravager turned onto a busier street. Now she had to make her way around other cars, weaving through traffic in order to keep her distance from her pursuers. Glancing upward, she noticed the jet coming back overhead, this time managing to stick right above her. Red Robin was catching up, too, she knew it.

Sh*t. Time to take some chances.

Taking a sharper turn, she picked up speed and raced toward an on ramp, leading up to the highway overpass that ran through the west side of the city. In seconds, she was gunning it down three lane traffic, darting her bike in between numerous vehicles. Red Robin kept up with her, though, regardless of how much faster she went.

“Can you get your guys to come to me?” she asked. “Could use some backup here!”

“I suppose I could,” Jerry replied. “But you're supposed to be doing this on your own, you know.”

“Save the lecture!” she spat. “They're tracking me through my ride, so even if I manage to lose visual contact, they'll still find me, and I'm in no condition to keep this up much longer. You want this device of yours or not?”

Jerry sighed indifferently. “Very well. Head east along the overpass and take the next exit. You can work your way around to the factory and I'll have my men meet you halfway.”

Ravager shook her head, swallowing a hard knot in her throat. “The tunnel would be faster, it's a straight shot to the East District.”

“No,” he said. “I'll lose your comm signal through the tunnel. I won't be able to keep in contact or guide you.”

Ravager went quiet, a rapid series of thoughts flickering through her head. She suddenly had a plan. “I'm taking the tunnel.”

Another sigh. “Your decision, I suppose. Just remember the consequences, should something go wrong.”

“I haven't forgotten. See you on the other side.”

---

The tunnel was a long stretch of road that traveled underneath most of the city, dark except for the lines of florescent lights along the walls. Ravager pushed her bike faster, moving around the traffic of other cars. It wasn't heavy traffic, but still thick enough that one mistake, one wrong jerk of the handlebars, could end in catastrophe. At least she had lost one of her pursuers, though; no way Batgirl was going to fly her jet inside the tunnel.

Glancing into one of her mirrors, she noticed Red Robin still hot on her tail. Good, she wanted him to follow now. Speeding up, she turned into a side tunnel, one meant for maintenance personnel. Her bike barely fit through the narrow passage, walls tight on either side of her. Eventually, though, it widened out into a work area, allowing her to slow down and jump off her bike.

“So, can you hear me?”she asked. The only response she received from the comm was static.

Good.

A few moments later, Red Robin appeared. He slowed his cycle down to a halt and slid off, tearing his helmet off. “Rose, what the hell are you doing?! You know how many people you could have hurt driving like that? And in your condition?”

“In my condition? Please, I'm just fine.” Though her body was still a little numb and tingly, she could feel most of her normal sensations beginning to return to her, and her heart wasn't beating so fast anymore. “So, just you and me now. Batgirl won't be joining us down here.”

“Don't do this again,” he pleaded. “We don't have to fight. Just talk to me, tell me what's wrong.”

“Oh, you want to talk?” She cracked her knuckles, glaring at him intently. “Then let's talk.”

---

A short while later, Ravager emerged from the tunnel, driving out into the East District. She sat atop Red Robin's bike now, leaving her own ride, the one with the tracking signal, behind.. Batgirl wouldn't be looking for this one, after all. Turning into a side alley, she parked and waited for her other transportation to arrive.

As she sat there, however, the radio on the vehicle's dash suddenly clicked on. “Tim, are you alright? What's going on? I couldn't reach you while you were in the tunnel.”

Reaching forward, Ravager clicked the button to respond. “Sorry, Tim isn't available at the moment.”

“Ravager?” Batgirl's voice pitched higher, in a panic. “What did you do to Tim?!”

“If you want to find him, you should probably head back down the tunnel. That's where I left him.”

Turning off the engine, Ravager stood up and retrieved the stolen item of the night from the bike's side compartment. She stared at the strange device for several moments, then walked down to the end of the alley.

Another hiss of static came in over her comm, followed by a familiar voice. “You took a little longer than you should have getting through that tunnel. Trouble?”

“No, just taking care of a little business,” she assured.

“Then I trust those two that were following you won't be a problem anymore?”

As she stepped out of the alley, a sleek black car with heavily tinted windows pulled up in front of her. One of the rear doors opened up, allowing her to get inside.

“Trust me, they're taken care of.”

Chapter #25

Ravager strolled into the laboratory, trying to keep her stride steady. The numbing effects of being shocked earlier, though not nearly as bad as before, still lingered. Her muscles were sore, and the tips of her fingers tingled incessantly, but it wasn't anything she couldn't work through. She still had plenty of juice left in her system.

“Welcome, Rose,” Jerry greeted, taking several steps forward from across the laboratory. Next to him, Hugo strange worked busily at one of the tables. “Glad you could join us. I have to admit, you had me worried there for a while.”

“Yeah, well I got the job done,” she said, holding out the device she had stolen earlier. “Here's your... what is this, anyway?”

Strange moved over to her, taking the device and returning to his workstation. “This would be a genetic material splicer. Very advanced and hard to come by, usually only owned and used by genetic research companies, such as GenTech, where you got this one.”

“Uh... huh. And what exactly does it do?”

Strange paused a moment, glancing back at Jerry. At the nod of confirmation, he explained, “It joins together two separate DNA sequences. So long as the two genetic samples are compatible, one can use this to create something entirely different, such as new animal species, or giving a person animal-like characteristics, or-”

“Manufacturing superpowers?” Ravager narrowed her eyes, arms folding across her chest.

“Yes...” Strange replied. “Even that, if you know what you're doing.”

Her gaze shifted over to Jerry. “You're kidding, right? This is the reason you tried to ruin my life, had me steal for you? So you could turn yourself into some kind of supe?”

Jerry chuckled, an amused grin spreading across his face. “My dear Rose, as always your thinking is entirely too simplistic.”

“So enlighten me.”

“I think you've been told quite enough already, actually.” He turned, looking to Strange now. “Hugo, how is the process coming along?”

“Should only take a few more minutes,” he answered.

“Good,” Jerry said. “This has taken long enough already.”

Ravager glared coldly at him, hands twitching as if about to make a move. But she didn't, not yet. She was waiting for confirmation.

“You're free to go, by the way.” Jerry waved a hand at her, as if shooing her away. “I'm sure there are other places you'd rather be right now.”

She shook her head. “If you think I'm just going to walk away and let you go through with... whatever you have planned, then you're delusional.”

“Oh, am I? And what exactly are you going to do about it? Remember, if anything happens to me-”

“Then Becky dies, I know. But only if your goons at the hospital can get to her.”

The man's eyes narrowed at her, a curious expression growing on his face. “You think they can't?”

“I know they can't.”

Come on... come on...

And then the signal came in, a hiss of static and a verbal confirmation crackling in over her comm. It was faint and weak, having to make it down to her underground, but it was just enough to let her know that now was the time to act. She immediately drew her swords and began a slow march toward Jerry.

“You're finished, you b**tard!” She lunged at him, wasting no time. She was going to end him.

In mid leap, however, her precog went off. Though she saw the attack coming, she couldn't do anything about it while in mid jump. In the air, there wasn't anywhere to go, no way to change her trajectory or dodge. The energy blast exploded against her stomach, sending her spinning back to the floor with a smoking, charred spot on her armor. She lied there for a few moments, blinking upward as the room began to spin around her.

“Thank you, Hugo.” Jerry smoothed out the front of his suit, then carefully straightened his tie. “Your timing is impeccable, as always.”

Putting the small energy gun back down on the table next to him, Strange returned to his work. “Anything to help.”

Groaning, Ravager rolled over and slowly pushed herself up to her hands and knees, her entire body shaking. “Pretty quick on the draw there, Professor. I'll hand you that one.”

Jerry walked over to her, raising a boot and stomping down on Rose's spine, forcing her back to the floor. “And I had such high hopes for you.”

“I'd be... a little bit more concerned if I were you, buddy,” she breathed, stifling a hacking cough.

“Concerned? No. Disappointed. Now I have to make a point.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a wireless radio and brought it to his lips. “Go ahead and make a call to Mira, tell her to pull the plug on the cop.” Lowering the radio, he gazed back down and shook his head. “I was rather hoping I didn't have to do that, but then you had to go and be rebellious. Pity.”

At this comment, Ravager chuckled softly, lips curling into a knowing smirk

Jerry lifted his eyebrows, digging the heel of his shoe harder into her shoulder blade. “What's so funny?”

“Oh, nothing. I just feel bad for Mira.”

---

Becky's hospital room was dark and quiet, save for the soft glow and steady beeping of her heart monitor. She was sleeping now, under enough sedation to help get her through the night. During the day, she could handle the pain just fine, but sleeping proved to be another challenge altogether.

Though the doctors and nurses on this floor shouldn't have reason to come into her room this late at night, with no emergency to attend to, the door slowly opened. A blonde haired woman with round glasses entered, dressed in a nurse's uniform. She carried a clipboard in one arm, and a syringe in her other hand. For a moment, she just stood there and stared at the sleeping patient. Finally, she approached at the side of the bed.

“Sorry about this, really,” Mira stated, with a soft breath, “but orders are orders.”

Holding up the syringe, she brought the needle up towards Becky's IV bag. The death would look like natural causes, nothing to trace it back to her or Jeremiah. Before she could deliver the contents into the bag, however, a firm hand gripped her shoulder, turning her around sharply. A man stood there behind her, a man with a long cap and armored suit.

“I really wouldn't do that if I were you,” Red Robin stated, shaking his head.

“Who-”

She never got a chance to finish her question, as a sudden blow to her neck forced consciousness from her in a matter of seconds. As the world went black, she slumped to the floor in a motionless heap; she'd be out for hours. Red Robin gazed down at the unconscious woman for a brief moment, then relayed the message over his comm.

“Ravager, don't know if you're getting this even with the signal amplified, but if you are, Rebecca is safe.”

---

Jerry glared down at Ravager, quickly putting the pieces together in his head. “That's why it took so long to get through the tunnel, isn't it? You told your friend about your situation while I couldn't hear you... I assume he's at the hospital right now?”

“Oh yeah.”

“And the other one...”

“Covering Holly. Sorry, but you got nothing on me now.”

Jerry's eyes narrowed. “Clever girl...”

“Oh and one more thing-” Ravager's smirk grew wider, as she turned herself around to grab Jerry's foot. “-that energy blast just now? Didn't really hurt that much.”

With a hard yank, she pulled the man's leg out from under him. He stumbled, pinwheeling his arms for balance before finally crashing to the floor, allowing Ravager a moment to flip herself back up to her feet. Jerry scrambled back up to his own feet in attempt to get away, but she instead promptly greeted his face with her boot.

“Oh I am going to enjoy this,” she said, grinning madly.

“Hugo!” Jerry called crawling backwards with his hand pressed to his jaw.

Strange already had the energy gun raised and aimed. This time, however, Ravager was more than capable of dodging the incoming shot. She sprinted at the man, bringing her leg up and knocking the weapon from his hands, then followed up with another blow aimed at his head. Before her boot could connect, however, Strange leaped backward, flipping away in an impressive display of acrobatics.

“Fancy moves, Professor.”

“I've spent years going up against the Batman,” he replied. “What did you expect?”

“Fair point, I suppose.” Ravager charged at him again with renewed focus. “Too bad it won't help you.”

This time, Strange defended himself, trying to go hand to hand. It was biggest mistake he could have made. In seconds, she broke through his guard and delivered a hard shot to his head that put him on the floor, dazed. That was good enough for her, for the moment.

“Now, where was I?” she said, turning to look for Jerry.

He was running across the lab now, heading for a small red button on the wall. With too much distance between them, she couldn't stop him from hitting it, triggering a loud, blaring alarm. Frowning, she chased after him, grabbing her swords on the way by. She beat him to the exit, body-checking him into the wall and then crossing her blades over his neck.

“Going somewhere, Jerry?”

He glared at her, expression calming. “You won't kill me, Rose.”

Ravager frowned. “Oh, and what makes you say that?”

Swinging one of her weapons, she cut open a long gash across his arm. He recoiled, falling backward and clutching at the bleeding wound. His sudden cry of pain was so very satisfying.

“You used me,” she said, jaw tightening, “made me steal for you, made me hurt people who didn't deserve it. You threatened the people I love. You nearly killed Rebecca! What makes you even think that I'll let you off this time?”

“Because, Rose...” he explained, lips curling into a grin. “I'm not out of tricks yet.”

On cue, the wall behind her burst open in a shower of debris. Stepping through the newly created hole was a large, hulking monstrosity of pure muscle.

Jerry's grin grew wider. “I believe you remember Blockbuster?”

Ravager stared back at the beast, their gazes meeting. A brief moment passed before Blockbuster roared and then charged at her.

Crap.

As Blockbuster lunged in with a swinging, overhead strike, Ravager leaped backwards out of the way. This could get problematic. She still hadn't forgotten her last fight with this guy, which she had barely won. Fortunately, she was in better condition this time around... slightly.

“I could have sworn I killed this ugly b**tard,” she muttered, ducking under another attack and leaping back out of range. Remaining close to him for extended periods of time was suicide; she needed to pick her strikes and make them count.

“You did,” Jerry said, wrapping a cloth tightly around his bleeding arm. “So I made another. Now, you two play nice.”

On that note, Jerry ran back to Strange's workstation and grabbed the gene splicer. The device emitetd a steady hum, vibrating rapidly. He quickly took out a glass vial from the center compartment and slipped it into a medical injector, then sprinted out of the lab as fast as he could, leaving a trail of blood splatters behind him.

“No you don't!” Ravager yelled, evading another attack.

She leaped forward, planting her hands on Blockbuster's shoulders and flipping behind him. With one swift motion, she swung one of her swords across the back of his ankles, slicing clean through both Achilles tendons. Blockbuster howled, falling to his knees and struggling to get back up. It was useless, though; he couldn't stand anymore. Taking a step back, Ravager briefly looked down at her bloodied sword, a smirk snaking across her face. Last time, her swords barely left a scratch.

“Thanks for the upgrade, Dick.”

---

Jerry pushed out the entrance of the abandoned building, hand clenched firmly around the medical injector he'd taken from the lab. He took in a few deep breaths, gripping his slashed arm tightly as he hurried across the street to his car. Though Blockbuster was a formidable bodyguard, Ravager already proven once that she could defeat him. She likely wouldn't be kept busy for long.

Before he made it even halfway across the street, the door to the building burst open, revealing a very angry, very hateful Ravager. She stood there, breathing in deeply with a vicious scowl on her face. Jerry paused only momentarily, looking back at her and then quickening his pace.

“Get back here!” she called, chasing after him.

A grunt burst from Jerry's lips, as Ravager drove her boot squarely between his shoulder blades. He plummeted forward, losing his grip on the injector. Sliding violently across the pavement, he could only watch as the device clattered several feet away, out of reach. Before he could make any move to get up, Ravager's knee buried into the back of his neck, pinning him against the ground.

“Well played, Rose,” he uttered, breathing deeply. “Well played. I suppose this is the part where you kill me, yes?”

“It should be... but death is too good for you.”

“Oh really?” Jerry lifted an eyebrow, lips pursing with curiosity. “It wasn't too good for Pavoni.”

“Pavoni was scum!” she shrieked, digging her knee in harder against his neck. “You're just... not even worth it. I think you'll enjoy prison, though. I hear Blackgate is lovely this time of year.”

“Blackgate? I'm afraid that's in Gotham, my dear. A bit outside your jurisdiction.”

“Trust me,” she said, coldly, “I'll make it happen.”

“And what are you going to put me there for?” he asked. “You don't have anything on me, at least nothing you can use without revealing your secret.”

“No?” She lowered her lips next to his ear, smirking. “I'm sure the police will find something when they get an anonymous tip to check out your hidden facility.”

At this comment, Jerry frowned. That frown then quickly turned into a pleased smile, followed by a soft chuckle. “Once again, Rose, well played, indeed. I was right, you are a worthy opponent. In spite of everything against you, still you managed to find a way out of it and stop me.”

“Yeah, I'm great like that.”

“Do you remember the last time, when I let you live after your victory over Blockbuster?”

“I haven't forgotten.”

“I told you to consider it a reward, because your efforts were deserving of it,” he explained. “I think the same applies now, don't you?”

Furrowing her brow in confusion, Ravager eased her knee up slightly, not pressing down on his neck quite as hard. “What are you talking about?”

“I mean, you deserve another reward. For stopping me here tonight, I'll call off the orders against Rebecca and Holly. They won't be bothered again, you have my word.”

“And why the hell should I trust your word?”

“Because, Rose, I enjoy this.” He turned his head slightly to look at her, eyes flickering with delight from behind his broken glasses. “You make life very difficult for me and my plans, but that doesn't upset me, no. You provide a very entertaining challenge, and I wouldn't change it for anything. Call it keeping the status quo.”

Ravager narrowed her gaze. “That is the dumbest logic I've ever heard.”

“And yet it is the truth,” he assured. “If you're looking for a more logical answer, however, I can say that I have no real desire to die just yet. If I go and kill your loved ones, well... you're not exactly a saint like Batman, are you?”

“Okay, fair point. This doesn't change anything, though. I'm still sending you to Blackgate.”

Jerry grinned. “I'm looking forward to it.”

As she removed her knee from the back of his neck to pull him up from the ground, his gaze shifted forward, coming to focus on the medical injector he'd dropped when she took him down. The vial at the center of the injector was empty.

---

Rose stood quietly out in the hallway, just outside of Becky's hospital room. She'd been there for hours now, waiting for Becky to wake up, but it didn't matter how long it took. She had called in to work sick that morning, so she had the entire day. Letting out a long yawn, she lifted up her cup of coffee to her lips to take a sip, arm trembling rapidly.

“Sorry about that,” a voice announced.

Glancing up, she noticed Tim approaching, his hands stuffed into his pants pockets. He was referring to her shaking arm, a lingering result of the massive electrical shocks she had suffered the previous night at his hands.

She merely shrugged, lowering her coffee cup. “Likewise.”

And of course she was referring to his black eye, bruised jaw, and split lip. She hadn't been holding back when hitting him last night, so her blows had left behind quite the noticeable after effects.

“Don't worry about it,” he said. “I've had worse.”

“Of course,” she said, taking another sip of coffee. “So where did Batgirl run off to?”

“She's already back in Gotham, had to return the Bat-Jet.”

“Ah, right, right...” She paused briefly, holding a hand to her opposite elbow. “Tim, I... thanks, really. If you guys didn't come...”

“Look, don't worry about it.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, nodding. “You were in a rough spot and you needed help. That's what we do, we help our own.”

“Doesn't mean I can't thank you for it.” She paused again, lifting up her shaking to finish the last bit of coffee in her cup. After tossing the empty cup into the trash can, she folded her arms around her chest and leaned back against the wall. “So, uh... how are things back at the tower?”

Tim shrugged. “Pretty normal, I suppose, at least now. It took a while after Bart's death before things finally. calmed down again... but we've worked through it. Got a couple new members now.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” he said. “We managed to contact Bombshell and Static, and both decided to rejoin the team.”

“Hmph.” Rose narrowed her gaze slightly, lips pursing. “Keep your eyes on that Bombshell, she's trouble.”

“She'd say the same about you.”

A small smirk came to her face. “Yeah, I know.”

Another brief pause followed, broken only by the steady ticking of the clock on the wall behind them, and a few faint voices coming from farther down the hall.

“Listen, Tim... I don't think I ever got a chance to say this before I left last time, but...” She bowed her head, sucking in a deep breath and closing her eye. “I'm sorry. For what happened to Bart, I... I made a mistake. A bad one, and it got a lot of people hurt. I should have listened to you.”

Tim leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms and breathing outwardly. He didn't say anything yet, instead allowing her to finish her thoughts.

“It's just... he was my friend, too, and I didn't want him to die anymore than you guys did,” she continued. “But I'm responsible for it, and I have to live with that fact. I'm sorry for everything, for screwing up the mission, for getting Bart killed, for... well, I'm just sorry, alright?”

“I know you are, Rose,” Tim said, giving her a stern look. “But you didn't have to leave the tower like that. We could have worked things out.”

Rose scoffed. “Please, I heard you guys talking. No way Wonder Bi... uh, Cassie, was going to let me stay. Even if you didn't make me leave, she probably would thrown me out a window herself. I just saved you the trouble of having to deal with that.”

“Things have calmed down since then, believe it or not.”

“Right, so she doesn't still want to punt my head off?”

Silence.

“Yeah, thought so,” she muttered.

“You could still come back, you know,” Tim suggested.

Rose shook her head. “And deal with all that drama? No thanks. Besides, I have my own life now, and it's one I intend to keep.”

Taking in another breath, Tim nodded to her. “I understand, and I'm glad you're building your own life. I think it's good for you.”

“Yeah, right,” she sighed. “Still got a lot of things to work on though... but thanks.”

“You're welcome, Rose.” He gave her another brief nod, then slowly headed back down the hallway. “I'll see you around. Don't be afraid to call if you ever need anything alright?”

“I'll try to keep that in mind,” she said, waving. “But yeah, see you around.”

Chapter #26

Becky let out a long groan as she awoke that morning. Yawning, she brought a hand up to rub her eyes, quietly wishing she could just fall back asleep again. The pain her chest grew by the second, throbbing harder with each breath she took. She might have been healing, but the pain still sucked something awful.

Her woes were forgotten, however, when she realized that she wasn't alone in the room. Blinking a couple of times, she noticed Rose sitting there in the chair next to her. “Hey... shouldn't you be at work?”

“Took the day off,” Rose said, smiling. “Thought I'd spend it here.”

Sitting up straighter, Becky let out another yawn, wincing a little at a sudden flare of pain. “Didn't have to go and do that.”

Rose shrugged. “I wanted to. Besides... I wasn't gonna let you be alone on your birthday.”

“Say what?" Becky uttered, blinking her eyes in confusion.

“March third, right? That's your birthday.”

“Oh Dios, is that today?” Slapping a hand to her forehead, she chuckled softly. “Oy, I've lost all track of time since I've been in here.”

“Well that's why you have me, right?” Rose said. “To remember these things for you.”

Becky laughed, holding her arms up to her chest and crossing them. “Si, couldn't imagine where I'd be without you. So, guess I'm twenty-four now, ah? Funny, don't feel any different.”

“Probably because you've been high on painkillers for the past week.”

Becky laughed again, smirking widely. “Might have something to do with it, yeah.”

“So, I got you a little something here.” Leaning over the side of her chair, Rose reached for a small white box and brought it up into her lap.

“Oh come on, you didn't need to do that,” Becky said.

“Actually, this I did,” she insisted. “You'll see when you open it.”

Becky took the box from Rose and set it in her own lap now, giving it a curious look before gently opening it. Inside was a small vanilla cake with 'Happy Birthday' written in icing. When she saw it, Becky's mouth went into a wide smile, eyebrows lifting up.

“I figured you'd probably prefer a birthday cake over a 'glad you're not dead' cake,” Rose explained. “It's not much, but-”

“No, it's great,” Becky said quickly. “Really, this is... thank you.”

“Also gotta be better than the crap they're feeding you here, right?”

Becky grinned. “Ha, very true. Not sure I could stomach anymore cleverly disguised TV dinners.”

Rose reached down to pull out a couple of plates and some plastic utensils, then handed them over to her partner to cut the cake. Becky did so gladly, more than eager to dig in to something that wasn't hospital food.

“Oh, and more good news,” Rose announced. “We caught the guy who shot you.”

Becky's eyes went wide. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, he should be on his way to Gotham now to await his trial.”

Becky furrowed her brow, confused. “Why Gotham?”

“Because that's where Blackgate is, and I didn't want that b**tard going any place else,” she said.

“And how'd you pull that one off?”

“I pulled some strings.”

Lifting an eyebrow, Becky tilted her head curiously. “You pulled strings?”

Smirking, Rose took a bite of cake. I have a few connections up in Gotham.”

“Ha, I had no idea,” Becky said, with a grin.

Rose stayed there with Becky for the better part of the day, eating cake and talking about recent events, mostly about how things were going down at the station. The place hadn't really been the same ever since Becky wound up in the hospital, and everyone was looking forward to her return. When their conversation eventually shifted to The Blade, however, Rose fidgeted uneasily in her seat.

“You guys any closer to catching her yet?” Becky asked.

Rose shook her head. “Can't say we are. She's uh... she's a slippery one.”

“Guess that's alright, we'll work on it when I get back, ah?” Becky grinned. “Maybe we can bring her down together.”

“I don't know if we'll even have to worry much about her anymore,” Rose insisted.

“And why do you say that?”

“Just a feeling, I guess,” she said, shrugging softly. “The only reason we caught the guy who put you here was because of an anonymous tip that led us to him.”

Becky paused a moment, crossing her arms over her chest. “And you think she's the one who tipped you?”

“Maybe.” Rose slowly averted her gaze, breathing outwardly. “I mean, it's possible, right?”

“And I suppose her little crime spree helped her to 'tip' you?” Becky shook her head. “Doesn't make sense if you ask me.”

“I know, was just a theory,” she said. “Just wondering if maybe she isn't as bad as we think she is.”

“Well, the only way to find out is to catch her, then, right? Find out who she is, have her answer some questions.”

“And then lock her up for her crimes?”

“Maybe.”

A soft sigh left Rose's lips, as she leaned back in her chair again. “Guess we'll find out if we ever catch her... anyway, I gotta get going. I have to be at the school in thirty minutes to pick up Holly.”

“Tell the kid I said hi, ah?” Becky said, nestling gently against her pillow.

“I'll bring her back here and you can tell her yourself, how's that sound? I'm sure she'll want to wish you a happy birthday, too.”

Becky smiled. “Works for me.”

---

Rose sat on the edge of her bed later that night, just staring at the back wall, where all of her Ravager gear was displayed. She took in deep breaths, thinking carefully. Though she'd been here before, contemplating the same thing, this time it felt like a much more important decision, much more real. Should she continue trying to help this city outside the law? Should she keep donning her costume and going out at night?

Sighing, she glanced down at the floor, gaze narrowing. It would certainly be a hell of a lot more difficult now with the police actively on the lookout for her. Sure, she stopped much more crime than she could just acting as a police officer, but was that really worth it? There was a lot wrong in Silverstone, a lot that needed to be cleaned up, but maybe she should concentrate on doing it within the confines of the law...

But if I do that, then people like Jerry won't ever be caught, she reasoned. Acting as Ravager lets me do the things I can't as a cop.

Still, though, every time she went out as Ravager, she wasn't just putting herself in danger, but everyone close to her, too. If someone else learned who she was, they could go after Holly, or Becky, just like Jerry did. And next time, she might not be as lucky. Next time, someone might end up dying. But at the same time, the more crime she stopped overall, the safer a place Silverstone became for all of them, right?

Letting out a frustrated groan, Rose fell back onto the mattress, staring up at the ceiling now. Why did this sort of decision have to be so damn difficult to make? There were pros and cons no matter which way she went, none seemingly outweighing the other. So what exactly did she do about it?

A break, she decided. That's what I need, a break. The Blade needs to disappear for a while. Then... well, we'll see.

Perhaps after an extended period away from her mask, she'd have a clearer head on the matter. Then, she could make a real decision.

---

Jeremiah Belmont sat quietly in the back of a police transport vehicle, as it rumbled down the highway, his wrists and ankles cuffed together. He had had his doubts, but Rose pulled through on her threat to send him to Blackgate, with his trial now taking place in Gotham. With the amount of evidence they had turned up at his laboratory, there was no doubt that he'd receive quite a hefty sentence. That was, of course, only if he ever made it there, which he wouldn't.

He held his hands up, glaring at them while he attempted to gain control over his newfound 'gift'. He had had just enough time to inject himself with Hugo's finished sample before being assaulted by Rose and brought in. However, getting it to work was a different can of worms altogether. All he needed to do was concentrate, will it to happen... and it should happen. So far, though, nothing. Letting out a small breath, he looked up to the small, barred window between the prisoner's section and the driver's section of the vehicle.

“How much longer until we reach Gotham?” he asked.

The officer in the passenger seat glanced over his shoulder, narrowing his eyes. “What's it to you?”

“Merely curious, is all.”

“Couple hours,” the officer said. “Think you can shut up for that long?”

“Of course, officer.”

He returned to staring at his hands. Still a decent amount of time left to figure this out. He just needed to concentrate. A few more uneventful moments went by, and then it finally happened. His fingers began to quiver and change shape to how he pictured. Caught off guard by the sudden transformation, he lost focus and his fingers return to normal. That was good, though, he was finally starting to get the hang of it.

For the next solid hour, he continued practicing, going completely unnoticed by the two officers in the front of the vehicle. After he grasped the initial hook, advancement came quickly. Every minute that went by, he gained astoundingly more control over his ability, until he was certain that he had it nearly mastered. Now, it was time to act. Turning in his seat, he brought one hand up to the dividing wall between him and the front, placing a finger against it.

Instantly, his finger elongated, hardened, and sharpened into a blade-like structure, puncturing through the wall and piercing the officer in the passenger side through the throat, with the sudden, sickening sound of flesh being ripped open. The officer in the driver's seat screamed out in shock, jerking the steering wheel harshly and trying to pull over on the side of the street. Jerry pulled his finger back and returned it to normal, as the fatally wounded officer twitched and gurgled on his own blood.

After coming to a complete stop on the side of the highway, the remaining officer pushed his door open and rolled out of the truck. He stumbled briefly, hand going to his gun as he ran around the back to open the doors to the prisoner's section. When he did, he pointed his gun at Jerry, who sat calmly at the back with his hands folded.

“What did you do, huh? “ the officer asked, his hands shaking nervously. “The hell did you do?!”

“Me?” Jerry lifted an eyebrow. “What could I have possibly done from back here? I'm cuffed, unarmed, and have no way of defending myself, let alone attacking a man through solid steel. What makes you think it was me?”

“Don't f*ck with me! I know it was you!” The man's finger twitched against the gun's trigger, threatening to fire any second. “What are you, some kind of meta freak?”

Jerry grinned. “Would you like to find out?”

“What are you-”

The man never got a chance to finish his sentence. Jerry pointed his arm forward, the entire limb extending the distance between them in an instant, while forming into the shape of a spear and piercing the officer through the chest. He then altered the shape slightly, wrapping it around the man's body and pulling him inside the vehicle. When Jerry's arm returned to normal, the officer crumpled to the ground, already dead. Jerry took a moment to examine himself, impressed at his newfound gift.

“Fascinating,” he uttered. “Now, let's see what else I can do.”

Altering the shape of his arms and legs, he easily slipped out of the cuffs. Then, kneeling down at the dead officer's side, he placed a hand against the man's face, closed his eyes, and concentrated. The top layer of his skin began to liquify, dripping over the the cop with the texture of liquid metal, and then slowly reconfiguring the man's facial structure. In moments, the officer had a new face, a very familiar face: he had Jerry's face.

Standing up again, Jerry's own face began to morph, obtaining the consistency of liquid for a moment until finally settling on something new, a face of his own creation. Now with a brand new appearance, he quickly worked to exchange clothing with the man. He gave the officer his suit, then reapplied the same injury to match the clothes with the wound. Then, he dressed himself in the officer's bloodied uniform; he'd have to do something about finding cleaner clothes later, but for now this would do. As far as anyone coming across the scene would be concerned, Jeremiah Belmont was dead.

Hopping out of the back of the truck now, Jerry glanced both ways down the highway, watching the traffic go by. He received a few stunned expressions from the drivers who happened to look over and see the big red stain on the front of his uniform, but there wasn't anything they would do about it. Turning from the highway, he began to head down the nearby embankment, into the surrounding woods. He wasn't returning to Silverstone, though, no. He'd meet Rose again, he was sure of that, but in the meantime, he had some work to do.

---

Six weeks later...

Becky took in a deep breath, wincing only slightly at a small twinge in her chest. The pain was mostly gone, but every so often it was enough to make her flinch. Still, now that she was back near a hundred percent, she could finally return to not just work, but her life. It felt good to be out of that stuffy hospital.

As she walked down the hallway, whole groups of her fellow officers stopped to greet her, some clapping, others calling out to her, and all of them telling her how glad they are that she was back and that she made a full recovery.

It took her about twenty minutes to get down to the women's locker room because of the frequent stops, but she didn't mind. She was glad to be back, just as much as they were to have her back. When she did eventually reach the locker room, she opened the door to find a few other female officers getting ready for the day. They took a few minutes to greet her the same as everyone else did, then continued changing into their uniforms.

Becky walked over to her locker, glancing around a little. It was strange for Rose not to be hear yet; she was usually early. Must have got held up in traffic after dropping Holly off at school, or something. When Becky sat down on the bench in front of her locker, however, a friendly arm reached around her shoulders. Looking up, she saw Rose standing there next to her and smiling.

“Welcome back,” Rose said.

A broad smile of her own quickly formed across Becky's face. “Good to be back, believe me. I couldn't stand another second of that hospital.”

“I know the feeling.” Rose laughed, taking her arm off Becky's shoulder, sitting down in front of her own locker. “So listen, I was thinking, since you were stuck up in the hospital on your birthday, maybe you want to go out and do something later on? You know, as an official birthday... thing.”

Becky raised her eyebrows in surprise. “You're suggesting we go out?”

“Yeah, we could, I don't know, go bowling again or something,” she said. “Whatever you want.”

“Okay, who are you and what have you done with Rose?”

“Very funny. So what do you say?”

“Please, girl,” Becky said, spreading her lips into another wide grin, “you had me at bowling.”

Rose broke out into a small, yet very pleased smile of her own. “Meet you around eight?”

“Sounds perfect.” Becky closed her locker door, standing up and buttoning her uniform. “Now come on, I want to get out on patrol already. I can't imagine what you've done to our poor cruiser.”

#1 Posted by Time_Phantom (527 posts) - - Show Bio

Reread this and it's a little weird reading this in prose. Still like it though. Are you doing this with all of them?

#2 Posted by Ravager4 (1627 posts) - - Show Bio

@Time_Phantom: well it obviously reads a lot differently than it did in its other format, for sure. It allows to put in a lot more subtle character actions, though, which I like, and fix a bunch of little things that maybe didn't work so well before, specifically rewording extremely awkward and clunky paragraphs to make them sound better. But yeah, I'm doing all of them. I have the first four done, working on the fifth now.