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 third 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 #14

Six months.

It seems like a long time, but if you don't pay attention, it goes by in the blink of an eye. For Rose Wilson, those six months went by even faster. It had been difficult, at first, adjusting to her new life, trying to juggle looking after Holly with working more than eight hours a day and fighting crime as Ravager. For a while, she honestly couldn't understand how Dick, as Batman, did the same thing, but eventually she'd fallen into a routine that she stuck to: get up early, make breakfast, get Holly to school, go to work, take a lunch break to pick up Holly from school, take her to a sitter, go back to work, go back to pick up Holly after work, return to the penthouse, make dinner, spend some quality time with Holly, put her to bed, set the security system, head out and beat up thugs for most of the night, come back and sleep for a few hours, then get up and do it all again.

It was, quite simply, an astoundingly hectic and tight schedule. However, Rose wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. For the first time in her life, she felt like she actually had, well, a life of her own. She wasn't living in anyone's shadow, she wasn't the sixth wheel on some team, and she certainly wasn't being controlled by a manipulative, b**tard father. So what if her weekdays were busy and chaotic? At least her weekends were completely free, allowing her to catch up on sleep and spend even more time with Holly.

When Rose had first decided to take in Holly, it had been out of sheer desire to want to do something good for the girl. She hadn't known what she was getting herself into, raising a kid, nor had she realized how much she would end up liking her. Something about Holly just made her happy, put her at ease. Holly truly was a sweet, nice, and adorable young girl, who just happened to have been thrust into a horrible situation. In many ways, she reminded Rose of Lian Harper, the girl who she had been a nanny to for a short while, several years ago. Deeply hidden maternal instincts? Perhaps. Whatever it was, Holly always had a way of putting a smile on Rose's face.

Sitting at the kitchen table, Rose sipped from a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper (two things she never thought she'd be doing, least of all at the same time). Her eye focused on a front page headline that read: 'The Blade Sighted Again, Breaks up Mugging.' Yeah, 'The Blade'. It was the media's nickname for her, ever since she'd begun frequently showing up as Ravager. Originally wasn't a prominent concept these days.

A short while later, Holly shuffled into the kitchen and hopped up into a seat at the table. She swung her legs back and forth, smiling.

“Well, look who's finally up and about,” Rose said, lowering the paper. “Finish your shower?”

Holly responded with an earnest nod.

“And you got all your homework done yesterday, right?”

Another nod.

“Then I suppose you'll be wanting your breakfast now, huh?”

The girl's smile widened, as she nodded yet again.

A friendly smile of her own curled onto Rose's face. “Alright, alright, hold your horses.”

One of these days, she really needed to get around to teaching Holly sign language. Head nods and written messages could only go so far. Getting up from her seat, Rose walked over to the stove to dish out the already prepared eggs and bacon, pretty much the only real breakfast foods she could cook without ruining. She had tried pancakes once, but that didn't turn out so well, and her sausages somehow ended up rock solid. Of course, she always had cereal on standby, for just such occasions.

Returning to the table, she set the big plate of food down right in front of Holly. “Alright, so I should still be around to pick you up at the same time as always to take you to Mrs. Silva's. Today's my first 'real' day on the job, though. No more training, no more being babysat by an FTO, I'm all on my own now. Well, and my new partner, of course.”

Swallowing a mouthful of eggs, Holly tilted her head slightly, holding it against her hand and nodding affirmatively.

“Just remember to wish me luck,” Rose said, crossing her arms and smirking.

The girl gave a quick thumbs up this time, mouthing the words 'good luck'. Rose had no doubt that Holly was really trying to say the words, yet completely unable to make a sound with her vocal cords surgically cut. For a while, Holly had been completely devastated to learn that the condition was not temporary, and that she would never be able to talk again. In time, though, she moved on, recovering from the initial anxiety.

That was another thing Rose adored so much about the girl: her strong will. In spite of everything that had happened to her with Pavoni, somehow Holly found a way to stay happy. Both she and Dick had assumed that Holly would need therapy to get through the experience, but to their surprise, she coped in her own way.

“Alright, kiddo, finish up your breakfast and let's get going,” Rose insisted, dumping her dirty dishes into the sink. “If we don't leave in the next five minutes, we'll probably get stuck in traffic. Your backpack is by the door, and your lunch money is on the counter.”

Polishing off the last bit of food, Holly then scampered out of the kitchen to finish getting ready for school.

“And remember to brush your teeth!” Rose called.

Listen to yourself, Rose, you sound like a real parent. Totally bizarre.

---

Four months of eight hour a day training, and two months of supervision under a field training officer, that's how long it took Rose to earn her spot on the SCPD. The Silverstone Central Police Station had hired her shortly after a recommendation by Dick, a former police officer himself. It had been largely due to his word that she had been able to start training so quickly, and of course her new identity helped, too. The worst thing that a background check brought up on her now was that she had graduated high school as a B student. Today marked her first official day on the job, however, as a full-fledged officer, no longer a trainee. A rookie, sure, but at least she doesn't have to endure an FTO breathing down her neck anymore.

There were two primary reasons that she and Dick had settled on this career choice for her. One, it gave her a chance to do a different kind of good, when she wasn't stalking the city streets at night, in costume. And two, it allowed her access to a lot of resources that she would not have access to otherwise, which could only aid her in some of her side 'investigations' as Ravager.

Sitting calmly in the middle of the women's locker room, Rose closed the door to her locker and took a brief moment to make sure that her uniform was in order. Belt, check. Radio, check. Cuffs, check. Gun, check. Badge, check. Flashlight, check. Baton, check. Taser, check. Everything else that went on her belt... check. Hat... hat...

Where the hell is my hat?

She opened her locker again, peering inside to see if she had accidentally forgotten her hat.

A brief moment later, she was interrupted by a lightly accented, female voice “Looking for this?”

Pulling her head out of her locker, Rose turned to see another officer, a Latina woman, standing behind her. The woman was tall, perhaps four inches or so taller than Rose, with long, naturally coiling hair and tanned skin. She was pretty, too, her body tight and toned, the kind of woman that any guy would kill for.

Rose blinked, gaze moving from the woman herself to the standard issue police hat that she was holding. “Uh... that mine?”

“Si,” she replied. “Was on the floor under the bench; you must have knocked it off.”

“Damn it,” Rose grumbled, taking the hat from the woman. “Figures. Thanks, though.”

Taking a moment to tie her long white hair back into a ponytail, Rose then slipped the police cap atop her head.

“So, you Sarah Walker?” the woman asked.

Rose blinked, confused. “Hm?”

“Sarah Walker. That's you, right?”

Sarah, right, that's me. New Identity.

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Rose said. “I'm Sarah, but you can call me Rose. Everyone does. It's my, uh... middle name.”

“Well, Rose, pleasure to meet you,” she replied, holding a hand out to shake. “Name's Rebecca Chavez, but you can call me Becky.”

Rose gripped the woman's hand firmly, shaking. “Chavez? So you're my partner, huh? Nice to have a face to go with the name.”

“I saw your marks from the training course, you know,” Becky said, opening her own locker to begin changing into uniform. “Highest I think in the last decade... at least in the field. Your written tests, though... not so good.”

“What can I say? I'm more of a hands on kind of girl.”

A small laugh escaped Becky's lips, as she buttoned up the top of her police uniform. “That's good, so am I. Never liked tests much, couldn't stand them in high school. Hell, I might have gone loco if I'd gone to college.”

Rose folded her arms, tilting her head to the side. “You never went to college?”

“Nah, my family could never afford it,” Becky explained. “I took a year off after high school, worked a few odd jobs, then decided to do something good with my life. Got myself hired here, went through training, and been on the force ever since. That was about... oh, four and a half years ago or so.”

“So that makes you, what, twenty-three?” Rose asked.

“Twenty-four in a couple months.”

“So shouldn't you still have an older partner?”

Becky shrugged, slipping her own police hat onto her head. “Had one, sure, then he went and got himself transferred over to the second precinct. Was working solo for a while, then they assigned me to the new bisoña, the rookie. But what about you, ah? You don't look old enough to have been through college, either.”

“Same story; out of high school, worked some... really odd jobs,” Rose muttered, pursing her lips thoughtfully. “Then I found myself here.”

“So that makes you pretty young then, ah?”

“Twenty, next month.”

According to my new birth certificate, anyway.

Becky's eyebrows lifted, an amused laugh bursting from her lips. “Oh Dios, you're practically a baby! Got a lot to learn, you do, but not to worry; I'll teach you everything you need to know.”

---

Rose sat passenger side in the police cruiser, while Becky drove carefully through their designated patrol area, consisting mostly of Midtown and some of the East District.

Tapping her fingers against the side of the door, Rose gave her partner a sidelong glance. “So, you get to drive, huh?”

“Of course I get to drive, girl,” Becky replied, flashing a playful smirk. “I'm the senior officer, aren't I?”

“Well, I suppose if you want to go by that logic,” she muttered.

Becky snorted out a soft laugh, looking at Rose from the corner of her eye. “Don't worry, I might let you drive sometime. Eventually. Maybe.”

A small, amused smile gradually formed its way onto Rose's face. As much as she had never been a 'people person', this woman was already starting to grow on her.

“So, Chief told me about your situation,” Becky said, resting an elbow against her open window. “Single mom?”

“Uh, something like that.” Rose paused, rubbing the back of her neck softly. “I mean, she's not mine, but I look after her; legal guardian and all. Her name's Holly, great kid.”

“Oh yeah? How'd she end up with you, anyway?”

Rose shrugged. “She just doesn't have anyone else. It was chance that I even met her, let alone got to know her well enough to want to look after the poor girl. She was in foster care before, but... well, it didn't work out for her. She went through a lot of crap.”

“Ah,” Becky said, slowly shaking her head. “Pobrecilla.”

“Pobr... what?”

“Poor thing.”

Rose lifted an eyebrow, arms crossing over her chest. “I'm not gonna have to hire a translator to stick in the backseat, am I?”

A slight smirk curled across Becky's face. “I'll try to keep it at a minimum, promise. Anyway, you heard about this 'Blade' character running around at night?”

“Ah, yeah, I think so,” she said. “Read about it in the papers... some nut going around with swords and fighting crime, right?”

Becky nodded. “Si, and it seems like every time she shows up, no one gets a good look at her. Gotta say, the mystery is intriguing.”

“You think?”

“Sure,” Becky said, with an absent shrug. “Mystery always makes for a good story.”

“I sense a 'but' coming.”

“Ha, so there is.” Becky sat up straighter in her seat, turning the squad car down another street. “I mean, I think it's great that someone out there wants to do some good, you know? But that isn't the way to go about it.”

“And what about guys like Superman, or Wonder Woman?” Rose questioned. “Should they be going about it a different way?”

Becky shook her head. “It's one thing to have super powers. It's another thing entirely for an ordinary person to be dressing up in a costume and running around the city at night with swords. She'll get herself or someone else killed real soon.”

“Batman might disagree,” Rose said, smirking softly to herself.

“Well... okay, maybe there are some exceptions,” Becky admitted, clearing her throat. “But guys like Batman, they've proven themselves. And this isn't Gotham, either; Silverstone doesn't really need someone like him.”

At least as far as you know, Rose thought. But there's a lot going on in this place that the police aren't aware of... case in point, Pavoni.

A few moments later, their police radio went off. “We have a 211 in progress over at 324 Turckott Street, requesting immediate response.”

Becky quickly lifted their car radio to her mouth. “Copy that, dispatch, we're on our way.” Flipping on the lights and siren, Becky turned the cruiser around and began heading back down the street in the proper direction. “A robbery on your first day, think you can handle it?”

Rose grinned, leaning back calmly in her seat. “I'm pretty sure I'll manage.”

---

The door to Marchini's Italian Restaurant opened, revealing a finely dressed woman in a fur coat. Her name was Emilia Marconi. She strode calmly across the floor, heading straight for one of the tables in the back, the only table with anyone seated at it. In fact, the entire place was closed right now, something they had taken care of ahead of time.

At the table were two other men, one aged and balding, the other younger with a neatly trimmed goatee. Both were dressed in clean suits, the older gentleman in blue, and the younger in black. She knew them both well; the older one was Rupert Thorne, and the younger Frankie Baldoni. Both of them being the heads of rival crime families, however, she didn't particularly like them. In fact, she rather detested them. Today, though, they were meeting on neutral terms.

“Emilia,” Thorne greeted, sitting up straight in his seat. “Good of you to finally show up. Can I offer you anything to drink?”

“Skip the pleasantries, Rupert,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him. “Let's just get down to business.”

Thorne shrugged, folding his hands in front of him. “Very well. So, I should assume we all know why we're here?”

“Yeah,” Frankie muttered. “That new cape in town, the one everyone's calling 'The Blade'. She took down one of my smuggling trucks last week, lost the shipment.”

“And she caught my son last month breaking into the local jeweler's,” Emilia added.

Thorne lifted an eyebrow in confusion. “I thought you hated that boy.”

“Don't get me wrong, Jonathan is a real screw up,” she assured, “but he's still family.”

“I see...” Thorne leaned forward, tapping his fingers against the table. “In any case, my point is that we've all been hit by this new 'hero' running around Silverstone, and it doesn't look like she's going to stop any time soon. The whole reason I packed up and left Gotham was to get away from those costumed freaks.”

“So what do you want to do about it, then?” Frankie asked, leaning casually against his elbow.

“Well, that's why we're here,”Thorne said, “to figure it out. For now, I'm suggesting that we set aside our differences and work together on this, come up with a way to get rid of this Blade.”

Emilia paused, mulling over the prospect in her head. “I... suppose I can live with that. For now.”

“Yeah... for now,” Frankie said. “But no funny business, Thorne, you hear?”

“Of course, I wouldn't dream of it.”

Emilia leaned back in her seat, crossing her legs. “Did you have anything particular in mind?”

“Well, I think we can all agree that our families and the people who work for us aren't anywhere near talented enough to take on someone like this,” Thorne said, with a certain mocking truth.

“Hmph, you can say that again,” Frankie said, shaking his head. “This broad knows what she's doing, I'll give her that.”

Thorne lead in closer, lowering his voice. “So, perhaps it might be fitting that we bring in some... professional help.”

Emilia's eyebrows lifted. “You mean hire someone to do it for us? I don't see why you would need us to do that.”

“If my experiences with the Bat have taught me anything,” Thorne explained, “it's that one pro is never enough. But these... assassins, you see, aren't what you'd call cheap. Spending that amount of resources to guarantee the job isn't something I'm willing to do.”

“So what, you want us all to pool our resources and put up multiple contracts on her?” Frankie asked.

“That's one way of looking at it, yes.” A small grin spread itself across Thorne's face. “But I also thought I'd make things a little more interesting than that.”

Emilia's eyes narrowed, arms folding over her chest. “Go on.”

“I propose that we each choose one person, one professional to hire. With three killers on the job, there's no doubt that The Blade will fall eventually. However, we'll each be wagering a fair sum on our guy; the one whose assassin kills her, wins the pool.”

The other two considered the suggestion for a moment. Emilia brought a hand to her chin, giving Thorne a long, careful look, while Frankie lit up a cigarette.

“I will admit,” Emilia said, “that does sound intriguing. How big a wager are we talking, exactly?”

“A hundred grand.”

Frankie nearly choked on his cigarette. “A hundred G's?!”

Thorne's gaze shifted to the younger man. “What's the matter, Frankie, too rich for ya?”

“No, no. It's fine... A hundred it is.”

“In that case, I suppose the next step is deciding who to hire.” Thorne quickly reached into his pocket, removing a small pad of paper and a pen. “I suggest we do it here and know, so no one ends up trying to hire the same person. There are only a handful of people out there capable of taking on a task like this, after all.”

“Very well,” Emilia stated, waving a flippant hand at him. “We'll even let you pick first.”

Thorne grinned writing down a name on pad of paper. He then slid it across the table for the other two to take a look.

Frankie snorted out a laugh. “Come on, Thorne, guns? Really? No way, my guys have gone up against her enough to know that there ain't anyway you're going to take her down with guns. She moves like a demon, I tell ya.”

“Then I suppose you have a better choice?”

“You know I do.” Frankie took his turn to write down a name on the paper, passing it over to the others to see. “With someone like this, subtly is key. A little poison goes a long way.”

“Maybe,” Thorne said, “but only if you can get close enough to her to use it. Now then, Emilia? Your go.”

Giving them both a careful glance, Emilia quickly wrote down her selection and passed the paper back to them. “I believe the direct approach will be the successful one.”

Upon seeing the name, Thorne scoffed out a hearty laugh. “Sure, if you can find her! I don't know anyone with those kinds of contacts.”

Emilia's gaze remained stolid, calm. “You obviously don't know me very well, Rupert.”

“Alright, alright, it's settled then.” Thorne gave them both a careful look, spreading a pleased grin across his face. “You have one week to contact your selections and make the hire. Then... we let the games begin.”

Chapter #15

It had been two weeks now since Rose officially began her career as a cop, and so far everything had been going smoothly. Her partner, Becky, was a lot more fun and interesting than she would have thought, and it made the days go by fairly quickly. There hadn't been a whole lot of interesting events so far during her workday, other than a couple of robberies, pulling over a few speeding cars, and breaking up the occasional domestic disturbance, but she enjoyed it regardless.

A long sigh escaped Rose's lips, as she pulled off her uniform. With the workday over, she was looking forward to spending some quality time with Holly before her bedtime. Then, it was back out on the streets as Ravager. The slums were probably a good place to check out tonight; there was always something shady going down in that region.

As Rose tended to her thoughts, Becky walked through the door to the locker room. “Hey, girl, leaving already?”

Rose glanced up at her partner, while tossing her shirt into her locker. “Yeah, I gotta get going and pick up Holly, soon as I shower.”

“You know, I seriously gotta take you out some time,” Becky said, sitting down on the bench. “I mean, you work all day, then go home and take care of your girl; when do you ever get a chance to go out and have some fun, ah?”

“There's a lot of things going on in my life right now,” Rose said, shrugging calmly. “Fun just isn't one of them at the moment;.”

Becky leaned forward, holding an arm around Rose's shoulders. “Ah, come on, you'll go loco if you never get out once in a while. Even the best parents need to escape from their kids now and then. Should take a night just for yourself.”

“Yeah, and do what?” Rose stood up, unbuckling her belt and stripping out of her pants. “Go to a club? Get drunk and end up in some random guy's bed? No thanks, not my thing.”

“Ha, not quite what I meant,” Becky said, crossing her legs. “That isn't my kinda thing, either. But hey, there's plenty of other things a couple of amigas can do together to unwind, ah? Grab a sitter for the kid one of these days and I'll show you.”

Closing her locker, Rose looked back at her partner. A contemplative sigh slowly flowed from her lips. “I don't know... maybe. I'll think on it.”

“Hey, that's all I'm asking. Open up a little, take it easy, leave the stress of this job behind, that sort of thing.”

Rose gave an ever so slight smile, as she grabbed a towel and headed into the locker room showers. “We'll see.”

---

Rose turned the kitchen sink off, finished with washing the dirty dishes from dinner. She grabbed a dish rag to dry her hands, then walked back out into the living room of the penthouse, carefully looking around. Bringing her hands to her hips, she pursed her lips and exhaled a curious breath.

“Now, I wonder,” she said, taking a few steps forward, “where could Holly have run off to?”

A few moments later, Holly herself appeared, crawling partway out from beneath the coffee table. She lied there for a moment, head propped up against her hands, merely smirking upwards at her caretaker.

Rose folded her arms, returning the smirk. “Oh, thought you could hide from me, did you?”

Holly shrugged, then quickly rolled back under the table.

“Hey now,” Rose said, kneeling down in front of the coffee table, “hiding under there isn't going to keep you from brushing your teeth before you go to bed.”

Lowering her face beneath the table, Rose just managed to catch sight of the girl crawling out from under the other side and then scurrying down the hallway to the bathroom. Letting out an amused breath, she stood back up again and folded her arms again, smiling.

“Just remember to use the toothpaste in the blue container this time. The one in the white container is the one that tastes nasty.”

Holly returned several minutes later, now dressed in her pajamas and seemingly all set for bed. Still, it never hurt to make sure.

“You brushed your teeth and washed up?” Rose questioned.

The girl returned a vigorous nod, indicating that yes, she remembered to wash her face this time. Rose gave her a careful inspection, noting that her face was indeed still a little damp.

“Alright then, kiddo,” she said, patting the girl's shoulder, “off to bed. I'll be there in a minute.”

Once Holly left for her room, Rose returned to he kitchen to pour a glass of water. Then, she made her way back down the hallway into he bedroom, where Holly was waiting there for her, settled in beneath the covers.

“And here's your water.” Rose placed the glass on the bedside table and smiled. “Just don't drink too much, you don't want to be getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.”

Holly playfully rolled her eyes, as if the thought that she could make that kind of mistake was simply ridiculous.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Rose took in a small breath and placed a hand to the girl's shoulder. “Okay now, before I tuck you in, let's go over the rules again.”

She hated having this discussion every night, but it was the only way to ensure that Holly remembered it down to the letter, especially considering the nature of the situation.

“If for some reason anyone other than myself is trying to get into this apartment, you stay in your room and lock the door, then use your phone to call me immediately,” she explained. “The security system will take care of everything else.”

Holly nodded affirmatively, taking careful note of every word.

“And if I'm not back in the morning, what do you do?”

Reaching over to her desk next to the bed, Holly pulled up a piece of paper with something written on it. She pointed at the writing firmly, bringing a smile to Rose's face.

“That's right, you call 911,” she said, nodding affirmatively. “Even though you can't say anything, they'll trace the call and send an officer over. You just let them know that I went out the previous night and never came back, they'll take care of it. You can also call them for any other emergency.”

Holly smiled again, giving a thumbs up.

“Good, now get some sleep. You have a big math quiz tomorrow.”

Leaning closer to the bed, Rose lifted the blanket farther over the girl to tuck her in. Before she could get the blankets properly fitted around her, however, Holly lunged upward and wrapped her arms tightly around Rose.

Rose blinked in surprise, a smile coming to her face as she returned the hug. “Night, Holly, sleep tight.

---

A large box truck sat motionless outside the old, run down building in the back alleys of Silverstone City's slums. A group of young men busily carried large brick-like packages of white powder from the building to the truck, loading everything neatly but quickly. One of them, a twitchy guy by the name of Dave, periodically looked over his shoulder while he worked.

“Come on, Jim, hurry up,” he urged, quickening his pace. “We shouldn't be out here.”

His friend gave him an odd look, eyebrows lifting. “And when else were we going to do this, in broad daylight?”

“It's not that, I just mean... you know, she's out here,” Dave said. “Somewhere. Probably watching us right now.”

“Well that's the whole point, isn't it? Quit being a baby and stick to the plan.”

The two men threw up their load to the guy standing in the back of the truck, then hurried back towards the building to get more.

“I still can't believe you signed us up for this.” Dave glanced over his shoulder again, scanning the shadows. “I mean, a buddy of mine, name's Marco, he came across her a few weeks ago while on a job. She broke his jaw! He'll be eating through a straw for who knows how long, and then he'll be in court and-”

“Oh would you just shut up already?” Jim groaned. “Starting to give me a headache. Just quit worrying about it; it's not like we're here to fight her or anything.”

“But what if she catches us? What if she-”

“Like I said. Stick to the plan, and everything will work out just fine. You want to earn that hundred bucks I was talking about? Then keep working.”

They returned outside a moment later, now carrying another bundle each. When they got halfway to the truck, however, movement atop a nearby rooftop caught Dave's eyes. He turned suddenly, staring upward. Most of the structures in this area weren't very tall, three stories at the most, and overall the city was built more like Gotham than, say, Metropolis. Still, whatever he saw a second ago, it wasn't there now. Thinking that it must have been a stray shadow, he uttered a long sigh and continued his work.

A mere second later, though, a figure jumped down from the building behind them, landing just beyond the illumination of a nearby street light. She waited only a moment before stepping out of the shadows and revealing herself, drawing one of her swords in the process.

“Greetings, boys,” Ravager said, flipping the blade around in her grasp. “Out a little late tonight, don't you think?”

Everyone immediately turned to look at her, half of them dropping what they were carrying out of sheer instinct.

“Sh*t, I told you, man!” Dave shouted, turning tail and running. “Move!”

Without any hesitation, every single one of the men turned and sprinted in the opposite direction. They didn't even bother to save any of their stash, leaving the entire truckload behind. Ravager stood there for a few moments, staring blankly.

“What the...” she muttered, utterly dumbfounded.

Normally, the crooks she came across at least made an attempt at attacking her. After all, why should a group of men with guns be afraid of a single woman with swords? Half a dozen guys running in the other direction at the first sight of her, on the other hand... that was a first. Instead of chasing them all down, though, which would have been far too tedious and annoying a task, Ravager focused on the truck and the cargo that the men left behind.

I wonder what the reaction would be if I parked this thing right outside the station...

Moving forward, she eyed one of the fallen packages and noticed that one of the corners had torn open when it hit the ground, leaking out a small portion of the white powder inside. Kneeling down, she carefully inspected the substance. Something seemed a bit off about it... it wasn't as white as cocaine, and it seemed a bit thicker, as well. Curiously, she tapped one of her fingers against it and lifted it up to her lips, licking off a tiny taste.

Flour? She blinked back at the powder on the ground, thoroughly confused. Why the hell were they moving flour disguised as cocaine?

She never got a chance to think any further on that question, though, as her precog suddenly flashed through her head, this time showing an incoming bullet ripping through the back of her neck. Reacting instantly, she dove to the left, just as a loud gunshot split the quiet of the night.

BAM!

A brief second later, another flash went through her mind, forcing her to scramble out of the way again, as yet another gunshot followed. This went on for several more shots, until Ravager finally threw herself behind the truck, blocking the shooter's vision.

Those guys were never moving anything, she realized. They were just trying to draw me out. And whoever's shooting at me now is using a sniper rifle aimed at this position, if my visions are anything to go by.

As she contemplated what action to take next, yet another precognitive image flickered through her head, but this time she didn't see a gunshot.

“Sh*t!” she exclaimed, lunging forward from her position.

She sprinted for the nearby alley, making it only several feet before the truck exploded. The resulting impact forced her from her feet, rocketing her through the air. She crashed into a pile of trash bags halfway down the alley, but at least she was out of view from the shooter now. Rolling out of the trash, Ravager climbed back to her feet and brushed herself off.

Okay, two things, she thought, looking back down the alley. First, I can't run back the way I came, or I'll be dodging bullets again. Second, I need to figure out exactly where those shots are coming from so I find the b**tard shooting at me.

Reaching down to a small button on her belt, she clicked it and then waited. Another one of her new upgrades included a homing beacon connected to her new mode of transportation. Within a short few moments, the hum of the high powered engine reached her ears. Moving out the back end of the alley, she looked to her right to see the new bike rolling up, currently acting on autopilot.

This thing wasn't just an ordinary motorcycle, no, this one has been geared up specifically to act as her crime fighting transportation. The frame was sleek, extending down around the wide tires close to the ground, and built from a bulletproof alloy. When riding it, she was closer to lying down than sitting up, offering superb control over the beast of a machine. And the engine... well, the amount of horsepower between her legs put her in a very happy place.

“Alright, mystery man,” she said, climbing aboard her ride and switching back over to manual control, “let's see where you're hiding.”

Before taking off, however, she hit another button on her belt, this one connected to the built in micro computer installed in her new mask. Instantly, a small HUD appeared in front of her eye, projected on the inside of the mask's eye lens. With another click of a button, she set it to scan for sound waves. One advantage of having Batman as a friend, it came with a lot of neat toys.

With that taken care of, she gunned the engine and lurched forward, driving straight back down the alley and out the other side. In seconds, she was back on the main street, flying in the direction that the gunshots had come from. Her precog went off again, and she swerved slightly to the side in response. Another gunshot, this one deflecting off the side of her vehicle. Her lens HUD flickered, focusing in on the sudden burst of sharp noise.

Just a couple more now, come on.

A second gunshot rang out, the bullet embedding itself into the bulletproof glass of her windshield. The scanner focused again on the burst of sound, getting closer to pinpointing the location. Rose began swerving around traffic in complete control, never in any danger of striking another vehicle. Of course, some of the drivers didn't exactly take too kindly to the apparent close calls, but she ignored them.

Then, a third shot. She swerved sharply to the side this time, causing the bullet to drill straight into the street pavement. Finally, the scanner pinpointed where the shots were coming from, a small red target on the HUD focusing around the top of the tallest building ahead of her, the old clock tower.

Gotcha.

---

Ravager sprinted up the spiraling stairwell, which led all the way up to the top of the clock tower. It was an old building, no longer in service. The only reason that workers still maintained it was because it had come to be admired for its aesthetics, a long standing part of the city dating back in the early 1900's. For that same reason, it hadn't been demolished yet, sticking around as a sort of landmark from Silverstone's past. Right now, however, it was the site where her shooter had holed up in, taking his shots.

Because it was such an old building, however, it didn't have an elevator. With the thing being about thirty stories tall, even Ravager was growing fast annoyed at having to run up the entire stairwell. She slowed up a little when she neared the top, listening, readying herself. Waiting a few moments longer, she quietly opened the door and slipped inside.

Ravager kept to the shadows, gazing up at all the massive gears and other machinery that once moved the large dials of the tower. They weren't moving now, though, as the clock itself no longer worked. Leave it to this city to keep the building around to look at, but not function. Making her way up to the platform in front of the clock face, she looked around carefully, not finding anything out of the ordinary. She was definitely in the right place, though; this was the only location where the shooter could have had sights on her in the slums, and on the main road coming through Midtown.

Noticing a portion of window pane removed from the clock face, she moved over to it and gazed outside carefully, squinting into the distance. She couldn't even see where she had been in the slums, not with her naked eye alone. One thing she could admit, whoever this shooter was, he knew what he was doing. Even with a high powered scope and rifle, making such accurate shots in quick succession was impressive. This definitely wasn't some street gang thug, this was a professional.

Guess I caught someone's attention, she thought, moving away from the window. Too bad he packed up and left already.

As she turned to head back out of the tower, however, her precog went off again. She dove to the side, flipping down off the platform as another gunshot ripped apart the silence. Immediately, she looked upwards to see someone standing there on one of the massive gears, a man wearing an odd body suit and silver helmet, equipped with a red optic lens over the right eye.

The man let out a frustrated breath, glaring coldly at her. “That's the last time you make me miss, sweet cheeks.”

“Oh, I wouldn't count on that,” Ravager said, taking a defensive stance. “So, who are you supposed to be?”

“You can call me Deadshot,” he replied. “Better known as the man who's about to put a bullet between your eyes.”

“That so? Alright then... give it your best shot.”

Deadshot paused, tilting his head to the side. “That supposed to be some kind of pun?”

“Maybe.”

“Well it ain't funny.” Raising an arm, Deadshot pointed one of his wrist-mounted guns at her. “Sweet dreams.”

Chapter #16

Deadshot fired, aiming right between his target's eyes. Unfortunately for him, Ravager reacted much too quickly, already moving out of the way by the time he pulled the trigger. He clenched his jaw, scowling. Each time she dodged, each time she made him miss... it was like she was purposefully mocking him.

“You can't jump around like that forever,” he said. “Just hold still and make this easier on yourself.”

Another shot went off, as Ravager ran behind a large iron pillar, then ducked beneath one of the large clock gears. “What's the matter, can't handle a target that's faster than you?”

Moving across some old scaffolding, Deadshot gazed carefully into the shadows below. His optic lens switched over to thermal mode, tracking heat signatures now. He spotted her shortly after and raised his weapon again, firing twice. Again, she was gone before either bullet got there.

Rose carefully crept behind another large piece of machinery. “Bit of a quick shot, I see. That's okay, a lot of guys have that problem.”

She raced across the floor, darting in behind various pillars, machinery, and gears. Though he clearly had a way of seeing in the dark, she could still find a way to get to him without him seeing her. Judging from his sudden ceasefire, it seemed that he'd already lost her, as she made her way behind his position. Within a few moments, she began silently climbing up on the scaffolding behind him.

“You're a bit more impressive than I would have thought, I'll give you that,” Deadshot said, taking a few steps forward and gazing over the edge of the platform. “I don't think I've ever met a target who made me miss this much... but then, I've also never met a target who can see the shots before they happen.”

Ravager stopped a moment, remaining silent so she didn't give away her position. Glancing upwards, she spotted a well placed gear overhead and swung up to it, quietly.

“That's your secret, am I right? Some kind of sixth sense, or something? Like ESP. I'd just call it super speed, except that you still dodge even when you don't know the shot's coming.” He stopped moving momentarily, raising his weapon. He was listening, carefully. “That, and speedsters don't need a bike for transportation, so you couldn't be one of those. It's a neat trick, I'll admit, but you're not the only one with tricks.”

Ravager carefully moved into position, now poised close behind and above him. She bent her legs and crouched low, waiting for the right moment. He began moving again, turning his back fully to her.

“Take this bodysuit, for example. It's not just for the protection, or even the fashion. It also enhances my senses. Like my sight, my reflexes...”

When Deadshot paused again, Ravager made her move, lunging through the air straight at him.

“And my hearing.” Spinning around, he raised both his wrist guns at her. He grinned, knowing that he'd just caught her in midair with nowhere to go. Gotcha.”

He got off six shots, three from either gun, before she crashed on top of him. They both rolled back a bit across the scaffolding, until he finally kicked her off and sent her crashing down through a lower platform. Ravager finally landed with a thud on the ground below, coughing out pained breaths. The impact from the fall, as well as the six shots that hit her center mass, had knocked the air from her lungs in a hurry. Groaning, she rolled over and picked herself back up.

Feels like I just got hit by a train...

Her upgraded armor was the only reason she was still alive, or at least not in critical condition. Had she been wearing her old armor, it would have been six shots straight through the heart, but the new materials had stopped the bullets from penetrating. Still, she could feel the result of their impact, every movement causing a stabbing pain in her lungs.

But she couldn't let a little pain bother her, not right now. Another shot went off, her precog alerting her of it just in time. Grunting, she threw herself out of the way and rolled behind a pillar, taking cover.

“Fancy suit you got yourself there,” Deadshot said, flipping down from the scaffolding and landing at ground level. “My rounds are designed to pierce simple body armor, yet yours stopped 'em all cold. Makes me wonder where you got your hands on it.”

Ravager took in a few deep breaths, each one causing her to flinch at a sharp pain in her chest. Can't drag this out anymore. Gotta end it quick.

“Doesn't make a bit of difference, though; just have to shoot your exposed neck, is all.” Deadshot took a few careful steps forward, scanning the darkness for signs of his quarry. “Don't know what it is about you crime fighting loonies that makes you leave the lower half of your face exposed, but I'm not one to complain about an easy target."

Though his footsteps were mostly quiet, Ravager could hear the creaking of old wood beneath his boots; he was getting closer. Time to make her move. Rolling out of cover, she sprang up to her feet and charged him, at the same time drawing one of her swords. Her chest throbbed, but the adrenaline pumping through her allowed her to ignore the pain for now.

“Dumb move,” Deadshot said, taking aim at her throat this time.

When he fired, however, she leaped upwards and flipped over the bullets. Deadshot quickly raised his aim, following her motion and taking another shot; this one hit her armored suit just below her neck. In the same motion, Ravager swung her blade, forcing Deadshot to roll out of reach. Landing on the other side of him, she crouched low, teetering on her feet. She clutched at the new pain exploding near the top of her torso; again, the bullet didn't penetrate, but it hurt nonetheless.

Deadshot straightened himself again, turning to his opponent. “Nice try, but you missed.”

“Not exactly,” Ravager said, sheathing her blade. “I wasn't aiming for you.”

Glancing downward, Deadshot raised his hands to see that both his mounted guns had been cut clean in half, rendering them useless. “ Son of a-”

His voice cut off by Ravager's fist impacting the front of his helmet. He staggered backwards, another punch smashing into his face. A third blow, a kick to the gut, sent him tumbling head over heels across the floor. He grunted out a pained breath, staggering back to his feet and holding his head tightly, fighting the ringing in his ears. When he finally looked back at his opponent again, he caught sight of her sprinting at him, sword drawn again.

“Looks like we'll have to finish this another time,” he grumbled, ducking beneath a pipe and scurrying off into the darkness.

Ravager contemplated chasing after him, but only briefly. The moment she attempted to pursue, she staggered forward again from the throbbing agony in her chest. She wheezed, taking in deep breaths and uttering a few hoarse coughs.

Another time, then. Looking forward to it.

---

Rose stood in front of her bathroom mirror, costume removed and lying haphazardly on the floor. Lifting up her white undershirt, she carefully inspected the result of the gunshots. Even through the bulletproof armor, the shots had left behind an immense series of large purple and blue bruises that bled into each other. Tenderly, she pressed a couple fingers against her chest, flinching instantly.

“Sh*t...” she muttered, pulling her shirt back down.

Opening the medicine cabinet, she grabbed the bottle of painkillers inside. She didn't know how else she was going to be able to fall asleep and get up in the morning, if every time she breathed it felt like someone was stabbing her chest. Releasing a long sigh, she dragged herself back into the bedroom and sat calmly on the edge

Deadshot is a professional assassin, one of the best in the world... So, who hired him? And why do they want me dead?

Also, with Deadshot getting away, it meant that she hadn't seen the last of him. He'd be back, eventually, and she'd need a better strategy than the last one or things might not go as well as they did tonight. Holding a hand to her head, she breathed outwardly and shut her eye. She could think more on this tomorrow, because right now she needed rest. After removing her eye patch and placing it on the desk next to her bed, Rose collapsed against the mattress and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

---

Rose sat on the edge of the bench in the empty women's locker room, half stripped out of her clothes. She needed a moment to catch her breath; the bruises were worse today than they had been last night, and just breathing was a pain in the ass, let alone getting up and walking around. Rubbing a hand gently across her bare chest, she flinched, another knife-like pain exploding beneath her skin.

Suddenly, the locker room door opened. Frantically, Rose reached for her uniform shirt, trying to pull it around herself in time. But she was too slow.

“Dios mio!” Becky moved quickly around the side of the bench, pulling back Rose's shirt for a better look at the bruises. “Girl, what the hell happened?”

“It's nothing, really, I-”

“Oh no, don't you go saying it's nothing,” Becky said, giving a stern look. “Who did that to you, huh? Boyfriend? Ex-boyfriend? Let me know and I'll beat their sorry asses to-”

“No, whoa, slow down there,” Rose insisted. “Nobody did this to me, honest. You really think I'd let someone get a hand on me like that? Come on, they taught us more than how to slap on a pair of cuffs in training.”

Becky slowly began to calm down. “Well, yeah, but... still doesn't hurt to ask. Sorry, it's just- I mean, it looks serious, is all; had me worried. So what did happen?”

A small sigh brushed past Rose's lips, as she buttoned up her shirt. “Just a little... car crash, no big deal. Wasn't paying attention and I ended up swerving into a pole to avoid a dog. The bruising is just... from the seat belt, and the airbag.”

Becky's eyebrows lifted, arms folding across her chest. And you wonder why I'm the one who drives, ah?”

“Sure, make all the fun you want,” she said, smirking.

“Just glad to hear it's not abuse.” Becky lowered herself to the bench, leaning forward to open her own locker. “My sister went through that once. B**tard nearly put her in a coma.”

“Sorry to hear that...” Rose fidgeted slightly, pulling her belt around her waist and buckling it firmly in place. “Don't have to worry about me, though. Men are the furthest thing from my mind right now.”

Lifting an eyebrow, Becky gave her a sly look. “Ohhh, not big on the men, ah?”

“Let's just say I have a long history of failing miserably at relationships,” she said, snorting out a small laugh.

“See, this is why you need to get out more.”

“Yeah, well... I said we'll see.”

Becky flashed a smile, standing up to change her pants. “So you did.”

When the two women finished changing into their uniforms, they headed out of the locker room and back out into the main part of the station. While Becky waved to some fellow officers and stopped a few times to make some small talk, Rose was caught deep in her own thoughts about the previous night. She needed to think of a way to not only find Deadshot again, but learn who hired him. Her detective work might be shaky at best, but she still did have an idea.

“Say, Becky,” she said, casually broaching the subject, “you ever heard of a hit man called Deadshot?”

“Uh... doesn't ring any bells, no,” she replied, scratching her head. “How come?”

“Saw on the news that someone sighted him in the Silverstone the other day. Was wondering if it's something we should look into.”

Becky paused a moment, thinking carefully. “Strange... I didn't see that story. And you'd think information like that would have come by the station... but if it is true, I suppose it would be worth checking out.”

“Can you get us his file from the national databank?”

“Sure,” Becky said, with a small shrug. “Might take a few hours to put in the request, but we should have it after lunch.”

Rose nodded. “As long as we get it.”

“You have that look in your eye...” Becky stated, lifting an eyebrow.

“Just coming up with a plan, is all.”

---

Becky stopped the cruiser just outside of Marchini's Italian Restaurant, across the street. She looked over carefully, watching some of the patrons eating through the big glass window. “You sure this is the place?”

“According to this, yeah,” Rose responded, double checking the files in her grasp.

First, the file on Deadshot, aka Floyd Lawton. Scanning down through his list of known clients, her eyes fell again on one specific name: Rupert Thorne. That was the connection. Rupert Thorne, a former crime lord, had moved to Silverstone after serving his prison term. Moving on to Rupert Thorne's file, she read through his information, specifically regarding his activities in Silverstone. Having been such a prominent figure of crime so many years ago, the police and other agencies still kept tabs on him today.

“Yup, says he frequents Marchini's Italian Restaurant, 127 Pleasant Street,” Rose informed. “Comes in for lunch every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.”

“And today is Wednesday.”

Glancing up from the files, Rose glanced up and down the street. A few moments later, she caught sight of an older man in a blue suit, his hair grey and thinning.

“There he is,” Rose said, pushing the squad car door open. “Wait here, I'm going in to ask him a few questions.”

---

Inside the restaurant, Rose walked up to Rupert Thorne's table. She moved gingerly, keeping the pain in her chest at a minimum.

“Rupert Thorne?” she said, standing in front of the table

The man glanced up at her, his eyes just visible over the top of the menu. “Yes, can I help you, officer?”

“Just hoping you could answer a few questions for me,” she explained, sitting down at the table across from him.

“Of course,” Thorne stated, eyes returning to his menu. “Anything you need.”

Rose cleared her throat, folding her hands in front of her. “Does the name Floyd Lawton mean anything to you? Also goes by Deadshot.”

“Afraid I can't recall.” Thorne reached for his glass of water, lifting it to his lips and taking a small sip. “I've met a lot of people over the years, and I have a hard time remembering them all at my age. You understand.”

“That so?” she said, lifting an eyebrow. “Well, then it might surprise you to know that you hired him on a couple of occasions before.”

“Ah, did I now? Well, I'm sure he was a fine employee, but-”

“He's a contract killer, Mr. Thorne.”

Slowly lowering his menu, Thorne glared at her. Apparently, the amnesiac old man routine wasn't going to work this time around. “Fine, sure, I know him. What do you care, though? That was a long time ago.”

“According to my sources, he was sighted in the city recently,” Rose answered.

“And you think I had something to do with it?” Thorne chuckled, waving off the comment. “Officer, I assure you, I didn't hire that man. Haven't spoken to him in near a decade. In case you haven't noticed, I'm on the straight and narrow now; my criminal days are long behind me.”

“That so?” Rose paused a moment, then slowly stood up from her seat. “For your sake, you'd better be telling the truth, Mr. Thorne. If you're not, I will find out, and I will be back.”

Thorne's gaze narrowed coldly at her. “I'm sure you will. Now, if that's all, I'd like to eat in peace. Good day, officer.”

That's about all I can do for now, she thought, pushing through the front door of the restaurant. But tonight... tonight, I'll find out what you're hiding, Thorne.

---

Three hours. That's how long it took for Thorne to finally leave his apartment. Rose leaned against the parapet of the adjacent building, watching the man stepping into his car on the streets down below. She'd been staking out the place for those previous three hours, a mind numbingly boring task. At least the rain held off while she waited, though the dark clouds overhead had grown bigger now, threatening to open up at any moment.

Once Thorne drove off down the street, Ravager made her move. She leaped across the alley to the apartment building's rooftop, then descended the fire escape. When she reached the correct window, she carefully slid it open and slipped inside. The apartment wasn't huge or elaborate, but it wasn't anything to scoff at, either. It was also exactly what Thorne should be able to afford on his current salary. If he was obtaining dirty money from other dealings, he was careful not to show it.

Still, there had be some clues around this place that could link him to Deadshot, or something else. She was very careful in her search, making sure to put everything back exactly where she found it. When she was done here, Thorne wouldn't have any reason to suspect that anyone was ever in his apartment.

An hour later, though, she was no closer to finding a clue than she had been when she started. Whatever Thorne was up to, he hid his tracks well. Standing now in the middle of the apartment, Ravager slowly scanned the apartment one last time, trying to think of another place she could look, short of cutting open the furniture. She didn't get a chance, though, as voices suddenly came from the hallway; one of them was Thorne's.

Darting back across the apartment, she slipped out of the window and closed it behind her, already on her way back up the fire escape by the time Thorne opened the door to his apartment. Ravager looked back down for a brief moment, then leaped across the alley over to the rooftop of the next building. It was raining hard now, a cold wet sheet blowing in the wind and soaking her instantly.

Not going to find anything here, better keep looking. Maybe his office.

Fighting through a dull pain throbbing in her chest, she continued across the rooftop, jumping over to the next one, and then the one after that, and so on. She needed to get back to her bike, then she could head to Thorne's office, across the city.

Before she reached her destination, however, her precog suddenly interrupted her. Falling forward immediately, she slid across the slick, rain-covered roof, as an incoming pair of shuriken whistled above her head. Without any reprieve whatsoever, Ravager flipped herself upwards to avoid a lunging sword strike. The assassin's blade clanged against the roof instead, though it didn't stop there, coming in for another attack. Ravager ducked, rolled, and then slid out of the way until she was far enough back to gain her bearings and draw her own blades.

“Not bad,” the assassin stated, shifting her stance, “but I wonder how much longer you can keep it up.”

Ravager gazed carefully at the assassin, through the rain. The woman was dressed in a green outfit, with an assortment of knives hanging off her belt, and a sword scabbard strapped to her back. The most striking feature about her, though, was the white mask over her face, in the form of a grinning cat.

You having to be kidding me, another assassin? And why does this one feel so... familiar?

The woman charged forward again, sword prepared to strike. “Let's find out!”

Chapter #17

The assassin charged quickly through the driving rain, swinging her blade with expert precision. Ravager stepped to the side, parrying the sword with one of her own and then countering with a strike from her second. The woman ducked below the attack and spun low, sweeping her leg. Ravager jumped over it, delivering a hard kick to her opponent's side. The assassin recoiled slightly from the blow, but quickly recovered. She grabbed Ravager's leg, trapping it between her arm and body, and then kicked upward, knocking one of Ravager's swords away.

I don't get it, she thought, flipping backward to avoid another sword-strike. I've never seen that mask before, but something about this woman feels so familiar. The outfit, the voice...

The two reengaged in a rapid series of sword strikes, parrying, dodging, and blocking the the other. Ravager could sense that this woman wasn't nearly as skilled as she was, nor had any sort of enhancements to give an edge. But the lingering bruises from the previous night made Ravager slow, hampered her ability. When she twisted to the side to avoid another attack, a sudden burst of agony ripped through her chest. She cringed, allowing the assassin to knock away her remaining sword.

Ravager ducked beneath the woman's sword, quickly recovering from her momentary lapse. She spun, sweeping her leg upward and kicking away the assassin's weapon. Not letting up, she pressed her assault, delivering a harsh series of blow to the woman's midsection.

The assassin fell backward, rolling back up to her feet. Without missing a beat she lunged forward, attacking with small metal finger claws now. Her assault was relentless, forcing Ravager on the defensive. Ravager stepped left, then right, then moved in for a counter attack. But another swipe from the woman's claws forced her to awkwardly throw herself to the side. She winced, feeling one of the claws rake across her exposed neck. The cut wasn't deep, but it stung something awful

Ravager took a step back, ducking below another attack, and then kicked her leg straight upwards. The assassin's head snapped backwards, boot caroming off her jaw. She tumbled to the ground, landing with a huff as the white cat mask flew from her face. The woman groaned, holding a hand to her head and staggering back to her feet. When Ravager saw her face, however, a wave of revelation hit her like a train.

“...Cheshire?” she uttered, lowering her guard. "Jade?"

Though it had been nearly five years since they last met, there was no mistaking the Vietnamese woman with long, silky black hair standing before her. For a time, Ravager served as a nanny for this woman's daughter, Lian Harper.

Cheshire blinked at her, eyes narrowing. “Do I know you?”

Reaching up to her head, Ravager pulled her mask off, exposing her face. “It's Rose. You probably don't remember me, but-”

“You were Lian's nanny...” Cheshire breathed, eyes slowly widening. It had been a long time, but her memory was sharp. She paused, lowering her gaze to a nearby puddle. “So... you are my target?”

“Looks like it,” Rose said, folding her arms. “But why? I heard you gave up this business after...”

Cheshire continued averting her gaze, looking absently to the side. “You mean after my daughter died?” A stone dead silence fell over the two for a moment. “So I fell back into it. A woman has to live, right? This is what I'm good at.”

Rose's gaze softened. “I used to think that the only thing I was good at was fighting, too. But believe it or not, I've managed to do more with my life than just beat the crap out of people.”

“Is this the part where you make your big hero speech, and tell me how I don't need to do this, and that you just want to be friends, and all the other clichés?”

“Not even close,” Rose replied, shaking her head. “I will say that I don't want to fight you, and I don't want to bring you in, but not because I want to be your friend. You're still an assassin, a dangerous one at that, and you're trying to kill me.”

Cheshire lifted her gaze, narrowing her eyes. “So then why are we even having this conversation?”

“Because I know that life has kicked sh*t in your face for a while now, and even you don't deserve that anymore.”

“And what do you know about it?” she snapped, jaw clenching.

“I know that you loved Lian, no matter what kind of life you led, and I know what it's like to lose someone you love.” Rose folded her arms, sucking in a deep breath. “That's why I'm giving you the chance to turn around right now and leave. And maybe reconsider your career path.”

Cheshire paused a long time before responding, slowly lowering her gaze again. “And if I instead decide to finish my job?”

“Then I'll break both your legs and drag you to the police station myself.”

Another cold silence followed, broken only by the patter of raindrops around them and the whistling wind blowing across the rooftop. Cheshire gave a long look, then quietly picked up her sword and sheathed it.

“You helped care for Lian when I could not,” she said, turning her back. “For that, you have my gratitude... I will leave you be.”

“Thanks,” Rose said, giving an understanding nod. “Can you tell me who hired you?”

Folding her arms, Cheshire breathed out a deep sigh. “A man named Francis Baldoni.”

“Is there anything else you can-”

“You have the name, don't push it any further.” Retrieving her mask, Cheshire leaped atop the parapet, looking calmly back over her shoulder before disappearing over the edge. “Goodbye, Rose.”

Rose sighed, hands coming to her hips. Francis Baldoni... well, at least I have a new lead.

As she moved to retrieve her swords, a sudden sharp pain stabbed at her neck. Gingerly, she reached up and pressed a hand to the small the cut, only to let out a yelp of surprise as it burned like fire.

Sh*t, what the hell?

The stinging pain disappeared as soon as it came, however, once she removed her fingers. Taking in another breath, she shook it off and kept moving. She knew she should continue with her new lead, but instead she started towards home. She suddenly didn't feel very well, and she knew that she wasn't in any condition to keep patrolling tonight.

---

By the time Rose made it back to her penthouse and out of her costume, she was struggling to breath. Her chest felt heavy, strained, and not just from the bruises. The cut on her neck burned again, this time refusing to stop, and her vision was beginning to blur. As she tripped her way into the bathroom, the room started to spin.She paused, trying to regain her balance.

Poison, has to be. Cheshire's claws... she must have laced them with something.

Making it in front of her bathroom mirror, she carefully inspected the cut on her neck; it was bright red and swelling, while the blood vessels directly surrounding it were traced in black. That definitely wasn't good. Doing her best to maintain consciousness, she returned to her bedroom and hurriedly put her gear away. Then, she grabbed desperately at her cell phone to make a call.

“911, what's your emergency?” the operator said, voice calm and polite.

“Please.. need...” Rose wheezed, wiping a thick sheen of sweat from her brow. “...send... ambulance.”

“Ma'am, I can barely hear you, you'll have to speak up. Please state your emergency.”

“Just... send a f***ing ambulance... goddamn it.” Rose held a hand against the wall to steady herself, teetering on her feet. “Residential Towers, top floor... suite number H... H356...”

Her grip suddenly loosened on the phone, as her right hand went numb. No, not just her right hand, her entire arm. Falling against the wall, she frantically entered a code onto the security panel, in turn deactivating the alarm system. She lasted only a few more seconds before plummeting straight to the floor, unconscious.

---

Rose awoke suddenly, eye snapping open and body bolting upright. She took in a deep breath and looked around, blinking the blur out of her vision. Judging from the atrociously depressing atmosphere, it looked like she had made it to the hospital. Groaning, she brought a hand up to her neck, pressing it against the poisoned cut from before; she felt only a gauze pad, with tape holding it in place. No pain.

“Rose?” a soft voice uttered.

Turning to the door, Rose swallowed, seeing Becky standing with there a cup of coffee in her hand. Two second later, Becky dropped the cup of coffee and ran across the room.

“Gracias a Dios!” she exclaimed, pulling her friend into a tight hug. “Goddamn, girl, you know how to cause a scare.”

Rose winced, struggling beneath Becky's grasp. “Ow, ow, Becky- hurting.”

“Oh, right! Sorry.” Becky released her grip, taking a step back. She shifted her weight, brushing back a stray strand of hair out of her face and looking away, embarrassed. “My bad, I just- I didn't think you were going to make it.”

“Didn't think... how long have I been here?”

“Three days,” she informed. “You've barely moved the entire time. The doctors, they... well they didn't know if you were going to wake up.”

Panic suddenly ripped through Rose's mind, her eyes going wide. “Three days?! Where's Holly? Is she alright? Who's looking after her?”

“Easy, relax.” Becky came forward, holding her hands reassuringly against her partner's shoulders. “Holly is at Mrs. Silva's right now. I brought her by a few times to see you; she's worried, you know.”

“Mrs. Silva...” she muttered. “Guess I'm going to have to pay her some crazy overtime. But still, no, that's good. As long as Holly's alright.”

“Well she might not have been if you didn't wake up.” Becky's expression suddenly grew cross. “Dios mio, girl, what the hell happened? The doctors said you were poisoned by... something. They couldn't even figure out what it was. They did what they could to keep you alive, but... it mostly came down to just hoping the poison ran its course and you pulled through. Luckily, it was a very small dosage.”

Rose lowered her gaze. I bet my heightened immune system and metabolism didn't hurt, either.

“I, uh... I don't really remember,” Rose said, shrugging indifferently. “I was in my bathroom and then... I don't know, I just collapsed. Maybe it was something I ate.”

Becky frowned, stepping back and folding her arms firmly over her chest. “Something you ate? And I suppose that cut on your neck just appeared out of thin air? Come on, Rose, don't you do this to me.”

“Do what?”

“Lie through your teeth!” Becky shouted. “Poisoned cuts, massive bruising? Which, by the way, the doctors said could not have been caused by a car accident. What the hell is going on with you, girl?”

Rose tightened her jaw, shifting nervously. “Nothing, really, I-”

“Jueputa!” Letting out a frustrated breath, Becky threw up her hands and began muttering to herself in Spanish. Eventually, she turns back to Rose and pointed harshly at her. “Would you listen to yourself? Do you have any idea how full of it you sound right now? Who did this to you? Who are you trying to protect? If someone's roughing you up and you're keeping it bottled in, I swear-”

“Rebecca, it's no big deal,” she insisted. “I swear, I'm fine.”

“You were just in a coma for three days!” Becky countered. “You're not fine! Whatever it is that's happening with you, it's getting you hurt and... for Christ's sake, at least think about Holly. You think she wants to lose you, huh?”

Rose paused, slowly lowering her gaze. “Why do you care so much about it?”

“Because you're my partner! And my friend. And... and maybe I don’t to lose you, either.”

A long moment of silence passed between them. Rose held a hand to her head, closing her eye and swallowing back a lump in her throat.

“I... I'm sorry,” she muttered. “I just... I'm not used to this, you know? Having someone... care about me like that.”

Becky breathed outwardly, taking up a seat in the chair next to the bed. “Well, maybe I kind of like you, ah? You're a good friend.”

“Right... friends.”

“So you still gonna say you can't remember anything, or are you going to tell me what happened?” Becky asked.

“It... was an old acquaintance.” Rose sighed, folding her arms across her chest. “Not something I want to go into detail about, just some of my past trying to crawl its way out of the gutter.”

Becky narrowed her eyes. “And you went and let him get away with that? Christ, girl, he nearly killed you! Whoever this guy is, I swear I'll have his head for it. You don't get to attack a cop and walk away free.”

“No, don't, really... was just an accident.”

“An accident, right.” Becky's gaze hardened again. “And I'm supposed to buy that? Ni en sueños.”

Rose shrugged. “Believe what you want.”

“So what, you expect me to sit back now and let these 'accidents' keep happening?”

“No, of course not...” Rose said, quickly. “But I wouldn't worry about it anymore.”

“And why's that?”

“Because I took care of it.” Rose gave a stern look, gazing directly into Becky's eyes. “That's all I can say about it, but you don't need to worry anymore. It's done.”

Becky breathed out a long sigh, bowing her head. “Alright, fine. I'll take your word for it.”

“It was a personal issue, Becky... I had to handle it myself.”

“If you say so...” she muttered, shrugging absently. “Anyway, I'm glad you're alright, I really am. Just be more careful, alright? I... don't want to see you in another hospital bed.”

Rose nodded, bowing her head. “Yeah... got it.”

“Guess I should probably let you get your rest now,” Becky said, standing up from her seat. “I took the day off, though, so I'll stick around for a while. I'll be right outside if you need anything, kay?”

“Sure, alright. Talk to you later.”

Smiling slightly, Becky gave a small wave and then finally left the room. Now alone, Rose fell back against the bed and exhaled a long breath.

Just keep spinning your lies, Rose... god, you are such a bi*ch.

Chapter #18

Two days later, Rose was finally cleared to leave the hospital. She honestly could have walked out of there under her own power just fine when she first woke up, but of course the doctors wouldn't let her. Neither would Becky. After all, she could hardly tell them that she was an enhanced metahuman with accelerated healing. At least now, though, she was finally out.

“See, is this really so bad?” Becky asked. “Doesn't kill you to get out and spend some time with a friend, ah?”

“Yeah, okay,” Rose said, curling her lips into a subtle smile. “You were right. I guess this is... nice.”

It was Saturday, meaning that Rose had the entire day free. No work, no errands, and plenty of time to relax. So of course, Becky had been more than a little insistent that they hung out together somewhere other than their squad car, for a change. Right now they simply walked down the sidewalk together, enjoying one another's company.

“And you even got to bring the kid along,” Becky added, turning her head with a smile.

Holly, one hand holding onto Rose's arm and the other holding an ice cream cone up to her mouth, looked up and returned the smile. She liked this Rebecca person; not only was Becky a police officer just like Rose, but she was nice, and friendly, and funny, too.

Becky winked at the girl, then lifted her attention back to Rose. “Like I said, going out and getting drunk, meeting random guys, so not my thing. Sometimes, it's nice just to walk around and enjoy the city. Even better when you're with a friend.”

“Well, I will admit that the additional company is welcome,” Rose admitted.

“Ahh, just welcome?” Becky lifted her eyebrows and grinned, jabbing a friendly elbow into Rose's side. “Come on, you like me.”

“Okay, maybe a little,” she said, a soft chuckle bursting past her lips.

A small smirk curled across Becky's face. “That's what I thought. Now, have you been to the Silverstone Park yet?”

Rose shrugged. “Can't say that I have, no.”

“Dios mio, seriously?” Becky's eyes widened in genuine surprise. “You've been living here for more than half a year and you never once took a walk down to the park? Girl, you really don't get out much, do you?”

“I just... never got around to it.”

“Oy, come on, I'll take you.” Becky grabbed hold of Rose's other hand, tugging her along down the sidewalk.

As the three headed farther down another street, a calm figure watched them from the corner of a nearby building. Holding up a small, ocular device to one eye, the woman focused through the lens to get a closer look, as the image of her target grew larger. After nearly a week of careful planning, observation, and contemplation, she had finally decided to move in.

She had only one question she wanted answered out of the inevitable confrontation: how would this one compare to the others? Emilia Marconi had assured her that the one known as 'The Blade' would be a worthy opponent, one deserving of her skills, but from what she had seen so far, she had her doubts. This 'Sarah Walker' was still very young with much to learn. She could only hope that this whole venture would not be a complete waste of time. Lowering the magnification device from her eye, she stuffed her hands in her pockets and swiftly followed.

---

“So this is nice, right?” Becky asked. “Unless you're one of those people who really hate nature.”

“No, no, it is,” Rose said. “Nice, I mean.”

The park was a natural haven amongst the concrete and steel of the city surrounding it. Open fields, well tended grass, large oak trees, bike paths, flower gardens, a pristine pond, and even a children's playground were among its many attractions, making it an ideal place for stressed out individuals to catch their breath and relax. Rose had never been one for just sitting around and enjoying nature, admittedly, but she still found some weird sense of calm about the place. Becky's positive attitude probably helped a little, as well.

Becky sucked in a deep breath through her nose, leaning back against the bench. “I like coming here, just watching the people go by. Helps pass the time.”

“I guess you weren't kidding when you said you weren't a party girl, huh?” Rose said, resting her elbows on her knees.

“Ha, nope. One hundred percent true.”

Holly, having finished her ice cream cone a few minutes ago, quickly made her way over to the playground, quite intent on having a blast. Rose watched the girl carefully, smirking absently

“I would have thought she'd started outgrowing things like playgrounds by now,” she said. “She's almost ten.”

Becky laughed, a small grin on her face. “Please, you're never too old. Well, except maybe when you're too big to fit down the slides anymore.”

Rose chuckled softly. “Yeah, suppose so. Wouldn't really know, though, was never much of a playground kind of girl.”

“So, even as kid you were a stiff, ah?” Becky nudged her elbow into Rose's side again.

“That's one way of putting it.”

Smirking, Becky sucked in a deep breath. “Mmm... s'a good day, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Rose said, giving Becky a sidelong glance. “Yeah it is.”

---

From across the park, the woman folded her arms, watching the pair. She couldn't make her attack here, not in public, not during the day. Until the proper moment presented itself, she would keep her distance, observing. Several moments later, her cell phone rang. She allowed it to ring three times before finally picking it up to answer; she already knew who it is.

“What is it?” she asked, sounding unamused.

“Just checking in.” It was Emilia Marconi on the other line. “It's been nearly three weeks now since I contacted you.”

“You shouldn't worry; I know what I'm doing.”

“Yes, of course you do,” Emilia said. “I'm simply concerned about your sense of timing, is all. Cheshire may have already ducked out on Frankie, but Deadshot is still on the job,. If he gets to her first, you don't get paid. Remember that.”

The woman remained indifferent, showing no concern over possible lack of payment. “The money doesn't concern me.”

Emilia breathed out a sigh. “Yes, right, your whole sense of purpose thing. I don't suppose it bears repeating that if Deadshot kills her, then you'll never get a chance to test yourself against her.”

“If he kills her,” the woman countered, “then she won't have been worthy of my time anyway. Regardless, I am keeping a close eye on her.”

“Keeping a close...” Emilia paused, understanding slowly coming to her. “Are you telling me you know who she is?”

“Yes.”

“What, how?”

The woman paused, lifting up the ocular device to her eye again, zooming in. Her target was in line at the hotdog stand now. “Figuring it out wasn't difficult. You just need to know what to look for.”

“Well, who is she?” Emilia asked, urgently. “What's her name?”

Saying nothing more, the woman hung up her phone and put it back into her coat pocket. She still had her honor, if nothing else, and handing out a person's secret identity to some lowly crime boss was not on the top of her priority list. Crossing one of her legs over the other, she continued watching.

---

“So, the guys down at the station are pitching in for a cake when you make your big return on Monday,” Becky said. “Just giving you a heads up.”

Munching on her hotdog, Rose let out a small groan and rolled her eyes. “A cake, really? They're not going to buy me one for my birthday next week, too, are they?”

Becky snorted out a laugh. “Oh no, you don't get birthday cakes here. Only 'glad you didn't die' cakes.”

“Sounds thrilling.”

“Oh, it is,” Becky assured, biting into her own hotdog. “But it's okay, we'll do something together for your birthday, my promise to you. I know this great little place over on Levitt Street; best burgers in the city.”

“As long as you don't have them come out with one of those little cakes and sing 'Happy Birthday' to me...” Rose said, slowly lifting an eyebrow.

“Oh please.” Becky grinned, taking another bite of her hotdog. “I would never.”

---

Rose stood in the center of her room, staring down at the Ravager mask in her hands. Though she had put Holly to bed a half hour ago, she hadn't left yet. She'd just been standing there, contemplating, wondering... Was this all really worth it? She knew that she was putting her life at constant risk, knew that every night she went out could be her last. Even with her enhanced abilities, she wasn't invulnerable like Superman, or Wonder Woman. Aside from some increased resistance to blunt force, she still took damage just the same as everyone else. All she did was heal a little faster than normal.

Those facts had never mattered to her before, though. Before, she'd never had anything to lose. She did what she could, and if she got killed then so what? Just another cog in the wheel that needed to be replaced. Now, however, she had Holly. She had a best friend in Becky. She had a job, with people who actually cared about her. She had a life, a real one. If she went out and got herself killed now, she'd be leaving a lot behind, more than she'd ever had before.

It would be easy, too, to just put her swords down and go on with her life, settle down with what she had and simply handle things as the police officer she trained to be, not a vigilante. So, was it worth it? She kept going back to that question again and again, asking it in her head repeatedly. Was it worth going out every night, risking her life, and lying to everyone around her to cover her ass?

The answer finally came to her, when she thought about Holly. If not for Rose's actions, if not for Ravager's actions, Holly's life would still be hell.

Yeah, it's worth it, she realized. No matter how much I have to lie or risk my own neck, if I can help more people like Holly, then it's worth every second... at least for now.

---

The night was quiet. Ravager had made sure it stayed that way during her infiltration, taking out the few thugs patrolling the property with stealth and precision. They'd be out for a while. Now, she stood in the shadows of the master bedroom, near the foot of the bed. Her target, Frankie Baldoni, was sound asleep with his wife, beneath the covers.

Normally, she wouldn't invade a man's home like this and grill him for information with his family close by, but she didn't have much of a choice. Night was the only time she could approach him; she had to do this as Ravager, or she'd give away her identity. If she had the time, she'd dig up some information on him, where he worked, the clubs he frequented, things like that. But the longer she took, the more at risk she was. Cheshire might be off the job, but Deadshot was still out there, no doubt still looking to put a bullet in her head. The next time, he might very well succeed, too.

Moving forward, she grabbed Frankie by the collar and yanked him out of bed. He awoke instantly, just in time for Ravager to force him up against the wall.

“Holy sh*t!” he shouted, eyes going wide. "What's going- who are- oh no, f**k! What the hell are you doing here? What do you want with me?!”

“I want some answers.”

“Answers for what? I don't know what you expect from me, I'm just and honest guy who-”

“Don't jerk me around!” she snapped. “I know you hired Cheshire to kill me. Did you hire Deadshot, too?”

Frankie whimpered, swallowing a nervous lump. “Oh sh*t, she told you I hired her? Backstabbing little c-”

Ravager yanked him forward, then shoved him hard against the wall again, silencing him. “Just answer the question!”

“No, alright?! The only one I hired was Cheshire!” he insisted. “They hired the others!”

At that moment, movement came from the bed. Frankie's wife awoke with a yawn, rubbing her eyes clear. A moment later, she saw her husband being held up against the wall by a psycho woman with swords, instantly recoiling in shock.

“Oh my god! Frankie!” she shrieked. “Put him down!”

“Donna, don't worry,” Frankie said. “Just get out of here. Call the cops or something, just let me handle this.”

Ignoring the woman, Ravager allowed her to leave. It didn't matter if the cops showed up or not, she'd be long gone by then. Besides, with the kind of stuff that Frankie was involved in, she doubted that he really wanted the cops snooping around the place anyway.

“Others?” she questioned. “You mean there's more than Deadshot? How many?”

“Just one, I swear.”

Ravager's gaze narrowed. “And who hired them? Who else is involved?”

“Oh come on, I can't go and-”

In the blink of an eye, Ravager drew one of her blades, bringing the point of it to his neck. The scare tactic worked beautifully.

“Oh god, alright!” Frankie blurted, in a panic. “Rupert Thorne hired Deadshot! The other one is Emilia Marconi, she hired the third.”

“And who is this third assassin?” she asked. “What's the name?”

---

Running across the yard, Ravager quickly scaled over the surrounding wall and landed on the other side, heading across the quiet, deserted suburban street to her motorcycle. Suddenly, however, she realized she wasn't alone. She froze, turning her head and gazing at a nearby tree. She was sure she saw movement. It may have been slight, but it was there.

“Come out,” she said. “I know you're there.”

On command, a shadowed figure stepped out from behind a the tree. It was a woman, Asian with dark hair down past her shoulders, and dressed like she had just stepped out of the Matrix, minus the d**chey sunglasses.

Ravager's gaze narrowed. No question who it was; Frankie had just given her the name minutes ago. “...Lady Shiva”

“Very perceptive,” the master assassin replied. “You're off to a good start, so far.”

Ravager breathed outwardly, folding her arms across her chest. “So, you're Shiva, huh? I've heard of you... just never had a face to put to the name before.”

“Correct,” Shiva stated. “And you are 'The Blade', as the media calls you. Or Ravager, as you are more well known. Also known as Sarah Walker. Or Rose Wilson, daughter of the mercenary, Deathstroke.”

Ravager's eye went wide. “How do you-”

“I've been watching you for a while now, and I like to do my homework before confronting an opponent.”

“Right...” she muttered. “So now you're gonna try to kill me, too, huh?

“Perhaps, if you're worthy,” Shiva said.

“The hell do you mean by that?”

Lady Shiva's arms folded across her chest. “I mean, I have yet to be convinced of your skill. Your father is a man well known for his talents, and I have often wondered which of us would triumph if we should do battle. However, you are yet unproven. Though the scum of this city seems to fear you enough to put a hit out on you, I will be your true test.”

Ravager furrowed her brow, straightening her stance. “A test?”

“The only ones worthy of falling by my hands are the very best fighters in the world,” Shiva explained. “If you fall short of my expectations, I will not give you that honor.”

“You say that like you could,” Ravager muttered. “But please, you're welcome to try.”

“If that is what you wish. But not here. It is too...public. If you follow me, I have a better location in mind.

Ravager pursed her lips, briefly considering the suggestion. “Fine.”

Right, follow the assassin trying to kill you to an unknown location. Brilliant idea, Rose, it's totally not a trap.

Still, something about this woman struck her as trustworthy. Vicious, lethal, and cold blooded, sure, but somehow strangely bound by honor. No, Ravager was sure that Shiva wouldn't try anything funny. Waiting a moment, she watched Shiva walk to a cherry red motorcycle parked nearby. Ravager followed suit, mounting her own bike and gunning the engine.

---

Massive steel beams and girders towered above them, a mere skeleton of a building. A construction site in the middle of Silverstone would not have been Ravager's first choice as a location to do combat in, but apparently Lady Shiva had a liking to it. At least it was private, long deserted this late at night, away from prying eyes. Neutral ground.

“So, what are you waiting for?” Ravager asked, turning to the woman.

Taking a few steps forward, Shiva removed her long coat and folded it neatly, placing it on the ground next to her. Then, she entered a ready, fighting position, body turned and arms stretched out to either side. She said nothing.

Ravager merely raised her eyebrows. “You realize I have swords, right?”

On that note, she drew her weapons and charged forward. When in range, Ravager swung her swords with careful precision, aiming to cripple but not kill. She never got the chance. Before she even realized that she missed, Lady Shiva's fingers drilled into Ravager's wrists. A sudden spasm rippled through both her arms, nerves tingling. Instantly, her hands went limp, dropping hold of the blades.

“No weapons,” Shiva said, flatly.

A lightning quick palm strike whipped up and cracked into Ravager's face, sending her stumbling backwards. Though dazed, her precog went off a second later, allowing her to flip away from an incoming kick. Holding her nose, Ravager stared back at the woman, eye wide with shock.

She's so fast, she realized. Can't fight her like I normally do.

“Alright, fine,” Rose muttered, taking a defensive stance. “No weapons.”

Shiva came in fast, pressing her attack with a vicious series of blows. Ravager's precog alerted her of the first couple, but within moments the fight was moving too fast for her mind to keep up, forcing her to rely solely on skill and instinct. While she managed to trade a few blows with the woman for a while, she soon faltered. Shiva's knee plunged against her chest, followed by a leaping kick that cracked her face to the side. Ravager went down hard, catching herself on her hands and knees. She held a hand to her lip, felt warm blood oozing down her chin.

“You're good, but not great,” Lady Shiva determined. “Fast, yes. Strong, yes. But your skill is lacking. In a fight like this, you fall behind.”

“Oh yeah?” Ravager said, springing back to her feet. “Well this fight isn't done yet. Keep it coming.”

And so Shiva came in again, unleashing another brutal assault. This time, Ravager was ready for it, waiting for her precog to flash the first time and then countering instantly. Her fist connected viciously with Shiva's jaw, but at the same time she felt the woman's boot carom off the side of her head. Staggering, Ravager managed to maintain her balance, shaking it off.

Shiva brought a hand to her jaw. A bright streak of crimson gushed from her own split lip. “I will say, you hit hard. That's good, you're starting to impress. A little.”

Glowering at the woman, Ravager regained her poise and lunged in for another attack, leading with a hard kick to the chest. With about as nonchalant an action as possible, Shiva raised an arm to block the kick, then countered with a jab to her throat. Though Ravager managed to move enough to the side to lessen the blow's impact, she still found herself entering a sudden fit of coughing and gagging. She stumbled backwards, holding a hand to her throat and struggling for air.

Shiva didn't stop there, however, rushing forward and throwing a hard punch to her opponent's chin. Ravager stumbled backward, but remained standing. She lashed her hand out, grabbing hold of Shiva's wrist and stopping the next blow cold. Then she reached her other arm forward and took hold of Shiva's other wrist, locking her up with superior strength.

“Okay, now-” she said, smashing her head forward into Shiva's nose. She followed with a spinning kick to the head, dazing the master assassin. “-you're really starting to p*ss me off.”

Shiva fell to a knee, holding herself up with one hand on the ground. Her other hand pressed against her now very broken nose, which gushed bright crimson over her lips. “Better. Much better.”

“So-” Ravager cracked her knuckles, grinning slightly. “-am I worthy yet?”

Shiva straightened herself, once again shifting into a ready stance. “We shall see.”

What followed could only be described as a brutal, unrelenting, even-sided beat down. The two women came in at each other again without mercy, engaging in a long series of lightning quick attacks. They each traded blows, taking turns in smacking the other around. Though Ravager landed fewer strikes, hers hit a lot harder, backed up by meta level strength. Still, with as much damage as she inflicted, she took the same in return.

After what seems like an eternity of prolonged combat, both women landed a vicious blows to each other's jaw, sending them both stumbling to the ground. Taking in deep breaths, Ravager pushed herself back up to one knee, spitting out a glob of blood. Shiva, too, rose to her hands and knees, gasping for air.

“It appears... I may have underestimated you,” the master assassin uttered, her breaths short and raspy.

Ravager wiped her lips clean, slowly returning to her feet. “Told you...”

“That means I can end this now,” Shiva stated, taking a few careful steps forward.

Ravager held her guard up, prepared to defend against whatever the assassin has planned. For a long moment, they both just stared at each other. Then, Shiva struck without warning, throwing her hands forward viciously. Ravager saw it coming; she blocked the strikes and attempted to counter with one of her own, but Shiva had anticipated it.

Leaning to the side, Shiva evaded the blow. Then, with a punch that traveled nearly too fast for the naked eye to follow, she exploded the points of her knuckles against her opponent's sternum. Even through her armor, Ravager felt the blow go straight through her, bringing with it sudden pain that sent her hobbling backwards with a hand pressed to her chest.

“What... the hell...” Ravager uttered, dropping to her knees. She doubled over heaving several times before finally vomiting up a mouthful of scarlet, blood showering the ground. She coughed several times, spitting out the last of it, and then very slowly rose back to her feet. Her legs trembled, feeling like jelly.

“That was merely the precursor,” Shiva stated, raising a hand. “Now, for the finishing blow.”

Taking in a deep breath, Shiva lunged forward, her palm flat and fingers extended. With a fierce yell, she thrust her hand forward, the tips of her fingers aimed straight at her opponent's throat. This was the killing strike, the leopard blow. Ravager blinked, bringing her shaky arms up to defend herself, but at that moment her precog went off. However, the flash that flickered through her mind didn't show her own imminent death at the hands of Shiva. Instead, it showed something else.

Adrenaline surging through her body, Ravager threw herself forward and tackled Shiva to the ground. A split second later, a gunshot went off, the bullet ricocheting off a stone on the ground. Immediately, Ravager grabbed Shiva and dragged her safely behind a rubble pile. Several more shots went off, until finally all was quiet again.

“Ya know,” Deadshot said, looking down from his spot high above on one of the steel girders, “that's really starting to get annoying. Come on now, ladies, can't hide forever. I got a bullet for each of you; one for the paycheck, and the other for the b*tch trying to steal it.”

Chapter #19

Ravager took in a deep breath and glanced around the side of the rubble pile. With Deadshot here, things were definitely more complicated, especially if Shiva decided to keep fighting her. She turned her attention back to the master assassin, ready to make a move just in case. However, Shiva sat calmly against the ground, a hand pressed to her bloodied shoulder and a scowl on her face.

“He interrupted our fight,” Shiva said, coldly. “I hate having my fights interrupted.”

Ravager's eye narrowed at Shiva's wound. “You hit?”

“It is minor,” she assured. “I'll be fine. However, I would be dead had you not knocked me out of the way of the first shot. Why did save me?”

“Because I'm the good guy,” Ravager stated. “It's kinda what I do. Now, can you stand or what? We got a madman with a gun breathing down our necks and we're both in bad shape.”

“Of course I can stand.” Pushing herself back up to her feet, Shiva leaned against the rubble pile, taking in a deep breath. The gunshot may have been just a flesh wound, but it was still painful, and she was losing blood.

Deadshot paced calmly along his perch, eying the ground below him closely. “Ladies, ladies, you're not seriously gonna make me come down there, are you? Come on out and give me a challenge, make it interesting.”

“We will need to work together or he will kill both of us,” Shiva stated.

Ravager paused, pursing her lips. “I can agree on that... for now. Don't suppose you have a plan?”

“One of us could draw his fire, while the other climbs the beams up to his vantage point to strike when he is distracted.”

“No, can't sneak up on him.” Ravager lifted her gaze, looking up at the steel girders above. “Believe me, I tried that already. We'll need to bring him down to us, without getting shot in the process.”

Lady Shiva paused, thinking carefully. “Can you keep him occupied for a moment?”

“Uh... I can try, yeah. Why?”

Reaching down beside her, Shiva picked up a long steel pipe with her good arm. She tested its weight, spinning it around casually in her hand. “I know how to bring him down.”

“Fine, just don't miss,” Ravager said, easing towards the edge of their cover. “I don't really feel like getting shot. Again.”

Taking in a deep breath, she darted out of cover, racing across the construction site. She was relying on her precog to keep herself alive here, ducking and rolling and lunging away from the incoming shots before they happened. If not for that ability of hers, every single one of those shots would have hit, most of them probably fatal.

“Like trying to shoot a jackrabbit on crack...” Deathstroke muttered, trying to get a better shot. “Hold still you little....”

With his attention occupied, Deadshot didn't notice Shiva coming out of cover, pulling back the steel pipe behind her. With a small grunt, she whipped her arm forward, tossing the pipe with pinpoint accuracy. Deadshot's enhanced hearing picked up the object as it flew through the air, causing him to turn back around in surprise. By the time he saw the pipe spinning at him, though, it was far too late for him to get out of the way. The best he could do was hold his arms up to try and protect himself from of the impact. A lot of good it did him, as the resulting blow pushed over the edge of the girder.

“Son of a b-”

His words cut off when he smacked into another girder below, bouncing away and then spinning to the ground with loud thud. Grunting, he slowly pushed himself back up to his feet, teetering momentarily. He shook himself out of the daze, looking around carefully for his opponents... and turned directly into a vicious fist to the face.

Ravager followed through with another blow, this one to the ribs, and then finally put him on the ground with a kick to the chest. Before Deadshot could get back up, Shiva came in with a flying kick to the back of the head. This time, he toppled forward and didn't even try to get back up, lying there and groaning absently in pain.

Letting out a deep breath, Ravager fell back against a nearby pillar and bowed her head. “Well, that was annoying.

“I don't think he'll get up for a while,” Shiva said, glancing down at the barely conscious man.

“I'd better find something to tie him up with, anyway,” Ravager muttered. “He's my link to Rupert Thorne's involvement in this, plus two other crime bosses. I can't risk him getting away again.”

Shiva nodded. “In that case, I will take my leave now.”

“What, not gonna try to kill me first?”

“Our battle was interrupted and its outcome tainted,” she explained. “Finishing it now would be pointless, and would not tell me what I needed to know.”

Ravager's gaze narrowed. “ What would that be?”

“Which one of us is the better?” Shiva declared.

“You seemed pretty confident that I wasn't on your level earlier.”

“And you proved me wrong by holding your own, even evading my leopard blow.” Shiva retrieved her jacket, slipping it back on. “Regardless, the results of our confrontation are inconclusive. In a way, I suppose I am pleased that we were not able to finish this fight now.”

Ravager slowly eased her way back to her feet. “And why's that?”

“Because,” she said, “you still have a lot to learn. Your skill is growing, and I see a lot of potential in you. In time, I think you could very well surpass me, just as my daughter did when she reached her full potential. If I had killed you tonight, though, we would never know.”

“And I suppose you do want to know?” Ravager questioned.

“You are correct. Once you have further improved, I wish to test myself against you again to determine which one truly is better.”

Ravager smirked. “You just say when and where. I'll be glad to put you in your place.”

“One year to the day,” Shiva stated. She returned to her motorcycle, mounting atop it and revving the engine. “Look for me to contact you then.”

---

The next week was hectic at the station. After a bound and unconscious Deadshot, armed and in full costume, inexplicably showed up on their doorstep, they had been working overtime to try and figure out just what was going on. Namely, why was Floyd Lawton, a well known killer and highly wanted man, in Silverstone, and who had hired him? Also, who took him down and dropped him off at the police station? Rumors circulated that it must have been The Blade, though some had their doubts. After all, how could a regular citizen take down one of the deadliest assassins in the world? Unless, of course, The Blade wasn't ordinary at all.

Eventually, interrogators got Lawton to talk in exchange for a deal, and in turn he implicated Rupert Thorne as the one who had hired him. Along with the confession came a bank record showing Thorne's down payment as proof. The former crime boss was brought in just hours later for the crime, and further digging uncovered the rest of his underhanded operations. Thorne tried to bring Emilia and Frankie down with him, but with no evidence to back up his testimony that those two had also hired assassins to kill The Blade, they get off scott free.

Standing in front of her locker, Rose calmly dressed out of her uniform, ready to get off for the day. Hiding the injuries she had sustained at the hands of Lady Shiva had been a bit of a challenge, but fortunately her accelerated healing had reduced the visibility of most of the minor cuts and bruises over Sunday. By the time she came in the following Monday, she had been able to hide whatever was left with a bit of well placed make-up (probably the first time she'd ever even bothered to wear make-up at all). At least that way, it hadn't looked like she got the crap beaten out of her again, especially just a few days after having that whole conversation about it with Becky. That had been a week ago, though. By now, her body was back to one hundred percent.

As she she carefully gathered her clothes together so she could go hit the showers before leaving, the locker next to hers closed. Becky stood there, arms folded casually over her chest.

“Trying to duck out early?” Becky asked.

“What? No, of course not,” Rose said. “Just... really needed a shower. It's been a long day.”

“Mhm.” Becky pursed her lips, lifting an eyebrow. “You haven't forgotten what today is, have you?”

“Uh... Monday?”

“Very funny.”

Rose blinked, scratching her head in genuine confusion. “I'm sorry, I really have no idea...”

Becky breathed out a sigh, smacking a palm against her forehead. “Dios mio, I swear there's something wrong in that noggin of yours. It's your birthday, girl!”

“My...” she started, suddenly remembering that today was, indeed, her birthday. “Oh, yeah, right. I honestly forgot.”

Forgetting your own birthday.” Becky shook her head. “That's a new one.”

“Yeah, well things have just been a little crazy around here lately,” Rose said, shrugging her shoulders. “Completely slipped my mind. But what about my birthday, anyway?”

Becky rolled her eyes. “Come on, I told you we were doing something together, didn't I? Wasn't just blowing smoke when I said that. You and me, tonight, we'll go out, have a good time, celebrate; I'm gonna make your birthday special.”

“You're... serious?”

“Of course I'm serious, girl! Why wouldn't I be?”

“It's just... I don't know, I guess I'm not really used to people making a big deal over my birthday.”

Becky smirked, holding an arm around her partner's shoulders. “Well, then I guess you've never had a friend quite like me, now have you?”

Rose couldn't help but utter a genuinely amused laugh. “Yeah, you don't know the half of it. But still, I don't know, I mean I have Holly to look after...”

“Oh come on,” Becky groaned. “You'll come up with any excuse not to go out, won't you? Hire a sitter. I'm sure you can manage one night, ah?”

“Well, it's just a little short notice to find a sitter. Mrs. Silva isn't available after six, and I don't know any others who-”

“Then my sister will watch her,” Becky insisted. “She's great with kids, and she lives over on the other side of the city. I can have her over your place at any time, she's not doing anything else tonight.”

“Uh... well, I guess.”

“Perfect!” Becky broke out into a big grin, giving Rose a friendly pat on the shoulder. “In that case, I'll pick you up around seven, ah?”

Rose uttered a long sigh, shrugging gently. “Yeah, sure, seven. Sounds good.”

Becky's grin grew wider. “Trust me, you won't regret it.”

---

Celebrating her birthday wasn't something that Rose was very accustomed to, at least not for quite a few years. Ever since meeting her father, which had sent her down into a dark period of her life, it had always been just another day. She couldn't even remember the last time she had a birthday cake, definitely not since her mother was alive. All those facts taken into consideration, she really hadn't been expecting much out of tonight. However, she ended up enjoying herself a lot more than she thought she would.

As discussed before, Becky brought her down to the restaurant on Levitt Street, where she had boasted about the the best burgers in the city. Rose had to admit, the burgers were indeed quite good. Of course, towards the end of the meal, Becky had to go and mention to the waitstaff that it was Rose's birthday, which resulted in a little chocolate cake with a candle in it, and a group of people singing 'Happy Birthday' to her.

While she felt like punching the entire staff throughout the ordeal, she never once felt ill about it towards Becky, who was just having her fun. A few years ago she might have gone and flipped the table on her, then stormed out of the restaurant in annoyance, but that was the old her. The old her didn't really have a best friend, not like this. She couldn't be mad at Becky for something that stupid, even if she did want to kill someone during the entire song.

Following dinner, Becky took her down to the local ice rink to try out some skating, something she'd never actually done before (because really, when was there ever time to ice skate when you're fighting crime?). Still, Becky was adamant that Rose try something new, and at that point she couldn't really say no. From that experience, however, she discovered that she was a terrible ice skater. All her enhanced attributes, training, and skill were nothing when strapped to a pair of blades and sliding over frozen water. No matter how much Becky tried to help her, she ended up crashing and burning more than a few times.

Still, as much as Rose ultimately decided she hated ice skating, she somehow managed to enjoy herself, if only because of Becky constantly making witty quips about her failure, giving her opportunity to shoot back snarky remarks of her own. Witty banter between friends: 1. Ice skating: 0.

From the ice rink, they went down to the local bowling alley, something else Rose had never tried before. She honestly couldn't understand how people could find fun in rolling a ball at a bunch of white sticks. However, when she discovered just how amazing she was at the game, she suddenly changed her tune. In the end, she beat Becky by about a hundred points.

With all that behind them now, though, and the night drawing to a close, the two women walked together down the street, heading back to Rose's home. They stopped briefly at an ice cream stand, buying a cone each, and then continued on their way.

“So, and be honest now,” Becky said, “was that not the best birthday you've ever had?”

“Honestly?” Rose replied, giving her ice cream cone a gentle lick. “It really was, actually.”

Raising an eyebrow, Becky gave her an odd look. “I was only joking, I swear.”

“I wasn't kidding before when I said people have never really made a big deal out of my birthday,” Rose explained. “It's just... never been different than any other day for me, really.”

“For real? Even when you were growing up?”

Rose paused, thinking back to her childhood, growing up under the care of her mother. “Well, I mean maybe I got a cake and a present when I was growing up with my mom, but I never went out and did anything special. Then when she died, I ended up in my dad's care and... well, let's just say he was never one to bother with cakes and presents.”

“So you've never had a big party, or gone out and celebrated, or anything like that?” Becky asked, sounding completely dumbfounded

“Nope.”

“Qué mierda...” Becky paused, licking her ice cream and shaking her head. “That's just not right.”

“Maybe, but it's all I ever knew,” Rose said.

Becky smirked. “Guess that just makes this day all the more special then, ah?”

“Could have done without the singing, or falling on my ass ten dozen times...” Rose muttered, trying to withhold a smirk of her own. “But... yeah, I suppose it does.”

“Ha, next thing you'll tell me is you've never even had a best friend!”

A brief moment of silence passed between them. Rose occupied herself with her ice cream cone, not saying anything. She didn't need to, though; her silence got the point across.

“Get out,” Becky said, eyes going wide. “You're kidding.”

Rose shrugged. “Don't get me wrong, I've had... friends. Sort of. A couple good ones, even. But as far as a 'best friend', as you'd define it, not really.”

“Wow, rough life?”

“That's... one way of putting it,” Rose said, nodding slowly. “Rough.”

Becky shook her head, a small sigh exuding from her lips. “Ya veo... but hey, at least now you got me, ah?”

Rose laughed, a genuine smile curling across her face. “You're a definitely lot more fun than I would have thought, I'll say that much.”

“So then you really did have a good time, ah?”

“I know, I'm shocked, too.”

“In that case, we should do this again.” Becky smiled, glancing at Rose out of thee corner of her eyes. “You know... go out?”

“Well...” Rose paused, thinking a moment. “Yeah, actually. I'd like that.”

---

Rose opened the door to her penthouse, followed by Becky. It was dark inside, and mostly quiet except for the sound of the television on in the living room.

“Abby, hey, we're back,” Becky called out.

A few moments later, a pint-sized woman emerged from around the corner, a couple years younger and about a foot shorter than Becky. This was Abigail Chavez, Becky's sister.

“Oh, hey,” Abby said, with a small wave. “You two have fun?"

“Of course we did,” Becky assured, holding an arm around Rose. “I mean, come on, I was there.”

“How's Holly?” Rose asked. “She didn't give you any trouble did she?”

Abby laughed, arms folding across her chest. “Heck no, that kid's a damn angel. I've babysat a few kids in my day and they were terrors, every last one of them. But Holly, sweetest girl I ever met."

“Yeah, that definitely sounds like her,” Rose said, smiling. “She sleeping?”

“Like a baby.”

“Alright, good. Here, let me pay you.” Reaching into her wallet, she pulled out a fifty and passed it to Abby.

“It's been a pleasure,” Abby said, slipping on her shoes and heading for the door, “but I think I should be going now. I'll leave you two girls... alone.”

When she was gone, Rose led Becky into the kitchen. “So, you want a drink or anything? I got... well, I got beer. Unless you want orange juice.”

“What's that now?” Becky's arms folded, a mocking smirk coming to her face. “Oh girl, you're only twenty, you know. Am I going to have to slap my cuffs on you?”

“Very funny, you want one or not?”

“You kidding? Hook me up.”

Pulling out a couple of beers from the fridge, Rose passed one to Becky and then made her way into the living room. Releasing a long sigh, she plopped herself down on the couch and stuck her feet up on the coffee table. Becky sat down next to her, curling her legs up on the couch.

“So, you seriously afford this place on a cop's salary?” Becky asked, gazing around in wonder at the penthouse.

“Well, uh... no, not really,” Rose said, taking a swig of beer. “My, um, uncle helps pays for it.”

Becky lifted an eyebrow. “So you have a rich uncle?”

“Something like that.”

“Ha, wow,” she said. “Never thought I'd actually meet someone with a rich relative. Not complaining about the set up, though. I mean, this a damn nice place.”

Rose nodded, gulping down another sip. “Yeah, tell me about it.”

“So...” Becky shifted her position on the couch, leaning a littler closer to Rose. “You really did have a good time tonight?”

“I told you I did, didn't I?”

“Yeah, I know... just checking.” At that moment, Becky's hand slowly drifted over and came to rest on Rose's thigh. “I, uh... I had a really good time, too.”

Rose's eyebrows lifted in surprise. She looked down curiously at Becky's hand, stiffening slightly. “Uh, Beck, what are-”

With quite possibly the last thing she expected to happen, Rose's words were cut off by Becky's lips coming into contact with her own. For the briefest of moments, she just sat there like an idiot, dumbfounded. Then, she hurriedly pulled back, eye wide.

“Becky, what the- what are you doing?”

Seeming genuinely surprised at this reaction, Becky blinked back at her, confused. “I'm... well, I- I mean I was...”

“Becky, hold on.” Rose narrowed her gaze, staring at her partner with curiosity. “You're...?”

“Yes? I thought... I thought you knew I was- wait, you're not?”

“Uh, I don't... I mean, I've never really...” Rose uttered, stumbling over her words. “Well, no.”

Quickly, Becky sprang off the couch, holding her hands up to her head and looking utterly flabbergasted. “Oh Dios mio! You're serious? Oh my... Oh I'm sorry, I'm so- Oh, stupid, stupid, stupid! Rule number one, Becky, don't make a move if you're not completely sure!” She started pacing back forth, eyes wide in a panic. “I just thought, I mean... I mean you just seemed so... and you said you weren't into men, and, and-”

Putting her beer down, Rose stood up as well, giving Becky a confused look. “I... meant I wasn't really looking to be involved in a relationship right now... I didn't mean... wait, did I really come across as...?”

“Well, sure, you- I mean, no!” Becky recoiled sharply, smacking a hand against her forehead. “No, I didn't mean that, it's just... well I thought that we were close, and you liked me, and then there was tonight, and, and-”

“Tonight...” Rose's mind suddenly exploded with understand. “Wait, was this whole thing supposed to be a date?

“I thought it was obvious!” she exclaimed. “I, I mean I thought I was clear, I was trying to... to get closer, and- and I was flirting with you all night, for Christ's sake!”

Rose just stared, an utterly blank look plastered across her face. “I thought you were just being nice. I wasn't... thinking about it that way. I had no idea you were...”

In retrospect, though, now that she was thinking about it that way, it left her wondering just how the hell she didn't pick up on it before.

“Oh hijo de puta, I'm sorry, I'm such an idiot,” Becky said, heading towards the door. “Sh*t, I should go, I should really go, I- I shouldn't be here now.”

Rose blinked several times. It took her a few moments to react, frozen by her utter shock over this odd turn of events. Finally, she snapped out of it and ran back across the apartment.

“Becky, wait, hold on!”

But Becky wasn't listening. Within seconds, the woman was out of the penthouse and hurrying down the hallway to the elevator. Rose briefly contemplated chasing after her, but really, what would she say? Instead, she just stood there, staring at the open door.

Did that... seriously just happen?

#1 Posted by Joygirl (19985 posts) - - Show Bio

Very very yay! A good few typos but definitely readable. I love Holly more and more, she's so adorable... Becky is fun as well and the end was really intense. More great challenges for Rose to overcome and she managed to struggle through yet again! :D

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

@Joygirl: yes, nasty typos! But I went back and fixed them all (or at least most of them), so it's all better!