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 , 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.
Note: Well, because I am apparently an extreme glutton for punishment, I've decided to go back and rewrite/reformat my entire Ravager series (yes, all 109 chapters of it), by turning it from its original script-y form into normal prose, not to mention cleaning up typos, making some awkward paragraphs flow a little better, even adding pictures when necessary (because everyone likes pictures, right?), and generally improving it all around. I'm not expecting anyone who's already read the series to re-read it (though you can if you want to, by all means); I'm doing this mostly for myself, wanting to take my first ever fan-fic (and a doozy of one it was) and make it as good as it can possibly be. Who knows, maybe I'll even gain a few new readers who prefer reading a story in this format. I won't expect to finish this project for a while (probably around three weeks or so), but I should be able to get a fair amount done each day.
My Fan-Fic Archives: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/ravager4/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/87-79374/
The next person in line, a young woman with long white hair and an equally colored eye patch over her left eye, stepped up to the counter and uttered a disinterested sigh. Her name was Rose Wilson, also known as the Ravager, a former member of the Teen Titans.
“How can I help you today?”
“I'd like to close my account,” Rose said, rapping her fingers gently against the counter.
The bank teller lifted an eyebrow. “Oh? Well, we're terribly sorry to be losing your business.”
“Trust me, you're not losing much,” Rose insisted.
“I see...” The bank teller cleared her throat, straightening herself. “In any case, I'll need your account number and your identification.”
Rose dug into the pocket of her leather jacket, fishing her fingers around for several moments. As she pulled out her wallet, however, the bank doors behind her opened. Three men in ski masks and wielding shotguns stormed inside, spreading out across the floor. One of them cocked his gun, pointed it up at the ceiling, and fired. Instantly, people ducked for cover, screaming madly in terror.
“Everyone on the ground, now!” one of the robbers shouted.
Rose, still standing at the counter, slowly looked up from her wallet. Her expression slackened, more in annoyance than anything. “You must be joking.”
While everyone else scrambled to the floor as instructed, Rose continued standing there, unmoving. She wasn't in the mood for this right now, not in the least. She just wanted to come to the bank, close her account, and be done with it. But no, these ass clowns just had to show up.
“Hey, did you hear me?” One of the gunmen walked up behind her, holding his weapon to the back of her head. “On the ground! Are you stupid or something? You want to get shot?”
“I really just wanted to close my account,” she said.
“Well tough sh*t!” the man yelled. “Now, get on the ground before I redecorate the counter with your brain!”
The robber never got a chance, as Rose suddenly moved out from the path of his gun. He fired once out of panic, buckshot ripping apart the wall behind the counter. The last thing he remembered before blacking out cold was the white haired woman's hand chopping into the side of his neck. The other two bank robbers looked up from their work behind the counter, one of them going for his own shotgun.
“Sh*t, man, don't just stand there!” he yelled back to his buddy. Raising his gun, he took aim at where Rose had been standing just a second before.
But she wasn't there anymore.
Instead, she launched herself over the counter through the air, coming in straight at him. He tried to raise his aim in time, but he was far too late. She was on him in an instant, moving faster than a normal person should be able to. With two well placed shots to the neck, he, too, dropped like a bag of lead bricks. The only remaining robber backed up in panic, after seeing this woman take out his buddies so quickly.
“Goddamn psycho!” he shouted, fumbling with his shotgun.
He managed to get a shot off, but Rose had already rolled behind a desk for cover. What the man didn't realize, however, was that the woman had taken his friend's shotgun with her. Before he got a chance to fire again, buckshot ripped into his left thigh, eliciting a scream of pain as he collapsed. Rose then leaped over the desk and silenced him with a firm jab to the head with the butt of the shotgun.
With all gunmen subdued, Rose returned to her spot in line at the counter, while the other customers and employees quickly worked to get things back to normal. The bank teller behind the counter glanced over at the unconscious robbers in shock, already scrambling to dial 911.
“After you're done calling the cops,” Rose said, slapping her ID down on the counter, “I'd really liked to close my account."
Sitting calmly on her motorcycle outside the bank, Rose stared down at the amount of cash in her hands.
Three-hundred twenty-five dollars and thirty-two cents? she thought, breathing out a disappointed sigh. I could have sworn I had more... I really need to budget better. Maybe I should stop spending so much on booze.
Stuffing the money into her wallet, she reached over to her helmet and slipped it over head. Revving the engine, she took off down the street like a rocket, heading for the on-ramp to the highway.
So, Rose, you got a full tank of gas and a few hundred dollars to your name. Where should you go now?
You shouldn't be here, Rose. This is his territory. He doesn't want to see you. Then again... who would, after what I did?
Standing out on the sidewalk, Rose tilted her head upwards, gazing to the very top of the large tower in front of her. Against the dark backdrop of the sky, the tower stood out like a beacon, bright lights beaming from many of its windows. Then again, much of the surrounding neighborhood was the same way, being one of the few decent areas in the city. She hadn't been to Gotham a lot, but when she had, she knew it to be quite the dark and dismal place.
Lowering her gaze again, Rose uttered a long, steady sigh. Well, it's not like I have anywhere else to go... just hope he doesn't mind a visitor.
A small, almost unnoticeable sound awoke Dick Grayson that night. His trained ears caught the noise well enough, even in sleep. Flickering his eyes open, he bolted upright in bed and listened carefully. The close of a door, the shuffle of feet, the sound of a microwave humming... someone was in his kitchen.
“The hell?” he muttered, slipping out of bed in nothing but a pair of dark boxer briefs. No time to get dressed if there was an intruder in his home.
Keeping to the shadows of his penthouse, Dick moved across the living room floor. Sure enough, a small thatlight glowed from the kitchen. The refrigerator door was open, too, and someone was on the other side, rummaging through his food. Silently, he positioned himself behind the refrigerator door, waiting for the culprit to pull back and close it. The instant that it began to swing close, he made his move, coming in with a precision strike meant to knock the person out.
“Whoa!” Rose said, turning her body to narrowly evade the attack. She entangled his arm with hers, pulling him towards her, and for a long moment the two just stared at each other in quiet surprise. Eventually, Rose's lone eye lingered downward, taking note of the man's perfectly toned body. “Well, hel-lo Mr. Grayson.”
“Rose?” Dick said, finally. He pulled his arm free and took a step back, arms folding over his muscled chest. “What are you doing here?”
She merely shrugged, taking a sip of water from her nearby glass. “Just passing through. Needed a place to crash for the night, figured you wouldn't mind.” She turned to the microwave as the timer went off, reaching inside to pull out her plate of food. “I mean, hell, this place is plenty big enough, right?”
Dick held his glare. “Rose...”
“So, you always have Chinese takeout for dinner?” she asked, trying to evade the questions she knew were coming. “Because your fridge is stocked full of it.”
“They've been looking for you, you know,” Dick said, tapping his fingers gently against his arm. “This makes it, what, the fifth time you've left the team?”
Rose shrugged. “Something like that. Hey, you want an egg roll? I'm not gonna eat both.”
“They're worried about you.”
Ignoring him, Rose took a bite of fried shrimp. Holding a piece up to him, she asked, “Sure you don't want some?”
“Stop avoiding the subject,” Dick said, sternly. He wasn't smiling, wasn't joking. He was serious.
Finally, Rose's expression changed, a distant look coming to her eye. Breathing outwardly, she threw the piece of shrimp back onto her plate.
“Oh yeah, they're real worried alright. I could tell by the way they listed all the reasons I shouldn't be on the team.” A small pause followed her words. Turning towards the counter, she leaned on her elbows and hung her head. “I've never seen them that furious, you know. Wonder B*tch wants my head on a pike, and Tim wouldn't even look at me.”
“They're your family, Rose,” Dick said. “Family get angry at each other every once in a while, but that doesn't mean you should run away every time it happens.”
“Tell them that,” she countered. “I seriously doubt they were sad to see me go.”
Moving forward, Dick placed his hands on her shoulders, looking her square in the eye. “But they're still your family. I know you hate to admit it, but that's the truth deep down, right? They will forgive you, in time.”
Rose shrugged his grip away, taking a few steps back. “You think it's their forgiveness I care about? I took off because of what I did. Not them, me.” She leaned forward against the counter again, holding herself up with her hands. Gaze growing distant, she bowed her head further. “I'm just... saving them the trouble from having to deal with me anymore.”
Dick lowered his own gaze, holding a hand against his forehead. He wanted to say something smart, something comforting, but for the life of him, he couldn't think of anything. Instead, he allowed a long moment of silence to linger between the two, until Rose finally spoke up again.
“So... can I stay here or are you gonna kick me out, too?”
A long, defeated sigh burst past Dick's lips. “No, Rose... I'm not going to kick you out. You can crash here for a few days."
Rose's demeanor instantly shifted. She raised her head, turned around, and flashed him a small grin. “Awesome! So, where am I sleeping? Your bed has to be big for the both of us, right?” Her smirk grew, becoming playful and suggestive.
Dick merely raised a hand, pointing across the penthouse. “You get the couch."
Expression slackening, Rose frowned at him. “You're no fun, you know that?”
The next morning, Dick walked out into the kitchen, dressed in fine clothes and drying his hair with a towel. Rose was already up, dressed in nothing but a too-small towel wrapped tightly around her body, as she cooked herself a rather large breakfast in the kitchen. She hummed quietly to herself, flipping a couple of pancakes.
“So,” Dick said, buttoning up the top of his shirt, “judging from the underwear you left hanging up, I take it you found the shower.”
“Oh, yeah don't mind that,” Rose said. “I'll wash my clothes when I'm done eating.”
Shifting his gaze over to the kitchen table, Dick lifted his eyebrows in confusion. “You really plan on eating all that?” Spread out over the table was more food than any one person could possibly eat in a single sitting. Well... at least, a normal person, anyway.
“Just stocking up on fuel,” she insisted. “Figured I'd get an early workout on that home gym of yours.”
“Uh huh...” he muttered, grabbing his keys from the rack near the door. “After you get dressed, I hope.”
Rose glanced at him, grinning slyly. “Want to stick around and find out?”
Dick stared at her for a long moment, no amusement present in his expression whatsoever. “I have business to take of.”
“Right, right...” she said, shaking her head. “Gotta play up the whole rich boy persona to the media.”
“It's... not quite like that. It's complicated.”
Snorting out a laugh, Rose rolled her eyes. “Right, complicated.”
“What do you plan on doing today anyway?” he asked.
“Not sure,” she said, with a casual shrug of her shoulders. “I'm sure I'll figure out something.”
“Well, if you plan on sticking around, then you're coming out with me tonight.”
Rose's eyebrows lifted in surprise. Turning to him, she smiled, eyes brightening. “Out, out? Like-”
“Like on patrol."
“Oh...” Huffing out an annoyed breath, she turned back to the stove and continued cooking. “Gee, Grayson, you sure know how to get a girl's hopes up.”
“Just be ready by ten,” he said, heading for the door.
Flipping over another pancake, Rose shook her head slowly. “Whatever you say, Grayson. Whatever you say.”
This early in the afternoon, the bar was quiet. In fact, only three people were present. The bartender, busily hand washing glasses, stood behind the counter, while an older gentleman sat near the back, quietly enjoying his drink. Rose sat at the counter, lazily holding her glass and taking small sips. Technically, she wasn't even old enough to legally be in a bar and drinking yet, but fortunately the man behind the counter hadn't bothered to examine her fake ID very closely.
Brilliant, Rose, she thought to herself. You're strapped for cash and supposed to be budgeting your money, yet here you are wasting away in a bar at three in the afternoon. Couldn't even wait for happy hour.
The door to the bar opened a few moments later, activating the jingle of the small bell hanging above the frame. Two men walked in, one short and one tall. Both were dressed in fine business suits, not the kind of attire one would normally to wear to a bar. It made Rose, in her worn black leather jacket and faded blue jeans, look sorely out of place.
“Hey, John,” the taller man said, waling up to the counter. “Got everything ready for us?”
The bartender immediately stopped washing glasses, heading out from around the counter. “Sure thing, Danny. Follow me.”
The tall man, Danny, motioned to his partner. “Go with him, Gavin. I'll watch things up front.”
The bartender and the second man disappeared through a side door marked “Employees Only”, heading into the back of the bar. Rose glanced up from her glass, watching the door swing closed behind them, then slowly turned to look at the remaining man. She eyed him momentarily, before finally turning back to her drink and taking another sip.
Walking calmly up to he counter, Danny turned around and leaned back against his elbows. “Bit early to be hitting the bar, isn't it?”
“I could say the same to you,” she replied.
“Nah,” he said, shaking his head. “I'm here on business. Not looking to get plastered.”
“Me neither. Just... keeping myself occupied.”
She didn't answer, instead taking another sip.
“You look like you got a few problems on your plate,” Danny said, arms crossing over his chest.
Rose scoffed, keeping her gaze focused on her drink. “More than a few.”
“Ah, what's wrong?” he asked, leaning a little close to her. “Family? Boyfriend?”
She still didn't say anything.
At the mention of money, Rose briefly lifted her gaze, turning her head slightly to look at him. The action lasted only a second before she returned her attention back to her drink, but it didn't go unnoticed.
Danny smirked. “Aha, so it's money, is it?”
“Maybe,” Rose said, with a small shrug. “Why do you care?”
“Oh, no reason. Just my boss is always on the lookout for some potential new... employees. You're just the kind of person he's looking for.”
"What kind of person? Female, or just desperate?”
“Ha, maybe a bit of both, yeah?” Danny said, with a small chuckle. “But if you're interested, I could put in a word.”
Rose very slowly turned again to look at him, eye narrowing. “You're not some kind of pimp, are you?”
“Ha!” The man tilted his head back, uttering a boisterous, jovial laugh. “No, no, no, not a pimp! Here, let me give you my card, yeah?”
Digging into his suit pocket, he pulled out a small business card and passed it to her between two of his fingers. Rose stared at it for a few moments, then gingerly took it from him. In large lettering, the front read: Daggett Industries. She flipped it over, noticing the name 'Daniel Costello', and then a phone number beneath.
Meanwhile, John and Gavin reappeared through the side door, that latter of whom carried with him a rather large, unmarked box. Danny turned to them, giving a small wave.
“Well, looks like it's time for me to go,” Danny said, straightening out his suit jacket. “Maybe I'll hear from you?”
“Sure...” Rose breathed, still studying the business card. “Maybe you will.”
Dick Grayson, in the cape and cowl of Batman, and Rose Wilson, in her Ravager gear, both stood silently atop one of the many flat rooftops in Gotham's East End. Batman held a pair of binoculars (or as he called them, bat-noculars) to his eyes, closely watching the front of a particular building. Ravager, on the other hand, leaned back on her elbows against the rooftop's parapet, bored out of her skull.
“So, where's the brat, anyway?” Ravager asked, shifting her feet a little.
“Damien had prior obligations to take care of,” Batman informed, his voice deeper and gruffer than usual. “He won't be joining us tonight.”
“Oh,” Ravager said. “Shame... I was actually somewhat looking forward to seeing him.”
Another few quiet moments passed between them. They had been sitting here now for close to thirty minutes, just watching the same building, as if something were supposed to happen. Running out of patience, Ravager released a long breath.
“So, let's see...” she said, starting to count off on her fingers. “You have Batman, Batgirl, Batwoman... and then Robin. I don't know, seems a little out of place, if you ask me. Why not something more like... Batboy?”
Batman's gaze slowly turned towards her, eyes hard. Ravager frowned, folding her arms firmly across her chest.
“Well sorry,” she grumbled. “Just trying to make conversation. What are we doing here, anyway? Shouldn't we be roaming the whole city instead of just sitting in one spot?
“There have been reports lately about suspicious activity in this area.”
Ravager lifted a confused eyebrow behind her mask. “Uh, this is Gotham's East End.”
She turned briefly to look down at the streets below. The entire neighborhood was run down and in disrepair. The streets were dirty, trash littering the sidewalks and old abandoned cars stalled on the sides of the road. From her position, she spotted a homeless man sleeping beneath the cover of cardboard boxes in an alley, two men involved in what could only be a drug deal, and a couple of highly inappropriately dressed women standing on the street corner. She'd be damned if those weren't prostitutes.
“The entire place full of suspicious activity,” she concluded, glancing at Batman.
“More suspicious than usual.”
“Uh huh...” Rose said, rolling her eyes. “Well, you are the expert, so whatever you say.”
Needing a way to pass the time, Ravager reached over her shoulder and unsheathed one of the swords crossed over her back. She held the blade up, carefully inspecting it. Within a few seconds of examination, she noticed a small smudge and carefully scrubbed it with her thumb.
“I really wish you used less lethal weapons,” Batman stated, still watching the building.
“Right, because bat-shaped shuriken are so much safer,” she mocked. “All it takes is one misplaced shot to some poor guy's artery and whoops, you've gone and killed him.”
Batman's demeanor remained stolid. “Theoretically. But I don't miss.”
“Yeah, and neither do I.” Ravager sheathed her sword again, then crossed her arms back over her chest. “Trust me, I've had enough practice to know where to cut someone without killing them.”
The pair continued surveying the building. Within the next ten minutes, a white, windowless van rolled up out front and backed up towards the small garage off to the side. Several men in hooded jackets jumped out, one from the driver's side, one from the passenger's side, and four from the rear doors. They spoke quietly to each other, voices too low to hear from across the street.
“This kind of reminds me when we were working together in Blüdhaven,” Ravager mused, still not paying any attention to the building across the street. “Back when you were going by 'Renegade', remember? Gotta say, that costume looked a lot better than this one...” She turned her gaze slightly, looking at where his rear end would be. “The cape is blocking my view.”
“Get ready,” Batman said, ignoring her statements. “We're going to act shortly.”
Narrowing her eye, Ravager followed his watchful gaze over to the front of the building. The men were busily bringing out large boxes from the garage and loading them into the back of the van.
“What's so suspicious about a bunch of guys loading their van with boxes?” she asked.
“It's sixty degrees out,” he explained, “and they're all wearing heavy jackets with the hoods up.”
Understanding slowly came to Ravager. “To conceal their identities... right, but still-”
“And the one standing watch at the front door is carrying a mini uzi.”
Ravager blinked in surprise, focusing on the man guarding the front door. “Oh...”
“Attention to detail, Rose,” Batman said, reaching into his utility belt. He pulled out three small smoke pellets. “One of the first things I taught you. Or did you forget that already?"
“Shut up,” she mumbled. “Let's just get this over with.”
Batman tossed the pellets directly into the middle of the group. A small hiss greeted the air, as they released a thick blanket of choking haze over the surrounding area. As the men began running around and coughing, trying to gain their bearings, Batman pointed his grappling hook across the street to the opposite rooftop. In seconds, he glided down across the street, leading with his feet and smashing into the man carrying the uzi.
Ravager was right behind him, though she didn't have any fancy gadgets to make as cool an entrance. Still, not one to be outdone, she moved through the smoke and began picking apart the men with strong, precise blows. She might have attacked a bit harder than she needed to in order to subdue them, but she didn't care. As long as they went down and stayed down, she was satisfied.
When the smoke cleared, Batman and Ravager stood above five unconscious men. Batman studied them carefully, making sure none of them made a move to get up, then turned towards the van.
“Is this all you do every night?” Ravager asked, holding up a palm in front of her mouth and uttering a mock yawn. “Piece of cake.”
Batman ignored the comment, reaching for the van's rear door handles. “Let's see out what they were trying to move.”
At that moment, a sudden flash ran through Ravager's head. She saw the van, and Batman opening the doors. There was a gunshot, from a man waiting inside with a shotgun. Buckshot tore into Batman's face, ripping his jaw to pieces. He went down, bleeding, twitching... and then the vision ended, her mind back in the real world. In a near panic, she lunged forward just as Batman threw the doors open.
The thug waiting inside the van fired off a shot, but instead of hitting Batman, Ravager felt the buckshot blast through her armor and tear open the meat of her shoulder. Immediately, the thug turned around and scrambled toward the front of the van. In seconds, the vehicle took off down the street, tires screeching. With the rear doors still wide open, however, several boxes tumbled out the back and clattered to the street. Grunting in annoyance, Batman carefully helped Ravager back to her feet.
“Hold still,” Batman said, taking a look at Ravager's shoulder. “Let's see it.”
Cringing in pain, Ravager recoiled and breathed out a sharp breath. “Careful! That hurts!”
He took a few moments to examine the damage. The armor reduced most of the impact, but bright crimson still leaked out the wound down her backside.
“It's not too bad,” Batman stated, turning to look at one of the fallen boxes. “But we'll have to get you back to the bunker so I can remove the buckshot and properly clean the wound.”
“Don't worry about me, really,” Ravager said, clutching a hand over the growing trickle of blood. “I'll be fine.”
Crouching low to he ground, Batman reached inside the box and pulled out a small chemical canister. “How did you know there was another gunman inside the van, anyway?”
“I'm a precog, remember?” she reminded, breathing in deeply. “I saw it before it happened."
Glancing back up at her, Batman's eyes narrowed. “I didn't realize your precog activated for anyone other than yourself.”
“Yeah...” she muttered. “Neither did I.”
Later that night, Dick and Rose retreated below Wayne Tower into the Bat Bunker, a replacement for the original Batcave. In the upper levels of the bunker, Rose lied flat against the padded exam table, the back of her costume open and exposing her injured backside. The flesh just below her shoulder was torn apart from the shotgun blast, though it would have been much worse if not for her armor.
With a strong light shining down directly on the injury, Dick carefully worked to remove the large pellets of buckshot with a long pair of sterilized tweezers. He kept a wet cloth nearby, using it to mop up any excess blood that oozed out whenever Rose's muscles twitched from the touch of the invasive prongs. Each metal pellet that he removed from her tattered flesh, he tossed into a small dish just within arm's reach.
Though she flinched slightly each time the tweezers dug in, Rose made no sound, no audible gasp of pain. Whatever pain that she had felt after receiving the initial injury appeared to have subsided; either that, or she simply refused to show it.
“You should really consider upgrading your armor to make it bulletproof,” Dick said, carefully clasping another round pellet with the tweezers. “A little Kevlar goes a long way.”
“In case you haven't noticed,” Ravager said, resting her head against her folded arms in front of her, “some us don't have the means or the funds to acquire new gear whenever we feel like it.”
“Then, maybe I can help you out, design you something myself?”
Rose breathed out a long sigh and slowly shook her head. “Appreciate the offer and all, but I don't need anymore favors. You're already letting me stay in your home.”
“Rose, you just took a bullet for me,” Dick insisted. “The least I can do is improve your armor for you.”
Rose flinched briefly, as the tweezers again dug into her damaged flesh, causing a sudden spurt of blood to seep out of her wound; Dick quickly dabbed it up with his cloth.
“Don't worry yourself over it, really,” she said, staring blankly forward. “I'm not worth it.”
Dick ceased his work for a moment, raising his gaze from her shoulder to the back of her head. A frown formed on his face, followed by a heavy sigh. “Rose, how do you expect others to like or respect you when you hold such a low opinion of yourself?”
Forming her own frown, Rose turned her head slightly. “Really, Dick? A lecture is the last thing I want right now.”
“I'm just saying-” He went back to removing the buckshot from her shoulder, digging the tweezers into a particular deep entry point. Rose's fingers gripped the edge of the table suddenly, tensing up. “-you don't give yourself enough credit. I mean, yeah you can be obnoxious, self loathing, and rather grating at times-”
“Gee, don't sugar coat it.”
“-but you're a much better person now than you used to be, whether you see that or not,” Dick continued. “Just the fact that you blame yourself for what happened back with the Titans, it shows a level of maturity that I used to doubt you'd ever find.”
Rose lifted an eyebrow. “What are you talking about? How could I not blame myself for that? It was my fault, there's no way around it. What happened then... it was my doing, and I have every reason to suffer for it.”
“But that's what I mean,” he explained. “Yeah, it was your fault. You made a mistake, and people paid the price for it. But you're accepting the responsibility of that mistake, and that's where the maturity comes from. There was a time when you would have thrown blame at everyone other than yourself, but not anymore. Now, you're owning up to it.”
A silence passed between them. Rose lowered her gaze to the floor, expression growing distant. She wanted to argue with him, to tell him he was wrong, but she couldn't think of any witty or biting remark to make. Instead, she breathed out a weak, “Maybe...”
“My point,” he said, dropping another pellet into the metal dish, “is that you've come a long way from the impulsive brat you used to be. You should be proud of yourself.”
At his words, a long sigh escaped her lips. “Proud of myself, right... maybe when I'm not getting innocent people killed."
“No, don't, please,” she said, cutting him off quickly. “Just don't. No matter how much I've matured, it doesn't change what happened. I still have to live with it.”
Another small pause. Dick breathed out a sigh of his own, shaking his head. “It's not a crime to forgive yourself, you know. It was a mistake; a pretty bad one, sure, but we all make mistakes. I'm no exception.”
Rose didn't answer, instead allowing an uncomfortable silence to consume the bunker. The only sound came from the steady metallic clink of each pellet that Dick tossed into the dish. Eventually, Dick spoke up again, deciding it better to change the subject this time.
“So, was that the first time your precog ever activated for someone else?” he asked.
“As far as I can remember, yeah,” she replied. “Usually only goes off when I'm in battle, when someone's attacking me. For it to kick in when something's about to happen to someone else... well, it's new.”
Rose glanced back over her shoulder at him. “What?”
“Well, it is possible that your ability is evolving somehow, no longer restricting itself to activating only when your own well-being is at stake,” he said.
“Maybe...” she said, taking his words into consideration. She supposed it made sense. “Are you almost done back there, by the way? Or do you just enjoy staring at my backside that much?”
“Just about...” he informed, grasping at another pellet. “Last one. And... got it.”
The last pellet hit the dish with another echoing clink. Dick took the next several minutes to stop the bleeding completely, then clean and sterilize the wound, before applying a dressing and carefully covering it with bandages.
“There, all set. Just don't strain yourself for a while.”
Rose chuckled. “Please, I've always been a fast healer. “Give it a day or two. I'll be good as new.”
Pushing herself up on the table, Rose took a moment to slip her costume completely back on. Dick respectfully turned his attention elsewhere during this time, and she couldn't help but frown a little when she noticed it. For whatever reason, he had always been able to completely ignore or reject any sort of advance she made on him. Granted, most of the time she was simply having her fun, teasing him to get a reaction, but even when she was being somewhat serious... he never took the bait, not once. Perhaps he could just sense that she only desired the physical aspect, and for that he would never accept her advances.
Dick Grayson, ever the gentleman.
“Anyway, you stay here, recover,” Dick said, pulling his cape and cowl back on. “The lift over on the far side of the bunker will take you straight up to the penthouse; the access code is 367814.”
“And where are you going?”
Heading toward the stairs, he looked back over his shoulder. “Need to set up the computer to run a chemical analysis on the contents of those canisters we found, then I'm going back out. The night isn't even half over.”
“You know, I'm injured, not crippled. I can still-”
He merely held up a hand and shook his head. “Don't worry about it. Just take it easy, alright? Besides, I thought you were against the whole 'rooftop-to-rooftop crime fighting' thing?”
“Well, I...” she started, before finally deciding against it and shaking her head. “Whatever, just go. I'll be here when you get back.”
“Right, see you later.” He gave her a nod, then started down the stairs. He stopped briefly to give her one last look. “Oh, and Rose... don't touch anything.”
When he finally disappeared, she folded her arms across her chest and frowned. “Don't touch anything... like I'm a freakin' child or something...”
Groaning quietly to herself, she grabbed her Ravager mask and began walking towards the back of the cave, with every intention of returning to the penthouse. About as quickly as that intention went through her mind, however, she decided to further explore the Bat Bunker.
She spent some time examining the garage area, containing a whole assortment of different bat-vehicles, as well as the training area, and what appeared to be the research area, complete with a large, multi-screened computer. Nearby, one of the canisters they had found that night sat in some kind of automated chamber emitting a small hum. Eying the computer curiously, she held a hand up to her chin and closely inspected it.
Well, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I just used it for a few minutes...
Before she got the chance, however, an abrupt yet calm voice with a noticeable English accent interrupted her. “I believe Master Dick told you not to touch anything.”
Turning around quickly, Rose snapped her gaze behind her to see an older gentleman in a black tuxedo, carrying a silver tray with him. “Who the hell are you?”
“Alfred Pennyworth, longtime friend and butler of the, erm... Bat Family,” he informed.
Rose's eyebrows lifted. “So, being Batman comes with its own turndown service? Not bad.”
Reaching up to the tray he carried, Alfred lifted the cover to reveal a steaming bowl of soup, a plate of biscuits, and a hot cup of tea. “May I offer you something to eat or drink, Miss Rose?”
Eying the plate carefully, Rose took a small step back. “Um... as appetizing as that looks, I'm not really that hungry. Think I might just head back up to the penthouse."
“Shall I escort you to the lift, then?”
“I remember where it is, thanks.”
Marching away from the butler, she headed back up the stairs to the back of the bunker, where the lift was located. She couldn't help but notice Alfred idly following her, as if expecting her to run into some kind of trouble. Stepping inside the lift, she found a large panel of numbers next to the door, obviously used to punch in the access code. Lifting a finger to the panel, Rose merely stared at the numbers.
“Anything I can help you with?” Alfred asked.
Slowly, she glanced toward him, giving a curious expression. “...what was the access code, again?”
“The access code is 367814.”
“Right... uh, thanks.” Rose swiftly punched in the proper numbers, then leaned back against the wall, as the lift doors began to close. “Later, Jeeves.”
“It's 'Alfred', actually,” he stated.
Rose shrugged. “Alfred, Jeeves, whatever. They're both butler names.”
The next day, Rose drove her motorcycle up to the front of an old warehouse, slowing to a stop and giving the front of the building a long look. Several men sat outside by the entrance, playing cards on a small crate. Unlike last night, this time she was paying attention; she spotted the top of a handgun stuffed into the back of one's pants. It was safe to assume that they were all similarly equipped.
So, armed guards in front of a back alley shipping warehouse, down by the docks. Not suspicious at all.
That morning, she had given a call to Danny, the man she'd met in the bar the previous day. She normally never would have called some random guy like that, but hey, she needed cash and he said he had a job for her. So, might as well at least check it out. Of course, it was fast becoming apparent that the work he had was probably not legal. Not that that was a bad thing, of course. If it was illegal, then she could always investigate further as Ravager, maybe bust of a smuggling ring or something while she was staying in Gotham.
After her initial inspection, she hit the throttle on her bike and closed the distance between her and the front of the building. She came to a halt right in front of the men playing cards, then reached up to remove her helmet. The thugs glanced up at her warily, hands reaching for their firearms.
“This ain't a place for pretty dames t'be wanderin',” one of the men said. “Get goin' back the way ya came.”
“I'm here to see Danny,” she explained. “I called earlier.”
The men's hands suddenly relaxed, moving away from their weapons. They gave each other curious looks, whispering to each other for a couple moments. One of them nodded commandingly, causing another to get up and head inside the warehouse to get Danny.
“He'll be right out,” the goon said. “Y'know... when Danny said he was expectin' company, you ain't quite what I imagined.”
“Oh really, and what exactly did you imagine?”
The man let out an amused laugh, lips curling into a lecherous grin. “Just, y'know... not you.”
Rose rolled her eyes in annoyance, proceeding to now largely ignore the man while she waited for Danny to arrive. Fortunately, she didn't have to wait very long. The warehouse doors opened a short moment later, with Danny walking into view. He smiled broadly, motioning for her to follow him inside.
“Aha, I knew you'd be giving me a call!” he exclaimed. “I just didn't expect it so soon, yeah? Welcome, welcome!”
“Well, you said it yourself, right?” Rose said, quickly following him into the warehouse. “I got money problems.”
Danny chuckled, leading her down past the loading docks and into the main storage area. “Good, that's good. I mean, that you came to see us so soon. We just lost a few guys recently.”
Rose lifted an eyebrow. “Lost a few guys... how exactly?”
“Nothing to worry about,” he assured. “Just had a... bit of a rodent problem, is all.”
A rodent problem? Either he means Batman, or there are some giant killer rats living in the sewers that I'm not aware of.
Rose made a mental note of everything she saw, mostly just various workers using forklifts and pallet jacks to move large crates around the building. So far, it looked like an ordinary warehouse, but there had to be something else going on behind the scenes. It didn't take the world's greatest detective to realize that there was some shady activity going on here.
“So, we got a delivery going out soon, lot of boxes that need to be moved,” Danny said. “I don't judge just because you're a woman; you look plenty strong enough to me. Think you can handle a bit of heavy lifting?”
“Not a problem.”
“Excellent, just what I like to hear!” he proclaimed, laughing. “I think you'll fit in just fine around here.”
Reaching a hand out, he gave a friendly, firm slap to her left shoulder, right on top of the wrapped wound. A sudden, raw jolt of pain surged through her, but she made no indication of it. She merely grit her teeth, choking down any audible utterance of pain she might have given. Taking a deep breath, she allowed the dull throb to work its way out and finally disappear.
“So, judging from that card you gave me, I take it you work for Daggett Industries?” Rose asked.
“Yes, yes, right under Mr. Daggett himself, in fact. Right now, I'm in charge of overseeing most aspects of this operation, making sure that everything goes smoothly.”
Rose paused momentarily, looking back over her shoulder as they came to the offices. “And... what operation is that, exactly?”
“Mr. Daggett has ordered a very large shipment from a very particular supplier,” Danny explained. “I'm here to see that we get everything we need, and the supplier gets everything he needs.
“Wait, if you're the ones that ordered the shipment, why are you making a delivery?”
Danny chuckled. “Ah, it's a little more complicated than your average order. Mr. Daggett ordered a very special product from an independent supplier. The only problem is that this certain product is difficult to make, and the materials are not usually readily obtainable. However, Daggett Industries possesses an ample supply of these materials. We provide the supplier with the materials, he uses them in the creation process, and we buy back the completed product at a discount.”
“I see...” Rose breathed, contemplating what kind of supplier this could be. “I guess that makes sense, but why not just hire this supplier, whoever he is, and have him make the product for you directly?”
“We tried that, but he was very adamant about not being tied to any big business,” he said, shrugging. “Prefers his independent work.”
This entire operation had criminal activity written all over it, Rose was certain by now. There were too many oddities for it to be entirely legal. Now, she just needed to figure out what exactly this special 'product' was, and find a way to stop it, or at least a way to expose the operation itself.
“And this shipment, what's in it that makes it so special?”
“Sorry, can't say.” Danny led her through the office area of the warehouse, coming out through the rear exit. A windowless, unmarked van waited for them. “That information is restricted. Just do your work and don't ask too many questions about it; you'll get your pay at the end of the day.”
Sitting in the driver's seat of the van was Gavin, the man who had accompanied Danny to the bar yesterday. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently, whistling to himself.
“Gavin, I got you some help,” Danny said, slapping the side of the van. “Make sure to get this to Mr. Crane on time, yeah?”
Gavin's only response was a simple thumbs up.
Turning back to Rose, Danny gave an affirmative nod. “Alright, go with Gavin, help unload the delivery, then come back here and we'll see if we can find something else for you to do, alright?”
“Sure thing,” she replied, hopping up into the passenger's seat.
By the time she got her seatbelt around herself, Gavin already had the engine started. Within seconds, he shifted the van into gear and took off down the street.
The van came to a slow stop outside the front gates of Ace Chemicals, an old abandoned chemical plant near the west end of Gotham. Gavin shifted into park, then hopped out of the van and hurried forward to open the gate. Rose waited in the van, leaning forward in her seat and taking a good look at the chemical plant. The place looked more than a little run down, with a rusted exterior, dirty and broken windows, and chains padlocked across the main entrance. It had clearly seen better days.
With the gate open, Gavin returned to the van and drove on through, stopping briefly to close the gate again behind him again, and then continuing around towards the back of the plant.
“If I didn't know any better,” Rose said, giving Gavin a sidelong glance, “I'd say this place was closed down.”
Gavin didn't respond, instead merely shrugging his shoulders. Raising an eyebrow, Rose folded her arms and leaned back in her seat.
“You're not very big on conversation, are you?” she asked.
Again, no response. Rose released an audible sigh and turned her attention out the window, watching as the van moved past large storage tanks behind more locked gates. Signs in front of the metal fences warned of electrical danger, though she highly doubted they were still active. The van finally rumbled to a stop just outside a small, fenced off area behind the main building of the chemical plant. Strings of barbed wire coiled around the top of the fence, and the metal door beyond that led into the building was thick and heavy.
“Wait here,” Gavin said, getting out of the van and making his way to the small gate of the fence.
“Sure, now you talk,” Rose muttered, folding her arms.
Gavin stopped in front of the heavy door and pounded his fist firmly against it several times. Then, he waited. Several moments later, the door pushed outward, opening. Two men were on the other side, both equipped with automatic weapons strapped over their shoulders. After a brief conversation, the two men eventually gave Gavin a nod of confirmation and waved him on inside. He hurried back to the van, giving Rose a gesture to get out.
“Now, we bring the boxes inside,” he said.
Gavin opened the rear doors of the van, revealing a stack of twenty sturdy boxes. When he hoisted one of them into his arms, the contents within clanked against each other. Rose listened carefully. Sounded like... some kind of metal containers holding liquid, maybe. She couldn't be entirely sure from the sound alone. With a soft breath of curiosity, she lifted a box into her arms and hurriedly followed Gavin into the building.
Though her left arm was weakened at the moment, coupled with strong throbs of pain, her enhanced strength more than compensated, enabling her to show no signs of injury while carrying the heavy load. However, she could feel the warmth of blood beginning to ooze out from beneath the wrapping, a direct result of the strain. Fortunately, her leather jacket hid any signs of that, as well.
As they made their way through the chemical plant, Rose carefully observed the activities inside. Though the place had been shut down for over a decade, someone had decided to set up shop. She noticed several more armed guards walking around and supervising, while other men in white coveralls, rubber gloves, and breather masks, handled various chemicals.
“Over here,” Gavin called, turning a corner. He led them into a storage area, away from the work. There, another armed henchman was waiting for them.
“Stack the boxes right over here, neatly against the wall,” the henchman ordered. “Emphasis on neatly. And make sure you're careful; we don't want any accidents like last time.”
“We'll be plenty careful,” Gavin insisted.
“Good...” the man breathed. “Then hurry up and get out of here.”
“First, Mr. Daggett wants to know how production is coming. He's getting impatient.”
The henchman uttered out a gruff breath. “It's going just fine. This stuff isn't exactly easy to make, you know; it's not a simple process, and after the last time the boss got busted, he lost his entire stock. He's doing things the best he can with what you're giving him.”
Rose set her box down on the floor, listening carefully. Her hunch had just been further proven at the mention of this guy's boss being 'busted' in the past. Definitely illegal activity.
“Just make sure this stuff gets out soon,” Gavin said.
“Uh huh.” The henchman turned, glancing up at the catwalks above them. “Now, get moving; the boss is watching.”
Rose's gaze followed, where she noticed a tall, lanky figure standing in the shadows of the dimly lit building. She focused her vision, trying to get a good look at him, to make out any features she could, but Gavin interrupted her.
“Come on, we have more boxes to move.”
Rose glanced back at Gavin momentarily. The guy was halfway across the floor, heading back out to the van. She began to follow him, while taking another brief glance up at the catwalk; the shadowy figure was gone.
Looks like you have some work to do tonight, Rose.
Getting inside had been easy enough; for all the effort taken to securely lock the entrances and exits, nothing had been done to cover up the many broken windows on the second story of the Ace Chemicals building. With her agility and skill, reaching one of those many entry points had been easy. Add to that the cover that a very dark night brought, and she managed to make it inside completely unnoticed.
Granted, her injury still throbbed painfully, and she could feel the fresh wrapping already beginning to soak through, but she ignored it. Now wasn't a time to let a little scratch slow her down. She had contemplated informing Batman about what she'd discovered earlier that day, but instead had decided against it. There were plenty of other crimes that he could be stopping, and this wasn't anything she couldn't handle herself.
Crouching quietly on one of the upper level landings, she took a moment to make sure that her Ravager costume was securely in place, from the mask to the swords adorning her back. When satisfied, she quickly moved throughout the darkened chemical plant, keeping low and to the shadows. She remembered the general layout of the place from earlier, and navigating through the straight corridors was easy enough.
Slowly easing open a set of doors, she peered into the room beyond, allowing a moment for her vision to adjust. She recognized it as the main processing area, where she and Gavin had delivered the boxes. Her goal right now was to find those boxes and get a good look at whatever was inside. Maybe with a little information on what materials they were using, she could later figure out what they were producing.
Moving along the catwalks, she paid careful attention to the area below. A few dim lights were on, casting long shadows around the corners of various machinery. Though the workers who had been handling the chemicals had all apparently gone home for the night, she could still make out quite a few armed henchmen roaming around the area. Whoever was running this operation wasn't taking any chances with intruders, no matter what time of day.
Ravager navigated the network of catwalks until she discovered the stack of boxes that she helped deliver. There were significantly fewer than before, with the contents of most of them likely already having been used up. But, there was still enough for her to investigate. Dropping down gracefully to the floor below, she quickly pressed herself up against the side of a chemical vat, watching as a guard's shadow gradually approached from around the corner.
Being as silent as humanly possible, she subdued the man when he came into view, swinging a well placed chop to his neck. He went down instantly, falling like a bag of bricks. She caught him to keep him from making any excess noise, then laid him down gently out of the light. With no other thugs in the immediate vicinity, she at last made her way to the stacked boxes. While she could rip apart the thick cardboard like tissue paper, she didn't; that will only alert the other men of her presence. Instead, she swiftly drew one of her blades and used the razor edge to cut through the tape of one box, allowing her to open it normally.
Ravager's gaze narrowed at the contents within. Reaching inside, she lifted out a small, torpedo shaped canister, the only opening of which was a small valve at one end. Rolling it over in her hands, she noticed a label with a skull and crossbones on it, as well as an exclamation point inside a red diamond. She gently shook it, hearing the sloshing of liquid inside.
Well, that's interesting... she thought to herself. These are the same kinds canisters that Dick and I found last night.
Before she could contemplate any further, however, a voice interrupted her. “Hey, who the f**k are you?!”
Ravager snapped her gaze towards the direction of the voice to see one of the armed henchmen standing about ten paces away from her. He already has his gun raised at her. “Oh, hell.” She quickly darted back through the shadows, already on the move well before the shots went off.
The man ran forward, looking around frantically, but he couldn't find her. “Sh*t!”
Before long, several of his buddies joined him.
“What is it? The hell you shooting at?”
“I don't know, some chick in a crazy looking costume!” he yelled. “I think it's one of those Bat freaks!”
“F**k man, are you serious?”
“Alright, no big deal, just spread out and find her. We got the guns, remember?”
“Yeah, right, of course. Sorry, she just spooked me, is all.”
“Just get your head in the game, man.”
A few seconds later, the men split up, spreading out in various directions to cover the entire chemical plant. Unfortunately, splitting up was the worst thing they could have done. Ravager was an expertly trained fighter, with enhanced physical attributes and a precog ability to alert her of attacks before they happened. These guys were nothing more than a bunch of scared thugs with guns. They didn't have a chance.
Ravager doubled back around the processing area, sticking closely to the shadows. She moved silently, her footsteps soft. Then, she began taking them out one by one. She actually fought at her best when surrounded and forced to pull out all the stops, but this worked just as well. Pouncing out from the darkness and brutally taking down each man with crippling knockout blows was almost as satisfying. Very 'Batman-y'.
The first two were relatively quiet take downs. The third one, however, managed to get a couple of shots off before she could bring the handle of her sword down on the top of his skull. The remaining gunman turned frantically at the sound, his eyes darting to and from each shadow like a nervous kitten.
“Guys? You there?” He eased forward, keeping his weapon pointed in front of him with his finger already brushing against the trigger, ready to fire at a moment's notice. “Hey, come on, somebody say something!”
The last thing he saw before everything went dark was a white haired figure lunging down at him from above. He screamed, as a powerful blow exploded at the back of his neck, and collapsed to the floor. Ravager gazed at the unconscious body briefly, then marched back toward the canisters she had been examining before.
“Should have just done that from the start...” she muttered. “This Dark Knight stuff is easy.”
As she knelt down again to reinspect the chemical containers, a precognitive flash ran through her head. She saw someone coming at her from behind, a fist lunging forward. By the time the attack came in real time, she had already turned around, crouching low and bringing her own fist around to strike the would-be attacker.
“Sneaking up on me? Don't even think-”
But before her fist can connect, before she can even finish her sentence, she turned face-first into a green cloud. Instantly, she reeled back and began coughing, as the gas, or mist, or whatever it was, started to burn the inside of her nostrils. It took only a few moments to recover from the initial shock, though her eye was already watering, vision going blurry.
“The hell?” she said, staggering backwards.
A grating, rather horrifying voice spoke out to her, the very sound causing her heart to thump faster and faster. “That's it, take a deep breath. Let the fear consume you.”
Stumbling back a few steps, she looked towards the voice, having to strain her eye to see. The entire building around her appeared to be quivering, squirming. Were those cockroaches skittering along the walls? Thousands and thousands of cockroaches... and the floor was beginning to spread with thick pools of blood, crimson droplets raining up toward the ceiling, against gravity.
She knew that none of this could be happening... it was too bizarre, too unreal. Yet, she could see it all plain as day, and it made her heart pound in her chest.
What's... going on? Am I losing my mind?
“How does it feel?” the voice questioned. “Is your hair standing on end? Has your heart leaped into your throat?”
That's when she saw him. Or it. Her entire body tingled with a sudden quiver of fear, as the figure loomed above her, some kind of horrible abomination. It had limbs made of straw, covered by old, tattered clothing, and fingers made of needles. It's head was made of burlap, fashioned into a hideously twisted face, complete with bugs and maggots crawling out of its eyes and mouth.
The creature took a step forward, and Ravager took a step back. She wanted to turn and flee, but her body wouldn't obey her will; ice cold fear gripped firmly at her heart, and it wasn't letting go.
“Wh-what... what are you?” she uttered, voice quivering.
“I am the thing that lurks in every dark corner of your mind, the thing you try desperately to outrun in your nightmares-” The abomination leaned in close, grinning; a cockroach fell out of its left eye hole and landed on the floor. “ -I am the Scarecrow!”
Ravager let out a desperate cry, lurching away as the Scarecrow reached out at her. She crawled backwards hurriedly, trying to get as far from it as possible. Her heart only beat harder, faster.
“Tell me, girl... are you afraid?”
She shouldn't be afraid. She had faced worse than this and never cowered back like a frightened rabbit before. So then why did ice cold terror claw at the depths of her very soul? Her short breaths were numb and rapid, while goosebumps raised up all across her body, even beneath her rather warm costume. As the Scarecrow moved forward, closer to her, she felt a wet streak falling from her one eye.
The terror had her in tears.
Sh*t, I really am losing my mind.
Ravager saw the attack coming, but her body didn't do anything to defend against it. She was frozen in place, rooted to the floor in horror. The blow landed across her face, a whipping blow that snapped her head to the side. She fell back to the floor, a sharp pain flaring through her cheek. Desperately, she forced herself to move and began crawling away again, eventually scrambling back up to her feet.
Another blow struck her, this time a kick ripping into her ribs. It wasn't a terribly painful kick, though it did cause her to stumble. She reached out toward the wall with her left arm in attempts to keep herself from falling, but the action emitted a sudden, violent strain on her shotgun injury. A gasp of pain rushed out past her lips, her arm going limp and body smacking against the wall.
“What did you think was going to happen, Girl?” Scarecrow asked, looming over her. A terrifying cackle erupted from the Scarecrow's throat. He lunged forward again, swinging a backhand across her face. “That you'd just come in here, expose my operation, and get away without consequence?”
Another kick ripped to her torso. It was a vicious blow, but her armor thankfully absorbed most of the impact.
“I haven't seen you before,” Scarecrow stated. “You're obviously new to Gotham, so allow me to show you how things work around here.”
A hard stomp drove down into the back of her left shoulder, battering directly into her injury. She felt the wrapping pop and warm blood spurt beneath her armor, oozing down her arm. Her whole body locked up for a moment, twitching as she screamed out and clawed a hand at the wound. She curled up on the floor and quivered, nausea bubbling up deep in her gut.
A malicious grin spread across Scarecrow's face. “Oh, what's this? Did I hit a... tender spot?”
Ravager glanced up to see him now holding a long wooden cane, with twisted, horrified faces carved into the bark. She scrambled forward, but couldn't get away in time. The cane smacked hard into her left shoulder, and it hurt. Couldn't be made of wood... felt more like steel.
The Scarecrow swung the cane again, this time nailing the bottom of her jaw. A bright flash of light exploded in front of her face for a brief moment, and the next thing she realized, she was sprawled out on the floor, gazing lazily upward.
“So, tell me,” the Scarecrow said, tapping his cane gently against his palm, “how are you feeling? On a scale of one to ten.” Winding up the cane once more, he delivered a hard shot to right shoulder. “Ten being 'like crap'-” A shot to her knee this time. “-and one being 'like death'.”
Get it together, Rose! You can't take much more of this!
The Scarecrow gripped his staff with both hands, raising it high above his head. He swung it downward, aiming to smash it straight through her skull. Fighting through the pain and mind numbing fear, Ravager rolled to the side just in time, avoiding the blow.
Fight it. It's just fear. It doesn't matter how afraid you are, you can fight it!
“Ah, still got some life in you, after all.” Scarecrow crept forward, waving his cane around in preparation for another attack. “Good, it'll make this all the more satisfying.”
He ran at her now, swinging the cane wildly with all his might. Ravager ducked below the attack, sliding to the side and scrambling back to her feet. With every movement she made, her entire body throbbed with stiff pain, but she ignored it. It wasn't the pain she was worried about, it was the paralyzing terror, which she was finally beginning to work through.
Ravager took in a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves. She turned in time to see Scarecrow running at her again, his maggoty mouth curled into a horrific grin.
It's just fear, Rose. You can beat it... don't let it be the death of you. Just... fight it!
This time, when the Scarecrow swung his cane, she ducked below it and lunged forward, bringing a sharp palm strike directly to his face. The Scarecrow grunted, stumbling backwards, but Ravager didn't stop there. She continued her assault with a kick to the midsection, an elbow to the sternum, then a powerful cross to his jaw. Scarecrow fell to his backside, howling in pain as he tried to crawl away. But she was already on him, sword drawn. With one deft motion, she thrust the point of her blade into his shoulder.
“AHHHH!” he screamed, writhing beneath her. “Stop! Take it out! Take it out!”
“So, on a scale of one to ten-” Ravager said, slowly twisting the blade around and further ripping apart Scarecrow's flesh. “-how do you feel?”
The Scarecrow began to whimper as the pain took hold. He squirmed, trying to get away, but the sword pinned him firmly against the floor. Realizing his now precarious predicament, he frantically reached into his shirt, fumbling around for something. Clearly noticing this, Ravager reached down to grab his wrist.
“What do you think you're trying to do?” she asked, yanking his arm back.
But she didn't see the device in his hand, not until it was too late. She heard the small hiss of a valve being opened, followed by a thick green cloud wafting forward straight into her face. Reeling backward, she removed her sword from the Scarecrow's shoulder and began coughing again.
“I think... you need a larger dose,” Scarecrow said, hobbling back up to his feet with a hand pressed firmly against his wound.
Oh, sh*t! Damn it!
It was the same green mist that first induced her overwhelming terror, only this time the dose was stronger, more concentrated. Her breathing went rapid, keeping in pace with her frantic heartbeat. Darting her gaze around the room, she caught sight of Scarecrow running off into the shadows. She tried to chase him, but her nightmarish hallucinations began to increase tenfold.
Fighting against the ever more powerful fear, she turned and ran. She couldn't stay here, not in this condition. Not only was that cold, frightening sensation in her heart growing stronger by the second, but her entire body felt as though she'd just been hit by a truck. If she stayed, she'd just end up getting herself killed.
With a limp in her stride and her breath heavy, Ravager looked around desperately for a way out. Everywhere she turned, however, she found a new, horrifying sight. Reanimated corpses, hellish creatures, walls made of tormented human faces, thousands of needles raining from the sky... It was like trying to navigate a fun house straight out of Tim Burton's worst nightmares.
Eventually, she located a window on the far side of the plant. She doubled her pace, trying not to let the explosive pain in her knee slow her down. Leaving the frightening images behind, she dove through the window and tumbled outside.
Ravager hit the ground hard, broken shards of glass raining down around her, peppering the ground. It took her a long moment to force herself back up to her feet; she couldn't keep her posture straight, the pain far too great. Instead, she hobbled, limped forward with her shoulders slouched, left arm dangling limply at her side.
That's when she heard his voice.
“You don't look so good.”
Ravager's eye went wide, a surging jolt of shock and horror ripping through her. It couldn't be! She turned quickly, praying that she wouldn't see him standing there. But she did. There he was, her father, Deathstroke the Terminator, dressed in full costume and standing stationary with his arms clasped behind his back, just glaring at her.
“N-no... not you...” she uttered, stumbling backwards. “It can't be you!”
“Oh, it's me,” Deathstroke said, taking a few steps forward. “You didn't think that you could run from me forever, dear daughter, did you?”
She pulled back in panic, tripping to the ground momentarily. “No, you... you're not real. You're just... just another hallucination. You're all in my head.”
“Is that so? Tell me, Rose, if I'm just in your head...” He stood over her, glaring down and narrowing his cold, menacing eye. “...then what are you so afraid of?”
Ravager swallowed a nervous lump in her throat, stumbling back up to her feet as he advances towards her. She watched him carefully, waiting for any sudden movements. That's when he pulled one of his hands out from behind his back to reveal a fully loaded syringe and needle.
“You remember my serum, don't you?”
“No!” she screamed. “Keep that stuff await from me!”
“It's time for your shot, Rose.”
Breaking away from the overwhelming fear rooting her to the ground, Ravager turned and sprinted, desperately trying to get away from him. She raced around the side of the chemical plant, fighting to keep her balance as her battered body threatened to give out. Without looking back, she mounted her motorcycle and gunned the engine. She could barely hold on to the handlebars, but she didn't care. She just wanted to get away from here as fast as she could, away from this nightmare.
Lights and sounds zipped by, as Ravager pushed her motorcycle faster and faster down the road, passing other vehicles when she shouldn't be, running stop signs, and being generally reckless. Her heart raced even faster now, despite apparently being free of the hallucinations from the chemical plant. She could still feel the effects of that fear inducing gas wreaking havoc on her body and mind, though. If she could just get back to the Bat Bunker, maybe Dick could figure out what the hell was going on with her.
When she rounded the corner of the street, her eye suddenly widened in surprise. Standing there, directly in the middle of her path, was Deathstroke, holding the syringe. She jerked on the handlebars in a panic, causing the vehicle to fall and slide on its side. The abrupt action forced her to let go, sending her skidding across the street at a wild pace and eventually coming to an abrupt stop by slamming into a newspaper dispenser.
Onlookers yelled out in shock, some rushing over to see if she was alright, and others just trying to get away and avoid the scene, not wanting to be involved.
“My god! Did you see that?” one of the onlookers called.
“Is she alive?” another said.
Ravager very slowly began to move, pushing herself up to her hands and knees. She tried to stand, but her legs gave out, too weak to hold herself upright.
A nearby woman took a cautious step forward. “Miss, are you alright? Can you hear me?”
“For Christ's sake, someone call an ambulance!” a man shouted, looking at the crowd.
Ravager attempted to get back to her feet again, but still she couldn't stay standing. She tumbled against the newspaper dispenser, using it to hold herself up. “Fine... I'm... fine.”
Another nearby pedestrian came forward, offering assistance. He reached out, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Why'd you do it?”
“I... just lost control. No big deal.”
“No, really, Rose.” The voice suddenly changed into one that was entirely too familiar. “Why did you do it?”
She flinched at the sound of her name, lurching away from his grasp. When her gaze found him, her heart nearly stopped, a numb lump bubbling into her throat. Standing there, in his torn costume and with burns covering a large portion of his body, was Bart Allen, the former Kid Flash.
“Why'd you have to go and get me killed?!”
Ravager fell back to the ground again, holding a hand to her head and shaking it. “No, no, not you, too. I didn't mean... it wasn't supposed to happen... I swear, I wasn't trying to...”
“Oh sure, you didn't mean to, but that doesn't really help me, now does it?” Bart took another step forward, holding out his burnt, bruised arms. “Look at what you did to me, Rose! Look!”
Closing her eye, she turned away and shook her head, crouching lower and whimpering. “I know what I did! Just... stop, please! I don't need this! Just go away!”
And then more voices joined in, all chastising her. She flinched again, snapping her eye back open and daring to look up. There they were, the rest of the Teen Titans, all standing over and glaring down at her.
“I told you not to go in, didn't I?” Red Robin asked. “But you disobeyed, and look what happened!”
Wonder Girl's cold glare burned a whole straight through her. “You are unbelievable, Rose. What the hell were you thinking?!”
Even Superboy was there, the one Titan she had actually been growing really close to before her untimely departure. “You got a lot of people killed. You got our friend killed.”
“You should have known better... should have listened...” Raven said.
“Even when you try to do good, you just screw everything up,” Beast said, shaking his head and uttering a long sigh. “What's wrong with you?”
Ravager closed her eye again, now holding both her palms up over her ears. She shook her head rapidly, trying to make the hallucinations go away. “Stop it! Stop it! SHUT UP!”
“Miss, calm down!” another voice shouted. This one was different, unfamiliar.
Letting out a sharp breath of air, she looked upward again. The Teen Titans were gone, and in their place were a group of pedestrians watching curiously, as well as a couple GCPD police officers, their squad car parked just a short distance away.
“What are... who are you?” she asked. “What's going on?”
“Miss, you've been in an accident,” one of the officers stated. “You probably have a concussion. Just calm down, and we can get you some medical attention.”
Though her heart pounded rapidly, Ravager let her guard down. These weren't hallucinations, these were real people. They weren't here to frighten her... But as the officer reached out to help her, his face suddenly twisted into a horrible, deformed scowl. Instantly, she pulled back screaming.
“NO! STAY AWAY!”
“Whoa, Ma'am, please!” the officer shouted, backing off a few steps. “Just calm down. Don't do anything-”
“No!” With another frantic yell, she spun around and delivered a hard kick to the newspaper dispenser, denting it inward. “Just make it stop!”
Suddenly, a dark figure descended from the rooftops next to her. Another nightmarish hallucination, she was sure. But she couldn't do anything to stop it before it lunged at her and stung her, releasing its venom into her. Within seconds, she felt her body slackening, relaxing. Then, everything went dark.
“Batman?” the officer said, slowly relaxing.
“Everything is under control, Officer,” Batman said. “Just a sedative.”
“Is she going to be alright? She took a pretty nasty fall.”
Batman bent down, taking hold of Ravager and lifting her into his arms. “She'll be okay; she's a lot more resilient than you'd think. She just needs a little time to rest and recover.”
“So, then she's with you?”
The officer breathed out a small sigh, then shrugged. “Well, alright, I guess. But really, we should still get her to a hospital, and I'm gonna have to fill out a report on the crash and-”
“You just let me worry about it, Officer. Have a goodnight.” And with that, Batman made his way over to the shadows of a nearby alley, carrying the sleeping Ravager in his arms. Another figure was already there waiting for him.
“Well, she looks like she had one heck of a night,” Robin stated, hands on his hips. “Pfft. Amateur.”
“We need to get her back to the bunker, treat her injuries,” Batman said.
Robin held a hand to his chin, giving Ravager a careful look. “Looked like there was a little more wrong with her than just a few bumps and bruises.”
“Yes... seems like she was hallucinating,” Batman inferred. “She was frightened, panicked.”
“Scarecrow's fear gas, you think?”
“That would be my best guess,” he replied. “The canisters that we found last night contained a particular chemical used in the creation of Scarecrow's fear toxin, making it even more likely, but we'll have to analyze a sample of her blood to be sure. And when she wakes up... she can tell us just what happened to her tonight.”
Rose dreamt that night, while Dick worked to patch up her wounds. Even when knocked out cold, her mind suffered from the lingering effects of Scarecrow's fear gas. Her eyes flickered rapidly beneath her eyelids, fingers twitching and jaw clenching. She couldn't escape it this time; there was nowhere to run. All she could do was lie there and suffer her nightmares...
Three months ago...
A swarm of cop cars gathered around the San Francisco Central Police Station, lights flashing. Officers stood behind their squad cars, staring at the building and waiting. Hostage negotiations hadn't been working, and the perpetrators were starting to get impatient. Snipers hadn't been able to get a clear shot, either. As far as hostage situations went, though, it was pretty normal.
Or at least, it should have been. But the victims weren't just nameless civilians, no. This time, the hostages were some of their own, fellow police officers that were taken when heavily armed men assaulted the station. They fought back, sure, but they hadn't been prepared for it. The gunmen overpowered them and set up inside the station, barricading themselves within. They wouldn't come out, they said, until their demands were met.
“If we can just all calm down here, I'm sure we can get everything sorted out in a timely manner,” the negotiator said, speaking carefully into the phone. One of the hostage takers was on the other line. “We just need to-”
“No!” the gunman yelled back. “Quit stalling, man! We're sick of you stalling! We told you, we want our buddies out of jail. That's it!”
The negotiator breathed out a heavy sigh. “I assure you, we're doing everything in our power. But, it isn't as simple as you think, we just need more time.”
“No more time! Just get it done, or we start shooting people!” And with that sentiment, the man hung up.
“That's it” the Police Chief said, turning to the officer behind him. “I want this situation ended, now. I won't have police deaths on my hands, not today. Send them in.”
The officer cleared his throat and nodded, hurrying over behind the police line. The Teen Titans had been on standby now for the past twenty minutes now. Hostage situations weren't normally what they were brought in to deal with, but given the urgency of the situation, they had been called in to put a quick end to things, if needed. Now that standard negotiations had all but failed, it was their job to put a stop to it.
“Alright, we want to be quick and precise,” Red Robin said. “There's no reason why there should be any casualties. Bart, I want you in first to disarm them. Make sure they can't hurt anyone.”
“You got it,” Kid Flash replied.
Red Robin nodded, turning to the others. “Once their weapons are gone, it should be pretty standard. Get in there and bring them down. Wonder Girl, Superboy, you take the east entrance. Kid Flash and I will take the front. Beast Boy, Raven, take the west entrance. Ravager, you take the rear.”
The Titans hurried off to get into position, waiting for Red Robin's orders to commence the attack. However, they were soon interrupted by one of the gunman's voices coming in over a bullhorn.
“I sure hope you costumed freaks don't intend on storming this place!” the man shouted. “That'll only get everyone killed. The entire place has been rigged with high powered explosives; any of those doors open without my say-so, and boom!” The man laughed smugly, before the his voice cut off from the bullhorn.
Red Robin gave a concerned glance to Kid Flash, then spoke in over his comm link to the other Titans. “Alright, we're going to need a new plan. If the place really is rigged to go up, we can't go in. We risk the hostages dying in the blast.
“Or he could be bluffing,” Ravager said. “I mean, come on, you really think they had time to set up that many explosives in the past hour?”
“It's possible, and it doesn't matter if they are bluffing,” Red Robin countered. “We can't take the chance. Our job isn't just to stop the bad guys, Rose, it's-
“-to save the hostages, right, I know.” Ravager let out a small groan of frustration, shaking her head. “But come on, you don't really think these guys are serious enough to be suicidal, do you?”
“I can't answer that, I'm not a psychologist. Either way, I don't want to take the chance that-”
Ravager scoffed, cutting him off. “You know, for a leader, you really don't like taking chances. I thought being a leader meant making hard decisions? Doesn't that mean taking risks?”
“Risks, yes, but not unnecessary ones,” Red Robin explained. “We can still find another way around this.”
“What if Raven teleports us inside with her soul-self?” Wonder Girl suggested.
Raven's passive voice came in over the comm link a second later. “That would not be advisable... we do not know the specific nature of how these explosives are set to go off... if they do exist.”
Red Robin nodded. “She's right; if they're rigged with proximity detonators, we could end up setting them off the moment we materialize.”
“Well, hurry up and figure something out quick,” Ravager urged. “Those cops are still in there, and the gun toting psychopaths are going to start killing them soon.”
Red Robin breathed out a sigh of frustration. “I haven't forgotten that, Rose, just give me a minute!”
“Screw it, I'm going in. They're bluffing, I know they are.”
“Do not go in!” Red Robin shouted. “I repeat, do not go in, Ravager, that's an order! Even if there aren't explosives, Kid Flash goes in first to disarm them!”
“If I go in there, they'll be shooting at me, not the hostages,” she insisted. “And I'm more than capable of handling a few idiots with guns. Or, when no explosives go off, then you send him in and we handle things as planned. Just trust me on this.”
“Ravager, I'm warning you, don't you dare go-”
“Oh, shove it.” Ignoring his orders, Ravager pushed the rear door open; it wasn't locked. When nothing exploded, she walked inside to the center of what looked like a collection of offices.” See, nothing to worry-” And that's when she spotted the blinking lights, coming from small metal devices attached to bricks of explosives. “-oh f**k!”
She instantly dove into cover, just as the explosives went off. The thunderous booms deafened her for several moments, leaving behind a loud, annoying ringing deep her ears. She wasn't quite certain of what happened next, only that the walls and ceiling began to collapse above her. The only thing that saved her from being buried alive was the heavy metal desk she crawled under just before the chaos.
When everything was quiet again, Ravager pushed her way out of the rubble, coughing as she breathed in a thick plume of smoke. It took her a moment to get her bearings, looking around in a daze. Bright hot flames burned all around her, with half the room obliterated by the explosives. A hiss of static erupted in her ear a second later, no doubt the other Titans trying to reach her. It wouldn't do them any good, though, since she couldn't make out anything they were trying to say.
Rolling over a pile of burning wood to the floor, she coughed again and crawled back up to her feet, trying to find the exit. It was difficult to see through the smoke and flames, but she knew she couldn't be that far away from making it outside. Before she took three steps, though, another section of burning ceiling collapsed directly above her.
“Oh son of a b-” she muttered, holding her arms above her for cover and preparing for impact; there wasn't anywhere for her to jump out of the way.
A yellow blur suddenly zipped in from out of nowhere and pushed her out of the way. A small grunt escaped her lips, as she rolled across to the floor, just barely escaping the falling rubble. When she looked back to where she was a moment before, her gaze found none other than Kid Flash lying there, his leg trapped beneath a heavy beam.
“Bart!” she called, hurrying over to help him. “The hell are you doing?”
“Oh, you know, just saving your beautiful behind,” he replied, with a grin.
“You should be helping the hostages, not me,” she said. Gripping the beam in both hands, Ravager forced it off Kid Flash's leg and moved it aside. She then offered him a hand, helping him to his feet. “That's our job, remember?”
“I already checked on them,” he said, his voice growing softer. “They're dead, Rose; the hostages, the gunmen... all of them.”
Ravager felt a numb sensation begin to form in the center of her gut. She bowed her head, releasing a heavy sigh. “Well sh*t... I really screwed up on this one.”
“Yeah, but we can discuss that later,” he said, taking a step forward. “For now, let's just get the hell out of- OW!” The moment that he put pressure on his leg to run, Kid Flash recoiled sharply in pain, hopping on one foot. “Crap, I think my ankle's twisted, maybe broken. Can't run on it.”
“Hold on, Freckles, I got you.” Throwing his arm over her shoulder, Ravager allows Kid Flash to lean against her for support, then started walking with him through the smoke. “I'm pretty sure the exit is somewhere over here.”
“Somehow, that doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence.”
“Oh shut it.”
Within a few moments, the partially blocked doorway came into view, about fifty feet away through the smoke and fire. Ravager led them both towards it, trying to quicken their pace.
“Where the hell are the others, anyway?” she asked. “I mean, I'm grateful and all for your help, sure, but wouldn't it make more sense to send in the invulnerable duo?”
“Superboy and Wonder Girl are trying to keep the whole building from going down,” Kid Flash explained. “The others are trying to handle the riot.”
“Riot? What are you talking about?”
Breathing out a sigh, he replied, “The cops, Rose, they're in an uproar. You just got a bunch of their friends killed and they're pi**ed, not just at you, but the Teen Titans as a whole.”
“Well sh*t, it was just an accident,” she muttered.
“Yeah... a pretty big one.”
Just as they begin to near the the exit, the whole building began to shake. The walls quivered and the foundation groaned, while more and more flaming debris rained down from above.
“I thought you said they were holding the building up!” Ravager exclaimed.
“Well they can't keep it up forever!” he yelled back. “Move!”
Ravager picked up the pace, going as fast as she could while dragging along the injured Kid Flash. A mere five paces from the doorway, however, a large burning section of ceiling caved inward, crashing down above them.
“Look out!” Kid Flash pushed her forward, super accelerating his limbs to send her flying. Ravager lurched over the burning rubble pile in front of the exit, going airborne and landing hard on the pavement outside, sliding a few feet before finally coming to a stop. Groaning, she slowly pushed herself upright.
“Geez, Bart, what the hell were you-”
When she looked back over her shoulder, however, she didn't see him there with her. That was because he never made it out of the building, instead sacrificing himself to make sure that she got out in time. All she could do was watch in horror, as the police station crashed in on itself, engulfed in an ever growing inferno.
“BART!” She stood there, stunned, just staring at the flames.
She tried to take a step forward, but her body wouldn't respond, legs like Jello. Somewhere deep in the pit of her gut, a bubble of nausea began to form. She didn't even notice the other Titans approaching behind her, looking around in confusion.
“What's going on?” Beast Boy asked. “Where's Kid Flash?”
“He... in there...” Ravager uttered, weakly pointing at the burning rubble.
“What?!” Superboy shouted, eyes going wide.
Wonder Girl flew forward, staring at the inferno in shock. “You left him behind?!”
“No, I didn't!” she insisted. “I swear, I was helping him and he-”
“Helping? “ Red Robin said, glaring at her. “You were helping?! You're the one who set off the explosives off in the first place! I told you not to go in there, Rose! I gave an order!”
Superboy suddenly flew forward like a rocket, heading straight for the wreckage and digging through it. Wonder Girl joined him a second later, throwing aside large pieces of debris as if they were made of paper-mache. The leaping flames surrounding them didn't hurt at all, though their clothes quickly began to singe. Fortunately, they found Kid Flash shortly afterward. Lifting up a large beam, Superboy tossed it away and then reached down to lift up the barely breathing speedster. With a short leap, he and Wonder Girl exited the wreckage, with Superboy placing their friend on the ground gently.
“Bart!” Superboy called, kneeling down. “Can you hear me?” The only reply he got was a few pained coughs that emitted sprays of crimson droplets.
Screaming angrily, Wonder Girl spun around and grabbed Ravager by the throat. Tears glistened in her eyes, reflecting sparkles of firelight. “What the hell is the matter with you?! Look at what you did, Rose! Look what you did!”
“Cassie, hey!” Beast Boy yelled, trying to pry Wonder Girl's grip away. “That isn't the way to deal with it, let her go!”
Ravager made no attempt to escape, merely choking in weak breaths as Wonder Girl's tight grip threatened to crush her windpipe. At the sound of Bart's pained wheezing, however, Wonder Girl let go and turned back to their injured friend, kneeling at his side.
“Raven, can you heal him?” she asked. “How bad is it?”
Also kneeling at Bart's side, Raven brought her hands over his chest and closed her eyes, concentrating. “The damage is... extensive. Very extensive... more than even I can heal. I can relieve some of it, but we must take him to a proper hospital as soon as we can. His increased metabolism will heal these injuries in a matter of hours, but they will not heal correctly... they may even heal fatally.”
Another groan escaped Kid Flash's lips, his body cringing and starting to shudder.
“We never should have let Bart go in after her!” Wonder Girl said, holding her hands to her head. “We should have just left her in there!”
Superboy glanced back at her, jaw tightening. “Cassie-”
“No, Conner, don't try to defend her!” she riposted. “Her life isn't worth Bart's! If he dies...”
Turning her back on them, Wonder Girl stormed off in a fit. If she didn't leave right then, she might have ended up ripping Ravager apart. The others gave Ravager a long look of their own, then went off to try and help with damage control. Raven, meanwhile, teleported herself and Kid Flash to the nearest hospital, to get him immediate medical attention. Only Red Robin remained behind, glaring sternly at Ravager.
“Tim, I-” she started.
He cut her off, shaking his head and turning from her. “Not now, Rose. Just... not now.”
Ravager hung her head, staring at the ground. Never before had she ever felt like more a worthless screw up in her life.
Bart passed away later that night. It had been a race against time that they had simply lost. The surgeons had tried everything they could, but there had been far too much damage, and his body regenerated much too quickly. While the external damage had healed fine, the internal damage healed awkwardly, clumsily. He had survived for another couple hours afterward before his body began to shut down. The doctors pronounced his time of death at 11:54 P.M.
Head hanging low, Rose walked slowly down the halls of Titans Tower, alone and isolated from the other members of the team. The only time they had even spoken to her since the incident was to inform her of Bart's passing. She didn't dare try to talk to any of them. Right now, she was their least favorite person in the world. Of course, she didn't blame them. She screwed up big time, and it resulted in Bart paying the ultimate price.
Rose had never been Bart's biggest fan. The kid had always been impulsive, grating, immature... however, while she would never admit it out loud, she really did have a soft spot for him. Deep down, he'd always had a good heart, and he had always meant well. Of course, she never got a chance to tell him that... now, she never would.
She kept replaying that moment over and over in her mind, the biggest mistake she'd made in recent memory. Tim had told her not to enter the building. It had been a flat out order, and she should have listened to him. But she hadn't. She had thought she knew better, and instead ignored him. Her actions got Bart killed, and that was something she now had to live with for the rest of her own life. There was a time not too long ago where she would have been blaming everyone but herself, but this time she knew that there was no denying it. This was her fault, plain and simple.
As Rose rounded the corner of the hallway, she heard voices coming from the main lounge of the tower. She came close to the door and stopped, suddenly hearing her name mentioned. Instead of entering, she remained there by the door, just listening.
“She's a menace!” It was Cassie's voice. “I knew that trusting her would be a mistake, Tim. I told you. Sooner or later, something bad was going to happen, and it did!”
“You know she didn't mean it.” Beast Boy now. “We all know it.”
“It's not about whether or not she meant it; she was reckless, hot headed, and arrogant!” Cassie really had a way with insults. “That arrogance got our friend killed!”
“I thought she'd changed... Heck, I liked her, I really did, but this...” It was Conner. Hearing his voice with that kind of... disappointment in it cut deeper than any one of Cassie's insults ever could. “She got a lot of people killed today, not just Bart.”
“She knows this... I can feel it.” That calm, soft voice. Very clearly Raven. “She understands the mistake she made, and feels remorse... grief.”
“That's not the point, though...” The leader's voice, Tim Drake. “I don't doubt she feels sorry for what she did, but feeling sorry doesn't change what happened. She acted like a child, and the results were catastrophic.”
“She shouldn't be here,” Cassie said. “She'll only keep causing problems for the team, and who knows who else will get hurt because of her?”
Beast Boy at least tried to stick up for her, though she could tell that his heart wasn't in it. “We can't just kick her off the team for one mistake, though. Yeah, it was a terrible mistake, and I'm not saying she shouldn't be reprimanded; Bart was a friend to us all, and his loss is...”
“Tragic...” Raven muttered.
“Yeah...” Beast Boy said. “But are we really just going to kick her out the front door?”
“You're forgetting, though,” Cassie went on, “this isn't just an isolated incident. Rose has a long history of destructive behavior, and you can bet it'll happen again if she stays.”
“I know how you feel, but it still isn't that simple. It can't be...” Conner said.
A small pause passed between the group, before Tim finally spoke up again. “I wish this were a simple matter, but Conner's right... it's not. She has been an important member of the team for a while, but Cassie also has a point. Rose hasn't really ever... fit in, not completely, and her behavior has a history of causing problems. This latest incident seriously compounds those issues.”
“Then what do you propose?” Beast Boy asked.
Tim breathed out a heavy sigh. “I... don't know. I'll think on it.”
Rose turned away, walking quickly down the hall. She couldn't sit there and listen to them talk about her anymore. Already, her throat was numb, nerves tingling hotly. She felt more and more like crap every moment. Clenching her jaw, she balled her hands into fists, trying to make herself angry to cover up for the fact that her eye was beginning to dampen.
“Don't waste your time,” she muttered to herself. A short minute later, she was in her room, beginning to pack her belongings into a single, heavy duffel back. “I'll make it easy.
Rose took one last look across the San Francisco Bay at Titans Tower, the dark structure dotted with a few bright lights coming from several different rooms. She doubted that they even knew that she'd left yet; they seemed pretty keen on avoiding her for the time being. When she could finally stand gazing at the tower no longer, she turned from it and slipped her helmet on, then revved her motorcycle's engine.
Rose awakened with a startled gasp, snapping her eye open and lurching upright. Thick beads of perspiration rolled down her forehead, dripping onto the sheets below. After taking a careful look around, she realized where she was and began to relax.
Back in the Bat Bunker... safe and sound.
Glancing down, she noticed that she was lying in what she assumed was supposed to pass as a hospital bed, covered up to her midsection with a blanket. Her costume was gone, the only other coverage being a roll of white bandages wrapped around her ribs and chest. Questioningly, she lifted up the blanket for a brief moment to see only her underwear covering her lower body, with a lot of other bandages and patchwork wrapped over her lower injuries.
“Good, you're up,” a voice said from behind her.
Dropping the blanket back down, she turned towards the sound of the voice to see Dick approaching from across the room. She folded her arms across her chest, frowning at him.
“So, you finally get me out of my pants, and I'm not even awake for it,” she muttered, shaking her head at him. “Figures.”
“What were you doing tonight?” he asked, tone remaining stern.
“Right to business, huh? No fun at all, I swear...”
Pulling up a seat at her bedside, Dick sat up straight and glared at her. “What the hell happened to you, Rose?”
Eventually, she gave in, breathing out a long sigh and shrugging her shoulders. “Just got a bit roughed up, nothing to worry about.”
“A bit roughed up?” his expression grew cross. “Rose, you got the life half beaten out of you. It's a miracle that you don't have any broken bones, but there's bruising across most of your body, your left knee is sprained, and the gunshot wound is worse than before. What happened?”
“Fine, you really want to know?” she asked. “I was investigating a pretty shady operation down by the docks. Turns out, it's connected to our little bust last night.”
Dick's eyes narrowed further, posture stiffening. “And why didn't you tell anyone? We could have helped you.”
“Because I knew I could handle it on my own.”
“Clearly, you couldn't! You went off on your own, already injured, and nearly got yourself killed!”
“So what if I did, huh?” she snapped, staring coldly at him. “The hell do you even care?!”
“Damn it, Rose, would you stop it with that?!” Dick countered right back.
His tone was so severe and angry that Rose actually paused, blinking in surprise for a couple moments. She couldn't recall ever hearing him sound like that before. She swallowed, shrinking back slightly. She didn't think she liked angry Dick.
“You don't get it, do you?” he asked, folding his arms. “You've built up this feeling that everyone hates you because of your mistakes, to the point where you don't even care about your own well-being anymore. You're so willing to go rushing off into danger to prove your worth that it puts yourself and others at risk. That's why the Titans are upset at you so much, and why Bart's death set off such a damn firestorm. If you just stopped to think for a minute, you might realize that the people around you actually do care about you. Instead, you're so busy being such a self-loathing, narrow-sighted child all the time, that you can't see it!”
Rose clenched her jaw, staring back at him. His words cut through her like sharp knives, hurting a lot more than any of her physical injuries. It wasn't the sheer bluntness of the words that hurt, though, but rather the truth that they carried. She maintained her glare on him for a few moments before finally lowering her gaze to the blanket, expression slackening.
“So, what? You're telling me you care about me?” she questioned.
“Believe it or not... yes, I do.” His tone was calmer now, softer. “In spite of all your mistakes, and all the times you've put yourself down, I know that you really are trying to do good. It might have taken me a long time to see it, and you might have some serious issues in accomplishing that goal, but the fact remains. I don't want to see you get yourself killed, Rose.”
A long pause passed between then. Eventually, Rose raised her head again, meeting his eyes with her own. “I know a few people who might disagree with you.”
“They'll forgive you,” he insisted. “Maybe not now, maybe not even soon, but eventually. Of course, it might make things easier if you actually went back and talked to them. Running away doesn't exactly help the process.”
Rose uttered a long sigh, bowing her head again. “No... I mean, just not now. I'm not ready for that.”
“Just remember, Rose, only you can choose how alone you want to be. All you have to do to let people into your life is open yourself up.”
Letting out a scoffing laugh, Rose mockingly rolled her eyes. “Gee, I'll try to remember that, Dr. Phil.” Dick merely stared her, and eventually she released another small breath and smiled slightly. “But really... thanks.”
Before another word could be spoken between the two, another person made his presence known. Damian Wayne scampered down the stairs in a hurry, marching right up to Rose and crossing his arms smugly over his chest, smirking at her.
“Well, look who's finally awake! Had a rough night, did you, One-Eye?”
“You know, kid,” she said, narrowing her eyes with a little smirk, “I can still kick your ass, even in this condition.”
He smirked right back at her. “Dweeb.”
The two stared at each other a few moments longer, then widened their grins.
“You're still alright,” Rose said.
“I'd say the same,” Damian said, eying her up and down, “but you look like you've seen better days.”
“Yeah, well, I did have a hell of a night. Speaking of which, what kind of psychos do you people breed in Gotham?”
Damian grinned. “Only the best kind.”
“The blood analysis I ran earlier confirmed that you'd been exposed to an extremely concentrated dosage of the Scarecrow's fear toxin,” Dick explained. “If not for your increased metabolism, it probably would have killed you.”
“Is that what it's called?” Rose muttered, rubbing the back of her neck. “Yeah, sounds about right; it messed me up something awful.”
Dick nodded. “It's an extremely dangerous toxin to be affected by. It digs into your psyche and pulls out your deepest fears, amplifies them and causes hallucinations, resulting in panic, paranoia, irrational thoughts, and the like. Suffer through it long enough and it'll drive you insane.”
An amused snicker made its way from Damian. “Ha! You got your ass beat by a punk wearing a Halloween costume.”
“The Scarecrow is no joke, Damian,” Dick said, giving the kid a stern glare, “especially the first time you experience his fear gas. If you aren't prepared for it, he gains an immense advantage. Fortunately, I have a decent supply of the anti-toxin here at the Bunker, so I can inoculate you against it. That way, you'll be immune.”
“Good,” Rose said, cracking her knuckles, “because the next time we meet, he's leaving in a bag."
Dick narrowed his eyes at her. “Rose...”
“What? I was kidding... mostly.”
“We still need to know where you were tonight,” Dick said. “Where did you find Scarecrow?”
“Over at the old abandoned Ace Chemicals,” she explained. “He's got a whole team of people working to create what I'm now assuming is that fear gas stuff, and a whole lot of it.”
Holding a hand up to his chin, Dick narrowed his eyes, contemplatively. “What would he need with that much fear gas?”
“It's probably what Daggett Industries ordered from him.” Rose grunted out a soft breath of pain, as she stretched out her arms and cracked her back. “Turns out they're supplying Scarecrow with the ingredients, and then he's shipping out the finished product to them. Couldn't tell you why, though.”
“We'll have to figure out the connection if we're going to stop whatever they're planning,” Dick said, standing up from his seat. “Damian, suit up. Let's head back over to Ace Chemicals, see if we can find anything.”
“Good, I'm coming, too.” Throwing the blanket off herself, Rose swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up, only to then twitch as a spasm of pain rippled through her body. She staggered backward, catching herself against the side of the bed.
Sh*t... feels like I was hit by a train.
“You're not going anywhere,” Dick ordered. “You shouldn't have been out there with just the gunshot, but if you think I'm letting you out now-”
“Alright, fine, I get it.” Even she realized that she was in no condition to go out right now, so it didn't take a lot of convincing for her to give in. “You guys go do the hero thing. I've probably had enough for one night anyway.”
Dick gave her a long look, trying to make sure she was being sincere and wouldn't try anything stupid. “Alright... good. Damian, let's go. And Rose, get your rest, we'll be back.”
“Uh huh,” Rose said, waving him off.
In an instant, Dick disappeared down the stairs, heading to the lower levels of the bunker. Glancing back at Damian, Rose noticed him gawking at her strangely.
Rose lifted an eyebrow at him, folding her arms. “The hell are you staring at?”
“Uh... what?” he replied, lifting his gaze. “Nothing.”
That's when she finally remembered that she was dressed only in her underwear and chest bandages, causing her expression to sour.
“Oh, for crying out-” she muttered, rolling her eyes. She reached back to the bed and grabbed the blanket, wrapping it around her lower body. “I swear, I can only imagine what you're going to be like when you hit puberty.”
“What?” Damian said, innocently. “I wasn't doing anything.”
“Just get going before I break your nose.”
Within five minutes, the bunker was empty, save for Rose. She continued standing there for several moments, then limped over to the counter nearby. With every step she took, her entire body flared up with dull, throbbing pain. Dick hadn't been kidding; most of her body really was bruised, partially from her beating at the hands of the Scarecrow, and partially from her motorcycle crash. Just putting weight on her injured knee caused her legs to buckle, and both her shoulders felt as though they were ready to explode.
Finding a small hand mirror, Rose lifted it up and gazed into it, studying her reflection; a large, purple bruise blotched over a good portion of her lower jaw. She tried opening her mouth as wide as she could, hearing it click couple of times before being forced to close it again in pain.
“F**k, where are the painkillers?” she muttered.
Moments later, she found a small pill bottle and popped the top off. Pouring out few pills into her palm, she shoved them into her mouth and swallowed, dry. Hopefully, that would make moving a little more bearable. Turning back around, she folded her arms and pursed her lips, trying to think of what to do. She wasn't about to just lie around in bed and do nothing, after all. Instead, she made her way to the stairs and slowly descended into the lower levels of the bunker.
As the painkillers began to take effect, Rose was able to handle a little more movement. She started off slow, though, with simple sit-ups and one-handed push-ups, just trying to warm herself up. Afterward, she stood in front of the sparring dummy and unloaded on it, letting out all her pent frustration, doubt, worry, anger, and so on. These past few months had done a number on her, and it felt good to just beat the ever loving tar out of something with no limitations.
She continued with this for the better part of an hour, brutalizing the poor dummy and finally finishing by breaking it in two with a vicious kick across the chest. For a few moments, she stood there, just staring down at the broken dummy and breathing heavily. Despite the painkillers, her limbs and joints were beginning to stiffen up, and she could feel the wetness of blood trickling down her left arm. Wiping sweat from her brow, she finally walked over to the nearby refrigerator to grab a bottle of water inside.
“You're bleeding,” a voice suddenly spoke from behind her.
Rose choked on a sudden intake of water going down the wrong pipe, turning around. Dick was standing there, dressed in the Batsuit, but with the cowl pulled down, revealing his face.
“Sh*t, don't do that!” she said, sucking in a heavy breath.
“Sorry,” he replied. “Didn't mean to... spook you.”
Groaning, she rolled her eyes and took another sip of water. “You didn't spook me, you just... surprised me. Creeper.”
Folding his arms, he gave her a little smirk. “Of course.”
“So, what did you and the little rug rat find?”
“Not much. There were a few traces of used chemicals originating from Daggett Industries left over, but it looked like they moved most of the operation already. Scarecrow must have acted as soon as you were gone."
Rose blinked in surprise. “Already? How long was I out?”
“Just a few hours.”
“Guess they worked pretty fast...” she muttered. “Alright, so that leaves us with what? How are we supposed to find the Scarecrow now?”
“We might not have to,” Dick explained. “If he really is working for Daggett Industries, then we can bypass him and head straight for the source. Daggett is the one ordering the fear gas, meaning he's the one who's really behind whatever they're planning.”
Rose brought a hand to her chin, thinking carefully. “Right... hmm. And I think I might have a way to get the information we're looking for.”
“Well, you remember how I said I found their operation, right? Was just by chance, because one of Daggett's guys, the one running things, hired me to help move his supplies.”
Dick's eyebrow lifted. “And... you worked for him?
“Hey, I was strapped for cash,” Rose said, shrugging. “I went back to investigate after I was sure it was dirty. All I have to do is go back tomorrow, corner the guy, and get him to spill everything.”
“Rose, you're still not in any condition to be-”
“Relax," she insisted. “I don't plan on jumping into a group of armed men and fighting with a death wish, or anything. I'll do it smart. Just give me some painkillers to mask my injuries and I'll be fine.”
He gave her a long look, trying to decide whether or not he should allow her. It didn't take him long to arrive at the conclusion that she'd just go anyway, regardless of what he said. “Alright, just be careful, okay?”
“In the meantime,” Dick said, starting to remove some of the Batsuit, “you should probably head back up to the penthouse and get some rest before tomorrow. And... maybe put on some pants.”
Leaning back against the refrigerator, Rose crossed her arms and smirked at him. “Don't pretend you don't enjoy the view.”
Dick let out a small breath, staring back at her. He allowed the pause to linger a little longer than he should have, before finally speaking up again. “Get some sleep, Rose.
Ravager lied prone against the rooftop of a building adjacent to the warehouse that she visited the previous day. She figured it would be better do this in her armor, given her condition. With as messed up as her body was right now, she wasn't going to risk Danny getting in a lucky shot in. At the moment, she was loaded up with painkillers so she can actually move around without flinching every time she moved.
It wouldn't be very difficult to break in and find him. She had already carefully observed the entire perimeter of the warehouse, and the only three men guarding the place were sitting in the same spot as yesterday, still playing cards and not paying much attention to anything else. Finally making her move, she descended down the short building and hurried across the alley between it and the warehouse. She entered through a side window, easing it open and dropping down inside a storage room within.
For a person of her talents, avoiding detection was easy enough, even in spite of her injuries. Though not quite as well versed in the art of stealth as someone like, say, Batman, she got the job done. These workers weren't exactly expecting an intruder to be snooping around, and their attention was focused on, well, their work. She was able to find her way through the building without any difficulty.
Ravager found Danny sitting lazily in a chair in one of the side offices, away from the rest of the warehouse's activities. He was preoccupied at the moment, busily chatting on the phone with his back to the door. Ravager snuck in undetected, closing the door gently behind her.
“Absolutely, Mr. Daggett,” Danny said, rocking back and forth in his chair. “Yes, everything is going according to plan, even with the unexpected surprise last night. Mr. Crane repelled the intruder and promptly moved his operations elsewhere. Yes, of course. The shipment should reach you later this afternoon, then we can go ahead and proceed with the plan, yeah? Alright, I'll talk to you later, Mr. Daggett.”
Ending the conversation, Danny spun around in his chair to hang up the phone. He instead dropped it in surprise, as he noticed Ravager standing there with one of her swords drawn. Letting out a startled gasp, he lurched backwards, nearly falling out of his seat.
“Wh-who the hell are you?!” he stammered.
“I'm the one you're going to spill your guts to,” she said. “Whether literally or figuratively is entirely up to you.
“What do you mean? What are you-”
“Your operation.” Rose took a sharp step forward, lifting her blade. “You're going to tell me everything that Daggett has planned with the Scarecrow's fear gas.”
“How do you- no, you're crazy,” Danny said. “I ain't telling you sh*t!”
Ravager sighed, shaking her head. “Why is it you buffoons always try to resist? It never ends well.”
“You can go to hell, you psychotic b*tch!”
“Insulting the one holding three feet of sharpened steel? Not smart.”
Instantly, Danny reached back beneath his suit jacket, no doubt going for his gun. “Screw that, I got a-”
Before he even got a chance to finish his sentence, Ravager was on him. She leaped straight over the desk and brought her knee crashing into the man's nose, snapping it. Danny fell back out of his chair, clutching his now bleeding face and howling in pain. As he landed, Ravager mounted on top of him, holding the edge of her blade to his throat.
“Now, tell me everything you know,” she said, with a subtle grin. “Or I start cutting off appendages.”
Later that day, Rose sat forward on the couch of Dick's penthouse living room. Dick sat across from her in the armchair, also leaning forward over the coffee table, on which they had spread out a map of Gotham.
“So, according to Costello, they're going to be dumping the entirety of Scarecrow's fear toxin into the Gotham water supply,” Rose explained.
Dick took a moment to contemplate the gravity of that notion. “With the city's water contaminated like that, it'll tear itself apart. There aren't enough police in Gotham to stop half the city panicking from their darkest fears.”
“Exactly,” she stated. “So, in the chaos, they're pretty much free to do whatever they want in the meantime. Looting will be especially rampant.”
“I can see the Scarecrow taking advantage of that,” Dick said, folding his arms, “but I hardly see why Daggett Industries needs to get involved just for some small time looting. Doesn't seem like it would be their M.O.”
Rose shook her head. “It isn't. Once the city is infected, people will obviously be looking for a cure. Scarecrow already supplied them with it, enough to treat everyone in Gotham. A few days after the pandemonium, Daggett Industries claims to have discovered what the problem is with everyone, then they start selling their anti-toxin to hospitals.”
A small pause drifts over the two. Dick narrowed his eyes with concern, a soft breath exuding from his lips. “They'll make a fortune, and not just by selling the cure; their stock will shoot through the roof.”
“When all is said in done, everyone involved in the operation is loads richer, and Daggett Industries will have more power than ever,” she affirmed.
“Not to mention, half the city will be in ruins as a result. Aside from the likely property damage, I don't want to think about how many people will end up dead.”
Rose smirked slightly. “Well, it's a good thing we aren't going to let that happen, isn't it?”
“Did you find out when and where they're going to commence their plan?” Dick asked.
Turning the city map around, she pointed at a specific spot. “Gotham Water Works, the water purification plant. It's the last place the city's water supply goes before ending up in the reservoir. They hit it there, and it'll only take a few hours before people start going into a frenzy. As for when, they decided to push things up to tonight, in light of my... intrusion last night.”
“And Costello won't be able to warn them?”
Rose's grin grows wider. “Not a chance. That sedative you gave me worked like a charm; he'll be sleeping like a baby until some time tomorrow. I locked him in a supply closet, too, just to be sure.”
“Alright,” Dick said, standing up from his seat, “in that case, we'll be there waiting for them tonight.”
“Good,” Rose said, straightening herself. “I'm actually looking forward to it. I just hope that Scarecrow freak shows up; I still owe him.”
Dick gave her a hard look. “You sure you're going to be alright to come along? You aren't even close to being fully recovered, you know.”
“Don't worry, I'll be fine, just so long as I can numb the pain. Besides, I'll have you and Bird Boy to watch my back, right?”
Letting out a small breath, he calmly nodded at her. “Okay, just take it easy until tonight, at least. You take any more of a beating and you'll end up in a coma.”
“Which you'd use as an excuse to take my clothes off again, right?” she asked, lifting her eyebrows playfully.
“Hey, I'm not judging.”
Dick shook his head, leaving the living room. “You really are terrible.”
Rose smirked again, teasingly. “I know.”
Several large vans and trucks drove up to the front of the Gotham Water Works, the city's water purification plant, coming to a stop just outside the entrance. Doors opened in unison, a whole team of men getting out and preparing to get to work. Each man was armed; they weren't taking any chances tonight. If Batman and his freaks decided to show up, they'd be ready.
A tall, middle-aged man in a clean business suit and neatly trimmed red hair walked up to the front entrance. Following him was a more wiry fellow with dark clothes, mussed up, greasy hair, one arm planted firmly in a sling, and a paranoid expression on his face. He glanced around into the shadows nervously, eyes darting to and fro.
Within moments, the front doors to the building opened, a security guard appearing. He gave the two men a brief look, then looked past them to see the others beginning to unload small crates from their vehicles.
“Well, you guys are right on time, I see,” the security guard stated.
“I'm always prompt,” the man in the business suit replied. “Is everything ready?”
“Sure thing, Mr. Daggett,” the guard informed. “Alarm systems are shut down, and cameras are playing on a loop. It's just me here tonight, so you're all set.”
“Excellent work,” Daggett said, growing a small smile. “You did your part well. I promise you, we'll be in and out before you know it.”
“First, the, uh... payment we spoke about?”
“Of course,” Daggett said, breathing out a small sigh. Reaching into his suit jacket pocket, he pulled out a fat envelope, stuffed full of large bills. With an indifferent expression, he passed the envelope over to the guard. “There. Now, get back to your post and... read the paper or something.”
“Right, of course, I'm gone,” the guard said. “Thanks again, Mr. Daggett, I promise no one will get a word of this from me.”
“Yes... they'd better not.”
The unkempt man next to him suddenly glanced back over his shoulder for a moment, then turned again towards Daggett, giving him a concerned look.
Daggett sighed. “What is it, Crane?”
“The Batman...” Crane whispered, as if talking to himself. “He'll show up. I have a feeling.”
“Oh, a feeling.” Dagget rolled his eyes. “Now I know I should be afraid.”
“I'm telling you,” Crane insisted, “he'll be here. When you've been up against him as long as I have, you develop a sort of... sixth sense about it. Just make sure your men are prepared.”
“Quit your worrying,” Daggett said. “Even if you did leave a trail for him to follow, we'll be done here long before he figures out our plan. Besides, you told me the person snooping around the chemical plant was some woman with swords. Last I checked, that's not Batman.”
Crane muttered quietly to himself. “Yes... true, but still. Doesn't matter if she's new, we should still assume she has ties to the Bat. They all do, all those costumed lunatics...” A small shudder ran up his spine “After this is over, I'm getting out of Gotham for good. I'm thinking somewhere... warm. And no bats.”
The two men headed inside, soon followed by their team, carrying in the load of fear toxin. It wouldn't be long until they reached the purification tanks and began emptying the supply into Gotham's reservoir. Meanwhile, across the street, three figures watched the scene from a nearby rooftop. This surrounding portion of Gotham was isolated, desolate, no prying eyes... except theirs.
“They're in,” Batman said. “Paid off the security guard.”
“Hmph, throw a little money at people and they'll do anything,” Robin grumbled.
Ravager turned her gaze, glaring at him. “Yeah, well sometimes, when you only have a few hundred dollars, you'd be surprised at what you do for some quick cash.”
“Whatever,” Robin said, leaping over the parapet, “let's just get in there and stop them already.”
“I'm with the kid, let's move.” Ravager quickly followed, leaping down to street level.
Batman, Robin, and Ravager entered the building at three different points, keeping in contact by radio. Ravager went in through the rear entrance, working her way through various machinery and water tanks. Above her, voices echoed through the vents, somewhere in the distance. Sticking to the shadows, she moved into a series of long, dark hallways.
“Which way am I going, again?” she asked, holding a pair of fingers to her ear.
The wireless radio hisses with a bit of static before Batman's response finally comes in, crystal clear. “They'll be heading to the purification tanks near the center of the plant. Keep heading east through the building, then take the stairs up one level. You'll find access to the catwalks there, just stay hidden and wait for the signal when you're there.”
“And what exactly is the signal?”
Another hiss of static. Robin's voice, this time. “I wouldn't worry about that, One-Eye. You'll know it when you see it.”
“Uh huh...” she muttered, removing her finger from the comm. “If you say so.”
Continuing down the corridor, she eventually came to a set of winding metal stairs leading upward. She briefly took a careful look around the area to make sure that none of Daggett's goons were nearby, then hurried up the stairs to the upper level. At the top, she found the door leading into the catwalks of the purification room.
Carefully, Ravager gazed through the door's window and observed the room beyond. Three men patrolled the narrow walkways, one close by the door, another farther down the same path, and a third across from them on a separate catwalk. Below them were even more armed thugs, standing guard on ground level while a couple workers began opening the crates and pulling out large canisters of what could only be Scarecrow's fear toxin.
“Better hurry, a few more minutes and Gotham is in serious trouble,” Ravager breathed.
“I see them,” Batman replied. “Don't worry, they won't get that far.”
“What the hell are you waiting for?”
A brief pause followed, before Batman finally answered. “The signal.”
As if on cue, bright red lights on the ceiling above began to flash on and off repeatedly, joined by a loud, blaring alarm. Immediately, the men in the other room looked around in a panic, while shouting at each other in confusion. Batman wasted no time, tossing in a small handful of smoke pellets and filling the entire room with a thick haze. In seconds, the men down below began dropping like flies, doing everything they can just to see where they're going, let alone defend against an attacking Batman.
With their attention drawn, Ravager burst through the door and raced out onto the catwalk. The first thug didn't react nearly quick enough, barely even seeing her before she pounced and delivered a short series of strikes that dropped him in a motionless heap. The second gunman fared a tiny bit better, managing to take aim at her through the growing cloud of smoke. Unfortunately for him, he never got a shot off before her boot drove straight into his face and sent him falling back unconscious.
A precognitive flash flickered through her head, an image of the other thug on the second catwalk unloading a whole clip into her backside. By the time he even aimed that gun, though, she was on the move, backflipping across the chasm between walkways and landing feet first on the other side. Before he got a chance to adjust his aim, she kicked the gun out of his hands and then delivered several precise blows to his rib cage. As he doubled over in pain, she brought her knee up into his face, then finished him with a chop to the neck.
With the upper level taken care of, Ravager gazed down into the smoke below. She could just make out dark shapes engaged in combat, though it wasn't very difficult to figure out which one was Batman; he was the one winning. There was plenty of gunfire, but they didn't come close to hitting him through the haze. He was far too well trained, and they far too incompetent.
Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Ravager dove forward off the catwalk and joined in, darting into the cloud and heading straight for the first figure that she saw. The poor mook didn't stand a chance, as her fist caromed off his jaw, followed by her knee exploding into his gut. The wind rushed from his lungs in a mix of surprise and pain, but before he could suffer the discomfort too long, her knuckles swung around and connected with the back of his head. He went down instantly, unconscious.
That's when she heard the voice shouting through the chaos. “I told you he would be here! I told you he'd come!”
Ravager whirled around in the direction of the voice, straining her eye through the shifting cloud of smoke. It wasn't quite as distorted as she remembered it, but she knew who it was. She hadn't forgotten it so soon. Before long, she found him: Jonathan Crane, standing near the back of the room and looking around nervously.
Daggett was there with him, though seemed to be more interested in trying to organize the riot than paying attention to Crane. “Stop shooting at shadows! You're running around like idiots; he's picking you off one by one!”
Suddenly, another figure leaped out of the smoke, landing in front of him. It was Robin. “Hey, he's not the only one you have to worry about!”
Daggett stared at the Boy Wonder for a few seconds in dumbfounded confusion. After all, what the hell was a little kid doing here? Getting over his initial shock, he ran forward and took a swing. “Little punk!”
While Robin may be quite young still, he had been trained since he was old enough to stand. Daggett didn't even realize what happened; the next thing he knew, he was stumbling back with a sharp pain exploding between his ribs. A boot to the face then sent him tumbling hard to the floor.
“Who's the punk now?” Robin asked, crossing his arms in triumph.
When Daggett tried to get back up, Robin responded with another series of perfect hits, leaving the man twitching on the ground and gasping for air. He was still alive, just temporarily paralyzed with a few well placed nerve strikes.
“I'm not going back to Arkham for this!” Crane shouted, sprinting towards the nearest exit door.
Ravager took off after him, in hot pursuit. “Crane!”
Looking back over his shoulder, Crane sputtered out a breath and picked up his pace, disappearing through the door. Ravager burst into the hallway beyond just a few moments later, catching sight of his figure rounding the corner in the distance. Normally, she'd be able to run him down in a few moments, being able to hit close to thirty-five miles per hour on foot. But in her present condition she was nowhere near capable of hitting her top speed. Still, she was gaining on him, she could feel it. Just a little bit more and she'd have him.
Suddenly, another alert flashed through her head, thanks to her precog. She ducked low, right as she rounded the corner, causing the steel pipe to sail high over her head and clang off the wall instead. Wasting no time, she followed up with a hard palm strike to Crane's jaw that sent him reeling backwards. A pained groan rushed out of his lungs, as he hit the floor.
In the same motion, however, he reached into his coat pocket, pulling out his fear gas dispenser. As Rose lunged in for another attack, he sprayed out a heavy green cloud right in her face. Coughing a few times, she stumbled backwards and used her arms to brush the fog away in the air.
“That's it,” Crane said, pulling out his burlap mask and slipping it on, “take in a deep breath, let the fear consume- oof!”
Ravager cut him off with a powerful punch straight to the gut, rushing the air out of his lungs. Before he could recover, she connected a hard kick to his nose, snapping it instantly. This time, he went down and stayed down, groaning weakly and not moving a whole lot. A growing blotch of crimson began to soak its way through the burlap covering his face.
“Not this time, freakshow,” Ravager muttered, looming over him.
Lifting her boot, Ravager slowly pressed her heel down against the shoulder she had cut through with her sword the previous night. Crane screamed loudly at the abrupt eruption of agony ripping through him, until finally she removed her foot. He continued whimpering, however, something that gradually began to grate on Ravager's nerves. Eventually, she aimed a strike at the side of his neck and knocked him out cold.
“And now we're even,” she said, reaching down to drag him back down the hall.
By the time Ravager returned to the purification room, Batman and Robin had everything under control. Every last one of the men were tied up and either unconscious or delirious, including Daggett himself. With a satisfied smirk, she added Cane to the bunch, tossing him over to be tied up with the others.
“Guess that takes care of that,” Ravager said.
Robin glanced back at her, lifting an eyebrow. “What took you so long?”
“Just covering your loose ends, kid.”
“Keep dreaming,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes.
“Alright, enough,” Batman said, sternly. “Let's finish up here.”
The three walked back out the front doors of the plant, only to be greeted by an incoming swarm of cop cars. The cruisers screeched to a sudden halt, their lights flashing like beacons in the dark. Ravager squinted her eye and raised a forearm to keep from being blinded. Moments later, doors opened and officers began approaching, including the commissioner himself.
“Batman!” Commissioner Gordon exclaimed. “The hell is going on here? Our station picked up the alarm, said it was a break in. We heard gunfire."
“Long story, Jim,” Batman replied. “All you need to know for now is that the men tied up inside were trying to poison Gotham's water supply. I'll fill you in on the details later.”
Gordon's eyes lifted in surprise. “You're serious? Damn... well, thanks for the help.” The commissioner's eyes then shifted over to Ravager. “Who are you?”
“She's with me,” Batman affirmed.
“Oh,” Gordon replied. “Uh, alright then.” Turning back to the other officers, he raised an arm and waved them inside. “Come on, men, let's get to work! And listen, Batman, I'll be in my office later when you want to-" He stopped mid sentence, turning around only to find that Batman, Robin, and Ravager had all vanished from the area. “Batman? …I hate it when he does that.”
Rose leaned wearily against the counter in the medical station of the cave. The painkillers were starting to wear off, leaving her entire body throbbing and stiff with pain. She grit her teeth tightly to keep from groaning out loud, as she began to strip off the top of her armored costume. Twisting ever so slightly in the wrong direction, a sharp hiss of air abruptly burst from her lips, as her body froze up momentarily. When the stabbing sensation in her ribs finally vanished, she relaxed.
Glancing down, she gingerly lifted up the bottom of the bandages wrapped tightly around her midsection to study the sickening black and blue marks beneath. Scarecrow really had done a number on her last night, even more than she'd first thought. Without the pills' effects to numb the pain, that fact was fast becoming apparent. Taking in another breath of air, she looked around the counter, searching for them.
“Looking for these?”
Rose turned to the sound of the voice. Dick stood there, holding up the small bottle of pills. He'd taken most of his Batsuit off, only the lower portion remaining. A few small dots of purple and yellow blotched his muscled torso. Rose caught herself staring, eventually shaking out of it.
“Uh... thanks,” she said, taking the pills from him. “So what the hell happened to you?”
“Even a bunch of talentless thugs get a lucky shot or two in when firing automatic weapons into a smoke cloud,” he said, with a small chuckle.
Rose's eyebrows lifted. “You were shot? But-”
“Kevlar, remember? The suit's bulletproof.”
“Oh, right... well, that's good.”
Walking over to the counter, Dick began rummaging through one of the drawers, searching for another roll of bandages. “I think I might have a cracked rib, though.”
“Nothing the great Batman can't work through, I'm sure,” she said, leaning up against the counter.
A brief moment of silence passed between. Dick found what he was looking for a moment later and closed the drawer. Eventually, he looked up and moved closer to her, folding his arms.
“You did good tonight,” he said. “I want you to know that.”
Rose waved off the comment, uttering a small laugh. “Yeah, well, I am pretty awesome, right?”
“Seriously, Rose. You're good at this, when you allow yourself to be; you just have to trust yourself. And when you make a mistake, learn from it, don't let it beat you.”
Rose gave him a long look, taking in a deep breath and slowly letting it out. She mulled over his words; they gave her comfort, something she hadn't had in a long time. An appreciative smile slowly curled across her face. “You know, Grayson... when you're not being stupid, you're actually kind of smart.”
“Just want to make sure you know that you're not alone,” he said, holding a hand to her shoulder. “You haven't been for a long time.”
“Yeah...” Rose breathed. “Guess I can kind of see that now.”
Her expression shifted a little, softening. Though her smile shrank, it didn't disappear, and soon she found herself leaning in towards Dick. Ever so slowly, her arms lifted up wrapped firmly around his waist.
Dick's own expression changed, as well, contorting into surprise. “Rose, what are you-”
He didn't get a chance to finish, as Rose's lips planted firmly against his own, silencing him. For the briefest of moments, she felt him sinking into the kiss, returning it. But, as she should have expected, he soon raised his hands and grabbed her firmly by the elbows, pushing her away and breaking the kiss.
“Rose...” he uttered. “You know we can't.”
Swallowing a lump in her throat, she narrowed her gaze. “And why not, huh?”
“There's more than a few things wrong with it...” he insisted. "For one, I'm like seven years older than you."
“Age is just a number, you know.”
“Rose, I don't feel that way about you.”
Rose tightened her jaw. “You said it yourself, though, you care about me.”
“And I meant that,” Dick replied, “but as a friend.”
“Ever heard of friends with benefits?” She was reaching now, almost desperate. She had felt so close to him just a second ago, felt a need burning inside her, but now she was being pushed away. Then again, she probably should have seen it coming.
With a small breath, Dick raised a hand and placed it tenderly on her shoulder, but at the same time gently shook his head. “I'm not going to use you like that.”
“You wouldn't be using me...”
“Rose... I'm sorry, but no.” His tone was stern this time, adamant.
A long, disappointed sigh escaped her mouth. Rose pulled back, shrugging absently and grabbing the bottle of painkillers. She honestly didn't know why she was so surprised; maybe a part of her actually thought there was something more between them. Just wishful thinking, apparently.
Giving him an unenthusiastic wave, she walked past him and headed for the lift to take her back up to the penthouse. “I'm... gonna get some sleep. I'll figure out where I'm going in the morning.”
Dick lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “You're leaving?”
“I was only supposed to stay for a few days, remember? Besides, as great as your place is...” Another long breath bust from her lips. She shook her head, disappearing up the stairs. “...I'm getting tired of sleeping on your couch."