Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.
Note: The eighth arc in my Ravager series to be remastered into prose format and edited to make it better.
My Fan-Fic Archives: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/ravager4/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/87-79374/
The line of students shuffled towards the exit, after a long hour of training and hard work. Though all dressed in white gis, some wore different colored belts, acknowledging their higher rank. Of course, with this being the intermediate class, they were all near the same level, with a fair mix of greens, blues, and oranges.
Rose wiped the sweat from her brow, heading behind the counter and loosening the belt of her own gi, watching as her students began to leave. “Good job today, everyone. Remember, this was the last class for next two weeks, but we'll be open again after New Year's.”
Her students turned back and gave her a few waves and parting words, then headed outside into the snowy streets. It had been nearly four months now since her martial arts studio had been open, and since then it had really taken off, becoming quite popular amongst the people in the neighborhood, mostly younger kids in high school. Of course, Becky and Holly both had been sure to make it to her evening classes for more training, in addition to the private lessons she already gave them.
Becky, in particular, had really come a long way in such a short amount of time, proving to be quite a natural at it. In spite of a somewhat slow start, she had been picking up Rose's teachings at an increasingly quick pace and could almost even land a hit during their spars. Then, there was Holly, the little firecracker that she was, who had only further increased her skill. She reminded Rose a lot of herself near that age, packing a lot of punch for one so small.
Removing the top of her gi to expose the plain white T-shirt beneath, Rose let out a small sigh and dropped into a chair behind the counter. Opening the mini-fridge next to her, she pulled out a bottle of water and took a long sip, then turned her attention to the woman sitting at the counter. “So, how's everything look?”
“Just finished paying the bills for this place and sorting through the student payments,” Circe responded, clicking through the computer in front of her. “Everything is in order.”
“Good to hear,” she replied. “You seem to be adjusting just fine.”
“Please, I'm not that out of tune with things work in the world,” Circe said. “Acting as your bookkeeper is simple enough.”
Rose took a small sip from her water, then folded her arms firmly across her chest. “You know, I still haven't received a thank you for giving you this job. Or for getting you Becky's old apartment, after she moved in with me. Or for letting you have my old car.”
“Haven't you?” Circe lifted her eyebrows in mock surprise, as her fingers typed away on the computer. “Imagine that.”
Releasing a small sigh, Rose took another gulp of water. Circe could be pretty abrasive, but she did her job well enough. Also, true to her word, she'd been raising her daughter well, even enrolling Lyta into Holly's school; the two girls were in the same class together now, and had grown quite close.
“So, are you and Lyta coming by later?” she asked.
Circe's fingers briefly stopped typing, as she turned to look over her shoulder. “I suppose. I still have no idea what the purpose of this 'Christmas' is, but Lyta is looking forward to coming over. What time would be appropriate?”
“Well, I'm taking Becky and Holly out to dinner later, when Becky gets off work,” Rose said, scratching an itch on her forehead. “Probably be back around seven... say seven-thirty?”
“We'll be there at seven-thirty, then.” Circe turned back to the computer again, fingers flying across the keyboard.
Christmas Eve, one of the happiest times of the year for many people. For Rose, however, it had been a long, long time since she had experienced a truly enjoyable Christmas holiday, not since she lived with her mother over seven years ago. Last year had been alright, with just her and Holly, but given that she had still been adjusting to her new life, it hadn't been as great as it could have.
Now, however, she could share this Christmas with not just Holly, but Becky, too. Even Circe, as disagreeable as she could be, and her daughter, Lyta, were there to participate in the festivities, or at least as festive as a small Christmas Eve get-together could be.
Rose busily worked in the kitchen, putting together a tray of dessert snacks, most of which she had baked herself the day before. She was only glad that none of her old team had been there to see her baking, of all things. Especially Wonder Girl... Cassie would never have let her live it down. Hell, she had even been wearing an apron. Two years ago, Rose would have sooner burned an apron to ashes than put one on, but she had grown in that time, changed in ways she never could have imagined.
As Rose continued putting together the desserts, Becky was with Circe in the living room, attempting to explain the concept of Christmas to her. Circe sat there in confusion, her gaze narrowed and brow furrowed.
“So, you're telling me that this holiday is supposed to celebrate the birthday of an imaginary figure who died two thousand years ago?” Circe asked. “I fail to see the point in that.”
“Uh... something like that,” Becky said, clearing her throat. “But forget the religious aspects of it. It's more just a day for friends and family to come together and celebrate the good in their lives. And exchange presents, of course.”
Folding her arms across her chest, Circe leaned back in the armchair, eyes shifting over to the Christmas tree across the room. “And what is the purpose of decorating a tree with brightly colored lights and ornaments?”
“Well, just for... decoration,” she replied. “I mean, it looks pretty, ah?”
“I wouldn't call it pretty. Gaudy, maybe.”
“Er, in any case, it's also where you put the gifts.” Becky gestured down by the floor. “See, there under the tree?”
Circe paused a moment, bringing a hand to her chin and pursing her lips. “Well, I suppose that's a more practical reason...”
“We got you a gift, too, you know.”
Suddenly, Circe's demeanor shifted. She sat up straighter in her seat, eyebrows raising and arms folding. “Oh, did you?”
“There's one for Lyta, too,” Becky explained. “They're under the tree with the others.”
Gaze moving briefly over to the bundle of wrapped presents beneath the tree, Circe lifted her eyebrows and let out a cool breath. “I see... Lyta, dear, did you hear that?”
But her daughter wasn't listening, currently engaged in her own activities. A short distance away, over at the table, Lyta and Holly sat together. Holly leaned forward, watching in awe as Lyta held her hands out and emitted bright, colorful flames from her palms. She made the flames dance and take different shapes, then let them burst into sparkles. Being a demigod herself, and the daughter of (formerly) one of the most powerful sorceresses in the world, Lyta's own magical potential was quite large.
“That is so cool,” Holly uttered, in wonder.
“I can do more, too,” Lyta said. “Watch.”
Holding her hands far apart, Lyta caused flickering sparks to jump between her fingers, until finally she held a steady electrical current. After a few moments, she brought her palms together, pressing them firmly and causing her hands to glow brightly.
Holly grinned widely, thoroughly impressed. “Man, I bet you could put on, like, the best magic show ever.”
“Maybe not the best, but yeah, it would be pretty awesome, right?”
“Lyta,” Circe called again, “I said 'did you hear that', dear?”
Finally, Lyta heard her mother, looking up from her spot at the table. “Huh? No, what's that?”
“There's a present for you under the tree.”
Instantly, the girl's face lit up, as she jumped out of her seat and ran for the tree. “Really? Awesome!”
“It's from all of us,” Becky said, flashing a warm smile. “Hope you like it.”
“I helped pick it out!” Holly announced, running close behind her friend.
Finding her present fairly quickly, Lyta levitated it up into the air in front of her and tore off the wrapping paper with a simple wave of the hand. Her gift was a book, a hugely popular and successful book, in fact, and written by a good friend: 'Hex Appeal: The Modern Girl's Guide to Magic', by Zatanna Zatara.
“Most of the stuff in there is just a bunch of illusions and sleight of hand for the average person,” Becky explained, leaning forward. “But Zatanna assured us that someone like yourself could get a whole lot more out of it. You like it?”
“Like it? I love it! This is so amazing!” A huge smile spread across her face, Lyta waved another hand, causing the levitating book to begin flipping itself through its pages. “There's a lot cool stuff in here! Thank you so much, this is great!”
Becky waved a hand, sinking back in her seat with a smile. “Ah, de nada. Glad you enjoy it. Now, I think your mother should open her gift next, don't you?”
“Oh, I'll find it for her!” Lyta said, going through all the presents again. She soon found the proper one and sent it off through the air towards her mother.
Catching the small wrapped gift, Circe stared at it for a few moments, rolling it over in her hands. “It's quite small...”
Becky let out an amused breath, shaking her head. “Just open it, girl.”
Finally, Circe did indeed open the gift. Beneath the wrapping paper was a small felt box, which she flipped open to find a gold chained necklace inside, with a small, ruby pendant. Instantly, Circe's eyebrows raised, as she lifted the jewelery up and takes a closer look. “This is... I mean, it's beautiful. You... really bought this for me?”
“Hey, it's a gift,” Becky said. “Like it or not, you're our friend, and we give our friends gifts on Christmas.”
“I don't know what to say.”
“Well, 'thank you' might be a good start.”
A long pause drifted between them, as Circe gazed at the pendant for a while longer. Eventually, she gently slipped it around her neck, a very small smile on her face. She looked suddenly more docile and agreeable than before. “Thank you.”
Carrying a tray of desserts, Rose made her way into the living room finally, joining the others. Lyta and Holly immediately attacked the tray, going straight for the brownies when she set it down on the table. Smirking a little, Rose reached for one of the small cups on the tray and then passed it to Circe.
“Ever had eggnog?” she asked.
“I don't believe I have,” Circe said, taking the cup. She tentatively stared at the liquid inside for a brief moment, and then lifted it to her lips to take a sip. Instantly, she held a hand up to her mouth and grimaced, forcing herself to swallow. She then coughed a few times, putting the cup back on the tray. “Vile, absolutely vile!”
Rose tried not to laugh too hard, giving Becky an amused look. “Well, you either like it or you don't. Guess you fall into the latter category.”
“I'll grab the wine, in that case,” Becky said, still chuckling under her breath as she headed to the kitchen. She returned a short few moments later with a cup of wine that Circe took immediately, downing a large gulp to get the taste of eggnog out of her mouth.
“Oh, Circe, I've been meaning to ask,” Rose said, “can you watch Holly tomorrow?”
Circe lifted an eyebrow. “Isn't tomorrow your Christmas Day?”
“Yeah, but unfortunately some people have to work tomorrow, regardless,” she replied.
“Police detail,” Becky explained, taking a sip of eggnog. “The station arranged for a police escort to transport a dangerous metahuman criminal. I'll be working that.”
Rose nodded. “And they want me to help. Well, technically not me. They want Ravager, in case something goes awry.”
In the past several months, her relationship with the local police force had gone from shaky to incredibly solid. With how much she had helped them, and how much crime she'd stopped, especially crime that the police wouldn't have been able to otherwise, The Ravager was not just a mysterious vigilante anymore, but instead a well regarded fellow peacekeeper around the the city. It was for that reason that they had asked her to go along on the police transport, since she had experience handling extremely dangerous meta criminals.
“I don't remember seeing anything about that in the papers,” Circe said.
“Was kept pretty quiet,” Becky replied. “The guy was actually nabbed one town over, then brought here for trial. Of course, being what he is, they pushed him through the court system pretty fast. Now that he's officially guilty, he has a nice cozy cell waiting for him in Belle Reve.”
“I see.” Circe pursed her lips slightly, bringing her wineglass up for another sip. “Well, I suppose I can watch Holly tomorrow, in that case. I'm sure Lyta wouldn't mind.”
“Good, thanks.” Rose gave an appreciative nod, then plopped herself down on the couch next to Becky. “We'll bring her by sometime in the morning, soon as we finish opening presents here.”
A couple hours later, Circe and Lyta took their leave, heading back home. Rose put Holly to bed, then helped Becky clean up the kitchen and the living room, until finally, at around eleven, the two got a chance to just sit back and relax on the couch together, watching the snow fall outside the large window in front of them.
“Feels good, doesn't it?” Becky asked.
“Celebrating Christmas like this. Friends, family...” Reaching out, she took one of Rose's hands in a firm grip, interlocking their fingers. “I know you said you've never really had much of that.”
“Not in a long time.” Returning the squeeze with her hand, Rose leaned closer to Becky, resting her head on the woman's shoulder. “It does feel good.”
Becky turned her head slightly, lifting Rose's chin with her hand. Leaning in, she gave a deep, loving kiss, then curled up closer to her, shifting into a warm embrace. “Merry Christmas, Rose.”
“Whoever arranged for a police transport on Christmas Day should be shot and hanged,” Ravager muttered, folding her arms firmly across her chest. She stood with Becky on the street just outside the police station, awaiting the transport to get underway.
At least, that was one of the passing thoughts currently running through her head. She should have been enjoying a nice morning of presents, cinnamon rolls, and general laziness, but instead there she was, working in daylight for the first time since coming to Silverstone. While she could have refused and just opted to stay home with Holly, she had worked too hard to gain good standing with the local police to go and blow them off, and Holly would be fine with Circe and Lyta.
“I'm pretty sure that would be the Chief,” Becky said. “Something about lighter traffic.”
“Remind me to smack him next time I see him.”
Becky chuckled. “I'd do it for you, if it wouldn't get me fired.”
Sighing, Ravager planted her hands firmly on her hips. “So, who is this guy we're transporting, anyway?”
“Goes by the name of Leonard Smalls,” Becky explained. “According to the information they handed out, he's a powerful pyrokinetic, along with the usual schtick of super strength and durability. Hell, I heard he once survived a trip down to the Earth's core. But, he's got an inhibitor collar on him now to nullify his powers, so he shouldn't be a problem.”
“And he was stopped during a rampage over in Springfield?”
Becky nodded. “By the Flash, yeah. Not sure what his problem was, be he tore apart half the town before finally being subdued.”
“Well, with a name like Smalls, can't really blame him for being so angry.”
A small smirk formed across Becky's face, as she opened the door to her squad car. “You'll be following behind us, right?”
“On my new ride, yeah,” Ravager said. “I'll be ready at a moment's notice, if something goes wrong.”
“Kay, see ya out there.” With that, Becky got into her squad car and closed the door, waiting for the signal to move out.
Ravager gave her a wave, then headed over to her new bike, an even more heavily advanced cycle built for her by Batman. It looked much the same as her last one, but the engine was more powerful, and the steering much smoother. It had also been outfitted with a bunch of nifty and useful little gadgets for special occasions. As she mounted the bike, she was approached by an older cop, greying around the ears and wrinkling around the eyes.
“Hello, hey, you're The Ravager, right?” the officer asked.
“You see anyone else dressed up in an armored suit and wearing a mask?”
“Uh, right.” He briefly cleared his throat, then held a hand out towards her. “Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself before we get this show on the road. I'm Officer McCormick, I'm in charge of the transport today.”
Ravager stared at the man for a moment, before finally reaching forward to shake his extended hand. “Tell me, McCormick, you really expect something to happen?”
“Oh, I'd certainly hope not,” he said. “But with these kinds of people, you never can be too careful. No telling what kinds of friends they might have trying to bust them out.”
“And you think a dozen squad cars, plus me, are going to be enough to repel one of these hypothetical attacks?”
“It'll have to do, because it's all we got. Besides, you're used to this kind of stuff; you can handle it, right?”
Ravager grinned beneath her mask. “Oh, trust me, I can handle it.”
The traffic was very light on the highway, with only a scant few other cars here and there. Most people were at home either sleeping in or opening presents at this time, and those that would be traveling wouldn't be doing so until later in the morning. This allowed for the police transport convoy to progress swiftly and smoothly towards Belle Reve Penitentiary. Given that the location was about six hours away, however, they were in for quite the long drive.
Keeping in the back, Ravager paid close attention to the setup. Six squad cars out in front of the armored car transporting the prisoner, and six behind it. If anything did happen, she just hoped that they could handle it. One or two rogue metas coming to free their boss, sure, no problem. But a whole team? Well, that could be an issue.
It was snowing still, had been since the night before, resulting in a heavy blanket of white powder covering the surrounding land, and a rather slick road surface. At least they got a white Christmas, even if driving in the snow was a real pain in the ass, especially on a bike. Fortunately, her new ride came equipped to handle all kinds of weather conditions.
About a half hour down the highway outside of Silverstone, something did happen, although nothing that they had expected. The convoy was forced to slow down to a halt, as a road block consisting of half a dozen black cars with tinted windows sat directly in their path across the entire width of the highway.
Ravager glared from behind her faceplate (now outfitted with two eye holes, ever since she got her missing eye back). This definitely wasn't normal. Stopping her ride, she got off and started walking towards the front of the line of squad cars. As she passed Becky's car, the window rolled down.
“The hell do you suppose this is?” Becky asked.
“Not a clue,” she replied. “But I intend to find out.”
By the time she reached the front of the convoy, Officer McCormick was already there, talking to a man dressed in a dark suit and tie, with tinted sunglasses. “...out of your damn mind! This man killed fifty-seven people in an hour, and caused millions in property damage!”
“I'm afraid it's a presidential order,” the man in the dark suit said.
“Bullsh*t! You honestly expect me to believe-”
“Alright, what the hell is going on here?” Ravager interrupted, approaching the two men.
They quickly glanced back at her. The man in the suit looked remarkably calm, while McCormick was borderline livid.
“And you are?” the unknown man asked.
“This is Ravager,” McCormick explained. “She's assisting us on our transport today. Ravager, this is Agent Croft, with the FBI. He's demanding that we free our prisoner.
Furrowing her brow, Ravager slowly looked over to the fed. “You do realize who you're talking about, right? A highly dangerous criminal capable of incredible amounts of destruction. A murderer, plain and simple.”
Agent Croft merely folded his arms. “We know who he is ma'am, but you're to release him at once. I have the written order right here.”
Reaching into his pocket, Agent Croft pulled out an envelope and removed the folded paper inside. McCormick took the paper from him and quickly read it over. It was, indeed, a written order to release the prisoner, signed by the President of the United States himself, along with the presidential seal stamped right next to the signature.
“This is insane,” McCormick said, shaking his head. “We can't just let him go; he's been found guilty in a court of law. He's a convicted felon!”
“Not our call, just following orders.”
Putting a hand on McCormick's shoulder, Ravager turned him to the side for a moment, leaning in to whisper, “I don't like this, there's too much wrong with it.
“You're telling me,” he replied. “None of this makes any sense.”
“Exactly. How did they even know when we were transporting this guy? They haven't given an actual reason for his release, either, just that it's supposedly a presidential order. That also doesn't make any sense. Why would the president want to free a mass murderer?”
Officer McCormick uttered a long, frustrated breath, holding a hand to his forehead. “But at the same time, what are we supposed to do? The papers look legit, and if this is a presidential order, we can't ignore it.”
“So you're just going to let him go?”
“Believe me, I don't like it, but I don't see how we have any other choice.”
Letting out a small groan, Ravager slowly shook her head. “Alright, fine, but just remember that-”
Her words suddenly caught in her throat, as her mind blotted out with a precognitive vision. It wasn't one of her brief warnings of an attack, it was a more extensive one, which she'd become quite used to by this point. But what she saw sent her into defensive mode. Federal agents firing, dead cops, burning vehicles, and a man standing over them wrapped in flames.
“Officer McCormick,” she said, holding a hand to the man's back, “walk very slowly back to your vehicle, and leave this to me.”
“What are you-”
“Just do it,” she urged. He gave her a long, confused look, but the seriousness in her tone finally got him to head back to his squad car. Ravager then turned back to Agent Croft, glaring at him. “So, when were you planning to do it?”
The federal agent merely lifted an eyebrow, apparently confused. “Do what, exactly?”
“Open fire on everyone here.”
A long pause passed between them, until finally Agent Croft tilted his head forward, looking over the top of his sunglasses. “He was right about you; you do see things.”
Ravager's body suddenly tensed up, eyes narrowing. “Who?”
But she never got an answer. Instead, she saw another flicker of precog, this time reacting to it instantly. Before Agent Croft could get a hand on his gun, Ravager delivered a hard palm strike to the bottom of his chin, whipping his head back and knocking him to the ground unconscious. Then, pandemonium erupted. The feds standing behind their cars all drew their weapons, beginning to open fire. Some carried pistols, but others were equipped with heavier artillery, mostly assault rifles.
Several cops went down before they realized they were under attack and started shooting back. Ravager was already on the move, leaping over the wall of cars and attacking everyone in range. They tried to shoot her, but were largely unsuccessful, as she viciously beat them down into unconsciousness.
Within a short couple of minutes, the shootout ceased. Ravager glanced around quickly, carefully examining the area. The feds were either unconscious, dead, or rolling around in crippling pain. Back on the other side, she spotted at least half a dozen dead cops, on the ground and bleeding. Hurrying quickly back over to the police convoy, she looked around frantically.
“Becky!” she called.
“Over here,” came the reply.
Ravager's gaze quickly turned to find Becky sitting on the ground and leaning up against her squad car. She was bleeding from a gunshot wound on her arm, but didn't appear to be hurt beyond that. “You alright?”
“Si, just a flesh wound. I'll be fine.”
“What in the hell was that?!” McCormick shouted, drawing their attention as he approached. “You want to explain why you just caused federal agents to shoot at us?!”
“They never meant to do this peacefully,” she explained.
“What are you talking about?”
“They were going to kill us all after they freed the prisoner. No one would have gotten away.”
McCormick's eyes narrowed. “And how the f**k do you know that?”
“I saw it.”
“What do you mean you-”
A loud burst of gunfire suddenly went off. Officer McCormick fell face first against the cold ground, bleeding from multiple bullet wounds along his backside, spreading out a crimson pool below him. Taking a surprised step backwards, Ravager looked up back over at the road block. Through the whipping snowflakes falling from the sky, she saw a figure standing atop one of the cars. He held a pair of automatic pistols, barrels smoking.
Ravager instantly froze up when she recognized the man. Mask or not, there was no mistaking him for someone else. He was far too familiar to her; those colors, that costume...
“You...” she breathed, tightening her hands to fists.
And then, the voice.
“What's the matter, Rose?” Deathstroke took a small step off the car, landing against the ground on his feet. “Didn't see that one coming?”
Chaos erupted across the highway yet again, this time fueled by the mercenary known as Deathstroke, otherwise known as Ravager's father. As soon as he appeared and killed Officer McCormick, the remaining cops open fired on him. Unfortunately, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. He reacted far too fast for them, already moving, ducking, and weaving out of the way. Within seconds, he mowed them all down with his automatic pistols, until not a single one was left standing. The only ones left now were him, Ravager, Becky, and the prisoner in the armored car.
Ravager took a step toward her father, swords already drawn. “You have some nerve showing up here, coming after me. After all this time, I'd finally put you behind me... and then you show up again like this. You son of a b*tch...”
“What makes you think I'm here for you, Rose?” Deathstroke questioned, lowering his pistols. “I gave you a chance before to come with me, to start our family over, but you threw the offer back in my face. You don't interest me anymore.”
“Then why are you here, shooting down cops? Last time we met, you said you were cleaning the slate, starting over. So much for that bullsh*t, huh?
“I'm here for the prisoner, nothing more,” he explained. “I was hired to make sure this transaction went... smoothly. My client is a very important man, after all.”
Ravager narrowed her gaze from behind her mask. “Your client?”
“Details, Rose, you know I can't divulge them.”
Leaning back closer against her squad car, Becky stifled a small groan of pain, pressing her hand closer to her bleeding arm. It may have been just a flesh wound, but it still hurt. “Rose, who is that?”
Ravager paused, jaw clenching. “My father...”
“Dios mio...” Becky turned her head slightly, trying to look around the side of her squad car. “You serious?”
“I wish I weren't,” she muttered.
Cocking his head to the side slightly, Deathstroke's single eye glared at her through his mask. “Giving away your identity to the local cops now? Or is she a friend? Didn't realize you had any these days, after that incident with the Titans.”
Ravager scowled, fingers tightening around her sword handles. “You don't know anything about it.”
“I notice you have a new costume now. Finally decided to try and step out from my shadow? It doesn't suit you.”
“And two eye holes?” Deathstroke lifted a hand to his chin, as if intrigued. “Is that supposed to be ironic or did you really go and get another?”
“You can change your appearance and distance yourself from me as much as you like, but it doesn't matter, Rose. In the end, you'll never be anything more than Daddy's little girl.”
“I said... SHUT UP!”
She suddenly sprinted at him, wanting nothing more to do with his venomous words. She had thought herself free of her b**tard father, living her own life with no more constant reminders of him. She had finally been able to push him out of her mind entirely, had been starting to forget him... and then, in an instant, all that freedom was gone.
Ravager lunged in at him wildly, viciously, swinging her blades with every intent on ripping through her father's midsection and spilling his insides out over the highway. But of course, he was too quick for that, simply moving out of the way and drawing his own sword.
For a brief few moments, their steel clashed. Her heart thumped quickly in her chest, everything slowing down as her mind and body came into near perfect, fluid harmony. She could see his attacks, defended against them effortlessly, pressed her assault... but then she realized that he was just toying with her. All that harmony came crumbling down when his knee drove straight into her gut with tremendous force, knocking the wind from her even through her armor. A follow up kick to the head sent her sliding across the ground, and knocked the faceplate clean off her helmet to expose her face.
“You've gotten better, Rose,” Deathstroke stated, taking a few, slow steps forward. “I can see it in the way you fight, the way you move. But you're sloppy right now, clumsy. You can't get me out of your head, can you?”
Gritting her teeth, Ravager pushed herself back up to one knee. As she moved to stand back up, Deathstroke was suddenly on her again, driving his leg squarely into her chest and causing her to crash into a nearby squad car, denting the door. Walking forward, he reached down and grabbed her by the front of her suit, pulling her up to eye level.
“And as long as I'm in your head,” he said, his voice coming out in a cold, menacing whisper, “you can't beat me.”
The loud bang of a gunshot echoed through the cold, winter air. Deathstroke pulled his hand back in sudden pain, the bullet driving into his armored costume and forcing his sword from his grasp. Slowly, he turned to see Rebecca standing there with one hand pointing her pistol at him. Her other arm hang limply, bleeding from the wound near her shoulder.
“Get away from her, you b**tard!” she shouted, taking in deep, slow breaths. “Put your hands on her head, and get down on your knees! I won't say it again!”
“Becky, don't!” Ravager pleaded, squirming in her father's grasp. “Just get b-!”
Her words cut out suddenly when Deathstroke's fist plunged into her gut. Even through her armor, she felt it. And it hurt. Doubling over, she dropped to her knees, barely able to breathe. All she could do was look up in dismay as her father turned towards Becky.
She doesn't know what she's doing, she'll get herself killed!
When Deathstroke didn't back down, Becky fired again. But he was already out of harm's way, on the move and rushing straight at her. Her eyes went wide, as she tried to follow him with her aim. Two more shots went off, but they both missed; in seconds, he was upon her. Utilizing her recent training, Becky attempted to defend herself, and actually managed to evade and block the first couple of strikes. She quickly lost ground, however, until finally Deathstroke's knee exploded into her stomach, followed by his palm snapping her head backwards. A straight, stomping kick to the chest put her on the ground, coughing and gasping for air.
Reaching into his holster, Deathstroke pulled out another one of his guns and pointed it down at her. “Should have stayed out of it.”
Before he could shoot, however, Ravager came it at him half crazed, slashing her swords and screaming. “Don't you touch her!”
Though her blades managed to draw blood, the wounds were shallow and did little to slow her father down. Deathstroke quickly recovered from the surprise attack and disarmed her, then put her down again with several hard blows to the midsection. Falling back to the ground, Ravager held her arms over her gut, curling up into a ball and shuddering. She might as well not even be wearing armor against him.
“Well, looks like I was wrong,” Deathstroke said, glancing back down at Becky. “Not friends at all. You never cease to surprise me, Rose.”
“Go to hell...” she groaned.
Ignoring her, Deathstroke walked through the carnage, stepping over the bodies, and finally made it to the armored car. Shooting off the locks to the rear doors, he threw them open and jumped up inside, where a large, dark skinned man sat, strapped to the bench on the side with a thick metal collar around his neck.
“Leonard Smalls, Jr.?” Deathstroke inquired.
The man let out a gruff breath, looking up at him. “You're lookin' at him. But I prefer Holocaust.”
“So who the hell are you?”
“I'm the one who's getting you out of here,” Deathstroke explained. “A very important man has a proposition for you, one I don't think you'll want to pass up.”
“Hmph.” Holocaust spit onto the truck floor, then wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “I'll be the judge of that.”
“If you want your slate wiped clean,” Deathstroke said, gaze narrowing, “you'll take the offer. Either that, or I leave you here.”
Holocaust frowned, lifting his chin slightly. “I'll consider it. That's all you're gettin'.”
Walking up to the man, Deathstroke drew a knife and cut the straps holding Holocaust in place, then broke the inhibitor collar with his bare hands. Instantly, Holocaust stood up and held out his fists, unleashing a swirl of fire that burst through the top of the vehicle. Grinning widely, a pleased chuckle echoed in his throat.
“Now that's what I'm talkin' about!”
“Come on, we're wasting time.” Turning from the truck, Deathstroke hopped down to the highway. “We have places to be.”
When the two exited the armored car, Deathstroke looked around carefully. He didn't see any sign of his daughter or her girlfriend; they most likely retreated when they had the chance. Not that it mattered; he didn't come here for them, after all.
“One more thing before we go,” Deathstroke said. “Get rid of the evidence.”
“Heh, my pleasure.”
Red hot flames engulfed Holocaust's body, then quickly began to spread across the highway and consume vehicles and bodies alike, incinerating them to ash. In mere seconds, a towering inferno raged across the road, thick billows of black smoke rising into the sky.
Police Chief Gerald Palmer sat behind his desk, hands folded and gaze narrowed at the two people standing across from him: Ravager and Rebecca Chavez, the latter of whom rested her injured arm in a sling. They'd just finished debriefing him on the events that took place on the highway, and quite frankly, it was a lot to absorb.
“So let me get this straight...” Palmer breathed. “You were stopped by a federal roadblock, demanded to give up your prisoner, then attacked not only by the FBI, but an international criminal mercenary, resulting in the deaths of fifteen police officers. That about sum it up?”
Hanging her head, Becky swallowed back a holly knot in her throat. “Yes, sir.”
“I'd say that pretty much covers it, yeah,” Ravager muttered, arms folding across her chest. “Except, you missed the part where the pyro freak torched the entire scene. Wasn't a lot left when we went back to check.”
Leaning back in his seat, Palmer ran his fingers through his hair sucked in a large breath of air. He was trying to hold it together, in spite of an overwhelming mixture of anger, grief, confusion, and a swarm of other emotions raging inside his head like a maelstrom.
“Son of a b*tch...” he said, hanging his head low. “I knew those men. Good cops, every last one of them. Now I have to tell their families that...” He paused, lifting a hand and rubbing his eyes with a thumb and forefinger. “Goddamn it.”
Both Ravager and Becky remained silent, only glancing at each other briefly.
“Okay, you two just... go,” Palmer said. “Chavez, take the rest of the day off. Ravager... do whatever you normally do. I'll handle this. Gotta send a team up to investigate the scene, send word out to the deceased's families, report this... incident. Just... go, both of you. Now!”
Ravager was the first to turn and leave, heading out the door. Becky, however, remained behind a brief moment. She knew all those men, too, knew them well. They were fellow cops, there was a bond there. Losing that many of her comrades in one day... it was like driving a spike through her heart.
“Sir... if there's anything I can-”
“Not now, Chavez.” Palmer shook his head slowly, burying his face into his hand. “Just... not now.”
Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, Becky nodded slowly, then finally left the office.
Rose watched quietly, as Becky marched across the penthouse into the living room, dropping herself onto the couch. They were both tired and hurting, but in different ways. For a long moment, neither said anything. Becky sat there, motionless, while Rose stood in the main hallway, head hanging. Finally, she turned and made her way into the kitchen.
“I'll... put some coffee on,” she said.
The next ten minutes went by in utter silence. Rose just stood there, watching the coffee drip into the pot. When it finished, she poured two cups and walked into the living room to be with her girlfriend. Though she held one of the cups of coffee out, Becky didn't acknowledge it at first. Only after Rose pushed it closer to her face did she finally take it, bringing it to her lips and sipping down the hot drink.
Rose sat down down across from her in one of the arm chairs. She took a long sip of coffee, then leaned forward and placed her mug down on the table between them. Words escaped her at the moment, not knowing exactly what to say. Neither of them had been prepared for such an incident today. Even Rose, with all her experience, was at a loss.
Fortunately, Becky broke the silence. “So... that was your father?”
Becky didn't even blink, holding her cup of coffee close to her lips. “He's a b**tard.”
“I know.” Breathing in a long gulp of air, Rose held a hand to her forehead and sunk back in her seat, eyes closing. “I thought... I really thought I was finally free of him, you know? I had my own life, one that he wasn't a part of, I'd managed to get him out of my mind... and then he comes right back in and f**ks with me all over again.”
“Who do you think hired him?” Becky asked.” It... couldn't really be the President, could it? I mean, you don't really think...”
“No, no way.” Rose shook her head adamantly, staring a hole through the table. “If Slade's involved, then those guys couldn't have been legit, definitely not feds. Maybe just some goons my dad's employer hired as plan A. When that fell through, daddy dearest came in as plan B. But whoever it is... whoever hired him, I'm going to find him, and I'm going to hurt him.”
“Yeah... I'm sure you will.”
A brief moment of silence passed between them. Rose glanced up at Becky, noticed the hurt on her face. Seeing her this way... it made Rose sick to her stomach. Getting up from her seat, she moved forward around the table and sat on couch next to Becky, putting a hand on the woman's shoulder.
“Becky... I'm sorry,” she said, bowing her head. “I really... I know they were your friends. I was a cop, too, I know how strong that bond is... and you worked with them a lot longer than I did.”
An answer didn't come immediately. Becky simply sat there, quietly staring down at her reflection in the cup of coffee. Eventually, she breathed out a heavy sigh and shook her head slightly. “I just... I wish I wasn't so useless all the time.”
Rose furrowed her brow, giving a curious look. “What are you talking about?”
“Rose, what did I really do today? I shot at a few people, got shot myself, then almost got killed. A big help I was, huh?”
“Becky, there's nothing you could have done.”
“But that's the problem!” Beck was on her feet now, lurching up from her seat and holding her good hand up to her head. For a moment, she just paced back and forth, then finally dropped her arm and looked to Rose. “With how you live your life, with what you do... this whole superhero thing, I can't help you with that. No matter how much I want to, I can't. Yeah, I'm a cop, but as you love to point out, there's just some things that the cops can't handle. Take today, for instance. All I did was get in the way. I want to do more.”
“But you already do more, Beck.” Rose stood up from her seat, stepping forward and holding a comforting hand to her girlfriend's shoulder. “You help me every night, at that computer, on the radio. You-”
“Jueputa!” she snapped. “I don't want to be stuck behind a computer! When you're out there every night getting yourself shot at, putting bad guys away, what am I doing? Sitting at a desk and praying to god that you come home in one piece. I want to be out there with you, Rose, I want to really help you.”
“Becky... even if I wanted to put you in danger like that every night, you still wouldn't be ready, you're just-”
“A rookie, right, I know.” Becky bowed her head, huffing out a frustrated breath. “Madre de Dios, I know.”
Rubbing her eyes tiredly, she started pacing again, then swallowed another numb lump in her throat. She held her fingers to her eyes, taking in a deep, shaky breath, and trying to hide the wetness of tears beginning to form. But she wasn't entirely successful; Rose could see the moistness seeping around her fingertips.
“And I don't have any powers or anything special about me, anyway,” Becky continued. “I can't even fight that well... what could I really do?”
Rose moved around in front of her again, reaching forward and placing her hands gently on either of Becky's cheeks. “You don't need anything super or special about you, Becky. No matter what, you're special to me, and that's what matters.”
“I... I know, I just... I can't help it, you know? I hate being here while you're out there, knowing I can't do anything for you. I just wish I could do more.”
“But you don't need to. Just being yourself... being in my life,” Rose said, gently caressing the side of Becky's face. “You're already doing more than enough.”
When Becky went silent, lowering her gaze towards the floor, Rose leaned in and gave a firm, loving kiss. She held it a long time, coming close and wrapping her arms around Becky's shoulders, letting her know that she was there for her. When their lips parted, Becky took in a heavy breath and swallowed, nodding slowly.
“Thanks...” she breathed. “I'm just gonna take a while to clear my head. Think I'll take a shower.”
“Alright, you do that,” Rose said, with a nod. “I gotta go pick up Holly, anyway. When I get back, we'll all go out for dinner, how's that sound?”
A small smile curled its way across Becky's face. “Sounds perfect.”
It was snowing again, light flurries fluttering down weakly from the sky above. People lined the streets, watching the squad cars and police motorcycles drive by in a long, mournful procession. Six days, that was how long it took to organize such a massive funeral march. As much as the city would have like to have individual funerals for these fallen officers, there just wasn't enough taxpayer money to go around for fifteen such instances. Never before had such a tragedy befallen Silverstone's finest, and every single person there hoped that it never did again.
Rose stood on the sidewalk, at the corner of Levitt and Hunting Street. Holly was there, holding her hand tightly and watching with watery eyes. She may have been young, but she was old enough to understand the kind of impact that such an event had on a city and its people. The general public hadn't been privy to the details of the event that actually took the lives of so many officers, though. All they had been told was that these men had died while trying to apprehend dangerous criminals. As for the information about Deathstroke, the phony feds, and phantom presidential orders, that was all being kept under wraps, at least for now.
After the initial wave of police cruisers, the long lines of officers on foot appeared, marching behind the slow procession. Becky was right at the front, walking in rhythm and trying to keep her head high, in spite of the tears streaking down her face. But she wasn't the only one crying; every single officer shed tears that day. These fallen were their co-workers, their comrades, their friends, and they would be missed.
As the line of police continued on, Holly glanced up and tugged gently at Rose's hand. “Are they going to catch the people that did this?”
Breathing outwardly, Rose returned the gaze. “Of course they are.”
“Are you going to help?”
“Yes,” she replied, turning her attention back to the procession. “You're damn right I am.”
No matter what it took, Rose would find out who was responsible for that massacre. She was already heavily involved as it was, with her father being the biggest lead that they had, but there was something more driving her motivation, something burning deep. Whoever did this would pay dearly. Whatever she needed to do... the people responsible wouldn't get away. She'd make sure of it.
Looking back to the funeral procession, Holly let out a heavy breath, tightening her fingers around Rose's hand. “Good.”
Several hours later...
Becky knocked lightly on Chief Palmer's office door, taking in a deep breath and then slowly letting it out. When the voice on the other side of the door told her to come inside, she hesitated. Part of her just wanted to turn the other way and keep on going, maybe find a nice hole to curl up into and disappear. Of course, the other part of her, the stronger part of her, forced her through the door. She closed it behind her, then stood awkwardly in front of the man's desk, bowing her gaze.
“You can sit down, Chavez.”
“Oh, right. Of course.” Moving forward, she quickly seated herself down in the chair across from him. “Sorry, I... I mean, I wasn't...”
“I know,” he said, giving an understanding nod. “Don't worry about it. Now, what did you want to see me about?”
“I just... wanted to talk. About the incident last week.”
“What about it?”
Becky swallowed, breathing in deeply and hesitating to respond. She held her police hat in her hands, absently fingering the brim with her thumb. “I want to apologize. I was there when it happened, you know? I.. I tried to do what I could, sir, but it wasn't enough. We were caught completely off guard, unprepared, and we failed... I failed.”
Becky hung her head, as a silent pause drifted over over the room. Regardless of how much she knew it wasn't her fault, knew that there was nothing else she could have done to help, the guilt was still there, clawing at the back of her mind constantly.
Palmer gazed back at her, shifting in his seat and sighing. “The only reason you failed is because I failed. I should have handled it differently, set up the transport another way... I don't know, maybe I put too much trust in that Ravager.”
“Ravager is the only reason I'm still alive, sir,” Becky said quickly, jumping to Rose's defense. “She fought tooth and nail with us, but even she's only one person.”
“I know, I know...” Palmer sighed, shaking his head. “It's not her fault. And it's not your fault, either.”
“Right... it's whoever set us up, whoever hired Deathstroke, whoever wanted that prisoner free. That's who we should be going after, and I want to help. Whatever you need me to do, sir, I'm yours. I'll take extra shifts, go undercover, work with the detectives, it doesn't matter. I want to help catch these b**tards.”
Another long silence descended upon them. Palmer's gaze moved away from her, a hand coming up to run through his hair. He looked nervous, agitated even.
“What is it?” Becky asked, narrowing her eyes. “I know that look, something's wrong.”
“Something's wrong, alright,” he said, swallowing back a knot in his throat. “We won't be handling the investigation.”
“Mierda!” Becky leaned forward in her seat, sitting straight with her eyes wide. “Are you kidding me?”
“I wish I were, believe me.”
“What the hell happened?”
“It's become a federal case,” Palmer explained. “All I was told was that the FBI would be handling the investigation, and that we can't be involved. You know, because we're just the damn city cops.”
Jumping to her feet, Becky slammed her fists on top of the desk. She wasn't just angry anymore, she wasn't just upset; she was p*ssed. “The city cops who just lost fifteen members of their force! And they're telling us we can't be involved? That's bullsh*t!”
“Believe me, I'm right there with you, but there isn't anything I can do about it. Those are the orders.”
“Jueputa!” In her outburst, Becky drove her boot into the desk, giving it an astoundingly hard kick that rattled everything on it.
Palmer didn't make a move to calm her down, though, or try to get her to stop. She was reacting exactly how he had expected her to react. He wasn't any more pleased about the situation that she was; the only difference was, being Police Chief, he didn't get to react like that. Rather, he had to retain his cool, had to bite the bullet. But Becky... he let her vent.
“Of all the garbage things to... I can't even... Goddamn it!” Becky slammed her fist down on top of the desk again, knocking off a cup full of pens to the floor. “Permission to take the rest of the day off, Chief? I... I feel like I need to go hit something.”
“Was just about to suggest it myself, actually. Take tomorrow off, too, give you some time to clear your head.”
Clenching her jaw briefly, she nodded to him and then headed to the door. “Thank you, sir.”
The door slammed behind her, shaking the entire wall. Breathing out another long sigh, Palmer leaned forward against his desk and held his head in his hands; he suddenly had a very large headache.
The Red Rose Martial Arts Studio might still have been closed for another few days, but Becky really wanted to hit something, and this was the only place with a sizable enough area for them to spar in properly. Rose ducked an incoming punch, then countered with a palm thrust to the chest. Becky stumbled backwards, growling in frustration, but didn't let that slow her down. She came back in again with a whirling kick, viciously. Rose threw up an arm to block it, then pushed the leg to the side.
“It has to be some kind of joke,” Rose said. “The feds are really just coming in and pushing you out of the way?”
“Of course they are, because why not?” Exhaling a loud, sharp breath, Becky lunged forward with another punch; she hit only air. Trying not to fall too far off balance, she followed up quickly with a roundhouse elbow, but again Rose blocked it. “I'm pretty sure it's in the FBI handbook, to be the biggest a**holes possible. Kick us off the case, keep us in the dark... hijo de puta!”
As their spar went on, Becky grew increasingly aggravated, not only because of the situation involving the investigation, but also because she still hadn't managed to land a hit on her sparring partner, in spite of how bad she wanted to let out her frustrations on something. She thought that maybe this time, she would actually give Rose a challenge... but not so much. Even with how much she had improved, Rose was still leaps ahead of her.
“Damn it!” she shouted, shifting her footing and lunging in with another kick. “I need to hit something!”
Again, Rose blocked an incoming strike and pushed Becky off balance. She wasn't fighting back as she usually did, instead just defending herself. No reason to add insult to injury, after all. Still, Becky didn't give up, pressing her zealous attack with everything she had. Unfortunately, everything she had wasn't nearly enough, as Rose continued to nearly effortlessly avoid her strikes.
“Would you rather I just stand here like a dummy?” Rose asked. “Or do you want earn it?
Another duck, another weave, another misstep that threw Becky off balance. “To be honest, I'd rather just beat the crap out of something!”
This time, Rose caught Becky's arm and twisted it slightly, then pushed her backwards while stepping behind her and tripping her up.
Becky went down hard, landing on her behind and beating her fists against the mat. “Mierda!”
“There's always the heavy bag.”
“The heavy bag doesn't fight back.” Flipping herself back up to her feet, Becky lunged in with a flying kick. Rose sidestepped it, pushing her on by and causing her to stumble yet again. “It won't help me improve.”
Uttering another loud breath, Becky turned and threw a cross jab, only to once more be pushed away with ease. This time, Rose moved behind her and put her in a simple choke hold, with one arm forced behind her back.
“And... I'm going... to improve!” A few months ago, Becky would have been trapped for good, but not anymore. Throwing her body forward, she used the momentum to flip Rose over herself onto her back.
Letting out a quick breath upon impact, Rose looked up and then grabbed onto Becky's gi, pulling her down as well. “You have improved. But you still have a long way to go.”
When both were back on their feet, Rose took another defensive stance and waited for Becky to make her next move. For the moment, however, Becky just stood there, taking deep, angry breaths.
“I'm waiting,” Rose said.
“When do you have to pick up Holly?”
“Uh, she'll be at Circe's for another few hours, why?”
Becky sucked in a deep breath, then wiped the sweat from her brow. “Good.”
On that note, Becky ran in with a wild yell. Rose shifted her stance, ready to defend herself, but she wasn't quite prepared for what happened next. Even her precog didn't pick it up.
Diving forward, Becky tackled Rose to the ground, pinning her there on her back and straddling her hips. She breathed deep, heavy breaths, hands coming up to pull open Rose's gi. In the next moment, Becky's lips began attacking Rose's neck, while her hands moved in under her clothes.
Rose's eyes went wide, back arcing and body tingling. “Whoa, alright, wasn't expecting that.”
“If I can't beat away my frustrations, I'm gonna handle them a different way,” Becky said, lifting her girlfriend's shirt off.
As Becky began trailing kisses down Rose's body, Rose gasped out a sharp, pleasant breath, eyes closing. “Well sh*t... be my guest.”
The two women walked up to the apartment door hand in hand, both rather glowing at the moment. After what Becky had initiated, though, it was no wonder.
Raising a fist to knock on the door, Rose glanced over at her girlfriend and raised her eyebrows. “So, you feeling better now?”
“A little, yeah,” Becky said, with a deep breath. “Still doesn't make me like being benched by the feds any better, though.”
“I know, but don't worry. They might be able to put you on the sidelines, but they can't do the same to Ravager. We'll get to the bottom of this with or without permission, promise.”
Giving her hand a firm squeeze, Becky smiled, leaning in to give Rose a quick kiss. The door opened a moment later, revealing Lyta behind it.
“Hi, Lyta, how's it going?” Rose said, giving the girl a friendly grin.
“Hey!” the girl replied, beaming up at the women. “Things are great, thanks. Come on in, everyone's in the living room.”
Following the girl into the apartment, Rose and Becky made their way into the living room, where Circe and Holly were sitting and watching the television closely. From the looks of it, the channel was on some kind of political talk show.
Rose furrowed her brow curiously, sitting next to Circe on the couch. “What's going on?”
“Shh, you're going to want to hear this,” Circe said. “Just listen.”
Now even more confused, she turned her full attention to the television screen, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees. It didn't take long for her to identify the man being interviewed by the female talk show host; it was the current New York State Senator, Thomas Greene.
“So, can you give us some more details on this bill you're introducing?” the host asked. “I've heard from many sources that it could change our nation forever.”
“You mean 'introduced'; it's already making its way through the process of becoming law,” Green explained.
“Right, of course,” the host replied, with a small chuckle. “In record time, too, isn't that right? It was only proposed a few months ago, and already it's being voted on.”
“That's correct.” Senator Greene shifted in his seat, crossing one leg over the other. “The content of this bill is of great importance to the security and stability of our nation for years to come.”
“Why don't you reiterate, for any of our viewers just joining us? What about this bill is so important?”
Green cleared his throat, sitting up straighter. “Well, it's no secret that our world is populated by people of extraordinary power, people who dress up in costumes and masks, hide their identities, fight crime. We call them superheroes. Our kids look up to them, they have their own comic books, they save the world, etcetera, etcetera.”
“But you feel there's a problem with that, correct?”
“Not so much in the sense that I don't appreciate what these people do,” Greene said, “but in the sense that they aren't regulated, they aren't controlled, and they aren't held accountable for when they make mistakes. This happens on a consistent basis; they do so much good that we overlook the fact that they don't strictly follow the law, laws that work well enough for the rest of our nation's people.”
The host nodded, holding a hand to her chin. “A lot of people don't mind that, though. Even local law enforcement agencies back our heroes with what they do. As long as they keep helping others, should it matter if they're always acting inside the strict confines of the law? Just to play devil's advocate here, they have saved the world more times than we can count.”
Greene shook his head. “I'm not denying how much they help, I'm saying that these people need to be monitored closely, they need to be regulated. Sure, they do good, but they've also done bad. You have some so called superheroes that are the good guys one day, and then bad guys the next. That's a lot of power out there that could turn at the drop of a hat.”
“Well, I'd have to agree with you there.”
“And furthermore, if these people are going to using that kind of power, whether for good or otherwise, they must be held accountable for collateral damage. Too many times have I seen unnecessary amounts of destruction as a result of a superhero's power. And what happens? It gets swept under the rug. We turn the other way, because, oh, they're the hero, they have the power, so it's not their fault. Well guess what? Sometimes, it is their fault.”
“I see, yes,” the host responded, nodding slowly. “Could you give us an example?”
“Gladly.” Clearing his throat, Senator Greene looked straight back into the camera, as if talking directly to the audience. “Go back about a year and a half, maybe two years ago, down in San Francisco. A bunch of thugs storm the local police station, take half a a dozen officers hostage, and make demands. Aside from the fact that the victims are some of the city's finest, sounds like your standard hostage situation, right?”
The host nodded. “Seems like it, yes.”
“Well, that's where you'd be wrong. See, when negotiations don't get anywhere, instead of following normal procedure, what happens? They call in the local superhero team, the Teen Titans; you know them.”
Up until now, they had been watching the program in relative silence, mostly concerned and curious. Now, however, Rose was on her feet, heart pumping rapidly. “That son of a b*tch!”
Turning to her, Becky put a hand on her shoulder, eyes narrowing. “What is it?”
“He's... he's bringing it up,” she said, voice shaking in utter disbelief. “That. The reason I left the Titans, remember? I told you about it.”
The revelation suddenly hit her. Becky's eyebrows lift, eyes going wide as she turned back to the television. “
“..setting the explosives off, even though she was told not to go in,” Green explained. “A mistake that got six police officers killed, as well as one of their own. You'd think that this 'Ravager' would be held accountable for such a tragedy, right?”
“Well, of course,” the host said, as though it were obvious.
“And you'd be wrong again. What happened instead? The incident was ruled as an accident.” Senator Greene shook his head, curling his lips slightly before continuing. “Sure, relations between the San Francisco police and the Teen Titans were shaky for a while, but were any charges filed? Did the superhero known as Ravager pay for her mistake? No, it was forgotten about. Just one of the many reasons why this bill is going through so quickly, so that if things like that happen again, someone answers for it.”
Rose was livid now, hands clenched to fists and arms shaking. Her eyes glared a hole through the television screen, throat numb. “It was an accident! I didn't mean...”
But the interview continued, in spite of her rather loud outburst. There was nothing she can do to make them stop, after all. She wasn't there; she could only watch.
“I suppose you make fair points,” the host admitted, folding her hands in front of her on her desk. “But what exactly would this bill accomplish with the superhero community? What is its intent?”
“The Extraordinary Persons Regulation Act intends to deliver a way to monitor these people we know as superheroes,” Green explained. “No longer will they be free to run around uncontrolled, doing things as they see fit. They'll follow strict regulations, and be held accountable for their actions, or they won't do anything at all. With the laws set forth when this bill is voted in, there will be no more uncontrolled vigilantism.”
The host lifted a curious eyebrow. “And instead replacing it with... controlled vigilantism?”
Greene nodded. “In a sense, yes. Those people we know as superheroes will be required to register with the government, in turn giving us access to their full identities, details on the extent of their powers, if any, and will regularly report to our department, who will determine and monitor their activities.
“It should also be noted that this Act covers not just those we refer to as 'metahumans', but also those affiliated with magic, such as the magician Zatanna, individuals who are of a more alien origin, like our very own Superman, as well as unpowered vigilantes who are physical weapons in their own right, such as Batman. Those who refuse to register will not be allowed to continue their 'superheroing' by law, and if they attempt to break that law, they will be detained and arrested for illegal vigilantism.”
They watched the program with wide eyes, in utter disbelief at what they were hearing. Rose clenched her jaw, shaking her head and muttering under her breath, while Becky ran her fingers through her hair. Even Holly and Lyta watched with their mouths slightly agape. Only Circe seemed to be remaining calm.
“Bullsh*t,” Rose uttered. “This is complete bullsh*t.”
“They... can't do that,” Becky said. “Can they do that?”
“I think they just did,” Circe remarked, tapping a finger against her chin.
“But they can't!” Rose swallowed, running her fingers through her hair. “They want us to hand over our secret identities? They're secret for a reason! And f**k all if they think I'm gonna be playing call girl for some government patsies!”
Becky shook her head. “It won't go through... it can't go through. They'll vote against it. Right?”
No one had an answer. All they could do is keep watching the program.
“Oh, just one more question,” the host said, leaning across her desk. “You mentioned that the newly registered 'extraordinary persons' would have to report to your department. What department is that?”
“Ah, I'm glad you asked.” Senator Greene folded his hands, sitting straighter in his seat. “Since other departments of this nature have been... unsuccessful in the past, as well as restricted in how much they can get involved, a new government funded department will be created, called the Vigilante Regulation Agency, or the VRA. I actually have the future director of this agency with me here today, if you'd like to have a few words with him.”
“Oh, well, yes, that would be great. Bring him out.”
When this new 'director' walked into frame, Rose wasn't quite sure how hard she kicked the coffee table, but it flew across the room and crashed into the wall. She screamed, too, rather loudly, though not any coherent word or thought, just a wild, angry, spiteful shout of disbelief. Thoughts began to swarm around in her head, and suddenly some things started making sense.
Those feds weren't fakes... which means those presidential orders were legit... But that doesn't make any sense. Why... why would they do that?
As the man, wearing an eye patch across his right eye, sat down and shook hands with the interviewer, Senator Greene leaned forward against the desk in front of him and smiled. “Allow me to introduce you to the future Director of the VRA, when this bill passes: Mr. Slade Wilson.”
In the middle of the interview, shortly after Slade Wilson had been introduced as the future Director of the Vigilante Regulation Agency, things were suddenly interrupted. A red and yellow blur zipped into the building, rushing straight past personnel quicker than they could see. In an instant, the Flash stood in front of Senator Greene with his hands pressed against the table in front of him.
“Are you out of your mind?!” Flash shouted.
Camera crew, sound operators, the talk show host, the guests, and everyone else present all stared in surprise for several moments, an awkward silence descending over them.
Leaning back in her chair, the woman conducting the interview uttered an exasperated breath and then motioned to the man in red. “Uh, w-well, looks like we have an unexpected guest with us, ladies and gentleman. I give you the Justice League's very own Flash.”
The Flash glanced between the host and Senator Greene briefly, then focused his gaze on Slade, pointing at him. “This man is a criminal! A dangerous, murderous psychopath, and it's hardly a secret! You all know him as Deathstroke the Terminator. He should be behind bars, not sitting here on a talk show! And hiring him as this director of your bogus agency? What's the deal? This some kind of stunt? Because it's a stupid one.”
Grinning slightly, Slade folded his arms and sank into his seat. “Good to see you, too, as always.”
“Don't play friendly with me, Slade,” Flash said, eyes narrowing. “You know damn well what kind of person you are.”
Clearing his throat, Senator Greene leaned forward, giving Flash a very stern look. “We appreciate the concern, really, but I'm afraid it is unneeded. Mr. Wilson has done some questionable things in the past, yes-”
“Questionable? Well if that isn't the understatement of the century...”
“-but he's been given a second chance, employed under direct order of the government to head the Vigilante Regulation Agency.”
“Full presidential pardon,” Slade stated, his smirk growing. “If that means anything to you.”
“He's already been given enough chances.” Flash looked over at the host now. “Guys like him don't change; he's a killer, end of story.”
“While we appreciate this visit, Mr. Flash,” the host said, clearing her throat, “are you quite finished insulting and slandering my guest on national television?”
“Yes, if we could get back to the discussion,” Senator Greene said, sitting up straighter in his seat. “I believe we were on the specifics of the registration process.”
Flash snapped his gaze over to the senator. “Don't even get me started on this bill of yours, Senator. Superheroes registering with the government? Are you trying to get our families targeted by our enemies? Because that's what will happen when you force us to give up our identities. There's a reason we wear these masks, and it isn't just a fashion statement.”
Greene held up a hand, gently shaking his head. “I assure you, the secret identities of you and your fellow superheroes will only be divulged to a select few members of the government, namely the President, his cabinet, and those in charge of the VRA, like Mr. Wilson here.”
“Of course...” Leaning forward closely, Slade uttered the whisper quietly, so the cameras can't hear. “...some identities I already know. Isn't that right, Wally?”
Throwing up his hands in disgust, Flash turned and started walking away from the set. “This is completely bogus, I'm out of here. But you can bet we're not done with this, Senator. You're going to have a very vocal superhero community rising up against this bill, I guarantee it.”
“By all means,” the senator said, curling his lips into a smile, “we welcome it.”
The Justice League wasn't quite what it used to be. After many fallouts, disbandings, rebuildings, and members leaving for other things, the once most prominent superhero team in the world was but a shell of its former glory. That wasn't to say that the current members didn't still operate normally or wouldn't be there to fight the big fight when the next alien invasion found its way to earth, but most of the big names were gone, replaced by newer faces. Membership was a lot smaller than it used to be, too, no longer expanded to the much larger team it was in its heyday.
Still, all, or at least most, of the current members did show up to the meeting, the first one in a long time. They gathered around the conference table in the meeting hall of the Hall of Justice, at the very back of the building, away from the public museum area. Batman sat at the head of the table, with the other members spread out around the sides: Donna Troy, Supergirl, The Flash, Cyborg, Jesse Quick, and Jade. There was still one empty seat, but considering the member who it belonged to hadn't returned any calls, they weren't waiting for him to show up.
Leaning forward, Batman folded his hands in front of him and gave them all a long look. “I assume we all know why we're here?”
“Yeah, to figure out what we're going to do about this trumped up law they're trying to pass,” Flash said.
“I must admit,” Donna stated, “from what I've heard, it does not sound like an avenue that will benefit heroes.”
Folding his arms, Cyborg sat back in his chair and frowned. “I don't think it's meant to benefit heroes, only the lawmakers who want to keep better tabs on us.”
“You mean control us.” Supergirl stood up from her seat, leaning forward with her palms flat against the table. “That's what this is about; the government wants us in their back pocket to do with what they please. And forcing us to give up our secret identities...”
“Would that really be such a bad thing, though?” Jade suggested. “I mean, if it would help with superhero relations...”
“Easy for you to say,” Supergirl countered, shooting the woman a hard look. “You don't have a secret identity.”
Looking up from the stack of papers in front of her, Jesse Quick snickered under her breath. “Yeah, pretty hard to accomplish that when you have green hair and skin.”
“Nobody asked you,” Jade snapped.
“Alright, calm down,” Batmans said. “We're not here to argue. Jesse, you still keep in contact with the JSA, right? What are their thoughts on this?”
“Well, according to Power Girl, she's pretty much against it,” Jesse said, with a shrug. “Something about exposing her identity causing complications with running her company effectively, or something. Though, the other members aren't as concerned over it. She may be their leader, but she's in the minority.”
Flash let out a small sigh, bringing a hand up to his chin. “Then I guess it's up to us to come up with a solution.”
A moment later, the doors to the meeting hall slid open, revealing a man garbed in green and brown. The others looked over at him for a moment, until he finally approached the table and sat down.
“Heard you were having a meeting,” Green Arrow stated, tapping his fingers against the table.
“Connor,” Batman said, giving him a nod. “Glad you could make it.”
“Yeah, well my father sure wasn't coming,” he replied, shrugging slightly. “Figured you needed an arrow representative.”
Donna leaned forward, giving him a long gaze from across the table. “Is Oliver still...”
“On his mad quest for vengeance? Yeah, pretty much.”
Let's move on,” Batman said. “Jesse, what can you tell us about the details on the bill?
Glancing up again from her papers, which happened to be a copy of the Extraordinary Persons Regulation Act given to them by Senator Greene, Jesse let out a long breath and shook her head. “Nothing good, I'm afraid. There's a lot more in here than just what they're telling people in the media. From what I can gather, any superhero that fails to register with the VRA by the designated deadline and continues to try and fight crime, can be arrested and jailed for illegal vigilantism for no less than 90 days on their first offense. Depending on the number and severity of infractions, that time only goes up from there.”
“Branded criminals for trying to help people,” Cyborg muttered. “Go figure. I don't like it.”
“It just seems so unnecessary and extreme,” Donna said, breathing out a frustrated sigh.
Jade merely shrugged. “The simple solution would be to just register, then we can keep doing what we do.”
“Yeah, but on the government's leash,” Supergirl argued. “And if you muck up and cause unneeded damage while trying to fight a supervillain or something, they'll slap you with... uh, what was it called again?”
“Superhero negligence,” Jesse replied.
“That's not all, though.”
Flash groaned, holding a hand to his head. “Of course it's not.”
Clearing her throat, Jesse sat up straighter in her seat and flipped through a few pages. “According to section twelve, paragraph B, it will become law for citizens to notify the VRA of anyone with metahuman, magical, or otherwise destructive abilities. This includes people who have been identified to have the metagene, even if it isn't active, and forces them to register so the VRA can monitor their growth, development, and level of power.”
“This just keeps getting better and better,” Flash said, shaking his head.
“And with how vaguely this section is worded,” she continued, “it could even allow the VRA to take children from their homes if they fit the above descriptions, to be held in a government facility where they can be watched, with no indication of how long they're forced to stay there.”
Tapping his fingers on the table, Green Arrow shook his head and frowned. “So, they don't just want to control superheroes, they want to abduct kids with powers and raise them themselves. Wouldn't be surprised if they tried to turn those kids into government weapons.”
Glancing over at Jade, Supergirl folded her arms and glared. “Still in favor?”
“I... suppose that might be a bit too far,” Jade admitted, bowing her head. “Maybe it could be worded differently, or some sections amended. But I still don't think the general idea is that terrible.”
“Yeah, well for those of us with secret identities, exposing that will leave our families as open targets,” Flash added. “If people know who we are, they'll know who to attack to get to us.”
“But it's not like our identities would be thrown out to the general public or anything,” Jade said. “They're only going to the government, and even then mostly just the VRA.”
Cyborg scoffed, shaking his head. “You really that's going to end well with someone like Slade in charge? Somehow, I don't think our identities are any safer in his hands than the public's.”
“What I want to know is why in the world they would give him that chance?” Flash held a hand to the back of his neck, rubbing absently as he considered the question. “Why would they want a cold blooded murderer in a government position?”
“And why would he have received a presidential pardon for his past crimes?” Donna added.
“Seriously,” Jesse said. “Is the president on something, or what?”
Batman uttered a deep sigh, folding his arms. “Another matter for another time. We need to focus on the bill right now.”
Flash shrugged. “Any ideas?”
“Well, we could show up at the congressional committee meeting tomorrow,” Cyborg said. “That's when they'll be finalizing the bill's last minute details before sending it off to the president to sign.”
“Some of us could, anyway,” Green Arrow replied. “I doubt the entire Justice League showing up at the capitol building and interrupting a congressional meeting would look good.”
“A valid point,” Donna said, nodding. “I would suggest that we also come up with a written counter to the bill itself, voicing our concerns and opinions, and why we believe the bill should not be passed.”
Supergirl raised an eyebrow. “And you really that that will work?”
“It's worth a shot,” Jesse said. “I mean, what else can we do? Just sit here and hope the thing gets vetoed by some miracle?”
“We should also come up with an alternate version to the bill, one more clearly defined, just as an alternative if we can't stop it from passing altogether,” Jade added. “Maybe they'll consider some changes.”
Looking around at the Justice League members, Batman stood up from his seat and leaned forward, hands flat against the table. “All in favor of this course of action?”
The time was roughly one-thirty in the afternoon at the Capitol Building, when the doors to the conference chambers burst open. Several men in suits hurried after the three costumed individuals, trying to stop them, but of course they couldn't really do a whole lot. The members of the senate and house of representatives on the conference committee all turned their attention to the interruption, their previous discussion coming to an abrupt halt.
One senator in particular, the familiar Senator Greene, stood up from his seat and leaned forward, glaring at the intruding heroes. “Might I ask what this is all about?”
Coming forward to the center of the chamber, Donna Troy, Cyborg, and Supergirl looked up at Greene. Donna acted as their spokeswoman, approaching the man and dropping a large packet of papers in front of him.
“We've come here to protest the passing of your bill,” she explained. “This here is a written declaration from the Justice League of America that details our concerns, apprehensions, and overall distaste for what your proposed laws will do to the superhero community.”
Clearing his throat, Greene slowly sank back into his seat, then folded his hands in front of him. “I'm afraid that's not the way it works, dear.”
“Maybe not,” Donna said, “but I think you can agree that this bill is unique in not only its content, but also the way in which it's being shoved through the system to be made law as soon as possible. I think that warrants an unorthodox counter. If you'll just read through this document, you'll find our response to every section of the bill, our opinions on it, and why the idea should be voided or how it could be improved.”
“And you managed to type this all in one night?”
Donna lifted an eyebrow, smirking slightly. “We have two speedsters on our team.”
“Point taken.” Leaning forward for a moment, the senator took a few moments to look over the first page, then briefly flip through the packet, before closing it again and taking in a deep breath. “Well, you seem to have put a great deal of thought and effort in this, and you know we of course highly respect the League's input.”
“Of course,” Donna replied. The three teammates gave each other quick glances, as though mentally noting to each other that they didn't quite believe the man's words.
“Tell you what,” Senator Greene stated, “we'll break this conference for lunch and I'll make copies of your... protest. Once everyone has a copy and has read it thoroughly, then we'll reconsider our options on how to approach this bill. How does that sound?”
A brief pause passed between the group. Cyborg and Supergirl leaned in close, whispering their thoughts to her. Nodding, Donna looked back to the senator and folded her arms. “Very well, as long as you'll take our opinions seriously and strongly consider them.”
Greene nodded. “Absolutely. Now, if you'll excuse us, it looks like we have a lot of homework to do.”
The three heroes gave their goodbyes and then finally exited the chamber. When the doors closed behind them, Senator Greene let out a cool breath and glanced back down at the packet. He gazed at it for a few moments, then lifted it up and dropped it into the trashcan next to his table. No one else so much as batted an eyelash over the action.
“So, where were we?”
Three weeks later...
Slade Wilson took in a deep breath and slowly let it out, standing behind his desk and looking carefully around the office. It would do just fine, for now. He might consider reorganizing things later on, but right now he had more important things to deal with than the arrangement of furniture. Sitting down in his seat, he reached over to the intercom system at the corner of the desk and pushed the button.
“Cindy, send Leonard in, please,” he said.
“Right away, Mr. Wilson,” the woman's voice responded.
Several minutes later, Leonard Smalls, Jr., otherwise known as Holocaust, entered into the office. The large, muscled man came forward and dropped down a stack of files on the desk.
“Welcome, Leonard,” Slade said, folding his hands in front of him. “Enjoying your new position?”
“Actually a bit boring, but it beats prison.”
“Don't worry, you'll be seeing plenty of action soon, I assure you.” Slade paused a moment, reaching for the folders on his desk. “Are these the files I requested?”
“Every last one of 'em,” he replied. “The top one is a list of all the supes who registered already. The first wave, as you called it.”
Opening the top file, Slade glanced over the list inside, which included names, addresses, aliases, and an assortment of other personal information. A few names in particular caught his eye, next to some notable superhero identities: Bernhard Baker, Courtney Whitmore, Lorena Marquez, Antonia Moretti, Suzanne King-Jones, Ray Palmer, Dinah Lance, Jaime Reyes, Mia Dearden, Bette Kane, Natasha Irons, and Jennifer-Lynn Hayden.
“Interesting...” Slade breathed. “This is good progress.”
“More are comin' in everyday, too.”
Slade nodded. “And yet still many more will refuse to register; that is inevitable enough. Once the deadline passes two weeks from now, we'll need to be ready to step in; you'll need to be ready, as will the rest of the task force you'll be leading.”
Holocaust glanced down at the other folders. “Is that what those files are for?”
Looking back down at the stack of files in front of him, Slade began spreading them out across his desk. “Yes, and these should do for now. In time, we'll have plenty more at our disposal. Now, get back to work; I have a few calls to make.”
Two weeks later...
Wiping sweat from her brow, Rose took in a deep breath and grabbed a bottled water from the mini-fridge behind the counter. She had just finished teaching her fourth and final class of the day, which meant in a few hours she would be heading out for the night as Ravager on patrol, just as she always had, EPRA and VRA be damned. She might have had zero success in turning up any evidence or information against her father, and that stupid law might have passed exactly as the government said it would, but that wouldn't stop her from doing what she did best; nothing would. No one was going to make her play pet attack dog to the VRA, especially not with Slade, of all people, in charge.
Suddenly, a strong pair of arms wrapped around her midsection from behind, squeezing tightly. A soft kiss came next, pressing against the side of her cheek. Smirking, she turned her head and returned the kiss, pressing her lips firmly against Becky's. From the seat behind the counter, a small, almost disgusted groan sounded out.
“Uck, you two are absolutely nauseating sometimes,” Circe muttered. “What's the expression? 'Get a room?' Yes, do that.”
Raising her eyebrows, Becky glanced over at the purple haired woman. “When you find love one of these days, maybe you won't be so easily nauseated.”
“I tried love once, didn't like it.”
“Must have had something to do with you ending up damned to Hell,” Rose said, grinning slightly.
Circe rolled her eyes. “Yes, it must have. Now, if it's all the same to you, I'd very much like to get home. It's been a long day.”
“Yeah, alright, get going,” Rose said. “Just remember, we have belt tests tomorrow morning, so we're opening an hour earlier.”
“I know when we're opening tomorrow,” Circe said, narrowing her gaze. “I made the schedule, remember?”
Letting out a frustrated sigh, Circe stood up from her seat and grabbed her coat. “Lyta, dear, we're going.”
On the other side of the studio, Lyta and Holly were in the middle of their own improvised training. While Lyta used her magical talent to shoot out small orbs of light, Holly practiced either her footwork and agility by dodging them, or her hand eye coordination by striking them out of the air.
When her mother called for her, however, Lyta looked up and smiled. “Alright, coming. Later, Holly!”
“See you tomorrow!” Holly said, giving a friendly wave.
When Circe and Lyta went to leave through the door, however, they were suddenly met by a man wearing a suit and dark sunglasses (despite it being night out), who pushed his way past them inside.
“Uh, sir, hello? We're closed right now,” Circe said. He didn't respond, instead walking straight up to Rose and Becky. “Hey!”
Again, no answer. But he didn't need to say anything for Rose to know exactly who it was. It might have been a little more than a month ago, but she hadn't forgotten that face: Agent Croft, of the FBI.
Well, looks like someone survived the highway barbeque.
It was what he finally said, though, that made her heart beat rapidly in her chest. “Rose Wilson, otherwise known as The Ravager, pleased to meet you again.”
Instantly, Rose's eyes narrowed. She stepped in front of Becky, glaring coldly at the man. “Two questions: What the hell are you doing here, and how the hell do you know who I am?”
“I'm with the VRA now, Rose,” he said. “It's our job to know these things.”
“Well isn't that just dandy?” Rose muttered.
So Slade's his boss now, no wonder he knows who I am.
“As for what I'm doing here...” Reaching into his coat pocket, Agent Croft pulled out a folded slip of paper and handed it over to her. “I have a warrant for your arrest.”
As he pushed the warrant in front of Rose's face, Becky quickly moved around her, eyes wide. “Arrest?! What are you talking about? What the hell are the charges?”
The other girls, Circe, Lyta, and Holly, watched in much more reserved silence, though they were just as confused and concerned as the more vocal Becky.
“Well, let's see, what was there...?” he muttered, looking back through the lengthy warrant. “Oh, yes, failing to register on time with the VRA, for one. The deadline was three days ago, and the police confirmed your activities these past few nights acting as Silverstone's vigilante, a direct violation. That's a minimum of 90 days right there. Then, there is also superhero negligence, which you committed roughly two years ago and resulted in the deaths of six police officers.”
“That was a mistake!” Rose snapped. “An accident!”
“Yes, a mistake that you're finally going to be paying for.”
“But this wasn't even a law when that happened!” Becky countered. “You can't charge her with that!”
Croft looked back down at the warrant, pointing out a particular line. “Actually, according to section twenty-seven of the Extraordinary Persons Regulation Act, retroactive arrests are perfectly legal in this scenario. But that isn't all, anyway. We also have you on no less than two-hundred and sixty-seven counts of assault and battery as an illegal vigilante, and the murder of one Arnold Pavoni.”
Rose felt her eye twitch, hands trembling. “Pavoni was scum!”
How does he even know about that?! Pavoni's body was destroyed in the house explosion, which Jerry caused. No one knew that I killed him before that! No one even knew I was there!
“But you don't deny the murder,” Agent Croft stated. “So, all in all, you're looking at some hefty jail time once you're convicted.”
“Jueputa!” Becky growled. “This is crap!”
Clearing his throat, Agent Croft glanced over at Becky and reached into his coat again. He then pulled out a second folded slip of paper and handed this one over to her. “And here's the warrant for your arrest, as well.”
Becky's eyes immediately bugged out of her head. “What?!”
Reaching forward, Rose grabbed the man's shirt collar and yanked him towards her. “What the hell crap are you trying to pull now?!”
“Nothing at all,” Croft assured. “This is perfectly standard, actually. According to our information, the woman known as Rebecca Chavez has been knowingly aiding and abetting an illegal vigilante, as well as a wanted criminal – that would be you.”
“You're out of your mind!”
“As for the girl, Holly Sanders,” he continued, “she's to be taken and handed over to social services.”
At this statement, Holly's eyes went wide, as she immediately rushed over to stand behind Rose for protection. A brief moment later, Rose straight up clocked the man, bashing her knuckles into his jaw. Agent Croft flew back through the air, landing hard and sliding across the floor. When he came to a stop, he wearily sat up and wiped the blood from his lips.
“And now we can add assaulting a VRA official to your charges,” he muttered.
“You are not taking Holly away! You hear me?” Rose moved in front of both Beck and Holly, standing between them and Agent Croft. “You're not taking any of us! Now get the hell out of my studio before I throw you out!”
Slowly returning to his feet, Agent Croft reached inside his mouth and pulled out a loose tooth, followed by spitting out a large mouthful of blood. “I had hoped we could handle this peacefully, like adults, but in the event that you decided to act like a child, I brought backup.”
“The hell are you talking about?”
Before he could answer, the front window of the building shattered inward, sending a spray of glass in all directions. Circe desperately pulled Lyta out of the way, as two figures landed inside, both women. The first was shorter, with auburn hair and dressed in a tactical leather outfit complete with a lower face mask covering from her neck to her nose. A pair of metal bracers adorned each arm, both equipped with two long, wicked looking blades. The second woman was much taller, standing at least a head and a half above the other, with long, fiery red hair, toned muscular body, and a green colored costume with domino mask.
Still holding his jaw, Agent Croft walked backwards and gave the two women a hard look. “Scandal, Knockout, take them in.”
The shorter woman with the arm blades began advancing forward. “My pleasure.”
Rose pushed Becky out of the way, as Scandal suddenly lunged in with a solid kick. She was surprised at just how deft and perfectly placed the attack was, being forced to duck down and roll away from a follow up swing of the woman's blades. Springing up to her feet, Rose flipped back over the counter, barely evading a second blade strike.
The woman known as Knockout, meanwhile, came forward towards Becky and simply folded her arms. “I will give you a single opportunity to surrender, whelp.”
“Like hell,” Becky said, taking a defensive stance. “Holly, get back, I got this.”
Once Holly was in the clear, Becky made her move, utilizing all the training that Rose has given her up until this point to attack. Unfortunately... it didn't go nearly as well as she pictured it in her head. Knockout didn't even move, instead standing there as the roundhouse kick struck the side of her head, not even causing her to flinch.
Becky, on the other hand, felt like she had just kicked a brick, hopping backwards on one foot in pain. “Hijo de puta!”
Rose weaved around the blade attacks, doing everything she could to avoid being hit. Her reflexes and her precog were doing just fine, but she wasn't wearing her armor right now, and she didn't have her own swords, while this woman was fighting viciously, wildly.
Sh*t, I feel like I'm fighting naked right now.
Finally, she saw an opening. Turning her body to the side, she trapped one of her opponent's arms with her own, then reached up with her other hand to catch Scandal's remaining wrist. Without so much as a hesitation, she threw her head forward and smashed it against the woman's nose, snapping it instantly.
“F**k!” Scandal shouted, as a stream of crimson sprayed down her lips.
And then they were both falling. Scandal tumbled backwards, taking Rose with her, while driving her knee forward. Rose landed right atop it when they hit the floor, the knee coming into her gut and knocking the wind from her lungs. Coughing in shock, Rose rolled off and held her abdomen, trying to scramble back to her feet. Her precog went, though, forcing herself to lunge backwards again; but she wasn't in time.
Razor steel sliced into the meat of Rose's shoulder, not a grievous wound, but enough to draw a fair amount of blood and burn with agony. When she hit the floor again, she cringed briefly, trying to force herself through the pain. But suddenly Scandal was atop her, blades pressed against her throat. She froze, daring not make a move.
If I had my swords, this b*tch would be mincemeat!
“You so much as twitch and I'll cut your throat to the bone, got it?” Scandal asked, eyes narrowing.
From the other side of the room, Agent Croft cleared his throat. “We need them alive, Scandal.”
The masked woman groaned, rolling her eyes. “Whatever.”
Knockout walked back over to Croft, carrying a now unconscious Becky over one shoulder, as easy as though carrying a pillow. “I've defeated mine.”
“Someone give me some cuffs so I can- oof!”
Scandal's words cut off abruptly, as an attacking Holly struck her in the head from behind. The young girl may be small, but she knew how to fight, and she wasn't about to let the closest person she had to a mother get beaten and arrested like this.
“Don't do that again,” Scandal stated, slowly glaring towards the girl. She really, really didn't want to have to hurt a child.
“Leave her alone!” Holly yelled, swinging in another punch.
Scandal lifted one of her arms, catching Holly's fist with little effort. “I said, back off, kid.”
“Don' you touch her!” Rose made a move to get up, but the cold blades pressed closer to her neck, effectively keeping her at bay.
Suddenly, Holly lifted up into the air, as Knockout came up from behind and hoisted her high by the head. Holly struggled, kicking and screaming. “Let me go! Let me go!”
“Quiet, young one,” Knockout said, trying to keep her voice calm, soothing. “We are not going to hurt you.”
It was at that moment when Lyta, who had up until now been watching the scene from the sidelines with her mother, rushed forward. Circe tried to stop her, but lost her grip on the girl.
“Lyta, no!” Circe called. “Don't get involved!”
Lyta ignored her mother. “Leave my friends alone!”
Holding her hands up, Lyta's palms abruptly crackled with magical energy. A bolt of lightning shot out from her finger tips, striking Scandal and throwing her off Rose, while an invisible force caused Knockout to release Holly and then launched the woman backwards into the wall.
“Are you alright?” Lyta asked, hurrying to her friend's side.
“Yeah... I'm okay,” Holly said, rubbing the back of her head. “Thanks.”
“Well, I couldn't just let them-”
Lyta's words abruptly cut off, as her eyes rolled into the back of her head. She teetered there for a moment before falling forward, unconscious with a small dart sticking out the back of her neck. Agent Croft moved forward and lowered his weapon, a tranquilizer handgun.
“The magic girl will be coming with us, too,” he said.
Crying out with pure, seething anger, Circe charged him. “You b**tard!”
But Circe was mortal now. She had no magic, no power, and no real physical fighting experience. Agent Croft might not have had any powers of his own, but he did have some training, and thus easily overpowered the woman with a sidestep and chop to the back of the head. Circe went down hard and didn't get up.
Rose was back on her feet now, holding a hand to her bleeding wound and taking in deep breaths. She gave the terrified Holly as consoling a look as she could muster and reached out to hold the girl's hand. “It's alright, sweetie. I promise, everything's going to be-”
A hard blow to the back of her head dropped her into a heap. Knockout leaned forward to grab the unconscious woman, hauling her back over to the others. “That will be quite enough now.”
Holly hurriedly followed, beating her fists futilely against Knockout's backside. “Put her down! You can't do this! Rose!”
And then Holly went down, as well, another tranquilizer dart sticking out the side of her neck. Scandal walked over, breathing heavily and holding a hand to her chest, where the lightning bolt had struck her. The blow had ripped straight through her outfit, burning a hole into her skin.
Grumbling to herself, Scandal reached down to lift Holly up by the shirt collar. “Can we go now?”
“Of course.” Agent Croft waved them forward, heading out the door. “Bring them to the van, bind them, and we'll head back to the facility.”
As Scandal makes her way towards the door, Knockout stopped her to inspect her wounds. “Are you alright, my love?”
“Yes, fine,” the smaller woman assured. “Just some scratches; they'll be healed by the time we get back, don't worry about it.”
Knockout breathed out a small sigh of relief. “That's good.”
“Now come on, let's get out of here,” Scandal said. “Liana's waiting for us back at the hotel.”
Commissioner James Gordon stood on top of the police building roof, aiming the large spotlight up at the clouds. Letting out a cold breath, he shivered slightly, a chill running up his spine. It must have been five degrees outside, and he didn't want to be out here any longer than he had to, especially considering the nature of this call... he just wanted to get it over and done with. So far, though, they'd been waiting up here for forty minutes.
Next to him, Detective Harvey Bullock shifted his weight and let out an impatient sigh. “He ain't coming.”
“He'll be here,” Gordon assured. “He always answers the signal eventually.”
“That could be hours from now, if he's busy.”
“So be patient.”
Finally, twenty minutes later, two figures swung down onto the rooftop, seemingly out of nowhere. Batman stood straight, holding the cape of his costume closely around his body. Robin, on the other hand, leaned back against the parapet and folded his arms, waiting for them to get the meeting over with.
“What's this about?” Batman asked.
Switching off the bat signal, Gordon shoved his hands into his pockets and breathed outwardly. “Listen, Batman, I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do about this.”
“What are you-”
Narrowing his eyes, Batman abruptly cut his own words off, now noticing a handful of men dressed in armored tactical gear and carrying non-lethal weapons, marching up the stairs that led from the building to the roof. Remaining silent, he took a small step back and carefully analyzed just how many men there were, their positioning, and what kinds of weapons they had.
One of the men, the only one not wearing a helmet and visor, came forward and held up a slip of paper. “Batman, Robin? This is a warrant for your arrest, under the new vigilante laws put into place recently. You were both given ample time to register with the VRA, but have failed to do so. As such, you will be taken in and held for 90 days, at which time you will be made to register with us and then released.”
Still silent, Batman slowly reached forward and takes the paper from him.
Robin, on the other hand, jumped up straighter with his eyes wide. “What?! Uh uh, no way, you're not taking us! Just try it!”
“Robin, calm down,” Batman said.
“Calm down? Are you insane?” Robin looked back at him, glaring intently. “They're trying to arrest us!”
“And whining about it isn't going to make the situation any better.”
Glaring, Robin folded his arms again. “I'm not whining...”
Turning his attention to the VRA Agent again, Batman gave him the warrant back. “I can't leave Gotham alone for that amount of time.”
“Well, you should have thought about that before you failed to register,” the agent said. “Then you'd still be here legally.”
“And at your beck and call.”
“Make the smart decision, Batman. If you don't come peacefully, our orders are to take you by force.”
As the surrounding squad team raised their weapons, Batman drew his hand towards his utility belt. “That would be a very unwise decision on your part.”
Moving forward again, Commissioner Gordon brought his hands out of his pockets and folded his arms. He looked conflicted, caught between his partnership with Batman and orders from a higher authority. “Batman, please don't make this any harder than it needs to be. Just do your time, register with them, and you'll be back before you know it. We can handle things until then.”
“You know I can't do that, Jim,” Batman said, shaking his head.
The VRA Agent sighed. “Then you know what we have to do.”
Suddenly, Robin charged forward at the man, in a clear move to attack. “Just try it, punks!”
“Robin, wait!” Batman called.
He hadn't been planning to fight these men; a simple smoke bomb and quick escape would have worked well enough. Clearly, though, Robin had other ideas. The VRA Agent didn't even move as Robin leaped forward, simply watching with knowing eyes. Suddenly, a brown blur dove into view, coming from the shadows of the rooftop, near the doorway leading back into the building. A strong kick drilled into the side of Robin's head, sending him tumbling across the roof.
“Robin!” Batman called, taking several steps forward.
The Boy Wonder groaned slightly, pushing his way up to his hands and knees. He was dazed, a throbbing pain in his head. Whoever hit him had hit him hard. “Cheap shot...”
Batman took a defensive stance, instantly recognizing the man, dressed in an almost knockoff costume of his own but with brown and tan colors, instead of black and grey. His name was Thomas Blake, otherwise known as Catman, the world's most premiere hunter and tracker, also a highly skilled combatant and sometimes criminal.
“Settle down, kid,” Catman stated, folding his arms. “Or I'll hit you harder next time.
“Blake...” Batman narrowed his eyes, frowning. “What the hell are you doing here?
“My job,” he replied. “I'm with the VRA now, ever since they recruited me as part of their task force. I'm here to make sure you go with them. You're welcome to resist if you really think you can take all of us.”
When Robin finally stumbled back to his feet, he held the back of his head and glowered at the man. Without so much as another word, he ran forward to attack Catman head on... only to be abruptly put down by one of the VRA operatives' stun guns, rendering him flat on his back and and twitching from the electricity coursing through him.
“Alright!” Batman shouted, lowering his guard. “That's enough! I'll go, just stop it!”
The VRA Agent severed the charge from the cables connecting the stun gun to Robin, relieving the Boy Wonder from pain, though it would be a while until he regained his motor functions.
Watching this, Harvey Bullock shifted his weight uneasily and frowned. “Jesus, he's just a kid...”
“And yet he's as guilty as the rest of them,” the VRA Agent replied.
“So,” Catman said, turning his gaze back to Batman, “ready to come quietly?
Bowing his head, Batman let out a long breath, not seeing many options at the moment. “Fine, I'll go. Robin stays, though; he's still just a kid. I'll serve his time in addition to my own, if need be.”
The VRA agent paused a moment, considering the proposal. He then glanced back Robin, holding a hand to his chin and nodding. “Alright, we can do that. You see? We're not unreasonable. Now, come with us; we have transport waiting down at street level.”
Batman gave the men a long look, shifting his gaze between the VRA operatives, Catman, and Gordon. Then, he finally walked forward, escorted by the team back down the stairs, and Bullock going with them. Before leaving, however, he turned to Gordon to make a request. “Make sure Robin's alright.
Gordon nodded. “Of course.”
When he was gone, only Gordon, Catman, and the still recovering Robin remained on the rooftop. Gordon breathed out a sigh, shoving his hands into his pockets and bowing his head. Catman, on the other hand, pulled out a cell phone from his utility belt.
“We got the big man,” Catman stated to the person on the other end of the phone. “Move in on the Birds. Start with that leader of theirs.
Instantly, Gordon's heart jumped, his eyes wide. “No! What are you doing? She's already registered! Why the hell are going after her, too?!”
“She registered, sure,” Catman said, “but that's not all we got her on. She's still been aiding and leading unregistered vigilantes around Gotham, and that makes her guilty by association. So, the VRA brings her in. That's how it works.”
“If you think I'm going to let you lay a hand on my daughter, you're insane!” Gordon shouted.
Catman merely shrugged, heading back towards the stars. “Not me, but someone will.”
The underground base known as Firewall, built beneath Barbara Gordon's apartment, once served simply as the new Batgirl's personal base, her very own batcave. There, Batgirl was assisted by Proxy, Oracle's protégé. In the past couple of years, however, with Oracle returning once more to lead Gotham's Birds of Prey, Firewall had evolved into a base for the entire team. Now, both Oracle and Proxy monitored and assisted the Birds' crime fighting activities around the city, though Oracle also continued to aid all heroes who required her expertise.
The two women sat across from each other at two separate computer terminals, surrounded by screens, holographic maps, and streams of data. Leaning forward in her chair, Oracle clicked a button on her keyboard and brought up a large map of Gotham's East End.
“I said the one on Park Street,” she said, speaking into her headset. “The deal's going down in twenty minutes, you need to get there and get into position.” There came no response. “Black Canary, do you copy? Black Canary?” Still nothing, just a hiss of static. “Huntress? Batgirl?” Silence. “Black Bat? Anyone? What the hell is going on?”
Glancing up from her terminal, Proxy gave her a concerned look. “Barbara, I'm getting some weird interference on my end. Can't seem to figure out the cause.”
“And I think my signal just went dead,” Oracle replied, eyes narrowing. “That shouldn't happen. Wendy, see if you can-”
Her words stopped abruptly, as the screens around her workstation began to flicker and fill with white noise. An electrical hissing soon followed, playing over every single one of their speakers.
“Yeah, and that definitely shouldn't happen, either,” Proxy said.
Instantly, both women's fingers flew across their keyboards, trying to do everything possible to regain control of their systems. But no matter what they did, nothing worked. Oracle's adrenaline began pumping furiously, as panic set in. This shouldn't be happening. This couldn’t be happening. She had built these systems herself; they were untraceable, unhackable, and completely crash proof.
Then, everything went dark, as the base's power suddenly cut out. The backup generator kicked in a few moments later, throwing on the emergency lights and providing a small amount of power to the computers. Two screens flickered on, one in front of either woman. On those screens appeared a face. It was hazy and distorted, but there was only one person it could be.
“Is that...?” Proxy uttered, glaring at the image with wide eyes.
“Yeah,” Oracle said, eyes narrowing. “Calculator.”
Well, well, good to see you again, Oracle.” The distorted face grinned, leaning closer to the camera. “Barbara. Babs.”
Oracle swallowed a knot in her throat, retaining her firm, unyielding expression. “How did you get in here?”
“You registered with the VRA, remember?” Calculator said, tilting his head to the side. “Just like a good little girl. And I work for them now; all that information they have is mine. Who you work with, where you operate from, how to hack into your unbreachable systems...”
“You gotta be kidding me!” Proxy exclaimed, slamming her fists down on the counter. “You're a criminal! Why the hell would they hire you?”
“Ah, Wendy...” Calculator shook his head, uttering a deep sigh. “I'm very disappointed in you, joining in with these heroes. These people are responsible for putting you in that wheelchair, and they're the reason your brother is dead, or have you forgotten?”
Proxy paused, clenching her jaw tightly. “Unlike you, Dad, I don't hold grudges. I forgive. And given the choice between them and you, they win every time.”
Calculator bowed his head. “As I said, disappointing.”
“Enough crap,” Oracle stated. “What are you doing here? We both registered with the VRA, you shouldn't be coming after us.”
“Ah, so you did. Unfortunately, not everyone on your little team followed suit, yet you continue to work with them. That makes you just as guilty as they are. As we speak, a squad is moving in on your base; they'll be there shortly.”
“You son of a b*tch!” Proxy pounded a fist on her keyboard, breaking off several keys in the process. “You can't do this!”
“Oh, but I can,” he replied. “I would suggest going quietly, too. There's no reason we have to make this difficult.”
Springing into action, Oracle turned her wheel chair away from the computer and began wheeling herself across the floor. “Wendy, see if you can manually activate the security systems! I'll try and restore the main power!”
“On it!” Proxy immediately turned herself around and wheeled her way over to a control panel on the wall, punching in a numbered passcode.
Calculator merely widened his grin. “Don't bother, girls. I have complete control over your base; there's nothing you can do. Now, have good evening. I'll be seeing you both very soon.”
The parking garage was quiet and nearly empty, save for a scant few cars here and there. The Birds of Prey were in position, though, waiting for the expected huge drug deal to go down. At least, that was what they were supposed to be there for. So far, however, nothing had happened. No shady individuals, no activity, definitely no deal.
Peering around the side of a pillar, Huntress looked around carefully, curiously. “Are we sure we're in the right place?”
“Uh, I'm pretty sure,” Batgirl replied, her voice crackling in over the comm link. “The signal was pretty fuzzy for a while, but I thought this is what Oracle said.”
“Can't contact base,” Black Bat said. “The signal... dead.”
“Don't worry about it, nothing's wrong,” Black Canary assured. “And this is the right place.”
Huntress frowned. “I still think I heard her say the one on Park Street.”
“Then you misheard,” Black Canary said quickly. “It's the one on Levitt.”
Uttering a small sigh, Huntress shrugged her shoulders and disappeared back behind cover again. “If you say so.”
A couple more minutes ticked by, with no sign of the drug deal going down. Eventually, however, someone approached. Huntress heard the footsteps coming closer, echoing inside the spacious parking garage. Immediately, she raised her crossbow, preparing to engage. But then, she heard something else, words coming in over her comm.
“Canary, what are you doing?” Batgirl asked. “Hey! Canary!”
Confused, Huntress looked around the side of the pillar again. To her surprise, she saw Black Canary out in the open, walking towards a man in a suit and sunglasses. “Whoa, hey, what's going on?”
“Black Canary? Hello?” Black Bat glanced around her cover, hand on her utility belt. “Dinah?”
Black Canary moved next to the man and turned around, hands on her hips. “Everything's alright. Just come on out.”
The three other members of the team gave each other careful glances before slowly moving out of cover.
“Alright, feel like explaining this?” Huntress asked.
“Good evening to you, Birds of Prey,” the VRA Agent said. He took a moment to reach into his pocket, pulling out a small slip of paper. “I have with me a warrant for your arrest.”
Huntress lifted an eyebrow. “I'm sorry, come again? I could have sworn you just said you were going to arrest us.”
“Yes... it is,” Black Bat said.
Batgirl's blinked, confused. “Wait, hold on, why?”
Clearing his throat, the agent folded his hands in front of him and stared calmly. “For failing to register with the VRA and continuing your illegal vigilantism.
“Oh you gotta be kidding!” Huntress blurted, taking a step forward. “This whole thing is a sham, you know that? Tell you what, you turn around and walk out of here, and I won't but a bolt through your knee. How's that sound?”
“You were right, Miss Lance,” he said, shaking his head slowly. “They won't come peacefully.”
Eyes going wide, the Birds of Prey stared in surprise, their focus on Black Canary. Even Huntress' aim faltered, crossbow lowering.
“Canary, you... you're working with them?” Batgirl asked, barely able to get the question out. “You registered?”
“And set us up...” Black Bat added.
“Is that what this is?” Huntress swallowed a numb lump in her throat, trying not to let the pain of betrayal show on her face. She took a step backwards, slowly shaking her head. “All of a sudden you're a government patsy turning against your team? Your friends? I thought we made a pact, Dinah. None of us were supposed to register with the VRA's bullcrap! We were supposed to look out for each other!”
Black Canary's expression didn't waiver, remaining almost miraculously indifferent. “I just thought it was the sensible thing to do. This is the law now, and we must obey. Resisting is futile.”
“My god, would you listen to yourself?” Huntress said. “I swear they must have brainwashed you or something, because the Black Canary I know doesn't talk like that!”
“Please go quietly,” Canary urged. “I'd rather this situation not escalate.”
“Escalate, my ass!” Huntress raised her crossbow again, pointing it at the VRA Agent. “You already sold us out!”
Black Bat slowly turned to glare at Black Canary. “Will you bring us in? Will you... fight us?”
“If I have to,” came the reply.
“This isn't happening,” Batgirl said, holding her hands to her head. “This can't be happening. I'm dreaming, I must be.”
“I'm giving you girls one chance to come peacefully, so we can all sort this out,” the VRA Agent said. “If you don't, we will take you by force.”
Huntress narrowed her eyes, placing her finger on the trigger of her crossbow. “You can damn well try.”
“Helena, one more chance to stand down,” Canary said. It sounded quite suspiciously like a threat.
“And then what, you burst our skulls with your canary cry?” In an act that Huntress never thought she'd do, she turned her weapon on Black Canary, her closest friend for years. “Is that what our friendship means to you? What it meant to you?”
“Whoa, okay, everyone calm down,” Batgirl urged. “No one's bursting anyone's skulls, alright?”
“As expected...” The agent sighed, shaking his head slowly. “Looks like we'll have to do this the hard way. But your friend here won't be bringing you in. They will.”
Suddenly, a dark shape rushed into view, leaping over a nearby car and throwing itself at Huntress. Whirling her aim around in time, she got off a couple shots before the furry beast landed on top of her and pinned her to the ground. Blinking up in shock, she suddenly realized that she was staring eye to eye with a massive, snarling werewolf.
“Unless you those are silver tipped, don't bother,” Kubrick growled. “They won't do you any good!”
Huntress tried to move, struggling beneath the beast, but his strength far surpassed her own, and the several knee shots she managed to bring up into his abdomen didn't even phase him.
“Hold on!” Batgirl shouted, hand flying to her utility belt. She pulled out a sonic batarang, clicking the middle button to activate the charge. “I got you!”
Before she could throw it, however, another figure lunged into view, colliding with her with enough force to send her spinning back head over heels across the ground. When she recovered, she noticed the blue skinned, shark mouthed alien monster charging at her again. Turning to the side, Batgirl evaded the slashing claws and countered with a kick to the monster's stomach. The blow didn't have much of an effect, however, and then suddenly its long, barbed tail curled up and wrapped around her throat, pulling her into the air.
“You!” Black Bat declared, recognizing Zaria from their previous encounter. “Celarian!”
“Ah, you remembered what I am this time,” Zaria said, glancing back with a sneer. “I'm flattered.”
Black Bat already had an electric batarang in hand, ready to throw. “I beat you before... will do it again.”
“True, you have beaten me...” Zaria's replied, licking her long tongue around her lips. “But you're not fighting me this time.”
And that's when the cement ground beneath Black Bat's feet cracked apart. Instantly, she jumped backwards to get out of the way, but didn't get very far before thick plant vines coiled up and lashed out at her. Within seconds, they wrapped around her arms, legs, neck, and abdomen, holding her firmly in place. A few moments later, a large plant pod rose up from the ground behind the vines, opening up to reveal a green skinned woman with striking red hair, her only clothing being a few strings of leaves: Poison Ivy.
“Don't bother struggling,” Ivy said, grinning pleasantly. “The harder you squirm, the tighter my babies constrict.”
With all members of the Birds of Prey now restrained, the VRA Agent stepped forward. “Now, as I was saying, you girls are all under arrest.”
The subbasement of Titans Tower was mostly quiet at the moment, with only one occupant present and utilizing the training equipment. Tim Drake gripped the chin up bar tightly, pulling himself up repeatedly at a steady, even pace. Somewhere around his fiftieth rep, the door at the other end of the room slid open, revealing a cloaked and hooded figure floating towards him.
“Tim...” Raven said, in that passive, quiet voice of hers. “We must speak.”
Blinking at the girl, Tim hung there from the bar for a few moments, just dangling. Finally, he dropped down to this feet and grabbed a towel, wiping sweat from his brow. “Sure, what's this about?”
“It's about Wonder Girl,” she replied. “I have noticed... changes in her, these past few days.”
Curiously, Tim furrowed his brow and folded his arms across his chest. “What kinds of changes? As far as I can tell, she's been the same as always.”
“It isn't anything you would notice. Her personality, her actions, her mannerisms... they are all still the same.”
“Then what's wrong?”
Raven floated closer to him, staring intently into his eyes. Her own eyes were hard, serious. “It comes from within her. Ever since she returned to the tower last week, I have sensed an emptiness inside her, an utter lack of emotion and feeling, as if devoid of any soul. I fear everything she does right now is an act.”
Reaching for the bottle of water next to him, Tim took a long gulp, mulling over Raven's words in his head for a moment. “And you're absolutely sure about this?”
“At first, I wasn't,” she said, lowering her gaze. “I thought that maybe my powers were malfunctioning... but then I projected myself into her mind to be sure. I found... nothing. Just an empty void lacking emotion. Yet, at the same time, I'm sure that she is the real Cassandra Sandsmark. Where did she go when she left last week?”
“To visit her mother,” he said. “Do you think something happened to her there?”
“I feel something must have, yes.” Raven held her cloak tighter around her body, breathing in deeply.” Something caused this... loss of feeling, though I do not know what it could be.”
Giving a small nod, Tim started walking towards the door, motioning for Raven to follow him. “Come on, we'll go have a talk with her, see what we can find out.” Before he made it to the exit, however, red blinking lights began to flicker above them, accompanied by a loud, blaring horn.
“The alarm?” Raven uttered, looking up at the blinking lights curiously.
“Damn it, someone's on the island without permission,” Tim said, hurrying down the hallway to the elevator.
Raven floated after him, keeping pace. “An enemy, perhaps?”
“Or a tourist trying to get a closer look than he should. Either way, we need to get topside, now.”
Several minutes later, every member of the Teen Titans (consisting of Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy, Raven, Beast Boy, Static, and Bombshell) exited the front entrance of the tower. The two trespassers stood calmly outside, waiting for the team to show up. Upon seeing these two individuals, the Titans immediately took a defensive position. After all, how often do a pair of super villains show up on your front doorstep without looking for a fight?
Holocaust moved forward, hands held behind his back and a large smirk on his face. “Teen Titans, we meet again.”
“Holocaust...” Red Robin muttered. “What are you doing here? Kid Flash sent you on a one way ticket to the earth's core years ago.”
“Didn't think that could really stop me did you?” he said, scoffing out a laugh. “Heard what happened to the little speedster, by the way. Shame, really. Was hoping for a little payback.”
A sudden burst of electrical energy split the air, as Static came forward, Lightning bolts flickering and jumping around his body. “You got some nerve coming here, Leonard! You want a fight, then you came to the right place. I'll be more than happy to put you down again!”
“Not here to fight, Static,” Holocaust said, with a flippant wave of the hand. “Well, at least not if you behave yourselves.”
Bombshell scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Right, and I suppose you're just here for some small talk? Cut the crap and get to the point. The hell are you doing here?
“I wouldn't talk that way to the head of the VRA's Task Force, girl,” Holocaust said, narrowing his eyes.
Static's own eyes went wide. “The head of... what?!”
“That's right, I work for the government now.” Holocaust grinned, cracking his knuckled. “It's my job to deal with you people.”
Red Robin frowned. “We people?”
“Superheroes, of course. At least the ones that don't register like they're supposed to. The deadline passed four days ago, and you're all currently acting as illegal vigilantes, giving me the power to arrest you all for ninety days imprisonment. Ya dig?”
“He's kidding, right?” Beast Boy asked. “Tell me he's kidding.”
“If you're with the VRA, then what's she doing with you? You're telling me they hired her, too?” Red Robin pointed at the woman behind Holocaust, a woman with icy blue skin and hair, and an unnatural chill emanating from her cold body.
“That's right,” Holocaust said. “Killer Frost is with me.”
Beast Boy shook his head. “Alright, now I know he's kidding.”
“So let me get this straight,” Red Robin said, rubbing his fingers against his yes. “A legal, regulated government agency hired two well known super villains as a part of their task force to bring in rogue superheroes?”
Killer Frost grinned. “Heh, kid, you don't know the half of it. Now, be a good little boy and come quietly. Or don't; I wouldn't mind snapping off a few frozen limbs first.”
Superboy came forward now, hands curled into fists. “Enough talk. You two don't belong here! Get off our island before we throw you off!”
“Oooh, I'm terrified,” Killer Frost said, her wicked grin growing wider. “What are you gonna do, Kryptonian?”
And then, Wonder Girl spoke. “Guys, just do it... Don't make it harder than it needs to be.”
All eyes turned towards her, wide in disbelief.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Superboy asked.
“Just go with them and do your time,” she urged. “Then you can register like I did and be back doing things like normal.”
Beast Boy's mouth hung open, eyes blinking. “What? You went and registered with these bozos?
Wonder Girl simply shrugged. “My identity was already public, Gar. It only made sense.”
“That's not the point!” he replied. “Now you answer to them, right? Like a trained attack dog!”
“Maybe... but it's better this way,” Wonder Girl said. “There doesn't need to be anymore tension between heroes and those in authority. Even though we answer to them, we can still do good, just like always.”
Bombshell held a hand to her head and scoffed. “And I thought Ravager was nuts. This b*tch is off her rocker.”
Moving towards her, Superboy put his hands on Wonder Girl's shoulders, staring into her eyes. “Cassie, would you listen to yourself? You can't honestly believe what you're saying. It's... not you.”
“It is me, Conner. It's all me.”
Meanwhile, Raven, the other silent one of the group, was on her knees, a hand pressed to her head and eyes closed. She looked almost sick, afraid even, and her voice came out in nothing more than a hoarse whisper. “I was right... there is something wrong. This isn't Wonder Girl... not as we know her. She's... I can feel something now... but it's not coming from her.”
Static glanced over at Raven, the only one to take notice of her at the moment. Leaning down close, he put a hand on her shoulder. “Raven, you alright? What's going on?”
And then, Raven's eyes flew open. “We're in trouble.”
Before Raven could give further warning, Wonder Girl reached into her pocket and pulled out a small lead box, then flipped the top open. A bright green glow emerged, coming from the small space rock within. Instantly, Superboy doubled over in pain and nausea, sweat beading from his forehead. In seconds, he collapsed to the ground, groaning incoherently as the chunk of Kryptonite landed next to him.
“Cassie, what the hell are you doing?!” Red Robin shouted. “You'll kill him!”
“If you won't come quietly, then we must take you...” Without warning, Wonder Girl flew forward with a burst of speed, heading straight for Static. He put up an electrical field to try and defend himself, but the resulting impact of her super strength punch sent him flying through the air, eventually landing in the waters of the San Francisco Bay.
Red Robin ran forward, grabbing at Wonder Girl's shoulder. “Cassie, stop!”
She slowly turned towards him, taking firm hold of his arm and forcing him away. “No, Tim. You won't stop me.”
“Forget talking, she's out of control!” Bombshell exclaimed. “She needs to be put down!”
Bombshell launched herself at Wonder Girl, throwing a punch infused with an explosive amount of quantum energy. Whirling around, Wonder Girl threw up her arms in defense, taking the brunt of the impact and flying wildly back in the air. Bombshell quickly flew after her, fists already charged with more quantum power.
“Not so fast,” Holocaust stated, raising an arm.
A torrent of flames erupted around his body, sending a scorching stream straight at the silver woman. When the flames engulfed her, Bombshell uttered a loud cry of pain, falling from the air. Keeping the inferno on her, Holocaust turned up the heat, causing the girl to roll over in agony. The extreme temperature began to strip away her metallic, Dilustel skin, peeling it off and exposing her normal flesh beneath.
“That's enough,” Killer Frost muttered, with a disappointed sigh. “We're not supposed to kill them, as sad a fact as that is.”
In response to the attack, Beast Boy suddenly charged forward, in the process transforming into an enormous, forty foot tall T-Rex. Opening his jaws wide, he plunged his head down, intent on chomping Holocaust between his teeth. Before he got that far, however, Wonder Girl flew back in and delivered a thunderous punch to the side of his face. Beast Boy went down immediately, reverting back into his regular form and falling unconscious.
“Damn it, Cassie!” Red Robin turned and ran towards the crippled Superboy, making a desperate dive for the chunk of Kryptonite. He had to get rid of it in order to get Superboy back on is feet.
Unfortunately, in mid lunge a cold wave suddenly blasted over him. He felt the temperature drop rapidly, until a thick layer of ice encased around his body, pinning him against the ground.
“Chill out, kid,” Killer Frost said, smirking.
Holocaust turned his attention back towards the only Teen Titan still standing. “Just one left.”
Raven, however, wasn't in much of a condition to fight back. Hands holding her head tightly, she groaned and took in deep breaths, sweat pouring down her face. “No, no... this is wrong. This is all wrong!”
All she could focus on was the utter emptiness coming from Wonder Girl, an emptiness being filled with artificial emotions and instructions. There was something inside Cassie, something forcing her to do this... and it was destroying her.
“I can't... I must find help. I have to fix this!” And then, in a swirl of dark mass, Raven vanished from the island, teleporting through her soul-self.
A red and white blur streaked across the sky, high above the Appalachian wilderness. Taking in deep, frantic breaths, Power Girl glanced back over her shoulder and lifted a hand to wipe a trickle of blood from her lip. Even with her high level of invulnerability, she was bruised and beaten, exhaustion stinging her lungs. Her costume, too, was torn and shredded, barely hanging onto her body. And the pain... it took a lot to make her feel real pain, but by Krypton, she felt it now.
Twenty minutes ago, it had been a completely normal day. She'd called a JSA meeting, just like she did every Monday, gathering together all members of the team. But the JSA weren't the only ones who showed up to the meeting. A whole team of VRA operatives had come with them, threatening to take her in for failing to register. Of course, she had completely brushed this aside. After all, what were they going to do, shoot her? She had her own reasons for not wanting to hand over her life and identity to the government, and no one was going to make her.
That was, of course, until the entire JSA turned on her. They had all registered with the VRA, and they were all now following the government's orders. Just like that, her leadership and friendship to them had suddenly vanished. When she had refused to let herself be taken away by the VRA, they attacked. They all attacked. She might have been one of the strongest women on the planet, but even she couldn't overcome that kind of onslaught. She had just barely been able to get away before they took her in, and right now she was on her way to meet up with one of her closest friends, assuming the homing beacon worked.
Landing somewhere in the middle of a forest, with a range of rounded mountains in the background, Power Girl collapsed on top of a large rock and huffed out a deep breath. Crap, my body hurts. Feels like I just went ten rounds with Darkseid.
Half an hour later, a large shadow descended over her from above. Squinting slightly, Power Girl sat up and leaned back on her arms, watching as a dark haired girl in a white and black outfit floated down on a levitating rock.
“I got your call, Peej,” Terra said. “What's going on? And what the heck happened to you? You look terrible.”
“Yeah, well I feel terrible, too.” Power Girl uttered a heavy breath, holding a hand to her forehead. “Something's wrong, Atlee, something's really, really wrong. The VRA just showed up on the Justice Society's doorstep looking for me. I mean, sure, I didn't register like I was supposed to, but come on. They can't really expect us to just give our whole lives up to them so we can keep beating up super villains, right?”
Getting down on her hands and knees, Terra leaned forward over the edge of her floating rock, hovering several feet above the ground. “And they did that to you?”
“No, that's the part that's so messed up!” she replied. “I could have swatted those VRA goons away with my eyes closed if I wanted to, but I never got that chance. My whole team turned on me, Terra. The entire JSA, they just... they attacked me. I put up a fight for as long as I could, but then I got the heck outta there and called you.”
“Hmm... sounds problematic,” Terra muttered.
Power Girl scoffed, bowing her head. “Well if that isn't an understatement...”
“I really wish you registered, Peej. Now I have to bring you in, too.”
A cold, numb sensation quivered into Power Girl's chest. “No... Atlee, not you, too.”
Terra merely shrugged, then reached out and clenched a fist. Instantly, the earth around her rose up in the form of a giant hand that grabbed hold of Power Girl, squeezing tightly.
“You have to understand, the VRA is trying to help us,” Terra explained. “We all need to listen to them and follow their laws. Just come peacefully, Peej. It's only 90 days, and then you can register with them like you already should have. Nothing terrible.”
Gritting her teeth, Power Girl tightened her muscles and threw her arms up, bursting through the earth holding her. “No, this isn't right! None of this is right!”
What the hell is with everyone? Why is the whole superhero community turning on each other?!
A flying boulder abruptly cut off her thoughts, exploding against her backside. Normally, it wouldn't hurt that much, but with how battered she was already, it did damage. Cringing, she fell to one knee, a hand pressed against the ground.
“Don't make me hurt you, Peej.” Terra raised another hand, causing a second boulder to lift up into the air. “And I can hurt you, especially in your current condition.”
“Yeah, well... you're forgetting something.” Taking in a deep breath, Power Girl suddenly rocketed herself forward at super speed, blitzing the girl. “I can hurt you, too!”
She made certain to hold back with her punch, way back. After all, she wasn't trying to take Terra's head off or anything. Whatever was going on, whatever was doing this, they were still friends. She just needed to put the girl down for a while, until she could figure out what was wrong. When her fist connected, Terra went down hard, not moving but still breathing.
“Sorry, girl,” Power Girl uttered, reaching down to lift the girl into her arms. “Come on, let's take you home. Then I need to figure out what the hell is going on around here.”
When the doors to the Hall of Justice meeting room opened in front of him, the Flash folded his arms and looked around. Supergirl walked in next to him, hands on her hips. Cyborg and Donna were already waiting for them inside, but the others weren't there yet.
Before any of them could speak, Jesse zipped into the room, coming to an abrupt halt right in front of them. “Z25Y(2AB)6. Alright, I'm here. What's going on?”
“You mean you don't know?” Cyborg asked, lifting his eyebrows.
“Uh... no. Should I?”
Cyborg narrowed his eyes, folding his arms across his chest. “Considering you called us here, I would hope so.”
“Wait, what?” Jesse blinked, turning her attention to Donna. “But I was called here by Donna.”
The Justice League members paused, glancing at each other in confusion.
“And I was called by Supergirl,” Donna explained.
“Don't look at me,” Supergirl replied. “My call came from Cyborg.”
“And mine came from Jade,” Flash said.
Another voice interrupted them, as the doors opened up again. Green Arrow walked in, bow over his shoulder and eyes narrowed. “And Flash called me.”
A dead silence descended over the group. After several moments, Cyborg brought a hand to his chin, a very cold sensation running through his half-machine body. “Then the question is: who really called us?”
“I did,” a voice echoed across the room, as the other set of doors opened to reveal another figure walking towards them, a very familiar figure: Deathstroke.
The Justice League immediately went on the defensive, preparing themselves for an attack. The man was in full costume, after all, with weapons at the ready.
“Slade...” Cyborg muttered. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Ah, Victor... not as sharp as you used to be, are you?” the mercenary said.
Flash took a step forward. “Cut the small talk, Wilson. Give us one good reason why we should pummel you and drag you off to jail.”
“Well, for starters, I haven't committed a crime,” he informed.
Jesse scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Oh, duh, of course you haven't. Because you're such a nice guy, right?”
“I'm a free and innocent man now, whether you like it or not,” Deathstroke stated. “I'm also the head of the Vigilante Regulation Agency, the agency that you were all supposed to register with according to the new laws put into place two and a half weeks ago. The deadline expired, and none of you complied.”
“Because it's wrong,” Donna stated. “And it is not something we can give in to. Forcing heroes to give up their identities and fall under government control will not end well.”
“Yeah, and what's stopping the government from forcing us to go attack another country, huh?” Supergirl folded her arms, shifting her weight. “Sorry, but I'm not fighting your wars for you.”
Letting out a short breath, Deathstroke simply shook his head. “Doesn't matter what you think about it, Donna. It is law now, and by law, it's my job to take you in for breaking it. Come quietly or suffer the consequences.”
“We're not going anywhere with you, Slade,” Cyborg said, already charging up the sonic blaster on his arm.
Green Arrow nodded in affirmation. “Now get out. This room is for Justice League members only.”
“Sorry you feel that way.” Deathstroke shook his head again, letting out a small sigh. “Looks like we'll be taking you by force, then.”
“Right, you and what army?” Jesse asked.
Lifting an eyebrow, Deathstroke looked past the team, as the doors behind them opened. “That army.”
When the doors opened, numerous superheroes entered the chamber. Among the crowd was Animal Man, Aquagirl, Argent, Arowette, Speedy, The Atom, Flamebird, Blue Beetle, Stargirl and nearly the entire JSA, as well as a dozen others at least. Leading the pack, however, was a painfully familiar face, a green skinned woman flying up in the air and glowing with energy.
“So, how are we going to do this?” Jade asked.
“Jade?!” Flash took a step forward, his eyes going wide. “What the hell are you doing with them?”
“The right thing,” she responded. “You should have registered, Wally. You all should have. Now you pay for your inaction.”
Jesse clenched her fists, jaw tightening. “You backstabbing little... 3x2(9YZ-”
But before she could finish the phrase, a beam of green energy emerged from Jade's palm, wrapping around her mouth in the form of a gag. If she couldn't speak the full speed formula, she couldn't gain access to the speed force, and thus her powers.
“You're coming with us, whether you like it or not,” Deathstroke said, drawing his sword. “By order of the VRA, you are all under arrest.”