Dun dun DUNNN. For more Mayhem, check here!
"It's a controller, ya big goof." Harley arched one brow, looking down at the young teen sitting beside her.
Cassandra Cain stared absently at the piece of technology in her hands, looking from it to the clown."Mm." The girl said in a noncommittal tone, finally setting the controller back down onto the pale red carpet of Harley's room, the children's ward.
"Hey! Y'not supposed to just put it back down. Ya play with it." The clown picked the controller back up, tossing it back into Cass's lap. The girl promptly sat it back down onto the floor.
"Enough of that! I want someone to play with and Ragdoll cheats!"
"No." Cass turned her head to the clown, giving her a blankly quizzical expression. Harley, however, was not Rose -- she had in no way acclimated to communicating with the girl and her specific combination of expressions, movements, and syllables.
"Don't look at me like that ya little brat! Ya haven't even tried it yet!" Harley swatted casually at the nearly-mute teen, who blocked it with a little swat of her own. Both girls' eyes suddenly widened, and a slapfight ensued that lasted for about ten seconds of heated grunting and swatting and growling. It was cut short, however, when Cassandra narrowed her eyes and lashed out with a single, two-finger strike, pressing them sharply against a nerve in the clown's shoulder.
Harley paused with a perlexed expression, her big blue eyes locked on the stoic fourteen-year-old. She glanced down at her arm, and tried to move it. It wiggled slightly but didn't react further to her mental commands."That's cheatin'. I thought Pete was the cheater."
Cass stuck her tongue out, only to have her forehead powerfully flicked by Harley Quinn's middle finger. "Ow."
"Yeah, ow's right, brat." Harley turned quickly, crossing her arms under her breasts and closing her eyes, nose turned upward in a deep pout. Cassandra huffed and turned, copying the expression.
"Shush with that!"
“You cannot win,” Bane said, leaning forward with a hand pressed gently against his chin. “You should lay down and surrender.”
“I don't surrender. This isn't over yet.” Rose hovered over the board, examining it from every angle. “In fact, I think I'll...” Finally, after a near twenty minute interlude of her taking into account the next ten possible turns for every move she could make, she slid her bishop across the board. “Check.”
Bane uttered a quiet chuckle, almost immediately taking the bishop with his knight. “That was a poor move. I am surprised you did not move your queen. It would have prolonged the game a few more turns.”
They had been at this for hours now. Days, actually. Aside from her daily work out and training routine, Rose had been sharpening her tactical mind with repeated games of chess against Bane, who had quite the mind for strategy himself. What had at first begun as a discussion on Sun Tzu's Art of War had developed into a friendly rivalry of wits, most often settled through these chess matches, but also with tests and debates. As it currently stood, Bane was in the lead, fifty wins to forty-nine.
But Rose wasn't done yet.
“You know the saying, 'expect the unexpected'?” she asked, as she placed her fingers on her remaining rook. She noticed Bane's own fingers twitch, as if ready to respond with a move he already had planned in his head. A moment later, she removed her grasp from the rook and and grabbed her lone knight, jumping it in behind his line of pawns. “Should try to live by it a little more. Check.”
Bane paused, giving the newly moved knight a closer look. The only piece he had capable of eliminating it was his own knight, which he had just moved too far away during his last turn to take her bishop. “I did not see that move...” With a gruff breath, he made the only move available to him, pushing his king one space to the side out of the way.
Rose instantly made the finishing move, sliding her queen across the board. “And that, my oversized friend, is checkmate.”
“Hrmph,” he muttered, folding his massive arms over his chest. “Well played. This match took only three hours, one of our quickest yet.”
“And that ties up our record, I believe,” Rose said, as she began putting the chess pieces back into the box. “Fifty all.”
“Indeed.” Bane placed his hands on his knees briefly, then stood up straight. “Shall we hit the gym? I feel I am in need of a work out.”
She smirked a little, hopping up off her seat. Out of everyone else on this team of misfits, she definitely had most in common with the big man. “Need me to kick your ass again? You do realize that most of my wins come from our spars, right?”
“Yes, you are my better in most ways,” Bane agreed. “You are small, yet your strength is... surprising. You are also fast, and very skilled. I find sparring with you makes me better.”
“Whatever works for you.” Rose gave the man a flippant wave before starting towards the exit of the waiting room, where they had set up. “I'm hungry, too, though. Tell you what, you go fix us up a couple of those smoothies and I'll meet you in the gym. I gotta check up on Cass, anyway. Last I checked, she was with Harley... and that could be a recipe for disaster.”
"Huh?" Harley tilted her head to the side, catching a glimpse of Cass out of the corner of her eye. The girl had turned around now, and was staring at her awkwardly, brow furrowed in concentration.
"Kluh..." Cass stopped, inhaling deeply through her nose. "Clown."
Harley snorted back a little laugh, and shifted up onto her knees to turn and face the girl. "Hehe, yeah, clown. That's me, bratsky. Guess you say more'n 'no' afterall, huh?"
Cassandra nodded quickly and tilted her head to the side. She then reached down, picking up the controller from off of the carpet and gesturing at Harley with it. "Ppp... play?"
How could she resist those big brown doe eyes...? Cass attempted a small smile, offering the controller as a sort of truce.
"Awright, brat. But no cheatin'. Cheaters get squashed. Now, Nana Harley's gonna teach you the joys of Super Mario Brothers -- the coolest plumbers since the Plumber Gang. No, you keep your own controller, I got one."
"Mister Blake... you are truly an artist."
"Pete, we've known each other for years now. You know you can just call me Tom, right?"
"Nonsense. Besides, this cake is too stupendous for mere casual words. You are a master at your craft." A small divide had been made in Peter Merkel's bandages, exposing the peeling, putrid gray flesh of his lips and the crooked, broken teeth beneath them, but allowing him to eat the leavings of the Boston Creme Cake that had been made for dessert. The rest of the cake, still intact and being left to cool, sat on top of the kitchen cupboards where it would, hopefully, not be found.
"Pete, I've been meaning to ask for a while now, but I never really felt the time was right." Blake, or Catman, inhaled slightly, tensing his forehead. "What, exactly, the f*** is wrong with you?"
"Ooh, an honest and respectable question. First, Mister Blake, ask yourself -- what exactly do you think is wrong with me?" Ragdoll held two fingers to his cheek, as if attempting to make a toothache subside. Bits of chocolate and creme made the horror of his exposed skin look even more vomit-inducing.
"I've had a few theories over the years. Obviously, severe family issues comes to mind...."
"That's a part of it."
"...And the whole 'you have no soul' thing...."
"That was a fun revelation. Boy, I miss Hell."
"...And all in all you just seem to have some kind of severe mental damage."
Ragdoll stuffed another gob of cake trimmings into his maw, giving Blake a pensive look. Dark, dangerous eyes barely shone out through the bandages concealing his face, just enough to give Thomas the chill up his spine that he always got whenever Peter looked directly at him."All of the above, my good friend. Satisfied?"
"Uh... sure," he responded, with a small shake of his head.
A few moments later, the computer screen built into the wall flickered on, all black except for the familiar glowing Mockingbird symbol. At the same time, the security camera on the wall moved with an electronic whir, focusing in on the two in the kitchen.
"I see you two are the only ones around right now," the distorted voice of Mockingbird stated. "I would have liked to deliver this news when the entire team was together, but this will have to do."
Catman lifted an eyebrow, turning his head to look at the screen. "Uh... yeah, the others are off doing whatever it is they do during their down time right now. What news are you talking about?"
"There has been a bit of an incident," Mockingbird replied. "It's about your friend, Grifter."
"What about Cole?" Blake asked, shifting straighter in his seat. "Haven't seen him since yesterday, and he was a wreck. He alright?"
The response was so abrupt and so terse that it took Catman a few moments to process it. Instead, he sat there frozen, blinking at the screen, until finally he managed a simple, shocked, "What?"
"The people he was looking for," Mockingbird explained, "the ones who killed that girlfriend of his, they got to him before he got to them. Then they left his body on my doorstep... as a warning, I believe. Or perhaps simply to mock us."
"I was never a big fan of mockery. Or any words that end in '-ery', to be perfectly honest. There has to be a more elegant way to turn a verb into a noun." Ragdoll scratched himself casually under his chin, wiping crumbs off of the table with his bandaged fingers.
"Pete... please, stop." Blake closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. "How did it happen?"
"I'm unsure. His body underwent a significant amount of damage. I am currently doing research into the culprits. Your next mission should begin within the next few days."
"No... no it won't." Blake growled under his breath. "Not my next mission. I'm not doing this crap anymore, not for you or anyone else. You reneged on our deal, sent us on a suicide mission, and now Cole's f%$#ing dead? No. No more. I'm out. I quit. Starting now."
"I don't recommend that course of action, Mr. Blake."
Thomas inhaled and pushed himself away from the kitchen table, walking away from the screen, away from the kitchen. "Try to stop me."
"You're under contract, Catman." Mockingbird's garbled monotone never faltered.
"F*** your contract. Enjoy the cake."
"Alright, alright, I'm here. Sorry. I had a... um... late night." Scandal Savage was bleary-eyed and a few small bite-marks showed on her uncovered arms and stomach.
"So thaaaat's what that was," Ragdoll grunted from his position curled awkwardly around the arm of the living room couch. "You guys here for the big M-Bird meeting, I take it?"
"Yeah, I guess." Scandal flopped onto the opposite side of the couch as the rest of the team poured into the room to sit in front of the massive blank TV screen, Cassandra Cain still tugging Idly at Rose's shirt and whistling a familiar Nintendo theme song. "What's going on, anyway? Cliffnotes?"
"Grifter's dead and Catman packed his things and left." Ragdoll said casually, looking up from his own exposed toenails, which he seemed to be shaving off with an ice cream scoop that nobody would ever use again.
The room fell into silence, with even the newcomers showing an expression of shock. Only Peter seemed unaffected, but then again... he was Peter. Anticipating how he would react to anything was hit-and-miss at best.
"Wait... what?" Rose said, giving the insane contortionist a strange look. Cassandra tugged harder at her shirt and looked up with fretful eyes, prompting her to wrap a comforting arm around the girl. "I've been here less than a week and already someone's dead? The hell happened?"
"I believe I can answer that," the voice of Mockingbird said, as the screen flicked on. "As I've already informed Ragdoll, Grifter was killed by the people he was chasing after, those who killed his lady friend, Zealot. Turns out he was looking in the wrong places, chasing the wrong people. They found him first."
Bane uttered a deep breath, lowering his gaze. "This is... most unsettling. I told him to drop his search, told him it would do him no good, and now he...."
"Your next mission will be ready in a couple of days," Mockingbird continued. "We'll be going after these people. No one crosses the Secret Six and goes unpunished."
"More like the Fab Five now..." Rose muttered. "Or Fearsome Five... or whatever."
"Don't worry about your numbers. You may have lost a couple of members, but that is inconsequential. I already have a... replacement in mind."
"Daddy!" the ten year old girl exclaimed, as she ran down the school sidewalk towards her father. Her silky black hair bounced wildly as she went, tied back in long pigtails.
"Hey there, short stuff," her father replied, catching her in his arms as she practically leaped at him. "Have a good day?"
The girl rolled her eyes a little. "It was really boring, we had a math test. But I did really good on it!"
"Yeah! Oh, but then we played soccer in gym, and I scored a goal!"
Her father smiled, as he set the girl down and opened the door to his car. "Well come on and tell me all about it."
"Okay!" The girl quickly jumped into the passenger side and threw her backpack into the backseat. "Oh, can we grab some ice cream on the way home? I reaaally want some cookie dough."
He held his smirk, as he buckled himself in and started to car. Looking briefly into the rear-view mirror, he swept the shaggy bangs of his red hair out of his eyes and then pulled out, heading down the street. As he did so, a black van with tinted windows did the same, following closely. "Sure thing, Lian. I could go for some myself, too."