Written by Ravager4/Nico4Ever and myself.
For more Mayhem, click here!
“We were so close!” Arsenal shouted, kicking over the nearby table. It toppled with a clatter, spilling papers and books everywhere. “Lian was right there, we had her, but we couldn't...” Raising his hands to his head, he clutched at his hair and forced out a long breath, trying to calm himself. “They got away.”
The rest of the team — with the exception of Harley Quinn and Bane, who had been too busy with some sort of game to join them — sat around quietly in the briefing room, watching their newest member undergo his latest episode. No one blamed him, of course; his daughter, the only family he had, had been kidnapped by an unknown group of thugs, and they had failed to rescue her earlier that night. Furthermore, by the time they had returned to the gardens after failing to catch up with the kidnappers, their pair of captives had gotten away. Both Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze had recovered and fled, while Firefly had already been thrown from the building earlier. They were now completely without any leads.
The monitor on the back wall glowed quietly, that familiar image of a mockingbird seemingly, well, mocking them. The man behind the screen said nothing at first, allowing Roy to seethe in his anger momentarily. Finally, after a couple minutes of silence, his distorted voice played out over the speakers.
“I understand your frustration, Arsenal,” Mockingbird said.
“Oh do you?” He looked back a the screen, glowering. “You ever had your only daughter kidnapped and held for ransom? Huh?!”
A long pause followed. The other members of the team glanced around at each other casually, as if daring one another to say something. None of them could bring themselves to interrupt, however. Instead, they simply listened.
“I know much more than you realize, Roy,” the speakers said, finally. “So believe me when I tell you I understand. However, I have some unfortunate news that will only make matters worse, I believe.”
Arsenal sunk back into a nearby chair, hanging his head. “Great, what now?”
“The people who took your daughter, they managed to get a hold of me,” he replied. “They aren't happy about our little attempt tonight. They claim that if we do such a thing again, they will send you Lian... pieces at a time.”
“I swear, if anything happens to her—!” Arsenal sprang from his seat, leaning close to the monitor, hands on the wall. He wasn't just angry now... frantic, more like. Panicked. His breathing picked up, heart pounding in his chest, and goosebumps began crawling up his arms.
“I know,” Mockingbird said. "I assure you, I won't let that happen. However, they did finally make their demands....”
“What is it? What do they want?”
“They want Batman. More specifically, they want his identity.”
Roy flinched, brow furrowing. “But I don't-- I don't know who he is.”
“No, but you have a close connection to someone who does,” Mockingbird replied.
It took only a second to realize what he meant. Roy bowed his head and ran his fingers through his hair, sighing. “Nightwing....”
“Indeed. If you deliver them Batman's secret identity, they let Lian go. They leave you alone. If not... well, I don't need to remind you.”
“But how do I... how can I...?” Roy balked, wandering a few steps away, his gaze distant. What that required was a huge betrayal of trust between friends. But if he didn't, he'd never see Lian again. He had to do it.
“They're giving you a month to come up with the information,” Mockingbird said. “A rather generous amount of time, to be honest. I can assist you, if you like, whether in getting that information or in devising another way to find Lian on our own—it's your call.”
Roy clenched his teeth and squinted his eyes shut, breathing out slowly. He then plopped himself down in his seat again, staring lazily at the ground. “If we go after Lian again ourselves, it just puts her in more danger... I can't do that to her. I won't. I'll get them their information... I can do it on my own time. I just need... I just need some time to prepare, before I... before... shit.”
He was going to have to betray his closest friend. Doing this... could end up destroying that bond altogether, but if it meant saving Lian, he had no choice.
“Take all the time you need,” Mockingbird urged. “In the meantime, I have another job that I need to prepare for; I'll let you know the details when it's ready. For now, get some rest, all of you. It's been a long night."
"It can't go there."
"Yeah it can! You said it can go diagonal!"
Bane inhaled deeply, closing his eyes for just a moment before reexamining the chess board. "Yes, it can. But you can only move it in one direction at a time."
"Well that's cheatin'! The knight can go in different directions!" Harley squawked, pointing at the table with a harsh pout. "He does all kindsa weird crap!"
"The knight can make a single, L-shaped move," Bane tried to explain. He'd been teaching the blonde clown for the better part of an hour, but she didn't really seem to be... catching on. "The bishop can move diagonally, once, on your turn."
Harley narrowed her eyes, looking from Bane to the board and back, before turning her attention fully to the chess pieces. She tapped her slender, dexterous fingers to the tip of one pawn, shifting it diagonally to the side. "Pow! My knight now! Let's see him do any funny L-shapes now!"
Bane exhaled and shifted his queen boredly. "You do not share Rose's aptitude for this game."
"What are you talkin' about? I've gotcha right where I want ya! This was all part'a my plan." Harley leaned back in her seat, folding her arms with a smug grin.
"I have you in checkmate."
"You haven't even been looking at the board. It isn't about how many pieces you can take... the game is about strategy and using your units to pin your opponent."
Harley Quinn stared down at the board, her eyes wide and darting around as she tried to figure out what had happened. "But... but my bishop--!"
"Can't move because of my knight."
"Well what if I just moved the king to--"
"I have a pawn waiting for him."
The clown girl's eyes nearly bulged out of her head, hands trembling. "...This game... is stupid," she seethed.
"The game is brilliant. You simply have no gift for strategy."
"Way to be blunt, meathead," Harley snarled, standing up out of her seat and resisting the urge to fling the board across the room. "Maybe you should go play with someone who HAS a gift for strategy then!"
Bane sighed quietly. "I grow weary of stalemates against Miss Wilson." He folded his arms across his chest, almost sounding genuinely sad. "The girl is... exhausting my mind."
"Well, she is the golden chick, isn't she? Smartest, fastest, strongest, best at everythin'," Harley grumped, still pouting and now on the other side of the room, staring into the now-open refrigerator.
"From Mister Merkel's report of our last mission, she is severely lacking in discipline in the field. In fact, you were the one who brought down that elemental woman."
"Yeah. Then again, I didn't exactly beat her, uh... fair." The clown withdrew an enormous bowl from the cupboard, filling it with Loony-Froots and half-and-half before fetching a spoon. "Honestly you guys really needed to stress who we were goin' up against. If I had known Red was in there..." Quinn shook her head, pushing the chess board to the edge of the table with her foot before sitting back down, across from the enormous convict.
"It will clear up. My relationship with Scandal Savage has made the position of leadership a complicated one." Bane's eyes narrowed as he examined the bowl of cereal Harley was gulping down. "That contains insignificant amounts of actual nutrition."
"Whatevs," Harley croaked around a mouthful of cream and crunchies. "And yeah, whatevah's goin' on with that? The whole daddy/kiddy thing? Y'may wanna think about reevaluatin' that. Scandsy had a daddy of her own, and I'm pretty sure she wasn't too big a fan. Try coolin' off on her a bit, stop tryin' to take the reins and maybe we won't have any more screw-ups like we did the other day. We went in with a half-baked plan and a team who didn't even know who they were goin' up against. I know peanut-butter rolls downhill but we're supposed to be a team, and if we're gonna be a team we have to trust each other with information... especially vital mission info."
There was a long moment of echoing silence as Bane stared at the woman, one eyebrow slowly lifting into a cocked position.
"I, uh, used to be a psychiatrist."
Roy's fists connected in quick succession with the heavy bag, swinging it back and forth with increasing force. He couldn't believe this. He didn't want to. In the blink of an eye, his perfect, happy life had been flipped upside down and turned into a nightmare. Who were these people? How had they found out he was Arsenal? Why did they want Batman's identity? And why go through him, of all people?
So many questions, and no answers. With a vicious shout, he rotated his hips and delivered a thunderous kick to the bag, briefly caving it inward. No matter how much frustration he beat out, though, it didn't help. It just kept building, bubbling in the pit of his gut like a sickness.
Roy paused, turning around to look at the entrance of the gym. Rose stood there, dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, and carrying a towel and water bottle. “Oh, it's you.”
Rose puffed out a breath and rolled her eye. “Don't sound so thrilled.”
“What are you doing up, anyway?” he asked, as he turned back to the heavy bag. “Little late, isn't it?”
“Could say the same to you.” Rose sat down on the weight bench, casually setting the weights on either side to nearly seven hundred pounds. She then lay down and gripped the bar overhead. With a single breath, she hoisted it upwards effortlessly and began steady, even reps.
“Couldn't sleep,” he said, driving his fist against the bag.
“Well, there's you answer.”
Roy paused a moment and wiped sweat from his brow. Looking back to the girl, he asked, “Didn't you crack two of your ribs tonight?”
“That was hours ago,” she replied, with a slight grin. “Pain's gone, ribs are mostly healed. They'll be good by morning.”
“Like I told you before, you don't really know anything about me.”
With a bemused breath, Roy scratched the side of his head and eyed the amount of weight that the rather small, if still very fit, girl was lifting. “I guess I don't.”
A small moment of silenced passed between them. Rose lifted the bar high over head, arms going straight, and held it there for several moments, then swiftly brought it back down and pushed up again. After nearly ten minutes of this, she finally set the bar back on the catchers and sat upright, wiping herself down with the towel. By this time, Roy had moved on to target practice, firing his bow repeatedly at the dummy on the far end of the room.
“Hey, uh... look,” Rose said, as she leaned forward with her elbows pressed against her knees. “I'm sorry about Lian. We should have got her.”
“Yeah, well...” Roy's words drifted off, as he let loose another arrow. It hit dead center between the dummy's eyes. “...not like it's you fault.”
She shrugged. “Still, I know how... well, I mean, if it were Cass, I...” Squinting her eyes shut, she groaned, annoyed with herself. She was never really very good at all this 'expressing your emotions' crap. “I just- I can empathize, okay?”
A sharp breath exuded from Roy's mouth, as he lowered his bow. “Yeah... thanks.”
“She the only family you got?”
He nodded, then slowly drew another arrow. “She's all I have... she's everything to me.”
“What about her mom?”
“Lian's mother is... well, she's unavailable.”
Rose paused, then looked away, sighing. “Sucks. I know what that's like—lost my own mother when I was eight. All my dad's fault...”
“Yup. He's all I have left. Problem is, he's a self serving bastard who sold me out and ruined my life.” She absently brought a hand up to her eyepatch, touching her fingers gently to it. “He's the reason for this, the reason my mother is dead, the reason I spent two and half years living as a frosty bitch's whipping girl in Tibet... everything.”
Another moment of silence. Roy fired his arrow, then lowered his bow again, breathing deeply. Finally, he looked back at her, his eyes softening. “I'm sorry to hear that. Really.”
She simply shrugged. “Whatever. What's done is done. It happened, I can't change it. All I can do now is find the man and make him pay.”
“You know, I would tell you not to let you spend half your life chasing vengeance, that it won't bring you any peace, that you're young and need to just live your life... but something tells me it wouldn't take.”
Rose scoffed. “Damn right it wouldn't. I'm going to find him, and I'm going to kill him. Once that's done, well... we'll see.”
“I guess we will.” Sucking in another short breath, Roy put his bow down and then grabbed two pairs of striking gloves. One pair, he threw over to Rose, the other he put on himself. “So, if you still can't sleep, you up for a few rounds?”
Rose lifted an eyebrow, then quickly slipped the gloves on, smirking. “Oh, you have no idea what you just got yourself into.”
Mockingbird clicked off his monitor and huffed out a tired breath, as he sank back in his seat. He sat there for several moments, the still-warm screen offering only the smallest amount of illumination in the otherwise darkened work room. Eventually, he pushed himself away from the desk and stood up, heading down the nearest hall into a kitchen area. He opened the freezer, grabbed a box of Hot Pockets, stuffed them in the microwave, and then promptly filled a tall glass with orange juice.
When the microwave beeped, he took the plate of hot pockets out, threw a paper towel atop them, and then wandered back down the hall towards the last door on the left. With one finger, he punched in a five digit passcode on the security panel, causing the heavy metal door to slide open. The lights came on automatically as he crossed the floor and placed the plate and glass down on the bedside table.
With a cool breath, he glanced towards the bed itself, watching the small form shift restlessly beneath the covers. The girl yawned, but didn't wake, not quite yet. Soon, though, as the scent of food wafted into her nostrils, she'd be awake again.
“Some dinner for when you wake up,” he said quietly, turning from the room. He paused only momentarily to enter the passcode again, his gaze shifting back towards the bed just as the door slid closed. “Enjoy.”
The next day, the whole team sat around once again in the briefing room, awaiting their next assignment from Mockingbird. It was early, and most of them were half asleep. Rose, however, was wide awake, despite getting to bed rather late. She sat across from Roy, arms folded across her chest and smirking ever so slightly at him. He, on the other hand, frowned back at her, holding a hand to his rather noticeably bruised jaw.
The monitor suddenly flickered on. "Good morning, team. I have your next mission ready, though it may involve a series of complications."
"More complicated than barging into a brouhaha of three of Gotham's Most Wanted?" Scandal said, arching her brow and leaning back on the couch, taking a long swig from her morning beer.
"Psssst," Ragdoll whispered, unraveling himself from beneath the arm of the couch. Surprisingly, Scandal didn't start. "Can I have some? I have such a great and terrible thirst, your beverage would bring me such immense joy."
"No," Scandal grunted.
"Shame, then... shame on poor Ragdoll. He gets nothing." Peter mewled before crawling back under the sofa, to the sound of a loud, distorted throat-clearing from the Mockingbird.
"Okay, okay, we get it big guy, you're the important one," Harley Quinn peeped, blowing a long, huge pink bubble from the gum in her mouth. When she spoke again, the bubble exploded, covering the clown's face in sticky pink goop. “Whatta we doin'?”
"I need the six of you to break into Belle Reve."
There was a brief, mildly dramatic silence that was finally broken by Scandal. "Well that just sounds... flat-out stupid. Nobody breaks into Belle Reve, Belle Reve is supervillain purgatory." The daughter of Vandal Savage's eyes didn't linger on the screen, too busy peeling the moistened label from her beer bottle.
"You won't be staying. The mission is to capture of the supervillain known as Crystal Frost... or better known to most of you as Killer Frost."
Rose abruptly stiffened in her seat. “K-Killer... Frost?”
Bane looked to her, eyes narrowing with concern. “You know this woman?”
“I... yes,” she replied, turning her gaze. Her vision went slightly out of focus as she stared at the floor in front of her. “Before I came here, I was... she....”
Roy caught on quickly enough, a rather specific part of their conversation the night before now making more sense. “She's not going to hurt you this time.”
“Oh I know that,” she muttered. “I'll kill her. For real this time. If shoving a sword in her chest didn't work, then I'll just have to take her goddamn head.”
“You'll do no such thing,” Mockingbird's garbled voice growled out. "Bring her back to the House of Secrets for interrogation... bring her to me. Alive."
"Well that sounds like a risky plan," Harley said. "Ain't she some kinda monsterchick who can suck the heat out of your body and use it to make like, ice-rockets or whatever? She makes Mr. Freeze look like an armored cryo-gimp."
“You don't need to worry about that,” Mockingbird stated. “Belle Reve isn't in a habit of allowing their metahuman criminals to run around unchecked — they wear inhibitor collars to negate their abilities. The real challenge is getting in, and then back out.”
"We are going to need a plan," Bane said, frowning. "A good plan."
"Sounds like we have a lot of work to do," Scandal droned, draping her head backwards over the couch. "Yippee.”