Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer

Nightwing: Black Ops - Part 1

Prologue: The Best Laid Plans

General Douglas Walker hated the rain, it had always put him in a very surly mood. On this night in a dark alley in Shanghai the rain was pouring down in such torrents that Walker couldn't help but think of Biblical stories such as Noah's Ark, it did seem as if God himself had opened up the skies and let loose sheets of never ending rain on the Earth. He thought of sloughing the excess water from his raincoat but what was the point? The rain showed no signs of abating and it made him feel strangely apathetic. God he hated the rain.

Walker heard the sounds of the city not far away. He thought it strange that even in a city as large as Shanghai, with a population of over 13 million people, he could find a dark, secret rendezvous point like this alleyway. China was so overpopulated, he used to feel very claustrophobic whenever he was in the country, having been raised on a farm in Iowa he was used to wide open spaces, but he had long ago left behind the open spaces of his youth and instead spent most of his time conducting secret meetings in places like this. Of course these were the most basic tricks of his trade, he was like a cockroach that scurried to the darkest corner of the room when the lights came on. All for the greater good, he knew. The good, shiny, happy people needed someone to protect them from the unknown, someone who would get his hands as dirty as necessary to get the job done, he knew he was that man.

Walker looked at the building wall opposite him, at the many faded and discarded advertisements and posters, all in Chinese of course. He didn't speak the language but he knew all too well what the ads were for by their simplistic images. One was for a soft drink, another for a toothpaste, another for a new video game, and of course the requisite McDonald's advertisement. His grey Saab idled quietly as he lit another cigarette, inhaling deeply and savoring every second, this was his only vice, and he indulged whenever he could, even after he started coughing and hacking up black stuff every now and then. It didn't matter, long life expectancies were not the norm in his line of work anyway. He was amazed he had lived this long.

At the end of the alley he noticed a crowd of people, milling past and enjoying the evening, protected from the rain by umbrellas. Oblivious to him and his vehicle, they walked by, no doubt on their way to the nearby Zhangyang Road Commercial Center, which featured rows of shops arrayed with anything the tourist with money to burn could possibly desire. Despite Walker's large muscular frame he had become an expert at going unnoticed, it was after all, one of the first things he and others like him were taught when entering this line of work. Walker always stuck to the most basic rules of espionage, he found that so many of his contemporaries had forgotten the basic tenants of their trade, and died because of it. He followed these rules because they made sense, and they kept him alive.

He was waiting for one of his lieutenants, a tall and lanky Lieutenant named David Stephens. Stephens had served under his command before and knew the way General Walker liked to operate, he was due any minute now to deliver a package that Walker had placed on the back burner for almost a year now. Finally, the pot on that back burner had come to a boil and he was ready to move. All he needed was the package Stephens was bringing and he would authorize the next step. Walker was also exemplary at yet another lost art in his trade. Patience. Douglas Walker had more patience than Job. It was nights like this when his patience were tested most however, dark and raining and that claustrophobic feeling. Stephens had better show up soon.

Just then Walker noticed movement in the alley, someone was coming. He couldn't make out the figure. From beneath his trench-coat he produced a Glock 19 9mm handgun. He couldn't chance anything, if it was some covert operative out to attack him, he would shoot with extreme prejudice, between the eyes. Never shoot at the body, he was taught, because your enemy may be wearing body armor. Walker had dealt with that contingency as well, using Teflon coated bullets that would penetrate most body armor types. He felt reassured by the weight of the weapon in his hand. Walker relaxed when he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

"Stand down General….. it's me." Came the voice of David Stephens. Stephens stepped into the light, and Walker relaxed and put his weapon away. Stephens obviously relaxed when Walker did so and started walking toward the younger man.

"David, step into the car, we have some things to discuss. I want to get the Hell out of this rain." Walker said as he led Stephens into the rear door of the car. Walker got into the car after him and signaled to his driver to start driving. The grey Saab pulled smoothly into traffic and disappeared into the sea of automobiles. Finally the two men could talk.

"David, it's been a long time." Walker said.

"Yes sir General, not since Desert Storm." Stephens replied, removing his raincoat, Walker kept his on.

"Did you bring what I need?" Walker asked, all business as usual.

"Yes sir." Stephens replied as he pulled a large folder out of his briefcase and handed it to Walker. Without a word, Walker took it from him and began to look through it. It was very thick, filled with pictures of a young man in his early twenties. Sometimes the young man was in pictures with another older man, and sometimes with a younger boy in his teens, and yet other times with a group of men and women around his own age. There were many reports with dates, names, and addresses. Many of the addresses were in North America, located in Gotham City, and towards the end of the list, the addresses were in Bludhaven. A whaling city just down the interstate from Gotham. Walker was pleased, yet another successful venture thanks to his patience and subtlety.

"All this is confirmed David? There is no room for doubt?" Walker asked.

"According to what our team found sir, there is less than a 4% margin of error. It took a long time to find out what we needed to know as they covered their tracks very well. It is almost certain though. The key to unraveling the puzzle was when the subject under surveillance came into contact with a subversive group that one of our own teams had been looking into. A group called Cabal ran afoul of him 4 months ago and everything fell into place. He disappeared for a time when he was beaten by a man known as Bane. He then reappeared weeks later and coincidentally, so did his alter ego."

Walker nodded when he heard the name "Bane", obviously the name was known to him. "How many people were on your research team?"

"Fifteen men and women sir. As per your orders they have all been discreetly eliminated. No one but you and I know that Dick Grayson is Nightwing." Stephens replied in matter of fact tone, as if the murder of fifteen people meant nothing to him.

"Good…. good. You are as efficient as ever David. I am glad I could trust you with this." Stephens was practically beaming when Walker said that, it was obvious that he regarded The General as a hero figure and was pleased that he had done well in the eyes of his superior.

The rain had started to pour down even harder, to the point where one could barely see outside the windows of The Saab. It was impossible to tell where they were going, but Stephens knew that they were outside the city limits now, heading to more rural areas. This made Stephens a little uneasy, suddenly Walker's mood lightened and he began to speak in a jovial mood to the younger man.

"Now David, tell me a little about what you have been up to. Still single? No girlfriend? Amazing you haven't settled down, never got married or had any kids."

"No sir. I really don't have time for relationships. My work keeps me pretty busy."

"Your parents both passed away two years ago didn't they?" Walker asked.

"Yes sir." Stephens didn't like where this was going. His fears were confirmed when Walker again produced the Glock 19 from beneath his trench-coat, aiming it at Stephens.

"You do good work David, I want you to know you have served your country well. Your efforts will help preserve freedom worldwide. I want you to know that."

Stephens knew why he was given this mission and he knew now why Walker was going to kill him. He had no family, he would hardly be missed. He looked out the window and noticed through the pouring rain that the car had entered a junkyard, wrecked cars piled one on top of the other and blocking out the city lights beyond. A virtual city of abandoned vehicles. The Saab began to roll to a stop.

"Please sir….. don't. I can still be of use to you." Stephens begged, suddenly on the verge of crying.

General Walker's driver stopped the car and got out, walking around and opening the rear door for Walker. Walker stepped out and handed the thick file to his driver. He wasn't happy that he had to kill Stephens, but the trail had to be erased. Anyone with this knowledge was to be eliminated. If the need arose, Walker would put the gun to his own mouth and pull the trigger, but throughout his career he had managed to avoid that fate.

"I'm sorry David….." and he emptied the fifteen round clip into David Stephens.

Walker then closed the door and put the gun back in its holster. Behind him, his driver had pulled up in an identical Saab to the one they had arrived in, even the license plates were identical. The driver again got out and opened the door for Walker. He got in and rolled down the window. He watched as a large crane swung over and attached a huge magnet to the top of the Saab that Walker had arrived in. It picked the car up and placed it in a large compactor which was activated by some unseen operator. The car was then crushed into a cube and placed into a pile of other crushed vehicles, to be forgotten.

Walker rolled up the window and the car pulled away again, this time heading back for the city proper. Walker pulled a cellular phone from his pocket and called up a number from memory which he then dialed. After only one ring there was an answer.


"Phillip, this is Doug. I think I have the operative we need for Operation Judas." despite himself, Walker shuddered at the mention of Judas. Judas was a danger unlike any other he had ever faced, and only a certain type of person with a certain type of specialized training could assist Walker and his team in eliminating Judas.

"Are you sure Douglas? Where did you find a person with the type of skills we require to deal with him?" Asked the voice on the other end of the phone.

"You leave that to me Phillip. I want you to assemble Impact Squad and meet me in the city of Bludhaven, the city just down the interstate from where the big Gotham Quake hit. I should be there in two days."

"Understood sir. Any further orders?"

"Just make sure your men are in peak condition Phillip, Impact Squad is going to enlist it's newest member and I suspect he won't come quietly. A costumed vigilante known as Nightwing is going to be our ace in the hole, he's going to help us eliminate Judas, whether he likes it or not."

The man on the other end replied that he would be ready when General Walker arrived in Bludhaven and the two men closed the connection. Walker returned his cellular phone to his pocket and again pulled out his Glock 19. He removed the empty clip and inserted a fresh one, tossing the old one out the window. He ordered his driver to take him to the airport. There was much to be done and little time to do it in. Now that he had knowledge of an operative with the special training he required and enough knowledge of the man to make sure that he would play ball with them, he would strike like lightening, the time for waiting was over. Patience had again rewarded him.

On the seat next to Walker the file lay open and he looked at it intently. On one page was a picture of the costumed vigilante known as Nightwing. On the opposite page was a picture of a handsome young man with a winning smile and long dark hair, a picture of Richard John Grayson……….

Chapter 1: Brothers In Arms

"Need any help Robin?" Nightwing asked his yellow and black clad partner. It was another night of insanity in Bludhaven. So far that evening, the pair had put away at least twenty seven thugs in the midst of various crimes from attempted rape to gang violence. Despite the fact that he was fighting a very strong individual with an exceptional knowledge of karate and another knife wielding maniac, Nightwing couldn't help but smile. It took a lot to get him down when Robin was by his side. Tim Drake, the young teen who had taken the identity of Robin for himself had been spending the last few nights in Bludhaven at Batman's request. Several weeks ago Tim had tried to collar several car-jackers and the only thing that had prevented him from putting the maniacs away was a lack of aerial skill. Batman knew the boy's strengths lay in more cerebral pursuits such as computer work and puzzle solving, but aerial and gymnastic training were necessary tools as well. Tools that were necessary to keep Robin alive when in the field. After Jason Todd's death, Batman would never have another apprentice ill prepared for their job.

Tim could still hear Batman's words when he found out he was being sent to Bludhaven to spend time with Dick, "There are things you need to know, things Dick can teach you better than I could. I've seen Dick survive circumstances that would have killed even me. He has all the detective skills to continue your training and you can learn by doing following Dick around. He gets into more deadly situations on moving vehicles in that city than most people have had hot dinners. Spend two or three weeks with him and you will come back a better…… and a totally exhausted crime fighter."

Tim didn't have to be told twice, it was early August and he had all the time he needed to learn at Dick's side. Tim had always felt more comfortable with Dick than Bruce. Obviously Dick could relate to Tim and his trials as Robin better than anyone else in the world. This made Dick a more patient teacher, and a more comfortable friend to be around. Tim also had a lot of hero worship for Dick, perhaps even more so than he had for Bruce. Tim had sought out Dick after he had learned their secret identities and the fate of the second Robin, Jason Todd. If not for Dick, Tim would never have been taken into The Batcave, or allowed to wear the Robin costume. Dick had also taken up the mantle of The Bat for a time to replace both Bruce and Jean Paul Valley, and Robin felt most comfortable and able to be himself with Dick than he was with Bruce, and certainly more than Valley, who almost killed him. Tim had no siblings, but he had looked to Dick as sort of an older brother ever since the day they had first met in Haly's Circus just a few short years ago.

"No I'm uh……. doing….. fine." Tim managed to say. The three thugs that were converging on him would have given him no real threat, except for the fact that he had to face them on the bed of a truck loaded with wood leaving Bludhaven for Metropolis, destined to become the next issues of The Daily Planet. The truck was moving quickly through highway traffic and his footing was unsure on the huge, wet logs. This was definitely "learning by doing" as Batman had said. They had chased these thugs across several rooftops after preventing them from attacking a group of street walkers. The chase continued over a bypass until they jumped onto the passing truck hoping for a clean getaway. Nightwing would have none of that in his city. With a stunning three somersault leap into the night air Nightwing landed as gracefully as a ballet dancer on the piles of logs, Robin used a jumpline to get there instead. Cornered, the men decided to fight their way to freedom. Fighting on an open truck bed, doing at least 55 miles an hour, tripping over huge heavy logs, Batman would call this "good training". To Tim it felt like attempted suicide. Tim thanked the fates that at least the moon was full and shining brightly tonight, allowing him to see without the infra-red lenses built into his mask. From the corner of his eye he saw Nightwing whirl around with a roundhouse kick toward his foe, not an easy feat on the back of a moving truck. Tim wondered to himself if he would ever be as good as Dick at the physical part of the job.

Dick also regarded Robin as he grappled with his foe. He always kept an eye on Tim when they were together, albeit a much more subtle eye than Batman would keep on him. Dick also had no siblings and he also regarded Robin as a brother, someone to pal around with and to look out for. He was pleased when Bruce informed him that Robin was coming to stay with him for a few days, and when the two were not on patrol they ate pizza, played nintendo, and basically acted as brothers. In many ways Tim reminded Dick of himself at that age, hard working and dedicated, and often feeling inferior to the all knowing, ever dour Batman. He was glad to give the youth the benefit of his experience with Bruce he only wished someone could have done the same for him at that age. Nightwing grappled with yet another foe after dispatching with the first. Here, with death only a bad step away, he was in his element. Fighting crime, the wind screaming by him, adrenaline pumping, with Robin at his side, an ear to ear grin blossomed on his face.

Nightwing evaded a knife thrust from one of the hoods. He knew Tim envied Dick his physical ability and he wanted to do everything in his power to make Robin a better, more effective crimefighter. With a lightening like maneuver Nightwing thrust out an open palm and knocked the thug unconscious. Nightwing then watched as Robin swung his quarterstaff and caught all three of his opponents in the mid-section, doubling them over in pain. Moving quickly, Nightwing tied them all up with one of his jumplines, the threat was over.

"How do we get these guys to the Police?" Robin asked.

"We don't." Nightwing replied as the wind whipped past them, "The Bludhaven Police Department would never take the time to put these bozos away. I'm satisfied that they're on their way out of town on this truck, that's about the best we can do tonight." Nightwing realized he was yelling to be heard over the roar of traffic and high winds. Robin smiled in amusement at that.

"Come on boy wonder, let's head home for the night." Robin was pleased to hear that their nightly patrol was over. It was a very busy and hard fought night and dawn was only two hours away. Nightwing jumped into the air and again somersaulted gracefully before throwing out a jumpline and swinging back towards Bludhaven. He was proud to see Robin perform the same maneuver flawlessly. His skills had indeed improved in the short time he had been in Bludhaven. Within minutes they were back in the city proper, headed for Dick's Bludhaven apartment.

"It's been a busy night Tim. I'm glad you were here. I'll take all the help I can get." He said as he clasped Robin on the shoulder. Tim felt a rush of pride, Batman would never have been so open with praise for him.

"Glad to be of help Dick. I'll give you this, you sure have your hands full with this town, I thought Gotham was bad but Bludhaven is a totally new kind of insanity."

Dick chuckled at that, "Maybe so but I like a challenge. Besides, I would take Bludhaven any day over Gotham after the quake."

Tim agreed, "Well at least Gotham is getting the help it needs now." They were both glad to hear that Gotham was going to be rebuilt. Even though he was a circus kid who always traveled from town to town, Dick had done much of his growing up in the Gotham. Tim also felt a connection to the city that one always feels to the stomping grounds one grows up in. It had been painful for them both to see Gotham practically leveled in the quake and then left for dead by the rest of the world. Sealed off from civilization, the people of Gotham were abandoned, only Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Huntress , Azreal, and a few others including handful of dedicated cops maintained order in post quake Gotham. Things were finally looking up. As they talked they ran over the rooftops and finally found themselves on the roof of Dick's apartment building.

"A good night's work partner…. all in all I'd say.." Tim was cut off by Dick's gloved hand over his mouth. Tim tried to talk but all that came out was muffled noise. He reached up and pulled Dick's hand from his mouth.

"What was that for?" Tim asked.

"Shhhhhhhhhh." Dick said, "Listen." Tim strained his ears to listen. He heard nothing but the whistle of the wind.

"I don't hear anything." Tim said.

"Something's not right." Dick replied. Tim looked up to the sky and suddenly felt something was wrong as well, "Hey! Where'd the moon go?" He said as he pointed up towards the sky. The moon was bright and the sky cloudless earlier, now the moon was nowhere to be seen. The stars had disappeared. Suddenly they both realized that something was directly above them, blocking out the sky. Something large and black.

"Move!!" Nightwing yelled as he suddenly realized they were in great danger and pushed Tim as hard as he could to the other side of the rooftop. The dark silhouette grew larger as it descended upon them, blocking out the night sky. The wind suddenly began to pick up to fantastic speeds. Tim was lost, unable to see what was threatening them. He switched to infra-red and the situation became clearer to him. Descending upon them was a large, and very silent machine. It looked like a helicopter, but made virtually no noise. It was obviously as black as the night itself. Tim could make out Nightwing's form, his escrima fighting sticks at the ready.

From the huge silent flying machine several figures emerged, descending on ropes, towards Dick. From Dick's point of view, things were moving very fast. He shoved Robin out of the way and to safety only to find a heartbeat later that several people were descending towards him. Whoever these people were, they moved quickly. He brought up his fighting sticks in a defensive posture. However, another assailant descended behind him and hit him square in the back with a heavy thud. Nightwing rolled with the impact and came up further from the silent helicopter, giving him some distance. Robin counted at least ten figures now on the rooftop, while the helicopter simply hovered there, nearly silent and opaque.

"Who the hell are these guys?" Robin asked no one in particular.

Nightwing saw that they all had the builds of well muscled men. They wore black clothing and black ski masks over their faces. Even the eye holes in their ski masks were covered with infra-red goggles. Nightwing knew a threat when he saw one, they confirmed his suspicions when they produced some sort of automatic rifles from their backpacks and pointed them at Dick.

"Holy shit!!" Nightwing muttered to himself and rolled behind the building's smokestacks as they opened fire, oblivious to Robin's presence on the rooftop. Robin was surprised to find that even their weapons were silenced. Whoever these people represented, they were well funded and noiseless. They obviously didn't want to attract any attention to themselves. The question was, just who were these people? The dark figures suddenly stopped firing their silenced weapons. The night was suddenly still again. Had they hit their target? In response, Nightwing jumped high over their heads and landed with all his weight on two of the attackers, sending them skidding across the rooftop. Whirling, punching and kicking, Nightwing took the fight to his silent assailants. All this happened in less than a minute while Robin looked on and tried to assimilate this unprovoked attack into his brain. Finally he was galvanized into action. Grabbing one of his own "R" shaped throwing stars he ran back towards the action.

Robin noticed one of the men aiming his weapon at Nightwing. Dick had his back turned to the man and was unaware of the imminent danger he was in. Adrenaline pumping through his body, Robin knew he was the only one who could save Dick.

"No!!!" Robin yelled as he threw his weapon with all his might. The throwing star lodged itself in the wrist of the gunman. Bullets sprayed the entire rooftop as the gunman reflexively fired his weapon, despite the severe pain he was in. Robin watched in horror as Nightwing was picked up off his feet, struck in the back by the spray of wild bullets and toppled down to the rooftop, landing in a heap. Robin couldn't believe his eyes, Dick had been hit by several bullets, if he lived, he would surely be crippled for life, even with Kevlar protection. Panic seized him. He ran towards Dick and, remembering his first aid training, didn't move him.

"Dick," he whispered, "try not to move buddy, I'll get help. I swear I will." With a sudden move Dick thrashed around and was about to throw a punch, and realizing it was Robin, stopped himself. Both Robin and Nightwing suddenly realized that he should be bleeding and paralyzed.

"Dick? You're ok?"

"Weird. I should be talking to Saint Peter right now." Nightwing replied. He reached around to the small of his back and when he brought his hand back around it had three cylinder shaped objects in it. They were not bullets.

"Knock out Darts?!?" Robin was shocked again. He thought his best friend, his older brother, had been killed, shot in the back. He was stunned to find that Dick's life was never in danger at all. Even when fired at close range, the darts would not have penetrated his Kevlar mesh costume. Suddenly he felt a tremendous wave of relief wash over him, no matter what happened, at least Dick was alive.

"Don't you ever scare me like that again." Tim said with a smile.

"I promise, next time I'll make sure I stay dead." Nightwing replied with a smile.

Robin's relief soon faded and was replaced by anger at these silent attackers. Who were they? What did they want? What was the purpose of this attack? Nightwing noticed that Robin was shaking with fury at situation. Taking the offensive, Nightwing jumped to his feet and again threw himself at his attackers. The silent assassins were caught unaware by Nightwing's newfound aggression. Nightwing was a blur as he leaped form one to the other, in constant motion, punching and kicking and throwing his escrima sticks at the assemblage. Robin felt like he was moving in slow motion compared to Dick.

"I've had enough of this!!" Nightwing yelled as he pressed his attack. Robin finally joined the fray as well, swinging his quarterstaff with uncanny precision. Nightwing back flipped behind one of the attackers and, reaching back, grabbed him by the shoulders and flipped him over. Tim heard a ripping sound as the attackers sleeves ripped off in Nightwing's hands, sending the man himself flying. After only a few more seconds they heard a muffled voice yell, "Pull back!!"

The ten men grabbed the ropes on their belts and began to climb them, disappearing back into the silent, opaque helicopter, which then rose high out of sight and disappeared, leaving behind Nightwing and Robin, and a lot of questions.

Nightwing ran over to Robin and held out his hand to help Robin up off of his knees. Robin could tell Nightwing was brimming with curiosity.

"What in the heck was that?" Robin asked.

"I don't know," Nightwing replied, the wind whipping around him, "but I may have a clue right here." he said as he held out the sleeve of the man he had thrown over his head. The sleeve was as black as the helicopter that had hovered overhead so silently. The only marking was a small insignia on the shoulder of the sleeve. It looked like a skull's head with a knife through it, behind the skull was a small silver lightening bolt.

"That looks…. menacing." Robin said as he scanned the insignia.

"I think it means more than that Robin. I have my suspicions as to what this is, but I think we should consult someone before we jump to any conclusions." Robin knew what that meant. Nightwing already knew what this insignia meant, but he wanted to make sure his facts were correct before he let Robin in on his hypotheses.

"Oracle?" He asked as he wiped the dust off of his uniform.

"Not this time kiddo, we need to talk to Batman."

An hour later Dick and Tim had changed into their everyday clothing and were now wolfing down nachos and Coca-Cola, huddled around Dick's computer, which featured a visual link to The Batcave on the large screen. The majority of the screen was filled with a pixilated version of the cowled Batman, in the distance and slightly out of focus was the ever faithful Alfred, serving dinner for the master of Wayne Manor.

"I think I don't like this." Dick said through a mouthful of cheese and jalapeno peppers. Another image flashed on the screen followed by Batman's deep, resonant voice. The image was almost identical to the one Dick had ripped off one of his attackers. A skull with a knife through it, the lightening in the background of the symbol was missing however.

"The symbol you're seeing now is sort of an unofficial symbol of the U.S. Elite Special Forces division. Most of the members of this division sport that symbol as a tatoo. Although I've never come across it with a lightening slash. I've passed it on to Oracle and so far she hasn't found an exact match for it either."

"Now I'm sure I don't like this." Dick replied.

"What have you done to warrant a visit from U.S Special Forces Dick?" Bruce asked.

Dick shook his head in amazement, "Who me? I don't think I want to know."

"You do know what the possible ramifications of this are don't you?" Batman interjected. Suddenly Dick's face grew serious. At first he said nothing. Tim looked at Dick, and then at Batman, "What does it mean Dick?" he asked.

"They attacked us on the roof of the building I live in Tim. We can hope that's a coincidence. But if it isn't….." Dick's voice trailed off, leaving Tim to fill in the blanks.

"Someone may have figured out your secret identity." The entire room fell silent as they let the impact of that last statement sink in. The full meaning of the statement had huge ramifications. What if someone figured out Dick Grayson was Nightwing? How many others would be in danger? Bruce, Tim, Alfred, Barbara Gordon, and so many others. Dick frowned as he got up from the computer terminal and walked to the window, his mind racing. Unlike Batman, he had many friends, and he would rather die than see them in danger because of him. He hoped and prayed that this was all a huge coincidence, but he doubted it greatly.

General Walker sat in a darkened room, smoking a cigar. The room served as his base of operations in Bludhaven. Every possible surface was covered with papaers ranging from maps of the city to folders and communiques. He was listening to a report from his friend and comrade Colonel Phillip Young, Commanding Officer of Impact Squadron. He liked what he heard. While Walker was the brains of the operations, Impact Squadron was Young's to command in the field.

"This Nightwing character is one tough hombre General. He man handled ten of our guys. Our weapons weren't hot though so he had a bit of an advantage. Nonetheless, I already respect the hell out of him. What makes you think he'll play ball with us sir?"

"That's my little secret for now Phillip. This was an excellent test of the waters. The next time Impact Squadron meets Nightwing, things will go smoothly and according to plan. Nightwing is about to become our greatest ally, whether he likes it or not."

Chapter 2: Impact Squadron

They stood before him, looking for all the world like a pack of hungry lions, damn he was proud of them. They were in top physical and mental condition, awaiting their orders. He couldn't help but feel proud of them….. Impact Squadron. They were the toughest bastards on Earth, and they lived and died at his command. Colonel Young walked slowly past his men, inspecting them as they stood at attention, all the while looking straight ahead. Cortez, Francis, MacQuarrie, Styles, Johnson, Murrant, Dixon, Romaine, Brooks and Sito. His entire command save one. Major Summers was on special assignment but would join up with them later in the mission. They came from every possible cultural and racial background and each had a different story. They all had one thing in common, the protection of the free world from terrorist forces and superhuman threats. Their own lives were expendable in the pursuit of that goal…. and if they were to die, the government would disavow any knowledge of their existence and their families would be told a cover story to explain their deaths. They truly were the best of the best of the best. The ten men were dressed in their battle gear, as black as the night, patiently waiting for him to speak. As always, Colonel Phillip Young wouldn't pull any punches or give them any bull. He was their commanding officer and they had put their lives on the line for him many times….. and he for them. That kind of relationship required clear lines of communication and given the state of their current mission, this moment was no exception.

"Listen up ladies." He addressed them in his most stern voice while continuing to pace back and forth in front of them, "We all know that bringing down Judas is our main goal. To that end we are here in this godforsaken city of Bludhaven to, shall I say…. 'shanghai' a man who has some….. special skills that we need in order to get to Judas. Our target's code name is 'Nightwing'……" He paused when he heard a snicker from the assemblage before him and walked over to Lieutenant Francis and shot him a look that would stop the Devil himself in his tracks.

"Something funny Francis?"

The smile disappeared from Francis' face as Young's own face was barely an inch from his own. Francis' face suddenly became like a statue, unmoving, and locked in a serious gaze straight ahead. For a moment, the young man said nothing.

"Well?" Young prompted.

After a few more seconds Francis finally spoke, "Nothing really sir, just a little amused by this guys name. I mean… Nightwing??? Sounds like he reads too many funny books."

Even Young had to smile a little at that. "Does it now? Well this young man happened to fight off every man jack of you last night and come out the other side with barely a scratch. How many people alive today can say that they fought Impact Squadron during a surprise attack and lived to tell the tale?"

At this question the entirety of Impact Squadron stiffened noticeably but only Francis answered.

"Not one single living soul sir!" He shouted.

Young nodded approvingly at the young man's answer. Indeed, anyone who had gone up against Impact Squadron had failed miserably, and yet this Judas had always eluded them. A constant embarrassment to the Squad. Young stepped back from Francis and continued his pacing back and forth in front of his team as he spoke.

"As I was saying, his code name is 'Nightwing'. General Walker seems to have some kind of inside track on this man. He has provided me with the appropriate times to attack this vigilante and it is my belief that the General holds quite a bit of dirt on Nightwing which will ensure his cooperation." He paused to let this information sink in before he continued. Young backed away from them and folded his hands behind his back, taking them all in with his gaze.

"There is only one possible outcome for this mission." Young continued, "we capture this Nightwing character alive. We will not be using live ammo. We attack quickly and silently, using Tranq darts only. As you well know these darts can penetrate any known body armor. All we have to do is subdue this Nightwing character and get him to General Walker. It is the General's job to make Nightwing see that working for us against Judas is the only option. General Walker has assured me that he will need only one day to make Nightwing a willing member of our team. There is to be a zero body count during this mission. I REPEAT…. ZERO BODY COUNT!!"

There was a heavy silence in the room. There was no doubt that the members of Impact Squadron were uncomfortable with the thought of this outsider as one of them. Having to trust him and watch his back without even knowing his real name, assuming that he would even watch their backs at all. This was a risky venture, but they all knew that capturing Judas would require outside help. Too many had died trying to end the threat he presented to the entire world.

Young stepped back a few more paces and addressed them all, "If there are no more questions, we move as soon as the night falls. Cortez, Francis, MacQuarrie, Styles, Johnson…. you will comprise Alpha team. Murrant, Dixon, Romaine, Brooks and Sito will comprise Beta team. You all know your assignments and the appropriate 'go' codes. I trust that you will all do your best as you always have."

They stood there, looking at him. He smiled proudly. They weren't moving an inch until he gave the order. He stood there for a moment, savoring their iron will and total obedience to the chain of command. They were all his children in a way, and he would die for all of them… and they for him.

"Move out!!!" He snapped. Like a well oiled machine they snapped into action. Loading the helicopter and preparing their weapons and night vision goggles. Inspecting their own body armor and otherwise mapping out their strategy. Amidst the controlled chaos, Young stood there for a moment, admiring Impact Squadron. When night fell Impact Squadron would move like a well oiled machine.

It was rare that Dick Grayson ever got a chance to be alone with his superintendent Clancy and for the first time since he met her he was wishing that he wasn't alone with her now. He had only recently graduated from The Bludhaven Police Academy and was still awaiting his first job as a cop and Clancy had already taken him to dinner twice to celebrate his graduation from the academy. Despite his concerns over the attack on his rooftop the night before, Dick felt obligated to return the favor when Clancy had received the Waynetech scholarship that would allow her to become a doctor. When Clancy showed up at his door wanting to celebrate with Dick he felt he had no choice but to put his problems aside and take the beautiful young woman out to dinner. Leaving Tim back at the apartment, the two enjoyed a movie and dinner in a dark Italian restaurant known for it's very large portions called "Nick's". Dick had the tri-color tortellini while Clancy had the salad and lasagna.

With the sudden realization last night that some arm of the military may be setting its sights on him, Dick felt as if he were wearing a bulls eye on his forehead even when in his civilian clothes. It was a feeling he wasn't used to and he didn't like it. He wanted to show Clancy a good time but he felt as if he was putting her in danger just by being with her and she didn't even know it. It was unfair to treat Clancy in such a manner he thought…and he felt like a heel just being with her and acting carefree when he really feared that his attackers from last night could descend on him at any time. It was when Clancy sidled over and started feeding him bread sticks from her plate that he knew he was in real trouble.

"I'm glad you're having a good time Clancy." He said as she fed him some more. The look in her eyes told him that she was indeed having a very good time. He also saw desire in those eyes.

"Tonight of all nights…" Dick thought to himself.

"You and I have been seeing a lot of each other lately Dick. I've really been enjoying your company." She said as she fed him one end of a bread stick and broke off the other end for herself. Despite his new problem, Dick couldn't help but notice Clancy's perfect lips as she chewed on the bread. Why did she have to pick now to come on this strong?

"I haven't really thanked you properly for coming to my graduation." He felt her hand alight on his knee underneath the table.

"You can thank me now." She said, her voice becoming huskier, clearly indicating her arousal.

She was hard to resist, Dick had to admit it. He had been through a lot lately, with the protection of Gotham during the quake and trying to catch up on his studies at the police academy. He barely had time to realign himself back in Bludhaven before he was attacked by some shadowy military organization even Oracle couldn't identify. Before Dick knew what he was actually doing, he was kissing Clancy and she was returning the kiss with passion . Her soft lips on his rekindled the feelings he had almost managed to forget during the quake and its aftermath. After several minutes they broke the kiss.

"Clancy…… I…" She put her index finger to his lips, silencing him. "Dick honey, for once, just shut up." Dick felt her take him by the hands and, leaving money on the table for the bill, she led him back to their apartment building.

"Clancy…. I shouldn't…" He said as they entered the main door to the building, "My friend Tim is staying with me."

She kissed him again before she spoke in a hushed voice that Dick found incredibly sexy, "Did you forget I have my own apartment Dick?" She said as she fumbled for the many keys to the many locks on her door. Dick was torn between duty and passion. He was very attracted to Clancy and was glad to have her back in his life but he knew that now was not the right time for getting too involved. Of course, in his life, there was never a right time for getting too involved. Clancy had finally unlocked all the locks on her door and it swung open. He felt her soft hand envelop his once again and lead him to the living room, where she turned and kissed him again. He returned the kiss and pulled her body tightly against his. He was still torn between duty and passion…… but he was giving in to the passion. It was then that fate made the decision for him. Without warning the lights flickered out, Clancy and Dick found themselves cast into darkness.

"Should I consider this a bad omen or a good one?" Clancy whispered seductively into his ear. Dick wasn't listening. His eyes were gazing out into the darkness and his ears were straining to listen. He heard it. It was barely there, but he could hear it just the same. From above, the slight vibrating noise he heard last night when the silent helicopter had descended on them from nowhere. It took everything he had to break off the embrace with Clancy.

"Listen, maybe I should check on the lights Clance. What do you think?" He said as he stepped back from her a few paces toward the door.

"I think if you knew what was good for you Grayson, you'd come right back here to me. The dark can be a lot of fun." She said as she gestured with her index finger for him to come back to her. Dick knew that time was running out, that the hunters were almost on top of him. He turned on Clancy and broke into a sprint up the stairs.

"I better check on Tim Clancy. I'll be back soon." He yelled as he took the stairs three at a time. Behind him he heard the door to Clancy's apartment slam shut and he winced as if in physical pain. He knew that this would hurt his relationship with her, he just hoped it wasn't damaged beyond repair. Dick turned his attention to the task at hand and vaulted up over the railing on the stairs and toward the door of his own apartment. He stormed into the darkened room. Tim was nowhere in sight.

"Head's up Tim…. we've got company!!!" He yelled as he shut the door and dove for his closet. Tim emerged from the bathroom with a quizzical look on his face.

"Dick?!? Is that you? Where are you? Why are the lights out?"

From the closet Nightwing emerged, escrima fighting sticks in hand, his voice noticeably lower and more threatening. "Our friends are back."

Tim ran past Nightwing into the closet to don his own costume. Nightwing ran to the window, he was suddenly blinded by a powerful searchlight cutting through the darkness. The eerie silence was shattered by the shattering of glass. Three smoking canisters landed on the floor and began to billow smoke.

"Alpha team in position. Awaiting go code."

"Alpha this is command…. go code is 'Bravo'."

"Roger….. Alpha engaging."

Five figures dressed in midnight black crashed through the window. They moved with a speed that impressed even Nightwing.

"Robin I could use your help out here!!" He called as he back flipped away from the invaders and toward the kitchen area.

"Coming mother!!" Robin, the boy wonder replied as he charged from the closet still holding one boot in his hand and tackled the figure closest to him. Nightwing landed a hard kick on another of the men while the others began to open fire. Nightwing could tell from the silenced sound of the weapons that these men were using the same non lethal ammunition as they had the night before. That gave them a slight edge. If they wanted him alive, they would have to pull their punches, but he didn't. Nightwing let loose with several roundhouse kicks to his assailants, sending them scattering like ten pins while Robin brought his opponent down with a hard right to the jaw. Whoever they were, Nightwing thought to himself, they were good. They managed to strike again so quickly that they even caught Robin with one boot off. All the same, Nightwing knew that he would be giving as good as he got with these shadowy figures.

"Command. Target is showing Alpha Team a hard time of it. Awaiting go code."

"Relax Bravo, this is just phase one."

"Nonetheless sir, they sound like they could use some help."

"*sigh* All right then. Bravo Team….. go code is Epsilon."

"Roger command. Beta… engaging."

The sound of shattering glass once again filled the room and five more dark clad men descended via ropes into the room. Nightwing switched to infra red vision. The room was becoming very crowded indeed. It was only a matter of time before they hit him with something he couldn't avoid.

"Fire in the hole!!" He heard one of them yell. Suddenly a noiseless flash grenade rolled toward him and exploded right in front of Nightwing, who fell to his knees….. blinded. The incredible white light explosion combined with the fact that he was using infra red lenses rendered Nightwing's eyes useless.

"All right!!! That tears it!!" Momentarily sightless…. Nightwing flipped backwards and grabbed a chair from the kitchen. Grabbing it firmly by the legs, he began to swing it in the air with as much force as he could muster.

"Look out!!!" One of them yelled. Nightwing felt the chair impact several times on his assailants, he also felt them rolling with the impact of the blow. These men were more than professional terrorists….. he was now quite convinced they were top level military grade fighters as well. He had to be at his best to fight them off. Still…. he had to wonder… what did they want with him?

"That's enough!!! Stand down Nightwing!! We have your partner." Came a rough voice. Nightwing stopped swinging and shook his head. He then rubbed his eyes….. his vision was returning ever so slowly. He strained to see the figures in the darkness past the spots of light dancing in his eyes. It was then that he could barely make out Robin, on his knees, one of the assailants held an automatic weapon to the back of Tim's head. Upon seeing this, Nightwing immediately dropped the chair and raised his hands in the air.

Robin looked at Nightwing with an apologetic look on his face. "Sorry partner."

Nightwing managed a grim smile, "Nothing to apologize for pal." Moving quickly, another of the men stepped up behind Nightwing and raised a weapon to his neck… pulling the trigger. Dick felt a small pinch and then his knees began to buckle as the heavy tranquilizer entered his system. Eyelids fluttering, Nightwing turned to the black clad figure that shot him with the tranquilizer and began to speak, his speech slurred. "I'll remember youuuuuu…." was all he managed to mumble before falling forward onto the floor, asleep.

Across the room, Robin suddenly heard the hammer being pulled back on the weapon at the back of his head. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable. Images of Dick, Bruce, Barbara, and of course his father and mother flashed through his mind. He hoped Bruce wouldn't torture himself over his death as he had over Jason Todd's death. He also hoped Bruce wouldn't blame Dick for his death. He also thought of his father and hoped losing his only son would not kill him as well. At least it would be quick.

"Holster that weapon Soldier!! Zero body count remember?" Another soldier yelled. Robin breathed a sigh of relief when the gun was put in its holster. He then felt the pinch of the tranq dart on the back of his neck and the subsequent weak knees. With no control of his body, Robin fell to the ground and into a black haze.

Two hours later Robin awoke, still in costume, on the floor of Dick's apartment. The lights were back on. He tried to clear his eyes and look about the room. It was as he feared…. "They're gone."

He was known by many names even though he had no parents and was never given a proper name. He found that very ironic. The American Government had code named him "Judas". He preferred to call himself Kane. He was a man who had no family and no past. That left only the future, and he was at this very moment peering into the future as Nostrodamus could have only hoped to. He read the code as easily as anyone else would read the newspaper. It revealed to him all possible futures, but he was the one who had to decide which future would be his. That was the blessing of this special knowledge… and the curse. As he read what the code revealed to him from this most sacred of books, his brow furrowed. The code revealed tough times ahead. Kane knew he would not only survive them, he would also thrive. For he was the next step in human evolution, the ultimate man. How could he fail?

"They are coming for me yet again…. and not alone it seems."

Beside him Angelica stirred from her sleep. She reached out to him and placed a hand on his broad shoulder. Her hand felt unnaturally hot against his skin, which was cooler than a normal mans.

"What do you mean my dear? What does the code tell you?"

"The code. It tells me the future as you well know. It reveals the name Walker crossing my own…. and a new name, Nightwing."

"What will you do?" She asked as she got up from the massive bed and walked to the bathroom, the meager light silhouetting her voluptuous nude form.

When Kane answered, it was in a very soft, almost soothing tone, "I will, of course, kill them all my dear." And with that he put down his copy of the sacred Torah and left the room.

"Wake up!!" Nightwing felt the hand slapping his face three times before he reached out and grabbed an arm, stopping the next slap only an inch from his face.

"All right. I'm awake….." He was so tired he could barely open his eyes but he heard two sets of footfalls walking away from him. He heard a door open, more footfalls, and then he heard the door shut. Other than the hum from the lights he heard nothing.

"Was it my breath? Anyone still here?" He called out.

"Yes I'm still here. Don't worry you are in no danger from me."

"You could have fooled me. Who the Hell are you?"

"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is General Douglas Walker of the United States Special Operations Division, and you sir, are Dick Grayson. Adopted son of Bruce Wayne. You are also the vigilante known as Nightwing, and we are about to become the closest of allies."

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