Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

Nightwing: Black Ops - Part 2

Chapter 3: Mission Impossible

"I have to find him. Everything goes to the back burner as of right now. Finding Dick is the number one priority as of this moment." His voice was the epitome of determination and iron will as it echoed against the walls of the Batcave. He was the master of this realm filled with bats and stalactites. He was born Bruce Wayne, but he was known to the criminal elements of Gotham City as The Batman…. and he was not at all happy. He threw his cape, cowl, and gloves across the floor of the Batcave in an uncharacteristic display of anger and stalked across the floor of the Batcave to the giant cray computers. Behind him, Alfred Pennyworth and Tim Drake were slightly awestruck by Batman's lack of control.

"I don't think I've ever seen him like this." Tim whispered to Alfred.

Alfred whispered his reply so softly that Robin could barely hear it, "Master Bruce and Master Richard have repaired many of the problems that have been plaguing their relationship in the past years and I fear the master is once again afraid of losing Master Dick, even if the circumstances are beyond his control." Tim nodded in agreement.

After shaking off the effects of the tranquilizer dart Tim immediately locked up Dick's apartment and drove the Redbird back to Gotham as fast as he possibly could. Luckily, Batman had yet to leave on his nightly patrol and he breathlessly informed both Bruce and Alfred about the assault and kidnaping of Dick from his very own apartment. Bruce and Alfred listened silently to Tim's retelling of the event with rapt attention. It was not until Tim finally finished his account that they spoke. Alfred was the first to say anything.

"My word. It sounds as if Master Dick could be in mortal danger."

"I don't know Al," Tim replied, "They seemed to be taking pains to take Dick alive and they could have killed me but they didn't. They distinctly said they wanted a zero body count."

"May I remind you Master Tim, that The Joker and a wide variety of psychotics have had a chance to kill each one of you but instead declined preferring to put off your deaths until it was more fitting and, in their own deluded minds, more dramatic a time?" Tim knew Alfred spoke from years of experience that he didn't have and he quickly conceded the point. Still, Bruce said nothing. After a few more minutes of silence, Tim and Alfred simply stood there, waiting for Bruce to react to the distressing news. They were both slightly shocked however, at his lack of restraint. After a few minutes of using the computer at he turned to Tim.

"Tim why don't you go home for a few hours and catch up with your father. I'm going to do some research here and in two hours you can report back here. I want you to come with me to Bludhaven. We can search Dick's apartment for clues." Tim agreed and left for his fathers home, only to report back after everyone else in the house had gone to sleep. This left Alfred and Bruce alone, and it gave Alfred the opportunity he needed to discuss the situation candidly with him.

"I must say sir, I have not seen you this distressed in a very long time." Bruce didn't answer but instead continued his research, seemingly deaf to Alfred's words.

"With all due respect sir, please don't try and fool me. I can clearly see that you are upset." Alfred was shocked when Bruce actually slammed his fist down on the panel, making the keyboard jump high in the air. Such displays were uncommon with Batman, and Alfred almost jumped himself at the sudden noise. Instead he merely arched an eyebrow. Bruce swivelled the chair to face his oldest friend. Worry lines etched in his face.

"I can't lose him now Alfred. I simply can't. We've made so much progress, we've come so far. Whoever these people are they're serious and they're very good at what they do to have taken Dick so quickly and efficiently. I'm………….. afraid." He choked out the final word as if it were actually painful to say. It took Alfred a moment to take in exactly what it was that Bruce said.

"Sir? I can't remember the last time you admitted to feeling fear."

"Just between us Alfred? You won't tell Tim any of this?" He asked.

"Of course sir if it is what you wish. I would never betray your confidence." Alfred replied immediately, almost insulted by the notion. Bruce took a moment to gather his thoughts and calm himself. He then took a deep calming breath and took a moment to choose his words before he spoke again.

"I am feeling fear. You know me well enough to know I hate the sensation….. And the fact that I can't control it makes it even worse. The precision and efficiency of the people who've kidnaped Dick makes it clear to me that he is in the hands of someone who is very potentially deadly. This is a much more controlled and intelligent type of malevolence than say……The Joker. I can already tell that this is far more than just a fist fight with Bane or a run in with Blockbuster. This is whole different level. This reeks of the military and that in itself disturbs me."

Alfred half smiled at Bruce, "I seriously doubt that is what frightens you."

Bruce actually smiled back at Alfred, perhaps at the butlers ability to know his so well. "No you're right Alfred. That's not what scares me. This house was so dreary before Dick came to live with us. Like a mausoleum."

"I remember quite vividly sir."

"And then when Dick came, everything was brighter. It felt like we were a family. And then we had our disagreements, Dick left and we didn't speak for ages. The house was dreary and gloomy again. Something was missing. Not even Jason, God rest his soul, or Tim can replace what Dick brought to our lives. Since we've been making inroads with one another and patching things up, I've started to feel our lives brightening up again. I used to tell Dick that I was his mentor and friend, but never his father. Well………. now I'm starting to realize that we are a family. You, Dick, and myself. And I don't want to lose him just as we are becoming a family again. I will not lose another family member again. Not after my parents, and not after Jason."

Alfred permitted himself another wry smile, "You certainly speak as a father would sir. I am sure you will find him. If anyone can, you can. And you will. I also have faith in Master Richard as you must. He has survived battles with many powerful foes by your side, with The Titans and on his own."

"He'll be okay." Bruce muttered, "He has to be okay."

"I shall prepare something for both you and Master Timothy to eat on your trip to Bludhaven sir and leave you to your work. You must keep up your health during these trying times." Alfred smiled and left for the kitchen leaving Bruce alone again with his thoughts and his fears. He once again resumed his research on the computer, counting the minutes before he and Tim left for Bludhaven.

"He'll be okay……..he's the best there is…….he has to be okay." He muttered to himself. His only response was the flutter of bat's wings.


At the moment Nightwing could only be sure of two things: the first being he wasn't dead…….. yet. The other thing he could be sure of was that this man who called himself General Douglas Walker was not to be trusted one little iota. Nightwing regarded the man, there was no doubt he was a military type. Everything from the way he talked to his haircut told him that Walker was no doubt a lifelong career man in the military. He was obviously a man who got straight to the point as well. He had blurted out, in a few crisp, clear sentences exactly who he was, what he wanted from Nightwing, AND that he knew his secret identity. Now Walker was straddling a chair, his arms resting against the back of it as he leaned towards Nightwing, awaiting a response.

"Let me get this straight, you kidnap me, injure a young boy whom I consider a brother to me, and you expect me to roll up my sleeves and ask how I can help you? I suggest that whatever you're smoking you should really quit as it's really screwing with your brain."

He waited to see what kind of reaction he would get from Walker. Surprisingly, there was very little. Walker simply sat there and his lips formed a completely insincere smile for a so brief a time that if you blinked you might miss it. He then checked his watch and frowned slightly, apparently time was not on Walker's side.

"Allow me to be frank with you…." he began.

"You can be whoever the Hell you want to be spy boy but I am getting out of here right now and you and your goons won't stop me." Nightwing replied and he got up to walk out of the room. Of course, he had no idea where he was but he knew he wasn't going to play Walker's little game. It was then that The General played his trump card.

"And what about Alfred? What about Miss Barbara Gordon? What of Bruce Wayne? Will you turn your backs on them too by walking out of here?" He asked in a deadly calm voice. Nightwing's hand was only an inch from the doorknob and there it stopped. They both knew it, Walker had him dead to rights. He would have to listen now. Ever so slowly Nightwing turned and walked back to The General.

"What do you want?" Nightwing asked, his voice almost a whisper. Walker gestured for the younger man to sit down, at first Nightwing did nothing, he gestured again with an almost sincere smile and finally he sat down opposite Walker on the small cot on which he had woken up. When he began speaking again it was in a very pleasant conversational tone that one might use when discussing the big game the night before.

"I'm not the evil man you seem to think I am Nightwing. Yes I know your secret identity but you can rest assured that I am the only one in our organization who does and as long as you cooperate I see no reason to tell anyone else who you really are. Secrets are the currency of my stock and trade and I don't give them away for free. I'm sorry I had to threaten you by mentioning your friend's names but I think it was the only way I could get you to listen to me."

Nightwing had to chuckle at that remark, "Oh yeah you're all heart. Well I'm listening so hurry up and get to the point."

Walker proceeded with his commentary in an even tone the instant Nightwing stopped talking.

"The simple truth is, I command a platoon of men and women that are utilized by the United States Government in covert operations worldwide. Their code name is Impact Squadron. Believe me when I tell you they are the best that there is. For two and a half years we have been trying to eliminate a threat to the security of the entire world."

Walker paused for a moment to allow for some drama but it was clear by his arched eyebrow that Nightwing was not impressed. Nightwing had heard those words used before. Walker continued after a moment's silence in his deadly serious voice.

"The threat is because of a single genetically engineered man who was originally code named The Darwin Experiment. We have since changed his code name to Judas. Judas has gained access to several different types of atomic warheads and biological weapons that he has been buying from the crumbling Russian Empire. Worse than that however, he has access to a special kind of knowledge that seems to help him predict the future, it is a knowledge that we can barely understand. I'm not lying when I say that Judas is the pinnacle of human genetic achievement. He is faster, stronger, smarter, and more resilient than any man alive save perhaps Superman who, to be fair, isn't of this planet. He was created to be the ultimate covert agent before he went rogue. He began to see the entire human race as a lesser species than himself, as a virus to be wiped out and when he has the rest of the weapons he needs he intends to eliminate the entire human race and repopulate the Earth with men and women like himself. He is quite insane, which may or may not be a result of his genetic engineering, we simply don't know."

Walker stopped talking then, allowing Nightwing to take in all of this information. The silence in the room began to grow heavy and cling to both men like a fog. Walker was becoming impatient.

"Well? Don't you have anything to say?" He finally asked with more than a trace of irritation in his voice.

"Why me?" Nightwing asked, "Why not Batman? Hell why not Superman? Why shanghai me into this?"

A smile blossomed on Walker's face when asked the question, "Obviously we could not involve a being like Superman. He is far too honest and would more than likely make full reports of such a being to his friends at The Daily Planet such as Clark Kent or that Lois Lane woman. Such a highly moral being as Superman would make sure that Judas was brought into the public light where we have no wish for him to be. We want Judas eliminated quickly and quietly. Not to mention the fact that Judas has come across some quantities of Kryptonite, which he keeps close to him at all times. As for Batman, I never truly considered him. He isn't a team player like you are with your Titans friends. Not to mention that he too would insist on bringing Judas to the public's knowledge. However, more than all these factors put together, you have been chosen because of a combination of skills that you possess which makes you perfect for this assignment."

Nightwing was becoming weary of this conversation and sank his head into his hands which were resting on his knees. Walker seemed to have a way of telling you things without really giving you any pertinent information.

"What skills are those?"

"Put succinctly, you have tremendous acrobatic skills, which we will need. You're hand to hand combat and detective training is without peer and we will need that. You work well in a team situation."

"Meaning I work and play well with the other children." Nightwing interjected.

Walker continued without missing a beat, "You have superior computer skills and you are quite the master of disguise when you need to be, all of those talents we will need to make use of in order to eliminate the threat of Judas."

Before Walker even knew what had happened he found himself pinned up against the wall, his feet dangling in the air several inches above the ground. When he looked back on the event later he realized that Nightwing had moved so fast that he had no clear recollection of it happening. One minute he was sitting on a chair briefing the costumed vigilante on his plans, the next he was pinned against the wall with the wind knocked out of him and Nightwing's rock hard fists around the lapels of his coat. The next thing he was aware of was the yong man's voice, barely a rough whisper.

"Don't forget the main reason you picked me as your patsy Walker. You know my identity and you threatened the people I hold most dear. I ought to tear you in half right now and save this Judas character the trouble. I don't like being anyone's puppet and working with you would make me exactly that…… a puppet. You can take your plans for me and stick them straight up your assho……"

At that very second the door to the room was kicked in with a loud thud and several armed men trained their weapons on Nightwing. Walker innocently held up a small device in his hand that he used to summon them. "When I'm done showing you what you need to see, I guarantee you will work with us of your own free will." Walker said with absolute confidence.

"Put The General down or we will be forced to open fire!!" The lead man yelled. Ever so slowly Nightwing lowered Walker down to the floor and released his hold on the man's lapels. The armed men at the doorway began to relax and lowered their weapons as the tension eased. In a split second Nightwing again grabbed Walker and pinned him to the wall, proving that he was not going to go along quietly as the lamb to slaughter. The men at the door instantly brought their guns back up and aimed at Nightwing, who leaned in close to Walker and whispered in his ear.

"If anyone I love is hurt by you junior James Bond's than I will come looking for you Walker. You know me well enough to know I don't kill, but that could be worse for you in the long run. Just because I don't kill doesn't mean I can't cripple you for life and leave you in a wheelchair, or even worse, on a respirator. You remember that." And with those final words he let go of Walker and put his hands up in the air to signal that he was done acting up for now. This time the armed squad at the door did not lower their weapons until after Nightwing had taken several steps away from Walker.

The General simply smoothed out his coat as if nothing of consequence had actually happened and began to walk out the door, gesturing for Nightwing to follow him.

"I think it's time you met the people you will be working with Nightwing. Allow me to introduce you to Impact Squadron."


The next half hour was taken up by Walker showing Nightwing around the area they were using as a headquarters. Nightwing guessed that they were still in Bludhaven, even though he had no proof of that yet. The construct he was in had no windows and there were no sounds emanating from the outside. They began with a large room filled with computers and monitoring equipment. Two young men were overseeing them and both greeted Walker with stiff military salutes. Walker introduced Nightwing and they greeted him with barely sincere smiles and weak looks coupled with suspicious glances. Their names were Duane Johnson and Robert Styles. Johnson was a broad shouldered black man with handsome features and the well muscled body of a fighter. Styles was a much taller and ganglier man who also greeted the outsider with a barely concealed look of suspicion.

Just down the hall from the computer room Nightwing was introduced to three more agents of Impact Squadron. In a much larger room was what Nightwing recognized as the ammunition stores for Walker and his men. The three men were busily cleaning and oiling the various weapons and loading the magazines. Their names were Luke Francis, Glen Murrant, and Brad MacQuarrie. Francis was a compact stocky man who seemed friendlier than the rest, greeting Nightwing with what seemed to be a sincere smile and a firm handshake. MacQuarrie was a large framed man with jet black hair and blueish eyes much like Nightwing's. His handshake was very firm but it didn't seem very friendly, it was more like he was testing his own strength against Nightwing's own. Murrant seemed rather blasť about the newcomers presence but was reasonably friendly. Nightwing guessed that Murrant was something of a loner.

Further down the hall a large room housed an impressive area of all terrain vehicles and even a few motorized flying devices that would have impressed even Batman. Four men were there performing maintenance on the vehicles. There he met Roger Dixon, Lucas Romaine, Terry Brooks and Miller Sito. Dixon, Romaine and Brooks all seemed too busy to give him much of a notice and gave him quick handshakes and "hello's". Only Sito, a young Asian-American man seemed very friendly and treated Nightwing as if he were welcoming home one of the boys. "At least there's one friendly face." Nightwing thought to himself.

Finally, Walker led Nightwing across the garage area to a command post of sorts where two men stood conversing, one was a tall well muscled man with leonine features and blonde hair. He was talking to another man who was writing on a clipboard.

"This is Lt. Cortez and Colonel Phillip Young. Colonel Young is the field commander for Impact Squadron and a true American hero." Walker said as they approached the duo. Young and Cortez turned to face Walker and Nightwing. Young was the first to extend his hand, "Sorry about the way we had to recruit you but I think….." He was stopped short by Nightwing's fist flying into his face in a punishing jab that snapped out so quickly Young's knees instantly buckled and he fell to the ground.

Both Cortez and Walker jumped on Nightwing and held him down, Nightwing offered no resistance.

"What the hell are you doing?" Cortez yelled as Dixon, Romaine, Brooks and Sito came running over from across the garage.

"Stop!!" Young yelled as he pulled himself to his feet and rubbed his jaw.

"I told you I would remember you." Nightwing said as Cortez and Walker held him back. He instantly remembered the voice from his apartment saying, "That's enough!!! Stand down Nightwing!! We have your partner."

To his surprise, Young began to smile as he rubbed his jaw and offered his hand to Nightwing. "I think that makes us even." After a moment of silence Nightwing extended his hand and the two shook hands. Maybe this one wasn't so bad after all.

Nightwing turned to Walker, "I have to let the people I love know where I am." He said, both he and Walker knew that he meant Batman/Bruce Wayne but he wasn't about to say their names in front of these men.

"We'll contact your loved ones as soon as possible Nightwing but we're about to move out. Tell me….. what do you know of the underground death match circuit?"

Chapter 4: The Bible Code

Authors note: The Bible Code is not a creation of my imagination and does seem to actually exist. Dr. Eliyahu Rips is also a real person and the true genius who discovered the Bible Code as documented in the book "The Bible Code" by Michael Drosnin from Simon & Schuster. It is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read and no matter what your beliefs are it will send a shiver up your spine and make you wonder who (or what) is responsible for the code.

What Kane/Judas is doing with the code is quite impossible.


Kane sat in his lounging chair with his book open before him. Angelica walked into the room carrying two glasses of wine on a tray. As usual, she was barely clothed in a tiny red negligee that was cut very short to reveal as much leg as possible. Kane had to admit he liked her that way. She was his most loyal personal bodyguard and his lover. Kane, much like his strength, reflexes and intellect, had the sexual appetite of at least 10 men and Angelica did her best to make sure Kane had access to as many women as he needed. Few of the women were strong enough to survive his sexual tastes however. Only Angelica was strong enough to be his lover on a nightly basis. She was the best the human race had to offer he often thought. She had survived many death match tournaments with barely a scratch and she killed all her opponents (most of them men) with extreme prejudice while she barely received a scratch. He knew then that she would be his choice to be his closest aide and together they would build an army, and together they had.

"I wish I could read the code as easily as you do my love." She said as she bent over to place the glass of wine next to him, the tiny negligee falling in just the right places to let him see her well endowed body in all its glory. He smiled knowingly at her and she returned the smile.

"One day when I have the time I will show you how to read the code. It is not easy and I myself didn't even discover it. It was actually a mere human, admittedly a brilliant human, who first realized the code existed." He said as she sat on his lap and looked at the book with him.

"It would help if I read Hebrew I suppose." She said.

"It only took me a few minutes to learn Hebrew, I will teach it to you eventually."

Kane thumbed the pages of the most sacred Torah as he read. To millions worldwide the Torah was the word of God as told to Moses. To Kane and a handful of others, though, it was the key to the future. Early in his existence Kane was instructed by his creators to learn as much as possible from all possible sources. That was when he came across information about Dr. Eliyahu Rips and The "Bible Code". Dr. Rips was one of the world's leading experts in group theory, a field of mathematics related to quantum physics. He found that using computers to develop a sophisticated mathematical model confirmed that the text of The Torah was encoded with information, the code also seemed to exist only in the original Hebrew version.

"The entire idea has to do with equidistant letter sequences basically," Kane explained. He went on to tell her of a Rabbi in Prague who, over 50 years ago, discovered that if he skipped 50 letters, then another 50, and then another fifty and so on, the word "Torah" was spelled at the beginning of The Book Of Genesis. The same effect was found in The Book Of Numbers and in The Book of Deuteronomy. Digging into the past, it was discovered that Sir Issac Newton also suspected a hidden code in the Bible and spent half his life searching for it, only to fail.

Dr. Rips had found coded information in the equidistant letter sequences foretelling the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, which Rips and his colleagues tried to warn Rabin about, and failed. The code in the Bible foretold both Kennedy assassinations, the Oklahoma City bombing, the assassination of President Lincoln (and the name of his assassin… Booth), World War II and Watergate. It also foretold of the Shoemaker-Levy Comet colliding with Jupiter BEFORE it actually happened. It was suspected that there were endless layers of coded information in The Torah and that it contained the names and fates of everyone that was ever born or will be born, this of course, remained unproven. Similar attempts to find the code in secular books like the Hebrew version of War and Peace had failed. The code was indeed real and existed only in the Hebrew Bible. Who had encoded it 2001 years ago with this information? Religious scholars said the author was obviously God. Secular scholars suggested it was proof of alien life influencing our own history. Kane did not know who had encoded it nor did he particularly care. He saw the code as a tool and nothing more. A mean to an end.

"Basically my dear," He continued, "A computer divides the entire Bible into a giant crossword puzzle. One strand of 304, 805 letters into 64 rows of 4772 letters. If the skip sequence for the letters is 10. Then each row would be 10 letters long, if the skip was 100, then each row would be 100 letters long and so forth."

Angelica listened intently as she ran her fingernail seductively across his broad, hairless chest. Kane stopped for a moment and sighed with annoyance, her sex drive was almost as strong as his.

"Each time the rows are re-arranged a new set of interlocking words, which appear much as a crossword puzzle, can be seen. It is said that the code can only show a possible future, not one set in stone, but it hasn't failed me yet."

It was then that Angelica finally spoke as she whispered in his ear as if she was whispering sweet nothings, "I take it my love that you have taken this code further than those who discovered it."

Kane smiled proudly at her remark, "Using my superior intellect I have been able to train myself to read the code without benefit of a computer. I can read it right off the pages as an average worm would read the Sunday Times. It warns that the word of God cannot be used for evil, but it hasn't failed me yet."

"And what does it tell you now lover?" She asked as she slipped out of her negligee, revealing some healing cuts and bruises from their past encounters.

He eyed her hungrily as she undressed for him, "It tells me that Walker's newest recruit, this Nightwing, will be brought before me very soon, masquerading as someone or something else. He won't live long enough to realize I knew every move he was going to make before he did"


"Well Dorothy, you're not in Kansas any more…." Nightwing muttered to himself. Barely two days ago he was Nightwing, self-appointed vigilante to the city of Bludhaven. Now he was in the Indian Ocean not far from the coast of Antarctica on a small island known as The Kerguelen Archipelago preparing to fight in a death match. The island lay between 48 and 50 degrees south and 68 and 70 degrees east. There were actually over 300 islands, islets and reefs in the group but the largest island by far was Ile Kerguelen. The weather on the tiny island seemingly matched the souls of the small crowd of people he saw there in the shadow of the glaciated Mount Ross. Grey and dismal. According to most travel guides, rain, sleet or snow falls on over 300 days a year and strong westerly gales are common on the bleak uninhabited island, making it an undesirable place for anyone in their right minds to visit for any reason. This made the sight perfect for it's current inhabitants. A small crowd of approximately 50 or 60 people gathered around a small staging area placing bets and shouting odds on who would be killed in the upcoming fight. This was where the lawless men and women gathered from every nation on Earth to witness the tournaments of death matches that were illegal in most corners of the world. The fighters, their managers, and the people who bet (sometimes millions of dollars) on the outcomes of the fights made their way to Kerguelen Island on a regular basis to compete and make money. It was no wonder, Nightwing thought, that this place was nicknamed "Desolation Island".

He stood on the makeshift staging with Colonel Young by his side. Nightwing had shed his costume and mask and wore a simple pair of blue jeans and sneakers. Despite the cold winds and roiling mists he wore no shirt, as were the rules of the fight. General Walker had given him access to a variety of disguises so that he could remove his mask and still maintain his anonymity. He decided that the simple approach was best and he slicked back his hair with gel, inserted contact lenses that changed the color of his eyes to brown, applied a false goatee and moustache, a false tatoo of an eagle on his right arm, and a false scar on his left arm. No one would know that the adopted son of Gotham Cities wealthiest man stood in their midst. Young had also adopted something of a disguise. Acting as Nightwing's manager, he was dressed in a thick (and warm looking) black leather jacket, grey sweat pants and wore a patch over one eye. Across the stage from them was a very deadly looking combination of fighter and manager. The fighter was a black man about 6 foot 4. He was lean and well muscled, he had no bulk whatsoever and Nightwing guessed that he could move as quickly and quietly as the wind that whipped around them even now. His face was expressionless as he stared straight at Dick. Dick realized that his opponent was actually looking through him as if he wasn't even there, perhaps not worth his attention. His knuckles were taped up, as were Dick's and he wore similar denim jeans and sneakers with no top. Beads of sweat dripped off his body despite the temperature. His manager was a short, greasy looking man with a long, wiry beard. Despite his diminutive size the small man had a look in his eyes that indicated he would easily cut his own mothers throat if it meant that there was a dollar in it for him.

Walker's words from 48 hours ago were still ringing in Nightwing's ears, "What do you know of the underground death match circuit?" Within fifteen minutes of asking the question the entire Squadron had boarded a plane and were winging their way southward. As they took off Nightwing realized that Walker and his cronies had been housed in a large forgotten 1950's era atomic bomb shelter just 10 miles outside of Bludhaven. Their small plane took off almost noiselessly with very little of a runway to speak of. Two hours into the flight, Nightwing took Walker aside and confronted him.

"You don't have any intention of letting me contact my loved ones do you?" He asked.

Walker took him aside and spoke in a hushed tone, "To be honest…… no. I can't risk Batman tracking you down and trying to liberate you so to speak."

At first Nightwing didn't react to such an honest answer from a man with such a permanently forked tongue. He expected at least some non-committal misinformation or some kind of runaround. Instead he got the truth.

"Come with me Nightwing, I told you that when I was done explaining everything to you that you would stay with us of your own free will. Now is as good a time as any." The two retreated to the aft cabin of the plane and shut the door, they were alone. They sat down around a small table facing one another. Walker steepled his fingers and began to speak matter of factly. He explained the threat of Judas in detail. He explained how Judas regards the human race as we would regard a cold virus. An annoyance that is to be wiped out as quickly as possible.

"What do you think he has biological weapons for? The warheads he has obtained are only for his protection. The biological weapons are designed to infect human flesh only. The effects are basically that of an Ebola virus. They don't effect anything else…………. so that when we're all dead……"

"He has a fresh planet to start over with. With infrastructure and animals intact." Nightwing finished the thought for him.

"Exactly. He doesn't have enough yet, but he will soon if we don't stop him." Walker confirmed. He went on to explain that even though he was forced to use his knowledge of Nightwing's secret identity to get him to listen, if Nightwing were to turn away from them now, the possible holocaust Judas could unleash would be just as much Nightwing's responsibility as anyone's, because he turned away from a danger that he could have prevented. At that last remark Nightwing raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"My responsibility?" He asked.

"And mine as well. I have asked for your help to save the entire human race from extinction, how can a man of conscience like yourself turn your back on me?" As much as Nightwing reviled Walker's methods, he had Dick dead to rights. He knew the man Dick Grayson/Nightwing very well, he probably had a file on Dick as thick as a phone book. He used his knowledge of the good man Dick Grayson to appeal to his sense of right. No matter who his current allies were, Dick Grayson/Nightwing could never stand by and do nothing while such a danger existed. For better or worse, he would now work with Walker, Young and Impact Squadron to bring down Judas.

"I won't kill him. I'll help you stop him, but I won't kill him." Nightwing blurted out, the tone of his voice indicated that there was no room for debate on the subject.

"He may not give you a choice Nightwing."

Walker then went on to explain their current goal and Nightwing's role in his plan. They were on their way to The Kerguelen Archipelago where death match tournaments were held regularly. Colonel Young would act as his "manager" and several members of the squadron, mainly Murrant, Sito, Johnson, and Styles would be disguised throughout the crowd. He also informed them that the eleventh member of Impact Squadron would be hidden in the crowd as well. Apparently Major Summers was already there and enrolling Nightwing in the tournament as well as scouting the other contestants. The entire reason for the fights was to get a lead back to Judas.

Apparently Judas always had a trusted agent in the crowd at these tournaments. Judas often recruited the winners into his personal cadre of bodyguards. If Nightwing can win the tournament, he should be approached by Judas' recruiter. Walker admitted that he had entered two of his soldiers in the tournaments before and both were killed before the third round. There was one catch however, to win a death match, one obviously had to kill his opponent.

"I told you already Walker. I don't kill."

"You're resourceful, you'll find a way around that." Walker said as he got up and reentered the main cabin. Behind his back, Nightwing extended his hand and gave Walker the finger.

As Walker passed through the cabin and entered the cockpit Colonel Young stuck his head in the door, catching Nightwing giving Walker the finger. Much to his surprise, Young smiled and suppressed a chuckle. He entered the room and took Walker's seat across the small table from Nightwing.

"I sometimes do that to him myself." Young said. Nightwing had to laugh out loud at that.

"The General and I don't always agree on how to do things Nightwing," He continued, "I didn't agree with how we recruited you, and I don't know what The General said to you or has on you to make you cooperate with us……." His voice trailed off as he seemed to be choosing his next words carefully. "Whatever he said to you I think you should know that I do believe Judas is a threat to every life on Earth and if what The General says is true, that you may be the man we need to stop him……. then I want you to know that I'm proud to have you as a member of my Squad, and that I will personally watch your back as best I can. You're too important to us. Too important to everyone on Earth." And with that he extended his hand across the table to Nightwing. At first Nightwing didn't know what to make of Impact Squadron's field leader. He scanned the Colonels face for signs of deception. He found none. Young's eyes seemed totally sincere. Finally, he too extended his hand shook Young's firmly. A pact sealed.

"And don't you worry about these death matches, if you can't kill them I'll have a sniper hidden about half a mile away, it'll probably be Romaine as he is the most talented sharpshooter. His ammunition will be small knock out darts. The effect simulates death for at least two hours. More than long enough for you to finish this tournament and for you to make contact with Judas' talent scout."

The rest of the flight went without incident. Most of the other members of the Squad either slept on the flight or were busy outfitting themselves for duty on Desolation Island. Walker allowed Nightwing to use the small rear compartment to remove his mask and costume, which he placed in a small locker. He then took a few minutes to apply the disguise so that no one would recognize his true face when this was all over.

Hours later, here he was. On a tiny island in the Indian Ocean. Preparing to engage in a battle to the death.

"Ok remember," Young whispered to him, "Work this guy around for a bit. When the time is right grab him by the throat and hold him as still as you can. That's when my guy can take him down." Nightwing nodded in affirmation.

"And don't get myself killed in the process?" He added.

Young smirked and nodded again, "That's the plan my friend. You have to make it through three fights AND make it seem like you killed them all. Good luck."

"Is that all Colonel? I've got two hands you know."

The bell rang cutting off Walker's intended reply. Before Nightwing could even turn his head to face his opponent he felt strong hands grab him by the shoulders and flip him across the stage. He landed hard on the wooden staging and skidded over the mist covered surface. Before he had even stopped skidding he felt a flurry of punches of kicks assault him. This was a death match, he reminded himself. This man wanted to kill him as fast and as he possibly could. Unlike The Bludhaven criminal element, they were not going to be intimidated by a costume or a fright mask. In this world, he was just another fighter who had to be killed so that his opponent might take the prize money. He was not Nightwing any more, he was just another fighter with no reputation and no special weapons. It was a true test of his mettle.

Trying his best to block the devastating blows, Dick did a leg sweep, knocking his opponent off of his feet. Dick back flipped to his feet and somersaulted backwards a few times to put some space between him and his foe. He wasn't a killer, and yet he had to act like he was doing his best to kill this man. How was he going to do this? He had to somehow pretend that he wanted nothing more than to kill this man. That was when the answer came to him. He looked at the face of his opponent, who was charging at him now. He no longer saw the man's face as it really was. Instead he saw Jean Paul Valley, otherwise known as Azreal. The man who Bruce Wayne choose to replace him to face Bane instead of Dick. Valley was a disastrous choice for Batman and for all of Gotham, and he was the one man whom Dick could honestly say he disliked enough to call it hate. He would pretend that his opponent was Azreal. Nightwing kicked the oncoming man straight in the knee and watched as he stumbled and fell. Leaping high in the air, he came down and delivered a series of brutal chops to the man's neck. Nightwing watched as his opponent fell to the ground, dazed. He realized he would have to be careful, thinking about Valley like that could get this man killed, and he didn't want that at all. Dick backed off and back flipped away again, allowing his opponent to regain his senses, much to the chagrin of everyone in the audience who were yelling for blood.

Dick nodded at Young, giving him the signal. Young nodded his understanding and spoke quickly into a button on the collar of his jacket, giving the signal to his sniper. Nightwing's opponent got to his feet and charged once again, enraged by the fact that Dick had not seen him worthy to kill when he had the chance. Much to his surprise, he was not met by the kick that he was expecting. Instead Dick grabbed the man by the throat and stopped him dead. To the blood crazed onlookers it seemed as if Nightwing were about to choke the life out of him. Both men gritted their teeth as one tried to escape and the other tried to hold him still. Beads of sweat burned Nightwing's eyes as he held on to the man's throat with both hands. The crowd around them was going wild with appreciation for the violence.

Dick began to think that he would have to let go of his opponent before he did any serious damage when suddenly a tiny dart only Nightwing could see hit his foe in the neck. Instantly, the man knew something was wrong and he sank to his knees. Inwardly, Nightwing gave thanks to Romaine and his excellent aim. With a quick slight of hand move Dick grabbed the small dart and pocketed it before some anonymous henchmen dragged off the "body" and dropped it just outside the crowd in a heap. Within two hours he would regain consciousness but by then they would all be long out of there. Assuming he wasn't killed first.

There was a 10 minute intermission as the next competitor readied himself. Young took the opportunity to give Nightwing a quick once over to make sure that he was not injured. The man seemed genuinely interested in Dick's well being and he appreciated it.

"Two more buddy, and then you're done." He said.

"Let's hope Judas' talent scout thinks I'm worth recruiting." Dick added.

"Keep up these quick kills and you'll impress everyone in the crowd. Not to mention take all their money."

Opponent number two stepped up on the staging and the bell immediately rang signaling that the fight had begun. Number 2 was a mammoth man of Asian decent. He no doubt had a background in Karate and perhaps Sumo wrestling. He was certainly big enough. Like the first one, he charged Nightwing immediately. His tremendous bulk hit Dick like an oncoming freight train. The impact sent Dick flying off of the stage and into the crowd where he was caught in the arms of several onlookers who promptly threw him back onto the stage again.

"Ok stud…. it's show time, time to show em what you got." He muttered to himself as he rubbed his ribs, which he imagined were quite bruised from the blow.

He felt his opponents strong hands pick him up and throw him threw the air. Utilizing all his aerialist skills Dick managed to twist himself around and land on his feet, much to the chagrin of his opponent, who closed rapidly on him. Dick threw several punches and kicks at number two, snapping his head back and dazing him. Once again Nightwing grabbed the huge man by the throat and gave the signal to Young. Seconds later, a small dart hit the Sumo in the neck. Dick was glad Romaine's reaction time was a little quicker in this fight. Unfortunately, the size of the man kept the serum in the dart from affecting him as quickly as his first opponent. Nightwing let go of him and was rewarded by a straight roundhouse to the jaw, spinning Dick totally around. Using his own momentum Dick came around with a roundhouse kick to the side of the head and knocked his opponent out.

In the crowd, Sito couldn't help but yell, "YES!!!! KICK ASS!!"

The timekeeper came out of the crowd and checked for a pulse on the fallen Sumo. He could find none and it took thirteen men to drag the man's body over to where number 1 lay prone. Nightwing went back to his corner again.

"We have a problem." Young began.

"Just one?" Dick asked as he wiped the blood from his mouth.

Young continued unabated, "Romaine had to move, there was a security patrol coming and they were about to find him. He can't get a clean shot any more."

"Don't tell me that Colonel."

"You may have to kill your last opponent I'm afraid." Young told him with sincere regret in his eyes.

"That's not an option."

"Well, General Walker says you're resourceful. I guess now's the time to pull a rabbit out of your hat.

Just then a shadow fell over them. Dick thought it must have been an eclipse. When he looked up he found it was his final opponent. A man taller than Bane himself, and almost as thick. He bared huge metal capped teeth at Dick and growled. For the final time the bell rang signaling the beginning of the match. Without taking a step the man reached out and grabbed Dick by the neck. His reach was astounding. Dick was pulled off of his feet as he now felt the giant hand squeeze around his neck and cut off his air supply. Repeatedly the huge man hammered Dick in the face as he held him by the throat with the other hand. Much more of this and Dick would pass out, leaving him at the mercy of this man who fully intended to kill him. Despite themselves, the disguised members of Impact Squadron in the audience were impressed by Nightwing's fighting ability and tapped their toes nervously as they watched Nightwing being beaten.

Suddenly, Dick wrapped his hand around the long arm that held him tight. He swung his body up using his opponents own arm as a kind of balance beam and repeatedly began kicking number three in the face. The members of Impact Squadron in the audience all let out a cheer and began a series of high fives, clearly impressed. Young was also impressed. He felt his foe's grip loosen due to the kicks and he dropped to the ground and kicked the giant in the mid section, doubling him over in pain. A leg sweep brought him down to the ground and Dick crawled on top of him. They all watched as Dick took a deep breath and brought his fist down in a horrid punch that made a wet crunching sound. He had driven the man's nose back into his brain. Effectively killing him instantly. Young and the members of Impact Squadron were stunned into silence.

"I thought he never killed." Walker muttered to himself.

The crowd erupted into a wild ovation for the newcomer. He had killed all three of his opponents in record time. The members of Impact Squadron still could not react. From the crowd, yet another set of very calm eyes watched Nightwing as he was brought back to his corner by his manager.

"Yes. He might do nicely." Neil Anderson thought to himself. He was a former bounty hunter who now served as a recruiter of sorts for Kane. He began to work his way through the crowd toward the stage.

"Tell me you didn't just kill that man." Young said under his breath to Nightwing.

"Of course I didn't, it looked like a death blow but he'll regain his senses within the hour.

"Where the hell did you learn that?" Young asked.

"From my own teacher. He fooled me with it once. Let's hope whoever we're looking for makes contact with us before those guys all wake up."

Just then a large bundle of money fell at Nightwing's feet. Both he and Walker looked up to see a rather unsavory looking man smiling through yellowed teeth down at him.

"There's more where that came from. If you and your manager are interested in talking to my employer." The man said.

Before either of them could answer, another voice, a female one this time, broke through the din. "Oh he's interested all right." They all turned their heads in the direction of the newcomer and saw a truly amazing sight. A tall well muscled woman dressed in a skin tight black leather outfit, her hair also as black as night, was down to the middle of her back and tied in a ponytail. She had piercing crystal blue eyes and her body was the shape of an hourglass. She was one of the sexiest women Nightwing had ever laid eyes on. The woman boldly came over to Nightwing and kissed him deeply, she then ran her tongue over the cuts on his face, impressing both the newcomer and Colonel Young. Nightwing was stunned into silence as she turned around to face the recruiter again.

"But you're not brokering any deals for his service without his wife being in on the negotiations. And pal, you're looking at her."

Colonel Young bent down to Dick and pretended to clean the cuts on Nightwing's face as he whispered, "I'd like to introduce my second in command Major Stacy Summers."

Nightwing looked up at the statuesque brunette towering over him, she looked back at him and winked knowingly.

"Wow."

Chapter 5: In The Lion's Den

"Not much to go on in the way of clues is there?" Robin asked. Beneath his cape and cowl, Batman had been keeping his own council for the entire trip to Bludhaven. He had already arranged for the windows In Dick's apartment to be replaced by a Wayne Foundation subsidiary before anyone noticed they had been broken, especially Clancy. They had been combing the apartment looking for clues and Batman had to admit there were few, but that didn't mean there were no clues at all.

"Look over here Robin." He said pointing to the floor as he inspected a footprint. It was basically the clear outline of a work boot of some kind. "I recognize this foot print. Or at least foot prints like it. This is a standard combat boot worn by military types on operations where silence was required. They are tough steel toed boots but they are almost like tennis shoes in the makeup of their soles, quiet and tough……and they make exactly that print."

Robin was astounded. Batman's wide array of knowledge covered areas that Tim had never imagined. Bruce Wayne would have made a top level FBI agent or criminologist, but Wayne's life path was forever altered when his parents were killed in front of his eyes in a Gotham alley.

"I suspect that whoever has taken Dick wishes to keep him out of the mainstream population and therefore wouldn't take him to an military base or anything like that. Do you have the map I asked you to bring?" Robin nodded and handed a small data pad to his mentor. Batman thumbed a small button and an LCD map of Bludhaven appeared there. The cowled crime fighter scanned the map intently as he used directional buttons to scroll the map in different directions across the screen. Tim had no idea what Batman was looking for. He noticed that Bruce had stopped scrolling the visual display and tapped a spot on the southeastern section of the map, the location seemed to be several miles outside of the city borders.

"There. That's our next stop." He said in an icy calm voice.

He handed the map to Robin, his eyes narrowed as he saw what Batman had found. An old Atomic bomb shelter. Of course, the perfect hideout for military types hoping to stay out of the limelight. Of course, the old shelter wouldn't appear on any normal maps of the city, but he was Batman, and he had special resources.

"Let's check it out."

"Hang on Dick, we're coming for you." Robin whispered to the shadows.

The Boy Wonder replied as he clipped the device back on his belt.

And with a rustle of their capes the dynamic duo disappeared into the Bludhaven night, on the hunt for their missing comrade.


"Don't get me wrong, I enjoy showering with a beautiful woman….. it's just that usually I like to know their names first………. usually." The hot steamy needles of water lashed out from the showerhead and caressed Dick, who relaxed against the wall and let the heat take the ache out of his muscles. Behind him, Major Stacy Summers of Impact Squadron took a large sponge in her hand and began to rub Dick's muscles. Dick's back was aching from the three death matches he had cheated his way out of only a few hours ago. He leaned on the tiled wall for support and let the beautiful woman run the soapy sponge over his body, he was far too sore to refuse her efforts.

Only a few hours ago he had met Summers for the first time. He had ignorantly assumed Major Summers was a man, a rookie mistake he mentally chided himself for making. His surprise at seeing the ravishing beauty for the first time almost gave them all away. This type of subterfuge was not something he had a lot of practice at. Summers covered for him though, indicating that her "poor husband" had taken one too many shots to the head. Judas' recruiter, Neil Anderson, seemed to believe the story easily enough. Anderson led Summers, Young, and Dick to his waiting seaplane where they were promptly flown to a secluded spot in the Aegean Sea. Once there, they boarded a yacht that whisked them off to one of the most elegant sights Dick had ever laid eyes upon.

In a secluded inlet along the coastline of Crete, Nightwing couldn't believe his eyes as the yacht parted the morning mist and revealed a huge breathtaking castle perched at the edge of a sheer cliff. Anderson informed them that the castle was once used by an order of warrior monks that had disappeared into the mists of time. Dick had seen a lot in his time, but he doubted he had ever seen anything quite as breathtaking as this. Huge stained glass windows depicting saints and prophets twinkled in the morning sunlight. Turrets covered in ivy reached up toward the sky, complete with armed guards patrolling each one. The side of the building that faced the sea was unapproachable, protected by the sheer two story rock face. The remaining three sides were also well defended by a high wall topped with razor sharp glass and roving cameras. There was no doubt that anyone who tried to attack the inhabitants of this castle would not get far before Judas could release his warheads or even his biological weapons….. wherever he was keeping them. On top of all that security, the area was one of the most beautiful and pristine that Dick had ever set eyes on.

The ship docked at a small pier at the cliff base and the three of them were escorted to a series of steps that led up the cliff face to the top. They couldn't believe they were being asked to climb all the way to the top. Anderson joked that if they had changed their minds they could always swim back to Desolation Island. No one had any doubt that he was totally serious about the threat. Finally they had reached the top, Dick was especially sore after what he had been through in the death match tournament. Neither Summers nor Young had been given a chance to speak to Nightwing alone since their time on the island. As they walked through the courtyard Dick was amazed at the stunning gardens and artificial waterfalls that had been so carefully arranged to please both the visual and olfactory senses. Flowers and shrubs of every kind blossomed all around him in every color of the rainbow. Reds, whites, greens, and blues shot in every direction in a kaleidoscope of color that only nature could provide. They walked through a small path through the gardens towards a set of open french doors. They were obviously expected by the master of the house.

Anderson led the trio up a spiral staircase to a long hallway with marble floors and heavy oaken doors. Anderson offered Young the first suite to refresh himself. There was nothing the Colonel could do but accept the offer and cast a quick glance to Dick and Summers, indicating to them that he would be all right. Dick couldn't help but wonder if that were true. Young was now on his own. Separated from the group. Divide and conquer was the oldest trick in the book.

"I suspect you and your wife will enjoy this suite." Anderson said with a chuckle as he led the two into a huge room with a large king size canopy bed. Their feet sank into plush carpeting as they entered. Sunlight was now beaming through the windows illuminating the fresh cut flowers that filled the room. They had no choice but to play along without blowing their cover of a married couple.

"I will be up to get you in a few hours when you will have an early dinner with my employer and we can discuss things. The appropriate clothes are supplied in the closet." Anderson said, "Until then, relax and enjoy." He said as he shut the heavy door behind him, they both heard the lock being turned from the outside. They both knew that the entire room was no doubt bugged. Perhaps they were even being watched on video. They quickly realized there was only one place they could communicate without being seen or heard, and that was in the shower.

Summers stripped off her leather outfit without a trace of modesty, knowing that cameras were watching them, Dick tried his hardest not to let his eyes bulge out of his head as her nude form padded across the thick carpet to the adjoining bathroom, seconds later the shower was running and steam blossomed throughout the room. Dick knew that he had to join her in the bathroom and get into the shower with her, but his mind was running rampant with images of the other women in his life. Kory, Barbara, and Clancy. All women he cared for deeply, he could imagine their faces if they knew what he was about to do. He felt dirty somehow, but there was little he could do about his current situation.

"For Queen and Country…." he muttered as he stripped off his clothes and stepped into the shower with the beautiful young woman. It was beyond uncomfortable for Dick, but he had faced far worse duties in his life. Finally, the two could speak freely.

"This is one hell of a honeymoon….." he said as the hot spray began to wash over him.

"Sorry for springing this on you Nightwing, but this is my cover and I am supposed to watch your back…. and that's exactly what I'm going to do."

"Listen lady, thanks for your help and all but I don't need you to watch my back. I've been doing this type of thing since before I was old enough to shave."

Summers began to wash shampoo into her own luxurious mane of dark hair. "No you listen, I have never failed on a mission yet and I don't intend to start now. My orders are to pose as your wife and protect you whether you need it or not. You're too important to the success of this mission not to have a bodyguard and mister, that's me…. like it or not. You're going to have to start calling me Stacy by the way if you want to keep our cover from getting blown And just what do I call you?"

He thought about that for a minute. Just what was she supposed to call him? He couldn't give her his real name that was out of the question. He thought about it for a few minutes, letting the hot water soak his pain away. He turned to face her in and looked in her sparkling blue eyes. He still couldn't quite believe that he was standing nude before her in the shower trying to think of a name for himself that he could share with her. The answer came to him all at once and he smiled as he remembered the face of a friend long gone.

You can call me Todd………… Jason Todd.

She smiled at him, "Ok Jason. Of course you can call me Stacy." She again began to soak his chest with the soapy sponge. Feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing, he reached out to stop her and his hand grabbed hers, Summers froze and their eyes locked. For several seconds they both held the gaze, finally Dick broke off and turned away from her, finishing up his shower.

"Before we get out of here, do you have any suggestions as to how we proceed? Any kind of game plan?"

"No one has ever made it this far Jason. I'm sure you know that. So a lot of this is going to have to be playing it by ear. This much we can do, you act as the quiet street fighter, I'm your wife and the Colonel is your manager. We're supposed to be here to negotiate a deal for you to work with Judas. Let us carry the conversation."

"The ball is in your court my dear." Dick said as he turned off the water. He felt much better despite the circumstances. The hot shower helped his aching body immensely and he felt better knowing Summers was a more than competent individual. He toweled off quickly and opened up the large walk in closet looking for the promised clothes. He was only mildly surprised to see a tuxedo hanging there. Next to that was a strapless blue dress for Major Summers.

"Apparently it's going to be a black tie affair." He muttered to himself. The only other pieces of apparel in the closet were two terrycloth robes, both a scarlet red. It was far too early to dress for dinner seeing as how it was still the middle of the morning so he donned a robe. It was then that Dick finally felt the wave of exhaustion hit him. He had been going nonstop for hours and he had fought for his life three times in the past 24 hours. Dick felt his limbs become heavy and his eyelids began to close despite himself. He wandered over to the large bed and fell on top of it, face down. He felt Summers climb on top of him and begin an expert massage of his back. Before he knew it he was too tired to even thank her for her efforts and falling into a deep sleep.


Kane stood before Angelica as she brushed some lint from his tuxedo jacket. He had spent the day watching the newcomers on hidden cameras. Unfortunately there was little he could learn. He watched as this new fighter and his wife showered together and both had fallen asleep almost immediately afterwards. He had sent Angelica up to their room to wake them up and soon afterwards they were both dressing in the clothes Kane had supplied to them. He had supplied Nightwing with a tuxedo identical to his own. It was a simple black tuxedo with white collarless shirt. The man's so called 'wife' looked quite ravishing in her strapless blue gown, both Kane and Angelica noticed that and said so. Kane wondered how she would stand up to his virile needs. Both of them admitted that it would be interesting to find out but probably quite impractical.

"Shall we meet our guests Angelica my love?" He said as he took her arm in his. Angelica was, as usual, wearing as little as possible. Her dress revealed far more than it concealed. She wore a black dress that ended at the ankles but was slit almost obscenely high on her leg. The neckline plunged deep and revealed much and the back of the dress plunged further than her neckline did, revealing a muscular back and a few scars as well.

They entered the room together arm in arm while Nightwing and Summers entered from the opposite end also arm in arm. They were in a high ceilinged room with a large chandelier at the apex, twinkling in the late afternoon sun. Copies of beautiful paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and many others covered most of the walls. Stacy and Dick noticed that there was no sign of Colonel Young, and it made them both feel dread. Whatever Dick was expecting of Kane this wasn't it. Kane was about 6 foot 4 inches tall and had perfect bone structure. His body was well muscled and perfectly proportioned, his skin healthy and tanned and his blonde hair tied back in a ponytail much like Nightwing used to have. His teeth and smile were of course perfect. He could pass for any well bred company chairman or all American politician. He didn't look threatening as he played the part of diner host. Dick knew however that this man was lethal in the extreme.

"Welcome to my home!!" Kane smiled broadly and shook Dick's hand vigorously. He then kissed the back of Summers' hand like a true gentleman would. Nightwing did the same, kissing Angelica's hand, she almost purred as his lips touched the back of her hand.

"Allow me to introduce myself, I call myself Kane and this is my most cherished confidante and mate Angelica. I'm sorry but your manager is feeling a bit ill and won't be joining us until after dinner."

Dick opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by Stacy. "I am Stacy Todd and this is my husband Jason. Thank you for having us. Your home is stunning." From a side door a very large and dark featured man appeared dressed in a grey suit and escorted them all to the dining room, both Dick and Stacy noticed that their silent escort was eyeing Major Summers hungrily. Dick could only guess what this man could do to her if given a chance. He could be a rapist and murderer for all they knew. If he was working for Kane, he was certainly no Boy Scout. They were led to their seats and the large man insisted on seating Summers, he moved his own body as close to hers as he possibly could, Summers instantly felt dirty just being near him but revealed nothing.

"I assume you know something of why I have brought you here Mr. Todd." Kane asked as Dick and the silent man exchanged a look of warning. The silent man smiled arrogantly at Dick as if he were not a threat. Dick returned his attention to Kane.

"Not much really. I only know I've been offered a lot of money."

Kane laughed in response, "Money is the least of what I offer you my boy. I offer you power and a chance to be in the vanguard of the new humanity I intend to create." Nightwing arched his eyebrow and shook his head to imply he didn't comprehend. Summers spoke up again as well.

"The new humanity? Mr. Kane what are you talking about?"

Kane continued to talk as they were served a succulent roast beef dinner cooked and seasoned to perfection with a wide selection of vegetables. The silent man served them and always took the opportunity to lean in close to Summers just to smell her or touch her briefly. Kane was completely forthright with them and explained everything as if he were planning his summer vacation.

"My dear please allow me to explain. I am a genetically engineered man. From head to toe my DNA has been written and rewritten by human scientists to achieve the pinnacle of genetic development. Created by the government of The United States of America as cannon fodder for the wars to come. I am faster, smarter, stronger, and more resilient than any normal human. In fact, the difference between myself and normal humans is as vast as the difference between yourself and an ape."

"You mean less than 10 percent?" Dick spoke up suddenly.

"What did you say?" Kane asked.

"Well surely a man as smart as yourself knows that there is less than a 10 percent difference in the DNA of a human and an ape. They are intelligent and loving creatures with family and social structures. They take only what they need and harm no one."

Kane was silent for a moment. Dick, Angelica, and Stacy could all see that Kane was fuming inside at Dick's remarks. Was there that much difference between Kane and a normal human? Kane seemed to think so and having his beliefs questioned at his own dinner table obviously angered him greatly. Summers knew Nightwing was testing him.

"Apes may be just as you say Mr. Todd, but mankind is not. Mankind is decadent, stupid, hate filled and weak. People starve daily and mankind does nothing to help them. Why? Because the hungry masses don't have money that's why. How can anyone go to bed at night with a full stomach and not feel guilty that others are starving and they do nothing about it? A colony of apes would never allow that to happen. Mankind will however. That's why I have need of your special talents Mister Todd. To be blunt, things need to change and I am just the man to instigate that change. My plan is simple. I am going to eradicate the human race as we know it."

Both Dick and Stacy were silent at Kane's announcement.

"What?" Dick asked.

Kane smiled proudly. "I am in the process of gathering enough biological weapons to kill off the entire human race and begin anew my friends. I plan to repopulate the Earth with my own siblings, which I am even now in the process of creating. The strain of virus is a mutated strain of Ebola which is called Ebola Omega. It just so happens that I and others like me that I create are immune. We will begin again and no one need ever go hungry or homeless again in my world. Of course, I may be the pinnacle of human development but even I only have two hands. I need an army to carry out my wishes. An army comprised of men and women such as yourself to gather the biological weapons I need."

"You plan on using people like my husband as cannon fodder such as you yourself say you were meant for?" Stacy interjected.

"You're playing God." Dick said as the silent man reached down to take Summer's empty dinner plate and rubbed himself against her back. In one brief flash dick reached out and grabbed the man by his silk tie and pulled on it with enough force to smash the mans face into Summers' dinner plate and he fell backwards clutching his face.

"Hands off the lady scum bag."

The man was silent no more. His nose bleeding profusely, he cursed at Dick in several languages and produced a knife, before he could use it Dick kicked the knife from the would be killers hand and sent it sliding across the floor. With cat like agility the enraged killer jumped to his feet and took a swing at Dick, again Dick grabbed the man by the tie as he ducked the punch and pulled the man to the ground, pinning him to the ground with his foot on the man's throat.

"Enough!!" Kane yelled, his voice like a thunderclap. Returning to his feet, the silent man froze where he was standing. Dick took the opportunity to strike his attacker in a nerve cluster in the shoulder and the man fell to the ground unconscious.

The room fell silent as all eyes were drawn to Kane who dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a napkin and rose to his feet calmly.

"Don't concern yourself with him Mister Todd. He was very expendable. I think it's time we drop this charade don't you Nightwing? I was using Emil here to test you and you failed miserably sir. I think it's time your manager joined us don't you?" Angelica rose to her feet and turned walked over to the far wall. She touched a panel on the wall and a large painting began to slide away revealing a large viewing screen. As soon as the painting had slid away into a recessed compartment it shimmered to life and Dick and Summers gasped in shock. There on the screen was Colonel Young, bound to a table and surrounded by men and women dressed in surgical gowns and masks. The room was pure white and was no doubt some form of operating theater.

"You do call yourself Nightwing yes? And I must therefore assume that your wife and manager are key members of a constant thorn in my side known as Impact Squadron. As you can see, I have known your true identities all along. Even now I have a select group of my best men ready to descend on the remaining members of Impact Squadron and eliminate them as well."

For the first time Summers spoke in a way that broke her cover, "What?"

"I am always three steps ahead my dear." He responded with a smile.

Summers turned to Nightwing, her eyes pleading, "We have to get out of here….now."

"What about Young?" Nigthwing asked.

"He'd agree with me. We'll come back for him."

Dick turned back to Kane and pointed his finger accusingly as he spoke. "You are one sick puppy you know that Kane or Judas or whatever you call yourself? You're a science experiment gone wrong. You're a circus freak with a test tube for a father."

Kane fell silent and closed his eyes. Rage flaring within him. Angelica gasped with shock hearing Dick's words. No one had ever talked to Kane in that manner. As he did Dick turned back to Stacy. "Get out of here, I'll keep him busy."

"He'll kill you." She replied with real concern in her voice.

"Go!" Dick said as he pushed he towards the door. Angelica suddenly broke into a run and chased Stacy out the door way.

Slowly, Kane opened his eyes and looked straight at Dick, a cold hatred in his eyes.

"I'm going to enjoy killing you Nightwing."

"I'm going to enjoy watching you try."


"Ok out with it Sito what's with all the Nightwing hero worship anyway?" Romaine asked as he threw a poker chip on the table and sucked on his cigarette. Eight members of Impact Squadron were sitting in an old farmhouse just up the coastline from Nightwing's current position, awaiting further orders. Murrant had been teasing the younger Sito for days about his fondness for the Bludhaven vigilante and the others were curious as well. Here in this farmhouse surrounded by fields and the chirps of crickets and frogs they had nothing to do but wait. They could either talk and pass the time or go stir crazy. They wisely chose conversation.

"I can't tell you because you'll all laugh at me." He replied as he lobbed some poker chips at Murrant.

"We laugh at you anyway so you might as well give up the big secret."

Sito was quiet for a minute and finally began to speak. "If anyone laughs at this I swear I will kick your tails so hard……………"

"All right we promise we won't laugh just tell us." Johnson interjected to a round of agreement from the rest of the squad.

"A few months ago my sister was traveling with a friend to New York and they stopped in Bludhaven to visit an old friend. She was on her way home from a party and she was attacked by this gang. They're known as The Misfits in Bludhaven and they rule all the other gangs in the city. They're also a bunch of rabid psychos who would rape her and leave her in a ditch just as soon as look at her. I know this happened because she told me this herself. Apparently this guy comes out of the shadows and kicks all their tales pretty hard. He even got her to a police station to assure her safety. She asked him what his name was but he didn't answer."

"So what makes you think this was Nightwing? Bludhaven is full of psychos." Francis said as the others chimed in with their agreement.

"Yeah but remember this guys, my sister has a photographic memory. She not only described this guy to a tee, but she drew a picture of him." Sito reached into his wallet and pulled out a folded piece of paper which he proceeded to unfold and throw on the table for all to see. The room fell silent as they all examined the paper with its slightly faded drawing.

"I'll be damned………." Francis was the first to find his voice.

"It IS him." Stiles remarked.

"No doubt about it." Brooks agreed.

"Damn right it is" Sito confirmed. "So cut the guy some slack. He may not be one of us, but he's one of the good guys."

Without warning Sito sat up, his body tense and fully alert. "Wait just a damn minute. Listen. What do you guys hear?"

The other men strained their ears to listen. "I don't hear anything." Murrant admitted.

"Exactly." Sito replied as he pointed towards the open window, "What the Hell happened to the frogs outside?"

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh shit."

"MOVE!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!" Brooks yelled as they all overturned the table and scrambled for their weapons. It was then that all Hell broke loose.


"They were here all right." Robin said as he went through the discarded food tins and miscellaneous bits and pieces of evidence that suggested that Dick and his captors were here. Batman was topside, examining the tracks left in the dirt by several vehicles. He took his communicator from his belt and spoke to Robin as he ran his fingers through them, making mental notes as he talked.

"They took off in a very special kind of military aircraft Robin. I see evidence of that in the tire tracks and the machinery that's been left lying around. A Typhoon 313 B I suspect. Very fast and capable of long flights carrying a great amount of passengers and cargo without needing a runway an longer than the average driveway." Robin shook his head in amazement, "How can even you possibly know that?" He asked.

"Wayne Enterprises has a government contract to build the engines for them. There should only be about nine in existence right now." He added, a brief smile passing over his lips and then disappearing.

"Get in contact with Oracle Robin, we'll need her special talents on this one. No one can make a move these days without making waves on the information highway and this plane is one high tech venture. It needs special parts and fuel. If anyone can find it, she can."

They closed the connection and Batman rose to his feet, his cape rustling in the night wind. He looked up at the full moon and wondered where on Earth they had taken Dick. Where under the moon was his adopted son? Russia? Turkey? Canada? Brazil? Zaire? Just down the road even? He pulled his cape around him and walked back to the waiting Batmobile. He would find Dick, and then he would make whoever had kidnaped him feel the wrath of Batman.

 
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