Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer

Nightwing: Black Ops - Part 4

Chapter 9: Demolition Man

"I have him!!" The sound of Oracle's excited voice coming over the speakers startled Batman, which was no easy task to be sure. He had gathered all the clues he possibly could in Crete and had returned to his aircraft, removing his cape and cowl and settling down into a deep meditation. When he came out of his trance to the sound of Barbara Gordon's voice, he felt completely relaxed and rested. In the primary stages of his meditation he had first cleared his mind of all worry over Dick and the situation he found himself in. After a time he had completed his "mind cleansing" technique and he began going over all the clues he had gathered up to this point, a complete theory had formed in his mind as to what Dick was doing with these people. His hand snapped out and touched a switch that opened the comm line on his end.

"Where is he?" He asked.

"In Australia. A small coastal town called Roebourne. I have it on satellite imaging right now, and I'm not going to take my eyes off it again until you find him. I have the satellite image updated every sixty seconds so I can inform you immediately if they move again."

Even as Oracle spoke to him, Batman was firing up the engines and strapping himself into the pilot's seat. Seconds later he was airborne, heading towards Australia. "Thank you Oracle." He replied in a soft voice. Barbara was speechless, Batman was not an especially emotional man and he was certainly not known for thanking people for simply doing their jobs. For Batman to openly thank her, she knew then that Dick's disappearance was weighing on him heavily, as it was on her and everyone else who loved him.

"Just bring him home to us safe and sound." She whispered as she picked up a photograph from her desk and ran her fingers over it, the picture was of herself and Dick Grayson, taken several years ago, before The Joker, before he had cost her the use of her legs. In the picture they were laughing and smiling and loving life. She hoped with all her heart that Dick was all right, and she sent her prayers out to both him, and to Bruce Wayne, the only man who could bring him back. Tears welled up in her eyes and fell down to the pane of glass in the photograph as she imagined a life without Dick Grayson.

Aboard his aircraft, Bruce Wayne went over the facts as he had organized them during his meditation. Dick had been kidnaped, but not killed by his captors. They had the opportunity to kill Tim Drake, and went out of their way not to, despite the fact that he was a witness to the entire event. They were wearing footwear used by special covert operatives, he had discovered a dead body with an identification card that read "Special Operations Division", there were no other dead bodies wearing that special footwear. The dead bodies he did discover he had taken fingerprints of and run through the computer, many were known mercenaries. The picture painted by these facts told Batman several things. Firstly, whoever had kidnaped Dick did not wish to do him any specific harm. It seemed far more likely that his ward had been shanghaied into the service of some covert government operation against some well organized and well funded threat.

Bruce Wayne also knew Dick Grayson better than almost anyone alive. He certainly knew Dick's talents and skills better than most for he had trained the young man from childhood in crime fighting, detective work, the martial arts, and several other areas of expertise. Dick could have escaped from them, he was sure of that. Yet he didn't. He was beginning to believe that Dick did no longer wished to escape his captors. He saw this threat he had been recruited to battle as bigger than the fact that he was kidnaped in the first place. There was also the possibility that someone was coercing Dick into fighting on their behalf but he didn't think that likely, Dick Grayson doesn't respond to threats very well. Soon he would know the truth.

They approached slowly and stealthily, under the cover of the desert night. Nightwing and Summers crawled on their stomachs across the sifting desert sand, their goal now within reach. The temperature had plummeted after the sun dipped behind the horizon and a cold wind wafted over them, sending a chill down both their spines. Nightwing was glad to have the comforting warmth of his uniform surround him, despite the fact that this was not the uniform he was so used to wearing on the mean streets of Bludhaven. With Summers by his side as they crawled towards their goal his mind drifted back to the circumstances that led him to wear the Impact Squadron uniform instead of his own.

He recalled his own amazement at the efficiency with which Impact Squadron worked together. MacQuarrie set up his computer array in the large warehouse back in Roebourne while the rest of the team prepared their weapons, vehicles and tools for the coming assault while he and Summers coordinated their actions with MacQuarrie, who would be guiding the entire operation from his "Crow's Nest" utilizing video displays from shoulder mounted fibre optic cameras on every member of the team, an open comm line shared by every member of the team, and Global Positioning Locators which would tell him anyone's position at a glance. It soon became apparent that Nightwing's uniform, as good as it was, would not interface properly with MacQuarrie's computer systems. Dick's computer interface was designed specifically by Barbara Gordon for use with her own personal operating system, a fact that impressed MacQuarrie to no end, nonetheless, Nightwing's uniform could not be used without two days worth of computer work. The suggestion that Dick wear an Impact Squadron uniform came from an unexpected source.

"He can wear my uniform." Sito's weak voice caught the attention of everyone in the room as he stumbled from his makeshift recovery quarters into the main combat control area. The fact that the young man was up and walking about was a testament to his iron will and definitely a good sign but Summers made it clear as she took his arm to help him walk upright that she did not want him risking his health.

"He needs a uniform Major, " Sito explained, "I can't go, I wish I could but I can't. So let him wear my uniform, we're about the same size. He's earned it in my opinion. A couple of times over." There was a moment of silence in the room as they all considered Sito's words and a look of obvious respect passed between Nightwing and the wounded man. Summers glanced around the room at the eyes of those under her command. She noticed one or two uncomfortable glances at the floor, but the rest held her gaze and approved of Sito's suggestion. Nightwing had indeed earned their respect, from the first moment he tried to fight them off in his apartment to the death matches on Desolation Island to the their encounter with Kane in Crete, he fought by their side even when he didn't have to. When the threat of revealing his secret identity died with General Walker, he stayed. He did the right thing without having to be coerced. He fought for them and for every human life on the planet. How could they not make him one of them? When her eyes met those of her own second in command Captain Emilio Cortez, he smiled slightly and nodded, affirming her decision.

"Brad?" Summers said, addressing MacQuarrie at his many laptops.

"Yes Major?"

"Get Nightwing into Sito's uniform ASAP. Work up a profile for him and tie him into the computers. His code name: Demolition Man."

"Aye Major."

"I see you're familiar with my work." Dick replied with a grin.

"After the way you laid waste to Kane's compound I can't think of a better name for you." She joked while the rest of the Squad chuckled at the remark.

His mind raced back to the present. They were within 10 feet of the small pumping station that supplied water to Kane's arboretum and the large pond that lay at it's center. Two armed guards patrolled the perimeter of the small building. They knew someone with Kane's intelligence would position guards at that vulnerable point but even Kane didn't know that Nightwing and Impact Squadron were still alive and that he was still a hunted man. Had he known that the threat of Impact Squadron still existed, the genetically engineered man would no doubt have the place teeming with enough armed guards to repel any attack.

Nightwing and Summers communicated only through hand signals, not daring to utter a single word. They had been watching this pair as they approached, watching them check in on their communicators every hour on the hour. Within minutes they were due to signal again. That would leave them one hour to get into Kane's biosphere, find Colonel Young and the stores of Ebola Omega, not to mention disable any warheads Kane had at his disposal. All in all, they had a very small amount of time to complete their assigned tasks. The activation of the laser beacons would be the signal for the rest of Impact Squadron to descend on the place as, in Captain Cortez's words, the hounds of hell and destroy Kane's virus stores for good, ending his threat to mankind. What Nightwing couldn't help but wonder was what would become of the man? He knew Walker had drafted him with the initial plan of using Nightwing to kill Kane, but even now Dick refused to kill him. Would Summers or Cortez kill Kane? He knew they probably wouldn't get the chance to pull a trigger before Kane killed them. And what would Colonel Young want if indeed he was able to give orders upon his rescue? Young was a good man but even the best of men are capable of killing under certain circumstances. Nightwing had no doubt that if Kane had hurt Young badly, Young would want his revenge. There were still a lot of wild cards yet to be played in this scenario, and Dick didn't like that one bit.

They listened intently as they heard the swish of static on the guard's radio which was neatly clipped to his belt. The voice that filtered out over the speaker was instantly recognizable to both Nightwing and Summers. It was a female voice, Angelica:

"Sentries three and four hourly check in."

"Sentries three and four checking in. All is clear." The two men reported and then the taller one returned his radio to his belt clip. Before the belt radio could even be switched off Nightwing and Summers emerged from the shadows and leaped into action. Nightwing ran toward his prey with all possible speed making only a slight swishing noise as his feet kicked up the sand. By the time the guard heard the noise and turned to confront it he was already too late. Nightwing launched himself into the air and extended his leg, his boot heel hit the guard square in the chin and spun him around several times before he collapsed in the sand. At the same time Summers also broke into a run for her target and with a powerful judo chop and a flip dropped the man, who happened to be almost twice her size, to the desert floor with his companion.

Once again the desert was silent but for the whisper of a slight wind. Just beyond the horizon, Impact Squadron was awaiting their signal which would, for a short time at least, put an end to the desert silence. When the laser beacon was activated, Impact Squadron would come over the horizon, weapons blazing, with every intention of destroying the virus cache in a blazing conflagration, it was up to Nightwing and Summers to get themselves out just in case the explosions took them apart as well. Destroying the stores of the Ebola Omega virus were of primary importance. The duo slipped inside the metal door and quietly shut it behind them. Once inside they took in their surroundings. Like the outside of the tiny building, the inside was very spartan. A control panel filled one wall, covered with displays that informed the user of water pressure going through the pipes and of any possible leaks. A small stool sat in front of it. The loud thrumming of water pumps filled the small room. Playboy centerfolds and a single fire extinguisher adorned the rest of the walls. In the center of the room, recessed into the floor, was a hatch that led to the water pipes, it was barely large enough for Nightwing to squeeze through. Wasting no time, Nightwing ran to it and began to turn the handle on the hatch.

"Well, we're inside." Summers whispered.

"Unfortunately that's the good news." Nightwing replied.

"Should I ask what the bad news is?"

"The bad news is that it only gets harder from here. We have no idea what to expect beyond that pipe. Kane could have this entire place wired to explode like his place in Crete. We'll have to be very careful."

"Then that's what we'll do." She smiled at him as she spoke. He returned the smile but he couldn't help but feel as if he were walking on a razor's edge. The moment it was discovered that those guards were not reporting in, he fully expected Kane to react swiftly and violently. It would take all his years of training to pull off this mission. He pulled the hatch open and they heard the rush of water beneath. Summers handed him a re-breather supplied by Professor Quartermane back in Roebourne. It was a small tube like device that was placed in the mouth, it supplied air for only eight minutes. They had to get to the end of the pipe and to the surface of Kane's indoor lake within that time or they would indeed drown.

"Think dry thoughts." Nightwing said as he put the re-breather between his teeth and took a breath to make sure it was working. When he was assured that it did he lowered himself into the pipe, he felt himself being surrounded by the water. As his eyes disappeared beneath the surface he realized just how dark it would be. There was no light of any kind inside the length of pipe, and with barely enough room to move, he felt more like he was in a coffin than a pipe full of running water. Summers followed and shut the hatchway behind her, cutting off the light supply entirely and immersing them in the inky blackness. With no light to guide him, Nightwing began to feel his way forward, the thrumming of the pumps and the rushing water filling his ears. It was a disconcerting sensation to be sure, it was not a place for anyone with claustrophobia to be. Nightwing inched himself forward, his shoulders pressing against the sides of the pipe, he didn't even have enough room to turn around if the need should arise. Not that it would matter if they could turn around, they both knew the hatch locked immediately behind them. Even his infra red lenses were of no help as the small tube offered not one ray of light to amplify. He thought he felt something brush against his leg and he reached down to touch whatever it was, there was nothing there. Again he thought he felt something brush against his right shoulder, once again, there was nothing there. His imagination was running away with him in the pitch blackness. He had never been in a situation quite like this.

He reached out into the darkness intending to inch himself forward and suddenly felt something solid directly in front of him. He let the currents of the water carry him closer and he reached out again. Again he hit something solid. He removed his gloves and dared to feel the structure, it was a metal mesh wall which allowed water to pass through, but served as a barricade to keep fish in the artificial lake, and unwanted visitors out. Four minutes had passed since they had entered the pipe. They had four more minutes to get past the grating and inside. Behind him he felt Summers tap on his shoulder, obviously wondering what was wrong. He hoped he would live to tell her as he began to test the strength of the grating. They had four minutes of air left……

"Why have you abandoned me?" Kane screamed at the heavens as he threw his copy of the Torah to the floor of the operating theater. He had been consulting it for over fifteen minutes and it told him nothing. He could see no interlocking pattern as he had been accustomed, The Torah was silent. Beside him, Colonel Phillip Young coughed out a weak chuckle as blood streamed across his legs.

"Problem Kane?" He asked in a weakened voice. In response, Kane whirled to face his captive and spoke in a furious, almost feral voice. "Watch your tongue or I swear I will pull it out with my bare hands!!" Young merely smiled, mocking him silently. Standing in the doorway watching him was Angelica, her face a mask of worry. Kane noticed her immediately and crossed the room to confront her.

"What is your problem?" He asked. When she replied it was in a hushed, almost respectful voice.

"The Torah, you can't read it any more?" She asked.

"What of it?" He replied in a tone dripping with barely concealed annoyance.

"Back in Crete, you told me that The Torah itself said it could not be used for evil. Don't you find it strange that all of a sudden it doesn't work?"

Kane considered the idea. It had merit. Whoever had encoded The Torah with such information was even smarter than he himself was. Even Kane had admitted that a vast intelligence was responsible for the encoding of this particular book. Was it possible that The Torah had given him just enough information to lead him to his own doom? He refused to believe that.

"Does that idea frighten you? Do you think 'God' is punishing us now for all our sins?"

Angelica looked at her feet as she answered, "I don't know lover. It does have me…… frightened."

Kane snorted in disgust, "How very human of you." She looked him in the eye with that remark, her eyes filled with hurt. Kane found her accusing stare too much for even him. He didn't mean to hurt her. Frustrated by his failure to read the code and this encounter with Angelica, he glanced back on at Colonel Young. His patience had run out.

"Prepare the Curare solution, the good Colonel will give us all the information we need when I pump him full of chemicals, and send six of our best men down to the storage rooms to prepare the virus stores. I want the first batch put in place within twenty four hours at the airports and train stations. We'll put the rest in place at the Olympic Pavilions by the end of the week. People are already starting to flood into the country for The Summer Olympics. When they leave, I want them all to bring the virus home with them."

Angelica nodded and turned on her heel, going off to carry out Kane's orders without saying a word to him. Back in the operating theater, the medical personnel had begun to prepare the solution that would be injected into Young's veins, causing the man to answer any question put to him while simultaneously wiping his brain clean. Young shuddered at the thought of giving up the secrets buried in his mind. He consoled himself with the fact that he didn't know anything about Impact Squadron's fate. What he didn't know he couldn't tell Kane against his will. Wherever they were and whatever they were doing, Kane would learn nothing of it from him.

Their time was rapidly running out. Counting off the seconds in his head, Nightwing knew that approximately two and a half minutes had passed since they had encountered the metal mesh barrier that blocked their path. Unlike other men, Dick Grayson was born to a life on the trapeze and that training from childhood paid off now, Nightwing had managed to manipulate his incredibly supple body around inside the pipe so that he could kick the barrier with all of his strength. His first strike sent him back against Summers, who caught on to the situation quickly and moved in behind Dick to brace his body with her own. He struck the metal grating repeatedly, praying that no one would hear them over the noise of the water pumps. Summers had begun to feel the cold fingers of panic grip her as Nightwing continued to batter the grate with his boots. If he couldn't get them past it, they would indeed drown here a few minutes from now, their bodies may never be found.

His ankles were beginning to ache, but he had refused to give in at this late date. Nightwing aimed his kicks at the side of the grating, hoping to kick in just enough to allow them to swim by. As time was beginning to run out on them, he felt one corner of the grating begin to give way slightly. Nightwing redoubled his efforts on the area of the mesh that he had felt weaken. Kicking repeatedly with both feet, he finally felt the mesh bend. Another kick - it gave way even more. He decided to risk begin overheard and kicked several more times in quick succession. He reached out and felt the metal wall. He had successfully beaten one corner of the grate so that it bent backwards, allowing the passage. He managed to maneuver his body around again so that he was going through the pipe headfirst and, taking Summers by the wrist, wiggled through the hole in the grating and onwards. They had maybe thirty seconds of air left.

The pipe finally opened up into a large pool and they finally noticed a few rays of light stabbing down through the darkness. Nightwing's eyes widened as a squid of some sort moved past his face. He indicated to Summers that he wanted her to wait there for him at the opening of the pipe while he scouted ahead. He swam up towards the surface, which he estimated was somewhere between fifteen and twenty feet deep. He stopped swimming as he reached the surface and watched as two figures, their images distorted by the refracting light, paced back and forth at the edge of the pool. They were clearly armed, he expected no less from Kane's henchmen. He waited several seconds as tropical fish of all colors and sizes darted past him, regarding this alien visitor to their watery domain. He knew they had only a few precious seconds of air left. Finally his chance arrived as the two guards turned their backs to the pool and he jumped from the water with all his might. The two guards looked back at him, obviously stunned by Nightwing's sudden appearance and certainly not expecting someone to leap from the pool. He used their moment of hesitation to his advantage and grabbed both men by their necks and slammed their heads together, sending them both to the ground unconscious. He whirled about, scanning the area for other guards, he saw none. Behind him, he noticed Summers emerging from the pool, gasping for air.

"You okay?" He asked.

"Oh sure," she panted, "who need lungs anyway?" She replied, making him smile with her levity.

"We don't have much time. I suggest we find Kane's missiles and disable them first. Then we find the Ebola stores and attach the laser beacon."

"What about Colonel Young? He's in here somewhere." He had already considered Young and the precarious position he was in. Unfortunately, he knew that disabling Kane's missiles and virus stores was top priority. The fate of humanity had to come first, Young certainly would agree with them. He placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder as he spoke, "I know he is. I guarantee you I'll do everything in my power to find him, but first we have to eliminate Kane's threats. We'll get him, I promise."

She returned his smile and together they took in their surroundings. They had indeed emerged in the arboretum and for the first time they appreciated the work that went into Kane's indoor jungle. It was like a cathedral dedicated to worshiping nature. They were surrounded by lush jungle foliage, vines stretched in every direction. The pool they had emerged from was indeed deserving of the term "lake". It was at least forty feet across and thirty feet wide. Fish of every possible color could be seen zipping by. The fading sunlight beamed in through the glass walls, reflecting and refracting across the water sending dazzling colors and patterns throughout the water and across the jungle walls. Above them, there were two walkways joined by spiral staircases that hugged the outside walls from which an observer could enjoy the view below. Both Nightwing and Summers thought they could hear the cry of an animal somewhere in the dense jungle. The only exit from the arboretum was fifty feet away, a small translucent sliding door that led to the rest of the biosphere. Together they broke into a sprint for the door and emerged in a hallway that reminded them both of a hospital. There was no one in sight. Nightwing took point and led the way down the hall to the right. Summers followed with a silenced Heckler & Koch VP 70 at the ready. Around the next corner was an elevator which they entered. Summers glanced at the control panel on the wall.

"Going down?" She asked. Nightwing couldn't help but smile at the innuendo behind the comment but he didn't mention it.

"Definitely. His warheads have to be in some underground launching area somewhere. I hope the basement levels are reasonably small."

She stabbed a button on the panel and the door slid shut with a "ding" followed by the usual muzak one found on elevators worldwide. After several seconds of a clarinet version of "I Will Always Love You" the elevator whisked to a halt and the doors opened into a storage room. Several more stops brought them similar sights, storage rooms filled with food, water, and clothing supplies. Finally the elevator door whisked open and both Nightwing and Summers were stunned by the sight they were confronted with, in a cavernous basement area stood three atomic warheads on launch pads. Across the room were several white coated technicians, Nightwing noticed that they were engrossed in playing computer solitaire. No one had noticed their entrance into the grand room.

"I'll take care of them." He whispered to Summers, who nodded in agreement. He bolted out of the elevator compartment and toward them with all the speed he could muster. The technicians never knew what hit them. In less than thirty seconds, the men had been knocked unconscious with a minimum of effort. One spin kick and a judo throw followed by a series of Shaolin Gung Fu moves and they were all down. Recognizing the control panel for what it was - the computer system that accepted the launch codes and controlled the rocket's firing mechanisms - Nightwing whirled around and placed his wrist unit provided by Professor Quartermane that was designed to fry the operating system on the main control panel. The unit magnetically latched onto the panel and Nightwing activated it by depressing a switch on the side of the unit. All the panels and screens went black as the CPU's fried. Professor Quartermane was as good as his word. Summers ran past Nightwing and over to the three missiles, she placed disruptor units on each of them, effectively disabling the entire system. That particular threat was over.

Nightwing and Summers shared a sigh of relief. The stolen missiles had been rendered useless. That particular threat had been almost as large as the threat of Kane's Ebola stores, which was next on their list.

"We better hurry up. Things are going a little too well and it's making me nervous." He told her as he ran back to the elevator doorway with Summers on his heels. They were far from completing their task.

"We have a problem." Angelica said as she poked her head into the doorway leading to the operating theater. Kane was watching intently as his physicians prepared the solution of Curare and other psychedelic compounds that would cause Young to sing like a bird while simultaneously wiping his mind clean. The solution was almost ready, Young's life was in dire straits and he knew it. He had shut up tighter than a clam. Annoyed by the constant interruptions, Kane whirled around to face her.

"What is it?"

"I thought it might be best to put a few more guards on each shift due to your inability to….."

"My inability to read The Bible code?" He finished the thought for her.

"Yes. I thought it might be best."

"So what's the problem?"

"At least four of our men are not reporting in. Dimitri and Louis at the pumping station and two more in the gardens. I think something may be wrong."

Kane's eyes immediately widened as she told him this. "Are you sure? The comm system is working properly?" Angelica replied that she had indeed checked the system and everything was working perfectly.

"He's here." Kane whispered to himself.

"Who's here?"

"Nightwing. The Torah would not tell me if he was dead. He survived. I know he did. He's here." Behind them, they heard Colonel Young chuckle, his voice was growing weaker by the moment. "Sounds like all you managed to do was piss the kid off Kane. He's back to kick your ass now."

Kane's nostrils flared with anger at the taunt but he otherwise ignored it, his mind racing as he calculated his next move. "Get all our available men down to the virus storage area, make sure they are well hidden. Do not fire on them until you receive my orders. I will join you momentarily. If Nightwing isn't there yet he soon will be, and when he arrives no one touches him but me. The rest of you can take care of his companions, let them walk into their own deaths."

Chapter 10: Ground Zero

"Good evening."

Brad MacQuarrie whirled his chair around and instinctively reached for his SIG P-228. He no sooner felt the reassuring grip of the gun with its sixteen round magazine in his hand than three bat shaped darts lodged themselves in his forearm, causing him to drop the weapon to the floor. From the darkness, all he could see was a shadow coming alive, white eyes boring, not at him, but rather through him. The shadow also seemed to fly across the room rather than walk or run. Strong hands gripped both MacQuarrie's wrists and spun him around toward his desk full of laptops. He craned his neck around to get a good look at the shadow that had attacked him and so easily disarmed him. His eyes caught a quick glimpse of a yellow oval encircling a bat and a fearsome cowl that covered all of his attackers face with the exception of a small portion around his mouth. MacQuarrie had never seen a picture of him, but given his current allies on this mission, he immediately knew the man who had immobilized him. This was no mere shadow or childhood nightmare come to life. Batman had finally arrived.

Batman grabbed MacQuarrie's right arm and twisted it up and around until it was almost between his shoulder blades. Impact Squadron's computer expert felt fire shoot up his spine as Batman leaned into the man and put his weight on the man's arm. "I will only ask you this question once. Where is he?"

MacQuarrie gasped with pain as his arm was pushed further up his back by impossibly strong hands. "Jesus Christ!!!!!! My arm!!!"

"I guarantee you I will break it if you don't cooperate. Don't make me ask the question again." The rough voice reminded MacQuarrie of someone who had swallowed sandpaper. There was no doubt in his mind that this man was very angry and very capable of breaking his arm if he so desired.

"You're looking for Nightwing right?" MacQuarrie felt even more pain shoot through his body as Batman jabbed the young man in the kidneys. "You just answered a question with a question. Now, I've come a long way to find Nightwing and I am not in the best of moods. This is your last chance, where……. is……. he?"

MacQuarrie pointed at the laptop in the center of his desk which was flanked by two others, two more computers lay off to the side monitoring life signs. There were several applications open on the main screen, one window displayed a list of names he did not recognize, each name was followed by two 6 digit numbers which he did recognize as Global Positioning coordinates. Another screen showed a group of armed men lying in wait, weapons at the ready.

"He's out there."

Batman immediately memorized the GPS coordinates and threw another punch into MacQuarrie's kidney area. The computer expert fell to his knees as The Caped Crusader turned on his heel and started for the door. Through clenched teeth and biting pain MacQuarrie turned to address the departing vigilante. "Wait!!"

Batman immediately stopped in his tracks, not even bothering to turn and face MacQuarrie. "If you're going out there, there's a few things you need to know."

"Such as?" Batman replied.

"You need to know what Nightwing is doing out there. You need to know what he's up against, and exactly why he's helping us. If you go bumbling out there without listening to what I have to say, he's as good as dead."

With a rustle of his cape Batman finally turned back to face MacQuarrie and lowered his face down to within inches of the younger mans.

"Talk to me."

Nightwing ducked his head around the corner of a hallway, Summers by his side with her weapon at the ready. So far, he had managed to take the lead and no one had been killed. He had a sinking feeling in his gut that before this operation was over lives would be lost. He was determined to do everything in his power to keep it from happening but in his soul he knew that the only way to deal with Kane may be to kill him. Nightwing never thought that he would be put in a situation that made him remember trying to make his way through the twisted web of corruption and crime that was Bludhaven as a relatively simple task. Nevertheless, here he was, in a biosphere in The Great Sandy Desert of Australia, a stunningly beautiful government operative by his side, hunting down a cache of biological weapons and a genetically engineered killer who in every way deserved the title of Homo Superior.

"Stay alert Stacy, I have a feeling that we're about to hit the mother load." He whispered as he edged closer to a series of black and yellow double wide bay doors, a 'caution' symbol painted across them and the same skull and cross bones symbol beneath it that they found on the virus containers in Crete. A control panel of some sort was fixed to the wall to the right of the doors, no doubt a lock down mechanism of some kind.

"We might have to blow these doors open. That's gonna bring guards by the bucketful." He said as he stepped closer. To Nightwing's surprise, the doors whisked open as he approached, no doubt due to some unseen motion sensor. Peering inside, Nightwing could see that this was indeed their goal. Cold air rushed out from the parting doors, Nightwing remembered that the air in the storage areas in Crete was also below normal. No doubt a coolant of some kind was also being used here to keep the virus inert. In the center of the room they could see the same virus containers as they had before in Crete, only far more. Rows of containers could be seen inside, each with its own skull and crossbones symbol, certainly enough to help Kane achieve his goal. Each vial, placed strategically through the busiest areas of Australia during the Summer Olympics, would effectively carry the Ebola Omega virus to all corners of the Earth. Along each wall they could see rows of computer banks and monitoring stations, above that a second floor composed of metal grating could be seen along the outside walls of the makeshift laboratory with even more computers, monitoring stations and an unobstructed view of the virus stores below. Nightwing found it odd that with all these rows of computers, there was not a single soul in sight. Over the years, he had developed a sixth sense for danger, formed in Gotham and honed to a razorsharp edge in Bludhaven, the acute awareness of nearby danger rarely failed him, and he was feeling it now.

"Come on let's go." Summers whispered as she strode past him and into the cool storage area.

"Something's wrong. I'm not sure about this."

"The clock is ticking," Stacy said as she entered, her voice filled with urgency, "let's do this before those guards are discovered missing. We still have to find the Colonel."

Nightwing started after her, his eyes scanning the area wearily. Why was there no one here? Surely Kane would want this virus of his monitored at all times. What was it Stacy had said? 'Let's do this before those guards are discovered missing." Then it hit him, he felt the weight of of the realization almost as if it were a physical blow, they were expected, it was a trap. "Stacy wait!!!"

Before Summers could turn to address Nightwing strong hands reached out from behind a monitoring station and gripped her by the wrists. Summers felt her VP 70 knocked from her hand as she was pulled up into the air and slammed back to the floor with a loud, sickening thud. At the same time, over a dozen men leaped out from concealed positions behind the monitoring stations along the elevated monitoring area above them, automatic weapons trained on Nightwing and Summers. In the space of three seconds Nightwing realized that Angelica had disarmed Stacy and over a dozen men had their sights trained on him. Angelica produced a revolver and settled it against Summers' temple. At that moment, Kane stepped out from behind the same monitoring station Angelica was hiding behind, a smile etched on his perfect face. Nightwing regarded the genetically engineered man, he was clad in a bright red silk robe adorned with Japanese icons, he wore no shirt, his broad chest openly displayed. A pair of loose fitting jogging pants and a pair of sandals completed his ensemble. Angelica wore a camouflage outfit similar to those worn by Kane's henchman. Summers immediately noticed the medals pinned to Angelica's uniform and recognized them as belonging to General Walker.

"I have to hand it to you Nightwing, and to your beautiful friend here. You are both credits to the human race. How you managed to survive our encounter in Crete I'm not sure, but obviously you are made of sterner stuff than most of your race. You have cost me money, time, and personnel. I am afraid however, that it will stop here. I have you completely covered from an elevated position, I would advise you to remain perfectly still." To help Kane make his point, Angelica pulled back the hammer on her revolver. There was nothing he could do, no action he could take that would not result in their deaths. Even Nightwing would not be able to move fast enough to avoid all the bullets that would come his way. He had to buy them some time, outsmart Kane as well as draw his henchman from the area. There was only one option left, he had to bluff. Nightwing raised his hands in the air to indicate his surrender.

Kane circled Summers and regarded her with a wary eye, he then turned to address Nightwing. "Is this all you have? Yourself and a woman?" Summers snorted in disgust at his remark, she also noticed that Angelica noticeably stiffened at his comment.

"I don't think you're quite the big bad wolf you make yourself out to be Kane. The two of us are all that's needed to kick your tail. That….." he paused as he removed his belt and flipped it over to reveal the black box that housed the laser beacon, "and this." All eyes converged on the laser beacon, to the untrained eye the unit was basically a rectangular black box made of a molded plastic with a webbed belt strap, a singular red button was positioned in the exact center of the box. To activate the beacon, Nightwing need only depress the button in the center, identifying the location of the target and bringing Impact Squadron down around Kane's ears.

Kane arched an eyebrow as he regarded the unit. "What is that?"

"It's a bomb Kane." he immediately noticed the guards on the level above stiffen at his announcement, "This thing is packed with a powerful explosive that would cause a blast big enough to be seen from space." It was a lie of course, a bluff intended to buy them time, one that immediately set everyone in the room on edge. Upon his announcement that it was a bomb Nightwing noticed that every guard above him had released the safeties on the weapons, a small group of laser dots gathered both on his chest and on his forehead. Sweat began to bead on the foreheads of some of the guards, despite the chilled air.

"It doesn't look like any kind of bomb or weapon I've ever seen."

"I guarantee you that's what it is. If this goes off they'll find pieces of all of us spread over a one hundred mile radius. Shoot me. Go right ahead. This thing is armed, the smallest impact and it could go off. Are you fast enough to get over here and catch it before my dead body hits the ground? Even with your genetically engineered body I seriously doubt it. So go ahead and shoot me. I may die Kane, but you can guarantee I'll be saving you a seat in Hell."

Kane calmy held out his hand. "Give it to me. Give it to me or I will see to it that your girlfriend here is raped repeatedly by my men before she dies."

The bluff was all that was keeping Nightwing alive and he knew it. "So her choices are get killed quickly now or slowly and painfully later? You'll have to give me a better choice than that."

There was a moment of silence as Kane regarded Nightwing, trying to ascertain his mettle perhaps? Trying to judge if Nightwing had what it took to kill them all. In reality only forty seconds of silence had passed but to everyone in the room it felt like an eternity. When Kane spoke again, it was in a soft, almost soothing tone.

"You're not going to do it Nightwing. We both know you won't. You don't have it in you. You're a hero, born and bred. You won't commit suicide and take all these lives with you. You could have done that in Crete if you wanted to but you didn't. Especially not with your delightful girlfriend here, not when there's a chance you can live to fight again later. Not when there is a chance you can still get out of this alive. Tell me I'm wrong."

Feigning defeat, Nightwing lowered his head. "You're right."

"Now end this. Give me the bomb. I may be many things Nightwing but I am a man of my word, if you give me the bomb you're female companion will be treated well and given a quick, painless death, as will you. I am not a barbarian."

Nightwing began to cross the distance between himself and Kane, his boots echoing on the tiled floor. The room was excruciatingly still as Nightwing approached him. All eyes watched the exchange between the two men, including Summers who was giving him a confused look. No one dared to even draw a breath while Nightwing held what they believed to be a bomb.

Nightwing stopped an arms's length from Kane. Everyone in the room stiffened, including Kane. Gripping the unit with his right hand, his thumb on the activation button in the center, Nightwing extended his arm, apparently ready and willing to hand it over to Kane.

"You made the right choice." Kane reached out and took hold of the unit. Nightwing released his grip and felt the activation button under his thumb depress. The laser beacon had been activated. To Kane's surprise, Nightwing actually chuckled, his face broadening into a smile.

"I don't see the humor here."

"Oh you will. Congratulations Kane."

"What do you mean?"

"Things may become a little," he paused for effect, "…..intense. You've just been painted with a laser beacon. I suggest you run for cover right now. You have just become ground zero."

"That's the signal." Cortez yelled to the rest of Impact Squadron. "Francis, make a hole!!"

Francis acknowledged the order and immediately lined up the sights of his APILAS light anti-tank rocket launcher on the nearest wall of Kane's biosphere. Seconds later, he fired the weapon and a devastating rocket launched itself across the desert floor towards its target. The resultant explosion as the rocket hit the foundation of the biosphere shook the entire basement area and caused the power to blink out momentarily.

"Impact Squadron!!! Move in!!!"

Kane stumbled as the impact of the rocket came close to knocking them all off of their feet. Nightwing, who had been expecting the concussion, lashed out at Kane with a spinning kick to the side of his head. The impact of the kick sent Kane reeling backwards, the laser beacon still in his hand. Nightwing had barely landed on the tips of his toes before he launched himself fluidly into the air and landed with both feet against Angelica's chest, driving her backward and skidding across the floor, freeing Summers.

"Get out there and destroy the intruders!!!" Kane howled even before he had stopped skidding across the floor, "Angelica and I will take care of these two!!!" Responding with military efficiency, the guards broke into a run for the exits along the upper level, ignoring Nightwing and Summers. Kane rose to his feet as did Angelica. Kane's eyes were devoid of all emotion other than barely suppressed hatred, all of it directed at the black clad hero standing before him. When he spoke, his voice was poison itself.

"I'm finally going to get the enjoyment of rendering you limb from limb Nightwing."

"Why don't you shut up already Kane? You've tried that remember? There's a long line of people who want to kill me, take a number and head to the back of the line because as far as I can see, you're no better than any of the other psychos who've tried and failed. How does failure taste to a genetic superman like yourself? We both know I bitch slapped you once and I'll do it again."

Kane growled deep in his throat and assumed an attack position from a school of fighting Dick was unfamiliar with. Nightwing knew from experience how dangerous this man was and pressed his attack, leaping at Kane. Nightwing's outstretched arms grabbed Kane by the neck and forced him back to the floor with Nightwing's body pinning his arms down. At the same time Angelica attacked Summers with a flurry of kicks and punches, forcing Summers out through the main doors, driving her and Nightwing apart.

Nightwing landed several hard punches to Kane's jaw, which only managed to daze his opponent for a few seconds. Fueled by rage, Kane smashed his forehead into Nightwing's face, sending him sprawling across the room. Kane and Nightwing both leaped to their feet as if they were mirror images of one another. Both men momentarily froze as they saw the look on each others faces. Kane looked into Nightwing's face as another explosion rocked the building and sparks flew from a nearby console, showering them both. His eyes hidden behind the one way lenses of his mask, Kane contented himself to reading Nightwing's face, he was adept enough at psychology to see that the young man was tensed, but not nervous. He seemed fully confident in his own abilities and completely prepared to defeat Kane. Kane realized that this vigilante turned government operative was quite used to facing superior odds and managing to overcome them every time. Although he stood completely still and belied little emotion, Kane was impressed. Nightwing had the odds against him once again and he knew it, nonetheless he was standing his ground, completely oblivious to the possibility of failure. Nightwing would not allow it, through sheer will if need be.

On the opposite side there was Nightwing, who enjoyed a complete view of Kane's face. Ever since the moment Nightwing had handed him the activated laser beacon, Kane's eyes were pure malevolence personified. Nightwing knew that given the chance, this genetically engineered superhuman would do everything in his power to bring him to the most painful, tortured, lingering death possible. Kane was not used to failure and he had failed in killing Nightwing and Summers back in Crete. It was readily apparent that he would do anything it took to rectify the mistakes he had made. Nightwing had forced Kane's back into a corner, and like any predatory animal, that was when he was most lethal.

The power was constantly kicking in and out with the force of Impact Squadron's attack, bathing the two combatants first in light, then darkness. Sparks continued to illuminate the darkness as they flew from overloading consoles. With no preamble, Nightwing launched his attack. Whipping himself through the air at his opponent and snapping out punches almost faster than the eye could follow. Reacting with enhanced reflexes, Kane managed to avoid the blows and countered with his own punch combination. Nightwing was fast, but not as fast as Kane, yet he had managed to block the punches rather than duck them completely. Neither man had yet to do any damage to the other. The two continued a lethal dance with neither combatant doing any real damage to the other.

This could take forever. Nightwing thought to himself. Whatever Kane's thoughts on the encounter, he was keeping his own council.

Again the basement area shook from another explosion and Nightwing saw his opportunity as Kane stumbled for barely a second from the impact. Coiling the muscles in his legs and releasing, Nightwing launched himself forward and through the split second drop in Kane's defenses. Kane had barely blinked with the momentary distraction of the missile impact when he suddenly felt pain shoot through his chest as Nightwing's fist rained down upon his upper torso. Nightwing landed the punches and immediately broke into another manoeuver, spinning on his heel and bringing his right foot up against the back of Kane's head, landing on his right foot the masked hero continued with his momentum and let his left leg fly in a perfectly executed spin kick to the exact same spot behind Kane's right ear. Kane found himself momentarily dazed by the spin kicks, Nightwing was a whirling dervish in those few seconds and even Kane's superior eyesight saw nothing but a blur of movement before the pain shot through his well muscled neck. Kane felt himself grow momentarily dizzy from the blows to his head and without actually seeing it, he felt Nightwing take advantage of the situation and push him back to the floor.

Kane landed awkwardly in a heap and hit the back of his head on the tiled floor. He had been bred for moments like this. Moments when would be assassins would try to take his life during some covert operation. His DNA had been engineered to serve him in times like this. Glands pumped out adrenaline into the man's bloodstream faster than a normal humans. Brain synapses fired more quickly than any other mortal man could possibly dream of. Instantly, Kane's blurred vision cleared and his brain instantly registered the threat of Nightwing's devastating martial arts kicks coming towards him. Superior reflexes shot Kane's hand out like a coiled snake attacking its prey and rock hard muscles grabbed Nightwing's ankles and with a quick throw, Nightwing found himself dumped to the ground just as he had done to Kane.

Kane leaped across the room at his foe, fully intending to choke the life from Nightwing, who actually managed to roll aside at the last minute and, taking hold of Kane by his ponytail, instead rammed Kane's face repeatedly into a nearby console that continued to shower both of them with sparks. After four consecutive impacts with the console at Nightwing's hands, Kane managed to lash out with an elbow to Nightwing's stomach, driving his foe backward, driving the air from his lungs. By now the two had become oblivious to the sounds of distant gunfire and the more prominent rumblings of explosions. They both knew that only one man would walk away alive from this confrontation.

Neil Anderson swore as he replaced the clip in his Keckler & Koch MP5K and sprayed the horizon with more bullets. Despite the best efforts of Anderson and his men, Impact Squadron continued to advance on the biosphere with weapons blazing. He had watched, almost with awe, as the men of Impact Squadron appeared over the horizon in specially converted jeeps with CETME MG42 belt fed automatic assault weapons mounted on a raised platform on the back of each vehicle, spraying death in the form of .223 caliber shells at 850 rounds a minute. Emerging first as tiny specks and growing larger as they approached their goal, some of Anderson's hand picked men had decided that discretion was the better part of valor, dropping their weapons and running in the opposite direction into the desert night.

In the distance, Anderson noticed the brief flash and immediately recognized it as yet another anti-tank rocket coming their way. He dropped behind the barricade he had erected out of Kane's very expensive furniture and waited until the blast hit. It didn't take long, the entire foundation rocked once more. Impact Squadron was finding out that the transparent material used in the construction of the biosphere was not glass, but a type of Armor-Lite three inch thick blast plate that could take severe beatings from concussion missiles. Anderson knew however, that if his enemies continued their assault with such heavy weaponry, they would soon weaken the material enough to punch a hole straight through it. He had only one chance. Reaching into his pocket Anderson pulled out a small device that looked like a remote control unit. He entered a number combination into the unit and watched with a smirk as remote operated machine gun nests emerged from the sand in front of the biosphere and began unleashing a hail of bullets at the incoming Squadron. One jeep exploded and rolled several times before coming to a stop under the punishing rain of destruction. Anderson smirked as he witnessed the event.

On the sand dunes below, Captain Emilio Cortez barely had time to react as he witnessed the mechanized machine gun nests emerge from beneath the sand and begin spilling out death. Sitting in the front passenger seat of his jeep, he heard the windshield crack as bullets tore through it and ripped into Murrant, who was driving the vehicle. The jeep shuddered under the impact of the bullets and left the ground, rolling across the dunes. Cortez managed to leap from the vehicle and noticed that Johnson, who had been firing the machine gun on the rear platform of the jeep, had also fallen from his perch to the desert floor. He helped his comrade to his feet and the two ran for the only cover available to them, the overturned jeep. The two other jeeps that had been following Cortez's lead both swerved to a stop and the members of Impact Squadron poured out of their vehicles and jumped behind them for cover. The gas tanks had been enclosed in a special bullet proof casing that would protect them from ruptured gas tank explosions for the time being. However, they were trapped and they knew it. Unable to go forward into the lethal spray of bullets, unable to go back beyond the horizon without being shot, there was nowhere to go. Cortez desperately wanted to climb into the jeep and see if Murrant was still alive, but the hail of bullets made that impossible and his guts turned to water thinking of his friend trapped in the vehicle, possibly riddled with bullet holes. Trapped behind a very precarious cover that was slowly being ripped to shreds by the machine guns. That was when he heard MacQuarrie's voice over the open comm line. He turned up the volume on his earpiece and shouted for their computer expert to repeat his message.

"HANG ON CAPTAIN!! BACKUP IS ON THE WAY!!!! Were MacQuarrie's exact words. Backup? What backup? They were disavowed. No one would be coming to their rescue. He yelled into the tiny microphone on his collar, demanding to know the identity of their backup.

"TRUST ME!! WHEN HE GET'S THERE, YOU'LL KNOW WHO IT IS!!!" Was MacQuarrie's only reply. Over the din of the combat, Cortez looked back over the horizon from which they had come. The distinctive roar of a Typhoon 313 B began to fill their ears.

Batman had set the plane on automatic pilot as he donned the 'Hunting Gear' Alfred had loaded on the plane for him. He opened the equipment locker to reveal a modified version of his own Batman uniform. Instead of being manufactured from a triple weave nomex fabric, the cowl, which still retained its trademark bat visage, was made of a space age metal, more a helmet than a cowl. The eyepieces revealed the users entire surroundings in infrared, radar / sonar, and digital readouts as well, whatever he desired. This enabled him to target enemies from a great distance with pinpoint accuracy. The computer in the helmet was linked to a special launcher attached to his right gauntlet that fired limpet mines. Originally designed for knocking out the reinforced doors to crack houses, he knew it would be useful on this mission as well. Batman also attached a special device to his belt that sent out multiple 'ghost' images to any device trying to get a read on his position. A special body armor molded to his physical specifications completed the modified uniform. He found the outfit too heavy and bulky for his everyday operations in Gotham City, not to mention that it reminded him too much of Jean Paul Valley's modified Batman uniform, but he knew it would come in handy with people such as this.

The computer inside his helmet counted down the seconds before Batman should make his jump. The plane would set itself down two miles to the south, leaving the Caped Crusader to attend to Nightwing without worrying about his transportation. The display in his head piece counted down to zero and Batman launched himself through the main hatch, his modified cape acting as a glider and catching the air currents, allowing him to descend at a regulated pace.

Peering into the sky overhead, the assembled members of Impact Squadron stopped firing their weapons and felt their collective jaws drop as, silhouetted by the moonlight, Batman descended toward them. Seconds later, The Dark Knight landed silently on the desert sand.

"I believe you people are in need of assistance." Without waiting for a reply, Batman ran past them and towards the machine gun nests. The computer display in his helmet showed him a digital readout of the scene before him and the exact distance to the automatic weapons that pinned down Impact Squadron. The computer tracking system locked on to their targets and Batman raised his right gauntlet, two limpet mines leaped forth from the wrist mounted launcher and attached themselves to the gun emplacements. The automatic targeting systems on the weapons momentarily confused by Batman's devices, fired indiscriminately, but in the wrong direction. Pushing a button on his utility belt, the limpet mines exploded, destroying the weapons. Without waiting for Impact Squadron, Batman broke into a run for the biosphere.

"Impact Squadron!!! Move Up!!!" Cortez yelled to his troops as he broke into a run after The Dark Knight.

Stacy Summers spun around from a right cross to her jaw from Angelica. The two women had battled fiercely along the now abandoned hallways of Kane's basement levels. They had long since left behind Kane and Nightwing, who were involved in a pitched battle of their own. Angelica was a deadly warrior, every bit as dangerous as Kane himself. Summers blocked a knife edge chop form her opponent and executed a perfectly placed kick in Angelica's mid section, knocking her backward. Summers realized she was lost, she didn't recognize the hallway their battle had taken them to nor did she know of how to get back to an area she was familiar with.

Angelica rose to her feet once more and charged Summers, who sidestepped the attack and brought her knee up into Angelica's stomach. The air exploded out of Angelica's lungs as she impaled herself on Summers' knee. Summers then grabbed the woman by her long hair and put all her weight behind her, shoving Angelica toward what she thought was a wall. However, the wall was another of the translucent doors that dotted the hallway. Angelica crashed through the door in a brittle symphony of sound and skidded on her stomach along the floor.

Summers leaped into the room after her and instantly came to a halt. The sight that greeted her eyes stopped her in her tracks. Twenty five bodies, encased in individual cigar shaped cryogenic chambers. Twelve males, all exact replicas of Kane, lay side by side. Each body had slightly misshapen bone structure, Summers assumed that these clones were not yet fully developed. Summers also noticed that the thirteen females in their casings looked exactly like Angelica, the thirteen female bodies also appeared as if they were not fully formed.

The real Angelica leaped to her feet and began a charge toward Summers.

"STOP!!!!" She yelled.

Angelica did indeed come to a halt. Her entire body on edge, ready to attack at a moment's notice.

"Haven't you noticed something strange Angelica?"

Her foe raised an inquiring eyebrow, "What the hell are you talking about?"

Summers spread her arms out, indicating the entire room and its contents. "There are twelve replicas of Kane in this room. He told us he was creating more individuals like himself, but there are thirteen replicas of you. Why do you figure that is Angelica? One for each replica of Kane, and one more? Who do you think that's for Angelica? Could it be Kane is making you as obsolete as the rest of the human race? An enhanced replica of you for when he kills you with the Ebola Omega virus? Maybe he's planning on killing you along with the rest of us."

Angelica shook her head, as if she were trying to keep the truth of the situation from entering her mind. Summers waited for Angelica to attack her again, but no attack came. She considered pressing her advantage and attacking the young woman, but she rejected it. Better to have her stop fighting on her own.

Suddenly, Angelica turned and looked at the contents of the room, her body began shaking, Summers thought the young girl may actually have been crying.

"It looks like Kane is a threat to us all Angelica," Summers said in a soothing tone, "Even you."

Angelica turned back toward Summers, tears streaming down her face, she walked up to, and past the dark haired woman, through the now shattered door. When she was in the hallway, Angelica turned to Summers, "Come with me."

"Where are we going?"

"My lover has a friend of yours in the operating room. I'll take you to him before this place blows up."

"You're doing the right thing." Summers assured her as she placed a hand on the woman's shoulder.

"Then why do I feel dead inside?" Angelica responded as her lips trembled with repressed sorrow.

Kane reeled as another blow rained down upon his chest. Nightwing had proven himself to be a worthy foe indeed. The first he had ever encountered. He felt something he had never felt before, challenged. In his short lifetime Kane realized that he would be a slave to boredom for most of his life. He was a genius and he had a perfect physique, there was little he could not do if he put his mind to it. Until the creation of his family was complete, he resigned himself to the fact that he would never find an equal to challenge his abilities. Yet here was this man, this Nightwing, a masked vigilante recruited by the late General Douglas Walker in a futile attempt to stop him from eradicating the human race and starting over with his genetically engineered family. This young man actually had him reeling from attack after attack.

Kane actually felt excited as Nightwing again landed a blow on Kane's stomach, feeling something crack within him. Nightwing had challenged all his assumptions as to what the human race was capable of. There was nothing more Kane wanted than to continue this fight until he could find an opening in Nightwing's defenses and beat him into submission. Realistically, he knew he could not wait until that moment. Nightwing was a formidable foe to be sure, but there were more factors to consider than his joy at finding a challenge in Nightwing. Impact Squadron was practically on his doorstep, threatening his stores of Ebola Omega. The keen analytical side of Kane's mind kicked in and told him that finishing this fight by any means necessary was in his best long term interest. To that end, Kane turned on his heel and began running from Nightwing.

"Who gave you permission to leave?" Nightwing yelled as Kane ran from the virus storage room and down the hallway. Of course, Nightwing knew that this was Kane's way of giving himself time to recuperate and perhaps lead him into a trap of some sort. Nightwing broke into a sprint with all possible speed and gave chase. Kane was extremely fast despite the beating Nightwing had handed out, by the time Nightwing had spotted Kane he was opening a door which appeared to lead to a stairwell. Nightwing immediately ran down the hallway and into the stairwell, he spotted Kane, already several floors up, darting up the stairs. Taking the stairs three at a time, Bludhaven's avenging angel continued to chase. Nightwing heard a door opening ahead of him, Kane had left the stairwell. Bounding up the stairs Nightwing saw a door slowly sliding shut and followed the trail. He emerged in a hallway that lead to what he recognized as the entrance to the arboretum, summoning his energy reserves, he ran through the entrance and skidded to a halt.

Immediately the translucent door behind him slid shut, followed by another metal door that looked like a blast shield. Kane was nowhere in sight. Nightwing noticed that the stars in the sky and the emerging dawn were slowly being blacked out. The panes of glass were becoming opaque. The lights went out completely. From an unseen sound system strains of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata began to fill the air. Nightwing knew instantly that the advantage had just shifted back to Kane. He had music to cover the sound of his movements in the darkness of this man made jungle which he no doubt knew his way around far better than Nightwing. Somewhere in the darkness, Nightwing heard the distant sound of a sword being removed from its sheath. Finally, Kane's disembodied voice addressed him:

"Now Nightwing, you will feel the wrath of a truly superior man."

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