A/N: Edited December 30, 2018


Chapter 2

In the street below them sat a little, aging diner; the kind with cracked vinyl booths, peeling paint, leaky, stained, ceiling tiles, and overly greasy food. The neon sign in the window pronounced the restaurant was open, but the five gunmen inside threatening the families and staff seemed to have the opposite effect of welcoming customers in. From where Hood and Nightwing were poised on the building across the way, Nightwing perched on a tiny window ledge several stories up, and Red Hood slightly below upon one of the city's many gargoyles, they could make out around twelve individuals being threatened, most huddling low, tucked into their booths, and if that wasn't possible, under the tables. Only two of individuals were standing, one who looked like a cashier and the other was another staff member that stood protectively next to them, both behind a wooden countertop.

The gunmen themselves were wearing deep bronze drama masks, and were waving around guns that Hood had never seen before, and taking into consideration the sheer number of guns that Hood had seen in his life, that was saying something. They reminded Hood of some of the alien tech that he had seen with Roy and Kori on some of their Outlaw missions, and yet none of the alien tech he'd seen before looked quite like this. The guns resembled a motherboard from the innards of a gutted computer; with wires twisting around the weapon randomly, and in the gaps between the wires at the weapons core shone a bright, ominous blue light. There were random bits of metal covering the weapon that seemed to be there to protect arbitrary bits of wiring, as well as to make a grip for the weapon, though not one suited for human hands. The way the grip was designed, Hood would say it was made for a much larger creature, as well as one with only three fingers. They were certainly not the type of guns that Hood was used to seeing. How these men had gotten a hold of the weapons was definitely a mystery, and one he was sure they'd be interrogating them about as soon as this was over.

"You ever seen weapons like that, Wing?" Hood asked. He knew Nightwing had had his own adventures beyond Earth, it was possible he'd come across something like this on one of his missions, even if Hood himself could not say the same.

"Can't say I have. I take that to mean you haven't either then?" Nightwing replied from his perch, the vigilante's eyes never leaving their prey.

"Never."

"Welp. Best avoid them in any case." Nightwing said, his voice uplifting into a chipper tone.

"Yes, because I totally wanted them to hit me before you said that." Hood said, rolling his eyes at his brother.

"And I couldn't have that could I!"

That one earned the blue and black clothed hero a sharp look, before Hood turned back to the robbery taking place below them. It was looking like the robbers were starting to get nervous, though one of them was more obvious than the others. The thief in question was shifting their weight back and forth, and kept anxiously glancing at the door every few seconds. That was always a bad mix; anxious generally meant trigger happy, and if Nightwing and Hood didn't step in soon they were going to get someone in there killed.

"You distract the robbers, I get the civilians out?" Hood asked, already shooting off a line and moving to swing through the restaurant's window. They'd get it replaced afterwards.

"Deal!" Nightwing called out after him, flipping off his perch and launching his own line to set him bursting through the same window. No need to cause more damages than necessary, even if they both knew the Wayne foundation would cover the costs. The Foundation was always willing to help with damage costs caused by criminal (and vigilante, though they didn't advertise it as such) actions.

Bursting in like this, Hood was able to down two of them with rubber bullets before the thieves realized what was happening, but they recovered quickly and immediately started firing on them with bright blue beams of light. Hood hit the ground rolling his momentum off, before springing up and kicking over a table to use as cover from whatever the fuck it was they were shooting at him. Nightwing, acrobat that he was, didn't have to do the same, already spinning, flipping, rolling, and twisting, and all in all contorting his body in quite impossible ways as he danced around the blasts from the robbers strange weapons.

Covered as he was by the table, and with Nightwing prancing about the place and generally distracting the criminals until he could get close enough to take them out, Hood was easily able to turn to the civilians huddled around him on the ground and survey them. No one so far looked injured, just terrified and most likely in shock. Luckily, to get to the door out of the diner they would not have to get pass any of the gunmen, all they'd have to do was stay low and quiet and they should be able to make it.

So with that in mind, Hood slowly, as not to startle them, raised one finger to where his lips would be on his helmet to tell them to stay quiet, and gestured them to follow him. A few gave shaky nods, and he took that as good enough, glancing over to make sure Nightwing still had the others attention. Luckily for them, Nightwing was doing a very good job distracting the others with all his flare and dramatics, though he'd also since taken another one down, leaving only two still standing. It was hard to get close to anyone safely when they were this trigger happy, especially since unlike with normal guns, where they'd have to reload at some point, these weapons didn't seem to have that problem. Still, attention was away from the civilians and that's all Hood needed.

Checking that the group behind him were following, he quickly and quietly lead them around the scattered mess of tables and chairs to the doors, keeping them all kneeling low to the ground the whole way. Reaching the door, Hood slowly pushed it open to stop it from making too much noise, and herded the people with him through the door as quickly as he could, many of them taking off as soon as they passed, though some turned back to help see the rest of their group through.

They were down to a one small family left still inside the building, the two members of the staff who'd been behind the counter at the start of the robbery having exited through the kitchen as soon as the robbers had turned their backs to deal with Nightwing and Hood, and the father of the little family was already slipping through the open door, when the criminals attention did exactly the wrong thing. One of the robbers turned to the doors, most likely searching for their own escape, but instead of just looking for different exit once they saw Hood, they apparently took offense that the rest of them were getting the hell out, and swung their gun around to fire on Hood and the rest of the family about to exit.

Fortunately Hood caught sight of the movement just in time to tackle the two civilians left with him out of the way, toppling a nearby table that had been behind them. Hood would totally take that one though; it made for a quick and easy shelter from the sudden barrage of blasts. He still cursed up a storm; this was the last thing they needed. Why couldn't the thief wait to try to kill him till all the civilians were out? Was that too much to ask? Looking at the family next to him, his back pressed firmly against the table protecting them, he saw a frightened mother clutching her terrified daughter to her chest, and he cursed a bit louder.

Welp. There was nothing for it but to return fire and take these idiots down. So with on last deep breath, Hood raised his weapons and swung around, keeping as much of his body tucked behind their makeshift shelter as he could as he fired at their attacker. Both his and he's opponent's first volley missed, though if Hood's helmet was off he would've sworn it singed his hair. The robber was not so lucky with the next shot, one of Hood's bullets hitting, and taking him down, leaving only one of the idiots standing. Not for long, however, as Nightwing swooped in the second the robber got distracted with his friend falling from Hood's bullets, and knocking him unconscious with a vicious kick.

Hood slowly stood, scanning the floor to make sure the rest of the would-be robbers were not moving before holstering his guns and turning to the two civilians next to him, offering them a hand up.

"You two okay?" He asked gently, recognizing the signs of shock in the two in front of him, the mother's petite hand trembling in his, with one arm still clinging tightly to her young daughter who had her face buried in her mother's shirt.

"Yes, thank you," The woman said quietly, her voice shaking, glancing between Hood and Nightwing as he made his way over, "Both of you."

"You're welcome," Nightwing told her with a soft smile, "Now, let's get you two out of here, and then Hood and I will finish dealing with these fools."

The woman gave them a shaky smile and nod, as her daughter peeked out from where she was hiding her face to look at them. Hood gave her a little wave, and with a little 'meep!', the girl quickly buried her face again. Nightwing laughed, and started leading the two out.

"So what's your name, sweetie?" He asked the little girl, trying to draw her out, and calm her down.

"M-Mary, sir." The girl said in a small voice. Nightwing gave her a warm smile.

"Mary, huh? Well that's a beautiful name! Ain't it a beautiful name Hood?" Nightwing said to Hood over his shoulder, before quickly turning back to the girl, not bothering to wait for Hood's response before going on.

"My name's Nightwing! And this is my little brother, Red Hood, but you can ignore him, he's a grumpy pants anyway." Nightwing told her conspiratorially with a stage whisper. The girl's mother gave a growing smile at Nightwing's attempts to cheer the two up.

"Hey!" Hood said indignantly, even though he didn't really mind. Mary gave a quiet giggle.

"Did you guys get your dinner interrupted earlier?" The girl nodded with more courage than she had before.

"Well, I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll-" Nightwing paused, glancing over his shoulder again to include Hood, but then something else caught his attention and his eyes widened and he suddenly shouted, "HOOD, BEHIND YOU!"

Jason whirled around to see one of the thugs who'd been unconscious had woken up, and had their strange gun pointed right at him. Before he could react, the gun was being fired and in an instant he was hit. The last thing he remembered seeing before it all went black was the little family and his brother standing in horror, and then, Nightwing in anger, flying at something, and then it was all fuzzy and fading, and the sounds of the fight that had been blazing in his ears grew dull, and faint sounds of what might've been his name drowned in his ears, and, and- was that Dick? No. No it wasn't-, but then? Bright blue eyes, he saw bight- no, dull. Dull blue eyes. Eyes? No, it was darkness, only darkness.

And then, it became brilliantly bright. So very, very bright, like the sun had decided to come out from behind the clouds, and then decided that wasn't enough and it tried to swallow them whole. And the pain that had been but a dull throb, roared to life, forcing a piercing scream from his lips, and it felt like every inch of him was being ripped apart and reconfigured. And as suddenly as it had started, it came to a blissful end, and Jason slipped into unconsciousness.