Slade watched the skyline looking for any trace of the mysterious contact that had asked him for a meeting here on this rooftop, on the outskirts. In Gotham, it really could be anyone. The Joker, Penguin, Scarecrow here either for his help in deadly plots or for his help in taking on The Batman. He turned at the slight noise and saw a figure silhouetted in darkness coming towards him. It was reminiscent of the bat and his dramatic entrances but as the figure came into view light by the dim streetlight it was clear that he didn't dress like any of the bats. The closest he resembled was Nightwing but instead of a domino, he wore a whole face mask with a lens obscuring the eyes making it impossible to see what color they were. His bodysuit was also entirely black.
"I need your help, Slade," The obviously digitally disguised voice comes out of the full face mask. Slade didn't speak for a long moment merely sizing up the newcomer. Was this a new crime lord wanting his help to take out the competition? Or some new supervillain? He supposed that in the end, it didn't really matter. Slade was asked here for a job and he would do it if it was worth his time.
"With what?" He asked simply.
"I need your help," the stranger said again, coming slightly closer to him before stopping a few feet away. "You're the only one that can help," Slade found himself wondering if the person he was talking was deranged or this was a trap for a moment but it wouldn't be the first time he worked for a deranged person.
"You tried to get me to see it once, but I didn't want to," the figure said, starting to move so that he was now circling around him his gait changed as if he was a predator stalking his prey. He was speaking as if he knew him. "But I know now. I know that you were right," the figure said, stopping in his tracks this time about 3 feet away from him.
"Sometimes death is necessary, sometimes you can't just beat a problem into submission. Sometimes if you want something to stop you have to stop it. " There was something familiar about the way the figure walked and his voice even though the computerized influence. It almost reminded him, especially with the costume choice of…Nightwing. Richard. But Richard would never talk like this.
"Have you guessed who I am yet?" The figure asked leaning slightly toward him in a cocky manner that was also familiar. This close up he could also see tears in the black fabric on his torso.
"You've probably at least started to suspect and I'm tired of this mask." In one fluid motion that mask was whisked off his head leaving one Richard Grayson in front of him but the look in his eyes didn't seem like Richard. His normal vibrant blue eyes that reminded him of oceans reminded him more of ice.
"I need your help," Richard repeated this time though in his own voice.
"With what? Richard." Richard smiled but the smile didn't suit him. In all the years Slade had known him he wasn't sure he had ever seen that smile on his face. There was something wrong here.
"Exactly," Richard said with a grin that was normally teasing but Slade was sure it meant something different here. "I'm not sure what but something happened. Something that created...me," he said with a gesture at his body.
"No it's not magical influence or possession, I'm me. I still remember being your apprentice but my….temperament is a little different. I feel a little differently than I used to be, more...logical."
"I suppose you might call it dissociative identity disorder. After Blockbuster, I became self-aware."
This was certainly an interesting development. One that he wasn't entirely sure what to think about. Richard was a good actor but he doubted even he could fake this change in himself, his very presence was different. The way he stood always resonated strength and courage and to many intimidating but now resonated more menacing. He walked a little closer to him his steps were always graceful but this resembled a large cat stalking his prey. The ice in 'Richards' eyes stared into his own.
"Now Back to your question, what do I need help with? You see Dick doesn't know about me, he can't know about me you see. Which suits me well because we -I seem to have our dark impulses the ones he doesn't want to admit he has -or at least some of them. Dick can still be an angry boy. But also like I said I'm more pragmatic. I see the math the way Dick or Bruce could never come to see it no matter how many people have tried to hit them over the head with it."
'Richard's' paused, probably wanting him to ask. Slade didn't, he was sure 'Richard' would go on regardless.
"You see I still believe in Justice and that murder isn't something to be taken lightly...but Gotham, " he spat the word out like it was filthy rolling around in his tongue.
"is a joke, but not a funny one, a tragic one. They wax poetic about Justice and how crime and cops are better now but there is still corruption around every corner. Where there isn't corruption, there are budget cuts and stupidity. People die nearly every day and Batman and the baby bats do their best to stop it but it's never enough because Gotham itself fails its citizens."
"Even when Batman puts the bad guys away they never stay. Villains are constantly breaking out of Belleview and Arkham to go on a new killing spree just to be caught by Batman and put back in rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Dozens to hundreds of people dying due to people that Batman has already caught and have found their way out. It makes no sense to keep letting it happen so I'm not." Slade took in his stance and tried to figure out if he meant what he thought he meant. 'Richard' met his gaze calmly.
"Yes, I'm implying what you think I'm implying. Sometimes death is the only way to save people; they can't kill anyone if they're dead. "
"And you would kill them?" Slade managed to keep most of the skepticalness out of his voice.
"I know what you're thinking, Batman's black and white morality code. Killing bad, beating people until they can't walk anymore, okay. But if you're allowing more death to happen when the law has done everything they can sometimes you have to go outside it... just a little. Now killing for fun or benefit that's not my thing but to save lives…"'Richard' smiled his smile, it wasn't like Richard's but nearly as dark as he had seemed at first but still darker than he was sure The Batman would think was acceptable.
"But it's really hard to do what I need to do and keep myself a secret from Dick." Richard removed the remaining strips of black fabric exposing the blue that was characteristic of Nightwing. "Anyone sees this then the cat is out of the bag and Dickie boy is in big trouble. I need your help to do what needs to be done and keep it a secret from Dick."
"And why would I help you?"
"Isn't this what you always wanted?" 'Richard' said not actually answering his question. "I can't actually use the name Renegade because too many people know about it but aren't I what you always wanted Dick to be?"
"You're not Richard," 'Richard' smiled slightly.
"No, I'm not, I'm just a piece of him. Some little dark piece of that somehow grew into consciousness. Some piece that decided I don't care what Bruce or really anyone else says I'm going to write my own line in the sand."
"How did it happen?" Slade asked unable to stop himself from asking the question, after all, it wasn't every day that a hero grew a darker alternate personality.
"Repeated injections of joker venom scarecrow gas, space, and spells. Endless repeated beatings and trauma. It really could be anything and in the end, what does it matter?" Slade supposed he was right. "In the end there's only you and me Slade, standing here on this roof. I can't offer you much. Most of my money is tied up. Any massive amounts of money go missing and he'll get curious and he knows two really good hackers. He can't know it was him, he might suspect but he can't know. I can also offer you help to be your renegade if anyone ever calls in for someone meeting my criteria." 'Dick' again said it in a way that begged him to ask him what he meant. This time he took the bait.
"And what is that?" Slade said managing to sound almost bored but he was curious exactly where the darker bird drew his line.
"I give the justice system a chance but when they fail, when these criminals escape not once but twice well than three strikes and they're out." Permanently was heavily implied. "And I know what they say if you kill a killer the amount of killers remains the same but if you kill 5 killers then only one remains." Richard seemed very sure of himself, confident and very calm talking about killing people, but since the Richard he knew had always been adamant about not killing, he wasn't sure if even this darker version was as capable of this as he might think.
"And you think you can actually do this?" Richard shifted slightly and seemed to make it a point to look him right in the eye as he answered dispassionately his expression not changing even slightly as he spoke.
"I already have, " Slade was somewhat surprised, that even some darker version of Richard had it in him to do it. "I didn't know them. They were mid-level goons with good connections, it wasn't passionate revenge or some heat of the moment fight. I didn't enjoy it but I wouldn't lose sleep over it even if I could." It was interesting that the dark bird was so much more passionate about the criminal justice system then he seemed to be about the actual killings.
"Why do you think I would help you?" Slade said getting down to the crux of this rooftop conversation.
"Because you care for Dick," Slade paused for a second considering refuting it but it was just the two of them on the rooftop and he doubted this version was going to tell anyone.
"Exactly, so why would I help you?" He knew Richard would never want to be a killer and some part of him, though he tried to dwell on it since they were often on opposite sides of the fight, wanted to keep him safe, pure. Helping this dark version kill people would not help Richard to be who he wanted to be and would probably eventually destroy him. 'Richard stepped closer to him so that they were now just inches away and Slade could clearly see into his eyes, could see the sincerity and ruthless calm in them as he spoke.
"Because I will not stop, not until everyone the system fails is stopped first or I'm found out and given my resources at the moment they will find me out, and Dick will be destroyed if he knows what I've done. You know that's true. You know how hard Dick clings to his morals and his definition of what is right and wrong. He didn't even pull the trigger and Blockbuster's death destroyed him. And maybe you could tell him and he could stop me but I've already killed 3 people. Do you really think he could handle that? You know he won't see the distinction. Dick is going to be destroyed either way. The only difference is how long will he be safe and unaware? I promise to protect him if I'm ever found out if you help me."
Slade was in between a rock and hard place because he knew this dark version was right. He kept tabs on his bird and he knew how hard he had taken Blockbuster's death and he hadn't been the one to pull the trigger. Knowing he had killed 3 people would destroy him even if he couldn't remember it, even if it was due to a separate part of himself that he had no control of. In the end, there was only one thing he could do to protect Richard.
"What do you need?"