Chapter One: Avoiding the Ultimate Blunder
There was this strange feeling I got when waking up on someone else's couch realizing I was not where I was supposed to be.
My first was that well, this was odd, but it wasn't impossible. People have dreams in weird places all the time.
But it was different. The apartment I was in, felt different than anything I'd seen in a dream.
Then by coincidence, I looked at the back of my hand.
When people told me they knew something like the back of their hand, I understood the metaphor, but until right now, I never got the full meaning without this context.
This was not the back of my left hand, nor my right.
Something else felt different. I was average height for a guy and skinny my entire life. I wasn't ripped or anything, but I looked down and I actually had some muscles for once now just by how I was sitting at this couch.
So where exactly was I?
I walked to the nearby windowsill and looked outside.
My closest reference was New York, I was in a city. A city I had never been in before. I certainly don't remember taking a plane last night to a city and then falling asleep on some stranger's couch.
I heard someone yawn behind me.
A girl in her early twenties walked out from down the hallway in this unknown apartment wearing nothing more than a hoodie. She was blonde and admittedly reasonably attractive.
I didn't know this person. I did not know her apartment. I did not know where I was and I quickly wanted to figure out where I was.
"So you're up." she said. "Morning I guess."
"Morning." I replied, looking around the apartment.
She opened her refrigerator, drawing a milk carton and placing it on the kitchen island.
After a minute or so of me aimlessly standing there and trying to rack my brains as to where I was, the girl sighed. "Richard, are you feeling okay? You've been looking around like you lost your keys or something for over two minutes."
That was not my name but that wasn't what I was looking for.
No, I'm genuinely curious as to where I was. And didn't want to sound weird asking her where I was.
"Yeah, they're right over there." she pointed quickly before drawing a bowl from a cupboard.
I nearly ran to the bowl, almost startling her.
There were indeed keys there, more than one set. And a wallet too, which had a label that read "Richard M. Grayson."
I flipped it open and I had a driver's license that included a very familiar face.
Nightwing. Or at least, a very similar looking guy in his early twenties who looked almost exactly like the few times I'd seen Nightwing with his mask off in comics and TV.
This girl called me by his name and I had his wallet. This was straight up freaky.
"Um." I turned to her as she quietly ate some cereal. "This is weird to ask. But where exactly am I?"
"Oh." she put her spoon down. "Oh you want to call a cab or something. Well I'm on the building on the corner of Ninth and Huntington Avenue."
No, I suppose the better question was, if I was in the DC comics universe or just happened to wake up as some guy named Richard Grayson who happened to look like him.
"Ah. Okay." I said.
I knew she was watching me awkwardly walk back to her couch to sit down.
I didn't blame her, if I slept with someone and starting acting the way I did I would look at them weird.
Although I don't think we did, it's likely but-
I had bigger issues.
The best way to test if I really was Nightwing was to turn on the news where all sorts of strange things like countries that didn't exist and alien invasions and interplanetary diplomacy would be there, but I was curious about something else first.
Nightwing, or Richard Grayson, was trained since he was very little by freaking Batman. There had to be some sort of reflexes or heavily advanced training already lodged in my brain.
I didn't want to ask this girl to throw something at me but. Maybe if I just thought real hard it could come to me.
It was there. It was all there.
Coding languages I had never learned. I had only messed with HTML for about an hour before I got bored before, this was just not the knowledge I had. Black belt karate training. But most importantly this strange awareness that sort of activated when I just called upon it.
From the way this girl sat at her kitchen island, she weighed approximately seventy kilograms. She was left handed, and apart from the obvious, she really really wanted to talk to me about something but was too embarrassed to say anything. She kept this apartment very clean, but it was strange how neat it all looked.
The best place to store a gun in this whole apartment was either in that shut off vent that looked as if it was sealed off but likely was where this girl could hide something, or between a small patch of empty wall in the corner of her bedroom I saw from where I was sitting.
The door looked sturdy but a simple kick from anyone larger or slightly stronger than the average man could kick it in instantly.
The quickest and easiest exit out of this apartment was the window with a very quick front flip that got you to the safest catwalk up to what had to be the roof of the building. Because from right where I was, the secondary fire escape was way too rusty from outside this chick's window.
Batman had trained me to think like a secret super agent. I had Nightwing's reflexes and experience but not his confidence or personality.
How could I know all that but not know what universe I was in?
My best option, cozy up to someone in this world who of course knew where they were, figure out what I could about my life and this world.
Because for all I knew I could be in a world where Batman was dead and the Legion of Doom had taken over.
I was also decently skilled at cooking. Why of all things would Richard Grayson know how to cook?
I stood up off the couch and walked towards this girl, where I cleared my throat. "Can I join you?"
She gave an awkward smile and nodded.
I got myself a bowl of cereal and sat across the corner from her at the kitchen island. "So." she said. "What were you thinking about?"
"Stuff." I said simply.
Remember her name. Come on Richard, you didn't bother keeping her name in your memory after you slept with her?
As she leaned to her right to cover her cough, I used the opportunity to sneak a glance at the lanyard and ID she had hung on the wall next to her refrigerator.
Jessica Barton - Wayne Technologies, Human Resources Division
"Um, Jessica." I said slowly. "This might sound strange. But is Batman, alive?"
"Last I checked. Why?"
"No reason. And the um, Watchtower. Or whatever the Justice League uses, is it, still up in the air?"
She looked at me oddly. "You've been acting really weird. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Just fine." I said. "But please, answer the question."
Sighing Jessica answered. "The Watchtower orbits the planet every day or so. I think? Why are you acting so strange? Richard, do you have a girlfriend or something?"
The short answer was no. I myself hadn't had very many girlfriends, but Nightwing had dated so much it could actually be his real superpower.
"Well no. I was just uh, making conversation."
She glared at me. "Okay, now let me make conversation."
"Cool." I said weakly.
"Your shift starts at eight thirty, mine at nine. Let's not beat around the bush. This, never happened."
The balls on Nightwing to sleep with a chick from his own HR department. Genius.
"Fine by me." I said.
"Now." she nearly threw her spoon down and left the kitchen island in a huff. "I'm taking a shower. By myself!"
Yes, because in a morning of utter confusion, sex with a total stranger would solve everything.
If only she knew I had no clue who she was.
While I heard her shower hiss from behind the door, I decided to check the small bowl where I had found my wallet from.
There were keys, and a lanyard of my own.
Richard Grayson - Wayne Technologies, Information Technology Division
Huh. I guess the ultimate cover Batman came up with for Robin was to put him in a desk job of sorts to act like the average joe.
I found my clothes, that weren't the same as the boxer briefs and sweatshirt I had been wearing all morning strewn on this Jessica person's floor.
When I had picked them up, I checked the time on a smartphone in the bowl I found out was mine because I knew the code. It read seventy forty five.
The Wayne Tech building. According to the route in my head, it would take about twenty minutes. And even though an IT job at Wayne Enterprises sounded as fun as nails on a chalkboard, I knew Batman was alive in this world and likely expected me there.
It was best to use the time I had left to finish the cereal I left on the counter.
The blonde girl returned from her shower wearing a bathrobe. "All yours. Get out."
I wasn't normally as quick at showering, getting dressed, and leaving a house as Richard was. Somehow, these skills carried over and I was out, completely ready, in about five minutes.
Maybe Batman always taught him how to be this efficient?
Apparently I had almost forgotten the motorbike helmet I left in the apartment upstairs, so I grabbed it on my way out.
I found the parking lot to the building in under two minutes, and after a single look around the parking lot all my instincts told me my ride was this very sleek, expensive looking black motorcycle.
I whistled, walking towards it.
I keyed the ignition and realized I already knew the proper way to mount and ride the bike, even though I had never so much as touched a motorcycle before today.
The motorcycle had a small blue button that appeared when I realized my thumb passed over some sort of sensor. The button had a small black symbol on it, one I recognized to be Nightwing's insignia.
I ignored it and it quickly went away. I had to go to work, not do what this bike was probably meant for, to fight crime.
When I merged into traffic cruising casually, I found out after two minutes this was undoubtedly Gotham City. There were newspapers and coffee shops all about Gotham, this was no coincidence.
I had the route to Wayne Tech already mapped out in my head, so I wouldn't be late.
Waiting for a red to change to a green light, I looked around again. On a large electronic billboard was written Who is Red X? Contact the GCPD if you see this criminal. and next to it was a less than kind illustration of the mysterious figure I knew all too well.
That was a great question. By all accounts it could easily be me without knowing it.
I heard the low rumble of a Harley Davidson in the space between the traffic in the lane next to me.
"Nice ride." the biker chuckled. "Your boyfriend buy it for you?"
Batman probably did. Prick.
No wonder Gotham was so full of crime. Average motorbike drivers were massive douchebags.
I decided to ignore him, even though I had never had a motorcycle race before and could probably win it as undercover Nightwing, it wasn't worth the hassle.
I walked into Wayne Tech pretty awkwardly. I guess I just had to follow my instincts.
The security guard at the desk spoke. "Hey Rich! How are you doing?"
"Pretty good." I said reaching for my lanyard.
The mustached man scanned it and I walked through the metal detector.
"Have a good day!" he said when I walked off.
Security looked pretty lax here in the main lobby. Maybe Batman gave me a job here in case of an attack? I'm sure not all of his important data was kept here, but if any was, it would make sense.
I walked to the elevator and looked at the panel.
Someone entered the elevator with me, someone I didn't know with dark hair and glasses and was wearing a laptop case with a strap across his chest.
"Hi there." he said quietly.
Shut up, I'm trying to remember which floor was IT. God, how could I be Nightwing when I could barely get to work?
I sighed, reading the small sign that labeled the floors.
IT Floors 32-35
After choosing a floor himself, the man extended his hand to me. "Jonathan Crane. Just got hired here. I'm a psychiatrist."
Wait. Did I know him?
The elevator door bell rang.
I had seen a very similar person donning a brown cloth sack over his face and murdering people or rendering them insane with all sorts of gas. Oh right, this was Scarecrow.
I shook it, hesitating to use my old name and using the one people knew me as. "Richard. Why did you get hired as a doctor?"
"Mostly performance reasons. Mr. Wayne and the higher ups decided the budget and numbers called for it, whatever that meant, so I was hired fresh out of GCU."
I looked at him, unconvinced.
"Well mainly I study fear, both from a physiological and psychological perspective. My main thesis is understanding how fear exists, and in Mr. Wayne's interest, how fear and anxiety affects the daily performance of his employees. From the very top to the very bottom."
I still wasn't convinced.
Jonathan sighed, turning towards me. "It was the best paying job I could find as soon as I got my doctorate last month. We can schedule a session in my new office. I promise you, you won't be disappointed. And all visits are completely paid for by the company."
Oh, I think not.
"It was nice meeting you." I said when the elevator stopped and Crane got out.
"It was nice meeting you too. In case you're not doing anything around noon, we could have lunch."
"Why not?" I said.
For several reasons, I thought it best to keep a close eye on Mr. Innocent.
I walked out from the elevator when it was my turn, and hoped I had gotten the right floor.
Through the lines of cubicles, I eventually found the right one, labeled "R. Grayson."
I didn't exactly know how to clock in, but I just stuck my ID card into the right reader and had to confirm I had done so through my computer and a thumb print reading.
A small machine looking like a standard webcam quickly shone a bright light, probably a secret advanced machine confirming I was indeed Nightwing, and with the Nightwing insignia flashing on the screen I was in.
Turns out the positioning of my cubicle in the very back corner of the room closest to the window was intentional to limit foot traffic around me. The cubicle walls were tall enough to stop people from looking over them, possibly intentional as well.
My computer didn't look like the average IT guy's computer, unless that IT guy was fighting crime or officially receiving messages from members of the Justice League.
In my inbox I found several messages, but the newest one was from freaking Batman himself.
It was curt and sounded very much like him.
Nightwing. You have a new assignment, you must be briefed in person for it. My office, one o'clock.
Were there sensors activated around my cubicle in case someone walked by? If I had a supervisor and he or she decided to check on me, I'd be fucked if they saw my screen.
I realized a few minutes later apparently there were, so my "IT" work wasn't mundane at all. At first.
I had the coding and logistics knowledge necessary to find anything they asked of me, and I realized I corresponded and did work for a number of superhero groups, no matter how large or small, even the Outsiders, who from what I gathered were what Young Justice became after they, or we got old enough to become real heroes.
The work mostly consisted of just finding something, mostly information. Not all of it was just crime related, strange activity, police and city reports of buildings or neighborhoods or all sorts of information. If a superhero needed to know something and it was really hard to find logistically on the internet, I found it pretty easily.
I didn't necessarily organize missions for these people, I helped give them all the knowledge and information necessary to pull them off successfully.
It soon hit me why Batman got me a job here. Because he mostly did the same thing for the Justice League himself.
While everyone in the cubicles around me did the tedious bitch administrative work for Wayne Enterprises, I did the same bitch work for logistical support for any superhero who needed it which Batman officially worked with or endorsed.
I was helping run the systems upon which Wayne Tech ran all of the Justice League's data that Batman ran.
I was really good at it, each message consisted of a task, and I was done with twelve tasks under three hours.
When I got up from my desk, the computer screen instantly switched to a mundane Wayne Enterprises IT computer. Neat.
It was twelve forty five, I had to get going.
Wayne Tech and Wayne Enterprises were owned by of course, the same person, and luckily it turned out Bruce Wayne was in the building today.
I found the right floor to get to, unsurprisingly one of the top floors, and Bruce Wayne's secretary greeted me from her desk.
"Hi, can I help you?"
I showed her the card on my lanyard. "Yeah, IT?"
"Excellent. Mr. Wayne reported server issues all morning. He's with a client, he'll see you in just a moment."
With a quick smile I took a seat in the waiting area with about two other people.
I sighed, realizing what happened this morning.
Nightwing flexed his relationship with Batman to get away with some cute HR girl. Why did I spend so much time at this company just to do the equivalent of Justice League IT?
Did he not have a steady girlfriend? This seemed rather unlike him to leave me in this scenario.
I paid the price for a very strange introduction to this world from his decision yesterday. To be fair, I would've preferred that instead of waking up in the middle of a massive battle or even at my cubicle.
An important looking man in a suit exited Wayne's office and his secretary spoke out. "Mr. Wayne will see you now."
I entered, and closed the door behind me.
His face was pretty familiar, but just from the way this man sat down at his desk and the way he looked commanded so much presence it was uncanny. The caped crusader looked very intimidating even in a suit and tie.
"You said you had an assignment for me?" I asked.
The extremely commanding yet calm voice of Batman spoke out from Bruce Wayne's lips. "Yes."
He pushed something on his desk, maybe a button, and the door locked behind me. Then a screen appeared from behind a wall and Bruce kept speaking. "The League of Shadows is out for blood. Tigress and a small team of hers rescued Orphan from them last week."
Tigress. That was Artemis' later moniker, much how Nightwing became Robin's.
"And why did that get them mad enough to be out for blood as you say?" I asked.
"From the moment I learned if I discovered Orphan is actually a girl named Cassandra Wu-San, daughter of Shiva herself. The Light's agent to run the League. Tigress refused to explain further when I asked her, and her entire group's affiliation with the League is off putting. It was clear the matter was personal and touchy. Unhelpful, but not incriminating. Regardless, I can't have you working with them more in person to find out more, I've decided to take care of it another way."
I nodded. "Wait, all the work I did today and none of it was discovering someone Tigress rescued was actually like. Really bad?"
Bruce looked at me. It was obvious Richard never spoke like this but he didn't seem to pry. I needed to stop doing that though.
"Red X is starting to become a real problem. He's pushed Penguin and Freeze out of their hold on the Docks and the Boroughs. I've connected Red X to Shiva and the Light. Your job is to infiltrate X's organization and report back to me."
"Infiltrate? Just gather intel?" I said, trying to sound more like Nightwing.
"Hands on. This isn't something you can just plant a few bugs at a couple warehouses for and move on. Discovering the identity of Red X is as crucial to the success of this mission as determining X's complete command structure. With the way X is pushing out Gotham City street crime veterans from their territory so easily and so quickly, this could be the Light's way of establishing a foothold here in Gotham."
I looked at him. "You want me to pretend to be. A common criminal?"
"I've already spoken to Commissioner Gordon, he'll know you're undercover. It's absolutely important you don't reveal anything outside of being a thug of slightly above average skill. The others, Ivy, and even the Riddler have agreed to team up to take X down if he gets too strong. From what I gather, he will."
"All right. I'm on it."
"And this new guy you hired. Crane? Do you get any strange feelings about him?"
Bruce shook his head. "Of course not. Came across as a bit arrogant, but from a man that intelligent it's not uncommon. Why, is there something suspicious about him?"
Technically no. For all I knew, in this universe his favorite thing to do after clocking out could be to drink tea and watch reruns all day.
"Just wondering, met him in the elevator that's all."
"I'll send you details of where to go. You'll have to break one of our main rules to get this job done."
I nodded. "What is it?"
"You'll have to hold a gun. Mostly you'll be standing around looking tough, but a few small changes to your appearance and no one will recognize you as actually being able to have a job. Update me as often as you can."
"Alright." I said, leaving.
No mention of this "Jessica" dilemma from earlier.
I wondered if this would complicate things with Barbara. If she was even into me.
Working in the same office building as the man who possibly can become Scarecrow? Hm. Had to keep an eye on him too for sure.
The original Boy Blunder was a mess, and I decided to rewrite it into something a little more coherent and better paced? It was strangely rocketing in popularity like at supersonic speeds, and I honestly wasn't that proud of it.
Either way, thanks.