Chapter Two: The X Files
I got a text on my phone when I was leaving Wayne Tech.
Barbara: I got briefed. Meet me at my place to help you prepare.
Was Barbara Gordon also as curt as Batman for some reason when sending messages?
Her place. Her place. Come on Nightwing, you didn't have her house in your brain? You slept with random women at your workplace but not the woman you canonically date with the most stability?
After a bit of hard thinking, I was able to remember where it was.
Really pushing my motorbike to make the journey quick, I got from the business district of Gotham City to the neighborhood a few blocks away from one of Gotham PD's main precincts.
Not a coincidence likely.
I parked my motorcycle in the parking lot that said "Tenants Only" without a care in the world.
Parking was so scarce in a city as populated as Gotham I had to do what was necessary.
I took the elevator up to the eleventh floor of the apartment building and knocked on the door I hoped Nightwing's memories served correctly.
When someone answered, I was surprised to meet a girl with red hair who wasn't in a wheelchair.
I guess Joker or whichever super villain paralyzed Barbara didn't do so yet, or wouldn't.
"How much do you already know about the mission?" Barbara asked, leading me into her apartment.
"Not much really. I don't know how much information I can actually gather pretending to be a simple thug." I said honestly, closing the door behind me.
Or why I should even be doing exactly as Nightwing should've. I technically wasn't the same person.
"You'd be surprised. It won't be hard for you to move up the ranks and learn more as you go."
I sighed. "I'm sorry. The plan for me to bring down this Red X, is to commit crimes under his leadership?"
Barbara led me to a room I somewhat recognized, Oracle's room. Except she wasn't Oracle technically, she was Batgirl still I guess.
"It's riskier than you think outside of that. I'm surprised you're taking this mission with such hostility, considering you came up with that massive stinger operation that dealt a massive blow to the Light." Barbara said coolly.
"So your dad is cool with me committing crimes? Such as robbing people and getting into gang wars?"
"For the sake of making Gotham a safer place and getting the Light the heck out of our city. Yeah." Barbara muttered, taking a seat at her desk chair. "I would be too."
Just shut up dude. The more you talk the more it's obvious the real Richard Grayson ain't in your head.
A few taps on her keyboard and a screen gave me a location and a picture of a strange man.
"The common place goons get recruited into X's gang is here. On this long stretch of road on Lindsay road. Sometimes they move around, but their top captains look for candidates typically in this area. All you gotta look for are two guys standing in front of a metal door and you're good to go."
"Good to go? That could be anyone." I said.
"Not this person." Barbara pointed to a part of her screen where a Gotham City PD mugshot popped up of your average street thug. "Tobias Grinfield, he'll be there. Used to be part of Penguin's gang for two years until he became a recruiter and lieutenant for Red X. Make an in, and you'll report back to us daily."
"Can't someone recognize me as a Wayne employee?"
Barbara shook her head. "Unlikely. Even if they could, that's where this comes in." Barbara said drawing what looked like a makeup kit from her drawer.
"You're gonna do my make up?"
"Oh hush Rich. Zatanna gave it to me, by the time I'm done, the only way anyone can see your real face is to apply a special ointment only I have."
Barbara pulled up a chair. "Looking like an unassuming homeless person searching for henchman work isn't that tough. All I have to do is make it look like you haven't had a shower, shave, or decent food or a place to sleep for a month and you'll be fine."
"And you're making me look different specifically. How?"
"Magically enchanted makeup Rich, keep up."
I raised an eyebrow as Barbara opened the kit and got to work. "I thought there was no such thing as magic."
"You want to get into this. Now?" Barbara laughed.
"My. You are acting weird."
Barbara was done after two minutes.
"So. What do you think?" Barbara fished a mirror out of her desk drawer and showed it to me.
She had done very well, I was actually as unrecognizable as she had said.
I had grown a very messy beard, I looked like I cut my own hair and lived under a bridge for a few months. Moreover, Barbara had only changed a few key aspects of my appearance a little like the definition and shape of my chin and lips, my nose a bit, and a few other things and I didn't even look like homeless Richard Grayson.
I looked like, as Barbara said, someone no one possibly knew or thought about.
"Amazing. This is really good stuff." I admitted.
"I do my best." she shrugged, putting the kit away. "We can lift the charm when the mission is finished."
I stood up and cleared my throat. "This is. Really dangerous work. I mean, I get that I've planned more dangerous undercover missions in the past. But I'd never done them myself."
"I'm sure you have doubts. All of us grew up fighting these thugs, not trying to pretend to be them. But, I think if you just stick to the mission and remember why you're there. You should have nothing to worry about."
"Thanks. Barbara." I said.
With a smile, she turned back to her computer.
"We'll. Keep in touch?" I asked quietly.
Barbara gave me a look, fixing her glasses. "Yeah." she said as if it was obvious.
Somehow, I think I'd feel more at home with random street thugs this Red X hired than people whose job it was to sniff out and take care of people who pretended to be other people or supervillains.
Before I made my move that night to go undercover, I decided to pick up some useful items from the apartment I found Nightwing had.
I couldn't bring a collapsible bo staff that could fit in my pocket, too obvious. The escrima sticks had electrical functions strong enough to knock out two fully grown bulls at the same time, no way a stun baton that powerful was held by your average homeless person.
Almost all my equipment couldn't pass through a metal detector, except for a few Birdarangs that were made of carbon fiber and of the tiniest of electrical circuits.
These birdarangs weren't exactly combat ready, instead they could hack anything that had a motherboard as long as it made contact with it, and were able to transmit recordings and images to my cellphone like bugs.
Joining a street gang with nothing but portable mics. Great idea.
That night, I decided to take a very long walk all the way from downtown Gotham all the way to the Borough Flats, which ironically wasn't even the worst neighborhood in Gotham despite how shady it was.
People mostly didn't pay me any attention.
A homeless looking guy in a trench coat with his face shoved into his jacket didn't garner or warrant any attention under a dingy streetlamp unless you wanted to get robbed or something.
I had never considered how easy it was to fly under people's radar this way, it was if I was invisible, I loved it.
I ran through my head how to approach this guy when I saw him.
Saying 'Hey are you Tobias Grinfield?' made me sound like a cop or worse, someone who actually knew he was a captain, meaning I was from a rival gang to assassinate him.
The best option would be to say calmly, and coherently, 'Are you the guy they call Toby?'
I had seen a few mafia movies, and while they were mostly fictional, in all forms of organized crime, respect to higher ups was number one. They were always called 'the guy' or 'a made guy.'
'Fat Sal' or other small but respectful nicknames.
Eventually I reached the street where Barbara had noted I had to go.
After five minutes of looking, I came across two guys quietly standing outside the door to an inconspicuous building.
They started talking, and after ten minutes of standing around in the cold I lost my patience. I waited until the moment they stopped talking and then approached.
"Hey." I said quietly. "You the guy they call Toby?"
The thug shrugged. "What's it to you?"
"Hold on. Who the hell are you?" the guy next to him asked.
"Just looking for hench work? That wrong?"
"Yeah. We go out looking, that ain't how it works." he explained. "Get outta here."
Fuck, was this thing blown already?
Toby sighed, taking a drag from his cigarette. "Now hold on, just let him talk."
"Talk my ass, you look like a waste of time. Get moving." the goon opened his jacket and showed me his gun.
My instincts told me to strike him if he reached for it, or counter a blow if he came right at me. I trusted them, staying calm.
"I said I was looking for work." I repeated.
"You fucking deaf!? I said. Get moving!"
I said nothing, standing there.
The moment he decided to attack me with his fists instead of his gun I struck. I had underestimated how strong I could punch, and that Batman had actually trained me to land first against guys this slow.
His nose looked broken, certainly very bloodied, and he wobbled for a bit before collapsing face first on the ground.
He slowly and confusedly reached for his gun, and I kicked him over in the ribs making him yelp before beating on his ribs and nose, hard.
Toby chuckled, flicking away his cigarette. "Alright, alright. You made your point kid. You really want a job that badly? Fine, come with me."
I watched the man knocked out and bloodied on the ground. The first price I paid for this mission was beating a man badly enough to warrant a trip to the hospital.
Not anything Nightwing hadn't done, but I noticed how casually Toby felt leaving his buddy knocked out on the floor of the street probably with broken ribs and a shattered nose.
Toby knocked twice on the metal door.
An eyeslit opened. "What?" the man on the other side asked.
"Just let me in Luce."
A man with bulging muscles well over six feet tall opened the door and let us both in.
This was a gambling den, guarded in all four corners by men armed with machine guns. Same number upstairs with the same coverage too.
"You got a name?" Toby asked.
Mitch Dreyfus in case someone was willing to kill me over it. Came up with it on the way over here.
"No." I said.
Toby smiled. "Smart." he turned towards me, leading me around the gambling den towards a set of stairs. "Beating up Doug back there don't mean shit. Most hench work is about not asking questions, and always doing what you're told. Do well, shut up and listen, you might just show you're worth something."
I stayed quiet following him up the metal stairs to the second floor of the warehouse.
Toby gave a quiet nod to the man in front of the door of an office, and he opened it to let us both in.
A middle aged African American man a short white beard was sitting at the desk, playing Solitaire with a deck of cards.
"Who's this?" he asked.
"Don't know. Said he wanted a job. Busted up Doug mightily bad back there."
The man just gave me a quick look and returned to his cards. "He can have his job then."
And then with a small nod, Toby nodded back to him, resting his hand on a pocket inside his jacket.
I think he just got permission to kill the guy I just replaced.
Back outside, the guy I had beat up was gone, leaving nothing but a small trail of blood behind.
"Won't see him again. Might see him as a Penguin or maybe one of the Jokers at some point. But still, don't worry about him, he won't bother us none." assured Toby.
He drew a pistol from his jacket and handed it to me. "Here."
"What about yours?"
Toby waved a hand. "I'm fine."
"You always carry two? Not gonna lie, that's smart."
"Thanks. I guess."
He took out a cigarette from a package and offered me one, I accepted, and resisted the strong urge to cough.
Not because it didn't look tough or anything. But it would be pretty unrealistic that some random street vagrant of around 23 or 24 never smoked anything before.
Toby noticed I was still glancing back at the pool of blood every so often as we stood there in silence.
"Kid. I said don't worry about him any more, the X is taking over these streets anyway. No matter what, the others ain't threats."
"About that." I looked at Toby, smoking my cigarette calmly. "What makes Red X get so powerful so quickly?"
"I thought you understood not to ask questions."
"He is my boss now. Technically."
Toby shook his head. "You report to Don, you just met him. Don reports to Casey, and Casey reports to the X every month. That about cover it?"
"Just about. But I mean, it sounds like Red X is way better than the other chiefs. Why? I'm here now, just curious."
Toby sighed. "Fine, no harm in it I guess. Red X ain't like the others at all. He doesn't hide in an office doing nothing all day, the pay is always better. He doesn't clip subordinates randomly just to make a point. He's just smart, effective, and he's fair."
Toby shrugged. "I ain't no moralist. But X has no problem fighting the Bat family himself, and I gotta admit that's pretty brave for such a new guy. Or in general. In fact, he's brave enough to go out looking for them sometimes to show he doesn't care. Fucking Nightwing'd probably shit himself seeing him with how many times X fought them evenly on his own."
Yeah, maybe you're talking to him too.
"No one knows the hell he is, and that's the fun. He knows he's breaking ground and has everyone else scared shitless, he knows we all wanna work for him. That's it. That make sense?"
I nodded. It made perfect sense. Almost too much.
The Light, or Shiva's branch, didn't mind taking control of Gotham's underground through brute force through Red X. They put someone there so competent they nearly made long-time Gotham crime rivals team up to take him down.
If the organization was more upwardly mobile and fair, who cared? They just wanted control, not a bit more money.
This job wasn't hard at all. Patrons of the gambling den came by, showed us a special card and gave us a password, we patted them down for guns or a wire and we let them in. It was actually a pretty relaxed job and didn't seem all that illegal really.
After standing there quietly for about twenty minutes, a shady looking sedan pulled up at the end of the street.
Instinctually I moved for my gun but Toby shook his head. "One of ours."
It wasn't a drive by, it turned out it gave a honk and wanted us to join them.
"Come along kid. You might learn something."
"What about the door?"
"I texted Don, he'll send someone out. I'm a Captain, allowed to do runs like this sometimes."
If he was an officer why did he do grunt work? Maybe he kept watch on the entire street which was Red X territory? Seemed like a pretty important job, made sense for a Captain.
The car was filled with two other goons, both of whom nodded to Toby when he got in the car with me.
"Who's this?" the driver, a beefy man wearing a beanie asked.
"Doug's replacement." Toby said, the other two understood instantly. "What you got for us today?"
The driver pulled off the sidewalk and onto the street, cruising along while speaking. "Jewelers started getting antsy for the kinda job Casey's in the mood for. We're hitting a bank."
Toby spoke quietly. "A bank job. Where?"
"Don't worry, perfect spot in the fourteenth district." the thug in the passenger seat chuckled. "We gotta case the joint first."
"Mm." Toby said quietly.
The daily conversations of a group of criminals was the usual. What business was like, if they saw anything suspicious from other gangs.
None of them talked to me and I was fine with that. After all, the less I talked, the better.
After a quick thirty minute drive through Gotham City, we parked right in front of MC INC Bank.
They talked the whole time we watched it.
"Looks small, but not too small. Just perfect, probably deals in cash too. Alarm might be brand new, but won't matter if we're quick. Probably no more than two guards." the driver muttered. "T. What do you think?"
Toby shrugged. "We should pick a light day. Go in hard, get out. Don't see us getting caught considering the last job we pulled."
"Alright. Let's go." the driver reached for the key.
"Wait." I said, catching everyone by surprise. "Are you sure that's enough?"
The two thugs seated ahead of me looked at each other. "You questioning how I run my jobs kid?"
"You don't know where the guards typically are posted. What alarm system they have. You don't know what the police response is like, you don't even know what the take looks like realistically. You sure without any of that we can rob this bank?"
Everyone in the car looked at each other. I was sure by the end of this conversation they'd either shoot me or actually hear me out.
Toby spoke up first. "Good points all around. What do you think we should do?"
"This isn't the 70s. Dye packs have gotten much more advanced. Not to mention security systems. All we need to do is get someone inside who has an account, make a withdrawal or a deposit to get a look at as much as they can and then the joint's cased. That sound good?"
"Yeah it sounds perfect. But how the fuck do you know all that but we don't?" the driver admitted.
"Well has anyone here actually robbed a bank?" I asked.
Toby shrugged. "Last bank I robbed was in '98."
"I mostly stick up jewelry stores and pawn shops."
"I just got hired last month." the passenger side thug said.
Well there you go.
Toby looked at me. "You can't be older than twenty five. And I ain't heard of you in other crews before. You actually know how to pull a bank job?"
"I just used to watch a lotta TV. Made sense that's all."
They nodded between each other. "Fine." said Toby. "We'll come back another day. What idea you got to case it?"
"Find if we can access someone's old account to get in. A new one could be suspicious. It's not too hard, we just steal someone's wallet or keep stealing 'em until we find out if their card would check out at this bank. Find that person, threaten to kill them unless they give us access to their bank information. Go in, case the bank. Then kill them afterward."
"Kid, you do not sound like you're from the streets." Toby admitted.
"I just read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies back when my parents were still around. Wasn't enough to get me enough money to go to a decent school."
They looked dumb enough to buy this story. Toby still looked a little suspicious of me but still bought it.
"Okay. Say you do muscle a guy into letting you into his bank account. Not too hard I guess." Toby said. "The bank will know what he looks like and what you look like. How do you get in?"
"Simple. Send an email to the bank from the guy saying I'm part of his family a few days earlier to the casing to collect some money and I'll need a fake ID to prove it. With access to the account we could even learn of his emergency contact information to impersonate someone real. I could pretend I'm his son, a broke college kid in need of his dad's money or something, they won't blink an eye. It must happen all the time."
"What do you mean?" one of them asked.
"What college kids asking their parents for money? There isn't anything more common than that and banks getting in the middle. Their only interest is to not get sued if things get sour. If anything they'll see the email and think, whoo boy we gotta stay out of this. Besides, I've got a back up plan if that doesn't work."
Toby blinked, surprised. "Which is?"
"Clip a security guard at this bank and impersonate him to infiltrate the bank and get all the needed data. The next day he doesn't show up to work cause he's dead, we'll have everything we need and already will be robbing the place. I mean, if we really want to be cautious we could even try both."
"The second one sounds much better." admitted Toby.
The other two thugs nodded quietly.
"Yeah way better."
"I like the security guard option more."
Toby spoke plainly. "How in the world did someone as smart as you get broke enough to try henching?"
"Same way most people do. Bad luck and a hard city like Gotham, don't need to remind you three what that's like."
They took a collective nod and that was it.
I was in.
Toby chuckled, nodding towards me. "Kid, you know how I said to keep your mouth shut?"
I nodded. "Yeah?"
"If you keep getting ideas this good. Keep 'em coming."
A/N: There will possibly be lemons in the future? I honestly don't know, nor do I know the pairing. Possibly Wondergirl, or probably one of the villainesses aligned with the Light I have no idea.
I kinda found it interesting how little relevance Nightwing had to Young Justice's plot after Season 2 was over. Mans literally created a stinger plot to infiltrate the Light and then helped save the entire world from the Reach.
At least Zatanna is still in Season 4, but yeah, there's usually only one character from the first season around per episode now with significance.
I don't know, again I wanted this fic to believable and well paced. Thank you all for reading and happy New Year!