Disclaimer: All the characters belong to the cartoon makers and the comic books. I've just misappropriated them for a while. Don't sue. As always, I claim no knowledge of anything medical or technical, and I'll apologize now for any inconsistencies.
Note: This WILL BE a crossover, but it won't be obvious until the very end. ONLY BATMAN BEYOND KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED! So don't freak out.
Flames… Pretty flames… Or there will be, once you send them. Review little box on the bottom. sendParallel Lines
"You're not doing this again. Not this time," Dana insisted, slamming the front door to her house and standing in front of it so I couldn't get out.
"Dana? Is everything all right?" Mr. Tan asked, poking his head out of his office.
"Fine, Dad. Terry and I just have some things we need to discuss," she said, glaring at me.
Mr. Tan gave me that same glare before sliding silently back to his office. Guess I know now where she gets it from. I stuck my hand behind Dana's right shoulder and tried to edge her out of the way, but she wouldn't budge. I sighed. Why aren't my problems as easy to solve as Batman's? A bat-a-rang here, a well placed kick there, and they're all dressed up and ready for the cops. The only difference is, those problems want to slag you, and Dana doesn't. Well, maybe she does.
"Look, it's not like I have a choice," I started.
"Yes, you do have a choice," she said, pressing herself flatter against the door.
"Mr. Wayne…" I started, holding up the phone to her like if I waved it just right she might vanish.
"Mr. Wayne can go slag himself," she snapped.
Whoa. I think I took a step back. My eyes flicked around looking for a quick exit. Then I realized I was actually thinking about diving out a window to get away from Dana. I wonder what she would do if I tried. I got a mental picture of her chasing me down the street in her little blue dress and heels, screaming and waving a thousand dollar statue over her head. Try explaining that one. Max and the twip would never let me live it down.
"One night, Terry. You owe yourself that much," Dana said, trying to make her voice compassionate, even though she was still mad. I guess she saw the thinking about running part.
"I can't," I said, picking up my bag.
"Then explain it to me. Explain what's so important that you haven't had a night off here since working for Mr. Wayne. You owe me that much," she said, the steel coming back into her voice a little bit.
"Dana, if I knew what to say to make you understand, believe me, I would," I said, leaning down just enough so our eyes met.
She made a little snarl noise and shook her head. "Fine," she said, moving away from the door. I reached for the handle. "But if you leave, you're not coming back," she continued. I turned around and looked at her. She was standing in the foyer, half turned, her arms crossed. "I mean it this time, Terry. Either you explain this to me, or we're through."
A hundred things to say flashed through my head, and none of them seemed right. I was tired. And angry. At me, at Dana, at Wayne, at… at everything. Then one thought spoke up past all the others clamoring around inside my head. She deserves better than this. I fixed on it, turned it over in my head. She does. Batman wasn't meant to have a personal life, not when so much was at stake. Not when her life was at stake. Wayne was right. As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I swallowed, and dragged all the anger and indifference I had in me up to the surface.
"Fine. I was running out of good excuses anyway," I said coldly.
I opened the door and walked out without looking back. She didn't come after me. I was half hoping she would. A wind came up, and I pulled my coat a little tighter. I thought I had done some tough stuff as Batman. I was wrong. This was by far the toughest thing I'd ever done.
Ace came up to sniff my hand as I went into the bat-cave. I gave him a quick pat on the head. Wayne was in front of the computer. Humph, didn't even turn around. Typical. I changed into the bat-suit.
"You're late," he said. I dropped my stuff on the floor. He turned around in his chair, the master on his throne. "What happened?" he asked.
"I was with Dana," I said shortly. He nodded, in that all knowing way that made me wish this thing shot laser death rays out of the eye sockets.
"You two had another fight?" he asked, calmly.
I felt my hands balling up into fists. I forced them to relax. "What did you want to see me about?" I said, fighting for a normal tone.
"It's not wise to fight crime with other things on your mind," he said, with a slight reprimand in his voice. Well, if you were worried about me having other things on my mind, then why am I here?
"I'm fine," I snapped.
His eyebrow went up. I pushed around him and leaned forward to look at the screen. Calls me down here like it's some emergency, then strings me along like I have nothing better to do… I slammed my hands palms down on the edge of the computer keyboard harder than I meant to. I glanced back at him. He folded his hands around the top of his cane and waited.
"We broke up. I'm here. What do you want?" I said impatiently.
He leaned forward slightly. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked, carefully.
"No," I said, curtly.
He studied me for a second, then slowly reached forward and brought up a security alert. "The security cameras at Wayne-Powers chemical division stopped working. It may just be a glitch for that sector, but it doesn't feel right."
I almost snorted. Protecting your own interests, Bruce? "I'll go check it out," I said instead, walking towards the bat-wing.
"Be careful. Stay alert," he said, eyes never leaving the screen.
"Since when am I ever anything else?" I said, sounding as cocky as possible. I could almost hear his eyes rolling up in his head. Good. At least I'm not the only one who's annoyed. I slid into the seat of the bat-wing and closed the hatch. Actually, beating up bad guys sounds good. Beating up bad guys sounds great. Anything to get my mind off… well, you know.
I slid inside Wayne-Powers and perched on the wall. Everything looked okay… I glanced to where the camera was. Whoa.
"You getting this?" I whispered.
It looked like someone had taken the camera in one hand and squeezed it like Matt's old Play Clay. "Aside from the camera getting slagged, you'd never even know anybody was here," I muttered.
Wayne made a little noise.
I slipped off the wall to take a closer look at one of the cabinets. It was open.
"Someone got the keypad. Did a good job, too," I said softly.
I thought I heard a soft scrape coming from somewhere. I took a quick look around. Didn't see anything. I checked the other cabinets around me. They were sealed up tight. I looked inside the cabinet. Everything was lined up in little rows, some of which were obviously missing a bottle or two. I started to get frustrated. Just a bunch of random chemicals; why would anyone… Then one of the names caught my eye.
"Wait. Isn't this used in anti-psychotics?" I said, holding up the bottle.
"Yes," Wayne answered, a smile in his voice. One bat-treat for me. "And the remaining chemicals are used to combat side effects in DNA recombination procedures," he finished.
I let that sink in. "Someone's got a psycho splicer on their hands," I said, grimly.
"That's what it looks like," he confirmed.
I heard the scraping noise again. I stood still, and put the bottle back slowly.
"What's the matter?" Wayne asked.
"I don't think I'm alone," I said, a second before my head slammed into the front of the cabinet.
I threw my left elbow back as hard as I could. The only answer I got was a hiss and another slam into the cabinet. I swung my head back and connected with something hard, and stuck my foot behind its leg as it took a step back. The whatever-it-was fell, crashing into a stool on its way down. It was human from the shape, dressed all in black. Maybe he's just a hired thug. I swung my right hand down in a punch, but it reached up with a fist and caught it. I pushed, but the fist held. Jeez, this guy's strong. Then his foot came out and caught me in the stomach. My breath came out in a whoosh. Then he used his foot and my arm to throw me over his head. I landed shoulders first on the floor, almost breaking my neck, and slid on my back into the wall. He was instantly on his feet, and jumped halfway across the room to land at my feet. Okay, definitely not human. I forced myself to my feet quickly, trying to ignore the burning in my lungs. We stared at each other for a few seconds. He cocked his head at me, like Ace when he was thinking. Then his left foot came up in a roundhouse kick that slammed me down into a steel table and knocked me out cold.
I saw spots when I woke up, spots that formed into the lights of the bat-cave. Wayne was standing over me. I tried to sit up. Pain shot across the fronts of my ribs. Okay, not a good idea. Also not what I had in mind when I went out tonight.
"Are you having trouble focusing?" Wayne asked.
"No, but my ribs really hurt."
He poked at the spots on my ribs already starting to turn yellow. I gasped.
"You may need an x-ray," he said.
"I'll be fine," I muttered, sliding off the bench. Pain shot through my ribs and back. I tried to stand up straight, and doubled over, struggling for air.
"That's it, you're going to the hospital," Wayne said, tucking my arm over his shoulder. He helped me into my street clothes and up to the car.
Shaking hands mixed the chemicals. The human-like creature was getting antsy. The doubt was setting in, the guilt. Poor kid. If only he hadn't gotten in the way… An image tried to force its way to the front of his mind, a broken body gasping on the floor…
"No!" he yelled, shoving that picture away. He grabbed at the bottle and drank the contents in one gulp. He sat, waiting for it to take effect.
"I'm Daniel. I'm Daniel," he repeated, over and over and over as he waited for the pain to subside. He licked the last drops off his lips and smiled. Ah, that was better. Those feelings, what were they called? Guilt? Weakness? Yes, they were all gone now.
"Are you restocked?" Daniel's employer asked from the doorway.
"Yes. The fact that you have taken this little side effect in stride is much appreciated," he answered.
"Well, nothing worth its weight in gold comes without a few strings attached," the employer smiled. Daniel did not return the smile, but nodded gracefully. The employer sat down. "How did you and Batman get along?"
"Better than expected. I believe we are ready to proceed, with your permission."
The employer's smile broadened. "By all means, Mr. Daniel. By all means."
Next chapter will be up as soon as I revise it. Later today or tomorrow, maybe.