Chapter 4. What more did you want to know?
Daniel ran through the alleyways. He could feel his muscles expanding and contracting on their own, sending waves of pain through his body. His former employer warned him about this; that if he did not take his chemical dosages on a regular basis his body would reject the enhancements, paralyzing him or worse. A particularly severe pang dropped him to his knees, but he forced himself back up and kept running.
And why had he helped Batman, anyway? He racked his brain. He had been getting breakfast nearby, heard the alarm, and just… He shook his head. Everything was so fuzzy… Perhaps it was a side effect from not getting the proper dosage. Yes, that was it. Get the dosage, and everything will be all better. He managed to climb up to his apartment without falling, although he kept losing his grip from the shakes.
He stopped short once he got through the window. "No," he gasped, falling to his knees. Everything was broken, spilled; the chemicals ran uselessly over the floor.
"Tragic, isn't it?" a well- cultivated voice said behind him.
Daniel did not immediately recognize the man that he turned to face, but he looked familiar… "Why?" Daniel croaked. Why was this person trying to kill him?
The man said, "I took the liberty of getting in contact with your former employer. Surely you remember him? After all, he was the one that trained you."
Daniel stared up at his tormentor's face. Powers? Yes, that was it. The one Daniel's employer sent him to free.
Powers knelt down next to him. "This individual informed me that you were not discharged, that you instead left his employ without notice. He also made it clear that if I were to tie up this particular loose end, it would be well worth my while. And well worth your current employer's while, incidentally enough. With you gone, there will no longer be any evidence tying him to either crime."
Daniel felt his muscles start to stiffen up. He was powerless to move, to fight, and the man knew it too.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go and inform Mr. Tan of this new development. I'm sure he'll be quite pleased," the man said, leaving the apartment and shutting the door.
I followed the tracer signal to a building in a part of town that wasn't going to win any Good Housekeeping Awards. One of the windows on the third floor was open. I landed on the wall next to it and cautiously peeked in. Someone had trashed the place pretty good. Black Costume was lying on the floor, shivering. I slid in and walked up to him carefully, trying not to step on anything and staying alert for tricks.
"Broke it all," he said, gasping between words.
"Who did?" I asked, kneeling down and checking his pulse. No way he was faking this. His muscles were all locked up and his heart was about ready to explode.
"Powers. Said he knew…" His voice trailed off.
"Knew what? What did he know?" I said loudly. Please don't pass out on me…
"Tan," I repeated, thinking. "You mean, Mr. Tan?"
He nodded, but it was more like a jerk. "Employer."
"Your employer? He paid you to steal that money?"
I stood up, my mind spinning. "Hang in there, okay? I'm going to get you some help," I said, pulling out my phone to call Commissioner Gordon.
"How…find…me?" he asked.
"I put a tracer on your back," I said, waiting to be put through.
He made a sound like he was choking. It took me a second to realize he was laughing. "Old…trick," he said, closing his eyes and licking his lips.
After a little fumbling, I managed to get Gordon, told her about Mr. Tan, Paxton Powers and the address where we were at. Black costume was trying to say something as I hung up. I crouched so I could hear him better.
"Told Tan…About you," he rasped.
"What about me?" I said, although the sinking feeling in my stomach had a pretty good idea what he was talking about.
"Followed… you," he whispered, almost apologetically.
The sinking feeling dropped even faster. He knew who I was. And now, so did Mr. Tan.
"I gotta go," I said, standing up and taking off out the window.
I heard the sirens pulling up to the building behind me as I flew away.
Paxton Powers snuck out the back fire escape as the paramedics and police came in the front. He had been out in the hall with his ear to Daniel's door. He hadn't heard everything, but understood enough to know that Daniel had given up Tan. Once Powers was a safe distance away from the apartment building, he phoned Tan. He hated telling the sniveling little weasel that Batman was on his tail, but it fit in too nicely with his plans not to. Granted, it wouldn't take Batman and the Gotham City Police long to apprehend Tan, but it certainly gave Powers a more than adequate head start. By the time the authorities started looking in earnest, the trail will have grown cold.
Powers had to bite his lip to keep from laughing as he listened to Tan rant on the other end of the line. Finding him had been a rare stroke of luck. The man worked for one of Wayne-Power's competitors, and had been demoted when the company was restructured. He and his daughter had become so used to the good life that he was willing to do just about anything to keep it, spending money he didn't have and running himself into debt. Desperate, he started embezzling money from the company and selling off as many discarded projects as he could get his hands on. Paxton's careful eye on his competitors came up with Tan's activities and the documents to prove them. Blackmail caused Tan to provide Powers with quite a nice little nest egg while he was in prison. And talking Tan into masterminding that robbery to pay off his debts AND get Powers out of jail at the same time was an additional stroke of genius. Once Tan was out of the way, all the money would be his for the taking.
Powers said something false and soothing to ease Tan's worries before he hung up the phone and walked off into the night.
Dana used the key to enter her house, her mind full of questions. She peeked into her dad's office to let him know she was home and tell him what happened at school, but he wasn't there. She furrowed her brow. It was a little strange, but she just assumed that he had an emergency meeting at work.
She went upstairs to her room and sat down on the bed. Terry was Batman. She couldn't believe it. Terry was Batman. Who else knew? Max knew; the way she rested her hand on his shoulder had been way too familiar.
Then Dana had a horrible thought. What if Terry hadn't been out as Batman all of those times? What if sometimes he was with Max instead? After all, Dana thought, he told her and not me. What does that say about our relationship? She's been helping him, probably every night, while I've been nagging him about not seeing him anymore. Maybe if I had been more understanding… But what difference would it make? Maybe I don't want to be with Terry. Spending all those nights up, wondering if someday he might not come back. I don't know if I could live like that.
The phone rang, interrupting her thoughts.
"Tan residence," Dana said automatically.
"Pack us each a suitcase," Mr. Tan said on the other end of the line.
"Daddy? What's going on?"
"Just do what I say, Dana. We're leaving town," he gruffly, before hanging up.
Dana sat on the bed, stunned. He had sounded so scared; what was going on? She grabbed her suitcase out of her closet and started packing as fast as she could. She heard a horn honking outside a few minutes later, and looked out the window. Mr. Tan's car was parked out front. She slammed the suitcases shut and hauled them out the door. Mr. Tan grabbed them from her as soon as she was outside and threw them in the trunk. He opened the back door and pushed her inside. Matt was inside on the backseat, huddled in a corner with his head down. He had bruises on his arms the same size and shape as fingers.
"Matt? What are you doing here?" Dana asked.
Mr. Tan got in the driver's seat and shut the door. "He's insurance. In case we run into any problems," Mr. Tan said, pulling out into traffic.
Insurance? Dana's eye wandered over to the front seat, and she gasped. Her father had a gun next to him, and he was fingering the trigger with one hand and driving with the other. Her blood ran cold. Insurance in case Batman showed up. How had her father known? Dana looked at his eyes in the rear view mirror, to plead with him, to get Matt out of there. The eyes looking back were not ones she recognized. They were wild, intense, desperate. The words died on her lips.
"Come here, Matt," Dana murmured, pulling him into her arms, trying to comfort him even though she had never been so scared in her life.
I got to the Tan's house just in time to see their car pull away. I said every word Mom would kill me for saying in front of Matt that I could think of. I almost threw some bat-a-rangs to try and take the car out, but I stopped myself just in time. As much as I hated it, there were just too many things that could go wrong. I made a little frustrated noise in my throat and followed them. After a few blocks, I started to get impatient. What's he going to try and do, drive out of town? The cops are sealing off the city, the airport, there's no way… Wait; wait. Didn't Dana say something to me one time about her father buying a hovercraft?
Sure enough, the car turned off on a side street and stopped by a private docking port. There was a hovercraft inside, all powered up and ready to go. I folded up my wings and dove as Mr. Tan opened the door and got out. He whipped around and brought up his right arm. I saw the gun in his hand and broke off, giving him enough time to open the back door and pull out a kid.
"Oh, no," I gasped. It was Matt.
I landed a few dozen feet away from the car and cursed myself. Tan saw me in the side view mirror of the car because I didn't make myself invisible before I dove. Another line filled on the "I was incredibly stupid" list.
"Let him go," I called.
He gave me a superior look and called, "Get the suitcases, Dana," while holding the gun to Matt's head.
Dana got out of the other side of the car slowly and shut the door. She was sweating, and her eyes were wide and frightened. She went around to the back, opened the trunk and got both suitcases out.
"Get inside the hovercraft," Mr. Tan said.
She paused and mouthed, "Do something!" at me, with a desperate look on her face. Like what?! I wanted to scream. He's got Matt!
"NOW!" her father shouted, pressing the gun tighter against Matt's head.
She jumped and hurried a few steps before walking slowly towards the hovercraft door. Mr. Tan followed her, walking backwards, his eyes never leaving me. She walked up the stairs and put the suitcases inside, before turning her head to look at me. Our eyes met, and she looked down at her left foot, then at her father's arm holding the gun. I nodded slightly, to let her know I understood. Her father walked slowly up the steps backwards. As soon as his arm was level with her foot, Dana kicked as hard as she could. Mr. Tan's gun arm flew away from Matt's head, and I threw a bat-a-rang at the same time, knocking the gun from his hand. He tried to turn and run inside, but Dana slammed the hatch control and the door slid shut with a whoosh.
"Dana!" he roared, banging his fist on the door.
I tossed a bat-a-rang and cable. It wound around Mr. Tan's feet and tripped him. He fell to one side and dropped Matt. Matt hit the ground so hard that I winced, but he just jumped back up and took off as fast as he could. I rushed forward and tied Mr. Tan's arms, before he could do any more damage.
"And this time I'm waiting for the cops," I muttered to myself, shoving him down.
Dana had been watching from the cockpit and she opened the door and came out.
"Thanks," I said.
She nodded, rubbing her arms. "Just so you know, I forgive you for all this," she said, meeting my gaze before her voice trailed off.
"But?" I said, although I already knew the answer.
"But this isn't really something I think I can deal with on a daily basis," she said with a sigh.
I nodded. "I understand."
I wasn't that surprised. I guess that took the sting out of it a little bit.
Matt came running up from the other side of the hangar. "You remember me?" he said eagerly, jumping up and down.
I pretended like I was thinking. "I've saved you before, haven't I?" I asked.
"Yeah! From Stalker!"
"You're a lot of trouble for one little kid," I said, ruffling his hair.
"I could say the same thing about someone else I know," Dana said, looking at me.
I could hear the sirens coming up the street, so I took off and left the three of them there.
Wayne called me a few hours later. "I've been watching the news. Looks like you had a busy day," he said.
"Yeah. But it was worth it."
"How's your brother?"
"He's fine. Mom was thrilled to get him back," I said.
"I can imagine."
"Can't figure out why. All he's been doing is going on about how great Batman is," I complained, trying not to laugh.
"And you're enjoying it," Wayne said, mildly.
Wayne made a little amused sound and said, "I got in touch with Gordon. Tan admitted to hiring Daniel."
"Daniel? That his name?"
"Yes. The woman I spoke to at the hospital said they've never seen anything quite like him."
"They've never seen a splicer before?" I said, a little sarcastically.
"That wasn't the unusual part," he said, wryly.
"They took a sample of the DNA implanted in Daniel and ran it through the database to try and find the species. The computer was unable to identify it."
Not possible. That database has every species ever documented. "A glitch?"
"That's what the technician thought, until he looked at the sequence under a microscope. Whoever created it took fragments from several different species and pieced them together so precisely that the computer didn't see the cuts."
"Whoa," I said, impressed.
"Mmm. I can't think of anyone here in Gotham with that kind of technological capability."
I let that sink in for a minute. Cutting edge technology… "But if the technology was so perfect, what was with all those chemicals?" I asked.
"Daniel's body was rejecting the implants," Wayne said dryly.
I saw Daniel in the back of my mind, doubled over, and I shuddered. "At the school, Daniel told me something kind of odd."
"He said something about only remembering what he was paid to do."
"And he wasn't taunting you," Wayne said, doubtfully.
"I don't think so. He sounded just as creeped out about it as I feel."
"Someone was using him." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yeah. I think so."
Wayne sighed. "This is a bit outside my area of expertise. Hopefully Daniel will be able to tell us more when he wakes up."
More like if he wakes up. "Does the city have enough to make a case without him?" I asked.
"Yes. Tan's admission connects him to the robbery and the jailbreak. Add to that the kidnapping of your brother, and he's going behind bars for a long, long time."
I nodded. "Any news on Powers?"
"Not a word. He gained remote access to the accounts Tan set up and emptied them before disappearing. But I know a few places." Wayne paused. "I'm leaving town for a few weeks," he said, cautiously.
"That's okay. Max and I can handle it," I said, nonchalantly.
There was a long pause. I couldn't tell if that wasn't the answer he wanted, or if he just didn't have anything else to say. Finally he said, "I'll call you when I get back." Then he hung up the phone.
All the days bled together for Daniel. He just lay there on his back, unable to move, hooked up to machines, listening to the doctors all around him. Someone told him in a singsong voice that once the DNA finished breaking down and was flushed out of his system, he would be alllll betterrrrr. He thought wryly that maybe they should be giving him some more fluids.
His mind was still a blank. With no orders to fill it and nothing else to do but lie there while his muscles screamed in pain, he became depressed. He knew he was having nightmares, screaming in his sleep. He was sure they were memories, but they slipped away as soon as he woke up. And there was nothing anybody could do to help him. If this isn't hell, Daniel thought to himself, I don't know what is.
The doctor assigned to Daniel showed up precisely at seven in the morning, the same as she did every day. "Any change?"
"He was yelling a lot more than usual," the orderly said, handing the doctor Daniel's chart.
"You didn't go check on him?" she said, glancing up from the sentence she had been reading.
He shrugged. "I checked the stats. They all looked fine."
"I suppose I'll have to look in on him before I start my rounds." She walked briskly down the hall and peeked in.
Daniel was lying on the bed, same as always. Then his hand came up and gave her a slight wave. She nearly dropped the chart.
"Orderly!" she yelled. She started unhooking the machines.
The orderly came rushing in, stared at Daniel, and started helping the doctor.
"Can I have something to eat?" Daniel rasped.
"Of course," she said, waving the orderly off to go get something. "Can you move?" she continued, sitting down next to the bed.
He wrapped his arms around the bed rails and pulled himself into a sitting position, giving a little bow when he was through. The orderly came back with something from the cafeteria. Daniel took a bite, gagged on the food, and made a face.
"Not to your liking?" the doctor asked.
"Well, I was hoping for four star service and a soothing ambiance, but you get what you pay for," he said jokingly.
The doctor watched as he polished off his plate. "I must say, Daniel, this turnaround is quite surprising."
"Peter," he said, licking off his fork.
"I beg your pardon?" she asked.
"My name's Peter. Peter Parker," he said, setting the fork down on his plate. Otherwise known as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, he thought to himself.
One more chapter! And one more twist!