Melanie sighed gently as she stepped out of the back door of Deckard's Kitchen and into the silvery drizzle that was quietly soaking Gotham. She looked down at the small pile of creds she held and wondered for the thousandth time whether the trade she had made was worth it. She was poor and alone, having given up her criminal past and her family in exchange for this, but at least she was no longer ashamed to look at herself in the mirror. She smiled a bit sadly to herself and slowed her walk for a moment to glance at her reflection in the window of a shop she was passing. She jolted to a stop when she saw Ten's reflection there as well as her own, she wondered for a second if she was losing her mind then noticed that the reflection of Ten seemed to be readying herself to throw a punch.
Melanie easily dodged the strike and spun out of the way, tripping the over-extended girl who was attacking her. The girl rather slowly rolled to her feet and pulled a card from a pouch. Melanie looked at her critically, the person wearing the suit wasn't a very good fighter, she'd ascertained that based on the punch she'd thrown and her slow recovery. The impostor threw the card, and missed to the side by a wide margin. Melanie grabbed the razor edged playing card out of the air and glared at the girl, "And just who the hell are you?"
"I'm part of the Royal Flush gang. Y-You better give me all your money or you're gonna' get hurt," the girl replied, her voice quavering despite trying to sound tough.
"Sure you are," said Melanie as she took a proper fighting stance. The girl charged at her, fist cocked back to throw a punch. Melanie ducked off to the side to avoid the punch and swung around behind her assailant giving her a light shove which sent her once again to the ground. The girl stood again a bit shakily and renewed her attack. Even through the mask, Melanie could see that the girl was desperate. Easily dodging another clumsily thrown punch, she shoved the girl up against the wall and held her in a hammer lock. "Just give it up would you? You're no match for me in a fight."
The girl didn't say anything in response, but she drew a blade and again rushed at Melanie with a strangled cry. Melanie dodged out of the way and lashed out with a kick which connected with the girl's knee. There was a sickening crack as the joint gave way and a shrill cry from the assailant who then crumpled to the sidewalk, moaning in pain. She started trying to crawl away into a nearby alley and came to a terrified halt as the card she'd thrown earlier flew down and embedded itself into the sidewalk in front of her face.
"Where do you think you're going?" asked Melanie, retrieving the card and glaring at the girl's masked face, "I have some questions that need answering and it looks like you just volunteered." Quickly glancing around to make sure the street was still deserted, Melanie struck down hard at the base of the girl's skull, causing her to go limp. She picked up her luckless assailant and quickly carried her back to her apartment, thankful that she hadn't run into anyone on the way.
Melanie quickly stripped off the girl's costume and tied her to a chair in the middle of her small living area. At a loss for what to do next she took a closer look at the girl's costume. She startled a bit when she realized that it was HER old costume that the girl had been wearing. It must have been stolen, she figured, from the police evidence lockup at some point. It looked like the suit's electronics had been disabled though. She pulled the costume inside out to take a look at the circuitry embedded in the tough fabric. It only took her a few minutes to locate where the problem was, but she didn't think she could fix it with what she had on hand.
She got up suddenly and walked to one of the two doors off of the living area, she hadn't been in Jack's room since he'd been sent back to prison after trying to take over the family business. She steeled herself and opened the door, not sure if she actually expected to find something or if she was just anxious. She waited for a moment, but nothing happened, the room was sparse almost looking as it had never been used. She shrugged to herself, Jack hadn't really spent much time at the apartment. She rifled through the few drawers in the room and quickly found what she was looking for, a small tool kit for electronics repairs. She took the kit and returned to the main room. Her captive still showed no signs of stirring, so she took a seat on the uncomfortable couch and started to work on the suit.
With the tools she'd found, it didn't take too long to get the costume's rather minimal electronic enhancements repaired. It must have been much simpler, she figured, than the suit that Batman used. Batman; she looked down at the suit lying on her lap and for the first time wondered just why she'd felt compelled to bother with repairing it at all. She didn't want to go back to her old life, she was still sure about that. After thinking for a bit she admitted to herself that while it was probably irrational, it bothered that her family's name was being used by someone else. It bothered her because as long as the Royal Flush Gang existed in some form, she didn't feel like she could completely put that part of her life behind her.
She started a bit when she heard a noise. Her captive was beginning to stir. The girl hadn't opened her eyes yet, but she was shaking her head as if to clear it. Melanie stood in front of the girl, arms crossed, and waited for her to wake up. It took another few minutes, but the girl eventually opened her eyes and managed to focus on Melanie. The girl in the chair started and jerked in the chair, her sudden movement wrenching her already injured knee. Melanie covered the girl's mouth before she could scream.
The girl, obviously in pain and very frightened bowed her head and wept. Melanie took her hand away and crouched down to look into the girl's face. "I need you to tell me who you are, and where your friends are hiding. After that I'll bring you to a hospital to get that knee looked at."
"I...I can't!" the girl sobbed, "They'll kill me if I tell!" Melanie sighed in exasperation. The girl was obviously terrified, and based on her behavior last night she didn't know the first thing about fighting or stealing. She took a moment to more closely examine the girl's appearance, she was about Melanie's size, but not nearly as muscular, with pale red hair and grey eyes. Her skin was smooth and her nails showed signs of a recent manicure. The pendant on the leather choker she had on looked very expensive, and the underwear she'd had on under the costume, while bedragled, were all expensive designer labels.
"Let me guess, someone's taken your parents or your grandparents or your siblings or your friends hostage and wants you to steal for them in return for the safe return of your loved ones. Is that it?" The girl shook her head, no. Melanie carefully watched her eyes and decided she was being truthful. Her eyes had gotten a bit wild when she'd mentioned the word hostage though, "Or could it be that you're the hostage?"
The girl's eyes went wide and she shook her head vehemently, "N-no! I..." she was cut off abruptly by the crackle of electricity. Her back arched and her body spasmed. Melanie jumped back in surprise. The electricity subsided after only a few seconds and Melanie quickly reached to check the girl's pulse. She was still alive, but once again unconscious. Melanie examined the girl again for signs of the source of the shock and noticed a small wisp of steam coming from under the choker. A closer examination revealed a complicated mass of wiring just below the surface of the collar and what looked like a small nerve graft cable running up from the collar into the nape of the girl's neck under her hair. She reached once again for the small tool kit she'd retrieved from Jack's room and set to work.
Three hours later Melanie pulled off the loupe she had been using and allowed herself a triumphant smile. The collar now lay on Melanie's bed stand, its power source removed. It had been a nasty piece of work, and Melanie felt proud that she'd managed to remove it, putting the skills she had learned to bypass security systems to good use. It looked like the collar had been designed to sever the girl's head with a small explosive in the event someone tried to forcibly remove it. The small cellular receiver told her that it could likely be remotely detonated as well. The girl, now lying on the bed, had sustained minor burns under the collar where it had shocked her and Melanie had dressed the wound as best she could. She had also wrapped an ice pack around the girl's now swollen knee.
Melanie yawned and stretched while she watched over the girl lying peacefully in her room. She was exhausted, but she felt a satisfaction knowing that she'd managed to put the skills she'd learned during her criminal career to good use. She wondered briefly if this sort of feeling was what kept Batman going. Her last thought before she let sleep take her was that she was thankful she didn't have work the coming evening.