Disclaimer: I do not own Batman Beyond; it belongs to its creators. I gain nothing but a writing outlet and writing/editing experience.

Summary: Terry could have just as easily received Bruce's spliced X instead of Y; if so, would it have all started with Matt instead? But the world, particularly Gotham, needed a Batman again. The Jokerz overran the streets, business were destroying the world. Pride and avarice were destroying Gotham, and Gotham needed its symbol of hope and justice again.

A/N: The next chapter might take a while, hopefully not months but depression is a fickle mistress so who's to say? Thanks to those who have continued to read this story, and put this on alert or favorite ~ with love, depressedchildren

Chapter 38: Rats & Cobras part 2

Maybe it was Bat instinct or just intuition from the times he fostered flight risks, but Dick knew he needed to be at that restaurant earlier than the suggested time. Or maybe it was just his own anxiety about Terri meeting her stalker. What the hell was she thinking?

Dick parked in a nearby ramp a few minutes before eight. By the time he got to Rhino's, it was 8:01. There was a kid (young man, really) pacing the front of the restaurant but otherwise no one else was waiting. Dick went inside and saw numerous teens and young families, but no sign of his ward. Maybe his instincts were off?

He left the restaurant with his arms crossed over his chest and his forehead scrunched. No, something didn't feel right. He pulled out his phone and dialed Terri's number. After a few seconds he heard it begin to ring and his stomach dropped. No…No. No! This couldn't be happening again.

Dick followed the ringing down an alley next to the restaurant, all the while chanting no over and over again. A grey coat and white clutch were abandoned among the garbage. Dick picked the coat up and found Terri's phone. He felt sick.

Dick called the GCPD as he stared at the abduction site. How the fuck did this happen, yet again!? Growling in frustration, he punched at the wall in front of him.

"911, what is your emergency?" an operator asked.

"I'd like to report an abduction at Rhino's on level 46."

"A patrol car is being sent your way."

"Patch me through to Commissioner Gordon," Dick ordered.

"Excuse me, but you can't just—"

"She and I go way back, so just patch me through." His words were practically a snarl.

"I'm afraid I cannot do that, sir, but please wait with me until the patrol car to arrives."

Dick vocalized his frustration but began moving back toward the alley mouth as he tried to pay attention to the crime scene. His panic had compromised some of the scene, but he could still pick up Terri and presumably Dana's foot prints. There also appeared to be animal tracks, perhaps rats but they were far too big.

"They were running from something," he said out loud and the operator gave a hum. As Dick got closer to the mouth of the alley there was less grime for footprints to be captured, but he did find two white flowers. "There are two flowers near the mouth with notes. They look like a cross between a carnation and a rose. One was clearly picked up and then dropped."

"Please do not tamper with the crime scene, sir," the operator drawled. "And leave the investigating to the cops."

Dick felt the muscle under his eye twitch. He bit back a retort about him having more experience on the force than this twip, but he took a calming breath. Dick left the alley and stood at the front of the restaurant again. The kid who had been pacing was gone at this point—perhaps he went inside or just left. Dick was practically trembling in his anger and anxiety, the only thing that kept him in his place was the knowledge that the Jokerz weren't behind this. That was at least one small mercy. Still that patrol car better hurry up so he can call Babs.

The old man glared at the Bat Cave monitor. One of the batbots lost its arm fighting dregs in a simple B&E at an electronic store. He saw in the video that the kids, because those were clearly teenagers, slapped some sort of patch onto their arms before bulking up. It was reminiscent of Venom, but on a less extreme level.

Stupid old man, you should have worked on the joints more, he chastised himself. He also had to work on the controls from his end. It was clunky still and the software didn't respond as quickly as he had hoped. Still, the bot had kept the kids from leaving with anything of value. He recalled the bot after it picked up its detached arm.

This experiment at least showed Terri was onto something. He'd need one of the patches to know for certain, but it seemed Venom was the new street drug for athletes.

The old man went over to the curtained off area that held the other bots. He needed to work on their design too—make them closer to Terri's build so they could cover for her better. He'd need some sort of alloy that was more malleable but equally sturdy, perhaps something alien? He started to make notes on his blueprints for the bots. He should also consider an AI to help with the controls, but what if that got compromised?

He was contemplating this when the Cave entrance opened and the bot returned. The old man shook his head when he saw the damage up close. Untrained kids on Venom had wrecked months of work. He sighed heavily.

He was about to begin repairs when a call came through the computer. Barbra? The old man hurried over to his chair and answered the call.

"Bruce," she greeted tiredly.

"Barbra," he returned the greeting.

"You need to teach your apprentice to not be so reckless," she drawled. The old man raised an eyebrow but knew the woman would elaborate if he waited. "Apparently, she set up a double date with some stalker and instead got both her and her friend Dana kidnaped by the group that leaves flowers behind at the abduction sites."

"What?!" Terri wouldn't actually do that?! She wouldn't risk her friend like that.

Barbra sighed heavily, "The kid and her friends stopped by my office with some evidence. One of the girls, Dana, was being targeted by the kidnappers. Apparently they've been stalking her."

The old man set aside his questions on what other evidence could have been shared with Barbra and instead focused on matter at hand. "Are you sure they were taken by the kidnappers and not her stalker?"

"CCTV shows the girls went into an alley by the restaurant—clearly lured by the flowers."

"But they know that's a calling card." This didn't make sense unless—"she took the bait on purpose to stop the kidnappers."

"That's what I'm thinking as well, especially since she asked if Dana would actually be safe if they left it in our hands," Barbra said this in an unimpressed manner. "She's too reckless, Bruce. This is like Jason."

The old man winced and looked down at his lap. He couldn't regret the past, he had to look ahead and try to save Terri. He coughed. "I've been analyzing the toxic waste residue on the flower and it appears to be from a long abandoned project of a rival company. They had multiple dumping sites and my records should have a breakdown of the different chemicals used. I need another sample to pinpoint the different chemical components, but—"

"I understand, Bruce," Barbra interrupted and the old man took a breath. He hadn't realized he'd been almost rambling. "I'll stop by the manor in a few."

The old man swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat. "Good."

"See you soon, Bruce." He hummed and disconnected the call. Bruce dropped his head forward and covered his face. What the hell was Terri doing?

Terri kept track of the various tunnels they went through and stairs they climbed down. It was almost a labyrinth but they eventually arrived at a suspended circular platform that was connected by piping to the rest of the underground. There was a veritable lake of toxic waste below the platform and it gave an eerie glow to the place.

The circular platform had stacks of boxes and shelves that were all filled with various things—mostly junk. There was a couch in the center that appeared to be under an overhead emergency light. Terri craned her neck back and caught it. It was near a manhole but hopelessly far away.

The ratboy set Dana down on green carpet—or perhaps that was astro-turf?

"Come over here Terri," he said to her, and Terri tensed slightly before sitting at the far end of the couch instead of where he gestured her to sit. There was a dampness to the couch that made Terri want to shudder. How much mold was in this thing? "Don't be shy, Terri, I just want to fix your shoulder." He had a decade old first aid kit off to the side.

"I can clean it myself," she whispered, and the spliced boy frowned but handed her the kit. There were some peroxide wipes so she quickly tore that open. They were all dry—of course a decade old kit would have dry wipes. She tried her best to clean her bleeding shoulder and wondered if she'd need a rabies shot when they got out of here. There were still some clean gauze bandages so she added that instead and taped it down. The tape was a bit tacky and likely would fall off within the hour. The ratboy was staring at her expectantly. "Thank you," Terri mumbled and he smiled brightly.

"Of course. You weren't supposed to be hurt, but my friends are protective of me," he said while looking toward the rats.

"So, you know our names," Terri said as she gestured between herself and Dana. There were rats of varying sizes all around them and it set her on edge.

"Patrick," he introduced himself with another smile.

Terri swallowed and tried to look around her. "You have quite the collection," she commented and stood up to examine a nearby shelf.

"Yeah," Patrick said happily as he hopped off the couch. "I collect the things nobody wants. The forgotten things," he said that almost fondly.

"I should check on Dana," Terri said to distract herself and to get away from Patrick. She kneeled next to Dana and gently shook her shoulder. No response. Terri checked her breathing and then her skull for any bumps or blood.

"What's wrong?" Patrick asked

"She hit her head when she tripped."

"Oh that happens a lot, she'll wake up by morning."

"And what if there's internal bleeding?" Terri snapped, and Patrick rose up from his stooped position.

"That's never happened before. She'll be fine," he insisted. "You should get some rest too," he suggested after a beat, and Terri looked around her at the various rats.

"I'm good for now," she said tersely. Patrick frowned but eventually moved over to one of his giant rats and began to pet it like it was a dog. Terri wrapped her arms around herself and looked at the assorted junk. She began to pick her way through the haphazard rows.

"Don't go too far," Patrick warned her, and she just nodded.

Clown cars, baseball bats, hockey sticks, stuffed animals, kid's meal toys from fast food places, figurines. It was a genuine assortment of forgotten things.

Terri cocked her head to one side as she passed a shelf. There had been a glint of something on one of the shelves. It must have been metal or glass to reflect what faint light was in here, so she reached out for it. A normal sized (but still big) rat lunged at her hand and she jerked away. She nearly tripped over a box of knick-knacks but caught herself. The rat gone, she retrieved the object. It was a dull metallic bat—a batarang. Not one of hers but an older one.

"That shelf has most of the things I've found related to Batman." Patrick said from behind her. She had heard him coming so didn't startle.

"How did you find this? It must be from his original suit,"

"The new Batman's weapons tend to come back to him or blow up, so you can't find too many of those, but the original one left lots of his tools around. The Robins too. Some people used to collect them, but then they eventually would throw them away."

Patrick shifted uneasily. "Terri, you don't actually know Batman do you? He's not going to try and find you, is he?"

Terri set the weapon down and looked back toward the boy. "No, but my guardian and boss will."

Patrick frowned for a moment but then shook his head. "They didn't appreciate you, they didn't understand all the pressure they were putting on you, so why would you want them to find you?" he asked.

"Because I have a brother out there and I'm all he has left," Terri reasoned quietly.

"So!? He just puts more pressure on you. Why would you want to go back to that life? Where everyone is expecting so much from you and wearing you down?"

Terri could tell he was getting agitated and knew that would not help matters. Terri just looked back to the Batman shelf. "I can't believe anyone would toss these?" she commented.

Patrick immediately cheered up. "Right?!"

He pulled out one of Robin's projectiles and Terri tensed. It had a series of small circles that made up a larger circle—LED lights embedded within like a digital alarm clock—that would light up red. That was an explosive projectile. Terri continued to panic until she saw several wires peeking out from a chipped edge of the projectile. It likely was out of juice and so wouldn't be triggered by rough handling.

Terri and Patrick sifted through the various Batman items and he lamented how one thing or another didn't work or was broken irreparably. Like a grappling hook gun—the trigger was stuck in a depressed position and the wire within was rusted. Or how there was a ripped domino mask and a broken bo-staff with the Robin insignia. There was even a chipped off Kevlar spike from one of Batman's old gloves. Terri couldn't imagine wearing a full Kevlar suit.

"This is a really impressive collection," Terri repeated after they had gone through the whole shelf. They had even begun to bring the pieces back to the center of the platform so they could examine them in better light.

Patrick preened again before stifling a yawn. "Are you sure you don't want to rest? You can have the couch," he offered, and Terri shook her head. He frowned and narrowed his gaze slightly. "My friends won't let you leave this area," he said almost ominously, so Terri just nodded.

Patrick eventually went to lay down on the couch, and Terri quietly picked her way around the inner shelves—these appeared to have more of the creature comfort or utility items. She felt Patrick's eyes on her as she carefully examined each shelf—every now and then she'd pick up a random toy and comment on how she used to have one of these just to make it seem like she wasn't planning something.

After a while, Patrick fell asleep and Terri retraced her steps to find the various useful times she had spotted while waiting for Patrick to fall asleep. There was some WD40, pliers, screwdrivers, springs, and the like that she quietly picked off the shelves and brought back to the Bat gadgets. So long as Terri didn't leave the central area of the platform, the rats left her alone and Patrick was none the wiser.

Pushing past her fatigue and the persistent ache in her shoulder, Terri got to work on fixing what she could. She knew how to pry open the explosive projectiles, even if the Robin model was a bit different. The three in this collection all had the combustion compartment intact, but she only worked on those that had not been triggered yet. Most of the explosives were triggered when the tip was depressed into a surface—that compressed a piston (of sorts) inside the batarang that would then puncture the combustion compartment. From there an electrical shock would go through the piston and ignite the combustible fuel. With how long these had been down here, she imagined the fuse would either be very short or a dud.

It was meticulous and fine detailed work. Her eyes strained in the dim light to reconnect wires and not light the fuse by accident. By the time she was done, her back ached from stooping over the work, but two of the Robin devices were finished. She gingerly set them down on a surface a bit away.

Terri then got started on the grappling hook gun. It was trickier to pry open the exterior of the gun, but once she had, she found the busted spring that kept the trigger depressed. She carefully did what she could to repair that mechanism while oiling the cable coiled within the gun. She guessed there was maybe twenty or thirty feet of cable. She looked back up at the manhole by the emergency light in the ceiling. That was probably close to forty feet away. She glared and looked around for how they might cover the gap. There were some lower hanging pipes maybe thirty feet up.

It would be risky. Terri ran her hands through her hair and consequently smeared the grease and oil from working on the grappling gun through her hair.

Her plans would mean nothing if she couldn't throw the explosives. She picked up a non-explosive Robin projectile and tested the weight. Its balance was different but she practiced catching it a few times. The suit helped her with her aim and the force behind the throw, so she was going to take this slow.

She found a cushion and set it up as a target. She looked back at Patrick but he was still asleep. Terri practiced the arm motions several times before she let the first projectile loose. It clattered off to the side. Patrick started but fell back to sleep quickly. Terri picked up another one and tried again. She was closer this time. And so Terri repeated the actions again and again with each projectile that made it onto the cushion.

Terri was starting to feel bone tired when the rats, who had been sleeping in shifts, started to rouse. Terri quietly moved the various weapons to an empty shelf and returned the other items to their respective shelves. If these rats' internal clocks were waking them up, then surely Patrick would wake up soon too (if only because of increased rat activity).

Terri stifled a yawn and moved closer to Dana. She could see Patrick was starting to wake, and he would be suspicious of her if she was still awake. So, Terri laid down beside Dana—her back thankful for the firm cool cement. Terri closed her eyes and fought against sleep as she listened to what was around her.

The couch's springs creaked as Patrick got up. She heard him padding up the stairs behind the couch before they got more distant. Terri chided herself for relaxing, especially when she heard his feet on the stairs once more a couple minutes later. She heard the couch creak again as he sat back down, and she could feel his gaze on them. Terri tried to even out her breathing but she was too conscious of Patrick's presence. In the end, it was almost meditative—if not for the anxiety being watched inspired.

Terri didn't know how long it had been, but Dana's breathing began to change and she groaned. "Is this a dream…" she began before gasping. "Ter?! Ter, are you okay?" She was shaking her arm and there was no way she could feign sleeping through that.

"It's okay, she's just resting," Patrick said and Dana whirled around with another gasp.

"What?! Who are you?!" she nearly screamed.

Terri groaned and let her eyes flutter open as she sat up. "Dana?" she asked with a yawn. Dana yelped after having turned around to see more rats. She then quickly crouched next to Terri and held her arms. Terri's sight was a little bleary but she could still make out Patrick sitting with his knees to his chest and an arm full of flowers. There were was a veritable carpet of flowers around where Dana had been sleeping. So that was what he had been doing.

"Terri, what's going on? Where are we? Are you okay?!" she asked hurriedly.

"She's fine," Patrick said, and Dana tensed while looking over at him. "And you're in my world." Patrick was standing at this point and held his arms open to gesture at everything around them while the flowers fell to the green carpet.

"What?" Dana began in confusion so Terri cleared her throat like it was dry from sleep.

"We're with Patrick in his home with his friends," Terri said and looked pointedly toward the rats and then Patrick. Dana looked confused before she took in the rats once more. She swallowed and nodded slowly.

"Oh," she said and slowly stood up. Terri followed suit.

"So you live here?" Dana asked cautiously, and Patrick nodded. He took off his backpack and opened it.

"I collect things no one wants. You could say I'm sort of a packrat," he joked as he retrieved the lava a guy from that meta trio Terri had fought. She shifted slightly and fought the urge to touch her burn. He then grabbed a small circular container and held it out to them. As he opened the lid, a cockroach crawled out. "Would you like any jellybeans, Dana? Terri?"

Dana shook her head and pulled back. Terri looked around them and ignored how Patrick threw a jellybean to one of the rats and it pounced—her shoulder throbbed at the memory of its teeth.

"How do you know our names?" Dana asked after moment and Patrick smiled.

"I know all about you, that's why I brought you both here." He was probably smiling again. Terri moved away from them and examined a shelf that was next to several hockey sticks and baseball bats. "So you can always be appreciated, Dana. And so you don't have to be spread so thin, Terri. I know it gets to you," Patrick said.

Neither girl knew what to say to that, but Patrick didn't seem to care. He began playing fetch with the rats, which let Dana and Terri explore. Terri gestured Dana to come over toward her. Patrick watched them with his head cocked to one side, but made no attempt to stop them.

"Patrick has a really impressive collection," Terri began in as calm a voice as she could manage. Dana frowned and wrapped her arms around herself.

"Ter, what happened to your shoulder?"

"Did you ever watch that retro movie Princess Bride," Terri asked in part to deflect. Patrick frowned in confusion, but Dana nodded slowly with her eyes darting to the large rats. "Well, I was like Wesley in the Fire Swamp."

Dana gasped and covered her mouth with her hands.

"I never heard of that movie," Patrick spoke up. His eyes were narrowed at them like he suspected something.

"It's a classic," Terri offered with a smile.

"And what's this about a Fire Swamp?" He asked as he began to approach them.

"The two main characters are fleeing an enemy and go into a dangerous swamp," Dana replied nervously.

Patrick was frowning. "And…?" he pressed with his rats backing him up. Did he think they were plotting?

"They have to overcome quicksand, fire, ROUSes," Terri replied like it was no big deal.

"And what does that mean?" Patrick asked almost angrily.

"Rodents of Unusual Size," Dana blurted out. "Wesley has to fight one off and it bites his shoulder, there's really nothing else to it!"

Patrick blinked. "Oh. That was an accident; my friends didn't mean to hurt you, Terri."

"I know Patrick," Terri said in a placating fashion. He shifted awkwardly and then went back to playing fetch with his rats.

Dana's arms were trembling slightly. "How can you be so calm?" Dana whispered as she turned toward a shelf of figurines.

"Because I have a plan, and if we act strange he'll suspect something. Now banter," Terri whispered back.

Dana crossed her arms over her chest. "You realize I'm Princess Buttercup in that analogy," Dana groused. "Are you trying to say I'm a damsel in distress?"

"What?! I'd never say that," Terri said dramatically and with clear sarcasm.

"Hey!" Dana whacked her arm in protest. "Not all of us have a bunch of self-defense training." Terri laughed a little and Dana turned away from her with her arms crossed. "Besides, I didn't see you doing much more than me!"

Patrick was watching them with his head tilted to one side. It was like he was trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

"Well, you were giving me crap for being saved by Batman, so I decided to return the favor. Being a damsel in distress is demeaning," Terri retorted.

Dana sighed, "Fine. I won't make any more comments about Batman saving you."

"Is being rescued really so bad?" Patrick asked from his side of the platform. Both girls looked to each other before Terri tried to articulate the problem with it.

"More like the damsel in distress trope makes it seem like the girl has no power or agency. Plus, if Batman saves a 'pretty and young' woman then they start thinking he's interested in her." Terri scoffed and shook her head.

Patrick frowned for a moment before he turned back to playing with his rats. With his back turned to them, Terri picked up a baseball bat and moved it closer to the repaired bat gadgets. Terri then feigned examining a figurine of Green Lantern. Dana frowned in confusion before her eyes alighted on the different weapons Terri was starting to gather.

"Um…Patrick," Dana began as she moved back toward him. She rubbed her arms like she was cold.

"Oh, is it cold?" He asked. "I can make a fire, just wait a moment."

"That would be great, thanks," Dana said with a disarming smile. The promised fire turned out to be a barrel fire. Terri was able to smuggle a few more items nearer the rest of the gadgets and hide them by the time Patrick was done building the fire. Dana smiled appreciatively as she warmed her hands over it.

"So, you've been living underground all this time?" Dana asked after a while. Patrick was feeding his rats near the barrel fire but paused.

"People would tease me, call me Ratboy. I didn't like it," Patrick explained while looking away dejectedly.

He was teased, so likely this wasn't a splicing thing. He probably had some growth defect or mutation—something that was out of his control. Terri almost felt sympathetic until she remembered that he had kidnapped multiple girls and they were all missing. In fact, none of them were in here which would mean…Terri swallowed back her nausea. She just hoped she wouldn't find bones among the junk.

"Sometimes friends can be cruel," Dana consented as she moved toward a box filled with toys. She picked up a small toy car that might have been a version of the Batmobile.

"I found new friends. They don't make fun of me," Patrick said as he pet one of the rats which practically rubbed up against him like a cat would. Terri repressed a shudder.

Perhaps sensing the awkwardness that had settled over them, Patrick perked and made a beckoning gesture. Terri and Dana approached after setting down the toys they had picked up in boredom or to pull attention away from the accumulating arsenal.

"Come here, I want to show you two something," he said almost excitedly as he made another beckoning motion and back toward the stairs behind the couch. The rats were quick to form behind the girls and push them ahead. Dana and Terri exchanged a look before following after. He went through one circular opening and held out his hand for them since there was a step down from the tunnel, but they both made it just fine. He then hurried down a ramp toward a patch of grass.

Terri had a sickening thought. What if there weren't bones because the bodies had been used as fertilizer? Terri stared at the garden bed and tried to keep bile down. There was no way to know but it made so much sense.

"These hybrids can grow without sun. I developed them myself," he said proudly as he picked one up to smell. Terri felt her stomach churn and stayed near the entrance to this room. Dana went down near the garden bed.

"Patrick, it's sweet that you gave us these but…" Dana trailed off before solidifying her nerve. "But you can't keep us down here like one of your flowers. We need to go home."

Patrick stooped forward like he was in pain. "No, you can't go. I won't let you leave," he said almost desperately. Dana backed up and Terri vaulted down the ramp to protect Dana in case Patrick became violent.

"I'll get you anything you want. So you don't have to leave. Okay?" Patrick pleaded and Dana stiffened. Terri was just moving Dana behind her when Patrick added on. "I can get anything, promise. Just tell me what you want?"

Dana cleared her throat, "I don't know about you Ter, but I'm kind of hungry."

Patrick perked up and pulled out food from his pockets. "Licorice, turkey jerky?" he offered desperately.

"How about Rhino's famous chili?" Dana prompted and Terri nodded her head.

"We were supposed to get dinner there last night," Terri added and Patrick frowned. He looked conflicted for a moment before he nodded.

"Okay, I'll get you both some chili, but you can't leave here. It's dangerous," he warned before running up the ramp and back toward the main platform.

Dana looked to Terri who sighed. They made their way back to the circular platform and saw Patrick put on his backpack. "I won't be long, promise!" He shouted back and began to run with his numerous rats behind him.

Dana was about to ask a question but Terri held her finger to her lips. She then moved over to a shelf she had seen had a flashlight and moved it over to their arsenal. Dana watched Terri with her brow furrowed as Terri began to make a makeshift utility belt to hold the various projectiles. She then picked up the bat and handed a hockey stick to Dana.

"Smart thinking to get him out of here," Terri finally whispered and Dana looked at her unimpressed.

"You said you had a plan."

"I do, but I want to look for an alternative." Dana just raised an eyebrow, so Terri elaborated. "Look above you toward the emergency light. That's probably forty feet up. No way we can reach it even with a fixed grappling hook," she gestured to the grappling gun now on her hip. "So, I think we should explore a little but we don't know what we'll come across."

"Hence the weapons," Dana said while nodding her head. "Okay, but how do you know any of that junk is going to work?" she gestured to the bat gadgets, "and why do you have them all?" The last question was a bit annoyed.

"Because I spent the whole night fixing them and practicing with them."

"Patrick didn't hear or see you?" Dana asked incredulously.

"He was out and I was quiet." Dana just crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow, so Terri rolled her eyes. "We don't have time to argue about this. Here, hold the light." She handed the bulky flashlight off to Dana.

They began walking across a pipe above the toxic waste pit. There was an off shoot maybe ten feet to the side. "Shine a light in there," Terri ordered and Dana gave her annoyed look but did as asked. It seemed to go on for a ways but surely there would be an outlet to the surface and it had to be closer than the one in the central room.

They continued on for a ways and Terri pointed out the way Patrick had gone. "Were there an exits that way?" Dana asked before they completely bypassed it.

"No, and it took us maybe ten minutes to get down here—he'll probably take at least five to get the food."

"So what, we keep wandering aimlessly?" They were coming up to a pipe that had a 't' shaped pipe feeding into it.

"Let's check the one back by the main platform," Terri decided and Dana sighed heavily but they turned around.

"How are you so silent?" Dana asked after a moment—it sounded like only her shoes were clacking against the pipe.

"Like I said, I'm quiet." Terri gave a cocky smile and Dana shot a glare over her shoulder.

They got back toward the first offshoot they had examined. A ten foot jump over toxic waste with no way to do a running jump. "How exactly are we supposed to get over there?" Dana asked unimpressed.

Terri looked above her and saw a pipe she could hook the grappling hook around. She pulled it out of the makeshift belt and began to aim. She depressed the trigger and there was a sound of something breaking inside the gun.

"Fixed it, did you?" Dana asked before she began to stomp back toward the central platform. Terri followed her back and watched as Dana sat down on the couch and buried her face in her hands. "This is impossible. What the hell was I thinking?"

Terri made her own frustrated growl and sat back on the ground and began taking apart the grappling gun. She had to jump to the side when it suddenly released. Dana looked up from her hands surprised and yelped. The grappling gun had knocked over the fire barrel. Terri carefully extricated it.

Well, while it was uncoiled she may as well try to get rid of the rest of the rust. "Can you grab me the WD40?" Terri asked and Dana looked over toward where Terri was pointing. She brought it over and Terri began working it into the various parts. She then tightened the gears that would recall the wire.

"How much time do we still have?" Terri asked after reassembling the gun. Dana looked down at her watch.

"You said twenty minutes there and back plus five for food…" Dana quickly calculated and replied, "We have about ten minutes left."

"Okay, let's try this one more time," Terri said as she got up "Otherwise, we'll have to fight our way through an army of rats."

"Ew," Dana shuddered.

The girls stood up and moved back to the pipe parallel to the outlet. Terri then aimed the grappling gun at the pipe overhead. It worked this time, so she quickly found herself suspended over the toxic pit and damn did this aggravate her injured shoulder. Using her ab muscles, Terri began swinging back and forth and tried to aim for the opening in the wall. After several false starts and almost having a Tarzan moment, she finally succeed. Dana was laughing the whole time. Terri glared back at her when she finally landed in the outlet. .

"Okay, I'm going to try and get back. Give me some room."

"What?! Ter, no, just thrown the gun back to me!" Dana looked horrified.

"And if it falls short? I'm not leaving you here!"

"What if you fall short or over shoot it?" Dana stomped her foot and waved her hands around.

Terri ignored her protests and began a running leap. While she was at the apex—lengthened thanks to the grappling hook—she pressed the trigger to release the grappling hook's hold and landed on the pipe. She did her best dismount pose but then wobbled.

"It's harder in heels," she mumbled while Dana just stared with her mouth open.

"Ter, what the hell?!" she punctuated each word with poke to the sternum. "Since when have you been a ninja!?"

"NO! What are you doing!?" Patrick shouted before Terri could reply. From the far end of the pipe they were currently standing on, Patrick stared at them horrified. "Are you trying to leave me?!" he shouted before pulling out a whistle. "I won't let you!"

Dana and Terri shared a panicked look before Terri aimed the grappling gun again and Dana held onto her and the gun. Patrick whistled as they shot off the gun. It wrapped around the same pipe as before while hundreds of rats seemed to creep out of the shadows. The girls pushed off and got the momentum going before they made it into the tunnel and Terri released the grappling hook.

"Run!" the girls said at the same time once they stood up from their landing crouch. Dana shone the flash light ahead of them and Terri held up the rear.

"Check the ceilings too, there should be another outlet up there," Terri ordered as she looked behind her. Slag! There were already a bunch of rats climbing up into the tunnel.

Terri grabbed one of the explosive Robin projectiles and threw it. It managed to strike one rat and then the red light went off.

"Run, run run!" Terri urged and even began to push Dana before a deafening boom sounded behind them.

"Why did you have a bomb!?" Dana shouted but continued her sprint.

"Patrick had the bomb, I fixed it." Terri stopped and looked behind her. What was with that ominous glow? Oh. The rats were on fire…Oh no! "We need to get out now."

Dana looked up and gave a cry. "Gun!" she ordered. Terri handed it off without a second thought. A few rats made it past the first blast. If the toxic pit was already on fire, it wasn't like this could get any worse, so she threw the second explosive projectile.

"It caught something!" Dana yelled. Terri held onto her as Dana asked. "How do we make it pull us up—ahhh!" Terri had already moved to press the retracting feature and they were flying upwards, but there wasn't any light above them.

"Brace yourself!" Terri warned as she ducked her head, Dana quickly followed suit. Terri could see the manhole cover and prepared to hold them both up the vertical tunnel. Her legs were going to be killing her tomorrow for this.

Dana cried in pain as their shoulders impacted with the manhole and grappling hook. Terri could smell blood and felt a sharp pain in her other shoulder. Great. Using her legs, she pushed the covering up just as fire began to fill the passage below them.

Heat was quickly rushing up after them but they managed to pull themselves out of the hole. Dana released the gun and Terri hissed as the hooks retracted from her shoulder. They quickly ran from the hole just in time for a gout of flames two stories tall to shoot out of it. The ground shook beneath them and the heat was intense, but more than that, the force of the blast sent them flying several feet away.

Terri and Dana laid there stunned and with their ears ringing for a long moment. They did it, they got away. An inexplicable feeling began bubbling up in her chest. By the time her hearing came back, she realized she was laughing. Glancing over she saw Dana was laughing as well.

"We survived!" Dana shouted between laughs. "Oh my god, we did it!" The laughing gave away to tears as the adrenaline began to fade and the stress caught up. Terri heard and felt herself crumbling too. Soon the two friends were holding onto each other as they altered between crying and laughing.

Across town, an old man stared at a blank computer monitor and couldn't help but smile. She did it, without anyone's help, she did it. The old man smiled and looked back toward his batbot project and shook his head. He wouldn't need these, not if what he had seen was true.

He had correlated the trace components on the flower with different waste sites that morning. Since he hadn't worked out a way for more than one batbot to operate at a time, he had sent one to look at all the sites. The bot was heading to the second to last location when he saw through its vid-link a swarm of rats heading in a single direction. He ordered the bot to pursue and just managed to catch Terri and Dana swinging into tunnel using an old grappling gun. A look over at a circular platform showed numerous tools set out, which meant Terri had fixed it. He was about to send the bot to stop a giant rat from pursuing the girls when he saw one of Robin's explosive batarangs connect with a rat. She had even got one of those to work. The rest happened to quickly and the bot was lost in the ensuing explosion.

The old man closed the curtain on his project and made his way back toward the manor proper. He had a kid to congratulate.

A/N: I was originally going to have one of the Batbots save them toward the end, but then this felt right. Terri rescues herself; she reasserts her own power and agency after multiple near kidnappings where others had to save her. She's not a damsel in distress, she's the Goddamn Batman.