They stood before him, looking for all the world like a pack of hungry lions, damn he was proud of them. They were in top physical and mental condition, awaiting their orders. He couldn't help but feel proud of them..... Impact Squadron. They were the toughest bastards on Earth, and they lived and died at his command. Colonel Young walked slowly past his men, inspecting them as they stood at attention, all the while looking straight ahead. Cortez, Francis, MacQuarrie, Styles, Johnson, Murrant, Dixon, Romaine, Brooks and Sito. His entire command save one. Major Summers was on special assignment but would join up with them later in the mission. They came from every possible cultural and racial background and each had a different story. They all had one thing in common, the protection of the free world from terrorist forces and superhuman threats. Their own lives were expendable in the pursuit of that goal.... and if they were to die, the government would disavow any knowledge of their existence and their families would be told a cover story to explain their deaths. They truly were the best of the best of the best. The ten men were dressed in their battle gear, as black as the night, patiently waiting for him to speak. As always, Colonel Phillip Young wouldn't pull any punches or give them any bull. He was their commanding officer and they had put their lives on the line for him many times..... and he for them. That kind of relationship required clear lines of communication and given the state of their current mission, this moment was no exception.
"Listen up ladies." He addressed them in his most stern voice while continuing to pace back and forth in front of them, "We all know that bringing down Judas is our main goal. To that end we are here in this godforsaken city of Bludhaven to, shall I say.... ‘shanghai' a man who has some..... special skills that we need in order to get to Judas. Our target's code name is ‘Nightwing'......" He paused when he heard a snicker from the assemblage before him and walked over to Lieutenant Francis and shot him a look that would stop the Devil himself in his tracks.
"Something funny Francis?"
The smile disappeared from Francis' face as Young's own face was barely an inch from his own. Francis' face suddenly became like a statue, unmoving, and locked in a serious gaze straight ahead. For a moment, the young man said nothing.
"Well?" Young prompted.
After a few more seconds Francis finally spoke, "Nothing really sir, just a little amused by this guys name. I mean... Nightwing??? Sounds like he reads too many funny books."
Even Young had to smile a little at that. "Does it now? Well this young man happened to fight off every man jack of you last night and come out the other side with barely a scratch. How many people alive today can say that they fought Impact Squadron during a surprise attack and lived to tell the tale?"
At this question the entirety of Impact Squadron stiffened noticeably but only Francis answered.
"Not one single living soul sir!" He shouted.
Young nodded approvingly at the young man's answer. Indeed, anyone who had gone up against Impact Squadron had failed miserably, and yet this Judas had always eluded them. A constant embarrassment to the Squad. Young stepped back from Francis and continued his pacing back and forth in front of his team as he spoke.
"As I was saying, his code name is 'Nightwing'. General Walker seems to have some kind of inside track on this man. He has provided me with the appropriate times to attack this vigilante and it is my belief that the General holds quite a bit of dirt on Nightwing which will ensure his cooperation." He paused to let this information sink in before he continued. Young backed away from them and folded his hands behind his back, taking them all in with his gaze.
"There is only one possible outcome for this mission." Young continued, "we capture this Nightwing character alive. We will not be using live ammo. We attack quickly and silently, using tranq darts only. As you well know these darts can penetrate any known body armor. All we have to do is subdue this Nightwing character and get him to General Walker. It is the General's job to make Nightwing see that working for us against Judas is the only option. General Walker has assured me that he will need only one day to make Nightwing a willing member of our team. There is to be a zero body count during this mission. I REPEAT.... ZERO BODY COUNT!!"
There was a heavy silence in the room. There was no doubt that the members of Impact Squadron were uncomfortable with the thought of this outsider as one of them. Having to trust him and watch his back without even knowing his real name, assuming that he would even watch their backs at all. This was a risky venture, but they all knew that capturing Judas would require outside help. Too many had died trying to end the threat he presented to the entire world.
Young stepped back a few more paces and addressed them all, "If there are no more questions, we move as soon as the night falls. Cortez, Francis, MacQuarrie, Styles, Johnson.... you will comprise Alpha team. Murrant, Dixon, Romaine, Brooks and Sito will comprise Beta team. You all know your assignments and the appropriate 'go' codes. I trust that you will all do your best as you always have."
They stood there, looking at him. He smiled proudly. They weren't moving an inch until he gave the order. He stood there for a moment, savoring their iron will and total obedience to the chain of command. They were all his children in a way, and he would die for all of them... and they for him.
"Move out!!!" He snapped. Like a well oiled machine they snapped into action. Loading the helicopter and preparing their weapons and night vision goggles. Inspecting their own body armor and otherwise mapping out their strategy. Amidst the controlled chaos, Young stood there for a moment, admiring Impact Squadron. When night fell Impact Squadron would move like a well oiled machine.
It was rare that Dick Grayson ever got a chance to be alone with his superintendent Clancy and for the first time since he met her he was wishing that he wasn't alone with her now. He had only recently graduated from The Bludhaven Police Academy and was still awaiting his first job as a cop and Clancy had already taken him to dinner twice to celebrate his graduation from the academy. Despite his concerns over the attack on his rooftop the night before, Dick felt obligated to return the favor when Clancy had received the Waynetech scholarship that would allow her to become a doctor. When Clancy showed up at his door wanting to celebrate with Dick he felt he had no choice but to put his problems aside and take the beautiful young woman out to dinner. Leaving Tim back at the apartment, the two enjoyed a movie and dinner in a dark Italian restaurant known for it's very large portions called "Nick's". Dick had the tri-color tortellini while Clancy had the salad and lasagna.
With the sudden realization last night that some arm of the military may be setting its sights on him, Dick felt as if he were wearing a bulls eye on his forehead even when in his civilian clothes. It was a feeling he wasn't used to and he didn't like it. He wanted to show Clancy a good time but he felt as if he was putting her in danger just by being with her and she didn't even know it. It was unfair to treat Clancy in such a manner he thought.. .and he felt like a heel just being with her and acting carefree when he really feared that his attackers from last night could descend on him at any time. It was when Clancy sidled over and started feeding him bread sticks from her plate that he knew he was in real trouble.
"I'm glad you're having a good time Clancy." He said as she fed him some more. The look in her eyes told him that she was indeed having a very good time. He also saw desire in those eyes.
"Tonight of all nights..." Dick thought to himself.
"You and I have been seeing a lot of each other lately Dick. I've really been enjoying your company." She said as she fed him one end of a bread stick and broke off the other end for herself. Despite his new problem, Dick couldn't help but notice Clancy's perfect lips as she chewed on the bread. Why did she have to pick now to come on this strong?
"I haven't really thanked you properly for coming to my graduation." He felt her hand alight on his knee underneath the table.
"You can thank me now." She said, her voice becoming huskier, clearly indicating her arousal.
She was hard to resist, Dick had to admit it. He had been through a lot lately, with the protection of Gotham during the quake and trying to catch up on his studies at the police academy. He barely had time to realign himself back in Bludhaven before he was attacked by some shadowy military organization even Oracle couldn't identify. Before Dick knew what he was actually doing, he was kissing Clancy and she was returning the kiss with passion . Her soft lips on his rekindled the feelings he had almost managed to forget during the quake and its aftermath. After several minutes they broke the kiss.
"Clancy...... I..." She put her index finger to his lips, silencing him. "Dick honey, for once, just shut up." Dick felt her take him by the hands and, leaving money on the table for the bill, she led him back to their apartment building.
"Clancy.... I shouldn't..." He said as they entered the main door to the building, "My friend Tim is staying with me."
She kissed him again before she spoke in a hushed voice that Dick found incredibly sexy, "Did you forget I have my own apartment Dick?" She said as she fumbled for the many keys to the many locks on her door. Dick was torn between duty and passion. He was very attracted to Clancy and was glad to have her back in his life but he knew that now was not the right time for getting too involved. Of course, in his life, there was never a right time for getting too involved. Clancy had finally unlocked all the locks on her door and it swung open. He felt her soft hand envelope his once again and lead him to the living room, where she turned and kissed him again. He returned the kiss and pulled her body tightly against his. He was still torn between duty and passion...... but he was giving in to the passion. It was then that fate made the decision for him. Without warning the lights flickered out, Clancy and Dick found themselves cast into darkness.
"Should I consider this a bad omen or a good one?" Clancy whispered seductively into his ear. Dick wasn't listening. His eyes were gazing out into the darkness and his ears were straining to listen. He heard it. It was barely there, but he could hear it just the same. From above, the slight vibrating noise he heard last night when the silent helicopter had descended on them from nowhere. It took everything he had to break off the embrace with Clancy.
"Listen, maybe I should check on the lights Clance. What do you think?" He said as he stepped back from her a few paces toward the door.
"I think if you knew what was good for you Grayson, you'd come right back here to me. The dark can be a lot of fun." She said as she gestured with her index finger for him to come back to her. Dick knew that time was running out, that the hunters were almost on top of him. He turned on Clancy and broke into a sprint up the stairs.
"I better check on Tim, Clancy. I'll be back soon." He yelled as he took the stairs three at a time. Behind him he heard the door to Clancy's apartment slam shut and he winced as if in physical pain. He knew that this would hurt his relationship with her, he just hoped it wasn't damaged beyond repair. Dick turned his attention to the task at hand and vaulted up over the railing on the stairs and toward the door of his own apartment. He stormed into the darkened room. Tim was nowhere in sight.
"Head's up Tim.... we've got company!!!" He yelled as he shut the door and dove for his closet. Tim emerged from the bathroom with a quizzical look on his face.
"Dick?!? Is that you? Where are you? Why are the lights out?"
From the closet Nightwing emerged, escrima fighting sticks in hand, his voice noticeably lower and more threatening. "Our friends are back."
Tim ran past Nightwing into the closet to don his own costume. Nightwing ran to the window, he was suddenly blinded by a powerful searchlight cutting through the darkness. The eerie silence was shattered by the shattering of glass. Three smoking canisters landed on the floor and began to billow smoke.
"Alpha team in position. Awaiting go code."
"Alpha this is command.... go code is 'Bravo'."
"Roger..... Alpha engaging."
Five figures dressed in midnight black crashed through the window. They moved with a speed that impressed even Nightwing.
"Robin I could use your help out here!!" He called as he back flipped away from the invaders and toward the kitchen area.
"Coming mother!!" Robin, the boy wonder replied as he charged from the closet still holding one boot in his hand and tackled the figure closest to him. Nightwing landed a hard kick on another of the men while the others began to open fire. Nightwing could tell from the silenced sound of the weapons that these men were using the same non lethal ammunition as they had the night before. That gave them a slight edge. If they wanted him alive, they would have to pull their punches, but he didn't. Nightwing let loose with several roundhouse kicks to his assailants, sending them scattering like ten pins while Robin brought his opponent down with a hard right to the jaw. Whoever they were, Nightwing thought to himself, they were good. They managed to strike again so quickly that they even caught Robin with one boot off. All the same, Nightwing knew that he would be giving as good as he got with these shadowy figures.
"Command. Target is showing Alpha Team a hard time of it. Awaiting go code."
"Relax Bravo, this is just phase one."
"Nonetheless sir, they sound like they could use some help."
"*sigh* All right then. Bravo Team..... go code is Epsilon."
"Roger command. Beta... engaging."
The sound of shattering glass once again filled the room and five more dark clad men descended via ropes into the room. Nightwing switched to infra red vision. The room was becoming very crowded indeed. It was only a matter of time before they hit him with something he couldn't avoid.
"Fire in the hole!!" He heard one of them yell. Suddenly a noiseless flash grenade rolled toward him and exploded right in front of Nightwing, who fell to his knees..... blinded. The incredible white light explosion combined with the fact that he was using infra red lenses rendered Nightwing's eyes useless.
"All right!!! That tears it!!" Momentarily sightless.... Nightwing flipped backwards and grabbed a chair from the kitchen. Grabbing it firmly by the legs, he began to swing it in the air with as much force as he could muster.
"Look out!!!" One of them yelled. Nightwing felt the chair impact several times on his assailants, he also felt them rolling with the impact of the blow. These men were more than professional terrorists..... he was now quite convinced they were top level military grade fighters as well. He had to be at his best to fight them off. Still.... he had to wonder... what did they want with him?
"That's enough!!! Stand down Nightwing!! We have your partner." Came a rough voice. Nightwing stopped swinging and shook his head. He then rubbed his eyes..... his vision was returning ever so slowly. He strained to see the figures in the darkness past the spots of light dancing in his eyes. It was then that he could barely make out Robin, on his knees, one of the assailants held an automatic weapon to the back of Tim's head. Upon seeing this, Nightwing immediately dropped the chair and raised his hands in the air.
Robin looked at Nightwing with an apologetic look on his face. "Sorry partner."
Nightwing managed a grim smile, "Nothing to apologize for pal." Moving quickly, another of the men stepped up behind Nightwing and raised a weapon to his neck... pulling the trigger. Dick felt a small pinch and then his knees began to buckle as the heavy tranquilizer entered his system. Eyelids fluttering, Nightwing turned to the black clad figure that shot him with the tranquilizer and began to speak, his speech slurred. "I'll remember youuuuuu...." was all he managed to mumble before falling forward onto the floor, asleep.
Across the room, Robin suddenly heard the hammer being pulled back on the weapon at the back of his head. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable. Images of Dick, Bruce, Barbara, and of course his father and mother flashed through his mind. He hoped Bruce wouldn't torture himself over his death as he had over Jason Todd's death. He also hoped Bruce wouldn't blame Dick for his death. He also thought of his father and hoped losing his only son would not kill him as well. At least it would be quick.
"Holster that weapon Soldier!! Zero body count remember?" Another soldier yelled. Robin breathed a sigh of relief when the gun was put in its holster. He then felt the pinch of the tranq dart on the back of his neck and the subsequent weak knees. With no control of his body, Robin fell to the ground and into a black haze.
Two hours later Robin awoke, still in costume, on the floor of Dick's apartment. The lights were back on. He tried to clear his eyes and look about the room. It was as he feared.... "They're gone."
He was known by many names even though he had no parents and was never given a proper name. He found that very ironic. The American Government had code named him "Judas". He preferred to call himself Kane. He was a man who had no family and no past. That left only the future, and he was at this very moment peering into the future as Nostrodamus could have only hoped to. He read the code as easily as anyone else would read the newspaper. It revealed to him all possible futures, but he was the one who had to decide which future would be his. That was the blessing of this special knowledge... and the curse. As he read what the code revealed to him from this most sacred of books, his brow furrowed. The code revealed tough times ahead. Kane knew he would not only survive them, he would also thrive. For he was the next step in human evolution, the ultimate man. How could he fail?
"They are coming for me yet again.... and not alone it seems."
Beside him Angelica stirred from her sleep. She reached out to him and placed a hand on his broad shoulder. Her hand felt unnaturally hot against his skin, which was cooler than a normal mans.
"What do you mean my dear? What does the code tell you?"
"The code. It tells me the future as you well know. It reveals the name Walker crossing my own.... and a new name, Nightwing."
"What will you do?" She asked as she got up from the massive bed and walked to the bathroom, the meager light silhouetting her voluptuous nude form.
When Kane answered, it was in a very soft, almost soothing tone, "I will, of course, kill them all my dear." And with that he put down his copy of the sacred Torah and left the room.
"Wake up!!" Nightwing felt the hand slapping his face three times before he reached out and grabbed an arm, stopping the next slap only an inch from his face.
"All right. I'm awake....." He was so tired he could barely open his eyes but he heard two sets of footfalls walking away from him. He heard a door open, more footfalls, and then he heard the door shut. Other than the hum from the lights he heard nothing.
"Was it my breath? Anyone still here?" He called out.
"Yes I'm still here. Don't worry you are in no danger from me."
"You could have fooled me. Who the Hell are you?"
"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is General Douglas Walker of the United States Special Operations Division, and you sir, are Dick Grayson. Adopted son of Bruce Wayne. You are also the vigilante known as Nightwing, and we are about to become the closest of allies."