Black Ops
Chapter 3: Mission Impossible

By John Westcott

"I have to find him. Everything goes to the back burner as of right now. Finding Dick is the number one priority as of this moment." His voice was the epitome of determination and iron will as it echoed against the walls of the Batcave. He was the master of this realm filled with bats and stalactites. He was born Bruce Wayne, but he was known to the criminal elements of Gotham City as The Batman... and he was not at all happy. He threw his cape, cowl, and gloves across the floor of the Batcave in an uncharacteristic display of anger and stalked across the floor of the Batcave to the giant cray computers. Behind him, Alfred Pennyworth and Tim Drake were slightly awestruck by Batman's lack of control.

"I don't think I've ever seen him like this." Tim whispered to Alfred.

Alfred whispered his reply so softly that Robin could barely hear it, "Master Bruce and Master Richard have repaired many of the problems that have been plaguing their relationship in the past years and I fear the master is once again afraid of losing Master Dick, even if the circumstances are beyond his control." Tim nodded in agreement.

After shaking off the effects of the tranquilizer dart Tim immediately locked up Dick's apartment and drove the Redbird back to Gotham as fast as he possibly could. Luckily, Batman had yet to leave on his nightly patrol and he breathlessly informed both Bruce and Alfred about the assault and kidnaping of Dick from his very own apartment. Bruce and Alfred listened silently to Tim's retelling of the event with rapt attention. It was not until Tim finally finished his account that they spoke. Alfred was the first to say anything.

"My word. It sounds as if Master Dick could be in mortal danger."

"I don't know Al," Tim replied, "They seemed to be taking pains to take Dick alive and they could have killed me but they didn't. They distinctly said they wanted a zero body count."

"May I remind you Master Tim, that The Joker and a wide variety of psychotics have had a chance to kill each one of you but instead declined preferring to put off your deaths until it was more fitting and, in their own deluded minds, more dramatic a time?" Tim knew Alfred spoke from years of experience that he didn't have and he quickly conceded the point. Still, Bruce said nothing. After a few more minutes of silence, Tim and Alfred simply stood there, waiting for Bruce to react to the distressing news. They were both slightly shocked however, at his lack of restraint. After a few minutes of using the computer at he turned to Tim.

"Tim why don't you go home for a few hours and catch up with your father. I'm going to do some research here and in two hours you can report back here. I want you to come with me to Bludhaven. We can search Dick's apartment for clues." Tim agreed and left for his fathers home, only to report back after everyone else in the house had gone to sleep. This left Alfred and Bruce alone, and it gave Alfred the opportunity he needed to discuss the situation candidly with him.

"I must say sir, I have not seen you this distressed in a very long time." Bruce didn't answer but instead continued his research, seemingly deaf to Alfred's words.

"With all due respect sir, please don't try and fool me. I can clearly see that you are upset." Alfred was shocked when Bruce actually slammed his fist down on the panel, making the keyboard jump high in the air. Such displays were uncommon with Batman, and Alfred almost jumped himself at the sudden noise. Instead he merely arched an eyebrow. Bruce swivelled the chair to face his oldest friend. Worry lines etched in his face.

"I can't lose him now Alfred. I simply can't. We've made so much progress, we've come so far. Whoever these people are they're serious and they're very good at what they do to have taken Dick so quickly and efficiently. I'm.............. afraid." He choked out the final word as if it were actually painful to say. It took Alfred a moment to take in exactly what it was that Bruce said.

"Sir? I can't remember the last time you admitted to feeling fear."

"Just between us Alfred? You won't tell Tim any of this?" He asked.

"Of course sir if it is what you wish. I would never betray your confidence." Alfred replied immediately, almost insulted by the notion. Bruce took a moment to gather his thoughts and calm himself. He then took a deep calming breath and took a moment to choose his words before he spoke again.

"I am feeling fear. You know me well enough to know I hate the sensation..... And the fact that I can't control it makes it even worse. The precision and efficiency of the people who've kidnaped Dick makes it clear to me that he is in the hands of someone who is very potentially deadly. This is a much more controlled and intelligent type of malevolence than say......The Joker. I can already tell that this is far more than just a fist fight with Bane or a run in with Blockbuster. This is whole different level. This reeks of the military and that in itself disturbs me."

Alfred half smiled at Bruce, "I seriously doubt that is what frightens you."

Bruce actually smiled back at Alfred, perhaps at the butlers ability to know his so well. "No you're right Alfred. That's not what scares me. This house was so dreary before Dick came to live with us. Like a mausoleum."

"I remember quite vividly sir."

"And then when Dick came, everything was brighter. It felt like we were a family. And then we had our disagreements, Dick left and we didn't speak for ages. The house was dreary and gloomy again. Something was missing. Not even Jason, God rest his soul, or Tim can replace what Dick brought to our lives. Since we've been making inroads with one another and patching things up, I've started to feel our lives brightening up again. I used to tell Dick that I was his mentor and friend, but never his father. Well.......... now I'm starting to realize that we are a family. You, Dick, and myself. And I don't want to lose him just as we are becoming a family again. I will not lose another family member again. Not after my parents, and not after Jason."

Alfred permitted himself another wry smile, "You certainly speak as a father would sir. I am sure you will find him. If anyone can, you can. And you will. I also have faith in Master Richard as you must. He has survived battles with many powerful foes by your side, with The Titans and on his own."

"He'll be okay." Bruce muttered, "He has to be okay."

"I shall prepare something for both you and Master Timothy to eat on your trip to Bludhaven sir and leave you to your work. You must keep up your health during these trying times." Alfred smiled and left for the kitchen leaving Bruce alone again with his thoughts and his fears. He once again resumed his research on the computer, counting the minutes before he and Tim left for Bludhaven.

"He'll be okay........ he's the best there is....... he has to be okay." He muttered to himself. His only response was the flutter of bat's wings.

At the moment Nightwing could only be sure of two things: the first being he wasn't dead........ yet. The other thing he could be sure of was that this man who called himself General Douglas Walker was not to be trusted one little iota. Nightwing regarded the man, there was no doubt he was a military type. Everything from the way he talked to his haircut told him that Walker was no doubt a lifelong career man in the military. He was obviously a man who got straight to the point as well. He had blurted out, in a few crisp, clear sentences exactly who he was, what he wanted from Nightwing, AND that he knew his secret identity. Now Walker was straddling a chair, his arms resting against the back of it as he leaned towards Nightwing, awaiting a response.

"Let me get this straight, you kidnap me, injure a young boy whom I consider a brother to me, and you expect me to roll up my sleeves and ask how I can help you? I suggest that whatever you're smoking you should really quit as it's really screwing with your brain."

He waited to see what kind of reaction he would get from Walker. Surprisingly, there was very little. Walker simply sat there and his lips formed a completely insincere smile for a so brief a time that if you blinked you might miss it. He then checked his watch and frowned slightly, apparently time was not on Walker's side.

"Allow me to be frank with you..." he began.

"You can be whoever the Hell you want to be spy boy but I am getting out of here right now and you and your goons won't stop me." Nightwing replied and he got up to walk out of the room. Of course, he had no idea where he was but he knew he wasn't going to play Walker's little game. It was then that The General played his trump card.

"And what about Alfred? What about Miss Barbara Gordon? What of Bruce Wayne? Will you turn your backs on them too by walking out of here?" He asked in a deadly calm voice. Nightwing's hand was only an inch from the doorknob and there it stopped. They both knew it, Walker had him dead to rights. He would have to listen now. Ever so slowly Nightwing turned and walked back to The General.

"What do you want?" Nightwing asked, his voice almost a whisper. Walker gestured for the younger man to sit down, at first Nightwing did nothing, he gestured again with an almost sincere smile and finally he sat down opposite Walker on the small cot on which he had woken up. When he began speaking again it was in a very pleasant conversational tone that one might use when discussing the big game the night before.

"I'm not the evil man you seem to think I am Nightwing. Yes I know your secret identity but you can rest assured that I am the only one in our organization who does and as long as you cooperate I see no reason to tell anyone else who you really are. Secrets are the currency of my stock and trade and I don't give them away for free. I'm sorry I had to threaten you by mentioning your friend's names but I think it was the only way I could get you to listen to me."

Nightwing had to chuckle at that remark, "Oh yeah you're all heart. Well I'm listening so hurry up and get to the point."

Walker proceeded with his commentary in an even tone the instant Nightwing stopped talking.

"The simple truth is, I command a platoon of men and women that are utilized by the United States Government in covert operations worldwide. Their code name is Impact Squadron. Believe me when I tell you they are the best that there is. For two and a half years we have been trying to eliminate a threat to the security of the entire world."

Walker paused for a moment to allow for some drama but it was clear by his arched eyebrow that Nightwing was not impressed. Nightwing had heard those words used before. Walker continued after a moment's silence in his deadly serious voice.

"The threat is because of a single genetically engineered man who was originally code named The Darwin Experiment. We have since changed his code name to Judas. Judas has gained access to several different types of atomic warheads and biological weapons that he has been buying from the crumbling Russian Empire. Worse than that however, he has access to a special kind of knowledge that seems to help him predict the future, it is a knowledge that we can barely understand. I'm not lying when I say that Judas is the pinnacle of human genetic achievement. He is faster, stronger, smarter, and more resilient than any man alive save perhaps Superman who, to be fair, isn't of this planet. He was created to be the ultimate covert agent before he went rogue. He began to see the entire human race as a lesser species than himself, as a virus to be wiped out and when he has the rest of the weapons he needs he intends to eliminate the entire human race and repopulate the Earth with men and women like himself. He is quite insane, which may or may not be a result of his genetic engineering, we simply don't know."

Walker stopped talking then, allowing Nightwing to take in all of this information. The silence in the room began to grow heavy and cling to both men like a fog. Walker was becoming impatient.

"Well? Don't you have anything to say?" He finally asked with more than a trace of irritation in his voice.

"Why me?" Nightwing asked, "Why not Batman? Hell why not Superman? Why shanghai me into this?"

A smile blossomed on Walker's face when asked the question, "Obviously we could not involve a being like Superman. He is far too honest and would more than likely make full reports of such a being to his friends at The Daily Planet such as Clark Kent or that Lois Lane woman. Such a highly moral being as Superman would make sure that Judas was brought into the public light where we have no wish for him to be. We want Judas eliminated quickly and quietly. Not to mention the fact that Judas has come across some quantities of Kryptonite, which he keeps close to him at all times. As for Batman, I never truly considered him. He isn't a team player like you are with your Titans friends. Not to mention that he too would insist on bringing Judas to the public's knowledge. However, more than all these factors put together, you have been chosen because of a combination of skills that you possess which makes you perfect for this assignment."

Nightwing was becoming weary of this conversation and sank his head into his hands which were resting on his knees. Walker seemed to have a way of telling you things without really giving you any pertinent information.

"What skills are those?"

"Put succinctly, you have tremendous acrobatic skills, which we will need. You're hand to hand combat and detective training is without peer and we will need that. You work well in a team situation."

"Meaning I work and play well with the other children." Nightwing interjected.

Walker continued without missing a beat, "You have superior computer skills and you are quite the master of disguise when you need to be, all of those talents we will need to make use of in order to eliminate the threat of Judas."

Before Walker even knew what had happened he found himself pinned up against the wall, his feet dangling in the air several inches above the ground. When he looked back on the event later he realized that Nightwing had moved so fast that he had no clear recollection of it happening. One minute he was sitting on a chair briefing the costumed vigilante on his plans, the next he was pinned against the wall with the wind knocked out of him and Nightwing's rock hard fists around the lapels of his coat. The next thing he was aware of was the yong man's voice, barely a rough whisper.

"Don't forget the main reason you picked me as your patsy Walker. You know my identity and you threatened the people I hold most dear. I ought to tear you in half right now and save this Judas character the trouble. I don't like being anyone's puppet and working with you would make me exactly that...... a puppet. You can take your plans for me and stick them straight up your assho......"

At that very second the door to the room was kicked in with a loud thud and several armed men trained their weapons on Nightwing. Walker innocently held up a small device in his hand that he used to summon them. "When I'm done showing you what you need to see, I guarantee you will work with us of your own free will." Walker said with absolute confidence.

"Put The General down or we will be forced to open fire!!" The lead man yelled. Ever so slowly Nightwing lowered Walker down to the floor and released his hold on the man's lapels. The armed men at the doorway began to relax and lowered their weapons as the tension eased. In a split second Nightwing again grabbed Walker and pinned him to the wall, proving that he was not going to go along quietly as the lamb to slaughter. The men at the door instantly brought their guns back up and aimed at Nightwing, who leaned in close to Walker and whispered in his ear.

"If anyone I love is hurt by you junior James Bond's than I will come looking for you Walker. You know me well enough to know I don't kill, but that could be worse for you in the long run. Just because I don't kill doesn't mean I can't cripple you for life and leave you in a wheelchair, or even worse, on a respirator. You remember that." And with those final words he let go of Walker and put his hands up in the air to signal that he was done acting up for now. This time the armed squad at the door did not lower their weapons until after Nightwing had taken several steps away from Walker.

The General simply smoothed out his coat as if nothing of consequence had actually happened and began to walk out the door, gesturing for Nightwing to follow him.

"I think it's time you met the people you will be working with Nightwing. Allow me to introduce you to Impact Squadron."

The next half hour was taken up by Walker showing Nightwing around the area they were using as a headquarters. Nightwing guessed that they were still in Bludhaven, even though he had no proof of that yet. The construct he was in had no windows and there were no sounds emanating from the outside. They began with a large room filled with computers and monitoring equipment. Two young men were overseeing them and both greeted Walker with stiff military salutes. Walker introduced Nightwing and they greeted him with barely sincere smiles and weak looks coupled with suspicious glances. Their names were Duane Johnson and Robert Styles. Johnson was a broad shouldered black man with handsome features and the well muscled body of a fighter. Styles was a much taller and ganglier man who also greeted the outsider with a barely concealed look of suspicion.

Just down the hall from the computer room Nightwing was introduced to three more agents of Impact Squadron. In a much larger room was what Nightwing recognized as the ammunition stores for Walker and his men. The three men were busily cleaning and oiling the various weapons and loading the magazines. Their names were Luke Francis, Glen Murrant, and Brad MacQuarrie. Francis was a compact stocky man who seemed friendlier than the rest, greeting Nightwing with what seemed to be a sincere smile and a firm handshake. MacQuarrie was a large framed man with jet black hair and blueish eyes much like Nightwing's. His handshake was very firm but it didn't seem very friendly, it was more like he was testing his own strength against Nightwing's own. Murrant seemed rather blasť about the newcomers presence but was reasonably friendly. Nightwing guessed that Murrant was something of a loner.

Further down the hall a large room housed an impressive area of all terrain vehicles and even a few motorized flying devices that would have impressed even Batman. Four men were there performing maintenance on the vehicles. There he met Roger Dixon, Lucas Romaine, Terry Brooks and Miller Sito. Dixon, Romaine and Brooks all seemed too busy to give him much of a notice and gave him quick handshakes and "hello's". Only Sito, a young Asian-American man seemed very friendly and treated Nightwing as if he were welcoming home one of the boys. "At least there's one friendly face." Nightwing thought to himself.

Finally, Walker led Nightwing across the garage area to a command post of sorts where two men stood conversing, one was a tall well muscled man with leonine features and blonde hair. He was talking to another man who was writing on a clipboard.

"This is Lt. Cortez and Colonel Phillip Young. Colonel Young is the field commander for Impact Squadron and a true American hero." Walker said as they approached the duo. Young and Cortez turned to face Walker and Nightwing. Young was the first to extend his hand, "Sorry about the way we had to recruit you but I think....." He was stopped short by Nightwing's fist flying into his face in a punishing jab that snapped out so quickly Young's knees instantly buckled and he fell to the ground.

Both Cortez and Walker jumped on Nightwing and held him down, Nightwing offered no resistance.

"What the hell are you doing?" Cortez yelled as Dixon, Romaine, Brooks and Sito came running over from across the garage.

"Stop!!" Young yelled as he pulled himself to his feet and rubbed his jaw.

"I told you I would remember you." Nightwing said as Cortez and Walker held him back. He instantly remembered the voice from his apartment saying, "That's enough!!! Stand down Nightwing!! We have your partner."

To his surprise, Young began to smile as he rubbed his jaw and offered his hand to Nightwing. "I think that makes us even." After a moment of silence Nightwing extended his hand and the two shook hands. Maybe this one wasn't so bad after all.

Nightwing turned to Walker, "I have to let the people I love know where I am." He said, both he and Walker knew that he meant Batman/Bruce Wayne but he wasn't about to say their names in front of these men.

"We'll contact your loved ones as soon as possible Nightwing but we're about to move out. Tell me..... what do you know of the underground death match circuit?"

Continue To Chapter Four

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