Disclaimer: Nightwing and associated characters are the property of DC Comics. All other characters not originating in the minds of DC's assorted braintrust and the "Black Ops" storyline itself are the property of the author.

Black Ops
Prologue: The Best Laid Plans

By John Westcott

General Douglas Walker hated the rain, it had always put him in a very surly mood. On this night in a dark alley in Shanghai the rain was pouring down in such torrents that Walker couldn't help but think of Biblical stories such as Noah's Ark, it did seem as if God himself had opened up the skies and let loose sheets of never ending rain on the Earth. He thought of sloughing the excess water from his raincoat but what was the point? The rain showed no signs of abating and it made him feel strangely apathetic. God he hated the rain.

Walker heard the sounds of the city not far away. He thought it strange that even in a city as large as Shanghai, with a population of over 13 million people, he could find a dark, secret rendezvous point like this alleyway. China was so overpopulated, he used to feel very claustrophobic whenever he was in the country, having been raised on a farm in Iowa he was used to wide open spaces, but he had long ago left behind the open spaces of his youth and instead spent most of his time conducting secret meetings in places like this. Of course these were the most basic tricks of his trade, he was like a cockroach that scurried to the darkest corner of the room when the lights came on. All for the greater good, he knew. The good, shiny, happy people needed someone to protect them from the unknown, someone who would get his hands as dirty as necessary to get the job done, he knew he was that man.

Walker looked at the building wall opposite him, at the many faded and discarded advertisements and posters, all in Chinese of course. He didn't speak the language but he knew all too well what the ads were for by their simplistic images. One was for a soft drink, another for a toothpaste, another for a new video game, and of course the requisite McDonald's advertisement. His grey Saab idled quietly as he lit another cigarette, inhaling deeply and savoring every second, this was his only vice, and he indulged whenever he could, even after he started coughing and hacking up black stuff every now and then. It didn't matter, long life expectancies were not the norm in his line of work anyway. He was amazed he had lived this long.

At the end of the alley he noticed a crowd of people, milling past and enjoying the evening, protected from the rain by umbrellas. Oblivious to him and his vehicle, they walked by, no doubt on their way to the nearby Zhangyang Road Commercial Center, which featured rows of shops arrayed with anything the tourist with money to burn could possibly desire. Despite Walker's large muscular frame he had become an expert at going unnoticed, it was after all, one of the first things he and others like him were taught when entering this line of work. Walker always stuck to the most basic rules of espionage, he found that so many of his contemporaries had forgotten the basic tenants of their trade, and died because of it. He followed these rules because they made sense, and they kept him alive.

He was waiting for one of his lieutenants, a tall and lanky Lieutenant named David Stephens. Stephens had served under his command before and knew the way General Walker liked to operate, he was due any minute now to deliver a package that Walker had placed on the back burner for almost a year now. Finally, the pot on that back burner had come to a boil and he was ready to move. All he needed was the package Stephens was bringing and he would authorize the next step. Walker was also exemplary at yet another lost art in his trade. Patience. Douglas Walker had more patience than Job. It was nights like this when his patience were tested most however, dark and raining and that claustrophobic feeling. Stephens had better show up soon.

Just then Walker noticed movement in the alley, someone was coming. He couldn't make out the figure. From beneath his trench-coat he produced a Glock 19 9mm handgun. He couldn't chance anything, if it was some covert operative out to attack him, he would shoot with extreme prejudice, between the eyes. Never shoot at the body, he was taught, because your enemy may be wearing body armor. Walker had dealt with that contingency as well, using Teflon coated bullets that would penetrate most body armor types. He felt reassured by the weight of the weapon in his hand. Walker relaxed when he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

"Stand down General..... it's me." Came the voice of David Stephens. Stephens stepped into the light, and Walker relaxed and put his weapon away. Stephens obviously relaxed when Walker did so and started walking toward the younger man.

"David, step into the car, we have some things to discuss. I want to get the Hell out of this rain." Walker said as he led Stephens into the rear door of the car. Walker got into the car after him and signaled to his driver to start driving. The grey Saab pulled smoothly into traffic and disappeared into the sea of automobiles. Finally the two men could talk.

"David, it's been a long time." Walker said.

"Yes sir General, not since Desert Storm." Stephens replied, removing his raincoat, Walker kept his on.

"Did you bring what I need?" Walker asked, all business as usual.

"Yes sir." Stephens replied as he pulled a large folder out of his briefcase and handed it to Walker. Without a word, Walker took it from him and began to look through it. It was very thick, filled with pictures of a young man in his early twenties. Sometimes the young man was in pictures with another older man, and sometimes with a younger boy in his teens, and yet other times with a group of men and women around his own age. There were many reports with dates, names, and addresses. Many of the addresses were in North America, located in Gotham City, and towards the end of the list, the addresses were in Bludhaven. A whaling city just down the interstate from Gotham. Walker was pleased, yet another successful venture thanks to his patience and subtlety.

"All this is confirmed David? There is no room for doubt?" Walker asked.

"According to what our team found sir, there is less than a 4% margin of error. It took a long time to find out what we needed to know as they covered their tracks very well. It is almost certain though. The key to unraveling the puzzle was when the subject under surveillance came into contact with a subversive group that one of our own teams had been looking into. A group called Cabal ran afoul of him 4 months ago and everything fell into place. He disappeared for a time when he was beaten by a man known as Bane. He then reappeared weeks later and coincidentally, so did his alter ego."

Walker nodded when he heard the name "Bane", obviously the name was known to him. "How many people were on your research team?"

"Fifteen men and women sir. As per your orders they have all been discreetly eliminated. No one but you and I know that Dick Grayson is Nightwing." Stephens replied in matter of fact tone, as if the murder of fifteen people meant nothing to him.

"Good... good. You are as efficient as ever David. I am glad I could trust you with this." Stephens was practically beaming when Walker said that, it was obvious that he regarded The General as a hero figure and was pleased that he had done well in the eyes of his superior.

The rain had started to pour down even harder, to the point where one could barely see outside the windows of The Saab. It was impossible to tell where they were going, but Stephens knew that they were outside the city limits now, heading to more rural areas. This made Stephens a little uneasy, suddenly Walker's mood lightened and he began to speak in a jovial mood to the younger man.

"Now David, tell me a little about what you have been up to. Still single? No girlfriend? Amazing you haven't settled down, never got married or had any kids."

"No sir. I really don't have time for relationships. My work keeps me pretty busy."

"Your parents both passed away two years ago didn't they?" Walker asked.

"Yes sir." Stephens didn't like where this was going. His fears were confirmed when Walker again produced the Glock 19 from beneath his trench-coat, aiming it at Stephens.

"You do good work David, I want you to know you have served your country well. Your efforts will help preserve freedom worldwide. I want you to know that."

Stephens knew why he was given this mission and he knew now why Walker was going to kill him. He had no family, he would hardly be missed. He looked out the window and noticed through the pouring rain that the car had entered a junkyard, wrecked cars piled one on top of the other and blocking out the city lights beyond. A virtual city of abandoned vehicles. The Saab began to roll to a stop.

"Please sir..... don't. I can still be of use to you." Stephens begged, suddenly on the verge of crying.

General Walker's driver stopped the car and got out, walking around and opening the rear door for Walker. Walker stepped out and handed the thick file to his driver. He wasn't happy that he had to kill Stephens, but the trail had to be erased. Anyone with this knowledge was to be eliminated. If the need arose, Walker would put the gun to his own mouth and pull the trigger, but throughout his career he had managed to avoid that fate.

"I'm sorry David....." and he emptied the fifteen round clip into David Stephens.

Walker then closed the door and put the gun back in its holster. Behind him, his driver had pulled up in an identical Saab to the one they had arrived in, even the license plates were identical. The driver again got out and opened the door for Walker. He got in and rolled down the window. He watched as a large crane swung over and attached a huge magnet to the top of the Saab that Walker had arrived in. It picked the car up and placed it in a large compactor which was activated by some unseen operator. The car was then crushed into a cube and placed into a pile of other crushed vehicles, to be forgotten.

Walker rolled up the window and the car pulled away again, this time heading back for the city proper. Walker pulled a cellular phone from his pocket and called up a number from memory which he then dialed. After only one ring there was an answer.


"Phillip, this is Doug. I think I have the operative we need for Operation Judas." despite himself, Walker shuddered at the mention of Judas. Judas was a danger unlike any other he had ever faced, and only a certain type of person with a certain type of specialized training could assist Walker and his team in eliminating Judas.

"Are you sure Douglas? Where did you find a person with the type of skills we require to deal with him?" Asked the voice on the other end of the phone.

"You leave that to me Phillip. I want you to assemble Impact Squad and meet me in the city of Bludhaven, the city just down the interstate from where the big Gotham Quake hit. I should be there in two days."

"Understood sir. Any further orders?"

"Just make sure your men are in peak condition Phillip, Impact Squad is going to enlist it's newest member and I suspect he won't come quietly. A costumed vigilante known as Nightwing is going to be our ace in the hole, he's going to help us eliminate Judas, whether he likes it or not."

The man on the other end replied that he would be ready when General Walker arrived in Bludhaven and the two men closed the connection. Walker returned his cellular phone to his pocket and again pulled out his Glock 19. He removed the empty clip and inserted a fresh one, tossing the old one out the window. He ordered his driver to take him to the airport. There was much to be done and little time to do it in. Now that he had knowledge of an operative with the special training he required and enough knowledge of the man to make sure that he would play ball with them, he would strike like lightening, the time for waiting was over. Patience had again rewarded him.

On the seat next to Walker the file lay open and he looked at it intently. On one page was a picture of the costumed vigilante known as Nightwing. On the opposite page was a picture of a handsome young man with a winning smile and long dark hair, a picture of Richard John Grayson..........

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