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Singular Universe: Brave New World -- IC Thread


COLLEEN WING sits at her laptop, typing furiously. A dripping water bottle sits by her. The door to the office opens and Colleen looks up to see Misty.

“Whose bike is that out there?” I’m standing in the doorway of Nightwing Restorations, using my thumb to point out into the street behind me where, this morning, as I was finding a place to park, I saw a gleaming sliver motorcycle eased into what is normally Colleen’s parking space.

Colleen looks up, briefly—you had to be quick to see it—from her computer screen, her golden-red hair spilling down the sides of her face. “You like it?” she says, before going back to her typing. “I got it as a little present to myself. “

“Oh, great. Meanwhile I can’t afford to eat anything that doesn’t need to be cooked in a microwave.” I stomp into the office, dejected, letting the door slam behind me. “And you’re off buying new motorcycle.”

“Please. Just call it a bike,” is all Colleen has to offer.

Colleen’s my girl and all, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes, it’s like the chick ain’t living on the same planet Earth I’m living on. But that’s what you get when you’re descended from Japanese daimyos and spent most of your life learning the ways of the samurai from your grandfather. “Getting” real life isn’t high on the priority list. Of course, there’s always the good Professor Wing. Colleen’s dad has tenure at Columbia and has written many books on Asian–American culture, Chinese history, Japanese and European relations, and probably even on the history of the fortune cookie. Daddy Wing’s got more than a little bread stacked up, and he likes to spoil his adult daughter since he didn’t have the chance when she was younger.

I walk through the office, bypassing my desk and going straight to the coffee machine where I pour myself a cup. “So, besides the bike, anything going on this morning I should know about?”


I turn around. Whatever Colleen is doing, it’s commanding her attention. I snap my fingers. “Yo! Earth to Colleen?”


I gesture at her computer. “I thought I told you not to watch cat videos on YouTube in the office.”

Colleen slams her laptop closed and spins around in her swivel chair. “I’m not. I mean, I wasn’t. I didn’t. What? Why do you have to look at me that way?”

I shake my head as I pour some sugar into my coffee. “You said there was something going on this morning, something I should know. No, no, check it. You said there was lots going on.” I toss the torn up sugar packets into the trash and stir my coffee. “So, as Marvin Gaye would say, ‘What’s Goin’ On’

“Well, okay, maybe not lots, but a couple of things. Our bail bondsman license was approved,” she says, holding up a manila envelope containing, what I assume, is our bondsman license from the State of New York. “So, we’re officially in the bounty hunter biz. And Matt Murdock called for you.”

I blow on my coffee to cool it off. “Matt? What’d he want?”

“I don’t know. I guess he’s juggling a few cases right now and could use our investigative expertise.”

I met Matt Murdock through my good friend Luke Cage. Luke’s another Harlem brat like me, just another youngblood fed up with the way the bad guys are running the streets. Like me, Luke decided to do something about it. Luke, Danny Rand, Colleen and I used to all chill together back in the day, but, then, well, you know how life is? If I have time to chill now, I usually spend it in group, counseling sessions, drinking alone, or having nightmares. Having fun? Getting crazy with Colleen, Luke and Danny? Huh. Not much these days.

Besides, Luke’s in love with Jessica Jones now and has been quite…domesticated as of late. Anyway, back then, he’d occasionally bring Matt Murdock around. At first glance, Murdock appears to be another square white dude, but he’s another hood rat like Luke and I. Murdock’s an Irish kid coming straight outta Hell’s Kitchen. He fights back to, but as a lawyer. And, like Colleen and I, his practice is just getting off the ground and his financial situation means he has somewhere between squat and jack s*** to spend on “investigative expertise.”

“Matt can’t afford to pay us,” I say, matter-of-factly, the indifference of the tone making it sound colder than if I’d said it with malice.

“Well,” Colleen begins, “that did come up. I guess he and Franky—“

“Foggy,” I correct.

“That’s what I said: Foggy. Him and Foggy are going after this big time chemical company or something. If they win the case, not only will he pay us twice our rate, but there’d be a pretty hefty bonus.”

“Uh huh,” I say, unimpressed. “And what if he doesn’t win?”

Colleen takes a huge gulp from her water bottle and sets it back down on her desk. “Then…”

“Then what?”

“I don’t know, Misty! What was I supposed to tell him? He’s a friend of ours!”

“You tell him we don’t work for free! No. Forget that. I’ll tell him!”

“You should. You’re in charge around here.” Colleen reaches for her water bottle again.

“In charge? Ain’t no one ‘in charge’ around here. We’re partners, equals.” I’m talking a mile a minute. “We’re girls, we’re crew. Neither one of us is in charge, here. It’s not you and me…it’s us.” I slow down, realizing that I’m doing “it” again.

It’s of course now that I notice Colleen isn’t using a coaster under her water bottle as it leaks condensation all over the place. “Damn, girl!” I say, pulling a coaster out of the drawer by the coffee pot. “I’ve told you: use a coaster! I don’t want rings all over our furniture.” I walk to Colleen’s desk, pick up her bottle, and put the coaster on the desk. Then, with exaggerated movements—as if I’m displaying an item on the Price is Right—I set the bottle on the coaster. “See?”

“That,” Colleen says, pointing to the coaster. “That’s what I mean. That’s why you’re in charge.”

I put my hands up in a conceding gesture. “Okay. Yes. I admit it. I’ve been a little uptight lately—“

“Oh my God, a little uptight? Misty, I haven’t seen you smile since—“

She stops herself in mid sentence. But she doesn’t have to finish. I know what she’s thinking. The quick glance at my arm told me that.

“Why don’t we have fun anymore?” she asks me.

I grab the nearest unpaid bill, images of motorcycles I can’t afford flashing through my mind. “Because you can’t eat good times.”

“No, but you can starve without them.”

I want to fight, but I can’t. I’m tired, but also, I know she’s right. Which means, I’m wrong. Goddamn it, I hate when that happens. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I need a night off.” I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and try to imagine a scenario with my friends where my arm doesn’t monopolize the conversation. “Maybe we should round up the old gang for a few drinks or something.”

Leo slunk through one of the four tunnels leading into the spillway antechamber. His brothers were all doing the same coming through the other entrances, that way if Leatherhead was in there, he'd have no where to go. Of course if he wasn't in there, they were split up and probably opening themselves up to am ambush. But that was a risk they had to take. Leatherhead had some level of intelligence, clearly, but he was also unstable. If they didn't at least corral him somewhere, the threat of him attacking an innocent person was far too great.

"How's it looking?" he asked the others.

"Okay on my end."

"No problemo."

"Everything looking optimal."

The light at the end of the tunnel came closer and closer as Leo approached the chamber. Once he reached the edge, he peered over it, finding the water cascading into the pool in the center below. But on the catwalks above the water, Leo saw something that made him curse under his breath. Leatherhead wasn't the only one possibly using this place as a home. A dozen or so of New York's homeless had taken to the area as an indoor place to set up shop.

"Leo is that...?" Donnie asked as he reached the end of his entrance.

"Humans...yea," he sighed. "Well that's going to make this interesting."

"Yea, so is that."

Leo glanced back down at the pool, where he saw Leatherhead emerge, shooting out of the water and grabbing onto the first catwalk rung. The humans below screamed as the mutant snapped at them hungrily.

"Turtles, let's go to work."

The lead turtle leapt off the edge of the spillway entrance. As he fell, he grabbed a beam in midair, flipped, and slingshotted himself in-between Leatherhead and the civilians, "Come on, big, dumb, and scaly. Pick on someone else who's cold blooded."

Leatherhead charged Leonardo, but before he could reach him, Raph barreled into him with a flying shoulder. The alligator lost his balance and tumbled over the rail back into the water. Leo nodded to Raph before turning back to the homeless people. There, a little girl cowered behind him. He smiled and put his hand out, "It's okay."

The girl seemed to get even more scared as he reached out, causing Leo to recoil. The girl ran to her mother, and Leo had to shake himself out of a stupor. He looked at the mother, "Please, get to the surface. We'll make sure he can't follow."

She nodded, but had the same fearful eyes that her daughter did when she looked at the turtle.

Above them, Mikey and Donnie were escorting the civilians up a ladder and out of the sewers.

"Think he's coming back up?"

With a giant splash, Leatherhead again landed between the two brothers.

"I'd say that's a yes."


"So is patrolling usually this boring?" April asked as the two of them sat down in a park. It had been an uneventful night in the city, one of the few in Casey's recent memory.

"It can be," he smiled. "The company tonight is a lot better than the turtles though."

"Nice one," she rolled her eyes. Considering she didn't have a suit yet, April was adorned in a black hoodie with some of Casey's old hockey pads underneath. Casey apologized profusely for the smell and made a mental note to wash them thoroughly before next time. "Could we go see what the Dragons are up to? Maybe they need some help."

"You know, that's not a bad idea. Let's go."

They stood and began to make their way towards the Purple Dragon headquarters, and from the shadows a few yards away, someone began to follow them.
New York City
Rand Tower

My reactions to Davos' presence were primal. The lightning bolt of shock at finding him in what I've thought of as a private sanctuary, the slight icy chill of fear for myself and Pei as I stepped between her and the threat he represented, but most of all a sudden, overwhelming mix of rage and sorrowful past memories at the arrogance of Davos, one of my family's greatest enemies, rival to my father, here in my office sitting in my father's chair.

All of this, my fear, my anger, even my sorrow, I focused into my fist. Everything that was Danny Rand-Kai at that moment, the life essence of myself, coalesced in one place until it began to shine with the sheer energy of it. But that wasn't all, no, Davos' blatant affront to my family deserved much more. So I looked deep within myself and opened myself up to the hidden, mythical wellspring of energy within all Iron Fists. I called on the Qi of Shou-Lao.

The gentle light of my fist suddenly blazed like a raging fire as I felt the power of the Dragon flow into it, the golden fires lighting up the office nearly blindingly and throwing wild shadows over the room. Then I did what came naturally. I drew on as much of my own qi as I could and dashed across the room to punch the Steel Serpent out of my father's chair and with any luck, through a wall and out of my father's office entirely.

As I drew on my own qi, things slowed down considerably or rather I sped up. I could see everything in crystal clarity as I made my attack, though I knew it only took a fraction of a second. A strange mix of apprehension and admiration on Pei's young face, some of my Rand Incorporated paperwork flying around from the sudden maelstrom of qi and speed, even the look on Davos' face...

As he smirked and deflected my burning punch harmlessly aside. As fast as I was, Davos was still somehow faster, and only training and instinct got me dodging aside fast enough to avoid his counter-blow crushing my throat before he even rose from the chair. From there we were locked in a fierce flurry of in-fighting techniques, all short-range punches, elbows, slipped grapples, last minute parries, fractional dodges and headbutts. We fought with the desk between us and barely moving at all, our techniques flowing into each other, though Davos was always a just barely faster than me in his responses and each counter and evasion I made came with a slightly bigger opening to exploit. I hadn't been pressed by a truly skilled fighter in some time and the Steel Serpent knew it.

In desperation I drew on my qi even further and kicked the desk itself at him, but with contemptuous ease he leaped atop it as I sent it flying. I saw stars as his qi-enhanced knee snapped my head head back and suddenly the office floor rose up to meet me. Before I could fully fall I was already in his grasp, being hauled up by my businessman's suit and tie and stuck with a Three-Star Paralyzer blow as the world returned to normal time from my perspective.

"I should kill you for the affront of attacking me when I've come as your guest, and your pathetic display of 'skill' would shame my father Lei-Kung. But as I said, we need to talk."

Through the acupressure paralysis and my rapidly swelling mouth I tried to tell him to shut up or maybe to agree with him, but all that really came out was 'bluhglub'.

"You have no idea what it is the girl carries, nor would you truly grasp the significance of the fragment if you were told. But removing it from the Ninefold Sack has caused its' qi to flare like a beacon all across New York if not the world, and it is only a matter of time before he you call the 'Ghost Ninja' comes to retrieve it. Along, most likely, with other Jianghu forces. Therefore, I shall take it from you and if you try to stop me I shall-"

"Hiiiii-yaaaaah!~" Davos was suddenly knocked back and staggered, and without him holding me up my still woozy and likely concussed head fell happily towards the ground. From there I can see the girl, Pei. There's defiance in every bit of her posture, and her Flying Swallow kick was near-perfectly executed for someone so young.

Not that it helped her when Davos quickly regains his footing, seemingly barely scratched. Her diagonal Ram's Head blow got caught in one dismissive hand as he hauled her upward, though as she's lifted to eye-level with him I heard the distinctive 'pffffbt' of a raspberry.

<<"If you want the stupid rock, then take it Steel Serpent. But watch your back on the way out or Iron Fist and I are gonna take you out!">>

Threats? Bravado? I couldn't tell and at the moment my head hurt too hard to care. But Pei dug into a pocket before attempting to throw the bag at Davos' head, maybe as one last act of defiance.

He just dropped her and picked the bag up of course, a look of particularly satisfying annoyance on his face as he glared at the two of us.

<<"Wretched, impudent girl! Be grateful that Davos is no killer of children. Your life is spared this day bu-" Suddenly he stopped and looked at Pei, then at me and back, for an instant almost seeming to look through her. Then an odd, cold, terrifying sort of smile spread over his face like fresh chum through shark infested waters.

"Ah. It all becomes clear. No wonder you both vex me so. Perhaps I should kill you after all then... The Steel Serpent moved towards us with murder in his eyes, his deadly hands twitchy almost madly.

Suddenly the doors of the stairs to my CEO's office burst open, and with it the cavalry arrived. Or well, at least a professional Rand Inc. security team arrived, drawn by the violent tumult of my fight with Davos and my toppled desk. For once, I was on the positive side of the firearms.

'FREEZE SCUMBAG! Mr.Rand, are you hurt? We've already contacted the police, but we should be able to deal with this...karate-man."

Davos' expression turned somewhat more sour after that. From what I could tell the whole point of this had been extracting the weird glowy stone fragment without attracting attention, and while I had no doubt he could slaughter my whole building's worth of armed security and reinforcing police, a protracted battle wrecked that goal.

So much to my relief, he chose to jump out the window in a melodramatic shatter of glass. I still wasn't that relieved though. A fall from the top of a skyscraper wouldn't kill Davos. He'd never go down that easy. The security team stared after him, puzzled. Luckily, this is New York, and all of my security has been well-briefed and trained.

"Well...crap. Anyways, let's get you cleaned up, Mr.Rand. Who's the kid?"

I was more concerned with the stone Davos took, and with making sure Pei was alright. But as I moved to check up on the girl's injuries she took yet another pouch out of a pocket of her oversized coat. Without giving anything away to the guard, I raised a classy yet inquisitive eyebrow.

<<"I switched it into a second one of these pouch things while he was explaining how it hid the qi signal. Lord Lei-Kung gave me a spare in case the first one ripped or something. The Steel Sucker probably won't even realize he has an ordinary rock for a while!">>

She seemed pleased with herself at that, and personally I couldn't help but feel the same way.

But still, looking around my trashed office, I could tell this whole situation was going to take some explaining, and more importantly some help.

Ext. Nightwing Restorations,
Several awkward lies and a suit-change later

I knocked on the door with just a little trepidation. Did I really want to bring this whole situation, whatever it was, down on the heads of Colleen and Misty? After all, they weren't always equipped to handle all of my mystical kung fu weirdness. Heck, even I wasn't always equipped to handle it, as Davos had so aptly demonstrated.

But no, Colleen had been one of my first friends in the Mortal World since I first came here, and she trusted Misty with her life which meant so did I. The only person I'd trust more would be Luke himself. So I knocked prepared to explain and ask for help, even as Pei made impatient faces behind my back.

<<"What are we doing here? Aren't we going to go beat some answers out of Davos?">>

<<"Patience Grasshopper. All will be revealed in time.">>

If she got the reference, she didn't show it. But she'd get what I meant soon enough.

The Watchtower.

Crap. This is bad. This is very bad.

"JARVIS, give me a fix on Platinum's location."

Once more today, an A.I. I've designed doesn't respond to my request.

"Goddammit, JARVIS, come on."

JARVIS is currently indisposed, Iron Man.

What the-? The voice comes from all around us, and that's when I realize that I can't move.

"Clark, we've got a problem here." My voice isn't amplified by my armor's speaker system, but I know Clark can hear me. Or at least he can in the moment before he's teleported away.

Eye am sorry, Superman. Eye would have preferred that you did not get involved in this.


Two Minutes Later
Somewhere in the South Pacific



".....that hurt."

And that's an understatement. I think I actually lost consciousness for a minute there-- not even General Zod's managed to hit me hard enough to knock me out.

When Tony first came to the League with the plans for the Watchtower, a few of us--myself in particular-- were dead-set against the idea of having our base of operations include a colossal orbital weapon. Even Bruce, who can rationalize just about anything for 'just in case' scenarios, didn't support our presence being punctuated with what amounted to the world's biggest gun. But on top of being a technological prodigy and a shrewd businessman, Tony's also a hell of a smooth talker, and he was quick to convince a majority of us to let him go ahead with the design.

And now something's gone wrong, and some rogue element has control of the Watchtower, enabling them to rain down untold devastation from the sky. I swear, sometimes I think the only difference between Tony Stark and Lex Luthor is their initial intentions....

Lifting myself out of the water and into the air, I try to assess the situation. Before I was teleported right in front of the barrel of the Watchtower's cannon, Tony said something to me, but his voice wasn't amplified through his suit. Meaning that whoever took control of the Tower likely disabled Tony's armor, too. If he's still up there, he's a sitting duck. We need to get mobilized, and fast.

"Superman to all points," I say into my comm, "We have a code red situation. The Watchtower is compromised, and Iron Man may be in need of immediate rescue. Repeat--"

There's nothing on the other end. Focusing my vision to scan further into the electromagnetic signal, there aren't even any signals to or from the Watchtower. Our communications have been cut off.

"All right, fine," I say to myself. "I'll do this the old-fashioned way."

I open up the proverbial throttle and shatter the sound barrier, trying to move quickly enough that the Watchtower's targeting computer can't keep track-- I don't know if it assumes I'm out of the picture, but I'm really not sure how many shots from that cannon I can take, and I'm really not inclined to find out.

Banking north and south in a serpentine to keep my movements from being predictable--as well as to keep the hypersonic boom in my wake from blowing through populated areas-- I try and think who to alert first. Batman is one of the few people on Earth (at least, one of the few on our side) who can compete with Stark from a technological standpoint. Diana can dictate a battle strategy to counter whatever threat is coming. However, getting to either of them will take too much time....and if Tony's still in danger, time may be one thing we don't have much of.

If I'm going to muster the League to take back the Tower, I need to get someone who can be in multiple places practically all at once. And there's only one guy I can think of for the job....

As the North American continent blurs beneath me, I recognize the familiar corn fields of Kansas, and make for Central City.

"You did well out there today," I tell Wally as we settle into our seats on the plane. It'll be good to give my legs a break for a few -- well, more than "a few" -- hours. "That was perhaps your finest performance to date," I continue, "and that's saying a lot considering how much you've progressed, particularly lately." A stewardess passes by, and I pause. Once she's gone, I add, "You'll make a damn fine Flash one day, I wager."

My eyes go wide as Barry says that one day I'll be the Flash. As in, the main one. No more "Kid" for me. I'm not sure how it makes me feel, to be honest. I mean, yea, one day I'd love for people to look at me like they look at Barry, but do I really have the ability to be that? Barry is so much better than me, I'm man enough to admit it. He's the gold standard. Most people would call Captain America or Superman that, but the people in Central City know that Barry is it. He's the be all end all.

And what if I'm the Flash because something terrible happens to Barry? Would I be ready? Would the people accept me?

I shake my head and try to take a nap. All this is something for another time. We did good work today, that's what matters.


"Where were you last night?" Linda asks as I flop down on her couch for a Mario Kart session. "I called but it went right to voicemail."

Hiding my secret from her has been the worst thing. It's not easy to constantly lie to your best friend, but it's something that superheroes have to do, seemingly. Still, it eats at me every time I have to do it, especially when it's a lie as big as going to another country.

"I was in Keystone," I shrug. "Aunt Iris wanted to do some shopping and I tagged along."

"Awww, aren't you such a good little nephew," she pinched my cheek, causing me to slip on a banana peel in the game.

"Hey!" I stick my tongue out at her. "It's not my fault I'm a terrific human being and wonderful family member."

"You may have them fooled, but not me, West," she shrugged. "Now, let's get back to me kicking your butt. Eat Yoshi's dust."

Four years.

Four years and this city, his city, was still dying of cancer. An ever growing invasive tumor known as crime.

He wanted to think he was making a difference, however small. Cleaning up decades of deep rooted corruption was sure to take time. Even longer now, ever since...Harvey...

Batman shook the thoughts from his head. Self loathing and pity would get him nothing but a quick trip six feet under.

Quiet night. They were few and far between. Not so much as a purse snatcher. The Batman reached down and adjust a dial on his utility belt, checking the police band one last time before deciding to call it a night.

"...repeat, we have lost visual. Batman and Robin have escaped. All units are to report back to the commissioner's position."

Batman's eyes narrowed under his mask. The boy...

His heart skipped a beat. The boy had gone out on patrol after all. If Essen was after him, even if he did give her the slip, she wouldn't call off the hounds that easy.

He hit a button on his gauntlet. In the distance, he heard the roar of a high power engine coming to life.

"Fool. Damned foolish child."

Colleen's back on her laptop, typing furiously, as Misty walks to her desk with a cup of coffee.

And that&#8217;s the thing about Colleen: She&#8217;s always so optimistic, always so easygoing and cheerful; she&#8217;s always so&#8230;right. She&#8217;s the complete opposite of me and, quite frankly, she is everything I wish I could be.

Yup. Friends. That&#8217;s how you get by in life. The realization makes me yearn for Danny and Luke&#8217;s company too. Yeah, I miss the old days. The days before&#8230;

I clench my metallic fist and think, f*** it. The old days are gone. Might as well call up Matt Murdock and&#8230;

Ext. Nightwing Restorations,
Several awkward lies and a suit-change later

I knocked on the door with just a little trepidation. Did I really want to bring this whole situation, whatever it was, down on the heads of Colleen and Misty? After all, they weren't always equipped to handle all of my mystical kung fu weirdness. Heck, even I wasn't always equipped to handle it, as Davos had so aptly demonstrated.

But no, Colleen had been one of my first friends in the Mortal World since I first came here, and she trusted Misty with her life which meant so did I. The only person I'd trust more would be Luke himself. So I knocked prepared to explain and ask for help, even as Pei made impatient faces behind my back.

<<"What are we doing here? Aren't we going to go beat some answers out of Davos?">>

<<"Patience Grasshopper. All will be revealed in time.">>

If she got the reference, she didn't show it. But she'd get what I meant soon enough.

&#8220;Who knocks?&#8221; Colleen asks, looking up at me quizzically. &#8220;It&#8217;s a place of business. Why not just walk in?&#8221;

&#8220;I don&#8217;t know,&#8221; I say setting down my coffee by my desk, and heading to the door to open it. It wasn&#8217;t even 9:00am yet and my head was throbbing.

I yank open the door and find myself face to face with Danny Rand. My breath catches in my throat as butterflies do loops in my stomach. The tall, confident stature topped with broad shoulders, that square jaw that so perfectly frames his boyish smile, his soft blue eyes and mop of blond hair. Oh my God, those chiseled arms&#8212;arms that used to hold me what seems like a lifetime ago. Comfort, familiarity, sexiness&#8230;wanting to chill with Danny is one thing, but I never thought, I mean, I didn&#8217;t realize&#8230;damn it, I&#8217;m still in love with this boy.

Almost reflexively, I dangle my right arm behind my back as my voice&#8212;thick and rattled with heavy breathing&#8212;eases out the word, &#8220;Danny?&#8221;

Lord, if he smiles, my knees are going to buckle.

&#8220;Danny!&#8221; Colleen pipes up excitedly from behind me. She&#8217;s away from her desk in an instant, her empty office chair banging against the back wall.

He&#8217;s hurt. I can tell. His mouth is swollen and his lip cracked. He stands at an odd, distorted angle, like he&#8217;s intentionally not putting weight on his left side. Then, from around the corner&#8212;almost as if she were hiding&#8212;slinks in a young girl.

Colleen and I look at each other without saying a word. We don&#8217;t need to. We&#8217;re both thinking the same thing.

&#8220;As Misty would say, &#8216;as Marvin Gaye would say, What&#8217;s Goin&#8217; On?&#8217;&#8221;

I look back at Danny, right into his eyes, begging him&#8212;pleading with him in silence&#8212;to return the gaze. Does he know I&#8217;m still in love with him? And, more importantly, is he still in love with me?


Misty is putting ice into a plastic bag to make a makeshift ice pack for Danny. Colleen enters.

Two minutes later I&#8217;m in the back office, pulling ice cubes out of the freezer to make Danny an ice pack. Colleen walks up to me and hops on the counter, her legs dangling and swaying.

&#8220;Oohhh&#8230;the old flame is back!&#8221; she playfully teases. &#8220;What are you gonna do?&#8221;

&#8220;Colleen, I don&#8217;t know how I feel about him, and I really have no clue how he feels about me. So let&#8217;s not worry about all that right now. He&#8217;s here because he needs help. He&#8217;s in trouble.&#8221;

&#8220;So are you. Deep.&#8221;

I pry at a few ice cubes. &#8220;What?&#8221; I feign.

&#8220;I can see the way you look at him. And he can see it too.&#8221;

I fake a smile and use my metallic fist to crush a handful of ice cubes into shavings and drop them in a zip lock baggie.

&#8220;You&#8217;d be awesome at making snow cones.&#8221;

&#8220;Whatever. Let&#8217;s go see what they want.&#8221;


DANNY and PEI sit in chairs opposite Misty's desk as Misty and Colleen ease themselves onto the desk.

Colleen and I sit on the edge of my desk. I let my legs dangle; Colleen pulls hers up so she can put her heels on the edge of my desk and hug her knees. I slap her feet away. Just what I want: dirty footprints all over my desk. Danny and his young friend&#8212;Pay or Pie or something like that&#8212;sit in a couple chairs.

Danny leans forward and puts the bag of ice to his face.

&#8220;Okay, Danny. Catch us up.&#8221;

Leatherhead's jaws nearly snapped closed on Leo's arm as he slid out of the way. Its powerful mandibles sheered through the metal railing on the walkway, sending shrapnel tumbling into the churning waters of the spillway below. The alligator's tail swung around and slammed Leo in the chest, sending him flying back. His shell bounced off the metal grating, and he slid, creating sparks. Before he could get up, Leatherhead was on top of him, his maw staring him in the face. Acting quickly, he reached down to his belt and pulled out one of Donnie's syringes before plunging it into the soft tissue of the other mutant's mouth.

The alligator recoiled in pain, and Leo contacted his brothers, "I've injected him. Let's hope it-Crap!"

The mutant's massive arm came swinging down, barely missing Leonardo. The force of the impact caused the piece of catwalk they were on to collapse, sending the two of them down into the water. The cold, churning waters washed over Leo, shocking his system. He was usually quite composed, but he knew Leatherhead would be better in the water than he was. The Turtles were better than humans in the drink, but an alligator would be even better.

He frantically looked for his opponent, when from the murky depths the jaws shot forward towards him. Leo managed to catch the beginning of the maw, but the force still shot him upwards and out of the water. His arms flailed as he spun wildly in the air, only to be caught by Mikey, who swung through the air on his kusarigama attached to a pipe above, "Swingin' in brah!"

"Mikey, I could kiss you," Leo sighed as he saw Leatherhead's bladed mouth open below.


"Donnie, I hit him with one of the darts!" he called up to his brother. "I thought you said they'd knock him out!"

"No, I said I thought they would knock him out," the purple clad turtle protested. "Science is never a guarantee, Leo!"

"Oh I am gonna kick your nerd butt later," Raph growled as the feral mutant climbed up towards him. Raphael, however, was not as patient as Leonardo. He pulled the tranquilizer off his belt and tossed it at the alligator, and the needle struck true. Leo saw as the automatic plunger dispensed the sleeping agent into the gator's blood stream.

When he reached the top of the catwalk, Leatherhead collapsed to the floor, the tranqs finally doing their job.

"Alright," Leo looked at his brothers. "Let's get to work. I want to try and talk to him when he wakes up."


They had come out of nowhere. The Foot descended on April and Casey while they made their way towards the Dragons' hideout. But this wasn't just any group of Foot Ninjas.

They were his father's men, and one of his sister's was at their lead.

"Baby brother," Jade taunted him as he and April tried to fight off her men. They were doing an admirable job so far, but Casey could tell the ninja were instructed to hold back. "Why don't you come with us? That'd be the easiest thing for us all. Then we wouldn't have to hurt your girlfriend."

After she stopped talking, the Foot separated Casey and April. He swung wildly with his baseball bat and attempted to close the gap between them, but more and more Foot rushed in. He could hear April scream as he fought in vain to get to her.

"Jade! If you hurt her, I'm gonna kill you!"

"Baby bro, I'd love to see you try," she laughed as a hard blow struck Casey in the back of the head, turning his world into darkness.


Leathearhead began to stir. The rage began to build, even if he was still groggy. His eyes opened slowly, and when he saw the four turtles standing in front of him he tried to lunge forward. He was restrained by rope. Normally he would have been able to break free, but Donnie was sure the tranquilizer would keep him weak for as long as they needed.

"Relax," Leo tried to calm him. "We're not your enemies."

"Lies!" he growled. "They told me the Turtles made me this way! They told me the only way to get back was to kill you!"

"They? Who are they?" Donnie asked.

"The doctor and the lady," he snarled. "I woke up. I know I was human. But now, I am this. They said it was you. Showed me pictures. Told me you'd be in the sewers. They said they could turn me back. But only with your blood."

"Doctor and lady?'
Mikey was confused.

"Stockman and Karai," Raph seethed.

Leo understood perfectly now. The Foot really were making weapons to go after them. Leatherhead remembered nothing of his former life. Only that he was a human, most likely one of Stockman's people. It made Leo sick to his stomach. He knew Karai would be desperate, but this was sick.

"We did not make you like this," Leo tried to reason with Leatherhead. "The people who told we did? They're behind it. I don't know if they can turn you back or not, but if they can, it has nothing to do with us. We don't want to fight you."

Leatherhead struggled with what he heard, and Leo could see him working it out. His mutation clearly had affected his mind negatively. But then Leo saw the mutant's muscles tighten and the ropes break. He stood, roared at the turtles, then jumped into the water, disappearing beneath the waves.

"You think he believed us?" Mikey worried.

"Well, he didn't try and kill us," Leo shrugged. "That's an improvement."

The caverns of the cave were suddenly filled with the ferociuos roar of afterburners. Dick's heart fluttered ever so slightly as he caught the first glimpse of headlights in the dark tunnel leading to the main platform.

The Batmobile screeched to a halt, the canopy sliding open as the dark, imposing figure climbed from the cockpit.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing?!"

Batman glared at his young ward, and then past him to the young woman being attended to by Alfred.

"You disobeyed a direct order! And you brought her here?!"

"I didn't know what else to do."

"You could start by listening to what you're told."

"I--I thought this was a test. This was my mission, I thought you wanted me to take--"

"My instructions are ironclad. Nothing is open to interpretation. That is what keeps us alive out there."

"But, we got the guy. Doesn't that count for something?"

"You brought a gun fight into the middle of the city and put innocents in danger. It was messy and it's only blind, dumb luck that no one was killed."

"But we got the guy," Dick whispered

Batman looked again to Barbara Gordon.

"Not to mention that you've compromised our location and identities. We work from the shadows, and her father is not our ally anymore."

"That may be true, but I'm not my father."

Batman and Robin both turned to Barbara. Her statement, it was something uttered in this cave many times.

"I want to help, sir. My dad, I think he still does as well, but he's becoming lost, I'm afraid. I don't want to see him slip off of a dangerous slope."

"This is not your fight, young lady. You are inexperienced, and you have no place here."

Barbara averted her gaze. Dick's hand trembled, but he knew better than to speak up.

"Master Bruce, a word, if you will."

The three turned their gaze to the demure butler who to this point had been taking the entire conversation in.

"Alfred, now is not the time."

"I beg your pardon, sir, but I do believe that it is a perfect time. It won't take long, I promise."

Dick smiled slightly, but made sure to hide it from his mentor. There was only one man who could ever stand toe to toe with the Dark Knight.

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