End of Summer
 

Batman:DCF #18

Squad Run

Part One

THE DCFuture Underground Fan Fiction group acknowledges that DC Comics owns the concepts behind Dr. Occult, Rose Psychic, other DC characters that may be used here, and ALL related characters and retains complete rights to said characters. These concepts are used WITHOUT permission for NO PROFIT, but rather a strong desire to peer into the future of the DC Universe. This also acknowledges that original concepts presented here are the intellectual property of the author.

PROLOGUE

"I--I'm not kiddin'! My boys, they'll be back any second now, Bat, and they'll waste you! They will waste you!"

His name is Randal. He's only seventeen years old, but his rap sheet's so long I could wad it up and use it to bulletproof my house.

Okay, so that was an exaggeration… a very slight exaggeration.

What Randal likes to do is push drugs… and not the kiddie stuff, no… No, Randal likes to find new and innovative brands of sewage to bring into my town.

Synthetics; designer drugs at discount prices…

Scream.

Travel dust.

Heartbeat.

Pix.

I've seen what this stuff does firsthand recently… and the kind of anger it brings me is, well, fairly substantial. So the urge to pulp Randal here until his body holds the rough consistency of a beanbag is considerable.

However, I've always been known for my restraint.

"Randal, I've told you. Several times, in fact.

Drugs are not tolerated in Gotham. And after I tell you that, I bring you to jail. But miraculously, you reappear before me, again and again. Why is that?"

"I got a lawyer."

That sentence spoke volumes. Randal is either making enough money pushing that he can afford the type of lawyer that keeps him out of stir, or he's got a backer that can't afford to do any dirty work.

I really wanna break a rib. Just one.

"Watch out!" A voice calls from above. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a dull glint. Randal has a piece I didn't detect.

That means it has to be plastic.

No problem, my fibro-armor can withstand…

FFFFFFFFFZZZZZZZZZSHHHHHHHAK!

The skies were clear… for Gotham. I could see the constellations of the summer sky beyond the lingering haze of pollution. There wasn't a cloud in sight.

…Yet a bolt of lightning just sawed Randal in half.

And, as if on cue, a man of silver and black, with a red atomic symbol on his chest -- and a woman with a sizeable… er… smile landed right in front of me, right out of the blue.

"He had a gun," she said, still smiling like I was some schmuck she met in an N-Rom bar instead of a man dressed as a bat in a dark metropolitan alley.

"I'm Nem… Eve." She finished. "Eve. Nice to finally meet you."

Come to think of it, I could use a drink.


Part One


Pop always told me that there were only two certainties in the world. One: life could be harsh, if you weren't careful. Two: nothing is what it appears to be.

My mind's on the latter contention right now as I stare into the hypnotic eyes of a woman that's 'here to meet the illustrious Dark Knight.' 'Illustrious,' she says. Sheesh. Unfortunately, I'm not in the mood for melodrama… and Randall's really starting to stink.

"Nice to meet you. I'd give you an autograph, but I'm fresh out of…"

"Treat her with some respect."

"Nathaniel."

Aha, the silver giant speaks… and is hushed by a single word. And that look in his eye tells me that he's none too happy about being corrected by his lady fair… especially after so gallantly defending her honor. Too bad.

"As I was saying, Batman, we're with an organization that is quite interested in your services. We're prepared to offer you…"

"Do I look like a mercenary to you, sweetheart?" I added the sobriquet to piss tall and shiny off. Ooh, look at his eyes spark up -- that's pretty. But he's still not saying a word.

What kind of hold does this chick have on him? I don't have time to think about it; she's smiling again.

"Mercenary? No… no, that's not exactly the type of deal we offer… typically." I do NOT like the way she enunciated that word. "However, Batman, we are extremely interested in working with you, and…"

"Yo, what the-- what up? Randal? Randal!"

They caught us off guard, admittedly. The sexy one just sort of looks at the gang like she's bored. Really bored. The shiny guy's hands start to glow.

"You kids back off. Now." Authority drips from her voice, but it does no good… they advance, brandishing some heavy artillery… my cue to leave. If Randal here is any indication, Sparky's not gonna have any trouble with those kids -- no matter HOW much heat they pack. I don't like to see kids slaughtered, but I don't know anything about these two, aside from the facts that they A. have an interest in me and B. have the power to give me more of a fight than I can handle at the moment…

And I'm not prepared to be at such a disadvantage. Not in this town.


"You walked AWAY?" Clark Kent has, perhaps, the most over-developed sense of responsibility and fair play ever instilled in a human being… or an extra terrestrial, come to think of it. So he was understandably displeased to hear of the evening's exploits. The little vein popped out of his forehead as he screamed, and he put a six-foot crack in the wall of Wayne Manor that Alfred had to rush to fix.

"Yes I did, Clark. I walked away from the sexy chick and the shiny guy as they proceeded to turn a gang of drug pushing losers into a patch of pavement!"

Clark's fists, both balled tight, shook. His jaw was clenched in a way that made it seem all the more rock-like. His blue eyes bore holes into Tim… and his sharp breathing signaled that it wouldn't take much for those same eyes to start making that analogy a reality.

"You left them to die."

"No."

"Yes, Tim, you did."

"Clark, I don't know who, exactly, you think you're dealing with here. I am not Bruce Wayne. I don't have powers and abilities far beyond those of… yadda, yadda, yadda. I had no advantage in that alley against those two. Zero, you get it? Tell me how, exactly, I can stop them from murdering people that matter if I get killed myself?"

Clark was silent for a long time, a silence that creeped Tim out more than anything since the movie he had seen as a child, with the purple dinosaur and the children… and the carnage…

When Tim shook himself back to reality, Clark was standing at the window looking out; the thin, antique wire framed glasses he wore as a comfort were nestled in his hand.

"All people matter," Clark said at last, before leaving the room.

"I… I meant, I…" Tim started.

"You hurt him, Master Tim."

"Oh, you think?"

"No, Master Tim. 'Twas most likely a tear of joy."

"Tear? How did you, I mean…"

"There are over 1,000 cameras positioned in, around, and… under this domicile, sir. My 'eyes.' There is precious little I miss. Now go and apologize."

"Why can't you just make some wisecrack and keep the place clean, like usual?"

"Because that's getting to be rather wearisome, sir. However, Master Tim, if I may offer a suggestion?"

"What?"

"If you wanted to move Master Clark to tears, you might have simply tried showing him some of your clothing, as opposed to mocking his ideals."

"Shut up, Alfred." Tim muttered, leaving the room.

"Silly me," Alfred said to the empty room. "I was merely following his request…"


The man known as Deadshot sat on the posh bed in the penthouse suite of the Gotham Mermacia, admiring the room. The pastel colors, the fancy drapes, the outlandish paintings.

"Whatever happened to dogs, and… and poker?" There was no one to answer the question, but it needed to be asked. Something to break the silence and keep him from thinking the things that he did not wish to think about.

Like the one about the dead guy that wasn't. Otherwise known as his life story… well, such as it is.

Why wasn't there anything good on the HV?

A rush of wind brought Deadshot back to reality. The windows weren't open, the AE* (*artificial environment) was off. That meant he was no longer alone.

Deadshot smiled as he looked at the handsome young man before him, silver hair slicked straight

back, smoked goggles slightly askew, and a devilish grin draping his silent mouth.

"So where've you been?" Deadshot asked the silver and black garbed speedster before him.

"The Knightclub," Mercury signed. "Nice place, great women."

"What, did they all turn you down or something?"

Mercury shook his head. "Not even close. Matter of fact, I had the pick of the litter," he signed. "Black hair, red highlights, perfect height, size, green eyes… it was love at first sight."

"So where is she? You want me to leave?"

"No, no she's not here… she wanted something I couldn't give her." Mercury smiled.

"What's that?"

"What do you think?" Mercury signed out, before tapping his lips.

"You mean she… isn't that still illegal?"

"Yes it is," Nemesis said, striding confidently in the room. "Deadshot, I need you in Puerto Rico."

"What? Why, I thought I needed to be here to help with the…"

"Your services will be of more value in Puerto Rico." She was adamant. "Danny will be here directly. Go downstairs and wait."

"Yes'm," Deadshot shrugged, leaving the posh room and all of the thoughts he'd been thinking behind him.

"Now you - Mercury. Where have you been?"

"Having some fun. It's not every day I'm in Gotham." The speedster signed.

"Must have run out of relatives to kill," Captain Atom muttered. He hadn't even finished before Mercury was across the room, his hands around the silver man's throat.

"If you want to live another second, shiny, you WILL apologize." Mercury said in confidence to the Captain, his fingers tapping the words in a flurry of Morse code on Captain Atom's neck. The look of pure anger in Mercury's eyes would have relayed the same message.

"Enough," Nemesis demanded. "Mercury, let him go."

"Not until you apologize," Mercury tapped to the Captain. "Or die. Your choice, last chance."

"I'm… sorry," Captain Atom managed at last. He wasn't 100% sure if his power could kill Mercury before the speedster vibrated through his carotid artery… and spinal column.

"Damn straight," the speedster signed, releasing his captive.

"This bickering is not helping us. Mercury, you requested to come along. I allowed it. Don't make me think I made a bad decision," Nemesis said. "I don't like people telling me I'm wrong."

"Sorry boss," Mercury signed. "So you find the bat guy?"

"Yes, we did. He didn't seem that interested in our offer."

"We never got to even MAKE the offer… the children interrupted us, and he slipped away," Captain Atom added.

"Children?" Mercury signed, confused.

"Some street gang, packing a lot of heat. Gotham's worse than I remember it," Nemesis said.

"And you're still interested in this Batman?"

"Of course I am, Nathaniel," Eve smiled. "It was a smart tactical move. The youths represented no threat to us, and we were an unknown to him. He used the diversion to escape until he was ready to meet us on his own terms. That's smart. I like that."

Captain Atom rolled his eyes. Mercury chuckled. Nemesis frowned.

"This isn't a game, gentlemen. Batman is a valuable asset, and I shall have him."

As Nemesis left the room, Captain Atom growled. Distrust, anger, jealousy. They flowed through his veins… and his skin temperature was now high enough to fry an egg.

That's when the sprinkler system set in, and Mercury was sent into convulsions with a fresh round of laughter.

"You're supposed to be mute," Atom muttered as the silver-haired speedster fought to catch his breath.


"Clark, you have to understand… I didn't know what else to do." Tim started. He wasn't very good at apologizing, especially when he had no fundamental sense of wrongdoing. "I had to get out of there."

"I understand what you did, Tim. I can understand your reasoning. I can find the logic." Clark turned towards Tim, his steel-blue eyes penetrating the younger man to the core. "But that doesn't make it right."

"I can't out-argue you on that one, CK. I know that. I made a mistake. I should have tried to stop them. Or at least make sure I could keep tabs on them before I left them to the bangers." Tim offered a smile. It was not reciprocated.

"It doesn't sound like you've learned anything, Tim."

"On the contrary, Clark, I think I've learned something very important."

"Such as?"

"That I should be prepared enough in the future to not have to make this kind of decision again."

Clark Kent nodded, not entirely convinced. Most of the time, Tim was such a good kid. Responsible. He exemplified the best traits of heroism. But then there were moments - brief moments - where he was colder in his logic than Bruce had ever been. It was a frightening dichotomy.

Clark yawned, exhausted. Time for some shuteye.


"Can I help you?" Donna Olsen asked as she stared at the bizarre woman before her. A woman with pale white hair and shattering green eyes that screamed with power as they held Donna in a grip of iron.

"I would like to speak with Mr. Drake," the woman replied, coldly.

"I'm sorry," Donna said, looking away. "Mr. Drake is very rarely on the premises; he…"

"Where can I reach him?"

"I'm sorry, but I can't give you that information."

The woman smiled, clearly unused to any sort of defiance.

"Come here," the woman said, motioning Donna on. "Don't worry. Just come here."

Donna left her desk and moved to face the woman with the startling green eyes.

"Listen to me," the woman started. "I haven't seen Timothy in a very long time. I went to college with him years back… as a matter of fact, we were classmates on more than one occasion, and…"

"I'm sorry, I can't give you that information, ma'am." Donna said once more, her voice wavering, nervous. A beep from her personal computer shook her out of her timidity.

"What was that?"

"That was nothing," Green eyes said, smiling. "Here." The woman handed Donna a card with a teleline code inscribed.

"What…?"

"Loyalty in the face of intimidation. I like that. If you're ever want a new job, by all means -- contact me."

And then, she was gone. Donna sat back down at her desk, her computer screen tuned to the startup screen.

Meanwhile, in a hoverlimo outside…

"So did you get it?" Nemesis asked, removing the wig and psychoactive contact lenses she had been using to transfix the secretary.

"Sure did," Mercury signed, fading back into view from his speed induced state of invisibility. "He's out in the boonies. Y'know, 'grass and trees.' We heading out there?"

"No," Nemesis replied. "Drake is our secondary objective. Tonight we'll appeal once more to the Batman."

"And how do you plan on getting his attention?" Mercury signed, confused.

"My dear little Mercury," Nemesis smiled. "Did you forget where we are?"


"Listen to me," Kylie Roarke said calmly to the young man before her. "I look like a nice girl, don't I?" She waited for him to nod. "Right. And I'm sure you have all kinds of… interesting thoughts kicking around in your head don't you?" There was no nod this time, as Kylie had leaned forward just enough for the man to be sucked in at the sight of her cleavage.

"Well, I certainly hope one of those interesting thoughts has something to do with our friend Tuesday." Kylie smiled again.

The young man's eyes widened as he shook his head no and started to protest. Kylie grabbed his face, shutting him up while looking into his eyes.

"Look here, kiddo. Tuesday is bad news, correct? As cliched as that is, you know that's the story. Well guess what! I'm no prize myself. So here's the deal: you tell me exactly what you know about this influx of Heartbeat I hear Tuesday has coming into town…or I put the word out on the street that you tried to tell the cops anyway, but wound up talking to a corrupt badge jockey that just forgot to tell us honest folk what was going down. Does that sound like a deal?"

"But what…" the kid started.

"Yes?" Kylie smiled.

"What if I tell you what I know?"

"Well, then. We'll get you a cup of coffee before we throw you to the Boat."

"The… the Boat? But I… I mean, I…"

"You've got more Scream in your system than you have antibodies to deal with it, honey. You've got to go to Reykjavik for detox or we'd end up having to put you down. Think of it as a reward."

"But… but I don't want to go there, I…"

"…You don't want to be cleaned out and put to work do you? Guess what -- tough. You're going to be detoxified and fish farming for the next two and a half years. Or you're gonna wind up as food for some of the fish we still got left in the harbor." Kylie gave her widest smile again. "Do I need to get you a coin to flip, hon? It's not really all that tough a decision."

Ten minutes later, Kylie had all the information she could get from the kid, who was now shaking, terrified. She came out of the interrogation room refreshed, finding Jon Isaacs waiting for her.

"Sweetheart, you have got a real gift."

"Don't flatter me, Commissioner. You know I'm married."

"Yeah, I know, I know, I know. And call me Jon, fer cryin' out loud! This standin' on ceremony stuff is startin' to give me an ulcer."

"A policy is a policy."

"I'm changing policy."

"You can't do that, sir," Kylie added a smile. "Sorry."

"Of course I can't," Jon Isaacs mumbled as he shuffled off, cane in hand. "I'm just the boss, what do I know?"

All of a sudden, Jon Isaacs felt a little lightheaded. Couldn't be the shot of bourbon he had before work… not one shot. But the world was starting to get awful dark, paddies were dropping all around him, and butterflies were floating around the edge of his vision.

With a slump, the commissioner of police hit the floor, along with every other cop in the house.


Captain Atom and Nemesis alighted atop the GCPD to see Mercury fidgeting with a spotlight. Without turning around, the speedster reached a hand up over his shoulder and signed two words:

"Almost ready."

Nemesis nodded in approval.

The captain sneered. "I still don't see why we need him. He's a minor talent."

"Yes, I can see how that would irk you, Nathaniel."

"That reminds me; why did you tell him our names? Do you know what he could do with them? Do you have any idea what…"

"Nathaniel, shut up. If he's such a minor talent, why worry about him knowing our first names? How can we even assume he believes those were our names, hmm?"

"Then why did you tell him…"

"I was establishing a bond of trust, you idiot!" Nemesis exploded, shouting at the silvery man before her, fogging up the symbol of the atom on his chest with the exhalation that accompanied the scream. She was about to give him another piece of her mind when Mercury shushed them both. Nemesis glanced at the speedster with fire in her eyes. He signed:

"Not now, boss."

Eve felt pangs of shame. How could she lose her temper on a mission, even a quiet little recruitment job, in front of her team? Not that she would ever admit it, of course. Eve looked at Captain Atom for a long moment, before finally saying:

"Never question my authority or my methods again. Are we clear?"

"Crystal," the captain replied, looking away in time to miss being blinded by a bright light, a light that bathed Nemesis in it's unearthly glow, carrying it's legendary symbol into the heavens.

"It's working again," Mercury signed, a smile on his face. He loved pointing out the obvious to management.


The klaxon resounded through the caverns beneath Wayne Manor, startling Clark enough to wake him.

"Alfred?" Clark asked. "What is that?"

"That is the signal warning, sir," Alfred promptly replied. "Someone is summoning Master Tim."

"Wait a minute," Clark paused. "The Bat Signal? Who on earth would be using that? I didn't think the police respected Tim enough to…"

"They don't," Tim replied, actually startling Clark. "That means someone else is playing with it. Five'll get you ten it's our little friends from the other night. Alfred, have you modified my costume?"

"Modifications?" Clark asked.

"Yes, Master Clark. I do wish you'd keep with the times," Alfred quipped, an affectionate edge to his sarcasm. "Now then, Master Tim: I've added all you ask to the suit, plus a few last minute inspirations…"

"Alfred, I don't have time for anything I don't know how to work," Tim said as he suited up.

"Sir, these are automatic or dormant functions. Besides, one can never tell when one will need shark repellant."

"Alfred, just… ugh." Tim said, unable to even finish his sentence. And then, noting the look of confusion on Clark's face, Tim continued: "Alfred, bring up the file on the Suicide Squad."

"Suicide Squad?" Clark spat. "What?"

"Clark, you've been sleeping for a good twelve hours," Tim said, clearly to the amazement of the older man. "We've found a few things out, and I'd like your opinion on how to handle this."

The screen glowed brighter as the logo of the Justice League flashed across it.

"It was a stroke of luck that I was able to access the League's computers," Alfred explained as the information began to appear. "True, I only had a narrow window, but I haven't…

"Not now Alfred," Clark breathed. "My God. That's Captain Atom."

"You recognize him?"

"Not another one," Alfred moaned.

"Alfred," Tim scolded before returning to his query. "Do you recognize him, Clark?"

"Of course I do, Tim. He was a member of the Justice League for a time, and…"

"So what's he doing here? Any ideas?"

"He's changed, but I… what? No. I don't know why he's here any more than I know why I am."

"Does he have any weaknesses I can exploit?"

Clark noted Tim's shift in tone, and was instantly uncomfortable. It was as though he was speaking to Bruce again, a robot concerned only with the task at hand. That familiar chill ran up Clark's spine again. The chill subsided when he saw Tim massage his eyes in confusion. It wasn't Bruce all over again. It was simple fear.

"I'm sorry, Tim… I just can't remember. I'm sorry…"

"Don't be," Tim smiled. "I work better with improvisational situations anyway. Alfred, what about the other two?"

"The woman is Eve Tresser," Alfred said. "She is, apparently the leader of the team, at least according to the Justice League; with a list of aliases that beggars the mind. As to the platinum blonde, sir, that would be… Jake Russell. Better known to the public as Mercury. Flash Corps speedster turned terrorist… innate powers, and…"

"I know that guy," Tim said.

"Pardon?"

"I saw him at my club a night or two ago, making hand signals left and right to… Melody, I think. He's gotta be either deaf or mute. Not to mention perverted."

"Concurrent with this information, sir. Mr. Russell's tongue has been forcibly removed, and… you know sign language, Master Tim?"

"Of course I do Alfred," Tim said, looking down for a moment. "My mother was deaf. You should know that."

"I… never had any information on your mother, sir." Alfred paused. "It appears I have unearthed a painful memory. My apologies, Master Tim… I didn't mean to…"

"Forget it," Tim said, pulling the Batman's mask over his head. And then, looking at Clark: "Any last minute plays, coach? I'm ready to go."

"Just be careful," Clark said. "Be very careful."

"You know me," Tim said as he entered the Batmobile and commanded it to rise out of its moor.

"Yes I do," Clark nodded as the sleek hovercar rocketed out of the Batcave, leaving the last son of Krypton to utter a silent prayer for his friend and head to the manor above.


"Where IS this guy?" Mercury signed out to anybody looking in his direction. "I hate hate HATE waiting!"

"The signal's only been up for ten minutes," Nemesis said, looking again to the skies. "Be patient."

"Says the boss to a guy that could circle the city five times while she takes a single breath," Mercury signed, unnoticed.

"Status on the policemen?" Nemesis asked.

"Out cold," Mercury smiled, tossing his taser into the air and catching it behind his back. "Took 'em all out in record time. They never knew what hit 'em."

"Good," Nemesis nodded, pleased. "Now all we have to do is wait."


"So you hate waiting, huh?" Batman whispered to himself as he watched the Squad through the macrovision enhancements in his mask. "Brother, you have no idea."

Stalking his prey was what he called it. Looking for a way to keep himself from getting killed was what it was. There were three on the roof: Cutie-Pie, Shiney, and Blondie. One was able to move faster than Tim was able to think; one had more energy coursing through his system than Gotham used in a month; and the other was… No time to think about that now, she was just as dangerous according to the JL dossier… a martial artist on par with Tim at the very LEAST. And there could be more hidden away. That was a pleasant possibility.

But what could Tim do? They were reported as terrorists, no matter who they usually ended up fighting. Terrorists did terrible things, hence the colloquialism. And they wanted the Batman's attention. Who's to say Shiney wouldn't go off half-cocked and nuke a city block or two just as a wake up call? He took out the Statue of Liberty for cryin' out loud…

And Blondie! Blondie was wanted for several acts of violence. Most of them were committed at the exact same time, miles apart from each other. Makes sense to blame the speedster. They always blame the speedster. And Melody didn't like him. That was a bad sign.

As for Cutie-Pie, well, best to save those observations for later.

"You don't have to wait too much longer, darlin'," Batman whispered, as he read the final words off Nemesis' lips and stepped off the edge of the building. As he dropped, Tim activated his cape's air foil function… and grew wings. "The Bat is back in town."


Nemesis heard Mercury snickering behind her. She noted the look on Captain Atom's face out of the corner of her eye. And the Batman hadn't shown up yet. It didn't make any sense to her; everything she had studied suggested that he…

Wait.

"Quiet," Nemesis said, hushing Mercury, who was beside her in less than an instant. He too saw the shadow moving in the canyons between the Gotham high rises. A shadow in the form of a giant bat.

The Batman.

"Can I watch too?" came a voice from behind the motley trio. A dark, gravelly voice that sounded as if it wore a smile nonetheless… it was the Batman.

Nemesis, Captain Atom, and Mercury spun around to see him, standing with his arms crossed a good thirty paces back, leaning on the signal, which he promptly shut off with a flick of his finger.

He wasn't wearing a cloak. That is what they had seen. Eve smiled; she hadn't been wrong about him, after all.

"We meet again," the Batman said, straightening his posture and nodding to Captain Atom. "Shiney." Tim then raised his gloved hand and spat out an insult especially for Mercury, who instantly replied in a near blur.

"I'm not deaf, you know."

"So I'm told," Tim replied. "But my virgin lips couldn't bear talking about new acquaintances in such a fashion. By the way; has anybody ever told you spandex is a really bad look for you?"

Nemesis didn't have time to call Mercury off when she had decoded the insult; the speedster was already off and running, practically foaming at the mouth. Angrier at the Batman then Nemesis had ever seen him. She was afraid she'd have to watch the man in black die before she got the chance to become more properly acquainted.

And then the impossible happened. Literally. The Batman stepped to the side, put his foot out, and Mercury… tripped.

As the speedster skidded on the pavement, Batman tossed a small disc onto his back. Disrupter charge. Mercury was out cold before he could finish standing up.

"You… you can't do that…" Captain Atom said, looking wide-eyed at his fallen teammate. "You're a normal human being and…"

"And I know a few tricks, Shiney. Blondie here ain't as fast as he likes to think he is. I mean, let's face it… he's no West, young man." The Batman smiled through his mask, a smile that was both apparent and infuriating. A challenge.

Nathaniel Adams' eyes blazed hot, sending sparks out into the cool night air. Nemesis sat on the edge of the roof, watching. Curious. She had no inclination to help either man; it was clear Batman would be able to handle himself without killing the valuable Captain; something that made him all the more attractive… in more ways than one. As for Atom, it was a brilliant testing ground. Experience or no, without periodic tests of one's ability, it falls into dust.

Nemesis saw the Captain's hands begin to glow hot enough to match his eyes.

Batman… had his thumbs in his ears, making mock antlers as a child would.

"Neener neener neener," Batman said to the dynamo that was Captain Atom.

Nemesis could see the energy crawling over the Captain, reminding her of looking at the movement of microorganisms under a microscope. Beads of white-hot sweat were populating the Captain's brow…

Batman was doing a jig. Purposely antagonizing the silver man.

Captain Atom could hold the energy back no longer. It demanded release. It demanded to gnaw the flesh from the bones of this bufoonish pretender. It… demanded… RELEASE.

Batman could see that he was close to his goal. Captain Atom looked REALLY mad. One more insult with feeling, and the silver hued throwback would be right where Tim wanted him.

"Hey Shiney? Is it true that you leak oil?" Well that was weak, but it worked. Atom raised his hands and expended his energy. All of it. In one burst. Nemesis rose to her feet in response, shocked… and saw the Batman touch a spot near one of his gauntlet's fins. A thick black goo covered the Bat, a goo that was burned off milliseconds later by the energy burst.

"Hey, thanks, Shiney; that stuff is sticky like you wouldn't… Shiney?"

Batman's words were wasted. The strain had knocked the good Captain unconscious, reverted him to flesh and blood, and drenched him in sweat.

Tim looked over. The blast had also taken out the Bat-signal once and for all, as well as a good chunk of the northeastern corner of the building. One more nail in the coffin of an era.

Tim turned to face Nemesis, who was already approaching him.

"Please, please, please don't make me even think about hitting you, okay?" Batman asked. Nemesis kept approaching. And kept approaching. And kept approaching. When finally she was less than a foot away, she asked:

"Do you trust me?"

"Don't take this the wrong way, Cutie-Pie. No. No way."

"Good," Nemesis said, kissing him through his mask and grabbing his…

"Hey!" Batman said. "What the--?"

"Sorry," Nemesis smiled, backing off as Batman's cloak sailed to within his grasp. "Force of habit. When I see something I want, I go after it."

"Klepto."

"In all seriousness," Nemesis said, moving closer. "I want you to join us. Please."

"You don't strike me as the kind of person that uses that word too often. Please, that is."

"I'm not."

"Surprise, surprise." Batman said, drifting. "Why should I join a group of terrorists?"

"The League is the terror," Nemesis said. "We do what we have to."

"No dice. Cop out."

"It's the truth."

"You work with psychopaths. Powerful, sure, but that's beside the point."

"You provoked them."

"Damn right. You know how hard it is for people to think straight when they're upset? I tell you…" The Batman winked and smiled as he glanced at the fallen Squad members.

"You could have anything you wanted," Nemesis said, leaning in once more. "You could have me."

"Darlin'," Tim said, inching away. "As tempting as that is - and you've got no idea how happy I am to be wearing a codpiece right now, believe me - you also don't strike me as the type of person that can be 'had.'"

"Touché. But maybe I can reconsider that…"

"Maybe you could. I can't." Batman said, stepping to the precipice. "My answer is still no."

"But you can't say no!" Nemesis shouted.

"My dear Ms. Tresser; I'm Batman. This is Gotham. I get to do whatever I want. Home team rules." And with that, the Bat stepped backwards off the building, spiraling into the night as his airfoils grabbed the currents and carried him off into the skyline.

And Nemesis, the hard-willed leader of the pre-eminent guerilla strike force in the world, was left with a tear in her eye.


EPILOGUE


"How did he do?" Justice asked an empty office in his deep, forbidding baritone.

Mr. October stepped out of the shadows nearest his superior to give his report. "He beat them, sir. Easily."

"Excellent. And how does it check with the data I provided?"

"On schedule, sir. He will be ready soon."

"Excellent. You are dismissed."

"Thank you sir," Mr. October said as he became one with the shadows and left the office.


TO BE CONTINUED… SORTA!


NEXT ISSUE: First, I want you to understand that this here (Squad Run) is a FOUR-PART story! The good news is that all of the chapters stand alone! Part two (taking place in Jason's Squad book) will look at the same events in this story from the perspective of Jason and the Squad! Why'd Deadshot go to Puerto Rico, for instance? Then, you can journey back here for Part Three, wherein Nemesis and co. try to recruit… TIM DRAKE! The final installment'll hit you in Squad… a very, VERY special issue… depicting the… oh, I'll save it.

 
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