Too Many Long Boxes!
  • Belief
  • Of Bugs and Bug Men
  • Circus!
  • Collector's Item
  • Green Future
  • Hooray For Hollywood
  • Idiot's Delight
  • Mere Mortals…
  • Mister Zeus…

  • End of Summer

    DC Future Shock presents -


    "Death In The Family"

    Written by Ali
    Edited by Mark Peyton



    Tim Drake III worked the crowd in a breezy, casual manner. Costumed partygoers filled the ballroom well past capacity, but somehow Tim managed to navigate the room with little difficulty, his trademark smile working overtime as he pressed the flesh of the masked masses like a politician running for office. The smile looked odd given Tim's choice of costume, a very passable copy of the legendary Batman's uniform, a man not known for his sunny disposition. For Tim, the costume was something of a personal statement, his way of symbolizing that he controlled the fruits of Bruce Wayne's public labors and guarded the secrets of Wayne's other life as Gotham's first Dark Knight. Tim used to wonder why keeping Wayne's secret was such a necessity, it wasn't like Wayne was at risk all these years later, but in an odd way, it made sense. Bruce Wayne was already a person who was revered for his part in Gotham's rebirth, if his life as the Batman were revealed, the man's legend could possibly eclipse everything that the Drakes had accomplished since his death.

    Over the past few decades, the Drake family made Wayne Enterprises a corporate heavyweight that few could challenge. While Wayne's life ended with his philanthropic and financial accomplishments overshadowing those of his masked alter ego, it was the first Tim Drake that began to actually realize the potential power that Wayne Enterprises could bring to bear in guiding the city of Gotham into the future. Usually that kind of power was a source of great comfort to all of Drakeıs descendants, including Timıs current namesake, but Wayne Enterprises refusal to give a full disclosure to the Corporate Council regarding recent technical advances had led to a quiet cold war between Drake and the members of the Council.

    It was barely noticeable in the beginning, Drake had counted too much on the protection that being the head of one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world to be his safety net. There had been other occasions where Drake's clout had won the argument before the first protest was lodged. Tim had bulldozed his way up the ladder of power on the Council, making more silent enemies than actual friends. He stood at the threshold of being the next leader of the Council, and while many of his peers weren't too thrilled with the idea of Tim Drake having even more power, most knew if anyone could keep the masses in line, he would be the best man for the job. However, Tim's recent fall from grace had changed the playing field drastically and there were many up and comers who waited for Tim to bite off more than he could chew and usurp his position and the power that came with it.

    Tim would be damned if he gave any of his adversaries the satisfaction of seeing him display any sign of weakness. The celebration of Bruce Wayne Day went off as scheduled, including the traditional costumed ball thrown at the Wayne Penthouse atop the downtown offices of Wayne Enterprises despite the protests from his siblings and staff. Tim took in the crowd once again and smiled even wider, these were HIS people, this was HIS company and Gotham was HIS city. Let the Council and the Mediate rattle their sabers, Drake knew that they would need him before he needed them.

    As Tim surveyed the ballroom, his gaze rested on his older brother, Edward, dressed as a mobster from the 1920s. The particular name of the mobster escaped Tim at the moment, but he almost laughed aloud at seeing Ed dressed closer to his true profession than the usual well tailored suits that hid away the steadily growing "spare tire" of Ed's stomach. Ed was Tim's point man in some of the company's shadier dealings. When he was younger, Ed managed the company. At one point, Ed's obvious lack of business acumen had weakened the company to such a degree that he was forced into an alliance with some of Gotham's more powerful underworld bosses to raise capital to keep Wayne Enterprises from ruin. After Tim graduated from college, he dove into the day-to-day operations of the company and returned Wayne Enterprises to a position of power. Ed's "partners" decided to collect on their investment, and threatened the Drakes.

    Strangely enough, not too long after the first threat against Tim, almost every mob boss in town met with a number of accidents which effectively

    removed any threat and cast the eldest Drake in the role of unofficial coordinator of the majority of Gotham's questionably legal and outright illegal activities. Ed wasn't considered a mob boss or kingpin as much as he was a facilitator of these matters. He settled the disputes between various criminal affiliations and made sure that the Drakes got their percentage of some of the larger scale jobs pulled in town. In this particular arena among this particular class, Ed Drake was more effective than he ever was in the Wayne boardroom. Ed's reputation in the world of business and the underworld as one of the major powerbrokers had brought Ed something else he enjoyed immensely; an unending stream of willing women eager to share his company. Tim knew Ed would never allow anything to jeopardize his position in Gotham, he enjoyed the perks too much. Tim also knew Ed would be loyal to him and Wayne Enterprises, after all, Tim did possess hard proof of all of Ed's criminal dealings and was not beyond sacrificing those connections and Ed for the sake of preserving the company.

    Ed caught Tim's gaze as he flirted with one of the waitresses. Ed threw a mocking leer on his face and tipped his champagne glass in Tim's direction with a nod. A few droplets spilled on the young woman's blouse, causing her to set her tray down and try to wipe the stain off of her ample breast with a wet napkin. As Tim moved his attention elsewhere, he could hear

    Ed speaking behind him with a drawl that quite a few women considered charming.

    "That's not going to work, dear girl. Come with me, I think I know where there's a proper bathroom with soap and a towel to get that out."

    Tim already knew that the bathroom in question would be conveniently located in one of the upstairs bedrooms away from the party. He quietly wondered that Ed was up to the task, the girl looked young enough to be his daughter.

    His cloak whirling in his wake, Tim turned, almost bumping into his younger brother, Jason, dressed appropriately enough, as a clown. Jason was muscular and athletically built like Tim, but lacked Tim's basic common sense and tact. Jason wasted his days spending his stipend and living the vapid playboy role with reckless abandon. While Jason had far more ambition than Ed, he lacked any real drive when it came down to business. This minor fault kept him out of the family's legitimate operations beyond a token seat on the Board of Directors. However, Jason was considered an asset by Ed. The two were equally adept in managing the company's secret underworld dealings, and Jason served as Ed's lieutenant on rare occasions, but was of greater value as an alibi. Jason also managed to be as in demand with the fairer sex as Ed was, but actually had looks worthy of all the attention. Tim didn't trust Jason to stay satisfied with his standing in the family and the company and knew that one day, perhaps one day soon, he'd have to deal with his younger brother.

    Jason regarded Tim with a well placed smile while discussing something at length with one of the city councilmen who had recently been elected. To anyone else, it would have looked like these two were quietly, but amiably, acknowledging one another, but Tim knew otherwise when he looked into the cold, envious eyes that accompanied the warm smile. Jason Drake was coveting Tim's power and biding his time. Mentally, Tim added Jason to the list of things to resolve after the standoff with the Council and Mediate was over. For now, he couldn't afford anything amiss, for now Jason was able to get away with these minor, silent challenges without fear of retaliation. But that would not be the case much longer.

    The grim expression Tim wore rivaled that of the vigilante whose costume he wore. It was a momentary slip, one that Tim quickly hid behind a false smile all his own. For a moment, Tim's expression looked like one of the posters from Wayne Enterprises citywide ad campaign for the new vid season. "We're Keeping An Eye On YOU!!!" the posters and holos proclaimed as Tim's smiling features looked down on the people of Gotham. People less than impressed with the campaign called them the "Big Brother" posters after Orwell's Twentieth Century classic, 1984. A light touch on Tim's arm got his attention and he turned to find himself facing his twin sister, Monica.

    Monica wasn't an exact twin, she and Tim were born together but where Tim's strong, handsome features took after his father's, Monica's were exquisite and delicate like her mother. There was a family resemblance to be sure, but some were hard pressed to tell if the two were twins as opposed to a brother and sister who were born within a year of each other. She was a raven haired knockout, with haunting green eyes and full, pouting lips; her body was graceful, supple and sleek, a pleasing prize that many men have pursued but never captured. Monica wore the costume of a Gypsy peasant girl, which only emphasized her physical attractiveness.

    Tim knew that Monica got a kick out of teasing men with her body, on more than one occasion, she seduced men of power who were at odds with the goals of Wayne Enterprises and led them into just enough scandal to remove whatever threat they may have posed. For Monica, sex was simply a game and men were the pieces she played with in order to win. Monica's talents in the boardroom were as exceptional as they were in the bedroom. Unlike, Jason, Monica had Tim's trust and served as Wayne Enterprises executive vice-president. If Tim managed to miss a situation that affected the business, it was a safe bet that Monica would be there to either resolve the issue or call Tim's attention to it. She had become as invaluable to Tim as his partner in the business and continued to keep Wayne Enterprises on the track to success.

    "Are you and Jase trading daggers again, Timmy?" Monica teased with a brilliant smile. Monica was the only person who could call Tim something as boyish as "Timmy" and live to tell the tale.

    "Nothing I can't handle," Tim replied with a genuine smile surfacing on his face to replace the false one. "You are radiant, as always."

    "Of course I am," Monica stated in matter-of-fact manner. She took Tim's arm and turned him around to face the main doors of the ballroom. Passing through the door with an expectant expression was Emily Wilson, the current mayor of Gotham and Ed Drake's current steady girlfriend, which basically meant she was the woman Ed was seen with publicly. "Seems like we've got someone to entertain while Ed finishes his 'dessert'," Monica quipped quietly. "That was a waitress he was leading towards the bedrooms wasn't it?"

    Tim nodded, his grim expression returning as he saw someone else enter behind the mayor, a person he hadn't invited and if he were invited, probably wouldn't have shown up without an ulterior motive. Monica caught Tim's gaze and followed it, a man dressed in a devil suit was checking his coat at the door. He entered briskly, snapping his head in Tim and Monica's general direction before melting into the crowd as if he were headed towards the table with the hors d'oeuvres. Monica noticed Tim's expression and released his arm.

    "I'll keep the mayor occupied until Eddie shows himself again," Monica said pensively. "You can go after whomever it is that has your attention."

    "Thanks, I'll catch up to you later."

    Tim moved swiftly, ignoring the many partygoers who wanted to shake his hand and trade small talk. Tim's attention was centered on the devil and why he was here. Sure enough, Tim found his gate crasher sampling the canapes with a glass of white wine in one of his gloved hands.

    "What can I do for the Council today, Mister Lord?" Tim said approaching the devil from behind. Tim was not a fan of Eric Lord, his Mediate contact. There was something about the man's smugness that rubbed Tim the wrong way. It was rumored that one of Lord's ancestors was involved with one of the Justice Leagues of old as some sort of financial backer. Though history was a little vague about what role this ancestor played in the scheme of things, Tim presumed that the past generations of the Lord family were much like the present; an opportunistic bunch of hangers-on looking for an angle to take advantage of, or a situation to manipulate to their advantage. In a lot of ways Eric Lord was the perfect toady for the Mediate, he was an absolutely spineless man with delusions of grandeur, a man more satisfied with the appearance of authority than having any genuine power. Lord's position as a Mediate representative for the Council made him assume a far more arrogant tone with Tim than most men would take on the rare occasions that Wayne Enterprises and the Council were at odds. The fact that Lord had boldly crashed the celebration meant that his business with Tim wasn't pleasant.

    "There's nothing you can do for the Council at all, Mister Drake, this is merely a courtesy call, an opportunity to celebrate Gotham's good fortune, if you will," Despite the platitudes being dispensed to Tim, Lord's slight sneer suggested his true feelings were to the contrary. "It's a wonderful evening, Tim, let's step out on the terrace.

    "I doubt that this is a matter of courtesy or good will, Eric," Tim answered in a level tone of voice as the two men stepped onto the deserted balcony and stepped out of earshot from the rest of the crowd. "I take it the vote's not going my way," Tim said flatly, figuring to counter Eric's smugness with an apparent lack of concern over the outcome of any vote that may be happening behind the scenes.

    "There's no vote taking place that I'm aware of, Mister Drake," Eric allowed the revelation to set in for a moment before he continued. "The Council issued a directive you chose not to follow."

    "The Council wants access to certain trade secrets that I've chosen to keep within the company. You know full well that complete disclosure would take away certain advantages that my company enjoys." Tim's eyebrows narrowed slightly as he met Eric Lord's stare. "Those secrets are my exclusive property, Mister Lord. I will not compromise the present or future value of Wayne Enterprises for the sake of quieting the Mediate's fear of my company's obvious leadership in the eyes of the Council and the world."

    Eric Lord smiled back at the costumed tycoon, "Oh I'm not trying to dissuade you, Mister Drake, far from it. As I said, this was a courtesy call, my 'curtain call' if you will, I've been reassigned."

    Tim's face brightened a little at Lord's pronouncement, "Well for the first time in our long association I'm pleased and surprised, Eric. Why am I being deprived of your presence and who will my new contact be?"

    "There is no new contact for you, Mister Drake, one won't be necessary," Lord answered with his smile still fixed in place. "As for me, my reassignment will depend on what happens to you next."

    "I beg your pardon?" Drake asked with a hint of confusion in his voice. "What are you trying to say, Lord?"

    "Oh, come now, Tim!" Lord replied laughing. "You know how this is done! My God, how many times have you sanctioned something similar for companies that didn't serve the Council and Wayne Enterprises' mutual interests? Wayne Enterprises has been targeted for a hostile takeover, the Sensei's division has been contracted to facilitate the action."

    "And you decided to warn me?" Tim asked, still dumbfounded by the idea that the Council would attempt such a provocative action. Sensei's involvement meant the League Of Assassins, the absolute best of the best when it came to removing "difficult" obstacles to the Mediate's goals.

    "You realize that if anything happens to me, the Council will pay. Warning me won't make that task any easier for Sensei's people either,"

    Tim said attempting to recover control of the situation. "In fact I may counter offer a sum reasonable enough to make him drop the matter entirely."

    "Don't be ridiculous, Tim," Lord said still snickering, "You know as well as I do that the Sensei's word is his bond! Besides, there's at least one person in your organization who's prepared to take advantage of any sudden opening your exit will leave, so any threats of retaliation are feeble ones at best." Lord finished the last of his champagne with a bit of a flourish as he added, "You're as good as buried, Timmy, as good as dead! This wasn't a warning, the Council ASKED me to deliver the message! They wanted to be sure you got it and I just wanted to see what a condemned man looks like when he finds out he's going to die." A heartbeat passed between the two men as the words sunk into Tim's mind. "You know these are really tasty!" Eric commented as he popped the last bit of his hors d'oeuvres into his mouth. "Enjoy your party, Mister Drake, and it's been a pleasure doing business with you." Eric turned and started to walk back towards to the party. He stopped a moment, turned and smiled, "By the way, watch your back."

    Tim realized that Lord may not have been looking at him, but behind him. They were too far away from any other buildings and there were no lifts, (Low altitude/Intracity Flying Transports) in the nearby airspace, but Tim couldn't resist the urge to turn anyway. When he did, he heard a split second sigh of the wind and felt a slight burning pressure between the eyes, before the bullet shattered the bridge of his nose and tore through his brain.



    The crowd gathered around the fallen trillionaire mere moments after he fell dead on the flagstones of the terrace. It took some time to sort everything out and seal everything off. Though the party had been thoroughly covered by Wayne Enterprises Security, no sign of the murderer turned up. Within fifteen minutes of the murder, Gotham Security investigators began to show up and interview the guests with the hope of gaining some kind of lead. Steve Grayson, the head of the investigation division, strolled into the crime scene without much ceremony. He was powerfully built, in fact exceptionally so, as he lived up to his won family heritage which could be traced back to Dick Grayson, who was once the vigilante known as Nightwing. His ancestor's legend aside, most of the Grayson men served the cause of justice or the law in some form and Steve's fervor for the family tradition led to his rapid rise in the department.

    There was no love lost between the Drakes and the Graysons, both families were linked to both sides of Bruce Wayne's life. The Grayson family was probably closer to a legitimate heir to the Wayne legacy, but long ago conceded the majority of that legacy to preserve the essential part of Wayne's life. Using his own funds, Dick took ownership of Wayne Manor and took great pains to keep Tim and his successors from turning the Wayne family home into a tourist attraction. Steve had never set foot in the place himself, he had never felt the weight of the legends that lived there, he never felt the need to live in the past as his cousin, Charles, had. Charles Grayson was the head of the Gotham Preservation Society and publisher of the Gotham Gazette, the last independent InterNewszine in the city. Charles Grayson waged a one man crusade against Wayne Enterprises and their effect on the citizens of Gotham. Steve, on the other hand, considered the Drakes a pretty decent employer as far as his paychecks were concerned. Unlike other cities which adopted a cookie cutter society, Gotham under the influence of Wayne Enterprises, actually gave its citizens an illusion of individuality. Steve thought of it as an incentive program of sorts to give each citizen employee a reason to excel at their various jobs.

    Given the identity of this victim, Steve knew that he was going to have a hell of a time earning his check, practically everyone from his family to the local garbage man had a motive for seeing Tim Drake dead. With a mental chuckle, Steve wrote off the garbage man, the hit was professional he knew that as soon as he saw the crime scene. Drake still lay where he was shot. The body was uncovered, unlike the vids where Nightwing and the Spoiler walk into a room and find the victim neatly tucked in under a drop cloth, most murder victims remain as they were when they died so that the crime scene would not be contaminated by any fibers or other microscopic particles that may throw off the forensics people.

    Steve looked over at one of the officers who had shown up behind him, like most of the officers in the GS, the man was dressed in brown synthsteel body armor which looked like the old SWAT styled jumpsuits once worn by the former police that patrolled the streets, as well as an ultra light flak jacket. Steve saw he was outfitted with the standard gear for most investigators in the force, a shoulder holster worn on the left, on top of the jacket held a Stopper 4, standard issue firearm, which could be configured to fire lethal and non-lethal ammunition; a hip bag with a general purpose mini crime lab inspired by innovations developed by Bruce Wayne some years ago, and a face concealing helmet, another standard meant to protect the members of GS from retaliation by any criminals they apprehended. All Gotham Security agents were outfitted with a special bio transceiver unit, called tags, to insure identification for stake out, patrol and court purposes. Officers were able to perform their duties, testify in court without compromising their identities. Since this was unique to the officers serving in Gotham Security and Wayne Enterprises, there was a fairly long waiting list for officers and applicants to the department from all over the country.

    The officer approached Steve and looked at the crime scene, "Investigator Hawke, Bludhaven Division, sir." The GS agent stared at the nearly headless corpse of Tim Drake and shook his head slowly, "Wow, what the hell happened to that guy?"

    "Someone thought that he was going to win first prize for the best costume and capped him," Steve said humorlessly. "Why don't you take a look around and see if you can do something useful like find out who pulled the trigger, okay Hawke?"

    "Uh, yes sir," Hawke replied sheepishly, "sorry about that." Hawke turned and started towards the tape that marked off the area around the body. Steve watched him go with his brows knit together as he mulled a thought of some kind over in the back of his mind. Other investigators were checking the area as well as interviewing the guests, Steve decided to get a closer look at the body while his people did their jobs. He wound up near Hawke as the investigator was kneeling down and examining the area around the rapidly cooling body.

    "Whoever did this wasn't on the balcony, sir," Hawke said as Steve walked up. "Look here," the investigator said, pointing at several scratches on the flagstones, "the shot hit Mister Drake and the impact spun him around before he fell." Hawke's head pivoted in Tim's direction, "The way his legs are tangled up seem to confirm that as well." Hawke was still running the slug through a portable ballistics analyzer in his field pack, "Whoa, hello stranger!"

    "What is it?" Steve asked leaning over the investigator's shoulder.

    "Well I'm not carrying a full forensics set up, but my preliminary analysis identifies the slug as a Psishot. We're talking about a shooter with a thing for classics."

    "Yeah, those are rare as a Magnum bullet or a Toastmaster," Steve agreed. "Any residual imprint from the shooter?"

    Hawke shook his head. "No, this guy was a pro all right, it's a dead head, eliminates the shooter's brain pattern after the target's been brought down." Hawke studied the slug closely through his helmet's visor, "There's no prints or anything that wasn't lost when it hit the victim, this job's cleaner than most."

    "No impressions at all?" Steve asked. "I thought Psishots were dropped because they left behind a mental residue of some sort from the shooter. I mean besides the fact that a mentally programmable firearm was banned because a shooter's emotional state affected the reliability of the weapon as well."

    "Well only one hell of a well focused marksman could pull off something like this," Hawke said grimly. "The shot was clean and hard if Drake's body is any indication. Whoever did this had nothing else on his mind but killing him. But how did he make the shot?"

    "If he's as good as you say he is, proximity's irrelevant," Steve said. "He could've been standing next to him, he could've been on a lift, passing by outside of the restricted zone around the building, or even one of the lower rooftops in a ten block radius, Psishots have adaptable trajectory capabilities. Still examine the rooftop and find out who was with Drake before he died. I'm going to see what the others have come up with while we're waiting for forensics to get their asses over here."

    "On it, sir," Hawke answered.

    "You say you're with Bludhaven Division, Hawke?" Steve asked suddenly.

    "Yes sir, I was heading into work, I'm on the night shift as a matter of fact, when I picked up the call on my radio. Since I was nearby already, thought I'd lend a hand."

    "You must not be a local," Steve said with a smile.

    "Uh, no sir, just transferred in from San Francisco last week," Hawke answered cautiously.

    "Figures," Steve chuckled, "you were just too obliging to be a native.

    When forensics shows up, give them your findings and get out of here long enough to check in with your precinct. If they can spare you, report back to me for debriefing."

    "Yes, sir," Hawke said as he headed off to inspect the edge of the roof closest to Drake's position.

    Walking away, Steve checked the perimeter. His officers each handed off a report of their findings so far, one in particular had located the last person who was reported to see Tim Drake alive and that person was waiting in a lounge away from the other guests. Steve headed for the lounge to sit in on the interview. Entering the lounge, Steve saw Monica Drake, still trying to compose herself with little success. Her tear rimmed eyes made her grief apparent, but still, Steve noted, she was breathtaking even in her sorrow. The investigator was obviously having trouble getting a statement from the woman, he seemed to be at a loss as to how to breach the wall Monica's mourning had set between them.

    Steve moved in quietly between them, taking Monica's hand. "Hello, Moni," Steve said gently. The other investigator, quietly exited the room, leaving the pair alone.

    For a moment, Monica didn't seem to hear Steve or notice his hand around hers, but gradually, her grip tightened and her fingers slipped between

    Steve's own as if it were a life preserver cast into the turbulent waters that her life had suddenly become. Slowly, tentatively, Steve drew the sobbing woman to his chest and put his arm around her as she renewed her crying. "Steve," Monica gasped between her tears, "Steve, someone killed him, somebody killed him like a dog."

    "I know Moni," Steve said softly into her ear, "I know and I'm going to get the bastard who did it." For a moment Steve forgot himself, lost in the scent of her hair, the soft curves of her body which seemed to fit so well against his own. Steve had met Monica when they were teenagers at an event celebrating the Wayne Enterprise Tower's official designation as a historical landmark. Steve was smitten from the moment he saw her, while Monica was interested in Steve only as an all-state hoverball champion, which was as close as she could get to a captain of industry at the time. Their romance was as brief as most childhood romances go, but for Steve, few that followed were as passionate. Usually, even on such a high profile case as this one, Steve would not have been personally involved, but he knew how close Monica and Tim were, and he knew he couldn't stay on the sidelines.

    "Steve, I was just talking to him," Monica said, her heaves diminishing and her breathing becoming calmer. "We were just laughing and chatting and… Why did it have to happen to him THAT way Steve? Why did someone shoot him like he was a dog?"

    "I don't know, Moni. I just don't know," Steve lied. Tim had made numerous enemies over the years, in and out of Gotham, it was the nature of the business of doing business. What Steve had to figure out in a hurry was who arranged for this to happen. Steve knew that a hit this clean had to be contracted. Besides finding the shooter, Steve had to find the person who hired the shooter. The first task would be easier than the second, most pros are paid more than enough to keep silent even in the face of a life in prison, possibly even in the face of a death sentence. Steve didn't share these facts with Monica, he still needed her story so that he could get the ball rolling on this investigation.

    "Moni, I need your help to bring this guy in," Steve nearly whispered.

    "Moni, what happened before Tim was shot? Did you see him speaking to anyone or did he say anything to you?"

    "We were watching guests coming through the door," Monica began. "The mayor was coming in and Tim and I were about to talk to her when Tim spotted someone else coming in. Whoever it was had on an overcoat but I think he was in a devil suit, I'm not really sure, but the outfit was red."

    "Did he carry a pitchfork or wear a cape, or carry anything that may have concealed a weapon?" Steve asked. "Did you recognize him?"

    Monica shook her head slightly, she was still nestled in Steve's chest making the movement difficult. "I'd seen him come by the office, but Tim never introduced him to me. I assume he was either a minor business associate or a friend of Tim's which had nothing to do with Wayne Enterprises." She seemed to ponder another point for a moment, "When he came in, he wasn't carrying anything or trying to be secretive, in fact, he nodded in our direction, so he wasn't sneaking in."

    "What about his face, was it masked?" Steve prodded.

    "No, he wasn't wearing a mask," Monica replied. "All I know is Tim's attitude changed and he went off to talk to him. I was busy with the mayor until someone stepped out on the balcony and found the body."

    "Where was the guy in the devil suit? Did you see him?"

    "I didn't notice him," Monica said with a bit of anger creeping into her voice, "my brother was dead and I didn't notice too much else beyond that!"

    "I'm sorry, Moni," Steve said as she pushed him away, "this is part of the job. I've got to ask you these questions."

    "I know, Steve," Monica said before exhaling slowly, "I'm just not ready for all of these questions right now."

    "Just a couple more and then we're done, Moni, I promise," Steve said taking her hands. "Where were Jason and Eddie?"

    "Why?" Monica asked quietly. "You don't think--"

    "No, just another standard question," Steve explained. "Someone's going to ask sooner or later and they may not be as 'discreet' about some of the details as I might be."

    Monica nodded in understanding, Steve knew her brothers and some of what they were capable of. "Jason had wandered off somewhere just a few minutes before the mayor came in. I think he and Tim had words again. And Ed-- Ed was--"

    "Maid, waitress, or available pretty girl in a skimpy tight costume?" Steve said, saving Monica from forming whatever delicate lie she was putting together.

    "Waitress," Monica admitted, "at least that's what Tim said."

    "Some things never change," Steve said, recalling some of Ed Drake's parties in college. "I'll be sure the mayor misses that detail along with the media." Steve reluctantly released Monica's hands and stepped back, "I need to see how things are going out there, are you going to be okay back here?"

    "Yeah," Monica said with a dazed tone in her voice, "I'll be okay, Steve."

    "I'll post a guard or two," Steve said quietly.

    "You don't have to--" Monica began.

    "Yes, I do," Steve replied, cutting her off. Their eyes met and Monica

    could see the seriousness in his expression, the silent promise he was giving to her. Before he could turn again, Monica crossed the space between them and kissed Steve with a fervor that recalled the memories he only brought out when he was alone and being honest with himself about the ones that got away. Steve broke the embrace softly and stared at the woman who had stolen his heart all those years ago.

    "I'll get him, Moni, you've got my word on it."

    Steve walked back into the ballroom and noticed that the forensics people were just starting to enter the room. Steve checked his watch and noticed that they had taken an unusually long time showing up. He strode over to the lead agent and placed a hand on his shoulder.

    "What the hell took you guys so long?" Steve growled.

    "Your orders kept us downstairs sir," the lead investigator said as he turned, his voice held slightly confused tone.

    "My orders?" Steve asked, his voice rising a notch. "I didn't leave any orders restricting authorized personnel from coming up here!"

    "According to Investigator Hawke--," the agent began.

    "Investigator Hawke?" Steve interrupted even more confused. "That's impossible, he's been--"

    "He?" echoed the lead agent, "Sir, Investigator Hawke's a woman!"

    Steve scanned the room for the man who presented himself as Investigator Hawke, but didn't see him anywhere. He whirled back to the forensic team's lead investigator. "This other Hawke, did she say where she was from?"

    "Bludhaven Division, sir. Claimed she was on her way to work when she got the call--"

    "--And decided to help," Steve finished. "Bloody hell!" Steve barreled for the door and activated his wrist-comm, "Central, Chief Investigator Steve Grayson here. Priority clearance GS Alpha 1221. I need you to activate tags for all GS staff on-site at the Wayne Tower shooting! I need them visual and I need them now, unauthorized persons may be imitating GS agents!" Flicking a switch, Steve changed bandwidths. "Alert from Chief Investigator Grayson, tag check all personnel, hold anyone in a GS uniform that does not have a visible tag and alert me immediately!"

    Reaching the elevator with the lead forensics investigator still following, Steve stopped to issue a series of instructions. "I want you to get back to the crime scene, make sure nothing's been removed or tampered with. Have your team check it with a fine tooth comb and give me your findings. Whoever was up here playing investigator, has as much info as we do about Drake's murder! Hell, he and the girl could be the murderers!"



    The pair met in the darkened alley, several blocks from the crime scene. To any casual passerby, it appeared as if two Gotham Security officers were canvassing their beat. As they disappeared behind the side of a deserted looking warehouse, the pair remained silent waiting until after they had passed through a concealed doorway before either spoke. The larger one, a man, pulled off his helmet, his face lost in the shadowy gloom of the dank, earthy smelling room.

    "Thanks for running interference," the man said softly. "I managed to get everything I needed, including holosnaps for later analysis by Oracle."

    "You have an idea who did the shooting already, don't you?" the woman commented as she began to peel off her uniform. "Don't keep me in suspense." Even in the dull half light provided off of the streetlamps outside, he admired the way she looked undressed. A study of playful beauty, she did this sort of thing often in an attempt to drive him to distraction. In another time, another life, it might have worked and he might have given in to the temptation. Instead he began to strip himself, knowing the effect he had on her was as intense. The only difference was that he wore a second uniform beneath the first, a gray body sheath that hugged his form and accented rippling muscles that held the promise of strength and grace.

    "You do that on purpose," the woman said in a pouty little girl voice as she ran a slender finger seductively across his chest, ³We donıt have to go out right now do we?.²

    "We don't have the time to play right now," the man answered abruptly, "but maybe later," he added with a smooth, sly smile. "Now, suit up and letıs get to work."

    With a sigh, the woman moved to a small table and picked up a colorful garment which she began to slide on over her supple skin. While the woman dressed, the man slid several yellow cylinders, slightly larger and longer than a penlight into nearly transparent clips on his waist. A yellow pouch like affair was easily attached to a pair of clips located waist high at the small of his back. The woman had already put on an emerald green body sheath and was pulling a red, almost vest like breastplate closed across her chest. As she finished, she looked at the man and flashed another sexy grin before she began to put on a wide, yellow-gold belt that tapered off just above her hip. The belt fell short of a complete circle and left her stomach area open. A gentle click locked the belt in place and then she added a triangle shaped object, also yellow to a spot just below her belly button which also clicked into place.

    "Well all that's left are--" the woman began.

    "The masks," the man finished.

    "The masks," the woman repeated. Her voice, was husky, and seemed slightly breathless as she spoke. Her tone was expectant, optimistic and yet solemn all at once, as if she were waiting for the moment to be punctuated with something more dramatic and appropriate for what they were about to do. Something to mark the importance of the legend they were about to become a part of.

    As if struck by a sudden inspiration, the woman strode up to the man and before he could react, she kissed him passionately. To her surprise, he returned the kiss with equal intensity, and when it broke, both were breathing considerably harder.

    "Why did you do that?" the man asked softly.

    "I was about to ask you the same thing," the woman answered leaning her head into his chest.

    "You first," he said, gently placing his arms around her waist.

    "Call it my last selfish act before we do this, before we commit ourselves completely to this. This is the last thing I wanted for myself, the last thing I steal," she replied. ³This scares me a little and in case something happens I wanted to have this moment if we have nothing else." She chewed her a lip a bit and with a nervous smile added, "Your turn.²

    "My last selfish act too," the man said releasing the woman and stepping away. "In case we don't get the chance to be selfish later."

    "Not that I minded or anything," she said smiling. She had leaned forward on the balls of her feet, almost as if she were expecting him to change his mind with her unspoken invitation.

    "We're wasting time," he said after a long thoughtful stare, "let's get going." He turned and walked to a wall that held a long dark cloak on a hook, a slightly shorter cloak of golden hue hung next to it. The man grabbed the shorter cape, which was actually a cloak with some kind of hood attached at the top, while he took the darker one for himself. Pulling the hood over his head, he heard a final reassuring snap. A few seconds later, the suit's hood display systems kicked in, running a steady stream of data just above his line of sight, the mask had already assessed his environment and switched to night vision mode, the customized skin flat rebreather unit filtered in fresh air, keeping his breathing steady. Without looking over his shoulder, he could hear the final click of the woman's hood and the momentary hum as her suit's systems came on line.

    "I'm ready," she said.

    "Lights," he commanded.

    A bright glow illuminated the room, in its center sat a sleek lift, jet black with stylized contours that resembled the wings of a bat. The driver's

    station rolled back with a whisper, multi colored panels and displays dimly winked on and off in the pitch blackness of the interior. Next to the lift the pair stood as if the they were seeing each other for the first time. Their costumes remained the same, except now the woman's face and neck were completely covered under the yellow hood. Connecting the hood and cloak to her chest was a black oval with a yellow silhouette that resembled a bird's head. The bird effect was enhanced further by the cape's design which resembled wings. It was a bright and colorful outfit, a stark contrast to her partner's.

    The man's uniform was dark even in the bright lights of the room. The costume seemed to almost absorb the light that dared to touch it. The cape was scalloped, resembling the lines of the lift, smooth and bat-like. His hood was like the woman's, but the sides extended above the area of his ears and stood a couple of inches above the top of his head. Neither one had even the smallest bit of skin showing, no eyes or ears exposed, nothing that could even remotely betray their identities. The man's long dark cloak was connected to his chest by an emblem in an oval. A symbol that was once worn by a legendary crusader of justice, a symbol that many knew belonged to a man who would help them when it seemed all hope was gone. A symbol that brought the dark and cowardly lot of injustice to their knees.

    The symbol of the bat.

    Batman strode to the driver's side of the lift and looked at his partner. "Are you ready to do this, Robin?" The Batman extended a hand to her and waited.

    Robin strolled to her side of the lift and took Batman's hand. "Yeah," she said with a hint of laughter in her voice, "let's go out and make ourselves a legend."

    They let go of each other's hands, slid into the lift and rose into the night sky of Gotham through a sliding panel in the roof. Once the lift cleared the building, the wings extended and Batman and Robin began their search for the murderer of Tim Drake.



    The new Dynamic Duo hit the town and go head to head with Tim Drake's killer in the next installment of BATMAN: LEGACY OF THE DARK KNIGHT…

    Welcome to the future…

    Well you've gotten in on the ground floor of the Batman of tomorrow, let me know what you think. All comments can be sent to KNIGHTMAIL (the letter page title, natch!) at

    Before I get swamped with "who's Batman and Robin" questions, that's for me to know and you to find out… After all, why feature a book about a detective without a mystery or two for the reader to work on?

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