Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

Nightwing: Black Ops - Part 5

Chapter 11: Lights Out

Authors Note: Special thanks to my friend (and loyal reviewer for this story) Andrea for reassuring me that I was on the right track with this chapter. It helped bunches and if anyone enjoys this chapter Andrea is at least partially responsible. (^_^)

If you are interested in translating what Kane is saying, the online translator at http://www.systransoft.com/ prove useful.

*****

"Potete vederli? Posso vederlo. Forse conoscerete la mia posizione quando la mia spada fende il vostro cranio." The pillow soft whisper from the darkness could have been the musings of one lover to another, if it had been anyone other than Kane who had spoken the words, in perfect Italian no less. Kane's voice hardly rose above the melancholy and haunting strains of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Nightwing found himself wishing for just the briefest glimmer of moonlight by which to see. The words were still hanging in the humid air when Nightwing felt, rather than heard the rush of sudden movement. Unable to see even the faintest hint of light, Nightwing couldn't possibly have noticed Kane, a broadsword in one hand, running at full speed from behind a grouping of vines and launching himself into the air, legs outstretched. Pain exploded across Nightwing's back as Kane hit his foe with both feet and just as suddenly disappeared back into the thick artificial jungle. The strains of Beethoven's haunting Moonlight Sonata covering the sound of his movements, not to mention the sounds of gunfire elsewhere in the compound, Kane could attack Nightwing almost at will. Switching to infra red lenses, Nightwing found his vision improved little. The pitch black that permeated the arboretum was akin to the complete lack of vision he and Summers had experienced earlier in the water pipes that led them inside the biosphere.

Instantly Nightwing's thoughts filled with images of Summers. In the resultant confusion in Kane's virus storage room, they had been separated, leaving her to fight the deadly Angelica on her own. He couldn't help but feel worried for her. She had accepted him into their ranks and looked after him from the moment they met, exactly as she said she would. He hoped with every fibre of his being that she would be all right and somehow manage to defeat Angelica and still be able to rescue Colonel Young, wherever he was in this maze and whatever condition he was in. Nightwing reminded himself that he needed to keep his attention in the here and now as he heard another rush of movement and more pain shot through his right arm as Kane struck him once more.

Nightwing rolled with the impact of the blow only to stumble over an outcropping of roots, falling to his knees. Earlier he had been beating Kane almost into submission, only to have him lure Nightwing into this faux jungle, which gave Kane the full advantage once again. Now Kane was free to attack him from any direction, hit and run, while whispering threats to throw him off guard. Kane was a superb combatant, but Nightwing had learned much in the past few years, about himself and about his abilities, he would give as good as he got. Straining to hear any possible sound, Nightwing heard the sound of running water somewhere off to his right. He realized then that he must be near the artificial lake Kane was so fond of. That knowledge at least gave him some idea of where he was.

"Todavía le asustan? Cuando banqueteo en sus innards usted sabrá miedo." Now in Spanish? Kane was certainly showing off his command of languages. Once more a sudden rush of movement through the jungle caught his attention. Nightwing dropped to one knee and raised his arms in a defensive posture. Nightwing felt a brief rush of wind across his face as Kane ran past him, his attack finding nothing but open air. He instantly realized that dropping to one knee may have saved his life. Kane could easily have taken off his head. An unexpected impact on the back of his head caused Nightwing to swear aloud and roll again. Kane wasn't fooled for long.

"Votre mort est actuelle." Now some French? Nightwing was quickly becoming fed up with the situation. He could probably escape, he knew that, but he knew that the best bet for Impact Squadron's success was to keep Kane occupied. The only way he could think of accomplishing that task was to keep Kane focused on killing him rather than protecting his Ebola Omega virus. Nonetheless, this situation was becoming intolerable. He knew that sooner or later, Kane would become tired of these games and go for the kill, Nightwing needed to regain the upper hand before then. "Those Berlitz courses are really paying aren't they you son of bitch? Was I beating you so badly that you could only take me on in the dark? That's weak and we both know it."

"La mort." Nightwing wasn't as fluent in languages as Kane but he knew how those particular words translated. 'Death'. Kane was toying with him, he had no doubt about that. At any time Kane could leap from behind his cover and cleave his skull wide open. Kane himself had told him so, speaking in Italian of course. Seconds later, the blade of Kane's sword whistled through the air. Acting on instinct, Nightwing dropped to the ground, flat on his stomach. Once again he felt a rush of wind as the sword cut through the air and just as quickly Kane disappeared into the artificial night. It was then that Nightwing formed a plan of action. He was done with waiting for Kane's attacks. The instant Kane disappeared into the jungle again Nightwing leaped to his feet and broke into a sprint. He didn't intend to stop until he had reached the outside wall of the Biosphere. He knew that somewhere along the wall lay the spiral staircase that led up to the catwalks above. If he had to fight, he would use Kane's own strategy, fighting from an elevated position and making Kane come to him.

Stumbling in the darkness with branches whipping him in the face, Nightwing heard the distinctive footfalls of Kane pursuing him. Despite the dire seriousness of the life and death situation, Nightwing couldn't help but smile as one thought repeatedly screamed through his mind. "Now I know how those Blair Witch kids felt."

*****

A wave of relief washed over Colonel Phillip Young when he felt the entire building shake, drawing everyone's attention away from him. In fact, the Colonel was alone in the makeshift operating room, leather restraints still holding his arms and legs in place. Young's legs pulsed with pain, every beat of his heart caused a new kind of agony to shoot through his legs, almost paralyzing him. If he ever lived beyond this situation, he knew he would be lucky if he would ever walk again. Even if the damage was repairable, his legs would be scarred for life. Nonetheless, his smile would not fade.

The explosions and gunfire that rocked the building immediately told the Colonel that Nightwing had not perished in Crete. He had followed Kane, as Young secretly suspected he would, and he had brought Impact Squadron along with him. From the beginning Young had been impressed with the young man they recruited under orders from General Walker. He wasn't in favor of the way they had gone after Nightwing when the mission had begun. If Young were in charge of things, Nightwing simply would have been approached and simply asked to join their team. Walker was one of those men that enjoyed stacking the deck in his favor however, no doubt a result a living too long in the world of covert operations and espionage. If they lived to see this mission through, Young wanted nothing more than to take The General to task about his handling of The Nightwing situation, demanding that the Bludhaven vigilante be left alone when they go their separate ways, and whatever dirt Walker had on the young man be destroyed. Suddenly he noticed movement in the hallway beyond, Walker had seen a lot in his life with and without Impact Squadron, but nothing could prepare him for the sight that greeted him.

An unholy din crashed its way toward him followed by three guards hurtling through the doorway headfirst, the fact that they were followed by Major Summers and Angelica caused his jaw to drop. Apparently, Angelica had reached the limit of her tolerance for Kane's plans and was now assisting Summers. He hardly believed it possible for the sensuous woman to aid his personnel, he would have bet his retirement fund that the woman was hopelessly in love with Kane. Perhaps that was indeed the reason for her turn. For the first time since he had been abducted from his quarters in Kane's compound and awoke on an operating table, Young started to believe that he might get out of this alive.

"Major," He said in a weakened voice, "I've never been happier to see anyone in my entire life." Summers and Angelica both brandished automatic weapons, shooting to kill if necessary.

"Thank God you're okay sir." Summers felt relief flush through her entire body as she saw her good friend and trusted commanding officer alive. Immediately she noticed Young's scarred legs and her face became a mask of shock and disgust. She ran to his side and immediately started to undo his restraints, Angelica ran to the other side of the table and mirrored Summers' actions. Within seconds Young was free.

"I don't think I can walk Major. Maybe it's best if you leave me here and go on yourself."

Summers would have none of it. "We are getting you out of here Colonel. No arguments. So with all due respect, shut up sir." Young chuckled at her remark. Summers' gaze shifted to Angelica. "I'll need your help to get him out." Angelica immediately moved to Young's side and draped his arm over her neck, saying nothing. Young turned to Summers and addressed her in a hushed voice, though he had no idea why. "Can we trust her?" Summers looked Angelica in the eye and the two shared a brief smile.

"Yes sir, I do believe we can. Can you lead us out of here?" She asked Angelica.

"Yes I can." She responded.

And with that Summers handed Young her weapon and took his other arm over her shoulder. Together, the three exited the room.

*****

Neil Anderson swore a litany of curses as he and his men sprayed the hallway before him with gunfire. He had always been a little psychotic when fighting an enemy, he craved the adrenaline rush that killing and fighting for his life gave him. The feeling was better than any drug he had ever found. For several moments he had witnessed the turn of events that led him here to the basement area once again. The individual who had descended from an overhead aircraft was familiar to Anderson. Gotham City was one of the many places across the globe he had visited in his travels, and he had seen Batman from a distance once before. He was unaware of Batman's connections to Nightwing but the facts at this point were irrelevant. The moment Batman had hit the ground and blown up the automatic defenses, Anderson pulled his men back to the most vital area of the compound, the virus storage room.

"You motherfuckers are all gonna die!!! I'm gonna skull fuck every one of you cocksuckers!!" He screamed at the top of his lungs as he sprayed the hallway again. From around the corner at the end of the hallway the men of Impact Squadron ducked around it to return fire, Batman stood with them, his cape draped around him. The Dark Knight had barely spoken a word to Impact Squadron since his arrival. Using his limpet mines, Batman blew a gaping hole in the armored glass on the ground floor of the biosphere, allowing access for Batman and The Squadron. Back in Roebourne, Brad MacQuarrie filled him in on the facts he so desperately needed. The computer expert was far too frightened to lie. He now knew of the threat of Kane and the weapons he held at his disposal. He also knew the plan Nightwing had conjured up, at great personal risk to himself. Batman knew that Impact Squadron would lead him straight to the laser beacon Nightwing had activated, therein lie his best hopes at retrieving Dick. Captain Cortez seemed happy to receive the help and didn't question The Caped Crusaders assistance in the least. He only wished that Batman had arrived before he had lost Murrant trying to get into this hell hole. After checking their medic's pulse, he realized immediately that there was nothing they could do.

The air was filled with bullets, and Batman's patience were running short. "Can't you do something about them?" He asked Cortez impatiently as the current commanding officer of The Squadron ducked around the corner once more and fired blindly in the direction of his foes.

"What did you have in mind? Pistols at dawn? Slingshots and harsh language?" Cortez asked as he put a fresh clip in his weapon.

Batman's response was immediate, he broke into a run and vaulted over the members of Impact Squadron who were kneeling and reloading their weapons. Cortez and Romaine exchanged horrified looks as Batman leaped into the hallway. Batman's gloved hand disappeared momentarily into the folds of his cape and produced a small capsule which he immediately threw to the ground in front of him. Scant milliseconds later, a cloud of smoke plumed throughout the hallway, concealing Batman entirely. Anderson and his men fired indiscriminately where they had last seen Batman. Neil Anderson hadn't felt fear in many years, he had seen death, hunger, torture, strife, and suffering in areas both urban and rural. Suddenly fear welled up inside his stomach as Batman erupted from the billowing smoke unharmed, his cape fluttering behind him as if it were the cavalry at his back and the occasional bullet ricocheting across his body armor. Anderson's eyes widened with panic as a bat shaped throwing star lodged itself in his forearm, causing him to drop his gun to the floor.

Anderson heard more throwing stars sing past his ears as yet more weapons clattered to the floor beside him. He had been in battles all over the world, in the mud and the urban jungle, and yet Anderson merely stood there, his feet seemingly nailed to the ground as Batman raced toward him. Batman reached out and grabbed the mercenary with an iron grip around his throat, when he spoke, Anderson felt himself lose control of his bladder and wet himself.

"I think we have heard enough from you."

The mercenary's thoughts raced back to the first time he had laid eyes on Batman in Gotham City. He and some fellow guns for hire had been working in Gotham on unrelated business and decided to get together over a beer and discuss old times. Their revelries were interrupted by Two-Face and Batman, who battled throughout the bar and along the street outside. Anderson always wanted a chance to face Batman one on one, knowing that he would wipe the floor with the man who dressed as a flying rodent. Now, faced with the reality of this imposing Dark Knight, Anderson had to fight back tears. "Jesus Christ!!!!" he exclaimed, "Please don't kill me!!"

Batman merely sneered at the man in his grip. A superstitious cowardly lot indeed. A single right cross to Anderson's jaw shut him up and sent him sprawling to the floor as Impact Squadron filed into the virus storage room.

"Let's move!!" Cortez shouted, "Romaine!! Brooks!! Johnson!! Get those explosives set double time!! Set the timers for five minutes!! The rest of us will provide cover fire if more guards show up!!" Romaine, Brooks, and Johnson immediately set about their task of setting the high explosives as Batman stormed into the room and addressed Cortez. "Five minutes isn't long enough. I still need to find Nightwing."

"Look, we have a job to do here." Cortez told him, "This virus will kill millions if it's not destroyed and that makes it my top priority. Nightwing understood that and set it up so that we can get in here and destroy it. If it makes you feel any better I know how you feel because two of my people are in here somewhere too. I have to trust that they are going to get out on their own. This place is crawling with guards and I could really use your help to get my men out of here safely. I think what you're going to have to do what we did pal, which is trust Nightwing."

Trust Nightwing? There was no one he trusted more in this world. The two men had fought side by side against overwhelming odds in Gotham City since Dick Grayson was a child. In later years he had even entrusted the mantle of the Bat to Dick, even after the disastrous choice of Jean Paul Valley as his temporary replacement. Nightwing had even stepped out from beyond the shadow of the bat, possibly the hardest task of his life, to build his own life with his own friends and enemies. Trust Nightwing? He would always trust Nightwing. Yet here was this man asking for his help, asking him to help save lives. It didn't matter that these people meant nothing to him, a life is life. The shadow of the bat was far reaching indeed, long ago Bruce Wayne swore that no more innocent lives would be lost if he could possibly help it. Despite the way these men had conducted themselves in recruiting Dick, he was now in full possession of the facts and he knew that these men were fighting to save the entire human race. How could he turn his back on them? Damn the curse of the bat. "All right. I'll help you and your men get out of here, but the minute you're clear I'm coming back in for him." Batman replied.

"Whatever you say cochise it's your ass and you're not under my command."

At that very moment Romaine, Brooks, and Johnson all confirmed that the explosives were in place and the timers set. They had five minutes and counting to get out before the biosphere, Kane, the Ebola Omega virus, and possibly even Nightwing, were blown to pieces.

Cortez cupped his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice, "Impact Squadron!! Full retreat!!! Let's get the hell out of this shithole right now!!" As Batman followed the members of Impact Squadron back into the hallway he reached out and jabbed a fire alarm panel. Instantly the entire area was bathed in a red glow as sirens began to blare. Hopefully Kane's guards would have the sense to get out of the building rather than fight. Somehow, he wasn't counting on it.


Luck was with him. Nightwing's outstretched hands blindly fell on the spiral staircase before him after only a few minutes of searching along the outer wall of the arboretum. Kane's hurried footfalls could be heard only a few feet behind him. Nightwing immediately started to ascend the stairs three at a time, his heart racing. That was when he heard the whistle of the sword cleaving through the air once again. Instinctively leaping high in the air, the sword hit the stairs where Nightwing was standing only moments before with a metallic 'clang', sending a brief shower of sparks through the air that just as quickly died out. At that moment Nightwing knew Kane's location as the sparks illuminated the surrounding area just enough for his infra red lenses to pick out the genetically engineered man's form. Seizing the opportunity, Nightwing leaped down from the stairs above and felt his boot heels connect solidly with Kane's jaw followed by the sound of air forced from his enhanced lungs. Kane immediately tumbled back into the pitch black, making it impossible for Nightwing to find him, he turned and immediately began vaulting up the stairs once more.

Kane didn't take long to recover from Nightwing's attack. Seconds after Nightwing reached the metal catwalk he could easily hear Kane bounding up the steps in pursuit. Timing his attack perfectly, Nightwing balanced himself on the catwalk railing with his hands and, utilizing the railing as a balance beam, whirled his well muscled legs about to strike Kane full force in the chest. Kane, caught unaware, fell backward down the spiral steps.

Kane managed to arrest his fall partway down the stairs and charged back up, slashing and swinging with his sword. Surprised by Kane's sudden recovery, Nightwing felt the blade of the sword slice through his specially reinforced uniform and into his left shoulder. Nightwing fell backward and screamed as the pain lanced through his arm.

"You've pushed me to far Nightwing," Kane hissed through his teeth and the heavy breathing of physical exertion, "now I will carve out your heart and feed it to you before you die."

Nightwing backed his way down the catwalk as he heard Kane approach. "I'm not dead yet Kane, you want to kill me? I'm damn sure gonna make you work for it." Kane slashed thrice more at Nightwing, the first two slashes slicing nothing but air. The third slash tore open the front of Nightwing's uniform. Luckily, the slice was not deep and Nightwing's chest remained intact. An few inches closer and Dick's chest would indeed have been ripped open, his heart readily available for Kane to carry out his threat if he wished. Clutching his arm tightly to slow the bleeding, Nightwing continued to move backward along the catwalk while Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, punctuated only by sounds of Kane's parries and trusts, continued on.

Nightwing felt himself being forced back further and further as Kane continued to slash and thrust with his sword. Immediately he realized that if this situation played itself out, Kane would eventually kill him either with the sword or he would lose enough blood from the wound on his arm to make him pass out and leave him at Kane's mercy. So much for luck being with him. Time was running out, he needed to gain a definite advantage over Kane. Nightwing's mind raced back to the first time he and Summers arrived in this arboretum, the sprawling lake and the catwalks above. Catwalks? Suddenly he remembered the second catwalk above the first, providing an even better view of the jungle below. Another spiral staircase must exist somewhere on this level to take him up to the next, but he had no idea of its location. Kane swiped his sword through the air once more and, trusting in his gymnastic abilities, Nightwing leaped as high in the air as he could and reached out blindly. His gloved hands curled around something metal. Struggling to get a solid grip, Nightwing scrambled up to the next level just as Kane thrust with his sword and, expecting the sword to impact with Nightwing, fell to his knees as he cleaved through nothing but air.

"You've got to do better than that to keep up with me Kane." Nightwing called into the darkness.

It wasn't difficult to hear Kane swear under his breath and break into a run for the next set of stairs, his sword occasionally scraping against the metal railing as he ran, occasionally causing sparks to fly. Nightwing scanned the area below as he followed the trail of sparks and the sound of footfalls along the catwalk below to where the second set of stairs led up to the level where Nightwing awaited him. He knew that this would be his last chance to defeat Kane. He had run out of room and tactics. The minute Kane stepped foot on this catwalk, Nightwing would hit him with everything he had left. Hopefully, that would be enough.


Angelica grabbed her automatic weapon and pulled the trigger. The pane of glass blew out of the wall instantly. Turning to Summers and Young, she smirked, "This pane's a fake, just regular glass for an easy escape." Suddenly her voice turned wistful, "Kane always has a plan." Together, Summers and Angelica helped Young out into the open desert air. The minute her boots hit the desert floor Summers spoke into the comm unit on her uniform collar.

"This is Major Summers to all units, I have Colonel Young and we have just exited the biosphere."

Almost immediately Cortez's voice responded over her earpiece. "Acknowledged Major. That's great news. The explosives have been set and we're on our way out on this end. What's the Colonel's status? Is he okay?"

"He's injured but it looks like he'll make it Cortez. Anyone know where Nightwing is?"

"No. I thought he was with you." Cortez responded.

Fear gripped Summers as she realized that Nightwing was alone, without backup. Immediately she addressed their computer expert back in Roebourne, "Brad, what are Nightwing's vitals?" After a moment of silence, MacQuarrie's voice filled her earpiece, "He's alive Major. Heart rate is up, blood pressure slightly up, looks like he's doing some pretty heavy aerobics to me."

"Captain, how much time to detonation?" Summers said again to Cortez.

"Less than two minutes major. Ninety seconds at most." Cortez responded.

"We can't just leave him." Summers said, mostly to herself.

"I can't get him clear of the blast by myself he's too heavy and too badly hurt." Angelica told her, referring to the injured Colonel.

Resigned to her duty, Summers looked back at the biosphere as they carried Colonel Young to safety. "Hurry up. Get out of there." She whispered, sending all of her prayers and thoughts to the Bludhaven vigilante she had come to feel more than friendship toward.


Francis had fallen to stray fire from panicked mercenaries, so had Brooks. Cortez led the way out of the biosphere as he carried Francis over his shoulder. Batman followed on his heels carrying Brooks over his shoulder. All around them Kane's guards ran wild. Some tried to stop the retreating Squadron with hails of bullets. Most simply gathered what equipment they could like the vultures they were and blasted holes in the armored glass, fleeing into the desert. Batman knew they probably had less than a minute left. The Dark Knight handed Brooks' wounded body over to Romaine and addressed Captain Cortez.

"I'm going to find Nightwing. You and your men are on your own from here."

Cortez turned and placed his hand on Batman's massive shoulder, "You won't make it. This place is gonna blow big in one minute. Come with us to safety."

Batman removed Cortez's hand from his shoulder and made his point quickly and efficiently. "If he doesn't survive, then I would rather die by his side." Batman spun around and ran off in the opposite direction. He had traveled half way around the world, he wasn't about to give up now. Somehow, he would get to Nightwing and together they would beat the odds just as they had always done before. He had always known that when he and Dick worked together, nothing could stop them, no task was impossible when they worked as a team. He felt it in his gut, this was not the time for them to die.

Cortez couldn't find it within himself to argue with Batman. He knew how it felt to have men stranded behind enemy lines. He almost wished he could go with the vigilante, he had grown to respect Nightwing and his abilities. Major Summers and Colonel Young seemed to share that feeling as well. Cortez hoped that both Batman and Nightwing somehow found a way to survive the explosion they all knew was imminent. Impact Squadron finally emerged from the biosphere through the hole in the armored glass Batman had created for them and ran for safety. In the distance, Summers, Colonel Young, and a woman he didn't immediately recognize waited for them.

"MOVE!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!"


Batman charged at full speed down the myriad hallways of the biosphere. He knew that he had only seconds to find Nightwing in this maze and the odds were against his success. Seconds later, he came to a dead halt, his prayers possibly answered. Taking in every detail as he scanned the area, Batman noticed that one doorway was different from the rest. The doorway ahead of him was composed of a thick opaque metal while all the rest seemed to be composed of the same translucent material he had seen throughout the biosphere. Acting solely on his detective instincts and praying for a little luck, Batman charged toward the door. He was surprised when the door did not slide open at his approach as all the others in the compound did. He would have to use his remaining limpet mines to blow it open. He only hoped that he would find Nightwing beyond this door, and that somehow the two of them could survive the blast that was now only seconds away.


As Kane charged up the stairs toward him, Nightwing readied himself for the actions he was about to take. The genetically engineered man sprinted up the stairway towards him, broadsword at the ready. This time there would be no mistake. Lashing out into the darkness with a devastating kick, Nightwing's boot impacted on Kane's forearm, causing his foe to drop the sword. They both heard it clatter over the stairs and into the darkness.

"That won't help you Nightwing," Kane yelled as he leaped into the darkness, hands outstretched, "You're already a dead man, you just don't know it yet."

Nightwing felt Kane's immensely strong hands close around his throat. Summoning his fading strength, Nightwing began to batter his fists against Kane's chest, who growled with pain as one rib after another splintered under the force of Nightwing's blows, nonetheless, Kane refused to loosen his grip on Nightwing's throat. For his part, Nightwing felt his air supply cut off as if a vise were clamped around his neck. Unable to hold back, he continued to rain punches down onto Kane's chest.

"I've got some bad news for you Kane….." he coughed as the air supply in his lungs dissipated. Nightwing reared back and put all his strength into one final blow, his fist landed square on Kane's jaw, causing him to release his grip on Nightwing's throat and stagger backward only to fall on the catwalk floor. It was then that they both felt the entire structure shudder. The explosives set by Impact Squadron. Somewhere deep in the biosphere's basement, Kane's Ebola Omega virus had gone up in flames. They only had a matter of seconds before the entire building was engulfed by the explosion.

At the same time, a smaller explosion engulfed the door to the arboretum below them, finally allowing some light into the cavernous room. Nightwing instantly recognized the cowled figure that emerged from the light. Batman. There was no time to ask how. There was no time to wonder why. Nightwing instantly galvanized himself into action. He had been willing to die if necessary to see the Ebola Omega virus destroyed. The fate of the entire human race may have depended on it. It was amazing how things could change in a split second. He was willing to die, but he wasn't willing to see Bruce Wayne die with him. Together, they had but one chance to survive the conflagration that was split seconds away.

Nightwing jumped up to the railing and balanced himself there, looking back toward Kane who was just now getting back to his feet. "The bad news is that you're plans are going to die with me." Kane lunged for Nightwing, who pushed himself off of the railing with all his strength. Batman looked up to see his partner falling from the sky.

"The water!!!!" Nightwing yelled as he toppled toward the floor of the biosphere. Intuition borne of years working with Dick Grayson allowed Batman to immediately understand and react accordingly. Both Nightwing and Batman knew about the imminent explosion, Dick was trying to make a dive for the lake. Instantly judging his trajectory, Batman knew that Nightwing wasn't going to make it. He was too far from the center of the large pool of water he now saw in the middle of the jungle. Instantly Batman broke into a run and removed a jumpline from the folds of his cape. Like many of his jumplines, the grapnel hook was mounted inside a pneumatic powered launcher. Pressing the launch button Batman felt the jumpline shoot out and lodge itself in the Biosphere wall. Thumbing the retraction button, Batman felt himself lifted into the air. Behind them, fire welled up through the hallways and into the biosphere jungle, milliseconds behind The Dark Night and Nightwing.

Nightwing tumbled through the air, somersaulting forward for maximum distance, he would hit the water, but too close to the shore, meaning it would be too shallow to break his fall. The seconds passed like days as he watched Batman rushing up from the ground to meet him. Suddenly, Batman's arms wrapped around his waist and Nightwing felt the weight of his mentors body crash into him, giving him the extra momentum he needed. The two moved as one now, using Batman's extra momentum from his jumpline to carry them out over the center of the lake. They fell together, side by side once again, like a well oiled machine.

They hit the water simultaneously, each man taking a deep breath as they broke the surface. The fire and the power of the blast rushed in to greet them. Above them, Kane howled in frustration as the armored glass shattered from the force of the blast and blew out toward the dawn sky. The searing heat and concussion from the blast reached him and began ripping his skin from his body just as he witnessed Nightwing and Batman disappear beneath the surface of the water.

Nightwing and Batman felt the blast shake the very earth in which the lake sat, they heard the blast render the biosphere from its very foundations. Fire shot across the surface of the lake, lighting up the eternal darkness that existed underwater. Debris of all shapes and sizes began to rain down on the pair, despite the relative safety cushion of the water. Indicating that Batman should follow him, Nightwing dove down toward the pipe he and Summers had entered through. Batman readily followed and produced two rebreathers from his utility belt, handing one to Nightwing and placing the other in his mouth. Together they waited there for the destruction to cease. Despite their precarious situation, Nightwing breathed a sigh of relief knowing the Ebola Omega virus was destroyed.


"Dear God." Colonel Young muttered under his breath as he and the rest of Impact Squadron looked on from a safe distance. Fire shot out from the top of the biosphere and the sound of shattering armored glass could be heard even from this distance. Summers especially felt her stomach turn. Watching the display from a laptop back in Roebourne, both MacQuarrie and Sito found themselves uttering the same word in an awed voice simultaneously.

"Whoa."

Summers immediately heard Sito's and MacQuarrie's exclamation over the open comm channel, but instead of chastising them for unnecessary chatter on an open frequency, she activated the small microphone clipped to her collar, "MacQuarrie, what readings are you getting for Nightwing's vital signs?" There was a moment of silence as they all awaited MacQuarrie's findings.

"Well?" Young shouted into his own comm unit.

"I don't know how, but I'm getting strong vital signs from that crazy bastard. I don't know how he did it, but he's still alive."

A collective cheer rose up from the members of Impact Squadron as they realized that somehow, Nightwing had survived. All of them clasped one another on the back and smiled, all except for Angelica. A sullen look on her face, the young woman watched as the man she loved and all the plans they had made together went up in smoke. He never loved her, she realized. He was planning to replace her all along with a newer, 'improved' version of her. He was going to discard her just like he intended to do to the entire human race. Grief overwhelmed her. Reacting out of hurt, Angelica reached out and grasped Romaine's Beretta nine millimeter and in one swift movement it flew from his side holster to her hand.

Summers witnessed Angelica's actions and immediately realized that the woman's intentions were not malevolent. "NO!!!" She screamed as she lunged for Kane's former girlfriend. She was too late. Angelica pulled back the hammer and, pushing the barrel of the weapon to her temple, pulled the trigger. Seconds later, the once beautiful and vivacious woman fell to the ground. Cortez managed to catch her and arrest her fall as Summers ran to her side, tears streaming down her cheeks. She had considered what would happen to this woman, she was an excellent fighter and loyal, almost to a fault. She wanted to help Angelica make a new beginning as Angelica had helped her rescue Colonel Young. Now, Angelica was beyond help.

"I'm sorry Major. There's nothing we can do." Cortez whispered as he cradled Angelica's body, her blood flowing freely across his arms and dripping down into the desert sand. Summers could only turn away as tears flowed freely down her face. Surrounded by destruction, Summers watched as the explosion in the biosphere subsided and the shards of glass embedded themselves in the sand. Fires continued to rage throughout Kane's former compound however, Nightwing was still not out of danger. Fortunately for her, Young took command, which was fine with her, because despite her feelings for Nightwing her heart just wasn't in it.

"Okay Impact Squadron," Young shouted, "We've got men down in there and it's our responsibility to get them out alive."

The assembled men of Impact Squadron dropped their weapons to the sand and rolled up their sleeves, "Just give the word sir." Romaine said.

"Get him out of there." Young ordered, and with that command the men of Impact Squadron all broke into a run for the flaming ruins of Kane's biosphere.


Together they broke the surface of the lake, their rebreathers running out of air, the original dynamic duo gulped down oxygen only to inhale harsh smoke and debris with it, causing them to choke slightly. Batman grabbed Nightwing by the wrist and helped him to the edge of the lake. Together they avoided the steel beams and panes of glass that embedded themselves in the ground and lay strewn throughout the lake. Fires burned all around them. Together they reached the shore and pulled themselves from the water. For the first time, Nightwing regarded Batman with an appraising eye, taking in Batman's armor like uniform.

"You came for me." Nightwing said as he lay on one side in the shallow water, the tone in his voice almost making it a question.

"You expected something less?" Batman replied, his lips forming a thin smile. "I had no choice chum, you were in danger. Anyone who threatens you will always have to answer to me."

Dick smiled and reached out to Bruce, clasping his mentors shoulder and giving it a squeeze, "Thank you."

"No need for thanks. Any man would do as much….." He paused as he searched for the appropriate words, "For his only son."

Epilogue: Picking Up The Pieces

"Listen, can you tell me who won that Survivor thing? I missed the last few episodes." Nightwing winced with pain as he spoke, Batman had produced a small medical kit from his utility belt and began to treat the worst of the younger man's wounds. Dick wondered if there was anything Bruce didn't keep in that all purpose arsenal around his waist.

Beneath his cowl, Batman shot a skeptical look at Nightwing. "I……. didn't follow the series. I believe Alfred taped it though. I'll have him send you a copy."

Nightwing pulled himself to his feet with Batman's assistance after he had stopped the bleeding caused by Kane's sword and bandaged the area. "I have no idea how you found me, but I should have known you would. How's Tim?"

"He's fine. They didn't hurt him."

Nightwing was visibly relieved. "Thank God for small miracles. Clancy is gonna have my butt in a sling for disappearing like I did. Does Barbara know about all this?"

From the edge of his vision, Batman noticed the men of Impact Squadron approaching with all possible speed across the sand, heading for the wreckage of the biosphere. He knew his time with Dick was drawing to a close. Soon they would find The Dynamic Duo among the wreckage and they would no longer be able to speak freely. "Yes Barbara knows. She helped me find you. I think one of us should take her out for dinner, and I think she would prefer your company to mine."

Nightwing smiled appreciatively at his former mentor, his thoughts turning melancholy as the events of only minutes ago began to sink in. "You saved my life. If you hadn't arrived when you did, I would have snapped my neck when I landed."

Batman shook his head and dismissed the thought immediately, "No. If I hadn't come along you would have saved yourself somehow. That much I'm sure of."

Nightwing's face became deadly serious. "Maybe, maybe not. The point is I didn't have to. You came out of nowhere as you always do, looking out for me as you always have. I won't forget what happened here today. Ever. Someday I'll return the favor."

"I hope you never have to chum." Batman simply looked into Nightwing's eyes, allowing him to see the emotions that lay within. Nightwing knew that Bruce Wayne was not the most comfortable man he had known, but he knew that he could always count on Bruce for anything he needed. It was at times like this that he was reminded of that. As strange as his upbringing was, as driven and cold as Bruce Wayne could sometimes be, Dick was reminded that his mentor was a man of deep feelings. Bruce loved his family, his mother and father, and his extended family just as deeply. He never spoke the words aloud, he didn't dare. It had become obvious to Dick that Bruce always feared that the minute he admitted to loving anyone that they would be taken from him forever, just like his parents. Batman was created to keep anyone who came within his purview from ever experiencing that dreaded feeling ever again. Bruce never spoke of love, but his actions said more than any words ever could. He had followed Impact Squadron to the other side of the world, leaving Gotham and its myriad worries behind. He had risked life and limb in a blazing explosion to save Dick. What good were mere words compared to that?

"Even if I never get the chance to pay you back for this. I won't forget it." Batman merely nodded. Attempting to lighten the mood, Dick finally mentioned Batman's modified uniform. "By the way, have I mentioned what you're wearing? That is one bad outfit."

"I try to stay fashionable." Batman replied.

Nightwing was almost aghast, "Did you just try to be funny?"

"I admit I don't have much practice, let's just say I'm relieved to see you and I;m making an effort."

At that moment Captain Cortez, Styles by his side, came crashing through the debris and localized fires, "We found them! They're over here!" Nightwing waved to the members of Impact Squadron and, assisted by Batman, began making their way out of the debris field. Nightwing listened on as he heard Cortez telling his men to spread out to search for survivors, and most especially, for Kane's body. Batman addressed Cortez and practically demanded that he be able to speak to Cortez's commanding officer. Cortez helped both men past the fires and out into the open. Colonel Young and Major Summers were waiting on the horizon with the other injured members of Impact Squadron and Angelica's dead body, which was now covered by Summers' jacket.

The relief on Summers' face at seeing Nightwing alive was obvious, as was the confusion when she saw Batman beside him. She hadn't witnessed The Dark Knight's dramatic entrance into the fray. As they approached both Nightwing and Batman noticed them talking into the comm units clipped to their uniform collars, no doubt hearing MacQuarrie explain Batman's arrival to them. When they finally reached the group, Batman crossed the last few steps to Young quickly, allowing Cortez to assist Nightwing, and pointed an accusing finger at The Colonel. "You people have some explaining to do Colonel. What gives you the right to abduct citizens from their homes for your own purposes?" Batman's voice was as hard and cold as granite.

"Sir," Young said as he struggled to his feet, "I assure you if it were in my power things would have been handled differently. Major Summers has informed me that the man who ordered Nightwing's abduction, General Douglas Walker, died in Crete at Kane's hands. With him died whatever secrets he had on Nightwing. None of us have ever seen his true face."

"You know where he lives. It wouldn't be hard for people with your resources to find out his true identity." Batman countered.

Young's response was immediate and seemingly sincere, "Sir, I owe Nightwing my life. Even after General Walker died he continued to help us, for no reason other than the fact that helping us helped the entire world. With The General dead, I am in command now, and I guarantee you this, we will respect Nightwing's privacy. I think it's time Impact Squadron started playing by the same rule book as the rest of the world and to hell with the consequences."

At this point in the conversation Nightwing decided to interject. "I believe him." He said to Batman, indicating by the tone of his voice that his mentor should push the subject no further. Batman cast a glance back at Nightwing and considered Dick's tone and body language. Finally he relaxed his accusing finger and relented. Apparently Dick's words were good enough for him. Letting the subject drop, Batman turned back to Nightwing. "I have a plane two miles South. I'll be waiting for you over here." He said as he pointed towards the horizon, with that be began a slow jog due south.

"It might be wise for you to leave son," Young said, "MacQuarrie has already summoned the authorities. They'll be here within ten minutes I suspect. It wouldn't do to have you around."

"What will happen to you folks?"

"I suspect we will be welcomed back with open arms now that we've completed our mission." Summers interjected.

"Well then, I better get going."

"One other thing son, I want to give you something before you go." Young said. Nightwing was silent, wondering what Young could possibly give him. He realized what Young had in mind when The Colonel snapped out a stiff military salute. Cortez and Summers both followed his example. Young, Summers, and Cortez were giving him the only thing they could, their respect. Having some familiarity with saluting in the police academy, Nightwing returned the salute. Before he left, Nightwing turned to Summers. After all they had been through together, after what they had shared, he felt that he had to say something. At first, both of them began to speak. Just as suddenly both of them stopped talking. After a few seconds silence, they both tried to speak again, only to cancel each others words out. Finally, Summers insisted that she allowed to speak first.

"I can't thank you enough for all you've done for us. If you and your girlfriend ever call it quits, I'd like it if you considered me next in line."

Nightwing smiled at her, "If we ever called it quits, how would I find you?"

"Don't worry, I'll find you. Remember, I know where you live."

He had to laugh at that remark. Nightwing regarded the beautiful woman before him, she had done exactly what she had promised from the beginning. She had healed his wounds, fought by his side, and listened to his plans. He knew his love life was complicated enough, but he need not deny the facts. Stacy Summers was everything he could have possibly wanted in a woman, and yet he may never see her again. Without considering his actions, Nightwing stepped in close and kissed her. Surprised at first, Summers eventually relaxed into the kiss and melted into Nightwing's strong arms. The kiss was lingering, both participants felt time slip away as Cortez, Young, and the wounded Francis and Brooks stared at the ground uncomfortably. The sound of sirens could be heard approaching, the authorities were drawing near. Reluctantly, Nightwing broke the kiss and stepped away from her.

"Take care of this bunch." He told her.

She smiled, "I will."

Cortez handed Dick a duffle bag containing his original uniform and Nightwing finally bid them farewell, sprinting after Batman who could be seen just over the horizon waiting for him. A tear escaped Summers' eye as she watched him go. Within minutes, they were gone. Their reverie was broken by the sound of Dixon's voice coming over their comm units.

"Colonel, I think we found Kane's body in the wreckage here."

Summers handed Young her comm unit and he activated it, "Report Lieutenant, what is Kane's condition?"

"He's dead sir. He barely has any skin left on his body." Dixon's statement was followed by the sound of several of his comrades in the area vomiting with revulsion.

Young was silent for a moment. Cortez and Summers were also silent. Kane didn;t deserve to die, he was exactly as they made him. Treated like an experimental lab rat from the beginning of his existence, Kane eventually came to see the human race as evil. Was it just possible he had every right to? Scientists had toyed with human evolution all in the name of politcs and their dispicable black ops. Perhaps Young should have felt triumphant, but all he could feel was sorrow. "I understand Lieutenant. Have MacQuarrie send a coded message to Washington. 'Mission Acomplished.'"

Gotham City - two days later……

Barbara Gordon squealed with delight as she returned home from getting her groceries to find her entire apartment littered with long stemmed red roses. Immediately she knew who had breached her security. Wheeling her chair over to the coffee table, she noticed a small note in the largest bouquet in the room. It was a small handwritten note, she recognized the penmanship immediately. The note read:

"I'm told you had a lot to do with Bruce finding me. Consider this a down payment on me owing you my life. I'll be back in Gotham this Saturday to pay you back in full."

See you then

- Dick -

The End

 

Nightwing will return in "Nightwing: A Matter Of Vengeance"

*****

Authors Note: Special thanks must go out to to Cyndi for coming up with some fantastic artwork inspired by this story (which can be seen at this address: http://www.keeffee.com/titans/2westcott.html), and to Andrea for giving me some reassurance when I needed it at the eleventh hour. I didn't know either of your names before I began this story but I consider you both fast friends now, that's one of the greatest benefits of sharing Black Ops with the world.

If you are interested in learning more about the hidden codes in The Torah here are some links to internet sites on the subject. As I mentioned in earlier chapters I am not seeking to convert anyone to any way of thinking, and I have included links that seek to refute the Bible Code as well.

http://slate.msn.com/Features/codes/codes.asp
http://www.nsli.com/…/torah/
http://www.simonandschuster.com/book/default_book.cfm?isbn=0684849739
http://www.biblecode.com/

 
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