|"The Good Mark: Snowball in Progress"|
|What: Huntress is hiding in a library, the Phantom finds her, the Batman finds them, and--it just grows from there.|
A public library. Huh. Sitting on Hero, the Phantom looks up at the old building in the afternoon light. Devil's nose led them here, from a few seedier haunts. It had taken most of the day to find her scent, a particular scent amongst hundreds. Even devil's nose has limits. Still, at least they got here while the place was still open.
Having Hero wait outside, the Phantom hurries along behind the wolf as they make their way inside. The place is run-down, stretched thin for funds and personnel, but they seem to make do. For now. The Phantom holds the door open for Devil, then continues following.
They get to the front desk and keep going, though the worker behind the counter looks somewhere between aghast and surprised. "Hey, you can't bring dogs in here," he says as he leans forward a little.
"That's okay--he's not a dog," replies the Phantom, giving the man a grin and a two-fingered salute. The man just--blinks once and leans back.
Devil leads the way through the building, pausing only rarely to take a sniff here or there, as his human hurries along behind, ignoring the surprised looks of the sadly too few patrons.
Helena Bertinelli is hidden behind the stacks of non-fiction philosophy books -- no one would ever bother looking there. There's a computer tucked back in there for patrons to use to search the library's books, but she's managed to break it out of the proprietary software and is using the computer to try and research the St. Mark's kidnapping.
It's telling how intent she is on her research that she doesn't hear Kit's reply to the librarian at the front desk or the telltale click of Devil's claws on the tile floors.
The pair stop at the end of the aisle, and the Phantom arches a brow and grins at his canine companion. After walking down the aisle to her, he stands about a yard away to her side, hands on his hips and leaning a little to peer at the computer screen. "Well, hiding in the one place most people wouldn't think to look for you, and keeping up on the investigation, too. I'm impressed," he says sincerely, attention moving to her as he gives her a smile.
Devil pads up alongside him, looking up at her with curiosity as he cocks his head a little. The place smells musty, nearly unused half the time, with so few people coming through.
Helena Bertinelli jumps and gasps in surprise, one hand reaching under her jacket before she recognizes Kit and slumps back in the chair again. "Don't DO that!" she hisses quietly but vehemently.
Taking a deep breath, she looks back at the computer. "Yeah, well, I kind of have to now, 'cause the Bat is on the case and I'll be damned if he makes me feel like a friggin' loser."
That makes the Phantom lift his brows and whistle softly, glancing to Devil before looking back to Helena. "Batman, eh?" he says quietly, a thoughtful look coming to the visible portion of his face. "I've heard of him. Might have to see about a meeting, if he's on the case. Sounds like you've got some news to fill me in with, which makes it a good thing Devil found you. I've got some news as well, but it sounds like yours is more interesting."
He pauses just a beat, to glance around quickly before looking back to the woman again. "How secure is this location?" he asks, arching a brow. It's a public library--but it obviously doesn't get much traffic, and if she feels safe enough to use the place as a temporary hide-out, he'll trust her if she says it's safe enough for their discussion.
Helena Bertinelli says, "Well, considering I've never been in here before, it's probably okay for now." She turns back to the computer, starting to relate what happened at the Basement Bar. "... and I think I gave away a clue that the punk kid picked up on." She really hopes not, but it's a distinct possibility. "The Bat took off when I didn't answer his questions fast enough... but I didn't feel right talking in front of the punk."
Brows knit as he listens to the tale of the Basement Bar. That--sounds bad. But it's also a clue. "So," says the Phantom, head bowing in thought as he cups his chin with his left hand, "this man was deposited in Gotham by his 'friends'. Interesting. Though what really interests me is setting off the gas pellet in your face. It wasn't anything that affected you as far as you could tell, right? So there must have been another reason. From what little I've heard about him, he doesn't seem the type to do that kind of thing just out of petulance." A beat as he turns his head to look at her again. "What about this punk, though? Why didn't you feel comfortable talking in front of him? He's Robin, after all, so...?" A bit of confusion, there; Robin--any of them--are considered almost as fearsome and trustworthy as the Batman himself.
Helena Bertinelli tosses a brief glare over her shoulder at Kit. "He's NOT Robin. He's, like, Robin's psycho little brother. I don't trust him because he's irrationally violent." Which the young man she identifies as Robin most decidedly is not. "I saw him slice up a bunch of Mafiosos just because. And he had the audacity to get pissed of at me for shooting out a single car tire."
"Hmm. Maybe we can talk to the Batman on his own," says the Phantom, canting his head a little. "Spread the word around Gotham that we want to talk to him and him alone; if this not-Robin guy shows up, maybe I can keep him distracted enough to let you have your say with Batman. How does that sound?" Behind the lenses of the mask, his eyes flick back to the computer screen, and his lips purse in response. The kidnapping is bad news; it doesn't bode well, really, and it shows that the Eight--if Mandrake's right and they really are behind all of this--really don't have limits.
Helena Bertinelli considers, then nods to Phantom. "Yeah, that'd work." And the brat can just deal with it. She pauses to think about the smoke thing, then shrugs. "Why wouldn't he set off a smoke bomb in my face just because?" Wow, bitter much? She turns her attention back to the ancient, wheezy public computer. "The more I read this stuff, the more I'm convinced that they didn't have any reason for picking the poor girl they did. She was just ... convenient."
Holding up his hands, the Phantom says, "Hey, I don't know. You know Batman better than I do. Just doesn't sound like something he'd do just because." He cups the back of his neck with his left hand, returning the right to his hip, and he adds, "Do you have access to the police reports? They might know something the press doesn't, for one thing. Though I do agree, on the face of it it does seem a matter of convenience. Which--just makes it even worse, really." The last said even quieter. It's bad enough to target someone specific, but if it's truly random, that just shows how little these people really care about anyone.
Helena Bertinelli scoffs. "The police reports? From this dinosaur? I don't think so." She doesn't mention that she's NOT a hacker, that's beside the point. She breathes out a sigh. "Yeah, It makes it way worse." Worse even than that BITCH impersonating her. She clicks on a few more things, then sits back with an aggravated sigh. "I've been going in circles on these articles for the past hour or more." She rubs at her eyes. "And I don't know where else I can look without putting a giant bullseye on the back of my head.
"I can sympathize," says the Phantom, voice soft more from sincerity than concession to the rules of the library. "One more reason I thought we should talk to the Batman. Gotham's his town; if anyone would have access, he would. 'Course, convincing him to let us see might be the hat trick, but we'll have to deal with that when it comes up." Easing into a crouch, he reaches out to loosely drape an arm over Devil, to give some good scritches to the wolf's shoulder. "Either way, at least you're making progress, so you have that much. A lot of people would sit back, or just go hide, but you're at least taking control where you can." Too many people, really, prefer to stick their heads in the sand--but then if they didn't, there'd be less need for people willing to dress up in their long johns and run around rooftops.
"What if the girl and the murder victim aren't relevant at all?" It comes from a newly opened window in the near-empty library, the Batman standing inside as if he'd been there for some time. In truth, he just stopped being particularly interested in listening in via laser microphone a few moments before. It's a common misconception that the Dark Knight operates only at night-- particularly when someone he's tracking goes somewhere interesting and meets with someone more so. "What if it was about the Huntress?" The question is posed evenly as a gusting breeze sets scalloped cape rippling off to one side, Batman's blank eyes shifting from Helena to the Phantom, arms crossed easily over his chest.
Helena Bertinelli startles for the SECOND time, her hand going for something concealed under her jacket again. Also like last time, she recognizes the newcomer quickly enough to not pull whatever she was reaching for. "God. Doesn't anybody knock anymore?" Yes, she knows she's in a public place, but it's the sentiment behind the words, okay? She has to keep herself from spitting out a 'No, shit, Sherlock' at the Bat, and instead offers in a voice pitched respectful of their surroundings, "So you think it's about the Huntress, and not about me. Then why go after one of my students?" Her eyes flick over toward the Phantom briefly as she addresses Batman, as if trying to convey something to the purple-clad man without saying anything to him aloud.
The sudden tension in Devil is what warns the Phantom, then when he hears that voice he stands tall and spins around in a snap, right hand darting down to unfasten the holster--then lets out a breath when he sees who it is. Really should have figured. Gotham is Batman's town, after all. As he re-fastens the holster, he looks to Helena and meets her gaze, then looks back to Batman, staying quiet for the moment. Her question is really the most pertinent one to ask, after all. Devil, for his part, peers up at the dark-suited man warily, taking a step forward and lowering his head a little as he catches the man's scent. His yellow eyes rarely blink as he takes in the man, and his ears stay pricked forward in curiosity and caution.
There's no threat or intimidation in the Dark Knight's poise-- but then, it's likely he knew the wolf was here already, isn't it? Regardless, it's a good reason not to simply approach, and the Bat stands by his entry point much as he arrived, for the moment. There's a pointed look from Helena to the Phantom before he answers, drawing an even breath-- this time it's him who's uncertain about releasing information in present company. As is frequently the case, the Detective quickly finds a workaround.
"I have it on good authority that the first move whatever group committed this crime made was to try to blackmail the actual Huntress into committing the crime. I also do not believe that she was the one responsible in the end." Video evidence to the contrary. "Maybe the point the entire time was to put Huntress into a position where she was vulnerable to the authorities, more vulnerable to their manipulations, or she is the focus of some kind of sick test or vendetta." The Dark Knight doesn't have that answer yet, and it's clear from the range of hypotheses. "I was hoping she might be able to shed some light on that issue. The Gotham PD has several men involved in the initial attempt in custody. The more I know before I interrogate them, the better." It's frank, if slightly impatient-- there's the same brooding urgency Helena would recall from the rooftop.
Helena Bertinelli hesitates, looking from Batman to the Phantom and back again. She huffs out a sigh, knowing there's no point in playing innocent anymore, but in the middle of a public library she's not about to blurt out what she's now thinking. So instead, she asks Batman, "What makes you think that, and should we maybe talk about this someplace a little ... more secure?" That's code for 'I'm ready to spill my guts, but not where some random schmoe might overhear'.
"I think," the Phantom says slowly, looking to each of the others in turn, "that we all have a lot to talk about, so I'd agree with the idea of finding a more--quiet--spot. Especially because I agree with Batman that it's likely the entire point was to mess with the Huntress. What Mandrake's told me about--about who he thinks is behind this, I wouldn't put it past them." Looking to Batman directly, he adds, "So name a spot, and we'll join you." Deference to the unofficially-official fact that Gotham is Batman's, so he'll let the caped crusader pick the spot.
There's a ready, singular nod from the Dark Knight, as if he were expecting-- or at least hoping for-- just that sort of a response. Their previous encounter made it clear he already considered it overdue; but it's not like the Bat can't understand it. "The evidence doesn't add up, and everything I can dig up indicates she's focused on nothing more than finding the girl, now." Not quite the actions of the culprit.
"Plus, she's being followed by people with access to some high-end electronics... who are definitely not law enforcement." Besides him, one presumes. When the Phantom mentions a potential organization, Batman's curiosity is visible, blank gaze widening a bit as he looks to the other masked vigilante. "Meet me on top of the clock tower, we'll go over the rest."
Helena Bertinelli narrows her eyes at Batman. Ha. Ha ha. The clock tower. She knows the place, but she's never been up there. No real need, it's not in her 'regular turf'. She does NOT know that it has anything to do with Oracle, 'cause it's not like that damned HAL has ever given her shit for useful information. "Yeah, okay. That works." She looks at Phantom and adds more quietly, "I'm going to want to pick up a few things on the way." There is no way in hell she's going anywhere else without her crossbow, especially she's now sure that there's no point in pretending around the Bat anymore. She just has to keep reminding herself to not address Kit by his name. 'Cause that, yeah. That would be awkward.
Well, she seems to know which clock tower is "the" clock tower, so the Phantom doesn't say anything about that. He'll ask her on the way. "Alright, I'll follow from a distance, but I'll have Devil accompany you. You run into any trouble, he'll help, and buy me time to get there. Being followed by thee yahoos, I'd rather not leave you alone if I can help it, even for a moment." Devil passes for a dog so often it's humorous, so shouldn't raise too many alarms--but that aside, the Phantom wants to help protect her, and if there's anyone better at protection than Devil, he doesn't know them. "So we'll stop by and grab a few things for you--" he says to Helena, then looks to Batman, "--and meet you at the clock tower. Just making sure we all know the plan."
The Gotham clock tower is conveniently secure, and close enough to tap Oracle into the entire affair-- not that she's not already at least half aware. It's a good thing the other two appear to have a handle on the plan, however, because as the afternoon sun begins to dip lower in the sky, the Batman is already gone. The window closed. It's almost as if he was never there, at all.
Helena Bertinelli turns to ask Batman how much time they have, and he's already gone. "... damn it." She looks at Phantom and sighs. "If I ever do anything THAT obnoxious, will you let me know?" She turns back to poor old library computer long enough to close the browsers she'd been using, clear the computer's browser history and cache, then restart the proprietary software that it's meant to run. She stands then and looks at Kit. "I've got my things stashed nearby, so it shouldn't be too long." Yes, she's been carrying her costume and crossbow et al. with her since she first fled Gotham, and she's not about to go have another rooftop chat with the Bat unprepared.
"...really got'a learn that one," says the Phantom, an amused smirk coming to his face as he looks at the closed window. Looking back to Helena, then, he says, "Alright, that sounds like a good idea. Glad you're prepared." Crouching again, he gives Devil a few good scritches. "And you--stay with her, alright? No matter what. I don't think this will end well, and I need you to make sure she stays safe."
The wolf gives a small huff, and pads over to stand next to the woman, looking up at her for a moment. She has herself a new fuzzy bodyguard for the time being, whether she needs--or wants--him or not. The Phantom stands up and gestures for her to precede him out of the building.
Helena Bertinelli would be annoyed by Kit's insisting on Devil shadowing her, but she knows it's pointless. So, Devil gets a tolerant (aka, fond) scrub across the top of his head and then she's on her way out of the library to get the duffel bag she's been living out of for the past ... how long HAS it been? Too damned long, that's for sure.
Once outside, the Phantom takes a careful look around. No one seems to be paying undue attention to them--at least not the kind that would make them one of the yahoos. Granted, a guy in purple in Gotham can't be all that common, but there's a difference between a look that says they're wondering if the Batman has really changed his fashion sense and one that says they're far too curious about the two humans. Once he's sure it's safe, he gives Helena a nod then starts jogging into the nearby alley, to retrieve Hero.
Once upon a time, the clock tower watched over Gotham from on high. Now the upward reach of modern architecture, the long arm of old white money stretches far indeed even in the dark heart of a town like Gotham City. Now towers of sleek glass and steel stretch between gothic relics of the past, one seeking to emulate the near lost art of the past here and there with typically empty results. As darkness stretches over the cityscape, shadows reach in the waning light, distorted long and heavy-- the important business that goes on around these important buildings dissipates, everyone important out to their homes in the suburbs.. if not beyond. Gotham City has a reputation, after all, one which has only begun to shift.
No, it's not hard to see why Batman chose to meet on the shrouded relic as Gotham's night rolls in-- even looking directly out the right window on an adjacent building, it's hard to pick out the Dark Knight's shape amidst the shadows stretched across the ornate spire. From this vantage point, his cowl gives him a certain advantage on anyone trying to catch a glimpse, for that matter. Of course.. there are more obfuscated reasons the Bat picked this vantage point. For one thing, Huntress is Oracle's prodigal. Oracle can certainly advise him well as he questions her. For another, the Dark Knight already made it clear he'd figure this out on his own-- it would just be wasting his time not to be in the loop.
Batman has done his best to make good on that oath, and he's in radio contact with Barbara well before he arrives at the Watchtower, while racing from uptown in the Batmobile. "Oracle." There's a pause for acknowledgement as the transmission goes through, "I'm re-encrypting every five seconds, set your system to keep up." Several buttons are depressed in the prototype vehicle as turbines rev and the Dark Knight rushes to keep his appointment. "I intercepted communications from a potential terrorist cell several nights ago, the batcomputer has been working on encryption keys. Uploading them to you now." Beat. His eyes don't even leave the road for an instant. The custom, also highly secure flash drive has been pre-programmed for this moment. "They're involved in the kidnapping and murder at Saint Mark's." He doesn't even have to explain they're dealing with a missing child and a potential mob or manhunt if the Huntress thing goes too far south. Not to Oracle. "I'm bringing the Huntress and someone I think can help to the roof of the clock tower now, I need you to tune in and advise." She should be used to the short notice, and can probably hear the car pull up in a concealed alleyway nearby about that moment. From there.. well, he's straight to the rooftops.
Thirty five minutes. It's been thirty five minutes since the Bat left the library and Helena and Phantom split up. She hurried as fast as she could without making herself overly obvious, especially considering Devil's keeping pace with her meant she couldn't take a taxi or the like. She makes it to the women's gym where she stashed the duffel bag she's been living out of since this all started, and heads for the locker room at the back. She stops at the door to the locker room and looks at Devil. "Unless your name is actually Demona, wait here. Capice?" She disappears into locker room and is back in well under a minute, shouldering her bags and heading back out again.
It's been nearly sixty minutes by the time she reaches the old clock tower, and pausing to look up at it she realizes she can't spare the time to change into her costume. Damn it. But she can, at the very least, arm herself now. She enters the tower by the first door she finds open, then as soon as she's in the quiet stairwell she takes a few minutes to pull her crossbow, quiver, and every spare knife not already on her person from her duffel. Hastily strapping her crossbow to her leg over her jeans, She juggles the knife hidden at her back around to under her right arm, her belt and quiver not nearly as well concealed against the small of her back. Nothing she can really do about it, though, just like there's not really anything she can do about her lack of identity-concealing attire. So she just looks up at all the damned stairs, sighs, hefts her duffel on to her left shoulder, then starts climbing. "Hope you don't mind stairs," she tells the wolf.
Barbara Gordon, prodigal in her own right, monitors 'everything' from the command chair positioned infront of the multi screened layout of one of the most sophisticated computers on the planet. From her seat she sees all, the Oracle can integrat into any system given enough time, can become any subroutine necessary to facilitate her agents and to help the Dark Knight on his crusade. The greeng low of her screen baths her pinned up red hair and 'Superman' logo tank top. A 'Batman' coffee mug still steaming beside her massive keyboard as she listens in on GCPD radio traffic over EMT and 911 emergency response frequencies.
Barbara Gordon, this is your life. And she's very good at it.
When the call comes in, she switches over to the bat frequencies and slides her headset on. The voice that replies is hers, not that of the Oracle. Bruce and company are amongst the few who can boast knowing her identity, "Got your transfer, I'll bounce it off my decryption and have a translation in about twenty." Finger always blazing the keys. It doesn't take her long at all. When she finds one signal, the Oracle goes to work looking for others. Following them in an almost ruthless game of cat and mouse.
Thirty five minutes to meet? That's a decade in Oracle time. "I'll set up the regular recordings for your meeting." To Bruce. Following a bleep on her overlay map of Gotham with a signature that matches one that's already in her database.
||"Huntress, this is Oracle. Are you on Comm?"|| The voice is that computerized androgynous meld that masks her identity, even to her Birds.
There's no way he's being ditched just because humans have this weird obsession with separating the sexes. When Helena tries to ditch him, Devil just gives her a stern, I Am Not Kidding look, and won't give in. On the other hand, he gives her some privacy, facing away from her and toward the door--as much for security, as anything else. He was told to stick to her, and that is what he'll do, come hell or high water.
While Helena gets her gear and argues with the wolf, the Phantom takes the time to call Mandrake. Granted, the encryption routines built into the hardware of his gauntlet aren't anywhere near as spiffy as the ones in the Bat-computer, but hopefully no one has any reason to monitor him in the first place. Hopefully. It's masked as a simple carrier signal sent to a nearby cell tower, giving him a degree of cyber-anonymity.
"It's me," is all he says into his gauntlet. "Get here as soon as you can; we--sort of stumbled onto someone who can help, and they'll need everything you know about--them." Yes, he's being vague, but the Phantom is sure that Mandrake will figure it out. He also gives Mandrake the address before signing off.
Later, Hero is told to go hide somewhere out of the way, and while the mare takes off, the Phantom takes off at a jog down the street to the clock tower. He'll wait for Mandrake, though he can see the fresh scrape of Devil's claws on the stairs, so knows better than to wait for Huntress.
Gently blowing on his warm cup of tea, Mandrake delicately takes a sip, his pinky extended like a gentleman. Looking over at his companion across the table, Mandrake cocks an eyebrow to his lovely assistant, Lothar. "Are you sure, he said to wait here?" The magician asks his friend. Lothar favors Mandrake with a nod as he also sips his own cup of tea. Looking at each other the men are content to enjoy their drinks, waiting...
A small buzz goes off in Lothar's vest, forcing the man to lower his drink to remove the communication device, answering it. Handing the communication device to Mandrake, Lothar calmly states, "It is for you." Taking the device Mandrake listens as his closest friend gives him instructions. Pocketing the communication device, Mandrake looks at his friend. "Wait here, old chap." Lothar gives him a stern look, which causes Mandrake to raise his hand, forestalling Lothar's complaint. "You are not healed, yet...and I know you and Mr. Walker are concerned about my recent, 'recklessness'. But fret not, I shall be back." He motions to his glass. "At least to finish my tea."
Giving Lothar, a sly smile, the Magician calmly grabs the cane sitting by his chair and strolls out of the Tea House, heading towards the location communicated to him by the device. A brisk walk no doubt.
The clock tower itself, while maintained as a historic landmark should be, is locked down tight against the Gotham night, secured at the front gate and not exactly accommodating. Luckily, Huntress' initial arrival draws the Bat's attention already. How long he's lurked above is anyone's guess, but any lead in tracking these people is a priority directive, just now. One of several. He arrives at ground level swiftly, dropping off the side of the tower, to descend in a cape-assisted landing atop the looming spire of an adjacent courtyard.
"I figured you for a climber." The Dark Knight notes dryly of the Huntress-- it's difficult to tell if he's joking, or not. "This isn't a lunch meeting, we're pursuing an active lead on these men as we speak." Someone's starting out the night in a good mood. "You're the first one here." There's a jerk of his head. An unspoken 'go'. She'll need her gear if she's going to hunt these criminals. The Dark Knight has scarcely moved by the time the Phantom arrives, a simple nod and a clearing of the throat greeting the man as he walks up the street. "You're expecting someone else?" Judging by Kit's body language, at least.
"What exactly is going on here?" It's a question for the Phantom, for the Huntress, probably for Mandrake as well.. and it's fair game for Oracle, naturally.
Huntress is surprised when Batman catches her short of trying to get INTO the tower, though really shouldn't let ANYthing the Bat does surprise her anymore. And at his comment about climbing she simply frowns. "Do I look dressed for scaling the side of a building?" Well, other than the weaponry. "I don't know how you do it, but considering I walked here, I didn't exactly have enough time to stop and primp."
She looks up at the old clock tower and can't help but think that it's even older looking up close than she remembers it being. "Besides, my shadow here doesn't have opposable thumbs." She hooks her own thumb toward Devil the wolf.
Babs is busily at work inside the Clock Tower, following threads of digital information now that she's on the digital scent. It's a game of cat and mouse played out in script code. Her fingers blaze and her expression tightens with each faulty lead and each missed chance. Seconds are forever in the world of hacking, minutes? Rome could be coded in those.
||"I found something."|| Not bothering to switch over her encryption software when speaking directly to the cowl. It would be shaved time, a few seconds maybe, and she's using every one of those to her best ability. ||"An old algorithm I have not seen used in years. They're good."|| But I'm better.
Her hand snaps out to turn over the digital record on the bat comm channel, putting everything Batman sees and hears into its own file for them to go back over later. Remaster and pick out individual sounds... seriously, she's got a lot of sophisticated software. ||"Give me a few minutes on this, Bruce."|| And one hell of a safe security net. The moment someone stepped on the Clock Tower grounds, one of the proximity alarms rang out its quiet warning, eyes spared only long enough to check the video feed before she's watching code scroll across her screen like spiderwebs. ||"There's a wolf on my lawn. Kind of cute, I think I'm going to get one."|| Because Batman can't clearly see that.
Devil pads right alongside Huntress and eyes the Batman with a curious look to his yellow eyes. He stays standing, tense, sniffing the air now and then, ears flicking this way and that. This is an unfamiliar area to him, but--his nose tells him it's not terribly unfamiliar to the man in the armor. Interesting.
When the magician joins the Phantom, he takes the other man by the arm and hurries toward the others, filling him in on events on the way. Tracking the Huntress down in a library, meeting up with the Batman who's going to help with the missing girl, and so on. Since the Eight are likely behind all of this, there's no one better than Mandrake to fill everyone in on what he knows about them.
His arrival is heralded, aside from whatever surveillance equipment is in place, by Devil's ear's suddenly flicking behind him and him turning his head in anticipation. The man in purple leads the magician, giving just a nod to Huntress before looking at Batman. "What we have here is someone who knows more about who's probably behind all of this than anyone here, or at least Huntress and myself," he says, motioning to Mandrake. "This is Mandrake the Magician, who's had--dealings with these people before. All I could tell you would be second-hand at best." That's about as much of an intro as the magician is going to get, considering.
Unsure how to properly greet The Phantom, Mandrake opens his mouth to launch into a preamble of salutations, when The Phantom jerks Mandrake by his right arm, cause the magician to stumble. As Kit's rapid words flood the Magicians ears, Mandrake continues to stumble before regaining his balance, now keeping pace with his rushed friend.
Blinking a few times, Mandrake looks around and realizes he is surrounded by people and The Phantom is introducing him around. Instincts take over as Mandrake doffs his hat, "Ahhh, Huntress how lovely to see you..." He gives Devil a wink, and looks over to Batman, favoring the man with a stage bow, his cane in his left hand swept back, his hat in his right swept forward. "Charmed to meet you..." He looks at Batman for a moment, then back at Kit, then at Batman. "So, you want to know about the 8." He pauses, his right returning his hat to his head and in the blink of an eye, a scroll appears in his hand, which he offers to Batman. The scroll is ancient and worn, with Latin writing scribbled on it. "What do you know already?"
"We're better." Batman near-echoes Barbara's thoughts into his own commlink. "Keep a close eye on a radius of a few blocks, there's a solid chance they've got steady eyes on the Huntress." Batman doesn't seem shy if Helena happens to overhear that he finds her easy to track. "We may be able to get at them coming for us." Well, her. "See if you can raise Nightwing or.." beat. "Red Robin." Batman foresees needing another set of hands tonight. "So you're Mandrake." And straight to the next order of business.
There's a degree of recognition even before the Magician identifies himself properly. He knows that much, it seems. The scroll illuminates the Dark Knight's vision several steps farther, cowled eyes widening momentarily as he examines it. It seems to make up his mind about sharing with the group. "I know there's a faction seeking to blackmail and besmirch the Huntress, to ends I have not deduced. I know that the only tangible evidence thus far on this group is her own account, and the imprint of a ring worn by one of their agents. I know that the numerology and ritual detailed in this scroll has remarkable similarity to a series of strange events and disappearances linked to your magic shows shortly before all this began."
Mandrake did ask. It's not the normal way the Dark Knight likes to start an interrogation, but enough time has been spent already. He places down card after card after card. It might seem like a nice set, but the wise would see several more yet restrained.
Helena Bertinelli looks over as Phantom and Mandrake arrive, then looks at the scroll with open curiosity. She can actually read Latin, so that ancient looking piece of parchment is probably all kinds of fascinating.
She does narrow her eyes a bit as Batman addresses some of his comments to ... someone other than the three non-Bat people here. This of course makes her wonder who he's talking to. She doesn't even consider Oracle as a possibility, considering how that damned HAL-wannabe hasn't so much as tried to reach her since the Eight and their dickbag buddy decided to start screwing up her life. As her thoughts turn angrier, her hand subconsciously goes to the crossbow on her right leg.
||"I am bringing up everything I can on the 8, Bruce."|| Oracle tells the Dark Knight, a note of satisfaction conveyed even over the digitized voice, ||"Going through the regular material. Togans Spirit Guide."||
With a sigh, Babs leans back in her chair and reaches for her coffee, ||"Alright, looks like I have a link on whoever was trailing..."|| Glancing up at her screen when the newly arrived Mandrake greets 'Huntress'. Camera's zoom, records are taken, and Helena's face is now recorded under her BoP record in the database.
||"The League of Fellows. Johnny come sometimes hackers that disappeared a few years ago. I've already transfered all the relevant files to the Batcomputer. Whoever this Eight is, they seem to have enough resources to get their hands on top tier hackers."|| While Babs doesn't seem all that concerned, this definitely calls for more coffee.
Babs glances down into her empty mug and easily switches from her command chair over to the small wheelchair beside it, rolling in towards the kitchen with the wireless headset still in place. A small console on the arm of her chair pops open to allow her remote access while she's a few feet away from her main network.
||"Their tracking signals have all dropped off, but nothing is getting near this Tower without me knowing about it. Eyes are open."||
Switching to the open bat channel, ||"Nightwing, Robin. Either of you on channel? Batman is sending an all call to the Clock Tower."|| Giving Damian an in.
When the Dark Knight relates just what he does, in fact, know, the Phantom arches a brow and turns his head to look at Mandrake, letting him reply to that. The scroll isn't as interesting to him, however, since he can't read Latin. His look to Mandrake is curiosity and hopefully friendly stability; it can't be easy talking about this kind of thing, as the Phantom himself well knows. An ancient enemy, one who targets you for unknown reasons--yeah, he's been through that a couple of times, though something tells him this Eight has more resources than the Singh Brotherhood.
Devil's ears flick up to Batman, though his yellow eyes move a bit to the side, focusing on the side of the man's head. Head cocks a bit, then he looks up at the Phantom. A quirk of one ear, a flick of his tail, a certain look to his eye. The Phantom looks at the wolf and just nods for the moment. He'll deal with that later.
Holding up his cane in a non-threatening manner, "The Magician. Mandrake the Magician." He says with a smile, "Agent likes the whole title." He studies Batman as he places he shows part of his hand. Giving the Dark Knight a broad smile. A smile from one showman to another. He tips his head towards him. "That fits their profile. It is hard to ascribe particular crimes to them as they often take credit for things that happen by chance. However, more often than they are responsible. They use the rituals and the numerology to identify themselves, spread fear, and to some extent...I believe it amuses them. The number 8 and all roads that lead to an 8 are their calling card."
Motioning to Huntress with his cane, "I am at a loss to explain her involvement at the moment." He favors her a glance. "Until these events occurred, I have never met her...a true pity." He looks back at Batman, "But I doubt she has even seen my shows."
Pausing, Mandrake continues lowering his cane to the ground and leans on it. "As for my involvement, it goes back to my youth. My Master Theron, Headmaster of the Collegium Magikos, Himalayas Campus is hunting the 8." He gives a faint shrug. "Unfortunately, my Master never told me much more about the 8. Just giving me that scroll, telling me that one day, I would need to share it." He looks over at Kit, offering an apologetic shrug, before looking at Batman. "I think they are attacking now, because they are looking for someone or something. I do not know what they are searching for, that part of the mystery continues to elude me."
"Running some reconnaissance on Manticore International," Robin replies into his microphone, hands buried in a fusebox atop one of Gotham's prominent skyscrapers, "We're on our way."
A moment later a discreet, blinking device is attached to the nest of wires and the Boy Wonder is standing up from his unsanctioned electrical work.
Wait a minute, did he say we? Yes. Robin turns to the unsanctioned Batgirl, a few abbreviated signs telling her 'we go help'. He doesn't wait for her to assent, knowing she's more than quick enough to keep up with him. He pulls a grappling gun from his belt, firing it in the direction of the clock tower in the distance. Soon after he's swinging his way there.
The girl that the new Robin has decided to give Barbara's mantle too, without asking anyone of course, gives him a nod, rising from where she was crouched and watching him work on the box. She casts out her own line and follows after the Robin without having to wonder which way he might go. She can tell. But as they get closer and the destination becomes clear? Well, if anyone were looking at her expression it would be surprise. They've come home. Well, her home.
She's dressed in a costume that Barbara would be intimately familiar with, and Batman is as well. Since Damian swiped it from the case in the Batcave. It leaves her lower face open, and while the tight material fits her passably, she and Barbara were not of quite the same build.
"Let's get what we can on them, too." Batman pauses, glancing from Mandrake, to Phantom, to Huntress. Another tactic laid bare, a more pertinent detail of the plan. It's trust, or what passes for it with Gotham's Knight. "The League of Fellows. Bank transactions to their shells, find out how they're funneling it if you can. We may not have these Eight in Gotham, but let's make sure they don't keep this up, Oracle." The name is explicit only to Huntress, the Dark Knight suspects.. but borderline omniscience comes with the territory when dealing with the ghost in Gotham's machine. What Mandrake says settles in, in Batman's mind. He takes a moment after listening the story just pacing back and forth and talking to himself.
It's just between the Devil and the Dark Knight; and Oracle, but Barbara Gordon hears just about everything, most balmy, breezy Gotham nights. The bite of autumn decisively in the air on this one, the Bat's voice is even in the comms, "Negative, Robin-- bike inbound to your position, standby for deployment coordinates and plan." Back the other way, "Do we have a fix on anything that looks like a home base, Oracle? Operatives still in the field?" More than ever, when the Magician can't pull motive out of his hat, the Bat wants the next person who might know more. It's kind of in his nature.
"I know someone who might be able to help us find out more about these.. Eight. And this scroll." The Caped Crusader offers to Mandrake, finally. Priority is getting the sting in order. He rolls up the parchment carefully, "May I?" It's a sincere, respectful question, this time; for once in this case, someone's more than helpful, and Batman actually seems to appreciate the eccentric old magician. Go figure.
Babs works her magic right there from her wheelchair, waiting for the coffee to finish dripping, ||"On it Bruce. Robin and company are inbound. He said we."|| Checking signatures... and her head cocks over towards her shoulder when she reads the signal ingrained in the 'suit' whoever the other is wearing. At first it's just a little trimmer across her brow, then her expression grows hard.
Sure, she hasn't worn it in a long time, but... someone else in her suit? The pot is snagged out of the machine and a tall mug poured, and set down in the little rest so she can roll back over to the command chair and switch back into the high backed comfort wagon with an easy hop from one to the other.
||"Bruce, why is Damian wearing my suit?"|| Could probably assume that Batman gave Robin's new signal to Oracle, but admit it, this was funnier.
Helena Bertinelli seems content for the moment to let Mandrake shares everything he knows about the Eight. Because truly, all she knows about them is that they are a bunch of jerks that tried to blackmail her into assassinating the Magician. And, considering there's enough chatter going on already, she hesitates to just blurt out what little she knows about recent events.
Of course, all this standing around can get trying to anyone who lacks patience. You know, like Helena. So, she again resorts to pacing, taking three short steps before turning again.
"Similarly, the Phantom keeps his own counsel for the moment, letting the one who knows more about the Eight relate the information to the one who has the resources to track their whereabouts in Gotham. He crosses his arms over his chest as he looks first to Helena, then to Devil, then back up to Batman and Mandrake. He's content to not pace, himself, keeping still while his mind runs. He has the patience of the jungle itself, so is content to watch and listen, studying the caped crusader while he thinks.
Bowing his head towards Batman, "You may, kind sir." He says granting Batman permission. Lifting his cane in order to hold it behind his back, Mandrake looks over Batman, his suit of armor impressive, the limited amount of technology that he has seen in this conversation, impresses the Magician. "No doubt you are privy to resources that I can only imagine." He smiles wider. "Knowledge often turns the magical into the mundane, and whoever is behind all of this, needs to become mundane."
He looks over at Helena as she paces, his eyes study her figure, to the causal eye, it may seem he is admiring her, but surrounded by the greatest detectives on the planet, they would likely pick up, his eyes are looking at the crossbow, a crossbow that looks pretty damn close to the one that killed his rabbit, nearly killed his friend, and lastly nearly killed him. Quietly, and calmly Mandrake slides the cane under his armpit, his fingers now free, begin to march as if they are playing an invisible piano.
Her eyes are so close, so very, very close...he could take a peek, one tiny peak into her mind, verify the story she told him. His fingers move slightly faster, and faster, as his eyes move from the crossbow, up her leg, up her torso, up her neck...
Closing his eyes, Mandrake lets out a small breath as his hands slow down. The Phantom vouched for her, Mandrake must trust in his friend...he hadn't trusted his friend once this week and the consequence were near disastrous, besides, isn't violating someone's mind just like...no, best not to be another monster with Good Mark. Opening his eyes and grabbing his cane once more, he looks at The Phantom, his stage persona back on. "I think that pretty much covers everything I know..." He laughs heartily. "So, what can I do now?"
"Affirmative," Robin answers, pulling his decel line tight towards him to sharply change his trajectory, "Objective?"
After all, what use is a Bat-Cycle at the clock tower? But Robin has learned not to argue and he's already making his way to meet the Bike. Again he assumes that Batgirl is following him and will be able to match his acrobatics pound for pound.
Beneath them, the Bat-Cycle roars along of its own accord. The street around it is too busy so the auto-pilot decides to go up and over, ramping a roadside construction site and arcing through the air. It is then that Robin lands upon it, scooted up close enough to the front to allow room for Batgirl behind him on the seat.
"Westbound on Adams. En route."
This isn't what she trained for. Not by a long shot. But the skills she did learn adapt easily over and watching Robin is almost all it takes for her to learn the tricks of swinging about the city. Batgirl doesn't follow Robin exactly, her tumbling, swinging figure nonetheless keeping right with him. As Robin drops down she doesn't even wait until he's on. She drops as he's still falling and pegs the landing on the back of the Bat-Cycle, one hand on Robin's shoulder with a light tap to let him know she's good to go.
"Mundane." Batman seems to like that, echoing it thoughtfully after it's spoken. "You should get the rest of your gear ready." The Dark Knight notes to Huntress, tapping a few concealed controls in his gauntlet. In the near distance, the roar of a powerful engine fills the night for a moment, before being largely diffused by baffles in the vehicle's hull; not that they help so much at full velocity. "You've been very helpful." Mandrake the Magician has it easy with the Dark Knight-- it's possible he hypnotized the Bat.
A protective bag is drawn from his utility belt with intuitive ease and precision that could make him a stage magician himself, popped open-- exponentially larger, all of a sudden-- with a flick of his wrist, and tucked smoothly over the aged scroll without so much as grazing the outer parchment. It seals to itself with a similarly swift and efficient passage of gauntleted hand, held at his side-- half within the shadows of his cape, to be stowed in the summoned Batmobile.
||"Oracle, triangulate any locations with repeated signals and identical transponders compared to earlier logs. There may be a pattern to their movements. Stand by, Robin, new coordinates inbound-- mission parameters likely pursuit and capture."|| Robin's new at this, but he's heard it a few times already. The Detective and his damn 'answers'.
Helena Bertinelli stops and looks at Batman, then after a second ohs and looks around. Yeah, like she's gonna change into her costume right here in the middle of the lawn around the clock tower. Upon hearing the approaching engine, she suddenly and a bit irrationally finds herself REALLY missing her Ducati. But, of course, it's still hidden near her residence and it's not a self-driving bit of cleverness. So she'll have to do without again some more. Turning to approach the clock itself, she hopes there's a restroom or something. 'Cause she's way more than ready to stop running and hiding.
Barbara has had the computer running double scans the entire time she was in the kitchen, checking signals against what she found a few minutes ago and everything she previously had collected on the Fellows and what Batman gave her earlier in the night. Her finger is looped through the coffee ring leaning back watching her code scroll on autopilot with 'Farscape' playing on a smaller bottom window.
||"Heads up, Batman. I have a hit."|| The security alarm attached to her network starts making whistling 'TIE-Fighter' sounds in her ears. Sipping her coffee with a pleased sigh as she sets the mug down and leans forward onto her keyboard, moving screens around with lightening like precision. ||"Same structure they were using earlier but they've changed their formating.."|| As if that could stop the Oracle, who says to herself as she destroys the attempt to break into her systems, "Jeez, what do they think this is, amateur hour?" ||"I have a signal, I'm putting it on your display. Robin, tell your friend to plug in and I'll share the uplink to these coordinates with her too."||
Her green eyes dark back and forth across her screen, smirking as each attempt to feel out the ghostly grip of the Gotham Ghost in the machine is broken like a house of twigs, "Oh please, like I've never seen an asteroid back door before, newb..." ||"They were trying to pick the track back up... they'll probably regret that."||
When Helena starts to move off, Devil is right there by her side, nose pointed at the ground, then lifted into the air. He wasn't told to stand down, as it were, so he's going to continue being the woman's four-legged bodyguard. When the woman finds a suitable spot to change, Devil sniffs around a bit, then turns around to point back the way they came--though his ears swivel backward now and then. Humans and their predilections.
As for the Phantom, he arches a brow and watches the woman and wolf head off, then looks back to Mandrake. No, he's not overly concerned about the departing pair; he trusts Devil for a reason. "I think you should head back home, old friend," he says, reaching out to lightly grasp Mandrake's shoulder. "Seems like we're going hunting, and I'd rather you stay home where Lothar can protect you." And before the magician can protest, he adds, "I know you can take care of yourself--but you and Helena are targets, both of you. I can't tell her to stand down without getting punched in the face, but I can sure as heck-fire tell you, and you owe me anyway." A hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. No, he's not going to let the magician live down the wolf-napping anytime soon, as it turns out.
Smiling at Batman, Mandrake touches the tip of his hat with his cane, a showman's salute. Smiling at Batman, Mandrake guesses the Armored Man still enjoyed a good show every now and again, after all his Cowl would provide more than sufficient protection from Mandrake's peering mind and nimble fingers. Mandrake continues to study Batman as the Dark Knight gracefully and nimbly prepares his gear, Mandrake studies the Hero's moves, thinking to himself, that is how you bend your pinkies. Smiling, faintly Mandrake takes a mental note, after all boring is part of the Magician's code. Also, Batman isn't a card carrying, dues paying member of the Guild, so No harm, No Foul.
Sliding his cane back towards the ground, He looks at Kit as his friend address him.
"I am not completely defenseless..." Mandrake states warmly, but surrounded by skilled fighters, the Magician is clearly the weakest of the bunch and being weak gets people killed. "I will go, but I will be protecting Lothar...Don't think I didn't notice you trusted him with the communicator first..." He smiles at his friend, indicating that he is joking. "Good hunting and be safe..." He offers sincerely to Kit, but his voice is loud enough for all to hear. Mandrake then spins to walk out.
Pausing, Mandrake twists his shoulders back to Kit."Helpful." He smiles at The Phantom, ribbing his friend. "He said, Very Helpful!" The Magician, banters with his friend, hoping the banter is the next step to healing their friendship. Just so they are not just giving the curt commands that Gotham Heroes seem to give one and another. After all their friendship can be restored to its past state, friendship is the strongest bond, next to gravity. Right?
With that, the Magician slips into the darkness, his hand on the Communicator, calling Lothar, telling his bodyguard, it is time to head home.
Robin lifts a hand as he steers the Bat-Cycle with the other, signing over his shoulder 'chase' and 'catch' to Batgirl. The sign that she's ready is enough for him to lower himself over the bike's controls and rev the engines, flying along at breakneck pace between the cars that choke Gotham's midtown streets.
His eyes alight the small screen built into the Bat-Cycle's controls, the new coordinates interact with software to tell him where he's going. Hm, the route suggested is good but the new Robin thinks he can do better.
The tires squeal, the Bat-Cycle tilts low to the side as it turns sharply and hurtles off down a narrow alleyway.
Batgirl gives Robin's shoulder another double-tap in reply, to let him know she's 'heard' him and then leans down with him. Pressed against his back, she of course can't say anything about the breakneck pace at which he takes the vehicle, but his confidence in his own skill is easy for her to read. As the make that sharp turn, her cape rides their wake, flapping in the night's shadows.
Apparently, his appreciation counted as farewell, also. "Come with me a moment." The Dark Knight turns to walk up the alleyway where the Batmobile arrives, gesturing to the Phantom to accompany, seemingly moving on to give chase as well once Huntress is ready. He listens to Oracle's report carefully, pausing a few yards up beside the sleekly armored car. There's not an iota of patience in waiting for Kit to arrive, it's somewhat diametric. "How well do you know your friend? How long has he known the Huntress?" The Dark Knight cants his head slightly to the side, looking past the Phantom to the mouth of the side street. "There's nothing I've found indicating these 'Eight' have ever actually threatened him." The scroll is secured in the Batmobile nonetheless; the part about knowing someone who can tell him more based on it? Totally true.
||"Robin, lock in on that signal, bring down the agents attached to it."|| Of course, if all this is as carefully compartmentalized as it's seemed so far? The agents still shadowing Huntress may not know enough, either. So how does he prove any of it? Or find the girl? A stern gaze re-centers itself on Kit. "Someone is one step ahead of us." If it's not one of his people.... how much does he really know about any of the trio?
In the end, though, only one of them alarms him. "The name he's using. Mandrake. Magician. Eight plus eight letters. It all started at his shows, with repeated occurrence of the number eight. The audience, the disappearances. Complicated rituals on his watch. Now he's here to lead us in the right direction while the people who've been stalking you both abruptly leave Gotham?" Yes, both of them-- Batman had only mentioned the ones stalking Helena, before.
"Huntress - eight letters." This seems an afterthought to an otherwise extensive set of broiling concerns. ||"Oracle.. see if you can find more than Red Robin did on Mandrake the Magician."|| A real challenge. Meanwhile, the Dark Knight just watches Kit. Watches him. As if he were looking right through him, doing something like, say, using his cowl to monitor subtle changes in pulse and body temperature to indicate sudden apprehension. Phantom doesn't seem the sort to otherwise wither as the Bat steps in close to study, to listen, to watch.
Huntress takes just a few minutes to change her clothes, but of course in her brain it feels like just this side of a millennium. Finally properly attired, she gives Devil a brief scratch under the chin -- she DID notice that he turned his back while she was unclothed -- and steps back out to see ... no one. Mandrake has left, Batman and Kit stepped over toward the Batmobile and are out of immediate eye-shot... "Well, FUCK." Today has just really and truly sucked.
||"I'm on it."|| Oracle assures Batman, bringing up files on the various heroes she's collected over the years. Not a lot to go on, but given any amount of time something will surface? I mean, it exists on the Internet somewhere. Just a matter of finding it. ||"I'm still on comms, Batman. Let me know when you want the GCPD in-route."|| She's also still recording everything the cowl sees and hears. Files and records. What someone misses the first time is easier to spot the second.
When the magician leaves, the Phantom watches him a moment, expression softening. He hates to keep the man out of this, but--it's going to get bad, he can feel it, and he would rather not have to worry about the man when it does. He's going to worry enough about Helena as it is.
A brow arches when the Batman asks him to follow, but follow he does. He steps along the alleyway with confidence, arching a brow when the Batmobile arrives. Nice, but--he still prefers Hero.
Devil gives the woman a canine smile and a single wag of his tail, and walks along with her--and shares her surprise. He'd been so intent on listening for intruders and surreptitious and covert sneakers-arounders, he hadn't realized everyone left. He looks up to the woman with that surprise on his face--then promptly lowers his muzzle to the ground and leads her to and down the alleyway.
And at the other end of the alleyway, the Phantom is staring right back at Batman. He has the nifty blank, white eye-lenses too. "This fake Huntress? She tried to murder him. Nearly killed his friend and aide," he says quietly. There's just the barest quickening of his pulse; he really doesn't like the implications of what the caped crusader's saying. "Tell that to the woman in your ear; have her check records for the county clinic in Hell's Kitchen. Lothar--no last name--was transferred from there to the hospital, and was only released a while ago. He's been my friend for years, longer than Devil, so if anyone's not quite on the square, it's not him." A tilt of his head. "Unless you're going to call me a shuckster, too." No, he's not angry; save for that barely-quickened pulse his main reaction is a hint of a smile at one corner of his mouth, as he meets the Bat-Stare with the Phantom-Stare. It's like the Bat-Stare, but with that indulgent smile; he knows it's no one in the Phantom-camp, and that's enough for him.
Robin grins to himself, bringing the Bat-Cycle up to full throttle as it shoots out of the alleyway and quickly approaches the coordinates he was given. It's not enough to just split the lane and dart between cars, he also launches the bike more than once over various obstacles on the street. Not exactly creating a low profile but, then, he's wearing red and yellow and riding a super-charged motorbike.
It's Robin's amusement that gets him a light cuff from Batgirl behind him. Her hands slip under his arms so he can see them in front of him as she signs 'focus'. He can't see her own amusement at him.
That's not really the answer Batman was looking for. He paces back towards the Batmobile, then back away from it, right past the Phantom. There's no need to meet the stare for long-- he got his answer in the first few moments, and pride and emotions aside.. there was nothing personal about asking. "Then maybe they're targeting both of them for the same reason. Let's try this another way." A nod is passed back towards the courtyard, "Your wolf would know it if you weren't you. .. but how possible is it that someone's replaced your friend? The way they did Huntress? Perhaps after or during the attack."
There are multiple angles to consider, and time may be running out. "Robin. They're likely to be heading out of town, tie back into the network and trace plates registered to any of the affiliates Oracle tracked down." They'll need to pinpoint the vehicle that sent the signal to effect a capture, the Dark Knight suspects.
"Otherwise, we have to hope they got sloppy clearing out of a house in Coventry. .. yes, Oracle, cross-check the address with everything else." The Bat doesn't sound particularly hopeful about that option, though, even as he stops his pacing and folds his arms, facing the Phantom evenly once more.
Huntress follows Devil to the alleyway, then approaches the two men once she sees them. "I can prove that it wasn't me that attacked Mandrake." She pulls one of the reused and number-inscripted bolts that was recovered from the assassination attempt. "This bolt's been fired twice, once from my crossbow, and once from someone else's." She offers it to Batman to study. "Whoever fired it the second time also inscribed that number on it." She pulls a bolt from her own crossbow for comparison, then fires one into a wooden pallet so that the scoring pattern can also be compared. Moral of the story: Huntress is going to be a LOT better about 'policing her brass' from now on.
And then her thoughts roll back around to the kidnapped child, and she looks from Batman to Phantom and back. "Do you have any more leads to help us find Angelique?"
"They--could fool me," the Phantom admits, brows furrowing in thought as his head lowers a bit. He reaches up to cup his chin, idly stroking his the tip of his index finger just under his bottom lip. "I have a hard time thinking he could fool Devil; Mandrake's been around him ever since. Heck, he just had something of a day's outing with Devil not that long ago."
A beat's pause, and he purses his lips in distaste at a thought he can't quite voice. He doesn't for a moment believe anyone's replaced Mandrake, but--is it possible someone better-skilled at hypnotism has somehow--out-finger-wiggled him? That thought, more than the potential accusation, makes his pulse quick more notably, heart doing a quick double-thump.
Thankfully he's saved from having to pursue that thought much further by Huntress and Devil, the latter staying by the woman's side still. He looks at that bolt, wondering which one it is. The one that nearly skewered his friend The one that nearly killed Lothar? Lips press together as she fires that next bolt into the pallet. "I think that will best be answered by whether tonight's hunt is successful," he says in answer to her question.
"Not an issue," Robin replies into his microphone, the roar of the Bat-Cycle in the background, "I'm cutting across the Park."
The Bat-Cycle screeches off the road, mounts the curb and disappears into the gate of Robinson Park. Thankfully the jogging track is deserted this time of night (nobody is that fond of fitness in Gotham that they go out after dark) and the lack of traffic allows Robin to push his ride to its limits. Batgirl's warning does go heeded, though, and he does less stunt driving and more race riding instead. A moment later they burst out the other side and into the street.
A malevolent little look crosses Robin's features as his heads-up display immediately catches one of the license plates he's looking for. The car is highlighted and Robin gives chase, the Bat-Cycle hurtling after the car and its occupants - a dark-haired man and a blonde woman - at breakneck speed. They're no fools, it seems, and it is all Robin can do to keep up with them as they weave through traffic and cut across lanes back into Coventry.
"Woman is making a call on her cell," Robin shouts over the roar of the engine, "They're heading towards the coordinates you gave me." Twenty seconds or so later, Robin announces, "She just hung up."
Amazing how he can keep track of that and drive but he does it.
Batgirl's just along for the ride, and so while she watches, taking her cues from what she reads of Robin's intentions, she of course offers no comment.
"When did you last fire it? Was it lost then, or taken later?" Standard procedural questions, but as Huntress reminds them.. there's still a missing girl. Always a doubly bad thing when evil rituals are suspected. The Bat turns to look from Helena, to the Phantom, to Devil. He pauses, thoughtful, "Would he be aware of any changes in the man's patterns or behaviors?" If their mind control and imitation-- or are they one in the same-- are good enough to fool the wolf's other senses.. then again, no part of the situation is exactly giving the Dark Knight warm, fuzzy feelings. Regardless, it's clear he's picked up on the animal's intelligence.. or perhaps some special link with his master.
Regardless, Batman opens the Batmobile canopy swiftly as Robin's update comes through, "The may be something left at the house, after all. Let's go." There's space for several rumble seats, assuming the Phantom wants to bring his dog. Only two actual bucket seats, however sleek the fighter jet-like cockpit may be, and the Bat already occupies the driver's side.
It's notable he waits for them at all, though-- it's possible he thinks their own drive for retribution demands the effort, or maybe he just knows that engaging magic or potential telepathy shorthanded is a quick way to a serious problem.. Granted, they probably need to mount up in about the amount of time it takes him to radio back, "Confirmed. En route now." and starts setting the computer assists necessary to safely drag race to that part of Gotham.
Huntress blinks as the Bat gets an update from Robin, and when he goes to get into the vehicle, she steps toward it quickly. "Last fire what? My crossbow, or that particular bolt? I only use each one once, because their accuracy is compromised once they've been fired." She explains this while looking into the vehicle then clambering to claim the only remaining bucket seat. It's not exactly comfortable with her quiver in the small of her back, but she's not about to complain when her Ducati is still in storage at home. This had better be a quick trip to Coventry.
When the Huntress gets into the Batmobile, Devil--just looks to the Phantom in something like disbelief. The human does realize that he's a wolf and not a toy poodle, yes? "Sorry, friend, but you've got to stay with her," says the Phantom, giving the wolf a small smile. Devil looks back to the car and huffs quietly, then goes to jump into the thing, to try and cram himself half on the woman's lap, half on the floor boards, with a look that tells her he likes this about as much as she does.
"I'll meet you there, and we can discuss the keen senses of animals and how much information they can tell about someone later," says the Phantom to Batman, then puts his index finger and thumb in his mouth for a short but shrill whistle. And a moment or two later, hoof beats can be heard, then a white mare gallops out of another alley to head toward them. She may not be as fast, technically, as some cars--but only some--but she can go where they can't, and can dodge obstacles like a dream.
Robin and Batgirl make great time on the Bat-Cycle, the pair of them not weighing all that much and the bike designed for great speeds with a greater cargo. Even as the pair in their car dodge and weave through traffic, Robin is right there on their tail keeping up with them, though the erratic driving makes it hard for him to get in close.
"I've had enough of this," Robin growls, "I'm bringing them in."
The Bat-Cycle surges ahead suddenly, nitrous activates and literally making the wheels smoke as the bike runs hotter than it ever has a need to. They're ahead now, and Robin is already fishing his grappling gun from his belt. He flicks the settings with his thumb, eyes still locked on the car, and fires a thin line around one of Coventry's lamp posts. A second shot a split second later embeds the other end of the line in the front of a nearby building. Suddenly, a length of extremely durable decel line is strung across the car's path. And it hits.
The car's front bumper strikes the wire, tearing the lamp post out of the ground with an angry crash but the damage is already done. The car is in mid-air and flipping over itself, landing with a deafening smash on it's roof on the pavement.
Robin screeches the Bat-Cycle to a halt alongside the demolished car, leaning over to look in through one of the shattered windows, "Vital signs. Good. Broken bones. Very good."
Into the mic: "Neutralized them. Moving to the coordinates."
Batgirl knows what Robin's going to do even as he starts. She can read his intentions. What he's about to do. But she can't stop him, and she sure as heck can't argue with him. When the car comes to a stop though? She grabs his shoulder to pull him around enough to see her as she leans to the side. her hands move almost too fast too follow and of course she doesn't 'speak' like anyone else does. 'Dangerous no kill risk'. Her expression? Is a whole lotta frown.
"Suppose it's too much to hope you have a ready recollection of every time you fired your crossbow around the time your troubles started." The Dark Knight muses as he sets up the bastard offspring of sports car, APC, and jet fighter swiftly indeed. The Phantom's assertion-- and apparent horse-- just draw a somewhat unconvinced "Riight." from the Dark Knight, who offers up the explicit address only once before the canopy starts to slide shut, and the vehicle all but lifts off into an all-but-impossible turn down the adjacent street.
Acceleration is a constant as the car helps to cover the space between 'here' and 'there' as swiftly as possible.. though the breakneck performance driving (luckily, the Batmobile's cockpit is gyroscopically stabilized) ends several blocks from their destination, the vehicle's power cut back until it's soft as a snoring lamb, all lights extinguished, and secreted nearby their destination. With any luck, they might even have a moment to get into position while Robin drives his quarry to ground-- it could be lucky that the Dark Knight doesn't rely a whole lot on luck, though.
"Oracle, put a GCPD unit on the accident at Adams and Rosewater." The cycle's little conflict shows up on both the Batmobile's map of the nearby city, and a video feed that looks to be direct from Damian's face mask. That one can be pretty disorienting indeed. "Full medical too, fire danger minimal to moderate." Deep voice rings not unlike Cassandra's expression, perhaps, but he doesn't argue with Damian now. The car opens smoothly once it reaches a complete stop, the Dark Knight wasting no time in abandoning his transport once more.
Huntress grimaces as Devil insists on riding along, but doesn't say anything or complain, even though one of his front paws is digging into her leg painfully. Thankfully, the trip was a quick one and as soon as the Batmobile's canopy opens again she tilts her head out from underneath Devil's muzzle. "Okay," she says in a strained voice, "You can get off of me now, mutt."
Arabian horses are great at two things--speed and intelligence. Nearly the best in the latter, and not exactly bad at the former--and Hero is the best of the best. The Phantom all but flies while on her, racing through the streets and alleys in almost a purple and white blur. All of this lets the man arrive only a few moments behind the Batmobile. The accident gets a careful look. Two people in suits. Hrm. He looks up toward the large house overlooking the park, its grand nature speaking to its heritage as being built when the area was still mainly populated by the wealthy.
Sliding down from Hero, he pats her muzzle affectionately as he walks over as Devil only too gratefully gets out of the car. It's not graceful, not by a long shot, but the wolf clambers out of the vehicle, and shakes himself.
"Do we have a plan?" asks the Phantom, looking at the Batman while reaching down to give Devil a quick scritch behind the ears. "Tried and true surround and penetrate, maybe?" An old plan, that, but it works. Everyone surround the place and make their way in, cutting off exits and taking out chumps.
"They're fine," Robin argues, both with Batgirl and his father over the radio, "I got them while they were changing gears. They weren't going fast enough to kill themselves."
The way he speaks makes him sound confident of the fact but those in the know are well-aware that he just put two people in very lethal danger. He does his best but sometimes he goes for the spectacular over the more reliable solution. Still, he pauses a moment and looks like he might get off his bike to help. Nah.
"They are scum," Robin says to Batgirl, signing 'bad' before revving the cycle up once again and heading for the Coventry coordinates. He mutters under his breath as they speed off, "You try thinking of a way to stop a car without a risk."
Soon after the Bat-Cycle has arrived at the coordinates in Coventry, parking outside the house in the cover of a shadowy alleyway. Deciding that he's done enough brow raising for the evening, he opts to remain there for word from the Boss. He slings himself off the bike, crossing his arms over his chest and looking petulant.
Batgirl doesn't seem to take 'they were scum' or that they weren't likely to kill themselves as reassuring or answer enough to stop the frowning. She gives an adamant shake of her head and signs sharply, 'no'. And when he mutters? She taps him on the back of the head, a bit harder than before so she can sign at him, 'Yes me stop'.
"Right. " The Dark Knight doesn't sound any more convinced radioing back to his son's running commentary, even as he vaults out of the Batmobile and swiftly fades into the shadows, picking a swift course along well-maintained fences and hedgerows to position the trio under cover and near their objective. "Converge on this position, zero residual contact." No one sees, is the objective.
Then, the Dark Knight is abruptly leaping into a high jump a man his size in body armor really doesn't normally possess, seemingly disappearing into the trees. There are several moments where he seems to have simply abandoned Phantom and Helena with no plan shared, before he reappears from whence he came, dropping back outside the stonework wall bordering the property itself-- a rather large mansion on a smallish plot of land with a beautiful view of the park.
"Whatever the backup plan was, it wasn't 'get out of Gotham.'" Now and then, the Batman can admit when he's just plain wrong. "The place is teeming. Indefinite numbers inside, only two armed men patrolling outside-- I'm not sure if we're dealing with a host of combatants, or something else." It's clear that worries him, just a little. "All we know for sure is that the people following you.." Phantom, Huntress, for a time even Mandrake.. ".. were talking to someone in here, and their agents seemed to be retreating to this location." He may have a plan of his own.
"The entire property is landscaping and this wall, anyone who wants to run is going to run out this way. If they do, don't try to take them down, Huntress-- get trackers on them." It's likely the Bat can provide those if she doesn't have her own. They look not unlike the pellets she got hit with the other night, truth be told. One way or another, his plan clearly involves going in.
Huntress clambers out of the Batmobile after Devil and checks her quiver to make sure it's intact while at the same time brushing shed wolf hair off of her costume. When the Bat returns from reconnoitering, she is visibly displeased at being given a 'backup' job, but she doesn't complain. And it's clear she's refraining from speaking her mind. "Have some trackers I can use?" Once she's got a good collection of the little devices she moves to hide alongside that one exit. She'd REALLY rather be going in there and kicking some ass, but she's not in charge today. Damn it. These trackers WILL be used. With extreme prejudice.
When the Bat returns, the Phantom just watches and listens for the moment. The plan involves Huntress staying out here, which--isn't the worst thing in the world. Couple of guards shouldn't mean much danger for her and Devil. He's got as much faith in her abilities as she does Devil's. After she and the wolf move off, the Phantom puts his hands on his hips and looks back to the Batman.
"Alright, so how do you want to handle this?" he asks quietly, keeping his voice rather quiet. "This is your town, your rules." He's more than happy to let Batman call the shots on this, since it really is his town and all.
'Talk later' Robin signs at Batgirl, his gestures sharp and his body language irritable as she speaks to him and he imagines what kind of lecture he may get later. Killing never struck such a visceral chord with him, It is just an effective means to end a threat. But he's made promises here and he's kept them so far so what is everyone's problem?
But then he spots the guards patrolling the perimeter and lifts a finger to his mouth to call for silence (not that he needs to worry about noise from Batgirl). He presses his miniature radio into his ear, crouching to whisper into it.
"We're out front. There's a perimeter guard. Looks like he's got a set route. I'm timing him. Where do you want us?"
Batgirl frowns, but she doesn't 'argue'. She just watches him with steady dark eyes. Finally, they turn their attention to the complex, their silent argument tabled but so much was said without words. Her gaze tracks the guards and she looks to Robin, tilting a head at them.
It's the reaction of Robin and Batgirl to the information that the Dark Knight is really interested in-- but he doesn't delay giving it before reiterating and clarifying, "Converge on my location. Down the wall from the gate." The Bat himself moves along that ivy-laced barrier, reaching into the flora-blocked cracks to place-- or perhaps feel around for something.. several times along the perimeter. "Oracle. This place goes dark in ninety seconds." He doesn't need the confirmation to know she's on it-- taking the mansion off the grid, cutting the phone lines and power its security systems need to work, while his own devices concealed in the hedges and stonework power up to blanket the area with cellular-bar-destroying levels of electromagnetic interference.
"I'll go in first. See what we're dealing with. Phantom, you'll take the front. Robin, you." Batgirl gets a gesture that's not as harsh as the moniker might suggest, identifying her-- with her own insight into body language and demeanor? This part of the Bat is probably easy; he's just not sure where she fits, yet. "Take positions at the back, one high one low. Be ready to breach and detain." Beat. "Understood?"
Huntress moves almost as quietly as one of the Bat's protégées, placing herself (and Devil) in a well-shadowed spot close enough to the gate that she'll be able to see anyone who goes through it in either direction and can easily peg people with the tiny pellet-sized trackers. And once again she can't help but think she's been given the Bat equivalent of a seat at the kid's table for thanksgiving dinner. The disregard. It rankles.
A single nod, then the Phantom gives Batman a two-fingered salute. "You got it," is all he says, then turns to start jogging around to the front of the place, and his boots make less noise on the ground than one may expect. He's not exactly unfamiliar with the concept of stealth, himself, and how to move quickly while making next to no noise. He'll step into the shadows near the front entrance, hands on his holsters, fingers resting against the fasteners so he can whip a pistol or two out if need be. And he waits with the patience of a stalking tiger, listening to the sounds of moving around that come from within. No one seems overly agitated, no one's rushing about, but this close--he can hear the large number of people.
To be honest, Robin was expecting to be made to wait outside after his stunt with the car. He's visibly relieved that this isn't the case and when he's given his orders he nods his head. He turns slightly to leave and catches sight of the Phantom out of the corner of his eye. A cruel little teenaged smirk curls his lips and all he does is chuckle, "Heh."
Adolescent rudeness now handled, he makes for the perch he was directed to by Batman and begins to climb his way up. Looks like he's chosen the 'high' option. He lifts a hand to his radio for a moment, almost asking what the deal with the skull guy is but deciding it probably isn't a good time.
Also, why does he have guns?
When Batman points at her Batgirl's eyes, which are visible in the appropriated costume, narrow a bit. Not with annoyance, but concentration. The Dark Knight's body language is... different from most. It speaks in concise ways even without him trying. The fact he doesn't call her 'Batgirl' doesn't even get a blink of her eyes but instead when the order is given she glances instead to Robin. Him, she knows. Batman? Not yet. As she reads his acceptance, she gives her own nod. The Phantom is looked to, looked over and, with another nod, she moves after Robin, melting easily into the shadows with a flip of that scallop-edged cape, heading for the 'low' even as Robin starts to climb.
"Phantom." There's a pause before execution to append, "We don't make more bodies." It's that simple, there's no interest in arguing about it as the Dark Knight slips instead from shadow to shadow, getting his own position above a rather opulent veranda and waiting for the interdiction to hit. Phone lines go down, power cuts out, and in a spare bedroom, the house gets one extra occupant through a window that's open only a moment. The Dark Knight slips through the newly darkened room to its door, looking out across the upper level from a reclusive vantage point, palming several round charges from his utility belt to his left hand, investigating the group within as his own allies surround the compound from without.
Like the Phantom would argue. He gives the roving shadow something of a smirk from his hiding spot; he can recall the times that the Phantom has killed on both hands. Not bad for over five centuries, really. He just shakes his head and focuses back on the door, flexing his fingers a little to keep them loose.
And when the power goes out--it's bedlam. Some bring out phones, only to curse when they're found to be useless, others race for weapons, others move to cover windows and doors. A trio of men rush to the bedroom occupied by the Batman, intent on covering the windows from intruders. A bit late, perhaps, but at least they're trying.
Robin remains crouched on a ledge just alongside a window, doing a quick once-over of his belt to make sure he has everything he thinks he'll need for the assault. When the utilities go out he immediately makes his way in, silently lifting the window and crawling inside. He looks for the first sign of the enemy, aiming to bring them down swiftly and bind their hands.
Batgirl waits in the shadows with patience. She doesn't know what to be ready for, but she figures that she'll know it when it happens. And when the lights go out? Yeah, it's time to go in. She moves into the building, keeping to the shadows as she starts her sweep. Anyone she runs across is quickly and efficiently put down as she knows just where and how hard to hit them to put them down for the count.
The Dark Knight allows the first man to simply pass into the room, abruptly backing up into the inside corner, the darkest point in their blindest spot as the men arrive to take up vigil at the windows. The third man finds the Dark Knight stepping sidelong into arm's reach with swift grace and silence, the shotgun upended butt-first into the man's jaw as it rotates with nigh-rotor velocity, the crack of hardwood shattering jawbone as the weapon whips around to rest across Batman's hands. He's already separating chamber from receiver with a few swift motions that include a rather unhealthy sounding wrenching of the actual feed mechanism. In the instant before he drops it, and charges the other two.
The first man who made it into the alarmingly dangerous darkened room fires a high-caliber pistol repeatedly as the scarcely seen Bat darts into his ally, barreling into and heaving the comparatively smaller man directly out the window in a shower of glass and wood splinters. It's a rather notable sound, coupled with the sudden release of one of those pellets in his left hand back towards the door, aligned to impact just outside. The Dark Knight turns quickly away as the brilliant flare of a flash grenade erupts-- ideally, as everyone is going 'HEY WHAT WAS THAT NOISE'. The defenestrated thug? He breaks the silence, too; does he ever. It's the Dark Knight's way of signaling go time.
Goons start exiting the building, handguns drawn. Or, at least, they try to--the ones at the back run afoul of the newest Batgirl, and it can't be but a moment before some are on the ground, clutching their throats or other, more favored, body parts. She gets another wave of thugs for her trouble, including a couple whipping out semi-automatic handguns and aiming for her.
Upstairs, the flash-pellet makes another group of thugs cry out, holding their eyes and swaying on their feet, though they start bringing out guns and shooting wildly. Not the best plan, but.
Meanwhile, Robin's window is burst open, and a pair of goons lean out, heavy-gauge rifles lifted as they peer down to the street, looking for more intruders. It'll take at least a beat for them to notice the ledge is occupied.
And downstairs, the Phantom waits until he hears footsteps running toward the front doors--then pivots and lashes out, planting his boot squarely between the door handles to send the doors swinging inward with a bang, smacking two goons in the face and buying him the beat to launch himself at pair right behind. One gets a fist to the nose, then he turns a bit to let the other's wild punch slide past his head before giving that goon a sharp uppercut.
And more goons appear just about everywhere, coming to their fellows' aide.
The first room cleared, the Boy Wonder returns to his ledge to assault the next one across. He's quiet, methodical and not so much with the shock and awe. Breach and detain is a different kettle of fish.
Robin's hand snaps out, one plucking the rifle from a goon's hand and tossing it out into the yard while his foot drives the other gunman's wrist against the frame. The cry of pain and crack of bone drives the man to drop his weapon. Both of them scram back from the window, the one with the broken wrist not up for doing any fighting and the one who just got a nasty surprise is rendered unconscious by a boot to his jaw. Both men have their hands bound and Robin soon moves further into the house.
Room to room goes Robin, dishing out measured threat resolutions. Yes, one man lies gagged and pinned to a wardrobe with a knife through his hand but that's what you get for trying to stab Damian Wayne.
There's never a pause. No hesitation. No stopping to assess the situation. Batgirl moves in and it's like they're all involved in a well-rehearsed dance that ends with them unconscious on the floor with fractures and contusions but nothing life-threatening and her moving forward. She flits in and out of the shadows, and when the handguns come out she still never flinches. Her eyes narrow a bit and as they open fire, she slides side to side, up and down, and then launches herself upward and when her feet hit the ground again their bodies follow a moment later.
Moments after the armed, obviously trained and drilled enforcer breaches the window at Batman's behest, moments after the unlucky last man to run for this room collapsed unconscious just inside the doorway, just as the flash bomb goes off in the eyes of those thinking about responding to the sudden chaos, the Dark Knight leaps. A .357 grazes over his cape, ricocheting high and ripping a line less severe than one would expect of lesser fabrics as it impacts painfully along his shoulder. Batman doesn't even wince, even as an angry bloody line is drawn below the suit, and in the sidelong motion of one hand the revolver is forcefully retrieved from its wielder and unloaded out the window-- the Bat's other fist slamming home between the man's eyes. After a blink and you'd miss it flick of his wrist to the left; it's just enough explosive to splinter drywall and crack support beams from one room into the next.
As the last of the first contact team falls, the Bat puts a shoulder through the crumbling wall, bearing the shocked, wide-eyed sniper on the other side to the ground and thoroughly Tasing him in the seconds it takes anyone else to even realize there's a new entrance in their shadowed room. Two batarangs later, and the numbers look even less favorable-- one crashing through a dresser in the dark, adding several more bludgeoning wounds to the one to his head, while the other's weapon explodes in her hands, stopped up with a weighted metal throwing spike.
While the Phantom grabs two men by their throats and slams them to the ground, someone comes up behind him with a rifle. The sharp report adds to the occasional gunfire, and while the bullet doesn't penetrate the suit, the blast knocks him off-balance enough to topple him. He grimaces as he hits the floor in a roll, coming to his feet, facing the attacker and leaping forward, knocking the rifle aside and planting his fist into the man's gut. His back hurts like hell; there might well be some internal damage, but he's not going to stop.
As that goon drops to the ground, the Phantom is already on the move, dashing next to a wall and peeking around as a few men come thundering down a set of stairs. He watches for a beat, as they head toward Batgirl with guns drawn--then draws his own in a flash. Two shots later, two men are on the ground, each clutching a foot. He's about to do the same to the others--when he suddenly ducks. A gleam off a window warned him. The bit of wall where his head was suddenly gets ventilated thanks to a shotgun.
Robin has done his job for the most part, moved from room to room in the area designated for him and detained anyone inside who wasn't wearing a mask and a cape (or purple tights). His quarry are thoroughly unconscious, lying in varying states of ouch, and now Robin is devoting his time to poking around for anything else of interest.
Like her mentor (hah!), Batgirl has finished putting down those on the lower floor that she's come across and now she slips through the shadows to rejoin Robin. Not like one that's trying to be sneaky, but with the ease of someone that has lived long years there. For those that are used to living in the darkness, and not the light of the sun.
The Batman all but rebounds from one opponent to the next, disabling the man who falls, gripping a bleeding hand, and spring-boarding off of him to bowl the machine-pistol spraying newcomer over, out into the hallway.. and over the banister. No real damage is paid to this one, though he gets a close up view of the hardwood stairs coming up to meet his face for several instants before the line of cord snaps taut.
It's not a gentle bungee, however-- all his momentum transfers into a swing, face bouncing off the railing. Relatively speaking, the Dark Knight is merciful, "Talk" the assailant his still-conscious conscript likely never saw demands, "Or I let them all have their turn with you." How many are there in the house? -HOW MANY-?
Oracle, from the comfort of her command chair, surveys the house through the lens of a satellite moved into position. It takes some fancy coding and more than a little back door sneaking, but she's finally brought the eye in space to bare, zooming through the walls until all the images inside are stick representations of support beams and studs. The outline of stairs and the cut away blue hollow specter of doorways and windows. She pushes up her glasses and pushes off one side of her console to slide over to another keyboard in front of another set up of smaller screens. Her fingers move like lightening across the keys, linking into the audio and visual equipment inside each of the Bat Family's suits. filtering out the sounds of punches, kicks, and screams.. it leaves behind only the sound of heart beats and breathing.
Two fingers pass through a digital sensor and sweep across to throw those sounds over onto her bigger monitor as if they were actual objects and not digital representations sent from miles away. Another push and she's rolling along the tracks to her main hub, super imposing those sounds against the digital layout of the building, using reference points and a piece of software she wrote for just such an occasion, she creates a VR over-map of the building.. each 'unknown' individual with a heart beat marked in an angry blister red.
||"Sending package."|| Says the androgynous voice to all the communicators (because she's hacked into them, even if she didn't already have the frequencies) ||"Now."||
The representation is sent into the HUD of the bats, each of them now has an estimated count of remaining assailants as a running tally at the bottom right of their vision. Their vision is augmented with the pixilated design of the building, with those angry red marks of remaining assailants flashing red... even through walls.
The team manages to put down most of the goons pretty darn effectively, though that can't come as a surprise. Well, it sort of does to the Phantom, who hasn't really ever worked with this many people before, at least not on something like this. He starts heading deeper into the house, listening for more goons to help into dreamland. It's nice to see a team like that, one that works that well together.
The assailant looks up at the Batman from his precarious position, made such by who's holding onto the other end of the line more than the position itself. "Whaddaya wan'a know?" he gasps as he struggles, more from sheer fright than any actual attempt at fighting off the Dark Knight. "We were hired just to keep you guys busy, that's all! That's all I know! Some blonde woman in a suit gave us each a shit-ton of cash to keep you busy!" And they were doubtless lied to about just who'd be doing the invading, but.
And because timing is just that perfect--or that damned lucky--outside the house there are three suppressed gun shots and a canine yelp.
In one of the rooms, Robin approaches a painting knocked askew during the altercation and pulls it off the wall. Behind it is a safe which he looks at curiously, pondering it for a moment before he crouches down over the form of a nearby semi-conscious guard. He grabs the man by the wrist of his (broken) arm, eliciting a groan of pain from the man as Robin presses his fingers against the biometric receptor of the safe. An angry red light signifies no joy. Robin drops the man back to the ground, prompting another moan of discomfort.
"I have found a safe in the master bedroom," he reports into his microphone, already moving to find the neared red dot on his HUD and make it hurt, "Requires fingerprints and a code."
Batgirl comes in behind Robin as he makes his report, peering at the safe but well, it's not something that she was trained to deal with. Locks and getting keys, yes. Hacking biometric scanners? Not so much. She pads after Robin, glancing at the bodies the group has left in their wake.
"Robin." There's so much dry in that tone it could parch an ocean, "Bind the mercenaries, then get Oracle a good look at those safes." Beat. "There's another in the basement, buried in concrete." Another beat, the Dark Knight leaning over to peer down towards his costumed son, "Try not to set the house on fire." The Dark Knight turns quickly, moving back for the nearest upstairs window, "Batgirl, back to the perimeter, see about.." There's an abrupt narrowing of eyes as his cowl picks up pieces of the more distant acoustics, as thermals fail to find Helena...
"Huntress and the perimeter... we need eyes out there, Oracle." Batman moves to join Cassandra in a hasty exit, simply whistling-- echoing the sound Kit made to summon his horse earlier, pitch perfectly. Whether it works or not, it's quicker than barking intentions at the Phantom. Leave Damian to hunt a handful of terrified hirelings in a dark house, and think about what he's done.
Oracle is monitoring a lot of traffic over her various frequencies. The emergency response to the vehicle accident earlier and all the activities inside the building. It's a wonder she can keep it all seperate. That's training. Separate the background noise and home in on the improtant details. Her attention is drawn by a vehicle pulling away and she glances that way, ||"Vehicle leaving the scene. White, windowless Van. License plate is obscured."|| Reported, though there's very little anyone inside could do at this juncture.
||"Robin, get me a digital scan of the keypad on the safe."|| Said in that same adrogynous tone. Already pulling up a spectral analysis program onto one of her screens with a flick of her wrist.
||"Huntress has been taken, Batman. I'm following them, but I lost sight a second in a parking garage and now there's three."|| There's always time for coffee, taking a long, now cold, drink.
Fingers fly over keys, working traffic lights like an instrument in a symphony. One of the vehicles will break away... until then she's bringing up different screens on her monitors. An ATM camera here, a traffic light camera there. Closing one down as it becomes obsolete, tracking three vehicles at once, just waiting for the break away artist as she slowly herds them drivers towards one of draw bridges in Gotham.. she can lock them down there indefinately.
The gunshots don't immediately register with the Phantom--but the canine yelp does. "Devil..." he whispers as his eyes widen, and is already on the run by the time the two other Bats join him. By the time they get out to where Huntress and Devil should be, the wolf is on the cement in a pool of blood, widening slowly. Most of the pelt on his side is stained red with his blood. There's also some blood and bits of flesh in and around his muzzle where he fought the attackers.
And to the Phantom's surprise, Hero comes running up at full gallop. The Phantom slides to a crouch next to Devil, barely even registering the fact that Hero is approaching him without him having actually called her. "It'll be alright, Devil," he says, stroking the wolf's head. Devil's breathing is quick and shallow, but at least he's alive. For the moment.
"I'll try," Robin answers, because if Dad can crack wise then Robin will crack wise too, "Oracle. Pay attention to my feed."
The Boy Wonder immediately makes back for the master bedroom, pausing a moment to simply stare at the safe while the cameras in his mask do the rest. And, considering he's a teenager, he can't help but click his tongue and mutter under his breath about how it takes too long to do that.
When the scan is taken, he sets about tying the hands of the unconscious men already in the room before prowling out to look for the dregs. It is then that he notices a little red dot on his HUD behind the door to a linen closet. He smirks to himself, lifting a hand to knock on the frame and prompting a terrified, muffled yelp from within.
"Try not to wet yourself all over my new suit," Robin says through the door, delighting in the man's fear, "Oh, never mind, you've suffered enough."
The man in the closet breathes a sigh of relief, sagging back against the linens a second before Robin's fist bursts through the door, grabs him by the throat and yanks him bodily against the wood. He opens the door, watching the man slump out unconscious into the hallway.
Robin lifts a booted foot, face twisting into a look of disgust as he steps away from the downed man, "Now what did I just tell you?"
As Batman speaks to her, Batgirl has to tilt her head back a fair bit to look up at him. He's a fair bit taller than her. She only blinks in reply, never uttering a word. No jokes, no contradictions. She does give him a nod however, though that pauses as he trails off a moment. She can't hear what he does, but she can pick up some of it from how he reacts. Then she's moving, pushing into a flat-out run as she makes her way to the perimeter.
"Go." Batman arrives almost the same instant, landing beside the Phantom as Hero gallops up, "Catch that van. She needs you." The Huntress, probably; possibly the eagerly waiting Hero. One can see the urgency in her eyes. The Dark Knight pauses to kneel and swiftly clean Devil's injuries with medicated pads concealed within his utility belt, "Batgirl. Help him take them down." A nod to the Phantom and the horse, he signals it quickly with his hands-- someone told him she's been learning that. Assist. Rescue. Cassandra's weight isn't likely to add much difficulty for the horse, street urchin that she is-- besides, the Ghost that Walks may well need the skill of She Who is All.
The Dark Knight shaves Devil's side with quick strokes of a miniature trimmer before he produces a small spray devise from his belt and seals the gunshot wounds-- one after another. It's far from a perfect fix, but it'll stop the wolf from bleeding out on the sidewalk. The Caped Crusader doesn't waste his time; the moments of medical care allow the Batmobile time to shed its outer shell, deactivate countermeasures, and zero in on his location, roaring down the street to screech to a halt in front of the house.
There's only so far she can keep up the tailing without hacking into another satellite feed. Which isn't impossible, it would take time and it would create a big shiny red mark on any government official she was able to dupe with her back door into the control mainframes. In her mind, it's worth the risk, but let's face it.. it'd be in poor taste for the plot to get solved tonight! So...
||"Batman, the vans split up. One is headed towards Manhattan, another towards north Gotham, and the third south.. I'll keep an eye on them as long as I can, but all the emergency response vehicles are tied up with the accident."||
Letting that cook, Babs pushes towards one of the smaller uplinks and downloads the image off Robin's mask, running it through the spectral analysis. Small white digital dots begin appearing on the image, picking out individual reference points. Slowly, it's rebuilding the fingerprint necessary to crack the safe. ||"I should have a print for the safe soon."||
Pushing back to her main screen, pushing away images from various cameras until she can just barely make out the white van crossing over into New York. ||"I lost one van. The other two will be out of visual range in less than three minutes."|| The live feed image of the van remaining in Gotham is fed to Batman's cowl. ||"Phantom, the other is headed south West towards the Delaware Bay."||
The Phantom presses his lips together when Batman knees down next to the wolf as well. He's right, though, and the Ghost who Walks knows it. "I'm trusting you," he says quietly as he gets to his feet. He looks to Batgirl and is about to say something--when a voice suddenly pops into his head. He really needs to work on getting better encryption protocols, dang it. "Uh--south west. Got it," he says to the voice in his head, brows knitting a little. Not something he'll think about right now.
In a flash he's up and sitting on hero, hand extending to Batgirl to help her onto the horse behind him. "Come on, let's see what we can do about getting these--people." The urge to swear is pretty strong, but he was raised better than that. When Batgirl is settled, he'll tap Hero's sides and aim her to the south-west, and the Arabian will take off like a bolt of lightning.
Robin stands from where he's tied up the man on the floor, frowning to himself as he looks around for the last few stragglers on his HUD. As far as he's concerned he's being left out of the fun. This is punishment and he knows it. And what does he do when he's punished? He takes it out on anyone who happens to be around him.
"Hurry up," Robin growls at Oracle, turning to kick an ill-fated ambusher in the chin almost as an after thought, "I'm going to take a look at the one in the basement."
He moves to descend the stairs, still on the lookout for anything else that might arouse his interest.
Batgirl gives the Dark Knight another nod, and the slight widening of her eyes in surprise as he signs to her can be seen given the lack of opaque lenses in her own cowl. She wasn't expecting that, apparently. But that doesn't slow her down. When the Phantom hops up and puts his hand out to her, she grabs hold and clambers up into the saddle behind him. This... is another thing she hasn't really done before and her seat behind Phantom is awkward for a while. It doesn't take her too long to find her place in that rhythm of movement, though expert ridership is still quite a ways away.
"We can pull the stills from the tollbooth leaving Gotham for the City. Find that third van." Batman hypothesizes, even as he's climbing into the Batmobile, carefully placing Devil in the other seat-- not like the wolf's in much shape to object. "After I have the feed for the North Gotham van linked into the car." The open link is coming through almost the instant the Dark Knight mounts up, the sound of the Batmobile's canopy closing over his last transmission. His own comm cuts in wide, including the Phantom and his bat-themed passenger in the dispatch, "I'm going after the one headed north."
There's a bit of a pause as the Batmobile accelerates, the Dark Knight carefully guiding the performance vehicle as the tracking information is updated on the windshield in front of him. As Barbara works to maintain her tracking, Batman works a little of his own magic. "I'm capturing a reel from the various camera feeds, Oracle." The comms feed straight to her, this time, a back channel built into the network. The adjustment to his on-board computer only takes a voice command and a single button on the console, "If we lose the culprit, we'll link together all the angles into an optical profile the suit's sensors can pick up."
Sure, it might also snare very similar vehicles-- which is to say nigh identical ones-- but anyone in the know realizes the Bat will find that needle if an escaping van turns out to be his target. It just might take more time a little girl-- now two missing women may not have.
Oracle uploads the files Batman sent and starts putting together a projection map. She lost the van on the bridge to New York, she's hoping to pick it back up on the other side, but there's a lot of traffic out that way. Time really is money when it comes to following vehicles by traffic cameras. ||"I'll start putting together a target analysis for Gotham. Keep feeding me everything you pick up."||
Her fingers spread out to widen a map of Gotham, then another of New York, and a third of New York. With a touch an image of the ramps off from Gotham magnifies. Each little green blip that represents cameras in that area are networked together into a single feed and looping in a reference of the van onto an alert practical. With a brush of her hand it slides to a smaller screen to do it's work without needing her input.
Pulling herself with a hand wrapped around the edge of her desk brings her up to another screen. She adjusts her glasses and come hither curls a finger at the image of Gotham, pulling it over to her and spreading it out. ||"I'll slow them down as much as I can, Batman. They're following traffic laws. I've programmed you a projected course to close distance... just follow the yellow line."|| The Wizard of Oracle.
Hero flies along the streets, cornering like a champ down alleys, narrow footpaths, and so on, staying heading to the general south-west. The Phantom glances back to Batgirl now and then, making her she's holding onto him tightly, making sure she isn't falling off, and so on. His face is grim; first Mandrake, then Angelique, now Devil and the Huntress--oh, yes, whoever's behind this is going to pay.
"What info do we have on these vans?" he calls into his wrist, voice loud enough for the mic in his gauntlet to pick up without letting go of the reins. "Anything?" He'd be surprised if there's much info on them, but he's got to ask. If anyone would have it, it's these people.
"About time," Robin murmurs as Oracle finally gets the safes open, "Let me have a look."
In the basement already, that's the first safe that he goes through. He ferrets through the documents within, looking over them. After a moment or two he speaks up into the communication channel - if anyone is not too busy chasing down the bad guys.
"Documents on Bertinelli and someone named Mandrake," Robin says, flicking through papers, "Everything about them. Blueprints of this Mandrake man's mansion and his living arrangements."
He gets up from his crouch, rushing upstairs to the other safe and filing through those as well, "Bank information. They're funneling money."
Batgirl clings to the Phantom hard enough to make his ribs ache. For a little thing, she's got a grip on her. And she knows how to hold on. She won't be falling off, but she could use some lessons. Words on the comms are acknowledge like the wind. Something that's there, but nothing that means much to her. She takes her cues from the Phantom himself, which at least means she knows which way and when to lean and she keeps an eye out for their prey as her cape flaps out behind them.
"The van you're after is stopped at a raised drawbridge two blocks over." Batman informs the Phantom, picking it up on his own tracking even as Oracle closes the noose. "You'll have to hurry, once the shift check confirms no ships are coming through, they'll drop it right back down." That, as they say, will likely be that-- even with a horse as stellar as Hero. For Batman's part, the Batmobile all but erupts out of an alleyway and skids to a surprisingly precise stop directly behind the northbound van. For a moment, the car just idles there, the Dark Knight's hand on a trigger, until the van does what he was waiting for it to do-- panics and bolts.
An armor-piercing bolt springs from the Batmobile's central frame and rips in through the bumper, wrapping about the axle in an abruptly deployed, metal-wrenching hook. The back axle is pulled out with the sudden acceleration, the van lurching to the ground with a spark-throwing slam. The Dark Knight's visor confirms what two fleeing shapes reveal moments later.. "Negative on contact. Two more of the mercenaries." It's down to Kit and Cassandra if they're to catch these kidnappers tonight. The Batman takes a moment to round up his pair, trapping them in their own vehicle.
"Get digitals of all of it, and bag the originals for analysis." Robin's instructions. At the least, he can pull prints and maybe even some genetic material off the documents and files. "Upload the bank records to the mainframe immediately.. we need to know where it's coming from, and where it's going." It doesn't take long for the Bat to get back in the car-- though he'll be too late to actually help as he races towards the Phantom and Batgirl's last known position.
"Blueprints?" repeats the Phantom as he turns Hero around a corner. "Why the heck would they want blueprints?" No time to think about that now, though--there's their van. Turning to look at Batgirl over his shoulder, he says, "Get ready." As for what to get ready for, the answer will come as he pulls his legs up to crouch on the saddle.
When they pull up alongside, the Phantom says, "Now!" and leaps onto the roof of the van, letting his momentum take him into a slide, the suit and his left hand creating friction to slow him down as he whips out his right-hip pistol. In the end, he's got his head poking over the driver's side of the windshield and he taps the glass with the muzzle of his gun.
"No one here but two mooks, either," he calls out as he peers behind the men. "That means..." The third van. The one that Oracle will have lost track of.
The driver sticks his hands into the air, eyes widening. He hadn't signed on for this.
Robin sets about taking scans of the documents, retrieving sealable bags from his belt to capture the physical copies. The documents in the basement first and then the ones in the bedroom, Robin using his wrist computer to upload the information to the mainframe as instructed.
Most people would ask 'for what?' when the Phantom made a vague comment like that. But Batgirl doesn't. She doesn't even look surprised. Instead, she's bringing her feet up under her to perch on Hero's hindquarters even as Phantom himself is. At least this is more balancing than really riding. When Phantom jumps, Batgirl leaps as well, without even a moment's hesitation. She hits the roof in a roll, keeping clear of Phantom and putting her on the other end of the vehicle. Gloved fingers catch the narrow lip on the roof and she uses that to redirect her movement, which brings a foot crashing through the passenger-side window and across the jaw of said passenger. The rest of her body slithers in through shattered safety glass, attention having moved to the driver with the wide eyes. It's probably best he decided to surrender there.
"On their way to New York." The Batman sounds grim. "We can pick the van back up along with its plates going over the toll bridge, but.. these people aren't going to be in it long. They're blocking the tracking devices on Huntress, somehow-- she's bound to come back on the grid but by then? It may be too late." The Dark Knight pauses to relay information to another weapon in his arsenal, bringing the Batwing out to fly a wide swath between Gotham and New York. "Let's see if we can find that dead zone, instead." Most of it is more to himself if anything, though he doesn't cut off comm until the last, even as he brings the car back around to meet Robin.
The Bat has no comforting information on the other query, however, "They may have needed to access either home to steal or plant items-- or otherwise perfect a cover identity to frame or impersonate your friends." There's a pause, "We need eyes on the Magician immediately, there's a solid chance that he will be taken as well-- if he wasn't already, in the earlier attack." It's a possibility the Dark Knight clearly feels the need to consider. "Bring it in." The Bat doesn't sound particularly happy. "Make sure the amateur revue is secured for the GCPD." He leaves the car running out front of the house.. and broods, lost in thought.
The Phantom grunts to himself and re-holsters his gun, then turns to slide down the front of the van to land smoothly on the ground. "Find that zone. I'll see about Mandrake." He doesn't ask about Devil. He can't, not yet. There'll be a click as he mutes that comm-line and opens another, this one bounced around through cell towers again. "Mandrake," is all he says, then tones of a keypad as an automatic dialer connects him. "Lothar? Where's Mandrake?" A beat. "Find him. Turn the darn place upside-down if you have to, just do it. Call me as soon as you do." He signs off then clicks back to the other channel.
"I got in touch with his aide, and he doesn't know where Mandrake is--but that isn't the most unusual thing. If he can't find him soon, then it'll be really worrisome." He looks to Batgirl, then to the man who's still conscious. "I'd stay right there until we're gone," he tells the driver, who looks to Batgirl again and just nods, with a "please don't kick me in the face" look in his eyes.
The Phantom will get back on Hero and hold his hand out for the other vigilante again, then set off back into and through Gotham.
Robin is already jumping from the top floor window when the Batmobile arrives, all the documents sealed up in bags and held under his arm. He's only got one arm free to maneuver but that's all he needs, swinging his way to the ground and sprinting across the yard to the Car.
As he gets inside he takes note of Devil and carefully positions himself so as to be in the car but not actually sitting on the seat. As he puts the documents between the two seats he reaches down, scratching Devil between the ears without looking.
Batgirl gives the driver a squinty sort of look. Like she's maybe considering hitting him anyway. Just to make sure. But finally she relents. Instead of opening the van door, she climbs back out the shattered window to drop down lightly to the ground. When Phantom and Hero come back around the horse is given a somewhat dubious look before she puts her hand in his to let herself be pulled up behind him again.
"Generally speaking.." The Dark Knight notes as Damian joins him in the car, drily, "It's better for our operations to go undetected, rather than spike to necessitate emergency response in the first moments of engagement. You could have killed those agents.." a hand forestalls the argument about velocity and mass, "and as of now they're the only suspects we've got who might be more than clueless hirelings who thought they were ambushing a rival agent." The Batmobile cruises smoothly along its course to intercept the returning Batgirl and Phantom, pulling off to the side of a cross street and opening its canopy once more.
"I sealed your wolf's gunshot wounds. Three of them." There's a nod to the animal in the other seat, "He needs veterinary attention." At the least, it's something for the Phantom to take care of while he still clings to the illusion both of his human allies aren't missing. An alert, cowl-obscured gaze is cast to Cassandra, before the Dark Knight merely nods; perhaps discerning something despite her silence.
Once more, the horse races through the streets, and once more the Phantom is grateful for the added protection the suit affords him. He really has to compliment whomever is training all these Bat-people. If it weren't for the suit, he's pretty sure he'd have cracked ribs by now.
When the Batmobile pulls up alongside, the Phantom slows Hero and joins the vehicle on the side of the road. He looks in at Devil first, features softening when he sees the unconscious body, then hardening again as he looks to Batman. A single nod, then, "Thank you. I owe you." He'll help Batgirl down if she wants or needs it, then slide down from the horse, himself. "There's a veterinary clinic I can take him to, you can head to Mandrake's manor." He'll give them the address; it's about an hour outside Manhattan, in an out-of-the-way but affluent area. With that, he'll go to gather Devil gently in his arms.
"They won't be leaving town," Robin points out, though there isn't a great deal of conviction in what he says. Truth be told, he's beginning to regret his decision to flip the car like he was Michael Bay. For now he just shuts up, no mean feat for him, and pats Devil between the ears in silence.
Batgirl will accept the help down, and does so a bit less gracefully than she knocks out thugs. She wobbles a bit on her feet as she regains them and then shakes out her legs, one at a time. Certainly, that was a new experience. Then she looks over towards the Batmobile with the wolf, Batman, and the pouting Robin.
"A sedan stopped and extracted them moments before the authorities arrived." Batman corrects quietly, as Oracle corrects his own hoped-for lead in one ear. "They're probably already out of Gotham. We've been chasing nothing but bait, and lost one of our team doing it." He's not about to chalk this one up as a win, instead the Dark Knight /hits/ the dash of the Batmobile, with force he's keenly aware the car can withstand. "We'll meet you at the mansion." He settles on, simply and brusquely, for the Phantom.
The Detective pulls up an overlay of the city and reactivates the concealed batbike, bringing it up the street to its counterpart. "Lock down the area and make sure no one -else- is watching that mansion." The Bat instructs Robin, nodding to the bike. "The two of you. Call in the instant there's a sign of opposition. There's someone I need to see along the way." About a missing Huntress, and then some.
((Fade out on the Team Splitting Up))