On Twisting the Hellmouth
On Archive of Our Own
Previous chapters are
On Twisting the Hellmouth
On Archive of Our Own
This is the last of six chapters. All characters belong to their respective creators, giant megacorporations of doom, etc. and there is no intent to infringe on copyright. DC Movieverse / DC Comics / Batman / Supergirl
Note: This chapter is not, strictly speaking, a crossover, except within different aspects of DC canon. It isn’t fully canon-compliant with any one source.
6: ...And One She Did
Marcus L Rowland
Linda’s phone rings silently (to normal people) as she’s leaving the campus library. The ultrasonic ring tone tells her that it’s Batman calling, and an emergency. Seconds later she’s changing into her costume in Pasadena, and taking the call.
“There’s something strange happening in space,” says Bruce. “NASA has detected a luminous sphere that looks like ball of lightning, about half a mile across. It’s inbound towards Earth at about fifty thousand miles an hour; it will impact the ocean off Atlantic City in approximately five minutes. Kent is dealing with a reactor fire in France and I can’t contact Hancock, you’ll have to take it.”
“I’m… …over Atlantic City,” says Linda, a second later. “Give me a direction.”
“Look on the plane of the ecliptic, coming in from the East at about forty-five degrees from vertical.”
She scans the sky and eventually says “I’ve got it, but it’s smaller than you described, and I think it’s slowing.”
“Can you see anything inside it?”
“No, there’s too much light, it’s swamping my senses.”
“Radar update gives you four minutes. Try X-ray vision.”
“No; just too much interference. I’d better fly up to take a closer look.”
“Call me once you’re back in atmosphere.”
Faster than a speeding bullet… if it was fired from a rail gun at hypersonic speed… she heads up into space, flying up and around to match speed and course with the fireball as it plummets towards the ocean. It’s about five hundred miles out and twenty yards across as she reaches it, dwindling in size by the second. Through the fire she can dimly see something inside it, a solid centre. Switching to X-ray vision she sees a human skeleton, hunched into a foetal ball, and some oddments of metal that might be tools or weapons. She flies towards the fireball, instinctively wanting to help, and is flung back by a colossal jolt of electricity. By the time she recovers the ball is about ten miles up, and rapidly vanishing. Three miles and it’s gone completely. She can see someone in a close-fitting dark costume, moving against the rush of wind; he spins into the sort of position she’s seen skydivers use to reduce speed, except that she can’t see any sign of a parachute.
As she flies towards him she has a much better view; a dark blue costume, yellow boot tops, belt, and shoulders, and a small mask. There are tools or weapons in the boot tops and belts. Dark hair, athletic build, rippling muscles… She shakes her head, remembering to concentrate on what’s important. Two miles up she’s flying alongside him and shouts “Need help?”
“No… I was just planning to fall into the ocean and get eaten by sharks.” He has a nice baritone voice, even when he’s shouting.
“Let me know if you change your mind.”
Linda tries not to grin as she catches him and flies him back towards the shore. He twists round to stare at her, says “Linda?” and passes out.
When he wakes they’re on the roof of an Atlantic City warehouse. Linda can see Navy helicopters miles out at sea, criss-crossing the sky in the area where the fireball should have landed. She hands him a bottle of water and says “Are you okay?”
“Linda? When did you grow up?”
“Who are you?”
“It’s me… Dick.” He takes off his mask, obviously expecting her to recognise him.
He’s handsome… she shakes her head again and tries to stay focussed. “Sorry… Dick, I have no idea who you are.”
“Why do you keep calling me that? I’m Kara Zor-El.”
“Really? You have no idea who I am? Dick Grayson? Nightwing?”
She shakes her head.
“The name means nothing to you?”
“How about Robin?”
“Not a thing.”
“Crap. Okay, it’s complicated.”
“Give me the Cliff’s Notes version.”
“I’m from a parallel universe, where I’m a crimefighter in Bludhaven. Before that I was Batman’s sidekick. When I was a kid I worked with our version of Supergirl a few times, but she took off into the future with some guys from the thirtieth century when she was seventeen.”
“How did you end up here?”
“There was a thing they called the Crisis, whole time lines collapsing and merging. A few of us were trapped in the Watchtower in Moon orbit when it went down, suddenly the teleporters wouldn’t work and we could see the Earth changing; whole cities vanishing and appearing, total chaos everywhere.” He shivered, and Linda could see horror in his eyes. “When it stopped the other guys had vanished, I was there on my own, and the Watchtower was slowly disintegrating. I could still hear radio from Earth, you wouldn’t have known that anything had happened, but nobody responded to my calls. Then Fate teleported in and told me the bad news; somehow they’d ended up with two of me, there was another Nightwing on Earth, and the universe wouldn’t let two of us exist simultaneously. The only way I could survive was in another universe. He did some sort of mojo that sent me here.”
“Maybe it had to be somewhere I don’t exist… I was stupid asking if you know me. I guess I’m lucky I ended up somewhere I vaguely recognize.”
“I have about fifty questions. Let’s start with the easy ones… where’s Bludhaven? And why did you call me Linda?”
“On the New Jersey shore around Brigantine Island.”
“Take a look around, anything familiar?”
He staggers to his feet and looks around. “Yeah, this looks a hell of a lot like Bludhaven harbour, only cleaner. Some differences in the layout.”
“Okay. This is Atlantic City. Now why did you call me Linda?”
“It’s your name… Linda Lee, something… Danvers, that was it, Linda Lee Danvers.”
She’s too surprised to say anything coherent. Nine years earlier she’d thought of calling herself Danvers, the name of the principal of her school in Midavale, but decided to go with Linda Lee instead. She’s never told anyone else.
“I’m right, aren’t I?” says Dick, if that’s really his name.
“Tell me something else.”
“Does Lois know who Clark is in this world?”
“They don’t have Battlestar Galactica in your world?”
“That aired when I was about three, what’s it got to do with anything?”
That evening Linda flies over Los Angeles, half her attention on the city, the rest on her phone.
“He claims to come from a parallel world where he’s Batman’s adopted son and former sidekick,” says Linda. “The Batman in his world has been active since the eighties, so has Superman. He’s refused to tell me your real name or anything about you apart from that, which makes me think he really has been trained by you, or someone like you. He’s mentioned a couple of dozen superheroes that don’t exist in this world, and says there are many more; there are so many that they’ve organised some sort of club, with headquarters on a space station orbiting the Moon. He’s never heard of John Hancock. He believes that Lex Luthor is a billionaire with links to organised crime who once ran for president and was narrowly defeated. Some of the other criminals he’s named appear to be much the same as our world, others I’ve never heard of. Luthor is still alive, as is Harvey Dent. You’re not a fugitive, and the Joker is your most notable foe.”
“Not Ra's al Ghul?”
“He’s fought him but considers the Joker more dangerous.”
“He might be right. Anything else?”
“Some differences, some things are the same. Different TV shows, Atlantic City is called Bludhaven in his world and is more industrialized, less of a vacation centre. The 9-11 attack targeted New York, not Metropolis. At the time someone called Bush was president, he’s never heard of Bartlet or Santos.”
“Where is he now?”
“Hancock’s old place on the coast outside LA. It’s a bit of a wreck but it doesn’t have links to anyone with a secret identity. I cleaned it up and brought in some food and drinks, he’ll be all right there for a day or two.”
“Does Hancock know?”
“Yes, he’s cool with it, provided I keep an eye on New York when he takes his next vacation.”
“What do you think?”
“Honestly… I think he’s telling the truth. It’s all pretty consistent, and I can’t detect the sort of heartbeat changes that might mean he’s lying.”
“Bring him here tomorrow afternoon, fly him straight to the Batcave and don’t let him see where it is.”
It’s not the first time she’s seen Bruce in costume, but it’s always impressive. Dick seems a little confused by the layout of the cave, but takes Batman in his stride.
“Tell me something only you and I should know,” says Bruce, his tone low and menacing.
“I don’t think I can,” says Dick, “Things are so different here. I looked you up on line; even your birth-date is different. I’m nearly as old as you are!”
“You gave him access to the internet?”
Linda shakes her head.
“I brought my own,” says Dick. He reaches into his boot and tosses Bruce an ultra-slim PDA; “Your design.”
“Hmph.” Bruce examines it for a moment, then drops it to the floor and crushes it with his heel.
“You left the GPS on. I’ll replace it if I think I can trust you.”
“Okay… my Batman had a ring with a kryptonite gem hidden away, in case Superman turned on humanity. Superman gave it to him, took it from Lex Luthor, I don’t know where you’d get something like that.”
“Why a ring?”
“So that Luthor could punch Superman and hurt him.”
“Vicious.” Linda can see something in his eyes, and guesses that Bruce has kryptonite somewhere, in a more efficient form than a ring.
“That’s Luthor for you.”
“Not in this universe,” says Bruce. “Not any more.”
“I’d want to see the body. Hell, I’d want to conduct the autopsy.”
“Cool!” Dick smiles for the first time since meeting Bruce.
“Assuming for the moment your story is true, why were you adopted?”
“My parents and I were aerialists, the Flying Graysons. Boss Zucco was working a protection racket, sabotaged our equipment to prove they could destroy the circus. They were both killed; Bruce was in the audience and couldn’t save them. I think he felt responsible.”
“How old were you?”
“I see.” His eyes fill with old pain, and Linda remembers how Bruce’s parents died.
“Look, I get that this is all strange to you… I’ve thought of my version of Bruce as my father for half my life, but you’re not that man. I’m nearly as old as you are, I really don’t want to be your son… in fact, I really don’t want to be anywhere near Gotham City.”
“Why not?” Bruce sounds suspicious.
“Too much history… old friends, old enemies, and I don’t know what they are in this universe. There was a girl I nearly married; here she’s ten years old. Watch out though, in a few years she might be dressing up in a bat-costume and fighting crime. In my time line she was pretty good at it too, until the Joker shot her. She ended up in a wheelchair, running communications for most of the Justice League.”
“Who is she?”
“I’ll tell you if it happens.”
“She can make her own decisions. I’m not going to have you grooming her to be a crime fighter, or trying to scare her off.”
“So what good are you? And what do you want with me?”
Dick digs into his boot again, and produces a tiny memory stick. “I was active in Bludhaven… Atlantic City… the last few years, but it’s not that far from Gotham. You kept me updated on the criminal scene here. I can’t say how much is accurate in this universe, and there’s certainly nothing you can use as evidence, but it might give you some leads.”
“Perhaps. What about your version of Atlantic City? Do you have data?”
“You just smashed it.”
“I can probably recover it.” Bruce scoops up Dick’s PDA and puts it on one of the work-benches. “What do you want from me?”
“Help with setting up a secret identity, maybe a start-up loan if you’re feeling generous. I figure I’ll find myself a city that doesn’t have anyone watching over it and lend a hand.”
“Not Atlantic City?”
“I’d keep tripping over the differences; I’ll be better off making a clean start somewhere new.”
“Make it the west coast,” suggests Linda. “Less chance of running into people you knew in your old world. San Francisco?”
“It’s a possibility.” Dick turns back to Bruce. “Something else I can give you, the names of a couple of dozen crime fighters from my world. I don’t think any of them are active here, apart from Superman, but maybe some of them just need someone to suggest the possibilities. ”
“Yes?” Alfred steps from the shadows.
“Tomorrow morning, get all the details you need for a new identity. Will a million dollars cover your initial startup needs?”
“Two would be better,” says Dick.
“We’ll cost it out properly tomorrow. Now, tonight we have some business to attend to.”
“I’ve been on the trail of the Zucco gang for the last month; it’s possible you’ve just given me their next target. The Haly Circus just arrived in town and the Flying Graysons debut tonight. Can I trust you not to make a scene?”
“I think so,” says Dick. “It’s been so long… I never even thought to check if they were still alive, they probably aren’t anything like the family I remember.”
“Even if they are, they won’t know you. Supergirl, I’d suggest that you and Grayson pretend to be on a date, I’ll book tickets on line in your name.”
“You’ll need my credit card details.”
Batman turns towards a computer, saying “Already got them…”
In unison, Linda and Dick say “Of course he has, he’s Batman.”
“This is Gotham News, every hour on the hour. Tragedy was narrowly averted tonight when a trapeze wire snapped during the opening performance of the Haly Circus. The Flying Graysons escaped death when Supergirl and an unknown associate intervened. Cheryl, over to you.”
“The police are still picking up the pieces here, but it’s clear that without the intervention of Supergirl and her masked associate all three performers would have been killed. Earlier I spoke to Carmella Smith, who was in the audience.”
“I was sitting right next to this blonde girl, and she was wearing those red boots and a short skirt, and a hoody thing so I didn’t see much of her face, cuddling up next to this real hunk wearing dark glasses, and I remember thinking that was stupid indoors. And then there’s this twang and those fools on the trapeze are falling, and suddenly there’s like a whoosh and the girl is gone, and the guy is shrugging off his coat, and he’s wearing like tight dark spandex all over, don’t leave nothing to the imagination, and this little mask instead of the glasses, firing some kind of gun up at the top of the tent and he kinda swings up into the air, and he catches one dude that’s falling and Supergirl lands the other two in the ring. ‘Course I thought it was all part of the act at first, but Supergirl and the guy don’t stop to take no bows, they chase off and I hear shooting outside. And then Supergirl flies back in with these four other dudes wrapped in iron bars, says a few words to some like security guards that had run in, picks up the guy she was with, and flies off. It kinda ended the show, but damn, that was the best thirty dollars I ever spent.”
“In related news, police made five arrests at the circus following this incident; the fifth man was found dangling from the tent rigging nearly a hundred feet above the circus grounds, it’s alleged that those arrested were involved in a protection racket targeting the circus and theatrical performances. Claims that the mysterious Batman was involved in this incident are being downplayed by the authorities…”
Bruce mutes the TV, and says “I think that went reasonably well.”
“It was easier to cope with than I expected,” says Dick, “they were nothing like my parents.”
“The original Flying Graysons retired in the seventies in this universe. They had no children to carry on the act, so sold the name to friends.”
“You could have told us,” says Linda.
“I wanted to see what happened. It would have been interesting, for example, if Grayson had claimed them as family.”
“Interesting as in ‘he’s up to something’, I guess.”
“So…” says Dick. “I guess I need to get some sleep. Would you mind flying me back to LA?” Linda nods.
“You could stay here overnight,” says Bruce. “It ought to simplify things tomorrow.”
“I’ll be honest,” says Dick, “the differences here kinda creep me out, I’m not sure I could sleep. No offence meant.”
“Until tomorrow then…” He walks out onto the terrace with Linda, the distant city lights twinkling under a clear starlit sky. They rise into the air, their bodies pressed close together, aware of the infinite possibilities that might lie ahead.
Note: In DC canon the Flying Graysons were killed by Boss Zucco as described. In other respects this isn’t fully canon compliant with any particular version of the DC universe. Live with it…
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