Guilty Until Proven Innocent

October 25, 2016:

The new Batman tries patrolling on his own and meets a ninja hiding suspiciously close to a break-in. By the end of it, she's free *and* has his phone number. The young detective may need a little more practice…

Gotham City

A mall in Gotham City.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

A dark, cool rain covers the pre-dawn Gotham skyline with a dreary coat - a bitter warning of the colder weather soon to come. Perched on the roof of an apartment building near one of the city's towering malls, a hooded figure crouches in the shadow of old stonework. No, it's not Batman. This one is smaller, sleeker, and quite a bit younger. Fine rivulets of rain water trickle down her black silhouette as she watches the scarce traffic below - patiently, expecting something.

From floor to floor across the mall, a loud alarm bell begins to sing in tandem with an automated police alert. One of the patrolling guards has found broken glass and missing jewelry in one of the stores - not that she had anything to do with that.

Pulling back the sleeve of her jacket to expose a Casio watch, the ninja's orange eyes read its illuminated face before she taps a button to record the current lap time. The watch disappears again as its stopwatch obediently keeps ticking up the passing seconds while she hunches in the shade of her cowl to wait…

-

Where is the voice in his head?

Well, perhaps not a real voice in his head. But there always used to be someone monitoring, helping, talking, when he was out in the streets, looking for criminals to bring to justice. Now there’s only a hushed tone of nothingness. No voice coming through the comm system in his cowl. He is patrolling alone. He misses the old days, the days when the Project Batman Beyond was still alive, before it was suddenly cancelled.

He hates silence. Unless it hides him. This is not that silence.

This Batman, as it couldn’t be otherwise, looks sinister and monstrous. His eyes are lights that lurk in the shadows as he flies with scarlet wings. Information is always projected on his lenses, acting as screens that show the darkest horrors ever crafted by mankind. In Gotham, they are called news.

The silence is interrupted, finally. McGinnis intercepts the Police’s inner radio communications, and suddenly many voices have joined him. There must be something to do tonight. There always is. It’s just a matter of where and when. But he couldn’t be a good Bat without always getting to the least appropriate place, in the least appropriate time.

Mall Robbery, No Suspects.

The screens show in green letters.

“Code Green, still better than nothing.” Terry murmurs to himself. Too much silence. He hates it. And breaks it, even if he has to do it himself. “Computer, I need heat vision.” The surroundings change colors, revealing a human form on the roof. “Oh, hello there.”

-

The icy blue background wavers from the cold rain falling everywhere but still outlines the orange-white pedestrians and vehicles below with stark, computerized contrast. Above the street, two legs and a pair of eyes seem to grow out of the haze, redder, colder, with more poorly defined edges. The ninja's body is adjusted to the cold, holding life-saving warmth close within the breast of her jacket while her extremities are left to chill - she might even be going numb a little. The long skirt of her jacket is folded beneath her like a seat with her legs tucked beneath her to better hold their warmth - seiza, if the bat is familiar with its Japanese name.

Oblivious to his approach, the ninja blinks away water from her eyes and quietly scans the street below her from the narrow view her posture affords over the roof's low wall. Unlike Terry, she's quite at ease with her own thoughts and willing to wait in silence for far longer than this - they've been her sole companion for a very long time.

Suddenly, her head raises and her cat-eyed pupils sweep the sky. The white-hot orbs pass directly over the flying bat in the distance but don't linger on him.

-

“Are this readings even human?” Terry ponders, still murmuring to himself and intrigued by the heat signals he is getting. It could also be a meta human, these days nothing is entirely normal. “Infrared vision.” He commands the computer. It’s a bit sad. He liked to interact with his teammates, listening to their keystrokes as they helped him fight crime.

This is no time to think about the past.

The Batsuit sensors cycle as he approaches, like a bird of prey hunting something it cannot entirely see. Well, it is a bat.

“There’s definitely something there. Human? Who knows. But I will have to ask myself.”

The future Dark Knight draws an ample circle in his passing, trying to be more evident, wanting his prey to see him. It will only make everything more interesting.

“A good view, I’m sure.” He shouts when, or if, he gets to a short distance of the strange being on the roof.

-

When startled, most prey falls into its fight or flight response, with adrenaline filling wide eyes and a fast, jerky movement of the head as muscles twitch and tense, readied on a moment's notice to rush or flee from a potential threat.

When she spots the black shape circling overhead, the ninja's hood lifts with almost a pause of resentment at being drawn from its street-watching. Her gaze tracks him lazily in his flight, twisting her head from side to side but presenting the wide blind spot of her back for much of his arc.

Grudgingly, the young ninja rises to her feet, standing fluidly to a modest height that’s dominated by the cooling taper of her long, almost-bare legs - and looks down at her watch. It beeps as she records another lap time before letting her sleeve drop over it once more and setting a hand on her hip.

"Batmahn. I'm honored," she replies in words that tumble over the weight of a Russian accent before making their journey through the rain. "Wait…" she pauses, narrowing her slitted eyes as she gets a better view of the red-crested bat. "You changed your suit."

-

"Oh," Terry smirks, flying closer and hovering in front of the girl. He examines her, with his eyes and the multiple sensors, throwing tons of information to his lenses. "I think you were expecting a different bat?" A Batarang, a small one, is shot from his suit's wrist, impacting just beside Nerina. It was clearly not an attempt to harm her, it's more of a show off. And he wants her to see the shape of it, now that it's stuck in the concrete. "It's because we use the same logo, right? Well, very similar, at least." Indeed, he just wanted her to see it. He is very proud about it.

"But, in a way, you are not completely wrong. I've been called Batman for many years, though in very discreet circles, so to speak. But, if I had to pick a name, I would pick one used by a project I loved so much. Batman Beyond."

The red bat on his chest looks brighter now. Perhaps on purpose. His suit has many capabilities, some of them just for aesthetics.

"So, are you going to give me whatever it was you stole with a smile? Or are you more inclined to have a dance? I know the dance would be tempting, but if you want to do this the nice way, I might even give you an autograph. I will even sign as Batman, if you wish?"

His tone is challenging and entertained.

-

The ninja picks up the Batarang while Terry talks, turning it over in her hand. She nicks her thumb on the blade and sticks in her mouth, her eyes coming back up to watch him. An eyebrow slowly raises as he keeps going - barely noticeable against the oil-black tone of her painted face.

“You talk too much,” she dismisses. “And I stole nothing.”

-

"You have no idea, and I mean it, /no idea/ of how many people say the same when I find them." The Bat lands swiftly very near to the ninja. His movements are graceful, light, more the ones of an athletic competitor than those of the Dark Knight. He also lands very softly, emitting almost no sound. "It's always the same. They say they are innocent, they have not stolen anything, they didn't kill the neighbor's cat after it ate their chickens, it’s /always the same/" He grumbles under his cowl.

Voices come from the Police's radio as he speaks, and he pays attention to any comments about what may be missing after the robbery. No details so far. But he can't just sit and wait.

"So, are you just visiting? Just love the sight? Because this is Gotham, and no one loves the sight. It is always dark and rainy and sad. It's just… Gotham. So, tell me, I'm all yours. And trust me, I've heard all possible excuses, but I will listen because I find it entertaining. But, then, I will take you to the cops, that's for sure."

-

“Your name is too long, too,” the ninja adds, unphased by the close landing. She looks up a little to B.Beyond’s face while idly rolling his batarang between her fingers. The report emerging over the radio is simple; two broken jewelry displays and missing jewels. Rings and loose stones, nothing too large to fit in a jacket. So far no signs of a break in have been found or the thief’s ways in or out.

“And you can take yourself to the police first,” she continues, plopping down on the ground again and lazily resting an elbow on her raised knee. “You’re more suspicious than me.””

-

"Suspicious? You say it for the wings, right?" Terry says while sitting on the floor, still as close to the ninja. "It's always the wings." The last sentence muttered, and behind the mask, he is glancing at the Batarang in her fingers. He is amused by how she sees it like a toy of some sort. He should frighten her, but he is still learning, and he doesn't want to be just a Batman clone. Ironically, he is… But that thought is soon discarded.

"My name is as long as it should. Batman was already taken, so I had to add something to it." He lies, but lies grinning. "Do you have a name? And, the Police seems to disagree. Are you collecting rings, by any chance? Paying for them would be a noble act, if you ask me."

-

“Poddelka is shorter,” the ninja remarks, addressing the question she cares about. “And fits better.” Her eyes scan up and down the bat’s suit as she taps the flat of the batarang against her cheek. “Dark colors, good for hiding. Flying, quick, and fancy powers… you could be a very good thief and here you are so close to the alarm. Suspicious, no?”

-

The screen flickers internally. As the unknown ninja speaks Russian, small letters translate her word to English. The Batsuit is really automated and useful in this kind of situations. In all kinds of situations. Almost all kind, at the very least.

"A fake? Ok, it is fair. I am fake." His tone turns darker, bitter, upset. But it's the kind of upset that is not directed to anyone else but himself, as if it had been a very short monologue. But it touched a very sensitive fiber in Terry's heart.

"I'm also good at disappearing, as you eventually will find out. At first I thought you were offering me a job, one that I would be forced to decline. But I will offer you something better. Give me the jewels, I will take them back, and you promise me you will leave a couple bills next time you take a ring from a store. Deal?"

-

“(You speak Russian?)” The ninja asks in dry amusement. Balancing the batarang in her hand for a moment, she tries tossing it into the air with a little spin…

One catch and no missing fingers. She smiles beneath her facemask in self-satisfaction, not even giving Terry her full attention now. “(You know… while you’re talking to me I bet the real thief is getting away. Unless it was you,)” she considers with a small laugh.

-

Batman shakes his head. "I have tricks. Many tricks." He looks as she plays with the Batarang. That is new to him. Well, in a way, everything is. But this particular behavior with a weapon he shot just minutes ago, is new among the new. Also, the fact she is not now covered in blood for such play, is amusing.

The screen continues giving him a good Google Translate translation, and for first time, he considers she might be telling the truth. But then, there's that other detail:

"So, what are you doing here on the roof? Waiting for a talk with some flying vigilante, perhaps? That's another excuse I've heard before, if you ask me."

-

“(You all aren’t *that* fun,)” the ninja deadpans, finally responding directly to something. “(Why are you here?)” she asks rhetorically as she swings her head towards the blaring klaxon a few buildings over. Sadly, the tone might be lost in translation.

-

"Have you met many of us?" The bat retorts, taking a new Batarang from his wrist and plays in turn with it. The blades wouldn't harm him with the suit on, of course, but he does anyway.

"I'm here to return what was stolen, and stayed for a talk. But, sadly, I have work to do, and if you are not the thief I'm looking for, then I might have to land on the real responsible." Terry sighs under his mask and murmurs something to the Batsuit itself, "Infrared vision."

Perhaps he will finally know if she was telling the truth.

-

The ninja giggles quietly as she notices Terry playing along. Just to show off, she tosses it a second time and a little higher than he does. She catches this one safely too but only just, pinching the bladed edge between her fingers. In the infrared spectrum, the details of her outfit snap into focus - the little folds and wrinkles of her wet jacket, the small flutter of her hood in the damp breeze, and the ninja wearing them. Unfortunately there’s not much new to see - everything above mid-thigh is covered by the layers of her dogi and mask, and everything below… well Terry will need a different spectrum to tell if it’s cloth or skin.

“(You heard noise and got curious,)” she rephrases for him. “(The same reason for me.)“

-

In the past, a good detective would be at the other side of his speaker. He would tell Terry what to do, who to trust. Being alone, it is hard to tell if the ninja is being honest, and he can't see anything particularly abnormal, aside from the evident. But nothing that could tie her to the robbery, aside from looking suspicious and being on a roof by the time he arrived.

Terry can be many things, but he is not good at solving mysteries. He is good at punching through them. And he won't punch this particular one.

The screen translates.

"I heard noise and got curious, just as you did. But, if any other robbery happens and I find you sitting suspiciously on a roof again, then I might be inclined to think otherwise."

-

“(Or it means I’m faster at getting to crime scenes,)” the ninja mentions off-hand as she turns her batarang over a few more times. Yes, it’s hers now. He’s not getting it back.

“(Try to have a better name by next time, Poddelka.)”

-

"So it means there will be a next time?" Batman's voice turns sharper. He smoothly gets up, very silently, and moves as close as Nerina will permit. If it's up to him, it could be very, very close. "Or I could just search you and prove you took the jewels… But I am a gentleman, so I don't do that in a first date." Under his hood, Terry winks, and it may be inferred by the blink of one of his glowing lenses. And his tone. That jerky, super over-confident tone of his.

-

As he closes in, he might be surprised how close the ninja will permit. The action earns him her attention again and slitted eyes watch him as he draws in, unwavering. Neri straightens her back slightly and leans forward by a hair, firming her posture in a subconscious show of resilience. Close enough that the faint glow of his mask casts shadows around her eyes.

“(You seem like you’ll find me when I’m eating an ice cream cone,)” she retorts. Her breath smells like soy sauce and cheap sesame oil. “(You can search me, but you’ll find a foot in your…)” There are some things even a super suit can’t translate; the rest of her sentence is unintelligible Cyrillic.

-

Terry leans back, laughing loudly. He shouldn't, but he can just disappear if he gets anyone else's attention. "As I said, I'm a gentleman. But we will see when, or if, next time comes. What flavor would prefer a girl who likes blades and shiny jewels? I just hope I don't find out the same day I'll leave you in jail." He turns and walks a few steps back. Sirens can be heard in the distance.

-

“(You keep using that word…)” the ninja notes. “(Not just a fake bat but a fake Russian… you can hear it but not speak it.)” With the bat’s back turned, she brushes her batarang across the edge of her thumb, nicking it on purpose this time before sticking it back in her mouth.

-

The screen flicks.

Terry smirks.

"I told you, I have many tricks. But just, one thing," He turns back at her, moving closely again, but his voice carries that sense of bitterness of before. "I thought it better, and I'm not a fake. /I am the future/." It also sounds challenging, it's an statement, more than a comment. There is no grin, or jest, but the confidence remains there, intact. He inspects her closely, and the scarlet wings, folded and invisible for some time now, reappear again under his arms.

-

“(Of what, lonely heroes who think they’re better because they do everything on their own?)” Rusalka rebutts. His own batarang is waved under McGinnis’ chin like a pointer. “(Special equipment or not, you’re one trip and fall from the grave like everyone else. Even more, with that fancy costume you’re replaceable. You can’t even understand me without it, can you?)”

-

"You are only partially right," Batman replies slowly, walking to be just half a step away from the edge. He looks to Gotham, hears the sirens, now closer.

"For one, I don't think I'm better because I do everything on my own." He starts, breathing deeply. "I think I'm better /and/ I do everything on my own." His tone is so secure and sincere. "I can't understand you without my suit, but then again, I don't need to understand the world without it. It's not just a piece of overpriced equipment. The suit and I are one and the same.”

"Oh, and lastly,"

The step is made and he falls freely for several seconds, feeling the wind as it pushes his body back, and only stopping and flying up when he was a few inches from the floor.

He hovers, still flying, back close to the ninja.

"You are right. I'm a trip and a fall from the grave like everyone else. I just know how to delay it as much as I can. So, already decided on a flavor? Or will I have to wait 'til next time to figure it out?"

-

Rusalka watches quietly as the broad-shouldered bat approaches the edge of the roof. She glowers beneath her hood at first but it’s an expression, already hidden beneath her mask, that’s washed away quickly by the rain to leave a dull orange stare again.

Without a good view of the street so close to the building itself, the shock of his daredevil maneuver is lost but it does give the ninja a small moment to expose her watch again and stop its timer one last time. Still, it’s easy to guess what he just did.

She sighs in exasperation and shakes her head. “(You like to fake all kinds of things… Your name really is terrible.)”

-

Terry raises a brow, a gesture absolutely lost behind his mask. "Now, that's the strangest ice cream flavor I've heard so far. Unless the real one was lost in translation?" He rises a bit, still in the air. What is your name? How should I call you?"

-

“(I would say ‘Poison Ivy 2’ but you might take me seriously,)” the ninja considers, having by now gotten rather comfortable in her seat again, even for as cold as the rain-soaked concrete is. “(Worry about your own name first.)”

-

Beyond's voice turns harsher, though not aggressive. It's rough, with a hint of inner pain and angst. "I don't have a real name, yet." A Batarang is shot up, and he catches it by flying slightly higher, naturally and with ease. "Think of me as a backup, to take a needed place if the need arises. But, even then, I will keep the streets clean, in a city where crime is everywhere. Do you see them? All of them?" The white shining eyes turn for a moment to the city's skyline. "They can't wait until I take my place in the world. They need help. They cry for help. Those sirens? That chilling silence in abandoned streets, where law has been long gone? Those are cries. The city cries. And no, they don't need me to have a name. They just need me to bring their criminals to justice."

-

The ninja watches Beyond rise and lazily hefts the batarang in her hand. She doesn't throw it. Instead she watches as she's been doing, with a level gaze beneath her hood that's cool and remorseless as the falling rain. A gust of wind flutters her jacket and knocks it over one eye.

Her eye squints thoughtfully and she taps the batarang under her chin. Eventually, the ninja shrugs to herself.

"(As someone who lives in this city, your little hero routine matters more to you than anyone else.)"

-

"Maybe I will make you care about it, then." Terry winks from beneath his cowl, presses the only button on his utility belt, which happens to be a red light down the red bat on his chest, glowing in the same tone. A small cavity opens, a card is pulled from it.

The vigilante does not have a Batsignal, nor anything close to it. But he could afford a cheap phone on a mall. The kind of disposable phones you buy in a hurry.

The card is sticked to another Batarang, which in turn is thrown to fall close to Nerina, again, without harming her.

"If you need me again."

Batman flies up to the skies, turning into another shadow that mends in the blackness of night.

-

The ninja watches Batman disappear high above in the rain before looking down and picking up the second batarang, tucking her hand over it to shield the poor card from the weather. Reaching into her jacket, she pulls out a zip-lock bag and stuffs it inside, doing her best to press out the water. Her second batarang is cheerfully pocket—

Thinking better of that, Nerina sets them on the ground beside her and looks over the card. A small flashlight slips out of her sleeve to read by and the ninja shakes her head again. “(Why do they always assume I have a phone?…)”

She stuffs the card into her jacket before turning her attention back to the batarangs and fiddling by flashlight to try to fold them back into a smaller, less gash-inducing shape. If nothing else she got two new toys from tonight…

And some small but very valuable jewelry.

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