Into the breach

August 16, 2017:

Batman and Spoiler discuss her plot to infiltrate Gotham's underbelly. (partial log)

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

No sympathy there. Batman routinely gets by on little to no sleep for days at a time; clean living and esoteric Asian herbal remedies for pain and exhaustion are part of his daily routine.

"Comparative analysis helps eliminate sample bias," Batman agrees. "Come at it two different directions whenever time permits."

He considers the rest of the experiment's layout. "I'll get the samples for you tonight," he says, a beat later. "My patrol takes me through that part of town. It won't be difficult to pick them up. You can focus on chasing this analysis until it's run to completion," he suggests to Stephanie.

His offer has Stephanie blinking. Surprise registers across her face before relief turns the tiny 'o' of her lips into a bright radiant smile. One of her usual mega-watt smiles, the kind that can blind from across a football field.

"Really? You mean it? …Thank you," she says, barely restraining the urge to turn and toss her arms about him in a hug. He doesn't like them, she uses to keep herself in check.

*

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it," Batman reminds Stephanie. Mercifully she doesn't hug him; he returns her smile with a steady look until she calms down a little.

"Interrupting projects in process is tricky. When you've got an experiment going, it's best not to walk away from it if at all possible. Leaving a bunsen burner going or a centrifuge on can easily ruin your samples or damage laboratory equipment. You're in the middle of this," he says, nodding at the setup. "I'm not. It's a two way street," he reminds her.

*

It's still nice to hear it, and the smile simmers to calm, pleased, relaxed. Much of stephanie's tension has slipped, and she glances at the container information briefly.

"Do you want me to send you the tanker and clean up crew information on your HUD?" she offers, sounding happy to find a way to make his work for her as easy for him as she can manage. He is, after all, helping her out. Yes, a two-way street, but it hasn't always worked that way for her.

*

"Yes," Batman tells Stephanie. "Upload it to the guidance systems. If I can't get what I need out of the contact, then we'll have to resort to some more traditional forms of detective work," he tells Stephanie, a little wryly. "Sometimes there's no substitute for footwork and examination of a crime scene for clues. There are forms of forensic analysis no computer can ever quite replicate," he remarks, gesturing at the comptuers.

*

Stephanie nods, brows pulling together just enough to crease her forehead slightly. Lips press together, she nods and then rolls herself in order to update Batman's systems with location and information she'd managed to get before she left for Avengers Mansion to resupply the First Aid Kit she emptied in triaging on the street. Half of her samples were given to Tony Stark, to let him play with. Stephanie wasn't sure what information the other billionaire would uncover, but as Batman confirmed for her earlier, the more eyes the better.

"I'm going to start the infiltration in a few days," she remarks, tone soft and demure.

*

Batman nods once, shortly. "It's time to begin," he tells her. "You'll be on your own— very much out in the open," he warns her. He dithers for a moment. "You're risking a great deal. Exposing your identity, even. I …" He exhales through his nose.

"I hope you've thought through all the contingencies here," he says, finally. "You might find yourself in a positino where outing your identity is the best possible outcome; much worse ones come to mind if you misstep."

*

And Stephanie trembles, eyes lowering from the monitor and Batman's reflection. Her gaze falls on her hands, free of the gloves. She keeps her nails just long enough to be girly, but short enough not to get in the way or break. Gel shellac is her friend since it doesn't flake. Acrylic overlay keeps her nails strong through the rough lifestyle the gloves protect her from. And yet, a single sunken knucle from a badly throw punch in her early days is telling.

She heard the pause, the exhale. If she fails - and failure is a possibility - it costs her everything… and risks this family. And it really is a family. Dad started the villain thing when she was in grade school. Mom is still bouncing in and out of rehab. Tenacity, a strong high school record, and an eighteenth birthday was the only thing that saved Stephanie's house in Bristol. The family's trust fund is a merre four years from being hers completely, while the rest of the finances hang on a knife's edge. She's just lucky the family has enough money to mask it all in a very very thin veneer of upper middle class nicities.

Failure means… not coming back. She won't put them at risk with this. Not with ghosts at the edge of her periphery, and a text on her phone that she's locked but never looked at again. One challenge at a time. What's one more masked life to lead?

"I have." There's a long pause, voice tight and rough. Steph's very own growl. She's never mastered it the way Batman has. She's no much less notable than Wayne or Drake or Grayson. There's been lttle need to overly change her voice. Emotion does it for her. It's just another tell.

"…I'm not…" pause, swallow, quick blinking. "…going to let any of you down." …or drag you down. All or nothing, Miss Brown…. Little Clue.

*

"I believe you," Batman says. He rests a gloved hand on Stephanie's shoulder. "But be careful," he admonishes her. "It's acceptable to make a high risk, high reward play. Don't get cavalier about your odds," he warns her. "There's always an out. Always an escape. That's the most difficult lesson to understand," he says, grimly. "That giving up and gambling sometimes are much the same thing. Don't fall into the trap of betting it all so you don't have to fight for that last little inch."

*

That warm weight on her shoulder grounds her speeding heartrate and gives Stephanie a chance to draw a somewhat steady breath. His words have her nodding, eyes still down cast.

There's always an escape.

The times she's tried to escape people have gotten hurt. She's just …got to stay focused. Too much is riding on this.

"Yeah." Pause. Stephanie turns her chin a half inch toward the hand on her shoulder.

"Thanks."

*

Batman is silent. What else is there to say? His gloves grip her shoulder once again— a little firm reassurance— then release, slipping away with a little betrayal of his apprehension— and affection— for the slender blonde who's become part of the family so easily.

When she looks for his reflection in the monitor again— he's gone. Leaving Stephanie with her work.

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