Birdies, Baddies, and Gotham Tourism

March 22, 2018:

Owen and Harley get up to some light vandalism in Gotham as part of their ongoing commitment to truth in the tourism industry, but Tim Drake is a total party pooper.

The Site of a Lovely Billboard in Gotham City

Characters

NPCs: GCPD Officers in their Squad Cars

Mentions: Batman, Bane, Robin, Nightwing

Plot:

Mood Music: Barbie Girl by Aqua


Fade In…

"Quick, quick!" comes the call up, nasally and frantic. "I need the blue! I swear, this is gonna cause a rush on blue hair dye once I'm done." To prove her point, Harley Quinn - presently hanging upside down from a billboard catwalk by means of a spelunking harness, military surplus helmet hanging precariously from her head by a strap kept too long but proudly declaring 'GOTHAM TOURISM DEPT' - begins happily and obnoxiously singing her Aqua parody as she swings madly back and forth: "I'm a Gotham girl! In my Gotham wooorld~ And I hate Batman! Cuz he's a bad maaan~ Put whipped cream in Robin's hair! Stole all Bane's underwear… Gave it to—"

There's a sudden creak as the billboard frame is left to a solo line, and then there's a growl of frustration. "Save me, B! Finish the line!"

She's halfway though "repurposing" a secondary, smaller toothpaste ad with a too-cheery blonde hung halfway down a steel monopole, having already whited out the original slogan and replaced it with: GOTHAM IS FOR CRAZY PEOPLE

Up on the catwalk Owen Mercer is likewise attired in a matching military surplus helmet, because he takes this work seriously. Well, as seriously as it allows. He is busy taking photos of her handy work to anonymously post later. When she calls out for the blue, he frowns and heads back to the bag.

"Baltic Blue? Or Wavy Navy?" The shade is probably very important to Harley's artistic vision no doubt.

And then she singing and putting him on the spot. He has to think about it for a second before badly belting out "Gave it to Nightwing! Slapped his sweeeet thing!" Because slapping Nightwing's ass is a universal dream of crooks everywhere, it transcends gender and sexuality.

With that done he returns to the bag to grab the other important supply of the night, one of the bottles of whiskey. He opens it and takes a deep drink before putting it back and lighting a cigarette. Yes. This is what he and Harley should be doing. None of that stupid talking stuff that gets all complicated and then there's feelings and bah, who needs that.

Previously: Red Robin promised somebody that he would take it easy, maybe take a few nights off. After all, he had about a million things on his plate, not the least of which being the guy who exploded in the forensics lab of Titans Tower the other day. Surely, it was a good idea.

But: Red Robin is bad at keeping those kinds of promises.

Gotham is after all a city that requires constant attention, because at any moment it might start spiralling out of control and then whoops you're dealing with a gang war between Two-Face and Riddler, or somebody's started setting death traps all over the city, or Clayface turned himself into Godzilla.

This is the environment that the Red Knight has lived in his whole life, though much of that life was spent in the wealthiest parts of the city, insulated from the worst of it. But then things happened, as they do, and he did his time as the Boy Wonder. And then he really wasn't insulated from the worst of it.

Still, it's not always Black Mask wanting to test new firearms on an orphanage or Scarecrow declaring that this time, for really sure, he's going to plunge the city into a permanent nightmare. Sometimes, it's Kite Man. Sometimes, it's… Whatever this is.

"You know neither of you can sing, right?" inquires a voice as a caped and cowled figure goes from 'not there' to 'actually there' in the space of a blink, standing on the catwalk, shrouded in darkness. It isn't the costume Owen had seen him in last: That was a lighter affair, for Titans work, better suited for the sorts of shenanigans a group of super-youths get up to. This one is heavier, its outline more like the Bat without the ears. Better for work in Gotham. "Don't you have anything better to do than petty vandalism?"

At Owen's addition, Harley cackles merrily and swings harder in her harness. She doesn't hold to the ropes, but rather just lets her arms hang and stretch. Yes, this is definitely a better night for them.

"The Wavy Navy," the blonde says after only a moment's consideration. "I like the way it rhymes be—"

And then, there's suddenly a cowled superhero on top of the catwalk and there's even more laughter. Because whatever.

"Well, I did, but when I was late for my audition at the Gotham Opera they turned me awaaay~" And you think she would stop there, but nope! Well, maybe you wouldn't think that if you'd actually met her. Because motormouth just keeps on going. "So I found Boomer here, and talked him into a world tooour~" A hand lies upon her breast as she continues to swing, enjoying the headrush for a moment before finally sitting up properly in the harness and holding onto the rope. "Figaro, Figaro, FIGAROOOO!"


The appearance of a batling is hardly a surprise to Owen. Granted this specific one wasn't the one he hoped for. He tosses the navy paint down to Harley, before he takes another drag and then finally turns to face Red Robin.

"'Sup, Fuschia Falcon? Want a drink?"

Owen lets Harley gets her cracks in and laughs along with her telling of exactly how this occurred. Yes, that's exactly what happened, kind of… not at all. He does add a withering "Don't you have anything better to do than stop us?"

Don't you have anything better to do than stop us?

"No."

That's probably not actually true, and even as he says it, Red Robin thinks of a dozen things he would rather be doing, things that would be a much better use of his time than dealing with small-time delinquency, even if one of the 'delinquents' has a rap sheet that would make half the hardened criminals of Blackgate turn green. Someone, somewhere in the city is probably in some kind of physical danger, but here he is having to deal with this. The cowl hides most of the young man's face, the featureless white lenses helping to not just hide his identity but also his humanity, making it easier to be something else, something more. Still, the cowl doesn't completely conceal the dubious look he's aiming at Owen.

"Interesting company you're keeping these days, Mercer. I thought you didn't like it here in Gotham," he adds to the sometime Rogue, though he's keeping himself acutely aware of where Harley is, viewing her as the more dangerous of the pair. "At the very least, I'm sure the drunk tank will feel like home to you."

"I can heeeeear you, hero," Harley sing-songs down below as she begins to pump her legs after catching the spray paint, swinging anew as her head tilts left and right. Left and right. Left and right, in time. He knows—acutely—where she is, and he'd best believe she's returning the favor. "And I ain't ready to wait for a reunion tour. So why doncha leave me to my therapy art, leave Boomer to his meds, and chalk this all up to a fun walk through crazy town, huh?"

"Or," the blonde in her short shorts and white tank continues, "grab a spray can and a starting note. We'll letcha pick the next number one hit."

Owen just leans back against the railings and continues to smoke. He glances down at Harley at the comment about keeping interesting company. He half shrugs and says "Yup. I thought I didn't like Gotham. Turns out, I just don't like costumed birds asking me questions. I like the rest just fine." And yes, Owen is pretty sure bats are just hairy birds. Again, zoology not his strong point.

"Drunk tank? Really? I'm not even drunk yet."

He leans over the railing, hooking his leg to hang upside down to properly check out Harley's art. "Looks great. Doncha think, Purple Partridge?" He calls the last question back up to Red Robin.

The offer is, of course, ridiculous… But what is Harley Quinn, if not ridiculous?

"No, Harley," is the firm, somewhat exasperated response from the cowled young man. Like the way you would respond to a younger sibling who keeps bugging you to do something with them. "Instead, the two of you are going to stop, and go find something more constructive to do with your time. Or if you're going to insist on being self-destructive, do it where you aren't going to hurt anyone else."

Because he knows exactly what somebody like Owen would see in somebody like Harley, the sort of woman who wears tank tops and short short in the freezing butthole cold. It's not her skills as a therapist, he's pretty sure. Still, he thinks to himself, why should he care about that? It's not his problem if Mercer wants to flare out, or get his head cracked open with a mallet when he says the wrong thing to a dangerous psychotic.

Not his problem.

"Because what I think, Mercer," and here, he's reaching for the back of the other man's jacket. Because he's aiming to put both of them over the edge of the railing. Owen might not have a safety harness on, but that's fine. That's why God invented grapple guns. "Is that unlike you, there are people trying to make this city better, instead of just wallowing. And that chafes, doesn't it? That other people have the guts to climb out of the gutter. Harley's insane… What's your excuse?"

Distantly, but not too distantly, the sound of sirens.

Because, of course, Red Robin called the cops.

God created grapple guns.

Tony Stark creates things, too.

And Harley swings. And swings. And swings, dangerously close to the steel that supports the catwalk.

And her amusement fades entirely as Red Robin goes and makes a very silly mistake and goes for Mercer's clothing.

"THAT'S VERY JUDGY," Harley shouts up, as she pulls something away from a bag she'd left hanging on an access hook. Something… kinda big. Something kinda bazooka shaped. "AND I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH JUDGES EXCEPT AT OFFICIAL COURT HEARINGS." She shouts, even as she wraps her arm around the rope that supports her and starts lining up her shot.

Clearly, Tim should know this about court process as the officially sanctioned— Oh. That's right. He's a vigilante.

Whether or not she finds that perfect shot or not, she pulls the trigger and sends a… a banana cream pie a-flying. Sorry, Owen.

Yes, obviously one of the things that Owen sees in Harley is very obvious. But Tim would realize that Harley's dangerous and unpredictable nature would be viewed as a positive by the wrong kind of idiot like Owen, if he cares to think about it for a bit. No one would blame him for not wanting to dwell on this. But that unpredictability? Like shooting pies at people? That's the sign of a keeper in Owen's mind.

Twisting in his jacket to face the cowl as Red Robin grabs hold, Owen frowns and asks, "And why would I give a flying shit what you think, Tweetie? Go fuck off to whatever gilded birdcage you live in." Even in his taunting Owen is careful not to reveal that he knows anything about the young man under the mask, but still wants none of this psycho-analysis crap. Not from anyone, but especially no thanks to it coming from Tim. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Harley swinging up to line up the shot, which is his cue.

"My /excuse/?" Here Owen slips his arms out of the jacket and free falls. He may not have the training or natural grace of any of the mini bats or Harley, but he's a cheater. He uses his speed to allow him to easily pluck the bars on the bottom of the walk and swing around. He lands by the bag, back on the catwalk. "My /excuse/ is that I have the balls to say what Gotham really is. It's a pile of crazy shitbags; some dressed in tuxes attending galas, some passed out drunk in alleys and other blowing up orphanages for fun. Harley and I just decided to be honest in the advertising. We're the island of misfit toys here, why pretend otherwise?"

It's an indication of the sort of life Red Robin has left that 'Harley Quinn pulls a bazooka out of a duffel bag' doesn't even strike him as particularly outlandish. Like, if he was going to assemble a list of the things that have happened to him that struck him as the most improbable at the time, it wouldn't even crack the top one hundred.

Not even when it turns out to be some kind of pie bazooka.

It becomes quickly apparent even as he's falling that she's not launching a rocket-propelled grenade at him, but of course the vigilante twists in midair, keeping his cape between himself and the pie. This is Harley we're talking about, and we all know who made Harley into the woman she is now: The pie could be acidic, or drugged, or who knows what else. It still makes a hell of a mess, though.

But, as usual, you can never expect someone trained by the Dark Knight to sit back and take it: In the middle of the twist, there is a throw, a small disc from that belt full of toys (the disc is yellow, and it has Red Robin's logo on it, naturally; branding is important) in which two chemicals are kept separate by a thin barrier that's already started to buckle by the time he lets go of it. It's not aimed at Harley herself, but at the bazooka, because as those two chemicals mix they create a very impressive reaction that starts pulling heat from everything around it in a burst of cryonics: Derived from the work of a certain Dr. Fries, the aim is to just freeze that piezooka in a block of ice before it causes any other trouble.

A grapple line turns Red Robin's fall into a swing, his pie-stained cape flaring out behind him as he also loops back up to the catwalk, landing in a low crouch.

Fine, they want to do this. Fine.

"Yeah, they've always got a reason why they're the only ones who can see how the world really is. It's funny how that always gives them license to do what they wanted to do in the first place. Even if you were right, Mercer, the point is to be better. All you're doing is giving up. You can be better than this."

Does Red Robin actually believe that? Honestly… Honestly, he isn't sure. But they don't get to pick and choose who they help.


Tim's right. Somebody far more problematic than Quinn trained her to not waste the opportunity to get that surprise twist in. That's where the real laughs are. And the clown in her pigtails and combat boots is cackling with her face cracked in half by the largest smile she can muster as the recoil sends her spinning and reeling on the rope.

But the pie isn't acidic. And it isn't drugged. Tim lucks out on both counts there.

It explodes. It's got an exploding crust.

But Red Robin - trained in Batjitsu by Sensai Bat - gives as good as he gets. The blonde doesn't realize that, despite her wildly swinging arc, the disc is straight on mark for her weapon and not her, and she curls up defensively on the rope as she shrieks. Because nothing good comes of batlings throwing things.

Kinda like nothing good comes of a clown with a bazooka. So. Harley's not even really all that mad.

Yet.

Owen it should be noted is not launching an attack or trying to do anything to hurt Robin. But then there is a disc thrown at Zook! A poor defenseless exploding pie shooting bazooka. How could you be so cruel bird boy? Owen has a boomerang out and launched to intercept the disc in the blink of an eye. He hopes to knock the disc off track, because attacking Harley is one thing, but attacking Zook? Oh no you don't! Wait.. that came out wrong.

"Oh shut up with your hero complex. Who are you saving right? A billboard? Congrat-you-fucking-lations. I'm not giving up. I'm just not giving a shit." He tried that. For like a month. It didn't go well. Also, how is that different, exactly? It's best not to try and delve too deep into the shallow pool that is Owen Mercer's logic.

"I'm sure all the other billboards will weep with relief that they are saved by their hero, Rockin' Robin."

Thanks to the exploding pie crust, the cape is stained with baked-on banana cream and sporting a few small holes.

It's okay, he has lots of capes.

"Seems to me like you're giving a shit," the vigilante counters, springing into forward movement. He knows that Owen is fast, but his ability to tap the Speed Force is more limited than others. He's no Flash, no Impulse. Dangerous, but not insurmountable. Get in his face, keep him off-balance…

The staff the Red Knight prefers to fight with seems to bloom out of nowhere, appearing in his hand as if by magic and telescoping out to its full size in the blink of an eye. He goes for joints: Wrists, knees, elbows, ankles. Aiming to slow the second generation Rogue down, with the brutal efficiency he learned not from the Bat, but from another, less kind teacher: Lady Shiva.

"Other people are trying to make something better, and you're just trying to tear it down. It's not the billboard, Mercer, it's what it represents." In the blur of movement, it might be easy to miss - depending on where Owen's cognition is sitting at the moment - as a metal disc hits the grille of the walkway underfoot, sticking magnetically. As a second, already palmed, is stuck to the surface of the billboard.

It's a trap, of course.

Owen isn't the only one who cheats.

"You give a shit because if even Gotham can be better, then so could you… But that would be too much work, right?"

What that billboard represents? It's a harmful presentation of perfection that Quinn can't abide. Smiles as fake as hers, but somehow more accepted.

As soon as Harley realizes that she's not going to go boom, splat, or zap… She narrows her eyes and looks up at the fight transpiring. Zook the Piezooka is hefted right back up into position with a grunt, and she levels it squarely in Red Robin's direction. …Only to realize that it needs more pie ammunition.

DAMN IT. Quinn falls backwards, suspended still by her harness and spins for a moment in frustration. But it's not wasted effort. Zook is strapped to herself by means of a leather strap across her torso. And then the blonde clown pulls the release on her safety apparatus, plunging her carelessly down with a maniac's adrenaline-fueled laugh.

To sharp eyes, it might come to attention that there's a bag on the lowest platform of the billboard, and she seems to be twisting in mid-air to dive for it.

Owen is a brawler, and he can handle his own in a fight, but he's easily outmatched by Red Robin, an actual trained fighter. But at least he knows his limits. Robin is fast and gets in a couple good shots, making it hard for Owen to scramble away. Because Owen is a ranged fighter, a stick chucker, not a close combat kind of guy and he knows he needs distance to have a chance, even with his speed. By the time he's beat a hasty retreat, snagging the bag and leaping for a rooftop he's already limping and down to one arm still in throwing shape.

"I tried being better." Owen snarls this with a more visceral reaction than perhaps he meant to bely. "Know what it got me? More getting shit on. So screw better. I'm /fine./"

He's not aware of Tim's trap until just as it springs. His face falls but thankfully he has enough speed to burst past before the shock can catch him. As he's making an exit of his own, an electric shock boomerang is thrown over his shoulder towards the railing, hoping to electrify the whole business. Now Harley is clear he could have blown the catwalk, but he's not out to hurt Red Robin, as unlikely as that outcome is. It seems fitting that he had picked a shock boomerang even before he sprang Robin's track.

Landing hard on a roof nearby he calls out "Harley! I think it's time we blow this joint, sweetie." He is sure that she'll be fine, she has far more experience tangling with these bat-types. And Owen can feel himself losing his cool as Tim gets in his head much more effectively than expected. Maybe it's due to their shared past. Maybe.

When you're a child put into a war against the monsters of the world, you learn to use every advantage you can. You learn to be as good as you can. Or you die.

Having survived longer than he'd ever expected to once it became clear that he wasn't going to be able to put the Work behind him - he's run simulations, calculated probabilities, the numbers are not promising - Red Robin has obviously gotten quite good. Not the best - he's no Batman, but he could give Nightwing far more of a run for his money than he could've years ago - but to most people that difference isn't much of anything at all.

"No you're not," the caped and cowled vigilante replies to Owen's snarled assertion that he was fine with the way things were. But the Son of Boomerang was making his escape, leaping off of the catwalk and leaving behind a present of his own. It's not hard to guess that the boomerang is probably gimmicked, especially since it's not being thrown directly at Red Robin, while Quinn goes for her bag of, presumably, dangerous toys.

Sparks fly as the boomerang hits the railing, electrifying the catwalk: The shock hits the shock trap Red Robin had planted, overloading it completely, creating another shower of sparks while the caped youth leaps off in the other direction, with little choice but to land on another rooftop.

And the sirens are joined by flashing lights in the crisp air of a spring that doesn't want to admit it isn't still winter, as the GCPD arrives as it always does - slightly after the nick of time.

“NOW DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU DID?” Harley bellows at Tim as she lands with both feet on the platform. It gives under her as she slams down onto it with the unmitigated weight of a bazooka on her back, sets her briefly off-balance and stumbling as it shifts under her feet, but ultimately holds.

Quickly, quickly, she's about to start loading up a new pie when she finally realizes that the first one did more damage than initially thought. A slender digit stabs into the freezing night air as Quinn points. And laughs—a sharp derisive sound.

But there was one thing that she remembers from the tutorial when she tears open her bag and looks at the pair of boxes inside: LIMITED AMMO. “Aw, nuts!”

There's an unreserved shriek of frustration and desires deferred, and then she packs up the bag to sling onto her back, too. "Jes' get goin', Mercer!” she shouts after him, “I'm right behind ya'!"

He went up while she went down, and it leaves her far closer to the GCPD as it begins to arrive. She looks over the railing of the smaller platform at the cars screaming and flashing below. Her eyes are wide with the sort of manic energy, of the thrill, that comes of being hunted. Her tongue escapes the confines of her teeth, visibly curling beyond and around her top front teeth, as she begins laughing again.

“Awww, you invited party crashers!” she hollers in chastisement to Drake, even as she plunges her hand down into her bag of tricks and past the boxes. “Good thing I have extra favors,” she continues, brandishing an unmarked canister that she unpins with her back teeth and hurls, “Since you didn’t bring nothin’ fer yer friends in blue.”

A trail of smoke follows it as careens towards one of the frontline squad cars, the blonde having every intention of blowing a hole in its hood to give herself and her boytoy some cover.

Owen could care less about the impending police presence. He’s been running from the cops since about the time he learned how to run. He’s more concerned about Red Robin pursuing him and how Harley plans to handle those cops. This was supposed to be a fun harmless outing, not a Gotham’s finest shooting gallery.

“Leave the party crashers Harl! I’m heading to go take a dip. I’ll meet you there?”
It’s probably not all that hard for her to figure out that he’s telling her to meet him on the rooftop where they went for a not so legal dip in someone’s rooftop pool. Hopefully the cops don’t do something stupid like open fire, or come after them. Despite appearances Owen is really trying to not get anyone hurt.

Focus Mercer.

He speed blurs to put some distance between him and Red Robin, choosing to get down to the street and try to blend into the crowd. He slips into a bar long enough to get himself a new coat and hat and then is back out on the street hailing a cab. He’s headed off to meet Harley, hopefully far away from any more Bird Heroes.

Chaos. Mayhem.

Maybe they're right: Maybe Gotham is a doomed city. Maybe the whole place is one big madhouse, Arkham Asylum writ large, and the ones the rest of the population derides as lunatics are just more honest about it.

Maybe.

Maybe.

The Red Knight isn't idle, even as the GCPD arrive and the two troublemakers responsible start making something resembling an exit, with Mercer more focused on the flight while Harley settles into old habits. How many times has something like that played out, after all, local law enforcement trying to apprehend a clown who responded with madcap, dangerous mania?

So of course, Harley's behaviour presents Red Robin with a choice. Does he disregard the immediate harm she's trying to cause in order to chase her down? Does he ignore the possibility that people - whether cops just doing their jobs or innocent bystanders who didn't ask for any of this - might get hurt or even killed?

Of course, it's really no choice at all. But that's the dance in Gotham City: The madmen endanger the background players, and the bats and birds risk everything to stop them, even if it means letting the villain get away in the interim.

The chase, then, changes direction. Red Robin swings on a fresh grapple line away from Harley, already putting her and Mercer mostly out of his mind as he focuses on the grenade. It's going to be tricky, but that's why he's been training since he was a child. Another cryonic disc, hurled at the grenade, to freeze it solid and render it inert; though the chaos (they're cops in Gotham, they know to scatter when somebody starts throwing bombs) is certainly plenty of cover for the pair's escape.

And hey, there'll always be more cop cars to blow up.

She falls into old habits, perhaps. But it’s also worth noting that Drake does, too.

A careening canister, made into a simple game of target practice for a meddling crimson songbird. Made into the perfect diversion for Quinn. She has no speed ability. Has no grappling hook. But she does had that extra measure of strength and determination that sees her backing up, sprinting forward, and then vaulting off of the platform’s railing to go launching towards a nearby fire escape.

She nearly misses it, catching onto the bottom rail with one hand. It’s for the best, as her other hand quickly lifts to steady Zook the Piezooka’s strap and the strap of her heavy messenger bag upon her shoulder.

“Toodles!” she sing-songs as she swings, finally braving a wave goodbye before she drops to the ground below and takes off down an alleyway.

Another day, another difference of opinion, but one half-done piece of Harley art. And that clown is now beating feet towards the rendezvous point.

All in all, not a bad day!

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