An Unknown Presence

August 07, 2018:

Batman attempts to identify the tattoo on Nightwing's shoulder, while Nightwing starts to exhibit symptoms.

The Batcave

Built into the living rock under Crest Hill, the caverns that Batman has
set as his home travel for miles and miles in many directions. They're a
twisting, convoluted maze that even a professional spelunker might have
trouble with. Add to that the deliberate deadfalls, traps, false walls and
panels, it's very difficult for someone to find the Batcave, even if they
know where to look.

The Cave itself occupies several levels and antechambers around a central
grotto. Various vehicle platforms are set up for quick launch, including a
jet angled for a dark exit and the Batmobile on a low pad a short dash from
the main control consoles. Alcoves support storage for gear, weapons,
equipment, and there's a gymnasium and even a recreation area not far off.
In the far corner of the cave is Batman's 'museum', featuring a bizarre and
eclectic array of items— oversized playing cards, a plant frozen in
mid-bloom, a penny that's easily 20 feet tall, and in one corner, carefully
preserved under glass, is a red and yellow outfit with green trim. A
memorial, clearly, and set apart with quiet dignity from the museum itself.

It is, despite the wealth of gear and electronics, still a cave— it's
gloomy, poorly lit in many areas, and perpetually smells a bit musty and
moist. And there's the ever-present rustling of furry flying animals in the


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

After the events at Papa Julio's Cafe, Batman has been running tests and scans. The multiple screens and computers show various lines and blips. Five screens show faces being run through what is obviously a face recognition software: clips of video and pictures melding together in a strange almost psychotropic mesh.

It is always a toss up as to whether Batman is in the Cave dressed fully in his gear or just here as Bruce. Tonight? He's Bruce. He's clearly come from a fundraiser or another. He's already shed the jacket to his tux, the pulled off bowtie is tossed haphazardly on a table and his sleeves are rolled up. A tray of uneaten food is also set down, left untouched on its silver tray.

Alfred enters quietly - as always - and starts to gather things up. "Master Bruce, if you stay down here much longer, I will certainly start to believe in the rumor of bats becoming vampires."

Without taking his eyes away from a small electronic pad, Bruce smirks. His dry response is a practiced dance with the man who was once his guardian: "If that's so, Alfred, you'd better cancel my appearance at the blood drive on Friday. Who knows what would happen."

Alfred sighs and the tray is picked up and a tray of coffee is left in its place. "For Master Richard. And yourself. If you insist on continuing, a bit of a pick-me-up would not go amiss. Nor would a shower, Master Bruce."

"Yes. Thank you, Alfred."


It would seem like this is a good evening for role reveral. Generally speaking it is much more likely that one would catch Nightwing in his 'civvies' while Bruce is in uniform. But tonight it is just the opposite. Tonight Nightwing is alreay dressed for patrol — and indeed has already swept through the city once, taking the early evening while Bruce was otherwise detained. Of course he did not go alone. Everyone seems to agree that would just be inviting trouble and they certainly seem to have enough of that going around.

So now the dark-haired young man sits in a swivvel chair, oppositely, arms folded across the back of it and his chin resting atop them. He smiles briefly when Alfred appears — a welcome distraction from the computer models that role across the screne, bits of data to be sure. But no real answers. Not yet at least.

"You should know better than to ask him to do that Alfred. If an opponent's eyes begin to water when they get within fifty feet of you it is an obvious tactical advantage. I guess it makes stealth a little more difficult, but incapacitating everyone in the vicinity with the power of his stench has gotta be good compenstation," the young man points out slyly. HUmor, to hide his anxiety? Possibly, though if he is anxious about the situation he finds himself in he's certainly not giving any other signs.


"From your lips, Master Richard." Alfred gives Dick a conspiratorial sort of look that last for the moment of a raised eyebrow as he gathers the jacket, the tie, the tray. "Would you need any other refreshments? There's freshly bought boxes of Lucky Charms, Cheerios and Honey Bunches of Oats. I hate for you to be down here much longer without anything you'd care to eat."

Does Bruce notice Dick's anxiety? It's probable. He's a noted reader of people and situations. However, for now, his attention is on the screens, on the data. "I'm checking your current blood work against what I have in the database to ensure that nothing has changed. I am also monitoring it against others we found with that tattoo." The fact that they are corpses is not immediately brought up. While Bruce is not exactly the best at interpersonal relationships, telling Dick that he's flat out comparing his situation to corpses is not something he will say out loud. "I'm also running facial analysis on the archer, to see if I can find a match."

Finally, he looks up from his screen to Dick. "Is there anything else you can tell me about what happened? How it felt, how this happened?"


Even as Alfred exits, Batman is looking at the screen but if Richard is looking in that direction he sees something or someone in white duck past Alfred, heading into the cave. Something Alfred would have had to have seen but he seems to not notice it at all as the white figure almost prances past him and vanishes behind a rock formation and doesn't come out the other side. Nightwing can hear a soft giggling that fades quickly. Batman hears nothing.


"If you have any of those chocolate chip cookies, I wouldn't say no," Dick chimes in, rising from his seat and sending the swivvel chair spinning across the elevated platform where the Batcomputer rests as he picks his way over towards the coffee. Maybe not the healthy meal that Alfred had in mind — though no one would ever accuse Lucky Charms of being healthy — but Alfred's cookies are practically a food group in and of themselves. Two to three servings a day are required for proper functioning.

As he pours that coffee, as his gaze tracks after Alfred as he heads back up to the Manor, Nightwings eyes narrow behind that mask and for a moment the impudent grin is wiped away from his features, lips settling into a thin, firm line. "It burned, before it appeared. And I heard voices. One clearly a female's, the other… deeper. Deeper than a man's," he offers again. Nothing new, but he is familiar with interrogation techniques too. Ask a question, over and over again, in slightly different ways there is always a possibility that something new will tumble loose.

Pausing for a moment, the dark haired vigilante finally continues. "It's not just what happened then. I hesitated to mention it given the circumstances, but I have been having nightmares. They're vague, unsettling, but I know I'm being hunted. But I'm concerned that they might be becoming more," he adds quietly, walking over to where Bruce works as the pitch of his voice lowers. "Because either we have an intruder in the cave, or those nightmares are now manifesting as waking hallucinations too."


As Alfred walks up and out, he nods to Dick. Chocolate chip cookies it is.

Dick being restless is nothing new, but in the context of the strange tattoo that is now embedded on him, Bruce takes all manner of heightened emotion as something that may be a clue. His eyes follow Nightwing as the chair spins aimlessly toward the screens and the occupant moves toward him. As Dick talk, a finger is pressed on the screen to run a diagnostic of the Bat Cave. As paranoid as he is, he has accounted for all types of intruders known to him: human, Kryptonian, Martian, time travelers, ghosts, etc. He waits for a ping or not.

Bruce's eyes settle on Dick and while there is no immediately identifiable worry, there is an intense study. "Voices. Would you be able to recognize them again?" The tablet is held in his hand, but it holds less interest to him now. "I'm not seeing anything different in your blood stream. Whatever is happening is not a drug. It may be something else, perhaps mystical. This happened when we denied the archer her prey. It's possible a new target was determined from our actions."

Frowning, he looks about the Cave. "What does this intruder look like?"


Even as he is handing over the tablet and questioning things, running scans and what not the computer finds two things nearly at the same time. One is it states there is an unknown presence in the cave. It begins to repeat it.

…Unknown presence…
…Unknown Presence…

And so on and so on. Meanwhile, the search of history, myth, legend, etc. turns up talk of an ancient death god. One who was known to all as 'The Pale Man'. A small story is relayed on the screen but before it can fully type out, the screen flickers and seems to have a slight malfunction with the words. They become garbled. Then voices follow.

"Lamb, tell me a story."
"There once was a pale man with dark hair who was very lonely."
"Why was it lonely?"
"All things must meet this man, so they shunned him."
"Did he chase them all?"
"He took an axe and split himself in two…Right. Down. The middle."
"So he would always have a friend?"
"So he would always have a friend."

The gravelly, deep voice of the monstrous wolf and the soft liltin voice of the woman, Lamb…


For someone who is being hunted — and perhaps haunted — Nightwing does manage to retain a rather blase exterior about the whole thing, sipping his coffee as if they were just talking about the weather, or how the Gotham Goliaths are likely to do in the upcoming season. Sure, his voice isn't much more than a whisper but this is a very solemn place. "The archer," he says simply before gesturing after Alfred's departed form towards where he spotted her. "All in white. Until she walked straight into the cavern wall and vanished that is," he notes drily.

"Sounded like her too. She was giggling," he notes as if checking off routine facts. "No deeper voice though, and no wolf. Don't know if that means anything or not. Given the way they seem to be able to get around, probably not," he conceeds just as the Batcomputer starts to go haywire, one window going down in a garbled mess as those two voices begin to speak once more. "I really hope that that is not just me hearing that," he says with a sigh.


As the computers start to go haywire, Bruce walks over. His eyes narrow. Though unnerved, it does no good to speak it out loud. Instead, he attempts to pinpoint where this unknown presence may be, garner any scientific facts about it. Was there air disturbance? Electronic fields? Magic? He has certain monitors set up due to his multiple alliances that he is glad for, but also does not trust. "Yes, you're the only one who is hearing giggling." His voice is even as he says it.

Moving, toward the computer as it tells them over and over again that there is an unknown presence detected, he hits a few keys to stop the voice. The analysis remains. He looks to Dick. The computer repeating itself is a mystery, though the fact that the computers are unable to parse is itself information. Turning from the wall of screens, he looks to Dick. "That is certainly something to worry about. Perhaps this is what has been wanted." Perhaps their trackers wanted entrance to the cave. Bruce's voice is wry as he surveys the cave. He sees nothing with his own eyes, but he trusts in his devices, in his precautions.

An eye is given to Dick. "I think this is all embedded into the tattoo. It's a Mark." A pause. "Come here. Perhaps this is ritualistic. If I cut through it, the magic may dissipate." Moving toward a drawer, he draws a sharp knife.


He can't exactly say that he is surprised. It would be nice if he wasn't the only one seeing and hearing these things, but he's not surprised. Still, it's troublesome. All of them in this particular family rely on their senses, on their minds a great deal. More then the physicality — okay, Nightwing is sort of known for his acrobatics — but it is a terribly thing to have confirmation that he can no longer entirely trust what his mind is telling him. That he may be seeing and hearing things that aren't there. Or it could be magic — or at least supernatural. That's always a possibility too.

"You know, I hardly ever bleed when I'm working on my own. Or with my friends. But show up, hang out with you and I'm getting pieces carved out of me. My knife injuries go up around you but at least fifty percent," he notes glibly, though even as he complains he is rolling up that sleeve to bear his shoulder and the marked flesh there. "And that's another thing. Clearly you have too many knives. I don't think you should be allowed to have more than two knives until you prove you can use them responsibly. And not Bat-shaped knives either. Normal knives." He always could bring the chatter. It's amazing that they worked as well as they did when he was younger. So similar at times. So very different too.


Bruce certainly would understand the terror of having his own senses used against him. However, this is not his own senses that are being tested: it's Dick's. Despite that, he thinks he understands Dick's point of view. It's not exactly personable, though.

Point in fact, as Dick lowers his costume to allow Batman to cut into him, he doesn't realize exactly what it is he's speaking about. "I thought we covered knives very thoroughly. If you feel that way, though, perhaps we should train dealing with more knife fights, then." Dick has been around Bruce long enough that he can tell this is a sincere statement. The fact that Bruce is about to cut him with a blade to try and figure out more about this strange tattoo has - for the moment - completely and utterly flown over his head.

While he is somewhat clueless in what it is that Dick is quipping, he is focused on his mission. The knife cuts into Dick when it is available. It's more of a slash than a carving. Bruce makes sure that it is deep enough to disrupt the mark, but not so deep that it would cut into muscle.


It's like cutting through a hologram. The mark remains constant when viewed through the UltraViolet spectrum. It's as if it were attached to Dick but not in a traditional tattoo fashion. For those who believe in such things, the tattoo is on Dick's very soul. Something not so easily cut by a simple blade and not something you'd wish to cut if you had the choice.


While he might be one of the more expressive ones in the family it is not like Dick can't play stoic when it's called for. And being carved up by one's mentor definitely seems like a decent time to be stoic, no matter how excellent the reasons might be. So nary a grimace crosses his expression, not so much as a yelp passes his lips. He just turns his head to watch, only a brief twitch giving away any sense of discomfort.

Even that might not be from the pain of having his flesh sliced open, to watch rivulets of his blood slide down over his arm. But it might have a lot to do with the fact that the wound doesn't seem to accomplish a thing, doesn't seem to mar the mystical branding in the slightest. When the blood is wiped away, there it is, whole still there. More, there is still the sense in his mind that this isn't done. Naturally it isn't that simple.

"I'm going to need a couple of stitches I think," he says dispassionately, waiting for the necessary medical attention. The bandage is barely in place before he is back on his feet, rolling down his sleeve once more. "I think I'll pass on the training session for now. Maybe when this is all over and done with and the freaky archer and her demented little pet are gone for good. Right now I just want to get out there and hit something that won't fade into a wall or giggle merrily to itself." Okay, he might be getting just a little grumpy. But he has cause.


The cut does nothing. Bruce looks at it and Nightwing with equal amounts of anticipation. The way he can find out more about this entity is through him and his malfunctioning system. What he can see, though, is his cut across Dick's shoulder accomplishes nothing.

Bruce frowns, frustrated that there is nothing gained in this, then immediately moves to press a piece of cloth against the cut he just made against his protege. "I can stitch up a wound I made." It's something of an apology, which Dick has already assumed was coming. Does that make it worse or better? It's hard to tell. The fact that Bruce already has the materials to sew up his apprentices at hand is telling in and of itself.

Practiced hands quickly sew up the wound he made on Dick's shoulder. His passing on the training session is met with a serious, "It's the training that will ensure we will stop them." Despite that admonishment - he doesn't insist that Dick stay.

A frown. There is a bit of worry there, a rarity on Bruce's expression. "The current theory is that you carry these visions with you, Dick. No matter what you punch, that giggling may follow you. Anything you can tell me about it that will help us identify it will all the sooner make it easier to get past this."


"Trust me Bruce, I'm not holding anything back. Even if this demented thing wasn't targetting me, I'd want it off the streets as much as you," Nightwing replies, hopping off the platform, ignoring the short staircase entirely as he starts to pick his way over towards his waiting car — the apparent ordinary muscle car looking a little out of place amongst the technological splendor that surrounds it. "It sounds like a woman. This… Lamb apparently," he offers, pausing at the car for a moment as he glances back.

"This Pale Man with the dark hair that was split in two. Split in two so he, it, would always have a friend. Lamb and Wolf. Maybe that's where we should focus next," he suggests. Though by 'we' he plainly means Bruce because he is clearly leaving. Patience is a virtue, but right now Nightwing's is running awfully thin. He's not sleeping, thanks to the nightmares, he's being hunted and now even his mind is playing tricks on him. He needs to blow off some steam. It's not smart, it's a little reckless. But right now it's necessary. He is in the car in the flash, the powerful engine roaring to life, tires squealing as he tears up the tunnel that leads out to Gotham's dark night.


The anger stated at holding things back is met with quite a narrowed look. "Did you think we're at opposing views on that?" It's clearly something akin to surprise. As Dick moves toward his car, Bruce does not follow him physically. Instead, he watches. "It's more than the Lamb and the split personalities. And you know you are compromised." Even if his deep cut did not reveal anything, that does not mean he is convinced that his investigation is without any merit. "How do we know your thoughts and actions right now are not being influenced somehow by whatever it is that has marked you." It's callous, sure, but he is being truthful, trying to help.

As Dick careens off into Gotham's dark night, he frowns very deeply.

Then, he looks to the screens. After the intrusion, they went dark, glowing an inoffensive grey. However, as things start to come online again, he broodily contemplates. Moving to his tablet, he allows his main computers to reboot. Running a sub-routine, he has it follow Nightwing and his car. "Follow Dick," he instructs the tablet, off the record. "Also, find out more about this tattoo. Start with mystical branding."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License