The Apprentice, part 1

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

Spoiler's eyes narrowed angrily at Batman's snapping cape as he swung away. She stood on the rooftop a moment longer, then turned to finish her revised patrol route, punching open a comlink as she did so.

"So," she said, not bothering to hide the snark in her tone, "how much does he need a blowjob?"

There was a series of clicks over her earpiece, followed by Oracle's synthesized voice. "Spoiler. At least go discreet before making a comment like that."

Stephanie scowled beneath her mask. "What difference does it make? He's probably listening to that line, too."

"He's not," Oracle answered firmly.

"Oh, right. Mr. 'I know everything and am always right' doesn't know you have a special line for talking about him? Give me a break." Spoiler dropped lightly onto a new rooftop, bringing binoculars to her eyes to scan the streets below.

"You're right that he knows. He designed it."

Spoiler lowered her binoculars. "Batman designed a special com channel for talking behind his back."

"In case we ever need to take him down."

Stephanie blinked and settled back on her heels. "You are shitting me."

"Spoiler," Oracle's voice warned.

Spoiler flinched a little. "Sorry. But that's crazy. He-"

"He's the boss," Oracle said cryptically. "We have instructions. If he even tries to find our roving discreet signal, we are to assume he's gone rogue."

"Wait. You said we. The others know about this?"

Oracle remained silent.

"Dammit," Stephanie complained, "when are you guys going to let me just be part of the circle? My butt's out here, too, you know."

"You know now."

Spoiler snorted. "Yeah, that's great. Thanks so much." She readied a new jumpline. "Spoiler out."

She closed her comlink and shot out into the night, irritated beyond words. The adrenaline rush of riding the jumplines helped a little, but before she touched down again, Oracle's voice was back in her ear. "Spoiler, I'm calling you in. We need to talk."

Steph took her new position and reached for her wrist, depressing the switch which should have closed Oracle's channel.

Barbara Gordon's voice replaced that of Oracle. "Spoiler, I mean it. I understand you're angry, but you can't be on patrol in that frame of mind."

Damn. Override. That was so typical, Steph grumbled to herself. They still wouldn't let her have any real autonomy. That didn't mean she had to listen.

"Spoiler, this is not an issue of pride."

Oracle was right about that, Steph acknowledged, scanning the rooftops. It was the principle of the thing. She had been training with Batman for over a year. Cassandra probably knew about the discreet line, what it was really there for. Cassandra knew everything.

"St-Spoiler, report in now before I call one of the team to bring you in."

Heh, Stephanie thought to herself - Oracle almost broke code-name protocol. And what was this, 'one of the team.' Wasn't she one of the team? Let Oracle sweat, she decided, focusing her binoculars more tightly on something moving a few rooftops over. It wasn't like she would follow through.

"Spoiler."

Cloth. Black, but fluttering to show yellow in the wind. Cape. Robin. Stephanie shot out another jumpline. "Don't bother," she spat into the comlink.

"Spoiler, I don't show you tracking back to the Clocktower."

Spoiler tuned out Oracle's voice, focusing her attention on moving stealthily. Robin hadn't turned when she dropped onto the rooftop, so maybe for once she had a chance of sneaking up on him. That'd show them. And it would be good to talk to Tim. Better than dealing with Oracle's lecture, anyway, even if he agreed with her.

"Spoiler, this display of temper is not going to win you any points when Batgirl gets there."

Robin still hadn't turned, and that totally called Oracle's bluff. If she was going to make someone bring Spoiler in, it made sense to use the resources to hand. And if no one had noticed that she was almost on top of the Boy Wonder, she was getting better than they knew.

"Spoiler-"

Stephanie stretched out her hand to Robin's shoulder, ready to spring back defensively.

Robin whirled at her touch, and she smiled under her mask. "Got y-" Her smiled faltered as she realized that the man in front of her was not Tim, and that while he was wearing Robin's colors, it was not a Robin suit.

The imposter smiled nastily at her. "Au contraire, my dear. I got you," he stated. He touched his belt, releasing an obscuring cloud before diving off the rooftop.

"Shit. Oracle," Spoiler hailed, throwing out her jumpline and blinking through the smoke, "I've got a bogey. I'm giving pursuit."

"Spoiler, wait for Batgirl. I don't want-"

"Can't wait, he'll disappear," Spoiler interrupted, swinging off the roof and squinting after her quarry. He was on the upswing now, heading toward the roof of the lowrise on the corner.

"Spoiler, dammit. Batgirl, I've got Spoiler in pursuit on Clearwood and 39th."

Something was wrong, Spoiler realized. The distance to the lowrise seemed to be getting further rather than closer. And the street. The street was suddenly very far away.

"Spoiler," Oracle's voice was saying, "can you give a description of your bogey so Batgirl can cut him off?"

Damn, it was a long way down. Too far. Spoiler's hands tightened on her jumpline. What if she fell? What if-

"Spoiler! Come on, Spoiler, we need information."

"No," Stephanie whispered, her eyes widening as her body began lofting upwards on the decel, heading toward the buildings across the way. They were coming so fast...

"Spoiler! Spoiler, talk to me. What's wrong? I need -"

"No," Spoiler said again, staring at the looming building. Something told her she should let go of the jumpline, turn her body to swing clear, but any motion at all seemed impossible. She clung stiffly to the line in her hands. "I can't -" Her eyes squeezed closed and she turned her head.

"Batgirl, get over there n-"

For a split second there was glass, shattering, scattering around her... and then there was darkness.

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