by Starsky Hutch 76
Thor stood in the garden behind Wayne Manor, contemplating his experiences with the Huntress. How those children had looked up to him. He burned with shame when he thought of his past loutish behavior, and he swore to become more worthy of their admiration.
“You’re up early,” a voice behind him said.
He turned and looked behind him to see Jason Todd, clad in pajama pants and a Ramones T-shirt, walking toward him.
“Aye,” Thor said. “Tis still very strange to wake up and not feel as though I had one foot in Hel’s realm… or if some varlet had taken mine own Mjolnir and pounded upon my brainpan.”
“Heh-heh,” Jason laughed. “Sounds like something my old man would have said. You should have seen how he used to look after being out all night.”
“But I thought thine father was Red Robin — a truly heroic visage if there ever was one,” Thor said.
“I wish,” Jason said. “He’s the closest thing I’ve ever known to a real father, though. My father was a crook and a bum.”
“Thou hast done a fine job of escaping his legacy, lad,” Thor said, laying an enormous hand upon his shoulder. “My task has ever been to live up to the legacy of mine. And the legacy of Lord Odin is a foreboding one, indeed. It shames me that I strayed so far from the path I was once so firmly set upon.”
“Well, we don’t always have to follow in our father’s footsteps,” Jason said. “Whether your dad’s a king or a crook, it’s still up to you to find your own way in the world.”
“Thou art possessed of an amazing breadth of knowledge for one of such meager age,” Thor said. “Would that mine own years had made me all the more wise.”
“It’s never too late to learn,” a deep voice said from behind them. Thor and Jason both turned to see the robed figure of Dick Grayson walking toward them and carrying a cup of coffee.
“Ah, the slumbering warrior has awakened!” Thor said heartily.
“Without trumpets or fanfare, but with a grumble and a grunt,” Jason added.
“We don’t all have the benefit of youth or immortality,” said Dick.
“Says the man who looks about thirty or forty years younger than he is,” Jason laughed.
“These nightly patrols are going to be the death of me,” Dick said, taking a sip of coffee.
“Then why dost thou continue?” Thor asked.
“Tradition, I suppose,” Dick said, taking another sip of coffee. “That and responsibility. Bruce began the nightly patrol as Batman to make this city safe. When he took me in as his ward and partner, I started going on patrol with him. Except for a few years overseas as a diplomat, I’ve been doing it for close to fifty years now, and I couldn’t imagine not doing it. I’m pretty sure Batwing will continue to patrol this city after I’m gone.”
“Count on it,” Jason said, drawing a smile from Dick.
“Years from now, my and Kara’s son or daughter might even go on patrol with him. Or whatever partner Jason might take on. I’m sure Helena would tell you the same thing. It’s just something this family does. We take care of Gotham.”
“An honorable tradition,” Thor said. “And dost thine people of Gotham offer tribute to allow ye to live in such palatial surroundings?” Thor asked.
“No,” Dick laughed. “The Wayne fortune was made long before Bruce became Batman. We don’t do what we do for tribute.”
“Aye, tis a recurring theme amongst you of the JSA. Tis passing strange for me, this selfless heroism,” Thor said, nodding. “In mine own time, the measure of a hero ’twas found in glory and tribute. Once this was no longer so, ’tis when I retreated to the shallow comfort of mead.” Despite his hulking form, Thor seemed to deflate in stature.
“There are more rewarding reasons for what we do than glory or tribute,” Dick said. “Think of how you felt yesterday with Helena and those kids… or when you helped rescue those people from that burning building. Or any of the other times with the other members of the JSA when you helped people without any hope of reward or glory.”
“Tis true!” Thor exclaimed, a light coming into his eyes. “Verily ’twas a most wonderful feeling, especially amongst the youths.”
Before Thor could finish, Alfred Beagle appeared. “Master Dick, there is a distress call in the Batcave. The scientists and workers from STAR Labs who were setting up for the science expo are being held by Harley Quinn.”
“Of all days for Kara to take personal days from work to visit her cousin in Smallville,” Dick sighed. “I’m sure she’d have liked a piece of Harley after their last encounter.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Red Robin: Auld Lang Syne.]
“Who is this… Harley thou speakest of?” Thor asked.
“You wanna talk about father issues?” Jason said. “Wait’ll you get a load of this chick!”
Inside the Gotham City Civic Center, Harley Quinn stood before a frightened group of workers. In the background, an equally frightened group of scientists stood before a blackboard, scribbling madly with chalk, held at gunpoint by Harley Quinn’s henchmen. Near them stood a display bearing an immobile Joker underneath a banner reading, The Joker Sleeps!
“OK, while the eggheads are busy tryin’ to fix where Van Winkler screwed up on his immortality formula,” Harley said in a frighteningly cheerful voice as she paced back and forth in front of the horrified crew, “the rest of us are gonna have ourselves a sing-along! OK, here we go… Come on without… Come on within. You’ve not seen nothin’ like the mighty Quinn…”
The Civic Center work crew stood frozen. “Oooh!” Harley Quinn growled, stomping her foot. “I said sing!” She fired her gun at the ceiling in emphasis, starting an immediate chorus of The Mighty Quinn. “That’s better.”
Harley walked over to the group of scientists and said, “How’s it coming?”
“I thought these guys were s’posed to be America’s best ‘n’ brightest,” one of the henchmen said. “These guys don’t look they’re gettin’ nowhere!”
“That’s a double negative, young man,” a middle-aged, bifocaled scientist said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “If we were to take what you said at its wording, we’d be getting somewhere… which we’re not.”
He turned to Harley and said, “You can’t seriously expect us to crack this in a matter of minutes, do you? Dr. Van Winkler has been working on this formula for months and devoted his time almost exclusively to it since the side-effect first appeared in your father, and he still hasn’t found out how it happened. And we don’t even have the benefit of his presence, since you couldn’t wait until he was actually here to pull this stunt.”
Harley Quinn smirked at his audacity and walked up and gingerly stroked his Van Dyke beard with one hand while patting his bald head with the other. “Aw, noodle-noggin… did my impetuousness get ums all upset? I’m sure you and yer little friends here can do it. You just gotta have as much faith in yourself as I do. And to help spur your team here… Boys, take noodle-noggin out into the hall and work him over. Don’t damage that beautiful brain of his, though! We’ll need him back for the think tank, here. He’s gotta be the most scientisty-looking scientist of the bunch!”
“You… you can’t do this!” the scientist said, horrified as Harley Quinn’s henchmen dragged him away.
“Ha!” Harley Quinn laughed haughtily, putting her hands on her hips. “I guess you ain’t so smart after all! ‘Cause there’s nothin’ I can’t do when it comes to getting back my daddy!”
The Red Racer pulled up in the alleyway behind the Civic Center. “Verily, my blood dost boil with the anticipation of impending battle!” Thor said jovially. “Let us make haste!”
“Not so fast, big guy,” Red Robin said. “There are hostages in there. We need to form a plan of attack.”
“Subterfuge is not for the lion of Asgard!” Thor grumbled. “All the son of Odin hast need of is a strong arm and mine own Mjolnir!”
“Very well,” Red Robin said, shrugging. “If you say so.” He hit a button, and the back door opened for Thor to exit. “Go to it.”
An astonished look crossed Thor’s face. “Thou hast made the right decision,” he said, getting out of the backseat. “Art thou not joining me?”
“We’ll be along shortly,” Red Robin said. “We just have a few preparations to make.”
“Very well,” Thor said.
“You’re just letting him go?” Batwing said. “Just like that?”
“He’ll provide just the distraction we’ll need,” Red Robin. “And, considering the sort of weapons that are in there… better they’re trained on him than on us.”