Reign of Owls

Introductions

Gotham City, Bratva Territory

The easiest place to really kurfuckle a design was in the very beginning.  So many things could go wrong before that first line was placed on the blueprints.  All ships, and especially warships, were limited by their volume.  Too small and they lacked room for for all the weapons, crew space, power plant, communication equipment, supplies for deployments, redundant systems for when things started to fail in combat… everything it needed to function.  Too large and the ship would slowly become more and more inefficient on a per unit basis.  For instance most cruisers had around a 10,000 ton displacement, but even a threefold increase in size would barely double the hulls ability to survive incoming heavy attacks and it required a disproportionate increase in crew compared to performance.  That didn’t even factor the sheer engineering nightmare on a manpower per hour basis for the maintenance of keeping a capital ship functioning close to its paper specs.  So you had to think hard about the concept.  What was the ship for?  Did it need a house sized sensor suite capable of detecting a goldfish 15,000 feet below sea level, or could a smaller set that could only detect large metallic objects a few miles out suffice?  Did you have to fit in a monster of a cannon capable of bombarding fortifications nearly twenty five kilometers away, or did you need an array of smaller guns for targeting nimble and fast moving airborne craft?

“What the hell are you doing lady?” Opening one of her eyes Veronika glanced up to see the irate form of her rather large handler Borris Bullski.  Well her handler since the Bratva kidnapped her anyway.  Mind she wasn’t expecting them to hold her for very long.  She was a Russian national treasure and they were loathe to let her get far from their clutches.  There were probably a score of agents from the Foreign Intelligence Service and Main Intelligence Directorate slinking about this part of town… probably even double agents in the local Bratva chapter.  For that matter she was sure numerous CIA and Cadmus agents, as well as people from Hydra, Aim, and Lexcorp, were desperately looking for her since she dropped off the grid.  Speaking of the local Bratva, several men of that fraternity shuffled awkwardly behind their very annoyed boss, each too red faced and flummoxed to contribute.  

“What does it look like I’m doing comrade?”  Veronika asked, stretching briefly on her deck chair causing most of her new admirers to shiver and gasp in delight.  Even poor Borris was momentarily struck dumb as he tried not to stare at her luscious form.  

“You aren’t-!”  He snapped then turned and took a few deep breaths before speaking again.  “Anatoly Knyazev hired you to build him a super weapon. I just want you to build the damn thing not-”

“Not what?”

“Not lounge naked on the freaking roof!”  

“Look Mr Bullski,” Veronika sighed as Borris finally spit the words out he’d been trying to say for the few minutes.  The weapon designer did not move from her chair though switching the cross of her legs caused one of the observers to almost buckle.  “I don’t know if you realize it but your Anatoly Knyazev burned a lot of favors with the homeland to get me here to listen to his wish list.  I arrived.  I listened.  He told me what he wanted and I said I could build it.  But I need things, yeah?  Is a big project and he needs very special facilities and tools for me to use.  I’m not talking about a garage workshop or piddly nuclear facility, I’m going to need a full factory cathedral.  In other words, I need a facility which isn’t just advanced, it needs to be beyond cutting edge.  He needs very special materials, Sturginium, Jade, Orichalcum.  Materials he does not have.  He gets angry with me and orders his men to throw me in his homebrew jail until I do what he wants.  Nichevo, there is nothing I can do until either he gets what I need or changes his mind about what he wants me to build.  So I tell your guard Andrei I am sick of being stuck in my room and he agrees to let me come up here and use the deck and pool as long as I am watched.  I don’t mind being watched so here I am.”

“He just wants a god damned set of combat armor and I’ve seen the lab he showed you.  It has all the bells and whistles.”

“Nyet, he wants a warmachine that can challenge the mightiest men and aliens on Earth.  I tell him I can do this.  I need facilities, special materials.  He gives me a car repair shop and simple titanium and street weapons to work with.  Cannot be done.  Finished product will be too big, too slow, not tough enough.  Is fine if he wants to be some trite Titanium Man wrecking tanks and terrorizing infantry platoons, but he tells me he wants to fight Superman, Wonder Woman, and Stark’s metal bodyguard.  I agree, is good project.  Ambitious.  Challenging.  Still cannot do it with what he has.”

Borris sighed.  “Look then just build the titanium suit, we can use that.”

“Nyet, my pride, my reputation is on the line.  I won’t design a weapon that cannot achieve what it is designed for.  Is bad.  No.  Not doing it.”

Borris opened his mouth to say something before a shadowed form sailed over the edge of the roof and hit him like a hammer.  Young and lithe he moved like a gymnast turned brawler and hit her captors like a wrecking ball.

She wasn’t a fighter of any kind but she cast a predatory look to the new arrivals armor.  The weapons were an incredible disappointment.  He used them well.  Twirling them both to distract his foes and to target vulnerable points.  A wrist was broken, a knee knocked out of position, a disorienting thrust to a skull.  Still, a pair of metal sticks that could be built in any high school machine shop by a drunk student could hardly hold her interest any longer than the second or two it took for the arrival to thrash a pair of her guards.  

A bug or something stung her arm and she brushed it aside before refocusing on the hero bouncing around like agitated bee.  His armor was strange.  At a glance it was a form fitting body suit of rubber but she discounted it immediately.  Not flexible enough for some of the maneuvers he performed.  Certainly an aramid, a heat resistant synthetic fiber.  He performed an aerial triple spin kick causing his head to nearly reach his ankles and her eyes to almost pop.  Not at his flexibility.  That was just training.  But that his armor could handle the maneuver, that was something precious.  No conventional aramid could do that.  Some new formula alloying the synthetic fibers with some type of liquefied metal- too heavy.  Maybe a magical solution?  Threading gossamer into the armor could work but would likely cause pox effects and mutation after prolonged exposure to gossamers inherent unreality…

“Dr Tambov?” The hero twitched as and his eyes boggled as he took in her form.  

“I’m called Nightwing” he stuttered a bit, “and I’m here to rescue you.”   

“…thanks.”  Veronika mumbled half halfheartedly as she admired the ceramic of the blue bit on his chest.  Clever, ceramics were uniquely capable of resisting heat and various types of energy.  

The pair stood silently for a moment with each inspecting the other closely.

Nightwing coughed.  “Could you… get dressed.  Doctor?”  

Not wanting to walk down three flights of stairs she shrugged and borrowed the now unconscious Borris’s shirt and pants.  She hated clothes.  Especially baggy ones.  They hung like dead weight.  The belt barely kept the pants on.  She didn’t bother with the shoes.  Her self proclaimed rescuer watched her dress though he chivalrously tried to look away his gaze couldn’t stay off her more than a second.  

“Now hold on and I’ll get you out of here.” Proclaimed the strange man picked her up bridal style. 


 

There is a rule in the multi-verse.  I-Hop asks no questions.  Immigrants, randy teenagers, johns and prostitutes, drunk drivers, post-game D&Ders, criminals, police, none drew comments from the night shift or fellow diners.  Even a super hero and his most recent rescue were free from the questions that would have plagued them anywhere else.  It was something Nightwing had taken advantage of before.  Sometimes you needed to talk to the victims of crimes, people you rescued, or even criminals in a place that wasn’t an alley.  Somewhere you could put them at ease and spend the half an hour really grilling them before you decided what exactly you needed to do with them.  Dr Tambov was one of those unique cases.  

She idly cut into her pancake.  He gulped as she raised it to her mouth, syrup dripping from the fork, her teeth were white as polished pearls and her lips- he downed his steaming cup of coffee, using the scalding pain to distract himself.  Dick wasn’t a stranger to aliens, magic, and all around weirdness.  Veronika clearly wasn’t normal.  Mutant maybe?  She’d been hit with a stray round during the rescue- and not only didn’t flinch she barely seemed to register it, and… she was stunning.  Too stunning.  He knew dozens of incredibly gorgeous women from girls next door like Barbara to exotic aliens like Starfire or unusual humans like Wonder Woman.  Doctor Tambov was not girl next door stunning.  Not supermodel stunning.  She was break your neck when she walked by stunning.  Too perfect.

 Batman had missed that.  The second Dr Tambov was scheduled to come to Gotham Batman had given him nearly a hundred page report on her and a painstaking summary on why she could not be taken by Gotham’s criminal underground.  It had covered her scientific credentials in agonizing detail, covering fields he wouldn’t have understood with a team from star labs to explain them.  Methane Oceanology, Minovsky Physics, Non-Euclidean Mathematics, Archanotechnology, Metaphysical Biology, and a host of more mundane physics and engineering degrees.  One of the most capable minds on the planet who’d devoted her life to building some of the deadliest weapons ever built.  Still, you think there would have been a mention that she wasn’t just a scientist.  

“So,” Dick focused on his own food as he talked, definitely not staring at her.  He took another drink of coffee and signaled the waiter for more. “Is there somewhere safe I can take you?”

“I am in America on visa from Russia’s Sturginium Project,” Her voice was like a sunny day at the beach.  Warm.  Inviting.  Even rejuvenating.  It was so welcoming that part of him desperately wanted to ignore the fact she’d built more weapons than Lex Luthor.  The other part of him was still horrified at the thought of what she may have been doing for the local bratva and Gotham’s other criminal families.

“Officially I am in America to give, lectures yes?  Speak to Gotham University about non-euclidean mathematics, consult Lexcorp subsidiaries on power regulation for new Luthor anti-orbital cannons, Oscorp on stuginium power for small repulsion fields, Veidt Industries on neutron jammer, Weyland-Yutani for, ah, a few more little things.  Not forgetting meeting with Anatoly Knyazev as favor to General Nikolai Alexandrovich Zakharov.  Favor I am considering squared.  Still, I am going to be here for some months yes?  I am having diplomatic immunity but Gotham City has, bad, bad reputation.  I am fearing that if I go to police these bad men will try to grab me.  Mother Russia’s wrath at me being disappeared will be great yes?  Maybe if I call Mr Luthor or Mr Osborn they will be getting me guards?”

“That may not be the best idea," Dick shuddered at the thought of what would happen if either of them got ahold of the professor.  "Here's a thought.  Let me call my boss and we’ll figure something out.”

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