In Which Timothy Drake is given his first field Watcher assignment, and Adam Pierson has a conversation with Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Broody that doesn't end in drawn swords. Quite.
Timothy Drake, junior Watcher at the Gotham City headquarters, took another bite of his sandwich, one eye on the book in his lap. He didn't so much as flick his gaze up when the office door opened and his supervisor, Adam Pierson, walked in and slung his long coat over the empty chair.
"Do you *ever* stop working?" Pierson asked with amusement.
"They put me in Research, I'm going to do research. And lunch hour's all you leave me for my independent projects," Tim said, switching to touchtyping on his laptop with the hand that wasn't busy with lunch.
"There's a reason they put you in Research instead of in the field, you know," Pierson said. "And it wasn't your top-notch surveillance skills."
"They kept me out of the field because Commissioner Gordon thought my private theories would interfere with the work," Tim replied. "You seemed to have more faith in me, since you asked for me as an assistant."
"I saw your Academy records," Pierson said, stealing a handful of his chips. "Also, Gordon thought I might be able to work you hard enough that you'd forget all that nonsense about bats."
Tim's hand shot out and rescued the bag of chips. Then he finally looked up, narrowing his eyes. "It's not nonsense. You *know* it's not nonsense. Gotham City has the largest concentration of Immortals in the world-- even more than Paris-- but in four hundred years of existence, there have been exactly *three* recorded Quickenings."
"And nobody's disputing that. But you know as well as I do that the current theory is that Gotham is holy ground, maybe to some native bat cult that's been kept alive by a small group of mortals or Immortals-- that explains the recurrence of bat imagery in the stories. Your idea that the truce is held by one Immortal--"
"If it's holy ground, then those three Quickenings could never have happened. My theory makes more sense. The MacLeods hold Paris and Metropolis, and Constantine referees the Game in London; why can't anybody accept the Bat?"
"Because everybody knows about them. And nobody's claiming that they've survived three hundred years of putting their heads on the line for a city. And they take heads at a ridiculous rate, instead of taking one a century. Do I need to go on?" Adam stared at him for a second. "You know, people would take you a lot more seriously if you didn't keep insisting that this great and terrible Immortal of Gotham City was Bruce Wayne, of all people."
"I saw him." Tim propped his book up in front of his face determinedly.
"You saw Wayne take in an orphan kid. The Waynes have been taking in orphans for years; it's part of that whole philanthropy thing."
"An orphaned *pre-Immortal* kid."
"His adoptive parents were Immortals; but that doesn't mean..." Pierson peered at him and stole another potato chip. "You did get the lecture on where baby Immortals come from, didn't you? I'll give you a clue - it's nothing to do with Mummy and Daddy loving each other very much."
Tim turned a page decisively. Pierson rolled his eyes. "Why do I even try?" he asked himself. "Kids will be kids. And idiots. You know, there's no shame in admitting you were wrong - I once spent two weeks convinced that a guy who nearly made me crash on the Interstate was actually Methos."
They both went silent, with finely-honed Watcher reflexes, as somebody stopped at the open door to the office, with the soft shush of rubberized wheels on tile.
"Hey, Babs," said Tim, smiling despite himself.
Pierson stretched out in his chair and grinned. "Did you get those files from the vault for me, Gordon?"
Barbara Gordon smacked him on the back of the head as she wheeled in. "I have better uses for my time than doing heavy lifting for the most useless researcher in the whole city."
"Better things to do than finding records in the archive? You're the head archivist!"
"I have a message for Tim. I thought I'd deliver it in person instead of e-mail so that I could pass on the gossip, too. Dad wants to see you in his office. Rumour says you're getting a field assignment."
"Really?" Tim's eyes lit up. "Wicked!" He only rarely looked his age - all of nineteen - but for a second he could have been even younger. Then he remembered that he was a fully qualified, professional Watcher who was only pretending to be a kid, and he said solemnly, "When does he want to see me?"
Barbara grinned and visibly resisted the urge to go over and ruffle his hair. "He's alone up there right now, kid. Go for it."
A few minutes later, Tim poked his head through another office door. "Commissioner?" James Gordon was East Coast coordinator for the secret society of Watchers, but he was also Gotham City police commissioner, and he insisted on using the same first-floor office for both functions. Junior Watchers got plenty of stealth practice, sneaking past the officers and members of the public whenever they were sent up from the secret basement levels to visit the coordinator.
"Mr. Drake," Gordon said. "Come in, sit down." Then he shuffled through the papers on his desk, letting his visitor get progressively more nervous, though Tim refused to allow it to show on the surface. Finally he found a medium-thick file folder, riffled through it, and looked back at Tim. "As you are *undoubtedly* aware," he said, "Richard Gracen was killed in France several months ago, in a highly public motorcycle racing accident. The body was mangled; there is no doubt that he was dead."
Tim's fists clenched where Gordon couldn't see them. Died, yes, he thought, but not *permanently*. He *knew* Richie was Immortal; why wouldn't anybody else even *look?*
Gordon said, "Meanwhile, a person using the identity of Richard Robbins has just applied for an officer's position with the Gotham City Police Department." He slid a fingerprinting form, photocopied ID appended, across the desk to Tim. "It's unquestionably the same man."
Tim blinked and stared down at the form. It unquestionably was; there was that grin in the driver's license photograph that he'd known by heart since he was four years old. Then he noticed that under it was the triplicate form that would officially open a Chronicle on a newly reported Immortal. Filled in with the name Richard Gracen; the place Gotham City, New Jersey; today's date; and primary watcher ... Timothy Drake?
He raised his head, questions on his tongue, but Gordon pre-empted him. "We've no choice but to open a Chronicle and assign a Watcher. Especially if he keeps up his habit of getting killed stupidly and publically. He probably will; I'm giving him the police job he applied for. We'll see how long it takes him to get shot on the streets. Meanwhile, Amy has agreed to be his partner on the force; she'll keep an eye on him during the day."
Tim nodded. A large minority of the police force were Watchers, both for convenience to headquarters, and because of the need to keep Immortal activities out of the public records. Amy Rohrbach was one of them; he'd met her in Paris during his training, before she'd married and moved to a less-demanding position in Gotham, in order to have time for a family. She was a good agent, if a bit standoffish. He'd be able to work well with her.
"So. I'm giving you the primary," Gordon continued. "Not because I think you're the best man for the job, but because it's unlikely you can screw it up too badly, and because I'm given to understand that you'd be doing the job whether I gave it to you officially or not. At least this way I can keep an eye on both you and the new Immortal at the same time."
"I'm not a kid anymore, Commissioner," Tim said. "I'm a fully trained Watcher, and a responsible adult. I do know the stakes now."
Gordon raised his eyebrows. "So was that an 'I'm too smart to pull a stunt like that again' or an 'I'm too smart to let you catch me at it again?'"
I'm smart enough to arrange things so you give me the job yourself, Tim didn't say. He'd occasionally wondered if the Watchers knew just what they were getting into when they'd assigned Adam Pierson to mentor him. "I have sworn to do the job you assign me to the very best of my ability."
Gordon looked at him for a second, and hmphed. "And you will work only within the limits of your assignment. Are you clear on that? This is a *probationary* assignment. I know you trained under Dawson, and I want you to know that I have zero tolerance for any agents who make unneccessary contact with their assignments. You have a reputation already - this is your chance to outgrow it."
"And one more thing. This is non-negotiable. I do not want to hear a word out of you about Bruce Wayne. Do you understand?"
Tim opened his mouth to speak, but Gorden pre-empted him. "You will *not* abuse the position of trust that I have given you in order follow up on your private theories."
Gordon shook his head. "I hope for your sake that you mean that. Barbara will get your database account status updated within the next few days, and you should have a plan to begin field surveillance by this time next week; meanwhile -" he pulled a large leatherbound volume out of his lowest desk drawer, and handed it across to Tim.
It was a blank Chronicle, stamped with the round symbol that was as familiar to Tim as the back of his own wrist, the heavy pages pale and crisp and smelling of sharp new paper. Tim ran his hands possessively over the cover; he couldn't help himself.
"Congratulations," Gordon said, with a genuine if wry smile. "Richard Gracen's watcher."
Adam glanced up when Tim returned to the office. He still held the Chronicle clasped in his arms; he knew it looked silly, but he couldn't bear to put it down, and Adam would find something to mock him about no matter what he did. Sure enough, he cocked an eyebrow and said, "I suppose you're going to sleep with that under your pillow."
"They gave me Richie, Adam," Tim said.
Adam offered him a smirk. "Yeah, I heard. Guess I'm going to have to start doing my own filing again."
"You never did your own filing in the first place, if the state of things when I got here was any indication," said Tim. He went over to grab his coat from the cabinet where he'd tossed it that afternoon, but he realized when he got there that he'd have to put the new Chronicle down in order to pick it up. He looked from the coat to the table to the Chronicle with an expression of comic dismay on his face.
"Worse than a baby Immortal with his first sword," Adam said, shaking his head woefully. He watched as Tim very carefully put down the Chronicle and swung his coat on without taking his eyes off it. "Anyway, you're not officially out of my employ until the promotion goes through tomorrow. You should be finishing my filing."
Tim turned around, pointedly didn't pick up the Chronicle again, and said, very sincerely, "Mr. Pierson, may I please have the rest of the evening off?"
Adam rolled his eyes. "And if I gave it to you, would you actually *take* the time off, or would you spend it brooding over that book?"
Tim cocked his head but didn't say anything, just smiled a little.
Adam sighed loudly. "Fine, go home. I can tell I'm not going to get any more work out of you, anyway."
"Thank you, Mr. Pierson. I'll miss you too," Tim said, fondly.
The Chronicle of Richard Gracen
AKA Richard Ryan, Richard Robbins, Richie, The Boy Wonder
Chronicle Opened May 15.
Timothy Drake, primary field Watcher
Amy Thomas Rohrbach, secondary
WARNING: Gracen is a known associate of Duncan MacLeod, and is likely to be aware of the activities of the Watchers.
Birth: Seacouver, WA
First death, presumed: Gotham City, NJ.
First death, recorded: Paris Race Track, Paris, France
Recorded Teachers: Duncan MacLeod [D. MacLeod 17]
Tim paused, and with visible effort stopped himself from adding 'Bruce Wayne' under teachers. Bruce Wayne is not an immortal, he told himself. No matter what all the evidence points to, Wayne is not an Immortal, because Commissioner Gordon says that he isn't. He closed his eyes for a second, and then continued:
Timothy Drake, recording:
We are fortunate with Richie in that we have not only a record of his first death, but excellent biographical information dating back to his babyhood. The pre-immortal child who would become Richie was found under a park bench in Seacouver's City Park by two local men. When all attempts to find a birth parent proved futile, he was given the name 'Richard Ryan' from the first names of the men who had found him, and placed in the hands of Washington State's Division of Social Services.
For his first three years he moved between group care and foster homes.Then he went with the rest of the children in his group home on a field trip to see a performance of the traveling Haly's Circus, which had come to Seacouver.
With that circus were the immortals Zachary Blaine and Amanda Darrieux, working as the married couple Blake and Elizabeth Gracen. At that time, they had a combined high wire/trapeze/acrobatics act and called themselves the Flying Gracens. Apparently, at some point during the evening, Amanda became aware that young Richie was pre-immortal, and consistent with her history of taking in young immortals and pre-immortals (Amanda 12, 234-987; Amanda 26; Amanda 58, 155-215) she convinced Zachary that they should adopt the child.
The exact means by which this adoption was able to go through are not known at this time, but Amanda is highly skilled, even for an old Immortal, at the manipulation of both paperwork and government officials, and soon thereafter young Richie was Richard Gracen, son of Blake and Elizabeth. His adoption proved fortuitous, as he turned out to have a natural apitude for aerobatics; his new parents soon began training him in the art, and by his fifth year he was taking his place in the act. He was not only a natural genius on the trapeze, but he throve as a performer, with an amazing ability to charm, both from a distance and in person. He soon became the star of the act, promoted by the circus as "Richie Gracen, the Boy Wonder."
When he was nine, the Circus and the Flying Gracens came to Gotham City, NJ. This watcher was fortunate enough to
speak with him that nightto attend their final performance
Tim stopped writing, shook his head, swallowed, and blacked out the entire last line with dark ink.
The final performance on went off flawlessly, as the others had, including Richie's trademark quadruple somersault, until the very last act, in which Amanda and Zachary performed alone on the high wire. On this night, however, the high wire snapped at a crucial moment, sending both Immortals falling to a gruesome and public death while Richie watched, helpless, from the catwalk.
The wire was later shown to have been sabotaged, and in the confusion the bodies both disappeared from the floor of the ring. The deaths were later ascribed by police to one of Gotham's many organized crime syndicates, but due to circumstances in the Gotham City Police Department at that time, no further investigation was carried out, and no suspects were ever charged in the killing.
There was much more to that night than the stark facts that were going in this Chronicle. Tim had his own accounts of that last performance, written and re-written for years after the fact, but the Watchers weren't ready for the rest of the story yet. Especially since, after all, the Watchers were certain that Bruce Wayne was not an Immortal.
The young Richard Grayson was taken in by Gotham business magnate Bruce Wayne, who had attended the performance and witnessed the parents' deaths. He eventually adopted the child, claiming that he felt a kinship with the boy due to the violent death of his own parents in a mob-connected street shooting. Interestingly, Wayne's father, before his marriage, had been romantically linked with Amanda, in her other incarnation of cat burglar and international jewel thief (Amanda 49, 26-57.) It is unknown whether this had any bearing on Wayne's decision regarding Richie.
Tim thought he would be safe enough with that reference, as he had a citation to Amanda's chronicle to back it up. As long as nobody else found it suspicious that Wayne and his father could have been identical twins, other than the mustache - as long as nobody else noticed the pattern, going back nearly three hundred years, of the elder Wayne dying violently around the time that he turned forty, only for a prodigal son to return several years later from a vague and mysterious European education - as long as nobody picked up on any of the other hundred puzzle pieces - then the Watchers could go on believing that Wayne wasn't Immortal. It was, Tim thought, no skin off his tattoo. He was Richie's Watcher now.
If Adam Pierson had known, he would have been proud. Only six hours into his first field assignment, and already maliciously falsifying chronicles.
A ROOFTOP, SOMEWHERE IN GOTHAM
TEN MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
A man is standing silhouetted against the blood-washed city sky. A large man wearing a long, full black coat, one that flares behind him like wings in the cold night wind of the city's upper stories. He has positioned himself so that the blackest shadow available falls over his face, and his features are entirely obscured, but his posture is unmistakeable. He stands like a vibrating guitar string, like a hunting dog sniffing out a particularly difficult rabbit. Perhaps, most accurately of all, like a bat seeking to reacquire a sonar target.
"I call dibs on the boy," says a voice out of the darkness. The man tenses visibly, turning his whole body toward the sound. Yes, now that it has given away its location, a body can be discerned in the darkness there. Another tall man, slender, wearing a long coat, gray against the gray of the roof and the gray of the night and the gray of the shadow, wrapped tidily around himself. He steps forward out of his stalking-place; he hides his face with a worn, dented, tattered and colorless fedora pulled down low over his eyes.
"Azrael," says the first man, relaxing somewhat, but he keeps his right hand crossed over his hips, as if ready to draw a sword.
"Yep. And you're the Dark Knight," replies the one called Azrael, snorting derisively. "What is it with you Gotham Immortals and taking silly pen-names? I thought the Highlander was bad enough, but at least he has family tradition on his side."
Somehow, the carefully created mood has been broken.
"You're a fine one to talk of family tradition, 'Azrael'." He makes as if to take a step forward, then thinks better of it and stops. "What are you doing here? You haven't come out at night for a very long time."
"To tell you that I call dibs on the boy," the thinner man says impatiently. "Don't you ever listen? I want you to stay away from him. He's my student, and the last thing he needs is you getting him killed with your warped ideals."
"What boy?" He sounds slightly amused now, and has dropped to a less obvious ready position.
"What, you're going to make me tell you? Timothy Drake. The boy you caught spying on you eight years ago, and turned over to the Watchers. The boy who's now been assigned to follow your student Richie. And feel free to pretend you didn't know that, but I'm as likely to believe that as to believe that you haven't been secretly working with Gordon for years."
"I didn't know. But thank you for passing it on."
"Right. If you wanted him, you should have taken him home when you found him. You lost your chance. I'm serious here. Don't interfere."
"Azrael, I didn't know you cared." The Dark Knight might be raising his eyebrows sardonically. It's hard to tell in the shadows.
But the other man is not to be distracted: his eyes, too, are still obscured under the fedora, but nonetheless they somehow manage to convey the impression of something very old and very dangerous and not to be trifled with.
"I will let him be as long as he - and you - stay out of my way," says the Dark Knight, finally. "I'm not in the market for a new student at this point, at any rate."
"Sure you aren't," mutters the grey-clad man, but the Dark Knight has taken one step back, and disappeared over the edge of the roof.
After a bit, the other saunters over and peers down. There is no sign of him, or of where he has gone.
"Typical," he says. "You always were a bloody drama queen." Then Adam Pierson shoves his hat back up on his forhead, sticks his hands in his pockets, and wanders off, whistling, looking like the entirely harmless, if slightly eccentric, scholar that he truly is. When he remembers to be.