Without Masks

by 'rith

Archive: Ask first, please.
Fandom: Titans (Jesse Quick and Nightwing), current continuity. Set after the H.I.V.E./Tartarus arc.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.

I've heard Wally speak his mantra a hundred times. Here's my version:

"My name is Jesse Belle Chambers. I'm Jesse Quick. And I'm the fastest woman alive."

But y'know, sometimes even the fastest hero needs a breather. After the H.I.V.E./Tartarus case, I was *exhausted.* I needed a break, so I decided to do something I'd been meaning to for a long time: go see a man about a book.

I headed down to Blüdhaven to visit Jonathan Law, once a hero called the Tarantula and the author of *Behind the Mask.* I'd read it obsessively during my college days. I'd called myself a "student of superheroes" and that was the literal truth; I'd done a couple of papers on heroes and their role in society until the profs told me to cut it out and try something else.

Mom wasn't too happy when she heard I'd be seeing him--I figured they had a pretty nasty break-up, from what little she'd told me--but then again, mom wasn't too happy with me in general, lately.

The whole superhero thing gets to her. It's ironic, considering Liberty Belle was one of the most prominent heroes of her time--led the All-Star Squadron and everything. But ever since dad died, she's gotten to hate the whole idea. I *know* it's mostly that she's worried about me, that I'll get hurt or killed. Like him. But if I quit, who'll be around to remind people of Johnny Quick? The Flashes don't have the *only* speed legacy on the planet, and I mean to make sure no one forgets that.

Yeah, I'm a workaholic, Nightwing had that pegged all right. I admit it. But when access to the speed force gives me the ability to do so much--run dad's company and be one of the Titans both--how could I pass up the opportunity?

Hmm. Blüdhaven is Nightwing's turf. Wonder if he'll be out tonight?

It's totally *academic* interest, one hero in another's territory, that kind of thing. Really. Yeah, so he's intelligent and a good leader and sexy as hell. I'm not blind. But like I told Wally, I've got no interest in being anybody's girlfriend at the expense of my own identity. And the way Starfire glares at me, I wouldn't want to try. I know they used to be together, but *sheesh!*

There was an Asian woman painting over the front door of the apartment building. I assumed she was the landlady. "Excuse me, but which apartment is Jonathan Law's?"

"So yer wantin' to visit Mr. Law, are y'now?" I tried not to blink at the strong Irish accent that seemed so incongruous with her face. "And y'are, if I might ask? I like t' know who's visitin' my tenants."

"Jesse Chambers. He's expecting me."

"G' on up then, he's in 3F. He doesn't get many visitors, nice to see someone takin' an interest. I'm Clancy, by the way."

"Nice to meet you, Clancy."

I went up the stairs and knocked. He opened the door, and for a moment I was shocked--he looked so *old.* I mean, he looked his age, that was all. I'd been so used to seeing Jay Garrick and Alan Scott and all the others avoid the ravages of time through magic or strange science or whatever. Even mom looks younger than she is, from the residual effects of her powers.

But Jon Law was just a man who put on a costume as research to write a book.

"Jesse? Goodness." He stared at me so hard I thought he could see right through me. "You look just like your mother." He shook his head. "I suppose you get that a lot. Please, come in!"

"Thank you, sir. I--"

He interrupted before I could say another word. "Please, call me Jon. You're in the business, after all. No formalities between us."

I smiled and let it go. "Thanks. And thank you for agreeing to see me. I know it was short notice."

"Oh, it's my pleasure. I'm glad for the company. Tea?" I nodded, and he waved toward the living room. "Have a seat, I'll be right out."

I sat on the sofa, avoiding the chair that was obviously *his,* and glanced around. Nice place. Small, but clean. Unremarkable.

He came out with a small tray and set it on the table; I reached out to pour. "I've been following the news about the reformation of the Titans. Looks like a good team."

"It is! It's a great opportunity."

He smiled. "A little ironic that the Justice Society reformed right after, isn't it? Would you rather have been there?"

You know, that was a darned good question. The All-Stars and JSA teamed up so often in the old days, a lot of people just lumped them together. It would have made sense, but.... "I thought about it. I guess I felt...well, it's a different kind of team. The JSA is about the past, and I respect that. I practically grew up idolizing half the team!"


"When Nightwing asked me to join, he talked about the Titans as forward-looking, proactive. I liked that. Half the time it seems superheroes just *react,* you know? There's a lot of energy in the Titans."

"It's a younger team, with younger members." He grinned and sipped at his tea. "I don't blame you for not wanting to hang around with the old fogies."

"Oh, it's not that at all!" I caught his amusement and realized he'd been baiting me. "Sentinel and the Flash and Black Canary and Wildcat, they're legends. I'd love to work with them. It's more about...legacy."

"I think I know what you're getting at, Jesse, but tell me anyway."

I thought for a minute. "Okay. It's...the costume I wear, my name, it's my father's legacy. It's a way of keeping his memory alive." For a moment it hurt just like it did for the days and weeks after he was killed.

Mr. Law said quietly, "I was terribly sorry to hear of your father's death. He was a great man, and I'm proud to have known him."

"Yeah." Not many kids can brag of having genuine heroes for parents; I'd had two. "So the costume is one way of honoring him. But it's also *mine.* In the JSA I might have been Johnny Quick's daughter. With the Titans I'm Jesse Quick. Does that make sense?"

"Certainly. It's a unique vantage point you have, being so much a part of the past and the future at the same time." I guess that satisfied him, because he went on, "But how silly, you came all the way here to see me and I'm grilling you about your own life. What did you want to ask me?"

"If you don't mind, I've got some questions about a few details in your book, and I'd love to hear about anything else from that time. The whole dynamic is really fascinating, heroes in large groups and the way they interrelate--" I caught myself before I could launch into a thesis. "Sorry. I used to ambush mom and dad like that, too. But getting another perspective, that's mostly what I'm interested in. And yours is sort of unique, since you went in as an observer...." Oops. Mouth faster than brain much, Jesse? "Not that you didn't do plenty of good work yourself, I mean!"

He laughed, thank goodness. "I understand. Well, I'd be happy to answer your questions, though I'll have to beg your indulgence--it's been a long time, and some of the specifics might be a little past my powers of recollection. But you know, I have something that might help...." He got up and went over to the bookcase, pulling out a dusty photo album and an old shoebox that had been perched on a pile of last year's magazines. "The quality on these is slightly dubious, mind--"

It was a virtual treasure trove he had, pictures of heroes I'd known all my life and some I'd barely heard of. Even faded and out of focus, to me those photographs were as momentous as the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. "...these are amazing..."

He lifted one out of the box. "Oh, here, look at this--"

We went through those snapshots and talked well into the afternoon, and I learned so much. It wasn't a matter of things I didn't know before, but small observations that helped make a fuller picture. He had a great way of telling a story, and his remembrances were full of gentle amusement. I guess the whole costume thing is pretty funny, when you look at it from outside. But he never laughed *at* the memories, or what he and the All-Stars accomplished.

He was gathering up the scattered photos when he stopped at one. It was a good picture of mom talking to a couple of other heroes, the men obviously listening seriously to some instruction from the team leader. Mom did an awful lot for the women's rights movement just by being who she was.

"Jesse..." He looked so sad suddenly.

"What is it?"

"Would you...would you tell your mother I think of her? And that I'm sorry."

It *really* was none of my business. I knew mom had been with Jon after divorcing my father the first time they were married, and that it didn't end well. It wasn't my concern. Why dig up the past?

The question was out of my mouth before I could stop it. "Sure. But will you tell me what happened? With her."

"She never told you? No, I suppose she wouldn't." He was silent for a long moment, and I began to regret asking. "Are you sure you want to hear this? It's not a pretty story, and I'm not proud of it."

"I'd like to hear. But only if you're willing to tell it."

He nodded slowly. "You have the right to know. Well..." he settled himself back in his chair and half-closed his eyes, "it was after the war, of course, and we'd hung up our costumes. Most of the heroes had--we just weren't needed, not like before. I'd given mine up before Libby, with the publication of ‘Behind the Mask.' We moved to New Mexico and I started on my next book--my ‘Great American Novel.' I thought it'd be easy, since the first one came so effortlessly."

I could guess the next part. "It wasn't?"

"It wasn't. In fact, all my effort went nowhere. I spent hours at the typewriter and would maybe write a page that sounded wonderful in my head, but was *terrible* on paper. At least I recognized that." He sighed. "And Libby was bored. She'd been a newswoman, and a superhero. There really wasn't anything for her there. I realized much later that was part of the reason I'd chosen New Mexico--none of her old friends or old opportunities were there. I had her all to myself. But it wasn't fair." He glanced up at me. "Jesse, would you get me a glass of water? My throat's a bit dry."

"Of course!" I went into the kitchen, and when I came back out, he was standing at the window looking out onto the street. "Here."

"Thank you, dear." He took a sip and went on, still staring out the glass. "So, Libby was bored and I was frustrated. Of course I never *told* her the novel wasn't going well--wasn't going *anywhere*--but she knew anyway. I...started to drink, to wash away the taste of failure. Meanwhile, Libby was offered a job at a local television station--her own current affairs show. She was glad to escape the house while I struggled with the book. I resented her for that, her success while mine eluded me. It was bad, Jesse."

"I...you don't have to say any more...."

"No, I do. It's a part of your mother's life and you should know." He took a deep breath and turned around to face me. "Finally I did the only thing I could, to try to keep her with me--I asked her to marry me. No, that's not right. I *demanded* it, that we have kids and she give up her job. I was desperate--she was the only good thing I had left and I saw her moving away from me. But that doesn't justify...I did something unforgivable."

I couldn't say a word. The anguish in his eyes said everything.

"Your mother's got a temper--well, you know that. She lashed out verbally, calling me a ‘one-book wonder.' All my frustration came to a head and I...I tried to hit her." He held my gaze unflinchingly, telling it without masks. "I was drunk but that was no excuse, there was no excuse.... She threw me across the room and that was it. I tried to bring her back--gave up the bottle, promised her things'd be different, but it was over. I don't blame her in the least."

Oh, Lord...mom...I should be angry at him, and maybe part of me is, but he looks so *tired*... "I'm sorry...."

"Oh, Jesse. It's all past and there's nothing for it now. But *you*--I look at you and see the best of Libby and Johnny, and if it's not terribly presumptuous I'm proud of you. For what you do, carrying on for all of us. The good ones and the ones who failed, too."

"You didn't--"

"I became a superhero to write a book. Not for justice, or responsibility, or patriotism. And I did all right. But people like your parents, they're the real heroes." He smiled a little, and it wasn't bitter at all. "If history forgets the Tarantula, that's okay. Because he wasn't much of a hero. Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle...they *are.*"

"Y-yeah. Um...would you excuse me a second?" I had to retreat to the restroom before I broke down bawling. Ah, jeez....

It was occasionally humbling, remembering what I had to live up to. The example I *wanted* to live up to. My parents. *My* heroes, and the world's.

God, don't let me fail....

I pulled myself together and went back out. Mr. Law had put the photos away, and he seemed a little worn out. Well, no wonder, I'd accidentally dragged him through an emotional minefield. "I, um, I should get going...."

"Come back when you have time, Jesse--I'll introduce you to that nice young man down the hall. I think you'd like him." He was smiling.

Why's everyone always trying to set me up? Do I look that desperate? "Uh, thanks, maybe some other time."

He opened the door for me, a gentleman from another era, just as someone else was coming up the stairs. "Looks like I won't have to wait ‘til next time."

The guy--in good shape from the looks of him and frankly gorgeous--stopped on his way past us. "Afternoon, Mr. Law."

"Son, how many times do I have to tell you? It's Jon." He grinned at me. "Jesse Chambers, I'd like you to meet my neighbor, Richard-but-call-me-Dick Grayson."

I reached out a hand to shake. "Hello, Mr. Grayson."

"Ms. Chambers." His grip was firm. Something familiar here....

"Oh, please." Mr. Law rolled his eyes. "We weren't that formal even in *my* day."

Coincidence. Had to be. But during the H.I.V.E. battle, Changeling called Nightwing "Dick"--obviously all the old team members knew his identity--and *this* guy was the right height and hair color and he had some *serious* muscles under that T-shirt--

And he lived in *Blüdhaven* where Nightwing did...

Suddenly, I *really* wanted to know him. "So, um, what do you do, Richard?" All right, so being a Titan and running dad's business didn't give me much time to polish my social interaction skills.

"Dick. I've just joined the local PD. Got my shiny new badge and everything. You?"

...and a policeman might have access to files Nightwing would need...

"I, ah, run a small business in Philadelphia. QuickStart. We design--"

"--self-motivation programs, right, I've heard of it. Impressive." He smiled. Devastating. Quit it, Jesse. "So you came all the way to Blüdhaven to visit...Jon...here?" He only said it because Mr. Law was mock-glaring at him.

"I knew her parents, and she's been kind enough to visit with an old man...." When both of us turned to protest, he smiled and I knew we'd been had. But right now that was okay. "You know, it's getting on toward dinner. Why don't you kids go on? Dick, you could take Jesse to that bar you used to work at--not much too look at, but great atmosphere and good food--"

Any other time I might have made an excuse and left fast. But this was *perfect.* "Sounds great to me."

"Sure." Grayson's easy smile said he didn't have a care in the world. "Let me get cleaned up and we'll go--10 minutes okay? And you're sure you won't join us, Mr.--Jon?"

"Nah. Here, Jesse, you might as well come back in until Dick's ready. See you in--10, right?" It was less a question than a threat that said, ditch this girl and I'll pound on your door at 3 in the morning.... If he'd even be in, which I was beginning to doubt. Nightwing took after his name and did most of his work after sunset.

"Right." Dick took off and I looked back at Mr. Law.


"I hope that wasn't too forward, Jesse, but you grab your opportunities when you see them."

I had to laugh. "It's all right."

"I'm glad. He's really a good man. Keeps odd hours though."

Uh-huh. I just bet.

Grayson knocked right at the required 10, and I said my goodbyes to Mr. Law. I'd definitely have to make time to visit again. I was also determined to talk mom into seeing him, but that was a fight for another time.

Then we were alone in the hallway. This was gonna be *interesting.*

"Hogan's Alley is only a few blocks away, if you don't mind walking?"

The voice was--hard to tell. That didn't mean anything. I'd observed the difference a mask makes dozens of times. "Not at all. Mr. Law said you used to work there?"

"Yeah. Hank Hogan's a great guy, an ex-cop. One of the few honest ones in the 'Haven who didn't end up--" he paused. "Never mind. It's not a pretty story."

"Sounds grim. I've heard some nasty things about this city." Blüdhaven was usually referred to with descriptives like "hellhole." "And you wanted to be a cop *here?*"

"If it's that bad, it can use all the help it can get. Why take the easy way out?"

I grinned. "Sounds like me."

"No wonder, with that company you run. Self-motivated usually means ‘workaholic' as well."

"‘Only way to get things done...'"

He snickered. "...‘is to do it yourself.' Believe me, I've heard it."

We walked another block without saying anything else. I saw him glance at me once or twice out of the corner of his eye before he said, "Um, I don't know how to say this without sounding rude...I don't know what Mr. Law told you, but I'm sorta involved with someone...."

Did he think I was flirting with him? I thought about getting mad but that embarrassment was just priceless. "‘Sorta?'"

He blushed. "Yeah. She's...trying to work through some things. It's a little complicated."

My curiosity was killing me by that point. If he was Nightwing, I was dying to know *who!* But if he wasn't pressing further was just rude. "Oh. Well, that's okay, I'm not really shopping around, anyway."

He raised an eyebrow. "Mind if I ask why? Just being nosy."

"Well, I could give you the political answer," like I'd ranted at Wally, "but mostly I've got a really hectic life, and I like it that way."

"Too busy for a social life? I can relate." He nodded toward a sign up ahead. "There it is. But you do find ways to have fun, right?"

"Sure. In fact, I've just joined a group of, well, fellow workaholics, we kinda promised to look out for each other." I kept a close watch on his face, but there wasn't a flicker beyond polite interest. Well, duh, Jesse; Nightwing knows who *you* are and if this is him, he's not gonna give himself away so easily.

Thinking about that, for a moment I was *pissed.* Nightwing tracked *me* down in my civilian identity, came right into the office bold as brass. Why shouldn't I do the same?

"Something wrong?"

"Huh? Oh, no, I was just reminded about someone who barged into my office awhile back. The guy who invited me into the group, as a matter of fact." We grabbed a table and Dick waved to the big man behind the bar. Hogan, I guessed. "His intention was good but his delivery really ticked me off."

"Hm." Before he could reply, a dark-skinned boy came by the table with menus and silverware. "Hey, Mutt! Keeping your grades up?"

"Yeah. Who's the pretty lady, liberal?" The kid reeked of attitude, but he was clean and neatly dressed.

"This is Jesse Chambers, be nice, she's just visiting the 'Haven. Jesse, this is Michael Hogan."

"Mutt"--the kid looked nothing like the man behind the bar--gave me the once-over. "Just visiting? Do yourself a favor and leave quick. Hey, liberal, Hogan says your money's no good here tonight, and not to argue unless you wanna eat somewhere else."

Dick laughed and spread his hands in surrender. "All right. Tell him thanks." The boy nodded and took off. "Good kid."

There was definitely a story there. "‘Liberal'?"

"Oh, that." He toyed with his fork. "I, uh, caught him trying to rob my apartment. Street kid, no family. He calls me that ‘cause I didn't press charges. A bit later he was gonna be sent to Juvie Hall, and I introduced him to Hogan instead. Hank adopted him."

"That was an awfully nice thing to do for a kid who you met trying to steal from you."

"Yeah, well, Juvie's pretty rough even for a tough guy." A shadow went over his face, and I didn't feel I had the right to pry.

"So, ah, what's good here, anyway?" Actually, I was starving. Tapping the speed force takes a lot of energy. Wally's grocery bill is *huge.* Mine's not as bad, partly because I'm not constantly "on" like he is, but my metabolism still demands more calories than usual.

"The usual bar stuff. Good burgers. Oh, geez, I didn't think to ask if you were a vegetarian?" I shook my head no and he sighed, relieved. "Whew. Shoulda thought of that."

"No harm, no foul." Over the menu I studied his face, trying to imagine it with a mask. Funny how a scrap of fabric could change your features completely. Hmmm, yeah, something about that jawline--

I forced myself to quit staring. Just don't *go* there, girl.

We ordered and the waitress brought drinks. I was trying to come up with some brilliant topic of conversation when he said, "I hope Mr. Law ambushing you like that didn't ruin your plans--"

"No, I'm not flying back to Philly ‘til late." I might be flying part of the way, but it sure wouldn't be in any plane. What's the point of having speed-powers if you don't use ‘em to make your life easier? "Don't tell me you had nothing better to do on a Saturday night?"

"Better than getting to know someone new? Especially considering our self-admitted lack of social lives otherwise." He shook his head. "It's nice to talk to someone from somewhere else, too. 'Havenites have a pretty...jaded perspective."

"So you've lived here all your life?"

"Gotham, actually. I left before the 'quake. Still close to home." Right. Gotham, home of the Batman. It wasn't exactly *common* knowledge that Nightwing had been Robin, but it wasn't the biggest secret, either. Batman's identity, though--

I took a long drink to keep the realization from showing on my face. Batman's identity. No *wonder* Nightwing was so paranoid! Even in the hero community he was a mystery. And here I'd been trying to figure out one that might lead to the other. I was convinced about Dick by that point--well, almost--but...*Batman.* Wow. I'd have to think about that.

But Gotham was the center of an even bigger controversy these days. "Oh, God, that's just awful, what's happened there. I can't believe that was upheld as legal, cutting Gotham off. All those people!"

"It's a travesty." There was a lot of anger in his voice. "There are still people there, a lot who couldn't leave when the quarantine was declared, and they've just been left to fend for themselves. Completely abandoned by a government that has a *responsibility* to care for all its citizens, not just the ones it feels like caring about. It's absolutely--" He stopped. "Sorry. I didn't mean to go off."

"No, it's perfectly understandable. It was your city, and it *is* wrong." Batman was still there, too, even if the JLA had decided to obey the mandate and stay out. I wondered if I could speed past the barricades and get supplies in. If I moved fast enough they wouldn't see me--

"It's caused a lot of problems in Blüdhaven, too. Refugees came pouring in, tensions are high, and of course the criminal element is taking advantage of the situation for all it's worth." His frustration was almost tangible. "Sorry, again. I deal with this stuff constantly. Would you mind if we changed subjects?"

...How did he *do* it? If I was right he'd been "dealing with this" day and night and leading the Titans, too. And I thought *I* was a workaholic? "Sure. I didn't mean--" The waitress arrived with our food and we dove in. I was relieved to see his appetite was as healthy as mine; it's embarrassing to be the only one at the table stuffing your face.

After a couple of minutes, he asked, "So what about you? Running a company must be pretty challenging."

"It's interesting. Not what I ever thought I'd be doing, but I'm enjoying it." Either he already knew or I just wanted to tell him, so I said, "QuickStart was my father's company. My dad died a couple of months ago, so I took over."

He nodded sympathetically. "I'm sorry."

"He, um..."

--threw himself into the speed force to save me from an insane speed-force ninja named Christina who was a virtual slave to an even-more-insane self-styled "god of speed" called Savitar and never came back--

"...I miss him a lot." Understatement. What was even worse, though, was how mom was at his funeral. "This is what being a costumed adventurer gets you. It gets you dead." Thanks, Libby. Way to show that support. Mom's dealing with it better now, but it's still a touchy subject.

"You were close?"

"Yeah. Closer than me and mom, really." Dad was *fun.* Spontaneous. When I was younger, he didn't think anything of ditching a day of work to take me ice-skating. He taught me to *run.* Mom is all about schedules and planning and oh, God, I'm a lot more like her than I realized. *Why* can't I be more like him?

He reached out and touched my hand. "Jesse?"

"No, it's okay, I was just thinking--" about dad instead of talking to Dick, which was the whole point of being here. "Sorry. Didn't mean to space on you."

"I understand." Something in his eyes told me he did, too, but again, I didn't want to dig up his ghosts, whatever they were. I suddenly felt like a porcupine turned loose in a subway car full of balloons, trying to feel out a topic that wouldn't get us both in trouble. And yeah, I know the joke about porcupines. *Carefully.*

But there was something I wanted to know, really the most important thing, and I had to ask.

"Dick, why did you become a cop?"

His eyes were very blue and very clear. "Because there's a job that needs to be done here, and I can do it."

I didn't doubt it for a second.

He grinned. "Besides, I thought the 'Haven needed another cop I could count on to stay honest."

"You think a lot of yourself, don't you, Grayson!"

He started, and I didn't think it had anything to do with my comment. "Whoa. Sorry, you sounded just like--someone else, for a minute there."

"Good or bad?"

"Good. Someone who usually keeps me humble with that same tone of voice."

"Let me guess, your ‘sorta' someone?"

He looked startled, then laughed. "Yeah."

"Sounds like a smart lady." I wouldn't try to guess, I just wouldn't--

"Uh-huh." Oh, he had it bad, whoever she was.

And you know, he probably had better things to do than entertain me, despite what he'd said. "Dick, I hate to say this, but I should get going."

"You're off to the airport?"

"Yep." True enough. I'd left my costume in a locker. It was a little more dignified than changing in the alley near Mr. Law's apartment.

"Let me call you a cab." Sweet. Unnecessary, but sweet. And one must keep up appearances, after all.

So it came down to that moment. I either had to confront him, or let it go. Was Dick Grayson really Nightwing?

In a very real way, it didn't matter.

The point was, Nightwing would tell me in his own time, if I earned the trust he held in the older Titans. It was *my* job to do that, not to ferret out his secrets before he wanted to share them.

And part of that trust would be not making an issue of it, here or later. Whatever the truth turned out to be.

The cab pulled up. "Good night, Dick."

"'night, Jesse. Have a safe trip."

I was good. I let the taxi take me all the way to the airport, rather than just taking off on foot. When I got to the locker where I'd stowed my costume, I was even *better* for resisting the impulse to go out into Blüdhaven and trying to find Nightwing on patrol.

I'd earn his trust if my curiosity didn't kill me first. But I thought the risk was worth it.

Time to head home.


I invoked the formula, touched the speed force...and was gone.



The details on Libby's relationship with Jon and their break-up come from "The Golden Age" by James Robinson (an *excellent* story, not to be missed if you're at all interested in DC history).

This was originally just a Jesse-meets-Dick-in-civvies idea sparked by Changeling's slip during the Titans' battle with the H.I.V.E. They had a connection in Jon Law--who really does live in Dick's apartment in the *Nightwing* comic. But Jon-Law-the-plot-device politely told me he had more to say, and he was right.

Continuity-wise this is set after the *Titans* H.I.V.E./Tartarus arc, but there's no matching *Nightwing* timing--I assume the Titans/Tartarus story takes place before Dick goes to Gotham and ends up in Babs' apartment (#38, THE issue ), because he's not all beat to hell. :::shrug::: Comic timewarp. Also, since this story was written *before* that arc was completed, additional continuity errors may appear in time.

Thanks to Carmen Williams for amazing insight and meticulous beta, KayJay and Dannell for general encouragement, DarkMark for a clever analogy, and Indigo and Matt Nute for being available to answer questions like, "What does QuickStart *do,* anyway?"

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