The Joke's On You
The Joke's On You
Alfred quickly shuffled Xander off to get cleaned up and dressed in clothes that weren't stained with human blood. He'd trained Master Bruce well enough for him to know that his uniform was not welcome at the table, so he did not need to 'help' him.
Bruce was getting dressed in some semi-formal clothes, suitable for dinner with friends while the Bat was complaining that something didn't sound right. Bruce pushed aside the Bat's paranoia; he'd have to come up with something a bit more convincing if he expected Bruce to give up one of Alfred's special dinners.
Once Xander was dressed, Alfred quietly slipped a capsule into his pocket. “This is a variation of Smilex Gas, that will effect the Joker and Harley specifically, given what I know of their habits. The range is a little over three feet in each direction from where it’s broken, so you can target the Joker alone without affecting anyone else.”
“I have silenced Master Bruce's police scanner for the moment. So if the Joker and Harley commit a crime in Gotham, which word on the streets says they will, I'll be able to give you a small lead time until it’s reported by the local news media or one of his other sources. I have one of the Bat Cycles out front under a tarp. The activation phrase is Jokers Wild,” Alfred explained, giving Xander a quick rundown on what he'd planned out while Xander was gone.
“One problem,” Xander interrupted. “I don't know how to drive a motorcycle, much less a Bat Cycle.”
“It drives itself, in fact with the number of modifications it has on it the only person who could control it better than it controls itself is the Flash, thanks to his superior reflexes.”
“You give me the high sign when its time, I step outside and let the cycle do the rest, then I break the capsule within three feet of the Joker – preferably when Harley is at least a dozen feet away. Seems simple enough.”
“Simple in theory, yes, but remember you'll be facing the Joker and that's never a simple matter.”
Xander thought of all the things he'd faced before and compared them to the green haired lunatic. “He's slower and weaker than anything I've faced before with the added bonus that nothing he does is likely to be all that surprising. I mean, after facing things that sneeze quick drying concrete or can make you face your greatest fears – he comes off as a bit predictable.”
“Nevertheless, do be careful and remember to inject yourself with the antidote if you get gassed. The cycle will have enough antidote to treat a dozen people, simply ask and the cycle will provide it.”
“Excellent, I have only one question.”
“How do we keep Bruce from finding out?”
“What makes you think he doesn't know already? I ran him through all the double O training courses until he could do them blindfolded, then I developed more complex and challenging ones based on them. Likely, Master Bruce already knows what we are planning and is simply biding his time to counter whatever we have planned. Our only advantage is that he will have to react to our plan so we get the first move.”
“Checkmate in one.” Xander grinned.
“Exactly. Our plans are quite simple, unlike the highly complex ones he's used to countering, no clues written in riddles or things to plan for, one swing and the job is done.”
“So with all those advantages … say 50/50?”
“More like 70/30 and not in our favor unfortunately.”
Xander shrugged. “I've faced worse odds and a 1 in 3 chance to keep Babs from getting paralyzed from the waist down and Robin from being tortured and made into the thing he hates... Well I'll just have to do it again and again until it takes.”
“An admirable sentiment. Now let’s see about dinner.”
* * *
“Hi, I'm John Clayton and I'll be your rookie for the day,” the dark haired man said as he climbed into the back of the armored van, wearing his new gray and black, Rapid Response uniform.
“Hi rookie,” the three people in back and the driver in front called out.
“Did you guys practice that?” he asked suspiciously.
“No, why do you ask?” came the chorus.
“Seriously, that's really spooky.”
“Thanks,” the four said.
“I've just been transferred over to you guys. The chief said I'd fit in better here than in the department,” he explained.
“Ah, then I guess we can let up on screwing with you. Just remember if this works out, we have a 45 page book for you to memorize,” a young woman with pink hair said.
“Oh, unit regs?”
“No, the unit regs are about ten pages long and half that is the coloring section,” grinned the man who'd been helping the pink haired woman disarm a digital arming device. “I'm James Lupin, I specialize in anything that goes boom and I carry a freeze ray.” He slapped the futuristic pistol at his hip. “Call me James.”
“Are you serious?”
“No, and don't ask if he's Remus' cousin either. That joke went stale long ago,” the red haired woman leaning on his shoulder answered. “Jessica Weasley, sniper and I wear the Chameleon armor. Call me Jesse.”
The pink haired woman spoke up quickly, “I don't want to hear any Tonks jokes either, in fact its best to avoid any mention of Harry Potter at all. I'm Susan Wentworth, no specialty as of yet, more of a Jill-of-all-trades. Call me Susie Q.”
The bald headed man wearing a long black leather trench in the front seat who sat sideways sipping coffee spoke up, “I am Jeffrey Shacklebolt, team leader and group telepath. Not only are Harry Potter jokes not tolerated, I'd appreciate it if you refrained from any Matrix jokes. Call me Nemo, not I repeat, not, Morpheus.”
“How about Neo then?” John asked.
Amidst the laughter Nemo groaned out, “Well, it looks like you'll fit in here quite well.”
“So how much of that introduction was true and how much jokes?” he asked curiously.
“It was all true,” Nemo assured him.
John looked at him skeptically. “What am I thinking then?”
“About having sex with Susie,” Nemo replied.
John laughed. “You had me going for a second there.”
“Sorry, that was me,” James said, raising his hand.
Jesse leaned forward and kissed James. “Good covering for me, hon.”
Susie just rolled her eyes.
“What is our fraternization policy?” John asked curiously, “Not that I was thinking of having sex with Susie – although, now I am.”
Nemo grinned. “You have to buy them dinner first and fast food doesn't count. It’s on page four of the manual.”
“Wow, who wrote your charter?”
“We did,” Jesse said, “and if it weren't for the statute, saying team regs had to be at least 10 pages long, we wouldn't have added the coloring section.”
John was honestly stunned. “How did you manage to get away with that?”
Nemo shrugged. “We have the most dangerous job on the force. The shrinks, who try and keep the police from mass suiciding, said that in their professional opinion you'd have to be insane to sign up for our job, so the best thing to do was find the most functionally insane people on the force and give them free range. When a city statute was added to allow independent police forces 'aka vigilantes' to claim the high tech or magical gear from super villains so they'd have a harder time liberating their gear, we quietly co-opted it. James has some freeze guns he snagged from the last time Mr. Freeze was in town, Jesse got a set of Chameleon Armor from our run in with some race of Mantis aliens and we don't even know if they were hostile.”
James grinned. “Jesse hates bugs, so she ran into a grocery store the moment she saw them. We thought she'd snapped and ran away because of some phobia. So there we were, standing there staring at a pair of seven foot tall alien praying mantises in high tech armor, wondering what we were supposed to do, because our sniper had run off and they hadn't made any hostile moves yet. When she comes out of the store, yelling like she’s the last of the Mohicans, wearing a backpack sprayer filled with insecticide and starts hosing them down, all the while laughing madly.”
“About this time everyone is staring at her in shock, when the bugs start scratching themselves,” Nemo continued. “The next thing you know, they're stripping down and running back to their ship.”
Jesse shrugged while everyone laughed. “Turns out our insecticides are like poison ivy to them, one of them pulled the sprayer off me – grabbed its partner, ran back to their ship and left. I kept the armor as spoils of war.”
Jesse winked at John and her RRT outfit rippled and changed into a Super Girl outfit, then into a set of medieval armor, before returning to an RRT outfit once more.
Nemo grinned. “We have an extra set, but you have to be a master at Tetris to make it work for you, since it’s mentally activated and you have to build everything, piece by piece in your mind, in a matter of seconds.”
“I'm not that good at Tetris, I always preferred first person shooters,” John said.
Susie nodded. “Yeah, that's pretty much the case with the rest of us.”
“As for myself,” Nemo said, “I ran into a thief who wore a magical trenchcoat, that made impenetrable armor, because it was soaked in the river Lethe in Hades, but the side effect is that when worn, it made people forget you were there after a couple of seconds. The only exceptions being people who are off their rocker or empowered in some way.”
“If it was impenetrable and made people forget you, how did you get it off him?” John asked.
“Right cross to the chin, since it doesn't cover the head at all and since I'm a telepath and he wasn't, it couldn't make me forget he was there. He'd rob a place, then wait for the effects to kick in and since anyone new on the scene would take their cues from the crowd, he got overlooked a lot, as you could imagine, and even when inspected he just had to get them listening while he told some long boring story and they'd wander off after a few seconds. Of course on me the effects are slightly more pronounced, because it works based on the senses of the wearer and my telepathic senses have turned it into a block wide, notice-me-not field, that works on the average Joe.”
Nemo looked at John intently. “So, what’s my name?”
“Jeffrey Shacklebolt,” John replied, not getting what Nemo was trying to point out.
“So are you empowered or just insane?” Susie asked with a grin.
“Empowered,” John stuttered out nervously.
“Tell us about it,” Nemo ordered.
John winced “It’s not the most useful empowerment, let me tell you that upfront. I was at Star Labs delivering some glowing rocks to them, when a scientist pulled me in, saying he detected a surge from the dimensional wall allowing a higher being to pass onto our plane and that he had exactly three minutes in which he could use the echo of its arrival to give me a weaker copy of its powers... He said it was all theoretical, but I would be serving humanity and getting powers for doing so. How could I say no?”
Susie laughed while the others just grinned. “I'll tell you about my enhancement when you finish, just so you know, mine wasn't exactly some great deal either.”
John smiled at her, feeling a bit better. “Well we did the tests and I got a slight increase in my senses, strength, speed and healing, but just exercising a bit more would probably have the same effect and I also got …” he blushed and tried to figure out how to explain it so it didn't sound funny.
“Yes?” Susie leaned forward.
John sighed and licked his forehead before covering his mouth and nose and just sitting there.
Jesse was the first one to get it, when she saw the hair over his ears moving. “A sixteen inch tongue and the ability to breathe through your ears?!”
“Damn!” James exclaimed. “Can the Doc do it again? That's a power I'd love to have, come to think of it, I'd love Jesse to have that power!”
John relaxed when he saw that the group wasn't going to make fun of him for it. “Breathing through the ears isn't all that useful, especially if you're talking about oral sex. What’s one of the things women love to do when you're down there?”
“Ah...” Nemo nodded. “Clamp their legs around your head, blocking your ears.”
“Not to mention I have to wear ear plugs when I go swimming or wear a gas mask,” he pointed out.
“Still you've got to be happy with the tongue,” Jesse said.
“True,” he admitted, “but it was kinda a letdown otherwise, I mean I was supposed to get this great set of powers and instead, I get a bad bar joke.”
“At least you got something useful to go with the useless part of it.” Susie sighed. “Let me tell you about my empowerment – I had latent metagenes that were discovered by the scientists at Star Labs, while checking for those white martians and like you, they offered me a chance to get some 'fabulous powers', but like you they turned out to be duds. The gene sequence told them it had something to do with healing. So I figured, Wolverine. Powers like that would be great. Unfortunately it was not to be, I ended up with pink hair and this,” Susie said and cut off a lock of hair with a knife before handing it to John. “Eat it.”
“Eat it, I'm not joking.”
Nemo nodded. “She's serious, eat the hair.”
John shrugged. “Well, wouldn't be the first weird thing my coworkers have talked me into eating,” he said before eating the hair with a contemplative look on his face. “Not bad, tastes a little like cotton candy.”
“Yep, cures headaches and hangovers... Some great power huh?!” Susie snorted.
“So is it only the hair on your head?” John asked.
“Well I left after they discovered no major physical changes, except that and its effects.”
“So you don't know if your toenails cure cancer or if your pubic hair or fluids could cure third degree burns?” John asked.
Susie shrugged. “Never occurred to me to check.”
“Now that's the kind of innovative thinking this team needs!” James proclaimed. “The next time I get wounded we'll have to check it out in the name of science!”
“Just as long as it’s after the battle,” Nemo reminded him. “You and Jesse flirt with our fraternization policy enough as it is.”
“Hah! I knew it wasn't you had to buy them dinner first.” John laughed.
Everyone looked at him and spoke in chorus again, “Yes it is, however there is also a rule about not having sex during battle... Unless you're in some complicated death trap you have no chance of escaping, then you can ignore the rules.”
“How do you guys do that?!”
“Nemo is a group telepath, but first you have to be part of the group. The forty five page manual is all about in jokes and anniversaries and such. It’s not some fantastic power, but it’s very useful in battle,” they chorused.
* * *
Wesley woke up with his head pounding. He tried to sit up, but found he lacked the strength – it was like all his limbs were pinned down. His brief fear that the Mayor had tracked him down, knocked him out and paralyzed him, to torture for information, was proven incorrect when he found he could wiggle his fingers. The groans of the slowly waking girls, because of where his fingers were when he wiggled them, however made him wish his first guess was correct. Because he was fairly sure that, despite his century of experience, the Mayor would be far less creative with the tortures before he killed him than the girls would.
“Wes?” Faith's sleepy voice came from his left shoulder.
“Yes?” he said calmly, figuring he might as well relax before his impending doom.
“Can you stop moving your hand? Not that I mind a little early morning enthusiasm, but I need a little more sleep first or some coffee,” Faith said sleepily.
“I would, but I can't seem to move.”
“Coffee sounds nice,” Cordy said, “but I need a hot shower and soap before any enthusiasm will be provided.”
“Why can't I move?”
“Because you make an excellent pillow?” Cordy ventured.
“I think it’s because we got you tied down,” Faith voiced.
“And the reason I can't see?”
“Blindfold,” the two chorused.
“I see, or rather I don't. Can I get a quick explanation?”
“Alcohol, Vegas, Bank Job, Marriage, Kinky Sex,” Faith said, beginning to wake up.
“We work in a Bank?” Cordy asked, sounding a bit upset.
“For precisely seven minutes, you just drove the getaway car,” Faith said as all three of them were suddenly shocked awake by her words.
“Getaway car?!” they chorused.
* * *
“They still haven't shown up?” Buffy asked.
“No, I'm afraid the three of them are still gone. I'd be more concerned, but I received a call from them last night sometime, saying they were having a wonderful time and were glad we weren't there.”
“Glad we weren't there?”
“They were drunk and they all agreed that they were glad that we were guarding the Hellmouth. They said they wouldn't feel anywhere near as safe with any other group doing the job. Wesley even said I made him proud to be British, but with more hair and told me where he kept his Everclear stashed.”
“Well that's good, I guess. I was a little worried that there were some hard feelings and you can get rid of the alcohol stash, so he can act normal when they get back.”
“Consider it disposed of,” Giles said firmly.
“Does that mean you've already poured it out or that you've hidden it somewhere that he can't find it?” Buffy asked suspiciously.
“Buffy, I said consider it taken care of. I think, considering I've been your watcher, lo these many years, I'd have earned at least a little of your trust,” Giles said, sounding slightly offended.
“Sorry Giles, I didn't mean to make it sound like I didn't trust you. It’s just, that stuff is really flammable and I worry,” Buffy said apologetically.
“Then I'll take no offense,” Giles said kindly, as he escorted Buffy out the door of his apartment. “Willow and Oz are heading out to LA today to check some leads. Why not join them as some added protection?”
“Ooh! And I hear they have shoe stores in LA,” Buffy said brightly. “It’s only a rumor, but I might want to check that out. You know, rather than searching for hidden caches of alcohol.”
Giles blushed, knowing he'd been caught. “Umm, yes, I think that's a marvelous idea. Here's sixty for a pair of boots, low heel, steel shank, dark. You know, something a Slayer would find comfortable to use. So she wouldn't ruin any of her favorite footwear.”
“Best Watcher Ever!” Buffy said proudly, hugging Giles before heading out the door.
“Yes, quite,” Giles agreed, rather proud of his charge for seeing right through him.
Giles sighed as the door closed behind her. “Tie my casting power into how drunk I am, Ethan said. You're always tanked anyway, Robert said. That was true enough or I'd never have agreed with them...”AN: Thank godogma for his excellent typing skills, people!