Damage Control

by K. Nwaneri

It was a bright and early Saturday morning in Gotham City, too early for Jennica Spencer to be awake, much less looking for her missing left shoe. "Where is the darn thing," she muttered to herself as she dropped to her knees and felt around for her tennis shoe under the bed. She had hoped that a hot shower could jolt her awake, but no such luck. She found her shoe just as she was beginning to lose her temper and quickly pulled it on. She was going to be late for work if she didn't hurry. Jennica was an intern photographer for the Gotham Gazette and her boss had already given her two warning slips with a promise that the next time he wouldn't be so forgiving. After brushing her shoulder length hair in the mirror she ran into the hall of her small brownstone apartment and out the door, dragging her bike alongside her. As she headed towards work, she wondered what had brought her all the way from dry, conservative Lubbock, Texas to the infamously dangerous East coast of the U.S.; to Gotham City. For as long as she could remember, it had always been her dream to become a photographer; the best photographer. And not just any photographer either. She wanted to be the next Jimmy Olsen, capturing the graceful dance superheroes performed in conjunction with their combatants.

She wanted to be better a photographer than even her idol, Donna Troy. Jennica practically drooled at the sight of Donna's work, from breathtaking shots of Titans Tower in the 80's to debonair portfolios of some of the most popular models of that time, including the exotic Teen Titan Starfire and enigmatic Robin. She'd had the opportunity to meet Donna Troy in New York last year at a Photographer's Expose, but lately it seemed as if the prominent ex-Titan had dropped off the face of the Earth.. She turned left on Main St. and rode on for five blocks, finally arriving at the Gotham Gazette Press, suprisingly on time.

As she locked her bike, Jennica looked down an adjacent street where she was able to see the reconstruction being done on the left side of city hall. She could remember two nights ago when she and a few others, mostly columnists, were dragging about through the office after-hours and seeing bright flashing lights illuminating the entire block. She remembered the tremors that shook the 12 story building and the screaming onlookers rushing to safety. . . .

* * *

Instinctively, she grabbed her camera and headed for the scene of the incident. All she had to do to find her way was run against the panicking Gothamites and towards the area that was brightest. By the time she got there, half of city hall was dust. The lights were getting too bright so she reached into her vest pocket and pulled out the sunglasses she'd thought she'd misplaced. The source of the intense, crystal light was what looked like a teenaged boy. He was glowing so brightly, that one could only make out his outline. Despite the difficulty of looking at the figure, Jennica let her camera click away as the seeming fight carried on. But who was he fighting? For some reason, he began to power down and his form was easier to acertain. He continued to power down until there was only a corona of blue cascading fire surrounding his hands. He folded his arms and smiled for the camera. Jennica could have sworn he was looking right at her through her lens. He was quite handsome with brown hair that reached to the end of his neck, his bangs occasionally swept back over his head by the wind. He was about six feet tall, clad in blue jeans with brown boots. His shirt was blue with what seemed like a yellow radion symbol that circled around him. He also wore brown leather wristbands with which he wiped the sweat from his brow.

"What is that whistling sound," an onlooker said, looking up into the sky curiously. Jennica and the small crowd followed his gaze, looking up into the night sky in bewilderment. She quickly adjusted her camera and began shooting. The bright meteorite was coming closer and closer and. . .screaming?

Whatever, or whoever it was, landed with such a jarring impact that not only was everyone in the area forcibly thrown to the ground, but also every window south of Main St. was shattered. But even worse, Jennica's camera was also shattered. That meant no pictures for the Gazette. The boss was gonna hit the fan.

"Lem diku yon drup." That was all she was capable of hearing, the exploding sound of the meteorite still ringing in her ears. "What did you say," she asked, even as a gloved hand helped her to her feet.

"I said let me help you up," She could hear a little better and looked up to thank her aide. "Robin!"

The young avenger pulled Jennica to her feet with suprising strength. He was much shorter than she was, as she stood at five feet eleven inches. He had to be at least five feet exactly. He was fully clad in the familiar, but slightly 90's-ish Robin armor. It wasn't like the slightly campy one she'd known from the 80's. This one actually covered his well muscled legs, shamefully. When she was younger, she'd been heads over heels in love with the first of three Robins and the best part of his body besides his maked face were his legs. It seemed as she got older, the Robins got younger. Now, as a college senior, it wasn't exactly legal for her to pursue that long ago desire to be the Robin's girlfriend. She sighed. The superwomen of the world were lucky. Their men had always been gorgeous, from Aquaman to Superman.

Robin looked at her curiously. "Are you all right, ma'am?"

What did he call me? Ma'am? How young is he? The thoughts came into her head somewhat instinctively. She rubbed her cheek. "Yes. I'm fine. Thank you. When did you get here?"

"We started on our way here as soon as we saw the flashing lights and the fireball in the sky," he replied.

"We?" she asked.

"Batman and I," Robin said casually.

"Of course. Where is he?"

"Up there."

Jennica looked up around the building tops until her eyes fell on the completely black figure standing on top of the Gotham Gazette building. The lights on the roof of the building made his silhouette clear. That had to be Batman. It seemed as if he looked directly at her, reaching out coldly to her with those blank eyes. Then he ran from the edge of the building with an eery speed. Why did she suddenly feel as if she were in that movie Scream, where the serial killer with the terrifying mask looks you in the eye from a balcony, then deliberately runs down the stairs to come for you. I better stick close to Robin, she thought. But the Boy Wonder had left her side, helping others up as he made his way to the other teenager who'd been at the center of this melee.

Jennica couldn't help but wonder if she heard police sirens approaching in the distance. Where the heck had the GCPD been all this time? Metahumans in Gotham weren't a common event, nor a welcome one. Jennica ran to catch up with Robin.

The metahuman teenager flashed amazingly white teeth in their direction. "Hey Robbie!!" he greeted. "How's it goin' pal?"

Robin didn't return the smile or the enthusiasm. "Damage," he said sternly. "What the heck are you doing in Gotham?"

"Hey, it's not my fault. He's the one who hit me over here. I just finished what he started."

Damage pointed to the still unconscious figure lying in the crater. Jennica took a peek, and saw a blue-skinned creature with the brightest blond hair she'd ever seen. The police began to secure the area and shuffle the spectators away from the scene. Paramedics aided those who complained of head and ear aches.

Robin joined Jennica at the edge of the crater and looked inside. "Who is that?"

"He calls himself Loose Canon," Damage answered mockingly. "We were fighting in the sky over Warrior's Bar in New York. He punched me straight out of the Big Apple into Gotham City. That's when I got mad and sent him into orbit." Damage chuckled.

"This isn't a laughing matter," Robin retorted. "Hundreds of people could've been hurt, killed! The next time you want to show off your light show, keep it in New York or take it to Metropolis where it's common."

Damage was taken aback. "What's your problem, shorty?"

"My problem is that you metas are so into the high you get from your powers, you fail to see the damage, pun intended, of your actions."

Jennica cut in. "What were you guys fighting about anyway?"

Damage watched as 10 policemen dragged Loose Canon from the crater. He heard mention of the Slab. The trio began walking towards the nearest alley. As Jennica waited for Damage's explanation, she wondered why the police weren't stopping him for questions.

"Uhhhhh. Hmmmmm. Heh, heh. Well. . .ummm. . .what do you know? I. . .I can't remember."

"You can't remember?!" Robin looked him up and down.

Jennica rolled her eyes. "Men! Leave it to them wreck half a block and forget why they're doing it."

"You better get out of Gotham, Damage and fast!" Robin turned to leave.

Damage's face turned red with anger and his hands began to glow. "This is a free country! I can go where I want, when I want as long as I want! Like I said, I came here by accident. But from the looks of this city, you guys could use more metas."

Robin turned to face him. "You've got alot to learn," he said evenly. "We heroes of Gotham don't have powers but we manage to fight crime without destroying property. Now that you've hit town, we're left with your mess and you get off without questioning. You better make tracks before a certain someone decides to rain on your parade. And he'll see to it that you spend nine months in the Slab."

Jennica remembered the Slab was the facility that held dangerous metahumans out on Stryker's Island not far from Metropolis.

Damage relented. "Fine. I'm out of here." As the trio left the dark alley, Jennica thought she'd heard a soft rustling sound. As they came out into the lighted streets, where police were still clearing the area, she took another look behind her and saw the billowing ends of Batman's cape sticking out of the darkness. She blinked and he was gone. Damage took to the air, the energy from his hands propelling him into the night sky. Jennica watched him blend into the distant night lights of the cityscape.

"Well, that was pretty interesting, " she commented to Robin, but he too had also departed.

* * *

"JENNICA!!! WAKE UP!!" Her boss's voice exploded through her wandering mind. She must have really been caught up in her memories. She didn't remember making her way into the building and into the staff lounge room.

"Hey chief! What's up?"

John Stanley used his rolled up newspaper to swat Jennica's feet off the table where she'd propped them. "Where do you think you're at? The Daily Planet? Don't call me chief! Now pack your things--"

"Boss!" Jennica jumped to her feet. "I wasn't that late! This isn't fair!"

"Why don't you let me finish, huh?" Stanley moved to the coffee machine.

"Pack your bags for a trip to Hawaii."

"Really? Hawaii?" Jennica hopped up and down with gleeful excitement.

"If I'm interrupted once more---"

"Okay, okay. I'm listening!"

"Teen Beat's seen your work. They liked your shots of various teenaged superheroes and wondered if we'd lend you to them for a week. I agreed. So you'll be covering the Superboy/Impulse charity race in two days. Knock 'em dead."

John stalked out of the lounge room, leaving Jennica to happily contemplate her first assigned superhero photo shoot. She smiled to herself as she gathered her things. "Donna Troy, eat your heart out! Hawaii, here I come!"

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