The air was always harder and colder the further you were from the ground. Several dozen stories up, it pushed hard against Artemis as she leaned over the edge, catching her hood and pushing it back. She hummed a little, looking down at the road below, counting the floors up along the outside of the Plaza Hotel. “Sixty four.”
She continued her counting along the 64th floor from window to window to window, that little idling tune turning into the Beatles’ classic When I’m 64. She reached back, catching the fletching from one of the arrows in the smaller section of her quiver. Her thumb felt the emboss nnock between the little faux feathers. She drew it.
“You know,” the breeze carried a rustling sound to her ear, “I know you bat-types love that sneaky sneaky stuff, but when you grow up with a canary cry calling your name, you get pretty good hearing…” She slipped the arrow against the bowstring but didn’t draw it back.
“You’re good.” Redbird holstered her tonfa. “What are you doing here?”
The arrow in her bow held its place by her fingers and the tension against the string. “Just paying an old friend a visit.” Artemis looked over her shoulder to the girl wonder, that dark ponytail draping swinging over her back as she did. There was a somewhat irritated expression that she didn’t bother much with hiding. “And something tells me you’re not in town to compare gothic skylines…”
“Yes, well,” the Girl Wonder walked up to the rooftop and pulled out her binoculars from her utility belt, “Merlin and I have a few things to discuss. If you’re a good girl I may let you ask a few questions before I take him in.”
“Gee. Can I? Thanks, Robin. That’s so kind of you. ” There was a crunching of metal as the archer’s free hand jammed the anchor into ledge. She snapped the cable attachment to the arrow in her bow.”We’ll have to see how well that plays out.” The bow made a quiet fwip and the arrow shot across the street with the cable in tow before catching above one of the windows.
“It’s Redbird.” The blonde said as she pulled a grapple line from her belt. “And try to keep up.” There was a paff and the flapping of fabric as Redbird leapt off the building. “Arrowette.”
Artemis rolled her eyes. “Don’t they teach you comebacks in Bat school?” She followed suit, hopping from the edge and catching the cable with the pully that sent her zipping across to the hotel. The angle of the line rocketed her past the swinging Girl Wonder. She caught her self against the smooth metal frame of the window by her boots, cushioning her impact. Redbird landed barely a second later. “Looks like you should’ve gone with Speedy,” she said, pulling out a glass cutter from the pouch on her thigh.
“A glass cutter? Really?” The blonde glared at Artemis. “Cute.” Redbird pulled out a small gadget about the size of a pen knife. With a graceful swish of her hand, she cut a perfect circle into the window.
“Ooo.” The archer watched with an unspoken bit of envy as her companion hid the device away and reached through the hole to open it. “A batgadget, how novel.” The pair slipped inside the hotel room one after another. Artemis tucked the zipline back into her pack before drawing a steel head arrow to her bowstring. “Do you have your bat shark repellent in there too?”
“Shut up!” Redbird snapped in a whisper. “I swear as loud as you are, he could hear you all the way in Metropolis.”
Artemis looked around the dark hotel room. It was as extravagant as it was empty, but that was what she had been hoping for. Her quarry was still two doors down. “You don’t want to know how loud I am.” She leaned into the door, peering through the little spy hole. The hall was empty. No doubt Merlin had purchased the whole floor to maintain his privacy. The League had put a lot of money into this trip.
“Come on,” She pulled the door open.
Redbird walked past Artemis and into the hall. Raising her hand to her cowl she clicked a tiny button activating her starlight lenses. No guards. That’s odd. She thought to herself as her eyes scanned the black as pitch hallway. “So Supergirl,” she kept her voice to an acidic whisper, “you hear anything?”
She paused, standing in the dark. “No…” Diana looked back the other way. While she may not have had the hearing of a Kryptonian, years of training helped her see more than she saw. “That’s not what worries me. You ever been to a hotel that kills the lights on an occupied floor? Funny way to save energy.” The only sound around them was the creaking of her bow as she drew it tight. She took a step, falling back to back with the Girl Wonder. “Somebody’s expecting company they don’t want. I don’t know if it’s us or not, but that point’s kind of moot.”
“Great.” The Girl Wonder twirled the tonfa in her hand nervously. Her eyes scanned the corridor again. There was a set of double doors across the hallway from the pair. “There.” She pointed the doors out to her reluctant partner. Then the hair stood on the back of her neck. As the blonde looked back at Artemis, a shadow moved quickly through her peripheral vision. Her head snapped toward the movement but nothing was there.
“What?” She pulled back, pulling the arrow up with her eye line. There was a faint rustle of cloth and she swung toward it, but found nothing. “Aww man… Not good.”
Taking a step back she nudged Redbird forward toward the door. “My source said room 6415. Penhouse. Is that your door?” She could feel her muscles tense expectantly as the darkness seemed to move around them. She kept her tone soft and civil, but no less urgent. “Because I really don’t think we want to dawdle around here any longer than we need to.”
Redbird just nodded. The two girls crept their way toward the door. “You got your boxing glove arrow ready?”
“Now who’s chatty?” Artemis ran her finger through the fletching of her arrow. “Just light it up,Redbird.”
With that, Redbird pulled two small spheres the size of marbles and hurled them at the door. There were two soft tinks as the spheres hit the door, then a larger explosion as the wood of the doors were split open by the explosion.
The bright flash left enough of a wake in the dark that Artemis counted the bodies in the room, “12.”and where they were moving. She let the arrow in bow fly and had already notched and released four more before it landed in the man’s shoulder. She heard him fall back over the leather sofa as the others made solid strikes. “Make that 7.”
Redbird didn’t speak. The Scarlet Squire ran head long towards the group in the room. As she got within a few feet of the closest target, she spun to the right. Dropping low; she kicked her leg out knocking the larger man off balance, while her left hand pulled a batarang out of a pouch on her belt and hurled it at another laying him low as well. Once the first target hit the ground, she slammed the tonfa in her left hand into the man’s temple with a sickening thud and a whimper of pain from the prone man.
An ocher light filled the darkened room from the flare that had lodged in the ceiling. Artemis spun round, sweeping the oncoming assailant onto his back. Her knee swiftly put him out as she reached back to her quiver to reload her bow. That was when the blur of black caught her eye. The Dark Archer.
“Merlin!” She shouted, leveling her bow. His arrow had already left its string, the blur arcing toward its moving target. She adjusted in a flash and let go. The arrowhead spun through the air severing the wooden shaft mid flight only feet before it reached Redbird.
“You’re quick little sister.” The man’s voice oozed venom. “Older brother taught you well.”
Artemis loaded two more arrows, ignoring the question raised by her companion. “You’ll find I’m full of surprises…” They whipped toward their target, but Merlin was fast. He dodged like they were moving in slow motion.
“Still much to learn, little one.” The shaft pulled back in his black bow crackled with blue light.”Things I could teach you.”
“I believe I asked a question.” Redbird threw another batarang, this time at Merlin.
As quick as lightning, Merlin turned and fired. The arrow met the batarang and exploded in blue energy. White flame caught the couch and Merlin was on the move, pressing into the pair of young heroes.
“I heard you.” She planted a foot on the endtable and sent it skipping into the assassin’s path.”Maybe you can focus on the bad guy before sticking your nose into my family tree.” As the dark archer kicked the object aside, she fired her shot.
Redbird dove out of the way allowing the endtable to miss her by inches. She scrambled back up to her feet in time to block a punch from one of Merlin’s men and return a cropping strike to the bridge of his nose, sending him crashing to the floor.
The Scarlet Squire pulled her tonfa from the holster, and charged the Dark Archer herself. She swung for Merlin’s chin, but he caught her arm easily and tossed her toward Artemis.
Artemis caught the airborn bird with a grunt. It served the very purpose he had hoped, distracting them long enough to advance. She ducked back, pushing Redbird onto her feet as the strike swung between them. The second punch came closer. She knocked it back with her bracer, and swung back furiously. Hearing his laugh only brought out more of that fury.
Merlin dodged and parried waiting for his moment. When it came, he took it. Fast and hard his foot planted into the girl’s chest, and she slammed back into the wall. “Death comes calling, little one.”
Redbird’s teeth nashed. She swung wildly at Merlin, but the Dark Archer easily evaded. “Does your father know you are here little girl? Oh wait, your father is dead. The Devil’s Head made sure of that.”
“You bastard!”. The Girl Wonder screamed with anger. She charged Merlin like a caged animal.
“I can see why the master wanted you. You have potential little bird.”. He grinned as he rapped his knuckles against her face sending her sprawling against the floor. “I shall enjoy taking your heart back to the master.”
An arrow ripped past him, barely grazing his shoulder before lodging in the far wall. “Keep dreaming, Merlin.”
He jumped back, loading his bow with several glowing shots from his quiver. The spread was precise and his shot so quick that the teen huntress knew instantly that she couldn’t dodge them all.
Her arrowhead split the one aimed for the kill, and its explosion took out out the two beside it. It was the sort of luck you couldn’t count on to save your life but were grateful for each time it found you. She flipped back, letting another miss, but it was the last she couldn’t avoid. The arrow sunk into her thigh with a piercing pain. That was nothing compared to the arc of electricity that shot through her body on impact.
“AARGHH!” Her frame shook and dropped to her knees. She grit her teeth and gripped her bow, struggling and failing to maintain consciousness.
Redbird wiped the blood from her lip. “Artemis!” The blond pulled herself back up. As she did, she threw another batarang at Merlin.
the Dark Archer easily deflected the weapon. “I would love to stay an finish this, but I must report back to my master. For now I will have to say good bye.”. He nocked another arrow. This time the head glowed with a sickeningly green energy.
He leveled the arrow at Redbird then smiled. He jerked the bow towards the floor,and let go of the arrow. The room was filled with a terrible green smoke, the choked the air from the girls’ lungs.
Coughing, Redbird pulled two rebreathers out of her utility belt. Slipping one into her own mouth, She put the other in Artemis’s. “Come on, wake up.” She shook the young archer trying to wake her. Finally, she pulled the archer into the hallway and clear of the green smoke.
Pulling the rebreather out of her mouth, Redbird shook Artemis again. “Wake up damn it! He’s getting away!”
Artemis stirred slightly, “Now who’s the loud one?” She said groggily, a hint of a smile on her face. Artemis looked down at the arrow in her leg. “A little help?”
“You’re kidding right?”
“Really?” Her head cocked to one side.
Redbird swallowed hard. “Fine. What do I do?”
“Pull it out?” Artemis smired. “Just a guess. And hurry.”
Redbird’s fingers curled around the arrow and pulled. Artemis grunted with pain as the arrowhead pulled free.
Pulling some bandages and a compress out of her belt, the Girl Wonder field dressed the wound.”You stay here, I’m going after Merlin.”
“LIke hell,” the Teen Huntress said as she pulled her self wincing to her feet. “I’m going.”
“You just had an arrow in your leg!” Redbird argued. “I know, I just pulled it out.”
“And I’m grateful,” Artemis grumbled, “but I am not letting him get away.”