tagCelebritiesBirds in the Hand

Birds in the Hand

byMild Mannered Author©

Please consider the following:

1) The following is a work of erotic fiction. Those under 18 (or whatever is the age of majority in your jurisdiction) should stop reading now.

2) This story contains characters and settings copyrighted by DC Comics. This story should be considered a parody of those characters and settings. It is also distributed free of charge and is a non-commercial enterprise; the author derives no profit from its distribution. No copyright infringement is intended.

3) This story contains depictions of sex as a healthy, non-degrading activity that consenting adults engage in for fun and pleasure. Those who prefer their depictions of sex to be debased should go find something else to read: this being the Internet, you shouldn't have to look hard.

4) Like all my stories to date, this one uses the TV show Justice League Unlimited and its ancestors as its model, though some elements are borrowed from Gail Simone's excellent run on the Birds of Prey comic book: in particular the Birds' costumes and tendency to banter. On the show Barbara Gordon is still Batgirl, so in this story the Martian Manhunter and the League fill the role that Oracle plays in the comics. The Thaumaturge is an original creation; I wanted a male magician, and Dr. Fate just didn't fit.

5) Stories like this take time and effort to write (only now as I write the header do I realize it's been a year since my last effort). The chief reward an author receives for this labour is the knowledge that other people have found them good. If you enjoyed this story, or if you have constructive criticism, please drop me a line at the link below and let me know. The more feedback I receive, the more likely it is I'll keep writing new stories.

******

The smugglers didn't see it coming.

They had docked their ship at an empty berth on Pier Twenty-Seven. Moving swiftly and quietly, they split into two groups. One began carrying crates out of the hold, down the gangplank, and across the dock into a decrepit warehouse. The other group fanned out, pistols at the ready, watching for any intruders. The moonlight glinted off of the guards' gun barrels; the wind ruffled their jackets and caps. Coming off of Gotham Sound this late at night, the wind was fast and cold, like an icy razor. These men were unfazed, though. They were professionals, and so despite the fact that the job was nearly done, they remained intent on their task. It would only take moments to unload the ship, and then they could disappear. They were only employed to bring the drugs into the city; distributing them from that point was someone else's affair.

Suddenly one guard cried out, dropping his pistol with a clatter. The others turned, startled. His gun hand had sprouted a wooden shaft. With a hiss a second bolt sped out of the darkness, impaling another man's hand. Caught flat-footed, it wasn't until a third smuggler lost his gun that they began to take action.

"Can't see him! Can't see him!"

"Down! Take cover!"

"There! There! In the alley!"

A fusillade of shots rang out as the remaining guards fired blindly into the alley's mouth. Between the roar of the pistols and the screams of the wounded, the crate-carrying smugglers, terrified at the sudden cacophony, had dropped their cargo. The smart ones, knowing that the deal had gone bad, ran into the night. They wouldn't get paid, but they wouldn't go to jail either. Others, less bright or less present of mind, retreated backwards, out of the crossfire, onto the ship.

A new sound erupted, burying the others. From below the dock came an unearthly scream. With a muffled BOOM the sonic wave blasted into the side of the ship. The boat lurched onto its side and began to list in the water. The ropes tethering it to the dock began to snap and the gangplank, unmoored, fell into the black waves.

The gunmen on the dock, already reeling, were now paralyzed with fear. Torn between watching behind them for whatever had crippled their ship and in front of them for whoever was shooting bolts at them, they completely missed the small sphere that rolled out of the alley, along the dock, into their midst. It exploded in a burst of light. Staggering and blinded, the smugglers didn't see the blows land, but only felt them; a quick, sudden strike to the neck or head, and they were unconscious. It was only afterwards, when they came to in police custody, that they found out what had happened. Their compatriots, rescued from the sinking boat by the Gotham P.D., had worked it out. They had fallen victim to the Birds of Prey.

*****

"Thanks for the lift, hon," shouted the Black Canary, straining to be heard over the roar of the motorcycle. Her blonde hair, tied back into a ponytail, whipped in the wind.

"My pleasure. You're paying for the gas, though," yelled the Huntress in reply.

"Cheapskate!"

"Do you know what teachers make these days?"

The motorcycle's roar settled into a growl and finally a purr as the Huntress brought the bike to a halt in front of a florist's shop, which was shuttered and grilled for the evening. As she turned off the ignition the Canary, impatient, made an acrobatic dismount.

"Still full of piss and vinegar, I see."

The blonde woman shrugged. "Well, you didn't leave me very much to do. Just park myself under the dock until you went after them, than disable the boat with my canary cry. By the time I got topside again, your flash grenade and your fists had already taken most of them out."

"Oh, don't whine. You got your share." The wind, less painful in the interior than right by the Sound, twisted and rippled the brunette's cape. She opened her mouth to make a quip, but paused. Dinah seemed her usual jovial self, but Helena knew her well enough to recognize the façade. Beneath it she was hurting. Helena thought better of making a gibe.

"Canary, listen. I know I don't usually say things like this, but… thanks for the assist tonight. I appreciate it."

"Can it, will you? You and I both know you didn't need me just to bust up some drug runners. You could have handed this on your own."

Dinah stared at her friend, challenging her. Helena met her gaze, but said nothing.

"Let's not kid ourselves. You wanted to help me get my mind off of Ollie."

Helena didn't say anything for a moment. Finally, she sighed and looked at the pavement. "Yeah, you got me." Idly she fiddled with her mask. "You're the strongest person I know, but you've been so down ever since the break-up. I guess I thought that... since I don't normally ask for help... if I did this time, you might…"

"I appreciate the thought, but it's not necessary. I'm doing okay. It's not like he hasn't cheated before, so I'm used to it, all right? We're through, but I'm not angry with him… or with me. It just wasn't going to work out. Now we both know it. I'm fine. Really. Fine."

"Uh huh." Helena's face was unreadable.

Dinah mustered up a smile. "Sure. Anyway, thanks for the lift. I'm parked around back. I'll be in the shop for the next few days, so... We'll talk later, 'kay? This wind isn't doing me—" she gestured at the fishnet stockings on her legs—"or you—" she gestured at Helena's exposed legs and stomach—"any good."

Dinah had already disappeared into the alley when Helena called out "Canary!"

Dinah poked her head around the corner. "What is it?"

"I've got something else to do. You might want to tag along."

"The last thing I need is to drive around with you on patrol. I've kicked enough thugs and gotten enough insects in my teeth for one evening."

"It's not patrol. It's something else. A League assignment. One of the… special League assignments. And since you're free now, and you're doing fine…"

*****

The transport beam dazzled Dinah's eyes. As her vision returned, she reflexively went into a combat stance. They had materialized in a dark alley. Alleys were the same everywhere, she had found—same litter, debris, and foul smells of ordure and urine—but the warm, humid air was enough to tell her, if she hadn't known already, they weren't in Gotham anymore, but rather in San Diego. Huh. I had to pick a line of work where I spend so much time hanging around in alleys I can recognize the city from them.

Seeing they were alone, Dinah relaxed. "I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't believe you're doing this."

"Mmm." Helena didn't reply. She folded up her JLA transponder, which she had used to signal the Watchtower, and tucked it into one of the pockets on her belt. The Manhunter had been expecting her signal, and hadn't bothered to bring the two of them to the satellite; he had instead beamed them up and then directly down to California. It had seemed an uninterrupted trip.

"No, really. I want to know. This just doesn't seem to be in your line. Why not Zatanna, or Supergirl, or even Wonder Woman?" Even though they were alone, Dinah used code names instead of real names. It was a habit one learned early in the capes-and-costumes game.

"Quid pro quo. If you get, you gotta give."

"No! You? And you never told me? Come on, spill. I want details."

Helena averted her gaze. Gritting her teeth, she muttered "Later. Let's just do this, okay?"

"All right, I'll let it drop, for now. You're going to have to come up with the goods soon, though..."

Not bothering to suppress a grin, Black Canary sauntered out of the alley, followed closely by a sulking Huntress. It was a few hours earlier in San Diego: just past midnight, local time. Even so, this block, quiet and residential, was empty of pedestrians. Arms akimbo, Dinah surveyed the scene. It was nice. Trees lined the sidewalk, and the buildings, low-rise apartment houses, were older but well maintained. "You sure you have the right address? The atmosphere doesn't seem right. It's less Mean Streets and more Clean Streets."

"Oh, the address is right. I made sure of that... he doesn't know we're coming, so I couldn't very well call ahead."

"He doesn't know?"

"That's right." Helena's bad mood fell away. Now she smiled, her dark eyes flashing. "That's why I took this one. The surprise will make it all worthwhile." Standing straight, she pulled her cape around her. "Come on, let's go."

The two darted quickly and purposefully across the street to the low-rise opposite. It was a long-standing modus operandi for both of them. It was true that sudden movement might startle or concern any onlookers, but walking slowly and nonchalantly would attract even more attention. Experience said that when people caught glimpses of a blonde in a leather corset and fishnet stockings, or a brunette in a mask, cape, halter-top, tights, and boots, all purple, they stopped whatever they were doing to gape.

Swiftly, the pair navigated the alley around back to the parking lot. Helena, without speaking, pointed at a particular balcony on the top floor, three flights up. Pulling out a zip line, she loaded it into her crossbow, aimed, and fired. The bolt extended grapples as it flew and hooked with a clang onto the balcony rail. Helena took hold of the cable that had uncoiled in its wake. Tugging it to ensure the hold was tight, she swiftly scaled the side of the building and jumped onto the balcony, Dinah close behind. They held their position silently for a moment, listening; after a moment, they relaxed. Experience also said that if anyone had seen them, they'd have yelled.

"Next time you need me to climb a zip line, let me know in advance. I'll bring gloves," muttered Dinah, rubbing her palms. Her martial arts training had left her with enough calluses that the ascent hadn't cut her, but her hands stung nonetheless.

"Shh! Crybaby..." muttered Helena. She gestured toward the lock on the balcony door. She could have picked it herself, but both of them knew Dinah was better at it.

Dinah shook her head no, holding out her palms. Smirking, she pantomimed "sore hands."

With a hiss of annoyance, Helena produced a pair of lockpicks from another belt pocket and set to work. In less than a minute the lock was sprung, the door was open, and the costumed duo entered the dark apartment. There was enough ambient light from the streetlights outside that the two had no difficulty navigating the unlit rooms. They passed through the living area, along a short hall, through an open doorway into a large bedroom. A figure lay in the bed, bunched under the covers, its breath coming in a soft, regular pattern. The two looked at each other and smiled; their entrance hadn't woken their target. Helena motioned Dinah to the bedside, within arm's reach of the figure. Once Dinah was in position Helena reached out and flipped the lightswitch by the entryway. The lamps on the twin nightstands burst to life, and Helena growled "Rise and shine!"

With a start the man awoke. He was good; he didn't cry out. His eyes snapped open and he froze, taking in the scene, but not making any sudden, clumsy moves. Eyes darting from side to side, he took in the two women standing over him. His expression went from taut hostility to confusion. His voice hoarse with sleep, he said, "I recognize you—Huntress, right? And the Black Canary? What's going on? How did you get in here?"

"Getting into places is what we do, Thaumaturge," snapped Helena.

"You're a long way from... Gotham, isn't it?"

"We're here on League business. They sent us." She tented her fingers. It was not an innocent gesture; Dinah recognized it as one of their private signals, one that meant stand down. Both she and Helena kept their faces impassive, but each was privately impressed. The two had expected that, being surprised by strangers in his bedchamber at night, their quarry would have instinctively tried to cast a spell against them. What else would one expect a sorcerer to do? For that reason Dinah had stood within arm's reach, ready to disable him with a quick judo strike, breaking up the spell without injuring him. However the Thaumaturge, their magic-wielding colleague from the League, had instead instantly and correctly assessed the situation as non-threatening. That showed a remarkable degree of perceptiveness. Smiling inwardly, Dinah went into a relaxed stance, content to let her partner do the talking.

Before she could begin the Thaumaturge took the initiative. "Do you mind telling me what you're doing here? If the League wanted me, they could have called," he said, glancing at his League transponder that sat on his dresser on the far side of the room.

"We're here to debrief you on the incident today, at the Museum." Helena smirked as she watched their prey's confidence desert him. His shoulders sagged and a note of embarrassment entered his voice. "Well... okay, but, uh, I don't know if this is the time or place for..."

"Oh, yes it is." Helena's voice dripped satisfaction. "You want we should take a meeting? Sometime next week? Maybe book a conference room up at the Watchtower? This is my assignment, and we do it when and how I want to do it... and that's right here, right now."

"Okay... okay. But, uh, with all due respect, I'd really rather not discuss this with... ah... with..." He glanced at Dinah, hoping for support, but she maintained her stony demeanour, although privately she was amused as Helena was.

"With whom? With me? All right. Would you prefer Maxima? Barda? Wonder Woman?" Helena smirked again.

"No! No. Uh... what about... uh... Green Lantern?"

"Oh, I see. You want to talk about this with a man, huh?"

"Well..."

"Too bad. You're on the team, you play by the team's rules. They've asked me to go over this with you. So stop pussyfooting around"—she accented pussy, and the Thaumaturge winced—"and do what you're told! Now. Why don't you tell us what happened today? Take it from the top."

"Couldn't we at least go into the dining room? I mean, it'd be more comfortable for—"

"You're stalling…"

"Fine! Fine!" He threw up his hands. Adjusting the pillows behind him so he could comfortably lean back against the headboard, he began to speak.

"Seeing as how you're here in my apartment, I guess you know that my real name's Martin York, and in civilian life I'm a bookseller. I specialize in antiquarian and rare tomes. If you want a first edition, I can get it for you, whether it's Dashiell Hammett, Matthew Arnold, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Sidney, or someone even older. That's how I got started as a sorcerer, by the way. A number of grimoires and occult texts have passed through my hands. Becoming a true adept, initiated into all of the Ten Houses of the Fundamental Way, that required more. I had to—"

Helena scowled and cleared her throat.

"—Right. Anyway, my bookshop is near the Marshfield Institute, a private museum downtown. The Institute has a rotating exhibit of old man Marshfield's artefact collection, drawn from all over the world; we share a clientele, which is why I put the shop there. Because I'm so close to Institute, when the cops began pulling up outside it I noticed immediately. My store is only open to the public a few hours a week, and the rest of the time it's by appointment only. I didn't have any appointments, so off I went. I got into costume and slipped out the back. For once, I thought, protecting the city from danger would be convenient. The crime had come to me instead of the other way around.

"I cast a simple invisibility charm and checked out the disturbance without being seen. It was clear what had caught the cops' attention; there were at least eight people collapsed on the steps, not moving. Had they been shot? There wasn't any blood. So what had happened? As the cops moved forward, one by one, they slowed down. Not like in slow motion, but as if they were running out of energy. First they ran, then they jogged, then they walked, then they stood still, then they just lay down and didn't move. As I watched, the same happened to bystanders watching from across the street. I didn't feel too lively myself, I realized. It seemed there was some sort of field spreading out from the museum, and anyone caught in it became lethargic to the point of collapse.

"To me, it was obvious what was happening." He glanced up at Helena and Dinah, but they refused to bite. "It was demonic, of course. Infernal spirits were entrancing them; with my mystical vision I could see them, sort of. These were demons of Sloth, among the weakest of the denizens of the Pit. A charm of protection guarded me from their influence, and I ran past them, up the steps, through the doors and into the Institute.

"The running was key. This kind of demon wants to encourage the sin with which it's associated itself, and the more you give in to that sin, the more you want to keep giving into it, the way a snowball grows and picks up speed as it rolls down a hill. Doing the opposite is the way to defeat them. The charm helped, but it was my exertion that was key in driving these ones off. They couldn't abide dynamism. It was painful to them.

"Once inside I turned off my invisibility spell. I didn't need it any more, and I knew I would need all of my mystical energy to deal with the stronger demons within. That's the way demons work, the weaker ones can move faster. I knew that as I closed in on the source I'd meet stronger and stronger ones, with the worst surrounding the gate itself. I had to find and close that gate before some really terrible ones arrived.

"I won't bore you with the details. There were demons of Envy in the entranceway, but I just thought about how grateful I was to Marshfield for sharing his wealth with the community and I got past them. Demons of Avarice came at me in the exhibit halls, but I thought about how much work caring for all those pots and jewellery and canoes and armour would be, and they let me alone. In the administrative offices I found demons of Wrath; they actually manifested themselves to me, unlike their weaker brethren, who tried to work on me in secret. These ones, they appeared to me as monsters, and tried to menace the frozen staff."

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