The band was getting tuned. It was relaxing for Quinn, to be able to watch this happen. There was an energy to this place. It was one she knew well. It was the same energy that she had before she went into battle. And this was a battle. Not of guns or ideas, but of talent and the desire to be the best. There was a band ahead of them, they were good. There was a girl who arrived a little later, but she had such presence. It was strange, Gabby was becoming a lot more outspoken, but the moment that this new girl walked in the room, they all fell in line. The power to command everyone’s respect, without being a dictator. She was new to the band, but already had control of it, because she was getting them results. In that subtle moment, Quinn felt something inside herself that she hadn’t felt in a long time reawaken. Tonight is going to be awesome.
The band right before them got done with their set, and the one she was waiting for was up. They called themselves Shanked Sugar. Quinn leaned against the wall not too far from the stage. As they set up, Gabby ran over.
“You nervous?” Quinn asked.
“No, not really.” The smile was all over her face.
“Alright then, I’ve got something to tell you.” She grabbed Gabby’s head, pulling her close. “I’ve got an order for you, soldier.”
Her eyes went wide. “Ma’am?”
“Kick ass out there! Sure, you play bass, but that’s no excuse.” She kissed her on the cheek. “You have your orders, Firefly. Now get it done!”
Gabby pulled back, her eyes almost glistening. In a whisper, “yes ma’am!” She headed back for the stage.
They were ready. As ready as they were going to be. The lights cued down and everyone watched the stage.
“One, two, a one-two-three!” Their drummer called, and it began.
The style of music, it was something that Quinn had never really heard before. Rock was never something that she invested much time into. But hearing what she was now, she could see the appeal. It was passionate, rhythmic, filled with the soul she had been missing. For months now, all Quinn had done was plan her next moves. Every waking moment was spent trying to figure out a new way to go after the Empire. But this music, this energy, it actually got her to let go. The pulses as their vocalist began. This song was about friendship, and the cost of being a good friend. That struck home a bit close with her at the moment, given how she had been to a friend who was looking after her. The room was going nuts. They were still small, but they were a sound that the people liked. Very nice. She saw Gabby, who didn’t even seem not notice the crowd. Her eyes were closed, feeling the sound coming from her instrument. Each string was like the parts of her weapon. She was a master of each. In the year she had had off, she mastered her Armor suit. It was like an extension of herself. Quinn saw where that dedication came from.
Another song started up. This one was different. The lyrics, it was talking about something. Nobody that she could see caught it, but she did. This song, it was about being a Number. It was about the daily grind, being owned by an Empire who didn’t give a shit about you. The lyrics, the rhythm, it was violent and dangerous. Then, she caught something that made her heart soar – a nod to Winter’s Shadow!
She waits in the dark, watching us move
Her black and white eyes, only see the truth
Quinn felt her nerves light up. She was alive! Gabby had told her about who wrote their music, his dedication and passion. He believes in us. Well, that’s one fan. When it ended, part of her was sad. A few more, and they were done. Gabby looked up when they were done, finding Quinn in the crowd. Their eyes met, and she saw her commander’s look of approval. It was an awesome night, cloaked in the guise of a normal gig. Her fellow band members could never know why. But it still meant everything to her.
They got to the back and the group was feeling good. Gabby brought Quinn with her.
“Hey Gabby! You were kicking ass out there!” Duncan came over, putting an arm around her shoulder.
Ariel also gave her a look of approval. “For sure! I could barely keep up. Never thought that I would be shown up by the bass player!”
Hudson had a look of mock indignance. “And what about me? Was I just a wall-flower up there?!”
The others laughed. Something about this show was different. They could all feel it. None of them knew what it was, but they could feel that something was different. Nate nodded, leaning against the wall. Michelle came back as well.
“We are SO going back to our place! Drinks and chilling! I think they earned it, don’t you?” She looked over at Quinn, throwing an arm around her.
Quinn smiled. “You bet your ass!” They took off from the bar, eager to enjoy the night. It was still young.
The two got back home, totally exhausted, yet wired at the same time. It was nearly dawn by the time they did. Gabby threw her guitar case on the couch, crashing in the chair.
“Tonight was fucking awesome! I was in the zone in a way I haven’t been all year! I swear, closest a person ever gets to God is when you play music like this. I mean, if she’s up there, and she actually does give a shit about us, that’s what she sounds like. Like a guitar player, in the zone, letting us all know that she’s got everything under control!”
Quinn plopped down in a chair, leaning her head back. “Man, I’ve never had an experience like that. Never got into rock much, but I can see the appeal. You all were kicking ten different kinds of ass up there! I’m jealous!”
Gabby opened an eye, looking over. “Why’s that?”
“Before…before everything happened, that’s what we were doing. What we should be doing right now. Winter’s Shadow is falling into obscurity, just like the uprisings against the Empire.” She got up, walking to the window. “Gabby, thank you. You brought me back! For the first time, in a year, I feel like myself again. I owe that to you.” She turned back around, smiling. “You did a damn good job, Firefly! Every gig that your band gets, you better believe I’ll be there!”
Gabby stood at attention fast. She saluted. “Thank you, ma’am! I won’t let you down!’
There was a moment that passed between the two, where they grew to understand one-another. It was a soft moment, a simple moment. All it needed was eye contact. They just looked into each others eyes, and they knew what they needed to know.
A different smile came to Quinn’s face, soft and gentler, as she walked over to where Gabby stood. She was so close.
“Ma’am, what’s up?”
She didn’t answer, she just kissed her. It was a long and searching kiss, that they both wished could last forever.
When she stepped back, her soft smile persisted. “Thank you, Gabby. This is the first night in a year that I felt like I was actually living. For so long, I’ve been going from day to day, not caring about anything.”
Gabby looked like she was going to cry.
“I won’t say I love you. I’m not there. But, if you want, I wouldn’t mind seeing where this goes. Do you want that?”
She didn’t answer her. She just ran over and kissed her. They kissed all the way to Gabby’s room, slamming the door shut.
As the sun came up the next morning, Quinn looked down to see Gabby in her arms. The girl breathed so softly. It felt great. That’s when it hit her. No dreams! That was when she knew exactly what to do.
She felt Gabby start to stir. She looked up at her.
“Hey you!” Her sleepy tone of voice was beyond cute.
“Hey…” She brought her lips to Gabby’s, loving the feel of her soft skin as they snuggled in closer. Water on her parched soul.
Wolf had called for a meeting. It was the first time that she was going to be making a personal appearance in over a year. Everyone in the organization was excited. They could all feel it – something different was in the air. Something was about to happen. The old hangar was ditched. It wasn’t safe to meet there, with the Empire’s airships doing constant surveillance on the woods, where they were assumed to be hiding. The way into the base that was being called the Batcave, was a nearby town. They got an old subway system working again, which let them move in and out undetected.
Time had been good for the group. It let Brainiac, Riddler and their people modify the NANO Armors for each member, giving them some new weapons and new tricks. They had a private army of technicians working on what was now five airships that they had. Their warships were ready as they were going to be. Currently, they were tasked with watching the entrance. There had been a couple close-calls with Imperial naval vessels. Got tense a couple times, but then Luthor gave them their very own submarine. He said that there was no point in having their own base if they couldn’t defend it. Man had a point.
Each of the lieutenants had gotten some upgrades as well. Deathstroke was finally given his own Armor. He was loving every minute of it. His age didn’t mean shit inside that suit. He was a god, who couldn’t be touched. Deadshot had as well. Ghost and Copperhead had their existing stealth suits upgraded, but since they wouldn’t be any use in Armor, they were given extra polymer protection, for if things got hot. Even the Runners were given rudimentary body armor, that looks like normal clothes. But when the bullets start firing, it used pseudo-NANO technology to change into light-weight armor that could take a couple hits without hindering their mobility.
As for the commanders, Black Mask got his Armor as well. It was imposing, to say the least. Made for all-around combat, much like Two-Face, the faceplate was very much to the namesake that he was given. It was terrifying to look at. Azrael had his main gun changed to a carbine-like weapon, not liking the automatic firing. Two-Face got a couple additional guns, along with another shield on his other arm. Catwoman also got a couple shields, of lesser-quality. Bane, meanwhile, was made into even more of a tank. His Armor was given demi-rockets, a chaingun on the other arm, and a massive sword that it could wield effortlessly, making getting into tanks and vehicles easier. He also wanted to try cutting some Armor in half with it. Wolf had also been made an Armor suit. It was slim, made to move. She wasn’t in battle to fight. She was in it to lead, so her suit reflected that, being a defensive unit, with the same rudimentary cloaking device the Catwoman had.
As everyone was talking, the door opened. In walked Wolf, for the first time. The room got a great deal quieter. There was respect to her presence, and she was carrying herself with purpose.
Deathstroke was practically running over. “Ma’am, how are you feeling?!” He held out his hand, which she shook.
“Never better! And I’ve got news that you all are going to like.” She sat down at the table, cuing up the visual display on it.
“Winter’s Shadow is back!”
“Time passes. One day into the next.” -Yukio Tanaka, BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad