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[ Prev ] FEAT OF CLAY, Part V” [ Next ]
B L Ü D H A V E N

1013 Parkthorne Avenue
One thing that Dick had tried to avoid was delving into the morality of everything that the Batman had taught him as a boy. The classic moral imperative, can one uphold the rule of law if he does not hold himself to the law? It was a philosophical no man’s land that didn’t lead to any pleasant thoughts or memories.

Dwell on it too much, a man could easily become just as cynical and brooding as Bruce.

Like a good novelist, Dick was carefully crafting a narrative to support the identity of the character that he was creating. Like a detective, he was doing his research in order to make that story plausible. The character had to be identifiable. Personable. Relatable.

With a surgeon’s skill, he was stitching together the pieces. A trained eye contemplating all the ways in which the deception he was engaged in would need to stand up to scrutiny. Falsified public records were about attention to the details.

He had the Center for Missing and Exploited Children database up, running cross-comparisons with data in the New Jersey state records. Extracting names and details, almost like a fisherman casting a line out from the shore. Dick wasn’t certain just what he was looking to bite, but he figured that he’d know it when he saw it.

That was when he stumbled across Jackson Todd.

If there was a dead end in life, this kid seemed to have found it. His father was dead in a gang-related shooting in Chicago. His mother was serving two twenty year sentences related to robbery and drug-related charges, neither of which had been a first offense. He’d been in the custody of a grandmother, but she’d lost custody of him to the state CPS and the boy had run out from the foster home system multiple times. He’d racked up a slew of arrests by the time he was 12 years old, done time in both the New Jersey Training School and the state Juvenile Medium Security Facility, before getting paroled to a transition program that had attempted to place him back in a foster home.

He’d run off. This time, when the state caught up with him, he was dead. They’d found him along the train tracks. Possible suicide. Possible accident.

It was tragic, but it was also an opportunity. An identity that no one would be looking for. A means by which to craft a persona for Toyboy, with the theatrical byline that read based on the true story.

He kept the part about the time at the New Jersey Juvenile Medium Security Facility. That and the arrests in connection with a chop shop gang would give this identity some color. The father’s death in gang related activities dovetailed nicely with that narrative. But a mother in jail would be problematic for someone backtracking the origins of the problem foster child that Dick was carving out. Instead of being the child of Catherine Todd of New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, he would be the son of Shelia Haywood. An opioid addict who had died of an accidental fentanyl overdose.

Carefully, Dick duplicated the Jackson Todd file. The record of Jackson’s time at the Juvenile Medium Security Facility was expunged, keeping instead only the portion at the New Jersey Training School. When he had finished, the man looked at the copy file that he had manipulated using the data from the Medium Security Facility.

Jackson would have been one of the younger inmates, so it was possible that some of the staff might recall a kid named Todd. He’d need a similar name...

In his mind, Dick was running a list as his fingers drummed on the keyboard. James? Jacob? Joshua? Joseph?

Joseph Todd?

No, it would need to be close to Jack. Not Joseph. Jace? Jason. Plying his fingers to the keyboard, Dick at last deleted the name at the top of the file. In it’s place, he wrote JASON TODD.

Well, that was Toyboy’s juvenile arrest and foster care record for the state of New Jersey. Now, Dick just needed some fake insurance, birth, and school records. But, the hard part was behind him now.

It wasn’t exactly the kind of origin story that made people stand up and shout, God bless America -- momma was a crack whore and daddy was a gang banger -- but as far as the state of New Jersey was concerned, Jason Todd was a real, living human being. And that meant it was a chance for Toyboy to have some semblance of a life that he could call his own.

Not that there was really a lot of choice. Dick worked with cops. If he had to guess, there were at least three members of his department digging through public records trying to figure out what kid that he’d adopted.

He wondered what Chambers reaction would be when she read the file, but he figured that she’d make her feelings on the matter known. Probably sooner rather than later.

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Compared to the last time that he’d seen him, Toyboy was looking intact.

Unfortunately, that seemed to be about as much as Dick could say on the matter. “He’s unpacking the software package,” Sarah Charles commented, as the man knelt down to inspect the doll’s face. The glassy eyes of the automaton stared vacantly ahead, as though utterly oblivious to Dick’s presence. “The operating system is in place, but his processor capacity is being consumed by the software suite installation.”

Straightening back up, Dick turned to glance back at the woman. “How long’s that going to take?”

Sarah just gave a shrug. “Take him home. Put him to bed. When you wake up, he should be fully functional again.”

With a heavy sigh, Dick held out both hands to steady the doll, guiding him from off the edge of the table. The automaton started to crumple to the ground and Dick found that he had to scramble to keep Toyboy upright. Pain shot up Dick’s back, as he bent to hoist the doll up and set him back on his feet.

Pointing Toyboy toward the door, Dick was a moment too late to stop the doll from walking into the doorframe instead.
@Retired

In light of some of the commentary regarding concepts and being wild with them, I've changed my secondary proposal.

I still have a copy of the Wildfire one though, if something more mainstream is the preference there.
@Retired

Edits made to both sheets to expand on how they arrived at the arenas.





[ Prev ] FEAT OF CLAY, Part IV” [ Next ]
B L Ü D H A V E N

Meadowdale Mall

Bruce Wayne had never been Batman. Batman had just sometimes masqueraded as some millionaire playboy persona that went by the name of Bruce Wayne. But that’s all it was. All it had ever been, a persona. A nom de guerre. An act.

Everything the public thought they knew about Bruce Wayne had been carefully scripted and staged. Every appearance, every seemingly random encounter with a paparazzi, every social occasion orchestrated, manipulated, and controlled in order to strategically message whatever misinformation was desired to prop up the desired perception of Batman’s alter ego. It was something Dick had been confronted with early on, when he’d thought that he’d been adopted by Bruce Wayne and quickly found himself more alone within Wayne Manor than he had been without.

The masquerade had been one of the things that Dick had hoped to leave behind him when he had walked out of the Batcave for the last time. He had come to Bludhaven as Dick Grayson. Made a career for himself as Dick Grayson. Made a life for himself as Dick Grayson. One thing he had never done was to have let the identity of Nightwing define who he was or what he thought of himself. It had just been another job. A temporary side hussle to do what had to be done.

Now, Dick found himself pulling the pages from out of Bruce’s playbook. Carefully orchestrating how he would now go about introducing a child into his public life, and starting to lay the work for manipulating public perception of the persona that Toyboy would have to step into.

“Dick?”

He was in the children’s section of the local Old Navy. Bludhaven was a relatively small city, making the Meadowdale Mall a central location where you were apt to see someone you knew. Glancing up from where he had been admiring a boy’s graphic tee, Dick found Cissy Chambers looking surprised to see him there.

“Picking up stuff for another charity?”

If he had a guess, that was a reference to a few weeks earlier, when he’d run into one of the Bludhaven cops while out shopping for kid’s clothing. He’d popped inside of the local Target store in order to get the clothes that he’d had on hand when they’d pulled Toyboy from out of the cold storage at S.T.A.R. Labs. Inevitably, he’d been asked what he was there at the Target for and he’d replied that he’d been picking up some items for donation to one of the Wayne Foundation charities.

At the time, it had been a convenient sort of sleight of hand. He was on the board at the Wayne Foundation, so it was the kind of lie that didn’t bear repeating. It just made sense.

Now, he’d have to do a little bit more work with the messaging.

“Of a kind,” Dick answered cryptically, hanging the tee over his arm as he turned toward the lieutenant. After a brief pause, he added, “I’ve decided to foster a kid.”

The reaction was visceral. Cissy’s head went back. Blinking as though uncertain of what she’d just heard. If he’d been asked, he’d have bet that she’d have congratulated him. Instead, the woman bluntly asked, “Aren’t you a little old for that?”

Tact, thy name is Cissy Chambers. Dick tried to smile, rather than wince, and came off doing an odd mix of the two gestures. “I’m almost at mandatory retirement,” he admitted, with a nod of his head. “But I think I have a few years left in me even after that. Might as well go out devoting my energy to something worthwhile.”

He found the woman just staring him down. It got to be uncomfortable for a moment, before she merely said, “I forget, you were a foster kid.”

Not an inaccurate remark. Again, not a very tactful one either. Dick gave another nod, which seemed to satisfy her. “Do I get to meet him?” Cissy offered, at last seeming to warm to the idea of Dick having a foster kid around.

Well, that was the hard part. Laying the foundation. If the notion itself didn’t fly, then the masquerade was never going to work. But, she seemed to have bought it. Which meant now it was just a matter of maintaining that belief. “I’m still waiting for approval to bring him home,” Dick lied smoothly. “As soon as I do, you’ll be the first one over for dinner.”

With that, the man traded a few trivial pleasantries, extracting himself from the conversation as he headed toward the cash register to pay for the items that he’d picked up so that they could start an actual wardrobe for Toyboy.

The die was cast. Now the rumor mill could start.

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“It’ll be a day or so more.”

Dick had ventured down to Gotham after leaving the mall. It wasn’t on the way, but that hardly mattered. He was disappointed when Sarah Charles met him to explain that he wouldn’t be seeing the robot today.

“I thought you said that he was on-line again?” the man remarked, allowing his confusion to show through. That had been the reason for the visit, actually. Not that he was opposed to stopping by to peek in on Toyboy’s inanimate body in various states of disassembly, but he’d hoped to get some kind of gauge or assessment of Toyboy’s modified operating system and programming.

“We had a bit of a... freak out,” Sarah replied. Her choice of words immediately prompting a skeptical look on the part of Dick.

Toyboy’s composure was one of the things that tended to betray the reality that he wasn’t human. The idea of the robot having a freak out went against everything that Dick knew about the automaton.

“The initial boot didn’t go as smoothly as we expected,” Sarah explained, which did nothing to alleviate Dick’s concern that some assessment would be needed before he sent Toyboy out again. All of which was just reinforced when the woman said, “We’re still smoothing out a few glitches. And then the internet connectivity proved something of a... compatibility issue.”

Dick’s head tilted slightly as he inclined an ear toward the scientist. It seemed odd to put a slight emphasis on the end of that sentence. “Compatibility issue?”

“The internet,” Sarah supplied in answer, prompting another confused look from Dick, “It seems that it was a little overwhelming for him,” the woman added, supplying some context for Dick as she continued, “We’re uploading a software patch that will allow Toyboy to have autonomy over when he’s up on bluetooth or wi-fi. But, we need a little more time to get him comfortable with exploring those capabilities.”

“Well, they do say that the internet is a scary place,” Dick deadpanned glibly.

[ Prev ] FEAT OF CLAY, Part III” [ Next ]
B L Ü D H A V E N

Downtown
It was Chambers’ marked police cruiser, but Dick was behind the wheel. The lights and sirens cleared a path through traffic, as the former Boy Wonder turned the Chevy Impala into something more akin to a performance vehicle.

A fact that his passenger didn’t entirely appreciate. “I only get car sick when you drive,” Cissy complained, her knuckles white as she held onto the dash and the auspiciously named oh shit bar.

For his part, the lines on Dick’s gave lightened as he gave a devil may care grin. The police cruiser squealed to an abrupt halt, just inches shy of rear ending another police car as Dick threw the car into park and stepped out into the freshly marked crime scene.

Through the crowd gathered on the street, Dick could already make out the fact that the doorframe had been completely ripped away from the storefront. In fact, the entire door to the jewelry store was presently lodged in the Ford F-150 that had nearly been cleaved in two by it.

“Well, that happened,” Dick uttered glibly, exiting out of the car and standing there for a moment, in awe of a feat that he’d have normally associated with the likes of Bane.

Maybe they weren’t dealing with a metahuman. Just someone coked up on venom.

In honesty, Dick wasn’t really certain that was a better prospect.

Something bumped into him. Taken off-step, Dick glanced down in time to see a young girl with dark hair in a red cardigan sweater, yellow blouse, black mini-skirt and a black choker around her neck. He reached out a hand to grab hold of her shoulder, steadying her as the legs seemed ready to give out from under her.

She was a runner. He could see it in her eyes. In the gaunt expression. Her eyes constantly scanning for signs of something, or someone.

Once she’d gotten her feet back under her, two quick steps backward broke the contact between her and Dick. “Sorry,” she mumbled, looking everywhere except at Dick, as she turned and vanished through the crowd.

In sort order, Dick was just standing there, somewhere between confused and amused as he watched the girl practically vanish right in front of his eyes. “Well, that happened,” he repeated, with a hint of a smile.

“Commissioner!”

The man whirled around. His gaze fixed on Chambers for just a fleeting moment, finding the woman pointing off into the crowd, as she said, “Look!”

Steel blue eyes cut along the path of Cissy’s finger. Which is where he found him. Face of Boris Karloff. With a pair of seemingly blank, piercing eyes.

Pain lanced up through Dick’s bad knee, even as he started forward. POLICE!he shouted hoarsely, even as he bolted toward where the large figure dominated over the crowd.

Boris Karloff’s twin from another mother bolted just then as well. For such a large man, he moved with the speed of a NFL defensive lineman. And in the same fashion just bowled over the people on the street. It gave Dick and Cissy a lot to dodge around as they tried to scramble up the sidewalk in pursuit.

And that was before he chucked a dumpster their way.

No, not a trash can. A dumpster. A large dumpster.

Dick saw a flash of green and his Boy Wonder instincts were still sharp enough that he was able to turn and tackle Chamber off to the side, as the dumpster went crashing through where they’d both been just a moment before.

He found that he was winded as he lay on the ground. He started to push himself up, but his knee had locked up on him again, slowing him down. Cissy Chambers, more than twenty years his junior, was already on her feet and back in pursuit. By the time one of his patrolmen had come over to help Dick up to his feet, Dick had lost sight of both Cissy and the Karloff-lookalike.

Giving a low growl of disappointment in himself, Dick and the patrolman set off on foot. Reaching down to the radio clipped to his belt, the man spoke into the microphone affixed to the lapel of his coat. “Chambers, talk to me.”

“I’ve got visual. He’s turned down the Post Street alley. I think he’s headed for the Fourteenth Street tunnel.”

Dick’s shoes skidded to a halt. His head was on a swivel, until he’d identified the alleyway that would serve as a cut-through. “We’ll be waiting on the other side,” the man remarked, breaking into a sprint as he barreled through the streets of Bludhaven.

There was a fence dividing the alley.

Even just twenty years ago, Dick could have vaulted that without so much as a second thought. Now it was a considerable effort, slowing him down as he pulled himself up and then struggled to swing his leg over and drop down.

He felt like he’d just run a marathon. And no amount of Aleve was going to numb the pain that was radiating through his knee. But, be that as it may, Dick and the patrolman arrived at the end of the 14th Street tunnel.

He’d have liked a longer rest in which to catch his breath, but the sound of footsteps forced the haggard police commissioner to steel himself for the approach of their burglary suspect.

Instead, it was Cissy Chambers who came sprinting into view. And was obviously as shocked to see Dick as he was to see her. “What? You didn’t stop him?”

“Stop him? He never came through here,” Dick countered breathlessly.

Pulling her flashlight from off her utility belt, Cissy turned and shone the light back down the tunnel. It was all solid concrete construction. To include the pavestones with narrow strips for drainage. “But, that’s impossible...” the woman uttered aloud.
Previously discussed with @Hero via PMs due to being a non-playable race concept.

NAME
E-Siri-Rai

RACE

CLAN
Midlander (Hyur bloodline)

BIRTHPLACE
Hyrstmill, North Shroud

OCCUPATION
Conjurer

SOUL CRYSTAL
White Mage

APPEARANCE
But for the horns, Brother E-Siri is an otherwise unremarkable Midlander youth. He has a tan complexion and darker hair than is typical of the children who serve as the oracles of the elemental forces. His eyes are a bright shade of blue that resemble a cloudless sky. Two gazelle-like horns protrude backward from either side of his head, being the distinctive characteristic of the Padjal. He appears as a mere boy of no more than 10 or 12 summers, wearing a short-sleeved tunic and shorts that mark him as casual as any child. He was often seen with a cane of unfinished wood, which served as the foci for weaving elemental magic into conjury.


PERSONALITY
Curious, compassionate, and obstinate are three words that aptly describe this forest oracle. The lesson of his parents has remained the most significant force in shaping the quality of mercy and the character of Brother E-Siri. He is Stillglade Fane's most outspoken critic, believing the Conjurer's Guild to be stifled inside their den and the Seedseers more concerned with the voices of the elements than for the lamentations of the people that they claim to serve. At the core of E-Siri's belief, the task of protecting the Twelveswood requires a comprehension of the world in which the Twelveswood exists, including the people, elements, and threats facing it from beyond the borders of the forest.

BIOGRAPHY
Not of the prestigious Senna or Yan families, Kosne Rai was born into both obscurity and poverty in the North Shroud hamlet of Hyrstmill. The son of simple subsistence farmers, the pregnancy complicated the already bleak financial outlook for the fledgling family. Without coin to pay a midwife, as a newborn babe, Kosne was brought into Eorzea without assistance, leading to his mother's death in childbirth. His widower father found work where he could in the mun-tuy cellars to pay a wet nurse for the suckling child, barely able to provide for himself and his child as the two struggled to survive under the shadow of E-Tatt's Spire.

It was around the time of his eighth summer, laboring in the mun-tuy cellars, picking beans alongside his father that a pair of odd bumps were first noticed on his head. The horns started coming in over the following year, at which point the child's obscurity was cast aside and the Order of the Twin Adder came for him. Under the oldest of Gridanian law, he was taken in the custody of Stillglade Fane, a prisoner in all but name as he learned that he was a Padjal, now and forevermore changed. Over the next several years, he stopped aging but his mind was expanded through literacy, through communion, through an education in the art of conjury.

It was a decade before he would emerge from out of Stillglade Fane, when the threat of the Calamity caused Stillglade Fane's doors to be open to him for the first time since he had been forcibly delivered there. No longer the humble pauper, he was now E-Siri-Rai. He was now Brother E-Siri. A new identiy, for a new life that had been chosen for him by powers beyond mortal imagining. As the fires Bahamut rained down over the Black Shroud, E-Siri raced back to the Hyrstmill of his youth in search of the man who had struggled through blood, sweat, and tears to raise him.

He arrived too late. His father, as penniless then as ever, had contracted an illness down in the damp, cold cellars from which he had never recovered. His disease treatable, his pain without succor, the father of the boy who had been Kosne Rai died mere yalms from Gridania without anyone from Stillglade Fane, from the Twin Adder, or the Wood Wailers even taking notice. The man who Brother E-Siri had raced to rescue was not waiting for him there. Instead, he had passed into obscurity.

In the five years since, Brother E-Siri has labored outside to bring mercy and healing to the elements and the impoverished throughout the Black Shroud. Though his trips away from Old Gridania are many, he is frequently recalled back to Stillglade Fane. There, each time, he labors to be the voice for both the plight of the elements and the people to a Seedseer Council that he fears has little concern for anything other than the trees nearest them.

OTHER
• His Padjali name translates to a seeker, illustrating his innate curiosity.
• Related to his study of conjury, he is also a member of the Botanist's Guild in order to learn about the aetherial benefits of different types of wood (foci) and medicinal applications of various plants.

REASON FOR ENLISTMENT

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