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W-ALTR

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His name was W-ALTR (Warden - Artificial Lifeform for Targeted Restraint) but he called himself Walter. Except when he was fulfilling his proper function and then he called himself Rorschach. The job he had during the day made him feel strange, he hadn't been programmed for sewing although it hadn't been at all hard to learn, but he couldn't keep the streets clean if his batteries ran down so he earned money to pay rent and electricity bills and was grateful he didn't have to sleep.

On the streets it was different, this he had been programmed for and he fulfilled his task with maximum efficiency. Kicks and punches always judged exactly to incapacitate with the minimum of damage. (Or maybe not quite the minimum. That man he'd caught trying to rape a thirteen year old for instance. Was there something wrong with his programming?) And he could just get on with it without having to figure out social interactions, without trying to pass for human. At least until he and Nite Owl ambushed each other.

It was been dark in the warehouse and Walter had flipped his vision to infra-red which was why he didn't see the costume. In the moment he had Nite Owl on the floor he realised all the other heat signatures in the room were in heaps on the floor, and he hadn't incapacitated that many. Brushing a hand over his opponent's face found goggles and the distinctive pointed cowl.

'Nite Owl?' he asked, letting up the pressure from the knee he had pressed to Nite Owl's chest.

Nite Owl's hand scrambled at his belt for a moment and then he switched on a flashlight and Walter flipped his vision back to normal to see the man looking up at him. Younger than he would have expected, Nite Owl had been active a few years now.

'Rorschach,' said Nite Owl. 'I've read about you in the papers.'

'Hurm. Likewise.' They both got to their feet and shook hands, Walter only letting go when he realised he was making Nite Owl uncomfortable. There was nothing in his programming about how long a handshake should be. Checking the crates along the far wall contained drugs, handcuffing the thugs to anything handy and calling the police proceeded efficiently. Afterwards they sat on a rooftop watching the police clean up. (Nite Owl's grappling gun looked very useful. Unfortunately being a machine didn't make Walter any good at building them.)

'So how long have you been doing this?' asked Nite Owl.

Walter wondered if he should leave. He wasn't really any good at conversations. 'A few months,' he said. All his life.

'Really? You seemed more experienced than that,' said Nite Owl. When Walter didn't answer he carried on. 'Those were Big Figure's goons. Are you after him as well?'

'Yes.'

'Maybe we should work together? I'm sure we've both got information we could pool, and two heads are better than one.' The oddly hopeful look Nite Owl gave him was at odds with the intimidating costume. Walter shook his head.

'I don't need a partner.' There was no way he could maintain his secrets working closely with a human, especially one observant enough to be a mask.

'At least come and see some of the stuff I've built. I may not be able to fight as well as you, but I can hold my own in other ways. I really think we could complement each other.'

Walter agreed reluctantly, compelled by curiosity. As a gadget himself he was curious to see a place where others were created.