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to fight the rising odds

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Her city never sleeps, and neither does she.

That's what the stories say.

But tonight, the city might as well be sleeping. It's been an uneventful patrol. The streets are quiet. She might be able to wrap things up and get a good night's sleep herself for once.

She activates her earpiece. "Goldenbird to base."

"Base here, Goldenbird," says Oversight. "My scans continue to show nothing of note. Anything to report?"

"Nothing here, Oversight," she says, leaping from one rooftop to the next. "I'm going to finish my patrol and come back to base soon."

"A logical plan. We await your arrival. Oversight out."

One last stop, and then she'll head home.

*

It seems silly to have a favorite rooftop, but she does. She loves the view of the city it affords -- her city. It's where she comes to think, to be alone.

Except someone's already here.

She doesn't recognize the figure perched on the edge of the rooftop, watching over the city, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Her fingers twitch toward her stun disks, but that's premature. The figure is doing nothing but perching on a roof -- she doesn't know it's a criminal.

Even though she'd swear she hadn't made a sound, the figure whirls around to look at her, and takes a defensive stance.

"What's a nice mysterious figure like you doing on a rooftop like this?" she drawls, because why not. She casually shifts into a stance of her own.

"Just taking in the fresh air," he says -- she's fairly certain it's a 'he' now that she's got a look at his build, though he is wearing a full-face mask and using a voice modulator just like she does. "Although you'll find I'm not very nice."

He steps out of the shadows, and she gets a better look at his attire -- solid black, touches of red, a design she's seen before from Oversight's files on up and coming threats. "You're Fury." Funny, he doesn't look furious, or even angry at the moment. But in his stance, his bearing, he is every inch a warrior.

She recalls what Oversight had briefed her on -- new supervillain in town, working with a partner named Wrath, associated with a mysterious group known as the Maquis.

"And you must be the incomparable Goldenbird." They're circling each other now, waiting for an opening.

She's just about decided that he isn't going to give her one and she should just attack regardless, when he makes the same decision, throwing himself at her.

She barely has time to shift and use his own momentum to throw him over her shoulder.

He tucks into a roll, flipping to his feet and barely dodging the stun disks she'd thrown at where she'd expected him to land.

She flings herself at him, launching a flurry of blows he's hard-pressed to counter.

He retaliates by hooking his ankle behind hers, knocking her off her feet. She flips back to standing and launches another stun disk.

This one hits, but he somehow absorbs at least part of the charge. He staggers, breathing heavily. But he's still standing.

"Well this has been fun, but I'm afraid I can't stay," he says. "Another time." He flings a smoke bomb at his feet, and by the time the smoke clears, he's gone.

She can already feel a headache starting. This is going to be a long night.

*

"I hope you had a better night than I did," Kathryn says the next morning to Tom, as he stumbles into the war room.

"I had a quiet night on patrol," says Tom, piling a plate with bacon and eggs. "Got to try out my new jetpack, the retro-thrusters work great."

"You're welcome," says Harry, swinging in. He gives his boyfriend a quick kiss and starts filling a plate with fruit and pastries. He frowns, looking at Tom's plate, and dumps some fruit on there as well. Tom grumbles but allows it. "How was your night?" Harry asks Kathryn.

"Wait until Tuvok gets here," she says, taking a sip of her coffee. Harry sets a second plate full of fruit and pastries in front of her as he and Tom take their seats. She narrows her eyes at both of them, but they stare at her relentlessly until she sighs and starts eating.

When Tuvok arrives, Kathryn starts the briefing.

"Last night at the end of my patrol, I ran into that new supervillain, Fury," she begins, and then tells them about the encounter.

"Sounds like a party," grins Tom, after she finishes. Kathryn rolls her eyes at him.

Harry frowns. "I don't like that he was able to shrug off the effects of your stun disk. Nothing I've heard about indicates he has that kind of innate ability. That implies he's got some kind of tech that can do it. And the implications of that --"

"-- Are problematic, I agree," says Kathryn. "See what you can do about improving the charge." Harry nods, and Kathryn moves onto the next item.

"Tuvok, have your sources uncovered anything about what Fury's goals are, why he came here, and not to another city?" she asks.

He shakes his head. "I have been unable to determine his motives thus far, or the motives of his associates. I will continue my research."

"Do that," says Kathryn. "I have the feeling we haven't seen the last of him."

*

The information Tuvok eventually uncovers is scant and dubious -- apparently the Maquis, a mysterious, shadowy organization, was formed in response to a group called the Cardassians, another mysterious, shadowy organization, on that's supposedly been operating for years, even decades.

Except that neither Tuvok nor Kathryn have even heard of the Cardassians before, and they've both been in the crimefighting game for a long, long time. It seems ludicrous that a criminal organization could have hidden themselves so well for so long. It seems far more likely that they are an urban legend that the Maquis invented for their own purposes.

And yet ... Kathryn tells Tuvok to keep digging.

Just in case.

*

"Phoenix to Goldenbird," buzzes in Kathryn's earpiece several nights later. "Rocketman and I could use your help. Suspects invading the Delta City Latinum Exchange."

She goes into a flying leap and takes off, spreading her mechanical wings, turning on her stealth mode, and making her best speed to the exchange.

When she gets there, Phoenix and Rocketman are both barely holding their own against a lithe figure dressed similiarly enough to Fury that she assumes it must be Wrath. Wrath packs a mean punch, both with their bare fists and with their tech -- Kathryn's frankly a little impressed by what she sees as she approaches, still in stealth mode.

"The other one's inside!" Rocketman says in her ear. "We'll take care of this one, go!"

She slips inside, and when she sees Fury in the vault, she doesn't bother with banter, she just launches herself at him, knocking what he's carrying out of his hands.

The fight is short and brutal, and it ends only when he throws her against a wall and takes advantage of the opening to flee. She tries to deploy another stun disk, but this one has even less of an effect that the one she'd used during their previous fight. He doesn't even break his stride.

She can already feel the bruises forming. Still, she likes to think she left him with a few bruises of his own.

Phoenix and Rocketman report that Wrath had fled at the same time Fury had.

She sighs. Not one of their better thwartings.

*

"All right folks," Kathryn says at the next briefing. "What have we learned?"

"They're paranoid enough to use full face-masks and voice modulators like we do," says Tom. "And they cut and run when they were outnumbered. But that was a strategic move, not panic." Kathryn agrees with his assessment -- they're careful, not cowards. Which makes them dangerous.

"Their tech is amazing," Harry gushes. "Whoever they have building it is a genius."

"I don't have any proof, but I think it might be Wrath herself," says Tom. "She said something during the fight that made me think she was building it, not just using it."

"And she hits really, really hard," says Harry. "If it weren't for the armor in our suits I think I might have cracked a rib."

Something occurs to Kathryn. "The first time I fought Fury, I used a stun disk on him and it was only partially effective. Last night, I tried again, and it barely did anything. I think Wrath might have reverse-engineered the first disk and upgraded their armor specifically to withstand it."

Harry's brow furrows. "The disks are designed to slag after they discharge. If she was able to reverse engineer it from that mess, she must be an even better engineer than we thought. Maybe even a technopath."

That's a big problem.

They toss around ideas, but the only concrete suggestion they come up with is to not let Wrath get her hands on any more of their tech.

Welp, guess she's getting out her old stun batons. She likes the disks so much better. Dammit.

*

Another week, another pointless gala.

She picks a piece of nearly invisible lint off her red silk floor length gown, as she takes Tom's arm and they make their entrance. Tom always escorts her to these functions, and the media always has a field day about the Janeway heiress and her younger lover. It suits both of them to let people believe it, for different reasons.

"I hate these things," Tom mutters under his breath. "They never get any less boring and tedious."

"At least you get to go home to your boyfriend after this," murmurs Kathryn. "I have nothing but my cold and lonely bed to console me."

"If you want a threesome, Kathryn, you just have to ask," Tom leers at her, waggling his eyebrows. She smacks his shoulder because it's either that or burst out laughing.

Of course that's the moment when they run into Tom's father.

"Kathryn, Tom," says Owen Paris, the Chief of Police. He spares a vaguely sad, pitying look at Kathryn, and a contemptuous glance at his son.

"Owen, hello!" Kathryn says brightly. "So lovely to see you, as always. But I'm sure you must be very busy, protecting the city, so we'll let you get back to it."

She can feel Tom's clenched fist as she leads him away.

"Don't let him get to you, Tom," Kathryn murmurs to him.

Tom barks out a laugh. "You really think I care what he says about me?" He waves his hand dismissively. "Please. But he has no right to look at you like that, as if --"

"As if I'd once been one of his most promising young officers, but then threw away my career to fritter away my life as an empty-headed socialite living on her inheritance?" Kathryn says lightly. "You know I've spent a lot of hard work building up that persona. I'd rather not waste it."

"You shouldn't have to," Tom grumbles.

"It's necessary," Kathryn retorts. "If you can fool your allies, you can fool your enemies."

Tom snorts. "Some ally."

"He's still the Chief of Police, and we still have to work with him," says Kathryn. "Now come on. Let's go scandalize the society papers with our antics. Any thoughts on what we should do this time?"

Tom thinks for a moment, and then brightens up. "Dancing in the fountain? We haven't done that one in a while, and the weather's nice."

"Sounds great," says Kathryn. "These heels are killing me."

Kathryn and Tom split up to mingle, with a plan to meet up by the enormous fountain in the gardens in about an hour. Pretending to get falling down drunk is child's play for both of them -- she figures they can be out of here in an hour and a half, tops, leaving plenty of the evening left for hero business.

She has the same three conversations with the same two dozen people and dances with the same eight partners that she'd danced with at the previous gala. And the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that.

She barely stifles a yawn as she sips from her champagne.

"Don't tell me you're bored?"

For a split second she almost thinks it's Tom -- the question has the same playfully mocking edge that he would have used, but the voice is all wrong. She turns her head to look at the speaker.

Well.

Whoever he is, he's new in town, or at least new on the society circuit. Tall and broad-shouldered, dark and handsome -- yes, Kathryn would definitely have recognized him if she'd seen him before.

"Maybe I just haven't had the right company," she says, toying with the rim of her champagne glass. Flirting at parties like these has become second nature. Though somehow flirting with him seems like less of a chore than usual.

"Let's see if we can change that," says tall, dark, and handsome, his eyes twinkling. He kisses the back of her hand, and doesn't immediately release it.

She raises an eyebrow. "And you are, mister ...?"

"Amal," he says. "Just Amal."

"Kathryn Janeway," she says, even though she's fairly certain he knows who she is. Most people do, on the society circuit.

"Kathryn," and the way he says her name is like a caress. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure is all mine," she says, sipping her champagne. "So, Mister Just Amal, what brings you to our fair city? Business, or pleasure?"

"Both, of course," he says, "It's so boring to have one without the other."

Her mouth curls into a crooked grin. "I've found that to be true, myself. I'm always delighted to meet someone else who shares that opinion. Tell me, what sorts of business and what sorts of pleasure you've been pursuing, here in town?"

"I've been looking for new opportunities and trying to meet interesting new people, mostly." He looks her up and down. "And I've definitely succeeded on the second one."

"Flatterer," she laughs.

"It's not flattery if it's true."

Dozens of men have used similar lines on her, but his words ring with honest sincerity, a refreshing change. There's something compelling about him, something that she wants to explore further.

"Well, Mister Just Amal," says Kathryn, setting down her glass. "Do you dance?"

"Not usually." He quirks an eyebrow. "But for you I'll make an exception," he says, offering her his hand.

"I'm honored," she drawls, taking his hand and letting him lead her out onto the dance floor.

She idly notes the calluses on the backs of his knuckles as he takes her hands -- a boxer? He has the build for it. That's probably why he's wearing concealer over his left eye. It's expertly applied and blended, but Kathryn knows the signs, given how many times she, Tom, and Harry have all had to use that trick to cover bruises of their own.

For someone who claims to not dance, he seems to know what he's doing, and it's remarkably easy for her to fall into rhythm with him.

It's so easy to talk to him. He's the most interesting person he's met at one of these events in months. Possibly ever. The song ends, but they keep dancing through the next. And the next. And the next.

It occurs to Kathryn that she should have started pretending to be getting drunk, to lay the groundwork for her performance with Tom later. But ... she doesn't want to just yet. She just wants to enjoy this moment, this dance, this night, this man. Amal seems equally disinclined to let her go.

The musicians start up a tango, and she's about to suggest they go get something to drink, when she notices the challenging gleam in his eye.

A wicked grin spreads across her face. Well, she's not going to back down if he won't.

Doesn't dance her ass. The way that man moves his hips should be illegal.

After tiring themselves out on the dance floor, they each get another drink and continue their conversation. She's regaling him with one of her funnier stories from the socialite scene when they're interrupted.

"Ch-Amal!" says the irritated-looking brunette who's striding up to them. "We have to go. Something's come up."

"Lana," he says, looking annoyed, "are you sure it can't wait?"

The brunette -- Lana's -- eyes dart from Amal to Kathryn, and her face softens minutely. "I'm sorry Amal. I wouldn't pull you away if it weren't important."

A look of honest regret flashes across his face. "I'm sorry to cut this short, Kathryn," he tells her, taking her hand. "But --"

"It's fine," she smiles, squeezing his hand. "Duty calls, I understand."

He shoots her a wistful look over his shoulder as Lana hustles him out the door.

Kathryn sighs, and checks the time.

Well, Tom should be waiting for her at the fountain.

*

It's nearly noon the next day when Kathryn drags herself to her office at Janeway Enterprises.

She's barely taken a sip of her coffee when a newspaper is slammed down onto her desk.

"So I see my wayward sister made a fool of herself at another party," says Phoebe. "Flighty, irresponsible, a disgrace to the family name. Among other things."

Kathryn raises an eyebrow. "Better flighty and irresponsible than a stuck-up prig who works too much."

Phoebe rolls her eyes. "And whose fault is that, hmmm? You're the one who decided to go off and be a secret sexy crimefighter while I had to take over the family business." She jumps up to sit on the edge of Kathryn's desk, dramatically draping the back of her hand across her forehead. "The poor, beleaguered younger sister, forced to work herself to death as CEO while her sister parties her life away and does nothing for the company but sit behind a desk with the empty meaningless title of 'Vice-President of Special Projects.'"

"Meaningless title, sure," Kathryn snorts. In reality the "Special Projects" department was where they hid anything to do with Goldenbird and her team: tech, property, shell corporations, etc.

"So dancing in the fountain, huh," says Phoebe. "You've already used that one a few times, you and Tom might want to come up with something new."

Kathryn shrugs. "The weather was nice." Phoebe does have a point, though.

"So enough about your antics. Tell me about him," says Phoebe, swinging her legs back and forth.

Kathryn looks at her strangely. "You've met Tom. You see him all the time."

Phoebe rolls her eyes. "Not, Tom, him," she says, pointing to a photo on the front of the society section. In it, Kathryn and Amal are tangoing the night away.

Instead of answering, Kathryn takes another sip of her coffee. But it's not enough to hide the smile that crosses her face as she remembers what a lovely time she had last night.

"I knew it!" Phoebe crows triumphantly. "I knew you had a thing for this guy!"

"Phoebe," says Kathryn with a mix of fondness and exasperation, "we just danced a few times. We didn't even exchange contact info." She's kind of regretting that, actually, but like hell she's going to tell Phoebe.

"Yeah but I bet you're regretting not getting his deets," says Phoebe.

Ugh, how does she do that.

*

Kathryn's following up on a tip in the warehouse district tonight, but it looks like it's not going to pan out this evening. She's been here for hours, and there's been no activity of any kind.

At least, not from the warehouse. A shiver crawls up her spine, and she whirls around to see Fury watching her. She really hopes he hasn't been there long, it's embarrassing.

She rocks back into a defensive stance, but instead of responding, he relaxes his posture, hands spread wide. "I'm not here to fight."

She's tempted to attack him anyway. "Then why are you here?" she demands, putting her hands on hips.

He shrugs. "Can't a man take a stroll on a rooftop under the moonlight? Last time I checked, it wasn't illegal."

Kathryn snorts. What a load of horseshit. "I think you'll find that tresspassing is a crime, Fury."

She can't see his face, but somehow she knows he's smiling under his mask right now. "If I'm going down for that, so are you," he points out.

On the one hand, Janeway Enterprises owns this building, so no she's not trespassing; on the other hand, it's not like she can tell him that. A rookie mistake on her part, but something about him is throwing her off her game. She doesn't like it.

"I don't have time for your games," she tells him severely. "State your purpose or leave. Or better yet, surrender yourself so I can take you in."

"Oh, but I like games," he says, backflipping onto the rooftop's raised ledge, landing in a crouch. (It's an impossibly graceful move but she's not impressed. She's not.)

And damn, she never could resist a challenge -- she does a flip of her own, landing on the ledge only a few feet away from him. She prefers to stand, though.

"It seems you like games, too," he notes idly.

"They do have their uses," she admits. "Besides, it seems like every two-bit criminal in town plays games, or has a gimmick these days."

Fury laughs. "What's the phrase? 'Criminals are a superstitous and cowardly lot'? And also, you dress up in a costume to fight crime, I don't think you get to call people out on their gimmicks," he points out.

"I don't think a man calling himself 'Fury' gets to call me out on calling other people out on their gimmicks," she retorts, hands on hips.

"I don't know, I think that makes me perfect for it," he says serenely. "Takes one to know one, and all that."

He flips to his feet, so he's facing her. And damn, why does he have to be so tall?

(She's flirting with him. Why is she flirting with him. This is a terrible idea.)

"I wonder," he muses, stepping towards her, "just what you look like under that mask."

Her mouth curls into a smirk. "Try it, and see what happens," she invites.

"Oh I intend to." He leaps gracefully to the next rooftop. "But not, I think, tonight."

"Try never." She jumps over to the next rooftop with him.

"That sounds like a challenge. I like those even more than I like games."

"That doesn't surprise me."

"As enjoyable as this has been, however, I need to be going." And he steps sideways, plummeting out of view.

Her fear is so visceral it chokes her, as she leaps to where he was standing and looks down.

There's nothing. He's gone.

She tells herself sternly that he certainly must have had a way of transporting or flying away, and that he's fine. There's no body, no blood, nothing. He's fine.

But her heart keeps pounding, and it's strangely hard to breathe.

*

Later that night, Kathryn stares at herself in the mirror. "I am in so much trouble," she sighs.

*