Title: Nobody Matters - Episode 2 - “Saigon Protocol”
Fandom: DCU/Kingdom Hearts crossover
Word Count: ~2350
Summary: The rare calm of Gotham City is shattered as the shadows literally rise up to consume it. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, an alert is broadcast to a select group of individuals. What is the “SAIGON PROTOCOL” and why has it been activated?
The yellow eyed entity that looked entirely too much like Tim moved to face Dick and Damian fully. As he turned, the two of them could see that there were more differences than just his overall color.
Though the cowled appearance of this black creature’s head remained eerily similar to Red Robin, his cape was a totally different matter. In fact, it wasn’t really a cape anymore. It was a pair of bat-like wings that had folded themselves neatly over his shoulders and across his collarbone, but were slowly unfurling to stretch out behind him. His hands looked slightly larger now as well, with abnormally longer fingers that ended in sharp, menacing talons, perfectly designed for rending flesh from bones. Most noticeably different now was also the presence of a long tapered tail, pitch black like the rest of him, but with about ten or twelve dangerous looking spikes growing from the tip of it. The way that tail moved reminded Damian of the way a cat’s tail would move whenever it found something compelling to pounce upon.
Damian barely heard Dick’s voice. His gaze had locked with the creature’s and try as he might, he couldn’t snap himself out of it. He felt like a deer caught in headlights. The shadowy being stared right back at the boy with his soulless yellow eyes.
Then a line appeared where Tim’s mouth ought to have been, and wide smile filled with pointed fangs split its face.
“Robin! Move it!”
It took Dick physically tackling Damian and shoving him out of the way to snap the boy out of the trance he’d fallen into. As he shook the cobwebs from his mind, he refocused on the image of his eldest brother fighting with the winged Red Robin-like monster. He watched with growing alarm as the demon’s smile broadened when it became obvious that Nightwing’s attacks had absolutely no effect on it. Dick might as well have been fighting smoke.
Damian pulled out his sword and was about to charge into battle to help Dick when he noticed the shadows on the rooftop were moving unnaturally around them. Having been flung hard to the ground just then, Dick noticed too.
They were the same black creatures that they’d seen in the videos from Los Angeles…
They were the ones that had taken out the Titans…
They were the reason their family was now one son short…
A bright yellow light caught Damian’s eye, distracting him momentarily. A disguised digital screen the boy had never noticed before was illuminated on a small panel right above his wrist. A similar panel was lit up on Dick’s gauntlet too.
“SAIGON PROTOCOL INITIATED.”
Damian stared at the tiny screen in confusion. “What’s the Saigon Proto—”
Before he could even finish his thought, the boy found himself suddenly grabbed by Dick and the two of them were leaping of the rooftop of the building. Damian could do little more than hang on as tightly as he could as his older brother shot his grappling gun so he could swing onto the roof of the next building.
“What’s going on?!” Damian shouted when Dick refused to set him down. “What’s the Saigon Protocol?!” Glancing behind them, Damian gasped as he saw that they were still being pursued by a large wave shadow creatures. Unconsciously, his grip tightened around his brother as Nightwing ran as fast as his legs could carry him.
Dick didn’t bother answering his younger brother. There wasn’t time and he couldn’t waste the breath. He had to run. He had to keep moving. He kept scanning the skylines.
Then he saw it. A large familiar jet was descending from the cloud bank. The cargo bay hatch was opening in the rear of the aircraft as it adjusted its speed to fly only slightly ahead of the two masked vigilantes.
Skidding to a halt at the edge of the rooftop they were on, Dick set Damian down just long enough so that he could reload his grappling gun. Soon as it was reset, he snagged his brother around the waist, aimed at the open cargo hatch, and said a mental prayer as he fired the gun…
The ER at Gotham General Hospital was in a state of semi-organized chaos when Jason Todd arrived. He’d been helping a mugging victim who’d been stabbed. The plan was to bring him in and then head back on out again. Though the streets outside in the big bad city had been mostly calm, something about the relative unnatural calm of Gotham City set the Red Hood’s teeth on edge.
As Jason made his way into the stairwell so he could slip out without too much notice, he heard a vaguely familiar voice from the floor right above him.
“Mom! Please we have to go!” Stephanie Brown was pleading in a frantic tone. From Jason’s vantage point, he could see that though her mask was removed, she was still in uniform. With a frown, he also noted that she looked close to tears.
“Steph,” her mother Crystal, a nurse at the hospital from the looks of her uniform, started firmly. “The hospital needs me. I can’t leave them short-handed. Too many people didn’t show up for work today. I have to stay.”
“That doesn’t matter!” The young Batgirl’s voice was rising in pitch and anxiety. “We need to go now! There’s no time! I can’t leave without you!”
“Stephanie…” Crystal said as her pager began beeping. She glanced at it before giving her daughter an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, but I can’t go with you right now. We’ll talk more later at home.”
As the older woman turned to leave with a sigh, she was startled to find her path blocked by the tall, imposing figure. Before she could make any comment or protest, Jason sprayed her in the face with some sort of gas. As she fell unconscious, he caught her with one arm. Then he looked at Stephanie.
“Alright, Batgirl,” he said with a firm expression. “Explain to me exactly why I’m helping you kidnap your mother from work.”
Stephanie quickly brushed away some tears that had been her blinding her vision. “Bruce activated the Saigon Protocol,” she said quietly as she held up her gauntlet to reveal the flashing screen.
Stephanie and Jason bolted up the stairs. Steph held open the door to the roof while Jason carried her still unconscious mother. Once on the rooftop, though, both of them froze in horror at the sight in front of them.
“Oh God…” Jason murmured.
Gotham City was being consumed by shadows. The creatures that had been all over the news videos from Los Angeles were swarming over the streets and buildings around them. In the not too far distance, they could see pitch black tornadoes devouring entire city blocks.
“What the— Stephanie! Oh my God! What the hell is going on?!” Stephanie’s mother exclaimed with alarm as she finally came to just in time to see the nightmare playing out before them.
Before her daughter could give her an answer, a bright spotlight shone down on them from above. The three of them looked up to see a large militaristic jet hovering above them. As it slowly lowered itself to land on the rooftop, the rear of the plane began to open, revealing Nightwing and Robin waiting for them within.
“Come on!” Damian shouted. He held out a hand to Stephanie, who quickly moved to herd her mother into the jet. As the boy helped hustle the two women in, Nightwing offered his own hand to Jason.
“Get in the jet!” Dick yelled desperately.
For a moment, Jason hesitated. That was all the time the shadows needed. Several pitch black creatures emerged from the darkness and snagged Jason by the leg. With a panicked expression, he tried to reach for Dick’s outstretched hand and missed his fingers by bare inches. For a horrible moment, Jason thought he was going to be dead again, and his fears reflected on his face.
Then a batarang attached to a cable wound itself tightly around his wrist. Reflexively he grabbed it with both hands and held on as tightly as he could.
“Pull up Bruce!” Dick screamed over the roar of the jet’s engines as he braced himself against the frame of the jet, holding as tightly to his end of the cable as Jason was. He still nearly lost his footing when the creatures on the rooftop tightened their collective grip on their prey. Dick would’ve fallen out of the jet if Damian hadn’t grabbed the free end of the cable and strained to keep them both from being dragged down. “Pull up! Pull up! For Christ’s sake, pull up!”
The jet suddenly rose upward, lifting quickly off the hospital roof and heading skyward. The movement was enough of a jolt that it shook loose most of the shadow creatures that had been clinging to Jason’s legs. However, there was still one holding on tightly, using its claws to dig in and tear at the flesh of his thigh. Desperately, Jason released one of his hands to pull out one of his pistols, but try as he might, he couldn’t get a clear shot with the way he was being tossed by both the wind and jet.
“Give me the gun!” a girl’s voice yelled.
Gritting his teeth, Jason hurled the gun as hard as he could at Stephanie as she stood in the jet’s rear opening. She grabbed it, aimed, and unloaded a full clip at the creature. Though she knew it wouldn’t hurt or kill the monster, the bullets hit with enough force that he made the creature lose its grip and go tumbling back down to the earth. Only then was Dick and Damian able to finally pull Jason up and into the jet.
Once everyone was safely inside, Bruce went to work trying to gain altitude. A flock of flying shadow creatures were in hot pursuit and started physically buffeting the jet. Gritting his teeth, he struggled to keep control of the aircraft. In the seat next to him, Alfred was trying to help him keep the jet in the air as well.
“Everyone hold on!” Bruce shouted a moment before he forced the jet to pitch sharply to the right. Startled shouts and alarmed screams filled the air as he went first one way, then the other. He couldn’t help but wince as he heard the sounds of objects and bodies sliding across the floor and colliding with the sides of the jet. Finally, he pulled up on the controls and started climbing higher and higher through a thick cloud bank.
The dark clouds seemed to go on forever. Then, with very little warning, there was a break in the darkness the star-filled sky filled Bruce’s vision.
Beside him, a rather ill-looking Alfred breathed a sigh of relief as he examined the monitors. “We’ve lost them, Master Bruce,” he said wearily. “The Heartless have broken off their pursuit. I’ll get us on course. You should check on the others.”
Bruce took a deep breath, then slowly pried his fingers off the controls. He flexed them several times, trying to work out the lingering ache from the white-knuckled grip he’d been flying with before rising to his feet. When he finally stepped through the cockpit doors into the main cargo area of the jet, the sight before him was one that made his heart ache.
Dick was sitting on the floor with Damian wrapped up in his arms. His youngest son looked dazed and bewildered while his eldest was sporting a brand new bleeding gash on his forehead, most likely from the turbulent flight, and a distant haunted gaze… Jason was sitting on the opposite side of the cabin, wincing with pain as Stephanie’s mother wrapped the wounds on his leg with bandages from a first aid kit the visibly shaken Batgirl was clutching to her chest. No one even registered Bruce’s presence at first, not until he started moving through the cabin, going first to check on Damian.
When Bruce knelt down and laid a hand on Damian’s shoulder, the boy jerked with a start. Damian stared at his father in confusion, as if he had a million questions to ask, but no voice to give them.
“Are you injured?” Bruce asked quietly. Damian seemed to think for a moment, mentally taking stock of his physical condition, then shook his head slowly.
“We’re not going to be going back for the others, are we?” Dick’s voice sounded leaden as he finally acknowledged his father’s presence. At this point, everyone’s eyes turned to Bruce.
The older man, still kneeling before his youngest, bowed his head and shook his head solemnly.
“That’s bullshit!” Jason shouted angrily. “You sent the Saigon Protocol to everyone, right?! Everyone associated with the Bat in Gotham! They’ve got to be waiting for you!” Against the protests of Stephanie’s mother, Jason struggled to his feet and went to the nearest window. “You can’t just leave them be—” Whatever else he was about to yell at Bruce suddenly died in his throat. He stared out the window in horror for a long moment before slowly backing away from it.
“No… It… It can’t be…” he whispered in disbelief.
Stephanie looked at him nervously. “What Jason? What did you see? What’s out there?”
Jason shook his head. “Nothing… There’s nothing there… Gotham… It’s gone…”
Before she could stop herself, Stephanie dashed to the window, took one look, then stumbled backwards with a strangled gasp, her hands flying to her mouth as her eyes filled with tears. Dick didn’t even bother looking. He merely closed his eyes, bowed his head, and tightened his hold on Damian who, for once, did not protest his eldest brother’s engulfing embrace.
“Father?” he whispered in a small voice. “What are we going to do now?”
“We’re going to the Arctic Circle,” Bruce said simply. “To the Fortress of Solitude.”
Author’s Notes: What was the Saigon Protocol? In this story, the Saigon Protocol is a last resort contingency plan Bruce/Batman created. It’s a reference to the last days of the Vietnam War when the US pulled its troops out of the country when it was clear that the war would not be won.
The Saigon Protocol is something Bruce set up so that if something bad happened and Gotham City was completely beyond saving as a whole, his focus would shift to at least saving those closest to him.
Dick has known of the protocol for years. Jason as well from his own days as Robin, although he didn’t get the initial alert because none of his gear was officially Bat-sanctioned and wouldn’t have had the hidden digital panel installed on his own makeshift uniform. Steph was only recently informed of the protocol by Babs when she was given her new uniform. Damian had no clue about it because no one had had a chance to explain it to him yet.
(Frankly, I think it had gotten to a point where no one really believed that there’d ever be an instance where Bruce would EVER activate the protocol. Activating the protocol would mean that Bruce… that BATMAN… had given up on Gotham completely.)
Of course, when Bruce activated the protocol, he sent it out to more than just Dick, Damian, and Steph (who happened to snag Jason along the way). The protocol was sent to everyone Bruce considered friends/family in the city. Babs… Commissioner Gordon… Lucius Fox and his family… Selina…
However, the Heartless consumed the city too quickly and were too big a threat when they were attacking his jet.
He had no choice but to leave them behind…
And now he must take his small group of surviving family to the Fortress of Solitude.
Will they be alone there, or will there be others?
Below is a video of the music which inspired this episode.