#6 – Resurrection

Thunder crashed outside the Metropolis headquarters of S.T.A.R. Labs, as lightning illuminated the surrounding cityscape with enough frequency and brightness to seen almost like daylight, in spite of the late hour. Rain poured from the skies, streaming across the advanced research facility’s parking lot, making it seem more of a small, shallow creek.

Dr. Emil Hamilton was working late this particular evening. A couple of friends of Superman, Charlie Lewis and Linda Danvers, as well as a woman named Sharon Holmes, had brought in an Essence. An Essence was essentially a cybernetic human – a living machine – melded with a human brain from a long-dead host. But this particular Essence had been deactivated, it’s circuit control system removed.

He knew that the mind trapped in the immobilized body in his lab was slowly dying, slowly going insane. Unable to control its environment, it felt trapped in a perpetual dream state – where it would remain after a short time, even if the body were re-activated later. Her brain would essentially just give up and die.

Emil sat on a stool in front of a counter, next to a small halogen lamp, a magnifying glass suspended in front of him by a band around his head. His hand held a soldering iron, as he delicately touched it to a tiny circuit board. A couple more solder points and…

“This is it”, he said as he removed the magnifying glass headband and tossed it to the counter in front of him. He blew gently on the small circuit board to cool it, before sliding off of the stool. “The moment of truth.”

The lights flickered in his lab as a bright flash of lightning through the windows illuminated him from behind, followed by a loud crash of thunder. He approached the Essence. He pulled aside her hair to find a slot the size of a quarter on the back of her neck. His hands shook a little as he took the circuit board he just made, snapping it into the slot with an audible click.

Lightning flashed again, as the lab went dark. A loud crash of thunder sounded as the eyes of the Essence opened suddenly. Emil smiled as he watched her raise her arms and begin to sit up slowly.

“I did it–“, Emil yelled, the sound of his voice bouncing off the dark walls of his lab, “She’s alive! She’s alive!”

Emil’s enthusiasm was cut short abruptly as the Essence raised an arm quickly, grabbing him by the throat. She slid off of the table, protected from the elements only by a soft white gown. Another flash of lightning, another crash of thunder as she lifted Emil off the ground by his throat. Another flash of lightning illuminated her eyes – they showed anger.

“Please…I…I saved your life.”

The Essence reached behind her to feel the small slot on the back of her neck with her finger. It had closed, as it was designed to when a control circuit was in place. Her eyes turned sad as she dropped him to the ground gently and let go of his throat. “Th-thank you.”

With another flash of lightning, the Essence hugged Emil with the gentleness of a child. He smiled, content that he had made a friend, not an enemy that day – and that he had triumphed over all odds.

“I’m Sam.” Sam looked down at her white gown and gave Emil a shy smile. “Do you have anything a little less–”

“Breezy?” Emil nodded and headed toward lockers placed against one wall of the lab. The place didn’t have much in terms of fashionable clothing, but he could lend her one of Star Labs’ blue uniforms. He chose one which seemed to be the right size for Sam, and handed it to her. “I hope this fits. It’s all I have at the moment.”

Sam nodded, eyeing Emil as she headed toward the single restroom near the lab’s entrance. She seemingly appeared behind him only seconds later as he was examining some equipment with a flashlight. “Okay. Now what?”

Emil jumped as another flash of lightning and thunder crash punctuated Sam’s sudden appearance. He leaned over the counter, trying to catch his breath. “God, you scared me. I need to do a few tests on you. Nothing invasive, just x-rays and CAT scans. It could take a while.”

Sam shrugged. “Okay. But I want to talk to Charlie afterward.”

As Emil walked over to a panel to engage the lab’s emergency generator, he nodded. “Anything, Sam. For what I think I will discover…anything.”
Lex Luthor sat in his darkened office, shades drawn and lights turned off in an effort to soothe his aching head and muscles. He thought about seeing a doctor…but quickly dismissed that as he convinced himself that doctors robbed him of his dignity.

As he closed his eyes for just a moment, a horrid scene replayed itself in his mind. He heard an explosion, a roar, and crashing glass above him. He looked up for just a second, confident that whatever had happened couldn’t directly affect him – yet it did.

He was facing an avalanche of concrete, steel, and glass. He had just enough time to follow his instincts, crumpling to the sidewalk and guarding his neck with his hands quickly. He felt pain radiating from every extremity as the concrete chunks began pelting him, as the glass shards left cuts on his exposed skin. He saw flashes of light as a few chunks hit his head…he felt dizzy. The next thing he remembered was being rescued by two of his security people.

Luthor realized that for the first time in his life…he had almost been killed by an accident. Not by a worthy adversary, or someone who had the mind to out-think and out-strategize him. Simple luck, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He would have died there, lacking the dignity of a true battle.

Sitting in that dark office, alone, he began to worry about how many people would rejoice, rather then mourn, at his death. Superman, while publicly showing remorse, would be relieved. Every muck-raking reporter in town would descend like vultures, looking to rip apart what was left of his reputation. And Lexcorp…would become nothing.

A deep sigh from Luthor went unheard as he came to a single conclusion. It was time for a change in his life. It was time for Metropolis to meet it’s true hero.
Linda pounded on Charlie’s hotel room door mercilessly as he raced across his room to open it. It sounded like she was trying to break it down, and he had no idea why.

“Charlie, what the hell is this?” Linda marched right through Charlie’s hotel room, shoving a rolled-up newspaper against his chest before sitting down, arms folded, in one of the chairs around the table in his room.

Looking confused, Charlie slowly unrolled the ruffled copy of The Daily Planet and read the headline. It said ‘Lex Luthor To Repair Damage From Explosion’. He stared at the headline for a moment before responding. “Looks like he’s trying for publicity.”

“Read the rest of the article.”

He chuckled as he began to read the first part of the article, a miniature interview of Lex Luthor explaining how a near-death experience during a building collapse after the explosion gave him a new look on life. And how he now believed that all life was…sacred? “What the hell…?”

“That’s what I said.” Linda leaned back and put her feet on Charlie’s table. “Lex is losing it. Since when does he think of anything but himself as sacred?”

Charlie laughed, tossing the newspaper aside as he sat at the table next to Linda. He glanced at her shoes for a moment, noting that she was wearing new sneakers. Now that she lived in a big city and lived half of her life as a super-hero, her usual footwear proved to be inadequate. “It’s probably just some carefully rehearsed speech of his.”

“Oh, you think so?” Linda tossed an opened envelope across the table at Charlie. He removed the letter inside quickly, leaning back in his chair to read it.

“Dear Linda and Charlie”, he read aloud, “I have performed many deeds in my life which I now regret fully. One of which was attempting to cheat and alienate you, and potentially destroying your fledgling business by taking your services without payment. Please accept this check for a $100,000, it should cover what I owe you and more. I hope it can begin to heal any animosity between us.”

Charlie turned the envelope upside down, which didn’t reveal any check. He frowned and looked at Linda. “He did send a check, didn’t he? Do you have it?”

“I burned it.” Linda snatched the letter from Charlie quickly, crumpling it into a ball and tossing it effortlessly into the garbage can across the room. “I don’t want any of his blood money.”

“Linda–” Charlie stood quickly and paced the room once, a look of worry on his face. “We need that money. We haven’t had any paying clients since we got here. We can’t keep living off of Clark and Lois in this hotel forever–”

“If it makes you feel better, I’ll pay for the hotel rooms.” Linda stood up and leaned over the table. Her eyes looked angry. “Just as long as Lex doesn’t. I don’t want to be indebted to him for a single penny. I won’t let you, either.”

“Did you ever hear that old saying about looking a gift horse in the mouth, Linda?”

“This gift, Charlie–” She walked around the table quickly, standing in front of Charlie to look him in the eye. “–Is no gift at all. Trust me…Lex Luthor always collects on his favors. Always.”

“What if he’s serious, Linda?” Charlie paced across the room again, giving away that he didn’t feel sure of his words. “When a man nearly has a building fall on him, it can change his outlook drastically.”

“Yeah, right.” Linda headed into Charlie’s kitchenette, rifling through his refrigerator as he continued talking.

“You trust everyone else implicitly, Linda. Just make sure you’ve thought about this, and it’s not the experiences of Matrix you’re drawing on.”

She visibly cringed as those words left Charlie’s mouth. She put a block of cheese she was thinking of eating some of back into the refrigerator – all of a sudden, she lost her appetite. “I can think for myself just fine, thank you very much!”

“Linda, wait.” Charlie struggled to catch up to Linda as she slammed the refrigerator shut and headed toward the door quickly. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to dredge up any ugly memories. Forget about the money. You’re right…if it’s going to come between us, I don’t want any of it. I’ll survive.”

Linda had already stepped into the hallway, she was prepared to slam the door behind her – but Charlie’s words suddenly caused all of the anger to drain out of her body. She couldn’t believe she was going to hurt Charlie’s feelings over anger she felt toward Lex Luthor…she couldn’t let that happen.

“Here.” She slipped her hand into the pocket of her jeans, pulling out a crumpled check with a Lexcorp logo, pressing it into Charlie’s palm gently. “It’s yours, you do need the money. And I’m…sorry I bit your head off.”

Turning and heading back into the hallway, Linda was intent on retreating in shame back to her room – but she froze as she heard tearing paper, followed by confetti raining down over her head. She turned around to face Charlie, her eyes widening as she realized what he was tearing up. “What are you doing?”

“Your friendship is more valuable to me then all of Luthor’s money.” He tossed a remaining few fragments of paper in the air, smiling as he watched them land on Linda’s head. “It’s an act of solidarity. If you don’t want any part of him…I don’t either.”

Linda rushed through the doorway of Charlie’s hotel room in a blur, hugging him tightly. He returned the hug quickly, only to notice a second later that she had tears in her eyes. “I can’t believe you gave up all of that money just because of me.”

“Money is fleeting, Linda. Friendship is forever.”

“I’m sorry, Miss–”

“Graves. Please, call me Mercy.” Mercy stood at the entrance of Emil Hamilton’s laboratory a thick wad of cash in her hand. She towered over the doctor as she waved the money at him slowly. Her hand held more cash then he made in a year.

“Sam is not for sale. Technology or no, she’s a living–”

Purposely intimidating Dr. Hamilton, Mercy moved closer to him, casting a shadow over him as she gripped the wad of cash tightly, evidence of her impatience. “Look, little man…She’s Lexcorp property. I can just take her and leave if you prefer, but I would rather have a happy ending for both of us. Take the money.”

A door behind Mercy opened quickly as a tall man with a bald head and a self-satisfied smile entered the lab. That man was none other then Lex Luthor himself. “Stand down, Mercy. I’m sure we can work all of this out.”

Luthor walked across the lab, urging a nervous Dr. Hamilton to follow him as he leaned against one of the solid steel counters against one wall. “Dr. Hamilton, I have a proposition to offer you.”

“I told you–”

“Hear me out, please.” Luthor held up a hand to stop Emil from speaking, continuing to talk to prevent further interruption. “I will fund all of your research into the Essence, Dr. Hamilton. Anything you learn from her is yours to exploit…provided that you share any findings with me, as well.”

Emil shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry, Mr. Luthor. I can’t accept bribes–”

“Not something as crude as a bribe.” Luthor smiled and placed one hand on Emil’s shoulder, almost as if her were a politician courting a special interest group. “This is an investment. You are supplied the capital you need for supplies, equipment, and staff. I get information in return. I will not even interfere in your work.”

“I…I don’t know what to say.” Emil looked at Luthor, then at a now smiling Mercy. “Thank you.”

“No, thank you”, Luthor said, “Helping a fellow researcher is worth the price.”

Emil stood, frozen, as he watched Luthor and Mercy quietly left the lab. He was so shocked at Luthor’s behavior, he didn’t even notice Sam walk up behind him.

“He sure is acting strange, isn’t he?”

“Huh?” Dr. Hamilton jumped at the sound of Sam’s voice, before calming himself quickly. “Oh. Yes, he is. But his bodyguard seems the same as ever.”

Sam laughed. “I like her. She’s cute.”

“If you like her so much”, Emil joked as he headed back toward his lab table to finish some paperwork, “You can talk to her next time.”
“Can I see one of the Batgirl statues?”

Buzz sat behind the counter at Sci-Fi Universe, eyeing the pack of cigarettes in the shirt pocket of the teen speaking to him. It had been a while since he had a cigarette – Linda made him quit smoking after the hotel manager threatened to toss him out for nearly setting a couch on fire.

“No, you can’t. Bug off.”

“Why not? Don’t you work here?”

“Because, you git–” Buzz leaned forward across the counter, close enough to snatch the pack of cigarettes from the teen’s shirt pocket. “You didn’t say the bloody magic word.”


“Wrong.” He held the cigarette pack just out of the teen’s reach. “The magic word is commission. I’ve got to make a living too, y’know.”

“That’s it”, the teen fumed, “I want to talk to the manager!”

“Fat chance in hell of that.” Buzz leaned back, putting his feet on the counter as he lit up one of the cigarettes, blowing smoke in the face of the next customer. He felt satisfied with himself – there was no way Linda would ever know–

“Buzz, what the hell are you doing?”

He looked across the counter quickly, to see an angry Linda standing in front of him. He removed the cigarette from his mouth quickly, squashing it against the glass countertop. “I wasn’t smoking–”

“I meant with that kid!” Linda leaned over the counter as Buzz tried his best to snuff out a few smoldering embers which trailed across the counter. “You can’t treat customers like that, you’re going to get fired again!”

Buzz shrugged. “Treat customers like what?”


Linda looked over at a large man who had just entered the store from the back room. He walked along the counter, his gaze fixed on Linda, until he finally paused in front of her and leaned over the counter.

“This aint a library. Buy something or get out!”

“Let me guess”, Linda asked as she gave the man an amused smile, “You’re the manager?”

“I’m the owner. You have a problem with that?”

“No…no problem at all.” Linda tried her best not to laugh as she raced out of the comic shop, finally losing control as she met Charlie outside.

Charlie smiled, but did his best not to laugh. “What?”

Linda took a deep breath to try and calm herself, urging Charlie to start walking with her. “I never thought I’d see Buzz find the perfect job…but I think this is it.”

While turning to look back at the comic store, Linda found herself crashing right into Charlie. He had stopped walking. She was about to ask why when the reason became apparent – he was reading a large banner across the street announcing a homeless shelter opening courtesy of Lex Luthor. But it wasn’t just any shelter – it was a building filled with nice one bedroom apartments!

“What’s going on around here, Charlie?” She stood behind Charlie, frozen, just staring at the banner. He did the same…and after several seconds of silence from Charlie, she realized that he didn’t have an answer for her. He was just as stumped as she was.

“Come on, Linda.” Charlie pointed across the street toward a small glass storefront. “We have to get to Dave’s Deli to meet Clark and Lois.”

Linda nodded, following Charlie across the street and into the deli. The place was a favorite among Metropolis residents because of it’s familiarity – it was one of the few places that the frightening, brand new Metropolis technology didn’t rule. In fact, if not for the touch-screen cash register, the place was positively dated. But that, in Linda’s opinion, is what gave the place its character – the fact that it remained the same in spite of the changes surrounding it.

She watched an older homeless man in layers of torn clothes enter the deli as she followed Charlie to a table. Linda cringed silently – Metropolis, in some ways, was as bad as Gotham. To keep it’s polished image as the city of the future, it’s residents had become as intolerant of the homeless as people in Gotham, though for another reason – because during the ‘upgrade’, most people prospered. The homeless and poor were therefore outcasts, thought to be defective.

Linda was pleasantly surprised when the owner of the deli – his name tag read David something-or-other – stepped through the double swinging doors leading to the back of the store, hands full of two brown bags full of bread and various food items. The homeless man tried to refuse, but didn’t get the chance before David dumped both bags in the man’s arms, and shook his hand quickly. It was an outpouring of genuine love – not for a city, but for its people.

Charlie saw it too. As she turned to look at him, he was eyeing a homeless woman in torn clothing who came in to help the man carry the bag. Then yet another homeless person – a teenager, lost to the streets. Linda took a quick look around the store, expecting to see horrified patrons. There were a few, but the regulars took it in stride – this deli was a neighborhood joint, a place where people took care of each other.

As Linda remembered the sign outside trumpeting Luthor’s big entry into the world of aiding the homeless, it made her angry. Luthor wasn’t satisfied any more with just being the biggest businessman in town. He wanted his finger in everything, his name plastered on every corner of Metropolis. He would never be happy with simple world domination – he wanted the world to truly be his own.

“What’s the matter, Linda?”

She could feel the anger in her eyes as she turned to face Charlie, not even realizing how upset she was with Luthor until she saw her own emotions reflected in his eyes. She asked herself why she was so angry – was Charlie right? Was she drawing on memories from Matrix’ past? “Charlie…what’s the matter with me? Why can’t I let go of this hate I have for Lex?”

“Once bitten, twice shy, Linda.” Charlie smiled at her as they both sat down at their table. “To tell you the truth, I don’t trust him much either. But every man deserves a second chance…maybe he’s genuine this time. Sometimes it pays just to sit by quietly and wait.”

Linda nodded quietly as she watched Clark and Lois approach from the entrance door. Following them was the teenage Kara Kent. Linda had to smile, watching the three – it looked almost like Lois and Clark had adopted her.

“What would you guys like?” Charlie leaned back, reading the menu as Clark, Lois, and Kara sat down.

“Tomato soup. And tuna.” Kara returned the stares of Charlie and Clark as she blurted out her preferred order. “What? I’m hungry.”

Linda covered her mouth to laugh as Charlie attempted to get the attention of one of a nearby waitress. Once the waitress approached, she watched as Clark and Lois each ordered their lunches with the smoothness and precision that only a regular customer of the place would be able to. They didn’t even consult the menu as Charlie and Linda had to.

“What would you like, Linda?”

Suddenly pulled back to reality, Linda tried to skim the menu quickly. She let her mind wander, totally forgetting that sooner or later, her turn would come up. She glanced across the table at Kara, smiling to herself as she remembered why Kara ordered what she did – because she probably ate it often enough at the Kents’ home in Smallville. “You know…I think I’ll have what she’s having.”

The waitress nodded. “Okay…that’s two tomato soup and tuna’s, one roast beef on whole wheat, and two bologna and cheese, no mustard.”

A round of nods confirmed that the order was correct, sending the waitress back toward the kitchen.

Linda continued staring across the table at Kara as Charlie, Lois, and Clark began a discussion on obtaining evidence in an investigation. She enjoyed being a private investigator for the action, and to help people – such detailed discussions bored her.

What interested her more was how quiet Kara remained…and what she was doing to pass the time. Since Kara sat down, she had been playing with something small in one hand, seemingly kneading it with her fingers. At first, Linda assumed it was some sort of modeling clay – interesting her even more, at the possibility of Kara being a fellow artist – but soon she discovered that it was something even more interesting. In her palm, Kara was molding a small figurine made out of pure glass. She was using soft heating from her eyes, and the pressure of her fingers to gently yield the glass to her touch.

“Can I see that?” Linda extended her hand across the table to Kara. And when Kara looked up, a light of hope filled her eyes, a look of joy at seeing someone willing to share her interests.

“It’s a dog”, Kara explained softly as she dropped the still-hot molded glass figurine into Linda’s palm. “It looks like Rupert, doesn’t it?”

Linda smiled and nodded as she held the small glass dog up to the light to get a closer look. Kara was right, it looked just like Rupert. “How long did this take you?”

Kara shrugged. “A few days. I did it a little at a time.”

“It’s beautiful.” Linda began staring at the glass figure again when she overheard a new subject being discussed by Charlie, Clark and Lois – sending Kara to school. “What? You’re sending her to high school?”

“Why not?” Clark folded his arms and leaned back. “It was good enough for me, and for Lois. Look how we turned out.”

Linda shook her head. “I don’t exactly have fond memories of high school, Clark. And it’s not the 40’s anymore, schools are different now.”

Charlie did his best not to snicker at Linda’s obvious insult as he offered an alternative solution. “How about home schooling?”

“I don’t know.” Lois wrinkled her nose. “I mean…sure it’s becoming popular, but what kind of education will Kara get?”

“Well…Considering the state of public schools these days…” Charlie laughed.

“Besides”, Lois interrupted, “Who can we trust to home-school Kara?”

Linda watched Kara sigh as everyone at the table talked about her fate. She bowed her head to concentrate on another glass figurine, her long blonde hair obscuring her eyes as she did her best to shut out the world. It made Linda sad to see her do that – to just quietly withdraw from reality instead of asserting herself.

“What does Kara want to do?” Lois, Clark, and Charlie all stared at Linda as soon as she blurted out that seemingly revolutionary idea. Even Kara looked up to see what was going on. “I mean…Does she even want to go to school, or does the idea of it terrify her? Does she even need school? She seems pretty smart to me. And if she wants, Charlie and I can even find her some work to do.”

Kara glanced around the table before smiling at Linda. “I am terrified. But I’ll go.”

“Are you sure?” Linda leaned across the table, ignoring the disapproving looks from Lois and Clark. “It’ll be tough on you. Not the lessons…people.”

“I can deal with it.”
Linda walked into her and Charlie’s office, carrying a small plastic bag. The office work bored her – so she volunteered to go out for office supplies. Plus the fact that her credit card, unlike Charlie’s was empty – she knew that Charlie was in much bigger financial trouble then he would admit to her. Linda was glad to help him out as much as she could without robbing him of his dignity.

She paused in the doorway of the office, watching silently as two people walked into the office ahead of her – Dr. Emil Hamilton and the Essence named Sam she remembered helping Sharon Holmes and Charlie dig up after Lex Luthor buried her.

“Hello, young lady.” Dr. Hamilton leaned over Kara, who sat on the floor re-organizing files at her own suggestion. She was eager to do the work when Charlie casually mentioned that the files were a mess. “Can we talk to Charlie Lewis?”

Kara looked up at Dr. Hamilton and frowned. “I’m not a kid, you know. I’m not a secretary, either.”

In spite of Kara’s protest, she pointed toward one of the rooms of the office. Dr. Hamilton and Sam walked into the room.

“If I were a super-hero too…would I get more respect?”

Linda smiled at Kara’s question as she sat down on the floor next to her, placing the plastic bag she held carefully on the floor nearby. “You know…I often ask myself the same question. So I guess that means the answer’s no.”

Kara sighed loudly. “Why am I treated like a kid? I’m not even from this planet. I might be an adult from–”

“Wait, wait…who told you you’re not from this planet?”

“It’s obvious”, Kara scoffed. “Clark’s not from this planet, and I can do most of what he can do.”

Linda placed a hand on Kara’s shoulder as she watched her own words begin to upset her. “I’m from this planet, Kara. How do you explain what I can do?”

Kara shrugged, her eyes telling Linda that she longed for an explanation too. Yet the silence between them confirmed that neither had the answer to the question. “What do you think I should do?”

“Do what you enjoy, Kara.” Linda stood up quickly, reaching for the bag of office supplies. “The rest will come to you…eventually.”

“Are you leaving again?”

Linda nodded. “I have one more errand to take care of.”
“Sam? Emil? What brings you two here?” Charlie stood up quickly, allowing his desk chair to roll away until it came to a stop against the back wall. He walked around the desk, shaking Emil’s hand as he stared at Sam. “Sam…you’re alive…again.”

Sam laughed. “I guess it takes more then Lex Luthor to kill me.”

Charlie smiled and looked at Dr. Hamilton, then back at Sam. “So you two are working together now?”

Dr. Hamilton nodded, looking back at a smiling Sam. “We’re trying to discover how she works. She was actually developed by Tatsuo Takamura, who has recently turned up missing.”

“Missing?” Charlie picked up a business card laying on his desk, handing it to Dr. Hamilton. “If someone wants him found, you know–”

“That’s one of two reasons I’m here.” Dr. Hamilton sat down in one of Charlie’s office chairs, prompting Sam to do the same. Charlie pulled his rolling chair away from the wall and sat down as well. “Sam wanted to see you…but I would also like to talk to Mr. Takamura about his designs.”

“Given enough information, I think Linda and I can find him.” Charlie nodded slowly, looking across the desk at Sam. “Do you either have any clues?”

Emil shook his head ‘no’. “I’m afraid he had simply vanished without a trace. No evidence, no trail…nothing.”

“Hmm.” Charlie paused in thought for a moment before finally gaining the courage to ask his next question. “I do have to charge a fee, you know. Is that going to be a problem?”

“No, I have an unlimited research grant from a certain benefactor in town. Money isn’t a problem.”

“Great.” Charlie stood up quickly, reaching across the desk to shake Emil’s hand. “It’s a deal, then. Linda and I will look for Mr. Takamura…and if we don’t find him, you don’t pay.”

As Sam and Dr. Hamilton left the office quickly, Charlie looked through the office quickly, eager to find Linda and tell her the news – that they have a paying client! When he couldn’t find her, he paused to talk to Kara. “Have you seen Linda?”

Kara shrugged. “She left. Something about an errand.”

Charlie looked at a plastic bag sitting on a table nearby, filled with office supplies. He remembered sending her to get a few office supplies – but if she finished that errand…

“I think she’s going to visit Lex Luthor.” Kara stared up at Charlie, smiling at his confused look.

“Oh, hell.” Charlie looked at the main entrance of the office, briefly thinking about following Linda, but quickly decided against it. He knew she could take care of herself…he just hoped she wouldn’t do anything too destructive to Luthor. He smiled back at Kara. “You’re quite the detective.”
“Ah, Supergirl. Long time, no see.”

Lex Luthor didn’t even bother looking up from the journal he was writing as Linda entered his office through the balcony, in costume as Supergirl. She decided it would be easier to enter through there rather then have to fight her way up from the lobby.

Supergirl looked around her office, noticing one big difference from the last time she visited – in spite of his office being surrounded by bullet-proof glass, Lex Luthor most often kept the venetian blinds closed to retain a certain air in his office, one of darkness and mystery. But this time, all of the blinds were pulled up, letting bright sunlight permeate every corner of the room.

“The darkness made it seem that I had something to hide.” Luthor closed his journal and stood, making yet another uncharacteristic move – he walked around to the other side of his desk. “But now, on a personal level…I have nothing to hide. My triumphs, my troubles, are out in the open for the world to see.”

“I know what you’re up to, Lex”, Supergirl said in a soft voice. Her eyes were filled with anger, but she did her best to control it in her voice, and her actions.

Luthor shook his head and smiled. “I’m not sure what you mean, Supergirl. I’m not ‘up to’ anything. I’ve been give a second chance at life…and this time I’m not going to–”

“Yeah, right.” Supergirl folded her arms, watching Luthor intently as he crossed the room to pour himself a drink. “It’s just a new strategy in an old game, Lex. You know it, and I know it. I’m not stupid.”

Luthor took a sip of brandy and laughed. “I would expect this kind of behavior from Superman, but not you. I always thought you to be more intelligent, trusting, and compassionate then he is. One day his inherent distrust toward me is going the cost him.”

Luthor suddenly felt Supergirl’s white gloved hand wrap around his throat, her warm fingers gripping his jaw tightly as his feet left the floor suddenly. He looked down to see the fine crystal shot glass slip from his fingers, slowly falling to the carpet, bouncing once as the brandy it contained became reduced to a dark stain on the rug.

He could hear his heart beating in his ears as his breathing began to constrict – and two haunting blue eyes burned the anger they contained right through him, sending a quick shiver of fear through his mind. For the first time since he had known this Supergirl, in a white tee-shirt and blue skirt, he found her to be unpredictable…a thought that terrified him.

His sight began to dim as the lack of oxygen to his brain began his transition out of consciousness. His voice was not muted, but he would never beg for his life – he found that to be undignified. No, he would face her, and count on the fact that she was opposed to killing him…or was she? The anger he saw in those eyes…it seemed to him that it had no bounds.

“I’ll be watching you.”

Those whispered words were all Supergirl said before she suddenly released Luthor, watching him collapse to the carpet before she launched herself through the balcony doors with one powerful leap. A passing shadow and a gust of wind…she was gone.



#12 – Rhythm, Part 1

Cassandra tapped a finger on a steel post as she waited impatiently for her turn. She felt like cattle as she waited in a lane marked by a velvet rope and steel poles much like the one she tapped on, staring at a sign which read ‘Wait here for next teller’. She was next, but it would apparently be a long wait – the man ahead of her asked for something beyond the abilities of the average bank teller, meaning the manager had to be called.

She began to feel a little conspicuous as she stood in line in her black long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans. Everyone else in the bank, the customer in front of her included, wore dark suits and formal wear. Sighing to herself, she wondered why Bruce sent her to the bank – it was just…strange for her to be standing there, thousands of dollars in cash to be deposited encased in a small leather pouch dangling almost carelessly from her left hand.

If anything, she guessed, it was an excersize in trust. Bruce simply handed her the pouch without hesitation, and sent her to the bank – totally secure in the knowledge that she would indeed be able to take it there with almost no risk to herself or the cash. He knew that no one would be able to successfully take it from her by force.

As she leaned against the steel pole, using her foot against the base for leverage, she felt both confident and bored. Bruce gave her an easy task, one that would take no effort to complete – once the man in front of her left – but she also felt that she had been given a task which fell short of her abilities.

Cassandra suddenly felt the heat of anger fill her as she watched a man in jeans and a dark jacket walk right past her, cutting ahead of her in line. She was just about to protest…but something didn’t feel right. He was much too focused as he approached the counter, not bored as she was. It seemed like he had a specific task in mind. She was a little surprised when she realized that none of the bank’s employees seemed to notice.

The man in the jacket walked straight up to the counter, whispering something to the teller softly as he hovered his hand over one of the jacket pockets. The teller turned pale, and the customer she worked with took a couple of steps back. It was a robbery.

Cassandra knew that something was seriously wrong by now – but she decided to remain casual, and pretend to be ignorant of what was happening. She continued leaning back against the pole as she eyed the pocket the man indicated to a moment earlier – it seemed weighted, as if there were something heavy in there…possibly a gun.

The customer wearing the suit was slinking toward the exit – a bad move when someone was attempting to rob the bank. The teller made the mistake of raising her eyes to look at the man as she loaded the cash from her drawer into a bag the robber brought with him. The robber quickly drew his gun, pointing it at the man trying to make a slow but sure exit.

He ran for the door once he saw the gun, another stupid move. Cassandra flinched as the ear-shattering sound of the robber’s gun firing echoed through the mostly silent bank. He missed – glass shards began crashing to the floor from one of the large outside windows as it collapsed from the impact of the bullet.

The suited man almost made it. He could have raced to his car, driven far away, and forgot about the robbery – and the robber would never have hit him with such horrible aim. But instead, he panicked as he watched the glass shatter next to him, and slowly shuffled back into the bank, hands raised.

“On your knees”, the robber ordered. He looked at Cassandra, who simply gave him a hollow look. He turned away from her, thinking her not to be any threat to his plans. He snatched the bag of cash, and turned toward the exit, suddenly pausing as he noticed Cassandra now standing in front of him silently.

“Out of my way”, he growled.

Cassandra smiled softly as she took two slow steps back. As the robber approached her, prepared to shove her aside, he found his feet tangled on one of her sneakers – and promptly fell flat on his face, dropping the gun to the floor next to him.

He rose quickly, anger rising within him as he heard the teller and suit-wearing customer snickering. He reached for his gun…but it was gone – and standing several feet away was the young woman who tripped him, casually holding the gun at her side. “Give me that, kid.”

Cassandra’s condescending laugh only made things worse. The man stood on his feet, and started walking toward her quickly.

“I’m going to take that gun, and then I’m going to shoot you.”

As he started walking toward her more quickly, she began backing away until she reached the glass wall of the bank. There was nowhere else to go. She slowly raised the gun, pointing it toward him as a warning. She really didn’t want to fight him, and risk giving herself away.

He laughed at the sight of her raising the gun, lunging at her for his own amusement. “What are you going to do, shoot me?”

As Cassandra watched the man’s amused expression, she imagined him reaching out to grab her by the throat, and shake her. She felt so small, so fragile as he yelled at her with enough alcohol on his bad smelling breath to intoxicate her. He shook her, and shook her…then carried her to her room to seal her in, as if it were a vault, for what would seem like days. Alone.

No more.

The sound of a gun firing once again filled the near silent bank. In front of Cassandra stood a man devoid of his formerly jovial mood. Blood streamed from the center of his chest, tricking down like a thick, red waterfall to the floor. His eyes registered surprise at being beaten by her…then fear as he felt the pain of his life slipping away.

He suddenly collapsed to the floor as silence once again filled the bank. Then a loud clack as the gun slipped from Cassandra’s hand to a spot next to the man’s head, followed by the leather pouch she held in her other hand. She looked at the teller and the customer who was in the bank – they both stared at her in shock.

“Oh my God”, Cassandra whispered softly. She had the strongest urge to run from the bank…to run away, never to be seen again by anyone. But she couldn’t – part of her new life was a new level of responsibility. It was something she hated, but she could no longer escape. She would face her fears, and be a better person for it…or so she hoped.
“What do you think?”

Barbara Gordon dismissed the question from Tim as she sat in her wheelchair in the doorway of what was once an entrance between a hallway and a room in someone’s home. Cassandra’s home, to be exact, before a fire reduced all of the walls and floors to ash.

The room was empty, covered in soot. But the one thing that made it unique was the window, which Tim, as Robin, broke while helping Batman rescue Cassandra from the fire.

The house had been boarded up and placed on the market for sale long ago. Its interior remained a time capsule, a window into a moment in time which remained a mystery to all but its sole survivor…Cassandra.

“I think this place could use a coat of paint.” Barbara smiled as she noticed Tim frown in response. She could tell he was trained by Bruce – always dead serious when investigating something.

“No, I meant–”

Ignoring Tim again, Barbara began tracing small lines etched into the darkened ceiling above. She remembered that the lines were layers of soot deposited by the flames, and would lead to their source. It would be an excellent way to estimate where the original fire was set.

She suddenly paused as the etch marks ran down a wall inside another bedroom. They all seemed to point to one corner…where a hole had burned through the carpeting and the underlying hardwood floorboards. She glanced around the room, noticing a bathroom off of the back corner. This was the master bedroom.

Barbara closed her eyes, trying to imagine a queen sized bed under the blinds-covered window opposite the door, and furniture lining the walls. The only source of light was from an alarm clock next to the left side of the bed.

A young woman stepped through the doorway, her path lit by flame. In her hand, a home-made torch of wood, cloth, and gasoline. Her angry frown lit from below by an orange-red flickering glow, and her eyes show pain from years of either abuse or neglect…as well as a certain sadness. Her life as she knows it was about to come to an end…and she was willing, if only to put an end to theirs as well.

The young woman eyed the bed, making sure that the two adults peacefully sleeping didn’t see her. There would be no escape once the fire began spreading. She dropped the torch to the floor, right next to the doorway, walking backwards slowly as she watched the flames spread. Burn. Burn, and never harm anyone again.

Barbara cringed as she opened her eyes suddenly. It was helpful to try and think like the suspect, but it was sometimes frightening as well. She looked down at her hands as she tried to calm herself – they were shaking. She could still feel the young woman’s anger.

“You okay, Barbara?”

“I was just daydreaming.” She smiled and nodded at Tim as she backed her wheelchair into the hallway and headed back toward Cassandra’s former bedroom. “Once the fire was set, she ran this way. This carpet started to burn quickly, so she probably barely made it to her room…and slammed the door shut behind her.”

Barbara rolled into the room and spun around to face Tim. “She was in here, scared…as smoke started to pour in around the doorway. She was next to the window because–”

“–Her bed was here”, Tim interrupted. I remember. It was right next to the window, and it was starting to burn. It flared up when I broke the window.”

“Hmm.” Barbara rolled over to the window to look at the window frame. It had nails in it. “It looks like she couldn’t get out. Her parents must have nailed all of the windows shut…which is why they didn’t escape, either.”

“Or maybe she did.”

“No.” Barbara shook her head as she spun around again. “She didn’t plan this. It doesn’t fit. This was a spur of the moment thing, probably right after she’d been punished somehow…”

“–yes, punished, young lady!” A tall man towered over a young, dark haired teenager. She looked at the floor, carefully avoiding his gaze.

Minutes earlier, the police had come knocking at the door. They were pulling the teen closely behind them in handcuffs. They calmly explained that she had been caught inside the a fenced-in garden at the park. She didn’t resist when they attempted to remove her…which is why they took her home instead of arresting her.

“But…I just went in to take some litter that–”

“I don’t want to hear your whiny excuses, Cassandra!” The tall man snatched a handful of her hair, pulling her down the hallway toward her bedroom. She could smell the alcohol on his breath…again…as he kicked open the door and threw her clear across the room, face first onto the bed.

She looked up to see a wild, crazed look in his eyes as he began shaking his index finger at her, his entire body trembling with anger. He reached for a heavy book sitting on a chest next to the doorway – a large bible – and threw it at her as hard as he could. She ducked, and cringed as it hit the top of her head faster then she could avoid it.

“You must repent, Cassandra! You must pray now, before your sins doom this entire family to the fires of hell!” He walked closer to Cassandra, angrily yanking the bible off of her bed and opening it to a bookmarked page. “You will be consumed in the eternal flames, Cassandra! Is that what you want? Huh?”

“Yes.” Cassandra gave her father a devilish smile as she slowly rose to her feet atop the bed. She watched him switch from anger to horror as she took the bible from his hands and threw it into the hallway.

As he began backing toward the door, she stared at him steadily, keeping her smile as she walked toward him. “I want the fires. I want them to burn us all.”


“…And then he must have slapped her or something. Or maybe locked her in the room…I can’t be sure. All I know is, there was a burned out bible still lying in the hallway.”

Bruce rubbed his chin slowly as he sat in his office chair, watching Barbara Gordon lean against one arm of her wheelchair as he considered the scenario that she came up with. Tim sat backwards in one of the office’s guest chairs, looking from Bruce to Barbara and then back, but remaining silent.

“I find it hard to understand how she can kill her parents simply because they weren’t caring enough.” Bruce stood and paced around the room once before finally leaning against his desk. “There has to be another ingredient in this.”

“There is.” Barbara rolled closer to Bruce’s desk, prompting Tim to lean in closer as well. “I don’t think she tried to kill them. I think she just wanted to scare them.”

Bruce nodded. “Go on.”

“You see, Cassandra has this fascination for danger, and dangerous things. She plays with fire, defies gravity, and takes on deadly criminals without much thought.”

“And she’s good at it, too”, Tim interrupted. He shrugged and placed his chin on the back of the chair when Bruce and Barbara stared at him.

“Tim has a point”, Barbara continued, “She is good at it. And that gives her power over those who fear the danger she toys with. I think she meant to scare her parents with a little fire and brimstone of her own…but it got out of control.”

“So she’s seriously disturbed”, Tim interrupted again, “But only dangerous to people who fear her?”

Barbara smiled and looked at Bruce. Just as she guessed, he seemed entertained by that idea – it made her just a little more like him. “In a way, yes. But she also needs to learn that the dangers she toys with can hurt her, as well. I don’t want to wait until tragety strikes for her to understand that.”

“She has already injured herself on several occasions.” Bruce returned to his desk chair and leaned back. “Yet it doesn’t even slow her down. She’s still extremely reckless. It’s putting both of us in danger.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Tim sat up and stared coldly at Bruce. He took Bruce’s comments a little personally. “Cassandra did everything she could to protect me on that last mission, Bruce. She wanted me to return home safely. She made sure I would. Cassandra only puts herself in danger.”

“Then tell me, Tim”, Bruce said in a low voice, without even reacting to Tim’s stare, “Why did she go back into a burning building?”

“Because she wanted to make sure you were all right, Bruce.” Tim stood and shoved the chair aside, stepping forward to lean on Bruce’s desk. “She cares about you, like it or not. She doesn’t want you or anyone else hurt.”

“Explain to me then, Tim–” Bruce leaned forward on his desk, his eyes glossing over with his cold, Batman persona. “How our compassionate Cassandra beat a man to death with her bare hands.”

Tim angrily tore a small halogen lamp off of Bruce’s desk, and hurled it across the room hard enough for it to smash against the wood-paneled wall. He stormed all the way to the door, hand perched on its edge, prepared to slam it shut behind him. “Cassandra killed to protect me! Or maybe you would prefer if I was dead…so you can be right once again!”

Barbara cringed at the sound of the office door slamming hard enough to pressurize the air in the room for a moment. She gave Bruce a look of pity as he sighed and leaned back in his chair again. She knew that he prized control over all else – something that he was losing rapidly. But control was always an illusion – her wheelchair was a daily reminder of that.

“Bruce…you have to admit, the two of them made an excellent team. They improvised, and made it through that last mission without a single scratch.”

Barbara rolled closer to Bruce’s desk, noting that he seemed a little sad. It meant that she was getting through to him. “And it was a rough mission. You and I both know that. They went in blind, and came out intact.”

“I know that, Barbara…And I do appreciate it.” Bruce took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. His office was getting darker, it was almost time to go to the Bat Cave. “I just worry about Cassandra. She’s not Supergirl…she can’t afford to be so protective.”

“When I first hit the streets, Bruce, I didn’t know my limits. So I was always cautious. And you know what?” Barbara quickly lifted herself out of her wheelchair with her arms and slid onto Bruce’s desk. She looked a little sad as she leaned across the desk to face Bruce. “It took confinement to a wheelchair for me to learn my limits.”

“I want Cassandra to learn her limits on her own”, Barbara continued as she turned away from Bruce. Her eyes were beginning to tear. “So she’ll never end up…like me.”
Cassandra silently closed the door to Bruce’s office as she watched him hand a tissue to Barbara. Not another word was spoken in the office, even as Cassandra turned and headed back toward her room. She would have left her listening spot behind the office’s door on her own eventually…but as she watched Bruce quietly hand Barbara that tissue, it suddenly didn’t seem appropriate to spy on the conversation any longer.

She paused suddenly along the way back to her room as she spotted Tim, sitting on a bench, leaned forward and staring out of one of the giant hallway windows at the pouring rain outside. He didn’t look happy, either.

“Hey.” Cassandra sat sideways on the bench, facing Tim. He didn’t respond. “I love rain.”

“Cassandra…do you enjoy killing?”

She laughed at first, thinking that Tim was joking. But then she frowned as she realized from his steady stare that he was absolutely serious. “N-No.”

“Frankly–” Tim turned away from her again, bowing his head as he looked out the window. “After what happened on that last mission…I watched you beat a man to death, Cassandra. It was one of the most painful things I’ve seen in my life. I’m…a little afraid of you, of what you’re becoming. But I’m also afraid for you. I can see Bruce killing, but for you…it just seems…wrong.”

“I’m sorry.” Cassandra continued looking straight at Tim as she spoke, exhibiting confidence…yet her eyes betrayed the feelings trapped behind them as her memory rushed back to the image of blood covering her gloved hands and costume. She visibly cringed as she remembered the feeling of panic when she saw the man’s body grow still in her hands. “I…I’m afraid too.”

“You’re afraid you’ll kill someone?”

A slow nod from Cassandra caused Tim to place one hand on her shoulder. She bowed her head and looked away from him, as if she were confessing to him a crime of weakness. Bruce disliked weaknesses – she assumed that his protegee would be the same way.

But she guessed wrong. Tim reached out and placed his other hand under her chin, turning her head to face him. His eyes looked serious as she stared into them. “I am too, Cassandra. It’s not unusual to be afraid of killing someone in this line of work. Even cops are afraid of that.”

“No. It’s…different.” Cassandra slid to the other end of the bench, away from Tim and took a deep breath as she looked away again. “I…lost control. I was angry, I just kept hitting him. He begged, but I didn’t hear.”

Tim opened his mouth for a moment to say something – but he couldn’t put together the words to respond. His eyes registered surprise as his memory recalled what he had seen in the lobby. The foreign assassin did indeed beg for his life. And Cassandra did keep hitting him…until he died.

“The good news, Cassandra–“, Tim said slowly, “Is that you know what happened. If you understand what happened, you can fix it.”

Cassandra was giving Tim only half her attention. The rest was focused on the fact that the sun had set, and darkness was about to descend on Gotham City. She nodded once to acknowledge that she heard what Tim said, and stood up slowly, offering a hand to Tim. “It’s time.”
“Excuse me?” A woman sitting on a bench in a Gotham City park looked up from her book momentarily to see who stood in front of her. She gasped out loud as she realized who it was – pasty white face, green hair, and purple jacket…

“I asked you, madam, if you had the time.” Joker leaned closer to the woman, hands behind his back. “You see, my watch seems to have come unwound.”

To punctuate his words, Joker’s watch suddenly blew apart, sending random metallic springs in the woman’s direction. She screamed and dropped her book before falling off of the bench, and then running as fast as she could across the park. Joker laughed to himself and shook his head. “I don’t understand. Who can resist a spring through the park?”

Joker began laughing out loud, as two men in purple jump suits approached him from behind, doing their best to humor him with laughs of their own as they carried two large steel boxes by their top-mounted handles to spots next to the bench. They quickly opened the boxes, and began removing metal and plastic parts.

“What’s this, boss?” One of the two finally had the courage to pipe up. Considering that Joker had just hired them off the streets an hour earlier, it was a brave gesture. “Looks like a satellite dish. We watching TV?”

The second man cringed as the crack of a gun going off broke the silence in the park. The first man collapsed, a red stain forming on his purple jump suit. A hole was left through both the front and back of his clothing…and Joker began laughing.

“Ask a stupid question.” Joker laughed as he blew on the smoke trail drifting out of the revolver he held in his hand.

“You…You killed him”, the second man stuttered.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Joker leveled the gun at the second man’s head, laughter quickly breaking through the mock sympathy in his voice, the man began to tremble in fear. “You two were a matching pair, weren’t you?”

The words ‘Please, no!’ drifted skyward into the darkness, just before another loud crack tore through the park. As the second man lay on the ground, his head shattered into several pieces by the overly-powerful ammunition Joker insisted on using, Joker simply left the boxes behind and began walking down the street, humming a happy tune to himself.
“Working late?” The lobby security guard at the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises nodded at a man in a suit, hat, gloves, and overcoat. He didn’t recognize the man, but since he wore an expensive suit, and was leaving the building, he couldn’t be much trouble. Though it did bother him a little that he couldn’t see the man’s face – his collar was turned up. “Sign out, please.”

The man approached the desk in the lobby, snatching the pen almost angrily from the guard’s hand and scribbling something in the log book. Without a word, he dropped the pen onto the desk, turning to leave quickly.

“Robert, huh? Mind telling me where you work?”

He turned around slowly and dug in the pocket of his overcoat for a moment, pulling out a shiny silver colored object, shoving it in the security guard’s face. “I’m a police officer. I’m looking for a young woman named Cassandra. She came here with Bruce Wayne a few times. Where does she live?”

The security guard narrowed his eyes. He was starting to become a little suspicious. “Police officer? Let me see some I.D.”

Robert slipped a business card out of the pocket of his overcoat and handed it to the security guard. It said ‘Det. Robert James.’ “Call my supervisor. He knows who I am.”

“At this time of the night? No one will be there.” The security guard sat down and looked at the log book again. “Look…this Cassandra you’re looking for is a close personal friend of Mr. Wayne’s. You can’t just walk in here and ask where she lives.”

The security guard suddenly screamed in pain as Robert grabbed a handful of his hair and slammed his head against the desk twice. “You will tell me…or you will die. Do you understand? You have a family, right?”

The security guard nodded quickly as Robert produced an automatic pistol and jammed it under his nose. He closed his eyes and began sobbing, and begging incoherently for his life. “Please…I–”

“That’s not the answer I was looking for!” Robert slammed the guard’s head against the edge of the solid wood desk again, causing his forehead to split open and begin spilling blood down his face.

“She lives at Wayne Manor! Really! Please, don’t kill me!”

“I won’t kill you. I promise.” Robert turned the gun around in his gloved hands, squeezing the handle into one of the security guard’s hand’s tightly. He turned the barrel of the gun toward the guard’s nose. “But I won’t stop you from killing yourself.”

He began laughing as he turned quickly and walked toward the doors of the lobby. The security guard wanted so badly to shoot him in the back, to do anything to stop him…but he couldn’t. He was simply paralyzed with fear.

The gun fell to the ground as the security guard began sobbing. Since his first day as a security guard with Wayne Enterprises, he thought he had a nice, quiet job with a pension. He would never get that pension…the next morning, he would turn in his resignation.
“I could never even think about quitting.” Tim, already fully in costume, leaned against the left fender of the Batmobile as he and Cassandra quietly waited for Bruce to finish looking up some information on his computer. Cassandra wore most of her costume, with the exception of the mask. She was lying on the hood of the car, staring up at the cave ceiling above, admiring the many ridges and features formed of solid rock.

“I know Dick sort of quit”, Tim rambled on, “But he didn’t really. He’s still doing this too, just with another name and costume.”


Tim turned around to face Cassandra, the soft sound she made convincing him that she wasn’t paying attention to anything he just said. He frowned as he noticed her lying on the extremely steep hood of the Batmobile. “How do you do that without sliding off?”

Cassandra shrugged, smiling in response to Tim’s question. She didn’t take her eyes off of the ceiling. The patterns in the rock were just mesmerizing. Some rocks were cut, some left natural. But the patterns the process of creating the Bat Cave left behind were accidental artwork in their own right.

She guessed that the cave was originally filled with water, hundreds of years ago – a relentless force which relentlessly chipped away and smoothed the rocks for decades until a cavern formed. She wondered if the water might return one day, only to eat away at all of Bruce’s valuable property and equipment.

“Let’s go.”

Watching Batman walk past her quickly toward the driver’s side of the car, Cassandra carefully rolled of off of the hood of the car and climbed into the back through the passenger side. Cramped as it was, the poor excuse for a back seat was where she liked to be. While she sat back there, she went virtually unnoticed by either Batman or Robin. She even remembered taking a short nap or two.

But not today. Their destination was only minutes away, and a rather unusual location – they stopped in the alley behind a hospital. Cassandra quickly put on her mask and tapped Robin’s shoulder, turning her palms up to silently ask him what was going on. He just shrugged.

“Robin, you’re with me. Batgirl, get to the roof…keep an eye out. And stay out of sight.”

Batgirl silently fumed about being left as a lookout as she watched Batman and Robin slip through a side entrance into the hospital. Now she would never know what was going on. But as she used a cable launcher to ascend quickly up the side of the building, and felt the cool rain on her face, she knew that she had the better part of the deal.

She quickly attached the cable launcher to her belt and gripped the edge of the roof with her gloved hands. Cable still attached, she pulled herself onto the slick gravel and tar roof, unwinding the cable from a small steel vent and reeling it back into the launcher.

As soon as she paused for a moment, she noticed a maintenance worker on the roof pointing a flashlight down a large vent at the other end of the roof. She didn’t even breathe for several seconds, until she was sure that he didn’t spot her. She felt relieved when she realized that he not only didn’t see her, but that the vent contained a rather loud air conditioning compressor. He wouldn’t hear her even if she stomped across the roof.

A quick dash toward a small shed and a carefully executed standing slide across part of the rain-slicked roof gave Batgirl some shelter, just in case the maintenance man decided to take a look around the roof. She slipped into the shed and closed the door behind her quickly, using a grated vent at the top of the shed to keep an eye on the man. She wondered when he would leave – but he just stood there, looking at that compressor.

She sighed and sat down on a discarded stool, leaning back against the shed’s steel wall as she began listening to the soothing sound of the raindrops hitting the steel roof above her head. The sound made her feel happy, contented. She was on her own once again, free to enjoy the environment around her. And most important, the fact that it was raining harder meant the maintenance guy would probably retreat back into the building, leaving the roof to her.

Or would he?

Batgirl sat up suddenly as she heard a faint sound just outside the shed. She silently rose from the stool, moving as far into a dark corner as she could. Another sound, still faint, but this time closer. Her heart began beating quickly as she reached down and picked up the stool, holding is as a shield, or maybe a weapon, in from of her.

The door to the shed creaked, and began opening slowly. As soon as it partially opened, a shadow of a man moved partway inside. Batgirl slammed the stool into the shadow, hearing the breath rush out of the man’s lungs from the impact. She spun around quickly, landing her boot on the side of his head, knocking him to the ground.

She raced out of the shed, intent on putting as much distance as possible between her and the man she had just knocked down. But her plans were cut short as she slammed into…Batman?

Batgirl turned her head quickly as she watched Robin stumble out of the shed, holding onto the side of his head and groaning softly. She rushed over to his side, propping one arm across her shoulders. “I’m so sorry”, she whispered. Robin just waved her apology away, and smiled at her.

As soon as the trio returned to the Bat Cave, Cassandra removed her mask and raced to a small freezer to fetch an ice pack. She offered it to Robin – he refused it at first, but relented when she became insistent. Neither one of them noticed when Bruce returned out of costume and stood imposingly in front of them. He didn’t look happy.

“Cassandra, you need to improve your recognition skills. And Tim…she wouldn’t have even heard you coming if you hadn’t made so much noise.”

Cassandra suddenly remembered why, while hearing the sounds from the shed, she assumed it was the maintenance man – she noticed, while the man looked at that air conditioning compressor, that he was fairly large. The sound she heard was a faint creaking caused by rubber boots rubbing against a rain-slicked tar roof – boots worn by someone big.

She smiled and shook her head at Bruce. “He’s lighter. I heard you.”

Tim wanted to gloat, to point out that Cassandra was right. But an icy glare from Bruce put an end to any such thoughts.

“I’m glad you’ve all returned.” Alfred walked into the Bat Cave carrying a small package wrapped in thin paper. They were some sort of flowers – tulips, to be exact. “A package was delivered while you were gone.”

“Looks like you have a secret admirer, Bruce.” Tim smiled and nudged him. He responded with a sly smile of his own.

“No, Master Tim. This package was addressed to…Cassandra.”

“Cassandra?” Tim and Bruce both spoke her name at once, as they turned to stare at her in confusion. She barely even left the house except with one of the two, or Barbara. A mysterious stranger sending her flowers was inconceivable.

As she gently took the package of white tulips from Alfred, she searched them quickly, only to find that no card or return address was attached. They were just flowers, from someone she didn’t know…

…And that thought terrified her.