#9 – On Wings Of Eagles

Kara walked slowly through a thick mist. She placed one foot in front of the other, as if she were walking a tightrope, afraid of falling if she deviated an inch from her course. She felt chilled as the mist touched her face and hands. Not a sound was around her, except for the faint noise generated by her own clothing and shoes.


The sound of her voice, nearly a whisper, echoed as if it was projected through a mountainous valley. She turned completely around, trying to get her bearings…but all that she could see was that mist.


She nearly leapt out of her skin as she watched a tall, dark figure approaching her through the mist, without making a sound. She backed away a little as the figure loomed larger…as well as another…and another…all approaching her slowly.

As she spun around quickly, she realized that she was surrounded by people…and they looked like her. The terror began to seep out of her as she took a look around. They seemed…sad? Why?

“What’s the matter?”

“You,” One old woman piped up. She stepped forward, and gripped Kara’s chin tightly – Kara struggled, but couldn’t get away. “You let us die….We needed you!”

“No…I don’t understand–” Kara tried to back away again, but the old woman held her still. “What did I do?”

“You’re a coward,” A man in the crowd piped up. “You ran away when we needed you most!”

“No…I didn’t, I swear!” Kara shook her head, trying to back away from the old woman as tears began to stream from her eyes. “I just woke up, and–”

Kara froze as another man appeared from the crowd, one which she recognized immediately – it was her father? “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry…”

He shook his head slowly, taking Kara from the old woman’s grip, and holding her gently. “I didn’t want you to leave…but it’s too late now. What’s done is done. Take care, my daughter. I will live on…in you.”

“No…” Kara’s eyes widened as he let go of her, and began backing away. She turned around quickly to see the other figures backing away as well. “No…please don’t leave me–”


Kara awoke to darkness, soaked in sweat, as she cast aside the covers of her bed. The glow of the television lit the room only slightly, but made it feel familiar as she tried her best to calm herself. She reached behind her and turned on a lamp.

As soon as the room was bathed in light, she remembered where she was. The previous day, Linda had decided that Kara was capable of a remarkable amount of independence. Being held like a prisoner in the Kents’ home, forcing them to look after her, was fair neither to the Kents nor to Kara. So she had been given a hotel room a short distance from Linda’s and Charlie’s rooms…and a large measure of independence.

She stood up and walked outside onto the balcony, letting the cool wind high above Metropolis whip through her hair. She thought about how wonderful it would be to fly around the city…but alas, a flying blonde teenager zipping past windows in such a place would become front-page news in a matter of hours – especially if she were still wearing a borrowed night gown.

The biggest rule of packing – always make sure you bring pajamas – had been violated…which brought Kara the embarrassing fate of having to borrow someone else’s. She was rather disappointed that Linda had developed such fancy tastes in clothing, causing Kara to end up with a rather breezy night gown made of a light fabric.

Kara tore herself from her thoughts as she noticed movement in her darkened room. That alone didn’t alarm her – because it was possible that Charlie’s dog Rupert had been left there by Linda. She took a deep, slow breath, and started to listen carefully. It was a human being…she could hear someone else breathing in the room, too slowly to be a dog.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” A soft British voice whispered from the darkness, as the movement came closer. Kara tensed a little bit, but relaxed as she realized that the voice’s sound was more curious than ominous. “You’re the reason we found the gateway.”

Kara took a step forward, closer so she could clearly see a dark-haired young woman, not much taller or older than herself, dressed in jeans and a black shirt, as well as soft leather hat – and carrying only a light beige backpack. “Who the hell are you?”

“Such language,” The woman scolded, “My mum would have washed your mouth out with soap. The name’s Sharon Holmes.”

“And should that alone impress me?” Kara gave Sharon an amused frown and folded her arms stubbornly.

Sharon shook her head in frustration as she tossed her backpack on a table in the center of the room and sat in a chair next to it. “Don’t Linda and Charlie tell you anything at all?”

“No.” Kara shook her head and paused for a moment. “I never know what’s going on. What’s this ‘gateway’?”

Sharon nodded knowingly, and placed one hand atop her backpack as it sat in the center of the table. “Get dressed, Kara. We’re taking a little midnight stroll.”
Linda awoke to the sound of a motorcycle’s engine starting up outside the hotel. It wasn’t at all unusual to hear one once in a while…but for some reason, at that late hour, the sound grated on her nerves.

She slid out of bed carefully and walked over to the window, gently shoving the heavy curtains out of the way. As she slid the glass door open and stepped onto the balcony, she could see the motorcycle below – two people riding one of those Japanese racing bikes – tearing down the street quickly.

Just as Linda was about to dismiss the bike completely, she recognized the young passenger – it was Kara! She raced back out onto the balcony, her heart beating quickly as she began to fear that the teen was being kidnapped…but another quick look confirmed that the driver of the motorcycle was Sharon Holmes.

She sighed with relief, knowing that Kara was in no danger…but she also felt anger. Why would Sharon take Kara somewhere in the middle of the night without saying anything, or even leaving a note?

“Calm down, Linda,” She told herself quietly as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Kara’s practically an adult. It’s none of your business.”

But it was! Linda promised Clark that she’d look after Kara…and practically right on the heels of that promise, Kara managed to sneak away. Linda frowned as she sighed again. She’d never be able to get to sleep anyway with so much worry on her mind…

In a blur, she raced across the room to her backpack, stored in a corner next to a desk…and changed into her costume in an instant. Without even thinking, she raced out onto the balcony, and launched herself into the air in two steps.

Just as she’d done a few nights before.

And just as before, she found herself careening through the air, feeling almost out of control until she steadied herself. She still hadn’t yet mastered takeoffs…but at least she knew she wouldn’t be plummeting back to Earth, as long as she concentrated on staying aloft.

Her heart was beating quickly, betraying the fact that she was once again an amateur in the skies. It took concentration. If she ever had to battle anything in the air…she shook her head, trying her best to discard such thoughts. Instead, she watched the motorcycle speeding along below – it seemed to be headed to…the airport?

The motorcycle finally stopped next to a small fixed-wing dual turboprop plane, parked on the edge of the airport’s lot. Linda watched as Sharon jumped off of the bike, with Kara following, and opened the left side door of the plane.

“Oh, no you don’t.” Linda descended quickly…but then realized that she did so much too quickly. She was paying too much attention to the plane, and too little to her landing. “Nuts…oh, nuts!”

Her feet slammed into a concrete taxiway, and collapsed under her, sending her tumbling a few times before she finally stopped. Linda stood quickly and tried to dust herself off…but it didn’t do much good. She now looked like she had been doing road construction all evening.

She stood quickly and raced toward the airplane, just as it began slowly moving toward the runway. If she attempted to stop the plane now, she would most likely destroy it – so she decided instead to tag along for the ride. Linda grabbed the tail of the plane as it sped down the runway, clinging to its moist, slick surface as best as she could. She’d find out where it was headed…one way or the other.
Sharon spun around in the pilot’s seat, after setting the airplane’s autopilot, turning to face Kara who sat directly behind her. She smiled, noting how amused Kara seemed, watching the clouds breeze past her window. “First time in a plane?”

Kara nodded. She was hypnotized by what was outside the window. “It’s loud in here…but it’s so warm and comfortable. No clammy air, no drops of water crawling on my skin–”

“All right, all right.” Sharon laughed as she stood and headed toward the small galley behind the cockpit. “Like a glass of water?”

“No…no thanks…I just want to watch.” Kara leaned her forehead against the inner plastic layer of the window, staring outside at the clouds whisking by.

“Suit yourself.”

Sharon had only left the cockpit for a few seconds before an alarm started beeping, accompanied by several flashing lights. She raced back to the pilot’s seat, and seemed panicked as she started making adjustments to the controls.

“Bloody hell!” She finally slammed her fist against the panel in front of her before leaping to her feet and racing to the back of the cockpit – where she tore open a small panel and removed a backpack, pausing before she could remove a second one. “I trust you can fly on your own.”

Kara nodded. “I can. Why…are we crashing?”

“Yes, Kara, we are.” Sharon nodded as she slipped the backpack on quickly. “Something’s gone wrong with the elevator control. We’re losing altitude.”

“Wait–” Kara stood up and blocked Sharon’s way. “Maybe I can just go out there and fix it?”

Sharon nearly laughed, but suppressed the chuckle to only an amused smile. “Really? How much do you know about airplane mechanics?”

“Well…we can’t do much worse. We’re already crashing.”

It only took a moment of thought to convince Sharon that Kara was right. The worst she could do would be a failure to repair the tail control…and there would still be time to bail out.

Without another word, Sharon pulled a lever on the airplane’s exit door and pushed outward, forcing it open against the outside air pressure. She stepped back quickly, trying to balance herself against the sudden rush of wind, as she watched Kara slowly approach the opening.

“Good luck, Kara,” Sharon shouted over the sound of the engines and buffeting wind noise.

Before Kara stepped through the opening, she turned around and smiled, giving Sharon a silent ‘thumbs-up’ gesture. In another instant, she leapt into the wind…and vanished into the clouds.
Linda was so shocked to see what looked like a human being whisk by above her, she nearly lost her grip on the left tail wing. She looked up quickly to see a small hand gripping the upper tail section, and two legs wearing jeans extending from behind the steel structure. She felt confused for a moment…it would be impossible for an ordinary human to survive such an encounter with an airplane, let alone be able to grab the tail.

She watched as another small hand gripped the edge of the tail as well…and then the owner’s head popped out from the other side. A teenager with blonde hair and bright blue eyes was staring back at her…a teen she recognized. “Kara! What are you doing out here?”

“I could ask you the same question.” Kara looked down at the tail wing Linda held onto tightly, noting that the corner of it – where the fixed part of the small wing met the mechanical part – was bent, jamming the mechanism. “You broke the plane, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t break–” Linda moved the edge of the mechanical part of the wing, shaking it up and down a bit to see if it still was working. She cringed when she heard metal squeaking against metal. She did indeed break it by accident. “Okay, maybe I did. I’ll fix it, if you tell me where we’re going.”

“Kansas, of course. Sharon wants me to see some gateway she found with you.”

There was a short lull in the conversation as Kara waited for Linda to bend the wing section enough to free it, so it could operate as it was supposed to. She launched herself toward the still open door, waving for Linda to follow.

As soon as Linda was inside, Kara planted her feet firmly inside the airplane and grabbed the door’s handle, pulling against the resistance of air moving past at two hundred and fifty miles per hour…and slammed it shut as if it were no more difficult than closing the barn door back on the Kents’ farm.

She latched the door and turned to face Linda. “Now tell me why you followed me.”

Linda smiled weakly, trying to dismiss her question with a light chuckle…but Kara stared at her with an almost threatening seriousness. “I was worried. I didn’t want Sharon to take you somewhere unfamiliar, or–”

A short silence filled the space between them as Linda’s smile turned to a frown, and she bit her lip. “Wait a minute. The gateway? Now I’m glad I followed you, Kara! You could have ended up stranded on some strange planet light years from here!”

Kara folded her arms and smiled, seemingly amused at the anger Linda displayed. “Yeah, right. I’m not completely brain-dead you know. I can think for myself.”

“Are you amused by this?” Linda glanced at Sharon, who stood leaning against the doorway to the cockpit, a big smile on her face.

“As her about the dreams, Linda.”

Linda’s eyes switched back to Kara again, waiting for the teen to fill in the blanks of what Sharon had just started.

“Something’s calling me, Linda,” Kara said as she walked past her and sat down in one of the rear seats of the cockpit. “It’s like this…mystery that’s tearing at my heart. These dreams were depressing me, and I didn’t know why…until Sharon mentioned the gateway.”

“She told me that she had a dream of being thrown from a platform, and falling into the middle of a city.”

Linda looked at Sharon again, and then back to Kara. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“Because…you were kind of a mess, too.” Kara looked down and began fidgeting with her watch, an obvious attempt to avoid eye contact with Linda. “And…I’ve already been enough trouble to you and Clark.”

“No, no no.” Linda sat down in the seat across from Kara, ignoring Sharon as she walked past to sit in the pilot’s seat. “Kara, you’re like the sister I never had.”

“Then why did you leave me with the Kents, and then with Clark and Lois…when you knew they couldn’t deal with me? Do you have any idea what if feels like to be unwanted?”

Linda’s mouth hung open as she watched Kara look down, eyes closed tightly as if her own honest words stung her. She began to understand why the teen had always been so silent, so introverted – because she was afraid of hurting and shaming those who had taken care of her.

“I had no idea you felt that way, Kara,” Linda whispered, “I’m so sorry.”

“Sorry is for losers, Linda.”

Kara sat, arms folded, without speaking a word as Linda tried her best to respond – but Linda was coming up empty. Luckily, she found a small interruption which would ultimately end the conversation.

“We’re here,” Sharon announced, before putting on a headset meant to contact the nearest tower and make sure she could land in a nearby field safely without hitting any other planes.

A think, depressing silence filled the cabin of the airplane as it slowly headed back to Earth. Linda kept giving Kara sad looks, wishing she could say something to brighten her word. But Kara didn’t see any of them – she stared out the window, once again lost in her own world.
“Excuse me…Have you seen Kara?”

Charlie looked up from his newspaper slowly to see Clark Kent standing in front of his desk in his office. He laughed as Clark pushed his glasses up from the end of his nose, amused at how the man could become so deeply immersed in his civilian persona when the world knew his alter ego as Superman.

“I haven’t seen her, but I know where she is.” Charlie dug in the pocket of his jacket, hanging on the back of his chair, pulling out a crumpled piece of paper. “Sharon’s taken her to Kansas to see the Gateway. I assume Linda’s gone, too.”

Clark frowned. “She just up and left in the middle of the night?”

“I guess she’s a night owl.” Charlie shrugged. “And Sharon…well, I have no idea what kind of hours she keeps–”

They both turned abruptly as a soft tap at the window sounded through the nearly silent office. Charlie frowned as he noticed who it was – Power Girl.

“Oh, bloody hell.” Charlie pulled the window open abruptly, allowing Power Girl to enter the room before closing it. “You know, if you super hero types keep dropping by, my rent will go up.”

Power Girl smiled and gave Charlie a quick laugh before approaching Clark – who had a confused look on his face. He’d never seen her laugh so easily before. “I just talked to Kyle this morning, Clark. He says the Guardians know about the Gateway, and–”

“Wait, wait–” Charlie suddenly stepped between Power Girl and Clark, raising both of his hands. “This isn’t the JLA headquarters, you two. Must you hold these kinds of meetings here?”

“As I was saying–” Power Girl frowned at Charlie and stepped around him, ignoring him as she continued. “They want it destroyed, and Kyle is on his way to do their dirty work. I figured since Kara and Linda are on her way there–”

She turned and looked directly at Charlie, giving him and ‘I told you so’ look, raising her voice a little. “–At least one of you might be interested in knowing.”

“Um–” Charlie smiled weakly. “And you’re planning to fly over there?”

“What do you think?” In a blinding blur, Power Girl grabbed Charlie’s left upper arm quickly, pulling him quickly enough to the window that both of his feet left the carpeted floor. Before he could even open his mouth to object, he was airborne alongside her, being held only by one arm…yet he didn’t feel like he was being pulled.

“Wait a minute. Linda has always had to hold me aloft by–”

“I’m not Linda. My flight power’s a mystery.” She gripped Charlie’s arm tighter and made a gut-wrenching turn, heading toward the west. “Now shut up, or I might lose my concentration and drop you.”

Charlie swallowed hard, obeying her request. He hoped it wouldn’t be long before they landed.
Once the plane had stopped completely, Sharon opened the exit door and extended the small stairway to allow everyone to exit. She stood in the doorway like a flight attendant, waiting for Linda and Kara to leave first. As soon as they did, she returned to the inside to get some equipment.

“Linda, I’m sorry.” Kara turned around to face Linda, but then looked down at the ground. “You’ve been nothing but notice to me…I shouldn’t have lashed out and insulted you.”

“You call that lashing out?” Linda smiled. “Kara, when I was your age…God, that makes me sound old…your ‘lashing out’ would have been what I did on a good day.”

Kara smiled mischievously, walking backwards for a few steps before turning and walking, ahead of Sharon, toward the entrance of an underground cavern only partially hidden in the a field about a quarter mile away. Linda shook her head and followed.

For Linda, the walk through the field in Kansas was nothing new – she had gone through the same journey with Sharon and Charlie once before. But she was amazed at how Kara had spotted the entrance and headed straight for it. It was almost as if she too somehow remembered where it was located.

Linda suddenly found herself bathed in green light. She froze, the hair on the back of her neck standing on end, for a moment unsure of what it was. But then, her mind finally connected the color with her memory…Green Lantern?

She looked straight up, nearly giving herself a neck cramp as she searched the skies for the familiar green and black costume of Kyle Rayner. It didn’t take her long to find him – he was descending quickly from just below the clouds, surrounded by a green halo.

“I should have known you’d be here,” Kyle joked as he slowly settled to his feet, “Every time there’s trouble, you’re nearby.”

“Chaos, actually,” Linda pointed out as she smiled. “Every time there’s chaos, I’m nearby.”

Linda suddenly ducked as she noticed something flying toward her. It was a loose rock made of sand – it pelted Kyle, breaking into dozens of small pieces. She turned quickly – Kara stood a short distance away, dusting off her hands and smiling.

“If you two are done with the so-called witty conversation, can we follow Sharon inside?”

Kyle looked at Linda and rolled his eyes. She laughed and followed Kara down the slight hill toward the hidden entrance to the Gateway. “Is this the place I’m supposed to destroy?”

Sharon and Kara wheeled around at the same time. Neither seemed happy as they gave Kyle a threatening stare. Sharon decided to speak first. “You’re planning to do what?”

“Didn’t you know?” Kyle looked at Sharon, and then at Linda. “Nuts…I thought Power Girl would have told one of you by now. I met with the Guardians, they think this…Gateway…is dangerous.”

“Dangerous? Of course it’s dangerous!” Sharon laughed as she removed a crystal from her backpack, waving it in front of a hidden door. It slid open silently, as if by remote control. “So are nuclear weapons. Why don’t the Guardians destroy those?”

“You don’t understand.” Kyle shook his head slowly as he attempted to block Sharon from entering the underground cavern. “This Gateway doesn’t only work one direction, Sharon. If we can open it, so can beings on the other side. Earth isn’t ready for that.”

Sharon frowned, glancing into the cavern around Kyle. “Then find a way to secure it. What bloody use are you super-types if you can’t even do that?”

“I can.”

Kyle and Sharon both gave Kara a look which told her they either thought she was lying or crazy. Kara responded by smiling.

“Really, I can,” Kara continued as she walked between Sharon and Kyle into the cavern. “I…remember this. It’s so clear to me now. I know how to use it, and…”

She wheeled around quickly to face Kyle, deliberately looking at him. “…and how to disable it. It has two keys…one opens the gateway, the other locks it.”

Sharon held the crystal in her hand at her own eye level. “This is obviously the key to open it.”

Kara nodded as she walked toward the wall of solid crystal in the back of the room. She paused for a moment, looking over the surface of it. It seemed to be giving off a light of its own. “See that light? That means it’s activated. There is another crystal inside here somewhere.”

Linda and Sharon looked at each other as Linda passed through the doorway. Neither had any idea what Kara was doing – but Linda watched without speaking a word. She somehow knew that this place was helping Kara recover some of her lost memory.

Kara walked slowly around the perimeter of the room, looking from floor to ceiling – as if she knew something was there. Yet she had no idea what she was searching for. She knew only that she would know when she found it. And just as she had hoped…

“There it is!” Kara pointed high above the glowing crystal wall, where a small, faintly glowing crystal was embedded in a slot near the ceiling of the cavern. Sharon shook her head, wondering how she could have missed it the last time she visited.

But just when she prepared herself to perform a quick leap and snatch that crystal, Kara turned suddenly at the sound of a muffled groan, and a struggle just outside the doorway. Linda turned too, heading immediately outside – but Kara wasn’t far behind.

Power Girl stood outside on the tall grass, one hand over Kyle’s mouth, and her other arm gripping him in an inescapable headlock. Charlie stood a few feet behind her, trying his best not to be injured by accident as Kyle swung his arms wildly, trying to free himself from his captor.

“Let him go!” Kara ordered, trying her best to sound as impressive as possible. She was surprised when Power Girl actually did so, allowing Kyle to collapse to the ground.

Kyle stood quickly, and frowned at Power Girl as he dusted himself off. “What did you do that for?”

“I came here to stop you from destroying this place…with Kara in it.”

“Do I look that stupid?” Kyle immediately realized that his response practically demanded an insult from Power Girl – he waved her off before she had a chance to respond. “Look, Peegee, we had this whole thing worked out before you even showed up.”

Power Girl pointed a finger at Kyle angrily, and frowned. “First of all, don’t call me that, you Nightwing wannabe. Second…how in hell was I supposed to know that?”

“Nightwing wannabe?” Linda whispered to Charlie, trying her best not to laugh. Charlie shrugged, and then pointed to Sharon – she had the second crystal in her hand, tossing it up in the air slightly to emphasize the fact that she spent her time much more wisely than anyone else.

“It no longer matters,” Sharon interrupted as she walked past Linda and Charlie, waving the crystal at Kyle and Power Girl. “The gateway is disabled now.”

“Good. Then maybe certain destructive people can go home…” Power Girl purposely looked at Kyle again, ignoring his frown. “…And tell their puppet masters to mind their own business.”

“Hey! The Guardians don’t control me, Peegee! I’m my own man!”

Power Girl rolled her eyes. “A one hundred percent fictional sentence if I ever heard one.”

Before Kyle had a chance to respond, Power Girl launched herself skyward in a blur. He was still fuming over her attitude…but it would be worthless to follow her and argue with her further.

Instead, he was surprised to see that Kara raced skyward behind Power Girl…and she was fast! Kara caught up with her in only a matter of seconds.

“Words hurt, you know.”

Power Girl suddenly stopped, seeming surprised to hear a voice so close to her. She hovered, looking at Kara for a moment before speaking. “Do they now?”

Kara nodded. “What if after right now, you never saw Kyle again? The last thing he’d remember was you treating him like garbage.”

By the time Power Girl had taken a deep breath and thought of a harsh response, the picture Kara had drawn in her mind had already taken form. She sighed, her eyes turning sad. As super heroes, there was always a possibility that one may never see another again. It was a very risky job.

“You’re right, Kara. Tell him I meant well…okay?”

“Why can’t you tell him?”

Power Girl sighed again. “Because, Kara…when you know Kyle as long as I have, you’ll learn that he can be as grating as myself sometimes. I don’t want that to be the last thing I remember, either.”

Kara frowned as she watched Power Girl fly away quickly. She had initially been used to seeing simple, cooperative relationships. Clark and Lois, a typical married couple…and Linda and Charlie, two friends who regularly behaved as if they could be a couple as well.

The relationship between Clark and Lois, however, deepened in complexity the longer she knew them. Kara even understood things that even they themselves didn’t, or refused to admit. She knew the hurt Clark felt every time Lois went on an ambitious assignment, leaving him alone…and the deep fear that Lois felt every time she watched Clark put on that costume, knowing that this time he might not come home.

She knew that the distance Linda and Charlie kept from each other was for that very reason – but neither one would admit to it. They each feared investing too much in each other…because they feared losing each other. The friendship they had was more comfortable than any other kind of relationship…because it was safe.

Kara wondered still how two heroes like Power Girl and Kyle can work together in spite of their bickering. She guessed that it meant some sort of level of comfort was between them, one where they each knew they weren’t hurting the other that deeply. Kind of a warped type of reassurance.

She shook off her thoughts as she returned to the ground and headed back to the underground cavern, smiling to herself as she noticed Kyle, back to his cheerful self. Maybe that guess wasn’t far off after all.
“I guess we should get everyone home, then.” Linda took a quick count of everyone present at the entrance to the underground Gateway cavern. “I don’t think I can carry all of you, and Kara’s not strong enough. So it’s up to you, Kyle.”

“What about Sharon’s airplane?” Kara’s interruption drew stares from Charlie and Linda. They two of them looked a little sad – it was easy to tell that Sharon wasn’t planning on coming back with them.

Sharon smiled weakly, dangling the crystal in front of Kara. “It’s quite simple, really. As long as I hold this crystal, it’s my responsibility to send it to a place where it’s difficult to recover…for the safety of humanity.”

“I understand.” Kara nodded and smiled half-heartedly.

“Unless–” Sharon walked closer to Kara. She kneeled down to look up into Kara’s eyes, and lowered her voice to a whisper. “You know you’ve come through that gateway, don’t you? Wouldn’t you like to discover your origins?”

Kara smiled, looking at the crystal in Sharon’s hand. “I will…one day. But for now, I’m satisfied.”

“Are you now?” Sharon asked.

“Yes.” Kara nodded. “I now know my place in the world. I know what I’m supposed to do here.”

Linda and Charlie looked at each other, to confirm silently that they were both confused by what Kara was saying. It gave Kara a warm feeling to see that – whenever Charlie and Linda began communicating non-verbally, it meant that everything was right with the world.

And Sharon…Kara wondered if she had some sort of latent psychic ability…or maybe she was just extremely perceptive. Sharon managed to follow Kara’s eyes…and then her laugh told Kara that she knew. She saw the same thing Kara did.

But what Kara remembered about that empty, lonely field somewhere in nowhere, Kansas was one thing – for the second time since her arrival on Earth, among confusion, she had managed to cause every hero in Metropolis to gather, and work together. Not because of danger…but because they all cared about her safety. She had managed once again to do what she believed she was intended to…

…Bring people together.


#18 – Savior, Part 1

Cassandra looked up from a small table in the kitchen of her next door neighbor’s home. Her eyes showed the hurt she felt, and her disheveled hair and torn clothing made her seem like a teenager who had just escaped from prison…or someplace worse.

The slight bruise on one cheek told the rest of the story. Yet she didn’t cry, or even speak a word, as the kindly older woman slid a bowl of chicken soup under her nose. Perfect communication existed between them…yet neither spoke a word.

A gentle clinking sound was made by a metal spoon as Cassandra dipped it gently into the bowl, taking a scoop of noodles, and raising them to her mouth. She blew on the spoon slightly, silently, to cool the soup enough to eat it.

Finally satisfied that the teen was eating, the older woman quickly headed into the living room, where her husband paced back and forth, staring out the front window, and stewing.

“I aught to call the police,” he mumbled as he paused to stare at the house next door, “He threatens me, and then hits his own daughter with a bible. A bible, for God’s sake! There has to be a way to stop this.”

“No, Harry, don’t,” his wife whispered quietly. “If it backfires…they might really hurt Cassandra next time. They might–”

“I know, I know.” Harry sat down on the couch, slumping as he looked down at the floor. His wife sat next to him, wrapping her arm around him comfortingly. He looked at his hands, tightly squeezed together into fists. “If I weren’t a peaceful, God-fearing man, Mary…I swear I would buy a shotgun tomorrow and put a stop to this. I’d know I was right, too.”

Cassandra stood in the doorway of the kitchen, the light behind her as she focused on what the two were saying about her as they sat on the couch. She swallowed hard to keep her emotion in check as she watched the woman who had fed her the chicken soup – Mary, her name was – hold the man in her arms as he began crying over what he had seen in the kitchen only minutes earlier.

She turned around and headed back into the kitchen, noticing a bottle of lamp oil sitting atop one of the cabinets in a large glass bottle. It was a pale orange-red color. Quickly grabbing the bottom edge of the cabinet, she slipped one knee atop the kitchen counter and raised herself to her feet, quickly grabbing the bottle of lamp oil before gripping it with both arms and leaping to the floor.

Cassandra then dug through two of the kitchen drawers she remembered Mary sifting through to find a key one day. Just as she figured, it was a junk drawer…and it contained matches. She had all of the supplied she needed now. It was time to put a stop to the rein of terror.

She looked back toward the living room toward the couple, cuddling each other on the couch, sharing their misery. Shedding tears over what her father had done to her. It was time to end it, to stop the horror from spreading any further. Cassandra loved Harry and Mary, they were close friends to her. There was no way she would allow that crazy man back home to hurt them any longer.

Mary heard the back door slam suddenly. She stood up and headed into the kitchen…and just as she guessed, Cassandra had left as silently as she had arrived. The soup bowl was empty, which was good…but she also noticed that the bottle of lamp oil she stored high up atop the cabinets was gone – as well as a box of matches.

“Dear God, Harry,” she said, turning around in a panic as he entered the room, “What if she heard you?”

Harry never answered Mary’s question. He turned and headed back into the living room, a mixture of relief and fear mixing in his mind. He worried for Cassandra…but he could also sense that she was about to buy herself much needed freedom.
Batgirl stood in an alley between two suburban houses, facing a home across the street which was all too familiar to her. The front of the house was completely lined with the same flowers she remembered, and parked in the driveway was the same dark blue car. She missed Harry and Mary so much…she wanted to tell them she was okay. But she made a decision to break away cleanly from her past after Batman rescued her from that fire.

Only Dick’s words kept echoing in her mind…’can’t go forward until you’re willing to go back a little’. While the rest could fade into history, she longed to touch at least that one part of her past.

She crouched down, leaning her back against the brick wall of the house she was closest to as she waited patiently. Bruce had figured out that Shiva was responsible for a fire which broke out at the police station. Suspiciously, the fire seemed to be centered around the desks of the two detectives looking into Cassandra’s case. All evidence of her official existence had been completely destroyed.

He mentioned that she had a meeting with Shiva. Batgirl didn’t know where Shiva planned to meet her – but it only made sense that Shiva would seek her out in a place she knew Batgirl would head – across the street from her childhood home, looking on from a safe distance.

“You remembered my promise,” a voice whispered in the darkness.

Batgirl looked both directions before she saw movement from above. She looked up, just in time for Shiva to slide down from the roof directly above. She didn’t even bother to stand – she knew Shiva was no threat this time.

“How does it feel to be free?” Shiva asked. She paused for a moment, before waving away her own question. “No…on second thought, don’t tell me. Just think of it as a gift you’ve earned.”

“What now?” Batgirl asked, looking up at Shiva steadily.

“Well…” Shiva started, looking to the empty house across the street. “I find some people with money. By morning that house…that awful memory of yours…will be gone. Nothing.”

“I meant with us. What now with us?”

Shiva smiled. “We’re both professionals. This city’s big enough for both of us…as long as your name is never whispered to me again. Is that fair?”

Batgirl nodded, rising slowly to shake Shiva’s hand. “Fair enough.”

Shiva never bothered to reach for Batgirl’s gloved hand. Instead, she suddenly raced through the back yard of the home Batgirl stood next to, heading to the next street down. Batgirl didn’t bother to follow to figure out where she was going. She had another agenda in mind.

It was late night on the street, making it fairly safe for her to dart across the deserted street unnoticed. She passed by the flower beds in front of Harry and Martha’s house, running around the side past the slightly buzzing electric meter she remembered passing so many times.

The back of the house hadn’t changed much either – three steps up to the wooden deck, stare at the old rusty charcoal grill for a moment, and grab the corroded brass knob of the wooden back door to the kitchen.

She paused for a moment, her hand freezing just before she turned the doorknob. She was hesitating – something which had been foreign to her since the day she put on the Batgirl costume. Nodding to herself, she re-affirmed in her mind that she had to be decisive, and act without dwelling on it too much.

She stood on her toes and reached above the door’s sill, revealing a key she knew was there all along. A click of the lock and a turn of the doorknob, and she was in.

The kitchen was completely dark and silent. Harry and his wife were no doubt deeply sleeping in the next room…or were. Most likely, the sound of the door would waken Harry, and he would be on his way to the kitchen once he confirmed that the sound wasn’t generated by his own mind.

Cassandra slipped her mask off and slid into a chair, dropping the mask into her lap as she looked around the room. It was all so familiar…she remembered sitting in the same chair, her face and muscles feeling sore. She remembered the horror she felt, and the flashes of images of what had happened to her minutes before she walked through that kitchen door.

Light suddenly flooded into the kitchen. Cassandra looked up, seeing the shocked faces of Harry and his wife Mary looking back at her. Harry held a baseball bat in one hand, and Mary hid partially behind him.

“My Lord in heaven.” Harry whispered in a soft voice.

“It’s me,” Cassandra said in a soft voice, smiling at the two of them.

Harry remained frozen, but Mary shoved past him, snatching Cassandra out of the chair, hugging her tightly. “My God…we thought you had died in that fire! And…what’s with this costume? Are you a burglar now?”

“She’s not a burglar, Mary,” Harry said as he walked completely into the room, “It looks kind of like that…Batman’s costume. What’s going on, Cassandra?”

She beamed with a big smile on her face as she held the mask up at eye level. “I’m Batgirl now.”

What may have been a warm reunion suddenly changed as Harry suddenly gasped, clutching at his chest as he tried to steady himself against the edge of the table. The table simply slid out of his way, sending him tumbling to the floor.

“Harry! No!” Mary raced to his side, pointing frantically at the phone. Cassandra didn’t see…she was already dialing. She handed the phone to Mary, who began speaking to the dispatcher in a panicked voice.

Then Cassandra remembered something…a bottle Batman had given her long ago. No…two bottles. One was Potassium Chloride, used to induce a heart attack in someone. He instructed her to use it if someone with a big mouth learned her identity. The second bottle…

…was the antidote. She slipped the bottle out of a tiny pouch on her belt, holding it up to the light. The antidote was a liquid in a gelatin caplet, to allow it to be squeezed out if the victim couldn’t swallow.

She knelt beside Harry, removing one of the small caplets from the bottle. She gently brushed her leather gloved fingers through his hair as she gently squeezed the contents of the caplet into his mouth with her other hand. “Everything will be okay.”

Time seemed to stand still in the room as Harry’s breathing went from labored to strained, and then to normal. Nothing moved, not a sound was made…until the siren of the ambulance outside suddenly broke the silence. Cassandra suddenly snapped back to reality. She had to leave.

“Mary–” Cassandra said, as she reached for her mask.

Without a word, Mary nodded in agreement. “I understand. Thank you…and I hope to see you again soon.”

“Count on it,” Cassandra said, as she slipped her mask back on and raced out the back door. The paramedics never knew she was there – and Mary could not explain how she managed to stabilize Harry before they arrived.

But by that point, the most important thing was the paramedics’ last announcement before they left with Harry – “He’ll live.”
Cassandra felt exhausted as she slipped into Wayne manor through a hidden back door and walked into an interior hallway, pulling off her mask as she headed toward her room to change. The whole place was almost completely dark and silent – Batman and Robin were out somewhere, and Alfred was taking a short nap before their return.

But she didn’t count on one other person to still be around. As she headed from her room to the kitchen for a drink of water, she almost passed right by the study…until she noticed a fire burning in the fireplace. Dick sat on one of the couches, just staring into the flames.

“Hey.” Cassandra said softly, barely loud enough for Dick to hear over the fire. She approached him from behind just as he turned around to stare at her – he seemed surprised by the attention. “Thanks…for the advice.”

“What advice?” Dick asked patiently.

“You know…not leaving the past behind. I…visited someone I knew. A kind neighbor of mine.”

Dick almost let her confession slip by for a moment – before realizing that she had just returned from an outing…in costume. “Wait…you’re telling me you visited someone you knew in costume?”

Cassandra shook her head and took a step back. “I took off the mask. I didn’t want to scare them.”

“That’s even worse.” Dick closed his eyes and sighed, rising slowly from the couch. “Look…you trust those people you dropped in on, right?”

“Yes.” Cassandra nodded. “They were the only ones who cared for me.”

“All right.” Dick smiled slightly. “Just be careful, okay? And don’t tell Bruce about this, he’ll give you the standard lecture.”

“I know.” She smiled.

“Are you kind of bored?” Dick looked at the fire again, shrugging as he turned back to Cassandra. “I mean, hey, I’m staring at a roaring fire. That’s pretty boring. What would you like to do?”

Cassandra paused for a moment, staring at the ceiling with an exaggerated thoughtful expression, before smiling at Dick again. “Get some ice cream?”

Dick nodded. “Let’s go.”
As the Gotham City scenery flew past at terrifying speeds, Cassandra couldn’t help but feel a little amused. She sat on the back of Dick Grayson’s motorcycle, wearing a leather jacket, gloves, and a helmet – the latter at Dick’s insistence – holding on tight as he tore through the streets at speeds which seemed dangerous even to her.

She was grateful for the helmet at least because it prevented the slight cool drizzle from pelting her skin like small knives. The two were going fast enough that she could hear each small drop hit the plastic shield across her face.

“Here we are,” Dick announced, as he suddenly locked the brakes, sliding the bike across the wet pavement to stop next to the curb. She just knew he was showing off a little…or maybe he was so used to showing off that he made a habit of it. It’s part of the reason she balanced herself by holding on to the bike – holding on to him would give him feedback to when she felt uncomfortable, encouraging him to show off further.

Cassandra stepped off of the motorcycle, placing the helmet gently on the seat as she followed Dick toward a small convenience store. It was one of the few places in town to sell ice cream so late at night – but Cassandra still wondered why he had to pick a place in such a seedy neighborhood.

Only a short distance away, a group of teenagers dressed in baggy clothing eyed the two of them – Cassandra could hear them talking about the motorcycle. She pretended to ignore them, keeping tabs on them with only her ears. She assumed Dick was doing the same.

She entered the small convenience store, watching Dick as he ordered two ice cream cones. The clerk seemed less than happy to fill ice cream orders so late at night, but he did so anyway, gouging the price no more than usual.

By the time Dick turned around, however, Cassandra was outside, standing a few feet away from his bike. The teens in baggy clothing had crossed the street, and were too close to the motorcycle. Cassandra was standing guard, silent and with arms folded, in spite of jeers from the small crowd as she gave them all a cold stare.

“Don’t let her catch you messing with my bike,” Dick told the teens, “Or you’ll all have to deal with me.”

Cassandra frowned for an instant as she sat sideways on the seat of the bike, slowly eating her ice cream cone, watching the teens walk away slowly. “Why are they afraid of you?”

Dick laughed. “Because I’m a lot bigger than you are. A lot of intimidation is sheer size. But you did scare them a little, Cassandra. In this neighborhood, they’d steal the bike, the helmet, and your shoes if they didn’t–”

Cassandra turned her head to see why he had suddenly stopped talking. Across the street there was an argument going on among four people. It was becoming heated. At first, that didn’t concern her a bit, as it wasn’t happening all that close by – but then she gelt alarm as she realized that the group of four was made up of two pairs of men wearing different colors.

“Time to go.” Cassandra whispered.

Dick didn’t move at first. He continued to stare across the street at the argument, as if he were interested in what was going on.

“Let’s go.” Cassandra said, more insistently. She sensed that the argument was about to become dangerous. The men wearing different colors were from rival gangs, and were most likely armed.

Just as Dick started up the motorcycle’s engine and started rolling away from the curb, Cassandra spotted a car turning around the corner toward them. It was an older car, and moving very slowly. Without speaking a word, she reached forward and turned the steering hard. Dick was forced to make a quick U-turn to avoid having the bike tip over, before he stopped suddenly.

“What are you…?”

“Go!” Cassandra hit him in the back of his ribs hard enough to cause him to wince. He accelerated quickly, staring straight ahead blankly, seeming as if he were afraid Cassandra would hit him again.

But he discovered why soon enough – he heard four loud sounds behind him…and without turning around to see what it was, he revved the engine of the bike, sending them careening down the street quickly. Cassandra had spotted a drive-by shooting in progress – and since his bike faced the same direction as the car, it would be coming this way soon.

Once he felt they were far enough away, Dick slowed down a bit to avoid attracting attention from traffic enforcement police, but didn’t say a word until they ended up back on the grounds of Wayne Manor. When he stepped off of the bike and looked at Cassandra, he noticed that she had been finishing off the ice cream cone during the ride. His sat half-melted in the center of the bike’s console.

“How did you know?” he asked.

“Head bands,” Cassandra said, just before she stuffed the rest of the ice cream cone into her mouth. She paused for a few seconds while she waited for the sudden sting of an ice cream headache to dissipate. “They wore different colored ones.”

Dick chuckled as he walked inside ahead of Cassandra. “You’ve been watching too much TV, kid.”
Cassandra had only entered her room seconds ago, giving her enough time to remove her shoes and sit up against the headboard of her bed, snatching the television remote control from her nightstand to check what was on. She had been so busy lately, she didn’t have much time just to relax.

She almost frowned when Tim knocked on the partially open door and slowly entered, because her quiet relaxation was about to be interrupted. But then she remembered…she hadn’t talked to Tim in a while.

“I saw what you did,” he said as he slid one of the chairs next to the bed and sat down, leaning toward her to whisper. “I saw you visit that house.”

Cassandra looked at the ceiling for a moment and sighed. “Did you tell Bruce?”

“Of course not.” Tim smiled, seeming happy as Cassandra breathed a sigh of relief. “I followed you because I knew you were going to meet Shiva. I was worried, and…I wanted to even the odds a little.”

“Thanks.” Cassandra mumbled, staring at the television once again. “But I can take care of myself.”

“Who were they?” Tim asked.

Cassandra sighed, apparently uncomfortable with Tim’s questioning. But she knew he wouldn’t give up easily if she simply dismissed him. “They were friends. They took care of me when no one else would.”

“Oh,” Tim said, suddenly falling silent as he stared across the room at her.

She was surprised that he didn’t comment. It was almost as if Tim were purposely trying to avoid discussing Cassandra’s past, as if it upsetting to him. Or maybe he wasn’t prepared for such a quick, simple answer. Or perhaps he knew something…

Just as Tim headed for the door slowly, Cassandra slid off of the bed and raced to the doorway ahead of him, checking the hallway before slamming the door shut. “He knows, doesn’t he?”

Before Tim said a word, his eyes looked down. She knew his answer already, before he even opened his mouth.

“Sit,” Cassandra said as she sighed at the thought that Bruce knew where she went. She knew that it meant a lecture later. “I’ll tell you more.”

She waited until Tim turned one of the chairs next to the table in her room around, and sat down. He patiently faced her, waiting for her to continue. Cassandra sat down too, one fist squeezed into her opposite hand, looking down at her lap, making it obvious that she was about to speak on a very uncomfortable subject.

“He…my dad…used to go crazy sometimes. He would throw things at me. When I knew he was like that…I used to run next door. Harry and Mary would talk to me, make me feel better.”

“Did you go there before you burned…?” Tim asked. He seemed shocked at his own question, stopping halfway. But it got no reaction at all from Cassandra other than a slow nod.

“I wanted my dad to fear me for a change.” Cassandra continued nodding slowly, as she now stared steadily, directly at Tim, with her brown eyes.

Tim leaned forward, holding his breath as he prepared to himself to ask the one question he had been asking himself about Cassandra since he first began working with her. It would make the difference between him fearing her, or finally understanding her. “Do you want me to fear you? Or Bruce?”

With the long paused and cold stare from her that followed, Tim was almost sure the answer would be ‘yes’. A chill ran down his spine…she was a lot more like Bruce than he ever imagined. As Batman, Bruce intimidated both friends and enemies almost equally with a cold, menacing, uncaring personality. He hoped Cassandra would be different…and she seemed to be sometimes, allowing raw emotion to pierce her tough exterior.

A second later, as Cassandra rose from the chair she sat in, he realized that his assessment of what her answer would be was completely wrong. It was easy to tell that she felt insulted as she walked away from him, picked up the television remote off of the bed, and stared at it as if she meant to do something, but couldn’t find the strength.

“Cassandra, I–”

He could feel a chill as she whispered only two words to him, never looking up or meeting his pleading gaze. Just two words, softly whispered, said everything, left Tim no doubt how she felt about his question.

“Get out,” she whispered softly.

With a sigh, Tim hung his head and slowly slipped out of Cassandra’s room, closing the door silently behind him. He knew he was so close to understanding her. So close. But then he had to say something stupid.

He walked down the hall toward the study, pausing to lean his forehead against a door along the way. He sighed to himself, shaking his head slowly. “Tim, you’re an idiot.”
Cassandra sat in costume, with the exception of the mask, on the edge of a counter in the Bat Cave, patiently waiting while Bruce did some research. She found it rather annoying that Bruce always asked her to show up in costume, yet he often wore civilian clothing until just before they were ready to leave.

It had been almost a full day since she last saw Tim. She kind of hoped she would see him on this mission, or at least before she left. But just her luck, Bruce sent him out on his own, and asked her to work with him this night instead.

She still felt a little guilty for kicking him out the night before. She wanted so much to trust him, and have him trust her. But there was still this underlying fear Tim felt, as if he was afraid she would lose her mind one day and kill him and Bruce. Cassandra found that insulting…and it made her feel alone.

As she watched Bruce work alone on the computer, requiring her to remain almost silent to maintain his concentration, she wondered if he felt the same way – if he too had the same underlying fear. She had to wonder if she was, for the most part, alone in the world.

Luckily, one person seemed to understand her. She could hear Barbara Gordon’s voice leaking slightly through a headset Bruce wore as he talked to her. Barbara seemed to be Cassandra’s voice when she was too fearful of her own words to speak.

Cassandra now knew that it was Barbara’s influence which finally encouraged Bruce to try and relate to her, to treat her like a peer, not a child lacking in discipline. It worked – Cassandra could now talk to Bruce, and vice versa, without the conversation erupting into a power struggle.

But Cassandra felt there were still underlying problems. She could tell that both Bruce and Tim were uneasy around her. Even a conversation she had with Barbara earlier in the day didn’t seem to solve her concerns.

“It’s because you’re female,” Barbara told her, half-jokingly.

Cassandra nearly laughed when she heard that…but then she couldn’t help but wonder. It just didn’t seem true to her…but it was possible. After all, the team of Batman and Robin could be equated with a father-and-son team, or two guys with similar interests working together in the same field. But then…why did Dick leave?

It was all so confusing. Maybe Barbara was partially correct, or perhaps Bruce and Tim were a little afraid of Cassandra because of her past. She could only hope to learn the truth one day.

“I’m very disappointed,” Bruce said.

At first, Cassandra wasn’t sure that was aimed at her. But after a long paused, and feeling his eyes finally turned toward her, she broke free of her own thoughts and gave him her full attention.

“I know where you went last night,” Bruce said, his gaze steady and cold. She could tell he was Batman already. “But I don’t know why.”

Cassandra thought about giving Bruce the silent treatment she had become so fond of giving him, usually leading to a cold shoulder from Bruce which makes the North Pole seem like a paradise. But something in her wanted to put Bruce on the defense for a change. Maybe it was the conversation with Barbara, or what had happened with Tim the day before. Or maybe she had finally reached some kind of limit.

“I’m disappointed too,” Cassandra said softly, giving Bruce a serious look. “I thought you trusted me. Instead you spy on me.”

At that moment, Cassandra realized that she seriously underestimated the level of arrogance and self-importance which Bruce carefully hid behind a calm facade at the request of Barbara. That facade crumbled quickly, revealing a solid frown and a set of cold eyes which chilled her to her core.

“Don’t try to stare me down, Cassandra. You’re way out of your league.”

“And you’re out of your mind,” Cassandra blurted out suddenly. A glint of fear, for just a moment, crossed her face. But once she realized that Bruce was now literally staring her down…as Batman…she cleared all emotion from her expression, and stared back.

She quickly realized the reason why a stare from Batman was so fearful. It wasn’t his hidden eyes, or the glassy stillness of them, leaving you wondering if those eyes were real. It wasn’t even the fact that he literally would not blink. Instead, it seemed to bring on the combined fear of everyone who had ever been large, frightening, intimidating in your life. His eyes made a person feel like a child before him, only seconds from being whipped into submission by an angry headmaster.

Cassandra, however, had another reaction to it. His eyes conjured up the image of someone who used to frighten her, but would no more. She launched herself at Bruce suddenly before she had a second to think.

As she suddenly found herself airborne, she regretted not taking a moment to plan better, to think about the consequences of attempting what she did. She closed her eyes and rolled into a ball as she cringed, waiting for the inevitable crash to the ground, tumbling through a few chairs and a table as she landed.

By the time she rose to her feet again, he was there, right in front of her, waiting. It was easy to understand why he was such an unbeatable foe out on the street – he would always be there, right on top of you…but you could never touch him.

“Want to try and be smarter this time?” Bruce asked, obviously taunting her.

“Go to hell,” Cassandra mumbled in reply. She turned and headed away from Bruce, walking just fast enough to keep him too far behind to reach for her.

“Cassandra, wait.”

She stopped and turned slowly. Not because Bruce demanded it, or ordered her to. This time was different – his voice sounded like he was pleading, as if he genuinely didn’t want her to leave.

Cassandra stood still as Bruce walked closer, standing in front of her with his arms folded. He still didn’t look happy…but the coldness in his eyes had vanished. He was just Bruce now.

“I admire your spirit,” Bruce said. “You might have lost the physical battle, but you managed to break my resolve.”

She continued staring at him, waiting for an apology that would never come. In Bruce’s case, apologies were rare – but she did manage to get the next best thing. He gave her respect instead.

“Let’s put this aside and do what we came here to do.” Bruce extended his hand, offering to shake Cassandra’s.

“Agreed.” She nodded as she shook his hand twice slowly, letting go to slip her Batgirl mask over her head and run to the car to wait for Bruce to change. It would only take a few minutes.

“I never thought I’d see the day,” Alfred joked as he held open the door to the small closet which held the Batman costume.

Bruce didn’t react – but having known him since childhood, Alfred knew he would have, if he hadn’t shielded himself behind his emotionless alter ego. There was cause for celebration after all – Cassandra and Bruce nearly fought…both won, and both lost. But in the end, they set aside their disagreement in favor of something they both enjoyed.

Alfred smiled as he watched the Batmobile head out into the cool, rainy night. Calm would prevail tonight.
The Batmobile arrived at the center of downtown Gotham City just in time for it’s huge, dark modern art museum to explode. Chunks of brick, glass and concrete flew into the rain-soaked streets, leaving the sounds of car alarms and distant sirens to break the silence.

Batgirl braced herself as the Batmobile came to a screeching halt, and large chunks of concrete and brick pelted the car from above. She heard Batman curse – and event in itself – and watched helplessly as he punched the console in front of him repeatedly until shards of plastic dropped onto the floor of the passenger side.

There was only one man who could make Batman so angry…and as he looked at Batgirl, still breathing quickly, she realized immediately who it was. It had to be Joker. That’s why Bruce was on-edge enough to pick a fight with her, and why he spent an unusual amount of time researching. He wanted to beat that lunatic just once…but the raining chunks of building and flames all around meant that he failed again.

“All of that work,” he whispered, “This building held some artists’ entire lives. Now it’s all gone because I was a second too late to stop–”

“No.” Batgirl suddenly sat up on her seat. Something didn’t seem right to her. “He…he took them. He had to.”

“Took them?” Batman shook his head. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“He always says he’s ‘an artist’. He didn’t destroy anything…he took it.”

Batman looked toward the burning building again, staring for a few seconds before turning back to Cassandra. “You’re right. Let’s check it out.”

Batgirl usually hated heading into burning buildings. Her heavy leather costume offered her little protection from the heat and smoke, yet kept her from remaining cool enough to work efficiently. But this time was different – she knew she was right, it was simply a matter of proving it to Batman and satisfying her own curiosity.

Luckily, they didn’t stay inside the scorching hot museum for long. They couldn’t anyway, considering that the fire department and police were literally moments away. As soon as they walked into the first exhibit, it was overwhelmingly obvious that the entire building had been cleared out. Empty rectangles marked the wall where paintings had been taken, and a dust-free shape on the floor indicated where a statue once stood.

Without a word, Batman motioned toward the exit. The sound of sirens outside grew dangerously close, and it was time to get out quickly. Batgirl followed, passing him quickly and racing across the street just as the first police car turned the corner.

By the time she climbed into the Batmobile, Batman had just dropped into the driver’s seat from above. He used a cable launcher to swing across the street, where he would be out of view of the approaching police car.

Just as Batman reached for the ignition, Batgirl pulled his hand away. “Wait.”

Just as she predicted, the two police cars which just arrived turned sharply as they approached the front of the museum, pointing their headlights and spotlights at the front door. A fire engine came around the corner about the same time.

Batman started up the Batmobile and drove away slowly, giving Batgirl a suspicious look as he turned the corner away from the museum. “You’ve been getting much too close to police, Cassandra.”

“Not anymore.” Batgirl smiled…’much too close to police.’ It brought images to mind of those two cops who came by Wayne Manor to question her. They wouldn’t be bothering her again for a while.

But Joker on the other hand…she shivered at the prospect of meeting him again. Every time she ended up close to him, either she almost killed him or he almost killed her. The last time, she almost killed him…but didn’t out of a promise to Shiva. She only hoped that the next time, the odds would be in her favor.

She took a deep breath as she watched Batman’s expression change from its general seriousness to one of anger. His driving was becoming more dangerous by the second. She could hear him breathing, feel the anger in the sound of it. His Batman persona was slipping, just as it did a little more with each encounter with his greatest foe.

Batgirl’s heart began racing. That’s why Joker kept winning – because he knew he scared Batman. He could feel it, taste it, smell it. But Batgirl, on the other hand…she didn’t know to fear him. That made her an even greater threat to him than Batman – and as well, made her Batman’s best protection.

She squeezed her leather-gloved hands into fists as the Batmobile exited the roadway and headed toward a warehouse at the end of a loading pier on the edge of Gotham City. She knew her mission now. She had to protect Batman from Joker…and from himself.