Beware The Stranger

Another day at work. Mate sighed as she looked up at the Department Of Water sign above the old brick building she entered every day – the cleverly disguised headquarters for Girls In White. It wasn’t what most people would call a typical office – and yet, it was eerily similar. Every day started and ended with a mountain of paperwork.

She enjoyed working for Girls In White, it was just the paperwork…Mate shook her head to dismiss her negative thoughts. The more she thought about that stack of paper, the more it would bother her.

As Mate waved at the guard and headed toward the sliding glass door, it opened, sending an icy wave of air across the entryway. Mate frowned – Seish had turned up the air conditioning again. He liked it cold for some reason. She asked him many times why he doesn’t only turn down the temperature in his own office, and leave everyone else alone. He just laughed.

Mate glanced up at the clock as she stepped through the door. She was exactly two minutes late. That meant Mara would be standing next to her desk to lecture her on punctuality…again. Mate half-smiled as she peeked around the corner to confirm her suspicions. Mara was there, all right – looking at her watch, tapping her foot. Her impatience was typical.

“Late again, Mate?”

“Sorry, I ran into some heavy traffic.” Mate threw her purse onto her desk, nearly knocking over the seven inch high pile of papers.

Mara purposely stepped in Mate’s way to prevent her from sitting at her desk. “You know, we have other girls lined up to take a job like this. You’d better shape up, or–”

“Yeah, yeah.” Mate lifted up the entire stack of paper and, without even looking at it, dropped it into her trash can. “You say that every single day, Mara. It’s getting boring.”

“Boring?” Mara gasped as she looked at the stack of paperwork sitting in the trash can. “And this paperwork is important! That does it, I’m talking to Seish about this!”

“Good luck”, Mate mumbled as she sat down at her desk to use her computer to check her e-mail. Mara complained about her attitude at least twice a week, and Seish’s reaction would always be the same – he’d just laugh.

“It’s about time you got here! It’s like…almost ten o’clock, you know?”

Mate recognized that ‘valley girl’ accent anywhere. It was Laura, her mission supervisor. Because of her young appearance, Laura was often assigned to high schools, undercover – though the accent was evidence that she often got buried in the part. Mate often wondered why Laura was working at GiW instead of going for an acting career in Hollywood.

“So what are we…like…doing today?” Mate smiled and leaned back as she turned toward Laura. She knew her bit of sarcasm wasn’t wasted.

“So…What took you so long to get here, anyway?” Laura sat down on Mate’s desk. Mate hated that, but Laura thought it was ‘cute’. She secretly wondered if Laura and Britney Spears were somehow related.

“I overslept.” Mate stood up and gently pushed Laura’s legs out of her way. “Can we go now?”

Laura jumped to her feet and nearly ran over Mate on the way to the door. “Sure, let’s bolt.”

Mate rolled her eyes as she headed out of the door behind Laura. She smiled in a self-satisfying way after she realized one thing Laura didn’t – she had the car keys.

“…And then she threw a whole day’s records in her trash can!”

Seish sat at his desk in a soft leather chair, his feet up on his desk,
rubbing his chin gently. “Uh-huh.”

“Are you listening to me?”

“I heard every word.” Seish sat up and grabbed an envelope off his desk, tearing it open with a letter opener from his desk. “If you think the paperwork is so important, why didn’t you take it out of her trash can?”

Mara paused for a second as anger began to fill her. She sighed, to try and keep herself in check. “That, Seish, is not my job.”

“I have confidence in you, Mara.” Seish leaned back again as he snatched a newspaper from his desk. He looked at Mara from above the rims of his reading glasses. “You’ll make everything work out.”

As Seish retreated behind his newspaper, Mara had to use every ounce of self-control she had to avoid slamming his office door. She felt she should, but she didn’t really want to give him a bad impression. After all, when he wasn’t her boss…he was a close, trusted friend.

Mara walked back over to her desk, slowly, and looked at the mountain of paper piled in a corner of her desk. She thought, for just a second, about how much work she could get done if she didn’t have to deal with the paper. She thought about it again, as she glanced back up at Seish’s office. A big smile creeped onto her face as she lifted up her own pile of papers, and tossed them into her trash can.

“There you go, Seish”, Mara whispered to herself as she headed out for a mission, “All worked out.”

From his office high above the work floor, Seish stared down and watched Mara leave the building. He looked at her trash can, and then Mate’s – and promptly laughed to himself. “Looks like I have a revolution on my hands.”

“It’s time for a revolution.”

A mysterious man leaned back in his soft leather chair as he watched the Earth spinning through his window. He sat in an office, high up in a large space station – painted black to avoid detection by Earth telescopes.

He picked up a remote control and began flipping through thousands of channels quickly. They weren’t average satellite or cable channels – instead they were signals from GiW monitoring systems all over the world. Yet another bonus of being located in an orbiting station – the ability to intercept any signal broadcast from Earth.

But he wasn’t interested in watching the usual GiW observations – he wanted to find only one person. One GiW agent, in particular.

“Ah, Mate. What have you been up to?”

He hit the ‘zoom’ button on his remote as he watched Mate climbing into her car. Keeping an eye on her would entertain him for a while.

“Laura, would you please just…shut up and let me drive! And stop playing with the radio!”

Mate eyed the center console for a second, remembering the small red button hidden inside there. If Laura gave her any more trouble, she would find herself ejected from the car quickly.

“Mate, you’ve done nothing but pick on me since we were assigned together.” Lara’s tone sounded serious as she put her feet up on top of the dashboard, earning herself yet another dirty look from Mate. “I get the feeling that you don’t like me.”

“I like you just fine, Laura.” Mate snatched a Curve CD out of Laura’s fingers. “As long as you don’t touch anything.”

“Stop the car, Mate! Quickly!”

Mate looked out of the windows of her car at the rather run down, crumbling neighborhood. Strange people walked the streets, staring at her car conspicuously as it passed by. “Are you sure you want to get out and walk here?”

“No…There!” Laura pointed toward a glass storefront, where a dark-haired woman stood in front of the locked door. Right in front of her stood a man who seemed to be hypnotizing her – only he looked strange somehow. “C’mon, it’s go time!”

“Go time?” Mate pulled over quickly, trying to attract as little attention as she could in a Ferrari. She wanted to get close before…whatever that was…would have a chance to run. Once the car stopped, Laura jumped out of the passenger side quickly and raced toward the building. “Laura…wait!”

Mate cursed to herself as she reached under the back seat and pulled out a portable energy weapon. If this was an alien, she wanted to have enough power to stop it without alerting the entire block that she and Laura weren’t ordinary citizens – as if the short skirts and expensive car weren’t clue enough.

By the time Mate turned around, she could see Laura chasing…something wearing the same clothing as the man they spotted earlier. It was one of the aliens – and thanks to Laura’s enthusiasm, it was running. “Oh, damn…”

Mate threw her energy weapon on the passenger seat and tore down the street after the alien. In a Ferarri, it only took her seconds to catch up to the running alien and nearly drive right past him. She turned quickly onto the sidewalk and slammed on the brakes – putting herself and the car in the alien’s path – and jumped out of the driver’s side with her energy weapon in hand.

“Freeze!” Mate’s hands began to shake a little bit as the grotesque alien, tentacles waving in the air, stared at her with large coal-black eyes. Even as it stood perfectly still, it’s tentacles kept moving – and some kind of slime dripped off of it to the sidewalk. She could feel…depth to those eyes somehow, like they were deep pits trying to swallow her soul. She felt herself falling in. A sense of urgency rushed through her mind – she had to stop the alien now.

Mate felt like it took all of her willpower to pull the trigger on that energy weapon – but she did. With a bright flash a loud noise which echoed off of nearby buildings and seemed to go on forever…the alien was reduced to a pile of grey ash and slime on the sidewalk. Mate let out a deep sigh of relief.

“…And you could have gotten us both killed! Are you listening to me, Mate?”

Mate turned slowly to see Laura standing next to her. Laura had just spent several minutes lecturing her about trying to chase an alien by herself – but for some reason, Mate didn’t hear a single word of it. She shook her head violently as she felt full consciousness slowly returning. “What…happened?”

“You were hypnotized by the alien, Mate. Didn’t you hear me when I said that?”

“No.” Mate shook her head slowly, trying to get rid of residual dizziness as she removed her car keys from her purse. “No, Laura, I didn’t hear a thing. Maybe…Maybe you should drive us back to HQ.”

Laura took the car keys with a big smile on her face. “God, you must be sick.”

Mate kept staring off into space even as she entered GiW headquarters. She felt like the alien somehow planted some kind of image in her mind, even though she had no idea what it was. Something was haunting her.

She shook off the stares as she sat down at her computer terminal and started to type in her report. She hated doing paperwork, even the electronic kind – so naturally, he attention wandered as she typed. She looked at Laura, to see her attentively typing out her report. She looked at Mara, pacing around the room like some kind of jailhouse guard. And Seish…as usual he was standing next to the window in his office above, smiling.

Mate looked upward at Seish as she typed. She returned his smile and waved. He waved back.

“Mate? What are you doing?”

Mate nearly fell out of her chair – she didn’t notice Mara walk up behind her. “Uh…nothing? I…I’m writing my report.”

“In Spanish? We use English to write our reports!”

Mate looked down at her computer screen and shuddered. She had no idea she was writing her report in Spanish! She glanced up at Seish’s office to see him laughing hard, leaning on the edge of his desk for leverage. She hoped at least he was having a good time. “Oh, nuts…I’m sorry, Mara. I’ll fix it.”

Mara looked up at Seish’s office and frowned, just before shaking her head slowly and heading away from Mate’s desk. “I swear…Sometimes I think the real aliens are working here.”

As Mate began hitting the backspace key on her computer terminal, she noticed something very strange on her desk – a crumpled up Post-It note sitting in the corner. She reached for it quickly and unfolded it…It contained her terminal’s password!

Mate stood up suddenly and began looking around the room. Could it be some kind of practical joke? She looked up at Seish’s office – she knew the rules…that she had to report any security problems to him directly. She started to feel a little ashamed as she walked up the narrow staircase to his office. What if he blamed her for it? Called her careless, for allowing her password to be compromised so easily?

Before Mate even had a chance to reach for the doorknob on Seish’s office, the door opened suddenly.

“Someone steal your password, Mate?” Seish stood in the doorway, a big smile on his face.

Mate couldn’t help but wonder if he was somehow behind it – but she also realized that behind his calm smile, he was a little worried about it as well. She could see it in his eyes. “Yes. I…I guess I need a new one.”

“Done.” Seish tapped his computer screen to indicate her new password as it was displayed on his screen. It only stayed on the screen for ten seconds – within that time Mate had to memorize it, because it would disappear from the screen and never be seen again. GiW didn’t like publishing it’s passwords on paper – it could give someone an opportunity to dig in the trash and have access to their secured system.

As Mate turned to leave the office, Seish stood up to intercept her. “One more thing, Mate.”


Seish sighed as he gently rubbed his chin and stared out his window overlooking the rest of the office. “Someone has been…looking into you, Mate. People have been calling me, asking questions…prying questions. Where you live, what you do.”

“Oh, really?” Mate folded her arms as her mind began to try and figure out who would be investigating her. She came up blank.

“I didn’t answer, of course.” Seish turned around to face Mate. All of a sudden, he looked serious. “Mate, if you’re in some kind of trouble…please, let me know. I’m always here to help.”

Mate shook her head. “Honest, Seish. I have no idea why someone would be investigating me. It’s actually a little…scary.”

“Hmm.” Seish walked back behind his desk and took some keys out of the drawer. “These are the keys for the GiW safe house, Mate. I want you to stay there until we have some people check out your apartment. Don’t go back to your apartment for anything until I tell you. Understand?”

Mate nodded. “But…What’s going on?”

“Your car’s been checked.” Seish continued, seemingly without answering Mate’s question. “We found several tracking and eavesdropping devices. A new active security system has been installed to prevent further intrusions – but be careful, it’s rather…shocking.”

“I have to know…What’s going on, Seish?” Mate completely ignored Seish’s little joke – at the moment, she had more important things on her mind.

“I don’t know”, Seish said plainly, “Just remember that I’m here for you.”

Mate shook her head as she left his office angrily. For some reason, that didn’t make her feel any better.

“Damn it!”

High up in a dark satellite, the mysterious man frantically switched from one monitor to the other, looking for Mate. He knew that she tended to disappear whenever she entered GiW headquarters – it was monitor-free – but since she left and drove away in her Ferrarri, he hadn’t been able to find her. He was also unable to track the Ferrari any longer. He pounded on his console angrily as the intercom behind him beeped loudly.

“Phone call for you, Kevin. It’s your daughter, Sarah.”

“Thanks you, Lisa. I’ll take it in here.” Kevin hit the ‘connect’ button at the same time as a blue button next to him which shut off all of the monitors behind him. His brown-haired twenty-one year old daughter appeared in front of him on a small display.

“Hi, Dad!”

“Hello, honey. How was work today?”

Sarah sighed, and Kevin could see her look away from the screen sadly. “My boss called me stupid again today. He’s so mean sometimes…I wish I could quit, but I have to…you know…pay the bills. Daddy…I just wish you weren’t so far away.”

Kevin stroked his chin gently and looked toward his window, to see the darkness outside. ‘Far away’ was an understatement – and his daughter, the only person really left in his life, was alone more now that her mom died. Ironically, her death was the reason Kevin took that job – at the time, he felt he needed to ‘get away’. He regretted it every day since.

“I know, Sarah, I know. I’m trying to find you a better job, one where you can even visit me once in a while.” Sarah’s smile in response to what he said made him feel like an instant hero, like he could solve all of the world’s problems with just a few words. Or at least, his daughter’s problems. “I’m working on it, Sarah. I promise.”

“Thanks Dad! I love you.”

“I love you too.” For several minutes after the viewscreen went black, Kevin continued to stare at it, his mind filled with the image of his daughter’s smiling face. He wanted so badly to get her a better job. He just wanted her to be happy.

Kevin glanced again at the blank monitors, and back out at the cold blackness of space. He angrily hurled his coffee mug at the bullet-proof window, and watched it bounce off.

He had never been so unhappy in his life.

“Life stinks!” Laura tossed a stack of paperwork on her desk, which was next to Mate’s. “I hate paperwork! Why do they have to give me more of it every single day?”

Mate stood up and quickly reached over to Laura’s desk, pushing the stack of paperwork into her garbage can. “Problem solved.”

“Hey, you can’t just…Uh-oh.” Laura sat at her desk quickly as she saw Mara approaching quickly. She didn’t look happy, either.

“Mate! What did I tell you about throwing out paperwork?”

“I forgot. Maybe we should play the tape and relive those wonderful moments.” Mate took a small tape recorder out of her desk drawer and waved it under Mara’s nose.

“Do you think this is funny, Mate? This paperwork is important! This job is important!”

Mate laughed. “The job, yes. The paperwork…well–”

Mara frowned and pointed a finger at Mate. “This is your last warning, Mate. If I have to come here and talk to you again…or if you’re late one more time…you’re fired!”

As Mara walked away, Mate turned to Laura, who was pretending to mind her own business. “She can’t do that…can she?”

Laura turned to look at her for a moment, without saying a word, and then watched Mara walk around the corner. She then returned her attention to Mate. “No, Seish pretty much has all of the power here. Mara can’t really do much.”

Mate laughed and leaned back in her chair, glancing up toward Seish’s office. She noticed that he was staring at her, smiling as usual.

“Inside job, eh?” Seish turned away from the window to face Lisa, the liaison from the GiW Systems Management division. They were in charge of making sure all of GiW’s worldwide monitoring systems worked right – and their work was…unique.

“Yes, the devices in the Ferrari were ours.” Lisa handed Seish a small piece of paper. “A work order was even made out.”

“Who signed off on it?” Seish began reading through the small form.

“It appears that…you did.”

Seish skipped down to the end of the form to see his signature sitting at the bottom of the page. “Hmm…I didn’t sign this. Someone forged my signature.”

Lisa took the form from Seish and looked at the bottom very closely. “It looks like yours.”

Seish shook his head. “Trust me, it’s not my signature. The ‘S’ doesn’t have a tail.”

“A tail?” Lisa looked even closer at the signature as Seish left his office, heading toward Mate’s desk below.

Mate nearly fell out of her chair when she saw Seish approaching her. He almost never came downstairs…unless there was some kind of emergency. “Is…something wrong?”

Seish grabbed Mate’s arm tightly, and pulled her aside amid stares from her coworkers around her. “Mate…Go home. I’ll explain everything later.”

“Why? Am I fired?” Mate gave Laura a quick glance, worrying for a moment that Mara did have the power she said she did.

“No, not at all.” Seish smiled and gently placed his hand on Mate’s shoulder. “I just have something to take care of…something very ugly. I don’t want you around to see it.”

Mate frowned. “I’m not afraid–”

“Please, Mate. Just go home. I’ll make sure you’re paid for the day.”

She thought about arguing with Seish some more, about trying to find out what he was hiding. But something in his warm, honest smile and bright, sparkling eyes made her feel like she just needed to trust him. As he always said, he was there to help.

As Mate headed outside toward her Ferrari, she couldn’t help but wonder what was going on. Seish would tell her, in time – but for now, she would let him keep his secrets.

“Why do you want to be a part of GiW, Sarah?” Seish leaned back in his chair and put his white sneakers on the desk. “What kind of talents do you have that we could use?”

“Well–” Sarah fidgeted nervously as she sat in front of Seish’s desk, legs crossed, trying to keep as much hidden as possible in spite of her short skirt. Not helping matters was the fact that Seish’s office had deep chairs. “I…I’ve traveled a lot. I drive a sports car–”

“Are you willing to put loyalty to GiW over everyone and everything else in your life?” Seish sat up and leaned over his desk, closer to Sarah. “What are you willing to sacrifice, Sarah?”

“Th…This is my dream job, Mr.–”

“Seish. Just call me Seish.”

“Seish.” Sarah shifted in her seat again. “I’ve always wanted a wild, adventurous job like this one.”

“Uh-huh.” Seish smiled and held out his hand. “Congratulations, you’re hired…on one condition.”

“Anything!” Sarah jumped out of the chair, nearly knocking it over. She shook Seish’s hand as a smile took over her face. “I’ll do anything for this job!”

Seish stood up. “You must complete a mission successfully first. I’d like to send you to our satellite office to track a man who’s been misusing our systems.”

“Satellite office?”

“Yes, quite literally.” Seish pointed at a poster of a large, dark satellite on his wall. “It’s in high Earth orbit.”

Sarah looked at the poster a little nervously. She’d worked in offices her whole life until now…and this guy wanted her to travel into space? She felt a little overwhelmed by the whole thing – but now was her chance to start a decent career, one that she would enjoy.

“I’ll do it.”

“I am so…bored.”

Mate stared out over the landscape outside her apartment building, her hands on the permanently sealed glass window. She wished that she could open that window, feel the stiff breeze she knew was blowing this high up off the ground. It would be almost like…flying.

She turned away from the window, feeling a little disgusted with herself for wanting to live in such an ultra-modern place. It left her encased in a giant glass bubble, having no contact with nature.

“Are you bored too?” Mate walked over to a poster on the wall of her apartment, staring at Supergirl, and then into the drawn landscape below, wishing she could somehow step through the glass covering the poster and fly alongside the heroine. “No, you’re life’s exciting, isn’t it? No paperwork, lots of adventure–”

Mate paused as she heard a knock on the door. It was the pizza she ordered! She raced to the door quickly, grabbing her purse along the way. She opened the door with one hand as she dug for money in her purse. “I got it…hold on.”

She froze suddenly as she noticed a larger then normal shadow looming over her – this was no pizza delivery. She looked up to see three men standing in front of her, one holding duct tape and another holding a baseball bat.


Mate slammed the door suddenly, and raced over to the window – before she realized, once again, that it was sealed. She quickly snatched her cordless phone as she heard the men pounding on the door – and found that her phone was dead.

“No…No–” Mate raced into the bathroom and slammed the door quickly as she heard the three men bursting through the entrance door and racing through her apartment. She looked around the room quickly and noticed only that the shower was dripping…

She took a deep breath as she held her hands out ahead of her, toward the door. She closed her eyes, and began to think about the ocean – the merciless tide washing over the beach again and again, taking anything in it’s wake out to sea. She could hear the roar of the ocean as her fingers began to feel cold, like her hands had been immersed in ice. She began to shiver a little as the cold sensation quickly worked it’s way up her arms to her head…and she could smell a refreshing ocean breeze, and feel it blowing through her hair.

By the time Mate opened her eyes the three men lay unconscious on her bathroom floor, in a large pool of water in front of her – seawater, to be exact. She held her hands in front of her and noticed that they were wet, and smelled of the sea. She smiled to herself – the power of the ocean saved her again.

“Kevin, there’s a GiW agent here to see you.”

“Thank you, Lisa. Give me a minute.” Kevin began turning off all of the monitors in his office quickly. He tried to remain calm, but he was very nervous – he knew that the fact that a GiW agent was visiting the satellite office meant they might be on to him.

He looked up slowly as a shadowed female form entered his office. As soon as she passed underneath the single recessed light in his office, he turned pale. “Sarah?”

“Dad?” Sarah turned pale as well, as she approached Kevin’s desk. She was shaking – her first mission, as Seish assigned it, was to escort the ’employee in charge of monitoring’ to GiW headquarters to be disciplined for abusing GiW resources. But she had no idea it was…him.


“No–” Sarah turned away from Kevin quickly, her face full of confusion and pain. “Don’t even talk to me, Dad. I know what you’ve been up to. Seish told me all about it.”

“Honey, I was just trying to help you.” Kevin hung his head and looked down at his desk as he spoke.

“You’ve always done this, Dad!” Sarah slammed her hand down on his desk, both to emphasize her anger and to get his attention. “You tried to scheme my way into the best high school, the best college, the cheerleading squad…and every time, you’ve failed, and made my life miserable!”

“Sarah, I’m so sorry–”

“No more!” Sarah leaned in closer as Kevin bowed his head further. “You’re always sorry, after it’s too late! You know what you’re going to do? You’re going to turn yourself in, and face the consequences. Because you owe it to me, Dad.”

“Sarah…I was wrong.” Kevin looked up slowly, his eyes red from tears he was too proud…or too afraid…to shed. “Please forgive me. I…love you.”

“Oh, Dad–” Sarah suddenly reached across the desk and hugged Kevin, a hug which was immediately returned, as tears began to fill her eyes as well. “I love you too. I promise, I’ll ask Seish to go easy on you.”

“No, Sarah…Take me to Seish. Do your job.” Kevin stood up slowly, holding Sarah’s hand gently as he headed toward the door. “There has been enough interference between us. Let me take care of this myself.”

Words were no longer necessary as Kevin and Sarah, holding hands tightly, headed toward the shuttle which would transport them back to GiW headquarters. People stared as they went – they knew Kevin was in trouble. But he didn’t even notice or care – the only thing he saw was Sarah.

“What have you to say for yourself?” Seish looked directly at Kevin as he spoke, before glancing at Mate and Sarah momentarily.

“I…I’m guilty. I’m so sorry, Seish. I’m sorry, Mate.” Kevin took a deep breath before he continued. “I didn’t mean it to be personal…I just wanted to help my daughter.”

Seish glanced at Sarah again. “It seems she did fine by herself, Kevin. I’ve given her a job in the monitoring department. She’ll be watching those big screens you see below.”

“I know, I know. I’m so sorry.” Kevin bowed his head to avoid Seish’s penetrating gaze. “I suppose…I’m fired now, right?”

“On the contrary, I’m giving you a raise.”

“Wh-What?” Kevin looked at Seish, confusion on his face. “But…I don’t deserve it.”

“You managed to track one of our agents for days.” Seish sat down at his desk, putting his white sneakers up on a nearby shelf. “That’s something not even the government has been able to do. If you can do that, you can track anyone, or anything. You’re a huge asset to GiW, and we don’t want to lose you.”

Kevin froze for a moment, speechless, before looking at Sarah. “Did you–”

“No, she didn’t”, Seish interrupted, “I’ve planned this all for some time. I knew you would respond well to a visit from your daughter. I never wanted to fire you, Kevin, I just wanted to save you from yourself. I wanted you to face what you’ve done.”

“Thank you, so much.” Kevin jumped to his feet and reached across the desk to shake Seish’s hand.

Seish didn’t even get up as he reached over and shook Kevin’s hand. “You’re welcome. Now everyone…get back to work.”

Kevin smiled as he headed for the door, hugging Sarah quickly on the way out. He then held out his hand to Mate. “I hope you can forgive me one day.”

Mate smiled. “That day is today, Kevin. I’ve seen how your daughter loves you. I’m sure you meant well.”

As Kevin and Sarah left the room quietly, heading to their new jobs, Mate looked at Seish and smiled. “You didn’t really plan this all along, did you?”

Seish laughed. “No, not really. I just sent Sarah to Kevin’s office to see what would happen. I had no idea it would turn out this well. Get to work, Mate.”

Mate shook her head as she left Seish’s office. Just when she thought Seish was strange…he would become even stranger. She had no idea if she’d ever understand him – but it sure was fun to try.

Strange Days

Batgirl froze in fear at what she saw as Bruce and the strange, bronze-skinned, golden-eyed Samantha came up behind her. She reached her hand behind her, trying to signal Bruce to stay inside the elevator car for a moment while she tried to assess the danger.

The entire lobby of the Lexcorp building was filled with some kind of large soldiers, each carrying heavy weaponry of some kind. They were surrounding a large, hulk of a man with blond hair – only they were protecting him rather then assaulting him. They appeared to be generally heading toward the door, though they were also loitering longer then Batgirl preferred.

She took a step forward, slowly, trying not to alert the troops to her motion. She was half afraid that they would simply see movement, and shoot before they had a chance to find out whether she was friend or foe – but from her point of view at that moment, the fact that they were armed made them foes until they proved otherwise.

Batgirl drew a large bat-wing from her belt and unfolded it silently. She quickly took inventory of the room, scouting her best shot.


She heard Bruce’s single spoken word even though it was just above a whisper. She knew it meant that he didn’t want her to try to disarm the troops for some reason – maybe he knew more about this whole thing then she did?

That’s when she recognized the blond man as Aquaman. He was someone both to be feared and revered. A fearless leader, and yet sometimes unstable enough to…Batgirl shook her head as she suddenly realized why Bruce stopped her from disarming the soldiers. Doing such a thing would have been taken as a personal affront by Aquaman, and could have quickly lead to her death, and possibly the destruction of the entire building.

Batgirl froze again as she noticed that one of the soldiers had taken notice of her. He was pointing a weapon at her, and talking to Aquaman. She knew she had to take action, no matter what the consequences – she wasn’t going to let some grunt’s itchy trigger finger do her in.

The large Batwing tore it’s way across the room, disarming all but one of the troops instantly. The now unarmed soldiers all came at her, prompting her to fire a cable launcher toward the high ceiling and lift herself to safety. Quickly dropping a self-closing net to the ground behind her caused them all to be trapped instantly – the more they squirmed, the more they would be tangled.

She kept one eye on the last armed soldier, who kept his aim steadied on her, waiting for the order to take her out. Only he found that a little difficult to do so after a small pellet thrown near him exploded, filling the room with smoke. Now safely under cover, Batgirl dropped to the floor, grabbed Bruce’s hand, and formed a human chain with herself, Bruce, and Samantha. She headed quickly for and emergency exit, and raced outside with the two.

The Batmobile was only a few feet away from the door – she decided since it had armor, she could safely park it on the plaza in front of LexCorp. That was a worthwhile bet – because she could hear the troops and Aquaman fighting their way out of the building even as she opened the canopy on the Batmobile. A second later, she was tearing down the streets of Metropolis.

She looked across Samantha – who was seated in the center, staring toward the car’s windshield – to see Bruce sitting next to the passenger door, smiling. He looked amused by the whole event. She couldn’t imagine why.
“I’m so sorry, Charlie. I usually don’t just…break down like that.” Supergirl hung her head as they rode down the elevator to the Lexcorp lobby, almost as if she was a little afraid to look at Charlie directly.

“To tell you the truth”, Charlie said as he leaned against the back wall of the elevator, “I was expecting it sooner. You held out longer then I thought you would.”

Supergirl laughed a little bit before looking up, meeting Charlie’s gaze and his warm smile. “I always liked your honesty, Charlie.”

“You are only human, after all–” Charlie paused as the elevator doors opened up in the lobby. The whole floor was deserted, and some kind of smoke hung in the air – yet nothing appeared damaged. As soon as he exited the elevator, however, he noticed that the security guards at the front desk were missing – and the wall and LexCorp logo behind them was splattered with spots of blood.


She walked out into the lobby ahead of Charlie, scanning the room carefully with her eyes as she went. She knew she had to be careful – whatever caused this could easily still be in the building, and would at least be a threat to Charlie.

As she completed her walk-around of the lobby, she came to the conclusion that whatever happened was already over. The perpetrators were gone. She took a look through the glass entrance doors, and immediately understood what happened. Outside stood Aquaman and a few of his troops. And Superman.


“What the devil was that?” Aquaman stepped through the glass doors, trying hard to stop his instinct to cough due to the smoke in his lungs. His soldiers didn’t have as much control, however. They raced outside, retching and coughing.

“She’s an ordinary human. A young woman in a costume.”

Aquaman looked up to find the source of the voice from above. It was Superman. He folded his arms and waited for Superman to land.

Superman touched down gently and walked over to Aquaman. “Do you now understand what you would have been up against?”

“Interesting.” Aquaman rubbed his chin. “She has extraordinary fighting skill, Kal-El. Just look what she did to my elite guard.”

“And there are probably many more like her out there, Arthur. People we don’t even know about.” Superman smiled as he folded his arms and gave Aquaman a smug look. “People who can even take me down.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?” Aquaman turned around again to confirm that his soldiers had indeed recovered their weapons. He didn’t want them leaving anything behind for Lex Luthor to…examine.

“Not at all”, Superman said, “I think of it as self-sufficiency. I can’t be everywhere, you know. Someone has to fill the gap when I’m not there.”

Aquaman sighed as his troops gathered around him, preparing to leave. “Always the optimist. Sometimes I envy you, Kal-El.”

Superman stood on the plaza in front of LexCorp for a few minutes, watching Aquaman and his troops leave. He was heading back to the coast – which meant, for a little while anyway, that Metropolis would return to it’s usual serenity.

“What happened?”

Superman turned around to face Supergirl and…Charlie. He frowned, showing a little disappointment in Supergirl – he couldn’t believe she brought someone along to a near battle who could be killed all too easily. “Batgirl, that’s what happened. She disarmed Aquaman’s elite guard.”

“Wh…What?” Supergirl covered her mouth in an attempt to contain her laughter. Charlie wasn’t as subtle – he just started laughing out loud.

“All, right, all right.” Superman bit his lip, trying as hard as he could to contain a smile. He saw the humor in the idea of a young woman, who’s only human, having the power to disarm an entire group of soldiers.

“No…You don’t understand, Kal.” Supergirl took a deep breath to try and prevent herself from laughing as she spoke. “Charlie just told off Aquaman upstairs in Lex Luthor’s office. Right to his face, too.”

“And I’m still alive”, Charlie added, not even trying to mask his smile.

Superman sighed. “I guess that makes Charlie a hero now too, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does.” Supergirl smiled at Charlie and leaned on his shoulder. “Are you proud of yourself, Charlie?”

“Don’t worry. I won’t let it go to my head.” Charlie suddenly froze and stared at something he spotted in an alcove of the Lexcorp building. “Do you see that?”

“Yes, I do.” Superman took a couple of steps closer to the building. By his squinting, Supergirl could tell he was looking right through the brick facade. “It appears to be a woman…a strange one.”

“Oh, that’s probably just Mercy, Luthor’s bodyguard.” Charlie started walking toward the building. “She’s a little strange.”

“No.” Superman snatched Charlie’s arm as he passed. Charlie was a little shocked at the power of his grip. It felt like Superman was trying to tear his arm right off…but not quite. “Her skin color is…strange. Her eyes–”

“Are the color of gold.” Batman stood, arms folded, a short distance away from Superman with Batgirl close behind. “Her name is Samantha, I broke her out of LexCorp. She’s obviously some kind of research subject.”

“How do you come out of nowhere like that, anyway?”, Charlie asked, “I’d love to be able to do that.”

“Maybe I’ll have Batgirl show you one day.” Batman turned toward the woman hiding in the alcove. All of a sudden, it seemed like she was hiding because she was frightened of people. “Come on out, Samantha. You’re among friends.”

As Samantha stepped out of the darkness, still wearing her Lexcorp uniform, Charlie just froze. He recognized this woman immediately. “Sam? It’s you, isn’t it?”

“You!” Samantha suddenly seemed angry as she rushed toward Charlie. Batman tried to grab her, but was easily tossed aside.

Superman snatched her around her waist. “Easy now, Samantha.”

“He shot me! He tried to kill me!”

Both Batman and Superman turned to look at Charlie at the same time. They both then turned their gazes on Supergirl.

“You knew, didn’t you?” Superman frowned as he continued staring at Supergirl, holding Samantha back with one hand. “Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I…I didn’t want you to think less of Charlie.” Supergirl glanced over at Charlie, and then stared down at the ground, as if she were a child being scolded by a parent. “He’s a good person, Kal. If he shot someone, there has to be a good reason.”

“Is there?” Superman stared at Charlie with a kind of look that made Charlie shudder. Charlie felt like, at any second, hot beams would shoot from Superman’s eyes, melting him to the ground.

“No…no, there isn’t.” Charlie’s glance turned away from Superman’s quickly, avoiding Supergirl’s eyes as well. “I…I made a mistake. I panicked–”

“You shot me!” Samantha shifted in Superman’s hold. She couldn’t break away from him.

“I’m sorry, Sam.” Charlie seemingly risked his life as he walked closer to Samantha, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. “But you’re here. I’m so glad you’re still here.”

“But you–” Samantha seemed to relax and slouch under Superman’s arm, as if she suddenly lost the power to stand on her own. She began shaking her head slowly as a single tear rolled off of the of her nose. “How can I ever forgive you for this, Charlie?”

Charlie glanced at Samantha for a second, giving her a quick smile before looking down at the ground. “That’s…up to you, I guess. All I can ask is that you try, that you take a chance.”

“A…Chance?” Samantha stared at Charlie as her mind flashed back to her time inside a laboratory at LexCorp. She spent months on end locked in the equivalent of a large closet, her only entertainment being movies and computer games screened and supplied by LexCorp. They were grooming her for something – she knew that much. She just did not understand what, or why. But now, she was free to find her own destiny.

“Sam? What do you say?” Charlie held his hand out toward Samantha – a risky move, considering that she looked so strange, and she had been locked away from society for so long. But he decided that to be trusted, first he had to trust.

Superman loosened his grip on Samantha slowly as she reached out for Charlie’s hand. She hesitated for a moment before grasping Charlie’s fingers and giving him a warm smile. “Okay…I’ll give you one more chance. But if you shoot me again, all bets are off.”


Batgirl looked up at a steel door deep inside the LexCorp building. Next to the door was a small sign which read ‘restricted area’, and a small electronic pad designed to read handprints. The remains of a shattered security camera dangled from the ceiling just above the door – courtesy of one of her batwings.

She slipped off the glove on her right hand and placed it on the electronic pad, just on a whim. Batgirl knew Lex Luthor was in there – simply because she’d already searched the rest of the building. She wanted to make sure he…understands…that he cannot simply kidnap Bruce Wayne whenever he wants to.

As she touched her hand to the electronic pad, she could feel a warm sensation on her palm – a bright light scanned her hand print for the computer system to process. She frowned as the warm sensation ended, and the red light next to the pad didn’t change to green. She had been denied access.

Batgirl replaced her glove and smashed her fist through the glass cover panel which covered the palm scan device, tearing out the camera and lamp and tossing them to the floor. She began twisting wires together randomly – there had to be one pair which controlled the door.

She suddenly heard a loud explosion come from the electronic console as she crossed two thick, obviously high-voltage wires. The door opened about two inches before all of the lights in the hall, including the electronic panel, went dark. She breathed a sigh of relief that she remembered to replace her right glove before digging into the panel.

“Who’s there?”

At the sound of a man’s deep voice coming through the two-inch gap between the doors, Batgirl crouched down into a dark corner next to the electronic panel. She had to keep the element of surprise.

A terrible screeching filled the hallway for several minutes as the man at the other end of the door operated some kind of manual cranking mechanism to open the door the rest of the way. She saw a head peek through – and even in the dark, she recognized him as Lex Luthor.

“Damn it!” Lex Luthor jumped back as a few sparks showered from the broken electronic panel, causing the lights to flicker once. “Who did this? Who’s out here? Show yourself, now!”

Batgirl leapt to her feet and stood behind Luthor, suddenly pulling his head back. She wrapped one arm around his neck, and her other elbow wedged under his nose.

“Ah, Batgirl.” Luthor laughed, even as she tightened her arm around his throat. “Cute. But this will get you nowhere. Mercy?”

Batgirl felt something impact the side of her head suddenly, hard. Her vision blacked out during the impact, and she momentarily lost her balance – causing her to lose her grip on Luthor and fall to the ground. She then realized what hit her – it was the boot of Luthor’s bodyguard, Mercy.

As Batgirl removed a cable launcher from her belt, she could see Luthor heading toward the stairs, and Mercy heading right for her. She aimed the cable launcher at Luthor quickly and fired. It punctured his jacket, and as it expanded, tore through the flesh on his left arm. As Lex Luthor’s screams filled the hallway, Batgirl slipped away from Mercy’s grip, grabbed her by the back of her neck, and slammed her shoulder against the shorting electronic panel. More screams as the voltage coursed through Mercy’s body, melting the sleeve to her arm.

By the time Batgirl released her grip on the back of Mercy’s neck, she was unconscious and badly burned – but still alive. She turned her attention back on Luthor – his attempts to escape the cable’s grip on him proved futile, and there was simply too much cable for him to drag behind him.

“You can’t kill me, Batgirl.” Luthor looked down at the small pool of blood he sat in, all of which streamed down from his punctured arm. “You’ll never get away with it.”

Batgirl frowned at Luthor as she grabbed the shaft of the expanded cable launcher, and simply tore it out of his arm. His screams filled the hallway once again as blood began flowing freely now from the open wound. Luthor was right. She couldn’t kill him – she couldn’t let him die. If he died, her lesson would be lost.

She grabbed the other sleeve of Luthor’s jacked and tore it off violently. She began wrapping the bleeding wound in parts of his sleeve gently as Luthor just quietly watched with curiosity. She could tell that he was confused – he was probably sure she would leave him to die.

As soon as she completed her makeshift wound dressing, she headed toward the stairway quickly. Lex Luthor would live – but he would be left forever with a reminder of the price of his arrogance.


“Cassandra…Listen to me carefully.”

Bruce paced the Batcave nervously, hands behind him as he did his best to keep his temper in check. He was never more upset with her then at that moment – after finding out what she had done to Lex Luthor and his bodyguard.

He walked up to Cassandra and looked down at her. She looked up, returning his gaze. “We are not about vengeance, we’re about justice. That’s what draws the line between being crusaders of justice or simple vigilantes.”

Cassandra shook her head and started walking away from Bruce. He grabbed her arm, and turned her around abruptly. “Listen to me, Cassandra. You’re starting to lose control. You cannot simply go around hurting people you have a grudge against.”


“Because we live in a society of laws, Cassandra–” Bruce sighed and folded his arms. “You’re not a child, Cassandra, I shouldn’t have to explain this to you. You know there are consequences to your actions. In this case, that Lex Luthor will be after you.”

“So what? Lex Luthor is after everyone.” Tim Drake walked into the Batcave from the house, with Alfred close behind. “Why should Cassandra be any different?”

Bruce frowned. “You approve of her behavior, Tim?”

“Not at all.” Tim sat down in one of the chairs in front of Bruce’s console. “But you have to admit, it’s nice seeing Luthor get what’s coming to him.”

“She has to learn where to draw the line, Tim. Or she’ll get herself into trouble.”

Tim laughed. “That’s what I’ve been saying! She has no control at all. Given the opportunity, she’d kill you or I without a thought. After all, she did kill her own parents.”

Bruce had just enough time to grab Cassandra as she raced past him, her hands reaching for Tim’s throat – it took nearly all of his strength to keep her from struggling away from him. Tim leaned back in his chair to avoid her reach, far enough that he fell back.

“My God, Cassandra.” Tim stood up quickly, standing just out of Cassandra’s reach as Bruce continued to hold her back. “You are insane, aren’t you? You belong in Arkham with the likes of the Joker and Poison Ivy.”

“Tim, that’s enough!” Bruce’s grip on Cassandra loosened for just a moment as he yelled at Tim. He turned pale as he watched Cassandra slip away from him and head toward Tim. Bruce had no idea what she would do to him after his vicious comments.

Cassandra snatched Tim’s shirt with one hand, and drew her other fist back. As she did, she watched Tim cringe, and turn his face away from her in fear. She looked closely at his eyes – and even though Tim didn’t say a word, his eyes begged for forgiveness, for help…for mercy. He was silently praying for some force to come along and save him from her wrath. That’s when she realized…Tim was mortally in fear of her.

Her features quickly softened as she released her grip on Tim’s shirt and lowered her fist. She then took Tim’s hand in hers, and squeezed it gently.

“I’m so sorry–”

Tim watched as a suddenly crushed Cassandra headed out of the room quickly. He couldn’t see her face as she left, but he could hear her sniffing periodically as she headed down the hall toward her own room. His heart began sinking as the realization set in – his comment hurt her. He made her cry.

He looked up at Bruce apologetically – Bruce met his gaze only after silently watching Cassandra leave the room. Tim swallowed hard once, forcing down his feelings of shame. “Bruce…Could I be wrong about her?”

Bruce sighed as he gave Tim a half smile. “Tim…She’s a lot more like you then you know.”


“Batgirl did what?”

Supergirl glared at Charlie as she stood next to him in front of Lex Luthor, inside the empty lobby of Lexcorp. Luthor was sitting on a bench as a paramedic gently bandaged and wrapped his bleeding arm. As always, he had declined an invitation to be taken to the hospital.

“She assaulted my bodyguard and I.” Luthor paused mid-sentence to frown at Charlie, making his displeasure with his interruption perfectly clear. “And without provocation. I was simply working in one of my labs, and she hunted me down–”

He paused again as he watched a barely conscious Mercy Graves being rolled past on a gurney, toward a waiting ambulance outside. “…And injured Mercy as well.”

Supergirl resisted the urge to smile at the picture around her. “So…Why are you telling me?”

“All of you super-types seem to know each other.” Luthor winced as the paramedic tightened the bandage a little more to slow the blood flow. “I’d like Batman to know that his little prot»g»e is dangerous…And that there are consequences to her actions. Devastating consequences.”

“Is that a threat, Lex?”

Luthor looked up at Supergirl with a cold, empty look which immediately telegraphed his seriousness without even saying a word. She could tell, in those deep, cold eyes of his, that he meant one thing – he would try to kill Batgirl.

“Keep in mind, Supergirl…She’s in a dangerous line of work.” Luthor smiled in his usual self-satisfied way – it sent chills down Supergirl’s spine. “Things happen.”

As Supergirl began to feel anger build within her, she watched Lex Luthor walk toward the elevator, headed back to his office. Just when she made even the slightest attempt to extend compassion to Luthor…to care about him even a little…he gave her another reason to hate him.

“Don’t let him upset you, Supergirl.” Charlie took her hand gently, causing her to become conscious of the fact that her fists were clenched. She relaxed her hands slowly. “He was the same jerk when Sam and I worked for him.”

Supergirl smiled weakly. “So he’s not getting worse?”

“No, I’m afraid not.” Charlie shook his head as he spoke. “It just becomes more apparent once in a while.”

Supergirl sighed as she followed Charlie toward the exit to the outside. For some reason, the realization that Lex Luthor isn’t getting worse didn’t make her feel any better.


Cassandra sat on her bed facing the window in her room, holding a pillow in her lap. Her eyes were reddened from crying – but she had no more tears. She stared outside at the trees as darkness began falling – only she didn’t see the trees, or the darkness. She saw only Tim’s eyes, and the fear they reflected to her. She saw no trust in those eyes, only fear. He genuinely thought she meant to kill him.

It was at that moment a terrifying truth dawned on her – while Bruce had given her a chance, nobody really trusted her. She knew somehow that it was probably due to the fate of her parents.

Cassandra froze and held her breath as she could hear a new voice echoing down the hall. It was a woman’s voice, she recognized it…it was Supergirl! She raced over to her room’s door started to quietly slink down the hall to see what was going on.

“Bruce, I don’t think she understands.” Supergirl paced across the floor of Bruce’s office as she spoke. Bruce sat at his desk, watching her patiently. She seemed more upset then he did. Charlie stood in front of a window in the office, looking outside. “Lex Luthor is very dangerous, Bruce. I have no doubt that he’ll have several people out there gunning for Cassandra. Or better yet, he may put a price on her head–”

“Or maybe he’ll do nothing.” Bruce sat perfectly calm at his desk, twirling a letter opener between his index fingers and thumbs. “I have my eye on the situation, Linda. There’s no reason for you to worry.”

“Bruce–” Supergirl sighed and leaned over Bruce’s desk, until her face was only inches from his. “Lex hired the Joker to kill Vinnie. I say that makes him capable of anything.”

“I think Luthor will hire some thugs to lure Batgirl into a trap. Then they’ll try to kill her.” Charlie turned away from the window to see Bruce and Supergirl staring at him. He walked closer to the desk. “I should know, I used to work for him.”

“Charlie’s right, Bruce–”

“Thank you both for your concern.” Bruce stood up, pushing his chair in as he walked around his desk. “But I have everything under control.”

As Supergirl and Charlie left Bruce’s office, Cassandra raced back to her room and closed the door silently. She began to think about what Charlie said, that Luthor would hire some thugs to lure her into a trap. She knew she had to be more careful from now on – though in spite of telling herself that, the idea of some unknown force with her death on it’s agenda sent chills down her spine.

Cassandra closed her eyes, and immediately pictured her parents’ gravestones. Her mind raced back to that night, fire burning all around her, the heat…the high, the feelings of superiority from finally proving herself able to beat them. She silently wondered if Lex Luthor would get the same feeling from her own death.

She stared at the window as the sun set outside. Night was falling…and she dreaded it.


“I didn’t want to mention it before…” Charlie raced to catch up to Supergirl as she walked out the door of Wayne Manor. She was preparing to head home with Charlie. “…but Cassandra overheard our conversation with Bruce.”

Supergirl wheeled around suddenly to face Charlie. “Oh my God. Are you sure?”

Charlie nodded. “I could see her reflection in the window while I stared out over Bruce’s backyard. She look positively frightened, Linda. She’s used to being the predator…but now she’s the prey.”

“I wish I could protect her, Charlie.” Supergirl sighed as she turned around and looked up at the sky. She knew that it was a dead giveaway that she was upset – but Charlie knew her well enough now that she couldn’t easily fool him anyway. “But…well…you know what happened to the last person I tried to protect. She has a better chance with Bruce.”

Charlie took Supergirl’s hand gently and turned her to face him. “You’ve been protecting me since the day you met me, Linda. I’m still here…and I plan to be around for a long while. You’re an excellent protector, Linda. But you can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t look after everyone.”

“I know, I know–” Supergirl shook her head as she looked at Charlie. “It’s just…I see the same scenario over and over again. I keep seeing it in my mind, Charlie. The Joker…shooting Cassandra at close range. Just like he did with Barbara, and Vinnie. I see it every time I close my eyes.”

Charlie sighed. “I understand…I’m a little worried too. But Cassandra’s different – she’s a much better fighter then Barbara ever was, and unlike Vinnie, she has a strong will to live. She took out Aquaman’s army, Linda! I think she can take care of herself.”

“Not if her confidence is low.” Supergirl snatched Charlie as she prepared quickly to transport him along with herself back to Leesburg. “I just hope she’ll find the support that I never had.”

As Wayne Manor disappeared from his sight, Charlie’s mind filled with a picture of Batgirl drinking milk in Linda’s kitchen. He couldn’t help but laugh at the spectacle – he truly hoped that he would see more of her, that she would be as much a survivor as her reputation made her out to be.

By the time he arrived in Linda’s apartment, Charlie’s fists were tightly squeezed together, his eyes closed…almost silently praying that he would be able to see Cassandra visit Leesburg again.


“Why aren’t you in costume?” Batman didn’t even turn around as Cassandra entered the Batcave. He just sat at his computer terminal, staring at a computer screen.

Cassandra walked up next to his terminal, and leaned on it. “Not going.”

“Are you feeling ill, Cassandra?” Bruce stood up and turned around to face her, noticing that her eyes were a little reddened – she’d been crying. “This isn’t the kind of job you do only when you feel like it. If you’re inconsistent in this role, criminals on the street won’t take you seriously.”

Cassandra bowed her head to avoid looking directly at Batman. She wanted to tell him about her fear that her past had come back to haunt her…but she felt that he would just laugh, or tell her she was being superstitious.

“You’re worried about what Lex Luthor might do, aren’t you?”

She looked up at Batman, and nodded slowly before turning her gaze back toward the ground.

Batman sighed. “Cassandra…Lex Luthor locked me up in a cell with electrified bars. His bodyguards abused me. He treated me like one of his…slaves, like I had no rights other then what he gave me. To even think about it…it makes me so angry. But I vowed to never take revenge, to never sink to Luthor’s level. Do you understand?”

Cassandra nodded again, and looked up at Batman with reddened eyes. Over her left arm now dangled her costume, neatly folded. “I’m just…scared.”

“Who isn’t? It’s a scary world out there, Cassandra. With or without Lex Luthor.” Batman kneeled down in front of her and tugged gently at the leather fabric of her costume. “We wear these to protect ourselves…and those who we love…from the danger caused by that fear. As long as we wear these, we’re safe.”

Cassandra smiled and headed toward the restroom quickly to change. She knew that a simple leather costume couldn’t really make her any stronger or safer. But in a way, Bruce was right – when she wore the costume, it made her feel more…alive.


It seemed like only minutes went by before the Batmobile, driven by Batman, arrived at their destination – the port of Gotham, rumored to be the unloading point for a boatload of stolen goods and prescription drugs. They were to be fenced for a certain businessman in town named Oswald Cobblepot – who was little more then an annoyance these days. Bruce knew that the best way to keep him from getting into too much trouble was not to confront him, but to take away all of his opportunities. Batgirl didn’t quite understand why, but she knew it was a smart decision – and she took it as a sign that she did indeed have a lot to learn about crime fighting.

As the Batmobile slowly moved alongside the port to avoid being detected, Batgirl looked in the center of the seat to notice that Robin was rather crammed in and uncomfortable. He was nice enough to give up the passenger seat for her for some reason – all of a sudden, he decided to be nice to her. She didn’t understand why, but she was grateful.

Batgirl glanced out the side window to see a large ship approaching the port, which was being guarded by six men carrying machine guns. She smiled, knowing that it was nowhere near enough to stop her, even without Batman and Robin. She knew that Batman saw the ship and the men, too – the car suddenly came to a stop, and the engine turned off.

She turned to look at Batman and Robin, who returned her glance. She gave them a slight smile just before the canopy opened. As she jumped out and surveyed the armed men below she realized that she was in her element. The cool evening air rushing into her nostrils as her heart began to beat faster, powered by a rush of adrenaline. The cool air chilled her a little bit as anticipation built up. She was ready for action.

It all happened, so quickly, so flawlessly. All six men, disarmed at once without the occupants of the approaching boat having any idea what happened. All six were lying unconscious on the dock, the only evidence that anything that had happened to them being the dead silence that replaced their light conversation. It all seemed like destiny.

Batgirl leapt aboard the boat behind Batman as Robin remained on the dock to make sure no one could sneak up on them. She glanced back at Robin for a moment, as he found a ‘perch’ high up inside the cab of a mechanical crane. As she saw him sit there watching them, she understood trust a little more.

It seemed like almost an unconscious action on her part – she saw a door move a little bit as she and Batman passed by along the boat’s deck. The poor man behind it, gun in hand, didn’t even have a chance to see who’s black leather boot knocked him out cold. He’d wake up later with a tread mark on his forehead and have no idea how it got there.

That’s when she saw it. As Batman lifted the cargo bay doors, they both expected to see crates, boxes, a few scattered loose stolen appliances – things they had both seen before on stolen items before.

The only thing stolen on this boat were people’s lives.

Batgirl couldn’t believe what she saw – the cargo bay, crammed full of people…people who were filthy, starved…like they hadn’t eaten or bathed in days or weeks. She didn’t know where they came from, but she’d heard their story before – they were illegal immigrants who gave everything they owned to someone with a boat. A someone who made them promises of a better life, of work, of riches…A liar. Someone who meant to help no one but himself.

As Batman turned to look at Batgirl, she could see the look of horror in his eyes. A man who prided himself in being detached from his work, who worked every day to completely separate his night and day careers – eyes wide and filled with pain, hands shaking momentarily as his brain absorbed and processed what he had just seen first-hand. It made her feel…angry.

At that moment, she realized that the world needed a Batgirl. Or at the very least…Batman did.