#4 – On The Run

“Some men were here last night, Clark…”

Clark Kent spent hours tossing and turning in his bed as his mom’s voice echoed in his head over and over again. He finally gave up, opting instead to climb out of bed and stare out the window. As a Kryptonian, Clark never really needed as much sleep as he got – he slept mostly out of habit, and because it was so lonely at night with no one else around. He envied Bruce Wayne a little – at least he had something to do at night.

“Clark?” Lois sat up in the bed, squinting to see Clark standing in front of the open window. She sighed. “I knew that phone call was bad news. Spill it.”

“You remember Kara…that teenager Linda named–” Clark turned around and leaned against the windowsill, his head hanging as if it held the weight of the world on top of it. “Someone reported her. The adoption authorities visited Ma and Pa, asking where she came from. They want to take her away from them, Lois. Pa asked them to leave.”

“Oh, Clark.” Lois hugged him tightly. He returned the hug as best as he could without crushing her.

“It’s not fair, Lois.” Clark closed his eyes and sighed deeply, emotion weighing heavily in the sound of his breath. “Every day, I see reports of abusive parents, kids who are neglected. Ma and Pa are model parents…and the authorities want to take Kara away from them.”

Lois shook her head slowly as she stood next to Clark, staring out the window toward the city. “I wish I had some answers for you, Smallville. I wish I did.”


“Linda? Isn’t it a little chilly up here?” Charlie walked up behind Linda as she stood high atop the hotel’s roof, braving a stiff, icy early evening wind. He tossed a jacket over her shoulders.

“I was just thinking.” Linda sighed as she squinted toward the sun on the horizon. “Thinking about how little world of ours seems so small all of a sudden. And about how helpless I was on Otherverse Earth.”

“Everything turned out well, didn’t it?”

“It’s not that.” Linda walked over to the edge of the roof to look over the edge, to watch the cars driving by far below. “I used to be invaluable to them…unique. But this last time I was just kind of…there.”

“That’s what I do most of the time. I’m just sort of…there.” Charlie smiled as he watched Linda turn around to face him slowly. “But I’m happy just to be there, Linda. I know that you enjoy having me along.”

Linda laughed a little over the irony of what Charlie had just said. She had gone from a leader of sorts to more of a support role…but then again, Charlie was an excellent leader in his own right – even with no special talents at all.

“Let’s go inside where it’s warmer.” Charlie placed his left hand on Linda’s shoulder and led her toward the stairway. “I’ve always wanted to be a hero, Linda…but it has always seemed a goal unattainable by someone like me. Your current situation sort of…gives me hope.”

“I’m glad it gives someone hope.” Linda sighed as she opened her hotel room door. “For me it’s just…depressing.”

“They didn’t send you home, did they?”

Linda shook her head as she sat down in a chair next to the kitchenette, while Charlie dug through the refrigerator. “But I didn’t do much to help them, either.”

“Ah.” Charlie leaned against the kitchenette counter, waving a piece of French bread at Linda. She didn’t remember buying it, but she decided to reserve that question for later. “So it’s not the fact that you couldn’t help that bothers you. It’s the fact that you didn’t.”

“I–” Linda suddenly found herself speechless as she watched Charlie smile and begin piling cold cuts – which she also didn’t remember buying – into the French bread.

“I’m right, aren’t I?” Charlie leaned against the counter behind him and nodded as he took a bite out of the huge sandwich he had just created. He then reached back into the small refrigerator to remove a canned soft drink.

“Charlie…where did all of this food come from, anyway?”

“Oh.” Charlie laughed and opened the refrigerator wide to show Linda that it was stuffed full of food. “I picked up a few things while you were…out of town.”

Linda folded her arms. “And why didn’t you put them in your own refrigerator?”

“I did. These are things that wouldn’t fit in mine.”

“Oookay.” Linda slouched in her chair and rolled her eyes. She wisely decided not to ask any more questions about the food.

“Listen, Linda.” Charlie walked out of the kitchenette, and sat in another chair across from Linda. “Batman has been to places we can only imagine, right alongside Superman. But he’s no Superman…he’s just like me, only with more toys and better training. You, on the other hand–”

“I think I get the point, Charlie.” Linda stared at Charlie’s sandwich as he continued eating. “It’s just not easy going from being a big fish in Otherverse to a nobody–”

“Are you hungry, Linda? You keep staring at my sandwich.”

Linda laughed. “I guess I forgot to eat dinner. It does look good.”

“Let me make you one.” Charlie stood up and headed toward the kitchenette before Linda had time to do little more then open her mouth to protest. “And you’re weren’t a nobody in Otherverse, or they would have sent you home. The fact that they didn’t shows that they trusted in your abilities.”

“Even Sharon Holmes helped more then I did.” Linda leaned back in her chair again and sighed. “I should be more like her.”

“Funny thing, Linda–” Charlie handed her a sandwich on a plate and a soft drink can. “I think Sharon…is a lot like you.”


“Do you think we should call Clark? Or Linda?” Martha Kent wrung her hands nervously as she stood on the sidewalk, her eyes looking up to the roof of the house. Sitting on the roof was the teen-aged Kara. She overheard Jonathan’s conversation with the Sheriff moments earlier – and learned that the Kents were in danger of going to jail over her. She had been sitting on the roof, head hanging, since then.

Jonathan shook his head slowly. “No, not yet. Let her work this out. She’s been through a lot.”

“This makes me sick, Jonathan. Just sick.” Martha took a deep breath to calm herself. “You’re right. She has been through a lot. And yet, these…state folks want to put her through more! They want to take her away, send her to another strange place.”

Jonathan stared into Martha’s eyes for several seconds before smiling softly. “We’ll do what we can, Martha. We’ll give her a home as long as we’re able. Then…she’s in God’s hands.”

Kara stared down from the roof as she watched Martha rest her head on Jonathan’s shoulder and begin sobbing. They were like parents to her, the only ones she could remember. They cared for her, gave her food and love…and all she brought them was pain and suffering. She was smart enough to know that sooner or later, the state would win. Authorities would come in the middle of the night to take her away.

She stood up as she thought about…Clark. He was so much more powerful then Jonathan, Martha…probably the entire town combined. Kara knew that she could fly – she found that out by accident. But could she…do more?

As Martha and Jonathan entered the house, Kara decided to test her theory. She dropped to the ground quickly, and began looking around. Her target became obvious – the car parked in the driveway. She reached under the driver’s side of the car with both hands, and took a deep breath – and before she knew it, she had lifted the entire car over her head, effortlessly. Unfortunately, she had to lower it quickly – since the car was still much larger then herself, it was too difficult to maintain balance.

Kara took a couple of steps back and began breathing faster as she stared at the car. She nearly lifted it over her head! And without even damaging it! “I must tell Ma and Pa–”

She raced in through the front door, and hugged Martha and Jonathan tightly as they stood in the kitchen. She was talking fast, almost too fast for the two of them to understand, as she explained her feat of lifting the car. She hypothesized that perhaps she was as strong as Clark. But the last sentence from her mouth was the one which concerned the Kents most – “They can never take me away now.”

As Kara left the room, Martha stared at Jonathan with a serious, worried expression. Jonathan sighed. He knew what she was thinking – the same thing he was. “It’s time to call Clark.”
“Hey, Linda…I have a paying gig–” Charlie had left quickly to ‘run an errand’ for a short time after feeding Linda a sandwich – an errand which he knew would surprise her when he returned. He froze as soon as he entered Linda’s kitchen, holding an envelope. Buzz was sitting at her kitchen table, slowly drinking a root beer. “Uh…Linda?”

“She’s in the loo.” Buzz answered without bothering to look behind him at the doorway to the dining room. Unfortunately, Linda was standing there – and she promptly swatted the back of his head.

“He was fired this morning…again.” Linda led Charlie into the living room and sat down on the couch. “That’s three jobs so far. He just can’t learn to keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble.”

“What kind of jobs?” Charlie tossed the folder he was holding in his hand onto the coffee table and sat down next to Linda.

“First job, at one of those mailbox and packing places. He wraps a rambunctious five year old boy in a cardboard box, and labels it ‘Abu Dhabi’.”

Charlie’s attempt at stifling his laughter was failing miserably, earning him a quick frown from Linda. “That is sort of funny.”

“I guess it is…kind of. But the poor kid ended up in the back of a delivery truck before they realized what happened.”

Charlie laughed out loud this time, struggling to calm himself down so he could hear the rest. “What was the second job?”

“He tried working in an office store warehouse. Only he felt that staging accidents was more fun then doing work. He called them ‘practical jokes’.”

“No…That’s not really funny.” Charlie shook his head. “Sometimes Buzz has a sense of humor, but then he just goes too far.”

“Wait till you hear the third one.” Linda smiled and leaned back as she reached for a small piece of paper on the side table and handed it to Charlie. “Lexcorp tour guide. He called Lex Luthor ‘Uncle Fester’ on the first day. This letter says that–”

“He’s not allowed to set foot on Lexcorp property.” Charlie chuckled a little as he stared at the letter. “I would have given anything to see Lex Luthor’s face. What’s he doing here, anyway?”

“Looking for food. Same as you always do.” Linda reached toward the folder sitting on the coffee table. “So…what’s this?”

Charlie smiled. “A little something from Lex Luthor’s office. It details his plans to sell advanced weapons to that other Earth you visited. He wants to profit from the constant war zone.”

“He wouldn’t.” Linda shook her head slowly. “He…can’t. They’d annihilate each other.”

“That’s why Luthor’s planning to sell to both sides.” Charlie slipped a single piece of paper out of the folder and handed it to Linda. “He wants the balance of power to stay equal, but for both sides to start building their armament…which would–”

“Make him a lot of money, I know.” Linda sighed loudly and stood up to begin pacing the room. “But how is this…investigation a paying job?”

“Luthor has a habit of leaving skeletons in his closet.” Charlie stood up to intercept Linda in the middle of the living room and hand her another piece of paper. “This skeleton is named Tatsuo Takamura. Ring a bell?”

Linda nodded and smiled as she began reading the letter Charlie handed her. “The Pocket Protector guy. Luthor put him in a wheelchair.”

“And he wants revenge. He wants to finally discredit Luthor.” Charlie took back the pieces of paper and stuffed them back into the envelope. “He offered us money to find the evidence for him.”

“Okay…But I’d like to offer a suggestion.” Linda reached behind her to snatch a newspaper’s classified ads left on the couch, handing it to Charlie quickly. “Can we get an office, so Luthor’s henchmen don’t blow up this nice hotel to scare us?”

“Good idea…But we would have no one to take phone–”

Charlie suddenly paused as an idea dawned on him, about the same time as it dawned on Linda. They both turned to face the kitchen doorway, where Buzz sat at the table munching on pretzels. They kept staring until Buzz turned around to look at them.

“What do you think we should do, Clark?”

“I…don’t know.” Clark sighed and slowly sat down at the kitchen table. “She seems to be maturing…and learning…faster then I anticipated. But she doesn’t seem too dangerous–”

“Until she tries to defend us, Clark.” Jonathan stood up and began pacing around the room slowly. “Then people could be hurt. Even if she simply resists them. And Martha and I could be–”

“I know, Pa. I know.” Clark sighed and looked down at the table as his fingers began unconsciously playing with the salt shaker. “Did you…talk to her?”

Jonathan nodded. “I did. Martha did as well. But she’s determined to help. She means well, Clark…but sometimes, even the most well-meaning gestures–”

“Pa, I think it’s time I took her to Metropolis. It’ll be tough on Lois and I, but I think she’ll learn a lot.” Clark stood up and held out his hand to stop Jonathan as soon as he opened his mouth to speak. “And I don’t even have to ask Lois…it was her idea. She said she wished she could help more. She has no idea how much she has.”

Clark and Jonathan stared at each other for a few seconds as they stared at each other, their faces dropping from the weight of the moment. As Clark gripped his Pa’s fragile hand, a realization came over him – his Ma and Pa, always law abiding citizens, were willing to risk jail to protect a young stranger. They were the parents he grew up with…always on the side of right. And to this day, he was a better person for it.

The handshake slowed, quickly changing to a hug as another realization took hold – the realization that the world wasn’t at all appreciative of people who had such a strong sense of what’s right. That, specifically in this case…the right had become a wrong. And that in itself, Clark noted, was a tragedy.
“You could do better in a bloody rubbish heap.” Buzz kicked an empty plastic pencil canister lying on the floor of an empty office as he entered ahead of Linda and Charlie. The office seemed smaller then the ad depicted, and needed some cleaning.

“Buzz…you have no imagination whatsoever.” Linda shook her head as she peeked into each of the two small rooms off of the main one. The third-floor office consisted of three rooms – a larger room next to the entrance, and two smaller rooms side by side to the rear. Each one of the rooms had a single window, and a small closet was on one wall of the largest room. “I…think I can work with this.”

“I hope so.” Charlie snapped a tape measure off of his belt and started measuring the rooms quickly. “Because it’s the only office we can afford that actually features a lift in the building.”

Linda stood and watched as Charlie measured the length, then the width, and height of each room. He noted them on a piece of paper, and even noted the location and size of the windows. “What are you doing, anyway?”

“I need a floor plan, so I can order furniture.”

Buzz sat down on the floor and leaned against the outside wall, below the window. “As long as you’re ordering it. I’ve seen Linda’s furniture–”

“Don’t even think about finishing that sentence!” Linda pointed a finger at Buzz angrily as she watched a grin form on his face. She knew he said that on purpose just to upset her.

Linda turned as she heard the sound of footsteps in the hallway outside the left-open door of the office. She headed toward the door just in time to see Clark Kent – and with him was a shorter, blond teenager…the one Linda remembered calling ‘Kara’.

“What’s going on, Clark? I thought she was supposed to be in Smallville?” Linda watched Clark’s expression change to a frown as the words left her mouth. And his eyes…they were holding back pain and sadness. “What’s wrong?”

Clark motioned for Linda to follow him as he stepped into one of the two rear rooms of the office, leaving Kara in the care of Charlie and Buzz. He closed the door behind him quietly, pausing for a few seconds as if to emphasize the importance of what he was about to say. “Linda…the state adoption authorities found out about Kara. They visited Ma and Pa–”

“Oh my God–” Linda bit her lip and turned to look out the window. Her heart was beating quickly – what would they do with Kara? They couldn’t keep her in Smallville, and Linda knew she was ill-prepared to look after a teenager. “What are you going to do?”

“I–” Clark hung his head as the guilt of what he had done began to weigh on him heavily. He remembered his short phone call to Bruce Wayne, the discussion about certain ‘paperwork’. He remembered Bruce’s voice at the other end, reassuring him that everything would be ‘taken care of’. But it was little reassurance to Clark – Superman, the one person who taught respect for the law and justice, had to break those very laws to save one teenager. “I talked to Bruce. He’s going to…help.”

“Clark–” Linda stood for several seconds, watching Clark hang his head in shame at the sound of his own words. A smile began to creep onto her face – through and through, Clark was still a simple farm boy, expecting to be punished for associating with ‘the bad kid’ – Bruce. She walked closer to him, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder gently. “You did the right thing. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Clark sighed loudly. “Pa and Lois told me the same thing…but I just feel so guilty.”

“You were adopted too, Clark. Wouldn’t you have wanted your Ma and Pa to do the same for you? You didn’t do this for yourself, you did it for Kara, for your Ma and Pa…even Lois. You’ve put yourself at risk to help someone else. It’s what you do best, Clark. There’s nothing to feel guilty about.”

Clark nodded slowly and smiled at Linda. “You really should consider motivational speaking, Linda.”

Linda laughed as her eyes watched the door behind Clark open slowly. A head peeked around the corner slowly – it was Kara. “Is Buzz bothering you?”

“Not anymore.” Kara smiled mischievously as Linda quickly followed her into the entry room of the office, wondering exactly what she had done to Buzz.

Buzz was sitting on the floor, wrapped in scotch tape from his stomach up to his neck. He looked like some sort a transparent mummy. Linda couldn’t help but laugh as she saw him sitting there with a frown on his face.

“Looks like Kara missed her ‘mummy’.” Charlie folded his arms and smiled at his own joke as Linda, Kara, and even Clark began laughing out loud.

“Could you hyenas let me out of this?” Buzz squirmed as Linda began unwrapping him slowly, trying to suppress her urge to laugh at him some more.

“No…Let me.” Kara stepped toward Buzz, as her eyes began to glow red-orange. A look of dread appeared on Buzz’ face briefly before a thin line suddenly melted across the strips of tape, releasing him. She giggled a little bit at Buzz’ display of fear as Linda helped him to his feet.

Clark grabbed Kara’s arm and turned her around quickly. “Kara, you shouldn’t–”

“I like her already.” Charlie interrupted Clark, handing Kara the tape measure as he paused to write down more measurements on his piece of paper. “Did anyone give her a last name yet? We can’t just have everyone call her ‘Kara’. She’s not really famous enough not to have a last name.”

“Kent. In honor of Ma and Pa taking her in, and everything they went through for it.” Clark looked around the room. He spoke impulsively from his heart, unsure if anyone else would agree – but as he looked from one person to the next, he saw nods from everyone…except Buzz. Clark turned to Kara and looked down at her. “Kara Kent. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”

“It sounds a little like ‘Lois Lane’…but it’s all good.” Kara smiled as Clark turned to Linda and frowned at her briefly. Linda just shrugged – just about confirming to him that she was responsible for teaching Kara a few things.

“What do you think of the office, Kara?” Charlie reached his hand out as Kara handed him his tape measure back. He looked over at Clark, who had already started to roll his eyes in anticipation of more slang – he knew very well that Charlie was prompting it on purpose.

“I like it. It’s cool.”
“Send him in.”

Lex Luthor leaned back in his desk chair, eagerly anticipating the entrance of a man who had once sworn revenge against him. But like all great businessmen, he had accepted Luthor as his superior and decided to move past any petty need for revenge. The door slid open as the man rolled into the room in a wheelchair – it was Tatsao Takamura.

“Have a seat, Mr. Takamura.” Luthor smiled, well aware that his humor was in bad taste – but it also served as a reminder to Takamura what happened the last time he crossed Luthor’s path. “Our little…joint venture is working nicely, isn’t it?”

Takamura sighed. “I just wish we had taken away her sense of self determination. To this moment, we still can’t find her.”

“Nonsense. That’s part of her charm.” Luthor stood up and stepped over to his office window, looking high above the sparkling city of Metropolis. “In time we will find her. When we do, we will simply…remind her that her body is my property.”

“Our property.”

“Hm.” Luthor walked back to his desk and sat down in the chair, leaning back once again. “I assume hers is the only body your researchers produced?”

Takamura nodded. “Essence projects are expensive, Mr. Luthor. We only develop it when we have a donor to work with. Brains don’t grow on trees, you know.”

“Very good.” Luthor rotated his chair to stare outside through the window again. “See yourself out, Mr. Takamura. We’ll meet again at the usual time.”

Takamura paused for several seconds before sighing and rolling his wheelchair toward the door. The sigh was meant for Luthor to hear, an expression of his displeasure at Luthor treating him, a peer in the business world, like yet another employee or servant. But the painful truth, he realized as he left Luthor’s office, was that Luthor simply didn’t care.
“Ever heard of a bloody taxi?” Buzz grumbled to himself as he followed Clark, Linda, Charlie, and the teenage Kara along the sidewalk to the Daily Planet. None of them realized that Clark and Kara had walked the distance between his workplace and Linda and Charlie’s new office – they assumed he had driven or taken a cab.

“Walking is refreshing. Helps work out stress.” Clark smiled as he turned to see Buzz’ reaction – but Buzz wasn’t looking at him, he stopped to look at a storefront.

Charlie stopped to see where Buzz was staring. It was a small comic book store with a ‘help wanted’ sign in the window. “A comic shop? You can’t be serious.”

“No…it’s a great idea.” Linda leaned against the window to get a look through the window. “I mean, where else can Buzz be as rude as he wants without getting fired–”

“Linda?” Clark froze suddenly as his peripheral vision caught Linda and Buzz turn and head into the comic store. He followed quickly as Kara and Charlie waited outside. “Linda, why are we stopping here?”

Without a word, Linda pointed to a blonde woman in a super-hero costume and cape sitting behind a table. Her eyes were a glasslike color, her costume was mostly black with a white diamond shape across the chest and white stripes along the arms, legs, and boots. Linda had entered the store after seeing the woman through the front window – she remembered her from her visit to Otherverse Earth. It was Lara Night…in Metropolis?

As Linda approached the table slowly, watching a line of people standing in front of it, she began to realize that she can’t simply start talking to Lara. If Lara was famous somehow, she wouldn’t be able to explain how she knew her. Luckily, the problem seemed to solve itself.

“Linda!” Lara smiled as her strange, transparent-looking eyes turned toward Linda. She raised her hand and waved Linda over to the table as she pulled a nearby chair closer. Linda reluctantly accepted the offer, eyeing the crowd waiting on the other side of the table as she sat down.

“Uh…you’re here on business?”

Lara laughed. “You always wondered what I do with my civilian life, didn’t you? Well…sometimes I make personal appearances, sign autographs.”

“And…people know you?”

“Usually, no.” Lara shook her head and smiled. “But when these guys see a woman signing autographs in a super-hero costume…they tend not to ask too many questions.”

“Who’re you supposed to be? Batgirl?” One of the store customers, a slightly nervous-looking man holding a stack of comics, leaned over the table to take a closer look at Linda.

Linda stared angrily at the man, trying to stifle a laugh. “Uh…no. Not even close.”

“Wonder Girl? Troia? No, wait…don’t tell me…Black Canary!”

Lara laughed as Linda rolled her eyes and turned away from the man. “What is the matter with these people?”

“Give them a break, Linda.” Lara shrugged as she took one of the man’s comics and signed it quickly. “Some of these people think comic books are their life. For a few them, the lines between reality and fiction have blurred to the point where they don’t know who’s real and who’s not. But as long as it gives them happiness–”

“I understand.” Linda nodded. “You enjoy making people happy.”

“Exactly.” Lara stared at the nervous man as he continued to stand over the table, as if he were waiting for something else. “Yes?”

The man stood wringing his hands nervously for a few seconds, squinting as if his mind were searching for the right words, or maybe some courage. “If you really want to make me happy…how about dinner?”

“Sorry.” Lara tried her best to keep a straight face as she answered. But Linda was far less controlled – she began laughing out loud. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other customers.”

The man seemed genuinely hurt as he sighed and turned away from the table, shuffling slowly toward the cash register. Linda watched as he placed his comics on the counter and removed his wallet, glancing back at her and Lara sadly as he removed a credit card.

Linda began to feel sorry for the guy. She put herself in his place for a moment – she remembered all of the times she had been laughed at by the citizens of Metropolis when she first appeared as Supergirl in her new costume. Her own spirit wouldn’t die…and yet she so readily crushed someone else’s.

“I know what you’re thinking.” Lara smiled knowingly as she watched Linda’s expression become serious. For a change, she didn’t have to be a mind reader to understand Linda’s thoughts – her sudden look of guilt and nervous shifting gave it away. “Go ahead. Make his day.”

A breeze blew through the comic store, ruffling a few of the magazine displays – an event which was slightly unusual, but went virtually unnoticed by the crowd, interested only in purchasing comics and talking to Lara. A breeze that, if anyone would have paid attention, was a subtle announcement of a visitor from their wildest dreams come alive.

The man buying comics at the counter turned around briefly as he felt the sudden gust of wind move past him – he was curious to be sure, but completely unaware of who he was about to meet. As a dream of his suddenly took form before him, he let his wallet slip through his fingers to the floor. “My God. S-Supergirl. Wow.”

“I pronounce it with only one ‘S’, but that’s close enough.” Linda smiled a little as she watched the man’s eyes move along her white tee-shirt and blue skirt toward her red boots, then back to her face. It made her feel a little nervous about her new costume every time somebody did that. “And your name is?”

“Kevin.” The man began fidgeting nervously as he completely ignored the cashier trying to hand him back his credit card. His smile was a mixture of elation and confusion – he was happy, but still unsure if he was dreaming. “I’m…uh…in town for a convention.”

“Pleased to meet you, Kevin.” Linda gripped his hand quickly with her gloved hand and shook it, careful to demonstrate her strength to him without hurting him. “Would you like me to sign something for…?”

Before Linda could finish her sentence, the man produced a black permanent marker from his pocket and handed it to her with one of the comics he had just bought. She took the book and paused looked at it before signing, noting the nervous look from Kevin as she did. She too was a little shocked at what she saw – and yet somehow, she expected it.

“Cute.” Linda signed quickly, flashing Kevin another smile before handing the book back to him. “Just don’t believe everything you read.”

“Thank you so much. You have no idea how big a fan I am.” Kevin shook Linda’s hand again before picking up his comics and wallet, and raced out of the store. Linda waved as he left, guessing that he was in a hurry to tell his friends what happened to him that day.

“Did you see the book he handed me?”

Lara began nodding before Linda even finished her sentence. “What did you expect?”

Linda turned around as she felt a tap on her shoulder – it was Buzz. “Let me guess…this place is giving you the creeps, and you want to leave?”

Buzz shook his head no. “They’ve hired me. I start tomorrow.”

“What? How?”

“You, luv.” Buzz smiled and walked past Linda toward the door. “I told them that I know you.”

Linda rolled her eyes. “Oh, yeah. That’ll be great for my reputation.”
“She’s been sighted in Smallville, Mr. Luthor, but we haven’t seen her since. As far as we can tell…she just vanished.”

“This is inexcusable, Mercy.” Luthor stood up from his desk chair calmly – almost too calmly – and stepped over to the window of his office. Mercy immediately recognized that as a sign of Luthor’s hidden anger. “How could you simply allow her to vanish?”

Mercy simply bowed her head sadly in response. She knew that any answer she could give Luthor would just sound like an excuse to him. He was never willing to listen – he gave orders, made other people’s fates. He never accepted it when fate touched him in turn.

“So far…we know that Power Girl rescued the girl in Metropolis. She abruptly left the hospital, and we were unable to track her until she turned up…in Smallville Kansas?”

After taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, Mercy finally decided to volunteer a little information. “I know it seems strange, Lex. But there has to be a reason. There has to be–”

“A connection. Yes, I know. But what is it? Where was she sighted in Smallville?”

“She was spotted by a neighbor of–” Mercy gasped as she suddenly made a connection. “Oh my God. The Kents! That means…Clark Kent?”

“No.” Luthor shook his head and paced around his office slowly. “He’s not cunning enough. But his wife, on the other hand…”

“Lois Lane. Of course.” Mercy clenched her fists, causing the leather gloves she wore to creak a little. “Want me to…have a little chat with her?”

“That won’t be necessary. She’s a reporter, spilling information is in her nature.” Luthor turned away from the window and leaned over his desk, a confident smile on his face. He looked like a man who had just solved the mysteries of the universe in his mind. “We’re wasting our time searching for the girl. We need her to come to us.”

“And how do we do that, Lex?”

Luthor removed a large wad of cash from his desk drawer, tossing it at Mercy almost carelessly. “Visit the Kents. See that they tell you everything they know.”

With those words, Luthor sat down at his desk and began working as usual – his way of signalling that the conversation had come to an end. Mercy looked down at the wad of cash in her hands. Visit the Kents? She began to worry about just how far she was supposed to go in obtaining information from them.

As she turned to leave the office, she closed her eyes for a second, remembering the red folder she once handed to Charlie – a little insurance. Those words sent a chill down her spine as a thought occurred to her…she may actually need it.


#9 – Tower Of Gotham

“What have we done, Renee?”

Commissioner Gordon sighed loudly as he stared out his office window at a group of officers leaving the station. The Gotham City police force had changed so much, so fast. His brothers and sisters were now more like storm troopers, forced to walk the streets of Metropolis on foot, wearing heavy armor – all in the name of safety and security.

But it was the citizens he worried about. The police had become an intimidating presence on the streets. And the curfew wasn’t helping to improve their image, either. He turned and stared at the pile of paperwork on his desk, wishing it would all just vanish. He wasn’t in the mood for it at the moment. “This proud city of Gotham…my city…has survived earthquakes, crime waves, supervillains–”

“At least we won’t have that problem anymore, Jim.” Renee Montoya had a hint of contempt in her voice, bordering on sarcasm – not for Gordon, but for the new situation she and the other officers had been forced into. In fact, as she spoke to Gordon, she stood before him wearing now-required black-colored Kevlar body armor.

“The price is too high, Renee. Much too high.” Gordon shook his head sadly as he reached down to his belt, carefully removing his badge and gun. He handed them both to Renee carefully. He looked straight into Renee’s eyes – she saw a seriousness and dedication in them which told her that he knew exactly what he was doing.

“What are you…?”

Gordon held up a hand to stop her. “Innocent citizens’ rights are being violated. Dammit, Renee, we’re their protectors. We’re their role models for justice, for fighting for what’s right. People look to us even more then the super-heroes out there. We have a responsibility…no, a requirement…to put a stop to this. We have to make them feel safe with us again, not frightened of us.”

“You’ll need this.” Renee sighed, looking behind her at the doorway quickly before handing Gordon back his gun. She quickly removed her body armor and tossed it aside and took a deep breath before removing her badge as well. She took a long look at it’s shiny metal surface before tossing it onto Gordon’s desk. “I’m with you. Just say the word, and a lot of the others will be too–”

“Renee, no. I can’t ask you to–”

“I want to. I’ve been crying every night since this started, Jim. I walk around the station and see empty, pained looks from the other officers. The job they once took pride in…to help people…has become a burden to them. Morale is just…gone.”

Gordon bit his lip and nodded. Renee was right, and even he knew that no amount of arguing would convince her otherwise – she was always as stubborn as he was. Gordon took one last look at his and Renee’s badges sitting on his desk. “Tell them that I’m walking. If any of the guys join me, I cannot protect them from retribution. Tell them that…I’m doing what I believe is right.”

As he opened his office door and stepped into the next room, silence fell over it’s occupants. All typing stopped, phone conversations came to an abrupt halt. Everyone was staring at Gordon. At that moment, he realized that somehow, word had gotten out of how upset he was with the city’s situation, and the sudden absence of his badge confirmed that the rumors were true, without a doubt. He knew his officers – by now they had betting pools closing, and a few of them were calling home to hear the comforting voice of a loved one. They knew he was going to walk.

Gordon took a deep breath before crossing through the squad room, with Renee close behind. Not a word was spoken by anyone as they passed through, on their way to the main entrance. He paused for just a second before passing through the door – there was no turning back now. His intentions were clear now…he had to follow through.

He stepped outside into the darkness and turned to face the police station just as Renee walked outside as well. Renee stopped to look at him for a second, and sighed. She knew how painful the decision he just made was. He was essentially abandoning his children – that’s how he felt about the police officers he was responsible for, as well as their families.

As they stood and stared at the police station, it’s door opened again. Once officer stepped out, his badge and gun missing. He didn’t say a word as he stepped outside and walked behind Gordon, nodding as he passed. Then another…and another, with the same silence, the same nod. It was an act of open rebellion by Gotham City’s Finest – in a matter of minutes, every officer in the department stood outside the building, in the street.

Gordon stood for a few seconds, stunned, before saying anything. “I can’t ask you do do this. Please…go back to work, all of you. Think of your families.”

“We do, sir.” One officer stepped forward and shook Gordon’s hand. “We think our kids growing up in a world like this…a world where they learn to be afraid all the time. I…don’t want that for them.”

“Me neither”, another officer volunteered.

The streets became filled with voices as officers began to raise their voices in agreement. With a single act by Jim Gordon, it was decided – the Gotham Police Department would strike…for freedom.

As the sounds in the street died down to a few scattered footsteps, Gordon looked up at the roof of a building across the street from the station. He knew he was being watched…but not by Batman.

“My God…what have I done?” Gordon didn’t expect an answer to his question – it was more a question for himself then for anyone else. He was surprised when he saw a dark form atop the building stand up, and spread out a cape. He recognized the form as Batgirl as she leapt off the building and sailed down to the street, using her cape as a parachute.

He froze as she approached him slowly and removed two items from her belt – one in her left hand, the other in her right. She pressed the item from her right hand into his palm quickly, and smiled softly before raising her left hand to launch a cable to the top of the police station. He watched as she zipped straight up the side of the building to the roof…and disappeared.

Gordon looked carefully at the device she pressed into his hand – it was some sort of bat-shaped transmitter. He smiled as he understood what she was trying to do. She was offering to protect the city for him during his absence. He laughed a little to himself and turned to face the roof of the police station.

“Just be careful out there…Batgirl.”



“Hmm.” Batman stood over the spot where hours earlier a crowd of police officers and detectives stood, scratching their heads. Gotham City’s Finest had been baffled by the brutal murder of one of their own – Captain Jerald Hall. Batman was willing to look for clues that they might have missed…such as an innocent-looking playing card he found on the sidewalk.

It was no ordinary card – it was made of a heavily laminated and varnished paper, it’s edges sharpened into razor-like blade. He turned the card he held in his hand around to look at the other side – it was a joker card. Batman looked around the street, noticing the crime scene tape still around the front of a small, dilapidated brick building. A quick examination of the scene told him that the man who’s blood still stained the sidewalk in front of that building had been running…from something.

Batman turned his sights on the building itself as he deftly flipped over the crime scene tape, careful not to disturb it. He raced up the steps and through the front door, looking around the entryway carefully. He found just what he expected – more sharpened playing cards wedged into the doorframe.

“We need to turn this place inside out for clues.” Batman didn’t even bother to turn around as Batgirl approached him silently from behind – and yet, somehow he knew exactly who had snuck up on him. Batgirl made a mental note to herself to ask him how he always managed to do that – but as Batman turned around, she knew her question had already been anticipated. “It’s your shampoo. I recognize the smell.”

Batgirl nodded and headed upstairs, leaving the ground floor for Batman to search. She crept along silently, pausing whenever the old wood floor beneath her began to creak. She froze suddenly as she hit the top of the steps – she spotted a wood saw lying on the floor about the same time she heard a cracking wood sound coming from all around her. It was a trap of some sort. Before she had time to jump backward, a small circle fell through the floor with her standing on it, sending her crashing down to the floor below.

She could have kicked herself – she fell for a trap well overused on Saturday morning cartoons. She had to remind herself once again that the building was one of many of Joker’s hideouts, and was bound to have traps that completely defied all logic and reason.

As she sat up, she frowned when she saw Batman leaning over her. His cold eyes told her what he could have said out loud – ‘you should know better’. As long as Batman was in costume, he carried with him an unwavering air of superiority.

More caution this time allowed Batgirl to climb the stairs once again and avoid the second trap – a flamethrower attached to a trip wire. Yet another Saturday morning cartoon device. That’s where she found her first clue – a newspaper open to the rental ads. She knew better then to just reach for it, as she had no doubt that it too was a trap. Instead, she unwound part of one of her cable launchers and threw the hook at the newspaper, using it to drag the paper over to her. She was glad she did as she watched a large steel guillotine blade slide down between two wooden poles in the room, severing her cable in half.

Now that it was closer, she snatched the newspaper and read an ad that was circled in purple marker ink – ‘Apartment available, furnished. Gotham Tower’. As she read, she felt a slight breeze behind her but no sound. She knew it was Batman. It gave her chills – which helped her understand yet another one of his intimidation tactics.

“Good work.” Batman took the newspaper from her hands and headed back down the stairway quickly, expecting her to follow. She ran to catch up to him, until he stepped outside. He turned to face her before climbing into the Batmobile.

“Gotham Tower?”

Batman nodded in response to Batgirl’s question as he started up the Batmobile. “You’re going in alone. You are to gather clues only, and remain undetected. Do you understand?”

Batgirl nodded. She didn’t know why Batman wanted her to go in alone, or why she was to maintain stealth. But something rare that she heard in Batman’s voice made her accept every word he said without question – she heard fear.


“I want that rent, Mr. Smith! Open the door now! I’m getting the super–” A man in a cheap-looking suit pounded on the door of the penthouse apartment at Gotham Towers. He heard crashing noises from inside, causing him to cringe as his imagination tried to make up for what he couldn’t see.

“Here ya go, Mr. Stevens.” The building super, a short, fat, older man smoking a cigar, handed the man in the cheap suit a large ring weighted down by dozens of keys. “It’s the red one.”

Stevens could have sworn he heard laughing from the other side of the door as he tried to unlock it with the key – it fit just fine, but the lock appeared stuck. “Bob?”

“Hmm…looks like it’s been welded or somethin’.” The super looked closely at the lock with a flashlight. “Yup. It’s welded. I’m gonna have ta get a crowbar–”

The two men paused to watch a small package being pushed through the mail slot, backwards. It was ticking loudly.

“Bob?” Stevens started backing away slowly.

“Yeah, boss?”


As the two men raced down the stairway, the package continued ticking for another minute before it went off…filling the hallways with the scent of skunk. The neighbors on the lower floors noticed the smell almost immediately, several of them calling the fire department. They all evacuated the building in a matter of minutes.

It would be hours later, after the building had been ventilated and declared safe by the fire department, that the fire investigator managed to gain entry to the penthouse apartment to investigate what had happened. Stevens was almost in tears when he saw that the apartment had been stripped to it’s bare walls. There was one item found in the entire apartment – a small plastic toy clown.


Batgirl held a small plastic clown in the palm of her hand as she headed up the stairway into Gotham towers at around three a.m. She shrugged and tossed it aside. From what she read in the police report, the investigators probably discarded the plastic toy as they left the building. And yet–

She turned around quickly and picked up the small plastic clown, then removed a small knife blade from her belt. She sliced the titanium steel blade through the plastic easily, splitting the toy in half – and just as she expected, there was something inside. It was a note, with a key attached to it. The note said simply, ‘The key to my city’.

Almost silently, she headed inside the building, making short work of picking the entrance lock. She began to slink along the darkened hallway, headed toward the stairs, and eventually the penthouse. Most of the building was in disrepair – evidence of water leaks traced the walls, and the lighting in the hallway was barely adequate to see. The people who lived in the building were fairly poor, people who relied on government and private assistance just to make ends meet. But they were mostly working poor, people who constantly struggled for a better life.

Suddenly, she found herself bathed in light as Apartment 1A opened without warning as she passed its door. Her heart began beating quickly, her first instinct was to run. But as she spotted a heavy-set man with a heavy smell of alcohol on his breath standing unsteadily in the doorway holding a beer, her fear diminished. He was so drunk, he would never even remember seeing her.

“Batgirl, eh?” The man stumbled into the hallway, almost spilling his beer as he took each step. “About time ya did something about…those people. Ya know what I’m talkin’ about, right? They hide in the dark, thinkin’ you can’t see ’em.”

Batgirl shook her head slowly and began walking away from the man. She knew exactly what he meant – but the last thing she needed were more racists to deal with. She left him behind in her mind as she turned to head toward the stairs, and forever leave him to his sorry existence.

“Hey! I’m talkin’ to you!”

That’s when he made a big mistake. He reached out and grabbed the edge of Batgirl’s cape in his fist, only to find his face meeting her leather boot a split second later. She turned around to stand over him, arms folded, as he propped himself up on his elbows and felt his nose with his right hand. His subsequent scream told her that his nose had been cleanly broken.

Feeling a little more satisfied with herself, Batgirl headed toward the stairway quickly, determined to get to the penthouse without interruption this time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so easy. Practically as soon as she entered the stairway, the electricity in the building went out. Batgirl knew she wouldn’t have a problem navigating – she had trained herself to do so in near total darkness. The problem was that people who lived in the building flooded into the hallways to see what had happened.

Batgirl was just about to write off the power outage as coincidence as she continued up the stairway, until she heard a door on the first floor of the stairway open and the man she left with a nosebleed yelling.

“Serves all a’ ya right! That’s what ya get for callin’ Batgirl on me!”

She shook her head and sighed as she realized that the man she had assaulted on the first floor must have been the building’s super – and he was now angry, taking it out on the poor residents of the building. Batgirl turned and headed back down the stairway quickly, but noiselessly. She would straighten him out…one way or the other.


“Wait, wait…everyone just wait a minute!” The mayor of Gotham City wasn’t happy as he stormed into his office, followed by two of his aides, and slammed the door behind him in an effort to keep the press out. “What the heck are we going to do? We have no police in Gotham!”

“Call the governor, sir. We can get the National Guard down here–”

“Fine, do that…we can’t let this city fall into chaos.” The mayor headed back to the door, taking a deep breath as he prepared to open the door and face the press waiting outside. “And while you’re at it, call the prosecutor. I want charges filed against Gordon.”

As soon as he opened the door, the mayor was immediately greeted by dozens of flashing bulbs, and a flood of high intensity lighting. Cameras from every major television station were rolling. Newspaper reporters from cities as far as Metropolis were holding tape recorders and writing furiously. Voices were yelling out questions – people were demanding answers.

In the dark, nearly silent Bat Cave, Bruce Wayne sat leaned back in his chair, watching the circus unfold on a large screen monitor. He watched the mayor stand silently for several minutes, patiently waiting for the roar of activity to stop. Once the noise reduced to a few random camera clicks and whispers, he cleared his throat.

“We will not be held hostage by an illegal strike. We will not leave the citizens of Gotham unprotected. Mark my words…there will be law enforcement in Gotham City. I will take five questions, in random order.”

Bruce raised an eyebrow as he watched the mayor point a man in a cheap-looking suit and glasses to ask the first question. He recognized the man immediately.

“Clark Kent, Daily Planet. Is there any truth to the rumor that the city will be pursuing charges against Commissioner James Gordon due to the strike?”

The mayor glanced at one of his aides, who shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kent. I can’t comment on that. Next question?”

The monitor in front of Bruce went dark as he suddenly turned it off in disgust. He stood up and paced partway around the room, sighing as he watched Alfred enter with a cup of tea.

“Thank you, Alfred.” Bruce returned to his seat as Alfred removed the cup from the tray he carried and placed it on Bruce’s desk.

Alfred put his tray on the desk as well and leaned over Bruce. “Is something the matter?”

Bruce sighed as he watched the steam slowly rising from his cup of tea. “I just hope Cassandra is having better luck then I am.”


Steam rushed into the stairwell as Batgirl opened the door to the basement. She knew it wasn’t normal – someone had opened all of the boiler’s relief valves. It wasn’t enough that the super turned off the power – he was now working on turning off the heat as well. She took a deep breath and headed into the hot clouds of steam – it wouldn’t be easy, especially for someone wearing leather from head to toe.

“Who’s down here?” A man’s gruff voice boomed through the basement suddenly. She recognized that voice, it was the same man who yelled up the stairway earlier – the building’s super.

Batgirl rolled to the ground quickly, tumbling behind one of the hot boilers. She could hear footsteps moving through the clouds of steam, slowly – and as a shadowed form passed, she could make out that he was holding a metal pipe. She smiled to herself – this man obviously had no idea who he was messing with.

In a moment of arrogance, Batgirl suddenly stepped out from behind the boiler. She knew that the man’s best attempts to hit her with the pipe would fail – she simply ducked out of the way as he made his best effort. But she didn’t anticipate his next move.

The super raised his weapon above a thick iron pipe which ran past the boiler, making a sharp turn downwards to the boiler’s bottom. It was obviously a large gas line – and the man was threatening to break it open. “You understand that, dontcha? Huh?”

He began smiling as he watched Batgirl turn as if to leave – but his joy was short-lived as she spun around, her boot knocking the steel pipe he held to the floor with a ‘clang’. A powerful blow to his nose accompanied by a loud ‘crack’ left pain in it’s wake – even more this time, since his nose had already been broken once by her. He then found his knees collapsing from under him as a quick sweep from one of Batgirl’s feet sent him tumbling onto his back.

“What’re ya gonna do…kill me? You aint got the guts!”

Batgirl smiled mischievously and kneeled down in front of the super, staring at him for a second steadily. He seemed to cower away from her as she reached for him – it was enough. She meant to intimidate him, not hurt him.

She rose to her feet quickly and headed toward the electrical circuit box on the wall at the far end of the basement. As she opened the door and turned all of the switches back on, she could practically hear the cheers of the residents upstairs.

But as she saw a shadow descend upon behind her from behind, she knew she had forgotten something. It was something very important about the building, the original purpose she had come. Unfortunately, before she remembered…it came to find her.

Batgirl felt her sight black out as she felt a sudden blow to the back of her head. Consciousness slipped away from Batgirl quickly…and she could swear that she heard laughter.



“Barbara, I asked you here to tell you that…I may be going away for a while.”

“Dad–” Barbara Gordon rolled her wheelchair quickly around her father’s furniture, easily catching up to him as he stepped into the kitchen. He had re-arranged his furniture after her…accident, anticipating a visit from her. “They wouldn’t dare file charges against you.”

Jim Gordon smiled his daughter as he removed a soft drink from the refrigerator. Barbara almost rolled over him as he attempted to remove a frying pan from next to the stove – she insisted on doing the cooking when she visited. He had to smile…she was irrepressible. In spite of an injury that would cause most of her peers, and his, to simply give up, she had become just as skilled in a wheelchair as she was on foot as Batgirl.

“The fact is, Barbara, that this strike is illegal. It’s not endorsed by the union, even if they are supporting me. I gave the city absolutely no negotiation time–”

“But you’re doing what’s right–” Barbara froze, staring steadily at her dad as both of their eyes turned sad. She knew very well that what was right was often not the law. It was one thing she learned over and over again during her time working alongside Batman.

“I know…I know it’s right.” Jim leaned against the counter and sighed, placing the soft drink can next to him as he felt his grip on it weakening. “With all my heart, I know. That’s why no matter what happens…I can’t back down. I’m willing to go to jail for this, Barbara.”

“I understand, dad.”

Jim smiled again as he looked at Barbara. She did understand – she was no stranger to bending the rules to do what was right. “For someone like me, Barbara…the law is my life. And here I am–”

“Dad, if you end up in jail–” Barbara smiled at Jim and nudged him with her elbow as she passed in her wheelchair. “I’ll break you out myself.”

Jim laughed as he reached out to hug his daughter. “You do that, Barbara. You do that.”


Batgirl woke up abruptly and looked around, still dizzy from the blow she took to the back of her head. She realized quickly that she was lying on the floor of a small bathroom somewhere. A really disgusting bathroom.

She leapt to her feet quickly, in spite of the dizziness she felt – she panicked for a moment as she realized that there were literally dozens of roaches parading around the floor around her. Finding a perch off of the floor was out of the question – the overfilled toilet and bathtub were covered with some kind of grease and were too slippery, and the sink actually contained more roaches then the floor did. There was no ceiling in the room, just open rafters and wood from the floor above – and the walls had holes in them.

The door, as she guessed, was locked and barricaded, and something was propped against the outside of the door to prevent her from forcing it open. There was no window. She sighed, and began looking around the bathroom for clues as to where she was. That’s when she noticed that there was something in the murky water in the toilet and tub.

She leaned a little bit closer, not too close, but still couldn’t see anything. Luckily, there was a discarded handle from an old plunger – which she used to poke carefully through the murky water. She felt something large and very solid which was blocking the toilet drain.

Against her better judgement, Batgirl used the stick to push the object up along the wall of the toilet. As she did, she could see it take form – it was a badly decomposed human head, belonging to a woman who had obviously been killed only a short time ago. She jumped back suddenly – lifting the head had caused the water to suddenly drain out of the toilet, leaving the head, and it’s accompanying pungent odor, exposed.

She backed up against the opposite wall as she watched the several dozen roaches present in the room congregating toward the toilet – now that the murky water was gone, they were free to dine on the head’s rotting flesh. Batgirl glanced at the bathtub for a moment, afraid of what she might find in there. But she had a pretty good theory – that it was most likely the rest of the woman who’s head was in the toilet.

Batgirl jumped again as she door to the bathroom suddenly opened. Standing in the doorway was the Joker, holding a gun. She began to shake her head slowly – this had to be a nightmare.

“Ah, you’re awake.” Joker waved past him, inviting Batgirl to leave the bathroom. She took him up on his offer quickly, racing past him to the exit door of the next room – only to find that it was locked as well. “I would have simply locked you in a closet, but I figured…what if you had to use the head?”

As the Joker began laughing hysterically at his own joke, Batgirl kicked the door, hard, to try and force it open. She succeeded only in breaking a small hole in the door – immediately discovering that there was a loud, angry dog on the other side.

“Feathers, be quiet!”

Joker’s threat was immediately followed by two rounds fired in the dog’s direction. After the first two rounds missed, Batgirl watched him take aim again – he was going to kill that dog. Acting both on fear and instinct, she launched herself at the Joker, both of her feet making contact with his chest. As she tumbled away from him, she was sure she had knocked him to the ground – and more importantly, caused him to drop his gun.

Correction – one of his guns. As she quickly found out, the Joker was well-armed. As soon as she had knocked him to the ground, he simply drew another gun and fired at the dog again. He missed, but this time she could breathe a sigh of relief as the dog ran down the hall.

“Feathers and I play with guns all the time.” Joker paced around the room, looking out the window briefly into the darkness before turning his attention back to Batgirl. “Oh, don’t worry. I don’t plan to kill you. You’re Batty’s invitation to my penthouse party. Girls, dogs, rodents…what more could you want in a party?”

Batgirl guessed he meant that he wanted to lure Batman to rescue her – only to fall into some kind of trap. She eyed the window behind Joker carefully – maybe she did have the chance for escape. Only she realized that Joker had removed all of the cable launchers on her belt, so her chances of surviving a dive out the window were slim.

“Ah-ah. I wouldn’t go jumping out that window without a net.”

Joker suddenly grabbed Batgirl by the back of the neck and shoved her back into the bathroom. She had to use nearly all of her agility and strength to avoid falling into the murky water in the bathtub. She tensed as she watched Joker enter the small room with her.

“Meet Annette.”

Batgirl suddenly found herself with a rare chance as the Joker began doubling over with laughter at his own joke. She gripped his hair in her hand tightly and slammed his head into the wall, before tripping him to cause him to easily lose his balance and fall on the slippery tile floor. Her muscles tensed as she eyed the window in the next room. It was time to go.

“Some people just can’t take a joke. Which is fine…I have a serious side too, you know.”

As Batgirl raced for the window, she took one quick look back. She just had to see what Joker meant – no matter how frightening he was to be around, anyone who met him had to admit that his behavior was a curiosity. But then again…curiosity is what killed the cat.

She remembered that the Joker was carrying a pistol. She was ready for that, even several of them. But there was no way she could have possibly prepared for this. As she raced for the window, she watched the Joker light a stick of dynamite, hold it in his mouth, and run toward the window right behind her.

For the first time since she began working alongside Batman, she closed her eyes as she sailed through the glass window, and began plummeting. Her eyes remained closed as she held her arms stiff at her sides, the edges of her cape in her hands, just as Batman trained her to do when jumping without equipment – it would slow her down, lesson the impact, he said.

But he never imagined explosives figuring into the equation…and neither did she. Batgirl could feel an immense heat and pressure behind her, pain filled her head from her ears. It was the most painful experience she ever felt, to feel her body pushed to it’s limits, to be tossed helplessly through the air.

She thought it would never end…but it did. The unyielding ground pounded her mercilessly as she landed in the small strip of grass alongside the apartment building, the pain she felt from the impact was almost refreshing after encountering that explosion. She opened her eyes quickly to see that the Joker was calmly gliding to a landing on a building across the street – he was wearing a parachute all along.

Everything seemed so serene and quiet as flashing lights began to approach quickly. Red and white for ambulance, red for fire company, and blue for police. She guessed that meant there were a few officers working in spite of the strike.

It was so quiet. Much, much too quiet. Batgirl sat up abruptly to be met with severe dizziness, convincing her that she would be unable to rise to her feet. She turned around quickly as she saw a shadow behind her – it was Batman. He was saying something, but she didn’t understand him for some reason.

As Batman lifted her and carried her toward the Batmobile, she glanced at the approaching emergency vehicles again. They should be loud, ear piercing – but she heard only silence. She looked at Batman, he was still talking, yet she couldn’t hear. Panic hit her quickly as she realized what had happened – the explosion had taken away her hearing. She was now deaf.



Bruce sat in a nearly darkened office, the only source of light in the room being his computer screen. It cast a blue, eerie glow across the room, reflecting his mood. His hands were still shaking from the moment when he discovered Cassandra’s hearing loss. Like with all cases of hearing loss, only time would tell just how permanent it was.

Cassandra held out bravely in telling her…only it became obvious after Alfred asked what she wanted for dinner, and she didn’t seem to understand. She just nodded cheerfully, trying to cover up the fact that she didn’t understand a word.

At that moment, Bruce remembered the smell of explosives in the area where he found Cassandra, and noticed small amounts of damage that could have been easily discounted as vandalism. He immediately insisted on testing Cassandra’s hearing in spite of her resistance.

“I’ve been looking after Cassandra for almost a year now. I thought she would be an excellent Batgirl. She was an excellent Batgirl…or maybe she still is. I don’t know anymore.”

Bruce leaned forward at his desk, leaning his elbows on the surface, placing his face in his hands. He asked Alfred to make sure he would not be disturbed for any reason – he didn’t want anyone to see him like this.

“I have no one to blame for what happened but myself. I sent her out there. I put her in danger when she was clearly not ready. I almost…almost got her killed. And if she would have been killed–”

He tossed aside the microphone and ran his fingers through his hair nervously, before abruptly shoving his computer monitor off of his desk. The sound of crashing glass didn’t appease him the slightest bit.

“Dear God…I can never forgive myself. Not this time. Not ever.”