"Can't a superhero get an uninterrupted night's
Barbara could hear the "incoming message" alert
going off notifying her of a pending need.
She sat up, feeling for her glasses on the nightstand. Discovering, instead, that she had fallen
asleep with them in her hand mid-stretch, while trying to stay awake to watch
the Late Show. As she began the
now-arduous process of getting out of bed, she wondered if she truly was a
superhero anymore. Carelessly, she
shoved her legs out of the bed, first the left, then the right. Equally as haphazardly, she placed her hand
on the seat of her wheelchair and tossed her body in behind it.
"Hmmmmph…so much for leaping tall buildings in a
single bound. Getting out of bed is
enough of an accomplishment." She sighed
and reached down to lift her feet into place.
"If this is Dick ordering a pizza or Dinah
updating me on the latest "hot guy" she took down, they are dead meat."
Now a little more focused on the alert, which
was getting louder as she approached, she gave one last hard push landing
perfectly in place in front of her computer screen. With a stroke of a key, the alarm was
silenced. The message was coming in
slowly; letter-by-letter accompanied by a creeping computer simulated voice.
She sat back and rubbed her eyes
under her glasses then began to read the message as it appeared.
WOULD YOU DO TO GET YOUR LEGS BACK?…
WOULD YOU…GIVE? …
WOULD YOU GIVE UP?…
CHOICES WOULD YOU MAKE?…
IT WORTH TO YOU?…
As the last characters came over
painfully hitting Barbara each time like a blow to the stomach, the screen went
black and the system powered down. Her
gut, which was almost immediately torn in a million directions, reacted by
wheeling around swiftly to another computer frantically beginning to strike
"How…in…the…hell?" Why did they call me Barbara Gordon?" It was clear that this was an experienced
hacker. How did they get in? She was experiencing a myriad of emotions
from shock to panic to intrigue, finally resting on anger.
She spun her chair away from the
screen frustrated with her futile attempts to trace the message; afraid to
think back on what it said, even more afraid that they would be contacting her
again. Completely for lack of an appropriate
response, she shoved her face into her hands and began to cry.
Her moment of weakness was
Her computer had powered back up and Bruce's almost-welcomed face was
staring back at her. Ashamed that she
had broken down she turned away from the screen and wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath and turned back toward
the console and warily smiled.
"Yah. What's up Bruce? What are you doing up so late? Or should I say early?" Right away, she knew her earlier message
wasn't to be her little secret as she had hoped.
"Who was it Barbara?" His voice was stern and seemingly unfeeling
"Who was what?" She decided to give one last shot at evading
the topic in hopes he hadn't seen the message although she knew Batman saw
everything in time.
"Don't do this with me Barbara. I'm coming over." Again the screen was black.
"I've got to have more control over this thing."
She punched the keyboard with tightened fists.
"People are just allowed to invade my privacy and pop back out at their
convenience. It's rude and unfair."
She continued running diagnostic patterns on the
system to try and find out who her visitor had been. All roads proved to be dead ends. The strangeness of Bruce's pending visit
hadn't even crossed her mind until the intercom flashed.
Suddenly she noted the oddity of the
situation. Why would Bruce concern
himself with this with so little information to go on? Could he know more than she did? Possible, but not likely.
"Bruce?" She spoke hesitantly into the intercom.
"It's me Barbara." The returned voice was not the deep, smooth
voice of Bruce Wayne.
What the hell are you doing here at this hour?" Still in front of the computer she was
growing more annoyed at the complete lack of control she had over her own life.
"Don't ask me.
Just come let me in or I'll let myself in." Dinah knew how it bothered Barbara when she
just appeared without invitation.
Placing her hands on the rims of her wheels, she found that they were
shaking. "Great. Why am I letting this all get to me?" Ignoring the tremors, she turned around and
moved smoothly toward the door. Checking
the monitor, she pressed a button and the door opened.
You look tired." Dinah blew
passed Barbara and made her way directly to the kitchen.
"I am tired…tired of you people barging in and
eating me out of clock tower and home."
She followed Dinah into the kitchen to find her scooping the last of 4
heaping spoons of coffee into the coffee maker, an array of snacks strewn
across the table.
"So what's the deal with the
"He called…of course he did."
"Who did what? Man you're cranky in
the morning." She gathered her snacks in
her arm, strategically balanced the coffee in her free hand and left the
Barbara, figuring coffee, no matter how strong,
couldn't make matters any worse, poured herself a cup and went into the living
room where Dinah had already made herself comfortable on the couch.
"Is anyone else coming?" She set her
coffee down and moved from her chair to the couch opposite Dinah.
"Don't know. You expecting anyone else?"
"Bruce. Maybe Dick I guess if I know the motivation
behind the meeting." She didn't know the
extent to which the meeting, so to speak, would take a turn even Bruce wasn't
Dinah didn't seem concerned. "Business as usual. Sounds like the gangs all here."
There was a draft as Nightwing came through the
door off the balcony. Barbara sighed and moved over to make room for Dick.
"Hey Babs. I'm going to get changed. I'll be right back. What's this about anyhow?" He asked as he blew passed Barbara dropping
off a kiss as he left.
The party was complete as Bruce
appeared in the room just as illusively as if he were cowled and caped!
"Hey. I see you took it upon yourself to make this
public information. Dick's
changing." Barbara folded her arms and
shot an annoyed look toward Bruce as he pulled up a chair and sat down, rubbing
"Dinah? Can Barbara and I be alone for a minute?"
"Sure thing. Want some coffee?"
Barbara was motioning a warning to
Bruce against the potentially lethal cup of coffee offered to him.
"Uhh. No thanks."
As Dinah left, Bruce got up, moved Barbara's chair out of the way and
took the place vacant beside her on the couch.
"Barbara. I know that we need to
get to the bottom of this. It's most
important that we find out how they got into the system and how they know you
and know so much about you. Still, and
this is why I called Dinah and Dick, I know you and I don't want to take the
message lightly. That is to say, the
offer they made, however unfounded, must be plaguing your mind."
He picked up her hand and looked her in the
"Don't worry about me…" Barbara
"What offer? What's this about Bruce?" Dick was just
drying his hair with a towel as he came in and glanced over at Barbara who was
just wiping a newly formed tear from her eye.
"You'll have to ask Barbara. I'll go
and get Dinah." Bruce left Dick and Barbara to talk.
"Barbara? What's the matter? Are you…"?
"Dick it's nothing. I don't know why he called you. It's no big
"Barbara! Tell me!
There had to have been a reason.
Bruce had conveniently left her
chair out of reach leaving no easy way out of the rising awkward
situation. She wasn't even sure herself
how to describe what had happened let alone how she was feeling about it.
"My chair…" She moved to the edge of
the couch. Hoping she wouldn't have to ask again. It wasn't enough that she couldn't just get up
and leave; she had to ask Dick to bring her chair over.
"What?" Dick was too focused on finding out what
Bruce and Barbara were hiding to notice her current distress at being unable to
reach her chair.
"Uhh. My chair is too…"
"No way Barbara. You're not leaving without talking. Spill it." He carelessly pushed her chair
further away and sat down beside her on the couch.
This was the last emotional
straw. Anger. Frustration.
Fear. Wonder. Helplessness.
"Dick. If I have to try and reach
it myself you will be sorry. Get me my
"Go ahead. You don't need anyone. You don't need our help, my help. Go ahead."
Dick stood up and left the room.
"Dick. You jerk.
You don't understand. You can't
understand. Just give me a break please." She began, again, to cry. This time the tears were almost
unstoppable. They welled up inside and
overcame her. She began moving across
the couch slowly, her emotions working against her all the while.
"So?" Bruce and Dinah were sitting
at the table talking over a cup of excruciatingly strong coffee.
"So what? She wouldn't tell me anything."
"Tell you anything about what. I'm being pretty patient here when do I get
to be in on the conversation? I know you
didn't call me over here in the middle of the night for no reason. Spill it Bruce." Dinah kept her feelings quiet for as long as
"What do you mean she didn't tell
you?" Bruce felt the distress in Dick's
voice and stood up ready to go in and talk to Barbara.
won't tell me. What's wrong with her
is wrong, or at least there wasn't anything wrong until you came in." He was suddenly displaying protective
qualities concerning Barbara's well-being.
The three of them went into the living room to find Barbara sitting as
close to the edge of the couch as possible, preparing to get onto the floor and
move to her chair.
sorry Barbara. I didn't think…"
fine Bruce." Her breathing, though
slightly recovered, was still faltering.
guys." Dinah pushed passed the seemingly helpless men standing at a loss and
pushed the wheelchair over to Barbara who dried her eyes, took a deep breath
and made one of her less-swift transfers from the couch to her chair.
Dinah. Come on." She turned, glaring at both Dick and Bruce as
she made her way to her once-safe harbor of computers and screens.
all followed silently waiting for Barbara's prompts.
the click of a few keys, she brought up the earlier message and moved back away
from the screen as it came across just as slowly as it had earlier. This time she didn't read it. Instead, she turned and began nervously
straightening papers on her desk, talking idly as she did. The others stared at the screen.
came across at about 3 this morning. I
heard the alert and came in to find this message. When it was finished, the screen went blank
and I was…unable to trace it. Then Bruce
piped in saying he'd seen the message and felt that it was important enough, I
guess, to tell the whole world." She
shot a wry glance at Bruce.
time, the screen did not power down, instead, the letters sat there and glared
back at the onlookers. Dick pulled
himself away and walked over to Barbara who was still trying to distract
herself with menial tasks.
"Barbara. I don't know…"
"It's o.k. Dick. I don't either." She made her way back over to where Bruce and
What are you going to do?"
do you mean?"
mean it's a big… Well, it's huge. It's a lot to think about all of the sudden…"
Dick. We need to find out why…"
"Why they know you are
Barbara Gordon and that you can't walk.
I mean that's the scary part.
Just for starters." Dinah stood
in front of the screen seeing that it was making Barbara uncomfortable, imagining
immediately how she must feel.
Dinah." Bruce sat down and began entering letter after letter trying just as
unsuccessfully to crack the code.
you think they'll contact you again?" Dick sounded hopeful.
that would be my guess. It's looking
like our only way to find out who it is."
only a hand full of people it can be Barbara.
Do you think…"
"No! It's too calculated. Too logical.
It can't be."
could definitely be behind this. I'm not
ruling it out and you shouldn't either Barbara."
do you think has been going through my head for the past couple hours
Bruce? Do you guys think I haven't read
that message a thousand times over in my mind?
Do you think I don't know what it means?
Do you think…"
interrupted Barbara's ranting with a typically thoughtless question. "What if it's not a joke…" Barbara shot
daggers through Dick.
just saying. Yah, it's weird that they
know you and they got through the Oracle Super Wall of Protection", Dick was
condescending. "…But what if they did it for a reason. What if it's serious?"
up Dick." Barbara turned swiftly and
left the room.
one followed. Bruce stopped typing just
long enough to glare angrily at his former partner.
"What? Didn't you ever think that someone might be
able to help her? I mean she's come
close enough herself a few times. I just
don't think we should rule out the possibility.
Barbara could walk again." He
allowed himself to display a slight smile, a twinkle in his eye. "She could…"
stop. Don't get her hopes up. Of course that would be great, but it's not
likely. The message is too cryptic. It's not meant to be easy. This is serious and she's stressed
enough. Don't do this to her…"
Don't do this to yourself Dick. Don't
get YOUR hopes up. If you keep it up you
might be able to rob me of those 5 minutes a day I have left where I don't wish
I was the one in the Kevlar, sprinting through the streets and stopping the bad
guys with one blow to the neck."
not fair Babs…"
This isn't fair!" She slammed her hands down on her legs and stared Dick deep
in the eyes.
think we all need to cool down. Let's go
to breakfast or something and wait for another message." Bruce got up from behind
the computer and pushed Dick out of the room.
don't want to go anywhere. I'm not
hungry. You guys are welcome to whatever
I have or you can go without me. I'll
just wait here." Barbara lowered her
head and left the room.
give her some time. She knows what to
do. If she needs us, she'll ask."
funny. You know she won't. I'm staying here."
"Dick. Give her some space." Bruce's hand was heavy on Dick's shoulder as
he left with Dinah.
Barbara fled to her
favorite refuge, her gym. It usually
helped to push herself really hard as not to just sit and fester. This time was different. Why did she do it? What was she working toward?
…Oh yah, the occasional
bad guy that strays from the normal path of the caped crusaders and finds
themselves following home an innocent girl in a wheelchair.
reasons. That's right. Can't let our muscles atrophy too much, drink
lots of water, stand an hour a day.
…Dick. Maybe it was for Dick.
…She felt more normal,
more in shape? For what? So her legs
remained firm to the touch? So her arms were cut and her stomach didn't get
the thoughts cluttered her mind, serving merely as distractions, she stopped
just short of the mat and reached for the braces that lay lifelessly on the
floor. It had been a while since she was
actually disgusted at the feeling of her heavy, unresponsive legs in her arms
as she set them in the cages and pulled them tight. Taking a deep breath she lifted herself from
her chair until she was set evenly between the bars. Her arms began to shake a little and she
could feel herself weakening. Slowly the
braces released and her legs bent, crumbling beneath her. The cold bars met her painfully beneath her
arms and she yelled, "I'd give anything…"
you Babs? Anything?"
she looked up to see Dick standing in the doorway. "Dick. Leave.
I don't need…"
I do Babs. I need to talk to you."
nothing to say." For the first time in a
while she couldn't manage to pull herself back up.
now!" Letting go of the bars, she
straightened her legs back out and began moving back toward her chair.
being ridiculous." Dick walked over, stood between her and her chair and lifted
her up by the arms. "Try again."
Dick. I'm tired and upset. And what's the point?"
try again." He helped steady her and lock the braces back into place. Barbara
was not aiding him in his efforts. "So
you're just giving up?"
up? You think there's some goal
here? Back off Dick. I'm just trying to do some thinking; blow off
some steam." She gathered all the
strength she had left to turn around and drag herself back to her chair. As she began removing the braces from her
legs, she quietly spoke.
"Dick. It's too much sometimes. It's very discouraging to work so hard and
sometimes hope so much…I mean sure mostly I just workout, but sometimes while
I'm standing I allow myself to hope for just a minute that I'll feel something
or that I'll get them back, but…"
let's find this guy and hear him out." He bent down and helped her finish,
looking the whole time, into her eyes.
just don't get it do you? It's not
possible…that's the point. He or she or
whomever, has succeeded in finding my weakness and they are using it to break
me; to break us…this is not about me or even walking. We do need to get busy on this, but not so
your girlfriend can get her legs back.
not fair Barbara."
not fair? That I'm not willing to take
this chance for you?"
"No. The comment.
I want it for you, not for me.
I don't know. It's all you've seen since
this morning. Refocus Nightwing. Focus
on the job or leave." She backed up and
left the room a little more focused herself.
As she went into the
other room, she saw Dinah coming up to the door and reached over to the nearest
control and opened it.
thought you were out with Bruce."
not great company. He went back to the
manor to work on your little Internet buddy.
Is Dick still here?"
was afraid of that. He's being weird
about this. Don't you think?"
don't know how we're supposed to be…"
mean about you."
just wearing his heart on his sleeve.
That's what we love about him right?"
Barbara wasn't sure whether or not, at that moment, she bought her own
a man. Besides, don't tell me those same
thoughts weren't crossing your mind."
different with me Barbara. I didn't know
you before you…"
I was shot? Before my legs were taken
from me? Before I became this pathetic computer driven shut-in, in a
"Barbara…stop! It's just you're one of my best friends, the
person I trust daily with my life and you've never been able to walk in my
eyes, I mean I don't know who you were before.
You're Barbara, the Oracle, that's what you've always been to me. Dick lost something when you were shot,
almost the same as you. He hurts for you
and hopes for you. I don't, for a
second, think his motives are impure or selfish."
"Yah. You're right.
It's just…I'm not even sure I remember who I was before. I've worked so hard at becoming who I am and
this message invades my safe world and offers something that is both my biggest
dream and my biggest fear. I'm losing
sight of what's important here."
walked over and offered a comforting hug, not something either of them did
often. "Barbara. Let's find this person and find out what he wants
from you. We'll deal with the rest of
at you being all serious and grown up for a change. Thanks Dinah."
"Bruce. I'm on it.
I've found a link."
fine for now. The message is linked to…"
there's another message coming over.
It's coming over the video com."
Her heart began beating a mile a minute anticipating the sight of the
Joker. He had to have something to do
with this unless there are people equally cruel running freely over the Gotham
Internet Wavs. Her fingers flew over the keys scrambling any pictures he might
get of her.
to both of their relief, a young man, nicely dressed, with glasses, filled the
Barbara Gordon? I have been
looking forward to this moment. I'm sorry my first contact was so blunt. It wasn't meant to alarm you. YOU'VE SCRAMBLED THE RETURN. ARE YOU AFRAID OF SOMETHING?
didn't respond. Her arms folded and a
puzzled look about her face, she just sat and returned the stare.
voice was still disguised by computer filters, not matching up with the
movement on the screen. Not an entirely high-tech operation, clearly.
DON'T BE. Well then, have you thought about my
questions? I'm sure you've thought of nothing else. I'm offering you the chance of a
lifetime. It'll only come around once
and it's exclusive.
me? Why me? How did you find me? Who are you working with? Or for?"
ahhh. You have questions. Good. We'll meet and talk.
"No. We won't."
It can be private. We'll discuss things…or I can come to you??
"Bruce? He's bluffing. He has limited access. I don't think he knows me. Which only means someone's feeding him. Besides, he said 'we'."
your name? Or what can I call you? You
know so much about me. Don't I get some
"You're smart. You're researching that as we speak. You, no doubt, already know where I am
transmitting from. That puts you at an
advantage. You also have a face to put
with a voice. Meet me and we'll put all
our cards on the table."
you understand the precautions."
Your time will run
out. We can't wait forever. I'm sure you
know how to reach me if you change your mind.
you get a location Oracle?"
"Yes. Should we meet him? Find out who's behind
a background on him. Find out who he is.
If there's anything on him. We'll send
not go myself? You don't think I can…"
not about that and you know it. You
could handle it. But this way we can see
just how much he knows or has been told."
we could blow it right from the beginning."
whoever's behind this is there, you…"
don't think it's him Bruce. Still,
sending Dinah might be best. ORACLE OUT."
Oracle here…are you close? I have a job
I'm with Dick."
"Good. Bring him too. ORACLE OUT."
"Oh. Now she wants our help. I can't take this."
do you mean Dick?"
want to help her. I want to take care of
her. I want her to be happy."
she is happy. You know she doesn't want
to be 'taken care of', not by anyone."
go see what she's cooked up."
day is just creeping by. I haven't even
showered. Get it together Barbara." She went in to take a bath. Sitting there with the steam and warm water
soaking into her soar arms, she could think of nothing else, but that morning
and what happened in the gym.
Superhero dispatcher. That's the saddest
job description to date."
"Yah. You guys just make yourself at home. I'm finishing up a bath here."
that anything you need help with?" She
could hear Dick smiling over the intercom.
this time. Hey don't eat me out of house
and home. I'll be out in a minute." She finished up, flung her wet red hair into
a ponytail, and pulled on some jeans and an old Gotham University sweatshirt. Trying to go about business as usual, she
went in and made her bed, hooked her glasses on her sweatshirt and threw on a
pair of tennis shoes. Stopping by the
mirror, she laughed a cynical laugh. She
was naturally beautiful, even in casual wear.
"A little too much irony for me."
kid. You look refreshed."
are you calling kid? You save me any food? I'm starved."
brought burgers. Here." Dinah tossed a bag over the couch to Barbara.
and healthy. Just what I'd expect from
you two. Thanks for thinking of me. Scooch."
She seemed like a completely different person than earlier as she moved
over to the couch with her food.
this stage two of completely losing it?"
Dick laughed as he moved over.
just have a better perspective on things.
Sorry about this morning. So are
you up for a little acting job?"
"Acting?" Dinah hopped over the back of the couch.
"Yah. Well, we got a handle on this guy. He wants to meet with me and 'discuss'
things. Bruce and I are almost sure he
doesn't know what I look like, well, with exception of that." She darted an annoyed look toward her chair.
depending on who's feeding him, he only knows the basics. He's probably got the red hair notice and the
chair…that's what we're hoping."
why aren't you going yourself?"
who we think is behind this, our little charade will blow his cover right up
You really think it could be?"
"No. Not really, but Bruce does and whoever it is,
is up to something. They want the
Oracle. They're getting the next best
thing for now. Up for it Dinah?"
up for the chase, Dinah hesitated before answering. "I have to use…"
"A wheelchair. Can you even say it?" Barbara hated focusing so much on this aspect
of her life. Unfortunately, this was the
job for now. This time it was about
her. All of her, which now included the
chair. "Yah…get in, try it out. You'll have to practice. I'm sure they don't expect me to be clumsy."
don't know, Barbara. It's weird."
worry. You get to come home and get out
of it at the end of the day."
Babs." Dick noted her pointed comment.
went over and lowered herself into the vacant wheelchair. "So, basically I'm the bait. That doesn't make sense. If I go, I'll have to be you for him every
time. What if…"
not for real Dinah. This won't
last. Do you think you can do this?"
meet with this guy and find out what he wants from you and what he has to
offer? Sure. Easy enough."
"Good. Take a spin.
Let's see if the graceful fighting machine can run the obstacle course
of my life." Barbara again resorted to
accepted the challenge and put her feet up onto the footrest. Placing her hands on the rims of the wheels,
she began to slowly push herself across the floor, hitting the table as she
passed by. "Oops."
of watching Dinah, Dick glared at Barbara hoping to catch a glimpse of
understanding. As Dinah rounded the
couch, she misjudged the turn and got hung up on the edge, making the maneuver
into a five-point-turn. Barbara laughed
causing Dick to join in this time.
not funny. It's hard."
sound surprised." Barbara again sounded serious. "Dick? Can you have another chair sent over for her
to use for practice?"
I can have it in a couple of hours really." He stared back at Barbara a
little unsure of the amount of enjoyment she was getting from watching Dinah.
just make it look easy. That's
all." Dinah stood up and moved back to
the couch and finished her burger.
atmosphere surprisingly remained light for a while. Dick called in the order and announced that
it would be there within the hour.
the chair arrives, I want you to change into more normal street clothes and
remain in the chair until the meeting takes place. You are off detail until then. Dick will have to save the world without the
girls for a few days."
so there is a catch. I have to dress
like you too."
dye your hair."
way. I'm blonde."
really." Both Dick and Barbara exclaimed together.
"Well. I like the blonde and I just have to hang out
around here and practice moving around in it all day? Fun!"
no. You're going out. You're going to have to train Dinah. Use the elevator. Enter small rooms. Order food and do some grocery shopping. You know, normal everyday things. You have to play the part well."
"Fine. I'm going to raid your closet." She got up to leave, "Never thought I'd be
saying that to you."
else?" Dinah was growing annoyed as the
tasks continued to mount.
you can just hop up and run in and out of the room, I can't, so could you bring
my chair back over here please?"
Babs." She rolled the chair back over to
Barbara and left the room.
could have brought it over for you."
Dick turned to face Barbara.
thought your job was taking it away from me to teach me a lesson."
thought you had a new perspective on this.
You're still mad?"
more…disappointed I guess. I just didn't
think you'd ever use it against me."
really sorry. It was just an emotional reaction. Stupid, I know."
stupid. Next time I'll beat your ass."
deserve it." He moved closer and went to hug her.
pulled away. "I guess I didn't know it
meant that much to you."
not being able to walk. I didn't know it was that big of an issue for you."
not. I mean it is, but only because I
thought it's what you'd want for yourself."
it's not. I mean sure who wouldn't want
it, but I'm not who I used to be Dick. I've
worked hard to overcome my issues and this is just opening old wounds I thought
had healed." She teared up at her own
word choice. "I don't think I want it to be true. I can't make that choice."
don't want to walk again?" Dick didn't
being able to walk doesn't change why I do what I do, it only changes the way I
do it. If I could walk, I'd have to
choose between doing what I used to love and doing what I love now." As she spoke, her issues became even clearer
to her than to Dick.
you ready for this? You seem to be
adjusting to the chair. Your hair looks
ready, but what if it's for real Barbara?
How will you get to meet with him?"
cross that bridge if it comes. We'll use
a mask or something. So, don't volunteer
any info, don't seem too interested.
Just play it cool, little eye-contact, don't make me look bad." Barbara
laughed and pulled back from Dinah. "Can
you get in and out of the jeep?"
time I checked…"
the chair Dinah."
"Oh. Yah, but man are my shoulders killing me."
smiled getting some sense of satisfaction at her own strength.
"Alright. Let's go see what this guy has for us." Barbara turned and went over to track Dinah's
What if I get into trouble?"
what if you know who appears or they get violent?"
the chair Dinah. Ditch the chair, kick
their ass and get back here ASAP." She
laughed and let Dinah out with the keypad beside her computer.
in. Get out. Kick ass. You know. Typical stuff," Dinah quipped under her breath
as she drove.
I have established a voice-link so cut the mumbling."
"Sorry. Almost there."
Dick's going to be around if you need him, though I don't get the 'fireworks
stopped just before entering the parking lot.
"Hey Babs? Can I use the
handicapped parking?" She laughed and
out of the jeep, she took a deep breath and went into the building. "Yes.
Barbara Gordon. I'm here to see…"
move. We don't have a name. Just tell
them you have an appointment."
are expecting you Ms. Gordon." Dinah followed the lady to the elevator and up
to another lobby. "This is Ms. Gordon."
"Obviously. Thank you." The lady at the desk got on the
intercom directly. "Ms. Gordon is here."
her in please."
you." Dinah took another deep breath and
went into the office just beyond the open door.
stay calm Dinah. Wait on me before you
Gordon. You're even more beautiful than
I had expected. Come on over and let's
talk. Get to know each other." He sat on a black leather couch and motioned
for her to join him. "You're welcome to
join me if it'll make you more comfortable."
fine. Thank you."
fine. I don't blame you. This is all probably a little scary for
you. It's a lot to think about."
not afraid." Dinah was already feeling
defensive and a little suspicious.
down Tiger. He seems nice enough so
well, do you want to give me a little background? How'd it happen?"
waited for Barbara's lead…"Why does that matter? Besides you know about the Oracle. You should know precisely what happened."
smiled before repeating what Barbara had so emotionally spoken to her.
I was told is that you are a computer specialist who goes by the handle
Oracle. You were injured several years
ago and sent 'underground' to help with…should we say, Bat-stuff. I know what you do. I know what they do and since you haven't
time for small talk, I'll cut right to it.
tell him how it happened. I need to do a
little searching on my end." She began
typing in information to do with the building, owners, previous businesses etc.
was shot." Dinah cut him off mid
sentence. "Can I at least get a name
here? We are about to discuss some very
personal things and I don't even know your name."
me. I have, recently, chosen to go into
hiding professionally myself. I am Peter.
was shot." Dinah continued. Hearing the
story begin again, Barbara tried to distract herself while paying attention at
a safe distance. "The bullet shattered
my spine. I try, as you pointed out, to
stay on the cutting edge of medical and technological advancement and have yet
to find anything close to a cure for 'shattered spine syndrome."
I got to hear Dr. Dinah's professional medical opinion 101."
correct and no doubt, you've tinkered with some things yourself. Some of them even close to what I have to
offer. I however, have…"
him why he's doing this." Barbara interrupted.
"Peter? Why are you doing this?"
is personal for him. Even if he is
linked to Joker. He's in it for
enough Ms. Gordon." He stood up and went
over to his desk picking up a picture.
"This is my daughter Lauren.
She's 16 now." He walked over and
handed the picture to Dinah. She studied it.
It was a picture of Peter, what appeared to be his wife, and a beautiful
teenaged girl in a wheelchair.
see." To Dinah, it all made sense.
Gordon. You and my daughter have far
more in common than the loss of your legs.
She was shot as well." He took
the picture back and set it on the table.
"I haven't been completely honest with you. I know you were shot and I know who shot
you. I just needed to trust you."
me? You're the one who infiltrated my
system, which I'd really like to know more about, and sought me out. I'm the one hanging out on a limb here."
"True. I made some business deals that led me down a
path I regretted. One night, he came to
collect, in person. He shot the place up
to scare me. Lauren came running in and
was hit. He didn't even know it. He was too busy with that damned laugh."
to the story, Barbara began to flash an almost identical scene in her
Dinah was putting it all
together knowing Barbara's situation.
She reached for the picture again.
"I know that laugh. I'm sorry Mr.
"I'll be honest with
you. You'd be doing me a double
favor. Not only will you have to be a
guinea pig of sorts, but he thinks I'm working for him. He thinks I'm still scared. I'll be helping him escape as part of my
so-called loyalty to him. I need you to
lure him to me. Be the bait so to
"You have to leave. That's enough for today." Barbara needed to buy some time. This was too easy. Too good to be true. Too much of a coincidence.
"Mr. Logan. I've got to go. We'll talk details at another time." Dinah backed away from the table and started
"Tell me Ms. Lance. How does it feel knowing you get to go home
and get out of that chair and your best friend, the one you trust you life to
will never have that luxury. Help us Ms.
Lance. Help them pay the Joker back for
all he's taken from them." He didn't
leave the couch. He just waited.
Upon hearing this,
Barbara's eyes widened and Dinah spun the chair around. "How dare…"
Dinah. He knows. He's giving us a chance
to make a move. Just leave."
That just wasn't the
Canary's style. She stood up and walked
over to Mr. Logan. Grabbing hold of his
shirt, she dragged him close to her face.
"So help me. She is my best
friend and if we trust you and you screw us, the Joker won't be the only one
pressing you." She dropped him and left.
"Nice Dinah. Had to do it your way…"
"Yah well your way sure
worked nicely. You're just lucky…"
"I'm lucky what? Why am I lucky Dinah? ORACLE OUT."
The comset went dead and Dinah stormed out to the jeep and sped home.
"ORACLE?" Dick, hearing
the exchange, tried to make contact to find out what went wrong and how Logan knew so much. Oracle was offline, or at least she was
ignoring immediate attempts at contact. "Oracle?
Barbara? Canary? Damn it!"
"Batman. It's Oracle.
Do you copy?" While keeping her
eager cohorts at bay, Barbara reached out to Bruce to try and figure out what
the next step should be.
"So. What's the scoop? How did Canary do?"
"She got caught. He knew all along. She was doing very well." Despite Barbara's
discouragement with the situation, she appreciated Dinah's attempts and hard
"His name is Peter
Logan. According to the research I
found, he is claiming that he has some sort of chip."
"Is this possible? Haven't you…"
"I pulled up recent
research projects and business dealings under both the names of Peter Logan and
of his company. It appears that there
has been research done on this chip. Placed
at the point of disruption and the top of the spine, a connection is
established linking the nerves the patient still has control of with nerves
that have been lost. According to the
research, progress has been made, though not extensively tested on humans. There is considerable therapy involved and
the success rate depends heavily on the amount of muscles and cells that remain
alive even below the point of injury…"
"Barbara stop. Nice detached delivery. Is this possible?"
She ignored him and
continued the, now-unfeeling-response.
"He also showed Dinah a picture and said he has a daughter who was
caught in the crossfire of a deal gone bad; a deal he'd made with…"
"Yes. Apparently he got pissed off and started
shooting up Logan's house, the kid got in
the way and…and was shot. Anyhow she's
in a wheelchair and I guess he doesn't want her to be the guinea pig; that and
he wants me to be the bait to lure Joker to him."
"Ridiculous? It also means he's planning an escape soon,
or that he's out already."
"Barbara, I don't want
you home alone."
"I'm pretty sure I won't
answer the door again. Besides, he could
just finish me off."
"Nice. Do you want to do this?"
"What? Do I want to let some guy I don't know
anything about cut into me and plant a chip on my spine in hopes that if I work
hard enough, I might be able to stand up or maybe walk across the room for
kicks and giggles? Do I want to
purposely come face to face with the Joker again? No! It's a load Bruce."
"We can take care of the
meeting, but what if the chip works?
Think of all the people it'll help.
"Like me. Yah."
She took the headset off, looked down at her legs and left the control
"What's the big
deal? Besides, Babs, wouldn't you miss
the fact that it just took you ten minutes to change into a bathing suit? And another to carefully lower yourself into
the hot tub? Just so you could lay here
and relax, your mind splitting from the decisions floating around inside?" As she lulled herself into a dream state with
cynical one-sided conversation, Barbara thought about her choices. Her mind fled back.
"Barbara Honey? It's your dad. Bruce is here too."
"Not coming." She
relented, having asked about Dick's whereabouts first every time she awoke.
"Honey. The doctor needs to
talk to you. Do you want us to stay?"
"My back hurts Dad. My head hurts."
"I know. We'll take care of that. We're going to be right outside if you need
us." Commissioner Gordon took Barbara's
hand and kissed it softly, knowing the news she was about to receive. "She won't want us in here." They left with heavy hearts. Wanting to be by
her side, but knowing her strong prideful character would want to take the news
in without the crying and pity of the two men she admired most in the world.
She smiled and looked up
at the doctor. "Barbara? Do you remember what happened to you?" He had asked this question on a few other
occasions never meeting with an affirmative response.
Her eyes opened widely
this time and her breathing quickened. "Yes…I…"
"Shhhh. You need to try and stay calm Barbara. You were shot. You have been unconscious for a while. The bullet missed your major organs. You were very lucky. Still, the x-rays show that it also shattered
you spine." He paused uncomfortably. "
Barbara, you won't walk again." He
waited. Her accelerated breathing slowed
to allow for a soft sigh and subsidiary tear to fall.
"How…" She had been
lying there hoping her thoughts were all just part of a bad dream.
"We won't know how much you've retained or lost until we run some
more tests and begin physical therapy, but right now it looks as if you've lost
the use of everything from your mid-waist down."
continued into the months of intense therapy that followed the sentence; the
sentence that robbed her of her cape and cowl and left her to 'dispatch' those
that remained. She was awakened by the
proximity alarm sounding distantly in her dream. She opened her eyes, not stirring otherwise,
and glanced over at the screen on the wall.
"So much for soaking in pity all night and avoiding the
inevitable." She reached for the remote
that allowed Dick and Dinah to enter.
Closing her eyes once more, she yelled into the air, "I'm in the hot
tub, feel free to join me. Bring some
The two just gave a
shrug and followed her orders. Within
minutes, she was joined by an unusually pensive Dick and Dinah. "So.
How long have you been in here Babs?"
"Come on Dick. You can do better than that?" Barbara sat up and steadied herself in the
weightlessness of the water. "Don't you
have some deep probing question about my well-being?"
"No. I guess I don't."
"Good." She leaned back again and closed her eyes,
her arms holding to the side of the Jacuzzi.
"Sorry I didn't pass the
test Babs. I guess…"
"It's not your
fault. You did great. Thanks for being a good sport…"
I appreciate all that you said to him about me. He knew I wouldn't come personally. I'm just not sure exactly how he knew it was
you. I'm sorry I kind of lost it with
you." She remained calm and the three
continued their rues for a while longer.
"Dick. Why don't you order pizza? I'm starved."
Babs prepared to get out of the Jacuzzi, but preferred to do it without
food? Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yah. I'm all right as I can be right now. Thanks."
She glanced over at Dinah.
go help him out." Dinah got the message.
"Thanks." She sat on the side of the Jacuzzi drying off
before getting into her chair and thought about her choices. "What the hell? I should just give it a shot. Even if it is a trap, I can take care of
myself." She changed and went in to find Dick and Dinah.
just gonna sit around all night?" Dinah
and Dick sat waiting for pizza to arrive unable to stand the new uncomfortable
atmosphere of the moment.
going to meet with Logan." Barbara was matter of fact as she hopped onto
the couch and leaned over to give Dick a kiss on the cheek.
hello Sybil. Who are we having pizza
with tonight? Oracle? Barbara? New,
angry mystery woman?" Dick dodged a well-deserved punch from Barbara.
just decided to give it a go; at least go and hear him out. But first, junk food and some late night research
on the neural chip."
Hot night eh?"
well I might need your help. I mean,
it's the chip I'm in it for. Even if we
can come out with just the chip…"
going to let them do surgery on you? Is
this legal? Is it safe?"
What happened to my former cheering section? Now you're getting cold feet? I'm more worried about the why. Why are they doing this? Even if I go through with it, it doesn't mean
I trust them or don't completely think there's something backward going on."
intercom alerted them to the arrival of dinner.
"I got it." Dick jumped up to get
"Barbara? Are you worried?" Dinah moved to the newly
vacant seat beside her.
what? That they'll kidnap me or torture
me under the knife? Or that the chip
won't work? Or that this is a trap to
get at the infrastructure of all that we know?"
"Well. Yah." Dinah retorted innocently.
I am scared and worried. If I've learned
anything in this business, it's how to recognize things that are too good to be
true. That's part of the reason I
decided to do this." Barbara sat up a little, looking more serious than before.
going on recon? That's our job."
well, we tried it with you and it didn't work."
what happened last time you tried to take on the world in typical Oracle
fashion? Shimmying across cold metal
bars at the dockyards? Getting shot in the leg…"
wasn't that bad. I couldn't even…"
up...nearly drowning?" Dinah continued chiding Barbara. "What? Do ya
just got that good old urge for a near-deather?"
was kind of funny." Barbara doubled over and gave and exaggerated laugh.
"You. It was our first time seeing each other face
to face. The first thing you said after
pulling me out of the water was, 'Can you walk?' It was funny.
I just said 'No.' and you thought it was…"
you were shot in the leg. I know. Ha ha ha.
It wasn't funny Barbara. It isn't
funny. How the hell was I supposed to
know? It's not like you broadcast
it. Besides, you had just beaten the
crap out of that gang."
remembered back on the experience Dinah described and instead of feeling fear,
a look of satisfaction pulled across her face.
"Yah. I think I do."
that urge to fight or prove a point or something. I mean this morning, when this all started, I
was having one of those, 'why does a former super hero have to drag herself in
and out of this chair day in and day out'… kind of days. Maybe this is just what I need. You know? Remind myself that I am…"
to us? And what are you saying 'former
super hero?' You are THE ORACLE. Why do
you think they want you? Don't you dare
get yourself hurt Barbara."
be there to drag me out of the water Dinah.
I'm not worried. But I need to do
who Babs?" Dick came in with pizza and
drinks. "What's in it for you? When do you get to be rewarded? When will your day come?"
Maybe never Dick. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe It's already come and gone. It's about the day to day. That's all I can live for now. Which is why I'm not going to think about how
many calories are in this slice of pizza."
Barbara passed around a look to notify her wish to change the subject.
will you be doing the procedure?" Business as usual, Barbara ran a trace and
noted that Logan was in Bludhaven.
"Gotham University Hospital, unless you'd prefer
some other location."
fine. We'll meet there to discuss things
further. Tomorrow morning. 9:00 a.m."
"Yes. I look forward to meeting you Oracle."
Gordon. I am not Oracle to you."
but you are and so much more."
you ask me, it's too risky Babs." Dick
was uncomfortable with the familiarity Logan was showing toward
not asking you. He's creepy. There's no doubt about that, but…"
why not let him sedate you, take all of your control from you, then cut you
open. You're right. Walk in the park…" Again, poor choice of
words, implemented with Dick's impeccable timing, caused his cheeks to go
"Doubtful. Anyhow, let's just hope Joker can be
patient." Barbara left for her room;
can only hope that all they know is how to reach me online. Banking on that fact, I'm going to relocate
until it's all over. If they implant a
tracking device or something, I don't want them coming back here." She struggled to pull a suitcase up onto her
bed, finally accepting a helpful hand from Dick.
are you going?"
to think, you gave up the title Boy Wonder.
You guys will just have to use the front door or settle for coms for a
while. You'll live. It's got all the computer stuff I'll need and
you going alone in the morning?"
alone as I ever am…" She smiled looking over her shoulder at Dick who already
intended to be her watchful eye from afar.
just…it's just…Is this how you feel when I go into a situation?"
time. Every one of you…but especially
you just better be able to do this without me for a while…just in case. No matter what happens, if this is real or a
trap, I'll be a little out of it for a while."
She finished packing and went in to begin transmitting all she'd need
network-wise to her remote link.
"Oracle. It's Black Canary. You still there?"
looked to the screen above her and smiled.
"Why wouldn't I be?"
" Right. Sorry.
I've been thinking. I'm coming
with you to meet Logan. He already knows me and knows that we know
each other. I'll let you do all the
"Dinah. I'll need your help later. I'll be fine tomorrow…he won't try anything
won't be expecting it tomorrow. Can't we
just get it over with?" His voice crept across the phone line, angering Logan all the while.
research Joker. I'm in it to help…"
know, I know, your crippled daughter…"
daughter you crippled you…"
not get violent. It wasn't me. It was business. She got in the way. That's not how I work."
you plan to hurt people. What do you
want with her anyhow? Oracle I mean."
time to play again. Since I discovered
Ms. Gordon's alter egos, I've just been 'riddled' with anticipation of the
possible games I can play with her. That
and she can lead me to the Bat. The
ultimate game. I've missed them all so
out now. Can't you do it without me?"
you idiot. I don't know where she
is. I need your chip to control her."
but you'll have to be patient. I want to
observe the chip's progress before you take her and ruin everything."
be busy until then. Don't you
worry. And…I do think Lauren is
beginning to like it here."
you hurt her…"
threats mean nothing. I have the
upper-hand here Logan. I do think your daughter is missing the humor
I bring to the situation though.
morning Ms. Gordon. There truly is no
substitute for the real thing.
Besides. I have got so much to
been reading your research. I've tried
most of this stuff already. What's the
key to you little chip?" Barbara was a
little more nervous discussing the topic than she had anticipated.
serves as a connector. It actually
bridges the gap in the cord and aides the brain and cord in regaining
communication. A robotic spine for lack
of a better description. No doubt you've
thought of this, but merely setting up remote transponders won't establish the
necessary link to make it permanent."
Logan. I haven't walked for seven
years. What makes you think my muscles
will come back?" Despite all of her attempts, atrophy had been the unbeatable
foe, no matter how much she worked to keep the shape in her legs.
think there won't be a lot of work on your part. Besides, I made it very clear to Ms. Lance,
that this is an experiment and that you are, essentially, a guinea pig."
since you put it so professionally, what do I have to lose? When do we start?" She felt her stomach almost empty of air as
the words exited her mouth.
scheduled your surgery for Friday. You
have two days. Get lots of rest. I need you to be as relaxed as possible. Just think.
You could be walking in a matter of weeks."
"Yah. Just like that. I'm sure. I'm not holding my breath." She turned and left to find both Dick and
Dinah waiting for her just outside the door.
"What…why…Never mind. Let's go
eat." She tossed Dinah the keys. "I can't concentrate on driving right now."
and Dinah were not used to seeing her this shaken and distracted. "Are you…"
fine, or I will be." Barbara was staring into the face of a long two days and
an even longer and indefinite period following.
we have an uplink?"
Doctor, the location is accurate."
her around. Let's pray." Logan studied Barbara's
vitals as they came up. He hurriedly
brought a series of maps and graphs up on his laptop. After double-checking for accuracy, he
quickly powered the notebook down.
she doing?" He took her hand and looked
on as they brought her to. Though his
methods were backhanded, her best interests were truly at heart.
hour or so later, Barbara lay in the hospital as she had not too many years
before. Surrounded, this time, by her dearest friends and family.
honey?" This time James Gordon hoped the
news would be different.
did fine. She should stay still. As soon as we can, we will be starting
therapy. We should begin to see changes
almost immediately. Because of the
nature of the procedure; that being it's an unapproved experiment of sorts, I'd
like to have her moved back to her own home as soon as possible. I'll have everything she needs for therapy
sent over and I'll be doing regular check-ups."
looked at Bruce as if to confirm their distrust of Logan's wish to hurry back to
Oracle Central. "I'll make
arrangements. When can she leave?"
can leave in the next couple of hours Mr. Grayson."
she has all she needs in the way of equipment."
don't doubt it. She will be needing
this." He handed a small monitor/remote
control looking object to Bruce.
will test and monitor her strength and movement as it returns and she
improves." He continued by showing them
the intricacies and nuances necessary for operation.
the lesson was over, Bruce stepped out into the hallway to make arrangements
with Alfred to have Barbara moved before the good doctor returned. Before anyone knew what had happened, Barbara
was safely lying in her own bed back at her old apartment.
the medication wore off, she looked around and smiled at her surroundings,
having a good idea how she'd arrived.
will be back. Will I do for a
while?" Dick sat beside her on the bed.
don't make the same mistake twice…well, usually."
smiled, "Where's my chair?"
We're keeping you still for as long as we can hold our ground."
…I just feel better when it's close by.
Do we know anything yet?"
down kid. Can't you just relax for a
while? We're all looking out for you."
looking out for you? Where's Dinah?"
are looking out for ourselves. She's in
the other room monitoring the Delphi for you…"
just kidding. She went to get
lunch. How do you feel?"
said. Well, you look beautiful. You should rest." With that, Barbara was allowed to dose off
back into the first restful sleep she'd had in a while.
she been awake? Where did you take
her? You may need me. I'm the only one who knows the chip…"
I know all about the chip. I'll
keep you informed."
about the therapy?"
done our homework, same as you. So, just
think before you make whatever move you've planned next."
the line went dead, Logan felt panic flood his
body. What am I going to do? He's going to… If I use the locator, they'll
know what I've done. If I don't he'll
find me and kill me and worse, he'll kill Barbara and Lauren. Maybe I should just trust Bruce. Switch sides.
Maybe Batman will help. He
was confused. He'd messed up. He'd underestimated Barbara and her team.
ball is in his court. If he comes here,
we've caught him. We'll know he's
attached other sensors to the chip. If
he doesn't, we should expect other visitors."
Bruce and Dick whispered as not to disturb Barbara as she laid
peacefully, a rare sight.
do you think he'll do?"
when are his actions predictable?"
react. He won't be able to stay out of
it. He must be distracted anyhow to have
lasted this long. We should talk to Logan. He's who we're protecting. Him and his daughter."
can protect…You're right. We'll be here
looked to Barbara who was just opening her eyes, her face aglow with delight at
the sound of Bruce and Dick's voice above her.
"Sorry Babs. How are you
kidding. I love hearing you worry about
me. I'm feeling fine. This sleep thing. I could really get into it."
kidding. Do you need anything? Are you hungry?"
"No. I'm just a little tired. Don't let me sleep too long. I think we should get started on this right
never quit do you? We are working on
yah?" Barbara placed her hands down at
her sides and tried to scoot up.
"Hey. No moving around for a while. I know that the worst possible scenario for
you, but doctor's orders and all." Dick
moved closer and held onto Barbara's hand.
yah and how is the good doctor? Where is
Dick looked to Bruce for guidance as not to divulge too much information.
came to his rescue. "Logan doesn't know where you
are. Or at least that's the story he's
sticking to for right now. We sort of
kidnapped you. Right after your surgery,
he wanted you to be moved home. He
wanted to come. We just left before he
returned with the release papers. This
"No! Lauren…Bruce, we have to cooperate with
him. He knows where I am. There is a tracking mechanism in the
chip. Joker has Logan's daughter. He will come for me himself. You know how impatient he can get…"
"Barbara? How do you know about the chip?"
"Are you sure?" The two men looked at each other both shocked, but not
at all surprised to find that Oracle knew more about the situation than they
did and she hadn't even been conscious.
must have heard it during the surgery or something, but I am sure of it." Her face was fearful.
on it Bruce. I'll go and talk to Logan."
as you said, try to get him to work with us."
who exactly? Us super sized? Or…"
changed. I'll get Dinah on it too."
it." He left in a hurry, without even a
glance toward Barbara.
"Logan will make the connection. He'll know you're the Batman…"
"Good. Let's hope that works to our advantage."
have to go Bruce."
not leaving again…"
fine. There's someone else who needs
you. Who knows what he's doing to her,
or what he will do when he finds out you've tricked Logan." Having struggled to do so, Barbara sat up to
face Bruce and show her strength.
know. I just…"
Bruce. I can take care of myself. It's not like last time. I'm a pro now. Besides, I've got Alfred right?" They both allowed slight grins to dart
briefly across their faces.
"Hey. Nice of you to join us. We're just getting ready to go into Logan's office. At his home."
going to find the Joker. Once you get Logan to cooperate I want one
of you to go back with Oracle. You know
she's not going to stay put."
"Uhhh. How's she going to…"
figure out something. You know her as
well as I do."
"Right. Nightwing out."
dad was right. You are sick."
really? Is that all? You haven't seen the half of it. One of them will come. They always do and then we'll have some real
fun. You just stay put. They always come to rescue the weak."
not weak. I'm…"
but you are." He laughed at the young
girl's feeble attempt to stay standing, her legs useless, between the bars to
which she was tied. "Too bad your
daddy's chip is a fraud. Just one more
pawn in this sick sad game called 'life."
Barbara? Can I get you anything?"
she knew Dick and Bruce were working to end the Joker's sadistic game once
again, something else was compelling her to get up and fight. Though it had only been a couple of days
since her surgery, she knew she had no time to spare. "Ummm, actually Alfred, I'd like some tea and
my chair back please."
I have to use the bathroom and I've done this a thousand times. I'll be fine.
I'll take it easy. You know me." Oooh poor choice of words, she thought
Ms. Barbara. That's what worries
me. I'll be back with the chair
directly." He left the room presenting
her with an opportunity to plan her escape.
She pulled the covers
down from atop her legs and placed her hand upon the bandage, which covered
what she figured to be the area in which the chip was implanted. Though she hadn't noticed before, she felt a
tingling in her legs as the cool air of the room brushed against them. The feeling almost became a distraction. "Focus Babs.
It's just a start and you've got work to do. The Olympics will have to wait." She sat and waited for Alfred to return.
As Alfred came in
pushing her wheelchair, she was, almost glad to see it; comforted somehow. Figuring she should play her cards right
with Alfred, she sucked it up and asked for help. "Ummm Alfred?"
"Yes Miss Barbara?"
"I'm feeling a little
weak. Do you think you could…umm.."
"Help you? Of course my dear. I thought you'd never ask."
"Yah. Me either."
She mumbled to herself. Lifting
her legs gently, he brought them around to the side of the bed and steadied
Barbara until she was seated once again.
"Great. Home sweet home." A little cynicism seeped out through a sigh
as she positioned herself and cased the room for step two of her virtually
"Perhaps soon Ms.
"Soon what Alfred?"
"You won't be needing
"Yah. Well, there are more pressing matters at
hand. Excuse me." She hurried into the bathroom for lack of a
Once she was alone
again, she began sorting through all the tangled messages in her mind. She knew she had heard Logan say that the Joker had
his daughter locked up in his home. That
would mean a trip to the fairgrounds.
Not a pleasant memory. "Why am I doing this?" As the images filled her mind, her thoughts
became even more muddled; an occurrence that didn't happen too often in
Barbara's case. She knew Dick and Dinah
were set to get Logan to cooperate. He would because his daughter was truly in
danger. She knew Bruce would be
watching. Watching her and watching the
Joker. Watching and waiting for that
right moment. "What can I even do to
help?" It had been a while since her
last adventure and time and again she needed to know she could still defend
herself. This was different though. She wasn't defending herself. She was helping
someone else. She was the only one who
understood the situation. To Batman it
was just another battle with his archenemy.
To Barbara it was becoming revenge; proving a point; he hadn't left her
helpless and weak like he had hoped.
They had all come back stronger.
This time the game would end differently. She also knew deep down, that the chip was
just part of the game. She'd heard as
much. The thoughts melded together into
a sort of pep talk enabling Barbara to jet out from the bathroom with a
mission. "Alfred, I'm going. Don't try…"
"Will you be needing
anything else for your trip Ms. Barbara?"
She smiled as she looked
to the bed to see an array of black clothes with a few added surprises no
doubt, tucked away beneath the surface.
Not to forget the hot tea which would, no doubt, be insisted upon as a
prerequisite for the turning of a blind eye to her leaving.
go and pull the car around."
"Alfred thanks. I'll be careful."
not worried." Alfred left the room and
Barbara began changing.
she slipped her legs into the pants and reached down to tie the long laces on
her boots, reality hit her. There should
at least be some pain around the incision.
She reached back again to feel the bandages. "Nothing!"
Her fingers felt the smooth surface of the tape and cloth, but she
couldn't feel the touch. Logan had promised at least
pressure immediately. There was the
earlier tingling in her legs, but now, as she stopped focusing on the task of
dressing, she noticed that too was not present.
it." She had the feeling all along, that
Logan's chip was a fraud, but there was a part of her
that wanted it to be true. At that
moment, she stopped hoping. It was just
business now. It wasn't personal. Remnants of hidden anger surfaced as she
carelessly moved her legs off of the bed.
Reaching for her com-set, she saw the remote control-like device on the
bed stand. She had overheard its
description earlier and as she fussed with the buttons, she placed it in the
same category as the chip, a fraud, and a decoy. In seconds, the remote was launched against
"Sorry. Just coming back down to
earth. Is the car ready?"
"Yes." He tossed her the keys and
went about his business of tidying the room as if to say, he'd done his part
and was thenceforth not responsible.
left, determined to rescue the girl and have a few words with Logan.
"Logan. You know who we are dealing with and that
your daughter's life may be at stake. Do
you want to help her or not?" Dick was about to resort to threats.
Logan just sat, head in
hands, pathetically mumbling that it was all his fault.
your fault Logan? What's going to happen? Switch sides.
We've never lost with the Joker, we're not going to lose this time, but
only you can help your daughter. God,
help us shorten the casualty list." Although Dick had revealed a great deal to Logan and presented an offer
to help his daughter, it was Barbara he was thinking about. Her identity had already been
compromised. If Joker got to her…
"Listen. I'm finished.
Nightwing here, he's being nice.
If you don't cooperate with us, your daughter will die, our best friend
will as well, and you…well, I wouldn't be opposed to adding you to that
list. Help us or don't. Your choice.
Let's go Nightwing." Dinah made
for the door smiling as she heard Logan's faint pleads.
Ms. Lance. I'll do it. Can you protect her?"
We will do our best."
He's going to find her. This chip
I put into her is a locator, an uplink if you will. He will find her and her system. You'll all be exposed; destroyed." He continued sniffling.
laughed. "This isn't the first time this
has happened. Oracle is safe. Besides, if I know her…"
"Canary. Go." Dick and Dinah arrived at the
realization that this was Barbara they were dealing with and she was probably
up to her old stubborn moves already.
"You were supposed to go back there.
You know she's talked Alfred into letting her go by now, or worse…"
"Busted. I'm on it.
You take Logan. The Bat is waiting for you." She fled knowing
Barbara well enough to know she wouldn't just lie around and wait.
"ORACLE. Can you hear me? Are you even on? Damn it!"
She continued toward Barbara's.
about the chip Logan? Is it a complete fraud? A decoy just to lead the Joker to
Oracle?" Dick continued pumping Logan for information as they
headed toward the Old Gotham Fairgrounds.
"No. I mean it's never been tried out. Lauren tried a couple of the earlier chips,
but there were…complications."
"Complications? What are you talking about?" Dick was becoming angrier by the minute.
talking about pain mostly I'm guessing, but right about now he's talking about
a sort of adrenalin meets steroids reaction. Epinephrine, a catecholamine, together
is secreted principally by the medulla of the adrenal gland. Heightened
secretion caused perhaps by fear or anger, will result in increased heart rate
and the hydrolysis of glycogen to glucose, met with a steroid, especially one
that is being electronically stimulated and sent through a person's veins will
cause them to display extra-human strength…"
"Oracle? This can only be you…and you're techno…"
"I know, I know. Fight or Flight Dick. Cause the lame to walk even. It hurts Dick. And I have a feeling, like with all good
things; it will come to an end. Fairly
shortly if my guess is correct."
"Where the hell are you Barbara?"
Dick was beginning to worry.
"Don't worry. Where's Bruce?"
"He's at Logan's."
"He has to get to the Fairgrounds."
"Logan and I are already on our way
"You know he's just doing this to
get to Bruce. It's the same old
game. I can't seem to get Bruce on
"Yah. Me either.
He's probably already there."
"ORACLE out." She stopped to try and rub the pain out of
her back and legs. "Looks like the ADA hasn't made it to the
old fairgrounds." She grabbed hold of an
old wooden post and pulled her chair up the curb. Her head jerked as she heard the cackle she'd
heard so many times in her dreams being broadcast over the grounds' ancient
"Nice of you to join us. You'll do nicely until the real entertainment
arrives." The sick laughs continued.
"Come on, where are you?" Barbara began punching buttons tracing the
distant radio waves to their point of origin, half not wanting to know where he
was. The red light stopped and blinked
very near her location. She looked up at
the sign. Fun House. "Great. How am I going to get in there?" As she peered into the old metal halls of the
attraction, she judged that she might be able to maneuver for a short
distance. "Fine. Here I come.
I'll play your games." She
started in, again having to pull past a high lip into the first room. As she entered, she heard all of the engines
begin to hum alerting her to the fact that the attraction was fully
functional. "Great. Dick? Dinah? You better have my back here."
The first room was the House of
Mirrors. "Have a look around
Batgirl!" More cackling ensued.
The games began, but it wasn't the
slow start she had hoped for. She was
immediately surrounded by images. Not
images of her in her wheelchair, but images on every side of her in her
Batsuit. They were changing rapidly
turning the room round and round.
"No!" Barbara's grabbed her
aching legs and put her head down. The
room then went black.
she opened her eyes again, the mirrors were covered in blood, blood that turned
into red negatives of a woman; of her.
She had seen them a number of times, in Bruce's files, once in a
demented email prank, and a million times in her dreams, but it didn't make it
any easier. Not only had she been
violated, but he made souvenirs, so she's always have the picture. Cold, naked, lifeless, motionless,
broken. "I relived this before. I've
lived through it. This won't break me
you sadistic f…."
Barbara, is that any way to treat me?
I'm sharing our family album with you.
Taking a trip down Memory Lane
if you will." Again the room was black.
music began to play. It was soft, almost
happy. The picture began. First she was in Dick's arms. They were dancing. Then they were sitting in the park on a
blanket. Then on the beach. Then they were spinning. "Where did you…"
"While the cat's away, the mice
will play Barbara. I just wanted your
trip to the fair to be memorable.
Speaking of memories…"
There was a loud gunshot that
ricocheted off the mirrored walls. The
lighting returned and when Barbara looked around, all she saw was herself
sitting there in her wheelchair. This
was the most disturbing image yet; still she wasn't going to harp on that too
After looking around, she
decided the game was over, she left the image behind and made her way toward
the next room. This room was dark; it
was the House of Fear. "Your fears Barbara. Being out of control. Being helpless. Being alone.
"I get it." She took a deep breath and listened to the
wheels of her chair glide smoothly over the floor. And then it happened, the loss of
control. The far side of the floor began
to rise causing her chair to start sliding sideways. She grasped the wheels tightly, but was
unable to keep it from happening. Within
seconds, she crashed into the wall and fell from her chair.
"Ughh." She breathed in deeply as she felt a sharp
pain in her back. Quickly, she flipped
herself over and reached for her chair.
It was dark, but she knew she hadn't fallen far. The calliope began playing; louder and
louder, masking the footsteps that drew near.
She moved closer to where she figured her chair to be and still came up
empty-handed. "O.K. now what? What is
the next step in the game?" She yelled out over the music.
The music came to a screeching
halt. An almost deafening silence filled
the room and the lights became just present enough to reveal the next "step in
"Curious choice of words Babs. Why
don't you give that new chip a try?
Stand up. Go save the girl."
"It's a wonder that you could have
possibly achieved even higher levels of inhumanness since last we met."
"The fun is just beginning
Batgirl. Get up. I've got more fun in store."
She looked around to notice that the
floor had returned to normal and that her chair was nowhere to be found. Unsure of what was worse, knowing that he had
been close enough to her to remove her chair, or knowing that she had reached
the end of her gig. She was trapped;
There was no music, no more
conversations for the time being. Just
the unnerving sound of the gears turning in her head, telling her she had
failed. The sounds served to distract her, until another diversion came.
The walls again filled with
images. This time, the images were of a
young girl tied between parallel bars crying.
The images were coming across in real time. Barbara could see her arms weakening, her
legs useless beneath her.
"Lauren." Her new realization served as motivation and
she began dragging herself slowly across the floor to the door not too far
away. It was humiliating. She knew that although he was quiet, he was
watching, getting some sort of sick satisfaction out of her struggle, her
As she entered what she hoped to be
the final room, she was out of breath.
"I thought I was in better shape than this." She looked around the dimly lit room and saw
that every exit led to a flight of stairs.
"Of course." She continued across
the room to the nearest flight. Once
there, she rigidly raised herself up onto the first step, pulled her legs up to
her chest and breathed in deeply.
After catching her breath, she
recognized the gravity of the situation.
"'Suck it up Barbara. You can't
do this. The girl is more important than
your pride." She needed to call for
help; the last thing she wanted to do.
"Nightwing? Dinah? It's Oracle.
Do you read me?" There was no
response. "Dinah?" "Bruce?"
"Dick.." static filled the air over her coms.
"Nice. My signal is blocked down
here. Well, I'm sure they are all on it
already. Now I just have to get myself
out of here." She began moving up the
stairs. One by one. Cursing the Joker all the way.
"Oracle? What's your position." Dinah pleaded over her comlink.
"Oracle?" Her attempts were as futile as Barbara's had
been on the other end.
"Nightwing. She's gone.
She's not responding on coms either.
"What do you mean she's gone? How could…"
"Alfred…" They answered
simultaneously. "Find her Dinah. Logan and I are on our way to the
Fairgrounds. Barbara is probably there
as well. Find her Dinah."
"What about Bruce?"
"I haven't been able to contact him
since we left Logan's office. I'm not exactly sure where he is. Man, we really are no good without Oracle as
our eyes are we?"
"Yah. I kind of regret giving her all that crap
about looking over my shoulder and being overprotective."
"Me too. Just find her. Nightwing out."
"I…sure….hope they have found
this…place. Damn these stairs." She stopped to rub the new pain out of her
legs. As she sat with her feet on the
step below, she decided to give it a shot.
Leaning back on her hands, she let go of her knees and focused on
keeping them together. Much to her
surprise, she could feel the muscles working to keep her legs up. Focusing all of her newfound energy, she
began pushing and suddenly felt herself inch back against the step.
"Holy shit Batman. Ouch. I can't believe I said that." She shook her head and watched, as she was
then able to move her feet, first her left, then her right, off the step below
her. With each move, her back was filled
with a stabbing feeling. Like she was
using up tokens with each move.
"Well, why not try?" She took hold of the railing and pulled with
all her might. After 7 years, pulling
herself up wasn't the problem. Atrophy,
despite hours of stretching and working, had taken its toll on her legs. They'd never hold her even if she could
stand. Still, she pulled.
Again she was surprised as, for the
first time in since being paralyzed, she could feel her legs supporting her
body. "This chip actually works."
"Amazing what technology can
do. Why didn't you think of this
Oracle? How does it feel? How long will it last? Do I smell a sequel? Batgirl Returns! HA HA HA HA HA HA…" His sick laughter trailed off.
"He's right. What goes up, must come down. I wonder how long I've got." With more of a struggle than when she was
having to drag herself up the stairs, she began using her legs and arms to pull
herself up, step by step all the while seeing her legs begin to shake almost
violently. The pain was growing almost
I've found something. We need a
plan. Meet me in the main tent. I think he's got Oracle."
The two, having just arrived, ran, Logan
trying to keep up, through the twisted paths of the Joker's playground ending up
under the Big Top. As they entered, they
saw Bruce pacing back and forth in the center under a solitary spotlight. Beside him was Barbara's chair.
"That sick son of a…"
"He's a horrible twisted man Dick."
Bruce concurred with Nightwing's sentiments, but didn't rest on them."Logan. Is there a meeting place? A Rendezvous? He
may have your daughter and Barbara there."
caught up with the others, he answered out of breath. "His office is behind the Tunnel of Love, but
we never set a place. We were going to
"Barbara's, but he doesn't know
where that is correct?" Batman grabbed Logan
by the shirt and thrust him into Barbara's chair.
"I don't know. I don't think…"
"Bruce. She's gone.
Alfred let her go. She got to be
"And so does he…" Dick was getting worried. He knew Barbara could defend herself from the
chair, but how could she do it if…"What if she's walking?"
They all looked to Logan.
"It's…conceivable. I mean her legs won't
be strong enough to hold her weight very long and the chip…"
"Has complications. You're going to be lucky if I don't kill you
when this is over Logan. You don't know what she's been through…" Dick
was getting closer and closer to compromising the situation.
"Dick. You take the east grounds. Dinah, you take the Fun House. I'm going to the Tunnel of Love; twisted as
that is. Logan,
you're with me."
They left and began looking for
Barbara, no closer than before to knowing what the Joker had cooked up for
Once to the top of the stairs,
Barbara collapsed. "Well, that was short
lived." The pain in her back and legs didn't leave, so she figured she just
needed to rest. As she propped herself
up against the wall, she began to hear faint cries. She could barely tell from which direction
they came and looking down at her legs, which were still shaking from exertion,
she knew she couldn't afford to make the wrong choice. To the left, she noted
that the floor was covered with foot-sized circles which she was certain would
begin twisting as soon as she reached them.
Walking was one thing, balancing on twisting pads…out of the question
for now. Still, to the right it was a
scene right out of Grease as she noted the two levels that made up the
narrow walkway. These, she knew, would
begin moving up and down in opposite directions. "Mmmmm…I'm guessing risk of
injury and humiliation is less to the left, so that can only mean one
thing. Here goes broken-down Batgirl
tossed up and down for the Joker's pleasure.
Enjoying yourself yet?" She yelled as she used the wall to stand up
The music started again as she
reached the narrow walkway to her right.
"Rails. Goody. Handicap accessible." She noted sarcastically as the floor began
moving up and down, right side then left side.
The rails were not going to be much help. Still, she grasped them tightly and tried to
balance on one side of the floor. She
was grateful she'd spent so much time strengthening her arms. Despite the several near-collapses, she was
able to swing her way across the hallway just like she did in her home
gym. "Ha. Not so bad!"
She was mildly amused at her success.
"Nicely done Batgirl. You've helped yourself, but what use will you
be to the girl? How much longer can you
Dropping to her knees, she crawled
slowly into the next room. She heard the
cries clearly now. "Lauren?"
"Stay quiet. I'll help you." At that comment, the room was again filled
with evil laughter. Laughter, which
caused Lauren to cry even harder.
Barbara followed the cries through the dark, stopping when she came to
what she knew to be the bars in the pictures she had seen earlier. "Throw me a bone here Joker. Don't you want to watch?" She needed light. He responded; in typical Joker fashion. The room was almost instantaneously filled
with strobes. At this she almost had to
laugh and were she not in extreme amounts of pain, she probably would have. In
the bursts of light, she could see a figure draped over the bars that stood in
front of her.
"Lauren? You're going to have to work with me
here." She scanned the room for Lauren's
chair and determined it was a long shot that came back void as expected.
Pulling herself over to where the girl's arms were tied, she reached up and
unbuckled the straps that held her.
Unable to hold herself up any longer, the girl fell to the floor, crying
out as the arm still fixed to the bar was pulled, by the weight of her body.
"You can take that up with your
father later. Right now I need you to
help me. You are going to have to pull
up one more time to help me loosen the strap on your other arm." Barbara was able to pull herself up, but knew
she couldn't support another person.
"What's wrong with you? Why…"
"Same thing that's WRONG with you,
so help me out here." She was in no mood
for questions and more reminders of how inadequate she was for her present
"You can't walk? Great!
How are we…"
"I don't know, but you can start by nixing
all the questions and stopping all that crying.
Pull yourself together. I can't
carry you out, so you're going to have to do it yourself."
"You have the chip don't you? You're that woman he's looking for. I'm sorry…"
"Yes I do, yes I am, and I don't
even want to know what you're about to say…let's just get…"
"Barbara? Come on.
Where are you? I know you're in
here. I've seen the pictures in the
"Thank God. Canary? When you get to the end, take a
right, and go up stairs."
"Are you alright? How did you…"
"Dinah, now! Move!"
I've found Oracle. I'm almost
there. No sign of …"
"Wrong Canary." The Joker popped out from behind one of the
many mirrors. "Your friend is doing so
well on her own. Why not let her…"
"Quiet you sick jerk!" With that she
rounded off and sent the Joker flying with the impact of a well-placed boot to
"In here Dinah."
Following the strobes, she entered
the room and found Barbara standing over Lauren using the far wall as support.
"Take her Dinah. Get her out of here."
"Can you walk?"
"Sort of, but not far, and I have a
feeling not for long."
"Don't do it. The more you use the chip, the worse you'll
get." Lauren warned.
"Just go Dinah. I'll be fine."
"No way. He's just down stairs. I only knocked him out."
"This is what he wants. Go! Our job is to save her. Go now!"
Dinah tossed set of Escrima sticks to her, then picked up the girl and
ran out of the room. The hallway led to
what appeared to be the staging room for the acts involved in the circus. "Bruce.
Barbara's in trouble. I've got
the girl. Barbara made me leave her
alone. She's with the Joker. Hurry!" Continuing toward the safety of the
jeep, she threw back a flare to alert the others as to where Barbara was.
Taking Lauren's advice, Barbara
chose to avoid using the chip for as long as possible. She dragged herself back across the room and
positioned herself beside the door, which she knew the Joker would be coming
through at any moment.
Then she waited. Her eyes began to burn and her head throbbed
with every blink of the light until she took out a small batarang, compliments
of Alfred's efficient planning, and accurately threw it, bursting the light,
bringing peace in the calm, darkness of the room. She listened as she heard footsteps
accompanied by occasional moans.
"Sounds like Canary gave you
quite a kick."
"I just want the Bat. Quit while you're ahead little girl. Don't make me hurt you."
"You can try, but I'm not going
down without a fight this time. We're
playing by my rules. Even playing
fields." As he stumbled through the
door, she drew her sticks and with all her might took out his knees. She heard him fall to the floor moaning even
"My God. And you say I'm sick. What have you done?"
Once again, she stood up slowly
and painfully. "Get up Joker. Come on, try out those new legs of yours."
She placed her knee to his back
and grabbed his hair with one hand, and placed one of her sticks at his throat.
His voice was muted, "How…
proud would your mentor… be of you if you killed me? Where's….the fun…in that?"
"He should have killed you
himself. I will always regret that he
didn't." Her teeth were clinched as she
pulled his head back further with every word
Stop! You'll regret it." Bruce's voice was startling and unexpected.
"I will anyway Bruce. Every time I look at that wheelchair…"
"Your father is on his
way. He won't let him go. He won't escape this time."
"How can you…say that? He will get out. I could have died tonight. I almost wish…"
"Barbara!" Bruce yelled. "Let it go.
Let him go."
There was a loud thud as the
Joker's head hit the floor. A distant
sound of a generator preceded the lighting of the room by a solitary bulb in
the corner. As Barbara stood up, she
looked at Bruce. Her eyes were angry and
full of tears. Then she slowly walked
out of the room, grasping the railing as she went back down the stairs.
"She's right. No one would miss you if I killed you now."
"Then do it because the fun is
Bruce looked at the Joker's
left hand, he was about to stage his final gag.
All at once, he heard Barbara scream and watched as the stairs turned
into a slide.
Acting on instinct, he jumped
up and ran toward Barbara. He looked on
as she lay in a pile at the foot of the slide.
Torn, he turned to see the Joker rising from the floor.
"Damn you!" Again the Joker
went flying through the air. This time
hitting the wall without laughter and without the last laugh. Running to her side, he knew it was too
little too late.
"Dick. Bring the jeep. Barbara's down. We need to get her help."
"What have you done Bruce?"
"Just get here fast." He straightened her legs and held her in his
arms full of hurt and shame. Her eyes
"Bruce? I'm so…"
"Shhhhh. We'll argue later."
"It hurts Bruce."
"I know. I know. I'm sorry.
Just hang on." The irony was just
too much. It was deja-vu.
"You need to get the chip out as
soon as possible." Logan
looked on as Dick held Barbara in his lap in the jeep.
She's going to be O.K. and so are you."
They continued to the hospital where
they had Lauren admitted. Her father
taking charge of her recovery. "I'm
sorry for all of the trouble I've caused.
Understand I did have her best…"
"Save it Logan. Count your lucky stars you weren't
killed." Dick returned to the manor
where Barbara too was recovering.
"She's going to be fine." Dinah was sitting with her feet propped up on
the side of Barbara's bed reading a magazine when Dick came in. Barbara's head was turned toward the window
as she listened to them discuss her situation.
"There's no permanent damage, just
some bruises and…"
"You mean she's no worse off than
when she got into this whole mess.
That's just not fair Dick. I
wanted this for her so badly."
Barbara, uninterested in what was
being said, dosed off to sleep.
"I know I probably shouldn't
have called, but my dad gave me your phone number."
"Who is this?" Dinah inquired as she answered Barbara's personal
"Lauren. The girl…"
You want to talk to Barbara, not me."
"I'm sorry, I thought this was
Barbara's phone number."
"It is, she's just…busy right
now. Anyhow, call back in a couple of
hours. She should be available
then. Or would you rather I took a
"Ummm, yah. I just wanted to thank her. She saved my life and I thought maybe
someday, we could talk again. I don't
know anyone else in my situation and I just think it might be good to have
"Yah. I think it'd be good for her too.
I'll tell her you called." Dinah
hung up the phone then went up to the gym to look for Barbara.
"I figured you'd be in here. Don't you think it's a little soon Babs? I mean you've had at least two surgeries in a
matter of weeks."
"Oh yah…and how did you put it? I'm
no worse off than I was before, so let me continue please." She was a force to be reckoned with ever
since returning to the Clock Tower.
"Yah. I heard."
"Mind if I stick around?"
"Yes. Can't you go and monitor the Delphi System or
hang out with Dick?" She moved swiftly
from one end of the bars to the other.
"That's your job. I hate that stupid computer." Dinah stood up and walked over to
Barbara. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"We'll debrief later. Can't I just finish what I'm doing her?" She stopped midway to look Dinah in the eye.
"Debrief? Are you kidding me with that? Barbara, it's me Dinah, I'm not the Black
"Then I've nothing to talk
about. I'm being as nice as I can. Please go."
"Fine." Dinah got up and left the room lurking for a
while in the hall, watching her friend torment herself.
Once she was sure she was alone, Barbara
took the braces off her legs and lifted herself back up between the bars. Looking down to make sure they were in place,
she let go of the bar with one hand.
Before she even considered letting go with the other, the game was
over. She fell to the floor as she had
many times before.
At this, Dinah rushed in. "Barbara, you have to stop this!"
"Why were you…"
"Just stop." Without thinking, she lifted Barbara back
into her chair then flopped back on the mat.
The two just sat in silence staring deeply into one another's eyes.
After what seemed an eternity, Dinah
bravely broke the silence. "Are you
Barbara sat and thought before she
answered. "No. I don't think I am Dinah."
"O.K. How can I help?"
"You can't…I need to…"
"Do this on your own…rah rah…yeah
"Don't say another word Dinah."
"Or you'll what? It's just I don't understand your insistence
on doing this alone again. You force all
of us to come to terms with our secret identity and learn to live two separate
lives. You need to take your own
advice. Yes, you are the all-seeing
all-knowing Oracle and for that we are all thankful, but you are also Barbara
Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, best friend of Dinah Lance, and
girlfriend to Dick Grayson if you'd let him in.
You are a young woman who has suffered a disabling injury, not once, but
twice. Embrace Barbara Gordon. Let us
embrace Barbara Gordon." That said, with
surprisingly no Oracle interruptions, Dinah left for real.
"You talked to Bruce?" Dinah took Barbara's suggestion and drove to
the Bludhaven Police Department with lunch for Dick.
"No, Alfred said he hasn't been
"Do you think he's gone again?"
"How long have you known me Dinah?"
"A while, why?"
"I hate mayonnaise."
"Hello? Earth to Dick. We were talking about Bruce."
"No, I think he's pondering
everything. It's like he's reliving the
whole experience that occurred the first time."
"Yah, same with Barbara."
"We should go over and bother her
tonight. I don't think she really wants
to be alone."
"Even though she's kicked us both
out every day this week?"
"I think especially because she's
kicked us out every night. I'll see you
tonight. You're in charge of the
Barbara reached behind her and took
her book into her hand. "Lights
dim." No sooner had she spoken the words
and the room lights grew softer.
Removing the bookmark, she began to read.
"You know it's bad for your eyes."
His voice didn't even startle
her. She didn't even bother looking away
from the pages. "It doesn't bother me."
'''Barbara, we have to talk." Bruce pulled a chair up to the side of the
couch where Barbara sat stretched out, a blanket safely covering her legs.
"About what? I understand.
We don't kill. We save
people. Yeah us! Mission
"Barbara, I wanted to kill him as much as you did."
"Really Bruce? Cause I'm just not sure that's true."
Bruce had no immediate reply. An uncomfortable silence filled the room.
"That's what I thought. The next thing you're going to be saying is
that, "It's not personal, it's business."
"It is personal. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't
wake up and think about you having to be in that chair…"
"…That makes two of us…"
"…About all he's taken from
you. I guess I just wanted to come by
and let you know I love you and am always here if you need me." He bravely bent down and kissed her forehead
then left. As he left, he rant into
Dinah and Dick in the elevator. "Good
luck. I'm going home if you need me
"Yah…I know how the system works
Batman." Dick mockingly saluted his
former protégé and he and Dinah continued to fill the air with laughter.
"He really has no sense of humor
"Not an ounce. I think it was the switch from nylon to
Kevlar that pushed him over the edge."
Again laughter filled the air. As
they neared the front door, they noticed that it was opened.
"Yah. In here."
"Did you know your door was opened?"
She just glared over the top of her
glasses as if to say, "No, actually, I spent so much time learning how to
decode the mainframe computers at NASA that I just didn't have time for, Securing Your Lair 101."
"Glad to see your mood hasn't
"Glad to see that you and Boy Wonder
are as giggly and obnoxious as usual."
Realizing, as she watched Dick plop down on the couch beside her and
kick off his shoes, that they were staying, she laid her book down and sat
up. "So, what flavor did you bring?"
"The one and only." Dinah tossed a spoon and pint of mint chip
ice cream over to Barbara.
They all dove into their ice cream
and gave the moment a bit to grow and develop.
As usual, Dick's silence was
short-lived. "So, how do you feel? I mean, you've been working out pretty
hard. Do you still have pain in your
Before answering, Barbara thought of
the various roads she could take, she chose recovery over rude. "No.
Pretty much, gone completely."
"Ummmm…is that a good thing or a bad
thing?" Dinah was unsure of Barbara's
response to Dick's question, unsure of how Barbara had meant what she retorted.
"It's .. it's.. a hard thing Dinah. It's just hard to lose it all again. Don't get me wrong, that was the most pain
I'd felt in years…well, obviously…but I was close. I was…"
"You were walking Babs. I wish…"
"You could have seen it? No you don't, trust me. I was not graceful. It was difficult, unnatural. It's good Dinah."
"But this morning you…"
"I just wanted to make sure. I'm sorry.
It's just, I feel like I've come a long way in 7 years and this messed
me up a little. I knew it would, that's why I was so
resistant in the beginning. But I've
been thinking. This is what I'm supposed
to be doing. If it weren't, you bet I'd
be walking by now."
"I'm sorry Babs."
"Don't be. I'll get over it. I always do."
"Yah, but you're allowed to do a
little wallowing tonight. You know,
embrace Barbara?" Dick shot a wink over
"What are you guys ganging up on
"Maybe I need it. Maybe we all need to embrace Barbara…"
"You got it!" With that invitation, both Dick and Dinah
sprang from their places and tackled Barbara on the couch.
After the hugs were distributed and
smiles exchanged, Barbara looked them both in the eye, "Thanks for letting me
do this. Thanks for letting me be a part
of things for just a moment. Even if you
did have to bail me out again." She
lowered her head just a bit with her last statement.
"Are you kidding? Without you, we were all three running around
blind. Barbara, you ARE 'things'. Thank you for letting us be a part of
it. And really, Bruce is the one who
"I know. I was really hard on him tonight. He's hard enough on himself, without me…"
"You guys will work through it in
your own stubborn batty ways. By the
way, Lauren called this morning. She
wanted to thank you for saving her life.
I think she needs someone to talk to.
"I know, and maybe I do too. I overheard the call."
"You mean you listened over the
"Well…old habits are hard to
break. Besides, I agree I guess. I mean, in seven years, I haven't had anyone
who really understood what it's like.
Hell, I don't even understand it most of the time…."
"I'm saying I'll give her a
They continued eating their ice
cream, reliving some of the pain they had 7 years earlier. This time with different friends and
"On screen. Batman.
It's Oracle. Do you copy?"
The two screens stared back at each
other. They knew each other intimately.
"Bruce. I said a lot of things that…"
"That I needed to hear. Barbara, I'm so sorry…"
too Bruce. We'll get through this
just like we did last time. Just be glad
I'm so stubborn. You're lucky I'm not
some sappy little girl Hell bent on feeling sorry for herself. I'm in this for the long haul. No matter how I have to get there. ORACLE