Batman descended quickly from the roof of the clock tower into the waiting Batmobile out front. The car's forensic scanner was online and picking up the Arkham Knight's trail before he had even buckled himself in. He slammed his armoured foot down on the pedal and he was off in pursuit of Barbara's abductor when his suit's radio picked up a direct transmission from the GCPD.
"Batman," said the voice of Aaron Cash, "that crazy son of a bitch Jervis Tetch just walked into the precinct and handed himself in. He says he's taken hostages. Wants to talk to Batwoman."
Jervis Tetch, A.K.A. The Mad Hatter. Tetch had used post-hypnotic suggestions in an attempt to brainwash Bruce into becoming his protector back in Arkham City. It had failed, of course, but the experience had proven just how devious this Wonderland-obsessed weasel of a man could truly be, prompting Bruce to raise his threat level on the Bat Computer. Seeing how the city would be in danger so long as such a master of manipulation was in the heart of Gotham's police force, Bruce would have gone himself, but Oracle's safety was paramount.
"I'm sending someone over," Bruce replied. "Don't let anyone speak to him until they get there." Cash responded in affirmation before Bruce switched the channel. "Alfred?"
"I heard everything, sir," his faithful butler responded from the Bat Cave. "Shall I contact Miss Kane, Master Bruce?"
"I don't like it, Alfred," Bruce replied. "Why would Tetch want to speak to Kate? What motive could he have? Do we have any records of an altercation between the two?"
"Checking now, Sir... No, Sir. It appears that this would be their first ever encounter, which makes this all the more curious..."
"I'd rather send someone else, but if Jervis has hostages, we'd better not risk exacerbating the situation. Get in touch with Kate and tell her to be sure she's ready to resist his mind games."
"Will do, sir," Alfred replied before he disconnected to give Bruce room to concentrate on saving Barbara. He pulled up the list of active Bat Family members on the Bat Computer. Kate was the only one without a current assignment, meaning he couldn't send anyone to watch over her or secretly assist her in whatever it was the Hatter had in store for her. With no other choice, Alfred made contact.
"Miss Kane?" he asked as he reactivated the radio.
"I'm here, Alfred," responded Katherine Kane, A.K.A. Batwoman, as she effortlessly caught the punch a random goon had thrown her way, before twisting his wrist until it sprained and left him writhing in agony.
"It seems the Mad Hatter has arrived at the GCPD of his own accord with claims of hostages and a request to see you personally.
"Me? Why?" Kate asked as she dropkicked another goon into a wall. "Hold on. Tell me what you know about Riddler," she demanded of the second goon, whose throat her knee now pressed down on. "I've never even met the Hatter."
"If only we knew, Ma'am. No doubt, he has some sinister plan prepared for you. Shall I send the details over to you?"
"Sure, thanks, Alfred. I'm sending some Riddler intel your way as well."
"I'll be sure to forward it to Master Bruce. By the way, Miss Kane, how is the new suit performing?"
"I definitely feel faster, but I've not sustained enough hits to test the strength of the armour yet," she explained with an audibly cocky smile. "Tell Lucius I can't wait to see the next version, but I want the reds to be less muted; like they used to be."
Ever since Arkham City, Bruce had insisted that the entire family upgrade to more armoured versions of their suits, similar to his 7.43 and experimental 8.03 batsuits. Kate's was an upgrade in the vein of the 7.43 suit - largely the same, design-wise, but shinier and a made of stronger, yet lighter materials.
"Will do, Miss Kane. And do be careful. Master Bruce almost succumbed to the Hatter's abilities once before in spite of his years of training with the League of Assassins."
"I'll be careful, Alfred. Just because I never trained with emotionally dead assassins doesn't mean I'll be his personal zombie Alice anytime soon. Over and out." Kate cut the transmission, her military training kicking in as she checked over of her equipment before heading to the GCPD.
Batwoman stepped over the threshold into the GCPD lockup within ten minutes of her chat with Alfred. After setting off the metal detector with her suit and gadgets with no reaction from the officers stationed nearby, she stepped over to the reception desk, where Aaron Cash was typing on his computer.
"Officer Cash," she greeted stoically.
"Batwoman," he responded in kind.
"What's the latest?"
"We've got Jervis downstairs in the interview room. He's talking about killing cops. Batwoman, I just lost contact with three of our squad cars. Coincidence?"
Somehow, this particular revelation caused a terrible sinking feeling in Kate's stomach, but she was disciplined enough not to let it show on her face.
"I doubt it," she replied. There was no way, surely.
"If you and that freak need some alone time," Cash continued with a wry smile, "I can kill the surveillance cam." No doubt, this was the kind of hush-hush dynamic Cash shared with Bruce. If Kate's horrid gut feeling turned out to have any merit, then she would gladly take advantage of that dynamic.
Wordlessly, she walked past the cell intended for those on the most wanted list and headed through the double doors leading to the interview room. As she approached the door to her right, she noticed a trio of missing posters pinned to the board outside it.
They were Officer Katz, a heavyset, middle-aged, bald, white man with a distinctive goatee; Officer McQueen, a petite young black woman with her black hair tied in a bun; and a white woman with short blonde hair whose gorgeous blue eyes stared back at her, making her heart sink.
"Maggie?" Even without looking at the name, Kate would recognise her beautiful blonde significant other anywhere.
As far as Captain Margaret Sawyer was concerned, her girlfriend Katherine Kane has evacuated with the rest of the civilian populace, while she had stayed behind to help deal with the Scarecrow's pre-announced night of terror. In truth, Kate had arranged for Dick Grayson to help her sneak back into Gotham upon her arrival in Blüdhaven. She would have argued about staying in Gotham herself, but Kate had managed to keep her identity a secret from Maggie after almost a year and a half of being together. This way, Maggie could focus on her work with the assurance that Kate was safely away from Scarecrow, while Kate could discretely help deal with the situation at hand.
Kate had never been involved in a major incident like this before. She had only begun costumed crime-fighting on the night of the incident at the asylum twenty-one months previous. When news reports had gotten out about Batman being trapped on Arkham Island, the criminal class of Gotham had come out of the woodworks like termites. She had tried to fight off a mugger once before, only to be saved by Batman, which had inspired her to follow his example on this night.
It was whilst on his way home from his long night at the asylum that Batman had come across Kate struggling with a small group of thugs after her own long night of fighting crime. He had had to step once it became clear she being overwhelmed by the group. One look at her and he had known who she was. It was probably the fiery red hair and uniquely snow white complexion that had given her away. He had been adamant about her either training under him or stopping crime-fighting all together. She had been about to completely blow him off until he said her name and revealed his identity as Bruce Wayne, her cousin. That had changed everything.
Being from a family with a long military background, which had included her for a time, Kate was good at following orders. It came naturally to her. She had quickly taken Bruce's lessons on board and she was out patrolling the streets of Gotham as the Batwoman within three months.
Looking back, it was probably the supposed death of Jason Todd that had lead to this. Jason had been, as all Robins were, like a son to Bruce and he regarded what happened to Jason as his greatest failure. Had Kate been just some stranger on the street, he likely never would have made an offer to train her and simply demanded she stop. But since she was part of his family, and a headstrong part at that, he had probably known there was no way to deter her short of breaking her legs, leaving him with no other option.
In her mind, if Barbara and the Robins were Bruce's children and Alfred was his father, then she was his sister: always ready to step in and lend a hand to her brother when he needed, be it crime-fighting or simple domestic affairs. And she was sure, thought it was hard to tell with how guarded Bruce was with his emotions, that he did appreciate that.
Meeting Maggie had changed things somewhat. Maggie was a very by-the-book cop. Gordon and Bullock could bend the rules where necessary - the ends justify the means and all that - but Maggie was very rigid in her dedication to the law. She had transferred in from Metropolis not long after the Asylum Incident. While Metropolis was under the protection of an alien who was unto a god, Gotham was defended by a network of flesh and blood humans, which never sat well with Maggie.
It seemed that she knew about the death of the second Robin and that something had obviously happened to Batgirl as well. She had thus vowed to stop that from ever happening again. She was fierce in deterring the Bat Family from continuing, though she had had to swallow her pride a few times to allow the heroes to do their thing to save lives.
Maggie had indirectly prevented Kate from becoming involved in the Arkham City incident as the two had been on vacation in Europe at the time and the whole thing was over before their return flight had even taken off.
Kate had often wondered whether or not she would have ever taken up crime-fighting had she met Maggie first; her girlfriend's opinions meant that much to her. But since she was already acquainted with Bruce's world, Kate knew this was something she had to do, even if that meant keeping it a secret from the woman she loved.
And she swore, if Tetch had harmed so much as a single hair on Maggie's head...
Kate stepped past the officer on guard outside the room and closed the door behind her. She looked to her right and there he was, head down and hands together on the table as a bright bulb directly above him served as the main source of light in the dark room. It was as if the room was set up intentionally so she would be drawn to focus on him.
She looked up at the security camera in the upper corner and nodded her approval, knowing that Cash would see and fake a technical problem. She stepped forward, her loud footfalls echoing intimidatingly in the mostly empty room, the Hatter began to speak in a low, even tone.
"Oh, frabjous day. Callooh, Callay! Batwoman's here. It's time to play." It was easy to see how one could fall under the Hatter's sway when he spoke in such a rhythmic, hypnotic tone. Even so, it did little to abate Kate's fury.
"I'm not playing your twisted games, Hatter," she responded, one hand now resting on the tabletop and the other on her hip, as she fixed him a glare from beneath her mask. "The hostages, where are they?"
To her surprise, the Hatter seemed to be utterly unimpressed. Perhaps Bruce was just that much better at this than she was. But if he had hurt Maggie, that wouldn't be the case for much longer.
"Let's see, let's see. Oh, one, two, three." He visibly counted up on his fingers to emphasise his point. "A hat-trick of your boys in blue. Do they live, or die? That's up to you."
One of those 'boys in blue' happened to be the most important person in his interrogator's world and whether he knew that or not, just the thought of what this disgusting rodent of a man might have done to her beloved brought out the Batman in Kate.
She stepped around the table and swiftly slammed Tetch's head down onto it before using the momentum of his recoil to yank him out of his chair and slam him roughly against the wall.
"What have you done with them!?" she demanded, not sure herself what she would do, how far she would go, if she didn't like his answer. Perhaps the only thing holding her back was that Tetch's words had made it clear that Maggie and the others were alive. For now, at least.
"Such violent means, but all in vain," he croaked out. "I've trained my mind to feel no pain." Knowing his adeptness at manipulating the minds of others, some regimen of self-hypnosis was, no doubt, child's play for the Hatter, but it could just as easily be a bluff.
"Don't make me put that to the test," Kate growled before shoving him back into his seat. He recovered quickly and continued his smug teasing.
"Oh, Batwoman, allay your fears, prick up your ears, you'll soon hear their tears. Just listen for the siren's song. Yes, you'll find your Alice before too long."
Kate couldn't tell if that 'your' was an indication of Kate's ownership of an Alice, or a contraction of 'you are' to indicate that she herself was Alice. But she didn't want to give him the satisfaction. She instead turned to leave, briefly observing the city map on the opposite wall to Tetch, where the three officers' last known locations were marked.
Ace Chemicals, Panessa Studios and the Lady of Gotham. She took a mental note of the three locations before leaving the lockup.
It was times like this, when racing against the clock, that Kate wished she had a Batmobile of her own. Granted, grapnel boosting and gliding were often the most efficient way of getting around the city, but the added calculations required to not fall to a premature death, especially while she had so much on her mind, were a burden a personal vehicle could help alleviate.
Yes, she still had access to her Batcycle, but the lack of armour enveloping her made traveling the city during this city-wide riot more dangerous than soaring over the city's rooftops with a grapple gun and a cape. Still, it wouldn't have helped much in crossing the river by the station to reach the small island upon which the Lady of Gotham statue was situated.
She could hear the sound the second she left the lockup and gliding over the water, it only became louder and clearer: a police siren. The so-called 'siren song' Tetch had alluded to, no doubt. She supposed she should count herself lucky the clue didn't mean he was working with Harley and Ivy. Leaving one of the officers so close to the starting point of this little excursion was an odd choice, since it immediately gave away the answer to this little riddle of his.
That was, Kate supposed, the difference between the Mad Hatter and the Riddler: Tetch had intended for Batman to start on the trail straight away. He wanted her to find the answer. The question was, why? What did he have to gain from all this? Could what he said about how she would 'find her/she was Alice' be the key to all this?
Whatever his game, it would have to wait as Kate had little trouble spotting the parked squad car, siren still blaring, on the opposite side of the statue. She glided elegantly down to a landing by the car's doors. She peered inside to find nothing. The car was spray-painted with various pieces of graffiti featuring famous quotes from Wonderland. "Tick Tock" stood out as a particularly ominous choice, as did the "I'm Late, I'm Late" decorating the car's trunk. Clearly, this quote had had much more time and effort put into its typography than the other hastily scrawled quotes.
Kate activated her mask's Detective Vision to inspect the trunk. As she suspected,, there was a hostage in the trunk, lying on their side and arms seemingly tied behind their back. As if that wasn't bad enough, the car was wired to blow with TNT. If she opened the trunk before defusing the explosives, she and whoever was trapped inside would no doubt lose their heads, as well as every other part of their charred bodies.
Fearing she might trigger the explosives my merely touching the hood, Kate crouched down in front of it and said loudly, "Hello? Whoever's in the trunk, try to remain calm. I'm going to get you out of there."
She hoped her Remote Hacking Device would be able to access the explosives' computers, which it luckily was. The defusal was a short, simple process thanks to the RHD and once she received that wonderful little "Explosive Defused" message, Kate popped open the trunk to find a male GCPD officer in a purple cat mask and a drawn picture of the Cheshire Cat laying across his hip.
"You've found the Cheshire Cat, all grinning," said the Hatter's voice from somewhere. Whether it was over her personal radio or a recording from a device hidden in the trunk, Kate couldn't tell, nor did she pay it much mind at all as she quickly untied the officer and helped him out of the trunk. The voice, meanwhile, continued with its ominous rhyme. "But don't be fooled. Don't think you're winning."
After helping the officer unsteadily to his feet, Kate removed the mask to reveal, as expected from the mask, Officer Katz, the first of the three missing GCPD officers. This was good. This meant that Maggie would be at one of the three marked locations. As for the officer standing right before her, Officer Katz looked around, confused and unfocused before he laid eyes on her.
"Batwoman? What happened? How the hell did I end up here?" His tone and expression were equally groggy and a little fearful for what may have occurred in the, no doubt, hours he had been unconscious or imprisoned.
Kate took him by the hand and slowly guided the disoriented officer over to a nearby bench to rest. Sitting down beside him, she used her mask's new Deep Scan mode to check him over for injuries. He seemed to notice the change in her mask's lenses but with how he had found himself upon awakening, this change in her eyes was probably the least amazing thing he had experienced all night.
"You don't seem injured aside from a few cuts and bruises," she concluded, switching the lenses off all together so Katz could make proper eye contact. "How are you feeling, Officer Katz?" She dropped the stoic act to show her concern.
"F-Fine," he replied uneasily. Pride showing, perhaps?
"Can you tell me what you remember? Anything at all could be incredibly valuable information."
"I... was chasing down some rioters and the siren went all screwy. I had to pull over," he explained. Now that she thought about it, the siren did seem a little wonky - deeper tone and uneven pattern. Why had she not picked up on that until now? "Next thing I know, I'm waking up in the dark with that siren blaring. I thought it would never end." Kate could only shudder to imagine the thought of being trapped in an enclosed space with only her thoughts and that damn siren droning on and on.
"Don't worry, you're safe now," she reassured him. "Are you okay to move, Officer Katz? I can take you back to the mainland with my grapnel-"
Officer Katz held up a hand to stop her. "No, no, I just need some rest. It's Tetch, isn't it? I should've known that freak would show his face tonight. That guy's got serious issues. You need to find him before he goes after anyone else."
Kate contemplated telling him about the others that had already been taken, but he was right. She was on the clock and time was precious. Instead, she smiled. "You're a real trooper. But don't push yourself too hard, okay?"
He nodded and Kate stood up. She looked around the squad car for any further clues as she opened a channel to the GCPD.
"Officer Cash, I've found Officer Katz by the Lady of Gotham. Send a boat to pick him up when you can."
"You got it, Batwoman," Cash replied. "Any leads on the others?"
"This was one of the locations marked on the map in the Interview Room. No doubt, the other two officers are in the other mark areas."
"Just say the word and I'll go down there and make that bastard be more specific," he offered.
"It's under control, Officer," Kate replied quickly. "I'll need you on radio in case something does come up. And send out a pair of cars to Ace Chemicals and Panessa Studios for pickup. Over and out."
The only thing worth noting inside the trunk now was that picture of the Cheshire Cat. Kate recalled hearing from Barbara about a time shortly after the Arkham City incident where Tetch and his Wonderland Gang had managed to abduct a number of women including Vicki Vale, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, the Carpenter and GCPD Officer Ruiz. He had hypnotised them all into attending a tea party before changing Catwoman, Poison Ivy and the Carpenter into the Cheshire Cat, Red Queen and Carpenter, respectively, to battle Bruce.
Kate dreaded to think that Tetch might have actually used some of his twisted skills on Maggie. She had to act fast. One quick grapnel boost to the top of the Lady of Gotham and she was off towards Bleake Island.
Ace Chemicals. That was where all of this had begun, in a sense. Of the multiple origin stories the Joker had told for himself, Bruce had found the one of him falling into a vat of chemicals here to be the most likely to be accurate. Joker's takeover of the Asylum had led to both Arkham City and Scarecrow's night of terror. Were it the Joker or Harley Quinn behind this, they would most likely have set up one of the officers to drop into a vat of their own.
But this was neither the Joker, nor his grief-stricken girlfriend. This was Jervis Tetch and his obsession with Wonderland, although incredibly creepy and invasive, would never go quite that far. Yes, the Mad Hatter was a preferable abductor to the Joker and that was a very scary thought indeed.
As she soared overhead, she heard the 'siren song' calling to her yet again. It seemed to be coming from the lighthouse to the side of the bridge connecting the chemical plant to the rest of the city. With a grapnel boost from the bridge, she crossed the water once more and landed beside the seemingly abandoned squad car. It was parked right on the edge of the metal walkway built into the rock. Like the last one, this car was also decorated with messages. They seemed identical to the last one, suggesting a very meticulous plan on Tetch's part.
Again, Kate's Detective Vision revealed a hostage inside. She prayed it was Maggie inside. She knew that wasn't fair on the other hostage, and she felt remorseful for being selfish like this, but Maggie was her whole world and Kate wasn't fully convinced she had adequately conveyed that to her partner. Maggie knew Kate loved her, obviously, but did she know exactly how much? Did she know that Kate had never felt so deeply connected with any previous partner? Did she know that Kate would sooner die than let her come to harm?
She shook her head to clear her mind of such thoughts. The longer she ruminated on them, the longer Maggie would be in danger, regardless of which squad car she was imprisoned in. One quick hack and she had the trunk safely opened.
To her dismay, the officer's skin indicated that she was Bianca McQueen, not Maggie Sawyer. Much like Officer Katz before her, McQueen's hands were tied behind her back and she wore the mask of a Wonderland character - the White Rabbit, in her case. Kate was a little surprised Tetch hadn't gone to the logical extreme and made the officer play the part of the White Queen, but it really didn't matter.
"You've found the White Rabbit, by whom Alice was led," the Hatter's voice chimed in once more. "It's a good thing for you, she isn't yet dead."
As with Katz, Kate unmasked McQueen and helped her clamber out of the trunk. McQueen placed a hand against Kate's stomach to steady herself.
"It's okay now," Kate assured McQueen, placing a hand against the latter's shoulder for further support. "You're safe." A little steadier on her feet, McQueen pulled away to stand by her own strength, but Kate prepped herself to catch her if she stumbled.
"I thought I'd never get out of there, Batwoman," McQueen said frantically, suggesting she was either newer to the force than Katz, or her colleague was simply better at putting up a front. "That noise... What the hell happened to me?"
"Don't worry, it's over now," Kate replied, gently placing her hand back on McQueen's shoulder before guiding her into the ideal position for a grapnel swing across to the bridge as a much more functional siren could be heard approaching their position.
"That should be whoever Cash sent now. They'll pick you up and take you back to GCPD. I'm going to go put a stop to Tetch's scheme."
"Thanks," McQueen mumbled before sitting down on the sidewalk to rest. Kate opened up the channel to GCPD.
"Officer Cash, I've secured Officer McQueen by Ace Chemicals. Captain Sawyer should be by the movie studios. I'm en route now."
"Good job, Batwoman. One of our best is headed your way to pick up McQueen."
"Good to hear it. Over and out."
"I still don't know how he did it," McQueen said, hands clutching her head. "I don't remember anything." Some form of mental trickery was most likely involved, though it was impossible to say for sure. Tetch and his gang had often employed chloroform and simple blunt strikes to the back of the head to capture their intended targets as well.
"Officer Katz is the same," Kate noted.
"If he wanted us dead, we would be. He's up to something, Batwoman. Watch yourself."
Kate nodded and set off. There wasn't much Kate could do for the officer at this point. A professional would need to be consulted and the GCPD had the numbers for quite a few of them, given the life of a law enforcement officer in Gotham. It would probably be the one Maggie had been pestering Kate to see for a few months.
Her mind liberated by the knowledge that Maggie had to be in the final abandoned squad car, she was free to focus on the task at hand - saving Maggie from the Hatter. Kate flew at full speed towards Panessa Studios.
Panessa Studios had been abandoned quickly after Scarecrow's initial threat, allowing Bruce and Tim to set up a temporary headquarters there for the duration of the occupation, in the interest of having quicker access to the Bat Computer and other equipment. Tim would liekly still be there, working on the cure for the Jokerised victims.
Tim was a smart kid, so Kate had every faith he could get the job done while the rest of the family dealt with more immediate threats. Still, she knew he'd feel like his talents were being wasted, would question why Barbara or Alfred or Leslie couldn't work on it instead to free him up to go rustle some feathers elsewhere. She knew she certainly would were she in his shoes.
The siren came into focus as she approached Merchant Bridge. The car, identically graffitied as the last two, rested atop an elevated area of land beside the road.
As she came in for a landing, there was a question that had been nagging at Kate, but she had little time to ponder it until now: how had Tetch managed to get these three squad cars to these specific locations without any kind of road access? Had he received help from Killer Croc, the Wonderland Gang, or someone with access to a crane or helicopter? She knew Tetch had been a part of Hugo Strange's plans back in Arkham City, so was he part of Scarecrow's now? She would have to add this to Officer Cash's long list of topics for Tetch's interrogation.
Detective Vision revealed that there was indeed a third hostage, though with only a skeleton to go off, she couldn't say for sure it was Maggie. They were alive, anyway. That was a good sign. Kate quickly pulled out her RHD and fumbled with it, almost dropping the crucial tool to the ground before catching it.
She took a deep breath to calm her nerves. If she messed this up, she would never know who was inside that car. She would never know who it was she'd killed. Slowly, nervously, Kate accessed the explosives and performed her third successful disarmament of the night.
Upon opening up the trunk, her heart sank to find that there was no one inside. There weren't even any explosives, for that matter. But she knew she'd seen someone through Detective Vision. She had connected to the explosives just a second ago. Had she somehow imagined it? Had someone tampered with her suit's equipment? Or her mind?
She felt a sharp pain in her head, like she was being poked and prodded with a blade. It dulled her thoughts, made them groggy. She was still conscious and fully in control of herself, but her focus narrowed considerably to just what was in front of her. Any questions she may have had regarding Tetch's plans or the logistics of setting all this up simply faded into the background, blurry and irrelevant.
Inside the trunk, on a bed of alarm clocks, that may or may not have been ringing, rested a thick leather-bound book.
"The Queen has gone. She rode away. Off to her castle, Down by the bay. Return the book, And then we'll find, How little Alice lost her mind."
Kate picked up the book and stashed it in her utility belt. She had to get back to the castle- to GCPD. But there was someone there, someone she needed to speak to... Officer Cash, that was it!
"Officer Cash?" she said, struggling to find the words, but feeling them flow naturally once she had found them. "The last car was empty. Any word on the missing officer? Officer Sawyer?"
"Captain Sawyer actually just showed up at the precinct," Cash replied, leaving Kate with a strange sense of both elation and dread at the revelation, bringing her mind back into its usual sharp focus. "Said she blacked out, woke up without her car. That's everyone accounted for. I don't buy it, Batwoman. Tetch is up to something."
"I'll make him talk," Kate replied, the first clear thought she had had since seeing the contents of the third trunk.
"He ain't the only one with tricks up his sleeve, Batwoman," Cash responded. "Let me know if you need a hand... or a hook," he added with a chuckle.
Now that she could think clearly again, Kate knew she had to get back to the GCPD - the castle Tetch had referred to - where she knew Maggie was waiting.
"Head on through, Batwoman," Cash said as she stepped up to the reception desk after a fierce dash from there to here.
"Where is- are they?" She had almost asked about Maggie specifically before catching and correcting herself.
"Just outside the interview room," Cash replied, pointing over his shoulder with his thumb. "Guess they wanted to have a few words with Tetch before you got here, but I'm sure they'll step aside for you to take over."
Kate walked quickly around the desk, barely able to stop herself from breaking into a run. God, she had only seen Maggie maybe four hours ago from a rooftop, but it felt like an eternity. She was desperate to hold her in her arms, in or out of costume. She hoped Bruce could take Crane down soon so she could take a break and tell Maggie everything she now knew she needed to.
Outside the Interview Room, as Cash had said, Officers Katz and McQueen were sat on the floor on the opposite side of the hall, but no Maggie. Perhaps she was inside, interrogating the Hatter? They both looked up at her as she entered, but neither said a word. They seemed to be okay, though, so Kate pushed on and entered the room.
"The Queen returns, all filled with malice," Tetch said the second he saw the door opening. "Tell me, Batwoman... Did you find your Alice?" He was watching eagerly, smiling in anticipation for... whatever it was he was trying to prove. But none of that mattered right now.
Where was Maggie? Cash had said she was here, but she was neither outside the room, nor inside. Her mind was fogging up again and she knew that Maggie's absence must have a good explanation. She couldn't have been harmed inside the station, could she? She must be somewhere nearby, but... where? She just couldn't think properly right now.
She faced Tetch, who seemed like he understood what was happening, and Kate's mind started to clear up a little. Maybe if she gave him the book like he'd asked, she would be able to think straight again. She was sure that was right. She had to give him the book.
"No more games, Jervis," she growled. "Where is Captain Sawyer!?" She slammed the book down on the table, suddenly angry, but for what reason, she wasn't quite sure. Perhaps her feelings remained sharp, even if her mind did not.
"Why yes, she's three. Oh, silly me. The answer's in the book, Batwoman. Open and see."
She looked down at the book and finally read the title: "Batwoman's Adventures in Wonderland". She opened it up to the first page.ALICE? ALICE! OH, ALICE! Welcome to my Wonderland,
It's here you'll understand.
I need a champion, you see,
A role that you are meant to be.
I tried with Batman once, you know,
In Arkham, nine whole moons ago.
The bat broke free, his will too strong,
And now I see where I went wrong.
T'was through my gang I heard of you,
You beat them up on your debut.
The Batman would be such a bore,
But inside you, there's something more.
I kept an eye on you and her,
"Like Gordon and Bat?" I thought. "Absurd!"
Since you and the Captain go much deeper,
She and her friends became my sleepers.
I've seen your work, I know your skill,
Your all is mine, I hold your will.
Your speed, your strength, your rage and malice,
Come now, Katherine, be my Alice.
The words were strangely powerful. Kate quickly shifted her eyes to the other page to keep them out of her mind. Her eyes were met with a picture of Alice, dressed as Batwoman, encountering the Queen of Hearts. This told her nothing, so she grabbed the Hatter and lifted him out of his seat, demanding that he tell her.
"No joke, no joke, control your rage. The answer is there, just turn the page." Something about the rhythm of his speech made his words seems so compelling. Kate found herself releasing the Hatter from her grasp and reaching out to do as he had asked, though she was unsure if she did so of her own accord or because he had suggested it.
Turning the page revealed this to be a pop-up book. The first scene depicted was some kind of royal courtroom. Perhaps, the Queen of Hearts' domain?
Once she reached this conclusion, Kate heard the Hatter speak again as the world around her began to to disappear into a sea of inky letters, as if the book's words had left the page and were consuming her.
"Down the rabbit hole you fall. where madness reigns from wall to wall..."
The world became black for some time, but how long, she couldn't say. Suddenly, the floor beneath her feet disappeared and she found herself falling, down, down deeper down through a swirling vortex of inky letters inside of an otherwise empty void. Again, the Hatter spoke, as if trying to help her mind make sense of it all.
"Through the rhyming words we tumble, where Hatters toil and psyches crumble." He let out a high-pitched laugh as something came into view below her. There was a large book the size of a house lying open to a familiar scene. It was the one she had just opened the book to herself, she realised. The Hatter stood, maybe fifty feet tall, watching her from above as the only light in the world was a giant desk lamp by his side.
Had she shrunk? Was that even possible? Certainly not within the Hatter's power. Was it a trick then? Was this all in her head? Did that even matter? If she perceived something as happening, did that mean that, on some level, it truly was? If she thought she came to harm, would she actually? These questions seemed almost irrelevant as she landed in one of the chairs observing the whole event.
There were two people of note in the room, besides the card solider guards and the varied jury members. The defendant, or whom Kate assumed was the defendant, was a beautiful young woman with blonde hair and an officer's uniform. Kate's eyes briefly met the woman's green pair as she solemnly glanced around the room, perhaps hoping someone would speak up in her defense.
The other woman, the one in the black and red gown adorned in heart shapes, staring down in disgust at the defendant from her elevated position, was obviously the Queen of Hearts. Her features were hidden by a pale face mask, painted like makeup, that hid her identity aside from her short blonde hair and her eyes of a familiar deep blue.
Both women seemed familiar, but where had she seen them before? She felt like they were important, that they were people she could no more forget than her own name, but somehow, she just could not recall where she knew them from.
The Queen of Hearts stood up from her throne and declared, "Guilty! Off with her head!"
The other woman begged and pleaded to be spared, but to no avail as the card soldiers took her by the arms and dragged her towards a nearby chopping block.
Kate's heart felt as if it was being twisted and torn, but who was this woman whose suffering made her feel so... was there even a word to describe it? She felt like the answer was just outside of her reach, but she could grasp it if she just tried a little harder.
"Stop!" cried out a voice. It sounded like Kate's, only younger. She turned in the direction the voice had emanated from to see a young girl, no more than five or six, short red hair and a red and white dress. She seemed familiar too.
The name 'Alice' sprung to mind immediately, but Kate knew on some level that that name wasn't right. She wasn't... Kate, was she? No, no, there was another name somewhere, but trying to reach out for this name made Kate feel like she was losing progress at finding the defendant's name, and choosing just one to focus on felt like a betrayal of the other. Her mind swam in a haze as the wicked Queen of Hearts turned her attention to the young intruder.
"Who dares interrupt the Queen's verdict!?" the evil monarch demanded, pointing at the girl accusatory. "You've brought down wrath you could never predict! You could have stayed home, all tucked up in bed. But no, you came her. Now, off with their heads!"
"No!" Kate screamed instinctively. Her cry fell on deaf ears as the little girl was grabbed by a pair of card soldiers, who dragged her kicking and screaming up to join the officer, who was now pleading for the girl to be spared in return for her life.
Kate tried in vain to rise from her seat, but it was as if she was fused to it, and it to the floor. Her heart sank further still as she found herself unable to challenge the Queen either verbally of physically. This was wrong! There had to be something she could do! There was something familiar, something sadistically familiar about all of this, but she didn't know what. It felt like she had lived this moment before.
"It's gonna be okay, sweetie," the woman was saying to the whimpering child, reaching out a hand for her daughter's. Daughter? She was the child's mother, but how did Kate...?
Before she could consider this any further, Kate was mortified, powerless to intervene, as the executioner raised up his giant axe above the woman and her child before bringing it down heavily on their necks with a world-shattering thud. A sudden surge of memory and emotion came flooding back into Kate's mind and she cried out, "Mom! Beth! NOOOOO!"
As her eyes welled up with tears, Kate could barely make out the Queen turning in her direction and demanding her head as well, before departing through a nearby door.
Kate collapsed out of her chair onto her knees, shaking uncontrollably as the traumatic memories of her mother and sister's murder hit her like a speeding truck. The queen had taken her family from her. They were gone again and the one who was responsible had left before Kate could reach her. She was gone, but her guards weren't.
Kate felt a primal rage explode from within her like nothing she had ever felt before. She leapt to her feet and was on the nearest soldier before any of them could react. They would all pay for what they had done!
She beat them all down, punching and kicking and ripping and breaking until only the executioner remained standing. She had left him for last intentionally. She wanted to savour this one. He swung his axe at her, determined to make her join her mother and sister - her murdered mother and sister - as his evil Queen had commanded. Kate, already mid-run, slid along the ground on her knees to avoid the horizontal swing. Once she was close, she hopped to her feet and bounded into the air, using the momentum to deliver a fierce uppercut to his face, sending him staggering back.
She got in close before he could recover and delivered a swift kick to his right hand. There was a satisfying crunch as she made contact and he loosened his grip on his weapon. A spin kick to the midsection sent him tumbling to the ground, completely disarmed. Kate picked up the discarded weapon. He had taken her family. She should take his life. Right? She raised the weapon above her head, ready to deliver the finishing blow, bringing the axe down into the ground beside him.
No. She was no killer. Katherine Kane was a soldier. As was the executioner. Soldiers obeyed commands. This soldier wasn't to blame, not really. But it still felt good to punch his face hard enough to bounce his head off the tiles as he fell unconscious.
Kate spared a glace at the bloody remains of her family, taken from her once again. She would finish this her way. It was the queen who deserved punishment, but she knew she knew that face from somewhere...
Suddenly, the entire right side of the room folded in on itself as the ground began to turn like a page of a giant book turning over. She once again became aware of the giant man in the tophat observing everything as the one doing this. She snapped out of the illusion enough to remember that she had a belt full of gadgets, though neither how nor why. There was one in particular she needed. What was it again? The grap...nel? The grapnel! She pulled it from her belt as she had a thousand times before and fired it at the edge of the turning page, launching herself over and into a new scene. The instant her feet touched the floor, the illusion took hold again, blocking the previous surreality from her memory.
The new scene was somewhere inside the Queen of Hearts' castle? Yes, yes, it was. The tiled floor of alternating red with black hearts and black with red hearts was a dead giveaway. This was a sizable bedchamber, likely the Queen's from the look of it. The same kind of decorative pattern that adorned the floors covered just about everything else from walls to mattresses to curtains, only not all of the colours were black and red - some were pink or yellow or blue. It was a very garish room fit for an obsessive, garishly-dressed, evil woman. Still, something about the Queen still bothered Kate, but her mind was too foggy to think what it could be.
"You! Intruder! Don't you move!" a voice demanded. A male voice from inside the room. "I'm authorised to kill. That, I can prove." Somehow, Kate had completely missed the man standing in the room, unless he and the women lying at his feet had simply appeared out of thin air while she wasn't looking. After all, this was Wonderland.
But two of these women were familiar to Kate as well. She knew these women... intimately, she supposed was the word. She had been close to them in the past, but not anymore. She'd no idea why, though.
She realised soon enough, however, as she realise that every single one of these women had been murdered, their throats cut in an all too familiar way. Realising this made it somehow easier for her to recognise the two she had taken special note of.
"S-Sophie? Renee?" Her two most significant former lovers lay at the feet of this man, throats cut, dead and pale. Almost as pale as she was. She quickly scanned the room, finding small relief that her current lover was not among the dead. But that relief was not enough to keep her from launching herself at the man.
His uniform bore the symbol of the Queen of Hearts, who would get hers next. The man attempt to use a variety of weapons against her - guns, knives, grenades - but she knocked each and every one of them aside with a well placed strike or batarang throw. Once she was sure he had no more tricks up his sleeve, she engaged him properly in hand-to-hand.
His moves were similar to her own, only more precise, stronger but slower. He was a highly proficient fighter, to be sure. Kate would have to fight dirty to beat him. The first step was to allow him to make his move, then deliver a swift strike to his groin before he could land his own blow. This staggered him, allowing her to get in another strike. She leapt into the air and delivered a spinning kick to his head, knocking him flat on his back. He attempted to recover, but Kate stomped on his knee with a deafening crunch.
She straddled his prone form and punched him three times in the face before he caught her wrist and managed to spin over so that he was on top of her. His added weight and muscle mass allowed him to keep her down. He began raining blows down on her that she was sure were far more damaging than her own had be. If she did nothing, she would surely die here and the Queen would go unpunished. She couldn't let that happen.
She reached out to her side to find something, anything to use to get him off of her. She was barely conscious when her hand tightened around something and swiftly brought it up towards the man's head, knocking him clean off of Kate.
She took a moment to recover before slowly pushing herself up onto her elbows. Whatever she had hit him with, it had certainly done the trick. He was sprawled out face down on the floor not far from her. She looked at her hand and her eyes widened in horror to realise she held a bloody knife in her hand. Her eyes followed the trail of blood across her chest to the man prone form, where a large pol of crimson was forming.
"No... Please, God, no..." Kate struggled to release her grip on the knife, but she managed while she struggled to her feet. She staggered towards the unmoving body of the man, whose face was covered in a devil mask that could well have been there all along beyond her notice. She prayed this was all just some bad dream while she turned the man over and recognised his mask. Her words escaped her, leaving only a constant shaking of her head to express her horror. She lifted the mask from his face and her eyes met his.
His eyes glinted in recognition, but they were cold. He knew who she was, and he knew what she had done to him. There was nothing in his eyes when he looked at her. Any love he felt for her had drained from his body with his blood and she was nothing to him now but his killer.
She cried out in anguish as she cradled her father's body while he passed. Passed because of her. Because of what she had allowed herself to become: a killer. He had trained her to be better than that. Everyone who had ever trained her had taught her to be better than that. Bit she had failed them all.
With all of this misery she was experiencing, there was one thought that kept her going, one thought that gave her a goal to work towards:
The Queen of Hearts had taken everything from her - her mother, her sister, her father, her lovers. Even her own name was starting to slip away.
"K-Ka...Kat? No, Ka...te... Kate... Kate! Kate?" Was that right? She was sure it was, but it somehow seemed wrong. What was that other name she'd heard? Alice? Was that her name? That girl was called Alice, right? She looked like a younger version of her, so maybe that was her who had died? She died? Was that possible? She certainly felt like a part of her had died. Was this all a metaphor for something?
Neither name seemed right, nor did they seem wrong either. She gravitated towards Kate, but each time she said the name again in her head, it seemed more and more wrong, similar to how a word can sound unreal if repeated too much. The same thing seemed to happen when she thought on the name Alice.
Why was this so difficult? It was her goddamn name and she couldn't even remember which it was. Could one be her middle name? Or her last name? Maybe one was the name of somebody she knew. She was sure she knew a Kate, but Alice... Alice seemed more vague, almost ethereal in her mind.
But there was surely no way she could be Kate. Kate wouldn't kill her own father.
Whatever the case, she ran out of time to think about it as, once again, the world 'turned over' like a page from a book, forcing her to grapple over to avoid being crushed. Upon crossing over, however, all questions about her identity disappeared as a whole new mindset washed over her, as if she had skipped forward several hours. Only one thing mattered once she realised where she was.
There was a strange sense of finality to her arrival in the final scene. She instinctively knew this was where she would find her nemesis, the Queen of Hearts, who had caused her so much pain, so much suffering. After all, this was the Queen's throne room.
As expected, there she was, sat on her throne, looking down at her both literally and metaphorically. The look of disgust on the Queen's face only made her want to make her suffer even more.
"My guards couldn't stop a single small child?," the Queen scowled as she stood from her throne, axe-like sceptre in hand. "Fight me then, Alice. Your pain won't be mild!"
This was it. This was where she would make that bitch pay for everything she had put her through. But why was there a small pang of disgust with herself when the word 'bitch' passed through her head? Was she feeling guilty for calling this monster what she was? And again, the word 'monster' had the same effect. Why did she feel so conflicted now when she had been so determined to get revenge mere seconds beforehand?
And she called her Alice. Did that mean she was Alice? Was she the little girl that had died? Who was this Kate then?
"The Queen of Hearts and roses red. Oh, be careful, Alice, or she'll have your head," said a suddenly, familiar voice that she actually could recognise. It was the Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter and Alice were friends, right? She could trust him. She could trust his calm, melodic manner of speech. He told Alice the Queen was coming for her head. Well, she was going to make sure the Queen didn't get her wish.
Ducking under the Queen's swing was simple enough. She fought like her executioner - aggressive and precise, but predictable. This would be easy, in spite of the dozen or so card soldiers pouring into the room. Alice grabbed the Queen's weapon and shoved fiercely, sending her tumbling back into a pair of guards and leaving the weapon in Alice's hands.
Alice stuck the weapon into the ground vertically and delivered and jumping kick to one soldier's face. She followed this up by swinging herself around it to kick the legs out from under a second soldier, then twisting her body to deliver a high kick to the next guard's face. She then planted her feet firmly on the ground and used the momentum to drag the pole out of the ground and into the faces of two more soldiers, one of whom toppled onto Alice's second victim.
She didn't know by what means she had become so adept at wielding a weapon like this - she was only a little girl, after all - but the familiar exhilaration she felt as she watched her foes drop was intoxicatingly euphoric. This feeling was a big part of who she was... whatever that meant.
The Queen lunged at her for her second attack, grabbing the weapon and kicking Alice in the gut. Alice reeled from the attack, but her grip on the axe remained as firm as the Queen's. She brought the weapon down at the same time as she brought her knee up, snapping the weapon in two, and slipped the headless half from the Queen's grasp. The Queen's half was easily the more dangerous of the two, but the half Alice expertly handled was much faster, allowing her to get in some quick counter hits every time she dodged the Queen's strikes.
Alice struck one guard in the side of the neck with her half of the weapon, using its ricochet's momentum to hit the guard next to him in the same spot. Alice was strangely efficient at taking these soldiers down. It just came naturally to her, for some reason.
A swift strike to the top of the head and an upward strike at the chin took down two more of the guards before the Queen angrily threw the axe directly at Alice. She ducked under it, allowing it to hit the guard about to attack Alice from behind. He was split in two, which elicited an odd emotional response in Alice. She didn't expect to feel so sickened by such bloodless carnage. After all, it wasn't like the card soldiers were real people.
They weren't... real? That was a strange thought to-
Alice staggered back as the Queen struck her in the face with a clenched fist. That bitch! Again with that feeling! What the hell was going on with her? 'Hell'? That wasn't something a good girl should say. Alice was a good girl, wasn't she?
Again, her momentary self-reflection left her vulnerable to a strike from the Queen, who was able to kick her opponent hard enough to stagger her back away from where the axe head now rested. The Queen gripped it tightly and prepared to swing it at the girl's head.
"Wake up, Alice, clear your head. Otherwise, you'll end up dead!" There was a considerable degree of psychotic loathing in the Queen's expression and tone that made the girl's heart split in two. Why did what the Queen thought of her matter so much? Who was this Queen to her? She was her enemy! She had taken everything from her and now, she needed to die.
The girl grabbed the Queen's weapon as she tried to strike, yanking it free from her grasp. She then held the Queen in place with one hand while she raised the weapon with her other.
This was it. Sweet revenge.
But again, she hesitated. Why? Because she wasn't a murderer? She wasn't, but guilty people deserved to die, especially with everything she had done. She lowered the weapon, her previous determination evaporated and leaving only doubt, doubt in... everything. Who was she? What was she doing? Why was she doing it?
In her confused state, all the girl could do was grab the Queen by the collar and hold her in place. She looked the Queen in the eyes and a strange feeling overcame her. Her mind began to feel sharper, like a thick fog was lifting. She finally understood that none of this was real aside from the Queen in front of her. She could feel it deep down in her heart. Her mind was enchanted and befuddled, but her heart remained true.
Kate allowed herself to simply stop thinking and let her heart guide her, instead of her inebriated mind. She kissed her, deeply, passionately, lovingly. All her fear, her longing, everything she had kept bottled up inside from the fear of losing the most important person in her life came bubbling to the surface as she kissed a pair of lips she would recognise anywhere.
She gently reached up and pulled off Maggie's mask and the officer's struggles ceased as she too stopped letting her befuddled mind guide her, allowing her to realise where and who she truly was. And who the Batwoman was as well.
They pulled away, but continued to hold one another. They stared deeply into one another's eyes, reaching a whole new level of understanding that the two could never have imagined possible.
Those eyes. Those beautiful, blue eyes. How could Kate have ever forgotten them? Those deep blue eyes revealed many conflicting emotions within Maggie's heart. Kate felt compelled to say... something, anything.
"Uh... surprise?" and a nervous laugh was all Kate had. She had thought about this moment many times before. She had lived out just about every possible scenario and reaction from Maggie, from understanding to appreciation to apprehension to betrayal to hate. Maggie was surprised, clearly, but not quite as much as Kate had imagined in every iteration of this scene she had played out in her head. Did that mean that...?
Before she could finish that thought, Maggie hugged her tightly. "A part of me knew what was happening. I knew it was you, but I couldn't stop myself. Oh, Kate, I'm so sorry."
"No, Mags." Kate held her tightly as well. "I almost... killed you. I almost let him make me do that. If I had done, I could never... Tetch!"
They were back in the Interview Room now, the storybook world like a bad dream in the backs of their minds. Tetch was cowering by the wall beside the table. He knew his plan had failed, and he knew that if there was one person in Gotham one did not want to get on the bad side of, it was Batwoman.
She stepped away, reluctantly, from Maggie to give Tetch a well-deserved punch across the face before griping him by his lapels and holding him up against the wall, his feet dangling a foot off the ground. Tetch, for his part, was totally dumbfounded by the heroine's ability to resist his mental tampering.
"What!? No! I had you. Don't you see? You're mad, you're mad, you're just like me!" he insisted.
"Maybe I am," she replied darkly. "Maybe you've awoken something you're not prepared for, Tetch. Maybe in this version, the Hatter doesn't survive the tea party." Her hand wrapped vice-tight around Tetch's throat, throttling the life out of him. "I was a soldier, you know. I have no qualms about ending the life of such invasive, contemptible scum-"
"Stop!" Maggie commanded. At some point, she had reached Kate's side and gripped her arm to stop her. Kate's armoured suit made it a challenge, even for Maggie, to so much as move Kate's arm from its locked extended position. "This is what he wanted. You can't let him win! You're not a murderer, Kate!"
Hearing Maggie screaming her name brought Kate back to her senses. What was she doing? She was choking the life out of the Mad Hatter, a relatively small-time criminal in Gotham. She was about to murder him, and deservedly so, to be sure. But what would she accomplish? The Mad Hatter wasn't on the level of the Joker, whose death had sent shockwaves across Gotham's underworld. He was the Mad Hatter, for God's sake - a small-time crook whose death would change little, but would land Kate in a cell of her own and irrevocably damage not only her life, but those of her father, her niece and Maggie as well.
She wanted to kill him. Right now, she wanted almost nothing more. But Maggie was okay, she was here and she was pleading for Kate to not let herself become a villain. Kate looked into Maggie's eyes for only a second and she knew she could never do anything to hurt her. She relented. She released Tetch's throat, but grabbed his shirt just as tightly and dragged him away from the wall. She slammed him onto the table, keeping him pinned with one hand, clenched tightly enough to produce small tears where she gripped his shirt.
"Let me make one thing clear, Jervis." Kate held Tetch at eye level so he could see the fury in her eyes and understand that she was deadly serious as she told him, "If you ever invade my mind like that again, or if you ever touch her again, I will hurt you in ways even Batman never would. I will destroy everything you hold dear and you will know pain the likes of which you never thought possible. I won't kill you, Tetch, but you'll wish the option was on the table by the time I finish with you."
She threw him. He flew clear across the room and landed flat on his back by the door, thoroughly shaken by how shockingly infuriated Batwoman's response to his ploy had been. She grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and dragged him to the cells personally. He protested feebly the whole way.
Kate threw Tetch into the cell and slammed the door shut, surprising the on-duty officers just as much as Tetch himself. The Mad Hatter, sans hat, cried pathetically as he crawled over to the cell door and used the bars to support himself as he climbed to his feet. Kate looked over the top hat in her hand. She dropped it on the floor and stomped on it, grinding it into the ground with her heel, eliciting yet more cries from its owner.
"Oh, Alice, no! This can't be how it ends. There's tea for two, we can still be friends!" Kate punched the bars, knocking Tetch back onto the floor in fear. He scrambled back into the far corner of his cell, where he curled up into a ball a wept.
The officers said nothing as Kate walked past to leave the room. In the hall outside, McQueen and Katz were still sat on the floor side-by-side with Maggie standing nearby. Kate stopped dead upon making eye contact with Maggie, who did much the same.
"What happened to us, Batwoman?" McQueen asked after a while, finally breaking the silence, as well as Kate's momentary stupor.
"Tetch used the sirens to hypnotise us," Kate explained, crouching down before the two. "I'm still piecing it all together. I think he wanted to use me as an Alice-styled bodyguard, based on his past actions. But I've made it clear that I won't tolerate his perverse methods in this town anymore." She tried to keep her utter contempt for the Hatter out of her voice and maintain a comforting tone, but she did a poor job of it. It was clear to anyone who heard her just how far she might go if pushed any further.
Maggie let out a sharp sigh. "I need some air. Care to join me, Batwoman?" Maggie's expression and tone were neutral, making it impossible to perceive her motive behind this invitation. Whatever it was, Kate knew they had a lot to discuss.
Before too long, Kate and Maggie were alone on the roof of the GCPD. All around them, they could hear gunfire and explosions and reckless driving. Gotham truly was at war and Kate knew she had to leave soon to help put a stop to it. But she couldn't leave without getting everything off her chest.
Before she could, however, Maggie reached up and took hold of her mask. Kate put up no resistance as she slipped it off, as if to confirm to herself that, yes, Katherine Kane was Batwoman.
"I had my suspicions," Maggie interrupted. "I don't know anyone else with such a pale complexion and fiery red hair, but I knew it could have just been makeup and a wig. When you kissed me, I knew for sure." She looked up at Kate, her eyes conveying a sense of betrayal. "Why couldn't you just tell me, Kate?"
"I... I wanted to, Mags. Honest, I did. But I was scared. I know you don't approve of vigilantes. I didn't know how you'd react and I didn't want to lose you, so I kept pushing it back further and further. I know I should have come clean much, much sooner. Like, when you and me got serious sooner. I can't ask you to forgive me, I don't have that right. Just... please don't end it now, not tonight. I need to believe I have something to come home to once this is all over."
Maggie shook her head. "Kate... I love you. With all my heart. I love all of you. But I need you to be completely, totally honest and open with me for us to work. No more secrets, Kate. If you can look me in the eye and promise me that, I can forgive you."
Kate took Maggie's hands in hers and stared deeply into her eyes. "I promise, Mags. No more secrets. My life, all of it, is yours."
"Okay then. I think I can forgive-"
"Marry me, Mags," Kate asked, pressing her ruby red lips against her lover's before she could even finish forgiving her. Maggie's eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets from shock as her mind worked to process what had just happened.
As Kate pulled away, hoping she would receive the answer she wanted, Maggie smiled widely and somehow, in all the time they had been together, illuminated by the pale moonlight, Maggie Sawyer had never looked more beautiful than she did as she said "Yes".