Disclaimer: Blah. I'm tired of doing these. When DC renounces Catwoman: the Movie and issues a public apology, then we'll talk.
CATverse A/N: Blah blah blah, if you want to know where it goes, check the website (too lazy to type the address…check my profile), 'kay?
A/N: After several months of The Dry Spell of Doom, allow me to present, OMG THE FIRST THING I'VE WRITTEN IN GOD KNOWS HOW LONG. This storyline has been in the works since...last summer. Mostly in my head. I'm finally getting around to writing it now that I feel confident enough that I actually have the ability to complete it. I will update it regularly, I do solemnly swear.
Every storyteller worth his salt (and every other seasoning, for that matter) knows that the very best tales--the most timeless tales--begin with the words 'Once upon a time…' Certainly, there are other ways in which to open a story, more complex, more mature, more stylish and modern ways, but none declare "The story is starting" quite so effectively as those. Every fairy tale and a fair few fables begin in such a manner, and though this particular parable doesn't it is no less fantastic or unbelievable than Cinderella's frog footmen and Fairy Godmother.
However, this story doesn't start in a far away kingdom where a prince searches for his beloved princess-to-be and the woodland animals help out with the household chores.
Instead, it begins with one far-too-curious-for-her-own-good henchgirl, her comrades and their master in Gotham City's industrial district.
The three women of whom I speak were ordinary enough, in much the same way a Venus Fly Trap is an ordinary plant until you get within biting range and it tries to snap off one of your fingers. At a distance, they looked normal. Up close, they looked…well, still normal enough to pass for normal if they were making an effort, but they rarely made an effort in that regard, preferring to stick out like a threesome of sore thumbs in the crowd.
Even if they did elect to spend a day looking normal, once one found themselves face to face with them, one could discern that there was something Not Quite Right going on behind their eyes.
They were, despite occasional appearances to the contrary, madder than the March Hare, and quite proud of that fact.
For starters, they worked for a man who poisoned--for lack of a better term--people for his own amusement and, in addition to being his minions in all things dastardly, caused mayhem of their own in the streets for no other reason than 'just because'. In this way, they were much like children; no greater rhyme or reason to their actions other than 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' or 'it sounded like fun'.
The events that will unfold in this story, dear reader, were a chain reaction that, like a fuse burning down to a stick of dynamite, seemed innocuous enough to begin with--just a spark, that turned into a flame and then lit a fuse, causing pandemonium to break out before anyone realized what had happened.
The spark, if you will, that started the disastrous inferno, was an article that the aforementioned far-too-curious-for-her-own-good henchgirl made the mistake of reading. Though all three women who worked for the Scarecrow were interested in new gadgets and often oohed and ahhed at anything particularly shiny that made noise or had big red buttons on it crossed their paths, none of them was as voracious about it as Techie was, being the only one who actually went out of her way to keep up with what was being developed by every top tech firm in the country.
Jonathan Crane wasn't the only one who kept up with journals and though his were medical, scientific or psychological in nature, Techie's were, fittingly enough, technical (the other journals she kept up with were written by avid conspiracy theorists and had headlines like "Elvis spotted pumping gas in Vancouver!" or "Symbiotic aliens staging White House takeover!"). Many times she'd caused a stir by reading an article, flailing her arms and loudly insisting that her companions help her acquire whatever had grabbed her attention, and though none of those capers had turned catastrophic, this one did.
It was a Thursday afternoon in the Scarecrow's lair, the man himself working on mathematical equations at the 'kitchen' table and glaring at the Captain every time she offered to assist; Al practicing her zombie slaughtering skills on the now rather run down House of the Dead 2 machine--the only appliance in the general kitchen area she dared approach without fear of electrical failure/fiery death--and Techie draped over a living room chair sideways, her legs swung over one of the arms, hanging upside down over the other and reading Popular Mechanics…also upside down.
It was quiet, with the exception of a few screams from the arcade machine and muttered swears from Al every time she got thwacked in the head by a particularly nasty reanimated corpse, and, had Techie gone with her first instinct and set her magazine aside in favor of making herself a sandwich, it may have stayed that way.
Instead, she went against her first impulse, flipped the page, skimmed it and then gasped so dramatically that she sat up abruptly and fell out of the chair in the process.
Al stopped shooting zombies and the Captain stopped drumming her fingers on the table instantaneously.
Jonathan Crane kept on scribbling, not bothering to look up. If he stopped work every time one of them did something unexpected, he'd never get any work done…
With a flurry of paper and a clumsy flailing of limbs, Techie squeaked from her place on the floor, "CAPTAIN! AL!" and flailed again, like a woman having some sort of controlled, purposeful seizure.
Al and the Captain, being trained in the ways of dealing with a squealing, flailing, obviously incoherently excited fangirl, were at their friend's side in moments, dragging her off the floor, dusting her off and snatching the magazine that had clearly sent her sloshing around in the watery depths of madness.
The Captain held the magazine in front of herself and read aloud as Al peered over her shoulder and Techie straightened her t-shirt out with some difficulty.
"A Novel Idea, a new kind of holographic technology from Lexcorp, is now in the beta testing stages at their Gotham branch laboratory, journalist Neil Addams reports. ANI will pioneer the holographic entertainment industry in the form of holonovels, an idea which originated inside the walls of Wayne Industries' technology division, but was ignored by the higher ups at the company, dismissed by Bruce Wayne as a 'frivolous idea and escape from reality'. Lex Luthor, seeing the advantages of getting in on the ground floor of such a venture, hired away the engineer responsible for the proposal and launched his own research into the viability of such a product." The Captain paused and flicked her eyes up to her friend before she resumed reading, "Now, nine months after the project's launch, beta models have been created and are undergoing rigorous testing in Lexcorp's labs. ANI, as described in a press release from Lexcorp, will be like a gaming platform in the form of a book, which can be loaded with various story cartridges (each sold separately). The device allows for an 'immersive reading experience', placing the 'reader' in a simulated realistic environment, taken from the story itself using holographic imagery."
Crane still didn't look up.
"The user selects a character to 'play' and lives out the storyline 'in their skin'. Thus far, the story cartridges have been adapted from classic stories which are in the public domain. Alice in Wonderland, the Wizard of Oz and several fairy tales have found their way into the database, but contemporary authors have been contacted for more mature story cartridges, including romance and horror novelists."
At the special emphasis the Captain put on the word 'horror', Crane's pen stopped scratching along the surface of his paper. His mind careened into several different directions, all of which had to do with just how this new technology could enhance the effects of his fear toxin…
The Captain continued, seemingly not noticing Crane's disinterest had fled to be replaced by the proverbial light bulb flickering on over his head.
"When asked how exactly the devices work, Lexcorp's technology division cited confidentiality agreements and hit us with 'no comment' all around."
"Big surprise," Al commented under her breath, reading over the Captain's shoulder.
"We contacted Wayne Industries to talk with a representative for the technology development department about how they felt at WI about losing so much ground in this new form of entertainment technology, and they were gracious enough to provide us with a response," the Captain took a breath and went on, "'We at Wayne Industries believe in the betterment of humankind and the world we inhabit. A Novel Idea may be just that, but it is an escape from the problems that plague our planet, not a means of solving them. We wish Lex Luthor the best of luck with his new endeavor, but we have no interest in holographic technology used solely for entertainment purposes.' If Wayne Industries has dropped out of the holographic entertainment race, it's assured that Lexcorp will have a monopoly on this corner of the technological market. Look for further updates on the development of this exciting new technology in future issues."
The Captain lowered the magazine, staring straight ahead of herself thoughtfully. "Neat."
"Neat?" Techie squeaked the squeak of the indignant. "They're developing a portable holodeck and all you can say is NEAT?!"
The Captain shrugged. "Well, it is neat."
Techie flailed and somehow wound up at the Captain's side, one arm wrapped around her shoulder and the other outstretched in front of her, as though indicating a landscape in front of her that only she could see.
"Think of it, Captain," Techie said excitedly, moving her hand slowly in front of herself as though a marquee was being stretched out beneath it, "living out a novel. Any novel. You could be Scarlett O'Hara--"
The Captain shrugged again. "Meh."
Techie drew in close, almost cheek to cheek with the other woman and Al had the most ridiculous urge to start calling her Biallystock. "You could be Laura Ingalls."
The Captain's eyes went all shiny and the dopiest grin that had ever graced her face in all the years Crane had known her spread with such abandon he almost found it infectious.
"I could be Laura Ingalls," she repeated dreamily before coming to her senses, shaking her head and looking at the madwoman at her side. "But they're just in the beta testing stage. There's no way to know if they'll ever make it to mass market or not."
Techie's eyelids slid to half mast and she rapped on the Captain's forehead with her knuckles. "Hello? Criminals here. We don't have to wait for the mass market models."
"We could steal a beta model!" the Captain gasped suddenly…apparently, her brain wasn't firing on all eight cylinders this afternoon. "But…beta models are buggy."
Techie drew back without removing her arm from around the Captain's shoulders. "The bugs are what make life interesting."
And that was the statement that started the snowball rolling downhill.
It took two weeks for the Plan (it was such a major thing that it deserves capitalization) to be finalized and another two to convince the Scarecrow to come along for the ride. He fought his henchgirls more out of habit than anything else--habit and the desire to keep what dignity he could--because he was genuinely interested in what the technology could offer him personally but didn't want to admit to the desire to tag along.
Lexcorp's laboratory in Gotham was much smaller than the facility the company maintained in Metropolis, but what it lacked in size it made up for in security. The Captain, Al and Techie spent the two weeks worth of planning sleeplessly working out every possible entrance, exit and liability that the lab had to offer and after a great deal of work, finally found a hole in the building's defenses large enough for them to cautiously slip through.
And so, exactly one month after the birth of their initial idea, Operation Sneaky-Pants (Al was not allowed to name their operations ever again) commenced.
Getting into the lab went off without a hitch, amazingly enough, even though they were a traveling group of not-so-stealthy four; the real trouble started when they actually made it into the lab's storage facility.
Techie had never looked so enraptured as when Al hit the lights and flood light after flood light shimmered on, acting as spotlights on countless display cases and lab tables, wires, circuit boards and pieces of unidentifiable technology scattered everywhere.
"It's like heaven," she whispered reverently, blinking so rapidly that Crane wondered if she were forcing back honest to God tears.
"Focus," he said irritably, forcing her to snap back to reality, "We're looking for the ANI device, remember?"
"Right. Yeah. ANI." She shook herself and headed towards one of the tables, her eyes flickering over everything in sight, studying each piece and moving on when she ascertained that it wasn't what they were looking for. "If I was a portable holodeck, what would I look like?"
"Ha!" The Captain picked up something that looked like a half straightened slinky and wriggled it. "Spengler was here."
The other two women giggled at the joke that had obviously gone over Crane's head but a sharp look sent them both back into silence.
It passed this way for several minutes, picking up various items, studying them for a few seconds and then setting them aside, before finally, Al let out a triumphant cry and flailed her arms as she stood in front of a display. "I think I found it!"
The Captain, Techie and Crane all approached, got close enough to see that something which resembled a fine leather bound notebook with a two inch screen set into its cover, before the unthinkable happened.
Even as he walked towards Al, curiously peering over her shoulder as he went, she reached out, brushed her fingers across the screen…
And in a flash of bluish light…