Disclaimer: I do not own any of the copyrighted materials contained herein. They are the rightful property of their respective creators and associated companies. I make no profit from this whatsoever and have no intention of changing this at any point in the future. I write fanfic because it's fun and because there are those who enjoy reading my work. Therefore I would appreciate it if no one took any legal action against me. I can promise you that whatever you get from me won't cover even a tenth of your legal fees.

A Week Later, Forge Industries Warehouse, Evening, Bette's POV

"Well, it's been a week and my folks haven't yelled at me even once," she said after taking a deep gulp from her water bottle. "I guess Kate's decided to keep the secret."

"Or she's giving us enough rope to hang ourselves with," Xander said before taking a sip from his own bottle. "Either way, at least we got a chance to get hot and sweaty together!"

He bobbed his eyebrows after saying that and she couldn't help but chuckle in response, given the two different ways he words could've been interpreted. It was fun talking with him and the quality of his quips made it amusing to keep up with him when she tried. She wasn't quite at his level but every once and a while she managed to toss him a curveball that forced him to stop and think before firing back. Just like everything else he was teaching her, though, she was determined to not only master it but also eventually make him look like an amateur by comparison. After they finished taking their breather she waited to see what the next part of the training would be. Before the break she'd proven to his satisfaction that she could match him in hand-to-hand. With no way to up the ante, he'd decided to move things up to the next stage in the training but hadn't told her what that'd be, so she was curious as to what he had in mind. Looking about the warehouse, the only thing that came close to a clue was that he'd rearranged some of the machinery and the storage crates. She didn't see a pattern or anything that'd help her fill in the blanks but she made sure to look at everything just in case it proved to be important.

"Okay, so you've proven you can fight me to a stalemate for a solid hour of nonstop fighting." He went over to the computer and began typing, "Thing is the Bat's proven there's something to be said about being sneaky and getting the drop on all the hired muscle. To help you work on that I've laid out a series of sound sensors at random spots throughout the warehouse and set them to give off a beep if you make enough noise that your average minion will hear it. I've also scattered some stuff like broken glass, loose screws and anything else I could think of that you might accidentally step on in a bad guy base. You'll basically be moving through a set route marked by arrows to get from point A to point B without triggering a single sensor."

"Sounds tough," she said, not having much experience sneaking aside from the usual 'sneaking out' all teenagers did.

"It'll get harder once you start getting the hang of it," he said with a smile that did not bode well for her. "I plan on adding things like time limits and dummies with head-cams in later on. By the time we're done, even Batman'll be taking notes so he become just as much a ghost as you."

"Joy!" she groaned sarcastically, not looking forward to how hard that'd be.

"You'll manage. And if nothing else you'll be able to slip out of the house whenever you want."

All of a sudden some of the lights hanging from the ceiling turned off, leaving a random smattering of them still on throughout the building.

"Oh, didn't I mention that some of the lights will be off to mimic the inside of a gang's HQ?" he asked, sounding a little smug. "You might have a tough time seeing what's on the ground, so be careful where you step."

Giving him a light glare to show that she didn't find his new training regime all that amusing, she looked around and spotted what looked like the starting point of the sneak path. Taking a couple of deep breaths to calm herself, she waited for Xander's go signal before beginning her first attempt. Using every trick she'd ever learned about sneaking out of the house, she began to move forward at a reasonable pace as far as she was concerned.

BEEP

"Back to the start, Bette."

A bit annoyed with not even getting twenty feet before tripping a sensor, she shrugged, let go of the annoyance and moved back to the starting point of the route. A minute later he signaled her to start again and this time she upped her level of caution and care as she proceeded along the path designated by the arrows. While she did manage a bit better this time, making it twenty three feet before a sensor went off, it was still not what she'd been aiming for and she hated missing her mark.

"Remember that controlling how you walk is important. Move in crouched position and try to absorb the weight of your steps with your knees like you'd absorb jumping from a big height," Xander said typing away at his keyboard. "Controlling your breathing is a good idea too since panting or human type breathing might tip off the bad guy."

"How do you know that?" she asked, surprised that he'd have such info.

"Experience slipping out of my own home, a little bit of help from the same guy I learned hand-to-hand from and I Googled it."

"You do know you can't believe everything you read on the internet, right?" she asked, grinning back at him.

"Maybe not but there's gotta be enough truth there for a guy like me to find if I dig deep enough." He said before tapping a few keys, "Now give it another go and remember what I said."

With a nod she went back to the starting point, determined to get a handle on the whole sneaking around bit in half the time Xander probably thought it'd take her.

For the next three hours she worked at reaching the end of the route that her boyfriend had laid out with arrows and for three hours she met with as much frustration as she did success. By the time that she had to go home or risk her parents getting suspicious about where she was, she'd managed to get within ten feet of the finish line. Not the most brilliant conclusion but it was still encouraging and her belief that she would manage to master stealth still remained strong. She had made it this far in the first day and she was confident that tomorrow night she'd manage to finish the course so she could see what the next obstacle course held for her.

I'll kick ass, take names and be out in costume in no time at all, she thought with a smile even as got into the cab to head home. Just you wait and see!

Two Weeks Later, Approaching 2041 Mayer Avenue, Afternoon, Xander's POV

"So what's this big place you wanted to show me?" he asked as they walked down the street arms locked at the elbow.

"It's a surprise. Besides, you're the one that wanted to take the day off from training," Bette said with a smile of anticipation on her face.

"Yeah, but that was only because you managed to clear every stealth scenario I could come up with," he said as he tried to spot their destination. "I figured after clearing 'kicking ass 101' and 'sneaky stealthing 202', you deserved a day off to do whatever you wanted."

"And this is what I wanted to do: spend the day with my boyfriend and take him to a special place I know about." Her smile never left her face even for a moment.

"You do know that they only do girls at those fancy beauty salons, right?" he asked with a bit of humor in his voice.

"It's NOT a beauty salon!" she said with a bit of a chuckle at his bit of humor. "It's just a place I know about that I thought you'd like to see."

"You found the dynamic duo's favorite donut shop?" he asked, still feeling rather humorous all things considered.

"NO!" she exclaimed before slapping him in the chest and giggling. "Just wait and see."

With a mock sigh he did as asked but, when she finally came to a stop in front of an old two story brick building that, while not ready for the wrecking ball, had definitely seen better days. Either someone had decided to skimp on the maintenance budget or wherever the owner was getting his/her money from was coming up dry.

"O-kay… it's a nice building… very nice architecture…" he said, unable to figure out what his girl wanted him to see.

"Above the doorway!" she said shaking her head at his humor. "The sign!"

Directing his eyes to the spot specified area, he saw a somewhat faded stone sign with the letters J, S and A engraved into it. From what he could tell, whoever had made the sign had put some effort into making the letters look stylish yet readable. Nevertheless, he was still having a bit of trouble figuring out what was so big about the building that it had Bette thinking it'd be a good place to go on their day off. Looking back at her, it soon became clear that she was determined to wait until he managed to figure it out himself so he directed his gaze back to the building and kicked his brain into high gear.

Okay… well, the smartest move would be to take Bette's interests and see how they could apply to this building. He pondered the possibilities, Well, she's got it bad for the whole spandex set, more specifically the dynamic duo, so maybe this place is connected to them somehow?

Looking about, he tried to spot signs of a grapple gun being used or maybe a Batarang or something else used by Batman and Robin but it was kinda hard without having some forensic gear on hand. Remembering all the times that his girlfriend had brought scrap books or her laptop to show him all she had about Gotham's headlining team of superheroes, he still couldn't place the building in front of him. Mentally shaking his head, he wondered if perhaps he wasn't focusing too much on the dynamic duo and missing something that would be embarrassingly obvious to everyone else. Bette seemed to think that the key was the sign so he gave it another look. The letters were obviously an acronym of some kind, so he just had to figure out what they all stood for and how they were connected to the spandex crew.

Obviously nothing to do with the League, so maybe an earlier group? The light switched on in his head since there were only a handful of hero groups that predated the Justice League.

"This is the Justice Society of America's HQ!" he exclaimed as the building before him became much more interesting.

"Yep! Well, one of them anyways," Bette said, her smile growing in response to him putting together the pieces. "They also had a few buildings in New York that served as HQ but this is the main one that the founding members used right before they 'died' or retired."

"I can sense the quotation marks so I take it you don't think they actually died."

"Nope! For one thing there was no story in any of the newspapers about a supervillain or natural disaster after they 'died' and anything powerful enough to kill most of the Justice Society would've definitely have made the newspapers. I'm betting they got sent to some freaky magic place where they have to fight this demon to keep it from coming to Earth and to make sure no one followed them and messed things up, the team members that came back said that they had 'died'."

"Maybe it was just some top secret government thing and so a gag order was put on the whole thing and they really did die?" he suggested, taking the role of devil's advocate for a moment.

"Not possible. Every 'dead' member of the Justice Society was a war hero that fought in World War two. No way would they have kept their deaths quiet or as low key as they did," she said, shaking her head in the negative. "It would've been too good a P.R opportunity for them to pass up if some foreign government secret project killed them. Even if there was some reason for them to cover it all up, it's been a little over forty years since they vanished. You'd think that'd be enough waiting and that they'd release the truth to the public."

"I dunno. I'm no expert on the whole mad scientist doomsday thing but, depending on what they were fighting, it could take a thousand years before it's safe to talk about it." He noticed the look she was giving him and changed direction, "But then again you could be right! Still, if it is some magical demony thing, it'd probably be best not to mess with it. If every movie and TV show involving magic that I've seen is right, you could end the world trying to bring them back."

"Like I'd even know where to start with something like that!" she said, sounding surprised that he even thought she was considering such action. "ANYway, this place was converted into a museum dedicated to the Justice Society after they disbanded and was a popular tourist place for decades. But like a lot of things that happened in the fifties, not a lot a people care about the old place anymore or about a bunch of old superheroes. Why should they when they have the brand new Justice League?"

"It's a sad thing when people forget the classics in favor of a flashy new package," he said, nodding in agreement with his girlfriend's emotions.

The fact was that he himself tended to be wowed by new packaging just as much as the next person… but he kept that little point to himself.

"Got that right. As a result of people forgetting about the heroes of old, not a lot of traffic goes through this place anymore. The caretaker, Miss Lawrence, does the best she can to make ends meet but you can tell that things are getting pretty tight here." The two of them began to walk up to the front door, "It's why I try to come here at least once a month, pay the admission fee and get something from the gift store to help her pay the bills. It won't stop the downward spiral but every little bit helps, ya know."

He couldn't help but smile at his girlfriend's generosity and, as they entered the building, he could see some of the reasons she had for wanting to keep this place going. While there were the standard clichéd signs and posters that most museums had, the rest told the story of a group of heroes that'd come together to do what no single hero could do on their own. Pictures hung on the walls showing various memorable events that the Justice Society played a part in, as well as various framed newspaper articles. Seeing an old woman who was easily in her seventies sitting behind an obvious admissions desk, he immediately pegged her as the caretaker of the place.

"Back for another visit, Bette?" Miss Lawrence asked in the informal manner consistent with friendship.

"Yep, and this time I brought a friend of mine so you can show someone new around." Bette replied with a friendly smile on her face. "Xander Lensherr, meet Miss Libby Lawrence."

"Nice to meet you, Miss Lawrence," he said, shaking her hand before doing something a little extra. "I can see that the owner of this place must've decided some eye candy was needed to draw in the customers. If I'd known you were in here, I'd probably have come anyways!"

Bette slapped him in the arm even though she gave off muffled chuckle but Miss Lawrence laughed out loud.

"Well now, isn't he the charmer!" Libby said with great humor in her voice. "I take it this is your boyfriend then, Bette? He's definitely a keeper!"

"I like to think so," Bette said as she ceased chuckling. "So howsabout we give him grand tour of the place? Show them how heroes did things in the good old days."

"Well, I'd be delighted." Miss Lawrence said as she took the admission fee from Bette.

With that he took a trip into the past and learned more about one of the first super hero teams America ever had then any school could match.

Forge Industries Warehouse, Morning, Eighteen Days Later, Bette's POV

"Well… you've done okay, I guess… with all the training I've put you through… so… I guess it's time to show you your gear!" Xander said, purposefully dragging out the big event just so he could see her squirm.

She didn't get mad at him because she'd expected him to do this and would've done the same thing in his position.

Nevertheless she was excited at seeing what he'd managed to make for her when she was away at classes because, according to him, once she did a short bit of training with her gear he'd give her the okay to start patrolling Gotham City as Flamebird. That's the name she'd chosen for herself when she'd originally made the decision to become a costumed crime fighter rather than a police officer or a prosecutor. She'd even designed her entire costume's appearance to reflect that name using colors associated with fire and adding a cape that was cosmetically made to resemble the wings of a bird. He'd told her a few times during the training that he'd had to make some changes to the design in order to make everything fit properly but that it was still the same basic design. She'd contemplated being a bit angry with that but figured that he wouldn't have made the changes if they weren't necessary and, so long as they weren't a dramatic deviation from what she wanted, she'd let it slide.

"First I'll show you your costume and then we'll move onto all the gear that goes with it." He led her over to what looked like a training dummy with a blanket covering it up.

With a bit of showmanship he reached up and in one yank pulled the blanket off to reveal his creation and she had to admit while she could spot the changes, they weren't drastic enough for her to do more than think 'huh' about. Starting from the top she could see the mask was definitely like Kid Flash's in it'd let her hair come out of the top and left everything from the bottom of her nose to the bottom of her jaw exposed but covered every other part of her head. She could also see metal disk things roughly where her ears would wind up but flame shaped feather engravings kept it from looking to odd and she could see bits that made her think this is where her communications gear would be. The lenses that'd cover her eyes were a bit more opaque than she'd thought they'd be but she could still make out the surface of the dummy beneath, so she figured that she'd be able to see through easily enough.

"Well, as you can see, I stuck with your original design for the mask but had to make some allowances in order to fit the communications gear in there as well as the lenses. As far as the former, it'll serve the dual purpose of letting you get in contact with me here at Phoenix Fortress in case you need some research done and it'll let you tap into the police band without hindering your hearing any. The metal the disks are made out of is reasonably durable but if someone comes at you with a crowbar or sledge hammer, I wouldn't get hit there if you want to send out an SOS. As for the lenses, you'll be able to see through them just fine and this side of them has been rigged to give off a two second flash of light strong enough to blind a person even if they have sunglasses on. If they have welding goggles or something like that, though, don't even bother using this feature."

"Got it!" she said, committing what he was telling her to memory.

"However the cool thing about the lenses is what I managed to pull off on the sides facing your eyes. Originally I didn't think I'd be able to do it without borrowing a few things from Lex Luthor or S.T.A.R labs but, with a little creative thinking, I managed. On the inside of the lenses you'll have a mini-HUD that will allow for zoom options, night vision and infrared as well as let you take snap shots of whatever you're looking at. Each feature has been set to activate according to you blinking one or both of your eyes in the right pattern so you'll have to commit that to memory," he said, continuing his explanation with a bit of pride in his voice. "Now as far as the main part of the costume, I pretty much took the basic form of a ladies wetsuit and added to it. It's solid dark red for the most part, ending below the knees and elbows and made out of fabric of my own design that's a step above type four bulletproof vests. It's pliable enough that you won't have any trouble moving in it but more importantly it'll keep your insides on the inside."

Reaching out, she touched the fabric and had to admit that while it looked like normal cloth, her sense of touch hinted at how durable it really was. She'd have to do a bit more research to find out what type four bulletproof vests could take but if this was a step above that then she'd be safe enough going out at night.

"Boots are made of the same material and, yes, I made them that long so they'd overlap with the wetsuit and not leave any skin exposed. Having two layers around the knees will provide some padding and make sure anyone planning on kneecapping you with their gun will need to find something with a little more oomph if they want to be successful." He bent over and tapped the toe of the right boot, "Steel toed for that extra bit of ball busting damage and rubber bottoms of my own design that should take the edge off of any sudden stops from leaping off a roof or something. The gloves, though, are something you'll probably be playing with for hours just 'cause they're so cool and all."

"What do you mean?" she asked, curious as to what her boyfriend thought she'd find so fascinating.

Taking the right glove off the dummy and handing it to her, she did as he asked and was a bit surprised at how well it fit her. Like the boots they went over the bottom of the wetsuit's sleeves, ending at just past the elbow, cut in such a way so as to look like the tips of a lit torch. Once she had it on, he brought her arm up to chest level, slid a part of the metal band that was at the wrist portion of the glove back to reveal a button/socket combo and then pressed the button. It was then she got her first inkling of what Xander had meant when he'd said that she'd be playing with this for hours.

Flashing into existence about an inch above the forearm part of her glove was what could only be a holographic keyboard and screen that looked like something straight from a sci-fi movie.

"Yep, your eyes do not deceive you! It's a genuine and functional holo-screen and keyboard combo that's fully functional with zero glitches to worry about. You'll need to hook it up to your belt to do more than your average cell phone programs but that'll come later." Icons appeared on the holo-screen, "Using some notes from a friend, I managed to put together some basic hack programs, decryption programs as well as a few other odds and ends. They'd probably get laughed at by any professional hackers and computer geeks but they'll be fine until something better comes along. If you know of any pros on those fields, have them whip something up for you and I'll put'em into your suit."

As a matter of fact she did know a few people who hacked for fun so it shouldn't be too hard for her to get them to write her up a couple of programs for things like passwords and firewalls. As for encryption, she figured that if they could break encryption to get into computers then they could go the other way as well. It'd probably take a couple of weeks with classes and all but it'd be cool.

"I also incorporated into the other glove three mini spikes in the palm that'll let you send a couple thousand volts into a creep you're fighting. Be warned this'll drain your batteries a lot quicker than just hacking or doing CPU stuff." Xander took the other glove off the dummy to show her the additions it had, "I'm working on interchangeable battery packs for it so you can just slap a new one in when the old one's dry but it'll take a while. Now let's get to the number one fashion accessory of all non-powered heroes: the utility belt."

Taking the golden metal belt off the dummy he laid it out on a nearby table so she could see all of it. "The belt is titanium so you won't have to worry about it breaking or tearing at a crucial moment. There are about seventeen compartments in total of various sizes so you'll have to put some thought into what you'll be bringing out with you beforehand." He opened the first compartment, "Most of the stuff here is just like what Batman and Robin have in their belts, things like a grappling hook with a high tensile strength line, gas bombs, a gas mask, flares, a mini-flashlight, plastic zip ties and throwing discs that're like your version of the batarangs. There aren't many of them because, in order to make them heavy enough to do any good, I had to make them bigger so you won't be able to carry many."

"No problem. Like my mom's always telling me, quality is better than quantity," she said, eyes lighting up as her boyfriend took each item out of the belt.

"Smart woman. You obviously take after her," he said with a wink that made her blush at the compliment a bit. "We also got some electrified bolas, a few tracking devices that you can monitor on your glove computer and two batons that when you connect them can elongate into a staff. Don't know if you know how to use them but I figure it'd give you a way to keep the baddies at a distance if things get rough."

Seeing the mentioned batons, she decided that it was time to show Xander she knew all too well how to use them. Picking both batons up, she immediately began performing a kata she'd been taught before managing to connect the rods together on the first try and shifting into a series of moves for a staff. She of course had to end it by coming within an inch of hitting him in the head but she was sure she'd gotten her point across.

"O-kay! Definitely don't have to worry about you knowing how to use those," Xander said with his eyes never leaving the metal staff an inch from his nose. "That's pretty much everything except for the cape but that just snaps onto some clasps on your shoulders. Same material as the rest of the suit but the clasps are rigged to let the cape go if too much force is put on them, like say some muscle man grabbing onto it so he can pull ya his way. Sure, it might be handy if your cape got caught on something and saved you from a nasty fall but I'd say the cons outweigh the pros of a cape that doesn't come off easy."

"Definitely," she said, taking a closer look at the cape clasps.

"So what do you think?" he asked, waiting to see what grade she'd give his work.

Deciding actions spoke louder than words, she decided to answer his question that way rather than with words. Using the same speed she'd utilized in their hand-to-hand combat training, she grabbed a hold of his head and pulled him into the hottest kiss she was capable of. Separating after three full minutes of breathing through her nose, she smiled at the goofy look on his face for the few seconds it lasted before his brain re-engaged.

"I'll take that as an A plus." he said with love clearly in his eyes.

"Care to go for extra credit?" she asked, feeling pretty damn playful after seeing all the new toys she'd get to play with.

Mirroring her actions from moments earlier, he grabbed the back of her head and pulled her into a kiss that positively made her toes curl.

Needless to say training with the new gadgets ended up having to be put off until tomorrow night.

Nine Days Later, Forge Industries Warehouse, Morning, Xander's POV

Nothing in the newspapers yet but she's still new, so it might take a while for the newshounds to pick up her scent. He thought as he finished going through the last of the top three newspapers in Gotham City.

Last night had been Bette's premier night as Flamebird and, while not as flashy as maybe taking down someone from Batman's Big Bad list, lives had been saved and crooks had been sent to jail. Some of the goons had managed to score a hit but his protective gear worked as advertised and she barely felt a thing. Better yet, when she came back to the warehouse and changed back into her civilian clothes, there hadn't been any inconvenient bruises that Bette might've had to explain to her parents at home. He'd gently reminded her that while fists and feet might not be able to leave their mark on her, the same likely couldn't be said for lead pipes or bullets. Of course she'd been too jazzed by her first night kicking lawless baddie ass to really listen but he was sure she already knew to be careful.

Going over to his main worktable, he began to go over her gear to see if there was any damage that warranted his attention or items that needed replenishing. Bringing over the magnifying lens attached to the metal arm, he began to go over every single inch of the equipment, looking for any and all flaws or signs that his prototypes might need tweaking. While he was pretty sure of the science behind it all and his Magneto memories confirmed his science, it had been his first time making stuff like this so it was smart to be both careful as well as thorough.

Especially since Bette's life depended on everything working precisely as advertised.

It took him a little over an hour and a half to finish his inspection and he was happy to say that, aside from a few scratches, nothing needed to be repaired. He'd already made plenty of spares for the gas bombs and the other things that'd be too much of a pain to pick up after a fight, so Bette wouldn't have any trouble stocking back up for the next time she went out. In fact, assuming she didn't waste anything in the field, it'd be at least two weeks' worth of patrols before he'd have to make a fresh batch of the expendable parts of her gear.

Looks like everything is good on this end, he thought before putting all the gear back on the dummy before throwing the blanket over it.

Someday he'd build some sort of case or high tech gym locker for it but for now a simple blanket to keep it hidden would be enough.

With that part of his support job done, he moved on to the second part and that was something he didn't much like no matter how necessary it might be: Research.

Specifically he needed to research things like crime hotspots in the city and try to come up with a more comprehensive map of all the various criminal territories, especially those belonging to the super criminals. While all the crime bosses were dangerous, the super criminals were often more than a little mentally unstable and, in his mind, that made them at least one level of dangerous higher than the rest. After all the normal crime bosses you could more or less figure out if you treated what they did as two parts business one part chest pounding. The super criminals, on the other hand, had mental quirks that could throw off the usual predictions and he didn't think that Bette was ready for them yet anyway.

He also needed to look through the various newspapers on crimes for the last month or two so that he could try to pick up on a pattern if one existed. Sure, he was no master detective but the time he'd spent working with Giles wasn't completely without value as he'd learned a few tricks about researching patterns from various sources. It'd helped them find some vamp lairs as well as predict where a particular demon was likely to strike next. Using these skills, he'd try to predict where the lesser gangs were headquartered as well as what their plans would be for the next few weeks. By gathering info he'd be able to direct Bette where she was needed while at the same time keeping her away from situations that were currently beyond her in terms of skill.

She might be good enough to hold her own against me but I know I'm not the best warrior out there, he thought as he sat down in front of the computer he'd put together from various components. I wasn't able to figure out a way to train her in how to fight multiple opponents at the same time. I need to keep her away from fights where she could wind up biting off more than she can chew.

All he'd been able to do was rig up twelve paintball guns to fire just as quickly as any firearm and equip them with motion tracking targeting systems. He'd done this so she'd get the hang of evading gunfire and she'd managed to get so good that, even on the highest setting he could manage, she had no trouble coming away paint free. He'd also educated her on which materials provided the most durable cover and which things might as well be as strong as paper before an onslaught of bullets. She'd asked him after getting her costume on the first night why he'd bothered with such training if he was going to give her bulletproof clothes. He'd explained to her that, with the resources he had, there was a limit as to how durable he could make her crime fighting uniform and with weapons R&D always on the move, she needed to be ready in case she encountered something her outfit couldn't handle.

Things like energy weapons and projectile weapons that could punch a hole through one side of an armored truck and out the other.

It was fortunate that most of the filth that Bette would be throwing down with didn't have the money or the connections necessary to acquire such high tech killing tools. Most of the scumbags had to rely on conventional firearms or melee weaponry and that was something her uniform could protect her against.

For the rest of the day until the sun had finished setting, he went over every piece of information that was available to anyone with internet access looking for clues. Fortunately, thanks to innovations by Wayne Tech and Luthor Corp, just about everything you could find on paper you could also find online if you knew where to look. Newspapers going back thirty years, articles from scientific journals, books on just about any subject and various discussion groups where things were debated from various angles. True, you had to sift through a fair bit to get at the truth and go even further to see what everyone else missed but it wasn't like he had much else to do. By the time he heard the door open to admit Bette so that she could get ready for her patrol, he had a few spots she could check out reconnaissance style plus a few others where he believed someone was going to try something.

"Got my work schedule for the night?" Bette asked as she walked over to stand behind him and look at the computer screen.

"Yep. A few spots to look over and a few others where you'll find some scumbags that need to see the bottom of your boots real soon." He brought up a map where each location was marked with a different color and where timing was important he put when she should be there next to the dot.

"Looks like I'm going to have a busy night," she said, looking at each colored dot and the location it denoted. "Good thing the weekend starts tomorrow 'cause I'm going to be sleeping like the dead tomorrow morning."

"Such is the price of fighting crime costume style in, Gotham City," he said with mock drama in his voice as he placed a hand to his chest. "Long hours, occasional overtime, lousy benefits and the paycheck ain't worth the paper it's printed on."

His girlfriend chuckled long and loud at that before going over to her costume to take it off the dummy and heading for the bedroom that he'd build into the eastern wall of the building. It was her usual spot to change, whether it was into her training clothes or, as it was likely to be from there on out, her costume.

"Want me to come help?" he asked with mock hopefulness and his usual lopsided grin.

"Nah! If you came in with me, we might never leave!" she replied with her own sense of humor as she opened the door to the room.

"And the problem with that is?" he asked, sounding like it was a win-win situation.

To this she merely laughed before she closed the door and muffled any sounds by multiple layers of wood.

Life is good!

Three Weeks Later, Late Evening, The Rooftops of Gotham City, Bette Kane aka Flamebird's POV

I think I'm finally getting the hang of this, she thought as she successful leapt from one rooftop to the one next to it like a professional superhero would.

Indeed it had been a little over three weeks since she'd first stepped out into the night in costume and, while there'd been a few missteps in the beginning, she was finally getting to the point where using her gear was becoming second nature to her. She no longer had to think about how it was supposed to be used in order to use it effectively in a fight. Another month or two of this and she'd be ready to team up with the Dynamic Duo.

Until then she'd continue to patrol the hotspots and potential targets that Xander managed to dig up sifting through the internet and the newspapers for clues. Like her, he'd made a few mistakes and sent her to places where nothing happened all night, but his success rate was definitely on the rise since, the night before, only one of his leads didn't pan out. As a result, the two of them were beginning to make a dent in Gotham's crime rate and just three days ago she'd gotten her first piece of promising press thanks to her putting a stop to a group of thugs trying to set up a protection racket. A civilian witness had managed to snap a picture of her as she swung away back to the rooftops and, as usual, every newspaper with deep enough pockets had it in their next edition. No news channels yet but she figured it was only a matter of time before she could flip on the TV and see a report on some crime she'd managed to stop.

Depending on how good the picture turned out to be, she might need to fill her parents in on the truth whether she wanted to or not. While she could indeed hope for the press to get nothing but blurry clips from cameras or fuzzy photographs, she knew that that kind of luck wouldn't last forever. When that luck ran out, either she'd have to fess up before they found out or deal with the potential 'you lied to us' lectures afterwards. Considering how her parents would likely freak out when they found out their little girl was fighting crooks with guns, knives and various other dangerous things, adding lying to the mix would only make things worse. At least if she came clean before things hit TV they'd probably only ground her for a month or two. If she let them find out on their own, she'd probably be grounded for twice as long and they'd forbid her to ever see Xander again.

That was not something she was willing to let happen.

Ever since she'd first met him, she'd felt something… compelling about him and, as time passed, her reasons for liking him had only grown. Now he was firmly in the boyfriend category and she was not about to let anything separate the two of them, not if she had anything to say about it! In fact she'd been considering for a while whether or not it was time to move their relationship to the next level but something always interrupted her contemplations. So far she'd only let things go as far as second base with Xander but, given how she felt for him, she might be willing to take things to third base once they hit a dry spell in the local crime level. True, when it came to Gotham City there was never really anything you could call a 'dry spell' but she knew it'd only be a matter of time before Xander figured they could use a break or three.

She was about to think more on the issue when she heard the sound of breaking glass nearby and immediately shelved her relationship status for later contemplation.

Immediately putting to use the stealth skills she'd learned running Xander's evil, evil, EVIL courses, she crept over to the edge of the roof and peered down at where she believed the sound had come from. Just as she'd suspected, a group of minions were breaking into what looked to be a Wayne Enterprises owned building and, considering all their outfits matched, they weren't freelance minions. They belonged to a gang or worked for one of the super criminals of the world. She didn't recognize the outfit and she'd been a fan of Batman and Robin long enough that she'd recognize the outfits of minions belonging to their usual sparring partners. These guys with their Christmas tree light designs on their clothes, as well as a few functional little light bulbs stitched in at random spots, were definitely new to the city.

Guess I better lay down a few ground rules for them.

Spotting a second level window that would be big enough for her to slip through she leapt across the gap between buildings and then quickly made her way to it. Normally if she wanted to get inside a place like this she'd see about hacking the security or circumventing it but, given how the goons got in, she figured it was a given that any alarms the place had were already ringing. Nevertheless, she quietly forced the window open and then slipped inside and onto the second level floor. Once inside she looked about and found pretty much what she expected in terms of disorganized desks, cubicles and various other necessities for people who work nine to five jobs for Bruce Wayne. Activating the night vision option on her lenses, the interior of the building became all too easy to see and so she crept towards the stairs that led to the lower levels.

Keeping her ears and eyes open as she descended, she soon reached a door and, after flattening herself against the wall, snuck a peek through the small wired window to see what she'd be walking into. It was something that both she and Xander agreed upon: leaping before looking was not conducive to a long life.

Okay… about eight minions and they seem to be looking for something and fortunately they haven't found it yet. She gave one of them a closer look, Looks like they're armed but don't know whether those things are stun guns or something nastier. Best not to take any chances.

Looking about, she spotted a junction box not too far away and smiled at the plan that formed in her head before she took out one of her electrified bolas. With skill gained from hours of practice, she threw it at the junction box and, just as her boyfriend had explained, when the two ends of the bolas hit each other, the electrical charge was released. True, the weapon was usually wrapped around someone but for her purposes this was good enough because, when the electricity discharge, the lights went off. Once that was done she took out the mini-light and made quick work of the lock on the door before kicking said door open and tossing three smoke bombs into the room with the minions. The smoke bombs were both for taking away what remained of the light in the room and distract the minions for a couple of seconds. Using the eye blink command to switch her lenses to infrared, she dashed in and began to kick some serious ass using a combination of what she'd known before Xander and what he'd shown her during training.

She did what she could to keep her moves from venturing into traction or ICU territory because Batman would never go that far with scum like this. He'd use the minimum force needed to take them out and then tie them up for the police to find so that was what she was going to do as well. Fortunately for her in fights like these there were no rules about where you could or could not hit your opponent so, after she dropped her third guy and the fourth one looked a little too muscled for her, she went for the family jewels. Running towards him she dropped into a baseball slide at the last minute, went between his legs and slammed her fist into his nuts as hard as she could. She couldn't help but smile at the squeak the brutish looking minion gave out before dropping to his knees but, taking pity on him, she kipped up to her feet and delivered a round house kick right to the side of the guy's head.

BZZAAAP!

A shot from one of the weapons wielded by one of the minions still standing barely missed her head and immediately she focused her mind back on the battle rather than her own mental quips. Diving behind a desk, she mentally assesses the weapon being used against her. Obviously energy based so, while her costume might provide some protection, it wouldn't save her from an injury needing hospital level medical care immediately afterwards. If the weapon was anything like the one she glimpsed at when she peeked through the door's wired window, then it was the size of a pistol and therefore would have a limited battery. However, without knowing precisely how many shots could be fired before said battery exhausted itself, it'd be too dangerous to wait for the creep to run dry.

BZAAAP!BZAAAP!

Plus it looked like whoever outfitted the minions saw fit to give them more than one of the energy pistols and that sent waiting for them to run dry right out the window. That meant she had to disarm them as quickly as possible and then move in for the final blow before they could pick the weapons up again. Using one of her three remaining discs to divert their attention, she peeked over the top of the desk to get a look at their faces. She smiled as they saw that none of them had anything like welder's goggles on or anything even remotely similar, so she triggered the light flare option on her optics. Thanks to the darkness she'd plunged them in to, they were blinded by the light show and they froze as their minds tried to deal with this change.

She didn't give them time to adapt.

Two precision throws, honed against training dummies back at the warehouse, and her remaining disks succeeded in knocking the weapons from the hands of the two minions who'd been firing at her. She hopped onto the desk and quickly leapt from one to another to cross the distance the quickest so that, by the time they recovered, she was right on top of them. Lining up the closest one, she delivered a kick that would've done an NFL field goal kicker proud right to the goon's jaw, knocking him out cold. With a simple reposition of her planted foot she brought the same leg down hard on another minion's head, executing a professional axe kick to the skull. This left her with five minions to deal with but thankfully none of them had energy weapons like the two she'd just taken out.

Just a bunch of shock sticks and baseball bats. Nothing I can't handle.

Bringing her only remaining electrified bola out, she swung it around and built up momentum before throwing it at the goons who seemed to be holding their weapons a little too closely. Wrapping with speed greater than could easily be followed by the naked eye, the weapon soon discharged its electrical cargo and, since both weapons were steel bats, their wielders soon got a nasty jolt.

By that time the remaining three had closed the distance so she pulled out her batons and went to work on them, first aiming to disarm and then moving onto defeating them. She just counted her blessings that the trio of minions didn't have anything resembling formal training but were just swinging their weapons like amateurs. After training with professionals, evading attacks from the minions was barely enough to require that she focus in order to avoid getting hit with a lucky shot. It took about five minutes to take the trio down and, when one of the last two tried his luck, she decided to put her self-made thirty hit combo to use striking the goon as fast as she could until he dropped to the ground.

If I have my counting right there's one more minion to go. Looking about the room for a moment, she eventually spotted her prey. And there he is. Looks like he's trying to find whatever he and his pals were looking for before bugging out. Not going to happen but maybe it's time for a little Q&A.

Charging the guy's position, the minion heard her coming and tried to bring his bat up to fend her off but a blow to his wrist and another to his chest put an end to that idea. Shoving him against the wall with one of her batons pressed against his throat, she did her best to appear more intimidating than extremely beautiful.

"Care to tell me what you and your pals were after?" she growled, sounding like she had a short fuse.

"Fuck you, bitch! I ain't tellin' you anything!" the minion snapped back though with a bit of concern in his voice.

Gotta build on that, she thought before giving the goon a smack in the face. Then, while the minion was dazed, she briefly let him go before turning on her shock glove and grabbing the man's arm with it. Sending a charge equivalent to a police officer's stun gun into the man, she could see the pain on his face but only let it last a couple of seconds before letting him go.

"Wrong answer and for every wrong answer you give me there's a fifty thousand volt penalty," she said before bringing her shock glove towards something a little more… personal. "Plus if you take too long answering my questions, I'll have to get imaginative just to keep myself amused."

Needless to say when the minion considered what part of him would be shocked next if he kept giving her attitude, he became more compliant.

There was not a guy in the world who'd let his manhood get fried just to keep a secret.

"The boss wanted us to break in here and steal some info on some project of Wayne's. Said he had his own plans for it," the minion blabbed, fear clearly in her voice. "Gave us all the things we'd need to get it."

"And what project were you sent to get info on?" she asked before moving her glove a bit closer to the man's family jewels. "What's it called?"

"P-Project Prometheus! It's called Project Prometheus!" the minion replied quickly as his chances for kids in the future was put in danger. "But that's all I know I swear!"

"I believe you," she said before delivering a knockout blow to the guy's jaw sending him off to dream land.

A couple minutes and her entire supply of zip ties later, she was ready to go but then a thought struck her and she picked up one of the energy pistols the goons had.

Better let Xander take a look at this, she thought before exiting the building. He'll probably be able to get some clues from it.

Tucking it beneath her belt, she fired the grapple gun at pipe on a nearby rooftop and let it pull her up so she could climb up onto it. Bringing up her glove computer, she checked her list of places to check out and wondered if she should continue about her patrol or head back to HQ with the energy weapon. In the end though she decided to head back to base rather than continue with her patrol. Xander was still trying to find a frequency for them to communicate over but all the good ones, according to him, were already taken. In any case, if there was some new super criminal in town with his sights set on one of Bruce Wayne's projects, then that took precedent over muggers and gang bangers.

With that in mind she began to make her way back to the warehouse and, while it was still bothersome, she took the indirect route that Xander insisted she use to make sure no one could tail her back to their base of operations.

Better safe than sorry he said.

A waste of time she said.

A Nearby Rooftop

"So what do you think? She pass?" he asked as he watched the crimson clad crime fighter leap from rooftop to rooftop.

Naturally his mentor and partner didn't say anything so he was left to guess what the cowled individual was thinking with regards to the newest vigilante on the block. Personally he thought she was pretty good for a rookie and had gadgets almost as cool as the kind he had and she'd taken out the members of the light brigade pretty quick. He could still spot some holes in her fighting style and had a list of four tips he planned on giving her if they ever talked but, in terms of kicking butt, she got a passing grade from him. 'Flamebird', as the newspapers called her, was also a bit scary with how she got the info out of the last goon but, considering she looked about as intimidating as a Victoria Secret model in her undies, it was probably necessary.

As for the man looming over him, he figured that the guy respected her fighting skills too or else he would've gotten involved in the fight himself. Whether or not that meant he was going to let the young woman continue fighting crime was still up for debate. It was one thing to be able to fight but it took several other skills to fight crime, as well as the correct mindset.

Only time would tell if Flamebird was the full package or not.

Without even a word to him, Batman extended an arm from beneath his cloak and fired off a grapple line before swinging away with his cape fully extended on either side.

Sometimes I wonder if it's chance that his cape does that or if he has it rigged somehow, Robin thought as he followed his mentor's lead and swung towards the next point on their patrol route.

Forge Industries Warehouse, The Next Evening, Xander's POV

"So do you know who made it?" Bette asked as she came out of the bedroom dressed for 'work'.

"Nope; no identification marks on the outside and no numbers on the individual parts that I could've investigated," he replied, gesturing at the disassembled weapon. "However I do have a better idea how the gun works. It uses a series of chemically treated lenses to intensify the initial beam from the back into something strong enough to slice through most civilian available metals. Something like, say, the door to a bank vault or the armor on a large military transport would take something with a little more oomph, though."

"In other words it's pretty high tech and very deadly," she said, sounding like she understood the power behind the weapon better.

"Yep. A good thing you didn't risk taking a direct hit with this thing because I can tell you now it would've carved you up like a Thanksgiving turkey. I've been trying to think up some sort of defense for it but no prototypes so far for you to try out tonight." He tone of voice conveyed the seriousness with which the weapon should be taken.

"Gotcha. No trying to take hits from the deadly laser guns for a couple of weeks," she said, nodding as though making a mental note. "What about that Project Prometheus info I got from the last guy?"

"That I did a little better on. According to what I've dug up the project is being run by the alternative energy division of Wayne Enterprises. Apparently it's a set of satellites that can suck up three hundred percent more solar energy than anything currently available on the market." He brought up an image he'd obtained online, "Once in orbit they'll suck up pure sun energy and then transmit it down to receiving stations planetside before the energy is sent to where ever it needs to go."

"So what would crooks want with clean energy?" she asked, sounding like she had some idea but not much more than that.

"Considering the tech they had, I doubt it's something nice. Could be anything from somehow converting them to orbital death rays to diverting all the energy they collect to some weapon down on the ground. We're going to need to know more." He took a moment to think, "That means either tracking down more of those light bulb idiots for interrogation or having a few words with the head of the project to see what would need to be done to weaponize the satellites or commandeer the ground stations."

"You want me to do that?" she asked, sounding a bit uncertain of that assignment.

"No, I'll do it. You're too new in town for people to just give you answers." He shook his head in the negative, "I'll see if I can pull the 'pretend to be a cop' thing with the project head and get a few answers. If that fails… then it'll probably be time for you to pay a visit to the eggheads."

"Okay. In the meantime I'll shake down a couple of spineless rats I've come across to see if they know anything about our 'enlightened' acquaintances," she said with a smile at her little joke. "It shouldn't be too hard since anyone with an ounce of IQ would keep an eye out for newbies to Gotham, just in case their turf might come under fire."

"Good idea. Just remember 'the enemy of my enemy might just be another enemy rather than your friend'," he said, hoping she wouldn't take anything the scumbags said at face value.

"You and Kate are the only friends I need, Xan," Bette said before she snapped on her utility belt and climbed up to the rooftop access hatch.

Sure, it would be easier just to go out the front door but neither of them wanted this place ousted as Flamebird's HQ any sooner than it had to be. Given that people rarely looked up despite the Batman's habit of using rooftops for travel, it was the best to leave and return without being spotted. He eventually planned on getting her a vehicle once she got her driver's license but it was going to take some time. He was still drawing up the schematics for the whole thing because a lot of it'd be a custom job with a lot of additional features and that meant he'd be doing most of the work. So between designing the thing while at the same time learning the finer points of automobile design, it was going to be awhile.

Turning back to his computer, he did some quick research and found out someone high enough up the ladder at Wayne Enterprise's alternative energy division to have the info he needed but not high enough to be taken seriously if he or she smelled something fishy. It took a bit but he eventually found an employee picture of one Dr. Jonathan Richardson and the guy just screamed 'arrogant asshole who thinks he deserves so much more than he's getting' in his employee photo. The man's credentials were right for what he wished to know and he'd had enough time speaking with Snyder to know how to manipulate people like him. After finding the guy's cell phone number, he dialed it up and listened to it ring.

"Hello?" came a predictably bitter voice once the call was picked up on the other end.

"Dr. Richardson? Detective Victor Storm, GCPD," he said, doing his best to imitate some of the more realistic TV detectives. "I need to ask you a few questions about a project you're working on."

"What for?" Richardson asked, sounding like getting answers was going to be like pulling teeth without anesthetic.

"Last night a group of criminals broke into a Wayne Enterprises facility on Forest Street and our interrogation of the criminals revealed that their boss wanted information on Project Prometheus. Based on the priors and known associations, we think last night was just the first break in of many. Are there any other locations in Gotham where they could access the important information on the project?"

"There might be a few but I'd have to speak with our legal department before I can tell you anything," Richardson replied, sounding polite but his voice was tinged with 'I am going to make this difficult for you'.

"You can do that if you want, doc, but you gotta know that's just going to mean we're going to have to come down there in person for the answers," he said, trying to make it sound like playing hard to get would only draw out the bitter man's suffering. "Now you give me the answers now and you'll never hear from me again. So tell me: which way do you want it?"

He waited and hoped that he'd gotten an accurate read on the guy. If Richardson was anything like Snyder, the man didn't want to have to deal with any more nuisances than necessary and would do whatever the quickest way to get rid of them was. Men like Snyder and Richardson hated anything that kept them from doing what they wanted to do and forced them to do what they didn't want to do.

He hoped.

"Fine. There are only three facilities other than the one on Forest Street where information on the pertinent details of Project Prometheus could be accessed. An assembly factory on Hennesy Road, a Wayne Enterprises information archive on Jones Avenue and home of the project leader Doctor Janice Reese," Richardson said, sounding like he wanted to end this call as soon as possible. "Anything else?"

"What're the odds of someone hijacking or weaponizing the satellites in your opinion?" he asked, deciding to go one step further.

"Hmph! I'd say it'd be impossible for the scum of this city to do either but, on the remote chance they happened to associate with someone of marginal intellect, it might be possible to do the former," Richardson replied, sounding as bothered as ever. "It would be easiest to do so from the command and control room for the project in the Wayne Enterprises compound but if a sufficiently strong transmission disk could be procured, an outside party could seize control remotely."

"Thank you, Doctor. You've been most helpful," he said, deciding that it'd be best not to push his luck.

"Indeed," Dr. Richardson said before hanging up the phone.

"That guy is SO going to get fired!" he said, knowing that a big time company like Wayne Enterprises had to have calls made or received by certain employees monitored for security reasons.

That meant that unless Jonathan Richardson was absurdly lucky, he'd be called up to personnel to answer for blabbing about such important information.

Accessing a map of the Gotham City, he immediately highlighted the locations he'd been given on the map and used one of the hacking programs Bette had acquired to access the building blueprints of each that had been registered with the city. Fortunately for him that particular database didn't have security high enough to cause him any trouble and before long he had the files he needed.

Now I need to find the best methods of entry and figure out where the light bulb brigade will strike next. He began doing his best to predict the orders of the unknown boss. Sometimes I almost wish that I could switch jobs with Bette, even if it meant wearing her costume alteration free.

The Rooftops Heading for the Assembly Factory on Hennesy, The Following Night

Bette Kane's aka Flamebird's POV

I hope Xander's right about this, she thought as she watched her target building get closer. I'd hate for someone to get hurt because I was in the wrong place.

By Xander's reasoning, the factory where the parts for the satellites were made had the highest probability of being targeted next since it'd be easier to weaponize something or seize control of something when you had the same hardware. Add to that the fact that the Batman was likely keeping watch over at least one of the other possible targets and the odds were in favor of the good guys putting a stop to creep crime tonight. Also, if it turned out that one of the locations was broken into and stolen from without interference, then the potential losses would be minimal. If the crooks struck Doctor Janice Reese's they might get the brains behind the project but, without the necessary materials, it would do them little good. Only the factory would bring the crooks closer to acquiring control of the satellites and she was going to make sure they not only didn't take a step forward but she'd be sure to push them back a step or two if she could manage it.

Landing on the roof of the building next to the warehouse, she looked about the immediate area for any signs that someone had beat her to the facility but thankfully all seemed well on the outside. However she couldn't be sure that everything was alright until she got a better read on the interior of the building. Leaping onto the factory rooftop, she made her way to where her boyfriend had told her she could access the security system. Finding the small box tucked in the corner of the roof, she used her lock picks to open it up and then used her glove computer to access it. She was almost willing to go with the opinion that all was well if it wasn't for the unstable readings she was getting from the motion sensors. For about fifty-five seconds of a minute it displayed green but for the remaining five seconds preventing it from being a full minute it flipped to red, indicating unauthorized movement.

Damn. Looks like they were given better tech this time around. She disabled the security on the door closest to her before closing the lid on her access point. Better get in there and show them that it's not the tech that matters but the person using it.

Lowering herself to the ground using her grapple gun, she swiftly ran to the door she'd unsecured and entered the building. She knew she'd likely trip some alarms since the crooks had made it so that only the room they were in was covered but that was okay since that meant the cops would show up to rain on the thugs' parade. If however the false info covered the entire factory then at least she wouldn't have to worry about letting them know she was here until she was right on top of them.

Staying low and always checking before turning a corner or entering a new room, she searched for the trespassers occasionally consulting the floor plan on her computer to see where the important areas were located. In her mind if these guys wanted to get a hold of tech to hijack Project Prometheus then they would either be sifting through the stockroom where all the manufactured parts were stored before being sent wherever they were destined to go or the main manufacturing area. The only reason she was checking the odd room along the way was in case one of the thugs had strayed from the rest of his pack. She could interrogate that stray to see if he knew more than the last thug she'd interrogated or at least she could get the location of his friends.

In the end though there were no strays and that meant either the one leading the group was keeping those lower on the totem pole on a tight leash or they knew precisely where to look for what they wanted. She'd have to mention this to Xander later since to her mind this implied someone on the inside providing info to the thieves.

Something to watch out for just so she didn't get stabbed in the back by someone she thought she was saving.

In the end it turned out that it was the main manufacturing area where she finally found the minions and just like before their outfits looked like someone taped Christmas lights in random places then found a way to light them up. That was the good news. The bad news was that there were twice as many minions this time and it looked like all of them were armed with those laser pistols.

Not good, she thought as she tried to think of some way to turn the odds in her favor.

Fighting them was not an option because even with her usual bag of tricks there was no way she could dodge that many blasts of deadly energy blasts while taking them down at the same time. That meant she had to do something else to disrupt their little party and it was then that inspiration hit her in a way that had her smiling like a kid that'd gotten away with the best prank EVER. Moving away from the main manufacturing area she began to quickly make her way to the security office praying that her idea proved successful.

Upon reaching her destination, she threw open the door to find a single minion manning the monitors and the security systems. She quickly sent him to dreamland and zip tied him before activating her glove computer and connecting once more with the security system. The plan was twofold: first to send false info to any monitoring devices the crooks in the main manufacturing area might have so they don't realize something is up. Phase two would be to undo whatever it was that kept the police from realizing that the place had been broken into. That would cause every squad car within range of the factory to surround the place, thus evening up the odds between her and the seventeen minions she'd spotted minutes ago.

Sure, there was a little danger involved with regards to the police given the firepower that the crooks were packing but she had no choice. She couldn't stop the creeps on her own and the only alternative would be to would be to let them get away with whatever they were planning.

Obviously that was not an option.

Alright! Fake info feed being sent to scumbags, she thought after pressing the final key. Gotta remember to thank Zero Burn for this program. It's working like a charm.

Her hacker friend's program was working well and this freed her up to deal with the second phase of her plan. It didn't take her more than a couple of seconds to find the program that the thugs had entered into the system and with a few simple keystrokes turned it off and the security system was returned to its original settings. Apparently whoever gave these guys the program never thought to program some password protection into it, making it all too easy for her to turn it off.

"Calling all cars in the vicinity of Robertson and Hennesy. Silent alarm sounding at Wayne Enterprises factory," came the voice of the dispatch officer over her ear pieces. "All available units please respond."

Cavalry is on its way. She started severing her connection to the security system. Better see what I can do to make sure there's no organized defense waiting for the boys in blue when they arrive.

Leaving the security room, she ran for the main manufacturing area intent on stirring up some chaos when she got there. Once she arrived at the entrance, she considered her options: Going in through the door wouldn't be enough this time around and it'd be what the goon squad inside would be expecting or at least those with an ounce of sense would be expecting it. Then she recalled how manufacturing areas generally needed good ventilation since there'd be a multitude of fumes coming off their work. It took only a couple of minutes to find a duct and a quick application of her mini-blow torch gained her access so she could begin to crawl through the enclosed space. She wasn't thrilled at this given how vulnerable it left her but it was the only option for entry that she could think of at the moment.

Once she reached a grate that gave her a good view of her target area, she surveyed those below and took comfort in the fact that none of the minions thought anything was amiss. They were still creating or modifying parts on the assembly line and they were putting completed pieces of hardware into cushioned cases. It looked like they still had two cases to fill before they were done and that was just fine with her since that'd give her more than enough time to make sure they never finished. It took a couple of minutes to quietly pry the grate open but then it became all too easy to fling her entire payload of gas bombs into the room below. Xander had taken the basic formula for tear gas and juiced it up a little so that it was even more unpleasant than the normal kind police used. She'd asked him why he thought they needed to be juiced up and he'd said that some of the super criminals of Gotham had stronger constitutions than most, so they needed to go the extra mile to win.

It didn't take long to see the effect her bombs had on the average human as coughs and interrupted exclamations of shock or anger filled the air beneath her. Despite the temptation to enjoy the results of her work, she knew it wouldn't take the creeps below long to figure out where she was so she crawled her way forward. It was just as she reached the grate that led out of the building when the dunce cap candidates opened fire with their energy pistols. It took three punches from her to knock the grating off but she was glad it didn't take four as, a second after she left the ventilation duct, her previous position turned into scrap by multiple energy blasts.

Guess Lady Luck must be on my side tonight, she thought as she climbed up onto the roof just as the first G.C.P.D squad car arrived on the scene.

Deciding that the boys in blue could handle it, she fled the area following the standard indirect route back to her HQ to minimize chances of a pursuer finding it.

Here's hoping there wasn't more than one group of those goons out tonight. Otherwise things are going to get hairy from here on out.

Elsewhere, Hours Later

Again that woman interferes with my plans! he growled as his sources confirmed that attempt by his forces to seize the necessary hardware from Wayne Enterprises had failed.

When he'd come to the city with his brilliant plan, he'd thought that he would only have to contend with the likes of Batman and Robin. While formidable, they were only two and he it would be easy enough to distract them with minor crimes elsewhere so that his true objective could be achieved successfully. However he had not anticipated a third vigilante being thrown into the mix and it had thrown off his plans considerably. If it had not been for his moment of foresight to strike all three potential targets at once, he would have had to call off his entire plan. Thanks to his strike at the Wayne Enterprises archive, he now had all the information he required to seize control of Project Prometheus and that left only the timing for debate.

The prototype of the satellite is due to be launched in one week, he thought as he considered the variables. While I could steal it and then launch it at my own discretion, it would be much easier to allow them to put it into an orbit and then acquire control of it.

Indeed that would be the less costly of the options available to him with the only disadvantage being that there would be heightened security on the day of the launch; both physical impediments in the form of guards and electronic obstacles such as security programs would be in place to slow him down. Nothing he couldn't overcome however it would be bothersome and, if it delayed him to the point where the dynamic duo found him, he may have to abandon the operation. The reputation of Gotham City's defenders was well known to his kind and, while some might allow their arrogance to cause them to underestimate the two heroes, he was far too intelligent for that. He knew that Batman could not have acquired the reputation he had without possessing formidable skill and it was likely his sidekick possessed similar potential. Any plans he made would need to factor in all possible variables with zero room for mistakes when it came to information.

I shall need leverage if I am to negate the interference of Gotham's caped protectors, he thought as he used his abilities to manipulate the holographic screen before him. Something that they will value more than preventing me from reaching my goal or capturing me.

Fortunately he knew that there was always one thing that heroes could never bring themselves to do and that was sacrifice 'innocent people' in order to claim victory.

All that remained was to devise an appropriate method of peril.

Child's play!

One Week Later, Forge Industries Warehouse, Early Afternoon, Xander's POV

"Well, it's been a week since the last robbery and nothing fishy has popped up since then," he said after his latest effort to find a clue failed. "Maybe whoever was behind those robberies just gave up."

"I suppose it's possible. Depends if they're the type to lose their cool easily or not," Bette said, lounging on a nearby recliner chair. "If they are then they're going to go for broke sometime today just to vent. If not then we probably have a bit of time before they come up with another plan."

"Don't know which I prefer," he admitted with all due honesty. "Waiting for their next scheme or hoping they don't blitz today's launch."

Indeed that was why the two of them were lounging around HQ rather than doing something fun. Today was the day that the prototype Prometheus satellite would be launched into space and, once in orbit, it would be put through its paces. Assuming all went according to the plans of the alternative energy division, enough solar energy would be sent down to the receiver stations to power the entire city. From there governments the world over would likely pay quite a bit to get their own satellites, assuming they weren't on any sort of watch list centered around nations suspected of crimes or that were currently hostile to the rest of the world.

Bette and he, however, had decided last night to watch the live TV broadcast of the launch just in case something happened. The news station had their video feed split between the launch site down in Florida and the C&C room within the Wayne Enterprises compound of Gotham City. While it was unlikely that anyone would try anything with the increase in security and news cameras being all over the place, it was his experience that some people were just that stupid.

Or crazy, depending on who'd been behind the last two theft attempts.

With a little luck it'd be the former because stupid crooks were a lot easier to beat then those who actually had two or more brain cells to rub together.

"Definitely waiting for their next scheme," Bette said before popping a piece of popcorn into her mouth. "My folks are getting a little touchy with all my 'late night studying' the last couple of weeks. A little bit of time off would do wonders for making them happy."

All things considered he was pleased that things had gone as well as they had with his girlfriend's career choice, considering how dangerous it was. His armor had done its job well keeping any injuries she incurred to bruises or small cuts that could be dealt with by a First Aid kit and Bette was smart enough not to get in over her head. While he didn't know of anyone else who was just starting out in the hero biz, he figured that most probably wound up just like he did when he first started helping Buffy out, if not worse. A lack of experience could be a terrible teacher and, if you survived, you learned to be more cautious in order to accumulate more experience so that the risks could be lessened.

He'd much prefer if the risks could be eliminated altogether but such was life.

"Then let's hope that this live broadcast turns out to be a complete snooze fest," he said as the reporter on site at the launch C&C finished her summary of the events leading up to the launch.

"Now as we reach the final three minutes until the launch of the Wayne Enterprises Prometheus satellite, one has to wonder if all will go smoothly," the female news anchor stated in a serious tone from a room overlooking the C&C. "In the past few weeks there have been numerous attacks on Wayne Enterprises locations throughout Gotham with the one common thread between them: All of them had ties to the Prometheus satellite either as a point of manufacture for its hardware or possessing critical information about the project as a whole. Given these connections, this reporter has to wonder if the group behind these previous attacks will once again try something today. We now go to the floor of the Project Prometheus for the remaining one minute of the launch countdown."

With that the image on the screen changed to a room with several rows of consoles and communications equipment manned by employees of Wayne Enterprises, plus a few people from other pertinent departments. The main countdown timer hung over the main screen in that room showing the launch pad showing the rocket that was going to carry the Prometheus satellite into orbit. Counting down the final fifty-five seconds before liftoff, it had everyone in the room busy running around checking systems as well as the condition of the rocket itself. With every second that went by, the energy in the room seemed to increase but, when the clock hit zero and the rocket lifted off, victory was the primary feeling of the people in the room.

Sadly this didn't last for very long.

With a flash of light that was definitely for dramatic effect, a costumed man appeared in the center of the room and with little difficulty dispatched every security guard in the room. With smoke rising from the charred corpses of the dead men, the costumed criminal then proceeded to direct energy blasts at all of the entrances to the room. The doors weren't destroyed from what could be seen on the television screen and that probably meant that the super criminal was fusing the doors shut. Not that that would do much good should explosives or superheroes come into play but that wouldn't be for a while yet.

"Ladies and gentlemen, viewers at home, I am Doctor Light and as of right now the Prometheus satellite belongs to me!" The man, apparently Dr. Light, declared in a black and white costume. "Oh, and before you get any ideas about retaking this room, I feel I should inform you of something.

"For the past week my subordinates have been replacing various mirrors and even a few windows with specially treated creations of mine. All it will take is an amount of light equivalent to that generated by a pen light and my lenses will concentrate the energy into its most deadly form: a laser." Dr. Light wore a smile that spoke of much maliciousness. "With all the hard work they've done, I'd say that all it'll take is three seconds of light to cut the civilian population in half. LITERALLY! However there is a way you can bring this matter to a more peaceful end."

"At this moment the mayor of Gotham City should be receiving an envelope. Inside of that envelope is a bank account number. If he transfers a total of one BILLION dollars to this account by sunset then I will provide authorities with a detailed list of my lens locations," Dr. Light said sounding like he was asking for someone to spot him fifty dollars. "If, however, I do not see one billion dollars in my account by sunset then I will feel compelled to carry out a demonstration of my persuasive preparations at a random location in Gotham City. The choice is yours, Mr. Mayor."

With that the villain obliterated the news cameras in the room with a single blast of light.

"Well, this isn't good," he said with his mind already a blur of thoughts.

"Do you think he's bluffin'?" Bette asked as her business face emerged. "About the lenses all over town?"

"If he's the guy behind the energy pistol then I think he's telling the truth," he replied, changing the static on his screen to a map of Gotham City. "Larger versions of the lenses I found in the pistol would easily be capable of doing exactly what he said. Think about it: how many mirrors and windows do you go past during the course of a day? Depending on how far this guy wants to go, he could probably kill everyone in the city, especially if he decided to use reflective surfaces to bounce the beam around a lot."

"My God…" she gasped as her mind let her know just how serious things were.

"Actually I think everyone in Gotham would like the Almighty on their side right about now, so don't hog all of his attention. As for me, I gotta think up a way to neutralize Dr. Light's leverage before sunset."

Gee, why don't I tell her I'm gonna cure cancer while I'm at it!

It was almost impossible to know exactly where every mirror and every window was located in the city so the best he could do was find all the ones out in the open for all to see. Doc Light would have to use exterior mirrors if he wanted the highest kill count over the greatest area possible and, thanks to his access to certain government databases, he knew where most of those were located. Once he plugged into the program, it was possible to get most likely pattern for the ricochet and then he could focus Bette's attention on the most important ones. If she dealt with those then at the very least the potential damage would be minimized to certain buildings or streets within the city.

Not a perfect solution but it's the best I have at the moment.

"Why do I get the feeling I'm going to be getting more than seven years bad luck today?" Bette asked as she saw the computer cycle through ricochet configuration possibilities.

"I didn't take you for the superstitious type, Bette," he said with a smile looking over his shoulder.

"We live in a world with superheroes and tech that ten years ago was considered sci-fi," she said with a grin. "Superstitions might be worth listening to."

"Too true." He knew from personal experience on the Hellmouth that many of the things that the majority of society saw as superstition or mythological fiction was a lot more factual than most people would be comfortable with.

He also knew he'd be a lot more comfortable if he didn't know half the things he did.

One Hour Before Sunset, Downtown Gotham City, Bette's POV

It's a good thing Xander made this modified nail gun, she thought as she lined up her next shot. Plenty of ammo to fire, high enough velocity to shatter the mirrors and decent enough range that I don't need to expose myself to take them out.

The modified nail gun hissed, bucked and her target shattered.

And another one bites the dust, she thought, watching the mirror pieces fall to the ground. Twenty down and fifteen more to go.

It'd taken her boyfriend a while to figure out the right pattern to Doctor Light's 'kill everyone in Gotham' plan but, once he had, he'd slapped together the nail gun and downloaded her targets to her glove computer. From there she exited the warehouse in costume and began taking out the mirrors on the map as quickly as she could, hoping that she'd smash them all before sunset. It was a little odd going out in broad daylight in her costume but she figured that since she wasn't going for the whole 'creature of the night' theme, it'd be okay. She just had to be a little more careful not to get caught on camera too easily, if only to avoid the pointed questions her parents would ask if they saw a clear picture of 'Flamebird' in the morning newspaper.

It might be inevitable that they'd find out what she was doing but she was all for putting off that discussion for as long as possible.

As she roof hopped and sometimes grapple lined her way to the next location on her list, she wondered if Doctor Light was smart enough to have some of his remaining minions keep an eye on key mirrors in the city. If he did, then there was a chance that word could get to him before she finished smashing the last mirror and, like the typical bad guy, he'd press the proverbial button. That made it all the more crucial to smash as many mirrors as she could before the villain got wise to what she was doing. The more reflective surfaces that got shattered, the fewer people would get hurt or killed when the villain chose to prove that he wasn't bluffing. She just hoped that her heroes, Batman and Robin, were also on the case because she had faith that they'd pick up any slack she'd left. They might even manage to come up with the perfect solution to save the day even if she chose to do nothing but, if she really wanted to be like them, she couldn't take that chance. Lives were depending on her to do her best, to do everything she could, and she refused to fail in her chosen duty.

She was about halfway to her next target when the sound of fabric fluttering in the breeze caught her attention and she reflexively looked over her shoulder to see what was making the noise. She nearly missed the next gap between buildings when she spotted none other than Robin landing behind her and soon the partner of Batman began to match her stride for stride.

"Looks like great minds think alike," Robin said with a friendly smile on his face. "You trying to take out the mirrors too?"

"A-ah…yeah. A, ah, friend figured out the best ones to take out and I've been doing what I can." she replied, barely able to keep her inner fan girl from taking over.

"Same here. How many more on your list?" he asked, never losing step with her despite a few difficult leaps and a swing along the way.

"I have another fifteen to go," she replied, coming to a stop for a moment before bringing up her map. "Want to compare notes?"

"Sure." Robin replied as they both came to a stop on the next rooftop.

Bringing up her glove computer's holo-screen, she brought up the map and the dots that indicated mirror's that needed to be destroyed.

"Cool! You have a Lensherr holo-computer!" Robin exclaimed like the twelve year old he was. "I've been trying to get Batman to add one to our gear but he says what we have is good enough."

"Yeah, it's definitely cool," she said, not knowing what to say about the glimpse she got into her heroes lives. "These dots are the mirrors that need to be destroyed. Have you destroyed any of these?"

"Yep!" Robin replied before pointing to each one he'd successfully smashed.

"Then we'll split the remaining mirrors between the two of us," she said after removing the dots of the mirrors Robin destroyed. "You take these five and I'll take the rest."

"Got it! Race ya!" Robin said before he fired off a grapple line in the direction of his next mirror.

It was strange how just two words could make something serious fun.

With Robin's challenge, smashing the mirrors was not only important but also now it was a way of testing herself against one half of the dynamic duo of Gotham City. With a little extra bit of effort not previously expended, she moved as quickly as she could toward the next mirror on her now shorter list. Forgoing any flashy flips or aerial maneuvers for whatever would get her to her destination the quickest, she doubted she was much more than a flicker of motion to the eyes of any casual gazer along the way. She had no idea whether or not she'd be able to do anything else once the last mirror on her list was destroyed but hopefully, once the mirrors were destroyed, Batman would take care of Doctor Light.

While it'd certainly be nice to one day stand among the members of the Justice League as an equal, she knew that she was years from that. She needed to become so good that mere minions wouldn't be able to do more than slow her down and the only real challenges would be the super criminals that used either high tech weapons or possessed super powers. She needed to carve out a reputation for herself that would be every bit as good the ones that each member of the League possessed. Only then could she could she considered good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greats and she would work her ass off for that day.

It took her about eight minutes to reach the next mirror and, with as much efficiency as possible, she brought the modified nail gun to bear, taking aim and firing in one smooth motion. Sticking around only long enough to visually confirm that the mirror was well and truly destroyed, she darted off in the direction of her next target. This was a race in more ways than one and that meant there could not be a single wasted movement or second if she wanted to win.

And, given that lost lives was the penalty for defeat, she would do whatever she had to in order to win.

Pushing her legs to pump harder and faster, she focused her mind on reaching her next destination as soon as possible.

Forge Industries Warehouse, Thirty Minutes Before Sunset, Xander's POV

It's going to be close but it looks like Bette's going to make it. He watched the bird shaped icon move towards the second last dot on the map. Still, there are going to be deaths if Light pushes his button and the only idea I have for countering it carries quite a bit of risk.

Ever since Bette had left to deal with the mirror locations, he'd marked on her map he'd been trying to figure out a way to deal with the rest of the mirrors. Employing all the know how he'd gained from Magneto along with his own imagination and even tapping into various sci-fi or fantasy shows, he tried to find a solution. However, after all that effort, there was only one possibility he could think of that could defuse the situation but it carried one helluva risk: Harmonic resonance.

His plan was to use harmonic resonance to shatter the remaining mirrors and windows that Doctor Light had placed in the city by building on the original fact that just the right pitch could shatter glass. If he could figure out a way to unleash a resonance wave at just the right frequency throughout the entire city, then the super villain's leverage would be gone freeing the authorities to go on the offensive. The problem was that, while he had analyzed the lenses in the energy pistol Bette had given him enough to find that frequency, he could not be one hundred percent certain that nothing else would be affected. Harmonic resonance waves could affect more than just glass or mirror and therefore it was possible that his actions would wind up hurting as many people as it'd be saving.

It was too big of a problem for him to handle on his own. He needed a second opinion and perhaps someone to help him minimize the risk.

Dialing up the number for one Lucius Fox of Wayne Enterprises, he prayed that the man in charge of Applied Sciences would be able to help him out. It took a couple of rings, actually more than a couple, but eventually someone picked up on the other end and so he immediately switched on the vocal distorter as well as the trace scrambler. While everything he'd learned about the man suggested that he was legit, this was not the time to be taking chances especially since there was a chance that Doc Light had a mole in Wayne Enterprises.

"Hello?" spoke a man's voice from the other side of the connection.

"Good evening, Mr. Fox. Care to help me turn Doctor Light's ultimatum into a hoax?" he asked, using this first question to test the man's receptiveness.

"Who is this?" Fox asked, sounding a little suspicious but not close minded.

"An ally to the costumed adventurer known as Flamebird. Perhaps you've heard of her?" he asked rhetorically while pointing the man in the right direction.

"I have. What do you have in mind?" Fox asked, sounding like he was willing to listen.

"A harmonic resonance pulse. Released throughout the city at just the right frequency, it should shatter Doctor Light's little surprises without much difficulty. I have analyzed the lenses Doctor Light employed in the energy pistols he provided to his subordinates and I believe I know the frequency to use in the resonance wave. However I lack the resources to utilize this knowledge quickly enough. Plus it never hurts to get a second opinion on these things."

"Hmmmm… it certainly would be the most expedient means of resolving things," Fox said, sounding like he agreed with the basic premise of the idea. "Send your analysis information to my business email address. I'm near my computer so I should be able to look it over immediately."

Knowing that address from his research, he immediately attached the file containing the entirety of his analysis of the energy pistols, including the resonance frequency necessary to shatter those lenses, and sent the email. Just like the precautions for the phone call, he had several in place for situations where he needed to send an email to someone and more precautions if he had to send something physical. Like the costume and the gear he created, he wasn't going to leave anything to chance where Bette was concerned.

"I've received the email. Give me a moment to look over the file and I'll tell you what I think about it." Lucius said before the line went silent but not indicating a loss of connection.

He waited patiently as the man went over his information, knowing that it was quite a bit of data to look over and, even if it was complete, he knew Lucius Fox would want to check everything thoroughly. Taking info at face value from an anonymous source just wasn't smart.

"Well, I must say I'm impressed," Fox said over the phone. "Your analysis is quite thorough and, as far as your theory is concerned, I can find no significant fault with it."

"So you think that the frequency is correct?" he asked, directing the conversation to the most important element. "It worked on the smaller lenses I extracted from the energy pistol but I don't know if Doc Light is using the exact same type of lenses for his bit of blackmail. Your opinion?"

"While I understand your concern about Doctor Light using a different variety of lens for his current scheme, I do not believe that to be the case. Based on the composition you've outlined in this file, it is clear that he uses rather exotic materials in making his lenses. Expensive little things, too, if my hunch about the materials is right. It's more likely that he'd stick with what original composition rather than take the time to devise a new one and gather new materials to make a new type of lenses," Lucius replied even as the sound of typing could be heard just barely. "Also, considering how close we are to the deadline that madman set, I don't think we can afford to leave a promising solution such as this unused. Fortunately Wayne Enterprises has a contract with a prominent mining company and has been designing a harmonic drilling system for them. If we bring it to an elevated position and set it to its widest possible field of effect, then there's a good chance that we can beat the man's deadline, if only just."

"Then I will leave this in your capable hands. Good luck, Mr. Fox."

With that the connection was severed and he was left hoping that his contribution would make it in time. According to the clock, Gotham City had a little over fifty minutes the deadline set by Doctor Light would be up and, unless the mayor had an extra one billion dollars lying around, the villain would set his example on some poor unsuspecting area of the city.

If Lucius Fox was unable to implement his plan to deal with the remaining mirrors, that is.

Like he said, it'll be damn close to the deadline. His tension level began to inch upwards. Makes me wish I'd actually managed to figure out a defensive measure for the energy pistols.

Ever since Bette had first brought one back from patrol he'd been working on a way to protect her from them whether it be partially or completely. Unfortunately none of the metals he had access to could take sustained fire from the energy pistol and even a glance hit from the beam melted a lot more metal than he'd anticipated beforehand. He'd tried to come up with some sort of reflective surface or coating he could give Bette's Flamebird costume but nothing light weight enough to work held out for more than three seconds. He knew he'd trained her to be able to evade bullets to a degree but lasers were another matter and there was always the chance she wouldn't be able to dodge incoming fire for one reason or another. He wasn't comfortable with the idea that three seconds was all the delay he could give her from getting an energy blast through the chest.

And by not comfortable he meant totally against.

Still, he wasn't likely to come up with any last minute ideas anytime soon so there was no use whining over something that couldn't be changed.

God I hope this all ends without Bette fighting Doc Light, he thought as he brought up the map to check the progress of his girlfriend. She's not ready to fight a super powered criminal yet.

Approaching the Wayne Enterprises Compound, Ten Minutes From Sunset, Bette's POV

I hope I get there in time to see Batman and Robin take down Doctor Light, she thought as she continued to close the gap between her and the wall surrounding the Wayne Enterprises Compound.

She'd shattered the last mirror on her list ten minutes ago and, while it had been her original inclination to return to Xander, the part of her that was a dynamic duo fan girl had to see them take down the psycho in the C&C in person.

Or at least as in person as she was likely going to be able to get considering how tight a ring the cops and the security guards likely had around the super villain's location.

Slowing down and crouching down as she got to the edge of the last building before the big wall, she looked over the edge to find her predictions accurate. Even though most of the police presence was focused on the established entrances and exits of the compound, there were still some boys in blue patrolling the outside of the walls. Looking at her options, there weren't any buildings on the other side of the wall tall enough that she could grapple to so that she could get over it. She knew from past experience that she couldn't leap the gap even with a running start… unless she used her staff as a sort of makeshift pole vault. Xander had toyed with it a couple of days ago so that she could extend it to two and half times its normal length. It was meant as a way to deal with foes that were outside of its normal reach when she didn't have any weapons that could be thrown.

True, it hadn't been tested to see if could hold her weight when fully extended but, if it snapped, she should have just enough time to use her grapple gun to save herself from becoming street pizza.

Bringing out her batons, she joined them together, extended to its normal length and then, when she pressed a button, it went to its new maximum length. With a bit of anxiety she moved the metal pole up and down to test its flexibility and was reassured to see that it was more firm than floppy. Backing up to the opposite side of the roof, she took a couple of deep breaths and the charged with every bit of speed she could muster. Then just as she reached the edge of the roof, she planted her staff and, just like she'd done many times before, she propelled herself into the air. As she flew she felt the adrenaline rush that she'd gotten first time she dive off the high diving board or when she went bungee jumping. It was the rush that came with knowing that you were skating ever so close to death and that one little error could mean the end of you. Fortunately, though, death would have to wait a little longer for her because, just as she'd hoped, her staff helped her clear the wall and from there it was a fall which she was able to halt easily with her grapple gun.

Slowly lowering herself to the ground, she made her way to where the C&C of the alternative energy division was located. Throughout the entire journey she utilized the stealth techniques she'd learned from Xander and the experience that she gained running his hellishly sneaky obstacle courses. Sometimes a little misdirection was needed but fortunately both the police and the security guards were so focused on Doctor Light they didn't pay as much attention to what was behind them.

In the end it didn't take her long to reach a decent spectator's spot just outside the C&C building and thankfully her chosen spot was enough to keep her presence obscured from the authorities. She waited patiently while keeping an eye on the holo-display of the time as it ticked ever closer to the precise moment when the last of the sun would drop below the horizon. It was as the time reached one minute to sunset that something truly odd happened. Out of nowhere an odd vibration seemed to wash over her body but it didn't feel at all like an earthquake and she didn't see any obvious device as a possible source. She didn't know what it was but seeing as how she wasn't hearing the sounds of death and destruction, she presumed that it wasn't something Doctor Light was responsible for.

Next to grab her attention was an energy blast that punched through the ceiling of the C&C building making her believe that Doctor Light had finally figured out that his leverage no longer existed. She'd also put heavy odds that her heroes were inside kicking ass and taking names inside even as the super villain tried to kill them. As she watched the signs of battle, her mind tried to figure out what gadgets and tactics her heroes were using to take the super powered individual down. Clips from news broadcasts flew threw her mind, images of Batman and Robin in action, as she tried to figure out what was going on inside the building. Energy blast after energy blast was fired, tearing out big chunks of the building but eventually fate decreed that the battle be taken outside as a man in a white cape flew out of a hole in the roof.

Less than two seconds later her heroes exited through the same hole and ran in pursuit of the villain, with Batman throwing what appeared to be a gas bomb into the air only for it to explode in Light's face. This stopped the super villain's ascent, allowing Robin to fire a grapple line around the criminal's right leg then allowed Batman's grapple line to snag the other. The bad guy only had a moment where his lungs were no longer hampered by gas before the dynamic due yanked on their lines for all they were worth, bringing the criminal down hard to the ground. However, as they moved in to deliver the knockout blow, Doctor Light something unexpected happened in the form of a domed force field that appeared then expanded outwards so rapidly that it couldn't be avoided on foot.

Which explained why the dynamic duo got knocked up seven feet into the air, as well as back twelve feet, before they both dropped back down to Earth. Obviously knocked for a loop, her heroes were momentarily unable to get back to their feet but that was not a problem that Doctor Light had since he was on his feet in moments. It didn't take a genius to figure out the guy's intent as he advanced on the two prone heroes, nor was it rocket science to figure out what she had to do next. Shooting out of her hiding place, she dropped to the ground a short distance below her before running for all she was worth so that she could intercept the villain before could strike.

When it began to look as though she wouldn't make it, she took out one of her electrified bolas and threw it at Doctor Light with the intent of tying up the guy's feet. It was good then that the man's rage had given him tunnel vision that was centered on Batman and Robin at the moment because she had a feeling her move wouldn't have worked otherwise. Whatever the case, she watched with some satisfaction as the man got a sizeable amount of electricity shoved up his butt, bringing him down to his hands and knees. Normally her bolas knocked out the people that she hit with them so she could only presume that Doctor Light had some measure of insulation that partially protected him. That only meant that he was conscious when she delivered a spinning heel kick right to his head, sending him spinning onto his back.

"It's lights out for you, Doctor," she said, feeling that a quip was appropriate at the moment.

"On the contrary my…dear…" Dr. Light said as he got up to one knee, "…my future has never been BRIGHTER!"

The man unleashed such a blast of bright light greater that even her eye lenses could protect her from completely. As a result her sight was stolen from her for a short time and, when it finally returned, Doctor Light was nowhere in sight. Cursing her arrogance, she fired her grapple line at the tallest building in the area to see if elevation would reveal the super villain's location to her. However, even after she reached the rooftop and scrutinized every direction thoroughly, she couldn't find even a dot on the horizon.

DAMMIT! I should've known better! she thought as she mercilessly ridiculed herself. Should've hit him again and again until he really was unconscious!

Hearing the sounds of cloth fluttering in the wind, she turned to see Batman and Robin land behind her and, as much as she wished it wasn't so, she knew she was probably going to be dressed down for her amateur mistakes. She was sure that if their positions had been reversed just now, the two of them would've taken out the super criminal in six moves or less.

"I'm sorry…I shouldn't have let my guard down…I-" she said, unsure of how to say she was sorry to the duo that she looked up to.

"Hey, don't worry!" Robin said with reassuring smile on his face. "In case you forgot, we got knocked on our butts because we let our guard down. Everyone makes mistakes."

"True enough. Besides, it was due to your ally that the city was completely spared Doctor Light's actions." Batman said in a deep, gravelly voice.

"You mean having me smash all those windows?" she asked just to be sure she knew what he was talking about.

"That and contacting Lucius Fox with the plan to use harmonic resonance to destroy every last one of Doctor Light's hidden lenses," Batman replied without a change in expression. "Because of that Robin and I were able to act."

"Not bad for your first super villain fight." Robin said smile still on his face.

"Thanks," she said, looking away for a moment as she blushed at their praise.

When she looked back to ask them if they needed any help hunting down Doctor Light, but they were gone and she hadn't heard a thing.

Looks like I'm still an amateur in the stealth department, she thought as she shook her head in amazement.

Still, getting a compliment from both Batman and Robin gave her a major boost to her ego. Maybe she really could do this superhero thing.

The Hidden HQ of Doctor Arthur Light, Late Evening, Dr. Light's POV

That blasted bitch! He barely managed to restrain himself from blasting something in his fury. Not only does she stop me from doing what no other so-called super criminal in Gotham has been able to do but, if my inside source is correct, a friend of hers is responsible for my leverage being neutralized!

It had been such a perfect plan and he'd even gone as far as planning for Batman and Robin to show up!

However it had all fallen apart and he was left with nothing but what his eyes could now survey. The local police were now onto him and he had little doubt that Gotham City's protectors were also running down every lead there was on the street. While he had not been careless, the street muscle he'd hired for the operation were another matter entirely. They were stupid, brutish and most of all expendable. Normally those were desirable traits in cannon fodder but now it made those morons a liability and unfortunately he didn't have the breathing room necessary to hunt each of them down and silence them. Instead he believed it was time for him to go to ground for a time until the pursuit died off a bit. His newness to Gotham City worked in his favor with this plan since there was little information available on him for the members of the law enforcement vocation to acquire. If he disappeared for a few months, the police would likely forget about him just like Batman and Robin would since they'd be caught up in the more common kind of chaos that they dealt with every week.

Yes, that is the wisest course of action, he thought, nodding once before a dark look came over his features. However there is a debt I need to collect before I vanish. A debt to be paid in BLOOD!

If anyone else had been in the room to see the face of Doctor Light at that moment, they would be shuddering in fear while thanking their lucky stars that they were not the target of such murderous intent.

That and they would feel pity for whoever was the target of the deadly glare. Great pity indeed.

Forge Industries Warehouse, Three Nights Later, Xander's POV

Three nights of searching and not so much as a footprint to tell us where Doctor Light is hiding. He looked at the map of Gotham on his computer screen, Maybe's he's already left town. Not every costumed psycho decides that Gotham is their kind of town.

It'd have been nice if the light-wielding warrior had decided to go to Metropolis or Central City to found his criminal legacy but it was only right to make sure. If they found him before the madman could come up with some other super crime, then it'd save lives and put the creep in prison where he belonged. He'd sent Bette out to check on some possible hideouts that he'd come up with using some discreet checking on the materials needed to come up with the lenses the super villain had created. He'd crossed off the names of known companies who'd have legit reasons for ordering the materials and instead focused on the addresses he could find little information on. He even tried to think up clever aliases that Doctor Light might have come up with just in case he was receiving orders under that name. They hadn't struck gold yet but that didn't mean they could stop trying just yet. He planned on giving it at least another week before Bette and him would stop their search for Doctor Light's lair.

Getting up from his chair, he decided it was time for a snack break before he tried cogitating any more ways of finding the man who threatened to flambé Gotham City if the local police tried to rush him. Moving over to the fridge, he opened it up and plucked out a package of Twinkies and a bottle of soda since he knew he'd need the sugar and caffeine to stay awake. Part of the deal with being the support staff was that he had to stay awake and alert for long hours that could easily stretch into the early morning. It'd been a long time since he'd worked support for a nighttime defender and his sleeping patterns had shifted somewhat back to the night-sleep day-wake pattern everyone else used. He was making progress but he figured it'd be another month before he could stay awake all night with only a little sugar pick me up to keep him going.

He was about halfway back to his seat when a beep notification caused him to pick up the pace a bit. While he hadn't gone so far as to make different beeps for different problems, it was indeed the case that a beep was generally not good. Sitting down, he clicked on the icon indicating a problem and found that one of the security cameras he'd placed around the perimeter of the warehouse had gone offline. That was odd because, when he'd chosen where to put them, he'd made sure they'd be difficult to spot unless you knew precisely where to look for them. After all a security system that an intruder could see was less effective than one they couldn't see and he wanted maximum effectiveness. Quickly he brought up the video feeds from the cameras surrounding the one that was offline, as well as the most direct route to the warehouse. After a basic examination of the video feeds revealed nothing, he cycled through both infrared and ultraviolet but all this revealed was a small pocket of ozone close to where the offline camera was.

Definitely not natural. He then brought the security system up to yellow alert. Better contact Bette and tell her what's going on. It might be jumping the gun a bit but better safe than sorry.

A bolt of light-like energy shot over his shoulder and obliterated the computer, changing his plan and sending bits of it everywhere. Fortunately his excellent reflexes proved enough to get him to raise his arms in front of his face even as he was blown back so that none of the bits hit anything vital. When he landed on the ground, he knew better than to stay still when someone was taking shots at him so he rolled with the momentum of his fall so that he wound up crouched on one knee. Then he pushed off the ground into a dash, zipping behind one of the sturdier pieces of equipment in the entire warehouse.

Apparently whoever was firing at him understood his intent and chose to show him just how pointless his attempt at finding a defensible position really was. A pair of energy blasts rained down from above and only the fact that he saw them coming allowed him to dive clear of the resulting blast. This brief glimpse of an origin point allowed him to get an idea about where his attacker was located. Looking in that direction, he only had a moment to examine the upper corner of the room before two more energy blasts seemed to manifest out of nowhere before heading in his direction. Scrambling to his feet, he decided it was time for him to go on the offensive rather than scurry about like rat on a sinking ship. Running over to the locker where Bette's gear was stored, he yanked it open and pulled out the modified nail gun he'd equipped her with three days ago and some ammo for it. It was all he had time for before he had to evade another attack but hopefully it'd be enough to turn the tide of battle or at least make it a stalemate. Loading the nail gun, he hid behind a stack of left over crates from a recent shipment of supplies and waited for his unseen foe to repeat what he had done twice before.

He was not disappointed.

Mere seconds after he began waiting a near miss to his right alerted him to the attack and so, with as much speed as he could manage, he zipped around the crates and fired a volley of five nails at the spot where he believed his attacker to be. The only positive thing about his efforts was that one of the nails seemed to skim off some invisible barrier, confirming that someone was in the room but was invisible. That would make things significantly harder for him unless he somehow evened the odds and, as he thought that, he had a good idea on how to accomplish that. Firing off another volley of nails in the direction he thought was best, he ran for the fuse box of the warehouse and yanked the master switch down, cutting power to every light in the room, bathing everything in darkness.

I may have just shot myself in the foot here, especially if this guy can see in the dark, but I don't have much of a choice, he thought as he stealthily put some distance between himself and the fuse box. I had to even the odds somehow.

Keeping his stealth at the maximum, he prowled through the HQ, looking for any sign of his foe whether it be a flicker of light or another deadly energy blast. All of his senses were stretched to their limits as he tried to find his opponent but the silence was not easily disturbed nor was his foe careless enough to disturb anything that would give away his or her location. In the end it was only due to the half dead instincts of the hyena matriarch within him that warned him of the danger in time to evade a blast that would've taken his head off. Rolling away from the blow, he fired five shots at his best guess for the origin point of the blast and this time all five definitely hit something solid.

"Well done, young man," came a familiar voice that echoed throughout the room. "With my control over light I am completely invisible to human eyes and with my ability to fly I need not worry about hitting anything. Yet somehow you were able to sense me."

With a showy flash of light that temporarily blinded him, he finally learned the identity of foe and it made clear the fact that the odds were against him. "Doctor Light. Don't suppose you'll tell me how you found this place?"

"Simple. I followed your beautiful partner last night and she led me right here," Dr. Light replied as though they were old friends. "She was actually quite careful for one so young but, when you cannot see the one following you, all the caution in the world will not help."

Note to self: assuming I survive this, equip Bette's suit with localized atmospheric sensors, he thought as a quick fix for detecting an invisible foe.

"I suppose not. So, is this a social visit or what?" he asked, hoping that this guy was one of the villains that liked the sound of his own voice.

"Not a social visit, per se," Doctor Light replied before a vengeful smile covered his face. "More like a settling of debts. More precisely the debt you and your costumed friend owe me for ruining my plans!"

Little motes of light appeared out of nowhere before shooting down at him with terrible speed, causing instinct to override thought as he tried to evade them. However, despite his better than average physical condition and his experience fighting demons, he managed to evade only two before the remaining four hit him. One struck him in his side, one in each leg and the final one through his left shoulder. He cried out in pain as he fell to the ground and, once the suffering faded, he looked at the damage done.

The fact that the beams of painful light had apparently cauterized the wounds was the only good thing about them.

"However our little get together is not complete," Doctor Light said as he floated down to the ground next to an assortment of Bette's gear. "We really should wait until your lovely companion returns from her search. Why don't you… TAKE A NAP!?"

The man threw one of Flamebird's electrified bolas at him and, in his injured state, he was unable to evade it. Thousands of volts surged through him and it was more than his body could handle as consciousness was torn from him leaving only darkness.

As the light went out, he feared what he would see when it returned.

Two Hours Later, Approaching Forge Industries Warehouse, Bette's POV

Another bust. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe Doc Light really has skipped town, she thought as she hopped onto the first roof of the warehouse district. It'd be nice to have a little breather before the next batch of craziness arrives.

Indeed, after getting her first taste of a super villain crime, she had a feeling that life as a superhero would follow a simple repeated pattern of a lull period where she fought only simple thugs followed by the appearance of a super criminal, then everything starts all over again. Personally, though, she hoped that the lull period would last a couple of months since she could use the time to bring her grades back up to their usual perfect level. Ever since she'd started her patrolling, her grades had been slipping a bit. Not enough for her parents to get on her case about it but there was a clear pattern of decline that told her if she didn't do something, she'd have three months before her father and mother did notice.

Maybe Xander'd like to be my study buddy. She smiled at the image of the two of them curled up on a couch 'reading'. Probably wouldn't get much studying done but it'd be fun.

However, as the first window of her HQ warehouse came into sight, all thoughts of making out with her boyfriend fled her mind as her mind identified the lights as being off. This was an anomaly most significant because she knew for a fact that the lights only went off after she got back and debriefed Xander on what she'd learned. Some might say that it was just a normal power outage and that there was nothing to worry about but she knew better. Xander had gone over in detail the precautions he'd taken throughout the headquarters, from the ladder that led down into an abandoned section of the Gotham subway system to the two backup generators placed in two different spots inside. Add to that surge protectors and electromagnetic protection on all electronics and you had a pretty well protected headquarters. Therefore the odds of a power outage were low enough that the darkness within her base of operations put her on the defensive. Bringing out her batons, she leapt down to the street below and approached the place where she trained with great caution. At every turn and every open space she paused to look about for traps, ambushes and hidden observers that could await her.

Nothing. She reached the last ten feet to the front door of the Forge Industries Warehouse and frowned. Either whoever's responsible for the power loss wants me to make it inside or this is all just a big misunderstanding.

Deciding that a louder approach might be called for, she took out the newest addition to her utility belt: the Flamebird explosive throwing disc. Xander had devised it for the instances when she might be called upon to face a super villain with an energy shield or some level of invulnerability. Arming it, she threw it at the door and watched as the blast shattered the door at the same time the entrance was obscured with smoke. Diving through, she brought her batons up into a strong defensive position and looked about for any sign of intruders or problems, but what she saw froze her in place worse than anything she had ever experienced before.

With chains wrapped around every limb her boyfriend Xander Lensherr, hung from the roof supports, looking like he'd gotten into a fight with a blow torch and lost. There were holes burnt into three of his four limbs and a single jagged burn across his chest but, miracle of miracles, she could see the rise and fall of his chest proving that he was alive. Looking about, she tried to find a way to get him down without injuring him further but she came up empty and realized she was going to have to chance something a little risky. Running over to the couch, she pushed it until it was right below her boyfriend then lined it up so that when he fell, he would land right in the center. Taking out all but one of her remaining explosive disks, she threw them at the chains holding her boyfriend up and watched as they shattered the metal allowing gravity to take care of the rest.

Rushing to his side, she told herself it was just to see how severe his wounds were but the truth of the matter was that her very blood demanded that she physically make sure he was alright. Checking him over, she breathed a sigh of relief to find that only the injuries she originally spotted existed and, while nasty, weren't life threatening. Very painful for him, probably, but not lethal.

"Xander! Xander please wake up!" she said, shaking him as hard as she could without hurting him.

"Mmmm…wha…BETTE!" Xander said before the disorientation passed and he sat upright in a panic. "OW!"

An unwise move considering his injuries, but then that was so Xander.

"Easy! You're banged up pretty bad," she said as she tried to ease him back into a laid back position. "What happened?"

"Trouble! We gotta get outta here!" he replied, resisting her efforts and trying to get to her feet. "The base has been compromised! It's Doctor—"

Before he could say more she spotted something a flicker of light out of the corner of her eye and on instinct alone tackled the back of the couch so hard that it was knocked right over. Getting back to her feet, she threw a smoke bomb to the ground in the hopes that the attacker wouldn't fire any more blasts since there was no way to make sure he/she/it would score a hit. Blinking to activate the infrared vision on her eye pieces and, once she located Xander's body, she began to pull him in the direction of the emergency exit. It wasn't the most stealthy of moves considering everyone in the room could hear her boyfriend scrape against the stone floor but she didn't have the strength to lift him off the ground entirely. Moving as quickly as she could and using the vague shadows to make out the furniture and equipment, she moved to where her boyfriend had made the escape hatch.

"Looking to escape? I think not," came the voice of Dr. Light, albeit disguised by the echo so as to make locating a point of origin difficult.

With a suddenness that she had not expected, light returned to interior of the warehouse even though she had not heard a switch being flicked or a button being pressed. What she both heard and felt was the scream of pain that erupted from her mouth as the pain receptors in her right leg lit up so bright you'd need welding goggles not to blind. So severe was it that she collapsed to the ground, losing her grip on Xander in the process. She didn't know how long it took before the pain faded enough for her to think to look for the reason why she was in so much pain. Looking down her body, she saw nothing wrong until she let her eyes fall upon her right leg to find that everything below the knee had been burned almost to the bone. She knew she should be freaking out but for some reason her mind felt numb at the horrific sight and a small part of her mind realized that she must be going into shock.

"Well, I guess dancing is out of the question from here on out for you, my dear," Doctor Light said as he became visible in the air fifteen feet away. "Then again I plan on making sure that EVERYTHING ceases to be an option for you!"

Instinctively knowing what was coming next, she tried to move out of the way of the oncoming attack but was only partially successful since the quick movement jarred the few function pain receptors around her wound to flare. As it disrupted her thoughts, so too did it slow her movements and so instead of evading the blast entirely as she should have the deadly energy caught her left hand, causing unmatched pain to surge through her very being. This only got worse when, thanks to the loss of coherent thought, she landed on the same injured hand, giving her a second helping of pain.

Needless to say she screamed, rolling onto her back, seeking relief from the pain.

"LEAVE HER ALONE!" Xander yelled angrily, managing despite his own injuries to get to his feet.

"Well, if you want to be turned into a burnt skeleton first then… well, why not?" Doctor Light said, refocusing his attention on the young man. "Given that your lady friend here was the one that kept me from making history as the man who killed Batman and Robin, she deserves to have something precious taken from her as well!"

Fear! Fear gripped her heart as her mind predicted what would come next!

Somehow she knew it wouldn't be something as prolonged as Doctor Light blasting off Xander's limbs one at a time but rather precisely what the madman had declared with his words moments ago. With speed born of desperation, she planted her left leg and pushed off the ground, knocking her boyfriend well clear of where he'd been. With foolish hope she thought that perhaps she had saved them both for the time being and that the momentum from her push had successfully to safety.

Sadly fate was rarely so kind to the foolish.

As her mind registered light ever brighter approaching, her she resigned herself to death and thought one last thing before all was reduced to ash.

I love you Xander Lensherr!

Doctor Light's POV

"Well I guess I should've anticipated some last minute heroics," he said with a slight shake of his head. "Oh well! I suppose it's for the best. It's not like she could've lasted much longer anyway."

Seeing the female form, reduced to blackened bones from the stomach down, drop to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut, he allowed himself a smile of satisfaction. The lady hero known as Flamebird had paid the price for her interference and that price was her very life. While he would've preferred that the costumed hero he slew to be Batman, he would take what he could get for his first visit to Gotham City. Watching as the little lady's helper turned his head in the right direction, he couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the look of absolute devastation the exploded onto his face. No doubt the emotional pain the young man was feeling now was greater than just about any physical pain known to mankind.

He would take great pleasure in finding just what type of physical pain was, in fact, greater but for now he would simply enjoy twisting the proverbial knife in the teenager.

"BETTE! NNOOOO!" the young man bellowed in emotional agony before crawling to the side of his dead friend and possibly his lover.

It was like watching something out of one of those fictional superhero movies where the man in the starring role cradles the dying body of his one true love. Any minute now he expected the kid to give out one of those oh so dramatic screams of grief before breaking down and crying a new river into existence.

"Really, dear boy, you should try to stay away from the usual clichés. They are rather boring and I was hoping for a bit more amusement," he said, acting as though he'd start yawning any second.

"You…you KILLED her…for AMUSEMENT!?" the young man asked as he looked up from the cradled form of his girlfriend with tears in his eyes.

"That and revenge, in case you weren't listening earlier." A victorious smile on his face, "After all, I can hardly let a wannabe Batman and her college student little helper get away with thwarting my plans now, can I? Your deaths should just about make up for that defeat when I display your bodies on the steps of the Gotham City court house."

He could see that the young man's anger was growing in strength and would likely overshadow his grief if pushed a little bit further.

"I haven't decided yet whether I'll let the young lady keep her mask when I hang her from the sword of Lady Justice," he said, tapping his chin in a contemplative manner. "It'd be quite entertaining for her parents to find out what their daughter has been up to, assuming they don't already know. Perhaps I'll extract her full name from you or the things in this room and pay them a visit."

He could only chuckle as he saw the boy barely out of his teen in anger even as the young man's hands clenched into fists. Oh how amusing it was for him to watch one who was powerless boil with rage at the fact that there was nothing they could do to fight against their betters.

"Now, now, don't get angry," he chided like a 'caring' adult. "After all, what good will that possibly do you? Look at yourself! Beaten and injured! What could you possibly do to me now that you couldn't do when you were in perfect condition? If you'd been stronger and possessed powers such as mine, you might have fared better."

There is his internal demon! he thought as he saw the boy's eyes narrow a fraction. His powerlessness. Now to add one final twist to the knife in his soul...

"Maybe if you'd had power you might've even been able to save your little girlfriend," he said, his sadistic amusement showing in his voice as he continued mocking the boy. "Then again you'd probably have been better off if you'd never met her. After all, working for a pathetic wannabe hero like her was going to kill you sooner or later anyway!"

"BE. QUIET!" the boy growled, murder in his eyes.

"Or what? You're going to crawl over here and bite my knee caps off?" he asked mockingly and without concern. "Face it, kid: the bitch is dead and giving Satan a blowjob! I bet she's begging him to fuck her right now!"

"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" the teenager roared at him, all but trembling with fury.

"Oh, so you've been with her for this long and never gotten past second base, eh?" he asked rhetorically, with contempt and pity. "Guess the bitch wanted a man to make her a woman rather than some wimp. Gotta burn you something fierce!" he laughed.

Oh, this is truly the sweetest revenge! he thought as he relished the tormented emotions on the young man's face. Nothing could be better than this!

Fate, it seemed, had other ideas as the young man screamed at the top of his lungs, his fury becoming almost tangible.

What followed was an explosion of power that slammed into him with a level of force he'd never encountered before and light so bright that even he had to close his eyes. It was a good thing that he'd trained himself to instinctively generate an energy barrier otherwise he'd have been turned to paste by the wall he'd just gone through. As soon as he regained his senses, he brought his powers to bear to bring himself to a stop and, once he was righted, he looked back the way he came.

What he saw was enough to make him drop his jaw in shock: The warehouse district, the ENTIRE warehouse district, and some of the nearby residential area had been reduced to so much rubble, dotted with the occasional plume of fire. Seeing this, it reminded him of the images he'd seen of Hiroshima after the bomb had been dropped on it and it made him wonder what the HELL had just happened. It was only when he noticed a form approaching him surrounded by a sphere of crackling energy that just screamed power. It was only when the form got close enough for him to see who it was that his shock doubled in size because what he knew did not match what was in front of him. Floating in the air was none other than that pimple faced brat he'd been tormenting moments ago but the teenager was changing with every second that passed.

Hair that was once a dark brown was turning chalk white, as if an invisible wind was blowing away the old color like sand.

Eyes that were once chocolate brown had bits of grey popping up faster and faster, making it obvious that brown was on its way out.

More than anything, though, the power that made up the sphere surrounding him seemed to be getting stronger with every second that passed.

With a look of utter murderous fury on the teenager's face, fear gripped his heart as it became clear that the boy he'd been tormenting was responsible for the devastation. For someone so young to have power on a level not seen outside of the members of the super villain heavyweight division, it made him wonder how the lad could have this much control over it already.

Maybe it'd be a good idea to try and bluff my way out of this, he thought before putting on his best look of confidence. "Impressive, boy, but do you really think this changes anything? No little boy who just got his powers is going to beat me."

With a look of chilly fury, a bolt of electricity shot out from the energy sphere, only barely giving him enough time to raise a barrier around himself. Even so the force behind it was strong enough that he was forced to split his power between maximizing the strength of his protective barrier and keeping himself from being knocked backwards again. However, just as he thought he had succeeded in handling the situation, the boy reached out with one arm and out of nowhere pressure began to build up everywhere around his spherical light barrier. It went beyond the force of the lightning blast the teenager had sent at him moments ago and already he could tell that he wouldn't be able to hold out for long.

'Long' turned out to be one second because, when young man before him closed his open hand into a fist, the pressure being placed on his bubble went from extremely difficult to maintain to impossible.

In an instant his barrier was shattered and he found himself in a vise like energy grip that made it impossible for him to do anything other than blink and breath. He tried again and again to bring his own powers to bear but it was like he was nothing more than a mere man once more. With this realization, desperation took hold over his features and, even as the two of them descended to the ground, he frantically looked for a way to escape.

"Don't bother. You're not going anywhere," the teenager said with a voice that chilled him to the bone. "This is the end for you."

The young man reached out with his other arm and, as if they were alive, pieces of metal rose into the air before flying towards him. One by one the pieces of metal wrapped themselves around his body and limbs until only his face remained uncovered but whether that was a good thing was debatable. He decided that it was bad when he was suddenly slammed into one of the few remaining walls that were large enough as well as structurally sound.

"You killed a part of my soul, you sonnova bitch," the boy said in a voice that was as terrifying as it was quiet. "I'm going to show you how that feels. Starting NOW!"

PAIN! Sharp unexpected PAIN! It radiated inwards from both his hands and even though it faded for the most part, it still throbbed and every so often a spike went through him reminding him of how it felt in the beginning.

"I just used the metal around your hands to crush them," the teenager said without a speck of emotion. "Every bone in either hand has been reduced to so many bony bits. Can you guess what comes next?"

He wasn't given time to reply.

Just the same though a part of his mind knew what happened even as pain suffused the rest of him. The boy was crushing his bones one at a time, starting with the ones in his limbs and working his way inward. With every crushed bone he suffered and he screamed loud and long as though letting the world know what was happening to him would somehow lessen the pain he was in. In the end fate took pity on him and the darkness of unconsciousness began to creep inwards from the edges of his vision.

He welcomed it.

"It's not bedtime yet, Light. Here's a little pick me up."

Pain surged through his body but in a way he had not anticipated.

Instead of hastening his descent into unconsciousness, the darkness receded and somehow the pain he'd been feeling was numbed in some minor way.

"I just used my powers to stimulate your adrenal glands. Think of it like a sugar and caffeine cocktail straight to the veins. No sleep for you."

Then the pain resumed and even those bones he thought would be too dangerous to break lest they puncture a vital organ were reduced to so much white gravel. The pain was so great that, even with the adrenaline running through his veins, he was suffering more than he'd wager he would if he were go to hell. Indeed he'd almost prefer to die and go there if only to get away from this monster of a teenager.

"Well, that's the last of the bones I can break safely. How to extend your suffering now?" the young man asked rhetorically, the cold fury keeping his voice emotionally void.

The answer came a minute later as something sharp and piercing tore through the palm of his left hand, pinning it to the wall behind him. Daring to open his eyes, he saw a horrible sight in the form of several screws, nails and spikes hovering in the air around the vengeance driven boy, as if hanging somewhat unsteadily on unseen strings. Then without warning they flew at him and he instantly knew pain that made the saying 'pins and needles' seem laughable. Deep beneath the pain, his mind knew that all the nails, screws and spikes he'd seen before were now piercing his flesh and securing him to the wall behind him.

If any pain receptors were still in working condition within his body, they lit up like the fourth of July turning him into one big mass of pain.

It was then though that his body had finally had enough and regardless of what chemicals flowed through his veins, he felt the energy of light evaporate into the air.

For this he was glad.

Gotham City Warehouse District, One Hour Later, Robin's POV

"Well, insurance companies are sure going to be busy dealing with this mess," he said as he looked at the remains of the warehouse district from the rooftop of the nearest intact building.

Naturally Bruce didn't respond to his comment, too busy eyeballing every square inch of the area for any clues that could be seen from this distance, but that was nothing new. His mentor and surrogate father was like that when he slipped on the costume: Only talk when necessary and, when it wasn't, always mind your surroundings. That was the lesson he figured Batman was trying to convey to him but he could never quite get the hang of it but he figured it was probably something you grew in to over time. He was only twelve years old, after all, so to expect him to stay focused and silent for longer than a couple of minutes was asking the impossible.

Without a word to him his mentor leapt down into the alleyway to their right before darting across the street to slink from shadow to shadow deeper into the devastated area. Shaking his head, he did the same, using the skills that had been drilled into him over the course of several months to follow his partner. It took more than a few minutes given that they had to get past police, firemen, paramedics and other people without being spotted once. Nevertheless, it wasn't long before they reached their destination and that turned out to be right at ground zero of the devastation and, like he'd expected, Commissioner Gordon was speaking with two of his detectives. While most people would assume that someone as high up the chain of command as Gordon would never personally show up at a crime scene, they'd be wrong. Despite his rank, James Gordon was still a detective at heart and, whenever something happened that caught his attention, he tended to be very hands on with it.

This, of course, made it easier for him and Batman to get the information they needed rather than hack it out of police networks or surveillance devices.

It didn't take long for Gordon to notice them and then, with a few carefully disguised hand gestures, the man directed them to a location nearby spot where the walls were still high enough to afford them some privacy. Covertly the two of them moved to that spot and waited for their friend inside the GCPD to show up and give them the 411 on what happened here. He already knew the basics: massive electromagnetic discharge, the destruction of the warehouse district and Justice League sensors indicating that the EM blast might've been superhuman in nature. For the rest they'd had to wait until now to find out since they usually gave the cops first crack at a crime scene before inspecting it themselves.

"Evening, Jim," Batman said without turning to face the new arrival. "What have you learned?"

Definitely not a people person. "What he means to say is: hey Comish! How's the wife and kids? We're great! Heard you were holding a party here and thought we'd drop by and say hello."

This got a grin of amusement from the Commissioner but from Batman… well, he just did the whole 'narrow his eyes and frown' thing to show that he was not amused.

"About a little over an hour ago a massive electromagnetic discharge occurred, the epicenter apparently being a warehouse belonging to Forge Industries," Gordon said as he revealed what had been uncovered so far. "What we found there was something you'd probably be interested in. The warehouse was apparently the headquarters of that new vigilante Flamebird who helped you with Doctor Light a few days ago."

"Really? Was she in there?" he asked mildly interested in seeing the blonde again.

"She was," the commissioner replied but with a look that families with a member in the police force saw to their great sorrow. "It wasn't a sight you should see on a full stomach."

"No…" he gasped, knowing that the man before them had all but said Flamebird was dead.

"Based on what we've been able to piece together so far, she was ambushed inside; there was a fight and she lost. Badly," Jim said, continuing his briefing. "Her attacker used a high intensity energy weapon. We have holes ranging from the width of my finger to the size of my head in there and, based on the state of her body, it could get wider than that."

"If she was outgunned, why didn't she run?" he asked, knowing that if he'd been in a similar situation, getting out of the warehouse and to someplace with more opportunities for evasion and concealment would've been priority one.

"We have an idea about that. A few blocks away we spotted a young man about eighteen years of age collapsed on the ground with severe burns. We ran a check and his name's Lex Lensherr, owner of Forge Industries, and that makes me think he was the one providing Flamebird with her gear." Gordon pulled out a notepad from his coat pocket, "Given his proximity, I think he got caught up in the fight, she told him to run while she bought him time but, after the perp finished her off, Lensherr was next in the crosshairs. It's at that point though that things get fuzzy but we do have a lead."

With that the man wearing the glasses led them away from the demolished warehouse to a second investigation site he'd noticed on their way in. He hadn't been able to get a good look at it before but obviously he'd be getting an eyeful now. As the last bit of debris got out of the way, he saw something that made him think that all the psychos in Arkham should be taking notes. Nailed to the wall was a metallic mummy with its arms spread out like it was supposed crucified but what caught his eye was the blood that stained the wall clearly having dripped down from the gaps between the metal mummy wrappings. In a way it almost looked like the body had wings but that was morbid and a bit disgusting so he quickly moved his mind along to something else.

Something like the face since that was the only spot that wasn't covered in metal.

He instantly regretted his choice since he found to his horror that the man (or at least he thought it was a man) no longer had a jaw, or rather a whole jaw. Instead all that was there was a disjointed combination of bloody bone along with torn flesh that sort of reminded him of what Bane once did to one of his buddies after a botched Venom sale.

"Officers found this on their way to ground zero. Needless to say this almost made them turn around but you don't work for the GCPD without having some courage," Gordon said before motioning to one of the officers. "As you can probably guess, we were a little worried we wouldn't be able to identify the corpse but when we started to peel the metal off of it we caught a lucky break."

It was then that the officer peeled back the plates that were covering the body's chest and revealed a slightly torn piece of fabric but the design on it was all too recognizable.

"Doctor Light." Batman said, being a little quicker on the recognition.

"Yep. Of course we'll wait for the autopsy, DNA test and maybe fingerprinting to be sure but it fits." The Commissioner waved the officer away, continuing, "According to the reports I've read, Flamebird and Lex Lensherr played pretty big parts in stopping Doctor Light's scheme at Wayne Enterprises. He must've been gunning for revenge and tracked them here. I doubt he expected his vengeance to turn out like this but they say revenge will only destroy you in the end."

"Any idea who killed Doctor Light?" Batman asked after he approached Light's corpse and began examining it himself.

"No. There were no witnesses who saw anything though a couple of residents heard the poor guy screaming in pain." Gordon replied with a shake of his head. "The only person alive and close by was Lex Lensherr."

"Could he have done it?" Batman asked, half turning his head.

"Not likely. The young man was found unconscious and exhausted by the first officers on the scene. Medics confirm the exhaustion diagnosis and say that with his wounds, Lensherr would've been lucky to be able to stand, never mind do anything else," Jim replied, shaking his head in the negative. "Finger wide burn holes in both of his legs and one arm as well as four parallel burn lines across his chest. Medics don't think any permanent damage has been done but he would've been effectively immobilized by those wounds."

"Anything else?" Batman asked as he took a device from his utility belt and waved it slowly over the corpse.

"Not at the moment. It'll take a while for forensics to finish going over the whole area," Gordon replied in his usual professional manner. "I'll know more by tomorrow night."

"We'll be in touch," Batman said before moving away like the ghost he wanted some crooks to think he was.

Following behind, he had to admit to being a little puzzled that they were leaving so soon. Normally when they worked together with Commissioner Gordon, they spent a good half hour or so going over every square foot for clues. Much like Sherlock Holmes, they often managed to find the one clue that the GCPD missed that led to catching the bad guy.

So what was it that made this so different?

"The metal wrapped around Doctor Light still possesses a powerful electromagnetic charge and to cause this much damage, you would need one of two things," Batman said as though reading his mind. "You would need either a device capable of generating power on that scale or a superhuman with formidable electromagnetic powers. A device powerful enough to do this would've been too large to carry out and that means a truck or a large aircraft."

"But with the mess, there's no way someone could've driven a truck past all the rubble," he said, recognizing a lesson in the field when he heard one. "And an aircraft would've been spotted by anyone looking in this direction, which I can tell you just about everyone with a window facing the action would've been doing after the blast."

"Which leaves a superhuman," Batman stated, revealing the conclusion to his line of logic. "We'll consult the Bat Computer once we return to the cave for superhumans that have this kind of power and were near Gotham within the last twenty-four hours."

"What about the Widow killer you were planning on checking out?" he asked, referring to costumed woman killing famous assassins.

Batman had predicted that the woman's killing spree would take her to Gotham very soon.

"Based on the information we've gathered, she won't make her move for at least a couple of weeks," Batman replied as they arrived at the Batmobile. "We have time."

With that they got into their custom car and sped off into the night heading for the Batcave. However, as he looked into the rearview mirror of the car, he still couldn't help but feel sad about what happened to Flamebird. Sure, she was a little older than him but he'd been kinda looking forward to having someone in the costume crowd closer to his own age to talk to and hang out with. Yes, he had Wally, Roy and Kaldur but, as the saying went, 'the more the merrier', so adding another member to their group of young heroes would've been nice.

I just hope this Lex Lensherr guy has someone to lean on when he wakes up, he thought with pity in his heart. If he was as close to Flamebird as I am to Bruce or Alfred, then he's going to need one.