“Can’t a superhero get an uninterrupted night’s sleep?” 

Barbara could hear the “incoming message” alert going off notifying her of a pending need.  She sat up, feeling for her glasses on the nightstand.  Discovering, instead, that she had fallen asleep with them in her hand mid-stretch, while trying to stay awake to watch the Late Show.  As she began the now-arduous process of getting out of bed, she wondered if she truly was a superhero anymore.  Carelessly, she shoved her legs out of the bed, first the left, then the right.  Equally as haphazardly, she placed her hand on the seat of her wheelchair and tossed her body in behind it.

“Hmmmmph…so much for leaping tall buildings in a single bound.  Getting out of bed is enough of an accomplishment.”  She sighed and reached down to lift her feet into place.

“If this is Dick ordering a pizza or Dinah updating me on the latest “hot guy” she took down, they are dead meat.”

Now a little more focused on the alert, which was getting louder as she approached, she gave one last hard push landing perfectly in place in front of her computer screen.  With a stroke of a key, the alarm was silenced.  The message was coming in slowly; letter-by-letter accompanied by a creeping computer simulated voice.

            She sat back and rubbed her eyes under her glasses then began to read the message as it appeared.









            As the last characters came over painfully hitting Barbara each time like a blow to the stomach, the screen went black and the system powered down.  Her gut, which was almost immediately torn in a million directions, reacted by wheeling around swiftly to another computer frantically beginning to strike keys.

            “How…in…the…hell?”  Why did they call me Barbara Gordon?”  It was clear that this was an experienced hacker.  How did they get in?  She was experiencing a myriad of emotions from shock to panic to intrigue, finally resting on anger.

            She spun her chair away from the screen frustrated with her futile attempts to trace the message; afraid to think back on what it said, even more afraid that they would be contacting her again.  Completely for lack of an appropriate response, she shoved her face into her hands and began to cry. 

            Her moment of weakness was short-lived. 

“Barbara?”  Her computer had powered back up and Bruce’s almost-welcomed face was staring back at her.  Ashamed that she had broken down she turned away from the screen and wiped her eyes.  She took a deep breath and turned back toward the console and warily smiled.

            “Yah.  What’s up Bruce?  What are you doing up so late?  Or should I say early?”  Right away, she knew her earlier message wasn’t to be her little secret as she had hoped.

            “Who was it Barbara?”  His voice was stern and seemingly unfeeling as usual.

            “Who was what?”  She decided to give one last shot at evading the topic in hopes he hadn’t seen the message although she knew Batman saw everything in time.

            “Don’t do this with me Barbara.  I’m coming over.”  Again the screen was black.

“I’ve got to have more control over this thing.” She punched the keyboard with tightened fists.  “People are just allowed to invade my privacy and pop back out at their convenience.  It’s rude and unfair.” 

She continued running diagnostic patterns on the system to try and find out who her visitor had been.  All roads proved to be dead ends.  The strangeness of Bruce’s pending visit hadn’t even crossed her mind until the intercom flashed. 

Suddenly she noted the oddity of the situation.  Why would Bruce concern himself with this with so little information to go on?  Could he know more than she did?  Possible, but not likely.

            “Bruce?”  She spoke hesitantly into the intercom.

            “It’s me Barbara.”  The returned voice was not the deep, smooth voice of Bruce Wayne.

“Dinah?  What the hell are you doing here at this hour?”  Still in front of the computer she was growing more annoyed at the complete lack of control she had over her own life.

“Don’t ask me.  Just come let me in or I’ll let myself in.”  Dinah knew how it bothered Barbara when she just appeared without invitation.

“Fine.”  Placing her hands on the rims of her wheels, she found that they were shaking.  “Great.  Why am I letting this all get to me?”  Ignoring the tremors, she turned around and moved smoothly toward the door.  Checking the monitor, she pressed a button and the door opened.

“Girl.  You look tired.”  Dinah blew passed Barbara and made her way directly to the kitchen.

“I am tired…tired of you people barging in and eating me out of clock tower and home.”  She followed Dinah into the kitchen to find her scooping the last of 4 heaping spoons of coffee into the coffee maker, an array of snacks strewn across the table.

            “So what’s the deal with the ‘emergency’ meeting?”

            “He called…of course he did.”

            “Who did what? Man you’re cranky in the morning.”  She gathered her snacks in her arm, strategically balanced the coffee in her free hand and left the room. 

Barbara, figuring coffee, no matter how strong, couldn’t make matters any worse, poured herself a cup and went into the living room where Dinah had already made herself comfortable on the couch.

            “Is anyone else coming?” She set her coffee down and moved from her chair to the couch opposite Dinah.

            “Don’t know.  You expecting anyone else?”

            “Bruce.  Maybe Dick I guess if I know the motivation behind the meeting.”  She didn’t know the extent to which the meeting, so to speak, would take a turn even Bruce wasn’t expecting.

            Dinah didn’t seem concerned.  “Business as usual.  Sounds like the gangs all here.” 

There was a draft as Nightwing came through the door off the balcony. Barbara sighed and moved over to make room for Dick.

            “Hey Babs.  I’m going to get changed.  I’ll be right back.  What’s this about anyhow?”  He asked as he blew passed Barbara dropping off a kiss as he left.

            The party was complete as Bruce appeared in the room just as illusively as if he were cowled and caped!

            “Hey.  I see you took it upon yourself to make this public information.  Dick’s changing.”  Barbara folded her arms and shot an annoyed look toward Bruce as he pulled up a chair and sat down, rubbing his eyes.

            “Dinah?  Can Barbara and I be alone for a minute?”

            “Sure thing.  Want some coffee?”

            Barbara was motioning a warning to Bruce against the potentially lethal cup of coffee offered to him.

            “Uhh.  No thanks.”  As Dinah left, Bruce got up, moved Barbara’s chair out of the way and took the place vacant beside her on the couch.  “Barbara.  I know that we need to get to the bottom of this.  It’s most important that we find out how they got into the system and how they know you and know so much about you.  Still, and this is why I called Dinah and Dick, I know you and I don’t want to take the message lightly.  That is to say, the offer they made, however unfounded, must be plaguing your mind.” 

He picked up her hand and looked her in the eyes.

            “Don’t worry about me…” Barbara began.

            “What offer?  What’s this about Bruce?” Dick was just drying his hair with a towel as he came in and glanced over at Barbara who was just wiping a newly formed tear from her eye.

            “You’ll have to ask Barbara. I’ll go and get Dinah.” Bruce left Dick and Barbara to talk.

            “Barbara?  What’s the matter?  Are you…”?

            “Dick it’s nothing.  I don’t know why he called you. It’s no big deal.”

            “Barbara!  Tell me!  There had to have been a reason.  What’s happened?”

            Bruce had conveniently left her chair out of reach leaving no easy way out of the rising awkward situation.  She wasn’t even sure herself how to describe what had happened let alone how she was feeling about it.

            “My chair…” She moved to the edge of the couch. Hoping she wouldn’t have to ask again.  It wasn’t enough that she couldn’t just get up and leave; she had to ask Dick to bring her chair over.

            “What?”  Dick was too focused on finding out what Bruce and Barbara were hiding to notice her current distress at being unable to reach her chair.

            “Uhh. My chair is too…”

            “No way Barbara.  You’re not leaving without talking.  Spill it.” He carelessly pushed her chair further away and sat down beside her on the couch.

            This was the last emotional straw.  Anger.  Frustration.  Fear.  Wonder.  Helplessness.  “Dick.  If I have to try and reach it myself you will be sorry.  Get me my chair NOW!”

            “Go ahead.  You don’t need anyone.  You don’t need our help, my help.  Go ahead.”  Dick stood up and left the room.

            “Dick.  You jerk.  You don’t understand.  You can’t understand.  Just give me a break please.”  She began, again, to cry.  This time the tears were almost unstoppable.  They welled up inside and overcame her.  She began moving across the couch slowly, her emotions working against her all the while. 

            “So?” Bruce and Dinah were sitting at the table talking over a cup of excruciatingly strong coffee.

            “So what?  She wouldn’t tell me anything.”

            “Tell you anything about what.  I’m being pretty patient here when do I get to be in on the conversation?  I know you didn’t call me over here in the middle of the night for no reason.  Spill it Bruce.”  Dinah kept her feelings quiet for as long as she could.

            “What do you mean she didn’t tell you?”  Bruce felt the distress in Dick’s voice and stood up ready to go in and talk to Barbara.           

            “She won’t tell me.  What’s wrong with her Bruce?”

            “Nothing is wrong, or at least there wasn’t anything wrong until you came in.”  He was suddenly displaying protective qualities concerning Barbara’s well-being.  The three of them went into the living room to find Barbara sitting as close to the edge of the couch as possible, preparing to get onto the floor and move to her chair.

            “I’m sorry Barbara.  I didn’t think…”

            “It’s fine Bruce.”  Her breathing, though slightly recovered, was still faltering.  “Just…”

            “Smooth guys.” Dinah pushed passed the seemingly helpless men standing at a loss and pushed the wheelchair over to Barbara who dried her eyes, took a deep breath and made one of her less-swift transfers from the couch to her chair.

            “Thanks Dinah.  Come on.”  She turned, glaring at both Dick and Bruce as she made her way to her once-safe harbor of computers and screens.

            They all followed silently waiting for Barbara’s prompts.

            With the click of a few keys, she brought up the earlier message and moved back away from the screen as it came across just as slowly as it had earlier.  This time she didn’t read it.  Instead, she turned and began nervously straightening papers on her desk, talking idly as she did.  The others stared at the screen.

            “It came across at about 3 this morning.  I heard the alert and came in to find this message.  When it was finished, the screen went blank and I was…unable to trace it.  Then Bruce piped in saying he’d seen the message and felt that it was important enough, I guess, to tell the whole world.”  She shot a wry glance at Bruce.

            This time, the screen did not power down, instead, the letters sat there and glared back at the onlookers.  Dick pulled himself away and walked over to Barbara who was still trying to distract herself with menial tasks.

            “Barbara.  I don’t know…”
            “It’s o.k. Dick.  I don’t either.”  She made her way back over to where Bruce and Dinah were.

            “Well? What are you going to do?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I mean it’s a big…  Well, it’s huge.  It’s a lot to think about all of the sudden…”

 “Stop Dick.  We need to find out why…”

“Why they know you are Barbara Gordon and that you can’t walk.  I mean that’s the scary part.  Just for starters.”  Dinah stood in front of the screen seeing that it was making Barbara uncomfortable, imagining immediately how she must feel.

            “Yes Dinah.” Bruce sat down and began entering letter after letter trying just as unsuccessfully to crack the code.

            “Do you think they’ll contact you again?” Dick sounded hopeful.

            “Well, that would be my guess.  It’s looking like our only way to find out who it is.”

            “There’s only a hand full of people it can be Barbara.  Do you think…”

            “No!  It’s too calculated.  Too logical.  It can’t be.”

            “He could definitely be behind this.  I’m not ruling it out and you shouldn’t either Barbara.”

            “What do you think has been going through my head for the past couple hours Bruce?  Do you guys think I haven’t read that message a thousand times over in my mind?  Do you think I don’t know what it means?  Do you think…”

            Dick interrupted Barbara’s ranting with a typically thoughtless question.  “What if it’s not a joke…” Barbara shot daggers through Dick.

            “Nice word choice…”

            “I’m just saying.  Yah, it’s weird that they know you and they got through the Oracle Super Wall of Protection”, Dick was condescending. “…But what if they did it for a reason.  What if it’s serious?”

            “Shut up Dick.”  Barbara turned swiftly and left the room.

            No one followed.  Bruce stopped typing just long enough to glare angrily at his former partner.

            “What?  Didn’t you ever think that someone might be able to help her?  I mean she’s come close enough herself a few times.  I just don’t think we should rule out the possibility.  Barbara could walk again.”  He allowed himself to display a slight smile, a twinkle in his eye. “She could…”

            “Dick stop.  Don’t get her hopes up.  Of course that would be great, but it’s not likely.  The message is too cryptic.  It’s not meant to be easy.  This is serious and she’s stressed enough.  Don’t do this to her…”

            “No! Don’t do this to yourself Dick.  Don’t get YOUR hopes up.  If you keep it up you might be able to rob me of those 5 minutes a day I have left where I don’t wish I was the one in the Kevlar, sprinting through the streets and stopping the bad guys with one blow to the neck.”

            “That’s not fair Babs…”

            “No! This isn’t fair!” She slammed her hands down on her legs and stared Dick deep in the eyes.

            “I think we all need to cool down.  Let’s go to breakfast or something and wait for another message.” Bruce got up from behind the computer and pushed Dick out of the room.

            “I don’t want to go anywhere.  I’m not hungry.  You guys are welcome to whatever I have or you can go without me.  I’ll just wait here.”  Barbara lowered her head and left the room.

            “Let’s give her some time.  She knows what to do.  If she needs us, she’ll ask.”

            “Ha!  That’s funny.  You know she won’t.  I’m staying here.”

            “Dick.  Give her some space.”  Bruce’s hand was heavy on Dick’s shoulder as he left with Dinah.


            Barbara fled to her favorite refuge, her gym.  It usually helped to push herself really hard as not to just sit and fester.  This time was different.  Why did she do it?  What was she working toward? 

…Oh yah, the occasional bad guy that strays from the normal path of the caped crusaders and finds themselves following home an innocent girl in a wheelchair. 

…Purely diversionary? No.

…For health reasons.  That’s right.  Can’t let our muscles atrophy too much, drink lots of water, stand an hour a day. 

…Dick.  Maybe it was for Dick. 

…She felt more normal, more in shape?  For what? So her legs remained firm to the touch? So her arms were cut and her stomach didn’t get flabby. 

…Who knows?

            As the thoughts cluttered her mind, serving merely as distractions, she stopped just short of the mat and reached for the braces that lay lifelessly on the floor.  It had been a while since she was actually disgusted at the feeling of her heavy, unresponsive legs in her arms as she set them in the cages and pulled them tight.  Taking a deep breath she lifted herself from her chair until she was set evenly between the bars.  Her arms began to shake a little and she could feel herself weakening.  Slowly the braces released and her legs bent, crumbling beneath her.  The cold bars met her painfully beneath her arms and she yelled, “I’d give anything…”

            “Would you Babs?  Anything?”

            Startled, she looked up to see Dick standing in the doorway. “Dick.  Leave.  I don’t need…”

            “Well I do Babs.  I need to talk to you.”

            “There’s nothing to say.”  For the first time in a while she couldn’t manage to pull herself back up.

            “Let me…”

            “Leave now!”  Letting go of the bars, she straightened her legs back out and began moving back toward her chair.

            “You’re being ridiculous.” Dick walked over, stood between her and her chair and lifted her up by the arms.  “Try again.”

            “Why Dick.  I’m tired and upset.  And what’s the point?”

            “Just try again.” He helped steady her and lock the braces back into place. Barbara was not aiding him in his efforts.  “So you’re just giving up?”

            “Giving up?  You think there’s some goal here?  Back off Dick.  I’m just trying to do some thinking; blow off some steam.”  She gathered all the strength she had left to turn around and drag herself back to her chair.  As she began removing the braces from her legs, she quietly spoke.

            “Dick.  It’s too much sometimes.  It’s very discouraging to work so hard and sometimes hope so much…I mean sure mostly I just workout, but sometimes while I’m standing I allow myself to hope for just a minute that I’ll feel something or that I’ll get them back, but…”

            “Then let’s find this guy and hear him out.” He bent down and helped her finish, looking the whole time, into her eyes.

            “Ughhh…You just don’t get it do you?  It’s not possible…that’s the point.  He or she or whomever, has succeeded in finding my weakness and they are using it to break me; to break us…this is not about me or even walking.  We do need to get busy on this, but not so your girlfriend can get her legs back.  Got it?”

            “That’s not fair Barbara.”

            “What’s not fair?  That I’m not willing to take this chance for you?”

            “No.  The comment.  I want it for you, not for me.  You know…”

            “No I don’t know.  It’s all you’ve seen since this morning. Refocus Nightwing.  Focus on the job or leave.”  She backed up and left the room a little more focused herself.


            As she went into the other room, she saw Dinah coming up to the door and reached over to the nearest control and opened it.

            “I thought you were out with Bruce.”

            “He’s not great company.  He went back to the manor to work on your little Internet buddy.  Is Dick still here?”

            “Oh yes.”

            “I was afraid of that.  He’s being weird about this. Don’t you think?”

            “I don’t know how we’re supposed to be…”

            “I mean about you.”

            “He’s just wearing his heart on his sleeve.  That’s what we love about him right?”  Barbara wasn’t sure whether or not, at that moment, she bought her own pep talk.

            “He’s insensitive.”

            “He’s a man.  Besides, don’t tell me those same thoughts weren’t crossing your mind.”

            “It’s different with me Barbara.  I didn’t know you before you…”

            “Before I was shot?  Before my legs were taken from me? Before I became this pathetic computer driven shut-in, in a wheelchair…”

            “Barbara…stop!  It’s just you’re one of my best friends, the person I trust daily with my life and you’ve never been able to walk in my eyes, I mean I don’t know who you were before.  You’re Barbara, the Oracle, that’s what you’ve always been to me.  Dick lost something when you were shot, almost the same as you.  He hurts for you and hopes for you.  I don’t, for a second, think his motives are impure or selfish.”

            “Yah.  You’re right.  It’s just…I’m not even sure I remember who I was before.  I’ve worked so hard at becoming who I am and this message invades my safe world and offers something that is both my biggest dream and my biggest fear.  I’m losing sight of what’s important here.”

            Dinah walked over and offered a comforting hug, not something either of them did often.  “Barbara.  Let’s find this person and find out what he wants from you.  We’ll deal with the rest of this later.”

            “Look at you being all serious and grown up for a change.  Thanks Dinah.”


            “Bruce.  I’m on it.  I’ve found a link.”

            “You alright Oracle?”

            “I’m fine for now.  The message is linked to…”

            “I’ve got it.”

            “Wait, there’s another message coming over.  It’s coming over the video com.”  Her heart began beating a mile a minute anticipating the sight of the Joker.  He had to have something to do with this unless there are people equally cruel running freely over the Gotham Internet Wavs. Her fingers flew over the keys scrambling any pictures he might get of her.

            “Got it.”

            Much to both of their relief, a young man, nicely dressed, with glasses, filled the screen.

Barbara Gordon? I have been looking forward to this moment. I’m sorry my first contact was so blunt.  It wasn’t meant to alarm you.  YOU’VE SCRAMBLED THE RETURN.  ARE YOU AFRAID OF SOMETHING?

            She didn’t respond.  Her arms folded and a puzzled look about her face, she just sat and returned the stare.

            His voice was still disguised by computer filters, not matching up with the movement on the screen. Not an entirely high-tech operation, clearly.

DON’T BE.  Well then, have you thought about my questions? I’m sure you’ve thought of nothing else.  I’m offering you the chance of a lifetime.  It’ll only come around once and it’s exclusive.

            “To me?  Why me?  How did you find me?  Who are you working with? Or for?”

ahhh.  You have questions. Good.  We’ll meet and talk.

       “No. We won’t.”

It can be private.  We’ll discuss things…or I can come to you??

       “Not gonna happen.”

Oracle…you could be so much more than just the voice behind the computer; dispatch for superheroes…and We can help.

            “Bruce?  He’s bluffing.  He has limited access.  I don’t think he knows me.  Which only means someone’s feeding him.  Besides, he said ‘we’.”

            “What’s your name? Or what can I call you?  You know so much about me.  Don’t I get some information?”

“You’re smart.  You’re researching that as we speak.  You, no doubt, already know where I am transmitting from.  That puts you at an advantage.  You also have a face to put with a voice.  Meet me and we’ll put all our cards on the table.”

            “Then you understand the precautions.”

Your time will run out.  We can’t wait forever. I’m sure you know how to reach me if you change your mind.

            “Did you get a location Oracle?”

            “Yes.  Should we meet him? Find out who’s behind this?”

            “Run a background on him.  Find out who he is. If there’s anything on him.  We’ll send Canary.”

            “Why not go myself?  You don’t think I can…”

            “It’s not about that and you know it.  You could handle it.  But this way we can see just how much he knows or has been told.”

            “Or we could blow it right from the beginning.”

            “If whoever’s behind this is there, you…”

            “I don’t think it’s him Bruce.  Still, sending Dinah might be best. ORACLE OUT.”

            “Dinah. Oracle here…are you close?  I have a job for you.”

            “Yah. I’m with Dick.”

            “Good.  Bring him too. ORACLE OUT.”

            “Oh.  Now she wants our help.  I can’t take this.”

            “What do you mean Dick?”

            “I want to help her.  I want to take care of her.  I want her to be happy.”

            “Maybe she is happy.  You know she doesn’t want to be ‘taken care of’, not by anyone.”

            “Let’s go see what she’s cooked up.”


            “This day is just creeping by.  I haven’t even showered.  Get it together Barbara.”  She went in to take a bath.  Sitting there with the steam and warm water soaking into her soar arms, she could think of nothing else, but that morning and what happened in the gym.

            “Wow. Superhero dispatcher.  That’s the saddest job description to date.”


            “Yah.  You guys just make yourself at home.  I’m finishing up a bath here.”

            “Is that anything you need help with?”  She could hear Dick smiling over the intercom.

            “Not this time.  Hey don’t eat me out of house and home.  I’ll be out in a minute.”  She finished up, flung her wet red hair into a ponytail, and pulled on some jeans and an old Gotham University sweatshirt.  Trying to go about business as usual, she went in and made her bed, hooked her glasses on her sweatshirt and threw on a pair of tennis shoes.  Stopping by the mirror, she laughed a cynical laugh.  She was naturally beautiful, even in casual wear.  “A little too much irony for me.”

            “Hey kid.  You look refreshed.”

            “Who are you calling kid? You save me any food? I’m starved.”

            “We brought burgers.  Here.”  Dinah tossed a bag over the couch to Barbara.

            “Nice and healthy.  Just what I’d expect from you two.  Thanks for thinking of me.  Scooch.”  She seemed like a completely different person than earlier as she moved over to the couch with her food.

            “Is this stage two of completely losing it?”  Dick laughed as he moved over.

            “I just have a better perspective on things.  Sorry about this morning.  So are you up for a little acting job?”

            “Acting?”  Dinah hopped over the back of the couch.

            “Yah.  Well, we got a handle on this guy.  He wants to meet with me and ‘discuss’ things.  Bruce and I are almost sure he doesn’t know what I look like, well, with exception of that.”  She darted an annoyed look toward her chair.

            “Almost sure?”

            “Well, depending on who’s feeding him, he only knows the basics.  He’s probably got the red hair notice and the chair…that’s what we’re hoping.”

            “So why aren’t you going yourself?”

            “If who we think is behind this, our little charade will blow his cover right up front.”

            “Joker? You really think it could be?”

            “No.  Not really, but Bruce does and whoever it is, is up to something.  They want the Oracle.  They’re getting the next best thing for now.  Up for it Dinah?”

            Normally up for the chase, Dinah hesitated before answering.  “I have to use…”

“A wheelchair.  Can you even say it?”  Barbara hated focusing so much on this aspect of her life.  Unfortunately, this was the job for now.  This time it was about her.  All of her, which now included the chair.  “Yah…get in, try it out.  You’ll have to practice.  I’m sure they don’t expect me to be clumsy.”

            “I don’t know, Barbara.  It’s weird.”

            “Don’t worry.  You get to come home and get out of it at the end of the day.”

            “Nice Babs.”  Dick noted her pointed comment.

            Dinah went over and lowered herself into the vacant wheelchair.  “So, basically I’m the bait.  That doesn’t make sense.  If I go, I’ll have to be you for him every time.  What if…”

            “He’s not for real Dinah.  This won’t last.  Do you think you can do this?”

            “Go meet with this guy and find out what he wants from you and what he has to offer?  Sure.  Easy enough.”

            “Good.  Take a spin.  Let’s see if the graceful fighting machine can run the obstacle course of my life.”  Barbara again resorted to sarcasm.

            Dinah accepted the challenge and put her feet up onto the footrest.  Placing her hands on the rims of the wheels, she began to slowly push herself across the floor, hitting the table as she passed by. “Oops.”

            Instead of watching Dinah, Dick glared at Barbara hoping to catch a glimpse of understanding.  As Dinah rounded the couch, she misjudged the turn and got hung up on the edge, making the maneuver into a five-point-turn.  Barbara laughed causing Dick to join in this time.

            “It’s not funny.  It’s hard.”

            “You sound surprised.” Barbara again sounded serious. “Dick?  Can you have another chair sent over for her to use for practice?”

            “Yah.  Sure.  I can have it in a couple of hours really.” He stared back at Barbara a little unsure of the amount of enjoyment she was getting from watching Dinah.


            “You just make it look easy.  That’s all.”  Dinah stood up and moved back to the couch and finished her burger.

            The atmosphere surprisingly remained light for a while.  Dick called in the order and announced that it would be there within the hour.

            “When the chair arrives, I want you to change into more normal street clothes and remain in the chair until the meeting takes place.  You are off detail until then.  Dick will have to save the world without the girls for a few days.”

            “Oh, so there is a catch.  I have to dress like you too.”

            “And dye your hair.”

            “No way.  I’m blonde.”

            “Oh really.” Both Dick and Barbara exclaimed together.    

            “Well.  I like the blonde and I just have to hang out around here and practice moving around in it all day?  Fun!”

            “Oh no.  You’re going out.  You’re going to have to train Dinah.  Use the elevator.  Enter small rooms.  Order food and do some grocery shopping.  You know, normal everyday things.  You have to play the part well.”

            “Fine.  I’m going to raid your closet.”  She got up to leave, “Never thought I’d be saying that to you.”

            “Hey. Wait.”

            “What else?”  Dinah was growing annoyed as the tasks continued to mount.

            “Whereas you can just hop up and run in and out of the room, I can’t, so could you bring my chair back over here please?”

            “Sorry Babs.”  She rolled the chair back over to Barbara and left the room.



            “I could have brought it over for you.”  Dick turned to face Barbara.

            “I thought your job was taking it away from me to teach me a lesson.”

            “I thought you had a new perspective on this.  You’re still mad?”

            “I’m more…disappointed I guess.  I just didn’t think you’d ever use it against me.”

            “I’m really sorry. It was just an emotional reaction.  Stupid, I know.”

            “Really stupid.  Next time I’ll beat your ass.”

            “I deserve it.” He moved closer and went to hug her.

            She pulled away.  “I guess I didn’t know it meant that much to you.”


            “My not being able to walk. I didn’t know it was that big of an issue for you.”

            “It’s not.  I mean it is, but only because I thought it’s what you’d want for yourself.”

            “Well it’s not.  I mean sure who wouldn’t want it, but I’m not who I used to be Dick.  I’ve worked hard to overcome my issues and this is just opening old wounds I thought had healed.”  She teared up at her own word choice. “I don’t think I want it to be true.  I can’t make that choice.”

            “You don’t want to walk again?”  Dick didn’t understand.

            “Not being able to walk doesn’t change why I do what I do, it only changes the way I do it.  If I could walk, I’d have to choose between doing what I used to love and doing what I love now.”  As she spoke, her issues became even clearer to her than to Dick.


            “Are you ready for this?  You seem to be adjusting to the chair.  Your hair looks good.”

            “I’m ready, but what if it’s for real Barbara?  How will you get to meet with him?”

            “We’ll cross that bridge if it comes.  We’ll use a mask or something.  So, don’t volunteer any info, don’t seem too interested.  Just play it cool, little eye-contact, don’t make me look bad.” Barbara laughed and pulled back from Dinah.  “Can you get in and out of the jeep?”

            “Last time I checked…”

            “From the chair Dinah.”

            “Oh.  Yah, but man are my shoulders killing me.”

            Barbara smiled getting some sense of satisfaction at her own strength.

            “Alright.  Let’s go see what this guy has for us.”  Barbara turned and went over to track Dinah’s mission.


            “Yah? What if I get into trouble?”


            “Like what if you know who appears or they get violent?”

            “Ditch the chair Dinah.  Ditch the chair, kick their ass and get back here ASAP.”  She laughed and let Dinah out with the keypad beside her computer.


            “Stay in. Get out. Kick ass. You know. Typical stuff,” Dinah quipped under her breath as she drove.

            “Yes.  Dinah.  I have established a voice-link so cut the mumbling.”

            “Sorry.  Almost there.”

            “O.K. Dick’s going to be around if you need him, though I don’t get the ‘fireworks vibe’ here.”

            Dinah stopped just before entering the parking lot.  “Hey Babs?  Can I use the handicapped parking?”  She laughed and continued.

            “Jerk.” Barbara smiled.

            Once out of the jeep, she took a deep breath and went into the building.  “Yes.  Barbara Gordon.  I’m here to see…”

            “Nice move.  We don’t have a name. Just tell them you have an appointment.”


            “They are expecting you Ms. Gordon.” Dinah followed the lady to the elevator and up to another lobby. “This is Ms. Gordon.”

            “Obviously.  Thank you.” The lady at the desk got on the intercom directly.  “Ms. Gordon is here.”

            “Send her in please.”

            “Thank you.”  Dinah took another deep breath and went into the office just beyond the open door.

            “Just stay calm Dinah.  Wait on me before you speak.”

            “Ms. Gordon.  You’re even more beautiful than I had expected.  Come on over and let’s talk.  Get to know each other.”  He sat on a black leather couch and motioned for her to join him.  “You’re welcome to join me if it’ll make you more comfortable.”

            “I’m fine.  Thank you.”

            “That’s fine.  I don’t blame you.  This is all probably a little scary for you.  It’s a lot to think about.”

            “I’m not afraid.”  Dinah was already feeling defensive and a little suspicious.

            “Slow down Tiger.  He seems nice enough so far.”

            “Yes, well, do you want to give me a little background?  How’d it happen?”

            Dinah waited for Barbara’s lead…”Why does that matter?  Besides you know about the Oracle.  You should know precisely what happened.”

            Dinah smiled before repeating what Barbara had so emotionally spoken to her.

            “All I was told is that you are a computer specialist who goes by the handle Oracle.  You were injured several years ago and sent ‘underground’ to help with…should we say, Bat-stuff.  I know what you do.  I know what they do and since you haven’t time for small talk, I’ll cut right to it.  I…”

            “Just tell him how it happened.  I need to do a little searching on my end.”  She began typing in information to do with the building, owners, previous businesses etc.

            “I was shot.”  Dinah cut him off mid sentence.  “Can I at least get a name here?  We are about to discuss some very personal things and I don’t even know your name.”

            “Forgive me.  I have, recently, chosen to go into hiding professionally myself. I am Peter.  Peter Logan.”

            “I was shot.” Dinah continued.  Hearing the story begin again, Barbara tried to distract herself while paying attention at a safe distance.  “The bullet shattered my spine.  I try, as you pointed out, to stay on the cutting edge of medical and technological advancement and have yet to find anything close to a cure for ‘shattered spine syndrome.”

            “Nice…glad I got to hear Dr. Dinah’s professional medical opinion 101.”

            “You’re correct and no doubt, you’ve tinkered with some things yourself.  Some of them even close to what I have to offer.  I however, have…”

            “Ask him why he’s doing this.” Barbara interrupted.

            “Peter?  Why are you doing this?”

            “This is personal for him.  Even if he is linked to Joker.  He’s in it for something else.”

            “Fair enough Ms. Gordon.”  He stood up and went over to his desk picking up a picture.  “This is my daughter Lauren.  She’s 16 now.”  He walked over and handed the picture to Dinah. She studied it.  It was a picture of Peter, what appeared to be his wife, and a beautiful teenaged girl in a wheelchair.

            “I see.” To Dinah, it all made sense.

            “Ms. Gordon.  You and my daughter have far more in common than the loss of your legs.  She was shot as well.”  He took the picture back and set it on the table.  “I haven’t been completely honest with you.  I know you were shot and I know who shot you.  I just needed to trust you.”

            “Trust me?  You’re the one who infiltrated my system, which I’d really like to know more about, and sought me out.  I’m the one hanging out on a limb here.”

            “True.  I made some business deals that led me down a path I regretted.  One night, he came to collect, in person.  He shot the place up to scare me.  Lauren came running in and was hit.  He didn’t even know it.  He was too busy with that damned laugh.”

            Listening to the story, Barbara began to flash an almost identical scene in her mind. 

Dinah was putting it all together knowing Barbara’s situation.  She reached for the picture again.  “I know that laugh.  I’m sorry Mr. Logan.”

“I’ll be honest with you.  You’d be doing me a double favor.  Not only will you have to be a guinea pig of sorts, but he thinks I’m working for him.  He thinks I’m still scared.  I’ll be helping him escape as part of my so-called loyalty to him.  I need you to lure him to me.  Be the bait so to speak.”

“You have to leave.  That’s enough for today.”  Barbara needed to buy some time.  This was too easy.  Too good to be true.  Too much of a coincidence.

“Mr. Logan.  I’ve got to go.  We’ll talk details at another time.”  Dinah backed away from the table and started to leave.

“Tell me Ms. Lance.  How does it feel knowing you get to go home and get out of that chair and your best friend, the one you trust you life to will never have that luxury.  Help us Ms. Lance.  Help them pay the Joker back for all he’s taken from them.”  He didn’t leave the couch.  He just waited.

Upon hearing this, Barbara’s eyes widened and Dinah spun the chair around.  “How dare…”

“Don’t bother Dinah.  He knows. He’s giving us a chance to make a move.  Just leave.”

That just wasn’t the Canary’s style.  She stood up and walked over to Mr. Logan.  Grabbing hold of his shirt, she dragged him close to her face.  “So help me.  She is my best friend and if we trust you and you screw us, the Joker won’t be the only one pressing you.”  She dropped him and left.

“Nice Dinah.  Had to do it your way…”

“Yah well your way sure worked nicely.  You’re just lucky…”

“I’m lucky what?  Why am I lucky Dinah?  ORACLE OUT.”  The comset went dead and Dinah stormed out to the jeep and sped home.


“ORACLE?” Dick, hearing the exchange, tried to make contact to find out what went wrong and how Logan knew so much.  Oracle was offline, or at least she was ignoring immediate attempts at contact. “Oracle? Barbara? Canary? Damn it!”

“Batman.  It’s Oracle.  Do you copy?”  While keeping her eager cohorts at bay, Barbara reached out to Bruce to try and figure out what the next step should be.

“So.  What’s the scoop?  How did Canary do?”

“She got caught.  He knew all along.  She was doing very well.” Despite Barbara’s discouragement with the situation, she appreciated Dinah’s attempts and hard work.

“His name is Peter Logan.  According to the research I found, he is claiming that he has some sort of chip.”

“Is this possible?  Haven’t you…”

“I pulled up recent research projects and business dealings under both the names of Peter Logan and of his company.  It appears that there has been research done on this chip.  Placed at the point of disruption and the top of the spine, a connection is established linking the nerves the patient still has control of with nerves that have been lost.  According to the research, progress has been made, though not extensively tested on humans.  There is considerable therapy involved and the success rate depends heavily on the amount of muscles and cells that remain alive even below the point of injury…”

“Barbara stop.  Nice detached delivery.  Is this possible?”

She ignored him and continued the, now-unfeeling-response.  “He also showed Dinah a picture and said he has a daughter who was caught in the crossfire of a deal gone bad; a deal he’d made with…”


“Yes.  Apparently he got pissed off and started shooting up Logan’s house, the kid got in the way and…and was shot.  Anyhow she’s in a wheelchair and I guess he doesn’t want her to be the guinea pig; that and he wants me to be the bait to lure Joker to him.”


“Ridiculous?  It also means he’s planning an escape soon, or that he’s out already.”

“Barbara, I don’t want you home alone.”

“I’m pretty sure I won’t answer the door again.  Besides, he could just finish me off.”

“Nice.  Do you want to do this?”

“What?  Do I want to let some guy I don’t know anything about cut into me and plant a chip on my spine in hopes that if I work hard enough, I might be able to stand up or maybe walk across the room for kicks and giggles?  Do I want to purposely come face to face with the Joker again? No!  It’s a load Bruce.”

“We can take care of the meeting, but what if the chip works?  Think of all the people it’ll help.  People like…”

“Like me.  Yah.”  She took the headset off, looked down at her legs and left the control room.


“What’s the big deal?  Besides, Babs, wouldn’t you miss the fact that it just took you ten minutes to change into a bathing suit?  And another to carefully lower yourself into the hot tub?  Just so you could lay here and relax, your mind splitting from the decisions floating around inside?”  As she lulled herself into a dream state with cynical one-sided conversation, Barbara thought about her choices.  Her mind fled back.

Barbara Honey?  It’s your dad.  Bruce is here too.”



“Not coming.” She relented, having asked about Dick’s whereabouts first every time she awoke.

“Honey.  The doctor needs to talk to you.  Do you want us to stay?”

“My back hurts Dad.  My head hurts.”

“I know.  We’ll take care of that.  We’re going to be right outside if you need us.”  Commissioner Gordon took Barbara’s hand and kissed it softly, knowing the news she was about to receive.  “She won’t want us in here.”  They left with heavy hearts. Wanting to be by her side, but knowing her strong prideful character would want to take the news in without the crying and pity of the two men she admired most in the world.

She smiled and looked up at the doctor.  “Barbara?  Do you remember what happened to you?”  He had asked this question on a few other occasions never meeting with an affirmative response.

Her eyes opened widely this time and her breathing quickened. “Yes…I…”

“Shhhh. You need to try and stay calm Barbara.  You were shot.  You have been unconscious for a while.  The bullet missed your major organs.  You were very lucky.  Still, the x-rays show that it also shattered you spine.”  He paused uncomfortably. “ Barbara, you won’t walk again.”  He waited.  Her accelerated breathing slowed to allow for a soft sigh and subsidiary tear to fall.

“How…” She had been lying there hoping her thoughts were all just part of a bad dream.

“We won’t know how much you’ve retained or lost until we run some more tests and begin physical therapy, but right now it looks as if you’ve lost the use of everything from your mid-waist down.”

Barbara’s dream continued into the months of intense therapy that followed the sentence; the sentence that robbed her of her cape and cowl and left her to ‘dispatch’ those that remained.  She was awakened by the proximity alarm sounding distantly in her dream.  She opened her eyes, not stirring otherwise, and glanced over at the screen on the wall.  “So much for soaking in pity all night and avoiding the inevitable.”  She reached for the remote that allowed Dick and Dinah to enter.  Closing her eyes once more, she yelled into the air, “I’m in the hot tub, feel free to join me.  Bring some water.”

The two just gave a shrug and followed her orders.  Within minutes, she was joined by an unusually pensive Dick and Dinah.  “So.  How long have you been in here Babs?”

“Come on Dick.  You can do better than that?”  Barbara sat up and steadied herself in the weightlessness of the water.  “Don’t you have some deep probing question about my well-being?”

“No.  I guess I don’t.”

“Good.”  She leaned back again and closed her eyes, her arms holding to the side of the Jacuzzi.

“Sorry I didn’t pass the test Babs.  I guess…”

“It’s not your fault.  You did great.  Thanks for being a good sport…”

“I didn’t…”

“No.  Really.  I appreciate all that you said to him about me.  He knew I wouldn’t come personally.  I’m just not sure exactly how he knew it was you.  I’m sorry I kind of lost it with you.”  She remained calm and the three continued their rues for a while longer.


            “Dick.  Why don’t you order pizza?  I’m starved.”  Babs prepared to get out of the Jacuzzi, but preferred to do it without an audience.

            “Junk food?  Are you sure you’re alright?”

            “Yah.  I’m all right as I can be right now.  Thanks.”  She glanced over at Dinah.

            “I’m…uh…gonna go help him out.”  Dinah got the message.

            “Thanks.”  She sat on the side of the Jacuzzi drying off before getting into her chair and thought about her choices.  “What the hell?  I should just give it a shot.  Even if it is a trap, I can take care of myself.” She changed and went in to find Dick and Dinah.


            “So…ummm…we just gonna sit around all night?”  Dinah and Dick sat waiting for pizza to arrive unable to stand the new uncomfortable atmosphere of the moment.

            “I’m going to meet with Logan.”  Barbara was matter of fact as she hopped onto the couch and leaned over to give Dick a kiss on the cheek.

            “Well, hello Sybil.  Who are we having pizza with tonight?  Oracle? Barbara? New, angry mystery woman?” Dick dodged a well-deserved punch from Barbara.

            “I’ve just decided to give it a go; at least go and hear him out.  But first, junk food and some late night research on the neural chip.”

            “Oooo. Hot night eh?”

            “Yah, well I might need your help.  I mean, it’s the chip I’m in it for.  Even if we can come out with just the chip…”

            “You’re going to let them do surgery on you?  Is this legal?  Is it safe?”

            “Oh.  Great.  What happened to my former cheering section?  Now you’re getting cold feet?  I’m more worried about the why.  Why are they doing this?  Even if I go through with it, it doesn’t mean I trust them or don’t completely think there’s something backward going on.”

            The intercom alerted them to the arrival of dinner.  “I got it.”  Dick jumped up to get the pizza.

            “Barbara?  Are you worried?” Dinah moved to the newly vacant seat beside her.

            “About what?  That they’ll kidnap me or torture me under the knife?  Or that the chip won’t work?  Or that this is a trap to get at the infrastructure of all that we know?”

            “Well.  Yah.” Dinah retorted innocently.

            “Yes I am scared and worried.  If I’ve learned anything in this business, it’s how to recognize things that are too good to be true.  That’s part of the reason I decided to do this.” Barbara sat up a little, looking more serious than before.

            “You’re going on recon?  That’s our job.”

            “Yah well, we tried it with you and it didn’t work.”

            “Remember what happened last time you tried to take on the world in typical Oracle fashion?  Shimmying across cold metal bars at the dockyards? Getting shot in the leg…”

            “That wasn’t that bad.  I couldn’t even…”

            “Shut up...nearly drowning?” Dinah continued chiding Barbara.  “What? Do ya  just got that good old urge for a near-deather?”

            “That was kind of funny.” Barbara doubled over and gave and exaggerated laugh.


            “You.  It was our first time seeing each other face to face.  The first thing you said after pulling me out of the water was, ‘Can you walk?’  It was funny.  I just said ‘No.’ and you thought it was…”

            “Because you were shot in the leg.  I know.  Ha ha ha.  It wasn’t funny Barbara.  It isn’t funny.  How the hell was I supposed to know?  It’s not like you broadcast it.  Besides, you had just beaten the crap out of that gang.”

            Barbara remembered back on the experience Dinah described and instead of feeling fear, a look of satisfaction pulled across her face.  “Yah.  I think I do.”

            “Do what?”

            “Have that urge to fight or prove a point or something.  I mean this morning, when this all started, I was having one of those, ‘why does a former super hero have to drag herself in and out of this chair day in and day out’… kind of days.  Maybe this is just what I need.  You know? Remind myself that I am…”

            “Invaluable to us?  And what are you saying ‘former super hero?’ You are THE ORACLE.  Why do you think they want you?  Don’t you dare get yourself hurt Barbara.”

            “You’ll be there to drag me out of the water Dinah.  I’m not worried.  But I need to do this.”

            “For who Babs?”  Dick came in with pizza and drinks.  “What’s in it for you?  When do you get to be rewarded?  When will your day come?”

            “Mmmmm. Maybe never Dick.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe It’s already come and gone.  It’s about the day to day.  That’s all I can live for now.  Which is why I’m not going to think about how many calories are in this slice of pizza.”  Barbara passed around a look to notify her wish to change the subject.


            “Where will you be doing the procedure?” Business as usual, Barbara ran a trace and noted that Logan was in Bludhaven.

            Gotham University Hospital, unless you’d prefer some other location.”

            “It’s fine.  We’ll meet there to discuss things further.  Tomorrow morning.  9:00 a.m.

            “Yes.  I look forward to meeting you Oracle.”

            “Ms. Gordon.  I am not Oracle to you.”

            “Oh, but you are and so much more.”

            “Good bye.” 

            “If you ask me, it’s too risky Babs.”  Dick was uncomfortable with the familiarity Logan was showing toward Barbara.

            “I’m not asking you.  He’s creepy.  There’s no doubt about that, but…”

            “But why not let him sedate you, take all of your control from you, then cut you open.  You’re right.  Walk in the park…” Again, poor choice of words, implemented with Dick’s impeccable timing, caused his cheeks to go flush.

            “Doubtful.  Anyhow, let’s just hope Joker can be patient.”  Barbara left for her room; Dick followed.

            “I can only hope that all they know is how to reach me online.  Banking on that fact, I’m going to relocate until it’s all over.  If they implant a tracking device or something, I don’t want them coming back here.”  She struggled to pull a suitcase up onto her bed, finally accepting a helpful hand from Dick.

            “Where are you going?”

            “My old apartment.”

            “Not very private…”

            “…and to think, you gave up the title Boy Wonder.  You guys will just have to use the front door or settle for coms for a while.  You’ll live.  It’s got all the computer stuff I’ll need and it’s familiar.”

            “Are you going alone in the morning?”

            “As alone as I ever am…” She smiled looking over her shoulder at Dick who already intended to be her watchful eye from afar.

            “I’m just…it’s just…Is this how you feel when I go into a situation?”

            “Every time.  Every one of you…but especially you.”

            “It’s terrible.”

            “Well, you just better be able to do this without me for a while…just in case.  No matter what happens, if this is real or a trap, I’ll be a little out of it for a while.”  She finished packing and went in to begin transmitting all she’d need network-wise to her remote link.

            “Oracle.  It’s Black Canary.  You still there?”

            Barbara looked to the screen above her and smiled.  “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“ Right.  Sorry.  I’ve been thinking.  I’m coming with you to meet Logan.  He already knows me and knows that we know each other.  I’ll let you do all the talking…”

            “Dinah.  I’ll need your help later.  I’ll be fine tomorrow…he won’t try anything tomorrow.”


            “She won’t be expecting it tomorrow.  Can’t we just get it over with?” His voice crept across the phone line, angering Logan all the while.

            “The research Joker.  I’m in it to help…”

            “I know, I know, your crippled daughter…”

            “The daughter you crippled you…”

            “Let’s not get violent.  It wasn’t me.  It was business.  She got in the way.  That’s not how I work.”

            “No, you plan to hurt people.  What do you want with her anyhow?  Oracle I mean.”

            “It’s time to play again.  Since I discovered Ms. Gordon’s alter egos, I’ve just been ‘riddled’ with anticipation of the possible games I can play with her.  That and she can lead me to the Bat.  The ultimate game.  I’ve missed them all so much.”

            “You’re out now.  Can’t you do it without me?”

            “No you idiot.  I don’t know where she is.  I need your chip to control her.”

            “Fine, but you’ll have to be patient.  I want to observe the chip’s progress before you take her and ruin everything.”

            “I’ll be busy until then.  Don’t you worry.  And…I do think Lauren is beginning to like it here.”

            “If you hurt her…”

            “Your threats mean nothing.  I have the upper-hand here Logan.  I do think your daughter is missing the humor I bring to the situation though.  Good-bye Peter.”



            “Good morning Ms. Gordon.  There truly is no substitute for the real thing.  Besides.  I have got so much to offer you.”

            “I’ve been reading your research.  I’ve tried most of this stuff already.  What’s the key to you little chip?”  Barbara was a little more nervous discussing the topic than she had anticipated.

            “It serves as a connector.  It actually bridges the gap in the cord and aides the brain and cord in regaining communication.  A robotic spine for lack of a better description.  No doubt you’ve thought of this, but merely setting up remote transponders won’t establish the necessary link to make it permanent.”

            “Mr. Logan.  I haven’t walked for seven years.  What makes you think my muscles will come back?” Despite all of her attempts, atrophy had been the unbeatable foe, no matter how much she worked to keep the shape in her legs.

            “Don’t think there won’t be a lot of work on your part.  Besides, I made it very clear to Ms. Lance, that this is an experiment and that you are, essentially, a guinea pig.”

            “Well since you put it so professionally, what do I have to lose?  When do we start?”  She felt her stomach almost empty of air as the words exited her mouth.

            “I’ve scheduled your surgery for Friday.  You have two days.  Get lots of rest.  I need you to be as relaxed as possible.  Just think.  You could be walking in a matter of weeks.”

            “Yah.  Just like that.  I’m sure. I’m not holding my breath.”  She turned and left to find both Dick and Dinah waiting for her just outside the door.  “What…why…Never mind.  Let’s go eat.”  She tossed Dinah the keys.  “I can’t concentrate on driving right now.”

            Dick and Dinah were not used to seeing her this shaken and distracted.  “Are you…”

            “I’m fine, or I will be.” Barbara was staring into the face of a long two days and an even longer and indefinite period following.


            “Do we have an uplink?”

            “Yes Doctor, the location is accurate.”

            “Bring her around.  Let’s pray.”  Logan studied Barbara’s vitals as they came up.  He hurriedly brought a series of maps and graphs up on his laptop.  After double-checking for accuracy, he quickly powered the notebook down.

            “How’s she doing?”  He took her hand and looked on as they brought her to.  Though his methods were backhanded, her best interests were truly at heart.

            An hour or so later, Barbara lay in the hospital as she had not too many years before. Surrounded, this time, by her dearest friends and family.

            “Barbara honey?”  This time James Gordon hoped the news would be different.

            “She did fine.  She should stay still.  As soon as we can, we will be starting therapy.  We should begin to see changes almost immediately.  Because of the nature of the procedure; that being it’s an unapproved experiment of sorts, I’d like to have her moved back to her own home as soon as possible.  I’ll have everything she needs for therapy sent over and I’ll be doing regular check-ups.”

            Dick looked at Bruce as if to confirm their distrust of Logan’s wish to hurry back to Oracle Central.  “I’ll make arrangements.  When can she leave?”

            “She can leave in the next couple of hours Mr. Grayson.”

            “And she has all she needs in the way of equipment.”  Dick added.

            “I don’t doubt it.  She will be needing this.”  He handed a small monitor/remote control looking object to Bruce.

            “What is it?”

            “It will test and monitor her strength and movement as it returns and she improves.”  He continued by showing them the intricacies and nuances necessary for operation.

            After the lesson was over, Bruce stepped out into the hallway to make arrangements with Alfred to have Barbara moved before the good doctor returned.  Before anyone knew what had happened, Barbara was safely lying in her own bed back at her old apartment.

            As the medication wore off, she looked around and smiled at her surroundings, having a good idea how she’d arrived.  “Bruce?”

            “Bruce will be back.  Will I do for a while?”  Dick sat beside her on the bed.

            “You’re here?”

            “I don’t make the same mistake twice…well, usually.”

            Barbara smiled, “Where’s my chair?”

            “Why? We’re keeping you still for as long as we can hold our ground.”

            “I …I just feel better when it’s close by.  Do we know anything yet?”

            “Slow down kid.  Can’t you just relax for a while?  We’re all looking out for you.”

            “Who’s looking out for you?  Where’s Dinah?”

            “We are looking out for ourselves.  She’s in the other room monitoring the Delphi for you…”

            “…What? She…”

            “I’m just kidding.  She went to get lunch.  How do you feel?”

            “Like shit.”

            “Nicely said.  Well, you look beautiful.  You should rest.”  With that, Barbara was allowed to dose off back into the first restful sleep she’d had in a while.


            “Has she been awake?  Where did you take her?  You may need me.  I’m the only one who knows the chip…”

            “You’re wrong Logan.  I know all about the chip.  I’ll keep you informed.”

            “What about the therapy?”

            “We’ve done our homework, same as you.  So, just think before you make whatever move you’ve planned next.”

            As the line went dead, Logan felt panic flood his body.  What am I going to do?  He’s going to… If I use the locator, they’ll know what I’ve done.  If I don’t he’ll find me and kill me and worse, he’ll kill Barbara and Lauren.  Maybe I should just trust Bruce.  Switch sides.  Maybe Batman will help.  He was confused.  He’d messed up.  He’d underestimated Barbara and her team.


            “The ball is in his court.  If he comes here, we’ve caught him.  We’ll know he’s attached other sensors to the chip.  If he doesn’t, we should expect other visitors.”  Bruce and Dick whispered as not to disturb Barbara as she laid peacefully, a rare sight.

            “What do you think he’ll do?”

            “Since when are his actions predictable?”

            “Good point.”

            “He’ll react.  He won’t be able to stay out of it.  He must be distracted anyhow to have lasted this long.  We should talk to Logan.  He’s who we’re protecting.  Him and his daughter.”

            “And Barbara.”

            “Barbara…She can protect…You’re right.  We’ll be here this time.”


            They looked to Barbara who was just opening her eyes, her face aglow with delight at the sound of Bruce and Dick’s voice above her.  “Sorry Babs.  How are you feeling?”

            “I’m kidding.  I love hearing you worry about me.  I’m feeling fine.  This sleep thing.  I could really get into it.”

            “No kidding.  Do you need anything?  Are you hungry?”

            “No.  I’m just a little tired.  Don’t let me sleep too long.  I think we should get started on this right away.”

            “You never quit do you?  We are working on some things.”

            “Oh yah?”  Barbara placed her hands down at her sides and tried to scoot up.

            “Hey.  No moving around for a while.  I know that the worst possible scenario for you, but doctor’s orders and all.”  Dick moved closer and held onto Barbara’s hand.

            “Oh yah and how is the good doctor?  Where is he?”

            “Well…ummm…” Dick looked to Bruce for guidance as not to divulge too much information.

            Bruce came to his rescue.  Logan doesn’t know where you are.  Or at least that’s the story he’s sticking to for right now.  We sort of kidnapped you.  Right after your surgery, he wanted you to be moved home.  He wanted to come.  We just left before he returned with the release papers.  This way…”

            “No!  Lauren…Bruce, we have to cooperate with him.  He knows where I am.   There is a tracking mechanism in the chip.  Joker has Logan’s daughter.  He will come for me himself.  You know how impatient he can get…”

            “Barbara?  How do you know about the chip?”

             “Are you sure?” The two men looked at each other both shocked, but not at all surprised to find that Oracle knew more about the situation than they did and she hadn’t even been conscious.

            “I must have heard it during the surgery or something, but I am sure of it.”  Her face was fearful.


            “I’m on it Bruce.  I’ll go and talk to Logan.”

            “Do as you said, try to get him to work with us.”

            “Us who exactly?  Us super sized? Or…”

            “Get changed.  I’ll get Dinah on it too.”

            “Got it.”  He left in a hurry, without even a glance toward Barbara.

            Logan will make the connection.  He’ll know you’re the Batman…”

            “Good.  Let’s hope that works to our advantage.”

            “You have to go Bruce.”

            “I’m not leaving again…”

            “I’m fine.  There’s someone else who needs you.  Who knows what he’s doing to her, or what he will do when he finds out you’ve tricked Logan.”  Having struggled to do so, Barbara sat up to face Bruce and show her strength.

            “I know.  I just…”

            “Go Bruce.  I can take care of myself.  It’s not like last time.  I’m a pro now.  Besides, I’ve got Alfred right?”  They both allowed slight grins to dart briefly across their faces.


            “Nightwing.  Location.”

            “Hey.  Nice of you to join us.  We’re just getting ready to go into Logan’s office.  At his home.”

            “I’m going to find the Joker.  Once you get Logan to cooperate I want one of you to go back with Oracle.  You know she’s not going to stay put.”

            “Uhhh.  How’s she going to…”

            “She’ll figure out something.  You know her as well as I do.”

            “Right.  Nightwing out.”


            “My dad was right.  You are sick.”

            “Oh really?  Is that all?  You haven’t seen the half of it.  One of them will come.  They always do and then we’ll have some real fun.  You just stay put.  They always come to rescue the weak.”           

            “I’m not weak.  I’m…”

            “Oh, but you are.”  He laughed at the young girl’s feeble attempt to stay standing, her legs useless, between the bars to which she was tied.  “Too bad your daddy’s chip is a fraud.  Just one more pawn in this sick sad game called ‘life.”


            “Ms. Barbara?  Can I get you anything?”

            Though she knew Dick and Bruce were working to end the Joker’s sadistic game once again, something else was compelling her to get up and fight.  Though it had only been a couple of days since her surgery, she knew she had no time to spare.  “Ummm, actually Alfred, I’d like some tea and my chair back please.”

            “You’re not…”

            “Alfred, I have to use the bathroom and I’ve done this a thousand times.  I’ll be fine.  I’ll take it easy.  You know me.”  Oooh poor choice of words, she thought to herself.

            “Yes, Ms. Barbara.  That’s what worries me.  I’ll be back with the chair directly.”  He left the room presenting her with an opportunity to plan her escape. 

She pulled the covers down from atop her legs and placed her hand upon the bandage, which covered what she figured to be the area in which the chip was implanted.  Though she hadn’t noticed before, she felt a tingling in her legs as the cool air of the room brushed against them.  The feeling almost became a distraction.  “Focus Babs.  It’s just a start and you’ve got work to do.  The Olympics will have to wait.”  She sat and waited for Alfred to return.

As Alfred came in pushing her wheelchair, she was, almost glad to see it; comforted somehow.   Figuring she should play her cards right with Alfred, she sucked it up and asked for help.  “Ummm Alfred?”

“Yes Miss Barbara?”

“I’m feeling a little weak.  Do you think you could…umm..”

“Help you?  Of course my dear.  I thought you’d never ask.”

“Yah.  Me either.”  She mumbled to herself.  Lifting her legs gently, he brought them around to the side of the bed and steadied Barbara until she was seated once again.

“Great.  Home sweet home.”  A little cynicism seeped out through a sigh as she positioned herself and cased the room for step two of her virtually nonexistent plan.

“Perhaps soon Ms. Barbara.”

“Soon what Alfred?”

“You won’t be needing the chair?”

“Yah.  Well, there are more pressing matters at hand.  Excuse me.”  She hurried into the bathroom for lack of a better response.

Once she was alone again, she began sorting through all the tangled messages in her mind.  She knew she had heard Logan say that the Joker had his daughter locked up in his home.  That would mean a trip to the fairgrounds.  Not a pleasant memory. “Why am I doing this?”  As the images filled her mind, her thoughts became even more muddled; an occurrence that didn’t happen too often in Barbara’s case.  She knew Dick and Dinah were set to get Logan to cooperate.  He would because his daughter was truly in danger.  She knew Bruce would be watching.  Watching her and watching the Joker.  Watching and waiting for that right moment.  “What can I even do to help?”  It had been a while since her last adventure and time and again she needed to know she could still defend herself.  This was different though.  She wasn’t defending herself. She was helping someone else.  She was the only one who understood the situation.  To Batman it was just another battle with his archenemy.  To Barbara it was becoming revenge; proving a point; he hadn’t left her helpless and weak like he had hoped.  They had all come back stronger.  This time the game would end differently.  She also knew deep down, that the chip was just part of the game.  She’d heard as much.  The thoughts melded together into a sort of pep talk enabling Barbara to jet out from the bathroom with a mission.  “Alfred, I’m going. Don’t try…”

“Will you be needing anything else for your trip Ms. Barbara?”

She smiled as she looked to the bed to see an array of black clothes with a few added surprises no doubt, tucked away beneath the surface.  Not to forget the hot tea which would, no doubt, be insisted upon as a prerequisite for the turning of a blind eye to her leaving.


     “I’ll go and pull the car around.”

     “Alfred thanks.  I’ll be careful.”

     “I’m not worried.”  Alfred left the room and Barbara began changing.

     As she slipped her legs into the pants and reached down to tie the long laces on her boots, reality hit her.  There should at least be some pain around the incision.  She reached back again to feel the bandages.  “Nothing!”  Her fingers felt the smooth surface of the tape and cloth, but she couldn’t feel the touch.  Logan had promised at least pressure immediately.  There was the earlier tingling in her legs, but now, as she stopped focusing on the task of dressing, she noticed that too was not present.

     “Damn it.”  She had the feeling all along, that Logan’s chip was a fraud, but there was a part of her that wanted it to be true.  At that moment, she stopped hoping.  It was just business now.  It wasn’t personal.  Remnants of hidden anger surfaced as she carelessly moved her legs off of the bed.  Reaching for her com-set, she saw the remote control-like device on the bed stand.  She had overheard its description earlier and as she fussed with the buttons, she placed it in the same category as the chip, a fraud, and a decoy.  In seconds, the remote was launched against the wall.

     “Ms. Barbara?”

     “Sorry.  Just coming back down to earth.  Is the car ready?”

     “Yes.”  He tossed her the keys and went about his business of tidying the room as if to say, he’d done his part and was thenceforth not responsible.

     She left, determined to rescue the girl and have a few words with Logan.


     Logan.  You know who we are dealing with and that your daughter’s life may be at stake.  Do you want to help her or not?” Dick was about to resort to threats.

            Logan just sat, head in hands, pathetically mumbling that it was all his fault.

            “What’s your fault Logan?  What’s going to happen?  Switch sides.  We’ve never lost with the Joker, we’re not going to lose this time, but only you can help your daughter.  God, help us shorten the casualty list.” Although Dick had revealed a great deal to Logan and presented an offer to help his daughter, it was Barbara he was thinking about.  Her identity had already been compromised.  If Joker got to her…

            “Listen.  I’m finished.  Nightwing here, he’s being nice.  If you don’t cooperate with us, your daughter will die, our best friend will as well, and you…well, I wouldn’t be opposed to adding you to that list.  Help us or don’t.  Your choice.  Let’s go Nightwing.”  Dinah made for the door smiling as she heard Logan’s faint pleads.

            “Wait Ms. Lance.  I’ll do it.  Can you protect her?”

            “Lauren?  Yes.  We will do our best.”

            “No.  Barbara.  He’s going to find her.  This chip I put into her is a locator, an uplink if you will.  He will find her and her system.  You’ll all be exposed; destroyed.”  He continued sniffling.

            Dinah laughed.  “This isn’t the first time this has happened.  Oracle is safe.  Besides, if I know her…”

            “Canary.  Go.” Dick and Dinah arrived at the realization that this was Barbara they were dealing with and she was probably up to her old stubborn moves already.  “You were supposed to go back there.  You know she’s talked Alfred into letting her go by now, or worse…”

            “Busted.  I’m on it.  You take Logan.  The Bat is waiting for you.” She fled knowing Barbara well enough to know she wouldn’t just lie around and wait.

            “ORACLE.  Can you hear me?  Are you even on?  Damn it!”  She continued toward Barbara’s.


            “What about the chip Logan?  Is it a complete fraud?  A decoy just to lead the Joker to Oracle?”  Dick continued pumping Logan for information as they headed toward the Old Gotham Fairgrounds.

            “No.  I mean it’s never been tried out.  Lauren tried a couple of the earlier chips, but there were…complications.”

            “Complications?  What are you talking about?”  Dick was becoming angrier by the minute.

            “He’s talking about pain mostly I’m guessing, but right about now he’s talking about a sort of adrenalin meets steroids reaction. Epinephrine, a catecholamine, together with norepinephrine, is secreted principally by the medulla of the adrenal gland. Heightened secretion caused perhaps by fear or anger, will result in increased heart rate and the hydrolysis of glycogen to glucose, met with a steroid, especially one that is being electronically stimulated and sent through a person’s veins will cause them to display extra-human strength…”

            “Oracle?  This can only be you…and you’re techno…”

            “I know, I know.  Fight or Flight Dick.  Cause the lame to walk even.  It hurts Dick.  And I have a feeling, like with all good things; it will come to an end.  Fairly shortly if my guess is correct.”

            “Where the hell are you Barbara?” Dick was beginning to worry.

            “Don’t worry.  Where’s Bruce?”

            “He’s at Logan’s.”

            “He has to get to the Fairgrounds.”

            “Logan and I are already on our way there.”

            “You know he’s just doing this to get to Bruce.  It’s the same old game.  I can’t seem to get Bruce on coms.”

            “Yah.  Me either.  He’s probably already there.”

            “ORACLE out.”  She stopped to try and rub the pain out of her back and legs.  “Looks like the ADA hasn’t made it to the old fairgrounds.”  She grabbed hold of an old wooden post and pulled her chair up the curb.  Her head jerked as she heard the cackle she’d heard so many times in her dreams being broadcast over the grounds’ ancient P.A. system.

            “Nice of you to join us.  You’ll do nicely until the real entertainment arrives.”  The sick laughs continued.

            “Come on, where are you?”  Barbara began punching buttons tracing the distant radio waves to their point of origin, half not wanting to know where he was.  The red light stopped and blinked very near her location.  She looked up at the sign. Fun House.  “Great.  How am I going to get in there?”  As she peered into the old metal halls of the attraction, she judged that she might be able to maneuver for a short distance.  “Fine.  Here I come.  I’ll play your games.”  She started in, again having to pull past a high lip into the first room.  As she entered, she heard all of the engines begin to hum alerting her to the fact that the attraction was fully functional.  “Great.  Dick? Dinah? You better have my back here.”

            The first room was the House of Mirrors.  “Have a look around Batgirl!”  More cackling ensued.

            The games began, but it wasn’t the slow start she had hoped for.  She was immediately surrounded by images.  Not images of her in her wheelchair, but images on every side of her in her Batsuit.  They were changing rapidly turning the room round and round.  “No!”  Barbara’s grabbed her aching legs and put her head down.  The room then went black. 

When she opened her eyes again, the mirrors were covered in blood, blood that turned into red negatives of a woman; of her.  She had seen them a number of times, in Bruce’s files, once in a demented email prank, and a million times in her dreams, but it didn’t make it any easier.  Not only had she been violated, but he made souvenirs, so she’s always have the picture.  Cold, naked, lifeless, motionless, broken.  “I relived this before. I’ve lived through it.  This won’t break me you sadistic f….”

“Now Barbara, is that any way to treat me?  I’m sharing our family album with you.  Taking a trip down Memory Lane if you will.”  Again the room was black.

The music began to play.  It was soft, almost happy.  The picture began.  First she was in Dick’s arms.  They were dancing.  Then they were sitting in the park on a blanket.  Then on the beach.  Then they were spinning.  “Where did you…”

“While the cat’s away, the mice will play Barbara.  I just wanted your trip to the fair to be memorable.  Speaking of memories…”

There was a loud gunshot that ricocheted off the mirrored walls.  The lighting returned and when Barbara looked around, all she saw was herself sitting there in her wheelchair.  This was the most disturbing image yet; still she wasn’t going to harp on that too long.

After looking around, she decided the game was over, she left the image behind and made her way toward the next room.  This room was dark; it was the House of Fear.  “Your fears Barbara.  Being out of control.  Being helpless.  Being alone.  Being…”

            “I get it.”  She took a deep breath and listened to the wheels of her chair glide smoothly over the floor.  And then it happened, the loss of control.  The far side of the floor began to rise causing her chair to start sliding sideways.  She grasped the wheels tightly, but was unable to keep it from happening.  Within seconds, she crashed into the wall and fell from her chair.

            “Ughh.”  She breathed in deeply as she felt a sharp pain in her back.  Quickly, she flipped herself over and reached for her chair.  It was dark, but she knew she hadn’t fallen far.  The calliope began playing; louder and louder, masking the footsteps that drew near.  She moved closer to where she figured her chair to be and still came up empty-handed. “O.K. now what?  What is the next step in the game?” She yelled out over the music.

            The music came to a screeching halt.  An almost deafening silence filled the room and the lights became just present enough to reveal the next “step in the game.”

            “Curious choice of words Babs. Why don’t you give that new chip a try?  Stand up.  Go save the girl.”

            “It’s a wonder that you could have possibly achieved even higher levels of inhumanness since last we met.”

            “The fun is just beginning Batgirl.  Get up.  I’ve got more fun in store.”

            She looked around to notice that the floor had returned to normal and that her chair was nowhere to be found.  Unsure of what was worse, knowing that he had been close enough to her to remove her chair, or knowing that she had reached the end of her gig.  She was trapped; stuck.

            There was no music, no more conversations for the time being.  Just the unnerving sound of the gears turning in her head, telling her she had failed. The sounds served to distract her, until another diversion came.

            The walls again filled with images.  This time, the images were of a young girl tied between parallel bars crying.  The images were coming across in real time.  Barbara could see her arms weakening, her legs useless beneath her.

            “Lauren.”  Her new realization served as motivation and she began dragging herself slowly across the floor to the door not too far away.  It was humiliating.  She knew that although he was quiet, he was watching, getting some sort of sick satisfaction out of her struggle, her inadequacy.

            As she entered what she hoped to be the final room, she was out of breath.  “I thought I was in better shape than this.”  She looked around the dimly lit room and saw that every exit led to a flight of stairs.  “Of course.”  She continued across the room to the nearest flight.  Once there, she rigidly raised herself up onto the first step, pulled her legs up to her chest and breathed in deeply.

            After catching her breath, she recognized the gravity of the situation.  “’Suck it up Barbara.  You can’t do this.  The girl is more important than your pride.”  She needed to call for help; the last thing she wanted to do.

            “Nightwing? Dinah?  It’s Oracle.  Do you read me?”  There was no response.  “Dinah?”  “Bruce?”  “Dick..” static filled the air over her coms.

            “Nice. My signal is blocked down here.  Well, I’m sure they are all on it already.  Now I just have to get myself out of here.”  She began moving up the stairs. One by one. Cursing the Joker all the way.


            “Oracle? What’s your position.”  Dinah pleaded over her comlink.

            “Oracle?”  Her attempts were as futile as Barbara’s had been on the other end.

            “Nightwing.  She’s gone.  She’s not responding on coms either.  Where’s Batman?”

            “What do you mean she’s gone?  How could…”


            “Alfred…” They answered simultaneously.  “Find her Dinah.  Logan and I are on our way to the Fairgrounds.  Barbara is probably there as well.  Find her Dinah.”

            “What about Bruce?”

            “I haven’t been able to contact him since we left Logan’s office.  I’m not exactly sure where he is.  Man, we really are no good without Oracle as our eyes are we?”

            “Yah.  I kind of regret giving her all that crap about looking over my shoulder and being overprotective.”

            “Me too.  Just find her.  Nightwing out.”


            “I…sure….hope they have found this…place.  Damn these stairs.”  She stopped to rub the new pain out of her legs.  As she sat with her feet on the step below, she decided to give it a shot.  Leaning back on her hands, she let go of her knees and focused on keeping them together.  Much to her surprise, she could feel the muscles working to keep her legs up.  Focusing all of her newfound energy, she began pushing and suddenly felt herself inch back against the step.

            “Holy shit Batman. Ouch.  I can’t believe I said that.”  She shook her head and watched, as she was then able to move her feet, first her left, then her right, off the step below her.  With each move, her back was filled with a stabbing feeling.  Like she was using up tokens with each move.

            “Well, why not try?”  She took hold of the railing and pulled with all her might.  After 7 years, pulling herself up wasn’t the problem.  Atrophy, despite hours of stretching and working, had taken its toll on her legs.  They’d never hold her even if she could stand.  Still, she pulled.

            Again she was surprised as, for the first time in since being paralyzed, she could feel her legs supporting her body.  “This chip actually works.”

            “Amazing what technology can do.  Why didn’t you think of this Oracle?  How does it feel?  How long will it last?  Do I smell a sequel?  Batgirl Returns! HA HA HA HA HA HA…”  His sick laughter trailed off.

            “He’s right.  What goes up, must come down.  I wonder how long I’ve got.”  With more of a struggle than when she was having to drag herself up the stairs, she began using her legs and arms to pull herself up, step by step all the while seeing her legs begin to shake almost violently.  The pain was growing almost unbearable.


            “Nightwing.  Canary.  I’ve found something.  We need a plan.  Meet me in the main tent.  I think he’s got Oracle.”

            The two, having just arrived, ran, Logan trying to keep up, through the twisted paths of the Joker’s playground ending up under the Big Top.  As they entered, they saw Bruce pacing back and forth in the center under a solitary spotlight.  Beside him was Barbara’s chair.

            “That sick son of a…”

            “He’s a horrible twisted man Dick.” Bruce concurred with Nightwing’s sentiments, but didn’t rest on them.“Logan.  Is there a meeting place? A Rendezvous? He may have your daughter and Barbara there.”

            As Logan caught up with the others, he answered out of breath.  “His office is behind the Tunnel of Love, but we never set a place.  We were going to meet at…”

            “Barbara’s, but he doesn’t know where that is correct?”  Batman grabbed Logan by the shirt and thrust him into Barbara’s chair.

            “I don’t know.  I don’t think…”

            “Bruce.  She’s gone.  Alfred let her go.  She got to be here somewhere.”

            “And so does he…”  Dick was getting worried.  He knew Barbara could defend herself from the chair, but how could she do it if…”What if she’s walking?”

            They all looked to Logan. “It’s…conceivable.  I mean her legs won’t be strong enough to hold her weight very long and the chip…”

            “Has complications.  You’re going to be lucky if I don’t kill you when this is over Logan.  You don’t know what she’s been through…” Dick was getting closer and closer to compromising the situation.

            “Dick.  You take the east grounds.  Dinah, you take the Fun House.  I’m going to the Tunnel of Love; twisted as that is.  Logan, you’re with me.”

            They left and began looking for Barbara, no closer than before to knowing what the Joker had cooked up for them.


            Once to the top of the stairs, Barbara collapsed.  “Well, that was short lived.” The pain in her back and legs didn’t leave, so she figured she just needed to rest.  As she propped herself up against the wall, she began to hear faint cries.  She could barely tell from which direction they came and looking down at her legs, which were still shaking from exertion, she knew she couldn’t afford to make the wrong choice. To the left, she noted that the floor was covered with foot-sized circles which she was certain would begin twisting as soon as she reached them.  Walking was one thing, balancing on twisting pads…out of the question for now.  Still, to the right it was a scene right out of Grease as she noted the two levels that made up the narrow walkway.  These, she knew, would begin moving up and down in opposite directions. “Mmmmm…I’m guessing risk of injury and humiliation is less to the left, so that can only mean one thing.  Here goes broken-down Batgirl tossed up and down for the Joker’s pleasure.  Enjoying yourself yet?” She yelled as she used the wall to stand up again.

            The music started again as she reached the narrow walkway to her right.  “Rails.  Goody.  Handicap accessible.”  She noted sarcastically as the floor began moving up and down, right side then left side.  The rails were not going to be much help.  Still, she grasped them tightly and tried to balance on one side of the floor.  She was grateful she’d spent so much time strengthening her arms.  Despite the several near-collapses, she was able to swing her way across the hallway just like she did in her home gym.  “Ha.  Not so bad!”  She was mildly amused at her success.

            “Nicely done Batgirl.  You’ve helped yourself, but what use will you be to the girl?  How much longer can you last?”

            Dropping to her knees, she crawled slowly into the next room.  She heard the cries clearly now.  “Lauren?”


            “Stay quiet. I’ll help you.”  At that comment, the room was again filled with evil laughter.  Laughter, which caused Lauren to cry even harder.  Barbara followed the cries through the dark, stopping when she came to what she knew to be the bars in the pictures she had seen earlier.  “Throw me a bone here Joker.  Don’t you want to watch?”  She needed light.  He responded; in typical Joker fashion.  The room was almost instantaneously filled with strobes.  At this she almost had to laugh and were she not in extreme amounts of pain, she probably would have. In the bursts of light, she could see a figure draped over the bars that stood in front of her.

            “Lauren?  You’re going to have to work with me here.”  She scanned the room for Lauren’s chair and determined it was a long shot that came back void as expected. Pulling herself over to where the girl’s arms were tied, she reached up and unbuckled the straps that held her.  Unable to hold herself up any longer, the girl fell to the floor, crying out as the arm still fixed to the bar was pulled, by the weight of her body.


            “You can take that up with your father later.  Right now I need you to help me.  You are going to have to pull up one more time to help me loosen the strap on your other arm.”  Barbara was able to pull herself up, but knew she couldn’t support another person.

            “What’s wrong with you?  Why…”

            “Same thing that’s WRONG with you, so help me out here.”  She was in no mood for questions and more reminders of how inadequate she was for her present situation.

            “You can’t walk?  Great!  How are we…”

            “I don’t know, but you can start by nixing all the questions and stopping all that crying.  Pull yourself together.  I can’t carry you out, so you’re going to have to do it yourself.”

            “You have the chip don’t you?  You’re that woman he’s looking for.  I’m sorry…”

            “Yes I do, yes I am, and I don’t even want to know what you’re about to say…let’s just get…”

            “Barbara?  Come on.  Where are you?  I know you’re in here.  I’ve seen the pictures in the other rooms.”

            “Thank God.  Canary? When you get to the end, take a right, and go up stairs.”

            “Are you alright?  How did you…”

            “Dinah, now! Move!”



            “Dick.  Bruce.  I’ve found Oracle.  I’m almost there.  No sign of …”

            “Wrong Canary.”  The Joker popped out from behind one of the many mirrors.  “Your friend is doing so well on her own.  Why not let her…”

            “Quiet you sick jerk!” With that she rounded off and sent the Joker flying with the impact of a well-placed boot to the jaw.


            “In here Dinah.”

            Following the strobes, she entered the room and found Barbara standing over Lauren using the far wall as support.

            “Take her Dinah.  Get her out of here.”

            “Can you walk?”

            “Sort of, but not far, and I have a feeling not for long.”

            “Don’t do it.  The more you use the chip, the worse you’ll get.”  Lauren warned.

            “Just go Dinah.  I’ll be fine.”

            “No way.  He’s just down stairs.  I only knocked him out.”

            “This is what he wants.  Go! Our job is to save her.  Go now!”

            “Fine!  Here.”  Dinah tossed set of Escrima sticks to her, then picked up the girl and ran out of the room.  The hallway led to what appeared to be the staging room for the acts involved in the circus.  “Bruce.  Barbara’s in trouble.  I’ve got the girl.  Barbara made me leave her alone.  She’s with the Joker.  Hurry!” Continuing toward the safety of the jeep, she threw back a flare to alert the others as to where Barbara was.


            Taking Lauren’s advice, Barbara chose to avoid using the chip for as long as possible.  She dragged herself back across the room and positioned herself beside the door, which she knew the Joker would be coming through at any moment. 

Then she waited.  Her eyes began to burn and her head throbbed with every blink of the light until she took out a small batarang, compliments of Alfred’s efficient planning, and accurately threw it, bursting the light, bringing peace in the calm, darkness of the room.  She listened as she heard footsteps accompanied by occasional moans.

“Sounds like Canary gave you quite a kick.”

“I just want the Bat.  Quit while you’re ahead little girl.  Don’t make me hurt you.”

“You can try, but I’m not going down without a fight this time.  We’re playing by my rules.  Even playing fields.”  As he stumbled through the door, she drew her sticks and with all her might took out his knees.  She heard him fall to the floor moaning even more.

“My God.  And you say I’m sick.  What have you done?”

Once again, she stood up slowly and painfully.  “Get up Joker.  Come on, try out those new legs of yours.”

She placed her knee to his back and grabbed his hair with one hand, and placed one of her sticks at his throat.

His voice was muted, “How… proud would your mentor… be of you if you killed me?  Where’s….the fun…in that?”

“He should have killed you himself.  I will always regret that he didn’t.”  Her teeth were clinched as she pulled his head back further with every word

 “Barbara.  Stop!  You’ll regret it.”  Bruce’s voice was startling and unexpected.

“I will anyway Bruce.  Every time I look at that wheelchair…”

“Your father is on his way.  He won’t let him go.  He won’t escape this time.”

“How can you…say that?  He will get out.  I could have died tonight.  I almost wish…”

“Barbara!” Bruce yelled.  “Let it go.  Let him go.”

There was a loud thud as the Joker’s head hit the floor.  A distant sound of a generator preceded the lighting of the room by a solitary bulb in the corner.  As Barbara stood up, she looked at Bruce.  Her eyes were angry and full of tears.  Then she slowly walked out of the room, grasping the railing as she went back down the stairs.

“She’s right.  No one would miss you if I killed you now.”

“Then do it because the fun is not over…”

Bruce looked at the Joker’s left hand, he was about to stage his final gag.  All at once, he heard Barbara scream and watched as the stairs turned into a slide.

Acting on instinct, he jumped up and ran toward Barbara.  He looked on as she lay in a pile at the foot of the slide.  Torn, he turned to see the Joker rising from the floor.

“Damn you!” Again the Joker went flying through the air.  This time hitting the wall without laughter and without the last laugh.  Running to her side, he knew it was too little too late.

“Dick.  Bring the jeep.  Barbara’s down.  We need to get her help.”

“What have you done Bruce?”

“Just get here fast.”  He straightened her legs and held her in his arms full of hurt and shame.  Her eyes opened slightly.

“Bruce?  I’m so…”

“Shhhhh.  We’ll argue later.”

“It hurts Bruce.”

“I know. I know.  I’m sorry.  Just hang on.”  The irony was just too much.  It was deja-vu.


            “You need to get the chip out as soon as possible.”  Logan looked on as Dick held Barbara in his lap in the jeep.

            “How’s Lauren?”

            “Shhhh.  Babs.  She’s going to be O.K. and so are you.”


            They continued to the hospital where they had Lauren admitted.  Her father taking charge of her recovery.  “I’m sorry for all of the trouble I’ve caused.  Understand I did have her best…”

            “Save it Logan.  Count your lucky stars you weren’t killed.”  Dick returned to the manor where Barbara too was recovering.


            “She’s going to be fine.”  Dinah was sitting with her feet propped up on the side of Barbara’s bed reading a magazine when Dick came in.  Barbara’s head was turned toward the window as she listened to them discuss her situation.

            “There’s no permanent damage, just some bruises and…”

            “You mean she’s no worse off than when she got into this whole mess.  That’s just not fair Dick.  I wanted this for her so badly.”

            “Me too.”

            Barbara, uninterested in what was being said, dosed off to sleep.


“I know I probably shouldn’t have called, but my dad gave me your phone number.”

            “Who is this?”  Dinah inquired as she answered Barbara’s personal line.

            “Lauren.  The girl…”

            “Oh.  You want to talk to Barbara, not me.”

            “I’m sorry, I thought this was Barbara’s phone number.”

            “It is, she’s just…busy right now.  Anyhow, call back in a couple of hours.  She should be available then.  Or would you rather I took a message?”

            “Ummm, yah.  I just wanted to thank her.  She saved my life and I thought maybe someday, we could talk again.  I don’t know anyone else in my situation and I just think it might be good to have someone.”

            “Yah.  I think it’d be good for her  too.  I’ll tell her you called.”  Dinah hung up the phone then went up to the gym to look for Barbara.

            “I figured you’d be in here.  Don’t you think it’s a little soon Babs?  I mean you’ve had at least two surgeries in a matter of weeks.”

            “Oh yah…and how did you put it? I’m no worse off than I was before, so let me continue please.”  She was a force to be reckoned with ever since returning to the Clock Tower.

            “You heard…”

            “Yah.  I heard.”

            “Mind if I stick around?”

            “Yes.  Can’t you go and monitor the Delphi System or hang out with Dick?”  She moved swiftly from one end of the bars to the other.

            “That’s your job.  I hate that stupid computer.”  Dinah stood up and walked over to Barbara.  “Do you want to talk about it?”

            “We’ll debrief later.  Can’t I just finish what I’m doing her?”  She stopped midway to look Dinah in the eye.

            “Debrief?  Are you kidding me with that?  Barbara, it’s me Dinah, I’m not the Black Canary right…”

            “Then I’ve nothing to talk about.  I’m being as nice as I can.  Please go.”

            “Fine.”  Dinah got up and left the room lurking for a while in the hall, watching her friend torment herself.

            Once she was sure she was alone, Barbara took the braces off her legs and lifted herself back up between the bars.  Looking down to make sure they were in place, she let go of the bar with one hand.  Before she even considered letting go with the other, the game was over.  She fell to the floor as she had many times before.

            At this, Dinah rushed in.  “Barbara, you have to stop this!”

            “Why were you…”

            “Just stop.”  Without thinking, she lifted Barbara back into her chair then flopped back on the mat.  The two just sat in silence staring deeply into one another’s eyes.

            After what seemed an eternity, Dinah bravely broke the silence.  “Are you O.K.?”

            Barbara sat and thought before she answered.  “No.  I don’t think I am Dinah.”

            “O.K.  How can I help?”

            “You can’t…I need to…”

            “Do this on your own…rah rah…yeah Oracle…yeah Batgi…”

            “Don’t say another word Dinah.”

            “Or you’ll what?  It’s just I don’t understand your insistence on doing this alone again.  You force all of us to come to terms with our secret identity and learn to live two separate lives.  You need to take your own advice.  Yes, you are the all-seeing all-knowing Oracle and for that we are all thankful, but you are also Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, best friend of Dinah Lance, and girlfriend to Dick Grayson if you’d let him in.  You are a young woman who has suffered a disabling injury, not once, but twice.  Embrace Barbara Gordon. Let us embrace Barbara Gordon.”  That said, with surprisingly no Oracle interruptions, Dinah left for real.


            “You talked to Bruce?”  Dinah took Barbara’s suggestion and drove to the Bludhaven Police Department with lunch for Dick.

            “No, Alfred said he hasn’t been home.”

            “Do you think he’s gone again?”

            “How long have you known me Dinah?”

            “A while, why?”

            “I hate mayonnaise.”

            “Hello? Earth to Dick.  We were talking about Bruce.”

            “No, I think he’s pondering everything.  It’s like he’s reliving the whole experience that occurred the first time.”

            “Yah, same with Barbara.”

            “We should go over and bother her tonight.  I don’t think she really wants to be alone.”

            “Even though she’s kicked us both out every day this week?”

            “I think especially because she’s kicked us out every night.  I’ll see you tonight.  You’re in charge of the ice-cream.”


            Barbara reached behind her and took her book into her hand.  “Lights dim.”  No sooner had she spoken the words and the room lights grew softer.  Removing the bookmark, she began to read.

            “You know it’s bad for your eyes.”

            His voice didn’t even startle her.  She didn’t even bother looking away from the pages.  “It doesn’t bother me.”

            ‘’’Barbara, we have to talk.”  Bruce pulled a chair up to the side of the couch where Barbara sat stretched out, a blanket safely covering her legs.

            “About what?  I understand.  We don’t kill.  We save people.  Yeah us!  Mission accomplished.”

            “Barbara, I wanted  to kill him as much as you did.”

            “Really Bruce?  Cause I’m just not sure that’s true.”

            Bruce had no immediate reply.  An uncomfortable silence filled the room.

            “That’s what I thought.  The next thing you’re going to be saying is that, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

            “It is personal.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wake up and think about you having to be in that chair…”

“…That makes two of us…”

“…About all he’s taken from you.  I guess I just wanted to come by and let you know I love you and am always here if you need me.”  He bravely bent down and kissed her forehead then left.  As he left, he rant into Dinah and Dick in the elevator.  “Good luck.  I’m going home if you need me I’ll…”

            “Yah…I know how the system works Batman.”  Dick mockingly saluted his former protégé and he and Dinah continued to fill the air with laughter.

            “He really has no sense of humor does he?”

            “Not an ounce.  I think it was the switch from nylon to Kevlar that pushed him over the edge.”  Again laughter filled the air.  As they neared the front door, they noticed that it was opened.


            “Yah.  In here.”

            “Did you know your door was opened?”

            She just glared over the top of her glasses as if to say, “No, actually, I spent so much time learning how to decode the mainframe computers at NASA that I just didn’t have time for, Securing Your Lair 101.”

            “Glad to see your mood hasn’t changed.”

            “Glad to see that you and Boy Wonder are as giggly and obnoxious as usual.”  Realizing, as she watched Dick plop down on the couch beside her and kick off his shoes, that they were staying, she laid her book down and sat up.  “So, what flavor did you bring?”

            “The one and only.”  Dinah tossed a spoon and pint of mint chip ice cream over to Barbara.


            They all dove into their ice cream and gave the moment a bit to grow and develop.

            As usual, Dick’s silence was short-lived.  “So, how do you feel?  I mean, you’ve been working out pretty hard.  Do you still have pain in your legs?”

            Before answering, Barbara thought of the various roads she could take, she chose recovery over rude.  “No.  Pretty much, gone completely.”

            “Ummmm…is that a good thing or a bad thing?”  Dinah was unsure of Barbara’s response to Dick’s question, unsure of how Barbara had meant what she retorted.

            “It’s .. it’s.. a hard thing Dinah.  It’s just hard to lose it all again.  Don’t get me wrong, that was the most pain I’d felt in years…well, obviously…but I was close.  I was…”

            “You were walking Babs.  I wish…”

            “You could have seen it?  No you don’t, trust me.  I was not graceful.  It was difficult, unnatural.  It’s good Dinah.”

            “But this morning you…”

            “I just wanted to make sure.  I’m sorry.  It’s just, I feel like I’ve come a long way in 7 years and this messed me up  a little.  I knew it would, that’s why I was so resistant in the beginning.  But I’ve been thinking.  This is what I’m supposed to be doing.  If it weren’t, you bet I’d be walking by now.”

            “I’m sorry Babs.”

            “Don’t be.  I’ll get over it.  I always do.”

            “Yah, but you’re allowed to do a little wallowing tonight.  You know, embrace Barbara?”  Dick shot a wink over at Dinah.

            “What are you guys ganging up on me?”


“Maybe I need it.  Maybe we all need to embrace Barbara…”

            “You got it!”  With that invitation, both Dick and Dinah sprang from their places and tackled Barbara on the couch.

            After the hugs were distributed and smiles exchanged, Barbara looked them both in the eye, “Thanks for letting me do this.  Thanks for letting me be a part of things for just a moment.  Even if you did have to bail me out again.”  She lowered her head just a bit with her last statement.

            “Are you kidding?  Without you, we were all three running around blind.  Barbara, you ARE ‘things’.  Thank you for letting us be a part of it.  And really, Bruce is the one who found you.”

            “I know.  I was really hard on him tonight.  He’s hard enough on himself, without me…”

            “You guys will work through it in your own stubborn batty ways.  By the way, Lauren called this morning.  She wanted to thank you for saving her life.  I think she needs someone to talk to.  Someone like….you.”

            “I know, and maybe I do too.  I overheard the call.”

            “You mean you listened over the speaker?”

            “Well…old habits are hard to break.  Besides, I agree I guess.  I mean, in seven years, I haven’t had anyone who really understood what it’s like.  Hell, I don’t even understand it most of the time….”


“I’m saying I’ll give her a call.”

            They continued eating their ice cream, reliving some of the pain they had 7 years earlier.  This time with different friends and different experience.


            “On screen.  Batman.  It’s Oracle.  Do you copy?”

            “Yes Barbara.”

            The two screens stared back at each other.  They knew each other intimately.

            “Bruce.  I said a lot of things that…”

“That I needed to hear.  Barbara, I’m so sorry…”

            “Me  too Bruce.  We’ll get through this just like we did last time.  Just be glad I’m so stubborn.  You’re lucky I’m not some sappy little girl Hell bent on feeling sorry for herself.  I’m in this for the long haul.  No matter how I have to get there. ORACLE OUT.