Chapter 10 – Bad Timing

“Police have blocked the area!  What’s happening he…oh,” Dinah said, rushing into the Tucker house gymnasium and joining Huntress and Lizard guy.  “Seventy-six minutes!”  She squeaked at the bold red numbers on the ominous digital timer.

“Huntress, Edward Tucker’s ransom note had a midnight deadline for a funds transfer,” Oracle blurted in confusion.  “We should have more than three hours!”

“The timer issss broken,” Daniel said, pointing his scaly finger at the decreasing digits; now reading seventy-four minutes.  “Fry!  He must have sabotaged the timer!!” he hissed.

“Can’t you do something?!?” Helena blurted anxiously, driving the lizard man to rush towards a nearby toolbox.  He clumsily opened the clasps and pulled out a screwdriver, dropping it.

“I . . . can’t” the talented surgeon admitted miserably, looking at his thick, scaly hands with disgust.

“Huntress, what’s happening?”  Oracle blurted impatiently, hearing only part of the conversation.

“The Doc thinks the timer was sabotaged by Fry.  It’s counting down too fast - we’ve got seventy-two minutes now,” Helena blurted quickly.  “Doc!  You can talk me through it,” she said urgently, picking up the dropped screwdriver and glancing at the bomb warily, thinking perhaps settling down to just being a bartender wouldn’t be so bad in the future.

“You need to be careful, Fry may have booby trapped it!”  He said worriedly.  Seeing her impatient and incredibly annoyed look, he offered, “take the cover plate off the timer…carefully,” he added unnecessarily, wringing his scaly hands. 

Carefully he says,” Helena muttered, shooting a glance his way before slowly unscrewing the first screw.  With the screw almost out, Helena jumped back in pain.  “Agh!  Goddamnit!” she said, dropping the screwdriver and cradling her shocked hand that still tingled. 

“Helena?!?” Oracle called out anxiously.

“Oh no!!” Dinah blurted nervously, seeing the timer now reading sixty-two minutes and counting down. 

“Helena!” Barbara called out impatiently.

“I’m Ok Red, just a zap; but I lost ten minutes.  I think Fry anticipated someone wanting to inactivate the timer.  I’m pretty sure he’s done what he could to have this thing go off.”

“I knew he was enjoying this project too much,” Daniel growled, shaking his head.  He wasn’t worried he would die soon; it would end his nightmare.  But he never thought this bomb would actually be used for anything more than a bargaining tool.  How stupid could he have been!?!

Helena stared at the bomb, then around the large gymnasium as if seeking an answer or some inspiration.  She looked up to the ceiling, then down to the bomb as a plan began to form.

“Dinah, turn your micro-camera on.  I want to see it,” Barbara said, thinking she might be able to determine how it was booby-trapped.

Dinah quickly did as asked and a picture of the bomb appeared on several of Delphi’s screens. 


“Dear God. Carl, what have you done?” Jim whispered to himself, rubbing the back of his neck as the grave reality of the situation sunk in. 

Barbara zoomed in on the bomb and frowned, needing a better angle.

“I’ll make some tea,” Alfred announced firmly and departed on his mission to the kitchen.  Jim thought something stronger was needed.

“Barbara, how big will the blast zone be?”  Helena blurted impatiently.


Daniel’s gaze shot towards Helena with surprise, hearing his old girlfriend’s name.  The person Helena had been talking to, Oracle, was Barbara?  As he considered that amazing bit of information, he realized it really wasn’t that surprising.  Barbara Gordon was a brilliant and driven woman in college; the woman he knew wouldn’t let paralysis stop her from making a difference, he considered, looking down at his scaled hands thoughtfully.

“It will level all of New Gotham, Helena,” Barbara said impatiently.  “Now Dinah, your camera.  I need to see the timer more closely…”

“Barbara, the blast zone!  I mean it!  How big??” Helena interrupted irritably.

Barbara blinked, then frowned as she quickly pulled up a reference on Delphi.  “Uh…given the mass of the Plutonium that was stolen I would approximate, not knowing the exact geometry of the internal mechanism…4.4 miles.”

“4.6” Daniel interjected, shaking his head dejectedly at what Carl and he had done. 

“Five it is,” Helena said with a nod. 

“Dinah, the timer, I need to see it from the side,” Barbara announced tersely.

“Give me the micro camera,” Helena said, getting the teen to eye her uneasily as she pulled the device on her necklace and handed it to Helena, who provided Barbara her side picture.

“Good…,” Barbara said as the picture showed up on the Delphi’s screen.

“Dinah, can you blast a hole through the ceiling?” Helena asked.  “About yay big?” she said, holding her hands out the diameter of the bomb, then a few feet wider, moving the camera and disturbing Barbara’s picture.

“Helena?” Barbara said, growing more alarmed.  “What are you thinking?” she asked as a disturbing feeling of dread swelled up as she considered the possibilities.

“Sorry about the picture, Red,” Helena said, returning the micro camera to show the timer view Barbara wanted as she eyed Dinah then the ceiling.

Dinah looked at her a moment before her eyes widened in understanding.  “Helena…” she said with worry.

“We have less than fifty-nine minutes, D.  Come on, you can do it!” Helena said with conviction.

Dinah frowned and looked at the ceiling with a wince.  Trying to focus, she felt a swirl of energy form and grow within.  She threw her arm up in the air, releasing that energy in a blue, TK ball that hurled towards the ceiling.  The ball hit it with a loud bang, causing a burst of light and violent shudder; glass from the lighting fixtures shattered and rained down upon them. 

“Yes!! Again!”  Helena said enthusiastically. 

“Huntress, Canary, what the hell is going on?” Barbara said worriedly, hearing the bang.  Jim frowned, wondering if all their “missions” were so nerve-wracking. 

“Do it, Dinah,” Helena encouraged with a nod.

“Helena, talk to me,” Barbara said tensely. 

“Dinah is making a hole in the ceiling,” Helena responded with optimism.  “On purpose,” she added with an amused smirk, making Dinah roll her eyes.

“Helena, what are you thinking?” Barbra said anxiously as Dinah took a deep breath and focused on her energy that swirled around her and pooled in her chest.  Helena moved the camera into place as she eyed Dinah with a smile.

“I’m gonna get this thing out of here,” Helena said firmly.  “Somehow,” she added with less confidence.

Throwing her arm in the air again, Dinah released another telekinetic ball that shot up to the ceiling, causing another loud boom that broke a few metal beams free and the gymnasium floor. 

“Helena…” Barbara called but heard the loud noises over the comms and frowned.

Seeing the heavy debris falling down towards the bomb, Helena cursed and flew towards them and batted all but one away.  Dinah gasped, seeing the last beam plummet towards the bomb.  Before she could focus and bring forth another energy ball, she saw a blur and a thick tail bat the beam away, letting it safety clatter on the floor.

Dinah smiled her thanks to Daniel, who landed with an unceremonious thud and shifted uncomfortably under her approving gaze.  Something he had not experienced in his current form before; it felt good.  “S..Sorry about…batting you off the roof top,” he said awkwardly.

Dinah shrugged.  “You’re helping now, that’s what matter,” she said magnanimously with a smile.

“Forty-eight minutes!” Helena called out nervously, shaking her head trying to figure out how to haul the bomb out of there.  She saw three small pad eyes on the top of the cylindrical bomb, but was sure she couldn’t get a good grip and frowned, wishing she had a harness.

“We’ve got harnesses in the Humvee!” Dinah blurted, having read Helena’s mind.

For once happy with that invasion of privacy, Helena nodded and shouted “GO!” prompting Dinah to rush off to retrieve a harness.

“Helena, please don’t do anything rash.  If you can get a closer picture, I may be able to….”

“Barbara, you may be able to?  I just lost ten minutes when I tried to open up the timer.  And we don’t have the time to get equipment to x-ray through the metal.  The only option I can see is me getting this goddamn thing out of here!” Helena said brusquely as Dinah came back with the needed rigging gear.


Barbara frowned.  “What if the timer is triggered by motion or a change in elevation?”

Helena sighed.  “Then I suppose our problem is solved for us.  Barbara, I can’t just watch the time count down and we know it doesn’t like to be tampered with.”

She had to admit Helena’s comments were logical and her plan to get it out of the city was best for the city…but terribly dangerous for Helena. “W…where… do you intend on taking it?”Barbara finally asked, attempting to focus on the action Helena was planning to take, not the sick feeling that weighed heavily in her stomach. 


“East.  Over the ocean,” Helena announced confidently as she approached the bomb.  Her face scrunched up tensely as she carefully put the first carabiner on a pad eye and watched the timer.  She exhaled a relieved breath to see no jump in time and more quickly attached the other carabiners.  “The fish won’t be happy but they are lower on the food chain,” Helena said bluntly.


Barbara nodded silently, reluctantly approving of the idea.  An explosion over land, even a remote piece of land, would be riskier for the public.  But it would complicate rescue attempts, she considered with a frown.  Shaking her head, she quickly typed on her keyboard.


“Forty-six minutes,” Dinah said nervously as she helped Helena into the harness. 

Helena gave her a small, warm smile and received a hug.  Dinah pulled back, having read her thoughts, which Helena clearly projected. 

“I love you too.  And you have a chance to tell her again, after you’re back.  This isn’t goodbye,” Dinah offered with a brave smile.

Helena nodded hoping she was right, then pursed her lips with disapproval.  “When I get back, you’re going to have to stop doing that,” she scolded, poking her in the shoulder.

“Hey, you need to stop projecting!”  Dinah poked her back.

“Sure, blame the victim,” Helena lamented, placing her hand over her poked “injured” arm.

“Helena,” Barbara said softly, unable to hide her emotion. 

Helena’s eyes shut a pained moment as the worry in Barbara’s voice shot to her heart.  She knew very well how she would feel if the positions were reversed.  Taking a fortifying breath, Helena plastered on a wry smile.

“You know, Barbara.  Now would be a great time for your inner cheerleader to come out,” she joked, then added thoughtfully “I wonder if there is a course you could take…”

“I don’t think New Gotham U actually has classes for that,” Barbara noted softly.

“Like you really checked,” Helena scoffed as she and Dinah worked on tightening her harness straps. 

“Perhaps after this…you can help me find a course.”

“Better yet . . . after this, maybe Nightwing can cover New Gotham with Dinah for a couple of nights and we can finally experience what it’s like to have extended, uninterrupted time together.  How does that sound?” Helena said with a small, warm smile at the thought, looking up through the hole in the ceiling. 


“That sounds…” Barbara strangled her words, struggling with her emotion.  Knowing she had to hold it together - for both of them, she took a fortifying breath.  “…much better than a cheerleading course,” she managed dryly, wanting nothing more than to be with Helena on that vacation now.


“I should hope so!” Helena said with mock indignation relieved by Barbara’s teasing, needing her warm voice in her ear which always helped her focus.  And she needed that focus if she was going to pull this off.  She glanced at Dinah, who lunged at her, giving her another hug.  “Ooof!”

“You can do this!” Dinah said, pulling back, with a teary but encouraging smile.

“Now that’s what a good cheerleader does, Barbara,” Helena joked with a small smile, squeezing Dinah’s arm before slowly levitating and causing the harness to become taught.

“If anyone can do it, it’s you Helena,” Barbara offered with heart-felt conviction, though her stomach knotted with worry.

“There you go!  Much better, Red,” Helena offered with a small smile as the harness creaked under the weight of the several hundred pound bomb.  Finally, the bomb was lifted off the gymnasium floor.  Daniel looked on with amazement as she hovered then slowly floated higher in the air.  All eyes watched the timer, which thankfully seemed to be unaffected by the elevation change. 


Barbara struggled against the chaos of emotions, knowing how important it was to focus on the mission…and Helena.  She knew Helena was nervous, even though she too put up a brave front.  Always the brave front, Barbara thought with frustration.  Always “the mission,” she considered with growing resentment as her eyes narrowed at Delphi’s computer screens.  It consumed her.  And she let it.  Willingly. 
Yet it never bothered her before now, she realized with disturbing clarity and quickly called up Helena’s GPS on the screen, desperate to see exactly where Helena if that would somehow give her a shred of control over the situation - the situation that she knew had the ability to cripple her more than the loss of her legs.

“I knew you had it in you!” Helena offered approvingly.

Taking a deep, thoughtful breath, Barbara offered, “Well, even a blind squirrel eventually can find a nut, Hel.” 

How much time had she wasted, dealing with the ugly, dark side of humanity?  And because of her, how much of Helena’s and Dinah’s?  This was not all that there was.  There was so much more, Barbara finally, really understood, thanks to Helena.


Helena chuckled. “I have to admit, I’ve never considered you a blind squirrel, Red,” she offered as she and the bomb cleared the building, drawing the attention from the small group of men and women in blue that had dutifully secured the building and stood watch. 

A policeman grabbed his cruiser’s floodlight and directed it towards Helena, cutting through the night sky.  He and his partner quickly looked at each other before jumping into their cruiser to follow beneath her, like earthly custodians keeping their airborne savior company as she flew from the building and over New Gotham. 

Truth be told, Helena didn’t mind the company.

The evacuating citizens briefly paused their exodus as one young woman pointed to the sky.  “Look!” 

All looked up to see what they hadn’t thought possible; the bomb being taken away from the city by a dark-haired woman in a leather duster who  One young teen whistled and clapped with encouragement, prompting the others to join in enthusiastic and hopeful cheering.


“Really?  Look how long it took me to finally succumb to your charms,” Barbara noted, intently staring at Helena’s GPS signal on her screen.

With a guilty ache in her heart, Barbara promised herself that when this was over, she would focus more on the woman who unexpectedly brought joy to her life.  They could travel - someplace where brave fronts were not needed, where they could be free of the suffocating responsibilities that crime fighting brought them, where they had no “mission” other than to enjoy the simple, beautiful things in life, like sharing time with the person who managed to fill her fiercely guarded heart with such profound love.  She would not waste a moment with Helena, Barbara vowed with singular purpose.

“Well, everyone does eventually,” Helena joked, waving to the people.  “Resistance is futile,” she added, shifting to slightly increase her speed and distance away from the people below.

“You do know you’re meta, not Borg?” Barbara countered, pulling her glasses off to rub her eyes, surprised by the cup of tea and plate of cookies that appeared by her side.  She weakly smiled her thanks to Alfred, who stood at one side, as always, ready to assist any way he could.  She looked back to her father, who stood behind him and nodded with confidence, offering the same. 

“HA!  I’m better than the Borg,” Helena boasted.  “They sought perfection and never found it.  But I actually found it,” she claimed confidently.  “You know that, right?” Helena asked softly as she looked down at the bomb and the buildings below her as she carefully soared up and away from the city.

Jim Gordon smiled, pleased Helena actually thought so, even if she was laying it on a bit thick.  But Helena was known for her smooth talking…

“Really?” she asked nonchalantly, starting to reach for the cup of tea, but found her hands trembling too much and stopped, instead discreetly clenching them into fists and burying them in her lap as she cleared her throat.  “And what did you find?” Barbara asked softly, knowing she had found it as well.  It was a most unexpectedly perfect gift - Helena’s love.

“Strawberry poptart smores!”  Helena joked happily.

Jim winced.  So much for smooth talking, he considered and looked at Alfred, who sighed.

Barbara chuckled, oddly charmed by Helena’s humor, making Helena inordinately pleased. 

“You do know you just scored a big fat zero on the woo meter, don’t you?” Barbara countered, returning a familiar complaint as she put on her glasses with a barely noticeable tremble in her hand.

But Jim noticed this time, his eyes widening with surprise at the traitorous indication that the impressive Oracle was not as cool, calm, and collected, as she wanted to project.  The disconcerting sight almost compelled him to give his daughter a big hug and tell her everything would be all right; but he had no idea if it would be.  Instead he frowned, and resigned himself to just praying the resourceful Helena Kyle would be successful.

“So what if I share my strawberry poptart smores with you?  Any better?” Helena asked hopefully. 

“Uh, not quite.  Meter is still on…oh wait, it’s now negative,” Barbara noted.

“Well damn!  You really don’t like pop tarts, do you?” Helena complained.

“I like you.  Just share yourself with me…that’s all I want,” Barbara said, with surprising emotion, closely watching the GPS signal as Helena headed towards the ocean.  But the incredible fact that Helena was actually going to save New Gotham did little to bring her relief; Helena, as well as the few coastal cities still in the bomb’s blast zone, remained at great risk.


“That’s good to know,” Helena said, mildly concerned by Barbara’s comment, which reminded her how hard it was for Barbara to remain behind in the tower as her teammates, including her lover, were in harm’s way.  “Takes the pressure off gift giving,” Helena quipped, not one for emotional conversations, especially when she had a mission to complete.  She frowned, suddenly really, really hating that part of her life. 

As she eyed the coast she passed over it, excitement grew as the light lining it shrunk into small specks behind her.  Maybe she would actually pull this off, she considered with growing hope, wanting nothing more than to go home to Barbara, wrap herself around the love of her life, and show her how much she loved her. 


“And you call me cheap,” Barbara mildly scoffed, noting that Helena was making good progress, which made her cautiously hopeful.  The weight of fear that had settled in her stomach slowly started to ease.

Jim couldn’t help but smile, never prouder of his daughter as he watched first-hand how she navigated this emotional minefield with determination and impressive grace.  Though he knew part of the reason was Helena, who had become her surprising anchor at an early age.  Their strained banter just reinforced what he already knew - they were well suited for each other.


“Well, you have to admit, it’s hard to find a gift for the girl who has everything…namely, me,” Helena said immodestly, stretching her arm out to eke out that last bit of speed she could. 

She smiled as she felt the wind against her skin increase, finally able to control her flying as she had hoped.  It sure beat crashing into buildings; not that she had to worry about that at the moment, she considered glancing over the vast, beautiful ocean before her that glittered from the moonlight.  This would be a story to tell her grandkids, she considered, then snorted at that surprisingly domestic thought.


“And I want everything, Helena,” Barbara said firmly, hoping Helena understood.

“And you call me self-indulgent,” she said.

“Well, you’ve spoiled me,” Barbara said with a growing smile, feeling hopeful by Helena’s position, now well out of range of New Gotham and nearly out of range of coastal populations.

“You deserve to be spoiled, Red,” Helena said firmly, hoping she’d get to be the one as she looked down at the timer and her eyes widened.

“So spoil me.  Marry me, Helena,” Barbara blurted in challenge, surprising even herself.

“Marry?” Helena responded with a startled voice.

A surprised Jim looked over to Alfred, who wore a small, pleased smile, confirming he too had just heard his daughter propose to Helena Kyle.

Noticing Helena’s position, her proposal was forgotten.  “Hel, you are well clear now!” Barbara responded with a big smile.  “You can drop the bomb!”


Her smile faded at Helena’s proclamation. 

“Guys?  What’s happening?” Dinah called with alarm, driving back to the tower in the Humvee.

Barbara’s gaze focused on the alarming GPS signal, which seemed to indicate she was slowing down.  “Helena!  You shouldn’t slow down after dropping the bomb,” she blurted, as her mind raced through other reasons for the exclamation, each scenario becoming worse.  “Helena?  Helena, please confirm you dropped the bomb,” Barbara anxiously called, her hand shooting up to the earpiece, straining to hear . . . something.  “Helena, please respond.”

Deafeningly silent moments passed. 

“Damn it, Helena!  Respond!” she growled, banging her fist on the desk in frustration, desperate for a response.  Seeing Helena’s GPS signal disappear, she realized she wouldn’t be getting one. 

“Helena,” she softly exhaled in anguish.

“Barbara?” Jim called uncertainly, reaching out a cautious hand to squeeze her shoulder as the Clock Tower was plunged into darkness. 

Chapter 11 – Into Darkness

Barbara blinked rapidly as tears welled up.  A grief-stricken cry welled up, muffled by her shaky hand that covered her mouth.

“What’s happening?” Jim Gordon asked with alarm, looking anxiously around the dark room.

“An electromagnetic pulse,” Alfred answered and explained.  “From the bomb’s explosion….” he added gravely.


Dinah pointed her grappling gun towards the adjacent clock tower and braced herself as she took a shot.  The city had become dark and eerily quiet, allowing her to hear the whooshing of the grapnel through the air and the crunching thunk as it lodged itself into the concrete wall.

With a fortifying breath, she anchored the wire and began her climb towards home.  She expected the Tower to be protected from the effects but it was still on lockdown mode, which automatically kicked in upon a complete loss of power, preventing her accessing the stairwell at top floors where they lived.  She wondered why Barbara hadn’t reset the security system.

After a long, slow trek on the wire between the buildings, she released her grip and landed inelegantly on the ledge with a heavy exhale.  Wiping the sweat off her forehead with her forearm, she headed into the tower to find a few candles lit, casting an almost romantic glow in the room.  But she knew the reason was far from romantic; the bomb had exploded and played havoc with electrical systems several miles within its vicinity. 

Her eyes drifted to Delphi, taking in the disturbing sight; the normally active computer system was now completely dark.  Her gaze dropped to an even more disturbing sight of Barbara’s ever-present electric wheelchair, currently empty.

“Barbara?  Barbara, where are you?”  Dinah called out as she walked towards the chair.

“She’s in her room with her father, Miss Dinah,” Alfred said softly, coming from the kitchen with a lit candle in hand.  “Her chair’s electronics were damaged by the electromagnetic pulse,” he offered, seeing Dinah glance back to the chair uncomfortably. 

“O…oh,” Dinah said awkwardly, walking towards him before suddenly stopping at the overwhelming feeling of despair. 

“Al..fred??” She croaked as tears filled her eyes that desperately sought his.  Though the candlelight cast distorted shadows across his face, she could still see profound sadness.
She glanced back to the inactive computer, the empty chair, then back to him.  “No….” Dinah whispered.


Dinah approached Barbara’s door with a candle to find Jim Gordon emerging.  “How is she?”

Jim looked at the young crime fighter sadly and shook his head.  “Not good, Dinah.  It’s like after she was shot,” he said worriedly.  “But this time, she blames herself for . . . the bomb…Helena,” he said tiredly, motioning vaguely to the dark room not sure what to do for his daughter.

Dinah frowned.  “She can’t just give up!”  She blurted with concern and marched into Barbara’s room.  She hesitated a moment, feeling the thick wall of despair that grew in intensity the closer she got to her mentor.  Stepping closer, she cringed at the still form in a manual chair, staring out the bedroom window into the dark city; almost as if she was just pondering something trivial.  But Dinah could feel how much Barbara’s heart was aching.

“Barbara?”  Dinah said uncomfortably, approaching Barbara slowly.  After a long moment, Barbara looked up at the patient teen, who looked at her beseechingly, but dropped her gaze in despair.  “Barbara, you can’t give up on her now.  Especially now.  There’s too much to do.”

“There is always too much to do, Dinah.  And it’s never enough,” Barbara lamented quietly, with a tired exhale, withdrawing again into her depressing thoughts of “what ifs.” 

What if she had focused better on the crimes with Lizard guy and the Plutonium and figured out what was happening before the bomb was actually built? 

She’d be alive, Barbara considered morosely. 

What if she never tried to convince Helena that crime fighting was the right thing for her? 

She’d be alive…. 

“Barbara, Helena wouldn’t let something like a bomb keep her from coming home,” Dinah said with determination. 

Barbara rubbed her temples slowly and looked at her ever-optimistic ward.  “Helena is Meta, Dinah.  Not immortal…in spite of how she acted,” Barbara responded, her gaze dropping to avoid the earnest look that just made her want to cry. 

“You don’t know for sure what happened, Barbara.  Sure it looks bad - but we’re talking HELENA, Barbara,” Dinah argued.

Not getting an answer, Dinah sighed as her mind raced.

“I know you hurt.  I can feel it,” Dinah offered.

“Dinah!  Stop!  You have NO right!!” Barbara blurted with frustration, wishing she would just leave her to her misery.  But Dinah was like a dog with a bone and continued, undeterred.

“You have to remember, Barbara, if there was any way to survive the bomb blast, she would have found a way.  If you can’t believe anything else, believe in THAT,” Dinah said firmly. 

“The chances are . . . ,” Barbara said, unable to finish the thought aloud.  She wished she could believe that for once, she didn’t have to suffer a terrible loss.  Things were going so amazingly with Helena, even with the 0.4 seconds missing in her remerging.  But she should have known Helena would have been just one of many losses she had to endure in life…her mother, her legs, her, Helena.

“Well, Helena never really cared about Probability or Statistics,” Dinah said wryly, gaining a surprised look from Barbara.  “And did you ever really understand the changes in her after the remerging?”

In spite of Barbara’s reluctance, those comments sparked a dangerous ember of hope in her.  She had no clue the scope of what else might have changed in Helena as a result of the incomplete remerging. 

“Was the backup power system hardened?” Dinah asked.

With a weak nod, Barbara added “and Delphi.”  She chuckled without humor as her hope was suffocated by reality.  “But not my chair.  Of course, I forgot my chair,” she said derisively at yet another mistake of hers.

“We’ll need things back working if we are going to figure out what happened.  Because right now, we’re guessing,” Dinah said sagely, then her youthful discomfort came through. “Right?”

Barbara looked at her a moment.  She wasn’t sure if she could bring herself to have even a fraction of the hope Dinah had, but Dinah was right.  She had to bury her emotions, something she had much experience with, and focus on the task at hand - figuring out what actually happened to Helena.

“I’m…going to need some help getting around,” Barbara said with difficulty.


Neither Barbara nor Dinah rested, busying themselves with establishing backup power, lifting the lockdown of the top floors, and rebooting Delphi. 

Jim knew better than to tell his daughter to rest, as much as she physically needed it.  But he knew she would get little sleep and needed to remain busy and feel useful to not dwell on Helena missing in action.  He too tried to remain busy and useful, even helping out with the backup generator.

Alfred brought a tray of sandwiches for the three.  Dinah and Jim gladly accepted the late night…or early morning snack as it was almost 3 am.

“Miss Barbara?” Alfred said.

“I’m not hungry, Alfred,” Barbara said softly, sitting at Delphi’s main console, methodically calling up the many systems one by one.  Jim frowned, wondering whether he should say anything.  He looked to Dinah, who shook her head no.

“You don’t need to be.  Eat up, Miss Barbara.  You need to keep your strength up,” Alfred said firmly.

Barbara pulled her glasses off and noted his pointed look just daring her to argue.  Aware of his steely determination and not having the energy or inclination to fight, she nodded.  “Thank you,” she said politely and started eating her sandwich. 

Jim exhaled a relieved breath and glanced to Dinah again, finding her smiling.  He was pleased his daughter had people around her who cared and would challenge her when needed.

“I would have done more, had the appliances not been affected,” Alfred noted, pointedly staring at Barbara before he left.

Barbara glanced at the kitchen thoughtfully.  She recalled Batman’s lesson on the concerns with EMI and was well aware of the importance of shielding vital equipment; she knew she did not want to be vulnerable to a criminal and the massive chaos a loss of electrical equipment could produce so Delphi’s mainframe had been shielded for that threat.  But she forgot her electric chair, which still needed to be repaired.  And she forgot that crime fighters needed to eat too.  She wondered what else had she forgotten?  What other mistakes she had made….


“There,” Barbara said, as she finished tapping a string of commands.  Delphi’s screens filled up with a news program.

“Yes!” Dinah cheered, wanting to know what was going on.

“… detonated approximately 10:04 AM last night off the US Eastern seaboard…” the Canadian newsreader announced as the screen showed a map of the site where the bomb exploded.

“Several American cities are suffering a blackout due to the bombs electromagnetic pulse.  National Guard units are being deployed to help maintain order as public works engineers repair the damaged power grid and return normal services.  The United States Government reported to world leaders that this was not a government weapon, but one designed for a failed extortion plan.  Carl Tucker, the suspected extortionist, has been taken into custody by New Gotham Police.  A ransom note was provided to his billionaire Grandfather, Edward ….”
Barbara sighed with surprising disappointment, not sure why she expected any useful information regarding Helena.  As if a newscast would have any information on her role in saving thousands of lives, she considered tiredly.  Her hand combed through her hair as she thought about how much the general public didn’t know about the brave men and women vigilantes protecting them…sometimes at a great cost to themselves.  Taking a fortifying breath, she supposed she should take some consolation that an inadvertent global war between nuclear superpowers was likely avoided.  Yay.

Seeing an incoming call from Nightwing, she muted the newscast.  “Oracle here.  Good to hear your voice, Nightwing,” she said honestly, relieved to have some more help.

“Thank god.  Are you guys ok?” he asked but didn’t wait for an answer.  “It’s been a madhouse here with the looting.  I swear, just when you don’t think people could sink any lower, they exceed your expe…”

“Dick!” Barbara interrupted bluntly.

“What’s wrong?” he said uneasily, knowing she didn’t usually slip with his name.

“Helena’s…missing,” she informed him tightly.

He took a moment to digest that uncomfortable piece of information.  “What happened?”  Nightwing finally asked.

“She found the bomb and . . . flew it away,” Barbara said with difficulty, blinking back tears that wanted to form.

“Is she…?” he asked.

“Missing,” Barbara answered firmly, attempting to hold onto hope.

After another pause, he asked carefully, “What…do you want me to do?”

She felt the tear roll down her cheek at his question.  Indeed, what did she want him to do? 

There was general chaos in the streets that needed to be quelled, or at least minimized until the National Guard arrived.  Duty would dictate they should handle the opportunistic thugs that risked many people with injury or death - not waste resources searching for one person.

Duty was what her mind told her was the right thing to do.

“Oracle?” Dick asked, waiting for an answer.

“Find her,” Barbara said.


The masked man looked down from his batplane cockpit, over the vast blue ocean that had easily swallowed any indication of a nuclear blast.  “Oracle, this is Nightwing.”

“Go ahead, Nightwing.”

“Except for the blackout on the coast and the residual radiation, it’s as if there was no bomb,” he said, shaking his head, glancing at his computer screen and the higher than usual radiation readings that were dropping off as he flew away from the detonation point.  “Her coms link is hardened, right?”


“Oracle…I’m not getting her signal,” Dick said hesitantly.

Barbara head dropped slightly.  “I understand.”

“It could have malfunctioned!” Dinah chimed in.

“I’m not sure what else to do, Oracle,” he said uneasily, knowing even if she didn’t manage to get incinerated and just got knocked out, she’d be at the bottom of the ocean.  And he was pretty sure her metapowers did not include breathing water.  Hell, with Helena’s luck she’d have that super power too, he considered.

Barbara blinked as panic rose up within her.  She wasn’t sure what to do either.  What was the next thing to try?   Why couldn’t she think?!?

Dinah felt Barbara’s emotional churn.  When no answer seemed to be forthcoming, she offered, “Well flying a bomb around probably took a lot of energy.  Right?  She probably would have looked for a place to land and recover.  So we won’t get a signal over the ocean cause she’s not there.”

Barbara nodded, wanting to kick herself for missing the obvious.  “Dinah’s right.  Nightwing, from the point of detonation, go to the nearest land mass and search for her signal there,” she added.

I’m on it, Oracle,” Nightwing interjected, tapping into his navigational computer.  “I’ll bet she’s probably annoyed I haven’t picked her up yet,” Dick joked, attempting to remain positive, though he considered the likelihood of Helena somehow surviving the blast was less than winning the lottery.  Not that she needed it as a billionaire’s daughter….

“Probably,” Barbara responded with a small smile, oddly warmed at the thought of Helena once again being mad at Dick.  Though their truce had been a wonderful surprise for her, having experienced too many headaches with them acting like children and battling each other over every stupid thing.  But she would gladly forfeit that truce and endure the return of snarky comments to just hear Helena’s voice again. 

“Nightwing out.”


After a large yawn, one of many, Dinah continued to pace as Barbara absently stared at the muted Canadian news reports on the large computer screen, deep in her thoughts.  They hadn’t heard any reports from Dick in over two hours and Barbara seemed to retreat further into quiet despair.

“Dinah?” Jim Gordon quietly spoke.

Dinah stopped her pacing to look at Jim, who gently waved her over to him.  She briefly glanced at Barbara, who still absently stared at the screen.  She could feel the persistent guilt and heart ache that radiated from the older woman, though it was somewhat more muted, perhaps because emotions took energy and Barbara looked beat…almost defeated.  Dinah frowned after a yawn and went to Jim’s side.

“Why don’t you get some rest?  We’ll let you know if there is any development,” he said, seeing the torn expression on the teen’s tired face.  “If she were well-rested herself, she would be lecturing you on getting your rest, you know,” he added with a knowing smile.

Dinah responded with a small smile at that truth.  The smile faded.  “I don’t think she believes…” she said sadly.

He nodded and both looked at Barbara a long moment before Dinah departed for bed.

Alfred almost startled him when he appeared by his side, though there was a sound that accompanied his walking, the soft crinkle from his leather shoes.  “Alfred,” Jim said without turning. 

“Mr. Gordon, perhaps you and Miss Barbara would care for a break?”  He said, prompting Jim to turn and begin to object, before he noted what Alfred’s tray contained.

“Are you sure Dinah’s the only one who reads people’s minds?”  Jim said, relieving the tray from Alfred’s hands.

Alfred smiled slightly, nodded his head, and retreated to the kitchen.

Jim stepped onto the dais and set the tray next to Barbara’s keyboard.  He gained her attention when he started to pour the whiskey.  Holding out the glass he just poured, she shook her head no.

“I need a clear mind.”

“For that you need sleep.  This might help you to do that,” he said.

She looked at him a moment and finally took the glass.  “Thank you for looking after Dinah.  I didn’t even think...” she said guiltily, taking a sip.

“She’s a good kid and devoted to you,” Jim said, pouring himself a glass. 

“Maybe too devoted,” Barbara said tersely.  “She’s so young,” she added guiltily.

“Hmm.  What would you have done if I had forbidden you to fight crime with Batman because of the danger?” Jim said conversationally, sipping his drink.

“I would have found a way to still fight crime,” Barbara said honestly.  “But I was stubborn and so convinced I could make a difference,” she sneered with self-disgust.

“You did, you do.”

“But is enduring this worth it?” Barbara said sharply, motioning to the muted newscast, which showed an old news clip of a 1950’s nuclear explosion and mushroom cloud.  “And I’m letting another innocent girl get involved in this…insanity!”

“I suspect you letting her has nothing to do whether she gets involved.  Dinah wants to fight crime, Barbara.  I believe her best chance for staying safe is working with you.”

At one time, Barbara would have relished his words of support and confidence.  But now, they rang hollow.  “Recent events strongly suggest you’re wrong,” Barbara blurted and finished off her drink.

“Barbara, if,” he stressed pointedly, “Helena is dead,” he continued bluntly, making her flinch.  “It is because she took a risk to save thousands of lives.  Helena had not understood the concept of selflessness -until you.  Helena had not understood the concept of duty – until you.  She took that risk because it was the right, decent thing to do.  Something that, before you, she would never have fathomed to do.”

“Don’t you see?  She never wanted this life, Dad,” she argued, then expelled a breath which seemed to drain her of her anger, leaving only sorrow.  “She did it for me,” Barbara explained softly.  “And she’d be alive, if it wasn’t for me,” she whispered as fresh tears fell.

“It’s natural to feel guilt, honey.  But it doesn’t mean you’re right about it,” he said gently.

Her gaze dropped as she just shook her head, fully believing it was her fault.

“You are going to be no use if you don’t get some sleep soon,” Jim said, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“I won’t be able to sleep,” she said tiredly, wiping her eyes and looking at the newscast.

“When your mother died, I found some comfort in holding her pillow.  It smelled of her,” he said, finishing his drink. 

Jim retreated to the kitchen and found Alfred sitting at the kitchen table, sipping tea.

“Care for some chamomile tea, Mr. Gordon?” Alfred asked, starting to get up.

“I’ll get it,” he said with a small wave and headed to the heating plate with a pot of tea on it.  “I see you’ve found some equipment that’s not computerized.  I swear you need a master’s degree in engineering to figure out how to operate kitchen appliances these days,” he joked, pouring the tea.

“While the convenience of technology is appealing, I find a certain comfort in simplicity,” Alfred said, getting a nod of agreement from Jim.

“I still have the toaster my wife and I got for a wedding gift.  It’s old but I’ve never needed to buy a new one,” he said, sitting down across from Alfred.

“I made up the guest room for you, fresh towels are on the bed.”

“Thank you, Alfred,” he said and sipped the tea.

“Your daughter is very resilient, Mr. Gordon,” Alfred said, getting a small nod from Jim. 

“So was Bruce Wayne,” Jim noted gravely, knowing even resilient people have their limits and can break. 


Barbara climbed into bed and rolled to face Helena’s side.  She reached out for Helena’s pillow and slowly pulled it to her face, taking a deep breath.  She could barely detect Helena’s scent, but it was there.  She gently wrapped her arms around the pillow, as if it were something rare and fragile. 


“I’m so sorry, Barbara,” Dick said with a gravelly voice as he pulled down the sheet from the body to show the burned body he had retrieved. “If only you could have found a way to defuse that bomb,” Dick added, shaking his head and looking at her with disappointment.

Helena was almost unrecognizable.  Her head was burned on the left side, missing hair and flesh to reveal bone.  The left hand and forearm were also missing, leaving a charred stump behind. 

With a frightened gasp, Barbara jerked awake with her heart pounding.  The sharp churn in her stomach made her scramble out of bed.  She quickly transferred herself to her chair and rolled as fast as she could to the bathroom.  Slipping out of her chair and onto the floor in front of the commode, she could no longer hold back the nausea and expelled what little she had eaten and the whiskey into the bowl, before quietly sobbing for her loss, unable to hold onto the little hope she had.


“I’m sorry, Oracle,” Nightwing said, shaking his head as he flew over the coast one more time.  “I’m not picking up her GPS.  And I’ve swept the closest areas three times.  Maybe it’s broken, like Dinah said?” he offered uncomfortably.  Not getting an answer, he asked “Oracle?”

“Uh Nightwing?  It’s Canary.  Ba…Oracle told me to call off the search.  But I’m not ready to.  I think you should continue.  Do you copy?” Dinah asked uncomfortably.

“I copy,” he said with a worried frown for Barbara’s giving up.  “I’m going to land and question the people on what they saw.  Helena was never very subtle, which I hope is still true,” he said with forced optimism. 

“Depends on what it’s about, actually,” Diana noted, then scanned the map she called up on the monitor.  “Nightwing?  Helena was never very good at turning, which would have been needed if she was headed for the closest land mass.  What if you extend her flight path and look there?”

“That’s just water, Canary.  That . . . wouldn’t be good for her.”

“Dick, I just have a hunch,” she said, biting her lip.

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