Birds Of Prey Fan Fiction
- Part 4 -
"Why don't you want us to take her to the hospital?" Gwen asked as she drove the odd trio in the opposite direction. "She's . . . dying," she added nervously.
"Gwen, the bullet wound is not what's killing her. I think . . . we need your help," Helena said uncomfortably, looking back at a very worried Dinah, who held a trembling metabeing in her arms.
"How do you know I can help??"
"I don't, but you've got to try . . . please."
"Besides the bullet in her shoulder, I don't even know what's wrong with her, Helena. Why does she look like a cat?? Is she a mutant?"
Helena winced, hearing a slight growl from the back seat. "Yes," she said tightly. "And I think the equipment we brought with us is to blame for her condition."
"You think someone has altered her genes??"
"I know it," Helena said with conviction.
"Dear God!" Gwen said with horror.
"Yeah," Helena said with a sinking feeling as she watched Dinah continue to hold the shivering metabeing.
"Why would someone want her to become a cat?"
"What's wrong with a cat??" Helena asked with irritation.
"Helena??" Gwen asked with confusion.
"She's the meta-part of a metahuman, Gwen. She was derived," Helena explained.
Gwen glanced at her uneasily then stared at the road. "I've heard stories of metahumans. But even if they really existed, to genetically separate out an entire independent being and have them live - that's impossible," she said with uneasy disbelief.
"Gwen . . . I'm the human part of the metahuman."
With another uneasy glance of disbelief, Gwen swallowed hard at the serious look on Helena's face. "That's . . . a lot to digest, Helena," she said carefully.
"Yeah. Don't I know it."
"Is that . . . Is that why you were . . . interested in me? Because of my genetic work?" Gwen asked timidly.
Dinah looked at the woman in disbelief. Of all the questions she could ask after everything she heard, the teen considered with amazement. Hearing a soft, disgusted snort, Dinah looked down to the metabeing and found cat eyes rolling at the inane question.
"I am attracted to smart women who can program DVRs, Gwen. But I swear, I did not put two and two together until you took me to Garrow industries."
Dinah smiled at the surprising kindred spirit, feeling the odd desire to touch her furry cheek. Her hand was suddenly stopped in a tight, clawed grip as cat eyes bore into her, sending her a succinct mental image of dismemberment. Dinah received that warning loud and clear. As the grip was released, the teen gingerly reclaimed her hand with a cringe.
"I'll do whatever I can to help," Gwen vowed uneasily.
"Thank you," Helena said with quiet gratitude.
"But I have no idea what I can do," Gwen said wearily, then looked around the unfamiliar road. "Where ARE we going?"
"We're going someplace better equipped to handle this than your lab or a hospital . . . and it's private," Helena said mysteriously as Gwen noticed the road abruptly ending ahead.
"Helena!" she yelled, spotting the barricade and warning signs that suddenly appeared around a bend in the road.
"It's ok," Helena quickly said, calmly staring ahead at the rapidly approaching wall.
Unable to believe that with a solid wall coming straight at them, Gwen slammed on the brakes, which squealed as smoke billowed from the tires. "Hold on!" Gwen cried out, bracing herself for what she prayed would only be a small crash when the rock wall seemed to just . . . fall away.
When her car finally came to a stop in the dark cave, a black cloud seemed to come straight for them as it emitted disturbing clicking and hissing noises. "AH!!!" Gwen sucked in a startled breath.
"Bats," Helena explained as the cloud of bats separated around the car as it went around.
Gwen's head dropped to rest against the steering wheel as she whimpered "Oh God."
"You can trust me. I won't lie to you, Gwen," Helena vowed, squeezing her shoulder. "Come on, we need to get meta-me to the examining room," Helena said to Dinah as she got out of the car and helped extract their meta-patient from the backseat. "Gwen, please bring what's left of the lab equipment," she said, prompting the shocked geneticist, who was trying to recover from heart failure, to nod weakly.
When Alfred appeared, Helena smiled at him. "Alfred, could you please help Gwen? Bring everything, even the broken pieces."
"I would be delighted to assist, Miss Helena," he said with a nod and joined the young doctor. "Welcome home, Miss Huntress," he said, surprising Helena and Dinah.
With considerable effort, the injured metabeing looked the unflappable butler in the eye and softly grunted with a slight, but respectful nod "Alfred."
As they entered the elevator, Dinah looked at Helena. "Do you really think it wise to give Gwen a heart attack - especially if you want her to help?"
Before Helena could answer, Huntress responded "Yes."
Dr. Landry frowned as Barbara and he entered the service elevator, leaving a perfectly good mansion to descend into a damp cave. Although he had visited the bat cave in the past for some serious injuries, which were all adequately taken care of in the well-equipped bat clinic, he was still of the opinion a cave was no place for healing.
"Why must you continue to use the bat cave?" he finally asked disapprovingly.
"It is better equipped," Barbara offered neutrally as her hear raced in anticipation of what mess she would soon find.
"Dinah?" Barbara said, as she and Dr. Landry entered the sterile, glass and steel examining room. Except for sheer white curtains that could be slid around the two beds, there was little privacy in the small clinic - not that it mattered at the moment.
Dinah looked up from the injured metabeing with a frown. "She's not doing well."
Dr. Landry immediately went to the patient. Years of seeing the unexpected enabled him not to gasp too loudly at the metabeing's cat-like features.
Barbara noted with worry how the metabeing was shaking as Dr. Landry examined the shoulder wound. She suspected the bullet wound was the least of their worries. Thankfully the bat-computer could do some DNA analysis to determine what . . . .
Her thoughts were derailed when she glanced towards the bat-computer and found a strange woman using the keyboard . . . and Helena was letting her!
"Dinah, come with me," Barbara ordered and rolled out of the clinic, towards the computer. "Helena," Barbara said firmly. "Helena!" Barbara snapped impatiently, finally getting her attention. "A word?!?"
Helena nodded at her and put down a computer card she had just pulled from one of the boxes. To Barbara's dismay, Helena placed a hand on the shoulder of the young woman and leaned in closely to say something into her ear. Barbara frowned as the woman patted Helena's hand and smiled before continuing to tamper with the bat-computer.
An unhappy look filled Barbara's face as she rolled away from the computer to a more private location. When Helena joined them, Barbara turned to look at the intruder again then glared questioningly at the two women. It was clear the senior crime fighter was not pleased.
"Whoa - don't look at me, this was her plan," Dinah said, holding her hands up.
"What's going on here?" Barbara asked tightly, trying not to be upset that some strange woman was now hooking up some strange lab equipment to the bat-computer.
"Huntress is dying, Barbara. She was hit by a bullet but there is something more fundamentally wrong. Gwen thinks . . . ."
"Gwen?" Barbara interrupted, glancing at the strange women, then glared questioningly at Helena and Dinah. The teen bit her lip and glanced intently at her shoes.
"Dr. Gwen Turner, she's a geneticist who is doing research on extraction of genetic defects from mouse embryos."
"Mouse embryos??" Barbara asked incredulously, glancing to Dinah, who was now inspecting the light fixtures in the overhead.
"Yeah. She has developed a method of marking defects and extracting them from the chromosomes . . . though she hasn't gotten the embryos to grow. But she thinks by the end of the year they'll be able to successfully extract the defects and incubate the embryos into healthy mice," Helena offered as if this all made perfect sense.
Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to remain calm. "Let me get this straight. You brought a stranger into the bat cave and gave her access to the bat computer because she happens to be an expert on . . . mouse embryos?"
"Oh she's no stranger to Helena," Dinah muttered with a snort, then realized with panic she said that out loud. "Maybe I should go help . . . Dr. Landry," Dinah blurted, then fled.
"What kind of plan do you call THAT?!?" Barbara snapped, glaring at Helena's new girlfriend, who was now violating the bat computer's access panel to rewire something!
"I call that desperation!" Helena snapped, startling the redhead. "I was dealt these cards, Barbara. And they suck! But we don't have time to debate just how much they suck because she's dying. And as much as she scares the hell out of me, I can't just watch her die. For God's Sake, Barbara, I need your help not your criticism."
Barbara looked at her distraught former ward with an ashamed wince. "You've got it," she offered softly, apology clearly in her demeanor.
Helena nodded with a sigh of relief. With Gwen and Barbara, they might just pull off a miracle. She eyed Barbara curiously. "Wait a minute. Just to be perfectly clear, what exactly do I have? Your help . . . or your criticism?"
Barbara saw the sparkle in Helena's mischievous eyes. "As always, Hel . . . both."
"Oh," Helena said. Barbara couldn't help but smirk when Helena muttered with feigned irritation "crap."
"Come on, Hel. Let's play those cards," Barbara said, rolling past her with great determination.
Helena eyed her a moment, smiled and followed.
Dinah cringed as Dr. Landry dug into Huntress' shoulder causing the metabeing to suck in a pained breath. "Sorry, I thought the local anesthesia was working. Your system must have processed it faster because of . . . ."
"Just. Finish," Huntress hissed, trying to control her trembling.
Dinah winced, clenching the small metal basin in her hand in reflex.
"Oh. Sorry," he said and finally dropped the bullet into the basin with a clunk.
Dinah glanced down at the bloody bullet and grimaced. As the doctor handed her the bloodied forceps, she cringed, wondering why she didn't think to help Alfred.
Barbara and Helena joined Gwen, who was looking at the DNA results from their feline patient.
"Gwen, this is Barbara Gordon. She's going to help too," Helena said.
Gwen nodded absently at the two women and motioned to the results on the computer screen. "I've never seen anything like it," Gwen said with amazement.
Barbara sighed, unsurprised; even a high school student would know DNA from a mouse embryo was different than a metahuman's.
"The bond strength within the nucleotides is fluctuating."
"Why?" Barbara immediately asked with alarm, before Helena could ask the significance of that.
Gwen blew out a long, thoughtful breath. "Well, given the DNA was spliced to produce . . . two individuals, I would say the resulting chains are unstable and seeking its original, stable state," she said.
Helena suddenly found concerned hazel and green eyes on her.
"I'd like a sample of your blood," Gwen said to Helena with concern.
"Eh . . . we haven't even been on a proper date yet," Helena joked uneasily.
Barbara glanced away uncomfortably.
"Well, I can tell you this is not what I had envisioned us doing tonight, that's for sure," Gwen said.
"Hel," Barbara suddenly blurted with irritation, needing to bring the two back to the problem at hand. "She needs to confirm whether you are also experiencing similar genetic instability," she explained with irritation.
"Oh," Helena said, frowning at the latest problem. "Then what?"
"I . . . don't know yet," Gwen said apologetically, getting Helena to nod absently and seek out Dr. Landry.
Both women watched Helena leave then glanced at each other for an uncomfortable moment.
"I want to access the information from the warehouse. I'm hoping it sheds some light on the situation," Barbara said, eyeing the keyboard pointedly.
"Oh!" Gwen said, realizing she was in the way, and quickly moved her chair to the side.
"Thank you," Barbara said politely and rolled to her familiar spot in front of the main computer's keyboard.
Gwen rubbed the back of her neck, the stress of the situation starting to catch up. "Are you a geneticist too?" Gwen asked, hoping to share the burden of finding answers.
"No," Barbara said as she accessed the information her spyware had successfully transferred from the warehouse server to Delphi.
"Oh," Gwen said with disappointment, then asked "engineer?" knowing an engineer would be handy too.
"No, school teacher," Barbara answered, downloading the information on the bat-computer. There was over three thousand terabytes including a large collection of schematics, lab reports, and many terabytes of raw data from various experiments. She didn't know whether to be delighted or discouraged by the amount of information they had to sift through.
"Biology?" Gwen asked weakly, causing Barbara to glance at her.
"Literature," Barbara answered, noting Gwen looked a bit queasy. Turning back to the bat-computer, she started her review of the information with a faint smile.
". . . when exposing the cells with z-particles during the metaphase of mitosis, translocation can be induced to counter natural . . . ." Barbara read an excerpt of a promising document aloud then glanced at Gwen, whose eyes widened.
"They stole my extraction technique!"
"So you induce translocation during the metaphase because it makes the targeting of the z-particles easier?" Barbara asked curiously.
"Yes," Gwen said, pleasantly surprised. "Once the mutation was located and marked, there were two key hurdles to the extraction. One was to facilitate the targeting and the other was to find the right particle that could break the nucleotide bonds without getting attracted to naturally occurring ions."
"Zero electric charge particles . . . hmm," Barbara nodded with appreciation. She suddenly tilted her head and eyed Gwen curiously. "So, a device constructed to perform this translocation . . . could be called a Metaphasic Z-particle Translocator?" Barbara asked hesitantly.
"Yeah, I guess," she said with a shrug. "I never got around to naming the particle accelerator. And mine is nowhere near as powerful as those we found in the warehouse" she added thoughtfully. "Why?"
"Just asking," Barbara said vaguely, shaking her head as she scrolled down in the document, both women reading for any helpful clues.
Barbara glanced at Gwen a moment, then back to the screen. She was good looking and brilliant too, Barbara thought critically. And Helena certainly didn't waste any time finding someone, she considered with a cringe, curiously noting she had always attributed her dating tendencies to her meta-side. She frowned realizing she had more important things to think about then Helena's dating habits.
She looked back to Gwen when she sucked in a startled breath.
"There are dozens of test subjects . . . they deliberately experimented on people to accelerate their progress on the extraction process!" Gwen said with horror.
"They made significant progress," Barbara offered. "Well, the pancake person and anyone suffering from the instability problem might disagree," she said and pointed to the screen. "And, according to this report, a few test subjects died by spontaneous cell disintegration because the metaphase was missed and particle acceleration was too great," she said with a frown. "Gwen, how could they have caused Helena's cells to all be in the metaphase? And even if they had a technique, isn't it DNA specific? There was no way they could have planned for Helena to show up that night."
Barbara looked at the distraught geneticist, who was staring at the screen in shock. "How many have died because of my research??" she asked, then looked at Barbara with great distress. "Oh God, if Helena dies because of it…."
"Gwen," Barbara interrupted sternly. "We've got to focus on the problem at hand, not on what may or may not happen."
"How can you just sit there so calmly?!? There is a very good chance we can't help her!" Gwen blurted in almost panic. "I have never experimented on people, only mouse embryos!"
Barbara looked at her sharply. "I am well aware of the significance of the problem. However, any energy spent on worrying is energy not spent on solving the problem. And I intend to spend all my energy on solving this problem. Losing Helena is not an option," she said tightly, her intense gaze daring Gwen to waste more time with emotional displays.
Gwen looked at her a long, uneasy moment, then finally nodded in acceptance and offered "All the equipment suffered some sort of damage. There was one device that only had damage to the power relay interface, which I think we should focus on."
"I'll work on the interface," Barbara volunteered and rolled back from the computer as Helena came up to them with a vial of blood and Dr. Landry.
"Don't say I never gave you anything," Helena said, handing over the blood to Gwen, who smiled weakly and placed it in a tray on the bat computer to begin her analysis.
"Doctor, how is Huntress?" Barbara asked, glancing at the glass-enclosed examination room. It warmed her heart to see Dinah watching over their feline patient.
"Remarkably well, considering what Helena has been telling me about genetic instability. Her healing abilities are much more accelerated than before. The bullet wound was healed by the time I was ready to sew her up. That would have been nice the last time you were shot," the doctor said, eyeing Helena.
"You were shot before?" Gwen asked with concern.
Helena looked at her uncomfortably, unable to answer. She looked questioningly to Barbara, who cringed and nodded. Gently touching the spot, Barbara offered "leg."
"You don't remember it??" Gwen asked with amazement, glancing at Barbara's hand, which was retracted awkwardly.
Helena shook her head, admitting with a frown "I don't remember anything before the accident."
Dinah hovered nervously by the examining table, concluding the surgery must have taken a lot of energy out of Huntress, who was now sleeping. Tucking a blond strand behind her ear, she indulged in her curiosity and stepped closer to look carefully over the metabeing, from her amazingly striking face to the dangerous claws, which sported long, sharp nails that could easily slice through flesh. And the metabeing was not afraid to use them, she knew, recalling the slashes she saw on the dead bodies with a wince.
"You are not going to try to pet me again, are you?" The metabeing suddenly growled.
"NO!" Dinah blurted and took a healthy step back, liking her limbs too much. "I didn't mean . . . I mean . . . I did before, but I didn't . . . . this time."
"Do you ever actually listen to yourself, Kid?" Huntress asked curiously, cat eyes now staring at the teen, who frowned a moment.
"Are you thirsty?" She suddenly asked, determined to be nice to the scary being.
"No . . . ," Huntress said, then saw the enthusiasm quickly drain away and replaced by disappointment. "Actually . . . I could drink something," she said uncomfortably.
"I'm on it!" Dinah said, eager to please. Almost as quickly as she started to leave, she stopped, turning with a question. "Water??"
"Right!" She said with gusto and smiled as she left to retrieve the water.
Huntress stared at the ceiling from the examining table, thinking she might get a little peace and quiet but breathed in a familiar, intoxicating scent and heard the distinct sound of an electric wheel chair approaching, then stop. What followed was quiet, but it was anything but peaceful as she waited for the woman hovering at the door to say something.
Dinah had wondered why there was no kitchenette in the bat cave as she hiked to the mansion's kitchen, from the elevator, through two sets of stairs, one secret and one not, and down a ridiculously long hallway. Alfred, who was preparing a snack for the team, had explained that it gave him an excuse to look in on Master Bruce from time to time. She smiled at that thought, knowing Barbara also needed someone to look after her at times when she became consumed by her work.
Finally returning to the bat cave with a tall glass of water, Dinah saw Barbara entering the examination room, knowing she shouldn't interrupt. Barbara had a few things to discuss with the metabeing . . . like why she stayed away. Heading over to the bat computer, she couldn't help but return the big smile Helena greeted her with.
"Thanks, D!" She said, grabbed the drink and guzzled it down. "How did you know I was thirsty?"
"I didn't!!" Dinah sputtered then did an angry about-face and marched back to the kitchen.
"Helena?" Barbara said softly as she entered the room.
After a painfully silent moment, the metabeing responded. "She's Helena . . . I'm Huntress."
"You're both Helena to me," Barbara responded honestly. She grew mildly annoyed as the metabeing continued to stare at the ceiling and refuse to look at her. But that didn't stop her from taking a long, hard look at the metabeing. Ever since she had learned of her, Barbara had been curious - to the point of distraction. And now, facing her, her curiosity about her appearance was at least satisfied.
She was definitely cat-like in her features - high, pronounced cheekbones, a fine layer of what looked like soft fur covering her skin, slitted cat eyes, and sharp, deadly nails extending from her fingers - and still beautiful, Barbara thought.
"Thank you for helping Dinah," Barbara offered.
"Someone had to," the metabeing responded. "Your human Helena wasn't there."
Barbara was startled by the anger in those words. "She was in no condition to be on sweeps and I think you know why."
"Yes. She is weak."
Barbara frowned. "Have you always felt that way?" Barbara asked, both fascinated and disturbed.
"She's always been weaker . . . until now, that is," the metabeing snarled.
Barbara looked at the metabeing, amazed at that animosity for her human half. She wondered if Helena's human memory was intact, would she have the same level of animosity towards her meta-half.
Helena shuddered, unable to stop shaking.
"Are you cold?" Barbara asked.
Barbara took a calming breath, wishing it wasn't so difficult to talk with this metabeing, who would still not look at her. Though, she had to admit she was starting to have difficulty communicating with her human side. And even before the accident, communicating with Helena had been difficult.
Glancing out towards the computer, Barbara watched the human Helena discuss something with Dr. Landry and Gwen. "Your human half isn't weak. She has amazing courage - especially facing this problem without any knowledge of her past," Barbara was compelled to point out.
"Courage!?!" the metabeing spat in disgust. "You are blind," she said in a low, angry voice.
"Why am I blind, Helena?" Barbara demanded, rolling closer.
The being stiffened, but did not answer.
"Damnit, Helena! Answer me."
"No!" the metabeing roared, sitting up with a groan and finally looking her in the eye.
Barbara's eyes widened slightly in surprise, but remained confidently fixed on the metabeing.
"I am not your pet! I do not sit up and beg because the almighty Oracle so commands," the metahuman said and got off the table, away from Barbara, who was startled and baffled by the anger directed at her.
"Helena . . . ." Barbara said with concern, seeing the metabeing suddenly grab the table to steady herself.
"Barbara, are you all right?" Helena asked with concern as she entered the room, glaring at the metabeing.
"Ah, your lap dog is here. Go command her. She'll accept whatever scraps you throw her," the metabeing said and started to leave the room.
"You're in no condition to leave," Helena said, grabbing her arm and finding herself flying across the examining room, hitting the wall, and crumbling to the floor in a thud.
"Helena!" Barbara called out with concern as the human Helena awkwardly picked herself off the floor.
"I am so fucking tired of this!" She growled and launched herself across a table and tackled the metabeing to the floor.
"No! Stop it! Stop it right now!!" Barbara yelled at the combatants, who got to their unsteady feet and looked at each other. "Thank GOD. There is no need to . . . STOP IT!" Barbara called out as the Metabeing launched at Helena and the two crashed through the glass wall.
Helena blinked, wincing at the lights in the examination room. She turned her head, groaning at the painful motion. Her eyes narrowed, spotting the metabeing, unconscious on the examining table next to her. As she sat up, her eyes widened, realizing her hands and ankles were restrained. "What the f . . . ."
"Barbara thought it would be a good idea," Dinah interjected uneasily.
"I'm going to get something to eat," Dr. Landry said tiredly and left them.
"Dinah! Get me out of this! She's the dangerous one," Helena complained, nodding toward the feline being. She tested the bonds which easily held.
"Not a chance."
"Oh come on, D. This is ridiculous," Helena said in frustration, pulling against the bonds again.
"Barbara made her promise," Huntress offered calmly, startling both of them.
"Well, fuck," Helena said, angrily lying back with a thud. "Ow!"
"Yeah," Huntress agreed then shuddered.
"Well, they are both awake," Dinah said as she approached Gwen and Barbara, who were busy programming simulations on the computer.
"Tea, Miss Barbara?" Alfred asked, holding the pot at the ready. She shook her head absently as she continued to focus on the computer. "Anything for you, Miss Gwen?" he asked, also getting a shake of the geneticist's head. Alfred sighed.
"How is she?" Gwen asked Dinah.
"They," Barbara corrected without looking away from the computer screen.
"Uh . . . how are they?" Gwen repeated uncomfortably.
"Serves them right," Barbara said angrily under her breath.
"Barbara?" Dinah said softly. "If they hate each other so much, why would they ever want to recombine?" she asked with a wince.
Barbara stiffened at the very concern she shared ever since the human Helena planted that seed of doubt. With the animosity between them resulting in an out-and-out brawl, it was never more evident that Helena had lived a life in significant turmoil, pulled in two directions. It would not be surprising if neither of them wanted to recombine.
"Barbara?!? We don't even know how to stabilize Huntress. How the hell are we supposed to combine them?" Gwen said with panic.
"And do they even want that?" Dinah added, looking to Barbara for some insight and a solution.
"I. Don't. Know," Barbara ground out tightly, clenching her hands into fists at the three words she despised, now more than ever. "I'm . . . going to get some air," Barbara blurted, rolling back from the computer and towards the elevator without waiting for a response.
Dinah bit her lip, wondering if she should go talk to her mentor. Barbara had always had what Helena jokingly said were veins of ice, leading them through harrowing times with amazing calmness. But right now, Barbara was just like everyone else, uncertain and afraid.
"If you'll excuse me?" Alfred said before leaving with the tea pot and a small tray of regrettably unused cups.
Gwen watched the redhead roll into the elevator. "She loves her . . . them," she amended, prompting a nod from Dinah. "And Helena, both Helenas . . . love her," Gwen said looking at Dinah, who nodded again. "And they're not . . . ?" she said vaguely, looking at Dinah who winced, shaking her head no. "That actually seems harder to believe than any of this," Gwen said wryly, motioning to the bat cave around them with a weak wave of a hand.
"Well," Gwen said, taking a deep breath. "There's still a lot of work to do to address the instability. Do you know anything about genetic engineering?" Gwen asked the surprised teen.
"I . . . I'm just in high school," Dinah sputtered.
"And Barbara's just a literature teacher . . . ." Gwen said, pulling out a chair for her young recruit and looking at her expectantly.
"Alfred! Can you please get me out of this?" Helena asked with new hope.
"Miss Barbara had you two restrained for a reason," he said, pulling out a stool and sitting down facing them. "And I must say, your recent behavior does not inspire sufficient confidence to grant your request for freedom."
"Aaaagh," Helena growled and plopped back in defeat, causing a sharp pain from her new wounds. "Ow."
"I must say, I am disappointed in you. Both of you," Alfred said, pouring himself a cup of tea. Both women winced.
"She started it," Helena said, glaring at the metabeing.
"And I'd like to finish it," Huntress hissed.
"Ladies!" Alfred sputtered, appalled. "Your continued barbarianism is most distressing. You are not only causing yourselves injury, you are injuring Miss Barbara," he scolded them.
"Barbara?" Both blurted.
"She's hurt?" Huntress quickly asked. "Did she get hurt by the glass?"
"Did you hit her?!?" Helena accused, glaring at Huntress who harshly pulled at her restraints and growled at that accusation.
"Ladies, quiet!" Alfred said sternly, causing them to immediately silence and stare at him uncomfortably. "Not since right after her shooting, has she been so uncertain and frightened. But after the shooting she had you to rely on. You gave her purpose and strength when she needed it most. Unfortunately now, you are too busy fighting each other to see how all of this and you are tearing Miss Barbara apart. I had been under the impression that you cared for her more than you cared for yourselves. It breaks my heart to see that I was mistaken," he said with a disappointed shake of his head as he pushed his now unwanted tea aside.
Huntress and Helena looked at each other a long, uncomfortable moment, wanting to blame the other. But each knew it was both of them causing this problem.
As he got up and started to leave, Helena called to him. "Please release us, Alfred. We need to speak to her."
"We need to stop hurting her," Huntress said guiltily, looking at Helena who nodded with a cringe.
Alfred looked at the two for their sincerity and was pleased.
As Alfred unshackled the final wrist cuff, Helena looked at him. "Alfred, in case things don't work and . . . well, they don't work out, I want Barbara and Dinah taken care of. I want them to have . . . everything," she said, motioning to the mansion above. "If that's OK with you," she quickly added, looking at Huntress.
Alfred said warmly "There's no need to worry, Miss Helena. I don't believe Miss Barbara or Miss Dinah will let anything to happen to either of you."
"But if it did . . . ," Helena persisted, knowing the odds were not so good.
"We already have a will," Huntress offered. "And they inherit everything."
"Oh," Helena said softly. "Good."
As they rode in the elevator, the human and metabeing silently glanced at each other, knowing there was only one thing that really mattered. And they had hurt her.
Huntress was the first to break the silence and offered begrudgingly "You are not as stupid and weak . . . as everyone thinks."
Helena looked over to her. "Thanks," she said flatly. "Do you always approach things so . . . passionately?"
"It's who I am. A terrible weakness," the metabeing admitted, looking down at the ground, ashamed.
"Not when you control it. It's an amazing strength," Helena said as the metabeing groaned then shuddered suddenly. "Are you OK?" Helena asked.
"I take it back. You are stupid," Huntress said, reaching out and steadying herself against Helena, who brought her arm around her to help.
"Well, that's why I have Barbara," Helena said sarcastically.
"Do you?" Huntress asked sharply.
"Maybe not . . . the way I want," she said hesitantly. "But she has always been there for me," Helena said.
"Yes. She has always been there for us," Huntress allowed.
After an oddly companionable silence, Huntress offered. "You might not want to let Dinah know about the inheritance. She really likes our clothes."
"I thought she was wearing my clothes," Helena said with irritation.
"Right," Helena blurted uncomfortably, helping the metabeing out of the elevator.
Barbara sat on the balcony, numbly staring out towards the New Gotham city lights on the horizon. She knew there was still so much to do. But she had never felt more impotent, even when she had learned she couldn't walk.
She had plenty to worry about. They had no clear method to perform genetic recombination, which might mean the Helena she mentored, lived with, and watched grow into a beautiful woman would be forever gone. And they were running out of time. Huntress' genetic instability was killing her. But if they tried to rush and combine them with a faulty process, she could end up killing both Helenas - assuming they actually agreed to recombine, which, after that fight, was a likely "no."
And on top of all that, she couldn't help but feel amazingly guilty that she, as Helena's guardian and mentor, and supposed best friend, had no idea Helena had been so conflicted.
Growing up, Helena had been a bright and gregarious child. Selena had raised her with unconditional love and a good sense of self-worth, even with an unknown father. After her mother was murdered, Helena had withdrawn. It was understandable. They both had ridden the roller coaster of emotions after experiencing great losses. Yet, after she thought the mourning of Helena's mother was over, Helena never seemed to regain the balance she had as a child. Constantly fighting over her decisions and challenging her, Barbara didn't realize that Helena wasn't just fighting her, she was fighting herself.
The inner turmoil the young woman had endured made her heart break.
Hearing two sets of footsteps made her stiffen and her heart pound uneasily. It was them. She could feel them - both of them. She vaguely wondered why she had always been able to tell when Helena was around. She frowned, wondering how Alfred could have possibly considered it wise to let them go and how long it would take for them to kill each other. She was on the verge of melting down and in no condition to referee any more violent outbursts, let alone talk without breaking down into a useless emotional puddle. Barbara took an uneasy breath when she heard the footsteps stop just behind her.
"You should apologize first," Helena suggested quietly to Huntress.
"You think I'm a better speaker?" Huntress whispered with surprise in her voice.
Barbara's brows furrowed in confusion at the actually civil tone between the two.
"Nooooo. Because you started it," Helena said as if it were obvious.
Here it comes, Barbara thought with a wince.
Barbara relaxed slightly, surprised by the calm question from Huntress.
"What do you mean when?"
"Well, before the split, you had been pretty antagonistic towards me. Pushing my feelings down, making me be . . . nice . . . and all. You started it."
"That doesn't count," Helena said dismissively.
"I don't remember it."
"It's not my fault you don't remember it," Huntress said tersely.
"Well, no. But the time before the spit shouldn't count."
"I think it should."
"Well, I know one way to settle this," Helena said with irritation.
"Me too," Huntress growled.
Barbara tensed at the impending eruption.
"Ask Barbara," both said in unison.
Barbara blinked as tears sprang to her eyes. A hand went up to her mouth as she unsuccessfully fought against sobs.
The two Helenas moved around her chair and dropped to their knees on either side of her.
"Barbara?" Huntress asked, concerned with her unusual display of emotion. When watery green eyes looked at her, she felt a stab in her heart knowing she caused it.
"We came to apologize," Helena said.
"We need you," Huntress said weakly.
"Please don't give up on us," Helena pleaded, taking a hand and looking into her eyes.
"We need you," Huntress whispered longingly, resting her head on Barbara's leg, unable to look in her eyes for fear she would actually see the physical need.
"And I need you," Barbara whispered, squeezing Helena's hand and placing a hand on Huntress' head and caressing it. "Don't ever forget that."
"Yeoow!" Dinah said, getting a small shock when she turned the device on for a test.
"You ok?" Gwen asked, looking at Dinah who sucked her finger and nodded hesitantly. Gwen peered into the device then went to the bat-computer, reviewing the schematic.
"OK. I think I know the power problem - swap the red wire with the white wire," Gwen said, squinting at the computer screen over her glasses.
"Are you sure?" Dinah said skeptically, staring at the device on the work bench with a frown.
"As sure as I am about any of this."
Dinah eyed her uncertainly, then sighed and swapped the wires. The device suddenly discharged, sending a powerful blast of energy across the bat-cave, past Dr. Landry and Alfred, who were sipping tea, barely past the three women who had just returned, and directly into the examining room.
All stood, stunned, looking at the large hole in the walls, the melted medical cart and examining tables between them and the new smoky hole in the rocky wall that finally managed to stop the beam.
Helena looked at Huntress. "Do you think she knows about the inheritance?"
Barbara looked up curiously.
"I wouldn't worry," Huntress said, glancing at Helena's outfit. "She likes that jacket."
"Hmmm," Helena responded as she and Huntress approached the terrified teen.
Although confused, Barbara found this truce very . . . interesting.
"Whachya doing?" Helena asked Dinah with a thin smile.
"I am SOOOOO sorry," Dinah winced, looking at the two nervously.
"We made some progress," Gwen offered as Barbara rolled up to the computer.
"I can see that," Barbara said, glancing back at the beam's path of destruction.
"The computer simulation you programmed works. I think within a few more days of tests, we should be able to refine the device's settings . . . ."
"Huntress!!" Dinah called as the metabeing collapsed to the ground.
"What can we do?" Helena asked anxiously.
"Nothing, we don't have all the parameters accounted for," Gwen said with a wince.
"Barbara?" Helena asked, not liking that answer. "We know enough to try, don't we?"
"No!" Barbara blurted with concern, looking up from the results of the simulations. "Gwen's right. There are too many variables we have no idea how to set."
"We'll be lucky if she survives the next hour, let alone the night!" Helena cried out angrily. "We can't wait around for more simulations. We've got to try now."
Barbara looked at her with frustration. "Helena, listen. We can't attempt it now. The chance you both could die is too high," she argued.
"Helena, you don't need to do this. You are stable," Gwen argued, then winced at the sharp glare from Helena.
Helena quickly dropped to her knees before Barbara.
"Barbara, they couldn't have known what would work," she argued passionately. "You've read about the string of failures. We saw a pancake person even after they separated me, for God's sake. It was just dumb luck that I'm alive now. There's a lot I don't know - but I know, in my heart, I'm not supposed to let her die. You can't just sacrifice one part of me for another that's not even supposed to be," Helena said, seeing the pain in Barbara's face.
"This is the right thing to do," Helena urged softly and waited for a response . . . and waited.
After a painfully long moment of silence, Barbara looked at her. "I can't lose you," she whispered miserably, then winced as she glanced towards the metabeing, who was lying on the ground by the damn device, being looked after by Dr. Landry.
Barbara shook her head. Surely Helena had to see that killing both of them in a desperate, ill-prepared attempt to save one was not sane.
"Barbara," Dinah said firmly, standing behind Helena. "You have already been living with only part of Helena," she said gently, causing Barbara and Helena to look up at her curiously. "You'll never be happy with that," Dinah said gently.
"This is not about me," Barbara snapped defensively, then felt guilty for the lie. It was about her - selfishly clinging to whatever piece of Helena she could get.
"No. It's not," Dinah agreed, placing a hand on Helena's shoulder.
"I need to do this, Barbara. Trust me," Helena said pleadingly.
Barbara looked at the young woman before her uneasily. She couldn't help but think of the Hermann Hesse quote "Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go." As she finally nodded her reluctant agreement, she felt anything but strong, knowing she could very well lose Helena. She frowned, unable to understand why a happy smile appeared on Helena's face while tears ran down hers.
"You can't be serious," Gwen said to Barbara in horror as Helena got up and walked over to the metabeing. "We have no way of knowing what we would be doing to her."
"We know doing nothing . . . will kill her," Barbara said, wiping what she was determined to be her last tears. She had work to do and she had to focus on it, she reminded herself.
"But Helena is stable . . . ." Gwen argued weakly, not understanding why Barbara would agree to risk Helena's life.
"Only part of her, Gwen. Helena is so much more than the woman you've met. Please, help. Helena has made her choice," Barbara said.
Glancing between Barbara and Helena, who glanced back at the redhead with a warm smile, Gwen acknowledged that there was never really any choice.
It was time, Barbara thought with dread, having finished repairing the power cells and calibrating the instrument the best she could with Gwen's extrapolations.
She turned to see Dinah hovering over the two Helenas, helping them reposition to the far wall, away from anything that might be damaged by the particle beam. Glancing at the still smoldering rock wall behind the examining room, Barbara tried not to think about the damage that could be done to Helena.
"Go ahead, I know you want to," Helena said, holding the sleeping metabeing in her arms and looking down at her fuzzy cheek.
Dinah looked at Huntress' face, then Helena, vigorously shaking her head no. "Not on my life," she said then sucked in a startled breath when a clawed hand grabbed hers. "I wasn't going to!" Dinah whimpered, shutting her eyes. One eye hesitantly peeked open when her hand was firmly pulled towards the metabeing's cheek. To her amazement, the fur was softer than she had imagined. She looked at Huntress and Helena with a surprised smile.
The smile fell as Dinah realized that in a few minutes, everything was going to change. Tears sprang to Dinah's eyes as the teen feared the worst.
"Hey, what do you say, after this is all over, we finish watching the movies upstairs?" Helena quickly offered.
"But . . . there are hundreds, maybe thousands," Dinah warned with a sniff.
"We know," Huntress said, closing her eyes tiredly.
"Based on our calculations, a Metaphasic Z-particle Translocator burst of 14.2 seconds should be sufficient to dislocate and reassemble all of Helena's cells," Gwen informed everyone as she got up from the bat-computer and joined Barbara by the device.
Helena's ears perked up. "Uh, the Metaphasic Z-particle Translocator??"
"The device," Gwen explained. "You can call it an MZT, if you want," Gwen offered, glancing at the equipment and worrying about all the variables. She looked at Helena, wondering why she was smiling when there was a possibility she was going to become a pancake person.
Barbara looked at Helena's smirk and shook her head with a small smile of her own. Aiming the MZT at her, that smile faded into an uncomfortable frown, Barbara winced apologetically.
"Are you sure about this, Helena?" Gwen asked, catching the uneasy look, hoping she would change her mind.
"Yes," Helena answered with confidence, shifting her arms around Huntress almost protectively. Gwen dropped her eyes at the answer she didn't want to hear.
"I guess this is it, then," Barbara said weakly, trying to smile bravely as she looked at the confident woman.
Helena glanced around the bat-cave, feeling humbled by the amazing group of people who had united to help her. Dr. Landry, who likely had the coldest stethoscope known to man, had dropped everything to come to her medical aid. Gwen, the brilliant but clearly unhappy geneticist, who was going against her instincts to thankfully help someone she hardly knew. Alfred, a dear, dear friend, who was able to kick her in the ass and put both of them in their place - while, of course, maintaining his usual, well-mannered demeanor. Dinah, who had a disturbing affinity for her clothes, was a surprising source of strength and compassion for one so young. And Barbara, who . . . took a deep breath and fired.
A powerful beam shot from the device, greedily consuming energy from the dedicated bat-cave generators, and caused the lights to flicker. The beam hit the intended target, propelling Helena and Huntress against the rock wall, pinning them there. Their features quickly blurred as their unnerving cries of pain were swallowed by a bright glow. No one could look directly at them; the light radiating from their bodies was too great.
The power consumption ramped up unexpectedly. Barbara winced, hearing the crackle and popping of various fuses as sparks from various electrical panels around the bat-cave flew. At 13.8 seconds, exactly, Barbara watched with alarm as the device flared, consuming itself as it imploded.
The resulting pressure wave knocked over anything not bolted down, including Barbara and her chair, to the ground.
After the wave passed, there was an eerie calm throughout the pitch-black cave.
Barbara shook her head and exhaled heavily as she pulled herself up to a sitting position. She looked around to assess the damage but there was no light. "Is everyone all right?"
She heard shifting around and a few groans, giving her some measure of relief.
"Uh, I'm here Oracle," Dinah said. "Just a few bruises."
"I am also well, Miss Barbara. I will look for some emergency lighting," Alfred offered.
"Perhaps a cave wasn't such a bad idea," Dr. Landry muttered.
"What about Helena?" Gwen called out with concern, fumbling in the darkness and loudly colliding with an unexpected obstacle. "Damnit," she hissed.
Barbara, still a bit disoriented, heard movement ahead of her and started to crawl towards the noise. "Helena," she called uneasily, reaching out in the dark and coming across a leg. "Helena!" she said and felt a second leg. There was no time for modesty as her hands traveled over the young woman for signs of partial recombination since the MZT beam had not lasted the full 14.2 seconds. She exhaled with tremendous relief finding only one person before her. Hearing Helena whimpering and feeling her shiver uncontrollably, Barbara pulled her into an embrace without a second thought.
"It's going to be all right, Helena," Barbara said soothingly, pressing her lips against the younger woman's forehead. "It's going to be all right," she repeated, though it was more for herself as the unresponsive woman she held continued to tremble.
Barbara and Dinah nervously watched as Dr. Landry examined Helena, who was fading in and out of consciousness and still shaking. With advanced brain wave and heart monitors hooked up to her, it almost looked like she was in a hospital. But the plush curtains and expensive paintings and furniture surrounding them reminded everyone they were in the master bedroom of the Wayne manor.
"It's a miracle she's doing as well as she is," Dr. Landry said. "Her heart and lungs are strong," he noted, looking up at Barbara, who nodded absently as she watched Helena.
The recombination appeared to have worked - there was now one Helena, without any oddly placed body parts and no obviously feline features. But Helena was incoherent and still shaking. And the brain wave monitor was showing erratic traces, making Barbara worry about the effect of those missing 0.4 seconds of Metaphasic Z-particle Translocation.
Gwen limped into the room with an uneasy look. She handed over a report to Barbara. "The bond strength within her nucleotides is fluctuating," she announced with a wince.
Barbara flipped quickly through the report. "But not as much as before," she said, looking up from the data with forced optimism. "Maybe another, shorter burst of Z-particles will help her stabilize," Barbara suggested quickly. One of about 0.4 seconds, she thought.
"The equipment is destroyed and we don't have sufficient power, Barbara. I'm lucky I managed to test her cells with the damage down there. I had to reroute the power from the manor - the bat-generator is fried," Gwen said with a frown, glancing at Helena as Barbara watched Helena's brain waves continue to fluctuate irregularly.
"What does this mean?" Dinah asked anxiously, looking around the room of frowning faces.
"We wait," Alfred offered simply.
Sitting off the balcony of the master bedroom, Barbara looked out over the horizon, watching the sun come up behind New Gotham. As Batgirl, then Oracle, she had been awake for countless sunrises, but never really took the time to enjoy them - until convinced by Helena. She smiled, recalling her friend's unique style of persuasion for one particular sunrise. . . .
"Come on, Barbara. Delphi won't mind if you run your diagnostic after the sunrise."
"Helena, you go ahead. I really want to get it done."
"For God's Sake Barbara, you've been sitting on your butt in front of that damn computer for so long - I bet you can't even feel it now!" Helena complained with exasperation, getting the older woman's undivided attention.
"I can't believe you said that. That is just so wrong . . . on so many levels," Barbara said, amazed.
"Fine. Lecture me during the sunrise - outside," Helena said, swooping in, picking up the startled woman from her wheel chair.
"Helena!" Barbara sputtered then angrily snapped "put me down!" as Helena marched with her to the balcony.
"As you wish," Helena said and placed her down on a plastic lawn chair, one of two she had out there.
"See, you need to get out more, Barbara. These are plastic lawn chairs," she explained, as if Barbara was a small, simple child.
"I know what they are," she said tersely. "I just don't understand . . . ."
"And this is a hot mug of tea. Be careful not to burn yourself," she said slowly as she cautiously handed the mug to the stunned woman.
"Why . . . are you doing this?" she asked, honestly baffled.
Helena looked at her a long, thoughtful moment before answering. "Because you are woefully behind on your sunrise watching - it's embarrassing. Shhhh! It's coming!" Helena said excitedly, as if they were going to witness a rare, once-in-a-lifetime event.
Barbara watched her friend's profile a moment before turning to observe what she thought was perhaps the most beautiful sunrise she had ever seen. The sun burst from the horizon and through puffy clouds, reflecting off of the windows of the many New Gotham sky scrapers in a dazzling splash of color. As the moments passed, the colors changed and the reflections shifted, reminding Barbara of a giant kaleidoscope. "Oh, Hel," she exhaled softly, staring with wonder at the unexpected beauty.
The sun rose higher in the sky, ending the brief spectacle of light that, unbeknownst to her, occurred every clear day. Turning to her friend with gratitude for sharing it with her, she found Helena quietly watching her just before she suddenly blurted. "Ok then! For being such a good sport, I'm throwing in breakfast too. What do you want?" Helena said, hopping to her feet. "I have an impressive assortment of pop-tarts or, if you prefer something else, I'm sure I can accommodate you," Helena said with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.
"Oh, uh," Barbara said with a wince. "I've made breakfast plans with Wade," she explained apologetically. Seeing Helena's smile falter and a flicker of disappointment cross her face, she quickly offered "I can call him and cancel."
"Nah. Go and enjoy your date with Wade. It's just breakfast. We can have it another time," Helena said with a weak smile and shrug.
Barbara frowned, recalling she would have preferred to spend more time with Helena. Each moment with her tended to be . . . unique, she noted with a small smile. Even routine post-sweep briefs or quiet dinners or chats . . . which unfortunately had grown more infrequent as she started to date Wade and Helena moved out.
Barbara sucked in a startled breath as the sequence of those events finally hit her like a 2 by 4 of disturbing clarity. Even the human part of Helena, who had suffered from amnesia, seemed to know what had happened. "Did we break up or something?" Helena had innocently asked. She hadn't even considered that possibility, taking for granted what they shared and inadvertently letting it slip through her fingers as she pursued a traditional, safe relationship.
Soon after she moved out, Helena started to shamelessly flaunt her carefree approach to "dating." Barbara truly hated Helena's caviler attitude. When she mentioned her concern about her too-active social life, Helena's response echoed loudly in her thoughts "I'm an adult and I know what I want. Settling for someone who isn't right for me isn't going to happen." Barbara realized with a sick feeling that the comment wasn't defensiveness; it was an accusation.
Barbara no longer had to wonder why Helena moved out. Just as she didn't want to think about the gruesome details of Helena's hyper-active sex life, Helena didn't want her relationship with Wade thrown in her face.
How dense could I be?!?
Barbara silently moaned as her face dropped into her hands with self-disgust. Not only had she been oblivious to the young woman's inner turmoil - she had been adding to it!
How dense could I be!?!
"Barbara? Alfred has made up a bed for you," Dinah said hesitantly as she joined her side.
Barbara lifted her head and smiled weakly. I'm such an idiot.
"You need some sleep," Dinah said.
"I'll be fine, Dinah," Barbara said unconvincingly, wrapping her arms around herself as the cool evening breeze washed over her like a weary exhale.
I'm so stupid they are going to revoke my Mensa membership.
"You're not going to solve anything if you're sleep deprived, Barbara. Try to get some?" Dinah pleaded, gently touching her shoulder.
I'm embarrassed to call myself Oracle. Oracle! What a joke! Just because I can say idiot in several languages doesn't make me any less of one.
Ahmak, bedak, blbec, fjols, heimskingi, idiota, mulkis… .
"You're projecting," Dinah said with a wince, pulling her hand away uneasily and looking away uncomfortably. "Really loudly."
"Great." I'm so stupid, aptal, bobo, dum, enfaldig, glupi, hloupý….
"You're not stupid," Dinah offered sympathetically, then suddenly looked with surprise at her hand then Barbara's shoulder, which she was no longer touching.
Barbara looked up at her ward not believing that for a moment. "Perhaps not with facts and figures. . . though facts about Helena have obviously eluded me. GOD I'm such an idiot." Barbara blurted and dropped her face into her hands again, shaking her head with a groan.
Barbara looked up suddenly. "You knew, didn't you?"
"That Helena is in love with you?" Dinah said bluntly, causing Barbara to wince at the words finally said aloud.
How could I have missed it? Does Alfred know too??
"Yeah, he knows," Dinah said, getting a startled, then annoyed look from Barbara.
"Hey! I already told you you're projecting! Any you're really tired. You let your guard down when you're exhausted."
"You read my mind . . . without touching?" Barbara asked, suddenly aware of her ward's altered power.
Dinah shrugged. "It just happened . . . and you were pro . . . ."
"Projecting. Great," Barbara sighed. "Why didn't you tell me about Helena?" Barbara asked, then suddenly held her hand up and blurted "No, I understand - you shouldn't unfairly reveal what your powers had . . . ."
"Barbara," Dinah interrupted, rolling her eyes. "I didn't have to read her mind. All I had to do was look at her look at you. It's like soooo obvious," she said. "Ask Alfred."
"Dinah, that really doesn't make me feel better," Barbara said with a frown.
"I don't know what to tell you, Barbara. Maybe there's a reason you didn't see it," Dinah said.
Yeah, I'm an idiot.
"But it is there and you see it now, right?" Dinah asked, ignoring Barbara's projection.
Barbara nodded uneasily. How could she not see it?
"So the question is - what are you going to do about it?"
Barbara rolled back into the master bedroom, needing to see Helena again before finding the guest room set up for her. She rolled to a stop, warmed by the sight of a guest cot by Helena's bed. Alfred had always been the most insightful of them all, she acknowledged, then exhaled with irritation at her own blindness.
She turned to look at her former ward, slowly rolling closer. Glancing between the monitors, she noted nothing had changed. Her eyes dropped guiltily, knowing that wasn't entirely true. She had changed, she considered, reaching out and tentatively caressing the young woman's face.
Barbara finally realized that everything Helena did screamed "I'm right here!" Only she didn't hear it.
"The last thing I would ever want is to hurt you," she whispered sadly. "But I did, didn't I?"
With a thoughtful sigh, Barbara took Helena's hand and placed a kiss upon its back before resting it against her cheek.
"Miss Barbara," Alfred said with disapproval.
Barbara woke with a startled breath at the sudden voice and sat up, awkwardly releasing Helena's hand which had left a red imprint on her cheek. Her back ached, causing her to wince in pain as she straightened up after another night sleeping in her wheelchair.
"Alfred," she greeted him tiredly.
"The cot was not placed there for decoration," he scolded her, pointedly looking between Barbara and the temporary bed.
"What time is it?" She asked curiously as she looked around the room for a clock. Her eyes settled on Helena, who hadn't moved during the night.
"9 O'clock. Brunch will be served in one hour," he noted.
"I'm not hungry, Alfred," Barbara said, rolling her head around to loosen the kinks in her neck. "I'll just stay here."
"You shall do no such thing. You need a break and have the medical pager to alert you of any changes. You must eat and keep your own strength up. You know that," Alfred admonished.
Barbara sighed and nodded reluctantly. As he started to leave, she called out uneasily. "Alfred?"
"Yes, Miss Barbara?"
"Why didn't I see?" She said vaguely, looking at Helena with a pained expression.
"I take it you are referring to Miss Helena's feelings for you," Alfred said.
She glanced up to him with a grimace and nod.
"Ah," he said then looked at Helena thoughtfully. "Perhaps you were not ready to see," he said simply, glancing back to Barbara before he nodded politely and left.
"Have you figured out who's behind this, Barbara?" Dr. Landry asked, sipping his coffee, glancing at her across the rather large table.
"Uh, not yet," Barbara said uncomfortably. While Helena was her immediate concern, she hated the fact the people behind this mess were still on the loose, doing GOD knows what to other people.
"Does the data from the warehouse have any clues?" Dinah asked, then bit into her toast.
"There are no traces of where the data was processed or where the other experiments occurred," Barbara noted with frustration. "The warehouses used the two times we know of lead to dead ends," she added.
"What about the test subjects, are there any trends or patterns with them?" Dinah asked, getting a pleased smile from her mentor.
"Not obvious ones," Gwen answered. "They were a mix of metahuman and human."
"The equipment seemed expensive. Perhaps you can trace the large purchases," Dr. Landry offered, taking a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
"It was stolen," Barbara noted with a sigh.
"Most of that equipment was stolen from Garrow Industries," Gwen offered with a frown. "But the police couldn't figure out who did it - even with the most advanced security system."
"The police report identified the company had inadequate security," Barbara responded with surprise, eyeing her curiously.
"That's ridiculous, Garrow Industries is a daughter company of Ryland Technology - they provide security systems for all their holdings," Gwen said.
"If that's true . . . ." Barbara said, falling silent as her mind worked through the implications.
"It could have been an inside job?" Dinah asked, looking at Gwen, who looked startled.
"Whoa, slow down. The people who wanted the advanced equipment are likely very intelligent, intelligent enough to by-pass a security system - even an advanced one," Gwen said.
"Why would the police report say the security system was inadequate?" Dr. Landry asked.
Barbara took a thoughtful breath. Gwen eyed her. "What is your theory? You must have one," Gwen challenged.
"If the police thought the security system was inadequate, then they would be less likely to focus on an inside job," Barbara said.
"But . . . the people with access to the security codes to the lab are the security guards and the lab personnel. None of them would do that," Gwen said defensively. "And how would they hide the fact we had an advanced system?"
"The police made a mistake?" Dr. Landry offered.
"Or were bought off," Barbara said with a wince.
"Damn it. This is bad," Gwen blurted with frustration. "I need to tell my dad," she said getting up.
"Your dad?" Dinah asked with surprise.
"He's one of the VPs at Garrow Industries. I don't want to just start accusing people I work with. He'll know how to . . . ." Gwen said, interrupted by two separate beeps.
Barbara and Dr. Landry quickly pulled out their pagers and looked at them with alarm.
"What's wrong?" Dinah asked as Barbara rolled back from the table with a worried look.
"Helena's heart beat and brain activity has stopped," Dr. Landry said as he got up.
Barbara was last to enter the room, frustrated by her limitations. She found everyone standing around the bed, blocking her view. Swallowing uneasily, she rolled closer to the bed. As Gwen and Dinah stepped aside for her, she saw Helena sitting up with a bunch of wires and electrodes in her hand.
"Sorry . . . they itched," Helena said defensively, looking at the wires then everyone with a frown. Dinah smiled and Gwen chuckled happily. Dr. Landry shook his head.
Barbara closed her eyes and released a silent, emotional breath.
"How do you feel?" Dr. Landry asked, pulling out his stethoscope.
"I'm . . . ," Helena said then paused, looking down at her hands thoughtfully. She took a deep breath. "Something feels . . . off, I'm not sure what," she said, glancing to Barbara, who quietly stared at her.
"But other than feeling "off," do you have any pain?" Landry persisted, putting the stethoscope's eartips in as he stepped towards Helena.
Helena watched with surprise as Barbara silently rolled up and took the stethoscope diaphragm and put in between her hands to warm it up. Dr. Landry rolled his eyes. Superheroes could be such wimps at times, he thought.
"Aches and . . . I feel tired," Helena said, unable to take her eyes off of Barbara and her hands.
"What do you remember?" Dinah asked hesitantly as Barbara, satisfied with the temperature, released the diaphragm to Dr. Landry.
"Thank you," Landry said flatly and placed the warm diaphragm on Helena's back, ordering "breathe in."
Helena complied and took a deep breath before answering Dinah. "We've got a lot of movies to watch," she said, glancing at Dinah, who smiled brightly. Helena smiled back then glanced to Gwen thoughtfully.
Gwen smiled weakly, feeling decidedly uncomfortable every time she looked between Helena and Barbara. "We should take another blood sample and see how the nucleotide bond strengths are acting," Gwen offered, getting a nod from Dr. Landry.
"Great, more blood," Helena said unenthusiastically as Dr. Landry pulled out a needle and empty vial from his bag.
"You know, you've seen a lot more blood during fights," Dinah said with a smirk.
"Not my blood, D. Not my . . . . ouch," Helena muttered as Dr. Landry stuck her with another needle, quickly filling the vial. Helena glanced to Barbara, noting with sudden unease she had not said one word and was still looking at her.
"I'll go check for bond stability," Gwen said, glancing between Barbara and Helena. As if they heard me, she considered as she took the vial from Landry.
"Thank you," Helena said with a sincere smile, surprising the geneticist, who smiled warmly in return. After Gwen left, Helena looked at Dinah and Landry. "You guys mind if I talk with Barbara?" she said.
"I've got to call my wife anyway," Dr. Landry said, leaving Dinah, who waved at him before turning to Helena and Barbara with interest.
"Alone??" Helena clarified, staring at Dinah, who rolled her eyes.
On her way out, Dinah smiled and waggled her eyebrows at Barbara, then frowned when Barbara continued to stare at Helena.
As Helena got up from the bed, Barbara took an uneasy breath. She really wasn't prepared for any of this, Barbara considered with trepidation. She was adrift, helpless in the sea of emotions that surrounded her. Helena was alive. Helena loved her. And she loved . . . .
"I don't know what to do about Gwen," Helena said with frustration, causing Barbara to blink. A few more emotions were added to the churning sea now drowning her.
Helena's hand shot out and grabbed the footboard to steady herself.
"Helena?" Barbara asked with concern, rolling closer.
"I'm OK," Helena said with a smile and dismissive wave of a hand. "Really."
Barbara nodded hesitantly. "Welcome back, by the way," she said softly, getting a bright, beautiful smile from Helena.
The smile faded as she looked at Barbara solemnly. "Thank you . . . for trusting me . . . for everything," Helena said.
"You would have done the same for me," Barbara said easily with a small smile.
"Not exactly the same," Helena admitted, getting a curious look from her former guardian. "I would have given you some warning before I shot you," Helena said with a pointed look.
"I gave you warning," Barbara said defensively.
"Right . . . "I guess this is it" . . . blam!" Helena recounted.
"Fine. The next time you are split in two and need to be shot with . . . ," Barbara responded but was interrupted by Helena's hand on her forearm.
"Let's agree not do that again," Helena said with a serious look.
Barbara nodded weakly, looking into intense blue eyes as goose bumps marched up the arm Helena was touching. "W . . .Why are you . . . unsure . . . about Gwen?" Barbara asked carefully, predicting the possible responses with uneasy anticipation.
"I saw her father at both warehouses," Helena said gravely.
That particular response was certainly not among those anticipated, Barbara thought as she looked into the young woman's worried face.
As they rode the elevator down to the bat cave, Barbara saw the frown on Helena's face.
"Are you feeling all right?" Barbara asked, startling Helena when she took her hand and squeezed.
Barbara didn't normally initiate comforting touches, Helena noted with pleasant surprise, squeezing back.
"As much fun as it was having my cells ripped apart then squished back together, I'm thinking it will be even less fun telling my girlfriend her father is behind all this," Helena said sarcastically. "This so sucks," Helena said with a heavy sigh, dreading that conversation as she rubbed her tired eyes.
Barbara tensely nodded in silent wholehearted agreement as the elevator doors opened.
"Gwen?" Helena said softly.
"Hey! You're much more stable than you were!" She said with clear excitement, pointing to the computer screen.
"I'm going to assume that's good," Helena said peering at the screen then glancing at Gwen. "That's good right?"
"That's very good. While I can't predict with any accuracy when, the two blood samples we took after the remerging, right after the blast and after you woke, indicate your cells will eventually stabilize on their own," she said with a smile that faded, seeing Helena's tense expression. "What's wrong?" The geneticist said, looking at her frown then glancing over to Barbara, who sat uncomfortably at a respectful distance, giving them their space. "Oh," she said with a sad sigh. "You don't have to tell me."
"I don't?" Helena asked with surprise.
"No. It wasn't too hard to figure out."
Barbara stared at the mess in the bat cave thinking about the sad irony of it all. When she finally figured out how Helena had felt about her, she had moved on.
If this had been one of those casual flings Helena was prone to indulge in, it wouldn't be so painful. Not that she liked the idea of anyone . . . with Helena . . . that way. She didn't. But she knew that if Helena's heart was not part of the deal, there might be a chance. But with Gwen, she sensed something more serious. She couldn't fault Helena for her choice. Gwen was an intelligent, attractive young woman, who, in extreme circumstances, proved herself a very good friend. And Gwen could offer the very active crime fighter what she couldn't. The geneticist could go on hikes, dance, or just simply stand to give her a full body hug that she had desperately wanted to do when she saw Helena complaining about itchy electrodes.
"No," Gwen said sadly. "I was hoping we'd at least go out once but . . . ."
"Gwen, we can't let the actions of our fathers dictate how we live our lives. Do you actually think I would not date you because of your father?!?"
"My father? Helena, what are you talking about?" Gwen looked at her with a confused grimace.
"I thought you knew about your father . . . ."
"What about my father??"
"NO!" Gwen said, pacing.
"I saw him."
"NO! You're making a mistake. You never MET him. He would NOT condone experimentation on PEOPLE!"
"I know it is hard to accept but the picture of your father . . . ."
"You are making a mistake - you don't know him . . . ."
"Then let me meet him tonight. I know he saw me . . . as I am now. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't forget that night."
"Hel? I don't think that's such a good idea . . . ." Barbara said, rolling up to them.
"Yeah, because you'll learn your theory is insane," Gwen snapped.
"You haven't been . . . whole again for even a day," Barbara said uneasily.
Helena looked at Barbara and patiently offered "I'll have my coms and you can listen in. Dinah can provide backup. We've got to stop the experiments," she added with a pleading look Barbara found hard to resist.
"This is ridiculous!"
"Gwen," Helena said, grabbing her shoulders gently and looking into her eyes. "Believe me I don't want it to be true either. But the fact is, I saw a man who looked like your father at that warehouse. We've got to stop this madness before anyone else gets hurt. Let me meet him. Don't you want to know - one way or the other?"
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