42,293 / 50,000
Things work out, for a change. For a moment.
In the comics, many years ago, the Joker harassed Comissioner Gordon and his family, and in a random act of insanity, shot the Comissioner's daughter, Barbara, when she came to answer the door and found the madman on the other side. Unknown to the Joker, he had just shot Batgirl, depriving Gotham of one of its protectors, since the bullet severed her spinal cord and left her paralyzed. She forged a new identity as Oracle, and became an information broker behind a computerised mask, using her skills to get around in cyberspace as effortlessly as she once did upon the rooftops of her city.
I could see all the fear in Batgirl's, in Chris' eyes. Chris had read the Killing Joke as well, and he knew what had happened to Barbara just as well as I did. Behind that though, was the compounded fear of Barbara herself inside there. She knew the Joker, and with whatever had caused this, it was very possibly that she knew what he had done to her as well. Either from her own memories, or from sharing Chris's. She couldn't take her eyes off the barrel, as the moment from the comics replayed over and over in her mind, and she feared it was coming again for her.
The moment was like walking into the Killing Joke itself, with the Joker standing there in front of her, with the gun lowered near his side, pointed at her belly. The only difference was that Batgirl was in her uniform, and the Joker didn't realise the extent of what he had done before. Now, he knew full well he'd be shooting a Bat, and that was an action he would take with great pleasure.
There was no way I was going to let that play out again, not right in front of my eyes when I could do something, and not just be a passive reader. I was getting tired of everyone I met, or saved, meeting an untimely end, or being frozen. Even if it ended poorly for me, I had to at least try something, and not just watch a friend die.
I didn't even have to think about it. The Joker didn't have any extraordinary strength, he was just a man, an insane man, but still only a man. The only thing I had to be concerned with was the gun, and I kept my eyes on it the entire time.
He moved the gun back up, wanting to get a better shot, and not wanting to risk armour. The panic in Chris' eyes grew as the gun came level with her face. I moved in an instant and hit his pale, slender arm, and didn't stop moving, even when I heard the gunshot go off. I'd been hearing them all day, what was one more?
I grabbed his arm and twisted, hearing the gun fall to the ground. Moments later, I could hear it scraping across the floor and bounce off the wall. A pair of hands covered in snug yellow material grabbed his wrists and held tight. I let go and stepped back, and could see Chris was safe and sound, fighting back.
"Oh, now that is not funny at all. Where's the punchline," the insane criminal asked no one in particular, mumbling it to himself more than anything.
With the Joker restrained for the moment, I finally took a breath, and glanced back, seeing a hole in the wall, near the ceiling, where the bullet had lodged itself.
"In my belt," I heard Chris' new female voice say, and it yanked me back from my distraction with the bullet hole, sparing only a glance to where she'd kicked the gun, to keep an eye on it. With the gun far away, off by a distant wall, she'd kicked it so hard, Batgirl was back in full control of herself. Exactly who that meant as being in control of the body overall, I wasn't sure, but her fear had melted away, or was hidden behind a mask of renewed confidence and anger.
She kept a firm grip on the Joker's hands, and he continued to struggle, trying to kick at her, blows which she deflected with ease using her boots to counter his kicks with her own. He made a few attempts to head butt her, or bite at her hands, but she kept him at bay each time.
I watched, seeing more Batgirl than Chris at that moment, and stunned at how much these personalities could take over someone. It wasn't anything I had not been seeing all day, but I knew Chris so well, the contrast was that much greater with her.
She drew my attention again with a sharp yell, "My belt! In the rear, I have a set of handcuffs back there, and they should hold onto the Clown Prince here."
I pulled her cape aside, and reached to her belt, praying I didn't make the mistake of squeezing anything I shouldn't be squeezing without an invitation, or a whole lot more alcohol than either of us had ever drank.
Moving my hand down the small of her back and under the belt, I found what she was looking for, hidden cleverly in a compartment, like everything else was.
I took the black metal cuffs and moved back around to Chris' front, and I could see the hints of red cheeks under her mask. "Hurry, and cuff him, over this way."
She looked away from me quickly, hiding what little of her face still showed as best she could. She dragged the criminal over towards the wall, where a handicapped railing was set into the structure. The Joker struggled all the while, but she continued to hold him tight while I clasped one end of the cuffs around the bar, between two points where it was bolted into the wall, and the other around one of his wrists.
The Joker was shoved down to the floor, kneeling before us. Batgirl's fist tightened into a tiny ball, and she grit her teeth, as she pulled back, giving the Joker a strong right hook in the side of his head. His hat fell off and rolled along the floor by its brim, spinning to a stop several feet away. The Joker himself slumped as his body went limp. He fell against the wall, dangling from his arm, his wrist attached to the piping the only thing still holding him up, otherwise, he'd be down on the floor and appearing to be asleep.
Chris shook her hand, wincing from the pain she felt, flexing her fingers inside the glove, and I could hear the material flexing with her. "Sorry, Joker. Looks like the joke's on you, after all."
With thinking we had a brief respite, with no one else immediately on the horizon, our illusion was shattered by several shots ringing out behind us, which we were fortunate enough to miss us entirely. One of them almost hit the Joker, another went through a pane of glass that formed part of the wall between the lobby we were in, and a fancy restaurant on the other side of it.
We turned to see the COBRA soldiers having sorted out the mystery of the disappearign wall, or at least no longer curious about it, and had come after us. The encounter with Joker had eaten up any distance we had put between us and them.
"More running," I said, and we turned away from the advancing blue-clad soldiers, as bullets continued to fly behind us, all missing by quite a large margin.
We weaved through an area set up with chairs and tables for people to meet and wait, or eat a snack, or whatever they felt like doing. We felt like running, so continued through the section. Sticking to a straight line, I would duck around objects, but Batgirl was using her newfound skills to leap over them, cape flitting behind her, while she gracefully leapt up, over, and sometimes onto everything in her way. I couldn't help but slow for a second just to watch her do what she was doing.
As we exited the section that was mostly walled off, finding an exit as far from where we came in as possible. Chris leapt up onto the low wall, that came up to just about our necks in height, and perched atop it, crouched down, and looking over it while I decided to just walk through the empty space left for such activity.
It wasn't far to the elevators, which I hoped were still working. The chaos effect didn't seem to be as thick over in the Marriott, but there were any number of reasons for that. The dead bodies of several superheroes were a factor, I'm sure. I saw a pile of Supermen, surely the ones Luthor had offed earlier, and there were others around him. The supervillains hadn't left much in the way of living bodies behind them.
With the occasional gunshot still firing off behind us, Chris leapt down to the ground, landing in a crouch with a hand planted on the ground between her feet, as the cape settled around her. They may have been lousy shots, but she saw no reason to make it too easy for them.
Now that we had some space, and obstables between us, we moved at a slower pace, but still moving briskly to keep ahead.
As we moved forward, we heard a familiar tromping of feet moving closer, and I at first mistook it for the Spartans, fearing it could be even worse; Zombie spartans.
I was mistaken, and relieved, although not much when I saw what was coming into view from another part of the upper lobby. A large group of men, covered head to toe in armour that was almost all white came up, moving closer. If I had to guess, I would say they were being drawn by the gunfire.
The group of men were the transformed members of the 607th Stormtrooper Legion, a group of people who had taken to representing the Stormtroopers at nearly every convention nationwide, and then some. If there were geeks there, you could find a Stormtrooper. And the odds were good they'd be in the 607th.
Their armours were typically so well done, that it almost looked like they hadn't changed, but there was subtle differences to them. They were cleaner, neater, seemed to be more functional, and more solid. The most striking thing of all is that they were all of uniform height and size, showing the cloned nature of their filmic inspirations.
I could hear Chris beside me, worried at being caught between the COBRAs and the Stormtroopers, although one side had far more firepower, and many more people on it, and they were between us and the elevators.
"Don't worry, I have an idea." I sprinted forward towards the head of the marching column of troopers, all in as perfect synch as the Spartans were. I waved my arms in the air, and came to a short stop when every one of the troopers stopped short with a loud stomp of the feet, and as many as could put me in the sights of their guns did.
I stood there with my arms raised, feeling much like Ash must have, what seemed like a lifetime ago.
"Don't shoot," I cried, and one of them lowered his weapon just a bit, but he would have likely still hit me in the kidney if he fired.
A clicking staticy sound could be heard coming from him, as he spoke through his helmet. His voice was distorted just a bit by the microphone, or whatever similar technology the real troopers would have used. "What is it, and speak quickly. We've had reports of weapons fire in this sector."
The microphone clicked off, and I nodded. "That's what I wanted to tell you! We were being chased by some rebel forces, thank the Emperor we saw you. They chased us through that cordoned off area there," I said, pointing to where Chris and I had just exited. Over the wall, several blue helmets could be seen working their way through, slowly and methodically winding their way through and checking every nook and cranny, not having noticed us outside the are yet.
"That's them there!"
The lead trooper nodded and his speaker clicked on again, "Thank you for your help, citizen. You and your friend should move along, we'll take care of those rebel scum."