Paper Hearts, part 16

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"



Batgirl was back in the catwalks, making her way to A-6. M-21 had been untouched - not surprising, really, given its relatively public location along a main hallway. The slimmest of crawlspaces ran inside the wall to the Oracle designed junction box, and Batgirl began to suspect why she had been tapped for this mission. If Robin had Nightwing's flexibility, he might be able to squeeze through, but any of the others?

What it meant in real terms was that it had taken Batgirl longer than she had liked to shimmy down and check to location. Given her time to digest Oracle's hastily delivered information: Hatter was after Bruce. She could only know that if another attempt had been made on Bruce's life, but Bruce wasn't available to be attacked. That either meant Hatter and Scarecrow were working together and had figured out who Bruce was - or they weren't. And there was only one person who could stand in for Bruce if Hatter's attack had been aimed at the penthouse.

J'onn.

There hadn't been an opportunity to ask when she had called to report M-21 was clear. Barbara had sounded distracted and worried, accepting Batgirl's report and quickly signing off.

Batgirl snaked up into the ventilation system again, this time in A block. The going was easier, less cells here. Most of the block was taken up by a cafeteria complex, darkened and empty at this hour.

A-6 should be... entirely inaccessible through the walls. She scowled. How had they set up the system in the first place? Unless...

"Oracle," she called.

The reply was slow in coming and clipped when it came. "Hold on."

Batgirl considered the cafeteria below her. She dredged up the specifics from the blueprints in her memory, scanning for the camera placements. One there, and another... She swiftly estimated their ranges. If there was a blind spot, there wasn't much of one.

Worst case scenario - they discovered she was here.

Worth the risk.

She dropped down to the floor, hugging the shadows. Pressed against the wall, her eyes could discern a hairline gap - access panel. She stretched out her fingers, pressing them in a predetermined patterns. Not that one. No. Yes!

The panel sprang out from the wall and slid soundlessly to one side.

"Go ahead, Batgirl."

"At A-6. Hope blind spot."

A tap of keys. "Oh, yeah. That one. You're clear."

Batgirl stepped out from the wall to turn and inspect the electronics behind the panel. The Oracle junction box would be below the lip of the panel, virtually indistinguishable from the expected wiring...

"Oracle."

"Found it?"

Batgirl stared at a clumsily spliced device wound into the wiring. "Looks like."

An electronic squeal sounded in the background of their connection, and Batgirl's eyes widened as a red light began to glow among the wires. "It's on," she reported.

"Crap!" Oracle swore. "I'm calling J'onn. Slap a tapper on it and get out of there."

Batgirl obeyed, taking a tiny magnetic transceiver from her belt and setting it just below the light. Then she scrambled back into the ceiling and began racing back through crawlspaces and catwalks, retrieving her bypassers as she went.

She was almost to D-14 when a screaming wail of sirens flooded through the building.

"Batgirl, hold!" Oracle barked over the line.

Batgirl froze in her place. Below her she could hear scrambling and cursing mixed in with the howling and jeering of the inmates. A long silence held over her comlink.

Finally, Oracle was back. "I had to send a surge back through your tapper, short out the system," she explained. "Messy, but I'm not taking the chance that third time's the charm."

"How long?"

"I blew out my own security controls for your grid," Barbara confessed, "but I've finally got a clear feed. Guards have already found the device, GCPD reporting that they apprehended a reporter sneaking up the fire escape at the penthouse. I sent the surge when he pulled a gun, and it cut the puppet strings. They should put two and two together pretty quickly, but I'd lay low for at least five minutes."

"Then?"

"Just a sec-" There was a click of Oracle switching lines, then more silence. Batgirl shifted into a more comfortable position and waited.

Finally, "Sorry, Batgirl. Give it four more minutes from now. Then head _down_. You're going to have to use the sewer exit. You'll come up all the way at D'Angelo, then double back toward the expressway. Call me when you get that far."

"Need backup?"

"I hope to God by the time you get clear, we won't," Barbara said fervently. "But if you can make it out in under 30 minutes, that'll at least position you to catch the train to Bludhaven."

"Bludhaven," Batgirl repeated flatly.

"Torque. Nightwing went after him, but he's not answering my signal. I've dispatched Robin, but he's the only one I can spare."

Batgirl closed her eyes, sympathizing with the worry that drew so many words from the Oracle. Another villain? Tonight? And Barbara, from the sound of things, at one of those moments where all she could do was wait. Cassandra took a deep breath, mentally plotting her route and anticipating short cuts. "I'll be at the tracks in 25 minutes," she promised, already shimmying down toward a well hidden bolt hole.

Barbara's voice sounded strained. "I gotta go. I just hope we don't need you."

The line went silent, and Batgirl set her jaw and moved doggedly on.



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