Killer Moth steered the tank around and drove it toward her targets. She didn’t have long to wait, since the heroes had already been swinging in the direction of the breakout. She smiled and hit a button as the Huntress swung into view.
“Fried bat-babe!” she shouted.
The Huntress released her rope and flipped agilely through the air as fire blasted out and narrowly missed her darting body. She landed in a crouch and ripped her cape off to smother the falling ashes and embers. Can’t let that thing burn down the ward! she thought.
Elsewhere in the ward, Batwing was already fighting the flames with all of his might. He led a group of guards toward the blaze as the men labored to use their extinguishers to smother the fire.
“Leave that tank to us,” he said in a commanding tone. “You men just keep the inmates locked up and control the fire!”
An elderly guard replied, “Don’t worry, sir! We’ll do our part!”
Batwing had no time to hesitate, but even as he raced forward to help the Huntress, he marveled at how his mere presence seemed to inspire respect from the lawmen. I know most of that attitude really is due to Red Robin’s legend, but it feels really great to have professionals respect me like that, he thought. Man, I’ve come a long way from the streets!
Still, not every person in the jail viewed Batwing with awe or respect. A burly felon reached through his cell bars to grab the Boy Wonder around the neck. “The fire may kill me, but getting my chance to kill Red Robin’s brat is worth it!” he grunted.
Batwing choked as he struggled against a much stronger foe. He also fought to identify the man. He had barely glanced at him as he passed the cell, but Red Robin had trained him to notice his environment and to remember small nuances of detail when that kind of thing might be of use to him.
This attacker is huge and dark-haired. He has a look like someone I know! thought Batwing as he twisted around and reached for his utility belt. He managed to grab a gas pellet and hurled it backward at his foe’s face.
The big man coughed but continued to squeeze on Batwing’s neck. He’s holding his breath, or he’s too big to quit! Got to think of something! he mused.
Batwing raised his legs and kicked the big man in the face before dropping to the ground. That agility just saved my neck — literally — but I’ll be sore for weeks! he thought.
He darted aside and turned to see the angry con as he waved away the gas and gripped his cell bars in rage. Frank Crane! That’s one of the Scarecrow’s heirs! Frank was the big, strong, dumb one. I guess I’m lucky to have escaped a wrestling match with that hulk with my body intact!
Batwing rubbed his neck and moved forward to find the Huntress.
The Huntress had been all too busy herself as the Killer Moth’s tank’s cannon followed her lithe form as she raced and rolled across the ward. I have to lure the tank away from other inmates, she thought. One stray blast could kill them. Saving others comes first, even if that makes this girl a human target!
She heard the roar of the tank as the huge yet oddly swift vehicle rolled along after her. She flipped backward and landed on top of the long gun barrel. This thing is hot! It’s burning right through my reinforced boots.
The Huntress raced along the narrow barrel and climbed on the top hatch. It can’t hit me now, but how can I get inside? she thought.
She held on to the hatch, and her deft fingers played across the top. The Huntress then smiled as she dropped a pellet from her belt into the ventilation system grid.
Killer Moth screamed as the pellet rolled into the tank and exploded in a blinding blast. “That witch!” she shouted. “My helmet protected my eyes, but I could have been blinded had I not been wearing it!” She popped the hatch and flew out to tackle the Huntress. “I’ll kill you right here!” she shouted.
The Huntress gasped in surprise as her flying foe carried her into the roof with stunning impact. Didn’t expect someone in a tank to fly, she thought. Feels like she drove all the air out of me!
The dark knight detective brought her palms together against each side of the Killer Moth’s helmet and managed to knock it askew. Maybe I can blind her long enough to get my breath, she thought, raising her knees and breaking free of the woman’s tight embrace.
Batman’s daughter linked her legs around Killer Moth’s body and spun around until she was hanging from her back. A bit of glue should gum up her wing mechanism, she thought.
She smashed the pellet from her belt against the wings and nodded grimly as the delicate mechanism stopped, and they plunged to the ground. The Huntress kicked free and swung gracefully down, while her heavier foe crashed hard.
The Huntress quickly ripped off her helmet and knocked her cold before tossing her over one shoulder and rushing back to the tank. She vaulted to the open hatch and frowned as she peered inside. Empty! she realized. I guess she didn’t have time to free anyone.
She looked up to see Batwing circling a group of escaped cons. They had managed to free themselves when the tank’s rampage weakened their bars. She sighed and dropped Killer Moth as she prepared to help the young hero.
Batwing whipped out an extending pole from a sheath that rested on his hip. He spun around and used the pole to sweep three of the thugs off their feet. Before they could get back up, he kicked off the ground and propelled himself into a well-executed tumble across all three men. The impact knocked the air out of them, and three jabs from his staff left them stunned. “I guess they didn’t know I had the pole position!” he quipped.
The Huntress had dived through the air as well, and she brought both high-heeled boots into the chest of a big bald crook named Ace Malone. She followed this move by high-kicking a second crook in the nose.
Before two more escaped thugs could grab her, she elbowed one in the chin and brought her fist around in a powerful punch that knocked the final man cold. She turned to see Batwing yelp as a newcomer aimed a gun at his back.
The Huntress fired her own crossbow, which she had grabbed from the holster that strapped it to her leg. A bolt whizzed across the ward and entered the gun’s barrel with remarkable precision. The weapon backfired, and the crook fell into the arms of approaching guards.
“I was about to take that gun down with a batarang!” said Batwing.
“Sorry. I guess I’m an overachiever!” said the Huntress. “I see the fire is out, and there were few injuries to staff. Did anyone escape?”
“I don’t know yet,” said the prison warden, a man named Sprague. “We’ve got people doing a sweep. We had to move some inmates to avoid smoke inhalation. I know the whole thing would have ended badly if you two had not arrived.”
The Huntress walked over to where Killer Moth lay and gently used one boot to roll her over. “I can donate this one to you. I don’t know who she was trying to free, or if she was just imitating her father’s M.O. of serving as a would-be defender of the underworld. Still, I can’t account for that high-tech tank she rolled in here inside. Valerie Van Cleef was always more of a party girl than a science whiz!”
Meanwhile, two costumed figures moved silently across the rooftops until they reached one particular building. They peered down through a glass skylight to see a laboratory in which one man labored into the night near many curious devices.
The caped man in the dark costume with the bat emblem on the chest whispered to the blonde woman in the green shorts and red top. “Redbird, I think we’ve hit pay dirt!” said Blackwing, alias Charles Bullock.
Redbird, alias Meg O’Connor, nodded and said, “This lady cop’s instincts agree with you. There is something suspicious going on below!”
They crashed through the skylight to confront the scientist as he jumped backward. “Thank heavens!” said Dr. Robert Van Winkler, recognizing them. “I’ve been a nervous wreck tonight. The security system went down, and I feared the worst!”
“Don’t be so quick to assume things are fine,” said Blackwing. “We saw a shadowy figure enter the building by the back entrance. We took a shortcut so we could be here waiting.”
“So some felon shut down the system?” asked Dr. Van Winkler. “My word!”
A dapper figure in an elegant tuxedo entered the room and casually spun an umbrella in one gloved hand. “While that expression is typical for men in your line of work, Dr. Van Winkler, I rather fear it makes for a poor choice for your last words!” he said.
Redbird whipped out a rope and said, “The Penguin!”
The second Penguin smiled and inclined his head in recognition of her words. “I am charmed to meet you, my dear! What a fetching little pigeon you are!”
“Drop the umbrella!” said Blackwing. “We know it’s a weapon!”
“Who am I to disobey such an imposing pretender?” said the Penguin. He hurled the open part of the umbrella to the ground, and it exploded in a blinding flash of magnesium.
Blackwing gasped as he tried to clear his eyes, but all he could see were spots. Redbird had managed to turn her head, but she could not fight back before the Penguin raised the remaining handle of the umbrella and shot her in the shoulder. She fell flat, and Blackwing staggered forward to try to defend his partner.
The Penguin smiled coldly and said, “This was like shooting fish in a barrel!” He shot Blackwing as well and then gestured for Van Winkler to follow him. “Take me to where you are holding your special guest!” he said in a commanding tone.
Blackwing fell to his knees and clutched his stomach. He was bleeding, and he felt himself passing out. “I really blew it this time!” he gasped as he pressed a button on his belt and summoned the police via a silent alarm.
The Penguin nodded in approval as several thugs emerged from hiding to carry off a special medical chamber and place it in the back of a waiting van. “Climb inside, Doctor,” he said. “You are coming, too. I rather doubt those insipid crime-fighters will live long enough to say a word!” Dr. Van Winkler nodded, and the odd gang sped off into the night.
The Penguin gazed down at the figure within the medical chamber as they drove through the city. A chalk-white face and bright red lips were easily seen through the glass, and the elegant rogue smiled to himself as he looked at the slumbering occupant.
“So, this is the infamous Joker! I do not find him that impressive at all,” he said as he placed a cigarette holder in his mouth.