by Vendikarr DeWuff and Sandy Hausler
Beth Kane followed the old woman down a stairway to the Justice Society’s training area. Set up much like a gymnasium, it also had a second door at the end of the room. Beth tried to familiarize herself with the layout of the room; her grandmother had told her that things like that could be important in this line of work.
For the better part of an hour, Beth worked through gymnastic routines and various fighting styles with Ma Hunkel. To her surprise, Beth found that the old lady really knew her stuff. She didn’t have the grace of her grandmom, but she knew what she was doing. And she seemed boundlessly full of energy, belying her advanced age; she wondered if this old woman actually had some kind of tornado powers that took away the worst effects of old age. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Junior JSA: Field Trip, Chapter 1: Who’s Minding the Store?]
While Beth was doing gymnastic routines over the floor, the signal device Ma wore beeped. She looked at it, then ran over to a console in the wall.
“Well, girl, we have real work to do. Bank robbery at First Gotham branch downtown. Let’s run.”
“But wait — I’m not ready!” said Beth. She didn’t think she should make a point of informing the woman that Flamebird was a composite being, making up both her and her grandmother. How could she help without her abilities?
“Don’t worry, child. Your grandmom sent over a costume for you to wear for your training. I figured I’d give it to you after your warmup.”
“Grandmom sent over a costume?” Beth said, surprised. Her Flamebird costume always materialized once she and her grandmother combined. What kind of costume had she sent? Ma Hunkel opened up a box and tossed it to Beth. It was a Batwoman costume, perhaps even the same one her grandmother had worn back in the 1940s. She thought about how much she loved her grandmom as she slipped into the suit. She and her grandmother were about the same size, and the costume fit perfectly.
After dressing, she said, “Ma, I’m ready to go. But am I up for this? I’ve never fought crime before.” It wasn’t precisely true, but the fact was that this was the first time she would fight crime when not in her Flamebird identity and without super-powers.
“You were trained by the Batwoman, and from what I can tell, you’ll do fine. But you have to work on those costume changes, child. You have to change clothes fast in this line of work.”
Beth didn’t mention that she was already in this line of work. While Ma Hunkel didn’t know that she was really Flamebird, it didn’t seem appropriate to explain that at the moment. “Don’t worry, Ma. I usually do.”
Beth and Red Tornado burst into the First Gotham Bank. Beth was surprised as to what she saw. Quite frankly, she had expected that they would be too late. Even though she and Ma Hunkel had gotten to the bank in less than ten minutes, she expected the robbery to be over. After all, bank robbers didn’t hang around forever at the scene of the crime; it was usually grab and run. And Beth expected to see police, and a lot of them. But none were there.
What she did find at the bank was a group of people cowering in fear. And they had good reason to be afraid. The villain robbing the bank was none other than the Wizard.
Red Tornado took the lead and charged at the Wizard. Beth was amazed at her gumption. She had to be in her eighties, and unlike the rest of the JSA, she had aged normally. How could Ma Hunkel best a super-villain?
The Wizard was thinking the same thing. “Let me introduce you to my new friend — the Eye of Ekron.” The Eye was a large orb floating in the air, and it shot a burst of emerald energy at the Red Tornado, throwing her across the room and knocking her out. “Isn’t it wonderful? I just discovered it recently, and we get along famously.”
“Ma!” Beth yelled, and she headed toward the Wizard. But when the Eye aimed its energy at her, she jumped behind a desk. Then she waited for the Eye to blow away her shelter. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Wizard floated on top of the desk. “Well, what have we here — a yellow bat? Did I surprise you, pretty lady?”
“Not really,” replied Beth as she jumped up and kicked him between the legs. The Wizard turned green, and the Eye blasted Beth, or at least tried to, but she tumbled out of the way, staying ahead of the Eye.
Beth thought she knew what the score was. She ran to another desk and kicked at one of its legs, breaking it off. She scooped it up and threw it directly at the head of the Wizard, who was up and directing the Eye.
The piece of wood hit the Wizard directly in the head, and then Beth was on him; she didn’t let up, hitting him again and again. “It’s not nice to fool a birthday girl,” she said, “Mr. Green Lantern.” The Wizard then fell down and transformed into the Green Lantern, while the crowd transformed into various super-heroes.
Corona was laughing her head off. “Oh, thank God I brought a camera,” she said. “Wildcat would never believe this.”
Red Robin and Batwing ran over to Beth. “That was fantastic,” said Red Robin. “Kathy’s done a terrific job in training you.”
Wonder Woman and Power Girl came over to congratulate her. “You performed well, indeed,” said Wonder Woman enthusiastically. “You’d make a great Amazon.”
“But tell me, how did you know the Wizard was really Green Lantern?” asked Power Girl.
“Well, nothing made sense when we got here. If the Wizard wanted to rob the bank, he would hardly have hung around for so long. And where are the police? So I suspected that something was strange. But the Eye of Ekron, which shoots green energy blasts, was a big clue. And the fact that the Eye didn’t blast away the wooden desk that I was hiding behind was another. It was clear that my session with Ma Hunkel wasn’t the sum and substance of my birthday gift.”
Red Robin smiled. “You’re a real member of the Bat family. Are you sure that you don’t want to become a crime-fighter on your own? You could probably take on Batwing, and he’s pretty tough.”
“Hey!” said Batwing, who had approached with his mentor.
“Me? Never happen. But it’s good to know I can protect myself if I ever get into a tight situation.”
“That’s for sure,” said the Green Lantern. “I won’t be able to walk straight for a month.”
“Oh, come on,” replied Beth. “I didn’t kick you that hard.”
“Well, I guess we can strike the set,” said Corona, and the bank disappeared. The truth was that they hadn’t been fighting in an actual bank, for Corona had teleported them into an exact replica of the real bank as they entered the bank building. That way, nobody would get hurt.
“And doesn’t my little girl look wonderful in her grandmom’s old costume?” said Kathy.
“Grandmom, you’re here!” said Beth, throwing her arms around her grandmother. “This was the best birthday ever.”
She then turned around and found herself face to face with Batwing. Beth gasped.
“Uh, Beth, I… I was wondering if you’d like to get some pizza sometime?” Batwing stammered.
“Well, that would be nice, Batwing, but wouldn’t I have to know your secret identity? I mean, we can’t go out in costume.”
“Oh,” said Batwing. “You’re right. I didn’t think of that.”
Red Robin burst into laughter. “She’s just pulling your leg. Kathy knows the secrets of the Bat family, and unless I miss my guess, Beth does, too.”
“That’s right, Jason,” said Beth, recognizing her fellow student at Towering Oaks Academy. “I’d love to get some pizza. But I’m driving, since I know your sixteenth birthday isn’t until next year.”
“I’ll turn sixteen in three months,” said Batwing, somewhat defensively. “We’re in the same grade.”
“If you’re lucky,” Red Robin said to his young partner, “maybe she’ll let you drive her car with your learner’s permit.”
Beth, Kathy, Red Robin and the whole crew of heroes burst into laughter, except for the coolly stoic Batwing, though Beth could tell that he was blushing despite himself.
“Hey, child,” said Ma. “Let’s get back to the Brownstone. I think Power Girl has some pointers for you.”