In the kitchen, Kathy Carson’s calm demeanor slipped. “Dick, I thought you understood I had business to discuss. Why did you bring this — this — this bimbo here?”
“I could say the same about your granddaughter, Kathy,” said Dick Grayson. “She’s a nice, bright kid and all, but I can’t very well tell her I fought the Thinker while he was with the Injustice Society nine years ago with the JSA. (*) And besides, Karen is no bimbo, and I hope she wasn’t listening in on that!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Injustice Strikes Twice,” All-Star Comics #66 (May-June, 1977).]
“Listening in? How could she hear us out there? Or do you mean–?” Kathy’s words died out as she realized what Dick was saying. “Should I know her?”
“Not by that name. You’ve met her cousin, though — Superman.”
Kathy’s eyes went wide, and she looked stricken with embarrassment. “Superman? You mean that’s Power Girl?”
“Right, but I couldn’t tell you out there.”
“Well, actually, you could. You see, Beth is in the business, too.” Kathy smiled, realizing she could put one over on the former Boy Wonder for a change.
“You’re not letting her run around as Batwoman — or Bat-Girl — are you, Kathy?”
“Not exactly. Let’s go back out there, and we’ll explain.”
Kathy and Beth told Dick and Karen the story of the previous night’s action on Sprang Island. “That explains why the alarms never went off. A couple of workers noticed signs of the explosion, though,” said Dick.
Karen Starr was more interested in their transformation. “Can you do it again? Right here?”
“We haven’t tried it,” confessed Kathy. “I really don’t know if it will happen again.”
“You still have the cave? Let’s go down and try it.”
Down in the Batcavern, a forgotten old mine tunnel Batwoman once used as her headquarters, Beth and Kathy stood in the middle of the open space. To one side, Red Robin and Power Girl stood watching.
Kathy reached out in her mind, envisioning herself stretching toward her granddaughter. She felt a rushing feeling, as if she were being swept along a fast-moving current. Then she realized that she could no longer feel her body.
“It worked!” Kathy heard Beth say in her mind. “I feel you in my head, and the fire is flowing through me. We even kept the costume!”
“I like the alterations, Beth. It is Beth I’m speaking to now, isn’t it?” Red Robin asked.
“I’m the one in control, yes. But Grandmom can hear you.”
“What did you see, Kara, as they changed?”
“They both seemed to dematerialize, to break apart into colorful sparks. Then Beth just sort of flowed over and joined the sparks of Kathy, and they coalesced into this. By the way, Beth, what are you going to call yourself?”
“I was thinking about Batwoman.” Beth paused, seeing the frown on Red Robin’s half-revealed face. “But I figured that wouldn’t be right. Any ideas?”
Power Girl looked thoughtful. “Many years ago on Krypton, there were a pair of heroes. The name of one of them was Flamebird, which I think fits you.”
In her head, Beth heard her grandmother’s approval. “That’s good. From now on, when we’re together, the name is Flamebird!”
“Flamebird, eh? I like it.” Red Robin nodded approvingly, happy that his lover had christened the hybrid super-heroine that combined facets of Kathy Carson — the one-time Batwoman — and Kathy’s granddaughter, Beth Kane. He felt a little sentimental, seeing the old red, black, and yellow costume recreated with a fiery motif.
“Now, Dick, what about these power plants? You were saying that most of the private power suppliers are now actually owned by the Thinker, right?” Flamebird spoke with Beth Kane’s voice, but Dick Grayson could tell that it was Kathy’s thoughts coming through.
“That’s how it looks. He’s got a clean record since he got out of jail five years ago, but that could just mean that he’s careful.”
“That doesn’t matter, Dick. The Huntress and I were the last to fight him,” explained Power Girl. (*) “Although we captured him and arrested him in the end, he walked away free on a technicality and has managed to keep his nose clean ever since, meaning he probably just got better at hiding himself. So why don’t we just drop in and see what he’s really up to?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Speaker in the Shadows,” Wonder Woman #274 (December, 1980), “The Thinking Man’s Crime,” Wonder Woman #275 (January, 1981), and “A Friend in Need,” Wonder Woman #276 (February, 1981).]
“Can we do that?” asked Flamebird. “I mean legally?”
“No, we can’t,” replied Red Robin flatly. “What we can do, though, is keep a close eye on Sprang Island and on the Englehart Dam. Wayne Manor overlooks the bay. We can keep watch on the nuclear plant. Can you handle the dam?”
“Consider it handled. And, Dick?”
“Thanks for your help. Bruce would be proud of you.”
“Blast it, what’s happened to them?”
Kathy Carson slammed the phone down. It was the third time this afternoon she had tried to call Dick Grayson, AKA Red Robin. Each time the phone was answered by Alfred Beagle, the aged butler at Wayne Manor. Kathy kept calling because she feared that the octogenarian manservant would forget she had called.
“Still nothing on whether they spotted anything at the nuclear plant, Grandmom?”
“No, Beth. I think we’re on our–” Kathy stopped as a network news commentator broke into the soap opera Beth had been watching.
“Details are sketchy, but witnesses report that the JSA has myteriously vanished. Apparently, the grim ghost known as the Spectre appeared at the JSA Brownstone here in Gotham and collapsed. It is feared that he is dead, though it is hard to determine how that differs from his normal state. Doctor Fate was seen gathering all of the currently active JSA members together just before they vanished in a burst of golden light. (*) We will have more details as they become available.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 4, Chapter 3: Ragnarok Now.]
“Drat. Well, we can still keep an eye on the dam, Beth. Ready to go?” Beth nodded and closed her eyes, and Kathy did the same. The room was filled with a strange sparkling glow. Then, where two women had been before, stood a single female form.
Flamebird focused on going through the celing above her, and she flew, speeding up, turning intangible, and soaring through the upper floors of Kathy’s mansion and out into the sky. She streaked over fields and woods, flying north above the Gotham River. She soon reached the Englehart Dam, one of the last great public works projects of the 1930s. Its construction had been completed just before World War II, and it had provided electricity for Gotham ever since.
The new super-heroine circled the plant looking for anything unusual. She spied it in the form of a dark sedan parked next to a large covered truck near a loading dock.
“A bit late for deliveries. Better check this one out.”
The back of the truck at the Englehart Dam Power Station opened, and several men came out, two of them lugging large crates that were quickly put on dollies. Two of the men worked briefly on the loading dock door, and it opened for them. Before the group could get the crates through the door, however, a blazing figure dived into them.
“Sorry, guys. Closed for the night. Better try again in the morning!” Flamebird shot blasts of energy from her hands that shoved the crates out of the grip of their handlers and to the far end of the loading dock. She remained airborne for the advantage it gave her.
“Don’t mess around, guys! Shoot her!” The voice came from the open window of the dark sedan parked next to the truck. Almost instantly, eight guns were pulled from pockets, belts, and holsters, and the air was filled with flying lead.
“Focus on stopping the bullets, Beth.” With her grandmother guiding her within her head, Beth Kane unleashed a wide spray of nuclear fire that transformed the bullets into cotton balls. “Good work! Now the guns, before they can reload.” Once more, the young girl’s hands glowed with power, and the guns became solid chocolate.
Let me see what I can do with the crooks, Beth thought back to her grandmother Kathy. She pointed at one thug, planning to freeze him in his tracks. When she did, however, she doubled over in pain.
“AIIIEEE!” She plummeted to the ground, the glow that surrounded her form now extinguished.
“Beth! What happened?” Kathy’s voice in her head screamed.
“I don’t know! I just tried to freeze him, and it feels like my brain is on fire!” Without realizing it, Beth spoke aloud.
“She can’t act on you directly! Grab her now, before she can recover!” Again, the voice from the car came, ordering the crooks into action.
“No time to worry about it now. Can you get up?” Kathy asked.
Without answering, Beth stood. She tried to summon the power to change the concrete floor into molten tar, but nothing happened.
“Forget the powers. Remember what I taught you about fighting. You can do it!” Urged on by the voice within, Beth brought both hands up into a guarding position. Seeing one thug out of the corner of her eye, she brought her left leg up and swung it back, catching him right in the midsection. As he doubled over, her right hand swung out to catch another advancing on her. The quick jab to the chin forced him to back up momentarily.
Surrounded by the eight criminals she had previously disarmed, Flamebird had to rely on her physical prowess instead of the nuclear fire she normally possessed. One already lay on the floor, while another was nursing a hurt jaw. The remaining six advanced on her, hoping to take her before she recovered her balance.
“Jump-spinning kick!” Beth acted before her grandmother could complete the thought, leaping as high as she could. As she went up, one leg kicked forward, the other swinging in a wide arc. The front kick smashed the man in front of her directly in the face, and she heard the sickening crunch of bone and cartilage. The turning kick hooked under the chin of a second and sent him reeling into a third. They fell in a tangled heap on the floor, even as she landed on both feet and turned to face the remaining three thugs who were coming up behind her.
One hand reached out for her. She ducked under it, her hands coming up with the wrists crossed in an x-block. Catching the attacker’s forearm between her hands, she shifted to grab him, then quickly pulled him toward her with her right hand and to the side. As his body hurtled past her, her left hand lashed out once, twice, three times, rapid blows to his head, neck, and back. She swung the now-unconscious body around like a club, tripping up the remaining two attackers.
“Good work, honey!”
Thanks, Grandmom. Now for the clown in the car! I think the power is coming back now. Beth concentrated and pointed a hand toward the car. Her body glowed once more, and tendrils of fire reached out and peeled the top off the sedan, revealing a uniformed driver in the front and an elderly man in the back with a strange metal helmet. With hardly a conscious thought, the car roof moved around the dock, scooping up the hurt and unconscious felons and imprisoning them. “See? I can manipulate the things around them. I just don’t think I can directly affect people.”
Speaking aloud, Flamebird looked directly at the old man. “Clifford Devoe, AKA the Thinker, I presume?”
“You presume far too much, young lady!” cried a voice from above her.
“What in the name of Edison are you doing here?” The Thinker looked up from the ruins of his car and spied a man clad in black tuxedo, top hat, and cape, sitting cross-legged on a flying carpet.
“I was merely hoping to advise you of a matter in which you might be interested, old comrade of mine. Looks like I’ve come just in time.”
Between them, the teenage heroine known as Flamebird stood in shocked confusion. Just as it seemed she could capture the man she believed responsible for her parents’ deaths, a newcomer had entered the scene. She gestured upward, and bolts of fire shot out at the flying carpet, only to be repelled a scant two inches from the fabric.
“See, Thinker? I’ve always tried to tell you that magic is superior to science. Even this apparent nuclear girl cannot get through my magical shields. Now come along, and I can see to it that she doesn’t bother you again.”
“Of course, Wizard! Of course! Just get me out of here!” The Thinker started to exit his car, but before he could open the door, the Wizard muttered a few words of a lost language, waved his wand, and they were both gone, leaving Flamebird alone on the dock with the Thinker’s unconscious lackeys.
Now what do we do, Grandmom? thought Beth to her other half, Kathy Carson.
“For now, Beth, we take what we can get. Make sure they can’t squirm out, then we’ll call the police to pick them up. I’m sure the Thinker will show up sooner or later. Meanwhile, we can also tell the police about his activities. After this, Clifford Devoe will no longer be considered the model of a reformed felon. The information Red Robin provided will see to it that his attempts to corner the power market in Gotham are finished.”
The criminals secure in a cage formed from the remains of Devoe’s car, Flamebird flew off for home, taking what consolation she could from the night’s efforts. “Someday, though, I will make sure the Thinker pays.”
“We both will, Beth. We both will.”