“Mr Drake, prep stands for preparatory. Brentwood Academy is a preparatory institution. It is our function to prepare our students for the rigors of collegiate academia…”
Tim Drake couldn’t help thinking if Ra’s
Al Ghul was somehow crossbred with the Penguin and Hugo Strange, the result
still wouldn’t be as pompous and affected as Mr. Offred.
“…As such, you are required to complete no
fewer than six advanced placement credits your junior year, and nine your
senior year, effectively allowing you to matriculate into any institution of
higher learning as sophomores. I
am not unaware that many of our young scholars view this process as an
opportunity to ‘party hardy’ during their freshman year, however those
of serious purpose take full measure of…
It went on and on. Not twelve
hours ago, Tim was in danger of being drawn and quartered by coils of
mutated ivy—this was worse.
“…Now then, about your essay…”
“Mr Offred, all I meant was that
‘Groupthink’ has come up in all three of my advanced placement courses—History, Speech Communications, and Political Science—and I just
“If it has only happened once in
10,000 years of recorded history,” Mr. Offred read from Tim’s paper, “it
doesn’t belong in a textbook, and if it has they should find a new example.”
“I just meant—”
“Mr Drake, Groupthink is a phenomenon when a
team of highly accomplished and successful people dedicated to some high
purpose, by the very virtue of their abilities and successes, create an
atmosphere where no one will speak of perceived weaknesses in a planned course
of action—or quite possibly, no one even recognizes those weaknesses. They
will not see collectively what any one of them would see individually: that the
plan is so ridiculously flawed as to be doomed from the beginning. The textbook example of
this is the Bay of Pigs–”
“Yes sir, that’s my point. It IS a
textbook example. It’s
in all three of my textbooks, and I just thought it might be helpful if someone
would give a different example–”
“The Kennedy administration saw itself as…”
It went on and on.
Mr. Offred repeated the facts of the Bay
of Pigs invasion just as the textbooks had. Tim
resigned himself to shutting off his brain and parroting these facts back, the
gospel according to Harcourt-Brace and Mr. Offred, at the first
opportunity to show he now understood. Until then,
he’d console himself with thoughts of Ivy’s mutant shrubbery climbing
through the window, wrapping round Mr. Offred’s throat, and pulling him
out the window by his necktie.
Selina stood in front of the 49th Street
Newsstand with true sympathy in her heart:
The Gotham Post, gutter tabloid extraordinaire, had found a new target.
After her one-woman show exposed the outrageous lies they’d written about
Catwoman, they moved on to this smear campaign against Black Canary. She was allegedly smitten with the Demon Head himself,
Ra’s Al Ghul. Today’s cover pictured “the Cadaver” -as Selina always
thought of him- carrying Canary off into the desert, like a Snidely Whiplash
version of Valentino’s Sheik.
The Post pretended to be a great advocate of
female heroes: even running
editorials and sidebars about replacing male heroes like Robin with
female counterparts like Batgirl or Spoiler! But for all their politically
correct posturing, the paper didn’t really like the women of the superhero
trade. They liked having tits on their front page, Selina reflected, but
they missed no opportunity to humiliate and degrade these women whose stories
they claimed to tell.
“Black Canary IN LOVE with Ra’s Al
Ghul. Oh please! Nobody’s that blonde.”
Then news vendor looked up at her comment, and Selina picked up a Vogue.
The only kernel of truth in the stories about
her, she thought as she slid the magazine into her handbag, was that there
actually was a thief called Catwoman operating in Gotham City. She
couldn’t help but wonder what, if anything, was the kernel of truth this
preposterous Black Canary story.
Ra’s al Ghul was having a bad day. “After a few centuries,” he considered, “you develop a perspective mortals who live but a single lifetime can never know. You recognize a bad day when it’s happening to you, and THIS is a BAD DAY.”
He was in the Detective’s city, he had been
forced to submit himself to the tender mercies of a Gotham press agent, he had
endured those horrible women and their papier-mâché window boxes, he had endured
“BeBe” (a miniature poodle of foul disposition who sat on the room service cart
eating his lunch), and he now had to endure this picture.
He sat at the desk in the Royal Suite at the
Gotham Imperial Hotel, surveying the same cover of the Gotham Post with the same
look of distaste that Selina had—though for vastly different reasons. THIS was why the Fair One, his flaxen-haired goddess, refused his
love: he was being portrayed as a monster, a diabolical villain!
Look at that picture! He looked like the antagonists from the early moving
pictures. How could any one as fair and able as Black Canary not be
repulsed by this impudent propaganda?
It was this image and the dozens that preceded it that caused him to hire the press agent, Ramona DeSlice… Ramona DeSlice. “Surely,” Ra’s thought, “even by the standards of American nomenclature, that cannot be a real name. No sentient being would name another living thing Ramona DeSlice…. Then again…” he looked at the poodle with disgust. His own darling daughter had wanted to call this canine curse “Brucie boy” and when he flatly refused, she tried “Beloved.” When that was rejected, she began sneaking it treats and calling it “BeBe” until it refused to answer to any other name. Perhaps it was fortunate she never succeeded seducing the Detective, or the mighty Ra’s al Ghul might be saddled with an heir called the Belovelette.
Her mother was like that. Cloying. That’s why he had to kill her.
But this new passion was another matter, it
would not pale in a mere century. Invigorated by his last dip in the
Lazarus Pit, he had the raging hormones of a 19-year old. His
lieutenants claimed he was not thinking clearly, but they didn’t understand—his mind was not clouded, it was exceptionally focused:
Black Canary! Whatever it took, he would win her.
And if that meant he must come to the
Detective’s city and be photographed with a dog and appear on talk shows at the
behest of a press agent, so be it. He would repair his demonic image and
he would win the lady fair.
She had come into his life the very day he last
emerged from the Pit. She was in his territory, asking questions of the
peasants. He had her brought before him, and learned that her
investigation had nothing to do with his operations. She was on the trail
of Lin Phat, an Asian racketeer of no consequence. As her interests did
not conflict with his, he invited her to stay and enjoy his hospitality, to at
least dine with him before she left. This was the way of civilized beings,
but the heroes never understood that. She bristled, as they all do,
as if he’d insulted her. It was quite—stirring.
It had been decades since he’d felt this way. She was so unattainable, so disdainful. He tried all of his best bits, wrote her sonnets, promised her the world. Literally. Catherine the Great really went for that. But the Fair Canary, alas, called him…
The words scrolled up on the OraCom’s text screen. It was a relatively new channel, created for Batgirl’s limited spoken vocabulary, but used more and more by the other heroines as a private IM where they could silently comment on, among other things, the men on the ’Com without their knowing. Barbara typed back:
The only response was the emoticon
of a smiley face sticking out it’s tongue. Barbara continued her
The only response was the emoticon of a smiley face sticking out it’s tongue. Barbara continued her teasing.
Nightwing read over Barbara’s shoulder as she
chatted with Black Canary, oblivious to his presence. He’d been taught to approach unseen and unheard, taught by the very
best. Tonight he was going to put that skill to good use surprising Babs
with a bouquet of roses, an order from her favorite takeout, and a small gold
locket which Alfred recommended, Bruce confirmed, and Selina helped pick out, as
an appropriate gift to signal his intention to propose at some later date. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak… when a new line of
text appeared on the screen:
Nightwing silently gathered up his flowers,
takeout, and the jewelry box containing the locket, and left the apartment in
To be continued…