by Martin Maenza
A dark-haired young man stepped out of the boarding ramp with his carry-on bag slung over his shoulder. He glanced about for a second before catching sight of the person he had been looking forward to seeing all day. With a wave, he called out, “Barbara!” as he moved across the gate area.
“Dick!” Barbara Gordon exclaimed. “Good to see you.” She gave him a friendly embrace.
“Good to see you, too,” Dick Grayson said, holding on the hug a little longer. Then he removed his arms. “How are things?”
“Crazy,” Barbara said as they started to walk down to baggage claim. “I’m so glad you’ll be working as an aide for me over your summer break. I can really use the help.”
“I’m glad, too,” Dick said with a smile. “It’ll be nice to spend some time together after… well, you know.”
Barbara gave him a curious look.
“You know,” Dick said. “A couple months back, the isle of a thousand thrills.”
“Oh right,” Barbara said, making the connection. “Sorry, I kind of forgot.”
“Who can forget dinosaurs, warriors from the future, and the Spanish Inquisition?” he asked. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Isle of a Thousand Thrills,” Batman Family #3 (January-February, 1976).]
“True,” she said. “That all was a bit unexpected.”
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Dick said, laughing.
Barbara laughed, too, after getting the reference. The two got Dick’s bags and headed for her car in the parking deck. Once the bags were in the trunk, they climbed into the car, and she pulled out of the space.
“Say, speaking of then,” she said, “did you ever tell Batman about… you know… us?”
“The kiss?” Dick said.
Barbara frowned. She realized the young man had a one-track mind about certain things. “No! Not that. I meant about us figuring out each other’s secret identities.”
“No,” Dick said, shaking his head. “I’ve been so busy of late that I haven’t really talked with him much. Besides, I don’t think it’s a big deal. He is the world’s greatest detective, after all. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he knew who you were under your mask for some time now.”
“Really?” Barbara said.
“Yeah, but I doubt he’d let on even if he does know,” Dick said. “He’s kind of quiet that way, sometimes. But don’t worry, if he does know, you know the secret is safe with him.”
Barbara nodded in agreement. She felt bad about bringing the subject up now, so she decided to change it. “Did you get any food on the flight?” she asked.
“Just some peanuts,” Dick said with a frown. “I could definitely go for something. Know of any good late-night food spots?”
“I can think of one or two.”
“Good,” Dick said as they drove. “So, what passes for fun in this town?”
“Sorry for the fast food,” Barbara Gordon apologized as she drove.
“It’s OK,” Dick Grayson replied as he scarfed down a Big Belly burger. “This works for me.”
Barbara finished the last of her fries before the light changed. She turned left on the signal and headed down toward the downtown area. In the early evening light, the lights bounced off the Washington Memorial. “Mind if we make a slight detour?”
“Sure,” Dick said before taking a big drink of his soda. “What for?”
“Remember I was telling you about that bill?” She watched Dick nod in agreement, straw still in mouth. “Well, the site for the proposed office building that would tear into the cherry groves is just up ahead. I wanted to get a couple of evening shots with my camera.”
“Sounds good to me,” Dick said. Then, when he glanced forward, he saw a surprising sight.
“Uh, Babs?” he asked. “Is it just my being tired from the flight, or do you see what I see?”
Barbara Gordon slammed on the brakes in surprise. She took it all in for a second and then said, “It’s not just you.”
Large vines were whipping out of the tops of the cherry trees, striking at the walkers and couples who were passing by. The people were screaming out of shock and panic.
“Looks like something we’d better investigate,” Barbara said. “You pack your gear?”
“Like American Express,” Dick said, already reaching for the door, “I never leave home without it!”
Poison Ivy stood with her hands on her hips, her body covered by her skintight green costume with leaf-styled trim and accessories. She smiled as she watched the cherry trees lashing out against the residents of the nation’s capital. “Wonderful, absolutely wonderful!”
The Floronic Man grimaced a bit. While he was no stranger to manipulating the primitive terran plants to do his bidding, and they so easily responded to his commands, he still questioned the motivation behind it. “Is this the kind of statement you had in mind, Ivy?” he asked as he watched innocent civilians fleeing. “How will this make those that devastate the Green pay for their acts?”
Ivy frowned slightly. “Don’t suck the fun out of it, Plant Master,” she said, referring to his original nom du crime.
“Where’s the destruction you promised, then, hmmm?”
Poison Ivy rolled her eyes. “Fine!” She glanced about, then caught sight of a number of large, parked construction machines. “There! Go ahead and trash those if you want!” She then reached into the folds of her costume and produced a rather large, seed-like item. “And here! Let me give you something to work with!”
As she hurled the seed down to the ground before them, the outer shell of the item split open. A huge, vine-like construct began to spill forth from the opening, expanding upon contact with both the air and the soil.
The Floronic Man watched eagerly as the plant grew to the size of a man in seconds and kept growing faster still. “Impressive,” he admitted.
Poison Ivy gave him a little wink. “See, I have my dark side, too, sweetie.”
“Then allow me to continue,” the plant master replied. With a thought, the Floronic Man’s mind reached out to the plant creature, guiding it with his own desires. The huge vine-like thing plowed across the ground like a shark through the waves, bearing down upon a nearby bulldozer. By the time it reached the machine, its mass, speed, and momentum were enough to topple the machine onto its side with a huge crash.
“What do we have here?” a voice boomed from above. “Some refugees from the Little Shop of Horrors?”
Ivy spun around, recognizing the voice. “Robin!” she hissed as she saw the red-green-and-yellow-clad figure swooping down upon them. “Don’t tell me that you and Batman trailed me from Gotham!”
“Nope!” the young male said as he reached to his utility belt and tossed something at the destructive vine that was heading back his way. “I could smell a couple of stinkweeds like you two miles away!” The object hit the plant, and immediately the vine-monster was engulfed in flames.
The plant writhed in pain; the Floronic Man grabbed his temples, as he couldn’t break his mental bond with the plant creature fast enough. “Aaahhh!”
Ivy screamed too. “My baby!” She glared at the teen wonder. “You’ll pay for that, bat-brat! Floronic Man, get him!”
The plant man’s eyes narrowed in fury. “My pleasure!” Suddenly, his two arms lunged forward, elongating across the twenty feet between him and Robin. His plan — to catch the hero in a deadly, crushing embrace.
“Whoa!” Robin flipped backward, avoiding the left hand’s snapping claw. The right came crashing down upon him, grazing the right side of his body. “Ughh! He’s fast and freaky!”
“Destroy him!” Ivy shouted. “That will send a message to all those who attack nature! Nature will fight back!”
“Oh, please!” another voice called from the air as a gray-clad woman in a dark blue cape swung onto the scene on a thin rope line. “While I agree with your cause, Ivy, your approach is all wrong!” With her free hand, Batgirl tossed a batarang with an attached line. As the batarang sailed around its intended target, the rope ensnared Ivy about the waist. Batgirl land on her own two feet and gave the rope a good solid tug with both hands. The villainess was jerked off her feet.
“Better listen to her, Ivy,” Robin quipped as he tried to avoid the plant man’s crushing grasp. “Batgirl knows all about pulling a few strings to get what she wants.”
“Ugh, ah!” Ivy grunted as she struggled with the ropes that bound her. “Come over here, and I’ll scratch your eyes out!”
“No way, Ivy,” Batgirl said as she kept her distance. “Your poison-tipped nails are deadly to the touch, but they’ve got to touch first!” She reached into her utility built once more, grabbing a small pellet and tossing it to the ground near Ivy’s feet.
A cloud of specialized smoke shot up and surrounded the red-haired felon. “Ugh… cough… no fair!” Poison Ivy choked.
Batgirl shook her head. “I think a little knockout gas is perfectly fair game when dealing with the likes of you.”
“Flor — cough — Woodrue!” Ivy started to feel a bit light headed. “Help… cough… me…” She then dropped to the ground, slipping into a deep sleep.
The Floronic Man saw her fall and cursed. “Damn it! Never should have trusted a fleshling female! What was I thinking?”
Robin and Batgirl both moved cautiously about him, trying to corner him. “Maybe you were thinking about what a sap you were?” the male hero quipped. “Nothing to be ashamed of, mind you. Ivy’s got a way with men.”
“Don’t insult me by comparing me with other men!” the Floronic Man exclaimed. “I am the master of plants!” Suddenly, the vines from the cherry trees that had been attacking the crowds began to lash out against the heroes.
“Batgirl!” Robin cried out as he saw one of the vines strike her hard from behind. It knocked her to the ground unexpectedly.
The Floronic Man darted off, heading for an area of deep vegetation.
“Robin, I’ll be fine!” Batgirl called as she struggled to free her leg from a rather over-amorous vine. “Get him!”
Robin nodded and took of sprinting after the fleeing plant man.
As the hero dived into the brush, he found the brush striking back at him, branches to his face and torso and thorny vines to his bare legs. Robin blocked out the stinging of the pain and continued to press onward, determined. “You won’t… ooof… get away, plant man!” The young hero pressed on further despite the obstacles. His quarry never looked back.
Suddenly, a root caught under Robin’s left toes and tripped him up. He fell to the ground hard. “Uggghhh!” By the time he got up seconds later, the Floronic Man was nowhere to be seen. Robin cursed himself silently.
With the villain gone, the plants returned to their normal selves. Robin had no opposition as he returned to Batgirl and the captive Ivy. “He got away,” Robin said, disappointed.
“We got one of them,” Batgirl said, indicating the fallen woman. “And call it a hunch, but I have a feeling she was behind this little attack.”
“I suppose,” Robin said. “I guess her partner will turn up again, sooner or later.”
“No doubt,” the heroine agreed. “Let’s turn this one over to the authorities.”
“Right.” Robin carefully scooped Ivy up in his arms, watching out for her hands.
Batgirl frowned slightly at the woman. Kind of a shame, here, she thought to herself. Obviously, Ivy has a passion for the environment, yet her approach seems no better than those who go and exploit it for their own gains.
Robin noticed his sometime-partner was quiet. “What’cha thinking, red?”
“Just wondering if folks like Ivy might ever see that there are ways to accomplish their goals within the guidelines of the system.”
Robin shrugged his shoulders. “That would be nice,” he said. “If they did, it’d certainly make things easier for folks like you and I.”
“True, true,” Batgirl agreed with him.
“The final tally of the vote… sixty-nine percent in favor, thirty-one percent against,” the speaker of the house announced. “The bill proposed by Congresswoman Gordon passes.”
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker,” Barbara said, and she sat back down.
Dick Grayson, dressed in a brown suit, sat behind her along with Walter Reilly, who was beaming. “It passed,” Dick whispered to the other man. “That’s great.”
“Still has to get past the White House to be signed into law,” Walter whispered back. “But I don’t think that’ll be a problem.” He glanced back up at Barbara as others were quietly congratulating her, too. “She’s really something, eh, Dick?”
Dick Grayson nodded in agreement. “One in a million,” he whispered back. It was going to be an interesting summer.