In minutes, Nightwing had explained his idea and taken the first steps in implementing it. O’Connel watched as Harry Franklin walked slowly over to the factory. Starfire and Nightwing were now out of sight, or so it seemed.
Starfire had accepted Nightwing’s whispered instructions with total confidence. He was uneasy with their personal relationship, but his leadership was as sharp as ever. She flew several blocks away from the plant, then soared higher to circle around and descend down the plant’s tall brick chimney. She made this entrance unseen, since the chimney was nothing more than a relic from the plant’s less-technological beginnings. She hoped that she would not need to do more than wait as unseen back-up.
Harry Franklin entered haltingly and faced Jacob Marlowe. “I’ve come. Will you let the men go?” he asked in his heavy Southern accent.
Jacob Marlowe was sweating. He was anxious and looked as if he wished he had never started this mad crusade of revenge. “OK, just come closer. I want nobody else here when I blow this place up! The guys can leave now!” said Jacob as he nodded his head toward the heavy double doors.
The workers filed out eagerly. Some looked back at their boss and muttered about his courage. Others recalled only their friendship with Jacob Marlowe and wondered how different they would have felt had they been in his position when the layoffs were announced.
Starfire slipped closer and felt glad that most people simply had no reason to even consider looking upward for any approaching figure. Her method of entry had made her completely invisible to the nervous worker below. I can’t use my star-bolts. That device about his chest could ignite and explode. I can only hope Nightwing’s plan works, she mused.
Harry Franklin said, “Jacob, listen to me. We’re alone now. I think you are glad the other men got out. They were your friends. You had no gripe with them. Now, we’re alone. Please, think of one more thing. You hate me. You want to hurt me. Still, if you destroy this plant, all of your old friends will be out of work. You won’t just end the life of one old man who hurt you. You’ll plunge all those men, their wives, and their kids into loss, too. No work for them. No food for their kids. You know better than anyone what the loss of work can do to a person. Hate me. Just don’t rob those people of their incomes. Think of the greater good!”
Jacob listened, and his expression slowly changed from one of pain to one of consideration. “I don’t want to do that. I can’t hurt Pete and Bob and the other guys. What can I do? What’s left for me to do? I don’t really know anymore. I guess I was crazy. I can only give up!” he said in a broken voice.
Harry nodded and gently led the man outside, where the cops disarmed him and removed the device. He was led away to the waiting squad car.
Starfire sighed in relief and joined them, as did a second Harry Franklin wearing a bulky police sweat suit.
Nightwing removed the make-up, wig, and suit that had enabled him to fool Jacob into allowing him inside the plant. “I want the poor guy to get some help. I also want his family to be taken care of while we see to him,” the young hero said.
The real Harry Franklin nodded eagerly. “Certainly. I’ll do it. I blame myself. If you had not taken my place and talked to him like that, we could have had a real tragedy. You sure are brave and smart!”
Nightwing said, “Mr. Franklin, I think most people respond to a plea for the greater good. It’s innate. Jacob did not want to place the others into his own plight of unemployment. You were willing to risk your own life and enter the plant to save the others, too. It’s a trait I’ve learned to look for in many people.”
Now, hours later, Starfire entered the gym where Nightwing was working out.
“Kory. What can I do for you?” he asked as he kicked a hanging bag.
She drew closer and said, “Dick, tell me more about this greater good concept. Did Batman teach it to you?”
He nodded and reached for a towel. “Sure. He and I operated on that idea. If we could save a lot of people even at the cost of a personal loss, then we’d do it. You place the needs of the many above your own desires or those of a smaller group. For example, if Two-Face was going to kill Batman or me or a dozen people, it was understood between us that we’d save the others first.”
Starfire said, “Batman is wise. He taught you well.”
Dick nodded. “Right. He was the best teacher I could ask for. What are you getting at?”
Kory took a deep breath. “Dick, my marriage to Karras was based on the idea of the greater good. I had to take part in a political ceremony of state in order to keep our peoples from war. By giving up something precious to me, I kept the peace for all those folks.”
Dick frowned and said, “Kory, I know that. I’ve always known that. It’s different. You and I were in love. We were together in so many ways.”
Kory touched his arm. “Dick, don’t you see? I never stopped loving you. It’s just like it would not mean you didn’t love Batman if you had to sacrifice him to save innocent lives. I was giving up something infinitely precious to me — you!“
Dick hesitated, then allowed the young woman to embrace him. He gently returned the hug. “Kory, I can’t tell you that one talk erases the pain I felt. I can’t say that I was all wrong, either. Still, I think I do have an better grip on things now. You know I fixed things up with Bruce and some others. Now, maybe, we can start to work on restoring our own relationship. I do love you. That never changed. Let’s start fresh.”
Kory kissed him and said, “That’s how we started, remember? Now what? I do love you so!”
Dick smiled and took her hand. “Well, how about a date?”
Kory smiled. “That sounds great!”
“Good!” replied Dick.