by Martin Maenza
“Wait a minute,” Lilith Clay said to Duela Dent as the two women sat over a small lunch she had ordered in. “I thought that inter-dimensional creep Antithesis told you he found you in an orphanage and started to mess with your mind.”
“He did,” Duela said as she sipped her tea. “From a very young age, I spent a lot of time alone from the other kids. Reading mostly and wondering a lot about who my true parents were. That creep must have tapped into my mind as a teenager, slowly manipulating my brain to make me a pawn in his plan.”
“His plan to strike back at Robin and the Teen Titans.”
“Exactly! He must’ve been keeping one eye on Robin at the same time he was working me over. When he figured out where the Bat-boy was heading to college, he steered me in that same direction. He also helped guide me to create gimmicks and gadgets so that I could engage Dick in battle as the Joker’s Daughter.” Duela shuddered for a moment. This whole revelation was new to her as of earlier this year, when she battled Dick as Nightwing back in New Carthage again. Antithesis wanted to use Duela to free himself from his inter-dimensional prison so he could attack his foe once more. Nightwing put a stop to it all and helped free Duela from his control once more. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Nightwing: A Bad Deal.]
“So, you’re saying you’ve found out who your parents are?” Lilith asked.
“Yep! Dick’s not the only one who knows how to be a detective,” Duela replied. “You know, I read every Nancy Drew book ever written as a girl. Most of those Hardy Boys, too. It might’ve taken me a bit longer, but I was able to dig up a bit of evidence here and there. I also had a DNA test done, a bit painful, let me tell you, but it was worth it for what I found out.”
Lilith was now on the edge of her seat. “What did you find out?”
“I found out that Antithesis wasn’t completely honest with me, either.”
“I’m not surprised about that. Anyone who ends up manipulating folks for their own needs isn’t the most reliable source.”
“Right-o!” Duela said. “I figured there had to be some reason why he planted the notion in my head that Harvey Dent was my father. And that’s where I started.”
“And where did that lead you?” Lilith asked.
“Right back to Arkham Asylum.”
A month earlier, as things were settling down in Gotham after the alien invasion of Earth, Duela Dent sat at a metal table in a small room. Her rain-coat, still covered with droplets from the rain storm outside, sat at the table patiently. She wore a pink blouse with matching earrings and a dark purple skirt. She looked up as the door at the far end opened.
An armed guard escorted a man in prison grays into the room. “No funny stuff!” the guard said firmly to the prisoner before closing the door.
“Yeah, yeah,” the man replied, his voice little more than a growl. “Funny stuff? Do I look like the Joker to you?” The hair on the right side of his face was brown and well-kept. As he turned to the room, the wild mane and the green-scarred flesh of the left side of his face came into view. With a piercing eye and a snarling mouth, he looked at his visitor. “Oh, no! Not you again!”
“Yes, daddy,” Duela Dent said. “I have something to discuss with you.”
Two-Face grabbed one of the chairs, spun it around, and sat down in it with his arms crossed on the high back before him. “Look, lady, I’ve told you before, and I’m telling you again — you aren’t my daughter!”
“Oh, really?” Duela said with a determined look.
“Honey, come on!” Two-Face said. “What are you? Twenty-two?”
“See?” the villain remarked. “No way you could be my kid. My ex-wife Gilda and I weren’t married back then. I know you tried to convince me once before that I was your old man. Heck, for some weird reason I actually believed it, too, but I came to my senses and did the math! In this case, two-plus-two don’t equal four.”
“I know you believed,” Duela said. The Antithesis had worked his mental mumbo-jumbo on the criminal, too, to help convince Robin of the truth. “Know why? Because it was true.”
“Is it?” Duela asked. She reached into her purse and drew out a folder. She slid it across the table to him.
“What’s this?” he asked, not touching it.
“DNA test results,” she explained. “I pulled quite a few strings to get a sample of yours to compare to my own. If you look in there, you’ll see that there’s a match.”
Two-Face shook his head. “Tests can be faked.”
“Would you like to see my birth certificate?” Duela asked, reaching for her purse again.
“No,” Two-Face said. “Those can be faked, too. Just need some official-looking paper and a notary who can be bribed.”
“What would I have to gain by that?” Duela asked.
“You tell me!” Two-Face retorted. “Maybe you need to be locked up in a mental institute as well, ’cause your story is a crazy one!”
Duela bit her lip. “Look, I know all about your past. How you were a rising prominent lawyer, fresh on the Gotham City scene when you were appointed district attorney at such a young age. The press called you Apollo due to your handsome features. You traveled in many of the high society circles about town and were even engaged to a talented sculptress.
“But that all came crashing down when you were prosecuting the trial of notorious gangster ‘Boss’ Maroni. Maroni tried hurling a vial of acid at David Davis, the arresting officer in the case, but the acid struck the left side of your face, instead. Not even the best plastic surgeons on the planet could restore your former looks.”
“Ancient history, sweetie!” Two-Face sneered. “And something you could pull up from any library archives.”
“Perhaps,” Duela continued, “but how about the fact that you were the son of a very wealthy man and his wife, who wanted nothing better than for their only son to attend the best Ivy League university in the nation in order to study law. They wanted the best for you. It was expected of you.”
“Again, ancient history,” Two-Face said. “If you’re going to waste my time with stuff I already know, I’m out of here!” He started to rise from his seat to call the guard.
“Wait!” Duela called out.
He hesitated, then turned to her with his left side. “Why?” His look was menacing, but it didn’t faze her.
It was time for Duela to play her hidden card. She took a breath, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “What about Sarah Childs?”
Two-Face stood frozen, his face staying expressionless for a moment. Then, finally he said, “You’re barking up the wrong tree, toots!”
Duela glared at him. She didn’t buy it. “Am I?” she asked. “Am I really?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Then put it to the test!” Duela reached into her purse and pulled out something. “Catch!”
Instinctively, Two-Face caught the shiny object in his hand. He opened it, revealing a two-headed silver dollar. “Cute,” he said as he examined it. One side had even been scratched up, scarred. “The girl brings her own props.”
“Not a prop,” Duela said. “Convince me you’re not lying to me about knowing who Sarah Childs was! Flip the coin.”
“Flip the coin?” he repeated after her.
“Yes,” Duela said with determination. “Flip it and let fate decide. That’s how you work, isn’t it? Scarred side, lie to me all you want. Clean side, you tell me the truth.”
Two-Face considered for a moment, then tossed it back to her. “No dice!”
“Why not?” Duela said.
“Nothing in it for me!”
“OK,” Duela said. “I’ll up the stakes to your liking. Scarred side, you can keep up the lies. Clean side, you tell me the truth. Either way, whatever the outcome, this is the last time you ever have to see me again! That I will promise you.” She tossed the coin back.
Two-Face caught it and held the coin tightly in his fist as he considered. “You’re serious?” he asked. “You aren’t looking for anything more than the truth?”
“Not a thing,” Duela said. “I’ve gone all these years without having someone to do father-daughter things with. I certainly don’t want to start now!”
Two-Face shook the coin in his hand as he considered.
“Well?” Lilith asked in anticipation. “What happened?”
“I got lucky,” Duela said, shrugging. “He tossed the coin in the air and let it fall to his open palm. When he looked down, his face softened. He then turned his palm to show me the coin.”
“And he told me that Sarah Childs was the name of a girl he dated once or twice in high school. In his youth, Harvey was a bit reckless, rebelling a lot against his parents’ strict upbringing. Turns out, he got Sarah pregnant. When his parents found out, they were furious. Lectured him to the max about throwing his life away on a stupid moment of weakness with a town tramp.
“The Dents decided that they needed to keep the whole situation a secret. They had Harvey give the girl a bit of money so that she could head out of state to have an abortion. This would keep the family’s good name intact and not cause a scandal among the country club set and social circles they belonged to.”
“But this Sarah Childs never had the abortion,” Lilith deduced.
“Right-o,” Duela said. “She moved away but couldn’t go through with it. Instead, she carried the child to term and gave birth to a little girl. She never put a father’s name on the birth certificate, but she did give the child the father’s last name. She then left the child on the doorstep of an orphanage, asking them to take care of the baby that she couldn’t afford to keep herself. And that baby was yours truly.”
“So, you’re really Two-Face’s daughter after all,” Lilith said.
“Yes and no,” Duela said, shaking her head. “Harvey Dent is my biological father, but that was long before he became Two-Face. As for being his daughter, I’m not. A father raises you, gives you values and traditions. A father is someone who you want to walk you down the aisle when you get married. Me, I’m just a woman who’s made peace with her past.”
Lilith smiled. She could see now that Duela was much more confident than she had been months ago. The young woman had turned a corner and was ready to face the future head on.
Stopping at a pay phone not far from the STAR Labs facility in San Diego later that evening, Karen Duncan gave her husband a call at the club. “I just left the lab, Mal,” she told her husband. “I was thinking I might drive back to L.A. tonight, after all.”
“Get yourself a hotel room, honey,” the man on the other end of the line advised. “You’ve had a long day already.”
“I suppose,” Karen said. “Still hard to believe that Blake willed me his patent rights.”
Suddenly, there was the sound of a loud explosion behind her. “What was that?” Mal Duncan yelled into the receiver.
Karen jerked her head. “Don’t know, but it came from STAR!”
“You got your bag nearby?” Mal asked.
“Yeah, right in the car,” Karen said. “Why?”
“Check inside,” he said. “I packed your gear. Call me later on and let me know what happened?”
“I will!” Karen hung up the phone and headed for the car she’d borrowed. Sliding into the back seat, she unzipped the back and dug to the bottom. There was a familiar yellow and black costume along with her special devices. “Mal, you think of everything!”
“Come on! Move it!” an armored man yelled from the driver’s side of a large truck.
From a hole blasted in the side of the STAR Labs building came five men moving a pile of stolen goods on a platform that hovered a few feet off the ground. “We’re coming! We’re coming!” one of the other agents yelled.
“I think not!” a voice cried out from above as laser blasts danced about the ground around them.
“We’re found out!” another of the armored men yelled.
“A couple of you stop her!” ordered the driver, who was obviously the leader. “The rest of you get that stuff on board! Now!” The men did as instructed. Three broke off from the others, adjusting the gauntlets on their wrists, while the other two managed to move the platform toward the back of the truck with one man on each side.
“Get her!” one of the three yelled as he opened fire with wrist lasers. The others followed suit.
In the air, the yellow-and-black-costumed Bumblebee darted and dodged out of the way of the blasts as if she were indeed a fast-moving insect. Some hi-tech guys for a hi-tech crime! she thought to herself. And I don’t like the odds! Hopefully I can hold them off until some back-up arrives! She hoped the STAR Labs security had called the police.
“Get her from all sides!” one of the firing agents yelled.
“Yeah! We’ll cut her off!” another said. The trio scurried about the lawn for position, sweeping their blasts. Bumblebee’s arc was cut tighter and tighter, until finally she was out of room. One of the shots nailed her directly, and she fell to the ground.
“Score!” one of the men shouted. He moved closer to examine the body.
That’s when a black-booted foot swung up and clipped him upside the head. “Wrong!” Bumblebee shouted. She sprang to her feet and elbowed the guy, knocking him down.
“Get her!” one of the other two men shouted. They took aim.
The Bumblebee was faster on the draw. Her wrist-stingers nailed one of the men, the electro-blast more than ample enough to disrupt his armor, at least temporarily. “Aaah!” the man screamed before falling.
The heroine started to smile. “That’s two.”
“And that’s all!” the third said. His shot was dead on, knocking the heroine to the ground again.
“Ooof!” the Bumblebee grunted. While her costume had been made to absorb the impact of battle, the shot still hurt.
“Now, I’ll finish her off!” the man said as he took aim. Suddenly, sirens could be heard in the distance. He looked up.
“Forget her!” the truck driver yelled. “We’ve got to go!”
The man nodded, followed the order, and ran to the back of the truck. Just as he jumped into the open back end, the vehicle pulled off with a squeal of its tires. Hitting a top speed fast, it crashed through the remains of the perimeter fence and sped off into the night.
“Oooh,” the Bumblebee groaned as she rose from the ground. As her vision cleared, she saw that the truck was gone. “Damn!”
A security man rushed over toward her. “Are you OK? Are you hurt?”
“Just my pride,” she said. “They got away, but they left some of their own behind. Maybe we can get–” The Bumblebee turned to the fallen men, only to be surprised.
The armor on the men started to hum loudly and smoke. And the bodies of the fallen men started to convulse.
“Down!” the Bumblebee cried to the security guard, knocking him to the ground. There were two small explosions as the armor self-destructed, taking with it the men inside.
“Whoa!” the guard exclaimed.
The Bumblebee just looked totally disappointed and disgusted.
A couple of hours later after changing, locating a hotel room, and taking a quick shower, Karen was on the phone with her husband again. “I can’t believe I blew it,” Karen berated herself.
“Honey, there’s nothing you could do,” he said. “You did all you could.”
“But I didn’t stop them from getting away with all that equipment, and I didn’t even end up with anyone to interrogate. Now we have no clue who they were.”
“Not so,” Mal said. “I’ve been running that description of the armor you gave me through the computers. You said they had blank blast-plate masks, with a hexagon symbol with lines on the upper torso, right?”
“Right,” she said. “So?”
“So, it’s possible we might at least know who they work for.”
“HIVE, the Hierarchy for International Vengeance and Elimination.”
“HIVE?” Karen repeated. “Didn’t our friends back east shut them down for good a few years ago, just before Donna’s wedding?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Final Conflict,” Tales of the Teen Titans #47 (October, 1984).]
“So we thought,” Mal said. “But it looks like they’ve started back up again.”
Karen let out a low hum. “Hmmm. Why would they be hitting up STAR Labs, though?”
“Obviously they were after something,” Mal said.
“No doubt,” Karen agreed. “But what? What’s the connection? And why this STAR?” The question would plague her for a while that evening.
In a secret hidden base, an image appeared upon a view screen before a group of seven figures in purple hooded robes. The shadows kept their faces hidden.
“I’m pleased to report we completed the objective,” the armored agent said to the camera that sent the message to his superiors, “despite unexpected interference.”
“Explain,” one of the hood figures said firmly.
“A costumed woman,” the armored agent stated. “She managed to take out two of our men.”
“Were they disposed of?”
“As per the protocols state,” the armored agent said.
“Good!” the hooded figure said. “Make sure the goods are delivered securely to the pick-up point.”
The agent nodded. “Understood. Out.” The screen went blank.
There was some murmuring among the robed council members, but most of it was in a pleased tone.
One robed figure turned to another. “Good news, Dr. Mansfield,” said one, a woman with a deep voice. “We were able to recover the last of your work. And with the world believing that you are dead, a cloned body of yourself charred beyond recognition in a faked car accident, no one will ever suspect the crime was accomplished thanks to inside information.”
The robed figure she was talking to nodded. There was no turning back for Blake Mansfield now.