Stephanie Brown, a pretty sixteen-year-old, stifled a yawn as she glanced across the recreation field at the Kathy Kane Academy for Girls. She and the other students were wearing their traditional plaid skirts and white blouses on this unseasonably warm February day. She was only one girl in a crowd, but she was keenly aware that she was still very much alone. She was a bit of an outcast, since the majority of the pupils were wealthy girls, while she was known to be a scholarship student. She also knew that, for the most part, she dealt with her loneliness by enjoying an active inner life and some rather curious extracurricular activities.
OK, so Julia Denver and her snobby pals think I’m some kind of pariah, she thought. Why should I care? Their collective I.Q.s are lower than a supermodel’s dress size! I’ve got better things to do, anyway, than talk about boys and high heels and Rock TV.
She smiled playfully. Of course, I could talk about stuff like that when I’m fighting crime as Spoiler, she thought as she made her way off the field as gym class ended. I can see it now. Say, Joker, when you’re not all poisoning the city’s water supply, do you like Duran Duran? I mean, they wear makeup, and you do, too!
As she smiled to herself, she glanced up to see black-haired Julia Denver watching her with two other girls. They rolled their eyes and whispered to one another before flouncing away. Great, she thought. They saw me looking happy. That can’t be good. After all, they can’t understand how anyone could have a life outside of their bratty little circle.
She glanced up at a large oil painting that hung over the school’s main hallway. It depicted the late founder, Kathy Kane. She had been a vivacious woman with intelligent eyes and a beautiful smile. Batwoman says Kathy was secretly the first Batwoman, she thought. It is pretty cool that I’m going to a school founded by a real super-heroine, even if no one else knows it! I wonder if she’d approve of my role as Spoiler?
Stephanie had deduced that librarian Babs Gordon was, in fact, the heroine currently known as Batwoman. The realization had occurred when she had begun studying files on the heroine in relation to her own broader study of her father’s criminal career. Arthur Brown was a masked super-villain called the Cluemaster, and while he had barely, if ever, crossed paths with Batwoman, he had been a foe to Batman and Robin, and thus Stephanie had become interested in all the heroes of Gotham City. She had used her own keen mind to help lead Batwoman to her father when he escaped from prison, and since that time she had become the heroine’s protégé. (*) As the purple-costumed Spoiler, she had become a pupil to Batwoman and to the mysterious information guru known as Lyla the Oracle.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batwoman: Daddy’s Girl.]
She was estranged from her father, but she had always had a great relationship with her mother. Now she sighed as she thought about Agnes Brown. Mom is still visiting that creep Crazy-Quilt in prison, she mused. She still thinks their romance was real. (*) I know she’s going to be hurt, but I can’t tell her that I know she’s been seeing him, since she thinks she has been keeping it a secret from me! I sure can’t say that I tailed her in my super-secret crime-busting role!
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman Family: Spoiler: Blind Love.]
Later, as she rode the bus back into the city, Stephanie caught sight of a large area covered by colorful tents and rows of stalls full of produce. Crowds of shoppers mingled with the vendors, but there was something wrong with the scene. The farmers market is the closest most Gothamites get to farm life, but I can’t believe squabbles over the price of beans would attract that many cop cars, she thought, noticing three police cars parked along the edge of the area, while sirens indicated others were on their way.
“Hey, I’m getting off here!” she said. Jumping up, she exited the bus as it screeched to a halt, and the driver gave her a dirty look. She shrugged and said, “Hey, I’m a girl who just loooves her carrots!”
As she hurried off the bus and tried to make her way into the crowd, she realized that the customers were trying to flee from what had become a crime scene.
She ducked behind one wooden stall and swiftly changed into a purple leotard and hooded cape with a blue domino mask and a belt with several pouches built into its design.
“Ta dah!” she said as she jumped up and vaulted over the top of the wooden structure to perch on the edge and get a better view. “Clearly no one in this crowd is a Spoiler fan! I really should start dressing like Black Canary or something! Do they even make purple fishnets?”
Spoiler frowned as she saw the source of the chaos. A bald man in a brilliantly white suit with a long frock coat and matching white shoes was standing atop a truck. The back of the truck contained a wire cage of some type, and she could recognize what appeared to be chickens within the container. The bald man tossed back his head and laughed before flashing a broad smile that revealed perfectly white teeth. He stood over the scene of wrecked police cars and silent and still officers, nodding in approval.
“Egg-cellent, if I do say so myself!” he said.
As another police car arrived, he reached within a deep pocket of the white frock coat and produced an egg. With a dramatic flourish, he hurled the projectile at the speeding car. It struck the hood and exploded in a blinding flash that left the vehicle a twisted wreck.
Spoiler gasped as she recoiled from the impact. Exploding eggs? she thought. Who is that creep? Some maniac Old MacDonald?
She pulled a special rope out of her hip belt and used it to snare the highest vending display. Swinging over the milling crowd, she connected with both high-heeled boots to send the man in white reeling off of his perch on the truck. “OK, Daddy Warbucks, put down the lethal produce and give up!” she said, even as she thought, Did I actually just say that?
He rubbed his chin and smiled wickedly. “A fair damsel!” he said. “Fortunately for you, the masterful Egghead doesn’t eggs-ecute pretty girls! I’m nothing if not a gentleman. However, I must not allow your youthful eggs-uberance to delay me from making my carefully planned egg-scape!”
Spoiler jumped over an egg he rolled at her feet, but rather than exploding like the previous one, it erupted in a series of ever-extending coils that wrapped around her hips and threatened to crush her.
Egghead casually rolled her off the truck and signaled to two white-costumed thugs to close the gate of truck and drive away while he posed and laughed with both hands on his hips. “Do not feel too badly, my dear. You are but the first costumed one to fall before the criminal genius of the ages,” he declared. “You’ve been bested by the inimical Egghead!”
Don’t think I’m going to brag about this one, thought Spoiler as she used a small blade from her belt to cut through the thick wrapping as it continued to cover her.
“Ah-Choo!” gasped Barbara Gordon as she clutched a tissue to her red, runny nose. “Sorry, Steph,” said the red-haired librarian as she dabbed her nose. “This flu has really gotten the best of me! I’ve been perfectly healthy so far all winter, but one prolonged enclosure in one of the Blue Snowman’s igloo traps left me worse for the wear.”
Stephanie nodded as she bent over and fluffed the older woman’s pillows. “Blue Snowman, huh?” she said. “Are you sure you’re not just making that one up to make me feel better about being trussed up by a guy named Egghead? He proudly called himself Egghead, by the way!”
Babs sniffed and said, “Don’t feel bad. Take away the egg talk and the egg motif, and you were facing a maniac with serious weaponry. He shut down that part of the suburbs and easily defeated or escaped from the police. Dad says Egghead is a serious threat. The livestock he took was priceless. They weren’t ordinary chickens. They were black copper marans. Those birds are worth a small fortune. They are nearly unheard of in this part of the country. The farmer who lost them literally suffered the loss of a fortune!”
“So Egghead had a method to his madness,” said Stephanie. “I guess a crime is a crime, and he really could have killed people with all those weird gimmicked eggs. So, what’s next?”
Babs sneezed again and then shoved her unruly red hair away from her tearing eyes. “If he’s like the other theme-based super-villains I’ve fought, he’ll strike again, and he’ll stick to some theft that has an egg theme. You know, like Catwoman used to always steal rare items that had some feline connection.”
Stephanie sat on the edge of the bed and said, “I could have Oracle do a search of egg-related events!” She made a small adjustment to one of the special earrings she wore and hummed softly as she waited for the woman called Oracle to respond to the signal.
Within a small but comfortable house in a rather idyllic-looking small town, a pretty blonde woman in a nautical-themed maternity dress smiled demurely at her dinner guests as her handsome husband carved a roast.
“Alex, if you’ll serve our friends, I’ll just pop into the kitchen and see how the cake is doing. I’ll be right back,” she said as her ruggedly handsome husband leaned over to plant a kiss on her cheek.
“That’s fine, Lyla,” he said. “You know how the Andersons love your applesauce cake.”
Lyla smiled as she hurried away from the lovely table setting and her happy guests. She entered an immaculate kitchen and then opened a pantry door and stepped inside. Adjusting a hidden control, she caused the wall of the pantry to slide open and reveal a hidden room full of futuristic computers and monitors.
The seemingly ordinary wife and mother was more than a picture perfect housewife and mother — she was secretly the information expert known to various super-heroes as Oracle. She used the super-advanced equipment left to her by her late mentor, the Monitor, to coordinate a secret network of crime-fighters. Some of them knew her real name, while others only knew her by the name Oracle.
She had once possessed super-powers herself, but when the machine that empowered her ran out of its energy source, she had given up on her former use of sentient duplicates. Those duplicates had aided various heroes like Captain Comet and Batman after the Crisis on Infinite Earths that had claimed her mentor’s life, but in reality, the original Lyla had spent the time since her retirement being romanced, marrying a doctor, and giving birth to their first child. Now, Lyla was blissfully happy as a wife and mother in her rural town, but she was also satisfied by her efforts to link, inform, and aid various super-heroes around the globe. She had contacts like the French heroine Fleur-de-Lis, the British heroine Britannia, and some more obscure do-gooders. Now, she made an adjustment to a monitor and said, “Spoiler, this is Oracle. How may I help you?”
“Hey, Oracle!” said Stephanie. “How are you? I needed some info about a super-villain called Egghead. Believe it or not, he has a mania for eggs.”
Oracle frowned in concentration, and her skilled hands rapidly typed across a keyboard before she responded. “Peter Faberge,” said the efficient blonde. “An exhibit of rare Russian Easter eggs that were allegedly made by Faberge will be displayed at the Wein Gallery. That should attract your felon. I have no information on an Egghead, but I will run a search of the various police traffic cameras in the city to see if anything related to the theft was recorded. I am doubtful, since from what a routine scan of the police report revealed, Egghead was extremely capable in spite of his demeanor.”
“Thanks, Oracle,” said Stephanie. “You’re a good egg.”
“Very droll,” said Oracle. “I will be in touch, Stephanie.”
She disconnected and carefully closed the doors to her hidden lair. After smoothing the large blue bow on the front of her maternity dress, Lyla took a cake out of the oven and smiled winningly as she returned to her guests.
As she smiled with genuine affection at her husband and their friends, she thought, After checking on this Egghead for Stephanie, I will need to follow up on the Master Jailer case for Supergirl and alert Godiva to the possible threat posed by Lord Fogg. Oh, and the baby has a play-date tomorrow. I must not forget that.
It was a typical day in the remarkable life of the woman called Oracle.
Stephanie Brown sighed as she handed Babs Gordon another tissue. “Oracle hates me! She’s so serious. She must think I’m one of those dizzy blonde pom-pom girls I hate at school.”
“She likes you,” said Babs. “She told me that you were very insightful.”
“Really?” said Stephanie. “Cool. You get some rest, and I’ll go stake out the Wein Gallery. I’ve got an egg to crack!”
Babs laughed and then covered her face as another sneeze shook her body. “I wish I could help you,” she said. “Be careful. If you need help, call me. At the very least I can send Nightwing over.”
Stephanie grinned and said, “Thanks, Babs. I appreciate the offer.”