Batgirl and Robin: 1981: Seeds of Discontent, Chapter 1: Civic Duties

by Martin Maenza

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Late May, 1981:

It was midnight in the small, Upstate New York college town of New Carthage. At a small factory warehouse on the edge of town, an unusual black van was parked at the back of the building. A man dressed in all-black clothes poked his head out the open double doors of the vehicle and yelled softly toward the open back warehouse door. “Hurry it up, will ya? We ain’t got all night!”

Two figures emerged from the warehouse, their arms heavily laden with dozens of fur coats of various sizes and textures. “You know, you could give us a hand, Larry!” one of the men groaned.

“Really!” the other grunted as they approached the vehicle.

Larry hopped down. “Someone’s gotta be the lookout!” he snapped back.

“Yeah?” a cheery voice called from the rooftop shadows. “If that’s the case, I’d suggest you get another lookout!”

There was a slight zinging sound as something cut through the night air. It became obvious what it was when a curved, metal-like object nailed Larry squarely in the temple.

As their partner fell to the ground hard, knocked unconscious by the hurled object, the two men saw the item had a bat-like shape to it. They whirled around quickly to where the voice had come from. “It’s the Boy Wonder!” one of the men shouted. “Get ’em!” They dropped the furs to the ground and reached for their weapons.

Before they could fire, a figure with a bright red tunic swooped down from the shadows with a bright yellow cape trailing behind him. “Boy Wonder? Boy Wonder?” he griped with a smile. “Come on, fellas!”

The man landed on his green-booted feet and lunged forward with acrobatic precision, not allowing them to get him in their sights. Within a second, he was upon them both, his green gloved fists swinging. “The only Boy Wonder I see around here is — Boy! Wonder how come these crooks underestimate me?”

His right fist connected with the first man’s jaw, while he used his left elbow to jam the second one in the gut. All the while, he continued the playful banter. “I mean, really. What is it? Could it be the shorts?” He shoved the first man backward into the side of the van and then used both free hands to grab the second guy about the shoulders. “Chicks love the tight shorts!”

Robin flipped the second man over his shoulder with a martial throw. “Still, if I have to wear a label, Teen Wonder is preferred.”

The first man was groaning, trying to reach for his gun on the pavement.

With a graceful kick of his foot, Robin sent the weapon skittering under the escape vehicle. “But even that’s not gonna work for very long, given my age,” the hero continued.

The first man tried to rise. Robin slammed one foot down on the center of the man’s back, forcing him to the pavement once more. “Tell you what, guys,” he said, reaching to a compartment in his belt. “Since you aren’t adding much to this discussion, why don’t we ask the boys in blue?”

Just then, a trio of police cars tore into the parking lot, red lights blazing and sirens blaring. They pulled up in such a way as to block the criminal’s van, not knowing it wasn’t about to go anywhere.

The officers rushed out of their cars, and one of them in particular was very familiar with the hero and his work. He was pleased when he saw the hero tying the three captives up. “Guess you didn’t need us this time,” the officer said.

“Not to catch them,” Robin said with a smile, “but booking them? Yeah, you guys can do that.” He stood and approached the senior officer. “They’re all yours, Lt. McDonald. I think the situation speaks for itself.”

Frank McDonald nodded. “Thanks a lot, Robin. We’ve been hunting down these fur thieves for a while now. Don’t know what we’d do without your help sometimes.”

“We’re all on the same team,” the nineteen-year-old hero said. “But I’d best be going!”

“Another case to work on?” McDonald asked.

“Something like that,” the hero said. Robin disappeared around the corner, then ran down the way to where his custom red motorcycle had been stashed.

As he started the cycle with a kick-jump, he noticed that the time on the dashboard was 12:10 AM. Great! I hope I have enough coffee back at the apartment. Tonight’s studying for my finals will definitely be an all-nighter! The costumed figured raced down the road. Still, once I’m done with that, I can relax a bit while I pack my bags for…

***

Washington, D.C.:

Congress was in session on Capitol Hill, and the American system of government was operating as it forefathers had devised. Standing before a packed session in one of the legislative buildings, a red-haired woman dressed in a navy blue jacket and matching skirt with a white blouse underneath glanced down at her note cards.

A panel of five congressmen sat at the raised table before the podium. An older man, full in face and with slightly graying hair, addressed the woman. “The Speaker now recognizes Congresswoman Gordon from the state of New Jersey.”

Thank you, Mr. Speaker,” Barbara Gordon said confidently. The young woman in her mid-twenties had only been a member of Congress for about a year and half now. But with proper guidance from a few seasoned representatives, she had learned the ways of the Hill rather quickly. Sometimes, though, it was a lot easier for her facing the likes of crime bosses and two-bit thugs as Batgirl than it was trying to get the Republicans and the Democrats to come together on a cause. Still, today she had to try.

“My fellow representatives,” Barbara began, “I stand before you today as the sponsor of a very important bill. As many of you know, our Capitol has growing needs, needs that can only be satisfied with some expansion projects.

“Unfortunately, this new proposed construction could lead to a costly conclusion. No, I am not speaking of the tax increases that naturally would trickle down to all the American people. I am talking, instead, about the cost to the rich heritage and historical backdrop of this very capital city.

“Washington is known for its beautiful cherry orchards, whose blossoms fill the springtime air with beautiful colors and wafting smells. The trees have been growing here for nearly two hundred years, some as old as our nation itself. They are a symbol of our democracy in action. And I need not remind you of the historical significance of the cherry tree with our very first president, George Washington himself.

“The bill I am about to outline for you this afternoon will allow for the Capitol to have its expansion while sparing a large portion of the cherry blossoms.” And with that introduction, Barbara Gordon launched into the major portion of her presentation.

When she completed her presentation, the Speaker of the House recessed the session for the day. “I will give everyone the weekend to review the materials that Congresswoman Gordon’s team has provided,” he said. “We will reconvene on Monday for the vote.” He pounded the gavel twice, adjourning the session.

Barbara Gordon was gathering her things when a man in a brown suit came up to her. “You did good up there, Barbara,” he said in a congratulatory way.

“Thanks, Walter,” she replied. “But we haven’t won this one yet.”

“You have to be confident,” Walter Reilly replied. “This is something that the people are behind, and, believe me, the Congress doesn’t want to have more protesters on their hands.”

“Beyond the usual environmental ones?” Barbara asked.

“Those are given,” the older congressman in his late thirties replied. “No, I’m talking about laymen protests. Groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution, for example. And, you know, my daughter Lorraine and a group at her school are behind this movement, too.”

Barbara smiled. “Good to see teenagers who are actively involved in their civic duties.”

Walter nodded. “Yes, she’s a good kid.” The two started to head out. “Let me walk you out. You might need to some help running interference.”

Barbara tilted her head curiously. “Why?”

“Are you kidding?” Walter said. “This topic’s a hot one with all the local television and radio stations, not to mention the press. Someone has to help you when all those microphones get shoved in your face.”

“Sure you’re not trying to get some camera time for yourself?” Barbara said with a wink.

“Hey, it can’t hurt come re-election time,” Walter said.

Barbara nodded. “OK,” she said. “Besides, I have to get over to the airport and pick up a friend who is arriving tonight. If I can minimize the delays, that will help in the long run.” The two headed out the doors of the chamber and into the frenzied corridor. There were flashes from cameras and lots of shouting of questions.

“See,” Walter said as he kept Barbara close. “I told you there was a lot of interest in this bill.”

***

Not far away, a pair sat in a hotel room watching the evening news. “And that was the scene today on Capitol Hill,” an announcer said as scenes were shown of the frenzy after the congressional session let out.

“Congresswoman Gordon had this to say earlier,” the announcer continued as the image changed.

The red-haired woman was shown responding to an unaired question. “This is a very important national issue, as well as a local one,” said Barbara as her name flashed below her image.

Pamela Isley was quiet as the name registered. “The commissioner’s daughter?” she asked herself softly.

This is your cause, Ivy?” a figure said from the corner. With the curtains drawn, the man was free to shed the rubberized mask he wore as a diguise, allowing his true form to stand exposed. He was covered from head to toe in a leafy green substance, with vines criss-crossing his outer skin.

“Yes, Woodrue,” the woman replied.

“Call me Floronic Man,” Jason Woodrue corrected her.

“Fine,” she replied.

“We’re here about cherry blossoms?” The plant man was obviously a bit agitated.

“Its more than just that!” Pamela replied. “Environmental issues are very important to me. The governments of the world, in the name of progress, destroy more and more of this world’s natural resources every day. This world screams out, her plants mowed down to make room for more buildings and concrete travesties.

“Yes, this is a smaller item on the agenda, but it is one that can make a statement! By striking here, at the heart of the capital of one of the greatest countries in the world, we will send a message to all the rest of the nations.”

“Bah!” the Floronic Man said. “I don’t care about educating the masses of this world.”

“But you care about the Green,” she reminded him. “That is our overall priority, is it not?” Pamela approached him and ran her slender fingers against his vegetative hide. “We’re doing this for the plants who cannot defend themselves.”

The Floronic Man nodded. “When do we strike?”

“Soon,” Pamela said with a gleam in her eyes. “Just let me slip into my working clothes.”

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