In a chamber under the Robinson Park pond, four figures prepared for their strike. An access tunnel led up to a small structure by the pond normally used by city workers who had to come down here to drain all or part of the pond out for cleaning. One by one, they climbed the ladder.
Batwoman led the way. It wasn’t due to any chivalry on the part of her companions, but because of her experience. Behind her came Prototype, with explosive pellets chambered in the launchers mounted on his forearms. The enigmatic Fear Factor followed, cradling one of his guns. Robin brought up the rear, keeping an eye and an ear out for any signs that their intrusion had been noticed.
“It doesn’t look like they’ve been in here,” said Batwoman when she reached the small antechamber at the top.
“How far will we be from the command ship when we exit?” asked Fear Factor.
“About sixty feet. You bring your swimsuit?” Prototype found a ventilation grill and looked out at the pond and the alien ship that stood in its middle.
“That’s from the legs. How close is the ship as seen from above?”
“About forty feet up, and the closest overhang is only about fifteen feet away. Open that door, and I can put a grapple on it.”
“Will it support both of us?” asked the thin man in the black suit. He looked around at Batwoman and Robin. “I assume you have your usual ropes and such.”
Prototype reached down and pulled an eighteen-inch-long stave from its mounting hooks on his thigh. Handing it to Fear Factor, he pointed out a set of three buttons near one end. “Point the other end and press here to launch the grappler. Press this one to retract the line and the one in the middle to release the grappler. Don’t worry what you point it at, it will grab on to anything. Let the line slip into the slot along the side, and you can hold it like a trapeze.” Robin grinned as he saw Fear Factor give a shudder at the idea of riding the thin stick up into the air.
“We’re ready, then?” Batwoman stood by the door, a pair of weighted batarangs in her hand. Seeing the others nod, she triggered the explosive charge she had placed on the door. They dashed out, Batwoman and Robin running some distance along the shore before launching their bat-lines. Prototype held another stave, pointed it upward, and fired. There was the faint sound of a spring releasing, followed by the tock of metal striking metal above. Fear Factor followed his lead, and together they rose up into the air.
It only took a few seconds for their presence to register with the Gordanians guarding the ship. Charged particles shot through the air, seeking the heroes. Prototype bent his body, swinging out and around to avoid the blasts. Fear Factor clung on to his rod with one hand and fired his gun with the other. A chemical stream arched through the air, striking several of the guards. They immediately broke off their attacks as they succumbed to their own inner demons.
Batwoman didn’t rise too far on her line, taking time to swoop down and disarm more of the Gordanians with well-placed kicks. Robin quickly made his way up to provide cover for their companions. It was he who spied an open hatch, and he shouted for the others to follow him.
Inside the ship, Fear Factor sent several crewmen into convulsions with his fear-inducing compound. Prototype followed this up with a mixture of explosives and electroshock pellets. They were soon joined by Batwoman, and together they found the control center of the ship.
“OK, we’re here. Now what?” Robin looked expectantly at the two older men.
“My original intent was to take out as many of the creatures with my chemical attacks,” said Fear Factor. “I must confess, I’m at a bit of a loss, unless…” He turned and started studying the control consoles. “I can destroy the controls and probably the ship. But then we’ve got a park full of green-skinned goons to fight through.”
“You didn’t exactly plan this out, did you?” asked Batwoman.
“No, but the aliens have provided us with the means to their own defeat.” They all turned to see Fear Factor sitting at one of the screens. “It occurred to me that, being from many different races, they might have a language problem. Their control systems, therefore, as designed using a sort of pictograph system. You see–” He motioned to the screen. “–there is a small picture representing each ship. Now, here–” He rolled a ball set into the table, causing a small picture of a hand to move around on the screen. “–are pictures that look like buttons, with images representing commands. Now, if I click on one of the ships, then click this button labeled with a hand crushing a ship…” He did as he described. The image of the ship glowed, then turned back. From outside the ship, they heard a huge explosion.
“They have a system for destroying their own ships? That’s insane!” said Batwoman.
“My dear, you work on the assumption that you can trust your teammates. I won’t debate the merits of that assumption, but these aliens clearly don’t follow the same line of reasoning that you do. They trust nobody, and are prepared for treachery.” Fear Factor clicked a button showing three ships glowing yellow. When he did, all of the pictures of ships lit up. He clicked the button with the hand crushing the ship, and they heard dozens of explosions from outside. On the screen, all of the images turned black.
“How did you figure that out so quick?” asked Robin.
“I saw something similar three years ago while touring a lab in Palo Alto. They believed it was the future of computers.”
“I think we have company!” exclaimed Prototype. Over the lingering sounds of exploding ships, they heard the sound of booted feet running down the hall. Armored figures burst in on them. Prototype met them with a barrage of electroshock pellets. Those who slipped through found themselves battling Batwoman and Robin in quarters too close to draw and use their heavy guns. Ceremonial battle axes swung down, narrowly missing their targets. Kicks, punches, throws, and jabs took their toll on the warriors before they were enveloped in a cloud of sweet-smelling mist. At that point, the fight went out of them, and they collapsed to the floor screaming in anguish.
“Come on!” called Batwoman. “They’re all down!” Together, they dashed down the hall until they found the lift used to reach the ground. “On here!”
When they reached the shore of the pond, the encampment was in chaos. With all of the ships destroyed except the command ship, survivors were rushing to the pond. “We can’t stay here! We can’t even get out the way we came in!” Fear Factor looked around for an opening in the crowd. “That way, perhaps!”
“Hang on, let me take care of this.” Prototype pointed one arm at each of two of the supporting legs of the command ship. A dozen pellets shot out from each arm, striking the support legs just below where they met the ship. A greenish smoke enveloped the areas where they struck, followed by the sound of straining metal. The ship shifted, then tilted as two of the supporting legs melted away. The heroes started running, making it about two-hundred yards into what was left of the park’s wooded area before the ship collapsed into the pond with a fiery crash.
“Man, that was some wicked acid!” cried Robin. “What else do you pack in those things?” Prototype just shook his head.
A low rumble overhead told them that military forces were moving in to clean up the remainder of the aliens in Robinson Park. As the unlikely strike force moved out of the park, Batwoman dropped back to walk beside Fear Factor.
“I know who you are,” she said matter-of-factly.
“I expected you would, my dear.”
“Don’t think that I don’t appreciate your help. In many ways. I just have to know one thing: why?”
“That should be simple. I’ve had my share of troubles and my run-ins with your mentor and others among the truth, justice, and the American way set. However, no matter what sort of monster some may think me to be, I am still a rational human being. Therefore, when I found it within my power to do something about this menace, I merely found a way to do so without attracting undue attention.” The man called Fear Factor reached up to remove his hat and mask, revealing the thin, pale features of Jonathan Crane, the former villain known as the Scarecrow.
“I’ll make sure word of this gets to the proper people when this is all over. They don’t exactly commute sentences at Arkham, but–”
“Actually, I was in a holding area pending my release from Arkham.” Noting her surprise, he added, “Yes, they decided that I was no longer — how should I say — troubled?” He smiled. “After ten years, I no longer felt the urge to lash out at others because of the ridicule I suffered years ago. I believe it was a matter of respect and self-esteem.”
“After what you’ve done here, respect shouldn’t be an issue anymore.”
“We’ll see. But for now, what say we all repair to our respective lairs for a while and regroup at sundown. I’m sure there will be stray bands of these creatures roaming Gotham for some time yet.”
As the sun came up over Gotham City, they split to go their separate ways, knowing they would meet again.