by Doc Quantum
Onyx completed three hours of meditations and opened her eyes.
She found herself still in the same place she had been in when she’d begun: on board the S.S. Nautilus, in the cabin that Captain Mark Compass had provided for her.
The middle-aged Captain Compass had been, in years past, a troubleshooter and investigator for the Penny Steamship Line, of which the S.S. Nautilus was part, and although he was now living in semi-retirement on this particular boat, he was still called upon by his former employers from time to time for his skills as a consultant on certain discretionary matters.
A knock at the door startled Onyx out of her reverie.
The mysterious martial arts expert looked up as the kindly face of Svea Marie Compass looked down at her from the half-open doorway. “I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“No, not at all,” Onyx said, smiling.
“Mark and I would like you to join us for dinner in the captain’s mess. Our cook made a vegetarian meal just for you.”
“Thank you very much,” replied the young woman. “I will be there shortly.”
Later, as the group finished their dinners, several shouts could be heard only a few moments before an explosion rocked the side of the ship.
“Blast!” shouted Captain Compass. “I was hoping we’d be prepared for something like this, but they’ve struck again without any warning whatsoever!”
“What is your decision, Captain?” Onyx said quickly.
Captain Mark Compass stood there and scratched his graying temples, while frowning and looking at the young woman up and down. “I don’t like the idea, not one bit. But nevertheless I think you may be right about it.”
Onyx smiled and slipped out of the room like a ghost.
“Do you really think she’ll be all right, Mark?” Svea asked her husband, holding him close as the resounding noise of cannon-fire and cries struck through the ship.
“I don’t know, Svea. To look at her, you’d think she was just a young girl. But Batman has assured me of her skill. I — I just don’t know. All we can do now is pray for the best.”
“Avast, ye swabs!” a startling figure shouted as he swung onto the deck of the S.S. Nautilus with twenty strong men alongside him. “Ye’re done fer now!”
The leader of this band of modern-day pirates was definitely dressed the part. He wore swashbuckler’s shoes and garb, and he had a black goatee and a black eyepatch over one eye. He was the former restauranteur Karl Courtney and present foe of the Batman who called himself Captain Stingaree, and he was having the time of his life.
The crew of the Nautilus was quickly subdued within several minutes and, due to the quick actions of Captain Compass, none had died, and few sustained any serious injuries.
“Ye be a smart one, Compass!” laughed Stingaree as he leaped off the now-useless husk of the Nautilus back onto his own corsair. His men had looted the boat of all its precious cargo and had destroyed the engine entirely. Captain Stingaree wasn’t afraid of killing his foes if necessary, but he was as good as his word when he told them that nobody needed to die if they did not resist.
With a final laugh at the smoking ruin of a ship, now dead in the water and only able to float, Captain Stingaree sped his corsair at an impossible speed away, before seeming to disappear entirely in the dim twilight.
“How did he do it?” Compass muttered to himself as he watched the boat disappear from view, and he silently said a prayer for his young friend.
A few hours later, in the darkened cabin of Stingaree’s ship, Karl Courtney paced the floor several times before making his decision. He’d had his men search the ship three times now, and they had found nothing. Yet his pirate sense told him that something was wrong. This last job had just been too easy, somehow. So much for getting away from the problems of Gotham for a while, he thought grimly. He’d heard of his fellow escapees being tracked down one by one back home, and he was feeling edgy.
Stingaree stopped pacing and walked over to an antique cabinet. Opening it, he pulled out the microphone for the two-way radio inside, turning it to a specific frequency.
“Troy Tempest to Chilly Willy. Over. Troy Tempest to Chilly Willy. Over.”
After several moments, a voice answered over the crackling radio, “Chilly Willy here.”
“I’m calling your debt, Chilly Willy. Over.”
“I didn’t get that, Troy Tempest. Please repeat.”
“I need your help, you old bozo! Over.”
“Look, this really isn’t the best time. I’m very busy with my work! Over.”
“Listen, you owe me, you old bloodsucker! You know where to find me. Troy Tempest out!”
Captain Stingaree flipped the radio switch to the off position and slammed the microphone down.
Many miles away on land, an enraged figure began smashing everything in sight: Test tubes, beakers, computer equipment, books, and all.
“Dammit!” screamed Mister Freeze in an uncharacteristic display of fiery anger. “I was so close! So… close…”
The pale-skinned figure fell down on his knees, finally, amidst the shattered glass and smoking ruins of his equipment, and began to weep. But as he put his hands to his face, he knew that he would never shed a tear ever again and stood back up again, grim and resolute as ever.
Mister Freeze calmly walked toward his doorway and opened it up, casually picking up a box of matches from the shelf. Lighting it, he threw it inside the log cabin and watched as the flammable chemicals spilled all over the carpeted floor ignited the entire cabin. He watched impassionately as his every dream went up in flames — all because he had made a pact he could not break.
The villain walked away from the burning cabin and down the mountain, never once looking back.
Batwoman looked over the notes she had made from her teammates’ individual cases over a cup of mocha. It was a poor track record at best.
She had unwittingly let Signalman escape after she had tracked him down, and in the process scared him and his accomplice Crazy-Quilt away from any chance of easily finding them again. They’d been spooked.
Man-Bat had tracked Kite-Man down as well but had abandoned his pursuit in search of a far more dangerous foe: Clayface. The third man to bear this name was by far the most dangerous, and luckily for Gotham City, Man-Bat had managed to put him safely back into custody once more. She was thankful for that much.
Little else had gone right, however. True, Ragman had been successful in capturing the Night-Slayer, but not until after he had killed several women in an insane search for Nocturna, whom he had vowed to slay. This was, at best, a bittersweet victory.
The Black Orchid had never reported back after going in pursuit of Mister Freeze. This was the mysterious woman’s way, though, so Barbara was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Onyx was still on her mission tracking down Captain Stingaree, and she worried for her safety. She’d heard nothing from her for several days now. And the Secret Six’s mole was currently in place, exactly where he should be.
Still, only two out of the eighteen dangerous super-criminals who remained free since Ra’s al Ghul blew up the walls of Arkham Asylum and the State Penitentiary and released the majority of the criminal population of Gotham City had been recaptured. The rest were still out there.
And now this: A phone call from her father had informed her that the most dangerous of them all had escaped custody once again, despite being captured by the Batman and his allies along with the others who had chosen to work with Ra’s al Ghul.
The Batman had been scarcely seen in Gotham City for a few weeks now and had only been spotted while working (albeit infrequently) either with the Outsiders or the Justice League of America. For some strange reason, it seemed that he had left the fate of Gotham City up to the Secret Six alone. She hoped that she would not have to send her team up against this latest escapee, however. Although she’d faced the Joker before, she feared what he was capable of. He was unpredictable, according to his name, and human life seemed to matter nothing to him next to a well-crafted joke.
Batwoman finished her mocha and crossed her fingers. Kara, if only you were here to help me now.
The ringing of the telephone startled Barbara Gordon out of her reverie. She answered it cautiously.
“Hello? Oh, hello, Daddy! What? No… really? That’s too funny. Thanks for letting me know. Bye.”
Barbara hung up the phone and chuckled. Her father, Commissioner James W. Gordon, had called her just now to tell her that the Signalman had been recaptured. Apparently, he had been caught by an off-duty police officer who recognized him as he sat eating a Whopper at a local Burger King. No sign of his partner Crazy-Quilt could be found, however. Word was he was being immediately shipped off to Belle Reve this time. She hoped that she wouldn’t have to deal with the little stinker ever again.
To Be Continued in Showcase: The Secret Six: Mad Men of Gotham