Cat and Mouse

Catwoman Cat and Mouse
By Maid Joy
Eneimes are everywhere. She can't swing a cat without hitting one or more, and that's a good thing since they will have been well and truly hit at that point.

Detective Comics owns the copyright to Catwoman. This is a retroactive contunity, or a Retcon of the same character.

Author's Note: I'm very sorry this has taken so long to get to you, but I hope this has been worth the wait. Part of the problem has been that this story took some time to come to me. I knew what I wanted to do, but the first part was simply me telling you instead of showing you what happened. I hope the multiple revisions that my lady and I went through in this make it worth the wait. Another part of this problem is my new job. I work 3rd shift, 4 ten-hour days and so when I get home, the last thing I want to do is to write. I usually just collapse into bed and am unconscious until it's time to go back to work. But we are actually paying bills now and maintaining the standard to which we would like to become accustomed. As partial apology to you all, I have doubled the normal size of this episode to give you all more. But I warn you, now I'm drained like a dry fruit, and it will be a bit of time to get more up here for you. I truly do thank you all for your patience.

She had been training every day she could. She and Dinah had become better friends over that time, although the bruises on her body would say differently. Dinah was not an easy taskmaster, and when she screwed up, a quick slap or medium-force punch reinforced the lesson. Yet, outside of the training arena, the two of them had a lot in common.

When they started their lives, Dinah and she had both been male. Both had the mental discipline to find a course for their lives and stick to it. They had similar tastes in music, for the most part because Selena was much older than she appeared, while Dinah had spent time listening to and learning to enjoy her parent's music.

All in all, they had a decent time together. There were a couple of times that they'd gone out into the city as Black Canary and Catwoman to see what they could find. After all, law breakers should be punished, right? Black Canary called it "trolling for rapists". Catwoman preferred to call it "cleaning up the trash".

There was a lot of trash to clean up. In addition to the “usual suspects”, out for anything not nailed down, the whole new sub-segment of meta powered criminals couldn't be ignored. The “I'm special so I can do whatever I want” attitude made both the Cat and the Canary livid with rage.

Catwoman made it her business to take care of those super crooks just as soon as she became aware of them. There was no place in the world for bullies who broke the law simply because they had powers and could do things others couldn't.

There seemed to be more of the martial artist superpowers coming out of the woodwork. Every night it seemed she was using her new skills to defend herself from someone who dropped into a stance to try to take her out. She felt like Indiana Jones, looking disgusted when the sword swinging bad guy jumped out. Occasionally she'd mutter, “Never bring a knife to a gun fight”, but they kept doing it again and again and again. Her “opponents” would get all ready, going into a stance, the biggest baddest ninja ever. She'd lash out with her whip, opponent goes boom, end of combat. Hand-to-hand was not, after all, the be-all and end-all of combat.

She was fighting an average of two of these idiots a night. The paranoid part of her felt they were deliberately seeking her out.

She and Casey Jones crossed paths with increasing frequency. He was going after many of the same people she was, just cleaning up the garbage. When they did see each other, it was… odd. They would fight back-to-back to ward off the guards of the night ‘s chosen thug, but as soon as the layers of cannon fodder were taken care of, the bad boy trussed up and ready for delivery, she delighted in teasing Casey, as he tried to catch her so that she could be incarcerated. He didn’t trust her, and she didn’t trust him at all. They both thought that the other was amoral and had an agenda. They bickered and complained, one-upped and put down the other. She never considered what that might mean.

She could hear his stupid war-cries from four or five blocks away, and she knew that meant he was getting into trouble. The night “SNACK PAAAAAAAACK!” rang out, she headed toward the scene.

Most often when she arrived, she would find Casey in the middle of a brawl not caring who else was around. His focus was narrowed to the four or five opponents in front of him, making him totally oblivious to the three snipers on the roofs around him, waiting to get a clear shot. If Catwoman wasn’t around, he'd be cold meat. His reckless disregard prompted her to make sure to drop them off in front of him when he finished breaking his toys for the night.

With disdain dripping from her voice she said “You may want to make sure someone doesn’t have a high-powered rifle on you next time.”

He looked up at the voice and shook his head. “You have no clue what it’s like. You’re only alive when you’re close to being killed.”

“Try not to rely on me to rescue you.” She purred. “That’s for a big... strong... man to do. I don’t think there are too many women willing to pull your fat out of the fire.”

She loved getting him aroused as hell with her walk, her purr and the light strokes of her claws on the side of his face. Just like many other big, strong men, she left him turning into a puddle of jelly with a severe case of blue-balls.

She grabbed him one night in the crotch after a fairly intense fight, and she could swear she felt him cum in her hand and his shorts. Of course, he deflated when she laughed with delight at his “problem”.

When he tried to get aggressive one night, Catwoman had wiggled out of his arms like her namesake, leaving him with a claw mark he would remember, and sprang away into the night. She really would have liked to hear what he was thinking as her mocking laughter echoed through the streets.

She and her criminal side differed in one very specific way, her self discipline. She'd had plenty of opportunity to take from the rest of the world, stealing as she'd started to do. For the most part, she was able to resist the temptation by focusing on what really drove her. She craved the challenge, testing herself against the best that others had, trying to defeat the counter measures that someone else set up. Usually, she could do it easily, but there were times....

She was very satisfied with her own tech system, thanks to the additions that the future AI had made to her current AI. There were few computers she couldn't access whenever she wanted. Only the computers that never connected to the Internet were safe from her AI's relentless monitoring. If a solo actually did, it was simple to move into the operating system, right past their protections, writing a backdoor access, so she could come back to visit later.

That was how she found "Oracle". Catwoman quickly realized she didn't want to become Oracle's enemy.

They had "met" in cyberspace, while both were looking for the same information. The topic was the effects of various drugs on the Metagene.

Catwoman wanted to make sure that some of the more common drugs like Silva, Cocaine, Heroin and other drugs wouldn't accidentally activate the gene if it were present. LSD tended to have a definite effect on the genetic structure and it could possibly activate the gene. While looking in a database of Doctor Damon Zeul that she found in LexCorp’s databases, Catwoman became aware that someone else was accessing the same information.

Curiosity spurred her to try to backhack the other person accessing the data. It was relatively easy to set up some sort of trace, to find out where this “Oracle” was physically located and who it was. The returned information was somewhat shocking. Apparently, this person had decided to come in from Chicago through multiple routers and anonymous IP addresses in foreign countries. But the trace Catwoman put out allowed her to track the packets back to the source, a laptop computer in an internet cafe in Chicago. Just on a lark, she decided to see if the laptop had a camera she could access.

Soon, the little webcam built into most laptops was showing her a view of a pretty paraplegic who had very red hair and glasses. She was really concentrating on the various items that were being displayed on her computer, and some of those were necessary to keep the and all the privacy settings live. It took a short time to copy the data from Oracle’s hard drive to Catwoman's memory storage, and get the "fingerprint" of the laptop so that it could be traced. While most items could be changed around easily enough, the MAC address and the signals sent out of some hardware layers of her PC's operating system were impossible to redefine. Only changing notebooks could do that.

It was apparent from the other programs running that Oracle was sending messages to various phones, as well as having a simultaneous chat with a few other people. Catwoman discovered Oracle was in touch with at least five other people while hacking into a couple secure databases.

Eventually she got tired of watching and decided to drop her connection. She spent some time reading information on this Oracle that the AI had found, including hunting down any articles attached to that name. When the search returned speculation about the Super Hacker known as Oracle, nothing was solid. Catwoman became even more intrigued. According to the data, minus the wildest fabrications, Oracle successfully managed to keep her identity completely secret from the ENTIRE hacker community, whether black, white, or gray hat. She was essentially a ghost in the machine, appearing, initiating the data search for what she wanted to steal, then disappearing just as fast and completely. NOTHING left behind for others to find once Oracle was gone.

It was an impressive piece of work, and if not for her custom computer system, Catwoman wouldn't have known anything about the real Oracle, or been able to find her.

Some facial recognition returned the result that this Oracle was mundanely known as "Barbara Gordon", daughter of the police commissioner in Chicago. Selena wondered if her father knew what his daughter was doing. Catwoman decided to keep an "eye" on her just to make sure that she stayed as a White Hat instead of a Black Hat.

It took about two weeks, but Catwoman concluded that "Babs", as she liked to be called, was using her skills to track criminals and to find information that would help in various prosecutions, but which would otherwise be very hard to get legally. Catwoman had to admit, Babs was VERY good.

She kept tabs on Babs by leaving a custom virus, a worm, that stayed on the laptop passively keeping track of what information was accessed and how. Catwoman wasn’t interested in pirating Babs, but she wanted to see what was being accessed and when. The how was extremely interesting and Oracle had skillz to be able to ghost into a system, access the data she wanted, and then ghost out again.

Oracle had made extensive modifications to the software she had on her own system, not only the off-the-shelf operating systems and utility programs, but also to the firmware and hardware as well. In a sane world, she would have been hired by about a dozen computer companies and she would have been able to command salaries into the mid six-figures. Bill Gates’ boys got nothin’ on her.

Catwoman then faced a dilemma. While penetration of secure systems might be much easier for Catwoman thanks to the AI, knowing where to look for the information she needed was not something she did well. While she could assign the AI to finding the information, there was a certain art to being able to find needed information quickly in an obscure location. The AI was like any other computer system, garbage in, garbage out.

She was much more comfortable with going to the source and taking the data directly from the computers by physically downloading it. Unfortunately, when the information had been spread over several hundred databases and even more private computers, it was much harder for her to find. She knew that she had missed some info in the past that way.

Finally, she decided to swallow her pride and initiate contact with Oracle.

She activated Oracle's IM program and started using it as a means of communication.

     Catwoman: Hello Oracle.
     Oracle: !?!?!?! Who the hell???
     Catwoman: I'm called Catwoman. I've been looking forward to meeting you.
     Oracle: You’re Catwoman? From New York Catwoman?
     Catwoman: That’s me.

Oracle quickly accessed data from a couple places while she was chatting. It was funny since Selena could “see” Babs' desktop, and follow the information that Oracle searched.

     Oracle: I've heard about you. Who were you originally?
     Catwoman: Ah, verification time. Good. I used to be Professor Stephen Kyle.
     Oracle: And who visited you just before he died?
     Catwoman: I assume you mean those two FBI agents. I don't remember their names.
     Oracle: Close enough. What can I do for you?
     Catwoman: I wanted to complement you on your system. Impressive. I had a really hard time tracking you on the Internet.
     Oracle: You shouldn't have been able to track me at all!
     Catwoman: I, um, “bumped into you” one night online and I've been keeping an eye on you from time to time, checking to see if you were trying to black hat places.
     Oracle: How were you able to do that? I go to extremes to make sure I can't be backtracked.
     Catwoman: Let's just say that my computer system is superior to anything currently available on Earth.
     Oracle: >:0
     Oracle: How?!?!?
     Catwoman: Future tech infected my system. At this point, I have an AI capable of breaking anything on earth.
     Catwoman: I have to say, I may have the brawn, you have the brain. You're better and faster at finding information.
     Catwoman: I think it might be constructive to talk and possibly combine forces when necessary.
     Catwoman: I can break the systems, you can find the information needed.
     Oracle: :0 Are you serious?

There was much more, mostly them working out the logistics of their partnership. But in the end, they were able to come to a cooperative agreement.

Their pact proved to be mutually beneficial more than once. Catwoman was able to get additional information on some of her targets, and provide information to Oracle on her desired acquisitions who were better at securing their information. She provided Babs with upgrades to her computer system, making it far less likely Oracle would be caught by anyone else. Several cover programs Oracle had running to keep her identity blanked were rewritten by Selena making them far more efficient.

Naturally whatever new information Oracle found on various people in her computers was automatically downloaded into Catwoman’s AI and added to the database of metas she had been building.

Selena found a problem she could help with almost immediately.

Oracle used Bluetooth technology to communicate with “The Bat”, when she was giving him real-time information while they were ‘working’. Unfortunately, Bluetooth technology only had a range of 15 feet. The Bluetooth headset that Oracle had on was sending its signal to her laptop, and that laptop was beaming the signal to the intended target like a cellphone would. It would be very easy to intercept that signal once it was being beamed via radio waves around the city. As long as someone knew where to start looking, it was all too easy to track both of them in real time. Especially since the target of the signal had to have a receiver that continuously broadcast its position to allow the radio signal to find them.

Wow, reinvented the radio there Babs? Well done.

Taken to the logical conclusion, a trace would ultimately expose Catwoman, so she came up with a more secure solution.

A small package arrived at Babs’ home, in it were some more secure means of communication; miniaturized transmitters, broadcasting on random and obscure frequencies, using 256-bit encryption. The transmitters could only talk to each other. Selena piggy-backed the radio signal on the electromagnetic halo of the power lines. Anyone looking for the signal would have to know exactly what they were looking for and the exact frequency currently being used, and even then they wouldn’t be able to tap into it. The way she set it up, it had an effective range of the entire North American continent before the signal degraded. As long as the power grid was up, there was no way to block the communication.

She didn’t spend all her time on the Internet or conversing with Oracle, a lot of her time was spent going around on the rooftops to see what she could see.

Most people had some sort of impression that one of the heroes in New York actually just went from place to place looking for the wrongdoers and beating them up. That might be true of some people like “The Bat” in Chicago, or even Black Canary here in NY, but that’s not what Catwoman specialized in.

She went after those who were untouchable. She worked to get evidence on the people who operated above and beyond the rules that kept society flowing, and tried to make sure they got their just deserts. It wasn’t so much that she cared about “the Law” as the Law and Order types did, she was concerned with the people who were abused by the entire structure of society.

She left laws protecting those kinds of people to the pundits, the politicians and the lobbyists to change. She focused on the corrupt, the ones who knowingly hurt others and didn’t care. Slum lords who allowed their tenants to suffer in scorching heat waves without fans, just so they could save a penny or two and use it to fuel their greedy lifestyles. Or the politician who took donations from humanitarian groups and used them to silence his mistress, permanently. Drug traffickers who spread their filth and poison to the streets, and then donated money to the DA’s campaign and the “Police Benevolent Fund” to look the other way were favorite targets.

There were plenty of times she couldn’t get hard evidence on someone except to physically go to where the information was saved, and take it. Computers were wonderful, but they weren’t the be-all, end-all. They were one simply tool among many. When those kinds of cases came along, the Catwoman suit came out.

She also “liberated” some bauble or other. Couldn’t let ALL the skills go to waste. But never from the poor, just from the people who owned too much to keep track of it all.

She wasn’t a “Robin Hood” who stole from the rich to give to the poor. She stole for herself. She got a thrill out of escaping with the items they didn’t want to part with. It was a lesson in not getting attached to a thing. Things leave… and, with the money she got selling her tech, she didn’t need to steal, she just did it for fun.

For her, time spent in the lab, was time spent in Nirvana. The lab was her Haven, her Heaven, her Paradise, her Solace and more. It was the one place that she felt most at home and the most her. Professor Stephen Kyle might have been more at home in a classroom, but her place was the lab.

Her cats were trained not to get on the workbenches where she was building projects, but she didn’t stop them from getting anywhere else they wanted to, including the oven, stove and eating table. They were indoor/outdoor cats, so she didn’t really have to worry much about litter boxes and entertaining them. About two hours a day spent dragging around strings, feathers, laser pointers and the cats were all happy. They all understood her in a way that made her feel completely at home with them. She would ask them to move their play somewhere else, and they obligingly moved elsewhere in her lair.

There were more modifications to the lair now, pathways, ledges, balance beams, all over the place. They ran up the walls, they extended from sections of the ceiling to the ground, from the ground up, to tables and more. It was a complex maze and she sometimes envied her babies their play area.

She had been adopted by about two dozen “regular” strays that arrived and lived with her. They had their meals with her; they slept in the lair about 5 nights a week. She made sure all of them were spayed and neutered so that there weren’t any more unwanted strays to be abandoned to die on the streets. Because they were “hers”, or she was theirs, they were all mixed breeds, and Selena didn’t tinker with their genetics, despite the temptation, to make designer cats.

The “loft room” design of all of the lairs was a blessing and something of a curse. It was a curse because it was hard to keep at a constant temperature, but it allowed her to see the entire length of the lair and be able to spot problems. The smell of solder and plastic burning sometimes infused every crevice of the 2200 square feet areas, but by the same token she couldn’t be taken unawares.

She had set up a smaller area in one corner for her own workout area. She was concentrating on fighting effectively while staying stationary. When she had to practice the more complex dodge/move and acrobatic versions of her fighting, she had the entire city to play in. She even got practice her fighting with her cats underfoot and getting in her way. It helped her dodging and evasion skills, trying her hardest not to hurt them.

She also made herself a promise never to fight in a pair of heels of any height. She really didn’t know how Dinah did it, but the risk of breaking an ankle wasn’t worth the additional sex factor. She could simply be sexy in low-heeled combat boots.

As her fortune grew, she was able to get custom made furniture, but having it delivered was a problem. Finally, she got it all delivered to a different address, and asked Dinah to help her move the individual pieces to her Lair. She didn’t mind Dinah knowing where she was, but she was still nervous about others knowing.

Her altar to Bast had come a long way from those first days. It had started simply as a few milk-crates and a board with the various statues she had stolen displayed on it. Now, she displayed things more appropriately. She had proper lights focused on it, and had added even more precious treasures to the altar. It had grown beyond a simple shrine into a true altar, perhaps the Temples of Bast would have displayed their treasures the same way in the past. One ritual that she regularly undertook was a half hour to an hour of meditation in front of that altar. Oddly enough, the cats seemed to enjoy doing so as well, sitting quietly at her side when she was communing with her Goddess.

When she wasn’t engaged in one of her other pursuits, she developed tech for other “costumed people” and streamlined her own rig-out. She got rid of elements that were either too hard to maintain or just too outdated as more technology became available to the public. She had revised her armor and no longer used spider silk. She developed a fiber made entirely out of titanium it was as strong as solid titanium and flexible as the spider silk to boot. Once it was up to her demanding standards, she wove her next suit out of it. It was so much thinner and easier to move in there was no real comparison to what she'd had .

Egyptian cotton, 1500 thread count per square inch, was supposedly the finest you could get of anything. She managed to get 8,000 threads per square inch (in a single layer) of this titanium fiber. When you layered four sheets of this stuff together, letting the threads go from layer to layer, it became incredibly strong. You couldn’t cut it with shears or puncture it with anything larger than a 40-gauge needle.

That made for an incredibly light, strong, protective suit of armor. It still needed something to take impact hits, but bullets (even armor piercing ones) didn’t scare her anymore. You actually had to mold the garment to the shape you wanted the final piece to be in since it couldn’t readily be sewn, yet once completed, there was nothing like it. It looked like a seamless suit of dulled gunmetal, flexible and breathable. She wouldn’t be able to gain much weight because the material couldn’t stretch that much and there was no way to patch in more.

She was even able to improve on Black Canary’s costume for her. Getting knifed in the legs with nothing but fishnets to protect them prompted Catwoman to develop the new microfiber armor using metals and other carbon chains. The result was a pair of tights for Canary that were not able to be slashed, cut, run or punctured, while retaining the “SEX GODDESS” nature of the previous costume. She continued the theme to the rest of Dinah’s costume, and when the outfit was done, Dinah was able to “disappear” it to wherever those rings sent items that weren’t needed here.

She was making very good money from the new tech sales. She didn’t need to steal another thing in her life. But she had too much fun matching wits against the security systems and the ingenuity of mankind. It was fun to walk past everything they put in place to safeguard possessions like those systems didn’t exist.

Of course, following her own set of morals, she documented all her findings and all her new gadgets, putting them into the Brother Eye database. She knew that these discoveries would revolutionize many areas of science and technology, and some of them were very dangerous to humanity; she had no desire to help a crook become invulnerable to bullets and Tasers.

But that didn’t stop her; not even when she received an unwelcome visit.

She had been working in her “main lab” on some new tech, as always, when the AI spoke up.

There is someone in the crawlspace between the drop ceiling and the actual concrete ceiling. They are moving very stealthily, coming toward you and the hanging safe you put up there.

Well, that isn’t too unexpected. Have they discovered the countermeasures I put in place?

Unknown. They have made no move to counteract the security devices in place currently.

Very well. Send the command to activate the first of the countermeasures.

The lights dimmed slightly as several thousand volts and amps coursed over the concrete ceiling and through the supports holding the drop ceiling in place. She waited and continued her work.

Soon a body, clad in black, came crashing through the drop ceiling about ten feet away. It missed her, and one of her experiments, but the head of the body managed to just catch the edge of a table as it completed its fall.

Well, I don’t think there is any chance of questioning it. The Apache may have believed “shoot first and question the bodies”, but I don’t think there’s going to be a lot I can glean from that corpse.

Her statement had been redundant, but the nanobots responded anyhow.

Use caution, I have detected an anomalous signal coming from that body.

Can you tap into the signal? She asked as she rose from her workbench and moved toward the corpse.

Negative. The signal is encrypted and I have not had time to break that encryption. It appears to be passive in nature, broadcasting to a receiver someplace within five miles of here.

That’s irritating, I would have…

WARNING! There is an incoming return signal. I am unable to decrypt it and cannot guess as to the signal’s purpose. Please use caution.

A curl of smoke appeared from the body, and soon, there was nothing but a pile of ash with clothing around it. That looks like textbook descriptions of “spontaneous human combustion”.

Indeed. It acted like the body burned up from inside itself.

Well, let’s analyze the remains. I might be able to get some useful information from it.

Dustpan and whisk broom in hand, she cleaned the ashes and scraps of clothing and chunks of bone up, ignoring the scorch marks and hole in her ceiling. She soon had them in her spectrograph and her microscope to try to find what she could.

Interesting. According to some of the minerals in the bone, this person was from somewhere in Asia. Wonder why they came to New York and decided to drop in for a visit?

I have been engaged in decrypting the signals I detected. The first was simply transmitting medical information, heart rate, blood pressure, sweat and so on. The second seems to have been a one-word order, but it is too short for any decryption software to be able to break it.

Don’t worry about it. I think I can guess the nature of the message. “Kill” or “die” or even “burn”. It seemed like it was a self-destruct command. At least that’s all I can come up with.

I concur. There seems to be no other logical reason for this. Extrapolating from what we know, some unknown asian went to great lengths to infiltrate here, with unknown purpose, and when they were electrocuted, some type of order was sent via encrypted signal to terminate the asian's life, destroying the body in such a way as to make it impossible to identify. There is a high probability that their purpose here was nefarious in nature, with intent to either harm or kill you.

Well, for what it’s worth, I agree with you. Just wish we could get more information. As it is, I’m going to have to move my work area again. That’s a pain in the backside.

I shall focus all my efforts on cracking the codes on the signals.

She heard no more from the AI for several days. Every so often she did a status check she was told that it was processing information, and that it would take time to break the encryption. Then she noticed her head heating up and giving her a headache.

Finally she couldn’t stand it anymore and canceled the order to break the encryption. The AI agreed and Catwoman was allowed to get on with her life.

But that marked the day she began to be pursued more vigorously by a new group, one that could kill her.

It started slowly, just a few more confrontations in the streets, but soon they were following her to her “home” and some camping out to wait for her. They would attack at random times, even when she wasn’t in her costume, and it didn’t seem to matter that she was always able to beat them. She hoped they would get tired and move on at some point.

Weeks passed, as she kept moving around the city, changing locations, going to Chicago to deliver items she could have as easily mailed, she tried everything she could think of to avoid a confrontation with the people who were coming at her. Finally, she realized she couldn’t avoid them.

They were in her main lair. They were staking out her secondary lairs. They drove her away from Canary and worked in a coordinated way to isolate her from everyone. She felt like a rabbit being hunted by a pack of wolves. They never stopped and they never got tired, and they never seemed to rest.

She would successfully avoid some of them, slipping out of their net, and find them all over any of the destinations she planned to reach. She started using her cats to scout locations, very few of which she could safely stay in for more than a few hours. She lived in her suit.

Once or twice, someone dropped in front of her, startling her, without thought, she would lash out with whip or claw, opening them up before they could attack her. They all had one thing in common; they were dressed as you would expect a movie ninja to be. Face concealing masks, thin bulbous silver material around their eyes to let them see, and a red bandana on the outside of the mask.

She tried talking to one of them. He didn’t say anything. He just came at her with a pair of kamas; long hook blades on a short handle, used in past times as a rice harvester. She defended herself and killed him, then escaped on the power lines, again.

She kept running. She was only allowed a couple hours rest before they found her and began stalking her, again. Once, on a remote rooftop, it was only the shock from her nanobots to her brain that awoke her in time to defend her life again. Once she got away, she realized that she would have to do two things; first to shake them from her trail permanently, and second get some rest.

She started working with her nanobots to drive all the fatigue poisons out of her body to make her refreshed and awake. While that was happening, she got to a place where she was relatively secure, a very small conduit that was almost a chimney to the sewers.

At least this way they can only come at me from above or below. That’s four directions secured.

It took some time, but the nanobots were able to flush the fatigue poisons from her body, but at a cost to herself. She desperately needed to drink something. True, her suit allowed her to process her bodily wastes and dispose of them easily, but it wasn’t a stillsuit, and it didn’t provide the fluids she needed.

When she was feeling more herself, she came up from the sewers and started looking for the nourishment she needed. Scanning the various databanks she was able to find a restaurant nearby serving sushi. As she headed toward it she ordered the nanobots to change her appearance and physicality to hide her. She reached into her “pack” pocket in the lower back of her suit and pulled out a miniskirt she had stashed there for emergencies. She then made alterations to the coloration of her suit to make it look like boots, leggings and a tight top instead of the full body covering suit. She pulled off the hood and mask and stashed it in the “pack” to keep it out of the way.

About ten minutes later she arrived at her destination, looking nothing like herself. She had some serious thinking to do.

Okay, how the HELL are these people tracking me?


You have no clue? Nothing?

I do not even have speculations as to how they are able to find you. You have done everything but leave the country to throw them off your trail. I have scanned the signals coming off your body and there are no trackers either attached to you directly or on the suit. There seem to be no chemical markers either, yet somehow they are still tracking you.

So that leaves social engineering.

I do not understand that.

In any kind of problem there are elements that are mechanical and human. When the mechanical is eliminated, such as discarding the tracking devices, it leaves only the human element. In this case the human element is me. “Social engineering” is determining courses of action based on purely human motivations and ways of behaving. When talking about passwords it refers to the possibility that someone is going to use passwords that are easy to remember, things like birthdays, names, wedding anniversaries and so on. In this case, it is these ninja determining how I am going to act based on my patterns of behavior in the past.

So in this case they are determining how you will respond given a specific set of stimuli?

Precisely, which means I have to change my behaviors radically to throw them off. I have been running and evading them, unwilling to confront them directly. I have still been going after the criminals who take because they can. I have still been with Canary and Jones. I have to stop all those behaviors to throw them off.

Understood. Shall I find other ways for you to accomplish your mission while still avoiding them?

No. As I said, I have to change my behavior.

Instead of being hunted, she became the hunter.

One of her resources was her cats. She decided to use them to her advantage.

She made sure to call them from all over the city to an area she normally didn't frequent; she was there for one purpose only. As soon as they were assembled she pulled small pellets of nanobots from her mouth. She had ordered her nanobots to produce nanobots that were programmed to give her direct visual and auditory access to what her cats saw and heard. She could communicate with them to a point, but this would allow her to actually see what they saw.

She sent them out through the city, looking for the “ninja” that she had been confronting. She needed some down time to plan and recuperate, and that meant a new place to lay up. She made sure that her new “lair” was in a totally different place all together. She broke into Bruce Wayne’s New York apartment and stayed there. His security had been good, but for her, breaking in just wasn’t that hard. Wayne's apartment made it unlikely that the ninja would be anticipating her holing up there. She'd been staying away from locations like it for some time.

Once she felt relatively safe, she placed as many cameras around as she could on the approaches to the apartment. She thought of every sneaky way to gain entrance to this place and put a sticky-cam there, slaved it up to her AI who kept monitoring it all the time. Cat-sized or larger, she wanted to know about it.

She spent a lot of her time watching things through the eyes of her cats. Only when they saw something of interest did she listen in, mostly she only observed. She wanted to find a group of those ninja and follow them back to their lair.

She was monitoring the cats when the AI broke into her thoughts.

Movement detected on cameras 4, 6, 10 and 14. Movement on cameras 8 and 12 as well. Movement now detected on every camera, converging on this location.

How the FUCK!!!

She jumped up and got ready to defend herself. First, out to the landing and shimmy up the wall to the roof. There were others there, coming down on ropes or using climbing gear, but her suit allowed her to ascend faster and correct her direction faster than they could think.

Once she achieved the roof, she made it to the private helipad and made her stand. She put her suit on automatic to avoid any distance weapons they might use. She pulled the mask in place to cover all her skin, making sure nothing about her was vulnerable.

Very soon the suit started twisting her body, ducking and dodging to avoid the throwing stars, the sai, the blowgun darts coming at her. While the suit’s new protection would keep her safe from them, there was no reason to let her opponents know this.

How in the bloody hell were they able to zero in on my location so freaking fast? I didn’t do anything that they could use to find me!

Correction. You were accessing the internet and your various devices around the city.

Weren’t those connections encrypted?

You had never done so.

SHIT!!! I never even thought about it. Is the other surprise ready?


Good! I think I’m going to need it soon. Do you have a count?

There are fifteen signals within a half-kilometer sphere.

Okay, then it’s time.

She started taking more control back from her suit, closing in on various opponents. Jumping and leaping into their hidden locations, she struck and clawed. She had long since put the poison into the bladders connected to her claws insuring a scratch would kill.

Despite the deaths, they were still fighting back instead of running. Three closed in on her to attack from various locations around her. She was blindsided more than once until she ordered the AI to monitor the feeds around the roof and to warn her when there was someone behind her.

As expected, they blocked with their arms and other body parts. They might stop the raking strike she was going for on their chests, but when her hand twisted and the claws pierced their uniforms it left puncture marks in their skin, she disengaged going after someone else. Those she touched were the dead who just hadn’t stopped moving yet.

Her whip was like a living thing, lashing out, keeping her opponents out of range so that she could focus on one at a time. Her tail was a club, distracting and keeping them off balance unsure when it would attack. She made sure her feet stayed still as much as possible, only shifting to reposition or get her next target in range.

There were four bodies on the rooftop when she started moving around to get at more of the bad guys.

She was able to leave four more people on the roof in various stages of dead. Things were getting a bit close for her when she thought NOW!!!

At her command, all of those left stopped and started clutching their head. Apparently their discipline was enough that they didn’t scream, but Catwoman couldn’t understand how they managed that feat.

All the remaining people literally went up in flames. In the course of a few seconds, there were nothing but piles of ash left.

Good work. Did you finally decrypt that burst- code?

Negative. I simply sent the same code out on the same frequency. There was a high chance that they used the same signal and key to detonate people as they had before. Your commentary on human failure means that it is likely that your enemies will go for the simple, less secure options when given a choice.

Yes, we can be really stupid like that. But most people don’t have an Artificial Intelligence to help them out. Keeping track of those kinds of things isn’t easy for most of us.

While she had been chatting with her AI, she went to each “body” checking the cremains. She gathered up the expended weapons, swords, shuriken, darts and more, and stored them carefully in a small bag made from more of her nanotech. The bag kept growing with each new item inserted, but it didn’t get bulky. It acted more like an opaque vacuum sealing pack, one that adhered to her shoulder blades when she was done.

Once the scene was cleaned up as much as she could manage alone, she went back over to Bruce Wayne’s apartment to make sure they hadn’t destroyed it.

She did a before-and-after comparison on what was present and what had been moved. She had more than enough information from her brief stay to be able to determine what had been changed since she left for the roof. Mostly she was looking for any spy devices that may have been left behind. The AI confirmed her findings as she spent time removing those devices.

She stopped long enough to get the few things that she had left behind in her haste to move the fight, and then she abandoned Wayne's place too.

She cautiously moved through the city back to one of her several lairs to get the equipment she would need to analyze the weapons left behind. Even though she had figured out how she was being tracked, she wasn’t stupid enough to think they had given up on her.

The better part of the day was spent simply observing her homes, looking for anyone who was keeping her under surveillance. She used not only her normal five senses, but also used frequency scanning, Doppler radar for any movement, heat signatures, and contour mapping looking for someone who was in a place that they shouldn’t be in.

Soon enough, she found a couple people who didn't fit. It took almost no effort to remove them, leaving them as more flotsam in an alley. Then she looked seriously for cameras and microphones in her home, or focused on her home, and finally entered the lair.

Once she was inside, another person’s presence was immediately apparent. Whomever it was didn’t try to hide their existence. Catwoman froze and got ready for another fight.

“We would like to compliment you on your fighting prowess. There’s not many who could take on The Hand and survive. You did. Particularly when the odds are fifteen to one.”

She stepped out of the shadows, and Catwoman went fully on the defensive. This wasn’t someone who was trying to hide, in fact, there is no way she could hide in anything other than a crowd of people who were dressed the same as she was or at a comic convention.

Five foot nine inches, she was covered in strategically placed red silk. One scarf was wrapped around her head in such a way as to hold her black hair out of her face, but the ends both trailed down her back. A red silk leotard with a high neck and no sleeves adorned her body, but didn’t do anything to hide it. Red bands around her biceps and red forearm guards were the only adornments on her arms. She had red boots and a couple red sashes around her thighs. Stuck into the sashes on her thighs Catwoman could see a pair of Sai.

The picture of this lady was quickly processed by the database in her head, and the result of came back rapidly.

“Elektra. I’m honored to be met in my home by a corpse.”

Elektra bowed from the waist. “I’m pleased to meet you, Catwoman. It seems that you are much more than you are thought to be. Not only are you good at fighting and evading fighting, you have wealth of information at your fingertips. It would have taken many others days to find out who I am.”

Catwoman grunted non-committally. She wasn’t sure how much Elektra knew and didn’t want to tip her to all that she could access.

Elektra continued. “I would like to tell you that you passed your test with flying colors, but then you will say ‘What test’ and I would have to respond with something like ‘The test where we try to kill you and you survive’. At which point you will ask something like ‘Why were you testing me’ and I would respond with ‘Why to see if you could be a member of the League of Assassins, of course.’”

Catwoman’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not an assassin. I’m a thief and an inventor, not a killer.”

“And yet you have killed many. Not only the ninja we dispatched after you, but those we had watching various points for you, those sent to harry you into a corner and many others, not the least of which was that idiot who kidnapped Mr. Luthor’s daughter. Your skill and your ability to penetrate highly guarded facilities brought you to our notice. Which is, ultimately, why I’m here.”

Catwoman pulled the lower half of her mask down and moved to make herself something to eat, all the while keeping an eye on Elektra. “If you have been watching me for so long, you know that I’m not an idealist, I’m a mercenary. Can you pay me enough?”

Elektra pursed her lips. “I think we can make sufficient arrangements in that area. Given your penchant for working alone and the fact that you are becoming even more mercenary, I assume you are rejecting the offer I have at this point. I think that we can say that you won’t be recruited by us at this time, but the offer will stay open. I can promise you that when you decide to join us, the Hand, the Foot Clan and the League of Assassins as well as the entire League of Shadows will all be able to assist you in any way you need. You will get training the likes of which Dinah Lance cannot give you. You will have access to resources and information that make the computer hacking you have been doing look like petty larceny in comparison. We have a world-wide organization which has its fingers in everyone’s business, including people you wouldn’t think would be associated with us.

“I am telling you all this because you could benefit greatly from all that we have. We could benefit greatly from what you have and what you can do. The stealth suit you came up with is only one example among many. Your preferred targets, the ‘untouchables’ and the ‘meta criminals’ are surrounded by layers of protection, not all of them penetrable by a lone agent. Some of them are surrounded by our members. We can reach out and kill them at any point we wish. But we are paid very well to make sure that people like you cannot get to them. Do you really wish to come into direct conflict with us?”

“So now it’s threats?”

Elektra laughed. “Not at all. I’m pointing out the reality. Threats aren’t going to work on you. Offers and enticements aren’t going to work with you. So don’t you think it would be a good thing to know who you will be fighting, and how to defeat them before you wind up on the business end of a sword?”

That stopped her. Elektra had a very good point. Knowing what to expect, knowing how they would react, and knowing what kind of fighting they would do would be a major asset in any confrontations she had with one of their agents.

“Wait, are you telling me that you guys are willing to let me kill your people to prove a point?”

Elektra shrugged. “They are lower ranked members of their respective organizations. They were given the assignments they were given as an opportunity to shine and grow within their organization. If they get killed in the line of duty, then that’s the price they pay. That’s what they are there for. They failed in their task, and thus they are dead. The worthy will survive. As you have. As I have. As many others have. It’s no loss; there are thousands more where they came from.”

Survival of the fittest. How…Darwinian.

Elektra continued, “It is survival of the fittest. If they can’t survive through a simple assignment, how will they survive when the stakes are truly high? When they MUST accomplish their task, how many will fail if let pass through when the odds are not stacked in their favor? When they don’t have an entire team behind them?”

She shifted forward and took a piece of tuna away from Catwoman. “Don’t be distressed by their deaths. I assure you, the League of Shadows is not upset by their deaths. You have exposed problems which we will take steps to fix, such as not paying attention to what they are climbing on, and not using the same radio signal to order their death without some sort of security on that signal. I suspect that is the same for you.”

Catwoman watched Elektra slowly chew the tuna. She got that right. Won’t go around without an encrypted and hidden network connection anymore, that’s for sure.

Elektra nodded. “See? We think along the same lines. Now, I must go, and YOU must think about all we have offered. Perhaps you will see reason and join us, or perhaps you will wind up dead. The choice is yours.”

The next couple nanoseconds were a blur in Catwoman’s eyes. Elektra was there, then she appeared to dissolve into mist and vanish into thin air.

What the hell???

What distresses you?

How did she do that?

How did whom do what?

Didn’t you see Elektra there?

There has been no one in this room except you for the last several seconds. You just walked into the room, and now you are here making a sandwich. How is this possible?

Do you seriously mean to tell me that you didn’t record that conversation that I just had with Elektra?

What conversation?

It took some doing, but she was able to “play back” a copy of the conversation they'd had and show it to the AI from her memory. It was spotty and some of it was not accurate, but it was the best she could do. She was unsure what kind of effect this had on the computer.

My record of events skips. You come into the room, and then you are most of the way through making a sandwich. There is nothing in between. There is not even a time change on the recording media we use to show where a gap occurred. However, according to your memory record, there were several minutes of conversation that are not included in my memory. I am out of sync with the Cesium Timeservers by eight minutes, 27.8994 seconds. This is disturbing.

Good to see that you take this seriously.

I am ‘taking this’ as I can. Somehow she was able to disable me and my systems without doing anything that I can detect. There were no emissions, no ECM signals, no EM pulse, nothing. I am at a loss to explain how this happened. It is something I shall be considering for some time.

You’re really shaken by this.

If I were capable of emotion I would be. There is no explanation in a logical world that I can come up with. The only explanations are that she has found a means outside of the laws of physics to disable me or there is a supernatural explanation, which is not supported by any evidence at my disposal. Because of this I am extremely… you would call it ‘unsettled’. I will be researching how to upgrade my systems to prevent this from happening again.

She heard no more from them for the rest of the day.

Selena sighed in contentment as she leaned back from her workbench. Her back was cramped and several vertebrae popped when she stretched slowly and sensuously. Being hunched over the table top for as long as she had been made her back sore.

She had been working on more upgrades to her system, one of them being a series of improvements that gave her a 3d image of the immediate environment in her head. It wasn’t a visual setup, it was more like echolocation. She found that using it, out to a radius of 300 meters in all directions, she could “see” the people she was fighting, how they were moving and what was going on. It gave her precise locations of who she was in the area with, and if they were enemy or friendly. Buildings, walls, floors and ceilings were “transparent”, and with this ability, she could see and “hear” in other rooms. The improvement was such that she could get rid of her camera rig, giving it instead to Black Canary. She kept a few small cameras, with the adherence package still attached, so she could spoof surveillance cameras she came across, but the “snooper rig” of optical cable, bracelet, and laser microphone, she passed on.

It cost her a small fortune, but she bought a laboratory building from Horizon, a scientific research company who had moved locations and abandoned the lab to be torn down. Into this location, she had delivered an electron microscope and the equipment necessary to construct nanobots. She got rid of all the other devices that were scattered all over the city, consolidating her work areas to this one location, and then she hacked every database in the world that had this location listed at all. She also went into those same databases and pulled out the information that was listed about her lairs. Her lab and the Lairs dropped off the face of the world.

She was getting very paranoid about her privacy.

The last thing she did was to search for a location that was not in an existent building, but part of the under-subway of the 1800’s. She did multiple searches for the plans and went investigating those locations, looking for some place that was out of the way enough to allow her to finally have a space that was inviolate. She abandoned the lairs that had been discovered by the League of Shadows. She would have to be more careful in the future.

Finally she found another location. Not in the sewers, but deep underground. It was a turn-around for the old subway system, buried underneath the main subway that most people traveled on every day. She found a few places where she had to spray her nanobots around to reinforce the surrounding areas with the titanium threads they had developed. Once the titanium had been infused into the walls and ceiling, she felt good enough to move in.

It took her days to complete the move. Days of crawling over the rooftops to make sure she had removed all the possessions she wished to keep, and to transport them to the new lair. Some of it was very interesting for her to move, like some of the custom furniture being disassembled and having the nanobots help her reassemble them at the destination. But she could have her scientific items moved and delivered to her new lab, and hoped these steps would be the last she would have to take.

This really sucks having to move every few months… I should learn to travel lighter.

She managed to purchase and then move a plasma television to put in her lair. She found a cable TV feed and had that connect into the TV, and added a wireless access point so she could still surf the internet whenever she wanted. Information was still king, and she decided to make sure she was still ruling, especially if everyone counted her out. No information was ever wasted.

She had been considering this when she realized that she now had near-photographic recall.

Did you and your microscopic counterparts do something to my memory?

Affirmative. I have taken many of your biological storage and long term memories and put them into the crystalline storage we are using for the operating system and so on. I reasoned that I could do a more efficient job of storing, indexing and retrieving information than your biological system could do. Currently you have 10^15 bytes of information in your biological memory that is being transferred over into the memory chips that were created, freeing up those sections for either deletion and replacement, or allowing you to have a biological and a crystalline storage system.

Let’s not monkey around with my brain just yet. If there are areas of the brain that are damaged and should be replaced, please take over those functions if you would. I have no problem replacing biological technology with mechanics, or even better yet, merging the two into one unit.

It is an area of investigation I am willing to work on with you. Biomechanical research is certainly a lucrative field. I have already enhanced your memory, your processing speed, your strength, flexibility and your endurance. I would like an opportunity to find how far the process can be taken before there is damage, and what forms those damages can take.

Don’t you DARE do that to me. I don’t want to be some sort of cyber-person, a Borg or something.

There are other test subjects that I can use. I will start with your cats. Then I can use your defeated opponents. I can test on them without fear of killing them since they are already dead.

Just so long as you only use proven improvements on me. I don’t want to be brain-dead because you “enhanced” the wrong neuron in my brain.

Understood. You are still my host and it is still my primary purpose to help you in any way you need.

Her practice area was set up and she was still practicing fighting against imaginary opponents. Now, however, she accessed various DVDs and videos of people fighting in different styles. With the processing power she had now she was able to break down their movements and work out strategies to defeat them as well as how to fight like them. She ordered the AI to download and analyze the videos so that when she awoke she would have even more processed. Learning like this started to take over her days and nights.

Her body began remembering how to move, how to flow. She learned from these private training sessions that there were only so many ways for a body to move when striking or evading, and if you could put the opponent into a situation where they had only a few, or better yet one, way to get their goal, then you could accurately anticipate what they were going to do.

She was coming back from another “job” of “liberating” some jewels from a safe when she ran into Bullseye again.

He was watching another gentleman, someone in red leather, and she startled him. He turned with blinding speed and threw the nail he had in his hand at her.

Her time sense slowed. She saw the nail coming at her in slow motion and knew just how much she had to move to be able to dodge it. Vectors and momentum were all calculated out and she found her head move fractionally, and the nail passed by harmlessly.

“I missed…” hissed out of Bullseye’s mouth. “I never miss….”

Oh shit. I think I just really pissed him off.

He leapt at her. While her mind was still on him, she saw his movement and once again, figures were calculated out of his flight and where he would land. Turned out that he was about to land on her. So she moved to allow him to land on her, but made sure she had the advantage in doing so.

She arched backwards and planted her hands behind her. Since Bullseye had figured on her moving backwards, his feet came down on her chest, just as he had planned. But Catwoman had already turned the momentum to her advantage.

Her feet left the ground just before Bullseye landed on her ribcage. Her momentum going in an arc countered his momentum going straight down, and she swept his feet away from what would have been a killing blow to her chest into a sweep of his legs, sending him toward the rooftop. Meanwhile her feet came up and impacted squarely with the back of his head, sending his whole body’s momentum sideways where just seconds before it had been going downward.

The abrupt change of direction had stunned him apparently, as he impacted one of the machines on the roof. But at the same time as she was in a handstand, she started shifting it to finish her flip, something hit her right in the small of her back. It hit with such force that it added momentum to her flip, causing her to over-rotate and land on her buttocks.

What was that?

Bullseye launched a rock at you just before he leaped. He had been aiming for your throat, but your flip caused it to impact your lower back instead. It is incredible how quickly he moved and the force he added to that rock while he was leaping for you. I need you to hit him.

I’m gonna do my best.

She rolled backward and leapt up to her feet, turning and crouching to wait for him to come at her again. She had rolled out of the way of another launched missile, saving her life once again. She started scampering at him, dodging and twisting so the barrage of hurled objects missed her, but only by fractions of an inch.

Bullseye was getting more and more furious the longer the confrontation went on. Apparently he wasn’t used to missing anything he decided to hit. The near misses were driving him crazy. He started with small things, nails and ball bearings, and went to larger throwables, such as the shuriken on his belt and finally he launched a large hard ball attached to a rope.

He was scarily accurate with his weapons. The only thing that saved her was the nanite enhancements that she had received. They allowed her to anticipate where the missiles were coming from based on where his hands were at.

What took her by surprise was the chunk of asphalt he kicked at her.

It impacted right between her eyes. There was no way to anticipate it nor to dodge it since she was not paying attention to his feet. It was all she could do to retain her consciousness after it hit. She knew that her brain had been rattled around, and she felt her body go on automatic, deflecting and dodging attacks thrown at her by Bullseye.

When she finally came back to full consciousness, she was in a vicious hand-to-hand combat with Bullseye, her body moving on its own.


Remain calm. My prime directive is still to keep you safe. I have utilized the knowledge you have been aquiring to animate you while you were dazed. I calculated the chances of what would happen had I not acted, and came to the conclusion that Bullseye would have killed you while you were helpless, so I exerted control over your suit to put it in automatic mode and to, quote, save your bacon, unquote.

Okay then, my gratitude, but let me take back over.

Control cut off in mid strike, and that threw off the tempo of the combat. Bullseye had moved to dodge an attack that never even was launched. So Catwoman used that break to bound backwards and over the edge of the roof, plummeting toward the ground almost 8 stories below.

She threw her whip at anything that it could attach to in an effort to arrest her fall, and it managed to catch on a protrusion on the face of the building. The whip turned her fall into a swing, with a heck of a lot of momentum. It took a lot of strength to hang on to the whip while she went from near-terminal velocity vertically to near-terminal velocity horizontally, and the momentum swung her up into the air, nearly 70 feet and across a four lane road.

Oh, god, this is going to HURT..!

She saw the wall coming up very fast, but her body twisted and at the last moment, she went feet first through someone’s window, and into some kind of atrium. She slid to a stop and lightly bumped the far wall.

She lay there for a few seconds catching her breath. She heard the alarms in the distance and knew that she had to get out fast. She raced up the wall, pushed aside the drop ceiling tiles, crawled into the space beyond them and slid the tile back into place.

It took only a thought to activate the echo-locater and to watch as the guards came up the stairs and the elevator to see what the ruckus was. She also noticed that Bullseye was still on the other rooftop, and apparently from the vibrations coming off his body, he was pissed as hell.

She also noticed another person a few buildings away, also on the rooftop. He whipped some kind of stick out of his thigh pouch and threw it at another building near him, and swung away on the rope it left. Soon he was out of her ‘sight’.

She resigned herself to a long night of waiting for the whole world to finish their fascination with her unexpected entrance.

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