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The Clocktower is still a giant open space surrounded by screens. As she rolls back in from Milliways about half of them spring to life from their default standby positions. "Milton-Cinnamon-Aaron," she announced, bringing the others up.

"Come on. Let's get you a real briefing."
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Barbara isn't sure how long it's been since she cut her connection with Dinah. She's been on the move since then.

The submarine is filling up fast. As last stands went this one had gone pretty well. Except for that bullet in her leg. That wasn't such a good thing. But she'd definitely cut this one too close. Her primary and secondary exits had been blocked by Blockbuster's goon squad, and her tertiary exit was now under water.

Under water meant swimming. A long and difficult swim. Which would be hard enough for someone with functioning legs. But the sub is filling up fast, and it's that or give up and drown, and Barbara Gordon doesn't know how to give up.

She takes a deep breath and lets it out, then another. Each one stretching her lungs and diaphragm a little further than the last. The fifth one she clamps her teeth down over and dives.

The first part, the part inside the submarine, isn't so bad. She knows how the boat's laid out and there are plenty of handholds to use to pull herself along. But that doesn't mean the trip isn't a long one. By the time she reaches the hatch her lungs have stopped burning and black dots are swimming in front of her eyes.

It takes precious seconds to figure out which way is up. It would only take a few strong kicks to reach the surface, but that's definitely not an option. Babs begins clawing at the water, desperate to get enough purchase to make it those last twenty-five feet.

Progress is slow, and it's getting harder to think, and harder not to give in to the panic her body wants so badly. She loses track of the time, and even of where she is, as the oxygen reaching her brain runs out. Did her hand break the surface? She's not sure, but she is sure that it doesn't matter. She doesn't have the energy to fight any more.

I'm sorry, Dinah and I'll miss you, Dick and I love you, dad and It's not your fault jumble up in her head. It's not how she'd imagined things would end.

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The charges to scuttle the submarine where Babs had set up her final fallback had already been triggered. The lights were out, skin irritants and tear gas filled most of the compartments, and water was flooding in.

That made it a perfect time to escape. Except for the team of gun-toting mercenaries between Babs and her exit hatch. Judging by the frequency, their radios were stolen from the military. Current front-line gear with the new encryption protocols.

Which meant she could hear everything they said.

"We've cleared the forward compartments and we're moving aft."

"Check on the others," a deep voice responded. "We've lost contact." That was most definitely Roland Desmond. And that he'd lost contact with his other people made Barbara grin wolfishly. She knew what had happened to them.

"We're on it, Mr. D." Babs slid across the ceiling, hand over hand along the rails she'd installed as they spoke, getting into position.

"We're not alone!" one of the men snapped, having caught something out of the corner of his eye. "I saw something. A shadow or something."

"Where?" his commander demanded.

"It swung by overhead!" Babs froze where she was, hanging almost completely still in a shadowed nook above one of the men's head.

"There's nothing here," one of the men complained.

"Check it anyway," the commander growled. Which is when Babs grinned and dropped the smoke grenade. With predictable results of yelling and scrambling. With the lights off the mercenaries were forced to rely on their night vision gear, and the smoke made it impossible to see anything through the lenses.

The panicked yelling and flailing about is perfect cover for a few well-placed shots to the back of the head to take the men down one by one. It's a simple pattern: a quick strike and a swing into another position to line up the next one. One down. Two. Three. Four. Five in as many seconds.

Unfortunately the last one is smart enough to reach back and rip off his goggles. He couldn't see much, but he must have spotted some sort of movement because he opens fire as Babs slaps the the quick release on her harness and drops into the two feet of water that has already flooded the compartment. She's quick enough that he misses and she grins at his mistaken yell of "Gotcha!" He'll get sloppy now.

He rushes toward where her body hit the water before slowly looking around. He's yelling into his radio. "I have everything under control, here. Oracle, or whatever, isn't going anywhere." Which was just about the time Barbara reaches through the rungs of the ladder behind him where she's hanging upside down and jerks his head back into the steel. There's a very satisfying ringing sound.

At which point she sees something red in her peripheral vision. She glances up at her thigh and frowns. "Wow... he actually did shoot me." She's sort of glad she can't feel it. Bullets hurt, and they send you into shock, and she doesn't need to deal with either of those right now.

She winces as the water level rises high enough to lap up into her face. She was supposed to be off the boat... at least ten minutes ago. she really didn't want to have to make this call...

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Barbara is ensconced in her backup-backup-backup command center. Which was worrying. She only has one more fall-back plan, and that is so desperate that she'll try everything else before resorting to it. Apparently she cares more about her secret identity than she thought.

It doesn't help that she's lost contact with pretty much everyone. Dick and Robin are having transport problems, and Dinah's lying low or unconscious or something. Everyone else she might call in has something slightly higher-priority to deal with than saving a girl in a wheelchair, so she sits and stares at her screens.

The bad guys found her last net-drop five minutes ago, and that means their next stop will be here. Whoever Blockbuster has tracing her is good, and she suspects that they've managed to get their hands on some of her hardware, maybe from Dick's car, which has only made it that much easier for them. It's almost time to get dressed for company.

But first... Just in case... Barbara pulls up a new file and starts typing. (Funny, for all her contingency plans, she's never felt the need to set this up before...)

To: Dick, Bruce, and whoever Robin is these days

This message is set to auto-send itself to you if I fail to log into my systems for more than 24-hours. If you're reading this, then something has gone terribly wrong. I assume you're looking into it already.

Even if I'm not around I can still be useful. The data I've collected over the years is still a useful tool, so you'll need access to it. Use it to carry on my work. My father doesn't know it, but he has all my passwords and encryption keys. Everything you need to get started is written on the back of the framed picture of me on his desk at Police HQ.

I guess this is my last will and testament and all that, huh?

Well... keep up the good fight for me.

Love,
Babs

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Barbara hadn't really ever intended to use this plan. That was in part because it was bug-nuts insane. But here she was, sitting on a cold metal floor with a few laptops strewn around her and one case she was glad was still here.

It had taken her nearly twenty minutes to get the wetsuit on. Skintight isn't easy to do when you can't move your legs. She starts adjusting the metal braces that let her move around without her legs flailing wildly. Ankles, calves, and thighs cuffed together with a series of bands that will let her lock her legs into one position pretty easily.

Dinah still hasn't checked in yet, and that's worrying. If nothing else, Dinah is a professional, and she knows how serious things are.

Babs finishes locking her legs down and grabs her headset. "Dinah? Come in, Dinah."

Please let her answer this time.

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It's been one of those days.

Dinah's out in the field. Hasaragua to be exact. She'd gotten a tip about left-over Soviet military gear (and who knew there was still any of that around) stored in an abandoned military facility. Normally she'd check into it and alert someone else to take care of it, but her informant had also told her that some sort of sale was going down.

So she'd gotten Dinah some plane tickets.

Then Robin had come over to help her do some upgrades on her holographic simulation room. Juggling the mission and the upgrades had been easy, especially with Dinah who could pretty much take care of herself.

Then Dick had shown up. Then Ted had shown up. And now she was trying to juggle all the secrets involved in all those people, and was only half-watching Dinah's progress.

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Bruce really was more arrogant than he had any right to be sometimes. His computer security was a rather obvious example of that. Back in Milliways she'd spent hours interviewing Stephanie about the upcoming gang war, so she knows precisely what triggers it.

Tim just quit [DO WE NEED TO GET MATT IN TO DO SOME OOMS FOR THIS?]. That meant that it was almost time. There wasn't any more time to pretend she didn't know whether she was going to do this or not. It was time to get to work.

It takes her a few long nights to work her way through the Batcave's defenses, but she eventually slips through and sets up a program to watch for Steph to access the War Games files. Now all she has to do is wait. When Stephanie opens those files the system will notify her and she can shut the entire thing down at the source.

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The car pulls up on the waterfront and Zinda helps Barbara into her chair. "Wait here with the car, this should be a short trip."

Zinda smiles and nods, "You got it, skipper." She'll be alert, she's realized that something is up.

Barbara looks out across the water to Titans Tower then rolls over to the disguised entry point. She looks at the security system and considers. The Titans have never been fond of uninvited guests. She could simply set up a cover story and get Vic to let her in, but that would take time. Time she's not sure she has.

So she places her hand on the scanner and it hums to life. "D.N.A. scan complete. ----, you have been cleared for access to Titans Tower." Being prepared is something that Oracle does, but hacking the security system at the Tower to give her access without recording it or alerting anyone wasn't something she ever really expected to need.

The ride to the Tower is short, but long enough for a look at the Tower's layout again to locate the room she's looking for. And long enough to activate a routine training alert for the other side of the island. With control of the security system that should give her plenty of time to get to where she wants to go without running into anyone along the way.

Which is why she's sitting in the room of one Joseph Wilson, a.k.a. "Jericho", when everyone returns to the tower. He'll make it up here eventually. Hopefully he'll be alone.

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There's a category four hurricane in the south Atlantic that she's keeping an eye on for the JLA, they're probably going to be needed for the rescue efforts once the thing makes landfall. There's also a rather anomalous set of financial transactions running between Gotham, Bludhaven, and Switzerland that she's tracking down. Then there are the routine data requests: addresses, directions, known associate lists, suppliers. All in all, Barbara's glad that she doesn't have her own team in the field this morning.

It is when things are going about as routinely as they ever do that things tend to get... weird, and this is no exception. It starts with a small red box flashing in the top corner of her screen and cascades from there.

"Warning: unauthorized system access. Warning: primary firewall bypassed. Warning: first wave countermeasures ineffective. Warning..." They keep piling up on top of each other, but Babs is already moving at maximum speed. The keyboard in front of her clatters as she races to keep up with the hacking attempt.

But whatever's trying to get into her system is smart. It's some sort of self-adapting algorithm and it seems to anticipate what she's going to use to respond to it, and it seems to be gaining ground.

Just as suddenly as it began, the attack stops. Whatever the invading code was supposed to do, it has apparently done it. Barbara immediately begins looking to see what it got when her holoprojectors reconfigure themselves and the Oracle mask floats in front of her.

"Hello, Barbara. First, let me say that while we've done some weird things, I'm pretty sure this constitutes the weirdest. I'm... you. From an alternate universe. Take a look at the code, you'll recognize our signature. I also know that our most recurring nightmare is... well, the fact that I brought that up should be proof enough."

"Anyway, the universe I'm in seems to be a few years behind yours temporally. I've heard rumors of a Crisis, and of Spoiler's death, but they haven't happened for me, yet. I'm going to need files. You know the ones and you know why."

"I'm going to do what you would do in my place. Find the sender of this message. He can be trusted to courier data back and forth between us."

There's a long pause and the mask flickers away before the voice continues softly, "With your help I can do what you couldn't."

Barbara sits for an entire minute in her chair in the darkness and the silence before nodding firmly to herself. "Computer: routing trace on this message for point of origin."

She taps a key on the console in front of her, "Zinda. Prep the Aerie One." She glances at the display, "We're going to San Fransisco."

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It's quiet in Gotham, it's quiet everywhere else too. Which means that Babs can either sleep, or work on a personal project. Sleep, right.

Barbara Gordon has done a lot of really weird things in her lifetime, but this has got to rank up there. She's working on an adaptive infiltration algorithm. A sort of virus that can crack through high-security data networks.

She plans on using this one against her own systems. In the future.

Turns out that it's a lot harder to try to hack the systems you think you'll have in a couple of years than one might think. Especially when you know that your future self is going to be running security.
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Barbara's up late tonight. This isn't really an unusual thing for her.

"United Airways flight 347 should be landing in an hour and a half. He's seated in first class. I recommend you pick him up before he gets through the baggage claim."

She nods to whatever the response is, "Good luck, and I'll be here if you need me again."

Barbara slides her glasses off and pinches the bridge or her nose as the connection closes. She needs more coffee. And maybe an aspirin.

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