2:35am, December 25, The Den of Batgirl Humiliation (otherwise known as the Batcave)
“Batgirl, let’s review your last mission.”
Those words filled our intrepid young bat-themed heroine with dread. It was difficult to see it, given the mask covering one half of her face and the Santa beard on the other, but Batgirl was convinced that not only could Oracle see it (because she was Oracle and therefore knew everything) but that she found it hilarious.
Proxy, on the other hand, wasn’t even trying to hide her smirk as she loaded up the CCTV footage of the previous few hours. “Come on, Batsy. It’s a learning experience.”
“Why?” Batgirl deadpanned, covering her face with her hands as the computer monitors showed a teenaged blonde girl shopping.
Quarter to Bad Present Buying Under Pressure o’Clock, December 24, Gotham Mall (in a tacky department store)
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring … because they were at the Gotham Mall desperately trying to purchase that last present or two. In Stephanie Brown’s case, however, ‘that last present or two’ could be more accurately described as all of them. Crime fighting was time intensive! Who knew?
Sadly, unlike certain other Bat-themed superheroes, Steph didn’t have on staff a full-time valet able to purchase exquisitely appropriate gifts while shooting invaders with a perfectly maintained stun gun. The closest Steph had come to giving an exquisitely appropriate gift was last year when she gave a gift that she wouldn’t mind having re-gifted back to her in a few months time -- which, unsurprisingly enough, it was. Fortunately Steph had needed a new scarf at that point, but at the time she had resolved never to buy presents for people again. Gift cards and money forever! And yet here she was, eyeing a snowglobe and trying to decide whether it would be a tacky or awesome present for Tim. The snowglobe, holding a poorly crafted Batman, Nightwing, Red Robin and the tiniest Robin waving cheerfully as fake snow fell around them, did not offer any guidance. That was very rude of it.
She had settled on tackily awesome and had just tossed it into her cart when the PA system crackled into life with: “Gotham! Your crass commercialism is about to come to an end! In one hour this place is gonna blow!”
“Figures,” Steph muttered under her breath, blowing her hair out of her face as she tried to surreptitiously look for a convenient place to hide and change.
A few awkward squirming minutes later, Batgirl was ready for action, leaping from her hiding space in amongst the suitcases in the luggage section and into the ceiling vent up ahead.
2:45am, December 25, The Lair Where Batgirl Should Really Be Allowed To Control The Computers (also otherwise known as the Batcave)
The footage froze at this point, entirely due to the fact that the titular Batgirl had paused it. She spared a moment to make a face at her expression in that particular frame before putting her attention where it rightfully belonged: at the two techwizards who found her pain utterly hilarious. She made a note to find a better class of friends. Ones that didn’t laugh at her shopping plight.
“Okay, so we’ve established that I am a terrible Christmas shopper. Let’s just skip to the part where I discover his plan.”
Proxy’s smirk grew wider, and she raised an eyebrow at this. “And miss your epic battle against cobwebs? That would be a shame.”
“Shut up. They were really thick cobwebs! Seriously, does no one ever clean up there? Isn’t that a fire hazard?” Batgirl repressed a shudder at the memory. There were cobwebs and then there were the thick, blanket-like cobwebs that clogged up the ceiling of the Gotham Mall. At the time she was convinced they were going to suffocate her.
“Proxy, she’s right. Let’s skip forward in time.”
“I knew you had my back, O. Also, new rule. We only play the stuff where I am beating up bad guys.”
“That’s a terrible rule. We’d miss out on your fantastic public relations skills.”
“Proxy, don’t make me kill you.”
After some fast forwarding, the tape resumed playing.
Half Past Too Tired of A Christmas Carol, December 24, Gotham Mall (outside The Toy Emporium (Absolutely No Connection To Toyman. Promise!!)
“I am the Spirit of Christmas Past! I come to judge Gotham on its’ crass consumerism! Repent now and be spared my wrath!”
The figure ranting and raving about the perils of Christmas being a time for credit card debt was a small, spindly man with a set of lungs and costume of someone twice his size. Batgirl had to give him credit for punching above his weight noise-wise, even if he was completely making Christmas shopping more difficult than it had to be. Unfortunately, points had to be deducted for the costume - a full face mask with a body length beard; the mask sagged and drooped off his face, and the beard was so long he kept tripping over it. Compounding the problem were the chains he had around each wrist that Batgirl was sure were paper mache. It was the lack of clinking as he gestured wildly that was a clue. A high budget production this apparently was not.
It was pretty clear by the lack of resistance he put up when she showed up to take him down that he wasn’t a fighter. In fact, it was pitiful how bad he was at it. She almost felt bad punching him in the solar plexus and then gooperanging him.
“There are... eleven … more obstacles …” he wheezed from where he was curled up on the floor.
“Twelve? Like, the days of Christmas?” Batgirl shrugged. “It’s cool, I got this.”
Twenty Minutes To When Santa Claws Is Coming To Town, December 25, Gotham Mall (The Santa Bermuda Triangle)
It was a sight not terribly unfamiliar at any suburban mall: a Santa in his North Pole cottage, a bunch of unimpressed teenagers dressed as elves and a line of children reaching off far into the horizon.
Or at least that is what it should have been.
Instead, there were six Santas in one location, each looking less like they were older gentlemen dressed as Santa and more like they were unstoppable death machines … which was not surprising as they were, in fact, death machines. The supposedly unimpressed teenagers ranged from still unimpressed and playing with their cell phones to downright freaked as they tried to herd the children away from the Santas.
“Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas” the six robotic Santas monotoned in unison, as they moved (in step, no less) to menace a group of children that had slipped away from their adolescent sheepdogs. The children, torn between screaming in terror or scowling in frustrated boredom (they were Gotham children, after all), compromised with screaming in boredom as Batgirl swung from the ceiling, cleaning up two Santas in a parabolic arc and spilling them onto their robotic butts. Here, they kicked their legs helplessly for a minute before shutting down. Batgirl spared a moment to lament the shoddy workmanship of robots these days before focusing her attention on destroying the magic of Christmas forever.
“You Are On The Naughty List This Year” the remaining four Santas intoned, still eerily in step with one another as they descended upon Batgirl where she crouched on the floor. As far as being threatening went, it was surprisingly effective. She had to give them points for that, as well as the menacing monotones as they told her how much of a naughty child she had been this year and so was going to get cold lead for Christmas.
What wasn’t effective though was their fighting technique. Much like the Spirit of Consumerism Is Awesome Thanks For Asking, serial killer Santa was all show and no come through, making it very easy to toss them out of the place on their asses … much like a few boyfriends Batgirl had had.
Judging by the stifled giggles from some of the girls, she’d said that last part aloud. Whoops. Hopefully that wasn’t picked up by the CCTV footage. Rather than try and pretend it never happened, Batgirl did a Bat approved shoot, swing and wave exit.
Five Minutes to Closing Time, December 24, Gotham Mall (near the food court)
Gift wrapping booths were always a tradition in the lead up to Christmas. An expensive tradition, but when your options were wrapping the presents yourself (often difficult, even if they were nice regular shaped boxes), Batgirl was not going to quibble. Besides, when you're shopping on Christmas Eve, you take what you can get.
Unfortunately this time 'what you could get' was a troupe (ten, Batgirl counted) of demonic Christmas elves all advising that if people didn't get their presents wrapped this year then your soul would be forfeit to whichever demonic lord could be bothered to claim it. Judging by how enthusiastic they were about this threat, it didn't seem like too many people's souls were prime demonic real estate. Also judging by the bored looks of the people around the diabolical wrapping station, no one was particularly concerned about the threat either. It was almost sad.
Still, a job was a job, and the eldritch-y pentacle glowing on the ground was probably bad news. As Batgirl prepared her exorcism Batarang (blessed by a priest nearby who looked rather flattered to be asked) a young girl armed with a Super Soaker opened fire, spraying water in all directions. The demonic Christmas elves sizzled as the water struck them, and then disappeared.
The question as to where the holy water came from was easily solved; a nearby young nun looked very pleased with herself. The identity of the girl was slightly harder, given that she was wearing a makeshift mask made from a scarf that covered her face.
"Oh, great," Batgirl moaned, flinging her Batarang in to deflect the attack of the last remaining demon before turning to the girl. "You really shouldn't be here. I'm grateful! Really! But you have to leave this stuff for the professionals, okay?" The girl huffed behind her pink scarf.
"I'm not a little kid, you know. I can help out!"
The voice sounded familiar, but it still took Batgirl a few minutes to put it together. "Nell?"
"Codenames! I'm the Pink Robin!"
She really was wearing a lot of pink. Maybe when Batman finished Batman Inc he could run a team of Batman themed power rangers.
"Also," the newly appointed Pink Robin continued on in a rush. "I have something for you! I was sneaking around and found this!" 'This' was a remarkably detailed set of instructions about who was to do what in the Gotham Mall Christmas Appreciation Attack -- which, Batgirl took a moment to acknowledge was nowhere near as good as her mental nickname of Santa Bores: The Movie -- including that the mastermind of all this was in the central management office, which apparently could only be accessed by his robots.
This was probably the worst attack on a Gotham facility since the Condiment King discovered he was allergic to dairy and soy.
"Thanks," Batgirl said instead. "Okay, I'm going to need you to go and look after your mom for me. Got it?" Pink Robin looked as crestfallen as one could behind a pink scarf. "It's important. Only you're good enough and brave enough to take care of her. I'll take care of this, but you have to promise to take care of your mom." Finally, Nell pulled her scarf down and nodded. "Good girl," Batgirl patted her head and gave her a gentle push.
Now, to find a robot she could use. As she looked at the reindeer nearby, singing about how if people were naughty they would get nothing because coal was too expensive to give to bad children, she sighed.
"You've got to be kidding," she complained to thin air on mounting what was probably Rudolph. "Up and away?"
3:10am, December 25, The Pit of Entirely Too Genre-Savvy Technogeeks and the Saintly Superheroine Who Tolerates Them Out of the Goodness of Her Heart (still the Batcave)
“Are you seriously telling me that the one way to get to where this guy was hiding was right there? What are the chances of that?” Proxy shook her head in disbelief.
“I told you. Worst. Job. Ever. Even my father did better than that.”
“Yeah, mine too.”
Oracle wisely kept silent on the relative merits of having a father who wasn’t a crazy supervillain with a penchant for bad clues and a near-lust for numbers. Instead, she just let the tape resume.
O’Christmas Tree Time, December 25, Gotham Mall (Central Management Office)
The problem with reindeer riding -- even if they were mechanical reindeer -- was that they didn’t take instructions well which, coupled with the fact that they ran really, really fast, meant that our intrepid young heroine was steering by ricocheting off walls. That might have something to do with the fact that Batgirl was not remotely experienced in how to ride mechanical reindeer towards where a villain’s Christmas den was. Maybe she could take lessons from Batman about that in the new year.
Talking about Batman, it was a good thing he had people to take care of the damage. In the meantime, Batgirl was just hopeful that they would make it to Central Management (of course that’s where the bad guy is) before more people get involved in his plans of nebulously defined threats of explosions or, worse, they destroy the mall with their reindeer riding. Given his track record thus far, it was far more likely that Batgirl would destroy more than he would.
Her dramatic entry -- storming into the Central Management office -- was brought about by the fact that Batgirl did not know how to stop. Her inability to stop also meant that during the usual Villain Motive monologue Batgirl didn’t stop. In fact, she didn’t even pay attention to his motivations because she was entirely too busy trying to stop the reindeer before she died a horrible, embarrassing death. She managed the braking part right as the reindeer ran into the unnecessarily large Christmas tree that was in the office. Normally Batgirl would question what kind of Christmas spirit needed an eight-foot tall tree, but under the circumstances she was not about to complain.
The circumstances, in this case, being that when she ran into the Christmas tree she knocked it over, causing it to fall to the ground and pin the ‘criminal mastermind’ underneath it. Judging by his shocked, indignant expression, this had certainly not been part of the plan. It hadn’t been part of Batgirl’s either, but minor details. She buffed her nails against her costume and tried to look as though this was entirely going to plan.
“There were twelve!” he complained, his being pinned under a Christmas tree somehow being less important than an adherence to a plan. “You were supposed to do all twelve! In sequence! You did them out of order and you skipped some and - and - and you’re not allowed to do that!”
Batgirl folded her arms and rolled her eyes.
“Next time, send us a list. We’ll even check it twice.”
3:30am, December 25, Batsanta Central (yes, still the Batcave)
“And that’s the story about how Batgirl and her sidekick saved Christmas,” Batgirl declared, trying to pass it off as being cool with her that they had watched her beat the snot out of a guy with the help of a little girl finding the world’s most obvious diabolical strategy.
“What’s with the beard?” Proxy had to ask.
“Oh, this?” Batgirl shrugged, tugging on her fake beard. “After ruining all those kids’ dreams about Santa, I decided to help out.”
Oracle was staring thoughtfully at the screen.
“O? You’re being kinda quiet over there.”
“That girl, Nell,” Oracle said finally. “What do you think she’ll do when she gets older?”
Batgirl was ready to offer a flippant quip. Then she stopped herself. “I think,” she said finally. “I think that whatever she chooses to do, that we’d better be ready for her. Today she might want to be Batgirl. Tomorrow, who knows? But … seeing her around, it makes you think. It reminds you why we do this. It’s not to beat up the Scarecrow or anything like that. It’s so that girls like Nell can be as safe as they can.”
Then she grinned. “Also if she bricks a guy when she’s older, he probably deserved it.”
“Not quite the object lesson we were hoping for,” Proxy interjected. “Also, who did you hit in the face with a brick?”
Batgirl grinned. “Never you mind.”
“Well, Batgirl? Despite the fact that you beat up both Santa and his Christmas elves and ruined Christmas for half a dozen children … you did very well.”
“Thanks, O.” Though Batgirl was aiming for flippantly dismissive, her grin changed subtly to a pleased smile, before she realized what she was doing and changed it back again.
“But don’t leave a batarang for the poor girl as a Christmas present.”
6:30am, December 25.
A batarang was left on Nell’s doorstep a few hours later with a cheerful note saying “Merry Christmas, love Batgirl ♥”.
Nell loved it.