Melanie awoke to the sound of muttered curses. It took her a moment to remember why there would be someone else in her apartment with her, and why she'd fallen asleep sitting in a chair rather than in her bed. She opened her eyes to find her red haired guest struggling to get out of the bed. She stood quickly and ducked under the girl's arm to help support her from the side. "Do you need to use the bathroom?" the girl flushed a bit and nodded. "Alright, I'll help you walk. It's right around the corner."
Melanie helped the girl into the bathroom until the point where she could grab onto the counter to maneuver on her own. "I'll be just outside if you need help," Melanie said as she walked out and shut the door behind her. Leaning up against the wall, she considered her next move. Obviously she needed to get the girl to a hospital where she could get her leg treated and get in touch with her family. She weighed her options for a moment before realizing that she didn't know enough about the situation to make a good decision. The door to the bathroom opened, interrupting Melanie's mental berating of herself.
The two young women stood in the small corridor in awkward silence for a moment, neither sure of what to say to the other. Melanie took a deep breath, "Okay, I'm sorry, I'm not very good at this. Umm... Why don't we start by finding something clean for you to change into and maybe figure out something to eat. Does that sound okay to you?" The girl nodded her assent and Melanie helped guide her back into the small bedroom. She helped her sit on the edge of the bed, then started rummaging through her small dresser, trying to find something likely to fit the girl. "My name's Melanie, by the way. What's yours?" she asked as she pulled a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt from one of the drawers.
The girl shifted uncomfortably for a moment, considering whether she should tell this person anything before noticing the disassembled collar, surrounded by small tools sitting on the night stand. That, she reasoned, along with the treatment she was presently getting was probably enough to be able to trust this girl, now tossing articles of clothing to the floor from her dresser, with her name at least. "My name is Moira," she said, her voice barely reaching over the shuffling of flying fabric.
Melanie stopped and turned to look back over her shoulder, "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
"My-my name is Moira."
Melanie, having finally found what she was looking for after depopulating most of the drawers in the room, returned to Moira's side with the articles of clothing she'd found and dropped the small stack next to her on the bed. "Moira..." she paused momentarily as something finally clicked together in her head, "Moira Kane. You're Moira Kane aren't you?" Melanie barely noted the girl's nod to the affirmative as her mind started racing. The Kanes were one of the most affluent families in Gotham and had been for generations. What parts of the city weren't owned by Wayne-Powers were owned by the Kanes.
Even in the most favorable circumstances this would lead to her getting far more attention than she wanted. The case of the missing Kane heiress had been all over the news for the past few days. In the worst case she could be sent to prison if Moira decided that she was Melanie's captive rather than her guest. There were no easy ways out of this. Moira would know where she lived and what she looked like, so there was no real use in trying to send her off to the hospital in a taxi. She also didn't want to risk Moira being kidnapped again en route. Melanie groaned, it looked like the best she would be able to manage at the moment was to make sure that her guest saw her as a rescuer rather than another captor.
Moira, noticing Melanie's sudden agitation asked, "Is something the matter? If my family has done you any injustice in the past..." she was cut off when Melanie pressed her finger over her lips.
"No, it's nothing like that," said Melanie, shaking her head gently. "It's just that...you...your fame makes this more complicated." She paused a moment before moving on, "Why don't you get changed and I'll go see about fixing us something for breakfast, alright?" She turned and began to walk out but stopped suddenly when she felt Moira grab the back of the loose shirt she was wearing.
"You're not going to-to turn me back over to those people are you?"
Melanie turned and crouched to bring her to Moira's eye level. Resting her hand on Moira's shoulder she said, "I will see that you get safely back to your family. I promise." Moira's face seemed to lose some of its tension, "We'll talk more in a few minutes, just give a yell when you're changed." Melanie walked out of the room and shut the door. What had possessed her to make a promise like that? She was worried about the girl's safety, but she thought she'd already decided to stay as uninvolved as she could.
Melanie continued to mull over her heart's betrayal of her brain while she prepared an omelet using the remnants of various meals she'd taken from the restaurant. She was quick in the kitchen owing to the months of practice she'd now had, and finished cooking just moments before Moira called her through the door. Melanie sighed, her internal conflict having yet to reach a conclusion, and went to help Moira into the Kitchen. Moira attacked the omelet voraciously the moment a plate was laid in front of her, pausing only to drink from her glass of juice.
Melanie watched as she attacked her own breakfast, though less enthusiastically than her guest. "So," she said as Moira's pace started to slow, "can you tell me how you were abducted and who your captors were?"
Moira took a swallow of juice before responding. "I don't really know who they were, they were careful not to let me see any of their faces. They were running some type of gambling business, betting on which ones of us would make it back alive every morning. They took me while I was on the way home from school. There was an explosion...and the car flipped I think," she was holding her head in her hands, her eyes closed as she tried to remember. "Everything happened so quickly, I...oh no, Melissa and Jenny, I think they...they..."
"Who are Melissa and Jenny?"
"My bodyguards. I think...I remember Jenny pushing me down and falling on top of me. Melissa was covered in blood. So much blood..." her voice trailed off and she began to cry once again. After a brief moment of indecision, Melanie stood and walked over to embrace the sobbing, shuddering girl.
"Shhh, it's alright now," said Melanie in as soothing a voice as she could manage. "You're safe now. In a few hours you'll be back with your family and everything will be alright," *and hopefully I won't be under arrest for getting involved in this mess* she added mentally. Melanie found that she genuinely felt sorry for the girl, having been immersed in a world of violence and death since her youth she remembered how shaken she had been after seeing someone die up close the first time, and Moira hadn't had a hard past to prepare her for that type of experience like Melanie had. She continued to comfort the girl until the racking sobs began to subside into sniffles.
"So, are you going to be okay for the trip to the hospital?"
"Yes, I think I'll be alright now."
"Alright, just let me get changed and we'll get going." Melanie walked quickly back into her room and closed the door. She pulled open the bottom drawer in her nightstand and retrieved her old costume. She considered for a moment before changing into the costume and pulling on a long pair of jeans and a sweatshirt to cover it. She left the mask in the drawer and stared at it for a moment before kicking it shut and returning to Moira. She helped the injured girl to her feet and guided her out the door, hoping she wouldn't run into any of her neighbors in the halls.
After a lengthy struggle with the stairs which had ended in Melanie princess carrying Moira down two and a half stories while the red head apologized continually, the two managed to reach the street outside. Melanie helped Moira to lean up against a lamp post while she hailed a cab. The ride to Gotham General was uneventful and took almost an hour due to the roundabout route the driver had taken to avoid rush hour traffic and both young women were feeling a bit twitchy by the time they arrived. Melanie paid the cab, completely depleting her remaining cash in the process.
Melanie had just started to help Moira walk towards the entrance to the ER, a mere seven or eight meters away when Moira tripped, just a few steps in, pulling Melanie down with her. A beam of light passed just inches above them as they toppled, traveling through the now empty space that their heads had occupied just moments earlier and striking a nearby ambulance, scorching the paint. Melanie pushed Moira back down as she attempted to get to her feet and quickly pulled her to cover, behind the ambulance. There was more gunfire now and Melanie peeked around the corner of the ambulance to assess their enemies. There were three men, dressed in nondescript clothing and armed with police issue laser carbines. Sirens had started to sound in the distance.
Melanie muttered a curse as she reached into her purse and drew out a small pouch from which she pulled a number of what looked like normal playing cards. She went to take another glance around the back of the vehicle when she heard Moira scream. She spun quickly, spotted another man with a drawn gun approaching the frightened girl, and moved quickly to interpose herself between them. Before the man could fire, she reached out and wrenched his pistol off to the side, trapping his finger in the guard and driving him to the floor. She slammed her elbow against the back of his head as he hit the ground, leaving him sprawled, unconcious on the asphalt.
Ducking instinctively as the front compartment windows of the ambulance blew out under a hail of gunfire, Melanie quickly made her way back to the rear of the heavily damaged vehicle and took another quick glance around the back. Two of the men were now exchanging fire with a police officer who was now ducking behind a planter near the entrance, the other was covering the ambulance and snapped off a sloppy shot when he saw Melanie's head clear the corner.
Melanie turned to Moira, and gave her the gun she had taken off of their assailant a moment earlier. "Stay right here, I'll be back for you in a minute," she said, leaving no room for comment as she turned and quickly dashed across the space between the Ambulance and the next vehicle back. She flung two of her cards at the man covering the ambulance as she ran and grinned when she heard the crackle of electricity followed by a dull thud as she ducked behind the old car that had been parked behind the emergency vehicle. She winced as her smile brought her attention to the laser burn she'd just acquired on her right cheek, a very near miss from the shooter. The sound of sirens was louder now, the police were probably a bit more than a minute away.
One of the two remaining gunmen turned to check on their fallen comrade and noticed Melanie peeking out from behind the car. He laced the car with laser fire for a moment before his gun's charge finally gave out. He drew a handgun from the waistband of his pants just as Melanie stood and threw her final card. The card hit the gun and wreathed it in arcing electricity for a moment. Melanie took the opportunity to dash back toward the ambulance as the shock should have disabled the electronics in the laser pistol. The man grinned, pointed the firearm at her and pulled the trigger. A deafening bang sounded as the gun discharged and Melanie felt a searing pain in her side as she ducked behind the vehicle and landed sloppily next to the red headed girl.
The pain was blinding, and it was spreading along with the dull feeling of warmth radiating out from the wound. Melanie tried to get to her feet, but her legs suddenly wouldn't obey her. She struggled to sit up to lean against the side of the emergency vehicle, and almost slipped in the rapidly expanding puddle of her own blood. It was hard to breathe, and the taste of iron filled her mouth. She tried to catch her breath, but half way she coughed, filling the air in front of her with a fine crimson mist. Willing herself not to panic she blinked the tears from her eyes and turned toward where she was sure the gunman would come around the back of the ambulance to finish them off.
Her mind reeling from shock, trying desperately to watch for the shadow on the ground that would foretell the gunman's approach, she was completely taken by surprise when she heard Moira scream from behind her. Moira was holding the gun she'd been given, pointing it at the man with the pistol. Her hands were trembling as she tried to force herself to pull the trigger, the man was grinning as he slowly tightened his own finger, taking pleasure in the fear of his victim. With a cry, Melanie forced herself to stand and threw herself onto Moira, pushing her down as the man fired.
Suddenly she was lying prone on the ground, her entire being seemed to be made of agony. She could hear a man's voice saying something behind her and a woman's scream, the air suddenly filled with light and noise. Suddenly there was a female voice whispering something in her ear, she tried to pay attention to what the words were, and she was still trying to figure it out as the world turned to black around her.