Gotham City Museum – Egyptian Exhibit

12:38 AM

If you took the time to think about it, you'd realize that Gotham City is not a very complicated place. At the absolute minimum, three hundred and seventy-nine different shades of crazy, yes. But not so much complicated. Not if you took a little time to learn a few simple rules.

Most people who live – and want to continue living – in Gotham city took the time to learn these rules. Because let's face it, when you live in a city where stepping on a daisy or misusing the word "clown" can send you to meet your maker a little earlier than you planed, you do whatever you can to increase your chances of survival. In fact, learning the rules of Gotham City's criminal underworld was pretty much the one sane thing you could expect all but the craziest people to do.

It wasn't even that hard to do. Most of the rules were fairly simple, revolving around what crimes you should or should not commit. For instance: feel like robbing the Double Trouble Club? Don't. If Two-Face doesn't own it, chances are he's planning to rob it. Want to steal all of the diamonds during the Winter Social Charity Ball? Enjoy being turned into an icicle by Mr. Freeze. Want to get revenge on your enemy by systematically scaring him to death? You really don't want to attract the Scarecrow's attention in that way.

It was really that simple. Certain people had certain themes, and with those themes came dibs on certain crimes. And so, if you wanted to live in Gotham – with live being the operative word here – you took simple steps to avoid committing other people's crimes. It was the smart thing to do. And –more importantly among Gotham's criminal elite – it was the polite thing to do. That was why even the less homicidal of Gotham's rouges, such as the Riddler or Catwoman, could set out on a crime spree secure in the knowledge that they generally wouldn't have to compete with another costumed criminal.

That was why one Selina Kyle, known world over as the super-criminal and master-thief Catwoman, was literally flabbergasted to find someone actively stealing the golden statue of Bast she had just arrived to steal herself.

Selina stood, frozen as completely as that out-of-town b-lister who had annoyed Victor the previous week, and stared at the black-clad figure that was currently suspended over the glass case holding her statue.

No. Just no. This was not happening. She was clearly hallucinating; too little sleep, too much sushi, something. There was no way this was actually happening.

A sharp sound cut the silence of the museum, pulling her from her disbelieving fugue.

Glass-cutter. That's the sound a glass-cutter makes. There was someone – some thief! – suspended over her statue, using a glass-cutter on the case. And now that someone was reaching into the case, and pulling out her statue!

Oh, hell no.

In one fluid move Selina leapt from her hiding spot, slashed through the ropes suspending the other thief, and caught hold of the hand holding the statue. "You're obviously new in town if you haven't learned what not to ste-"

And to her further shock, Selina was interrupted mid-threat by a booted foot to the solar-plexus, and a gloved hand slipping from her grasp. She stumbled back, gasping for air, only managing to recover in time to see the thief slip out through the sky-light.

The Catwoman's eyes narrowed sharply beneath tinted goggles, mild annoyance giving way to true anger. Then, with practiced ease, she leapt up, sprung off the wall, and passed through the skylight before any of the museum rent-a-cops arrived in the room.


Downtown Gotham City

1: 17 AM

The night was not turning out the way Selina had planned. Instead of being at home – soaking in a scented bubble-bath and purring over her beautiful new statue – she was chasing some unknown thief, who clearly did not know what constituted proper etiquette in Gotham, across the entire city in an attempt to retrieve her statue.

Oh, and to make matter worse? Somewhere around that Slovenian convenience store Harley swore was home to a cult of the elder gods, Selina had realized the thief she was chasing was just that.

A thief.

No costume. No theme. No membership to any sort of super-criminal society.

A died-in-the-wool, old-school thief.

The moment she had realized this, Selina's efforts to catch the other woman had doubled.

As snobbish as it might sound, there was a degree of elitism that came with the title "super-criminal." It implied that one was a cut above all others in their profession. It came with contacts others could only dream of. And it came with a great deal of responsibility.

After all, it was one thing for another super-criminal to steal something out from under you. While not particularly enjoyable, or polite, that sort of thing did happen sometimes. Someone stole something that you were after one week, and you stole something they were after another week. Then, if you happened to be in the same town and were amiable enough, you shared a drink over it later because let's face it, when you dress in tights and run around stealing things you don't exactly have a big social pool to draw from.

But to lose a score to a regular criminal, someone who didn't even have the powers or gadgets to explain why they got the jump on you…

Selina leapt over another roof-top, closing the gap somewhat, and suppressed a shudder. If anyone ever found out about this… ugh, she could just hear Harley and Ivy laughing at her now.

There was one thing that made her feel better about the whole fiasco. The other woman, who ever she was, was good. By this point Selina had been able to get a good assessment of the other thief's skills, and had to grudgingly admit that this thief was, if not in her league, pretty close. The other thief moved over the rooftops of Gotham like she was born to sprint around and jump off buildings, and – despite clearly not knowing the city – had even managed to lose Selina a few times.

It was almost a pity that she would have to end the chase; she hadn't had a work-out like this since her last run-in with a certain tall, dark, and brooding vigilante.

But, in the end, the other woman had Selina's statue of Bast. And Selina didn't feel like giving it up.

A quick shortcut over a run-down dinner-theater, and Selina pounced down on her adversary, bringing her to the ground.

"As I was saying!" she wrestled with the other for a small black bag, just the right size to hold her statue, "You're clearly new in town if you haven't learned what not to steal!" A sharp twist won her the bag, and her hand shot out to snatch the hood and face-mask combo from the other's head.

The moment she did, Selina had just enough time to stare at a pretty face not yet out of its teens, framed by blonde hair, before something pressed against her neck and the world went dark.


Downtown Gotham, Rooftop of Toby's Eats

1:42 AM

When the world finally came back into focus, the – teenage?! – girl was gone. Along with the statue.

Wincing from the pain of a very powerful taser, Selina Kyle, the world-renowned super-thief Catwoman, decided to scrape up what was left of her tattered pride, slink back to her apartment, and sleep the night off like a bad hangover.

As soon as her legs stopped twitching.


McRory's Pub, Boston; 5 Years Later

"So, Virgil Thorpe, president and CEO of Thorpe Unlimited. Now officially, this guy's company, they manufacture various types of heavy-duty robots and machines for construct sites, oil-rigs… they even have a few contracts with places like Star Labs."

Nate Ford, former IYS-investigator and current criminal mastermind, took a drink from a large glass of scotch. "And unofficially?"

Alec Hardison, 25 year old genius and hacker extraordinaire, grinned at his team. "Unofficially Mr. Virgil Thorpe is a very bad man. For the last few years he's been supplying equipment to Intergang, Kobra… pretty much anyone who'll pay him enough."

"Wait, wait…" Sophie Devereaux, the world's greatest or worst actress depending on the legality of the role she was playing, glanced up in confusion. "This guy works with places like Star Labs and no one's caught on to this yet?"

The hacker shook his head, "You'd think that. Thing is, Thorpe's pretty smart, very careful… and extremely boring."

"Boring? What does that have to do with anything?"

"See, Thorpe will only take cash payments, and he hardly does anything with them."

"What, you mean he just takes the money and sits on it? Like Parker?" Eliot Spencer, the team's hitter, shot a glance at said money-obsessed thief, who simply grinned in response.

"I guess. I mean…" Hardison scrolled through a series of documents and files on the series of screens before him, "The guy spends about as much money as Silas Marner. Seriously," he shook his head in disbelief, "it'd be nearly impossible to find something on this guy."

Sophie walked closer to the screens, "Oh come on Hardison, everyone has some little vice or two that can be exploited. Drugs, fast horses, faster women…"

"First thing I checked. The man does not drink, does not gamble, does not chase girls or guys. He's doesn't have any ugly skeletons in his closet, and he is so careful to keep his business looking clean I'm surprised the books don't smell like Pine-Sol."

From behind his newly refilled glass, Nate raised an eyebrow, "Hardison? I do believe you said, 'nearly impossible.'"

Snickering quietly, Hardison shared a smirk with Nate. "Yep, nearly impossible… which is why I'm about to prove – once again – that I am damn good at my job." He brought up a series of websites and pages on the screens, "Let's take a little look at the secret hobby of Mr. Virgil Thorpe. Items bought at auction through aliases, expeditions funded through shell companies, subscriptions to a very large number of magazines and journals under even more aliases… the man is ob-sessed with ancient Egypt. Particularly," he brought up a few more images on the screens, "with the idea of discovering a lost tomb."

Nate smiled and nodded, "There's our in. It's the Treasure-hunter's Tango."

"I swear you're just making stuff up now."

Sophie shook her head, "The Treasure-hunter's Tango. It's pretty simple really. You approach someone with an artifact of some ancient society, and tell them you've located a lost ruin or tomb, but you don't have to money to excavate the site. They bankroll a dig for something that isn't there, and – if you're good – you get access to their bank account. Done right it's a breeze."

"Great. So all we need is some ancient Egyptian artifact to hook Thorpe with."

Parker's head shot up from her cereal-covered slice of pizza. "I've got a gold cat statue-y thing I picked up in Gotham a few years ago. Never really got around to fencing it."

The rest of the team stared at her in surprise. "Damn girl," Hardison whistled, "If it's a cat statue I can't believe you got to it. Catwoman usually picks up that kind of thing."

"Oh, is that her name?" the blonde shrugged, "She really wanted the cat-statue-y-thing. I ended up having to tase her a little to make her stop following me."

Surprise became abject shock.

"You… you tased Catwoman."

Parker nodded.

"Catwoman. You… you stole a cat statue she was after – out from under her – tased her, and got away. In Gotham City."

Parker nodded again, looking somewhat confused.

Staring for a second longer, Hardison half fell into the chair next to her. "Have I ever told you that you are the single most beautiful woman on the planet Earth?"

Still confused, Parker smiled at him and took another bite of her cereal pizza.