“First sacrifice to the warriors who once had their home in this island…The Pythia (Oracle of delphi), to solon, c. 594 b.c.e.
Laid in the tombs of heroes with their faces turned to the sunset.”
Meeting The Oracle
Barbara Gordon didn’t understand why she was here. She’d been working at Wayne Enterprises for about three months, and, at least per her coworkers, was doing a pretty solid job as an audit accountant.
Wayne Enterprises had been one of the few local places that was willing to hire a young woman just out of junior college, but there was this whole worker cooperative thing that she didn’t quite understand. If Wayne was owned by the employees, what happened if she decided to leave to pursue a better degree.
Not that she needed it. Barbara was talented with numbers and with information. She saw connections in places where others wouldn’t look. But for the life of her, she didn’t know why she was here.
It was Mr. Wayne’s office, not that he was ever using it. Mostly it was used for meetings and interviews, and on the off chance that Bruce Wayne was downtown and needed to make a phone call. She had seen him…once since she’d been at Wayne Enterprises.
She knew she was doing well at work though. But her provisional contract wasn’t up for review for another six months, and, to her knowledge, cooperatives didn’t vote people in early. Especially not federated cooperatives like Wayne.
Could she be getting fired? She steeled herself for the possibility. It didn’t make any sense, unless. She did notice a string of accounts errors going back for about a year, maybe she’d discovered some kind of embezzlement plot and this was retaliatory.
She scanned the room, looking for something, something she could use to give herself some security. Maybe they’ll let her stop at her desk and they won’t watch her while she packs her things.
Wait, no. Tommy was the one responsible for the errors, and he copped, and it was only a couple grand. Certainly a lot of money to her, but for a company as big as this, nothing to get worked up over, especially if it wasn’t a pattern.
Barbara chuckled inwardly at her own paranoia and relaxed. It wasn’t like the library wouldn’t want her back.
“Miss Gordon,” came the pleasant, almost calming voice of an older man. Probably negro. She couldn’t place it. It wasn’t someone she’d met before. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I’m Lucius Fox, and I direct a lot of the day-to-day operations here,” Lucius extended a hand to Barbara as he took his place behind the desk; she rose to shake it.
“Your colleagues tell me you’re doing some wonderful work, and I wanted to talk to you about a job that I think might be a perfect fit for you, assuming you’re interested.”
“An opportunity?” Barbara’s guard felt like it was unable to go up around this man. He had such a kind, grandfatherly way about him.
“Yes Miss Gordon,” Fox’s words seemed to smile along with him. “Have you met Bruce Wayne?”
There’s the other shoe.
Barbara Gordon had met Bruce Wayne once. She believed that he’d invited her to a gala to benefit the library after making an enormous contribution –– including some very rare reference books –– and she’d been so flustered at the audacity of some blueblood inviting her as his date to an event that she was already invited to as library staff that she ended up telling him off in what had to be the loudest outburst the library had heard in years.
She was of course, deeply embarrassed when he clarified that he didn’t mean as a date, but was inviting her to be a part of the planning committee, as they didn’t have any library employees helping to plan the event, and that seemed like a foolish oversight. Barbara suggested Mable Martin instead, politely declining the invitation; in fact, Barbara was so mortified that she skipped the gala altogether, and the free tickets to the annual fundraiser were half the reason that she took the part time job working at the library in the first place.
She blushed a little at the memory.
Wayne was never here, though. And he wouldn’t have remembered her just by name. He couldn’t personally review every single employee who worked here, could he?
In any case, she had no plans to be a pawn in some matchmaking game for the absentee, eponymous boss, regardless of how eligible a bachelor he was. But she was smart. And she wouldn’t let her offense at this unrealized prospect embarrass her a second time.
Barbara Gordon fixed her face into something like a disinterested scowl and replied.
“I’ve had the pleasure.”
“Wonderful,” beamed Lucius, looking over the nondisclosure document that Barbara had signed prior to the meeting. “It just so happens that he has a younger adopted brother named Dick Grayson, and Dick is running for mayor of Gotham. He’s putting together a campaign team, and I think you’d make an excellent choice for his campaign manager.”
Barbara exhaled, and had to force herself to smile.
“Mister Fox, I’m flattered, truly, but…” she searched for the right words. “I don’t have any experience with politics. I might not be right for this job.”
“Well, Miss Gordon, we’re not going to ask you to do anything you wouldn’t be comfortable with, but here are a few of the important details. First, if you take the job, it’s a raise, a considerable one. Secondly, we’d pause your probationary contract here for the duration of the campaign, so there would be a position for you when you return. Finally, everyone here would be rooting for you. Win or lose, it’s likely that you’d get converted to a worker-owner as soon as you returned.”
Barbara’s mind was racing. The pay at Wayne Enterprises was already better than most places, a raise would let her start saving a considerable amount of money. She feigned thinking about it for a moment.
“I’ll take it!” she practically shouted it with the kind of confidence that would of course lead her to blush in mere moments.
“Not so fast Miss Gordon,” chuckled Lucius. “We’ll give you the rest of the day off –– paid, of course –– but you’ll need to head out to Wayne Manor for a formal interview.”
Barbara’s face was hot, and she was certain a glowing, sunburnt shade of red to match her hair.
“Don’t fret Miss Gordon. For what it’s worth, and I suspect it’s worth quite a bit, you’re the only candidate who I’ve written a letter of recommendation for,” Mr. Fox’s smile quelled most of her embarrassment.
“Thank you,” she said earnestly. “But, I don’t know if I can ride my bike all the way to Wayne Manor by the end of the day.”
“That won’t be a problem.”
Interviews had started in earnest for Dick Grayson’s campaign team, and had left a number of applicants vexed.
It was less than traditional to feed people you were interviewing for a job. It was downright confusing to have to sign paperwork and then be sent, with a private driver, to speak to Mr. Wayne for something like a promotion, but when you’re a worker at Wayne Industries, there are certain courtesies that are observed in honor of the family that started the businesses –– no matter how eccentric that Bruce Wayne might seem sometimes.
“I liked her, what was wrong with her?” Dick said as an applicant – a very blonde applicant – left, and the car could be heard pulling off.
“She was impressive on a number of metrics, but she didn’t have what you’re looking for,” replied Bruce.
“Oh, and what exactly am I looking for Bruce?”
“Someone who makes your flaws into strengths.”
Dick gave Bruce a blank expression.
“You’re supposed to be better than formulaic bullshit,” he said in a monotone.
“Formulaic bullshit doesn’t make it untrue.”
“Okay, Sigmund. How would you make hotheaded into a strength?”
“First of all,” started Bruce, “you have exceptional mental clarity when you’re angry. You’re focused, you’re quick, and you’re good at adapting. However, on the campaign trail, you’ll need someone to help you train your mind to be more clear when you’re not angry, and to direct that anger into something productive. Ultimately, th––”
“Ahem. I believe our next candidate is here,” announced Alfred.
Dick tried to breathe deeply and hide the annoyance he was feeling for Bruce. It wasn’t that Bruce was wrong, it was that it wasn’t going to be as easy as he made it sound. But Dick would play it cool for now.
“Miss Barbara Gordon,” Alfred’s voice boomed as he held the door open for the well-dressed, bespectacled woman who looked rather stuffy (owing to the tight bun of auburn hair atop her head with not a single strand out of place, and her unsmiling lips) to Bruce and Dick. “Please, have a seat.”
Barbara refused the suggested seat, approaching Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at the end of the long, dark wood dining table. She extended her hand to the men for a shake. Her grip was firm, and betrayed a quiet confidence that was about to get much louder. She took the chair opposite Bruce, nearest to Dick who was standing at the head of the table with his hands flat on its surface.
“Tell me more about your campaign, Dick,” she said, not bothering with any of the formalities. “Why are you running to be the next mayor of Gotham?”
Bruce began to reply, but Dick held up his hand. He’d prepared for this question:
“Listen, I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate, considering my modest beginnings. My parents died when I was ten, and, honestly, I’m lucky that I didn’t.” Barbara produced a notepad and a pen, jotting down details as Dick spoke.
“When my parents died, I was able to ‘bounce back’ because I was taken in by a family. I was given emotional and financial support by these brilliant men. And every day in Gotham, I see young people who are on the precipice of falling through the cracks.
“Thing is, Gotham is a city with a wealth of talent, but we are incredibly poor when it comes to opportunity. We spend too much money on police to make people like Bruce and me more comfortable, but Gotham isn’t investing public dollars in the President’s jobs programs. In fact, Wayne Enterprises is the only company with reliable work and fair wages that seems to have started hiring again…”
Barbara liked what she was hearing, even if a lot of it felt like the types of things that Karlo would say, Dick had an authenticity to his words, and it didn’t hurt that he had boyish good looks and had the wealthiest man in the city behind him.
“…which is to say, that it would be easy to ignore the growing violence in our city, and just churn through police commissioners who would rather just fill jails than get people the help they need. But we need someone who will be an advocate for the everyday Gothamite. And that needs to include everyone: Women, men, kids. Blacks, whites, and whoever else comes to our city looking for a safety net,” Dick paused, his eyes shifting to Bruce, then to Barbara, with just the slightest hint of a smile on his face.
Barbara looked down at her notes, seeing the scribbled words “circus” and “acrobat family,” and understood it to be an attempt at humor. She forced a snicker, while Bruce muttered “cut that.” Dick rolled his eyes and continued:
“My vision of Gotham is a safe place to start. I want our city to be a place where hard work is rewarded with community; people who will attribute their success to our nurturing city, and be excited to pay it forward.”
“So,” Barbara raised an eyebrow without lifting her eyes from her notepad, “I guess we can expect higher taxes if you win?” the question was earnest, if a bit cynical.
“I don’t think the people of Gotham are going to be upset about higher taxes if they see their money being invested in their community. If the trash is picked up on time, and the bus runs on schedule, and the streets are safe and the parks are green, who’s gonna complain?
“The problem we have now is that Karlo is charging you an arm and a leg, between the permits and the cost of living, and you can’t even get a school bus stop in your neighborhood if you’re by the docks.”
Barbara nodded, acknowledging Dick’s thesis. “So what’s your plan?” How will you connect with voters? Do you know who else is planning a primary run?”
Dick put his index finger in the air and opened his mouth to say something, but then his expression fell.
“If I may,” Bruce cut in. “It’s early enough that if Wayne Enterprises is backing Dick, it should clear the field for the primary, barring some scandal that we don’t know about,” Bruce eyed Dick, half-serious.
“Wayne Enterprises is the biggest employer of Gothamites in Gotham by quite a bit. Obviously there’s nothing at stake, everything will continue if Dick isn’t elected –– but we do feel like our thumb is on the scale for him. Of course you’ll understand, none of that means we can take Karlo for granted. The corruption in Gotham might only be an inch across, but it’s a mile deep; we’ll need to be ready for Karlo’s dirty tricks and his dirtier friends.”
“Hmm,” Barbara pondered audibly, pushing her glasses up further on her nose. “I’d need to do some more research, but what else can you tell me about your expectations of me?”
“With respect Miss Gordon, we haven’t even offered you the job.” Dick shot back with some severity. Barbara was caught a bit off guard, and scanned the faces across the table: Bruce, built like an olympic wrestler, was stoic, not revealing anything. Alfred, however, was a little older and perhaps less of a card player. He showed the first signs of grey hair on his head and in his mustache; and slight wrinkles by his twinkling eyes; he smiled ever-so-briefly, and Barbara took that as a positive.
“Mr. Fox said he’d be personally recommending me because of my analytical abilities, and while I don’t want to assume anything, I think the question marks and lines through the other names on your notepad there make it a safe bet that I’m at least in the running.” She smiled the words, masking the annoyance at the younger man playing coy. “So, again, what can you tell me about your expectations of me?”
“Why don’t you tell us what you think would give this position an ideal fit?” asked Alfred with the warm, pleasant strength of earl grey with just a teaspoon of honey.
“Well, I think I’d want to be a resource,” Barbara began, “I’m a strong writer, so I could help with speeches, and I’m very well organized, so as we staff up, I could keep close track of your calendar.” She said we as though she were already on the team. It was a clever way to make the candidate and his family feel a little more comfortable with her. “I’d really want to direct our opposition research, too. I only moved back to Gotham about eight months ago, but I grew up here, and I absorbed a lot of interesting local history while I worked at the library on breaks from school my friends – and there aren’t too many of them left, which is a little embarrassing, actually, so many marriages and little house makers settling down – they call me The Oracle, because I just know a lot.” she rolled her eyes, and seemed to suddenly realize that she’d revealed some very personal information.
She chewed her lip, a bit nervously. “Sorry.”
Dick narrowed his eyes, but then opened them more widely, and smiled that million-dollar smile. All of his skepticism seemed to melt away, and he, Bruce, Alfred, and Barbara, started discussing their voter-outreach plans.
By the end of the conversation, Bruce had made Barbara a formal offer, which, in her words, she would “need to think about, but it feels like the right move.” The foursome seemed satisfied with the results and the interaction, and made their goodbyes.
Alfred walked her back to the car, and spoke briefly with the driver. Barbara thanked Alfred (more emphatically than she had thanked Bruce or Dick), and the car departed the manor to take Barbara home for the evening.
They really don’t trust the police, the thought repeated in Barbara Gordon’s head, over and over.
“Excuse me,” she spoke out loud to the driver. “Would you mind dropping me off at the Harborview Library downtown?”
“Not a problem, Miss Gordon,” the driver said in singsong tones.
Gotham City Police Department’s Central District Headquarters was just across the street, and it had been too long since she’d had dinner with her father.