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|"Ghost in the Machine"|
|First Published:||August 8, 2012|
|Previous Issue:||Batman #11|
|Next Issue:||Batman #13|
"Ghost in the Machine"Edit
It only took seven words, uttered in darkness, to change Harper Row's life. She had been working on a chewed cable down on a section of Gotham City's old power grid when she received a call from her brother Cullen.
Several weeks previously, Cullen had been trying to give her a makeover in their shabby apartment in the Narrows. He had put her in an elegant red dress, hoping that she would fit in better at the Wayne Gala she was invited to. The dress was anything but Harper's style, and she eagerly tugged off the elbow-length gloves, he put her in, explaining that her invite to the gala was a mere formality, given that Wayne Enterprises was planning to tear down their building. Frustrated, Cullen sat her down and explained that with all the stress of looking after him and hiding from their father, he just wanted her to take one night - this night - to enjoy herself. Sighing, she agrees to put on a blouse, though Cullen points out that without the dress he's put her in, she'll have no chance of attracting an eligible bachelor like Tim Drake - and then let him swoop in to seduce him.
As he fixed her hair, she noticed a bandage on his wrist and began questioning him about who cut him. He brushed her off, begging her to leave it alone for just the one night. He promised to stay in and be safe, insisting that she must enjoy herself, and shoving her out the door to get in the limousine that was waiting for her.
At the gala, while Bruce Wayne made his speech to the rich investors in attendance, Harper gravitated toward the dessert table, and began stuffing as many confections as she could into her bag. She thought she was in trouble when a man's voice warned that she was making a mistake. As it happened, it was Alfred Pennyworth, who, counter to her expectations, encouraged her to enjoy the brownies as well. At her request, he agreed to show her out, so she could get back to her brother.
On their way out, Alfred correctly guessed that she was Harper Row, the winner of a raffle for a ticket to the gala. He is was confused at her lack of interest in Bruce Wayne's intended development in her area, given that it would be quite transformative for her area. She responded that she could never get her hopes up when someone who has probably never even been to the Narrows promises to fix it up.
When she returned home, she found the lights off. The sound of Cullen's sobs alerted her to his situation, and she rushed to his side. He explained through his tears that he had been targeted for his sexuality, and men came to beat him up, mangling his long hair into a shortened mess. Trying to comfort him, Harper grabbed her clippers. The next day, Harper and Cullen went to school with the same messy hair, and with the word "Fag" shaved into the back of their heads. They would wear it proudly, and show their attackers that they couldn't be intimidated.
Harper had grown up fixing things. Her father had always been good at fixing things, but as he became more abusive, he started breaking things - including his children - and she grew to become good at fixing them herself. After they emancipated from him, Harper got a job with the city electrical engineer, and began working beneath the city on the power grid. The grid is old, but with her help in maintaining it, the lights stay on in the Narrows.
One night, as they walked home together, Harper and Cullen were accosted by the same thugs who beat him up before. Harper tried to stand up for him, but they punched Cullen in the face. Angrily she used her taser on one of them, sending him into convulsions on the ground, and daring his accomplice to come at her as well. Unfortunately, he had many, many more friends to back him up. Harper thought of how there could come a day when she goes down into the grid, and discovers something she couldn't fix. She worried that this might be one of those situations too.
Suddenly, the alley filled with smoke, and the Batman appeared, knocking the thugs out, and delivering a frightening warning to one of them, before sending him running. Harper and Cullen watched in amazement as he rappelled up to the roof of a nearby building, leaving them speechless. All Harper could do was smile.
She became obsessed, researching everything she could about Batman. Cullen, though he was extremely grateful to Batman for his ongoing safety, began to tire of her obsession. Dismissing his complaints, she explained how she managed to hack into the CCTV system of many cameras across the city, and discovered that every time Batman is in view of one of the cameras, the feed goes dead, only to return after the action has ended. She realized that for Batman to be able to shut down the system like that, he'd need to have his own network; a ghost grid built into or underneath the current system.
She investigated, and discovered fifteen spots on the grid; hubs where Batman had penetrated the mainframe to sap power. Surprisingly, the ghost grid was not being used just to scramble signals, but also to sustain the current grid - to prop up the city's own power system. He actually had been sapping power from Wayne Industries buildings in order to keep others going.
So, Harper had stolen each of the Bat-hubs, and modified them; improved them. This, as a thank you, for everything he had done for the city and for the Rows. Additionally, though, she had begun tracking him too. As she was doing so, she noticed that one of the hubs had gone dead, and resolved to look into it, and help him.
She went down into the grid, and found the box that was broken. She began fixing it, knowing that it would take someone very strong to damage it. This proved true, as Batman appeared, fighting a speedboat captained by Tiger Shark. He was investigating the attack by the Talon on Wayne Tower, and was now in a difficult situation. Harper tried to think of another way to help him, and her thoughts were drawn to a run-off valve. Turning it, the water drained out of the tunnels, forcing the boat to a stop. Confused by his success, Batman eyed the valve suspiciously. Happily, Harper returned home (and smelling of sewage) to her brother to announce that she had successfully helped the Batman.
Later, Harper would have another encounter with the Batman. He caught her at work on the grid, and warned that she should stop trying to help him. When she had fixed the hub, she had made him invisible to the police again, but he had actually wanted to become visible to the police, so that they could set up a net at the sewer mouth and catch Tiger Shark. Even so, she had grounded the boat. Batman had simply stated that whatever she was doing, she was finished.
Hearing that, Harper thought to herself the seven words that would change her life: "Harper Row, you're not finished. No way."
"Ghost in the Machine"Edit
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Harper Row (Flashback and Main Story)
- Cullen Row (First Appearance)
- Tiger Shark