When Tina Stark got the news that she was going to attend Gotham High, she was pissed off. Even more when she found out she was being put in what the school called its “Alternate Curriculum Class”, which she knew was code for “Problem Kids”. The class was kept in its own separate building from the rest of Gotham High, like teachers expected there might be some kind of disease that could infect the “Normal” classes. The building was all the way across the campus from the parking lot where Tina’s motorcycle (and concealed Iron Girl Suit) were.
Two desks were open as Tina entered her classroom for the first time. Tina sat in the one closest to the door, and the eyes of all her classmates seemed to stick on her. No big deal. Tina was used to being stared at… she was the daughter of Tony Stark, after all.
Barely a half hour into class, the teacher just up and walked out. Jason Blood was a no-nonsense kind of guy, and even the students who knew him better than Tina didn’t know what to make of that. A weird kid named Jay with dyed-green hair stood up and started an improvised rap performance in the back of the class, nearly starting a fight with a huge scaly-skinned football player type named Waylon.
“Hey, there are cops outside!” Jay broke off, and hopped up into the window of the classroom. Almost immediately, the entire class had their faces pressed up against the glass. Sure enough, SWAT officers were sweeping the campus in pairs.
“They aren’t cops,” A young man named Bruce Wayne said. He was a quiet guy in class, but he seemed athletic and really smart.
“How do you know?” Tina asked.
“Their weapons are manufactured by Alchemax,” Bruce answered without hesitation. “The GCPD SWAT teams have their armaments provided by Lexcorp. And look, their uniforms still have creases… they’re brand new. And the patches have just been sewn on. You’d never see that in an actual, operating SWAT unit.”
The momentary silence following Bruce’s statement was broken by Harvey Dent.
“Jeez,” Harvey said. “Way to go, Sherlock Holmes.”
“Uh,” Bruce seemed a little nervous, for some reason. “I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”
The students murmured about what they thought could be happening. Pamela took out her cell phone to make a call, and found the signal jammed. All anyone’s cell phone would do was play a recording: "So he made rebellion ’gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
“Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”
“That’s Kipling,” Barbara Gordon said aloud. "A poem called “cold iron”."
Tina attempted to call her suit to her remotely. Again, the attempt was blocked, but Tina triggered a new recording: “Take up the White man’s burden
Send forth the best ye breed -
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;”
“Kipling again,” piped up Eddie Nigma, eager to show up his rival in academia, Barbara. “You know, this has to be a puzzle! It’s… clues, supposed to be given to a target that could understand them! If I was trying to give clues, I’d DEFINITELY tailor-make them to the recipient!”
The students tried to figure out a possible meaning, but Tina felt time was pressing. She asked if anyone would assist her in getting to the parking lot. Vic Zsasz stepped up.
Tina and Vic managed to avoid any of the false police officers until they reached the parking lot. A massive truck which Tina immediately identified as the source of the jamming signal had two “police” standing outside it. Vic crept some ways away and let himself be seen to try and lure the “officers” away.
Instead, the officers tried to shoot Vic on the spot. However, as soon as they attempted to fire their weapons, their radios screeched and another recording filled their ears: “When you’re wounded on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up your remains, just roll on your rifle and blow out your brains- and go to your God like a soldier.”
Both their weapons misfired. As Tina raced to her armor, Vic grappled with the enemy.
In the course of the fight, Tina recognized that an explosive with a timer had been activated in the jamming truck. Easily restraining the false police with the power of her Iron Girl suit, Tina turned her attention to the truck. She lifted it and flew it far from an inhabited area to allow it to detonate safely.
Real police were now swarming Gotham High, phone and radio signals no longer being blocked. Tina felt that she couldn’t return to the campus, but noticed as she flew overhead that the men she had restrained before were… dissolved. They melted, just like ice cream in the sun.
Programmed cell death, Tina thought right away. And she was right.
Tina scanned the crowd which had formed outside the blockaded school. She identified a Gotham High senior named Felix Faust standing calmly observant of the activities going on… if he’d been outside, why hadn’t he tried to get away? Why wasn’t he freaked the hell out like everyone else?
Tina called her classmates and asked arranged a meeting after police began allowing students to leave.
In an unlucky array of bad timing, both Tina’s parents called as she was allowing the likes of Selina Kyle, Waylon Jones, Jay and Harley, and the rest of the motley crew into her apartment. It proved to make for an awkward conversation.
Many of the sharper students in class put their heads together and shared their insights. Eddie Nigma in particular had concluded that the Rudyard Kipling poems, as well as the sabotage of the false police weapons and radios must have come from a captive being forced to work for his kidnappers. Other detectives speculated that this might be Victor Von Doom, a European refugee who attended Gotham High for a year before disappearing. Most students assumed he’d been expelled.
By using JARVIS’ vast databanks, Tina was able to scan Alchemax Company holdings and cross-reference them with the name Kipling. She discovered Kipling Cold Storage in downtown Gotham.
Tina was about to notify the police, when Bruce suggested that involving police might result in Alchemax killing their captive… after all, they had been willing to blow up a truck in a high school just to cover their tracks.
Not every student was on board with the plan. Vicki Vale and Barbara Gordon in particular felt like not calling the police was reckless and stupid. However, with some convincing (and the promise that no one would get “too involved”), they agreed to wait a night before calling any cops, even Barbara’s dad.
Tina surreptitiously left for Kipling Cold Storage, bringing Vic, Bruce, Selina, Zatana, and Harvey with her.
Only one elderly security guard was visible on the perimeter, and he was asleep. Bruce and Selina crept around to the back of the building to look for easy ways in.
As Selina shimmied up to the roof, Tina witnessed the elderly security guard burst out of his skin to reveal a hideous robot, and one with Selina in its sights. With no time for secrecy, Tina donned her Iron Girl suit and saved Selina from the monstrous defense drone.
Gathering at a predesignated rendezvous point, Tina took roll call. Bruce was missing. He also wasn’t answering his phone.
Vic was convinced that Bruce must have been dragged inside the Cold Storage building by some unseen defense, and insisted on going in after him. Harvey and Tina refused to let Vic go alone, and the trio collectively broke through the front door.
With a little coordination from Selina, Tina was able to find a heavily armored basement. She was able to use her suit to hack the electronic locks as well as an automated armed turret.
What Tina found down there resembled something out of a Nazi horror story. The missing student, Victor Von Doom, appeared to have been tortured and surgically experimented on, only alive by mechanical life support. Two other rooms were prepped for subjects who had never arrived… one labeled Tina, the other Zatana.
Tina was able to remove Doom from life support by encasing him in her own, life support capable armor. She got a call from Bruce, who apologized for abandoning everyone. He said he’d just gotten scared and had to run away. Tina wasn’t sure she believed him.
News reports began covering a fire originating at Kipling Cold Storage even before Tina managed to get back to her apartment… it seemed that Alchemax was covering its tracks. Doom, in and out of consciousness, talked about Alchemax needing people with certain abilities. Their genetics, he said, were necessary if the company was to help in a coming invasion. Although Doom was able to force himself to stay conscious longer than anybody could reasonably be expected to do in his condition, much of what he said didn’t tie together… at least, not as far as Tina could tell. Tina got him out of her suit and onto life support in the illegal lab attached to her place.
Class still carried on the next day… Gotham isn’t a city that shuts down every time some horrific even happens. The students who’d helped in the “Kipling Raid” the night previous were all exhausted. Even so, after class they all came together with the rest of their fellow Alternate Curriculum pupils, and made the (not unanimous) decision to keep things amongst themselves. Tina also asked Zatana to bring her family to stay at Tina’s place… it seemed safer.
Tina returned to her apartment nearly dead from exhaustion, only to find Doom somehow lurching around her lab. She tried to get him to relax for his own safety, but Doom refused and said time was of the essence. Too tired to argue, Tina let him work on the equipment, and (as Doom’s Request) allowed him access to her Iron Girl suit.
When Tina woke up the next morning, it seemed as though the badly injured Victor Von Doom had worked all through the night. Tina made him stop working and go to sleep.
Class was uneventful. At the end of the day, before anyone went home, Leslie Willis stood up and called for everyone’s attention.
“Hey bitches!” Leslie called out, taking fliers out of her backpack. "Look, I know we got TONS of freaky stuff going on, but hey, we live in Gotham right? We keep our lives going!
“Anyway, good ol’ Ozzie…” she gestured to Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot in the front row. Ozzie waved to everyone. “…managed to get his parents to agree to let us use one of his family’s old unused theater buildings for a show this Saturday!”
Leslie started handing out the fliers as she talked, which had pictures of DJ Freeze and a few other student performers on it.
“You can bring your ARTIFICIAL chemicals…” Leslie handed a flier to Julio Bain, “…you can bring your NATURAL chemicals…” she handed a flier to Pamela Isely, “…you can bring your FRIENDS…” she handed a flier to Hope Luthor, then added in a low voice “…if you GOT any.”
Leslie dropped a stack of fliers on Tina’s desk. “C’mon,” she said. “Be cool, give some of these to some rich record producer or something. And NOBODY tell their parents about any of this!” Leslie shouted to everyone.
As Tina was getting ready to leave, Vic asked her if she wanted to go “…y’know, together.”
As Tina was considering it, Waylon had a sudden and pretty aggressive response. He sat behind Tina and seemed to think that he should have first dibs on asking Tina out, if anyone was going to. Tina managed to distract Waylon long enough to avoid a fight.
In the days leading up to the event, Tina became very involved in planning the theater show. She and Zatana worked out stage effects for a magic act, she and Victor Fries collaborated on amping up his speaker setup, and she enlisted the help of some guys from the A/V club to help improve the old Cobblepot Theater’s setup. Those guys were Arnold Wesker, Jervis Tech, and Garfield Lyons. All of them seemed to have a knack for machine work.
It seemed like Saturday arrived in a flash. The old Cobblepot Theater looked almost brand new, thanks to the efforts of the Gotham High students. Leslie was taking a cover charge from all students from other schools, and it seemed like the evening was moving on as a huge success.
“Hey, she needs help,” Selina said to Tina as she nearly carried Zatana, semi-conscious, through the theater.
“I feel sick,” Zatana moaned.
Tina brought her motorcycle-concealed Iron Girl suit around back of the theater and used the medical systems inside to counteract the drugs in Zatana’s system. Zatana insisted that Bain had tried to dope her. Tina wasn’t sure why, but figured the danger was past now, whatever it had been.
Right in the middle of Zatana’s stage performance, a signal broke through on Tina’s phone. It was a staticky, nearly incoherent picture message from someone in a green hooded sweatshirt. As Tina went outside the theater to hear better, she recognized the person as Victor Von Doom, apparently outside of her lab and away from life support.
“You okay?” Vic Zsasz asked, having noticed Tina leaving in a hurry.
Tina told him there was something happening at her house.
“We better get there,” Bruce said, having somehow approached without being noticed.
“Hey,” Leslie snapped, as Harvey Dent now also came outside to see what was happening. “Can all you DICKWEEDS please stop disrupting my event by running out in the middle?!”
Tina hurriedly explained what she’d seen. The students already outside headed to Tina’s place. Vic and Tina on her motorcycle, the rest in Bruce’s car.
The apartment was a wreck. JARVIS was down, dead bodies were strewn throughout, and Zatana’s parents were gone. Tina got another call from Doom, much stronger this time. He was able to tell Tina that he was tracking the vehicle which held Zatana’s parents, and once Tina reset JARVIS, he was able to patch it through to Tina’s phone. Tina sent the information out to everyone in her class.
“I killed all but one of them,” Doom said before shutting down his signal. “The survivor is Felix Faust.”
Bruce took out his own phone and entered a code. Nobody paid too much attention to it.
Again with Vic, Tina took off on her motorcycle. Traffic was suddenly backed up right along the path of the truck which was attempting escape… it seemed that the traffic lights were malfunctioning. Tina’s motorcycle weaved through it easily.
As soon as the fleeing vehicle came in sight, Tina donned her Iron Girl armor and saw no one in the cab. The rear of the vehicle was windowless, like an armored truck, but no match for the strength of Tina’s exoskeleton. She peeled the doors off the back like skin off an orange.
Tina’s armor was totally immobile, and she was confronted with a human-like thing with a mechanical screen where its face would have been. The thing taunted Tina, threatening her with rape and torture. Then Victor Zsasz slammed into it and knocked it out of the truck.
The thing was only surprised by Vic’s attack, and took the time to slowly tear skin off his body as Tina could only watch.
Waylon Jones, Jay, Bruce, Harvey, and Leslie all arrived in time to see Vic pass out on the street. Jay hopped into the truck cab and reversed, slamming into the monster and (momentarily) breaking its concentration enough to return Iron Girl’s control. She ejected from her armor and commanded it to return to base.
Even as a team, the teenagers were no match for Felix Faust. He badly injured Waylon and grabbed Harvey before rejoining Tina in the back of the truck.
“Now then, pretty little thing…”
“Oh thanks,” Jay giggled, aiming a gun through a hole in the vehicle at chemical containers. "I try to look my best!
And with that, Jay fired into the volatile containers. Tina was able to grab Harvey and bail from the truck, but couldn’t save Zatana’s parents, who were unconscious inside. Chemical toxins released from the truck burned Harvey over 50% of his body, and also triggered latent mutant genes in Leslie.
Shocked and horrified at her transformation into a semi-electric creature, Leslie began teleporting uncontrollably. Tina recalled her armor and used it to transport Vic to her lab in an effort to save his life. Bruce, Waylon, and others who were still healthy enough began evacuating people from the danger zone of the chemicals. Felix Faust seemed to have escaped.
It was a long night, especially for Vic and Harvey, both of whom were taken to Gotham General Hospital before the night was over.
Victor Von Doom suffered a stroke. He died while making modifications to Tina’s Iron Girl suit.
The fight took its toll on Tina mentally. The helplessness she felt as well as the injuries done to her classmates drove her into her lab, distracting herself with work. She contacted her father about the strange activities from the Alchemax Corporation.