Dinah Lance wrapped her hair in a towel and stepped out of her shower. It felt great to be home after being on the road for so long. There was a time in her life when she ran with the so-called "Hard-Traveled Heroes". She always felt the title was appropriate. Then she started working for Oracle. Certainly her days with Ollie and Hal were filled with unimaginable dangers, but it seemed the frequent flyer miles she earned in those days were only a harbinger of times to come. Oracle kept her on the go, which is why she loved her own apartment so much. She relished any chance to finally be home.
She retrieved a towel from the rod next to the shower curtain and dried herself. Working for Oracle did offer certain perks. For one, she could afford a higher thread count these days. She draped the soft towel over her shoulders and dried her back. It was sore, as usual. She certainly earned the higher thread count. Dinah engulfed herself within the folds of the monogrammed towel then let it fall to the floor and smiled. That always drove Ollie nuts. "Bird," he'd say. "I'm a simple man, but I'm no slob. Is it asking too damn much to suggest a hamper?"
Dinah walked to her bedroom and found a pair of white cotton panties in the top left-hand drawer of her dresser and slid them up her muscular legs, freshly shaven at that. It was about time too. She was starting to feel like Gorilla Grodd. At last, she put on her favorite old robe. The one she owned since she was a teenager. The original belt was long gone, so she improvised by substituting a karate belt. Not her black one of course, but a dark, blue one that accented the white terrycloth quite well. No matter how many times she washed the robe though, there was a grape jelly stain on the front that refused to come out. That was what, her sophomore year? She remembered the year fondly as her P.B.J. year.
Dinah settled into a recliner and grabbed the television remote. The set flickered to life. She quickly powered up her VCR and rewound the tape to the beginning. She missed "Friends" three weeks in a row thanks to Oracle. Do lawyers or doctors or convenience store clerks have such problems keeping up with their favorite shows? Hard-Traveled Heroes, indeed.
She watched the news on channel three while waiting for her tape to cue. The lead story caught her attention. It was about an American woman sentenced to die in Tiraq. A radical Jihari cleric outlined the charges against her: adultery, immorality, harlotry, and compromising a man's holiness by rousing his lust. She was scheduled to die by stoning. Could they do that in the twenty-first century? The President sent a special envoy to Tiraq to bargain on the woman's behalf but he returned home empty-handed.
Dinah's fascination with the story was interrupted by a beep she knew all too well. It was Oracle calling on her pager. She walked to her bedroom and inserted the tiny earpiece over her lobe and turned it on.
"Took you long enough," said the voice on the other end.
"Bite me," Dinah answered jokingly. "What's up?"
"I have an assignment for you, Dinah. You don't have to accept this one. It's more... personal than business. It's also very dangerous. I'll understand..."
"Come on Oracle. You know me better than that. What kind of mission?" Dinah interrupted.
"Have you seen the news?" Oracle asked.
Dinah sat on her bed. "I was just watching while rewinding "Friends". I heard on the subway that the Fed is going to cut interest rates again. Should be very lucrative for you."
"Does the name Sarah Bright ring a bell?" Oracle asked.
Dinah recognized the name from the newscast. "The woman held in Tiraq?"
"Good. I don't have to fill you in then," Oracle replied. "I know it's a big favor but..."
Oracle was right. It was a big favor. Tiraq was armed to the teeth from border to border. Its soldiers were an elite fighting machine unparalleled in the region. Neighboring countries were none too eager to force the will of its despot leader, Abdul bin Vassar.
Oracle continued. "She's being held in one of bin Vassar's fortresses in the Capitol City, Kuradt. Security is tighter than Superman's handshake due to the international attention the case has stirred. Word is that bin Vassar would like to avoid the incident altogether."
"Why?" Dinah asked. It wasn't like bin Vassar to pass up an opportunity to flex his muscles on an international stage. It was good for home-front propaganda.
"As much as bin Vassar would love to execute this woman to win favor with the fundamentalists at home, he doesn't want this attention now. My sources confirm Tiraq is developing weapons of mass destruction again despite years of inspections. That's why they've been so quiet lately," Oracle answered.
"Are you asking me to rescue the girl or disarm a country?" Dinah asked.
Oracle's hearty laugh filled the earpiece. "Just get the girl. Leave the disarmament to the international community. You get in and out as quickly as possible. I have a contact in Turkey willing to smuggle you into Tiraq through the mountains."
Dinah walked to her living room. Footage of Sarah's parents filled the television screen. Her mom clung with white knuckles to an old, ragged teddy bear. She issued an impassioned plea to the Tiraqi government to spare Sarah's life. The interviewer asked if she thought Sarah would return to the states. The woman forced a weak smile. "I believe God can bring my daughter home. There's a miracle out there for us somewhere."
Dinah marveled at the woman's faith. "When do I leave for Turkey?"
"Your ticket is waiting at Gotham International. The usual contact is holding it," Oracle answered.
It was Dinah's turn to laugh. "You're amazing. There wasn't a doubt in your mind about me going. Was there?"
"I only work with the best, Dinah. You're a good woman. I knew you wouldn't let Sarah down."
"I do have one request," said Dinah.
"Name it," Oracle replied.
"Can you record "Friends" for me? Why do all our adventures run through Thursday night?"
"I'll burn the whole season on DVD for you. I promise," Oracle chirped.
Dinah bit her lip. "Oracle? I appreciate the offer but there's one small problem."
"What's that?" Oracle asked.
"You know me and tech right? Well I don't have..."
"... a DVD player. Gotcha!" Oracle finished Dinah's thought. "I'll try to dig up a VHS somewhere."
"Thanks," Dinah answered.
"This is the end of the line, Ms. Lance," said Amar. He was a nice college-aged kid, not the commando-type Oracle usually set her up to meet. He had a lot to learn about espionage work. Dinah didn't think he would ever stop talking while he drove her through the treacherous mountain passes in his old Jeep. He was a student at the College of Higher Learning in downtown Kuradt. His mother was an American diplomat who came to Tiraq in the early '80s as part of a relief mission during the infamous "Five Year Drought". She came to feed the starving and stayed because she fell in love with a people... and a man. Though a former diplomat, the high profile she earned feeding the poor made it a bad public relations move for the Tiraqi government to mess with her. She was the "American Angel" and the Tiraqi people loved her for it. The high profile also kept Amar safe. "You're a brave woman."
Dinah shook her head. "I do what I have to, but that doesn't make me brave, Amar. I have a safety net to fall into. I can leave this country for Turkey right now and head back to the States without anyone as much as questioning my passport. But look at you! You risked your life to cross the border to pick me up. And should bin Vassar ever learned you aided me, you would be executed. I would say you're the brave one here."
Amar grinned. "Don't be too quick with your praise, Black Canary. I have my safety nets in place too. The American Embassy in Tiraq may have closed years ago, but there is still a network of freedom fighters within our borders. We cover one another's rear-ends."
Dinah nodded. The arrangement reminded her of the one she worked with Oracle. She got out of the Jeep. They were on a high mountain pass overlooking the city Kuradt. The trip would take a full day on foot, but she couldn't risk being spotted with Amar. That gave her one day to get Sarah out.
"I wish I could take you further," said Amar. "Betsie is a good machine, but even with four-wheel drive I can't make it through that terrain. It's only a few miles, but very treacherous. Stay on the southern face of the canyon. It takes a little longer, but it's much safer. I'll meet you here tomorrow night. Let's hope we have an extra passenger on the trip back into Turkey."
Amar was right. The trip was treacherous, even more so than Dinah imagined. On the way she encountered rockslides, a den of poisonous snakes, and an unexpected Elite Force patrol, but she made it into the city early the following morning before sunrise. She hoped Oracle was right about being able to mask her transmitting signal from the Tiraqi government or this would be a short mission indeed. She retrieved her earpiece and placed it carefully, then switched it on. "Oracle? Are you there?"
"I'm here, Dinah. I didn't expect to hear from you for another couple of hours though," Oracle replied.
"There was a slight change of plans, but I made it. Do you have my position?"
"Yes I do," Oracle affirmed. "Sarah is being held in the Presidential Compound. You should have a couple of hours before sunrise."
Barbara Gordon muted her link to Black Canary and wheeled herself into her kitchen. She thumbed her way through the Gotham Times to the Living section. According to the paper there were still seats left for the new Broadway hit "Urban Legend" based on her frequent associate and mentor, the Batman. A singing, dancing Bat she had to see for herself. Maybe she could get Dick to go with her. She reminded herself to order tickets later online, then moved on to the financial section. She was surprised to see an article on DynaTech on the front page. It wasn't the lead headline, but it wasn't often one of the companies she was heavily vested in made front page of the financial section. "Gotham Tech Firm Hires New Research Director." The news surprised her since she was a major stockholder and knew nothing of the hiring. Tatum Woods? The name certainly didn't ring a bell either, but according to the article Ms. Woods was heavy on the credentials. The list of her various degrees read like a can of alphabet soup and all were from elite institutions. Still, it made Barbara nervous that she wasn't told of the hiring. She made a point to call Leo later. He served on the board of directors and was Barbara's main contact at DynaTech. Putting aside the paper, Barbara rolled her wheelchair to the refrigerator and retrieved a gallon of low-fat milk and poured a glass. One of these days she would stick to her promise to allow herself the luxury of a good breakfast. One of these days.
The Presedential Compound was heavily guarded. Canary wasn't sure how
she was getting in, but was confident she would find a way. She didn't
have long before sunrise and she would have to enter without attracting
attention. What she needed was to find an entrance guarded by a single
Elite Forceman. She circled the grounds for nearly half-an-hour before
finding the right entry point, a garbage chute which emptied into a large,
brown dumpster. Unfortunately, a garbage truck was busy collecting its
daily haul at the moment and the guard was facing in her direction. At
least if she made it past the guard she could be assured a couple tons
of garbage wouldn't empty on her head as she climbed the chute. The sanitation
workers made small talk with the guard for what seemed like forever to
Canary, but were actually just a few short minutes.
The guard turned only a split second before Canary leaped, but it was too late for him. Canary's strength and speed were too much. She tackled him hard enough to do her beloved Gotham Knights proud. His head struck the ground hard, but she landed a series of right hands to his jaw for good measure. He was out cold.
Canary took a few short seconds to catch her breath. Her chest heaving, she eyed the garbage chute. There was no turning back from this point. She ran to the chute and opened it. The incline was steep and slick, not too mention smelly but it offered her a way in. "Oracle, I'm in a garbage chute on the western wall. Where does it lead?"
The voice in her ear was quick to reply. "According to the Compound blueprints you should come up in the kitchen. Sarah's being held prisoner on the floor above you. There's an emergency stairwell to the left of the kitchen at the end of the corridor."
"Gotcha babe and thanks," Canary replied.
"Babe?" Oracle asked.
"Just kind of slipped," Canary answered. "I didn't mean anything by it. Sorry if I offended you."
"No offense taken," Oracle laughed. "You just caught me off-guard with that one."
"It was the best I could do on short notice. Canary out!"
Canary crawled up the garbage chute meticulously. It was cramped, smelly, and cold but she inched her way to the door at the top. The poorly sealed door let in precious little light, a thin swathe that illuminated her targeted destination with an eerie luminescence. She nudged past the halfway point and found a slippery, gooey substance under her knee that sent her tumbling down the chute.
Catching herself against the sides of the chute with her powerful arms, Canary managed to stop her descent but time was an enemy. She would have to gamble to make up the time lost. Reaching into the pouch on the left side of her belt, she retrieved a small device given to her by Oracle. She aimed the device like a gun, pulled a release and watched as a long cable unfurled to the chute door. A loud clang reminded her why she didn't use the wirepoon in the first place. A quick jerk on the trigger sent her scurrying to her destination. Moments later, she pushed against the door of the chute. She climbed out and was thankful no one was around.
Making her way out of the kitchen and into the hallway, Canary used extreme caution. She was about to dart to the emergency staircase when the elevator doors opened. For a moment everything froze as Black Canary stood face to face with two Elite Force guards. She didn't waste her element of surprise. She leaped forward to the floor and pushed off with her hands. Her muscular arms jettisoned her forward in a series of well-honed somersaults like a world-class gymnast. The heel of her left boot struck one of the guards above his eye, sending him tumbling back into the elevator. He slammed into the back wall and slid to the floor. The elevator doors closed. For a fleeting instant she was glad to rid herself of one of her opponents, but then she realized she just sounded the intruder alarm. That left her with only a few minutes to make short work of the remaining guard and find the holding area where Sarah was imprisoned before the elevator opened in the lobby and announced an intruder's presence to whomever found the unconscious soldier.
The remaining guard went for his gun, but Canary was quicker. A leg sweep sent him sprawling to the floor. The speed with which he recovered took Canary by surprise. The Elite Force soldiers were everything they were cracked up to be. He lunged for Canary and wrapped his hands around her throat.
Canary struggled with the Tiraqi's grip. He was much stronger than he looked. She suppressed the urge to struggle against her assailant and cleared her mind. Instead of grabbing at his wrists she quickly seized the soldier's thumbs and twisted them away from her throat. He yelped in pain when the bones cracked. A head-butt drew blood from his prominent nose and reeled him back. Wasting no further time, Canary floated through the air and landed a powerful drop kick to the man's head. He fell to floor.
The clang of the elevator's bell told Canary reinforcements would arrive soon. She made a beeline for the stairs and rushed to the third floor of the compound. She was thankful she met no opposition in the stairwell. At the top of the stairs, she opened the door carefully. "Oracle, I'm in. I need a location quick! "
The calm, soothing voice in Canary's ear was an anchor in times of such uncertainty. "Follow the hallway north approximately fifteen yards and turn left. Sarah's cell is the third cell on the right. By the way, an alarm just went off. They know you're there."
"I don't hear anything," Canary answered.
The grating sound of a loud alarm echoed throughout the chamber. "Great! Can't we ever do this the easy way?" Canary asked. She made the corner and found the cell heavily guarded by rugged Tiraqi soldiers armed with very ugly M16s. A hailstorm of bullets erupted all around her. She knew if she ran away she would be hit and decided the unexpected offered her a better chance at survival. She ran toward the soldiers. Her ploy worked however as they couldn't resist the challenge of an unarmed female rushing toward them. The first to reach her was the smallest, but he was very quick with his hands. A hard right hand sent Canary hurtling into the wall behind her. She had no time to recover before the other two grabbed her arms and stood her up. It was times like these she wished she still had her sonic cry, especially after the smaller soldier sent a well-placed kick to her ribcage. Knowing it was pointless to struggle against the two men holding her, Canary wandered just how heavy she could make her athletic frame. She lifted her legs and swung her body in such a way that gravity dictated she fall. She was willing to bet the men restraining her wouldn't expect the move. They didn't. As she fell, she cracked their skulls together. She quickly pushed them off her and tried to make it to her feet.
However the smaller guard had other ideas. He stood motionless for a few moments and crouched into a martial arts stance.
"Oh please!" Canary said emphatically. The Tiraqi came toward her with his hands and feet a graceful dance of destruction. At the last instant, she raised her foot and caught him squarely in the groin.
"It's obvious they don't play football here in Tiraq or you would have had that covered!" Canary said wryly as she watched the man cower in pain before her. A swift kick to the jaw ended the fight. She was satisfied with the ease in which she took out three of bin Vassar's Elite Force. Now her only concern was breaking through the thick iron door that held Sarah captive behind its frame. She retrieved a vial of pinkish-colored powder from the pouch on her right hip. The cap was tight, but it finally budged. After pouring the powder into one hand, Canary tossed the vial, breaking it against the wall. She spit into her other hand and blended the mixture into putty and rolled it up. It reminded her of making Play-Doh pies with her mom as a child. She quickly chided herself for allowing her mind to drift off the task at hand. After coating the locking mechanism with the putty, she removed a wick from her pouch and placed it mindfully.
"Sarah! Step away from the door!" Canary yelled over the bedlam of the alarm and hoped the girl could hear her. She lit the fuse and ran for cover around the corner.
Canary rushed from her hiding spot and found the twisted door in a mangled heap. She hoped Sarah wasn't hurt. She ran into the cell and found Sarah tied to a chair. She was gagged and blindfolded, but appeared otherwise unharmed. Dinah removed a blade from her utility pouch and cut the bonds. "Sarah? I'm the Black Canary. I've come to take you home. Do you know who I am?"
Dinah heard someone clapping. A tall, pudgy man with pronounced features and dark, curly hair sat in the shadows across the room. Two guards stood on either side of the man with M16's fixed firmly on Dinah. "Bravo! Well done! Black Canary isn't it?" bin Vassar asked in thick, heavily-accented English. Even in the poor lighting, his face was cold and cruel, bearing no trace of mercy. A crooked smile that would charm the devil himself formed on his lips. "I'm surprised you made it this far. Perhaps I should execute my security?"
"I'm here for the girl!" Canary answered.
Bin Vassar laughed. "Of course you are. We both know you didn't come to exchange pleasantries."
"The girl!" Canary demanded. She wasn't going to play games with this monster.
"You do realize this is an act of war?" the dictator asked.
"Uh-huh," Canary answered. " I also know that a war is the last thing you need right now. Do you really want a hundred thousand of America's finest scouring your country for weapons of mass destruction?"
Bin Vassar smiled. "Oh those weapons of mass destruction! You Americans are certainly gifted in the art of the catchphrase aren't you? If wars were fought with words you would have conquered the world long ago! You hope to scare me with threats of American retaliation? My Elite Force is more than capable of handling your poorly-trained military."
Canary wasn't in the mood to return the smile. "The same Elite Force I've left laying all over this building? What's to stop me from killing you right now, bin Vassar? I'd be doing the world a huge favor."
"I'm confident Ahmet and Salmud are adequate defenders," bin Vassar answered, motioning to the guards on his left and right. "Still you've left me quite the conundrum, Black Canary. Do I let you go and rid myself of this ugly incident altogether and appear too weak to protect my own home or do I kill the two of you now? I'm sure the United Nations would view your execution as justified since you invaded my country to free a prisoner of our legal system."
"Do what you wish," Canary answered.
Bin Vassar nodded. The shadows frozen on the furrow of his brow were as dark as the heart of Apokolips. He sat for a long moment in thought and finally spoke. "Of course I will. It is my country after all. But I will allow you to make the decision for me. If you can walk out of this cell with the girl, you're both free to go. However if you fail, I will execute both of you. Ahmet! Salmud!"
The guards threw down their arms and rushed at Canary. They were on her
before she could defend herself. The one called Ahmet bound her arms while
Salmud, the larger of the two, wasted no time punching her in the gut.
Never before in her life had anyone hit her so hard. Air rushed from her
lungs like wild animals fleeing a forest fire. She struggled to regain
her breath, but a second blow from Salmud's hand wouldn't allow it. Canary
knew she couldn't panic. She had to buy herself some time. She leaned
into Ahmet as if she were trying to escape her beating. He bought the
ploy and pushed against her. Using his sudden forward thrust for momentum,
Canary managed to toss her attacker into his comrade using a hip roll.
Unfortunately, the blows had no effect. She managed to avoid his grip but found herself forced into Ahmet. He leaped through the air and landed a boot to Canary's jaw that sent her sprawling to the limestone floor. She fought against blacking out. Too much depended on her winning this fight. She made it to her feet but knew she couldn't endure much more of this beating.
"So how do you like my latest weapons of mass destruction?" bin Vassar taunted. "Not quite as easily beaten as the Elite Force are they? I call them the Hands of Nebuchadnezzar. A fitting title for the army of the New Babylon, no? Who needs your weapons of mass destruction when I can make super soldiers?"
Canary couldn't believe her ears. Super soldiers? New Babylon? So that was his game! Everything else was a smoke screen!
"I knew America would send in one of their so-called "heroes" if I gave them cause. Who better to test the Hands of Nebuchadnezzer than an American superhero? I do have to admit I'm disappointed they sent a powerless woman rather than a true champion! Perhaps after my Hands have slain you, they will attract the attention of more worthy foes. Destroy her my Hands! Today my dogs shall feast on her entrails!"
Canary found herself pinned between the two soldiers. She crouched into a Shao-Lin defensive stance and waited. It was all she could do to defend herself from the flurry of kicks and punches and jabs that ensued. Finally, the one called Salmud stepped back and pulled a small pistol from his boot.
As soon as Canary saw the pistol, Salmud became priority number one. She cartwheeled to him and kicked the gun from his hand. His lightning fast reflexes allowed him to catch her ankle in a vise-like grip however. Canary wailed in pain and flailed helplessly against his grip. She could feel her bones giving way to the immense pressure exerted on them. She kicked with all her might and caught the soldier squarely in the chin but did little to break his grip. He shrugged it off and seemed to enjoy toying with his prey.
Ahmet apparently disliked such games. He grabbed Canary by the throat
and choked her. She struggled against his hands to no avail. For some
reason she thought of Ollie and Hal and then her mother. She hoped she
did enough to live up the mantle she chose to wear. She also remembered
a conversation she had once with Zatanna about fishnets. It's funny what
some people think of right before they die. Canary felt her soul slipping
away to the freedom of the afterlife and then
A gunshot reverberated in the air and filled the cell with its pungent odor. Canary expected more pain from a gunshot wound but there was none, except those she already felt in her ankle and her throat. She hit the ground with a thud but found herself breathing. She suffered quite a beating but she was alive. She checked herself for blood and found none. Confused, Canary looked around the cell and saw Sarah holding the pistol knocked away from Salmud earlier. She held it tightly in trembling fingers, its barrel still smoking.
Bin Vassar lay on the floor clutching his chest. Blood soaked his five thousand-dollar Gucci suit. His Hands attended him quickly. They scooped him up in their arms despite his protests to finish the women off first. They carefully placed their hands on two stones in the cell wall and opened a secret passage and disappeared into the darkness. The wall slid back into place.
Alone, Canary's first thought was to check on Sarah. "Sarah? Are you ok?"
Sarah didn't reply. She dropped the pistol and crumpled to the floor in tears.
"We've got to get out of here before the Tiraqi army storms the fortress," Canary said, talking as much to calm her own nerves as to comfort Sarah. She grabbed Sarah and started to head into the hallway but decided she couldn't fight in her condition and Sarah was an emotional zombie after shooting the most hated man in the world. She got the woman to her feet. "If we're going to get out of this alive, I need your help Sarah! That tunnel bin Vassar and his lackeys disappeared into may be our only way out. I need you to help me open the door. Can you do that Sarah?"
Sarah nodded weakly.
"Good girl," Canary answered. She leaned forward and kissed Sarah lightly on the forehead. The two women moved to the cell wall and Canary searched for the loose stones that opened the door in the wall. She found the first and positioned Sarah's hands on it. It took her a few more minutes to find the second but eventually noticed a stone much smoother than the others. She placed her hand on it and felt it give beneath her palm. "Now push Sarah! Push!"
The wall opened up and Canary grabbed Sarah and hurried inside the tunnel. "Come on! We're going home!"
"Did you get Friends for me?" Dinah Lance asked the voice in her ear.
"Yes, I recorded Friends for you," Oracle answered. "You're going to need a few friends after this incident."
"I got Sarah home to her parents, didn't I?" Dinah replied. "And exposed bin Vassar's super soldier program to the world community!"
"That you did, but Dinah these people are dangerous. You made a lot of enemies as well. You're at the top of the Tiraqi government's most wanted list. They've charged you with an assassination attempt on their President. Your JLA connections may get you out of trouble with the United Nations once you prove you acted alone and not on behalf of the US government, but Tiraq has powerful allies in the terrorism community."
Dinah blew softly across the hot chocolate that filled her favorite mug. "And I have powerful allies in the superhero community. Sounds like a fair trade-off to me. Besides, I didn't follow my mother into the superhero business to make friends."
Oracle laughed. "Understood. Speaking of friends, what do you know about this actor who plays Joey?"
"Hey," Canary deadpanned in her best Matt Leblanc voice. "Hands off geek girl! I've got dibs on Joey!"
Bin Vassar watched the small television set in his private hospital room and sipped on glass of Chardonnay. The assassination attempt was all over CNN and MSNBC. Western doctors and firearms experts argued endlessly over the true extent of the damage to his health. The United Nations was voting whether or not to send teams of genetics experts into Tiraq. The Black Canary and Sarah Bright were hailed as heroes, although an investigation was underway to find out who authorized Black Canary's adventure. And the world knew of his failure to hold two helpless American women captive, even allowing them to escape through one of his own underground concrete bunkers. Bin Vassar was most concerned with the Hands Project. Over the years he and his cabinet got many laughs over the satellite photos on American news broadcasts showing abandoned factories and warehouses as proof he was developing weapons of mass destruction. Each site was carefully prepared to trick the United Nations into sending another team of arms inspectors into Tiraq. Time and again, the inspectors reported that the Tiraqi government moved the evidence before they could investigate. Bin Vassar enjoyed the cat and mouse game. It was harmless fun and kept his Hands of Nebudchadnezzar program out of the spotlight. That was before the American operative named Black Canary ruined everything.
Black Canary's image appeared on the screen. Bin Vassar raised his glass and toasted her likeness. "To round one!"