Disclaimer #1: This story is set on a hypothetical parallel world within the pre-Crisis DC Universe, based on a story in Superman #349, but is not limited by that story or any other.
Disclaimer #2: This story makes use of copyrighted characters owned by DC Comics, Inc., and other publishers. It is written for amusement only and is not intended to infringe or disparage those copyrights.
Disclaimer #3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the easily offended, especially those who are troubled by themes such as age regression and spanking.
She entered the Starr Electronics office through the front door, dressed as a cleaning woman, but as soon as she was inside, she pulled the cowl over her head. These things had to be done properly.
The safe door was made of a modern composite material: impervious to acids and the heat of anything not nuclear-powered. The lock was electronic, just as up-to-date, very impressive-looking -- and about as hard to crack as a gym locker. She had it open it two minutes.
She would leave the way she had entered, without a trace, but these things had to be done properly, or one might as well just write bad checks, so she cut a neat circle from the window with her glass cutter and laid it on the floor. She chuckled as she imagined them trying to figure out how she had scaled the outside of a glass-faced skyscraper, then snarled as she noticed that the window didn't open at all. She thought about cutting a bigger hole, one plausibly big enough for a very athletic person to climb through, then shrugged and left things as they were. Call it a symbol. Symbols were important.
She was so upset by her gaffe with the window that she almost left the office with the cat-mask still in place. She was just reaching up to pull it off when a low voice behind her murmured, "Here, Kitty, Kitty."
She spun, her movements not hampered by the baggy garments of a cleaning woman. Her leg lashed out precisely at the source of the voice, but Batwoman had already moved half a step back. Catwoman's heel met a gloved hand rather than a jaw. The Dark Dame yanked the burglar off her feet, with an extra tug as her head approached the floor to spoil her fall. Catwoman's head cracked loudly against the floor, and Batwoman pressed the advantage, flipping the stunned criminal onto her belly and yanking her arms painfully behind her back. Knees dug cruelly into the small of Catwoman's back, and she did not recover in time to escape the manacles Batwoman snapped onto her wrists.
Catwoman almost got away as Gotham's Guardian moved to bind her ankles, but in seconds the second pair of shackles were in place, and then a chain was looped between the two, pulling Catwoman's body into a painful bow.
"More chains than the cops use, Batty-girl. You must like them."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Lois," Batwoman said evenly. "This is strictly business. I knew a pair of handcuffs weren't nearly enough to hold you."
"So, it's Lois now, is it? Am I supposed to be impressed?"
Batwoman peeled the cowl from Lois Lane's face, made ugly by unconcealed loathing.
"I wouldn't mind if you were. The police hadn't figured it out yet."
Catwoman gave a snarling laugh.
"The cops in this town haven't got any more brains than they do balls."
Batwoman's face betrayed a hint of emotion.
"Not funny, Lois. Drake Lance is a good man. He doesn't deserve the suffering he's going through because of you."
Inspector Drake Lance had publicly promised to "put a collar" on Catwoman. She'd assaulted him in his apartment and castrated him, then delivered his testicles to his fiancee with a note reading, "Your Drake is now a capon".
The Catwoman shrieked with rage.
"He deserves it! They all do!"
Batwoman shoved a bat-shaped chunk of black foam rubber between Lois' bared teeth and secured the straps,. gagging her. She hoisted the struggling criminal onto her back and carried her to the elevator.
"It's obvious, Lois, what your problem is. You feel that there's no man on Earth who comes up to your standards, and you've decided to take out your frustration by hurting the best men you can find, men like Lance, or like Cal Starr, who would have been bankrupted by your little industrial espionage tonight."
The elevator opened. Catwoman continued to struggle, but her arms were growing tired in their unnatural position behind her back.
"I tend to agree with you, Lois. You are a superior woman, and you deserve a superior man. But did it ever occur to you that you put too many barriers between yourself and men? Challenging their right to court you is one thing; acting like you despise them is another. It would take a man who was really superhuman to put up with that kind of treatment for long."
The elevator opened onto a basement garage. Batwoman carried her prisoner to the black panel van she privately thought of as "Batmobile #4". With Catwoman secured in back, Batwoman changed from her bizarre black and gray costume into a less conspicuous disguise: a dirty-blonde wig, jeans, a cordurouy jacket, a large mole on her nose. She wondered for a moment why she had worn the Batwoman costume to confront Catwoman, then reminded herself that one really had to do things the right way, if one was going to do them at all.
Catwoman lay silently in the back of the van as Batwoman drove the van out onto the street and parked, pulling the handset of a concealed car-telephone from under the dashboard. She dialed a number, spoke a few words, hung up and drove on. Catwoman remained still and silent, no doubt methodically exploring her bonds. A sudden storm of muffled cries and snarls made it obvious when she figured out that the cuffs had no key mechanism at all, and would have to be cut off.
Batwoman drove towards the upper West End of Gotham, onto the campus of New Devonshire State University, and parked the van at the back of Crane Hall. Professor Carter Nicholls was waiting at the door as she carried the bound Catwoman inside.
"You can take the manacles off her now," Nicholls said as Batwoman laid Lois Lane on a padded table.
"What kind of restraints do you have?" Batwoman asked, looking over the table.
"We won't need any. She's already under."
Batwoman looked and saw that Catwoman's eyes were glazed, her breathing shallow. Professor Nicholls had induced a deep hypnotic state in the few seconds it had taken her to carry Catwoman into the lab.
She removed the restraints and straightened Catwoman's body on the table, disturbed by how compliant but unresponsive she was, like a jointed mannequin, neither asleep nor awake.
"Now, if you'll give me about an hour, er, Miss Wayne, I'll have her ready for you to take home."
"Are you sure you'll be safe with her, Professor?"
"Oh, quite safe. But I would like some privacy while I work."
Batwoman nodded and headed for the door. Professor Nicholls possessed some sort of reality-altering technique which he'd never revealed to anyone. Batwoman didn't even know if it involved psychic powers, technology or something totally unimagined. But on several occasions, he had sent her, alone or accompanied by Robin or Batgirl, into the past and future, and had once transformed her into a young girl, walking through modern Gotham with no memory of her adult life.
Batwoman sat in the van for an hour, going over Korean vocabulary cards and doing a few Yoga exercises, until Nicholls came out and ushered her up to his lab. she went, carrying a large shopping bag.
Lois Lane's body was almost lost in the dumpy cleaning woman's dress. Even the purple bodysuit underneath was now baggy, no longer skintight. The body on the table was that of a girl no older than ten. The soft oval face, seeming now comfortably asleep, showed no trace of the cruelty of Catwoman, or the brittle sophistication of Lois Lane.
"Now, remember, Miss Wayne, her transformation seems complete, and it should be complete, but it could easily break down in the early stages. It would be easy, if she fell into her old habits, for her to regain her memories of adult life, maybe even to spontaneously regain her adult body. You must keep her living as a young girl, an innocent young girl . . . ."
Batwoman looked up from the table. Nicholls had pulled a pair of pink cotton briefs from the bag and was clutching them nervously, sweat beading on his forehead as he stared down at the girl on the table, biting his lip.
"That's all right, Professor. I'll take it from here."
Nicholls swallowed and nodded gratefully, though it took him a moment before he put the panties down.
Batwoman carried the girl to the van. She was now dressed in a navy blue pleated skirt, pale blue blouse, white sweater vest, blue socks and mary janes. The Professor saw them out, and Batwoman drove them away into the night. It was late now, so she went to the Corolla Building penthouse rather than drive all the way out to the mansion in Fingerwood.
She laid Lois on the living room couch, changed out of her disguise, and checked the time. She'd timed it perfectly; the program she wanted was about to start. She bent over the sleeping girl.
"Antwerp," she whispered.
Lois blinked and looked around.
"Hello, Lois. My name is Roberta. You're going to be living with me now."
The girl made a sour face.
"Another foster home? Swell."
"Well, Lois, this time things are kind of different. This is going to be hard for you to believe at first, but it'll be easier if you watch something first."
She picked up the remote control and turned on the television. The girl's eyes widened.
"You have a televisor?"
That was good. She was relating to the TV set as the rich person's novelty item it had been twenty years before.
The screen showed a handsome blonde man with his arm around a slender woman with chocolate-colored skin, waving to reporters.
"--ormer astronaut Steve Trevor today announced his candidacy for the Sen--"
A handsome man in a tux sang into a microphone as he gazed into the eyes of a beaky woman in an outrageous hat.
"--enaded his wife of eighteen years with the comic-romantic song 'That's Amore'. Lewis responded in her typical madcap fash--"
Earth, as seen from space, filled the screen. The image pulled back to reveal a second Earth, then a dozen, then hundreds of tiny, identical Earths. White letters appeared over the multiplying worlds: "New Devonshire Educational Television Presents More Worlds Than One."
Lois sat rapt through the program as it moved quickly through famous disappearances (Marshal Ney, Oliver Cromwell), mysterious people who seemed to come from nowhere (Kaspar Hauser, Mary Psalmanasar), inexplicable artifacts (the Kensington Stone, Lomellini's Column) and other historical anomalies, to modern physics and finally to the documented crossings between worlds of recent years (the Flash photographed the streets of a "Crossroads City" that existed in place of Hub City; a real-life Captain America held a captive Adolf Hitler aloft by his collar). From time to time she looked around the room, noticing objects even stranger than the huge color screen of her host's "televisor".
When it was over, Lois looked down and saw she was holding Roberta's hand.
"So, I'm in a different world now? I'm from that, um, Earth-348?"
"No, hon, another one. One that . . . doesn't exist any more."
It was true enough. The Earth-349 of the 1940s was long gone.
"And now I'm gonna live here with you?"
"That's right. I have your room ready for you at the big house outside of town; for tonight, you can sleep in the spare room here."
Lois pulled her hand from Roberta's.
"Suppose I don't want to?"
She jumped up from the couch with what looked disturbingly like decades of athletic experience working her ten-year-old body.
"I wake up in this weird place, and you tell me a crazy story about how it's 1966 and a whole new world, and you've got a nice room for me and --"
Roberta rose slowly from the couch.
Lois snatched up a glass bowl from the coffee table and held it over her head.
"Tell me what's really going on, you bitch!"
Unexpectedly, instead of trying to hit Roberta with the bowl, Lois swung it sideways and smashed in the TV screen.
A hand clamped on Lois' wrist. She was hauled off her feet and over the coffee table without touching it. She landed on the couch, across Roberta's lap.
"That, young lady, is enough!"
Roberta was surprised by the voice she heard coming from her own lips. It wasn't the stern voice of Roberta Wayne in the boardroom, nor the inhuman menace of Batwoman. With a start, she recognized it as the voice of an angered mother.
Lois kicked and thrashed as Roberta flipped up her skirt and yanked down her panties, but she did not display the preternatural grace she had a moment ago. She merely struggled as any child might.
And when Roberta's hand came down again and again on her small pink buttocks, Lois responded in a perfectly natural fashion for a ten-year-old: she kicked and screamed and was shortly in tears.
Roberta sat her young charge upright and glared into her eyes.
"Now, there will be no more outbursts like that, will there?"
The tiny, contrite voice was immensely gratifying to hear. But then, Roberta reflected, four days as a captive of the Penguin had shown her that mysterious time-bending abilities were not really needed to turn a grown woman into a snivelling, obediant child.
"All right, then. How about if you wash your face and get ready for bed?"
By the time Lois had had a bath and brushed her teeth, she was calling her guardian "Roberta", which made Roberta feel better about the whole project. She was confident that she and Alfred, and little Delia, would be able to provide Lois with a proper second chance at life.
She even got a good night kiss.