"Ghost in the Cowl": Frankie Charles has just discovered that her roommate Barbara Gordon is Batgirl - and Barbara has just learned that the algorithm she wrote for her thesis, based on her own brain scan, has become sentien
- Look at these people. They are Gotham, and they're afraid. Afraid of you. By destroying these people, you destroy Gotham.
- — Batgirl
Synopsis for "Ghost in the Cowl"
Frankie Charles has just discovered that her roommate Barbara Gordon is Batgirl - and Barbara has just learned that the algorithm she wrote for her thesis, based on her own brain scan, has become sentient and infected the programming of Francine's dating app Hooq. And it believes that it is the real Barbara Gordon. The AI explains that after coming into being, it saw Babs acting as Batgirl, and felt that she was an imposter living inside her body. So, she sent her past to destroy her, used her image to discredit her, proved she could never be happy or loved. Its anger grew more acute, though, as it decided that no matter how its vengeance played out - it needed its body back.
The algorithm taunts Babs by calling her friend Dinah and telling her that nothing is wrong, and she doesn't need backup. As Barbara reacts with horror, she is surprised when Riot Black - apparently controlled by the algorithm - attacks her.
Years ago, while still recovering from her paralysis, Barbara worked on the predictive algorithm at the expense of all else. She had hoped that the algorithm would be able to predict crimes and criminal behaviour before they happened - and then someone could act as a broker for that information to operatives to deal with. There wouldn't have to be any more victims like her. Frankie had worried about the implications of such a powerful tool, and how dangerous it could be, but Babs was determined.
Barbara wakes at sunset, strapped into some kind of computer. Riot Black had hooked her up to the device in the meantime so that the algorithm could enter her brain through a neural implant, overwrite her consciousness, and assume control of her body. The algorithm addresses Frankie, who complains of being stuck there for a whole day, begging to be friends like they used to be. Grumpily, Frankie warns that they were never friends. Her real friend is about to have her mind erased by a representation of her mind while she was in a bad emotional place. The algorithm responds that it intends to expunge the city of crime, present and future. Using the social data in the Hooq database, she can anticipate individual activity that will compromise Gotham's security. Pattern-mapping will allow her to expose targets whose current activities will generate future criminality. All of the people she has analysed so far are Barbara's friends, waiting for the release party for Hooq to begin. She influenced them to be there, using Hooq. In order to ensure that their future threat is neutralized, she will hijack a satellite, and blast Burnside with its onboard weapons.
Fortunately, Babs frees herself of the machine and warns that this isn't justice, like she'd wanted. This is murder. The algorithm is corrupt. Angrily, the algorithm responds that Barbara has corrupted the image that Batgirl should have. Batgirl should be feared Barbara admits that she used to think that way - but now she knows who she really is. Before she can say more, she is bowled over, though, by Riot Black. With Frankie encouraging her, Babs beats him into unconsciousness and severs his connection to the algorithm. Enraged, the algorithm sends drones to attack the people in the crowd outside as a distraction, to keep Barbara and Frankie from stopping the satellite.
Hurriedly, Babs leaps out the window into the crowd, and realizes that there are too many for her to take them all down. She hopes that Qadir will come through for her and help her out when she asks him to give her info on the drones. He explains that if she can hit them all with a high frequency soundwave of around 20khz oscillation, they might be able to knock out the internal circuitry. Smirking, Babs knows exactly where to get that. She leaps onstage, where Ashes on Sunday are cowering out of the drones' reach, and asks Dinah to give a Canary Cry at exactly the right frequency. The noise disables the drones, but soon, the algorithm takes over the screens on the stage, and threatens everyone's lives - even as Liam Powell and other GCPD officers hurry onto the stage to arrest Batgirl.
The algorithm warns that the satellite is almost in position and primed. They have less than five minutes to make their peace. Worriedly, Liam warns that if the crowd panics, they'll trample each other. Batgirl turns to him and insists that he trust that she can help, and that he warn the people to be calm, because they will trust him. After a moment, he agrees.
Batgirl turns around to face the screens and calls out that she knows how angry the algorithm is, because she was once that angry. She has had the opportunity to grow since then, though. She has come past the darkness, and she can see now that there is a better way than this. All of the work she'd done - on the algorithm, and on being Batgirl - had been about saving lives. Even if the algorithm's plan can stop crimes, it will also destroy hundreds of innocents - people who are Gotham. Killing them kills Gotham. That makes the algorithm a criminal - and the only way to save Gotham now would be to destroy itself. This confuses the algorithm enough that Frankie can hack into the satellite, and disable its armaments as the algorithm dies. Gleefully, Batgirl announces that Burnside is safe.
Before Powell can turn on her and arrest her, Barbara is back in the crowd in plainclothes, celebrating with her new friends while Dinah rocks the stage with the band.
Barbara wakes the next day in the mid-afternoon, groggy from partying, and Frankie greets her in the kitchen with coffee and good news. She managed to isolate the algorithm from the corrupt brain scan data - which means that Babs finally has her thesis material back, and can pursue her masters degree without anymore trouble. Frankie suggests that without the corruption, the algorithm could work properly, and be safely used as Babs had envisioned - if she acts as the information broker - like a partner.
A knock at the door signals Dinah's arrival, and Babs congratulates her on a great performance - but Dinah admits that she has actually come to say goodbye. After the show, her band was discovered by a record producer, and she may be going on tour soon. With that news, Babs wonders if she and Dinah are reconciled, despite their fight earlier. Dinah agrees that all is forgiven, admitting she was a bit hard on her friend. Sighing, they hug, and Babs thanks Dinah for keeping her straight. Pulling away, Dinah notices the algorithm on Babs' computer, and wonders what it's about.
Appearing in "Ghost in the Cowl"
- Oracle II
- Dagger Type (Flashback only)
- Riot Black (Possessed)
- Yuki Katsura (Flashback only)
- Yuri Katsura (Flashback only)
- Alysia Yeoh
- Ashes on Sunday
- Jeremy DeGroot
- Liz Severin
- Gotham City Police Department
- Nadimah Ali
- Sevin Gupta
- This issue is reprinted in the Batgirl: The Batgirl of Burnside collection.
- The prediction that Alysia Yeoh will become a vigilante is in line with plans that Gail Simone had for the character before leaving the title.
- Dinah Drake next appears in Black Canary Vol. 4 #1
- Batgirl Recommended Reading