"Operation Kaizen": In the Court of Owls lab building, the Birds of Prey have split up in the hopes of locating their friend Strix, who was last seen in battle with one of the Court's active Talons. W
- Remember when I told you I'd belonged to a team before?
- — Condor
Synopsis for "Operation Kaizen"
In the Court of Owls lab building, the Birds of Prey have split up in the hopes of locating their friend Strix, who was last seen in battle with one of the Court's active Talons. While Batgirl has found a trail of Talon blood, the Talons' regenerative abilities mean that it is impossible to tell whether the blood the wounds came from is something to be concerned about. Black Canary and Condor heard some suspicious sounds coming from nearby, but the sounds have stopped. Hurrying to the most likely source, coincidence has it that Batgirl's trail of blood leads to the Mezzanine as well. There, they spot Strix's footsteps, leading back to the lab.
At the lab, they are glad to see that Strix is alive but wearing a different costume. Meanwhile, the Talon that had pursued her is gone, and the woman's body that the Court's scientists were experimenting on has gone missing. Though she could not speak to give them an answer to the mystery if she wanted, Strix's only response is to press her finger to her lips, as if to shush them. Resigning themselves to the fact that they may never know what went on, the Birds take their leave of the Court's lab, setting explosive charges along the way to ensure that nothing will be left there that the Court can use.
Unfortunately, thanks to Starling's betrayal, they've nowhere safe to go that Dinah might have gone before. Their funding has also been compromised, given that it was set up by Starling too. Barbara's life isn't much more stable, but fortunately, Condor has somewhere to take them; a warehouse where he tinkers with his wings. Though they aren't eager to impose on him, he explains that being a part of the team means being there for his friends. Not long after they arrive, Batgirl receives a call and has to leave suddenly, refusing to accept any help.
In the Andes mountains, Regulus is pleased that the final phase of his Operation Kaizen is beginning. Eager to get moving, he reconvenes a team of home-made metahumans with the intention of returning a lost one of their number to the fold: Condor. And with him, they have been ordered to bring the Black Canary as well. After all this time, Regulus has something special in mind for her - something that will break her.
After days, Dinah and Ben haven't heard from Barbara, and it's beginning to be a concern. Even so, Dinah doesn't want to intrude on her friend's privacy. Strix, meanwhile, has been sitting silently, waiting, and Dinah is concerned that she will leave and search for Batgirl. In fact, Dinah is worried that her team is coming apart. She has considered calling in some friends to bolster the Birds' ranks, but there is a great cost in doing so - a cost she is not willing to pay. Ben assures her that it is merely a rough patch, putting his arm around her. The action confuses Dinah, but he insists that she can't keep punishing herself for what happened to her husband Kurt, and he kisses her. Uncomfortably, Dinah pushes him away, warning that she isn't ready, though she knows he's a good man. Ben assures her that he will wait, but in the meantime, he must take care of some financial matters.
Ben travels to the Gotham Municipal Bank, and after arranging the transfer of some funds, he encounters an older woman on the street. She stops him to ask whether he can spare some change because she is short on bus fare. Rather than give her change, he hires her a cab and pays for it himself with more cash than necessary. He explains that in his tribe, they treasure their elders. As the cab drives off, Miz Ettie confirms that Ben exceeded her expectations; he had passed the test.
Just as Dinah decides it's time to ask Strix to come down from her perch in the rafters, they are both alerted by the sound of Batgirl's bike approaching. Unfortunately, Batgirl seems shaken. She explains that Dinah is the only person who will understand what she did, having killed a loved one by accident. Dinah explains that she got through that ordeal with the help of her friends - with Barbara's help, in fact. And, now, she will do whatever she can to help Barbara.
Meanwhile, on his return trip to the warehouse, Condor is suddenly overwhelmed by cyclones that seem to come from nowhere. He is familiar with this phenomenon, though. It is the ability of Tsiklon, his former team mate. She kisses him against his will, stating firmly that he belongs to her. Angrily, he throws her aside and demands to know where her partners are, knowing that they cannot be far. Coldly Tsiklon warns that he cannot walk away from Basilisk, as she heads toward the workshop where Hammerdown, Whipcrack, and Uplink are already tearing the door down.
When Condor catches up, he admits that these attackers were once the team he belonged to - and they belong to Basilisk. Hearing this, Dinah feels betrayed and becomes angry as it is piled on top of Starling's betrayal. Angrily, she prepares her Canary Cry, only to have it deflected by Uplink. The blast leaves the Birds of Prey unconscious, and Tsiklon and her team take Condor and Canary away, leaving Batgirl and Strix at Whipcrack's mercy.
Appearing in "Operation Kaizen"
- Story continues from Talon #9
- Birds of Prey Recommended Reading