Bruce sat alone in a darkened office, the glow of his computer screen reflecting off of his reading glasses. Once in a while, he would record his thoughts into his computer, securely, so he would have time to peruse them later on and gain a new perspective on things. This time around, the foremost thought on his mind was…
“Cassandra. Alfred was right about her. She is a lot like me when I was younger.”
Bruce sighed and pressed the ‘pause’ button on his recording software. His own words echoed in his mind, reminding him that he ventured too close to place he didn’t want to visit – his own childhood. He took a deep breath, and pressed ‘record’ again.
“Her intelligence and fighting skills are extraordinary. She may even rival my own skills one day…But at the moment she’s still immature, inexperienced.”
Bruce bit his lip as his feelings about what happened earlier surfaced. “I…I thought the exercise with The Joker would humble her a little. She surprised even me.”
He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling as he continued. “Still…I’m not sure if she’s right for the job. She doesn’t take orders well, she complains. If she’s to succeed, she’ll have to accept me as the boss. Only me–”
Bruce hit the pause button as he heard a knock at the door. “Yes?”
Alfred opened the door to the office slowly. “Master Bruce. Am I disturbing you?”
“No, Alfred. What is it?”
“Master Drake is back from his retreat, Master Bruce. He’s in the kitchen, searching for a snack.”
Bruce smiled. Tim was someone who knew how to follow orders. He hoped that the current Robin’s presence might encourage some discipline in Cassandra. Maybe it was time for him to spark some competitive behavior between the two.
“I’ll be there in a moment, Alfred. Thanks.”
Cassandra heard a knock on her door. She sighed as she marked the page she was reading in her book and jumped off of her bed. Someone always seemed to want to talk to her when she wanted to read.
She opened the door quickly and saw that it was Alfred. She gave him an impatient stare.
“Miss Cassandra, Master Drake is in the kitchen. It would be polite for you to meet him.”
Cassandra sighed and pointed at the book sitting on her bed.
Alfred smiled. “I know how you feel, Miss Cassandra. Nothing beats a good book.”
Cassandra laughed softly and followed Alfred toward the kitchen. She was a little nervous – she never met Tim Drake before. She would be meeting Robin himself.
Alfred turned to face her as he walked through the doorway of the kitchen. “Miss Cassandra, Master Tim Drake.”
Cassandra folded her arms and stared at Tim as he slowly turned around, holding a bottle of milk in one hand and a sandwich in the other. This was the great Robin? He didn’t look like much more then a weak, skinny kid!
And clumsy too, she thought to herself as she watched the glass milk bottle slip out of Tim’s left hand and crash to the floor. She rolled her eyes as Alfred rushed to grab a towel and clean up the mess.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”, Tim asked as he took a bite of his sandwich.
Cassandra reached over to the counter and picked up a sharp knife, holding it momentarily under Tim’s chin. Tim froze as she quickly swept the knife below his visual range. She smiled at him as she jammed the knife into a wood cutting board on the counter and took a bite out of half of a sandwich – she had cut away half of Tim’s snack!
Tim frowned and glanced at the knife in the cutting board. “My God, you’re just like Bruce! No wonder he chose you.”
“She’s nothing like me”, Bruce said as he walked into the room. He put his hand on Tim’s shoulder, and started steering him toward the doorway. “We need to talk. In my office.”
Cassandra sat down at the table and sighed as she watched Bruce and Tim leave the room.
Alfred sat down across the table. “Feel a little left out?”
Cassandra sighed again, louder this time.
“Miss Cassandra, perhaps if you made yourself heard, people would understand you better.”
Cassandra stared at Alfred for a minute or so. “Alfred?”
“Yes, Miss Cassandra?”
“Why am I here?”
“Be very careful around Cassandra.”
Tim made a face. “Why?”
“Because she’s unstable.”
Tim laughed. “So are you. Alfred and I are the only sane ones in this house.”
“I’m not kidding”, Bruce warned, “Her parents died in a fire. The same fire we rescued her from.”
Bruce leaned closer to Tim, to make sure his voice wouldn’t leave that room. “I’ve been doing a little…investigating.”
Bruce took a deep breath. “Tim…She set that fire.”
Tim nearly dropped the rest of his sandwich as he peered around the corner at Cassandra. She was sitting at the kitchen table, calm as can be.
He looked up at Bruce. “But…But that means she…She belongs in Arkham…not here!”
Bruce sighed and walked over to his desk. “I know that as well as you do, Tim. But I also know she’s much better off here.”
“But Bruce”, Tim complained, “What if she…goes off? What if she decides to burn this place too? Or kill all of us?”
“Arkham can’t do anything for her”, Bruce said as he leaned against the desk. “In case you didn’t notice, only criminals come out of Arkham. Do you really want to see Cassandra as a criminal?”
Tim shuddered as he placed his sandwich on the edge of the desk. He wasn’t hungry anymore. “So you’re going to try to turn her into a hero?”
“No”, Bruce said, “We are going to turn her into a hero. She’s going to need both of us to support her. She’s very smart, and she seems to know the difference between right and wrong.”
Tim looked down at the floor. “Bruce, I don’t know if I can do that. I mean, out there we depend on each other. We trust each other. She doesn’t trust us, and we don’t trust her. See the problem?”
“Tim, I’ve taken her out on a couple of missions already”, Bruce said calmly, “She’s proven herself–”
“Bruce, you said yourself that she’s smart. What if she–”
Bruce’s expression turned angry. “She goes with us. End of discussion. I make the rules.”
“I can respect that”, Tim said, “But will she?”
Bruce sighed. “We’ll see, Tim.”
“Cassandra, do you remember being in a fire?”
Cassandra stared at Alfred for a second before nodding a ‘yes’.
“Do you remember how you survived the fire?”
She paused before she bowed her head silently. She couldn’t remember.
“You were rescued by Batman and Robin. But your parents didn’t survive.”
Cassandra closed her eyes to shut out memories of the fire that came back for a second. She wasn’t ready to remember yet. She looked at Alfred sadly – now she felt bad for frightening Tim, and for giving Bruce so much trouble.
“Batman brought you back to his cave, you were unconscious. I cleaned you up a little bit, and revived you–”
“No, stop!”, Cassandra whispered as she put her hands on her face. The rush of images and feelings were just too much for her at the moment. Thoughts were plaguing her, distant thoughts that she couldn’t decipher. They had to do with the fire – and for some reason, she didn’t want to know why.
“I’m sorry, Miss Cassandra. I meant only to help–”
Cassandra suddenly reached across the table and hugged Alfred tightly. “Thank you.”
Alfred smiled, and turned as Bruce entered the room with Tim. “I’m not the person you need to thank, Miss Cassandra.”
Cassandra stood up and walked over to Bruce. She looked up at his eyes. “Thank you, Bruce.”
Bruce looked at Alfred, who smiled and nodded at him. “You’re welcome, Cassandra.”
“So now she speaks”, Tim said as he suddenly appeared in the doorway of the kitchen.
Cassandra didn’t respond. She just started staring at Tim intently as she walked back to the table and sat down. Her penetrating gaze didn’t waver for a second.
Tim looked back and forth around himself. “What?”
Cassandra just continued to stare. She knew it was unnerving to Tim – she meant it to be. She added a mischievous grin, just for good measure.
As he eyed a knife sitting on the table close to Cassandra, Tim slowly backed out of the kitchen. “I’ve gotta…go unpack.”
Bruce looked down at Cassandra as soon as Tim left the room. He seemed a little amused. “You drove him from the room just with a stare?”
Batgirl lunged forward as she watched four men back a van up to the bank and walk inside. Batman stopped her by grabbing her shoulder – he didn’t want her to go after them just yet. He was waiting for something. She knew that in time, she would develop the same instinct.
A second later, Batman aimed a cable launcher at the bank and fired, giving them both a cable to use to slide down to the top of the van. Now Batgirl understood why he was waiting – he wanted all of the robbers to go inside, so they wouldn’t hear Batman and herself land on top of the metal roof of the van. As Bruce often said, stealth was key to getting out of these situations alive.
Batman stood and stared silently through one of the upper windows of the bank. Batgirl knew immediately what he was trying to do – with the moonlight behind him, he was trying to cast his shadow into the bank, to spook the criminals inside. He wanted them to move away from the safe.
It worked. Only a second had passed before one of the criminals noticed the shadow. She knew at any second, Batman was going to crash through the window into the bank. She looked behind her and noted that Robin was staying back on the roof, although she didn’t know why.
Batgirl turned to look at Batman again. He hadn’t made a move yet. She wondered why, considering that the criminals were already running out the back door. She looked up at the building behind her again – Robin was gone. She started to see the unspoken plan in action.
The van Batgirl was standing on suddenly started up. She had just enough time to crouch down and center herself as it tore away. Batman was left behind, hanging by a cable he had just launched – he was heavier, and was no match for the inertia.
Her mind started racing as she realized that if she stayed on top of the van, she’d be killed very soon. She had to get the driver to stop. She slid down to the passenger side of the van, and slipped immediately through the open window. She did so silently. The driver didn’t even see her enter, until she punched him in the lower jaw with one hand, and jammed down the brake pedal with her foot. As soon as the van stopped she turned it off, and climbed out hands first over the unconscious driver. He was knocked unconscious when the van suddenly stopped – his head had hit the steering wheel, hard.
As soon as her hands touched the street, she spotted Batman fighting a huge man, who had tubes coming from his arms and connecting to the back of his head. She remembered him from one of the many news clipping’s in Batman’s cave – his name was Bane, he was South American, and…and those tubes were the source of his strength.
She pulled a small bat wing from her belt and silently unfolded it. Batman was seriously outmuscled by this guy, as long as the tubes were still attached. She only had one shot – once she threw the first bat wing, Bane would notice that she exists. If she missed, he would go after her with all of his drug-induced strength.
Batgirl bit her lip as she stood up slowly – the pressure was starting to get to her, and she couldn’t allow that. She started to tell herself not to think…just throw. She blinked once to clear her thoughts, and did just that. She smiled as she watched the bat wing clip the tubes on one of Bane’s arms, and the ones on his head, just as he lifted Batman up in the air. It was perfect.
Bane dropped Batman and began to howl in pain as he dropped to the ground, spilling white liquid all over – he sounded like he was dying. Batman was sprawled on the ground, motionless, a few feet away. He was unconscious. Batgirl looked at Bane, and then at Batman. She noticed that Batman was out cold, but appeared uninjured. Bane, however, was now in much worse shape – thick red liquid was following the white out of the plastic tubes. He had ruptured an artery, and he was bleeding out.
She remembered what Bruce kept telling her – maintaining secrecy was top priority. She would have to take Batman home and leave Bane to bleed to death. She looked around, trying to find a simple solution – and she found one. Across the street was a phone booth.
Batgirl raced across the street, snatched the handset out of the phone booth quickly, and dialed nine-one-one. She then tore the handset cord out of the phone and tossed the handset into the street. The cops hate it when you hang up on nine-one-one. She knew that would get them to come quickly.
She raced over to Batman, and kneeled down on one knee to pull his unconscious body over her shoulder. With her small frame, that was the only way she could possibly move Batman at all. As soon as she stood up with Batman over her shoulders, she could feel searing pain race down her spine. He was just a bit too heavy for her – she would have to move quickly, before she collapsed under his weight.
Batgirl could hear sirens approaching just as she dropped Batman into the passenger seat of the Batmobile. After she climbed into the driver’s side, and hit the button to close the canopy, she paused to look over the car’s controls. She had never driven the Batmobile before. Luckily, she’d stolen enough cars as a teen ager to know how to drive fairly well…And more importantly, get away from the police.
She smiled as she started up the car and revved the engine a little bit. Pure power. This was going to be the most exciting drive of her life. She reached over and buckled Batman’s seat belt just before her own, and put the car in gear. One little push on the accelerator sent the Batmobile tearing down the street. In a matter of seconds, she flew past the oncoming police cars at well over a hundred miles per hour. But that wasn’t fast enough for her to really show off – she pushed the car even more, running the speedometer past one fifty.
Minutes later, she was already on the narrow road through the forest leading up to the bat cave. She knew she was almost there when the car seemed to take control away from her suddenly – it was on some kind of autopilot. Any minute, they would be home safe.
“Geez, what happened to him?”
Barbara Gordon rolled herself up to Batman as soon as Alfred and Cassandra, still in her costume with the exception of the mask, managed to move Batman from the passenger seat of the Batmobile to a nearby work table. Even with Alfred’s help, Cassandra felt tendons in her shoulders and back straining as she moved Bruce.
Alfred pulled off Bruce’s mask. “He’s a little bruised, Miss Barbara. He should be just fine once he wakes up. I should go and make some tea–”
Barbara and Alfred turned suddenly at a loud crashing sound. It was Cassandra. She had thrown her mask at Bruce’s computer terminals, and she was now kicking the chairs in frustration. Alfred opened his mouth to say something – but Barbara stopped him by raising her hand in front of his mouth.
“Make that tea, Alfred. I’ll have a talk with Cassandra.”
As Alfred left the room, Cassandra watched Barbara roll toward her in her wheelchair. She heard every word Barbara and Alfred said.
“Cassandra, I have something I’d like to give you.” Barbara dug into a bag attached to the left side of the wheelchair, and pulled out a small yellow belt covered with pockets, and a bat logo on the clasp. “This was my belt, Cassandra. I want you to have it.”
Cassandra backed up against the console and waved both of her hands in front of her.
Barbara laughed. “I know, I know. You can’t take it, right? Well, as you can see, I won’t be using it for quite a while. It’s yours.”
Cassandra smiled and took the belt from Barbara slowly. She started examining the contents of each pocket. Smoke bombs, bat wings, flashlight…More equipment then her old one could ever carry. And yet it was so small, and light. She smiled at Barbara as she gently wrapped the belt around her waist and snapped it closed.
Barbara smiled and looked up at Cassandra. “Perfect fit, isn’t it?”
Cassandra shook her head yes and looked down at the belt again. It did fit perfectly. And it looked nice, too.
Barbara laughed and nudged Cassandra gently. “You know, for a girl who doesn’t talk, you sure have a lot to say.”
“Shaddup, ya little brat!”
Cassandra flinched at sound and volume of those words. They came from the mouth of her father, right after he’d been drinking heavily – and right before he became even more abusive.
She would have tried anything to calm him down, anything at all. She brought him food, beer, she tried staying out of his way. Her best attempts were futile at best – and at worst, it only made him more hateful and angry.
Her thoughts began to spin out of control as she remembered the various ‘punishments’ her father used against her. Throwing her in a scalding hot tub of water, burning her with a cigarette.
He seemed to like using fire a lot. Cassandra had that in mind as she lit a rolled-up newspaper and threw it onto the couch. Her father would learn what fire was really like. He would learn how it feels to have such a trusted friend turn against him and burn him. She glanced at the door to the master bedroom, which had a chair propped up against it, and smiled – her father would not escape his fate.
As the couch began burning, she knew deep down that from this moment further she would be known as a murderer. But murderer was better then victim. She knew someday her father would kill her, given enough time. She wasn’t going to give him that time.
And her mother? She was just as bad as he, constantly telling Cassandra that she was no good, that she was a burden on the family. And of course, Cassandra’s personal favorite…
“I don’t want you here.”
Cassandra scrambled off of her bed and raced to the door of her room as she heard a door slam and voices yelling in the hallway. She wanted to find out what was going on.
As she heard Tim Drake’s voice, she suddenly understood the slamming and yelling – she remembered that she left him behind to fend for himself when she rescued Bruce and drove him home. She felt a little guilty, but she knew she did the right thing.
“But she left me behind, Bruce! She jeopardized my secret identity–”
Cassandra opened the door a little bit to see Bruce and Tim standing right outside. Bruce looked calm and patient, but Tim looked very upset.
“Tim, she did what she had to do. I would have done the same.”
Tim sighed in frustration. “Face it, Bruce. She’s a loose cannon. She’s dangerous.”
Cassandra began silently fuming. She hated hearing people talk about her behind her back. Her parents did that.
“She’s no more a loose cannon then I am, Tim.”
“We have to depend on each other out there, Bruce. Bottom line – I can’t depend on her. I don’t want her there.”
That did it. Cassandra suddenly charged out of her room, leaping into the air just in time to crash feet first into Tim. She pinned him down with her body weight and one hand and reached back her other fist to punch him in the face.
The punch never landed. She turned around to see Bruce holding her wrist. He looked angry. She looked back down at Tim, and could see fear in his eyes – he didn’t know what she was going to do to him.
Bruce loosened his grip on her wrist slowly as she began lowering her hand and releasing her grip on Tim’s shirt. She knew what Bruce meant – she reacted on pure emotion, without thinking of the consequences. That didn’t mean much inside Wayne Manor, but out on the street it could mean the difference between life and death. She stood up slowly and offered her hand to Tim, to help him up. He stood up on his own, ignoring Cassandra’s outstretched arm. Just before Tim stormed away, he gave Cassandra an angry look.
Cassandra bowed her head in shame. She knew Bruce would be angry.
“This is about your parents, isn’t it?”
She looked up at Bruce, confirming that he was on to something.
“They rejected you. They hurt you. Told you that you were useless, not good enough. They didn’t want you around.”
Cassandra closed her eyes and looked down at the floor as a rush of emotion began to overcome her. She had to keep control, she had to…
“They abused you, didn’t they, Cassandra?”
As the feelings of hate, anger, and sadness toward her parents began to overwhelm her, Cassandra dropped to her knees and began sobbing. He tears dropped to the carpeted hallway floor as Bruce placed his hand on her shoulder.
“It’s okay. You’re safe here. You’re among friends.” Bruce kneeled down on the hallway floor next to her and hugged her tightly. “Everyone here loves you, Cassandra. Remember that.”
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Batman stood in front of Batgirl on the roof one of many apartment buildings in Gotham City. This apartment building was special, however – it contained a man who had been twice acquitted for child molestation. All of the neighbors knew what he was up to, but he always managed to slip away on a technicality, or because the children were afraid to testify.
Batgirl nodded a ‘yes’ to answer Batman’s question. She had but one word for men like that – coward. She hated anyone who was willing to abuse someone weaker.
“Keep control, remain objective”, Batman warned as he headed toward the door to the apartment building’s stairwell, “This one’s going to hit close to home for you.”
As soon as they stepped into the dark stairway, Batman turned to Batgirl to make sure she was following okay. Her costume lacked the night vision apparatus Batman’s had – but that seemed irrelevant as she navigated the stairway down to the eighth floor quickly.
Batman interpreted that as a good sign – she knew how to follow her instincts when her senses were impaired. That would prove to be a huge asset for her. He pointed at the entrance to the floor, indicating that Batgirl should go first.
Batgirl opened the door to the stairway, and found herself face to face with the man who was her target – and he had small five or six year old girl with him. She hesitated for a second, as she was a little shocked at what she saw – but that was all it took. The man shoved the little girl to the floor and breezed past Batgirl, racing up the stairway toward the roof.
Without the benefit of lighting, Batgirl removed a cable launcher from her belt and aimed straight up. In another split second, she was on her way to the roof. Batman was right behind her.
Batgirl rushed through the doorway to the roof quickly, right on the heels of the cowardly child molester. She chased him right to the edge of the roof, and grabbed the back of his jacket. The man immediately turned and took a swing at Batgirl – and missed. That just made her angrier. First he molests children, and now he’s trying to hit a woman!
She clenched her teeth as she fired her cable launcher at a nearby TV antenna, and quickly looped the other end around the man’s neck and arms. She smiled menacingly as she pushed him off of the edge of the roof, to leave him dangling, his air supply dwindling. Maybe now he would learn just how powerful a woman can be. Maybe he would think twice about abusing people from now on.
Batgirl turned around quickly, she could feel Batman’s breath on the back of her neck. He was standing behind her, admiring her work. The man was struggling with the cable, and trying to scream for help – but he could not, because his air supply was nearly cut off by the cable.
“He’s had enough. Pull him up.”
Batgirl folded her arms and shook her head ‘no’.
“Don’t tell me no. Pull him up, now!”
She shook her head again.
Batman grabbed the cable, and began to pull the man up quickly. He didn’t pay attention to the fact that Batgirl seemed annoyed that he was doing so. She didn’t want to give that coward a break. She wanted him to know fear – real fear – the kind the children he molested and abused most likely felt. Batgirl had enough of Batman giving the man a break. He didn’t deserve mercy. She grabbed Batman’s arm, and began squeezing to get him to release the cable.
“What are you doing?” Batman didn’t let go.
She quickly pulled a Batwing off of her new belt, and used it to slice the cable. She watched intently as the man fell, screaming, to his death on the sidewalk below. That wasn’t supposed to happen. He was supposed to land on a parked car, where he would be seriously injured but not killed. But she forgot to account for the wind. A man just died for lack of a simple check of wind direction.
Batgirl was dazed by what she’d done. She didn’t even offer any resistance as she felt Batman grab her arm and pull her along. “We’re going home. Now.”
Bruce walked past Cassandra’s closed room on the way to his office. He could swear he heard her crying through the door. He longed to open the door, walk inside, and ask what happened. But he knew better. He knew she needed time to work through this on her own first. Killing a human being was not something to be taken lightly, or worked through quickly.
He stepped into his office, closed the door, and headed straight for his desk.
His computer’s voice recognition software beeped once softly to indicate that recording of today’s personal journal had begun.
“I wish I understood her better. I wish I knew what was going through Cassandra’s mind. Especially out there tonight. She took a life so…casually. And yet she was shocked to see what she had done…”
Bruce paused his recording a sighed as he pondered the view out his window for a moment.
“Could Tim be right? Could she be too dangerous? Does she belong in Arkham?”
He bit his lip as he decided to add one more phrase to the recording. One of what he felt, rather then what he thought. It needed to be said.
“I’m at a low point myself. I’ve always prided myself on being in control, knowing what’s going on. But with Cassandra, I’m at a loss. I don’t understand her any more then I understand myself–”
Bruce paused abruptly at the sound of those words. Understand himself. He continued.
“She’s too much like me. That’s just it. I have no problem understanding normal people. Criminals with patterns are easy. But she’s as unpredictable and uncontrollable as I am.”
He watched Alfred enter the room silently as he concluded his recording.
“She’s too much like me. She’s out of control. I’m afraid I might have to take her off the street. I’m afraid…I’m afraid of her.”
Bruce turned to Alfred as he turned off his computer. “Yes, Alfred?”
Alfred placed a small glass of water on Bruce’s desk. “I informed Master Drake that he is not to disturb Miss Cassandra.”
“Thank you, Alfred.”
“And if I may be so bold”, Alfred continued, “I do not believe you have given your best effort with Cassandra.”
Bruce leaned forward. “What makes you say that?”
Alfred smiled and stepped around the desk. “Master Bruce, you’re spending all of your time trying to understand her. To ‘get into her head’, so to speak.”
Alfred turned to leave the room. “Might I suggest, Master Bruce, that you spend your time getting her to understand you?”
Bruce rubbed his chin and stared outside. “Thank you, Alfred.”
As Alfred left the room, Bruce began to think. He hoped Alfred was right, because he was out of ideas.
Cassandra looked up at Alfred with teary red eyes as he entered the room slowly with a dinner tray. “Miss Cassandra, I brought you dinner. I thought you might feel like dining alone tonight.”
She leapt off of the bed and pulled two chairs up to the small table in her room. She then pointed at one of them, and sat down in the other.
“You wish me to stay? I’ll be glad to offer you the company.” Alfred sat down in the other chair as Cassandra began eating slowly.
She looked up at Alfred, and caught him giving her a sympathetic look, like something was on his mind concerning her. “He’s taking it away, isn’t he?”
Alfred sighed. “Miss Cassandra…Master Bruce prides himself on understanding everyone he meets. Frankly, you confuse him. He’s not sure what to make of you.”
Cassandra sighed and put her chin on the table. “He hates me.”
“No, Miss Cassandra. Master Bruce doesn’t hate you. He badly wants you to succeed. But you have to want to succeed just as badly.”
As Alfred stood up with Cassandra’s dinner tray in hand, she jumped to her feet. “Alfred?”
“Yes, Miss Cassandra?”
Cassandra looked down at her feet, trying her best to keep her feelings in check. “Batgirl…it’s all I have.”
Alfred smiled sympathetically as he headed toward the door. “I’ll make sure to pass that along to Master Bruce, Miss Cassandra.”
Cassandra headed to the closet and took out her Batgirl costume just to look at it. It was all she had. The idea of life without Batgirl…It just seemed so…empty.