An old man with a beard, wearing a dark coat and hat walked quickly down a street in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Gotham City, with his grandson in tow. He looked around nervously as he motioned with his other hand for his grandson to walk faster. The old man lived there for most of his life, and he could never remember feeling as unsafe in Gotham City. He knew of the rumors spreading through the community – young thugs wearing uniforms reminiscent of the Third Reich in Germany were terrorizing his neighbors.
As he heard many heavy footsteps behind him, he held on tighter to his grandson’s hand. Memories flooded back to him of when he was torn away from his family as a child in Germany. They were taken from him, led onto trains where he would never see them again. He glanced up at the high fence that protected the Synagogue from the world outside, a hostile world of vandals and thieves who wanted to destroy what he held so dear. He could never understand why.
Just as the old man reached the front door of the Synagogue, he felt a heavy stick of wood hit him in the back of the head. He cried out in pain as he shoved his grandson through the doorway. He turned to face the men who attacked him with dignity. He would not fight back – he would survive them through sheer will, and protect his grandson from harm. He’d lost so much in his life. He didn’t want to lose the most precious thing he would ever have.
“Grandpa! No!” The child tried to race to his aid, but he was pulled inside the Synagogue by several people who tried to protect him. They watched in horror as the old man screamed while the laughing uniformed men hit him again and again with sticks, the old man’s blood spattering the wall next to the front entrance of the Synagogue.
Then, just like that, the uniformed men stopped, dropped their sticks, and began running as a dark figured approached. It was a young woman, in a costume which looked a lot like Batman’s. The old man heard about her around the city – it was Batgirl. He couldn’t move any of his limbs, he couldn’t talk – but she understood him perfectly. She knew.
“–Found beaten severely in the old Jewish quarter of Gotham City, and is in serious condition at Gotham General. Witnesses described a young woman wearing a black costume similar to Batman’s frightening away the assailants. This ‘Batgirl’ is being hailed as a hero by–”
Bruce interrupted the television by turning it off and leaned back on the couch as Cassandra sat in an armchair which was a good distance away in the large living room. He could see, even in the dark room, that she was looking at him as she silently ate her popcorn.
“Let me guess”, Bruce said as he tossed the remote control on the coffee table, “They needed your help?”
Cassandra sat up straight and stared at Bruce. He hit the nail right on the head.
“Forget it, Cassandra. We can’t have the publicity. You know the rules.”
Cassandra rolled her eyes and went back to eating her popcorn.
Bruce leaned forward and looked right at Cassandra. “I mean it, Cassandra. The rules are what keeps us from being subjected to public scrutiny. We’re not like Superman, we’re human – our status stems from secrecy, not from power. We can’t get involved–”
He paused as Cassandra’s box of popcorn came flying toward him, missing him barely only because he saw it coming and ducked. He looked up in time to see her storm out of the living room, on the way to her own bedroom.
“Difficulties, Master Bruce?”
Bruce sighed. “Alfred, why does she have so much trouble with objectivity? It’s something I learned early on. It keeps me clear in a crisis. Always remain objective, don’t let anything affect you personally–”
“That’s a load, Bruce, and you know it.” Barbara came gliding into the living room quickly in her wheel chair, pulling up gently next to the couch. “I let things affect me, and I did just fine. The problem, Bruce, is that you try to mold everyone to be like you. Not everyone’s like you, you know.”
“You want to know what I think the problem is?” Tim sat up from his spot lying on the carpet next to the window. “She’s psycho, that’s what.”
Barbara sighed. “Tim, you haven’t even spent five minutes getting to know her.”
“That’s because I don’t want to know her.”
“Why not?” Barbara smiled slyly. “Afraid a girl’s gonna take your place?”
“Actually”, Tim said as he stood up and brushed the dust off of his jeans, “I’m more afraid she’s gonna kill me. She tried once already.”
Barbara frowned as Tim left the room quickly. “I’ll tell you what, Bruce. I think Cassandra should help them. And you know what else? I’m going to help her.”
Bruce sighed as Barbara quietly rolled out of the room, toward Cassandra’s bedroom. “Alfred, remember when this whole Batman thing was just you and me? I think I enjoyed it a lot more back then.”
“As I recall”, Alfred said as he headed toward the kitchen, “You were rather lonely and miserable, Master Bruce.”
As Bruce sat in the empty, silent living room, he leaned his chin on one hand and pondered what Alfred said. Alfred was right.
“Oh my God…Why didn’t I see the link before?”
Barbara turned away from her computer monitor to face Cassandra, who was standing behind her. “I’m so sorry, Cassandra. I…I’ve been reading about recent activity by the Aryan Nation in Gotham City. I just didn’t think much of it until now.”
Cassandra frowned and folded her arms. She didn’t know Barbara very well, but by reputation she figured that Oracle would have been more careful then that.
“I know, I know. I should have seen it coming.” Barbara put her face in her hands and sighed. “But these guys are always making trouble about something. They like making the news. But until now, they haven’t been outwardly violent.”
“They always escalate their attempts.”
Cassandra didn’t bother to turn around – she recognized Bruce’s voice. Apparently he changed his mind about wanting to help. She was glad.
“Nice of you to join us, Bruce”, Barbara said as she turned around, a little contempt in her voice.
Bruce sat down in his chair and leaned back. “My helping you won’t change the facts, Cassandra. The Jewish community in Gotham likes to keep a low profile. They never talk to the police…so they definitely won’t want our help.”
Barbara shook her head. “But…why?”
“Because they fear the attention, Barbara.” Bruce leaned forward. “They’re afraid that increased attention will lead to more violence, more destruction. They’re content to just clean up the mess themselves and move on.”
“I’m not sure I understand–”
Bruce looked up at Cassandra for a moment before turning his attention back to Barbara. “They’ve been persecuted for so long, they simply feel the need to hide, to seem unimportant so no one will attack them. The only problem is, that never works.”
“So what can we do?”
Bruce sighed. “Unfortunately, nothing–”
Barbara and Bruce turned suddenly at the sound of a loud crash. She had just thrown one of Bruce’s computer monitors on the floor to get attention, and was pointing to herself with her thumb.
Bruce shook his head. “You think you can protect them?”
Cassandra shook her head ‘yes’ quickly. She felt she could protect them. After all, some nights Bruce had her looking after whole sections of the city.
“Just looking after them isn’t enough.” Bruce stood up in front of Cassandra. “It will take a lot more then that.”
Cassandra cast Bruce an angry glance and stormed out of the room, back to her own.
Barbara watched her leave and then turned to Bruce. “You’re just going to let her go by herself?”
“She has to learn”, Bruce said as he headed toward her office, “One way or another.”
Batgirl watched from high atop a building across the street from the same synagogue she watched over the night before. The walls were still stained with spatters of the blood of the old man, in spite of futile attempts to clean it up. Blood of an innocent, a casualty of the worst kind of cowardice. Batgirl would allow no more.
She spied three old men wearing hats, heading toward the synagogue. The fact that Gotham City’s Jewish population was rapidly aging had a lot to do with how helpless they were against this new threat. Most of the younger generation moved to safer cities like Leesburg and Metropolis – leaving behind the old and defenseless, who weren’t so eager to leave their homes after all of those years living in Gotham.
But now they had someone to watch over them, to protect them from harm. She would spend as long as it took atop that building to make sure no more innocent blood would be shed.
Batgirl paused as she spotted some movement in the alley next to the synagogue. It was showtime – two men in sweatshirts stood in the darkness holding steel pipes. She spread her cape across her arms as if they were large wings, and dove toward the ground quickly.
The first ones to spot her were the old men – they didn’t seem to fear her, but they didn’t want to come close either. They watched in silence as Batgirl crashed feet-first into the two men holding pipes, knocking them unconscious. She quickly disarmed them both, and looked at one of the three old men.
He looked sad, like someone had just done him a great disservice. Batgirl was confused – she just saved their lives, shouldn’t they be grateful?
“Please, leave us alone”, the old man said in a shaky voice, “You’ll only bring us more trouble. Please.”
The painful truth began to dawn on Batgirl as she bowed her head and turned to sadly walk away. These people needed help, all right, but Batman was right – it would take a lot more then simply watching over them.
“Yeah, listen to the old man.”
As Batgirl looked up to see the source of the voice, headlights on a car hidden in the alley turned on, blinding her. She could sense danger all around – her senses sharpened quickly as adrenaline quickly raised her to full alertness. She heard several footsteps approaching – and she was ready for them.
A shadow leapt out of behind the stream of light toward Batgirl, carrying a knife. Batgirl grabbed him with enough force to tear his arm right out of his shoulder socket – and as he screamed in pain, she slammed him head-first into a nearby brick wall hard enough to start a stream of blood running down his face.
Batgirl spotted a second and third man heading toward her through the light, and quickly reached down to pick up the knife the previous assailant dropped. With one swift, smooth motion, she threw the knife at the first man, and launched herself at the second. She landed on the car, grabbed the last man by the hair and punched him, hard, hearing a satisfying ‘crunch’ which confirmed that his jaw had broken.
She couldn’t help but smile to herself as the irony of the situation dawned on her. These people enjoyed causing pain so much. They didn’t understand pain – real pain. But now they would. Batgirl would make them understand.
“Stop, please! No more!”
Batgirl would have expected those words from one of her assailants – but instead they came from one of the old men, standing in the stream of light from the car’s headlights. He was crying.
“Please, no more violence. Please. We…We can’t take any more.”
Batgirl was hurt by the old man’s words. She wanted only to help the man’s community, not hurt it. She wanted their lives to improve. She wanted nothing more then for them to have peace.
She jumped off of the car, carefully pushing her cape behind her as she went, to look as non-intimidating as possible. She walked up to the old man and looked up to him. As she looked into his eyes calmly, she began to understand. These people had seen too much violence in their lives. They wanted simply to live quietly in peace. No fighting…no blood.
Batgirl held her gloved hand out to the old man and smiled nervously. She was trying to make a deal with him, to keep his neighborhood free of violence. He shook her hand without hesitation. He understood. The deal was sealed.
Bruce silently walked toward the center of the Bat Cave as he removed his mask. After a tiring night fighting crime in Gotham, he wanted to take some time to do a little research, to see if he missed anything out there. He had not seen Cassandra the whole night – and he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.
He paused as he approached his computer terminal. He could see it glowing, and someone with long hair sitting in front of it. It wasn’t Barbara – there was no wheelchair. “Cassandra?”
Cassandra turned her head for just a second, to acknowledge that she heard him, before she resumed her work. Bruce approached her from behind, slowly, and watched the computer screen to see what she was doing. He smiled as he realized that Cassandra had taken it upon herself to research the local Aryan Nation. She wanted to know what she was up against. She wanted to be a more efficient crime fighter. Just like Batman.
Bruce felt proud as he watched Cassandra working quickly, gathering information. He was impressed by her memory – he noticed that she took no notes, she simply skimmed through news files quickly and remembered them.
Cassandra stood up suddenly and turned off the computer terminal. She cast Bruce a quick glance before she headed up to the house. She knew he was impressed – but at the moment, she didn’t care. She wanted only to keep her promise to the old man, and to keep his neighborhood safe.
Bruce sighed let several seconds of silence to be recorded before he finally gathered the words he wanted to say.
“I found Cassandra this evening doing research. It’s something I’ve never been able to get Tim to commit to. But she just…decided to on her own.”
He paused for a second to ponder his own thoughts before continuing. He kept asking himself why Cassandra suddenly took her job as Batgirl so seriously. What happened? And more important, was she in some kind of danger?
“She exhibiting more signs of independence…The same independence I feared in her earlier. Only it’s…different now. She’s more committed to being Batgirl. But why?”
Bruce paused and looked up as Alfred silently placed a tray with a cup of tea in front of him. “Thank you, Alfred.”
Alfred nodded silently and stood a few feet away from the edge of Bruce’s desk.
“I did tell her that I wouldn’t be involved. It’s possible that she may be trying to prove me wrong. I just hope…I hope that she’s not getting herself in over her head.”
Bruce turned off the microphone and looked at Alfred. Usually, when he just stood there, he had something to say. “Yes, Alfred?”
Alfred smiled. “Master Bruce, it looks to me as if you were asking your computer for answers.”
Bruce smiled in response. “I guess it would appear that way, wouldn’t it?”
“If I may suggest, Master Bruce”, Alfred continued, “Your computer will give you no such answers. Your answers will come from a person. One, in particular.”
“Cassandra?” Bruce leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin.
“Always the consummate detective.”
Alfred left the room smiling. He was joking, and Bruce knew it. But Bruce knew he was right, too. The only way he would get answers would be if he would talk to Cassandra.
Cassandra sat on her bed with her hand on her chin, surrounded by pieces of paper. She just couldn’t seem to come up with a good plan, one that would work. She had to stop those cowards from terrorizing those people. She had to keep her promise. She had to…
In frustration, Cassandra swept all of the papers onto the floor and hurled her black marker pen across the room, causing the pen and cap to bounce around the room.
“What are you doing, Cassandra?”
Cassandra tensed up at the sound of Bruce’s voice. No doubt he knew what she was up to, and he probably came to lecture her about it. She didn’t feel like listening to any lectures at the moment.
Bruce looked down at the papers on the floor. She was planning some kind of assault on some kind of building. “What’s this?”
She bowed her head and shrugged as Bruce proceeded to pick up one of the pieces of paper. He read it for a moment, searching for something he could comment on. Cassandra’s plan was a detailed drawing of a large warehouse-type building complete with guard posts. Every exit was marked. It was an entire plan for her to get into the place and destroy it without killing anyone. He found himself without words – Cassandra’s plan was excellent! He could come up with a slightly better plan only if he spent a whole day planning it. “Did you do this?”
Cassandra shook her head ‘yes’ slowly.
“There’s a big problem with your plan.”
She hung her head, expecting Bruce to talk down to her, to try and ‘educate’ her as if she were a mere child. She knew he would – that’s what he always did. She wanted nothing more then for him to leave the room, so she could finish her plan, and do as she promised.
“The problem, Cassandra”, Bruce said as he held his hand out to her, “Is that you’re going to need two people.”
A smile inched onto Bruce’s face as Cassandra looked up at him sadly. Her eyes began to tear as she jumped to her feet and hugged Bruce as tightly as she could.
After all she’d been through, fighting to keep her status as Batgirl, she began to understand. No matter how rough around the edges Bruce appeared on the outside, on the inside…he really cared.
Batgirl looked up into the dark, cloudy sky above the roof she was standing on. The flash of lightning and burst of wind blowing through her cape seemed appropriate for what she was about to do. She was about to free Gotham’s Jewish community from the threat of violence. Maybe not forever, but for now. It would be enough to send a message – that violence against those who could not defend themselves would not be tolerated.
Batgirl turned her head toward the sound of the whispered question. It came from Batman. She nodded once and looked down toward the front door of the warehouse. Her heart started racing enough for her to hear her own blood rushing in her ears. She was alert and ready – and it was her plan, so she would have to make the first move.
She leapt off of the top of the building as she fired a cable launcher so it hit just above the upstairs window. It was open, just like the last time she checked – she could slip through without being noticed. Just before she slipped through the window, she looked down to spot Batman sailing down into the alley. So far, so good.
As Batgirl landed inside the second floor of the warehouse, she could hear distant cheering from the floor below. They were having their meeting, right on schedule. She removed three gas pellets from her belt just as she located the short staircase down to the meeting room. She took a deep breath at the top of the stairs before racing down quickly.
She appeared in the shadows on the right side of a makeshift stage in the meeting room. She watched the darkened back of the room for a second to see a dark form slinking along the wall behind a pile of discarded boxes and chairs. She knew it was Batman.
Before Batgirl tossed her handful of gas pellets, she paused to take a look at the uniformed people in the crowd. They were all so young! How could anyone allow the youth of Gotham to be misled in this manner? It made Batgirl even more angry, the thought that the older man behind the podium had brainwashed these impressionable young people to do evil in his name. He didn’t deserve to live.
Batgirl took a breath and tossed her gas pellets into the crowd, and watched Batman do the same. She then stood firm as she watched the entire crowd fall asleep peacefully. She then turned her attention on the man behind the podium, as her eye caught Batman quickly moving through the fog of gas toward the stage.
Those were the only words which left the uniformed man’s mouth before Batgirl hit him, hard, with the back of her forearm. He fell to the ground quickly, his nose bloodied. But he stared defiantly up at her, not allowing her to break his spirit.
The man wiped a little blood from his nose and looked at his hand just before he looked up at Batgirl and smiled. “You’re white, just like me. What are ya doin’ protectin’ blacks and Jews?”
That did it. Batgirl could feel fire fill her veins as she reached down and grabbed the man by the throat, lifting him right off of his feet. She was angry to her core, to the point where she just…didn’t care anymore. She felt power…power over this man who has tortured, beaten, or killed anyone he didn’t like just because they were different. Batgirl knew what it was like to be ‘different’ – it was enough of a chore without having to dealing with scum.
As the man began to lose conciousness quickly, Batgirl pulled him closer. Teeth clenched, she decided to make the last thing he hears the five words echoing in her mind:
“I’ll never be like you.”
She dropped the man’s limp, unconcious body on the ground and stared down at him for a second as Batman slowly approached her from behind. She was still fuming. She decided, as a last measure, that this man needed something to remember her by. Something that, every time he even thought about subjugating young kids to do his dirty work, would remind him of Batgirl.
Batgirl saw Batman walk up behind her, but she didn’t care – she was on a personal mission. As Batman stood behind her, she gently lifted the man’s hand up off of the stage, and twisted his fingers back until she heard a couple of them snap loudly. Blood started pouring down his hand toward her glove. She let go of his hand quickly – he disgusted her enough that she didn’t even want any of his blood touching her.
As she turned around quickly, her eyes met Batman’s. She expected a lecture, a warning about her behavior, even a frown from him. But he didn’t react. He just quietly turned and headed toward the exit. He knew what she did, and yet he didn’t say a word.
Batgirl didn’t let that sway her – it was time for the final part of her plan – to make their headquarters unusable. She looked up at the celing to see if any part of the building’s structure could be used destructively. She almost immediately spotted a large water pipe and pointed one of her cable launchers at it.
As the claw at the end of the launcher punched through the old iron pipe, Batgirl had an unexpected pleasant suprise. She watched raw sewage pouring out of the pipe on top of the crowd. It was no water pipe. They began to quickly wake up and run for the exits as the cold fluid and stench began to run across the floor of the room.
Batgirl turned and headed toward the stairway she came down earlier, intent on leaving through the same second-floor window she used to enter. But instead, she paused for a second as she noticed the ten foot tall swastika on the wall at the back of the stage. As a last act before she left, she gripped the cotton flag with both hands and tore it from the wall, tossing it as far into the stream of sewage as she could.
She smiled to herself as she headed up to the second floor. This was by far the most satisfying work she had ever done.
Alfred was pleased to see both Cassandra and Bruce in a good mood when they returned to the Bat Cave. It was unusual for sure – but he didn’t want to say anything, just in case it was temporary. He just wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Cassandra genuinely smiled at him as he handed her the traditional cup of hot cocoa. Her face beamed with a sense of accomplishment, like she had done some kind of good work. Alfred wondered what she had done, but as he promised Bruce long ago, he would not ask. He felt proud for her, nonetheless.
And Bruce…Instead of returning from the late-night mission sour and contemplative, he was genuinely relaxed. So much so, that he absentmindedly took his cup of tea without even pausing his reading on his computer terminal.
“Cassandra, I think it’s time I asked you something.” Bruce turned around just in time to meet her face to face. “Why don’t you like to talk?”
“Do you mind if I take a guess?”
Cassandra shrugged again.
“You don’t think anyone understands or listens when you talk. So you don’t say anything.”
Cassandra smiled at Bruce shyly and turned to walk up to the house.
Bruce turned to Alfred and shrugged. “I can never get any answers out of her, Alfred.”
“Master Bruce”, Alfred said as he picked up Cassandra’s mug and walked toward the house, “I believe she gave you your answer.”
As Bruce sat in the dimly lit Bat Cave for a moment before heading in himself, he pondered Cassandra’s cryptic answer for a moment. He was glad to get along with her better, but she still remained a mystery to him.
Batgirl stood high atop a building across the street from the same synagogue she’s been looking after for days. She silently watched kids and adults alike quietly passing by on the street below from time to time. They feared no more.
After the newspaper came out that morning announcing that the police had arrested the Aryan Nation leader for corrupting minors and on weapons charges, it seemed like the Jewish community in Gotham was in quiet celebration. They were celebrating their freedom from persecution. They had no idea who was responsible – but she knew, and she felt a sense of pride as she watched the result.
“Grandpa, it’s Batgirl!”
A shock ran through Batgirl’s spine as she heard those words. She wasn’t supposed to be spotted by anyone, especially a little boy. But somehow, instead of trying to vanish she froze instead. She recognized the little boy and the old man – it was the old man who was beaten several days ago, and his grandson!
As she stood frozen, she watched the old man look up to the top of the building and smile – a warm smile, like he was greeting his best freind. He held up his hand and made a waving motion – he wanted her to come down.
Batgirl backed away from the edge of the roof a little. Her heart began speeding up as a sense of panic began to overwhelm her. She had never had anyone wanting to meet her. Everyone who had seen her either pointed in awe, or ran in fear. She couldn’t simply run away. If she did, all of the time she spent trying to earn their trust would just be thrown away.
She knew Batman would disapprove, but she couldn’t let them become total strangers to her anymore. She couldn’t let them think she would back out on her promise to keep their streets safe and free of violence. Batgirl took a deep breath and spread her cape out like a pair of wings. She held her breath, and gently glided to the ground in front of the old man.
The old man smiled as soon as she landed. “You’re a brave young lady. What’s your name?”
Batgirl shook her head and waved her finger slowly. She knew she couldn’t tell him that.
The old man smiled again in response. “I understand.”
“Can I have an autograph?” The little boy stood right in front of Batgirl with an eager smile on his face and a ruffled napkin in hand.
Batgirl shook her head ‘no’ – she didn’t have a pen. But she did remember something she could give to the little boy. She removed a small bat-shaped listening device from her belt and quickly removed the battery. She kneeled down and pinned the device to the little boy’s short collar. She smiled as she watched the boy race toward his friends enthusiastically, bragging about his new present.
“I wish I could give you a medal”, the old man continued as he reached into his jacket pocket, “But I don’t have one with me. Will this do?”
Batgirl watched as the old man held up a stainless steel Star of David on a chain. The street lights glinted off of it. Maybe it wasn’t a medal, but to her it was worth much more. It was a symbol of trust that people had put in her. She gently took the necklace as the man dangled it in front of her, and bowed her head gently in thanks.
The old man nodded and smiled again as Batgirl reached down to her belt to store the necklace, and remove a cable launcher. She waved at the little boy, who waved back, just before she went sailing up to the top of the building across the street.
As soon as Batgirl reached the top of the building, she met a solemn-looking Batman face to face. She smiled at him shyly – she knew she shouldn’t have been meeting people face to face. But she hoped, somehow, that he would understand that this was different.
Batman stated at her for a few seconds before saying a word. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts. “You know how I feel about this, don’t you?”
Batgirl shook her head ‘yes’ slowly, and bowed her head.
“Good.” Batman held her chin up so her eyes met his. “As long as you understand.”
Batgirl smiled and removed the Star of David necklace from her belt to show it to Batman.
“Nice.” Batman shook his head and headed toward the alley where he parked the Batmobile, with Batgirl close behind. “I wonder why I never get any presents?”
Batgirl smiled and walked ahead of Batman to the car. He had his secrets – now she had hers.