Batgirl froze in fear at what she saw as Bruce and the strange, bronze-skinned, golden-eyed Samantha came up behind her. She reached her hand behind her, trying to signal Bruce to stay inside the elevator car for a moment while she tried to assess the danger.
The entire lobby of the Lexcorp building was filled with some kind of large soldiers, each carrying heavy weaponry of some kind. They were surrounding a large, hulk of a man with blond hair – only they were protecting him rather then assaulting him. They appeared to be generally heading toward the door, though they were also loitering longer then Batgirl preferred.
She took a step forward, slowly, trying not to alert the troops to her motion. She was half afraid that they would simply see movement, and shoot before they had a chance to find out whether she was friend or foe – but from her point of view at that moment, the fact that they were armed made them foes until they proved otherwise.
Batgirl drew a large bat-wing from her belt and unfolded it silently. She quickly took inventory of the room, scouting her best shot.
She heard Bruce’s single spoken word even though it was just above a whisper. She knew it meant that he didn’t want her to try to disarm the troops for some reason – maybe he knew more about this whole thing then she did?
That’s when she recognized the blond man as Aquaman. He was someone both to be feared and revered. A fearless leader, and yet sometimes unstable enough to…Batgirl shook her head as she suddenly realized why Bruce stopped her from disarming the soldiers. Doing such a thing would have been taken as a personal affront by Aquaman, and could have quickly lead to her death, and possibly the destruction of the entire building.
Batgirl froze again as she noticed that one of the soldiers had taken notice of her. He was pointing a weapon at her, and talking to Aquaman. She knew she had to take action, no matter what the consequences – she wasn’t going to let some grunt’s itchy trigger finger do her in.
The large Batwing tore it’s way across the room, disarming all but one of the troops instantly. The now unarmed soldiers all came at her, prompting her to fire a cable launcher toward the high ceiling and lift herself to safety. Quickly dropping a self-closing net to the ground behind her caused them all to be trapped instantly – the more they squirmed, the more they would be tangled.
She kept one eye on the last armed soldier, who kept his aim steadied on her, waiting for the order to take her out. Only he found that a little difficult to do so after a small pellet thrown near him exploded, filling the room with smoke. Now safely under cover, Batgirl dropped to the floor, grabbed Bruce’s hand, and formed a human chain with herself, Bruce, and Samantha. She headed quickly for and emergency exit, and raced outside with the two.
The Batmobile was only a few feet away from the door – she decided since it had armor, she could safely park it on the plaza in front of LexCorp. That was a worthwhile bet – because she could hear the troops and Aquaman fighting their way out of the building even as she opened the canopy on the Batmobile. A second later, she was tearing down the streets of Metropolis.
She looked across Samantha – who was seated in the center, staring toward the car’s windshield – to see Bruce sitting next to the passenger door, smiling. He looked amused by the whole event. She couldn’t imagine why.
“I’m so sorry, Charlie. I usually don’t just…break down like that.” Supergirl hung her head as they rode down the elevator to the Lexcorp lobby, almost as if she was a little afraid to look at Charlie directly.
“To tell you the truth”, Charlie said as he leaned against the back wall of the elevator, “I was expecting it sooner. You held out longer then I thought you would.”
Supergirl laughed a little bit before looking up, meeting Charlie’s gaze and his warm smile. “I always liked your honesty, Charlie.”
“You are only human, after all–” Charlie paused as the elevator doors opened up in the lobby. The whole floor was deserted, and some kind of smoke hung in the air – yet nothing appeared damaged. As soon as he exited the elevator, however, he noticed that the security guards at the front desk were missing – and the wall and LexCorp logo behind them was splattered with spots of blood.
She walked out into the lobby ahead of Charlie, scanning the room carefully with her eyes as she went. She knew she had to be careful – whatever caused this could easily still be in the building, and would at least be a threat to Charlie.
As she completed her walk-around of the lobby, she came to the conclusion that whatever happened was already over. The perpetrators were gone. She took a look through the glass entrance doors, and immediately understood what happened. Outside stood Aquaman and a few of his troops. And Superman.
“What the devil was that?” Aquaman stepped through the glass doors, trying hard to stop his instinct to cough due to the smoke in his lungs. His soldiers didn’t have as much control, however. They raced outside, retching and coughing.
“She’s an ordinary human. A young woman in a costume.”
Aquaman looked up to find the source of the voice from above. It was Superman. He folded his arms and waited for Superman to land.
Superman touched down gently and walked over to Aquaman. “Do you now understand what you would have been up against?”
“Interesting.” Aquaman rubbed his chin. “She has extraordinary fighting skill, Kal-El. Just look what she did to my elite guard.”
“And there are probably many more like her out there, Arthur. People we don’t even know about.” Superman smiled as he folded his arms and gave Aquaman a smug look. “People who can even take me down.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?” Aquaman turned around again to confirm that his soldiers had indeed recovered their weapons. He didn’t want them leaving anything behind for Lex Luthor to…examine.
“Not at all”, Superman said, “I think of it as self-sufficiency. I can’t be everywhere, you know. Someone has to fill the gap when I’m not there.”
Aquaman sighed as his troops gathered around him, preparing to leave. “Always the optimist. Sometimes I envy you, Kal-El.”
Superman stood on the plaza in front of LexCorp for a few minutes, watching Aquaman and his troops leave. He was heading back to the coast – which meant, for a little while anyway, that Metropolis would return to it’s usual serenity.
Superman turned around to face Supergirl and…Charlie. He frowned, showing a little disappointment in Supergirl – he couldn’t believe she brought someone along to a near battle who could be killed all too easily. “Batgirl, that’s what happened. She disarmed Aquaman’s elite guard.”
“Wh…What?” Supergirl covered her mouth in an attempt to contain her laughter. Charlie wasn’t as subtle – he just started laughing out loud.
“All, right, all right.” Superman bit his lip, trying as hard as he could to contain a smile. He saw the humor in the idea of a young woman, who’s only human, having the power to disarm an entire group of soldiers.
“No…You don’t understand, Kal.” Supergirl took a deep breath to try and prevent herself from laughing as she spoke. “Charlie just told off Aquaman upstairs in Lex Luthor’s office. Right to his face, too.”
“And I’m still alive”, Charlie added, not even trying to mask his smile.
Superman sighed. “I guess that makes Charlie a hero now too, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does.” Supergirl smiled at Charlie and leaned on his shoulder. “Are you proud of yourself, Charlie?”
“Don’t worry. I won’t let it go to my head.” Charlie suddenly froze and stared at something he spotted in an alcove of the Lexcorp building. “Do you see that?”
“Yes, I do.” Superman took a couple of steps closer to the building. By his squinting, Supergirl could tell he was looking right through the brick facade. “It appears to be a woman…a strange one.”
“Oh, that’s probably just Mercy, Luthor’s bodyguard.” Charlie started walking toward the building. “She’s a little strange.”
“No.” Superman snatched Charlie’s arm as he passed. Charlie was a little shocked at the power of his grip. It felt like Superman was trying to tear his arm right off…but not quite. “Her skin color is…strange. Her eyes–”
“Are the color of gold.” Batman stood, arms folded, a short distance away from Superman with Batgirl close behind. “Her name is Samantha, I broke her out of LexCorp. She’s obviously some kind of research subject.”
“How do you come out of nowhere like that, anyway?”, Charlie asked, “I’d love to be able to do that.”
“Maybe I’ll have Batgirl show you one day.” Batman turned toward the woman hiding in the alcove. All of a sudden, it seemed like she was hiding because she was frightened of people. “Come on out, Samantha. You’re among friends.”
As Samantha stepped out of the darkness, still wearing her Lexcorp uniform, Charlie just froze. He recognized this woman immediately. “Sam? It’s you, isn’t it?”
“You!” Samantha suddenly seemed angry as she rushed toward Charlie. Batman tried to grab her, but was easily tossed aside.
Superman snatched her around her waist. “Easy now, Samantha.”
“He shot me! He tried to kill me!”
Both Batman and Superman turned to look at Charlie at the same time. They both then turned their gazes on Supergirl.
“You knew, didn’t you?” Superman frowned as he continued staring at Supergirl, holding Samantha back with one hand. “Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I…I didn’t want you to think less of Charlie.” Supergirl glanced over at Charlie, and then stared down at the ground, as if she were a child being scolded by a parent. “He’s a good person, Kal. If he shot someone, there has to be a good reason.”
“Is there?” Superman stared at Charlie with a kind of look that made Charlie shudder. Charlie felt like, at any second, hot beams would shoot from Superman’s eyes, melting him to the ground.
“No…no, there isn’t.” Charlie’s glance turned away from Superman’s quickly, avoiding Supergirl’s eyes as well. “I…I made a mistake. I panicked–”
“You shot me!” Samantha shifted in Superman’s hold. She couldn’t break away from him.
“I’m sorry, Sam.” Charlie seemingly risked his life as he walked closer to Samantha, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. “But you’re here. I’m so glad you’re still here.”
“But you–” Samantha seemed to relax and slouch under Superman’s arm, as if she suddenly lost the power to stand on her own. She began shaking her head slowly as a single tear rolled off of the of her nose. “How can I ever forgive you for this, Charlie?”
Charlie glanced at Samantha for a second, giving her a quick smile before looking down at the ground. “That’s…up to you, I guess. All I can ask is that you try, that you take a chance.”
“A…Chance?” Samantha stared at Charlie as her mind flashed back to her time inside a laboratory at LexCorp. She spent months on end locked in the equivalent of a large closet, her only entertainment being movies and computer games screened and supplied by LexCorp. They were grooming her for something – she knew that much. She just did not understand what, or why. But now, she was free to find her own destiny.
“Sam? What do you say?” Charlie held his hand out toward Samantha – a risky move, considering that she looked so strange, and she had been locked away from society for so long. But he decided that to be trusted, first he had to trust.
Superman loosened his grip on Samantha slowly as she reached out for Charlie’s hand. She hesitated for a moment before grasping Charlie’s fingers and giving him a warm smile. “Okay…I’ll give you one more chance. But if you shoot me again, all bets are off.”
Batgirl looked up at a steel door deep inside the LexCorp building. Next to the door was a small sign which read ‘restricted area’, and a small electronic pad designed to read handprints. The remains of a shattered security camera dangled from the ceiling just above the door – courtesy of one of her batwings.
She slipped off the glove on her right hand and placed it on the electronic pad, just on a whim. Batgirl knew Lex Luthor was in there – simply because she’d already searched the rest of the building. She wanted to make sure he…understands…that he cannot simply kidnap Bruce Wayne whenever he wants to.
As she touched her hand to the electronic pad, she could feel a warm sensation on her palm – a bright light scanned her hand print for the computer system to process. She frowned as the warm sensation ended, and the red light next to the pad didn’t change to green. She had been denied access.
Batgirl replaced her glove and smashed her fist through the glass cover panel which covered the palm scan device, tearing out the camera and lamp and tossing them to the floor. She began twisting wires together randomly – there had to be one pair which controlled the door.
She suddenly heard a loud explosion come from the electronic console as she crossed two thick, obviously high-voltage wires. The door opened about two inches before all of the lights in the hall, including the electronic panel, went dark. She breathed a sigh of relief that she remembered to replace her right glove before digging into the panel.
At the sound of a man’s deep voice coming through the two-inch gap between the doors, Batgirl crouched down into a dark corner next to the electronic panel. She had to keep the element of surprise.
A terrible screeching filled the hallway for several minutes as the man at the other end of the door operated some kind of manual cranking mechanism to open the door the rest of the way. She saw a head peek through – and even in the dark, she recognized him as Lex Luthor.
“Damn it!” Lex Luthor jumped back as a few sparks showered from the broken electronic panel, causing the lights to flicker once. “Who did this? Who’s out here? Show yourself, now!”
Batgirl leapt to her feet and stood behind Luthor, suddenly pulling his head back. She wrapped one arm around his neck, and her other elbow wedged under his nose.
“Ah, Batgirl.” Luthor laughed, even as she tightened her arm around his throat. “Cute. But this will get you nowhere. Mercy?”
Batgirl felt something impact the side of her head suddenly, hard. Her vision blacked out during the impact, and she momentarily lost her balance – causing her to lose her grip on Luthor and fall to the ground. She then realized what hit her – it was the boot of Luthor’s bodyguard, Mercy.
As Batgirl removed a cable launcher from her belt, she could see Luthor heading toward the stairs, and Mercy heading right for her. She aimed the cable launcher at Luthor quickly and fired. It punctured his jacket, and as it expanded, tore through the flesh on his left arm. As Lex Luthor’s screams filled the hallway, Batgirl slipped away from Mercy’s grip, grabbed her by the back of her neck, and slammed her shoulder against the shorting electronic panel. More screams as the voltage coursed through Mercy’s body, melting the sleeve to her arm.
By the time Batgirl released her grip on the back of Mercy’s neck, she was unconscious and badly burned – but still alive. She turned her attention back on Luthor – his attempts to escape the cable’s grip on him proved futile, and there was simply too much cable for him to drag behind him.
“You can’t kill me, Batgirl.” Luthor looked down at the small pool of blood he sat in, all of which streamed down from his punctured arm. “You’ll never get away with it.”
Batgirl frowned at Luthor as she grabbed the shaft of the expanded cable launcher, and simply tore it out of his arm. His screams filled the hallway once again as blood began flowing freely now from the open wound. Luthor was right. She couldn’t kill him – she couldn’t let him die. If he died, her lesson would be lost.
She grabbed the other sleeve of Luthor’s jacked and tore it off violently. She began wrapping the bleeding wound in parts of his sleeve gently as Luthor just quietly watched with curiosity. She could tell that he was confused – he was probably sure she would leave him to die.
As soon as she completed her makeshift wound dressing, she headed toward the stairway quickly. Lex Luthor would live – but he would be left forever with a reminder of the price of his arrogance.
“Cassandra…Listen to me carefully.”
Bruce paced the Batcave nervously, hands behind him as he did his best to keep his temper in check. He was never more upset with her then at that moment – after finding out what she had done to Lex Luthor and his bodyguard.
He walked up to Cassandra and looked down at her. She looked up, returning his gaze. “We are not about vengeance, we’re about justice. That’s what draws the line between being crusaders of justice or simple vigilantes.”
Cassandra shook her head and started walking away from Bruce. He grabbed her arm, and turned her around abruptly. “Listen to me, Cassandra. You’re starting to lose control. You cannot simply go around hurting people you have a grudge against.”
“Because we live in a society of laws, Cassandra–” Bruce sighed and folded his arms. “You’re not a child, Cassandra, I shouldn’t have to explain this to you. You know there are consequences to your actions. In this case, that Lex Luthor will be after you.”
“So what? Lex Luthor is after everyone.” Tim Drake walked into the Batcave from the house, with Alfred close behind. “Why should Cassandra be any different?”
Bruce frowned. “You approve of her behavior, Tim?”
“Not at all.” Tim sat down in one of the chairs in front of Bruce’s console. “But you have to admit, it’s nice seeing Luthor get what’s coming to him.”
“She has to learn where to draw the line, Tim. Or she’ll get herself into trouble.”
Tim laughed. “That’s what I’ve been saying! She has no control at all. Given the opportunity, she’d kill you or I without a thought. After all, she did kill her own parents.”
Bruce had just enough time to grab Cassandra as she raced past him, her hands reaching for Tim’s throat – it took nearly all of his strength to keep her from struggling away from him. Tim leaned back in his chair to avoid her reach, far enough that he fell back.
“My God, Cassandra.” Tim stood up quickly, standing just out of Cassandra’s reach as Bruce continued to hold her back. “You are insane, aren’t you? You belong in Arkham with the likes of the Joker and Poison Ivy.”
“Tim, that’s enough!” Bruce’s grip on Cassandra loosened for just a moment as he yelled at Tim. He turned pale as he watched Cassandra slip away from him and head toward Tim. Bruce had no idea what she would do to him after his vicious comments.
Cassandra snatched Tim’s shirt with one hand, and drew her other fist back. As she did, she watched Tim cringe, and turn his face away from her in fear. She looked closely at his eyes – and even though Tim didn’t say a word, his eyes begged for forgiveness, for help…for mercy. He was silently praying for some force to come along and save him from her wrath. That’s when she realized…Tim was mortally in fear of her.
Her features quickly softened as she released her grip on Tim’s shirt and lowered her fist. She then took Tim’s hand in hers, and squeezed it gently.
“I’m so sorry–”
Tim watched as a suddenly crushed Cassandra headed out of the room quickly. He couldn’t see her face as she left, but he could hear her sniffing periodically as she headed down the hall toward her own room. His heart began sinking as the realization set in – his comment hurt her. He made her cry.
He looked up at Bruce apologetically – Bruce met his gaze only after silently watching Cassandra leave the room. Tim swallowed hard once, forcing down his feelings of shame. “Bruce…Could I be wrong about her?”
Bruce sighed as he gave Tim a half smile. “Tim…She’s a lot more like you then you know.”
“Batgirl did what?”
Supergirl glared at Charlie as she stood next to him in front of Lex Luthor, inside the empty lobby of Lexcorp. Luthor was sitting on a bench as a paramedic gently bandaged and wrapped his bleeding arm. As always, he had declined an invitation to be taken to the hospital.
“She assaulted my bodyguard and I.” Luthor paused mid-sentence to frown at Charlie, making his displeasure with his interruption perfectly clear. “And without provocation. I was simply working in one of my labs, and she hunted me down–”
He paused again as he watched a barely conscious Mercy Graves being rolled past on a gurney, toward a waiting ambulance outside. “…And injured Mercy as well.”
Supergirl resisted the urge to smile at the picture around her. “So…Why are you telling me?”
“All of you super-types seem to know each other.” Luthor winced as the paramedic tightened the bandage a little more to slow the blood flow. “I’d like Batman to know that his little prot»g»e is dangerous…And that there are consequences to her actions. Devastating consequences.”
“Is that a threat, Lex?”
Luthor looked up at Supergirl with a cold, empty look which immediately telegraphed his seriousness without even saying a word. She could tell, in those deep, cold eyes of his, that he meant one thing – he would try to kill Batgirl.
“Keep in mind, Supergirl…She’s in a dangerous line of work.” Luthor smiled in his usual self-satisfied way – it sent chills down Supergirl’s spine. “Things happen.”
As Supergirl began to feel anger build within her, she watched Lex Luthor walk toward the elevator, headed back to his office. Just when she made even the slightest attempt to extend compassion to Luthor…to care about him even a little…he gave her another reason to hate him.
“Don’t let him upset you, Supergirl.” Charlie took her hand gently, causing her to become conscious of the fact that her fists were clenched. She relaxed her hands slowly. “He was the same jerk when Sam and I worked for him.”
Supergirl smiled weakly. “So he’s not getting worse?”
“No, I’m afraid not.” Charlie shook his head as he spoke. “It just becomes more apparent once in a while.”
Supergirl sighed as she followed Charlie toward the exit to the outside. For some reason, the realization that Lex Luthor isn’t getting worse didn’t make her feel any better.
Cassandra sat on her bed facing the window in her room, holding a pillow in her lap. Her eyes were reddened from crying – but she had no more tears. She stared outside at the trees as darkness began falling – only she didn’t see the trees, or the darkness. She saw only Tim’s eyes, and the fear they reflected to her. She saw no trust in those eyes, only fear. He genuinely thought she meant to kill him.
It was at that moment a terrifying truth dawned on her – while Bruce had given her a chance, nobody really trusted her. She knew somehow that it was probably due to the fate of her parents.
Cassandra froze and held her breath as she could hear a new voice echoing down the hall. It was a woman’s voice, she recognized it…it was Supergirl! She raced over to her room’s door started to quietly slink down the hall to see what was going on.
“Bruce, I don’t think she understands.” Supergirl paced across the floor of Bruce’s office as she spoke. Bruce sat at his desk, watching her patiently. She seemed more upset then he did. Charlie stood in front of a window in the office, looking outside. “Lex Luthor is very dangerous, Bruce. I have no doubt that he’ll have several people out there gunning for Cassandra. Or better yet, he may put a price on her head–”
“Or maybe he’ll do nothing.” Bruce sat perfectly calm at his desk, twirling a letter opener between his index fingers and thumbs. “I have my eye on the situation, Linda. There’s no reason for you to worry.”
“Bruce–” Supergirl sighed and leaned over Bruce’s desk, until her face was only inches from his. “Lex hired the Joker to kill Vinnie. I say that makes him capable of anything.”
“I think Luthor will hire some thugs to lure Batgirl into a trap. Then they’ll try to kill her.” Charlie turned away from the window to see Bruce and Supergirl staring at him. He walked closer to the desk. “I should know, I used to work for him.”
“Charlie’s right, Bruce–”
“Thank you both for your concern.” Bruce stood up, pushing his chair in as he walked around his desk. “But I have everything under control.”
As Supergirl and Charlie left Bruce’s office, Cassandra raced back to her room and closed the door silently. She began to think about what Charlie said, that Luthor would hire some thugs to lure her into a trap. She knew she had to be more careful from now on – though in spite of telling herself that, the idea of some unknown force with her death on it’s agenda sent chills down her spine.
Cassandra closed her eyes, and immediately pictured her parents’ gravestones. Her mind raced back to that night, fire burning all around her, the heat…the high, the feelings of superiority from finally proving herself able to beat them. She silently wondered if Lex Luthor would get the same feeling from her own death.
She stared at the window as the sun set outside. Night was falling…and she dreaded it.
“I didn’t want to mention it before…” Charlie raced to catch up to Supergirl as she walked out the door of Wayne Manor. She was preparing to head home with Charlie. “…but Cassandra overheard our conversation with Bruce.”
Supergirl wheeled around suddenly to face Charlie. “Oh my God. Are you sure?”
Charlie nodded. “I could see her reflection in the window while I stared out over Bruce’s backyard. She look positively frightened, Linda. She’s used to being the predator…but now she’s the prey.”
“I wish I could protect her, Charlie.” Supergirl sighed as she turned around and looked up at the sky. She knew that it was a dead giveaway that she was upset – but Charlie knew her well enough now that she couldn’t easily fool him anyway. “But…well…you know what happened to the last person I tried to protect. She has a better chance with Bruce.”
Charlie took Supergirl’s hand gently and turned her to face him. “You’ve been protecting me since the day you met me, Linda. I’m still here…and I plan to be around for a long while. You’re an excellent protector, Linda. But you can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t look after everyone.”
“I know, I know–” Supergirl shook her head as she looked at Charlie. “It’s just…I see the same scenario over and over again. I keep seeing it in my mind, Charlie. The Joker…shooting Cassandra at close range. Just like he did with Barbara, and Vinnie. I see it every time I close my eyes.”
Charlie sighed. “I understand…I’m a little worried too. But Cassandra’s different – she’s a much better fighter then Barbara ever was, and unlike Vinnie, she has a strong will to live. She took out Aquaman’s army, Linda! I think she can take care of herself.”
“Not if her confidence is low.” Supergirl snatched Charlie as she prepared quickly to transport him along with herself back to Leesburg. “I just hope she’ll find the support that I never had.”
As Wayne Manor disappeared from his sight, Charlie’s mind filled with a picture of Batgirl drinking milk in Linda’s kitchen. He couldn’t help but laugh at the spectacle – he truly hoped that he would see more of her, that she would be as much a survivor as her reputation made her out to be.
By the time he arrived in Linda’s apartment, Charlie’s fists were tightly squeezed together, his eyes closed…almost silently praying that he would be able to see Cassandra visit Leesburg again.
“Why aren’t you in costume?” Batman didn’t even turn around as Cassandra entered the Batcave. He just sat at his computer terminal, staring at a computer screen.
Cassandra walked up next to his terminal, and leaned on it. “Not going.”
“Are you feeling ill, Cassandra?” Bruce stood up and turned around to face her, noticing that her eyes were a little reddened – she’d been crying. “This isn’t the kind of job you do only when you feel like it. If you’re inconsistent in this role, criminals on the street won’t take you seriously.”
Cassandra bowed her head to avoid looking directly at Batman. She wanted to tell him about her fear that her past had come back to haunt her…but she felt that he would just laugh, or tell her she was being superstitious.
“You’re worried about what Lex Luthor might do, aren’t you?”
She looked up at Batman, and nodded slowly before turning her gaze back toward the ground.
Batman sighed. “Cassandra…Lex Luthor locked me up in a cell with electrified bars. His bodyguards abused me. He treated me like one of his…slaves, like I had no rights other then what he gave me. To even think about it…it makes me so angry. But I vowed to never take revenge, to never sink to Luthor’s level. Do you understand?”
Cassandra nodded again, and looked up at Batman with reddened eyes. Over her left arm now dangled her costume, neatly folded. “I’m just…scared.”
“Who isn’t? It’s a scary world out there, Cassandra. With or without Lex Luthor.” Batman kneeled down in front of her and tugged gently at the leather fabric of her costume. “We wear these to protect ourselves…and those who we love…from the danger caused by that fear. As long as we wear these, we’re safe.”
Cassandra smiled and headed toward the restroom quickly to change. She knew that a simple leather costume couldn’t really make her any stronger or safer. But in a way, Bruce was right – when she wore the costume, it made her feel more…alive.
It seemed like only minutes went by before the Batmobile, driven by Batman, arrived at their destination – the port of Gotham, rumored to be the unloading point for a boatload of stolen goods and prescription drugs. They were to be fenced for a certain businessman in town named Oswald Cobblepot – who was little more then an annoyance these days. Bruce knew that the best way to keep him from getting into too much trouble was not to confront him, but to take away all of his opportunities. Batgirl didn’t quite understand why, but she knew it was a smart decision – and she took it as a sign that she did indeed have a lot to learn about crime fighting.
As the Batmobile slowly moved alongside the port to avoid being detected, Batgirl looked in the center of the seat to notice that Robin was rather crammed in and uncomfortable. He was nice enough to give up the passenger seat for her for some reason – all of a sudden, he decided to be nice to her. She didn’t understand why, but she was grateful.
Batgirl glanced out the side window to see a large ship approaching the port, which was being guarded by six men carrying machine guns. She smiled, knowing that it was nowhere near enough to stop her, even without Batman and Robin. She knew that Batman saw the ship and the men, too – the car suddenly came to a stop, and the engine turned off.
She turned to look at Batman and Robin, who returned her glance. She gave them a slight smile just before the canopy opened. As she jumped out and surveyed the armed men below she realized that she was in her element. The cool evening air rushing into her nostrils as her heart began to beat faster, powered by a rush of adrenaline. The cool air chilled her a little bit as anticipation built up. She was ready for action.
It all happened, so quickly, so flawlessly. All six men, disarmed at once without the occupants of the approaching boat having any idea what happened. All six were lying unconscious on the dock, the only evidence that anything that had happened to them being the dead silence that replaced their light conversation. It all seemed like destiny.
Batgirl leapt aboard the boat behind Batman as Robin remained on the dock to make sure no one could sneak up on them. She glanced back at Robin for a moment, as he found a ‘perch’ high up inside the cab of a mechanical crane. As she saw him sit there watching them, she understood trust a little more.
It seemed like almost an unconscious action on her part – she saw a door move a little bit as she and Batman passed by along the boat’s deck. The poor man behind it, gun in hand, didn’t even have a chance to see who’s black leather boot knocked him out cold. He’d wake up later with a tread mark on his forehead and have no idea how it got there.
That’s when she saw it. As Batman lifted the cargo bay doors, they both expected to see crates, boxes, a few scattered loose stolen appliances – things they had both seen before on stolen items before.
The only thing stolen on this boat were people’s lives.
Batgirl couldn’t believe what she saw – the cargo bay, crammed full of people…people who were filthy, starved…like they hadn’t eaten or bathed in days or weeks. She didn’t know where they came from, but she’d heard their story before – they were illegal immigrants who gave everything they owned to someone with a boat. A someone who made them promises of a better life, of work, of riches…A liar. Someone who meant to help no one but himself.
As Batman turned to look at Batgirl, she could see the look of horror in his eyes. A man who prided himself in being detached from his work, who worked every day to completely separate his night and day careers – eyes wide and filled with pain, hands shaking momentarily as his brain absorbed and processed what he had just seen first-hand. It made her feel…angry.
At that moment, she realized that the world needed a Batgirl. Or at the very least…Batman did.