She stared at the discarded television set on the roof of an apartment building for a full ten seconds before she gave it a sideways kick to send it crashing into the alley below. It just made her feel better, to see something break. Scaring the homeless residents of the alley was just a bonus.
That’s what wearing the black costume and cape of Batgirl meant to her – scaring people. Batman told her many times it was a symbol of justice. She knew better. Batman worked outside of the law, and she knew it. When he selected her, he took into account that she was accustomed to doing so as well. If he only knew.
As Batgirl walked across the roof and glanced down at the street below, she reminded herself of a line she heard in the movie ‘Titanic’: “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” Secrets. She laughed to herself at the very idea of what most people kept from each other.
She squinted a little to confirm what seemed like a call to action. A man taking a woman’s purse on the street below. No witnesses, no one to help her as she called out for help. Batgirl removed a small device from her belt and sighed as her new life’s mission became clear once again – the job of Batgirl would be to prevent anyone else from feeling the pain she’s had to endure.
One second, and a lack of fear from gravity – that’s all it took to reach the ground. It was barely a second later before Batgirl’s hands dug deep into the exposed flesh of the arm on the would-be purse snatcher. The gasp from his mouth and a fearful wail told her that he realized he’d met his match. One punch was enough to put out his lights for a short while. That would be enough for now.
Batgirl frowned as she tugged on the end of the device to retract the cable, and head skyward. Cowards, that’s all they are. Men who prey on weaker women are all cowards. The only way they can find respect for themselves is to abuse someone smaller, and weaker.
“Nice job”, Batman said in a low tone as Batgirl reached the roof once again, “But very sloppy.”
She knew he was standing up there from the second she jumped off of the edge. It didn’t take much to detect when Batman was nearby. She just had to develop an…instinct. She’d just know he was there.
Batman leaned forward. “Would you like to know what you did wrong?”
Batgirl looked up at Batman defiantly, meeting his nearly hidden eyes with her own. “No. No, I want to learn on my own.”
Batman turned to walk away.
Batgirl looked down and shuffled one of her boots against the gravel on the roof. “Can…Can I come home now?”
“No”, Batman scolded, “You promised me four hours. You will give me four hours.”
With that, Batman stepped off of the roof and swung off into the distance.
Batgirl sighed as she looked up at the stars. Another beautiful night gone to waste.
Cassandra awoke to an incessant pounding on her bedroom door. She peeked at the digital clock on her nightstand with one eye – it was almost noon.
“Whaddaya want?”, she yelled at the door impatiently. The volume of her own voice made her head hurt.
“Miss Cassandra”, a slow, patient British voice announced on the other side of the door, “Lunch will be served in a half hour. Master Bruce was hoping you’d accompany him.”
Cassandra sighed and pulled her shoulder-length black hair behind her head as she sat up in bed. She looked over at the bathroom – it seemed like every single room in Bruce’s mansion has it’s own. She stared, hoping that somehow her intentions of getting up and heading to the bathroom would be enough to make it happen. Of course, it didn’t. She’d have to do it the hard way.
A half-hour later, Cassandra appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, in a black, oversized, long-sleeved shirt and jeans. Out of the entire, huge, Wayne mansion, Bruce and Alfred insisted on eating at the table in the kitchen. It was a large table all right, but it made Cassandra wonder just how many rooms in the place Bruce had never even seen. She made a mental note to herself to explore the rest of the mansion one day – a promise she made to herself nearly every day before Bruce’s grueling training regimen drained the hours away.
“Nice of you to join us, Cassandra.” Bruce’s voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Cassandra sat down at the table without a word, as Alfred stood up to server her lunch. It was a hamburger and french fries. She looked up at Alfred with sadness in her eyes. How could Bruce do this? Didn’t he know she didn’t like to eat red meat?
“It’s full of nutrients”, Bruce volunteered when he saw the look in Cassandra’s eyes, “You need nutrients to grow, and become strong.”
Her expression turned to a frown as she jumped up out of her chair and hurled her plate, followed by her knife, right at Bruce. Bruce ducked. She missed. Alfred watched her in surprise as she raced out of the kitchen, back toward her room.
Alfred turned to Bruce. “What have we learned from this, Master Bruce?”
Bruce stood up and stared at the steak knife embedded in the wall behind his seat. He pulled it out of the wall – a task that took both hands – and placed it on the table as he looked at Alfred. “This girl’s dangerous, Alfred. What am I going to do with her?”
Alfred smiled. “Master Bruce, she’s a lot like you, when you were young.”
“So what did you do?”
“Patience, Master Bruce”, Alfred lectured as he cleared the table, “She needs patience. Time.” He looked up at Bruce. “And most important of all – love.”
Alfred left the room carrying a plate as Bruce sat back down in his chair to ponder Alfred’s words. Love sounded easy – but for someone who was a virtually a stranger to it…
Cassandra’s heart was beating loudly, and her head ached as she watched the flames growing around her. Her entire room was on fire, and she had no desire to escape. The scent of burning flesh filled the house. It was both exhilarating and sickening at the same time.
And the screams. The glorious screams of her parents. They were learning the price of abuse. The tool of their torture had turned against them.
Cassandra closed her eyes as she remembered her father laughing after setting her clothing on fire. He laughed as she rushed to remove her sweater quickly, as she ran to the bathroom, crying, trying to remove the fire’s sting from her arms.
She took another look around her room, and backed up against her window as the fire began licking at her hair and feet. She was scared now, scared of what would happen. Tears began to flow from her eyes.
Cassandra closed her eyes and whispered to herself as she could feel the fire closing in. “Please, God, forgive me. Please. I don’t want to die.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Miss Cassandra, it’s Alfred”, a voice at the other end of her bedroom door said, “I have some soup for you.”
Cassadra sighed and tried to wipe the tears away quickly with her sleeve as Alfred entered the room slowly with a bowl of soup and a tray.
Alfred placed the tray next to Cassandra’s bed and paused for a few seconds. Cassandra just stared back at him.
“Miss Cassandra, it is customary to say ‘thank you’ to someone who brings you dinner.”
Cassandra smiled shyly and looked down at her vegetable soup.
Alfred smiled and sat down on the bed next to her. “You have a beautiful, soft voice, Miss Cassandra. I sincerely hope I get to hear more of it.”
She tried and failed to stifle a small giggle as she took a spoonful of the soup.
“Master Bruce would like to apologize for his inconsiderate behavior, Miss Cassandra.”
Cassandra’s eyes met Alfred’s as she held her bowl out to him. She had eaten all of the soup.
“Would you like more soup, Miss Cassandra?”
“The first bowl was a favor, Miss Cassandra. If you want more, you’ll have to follow me to the kitchen. Who knows, there may also be freshly baked chocolate chip cookies present.”
Cassandra nearly ran over Alfred as she leaped from the bed and raced toward the kitchen. Alfred laughed and shook his head.
“You’re spoiling her”, Bruce said as he stepped into the room from the hallway, “I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
“Master Bruce”, Alfred said as he stood up and straightened himself, “Coaxing Cassandra is hard enough without your rules. Perhaps you should consider allowing her a little more leeway.”
Bruce sighed. “I suppose you’re right, Alfred. I just wish I could have a normal conversation with her.”
Alfred lifted the tray and soup bowl and turned toward Bruce as he left the room. “You won’t know until you try, Master Bruce.”
Adrenaline rushed through Batgirl’s body as she ran through head-on Gotham City traffic, chasing after one of four perpetrators of a gang beating of a young boy. As she dodged the fast-moving cars and ignored pedestrians as they pointed and gasped at her running past, she ripped a cable launcher from her belt and aimed it with perfect accuracy. She aimed it right at the perpetrator, rather then a little to the side, as Batman had trained her to do.
The man’s scream echoed down the whole street as the small retracting hook at the end of the cable pierced the flesh of his shoulder and then expanded. Batgirl smiled – her fish had been caught. She began pulling him toward her using the cable, as if she were reeling in a large bass. The man howled in pain as he slid backwards against the pavement of the street, cars whizzing by. A trail of blood marked his excruciating journey.
“Help me! Help me please! No! God, no!”
The man continued screaming as Batgirl kneeled over him, and pushed one gloved hand against his throat, her other hand drawn back into a fist. A smile creeped onto her face as she watched pure fear in the man’s eyes – the fear of death. But he didn’t know fear as she did. He didn’t know death.
“Leave him. Now.”
Batgirl felt someone grab her elbow to prevent her from lowering her fist. She knew it was Batman. She knew. And yet somehow she instinctively swept her leg in a circle to take his legs out from under him, causing him to fall to the ground. It was a futile move – it only took him an instant to stand back up again.
“No more games”, Batman said as he removed a cable launcher from his belt. He aimed it at a nearby building, and grabbed Batgirl’s arm as the cable took hold. “We’re going.”
Five seconds later, Batgirl landed feet-first on the roof of a nearby building, with Batman close behind. On the street below, she could hear sirens approaching. She leaned over the side of the building to see what was going on.
The man was laying on the street, with a pool of blood surrounding him. Paramedics were standing over him, hooking tubes and sensors up to his body. Batgirl began to feel a little sorry for him. What if he wasn’t such a bad guy? Did he really deserve to have a cable claw planted in his shoulder?
“He’ll survive.” Batman stood behind Batgirl as if he were a much larger shadow of hers. To most people, his imposing figure looming from behind would be frightening – but Batgirl knew it was just his way.
“Can we go home?”, she whispered, as she looked down at the gravel roof. Even though she was feeling sick with sadness, she was positive he would say no.
Batman paused for a few seconds before giving an answer. “Let’s go.”
Cassandra gave Batman a very specific look as she removed her mask in the Bat Cave – she knew she screwed up that last mission. She also knew that Bruce required her to store her costume in her own room’s safe, to encourage her to keep it in good condition. She removed her mask anyhow, as she believed she could connect easier with Bruce if he could see her eyes.
She picked up a jump rope in one hand, and sparring gloves in the other. She knew very well that Bruce usually accelerated training whenever she lost control on the street. He always told her it was a great way to burn off frustration.
“Not now”, Bruce said as he took the training tools away from her and turned one of the rotating chairs next to his computer center toward her. “Have a seat.”
Cassandra sat down slowly, feeling a little suspicious. Bruce was acting strange, and unpredictable. She wondered if it had something to do with Alfred’s earlier talk with him.
“Cassandra, I feel that you know exactly what you did wrong”, Bruce said as he leaned back in his chair, “What I’d like to know is…Why?”
She shrugged and looked down at the floor. Bruce reached out and placed his hand under her chin, raising her eyes to the level of his.
“You talk when you want to, Cassandra. I just want to help you. Give me a hand.”
“Alfred had a talk with me this morning. He’s partially right, Cassandra. The key to a partnership is communication, not chain of command.”
“Go on, Cassandra. I’m listening.”
Cassandra closed her eyes as a sudden rush of emotion sent tears streaming down her face. She bowed her head slightly as Bruce released his hand from her chin. She bowed her head in shame. “I’m sorry.”
Bruce leaned forward and held Cassandra’s head against his shoulder as her streams of tears quickly turned to a flood. She was clearly in pain, and he couldn’t help her. All he could do for the moment was offer her a shoulder.
“I hope she’s not what you had in mind for the next Robin.”
Cassandra opened her eyes to see an older gentleman with a British accent leaning over her, applying alcohol to her forehead. She tried to sit up, but was met with resistance from his white gloved hand.
“She’s awake Master Bruce.”
Her mind filled with panic as she came up with the only reasonable explanation for what was happening to her. She’d been kidnapped. Cassandra pushed Alfred away hard with her knee, and slid off of the gurney she woke up on. She grabbed the only tool she could reach – a pair of scissors – with one hand, and backed quickly into a corner. Then she froze.
She had no idea where she was – it was surely something she would never have expected to see. She was in a cave, which had been filled with high-tech gear she’d never seen before. She wasn’t sure how, but she recognized the car she spotted in one corner – it was Batman’s.
An older man, although younger then the British gentleman, stepped a few feet away from her and looked at her calmly. “What’s your name?”
It took her a few seconds to recognize who it was – Bruce Wayne. She’d seen him many times in the newspaper as well. But why did Bruce Wayne have Batman’s car? And what was he doing in a cave? He questions were answered quickly as she glanced at the other end of the cave – it was Batman’s costume, sitting inside an open-doored steel safe.
“Are you okay, madame?”, the old, British gentleman asked. “My name is Alfred. What’s yours.”
Bruce walked closer to her. “We’re not going to hurt you. We want your help.”
Cassandra backed closer into the corner. Bruce reached out and tried to grab the scissors, only to be met with a sideways kick in the stomach from Cassandra. She rolled away from him, and raced across the cave – only she couldn’t seem to find an exit. She was trapped.
Alfred smiled as Bruce stood up slowly and balled his hand into a fist to stop the bleeding from a cut caused by the scissors. “Master Bruce, I believe you’ve met your match.”
“Alfred, a little help?”
Alfred smiled again as he walked toward Cassandra. “Would you like something to eat, Miss Cassandra?”
Cassandra smiled shyly and stood up. She hadn’t eaten since…Well, she couldn’t remember.
“This way, madam”, Alfred said as he walked toward the hidden exit.
Cassandra followed him carefully. Her pangs of hunger didn’t diminish her wariness all that much. She still had no idea what these two had in store for her.
Alfred stopped in front of the entrance to the kitchen and turned to Cassandra. “There is someone I would like you to meet, Cassandra. She’s eager to meet you as well.”
Cassandra stepped through the doorway into the kitchen slowly. She immediately spotted a red-haired woman sitting in a wheelchair. The woman smiled and turned her wheelchair toward the doorway.
Alfred stepped through the doorway. “I’d like to present Barbara Gordon.”
“Otherwise known as the former Batgirl”, Barbara added as she held out her hand, “Please excuse me if I don’t get up.”
Cassandra stepped forward slowly and shook Barbara’s hand.
Barbara indicated toward one of the empty chairs. “Please, have a seat. Eat something.”
As Barbara talked and Cassandra ate, Alfred slipped out into the hallway to talk to Bruce.
“Do you think she’ll do, Alfred?”
Alfred looked down at Bruce’s hand, which was now wrapped in gauze. “I think she’ll exceed your best expectations, Master Bruce.”
Batgirl glanced up through the clear sky, the wind blowing through her cape. It was a full moon – and likely the city would be full of more crazies then usual. She was about to follow Batman to nab the craziest one of them all – The Joker.
A chill ran through her with the wind, as she glanced down at the city from her perch high atop a dark building. She remembered the words of Barbara Gordon, what she said about The Joker. Barbara’s description of The Joker, and what he did to her. It made Batgirl both angry and afraid.
Batman placed one hand on her shoulder gently. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
Batgirl turned her head back to look at Batman, to give him a look of approval. In all truth, she wasn’t sure she was ready. But she had to try – for Barbara…for herself.
Batman removed his hand from her shoulder as he spotted a purple ragtop convertible which had just stopped in front of the building across the street. “We’re going to need everything you have tonight, Cassandra. And then we’re going to need more.”
With a nod from Batgirl, Batman leaped off of the top of the building, using the air resistance from his cape to slow him down. Batgirl waited a few seconds, and then did the same. Adrenaline filled her, and her heart began to beat faster as she descended toward the street. That’s when she spotted him – the man in the purple jacket and hat. He exited his car and walked into the building, seemingly oblivious to the presence of Batman or Batgirl.
He was anything but oblivious. As soon as Batman hit the ground, half a dozen men in purple jackets stepped out of the shadows and opened fire with machine guns. Batman’s Kevlar armor would have no problem stopping the bullets – but Batgirl knew her simple leather costume would not. She would have to use stealth to her advantage.
Batgirl tore through the canvas top of the convertible and dove below the front seat. It was only a matter of seconds before she managed to find the ignition wires. It was time to do some street cleaning.
She sat up on the seat, and threw the car in reverse. The two men she ran down first were so busy firing at Batman, they had no idea what hit them. The third and fourth realized they were about to be run over, but it was too late for them to do much before the car plowed into them, and smashed head-on into the alley wall. There were still two gunmen left, but the car had been destroyed. At least she knew that The Joker no longer had a getaway car.
Batgirl slid out of the car window, and landed hands-first on the pavement before rolling to her feet. As she did, she whipped a batarang from her belt and wheeled around quickly, daring anyone to try and move. But everything was silent. Batman had already disarmed the last two men, and he was heading into the building through the second floor – he meant to catch them by surprise.
She followed his lead, using the car as a boost to crash through a second-floor window. Unfortunately, Batgirl misjudged how weak the floor was on the second story of that dilapidated building. She crashed right through it, landing on top of someone on the first floor – and that someone was The Joker.
Batgirl reacted quickly, to avoid giving him any chance of escape. She pressed one hand against his throat, and sat with both of her legs on top of his chest, to maximize the amount of her weight pressing down on him. She quickly remembered an important fact from one of Bruce’s briefings on The Joker, and ripped the flower from the lapel of his jacket – no acid would be burning her today.
The whole maneuver was perfectly executed. The Joker would be in custody in seconds, as soon as Batman arrived with his handcuffs. As a large shadow loomed behind her, she smiled to herself – Batman had arrived. It was almost time to go home.
As her vision blacked out momentarily from the impact of a large object on the back of her head, she realized her mistake. In her eagerness to nab The Joker, she forgot to take a look around the room and make sure none of The Joker’s henchmen were there. She just assumed they were all outside.
Her vision returned just in time for her to see a large man holding a wooden chair above her head. She rolled out of the way quickly, missing the impact from the chair, and jumped to her feet almost instantly, ready for battle. Only there was no one to fight. Batman rendered the man unconscious before she stood up.
She looked down at the ground – and to her horror, The Joker was gone. He vanished again. She clenched her fists in anger. She was furious at herself for allowing him to slip away. She felt Batman’s hand on her shoulder – she pushed it off. She didn’t want to be consoled.
Batgirl walked outside, and fired a cable launcher at the top of the building across the street. The sooner she made it to the serenity of the rooftops of Gotham, the better. It only took her a second to achieve that.
“Cassandra.” Batman only took another second to arrive on the roof.
Batgirl held her hand out behind her, to try and discourage Batman from saying any more. The last thing she wanted to hear was Batman telling her exactly what she did wrong. Again.
“You did a great job, Cassandra. I’m proud of you.”
Cassandra smiled, as Batman looked down into a neighboring alley toward the Batmobile. “Let’s go.”