Batgirls

September 29, 2018:

Cassandra Cain and Barbara Gordon talk about recent events, and trade notes on current cases.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Punisher, Batman

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Last night, a boat exploded in Gotham Harbor. It had been carrying heroin according to the preliminary reports from GCPD; they also had one of the crewmen of the boat in custody, and he was singing like a bird about being part of The Blacksmith's operation. After the recent shooting at the Gotham City Convention Center, getting a win even if they were only the clean-up crew was something big.

Last night, Batgirl was also picked up from a safehouse in Sandy Hook after sustaining some serious injuries from shrapnel. She's in no state to go out to patrol, and so she's in the Belfry, doing what she can from the computers that illuminate the library attic space. She's been hacking her way into the camera systems across Gotham, and is currently watching a feed from right inside city hall. Her father is working into the night, fixating now on the Punisher after Frank Castle supposedly shot-up his daughter's apartment. She watches him flip through what little he could get on Frank, her elbows resting on her desk and mouth pressed against her knuckles in a focused stare.

There was a time when Cassandra was down and out. It was almost a year ago, during the War of Two cities, when Bludhaven and Gotham had rival gangs one up-ing each other over which public officials they could take out. They tried to kill Jim Gordon, but Cassandra took the bullet instead. It was that bravery that brought her into the Bat-Family, and after a time and with Barbara's blessing, she took on a cowl of her own.

Tonight it was time to return the favor, but it might not seem like one when Cassandra presses an ice pack to the back of Barbara's neck. She'll hold it in place just long enough for her to take it, a subtle reminder not to ignore her bruising, even if all the shrapnel were picked out. Leaning in, she looks over Bat-Girl's shoulder at the Commissioner, her eyes picking up on those little subtleties that other people simply cannot see in body language. Still, she's certain Barbara is staring for a reason.

"Worried?"

Stepping past her fellow caped crusader, Cassandra moves to sit cross-legged on a little stool that's better used to reach the top shelf. Comically still dressed in her uniform and having slipped in through the back, the Black Bat tosses her mask up onto Barbara's desk, her chin dropping into both of her hands as he fixes her scrutinizing gaze on the younger Gordon.

Always sparing in words, she leaves her question hanging as a prompt for much more. On the other hand, it does make her quite the sounding board.

The abrupt coldness at her neck makes her jump a bit, and her heart kicks up a beat for just a second before a slow breath steadies her. She reaches up to take over holding the blissfully freezing pack against the back of her neck for a moment where her muscles still ache. She smiles over her shoulder to Cassandra, not at all surprised to see her now that her initial reaction has worn off, but also thankful for a familiar face to break her from her obsessive reverie.

She looks back to the monitors, wincing a bit as she shifts in her seat to give Cass more room to look at the focused footage. Her dad sips his coffee, grimaces at the fact that it went cold about two hours ago, and then steps out of the shot — probably to microwave it. The question from the Black Bat draws her eyes over to Cass, and her mouth thins a bit.

"Yeah," she says softly. "Worried that he's going to start thinking Frank Castle really tried to kill me." She rotates from the monitors in her chair, looking at the Bat with a small, but tired smile.

"Everything quiet out there tonight?" Her tone is hopeful, if not a bit resigned.

"Restless."

The single word reply comes with the weight of uncertainty, maybe in pronunciation, something Barbara has helped her immensely with. But also with the state of Gotham, her gaze dropping away from the sensory overload that is another human being's minute reactions to the floor. It's only a moment, she'll look back up at the monitor, to watch Jim Gordon move out of frame, and finally come to regard her friend with a certain kind of worry. "Also calm. Hard to…"

Cassandra's eyes narrow, and she thinks backwards to the right word, struggling for a small eternity. "..ex..plan. Plain. Explain."

There is another pregnant pause as she considers what other detail she can provide, her finger pointing to another monitor. One that shows a weather channel feed.

Swirling in the ocean, barreling down on some part of Florida, the radar shows a hurricane ready to run over Miami. It shows too, the pristine beach and subtle breeze, and though Cassandra cannot read the words showing at the bottom of the screen, they may serve her purpose after all.

'The Calm Before The Storm.'

That done her attention turns back to Barbara's words, her brow furrowing just a little. She'll manage to say a lot, without saying much.

"Frank Castle?"

Frank Castle, indeed.

Over her time with Cassandra, Barbara has learned to be very patient. At first, being one of those gifted sorts as a child, she kept wanting to give Cassandra the words that she struggled to find. Now, she lets Cass find her own voice, giving her the space to speak without the press to interrupt. When she points to the monitor, Barbara looks to it. "Hurricanes," she says helpfully. Then she notices the words, and nods soberly. "Calm before the storm."

The repetition of Frank's name makes Babs breathe a slow exhale, and she nods. "The Punisher… he's been killing gang members out of New York City… the gang members that shot and killed his family back in the spring. I was helping him find the person responsible, and ended up getting in way, way over my head."

She chuckles a bit ruefully now, leaning her head into her chair, looking at the monitors. "Found out this guy named Blacksmith had set up the meet between the gangs, and they got nervous waiting for him, started thinking they'd be set up… opened up on each other. Castle's wife and two kids died; he got wounded. Woke up, and has been hunting those responsible ever sense." She glances to Cass. "Thought we had him last night… but just ended up destroying a bunch of heroin instead."

She looks back at the monitors. "I don't' even know if he's still alive at this point."

It's a lot to process, especially with not understanding every word of it. But there's the subtle muscle motion, the shift of intention in her words, the way she laughs but not real mirth. It helps her draw a conclusion few could. one helped along by Barbara's story. A conclusion, and perhaps some judgement.

"Broken man. A killer?"

The Batman didn't need to teach Cassandra why they didn't kill, for her she knew, personally. And even speaking of Frank Castle in such a callous way, even judging him, it feels ever justified, for she certainly judges herself in the same way. Her last point draws her gaze to the monitors, and as Barbara laments on Frank's fate, her head tilts a little. "Survivor."

Maybe she sensed something there that might make the word come out as reassuring. By the time Barbara looks for Cassie again, she's already gone. But not for good. A moment later she comes with coffee from across the room. No one could say she's an indulgent person, but she seems to enjoy even the most mediocre cup.

"Skullduggers rising."

The Skullduggers, half cult, half gang, they don't give a fuck about anything but earning some measure of power and immortality. Usually through the use of drugs that give them superhuman strength, and grotesque body proportions. This is Cassandra's way of saying she's seen more around. Next to the cup of coffee she sets on the desk, she also sets an inhaler, one with a skull symbol on it.

Then she makes a gesticulation with her hands and puffs out her cheeks, making it clear that this inhaler made one of them grow-"POP!"

And if her dramatic sound should be believed, pop like a balloon.

"He's killed people." By Barbara's tone, she thinks that's a needed distinction. "I don't think he's a killer, though. Not really." Her mouth twitches a bit at the other word that Cassandra uses, and she nods a bit more agreeably. "He's definitely one of those."

Those words are said to nothingness though, because she turns to see no Cassandra. She blinks, starting to turn more in her chair only to spot Cass's return. With coffee. She starts to laugh softly, shaking her head. "Monkey see, monkey do," she says gently, because there's her dad on the monitor again, his own mug in hand.

The change in topic — or at least sideways slide in topic — causes a sudden frown. "How many did you come across?" She reaches for the inhaler, collecting it gingerly. She holds it in her palm, feeling the weight of it.

Likely empty now, it has all the weight of a terrible problem for Gotham, namely in ganger punks who think this stuff will elevate them to being the next Superman with none of his moral aspirations. Cassandra finishes a drink of her coffee and explains as best she can, though it's clear there's a little more to her story than just the numbers.

"Ten. Five first. Then five later. Only one."

She points at the inhaler here, indicating just one had one of these. Maybe a leader, or maybe just a sacrificial lamb.

"Another man, invest… searching. Rictor."

She sets a little thumb drive, an output from her mask's surveillance gear, so that Babs might review it later, should she seek out this Rictor herself. A moment of introspection, followed by careful study, and Cassandra shifts the conversation again with only a few words.

"Frank needs us?"

For her, the Skullduggers are just business as usual. Something she'll need help with. She can talk to her computer. Draw on a screen, back at her own little lair. But she can't read, but for a few letters and a word or two. She'll need Barbara's help. And maybe her question is about returning the favor, but her ton suggests otherwise. Her empathy bleeds through, and she does not mean simply finding him, wherever he may be.

In just a few words from Barbara, a story told in inflection as much as word, she understands Frank may need other kinds of help, and as that concern wells she looks to her friend and mentor for some reaction, some guidance.

How can they best help this man, compelled to find and remove those who wounded hims so?

"Ten." Barbara repeats that with a slight tension in her stomach. Cassandra was right: Skulldruggers Rising. She frowns deeply at the inhaler, still letting it roll around in her hand. She blinks when Cass mentions the name Rictor, and she looks up at the younger Bat. "Private investigator… P.I. He was poking around?"

That has her a bit worried by her tone, and this is now the second time that Rictor has been poking around places that might get him in trouble. All she needs is to have to keep a look out for a nosy New Yorker deciding to set-up shop in Gotham.

Her thoughts are railroaded by Cassandra's question. The earnesty of it makes her wonder why she hadn't asked Cass for help from the start, but then she reminds herself why: because this wasn't about the Bats. She starts to shake her head.

"Yes, I think he will. I asked Bruce… what happens after revenge? I think that's where Frank is going to need us the most."

"Ree-venge."

Such an unfamiliar word to say, but the meaning behind it is so clear. Retribution. Personal retribution. She's seen it out there, between different gangs, in squabbles between lovers turned violent, and now knows it describes this man that Barbara says needs their help. It reminds her of a man she tries to save. Of the hit squad who killed him, and what she wanted to do to them. But she didn't. Batman let her have them, and as much as it felt good to knock them unconscious, to make sure they went to prison, it did not fix it all.

It conflicts her, and she looks away and back to Jim Gordon, as if that were her moral center. One way or another, it might be true. How much has he influenced Barbara, and how much has Barbara influenced her?

Her coffee is simply gone in one long gulping drink, still lacking a few of the social graces she told herself she'd try to learn a year ago. Ah well, she's been learning other things.

It's in her gaze when she looks to Barbara, concern that runs deep, to the edge of her very soul. It culminates in a grim nod.

"Will save him."

Cassandra doesn't mean from some physical danger Frank might be in.

"Tell me how. You rest. I go."

It wouldn't be the first time Cassandra has stepped up to help Barbara while she recovers. She knows it won't take Batgirl long to get back into the swing of things, but in the meantime, she was ready to look into the matter of this man steeped in revenge.

"Retribution." It is as if she had knew the word that Cassandra was correlating with the word. She brushes her fingers back across her cheek, tucking hair with the gesture. "His family… they were his anchor, his connection to the world. You see it… in soldiers all over the world. They know that their families will bring them back from the dark places a soldier has to go."

When she says this all aloud, she realizes that she had been holding those words in her head and heart since she came across Frank in Gotham. She looks at the monitor that holds the feed of her father working tirelessly.

"He needs that. Family."

Then she turns slightly toward Cassandra, blinking in surprise at her unquestioning dedication to it. Her mouth opens, words fail, and she swallows back the small lump in her throat. "Cass… I don't… I don't even know how yet." Then her mouth tightens a bit, expression thoughtful. "Blacksmith was ready to bring drugs into Gotham… we should maybe find out if this is the first time he's done it. This guy is a ghost… I need to figure out how to hunt him."

Family.

For the longest time that was just her father, David Cain. A man that twisted the meaning of fatherhood, of family, perhaps. But she understands Barbara, because she knows what that word means now, among these people who stand up every night to face the dark with an unwavering courage, each of them looking for something in the redemption it brings. Or maybe she just assumes everyone is like her, making up for some unforgivable mistake. It didn't matter. Barbara, Bruce, the others. They had taken her in and helped her come this far. She could help one more.

"I know how."

Bruce taught her.

Cassandra snatches up her cowl in a smooth motion and pulls it on, the stitched over mouthparts cutting a macabre countenance that has served her well in her often-silent menacing of Gotham's underbelly. But she would speak to them, and soon. Not with her voice, but in the language they would understand. She'd find anyone and everyone willing pass a vial along the supply chain, and hunt them with the language of violence.

Eventually someone would talk, even if it might take some time. But that's okay. Barbara needs some time to heal.

A hand finds her friend's shoulder, careful not to take hold of the one that's covered in so many bruises. It is touch of reassurance and solidarity. The touch of someone who understands the emotion that staggers Barbara's voice, and seeks to assure her: She can do this for her.

Offhandedly, she points to the inhaler.

"You work that. I work Blacksmith. Three days."

Maybe she's being optimistic, or maybe she's more like Bruce than any of the others, at least in her unending drive.

With a turn she heads for the way out, a window that will take her into the night, set on not letting her mentor down.

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