Categories > Comics > Batman0 Reviews
Some things just have to be done. It was the right thing to do, and nothing was going to stop Cassandra from doing it. Not even him.
The logistics of it all were driving her crazy. It wasn't that she didn't understand it all, it's just her whole life had been about action and instinct, not careful, thought-out plans. But that's what she had done. She had worked out each and every step, she'd paid someone to teach her the skills she needed to complete her task, she'd made dry runs of the entire process, and now the night had come.
And of course, the actual idea was insanity in and of itself. But on that point, she didn't much care. It was the right thing to do, and nothing was going to stop her from doing it. Not even him.
She'd stolen the clothes long ago, but had always felt somewhat uncomfortable keeping them close by. It was the only reason they weren't destroyed when BlÃ¼dhaven went up in smoke; she kept them in a locker at the train station. Every now and then she'd go and pay a brief visit, gingerly running her fingers over the fabric, before snatching her hand back and slamming the locker closed once more. In truth, it only depressed her more these days. She hadn't understood the feelings they invoked in her for so long, and when she finally did, it had put doubt to everything she had done in the last few years, whether in the streets of Gotham or BlÃ¼dhaven, or wherever it was she'd call home next.
But that was a lie all on its own, she knew. She remembered someone once saying 'Home is where the heart is.' It might have been Barbara, she thought, when she was still trying to help her become more literate. It seemed to make sense to her though. No matter where she went, the different places she lived, none of them ever seemed right to her. Her heart had died long ago, and she had no home anywhere on this cold Earth.
Her first stop was at the cemetery. She spent a few minutes stood before a grave, just staring intently at the earth before it, as if she could see the bones interred there. Leaving, without saying a word, she made her way through the streets and out beyond the suburbs to her second destination. Certain that no one had followed her, she pulled a package out of the undergrowth; it stood just taller than her, a bit wider than her, and weighed quite a bit. She'd practiced hauling the exact same package around with her several times, acquainting herself to the bulkiness and weight of it upon her back. She could even run with it tethered there, but thought it prurient not to increase the risk of it falling, or being smashed into something. She wanted it to be the same as the other one, but there was no way she could sneak it in, she decided. No, this was going to be an on-site construction job.
Slipping her arms into the two loops stemming from the package, she hoisted it up and made a shorter journey to her third waypoint of the night. She paused at the edge of the cliff, leaning over carefully as she looked down its length. The moon was full, allowing her to see the cave mouth situated about a third of the way up the cliff face. She stepped away from the edge and gave the package a quick check over to see no damage had been incurred. She then checked a metal hook that had been driven into the earth, seeing it was secure, and then tested the sturdiness of the knotted rope that ran through it.
She stopped, and looked up at the night sky. Yes, the moon was out, light piercing the darkness, but the clouds were still thick with water, rain pouring down from the sky. It seemed quite apt to her. The first night all week it had rained just happened to be on this day. No thunder or lightning, and it didn't seem likely, a lack of tension in the air, but that made it all the more atmospheric in the way. A sheer gloom, no sudden bursts of brightness and noise, just dankness. Still, a wet night meant he might still be there. And that worried her a little bit. Reaching a hand behind her, she felt the soft bulge at the bottom of the package, and felt a certain reassurance. Even if he was there, it wouldn't stop her. And neither could he.
Removing the package, she picked up the harness from where it lay hidden and pulled it on, making sure the rope moved smoothly through it. Satisfied, she slipped the package back on, and walked to the cliff edge, turning herself around. Taking a firm grip of the rope, she lowered herself over the edge, beginning the slow walk down the cliff face. Nearing the cave, she pushed off with both feet, feeling the wind whip around her for a few seconds, before landing heavily in the entrance. She fought for her balance for a half-second, before righting herself. Quickly setting the package aside, she removed the harness and tossed it back outside. She had no intention of leaving by the same way she'd come in.
She peered into the gloom within, but couldn't see much more than a few feet in front of her face. She pulled a pair of goggles over her eyes, red quickly filling her vision as she looked from one side to the other. Whilst night vision goggles would have helped her see more easily, she needed access to the infra-red range on the spectrum for a few of the cunning traps that lay ahead of her. She knew that because she was the one who had lain them, during one of her earliest trips through the caves. She'd first found it when Nightwing had been searching for a way in, during the whole mess that stemmed from Vesper Fairchild's murder. She had followed him as he checked for other possible routes than the one he initially discovered, and did some exploring of her own at the same time. She knew she should have told the others about the cave she did find, but hadn't for some reason. Maybe it was because it was her secret way in, her special little something, to use just in case of an emergency. But she made certain to lay various traps throughout it, just in case someone else found it.
As she made her way deeper into the warren of caves, she chewed on her lip in concentration, tension running throughout her body. She wasn't used to being like this, she was normally a stream of action, but it was her thoughts that were going into overdrive. She winced as she felt droplets of water falling onto her, cursing softly to herself. The cave surface was slicker than she'd anticipated, all of her dry runs had been when it was, well, dry, and she hadn't anticipated this. Yet another worry to add to the pile that was constantly nagging at her.
She half felt like turning back and calling it quits, but she couldn't will herself to do it. It was bad enough it hadn't been done already, but to postpone it any longer would be an insult. No, this night she would do what should have happened a year ago, come hell or highwater. It was what she was owed, what she deserved. She would have done it for her in an instant, so it was only right to do it herself. Her foot slid out from underneath herself as she trod on some moss. Falling backwards, she threw an arm out behind her, using it to pivot herself around and come crashing down on her front, the bulk of the package slamming into her back, driving the air from her body.
It was all so stupid, she raged internally as she struggled to catch her breath. That she had to do it at all was ridiculous, it was wrong. It should have been her who lived, the one fighting on to become better than ever before. What had she done since then that made her life so much more worthwhile? The lives she had saved were all negated in the destruction of BlÃ¼dhaven, they all died senselessly anyway. Sure, she'd given them a few more months of life, but that was all. Really, she had failed them, abandoning them in their hour of need whilst she traipsed around the globe on her foolish quest for her mother, for all the good that had done her. And now she had lost all faith in both the world and herself. She didn't have a purpose anymore, beyond the night's activities. No, she was the one who should have died, she thought as she pushed herself to her feet. Turning around, she continued along the cave, continuing further into its depths.
She paused, staring at the sudden dip in the cave roof as she sighed. She knew she could fit through it, but not whilst carrying the package as she was. Slipping her arms out of the loops that held it on her back, she trailed it behind her as she drew closer, careful not to jolt the package. Resting it on the floor, she lowered herself down, and shimmied backwards into the tight crevice. It was one of the few times she was grateful for her smaller form; she had taken down those far larger than her, but it was tiresome work, and more than once she had considered trying to bulk up, but that still wouldn't help her height. Besides, when she really thought about it, she knew her speed was her greatest asset, both of thought and action, and any attempts to make herself stronger would probably cause serious problems with her basic fighting style. Taking hold of one end of the package, she made sure she had a solid grip on it before starting to pull it carefully along with her as she edged her way further into the narrow gap between floor and ceiling.
It was hard to breathe, her lungs not quite filling with air as she felt the pressure bearing down upon her. She wasn't scared of confined spaces, but she did much prefer wide-open areas, the hitch in her chest making her feel weak and small, like she had as a child. She had never liked it when he'd lock her in the box, but she knew he loved her, and was doing it for a good reason, so she always coped with it, however much she loathed it. Looking back on it, it was just another in the long list of atrocities that were present during her childhood, but she hadn't known of the reason behind it until that night when she was only eight years old. Then she had discovered the truth as she watched a man die by her own hand, something that had never left her, and in a way, she hoped it never would. A death wish is what they had told her it was, that she felt she had to repay taking a life with losing her own. Shiva had freed her of that, killing her before then resuscitating her. A debt had been paid, but she still carried the scar of that incident. She knew death for what it was, and had sworn to never kill again. But times change, and she wasn't so sure of herself anymore.
Carefully she navigated the package around a protrusion spiking up from the floor, easing herself into a far more spacious section of the cave. She stood up straight, stretching out her back whilst shuddering at the relief of being free from the narrow passage. Pulling the package the rest of the way out, she once more slung it onto her back, hefting it a few times to reacquaint herself with its weight, before making her way along the downwards slope of the tunnel.
Night had come relatively early, which she was thankful for, the early darkness granting her the cover she had needed to gain entrance, whilst giving her enough time to complete her task before midnight. She had been making her way through the warren of tunnels for well over an hour, possibly two, the crevice having drastically slowed her down. She didn't wear a watch, so she couldn't be sure of how long she had been underground, and she had long lost track of time herself. Just so long as she was done before the new day begun, she didn't care.
The sound of water splashing drew nearer and nearer as she progressed, a frown growing upon her face as she came across the source. She hadn't been particularly looking forward to this part. Removing the IR goggles, she replaced them with a pair of diving goggles from a pouch on her belt, as well as retrieving a miniature air-tank, slipping it into her mouth. Each step forwards took her further into the dark mire of water before her, quickly enveloping her.
The silence was eerie, the only sound reaching her ears was that of her breathing through the small mouth apparatus, it's harsh echo scant comfort. The package made it difficult to swim, restricting the movement of her legs and arms. She breast-stroked as best she could, but the going was tough. The beam of light coming from between her eyes helped though, enabling her to see what was ahead and allowing her to avoid any obstacles that could damage the package easier. The water grew lighter as she progressed, signalling she was drawing near to the end of the swim. Emerging into a large cavern, she stayed underwater as she swam to the opposite side, towards a somewhat small cliff.
Breaking the water's surface, she made her way up the cliff face, straining against the weight upon her back. The swim had caused the package to become waterlogged, though it was steadily leaking at the moment, but nonetheless, it made it harder for her to carry. She just hoped the packaging wouldn't break as she made her ascent. She'd come too far to be able to turn back now. Not that she could have, not really.
Slipping herself over the ledge, she lay flat upon the floor, catching her breath back. Shivering a little in the cold, she rose up to her feet, moving to her final destination. Setting the package on the ground, she crouched down and started to unwrap it, before hearing a familiar snapping sound.
"If you would please stand up slowly and step away from the parcel, miss," came the clipped tone from behind her. She did so, without turning to face the person she knew was pointing a double-barrel shotgun at her back. He'd fire if he had to, she knew that, but only if forced to. And it was highly unlikely that he'd shoot if he knew who she was. But still, it wasn't a risk worth taking.
"Hands on your head please, and move over to the console on your left." She was actually somewhat put out that he hadn't recognised her already, but she supposed she had changed quite a bit since they had last met. Still...
She listened to him stepping quietly towards her as she complied, a small smile drifting across her face. She had rather missed him, he was the only one who was actually nice to her. Well, apart from her. To Batman, she was a weapon, and something not to be trusted. To Robin, she was creepy, and not to be trusted. To Nightwing, she was just there; he had his own things going on in BlÃ¼dhaven at the time, so he wasn't too interested. To Ba--Oracle she reminded herself, that's what she should call her now, she was a plaything, a toy, something to busy herself with when she didn't have better things to do. Alfred though, he always treated her with respect, helping her when he was needed, and always ready with a smile for her.
Now, she thought, and pivoted on her left heel, her right hand quickly snatching the barrel and jerking it away from her, her left grabbing the butler by the throat. His eyes opened wide as he recognised her, doubly so as she leant in and kissed him softly on the cheek, wrapping her arms around him and enveloping Alfred in a hug, the shotgun squeezed between them.
"I've missed you Alfred," she said, her head resting upon his shoulder. An unsure hand comes to rest upon her back before he presses his cheek against the back of her head.
"It is good to see you again, Miss Cassandra, though might I enquire as to just why you've graced me with your presence tonight?"
She lowered herself back down from her tiptoes, a sad look on her face as she disentangled her limbs from his. Turning away, she walked pack over to where she left the package, beckoning him to follow with a shake of her hand. Crouched down before it again, she quickly removed the wrapping, to reveal five sheets of glass, several thin pieces of steel, a wooden block and a pole with two pairs of arms sprouting from its length. Removing the smaller package that remained, she unravelled it and took out the small bundle of clothes and a tube of putty.
Alfred's eyes widened as he realised what she intended to do, but said nothing, instead resting a hand upon her shoulder. She placed a hand over his, looking up at him with a soft smile. "She deserves her own one."
"I fear Master Bruce will not approve," he said, a tinge of sadness in his voice.
"He can go to hell for all I care," she spat, venom filling her words. "I stopped giving a damn what he thought a long time ago."
"Indeed, Miss Cassandra. I gathered that when you decided to abandon your role as Batgirl."
For a moment, anger filled her face, but then she looked back at the items laid out before her, sadness once more shading her features. "You and her were the only ones who didn't treat me like a freak, the only ones who could look at me and see beyond the creepy girl who didn't talk. Even Shiva treated me better than he did. For a while, I thought we understood each other, that he wanted me to become more than I was, but it was all a delusion. Instead of becoming more human, he was turning me into a puppet, making me less than human. But none of that matters anymore. I cut my own strings."
"And what will you do now, Miss Cassandra?"
"First, this. After I'm done here, well, I'm not too sure to be honest. But I have to do it by myself. I guess I'll find out as I go."
A lengthy silence fell over the two, before she sighed. "I guess I should get on with this before he finds me here."
"I fear you may not have to worry too much about that. It has been a while since Master Bruce has been at the manor. The last I heard from him, he was still touring the world with Masters Dick and Tim."
For a moment, she didn't move, except for the furrowing of her brow. "You mean... I could have come in the front door? I didn't have to abseil down a cliff, squeeze through tiny passages, swim in pitch-black water, or climb a small cliff face? I just had to knock?"
"Indeed, Miss Cassandra."
The outburst of expletives didn't last very long, though it did receive a raised eyebrow and a frown from Alfred. It wasn't so much that the words offended him, it's just he didn't really expect them from the young woman. Nonetheless, when her brief tirade ended, she had a sad smile on her face. "I can't help but imagine Steph just laughing at me. I go risking life and limb to do something that I could have achieved merely by knocking, which is exactly what she'd have done. I miss her. I miss her so much it hurts."
Silently she started to work, first inserting the winged pole into the wooden block, before slipping the clothing into place, fabric taut as each pair of arms held them in mid air. Taking the tube of putty, she squeezed some out along the inside of the four smallest steel frame pieces, before inserting the square-shaped piece of glass. Pulling out a piece of thin cloth, she smoothed away the excess, before taking the four longer frame pieces, screwing them into place on the corners of the framed glass. Turning it so the frame pointed towards the cave roof, she squeezed out more of the putty, sliding one of the longer pieces of glass into position in the frame. She felt Alfred leave, but didn't turn to look as she worked. She smelt him coming though, when he returned, or rather, the hot cocoa he carried in on a tray. She smiled at that, though still concentrated on her work. She ran the last of the putty throughout the square groove running around the wooden base, before hoisting the case over the pole, and lowering it to slot into the groove. Removing a compact screwdriver from a belt pouch, she withdrew the final object from the package, and quickly screwed it into place upon the base.
Standing up, she took a step backwards, looking upon her work. Truthfully, it looked somewhat shoddy in comparison to its counterpart by its side, but she was proud of the fruit of her efforts. The case stood not much taller than herself, the eyemask only a few inches lower than her own eyes. Reaching out, she gently brushed the glass front with her hand, before letting it drop to her side as the tears began to fall. She didn't try to brush them away, letting them roll down her face and fall to the floor, never taking her eyes from the case stood before her.
It was roughly ten minutes by Alfred's watch before she turned away and took the cup of cocoa he'd made for her. They sat and talked about this and that, informal chit-chat for another hour or so, before she gave him another hug and left. After escorting her out, the front door this time, he returned to the cave and stood before the newest addition to the cave. It wouldn't last, he was quite certain of that, but he was determined to keep it in good condition until the cave's master returned. He ran a feather duster over it, despite the fact it was still clean, and hummed in satisfaction to himself. He gave a small smile as he took one last look at the inscription upon the plaque attached to the base, and quietly left. Maybe the manor would have another ghost roaming the halls, alongside Master Jason.
A Good Person