❯ In the Shadow of the Bat – Batgirl: Hard Choices ( Chapter 7 )
Batgirl: Hard Choices
The hall was hidden deep beneath the sleepy college town of New Carthage, the remnant of some old fall out shelter that was remade to fit their darker purpose. The floor was covered with rugs, the walls by tapestries depicting great battles and lanterns lit up the men and women who were kneeling there, waiting.
She stalked out of the shadows dressed all in black, moving like a cat soundlessly and gracefully to the podium up above the floor. Short black hair fell into her eyes, her face a mix of races, but whoever she was she commanded instant respect. “Begin,” Cassandra Cain ordered, studying them intently.
Almost instantly the men and women below her fell into a wild battle, first and feet flying as they fought each other. Blood splattered the floor as blows landed, some falling while others stood tall, proving their skills in the only real way.
“Enough,” Cassandra called out harshly and the fighting stopped as soon as it started. She leapt down to join them, walking over the fallen fighters as she studied the survivors. “You, you and you,” she pointed out three more of them, “you were marked in the fighting. Leave here, and take the fallen with you.”
The three men picked up the fallen and left, even as the two survivors faced Cassandra. The young man wore red, a simple body suit without pouches or decorations, tight enough not to catch on anything yet lose enough to give freedom of movement. The woman wore blue, her costume tattered a bit but otherwise fine, and her brown hair and eyes shone as she studied Cassandra intently.
“You two are now initiates,” Cassandra told them gravely, “you have faced many tests to come here, but I tell you now that this is just the beginning of your trials.” A serious meeting of their eyes, “You will learn of the League, of how to be an assassin and you will grow to hate. Teachers will hurt you, tests will hurt you, and you will hate us all for what we do to you. But that hate will make you strong.”
Cassandra turned, her long black hair flowing like a cape. ‘God she’s beautiful,’ both young people found themselves thinking.
“Go now, back to your lives and close them off,” Cassandra instructed them. “Leave not a trace of you behind. You belong to the League of Assassins now.” With that she seemed to disappear into the shadows, leaving them alone once more.
“Do you really believe that?” a quiet voice asked as Cassandra walked through the tunnels to her quarters once more.
Cassandra seemed to relax a bit, her steely manner fading a little as she ran a hand though her hair, “Of course not, Leslie.”
Doctor Leslie Tompkins shook her head, the older woman walking over to Cassandra as she asked, “So why do you tell them that?”
Looking faintly amused Cassandra answered, “Because that’s what they expect to hear.”
Leslie stared into Cassandra’s eyes, making a soft noise with her tongue. “Your eyes are dilated,” she noted, “and you look pale. Withdrawl symptoms?”
Cassandra grimaced but nodded reluctantly. “That crap Slade used on me is hard to shake,” she admitted reluctantly.
“Sit down,” Leslie waved the girl to a seat, “I’ll start a fluid iv as well as a painkiller for the discomfort.”
“I don’t need….” Cassandra started.
Leslie cut her off with a motherly look. “You may not need it,” she noted, “but you’ll be in severe discomfort without it. Now sit.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Cassandra smiled wryly.
It had been a few weeks since Leslie Tompkins had contacted Cassandra, offering her services to the leader of the League of Assassins. Cassandra had just finished the disasterous adventure with Titans East, where she first began to shake Slade’s narcotic hold on her, and the doctor had been invaluable in doing so.
Leslie hummed softly as she worked, baring Cassandra’s sleeve and hooking her up to the intravenous fluids. “There,” she said, “just sit and relax for a few minutes.”
“Thank you,” Cassandra sighed, already feeling the pain begin to fade. “Leslie,” she asked, “why are you doing this?”
“Hmm?” Leslie looked at her curiously.
“I don’t understand why you’re helping me,” Cassandra said with a sigh, “considering all the things I’ve done.”
Leslie carefully rolled up the tubing, throwing away the wrappers. “I got to know you pretty well during when Gotham was cut off,” she said finally, “you aren’t a evil person. And more importantly, you needed help.”
“True enough,” Cassandra sighed. She smiled slightly, “Thank you for telling me Steph was alive, too.”
“I knew how close you two were,” Leslie acknowledged, “not letting you know would be cruel.” She smiled, “Besides, I suspect she’ll be looking for you soon enough.”
“I know,” Cassandra acknowledged, “and I’ll have to drive her away, just like I did Robin. Or else all my sacrifices in going undercover this last year will be for nothing.”
“I still think Bruce was insane, doing this to you,” Leslie frowned.
Cassandra smiled, “I went into it with my eyes open.”
Shortly after the battle with Alexander Luthor Batman had approached Cassandra, laying out a daring and dangerous plan. Cassandra would go undercover with the League, joining them while claiming to be angry for Batman choosing another defender for Gotham and furious over her discoveries about her parentage. Using her inherited position of One Above All she would then learn all the secrets of the League, eventually piping that information back to Batman to destroy the Assassins once and for all.
“Decieving Robin must have been interesting,” Leslie noted as she monitored the fluids going into Cassandra.
“You have no idea,” Cassandra admitted, “if I hadn’t been deliberately keeping him off balance with my odd behavior, I’m sure he would have seen through me.” A smile, “I’m not much of an actress, really.’
Once the liquids finished pouring into Cassandra Leslie carefully unhooked her, pulling the needle free and bandaging up the wound. “Feeling better?” she asked.
“Much,” Cassandra admitted, rising and stretching gracefully. She sighed, “Any idea how long it’ll take me to recover from my addiction to Slade’s booster?”
“I’m not sure,” Leslie acknowledged. “The drug Slade dosed you with is derived from the same one that made him Deathstroke, and it was experimental back then. Frankly, I’m shocked he’d even risk giving it to you or his daughter Ravager.”
“The bastard isn’t exactly normal,” Cassandra agreed flatly.
“I’ll have to keep testing your blood samples,” Leslie sighed, “my best guess? It’ll be a few more weeks before it’s gone.”
“Hmm,” Cassandra nodded as she pulled her sleeve back down over her arm, her expression thoughtful. “I got word a few hours ago,” she revealed softly, “Spoiler is on her way here to New Carthage.”
“Steph?” Leslie looked at her worriedly, “What are you going to do?”
Cassandra sighed, “Trick her, of course. I’ll go into my full villain act, do something dastardly and generally try to convince her I’m bad to the bone.”
Leslie had to chuckle softly at that. “You’ll have to be careful,” she cautioned, “I think Steph will be harder to fool than Robin was.”
“I’ll manage,” Cassandra answered, “I have to.” Steeling herself she said, “I have to go see Nyssa, I’ll be back soon.”
Watching Cassandra leave Leslie sighed, “Be careful.”
The tunnels lead under the city, eventually opening up into a much more opulant chamber than the spartan rooms that Cassandra used. Cushions covered the floor, scented candles burned and the sweet scent of food wafted through the room.
“Welcome,” Nyssa Raatko smiled, the black haired older woman rising from her bed to greet Cassandra warmly.
“M’lady,” Cassandra nodded respectfully.
“Nyssa, sweet one,” she chided, “call me by my name.”
“Of course,” Cassandra nodded as Nyssa stroked her cheek, “Nyssa.”
“Come,” Nyssa led her towards the bed. In a cheerful tone she asked, “Do you know why I let you live after you tried to assassinate me?”
“It’s part of a larger plan of yours,” Cassandra offered, even as she recalled that incident. Under the instructions of Nyssa’s sister Talia she had attempted to kill Nyssa with a car bomb, deciding to go along with the attempt for her own reasons.
“Very true,” Nyssa acknowledged. She lay back with a smile, “You are bound to obey the Demon’s Head, and since we two now lead, it creates difficulties for you.”
“Yes, Nyssa,” Cassandra agreed, even though honestly she would have been happy to see both women dead.
Nyssa gestured her to come closer, “Besides, there’s another reason to spare you.”
“Oh?” Cassandra asked as she sat down on the bed beside Nyssa.
“This,” Nyssa drew her down into a lingering kiss.
To be continued….