The Dark Knight Rises: Weapon of the Shadows

Chapter Fourteen

"I don't want any more pills, okay? And I'm not hungry."

Babs mentally counted to five before she dropped the hamburger bag on his lap. Not that it had far to drop since Blake sat in the hospital bed. "It's antibiotics because a foreign object punched through your skin and muscle. You take all of the antibiotics otherwise you're just helping breed super-bugs. You're going to eat something because the antibiotics upset your stomach. And you're going to do it right now or I'm going to shove these pills up your ass!"

Blake washed the pills down with the soda. "I see why you ruled out a career in medicine."

"I should've let Gotham Tonight get under your mask." She crossed her gloved arms over her armor-covered chest.

"Sorry." He dug into the bag with his good hand and held out the French fries. "I'm not used to anyone taking care of me."

"Well, get used to it, partner. You have to help me figure out who shot you." She accepted the peace offering.

"Did you find anything else on the roof?"

Before Babs answered, the platform lift to the cargo container entrance rumbled. Her eyes flew to Blake's shocked face. She grabbed her cowl off the bed and pushed it on as she left the medical bay. The platform joined the ceiling.

Mr. Fox might know about this bat cave but just in case, she jogged to the shelves slid out from the concrete wall. She grabbed the black rifle-like gun as wide as her thigh. Hopefully it looked intimidating jammed against her shoulder.

The platform descended with two pairs of legs on it: a child in black sneakers and jeans, and a man in brown wingtips and grey slacks. Babs trained the gun on the platform. It descended to show the child was a little Asian girl holding the man's pale hand. Not Lucius Fox then.

The little girl's head cocked as she studied Babs and the gun. Why was the platform so slow? Babs watched the man's button-up shirt and dark jacket come out of the ceiling. His stance didn't shift, but the little girl wasn't screaming "gun" either. His head finally emerged and surprise, she recognized the face. "Bruce Wayne?"

"This bunker cost a lot to build. I wouldn't use the sticky bomb gun in here unless you have a couple of million for repairs, Batgirl."

She lowered the weapon. "You... you...."

"Built this bunker, yes." He didn't release the little girl's hand as they walked up to Babs.

"But Bane killed you?" Obviously Bane hadn't killed him, but why let the story stand?

"No, Bane didn't kill him and neither did a nuclear bomb." Blake staggered out of the medical bay. At least his shot arm was still in the sling.

"Get back in bed," Babs and Bruce told him in unison.

Blake scowled and sat in one of the office chairs at the L-shaped computer desk. "How the hell did you not blow up and how the hell did you know assassins were coming after the Commissioner from where the hell you went, and who the hell is that?" He blinked at the little girl.

Bruce headed to the computer. "This is Cassandra. That's John Blake."

Cassandra nodded. "Nightwing."

Babs placed the weapon on the shelf. "You're revealing our identities to a ten-year-old."

She drew her chin up and studied Babs' armor. "Eight. Me no tell."

"We discussed it in the car." Bruce scrutinized Babs' face despite the cowl over it. "You're Gordon's daughter, Barbara."

"Babs Gordon." She pulled the cowl off and set it on the desk.

"Batgirl," Cassandra said.

She was stuck with that name the reporters thought up. And Bruce Wayne was Batman. Blake glared at the older man and his huffiness was not due to his injured arm for the first time today.

Bruce pulled the wireless keyboard across the concrete slab desktop and typed. "I didn't know assassins were coming to Gotham. I was looking for Cassandra's father." He opened the database search that she had found running in the background twice. "Are you sure it was an assassin?"

"Dad said the attack reminded him of Floyd Lawton," Babs answered. "I confiscated his gun, but he got away." She pointed to the upper right corner monitor with the picture of the sniper rifle. "It's out of the price range for one of the Blackgate Boys."

Cassandra winced, but patted Bruce's forearm. "Father shoot him."

Bruce sat in the second office chair. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. See Father GCN. No tell. Father bad Selina Gotham." Her lower lip trembled.

"We don't know if your father is the reason Selina came to Gotham." Cassandra rolled her eyes. "It's suspicious and I'll find him, so he can't hurt you or Selina." He pulled up GCN's website. "Which one had your father?"

"Scarecrow catch." He opened the file of the press conference Dad had on the street. The camera got bumped and scanned the crowd. "Father."

Bruce paused the video on a rugged Caucasian. His hand tightened on the mouse. "Let's find out who you really are." He opened another program, dragged a copy of the man's face into it, and photographs of faces morphed beside it.

"We've got a facial recognition program? Sweet!" Babs leaned over Blake for a closer look.

"You're the computer expert, I take it." Bruce opened two more searches. The one labeled hotels in Gotham searched for "registration for Elva Barr." The second was labeled hospitals in Gotham and looked for "female, early twenties, blonde hair, blue eyes, Caucasian, treated or admitted."

"Selina?" Blake demanded as Bruce typed. "Selina Kyle? You disappeared with Selina Kyle? What the hell is wrong with you?"

Babs looked down at her partner. He hadn't been so agitated over getting shot. Blake focused on Bruce and missed the brown eyes peering up.

Bruce's face didn't shift from the monitors. "What exactly is your concern based on?"

"Her criminal record was nearly three-inches thick! Talia al Ghul fooled the whole city, but you know exactly how bad Kyle is. Or is her trying to kill you once not enough?"

Cassandra's eyes brimmed. She looked at Bruce, and then turned to Blake. The tears cascaded as she stepped out from between them and ran silently behind the Tumbler.

Babs slapped Blake's non-slinged shoulder. "I can't believe you."

"Ow. Look Babs, you weren't here for the Occupation. You don't know what she's capable--"

"I don't care! You just made an eight-year-old cry." Bruce lifted up from his seat. "You guys settle this and find out who shot the rifle so we can arrest his ass." She marched to the end of the Tumbler.

Cassandra sat with her back against one of the massive tires. She hid her face against her knees, clutched her arms around her shins, and her whole body shook from the force of her silent sobs. Babs knelt down beside Cassandra. "It's okay. Blake hasn't had any sleep and he's talking stupid."

"Selina bad." Before Babs could explain that a criminal record didn't mean one couldn't save a city--because Babs would eat her new cape if Selina Kyle wasn't the masked woman who fought Bane with Batman--Cassandra continued. "Selina so bad no good ever. Me bad, me no good ever."

"No, it's not like that. Good and bad are choices people make. Sometimes people make mistakes or chose to be bad." Babs sat with her back against the other tire. "Selina made a lot of bad decisions, but she saved Gotham and helped you. That sounds like she's trying to do good."

Cassandra scrubbed her cheeks with her hands. "Chose good. Me clean mess, me do good?"

It wasn't the most eloquent definition of a hero, but it worked. "Right, or if you help other people, that's doing good too. You understand?"

"Yes." She wiped her eyes again.

"Cassandra? Are you all right?" Bruce crouched in front of them. "Selina loves you. She wrote it in her note, remember?" Cassandra nodded and sniffled. "Can you make an identification?"

She blinked, uncurled more, and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Me help."

Bruce stood and held her as he extended his hand to Babs. She leveraged herself off the floor with the help. Blake glanced up with slumped shoulders. Bruce sat with Cassandra on his lap and pointed at a clearer picture of the man in question. Babs didn't see any similarities between the man and the little girl. Craggy skin surrounded his long nose with a ridge lump. His broad cheeks had been flattened out to his ears.

Cassandra pressed back against Bruce. "Father."

"His name is David Cain."

"Cassandra Cain?" She looked at Bruce and pointed to her chest.

"Do you want to be?" She flailed her pigtails. "That's fine," he said. "I like the name Selina picked." He scrolled through the information attached to the photograph. "Cain and Henri Ducard were part of the same mercenary group."

"Who's Henri Ducard?" Babs asked.

"One of Ra's al Ghul's aliases. Cain taught the League of Shadows how to fight, but never joined." Cassandra nodded after Bruce's speculation.

"So the League of Shadows is back in Gotham?" Blake asked.

"I don't think so, but it does explain why the League members in Hong Kong were chasing Cassandra." The computer beeped. A Jen Robinson matching Bruce's search criteria was admitted this morning with a broken arm, broken leg, and contusions listed all over her body. "A Jen Robinson's phone number called Selina. She's possibly Selina's old roommate."

Babs frowned at the list of injuries. "Did she get hit by a truck?"

"A truck with two fists," Blake said. "Cobblepott's paying for her care; it might not have anything to do with Kyle."

"Who's Cobblepott?" Bruce asked.

"Oswald Cobblepott the Third runs a nightclub called the Iceberg Lounge," Blake said.

"He's been consolidating criminals using the name the Penguin," Babs added. "But we can't prove it."

"Father target Selina." Cassandra looked up at Bruce. "Father knows me Selina. Father kill Selina."

"I promise I won't let that happen," Bruce said. "Stay with Blake while Ms. Gordon and I go check on Selina's friend." He set her on the floor. "Don't hurt him while he's injured." Cassandra scowled. Bruce turned to Babs. "Change into street clothes."

Babs ducked into the bathroom to change. She heard another hydraulic shelf sliding open. Blake protested first. "Look, I'm just shot. I can handle questioning an injured woman."

"And let your contempt for Selina bleed through? That won't help me find her." A case was pulled free from the shelves. Babs tugged off the body suit.

Blake sighed, "I'm not talking about her. You're the one with a gravestone out at Wayne House."

"Gotham won't see me," Bruce answered. Babs fastened her jeans, pulled on her shirt, and stepped into her sneakers. "And I don't want you scaring off the best lead to finding Selina," Bruce added as the shelf slid back into the wall.

"Look, I'm sorry for what I said. And I don't want her dead."

"I'm not the one you should apologize to," Bruce said as Babs returned to the main chamber. He picked up a black, hard suitcase. "Let's go."

Cassandra stepped in front of Bruce. "Me stop Father."

"No, you were brave enough to run away from him. Stay with Blake, and I'll be back as soon as I can."

Cassandra stepped out of Bruce's way, but her mouth twisted. Babs smiled at her as she hurried after the long-legged man. He put the suitcase in the trunk of a dark blue sedan.

He didn't say anything as he drove out of the Sheal Docklands. Babs gripped the door handle. "You're not mad, are you?" His glance at her was unreadable. "That I joined Blake," she added.

Bruce stared out the windshield. "Batman is a symbol to inspire the people of Gotham; a legend greater than a single man." She restrained from asking if he had seen all the merchandise plastered with the Batman symbol. "I don't have the right to tell you not to use it," he finished.

"It was the only way I could think of to thank you for saving my family." She didn't want him to think it was just thrill seeking for her.

"You don't have to thank me."

She shook her head with a snort. "I can't believe Blake was right about that."

The side of Bruce's mouth quirked up. "Does your father know what you're doing?"

She grimaced. "He found out when Blake got shot. Nightwing answered the Batsignal while I waited on a neighboring roof. I spotted movement on top of the building to the south and just landed when he fired. He wore a ski mask, and he was taller than me. You're about the right height, but his shoulders are wider than yours. We sparred. The only reason I ended up with the rifle is he let go of it when he threw me across the roof. I turned it over to Dad to stall the yelling. Not how we planned on telling him. Didn't think about the security cameras at the hospital."

She expected a lecture on how to avoid those, but Bruce only asked, "Did you plan on telling him?"

"Eventually."

A comfortable silence lasted as they entered Gotham General. Jen Robinson had a private room on a regular floor, not ICU. Bruce paused at the floral arrangements vending machine and bought a vase of white daisies. The nurse at the station glanced at the flowers and returned to her computer work when they passed her.

"Guard the door," Bruce said as they shut it. He moved silently across the tile floor, set the vase on the nightstand, and leaned over the pale woman with Technicolor splotches dotting her face and arms. "Jen, I need to ask you about Selina."

"Don't know, not her travel agent. Stop," she whimpered.

"It's all right. You're safe. I'm not going to hurt you."

She stirred under the covers. "I remember you. Shit, that asshole killed me anyway." She looked at the rest of the room. "If the afterlife is a hospital, sign me up for haunting people."

"You're not dead."

"Oh. Wow, they gave me good drugs if I'm seeing dead people." Her unbroken arm reached and patted Bruce's chest.

"I'm not dead."

"You have no idea how happy that'll make Selina." Her voice tightened. "Oh shit Selina."

"The man who beat you, Selina arranged to meet with him, didn't she?"

Jen nodded. "Something 'bout his daughter."

Bruce deflated. "Do you know where they're meeting?"

"You don't want to tangle with this asshole, rich man." She lifted her arm in the cast.

"I can't let him kill Selina."

"World Financial Center is where they said."

"Thank you." Bruce trotted out of the hospital so fast Babs knew she'd never catch him if he decided to run. He closed the trunk and tossed her the keys when she reached the rental sedan. "Go back to the bunker."

"You can't face this David Cain alone!" But the parking garage level was empty. "And I thought Dad made that up."

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