Archive: My page and DV page only.
Additional disclaimer: This is a NON-CANON Dracoverse fic; that is, certain elements may not fit KJ's original conception of the characters and events, and any Dracoverse fic by KJ or other approved DV writers should supercede the details herein.
Written early this year. Dracoverse timing: During No Man's Land, the timing of which might be slightly different in the DV than in canon.
"Midnight in the Corner," I muttered to myself, "and all's hell."
Okay, so the joke was wasted since there wasn't anyone around to hear it but me, and I'd heard it before. From my own lips, every night since NML was declared. Well, a guy had to keep himself amused somehow.
Humor was in short supply in Gotham these days. Mostly people were too busy trying to stay warm, find enough food, *survive.* The Corner, my territory, was in much better shape than most of the rest of the city. Fewer tall buildings meant less overall destruction during the earthquake: not a little irony in the fact that the former armpit of Gotham was now prime real estate. The Cornerites who'd stayed after the official evac banded together to keep themselves alive and keep the rest of the city's refugees out. We'd built a wall out of rubble, cars, and all the other useless technological wreckage. On one side, the rest of Gotham struggled against famine, despair, and a plague of Arkham lunatics determined to remake the city in their own warped images. On the other side, the Corner side, we'd built a safe and defensible community. And over here was only one lunatic--me--determined to keep it safe.
And. What the fuck was *that?*
A flash of black-- yeah, that's an oxymoron, that's still what it looked like-- moving over the rooftops.
Wasn't Bruce. He had his hands full trying to keep a lid on the rest of Gotham. Besides, he'd promised to stay out of the Corner, and I knew he'd keep that promise no matter how much it galled him. The Corner was MINE, I'd staked my claim and he'd abide by it until either I gave it up or fell over dead. No bets on which was more likely.
Wasn't Dick; he was too busy down in 'Haven, dealing with the refugees who'd fled Gotham for her smaller, nastier sister city. And he'd be polite enough to approach openly if he wanted into my territory.
I hadn't heard anything about Tim or Jean-Paul or Helena, but if they were smart they'd have gotten the hell out of dodge before it all turned to shit. And none of the remaining Corner residents were inclined to hang out on rooftops. They patrolled the barrier wall on the ground and left the high surveillance to me.
An outsider, then. In MY Corner. Under the cowl, my scarred face twisted into what I knew was an even uglier sneer. Okay, whoever-you-are-- you're about to get a rude awakening.
Batman isn't the only one who doesn't like visitors in his city.
She-- figured out it was a "she" after catching her profile once, hurray for deduction-- led me on a hell of a chase. She was fast, really fast. And she seemed to know exactly the right way to go to elude me every time.
When I finally caught up, I guess 'cause she let me, I let her have it with all my usual charm.
"Who the hell are you?"
She was dressed all in black. No mask. Asian features, thin build, short hair, late teens. Moved like a ninja. She just blinked at me.
She... well, she did something weird. She cocked her head at me and put one hand over her right eye. I didn't know what the hell she was doing until she pointed at me and put her hand over her eye again.
She knew?! She knew. About my eye. How the *fuck*--
She held a piece of paper in her hand that hadn't been there a second before. I hadn't seen her move. She offered it to me, expressionless.
Well, okay. I reached out, watching her warily, and took it.
This is one of my operatives. I call her Cassandra. She doesn't speak or understand any language I know of, so don't bother trying to get any information out of her. But she's otherwise quite extraordinary, and I wanted you to meet her. If you need anything, she can act as a courier. I trust her.
I hope everything's okay in your Corner.
Never mind. If wishes were horses, the people left in Gotham would be eating a whole lot better.
"Cassandra, huh?" Blank look. Right. So much for scintillating conversation. Feeling like an idiot, I stuck my hand out, open-palmed, a universal symbol I hoped she'd understand.
She hit it with her fist.
Not hard enough to hurt, though I could feel the coiled power behind it. She didn't just move like a ninja, she hit like one. There was a very precisely measured expression of force in that blow. So, maybe...
I took a step into a kata stance. She mirrored me. I ran through a basic series, and she matched me move for move.
Well, hell. I hadn't had a decent sparring session for awhile, barring throw-downs with the nastier scavengers in the Corner. If Barbara trusted her, that was good enough for me. I turned and gave her a Bruce Lee come-on hand motion. "Show me what you got, sweetheart."
She beat the crap out of me.
Yeah. Seriously. She threw my ass all over that rooftop. I must've outweighed her by at least a hundred pounds, I stood several heads taller, and she didn't break a sweat. It wasn't only that she seemed to have mastered every fighting style I'd ever heard of, and a couple that were totally new. She *knew* where I was going to strike, and wasn't there. She stepped into my blind spot with every other motion and hit me where I was most vulnerable. She knew exactly what I was going to do and blocked or countered each move almost before I made it.
*Shiva* fought like that. The number one, bona-fide, deadliest woman alive. Except this girl, Cassandra, was something like half her age.
The thought struck me in mid-fight and I got a boot to the head for letting it distract me, but... man, wouldn't THAT be irony. I'd thought Shiva might be my mother once. What if this girl was her daughter?
No way to tell and it didn't matter, really. If Babs said she was on the side of the angels-- or Bats, anyway-- where she came from didn't matter.
Finally I had enough of being humiliated and backed off. She stepped back immediately, falling out of the 'ready' stance and into that casual waiting pose that meant she hadn't truly relaxed at all. I pulled out the note again and got a pen out of the pouch in my boot.
Okay, I'm impressed. She's creepy but cool. Guess she fits in with our group pretty well.
Everything's as okay in my Corner as it's gonna be.
Guess the snappy patter would be a problem, though.
"All right, scram." I made walking motions with my fingers. "Scoot. Beat it. Get outta my Corner."
She grinned at me, the first smile I'd seen out of her. It was real and sweet and all kinds of innocent, and I wondered how true that could be. If she was Shiva's kid, if she'd ever *really* used all that fighting talent for more than sparring...how clean could her hands truly be?
Again, not my concern. And who was innocent anymore, anyway?
I sure as hell wasn't fit to judge.