In the sewers of Gotham, an underworld quite distinct from the surface can be found. There are communities of the disenfranchised, cartels ready to sell or acquire anything for the right price, loners that never could quite fit in with the social norm, and then there's Bane. The big man never did recover from his defeat by the Batman, but neither did he quit. He'd fallen into quite a different role since then and his escape from Blackgate.
Bane was a dynamic element in the Gotham subterrane. He made his money through information and drug trafficking, but what he did with it was anyone's guess. Only the foolish made the mistake of thinking him out of the game for those who threatened him or disrespected him too loudly still had a way of turning up mangled. The underworld elite still held him in regard for many of them too had crossed paths with the Bat, and none of them had managed to go as far as he. He had hurt the Bat, and for them that was a badge of honor.
Bane didn't bother himself with what they thought. His heart and soul belonged to the League of Assassins. He was their vanguard in Gotham, their foothold in the trenches against the world. He surrounded himself with the filth and vice of a city destined to fall that his Order would know first hand who could be played against who, who could be risen as a threat, who could be reformed or turned, and more importantly that the passionate disenfranchised would have a citadel to run to. He may have been disgraced, but he would not quit.
Word had reached him of many interesting developments. An unknown element had presented itself as a threat against the Waynes. What's more, it had them nervous with their patriarch behind the very same bars that he had spent so many years sending the filth of his precious civilization to. Irony was smiling, perhaps fate was readying to give him a chance to redeem himself.
A shadow flickered and the big man rose to his feet. A man garbed in black fabric with a mask and hood concealing his features had seemingly materialized nearby in the shadows, a sword strapped to his back and a scroll missive in his grasp.
"The League sends its greetings, and word." The man intones in a voice void of discernable accent.
Bane nods his reply, stepping to take the scroll from him. It was written in the League's own cypher, and detailed their concern over the behavior of Lady Shiva's daughter. That she seemed to be embracing in earnest what they rejected and could become a problem if she was not corrected or removed. This was interesting to the byzantine mind of the giant. A threat to the Bat emerges, and now the League summons him to become a threat once more as well. Times were becoming interesting for him indeed.
The League messenger takes a bow and silently disappears as stealthily as he had arrived as Bane turns from him to consider a course to take. Whatever happened, it seemed he was to surface once more. Irony smiled, and the man who had once broken the Bat made ready to have another go. This time, he was resolved that he would not leave the job half done.
Cassandra Cain wasn't page one news, but she had mde the paper nevertheless. The antics of her and Oliver had drummed up business like she never imagined and she really had no clue what to do in light of it. Virtually overnight people were coming to her with suggestions of after school programs, an actual kendo curriculum, and even invitations to church functions as an inspirational guest. Those latter made her shake her head at how little people knew. Then there was the hate mail, and her reaction at that involved equal disregard. She just wanted to carry on keeping on like she started, but now it had become sink or swim for her and Babs.
Cassie's classes were filled, and Babs was already talking with Dick about bringing him and Tim in as part time help if the trend held. Dick wasn't sure that their boom wasn't just a brief fad from Oliver's grandstanding for his part. To top it all, James had scheduled the first of her speech therapy and GED courses. As the jerk lawyer had said, she needed to start virtually from the beginning. Gordon privately wished she didn't have her gym so that she could focus entirely on her learning, but Barbara was steady in assuring him that she was up to the task.
Cassandra really was overwhelmed by it all, but she was proud. She was privately having the time of her life with it. Noone had ever looked up to her, and now she was teaching defense to Gotham's boys in blue. Her speech therapist was a woman named Jesse Vanderbilt, she was sure she wasn't kin to the filthy rich Vanderbilt dynasty incidentally. They scheduled her speech rehab sessions for Tuesdays and Thursdays since her gymnastics wasn't as packed a class as her defense instructionals.
Jesse was a decent sort in their eyes, though Barbara had observed how her curiosity was piqued by the fact that she hadn't been able to speak at all when she was at the orphanage and yet she was able to feed and clothe herself properly. To her advantage, the flying Grayson was able to avail his services as a GED tutor on Sundays and sporadically throughout the week. He sometimes sat in on her speech therapy sessions as well, as did Kate.
It was an early breakthrough for them when they made her practice sessions into language sessions, making her verbalize what she was doing step by step. It was frustrating, but Richard had had an epiphany that maybe part of her problem was related to her talent. He wondered if perhaps her gift for reading body language was a sign that she literally thought chiefly in terms of movement and visuals rather than words and concepts. This seemed to be the case as they progressed, her gift was her curse.
Tonight was a Thursday and she had wrapped up her second gymnastics class, Jesse was thoroughly impressed with what she had seen. Tonight would be their second session and her first with Dick and Kate on hand to help. Dick had helped her once before with her GED lessons so she was grateful for his insight and presence. The room was cleared out and they folded out a flip table to set the pencil and paper and assorted flash cards on for the evening.
Cassie knew colors the same as anyone, but she had never been formally taught them any more than she had been the alphabet which it turned out she didn't know at all. This revelation in their first session proved awkward. Jesse would have to begin at square one and figure out what she was parroting, and what she actually knew. A bird could be taught to identify a Burger King logo without knowing the letters or really anything about it, could it therefore be said to really know what that logo meant?
She would begin with the color wheel, a sure way to identify the cognitive level she was working with. Her age was an unknown beyond an educated guess as her records only began when she was taken in by the state, she had never worked with someone who didn't even have birth records so Jesse was playing it by ear with this.
Holding up a round tin sign broken up into the seven primary colors, Jesse asks Cassandra,"Do you know what this is?"
Cassandra shakes her head slowly. To this, Jesse responds,"This is called a color wheel. It has all seven colors of the rainbow on it, and these are called 'primary colors'. Do you know why?"
Again, Cassandra shakes her head. Her expression is blank per her norm, but Richard suspects she is dumbfounded at this point and wondering the point of this exercise. He himself thought that this was supposed to be speech therapy, she was supposed to be learning to speak and conversate properly but he understood the importance of determining cognitive level to this process being fairly educated himself.
Jesse explains patiently,"They are called 'primary colors' because they are the colors that make up every other color. Altogether, they create white." She begins to trace her finger around the wheel as she elaborates,"The colors are Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Indigo, and Violet...As I point to a color, I would like you to tell me what it makes you think about, ok?"
Cassandra nods slowly, and Jesse points to the color red. Cassandra replies after a moment,"Warm." Jesse then bounces across it to green, and Cassandra answers,"Tree." She then moves to violet and Cassandra annunciates,"Flower." She then finishes this intro with yellow and she answers,"Hot."
Jesse was satisfied for the moment with these answers, but it would take a little more investigating to have an idea with what she was dealing. Her previous meeting had just been introductory. She'd asked her a few questions, spoke with her a bit, and figured out that while she was capable of speaking she did seem to have some sort of developmental block. She figured it was safe to assume that there was something more to her case than a severe learning disability given the curious lack of records, but the possibility needed to be eliminated to be safe. Her behavior was much too refined to be what was considered a modern feral, one of those tragic cases of people born and raised on the street or in the subterrane with too little adequate ordinary social interaction to properly develop language or social skills. Her instinct was that there was something more curious at play here.
Jesse smiles modestly, adjusting her jacket a little as she sets the color wheel down between them. After a moment she delves a little further,"You said that red means warm, why is this? There is no wrong answer, this is purely your opinion.
Cassandra looks down, thinking for a long moment. Before she can speak up, the door opens and a man dressed in strange dark garment from head to toe enters. His hood appears stylized with what appears like folded forward ears and his face is concealed behind a mask like a demonic hound. Around his waist is a dark red belt adorned with an array of knives, answering without ceremony the question posed to Cassandra, he says,"Red is the color of life, it is also one of the darker, cooler flames. It symbolizes at once passion and danger, love and wrath, lust and war, tyrrany and anarchy. To call it warm is not wrong, it symbolizes extremes that flail feebly yet destructively and invariably consume along with itself all that it strives for. It is warm because along with all this, it represents impracticality, inefficiency, and unsustainability." As he lectured the small group he flicked out a pair of knives causing Jesse to slowly rise to her feet and back t the far side of the room.
Dick and Cassandra also rose to their feet as the stranger stepped further into the room and was followed closely by another stranger in a more ordinary looking mask and similar dark attire. Dick recognized the man as he whispered aside to Cassandra,"KGBeast, be careful." She nods tentatively at that as Dick more loudly demands,"Why are you here? We're closed."
The dog faced man replies,"Like all classic villains, I'm here for the girl. Call me Hellhound, the shadow is very disappointed in its daughter you see."
Cassandra balls her fists, ready for a fight as the men advance into the middle of her gym, KGBeast pulling a more millitary style knife as Dick yells back at Jesse,"Go! Out the back!" then kicks the table at the two.
Dick knew KGBeast to be a professional assassin, he wasn't at all surprised that his sort would find mercenary employ with the League of Assassins. He'd never heard of Hellhound though. The twin dagger wielding ninja nimbly bounds over the skidding table as Cassie darts up to meet him. The first rule of knife fighting is to not fear being cut, and she had enough scars to show that if she feared anything physical that was not it. Seeing that, Dick would maneuver to meet KGBeast as he opts to side step the oncoming table.
Jesse prided herself on her intellectual accomplishments in life. She had become a speech therapist to help people in a way undervalued in her view, and it was safer than nursing or a full fledged psychology practice while also being more personal than teaching. To her it had the drama of all of these in one, yet at the moment she had no idea what it was she was involved with. She felt at this moment she was no safer than if she had taken a job in a prison and had no idea what she was supposed to do. Richard had told her to do something that made sense, get the heck out of there, but her legs just would not cooperate.
Ms Vanderbilt just watched as Cassandra and Dick went hand versus knife with all the professionalism of experienced streetfighters and trained martial artists. Hellhound was the more canny of the intruding duo, the masked fighter swiping dangerously at Cassandra's face and midriff as she danced just barely out of reach. Once she felt she had his measure she stepped in as he thrusted and grabbed his arm from the outside, her side against his as she grasped his arm against her chest,"Who send?" She calmly asks as he tries to wrench his arm free.
After a moment of this, she twists her body down and uses his arm to leverage him to the ground. The ninja nimbly rolls to recover, looking to his partner who at first didn't fair much better, having been handily disarmed. It was all downhill for him though, being a skilled grappler. Dick was having problems as the man had him against the wall pounding on him. Cassandra tried to move to the rescue but Hellhound was quickfooted and positioned himself between them with his knives at the ready. She huffed and picked up a chair at this point, it being the most readily available implement and advanced on him, swinging it defensively.
Richard was hurting, KGBeast had always been dangerous but he was supposed to be better than this. Had he held back in light of present eyes? He didn't think so, but if he had it was a bad mistake as he felt a fist hammer into his kidneys making his knees buckle. In the next moment, he was tossed bodily to the floor like a ragdoll where all he could do was groan. The big man steps to beside his partner now, one down and one to go. Jesse instinctively runs to Dick, grabbing him by his shirt and pulling him from the fight as Cassandra goes head on at them.
Throwing the chair at Hellhound, she darts at KGBeast and does the last thing he expects. She literally jumps right at him, going for his face as she wraps her legs around him the second the two collide and begins to rain punishment down on him with one screaming elbow to his skull after another in machinegun succession, her other hand grabbing hold of his ear through his mask to arrest his head in place. After a few long moments of this, the bigger assailant collapses beneath her, out cold and noone is sure if he's even alive as she tumbles forward a few feet before coming aright and spinning on heel to face Hellhound with a look that could very well be her version of anger.
Hellhound flicks his blades around to an underhanded grip now as he squares off for one on one, muttering incoherently about this going badly. He runs up now, taking the offensive as he slashes rapidly at the body of Cassandra. His movements are much better coordinated this time as he doesn't afford her the opportunity to grab him this time. His posture is a half crouch, making leg grabs a dangerous proposal as well as he pressures her with a steady advance. He is a burning viper as he strikes time and again with vicious precision. As she dodges in a manner akin to a boxer, she manages to sneak in a a few quick strikes to his legs and midsection, but his form is a well laid foundation and doesn't buckle under her own precision.
"They were wrong, your time wasted on the trash of Gotham hasn't dulled your edge," Intones Hellhound.
In time, KGBeast manages to his feet, his world a pulsating pain such that he nearly falls back down. Jesse isn't about to give him the chance to rejoin his partner and takes up the chair that Cassandra threw at the Hellhound person and clobbers him with it as Dick climbs to his own feet. This wasn't at all how they had pictured this going down, but his partner had Cassandra on the ropes and that was something.
KGBeast reels as he's cracked yet again, stumbling over as the world hasn't even yet stopped spinning for him. He's certain that he has a concussion as he fights to maintain the consciousness that he has along with his balance.
Frustrated by the matchup he's tied up in and seeing out of the corner of his eye his partner for the evening, Hellhound steps up his game and flickers one of his blades upright. Cassandra sees this blade snake out but the man is an artist in his own right as he dances it along her bicep and down her forearm before hopping back again then crouching into a sweep while she's still surprised.
Hellhound runs to his partner's side, helping him with his escape after kicking the speech therapists back against the wall. Her breath is driven out under the sheer force of his blow and she slumps to the ground speechless as they make their way out.
Cassandra isn't slow to her feet, but she knows what they are about as they make their way and understands that she's in little shape to do anything about it but get herself killed. A small pool has accumulated at her feet as her arm bleeds freely in emphasis of this fact.
"Cassandra Cassandra, your father would be disappointed," teases Hellhound as he helps the bigger man out the door and into the night.
Cassandra grits her teeth and moves to check on the other two knowing where her priorities lay. Dick was able to get to his feet, but only after losing his dinner. His stomach was throbbing, and it didn't take Jesse two seconds to figure out he needed to be taken to the emergency room.
Barbara was on the spot, Dick had her on speed dial and filled her in as the ambulance was summoned by the speech therapist. She had been heroic, but after tonight didn't know if she wanted any part of them or whatever it is they were mixed up in. It was simply too strange and too much.