Author's Note: Friday evening I bought the "Robin: Wanted" TPB. Yes, that's the one reprinting the "One Year Later" issues of Tim's old Robin title; the issues in which he learned that Cassandra Cain had gone very bad during the year that Bruce and Dick and Tim spent away from Gotham after they had survived "Infinite Crisis." The details of the plot were just as lame as I had heard from online reviews I had seen over the last few years—which is why I didn't buy that material sooner. But once I did buy it and read it, I found myself facing the question: "Do I laugh or do I cry?" I chose to laugh! If you have also read that material, this parody will probably make more sense!
For the purposes of this parody's plot, I assume that almost everything published in the six-year run of Cassandra's old "Batgirl" title still happened. But I make no guarantees about respecting anything that's been published about her since then! It makes no sense to think it all happened exactly the way it's been portrayed in the comics . . . therefore, I say, something else entirely was going on "behind the scenes!" Here's where we find out what!
Batgirl & Robin: Strategy Sessions
Chapter One: Come, Let Us Scheme Together
It was an ordinary apartment in one of the "quieter neighborhoods" of Gotham. It had an ordinary assortment of furniture and electronic gizmos and other paraphernalia of modern life. And in it sat a lithe girl with Far Eastern features who was not "ordinary" by any stretch of the imagination, but who had spent much of the past year working toward the educational attainments of an "ordinary" member of her age group. She could now read a typical newspaper story without sounding out all the words as she went along, for instance.
She was expecting a friend to arrive soon, and had spent an unusual amount of time (at least, for her) trying to decide how to dress for the occasion. Nothing too fancy—not a cocktail dress or elaborate gown—but nothing too grungy, either. She had read somewhere that many guys thought girls' bare feet were sexy, so she decided it wouldn't hurt to try that approach. On the other hand, being too obvious wouldn't go over well. After all, he was coming here to talk about serious business; not just to socialize.
Another member of their little group was showing serious signs of mental illness, but it was a foregone conclusion that the guy would kick and scream if anyone tried to dump him on the couch of a headshrinker. Besides, he was smart enough to run rings about most of the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in the business, so badgering him onto that couch—even if possible—would accomplish precious little if his heart wasn't in it.
Anyway, she had settled for a Bugs Bunny T-shirt—not small enough to be tight on her frame; not really flaunting anything—and a pair of jeans. Ideally, her guest would just think she looked "cute" without assuming she was working hard to have a certain effect.
She had expected the doorbell to ring at the agreed-upon time for the meeting, but it was well after sunset and so she should have anticipated that he might arrive in his working clothes. When there was a tapping behind her on the balcony door, she glanced through the window, then opened the door and grinned at the clean-cut young man standing in front of her in his newest costume. "Hi, Robin. It's really good to see you again."
"Hi, Cassie! I feel the same."
She stepped aside to let him enter. After she had closed the door, Tim added: "And I see your sentences have gotten longer!"
From most boys to most girls, that line would have been either a weak joke or just plain snide. But Cassandra definitely wasn't most girls. Of course he remembered how terse she had always been in the old days—and unlike most people, she could see at a glance the difference between a boy who was really trying to be nice and a boy who was subtly mocking you. Tim's comment on her syntax was meant as a good-natured compliment in recognition of how she'd been improving herself in the year since they last met, so she accepted it as such.
"Yes, and next week I take the exam for my G.E.D. Barbara thinks I'll get it on the first try."
"Great!" he said immediately. "That'll put you ahead of me—while you were hitting the books, I've been traveling around the world, and getting a high school diploma is still lurking somewhere in my future!"
"Which brings us to what I really wanted to talk about," she said. "Not diplomas—your long trip with Bruce and Dick. Any changes in the situation?" She settled gracefully onto a couch as she expressed the question.
"None," Tim said regretfully. "And I'm worried about it. You weren't around at the time, but I told Babs how it went a year ago, right after that big Crisis. Bruce finally gathered together Dick and I and said that he was going to force himself to step back and take a long vacation before he got completely burned out by all the death and destruction we'd been seeing lately. Steph . . . my dad . . . Kon . . . Blüdhaven . . ."
There was a long pause while they both remembered the departed. Then Tim shook his head and resumed. "It turned out Bruce had already had a long talk with Harvey Dent about taking over as Gotham's primary guardian, above and beyond what regular cops were capable of doing. That surprised me, but I could live with it. Then Bruce said he wanted both of us—Dick and me—to tag along. Babs, he said, had plans of her own for her network of agents. But he felt that Gotham had struggled along for years without any Batman or Robin or Nightwing, and it could do so for another year if it was worth anything in the first place. In the long run, we'd be do more good for Gotham—or any other towns we wanted to call home in the future—if we took a nice long break. Like infantry units being rotated away from the front lines for awhile, before the constant stress makes too many of the soldiers crack up.
"I kept waiting for him to mention Batgirl, though. Were you going to hang out with Babs as a 'Bird of Prey' full-time from then on, or had you already signed up with some other team, like the Titans, or had he already invited you to travel around the world as part of a family trip and you just weren't interested in taking that much time off . . . or what? I even wondered if something terrible had happened to you during the Crisis and Bruce was assuming I already knew about it!
"Anyway, Bruce kept not mentioning you as he talked and talked about his plans for a massive change of pace for our little 'family.' So I finally took the bull by the horns and said, 'Bruce, what about Cassandra?'
"I'll never forget how blank he looked. 'Who? You mean your friend Wonder Girl?'
"Dick and I traded glances. Dick's expression said that since I probably knew you better, he'd let me carry the ball on this one. That was big of him," Tim added in an ironic footnote, and then moved back to the main narrative. "I reminded Bruce that Cassandra Cain was Batgirl, a bona fide member of our little family of masked do-gooders! Cassie . . . he hadn't exactly forgotten you, but he still didn't seem to grasp my point about any responsibilities he should feel toward you! Didn't seem any more interested in keeping track of you than he was in any of the hundreds of other superheroes who are active nowadays!"
(She had already heard this story a year ago, from Oracle, and had been hurt by it, but she had long since moved on to curiosity at what would make Batman act so wildly out of character. If Tim felt the need to talk about things she already knew, as males so often did, she was willing to let him keep going. Just having him here for a friendly chat was enough to make her feel pretty happy.)
"Well, you know how Babs and Dick and I all got together and talked it over before Bruce planned for . . . some of us . . . to embark on the first leg of a World Tour. We agreed that any attempt to shoot Bruce with tranquilizer darts and drag him off to a telepath for a mind-probe to find out why he didn't care about you anymore would be counterproductive, in light of those recent disclosures about what some of his other 'friends' had done to him when he caught them rearranging the bad Doctor Light's mind way back in the day.
"After all, he was already admitting he needed a nice long rest, and that was a great first step. Maybe he'd get this all sorted out on his own, over time, after he had gone a few months without chasing Joker or Scarecrow or any of the 'usual suspects.' That was what we told ourselves, anyway.
"But no dice. I swear—in the entire time we were gone, Bruce never mentioned your name; never showed the slightest curiosity about what had become of you! Of course Oracle was keeping Dick and me up to date on how you were working very hard to improve your education, and had put the whole Batgirl thing on the back burner for awhile, but Bruce didn't want to know! For a while there, I thought he was deliberately playing a subtle joke to see how we handled it, but I finally gave up on that one too. I'd refer to you every once in awhile, and see him just look bored, or baffled at why I was dragging old times with 'Cassandra' into the conversation.
"On every other subject, he seems as rational as he ever was, without any embarrassing gaps in his memory. Now that we're back, and he still hasn't even asked Oracle to give him your current phone number, what do we do about it?"
Cassandra had given that a lot of thought in recent months. "If the 'force him to submit to telepathic examination' idea is still off the table, then I see two other methods. One is that I just walk up to the Manor. Ring the doorbell. Alfred shows me in. I ask Bruce why I haven't heard from him lately."
Tim nodded. "The simple, straightforward approach. Confront him with you and see what happens. I thought of that too. But the way he's been acting, I think he'll just shrug and wonder why you ever thought he would bother to call you. That would hurt your feelings and otherwise leave us right back where we started."
"Then the other possibility is to . . . escalate. Raise the stakes somehow. Shock him out of the mental rut you say he's in."
"Ah. What did you have in mind?"
"Suppose we tell him I've become exactly what Cain wanted to make me? Ready to assassinate anyone who gets in my way? Heck, even leading the League of Assassins? That might get Batman angry enough to admit he actually cares what I'm doing!"
"But Nyssa Raatko is the 'new and improved Ra's al Ghul,' the head of the League, ever since she killed her own father to create the job vacancy. Bruce knows that if anyone does!"
"Then we might have to confuse the issue," Cassandra said patiently. "I wonder if she'd be willing to fake her own death and let me take the blame—or the credit—or whatever we should call it?"
"Maybe, but there's a simpler way," Tim said, warming to the idea. "We just persuade Oracle to tell Bruce that Nyssa got blown up by a car bomb in Libya or some other place far away, where Bruce can't easily double-check. If Nyssa pops up in Gotham again, or does anything high-profile, we can just say that shucks, her loyal minions must have rushed her smoldering corpse to the friendly neighborhood Lazarus Pit!"
"Or we could tell him the truth by the time it became an issue," Cassandra pointed out. "If he finally breaks through whatever this mental block is all about, we'll have to let him know that I'm doing fine and haven't killed anybody. The trick is to get him to admit he cares first! Then we can straighten out the rest of it!"
"It's all starting to come together as a plan," Tim said. "At the very least—if Bruce doesn't react much to the news of your 'turning to the Dark Side of the Force' when his back was turned, then we'll have solid proof to persuade the other big-name superheroes, his old buddies from the JLA, that Drastic Intervention is required, no matter how bad some of them still feel about the whole mindwipe thing. So we set this up like a classic detective story—except that instead of trying to have all the clues point to one logical solution, we make some of the story so outrageous that Batman really ought to wake up and smell the coffee at some point and say, 'That doesn't make any sense! Cassandra would never do a thing like that! I'm going to get to the bottom of this!'"
He got a faraway look in his eye. After a minute of respectful silence, Cassandra asked: "What's on your mind?"
"The detective story thing gave me a new idea," Tim said. A "good mystery novel has at least one corpse turn up, preferably sooner rather than later. Suppose we do it that way and arrange for Bruce to hear that a dead Asian girl was found in a Batgirl costume? That might rock him enough to overcome his current indifference toward the subject of Cassandra Cain. Even if doesn't, it might at least soften him up for the later 'shocking revelation' that you had actually killed someone else and then stuffed her in one of your costumes!"
Cassandra held up a hand. "But where do we get the corpse?"
Tim said, "A real corpse? Oh. I see what you mean. This will be more convincing if the police actually talk about it on their radios, and the body ends up at the morgue, and so forth. Okay, I admit this will take some careful planning. I wonder if there's anyone in the Far East who would be willing to sell us a fresh corpse—we'd make sure the poor kid hadn't been murdered by the seller—and then let us freeze it and ship it over here? No, forensics might figure out the body had been cooled to confuse the time of death. Do we beg someone with teleport tech to let us use it to bring the fresh corpse over here in the blink of an eye? Failing that, maybe we could find a really convincing android somewhere . . . or beg Zatanna to cast a spell and create a simulacrum of a recently deceased girl. . ." His voice trailed off as he mentally explored the possibilities.
Cassandra smiled. This was going well. Batman's mysterious indifference to her really was troubling, but the best part was she and Tim would now be spending hours together as they tried to figure out how to make a crack in it. She had her own agenda where Tim was concerned, but figured there was no point in telling him that just yet!
To Be Continued: The next chapter skips ahead. After feeding Bruce a cock-and-bull story about Cassandra's moral decay, Tim returns to her apartment to bring her up to speed on all the outrageous lies he told, and to describe how the Dark Knight reacted to them. (I've already written nearly all of that chapter, but will hold off for a few days before posting it.)