2012-02-10 - Cat & Mouse

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Cat & Mouse
Summary: There's a heist at the museum, and for once it isn't just Selina Kyle out on another shopping spree; her own robbery conflicts with a more deadly one masterminded by Red Hood. Who else but Batman should intervene? As he fights his former apprentice, the moonlit wanderings of another feline lead a third to the fray. A single destined meeting becomes two; or three, or four? The Fates are keeping busy tonight.
Who: Batman, Cassandra Cain, Catwoman, Red Hood
When: 2012/02/10
Where: Gotham Museum of Natural History


Museums are useful places when you want to get things with customs without a lot of fuss or people prodding around. Add a overbearing curator into the mix and you have enough bluster to get things green lit without much fuss!

Of course, things like this work better when you keep the whole plan a secret and don't let word slip out that you've got a big shipement coming in... That's just bound to cause trouble.

Of course, that's exactly what happened here.

There is some unexpected activity out by the loading docks of Gotham's largest museum of natural history. Cars, a pickup, and the obligatory van are parked. The loading bay door is open. Inside, well, inside is a entirely different party.

A man wearing a red, full-faced helmet jams the end of a pry bar into the lid of a crate and levers the shipping container open, nails complain as they are up-rooted until finally giving way, the lid cast aside with quiet crash. It reveals a small sarcophogas resting on a bed of hey. It looks to belong to a child, someone important possibly.

"Come to Poppa." utters the man behind the mask, hefting the pry bar over his head and then bringing it down in a heavy blow that shatters the artifact; revealing not ancient, human remains but instead a sleek, deadly weapon of the future! Though it cannot be seen, the man's smile can be heard in his quiet chuckle as he reaches down into the crate and hefts the futuristic rifle up into his arms. "Look what we have here boys!" he hoots, hefting the rifle up like a trophy as he turns to the group of toughs that had been watching. They cheer or whistle their appriciation "A XR-56 High Powered Laser Assault Rifle... Can't even get your hands on one of these in the black market. Looks like breaking all those fingers was worth it." he provided some idle exposition, idly letting the rifle come to rest on his shoulder before he tossed the bar to one cronie or another, "Finish up, get everything loaded. I want to be out of her in the hour, got that?" he jaws to one subordinate or another. When the affirmative is given, he thumps the man on the shoulder with a fist and moves on to the next matter.

"Now then... what the hell am I going to do with you scum?" his voice dips, chill and cold as he approaches a gathering of battered, besuited men. They sport black eyes and swolen jaws. They look well worked over, but alive. "You think ou can bring this kind of fire power into my city without me noticing? Ballsy! Gotta admire that!" he prattles, hammering the toe of his boot into one man's ribs. "But your boss aughta know better than that by now..." he lets on, the sound of more crates being opened and more crashes of shattered 'artifacts' can be heard. "That's disrespectful... Means I have to send him a message... But it only takes on man to deliver a message." he continues, flipping a switch on that rifle, causing it to come to life with a sudden, high pitched whine as he brings it around, fixing the stock against his shoulder and setting the sights before his eyes.


Trouble comes... in more forms than one. In more forms than some tipped-off vigilante 'group', claiming to be on the side of 'justice'...

But this trouble cannot be seen... unless one knows where to look.

Meaning only to stealth inside the museum this evening and whisk away some precious artifact or another, the ruckus on the outside at the loading bay has brought her here as a casual, curious observer. She lays on the stone - the roof, with an old-fashioned awning - stretched out luxuriously and peering down through gold-tinted goggles at the scene below. She idly strokes a 'claw' up and down the length of her thigh, black-painted lips curving at their limits, forming a quirky, charming smile. "I see..."

The woman - Catwoman - speaks only to herself, cracks of crates holding her attention for mere moments longer, and the destruction of a sarcophagus. Watching while the man in the red mask removes a gun from the box, the cat burglar rolls away back into the shadows.

Looks like she's no trouble, after all.

In a second, this incident is deemed as 'none of my business'. Catwoman has no interest in a shipment of fakes, especially when they're used to conceal sophisticated firearms.

Arms lifted, the cat stretches, back arching, legs soon drawn beneath her. She rises in the darkness, mind returning to the task that she means to complete, but may have to reconsider the methods. She could slip in through a skylight, or maybe... intentionally trip an alarm. The police wouldn't think to look inside, spotting something gone awry like that around the back of the building...

Reaching up, her 'paws and claws' sink into the edge of the second roof above, and rotating her hips, slender legs are brought overhead. Catwoman lands in a crouch, adjusting the whip looped around her waist like a belt and the goggles. It would be so convenient, if there was an alarm outside, or something to trigger a spotlight. Ho hum. Oh well.


Trouble comes in more forms than one. The Batman knows it. Sometimes, when word of a top secret, high-end weapons shipment comes up through the grapevine, Malone catches word of it. Really, more than sometimes. If it's on the street, it's not long before Matches picks up the story. Particularly when the movements have been getting bigger, the hardware nastier, the players that little bit brutally overconfident. Sometimes, it's a solid tip. Sometimes, it's a load of shit. Others, it's a trap.

Other times, it's a legitimate tip that's already been hit by one of Gotham's other /myriad/ interests. Both of these all-too-common events make a distant perspective on otherwise urgent things all but essential. The Dark Knight starts on a building opposite the lot. He watches Jason's crew pull in, a small pair of portable goggles shielded against the telltale glow of other nightvision fitted over his cowl. He's mostly behind the building's duct exhaust, for the curious, one ear isolated from the working heat by that same cowl, which instead feeds him input from a directional array he aims down at the docks during the initial entry; only the Red Hooded man, and the professional aplomb of the squad, gives the Batman pause. The batbinoculars come off, slipped away behind his back in some hidden compartment, and he's all but silent as he joins a breeze in falling to the streets below, his cape forging a bat-themed parachute as easily as he lands on soft, black soles, eyes snapping upwards. He knows this Red Hood. He knows how he works. He knows the rival syndicate isn't getting out of here alive, unless he moves fast.

By the time the laser rifle powers up, the Caped Crusader is crouched, dark, in the shadows left by the loading dock's slightly lowered door. They've left the top of the truck in darkness. He doesn't make a sound until he does.

"Hood." It's to draw the vigilante's attention to him. Notably, it sounds in nearly the split second the Batman releases a whirling black shurikenlike weapon SOME IN THE MEDIA have dubbed a batarang at the gun the Red Hood holds. It's actually a stage magician's technique. Most of the oldest, most amazing sleight of hand comes from nothing but distracting the human eye. Playing on its instinctual tendency to focus when shocked, or surprised, or drawn by quick motion. In this case, it's the sudden, deep intonation of the Dark Knight's intent voice, coming high. While the batarang... the batarang whips in /low/.


It's a beautiful night for those hunting their heart's desire; be it weapons, trinkets, or cold hard justice. They say that everybody wants something, don't they? But the vast number of Gotham's residents, as most in the world, share a common inclination toward far humbler goals than the acquisition of murderous power or valueless wealth. And few even know what 'justice' means.

A small, unassuming figure clad in a coat several sizes too large creeps with alarming stealth through the grounds surrounding the museum, around the corner of the vast walls from where Red Hood plies his illicit trade; and completely, blissfully unaware once again that she is within proximity of the Batman. Cassandra Cain is here tonight on a simple purpose, with a simple goal. Shadowed hazel eyes lie intent beneath the unruly raven shag of her hair, flicking first from what she bears in her hand - and then to a tiny shape, huddled against the steps leading to a fire exit against the building's side.

She doesn't speak to herself, lacking both inclination and - to all intents - ability. But her gaze gains a certain shine, a gentle tweaking of her lips falling short of a smile, but expressing itself well enough. If she was uttering a word, any word at all, it would be 'gotcha'.

As quietly as she can, which to one so dextrous and sly is effectively silent, she folds the crumpled piece of paper in her right hand; flipping it shut and stowing it away in an over-large pocket. Her sneakers shift against the damp grass, as she creeps ever closer to the object of her attentions. Slower and slower she moves, until to the eye she is motionless... but she's so close... so very close...

A shot rings out. No; not a shot. Something else. Cass doesn't twitch, but her eyes flash toward it.

She's not the only one alerted.

"Mrowl!"

Her quarry suddenly bolts, lunging up the steps and nudging against the fire exit. Someone at the museum hasn't done their job, and the doorway sits just a little open, giving way before the insistence of the sleek, black feline. If only all of her kin could be so lucky. The dark-haired drifter bites momentarily on her lip, looking from the front of the building to the open portal. From here, she still can't see the truck; though she can hear motion further up, she has no idea what, or who. And she's gained very little from being curious. Drawing and releasing a tightly controlled breath, she rises on the balls of her feet, and creeps into the museum after the escaped creature. It's a trespass, but her consience is clear - the door IS open.


I had a idea for Jason to be moving the business end of the gun from one mook to another while reciting 'Eenie, Meanie, Minie, Moe' but it sounded too Jokerish. Still I figure it's fairly entertaining, so I might suggest it to him sometime. I mean, it's like a version of Duck, Duck, Goose but you walk around and cave in the head of the goose with a hammer... which kind of means they couldn't get up and chase you... So basicly the worst case of Duck Duck Goose ever.

Anyway! Now back to Batman: Jason Todd is a bit of a dick that kills people!

'Hood.' "What?!" He was just about to fire off the first shot when his name was called. Whipping around to answer the call of his name, Jason finds, not one of his lackeys but instead a set of white eyes drilling into him from the shadows. He's hit with just a heart beats worth of surprise. It was only a matter of time after all. There's a whistle of air and then a impact. The hooded man jerks slightly, looking down finds thecause. A bat-shaped shuriken protrudeds from his weapon. The narrowing of those eyes that can be seen through the two breaches in the helmet could be from ire, aggitation. The smooth, glossy surface hides the slight smirk that quirks at his lips. Should have known.

The gun doesn't take kindly to being batarang'd. Arcs of electricity surge out around the intrusion. "Sonuva-!" curses the masked man as he flings the weapon away. It goes sailing through the air, clattering to the floor next to several canisters.

What's that warning label say?

You guessed it!

FLAMMABLE

The weapon explodes, puncturing one of the canisters. It's a magnificent chain reaction that causes it's neighbors to cook off as well! This is what startled Cassandra's meal. Not a gunshot, EXPLOSIONS! The gunshots will come however, don't you worry your pretty, little head. They will come!

Selina gets her alarm, a fire alarm! It shrieks to life, seeming to awaken the overhead sprinklers, soaking mook, goon, and Hood alike. "It's the bat!" "Waste 'im!" Out come the guns, mostly pistols, one man pulls out a small, automatic weapon. Brandishing their small arsenal towards Batman, they fire as one. Jason is again hit with a fit of nostalgia. He'd tell them not to bother but why ruin his fun? It's just getting interesting!

Not all of them are so, unshakably stupid however. More than one is a veteran goon. They fire their few shots along with the rest before deciding that this just isn't worth it and make a break for it, crashing through one set of doors after another in hopes of finding their way out!


As she straightens, a black silhouette with the full moon at her back... She can almost sense him. Smell him, in the air.

It should be clear to all at this point, why Selina Kyle had no interest in the conversations happening below, or some psycho brandishing his gun, threatening to shoot /whoever/ execution-style.

Why she simply observed these events, and why this isn't her problem.

It's Batman's problem.

She knows he'll strike, before it's too late. She knows he's here. It's not her place to interfere, because that's his job.

Not to mention, she's incredibly selfish and self-serving. The vigilante lifestyle just wouldn't suit the likes of Catwoman for long. She's a burglar, not some hero. Let the Caped-Crusader handle the clean-up on aisle three. He's the one that wants to.

Locating whichever skylight is in close proximity to herself and hovering over it, the cat presses her 'paw' to the pane. Her toothy, black-lipped grin is reflected back as claws cut around her fingertips, tracing a circle, digging through layers of glass. The piece pops free with a small scrape; pleased, Catwoman sets it aside. "Now that that's done..."

She really does bring new meaning to the term, 'STICKY FINGERS'.

With her arm hooked through the circular hole, Catwoman releases the latch, pulling the skylight open. She wastes no time; she dives in without delay, the crack of her whip catching a beam in the ceiling, allowing her to drop down with nary a sound on the polished, gleaming floor. Her golden gaze surveys her surroundings - the infrared lasers make her smirk. Such petty defense mechanisms, they expect those to keep the greatest of thieves at bay? The cat is tempted to scoff openly, but refrains. There is other work to do...

She searches in silence for an alarm. A control panel... Anything, really.

However, there is none in the area.

Catwoman sighs, and means to continue when the hair on the back of her neck suddenly rises. She hadn't realised there was another presence here, and this occurs likely at the same moment outside when Batman confronts the masked madman. In the darkness, two yellow eyes are shining...

Two horrible, terrible-- nah, it's just a cat.

The feline ambles to her side, and Selina does not conceal the small measure of surprise, scooping the creature up in her arms, supporting the animal's hindlegs as it is brought to her shoulder. "Where did you come from, mister?" It purrs in response. She rubs her knuckle against the cat's jaw, over the scent glands, and the purring grows louder...

Somehow, in some way, this is communication. Her head lifts in understanding. Lightly stepping forwards, she makes a straight approach to Cassandra, who she is very much aware of. The cat 'told' her. Catwoman emerges out of the darkness, into a column of light cast into the museum from the door left ajar. She lifts the goggles, setting them upon her brow, smiling at the trespassing waif, "Lost your cat? He's very friendly." The cat maos, requesting more attention, "This place isn't where you should let your kitty wander--"

KABOOM!

The cat yowls loudly and huddles at her oversized collar, burying itself in fear against Selina. The fire alarm sings its shrill song, and overhead, sprinklers erupt. So, they decided to take the fight inside, did they?

Catwoman sweeps forwards. She'll never be able to make the heist now, not when Batman is likely to be crashing in at any moment, either in pursuit of or being chased by the masked man and his men. "Come," She says kindly to the poor girl with her oversized jacket, "It won't be safe here for either of us. Lovely ladies shouldn't be caught in the cross-fire, don't you agree?" Any friend of a feline is a friend of hers... She's not going to let an innocent girl stumble to her death.

Yes, no matter how selfish she is, or how little Selina cares normally.

The door to the inner museum crashes open from the loading bay, and goons stumble in. Fu-- perhaps a change of plans is in order?


The first sound was muted; difficult to discern even for those whose senses have been heightened through years of hard training, to tell friend from foe - and danger from opportunity. Cassandra has trailed her little quarry inside not through the folly of confusion, however, but on instinct; much like the feline, she has learned to trust her gut, to respond to the environment around her using the tools gifted by nature. Human beings are animals too, born of the earth and blessed with deep, savage knowledge.

It's what the League seek to hone into a weapon. There is nothing super or meta about their methods. The unassuming, raven-haired teenager is a creature more than a person, led to believe that the difference between she and others is a critical one, that she's no more part of society than the cat creeping ahead of her.

Perhaps less. It's somebody's pet; it has a home. It has a place.

This weighs merely as a mental footnote to the process followed by the dimunitive drifter, pursuing her goal with a single-mindedness that only the truthfully aware can bring to bear. She's intent not upon the light at the end of the tunnel, not on the ending, but on how to reach it. Entering the museum was a risky proposition even aside from the sounds echoing from within and without, and she's prepared for anything. Or so she thinks... and the whip's crack is her first sign that she may have inadvertently entered the tiger's den, placed her dark-haired head inside the mouth of a lion. Miaow, indeed.

Catwoman's entrance sees her come face-to-face with the girl sunk low, her very appropriate 'cat stance' falling deeper as the black-clad interloper makes herself known. Hazel eyes, deep and impenetrable in the dim light of the building, focus upon Selina's own as that explosion echoes forth. The girl doesn't budge an inch; not one /iota/, completely and utterly composed as hellfire appears to meet history. Dark eyebrows lift into her forehead, meeting the urbane burglar's casual friendliness with an odd, implacable stare. Barely human.

And she nods, mutely, lowering her arms from the loose guard position they have assumed about her, rising enough from her crouch that she can step easily and lightly to stand beside the taller, more ravishing woman. They're an odd pair; the coat-clad waif and the statuesque, sleek form of Catwoman. Perhaps though...

Perhaps they can make this work. As goons filter in, Cassandra looks up and sidelong, watching them from one corner of her eye as she affixes on Selina. Her eyes faintly narrow, a twitch of her head directed toward the goons while she busies herself loosening her arms and wrists, flicking them out deftly, fast and calculated movements that double in masking her sudden, fierce assumption of a battle stance. It's taken her all of a second to realize these are not museum guards-- their attire, their posture. It's all wrong. These men do not belong here any more than the mistress of thieves. But they're the threat. They're panicked, wild.

Cassie is a blur then, leaving Catwoman to make her own arrangements as she crosses the floor in a near-instant, her short figure blurring in the flashing lights of the alarms as she casts her coat open with one hand, the other snapping downward as she bends like a willow. Fingertips brush the museum floor, and then she's rising into a pirouetting, inverted butterfly kick, legs snapping to either side, bearing a foot for two individual cheeks on either side. She's brutally, efficiently fast... and far more powerful than such a tiny girl has any right to be, especially concealed so comically within the folds of a very large man's coat.


/Want/ to do it? No, no. The Dark Knight doesn't /want/ to do it, even if he does, sometimes, enjoy parts of it a little too fervently; but someone has to. He's taken it into his own hands because he /can/, and probably more than a little because surrender isn't in his unflinchingly stubborn vocabulary often. It's quite a price to pay to possibly bring some criminals to justice, in the end. The sub-code gas cannisters will be a whole new investigation, as a good chunk of the receiving warehouse gets showered with the explosive results of that detonation. Pity for anyone who's inside, really... or those guards standing right on the edge of the dock.

More than one similar vigilante has concluded that the cape is more trouble than it's worth, but the shadows it carries move like part of the Bat as he vaults sidewards, sweeping low with the scalloped end of said cape. Most of the rounds, he does avoid. The rest? It pretty much looks like he does anyway, the small-caliber rounds caught in the ultramodern material of the batsuit. As he drops off the side of the truck with absolute grace a man his size simply shouldn't possess, landing soundlessly (or at least relative to the scene, it's soundless). A trio of small, black spheroids with jagged protrusions go tinkling across the parking lot, across the dock with unerring precision to where the mooks still stupid enough to be firing are.

KABOOOOOM!!!

It happens even as he strikes. With the same motion, in the stress of the moment, the Dark Knight subtly affixes a magnetic beacon to the underside of the Red Hood's truck. Then, there'd be several meters of arcing ball lightning around each little clink-clink-clinking bat-taser. Really, all goons should be asked about possible heart or lung conditions before working in Gotham. None of them ever seem to be much worse in the brain function department, though. "So, /that/ kind of Hood, are you?" The Batman intones, eyeslits narrowing, noting as much as asking. He doesn't move in on Jason, though. Not yet. There's a handful of smaller, similarly matte black capsules that the Dark Knight utilizes as he leaps up to the loading dock past the scattering or twitching goons. The Caped Crusader turns as he lands, guarding his flank and keeping Todd on the periphery of his vision as he douses the flames spreading from the explosion with fire retardant, expanding from the impact with an exponential payload of stifling foam.

One has to have their priorities. It's why Batman is as yet unaware of his improvised backup - and potential second front if Cassandra decides Selina had nefarious intent, at that! Were Robin here, he'd be aware. Sadly, he was left home, washing his tights.


What follows is a show of Red Hoods utter disregard for the well being of his minions. Maybe because they are just criminal scum that he uses against other criminal scum. Maybe he's just a dick. As in a jerk, not a Richard.

While the security systems might be so poorly maintained that they'd allow a cat and a bum to wander freely through a unlocked front door, the fire systems are quite up to date. The fire, while not completely doused, is stopped from spreading very quickly, it finds poor purchase in the wet wood of the anachronistic, wooden crates that have been left in the bay. This allows Jason to opperate with a certain level of nonchalance as he soaks, absently watching his men get taken down like the low-tier trash they are. His hand dips into his coat, not for a gun, but rather for a small, plastic package. With a flick of his wrist, Jason coaxs the filter-end of a cigarete to protrude above it's brethren. He'll have a smoke while he waits... Or he would... if it weren't for that damn helmet! The butt is halted by the smooth, wet surface over his mouth. He's bewildered for just a moment before giving up the idea, "Stupid piece of-" he mumbles to himself... He's more accustomed to things that are a bit less restrictive. Ah well! The pack disappears into his coat once more, his hand rummaging about just a bit longer than need be for the stowing of a stray cigarette case.

Batman bestows a few more words uopon him. So he knew about him. Not surprising, good though. He'd warrented a entry into the Bat-puter then. Progress "Yeah, well, everybody's got to start somewhere right?" answers Red as he draws his hand out once more, something about the size of a apple clutched in his hand. With a deft movement of his thumb, the pin is pulled free of the grenade, arming the fuse. With a casual toss, the explosive drops to the ground amidst the pile of rival thugs. Their eyes go as wide as saucers. Anti-personel. BNot much in the way of bang, but it's the shrapnel that gets you. Easily recognized, fuse is just a few seconds. He knows its a easy trick to handle it.

"See you around." he bids with a wave before making for a escape into the museum proper, vanishing past a door. He's not afraid of Bruce... but he isn't ready for him just yet either.

Red Hood unknowingly follows the trail of the cowerdly/wuiser goons that had made a break for it. Five them burst in on the scene of two stray cats and one stray girl. Catwoman is recognized instantly. The girl and her dinner, not so much. Their minds stall, trying to decide what to do. Cassandra makes the choice for them when she drops their number down to four in a instant. The victem barely managed to utter a "What th-!?" of disbelief before his world was made dark by a pair of dirty, dirty, hobo-girl feet. He goes sailing away for a yard or two before dropping to the tiled floor, out cold!

"Crap, she's some kind of Ninja!!" exclaims one, reluctant to engage. "She's just a girl!" snaps another, hefting a pistol and leveling it on the diminuitive figure of Cassandra and fires no sooner than he finds her in his sights, snapping off two more shots to fire the first. "And Catwoman must be working for the bat again! ick a side, lady!" barks another. Two men level guns at her and open up. They arn't as calm as the second, just firing in her general direction, ignorant of the use of the notch and groove at the tops of their guns for the moment!


To any other, meeting Cassandra would be a startling ordeal, seeing her crouched and prepared to strike, but Selina only sees a girl who is much like herself, when she was younger. Savage, surviving off garbage and hand-outs, fighting to protect what little worth that is her very life... Blue eyes, clear like the sky, meet hazel. Her slim, svelte figure is angled towards the waif, presenting herself as harmless, her expression easing further into something truly beautiful, despite the half-mask that covers the upper part of her face and the exaggerated ears at the sides of her head. She understands...

And understanding, knowing how difficult the fight can be and how innocent this teen is, that's why she suggested they leave. To not get involved.

The disturbance doesn't deter her from this, despite a moment's reconsideration of action. Catwoman continues gliding gracefully forwards, holding the feline in one arm and presenting her open 'paw' in a way that is non-threatening, to guide Cassandra along and back outside, where she will be safe.

Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned.

The waif stops, and so does Selina. They share a look, and she releases the animal, "Outside, mister. Hide until its over." While the feline cannot possibly comprehend her words, it can sense Catwoman's intention, darting away. "I don't think that's wise..." She warns. It is tempting to cut in front of Cassandra, forcibly drag her out - a girl like this cannot POSSIBLY challenge a man with a gun, no matter how incompetent...

Yet, she does.

Before she's able to restrain the girl simply by placing a heavy hand on her shoulder, Cassandra is off like a shot, leaving Selina alone in her wake. She moves to pursue, but not too far, because what she sees... makes her reconsider. The helpless waif was perhaps not so helpless after all, perhaps never struggled in her fight, wrestling one of the goons down with her kick alone.

Selina could leave right now, not worrying about this girl...

But her conscience holds her back. What if?

And maybe, selfish thoughts invading her mind, if she sticks around, it could pay off. Catwoman might be able to escape with something worthwhile, when it's all said and done. She is ever the opportunist.

Her choice is made when she's singled out by the thugs, armed with their pistols and taking sloppy aim, gunning for her hide. "Working for the 'Bat'?" Amused by the declaration, clawed fingers grip the goggles, her gaze golden once again. "Not this time~" They open fire, but the agile queen of thieves and cats has sprung, high, into the air. Selina's back arches, bending, momentum carrying her legs over, landing on a glass display that had been behind her. The bullets penetrate the case, and pierce the statute within. "That's a shame." She says sorrowfully, clicking her tongue against the backs of her teeth.

Catwoman launches from her perch, not like a speeding train with no brakes as Cassandra had, but in a clear arc overhead. Halfway, upsidedown, her arm and the whip that she suddenly holds are both unfurled with a snap. It wraps around the wrist of the furthest man, and her flip is shortened. She loops the cord around her knee, dragging one idiot directly into his companion. Her landing is cat-like, sleek form rising like a ghost. "You both should know better." Tsk tsk. Her finger is wagged, cracking the whip back. "Should I tie you both up?" She muses.

"Hm..." A clawed fingertip traces her lower lip as Selina pauses for thought, "You might like that."

They're knocked out by the butt of her whip crashing into each temple and left. She searches for the waif. Hopefully Cassandra was able to hold her own? Catwoman might have wrongfully assumed things about her again... That doesn't happen very often.


"/Right./" The gruffly intoned, singular word /drips/ sarcasm. /Oozes/ it. If the Red Hood is an amateur, then the Batman is a fool. Not tonight. Tonight, he's on his game. The Dark Knight turns from the contained fire, leaving batfoam in his wake as he immediately pursues Jason. He's full tilt in the blink of an eye, black cape flying out behind him. A smaller batarang than the one that graced the helmeted vigilante's gun whips out from his left hand as he moves. To his credit, it does intercept the fragmentation grenade. Moments before it blasts apart its captive audience. It even deflects the round a ways; but it probably won't save a one of them.

Still, it opens the way after his quarry that much more. It makes the amount of shrapnel that glances off Batman that much less. One piece rips across his jaw. Another embeds itself shallowly in the side of his batsuit. Countless others glance off, redirected by the subtly armored sneaksuit. Some kind of ninjas, indeed. The Batman moves like Cassandra does, in the end. It's even the same focusing technique, the same paced breathing, the same ready stance to the charge. He doesn't slow a step, protecting his eyes and face with an elbow, and then using that elbow to plow through the door the Hood travels through, losing almost no speed as his takes it off its hinges and hurtles into the hallway, leading with a thrust of his right, gloved hand.

Batman joins the party an instant late, perhaps. As gunshots ring out and Cassandra and Selina are put in eminent amounts of imminent danger. It just brings a certain anger to the Dark Knight's features. Particularly when Cassandra moves. His motion, yes; that came a moment earlier. At efficient, alarming speeds. A bundle of black wire comes free of his right hand, whirling outwards about itself into a weighted projectile perfectly suited to cross the distance between the Red Hood and the Bat /like/ a bullet. The simple motion of his arm is faster than the eye can track, the sound of the batbola an unerring whistle for the half-moments of travel time. It whips about itself for the Hood's center of mass; a shot at his legs might trip him up faster, but the weapon... it arcs with electricity moments before the intended impact, whipping through the air at an alarming rate.

Still, the Dark Knight does /not/ slow his pursuit. Hands are back in his utility belt as the relentless vigilante pursues his dark counterpart.


Even in this world of bonafide supermen, where human beings train to their absolute physical limit in order to match the ludicrous power of those around them - and where, indeed, those same people have some measure of success, there are still only a handful who can boast natural reflexes and pure martial skill on the level of the League prodigy currently arcing her toned legs down through the air to bring them beneath her, landing in an impeccably agile squat before her hesitant assailants.

'Ninja' isn't the only word that springs to mind. And as for 'girl'...

Well. She may indeed be more creature than man.

Caught beneath the fierce rain of the museum's sprinklers, Cassandra watches the men draw weapons from behind a sopping fringe, tangled locks matting over her forehead to prick at the tops of her eyes. The instinct is to blink, or flip the head to one side, trying to ward off as much of the irritating cascade as possible; but Cassandra stares directly ahead, tensing limber and powerful against the tiled floor, facing down the barrel of a gun as though it were nothing more than a pest, a petty obstacle to overcome.

'Bang,' says the gun, 'Bang.'

Cassie's mouth opens in the same instant as the first bullet leaves the chamber, an exhalation left behind in her wake, because she responds the one way she knows who: with movement, and with violence. A thick flicker of midnight fluid seems to hang in the air, drifting to spatter against the ground far more slowly than the little drifter /moves/-- spinning to her feet and then dancing through space, coming up within a half-second upon the shooter's flank, her gaze bearing the heavy dispassion of absolute focus as it meets his past the risen barrier of her right arm. It shields the lower half of her face as she continues to turn, wrenching into a thunderously-fast half-turn, the left arm uncoiling from her chest with peerless precision...

'Bang,' says her fist, bruising flesh and crushing cartilage. It only speaks once.

Only when the man's nose is shattered - only when his conciousness should give out - does the girl, called "The Nothing" by those who 'love' her most, allow the impact of her /own/ wound to register on her senses. Though she evaded the second bullet, the first remains lodged tight in her ribcage, an inch or two from the heart, fragments of her filthy green sweater coating the casing. It stings; enough to elicit a faint hiss, her tongue pressing to her teeth as she fights back the momentary surge of nausea. She has NOT got time to bleed. Her gaze darts quickly around the room, meeting Selina's own questioning glance but for a moment before settling on the one man remaining. Cassandra's left brow curves up, her head tipping just a degree or two to one side as she chambers her fists, stance firm and ready.

There's no one-liner, but the message is clear. 'Is this really what you want?'


It's a chase. Gets his heart thumping. That he's being chased by his former father figure makes it that much more exciting. Not fun, but exciting. He barrels past another set of double doors, had it been a empty room, he would have tried to bar the door, rig a hastey trap, something. But no. He finds four men on the floor, one standing, and two women... Well, one woman and a girl! Was Catwoman really working with Batman now, had they finally shacked up? Had the loss of Jason Todd made Bruce Wayne realize how short his time with those he cares for really is, thus spurring him to extend himself to Catwoman and bring her out of a life of crime?!

Naaah!

"What the hell, you're taking on sidekicks now too?!" remarked the red-hooded man in the scant amount of seconds before Bruce burst onto the scene like The God Damn Batman and flung a bat bola at him! Split second decision, he couldn't cut it. A charged line would discharge through the knife and into the arm. Couldn't shoot it down. Too fine a target... Just meant one thing!

Morice was a unlucky man. Everyone had told him this his entire life. Every snapped shoe-lace, every lost card game, every bad relationship, every lost job. Morice was just unlucky. He thought it might change when he found himself in the Red Hood's employ. Easy cash the shadey way. It was going to be a new day for Ol' Morice, Yes Sir!

But then it wasn't.

First there was Batman. Then it was that Ninja Girl and Catwoman. Then his new boss came running through the door. Morice was three degrees from shitting himself when The Bat emerged from the door hot on Red's tail. Surely he could sneak away now, right?

Morice shifted, about to bolt... until a hand dropped down on his shoulder. "Sorry about this, Pal." it was a lie, Morice could hear it in the Red Hood's voice. He wasn't sorry at all.

The world shifted and spun, Morice suddenly found himself looking right at Batman! "Oh you son of a b-" Morice managed just before something caught him, bat bolas wrapped him up tight. Then there's a electrical discharge. His flesh feels like it's rying to leap of his bones. Every muscle goes rigid... and then it doesn't! Morice crumbles to the ground, smelling of burnt hair and failure.

Red Hood, throwing suckers under the bus like a boss.

Jason could have tried to stay and fight... but they had numbers. Batman, Catwoman... Catgirl?!

Nah, screw that!

Jason calls it a wash. His hand dips to his belt and finds a grapple launcher somewhere on his !bat-belt. With a pop of a gass canister suddenly discharging, the grapple shoots skywards, punching through a skylight and entangling in the crossbeams before dragging him upwards... It's much less impressive without a cape!


That... that's just unfortunate.

She feels a surge of guilt.

Guilt, for allowing this girl to be harmed...

For assuming.

But it's strange, because the waif... toughs it out like a man. She's still standing, not clutching her side, a wailing, whimpering wreck...

Selina's black-painted lips offer yet another kindly smile, "Forget that punk," She says with a dismissive wave of her 'paw', "He's nothing more than a cowa--"

BLAM!

Stop interrupting her while she's talking, fuck shit!

The double-doors burst open, and the Red Hood has Batman hot on his coat-tails. Her attention is drawn away from the quivering puke and Catwoman is stricken with a faraway look, following the two newcomers' progress into the museum proper, shaken from it only by the Bat's assortment of batccessories, which yield rather shocking results!

Red Hood steals the last of his goons away from them, before either the woman or girl can strike him down, and he is subjected to this... batbola. Her eyes widen behind the gold-tinted goggles. That's... utterly barbaric! She snaps the whip, and it gives a wet crack against the slick floor. Next, will be across Jason's masked face. A young girl injured! A travesty! The Cat is about to wind up, but that gas container is chucked right in their vicinity. Immediately, the collar is pulled over the lower half of her face. It could be anything...

Tear gas, chlorine gas...

Should she protect Cassandra? It smells only like smoke, and dissipates during the Red Hood's escape, after he rockets to the skylight. If Batman doesn't continue his pursuit, then Selina swiftly turns to the Caped-Crusader, "Fancy meeting you here." She jokes slyly, twisting the cord of the whip around her slim hips and securing the handle. Ugh, her leotard is sopping wet. "She'll need the hospital, mind taking her there?"

Wait wait, woman, shouldn't you explain yourself?

No, rather not.

She offers, "I'll look after your cat for you, missy. Sound good?" while backing up. Her retreat won't be so hasty, but it is coming and coming soon...


The Red Hood's tactics. The way he /moves/. There's something familiar about it, to the observant eyes of the Dark Knight. Particularly when his erstwhile former protege grapples out of there like he's done it for years. The Batman frowns. He frowns a lot. He doesn't pursue the Red Hood, though. Not now, now here. As the scene fully lodges in the Caped Crusader's mind, he pulls up short of his pursuit, blank cowlslits of eyes narrowing ominously at the disappearing killer. He stares that way for a lingering moment, as if trying to make sense of it all. As if he doesn't even hear Selina.

"Picked a bad night for a robbery." The Batman murmurs simply, casting a glance at Catwoman as he moves to Cassandra's side. No, no. She doesn't need to explain herself, not to him. The Dark Knight knows her too well. In fact, he sounds almost... disappointed. Steely, intentional distance applied in deducing the master thief's not so mysterious motives motives; and amusingly unpredictable goodish luck. Still, if there had been a coordinated effort here...

The Bat's undersell of the threat falls on no one but himself, though. He should have had a team here. He needs to be ready for this one... before it gets out of hand. Stooping by the homeless girl, the Batman offers out a surprisingly gentle, open hand. Low, palm up, relaxed. It's a rather vulnerable stance. "Let me help you." It's simple, easy to understand, as genuinely calm as an outlandishly threatening musclebound man dressed like a giant bat /can/ sound, probably. The Dark Knight -does- have his soft spots, here and there. It's only now that he absently picks the pieces of shrapnel out that are still lodged in his suit, as he studies Cassie carefully... sparing several glances to Selina, uncharacteristically distracted; or suspicious. "This can get infected on the street, and will scar and limit your mobility without proper treatment. Assuming you don't bleed out."

No, the Batman doesn't just assume this particular urchin will follow because he says so. She seems to be a lot cagier than /that/.


'Bang' may have been the first, the second and the third... But the last word is 'fzzt'. Don't have to be an illiterate to know that's not even a /proper word/.

Cassandra draws and releases a breath as the red-masked vigilante-criminal makes his entrance, her face not showing precisely regret-- she's too controlled for that, though any catching her hazel eye might catch a dim flicker of the darkness within, the surge of mixed anger and guilt that marks the unfortunate man's passing. She's not to blame; part of her deeply realises and understands that fact, yet she'll hold herself responsible because one can never be sure... if anybody else will. If the world even cares. There's always the question; could she have been faster, could she have made a difference. Doesn't she owe that much?

But it passes, as all moments must, and the smoke hits the deck. Choking fumes rise to encoil her lungs, though she exhales again in a long, calm stream to prevent the worst of it, stumbling back in quick steps and fanning her near arm across her unmasked face. Black bangs fall over her eyes, further obscuring her vision of the escaping man. And then there's the Bat; expected, given what she's heard, but his apparition still causes a faint narrowing of her eyes, a frown creasing her brow... he helped her, but...

Her lessons come streaming back to her. Everything she's heard, seen, and experienced in her short life gives her no immediate knowledge of how she should react to the stern, gruff monster in black leather. At the end, then, it can only come down to her bestial nature. To the animal instinct by which she's survived so long. Cassie shifts focus to her injured torso, acute senses homing in upon the wound, assessing it, asking her body the questions she needs to ask. Help? She doesn't deserve it. She hasn't earned it. But he's right.

The silent runaway regards the Batman, and his upturned hand, for several moments longer.

And then she turns, the length of her ill-fitting coat swishing against the floor. He's seen her body language, how she operates and how carefully she places herself around others. Without indicating anything verbally, or providing a single clue in her expression, she should tell him what he needs to know through that single motion, turning her flank to him to turn toward the stunningly beautiful woman across the room.

Catwoman's offer is met with a quick, almost desperate shake of the head. That mute stare meets the burglar's cunning eyes with an intelligent, demanding appeal - it's not that of a little girl, it's that of someone insistent that the right thing be done. In a sudden stride she crosses the room, her guard not fully lowered - a testament made by her still-hovering arm as the other hand dips into her oversized pocket and withdraws that folded, crumpled piece of paper. It's passed to the disguised socialite in a smooth, open motion that gives the doubtless ever-wary woman time to process what's being produced. It's nothing harmful...

Far from it. When she unfolds it, it bears the carefully-pencilled legend 'LOST - one black cat, answers to the name of MITSY'. Cassandra wasn't able to read that part, nor the address printed underneath. She may not have been able to complete her mission of mercy, but in her need to do something good, to make up for the kindness bestowed by the man who passed her his coat... she recognized the plea of another lost soul. A sad girl looking for a stranger willing to make her life just a little bit better.

Her understanding of that lies beyond words.

Which is why, when she looks back to Batman, stepping carefully back from Catwoman with attention still split between them - cautious in a way she wasn't when turning from Gotham's dark protector, she slowly delivers a nod, inclining her head to him in what's almost a bow. An acknowledgement, and a supplication. She'll go with him, for now-- because it's what she needs to do to survive.

Walking back to him, she takes his hand in her own, small but strong-- calloused, like his.


Another figure is watching in silence. Another figure studying the museum and watching with eyes keen and sharp. Hidden behind red lenses inset into a grim, faceless mask. Vast and muscular arms are crossed as the figure stands, perched on one of Gotham's many examples of neo-gothic archetecture. A building overlooking the Museum and giving an excellent view. Slow breaths are drawn in and out, even and level into the powerful chest. Silence and darkness do their work to conceal this figure... who would be hard to miss on any given street corner.

It has been some months since the man known as Bane has faced the Batman in single combat. And the memory of that defeat still lingers.

Before, it had been for others. Salvadore Moroni paid well. The contract went unfulfilled, but 'The Boss' learned just what it ment to employ the man known as Bane. Indeed, many men in Gotham's underworld had come to learn just who Bane is and what he can do.

And now he is back... and he has come to finish the job he has set before himself. There are no contracts this time. No employer. No.

There was no one but Bane.

And his eyes were on him. Distant now and within the building but still visible to his Venom-enhanced predator's senses. Bane takes it all in. Watching the Bat storm into the building like an avenging angel. Watching the man with the Red Hood flee before the assembled forces. Studying the man who also had been making his mark on Gotham's underworld of late.

Bane cocks his head to the side silently, watching as... Batman does not give chase.

Disapointing.

Tonight's show may perhaps be over... assuming the Catwoman does not decide to face the Batman in battle.

A faint mechanical sound comes from the machine hooked to his left wrist. Dark red fluid fills the tube ascending from the machine. Filling up slowly to the back of his head.

The response from Bane's body makes his teeth clench and a low growl escape him. His silhouette changes. Expanding. The rush of it fills Bane with pleasure.

Soon. Soon.


No 'Posht' answers his escape, Batman's not pursueing... or if he is, it's that much quieter.

Troubling.

He takes stock of his situation. His men are all bound for the big house, so are his competitors. The prize is going to nobody save for Bruce's own collection or a police evidence locker. One is a goal much more beyond his reach than the other.

Still... "Not bad."

The vehicles are stolen or unregistered, VIN numbers filed off. The men all have reputations of much the same activities. All are very reluctant to roll over on their employer...

Except for maybe Morice.


It is her intention to retreat, but while doing so, Cassandra approaches. Something about the girl, how she extends one arm, hand thrust into the pocket of her dragging coat... It tugs at Selina's heartstrings.

... Probably because it has everything to do with the cat and her offer.

She doesn't watch the waif with apprehension, but as Catwoman momentarily comes to a halt, eyebrow lifted in polite curiosity, there's something about her posture that betrays the pleasant expression. Ready, for anything.

Even the piece of unfolded paper that she accepts, deftly slipping it away into her sleeve with a hidden smile. "All right," Gentle words of reassurance, "I'll see to it that he gets home safely." Rather than the girl, because she's taken care of now.

Batman's words to her finally cause Selina to laugh, as an after-thought. A soft, lilting sound, hand drifting to her collar, her playful grin appearing as it's brought down. Either she doesn't notice that disappointed tone in his voice, or Selina doesn't care. It is likely the latter. "Ah, you think I'm walking away empty-handed? That's just not my style." She backs up further, reaching her exit. Leaning against the frame of the open door, dancing fingertips against her lip, other hand set to her thigh, her voice is a purr, "Even if you ask, you'll have to catch me before I tell."

The woman vanishes in a whirlwind as the Bat watches, either suspicious or distracted, the last sign of her being the end of her whip, whipping out of sight. Selina doesn't need to attract the feline's attention as she moves away; it comes to her freely, having hidden itself in bushes. Together, they vanish into the night...

She definitely does not face Batman in combat, as Bane will note...

And Selina certainly isn't his new sidekick, either. She's NO ONE'S Cat!


The Dark Knight doesn't oppose Cassandra's motions, nor does he show alarm at her intentions. This one's not out to kill him. Not like most of them. At least, if she is, she's /very very very good/. It's not really fair to say that Batman's guard is /entirely/ down, though. When is that ever true? Some call it a shell, others the reason he's so good at his job, but no one says his tendency to prepare for every contingency makes him easy to get along with and get to know. Still, it's a tremendous show of trust for a vigilante who has been hunted by Cassandra's apparent mentors more than a few times. Hell, protecting Ra's would have entailed fighting Batman, sooner... rather than later.

Ra's has kind of a high bodyguard turnover rate, somehow. It would be hard for Cassandra to be convincing as an Ubu, though. The Caped Crusader simply waits there, silent, looking from Cassandra to Selina, and daring a small, subdued smile at the exchange. A reinforced glove drops to a hidden control on his utility belt and punches in a swift code. There's no apparent response, at first, but as Selina darts out the door, her perfectly graceful escape would only be opposed by the sudden and possibly alarming arrival of the batmobile.

The bastard offspring of a muscle car and an armored personnel carrier interjects itself directly in that sidestreet. Even if Selina happened to be /right/ in its path, though, the onboard sensors would have stopped. /Just/ short of her. Probably. He did just change the brake pads. The car fires up its main turbines, because an engine the size of an entire MINI Cooper just doesn't cut it. It's almost like it's laughing; or roaring.

No, no more combat tonight. The Batman returns Cassandra's bow, inclining his head with a formalized grace and crispness, before he rises back to his feet, walking back to Morice and hauling the goon up by the tightly-wound taser bola. "I'm sure this one's feeling particularly happy with his murderous boss." The Dark Knight notes. Perhaps to himself, perhaps to Cassandra. He does carry his captive, almost too easily, back her way, then to the door. A compartment, rather large and rather armored, opens in the side of the 'car' towards the rear. Batman dumps the fellow in there, and closes it. It should be a pleasant way to wake up.

"Open." The canopy does just that, revealing the car's cockpit; full of HUD projections, computer displays, and other systems that would make a jetfighter jealous. The Dark Knight extends a stable arm midway beneath the vehicle's passenger side, and wordlessly waits for Cassandra to join him, turning his gaze back to the urchin... rather than following the Catwoman. If it's true, he'll find out soon enough; and it's not like /hiding/ from him is her favorite game, is it?


High overhead, Bane watches the rest of the events with the Venom singing through his veins and pulsing down his arteries. He watches the lithe, supple clad figure of the goggled Catwoman swing into the dark. He watches the man with the red hood take his own escape into the dark. Inhaling slowly... he watches the Batmobile arrive, and the Batman rescue the girl.

Yet, again, Bane considers the Batman as he comes to understand him. The Bolad man, rather then killed or interrogated at once, is thrown into the car. Perhaps to be taken back to his lair? Will the Batman kill? ...Bane will keep watch. If this one is never seen again, he will know. It should be simple to be aware if that one... escapes... whatever is to happen to him.

Bane watches Batman and the girl for long moments more.

"Soon, Batman. I shall see what kind of a monster you really are."

Bane steps back into the darkness, already unhooking his own length of wire and grapling line. When in Gotham...


If she was going to kill him... she wouldn't do it with a bullet lodged in her ribs. No matter how well a person can be trained to block pain, to fight through it, such an injury is still a handicap - let alone when facing a man of the calibre and battle-forged wisdom that Batman so embodies. It's not just the animalistic process that leads Cassandra to her conclusion of trust; but somewhere, within the maelstrom of the confused teenager and her conflicted upbringing, it's knowing that he could take her by force.

Their trust will have to be built on mistrust, for now. It's a start.

Catwoman's exit, stage right, is observed by the mute girl with an attentive air - she's been analysing the slinky burglar since their paths crossed, and she's doing so still. Gathering data as she's been taught to do, as her brain is hardwired to do. Like breathing, like digesting, it's just another part of what she is. Still, she spares a small and very human smile - a rarity, from Cass - before Selina turns away. There's no real conclusion as to how much she can trust her, or whether they should be friends or allies. She doesn't think like that anyway; people can't BE trusted, but acts of kindness touch her. They're rare, too.

Cassandra settles somewhat once she's alone with the Bat, in whose presence she at least feels resigned. So many questions hang in the air, but she's going with him, and knowing that removes a weight. It gives a purpose, a structure and a goal to achieve; stay alive. Follow Batman. She can do that.

She watches his preparations, and trails behind when bidden by his body language.

A few moments later, her jaw drops, not in any comical fashion - but her mouth opens wordlessly, hazel eyes batting in quiet astonishment beneath her raven bangs. She's heard of it, of course; if she ever had anything close to a bedtime story, it was hearing of the enemies she would eventually face, of those who would oppose the League. Those whom she must be better. But seeing it all is...-- she's still a child who never grew up, still prone to shock and awe, and it would be churlish not to feel those when faced by this. That she reacts so plainly at all is a big thing, controlled a moment after the Bat assuredly notices, and then she meets his gaze with a firm nod. So be it. Still flicking her stare around the incredible machine, she cautiously slips into the machine - using genuinely wary movements, not slow, but quick and seamlessly agile.

In spite of the open wound still seeping blood down her front.

Once she's seated, not moving, she clamps a hand down upon it, stemming the flow as best she can. She'll not speak, but she'll listen to anything said during the journey. If anything is said at all. Her summation of this vast, dark man, whose style mirrors her own in so many crucial ways, is that he'll know better than to address her until it comes time to ask the questions he must ask. She's comfortable enough in the silence anyway, keeping her eyes ahead and out of the window, watching the route they take, and keeping an eye on Batman - at least a corner. Enough that can remain aware. She's an assassin yet.