The Cosmic Network - Redemption and Resurrection
Ramping Up (Part 2)
New disclaimers - Harry Potter (JK Rowling and Warner Bros.), The Lord of the Rings series (Movie-verse), the Gargoyles and Elisa Maza (Disney and Greg Wiseman), The Transporter's Frank Martin (Luc Besson), The Dark Is Rising Sequence (Susan Cooper), and Maggie Shayne's Twilight universe are not mine... not at all. They belong to their respective creators.
It had been six months since Faith met Cassie in that dive five hours out of Sunnydale.
Faith had been right about Cassandra. She was one of the best addition to the Cleveland Slayers to date. With the Slayers, Cassie seemed to have found kindred spirits. Faith felt she'd found the closest thing to a sister she'd ever had - it was like they'd known each other forever, and Faith also sensed a bit of darkness in Cassie, held in check in the same ways Faith knew so well.
Faith felt Cassie would tell her new friends what they needed to know about herself eventually. She wasn't going to pry or push for the information - Cassie would let them know when she was ready.
Cassie found that she was starting to feel at home with the Slayers, and after Faith had explained the mission of the Slayers and taken her on a couple of patrols, Cassie revelled in the ability to use her skills to the fullest without reservation for the first time since childhood.
Working with the Scoobies had had another side effect that was needful life repair for Cassie - when Giles discovered that Cassie couldn't read, calculate or write well, he decided to privately tutor the girl. The youngest of the Slayers was eight years old, and Giles had taken to teaching her because "normal school" was all but impossible for her and twelve other pre-teen Slayers, so, one more set of lessons wasn't difficult to create.
In the six months since Cassie had arrived in Cleveland, she had advanced from roughly pre-kindergarten reading levels to about seventh grade, especially after Giles introduced her to a series of books called The Dark is Rising sequence - Giles mentioned that he intended to introduce her to Will Stanton soon. Rupert had mentioned that the Old One was coming to Cleveland with Angel and Gunn to discuss setting up a "Network of the Light" so that if there was a crisis anywhere planet-wide - there would be groups to fight it, together.
When Cassie accomplished a new reading level or math level, Giles rewarded her with new books or math-related items to read. Thanks to Willow, Giles had acquired DVDs of the old learning series, Schoolhouse Rock, and soon all the Slayers - and Cassie - were singing one or the other of the songs at one time or another, even during quiet times when Slaying. Cassie was particularly fond of "Conjunction Junction," and "Ready or Not, Here I Come," because she learned her first set of timetables that way.
Her acceptance with the Scooby and Fang Gang happened very quickly after Faith vouched for her, and after they saw her in action, Giles quickly drafted Cassie to help with training the junior Slayers in martial arts on a part time basis at first. Faith in particular sparred with her to keep her skills sharp, and both women appreciated this because they didn't have to hold back in any way - they were well matched as friends and combatants.
Cassie wasn't a Slayer, but after only two weeks with the Scoobies in Cleveland she had become a feared figure among the demons and vampires in the Cleveland area and could hold her own in vampire hunts because of her speed and martial skills. Anything else with fangs besides Spike or Angel in the area cleared out of the way if it was even rumored that she would patrol with the Slayers after the first week that she joined them on patrol. She was starting to feel like she belonged with the group, and now that the worst of Slade's poison had filtered out of her system, she felt more herself than she had in more than a year. Rupert Giles had just officially offered her a position as junior Martial Arts instructor for the school, and she now knew she had an alternate place that she could go independent of the Batman's world, and she also knew she could fill a need here.
Now that she had her head together again - mostly - it was time to confront the past so she could face the future and decide for herself what her own fate would be.
Oracle had been very busy in the last six months - she had rousted every resource she had - not just in the "capes and cowls" communities of the JLA and JSA, but all of the other contacts she and the others in the "Brotherhood of the Bat" had built up over the years.
Nightwing had even checked with his detective friend Elisa Maza and her winged friends in New York City, and he reported back to Barbara that Elisa, the Gargoyles, and their allies would let her know if they heard of anything concerning Cass on any of the grapevines that they had access to.
Tim and the Titans had no luck tracing Cassandra's trail after nearly catching up to her at the Rusty Nugget in - it was like she disappeared into thin air after the incident at the cafe.
Barbara was now somewhat afraid for her protegee - she hadn't heard anything after that too-fast-to-trace conversation three weeks before, and after all the changes that had occurred with Cass in the last year, she wasn't 100 percent sure that Cass was safe now - or making clear, unclouded judgment calls. She watched for any sign that Cassie would show herself or contact them.
Bruce, Dick, Jason, Jean-Paul, and Tim all now kept a weather ear and eye out for news of Cass - they were all now worried for the girl they'd come to consider one of the family, now that the events of the last year were now clear to see. Jason and Jean-Paul were even getting along with Bruce, Dick and Tim due to their mutual worry for Cass - Barbara wondered if it would last, and hoped it might - fighting the darkness in Gotham was hard enough without fighting each other too. Despite all of the differences in opinion, method and philosophies among the five men, they were united in their desire to see Cassie safe.
Alfred had cleared a room in Wayne Manor for Cassandra's hopeful eventual return, worrying as the others did about the girl who'd come to mean so much to the others in Batman's extended family.
To their credit, once Bruce, Dick and Tim found out that Cass had been drugged by Slade, they gave her the benefit of the doubt for her actions while under the influence.
Bruce particularly wanted to make sure she was not a lethal danger to anyone and also not suffering from withdrawal from Slade's super serum. In his own way he was worried for her because she was still a part of his family. He also felt somewhat guilty - justifiably - because during Batman's year away, Slade had taken vengeance on a member of his chosen family.
Like Barbara, Bruce just wanted Cassandra just to make it home safely - to Gotham. He no longer saw Dick, Tim and the others as just "soldiers". He'd finally realized - as Alfred had so long ago - that the boys, and Cass, were the closest thing Bruce had to a family. They were a family of friends, not by birth.
Barbara and Bruce knew that they were not going to find Cass unless she allowed them to.
Cass had begun to remember some of the things she'd done while under the influence of Slade's serum - but she also had redeemed some of the actions as much as she could while influenced.
She had killed her father - but taken his body and tossed it into a Lazarus pit and later revived him; she'd had him drugged and released in a remote area near Seattle Washington at his request. He'd apologized to her and requested that he go somewhere that he could be at peace for a while, and had fond memories of the area that didn't relate to assassin wetworks. She had contacted him since she'd arrived in Cleveland to let him know she was safe, but not where she was.
She'd also made peace with her mother. She'd known that Lady Shiva would revive after their battle; after the confrontation with Robin a year before, her mother had found her, and they'd agreed to not fight again. The question Shiva had wanted the answer to had been settled between them after that last battle.
For the first time, Cassandra could truly walk her own path without any shadows over her - not even Batman's - and she could figure out who Cassandra was - alone.
She'd taken time to think about what to say to Barbara, first. She wasn't ready to deal with the others yet, but she could let Barbara know she was alive and well for now.
She dialed Barbara on the cell again.
Barbara woke from a fitful sleep to the sound of her cell ringing the ringtone she'd programmed for Cassandra's calls - she reached out quickly and picked up the phone.
"Hello, Barbara. It's me."
"Cass? How are you? Where are you? Are you safe?" Barbara spoke in a quick stream, anxious to know her friend was safe.
"I'm fine, but still not ready to talk to the others yet. I'm safe, and I'm in Cleveland. I'm at a school teaching martial arts to special students. I can't say more than that for now."
"Look, can't you give a clue where you are? We're all worried about you... " Barbara interjected quickly after Cassandra snorted in disbelief, "...Yes - even Bruce. Tim told us about the super-serum Slade used on you. ..."
"Barbara, I can agree to this much without betraying the new friends I'm associated with - let's meet on neutral ground. I can get to Keystone City and the Keystone Arches mall from where I am easily enough - I'd like to meet with just you there in the Golden Torc Bistro, Saturday at 1 pm. If you need to contact me, you can contact this person, Rupert Giles at this number, 588-555-3287," Cassie said
Barbara agreed, knowing that it might be the only way to keep in touch with the girl.
Cassie hung up, feeling like she had finally made progress toward her own future.
Barbara now had a name and location to help in finding her young friend. She entered Rupert's name into the different databases Oracle tapped into.
Cassie asked to meet with Rupert and Faith that evening . She told them everything she could about her history and about her friends without betraying their secrets, and she asked for permission to discuss the school and the Slayers with them.
"Rupert, I need to meet with a friend of mine from before, Barbara Gordon, in Keystone City on Saturday - my friends have secrets I don't have permission to tell, and I want them to know I'm okay and some of what I'm doing so that they don't worry about me," Cassie told her new friends. "I had responsibilities with them that need to be resolved before I can commit to the School in full."
"Remember that I'd mentioned that I was going to introduce you to Will Stanton one day? I'd planned this as a surprise for you this week, but Professor Stanton is coming here to meet with us here in Cleveland along with Angel and Charles Gunn; we had planned to get together with some other groups he and Angel have been contacting in Keystone City this weekend as well, so I can take you with us when we go for the meeting," Giles said.
"And, I'm coming too. We're friends, yo - I got your back!" Faith said. "Say the word, and I'll be right by your side, ready to kick some..."
Rupert raised an eyebrow at Faith, and she subsided a bit. smiling at them. He said, " I actually could use your help, Faith.
I want to introduce you to the groups that consented to come to the meeting in Keystone City. I need to introduce you to one group in particular because it's a different breed of ensouled Vampire, and I want you to meet them so that you know of them and what their type does for your Slayer senses. They requested to meet us, on behalf of themselves, and at least two other group-types of ensouled vampires so that they are not slain indiscriminately like the type you and Buffy routinely encountered in Sunnydale - they are NOT anything like Spike or Angel's demons, and are somewhat like the Gargoyle creatures I mentioned that will also have a representative at the meeting. These vampires are doubly gun-shy because they recently had a run-in with a secret government agency that was disbanded along with a bunch of others that had feelers in some very scary places after President Luthor was impeached and arrested - it was difficult to get them to meet with us, but they agreed after they heard Will Stanton was involved.
"Other groups coming include representatives from a group of Elves out of the Scottish and Welsh mountains, a small group that's been averting apocalypses by fighting in this invitation-only martial arts tournament,a representative of a set of secretive Wizards out of Scotland that Willow's been talking to recently, and a representative of a set of Watchers Quentin never mentioned that watched Immortals that die only when beheaded... and various others. It's going to be an interesting conference.
"Will's bringing an assistant along too - his name is Charles Wallace Murry, and he's now his top graduate student researcher who is double majoring in Ancient Languages and Comparative Mythology at Oxford."
Rupert paused as Faith interjected, "I bet this new guy and Little D will find plenty to talk about after we return to Cleveland, I'm sure...
" As I was saying before the interruption," Giles finished, "Cassandra, if you feel your old friends are worthy, later, you can bring them into the network we're building. From what you've said so far, they're fighting the good fight too, and maybe fighting together may accomplish more to even things for the Light then fighting separately has done in the past."
The three friends considered it settled - they would combine Cassie's trip with the conference.
Friday afternoon before the conference, Faith accepted a special magical warestone created by Will and a variety of magic users and technology geniuses to help provide protection for the conference brought by a special courier from the Fang Gang's newly created Hyperion consortium, Frank Martin. Frank had been one of Wesley's contacts back before he'd reconciled with Angel and the Fang Gang.
Frank Martin was now quite famous in a lot of esoteric and more "conventional" underworld circles for delivering "dangerous" items to a buyer, no questions asked, but within a very strong code of honor.
Wesley had struck up a sort of friendship with Frank, and after he delivered a rare magical component that had been in the remains of the Magic Box in the crater that was ground zero Sunnydale to the Fang Gang after Wesley's untimely death, Angel realized what a resource the man was. He immediately put him on permanent retainer with the funds remaining after the dissolution of Wolfram and Hart with the assurance that he did not have to expose any past connections unless he chose to.
Angel also was trying to convince Frank to become a special instructor for the School on a "special tutor" basis, in the same type of position Giles was planning for Cassandra.
The man's fighting skills were on a par with Cassandra's and watching the two spar the last time Frank brought a package from LA was magical.
Faith, Giles, Cass, Willow, Xander and - surprisingly - Andrew - all were starting to befriend the man as well, and were hoping Angel or Giles might be able to tap him for the school.
In the meantime, Frank couriered packages between the two groups at need, and was becoming a regular sight at the Cleveland School.
He volunteered to stick around as ext ra protection for the Conference guests.
While Faith received the package, Giles and Cass went to a private airport on school grounds to meet the airplane with Angel, Gunn, Will and Charles Wallace on board. After bringing the travelers back and informing them of the slight change in plans, the six of them returned to the main dorm for dinner and an early night so that the trip to Keystone City could begin early the next day.
Next - A conference, a reunion, and an unplanned meeting or two.