Cass hugging Barbara Author name: SelDear -- author LiveJournal
Recipient name: the Jack
Requested character(s): Barbara Gordon / Oracle
Story title: Salvage
Rating: recommended for upwards of 13 years
Author's notes: I'm actually very fuzzy on the comics, so this story pertains to no specific comicbook event. I sincerely apologise if the depiction is not what was wanted. Much praise, worship, and thankfulness on my part goes to my beta A.j. (familyarchives) who had much to say about Cass, along with Amy (amilyn) who had links and ideas and much assistance for me in the writing of Babs.
Summary: There are times when 'interesting' is a good thing. And there are times when 'interesting' is a curse.

Salvage

They'd made it this far. Now was where things got interesting.

"You have six seconds to get to the corner beneath the camera on my mark. Three, two, one, mark."

On the upper right hand window on her screen, Barbara Gordon watched the various video feeds switch around. Not one showed the barest glimpse of the tall, athletic girl whose headcam showed her running full-pelt along the corridor to the 'dead zone' just beneath the camera.

The wall loomed close in the camera's view. Then Batgirl used the momentum of her sprint to spin herself around so her slender shoulders landed firmly in the dead zone corner. The headcam view shivered a bit with the impact, then resumed the usual rise and fall in time with Cassandra Cain's breathing.

Babs nodded to herself in the semi-darkness of her apartment. Bruce had planned to do this one himself, doubtless on the argument that it was too dangerous for one of the others to do. She'd argued for Cass on the basis of size, speed, relative strength, and athleticism, without addressing the question of danger. The others risked their lives and their sanity every night. Danger was a familiar companion to them all.

He'd conceded her the point. Tersely, but then, when wasn't Bruce terse?

"First right, first left, then first right again and the door at the end. Pressure sensors in the floor for the middle two hundred metres of the last corridor and you'll only have thirty seconds in the clear when you reach the junction."

"Understood." The voice was slightly raspy, diffused between the fibres of the facemask. A moment later, the young woman began threading her way through the maze of corridors, moving forward in smooth leaps and bounds.

Babs mentally consulted the floor plan in her mind as she watched Batgirl's progress via the headcam. The building was a maze of doors and false entrances and exits, as well as a network of video screens and various security measures. She'd managed to hack into most of the security systems over the last couple of days, but whoever had designed them was good enough to make her worry about being caught there.

There were times when 'interesting' was a good thing. And there were times when 'interesting' was a curse. She still wasn't sure which one it was now.

From the viewpoint of the camera, the opening door was sudden. There was no warning footstep, no sign or sense that it was coming, just the swing of the door, and the security guard who stepped out from behind it.

The only viewpoint she had was the camera by Batgirl's head, and its range was somewhat limited: straight ahead with no periphery available. Still, she didn't need periphery to see the black-gloved hand slam into the man's chin, knocking the breath from him and snapping his mouth closed. It all went downhill for him from there. The phrase 'never knew what hit him' had been coined with someone like Cassandra Cain in mind.

Within a matter of seconds, the man was dealt with, a plastic strip-tie restraining him and a gag firmly wadded in his mouth. Batgirl had even stopped the door from locking, slipping a flexible plastic strip between the doorjamb and the tongue of the lock.

Not one of the boys could have managed that so neatly and silently. Not even Batman.

Babs had been busy herself while her companion for the evening deal with the perp. She'd been checking the schematics of the floor, and the notes she'd made on it in the last twelve hours of watching through the video feeds for information on how often the passage was used and by whom.

"Tie his feet and put him just inside the corridor," she instructed. "It's an ancillary passage, and not used much."

Batgirl did so, then indicated the plastic strip she had preventing the door from closing completely. "Lock door?"

Babs' fingers flashed across the keyboard. "Leave it unlocked," she advised. "It leads to a set of fire stairs - another possible exit." Even as she spoke, she was capturing the images she had of the man and feeding it through an identification program she kept for such situations.

The girl continued along her way, running now, aware that the interruption had cost her valuable time. They were on a tight margin here, and a mistiming could be fatal for Batgirl as well as for their intrusion.

In spite of her speed, the inbuilt speakers on the headcam picked up only the rustle of her outfit and the soft even sound of her breathing - not even panting after her exertions against the security guard.

Babs glanced at the stopwatch in the corner of the computer screen. It was going to be tight.

"Pressure sensors in the next corridor. Walk over them, don't run."

Her programming skills weren't capable of completely switching off that set of sensors. Instead, she had managed to tune them to the point where their sensitivity was minimal. Cass would be light enough to cross without setting them off at a walk.

Her instruction not to run had to be placing great strain on the young woman. The years of working on instinct had set Cassandra Cain's mental and emotional paths in a particular direction - that of action rather than reason. Still, over time, Cass had learned to trust Babs, giving trust in return for the trust rendered her in making her Batgirl in the first place. The camera slowed as she turned the corridor, and she walked briskly and neatly to the junction at the end of the corridor, reaching into the slim hip pocket for the magnetic card that she slipped into the door slot even as Babs' instigated the hacker program on the card.

A single light gleamed red. No access.

"Twelve seconds. Don't forget the transmitter strip." Almost one-third of the time in which she'd hoped for to break this code. And they still had no idea of what security measures were beyond the door. Worry about that when you get to it. Her fingers flew across the keys, substituting the first hacker program for a second one. "Swipe again." Another red light. Still no access.

Damn. They'd only have three attempts to break this, and time was running out. A reader machine was unlikely to actually give up the key in the reading process, however, there were certain signals that could be sent to it that would make it believe that it had been given the correct key. The trick was in determining the signals.

Babs had spent most of the day studying the other reader models in the rest of the building and do her research on how to break them. Everything in the world had its flaws, human or machine, you just needed to know how to exploit them.

Three seconds. She kept her voice calm, although her neck was in knots. "Swipe again."

This time the light gleamed green, and a moment later, Batgirl had slipped in through a crack in the door.

The camera monitoring that corridor came online in the guardroom and on Babs' feed from the security systems. There was the slightest motion in the grainy screen as the door clicked shut, and then nothing.

Her hand clenched into a brief fist, and a smile stole across her face. They were in.

Caution pointed out that, yes, they'd gotten in, but they were far from finished. From this point onwards, she'd be running blind, without any idea of what they might find inside - or what kinds of security measures had been taken. All her efforts had been unable to determine what had been done in this section of the building.

However, given what little they'd found out about this company - a distant subdivision of Lexcorp - it wasn't going to be good.

Batgirl's headcam transmitted the image of a darkened laboratory room. Empty now, nobody home.

"Wait." Babs instructed the young woman, her fingers flashing lightly over the keyboard. "Scan the room."

Obediently, Batgirl turned, taking in the full room. A light gleamed in the distant corner, nothing more than a red pinpoint.

Babs swiftly initiated a hacker program. Nothing much. It was designed to sneak in beneath the standard interface and take over the security system by one means or another. If one attempt failed, it was set up to keep trying with a dozen others - all the various ways that Babs knew of to get beneath the programming of a security system.

Between Gotham City Police Department and the Batclan - to say nothing of her work with the JLA - Babs was one of the most accomplished hackers in the world. And she knew it. Not that she allowed herself to get too complacent. The human mind was an incredible thing, able to adapt and change very swiftly. What was current and capable today might be obsolete tomorrow, and she had to stay on the edge of the breaking wave, not get sucked into the undertow.

She breathed slightly easier as her program sent back the message that it had infiltrated the security systems: infrared and visual - no point in motion or pressure sensors here where scientifically-minded people would be moving about their business, quite insensible to what was happening.

The IR sensors would be confused by Batgirl's costume, designed to be invisible to such sight. It wasn't foolproof, of course, but it decreased the chances of her being spotted on those systems - especially when Babs located the sensitivity controls and turned them all the way down.

"Security dealt with. Case the joint."

Definitely a laboratory. Babs recognised some of the machines: chemical spectrometers, something that looked distinctly medical, a plastic chart of the human body up on the wall - the kind that was found in school science labs for students to study. Amateurish, but for the writing that marked the posters surface.

7mg HrDD for level 1 reaction. 12mg HrDD for level 3 reaction. Incl. 1mg BKL for preservation of tissue density.

Like a recipe of some kind.

She wondered what the ultimate result was supposed to be.

Interesting. Very interesting.

"Any computers around?"

It wasn't likely. These days, most people kept laptops with which they connected in to the work networks and then put securely away at night. There was a terminal in one corner of the room, but it was old - too old for anything more than the most basic results to be kept on it.

Still, there were signs that computers were routinely used around here, network cables poked out at various points in the room. And where there were cables, there was access to a network.

"Do you have the false network interface I gave you? Install that on one of the wall sockets."

She'd taken all members of the Batclan through this procedure, showing them how to fit the tiny components into the standard wall socket interface for network cables. In the case of both Dick and Cass, she'd then made them practise and practise until they could do it in the dark with their eyes shut. Bruce probably had it memorised after the first time, and Tim had a slight streak of anality in him - enough to ensure that he could do such a task when required.

Information networks were the lifeblood of every organisation in the world. If Babs could gain access to a company's network then, sooner or later, she would be able to decipher the data.

And now, with Batgirl's modifications to the standard network plug, Babs had all the access she needed to this company's information network.

They were done.

"See anything you want to take as a souvenir?"

The huff she received was of laughter. It was Nightwing's phrase to describe them taking samples from a lab or scene for later analysis and smacked of the young man's casual approach to life.

As Batgirl made her way back to the door, Babs checked the security systems again. The timing was slightly off. Cass could either make a run for it, or wait for another minute before all the setups aligned. She presented the option to the young woman.

A moment later, the camera was slipping neatly across the junction, with only the barest glimpse of a heel vanishing from a corner of the screen. It was cutting it dangerously fine, but Batgirl was good at this.

She walked calmly back through the pressure sensor area, as though she had a perfect right to be there, and as Cass left that section of corridor, Babs reversed the changes she'd made to the sensors, restoring them to their usual settings.

The opening of the fire exit door was, again, unexpected.

And this time there was more than just one man to disable.

Babs glimpsed two more men, both armed, before they went flying back into the corridor. Batgirl was brisk and methodical in her disposal of them and the ones that followed, and Babs attended to noting where the alarms were being set off in the building and how to short them, bypass them, or misdirect them.

A glance at the video feed showed more security guards on the way, none of them looking happy. Dealing with them had taken less than ten seconds, but the longer they stayed here, the worse it would get. "Take the fire stairs up," she instructed Batgirl as the girl dropped a tiny gas canister around the unconscious men. "Now."

A moment later, the headcam showed the interior fire stairs, going upwards. Under other circumstances, the sheer silence of the image would freak her. But, for all that the headcam lifted and fell with a gentle rolling motion as Cass breathed deeply, her breaths were almost completely silent.

There were shouts from below, and the sound of doors opening and shutting echoed loudly in the stairwell. Batgirl kept going, her pace never relenting as she climbed and climbed and climbed.

At the top, Babs instructed her how to disable the alarm wiring on the door, and they burst out into the cool night air of Gotham.

Less than ninety seconds later, Batgirl was halfway across the city, and Babs was carefully withdrawing herself from the company's security systems.

She stifled the bitter taste in her mouth. It wasn't a defeat, wasn't a total loss. Even if the corporation found the false network interface Babs had set up, she still had the recording of Batgirl's headcam, and all the information she'd pulled up about the system while directing the intrusion.

After transmitting the information she had to the Batcave computer, she helped Robin with an investigation into a couple of bizarre things he'd been chasing this evening, and sent Batman a heads-up regarding the assignation of one of the Joker's former goons as security to Arkham Asylum. Sometimes civic authorities could be so na´ve.

It was, perhaps an hour later when a slim, masked figure slipped in the window of Babs' living room and peeled off the headcam.

"Good work," Babs complimented Cass, wheeling herself over and taking the headcam from the young girl's outstretched fingers.

"Guards?"

"None dead," she said. "All in trouble with their employer and with the company for lack of vigilance."

"Salvage?"

She glanced at the computer where she'd left her hooks in the video camera system of the building. "Well, they've been searching the complex." A shrug and a smile showed enough of her feelings on the matter. "I backed out as much as I could - more than I like. Can't stay in there very long. Since we didn't disturb anything, they'll probably guess we left surveillance equipment behind and disable the network."

It was a pity to have lost even that much. Their informant had been very emphatic about the importance of this facility - up until the point where he was found mugged in a back alleyway of Gotham two nights ago. His death had prompted tonight's intrusion.

Cass pulled the mask from her forehead and picked something out of her utility belt and held it up. A small vial of reddish-brown sludge hung from her fingertips." Took something."

Babs looked from the vial to the young woman in an easy stance beyond it, and grinned.

So the odds weren't much better than they had been before.

But the future might just get very interesting.



- finCassandra and Barbara



Reference images taken from BATGIRL #52, pages 6 and 7.
 

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