As usual-I don't own them, I'm just playing with DC's toys in a not-for-profit way and will put them back neatly when I'm done.

This story takes place right after Batgirl #8 & 9.

Leaf Fall
By Tracey Claybon

There is a saying that "the leaf never falls far from the tree." Often parents and children are a lot more alike than different...

Cassandra Cain, also known as Batgirl, sat in her room fingering the pearl bracelet she won from Lady Shiva. She didn't realize it, but she was being watched.

The onlooker quietly chided herself for this sentimental action... this brash youngster should have meant next to nothing to her, but she wanted to see what else she was capable of, and how she interacted with her environment. And, also, how she interacted with her mentor and his other allies.

At least, that's what Lady Shiva told herself.

She'd watched the girl interact with the woman in the wheelchair, with the other city's defenders (Shiva had almost been detected twice while observing-once by Batman himself and once by the man calling himself Azrael-that encounter in particular had been a close call-He had also been paying close court to the girl-this also bore some watching...)

Shiva would never have admitted it to anyone, but ever since battling the youngster, she had a feeling that she'd met her somewhere before. It was confirmed when she received a note with the new videotape she'd received in the mail this afternoon.

When she'd received the first tape in the mail of this new Batgirl in action, along with a picture of her in civilian clothing, she felt it was time to pay a visit to Gotham City, but *not* to engage the Batman in battle. She wanted to test the mettle of this youngster who moved with such frightening potential.

Shiva wasn't disappointed. She observed her in action alongside the Bat and decided to pick the proper time and place to get her attention. If she proved unworthy, then she would die. If not, well... maybe she wouldn't die that day.

The Bat's allies called her "Cassandra"-a fitting enough name. Shiva conceded that David Cain taught her well indeed-as she had covertly watched the practice sparring contest between Batman and... Cassandra a few days before she decided to meet with and test the child.

Fighting the girl was a little disappointing. The skill and style that was so obvious that a blind man could have seen it was there but not complete, where before it had been flawless. What was going on?

Now that she had helped the girl get her edge back, Shiva was looking forward to their meeting next year. But, Shiva had the unusual feeling that their encounter together was not yet concluded. So, she stayed in Gotham a day extra, feeling that the other shoe would drop soon.

This time, the tape that came in the mail had a message, unlike the first tape that had brought Shiva to Gotham originally.

The note only said, "They call her Cassandra. --Cain."

Cain sent her the film of this youngster for his own reasons. He knew that Shiva made a point of not forming any attachments to anyone or anything, and he knew why she'd made that decision so long ago when she entrusted him with the secret so long ago. She had known before going into isolation with her sensei that she would have to give all of her former life up in order to become the best of the best in a very brutal field. And, after what had happened to her at the time, it had seemed like the right thing to do.

She had known that she would have been in isolation for at least two years. Cain had owed her a favor from... before. So, she entrusted the most precious thing from her former life to his care and went into isolation with her Master.

Shiva suddenly noticed the chill in the October air as she recalled the events that led to the path she lived now.

January, 1983
Somewhere in Southeastern Asia

Fifteen-year-old Sandra was still in shock from the events of the last couple of weeks and finding out how fast things can change. The morning of her fifteenth birthday, she was a typical fifteen-year-ago girl, with the typical interests; she had asked her mother and father for permission to go and show her betrothed the necklace her parents had given her as a sign that she was growing up and leaving her childhood behind. The necklace was a family heirloom, and she was pleased and proud to wear it. However, after leaving the home of the boy she was engaged to marry, she had been walking back to her parents' home in her native village when she had been abducted.

Her abductors, after abusing and raping her repeatedly over a three-day period, sold her to a brothel in the warrens of Hong Kong. She probably would have died there within a year if she hadn't happened to have been in the house of a local crime lord as a playtoy when David Cain came to assassinate him.

Sandra had discovered that this man was the head of the group that snatched her from her home, and she wanted vengeance for what had been done to her.

Just today, she had discovered a man with a silenced gun in the hallway. Instead of screaming in terror, as another would have done, she realized why he was there and decided to aid him. She happened to stumble over the man, who said his name was David Cain, when he was trying to infiltrate the crime lord's villa; he would have killed her but she quickly convinced him not to, if she helped him accomplish the job. she asked Cain to take her with him when he left after the job was complete. So, she distracted the crime lord and together, she and Cain dispatched him.

In fact, Sandra did so well in aiding Cain that he brought her back to his mentor. His mentor tested Sandra, and after a test, which she passed with flying colors, he arranged for her to be trained as well. But, eight weeks later, Sandra began showing signs of pregnancy...

Cain interceded with his mentor and asked that he be allowed to help with Sandra's situation. Reluctantly, Cain's mentor agreed-he didn't want to lose one of his best assassins-in-training-and Cain arranged for safety and sanctuary for Sandra while she carried her baby.

Finally, the baby-a healthy beautiful girl, who looked a lot like her mother, but obviously Amerasian-was born in October of 1983. Sandra at this point had already broken ties with her family-she knew that the dishonor of what had happened to her meant that the life she would have had just before the abductors stole her was now over; her family would also probably not have accepted her child either.

Sandra also knew that the life of an assassin didn't really leave room for 2 a.m. feedings, chocolate chip cookies and bedtime stories, so when Cain told her that he had a place to send her child to where she would grow up strong and secure, she agreed, on the condition that he keep her appraised as to the child's health and whereabouts on a regular basis. She had decided on a new name to reflect what she was becoming-Shiva-and she waited until her daughter was five months old and fully weaned before she gave her up to Cain's care.

She wanted her daughter safely cared for before she went on the last real assignment before studying in isolation with her Master-to track down and kill the men who abducted her sixteen months before.

After she returned from her mission and a job taken on to finance her own operations as a solo operative two and a half years later, a box of tapes was waiting for her on her doorstep the day she returned to Hong Kong and the home she acquired there.

The tapes followed her wherever she went until her daughter was seven years old; that year a letter from Cain came, instead of a tape, telling her that the child left his care. He said only that he would try to locate her and that he would be in contact when he located the child.

There was silence from Cain until the tape arrived of Batgirl in Gotham City...

Shiva, unusually but previously lost in reverie, noticed a change in the air pressure nearby, which told her someone was nearby.

She tumbled, in a controlled and graceful manner, to the ground from the second-story window of Wayne Manor where she had been watching Cassandra as she prepared for bed in the wee hours of the night and finally slept.

About thirty seconds later, a shadow separated from the other shadows in the area and resolved itself as Batman. Shiva could tell that he was just a bit shaken by her presence, but respected that he didn't show it obviously. She saw only because she watched him closely.

"Lady Shiva. why are you here?" Batman spoke in a coldly-controlled manner that would have given anyone else pause.

She was silent for a moment, and decided that it would not hurt to inform Batman that she had... interests here.

"I was here to... meet this new Batgirl. Word of her has started to circulate in the circles I run in and I wanted to... test her," Shiva said.

"And, I *have* tested her. She has even more potential than *you* do or did... Unfortunately, she seems to wish to follow *your* philosophy. A pity, she would have been one of the best of my profession."

Batman looked very slightly surprised. "Why are you here *now?*"

Shiva looked him in the eye and answered "I'm watching out for... one I have an interest in." She reached into her pocket and handed Batman an envelope. "Give this to her when you believe she is ready for it."

"I won't allow you to harm..." Batman started.

Shiva held up a hand to stop him. "I have no interest in harming her, right now. There is nothing deadly there, just a piece of her heritage and history. More than that, I will not say. Take care of her, and do it well. If not, there will never be a day when you won't be watching over your shoulder for me."

"And, as to why I am interested in your... Cassandra, there is a saying you should remember. The leaf never falls far from the tree." Shiva then turned and walked away, leaving Batman with still more questions and an envelope.

The next morning, Bruce met Cassandra for their usual sparring session, but he looked distracted. Cassandra noticed and asked why.

"Why... are... you... sad?" She looked concerned. "Is... something... wrong?"

"No," Bruce said. "No, nothing's wrong. I have a message for you." Bruce handed her the envelope. "I'll leave you to read it. If you have any questions, I'll be nearby, just call me if you need me." He turned and walked over to the other side of the room and busied himself with preparing some martial arts equipment for later use, obviously curious but not intruding.

Cassandra opened the envelope, and a delicate gold necklace with a stylized pendant surrounded by pearls matching the bracelet she'd won from Shiva the other day fell into her hands along with a letter...

"Hello, Cassandra,

This is information about yourself and your heritage you need to know..."


"See you at our meeting next year. Be prepared."


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