The doubt was all the same. Bruce Wayne was Batman and, in most universes and timelines, that didn’t change. There was no one who could replace him, either not proficient enough to pick up the mantle or the Robins of the past who were either dead, dying on the inside, or trying to find a name for themselves on their own terms instead of on the ethics code of an old man in a bat suit; but there had been a lot that had changed in Neo-Gotham over the years. Batman aged. He was an old man. He didn’t have the wherewithal to handle even a bunch of street punks in clown costumes never mind the type of villains that called Neo-Gotham home. Much like its predecessor, screams were the normal soundtrack for Neo-Gotham, a tune that still called out for Batman no matter the posts held by his children – Barbara Gordon, the chief of police; Nightwing, the retired owner of a training ground; Tim Drake, Batman, but of a different future where he succeeded not Bruce Wayne, but Terry himself; and everyone else?
Gone? Missing? Dead? It was anyone’s guess as to what had happened to them and, just as well, of no surprise that there were doubts in this universe, this timeline, this San Francisco, when there was only one trite and true Batman; but Bruce Wayne hadn’t been present in some time and while Terry was no replacement for the official leader of the team, it was his mantle to wear all the same.
It was why he had come in full regalia to Coit Tower, technologically advanced, far exceeding what the Batman of the past had stored away in his utility belt or stashed in his gloves, but still brandishing the symbolic bat façade; and, considering he was meeting one of their own and Terry had no telling the temperature of Cass Cain over text messages – she could have sprung out at him from the darkness for all he knew, figuring him an imposter rather than a predecessor – visual assistance which he used not to check out the view of such a scenic overlook, but keep an eye on the surrounding shadows just in case. Who knew what she had or had access to, and plain clothed definitely was no schway way to make a first impression.
Were Cass fully herself, she definitely would have greeted this Terry, self-proclaimed Batman, by striking out from the shadows. If he was Batman, he would know how to put up a worthy fight. But her limbs were slow, lacking the knowledge and awareness of the best ways to move, the the grace and agility for even normal life, not the one lived mostly at night. It was frustrating, annoying, and even with having others around to try and help her understand what was going on she still didn't have any answers that helped make it easier.
She'd found a spot where she could keep an eye out, see him coming. With no options but plain clothed, she had to work with what she had. Terry showing up in a suit definitely helped his cause, even if it wasn't one she recognized. The symbol was the same, the symbol she'd always been loyal to. Coming out from her little hideaway, she stepped forward, head tilted as she studied him.
Nothing. She had nothing. At least in so far as gear, but from his own experiences, he knew it would only be a matter of time before it showed up, conveniently stuffed into a closet or found in the Batcave or whatever other outpost they might have had in the city. There were a couple of them – the mansion, the penthouse, the Belfry, and he was pretty sure Oracle had her clock tower somewhere, all conveniently disguised as one building or another within the city – and it was just a matter of figuring out where it ultimately landed. If there were skills lacking, those too would come in due time, but for the moment, Terry felt confident this would have been a fight he’d have been on the winning side of if it came to it.
“So you’re the naysayer, huh?” Terry said, expression contorting on his cowl with ease as if he had been glued into the thing; but before he could actually patch into A.L.F.R.E.D. for answers, there was one little key piece of information that he opted for when he wasn’t sure if simply scanning her would do the trick. Would it bring up who she was here? Or would there be some information the A.I. could actually give her. His hands perched onto his hips; ease of posture provided any significant lack of attack though it definitely did nothing against staring. “Who’re you? And I don't mean you're name. That got plastered all over the place, Cass.”
Her brow furrowed, corners of her mouth quirking down briefly. Considering she had no knowledge of a Terry, and the only Batman she knew was Bruce – well, and Dick, she didn't consider her questioning him to be out of line in any way. Cass watched the expression on the cowl shift, curious, both at the technology and how expressive it was, so different from her own. Her gaze flicked over him, taking in his posture and body language. Even without her deeper ability of reading body language she could see his lack of defensiveness, lack of concern she was going to come at him.
"You don't know me?" She raised an eyebrow, intrigued. He'd mentioned Bruce, that he knew him, and yet. But who knew what happened to her in the future. "Cassandra Cain. You said you are Batman."
I don’t know a lot of people, though I’m probably looking at the wrong set of memories for that one,” Terry said, something akin to a brow raising while he considered the other side of the coin – not necessarily his own memories and not those of Connor, but the other one he had been once upon a time. They weren’t as clear as he had been able to recall them before, but then again, he wasn’t the Amber Archer anymore. At least not in theory.
“Batgirl – at least I think it was that at the time,” he said, a hand going up to tap the communication device to the cave and the computer within, everything Bruce had on Cassandra Cain coming up through the H.U.D. behind his cowl. “Nearly kicked Connor Hawke off a building since you thought he was going around the city, killing people with a bow and arrow. Thought he was some sort of assassin, but he was just on the trail of Walgreen’s assassin. Good thing Tim can actually drive otherwise Eddie would have been biting the big one.”
“I am Batman. Now.” He said, extending a hand. “Terry McGinnis – from the future.”
A smile flickered across her features at the memory – not that she delighted in kicking people off buildings but if it was necessary, it was an easy enough way to handle things. Hearing someone else describe it was funny, though. Plus the more Terry talked, the more she believed him. It made sense there would be another Batman, even if Bruce was still alive. He was only human, though Cassandra knew something big must have happened to get him to stop putting on the suit and going out at night, though she wasn't sure she wanted to know what it was.
She shook his hand, not bothering to repeat her name since it'd already been established who she was. "I was Batgirl." She paused, considering. "You know Bruce. Who else?"
"Time ended up catching up with Bruce and the rest of the gang, but quite a few of them are still around. Barbara is the chief of police, and Grayson is retired, but saying 'retired' makes it sound like he stopped helping out. He just doesn't wear the suit anymore," he said, shaking his head, arms shifting to cross in front of his chest. There was still nothing defensive in his posture though, finding the both of them well beyond that point. Cass wasn't going to kick him off a building any more than Terry wasn't going to make a fight out of something that didn't need to be.
"And Tim is alive and kicking, the Batman of another timeline, but there are quite a few people missing from the equation - including some of the rogues," he said. Joker, he hadn't seen in some time, but he knew that character was a roach of a creature and likely existed in some variation, and Harley Quinn was far older than her former status as his sidekick. Everyone else? They seemed to disappear, taking the backseat to a handful of criminals Bruce in his advanced age wouldn't have been able to deal with.
"Jason and Stephanie I know from the other side," he said, Connor's familiarity with them and their current convergence making it easy to fall into rapport with them; but as far as the future went? Who knew?
Bruce, Barbara, Dick, Tim, Jason, Stephanie. It was a good amount of them. The rogues not being around didn't bother her, hopeful they'd either found their way to a better place or, more likely, were locked up somewhere until their demise. Though things must have been bad enough if there was still a need for Batman. Gotham was like that, always someone stepping up to take charge as the next lowlife of the week. But they weren't in Gotham, this was some other place that seemed to lack the dark grittiness of their home stomping grounds. Yet there so many of them were.
"You have a suit." It was an obvious statement, clearly, but that wasn't the point. Cass wanted to see inside, what technology advancements were there, but that could wait for a time when Terry wasn't actively wearing it. "Where did you get it?"
"I have a suit," he said in an equally obvious statement, glancing down to the one he was wearing. Smooth and streamline - perfect for blasting around the city though Cass was right in her observations about San Francisco. It wasn't as gritty and, as such, there wasn't exactly the same crime level that Gotham City had, even in the future. "I found it in the Batcave, though if you're talking in the future, it was bestowed on me by the old man himself."
"I'll give you the address, though I'm not entirely sure whether you'll find what you're looking for there," he said, rattling off the address to the mansion on recall of Cass' penchant for having lists read to her rather than reading them herself. He wasn't quite sure his memories of Connor Hawke had an answer for that. "Things have a knack for dropping in this place unexpectedly, so if your suit isn't there, chances are it could show up in due time."
It made her perk up a little, finding out the Batcave was there. She definitely wanted to go look around once she had a chance, and committed the address to memory. If her suit wasn't there, at least it was a familiar place. Plus there were likely gadgets and the like she could work with, even if they weren't hers, per se. At that point, she would be grateful for anything that was familiar. Not feeling like herself, having a different face, being in the wrong city – it was why she'd felt so glad when she came across people she knew. Stephanie, Tim, Dick, Jason. She didn't know Terry, but she supposed she could feel glad for him too in a way.
"Thank you." Cass studied him a moment. "Can I see your face?"
It was always good to have something familiar around even if they were decidedly of a different build than Terry had been used to. There were far different features to the Batcave of this multiverse, far less advanced, but still on the cutting edge of what Bruce could put into it to make sure their crime fighting efforts were secure - identities, gadgets, and all. Sure, it didn't stop the rare occurrence of someone crashing the party, but even in the future, nothing was so fool proof.
"Since you asked nicely," Terry considered, pulling the cowl off to reveal a face that surely didn't seem to belong to Terry McGinnis, but was his all the same. "He goes by Connor Hwang when appropriate," he explained. Granted 'appropriate' was almost all the time since there was very little in between, just moments where Connor had allowed him to take the wheel for a change, built on understanding that this was Connor's life no matter how much Terry, in a way, interfered.
Cass hadn't had any expectations of what she'd see under the cowl, but it was nice to actually see who was there at all. All of them were different in their own ways but that didn't stop them from being a family. Considering how many kids Bruce collected over the years, she wasn't surprised he was still doing just that when he was old.
"I'm still Cass." Which she found reassuring for some reason, even though it didn't actually matter. Something being the same while she still didn't understand so much about what was happening. "You know everyone else already?"
He could understand the calm and reassurance found in being the same name as the body one shared, but Connor Hawke and Connor Hwang had long stopped crossing paths other than the memories shared and some muscle memory that seemed more aligned to shooting an arrow than it had been throwing a batarang. No, it hadn't been an easy convergence, and he was sure there were still a few wires crossed, but the only answer to that was taking it day by day and playing the rest by ear.
"I know quite a few people," he said, nodding. "Wonder Woman and Donna Troy, Supergirl, a handful of X-Men and a few others." Their identities were theirs to reveal if they weren't already, so he didn't say anything more on names beyond what she may or may not have recognized. "I've been here quite a while." There was a pause as he tried to figure out when the tides had turned. "January of this year, I think." There was a different Barbara Gordon at the time, and he had barely any rapport with Donna Troy, but how quickly all that had changed.
Cass blinked once as he listed off the aliases of people he knew. Not that they were unfamiliar to her, she recognized them, but it hadn't been what she meant. Then again, she supposed he had no way of knowing what she'd meant. If he'd been there quite a while, that probably meant his answer was yes. Almost a year. It was strange to think about that much time spent in snippets, a body that wasn't her own. Just because she didn't understand didn't mean it wouldn't happen.
"You know all of ours," she clarified, reaching out and touching the symbol on his chest. It was reassuring to know that even in however many years between her time and Terry, however many Bats and Robins there were in between, the symbol remained.
"I do," he said, nodding. There had been quite a few to come and go - Alfred, Bruce, Damien, a number of their allies like the Birds of Prey and a dozen or so of their foes, many of which he was happy to say weren't of any trouble anymore; but Terry didn't touch on the missing aspects since that would be a total vibe killer when someone was just starting out. "One way or another."
"There's been a handful of people who haven't showed up at all, so I can only hope they're able to hold down the fort," he added. That was something he was rather unfamiliar with: What happened in Gotham City if they were all here, in San Francisco, in some other point in time and space? Time travel, he had experienced. He had run into his doppelgangers of a number of universes, but it still felt strange in the sense of San Francisco. Thoughts for another time, he supposed.
That was good. Cass figured if Terry knew the rest of them that were there, and they knew him, he had to be fine. She doubted he would have gotten very far otherwise. There were those who were missing, who she wished were there too for more security, but there were plenty enough anyway. Like he said, hopefully those missing were keeping things on lock back home. She had no idea what happened to her her with her mind being in this strange body rather than her own, in a city where she certainly hadn't been before. "You are okay," she said decisively, nodding once, as though he'd given satisfactory answers and passed a test of some kind. Which was sort of the case, but not really. If she hadn't believed him, deemed him not okay, she didn't have any kind of power or ability to do something about it, but still.
"You're not too bad either," he said with a grin to his expression, narrowing his eyes a little bit as his head canted, "but obviously, we're going to have to find a way to get you suited up if you're going to be hitting San Francisco like it's Gotham City. We might even be able to see if someone has a spare." Given how many suits there were, he wouldn't have been surprised that there were some in standing memorial like a museum that Cass could use if needed. They had done the same to Matt after all, during his short stint as Robin.
"I've got to run, but keep out of trouble, okay? As best as possible," he said, pulling the mask back up over his face if only to conceal the fact that staying out of trouble? That was nearly impossible, but something told him that Cass wasn't one to be messed with.