She's not sure that Catwoman is the best role model. There's the whole professional thief thing, and the running around the city scarring people with a whip stuff, and that bit she does where she strolls over to the edge of a building and glances back at you before leaping into the air.
And then there's the 'goad your boyfriend into making a violent raid on a warehouse while you sneak in through the fire exit' trick.
Richenda 'Dixie' Grayson is in full Robin mode, armour and cape and mask, piloting Batman's ultralight remotely. The view in the displays shakes as Batman jumps from what Robin calls the 'batwing' through a set of windows.
There's a trick to jumping through plate glass, even in body armour, and that's to break the glass with a projectile or explosive before you hit it and then use the cape to keep the shards away from your head. Batman has demonstrated the trick and walked her through the manoeuvre but not allowed her to try it yet.
All Robin gets to do is drone-pilot incredibly expensive machines from inside an underground lair. She is the most deprived thirteen year old in the world.
A streak of dark purple crosses her side-view and the batwing shakes again. Robin steadies the ultralight craft. "I can't see where she went."
Alfred sits a few feet back from her, monitoring Robin's activities. "Top camera, port."
"Thanks." Robin brings it up in a lower screen, keeping the main view on Batman's entrance and probable exit.
Catwoman leans against the batwing's cockpit canopy, looking incredibly relaxed. She holds the maple kamuy, a stolen sacred artifact, and turns it around in her hand as she she studies it. Smiling calmly she tucks it into her belt-pouch and then pats the batwing.
"Thanks for the lift, pretty bird."
"You're welcome, mom."
Catwoman is not a good role model. But when you're amazing you don't need to be good.
"Why are we here?" Dixie asks Bruce. She's sitting on his bed, kicking her heels as she watches him hang his jacket.
"I told you. Because my friends - "
"No," Dixie cuts him off. She sweeps her hand through the air, gesturing to the cramped hotel room. Not exactly Fawcett City's best. "Here."
"Getting used to being rich?"
Dixie Grayson has been Bruce Wayne's foster child for about nine months. The billionaire thing took some getting used to. The central wing is literally a converted hotel and stables, and the additional wings are huge. And Dixie's the only thirteen year old she's ever heard of with a $1300 a week spending limit.
"No... Sorta. I mean, why stay in a dinky hotel when we could stay somewhere nice?"
Bruce finishes hanging his small suitcase from the bar in the closet. Dixie already knows that travellers trick to avoid bedbugs. Her bag is hanging in her room.
"Because this is cheaper. And 'Jean Kirk' and her father aren't billionaires."
Travelling as father and daughter is easy. They're both White, or at least mostly, with dark hair and light eyes, and kind of tall, and if they don't really look alike people just fill in the gaps on their own.
'Momma Kirk' will be arriving later. Selina likes to travel at her own pace.
"Okay, whatever. Are your friends staying here too?"
"No. They're staying at a nice hotel."
"Call me Mort." One thing about this fake ID; Even travelling as 'family' Bruce hasn't told her to call him dad. He's been really careful about that.
"How come they get to stay somewhere nice?"
"They're on vacation."
"So are we!"
"Yes. But we're travelling incognito. They're not."
"So they're not rich?"
"When do I get to meet them?"
"You already know them. Gio and his daughter."
Dixie springs up from the bed and lands on her tiptoes. "Zatanna's here?! Why didn't you tell me?!"
"I just did."
Dixie scowls at him. Sometimes Bruce does kind of remind her of dad.
The hotel rooms really are small. And connected by a not very thick sliding door.
A distinctly Selina moan drifts through the wall. Dixie buries her head under her pillow and kicks the volume on her earbuds up a couple of notches.
"A little helper. A sidekick. Two freaks in masks."
The Joker isn't crazy. He's just vicious and likes to put on a show. A carnival barker with a mean streak.
"Of course there's two of you now. Dark and light, young and old, man and girl. He's doing this to mock me."
Two-Face is psychotic. Always has been so far as Dixie can tell. The scarring just made him give up on keeping it under control.
Robin is tied to a chair in an office overlooking a warehouse. The security guard is dead on the office floor. Bad luck has turned her observation and exploration mission into a complete blowdown.
Batman is looking for her. Someone will come looking for the guard. She just has to survive. Twenty minutes, tops.
Two-Face makes the same decision he always makes. "Let the coin decide."
Two-Face never hires professional goons. The two low-rent legbreakers guarding her are distracted by the coin toss. The one on her left wore running shoes to a warehouse break-in, so when Robin lifts herself as high as she can in the chair and then brings the back leg down on his foot she can actually feel the small bones breaking under the weight. He howls and grabs at the back of the chair, dragging them both off-balance and down, and Robin lands on top of him. Now it's at least his leg that breaks under the fall, maybe a rib or two.
Two-Face kicks her in the gut. The good news is he's no smarter than his legbreakers and his expensive leather shoes aren't hard enough to break bone or bruise organs through her armour. Still hard enough to knock the air out of her lungs.
She almost throws up as Two-Face and his goon pull her chair upright. They ignore their partner, swearing and gasping on the floor.
"Pin her legs down," Two-Face tells his unhurt goon. "Don't let her pull that stunt again."
"You want me to hold her legs, or you want me to hold them open?"
Joker would just do whatever he thought was mean and funny. Two-Face flips his coin and then shoots his goon in the face.
Then he flips again and it comes up scars. He spends the next ten minutes working Robin, breaking her nose, punching her in the ribs over and over, beating her to where she can't see out of her left eye, pounding his own hands bloody against her, until Selina shows up and tears open both his faces.
"Why do you keep trying to steal the batmobile?" Robin stands ready with her shock-batons. She doesn't actually want to fight Ivy and Quinn. They're both dangerous but in a weird way she likes them, or at least sort of understands them. But they can't have the batmobile.
Ivy won't look Robin in the eye. "It doesn't have to be the batmobile. We can steal other cars."
"I wanna fuck in the back seat!" Quinn announces.
"It doesn't have a back seat. You know this."
"Red and me are super flexible! We can do it in the front. Just give us twenty minutes, 'kay tweety bird?"
Behind her mask, Robin narrows her eyes. "Get away from my car."
It's an ordinary five-story building in a lower middle class neighbourhood on the south side of New Troy. Bruce glares at it as though it's the secret lair of all his villains.
"The buzzer is broken." Without bothering to dial Bruce holds his phone to his ear. "We're here."
On the third floor a woman sticks her head out her window. "Bruce! Come on up!"
They take the stairs up three stories. The building is clean but obviously old, and there are scuffs and scraps all through the hallways. The flooring is older than Dixie. Maybe even almost as old as Bruce. There are two sets of numbers on the door they stop at. One set is made of peeling stickers saying 304 but the 0 has fallen off. The other is old brass.
"Why does it say 3D?"
"Older buildings in Metropolis used to use letters instead of numbers for each apartment."
The door opens without either of them knocking. A young woman with long dark hair and heavy glasses smiles at Dixie. "Hi Dixie, great to see you! Come on in!"
She lets them into a narrow hallway, tiny bathroom on the right, and takes their coats as she chats with Bruce about traffic. The hallway opens to a living space smaller than the Wayne family wine cellar, and instead of a bed there's a rolled up futon against the wall. The kitchen is smaller than Dixie's closet back home
(When did Wayne Manor become home?)
and is separated from the living area by a counter. There are cookies and pies on the counter, and a bowl of chips.
"Dixie, make yourself at home. There are snacks and pop on the counter, help yourself. Wayne, I see you've escalated to child endangerment."
"Ms Kent. What is this about?"
"Uh." Dixie's not sure how, but this conversation went bad fast.
Bruce steps forward. "Dixie, this is Cantrell Kent. A colleague."
"Hi," Ms Kent reaches out to shake Dixie's hand. "I'm Superwoman."
Bruce nods. "She is. She's also a social worker for Metropolis Childrens Services."
Ms Kent smiles at Bruce, one of those tight unfriendly smiles grown-ups have. "I am. And you're the man who tried to torture me to death with a radioactive rock."
"I didn't know it would hit you that hard."
"Well bless your heart. Dixie, would you like some apple pie? I used my grandma's cinnamon spice blend."
When they get back from Metropolis, Selina is in the sunroom just off the kitchen.
"It was great!" Dixie balances multiple cookie tins and plastic containers as she jogs over to the table. "I met Superwoman! She was really nice!"
"Really?" Selina looks over at Bruce. Bruce grunts. He's been wearing the same grumpy face all day. "I thought this was a business trip?"
"One kind of business."
"These are for you!" Dixie pushes two containers at Selina. "Sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, and cupcakes! Superwoman's a great baker!"
"Why are you so hyper?"
"Superwoman gave her an entire sugar cream pie."
"I ate it in the car! Oh, this folder is for you too!"
Selina flips through it. "What is all this?"
"A list of rich people in Metropolis who buy stolen art and stuff! And floorplans! With diagrams of their security systems! These gingersnaps are for Alfred!"
"We need to get you some real food." Selina looks closely at one of the diagrams. "Bruce, I'll be using your downstairs computer later."
"What did she give you?"
Silently, Bruce holds up the package in his hand. Selina looks at the box.
"Extra rich Ritz crackers?"
This is her first encounter with the real Joker, not one of the wannabe knock-offs or clown-themed gangbangers. It's gone exactly as weird as Batman always told her it would.
The batmobile's top camera gives her a really close view of the Joker's naked butt. Robin would have been happy to go her whole life without so much as a glimpse of Joker-junk, but now his bleach-scarred sack is right there on the dash screen.
"Ew!" Robin checks her safety harness and glances over to make sure her passenger is still restrained.
She stomps the brakes hard at seventy miles an hour. Joker flies through the air, limbs and other stuff flapping, pale skin gleaming in the moonlight, and arcs into Gotham Harbour.
Strapped in the passenger seat, Harley Quinn laughs wildly and stomps her feet. "That was better than sex!"
"What did you see in that guy?"
"Hooo boy, tweety bird, you learn from Aunt Harley's example and never mistake great sex for love."
Crane is back in police custody, the hostages are in medical observation, and Batman and Robin sit in the batcave's medical bay with IV lines in their hands.
Crane's latest nerve agent smells like tiger piss. That smell is a memory Robin could have happily left behind her.
"Fuck I'm tired," Batman mutters.
"Hi tired, I'm da - no wait, we're doing it wrong. Start over. Fuck I'm tired."
"Mind your language."
"Love you too, dad."