The black pearl of the state of New Jersey. The unmistakable plaster-obscured peaks of the most violent city in the United States, as well as one of the most dangerous in the entire world, adorn the swampy bay where the stronghold of the most dangerous criminals and sorcerers in the early history of North America developed. Gotham: Stronghold of the greatest terrors imaginable by man. It is on these streets that the Gothamites try to survive, day after day, through violence and corruption, the worst the human race has to offer. Many people find different ways of dealing with their animalistic situation, it is there that they find the strength to face all the difficulties of their lives. Some people live alone, others have families, but most cannot count on the stability of these factors either.
There are all sorts of broken families as a result of the few who have the courage, or are insane enough, to stay there. Barbara Gordon is one of those people. Well, not that she really had a choice in this matter, her family was heading down a path of disintegration, regardless of her actions. After all, she can make a choice. On one side, his father, Chief of Police James Gordon, one of the toughest and most upstanding men to have ever passed through Gotham's law enforcement agency, and on the other, his mother, from whom she inherited her name and appearance, and who she was very close to, as much as she didn't like to admit it. They were both taking different paths, and she was in the middle.
Apparently, the two of them loved her enough to give her the option of choice: Who would she like to be with, where would she like to structure her life? With his father in Gotham City, where she grew up to this day and survives day to day? Or with her mother, somewhere far away from Gotham, Metropolis, Star, Central or any other city that is plagued by demons beyond comprehension, where they can live out their days in peace and build a humble life? As James and Barbara argued, their daughter turned her eyes on which path she would like to take, what fate could a 14-year-old girl choose to have? She thought of her parents' plight, the lack of love that triggered the end of a life together, a years-long relationship that ended with two broken people. She didn't want that.
In fact, the mere thought that she might, in the future, be doomed to become like her parents, living a bitter life of difficult choices in a future that didn't please either side, really left her heart in her throat. After much thought, in her intimate, she came to the inevitable conclusion of her heart. It was when she left her room, finding herself, for the last time, with the figure of her parents sitting together at the table, silent, that she joined them to give the floor.
- Dad, mom… – She almost whispered – I know where I want to be.
Her mother held out her hand, hoping that her daughter would grab her and the two could run away, but she was shocked when Barbara II slowly reached out and innocently grabbed her father's hand, who was staring at the floor and did not notice his daughter's act until he felt the touch of her hand. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes, expressing a confused smile.
- Barbara… Please. Don't stay in Gotham, come with me! — The mother pleaded, still with her hand raised — We agreed that the choice should be yours, but I'm begging you…
- Mom… I want to live my life the way it already is. Look… I don't want to run away from what I already have. I realized that I'd rather fight than… You know, run away from it all. There's a lot here that I'm grateful for, and don't get me wrong, but… But I'd rather go through the pain of losing just you than everything else.
- Daughter, are you sure…? — Jim was in disbelief, squeezing his daughter's hand tightly
- But…. Your brother goes with your mother.
- Someone has to take care of you.
Barbara's eyes filled with sweetness and compassion met those of her father, who responded to his daughter's affection by holding her hand with both of his hands. The daughter now watched her mother sadly, the tears in the woman's eyes running down her skin. Her curly hair leaned in front of her face, hiding her eyes in the shadows. Barbara II let go of her father and approached her, giving a hug. She returned the hug, squeezing harder than ever. It was after a day of organizing and packing boxes and suitcases that the whole family gathered in front of the building where they lived, an old building in Old Gotham, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Jim and Barbara II found themselves in front of Barbara and Jim Junior, their mother's car waiting for them to get in after the moving truck drove off.
- Send us news. And you better show up for Christmas! — The daughter rebooked, joking, but her smile was fake
- I'm going to miss you, little sister. — Jim Jr Noted
- Take care, idiot.
- That's it... — James stared at his new ex-wife — I really hope you’ll be happy. Seriously, I don't want anything more for you. I… I just love you two so much. A piece of me goes with you.
- Oh… — Barbara hugged her ex-husband, who returned the hug — I love you too. Take care of our daughter for us, all right? I wouldn't entrust this task to anyone but you.
The adults, who were about to walk different paths in their lives, looked at each other deeply one last time, and also shared a last kiss. The whole family hugged each other again and, in a few quick steps, two people got into the old car and headed for the Metropolis airport. Jim and young Barbara watched until the vehicle was out of sight, and they both went back inside. James sat down in the living room again, on the table were the divorce papers already signed and headed for legal processing. He stared at them for a while, and Barbara knew he would need that time alone before he could comfort his father. She went back to her room, and opened her laptop. She needed something to distract her from the situation that always throws kids her age into an existential crisis.
No, she was a Gothamite, she didn't have time to afford a crisis of that caliber. It was time for her to do what every 14-year-old ends up doing at one time or another: wallow in a juvenile obsession. A lot of girls could say it was a taste for books, or fashion, or romantic relationships, or all of that all at once and mixed up, but Barbara was a little more… Quirky. No, what she and her best friend liked to do was ramble through the dark, fantasy world of the darkest city on Earth. Figures like the urban legends of Solomon Grundy and the Court of Owls have always peppered the city's collective imagination, and the emergence of even more fairytale-like criminals like the Joker and the Riddler made it all the more elusive.
Not that she really knew all that. Of course, all this knowledge was unofficial. Woe to anyone who knew that Jim Gordon tells of the secret cases solved by the most emblematic figure in the world of Barbara's obsessions: The Dark Knight himself. Not even the police knew if Batman was what Gotham's underworld said about him. A half-man, half-bat figure who comes after the culprits to try them for their crimes against the innocent, living within the shadows of night in the gothic metropolis. The tales were fanciful like local folklore, but the effect was real like the terrorist mega-criminals. There was no way to know if Batman was really just a local legend supported by some kind of vigilante, or if indeed a cavernous demon had emerged from the city's catacombs, aroused by the innocent's thirst for vengeance. Or if it could even be both.
There were not even confirmed images of the creature, which only fueled the imagination of Barbara, her friend Dick, and also of the entire police department, who kept the little evidence of the possible existence of the vigilante locked inside the city police station. Having a relative on the subject really helped the girl make all sorts of theories and speculations. She opened a video call with Dick. The boy's face was calm and not as animated as usual, which caught young Gordon's attention.
- Hello? Earth to Dick?
- Hi… How are things there?
- Why do you ask?
- You know...
- Ah... That. I'm trying not to think about it, and you're not helping! — She joked with her friend, forcing a smile.
- Fair. Sorry, Babs. What's the matter then?
- I ask you. What could it be?
- Right… “onlineforuns.com/silentprotector”
- Ah yes. All reports of our bat's appearances. — Barbara shifted in her chair, anxious — Did you see anything interesting there?
- Actually, I went back to see his composite portrait again, it always leaves me breathless.
Barbara proceeded to the same link she shared with Dick over the past few days. A professional forensic designer sketched the appearance discussed widely in the forum's virtual domain. His appearance was surreal: A tall silhouette all covered in black, his shoulders pointed and his wings, or whatever that cloak of darkness could be, trailing across the floor. And the only visible part of his body, his face, a darkened facade with few human expressions, straight pointed ears raised above his head and the mesmerizing white eyes staring at anyone, even through the piece of paper floating around the internet.
It became so famous that it ended up being profiled on the online forum the children frequented. But soon, Barbara went back to surfing the pages and publications of the site, until something in particular caught her attention, sending the article to her friend as well. Something had sparked the young teenager's eyes, and Grayson had noticed it as soon as he looked back into her eyes through his own computer screen.
- Close reports of Batman in Old Gotham locales! — Barbara exclaimed, expressing a high-pitched, high-spirited note at the end.
- “Witnesses report a gigantic figure of a bat circling the shadows of the poorest areas of the city. Two of our users can confidently say that the report is real and that something, or someone, is stoking the curiosity of Gotham City's dark angel.” — Dick read the first paragraph of the page that contained the report — Ha! It's too good to be true, huh Babs. We just need to stop by to check out the activities of the vigilante himself, huh?
- Batman, here in my neighborhood…
- Babs? — He exclaimed, already knowing the state of his friend's reaction — Don't even think about it.
- But Dick, it's Batman! — She exclaimed, raising her hands to the computer screen, pleading.
- Do you want to at least read the rest of the article? — Richard replied, impatient.
- Oh. Fine. — And then she continued where he had left off — “The exact location of the sighting was at the intersection of Kane Street and Finger Street, near the only cluster of buildings in Old Gotham, including the old Clock Tower, which marks the point of inauguration of the municipality as a city-state in 1939. The square in front of the Tower was where he disappeared, plummeting from the top of it to some kind of unidentified figure, who quickly carried the Dark Knight away from the place, according to the better approximation through the testimony of users.”
- Uh-oh… – Dick exclaimed, knowing he had just made the situation worse.
- It's… Five blocks from my house!
- Okay, “Dad”…!
- Oh, come on, I'm saving you from hunting a guy who doesn't even care about our existence!
- He's a hero!
- Oh, bat girl, you don't need to make this clearer than you usually do! — He scoffed, widening his eyes and sticking out the tip of his tongue.
- Jerk — She retorted, joking, but with a hint of annoyance in her voice — Tell me if you at least have plans for us tomorrow, I need to do something other than study on a Monday.
- Ah, Flying Grayson to the rescue! I had the idea to visit the old harbor there, I learned that there is speculation of an entrance to one of Gotham's sorcerers' catacombs somewhere on the coast.
- Okay… I can accept that. — Barbara shook her head slowly, eyes narrowed, smirking.
The two laughed. Soon, Barbara had to say goodbye and start solving her schoolwork. Dick had his too, but he's not the one with attention deficit, let alone the same tasks as her. The fact that the two were in different classes was always something that bothered them at these moments. Not being able to count on his help for these things the way she had his presence for so many other things the two of them had done together. “Ah…” she started to think to herself, picking up her binder, “I remember the time we filled Cletus' bag, that douche, with rotten eggs and threw them out the headmistress' window just as she passed. I don't know how I would spend my days without him there. There and everywhere else, to be honest, every place he's ever taken me… Not to mention the time he passed me by the back of his parents' circus to see a performance for free. What were the performances of the mythical 'Flying Graysons' like in the glory days?”
So, suddenly, Barbara became aware of the binder in her hands again. There came the attention deficit again. At those times, she didn't know whether to be angry at this behavior or to be extremely apathetic. Well, she tried to focus with the task at hand, she wouldn't want any of her teachers picking on the lack of… What did they call it? Proactivity on her part. Eventually, she managed to finish her chores and share a dinner with her father. But the thought of the guardian of darkness still inhabited the young woman's deep thoughts. There was no time, even when she finally lay down, when she didn't think about the appearance so close to the hero of her heart, there was no bad time to remember that a dark warrior was out there, defending the lives of people like her, of those who can only dream of a bright future that lies ahead of every citizen of that city.