Gotham: It’s a bad part of town. A poor part of town. The sky sits thick and gray in the sky. The streets and gutters are full of trash, grit and grime. Broken windows hang in dilapidated buildings that unfortunately it seems apparent people still inhabit. Yet in all this the most eerie unnatural thing is the emptiness. No bums, no boozers, thugs, vagrants or dealers. No feral animals or people just trying to survive. All is quiet, empty…but necessary.
Only the quiet rustle of movement can be heard in the form of a loose manhole cover that sits over the old transit tunnel down below.
“It’s an old system.”
He thinks to himself.
“Too old. Yet they keep it running. The city never seems able to budget in for repairs so it gets pushed back, forgotten, but no matter…that’s what I’m counting on.”
Batman’s all too familiar shadow looms in what little light there is in the tunnel when a squeaky, high-pitched sound pierces the air and he turns, disappearing into the shadows.
“The GCPD will be waiting, will be ready. His demands are petty enough; money in so many terms. He’s just another petty thug; another product of Gotham’s miscreant legacy.”
The scratchy railway makes for a turbulent ride, one made even more uncomfortable by the shaking man who stands with two guns and a bomb strapped to his chest aimed at the passengers in a closed off section of the subway. These are innocent people; working class, parents, and children.
“Maybe even just a kid himself. Maybe a father who can’t buy bread, a son who needs medicine, but it doesn’t matter, we all have a story and he made his choice…”
His jaw sets firm against his conscience objections.
“…and I can’t risk the hostages.”
Suddenly the train lurches screaming as if in pain.
“The conductor pulls the emergency brake.”
He repeats calmly to himself, more of a rundown then a reminder as the train’s lights illuminate the tunnel as momentum continues its pull forward, highlighting the midnight dwellers sleeping overhead, with one familiar form among them.
“Got to time this right…”
As the first compartment passes under he descends and soon the back of the train is separated from the first three cars and is left behind falling into darkness as the separate compartment continues its now accelerated stop with the assailant and what’s left of the hostages leaving the rest behind.
“Momentum and magnetic force should do the rest…”
Batman dives forward from the stalled section of train to the now 20ft distant of the yet speeding section.
“I’m not a praying man.”
The train screeches to a full stop causing the shaky thug to stumble and trip backwards over the lip of section separator and onto his back.
*Bang!* A frantic finger, clutches for control, for desperate superiority, pulling the trigger of the gun as he lands. A bullet hits the ceiling. Quickly he rolls dodging the ping-back, embarrassed and quickly losing what he sees as his power and leverage he comes up firing blinding two more rounds into what would have been the hostages but is now just the sections compartment door.
He opens eyes quickly assessing his situation,
“They are just on the other side.”
His mind tries to sooth him with the idea that it was just a triggered response to his fall.
He says out loud trying to bluff the falling pit of despondence growing within his stomach.
He wipes a sweaty upper lip. Looking around at this empty cart, feeling overwhelmed by the stillness of his surroundings he kicks open the door separator only to find that the other cart is gone. He is faced with nothing but the dark tunnel.
It escapes his breathless voice, his eyes widen in horrified realization. It is over, but he doesn’t want to face the reality of his failure. He shoots into the darkness as he stumbles, disoriented, out of train.
*Bang! Bang! Bang!* He stops as he hears something behind him, he quickly jerks around *Bang!* a bat shrieks out of the darkness past his head. Just a bat. He laughs at his own panicky paranoia. Just a stupid bat. He laughs out loud. Then turning around he slams straight into Batman’s chest falling to ground dazed by the brick wall effect leaving Batman’s imposing figure looming over him the bomb he once strapped to his chest in hand.
From a bird’s eye view he watches like a gargoyle on the rooftops edge. The streets below are full of hustle and bustle of panic control: the would-be hostages being checked out, warmed and soothed by ambulances and medical staff. The crazy thug now dazed and resigned to being led off in handcuffs by the GCPD followed by the gaggle of news reporters and camera crews begging for a statement.
Gordon comes walking up casually from behind.
“As always; one step and appreciated.”
Batman does not turn, makes no start or indicated acknowledgment, he just stares over the edge of building and into the hollow meaning of Gotham’s now daily grind.
“Just another mindless crime and pointless criminal.”
Gordon comes beside Batman, hands in pockets looking out at the fading day’s rays of light and silver lining.
“It’s another rat out of the hole.”
“Yet there are still so many, out there and left.”
His eyes, like slits of light amongst the dark night, move to eye Gordon without any other movement.
“I heard you let someone in.”
He is referring to Mirrianna Savauge.
“And you clearly disapprove?”
Gordon has to laugh at his friend’s ever extensive knowledge of the coming and goings of Gotham.
“Do you really think it wise?”
His tone is straight forward enough, no laced edge or ulterior undercurrent. In his own way showing that he trusts and values Gordon’s opinion.
“No. I think it’s necessary.”
Gordon leans a foot on the edge of roof, leaning forward on leg, impassioned by his own convictions.
“You know I would like nothing more than to shove his ass away in some dark hole and forget about him until we can no longer ignore the smell of rotting decay, but it’s not gonna happen. It can’t. We’ve both been given the option to end it or let it end, to play it his way, and we’ve both made the same choice. We know it’s not our option. So, better to gain the advantage and arm ourselves with more knowledge; get more players on our side.”
“Better, I think, not to provide him the chance to move at all.”
Gordon is a bit exasperated by Batman’s critical skepticism.
“He is in separate premises, high security, solo-solitary confinement. I personally watch every single personal interaction.”
His tone is a little short, however Batman’s remains cool and confident.
“It’s still Arkham.”
“And we’re never quite prepared. I’m trying to change that, and I don’t need your approval. What I want is for you to understand that I take none of this lightly.”
Gordon is afire with his own righteous perspective, but deep down he is also desperately trying to convince himself out of his own apprehensions.
“The single point of the matter is the rats exist because of the holes they have to hide in. You plug ‘em up, you shine the light and they scatter.”
Gordon stands ready to take his leave.
“Take away the masks they can’t own it. Remove the punch line and the joke falls flat.”
“The riddles no good.”
Batman says quietly to himself, his mind on another matter all together as something beyond this resonates striking and unsettling a cord.
“What was that?”
At last Batman stands to his full height.
“I’ll be watching.”
And with that and one turn of the cape he swoops from rooftop and into the night disappearing into the darkness with the rest of the night dwellers leaving Gordon to chew on the scene of unsettled doubts.
“And I’ll be trying not to have that cigarette.”
Batman swoops through the Gotham city jungle as he has done a hundred times before. It is second nature to him as his thoughts take the forefront going back to a time he thought buried with his childhood best friend.
He and Nightwing were in the Batcave; Nightwing hanging from the ceiling in his acrobatic nature of showmanship as Batman was working to solve his current nightmares mystery when their conversation had turned to the Joker:
“He’s escaped what seventeen times?”
Nightwing’s words seem to echo through his thoughts as Batman now arrives at the Batcave. He drops cowl on the monitor of his master computer as he himself leans over the industrial monitor on clenched fists.
He responds to the ghost of time past. He looks up to clear his vision only to find himself reflected in the memorial case which holds Jason Todds uniform. His jaw sets, biting down on the convictions of his skepticism.
“Who will be next?”
Time has passed: Batman now sits hunched, face in hands, in the chair that sits before his vast networking system, exhausted and frustrated as all that shows on the large monitor’s screen is the word “Searching”.
Alfred appears behind him.
“Not now Alfred.”
Unconcerned with his “master’s” mood or requests, Alfred does not balk.
“Yes I am aware that you are ‘busy’, but I had thought you might be interested to know that someone has requested an audience with yourself on the Commissioners referral.”
Bruce rubs eyes disinterested in this underwhelming development.
“Is that so?”
Alfred indulges his mood, with the upper hand pride in the knowledge of what he is about to say.
“In fact it just so happens to be one Dr. Mirrianna…”
Just then the screen reveals its search results on one Dr. Mirrianna…