Chapter 13: Bruce The Man
Bruce The Man !
by Brian Mark
I said, last time, that Bruce wanted to get into the heads of his enemies at Gotham High. Let me explain, what he had in mind !
He had always been a bit of a late developer, had Bruce. He was always amongst the smallest boys in his year, throughout his high school career, something else that would account for the bullying. This also left him somewhat at sea, when it came to members of the opposite sex ! Of course, there was no shortage of interest in him from girls in Gotham High. Fortunately for Bruce, he was able to discern when money was more important than meaning.
All this was to change, some 15 months before his Graduation, when he was to discover, that he had a flair for basketball ! Ok, he might not have been tall, but he WAS agile, thanks to the efforts of his beloved Butler, during what were to prove to be rather numerous lessons in the art of self-defense ! Once his commitment to play started to grow, his constant mentor converted one of the Manor's vast rooms into a basketball court, and the rest is history !
What fuelled such a desire to excel at basketball ?
It was an opportunity to penetrate the very consciousness of the 'Mob', and register a blow against them once and for all, a chance to 'wipe the slate clean'. The 'little rich runt' would supplant the prowess of even the best amongst them, and progress on to achieve record success at College Level. What is more, Bruce would invite a number of his friends, rejected by the team for no apparent reason, and help them to progress too !
In this regard, he was very much a kindred spirit of the young Oswald Cobblepot, and soon, a significant proportion of the 'Mob' had had to give way to young men, who needed no extra motivation, other than finally being given the opportunity to prove themselves, and to play with a passion ! Now, this really got into the mind of Bruce's enemies, but there was nothing, effectively, they could do about it.
Bruce became Captain of the Team. He was just too good, ousting the School Alpha Male from the position with ease. Bruce's year as Captain was to be a record-breaking one, with Gotham High winning the National Championship for the first time in it's history ! He was easily the Team's top scorer, and had an absolute stream of female admirers. Finally, Bruce made up for years of drought in that department, and there were one or two acquaintances, that were to leave their mark on the young man.
And his was also to be a very successful college career, and would leave with Firsts in Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, together with memories of two fellow human beings, who considered themselves to be ex-girlfriends ! He also joined the College Basketball Team, and helped it reach some not insignificant local success.
Well, isn't it funny how history often repeats itself, certainly in the world of Gotham ? ! ... For, just when the Senior Executives and Trustees at Wayne Enterprises were expecting him to join them as C.E.O., Bruce announced his intention, not to join the Family Business, but to become a Search and Rescue specialist with Gotham's Fire and Emergency Response Unit ! Of course, His Great Aunt Harriot was very disappointed:
- Of course, I'm very disappointed, Bruce.
But, on the other hand, she was very proud of her only Great Nephew, nonetheless:
- But, on the other hand, I am very proud of my only Great Nephew, nonetheless !
Alfred, of course, well understood the young man's desire to make the world a better place, and to help people, as opposed to entering into the rather murky world of big business, a decision that his Father, Tom, had occasionally discussed with his friend, 'Mac', all those years before. Then Alfred, though people often saw his previous profession in rather 'macho' terms, preferred to see his chosen profession in terms of public service, protection and safeguarding those at risk, in the face of danger. In this, he was not alone. Most of his colleagues, like him, were rather unassuming people you would never know were in the World's most famous Special Forces and Anti-Terrorism Regiment, 22 S.A.S.; and, of course, he had been involved in more than his fair share of rescues !
The exact nature of the vocation his young employer had chosen for himself, did come somewhat as a shock to him, however, given that it would at times entail entering the dark, enclosed environments of caves and collapsed buildings, since the Bruce Wayne, HE knew, had always, under certain circumstances, demonstrated all the classic symptoms of claustrophobia !
- ( Bruce ) I know what you're thinking, Alfred. how can he possibly do a job, that will often take him into enclosed spaces, when he suffers from claustrophobia? I've decided to do, what you've always taught me to do, to face my fears big time. That's where you come in!
Whereupon, even before he began his official training with the Fire Department's Search and Rescue Unit, Bruce embarked on a radical, strict training regimen all of his own, or, rather, Alfred's. This was akin to the very survival training, to which this unassuming Butler had been subjected, by HIS Instructors in the Regiment:
1. Pot-Holing under the foundations of the Manor, BLINDFOLDED, and in the freezing cold ! ... As Alfred explained at the time, members of his regiment might have to live in drains, escaping from the clutches of rigorous search teams, conducting routine surveillance, or seeking to gain secret access to a building on a mission.
2 And long-distance underwater swimming, his hands tied behind his back, in the Manor swimming pool, and in the freezing cold ! Alfred had already switched the regulators and thermostat off two nights before, and was shoveling ice by the barrel load into the water, as Bruce began his twenty lengths, and that was just for starters ! In what Bruce might regard as a rare moment of indiscretion on his Butler's part, Alfred even sat and watched him go through the ordeal, while drinking hot coffee, and reading the newspaper ! That's what his instructors had done for him, and so, he considered it all part of the training ! In jobs like these, you have to put all thoughts of comforts and luxuries aside, even when they are to the very forefront of your mind. As tough as the training proved to be, it worked, it worked !
His very first day on the job was to prove very disappointing, however. Returning from a visit to the local caves outside Gotham, a member of the public had reported hearing a faint voice, as if calling for help. Ladder 21 of the Fire Department's Search and Rescue Unit was dispatched immediately, his Ladder ! But they couldn't find anyone, after extensive searching, and at considerable risk to themselves. they found no one that day, and no one was ever found.
Fire Officer Wayne was to greatly distinguish himself as a Search and Rescue Worker, both in the eyes of those he would help to rescue, and in those of his fellows, sometimes to the point of recklessness. He would place himself at unnecessary risk, something which was frowned upon in the Service, since, if you found yourself in trouble, then your colleagues had to place themselves at unnecessary risk as well. As the Chief so succinctly put it:
In the Fire Service, we are in the business of helping the citizen in trouble, not becoming one ourselves !
And, once again, Bruce became a focus of attention for the ladies, but, this time, Bruce could quickly discern love for a uniform, not for the man wearing it.
Nothing in his life, not even his basketball triumphs, could compare to the adrenalin rush, he would get, when his services would be required by the Chopper Squad, dangling from ropes, and grabbing damsels in distress ! Those were the missions he would most remember !
Yet, there were to be two aspects of his overall experience in Search and Rescue, that were to dishearten the young man, and, ultimately, bring to a premature end his career as part of the Service.
One was the fact, that, far too often, the people he had come to rescue were being subjected to violence, and this was something he could do absolutely nothing about. There were times, when, even he and his friends might be fired upon, when attempting a rescue. This was his Uncle Harvey's department, and that of his S.W.A.T. Teams. Little could he have known, that the very man responsible for stopping it was also responsible for starting it, ... and keeping it going.
The second was the fact, that there were times, when the ladders just weren't long enough, and the staircases above those levels were out. The winds and flames, not to mention the smoke, were just too high and strong to use a chopper. Why wasn't the technology available to reach the men, women and children he saw burning to death under those circumstances ? Here was he, a billionaire, able at any time to commission and pay for such technology, and yet there was none.
- A hang-glider, Chief, that would get me to the floor we just can't access.
- It's just not possible. You'd just get yourself killed. Anyway, the City just doesn't have the money !
Well, after a lot of thought and soul-searching, Bruce decided, that, again, his life would take yet another course. He would leave the Search and Rescue Service, and become C.E.O. of Wayne Enterprises. But this was not the different course ! He had decided to use the finances and technology of his late Father's business empire, to invest and innovate in areas of research and development, that would benefit ordinary people, starting with Fire, Search and Rescue !
He would right the wrongs he had experienced as part of an under-funded Emergency Response System. Little wonder, that Bruce Wayne would come to earn the respect of one Oswald Cobblepot !
But he was also going to go it alone, and try to make a difference all by himself, using the vast resources at his disposal, and a number of not insignificant skills. He was going to be the world of rescue's answer to a vigilante ! But he would need others, if he was going to go it alone ! He would need Alfred. And he would need a technical genius to head up a new department in Wayne Enterprises, a technical innovator such as the World had never seen ! He would advertise for the post of Head of Wayne Enterprises' Technical Innovations. He would need Lucius Fox !