Batman: A New World

Chapter 18: Flight of Fancy

Flight of Fancy

by Brian Mark

On the big night in question, Bruce had just arrived home, only this time he was accompanied by Harvey Dent. They had met at a private function, and Harvey was trying his very best to interest Bruce in a business proposition.

- But it makes perfect sense, Bruce. Dentsec currently updates it's already up-to-date, state-of-the-art security systems, a field, I know for a fact, that Wayne Technologies has never sought to explore. ( Little could he know ! ).

- Look Uncle, Wayne Manor is already well served with its security.

- Bruce, I have been coming here for how long now ? The countless paintings and antiques, that you and your family have acquired over the years, must be worth an absolute fortune ! Back at Headquarters we have reason to believe that one of the gang responsible for the old arson attacks might have resurfaced and has already tried to burn down one of the city's mansions, and I have never seen any sign of security here, since your Father died.

- Now Uncle, just because you can't see any sign of security doesn't mean that it isn't there.

- Point taken, Bruce, point taken. But, for instance, take that small musket mounted on the wall over there. That has got to be worth a fortune on its own. What is it anyway ? I have never seen anything quite like it before.

Bruce was really hard pressed to give any answer to that question, as indeed his Father would have been, since, of course, they didn't actually own most of the objets d'art adorning Wayne Manor ! Fortunately, just at that moment, Alfred emerged from one of the adjoining rooms, porting a light and magnifying glass unit around his forehead !

- Ah, I thought I heard voices. Is there anything that I can get you, Sirs ?

- ( Bruce looking to Harvey ) No, thank you Alfred, but Mr. Dent just happened to be admiring our little musket here.

- ( Appreciating Bruce's predicament ) Ah yes, Sir, if you remember, you wanted the junior boy's musket cleaned and returned back, for a time, with the rest of the Sir Henry Knott Collection, and Late 18th Century pieces. I must apologise, Sir, it must have slipped my attention.

- Ah, quite so Alfred, quite so. Just don't let it happen again. Well, Uncle, it's like Alfred has just said. The musket was especially made for a junior boy, quite possibly the son of the celebrated gunsmith, Sir Henry Knott.

- ( Harvey whispering to Bruce ) Honestly, Bruce you ask way too much of that guy. Why, you treat him more like a slave than a butler ! You could afford to employ any number of staff here, and you only have this poor guy ?

- ( Bruce whispering back ) Honestly, Uncle, Alfred wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, he insists on it If I told him, that we needed! extra help, it would be the end. He would leave immediately !

- Actually Bruce, I wouldn't mind having a word with Alfred, if you don't mind.

- No, not at all. Be my guest.

- ( Alfred to Harvey ) I was just working in the lower drawing-room, if you would care to walk this way, Sir.

- Now come on Alfred, ... Mac, ... you can cut out the routine with me. Remember you and I go way back.

- ( Entering the drawing room ) Honestly Sir, this is no act. Since my unfortunate period of ill-health, all those years ago, I have little recollection of large parts of my life before, and, if anything, I would care not to look to engage in conversation about my life prior thereto.

- I quite understand, Alfred. ( Alfred pulls a dust cover away from a vast tabletop in the room, to reveal a layout of model soldiers, which last belonged to Harvey, and to Thomas Wayne. He is shocked, suffers a profound sense of guilt and goes as white as a sheet. ) My goodness, Alfred, I didn't expect to see those after so many years.

- ( Puzzled a little at Dent's response and appearance ) Ah yes, the Battle of Waterloo. One believes some of one's ancestors fought there, ... on both sides of one's family.

- ( Still feeling quite awkward ) Really, Alfred. Mind you, given your military background, why does that surprise me ?

- ( He starts painting one soldier very meticulously.) Yes, one's Great Great Great Grandfather served as a boy in the 73rd Highlander Regiment, and another of the same generation, on one's Father's side, with the 95th Rifles. One's Maternal Grandfather served in the Black Watch on the eve of D Day, and was part of an ill-fated commando raid, that hadn't been cancelled, as it should have been, when the Invasion was delayed for one day. All, but one, of his comrades were killed, in a barn on the Normandy coast. He was taken prisoner, but later escaped, and joined up with a group of partisans, supported by the celebrated Paddy Mayne, who commanded the British S.A.S. Hence, why one was interested in the Regiment, when the time came to join.

- Ah, I see. I never knew that, Alfred. But, why are you putting so much effort into repainting those soldiers ? Surely, just the impression of detail should be enough, when there are so many of them. No one would notice the odd blemish here or there.

- Begging Sir's pardon, but ONE would notice. In any case, one is only repainting the incredible detail, that was already once there. It seems that Master Thomas's father expended great effort in adding such detail, for the pleasure of his son and his friend.

Another big revelation for Harvey Dent. Such an act of love would have been alien to his own father.

Just then, he hears the sound of an alarm ringing.

- What's that, Alfred ?

- Ah, that would be the egg-timer, Sir. .. I believe the Master's eggs are ready. He likes them hard-boiled.

Then Bruce Wayne appears around the doorway, to say that he has just been paged, and that he won't be staying for supper.

Then Harvey Dent receives a phone call, ( He says nothing, only listens ) ... " Everyone in place, do we have your OK to proceed ? "

- Hold on a minute. ... I am at Wayne Manor. I'll call you back.

Both Bruce and Harvey say together:

- Sorry, I have to go.

Harvey leaves.

- ( Bruce heading with Alfred, hurriedly for the next room, and a rather unusual computer configuration ! ) What is it, Alfred ? I heard the alarm.

- ( Listening in to Fire Service communications.) It would seem that you have what you want, Master Bruce. There 's a fire at the Castle Towers Apartment Block. An elderly woman trapped in a Tower ... the West Wing.

- Why, that's in the centre of Gotham, not far from Wayne Tower. Perfect ! I 'm on my way !

He heads out, leaps into his sports car, and takes the underpass route straight to Wayne Tower. He swipes his private admission card, enters, and takes the elevator.

- Roof Top Heliport. ( The elevator begins its steady ascent ) Come on, he says in frustration, come on !

He reaches the Roof Top, changes quickly into his suit, and hooks up to the Hang-Glider. He uses his binoculars. He can see the fire burning brightly at the Castle Towers building. The tower there has caught fire, and it is way out of control. The first of a number of fire tenders has already arrived. It's Ladder 21, his old Search and Rescue Unit !

- Well, here goes, he says to himself. ( And running as fast as he can off the building ) Geronimo !

Fox's glider works like a charm. Bruce, looking batlike ( but only just ! ) swoops down towards the Castle Tower. One of the Firecrew notices him coming.

- What the hell is that ? Is it a bird ? Is it a plane ?

Bruce is about to make a pinpoint landing, when, all of a sudden, there is a massive rush of flame ! He has to make a sudden adjustment, and slams, somewhat, into a wall next to the balcony, where the woman is shouting for help. Somehow, he manages to hold on to stone ornamentation all around, and, still hooked up to the Glider, he edges toward the woman, and climbs on to the balcony.

- ( To the woman ) Put your arms around my chest and squeeze !

Bruce is about to launch themselves off, when, suddenly, a man appears in the room. He is coughing, and also looking to escape the flames.

- Ah, .. problem, ... Bruce thinks to himself.

But the problem is even greater than that. For the guy is carrying a heavy calibre pistol ! He goes to fire at Bruce.

Bruce turns suddenly, crouching, and shielding the woman. The man fires, and Bruce feels he is hit. The impact is shattering, but, somehow, he recovers his composure, and says to the woman:

- Hold on !

And off they jump, the Glider taking both safely to the ground, to a quiet spot, well away from prying eyes.

- There you go, old woman, he says.

- Do I look like an old woman to you, Buster ? She says.

And, as he looks at her again, he can see that, there before him, stands a very attractive mature woman, who couldn't possibly ever have been described as old !

- My apologies, Miss.

- Mrs. .. actually. ... Nice work. ... O my God, you 're hurt !

- It's nothing, it's just a scratch.

- You'll have to get that seen to. ... Now, what was I saying ? Ah yes, nice work. ( Bruce acknowledges with a muted thank you. ) But what's with the suit ?

- I 'M BATMAN, he replies, and discreetly makes his exit.

The Fire Authorities successfully battle the blaze, and the paramedics carry an unidentified man, with burns to his face, and gasping for breath, to an awaiting ambulance.

Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor ...

- Why Master Bruce, you 've been hurt !

Suddenly Bruce's mind goes back to the many times, in his childhood, Alfred would say that, then tend to his wounds. That night, it was no different.

Alfred goes down to the main greenhouse at the Manor and brings up some leaves from one of his rare plants, together with a bowl of honey.

- What are you doing, Alfred ? ... And what are those leaves you are breaking up ?

- ( Breaking the leaves in little pieces, then spitting on them to make a type of paste. ) The leaves are from a rare form of tea plant, that we would use in the jungle, for treating flesh wounds, Sir. It possesses both anaesthetic and antibiotic properties, as does human saliva. And finally, some Manuka Honey, nature's best medicine, Master Bruce.

- Oh, right ... Great, that's really handy. I was beginning to wonder, how I was going to explain all this at Gotham General. Yeah, I guess Lucius isn't quite as good as I thought he was. ... Aaah (As Alfred probes away at his wound) Ha, maybe I have found a chink in his armour, .. or rather, ... mine.

- Yes, very droll, Master Bruce, very droll... But, as a matter of fact, I rather think you owe Mr Fox both an apology and a profound debt of gratitude.

- Really, why so ?

- ( Removing the bullet from between Bruce's body armour and flesh, applying the paste to the wound, then holding the bullet up to the light ) This ... is a high calibre round. It packs rather a heavy punch, if one may say so. In one's humble estimation, that bullet, if I am not very much mistaken, would have easily penetrated Kevlar at that range, ... and killed the poor unfortunate wearing it.

- And yet, it only just made it through the material Lucius designed.

- Quite so, Sir, ... Quite so.

- Here, turn the television on. Let's see if we have made the news yet ?

- And that concludes our news on the hour, the day that a mysterious knight in shining armour, dressed like a bat, rescued Mrs. Victoria Bross, the mother of the new owner of this television news station, Mr. Warner Bross, the night that his new home was nearly burned to the ground, in what is believed to have been the latest in a new series of arson attacks. This is Gotham News Network, wishing you goodnight.

- Now, that is what I call instant good publicity, Alfred, ... a News Media Tycoon, ay ?

Finally, over in Gotham General Hospital.

A guard has been placed outside the room of the armed man suspected of starting the blaze at the apartments, ... a single guard, ... a police guard, .. a S.W.A.T. Team guard, from S.W.A.T. Team Six ! He looks both left and right, before surreptitiously entering the room. The alarm sounds at the Night Nurse Station. The Guard returns to his post. The arsonist is found dead. The symptoms all bear the signs, that the patient finally succumbed to delayed asphyxiation, an opinion borne out by a special appointee at the Coroner's Office.

- ( Dent to Commissioner Gordon ) Most unfortunate, Commissioner. Our best possible lead so far, and he dies in his own fire. ...

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