Batman: A New World

Chapter 26: The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

( Earlier that day ) A man is sitting in a crowded subway train, reading a newspaper ( With a Batman headline !). He suddenly suffers a dramatic heart attack. The crowd are stunned and helpless. A mysterious male passer-by is walking down the passageway. He stops, and immediately begins to administer rapid CPR, clearly demonstrating he knows what he is doing. The man stops breathing. His airways are blocked. He loses consciousness. The stranger asks:

- Has anybody got a pen ?

Someone obliges. He takes out a penknife, and begins to perform an emergency tracheotomy. The crowd are amazed, as they look on. He cuts into the man's throat, and, after a few anxious moments, inserts the make-shift tube. The man regains consciousness, coughing, then begins to breathe normally again, through the tube. The crowd applauds. The stranger simply says:

- Thank you, thank you. ( In a strangely familiar and mildly self-gratified tone ! )

We cannot see his face. He moves on, leaving that section of the train. He is wearing a green suit !

The train stops. The paramedics arrive. Later in Gotham General, a Doctor is examining the man's throat. He says to the man:

- Wow ! Today was your lucky day, my friend. That guy must be some Doctor. Not only did your mysterious miracle- man bring you back from the dead, but he performed the most amazing tracheotomy-with- complications, that I have ever seen !

Meanwhile, in Wayne Manor, Alfred is serving Bruce afternoon tea. The billionaire tycoon is watching the news channel.

- One lump or two, Master Bruce ?

- Oh, one, please, Alfred. I'm trying to cut down.

- ... And that concludes our news report from around the world today, on the day that seismologists, based here in Gotham, detected shock waves from, what seems to have been the first recorded bursting of an ice-water dam in living memory, in the farthest reaches of Alaska. Early reports appear to confirm, that there were no casualties. The Government has since confirmed, that its two facilities in the area inundated were both totally unmanned.

- Miss Cooper will not be joining us, Master Bruce ?

- Ah, no, Alfred, Aunt Harriot has gone to a Charity Rummage Sale downtown. ... Our feline friend hasn' t been active again ?

- No, I believe not, Sir. Why the question ?

- It's just, if we are going to uncover her true identity, we are going to need some more information. … I fed the name of the victim into the 'Q ' ( Bruce' s name for the Bat Computer ), along with the interest in cats, and her gymnastic abilities, but, apart from Salina Kyle, it has come up with a total blank ! …. Oh, I almost forgot. .. You know, Alfred, there is something I've been meaning to ask you, for a very long time.

- Yes, Master Bruce ?

- Where did you learn to be such a perfect Butler, ... Buckingham Palace ( Laughing ) ?

- Well, as a matter of fact ...

- Oh, you've got to be kidding me, right ?

- Sir Humphrey Pilkingdon Smythe, that was his name, Personal Equerry To Her Majesty. One learned all one needed to know from studying him everyday. .. You see, Her Majesty's regular Bodyguard in the Palace had taken ill, and one was assigned in his place for six months.

- Alfred, you have done it again ! ... But hold on. Did I not read somewhere, that some strange guy once broke in to the Queen's Private Apartments, in the Palace ?

- Not on my watch, Master Bruce, not on my watch.

- Of course not, Alfred, .. of course not. ( Smiling ) Forgive me.

- Apology accepted, Master Bruce. Apology accepted.

- That's been a pretty good job, converting the bats' cave down below into a garage for the car, Alfred.

- Yes indeed, Sir.

- The exit point emerges sufficiently out of the view of any prying eyes, onto the link route to the main road into the City. The only problem is the fact, that the pole in the Study accesses away from the cave, in the cellar. It's a bit of a tight squeeze, but I can handle it It means the only direct access from the Manor to the cave is by Aunt Harriot's elevator. But I can only use that when she's not around. Any progress on the radio equipment, Alfred ?

- Yes indeed, Master Bruce. The matter is well in hand.

That evening, after dark, on a clear moonlit night, a rather pathetic-looking individual finds himself in the middle of the Gotham High Hedge Maze ! A bright light suddenly shines on him from above, and a voice echoes through the Complex 's P.A.:

- Doctor Josiah Arkham, I presume !

- Who .. who .. who are you, and what do you want with me ?

- All in good time, Doctor Arkham, all in good time.

- Well, at least tell me where I am, and how I got here ?

- Irony of ironies, Doctor Arkham, not that you ever properly earned that title of yours. ... You see, and this is the real beauty of it, while you and your staff were administering the usual routine medication to your regular patients, one of them, who happens to be a very good friend of mine, from way back, was administering a little medication of his own, .. into your coffee ! You passed out, while sitting in your car, and I drove you straight here, most ably assisted by a past patient of yours, a former Medical Orderly in your Asylum.

The anonymous kidnapper continues:

- Instead of fully recognizing, that he had been cured, and rehabilitating him back into his old job, you let him go ! What a waste, Doctor Arkham, what a waste ! Who better to appreciate, in a more sympathetic fashion, the sensibilities and difficulties of the poor individuals, who find themselves in your establishment, and to support them in a genuine way, than someone who has been there, so to speak ? Someone who could act as a sign post to patients, that there can be light at the end of the tunnel, a job, some hope, however long that might be !

- Why, I don't know who you mean .

- My God, man ! You mean to say, that you can't even remember someone on your own staff, when he fell on such hard times ? Why, you are even more pathetic than I thought. I should have thought, that the brother of Amadeus Arkham, of all people, might have appreciated what it means for someone in the Profession to fall foul to a form of insanity, but no, ... not in your case. ... For your information, the poor man in question couldn't find a job worthy of his not insignificant qualifications. Instead he ended up here, ... as an attendant at the City Maze, and very co-operative indeed he has proved to be ! Say hello, Martin.

- Why hello there, Josiah. How are YOU doin' ?

Josiah waves back, a little nonplussed !

- ( The mysterious captor is none other than Edward Nigma ! ) Alright Josiah, why don't you and I get down to brass tacks ? .. You find yourself right in the middle of the City Maze. The irony perhaps has not been lost on you, considering that solving mazes and infantile puzzles, has always played a major role in your approach to your patients' recovery ! ... You have to get out. ... I can help you, ... with a series of questions, which, if you get right, will entitle you to a little assistance on my part, in terms of a helpful set of directions, ... understood ? ... ( Arkham nods ) ... Then let us begin !

Do you want to try a few steps of your own to get you started ? ( Josiah starts to feel his way out of the maze, then stops. ) Okay, Josiah, let's start with an easy one, an old favourite of mine ! .. What did the monkey say, when he ran out of bananas ?

- ( Starts to panic a little, mumbles as he asks himself the question ) I don't know, what did the monkey say, when he ran out of bananas ?

- O come on now, Doctor Arkham, surely you remember the answer to THIS one ?

- Why no, I don't believe I do.

- It's time to get more bananas !

- ( Whispers ) It's time to get more bananas, yes, of course, it's time to get more bananas. it's obvious, it's obvious, that's what it is. .. Okay, give me another one.

- Very well, Josiah. ... I am lighter than a feather, but right now, you could not hold me for more than two minutes. What am I ?

- ( Josiah, again panicking a little ) Why I don't know, ( Becoming noticeably more anxious.) ... I don't know !

- Your breath, Doctor Arkham, your breath. .. You really aren't very good at riddles and puzzles, are you, Josiah ? ... I'm really sorry, friend, .. but you are well and truly on your own !

Arkham feels his way tentatively around, and moves away from the centre of the maze.

Meanwhile, back in Wayne Manor !

Aunt Harriot and Bruce are just finishing dinner. Enter Alfred.

- Pardon me, Miss Cooper, .. Sir, but Mr. Wayne is wanted on the telephone.

- ( Aunt Harriot ) Funny, I didn't hear anything. ( Giggling ) Oh, Bruce I must be getting deaf in my old age !

- The call came through on your 'private line ', Sir.

- ( Getting up from the table ) I'll take it in the study right away, Alfred.

- Oh Bruce, you haven't even finished Alfred 's famous pineapple turnover !

- I'm sure he will keep it warm for me, won't you, Alfred ?

- That one will, Sir, that one most certainly will.

As they head for the study:

- Well, Alfred ?

- One has intercepted a missing persons report on the Police band, Master Bruce.

- What, another one ? Okay, Alfred, but what makes this one so special ?

- It happens to correspond to reports of eyewitnesses, who suspect, that the individual in question was abducted.

- And does this individual have a name ?

- Doctor Josiah Arkham, of the newly re-opened City Asylum. The Police are about to investigate reports, that a car of similar description has been seen parked in the near vicinity of the City Maze, Sir.

- Then I better take the Bat Rail.

- I do think that would be most wise, Master Bruce.

Bruce presses the hidden button on the bust of Shakespeare. The secret compartment opens, and he heads down the Batpole. In the cellar he strips to his undersuit and stands in Fox's Dresser. The conversion is complete ! He squeezes through the narrow passageway to the Cave:

- Oh, ... Ah, .. Ouch ! .. How can I tell Alfred, that I still suffer from claustrophobia ? .. ! ! !

The entrance system to the Bat Rail simply consists of another pole ! He drops down, and climbs onto the Batrocket, . Zooooom ! ! ! !

Back at the City Maze, our poor captive is hopelessly lost:

- Oh tut, tut, tut, Doctor Arkham. You know, that, according to your own diagnosis methods, yours would be signs of mild schizophrenia ! ... ( Arkham is clearly floundering ) Need a little more help, Josiah ?

- ( In a faint voice ) Yes.

- What was that, Josiah ? I couldn't hear you.

- ( Louder ) I said, yes !

- Why, Doctor Arkham. There is no need to shout ! ... Okay, next question. ... What gets whiter and whiter, as it gets dirtier and dirtier ? ( The same hopeless scenario plays out ) ... Don't know ? ... A bird cage, Josiah, a bird cage ! ( By now, Arkham is panicking frantically ) ... Let's try another. Oh, how I love riddles ! ... Ah yes, here's a good one. .. He, who makes me does not want me. He, who buys me does not use me. He, who uses me never sees me. What am I ?

- ( Dropping to his knees in tears ) I don't know, you son of a ... , .. I don't know.

- ( Opening his arms, shrugging his shoulders, and with a nonchalant tone.) I'm a coffin.

The sheer mention of such a lugubrious object sends Arkham into breakdown, broken down and very, very frightened.

Just then, Batman appears ( He has just emerged from the nearest drain ! ). He runs towards the Maze, and starts to climb over hedge after hedge.

- Well, my goodness, Josiah, this is your lucky day ! Why, the famous Batman has come to save you !

Josiah shows a very tentative sign of recovery.

- ( Nigma ) Climbing over the lines of hedges, ay ? ( As Batman reaches the wretched Arkham ) ... Why, that's all you had to do to get out, Doctor Arkham. ... That's all you had to do, ... so simple really !

With this realisation, Arkham collapses in Batman's arms. Batman cannot pursue the mysterious tormentor.

- Oh, how we are conditioned by our circumstances, Doctor Arkham. ... You didn't need my help at all. The answer was simple. ... Climb your way out ! ... Oh Batman, or whatever you choose to call yourself, that reminds me. ... Imagine if you are surrounded by a group of starving lions. How do you survive ?

- ( Batman thinks for just a few seconds ) …. I guess I would stop imagining.

- Oh, very good, Batman. Very good ! A man with intellect, as well as machines ! ... Well, if you don't mind, my wing-ed friend, the Police will be here soon, so I will bid you adieu, if not au revoir ! ( He leaves with Martin. )

- ( Speaking into his comm.. ) Lucius,, are you there ? ... Ah good. ... Home in on my co-ordinates, access the plans of the City Maze, and direct me out of here. ... I'm helping someone to get out.

Lucius is at Wayne Tower, does as Bruce requires with ease, and directs him out. And just in time, as the Police arrive. He makes a strategic withdrawal back to the Batrocket.

- ( Policeman to Arkham, now stumbling hopelessly around the entrance to the Maze. ) My God, Sir, are you alright ? You weren't trapped inside there, were you ?

Josiah nods, breathless, before passing out.

- ( Into HIS Comm ) Hey Joe, we need Paramedics here, right away !

Meanwhile, a safe distance away:

- Thanks, Lucius. That was a bit of a narrow escape ! Boy, do we have a real mastermind on our hands. ... Hey, Alfred, this radio equipment of yours is perfect. Where on earth did you get it ?

- Ah, Master Bruce, in one's former line of business, one came to the conclusion, that one is much better never knowing the answer to such questions.

Then, ... over breakfast, next morning, Bruce is listening to the radio:

- Mystery still surrounds the incredible ordeal faced by the now former Director of Arkham Asylum, Doctor Josiah Arkham. Somewhat ironically, he, himself, is now a patient there, like his brother Amadeus Arkham before him. Sources close to the Governing Body of the Asylum have informed us, that the running of the Institution has now passed to a Doctor Thompson, and that this is likely to be a permanent appointment, at least for the foreseeable future.

- ( Alfred ) Ah, now that is one good thing, that has come out of this most sorry affair, Master Bruce.

- Really, Alfred, what do you mean ?

- It was Doctor Thompson, who correctly diagnosed, what had happened to your butler, leading to his stay in that particular establishment to be curtailed, ... against all the odds, one has to say. He's a very good man. ... If anything, Master Bruce, I reckon that the unfortunate patients, who find themselves there, are now in much more capable hands than before.

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