Chapter 28: White Christmas
by Brian Mark
7.30am 17th December.
We join Bruce, Alfred and Aunt Harriot It is mid-morning.
- Well, Master Bruce, that is the last of the Christmas Cards addressed. They are now ready to be mailed.
- ( Eating breakfast ) Look, Alfred, you know you don't have to do that. Aunt Harriot and I aren't helpless, are we, Aunt Harriot ?
- ( Very sweet and endearing ) We most certainly are not, Bruce. Why I can hardly remember, when I actually mailed my own cards. I remember us both insisting one year, but you threatened to leave if we did.
- A good Butler would not have it any other way, Miss Cooper.
- ( Bruce ) Oh, Alfred, would you mind putting the news channel on ? I think, we might just have missed the news, but we might just catch the weather.
- How many times has one told you, Master Bruce. It is not required of one, to request anything of one's Butler so politely.
- ( Smiling wryly ) I'm so sorry, Alfred, please forgive me.
- ( Feigned cough ) Ahem. ( Switches on the TV )
" Severe weather warnings are in place across the whole of the Mid-west, as one of the coldest weather fronts in recent memory is about to hit the city. All citizens are well advised to remain indoors, and not to venture out, unless it is absolutely necessary. Temperatures are already beginning to fall quite dramatically, and are expected to average at least -18 degrees centigrade over the next 48 hours. "
The sweet and endearing Aunt Harriot goes to the window:
- O look, Bruce, I do believe it is starting to snow. Oh, I do hope it will last. How I do love a white Christmas !
- Don't you think it still a little early to have posted all our cards, Alfred ?
- A good Butler never leaves anything to the last minute, Master Bruce.
- You know, Alfred, why do I seem to remember having this conversation every year ?
- Perhaps because we always do, Master Bruce.
- Oh Alfred, perhaps given the dire weather warnings, it might be an idea to top up the anti-freeze in ALL the vehicles.
- Begging the Master's pardon, but one has already taken the liberty, Sir.
People are seen in their cars, finding travelling tough-going, through up to one foot of snow and blizzard conditions, that suddenly start to abate. In one car they turn on the radio for another weather report:
" And so the current blizzard that has hit the City today will shortly have run its course. But the worst of the conditions still lie ahead, as this all too significant mega-front of cold arctic air begins to sweep in from the North later this evening."
7.30pm Daniels Air Force Base.
Colonel Cole has just come on duty, and walks up to his wheelchair-bound radar operator.
- It sure is getting cold outside, Colonel.
- ( Colonel Cole, blowing into his hands ) You can say that again, Perkins. Anything to report ? Have we cleared the runways yet ?
- No problem with the runways, Sir. The ploughs cleared those 30 minutes ago, and there have been no significant falls since, but I did notice a few irregularities on the screen, Sir.
- What kind of irregularities ?
- Nothing I can quite put my finger on, Sir, a few tiny blips that appeared and disappeared, like in the blink of an eye.
- Could heavy snow cloud be responsible ?
- Possibly Sir, ... There never has been a situation quite like this, since the Base was built, Colonel.
- ( A little concerned ) Just keep me posted, soldier, keep me posted.
Meanwhile, outside, two guards, dressed in heavy winter gear are patrolling the perimeter.
- ( Teeth chattering ) My God it is cold ! When are we due our next cup of coffee ?
- Not for another two hours, Joe, but at least the snow has stopped, and I can see you now. Suddenly, it's a clear night, despite that haze in front of us. I've just heard from the Colonel. He says it might be nothing, but he wants us to be especially vigilant tonight.
Flashback, four weeks previously, two men speaking, one Russian, one German:
- Vot if the paratroopers are spotted by the guards, vot then, ve might have to open fire ?
- No zey von't, ... for ve are coming in on a cold air mirage, caused by a front of super chilled air. Ze guards vill see nothing, till it's too late.
Back in the present.
The guards are taken aback, to see ghostly figures starting to emerge from the haze.
- ( Joe ) What the hell ... ?
Two figures emerge suddenly from behind the guards, using chloroform to disable them. Then they drag them indoors. It soon becomes clear, that these are Special Force troops, but they are not dressed in heavy winter gear ! They break into the outside generating unit.
- ( Cole ) Am I imagining things, Perkins, or has it suddenly got a lot colder in here ?
- It looks as if the heating might have broken down again.
- Goddamnit, we can afford thousands of nuclear missiles, and fighter aircraft that cost 60 million dollars apiece, but we can't afford to repair the generators these days !
Then momentarily the lights cut out, only for emergency ones to kick in.
- ( Cole ) What the hell ... ?
Two windows are blown in. There is a sudden rush of Arctic air, and, immediately, in abseil two lightly dressed crack troops in sleek white combats ! Then, suddenly, two Colonels come face to face, as several commandos burst into the Command Centre ! Colonel Clinton Cole and a Russian Lt. Colonel ( as yet masked, with a combat scarf ) ! There is nothing Cole and his personnel can do.
- ( Russian Colonel ) Please, Colonel, do not move, and neither you nor your men vill be harmed in any vay.
- My God, we've been invaded by the Russians ! What are you, Spetznaz ?
-Yes, ... and no, Mon Colonel. ... And no, I assure you, you have not been invaded by Russia ! Take them to the holding area vith the others. ( Moving to the Comms. Unit and speaking into the microphone ) Hello, Arctic Eagle, come in Arctic Eagle. ... Air base and its perimeters secured. ... You may begin your landing.
The Lt. Colonel and his squad escort Cole and his men to a store room, the Russian Colonel personally pushing Perkins in his wheelchair.
- Where did you suffer your injuries, comrade ?
- Afghanistan, Sir.
- Ah, difficult terrain, difficult enemies.
- You saw action there, Sir ?
- You might say zey thawed me out, to see action there.
The squad locks Cole and party in the store room.
Back outside, the landing lights come on, and the lights of an incredible looking C130-type plane. The Colonel heads out and meets it as it lands and taxis. It is made of ice ! He takes off his mask. It is Dimitri Kharkov ! He greets a masked man, not in uniform. He removes his mask. It is Viktor Fries ! They embrace.
- Everything is vorking like clockvork, exactly as ve planned. No casualties to report on either side.
- Alles gut, Dimitri, very good !
A sizeable number of troops disembark from the plane, as the group commandeers several vehicles from the base, and heads towards Gotham.
- ( Cole, locked in a large storage room ) By God, those guys are slick operators !
- ( Perkins ) They sure sounded like Russians to me.
- ( Flight Sergeant ) I thought, they sounded like Americans, if you ask me.
Cole tries the bars on one of the windows.
- ( Perkins ) It's no use, Colonel. There's no point. There's no way out of here. Those guys knew what they were doing. It wouldn't surprise me at all, if one of them has served here before.
8.00pm The Old Cathedral Building in Gotham.
A major art and cultural exhibition is taking place, sponsored by its owners, the Property Cartel, who operate out of the adjoining offices. People are admiring the fine building, as much as the exhibits. The old stained-glass windows are still in place. There are verses from the Bible, reading, "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" and " It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God ". Niamh Ross is there with a TV crew, reporting on the exhibition ! She is just concluding her report:
- And so, yet again, a number of Gotham's wealthiest citizens have hosted a prestigious cultural event, to wow its more culturally aware citizens. What next, I wonder ? ... O my God, my God ! There's something happening next door, I can hear gunfire !
A security guard in the office buildings fires warning shots in the air, as he spots something suspicious, but, suddenly, all around the office complex, specialist explosive charges go off ! All the lights go out, cold arctic air rushes in, and in burst Fries's Arctic Commandos !
- ( An American officer ) Nobody move, and you will not be harmed. Please, do as we say. Make your way to the exits, and you will not be harmed.
A similar assault takes place across the street in the First Gotham Investment Bank.
- Oh my God ! We can hear explosions now, taking place all around us. Everyone in the Old Cathedral here is perfectly okay, and there hasn't been so much as a window broken. But none of us dare take even a step outside. This is Niamh Ross, reporting for Gotham City News, from the Old cathedral Quarter, Gotham, feeling incredibly afraid.
Harvey Dent is watching the broadcast, in his Assistant Commissioner's Office at Police Headquarters.
- ( Dent, a bit rattled, taking a mobile call, rather secretively. ) Yes, I've just seen it on the news. ... Yes, I know that I have offered you exclusive protection. ... Yes, I'm sending my best team to take care of it.
Another call comes in.
- ( Again, rather secretively. ) My God, not the bank as well ! I assure you, I've got my best team working on it. …. Yes, you will have the protection I promised.
In hurries Commissioner James Gordon .
- My goodness, Mr. Dent, have you heard ? I've already sent regular units, with Chief O'Hara, down to the area, to set up a perimeter. Have you any idea what's going on down there ? Have there been any indications, that something like this was on the cards ?
- No, none at all, but I've just been on to my crack team, and they are on their way.
Meanwhile, back in Wayne Manor. ...
- ( Aunt Harriot ) Oh, you have the tree looking absolutely lovely again this year, Bruce. I know, I say it every year, and, at the risk of repeating myself, I do love a real tree at Christmas.
- ( Bruce, adding the finishing touches to decorating it. ) Well, after all, it is just about the only thing Alfred allows us to do for ourselves !
- I'm so glad we agreed to go one night without having the television on, Bruce. I always think the run-up to Christmas is always so much better without it.
In comes Alfred.
- Begging your pardon, Master Bruce, Miss Cooper, but there has just been a rather disturbing report on the evening news.
- ( Aunt Harriot ) Oh dear, I knew it was just too good to last.
Meanwhile back in the offices:
- ( Kharkov on his radio. ) Remember your orders, Lieutenant. Only open fire, if your lives are in immediate danger. Do not open fire on the Police. We should be in and away from here, before the SWAT Teams begin even to plan an operation against us.
But down in the basement, one of the families of the Cartel has been visiting with their children, and is panicking frantically, and shivering violently, in the dark and the cold. One of the Russian Commandos offers his help, to get them out safely, and reports in on his radio accordingly.
In both the office complex and the Bank, special safes are being blown, and money, together with sensitive documents, are being carefully removed by the forces under Fries's Command. Again, the troops are reassuring staff and customers alike, that everything is going to be okay, and most are safely escorted out of the buildings.
But a crack SWAT Team has already arrived, a Team that is on a constant state of readiness, Team Six !
Two from the Team stumble upon the Russian and the family he is helping. They challenge him to surrender, which he does. His Radio Comms. are still switched on. The family make their escape, then the two shoot him dead, in cold blood. Everyone in both Arctic Assault Teams have heard what has happened.
- ( Kharkov on his radio link ) That is it my friends. The gloves are off. I repeat the gloves are off. As soon as you identify any member from that Team, engage immediately, and neutralise if necessary. That is all.
Firefights with Team Six break out all over the site. The SWAT Team members are greatly hampered by the snow and the cold, especially their clothing, and cold trigger fingers. On a number of occasions, they are ambushed, knocked out in karate duels, caught in a flash bang blast, and simply outclassed by a specialist force, that is very much playing on home ground. The freedom of movement they enjoy, wearing light combats, gives them a staggering advantage.
- ( Harvey Dent, back at Headquarters on the radio. ) What the hell is going on down there ?
- ( An injured Team Six Officer, receiving treatment. ) They are just too good, Sir. Boy are they good ! They are just appearing from everywhere. They have all the right equipment, yet no heavy clothing at all ! Our choppers have been grounded by the cold. The same goes for our armoured vehicles. Our weapons are beginning to freeze up. For God's Sakes, it's just like Stalingrad all over again down here !
- I sent Teams Three and Four down. Have they got there yet ?
- They arrived ten minutes ago, and are reporting 50% casualties, Sir !
- Damn !
- ( Commissioner Gordon ) The situation is clearly way out of control. I'm going to ask for Batman.
- But you don't even know, how to contact him, do you ?
- There are times, when I wish, I had a hotline to the man, but no, I'm going to make a direct plea on TV and the radio. I'm going to phone the message through now.
Bruce Wayne hears the broadcast appeal, in his Private Library.
He presses the button on the bust of William Shakespeare, drops down the Bat Pole, stripping off his outer clothing, steps into his costume unit. All the attachments attach. Then, he squeezes through along the short passage way, still experiencing heightened anxiety, into the Bat Cave. Alfred awaits him there, under the car.
- One has just been doing a little bit of fine tuning, Sir, for the cold weather, you know.
- What's that in your hand, Alfred ?
- A little petrol, Master Bruce. May one suggest that you add a little to all the relevant equipment, you plan on using this evening. ( Hands him a squirt can ) It will almost guarantee, that nothing will freeze up, or jam in the cold. A little trick one learned from a friend of mine in Norway, when on mountain training. One has already applied a few squirts here and there to the car.
The car converts into the Batmobile as usual, and away Bruce Wayne races, as Batman.
- ( Alfred to Bruce on Comms. ) One recommends, you take Route 60 into the City, Sir. The Road and Traffic Police have just reported that it is passable, but with care.
Bruce is flying. … Waaoww !
Meanwhile, in the Cathedral...
- ( Niamh Ross, in the middle of another report. ) O my God, we have never been so frightened in our lives. There are sounds of gun shots, grenades and explosions everywhere. But wait, the doors to the Cathedral have just burst open. O my God, it is three of the gunmen. Maybe this might be a good time to cut the broadcast !
- ( The Producer, at the camera monitors, to his colleague in the room.) No way, keep the cameras and her mike running. Stick to Niamh like glue. This has got to be the best goddamn prime time News Report ever !
The camera pans to the three Commandos.
- ( Harvey Dent peering closely at his TV screen. ) Who are those guys ?
- We are being ushered out of the Cathedral. The gunmen have assured us, that they have secured a route of safe passage for us to follow. My God, this is quite unprecedented. I thought, we were going to be taken hostage, but they are letting us go free. They certainly don't seem to be your regular gunmen, from where I'm standing.
( Beginning to run to safety. ) This is Niamh Ross, reporting for Gotham City News, in the Cathedral Quarter, running for safety !
For Fries and Kharkov the operation is rapidly coming to an end. They have acquired sufficient funds to resourse their activities for the foreseeable future, and at their enemies' expense, in an act of practical revenge ! But, all of a sudden, the shooting stops. A ceasefire has been declared.
- ( Chief O'Hara ) THIS IS THE GOTHAM CITY POLICE. I REPEAT, THIS IS THE GOTHAM CITY POLICE. YOU ARE COMPLETELY SURROUNDED. COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP !
- Vell, so far, so good, Dimitri, ay ?
- Da, Viktor, yes, vithout question.
But, just then, a member of Team Six, seemingly dead, lifts himself up and points his machine gun at them both, from behind. Suddenly, a rather petite looking Commando knocks him out.
- ( Dimitri goes to remove the combat scarf from their saviour's face. ) Why, thank you young man..
- I am no young man !
- ( Fries ) Vhy, Heidi, vot are you doing here ? I thought, I told you to remain behind and avait our safe return !
- I'm sorry, Father. But Dimitri has trained me well. And I wanted to prove, that I am every bit as good as the men.
Dent arrives at his Unit's mobile HQ. He receives another mobile call:
- What, .. are you kidding me ? … I had no idea you were funding such an operation. …... You think, that will work ? (Calling out to his ground commander.) Okay, let's heat em up, guys !
Bruce reaches Wayne Tower. He ascends in the usual manner to the roof, and a Bat Glider. He applies a little squirt of petrol, here and there, to its parts ! ... Then away he goes, landing first on the guttering of the Old Cathedral Tower. He observes two Commandos manhandling two regular SWAT Team guys.
He swoops down, knocking both to the ground. The SWAT guys stumble, freezing and exhausted, away. Bruce discards the Glider. It collapses as it should, into handipack form ! Obviously feeling the cold himself, he is about to engage the Ccmmandos.
- ( Commando with a Russian accent. ) Why Batman. It is Batman, isn't it ? Hey, Sergei, look who it is, it's Batman ! Can I have your autograph ?
Bruce is quite nonplussed at this, and asks:
- Look, who are you guys, and what are you doing here ?
- ( Sergei ) We take you to our leader, No ?
The two take him into an icy cold Cathedral Building. Some Commandos have commandeered two massive air fans from the building, and use them to blow arctic air into the Old Cathedral.
- ( Fries ) Ah, Batman ! I was vondering if you vould show up. Please, ve mean you nor ze people of zis fine City no harm. Ve leave. But first, just one further little thing to attend to. Can I at least rely on your neutrality, for a moment?
Fries goes to the organ and starts to play. An assembled gathering of his Commandos stand in the old Choir Stalls, and sing Silent Night ! ...
" Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace."
- My favourite Carol, Batman, written in my own hometown, you know !
The Carol just about ends, when in bursts a Commando, coughing, his clothes smoking.
- It is Heidi, Herr Doktor. One SVOT Team has started using Molotov Cocktails, petrol bombs. Heidi is trapped in ze car park, by ze flames !
- ( Bruce grabs Fries by the arm. ) Look, leave this to me. I'll take care of this. You give yourselves up to the police, and I'll bring her to you.
- ( Fries ) But how ?
Bruce produces his Remote, and summons up the Batmobile from round the block. Getting inside, he races to the burning car park. He uses the microwave emitter to suppress the flames. He gets out, using his Bat Cape to protect both him and Heidi from the flames, lifts her, and carries her back towards the car.
- ( Heidi, very weak and beginning to die from the heat of the flames. ) No please, keep me in the cold, I beg you.
He carries her instead, back to the Cathedral. He passes her to her Father, and is shocked to see the whole Troop disappearing down into the Crypt, and through a hole blown in the wall. They are all disappearing down into his secret railway network !
- ( Fries, taking Heidi into his arms. ) Vhy Batman. Whoever you really are, I thank you vith all my heart ! How can I ever repay you ?
- But I don't understand. Who are you ? You've just killed and wounded scores of officers, and robbed a city bank. How can I let you go ?
- It vas never our intention to harm anyvone. You have to look closer to home to find zose responsible for ze death and destruction, ve have seen today. You have to trust me, Batman. Ve are not at all enemies. Suddenly Fries releases a gas grenade. Bruce is momentarily debilitated, and, when he comes round, Fries, Heidi and his force have gone. They have emerged from the railway service tunnel, at a pre-arranged rendez-vous point, with the Air Base vehicles, they used to reach the Cathedral Complex. They reach the Base, board their plane, and take off. Eventually Cole and his men are found, none the worse for wear, a few hours later !
Chief O' Hara rushes into the Cathedral, accompanied by squads of regular cops and SWAT Team Members.
- ( O'Hara ) My God, Batman, are you alright, are you alright ?
- I'm fine, Chief O'Hara, quite fine.
- But where are they ? Where did they go ? How could they just disappear like that ?
- I think you'll find the answer in the Cathedral Crypt, Chief.
Next Day in Wayne Manor, Bruce is reading the papers.
- ( To Alfred ) I see our latest arch villain has a name, Alfred. Not that he might be the villain that they are making him out to be . ….
- Really, Master Bruce ?
- Yes, something he said before he left. … I see they are calling him Mr. Freeze. I wonder who he really is.
- Ah, Master Bruce, one has already accessed the Police files, and processed the information through Mr Fox's new computer in the Cave. It seems the villain in question proved a little careless, when he spoke to you in the Cathedral. He told you, where he came from. Cross-referencing all the details, concerning the expertise he must possess to have executed such a plan, the Computer reveals, that he is none other than a certain Viktor Fries.
- Viktor Fries. Now, how do I know that name ?
- Maybe, because he was your Father's old chemistry teacher in Gotham High !
- My God, yes. Now I remember. I must take another look at his journals. He disappeared suddenly. But, that was over thirty years ago. That is impossible, ... quite impossible, ... isn't it, Alfred ?
- Quite evidently not, Master Bruce, quite evidently not.