Batman: A New World

Chapter 40: A Grim Reap !

A Grim Reap !

By Brian Mark

William Norris was in town ! He was finally in Gotham. He had become quite a celebrity wherever he went in the world. Ironically, the very people, who supported his ideas on population-control, or who were interested in tackling the problems of overcrowding in cities, were liable to suffer at the hands of one who had the ultimate answer ! For the World's Great Savior, as he considered himself to be, made no distinction between friend and foe in the struggle. One in three people attending his lectures would be dead within a year ! The premature death of Kaufmann Burns is testimony to that ! Kaufmann had offered to help fund his World Lecture Tour. He was the third multi-millionaire to do so ! William Norris never made any exceptions.

Well, he did once, …. in the case of a multi-billionaire, a man at the heart of government in Washington, with the initials K.P. ! He had been the third mega tycoon, Norris had had the pleasure of meeting that month. He carried with him a master-clicker, a clockwork device with a categorized memory system, to record the third of every type of person to be culled. He could kill without remorse, in an instant. It was just a matter of mathematics. If anything, he felt he was acting out of compassion for the other two people spared ! The Grim Reaper also carried on his person a seemingly innocuous nose spray, and was about to use it, explaining to his intended victim, that it would induce a fatal heart attack in a matter of seconds. Of course, Norris couldn't afford the luxury of face to face contact with all his victims. But, if and when it so transpired, this is what he always told them:

- Sorry, no room !

- Wait ! .. Wait ! …. I can help you !

- How ? ( With his finger poised on the spray button. )

- I know the figures !

- What do you mean ?

- I know how many people you have to kill ! .. But it's way too many for one man. .. I can help you !

- You still haven't told me how ?

- I have the money. I have the contacts. I know where you can get nuclear bombs !

The Reaper dropped the arm holding the lethal spray, and said :

- Today is your lucky day !

This was to be the one and only time he would compromise on his principles, … and yet, he wasn't compromising at all, if it meant finally acquiring the resources he would need, given the magnitude of his mission.

- I know where you can buy the suitcase bombs. The owners have been trying to sell them to me for years ! They've been missing for decades, but I know where they are, and who has them. … If you want a backer, you've got one. … In fact, we can help each other. … I have big investments in the disaster recovery business. … I can give you a cut of the money made to help the people left start all over. … In a way, your mission becomes self-financing !

And so, in a matter of minutes, everything had fallen into place for Bill Norris. For a long time now, he had hoped to use the World's tectonics as the major tool to reduce its population, now he could, with nuclear devices ! Together with disease, natural disasters are, indeed, Nature's way of controlling numbers. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and landslides; all could be generated artificially by a man armed with his knowledge of the Earth's Plates and Fault Lines.

And, with a ready source of astronomical income, he could explore the possibilities of helping Bird Flu find its way around the World, … the best way, by air !

So all the mysterious earthquake and tsunami activity in the Pacific Region, and the gradual rise in the death rate among the wealthier classes ? … All the work of William Norris.

Bearing all this in mind, the long awaited encounter between the Grim Reaper and Batman loomed. Bruce Wayne, if he was free, that is, intended, at least to some extent, to attend Dr. Norris' Lecture ! ….. But, of course, he has bigger concerns. How is he going to proceed, now that he knows about Harvey Dent ? … Who is Catwoman ? ….. Who was trying to hack into his more sensitive files ? …. When are the circumstances most likely to occasion a visit from Viktor Fries next to occur ?

We join Bruce and Lucius at the recently opened addition to Wayne Real Estate, the complex housing Lucius' Laboratory for Applied Sciences. Bruce is rummaging around the shelves:

- Wow, Lucius, I love what you have done to the place ! So many of the things around here sure do bring back memories.

- Revised and updated things, Mr. Wayne.

- Oh, absolutely ! …. ( Holding one of the radar units. ) Remember all the time you, Alfred and I spent around Gotham, pretending to be window cleaners, TV repair guys and builders, when we had to place these emitters everywhere. … I seem to remember an embarrassing moment, concerning an old woman and a bath ?

- Yes, Mr. Wayne, very droll.

- But it did mean, that we could set up the Bat Eyries on the Wayne Towers. They provide ideal high aerial advantage for Batman over the City. … Ah, the Bat Drones ! We've only needed them once, thank goodness, but we needed them big time, against that joker guy.

- Yes, Mr. Wayne, totally updated and ready for use, as the need arises.

- Good, Lucius. After what I've just discovered, we are going to need everything we've got.

- And what might that be ?

- Just the identity of the mastermind behind Gotham's arson attacks old and new. …. Harvey Dent.

- Did I hear you correctly, Mr. Wayne ? … The Assistant Commissioner of Police ?

- The same.

- I note, that you did not refer to him as Uncle Harvey.

- No, definitely not.

Lucius starts to think to himself about the initials, H.D., and sees an even bigger picture than Bruce, or so he thinks.

- ( Bruce ) Yes, the thought has rocked us to the core. … Alfred and I have put two and two together. … Dent, or one of his men killed my parents. …. Alfred has begun to remember everything prior to his time in Arkham Asylum. …. Dent was behind that too. … My Father was onto him, he must have been. Alfred uncovered the real nature of most of Gotham's S.W.A.T. Teams. That's why they drugged him the way they did. So you see, Lucius, we are up against the strongest units in the Gotham P.D. ! That two-faced snake in the grass is bound to be waiting for any incriminating information to surface I never thought that I would find myself fighting the Police !

- Nor I, Mr. Wayne.

- So, we reckon that it was Dent, who was hacking into my files the other week. … It might explain why you came up with a total blank on that one.

- Possibly, quite possibly, Mr. Wayne.

- As for Catwoman, there is a shortlist of twenty possible suspects, and Salina Kyle is not one of them. Must have been a glitch in your system, ay Lucius ?

- ( Under his breath.) There is a glitch in the system, alright.

- Sorry Lucius ?

_ Oh, nothing.

- Got to dash, … I'm thinking of going to a lecture tonight. …

Over in the Gotham's Millennium Plaza, Dr. William Norris is adding the finishing touches to the seating arrangements for his lecture ! …. He is applying a highly toxic plant-based poison, with a small brush, to every third seat on each

row of twenty-one seats ! Specially developed by himself, it begins a gradual process, slowly weakening the heart-wall lining, resulting in massive heart failure within six months. And, with each application, he whispers quietly the words:

- Sorry, no room.

His favorite music box-set is playing in the background, "Phil Sapphire's Greatest Hits." Singer-songwriter, Sapphire has been his favorite singer since his teenage years, and he quite happily sings along to each song.

A little later, back in Wayne Manor, Bruce, returning from his meeting with Lucius, meets Aunt Harriot, as she is putting on her coat. Bruce notices, that she is all dressed-up and ready to go out.

- Ah, Aunt Harriot, you are all dressed-up and ready to go out ! Where are you going, and who's the lucky guy ?

- ( Giggling ) Oh, Bruce, always the joker, like I always say. … But surely you haven't forgotten. … You are driving me to the fundraising Gala for the Disaster in Malahi. You're my escort. Remember ?

- Oh, Aunt Harriot, I completely forgot. Of course, I'll take you there in the car.

- Well, if it's not too much trouble. …. But, maybe you have other plans for this evening. .. ( Giggling again. ) Maybe you have a lucky girl !

- No, Aunt Harriot, I had no plans at all. … I'll get my coat.

And so, Bruce gets ready, and takes Miss. Harriot Cooper to the car. Just then, he meets Alfred, returning from the Manor's greenhouses!

- Ah, Master Bruce. You are taking your Aunt to the lecture, you wanted to hear this evening.

- ( Aunt Harriot ) Lecture ? .. What lecture ?

- Oh, it's nothing. I was just thinking it might make a pleasant change to get a little intellectual relief for a change. But, a promise is a promise, Aunt Harriot.

- Nonsense, Bruce, nonsense. … Look, Alfred can take me, can't you, Alfred ?

Alfred thinks to himself for a moment about some business he was intending to pursue on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that evening, disguises his frustration faultlessly, then replies:

- One would deem it a great honor, Miss Cooper.

- There, you see, Bruce, you can go to your lecture, after all.

- Are you sure, Alfred ?

- Perfectly, Master Bruce.

- It seems, this is my lucky day !

Around this time, Salina Kyle, as has become her custom, phones Lucius Fox:

- Hello, Lucius, what's new ?

It had not taken long at all for Lucius Fox to decide how he was going to answer that question, when it came ! Now was not the time to tell Catwoman about Harvey Dent.

- Oh, absolutely nothing, Miss Kyle. What about you ?

- My kung fu lessons are going really well. Like the guy teaching me has a really crazy name, .. the Gul School of Martial Arts. I keep thinking of ghosts and things that go bump in the night ! But he thinks I have real promise. … he has absolutely no idea, that I am Catwoman !

- Quiet, Miss Kyle, quiet. This isn't a secure line. In fact, you had better hang up immediately. I have reason to believe, that someone will start to access this conversation now, in about two minutes, if not less. ... ( He is thinking about the Bat Computer, and Alfred ! )

- Okay, spooky. Good Night, then, Lucius.

- Good Night, Miss Kyle.

On the Gotham News Network, Naimh Ross is making her routine contribution to the Society News Section:

- Well, Bob, here I am, outside the Millennium Plaza, in Gotham, just waiting to see who'll turn up for the various big draws, scheduled for this evening. We've already seen Ga Ga Zsabor arrive for the fundraising Concert for the Victims of the Malahi Disaster, just one of the events being organized tonight, to support the people of that city. Oh, and here comes Phil Sapphire ! …. Hello, Phil ? … Naimh Ross, GNN. What are you doing here tonight ? Are you here for the Concert ?

- Well, Naimh, ( Very charming and pleasant, as is his true nature.) I know who you are. I love your work. ..

- Thank you.

- I was due to sing tonight, but got a sore throat at the last minute, and had to cancel. But, fortunately, I get to go to the lecture this evening.

- Ah yes, on Overpopulation., that's Dr. Norris's lecture.

- That's right. When one door closes, another opens, .. right Naimh ?

- Right, Phil. … Oh, sorry, Phil, … I've just spotted Billionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne. ….( Jostling through the crowd.) Excuse me, Bruce. What, no eye candy on your arm tonight ?

- No, honey. … The sort of girls I date don't like lectures.

- Ah, so you're here for the lecture, too.

- Can't wait. … Sorry, honey, gotta rush, and that, It starts in five minutes.

- ( Rather miffed at his attitude, and, let's face it, who wouldn't be ? ) Well, there you have it ,folks. Typical of Mr. Bruce Wayne. … Okay, that's about all we have time for. … Over to you, Bob. … This is Naimh Ross, reporting for the Gotham News Network, at the Millennium Plaza.

Salina Kyle is watching at home:

My God ! Okay, the guy might have saved me a fortune, and, thanks to him, I 'll be able to re-open the Safari Park. But I just can't believe, that I was dating that guy !

In the Lecture Theatre Norris is absolutely horrified to see Sapphire enter the room ! It is for this very reason, that he hoped he would never meet his idol. He has no option, but to reach into his pocket for his clicker. He clicks up Celebrities, and, to his absolute relief, sees the number, 'two'. ….. But then, right in front of him, as if from no where, pops Ga Ga Zsabor,wanting to steal a photo opportunity, and to appear a little less two-dimensional !

- Why hello, Dr. Norwich. ( A photographer's camera flashes just as she shakes his hand ! )

She then moves away, without another word, as if Norris never existed !

- ( Norris thinking to himself.) Please don't come up to me, and whatever you do, don't sit on the wrong seat, tonight !

But it is too late, Phil ' the Nicest Guy in Show Business ' Sapphire comes up to say, hello. .. Norris clicks on his clicker. Up comes the number,' three' ! …. He has to reach for his spray, .. no more exceptions ! .. He presses on the spray very discreetly in Sapphire's direction. Then he turns to his idol, and simply says:

- I am very, very sorry, Phil, no room.

Sapphire doesn't understand at all, and turns to take a seat in the front row. … Then, he reaches for his chest. The auditorium expresses collective disquiet, as the singer is taken ill.

- ( Norris to a steward.) Please, this man is ill. Take him out immediately, and give him some air.

This the steward does.

- ( Norris ) Ladies and Gentlemen, it is quite okay, Mr. Sapphire just needs a little air. I am sure, he will re-join us in a few minutes. … Meanwhile, may I take this opportunity to welcome you all to my lecture this evening !

Just then, as the lights go down in the theatre, Bruce enters, but who should he bump into, on the way in, but Victoria and Warner Bross !

- ( Victoria Bross ) Fancy meeting you here, Bruce. I didn't think this was quite your style !

- Strangely enough, I was thinking exactly the same about you, Miss Bross.

- ( Warner ) Oh come now, you two. Let's all go, and sit down and hear what this guy has to say, huh ? .. Look, there are three seats over there, we can all sit together.

- ( Bruce ) Okay, let's go. … Say, did I just see Phil Sapphire come in here a minute ago ?

- ( Warner ) Yeah, I think so.

Just then, Bruce's pager goes off, or should I say, Batman's !

- Ah ! … Excuse me, I have just got to take this !

- Some young lady, is it, Bruce ?

- There's just no fooling you, is there, Victoria ?

- When it comes to any member of the opposite sex, Bruce, I know everything.

Bruce leaves the Theatre, finds a discreet spot, where he can talk to Lucius, Alfred currently indisposed, as he is, elsewhere !

- What is it, Lucius ?

- I suggest you proceed to Bat Eyrie Two immediately, Mr. Wayne. There is the distinct possibility that a child is trapped in the top floor of the Mountain Stream Apartment Block.

- I'm on my way !

Aerie Two is just one block away, so he runs into the Wayne Communications Tower, accesses the service shute, ascends accordingly, strips quickly out of his evening suit, to convert his under suit accordingly, when he gets another message from Lucius.

- Sorry, Mr. Wayne, false alarm.

It is by no means the first time this has happened, and it is not the first time Bruce has not been extremely frustrated, but such was his experience as a search and rescue specialist with the Fire Department. … He dresses back into his evening suit, descends in the service shute, and makes his way back to the Theatre.

Norris has just completed his preamble, as Bruce makes his way in the dark down the side Warner and Victoria Bross are sitting.. Warner turns to him, and says:

- Glad you could make it. You haven't missed much. Great lecture. We kept you the end seat.

Bruce takes his seat and, like everyone in the audience, is quite captivated by the content of the lecture, and the skill of the lecturer, and doesn't notice the two hours pass by at all ! Dr. William Norris concludes the evening with these few words:

- Thank you, so much for coming this evening. Unfortunately, it is with deep regret, that I have to announce the sudden death of Mr. Phil Sapphire, who passed away on his way to Gotham General Hospital this evening.

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