Batman: A New World

Ch 46: For Whom The Bell Tolls ( Part 1)

Chapter Forty-six

For Whom The Bell Tolls ( Part One )

By Brian Mark

Batman meets with Dick Grayson in the abandoned warehouse.

- ( Batman ) So you were able to make our appointment after all.

- Yes. Mr. Wayne was very understanding.

- I thought he might be.

- You know Mr. Wayne ?

- Let's just say, he has always struck me as that sort of a guy. ( Changing the subject. ) Well, have you been practicing your moves like I said ?

- Everyday. .. ( Noticing a lot of loose packaging piled in the middle of the warehouse. ) What's with all the packaging ?

- Today, we're going to work with these. ( Batman produces two Bat Grapplers ! )

- Gee, Batman. I saw you using one of these once before. I never thought I'D get the chance !

- This one's for you, Dick. Get ready for Lesson Three, Robin !

Dick changes into his costume, and the two begin feats of aerial gymnastics like you would not believe. Batman is suitably impressed:

- I see that you have another hidden talent, Robin !

- We'll take a bit of a rest there, and then we'll look at Lesson Four.

Meanwhile, in her office at Gotham City News, Naimh Ross is still trying to find something incriminating on Harvey Dent, her only lead, Larry Dicks. She gazes studiously at her monitor, talking to herself:

- Ah, now that is interesting, Mr. Dicks. I see that you once applied to join Gotham's S.W.A.T. units as a trainee explosives expert. … Now, let me see. … bomb-disposal, ... use of explosives in a controlled manner, … but you were turned down. … Now, why would the head of an organization, that rejected you, be meeting with you on the Golf Course, I wonder? ….. There's only one thing for it. I'm going to have to start following you. I hope you don't mind !

The snow is falling at Gotham City Zoo, as two men, in their late middle-age walk round together:

- Ah, just when I thought this cold spell might just be over, Lucius. Why, the sun was shining only an hour ago.

- Haven't you been following the weather forecasts, Oswald ? It's due to get a whole lot colder, before it gets any better.

- Weather forecasts ? I never pay any attention to weather forecasts. They need a much better computer system, before they can convince me about anything so unpredictable as the weather.

- And the only person who knows how to produce that system is you, right, Oswald ?

- ( Laughing ) Right ! … Right !

They walk up to the Antarctic Aquatic Enclosure. Lucius reads one of the signs:

- These Penguins are sponsored by Oswald Cobblepot. Nice touch, Oswald.

- Well, penguins are people too. …. Look, Lucius, you didn't bring us all the way over here to look at a few penguins. ( Oswald pulls out a small bag from his pocket, and throws the penguins a few small fish ! )

- I want you to do something for me, old friend.

- Why am I not the least bit surprised ?

- In about a week's time, I'm going to want you to call Harvey Dent.

- What the hell for ?

- Bruce wants to set him up and have him arrested.

- Why. Sure young Mr. Wayne looks on Dent as his uncle.

- Not any more.

Back at the warehouse, Mr. Wayne continues to train Dick Grayson:

- And you don't always have to make physical contact with your enemy. Sometimes it's a question of using the mind, both yours and his. For instance, right now I'm working on a way to take down the Grim Reaper.

- The Grim Reaper, Doctor William Norris.

- The guy, who tried to poison all those people ?

- The very same.

- So what are you going to do ?

- Let's just say I'm 75% there. … Anyway, you get into his mind with yours, ( And just as he does at school, Dick writes everything down in an exercise book ! ) learn as much as you can, and use what you learn against him. .. Sometimes it's just a question of sowing fear and panic. Make him as frightened of you as possible, using every means possible. Use sounds, vision, and machines to generate that fear. Sometimes he is defeated even before you make contact. Sometimes, you trick him into making himself more vulnerable. Sometimes you just win the mind game.

- Gee, that's brilliant, Batman.

That evening, Dent meets with this right-hand man in S.W.A.T. Team Six, Captain Scribbs:

- Okay, Scribbs, it's like this. There's a cold spell coming, a really cold spell. And it's coming in a little ahead of schedule. Those guys whipped our asses before. But my guess is they might return. I plan on being ready for them this time. Prepare your men.

- Just team Six, Sir ?

- No, all the teams. … Phosphorous grenades, napalm charges, anything to generate the heat that will incapacitate them, and when they are incapacitated, execute them. Kill them all.

- Anything else Sir ?

- Double the number of training exercises, only in extreme cold, white combats.

- But, how will we tell everyone apart ? Won't that cause total confusion ?

- I'm counting on it.

Later that evening, Bruce Wayne is in the Bat Cave, at the Computer:

- Well, what do you know ? … Have I got news for you, William Norris !

His phone rings.

- Hello Aunt Harriot.

- Where are you, Bruce ? .. I know the house is so big and all that, but you do keep disappearing, and you never tell me where you've gone. … Alfred has just brought our supper. It's getting cold, and there's Christmas eggnog.

- I thought I would head down to the cellars for a while, Aunt Harriot. Maybe you'd like a glass of wine ?

- Oh no, dear, not at this time of night. Why, it's getting late, and I'll be going to bed. But you go ahead and bring some wine for yourself, Bruce.

- Okay, Aunt Harriot. I'm coming now.

Then the Hotline rings !

- Hello, Commissioner.

- Hello, Batman. Any more progress on the Harvey Dent situation ? You did say, that a raid by Mr. Freeze and his Team would represent the perfect opportunity to arrest him.

- Yes, Commissioner, and that cold spell is coming in a little earlier than expected.

- I have decided not to begin indictment proceedings until we have the witnesses we need, and Dent is safely under lock and key.

- Very wise. To do anything else would risk compromising the whole operation. There is no way of knowing where his web of corruption begins and ends. If all goes according to plan, there should be no shortage of people prepared to turn States Evidence against Harvey Dent. Remember, Commissioner. Under no circumstances, allow any of your regular units anywhere near the scenes of the Freeze Raid. It will be solely Dent's responsibility. S.W.A.T. teams only.

- Understood, Batman. … Oh, and Merry Christmas !

- Merry Christmas, Commissioner.

Bruce hangs up, and takes an old secret stairway route, up through a hidden door compartment into the main Manor kitchen ( There are three ! ). He proceeds to the main drawing room to have supper with Aunt Harriot. His dog runs to greet him.

- Doodles ! That a boy ! ( He gives him a hug )

- Ah, there you are, Bruce ! .. But where is your bottle of wine ?

On Christmas Eve, it is customary for most people to go to work, then quickly make their way home to join with loved ones. Naimh Ross goes to work, spends her whole day following Larry Dicks, as he visits the stores during their busiest season. She witnesses him buying timing devices, wiring and chemicals, that could only be used to for one thing, to make bombs ! Could Dicks be the Gotham Bomber ? If so, why on earth was he playing golf with Harvey Dent ? What should her next course of action be, to report Dicks to Dent ?/ No. Why give someone shady the credit for catching Dicks ? Much better to go to the regular police, but then again, what if there is insufficient evidence to convict a bomber, who will have every reason to come after her ?

- My God, I could die in my car, in a ball of flames !

James Gordon didn't exactly cut much ice in the eyes of Gotham Society, nor did the ordinary police he commanded. They had always been overshadowed by Gotham's Special Police headed by Dent. How to square the circle ? That was the problem she faced. The answer ? .. To wait. The next day was Christmas Day. It's an unwritten rule. Nobody does anything bad at Christmas ! She would wait, and follow Dicks again. She knew it was a course not without its risks, but it did seem to be the most logical one:

- Oh, to have a direct line to Batman !

That night, Dent, having already discreetly posted S.W.A.T. team guards around his house, discreetly doubles them !

- ( To Scribbs ) Make sure you and your men keep your eyes extra-peeled, Scribbs. Freeze is bound to make his play over the next few days. I expect him to be keen for a re-match. … But, even if HE doesn't show, I don't exactly trust Dicks.

- ( Very keen ) Right, Sir. … Anything you say, Sir.

On Christmas Day, Lucius Fox joins Bruce and Aunt Harriot for Christmas Lunch, a sumptuous affair, prepared perfectly, from beginning to end, by one Alfred Pennyworth !

- (Aunt Harriot ) Well, Bruce. You were certainly true to your word, inviting that lovely Mr. Fox to join us for Christmas.

- No problem, Aunt Harriot, Merry Christmas.

- Merry Christmas, Bruce. Gosh, it really is cold outside, and getting colder. It certainly makes me glad that we're here in the warm.

Lucius takes Bruce discreetly to one side, and expresses his concern about Bruce's long-term future:

- Why, would you excuse us a few moments, Miss Cooper ?

- By all means, Mr. Fox.

- ( Whispering to Bruce.) Have the doctors been able to offer any more hope, Mr. Wayne ?

- I'm afraid not.

- Have you considered having a heart transplant ? You couldn't continue as Batman, but at least you would still be around next Christmas.

- No, Lucius. You see, the poison remains in the system for up to eighteen months, meaning that, even receiving a new heart merely postpones the inevitable.

- I see.

- ( Bruce ) Changing the subject, Lucius. Were you able to do as I asked ? I know, arranging to attract two super-villains to one place at the same time represents a tall order. ( Little does Bruce know, that he has actually managed to attract three !

- Why, yes, Mr. Wayne. I think I managed to 'leak' word successfully, that Mr. Dent intends to meet with K.P. over the New Year period. It is his habit to wine and dine his most special business associates, at special times of the year. So New Year carries with it that extra weight of credibility. I have also noted, through my direct link to your computer, that there has been a marked decline in Freeze's activities of late. …

- Indicating, that something big might be on the cards.

- Precisely, Mr. Wayne.

- And, what about Catwoman ?

- Well, I managed to discover, that, hidden within the files of all her wealthiest victims, has been information about a certain H.D. She seems to be obsessed with who he might be.

- Harvey Dent.

- Precisely, Mr. Wayne.

- And ?

- I figure, that Catwoman, whoever SHE might be, is still monitoring the email communications of Cranberry Stubbs. I thought that, if I planted a ghost email, suggesting that Mr. Stubbs was going to meet H.D. in his apartment, on New Years Eve, then that would be the bait we would need, to enlist her services.

- Perfect. .. Using the minds of our enemies.

- Precisely, Mr. Wayne.

- Well done, Lucius . Well done.

Just then, Bruce gets a text message on his hotline:

- ( ROBIN ) Merry Christmas, Batman !

He texts back:

- Merry Christmas, Robin !

Aunt Harriot comes up to Bruce and Lucius, and says:

- Isn't this absolutely wonderful, Bruce ? We must do this again next year, what do you think, Mr. Fox ?

A poignant moment, indeed. …

Well Christmas comes and goes, as does the cold spell. A rapid fall in temperature, down to -15 degrees centigrade, doesn't produce the arrival of Viktor Fries at all !

At Daniels Air Force Base, Colonel Clinton Cole has tripled the guard, just in case Fries and his team should try to use the Base as a landing field again:

- Any sign of suspicious activity Perkins ?

- None whatsoever, Colonel. Things are as quiet as ever, Sir.

Dent has his teams on a state of high alert, but there is no sign of Mr. Freeze anywhere.

And so it continues. In fact, after a few days, the temperature begins to rise again, and still no sign of even one arctic super soldier !

For everyone with any stake in the matter, it is just one big anti-climax. Bruce Wayne, Alfred, Lucius, James Gordon, Oswald Cobblepot, even Salina Kyle, all are nonplussed at Freeze's failure to appear. Salina had hoped that Freeze would cause a welcome diversion, to make her assault on Dent all the easier.

The freezing cold weather does make it impossible for Dicks to be in any way active, likewise Naimh Ross.

On the night of the 30th December, around 11.45 pm, the two hobos Batman saved from Scribbs and his Team go to bed, a little worse the ware for alcohol, on two neighboring benches, in the deep snow, in Gotham City Park:

- Goodnight, Harvey.

- Goodnight Bruce.

- Say, did you hear that, Harvey ?

- Hear what, Bruce ?

- It sure sounded loud to me.

- Maybe it was aliens, Bruce. ... Now why don't you get some sleep. Tomorrow is New year's Eve, and we have some celebrating to do.

Next morning, while it's still dark, as both begin their usual search among the trash cans dotted around the park, both their gazes suddenly become transfixed by the sight of five ghosts suspended in mid-air ! At first, they appear to be perfectly still, then they start to move !

- Do you see, what I think I see, Bruce ?

- Yup. I think I do see, what you think you see. Let's get out of here !

Both run for their lives, while Viktor Fries, his daughter, Heidi, and two pilots, and one other emerge, dazed, bruised, but conscious, after an emergency crash landing, from their ice plane !

- Is everyone okay ? Heidi, are you alright, Liebchen ?

- Yes, Vati.

- ( One of the pilots ) Everyone fit and ready for action, Herr Fries !

- Very well, let's go ! Let's get to work !

It has always been part of Viktor's plan, well, it might have been Dimitri Kharkov's really, to lull all the relevant parties in Gotham into a false sense of security, before launching their attack on Dent. They always intended to come in on the end of the cold spell, not the beginning, now that Fries had developed 'cold suits', that allowed the Team to operate in temperatures around Freezing ! …

There is, however, one great drawback. The suits are only effective for 24 hours, before their battery packs need recharging, and the ambient temperature begins to penetrate the material. And, what is more, they are black ! .. Second-guessing his enemy, Fries decided to go black. He expects Dent to have his teams in white. In the dark, they will hopefully fire on each other ! But his men will still be distinctive, and much more obvious come daylight !

During the night, Fries, in his four-engine ice plane, has dropped twenty-five men by parachute into Gotham, including Lieutenant Colonel Dimitri Kharkov !

Dent, feeling relieved, that he has now got one less problem to worry about, has dismissed one of the two S.W.A.T. teams guarding his house.

Kharkov and his men are waiting further back than Dent's guards. They seize their chance !

One by one they sneak up behind each guard, and chloroform him. Kharkov takes six of his men. They prepare to force entry, with special forces charges, through the windows of the house. The rest are to stand guard, should Dent be able to sound any kind of alarm. Their plan is to apprehend the mysterious K.P. with Dent, should he be staying with him in the house. If not, they will force Dent into escorting them to where he is staying, so that they can kidnap him !

They burst in. Dent is taken totally by surprise. In an instant, Kharkov and his men 'have the drop' on him !

- Okay, Dent, keep your hands where we can see them. Where is your mysterious guest ?

- ( Totally shocked ) Guest, what guest ?

- ( To some of his men. ) Search the upstairs ! .. Come now, Mr. Dent. We know that you are presently entertaining someone very special from Washington. We want to know who he is. We want to take him with us, and ask him a few questions.

- Look, I seriously don't know what you are talking about.

- A man with the initials K.P., Mr. Dent.

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

Dent sits down on his sofa.

- We think you do, Mr. Dent.

One of the men comes down the stairs.

- Nothing, Kolonel.

- Search again ! Make sure, make absolutely sure.

- Yes, Sir.

He goes back upstairs.

- If he is not here, Mr. Dent, then you will lead us to him. If not, we will take you North with us instead !

Just then, Dent reaches for an Uzi machine pistol, hidden behind one of his cushions ! He opens fire, killing one of Kharkov's men, and wounding another. He only just misses Kharkov ! He exits one of the windows blown by the team.

- ( To his men ) Quick, after him !

Suddenly Dent is embroiled in a firefight with several of Kharkov's team outside. He reaches for his phone, presses a button, and shouts:

Code Red ! Code Red !

- (Kharkov to his men ) Hold your fire, all of you ! It is vital we take him alive !

Thinking they have successfully outflanked him, they discover he has given them the slip. Once a special forces soldier, always a special forces soldier !

He knocks out the guy who was guarding his car, gets in and drives off !

- ( Kharkov, somewhat relaxed. ) Okay, men, relax. Commandeer some of these cars. ( Looking at a hand-held

monitor. ) It looks as if he is heading towards his Police Headquarters. I took the liberty of placing a device on his car, before blowing our way in.

Dent calls into his mobile, while driving at speed:

- Alert all teams ! Repeat, alert all teams ! Proceed to Police Headquarters, and prepare to defend ! Alert Commissioner Gordon immediately.

Meanwhile, in Wayne Manor, Bruce is playing Alfred a game of chess !

Suddenly his hotline rings.

- Hello, Batman ? …. We're on ! ! !

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