Batman: A New World

Chapter53 New Empires, New Emperors

New Empires, New Emperors

Oswald Cobblepot has not been the only businessman to receive a menacing phone call. All the members of the Property Cartel have got one, as have all the major players in Gotham's biggest banks.

- Hello, Lucius Fox ?

- Speaking, .. and to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking ?

- Who I am is not important. ... It's a secret !

- I'm sorry. I can't accept crank callers.

- I assure you, Mr. Fox, I ain't no crank caller.

- That's as maybe. Look, I'm really busy right now. I have a Company to run.

- And a bank.

- As a matter of fact, yes, though I tend to delegate that part of the Company to my subordinates. Look, who is

this ? ( As he starts to initiate 'Q''s call tracing mechanism.).

- From now on, you're not going to leave it to your subordinates. You're going to run things, and you're going to run them my way.

- I beg your pardon.

- Ah, ah, ah, no, no, no. I'm not going to let you trace this call. See you later alligator !

That morning, Bruce Wayne is having breakfast, talking to Alfred:

- Two fried eggs I think this morning.

- Yes, Master Bruce.

- Did you hear the news this morning ?

- One did hear about the explosion in London.

- I'm just waiting for the news to come on the radio:

- (Radio) And now for the latest on the bomb attack in London last night. The Metropolitan Police, together with many UK politicians, are baffled as to why the McKenzie Corporation should be singled out for such an attack. It is, after all, at the forefront of the fight against cancer, having just recently made the most significant breakthrough in years, when it isolated the masking gene in many cancers. If you remember listeners, the Company, though the smallest pharmaceutical company of its kind, had only last week announced, that it had successfully identified the agent that can effectively switch off the masking component in the gene, providing a revolutionary cure for many of the World's most dangerous cancers. Who would want to bomb a company, that has just made such a contribution to world health ?

- ( Alfred) Ah, who indeed ?

- It has got to be Norris.

- It would seem he's in London, Master Bruce.

- It would indeed. ... And, according to the latest I have heard from William Norris Senior, they are in the Scottish Hebrides at the moment.

- Perhaps now might be the opportunity for William to meet William, Master Bruce.

- Yes, we will have 'Q' monitor the British Health Service computer system for a pattern of unexplained deaths. That will help us track his path through Britain. ... My eggs, Alfred ?

- One was just going, Master Bruce.

While Alfred is frequenting the Main Kitchen, another major news item is covered on the News:

- And now for more about the former Assistant Chief of Police in the City, Harvey Dent. Later today, Mr. Dent is due to be discharged from the Burns Unit of Gotham General, and transferred under armed guard, to the Criminal Wing of Arkham Asylum. ...

- (Bruce, thinking about how Dent put his Butler into Arkham, punches the air ! ) Yes ! ! ! ... This one's for Alfred !

- Ever since his experience while being held hostage by Mr. Freeze, Mr. Dent has been demonstrating marked psychotic symptoms, that, according to the District Attorney, warrant his detention there, until he is deemed to be in a satisfactory state of mental health, sufficient to stand trial, once the Prosecution Case against him is ready.

At Kyle Manor, Salina Kyle is listening to the same News:

- Held hostage by Mr. Freeze, indeed. It was MY show ! And my drug made him go Lady Ga Ga. ... There ARE times, when I wish super-villains could employ lawyers, to claim the credit for their deeds !

Salina's inheritance had finally come through, thanks of course to Bruce Wayne. She immediately bought up the land she needed for her safari park, well away, this time, from significant development. Believe it or not, she even employed Wayne Construction to build it ! It was the only company she could trust, and she had, of course, a unique relationship with its acting C.E.O., not to mention that with the Company's owner !

- Two boiled eggs today, I think, Lazlo.

- Yes, Mistress Salina.

- Oh, I can't wait to see what the construction workers have done to the place. They should have started this morning.

Clearly, Salina is in her element, a new woman, with a new focus, having exorcised all her ghosts !

After seeing to Bruce Wayne's breakfast requirements, Alfred just has time to make communication with his contact in London, to inform him, that he might have intelligence about the movements of William Norris in the U.K., and to await further instructions. As highly loyal as he is to Bruce, he is also highly loyal to Queen and Country !

Later, back in the C.E.O.'s Office in Wayne Tower, Lucius is meeting with a potential investor in Wayne Enterprises:

- Good Morning, Mr. ... ah ... Ghul (Pronouncing the name as gull.). Sorry, have I pronounced your name

correctly ?

- Actually, it is after 12 midday, so I consider that the appropriate greeting should be Good Afternoon.

- Ah, quite.

- And my name is Ghul (Pronouncing it as Gool.).

- Many apologies.

- Where I was born, they say, a thousand apologies.

- A thousand apologies, Mr. Ghul.

- Apologies accepted, Mr. Fox.

- Now, according to the Chief Executive of Wayne Finance, you came into our bank this morning, intending to open an account, and deposit 150 million dollars. ... That IS rather a lot of money, Mr. Ghul.

- Is it your company's policy not to accept such large sums of money ? How can a business expect to do business, if it has such a policy, Mr. Fox ?

- Well, actually, Mr. Ghul, our Business, overall, last year, was valued at approximately 20 billion dollars, and we at Wayne Enterprises would like to think, that our success has been due to the fact, that we like to attract fair and honest investors and business associates, with fair and honest intentions. Dick Burns was simply following Company Policy. He wanted to have your credentials verified, and felt that he should better defer that task to me, given the very large sum involved.

- (Laughing) Ha, ha, Mr. Fox. That is precisely the answer I was hoping to hear. I, too, am a great believer in fairness and honesty. I despise corruption in business. I despise it anywhere, and am very glad to hear my sentiments lie very close to your own. ... In my case, I put it down to my Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds. But I notice that the one, who owns the Company, does not run the Company. ... Is that not so ?

- Indeed it is. You refer, no doubt, to Mr. Bruce Wayne. ... Mr. Wayne, shall we say, does not feel he was born to be a businessman, and is more one who wants to enjoy his wealth, rather than be involved in creating more of it.

- Ah, his Acting Chief Executive Officer is being most discreet, but maybe unnecessarily so. Mr. Wayne has chosen his substitute most astutely, and, no doubt, espouses his father's values as much as Thomas Wayne did.

- You knew Thomas Wayne ?

- I believe I might have come across him, under a different name, if you understand me, Mr. Fox .

- I think I do.

- And I believe your own father had a distinguished war record, too ?

- He did indeed. ... I see you are a man, who does his homework, Mr. Ghul.

- One believes in being thorough.

- Now you are beginning to sound like someone I know.

- I can assure you we have not even spoken before.

- We weren't speaking this morning, perhaps through a third party ?

- I think not, Mr. Fox. If you received a somewhat mysterious phone call this morning, it was nothing to do with me, I assure you. Unlike your employer, I never deal through a third party. I believe in always being direct.

- I see. .. I also see, that you have made your money in the Far East, ... in the anti-corruption business. ... What exactly does the work of your companies entail ?

- We are paid by governments and city councils to identify and root out any corruption detrimental to the growth of genuine enterprise and wealth. We employ private agents, acting on behalf of official law enforcement agencies, in situations where corruption might be rife in those agencies themselves, or where there is such danger involved, police officers fear for the safety of their loved ones. The recent fortunes involving corruption here in Gotham are a case in point. Wouldn't you agree ?

- I definitely couldn't argue there.

- And I also operate schools, that instruct the citizen in the use of martial arts, also quite a lucrative business.

- I don't exactly mean to pry, Mr. Ghul, but what brings you to Gotham ? It sure is a long way from home.

- Alas, that must remain a private matter for the time being. I'm sure, as one businessman to another, you understand.

- Of course. (Going to his intercom.) Excuse me for one moment, Mr. Ghul. ... Miss Perkins ?

- Yes, Mr. Fox ?

- Any word from Mr. Wayne ?

- He's on his way up now.

- Thank you, Miss Perkins. ( Switches off the intercom.)

- Well, Mr. Fox, may I open my account ? May I make my deposit ?

- Why not let me sleep on it ?

- By all means. A most sensible course of action, I am sure.

- Why, thank you for being so understanding, Mr. Ghul.

- I will take my leave.

Lucius goes to show him to the door:

- Goodbye, Mr. Ghul.

Bruce Wayne and Ghul pass each other outside the door !

- Ah, good afternoon, Mr. Wayne,

- Good afternoon.

- (Bruce entering the office) Who was that ?

- A Mr. Ra's al Ghul, Mr. Wayne.

- And who is Ra's al Ghul ?

- A champion for anti-corruption apparently, .. and someone who wants to deposit 150 million dollars in our bank !

- I'm speechless. ... Is that what you wanted to see me about, Lucius ?

- No. Actually it might be something a lot more serious. ... I got a curious phone call this morning. Nothing unusual about that necessarily, only, when I tried to trace the call on 'Q', he detected it almost right away, leaving no possible way to trace who it was.

- No one has ever defeated 'Q'.

- Exactly.

- What did he want ?

- To take over all our banking services, by the looks of things.

- Is that all ? ... Things definitely are starting to get out of hand, Lucius.

- Thank you for coming so quickly, Mr. Wayne.

- Well, actually, I have a meeting with Pamela Eisley this afternoon.

- Oh, really ?

- Yes. I suffered a few bumps and bruises here last night, and Pamela offered me some assistance afterwards.

- Yes, I heard about that. Some kind of green goddess, I believe.

- (Feeling his bruises) You believe correctly, but no serious harm done. Very professional operation though, didn't leave by any of the conventional exits, nor enter by any conventional route, so it would seem.

- So, what do you think about this guy who called ?

- We wait.

- And this Ra's al Ghul ? He wants to deposit 150 million dollars in our bank.

- I don't care who he is. We don't accept deposits of any size from anyone, who shows up out of the blue like that.

- That's what I thought. But why should he show up here at this particular time ? You said, that he was in the business of anti-corruption ?

- He makes his money by exposing corruption, and employing private law-enforcement agents to apprehend them.

- I thought that was the role of the F.B.I. .. Maybe there is more to his arrival here in Gotham than meets the

eye. ... What about Salina Kyle ? Do you think that she has settled down now ?

- Oh I think Miss Kyle is clearly in her element, a new woman, with a new focus, having exorcised all her ghosts !

- Did the men do as I asked ?

- Why, of course, Mr. Wayne.

And, talking of Salina Kyle. This young woman, at this moment of time, has gone down to her Park, to see how the work is progressing. She is very pleasantly surprised ! She wasn't at all sure when and where exactly construction was going to begin. She goes up to the Foreman:

- My goodness, this is wonderful. You started with the animal pens, the big cat enclosures ! And it looks as if you made an early start too !

- Mr. Wayne's instructions, Miss. We were here before daybreak, ready to start at first light.

As she looks around, she can see five different crews, each working on a separate pen. She witnesses the most remarkable vehicle, invented by Lucius Fox, laying iron fencing, at speed, all around one enclosure !

- Gosh, at this rate, I will have my cats here in two weeks.

- More like six or seven days, Miss Kyle.

- As early as that ? ... Purrfect !

She has to check herself, realizing her mistake ! Then she says to herself:

- Maybe I have been too hard on Bruce. I wonder what he is doing tonight ?

Meanwhile, Bruce is paying Pamela a visit !

- Hello, Mr. Wayne.

- Mr. Wayne ? I thought we were on first name terms. We certainly were last night.

- ( Thinking on her feet.) I was only joking, Bruce. It's good to see you. Welcome to my world !

- Wow ! You really do have a lot of specimens.

- I tend to call them plants.

- Of course you do.

- How are you feeling after last night ? I'm so sorry.

- Why ? It wasn't your fault. ... I'm fine. A few cuts and bruises, but, hey, I used to play basketball.

- ( Laughing ) That's really funny, Bruce. No, it is really nice to see you again, and good to know you're feeling a good bit better.

- So how are you getting on ? I know it's still very early days.

- Well actually, I reckon I have got this little problem licked.

- You're joking !

- No. I have isolated the toxin. It's a hybrid pathogen, but it is largely based on a plant I have here. What I have done is inject the toxin into this area here (Indicating it to Bruce.).

- Why there, Pamela ?

- That is the area best suited to develop anti-toxins, which should be sufficient to combat the effects of the pathogen in humans. I recommend that the donor of the initial specimen should be the first test subject.

- Right. (Very happy) No problem.

- All we can do now is wait. It will take up to two weeks for a definite antidote to be formulated.

- Well, if you have that sort of time on your hands, you have time to have dinner with me tonight.

- You're on.

- My place, nine o'clock.

- Nine o'clock it is.

Needless to say, Bruce is filled with a new sense of happiness, at the thought of a cure for his condition, and not least because he has a date with easily one of the most beautiful women in the World !

At Gotham General, Harvey Dent, under heavy armed guard, is being escorted into an ambulance, to be transferred to Arkham Asylum. The transfer is being covered on the news, by none other than Naimh Ross.

- (Dent, struggling violently with his guards.) Take me to jail, for God's Sake ! I'm perfectly sane. Take me to jail, please !

- (Naimh) So there you have it, folks. the once Assistant Chief of Gotham's Police, under arrest, and transferring to the criminal wing of Arkham Asylum, the place where Harvey definitely doesn't want to be right now. .. This is Naimh Ross, reporting for Gotham News Network, outside Gotham General Hospital.

Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot has just returned home after a busy day at Cobblepot Computing. It is always part of his daily routine, that , as soon as he comes home, he phones his beloved Molly Brown, using his beloved Twenties telephone ! Despite his incredible success in the world of digital communication, Oswald is remarkably traditional. He hates mobile phones ! And, despite being engaged to Molly for twenty years, he is more than happy for them both to have separate living arrangements ! A man, who enjoys his own independence, is Oswald !

No sooner is he off the phone with Molly, but he gets another phone call:

- Hello again Oswald. Well have you thought any more about our little business arrangement ?

- Tell me more about what it is you're suggesting, and I'll think about it.

- I told you before, Oswald. If you don't do what I say, we're going to kill you.

- But if I give you my company, it will be useless to you. All my customers will leave, and the business will be worth squat !

- That is why we need you to stay on, ... in name only. We'll be pulling the strings.

- But that's impossible ! You can't expect me to do something like that ? If you wanta kill me, go right ahead. It would kill me to do what you are saying anyway.

- But what about your mother, Oswald. What about Molly ?

- What do you mean ?

- If you don't do what we say, we'll kill THEM, and let YOU live. ... Well, Oswald, what do you say ?

Oswald hangs up, in a state of deep shock.

At Kyle Manor, Salina has just got home from the site of her new Safari Park. There to greet her is her beloved Cleopatra !

- Oh, hello, Sweetums ! What's the matter ? Did you miss me ? Come here. ( Cleopatra jumps into her arms.) Sit here on the sofa with me, while I make a little phone call. I've decided that that bad, bad Bruce isn't nearly so bad after all, and I am going to see if he is free to go out with me tonight:

- Hello, Bruce ? .. This is Salina Kyle.

- Oh, hello Salina. what can I do for you ? Are you happy with the work at the Park ?

- Over the moon, Bruce ! ... That's why I'm phoning, .. to thank you. I didn't expect your personal involvement in all of this, and I do appreciate the way you looked after my father's investments for me.

- No problem, Salina. Your father and mine were good friends. It was the least I could do.

- Well, I was kind a thinking I would like to thank you properly, maybe dinner tonight ? .. My treat ?

- Gee, sorry, Salina. I've already got a date for this evening.

Salina holds her hand over her phone and says:

- Damn !

Then, recovering her composure a little, goes on to say:

- (In a joking tone) Are you going out carousing again, this evening, Bruce ? Who is it tonight, enjoying the company of Gotham's most eligible playboy ?

- Oh no, Salina. Nothing like that. No, this is a bit more serious than that. ... Look, I'm kinda busy right now. Dinner some time would be real fine. I'll look forward to it. I'll get back to you, okay ?

- Okay, Bruce, okay.

- Damn, Cleopatra !

Cleopatra is startled.

- Oh, sorry, Sweetums, sorry (Stroking her most tenderly). ... It looks as if silly Salina might just have left things a little late. .. Maybe I was a little rash in letting go of Dwayne Brood. Damn !

That evening at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Aunt Harriot are watching the Naimh Ross Celebrity Special about Harvey Dent. Aunt Harriot just can't believe that Harvey could have done such things:

- I just can't believe that Harvey could have done such things, Bruce.

- I'm afraid it looks very much as he did, Aunt Harriot.

- (Naimh Ross) Here is unedited coverage of the interview Harvey Dent gave me on the Golf Course.

- Mr. Dent, you own Dent Securities. You are also Gotham's Assistant Commissioner of Police. How can you justify holding down two jobs like that ?

- I run a very successful business, Miss Ross. Lots of people around the world, who have proved their worth in the Private Sector, have been employed in various capacities by governments.., both national and local.

- But you earn fifty times as much money as C.E.O. of Dentsec, as you do as Assistant Commissioner. It is reckoned that you earned one and a half million dollars last year alone. Why stay in a position that pays peanuts in comparison ?

- ( A little rattled ) I see you've done your research. … I do it out of a sense of public duty. I also seem to have been pretty successful at it too.

- That's another thing, Mr. Dent. How come there is such a need for security services in Gotham, when you claim to have all but eradicated robbery and violent crime in the City ?

( Dent is momentarily wrong-footed at this point.)

- Maybe, it's a question of attacking the one problem on two fronts, Miss Ross, deterring the criminal from invading a person's property, and dealing firmly with him on the streets.

- Some might argue a bit too firmly, to the point of infringing their human rights.

- What about the human rights of the ordinary citizen, Miss Ross ? And the majority of those citizens happen to agree with me. So, if you don't mind. I'd like to finish my golf game.

- (Naimh) The hypocrisy of Mr. Dent is plain to see everywhere in that clip, not least because one of the people he was playing golf with, at the time, is none other than Larry Dicks, the very same Larry Dicks, who was at the scene of the bomb explosion, that almost killed the then Assistant Chief of Police ! It is widely believed that he has been named, by at least one States Evidence witness, as the Gotham Bomber. Police have been working on the assumption, that Dicks triggered the remote control device that exploded under the car Dent was driving. It is also believed that, at the time, Dent had kidnapped an as yet unnamed woman, and that it was, in fact, HER car.

- (Aunt Harriot) Oh it's so sad, Bruce. Who would have believed it ? I always thought that Harvey was keeping the streets safe for all of us. Just look at what has been happening in the City since he had to go. It's terrible, .. terrible.

- I know, Aunt Harriot, I know, but maybe things have to get worse, before they get better.

- Oh, Bruce, is that the time ? Don't you have a guest coming for dinner this evening ? I know Alfred is working very hard in the Kitchen.

- Yes, you're right. I have to go and get changed.

Bruce gets up, and heads out of the room.

- Enjoy your evening Bruce (Giggling a little to herself.)

- I will.

Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot receives a visitor:

- Ah Lucius, I'm so glad you could come, and so soon. (Whispering) Maybe best to keep quiet. Walls have ears

- What's wrong, Oswald, and why all the secrecy ? This is all rather cloak and dagger.

- It's happening all over again, Lucius.

- What's happening all over again ?

- I got a phone call today.

- So did I.

- In fact I have had two phone calls.

- He sounded as if he was joking, right ?

- At first, I thought he was joking.

- Oswald, you're not listening to a word I am saying.

- Sorry ?

- Wayne Enterprises got the same phone call this morning. .. It sounds as if someone is trying to take over most of Gotham's big business. It can hardly been a coincidence, we have both heard from the same guy. If it has been happening to us, it's been happening to a lot more.

- Well, I'll be. ... You got the same phone call too, huh ?

- Yes !

- So what are we going to do about it ? I don't know what he said to you, but he has threatened to kill Ma and Molly, if I don't let him take over.

- Well, funnily enough, we have a champion against this sort of corruption in Gotham at this very moment.

- Oh, .. who ?

- His name is Ra's al Ghul. He wanted to deposit $150 million into our bank.

- Never heard of him. Crazy sort of a name.

- Middle Eastern. ... I've been doing a bit of research.

- Using the Batcomputer, no doubt.

- Indeed. ... And it would seem that he has made his fortune largely in countries, where there has been a revolution, or reaction, against corruption in government, and where rather extreme measures are taken to stamp out injustice.

- What sort of measures ?

- People just disappear.

- Oh, I see.

- He has branches of his agency all over the World.

- Interesting, very interesting. ... No, I've made up my mind. ... I'm going to send Ma on an all-expenses-paid world cruise, and I'm gonna take Molly underground with me. ... The Penguin is going back on the road !

- ( Somewhat bemused ) Underground

- ( Seeing the funny side of it.) Yes, Lucius, underground. Oswald Cobblepot isn't going to be anybody's puppet ! ... I'm going to put the Company on the market. Will you be my executor ?

- Of course, Lucius, .. if that's what you want.

- And, after all is done and dusted, I can help you and Batman track down who's doing this, and (Beating the air.) whammo !

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce is entertaining Pamela Eisley, or rather, Alfred is !

- Are you ready for your hors d'oevres ?

- (Pamela) Why not ? Oh, this is wonderful, Bruce. Thank you for inviting me.

- We have a lot in common, Pamela.

- Yeah, but my family would have been making the meal, not enjoying it.

- That means nothing Pam. Can I call you Pam ?

- Sure.

- You are making your own way in the World, and you're making it a better place. I was born with this, an accident of birth.

- You are too kind.

- I meant every word.

- Yeah, I guess that plants have become my philosophy, Bruce.

- What do you mean ?

- Well, look at the age of the Earth ? Hell, look at the age of the Universe, not to mention it's incredible size. If there's one thing that strikes me about the world of plants, it's diversity, and everything's re-cycled. Physics, chemistry, biology, every scientific process is involved. People can feel threatened by the great age of Creation, and the sheer scale of things, but not me. I believe in the Law of Near-Infinite Diversity.

- And what is that, Pam ?

- The cycle of seeds planted, growth, fruit, death, re-seeding, and the whole thing begins again. And with cross-fertilization, not only do you have ever increasing variety, but great beauty as well. When you look at the history of the Universe, you see something quite similar. A star or a planet starts with a small rock in space, like a seed, and gravity causes it to grow and grow When they die, the whole process starts all over again. And where there is life, biology will create unique diversity, beauty and wonder. Like blades of grass, no two planets will be exactly the same. I could go on and on.

- Wow, that's right. That's right. You should write a book.

- No, .. I couldn't, .. could I ?

- Sure. Why not ? You're already developing an outstanding world-wide reputation in botany and bio-chemistry. With your answer to the Norris pathogen, it is about to go stratospheric !

- Thanks for the encouragement.

- Credit where credit's due, that's all.

Well, the dinner goes really well. Alfred has excelled himself as usual, Bruce and Pamela really hit it off, and plan to see each other again.

As they are saying goodnight, Mayor Linseed is putting his grandchildren to bed.. Suddenly he gets a message on his mobile phone:

- Why hello, Commissioner. How can I help you ?

- Is it true ?

- Sorry, is what true ?/

- That you are bringing in an outside agency ?

- I'm afraid so, Commissioner.

- But why ?

- I should think that was obvious, Commissioner. We have had corruption at the very heart of the Police Force. It was right under your nose, and YOU couldn't see it.

- But why not the F.B.I. ?

- According to my contacts in Washington, there is every possibility we can't trust them either. ... No, much better to bring in someone from outside, someone with a proven record.

- You are entrusting our anti-corruption strategy to someone from the other side of the planet ?

- All the more likely that he hasn't been touched by corruption on this side ! ...(In an authoritative tone) Goodnight, Commissioner.

- Goodnight, Mr. Mayor.

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