Chapter 58 Futures
The morning after the night before, Bruce, Lucius and Alfred are involved in a video conversation over breakfast !
- I am, of course, delighted to learn that you are feeling better, Mr. Wayne, and that the serum Miss Eisley developed is proving so promising.
Meanwhile, Alfred is busy serving Bruce his breakfast !
- ( Bruce ) Thank you, Lucius. ... Yes, I can honestly say things are looking a whole lot brighter for Bruce Wayne and Batman. All we need is our health and strength, and the world will be our oyster !
- Any thoughts on how you plan on getting the serum and the formula to the Gotham General ? Our Joker friend, of course, is going to be watching us like a hawk, waiting for the right opportunity to relieve us of such a precious commodity.
- I've already made plans in that regard, Lucius. I'm going to suggest to the Commissioner that Batman be the one to deliver it.
- Ah, a wise choice, of course.
- Did you do anything more about Dick ?
- Of course, Mr. Wayne. Only this morning, I have mailed the boy a letter, appointing him as Supervisory Attendant of All Student Staff in Wayne Enterprises. Some of us have already begun our daily toil, Mr. Wayne.
Alfred coughs a little, somewhat out of a sense of frustration, given that his not insubstantial daily toil began even earlier than Lucius's ! )
- ( Lucius, smiling a little.) Apologies, Alfred. That last remark was not at all addressed to your good self.
- ( Alfred ) Apology accepted, Mr. Fox.
- But we don't have such a position in Wayne Enterprises.
- We do now, Mr. Wayne. We do now.
- ( Smiling ) Okay. ... Very good, Lucius, very good. And so the meteoric rise of Richard Grayson begins !
- If he wants such a career, of course. The boy has to want it for himself.
- You're right, Lucius. That goes without saying. ... It's just that the boy is determined to follow in my footsteps. I reckon, once he learns that Batman is Bruce Wayne, and that his team consists of you and Alfred, it would only be natural for him to want to be part of the Business, and part of the Manor.
- And have you any idea, at this present time, just when exactly he will come upon this all-important information ?
- I don't know, Lucius. ... What I do know, though, is that it's becoming harder and harder to relate with the boy solely as Batman. He needs to know who I really am, but I am aware that we might be, to some degree, engaging in a form of nepotism. It all does tend to run counter to our philosophy that you have to earn positions of responsibility.
- He's a very good worker, Mr. Wayne. ... He does display a great degree of promise.
- I'm glad. ... It comes as no surprise, ... and the position is a good one. ... Dick is a boy, who has become increasingly isolated from his peers. ... He will interact well with fellow students, teenagers like himself. ... Hopefully he'll make more friends, ... come out of his shell.
- ( Alfred ) Forgive one for interrupting, Master Bruce, but is one right to understand that young Master Grayson might come to live here in the Manor ?
- No, not live, exactly !
- What then, Master Bruce ?
- I hadn't in any way really considered it, ... but, thinking on my feet, as it were, .. now you come to mention it, I could invite him to come and catalogue the Manor Library, as an extra job.
- Ahem, Master Bruce, ... may one remind you, Sir, that that was one of the very first tasks that one undertook, when one first came here to work in one's present capacity. That catalogue is regularly and meticulously kept up-to-date. The Library requires no cataloguing, whatsoever.
- I know that, ... and YOU know that, ... but Dick won't know that. ... Anyway, Alfred, I am already all too aware that most of the books in the Library are yours, in any case !
- ( Lucius ) Pardon me for interrupting, Mr. Wayne, but we find ourselves faced with great difficulties, concerning the threat posed by our friend. ... How do we protect our staff, our Business, ourselves for that matter ?
- By making the security of the Towers and the Manor our top priority, Lucius. ... We're not going to go out looking for our adversary. ... The guy's going to be really frustrated that I got away. ... He's bound to come after us soon. There is no point in going out to protect potential victims, when they are, in all probability, likely to be us, anyway.
- True, Mr. Wayne, very true. ...
Meanwhile, across Gotham, in Kyle Manor, Salina is having a deep heart-to-heart conversation with her cat !
- It was terrible, Cleopatra. ... It's obvious he's in love with the Plant Queen ! Why else would he have hesitated, when I asked him if we could date for real ? ... ( No answer ! ) ... Well, ... if I can't have Bruce, maybe that lovely hunk of a guy, Batman might be interested. ... Yes, ... now I come to think of it, ... if I could get Batman's attention, maybe as a vigilante against this gangster guy everyone's talking about, .. maybe then there might develop something really interesting between us, .. unless, of course, ( Starting to laugh. ) I've already dated HIM on the Internet ! ( Still no answer ! ) ... Maybe it's time for Catwoman to crack her whip again !
The News comes on TV:
In an official news release, the Gotham PD have announced that Bruce Wayne was, in fact, rescued by Batman, in a daring and audacious attempt to secure the billionaire's release. And we now know the identity of the kidnapper. He calls himself, 'The Joker', the man widely believed, by so many, to be the one responsible for the most dangerous aspects of the crime wave now engulfing the city. ...
- Ah, ..now that IS interesting. ... The Joker, ay ?
Her Butler, Lazlo enters with her breakfast on a tray:
- Vood Mistress Salina reqvire tea or coffee, sis morning ?
- Coffee please, Lazlo, and Lazlo ? ..
- Yes, Mistress Salina.
- Maybe, you could get my cats and one of the suits ready for later on.
- Yes, Mistress Salina. ... Vill you also reqvire MY services, later ?
- You know, Lazlo, .. it has been a while since we last worked together. ... Yes, I reckon I will. ... These new guys on the block are really tough customers, and, if there's one thing about you, it's that you're a tough customer, too !
Back at the video conference:
- ( Lucius ) I was listening to the News just then, Mr. Wayne, and they said that it was Batman, who helped you escape.
- Yes, it was something that Dent asked me to say, before I left him. It was important, that the Joker and his men hear the same story, that he told them about Batman. Actually, the 'Daring and audacious rescue of a Gotham citizen from under the nose of the city's most dangerous criminal', all that is really good PR for Batman ! It sure as hell will frighten Gotham's criminal elements !
- ( Lucius ) Look, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you to talk about Harvey Dent, given the unfortunate past history you share, but have you had time to digest where he might stand, given that he helped you escape ? ... Do you think that he might be about to change sides ?
- ( Alfred ) One must confess, that that was a question, that one also had in mind.
- ( Bruce ) I don't know. ... I just don't know. I have tried to put myself in his shoes. Believe me, that isn't at all easy. ... I know, he really regrets seeing Gotham falling apart like this. ... When HE was in control, the gangster world was out of sight. There were no real threats to the security of the vast majority of its citizens. HIS particular brand of gangsterism actually guaranteed peace and well-being on the streets. The Joker's brand is totally the opposite. I know Dent has little time for him. I reckon he rather despises him.
- ( Lucius ) Well, why then stay with a mad man ?
- Dent still has enemies, Some want him dead, some alive. Some of the enemies he made amongst the criminal fraternity, while he was Assistant Commissioner, have already tried to kill him. In so doing, they have killed some of his very good friends. Then there are his enemies in the State Justice System. They want to put him back behind bars. There can, after all, be no amnesty for someone who has escaped from jail, and is a self-confessed murderer. Incidentally, he inadvertently made me potentially the chief witness against him, when he told me what he did to my parents, when he made his great confession. Come to think of it, he might come round to wanting to kill me himself, given the right set of circumstances. No, the future for 'Dear Uncle Harvey' is really complicated, and, for the time being at least, is likely to remain a dark one.
- ( Alfred ) My word, Master Bruce, spoken like a true Intelligence Analyst, and a good one at that ! ... Oh, by the way, a postcard has just arrived, Sir, from Miss Cooper. ... ( Passing it to Bruce.) Perhaps you might like to read it, Master Bruce.
Bruce reads it aloud:
- Having a wonderful time with Ivy Copplepot. Wish you were here. Sorry I haven't used that smart phone you gave me. I haven't figured out how to use it yet. It might be smart, but your Aunt isn't !
Lots of love, Aunt Harriot.
He sets it down on the table.
- ( Lucius ) I've often felt that about smart phones. ... Any further thoughts on how we might discover this Joker's true identity ?
- ( Alfred ) Again, ... another question one had in mind.
- ( Bruce ) Well, ... all being well, and the serum being sufficiently effective against the Norris pathogen to warrant mass distribution, we try to access Gotham's medical records, acquire a list of all receiving treatment, and cross-reference with the list of all known Comedians in the Country, failed and successful. The trouble is, of course, being able to acquire sensitive information about hospital patients. It is, after all, unethical. There is no way any Doctor or Medical Administrator would be prepared to divulge that information, even to the Commissioner of Police.
- ( Lucius ) Ah. ( Smiling a little. )
- What is it Lucius ?
- Come to think of it, there might just be a way. ... Recently, I came upon the majority shareholding of a rather successful Computer Manufacturing company.
- Yes, Lucius, so I heard. I was meaning to ask you all about that, before I was so rudely kidnapped ! ... Something about Oswald Cobblepot's Company, wasn't it ?
- As I understand it, you did much more than 'come upon it', you bought those shares for $250 million ! Where on earth did you get that amount of money ? I know that you sold all your shares in Wayne Enterprises to a mystery buyer for $150 million. Where did you get the rest ? What did you do Lucius, rob a bank ?
- No, Mr. Wayne. I simply followed the wise advice, that your activities in the Harrison Futures Account, on behalf of Miss Kyle, afforded me, and invested substantial savings of my own, accordingly.
- And, this mystery buyer. ... How can we be sure that it wasn't someone working for the Joker ?
- Because it was Oswald Cobblepot I sold them too ! ( He giggles. ) ... It was a straight swap ! ! !
- You mean, that a known felon is now a major shareholder in Wayne Enterprises ?
- Only for the foreseeable future Mr. Wayne, just until Mr. Cobblepot can redeem his Company. ... You see, our Joker friend was trying to extort HIS Company from under him, too.
- How do you know Oswald Cobblepot ?
- Oh, it's a long story. ... Let's just say, that we knew each other in our College days, and leave it at that. ... Anyway, Mr. Wayne, ... the fact is, that I now have access to all Gotham General's medical files, not that I have any intention of actually accessing them all.
- ( Alfred ) Really, Mr. Fox ? .. And how did you manage to acquire such access ?
- Because Mr. Cobblepot, having been bitten once before by charlatans taking his company away, included a few hidden surprises in the overall business packages he arranged with his customers, many of whom are now working with this 'Joker'.
- ( Bruce ) My God ! ... And let me guess. One happens to be a sophisticated spy ware mechanism secreted in all his computers.
- Actually, it is hidden in the very anti-spy-ware program installed in ALL his computers !
- ( Alfred ) My word. ... How absolutely ingenious, Mr. Fox.
- ( Lucius ) Isn't it Alfred ? ... So, basically, all we have to do is wait for our friend to register for treatment, and wait for a match. ... We don't need to know the identities of anyone else receiving such treatment, only our man. All the information will be fed directly into 'Q'. It will be HIS secret.
- ( Bruce ) Brilliant, Lucius, brilliant. The logistical and ethical problems concerning our task reconciled in one !
- ( Alfred ) Indeed, Master Bruce, .. indeed.
Just then, there is a ring at the Manor Gate. Alfred exits the room. A little later he returns to announce:
- ( A little unsettled.) Mrs. Victoria Bross, Sir.
And in she comes !
- Miss, actually, Alfred. I'm not currently married, .. remember ?
- Quite, Miss Bross. ... I ... I mean, one remembers now. ... One's apologies.
- Hello, Bruce.
- Hello Victoria, how are you ?
- ( Noticing Lucius on-screen.) Oh, is that the lovely Mr. Fox ?
- ( Lucius ) It is indeed, Miss Bross. ( Hastily) I will bid you all a very good morning.
- Oh, you don't have to go on my account, Lucius !
- ( Bruce ) Bye Lucius. ( Switches off the screen. ... Okay, Victoria, what can I do for you ?
- You couldn't put me up here for a while, could you ?
Alfred looks decidedly alarmed !
- ( Victoria, noticing the postcard on the table.) Oh, how absolutely beautiful, ... from your Aunt. ...
- My Great Aunt.
- Lovetravel World Cruises, funny, but Warner wanted ME to go on a cruise, just like that one. ... Which is why I am here. You see, Warner thinks my life might be in danger, and that I should live somewhere else for a while. I've just BEEN on holiday, so I thought, maybe, ( Tentatively ) I could .. stay .. here .. with .. you, for a while.
- Look, Victoria, you are more than welcome to stay here for as long as you want ( Alfred looks decidedly worried ! ), but OUR lives are in danger, too. You might have missed it, when you were on holiday, but I was kidnapped by the same guy, who is behind all this.
- No ! I never heard. Are you alright ?
- A little shaken, but I'm getting over it. .. So, you see, .. it doesn't exactly make sense for you to stay here.
- I'm prepared to take my chances, ... especially, when Alfred is around to look after me. ... After all, didn't I read that he used to be your bodyguard ?
- ( Bruce, feeling increasingly concerned.) I don't know, Victoria. ... We do live the most unconventional sort of lives here at the Manor. ... I don't really think that you will feel all that comfortable here.
- Oh, come now, Bruce. ... There is plenty of room here in the Manor. ... ( Looking in Alfred's direction, and sounding just a little more than mildly seductive ! ) There are plenty of rooms, .. for a woman of my age .. to feel comfortable.
- Shall I carry the lady's things upstairs, Master Bruce ?
- ( Bruce, smiling.) It looks as if we have no option, Alfred.
A little later, Bruce is in his study, and phones James Gordon:
- Hello Commissioner, Bruce Wayne here.
- Ah, Mr. Wayne, what can I do for you ?
- Well, actually, I have some very good news.
- Really, what sort of good news ?
- A project commissioned by my Acting C.E.O. has produced an antidote for the deadly poison Dr. Norris used in Gotham.
- Why, that's wonderful, Mr. Wayne. Indeed, some of my very best friends are seriously ill with that condition. ... How can I help ?
- I have reason to believe that the Joker also suffers from that condition, and even wants to profit from the sale of the antidote, if he can get his hands on it. Could you contact Batman, and ask him to transport it to Gotham General ? I have every reason to believe it could be hijacked on the way.
- By all means, Mr. Wayne. ... It sounds like a very good idea. ... I'll get onto it right away.
- Thank you, Commissioner.
- No. Thank you, Mr. Wayne. The city offers you a profound sense of gratitude. ... I only hope the treatment proves successful.
- As do I, Commissioner. As do I.
Moments later, Bruce receives the call on Batman's mobile hotline ! ... James Gordon makes the aforementioned request, which Batman duly accepts:
- ( Gordon ) Thank you, Batman. I knew that I could count on your support. ... Congratulations, by the way, on the way that you rescued Bruce Wayne like that. It was nothing short of miraculous !
- No, Commissioner. ( Knowing the truth of course ! ) It was nothing.
- Oh, come now. .. Honestly, Batman, your modesty is one of the many things I admire about you. ... But there IS a matter I wished to discuss with you. I am afraid I neglected to inform you, that I felt compelled to accept the offer Mr. Ghul made to me, concerning the deployment of his special force, to combat the unrest in the City. They are likely to be around for quite some time. I hope you didn't mind.
- That's quite alright, Commissioner. I witnessed them in action some nights ago. They are, of course, most effective. Sometimes desperate times require desperate measures.
- I quite agree, though it causes me the deepest disquiet to use such unconventional methods on the streets of an American city. ... But there's more, Batman. I have received confirmation from Mr. Ghul, that Kensington Payne IS our man in Washington.
- Confirmation indeed. ... If there is one thing about Gotham's latest guardian, it's that his information is impeccable. ... Well, now we know the identity of THE major player behind all our problems, not to mention the Country's. ... And yet, still another major problem to solve.
- I'm afraid so, Batman. I'm afraid so. ... It just seems that there are no end of problems to solve. .. Why, only last night, my officers were called to the luxury suite of a man, who swears he was seriously assaulted by a beautiful young woman, who suddenly changed into some kind of a plant creature, calling herself Poison Ivy. She proceeded to cause him significant pain and embarrassment. ... Come to think of it, Mr. Bruce Wayne had a rather similar encounter some weeks ago. ... I just don't know what to make of such cases.
- You forget, Commissioner. You are talking to Batman. That is very much my domain.
- Why, of course, Batman ( Laughing ) !
- Rest assured, Commissioner. I will investigate the matter.
- Then there's Oswald Cobblepot. ...
- Oh, Commissioner ? ... What about him ?
- I doubt if you'd remember him. ... He's more a villain of yesteryear, .. but he has recently disappeared underground, .. quite literally, leaving no trace. ... All I know, from my ears ON THE GROUND, is that the Penguin might be up to his old tricks again.
- ( Bruce to himself. ) Good grief. That's all I need.
- I was the cop who finally put an end to his tricks all those years ago, even though I say it myself. ... Just when you think things couldn't get any worse.
- Is that all Commissioner ?
- Oh, apologies Batman. ... I'm sure you have plenty of things to think about. I will bid you good morning and good luck.
- Likewise, Commissioner Gordon.
Meanwhile, at his home, Ra's Al Ghul is deep in thought, while entertaining Yang Sun Yu, his second-in-command:
- (Thinking to himself.) That was the most impressive raid on our enemy's secret headquarters I could ever imagine. There is no doubt in my mind at all, now. I must have this man on my side. I have to be the one behind Batman, not this Alfred Pennyworth. What an avenging angel he could be, if I could turn him to my point of view. He obviously doesn't believe in killing anyone. .. That is his great weakness. ... It will lead to his death one day. He wants to defeat evil, as I do, but the only way to defeat it for good is to eradicate it... The worst examples of humanity must be destroyed. The worst individuals must die. ... Yes, ... I can see a much different destiny for Batman. ... He has to embrace his TRUE destiny, the one I see time and time again in other worlds. ...
- ( He speaks to Yang.) Oh, by the way, I have another mission for you.
- And what might that be, Master Ghul ?
- I want you to kill Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler.