Chapter 6: Wayne's World (The Batling)
( The Batling )
Bruce Wayne was born into a multi-millionaire business empire, the only child of Tom and Martha Wayne. By the time he finished High School, he would be a billionaire !
Tom and Martha had met at Gotham High. Martha Langfield had begun her time there late, when her family moved into the big city, leaving their country farm. She was two years Tom's junior. They met in the High School Library. Tom was there with his best friend, Harvey, who, now that I come to think of it, was the first to notice this beautiful girl studying at one of the tables.
It was Harvey who first introduced himself, in the hope that long awaited romance might have finally come knocking at his door. Things seemed to be going rather well. Then Tom joined them, and all of a sudden the tenor changed, and Martha's attention was entirely diverted to Tom and to everything he said.
Harvey would always believe that the young Martha had known about Tom's wealthy and successful background, before their fateful meeting, adding one more reason for him to be a little jealous of his best friend, and eventually come to resent him, but nothing could be further from the truth. For it was Martha, who had thought her family was more successful than Tom's, as they sat together in the library that day.
They fell in love, and, despite the problems caused by Tom's early military training and the subsequent separation involved, they were eventually to marry, and live together in the family quarters on base. Given the sensitive and highly dangerous nature of his work, towards the end of his military career, they had purposefully delayed having children. Tom had turned his back on a multi-million dollar business, to pursue a career in the Army, but, following the sudden death of his father, he decided to leave, and take command of a different operation ! He was now Chief Executive Officer of Wayne Enterprises, and, not long after, little Bruce was born !
The earliest recollection, Bruce would have of his father, was when he was about six. He had just been subjected to an act of bullying by a bigger and older boy at school, called Jack, and had been crying in his room. His Father had comforted him. He hadn't told him off for crying. When Bruce had stopped, Tom Wayne simply brought his Son down into an area of the garden, and showed him a few simple, but very effective, moves in the art of self-defence !
- If he tries it again, son, and goes to hit you, allow his weight to carry him forward. Duck down, and get behind him a bit, and push him hard in the same direction. It works every time !
And he demonstrated it again and again. The next day, Jack tried it on again, and sure enough, he tried to hit young Bruce. Only this time, he got the shock of his life. It was like the little weed, he had bullied the day before, had turned into a Ninja ! 'Crazy Jack', as he was known, ended up, face down in amongst a bunch of trash cans ! Bruce now felt very good about himself, Jack quite the opposite, but he never picked on him again, nor did anyone else in his year at school ! Only later on in life would their paths cross again.
He had earlier memories of his mother of course, for she had always been at hand, and had looked after him from birth. No Nannies ! And then, there was Alfred. Although Alfred Pennyworth was to become the Manor Butler, Bruce first remembered him as the Family Chauffeur ! And, for some reason as yet unknown to him, his Father never called him Alfred, but Mac !
In fact, Tom Wayne had offered his former mentor an opportunity to make a life for himself in America, in return for his services as Bruce's Bodyguard ! That, and a life in the luxurious surroundings of Wayne Manor, together with enough money for him to acquire and expand vast collections of paintings, antiques and rare plants and trees. Alfred 'Mac' Pennyworth was a fairly unobtrusive, cultured mix of Englishman and Scot !
He had also overseen the security measures taken in the Manor, following the now infamous incendiary attacks that had beset some of the wealthiest homes in Gotham, again when Bruce was around six years old.
Suddenly an emergency elevator was fitted, especially for Great Aunt Harriot, who also lived with the Waynes. This elevator could travel at reasonable speed, straight down into a special cellar, next to a large cave, built especially for the purpose. But Bruce's absolute favourite was the secret escape pole, hidden behind a false bookshelf in the Manor Study, which led to another emergency cellar ! There was a button, hidden in a small bust of William Shakespeare, on his father 's desk. Pressing this activated the emergency exit !
He would enjoy nothing more than to play on the pole ( when his parents weren't looking of course ! Mind you, Alfred knew. Alfred seemed to know everything ! ), and secretly make his way back up again, up a hidden staircase, and then repeat the process !
In fact, it was while he was in the cellar that Bruce Wayne, the boy, had his very first encounter with the little creature, that would ultimately define Bruce Wayne the man. He had used the pole so much, in such a short period of time, that the security lighting hadn't come on. He had exhausted the emergency batteries. Bruce was really startled by a fluttering noise in the dark. This was followed by a series of eerie shrieks. He was really scared, and reached frantically for the manual light switch on the wall next to the pole. The lights came on gradually in stages.
The first things he could see were rather indistinct shadows and silhouettes against one cellar wall. As the lights activated fully, the creatures panicked, as they were blinded by the light ! Bruce could plainly see that they were bats. Though he had been clearly frightened by them in the dark, he wasn't the least bit afraid of them in the light. But, out of consideration for them, he turned the lights off again, even though he was really scared of the dark, and then noticed that they must have gone. He turned the lights on and they had vanished !
Suddenly, for Bruce, the Bat had become a mystery creature. It was tiny and entirely harmless, but had scared him. He couldn't see in the dark, but they had somehow been able to see, and escape ! He investigated further, and discovered a narrow fissure in the cellar wall. The next day he brought a flashlight with him and shone it in through the crack, and, lo and behold, there was beyond the fissure a vast, dark cave full of bats, sleeping and sheltering from the bright summer sun !
Bruce was to become so intrigued by the bats, that he looked to find out as much as he could about them. His parents allowed him to use his Great Aunt's Elevator to gain access to the cellar system. He was even allowed to have a small room in the Manor, set aside for his very own bat enclosure, keeping a few of the bats he would catch in the cellar on a rotation basis, in a specially lit, dark room, for him to enjoy the company of his new found friends. It never ceased to amaze him, how friends of his, who came to visit, were absolutely terrified of bats ! Boys who were really tough, and feared no man, would cower in fear, if he let them loose to fly around the room !
And so that had been the first of two great defining moments in his early life, a really happy one. The second doesn't really bear thinking about, a really sad one.
By the time Bruce was ten years old, it was like he had three parents, Martha, Thomas and Alfred. Alfred was indeed like a Father to him, for it was Alfred who would drive him to school and pick him up most days. And Alfred had taught him how to better climb trees and the rock formations, some of which towered within the boundaries of the Manor. Bruce loved to climb the rocks and the trees. Alfred pointed out that the best natural climber in the world was the monkey, and that it had remarkably strong hands. This was it's secret. He helped Bruce to develop strong hands, and to become an adept climber by the age of ten ! By the time he was eleven, he would have none.
One cold December evening, his Father was leaving to go to a concert he had especially sponsored, a big charity event to raise awareness about the plight of orphans in Somalia, where he had served. His mother had been due to attend with him, only to have had to change her plans the day before. And yet, at the last moment, she was able to attend after all. Bruce remembers even to this day how beautiful and striking she looked, as she left with his Father. Alfred would normally have accompanied them to such well publicised events, in his capacity as bodyguard, but he was visiting family in Scotland at the time.
Bruce went to bed as usual that night. Aunt Harriot saw to that. When he woke up the next morning, she had to break the tragic news to her Great Nephew. ... There had been a robbery outside the theatre, after the Gala. No one saw what had happened, but his Mother and Father had both been shot. Neither had survived.
As much as he loved his Great Aunt, there was one person that he needed more, Alfred. A few days later, he arrived back from Scotland, and embraced him like a son. It was to be Alfred's hand he would be holding throughout the day of his Parents' Funeral.
Over the next weeks, then months, he would visit Alfred's private apartments in the Manor, and was made as welcome there as he once was in his parents' rooms. His abiding memories of those days were the radio and computer equipment piled high in one corner of the room, and how they might be both involved in great lighthearted conversation, when his Bodyguard's attention would suddenly be distracted by beeping noises and flashing lights. Page upon page of computer data would rapidly fill up his computer screen, and he would have to say:
- Bruce, I really am sorry, but something very important has come up. Away off to your bedroom now. I'm afraid I have work to do.
And then, as if it hadn't been bad enough losing his Parents, suddenly Alfred was gone. Just like that. Oh, Aunt Harriot explained, as best she could, that he had suddenly been taken ill, and was in hospital, but, when Bruce asked if he could go and visit, there would be an awkward silence, before she would simply reply:
- No Son, I'm afraid you can't. it's just not possible, and that's that.
This was indeed a wilderness period for Bruce, one that lasted for the best part of a year, when one day he heard the sound of a car drive up to the main door. Then he heard Aunt Harriot shout out:
- Bruce, Oh Bruce, why look who it is ! We have a special visitor today.
It was Alfred, much thinner than he remembered, and a lot slower in speech, but it WAS Alfred ! He gave his former protector a big hug, that was only half returned in kind, but it WAS Alfred. He hardly spoke, he was still weak after his time in hospital, but within a week, or so it seemed to Bruce, he was back to his usual self again, and many wonderful years in this special relationship would follow, only this time he returned to the service of Wayne Manor as it's Butler, not it's Bodyguard !