Batman: A New World

Chapter 60 Absent Friends

Absent Friends

It is breakfast time and a sixteen year old boy is opening his mail:

- Gee Ma, it's from Wayne Enterprises. I've been promoted !

- What do you mean, Richard, you've been promoted ? ... Sure you're only a student, working there part-time. How can you get promotion ?

- It says, you have recently come to the attention of senior management as a young person displaying significant promise, and as such, it gives us great pleasure to offer you the post of Part-time Supervisor of All Student Employees at Wayne Enterprises. Please reply by contacting us at the number printed below, within the next five working days.

PS You are precisely the kind of young man we are looking for at the Company, and likely to enjoy a bright future with us, should you entertain the possibility of seeking a permanent position with us as a career.

He slaps the letter with the back of his hand, in sheer delight !

- Well, I'll be ... !

Just then, she turns on the TV:

- The latest reports reveal that there were very few people in the building at the time, mainly night staff, and that everyone had more than enough time to evacuate the building before it collapsed. One security guy told me that it was like an earthquake. The building was shaking for a good twenty minutes, before it came down. Curiously, no one else in the immediate vicinity reported feeling even the slightest vibration, until the moment of collapse, that is. Naimh Ross reporting for GNN, outside what used to be the Hawkes Tower.

Bruce Wayne, turning the TV off:

- Absolute chaos, Alfred. ... That can't be the work of the Joker, can it ?

- Hardly, Sir, ... since Mr. Hawkes was one of the very first members of the old Cartel to fall into line with his demands.

- How do you know all this, Alfred ?

- Ah, Sir, before Mr. Dent alerted his most trusted allies to the presence of secret listening devices he had placed in their buildings, one took the liberty of gleaning what one could, once Wayne Enterprises took control of Dent Securities. .. In any event, ... such an innovative way of destroying a building is not exactly the modus operandi of our Joker friend. He has, after all, the most creative bomb maker in America at his disposal, to do his bidding. ... No, ... this serves to remind one of a different kind of technology, of a kind the Regiment was keen at one time to explore .

- It all begs the question, how can things get any worse than this ?

- Ah, ... Master Bruce.

- What do you mean, Alfred ? ... You have that look on your face again.

- One is afraid they can. ... One was about to inform you, when one became otherwise distracted. Internet traffic indicates that an automated message went out on the death of Norris to a number of sleeper followers, who have been assigned the role of Reapers now, and are to release bird flu strains into the atmosphere to infect every country in the world. It will no doubt fail to surprise you, that these are lethal strains. It would seem like the last desperate act of a desperate man, his last will and testament, if you like.

- So, it's even worse now. The world was better off with Norris running around solo.

- Not necessarily... This plan of his could not have been hatched overnight. ... Doctor Norris had subscribed to the theory that there have been 'reapers' before, .. possibly throughout the history of the world. The theory goes that, at times when populations in countries and cities grew too large, people were assigned to go out, disguised as mythical-looking spirits with devices that spread infected materials that would spread the plague, and cull those populations.

This was always going to be his next stage.

- Alfred. It's like I'm in despair. Before I helped bring down Harvey Dent, Gotham was peaceful. The world was peaceful. Now Gotham is bathed in anarchy, and the world is on the verge of epidemics, the like of which it has never seen before !

- A man like Mr. Dent knew what he was doing. He would have known the consequences of his actions, should he have been discovered as he was. It was impossible for us to have known there were those waiting to take advantage, in the shadows.

Just then, Bruce's phone rings:

- ... Okay, I'll see to it right away.

- And who, might one ask, was that, Sir ?

- That, my dear, faithful butler was our latest house guest. She would like her breakfast in bed.

- Ah. ( Alfred looks visibly shocked ! )

The Joker is talking to Harvey Dent and Larry Dicks:

- I don't believe it ! I just don't believe it ! ... First Batman breaks Bruce Wayne out of my secret headquarters, then this Poison Ivy broad nearly kills the guy I hired to find the Eisley chick, now this happens ! ... Dicks, you're an expert in demolition. ... How can a whole building just collapse like that without so much as a firecracker going off ?

- I just don't know Mr. Napier. ... Explosives are my field, not alternative weaponologies.

- What about you, Two-Face, ... what do you think ? ... You have a background in special forces, ... Do you have any idea how they did it ?

- Before I answer that question, I would appreciate it, if you didn't call me Two-Face.

- I'm your boss, Dent. ... You're working for me now, .. remember ? .. And don't you forget it. I'll call you what the hell I like, .. Two-Face. ... Now, answer the question.

- I have absolutely no idea. ... If we had had access to such technology twenty years ago, we could have frightened Saddam into submission.

- You don't reckon it could be this guy, Ghul ? ... I've been doing some digging. ... And I've had word from KP upstairs. ... The guy has a history of out-gangsterimg the gangster, ... if you get my drift.

- The guy is good, very good, but not that good. .. No, I have a feeling we will end up looking elsewhere. ... We're fast making enemies, Jack. ... And not all of them are prepared to roll over, like Hawkes.

- Do you think they knew that was where we did our laundry ? We lost over half our accounts last night.

- Of course. ... You might say they took us to the cleaners !

Two-Face smiles a wry smile.

- Leave the jokes to me, Two-Face. ... And Two-Face ?

- Yes ?

- Don't ever call me Jack.

- Yes, .. Joker, ... Mr. Napier, .. Sir.

Meanwhile, in a secret motel room, off the beaten track:

- (Pamela Eisley) Oh, Penny, thanks again for last night. It was a stroke of genius your idea to stalk the stalker like that. He was a real sleaze ball. He deserved everything he got.

- Yeah, ... he didn't know that while he was following you. I was following him. That night club the guy loved to frequent is the most sexist establishment you will ever see in your life !

- I don't know, Sis. You have no idea to what depths the fully mature male of the species can descend, if 'mature' is in any way the right word, that is.

- I've never seen so many floozy dancers !

- You HAVE lived a very sheltered life, remember.

- Not as sheltered as you might think, Pam. ... Some of the girls and I used to sneak out of the Home on Saturday nights !

- ( Suddenly very interested ! ) Really ? ... Tell me more !

- Maybe some other time. .. Did I tell you the manager of that joint offered me a job ?

- ( Laughing ) Well you certainly have the figure for it !

- Yeah, but it was when he felt my butt I decided.

- Decided ? ... Decided what ? ... What did you decide ?

- That HE's going to be Poison Ivy's next victim.

- But I thought we had agreed Scribbs was going to be our next victim. The Son of a Bitch did kill our mother.

- First the manager of 'Sexy Babes', ... then Scribbs.

Meanwhile, Batman receives one of his regular updates from James Gordon:

- Yes, Commissioner, what can I do for you ?

- I thought you might be able to help us find the Penguin. ... If I know that cagey old bird, he's hiding out in some abandoned warehouse, with a team of people around him. He has always hankered after a career in football, and needs somewhere big enough where he can play with his 'team'. That team is also a group of people he will use to wreak havoc and revenge on anyone associated with this Joker. No word yet on a positive identification ?

- None as yet, Commissioner, but when he makes his first false move, then we will have him.

- But all we will know is his name, his real identity.

- Precisely, Commissioner. The Joker thrives on notorious anonymity. He is the Joker. People fear those they do not know. Once we can give this crime boss a name, it will seriously weaken him in the eyes of those who work for him, and those who are afraid of him. Incidentally, Commissioner, when you are conducting your search, I would be most grateful if you could avoid one warehouse in particular. It happens to be a secret training location for the boy and me. I am texting you the address now.

- Got it, Batman. That will not be a problem. We are searching every abandoned warehouse in the City.

We now join the Penguin and Marcus Barnaby, his second-in- command, together with a not insubstantial number of accomplices, in his secret hideout, the secret underground bunker belonging to the Mayor !

- Gee Boss, it was a stoke of genius hiding out in the Mayor's Bunker. They will never find us here.

- Yeah, the Mayor rather conveniently for us is an idiot. He has failed to recall who provided and installed his secret bunker's security and computer systems.

- You, Boss ! ... It wasn't exactly a problem to gain access.

- It was a sinch ! I even helped design the place. There's even a rescue facility here the size of a football field, by a happy coincidence !

- You old dog !

- Don't you mean, you old bird ?

They both laugh.

- But first things first, Marcus. ... Who's got the ball ? ... Let's try a few plays before the war pow wow !

After a most impressive display of teamwork from both sides in the Rescue Area of the bunker, the Penguin convenes his council of war:

- As you know, my fellow team members, we have all agreed to leave all our previous endeavors behind us, in pursuit of this great, noble undertaking, and head underground, quite literally.

- ( Barnaby ) Very good, Boss. An undertaking underground ! ... We should call ourselves the Undertakers !

- An excellent suggestion ! ... Those agreed that we call ourselves by that proposed assignation, say aye !

There ensues a unanimous 'AYE !

- Then it's agreed. ... We are now officially the Undertakers.

- ( Molly ) You just couldn't help sounding like Eisenhower, could you Oswald ?

- No I couldn't, my little dumpling ! ... Meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, ... very good, very good ! ... This is what I want, ... a team of intelligent, talented people who can make genuine contributions to our cause and our plans, without fear of any recriminations whatsoever. ... Everyone, ... feel free to make your suggestions. Point out to us, if you see a flaw in a plan, even if it's my own, ... especially if it's my own. ... I want to see our Movement grow, and our numbers swell, an ever-growing ground swell, .. an ever-growing underground swell of opposition that is constantly renewing itself, and in so doing, keeping one step ahead of the Joker, ... and the Police. ... I know you all tend to think of me as your leader. I'd much prefer that you see me as the Chairman, and that we all operate as one common mind, for that's what it is going to take, if we are to defeat our common foe.

- ( Molly ) My God, now you think you ARE Eisenhower !

- Ladies and gentlemen, as your Chairman, I will ask you respectfully to disregard that remark, and that it be forthwith struck from the record !

Everybody laughs !

And from the Penguin, now to the Riddler ! We join him as he tinkers with a Tesla coil. At this particular moment in time, Edouard Nikma is particularly interested in the science of Nikola Tesla, the inventor of Alternating Current and the Wireless Radio. Armed now with his homemade quantum computer he has exponentially multiplied his learning and calculating capacity by an incalculable factor that even he couldn't calculate !

Nikma remembered something Tesla is supposed to have done while experimenting at home. Having built a small resonating device, something he claimed could fit in his pocket, he almost brought the whole building down ! Indeed. after further research on Nigma's part, he was struck by one particular conversation Tesla had with a fellow scientist, in which he claimed that, with just five pounds of air pressure, powering such a device, he could bring down the Empire State Building !

Tesla postulated the theory that every object had a resonating frequency, and that this could be used for demolition and energy-generation purposes. Now, despite the failure of those attempting to recreate Tesla's experiments, to achieve anything like the same effects, Nigma conducted his own calculations and experiments, and soon came to the conclusion that Tesla deliberately had withheld a secret equation from those with whom he discussed such matters. Tesla had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, by being careless with his inventions.

Using this equation, Nigma using the resonating frequency of his home as a starting point, correctly ascertained what frequency would be required to demolish it. He literally almost brought the house down !

After already having worked with Batman in first thwarting, then helping to bring Harvey Dent down, Edward Nigma, as otherwise known, has decided to abandon, at least temporarily, his quest to have the inept of society replaced by the competent, for an even worthier cause. He, too, wants to conduct a campaign against the Joker. It has already begun, of course. It was Nigma who demolished the Hawkes Tower ! He had already worked out the dynamics and primary location of the Joker's money-laundering operation, and proceeded to act accordingly.

He is quietly talking to himself:

- Yes, Mr. Joker dear friend, .. I'm coming after you, ...and, if you are worried now, have every reason to be. ... You might have the power of crime behind you, ... but I have the power of science. You will soon come to realize you have bitten off more than you can chew. Arraigned against you are too many enemies, and, as another great physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, once said, 'For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.'...Yes, Mr. Joker, your day is coming, ... and it is coming fast !

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is in the middle of a conversation with James Gordon:

- I can assure you, Commissioner, I don't require any additional security.

- With respect, Mr. Wayne. I beg to differ. ..Why only a short while ago, you WERE kidnapped. Whatever personal security arrangements you had in place then were clearly compromised. You are clearly a target, ... as someone who is resisting the Joker, and I simply can't afford sparing the manpower that would be required to find you, should the same thing happen again.

- Ah. I see what you mean. Well, in that case, I accept your offer. What is it exactly you have in mind ?

- Well, it was actually Mr. Ghul's suggestion.

- Oh ?

- He is more than willing to part with the services of his second-in-command, to provide you and your butler with round-the-clock personal protection. ... I am assigning him personally for the task. ... Mr. Wayne, you have a brand new bodyguard. .. His name is Yang Sun Yu.

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