Batman: A New World

Chapter 63 Zeroing In

Zeroing In

- (Naimh Ross on GNN )Unbelievable scenes outside Wayne Tower this afternoon ! In an apparent attack on Bruce Wayne's butler, a firefight ensued between a gang of armed gunmen, dressed as the Joker's men, and Alfred Pennyworth, a former bodyguard to the Wayne family, who fortunately, it seems, has retained all his former skills, wounding several of the assailants. But that's not all. Bruce Wayne himself managed to disable one of the attackers, and, for all you Boy Wonder fans out there, Robin is back ! Yes, after an unexplained absence from our streets, this young man made a sudden appearance at the scene, saving the life of the Wayne Butler, coming from absolutely nowhere. Just who is the boy behind the mask ? Just who is Gotham's latest great young heartthrob ?

- ( Bob Kane ) It hasn't gone unnoticed here in the newsroom, that the Boy Wonder was acting on his own today, and that Batman was somehow conspicuous by his absence. Are there any indications as to why this young man was acting alone ?

- Not that I\m aware of, Bob. One theory is that Batman and Robin have had a difference of opinion, .. over the apparent change in attitude towards the Joker. Another is that Batman doesn't like Bruce Wayne, and didn't particularly want to help him. But, personally, I prefer to think that Robin just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and that Batman wasn't.

Naimh Ross, your Society News Reporter, outside Wayne Tower, Gotham.

Meanwhile, Ghul has words with Yang Sun Yu. He is furious !

- ( Ghul ) What happened out there ? How could you let it happen ? By now the Police will have identified our men. They only belonged to my personal bodyguard. Some worked alongside the very officers who arrested them ! Now the contract I had with the City is over. We have to go underground. I am clearing out our offices as I speak. Our time here in Gotham is not yet over, but there is a limit to how long that will be, now. The Joker's reign will end, once we have inextricably linked him to Kensington Payne and his great Corporate Cartel.

- ( Yu ) We didn't know that there would be news reporters there. How could we know that it would be a slow news day ?

- I pay you to know. Expect the unexpected ! It was meant to be a tighter attack, right outside the Tower, as soon as Wayne was clear of the car, before Pennyworth drove off. .. And where did his automatic weapon come from ? It's a Mk5 HK Kurz !

- How was I to know, that he kept one under his overcoat ? He must always have it there before coming out in the car. I have never seen him put his coat on.

-You underestimated your target, Yu. It is the first time you have ever failed me.

- It will never happen again, oh Most Enlightened One.

- Certainly not here in Gotham, it won't. ... I am transferring you to Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, still hold up in the home of his trusted sidekick, Perkins, the Joker is furious, too !

- ( Joker ) Someone has tried to set us up ! I ordered no such attack. Was it these

Undertakers ? Was it Ghul ?.. Who did this ? ... Just when I had Batman on the rack, this happens. I can see the headlines tomorrow. 'Joker tries to slay Wayne Butler !'

Back at Wayne Manor:

- ( Bruce ) So, Alfred, what do you make of today's events ?

- Clearly someone wanted one dead, and that someone was Ghul.

- But why try to kill YOU ?

- One has absolutely no idea. He certainly wanted it to look like an attack by the Joker. .. An attempt to discredit him in the eyes of the Media, perhaps ?

- Yes, Alfred. .. He had enjoyed good publicity in the Press, and on TV yesterday. And it all happened in the full view of them today. .. And yet, I feel I'm beginning to get to know Ghul. He is very clever. He is a chess player who likes to keep several moves ahead of his opponent. .. There has got to be more to it than at first meets the eye. His past record abroad suggests a master tactician is at work here.

- Changing the subject, however temporarily, but the boy performed admirably today, Sir, to the point of saving one's life. Might it not be worth considering approaching him once more, and persuading him to return to the fold, so-to-speak ?

- Absolutely. I just have to figure out how. I do think the way he had to help you will have meant a lot to him. I certainly hope so.

Back at his home, Dick Grayson is having his dinner, as his mother is watching the evening news on TV:

- ( Mrs. Grayson ) Now that is one brave young man, isn't he, Dick ? ... I'm sure his mother must be really proud of him.

- Yes, Ma.

- I wonder what it's likelike, to be that boy's mother.

- ( Smiling, yet frustrated in a way.) Yes, Ma. ... But his mother probably doesn't even know who he really is. .. Maybe only Batman knows.

- You know, Son, .. I never would have thought of that. .. There's more to you than meets the eye. ... That's probably what that man, Mr. Fox sees in you at work.

- Yes, Ma, .. maybe.

He continues eating his dinner.

The next day, at the offices of legal firm, Stewart, Bonar and Law, someone is in for a real shock !

- ( Batman, climbing in through what was initially only a slightly open window. ) Mr. Law ?

- ( Percival Law ) My God, it's Batman !

- ( Batman ) I need a lawyer.

- What do you mean, .. you need a lawyer ?

- ( Half joking ) I've been getting a bit of bad press lately.

- Yeah, ... right.

- I'm looking for someone to help me set the record straight.

- But you're Batman. How are you going to pay me ? .. Aren't you meant to keep your identity a closely guarded secret ?

- I've already thought of that. .. I'll pay you in cash.

- Can you afford me ?

- Oh, I think so.

- I charge a two thousand dollar retainer fee, 400 dollars an hour, plus expenses.

- I might only need you for a few hours. You see, I have the whole event on film. I carry a built-in camera, on my utility belt. I need to have the evidence presented in the formal manner, and my case to be represented in front of the Media.

- Okay, ... let's view the evidence, and we'll take it from there. .. If what you say is true, Batman, the publicity will do my firm no harm at all !

Just then, Batman notices a rumpus down below. Three elderly women are screaming, as two armed robbers emerge from the bank opposite. They start shooting in the air.

- ( Batman ) Excuse me.

And, with that he opens the window, and leaps out of the first story, half gliding onto the street below:

- Don't worry, ladies. .. Just remain calm.

- ( One of the robbers ) Look, it's Batman !

- Never mind him. ... Run, .. you idiot !

- But it's Batman !

- What are you waiting for, .. his autograph ?

The guy in awe of the Caped Crusader rather tamely gives Batman the gun, as he makes his arrest.

- Do me a favor, friend.

- Sure, ... anything, Batman.

- Stay here, and wait for the Police to arrive, while I go get your friend.

Batman begins to give chase.

- No problem, Batman, .. ( Calling after him.) .. anything you say, Batman !

Batman runs at full speed, leaping over a few walls, taking a short-cut through an alley way to head the other robber off. ... He is there in front of him, as the guy, laden with bags of money, stops, exhausted and panting. He pulls out his gun, ... and, again, tamely gives it to our masked hero !

- ( Batman ) And I'll take the money, too.

He hands it over. Batman continues:

- Now, let's take a little walk to the Police Station, uh.

Later that day, Bruce is talking to Lucius Fox by phone, from the Bat Cave:

- ( Lucius ) Good news about our cross-match, Mr. Wayne. I now have the list of everyone who has availed of the treatment for the Norris pathogen. We're now ready to cross-reference with your list of known comedians.

- Yes, that is the vaguest part of the plan. It's not like there is a national register of comedians, and Norris had the habit of taking out every third one. There could be a lot of comedians on that list, and receiving the treatment for the pathogen.

- But it would at least narrow the field a little.

- Of course.

- I am just sending the hospital treatment list to you ... now.

The Bat Computer, "Q' for Quantum, receives the list, and cross-matches with Bruce's list of one-time professional comedians:

- Now, let me see: Anthony Blair, Jack Bunny, George Bush, Tom Bola, ... oh, very funny, Thomas Cooper, Leslie Dawson, Jack Digby, Kenneth Dodd, Frank N. Stein, .. hilarious, huh ?

- ( Dismissively ) Very, Mr. Wayne. .. Just read on.

- Harry Field, Rob Hope, Ray Glad, Jack Napier and Hank Small. ... That's fourteen in all.

- We certainly have narrowed things down, Mr. Wayne.

- We sure have, as long as my hunch is correct, and he was once a professional comedian.

Back at the residence of Napier's trusted sidekick, late at night, Harvey Dent comes downstairs to grab a glass of water, when he hears noises coming from the living room. The door is ajar. He opens the door a little more, and carefully enters. to be totally taken by surprise by a figure in the corner, who steps out of the shadows, .. his regular trademark. It is the Joker, now adorned in the creepiest guise of a clown, make-up wise, that is.

- What do you think of the new look ? I reckoned if my face was going to be left scarred and white, I might as well go with it, and adopt the persona of a clown, After all, clowns are jokers too !

- It certainly seems to be in keeping with your persona, Joker. It certainly means that it will be a lot easier to keep your real identity secret, and prevent anyone from getting to you through your past. I might have erased all your criminal activities from the records when I was Assistant Commissioner, but that's not to say that our enemies wouldn't like to find out more about you.

- The thing is, I can go public, now, and no one who knows the real me will be any the wiser !

- I also thought that maybe we should track down the guy we saw in the drains. Maybe he knows where we climbed out and could help the cops find us.

- Who was the guy anyway? Why was he there in the first place ?

- Maybe a down-and-out. His life literally has gone down the drain.

- Any luck on identifying Catwoman and Batman ?

- None as yet. But I'm working on it.

Dent certainly wants to identify Catwoman. He has a score to settle, but not so much with Batman, though he has always been curious as to his identity.

He is starting to zero in, using the fact that they must have money, or big financial backing, as a working theory. Then there is the origins of the technology they use. Catwoman was obviously targeting him and his associates, Stubbs and the late Kaufmann Burns. Unfortunately he can't remember what provoked her frenzied attack on him the day she abducted him, given that he was drugged at the time.

As far as Batman is concerned, he is particularly interested in the fact that Robin managed to appear on the scene of the attack on Alfred, so quickly, just outside Wayne Tower. Money and Robin – two pieces of the puzzle. Could there be a connection ? Could Batman work for Bruce Wayne ?

- ( Dent, thinking to himself.) Then there is Lucius Fox. He is a modern day Da Vinci, or a Tesla. He works at Wayne Tower. Wouldn't it be ironic, funny indeed, if Batman and Robin worked for Bruce Wayne, right under his nose ?

He smiles.

- (Joker ) Excuse me. .. Hello. I would appreciate your undivided attention. ... The loss of most of our computer stock in our big businesses leaves us really short. I think it's high time I leaned on Cobblepot's successor at Humanitec, that guy, Fox. Maybe he'll give us all our computers at a greatly discounted rate, ay, Two face ?

Meanwhile, a boy is passing through the main gate of Gotham High, on his way home. There is a sprinkling of snow on the ground, and a robin, singing in the trees opposite. As usual, the boy takes the same short-cut home through an alley way. Suddenly, he hears some brickwork falling from above in front of him. He looks up. There jumping down in front of him is Bruce Wayne !

- Hello, Dick, how are things ?

- Mr. Wayne, you surprised me.

- What did I tell you about looking up ?

- I know. .. But this is the place where Batman, .. I mean you and I first met.

- Dick, we've got to talk

- Gee, Mr. Wayne ..

- Please, Bruce

- I've kinda already made my decision.

- I don't want to say anything else, but this. .. I want to ask you a question.

- Okay, what is it ?

- If Batman were to die, what would happen to Gotham ? .. Who would there be to champion the values that I still hold, and I can assure you of that, and what would happen to Wayne Enterprises, with me gone ?

- That's actually two questions.

- Apologies. But seriously, would you answer me ?

- I would go it alone. .. I'd be another beacon of light in Dark City. ... But, ... I never even thought about Wayne Enterprises. ... That IS a real beacon of light. ... It would be a pity if everything fell away.

- You see, Dick, I was kind of hoping that you would take over as Batman, if something happened to me.

- But the other day, you were slagging Batman off. You said, he'd had his day. You said that you were no friend of Batman.

- Dick, you have a lot to learn about laying false trails, and pretending to be someone you are not. .. If ever someone suspects I could be Batman, I need them to dismiss the idea pretty damn quickly. ... 'Bruce Wayne Batman ? .. But the guy can't stand him !'

- Oh, I see. .. So you haven't changed your feelings about Batman.

- Definitely not.

- Then there's what you did, when the Joker was dying.

- What I am supposed to have done. ... Again, Dick, you have to learn that the Press and TV can sometimes be used as pawns by those behind the problems we face in our country. .. The Joker was behind the slant to that story. ... The truth is .. that I had just been the victim of a double grenade attack, and had been wrestling with our friend for several minutes. .. I fell exhausted, just as I knocked him to the ground. .. I was dazed, and couldn't get up for those few seconds he was exposed to the spray that nearly killed him. It was Harvey Dent who saved him. I could not. .. So, ... it's a question of who you want to believe, .. me, .. or the Joker.

- Gosh, Bruce. .. I'm real sorry. .. Of course, I'd believe you before the Joker any day.

- Then, as you rightly pointed out, there's also the part that Wayne Enterprises plays. .. Not only does it fund Batman's work, but it plays a vital part in the community, especially when it comes to the little guy, and its charity work. You see, Robin, if you worked your way up through the company, I would be more than happy to entrust the whole company to you. ... You have shown real genuine promise in the short period of time you have been with us. ... And a successful, principled company is what you would need behind you if you wanted to continue as Robin, after I'm gone.

- You are actually thinking of leaving Wayne Enterprises to me ? .. But you said that it was worth billions of dollars !

- Look, I'll let you into a little secret. I don't actually have much money to spend. It is all ploughed back into the Company.

- But what about Wayne Manor, and all the luxury, the great car collection, the antiques, the paintings ?

- They are all Alfred's, well, nearly all.

- How come they are Alfred's ?

- It is all a just reward and recompense for all the work he does at the Manor, as well as for Batman. He buys them all out of a special account established for him by my Father.

- Ah, ... of course. ... I think I understand what you were doing now. ... And you really think that highly of me ?

- Not just me, but Lucius and Alfred, too.

- Seriously ?

- Seriously.

- Gee, Bruce, I don't know what to say.

- What about this, ... partners ?

He stretches out his arm.

- ( Taking it in his arm.) Partners !

Harvey Dent sees that, with the Joker taking on a threatening facial persona, here is the ideal opportunity to maximize his own fear potential, a partnership of fear, between a maniac with the face of a clown, and a man with TWO faces. He decides to embrace the name, Two Face ! It will cast fear into the minds of all his enemies.

He decides to put it to the test, the night of his revenge attack on two of the Joker's cronies, Slugger Daniels and Slasher James. He breaks in to their meeting house, together with his hand-picked team of accomplices. He quickly gets the drop on both of them. Then he tosses his coin:

- ( Dent ) Hi, boys, it's Two Face. This is my lucky coin. Heads I kill you quick. Tails I kill you slow.

Cowering in the corner is a young man, a runner for Daniels. He is scared to death. Before Two Face looks under his hand at the coin, he asks the guy his name:

- Donald Falcone, Sir.

- Italian, ay ?

- Y.. y.. y.. yes, Sir.

- You had nothing to do with the deaths of my friends, Anderson Ford and Marcus Hamill, did you ?

- No, Sir. ... I never heard of them, ... ever.

- That's okay. You can go.

- The guy runs off like lightning !

- ( Looking at the coin.) It's heads.

He shoots both of them dead at point-blank range !

The Penguin, for some time now, back to his old costume, pink top hat, mock cigarette holder, monocle etc is talking with Lucius:

- Sp, Lucius, have there been any further developments regarding the pressure to give the business over to you know who ?

- I heard from him today, in fact. He has threatened to blow Wayne Tower to kingdom come, if I don't comply. He even said that he had Larry Dicks building the bomb even as he was speaking.

- Let him have control, or rather the appearance of control. He'll let it be known widely that he is in control of Humanitec. Fortunately all the shares are tied up. No one, not even you can sell them for another ten months. That's all the time we need ! And give him all the computers he wants.

- May I ask why ? They are without doubt the best computers in America, let alone the world.

- You're just going to have to trust me on this one. Let's just say I want to lead him into a false sense of security. ... Oh, yes, ... and one other thing. .. The Joker's first name is Jack.

- Oh, thanks for mentioning it, Oswald.

- You're welcome !

Now, at an undisclosed location for final preparation before their trip to Washington, Viktor Fries is talking to his close associate, Dimitri Kharkov:

- ( Kharkov ) Are you absolutely sure you can rely on the information concerning the Arctic Vortex ? None of my sources ( Meaning the Russian Meteorological Bureau ! ) have reported even the slightest possibility.

- No, not absolutely. ... But, I have a hunch that it is correct. ... If not, we call the mission off. It's as simple as that.

Dimitri Kharkov has a vested interest in seeing the demise of Kensington Payne, given that he has never really stopped working for elements of Russian Intelligence ! Russia has been losing out to the US, in the light of its aggressive approach abroad. Taking the King Patriot out of the equation, vis-à-vis American foreign policy, would be a real feather in his cap, and allow America to become more docile again, and less in the grip of the great Cartel !

- ( Fries ) I have a unique form of justice in mind for Mr. Payne.

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