Batman: A New World

Chapter 66 The Joker's Wild (Part 1)

The Joker's Wild ( Part One )

- ( Female news presenter ) And now for some breaking news about what has got to be the strangest kidnapping in history, ... for, just two hours ago, an ordinary man in his late fifties was taken at gunpoint from his humble apartment in the middle of Granville, a sleepy suburb of Washington, wearing nothing but his pajamas and dressing gown ! But what is the most remarkable about the incident is that a small army of kidnappers were involved. The whole town was closed down, there were several firefights with police officers and National Guardsmen, and an operation launched that leaves the raid on Osama Bin Laden in the shade, for the sake of a man drawing social security benefits.

- ( Neighbor ) Mr. Payne was always very quiet. He never caused any problems to nobody. He has no family and no money. He was always late in paying his rent, and only had one change of clothes ! The only thing fancy about him was his name. The one thing he was always sayin' was,' A man, who has nothing, has nothing to worry about'. But he has certainly got something to worry about today. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would want to kidnap him. It just makes no sense !

The News switches to another story.

In the corridors of power, the fallout from the disappearance of Kensington Payne is dramatic. How could this happen ? Who knew his true identity ? After all, his very anonymity was meant to be one of his frontline defenses. How could Freeze have known about the freak change in the behavior of the Jet Stream, so far in advance, that he was able to execute such a ruthlessly effective plan ?

Their vehicles and aircraft were totally pervious to radar and sonar signals. It was harder to locate them with thermal imaging satellites, because they had timed their exfiltrations just at the time when the nearest satellite was at its range limit, and couldn't detect their lower body heat signatures in unprecedented thick snow storms ! It was so clever it was unreal !

Suddenly, all those people King Patriot has been sponsoring financially begin to feel decidedly insecure. The 'Reapers", Norris' successors have suddenly lost the substantial financial backing they need, to maintain their human culling programme, not to mention the contacts and safe houses they require, to remain one or two steps ahead of the authorities tasked to apprehend them.

In response to the crisis situation, the Joker has summoned Two Face, Jonathan Crane and Larry Dicks to his safe house. His ever faithful sidekick, Perkins, is there already, of course. It is his house !

- ( Joker ) Okay guys, this is the moment of truth. We have just lost our financial backer, the guy who's always been there to bail us out of any trouble with the Feds. We have to implement my plan immediately. It's now or never.

- ( Dicks ) What sort of plan ?

- I'm going to humiliate Gotham's leading Politicians, Judges, Police Chiefs and City Administrators, in such a way, that the people will see in me a champion, looking to rid the City of incompetence, and pave the way for my election as Mayor. The Clown will take over the Circus !

And there is the irony, for many of the incompetent stooges in Gotham have been placed there by the Joker himself. He continues:

- I will need Warner Bross again. I need to reverse the way Batman used the media last time. I know of a way to have his station only broadcast good things to say about me. I'll hold them to ransom, and force them to make favorable news reports about me. Thanks to Crane, we already have Gutter eating out of our hand. .. Actually, I'd really like to know what you did, Crane, to have the guy so frightened of you.

- ( Crane ) Later.

- ( Dicks ) What about Batman and Ra's al Ghul ? What about these so-called Undertakers ?

- ( Joker ) The wise man from the East has done nothing. ... Okay, he has helped the cops keep greater order on the streets and put a lot of our guys behind bars, but he's in no shape to do anything yet, after the fiasco with the Wayne Butler. He's lost all his leverage with the Commissioner now, and most of Gordon's commanders are just yes-men, isn't that right, Perkins ?

- ( Perkins ) Yes, Boss.

- ( Joker ) As for these Undertakers, I believe you have some news for us, Dent.

- Yes, Joker. Basically they're an operation run by an old friend of mine, the Penguin.

- What ? ... Cobblepot ?

- Cobblepot. ... And that's not all, but they were definitely the guys behind the theft of all our computers.

- Good work, Dent. Good work.

- ( Crane ) But why steal all our computers ?

- Because I forced him out of his computer company, and have the friend who bought it, Fox, in my pocket. ... We'll worry about him later.

- ( Perkins ) But that still leaves Batman.

- Indeed it does, ... indeed it does. ... Let's just say, I have something special in store for him, and say no more about it.

- ( Perkins ) Yes, Boss.

- Okay, Two Face, you know, I guess I could regard you as MY Assistant Commissioner now, .. but anyway, .. have your investigations got you anywhere, when it comes to the identities of Catwoman or Batman ?

- None whatsoever, I'm afraid. I thought, at one stage I was narrowing down the field of .. well, suspects, as you might have me put it, .. but my investigations have resulted in no firm conclusions whatsoever, and I am back to square one.

- What about the drain guy ?

- Now him I have made progress on. .. With your permission, I'd like to have about five of your best men, and pay this guy a, .. shall we say, .. friendly visit ?

- It's as good as done. You're going to silence him, aren't you ?

- Absolutely.

- ( Joker ) Now, Crane, I believe there was something YOU want to say to us.

- ( Crane ) More something I'd like to demonstrate, if I may.

- ( Joker ) Please, ... be my guest.

- It concerns my new identity.

- Oh, really ? ... i am intrigued.

- I just want to use a little of this gas.

- ( Dent ) Gas ?

Everyone demonstrates distinct unease !

- ( Crane) Don't worry, it's entirely harmless, I assure you.

- ( Joker ) This sounds fantastic ! ... Ha ha ! ( Rocking forwards and backwards in his chair.)

Whereupon, Crane releases the gas from a pressurized container, and, as all begin to succumb to its hallucinogenic effects, he dons his mask.

- ( Joker ) My God it's a scarecrow ! ... ( Beginning to feel terrified. ) He's become a bloody scarecrow !

To them, as they enter a hallucinogenic state, his voice sounds decidedly distorted:

- ( Scarecrow ) That's right, my friends. ( Angling his head suddenly. He produces a gun ! ) ... I'm coming for you in your beds tonight !

- ( Dicks, on his knees.) No please, .. not me, ... please, not me ! .. I beg you please !

- ( Scarecrow ) Meeting adjourned !

He leaves.

Strangely, however, Harvey Dent has remained unaffected.

This is now the opportunity for Jonathan Crane to launch the Scarecrow on Gotham, like part of an unholy Trinity, each with their own distinctive faces. If Crane ever had to go freelance, he would take advantage of all the money and power at his disposal, while working for the Joker, then branch out on his own.

Meanwhile, in Wayne Manor, Alfred is serving Bruce his evening meal. The TV is on in the background:

- ( Bruce, reading a post card.) It's from Aunt Harriot.

- One already knows, Master Bruce. One is always the first to receive the mail here in the Manor, Sir.

- ( Putting his reading glasses on.) Of course you are, apologies. ... It says here that she would like us to send her some special jewelry, in time for the Captain's Farewell Ball in two weeks.

- That will not be a problem, Master Bruce. I will attend to the matter presently.

- No, Alfred. .. It's okay. .. I'll take care of it. .. I think I know just the jewels that will do the trick.

- As you wish, Master Bruce.

- So, Alfred. Kensington Payne is finally out of the picture.

- So it would seem, Sir.

- Well done, Viktor Fries. .. He has done us all a big favor. ... Now, maybe, we can take on the Joker, without Big Daddy protecting him all the time.

- Indeed, Master Bruce.

- ( Bob Kane on GNN's evening news.).Experts have today confirmed that bird flu epidemics are spreading across Europe, China and Canada. .. Some have gone as far as saying, it is now on the rampage. So far, 940 people are known to have contracted this radically new strain, a strain that is incredibly resistant to all known antibiotics. Out of those 940, 310 have died.

- ( Bruce ) It never rains but it pours, Alfred. .. As if the Joker, Dent and Dicks weren't enough, we have the Reapers' handiwork to deal with now.

- Ah, Master Bruce, .. as one's dear mother used to put it, ' First things first.'

- Indeed, Alfred, .. indeed. .. A fine woman, your mother.

On the other side of town, Dick Grayson's mother is beginning to wonder why Dick is still visiting Wayne Manor. Dick is busily getting ready to go out.

- Why Dick, you haven't finished your dinner. You're not rushing off to that Mr. Wayne's house again, are you ? .. I thought you were only going to be working there three weeks. ... What about your studies ?

- Actually Ma, there is a lot more work, Mr. Wayne wants me to do for him. ... I'll study when I get home, Ma. I promise.

- And what other work might that be ?

Too late. Dick is already out the door, heading down the stairs of their apartment block, and on his way to the bus stop, to get the bus out to Wayne Manor !

And, in his office at Wayne Tower, Lucius Fox is having a most interesting conversation with his friend, the Penguin:

- ( Penguin ) So, can you do it ?

- I think, I can. .. But I would prefer to know why it is, exactly, that you want me to have such a large number of the new models available so soon.

- You'll see soon enough, old friend. You'll see. ... It's like the days my father helped to break the Nazi Master Code. They couldn't afford to arouse suspicion that it was broken, and share everything they discovered about the enemy's plans. .. Just trust me on this one, Lucius.

- Very well, Oswald, very well. ... I'll do as you suggest.

Despite the fact that Bruce, responsibly of course, will not allow Dick to expose himself to any significant danger, he does, nonetheless, recognize that it is best to involve him in the intelligence-gathering aspect of the operation.

Dick is encouraged to do all the necessary digging involved in helping to outsmart their opponents. It is vital work that involves no danger at all. Besides, he displays all the potential necessary to be able to learn quickly from Lucius all his computer skills, and the detective skills that Alfred contributes. Imagine, a sixteen year old maths student working with the country's leading computer scientist, and with the country's most powerful computer.

- ( Dick ) Can I use it to help me do my homework ?

- (All ) No !

- ( Bruce ) Okay, back to work.

- ( Alfred ) It certainly looks as if we can eliminate Jack Bunny, aka James Bunson, and Jack Digby as suspects.

- ( Dick ) Yeah,.. it says here that they spend way too much time out of Gotham, and they're a bit old to be the Joker.

Bruce smiles knowingly at Alfred !

- (Bruce ) Certainly, seeing the video footage of their performances didn't ring any bells. .. It's crazy, .. I would know him if I heard him !

- ( Lucius ) ... which leaves Mr. Napier.

- ( Dick ) According to this, Jack Napier was suspected of hacking into banks' computer files and accounts, while trying to support his young family. He had brought them out to Las Vegas to try and make a career in the comedy business, as a stand-up comedian, but after being turned down everywhere, he decided to revert to his amazing computer skills.

- ( Bruce ) Very good, Dick. .. That would certainly explain why there is no video footage of his performances.

- During a raid on his house, a fire started, igniting a gas canister, and his wife and child were believed to have died in the explosion, ... Interesting.

- ( Bruce ) Interesting ?

- ( Dick ) There is no record of a funeral ever taking place for his wife and child. Maybe they survived the fire.

Maybe there was a police cover-up, and they were buried in secret. ... They might have wanted to hush up their mistake.

- ( Bruce ) Possibly, ... but I don't think so. I wonder if we could track down his family, the last known address of his wife's parents and so on.

- ( Dick ) It certainly might explain why women and children have been killed and threatened in the Joker's past attacks.

- ( Bruce, in a moment of revelation.) My God, you're right, Dick. ... Of course, it is all beginning to make perfect sense !

- ( Alfred, looking at his watch.) ) Perhaps it is time that the young Mister Grayson be returning home. .. The hour IS getting rather late.

- ( Dick )Aw, .. can't I stay here just a little bit longer ?

- ( Bruce) No, Dick. Your mother will be worrying about you, and you have your studies to attend to. We have to keep your mother onside, after all.

- ( Lucius ) I'll take you home in my car.

- ( Dick ) Okay then, .. goodnight, Bruce.

- Goodnight, Dick.

As they are about to leave the house, Doodles runs up to Dick to say hello, and Dick bends down to say hello back:

- Good boy, Doodles ! That's a good boy !

Then Dick notices a new collection of guns on the wall:

- I see you have a new set of guns on display, Alfred.

- Yes, an 1845 Harpers Ferry Musket, an Eighteenth Century Charleville French Long Barrel Musket and an 1886 John Moses Browning Winchester Repeating Rifle.

- ( Dick ) Ace.

Meanwhile, in Washington, General George Armstrong Strike, a key member of the President's Military Staff is conversing on the phone with Donald Aspy, the Deputy Head of the FBI:

- ( General Strike ) We have to presume Payne is ok. There has made absolutely no provisions for his vast wealth. He has left no will. We can only hope that he is still alive. It's not Freeze's style to kill anyone, no matter how much he despises them.

- What about Grintz ? It's widely believed that the good Doctor was responsible for HIS death.

-True. ... I hadn't thought of that. ... But, until we have reason to believe otherwise, we have got to assume he's still alive.

- And if that's the case ?

- We organize a rescue, and put an end to Freeze's incursions permanently.

- And how exactly do you plan to do that ?

- Payne has been sponsoring a programme to do precisely that.

- What sort of programme ?

- Operation Ice Warrior. ... Similar to the Arctic Soldier programme, but this time we have learned from our mistakes.

- How do you mean ?

- This time, we asked for volunteers, .. from the skiing fraternity, from the mountain units of the Army, and some special force teams, male and female, .. people, who live and breathe for frozen climates. ... They know exactly what they are signing up for. They know they can never return to their normal lives. We have provided the men with female company, women, who, again, are willing to make such a change, some of them already in long-term relationships with the men they will be accompanying. Some of the women are soldiers themselves. ,. Once we locate the whereabouts of Freeze and Kharkov, we will launch our raid, and take them out.

Later that evening, Alfred intercepts an emergency call for the Fire Service. .. Bruce is working late in Wayne Tower, on projects he is not supposed to be involved with, given his ' devil may care ' playboy image. His phone rings:

- ( Alfred ) Fire at the top of the Furey Tower. One person trapped, believed to be a six-year-old boy. High winds, ... Helicopter rescue impossible.

- Right Alfred. .. Handy enough, given that it's right next door.

- One other thing, Master Bruce, ... the boy is deaf.

- Okay, Alfred, I am ascending to Eerie One now.

Bruce climbs into the 'service elevator' in his office, peels off his outer clothes, revealing his black Bat Suit, and shoots up to the roof top. He is kitted out as Batman, as the robot unit Lucius designed attaches everything in place. Last of all, he dons his mask. Going to the special 'shed', he takes out the Bat Glider, and away he goes, ... off the top of Wayne Tower, .. down towards the Tower block next door !

- Can see the fire now, Alfred. Switching to circling mode, while I find the right spot to land. ... Got one

He programs in the spot on the roof. The nearest Wayne satellite guides him to his LZ, and he lands exactly where he wants, Fox's glider compensating perfectly for wind direction, up-and-downdrafts, and wind strength !

He takes a magnetic Bat Charge from his utility belt, and places it on the rooftop door. It explodes, and he dashes quickly through.

- Okay, Alfred, I'm in.

- ( Alfred, using computerized blueprints, in his own private apartments at the Manor.) Proceed down first flight of stairs, and take the corridor on your right. The apartment is the second on your left.

Batman sees only a wall of flame ahead of him, and can smell gasoline.

- It's an arson case, Alfred.

He wraps his cape around himself and charges through. He places another special charge, for locks, on the boy's door, and blows it. He can hear crying, coming from a side bedroom, and finds the boy. The boy signs to him:

- Batman, it's you !

Batman signs back:

- There is no time. You must come upstairs with me now. Hold on to my neck. Put this mask on. ( Bruce had had to learn sign language, when training for Search and Rescue, precisely for such an eventuality.)

Batman puts an oxygen mask on the boy, then on himself, holds the boy in his arms, then, as he returns the way he came, he wraps his cape around them both. He heads back up the stairway, out the rooftop door, and back to the Bat Glider. Hooking himself up to the Glider, he signs to the boy:

- Don't be afraid. I do this all the time.

- It's okay. .. You're Batman, and I'm Robin !

Batman just shakes his head, and smiles in disbelief, then hooks the boy up to himself, and takes off. The boy loves it. He's not the least bit frightened. For him, he is the Boy Wonder flying with Batman ! Batman sees that the boy is enjoying himself, and takes longer than usual to descend onto a safe sidewalk, on the main avenue adjacent to the Furey Tower. Onlookers applaud Batman as he lands with the boy. A very anxious mother calls from a long way away. Batman points her son in the right direction, and they embrace. Batman quickly disappears. He calls in:

- Job done, Alfred.

- Well done, Master Bruce !

Time now to catch up with Commissioner James Gordon. We join him, as he conducts a late evening emergency update meeting with Police Chief, Patrick O'Hara:

- ( Gordon ) Thanks for meeting me like this at such short notice, Pat.

- Ah, sure it be naw trouble at all.

- Still no word on Mr. Ghul, I'm afraid.

- Aw, maybe, sure he could be long gone by now, now that he pulled that stunt outside the Courthouse.

- I don't know, chief. .. The guy used gangster methods to catch our gangsters. Take away that official role that he had, and that still leaves a gangster.

- Good point, Commissioner. ... As if we didn't have enough problems.

- Mind you, he could still be of use to us, if my worst fears prove correct.

- And what worst fears would THEY be ?

- The word on the street is that the Joker is planning something big in the city.

- I thought the Joker was already doing that, Commissioner !

- I have undercover men strategically placed in some of the gangs he uses. ... Multiple explosions, subtle manipulation of computer systems he either now controls or can easily infiltrate, and a revenge program directed against everyone responsible for thwarting his efforts. We can expect to be stretched, as we've never been stretched before.

- You mean, beyond the levels, we are way overstretched, already ?

- I'm afraid so, Pat.

- The preliminary findings of the forensics, you ordered on the Tower fire tonight, confirm your suspicions chief, an incendiary attack on Casper Furey's private apartment. ... If he was wobbling in the face of pressure from the Joker, to comply to his demands before, it is hard to see how he's likely to be wobbling now.

- I couldn't agree more, ... I'm sorry to say. ... Still no sign of the Penguin ?

- Not a dickie bird, .. no pun intended, Commissioner. ... That cagey old bird is a wily old fox.

- I believe that is what you call a 'mixed metaphor'.

- ( Laughing ) Aw, Commissioner, I believe you might be right, to be sure. ... Talking about Penguin, Sir, ... maybe it's about time to implement that little plan of our own.

- Operation Vigilante.

- The enemy of my enemy is my friend ... It takes one to know one. ... It takes a thief to catch a thief. ...

- Yes, .. that's quite enough, Chief.

- Sorry, Commissioner.

- If, as I reckon, Catwoman, Penguin, the Riddler and, God knows who else, despise the Joker as much as we do, then we can expect to see them launch their campaigns against him, too.

- You forgot to include Batman in your list.

- Ah, Pat, Batman is no mere vigilante. He carries much more official weight with me than any of THEM. ... But it is where Ghul comes into the picture, though.

- What exactly do you mean by that ?

- I'm rather banking on the fact that Ghul has a plan to really hurt the Joker, and that he's not going to leave Gotham, until he uses it.

- Yes, indeed, Commissioner.

- ( A little impishly.) Now, be off with you. .. I still have one or two important matters to take care of here, and, then, I'll be off too.

- Okay, Commissioner. Goodnight.

- Goodnight.

Chief O'Hara leaves.

Meanwhile, at Wayne Manor, Bruce is relaxing and recovering from his latest rescue mission, when the Hotline phone rings:

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

- Hello, Batman, there is something I'd like to run by you.

- Go ahead, Commissioner, I am all ears..

- No doubt, you know about our friend, Kensington Payne ?

- Indeed.

- It would seem you were right about him all along. ... Oh, congratulations by the way on the rescue this evening. It was most impressive.

- Thank you, Commissioner.

- Ever since his disappearance, there has been a sense of panic and distinct disquiet amongst the powers that be. Some members of the FBI have become emboldened, and are starting to turn their eyes on Gotham and the Joker.

My network of sources know that something big is being planned by the Joker. I have every reason to believe that he will have to bring his plans forward, and soon.

- It makes sense, Commissioner. With his great protector gone, it's all or nothing.

- Precisely. .. Forensics haven't had time as yet to sift through the scene of tonight's fire, but the device used has Larry Dicks' prints all over it.

- I rather thought it might.

- A small explosive device, detonated by cell phone, igniting several gallons of gasoline.

- And a child almost burns to death.

- And a child nearly burns to death, .. indeed. ... It was clearly meant as a warning for Casper Furey, to keep him in line.

- So it would seem. .. Actually, Commissioner, I have some news for YOU.

- Oh ?

- I have every reason to believe, that the Joker is none other than one Jack Napier.

- The Master Hacker, .. of course !

- ( Pausing for thought. ) You know, Commissioner, now I come to think of it, perhaps Casper Furey wasn't the main target of that attack, after all. Maybe, that's just what we were meant to think.

- Who, then ?

- Perhaps, it was the boy.

- The boy ? .. Surely not.

- Do we know, who the boy's father is ?

- Actually, we do, Detective Lieutenant Frank Robbins. ... In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, he was the arresting officer, the .. night .. of .. the ...

- Exactly, Commissioner, .. the night of the fire, that killed Napier's wife and child.

- It makes perfect sense. .. It couldn't be a coincidence.

- All we have to do is wait for the ideal moment, and reveal his identity to the City. It should at least take the sting out of his tail.

- I'll leave it in your most capable hands, Batman. But there is one other thing I wish to discuss. ... Do you possibly think you could maneuver Penguin, Catwoman and the Riddler into assisting us against him, ... you know, like you did against Harvey Dent ? .. If the Joker thinks it is now time to play all his cards, maybe it is time for us to play all ours.

- ( Pausing to think for a few moments.) ... I quite agree. .. Yes, I think I can do that.

- Perfect. I knew I could rely on you. Goodnight, Batman.

- Goodnight, Commissioner.

The next day, Pamela and Penelope Eisley are getting dressed in their secret apartment. A magazine arrives in the post.

- ( Penelope ) Oh great, my copy of 'Society' has arrived. There is always someone worth reading about.

- I prefer plants. They make a lot more sense than people !

- ( Pamela ) I am jotting down lots of ideas for a book, I am hoping to write.

- ( Penelope ) Really ? Wow, that sounds fantastic !

- Actually, it was Bruce's idea. Think of all the things that are created in a garden: flowers from seeds, fruit and compost, natural compost that fertilizes the ground, the interaction between animals and plant life, the partnerships. There are similar partnerships between planets and moons, stars and their orbiting planets. Stars, when they are dying, produce every element known to Man, and, when they explode they produce all the materials necessary to create new planets, like seeds.. It is just like a garden, death and rebirth. Out of death comes life.

- ( Penelope ) We have only just discovered J1407b. It is a planet like Saturn, but its rings are thirty times larger, tens of millions of miles wide. Its light takes 420 years to reach us.

- ( Pamela ) It is one giant flower in the Universe. Creation didn't end after six days. It continues in the crucible which is our universe.

- And, maybe the universe is only one of thousands, perhaps millions of universes, the 'Bubble' Theory. .. How mind-blowing is that ?

- Fantastic, Penny. .. I'm just writing that down. .. I want to speak to a lot of people in the world, and tell them,' Your world is too small ! Your God is too small !' .. And, on the subject of God, did you know that the first temples, known in the Middle East, were built within like gardens ? There is even a theory that actual gardens might have acted as temples, and places of worship, where people would look to meet with the Creator. That idea might lie, in some way, behind the story of the Garden of Eden.

Pamela continues:

- The idea of God suddenly creating things in an instant is something that makes him truly great, but so is the idea that things are created slowly, the way that things in a garden are created and grow slowly. Everything in a garden changes day by day, actually minute by minute, second by second. Nothing stays the same. Creation is still happening, and it is constantly changing. Maybe this is the case, because the Creator was easily bored !

And again:

- The universe is the same, constantly changing, but the changes take so very much longer. If there is a creator, then he has been around for a long, long time, and that idea ALSO makes him very great, if he was around before the beginning of what might be many universes, and the unimaginable power it takes to produce the stars and the elements they generate. ... A garden, or an eco-system, is like the Universe in microcosm.

- ( Penelope ) I am seriously thinking of taking up astrophysics as my major next year. .. Maybe, we could collaborate ?

- Why not ? ... That's a great idea !

- ( Penelope ) We could call it, 'The Universe, our Eden.'

- Perfect !

Penelope flicks through her magazine:

- Look, Pam, there's a feature here about Bruce Wayne !

- ( Snatching the magazine away from her sister.) Hey, let me see that !

Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that Ra's al Ghul has done next to nothing in taking on the Joker, bar simply resisting his attacks on property, and the riots, he has been promoting on the streets. But, in many ways, he has been biding his time, waiting for the right moment, when the Joker would be most vulnerable. He had always assumed, THAT would be after King Patriot was removed from the picture. He had long been preparing a plan to do that himself, but Viktor fries had beaten him to it ! We join him towards the end of a conversation,he is having, with his new second-in-command:

- Every good card player needs an ace up his sleeve, Tang, and I have mine.

- And, may I be so bold as to ask, what that is?

- Yes, you have permission to ask, but, alas, I am not at liberty to divulge that information. It is for me to know, and you to find out. In America, I have to act in a clandestine way, and perhaps, now, in any country, where its influence holds sway, but there are always governments that will employ my services, in some capacity. In fact, to remain hidden represents a distinct advantage, when it comes to defeating corruption, and restoring some semblance of sanity and healthy government to the countries of the world.

Later that evening, as Batman hurries towards the Tumbler, to help the police foil a bank robbery, he notices a shadowy figure hovering around it. The man disappears into an overflow drain. Batman gives chase, but it is just not his world, and he quickly loses him, stumbling into a number of tin cans. Somehow the mysterious figure has given him the slip !

Meanwhile, in a labyrinth of caves, hidden in the depths of Greenland's Permafrost:

- (Payne, gazing at one of the new families in Freeze's Ice Colony.) What are these people doing here ? They are a family, ... all ice people. ... I don't understand.

- Of course, you don't. .. Their daughter needed full ice treatment urgently, and her parents joined her here, taking the treatment, too. ... It's called love, Mr. Payne. ... If only more money was spent on finding better ways to treat degenerative diseases, and less on manipulating world politics, people wouldn't have to take such drastic measures, to save the lives of their loved ones, .. but then, .. I am speaking to the man, who financed the Grim Reaper, .. am I not ?

- H..h..how do you know about that ?

- My friend, Dimitri Kharkov. .. He knows everything.

Robin is very keen to learn how the Bat Glider was able to do everything it did, the night Batman rescued the little boy, and the things it did, the night he played ' Apaches Over Gotham,' as a boy:

- ( Bruce ) It is all, basically Lucius' technology. He began with standard technology, GPS and such like, then looked at the echo-location system that bats, themselves, use. We installed lots of sonar-type emitters around the center of Gotham, disguised as all sorts of standard pieces of brick and stonework, and these automatically are triggered by the Wayne Satellite System, tracking Batman's every move on the Glider. The interaction of the sound waves bouncing around each individual street is interpreted by the Bat Computer, and fed back directly to the Glider, that then twists and turns accordingly !

Harvey Dent has decided, he will don some of his old special forces gear, having been ordered to investigate the drains, taking some of the Joker's men with him. He will kill the guy, he and the Joker met, the night of their escape from the warehouse. As he and his team enter the drain, next to Perkins' house, they disturb a number of tin cans, not a good start, if they want to take the guy by surprise ! One of them comments:

- Oh shit ! That's a great start.

- ( Two Face ) Never mind. Maybe, the sound will make the guy curious. According to the blueprints, I reckon we should go this way.

They all switch on their flashlights.

After a few minutes, Two Face gets a call on his mobile phone:

- Hello ! ... Hello ! ... That's just great. ... I can't get a decent signal down here.

He closes his phone.

They weave their way through the maze of tunnels, for an hour, without success. Every now and again, they run into more tin cans !

- ( Two Face ) This is getting really frustrating. The guy is probably long gone by now. Let's turn back.

But, as they do so, one by one, each is knocked out from behind, always as they are negotiating a corner. Soon only two are left.

- ( Two Face) What the hell !

- What happened to the others ?

- I guess the guy we are looking for is a lot smarter than we gave him credit for. We were stalking him, but all the time he was stalking us. ... Actually, now I come to think of it, those cans, we keep hitting, remind me of a trick used by the Vietcong in Vietnam, as a way of tracking the tunnel rats we sent in to smoke them out. We better hurry. According to the map we're not too far.

Suddenly both are taken by surprise. Their flashlights disappear, kicked out of their hands, and they are quickly rendered unconscious !

The next thing Dent knows is waking up in a dark drain, tied and bound, next to his comrade. Before them sits the same guy he had met before.

- ( Comrade ) Who are you ? .. What do you want ? .. What are you going to do with us ?

- Who I am is not important. .. As for what I'm going to do, well, .. the same thing I did with your friends.

- And what was that ?

- I'm going to release you in the drains. If you find your way out, well and good. You'll be free, and all will be well. .. If not, too bad. You obviously came down here to kill me. I could hear you, and knew when you were cocking your weapons. You will have, as they say, a fighting chance, fighting against the odds of success, that is. They will be heavily stacked against you. .. And, just in case you are thinking of using your cell phones, I took the precaution of removing them all, when you were unconscious.

He takes Dent's friend away, bound and gagged, and releases him.

- ( Distant voice ) Hey, .. where am I ? .. You can't just leave me here, like this !

Then he returns for Two Face.

- (The guy ) Now, it's your turn.

And he does the same. ... Soon, Dent finds himself in a dark tunnel, with no flashlight, and the stench of human waste wrenching his stomach.

- Now to get out of here. ... Here goes !

The Joker has long wanted revenge on Bruce Wayne. Not only had he been rescued from his clutches by Batman

( Or so he believes.), but it was so annoying how the ordinary man in the street, from factory worker to small businessman, would use his bank, and not the rest in the City, which he now, more or less, controlled.

He plans on beginning with a number of Dicks specials, a number of free samples of Stationery Products, made by a bogus printing company, consisting of a number of bulky parcels, containing enough C4 to blow up each of the Wayne Towers ! One batch has been sent to each building.

Which brings me to a major element of the revamped security measures taken by one Lucius Fox, a satellite surveillance system, that can automatically detect a cell phone, that is absolutely stationary, with no visible human heat signature accompanying it !

The system alerts Lucius right away.

- Mr. Wayne, .. we have a problem. .. Three Towers, .. and a bomb in each lobby.

- So, .. this is it. .. It's now our turn. ... There's no time to lose. ... Get everyone in each tower to evacuate by the rear fire exits, and order security at each to wheel the parcels back out into the street. I'll alert the police. They will clear the surrounding streets. ... Oh, and Lucius ?

- Yes, Mr. Wayne ?

- Make sure you get out in time, yourself.

- Yes, Mr. Wayne.

Bruce informs the Commissioner, heads down one of the Bat Poles, changes into Batman, makes his way through the narrow cave passage, into the Bat Cave, down the Rocket Pole, to the Bat Rocket. He sets off towards the storm drain system, and the Tumbler !

He takes the Tumbler out into Gotham, and quickly makes his way to Wayne Tower. He lifts the weighty package and suspends it around one of the Bat Grapplers. He goes to Tower Two, and does the same, and likewise to Tower Three. In a race against time, he rushes in the Tumbler to Gotham Bay, and fires the two Grapplers, with the packages out towards an empty area of sea. On hitting the sea, they both explode, with extraordinary ferocity !

The third package he throws down onto a deserted area of beach, whereupon it, too, explodes with the same severity !

Across town, in his secret hideout, the Joker has summoned the Scarecrow:

- Scarecrow, .. I love the name by the way, ... also loved what you did the other night, .. couldn't sleep a wink, .. I have a job for you tonight.

- What sort of job ?

- Actually, I wanted Dent to do it, what with his experience in Special Forces and assassinations.

- What sort of a job ?

- Curious, really, .. tried to get him on his cell phone. ... Can't get a signal.

- What sort of a job ?

- I want you to lead a full-scale assault on Wayne Manor ! .. Take as many of the clowns as you need, .. The same goes for weapons...

On returning to the storm drain, Batman dismounts from the Tumbler, still fairly shaken after such a close-run thing, when, to his utter amazement, standing there, is the guy he chased into the side drain.

- ( Guy ) What do you do in that thing, and why are you dressed like a bat ?

- Clearly you don't watch TV !

- Not for a long, long time.

- What's your name ?

- It's a secret. What's your name ?

- Batman.

- That's crazy !

- Any crazier than a guy who lives in the drains ?

- Actually, I live in a cave.

- I use a cave a lot, myself.

- Then we have something in common. ... What exactly do you do ?

- Mostly, I rescue people in trouble, but sometimes I find myself up against a hood or two.

- Same here.

- You're the Cave Man !

- What did you call me ?

- The mysterious guy, some people claim to have seen down the Finger Caves. I bet you were behind the Deep Water Miracle last year. A guy fell fifty feet, and had no recollection whatsoever how he made it out of the water, to safety outside the caves.

- The man I saved, .. yes.

- And the girl, who was dragged into the storm drain by her attackers. I bet you were the vagrant who took their knives off them, and saved the girl from being assaulted.

- Guilty as charged.

- You are ! ... You are the Cave Man !

- Caveman. ... , I rather like the sound of that. ... Caveman it is. .. If you can be Batman, I can be Caveman !

- You're on ! ... Hey, I just realized why there are all those cans around. You use strategically placed tin cans as sound locators. Your ears are attuned to judge the direction and distance of people walking the drains and the caves !

- Again,.. guilty as charged.

- Quite ingenious.

Meanwhile, in Gotham, things start to go absolutely haywire. Cash machines start to dispense not nearly the right amount of money, each customer requests. The traffic lightd system starts operating in a way tailor-made to produce head-on collisions ! The street lights come on during the day, and switch off just before it gets dark ! Everyone's internet gets incredibly slow. It takes thirty minutes to get Windows to load ! However, that is not true for everyone. Those who bought their computers from those outlets, known to be run by the Joker, find that their computers are working perfectly.

The Police can't arrest anyone. Their computers are down. In fact, everyone's computer becomes subject to an insidious virus ,that disables it completely, with the exception of those who bought theirs through one of the Joker's Companies.

- ( James Gordon ) What the Devil is going on ? .. This is making us a complete laughing stock !

- ( Leading Banker, Whitney Ellsworth ) I'm ruined ! .. I'm absolutely ruined ! .. This glitch is going to cost us a fortune in lawsuits !

- ( Head Of Traffic Control, Dennis O'Neill ) The City's grinding completely to a halt. .. I'll have to resign. .. I don't have any choice.

One key person is totally oblivious to what has been happening. Naimh Ross is actually the last witness to give evidence against Harvey Dent at the Hearing, before, finally it has to suspend its activities, for the lack of those prepared to give evidence. Jake Scribbs was to be the star witness in the case, with a full week having initially been set aside for his testimony, but his ordeal at the hands of Poison Ivy has him deluded into thinking that he is becoming some kind of plant monster, and has been admitted to Arkham Asylum for long-term care.

Naimh is in the middle of preparing the report, she is to give about the Hearing, for the evening news, outside the Courthouse, when three men, dressed as clowns, snatch her as she sits on those hallowed steps.

- ( Naimh ) Hey, what is this ? .. What are you doing to me, and why are you dressed as clowns ?

Funnily enough, even though it is she herself caught up in this kidnapping, her journalistic instinct is more at play than an awareness that she is actually being kidnapped, and she starts pursuing an angle on the men behind the masks, very much in keeping with the main theme of her exposés !

- Oh, no. Here we go again. ... I guess Gotham just wouldn't be Gotham, if it weren't me, from time to time, actually making the news, and not simply reporting it ! ... Someone's writing my script again !

The irony isn't at all lost on her, that she has just come out of the Courthouse, testifying about how she had been kidnapped by Dent. Now she is being kidnapped by God knows who, and taken to a place, which only He knew where !

She was bundled into the back of a black van, and taken straight to the Joker's long-standing safe house.

Later that evening, Bruce is having dinner with Victoria Bross. They are just finishing their main course:

- ( Bruce ) Still no word from Pamela ?

- Sorry, Bruce, I've told you again and again. I just can't help you. Pamela has often disappeared off for long periods of time, without telling me where she is, or who she's with.

- Do you think she might have found someone else ?

- I didn't say that. ... If I know my step-daughter, she'll come back on her own, and in her own good time. .. Don't worry ! .. Now, .. what's for afters ?


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