Batman: A New World

Chapter 67 The Joker's Wild (Part 2)

The Joker's Wild ( Part Two )

We rejoin Bruce Wayne and Victoria Bross, in Wayne Manor, as they continue their evening meal, trying to put behind them the troubles faced by the city, and for which Batman has, as yet, no answer. Alfred is preparing one of his trademark desserts, and Dick Grayson is working with Q, the Bat Computer, doing his homework !

- ( Bruce, getting up somewhat abruptly.) Sorry, Victoria, .. I've just remembered, .. I have to do something for Aunt Harriot. .. I'll be back in a few moments.

Alfred comes in bearing his culinary delights. Victoria looks rather mischievously in his direction, then says to Bruce, as he leaves:

- Oh, don't worry. Alfred's here to take care of me. .. You just take your time. ( Calling after him.) Take all the time you need!

She gets up, and gives Alfred a rather affectionate hug.

- Honestly, Miss Bross, ... a gentleman prefers to take all the initiative in a relationship !

- Oh, come on, Alfred, don't be so stuffy. This dessert isn't the only thing, being served up on a plate tonight ! .. Anyway, by the sound of things, you DO want a relationship with me.

As he tries to disentangle himself from her, he hears an alarm sound in his upper frock coat pocket. Then, he hears it sound again and again:

- ( Alfred ) Alright, Miss Bross, .. alright. ... What, if you go up to your room ? .. Perhaps, I will see you presently.

The alarm stops, starts and stops again.

- ( Victoria ) Why, Alfred, ... that's more like it. ... You're on ! ... I hope that's not a pacemaker sounding, sweetums, cause Vicky's only getting started !

- If there is one thing I can assure you of, Victoria, .. I do NOT require a pacemaker !

She heads out the door, and up the nearby stairs. Suddenly, Alfred's demeanor changes to one of great urgency, for the number of alarm sounds indicates the number of security breaches around the Manor perimeter. He proceeds at haste down the main corridor to a panel of buttons:

- ( Speaking quietly to himself.) Sorry, Victoria.

He presses one button, and, all of a sudden, the door to her bedroom locks shut ! Victoria realizes right away.

- ( Victoria ) What on earth ? ... ( Trying to open the door.) Oh ! ! ! ... Alfred, .. how could you ? ... Of all the low down ... Oh ! ! !

Alfred notices that the burglar trap has activated, just as it did, when Catwoman tried to break in, if you remember. One of the intruders is already under wraps ! ... But, several other lights come on. Several well-armed individuals, dressed as Ghul's men, have sledge hammered their way in to other rooms on the ground floor, He presses one more button on the panel. The whole of the downstairs goes into lockdown. .. Automated bars close down over all the windows. Some four of the Joker's men are now trapped ! They try frantically to force the doors, but to no avail:

- What's with the doors ?

- Hey, what the hell's happening here ?

- Let me out !

- Hey, Scarecrow never told us anything about this !

Meanwhile, the alarm has sounded in the Bat Cave. Dick grabs as much equipment as he can, loads it into Batman's Utility Belt, puts it on, and heads up the stairwell, towards the secret door that opens into the hallway. Bruce is in Aunt Harriot's room, as the alarm sounds, and heads out to her emergency lift, quickly descending to the Bat Cave ! He goes to the Costume Unit, and quickly becomes Batman, but is puzzled, to say the least, when he notices his belt is missing. However, his first priority is to turn on the Manor's CCTV system, to try to ascertain what exactly is happening above him.

Suddenly, there is an explosion at the front of the Manor ! The front door falls to the ground, ... and in steps the Scarecrow ! Upwards of around a dozen well-armed men follow him. He throws his gas canister in Alfred's direction, releasing its contents into the hallway:

- ( Scarecrow ) Well, hello, Alfred, .. guess who's coming to dinner ! ... Where's Wayne and the woman ?

But, again, somewhat strangely, Alfred, this time, is unaffected by the hallucinogen it contains. He quickly makes a dash for the nearest gun on the wall, a musket, and fires it, taking down one of the assailants. They start to open fire. It is sheer chaos ! Dick reaches the secret door, and peers through it, to his absolute horror. This is what happened to his friends, ... to Hawk, Falcon and Kestrel, all over again ! But, if Dick is scared, so also is Scarecrow, absolutely baffled as to why Bruce Wayne's butler isn't sitting cowering in a corner somewhere. Instead, that butler is grabbing gun after gun, and advancing towards a dumbfounded enemy, who are wondering why their fellows haven't appeared to take him out ?

- ( One of the hoods. ) Hey, Boss, where are Joe and the guys ? I thought they were to have done the business by now !

- ( Alfred shouts ) Oh, sorry. Did I omit to inform you ? ... I'm afraid some of your friends have been unavoidably detained, ... quite literally, in fact.

Upstairs in her room, Victoria Bross is going absolutely frantic:

- ( Again, trying to open the door.) Alfred ! ... Bruce ! ... Are you alright ? ... What the hell is going on down there ?

Alfred now has the Winchester High Caliber Repeating Rifle, and takes out virtually one guy per shot. .. The high caliber rounds cause horrible wounds. He has ten rounds.

However, one of the Joker's men lobs a grenade towards Alfred, exploding, and knocking him to the ground ! Doodles runs out of the bomb-blasted doorway, in absolute panic. ... Alfred lies motionless.

- ( Scarecrow ) That's more like it ! .. At last !

- Oh my God, .. they got Alfred. ... They're going to pay for this.

Victoria phones Bruce on her cell phone:

- What the hell's going on, Bruce ? .. Did I hear an explosion ? .. Is this Alfred's idea of a joke ?

- ( Batman ) It's no joke, Victoria. .. Don't panic. We have intruders. .. Just stay there. .. Don't try to get out. It's the best place for you. .. Alfred knew that. .. Don't make any noise. Alfred knows what he is doing. He can look after himself.

Meanwhile, down Gotham's drains, Two Face, aka Harvey Dent starts retracing his steps. That was always going to be his strategy, from the time his last remaining companion was escorted out into the system. He had counted every step he had taken in the dark, and remembered every turn. As he makes his way back to where he had been held captive, he feels around the inside lining of various parts of his old Special Forces jacket.

Sure enough, there, is an old compass, a large penknife, and a box of matches, sealed in plastic.

Continuing back the way he reckons he came, he can hear agonizing screams in the distance, as one by one, his erstwhile comrades begin to lose their minds in the tunnels.

When he arrives back at the place he started from, he waits patiently to see if his captor will return. He finds their guns. .. He finds food there, the remains of people's packed lunches and picnics, yes, picnics ! The Finger Caves, Gotham's Parkland ! ... The Caves, ... maybe they are his way out ! ... He sets fire to some nearby rubbish to provide some extra light, and studies the blueprints. The Caveman hadn't seen the point of removing them from his person, given the fact that the drains were so dark. Using his compass, he estimates the general direction he should take to reach the general vicinity of the Caves, and waits for the Caveman to show.

He doesn't have to wait too long. He hears the guy approaching. The prospect that anyone could be lying in wait for him there is the last thing he is expecting. ..There isn't even the slightest scuffle. .. Dent has him the way he wants him, in a neck lock !

- ( Dent ) Okay, this is how it is, .. you understand ?

The Caveman nods.

- First off, I never intended to kill you. .. My associates may have thought that, but all I wanted to do was to scare you off. I didn't want you telling the police, where we exited the drains that night, .. not until I took care of a little business of my own, that is. .. Now, according to my calculations, the Finger Caves should be exactly north-east of here. I want you to guide me through the system, to where it accesses the Caves, and get me out. Then, I'll let you go, I swear, okay ?

Again, the Caveman nods.

- I'll expect to begin to feel fresh air after about 20 minutes, so no funny business. .. Right, .. let's go, then.

Dent releases him.

It is around this time that Naimh ( Pronounced Neeve ) Ross finally comes face to face with her captor, the Joker, still using the home of his faithful sidekick, as his hideout.

- (Joker) Ah, Naimh, Naimh, we finally meet at last ! ... May I say I've always been an admirer of your work. I just love your sense of humor. It's definitely something that we have in common.

- Somehow, I don't think so.

- Ah, .. I see what you mean, .. but, then again, one man's joke is another man's bad taste.

- Or a woman's.

- ( Rather ominously ) Yes.

- Okay, Mr. Joker, let's cut to the chase.

- Mr. Joker. ... I love it, I love it !

- What do you want ? ... Are you going to kill me ? Is that it ?

- I don't want to kill you.

- That's not the same thing.

- Like I said, .. I like you. .. i like your work.

- And ... ?

- And I think you're the perfect person to work for me.

- What ! ! ! ... You've got to be joking, right ?

- I've always got to be joking, Miss Ross. ... Marge Simpson hasn't been looking well lately. Her face looks drawn. ... I love the Home Shopping Channels, .. Why ? Cause there are no commercials ! ... Some people think the answers to all life's problems lie at the bottom of a bottle. .. It's nonsense. They're all on TV ! .. But seriously, Naimh, .. can I call you Naimh ?

- Whatever !

- Some people are of the opinion, that TV is just a lot of nonsense, but we underestimate the power of TV at our peril. It has been the world's greatest educator, .. before Wikipedia, that is, and it has the power to shape the way everyone in that world views what happens in it. .. That's where you come in.

- What do you mean, that's where I come in ?

- A lot of crazy things are happening in this city, right now.

- A lot of crazy things are always happening in the city.

- I love it ! .. I really do. ... You've just got the perfect way about you !

- The City is falling apart. It's under cyber attack by North Korea. Computer viruses are rife in Government Buildings, the streets and people's homes. I can stop it.

- How ?

- All the computers my companies produce or use are unaffected. I have hack-proof software. .. I'm willing to share it with the whole city. .. I need you to help me let Gotham know, on TV. .. Everybody trusts GNN !

- But surely you know, that even if I was willing to help you, what makes you think the network will let you.

- Ah, .. because I might have left Mr. Bross with the impression that I will kill you, if you don't.

- WHAT ! ! !

- Don't worry, don't worry. ... I didn't mean it. I just wanted to get his attention.

- Well then, .. you won't mind if I just walk out this door.

- I'm afraid, I can't do that, Miss Ross.

- So, you WILL kill me, if I don't agree.

- - No, but I won't let you go, until you do what I want.

- Then, I guess we got a deal.

- That's more like it.

The Joker lifts his cell phone, and makes a call:

- ( In a slow, measured high pitch tone.) Oh, Warner, ... it's on. She's going to do it. .. If you ever want her back alive, set up the link now.

- Okay, Joker, .. but if any harm comes to Naimh, or my mother, this company will roast your ass in public.

Back in Wayne Manor, Dick is distraught. As far as he knows, Bruce, Alfred and Victoria have all been killed !

- ( Thinking to himself.) Maybe Bruce and Victoria have been kidnapped.

He heads back down the stairway and calls 911, but can't get through. Unknown to him, and much to his frustration, the emergency lines are all affected by the cyber attack. After a few minutes, he gets through:

- Hello, this is an emergency. There is an attack in progress at Wayne Manor. People are being shot !

- ( Officer in Charge, half-Scottish.) Look, who is this ? You sound kind of young to be making a call like this.

- My name's Dick Grayson. I work at Wayne Manor. ...

- Ah, now I know this isn't a serious call, Laddie, .. as I know for a fact, that the only person who works for Mr. Wayne is his Butler. .. Nice try, Sonny. Better luck, next time !

The Officer hangs up.

- Hello ! .. Hello ! ... Looks like I'm going to have to do this on my own.

He returns to the secret doorway.

- ( Scarecrow ) Okay, you guys, see if the Butler's still alive, and go see if you can find Wayne and the Bross woman.

- Phew, at least, they haven't got THEM.

This is his opportunity to do some damage ! He will sneak out and catch each one, one at a time. .. If they HAVE killed Alfred, he'll get his revenge, and still stay safe, .. hopefully.

He loads up with Batman's latest Taser Unit, Bat-shaped, mini boomerang-like objects, with fine needles on each wing point, taser-charged !

The Scarecrow orders two of his men:

- Go along that corridor, and see what has happened to Joe and the boys.

- ( Dick ) Perfect. .. My first targets !

As the guy proceeds down one of so many long corridors on the ground floor of the Manor, taking left and right turns, Dick takes him out with a Bat Taser !

He quickly binds his hands with plastic binders, and gags his mouth. ... Then he hears the second guy coming. He quickly ducks into an alcove, allows the guy to go past. That guy then sees his comrade lying, bound and gagged:

- What the hell ?

The , he, too, is tasered !

- ( Batman, viewing the action onscreen in the Bat Cave.) Ah, mystery solved. .. Dick has my Utility Belt, .. and it looks as if he's doing okay on his own !

He throws a switch on his panel. Now, all the rooms in the Manor are on lock-down. .. Now can you appreciate the irony of Harvey Dent's comment to Bruce, so long ago now, about his lack of security ?

- ( Scarecrow ) Now what ?

- The whole house is locked down, now !

- ( Sarcastically ) Terrific ! ... Is the Butler still breathing ?

- Yeah, he's still breathing.

- And there's still no sign of Wayne or the Bross woman ?

- No, Scarecrow.

- Okay, then HE's going to have to do. ... Take him up the stairs to the Main Corridor Balcony.

- ( Batman, in the Bat Cave. ) Thank God, you're still alive, you old war dog !

- Well, .. will he live ?

- It's hard to tell. .. he has a pulse, okay.

- Get some water from outside.

- Okay, Scarecrow.

Meanwhile Dick is poised to take on another hood ! .. But, as he approaches the main staircase, he is frustrated to only just miss the guy Scarecrow has sent to get the water ! Now, they are all upstairs in the one place.

- ( Scarecrow ) Now throw the water over him !

The guy with the water does as he says.

Alfred comes round !

- ( Alfred ) Oh, .. ah, .. what happened ? ... Master Bruce, .. are you there ?

- ( Batman, smiling. ) Yes, Alfred, .. reading you loud and clear !

- ( Scarecrow ) Less of the Master Bruce. ... Tell me where he is. ..

- Miss Cooper's Room, West Wing, second floor.

- ( Batman ) Perfect, Alfred. ... What a guy !

- ( Scarecrow ) Okay, you guys. You heard the man. .. You two, go find Wayne !

- Right Boss !

They head up the stairs.

Batman goes to the Bat Lift, and heads up to meet them !

( Scarecrow slowly. ) Now listen to me, Alfred. ... Where do you go to re-open the rooms, after lockdown ?

- ( Alfred ) Oh , ... Oh., .. water. ... I need water.

- Why does the guy need water ? ... He's covered with the stuff. .. ( To another of his henchmen. ) Go get the guy some water.

The two guys heading for the West Wing get mugged on the way, courtesy of Batman ! ... In the same manner, perfectly exemplified by Dick Grayson, they both wind up bound and gagged. ... Back he goes to the lift. .. Down he descends to the Bat Cave. Meanwhile, the goon charged with the task of getting Alfred water reaches the kitchen. ... ( Sound of electric shock !)

A few moments later, Dick is upstairs, secretly spying on Scarecrow, and his remaining men.

- ( Scarecrow ) Where's the guy with the water ?

- ( Dick under his breath.) He's been tasered !

- ( Scarecrow ) I've just about had enough of this. .. Okay, Alfred. .. We need to open the doors. .. How do we open the doors ?

- Down in the cellar, .. panel, ... buttons.

Scarecrow selects yet another of his men for a job.

- Right, ... you !

- Me, Boss.

- Yes, you ! ... Go down into the cellar, find that panel, and start pressing a few buttons !

He goes down the stairs, and looks for the cellar door.

- ( Batman ) Oh, .. you beauty, Alfred.

Batman heads out of the Bat Cave, through the narrow passageway ( Always something that causes him distinct psychological discomfort ! ), to the cellar !

As the poor guy switches the light on, he, too, gets knocked senseless to the ground !

- ( Scarecrow ) I sure as hell don't know what's happening here, and where everyone has gone, but I reckon we are going to have to use the Butler after all. The woman would have been better. The Joker wants her as extra leverage with Bross, if we can find her. ... Okay, start spreading the corridor with the gas we brought.

- Right,Boss.

The last of his men start pouring gasoline over the furniture.

He throws a match. The corridor ignites.

- ( Scarecrow to Alfred ) FIRE ! .. FIRE, ALFRED ! ... Where is Victoria Bross ?

- ( Alfred faning pain. ) Oh, ... Oh ...

- It's no use, you guys. Let's forget about the woman, and get out of here.

Batman has access to the monitors from the cellar. .. He can see what is happening, and hears what Scarecrow says. He presses one of the buttons. Then, he presses another ! Then sneaks up the stairway to the secret door Dick used some ten minutes previously.

The fire is quickly extinguished with Carbon Dioxide gas descending at pressure from the ceiling, the basis of the Manor's sprinkler system ! Scarecrow and his men head back up the stairs. They light a second fire around the balcony:

( Scarecrow ) Okay, that's it. Let's get out of here. Batman should be on his way anytime, now.

They are totally unaware that Batman has released his mild hallucinogenic from the ceiling above them. Before they can reach the top of the stairs, there in front of them is a bat-like figure, half man and half bat, menacing !

And he sounds menacing, too !

- He's already here !

The crazy thing is that Scarecrow is also affected by the gas, and he is under its spell, as readily as his comrades !

- ( Scarecrow ) Oh my God, it's Batman ! My god, he's unreal !

- You're going down Scarecrow. Today is not your lucky day.

And Batman somewhat comfortably engages the four of them, with a display of combat skills unique to himself. They are all hopelessly afraid of him. Soon, they, too, are all overpowered, bound and, .. yes, gagged !

- ( Alfred, trying to get up.) Why, you will have one's eternal gratitude, Batman.

Dick and Batman put the fire out with two fire extinguishers. Then Batman goes over to the Scarecrow, and pulls his hood off:

- ( Batman) Well, if it isn't Dr. Jonathan Crane.

In Gotham, itself, there are reports to the Police of strange sounds coming from the drains, wailing sounds, even screams. The Irish-Americans of the city think they are Banshees, portends of death, crying out for their next victims ! They are all immediately dismissed as crank calls, or a result of the Computers crashing, and traffic lights failing, with all the yells and noises going on around, through many of the city streets. In Britain, they call it road rage !

But, late on in the evening, one poor unfortunate individual is rescued, after banging constantly on a drain cover for over an hour !

Meanwhile, Dent very carefully escorts the Caveman, as they weave their way round the maze of tunnels, that Dent trusts will lead him finally to safety, to the Kane Country Park, through the Finger Caves. He is carrying the blueprints for the tunnels in his hands, but quickly realizes they are not to scale. It means, that this mysterious master of the tunnels is even more important than before.

- ( Dent ) How did you end up here ? ... You're obviously very intelligent. ... Why would you want to live down here in the filth and the squalor of drains and sewers ?

- I had no choice. ... I was abandoned by a friend in the caves a long time ago. I was trapped, but I learned to survive in the caves, and, only by chance, eventually discovered the way into the drains.

- You know, you could be a very useful asset, when it comes to bringing the Joker down.

- A strange way to describe a fellow human being, .. an asset.

- Apologies, .. an occupational habit of mine. I used to be Assistant Commissioner of Police for the City.

- And this Joker, ... I've never heard of him. ... You obviously don't care for him that much.

- I most certainly do not. .. Unfortunately, it is all my fault, that he has taken over the city. ... In fact, he is the guy, who wanted you dead.

- Oh, is he now ? ... Well, that's different, then. ... If you think there is any way I can help you get to him, then by all means.

- Do you think you could find the drain we used that night we first met ?

- No problem.

- Perfect, .. 'cause the underground option may just be the only way to get to him.

- I most certainly would relish the opportunity to BRING HIM DOWN here with me.

- Oh, very funny, .. very good.

- We are almost at the Caves, now.

- Yes, .. I am beginning to detect fresher air.

- Fresher air, maybe, but it is still foul, compared to the air you are used to breathing.

Once Scarecrow, and all his friends are safely locked away in Wayne Manor, Batman is free to congratulate Dick on a job well done. However:

- You were seriously placing your life at risk. .. Alfred and I have procedures for this.

- Sorry, Bruce, .. I didn't know.

- ( Alfred ) Come now, Master Bruce, .. don't be too hard on the boy. .. We hadn't yet got round to telling him about such arrangements, and, there is no doubt about it, he DID do, what you or one would have done in the circumstances, and remarkably effectively for one so young.

- You're right, Alfred. ... But I reckon it's about time we got you to the hospital. .. We should phone for the Police and the Paramedics.

- Ah, but Master Bruce, one of Scarecrow's men has already called for the Police. .. It is all rather strange.

- Strange, indeed.

- ( Dick ) Why would they do that, Bruce ?

Just then, Batman gets a call on his cell phone. It is from the Riddler ! He tells Batman:

- I've just learned there is a bomb in the Manor. Dicks will set it off when you come to rescue Victoria Bross.

- Victoria ! ... We totally forgot about Victoria. ... Dick, go down to the cellar, to the master panel, and throw the yellow lever. That will let her out. ... And Dick ?

- Yes, Bruce. ... Take her outside immediately. Tell her as little as you can, and wait for the Police to arrive.

- Okay.

- Okay, Alfred. .. We have one more little job to take care of, before we get out of here.

- And what might that be, pray ?

- We have to find a bomb. ... It's the Riddler on the line.

- Ah, Mr. Nikma.

- Indeed. He reckons there is a bomb waiting for me, here in the Manor. He thought it was Victoria, I was going to have to rescue. Apparently Dicks is waiting outside to explode the bomb. .. We better find it, and fast.

Dick releases the auto-locks on all the upstairs doors, and rushes up to meet Victoria, and escort her out of the Manor.

- ( Victoria ) Is Alfred okay ?.. Let me see him.

- Honestly, Miss Bross, Alfred is going to be fine. He has a few cuts and bruises, but he'll be as right as rain, once he gets to the Hospital.

- The Hospital ? ... Oh, my poor baby !

Dick can only smile, as he remembers the firefight, he witnessed, in the main hallway. .. Some baby !

Somehow, he gets her down the stairs, and outside, so they can give a statement to the Police, when they arrive.

- ( Alfred ) What is that behind the curtain,... there by the edge of the balcony ?

Bruce spies a large plain box, by the window.

- That's it, Alfred ! ... ( To the Riddler ) Okay, Edouard, we've found it. ... They must have placed it there, while Alfred was unconscious.

- ( The Riddler ) How big is it ?

- Oh, I'd say, pretty big.

- Ok, get me up on video messenger, and let me look at it. .. Tell me what you smell.

- Motor oil.

- ( Alfred and Riddler together.) C4 !

- There looks to be enough there to blow the entire west wall away from your Manor, Bruce !

- That's what I was afraid of.

- If they just left it lying there, then there's probably a sophisticated trembler, maybe a tilt switch. If only I was there, I could give you some dry ice.

- What about our fire extinguishers ? They're Carbon Dioxide based. .. I'll get a pillow case.

- Perfect. .. What a good idea. .. I think, I know what you have in mind.

Bruce returns with a white pillow case, and a fire extinguisher. He sprays half the contents into the pillow case. Suddenly, he has a rather significant quantity of dry ice !

- I've got the dry ice.

- Now, get Alfred out of the house, as quickly as you can.

- ( Helping Alfred down the stairs ) Let's make this quick old friend. .. Sorry, I hate to do this, but I am leaving you in the hands of Victoria !

And, talk of the Devil, doesn't she come running to the foot of the stairs to help:

- Oh, Alfred, my poor, poor baby !

- ( Hobbling along on a make-shift crutch.) I'm okay, Victoria, a few cuts and bruises ... That's all.

- ( Victoria, turning to Batman, fixing her hair.) Why, hello, Batman. Long time no see.

- Sorry, Miss Bross. I have no time for that sort of thing, now. .. There's a bomb upstairs. .. Please, get back outside.

- A bomb ? ... Well come on then. Let's get out of here ! ... But, where's Bruce ?

- He's perfectly ok, Miss Bross. .. He's in the East Wing, checking that all the windows are secure.

Batman heads back up the stairs.

-(Batman ) If Dicks is watching somewhere outside, why hasn't he detonated the bomb ?

- You forget, Batman. .. You haven't actually arrived yet. .. He's still waiting for you !

- Of course !

- But, that's not to say he won't get impatient, and blow it anyway. He will wonder why he hasn't heard from his friends, after all. .. And he hasn't seen signs of a fire burning, either.

- My God, that's right ! .. Much as it pains me, I better set fire to my house, then.

- Alas, that might be best.

Bruce Wayne sets fire to part of Wayne Manor ! ... Police sirens can be heard in the distance.

- What, if he gets impatient, and blows the bomb, anyway.

- I don't think so. ... I think he will hold out for as long as possible. ... He has wanted to blow you to smithereens for a long time, now.

- Good of you to tell me.

- You're welcome. ... Now, spray the whole bomb with the extinguisher, pour the dry ice on top, and throw it out the window ! The dry ice will arrest the effects of any trembler to a greater or lesser degree.

- Let's hope it's greater, then.

Batman does all that the Riddler recommends, and throws the bomb as far away as he can !

- ( Batman, noticing the first Police car arriving. ) Whoops !

It explodes a matter of forty yards from Chief O'Hara's car !

- ( O'Hara ) Jesus, Mary and Joseph ! ! !

- ( Batman, looking out the window.) That was close !

Ten minutes later, the Chief is interviewing some of the gang, now all sitting in a row, outside the main doorway. When batman appears, O'Hara is quick to express his gratitude and admiration:

- ( Batman ) It was not as difficult as you might think, Chief O'Hara. Mr. Wayne's butler did most of the hard work. And I must also add that I did receive significant help from the Riddler. In fact, it was he wno warned us about the bomb.

- I see. Well, I am just writing that in my report. .. Well, the Joker sure is in trouble, now that so many of his men have been caught red-handed and all.

- I'm not so sure, Chief. .. Remember, you still have to get testimony from at least one of them, linking them to the Joker. Who of them, if any, will be brave enough to implicate him in the investigation surrounding tonight's events ?

- I see what you mean. .. Well, Batman, .. we can only try. Certainly, we've never been able to crack such a nut before, and that's for sure.

Meanwhile, the sensitive nature of all the preparations for the Joker's first TV broadcast have left him unable to check on the progress of the Scarecrow and Dicks. So he is as yet totally unaware of what has been happening at Wayne Manor. As we join him at a secret, makeshift studio in Gotham, he is just receiving the last few finishing touches to his make-up !

Naimh Ross, now connected live to the Gotham news Network, introduces him to the masses. She continues:

- And so, now it is my unexpected pleasure to hand you over to someone who many of you might think of as an unlikely source of salvation from our present set of dire circumstances, ... the man you and I know as the Joker.

- Good evening everyone. Please, don't be put off by my appearance, but you are all aware, that I suffered that most unfortunate accident, as you recall, rather like the one Michael Jackson suffered. Well, I, too, have had to compensate for my appearance by using make-up, maybe the sort of make-up that may well impart fear in the hearts of those in the city still loyal to Harvey Dent and that wolf in sheep's clothing, who came to us in the guise of one who was going to end corruption in this city, Mr. al Ghul.

- But let me reiterate. All true, law-abiding citizens of Gotham, you have nothing to fear from me. On the contrary, .. I am on your side.

- Now, Gotham is under cyber attack by North Korea. The attack has shown up just how incompetent our City Elders are: in the Police, City Hall, and in our banks. The computers and software my associates manufacture are 100 per cent secure, and have been unaffected by the attack. I am more than happy to make these available to the key institutions of the City free of charge. Perhaps, we all remember the gesture made by Mr. Bruce Wayne, when he made his computer and satellite network available to the country, the day our GPS network was attacked. Well, I am willing to reciprocate, and follow that remarkable humanitarian example he set.

- I know, it seems we got off on the wrong footing, Gotham and me. There were a lot of bad people, who had done very well under Harvey Dent, and we all saw what Ra's al Ghul was doing, when he tried to kill Bruce Wayne's Butler. I know it appeared that I was part of all that, but it will soon become clear that I was secretly undermining the very fabric of that corruption, waiting for the ideal moment to end it for good. People of Gotham, that day has now come, and I truly hope that you will see me for the person I really am. Would all the main media networks in the city be facilitating my efforts today, if I was part of the corruption that has beset Gotham for so long ? So please, don't be alarmed, and let me help this city. Let me help YOU, in your homes. Together we can all get ourselves back online, and on track. Together we can turn this city around.

- One by one, the people who did well under Dent have gone. There was a conflict raging in the city for a time. Wrong-doing had to be rooted out. But now is a time for forgiveness. And here, I would like to reach out personally, to Batman, and ask for his forgiveness for the spat we had in the media recently. It was a big mistake. I know that now, and I apologize profusely. Please forgive me. Let's work together for truth, for justice and the American way of life, ... thank you. ( End of transmission.)

Around Gotham, in bars that have been showing the news, people are standing cheering the Joker. Plenty of people, so it seems, have been convinced by such an apparent display of sincerity. Of course, that cannot be said of Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara :

- ( James Gordon ) My God, Pat, .. that sounded just like a political sales pitch. The man wants to run for office.

- ( O'Hara, just back from Wayne Manor.) Aw, sure he can't be serious. .. Surely he knows the people of this city would never stand for such a thing.

- I don't know, Pat. What happened today was like a return to the Stone Age. People have an instinct for survival, that takes over in situations such as this. It is now pretty obvious, this was the very thing he planned all along. People can be so gullible, after all. ...

Back at Wayne Manor, paramedics remove seven dead assailants from the hallway, and place them in body bags ! Bruce Wayne emerges from the house, and says goodbye to Alfred, who, having received in situ medical attention, is now ready to go to Gotham General. Then, he speaks to Dick, and Victoria Bross:

- Are you two okay ? Victoria, .. Mr. Grayson ?

- ( Victoria ) Oh, .. I am just dandy, Bruce. I've just spent fifteen minutes locked in my room, wondering if I was going to meet my Maker tonight. .. That's all !

- Yep, it sounds as if there's not much wrong with you !

- And what about you, Mr. Grayson ?

- ( Dick ) Oh, I'm fine, .. a little dirty, Bru, .. ah, Mr. Wayne, but it will all wash out. ... Which reminds me. .. I had better be getting home.

- I think that would be most wise. Reports of all this will soon be on the News, and your mother and father will be worried.

And, just then, before he can give his statement to the Police, sure enough, up comes the first news crew to arrive, from GNN !

- ( Reporter ) Mr. Wayne, Mr. Wayne ! ... Somebody obviously tried to kill you tonight. .. Have the Police any idea who it might have been ?

- Nothing definite as yet, but all I know is, that a group of men working for the Ghul Security Agency, tried to kill my butler, pretending to be from the Joker. .. Now, a group of men attack ME and MY HOME, dressed as men working for Mr. Ghul, when they obviously were not.

- Are you suggesting that they were the Joker's men ?

- You might like to suggest that. .. I couldn't possibly comment.

- You mean to say, that you haven't heard the Joker on TV tonight ? ... He has offered to help everyone in the City get back online, and put things right again after the cyber attack.

- Oh ? ... Well, that's certainly news to me. ... Obviously, tonight ,I had other things on my mind. ... Now, if you would excuse me, .. I have to give a statement to the Gotham Police Department.

- Mr. Wayne, .. Mr. Wayne !

Just before he talks to one of the officers, he just has time to call over to Dick:

- Dick, ... where's Doodles ? ...

Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot phones his old friend, Lucius Fox, as yet blissfully unaware just how close his associates have come to death:

- ( Oswald ) Did you see the broadcast ?

- As a matter of fact, I did.

- Have you got that mass order of the model I suggested ready ?

- As a matter of fact, I do.

- You know, Lucius, I don't like the MATTER OF FACT way you are talking to me tonight, heh, heh !

- Very droll. ... As for your request, .. how can I possibly help the guy who does nothing but threaten to kill my closest friends ? He's obviously setting himself up to run for Mayor of this fine city.

- Just trust me, Lucius. .. Trust me.

That evening, the Joker, having heard nothing as yet from the Scarecrow, tries to get him on the phone. ... He had sent him out on his mission absolutely incensed. .. Why ? .. Because, apart from any corporation or body, that he controlled, Wayne Enterprises was the only organization in Gotham unaffected by his virus ! He so wanted to bring the Wayne Bank to its knees, but its computers were working normally. Little could he know that the entire Wayne Banking system was controlled by the Bat Computer ! And you 're talking quantum technology here ! He is absolutely horrified to hear a police officer answer on Crane's cell phone ! Hurriedly he ends the call. He switches on GNN's 24 hour news service:

- And that concludes our regular reports, on a day when the Joker has offered to put right the chaos caused by the current cyber attack on the City, and when Batman successfully thwarted an attempt to murder Bruce Wayne in a mass gun attack, and blow the Caped Crusader up in the process !

- ( Joker ) My God ! .. What could possibly have gone wrong ?

Just then, he gets a mysterious call on his cell phone:

- What month of the year do people sleep the least ?

- Don't know.

- February. .. It has only 28 days !... What's orange, and sounds like a parrot ?

- Don't know. .. Who is this ?

- A carrot. ... How many seconds are there in a Leap Year ?

- Tell me.

- 12, January the second, February the second etc ! ... What grows down, when it grows up ?

- God, these are impossible !

- A goose ! .. Its inner layer of feathers, its down ! ... Who catches you out, when you are out catching others ?

- I don't know.

- Me, of course, .. the Riddler, you fool !

And with that, the Riddler ends the call.

- ( The Joker to himself.) Could that be the reason things went so wrong tonight, ... but how ? ... ( Thinking ) Wait a minute, .. that email riddle I got, .. the one I answered. ...

He checks the message with his spy ware program:

- Oh, my God, .. I've been hacked ! ... And it was a comprehensive invasion. .. He has had access to all my files ! ... Thank God, he hasn't had access to all my plans.

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