Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold
Chapter 10: Opening Moves
When people thought about the guilty pleasures a crook might have, they imagined that heady mix of dames, dice, and liqueur normally confined to international waters. But this line of thinking was flawed: crooks loved their vices, but they sure didn't feel guilty about them.
No, to embarrass a crook, you had to look at what he valued: reputation. He couldn't be seen as a preening sissy or a slack-jawed oaf; the other crooks would give him no respect. To get respect, one had to maintain a sense of cool disinterest. So what was a crook's guilty pleasure? Vanity. Some of the biggest fans of crime stories were criminals. Rumor had it John Dillinger visited the moving pictures at least once a week to watch reels of himself with a big bag of popcorn and a smile on his face. Gangsters and stick-up men loved hearing tales about gangsters and stick-up men.
This generality did not extend to Catwoman. She liked the cinema fine, and the radio serials and the dime novels - just not crime thrillers. Okay, the tough-guy mob dramas could be fun, with their long coats and their speakeasies (though if she wanted to watch the antics of a pack of Mafiosos, she could just as easily ask one out to dinner). No, the worst by far, the truly unbearable, were cat burglar stories.
To begin with, Catwoman didn't need anyone to romanticize her job. It was flattering, but she already knew she was svelte and clever. It would be enough if they could give a little appreciation for her craft in the process, but nine in ten scriptwriters had no idea what they were talking about. Reading the adventures of a pulp thief was like watching a screen carpenter make a fine mahogany table with a meat hook and a plunger. Sure, a dunce who had no clue what woodworking looked like might be impressed, but all the carpenters in the audience would throw their drinks at the screen and demand a refund.
Yet the part Catwoman resented most was how easy they made it look. Not the technical skills necessarily, as distorted as those were, but the overall flair that fictional thieves seemed to have in spades. They never sneezed or tripped. They could take their sweet time on every job. They always had something witty to say. Whether swinging from a chandelier in the palace of the Dauphin or breaking out of jail in Mississippi, they never broke a sweat.
This rubbed her the wrong way. True, she could make it look that easy, but that was the point: only she could make it look that easy! Was that vain? Of course not. They were making a buck off her style! Well, her and a few peers she could count on one hand. Yes, on a good day Catwoman could breeze through locked windows and guards and wall safes like she wasn't even trying, and she loved it, but it took tremendous practice and focus to look that casual. They never showed that. Her work was great, but it was work. And once in a while, even the best get blindsided and land on their metaphorical rump.
For instance, Catwoman had never heard a radio play of a classy lady-burglar sent gagging after being shown half a frozen corpse in a secret morgue. There really wasn't an opportunity to be witty or saucy in that situation. She offered a silent prayer of thanks that she rarely ate before a mission.
Batman watched silently as she recovered. If a bystander was injured, he administered first aid. If they were well, he ignored them and moved on. Catwoman didn't fit into either of those categories at the moment. He frowned. Science demanded experimentation with sufficient sample size, so he would give it more time, but so far his null hypothesis was right: working alone was much easier.
He said, "I'll stay and catalog the remains. You should ... investigate those paths."
Catwoman slowly got her bearings, head limp, stomach twisted in knots. She recognized the merciful gesture and managed a grateful nod. Neither was in the mood for eye contact (or his hollow equivalent).
"Yeah." She coughed. "Sounds like a plan."
Game theory was the study of strategic decision making. As the name implied, it often used card or board games as thought experiments to explore ideas of competition and cooperation. Game theory was only a few years old as a formal discipline and known chiefly by a small fringe of mathematicians and economists, most famously John Nash. If someone wanted to demonstrate exactly why tic-tac-toe was boring using elaborate calculus, game theory had the tools for the job.
But like many economic concepts, game theory proved lessons that smart people frequently figured out on their own. For instance, Lieutenant Slade Wilson had never talked to an economist, but he was awfully clever at what a game theorist would call "utility maximizing behavior".
His logic went like this: an intruder could either use the main hill entrance, the rear bridge entrance, or scale the perimeter somehow. Using either proper entrance was stupid. The rest of guards could handle a stupid intruder. But an intruder that scaled the perimeter might be smart. If an intruder was smart, then Wilson's unique talents might be needed. Therefore, even without knowledge of the intruder's mindset, Lieutenant Wilson knew to start his search at the perimeter.
When he left the Brick, instead of leaving the way he came, he detoured around the side of the building towards the nearest edge of the woods. Mulling over the acres of brush he would have to check, he nearly missed the one tiny detail out of place. There was a locked door in the back of the Brick. It hadn't been opened as long as he had been on base, but though the twirling snow, he absently spied a difference in the glint of the rusted brackets. Lt. Wilson was no detective, but he was a hunter, and a tiny shift in surroundings meant everything to a hunter. He stopped and backtracked a step to take a closer look.
He was right! The screws on the upper bracket were bent and nearly skewed off the door. Was it always like that? Obviously the door was old, but for some reason he didn't think so. What if- ... wait ... something else was wrong. He peered around.
There! The padlock was open and the latch was loose! He was sure that was new. You could only close the latch from the outside. Anyone who entered would necessarily leave it was undone, and it probably meant they were still inside.
He was about to throw open the door but thought better of it. Might as well do this the right way. He sprinted to the Brick's front.
"Walgrave! Cortez! Haney!"
The door guards stared at him.
"The intruder's in the Brick."
Private Walgrave raised an eyebrow. No one wanted to cross the scary lieutenant, but when a man had to stand in three inches of snow at midnight there were certain things he just didn't care about.
"Look, sir. I'm sure we would have seen someone."
Wilson's glare kicked up six notches. He would break that attitude later.
"The back door's unlocked. Cortez, keep manning this screening station. You stop anyone who comes out until I return. I mean anyone. Walgrave, pass the orders along to the vehicle entrance, and then guard the back door. Haney, go inside and protect Miss Waller's office. Let's move it! Now!"
When she could walk again, Catwoman left the subterranean cadaver room and arbitrarily chose the first passage on her left. Anything to avoid the hum of those freezers.
The hallway was pitch black like the rest. Wanting to save her flashlight, she eventually found a switch that turned on more of those weak, greenish lamps. She wondered if everyone who worked here got eyestrain from all the poor lighting. Then she wondered if the place still used the same fixtures from its days as an influenza laboratory. It certainly looked like it hadn't had a fresh coat of paint in two decades. Ullgh. Catwoman loved to stroll around all sorts of old buildings in the middle of the night, but she never liked abandoned buildings and she never liked hospitals, and this place had all the charm of an abandoned hospital inside a crypt. She preferred hanging off a skyscraper to getting stuck underground any day of the week. One felt like life and freedom; the other felt like, well, the opposite.
Thanks to the creepy lights, Catwoman saw a number of doors branching off the the hallway, but only one was open. Hmmm!
Daniel Brewster had been a few months away from being Doctor Daniel Brewster when the Army sent a man around to the university's graduate pool looking to fill a research post. Daniel was a patriot and the money was right. He was on the first bus to Gotham state. The Fort was somewhat of a shock, but as a graduate student he was used to living in humble conditions.
Daniel wasn't the only one in his class to apply. The Army picked him for a reason. He was a discount genius, brilliant in that limited sort of brilliance the world of science always needed to polish off the leftover problems in fields the name brand geniuses – the Einsteins and Von Neumanns – already trailblazed when those legends moved on to other topics or died. In other words, Daniel was smarter than anyone you knew. He was not smarter than everyone you knew.
And right now he was asleep.
The room Catwoman found at the end of the hall was clearly a testing center. There was a grid of desks and workbenches. Rugged metal shelves along the sides held a variety of heavy tools. But the room's focal point was an empty cement chamber at the far end. It was dug into the wall like a bank safe with its thick door sitting open. Every surface inside was scorched and pockmarked. Heights, radii, and other distances were stenciled on the cement walls in faded black paint. Lurid caution signs surrounded the chamber, warning all sorts of gruesome fates for those poor stick figures who failed to close the door properly or forgot to ventilate. Daniel Brewster was slumped over his desk close to this chamber, bow tie askew, his head resting on a crumpled lab coat.
Catwoman saw all the details of the room - and him - when she turned on the lights. It was unbelievable to her that anyone could have slept through the sirens earlier, but tonight was proving full of surprises. Having to work around a sleeper was a challenge, but it wouldn't be her first time. Catwoman turned off both the lights in the hallway and in the room, then stepped gingerly inside, slinking to the nearest desk. She aimed her flashlight in a drawer and saw a neat folder of technical documents.
Then she realized that she had no idea what to look for.
Catwoman had a decent working knowledge of the legal system, especially as it applied to her typical felonies. Sure, she never needed it - that would mean actually seeing a courtroom - but it seemed like a prudent thing to know, and she was a bit of trivia nut anyway. However, the sort of case they were here to build was way out of her league. Short of a signed confession, what evidence could bring down a military conspiracy? Would a stack of research papers help? Which ones? That seemed like the sort of deep arcana only familiar to a handful of top-flight Justice Department attorneys or, well, Batman.
She could grab a random pile and hope for the best, but that seemed like an awfully big gamble. She sure didn't have time to read them all. Besides, the longer she stayed, the better chance Mr. Labcoat would wake up. That would be-
Catwoman looked up and blinked.
Wait a minute...
There was a type of thief who tended to see and solve problems in straight lines. They didn't bypass obstacles, they smashed them. If they needed information, they didn't sneak around for clues, they found someone who knew and convinced them to share. Catwoman wasn't a fan of this school of thought. She found it vulgar and lacking in finesse. With a little caution, she could easily do five jobs without meeting anyone, let alone confronting them. That was how you survived in the business.
That said, Catwoman could appreciate a few of those less elegant skills right now. She wished Batman were here. (first time for everything); he was a master at this sort of "personal motivation". But, it might be fun to try something new.
Daniel Brewster awoke to find the lights in the laboratory on. He rubbed his eyes.How long have I been asleep? Got to stop dozing off in the laboratories. Probably missed dinner.
He shifted his head to see ... a thigh? He blinked.
Did someone leave the vent off again? I'm tired of all these hallucinations. And these lights are going to give me eyestrain.
Squinting, he looked again to see that it was indeed a thigh - a thigh connected to a hip, which was attached to a torso and then an entire human frame, all clad in a fetching violet. He struggled to make sense of this, as his IQ was still trying to rev up past room temperature. The figure was evidently female? Scratch that, it was abundantly female. Lord, I've been stuck on a mountain too long. What was she doing here? What was a 'she' doing here? With one unfortunate exception, the Fort was entirely male.
Catwoman sat on the desk beside Daniel's mossy-haired head, tapping his shoulder. Happy to see a response, she hoped off and crouched at his eye level.
The few working circuits in Daniel's brain clicked feebly through rationales and came up short. His eyes swam as he tried to focus on her. "... Eug?"
"Don't worry about it. What's your name?"
"De ... Darangels ... Ss ... staggen."
"Nice to meet you, Darangels Ssstaggen," she said with a straight face as she read his name tag.
"What'a do? Where'a ger?"
"Great question. The Gotham Sanitation Board is just doing a quick run-through of your operation here, and there's a few concerns we'd like to talk about."
Daniel groggily stood up. He realized he was about to bump into his uncomfortably close visitor and stumbled backwards. Still a young man in the presence of a young lady, Daniel tried to make the maneuver look smooth. He settled for leaning against the desk and crossed his arms.
"You're not ... I don't think you're supposed to be here. I'm ... I'm getting to go get-"
She held a finger to his lips. "You might like me if you got to know me. After all," she unsheathed a claw under his eyes, "people seem to appreciate my sharp wit." She turned a little and let him see the flamethrower on her back, "And my glowing personality."
He leaned away from her claw and frowned, more confused than scared. Catwoman sighed. Okay, that was corny. This interrogation shtick is harder than it looks.
Finally, Daniel managed to parse words together. "Where'd you get the flamethrower? That's our only prototype."
"I found it on the shelf."
"Well, you better take that off. You don't even know how to use it."
She reached back and grabbed the gun-style nozzle. "True, but ask yourself: if I make a mistake with this flamethrower, is that more or less dangerous than me using a flamethrower correctly?"
He moped. "Guess that's an academic distinction."
"Well there you go! Let's get down to brass tacks..."
Batman spent roughly twelve seconds examining each refrigerated corpse. It was less time than he preferred, but it answered the meaningful questions, and he was on a deadline.
The causes of death were blatant: munitions and other battlefield hazards. The details weren't perfect; he would need a full lab and an hour to distinguish between, say, a face destroyed by a 60mm mortar shell and a face destroyed by an 81mm mortar shell, but it only took a glance to know it was firepower you couldn't find on the street.
The time was mainly to confirm identities. Batman knew the pictures and dossiers of the seventeen victims by heart, but bodies looked more and more alike past their expiration date, and it didn't help if their faces were gone. On the other hand, he didn't need to match them all; two or three would be sufficient. A proper investigation would shut the site down and do justice to all the deceased through the proper channels. The legwork was their job. He just needed to get the process started.
The biggest dilemma was what to photograph.
When it came to nightly operating expenses, Batman was a surprisingly low-cost enterprise. Flashlights were cheap. Binoculars were reasonable. Lab chemicals were cheap in bulk. Fists were free. He modified the car from off-the-shelf parts. His gear was essentially an eclectic fuse of police officer and spelunker, two professions not known for lavish budgets. There weren't many handheld tools that offered a superior version with extra zeros on the price tag. A ten dollar hammer did not strike with ten times the force of a one dollar hammer.
An exception to this rule was his camera. Batman didn't operate within the justice system. In the long run, his value would be severely limited unless he could guide those professionals who were allowed to make arrests or display evidence in court. When Batman didn't have a suspect to hand over, the best alternative to prod along the cause of justice was a photograph. There was plenty of precedent in the city's court system for using 'found' photographs to incriminate, regardless of where the photos came from. Unfortunately, typical consumer cameras were large and took blurry photos. Small cameras were expensive. High quality cameras were very expensive. A small and high quality camera cost a small mint.
Batman didn't just own a small and high quality camera; he owned six.
Still, even such a masterful gadget needed film, and film took up space. He had to prepare for anything tonight. Regrettably, that meant he could only fit one roll. Every shot had to count.
Lieutenant Slade Wilson ripped off the back door of the Brick with a firm tug. He was trying to open it silently, but you can't win at everything.
Flanking him were Milo and Colt squads, fifteen crack military policemen he fortuitously found en route to the front gate. This was a fine team, and a tolerable substitute for doing the job alone. His orders to them were clear: wait five minutes for him to do a covert reconnaissance, and then sweep in if he hadn't returned. This served three purposes. One, if the uninvited guest was still inside, the top priority was capture, and that was a delicate maneuver he could handle best alone. Two, the building had many paths; someone needed to cover the exit in case the intruder came back. And three, if he succeeded and returned in time, then it wouldn't be necessary to update the security clearance on all these men who weren't allowed to see inside the Brick. That would be a major inconvenience.
Wilson crept inside. He knew the rooms by heart and didn't need a light. First, he eased through the mop closet and the locker room. The he crept down to the operating suite. Empty, and the elevator's still here. At the other end of the short hallway was the garage. He stayed in the shadows, which was easy with its pair of weak lights. Briskly circling the area, he checked around and under the small convoy parked there. All empty.
The last section of the ground floor were offices. He stalked down the hallways, checking each of the doorknobs. Every unoccupied office was supposed to be locked. He avoided the final turn to Waller's office; it protected by Private Haney (he could hear the young soldier's breathing). That was fine, it was one area he didn't have to clear, and a jumpy kid like Haney might do something stupid if startled.
The sweep didn't take long to finish. Every door was locked. That left the basement.
There were two ways into the basement: the freight elevator in the operating suite and a staircase in the office complex. He had just over a minute left until his backup entered. He took the stairs. In the darkness, he glided down each flight, footsteps as silent as oil on silk. The air grew cooler. He pushed his senses through the space around him, tensed for the weakest sound or movement. Steadying himself, Lieutenant Wilson nudged through the door at the bottom.
When Batman gathered enough evidence in the morgue, he decided to follow the path opposite the one Catwoman had ventured down. Splitting up was unsafe, but he had to know what else was here and there was too much ground to cover. The doors in these hallways had no labels; he chose one at random.
Inside, he found a spacious room mostly filled with a large transparent tank of water. It could've been in the city aquarium, but instead of fish and seaweed, the water contained a strange set of pulleys, chains, harnesses, and buckles. Clearly, heavy objects were meant to be manipulated inside. The rest of the fairly well-lit room had an assortment of closets, tables, and benches. He saw diving equipment hanging on the wall.
Walking around, Batman pondered the uses of such a place.
Then he heard a noise. Sqeeek
Lieutenant Wilson passed through several hallways until he found a door with the lights on inside, the Dunk Lab. He's here. The cautious soldier hugged the wall and unholstered one of his matte silver M1911 pistols. But as he strode forward, Wilson stepped on a stain from some ancient chemical spill. Man and gear together weighed two hundred and fifty pounds; this marginal new friction was just enough to cause his boot to sqeeek.
The Lieutenant grimaced and paused. Two seconds later, he saw the light in the Dunk Lab shut off. He shook his head, disgrutled. No more element of surprise. Now he had to breach a door with an unknown hostile waiting for him somewhere in the dark. Less than ideal.
Wilson pulled a thin red flare out of his bandoleer and readied his trench knife. Standing alongside the door (in case the intruder took potshots through it), he reached over and stabbed the wood twice in a rapid staccato until he broke a new hole in the door. Then, with a shower of angry red sparks, he lit open the flare and tossed it through this hole. He could see a vivid glow around the edges of the door frame. It had to be blindingly bright inside. Capitalizing on this, Wilson kicked his way in, pistol drawn. Shielding his eyes, Wilson scanned the lab, but he saw no one in the glare. Wilson frowned and turned on the lights. The big room seemed the same as always, save for a sparking flare on the floor. But as he stepped through the doorway, he noticed something odd under him.
There was something wrong with his shadow ...
Batman stood precariously atop the sturdy door mantle, balancing on the edge of his heels. He hoped whoever was making noises outside hadn't noticed the light before he turned it off. When a flare flew in, he knew this was not the case. The flash almost shocked him off the door. He turned his head and waited for the spots to disappear. Then a huge soldier burst in. Still, Batman knew it was possible that the soldier would perform a cursory glance and leave without looking up. Then the huge soldier turned on the lights.
A knee to the back of the head was the obvious solution, but it might be fatal, which ruled out obvious solutions to most of Batman's problems. His alternative was more exotic, a flying headlock.
Amazingly, the soldier ducked a moment before impact, hunching his shoulders and avoiding the "lock". Batman still landed on his back and they both fell. The Dark Knight hadn't even touched the floor before twisting into a ground maneuver. He found leverage and readied a vicious armbar. The soldier's huge arm stretched for a painful instant and he dropped his pistol, but the man had unexpected range of motion and bent out of the hold, pushing himself away.
Batman followed. They struggled to their feet, trading grapples and elbows. The soldier finally made space with a short headbutt and filled it with a front kick. The front kick was a versatile tool, often used like a jab - to force distance as much as to cause damage. Batman caught the impact in his guard and skipped backward a few paces.
The combatants finally eyed each other.
Batman analyzed. Calm eyes. Linebacker's physique. Classic southpaw boxer's stance. Good footwork. More a technician of violence than an artist. Lieutenant's bar. Multiple scars on face and hands. White hair, few wrinkles - late 30's, but heavy mileage in his years. He's awfully old for a lieutenant; didn't get there the normal way. Evidently alone, but not here by accident. A lone wolf? Not reaching for his other sidearm yet - either stupid or under orders. Judging by the trick with the flare, not stupid. Weapons on every pocket and belt loop; the hardware should weigh him down, but he seems to compensate exceptionally well. Possibly stronger than me; still slower.
Slade analyzed. Big for a spy. Weird outfit, pretty sure even the krauts aren't that gaudy. Who is this guy? Lunatic, maybe? He's quick though, literally got the drop on me; that hasn't happened in awhile. Decent wrestler. Has a cape on for some reason; should weigh him down, but he seems to compensate exceptionally well. No gun: good, can end this clean way.
Their shadows danced in the lurid red light. Then the breath ended. Both leaped forward: Slade with a diving tackle, the intruder with a flying knee. The knee was glancing, kept them at arm's length. The men landed and lashed out. The caped man ducked Slade's hook and raced in with a palm strike to his throat. Slade flinched. Ouch. The strike forced a cough out of him - harsh and throttled. The caped man followed with two rib shots, deflected Slade's recovery jab, and crushed his nose with a dynamite elbow.
When elbow hit nose, there was a soft ripping noise. Stars lit up his eyes. He knew it was broken. That hasn't happened in awhile either. The Lieutenant threw up a guard and slid back. The blow felt like it had torn the rest of his face with it. Tiny streams of hot blood already rolled down his chin. With a modest mental effort, Slade willed the pain away and cleared his vision. This was getting interesting.
The intruder didn't offer a chance to rest, but sprung towards him with an axe kick. Slade grinned inside. Points for bravado, but that's just cocky. A move so huge and slow was obviously meant as a finisher, but Slade wasn't nearly finished. He ducked and tripped the invader with a low sweep. Slade's move was beautiful, taking the caped fool off his feet with slapstick exaggeration, but then the victim spoiled the fun, catching himself inverted and rolling out of it. Slade tried to stomp on his fallen foe three times while he was down. The first bootprint landed solidly on the intruder's arm, the second slid off the cape, and the intruder caught his ankle the third time as he rose. Slade pulled back and circled. The intruder held the stomped arm a little loosely but seemed unconcerned.
Neither opened with a flashy attack this time. They kept their heads down and boxed.
Fast volleys of jabs and crosses flew from each side. Plenty landed; none killed. Slade finally hammered home a strong left cross to the center of the stranger's forehead. The stranger rocked back from the blow but returned just as quickly with a roundhouse. Slade spit out a gob of swallowed blood in frustration. That mask must be padded. He's not slowing.
The intrepid soldier finally found an opening and stepped in to send a message with a hard gut punch, but the opening was a trap. Quick as a snake, the intruder caught his fist and turned it inwards, wristlocking him off-center. Then using that caught fist, he pulled Slade into grapple range and dropped for a double leg takedown.
This is getting annoying.
The takedown was textbook. Batman was sure that smacking into a hard floor wearing a bandolier and a sword had to hurt. He crouched around to finish with a collar choke. But in that instant before the choke closed, Batman felt a threat brush his abdomen. He hopped up just in time, dodging the long knife the soldier had unsheathed on the way down. The man kicked as he stood, keeping Batman at a distance. When the soldier he got to his feet, he unsheathed a navel saber in his off-hand.
The soldier coughed, his breathing labored from the broken nose. "Alright, Bela Lugosi. Get on your knees or I cut 'em off."
Batman kept his fists up and said nothing. It was unwise to rush a swordsman of unknown skill.
The soldier flipped the sword so to the blade pointed down like an ice pick.
Batman raised an eyebrow. That ... wasn't supposed to happen.
In his years spent practicing the martial arts, Batman had learned many helpful tips. For instance, if a stranger assumed a fighting pose so unorthodox that no sane master would teach it, there was a 98% chance the stranger was an idiot about to fall on his face. However, there was always that 2% chance the stranger was a passionate combatant who spent a lifetime inventing a fearsome new technique with advantages no one else had the patience or creativity to develop. In this case, the safe response was to run.
Batman had the sneaking suspicion this guy was in the 2%.
The soldier rushed forward, leading with the knife. Batman was forced into a guarded retreat, dodging the knife thrusts and the precise backhand cuts of the sword. The Dark Knight's gauntlets each had a spine of steel spikes along the outside of the forearm. As the assault pushed closer and faster, he began to catch and deflect the blades on his arms, but he didn't trust any of his usual counters against such a deviant grip. He had to stay on the defensive.
Tang. Tang. Vvvrrringg. Phrick. TangTangTang. The angular screech of metal on metal was half-deafening. Batman found the knife-work admirable, if over-cautious, but the unique sword dynamics kept surprising him. Each swing felt like it came out of nowhere. He couldn't out-think it, only surviving by making a chain of close saves fueled by dumb reflex (though "dumb" for the Caped Crusader still had ten thousand hours of practice behind it).
Finally, miraculously, a stab approached a hair too slowly. Batman weaved left and swung his cape ahead, batting the knife arm away.
Some people thought cape fighting never existed. Others though it was a dead art. In truth, the cloak was a valid fencing accessory in any era when a brigand might try to stab you, something the soldier learned with a brief surprise. He tried to recover by swatting with the sword, but Batman had already launched a trio of side kicks: to the shin, to the arm, to the chin. The final blow was staggering. In haste, the soldier threw his long knife. Batman leaned away as the blade flew by his arm. This was enough time for the soldier to flip the sword back to its classic angle and grip it with both hands. Batman tried to approach but his foe burst forth with barbaric energy, taking surgical swipes.
With the soldier's prodigious strength, Batman knew the sword could chop off a limb, but two-handed swings with a saber were unbalanced. He would overstep soon.
Four more furious swings, each tighter than the last. Batman dodged them all. Then an artful thrust. Batman slid past and tried to grab the leading arm, but the lieutenant had expected that and brutally shoulder-checked him, feinted with a cut to the ear, and planted a boot in Batman's chest.
Briefly airborne, Batman struck the water tank neck-first. The soldier went for his spare pistol, but before he could take advantage of the distance, he found two batarangs sunk into his shoulder. The soldier barked in surprise and annoyance, struggling to pull them out. As soon as he did, a righteous uppercut rocketed through his jaw. Batman followed with a clinch, trying to pull the massive lieutenant to the ground.
But the enraged soldier was too strong. He threw the Dark Knight aside with a hateful sweep of his arm. This was followed by a blur of metal. Batman felt a cut open across his gut. The Dark Knight rolled backwards, picked up the dying flare, and pitched it from a knee. The soldier intercepted, cutting the flickering tube in twain without slowing pursuit. A fusillade of saber attacks pushed the Caped Crusader ever backward until he was suddenly pinned against a desk.
The soldier lifted the blade behind his head and set to bring it down like an axe. Batman braced himself, readying to catch the saber between his crossed arms.
The blade fell. Batman immediately pulled his forearms tight, trapping the saber. The soldier drove down, applying his impressive mass to cut past the obstructing arms. Batman redoubled his effort to resist the sword. But the strike was a deception. As Batman pushed harder to deflect the blade, the soldier simply let go. Lacking resistance, Batman's struggled against nothing, leaving his arms above his head.
With a blazing quickdraw, this time the lieutenant brought up his pistol before Batman could react. He stuck the barrel into Batman's ribs and grabbed a handful of fabric near the cowl.
Between two warriors, the understanding was mutual: checkmate.
Batman slowly lowered his hands. The sword fell. He heard yelling nearby, footsteps outside the door. Then a wave of bodies flooded his vision, dragging him to the floor.