Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-12 03:13pm

The US re-instituted the draft significantly before Pearl Harbor, as part of an overall war mobilization FDR began as events got out of hand in Europe.

Specifically, Congress passed the the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940... on September 16 of that year.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

Stewart M
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Joined: 2016-08-22 06:09pm

Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-12 07:58pm

Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Chapter 16: Compromising Positions​

The Israel Putnam Military Academy. 1923.

Brigadier General Burt Waxman, one year retired from the Corps, had one star on his shoulder, one semester of teaching experience, one hundred students, one brandy since one o'clock, one lifetime mustache achievement award, one arm, and one mighty headache. As a rule, the sort of men who lose an arm in their autumn years don't let a headache interrupt their job. So he stood tall in front of his class, lecture pointer held stiffly down like a fencing instructor. He nodded at some equations on the chalkboard.

"This is the Lanchester Square Law of Force Concentration." He tapped the board with his pointer for emphasis. "Much like Euler's Formula and Pythagoras' Theorem, Lanchester's Power Laws are a wonderment of logical beauty that you all should know. Proposed in 1914 by Frederick William Lanchester, all recent models of combat dynamics are based on it. The algorithms posit that when two homogeneous forces meet - two infantry companies, two fighter squadrons, and so forth - the causality-causing power of the larger force is their size ratio between the two squared." He pointed to a second diagram. "What does that mean? Say two armies meet on the field of honor, with a hundred men and fifty men respectively. The larger force, being twice as large, has a size ratio of two. The square of two is four. Thus, the nature of modern weapons enables the larger force to be four times more attrition-causing."

He paused for breath then continued with a more aggressive bent. "Now! The less dim among you might be wondering why I'm extemporizing on the topic's fundamentals. What's got my focus all cattywampus? After all, were you not assigned a chapter on this last week? Did you not write four pages on the matter to be deposited in my office this morning?"

The hundred cadets squirmed and said nothing. Besides their confusion, it was always awkward when a professor phrased a question in the negative.

General Waxman pressed on, "Surely you've all read Lanchester's Square Law. But by my count, there are one hundred students in this hall and only ninety-seven papers on my desk. How can this be? Well, it is the first project of the new term; maybe I should be permissive to your inability to follow instructions. Or here's a thought: perhaps three of you studied so masterfully over break that now you're too shrewd for poor Mr. Lanchester. Perhaps the three of you would like to stand and share the insights you were busy pulling from the great intellectual firmament instead of writing my dowdy assignment!" He drummed the desk with his fingers. It echoed in the stillness. "Hmm? Any offers? No? That's fine, that's fine. I wasn't born yesterday. If it were just those three, I would chalk it up to the distant relationship a few cadets always have with sobriety and call it an afternoon! But no, no, no, life is rarely so simple. For instance, seven of you found the strength of character to turn in a paper, but wrote less than three pages. Less than three pages! 'Well, Goodness' I said to myself, 'What budding Socrates in my class has taken the lesson to such a pinnacle of the art that he can summarize every rhetorical detail more briefly than I can?' Then I read the papers and was impressed even further. Not only did these seven sublime scholars manage to hide their brilliance from the Academy thus far, they hid their brilliance from this assignment. Accolades, gentlemen. Modesty is always very becoming. It really begs the question for the rest of you: has anyone plumbed the fathomless depths of your ignorance, or does it go on forever?"

The General paced some more, mulling a thought. Then he laid down his pointer and plucked a paper off the desk.

"But one submission above all takes the cake. One cadet went beyond the limits in the other direction and chose to write a thirteen page response. And this cadet used the opportunity not merely to explain the Law, but to criticize it!" He shook the paper. "What we have here is a thirteen page condemnation! I know what I'm about to ask is frowned upon, but I'm pretty sure I outrank the Dean, and I'd like to meet this author. If Cadet Nineteen has the spine, stand up. Stand and be recognized for your candor, son. Cadet Nineteen."

From the last row of the lecture hall, Amanda Waller hesitantly stood. "I'm Cadet Nineteen, sir."

There was silence. The General took a few slow steps forward and squinted up at her. "Well. I'll be."

Cadet Waller said nothing.

The General's voice took a wry tone. "Miss, I don't believe I saw you here last week."

Amanda coughed politely. "Due respect, sir, but I was here. Quietly."

The General harrumphed. The girl was on the shortish side, and the cadet sitting in front of her was quite large. "Hmm. More to the point, what are you doing here at all, young lady? And where'd you get that uniform? This is a military school; no colored folk are enrolled here. Certainly no young women"

There were uncomfortable chuckles from the class. Amanda stayed stiffly calm. "I'm here on a scholarship, General Waxman, the Blixby Merit Award. I'm enrolled with a special dispensation from the, um," she faltered, "The review board chair."

"The chairman? That would have to mean- Missy, are you saying our fine senator signed off on this aberration?"

Amanda nodded. It was true. Senator Tennyson P. Dietrich of the great state of Illinois had approved her, but he wouldn't like her advertising the fact. The Senator was recently in hot water over allegations that he was involved with bootleggers. It wasn't much hassle for a man with his connections to dodge the Prohibition Unit, but the news had rattled a mighty hornet's nest with the voters. The Anti-Saloon League had picketed his house and office for weeks. Desperate to rebuild his power base, the Senator recognized that the easiest voting bloc to attract would be a certain poor district of Chicago. The residents had no reason to like him, but they had no reason to like his competition either, so he dug deep into the bucket of favors all senators kept for such occasions and commenced to schmooze.

One of those favors was a deciding vote on a state-wide scholarship to a local military college. After perusing local school records, he found a girl from the appropriate neighborhood who had finished school a few years ago with remarkable grades. She obviously didn't qualify - many constituents would be bothered by a girl attending college, military or not - but Senator Dietrich was desperate, and rules were made to be broken, or in his case, made to be remade. She wouldn't ever join the military, of course. The young thing would just have her well-publicized education then go off to start a family or be a teacher or a nun or some-such; he didn't care at that point. Once this all was arranged, the Senator announced her award to the district he wanted to woo, but made it clear there should be absolute silence on the topic even one block beyond.

If nothing else, Amanda found the politics behind the ordeal enlightening.

The General wasn't so entertained. "You really are a cadet."




"Hrmph. And for this assignment, you wrote a thirteen page paper critiquing Lanchester, knowing that modern strategic models respect his principles."

"I respected him too, sir. I liked a lot of what he said, but I just thought there were, uh, a few points that might deserve, well, maybe more consideration." She finished weakly.

"More consideration! Hmmm. Well, why don't you share with the class a few criticisms you had with the work. They could use a lesson. 'Specially from a bright bulb like yourself."

The students who weren't already ogling turned her way. She felt the keen sensation of a hundred pairs of eyes. Amanda swallowed and tried not to wipe the sweat under her collar. "Well ..."

"Come now, Cadet. Don't keep us waiting."

"The equations of the Square Law make sense on their own, but I feel ... no, I think that they treat the armies like, well, toy soldiers. Like chess."

The General tapped his chin. "Elaborate."

"If two forces are already on the battlefield, and they have their orders and the artillery is firing behind them, maybe events would proceed like Lanchester says."


"But these Laws aren't just used to predict behavior on the battlefield, planners have taken them for granted from the very start of the logistical process, before the Army is even sent to the front."

"What does that matter, my dear? The soldiers will get there sooner or later. The officers need certain numbers for what to expect in order to chart their campaigns."

She held out her hands, pleading. "I'm sorry, but that ignores so much. The forces he describes aren't wind-up dolls. Maybe the boat is sabotaged. Someone slipped laxative in the food. Maybe the commander's been misled by an agent provocateur. Or bribed! All these moves and a hundred more could cause cracks in the strength of a combat unit far more than their cost would suggest. What if there's a fight in Congress and the soldiers don't know who to obey? Or-"

"Please, please!" The General winced and frowned. "This is too much. I admire a creative thinker, but we don't live in such a wild age. You're not dealing with a band of Renaissance mercenaries who deal with schemes behind every action. You future American leaders won't be facing the tricks of the Boers or some frontier aboriginals. No, the Great War has taught us that the modern army is a vast and well-crafted machine." He rapped the desk with his pointer. "Reliable." RAP. "Industrial." RAP. "And scientific! An efficient tool of state, vulnerable only to another mass force of similar design, far too large too feel the ripples of underhanded tactics. I'll concede no model is perfect, but one needn't bother addressing such things as agents when modern scale and modern precautions have made their impact ... outliers at best."

"But the Easter Rising-

"-Was throughly quashed."

"T.E. Lawrence led the Arabs to revolt against the Ottomans!"

"A modest coup against a third-rate power."

"Germany sent Lenin into Russia on a sealed train, and the armies of the Tzar collapsed. One train, sir."

"That's oversimplifying events, Miss. One lone man did not cause the fall of the House of Romanov. As strategists, we deal with thousands; one lone man can't be expected to change much of anything unless the winds of society already blow his way."

"Napoleon was one man."

"And a once-a-century genius."

"And it's a new century."

The students expected General Waxman to go beet red at the insubordinate tone - other professors would - but to their surprise his face was inscrutable. "Yes, it is a new century." He turned away. "Thank you for sharing, Cadet Nineteen. You may sit."

"Uh." Momentum cut off, Amanda Waller looked at her feet and awkwardly sat down. "Yessir."

The General began write on the board, their debate evidently forgotten, but after a minute he turned back. "Oh, and Cadet Nineteen?"


"See me after class."


Fort Morrison. 1940.

"Ma'am, it's been an hour since we've heard anything. I think they've left the Fort." Specialist Haverford was speaking to Amanda Waller from behind his silent radio.

She half-listened as she sipped her coffee. "No. Not yet. They crossed the bridge, which means they weren't heading for their car. And they had easier paths if their goal was just to leave on foot." She snorted with dry amusement. "Lord knows what they're after, but unless they hid a snow plow somewhere, they haven't left."

"If I may say so ma'am, you're giving these spies a lot of credit; more than a few of us think the pair's a few candles short of a cake."

She blew on her coffee. "You don't believe they're rational. You think they've just been reacting without a plan at all."

He nodded. "Yes, ma'am, we think so."

"Hmmm." She took another sip. "Maybe. I doubt it, though. I talked to one of them. Showed no nerves, no hesitation. He was smart. He might be wrong, and yes, he might be crazy, but the boy had purpose. He at least thinks he knows what he's doing. I can promise you that."


Batman had no idea what he was doing.

He was a planner, and in nine plans out of ten, the first goal was to not be seen. When he choose to make himself known, it was under painstakingly controlled conditions. Staging a scene was an art; every glimpse was choreographed. At a minimum, he had to know know the places of everyone in the scene, where he would enter, what he would do, and where he could leave in a hurry (preferably with a backup exit or three). If he wasn't sure where he was going, who would be there, what he would do, or how he would get out, he didn't go.

Except tonight, of course.

The Infirmary was a clearing in a forest like most of the Fort. A road curved away beyond sight to each side and the bridge lay ahead in the distance. No one else was here. Batman was confident from radio chatter that the nearest patrols were clustered near the entrance. It was his job to move them, preferably not so quickly that they caught up to him.

As he pondered this, he noticed there was a car parked at the front door: drab green with a white star on the side. He should have expected that: the soldiers he met inside had to arrive somehow. Batman frowned. The night's distractions were clawing him down. He had to focus.

Hot-wiring an ignition with one hand was difficult. Speeding to the bridge with the gas to the floor was easy.


On her fourteenth attempt, Catwoman finally managed to stand. She promptly fell to the floor.


She had lost count of her bruises, but that was probably another one. At least no one had seen her fall.

It took a minute for some semblance of feeling to return to her legs. She wasn't cold anymore; that was certainly a plus. Moving gingerly, she put on her boots and gloves. Batman had left them neatly beside her makeshift bed. She rolled her eyes. Of course he did. He probably arranged his pencils by lead content.

Speaking of things he arranged, the radio was mostly static. Every so often, a voice would come through to report that nothing was happening. She didn't recognize the people or the acronyms and started to worry whether the radio would actually help. On the other hand, she didn't have any better ideas.

Catwoman crawled to her feet and found a chair (blissfully not noticing the blood on the floor nearby). She closed her eyes, breathing deeply. Thieving was mostly a patience game, but physically speaking, it was better to have speed than endurance. If you had to exert yourself at all, it was to get out in a hurry. A shrewd thief looked for those rare opportunities to rest before that final burst.


The four men of Fox squad were posted at the end of the Fort Morrison bridge.

They were supposed to stand guard in a line. However, their sergeant decided to alter the plan when he recognized a grave tactical risk: it was chilly out. Instead, once their portable lights were set up, Fox squad cycled one man standing guard while the other three hid from the wind in their car.

The guard, a specialist, knocked on the car window. A corporal inside nudged the door open a crack. "What?"

"I heard a car start over there."


"Over there!"


"Over - Near the Infirmary."

"A what start?"

"A car!"

"A car?"

"Look, just turn off your engine."

"Right, you heard an engine."

"AURRR!" The specialist yanked the door to bleats of protest open and stuck his head in. "LISTEN! DID BASE CAMP ANNOUNCE THAT THE INFIRMARY TEAM WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HEADED OUR WAY?

The troops inside traded glances. The corporal shrugged. "No."

The specialist slapped his chair. "THEN EVERYBODY OUT! MOVE!"


Already tuned to purr of the engine, Batman shifted into third the moment the gearbox allowed. When the Dark Knight made things look natural, it was usually after years of practice, but he really did have a way with cars. He debated whether to use the headlights. On the one hand, he would be more elusive in the dark. On the other hand, the lights would blind anyone in front of him, and he would be less likely to drive into a tree.

He kept them off.

Near the bridge, he spotted cones of light and the silhouette of another car blocking most of the entrance. As he sped closer, he saw forms moving out of the car. One of them raised a long shape at him.


A third of the windshield blew inward. Shards of glass bounced off his suit. He cut the wheel back and forth, fishtailing on the ice. The soldiers dived for cover. At the last moment his traction caught. Batman grinned. He hit the barrier on the side of the bridge at a slight angle, hopped onto two tires, and screeched past the obstructing vehicle. Sparks flew between the cars. Batman wobbled on two tires for another heartbeat then landed, bouncing on the suspension. His rear fender fell off. The car slid loose for a moment, fighting, almost going into a spin, but he finally straightened out and burned rubber. In two seconds, the Dark Knight was out of sight.


"Ma'am, we're getting something."


"Fox squad just saw one of our vehicles pass them on the bridge."

"Wasn't Fox squad supposed to be prevent anyone from crossing the bridge?"

"The squad says they blocked the lane and opened fire, but the hostile car, it ... um ... hold on ... I don't think I'm hearing the next part right."

Waller stared deadpan. "What did they say?"

"That the car ... it hit the side of the bridge and ... slid past them on the railing? I don't ... I ... no, I can't imagine how that's possible."

"Fortunately, the size of your imagination isn't critical here. You're telling me we have a vehicle heading towards the camp?"

"Sounds like it, ma'am. Fox squad says they're almost ready to pursue."

"Almost ready?"

"Their car was knocked aside in the event. They claim it's time-consuming to do a j-turn on ice when you're wedged sideways in a single lane."


"Should I order our camp units to prepare?"

"Do that. And for the love of all things holy, make sure they close the gate this time."

"Yes, ma'am."


"ZBBBbbzzbbbbzZZzz-ilo! Cooper! Yankee! Bravo! Hector! Gold! Incoming! Incoming on the main L.M.L.C.L.L.M.L. Unidentified vehicle, I say again, Uni-bbbzZZZZZ ... ZsssssSSSSSsszzszszss ... svvvvvvvvvvVVvvvVVVvvvvvv ... vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv-ower watchtower, one, two, three. Tower A, Tower C at east-southeast, winds easterly, low angle, high caliber for the continu-vVVVVvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv ... vvvvvvVvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv ... vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv ... vvvvvvvvvvvv-oving salvo three to sector four on three-fourths t-vvvvvvvvVVvv- then exchange the downrange ranging hinge for the interior pivot fringe Cooper actual, copy?"

Catwoman sat with her knees hugged to her chest under a blanket. She squinted at the radio on the floor and pursed her lips.

"... What?"


An accelerant was a broad term for a substance that hastened a chemical reaction, especially fire.

Wood was not strictly an accelerant. It was a fuel. The two terms were commonly confused.

Some considered gasoline an accelerant, though of course it was also a fuel.

Acetone and turpentine were definitely accelerants. Batman kept a small bottle for just that purpose.

After crossing the bridge and entering the forest again, he finally turned on his headlights. There were many fallen and half-fallen trees around, no surprise given the storms in the region. After a minute, he finally spied a certain bent tree beside the road that served his intentions. Batman gunned the engine. The right half of the car ramped up the tree trunk, neatly flipping the vehicle on its side. It slid like this, crushing bushes and saplings, until it was caught sideways between several more trees.

Batman wished the car had seltbelts, but the crash left him more or less intact. He cut the engine and crawled out the broken windshield. With the car on its side, the gas tank was easily exposed. He used the wrench on his multi-tool to undo the gasket connecting the filler tube. Now the tank was loose and hung a few inches out from the chassis . Batman undid his cape and tied the ends to nearby branches, forming a makeshift bowl under the spout.

He pulled the tank as far down as it would go. It was like pouring a twenty pound pitcher stuck to a spring. Gasoline filled the cape. He pulled out his acetone and turpentine. Then he pulled out his lighter.

Batman knew every arson trick ever used and a few he invented. He rarely needed them in the field, but being a chemist kept him in practice. Another interesting fact about accelerants: they were especially useful when igniting imperfect fuels. For example: cold, wet timber.


"Still no news, Haverford?"

"No, ma'am. You'd think a car could easily make it to the camp by now. The bridge road only goes one way."

"Yes, I would think that. No news from Fox squad?"

"They've just set out, Miss Waller. Don't you worry. We'll pincer Fritz."

"Careful, Specialist. We don't know who our trespassers are."

"Of course, ma'am. I ... hold on a moment, I'm getting something. Yes. Yes, this is Alpha. Are you sure, captain? Alright, keep an eye on it, sir."

"What is it?"

"Ma'am, the watchtowers have spotted a small forest fire."

"A forest fire."

"Yes, from the direction of road."

"In all this snow?"

"Apparently, ma'am."

"Hmmm. That is an interesting move."

"I don't mean to presume, but shouldn't we go put it out? Before it grows out of control?"

"Specialist, if we can see the flames from here, I'd say it's a tad too large for a bucket brigade."

"We're just going to let the blaze spread?"

"This camp is clear cut fifty yards from the treeline. Send a term to standby with water and shovels, certainly, but we shouldn't see embers this far out."

"If you say so, ma'am."

"Buck up, soldier. The fire's not the problem. It's the man who would set fire to a forest he's hiding in that concerns me."


Colonel Abner Tanner sat in the guardhouse at the east gate. When he heard at least a few and possibly all of the infiltrators had been seen leaving the camp in this direction, he ordered half his garrison to mount up. After finding the crashed motorcycle, they knew their quary was on foot, and the race became a hunt. Normally, Tanner would concede that trying to catch someone beyond the bridge was a hefty challenge. Their targets weren't stuck on a plateau any longer. A fugitive could leave in any direction if they managed to hop the fence. However, the Colonel had brought enough men to cover the area twice over. Not even a mouse could slip through his lines now (flying or otherwise). It was only a matter of time.

The guardhouse was built with a watchtower, currently manned by a private whose name he didn't know. The boy screamed down at him, "Sir, it's a fire!"

After the night he'd had, the Colonel wouldn't be surprised by anything short of the Soviets flying in on technicolor dragons. He slowly rose to his feet and ambled towards the tower's ladder. "Where?"

The kid hastily watched the horizon with his binoculars. "Somewhere near camp, sir. I see all the smoke rising towards the sky!"

"Well, son, fires tend to do that."

"It's big, sir! Real big! Huge!"

Colonel Tanner climbed the ladder and took the binoculars. "Huh, a fire. Good call, Private. Keep watching. Let me know if it does anything different."

"Different, sir?"

"Different. Grows, shrinks, learns to dance. I don't know, fire things. Use your imagination, Private."

"Yes, sir."

The Colonel climbed down and took the microphone from his radio operator.

"Waller, you there?"

He heard some white noise that sounded suspiciously like a sigh. "This is Waller. How c-vvvvBbbbvv-elp you, Colonel?"

"I believe there's some news you ain't told me."

"Such as?"

"Well, it looks from here like my camp is on fire. And since this is my camp, that means I'm on fire. Don't you think a man deserves to know when he's on fire, Waller?"

"The situation is under control, Colonel. I was about to inform you that the interlop-bbzzbb-ve crossed the bridge again in one of our cars and lit a fire in the forest near the camp."

"You were about to inform me, sure. Figure you were."


"So they have one of our cars."

"My assistants are ascertaining which squad's vehicle was compromised as we speak."

"And they got through the bridge team."

"Yes, but Fox squad's unharmed."

"I should have been told immediately, Waller! But at least we know where they are. I can flank from this side, take em' down. I'll have my detachment moving out in three."

"Maintain position, Colonel Tanner! Your zo-ZZbbbzzZzz-ll top priority. The infiltrators may have split up, or t-vvvvvVVVvvvzvv-more comrades than we've seen hiding in your neck of the woods. The fire is a distraction. Keep that exit sealed tight, understand?"

He scowled. "You best be right about this, Waller. If a worm gives you the slip because I wasn't there or any more of my men get hurt, then it's on your shoulders. Then you and I are gonna have friction. Tanner out."

He lowered the microphone and told the radio operator to open a general broadcast on all local channels. After a moment of dial tweaking, the Colonel received a thumbs up. He raised the microphone again.

"All squads in the Mobile Detachment, this is Colonel Tanner. Some of you may be seeing a fire from the direction of camp. You may be concerned, but I want to assure you that everything over there is being ably managed and is not our problem. Do not leave your posts. Keep running your patrols. Stay sharp towards your surroundings and ignore the fire. I say again, do not leave your posts; ignore the fire. That is all."


Catwoman fiddled with the radio's antenna. It was dented and bent in a few directions, like the wearer had rolled across the floor and maybe knocked into a wall five or six times, which again brought up the question of how exactly Batman had come to possess it. Electronics wasn't her strong suit, but the antenna's connection to the body of the radio seemed loose, and she concluded that this was probably bad.

As she held it up to her eye, the speaker squealed to life.

"zzBBbbBbbbvvzz-he Mobile Detachment, this is Colonel Tanner. S-bbbbzzzzbvbbbbbBBb-g a fire from the direction of camp-vvvvVVVVVvvvvv-t I want-zzz ... -you-vvzv-verything over there-VVVVvvvvvzzzZZZzzzzZZzzzvvvvzzZ-our problem. D-Fffvvvvv- leave your posts. Keep running-VVvvvvZzZzv-sharp towards-fvvffzzzzzz- ... -zzzVVzz-re the fire. I say agai-zzvvv- leave your posts; -fffvv- re the fire. That is all.

Catwoman cringed and rubbed her ear. "Finally."


Batman stuck his head up for air. A whirl of snowflakes blew up his nose. He had found a small depression in the dirt where the slush was deeper for a few yards. By slipping between these deep sections, he kept most of his body concealed, even from the new floodlights.

Earlier that evening, Batman had suggested to Catwoman that if they waited two hours, they could cross the empty ground between the forest and the camp by crawling through the snow. She was skeptical. That was at least two hours ago. Now he knew he was correct, but given the circumstances of his return, that was cold comfort.

Mostly it was just cold.

Yet Batman was optimistic. He gave solid odds that the fire alone would draw away most of the patrols blocking Catwoman's escape. The glare also doubled as cover for his own movements. It was one of the easiest concealment tactics in the book: fire distracts everyone. You could put hours of effort into being hard to see, or you could give the world something else to look at.


"Ma'am, we're finished our check. Milo, Hammer, and Dixie squads haven't reported in and aren't responding."

"Well, let's see ... Milo's scouting beyond the north face, so their reception might be out."

"And they didn't have a car."

Walller nodded. "Hammer is part of the outer ring of the Colonel's Detachment. They have a car, and they should easily hear us."

"Hammer's radio man is Private Docker."


Private Bobby Docker, grandnephew of General Clarence Docker, was one of the few compromises Waller had to make in fielding her roster. The kid wasn't cut out to use a radio; he wasn't cut out to use a spoon.

"Between you and me, Specialist, he probably forgot to turn it on. Let's call that a maybe. See if you can get any nearby teams to confirm them."

"Yes, ma'am. What about Dixie?"

"I can't think why Dixie would have a problem. Who was their radio man? Pratchett? Powell? Porter? Something with 'p'."


"Ah, yes. An odd duck, that one, but he could use his machine."

"And they would have parked closest to the bridge."

"Yes. They would have. Hmm. Fox didn't get through the fire, did they?"

"Fox? They did not, ma'am. They're standing by on the far edge of the woods."

"Have them check out the Infirmary."

"Yes, ma'am."


It took time to walk again. Until then, Catwoman leaned on the banister for support. One clumsy step at a time, she eased up the Infirmary staircases. The briefcase was heavy. The first few times she stumbled, Catwoman was tempted to leave it behind, but she didn't. It wasn't that she felt she owed him anything, but professionals had standards, and she'd sooner jump off the roof than get this far with nothing to show for it. Halfway up, Catwoman swore she heard the faint noise of desperate yelling and banging on a door nearby, but this only convinced her to pick up the pace.

By the time she reached the entrance, most of the numbness was gone. She almost felt herself again. This was useful, because her first sight upon opening the door was a pair of headlight beams motoring in he direction. Too tired to be shocked, Catwoman's only thought upon seeing this was that radios were unreliable.

For an instant, the light crossed her. Sighted, the car swerved her way. Catwoman hastily stepped back and shut the door.

Seconds later, Fox squad barreled through the door, rifles at the ready. They swept around, eyes like hawks, riding the adrenaline.


It took a minute for the squad to notice that a window near the back had a woman-sized hole in it. By the time the soldiers ran out the entrance again, Catwoman had already sprinted into the trees.


Batman found it easier to leap inside the camp than he had the first time. Although he was cold and injured and now they were looking for him, half the Fort had been sent elsewhere. You could only post so many lookouts with half a crew. And most of them were positioned to block the road coming from the fire. He was more than happy to go around the side. Discovering a point on the perimeter where no one was looking for five seconds was easy.

Now he faced the difficult part: finding the nerve center. He crept until he found a sergeant, then trailed the sergeant until he found a lieutenant, then followed the lieutenant until he found a captain. Though they all wandered on their own tasks, Batman noticed each orbit brought him closer and closer to a larger furnished building with windows near the center of camp. It was the only one with lights on inside. Batman hid behind some bushes (there was trimmed shrubbery as well) and spied a sign: Office of the Commander. He crept further until he was under a window. The ice had frosted it nearly opaque, but he could hear just fine.


"News from Fox squad, ma'am! They just saw an individual trying to leave the Infirmary. The stranger gave them the slip, but they found fresh footsteps leading north into the woods"

"Well, tell them to pursue!"

"The squad already gave chase, ma'am. One stayed back to make the report. He's requesting backup to surround the woods."

"Get word to the Colonel. Tell him he can sic his hounds on this one, any means authorized. Then tell Fox's man to stay at the Infirmary in case this runner doubles back."

"On it, ma'am. I'll-"

Suddenly, an elbow broke through the window. As the six people inside jumped, two small glass jars were thrown through the hole. They bounced off a table and cracked on the ground. The odorous liquid inside splashed out and vaporized into heavy smoke.

Coughing, the occupants swiftly left the office.

Out in the waiting room, Amanda Waller found her bearings. "Kaath. Kooth. Hoohth. Hwooo. Hooo. Haa." She glanced around to see if anyone had toxic symptoms. They seemed fine; it was merely smoke. "Haverford with me. Everyone else, go! Subdue the intruder!"

The soldiers drew their sidearms and hustled out. Specialist Haverford flanked the doorway to the office with his own weapon drawn. He tried to peer through the smoke. "Don't you want to keep a security detail, ma'am?"

"No, Specialist, if he wanted to hurt us, he'd have used a grenade."

"What if the spy's just waiting for us to split up."

"Please. He's already two buildings away. I sent them all because spreading the alarm on foot is a numbers game. They'll explain the noise to the door guard and move out. If we're lucky, we might cut him off before he hides again."

The Specialist glowered in frustration. "What could he possibly think he'd accomplish by alerting us and running off? That's not a strategy, that's a prank."

Amanda raised a speculative eyebrow and watched the smoke. "Good question. For such a risky stunt, he cut off communication for a meager interval and gave me cause to send out my planners and radio personnel. Why would an operative do that?"

"I still say he's a few cookies short of a-"

"Why would a sane operative do that?"

"Well, it sounds like a delaying tactic. He's making ruckus to buy time for some friends elsewhere."

"Let's presume you're correct. What would he do next?"

"Head for the hills."

"No. He's putting his skin on the line. Safety isn't his goal. What would he do next?"

"I guess he'd try to cause more ruckus."


"Not here, though." He saw her look expectantly and pushed ahead. "Somewhere we don't expect him. Little strikes here and there to keep us tripping over ourselves. He's willing to play just out of reach because that friend's goal is important to him. If he really is alone here, then, well, he knows he's caught; he's just rushing to hold out those few extra minutes."

For the first time ever, Specialist Haverford saw Amanda Waller smile. "You're not as dumb as you look, Specialist. After this you might be in line for a promotion."

"Um, uh, thank you, ma'am. Thank you very much."

"Don't gush, Mr. Haverford. I reward talent - nothing more, nothing less. As soon as you are able, relay the messages I spoke of to Colonel Tanner and Fox squad. Then inform Lieutenant Slade Wilson to come here on the double."

"Forgive me, ma'am, but are you sure you want to draw the Lieutenant away? He's managing a third of the camp by now."

"The camp will do as well as it will, Specialist. You may not feel it yet, but the night's over. The last few pieces are rolling to a stop. As for the Lieutenant, I may not need a security detail, but he has other uses, hard as that may be to believe, and I'll require them soon."

"Sure thing, ma'am."

They watched the smoke as it dispersed.


Up on the surveillance deck of Watchtower E, Private Thomas Ashley idly swung the spotlight across the frozen ground, but his eyes kept darting back to the fire. He had seen forest fires once or twice before in his native Arizona. They scared him, but it was fun to be scared. If anything, these flames looked all the more eerie in the snowfall.

He felt a presence behind him and turned, puzzled that he hadn't heard motion on the ladder. In a moment of shock, a dark form appeared over his shoulder and covered his mouth, pulling him away from the edge. Private Ashley flailed and tried to yell, but his sounds were utterly stifled. With irresistible force, the dark form shoved him to the deck and held him down by the jaw. When his vision stopped spinning, he saw the the bone-white eyes of a demonic mask, the mouth under it pulled tightly into a killer's thin line. The horizon of smoke behind him curled with menace. The Private noted that it wasn't always fun to be scared.

"Listen carefully. Are you listening?"

Private Ashley couldn't move his mouth but nodded a centimeter.

The huge man produced a small tube. "This is dynamite. I'm going to light it, and you'll have seven seconds to climb down before it detonates. Understand?"

Private Ashley nodded fiercely.

"Good, but I'll only let you go if you do a favor for me. Will you do a favor for me?"

More nodding.

"It's very simple. When you get down, tell everyone you met me and pass along this message. Tell them I didn't come alone. My legions are ready. We'll take these towers down one by one, and there's nothing you can do, and there's nowhere you can hide. And when every tower's gone to ash and the grounds are dark, we're coming. We're coming from every side, and we're hungry."

Private Ashley's eyes had grown wide. He stopped nodding.

"Repeat it!"


Catwoman leaned against a pine and tried to stretch out the kink in her shoulder. Whatever inner gush of will gave her the energy to race full sprint into the forest had sputtered out about seventy trees ago. She swore her ankles had personally deforested more small plants than the Hudson Bay Company. Batman had said to travel a quarter of a mile northeast; it didn't occur to her at the time to ask for a compass. She had no idea how long she had been jogging, or how fast, or whether she was traveling in a straight line. Her own pulse was giving her a headache.

Worst of all, she had no idea what caused the huge fire beyond the trees. If she could see it from here, it had to be massive up close.

What if he got ... with all that ... He wouldn't have, would he? What else could have happened? That's an awfully big fire! No, no. This is all part of some plan. The fire was ... deliberate. Sure, because Batman sets fires all the time. After all, he's the Well-lit Knight. Heh. Well-lit night, like with a fire, cause it's a pun. Heh.

She shook her head. Yes, it was frigid, but this was no time to daze off. Whatever was wrong with her, she could soak in a tub for the next decade to deal with it, but first she had to get out of here. And in the meantime, she had to assume Batman was fine. She didn't really have a reason, but Catwoman was dead-set on holding on to that hope, because she sure didn't have many others to buoy her at the moment.

She heard heavy panting and the crack of branches behind her. Catwoman tucked her head and set off again.


"Colonel Tanner, I got a message."

"What's the old goat want now?"

"It's not Miss Waller, sir. It's straight from Captain Roach at the camp gate."

"It's 'bout time they tied me into their little knitting group. What'd the Captain say?"

"It was hard to understand, but he said one of the infiltrators made it into camp. Miss Waller's o- I mean, your office was, um, smoke-bombed."

The Colonel rubbed his eyes. "Smoke-bombed."

"Yes, sir. And they broke a window."

"And they broke my window. Did they catch the perpetrator alive?"

"They didn't catch him at all. This was several minutes ago. Apparently, Miss Waller would have told you but, well, she couldn't use the radio."


"On account of the smoke."


"But the Captain wasn't calling for her sake. He says he wants your recommendation since Watchtower E just blew up."


"There was an explosion and then an electrical fire started on the searchlight. The soldier there, Private Ashley, he got out just fine. He says he saw the infiltrator that did it."

"What else did he say?"

"He says the infiltrator told him that he was going to burn down all the towers, and that the infiltrator had an army of his own that's heading our way. And they're all, uh ..."



"The infiltrator told him he had brought an army of cannibals?"

"Yes, sir."

"Tell Roach I trust him to keep a handle on affairs till I get there. Then tell Delaney he has command of the patrols here at the gate. I'm taking Farmer's platoon back with me. I'll sort this out myself."

"Yes, sir."

It took only minutes for the new orders to be arranged. Soon, Colonel Tanner was in the passenger's seat of a truck. His operator drove and managed the dash radio.

"Sir, Waller's finally on the line. She says to stay put."

"Oh, I heard her yelling just fine through your earpiece, soldier. Don't worry 'bout her. I've got bigger issues, like if we can make it through that fire."

"Yes, sir." His operator had a pensive look. "This is really it, isn't it."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, this is really serious, sir. Are we starting a war?"

"Maybe. Don't think so, though. Not a war, but something serious. Something local. It's gonna be close and hot for awhile." He blew air through his teeth. "Guess we're having ourselves a stabcuff."

"I'm sorry sir, a ... stabcuff?"

"Heh, I suppose you wouldn't know. Years ago, I had occasion to visit a penitentiary in Arkansas. Bad crowd. Don't know if this is allowed anymore, but they had a custom there called a stubcuff. Y'see, it was decided in those days that your garden variety prison knife fight was too gentlemanly and methodical for the discerning Arkie inmate. Instead, when two lifers wanted to resolve a disagreement, or show off, or they were bored, they would borrow a set of handcuffs, cuff their left hands together, and then fight with a small blade held in their free hand, just an inch or so long. It went on until the loser cried 'uncle' or stopped moving. That's a stabcuff."


"It's a portmanteau of stabbing and handcuff."

"I think I gleaned that, sir."

"Anyway, the theory went that this offered a truer test of one's bravery, since there was no defensive maneuvering - you were just too close. I watched a few: no fatalities, surprisingly. Lots of cuts though. Lot of blood. Never before has the line between man and honey badger been so fleeting."

Suddenly, they saw a lady in a cape pop out of the woods, cross the road in the shine of their headlights, then rush into the woods on the other side.

"Should I stop here, sir?"

"Yes, I reckon you should."


Lieutenant Slade Wilson stepped into the Commander's Office, now completely clear of smoke. Amanda Waller glanced over and snapped her fingers for him to join her. "Took you long enough."

The Lieutenant gave a dry look. "I was dealing with a friendly fire incident. Gold squad thought they saw your little ghost run around a corner and opened up on Cooper squad. Cooper didn't take kindly to this and shot back. Visibility's about eight feet so none of them hit anything. I stepped in before they could try again. You're welcome."

"So it's bad out there?"

"They're tired. They're shook up, don't know what's going on. Most haven't slept in twenty hours."

"How are our sweeps."

"Frankly, if they do find anyone before morning, it'll be from sheer numbers and sheer luck."

"You really think so, Wilson?"

"Maybe I'm just a cynic."

"Maybe your nose is just sore."

"That's real funny, ma'am. What did you need me for?"

"On the slim chance this doesn't end soon, I need to get the message out for reinforcements. I can't spare any teams to fix the phones, so you and I are taking a trip into town."

"And you'd be getting yourself out of the line of fire."

"What's that supposed to mean, Lieutenant?"

"Nothing ma'am, your safety is always my priority."

"Very reassuring. I need to finish some matters here. Go to the warehouse and warm the truck up, Slade. I'll be with you in about ten minutes."

"Yes, ma'am."


Batman crawled to the edge of the roof and watched Lieutenant Wilson leave. They had a pair of grunts guarding the bushes now, but no one checked the roof. He waited a minute to give the Lieutenant some distance then climbed down and followed.


Catwoman could hear the distant, muted crunch of two dozen feet sweeping closer. She ran while her sinew burned and she felt nauseous, because every time she hesitated or caught her breath, she would hear boots gradually approach.

Nearly tripping down a small embankment, Catwoman realized she had exited the woods. There was a large paved clearing here with several buildings that looked like garages.

The motor pool!

A few soldiers loitered near the largest building in the middle distance. One of them turned in her direction and squinted, uncertain. She quickly rushed behind the wall of the nearest structure. It had a strange rounded roof, like half an oil drum knocked on its side.


For all its recent intrigue, Fort Morrison was a logistical depot: a quiet, out of the way site to keep warehouses. Much of the camp was covered with them, and most of the soldiers were warehouse staff. When Amanda Waller reorganized Fort Morrison to root out trespassers, the huge storage sector had been abandoned.

Lieutenant Slade Wilson strode briskly though the snow flurries towards a certain broad building in the center of the silent quarter. Row after row of huge structures rose beside him like gray cliffs in the night. The street here would comfortably fit six train cars abreast if the vast gap between the rows could be called that. No traffic had passed through this intersection in days, but the scent of engine grease and moldy wooden pallets was stuck in the air. The present emptiness was the exception; this was clearly a place of work.

Wilson found a side door, kicked a pile of snow to the side, and muscled it open. He closed it behind him. Batman followed twenty-one seconds later. The interior was dim, save for the pool of yellow light around the nearby loading bay wall and the faintest moonlight through the high windows. The floor was cracked cement. A dozen lines of shelves reached towards the ceiling, each half-filled with boxes and heavy machine parts. The Dark Knight shut the door as smoothly as he could. He slipped between crates and forklifts, stopping beside a partly-disassembled furnace and stepping around a stack of potatoes.

The Lieutenant was crouched beside the grille of a large truck, ratcheting a snowplow to the front. Batman crept up in a ghoulish pose, lifting his cape across his body just beneath his eyes. The last twelve paces were clear and illuminated. He took a step into the light.

The soldier spun, pointing a Thompson submachine gun at his chest from eleven paces. Calm eyes. Superb rifleman's stance. Did he hear me at the door?

Lieutenant Wilson barked, "Kiss the dirt, Lugosi."

Batman rushed him. The Dark Knight would have usually covered the distance before the fourth word, but now he was sluggish, accelerating more like a bull than a raptor.

The Lieutenant didn't flinch. Set on his target's center of mass, he pulled the trigger.

The 1928 Thompson fired a hefty .45 caliber cartridge at 720 rounds per minute. Hollywood loved to show off its 50-round drum in the gangster pictures, but actual soldiers thought the drum was heavy and unreliable. They far preferred the 20-round box magazine. Lieutenant Wilson agreed. If he needed twenty-one bullets to kill something, it wasn't the gun's fault.

He could have emptied his magazine in two seconds. He didn't, of course. Lined down the sights, he fired twice to drop the intruder. Tap, tap. Bullseye.

The Batman hardly stumbled.

This was so unexpected that Wilson didn't react until his target reached seven paces. He fired another round. Batman still picked up speed. That wasn't supposed to happen.

At five paces, he fired a controlled four round burst. Batman was racing at a lumbering sprint and showed no effect.

Lieutenant Wilson was supremely quick-witted in a fight, but anyone will falter when their worldview breaks apart. In his case, the Lieutenant lived by the mantra that bullets solve problems. Sure, a wild man might stand up if you wing him with a lady's pistol, but a human that takes seven heavy rounds to the sternum WILL collapse - this was a gospel truth. And yet Batman kept coming.

So Wilson hesitated. Instead of dodging the obvious rush, he stood there and crushed the trigger until the very last moment. Batman crashed through this lance of automatic fire. He struck the Lieutenant like a locomotive, knocking him onto his back and sending the weapon flipping into the air.

Batman stumbled to a stop. He let go of his cape. Then he dropped the sixty pound steel furnace plate he gripped like a shield in his other hand. It hit the ground with a note like a gong. The surface was pockmarked with hot bullet dents. He paused to stretch his arm which was arthritically stiff. As anticipated, a soldier cocky enough to hunt alone and allowed such armaments had excellent aim – right to his center of mass.

But Batman wasn't immune to surprises either. He assumed that anyone clobbered at a run with a metal battering ram could be safely ignored for a minute. But when he glanced down, the soldier was already rising backwards. This Lieutenant, not half as disoriented as he should have been, deftly unholstered his sidearm, the matte silver 1911.

But no one outdrew Batman twice. In a blink, a batarang struck the gun askew. Another sunk into the meat of his collarbone, and another flew towards his chin, but the Lieutenant caught that one out of the air and dropped it.

That was rare.

Batman followed behind his projectile with a flying knee. The soldier was still getting his balance but put up an admirable block, backpedding with the momentum. He steadied himself and put up an arm in time to cushion a backfist followed by a raking chop that stripped the Colt out of his hand. Pressing the offensive, Batman faked a jab and stomped the side of the Lieutenant's knee. Wilson tripped sideways. Batman finished with an elbow strike to the jaw.

A thin line of blood flew from the Lieutenant's mouth. He whiplashed from the impact, but in a heartbeat Batman knew the dynamics were wrong. The soldier kept spinning, slicing at his thigh on the way around with a combat stiletto. The soldier's cheek had a deep gash, but he seemed unfazed. Batman weaved backwards, dodging a few stabs. One nicked low on his stomach. These continued in a whip-quick chain of attacks until one thrust was too ambitious. Batman seized the outstretched wrist and rotated into a one-armed hip throw.

But in a marvel of balance and reflex, Wilson twisted with the throw and landed on his feet. He countered and pulled Batman's arm towards him for a leg reap. Batman moved in the predictable diagonal to avoid the reap and fell into the stiletto held at his bicep. By luck the blade bounced off the tip of his forearm guard. Batman didn't waste this opportunity, disarming the knife and sending a volley of chops and elbows at his opponent's head and neck.

Lieutenant Wilson ducked and stumbled backwards, coughing from a blow to the throat. He grabbed a grenade from his coat, thumbed the pin, and went to drop it. Batman dived forward and held the grenade's fuse lever closed. Wilson let go and, as Batman was holding the grenade, drew another knife and stabbed him in the side of the cowl, just below the ear.

The cowl was no flimsy cloth. Made of the rugged, ex-convict older cousin of armor-grade leather, its material didn't puncture, but the blow still had all the force of being struck with a metal spike. Batman fell. The Lieutenant ripped the grenade away and reinserted the pin.
Author: Batman 1939
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The Romulan Republic
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2016-09-12 09:58pm

So Slade's 2 for 2.

Batman needs to step up his game. Although to be fair, he was seriously wounded. :)
"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes" When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy." - Lincoln.

Stewart M
Posts: 115
Joined: 2016-08-22 06:09pm

Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-13 05:56pm

Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Chapter 17: The Road Home​

Private Hershey, Private Denunzio, and their Sarge stood in front of Garage Bay B at the east Motor Pool, smoking their ninth cigarette of the night.

The Sarge spit. "Snow's gettin' worse."

Private Hershey nodded. "Yep."

Private Denunzio nodded. "Yep."

They looked around dully. Hershey thought he saw a shape move near the tree-line. He blew some smoke to the side and peered forward. "Hey, Sarge, I think I see something."

Sarge shook his head. "No, you don't."

Private Hershey took a few steps forward and craned his neck. The shape slipped out of sight. "I think I do. It's movement over there, just came out of the woods."

Sarge put a hand on his shoulder and pulled him back. "No. You don't. You've had six false alarms, Hershey. I'm not checking out a seventh."


"Face it, son. You got to accept that there is such a thing as too much coffee."


Sarge sighed and took another drag. He exhaled. "Fine by me, but we're not checking out any more of your hunches."

"So I'm just supposed to stand here."

"Yep. You ain't paid by the hour."

Private Denunzio elbowed Private Hershey in the side, "Hey, if you have all this pep, what do you say to another round of gin rummy? Three bucks on the line, eh? Three bucks?"

Hershey shook his head. "No thanks, buddy."

"Come on."

"I'd rather not."

"You're just worried I'll take you down again like the Tacoma Narrows."

Private Hershey gasped. "Whoa, too soon."

Sarge frowned and smacked him upside the head. "Too soon!"

Denunzio shrugged incredulously. "Too soon?"

Hershey crossed his arms."Too soon."

"Too soon."

"Too soon?"

"Too soon!"

Sarge wagged a disproving finger "Yeah, that was a callous thing to say."

"It's been over a month. It was just a bridge."

Sarge spit. "A landmark!"

"No one even got hurt."

"False. A dog died on that bridge, Private. A Cocker Spaniel named Tubby."

Hershey reproached, "Yeah, you're making fun of a dead dog. For shame."

"Excuse me?"

As they spoke, a large squad hustled out of the woods, panting. The trio jogged over. They saw one of the newcomers was the Colonel and quickly hid their cigarettes.

Sarge nodded respectfully. "What's the news, sir?"

Colonel Tanner addressed them. "An infiltrator just ran this way. Have you seen anything?"

The three looked at each other. Private Hershey frowned. Sarge pretended he hadn't noticed. "We don't think so, Colonel. Of course, it's hard to see anything tonight."

"We can't let that hold us back now, Sergeant . We're going to sweep the motor pool, and more help is on the way. There's a woman here. Our aim is to flush her out. Let's move."


Catwoman quickly found the back door of the supposed garage, but her numbed fingers kept shaking as she tried to pick the lock. Finding herself beaten by a simple door because her body betrayed her was a very special hell for Catwoman. She heard troops marching in the near distance, hunting through other buildings and circling the woods in their cars. It was only a matter of time. She closed her eyes and continued, determined to work the lock out of principle until they dragged her away.

A stuck tumbler shifted. The lock fell open. Catwoman, who had curled her body against the door (to hide from the wind as much as anything), was already pressing against the handle and fell inward. She nearly bounced off the ground in a scramble to close it behind her. The marginally-warmer air inside hit her like a wave. She sat against the door and took a few deep breaths.

There were voices approaching outside. Catwoman pulled out her flashlight and spun around. She was inside what seemed like a cave of old crates. The nearest was as tall as she was and weighted at least a hundred pounds. Hunching down like a center on the line of scrimmage, she threw her shoulder into the crate. It shifted an inch. She put her back against it, stretching out her legs to screech the container across the floor.

The voices muttered loudly and raced to the door. Someone on the other side tried the handle, but the crate was already wedged in front of the frame. They slammed the door against it a few times, and it started to shift. Holding her flashlight in her teeth, Catwoman raced to find smaller boxes weigh the crate down. After a minute, she had moved a walk-in closet's worth of storage. The door wouldn't budge for anything short of a hippo, and Catwoman was pretty sure the Army didn't have hippos.

Having earned her stalemate, Catwoman brushed the snow off her sleeves and legs. She found a gap in the crates and slipped through. Navigating by the narrow beam of her flashlight, she moved aimlessly through a maze of boxes and tarps, hoping they didn't fill the entire room. At some point she knocked into the arm of a record player. A scratchy yet ethereal boy's choir started to sing. After a few bars, she even recognized the piece. It was Handel's Messiah nearing the close of Act Two: the Hallelujah Chorus.

"- Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! -

Catwoman gave a rueful grin. She couldn't imagine a less appropriate mood for the evening. Fighting through the jungle of obstacles along the wall, she came out of the pile next to a huge overhead door. Fortunately, this metal door seemed firmly locked to a latch on the floor inside. She idly wondered what sort of tanks or buses they intended to fit in this garage to justify a door that large.

"- of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, -

Not that it mattered. Even in a bus, the Army would chase her down before she went a mile. She remembered how they shot up the truck at the Brick. And she certainly couldn't stay here forever. The soldiers would think of a way to break in sooner or later. As Catwoman considered the feasibility of going through the ceiling again, she found a light-switch.

"- King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and -

The room was larger than she first assumed. The corrugated tin roof curved upward towards the center like a long igloo.

"- King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! -

As she slowly turned, she realized the piles of crates were all to one side. The room was large and most of the space was open

Then she saw salvation.

"- Hallelujah! Hallelujah! -"

This wasn't a garage; it was a hanger. Catwoman smiled and shed a single tear.

"- Hallelujah! Hallelujah! -"

Parked in front of her was an airplane.

"... Hallelujah!"


"You thought I'd waste both of us?" Lieutenant Slade Wilson slid the grenade into his coat and crouched down. He took a knee, putting his weight on Batman's right fist. Batman couldn't hold back a guttural moan of pain. A halo of dark spots swam through his vision. He struggled to stay lucid. Wilson calmly pried the batarang out of his shoulder and flicked it aside. "You weren't using this hand at all. What happened to it?"

One side of Batman's face was lost in a deep puffy ache. He hazily wondered if the knife had chipped a bone. The Lieutenant now held the serrated knife edge to Batman's throat, right under the chin where the cowl ended. "It's not personal interest, by the way, just professional curiosity. Got to know the foe." He hooked his free arm under Batman's shoulder and lifted him against the door of the truck, face to the glass. Batman steadied his weight over his feet and stretched his jaw side-to-side, testing if anything was broken. The Lieutenant held the blade tight against his skin. "Now we take a walk. Nothing to say in the meantime?"

Batman swallowed, feeling the prick of the serrations on his trachea. He spoke, "You should know one thing."


"Femoral bleed-outs are a killer."

Lieutenant Wilson glanced down: Batman's arm was tucked inward, and he held another batarang pressing point-first against the top of Wilson's thigh. The Lieutenant reacted, turning away and wrenching Batman with him. The small motion was enough gap for Batman to drop the batarang and slip his good hand under the knife. Wilson dug the weapon inward, trying to cut through the gauntlet and reach the throat. Batman held the blade, feeling it eat into his hand. Drops of blood slid through the fraying material.

The soldier was tremendously strong. They struggled in stalemate, then the Lieutenant slipped his other arm out and punched Batman in his stitches.

The Dark Knight grimaced and nearly let go of the knife. The Lieutenant punched again, a deep blow below the ribs where the laceration made his whole flank sore. Batman tried to block the next punch with his wrapped hand, but it was too weak; the soldier grabbed it away and punched again. Batman was almost blind with pain. He set his teeth and strained to keep his footing. Another rocking punch. Batman's grip wavered, and two fingers slipped off the knife.

Batman took a deep breath and yelled, launching his broken fist up over his shoulder and into the Lieutenant's broken nose.

The Lieutenant's whole body twitched in shock. He made a noise between a scream and a gurgle, and his next stitch-punch missed. Meanwhile, Batman's fist was on fire; bee strings ran along the inflamed joints and tendons. Batman took a shaky breath and punched again. The Lieutenant tried to duck away but was too close. With the uncanny aim of a prizefighter, Batman landed another one on his bandaged snout.

For the first time, the Lieutenant's knife-hand shook. He tucked his head and tried another gut-punch. Batman retaliated again, missing the nose but hitting the soft bone under the eye. This trade of punishing strikes continued for three more rounds, each more disabling than the last. Finally, Batman landed one last blind hammer-fist to the nose, forcing Lieutenant Wilson to stumble back. In a blink, Batman turned the knife away and slipped out.

They faced each other, nearly blind, lungs heaving like bellows. Batman's hands were slabs of agony; his limbs were lead, yet he had only a second before the giant caught himself. The Dark Knight shuffled forward and delivered a headbutt into Lieutenant Wilson's face. They both rocked from the impact, but Batman's will to break the face of crime knew no bounds. He shrugged away the weakened hands trying to stop him and headbutted again. And again. And again. And again.


Amanda Waller trudged through the snow as her five escorts scanned the roofs and windows. Truth be told, Amanda was eager to leave. This farce was a thorny diversion from more important programs; her responsibilities certainly stretched beyond the narrow affairs of Fort Morrison. She had considered moving to her next post in a few weeks anyway. Morrison was one of the simpler research projects she had a hand in. Her subordinates here could manage without her.

Amanda's entourage approached the appropriate warehouse. A loading bay door was open and lights were on. As they neared, they could hear an engine sputtering inside. The group peered in. Her truck was sat idling under a light. Lieutenant Slade Wilson leaned casually against its snowplow, arms propped on top, lieutenant's cap pulled down over his eyes.

Amanda turned to her escort squad. "Gentlemen, there's my ride. Double time it back to your patrol route. Dismissed."

There was a scattering of affirmatives as the squad jogged back around the corner. She took off her winter cap and walked towards the truck, announcing, "Let's hit the road, Lieutenant."

He stayed perfectly still.

Amanda realized something was wrong with commendable speed, but it too late. Before she could turn or cry for help, a rope fell behind her, and Batman rappelled down. He seized her by the collar and gagged her with a piece of masking tape.

Batman had a well-honed eye for how much surprise he evoked. Amanda Waller jumped at his appearance, her pupils contracted, but her reaction was tepid overall. Batman paced around and taped her wrists together. He towered over her. She tried to express through her eyes that she was unimpressed. He glared down. "Get in the truck, passenger's side."

She scowled but complied. When Amanda climbed inside and shut the door, he went to Lieutenant Wilson and pulled the broomstick out of the back of his shirt. Batman lifted the Lieutenant's limp body, dragging him to a partly-disassembled furnace where he tied the soldier's hands to its cast iron leg with a length of cord. He returned to the truck and took the driver's seat. She glared at him. He ignored her, put the truck into drive, and left the warehouse. A few turns later brought them to the dead end of a particularly remote alley.

He ripped the tape off her mouth. She winced and stuck her tongue out at the taste.

They stared at each other. She raised an eyebrow. "My, you look like you've been through Hell."

"I guess that makes you the Devil."

"Clever. What do you want?"

"You're after my associate near the east gate. How close are the pursuers?"

Amanda chuckled. "I have to say, you've got some big brass ones, don't you?"

"That wasn't an answer."

"Why should I tell you a single damn thing?"

"When I'm hindered, I can be ... coercive."

She scowled. "I'd like to see you try."

"Or I might disappear. You'll never find me outside these walls. I'll haunt you forever. But every minute we talk is another minute your men might catch me before I leave."

Amanda was a pragmatist. She considered this a moment. "Fine. Last I heard, your girlfriend got away."

"You're lying." Batman seized her by the ear and pulled. She gasped. "Lie one more time, and I'm gone." He let go.

Amanda took a few breaths to collect herself. "She was seen heading through the woods towards a motor pool near the gate."


"And that's it. Maybe they snatched her by now, maybe not. I don't know."

"Order a report."

"Excuse me?"

"Get on the radio and ask for the status of the pursuing forces. You've done it all night; I think you remember how."

She lifted her taped arms. "Mind cutting this?"

He handed her the microphone instead. "Improvise."


Colonel Abner Tanner wasn't going to fall for the same trick twice.

A patrol had heard noises coming from the old hanger. The doors were blocked and locked respectively. That was fine as far as he was concerned: the target inside was a known threat, a real wildcat who broke a man's arm and bent a rifle in half if certain witnesses were to be believed. Most of Idaho squad was getting patched up from her cuts and gashes. He didn't know what kind of quack medicine could give a lady such inhuman strength, but he hoped it was illegal. He did know that sending anyone into a dark, cluttered building with her inside was a boneheaded idea.

But that wasn't the trick he was going to to avoid. No, the trick was having paid too much attention to the main door. He learned his lesson: this time he spread out. He had over twenty men with him; more would arrive soon. He had them spaced in a even circle, well away from the walls. He even had a pair of guards climb on the roof.

His radio operator walked up to him. "It's Miss Waller, sir."

He took the receiver. "How can I help you ... Uh-huh ... Yeah, we found her ... What was that? ... Yes, the intruder's in the old hanger at the east Motor Pool ... Don't worry, we have the place closed down tighter than a prohibitionist rally at Mardi Gras, she's not going any- ... Yes, that was a joke ... No! I'm not going to apologize for having a sense of jocular embellishment ... Yes, I intend to wait her out, at least for half an hour or so- ... That's correct, if she leaves, she won't get a step past us, and yes, unless she begs for mercy, we will go in after her ... That's all you wanted? ... Okay, good l- ... Hello? ... Hello? ... She hung up on me. Unbelievable." Colonel Tanner returned the receiver to the backpack. "That woman is unbelievable."

From inside the hanger, he heard an engine start. It sounded strange, like it was turning a prop. Was there still a plane inside? No one had ventured in for months, not since he'd been assigned to the Fort. Gasoline could last that long, but still ...

A few officers looked at him expectantly.

He shrugged. Even if the lady spy opened the hanger without his notice, no one was stupid enough to launch a moldy antique in this weather. It was the same slip-out-the corner trick as before. He told his officers to focus on the back and sides, and to keep a healthy distance. She wouldn't sprint past them again.


Batman watched Amanda Waller end the transmission. His head was bowed in seething frustration. He sat up quickly when he saw her watching.

"Sorry, kiddo, I guess her story's done."

"No. Tell them to stand down."

"I hold a lot of the cards around here, but that Colonel's got a proud streak. Do you really think he'd walk away this close to the prize? He's out for blood. He broke my instructions chasing after her in the first place.

"Tell him there's mitigating circumstances. You see a platoon of hostiles attacking the camp."

"He'd double-check with somebody at camp first. He'd assume I'm off my rocker or compromised."

"Then say you've been compromised. You're my hostage. If he wants you back, he let's her go."

"You think you can pull a hostage trade under all our noses and live to tell about it? No one's that smooth."

"Only fools presume to know what I'm capable of."

"Well, he might go for that, or maybe he'd cheat you, or maybe he'd kill her out of spite when you ask. I'm not the most popular lady here. Although," She pretended to ponder for a moment, "Given the competition, maybe I am."

Batman willed himself to ignore her smug look. "You're not working very hard to save yourself, Waller. You know how this place runs. Make a suggestion."

"Hmmmm." She scrutinized him oddly. "I take it you're not some kind of Bolshevik?"

"How does that-"

"It's a simple question. Answer it: are you a socialist?"

Batman paused. By one estimate, he privately managed a twelfth of a percent of the American economy.

"... No. Now what are you proposing?"

"You're not affiliated with any subversive group? If you are, I'll find out."

"I work for myself. Spit it out."

"I'll be blunt. At the heart of things, I'm a manager. I connect talented individuals with special tasks. To that end, I'm given a certain latitude in where or how I find my talent."

"The point?"

"Let me finish. You're capable. So is your lady friend, I imagine, but this is about you. You're here for justice? I hunt the biggest scum on Earth. I could use you."

"You're offering me a job?"

"You get on the radio: the Colonel knows your voice. Tell him you've surrendered into my custody, then I'll ask him to hold his fire. I'll explain to him that we will visit him together, and you'll convince your partner to come out peacefully. No one gets hurt. You get a job. She gets offered a job. If she refuses, she walks away, minus anything she's carrying. That's a plan the Colonel will tolerate."

"And we walk away scot-free?"

"You're skeptical. I respect that. I told you I have latitude to make things happen, and you've seen a little of that already. Nothing you've done tonight can't be swept under the rug; you didn't kill anyone, after all." She turned with sudden doubt. "Wait, you didn't kill my lieutenant, did you?"

"The big one's alive."

"Good, good. Then your friend gets dropped off in town and, as far as Uncle Sam cares, she was nothing but a bad dream. Scot-free. You stay with me on a tight leash and get the chance to serve under the auspices of American authority."

Batman stared at the radio, blood boiling. He forced himself to recall that this lady was a murderer, that her whole organization was a cabal of murderers. They didn't merit anything short of a long sentence in a dark pit. But if he said no ...

"I'd choose quickly. Your partner's dead in twenty minutes or so. Maybe sooner."

He fought it, he really did, but he imagined Catwoman. He imagined her face. He imagined her under siege. The fear. The moment of violence. He imagined the aftermath. His gut knoted, filled with ice.

Batman reached for the radio and depressed the toggle. "Thi-" He heard a sudden heavy buzzing.

The pair leaned forward and peered up.

Scant yards above the tops of the buildings, a shaky aircraft weaved overhead like a drunken goose.

Waller sighed.


The Airco DH.4B was a British bomber and scout plane modified to satisfy the reckless daredevils of the U.S. Postal Service. Thirty-one feet long, this workhorse was the jewel of 1919 civil aviation with a range of 350 miles and an average speed of 115 miles per hour. The Air Mail pilots, most of whom had a crash or three under their belts by their second year, cut as glamorous a figure as any of the era. These were the rootin'-tootin', seat-of-the-pants cowboys of the early days, men who navigated by the wind in their face and checked their speed by the singing of the wires. They had a compass that failed to always work and an altimeter that always failed. If the helmet-and-goggles boys held one criticism of the craft, it was that ice had a tendency to collect on the wings, a problem not shared by the most popular plane of the time, the Curtiss Jenny, whose carburetor vibrated so badly the ice fell off.

Catwoman knew none of this. She didn't know the model or its history. She didn't know how to ease the stick along to ride a heavy crosswind. She didn't know that if you couldn't hear the wires sing or the fabric beat like a drum, that meant you were going too slow to maintain altitude. She had no idea just how quickly ice could weigh down a wing, even outside of a snowstorm, and she was only casually aware that the wind chill at typical airborne cruising speeds made the ground temperature seem a balmy September afternoon by comparison. In fact, she had never even been in an airplane.

Fortunately, she had seen biplanes started in the movies. It didn't look that difficult. They had the pilot turn a crack in the cockpit for the engine, while a hasty assistant yanked a propeller blade clockwise so it spun. Of course, she didn't have an assistant (or a pilot's license), but she could improvise. She turned the magnito crank and pulled the ignition.

The engine hadn't been oiled or degreased in two years; the gasoline in the tank was half as old and one-third full, and there was a nest of ants in the exhaust pipe, but somehow the engine started to cough and chug, sounding faintly like a diseased elk through the membrane of a timpani drum. Praying it didn't die on her or explode, Catwoman hopped out and tugged at the propeller. It wavered a little. She tried again. It shifted like she was pulling it through molasses. She jumped and hung onto the blade, letting her body weight drag them down. The blade resisted for half a second then spun freely like a pinwheel. She fell onto her back, the propeller nearly slicing open her knee.

She dragged the chocks from the tires. After a minute, the Airco DH.4B started to inch forward. Catwoman nimbly tumbled to the side. As a tire rolled over the edge of her cape, she realized the plane wasn't driving straight. As it gracefully curved towards a wall, Catwoman raced back up the cockpit. The craft's long tail swung around and knocked over a few boxes. She flung half her body into the cockpit and hugged the stick back and forth, struggling to correct course. The plane, rolling at a brisk foot per second now, started to turn at the speed of a small glacier. A crate broke open, spilling potatoes along the floor. Catwoman stood, stepped along along the fuselage, hopped atop the wing, and then leaped past the spinning propeller, landing in front of the overhead door. Its latch was locked to the floor, and even she couldn't pick it open it in time - there was a loud saw blade approaching, after all. So, resigned to the least glamorous of thieving techniques, Catwoman took her briefcase, lined its metal hinge up to the small latch, and gave her best golf swing.

Her arms shook on impact. The latch stayed. The propeller scooted closer. She hitched her arms and swung again. The lock popped off. She set her feet and pushed. The vast door swung slowly up. Catwoman turned and dropped to the floor as the plane rolled above her.

In the snowy dark outside, a loose semi-circle of troops faced the door at twenty paces. Three of these soldiers were Private Hershey, Private Denunzio, and their Sarge.

Sarge peered forward. "The door's opening!"

Hershey tilted an ear. "It sounds like a diseased elk!"

Denunzio nodded. "Yeah, from inside a timpani drum!"

Sarge held an arm out. "Now you boys remember, we hold our place. Look around for anyone using the plane as a distraction."

They tried to peer into the hanger. The Airco gradually picked up speed. In moments it passed them.

"It's empty, sir."

"Good eyes, Hershey. Keep looking."

A moment later, Catwoman clawed up from where she clung under the fuselage. With a few deft movements, she shimmied over the wing and slid into the cockpit.

Denunzio noticed some movement behind him. He saw her as she slid inside. "THERE SHE IS!"

Catwoman ducked, curled up under the lip of the cockpit, and closed her eyes. Five rifles opened fire. The fusillade ripped holes in the rudder and the wings. A bullet pinged off the steel tube around her. The next one punched through under her arm and cracked open the dashboard. More soldiers ran over, firing on the move, but the plane was too fast to catch. The margin of Catwoman's mind not preoccupied with being perforated remembered that the hanger entrance was perpendicular to the long dimension of the clearing. In other words, she was about to crash into the forest.

She reluctantly peeked above the cockpit and confirmed that, yes, her plane was about to cuddle a pine tree the size of her impending hospital bill. She grasped the stick and turned. Turning a speeding airplane on the ground was not the same as turning a car. It dipped as it turned, banking so low the wing nearly touched the ground. Still curled on her side, Catwoman had an instant of nauseous weightlessness. Sitting up would have helped, but the stragglers chasing behind her were still trying to bother her with high-velocity distractions, so she stayed put.

The snow on the path thus far had been soft and even, slowing the plane like a half-pressed brake. However, the turn aligned her with the direction of the clearing where plenty of vehicles had passed already. They had left scores of ruts through the snow, exposing the slick pavement. Catwoman dared to sit up and aimed at the widest rut. After a moment of skating, the Airco slotted into the grove in with a series of shuddering bumps. It caught the pavement and sped forward. It was in that moment of speed that Catwoman realized she had no idea how high to set the throttle; she had innocently pushed it to the limit to get going, not realizing the snow was slowing her down. At this pace it might stall out on the takeoff climb or do a flip or something. That would be bad.

She pawed around, trying to find the throttle again by touch (the blast of frigid wet air had effectively blinded her), until she suddenly felt the world lean back and heard the wheels leave the ground.


Private Hershey numbly reset the safety catch on his smoking rifle. Colonel Tanner strode up beside him, his expression unreadable. The Private hung his head. "Sorry, sir."

The Colonel let out a tired snort and slapped Hershey fondly on the back. "Don't apologize, son. You did your job."

"But that spy got away."

"What that spy got was an uncommonly fancy coffin, Private. If that wreck stays in the air three minutes, I'll eat my hat. 'Bout the only thing out there's mountains n' steeper mountains. Go get some sleep."


Amanda Waller covertly ran a finger along the passenger door latch. She scrunched her nose. It would hurt to jump out, snow or no snow, and she didn't like that at all. She didn't fear pain, but having to suffer was almost an insult. Amanda firmly believed that the point of being clever and cautious was that you could get what you wanted in life without much discomfort, or at least you could get someone else to suffer it. In her eyes, humanity was bad at this, and the armed forces were worse. She saw most of the military as a club of rowdy yahoos who crashed and stumbled from problem to problem like a donkey caught in a thornbush. This offered plenty of opportunities for a lady of her gifts to make herself useful, but it was embarrassing to watch. Even a somewhat sophisticated operator like this so-called Bat Man looked as beaten as a training dummy in a school of attack dogs. Who knew what wild dreams he was willing to suffer for? Long story short, jumping out of moving vehicles was a fool's game.

"Don't even think about it."

Then again, perhaps she wasn't as subtle as she thought.

Amanda took her taped hands off the door. "Just stretching."


Batman drove slowly through the quiet back paths of the Fort. Neither conceded to face the other.

"So what's your endgame here, champ?"

He said nothing.

"You won't get past the gate, you know. I'm not sure what you think your options are."

"You're slow on the uptake, Waller. It's in your hands now."


He turned a final corner. Sixty yards ahead was the camp gate, a sliding barricade flanked by lights and soldiers and a watchtower.

"Option one: you smile and spin a story so they let us though."

She lowered her voice. "And option two?"

"Option two: you hesitate and I step on the gas. Maybe I break through the gate, maybe we crash and burn."

"If you so much as touch the pedal funny, the-"

"Your guards will open fire? I've been shot at all night. Care to join me?"

She frowned but bit back what she was going to to say. Getting shot at was a fool's game.

"... Fine. Go."

He cut her hands apart and gave a short grunt of approval. It sounded a little too smug for her taste.


To call what Catwoman was doing piloting would be an insult to pilots. The fairest description was that, in wrestling frantically with the controls, she managed to consistently miss the ground. For the first time in her life, she desperately wished she wore a big pair of goggles. The air rubbed her face raw. Breathing was a pain, but at least it was something. She couldn't feel any skin above the neck. Her ears were a distant memory.

The moon was her only guide. it offered faint monochrome silhouettes of the slopes and cliffs she struggled to rise above. The engine was weak, and the dancing crosswinds buffeted her down and sideways. She knew intellectually to head south, but that meant nothing up here. She could only turn and turn, racing towards the next gap in the jigsaw horizon. Once she caught sight of a gray ribbon snaking along the valley below. Could it be a road? She couldn't tell, and when she looked again it was gone.

As she crested a particularly harrowing peak, brushing the tops of the massive pines, Catwoman realized she heard nothing. It was a very loud and sudden nothing, and she didn't recognize what was wasn't hearing for several seconds: the engine had stopped.


"-so you see, Sergeant Connolly. I'm just escorting Capitán Alvarado here off the Fort to avert a diplomatic incident. The Mexican high command wouldn't take kindly if their visiting observer was hurt by a saboteur."

Sergeant Connolly and the seven other soldiers of the gate garrison traded glances. The Sergeant looked back into the truck's cabin. "Forgive me ma'am, I didn't realize we had a, uh, dignitary with us."

Amanda Waller nodded graciously. "That's quite all right, Sergeant. We've kept it very hush-hush."

"So you're escorting him back to ..."

"We'll stop at a hotel downstate where he can take a taxi to the consulate."

"And he's driving?"

"Oh, you know, Latin machismo and all that. And a lady like myself, well, could you imagine me behind the wheel of this dirty contraption? Heavens."

The Sergeant shone his flashlight through the open window and scrutinized Batman, who had eyed him steadily the whole conversation without shifting a muscle.

"And this is a Mexican Army uniform?"

Amanda chuckled. "Well, not standard issue. It's a special camouflage our two nations have been jointly innovating. I'm afraid the details are above your pay grade, soldier. "

"It doesn't look like camouflage."

"We're still working out a few issues."

"He looks badly injured."

"The poor man was caught in one of the attacks earlier. Didn't you hear it? That's why it's critical we get him to a safe place along with the prototype."

The Sergeant squinted closer at Batman. "And you're Mexican?"

Batman gave a slow nod. "Sí." He held out a hand. "Hola."

Sergeant Connolly accepted the awkward handshake. He looked at the gate and whistled uncomfortably. "Alright ma'am, we'll open the gate. Sorry for slowing you down. We're under orders to keep a tight lid on things."

"Yes, perfectly understandable, soldier. Keep up the good work."

"Thank you, ma'am. And drive safe, uh, sir."

"Gracias, mi compañero." Batman looked ahead and stepped off the brake. "Ahora, vamos."


When Catwoman got over her shock (her emotional shock, at least; she was still freezing), she realized that her airplane hadn't become an anvil, it had become a glider - a very bad glider.

Basic physics commanded that all flying surfaces maintained forward momentum when falling. A wing's surface was diagonal when descending: it's lift vector was partly vertical and partly horizontal. Consequently, pressure pushing under the wing both slowed a craft's fall (like a parachute) and pushed it forward (like a sail). The efficiency of this was measured by the equation of lift over drag, also known as L/D or the glide ratio. A glide ratio of three meant the craft would travel three yards forward for every yard it fell.

The glide ratio of Great War aircraft typically varied between seven and nine under ideal conditions and around five in practice. If a Sopwith Camel, for instance, was cruising at a reasonable 5,000 feet and turned off it's engines, a good pilot could expect to travel at least five miles before landing.

Catwoman was not a good pilot. The Airco DH.4B was a tad more modern than it's wartime cousins, but the particular bird Catwoman flew limited that advantage with the sort of regular upkeep one found in lost Aztec tombs. On a positive note, cold air was dense and helped to slow a descent, and this air was nearly broth. This broth merely delayed the inevitable, however, as she had no idea how fast she was traveling, her altitude, or where she was going. Her best guesses were: "A mountain every three minutes," "I can see the branches from here," and "Ummm."

The seat under her rumbled as she sped lower. Pulling up haltingly, Catwoman barely managed to clear a ridge, but that was the last ounce of climb she had: the nose dipped with a vengeance and she knew she wouldn't be able to rise over any more obstacles. It was all downhill now. The plane was gliding well below the peaks, slipping through the steep valley.

Then the valley opened up into a grand circle of mountains, and in the center was a moon-flecked field of snow, round and flat as a dinner plate.

Fueled by a new hope, Catwoman aimed down, hoping to gain enough speed to pull into a gentle curve that would run parallel to the ground just just before she ran out of altitude.

She discovered that this sort of precision was very difficult. The final stretch passed in terrifying silence.

She pulled up a moment early, leveling out twenty feet above the ice. Compensating in fright, she tipped the craft down. The plane stopped floating like a feather and dropped the last twenty feet like a bowling ball.

The Airco DH.4B bounced off the ice with a frame-bending shake, bounced again, then crashed into the lake beneath.


Batman and Amanda Waller traveled down the long switchbacks of Fort Morrison without speaking. It wasn't until they pulled onto the main road fifteen minutes later when he broke the silence.

"A Mexican military observer?"

She crossed her arms. "I'd like to see you invent a cover on short notice for someone as ridiculous as you."


"And what now? Are we off to some Podunk county lockup?" She chuckled. "Am I under citizen's arrest?"

"Your case will be ready soon enough."

"Is this when you tell me to 'count my hours' and sprinkle in something about the wrath of God?"

"You think I resort to melodrama?"

"If the shoe fits."

"I know my audience."

"You do. So you know it's no use yelling at me, and it seems for all the hot sauce someone poured in your ear, you aren't going to slap me around like a self-respecting vigilante."

He glared, daring her to tempt him. "Even with the blood of two homicides on your hands, you have the hubris to act like your crimes were operational expenses. You deserve worse."

"Now look, for what it's worth, that poor vagrant couple wasn't my idea. I learned the details at the last minute. That's not how I operate. "

"If you're making a confession, I don't absolve sins."

"No, that was an argument that if you're out for justice, your efforts are misguided. We're-"

"Misguided? Were the murderers punished? Did you step down for letting it happen under your watch? Forget your so-called intentions, do you really think you can convince me you haven't nurtured a conspiracy to make your problems disappear by any means necessary?"

"Are you trying to shame me, boy? I don't have the blessed privilege of your private morality. The world's too small, and we're living in a neighborhood of warlords and mass graves. You have no idea how close Kriegsmarine U-boats are to turning our coast into a daily shooting gallery, let alone the webs of agents just waiting to carve us up from the inside. And those are just the threats we understand." Batman became very still at this remark. Amanda chuckled darkly. "Oh, you're a smart one. You've noticed the edge of the rabbit hole, haven't you? This nation is on the cusp of a great and terrible endeavor, and we've got our pants around our ankles. You think you have me judged? You don't know your rear from a hole in the ground."

"Enlighten me."

"Fact is, I'm the closest this little democracy has to a survival plan. I do what I must - never one iota less. Why? Because every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claim to perform that service are imperious."

"Nathan Hale."

"You stayed awake in civics class, very good. So, to continue my original question, why I am I still along for your little ride? Hoping to make me bleat another secret before we get to town? Or are we in for another round of the silent treatment?"

"No. Bringing you're along serves two purposes. First, a chance to make one fact clear."

"All ears."

"At your old infirmary, you'll find a hole in the vault that holds the influenza cultures."

"How did you-"

"Do not speak." He silenced her with a glare. "The virus is still there, and it will stay there."

"Oh?" Her features pulled tight with scorn. "Pray tell why?"

"You and I aren't finished, but that just makes you one more scum on the corner of my agenda. I have other monsters to cage. But if you start weaponizing a disease or any program that threatens innocents on that scale, then it's over. You become my only priority. I hunt you to the ends of the Earth, and I won't be gentle next time. This is your only warning."

"Starting a plague is low on my to-do list. That said, if you sincerely believe you can coerce me or the United States government with a threat, then you've gravely misread your hand."

"Force my hand and we'll see."

"And what was your other purpose for keeping me this long?"

Batman hit the brakes. "A punishment in advance. Get out."

"Uh, what?"

"Get out of the truck now or I throw you out."

"Be serious, we must be three miles out by now.

"If you don't think I'm serious, you're an idiot."

"I'll be half-frozen before I reach the nearest outpost."

"If you're lucky."


"Four seconds."

Amanda huffed and tightened the belt on her coat. She opened the door and climbed down. As she closed the door, she offered her final words in a smooth and level tone, "Sooner or later you'll recognize the real threats. When that happens, give me a call."


Most aircraft did not float in water. However, because they were lightweight in proportion to their surface area, they did not sink very quickly either. Just how long until they submerged was a matter of some debate.

Catwoman wasn't sure if she had been unconscious or merely blinded by the splash. All she knew was that there had been a great hurly-burly of motion, time had passed, and now there was a terrible pain on her right side - a deep bruise from her chest to just above her hip. She gingerly reached up and rubbed her whiplashed neck as she slumped back, wanting nothing more than to rest here in the warmth and stillness of not being airborne.

Then the plane wiggled and, with a low gurgling noise, she felt herself lowering.

Many words sparked through Catwoman's mind - few fit for print and none in complete sentences. She hustled to stand then winced and fell back again. Catwoman had never broken a rib, which was sort of miraculous given her lifestyle, and she wondered if this was what a broken rib felt like. Maybe it was just a sprain. She tried to remember if rib sprains were a thing, or if it was strains, and what the difference was.

The plane lowered again. A few sprays of water started to form puddles in the cockpit out of unseen cracks. Taking pride that her boots were waterproof, Catwoman looked around. Her landing had fractured the ice surprisingly little. There was slushy lake water for a few feet out, then a periphery of man-sized fragments of doubtful stability, and finally the edge of the ice sheet not nine feet away.

She took her briefcase by the handle and threw it before collapsing in pain. The briefcase spun through the air and skidded along the ice. Another four streams began to leak into the cockpit. Moving her wounded side as little as possible, Catwoman gently pulled herself up onto the fuselage. What remained of the lower wings had already sunk into the lake, but the upper wings were high and dry. She worked her way onto one and dragged herself to the edge. As she slid further from the center, the plane began an agonizing tilt. When she finally rolled off the tip, the wing was almost level with ice. It still hurt though.

The cakes of cracked ice under her were barely enough to hold her weight, but if there was one thing Catwoman knew it was crawling on fragile platforms. Catwoman gently moved toward the thicker sheet as chunks broke off behind her. When she could finally get to her feet, Catwoman found the briefcase and pulled out her flashlight. The beam faded at about ten yards, and it was at least a hundred to the nearest shore.

"Well, no rest for the wicked."

Catwoman slowly started walking. Her foot broke through a few times, but she kept her balance and pressed on. There was no wind on the lake, and the snow had nearly stopped. Also, no one was shooting at her. It was almost pleasant. When she reached the shore, she found some fallen branches and set about making a fire. Being a dyed-in-the-wool city girl, this turned out to be several orders of magnitude more difficult than she imagined. It figured that she was the one lady in in Gotham who didn't carry a lighter. Batman could probably start a blaze with sand and a wet stick, if he didn't have six gadgets to do the job already (a habit she found ironic for a self-proclaimed creature of darkness).

Eventually, after grueling experimentation, she managed to spark a few warm embers by rubbing the flashlight's battery against the steel of her claws. Catwoman huddled over her miniscule flame to hide it from the snow. There was nothing to do but wait as it grew. The stillness was almost meditative. She had made it. There was no big sprint to rest for and no obstacle to climb.

The silence gave her far too much time to wonder what had happened to her self-proclaimed creature of darkness. It was an odd discomfort, almost a cognitive dissonance. On the one hard, while she was the first to point out that Batman was "just" human, she really couldn't imagine him failing, not in the abstract. Sure, he had setbacks, but he was always hunting again the next night: the consummate survivor. That was half his mystique. Otherwise he would have just been a strange obituary.

On the other hand, she only escaped the Fort patrols by dint of the biggest chain of flukes in her career, and at least she had been trying to escape. He set out to do the opposite! Unless he suddenly grew wings, she couldn't imagine him punching his way past the whole camp. No, like all self-important renegades, he was looking for his blaze of glory. When he finally ... when it did happen, would they say in the news? Probably not. Too embarrassing. He'd be one more secret to sweep under the rug. She'd never hear the details.

Well, at least she could finish what he started. That was worth something. Catwoman put out her fire and picked up the briefcase. The frozen lake stretched out into the darkness. If she followed the shore, maybe she could find a river. Rivers led to civilization. It was better than the woods.

An interminable period later (no more than an hour in hindsight), she spied a strange shape along the water. A pier! No boats were moored, but with some searching she found a broad footpath up the hill. At the top of the hill was a dirt road through the foliage. There was a cluster of small buildings and a sign on a tall pole:

Hank's Tanks

Gas / Food / Ammo / Bait / Road maps

Souvenirs / More Ammo / Boat rentals

None of the windows were lit. The place seemed deserted. Catwoman walked up the the largest building. It had two gas pumps in front and a phone line running out along the road. That was promising. This was clearly the store; she could see lines of shelves through the windows. A snack would be nice.

On any other night, Catwoman would carefully pick the lock on the door. Her fingers weren't feeling cooperative tonight so she kicked a hole in the window. It was dark inside. She hunted for the phone. It turned out to be behind the counter, an old wall model with a cone speaker. As she reached for the rotary dial, she heard footsteps behind her.

"Might want to step back there."

Catwoman turned. A tall, lanky man in long underwear and untied boots was stepping through her hole in the window. He held a bright lantern in one hand and a rifle in the other. She bashfully turned off her flashlight.

"Hi. Who are you?"

The man placed the lantern on the counter. "I own the joint. Important question is, who're you?"

"I, uh ..."

"Cause you don't look like the kind of lady who'd steal things, but it is night and you did break my window."

"I don't look like ... right! Stealing? Course not." She coughed primly. "You must be Hank." He raised an eyebrow. The store name was painted in huge letters on the wall. She nodded awkwardly. "Right, well I'm ... a pilot."

"Pilots carry whips?"

"Oh, sure. This is a ... a pilot's whip. We use it for piloting things. Keeps the, uh ... wings ... tight."

"You don't look like an aviatrix."

"I'm a stunt pilot. They call me the ... Amazing ... er ... Cat."

The man pulled at his lip thoughtfully. "Oh, like a barnstormer. Well, that would explain your fanciful get-up. Got'r impress the kiddies."

"Oh, the costume, yes. I wear this for ... the children."

"That's swell, but it still don't say what you're doing in my store."

"Big misunderstanding, Hank. See, I was pulling an all-nighter to get to Gotham City for a show, racing there like I stole the plane, and I had a little crash. I walked here to find help. I would have knocked but I thought your shop was deserted."

"You were flying through this big storm?"

"That's right."

He whistled. "If that's true then you really do belong in the City. But where's the wreck?"

"It sort of sunk into your lake."

Hank was skeptical. "It sunk through the ice, but you got out?"

She put her hands on her hips. "I am a stunt pilot, you know. We eat little crashes for breakfast."

"Hmm. I guess that would explain the smell."

"What smell?"

"Geez, is your nose deaf? You smell like smoke."


"And motor oil."

"I guess-"

"Cause boy, it's powerful. Did you take a nap in the exhaust pipe?"

She forced a laugh. "Well, I guess that shows I am a pilot. Who has been piloting. A plane. Recently. And not a thief."


"Come on, would a thief have a briefcase?"

"Okay, I suppose you might just be a dame caught in a bad stroke of luck."

"Beautiful. Look, I'm very sorry about the window. I'll make it up to you. I just need to make a phone call. That's all."

Hank considered this and shrugged. "A'ight. Make the call."

"Thank you." Catwoman turned and dialed a number.

It rang. A voice picked up.



"... Selina? What's the- Don't you know what time it is?"

"Actually, I don't. Long story. Listen, I need some-"

"Yeah, and I need six more hours of sleep. My job's riding on a huge presentation tomorrow. Or today, I guess. It's a whole big thing. Try me in the morning."

Catwoman yelled into the receiver. "Hey! Hey!"


"Hold on! I'm calling in the Favor!"

There was silence on the other end of the line. Catwoman pressed the point. "Did you hear me, Mave? Remember the Favor?"

"... This had better be important, 'Lina."

"It is, it is, listen: get a paper and a pen. Write this down."


"You have your car, right?"

"You want me to write down that I have a car?"

"No, just-"

"Yes, geesh, I have my car. Of course I do. It's parked out back."

"Good. At the end of this call, get in the car and go north on the Turnpike. Keep going until ... hold on." She looked at Hank. "Hey buddy, how do you get here from Gotham City?"

"Get here? Through those hills? If you're in a car tonight, miss, you don't."

"Okay, then where's the nearest route that can take a car?"

"Highway's 'bout seven miles down Baker's Mill Road. Once you get there it ought'a be clear enough."

"Seven miles! I can't walk that."


"Hey, you live here. How do you get around?"

"Mostly I don't. Truck's in the shop."

"What about emergencies?"

"Well, I do have a haulin' tractor in the shed. Faster than she looks."

"A tractor."


"Well, thanks. I guess that's one relie-."

"Pfff. Hold on, I didn't say I'd taxi you around, Amelia Air-Fart. You think I want to be exposing my delicate self to the elements at this hour? For the lady who broke my nice window?"

Catwoman pursed her lips and eyed him dangerously. "You won't?"

"Nope. Nothing doing."

"Buddy, if you had any idea what I went through to get here ..." She reached discreetly into her satchel.

The owner leveled his rifle with a glare. "Now watch yourself."

Catwoman pulled out a few bills. "I'll give you twenty bucks."

He ran his tongue against his cheek. "Twenty-five. And eight more for the window."

Catwoman grinned. "You have a deal."


Grand old cities were home to many weird specimens of humanity. Some observers assumed they grew there, the dank urban conditions behaving like the soil under a bed of fungi. This was partly true, but it was just as common for oddballs and outcasts to come from elsewhere. To these pilgrims, Gotham was the center of the world. It rivaled the grandest and oldest towns on the continent, but it also had a certain cryptic quality that attracted the deviant like moths to a lamp. And among the human curiosities who found their way there, the most curious seemed to arrive by bus. And among those travelers who arrived by bus, the strangest of all rode the midnight line. Only a truly exceptional life ever reached a point when traveling cross-state on a rickety old bus in the wee hours of the morning in the middle of winter to the middle of Gotham sounded like a good idea.

Batman found a small town just north of the City, parked his snow-plow truck in front of a quiet fire hall, left the keys, and walked four blocks to the bus stop. When the bus arrived, he climbed aboard and took a seat, wearing his Bat-suit and covered with bandages and dried blood. He looked around and found himself the third strangest person aboard.
Author: Batman 1939
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-13 07:06pm

I now have to ask, who are the other two?
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-13 07:40pm

Simon_Jester wrote:I now have to ask, who are the other two?

A man traveling with two cages of ferrets, one live and the other taxidermied. The man is wearing nothing but a ferret fur coat and unlaced boots. The ferrets on the coat still have their heads and paws like that coat that comes to life in Ghostbusters 2.

A woman in a full wedding dress. Looking through her veil, her face seems ancient, the skin lined and mottled, her eyes sunken, her hair wispy and nearly gone. But the skin on her hands is young - as flawless and fresh as a prom queen.
Author: Batman 1939
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2016-09-13 11:02pm

Liked Slade vs. Bruce, final round.

Loved Batman getting Waller to tell him what he wanted by basically threatening to walk away. :D
"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes" When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy." - Lincoln.

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-14 05:12pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:Liked Slade vs. Bruce, final round.

Loved Batman getting Waller to tell him what he wanted by basically threatening to walk away. :D

He recognizes that they have a lot in common, attitude-wise.
Author: Batman 1939
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-14 05:44pm

Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Chapter 18: Being Cold​

As the miles passed and the hills steadily grew to hide the moon, Maven Lewis couldn't imagine any sane person being outside in this weather. She wore two sweaters and a coat but still shivered the whole drive. The snow had stopped, but every other mile seemed to run alongside a gully or cliff. A deer crossed the road minutes ago and nearly gave her a heart attack. Maven mused that parents across America told spooky bedtime stories about the sinister things lurking in the alleys in Gotham City, but locals just called those anecdotes. When Gothamities told spooky bedtime stories, they were about the sinister things lurking in the woods when your car broke down.

Which brought her back to Selina. If it wasn't for the sacred invoking of the Favor, Maven would have sworn this was all a prank. The set-up was more elaborate than her past pranks but not by much. Plus this was the night Selina was going to sneak into that base.

Why does she need a ride? She has a car - that gaudy Phantom she's so proud of. What could possibly- Wait! Maybe she lost her car because she's on the run! What if she's been captured? No, they wouldn't give her a phone if she was captured. But what then? If she's on the run, what if they catch up before I arrive? What if they catch her as I arrive? Could I just drive past and pretend I'm not involved? Sure, that's- No, no, the Favor. But then what? Would there be a chase? Am I about to be in a car chase? Better not be. My insurance is high enough as it is. And I will not be an accessory again; that's the first rule of our friendship, after all. I am so late for work. Why doesn't she have anyone else that can help her? Didn't she go along with -

Maven nearly swerved off the road.

- Holy gosh! That's right, she went with Batman! Oh, gosh, oh gosh, am I going to see Batman? Am I going to give Batman a ride? I shortchanged the hotdog lady last week; maybe he can still smell it on me - the guilt, not the hotdog. What if he doesn't like my car? What if he doesn't fit? I guess he can just ride on the roof. Wait, I thought he flew. Doesn't he just show up wherever he's needed because of some ancient curse? Like, a spiritual thing? Wait, Batman being there sounds like the sort of thing Selina would have mentioned on the phone. Was there a betrayal? Did he turn on her? Or did she turn on him? Who started it? I mean, Batman is the bloody predator of the unjust with an unslakeable thrust for vengeance, sure, but Selina can be really annoying sometimes. They might be fighting when I show up. Am I going to have to fight Batman? How? I didn't bring a roscoe. I don't own a roscoe. I don't even know a Roscoe.

As her thoughts frothed, Maven finally caught sight of her instructed destination: an abandoned diner about fifty miles north of what her dad called "the Boonies". She rolled to a stop and stepped out, keeping the engine running.

Maven yelled, "Hello?"

Munching from a bag of off-brand cookies, Catwoman walked unsteadily through the diner door. "Maven, are you a sight for sore eyes. I wasn't sure you'd come."

"Oh my gosh, Selina, you're white as a sheet! What have you been doing? And why are you wearing a cape?"

"Look, Mave," she coughed. "I'd love to talk, but maybe a little later. Be a dear and grab the briefcase on that bench. I've been carrying it for about a year and if I have to touch it again I'm going to hurt someone."

"Sure, we can talk on the way home."

"That sounds lovely, but I'd rather catch a nap."

"What happened?"

Selina winced as she crawled into the passenger seat. "That's the paradox. If I told you, I wouldn't have time to sleep. Wake me when we hit the city."

"I don't think that's what a paradox is."

"Great. G'night."


Detective James Gordon sat at a booth in the corner of Shucky's Bar beside a pile of crumpled paper. All bars stank - this was a cosmic constant, like the speed of light - but along that stink spectrum, Shucky's was worse than most. There was the classic spilled beer, the dead rat in the corner, the ashtrays being put through their paces (not his own for once), and whatever dust and grime rolled off the coats of the dockworkers who shuffled in every night save for the Sabbath.

Gordon didn't like bars. He preferred his drink at home. He did hold affection for a few Scottish pubs his dad had introduced him to as a young man, though he never had time to visit. If he was the sort to indulge in more self-interest, he would try responsible watering holes like McHaggasey's or the Duchess and the Gentleman: the two cop bars in his precinct. His popularity on the force was ragged at best, and making a few new friends would do wonders for his career. But more often than not, Gordon ended up here at Shucky's or one of the other dives that found it useful to have an off-duty cop around for the hours before last call and were willing to compensate him for the privilege. He missed the sleep, but Barbara was going to get an education if it killed him.

Speaking of killing him, the balled notepad papers beside him were drafts for a press release to announce the stolen cadavers and the murder of that drifter couple. He wrote here because this dirty corner was the closest he had to a sanctuary from the stresses of work and home. He rejected the drafts because he had no gift for tact, and this case had already caused more professional damage to its investigators than his petty career could survive. It wasn't even open; detectives in the GCPD could follow their own private cases off-books and slide hints to the press from time to time. Some rules in the Department were so bent they even let a outcast like him slip by. When everything went smoothly, the brass tended towards a "no harm done" attitude. Of course, this liberty also meant he was on his own. If he provoked whoever was handing down censures, then the whole mess would be on his head.

Gordon had agreed to wait one more day before taking his few leads public. That meant one more day to edit and second-guess, so he didn't write with any particular haste. He rubbed his eyes and checked the clock: nine minutes until he could leave.

His last three drafts had more misspellings than words. He turned to the bar, "Hey, Shucky!"

The shlub manning the taps looked over. "Yeah, Jim?"

"Mind if I cut out early?"

Skucky shrugged with a loose jaw, "Ehhhhhhh. Yeah, alright. Get out'a here."

"Thanks." Detective Gordon ran a thumb under his loose necktie and pulled the knot. "See you next week?"

The barkeep had already turned back to his drink. "Mhh."

Gordon slouched into his tan longcoat and buffed his glasses on the sleeve.

Shuffling outside, James Gordon took a moment to appreciate that the snow had stopped and began his walk home. Two blocks later, he heard a gentle 'clink' as he passed an alley. An empty bottle slid out of the darkness and rolled against his foot. He glanced around, dangerously awake, and palmed the top on his holster. He leaned forward, struggling to glimpse beyond the the hazy moonlight. Nothing moved.

A voice beside him said, "Detective Gordon."


Batman leaned against the brick alley wall with his arms crossed, much closer than Gordon expected a person could hide in the dim. The Dark Knight's outline only became clear when he offered a small nod.

"Let's talk."

Gordon exhaled and rubbed a hand over his face. "Yeah, alright."

Batman turned deeper into the alley. Gordon checked the street then followed. He had accepted long ago that Batman could apparently find him anywhere at any hour, but that was still terrifying. It was like being followed by a stray dog that could read minds and used its endless cunning to hunt people. Sure, he was friendly now, but a stray could always turn and bite. Gordon needed a smoke.

They stopped at a dead end around a corner. No windows faced the alley here and no starlight passed below the eaves far above them.

Gordon pulled his collar up. "Glad to see you made it back. By now I had my doubts."

"You haven't announced the case?"

"No, I kept my word."

"Of course."

"Anything solid this time?"

Batman paused. That was a bad sign. "Fort Morrison is housing a clandestine research program to experiment on cadavers. They used our streets to find corpses when the legal supply dried up. The program is sanctioned by at least one intelligence service and a pair of cabinet departments."

Gordon was too tired to curse. No judge could issue a warrant for 'The Whole Blasted Government'. He winced and looked down.

"And the Duprees?"

"Not sure. It was either an isolated move from the field team to cut corners or a deliberate move from the top for fresher test subjects."

"At least we know the score, and these cutthroats are none the wiser. Now let's pin 'em to the wall."

"My associate and I ... our operation fell apart. We were seen. I was briefly apprehended and questioned."

"Please tell me you didn't announce who you were."

Batman frowned. "I said nothing of substance. My appearance is message enough."

"So someone finally got the mask off, huh?"

"They couldn't see my face. I took precautions."

"As curious as I am how you did that, let's talk evidence. If they know they're being hounded by you, they're gonna send some boys to put an ear to Gotham. We'll have to sit on the goods till the heat dies down. Where are you keeping it?"

Batman paused again. "I don't have it."


"We were surrounded, I set a distraction so my partner could get the evidence to you. But it didn't-"

"To me?" Gorden grabbed Batman's shoulder and snarled. "You told someone who I am?"

"It was the surest way."

"Do you have any idea of how far I stick my neck out whenever we work together? Are you trying to put a little more grease on that guillotine?"

"I'm sorry, Detective."

Gordon stepped back and pounded the wall. "No, you're right. I'm off base. Paranoid type like you wouldn't trust someone without a good reason." He gestured to the empty walls. "But no one's met me tonight. When's your pal arriving?"

"My partner tried to escape on an aircraft, but-"

"He's a pilot?"


"Oh. So you split up and now your friend's buried halfway into a peak somewhere."

"The Kahontsi Range interior."

"Then we're back to square one! No, worse! Now the government's going to be breathing down your neck, your buddy's dead, Lord knows you can't have many of those, and we still don't have a case to build."

Batman waited patiently for him to finish. "The soldiers only cornered me on their home turf. They won't get lucky twice. Now I know the faces of the conspiracy. I don't need to raid an armed camp. I'll find them when they move, when they sleep. The murderers have other programs."

Gordon appraised him with a look that might have been disbelief once, but now was closer to pity. "So it's come to this, huh? If you're starting your own little war, you know I can't help you."

"I know."

Gordon had a family and a job and a face. He could be hurt in so many ways that the Dark Knight couldn't be. Batman had never doubted which of them was braver.

"Then I guess I'm out till you find more proof. We sure can't make a release now. The Army's going to clean up after itself real quick. I've heard of guys who push against the Feds without tying their own loose ends. Ain't pretty." A weak eddy of wind whispered up the alley and spun some snow. Detective Gordon sighed. "Mind if I light up?" It was a perfunctory request. He pulled out his pack of Chesterfields and a lighter. With a flick, he saw Batman in the full glow of the flame and recoiled.

"Holy Moses, did you fall in a wood chipper?"

"It's not as bad as it looks."

"It couldn't be. You're still standing."


"What exactly did you do up there?"

"I survived."

"I wouldn't speak too soon. The hospital might give a discount on blood if you buy in bulk."

"I'll tend to these wounds and start work on my new leads this evening. You should go home."

Detective Gordon nodded, cupping his cigarette as he walked up the alley. He muttered to himself and the universe, "Good luck."


The Dark Knight had hidden nine vehicles around the city in case he was ever stuck on foot. The nearest was parked in a partially-collapsed maintence basement in the south abutment of the Old Cleveland Bridge a third of a mile away. Climbing would be foolish with the icy roofs and his pulled muscles. But staying on the ground meant facing the wildlife. The safest route took him through Sweethearts territory and a few properties protected by the Moonshine King. Even with the weather, Batman didn't want to risk an encounter. So he crept covertly through the side-streets and abandoned stores. The trip to the bridge lasted an hour but offered no witnesses.

Finding a gap in the low fence, Batman slid down the steep embankment to the rocky shore of the frozen West River. The looming span of the Old Cleveland Bridge above cast a giant shadow over the shore. Here a moisture-warped door hid in the huge wall of rugged stone masonry. It was a challenge pushing the small motorcycle up the short staircase. The bike was his own hand-customized machine: light but powerful. He cruised along the shore to the massive drainage pipes beside the river. The pipes were built to handle the week-long storms of the wet season and were as large as train tunnels.

To the unfamiliar, it was a challenge to physically leave Gotham City. Even ignoring the senseless road design, there were many points where the urban sprawl seemed to thin but only led to another zone just as congested. Because the Gotham colony was built on a marsh, the only space to grow was up across the low surrounding hills. Viewed from downtown, these hills tended to conceal their neighborhoods, so a traveler would reach what looked like the open road three or four times before actually crossing the city limits. Batman knew better. The tunnels led into a shallow drainage ditch in the meatpacking district close to the city's edge.

Soon he had left the townhouses behind and cruised the coastal road that hugged the bay. Several quiet roads looped through these woods like long fingers on the hand of the city. He passed the brick drives of million dollar estates nestled in the pines. Traveling gently uphill, the properties grew more isolated and opulent. A minute past the latest home, Batman turned onto a pebbly fire break in the woods. Down a small dip was a line of boulders spread amongst the trees. He parked and pulled at a certain branch which slid inorganically and clicked back into position. One of the boulders began to hum with the movement of heavy gears. A door slid open revealing the mouth of a cave.


Alfred Pennyworth sat reading an old issue of The Saturday Evening Post disinterestedly when he heard the tintinnabulation of the trauma bell. In the old days of this strange war, the poor man used to keep vigil every night so there would be no delay when Master Bruce arrived needing an arm sewn on or any of the other calamities his nightmares suggested. But time passed and Bruce, though rarely untouched, also rarely arrived in a state that demanded sudden care; it took a minimum of fitness to make it home, after all. So Alfred, with more than a little prodding from his tentative patient, decided that at least one of them needed regular sleep.

Still, on certain nights Bruce went forth to face a mission that seemed especially grave, and on these nights Alfred maintained the vigil. At the lonesome sound of the bell, he rose from his chair in the study and strode swiftly to the secret chamber and down the stairs, pulling his robe tight against the draft.

There was something primordial about the Cave, something ancient and unformed. It was a hollow Earth in unhallowed ground, a Chthonic afterlife. The two men had only visited a few of the more accessible chambers, but Bruce suspected it was one of the most extensive subterranean systems east of the Mississippi. In the early days, the young master often insisted that if only the site didn't suit his purposes so well (and, Alfred noted, his temperament), he would invite every geologist and explorer in the state to study the place. He was a man of science, after all. But as time wore on, Bruce voiced this regret less and less. The endless caverns had won his favor. Alfred could scarcely describe it, but on some level the man had become the place, or perhaps the place had become the man.

As it was, Batman's inner sanctum was a makeshift affair. It took weeks of part-time carpentry for the two men to install the most basic stairs and footbridges so they could safely reach the flat stretch of rock Bruce choose as the center. Every month or so they brought down another tool or cabinet to furnish the operation. It was still about as sophisticated as a large campsite in Alfred's eyes, though he admitted their little camp couldn't be outdone for isolation.

By the time Alfred reached the foot of the final staircase, Bruce was sitting mostly undressed at the medical station. Even at a distance, Alfred could see that this would be a long night.

Bruce's face had the sticky appearance of a recently unglued mask. His eyes were bloodshot and hollow.

"Hello, Alfred."

Alfred looked him over clinically. "Well?"

In well-drilled staccato, Bruce recited, "Three inch laceration: lower ribs, wide but not intestinal, sanitized, stitched twice. Bruise: base of the skull, concussion uncertain, fracture to occipital bone unlikely. Broken right hand: second and third metacarpal fracture, aggravated by repeated impacts longitudinal and dorsal. Moderate hypothermia: multiple exposures, no current symptoms. Cushioned stab wound: upper jaw, no puncture but severe bruising. Strained shoulder muscle ..."

He finished two minutes later.

Alfred got to work treating the wounds, asking occasional questions as necessary. When these were satisfied and much of the work was done, he had Bruce sit up and brought him a glass of water. Bruce sipped carefully with an ice pack on his cheek held in place by a band around his head.

"I see you arrived on one of your squirreled-away motorcycles."

Bruce stared dully ahead. "The Ford's destroyed."

"And your suit seems beyond repair. I could mend the rips, but the padding's shot."

Bruce head-shrugged. "I have ideas for the upgrade. Ask the question, Alfred."

Alfred looked him in the eye. "Legal status?"

For the first time in a year, Bruce didn't have a comforting reply. "I've incurred the wrath of the United States of America."

Alfred offered a wan smile. "Take heart, Master Bruce, I hear it's a phase all young men go through."

Bruce didn't respond. He continued staring at the wall.

Alfred checked a clock. "Well, you've best to bed. Everything looks better in the morning. You can tell the tale then."

"Catwoman's dead."

Alfred's soft grin bled away. Bruce continued, unblinking. "I was spotted. Interrogated. She helped me out. We hid, but security had the exits. I planned a diversion so she could leave with the evidence. But she didn't follow the plan. She ... she found an aircraft."

"This Catwoman is a pilot?"


"Oh dear."

"Those mountains have no fields to serve as a runway. I've tried to imagine another outcome, but even if she survived the landing, there would be no shelter. The Army will find the crash when the sun comes up. Either she's dead or she's facing a grand jury by the end of the week."

"Bruce, I'm-"

"You're right, Alfred, a body needs sleep." He stood. "Consequences to consider. Unrelated threats to gauge. Can't afford ... fatigue." He steadily walked to the stairs. "Thank you for the treatment. Suspend my wake-up call. Start ploy seven for the orthopedic consult or your best judgement if impractical. Tell Lucius no on the Havershem proposal. Hold my calls."


Five hours later.

Detective James Gordon opened his front door and straightened his hat. He went to the elevator and headed down. On the way, he pushed his tongue around his gums and reminded himself for the thousandth time not to brush after drinking orange juice. Exiting the elevator, he tipped his hat to Mrs. Swenson from 3A and petted her huge dog, Percival. Percival slobbered affectionately on his shoe. Gordon walked out of the building and quickly rubbed the slobber off on a paving stone. The purple-gray of the early morning cast shadows from the rooftops. He yawned and crossed the street to his car.

On the passenger seat of his locked vehicle, he found a heavy briefcase covered with dents and scuff marks.

On top was a note. It read:

Our mutual friend wanted me to get this to you.

I don't think he made it. Sorry.

The next section was crossed-out several times. The final version read:

If you knew him, perhaps you can imagine what he went through to gather the contents of this case, but I doubt it.

He seemed to trust you. Please don't waste this.

I've seen the bodies.

P.S. There were details he didn't see; I'll leave my own testimony soon. I'm sure an anonymous note won't be any good in court, but neither will I. Hope it helps anyway.


Twenty-seven minutes later.

In the empty study of stately Wayne Manor, the red phone rang. Bruce originally named it the Bilateral Auxiliary Test phone but decided to call it by its color once he wrote that name down. The red phone was not especially loud, but it had a unique ring that could be mistaken for a cicada or a bad furnace. It echoed subtly across the Manor through speakers at the far end of the building and on the lawn and in the Cave.

Alfred Pennyworth swiftly awoke and made his way to the study, passing tall windows shining with the too-bright gleam of sunlight off fresh snow. He arrived on the seventh ring. Circling the desk, Alfred pressed the hidden button inside the bust of Shakespeare to connect the call then, pausing to harness the mighty powers of the thespian, he picked up the red phone.

It was Detective Gordon. "Batman!"

Alfred scowled dramatically. "What's the news, Detective?"

"There was a briefcase inside my car this morning. From your lady. She's alive!"

"Describe it."

"Oh, it's got to be the one. I've looked inside, and, boy, you don't do things halfway, do you? I don't understand most of the technical papers, but the other files are awfully intriguing. I'll have the photos developed by this time tomorrow. Ha, when those dirty feds see this mother lode missing they'll be running around like a flock of headless chickens!"

"Detective, what did you mean, 'she's' alive?"

"Yeah, clever job trying to sneak that by me. Guess I should be reassured you'll go the extra mile to keep a secret."

Alfred had not been aware there was a secret. "... What?"

"Please. The handwriting on the note was too nice, and she was all sentimental like a dame. Wasn't your slip, if that makes you feel better."


"Whoever she is, she's smart too - knew how to use a semicolon. Not sure what lady'd be convinced to go with you, Batman, but she came through. Oh, and she thinks you're dead, so I suggest you find her and let her know otherwise."

"Of course."

"My shift's about to start so I better wrap this up. Keep your head down." The line went dead.

Alfred returned the receiver to the phone's cradle. He left the study and went briskly up to Bruce's door. Alfred gave a sharp knock. There was a hesitation of several seconds before a semi-cogent moan uttered from inside, "Alfred, I declined a wake-up call."

Alfred replied loudly through the door. "A crying shame, Master Bruce. Detective Gordon called. He just received your evidence."

Lying in bed, Bruce Wayne blinked and shot to his feet. When a normal man's joints were worn from a long night of work and laid to stiffen, there were certain noises he made upon trying to stand. To his credit, Bruce only made most of them. He hobbled to the door and flung it open.

"What did he say?"

"That your companion left a briefcase of documents in his car sometime early this morning."

Bruce stared ahead at nothing. "She made it."

"It seem she did."

"Was that all?"

"He suspects your compatriot is a woman by virtue of-"

"Her handwriting."

Alfred closed his mouth and gave a long-suffering nod. "She believes you to be dead."

Bruce, clad in nightwear, stepped into the corridor and pressed a hand against the wall, patting down his unkempt hair with the other. "I see."

"But surely you can find your Catwoman again without much trouble."

Bruce snorted and turned back. "She wouldn't be happy you presume that." Alfred looked perplexed. Bruce gestured for him to forget it. "I'll resolve this. We've planned to meet tonight."

"Ah. Good. You can close this long chapter properly and move on."

"Yes." Bruce hobbled to a bright window and looked out, talking mostly to himself. "Next is subverting the killers' privileges. Study the evidence. Need time. Hm. Keep the meeting brief ..." He continued to mumble quietly until he lapsed into silent thought.

Alfred watched pensively. He noted the dressing on Bruce's head needed changing, and the bruise on his neck had turned a dark indigo. His patient didn't seem concerned and, in fact, had stopped moving.


Bruce looked back. "Mm?"

"Are you well?"

Bruce tilted his head quizzically and touched the large wrap bandage under his nightshirt. "I ... believe I'm stable, Alfred."

Alfred moved beside him. "An ally just rose from the dead, Master Bruce. I thought you'd be a notch more jubilant."

Bruce exhaled and said nothing for a moment. "It is wonderful news. A miracle. But it's the ..." He bit back a thought and tried again. "I've made grave mistakes."

"I don't understand. Mistakes in thinking you lost her?"

"No. Well, yes. but I accept that was likely unavoidable."

"Then what mistakes?"

"Too many, I suppose. She reminds me of so many. And when I make mistakes, it causes the sort of misery that-"

"Stop that, sir! You're being maudlin."

"No, I can't ignore that people die when I fail, Alfred. That's the truth. I fail and they die." Bruce looked down. His voice was grim. "Claiming anything less is rationalization."

"Even if I accepted that lurid claim, there's been no harm this time. You prevailed against your captors, brought home the prize, and the young lady sounds hale and chipper. Her only aliment is a concern for you, a sentiment I can understand. Now what's this about?"

"I'm relieved she survived. Of course I am. But in a perverse way - and it's a wretched thought, I know -but she ..."

"I can't read your thoughts, Master Bruce."

"Last night when I knew she was lost, on the path home I sought a sense of closure. I had to."

"There's no shame in dealing with grief."

"It would've driven me mad, so I found an acceptance of her being gone. Frankly, I was so numb that it wasn't a challenge. I closed those thoughts and buried them. But now she's back," He balled his fists. "to tear the callus open."

"Master Bruce!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way. It wasn't just an act to stave off grief for the sake of my composure. There's been something else that I-"

In his bedroom, the phone rang.

Bruce paused mid-syllable, his body corded with tension. The two men shared a look. With a grimace, Bruce went to his bedside and picked up the phone. His voice rose half an octave and dropped two letter grades.

"Heellooo? Bruce Wayne speaking."

He heard an airy woman's voice. "Bruce dear, it's Beverly. Good morning."

Bruce put on a saccharine smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Beverly! We haven't talked in ages. How is every little thing?"

"Oh, I can't complain. How are you?"

"A lot better now that I've heard your voice."

"Hahaha. Oh Bruce, you wonderful cad."

"Anything new with Tom and the children?"

"Everyone is just divine, thank you. I'm calling to see if you'd like to have an early supper tomorrow here at the Molyneux residence. Tom just had a new Badminton net installed, you see, and he's been ever so eager for a game."

"Badminton ... great."

"Oh, goody. Then it's a date. Can't wait to see you there."

"Beverly, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that, well, it wouldn't really change my account much."

"Oh ho ho. You take care now, Brucie. Too-da-loo!"

Bruce hung up the phone. Alfred stood behind him. "I'm sorry, Master Bruce, you were saying?"

Bruce looked annoyed but finally empty of tension. "Forget it. Maybe later. I think I'll take a walk around the grounds."


That evening, near midnight.

Like last time, it was a piece of cake breaking into the King Leopold Academy of Arts. Catwoman walked through the dark and quiet of the painting classroom, her calf-high boots the only muffled sound in the stillness. Shafts of weak moonlight painted stripes on the floor. She had slept through most of the morning, waking on her couch just before noon with a cat on her face. She had a hour-long bath and spent the remainder of the afternoon in a daze, finishing little chores as slowly as possible and trying to banish the flashes of bodies on slabs. It was a close-run decision, her choosing to come. Part stubbornness, part dark curiosity, part whim, Catwoman wasn't in a mood to self-analyze, but the reasons she finally came were the mostly same reasons she did anything.

Still, those excuses alone wouldn't have been enough. Tonight those impulses were guided by an uncomfortable sense of duty. She had a promise to see though, even if that meant walking a stupid lone vigil through a stupid empty room.

Off in the distance, the bells of Makepeace Tower rang. It was midnight. Catwoman quickly glanced over her shoulder. She was convinced Batman was gone, but there was a difference between knowing something and letting your guard down, and slipping in under the noise of a bell was exactly the sort of thing Batman did.

The room was still empty.

Catwoman frowned and rubbed her neck. That morning she discovered that whiplash was apparently one of her injuries, though she couldn't remember how she earned it. She took another careful look then turned around.

The air behind her spoke, "Catwoman."

Straining her bruised ribs, Catwoman twisted and aimed a fierce kick at the voice. Her heel connected with Batman's jaw. He rocked slightly from the blow. She cringed, "Jeez!" but Batman was unfazed. He looked down at her. She looked back, thoughts tumbling over each other and falling down. He noticed that she was wearing the same violet outfit as last night - washed and mended, but clearly the same. She noticed that his outfit was new. After this quick, mutual scan, they stared each other in the eye again.

Catwoman remembered that a staring contest with Batman was like trying to out-wait a glacier.

She gently cleared her throat. "Hi."

"My colleague told me you made it. I'm glad."

"I'm glad he got it." She rubbed her neck. "I thought you were in prison. Or worse."

"How did you make it back?"

"I heard orders on the radio for the guards to deal with that fire I assume you set, but a patrol was there when I got out. They saw me leave the infirmary and chased me though the woods. I made it inside one of the garages and locked the door."

"And the aircraft?"

"It just so happened that, uh, the garage was a hanger."

"How did you know the procedure to start it?"

"Luck, I suppose. Turns out they aren't that complex. The tricky part was taking off."

"I'm surprised they didn't shoot the plane."

"Oh, they did, but those turkeys couldn't aim. They only hit the rudder and the wings and the instruments." She grinned. "But those aren't important, right?"

He looked at her gravely.

"That was a joke."


"I mean, the fact that they shot the plane wasn't a joke. That happened."

He grunted. "Then?"

"Turns out I'm not very good at flying. I landed on a frozen lake. Actually, I landed in a frozen lake."

"Let me guess, the ice was just thick enough for you to come to a stop, then it broke and the plane sank, neatly hiding all proof from anyone who might look later."

"Yep, that's about it."

"Then, stuck randomly in the huge forest, you quickly found a gas station, or the home of a kindly widow, or a park ranger's post - somewhere to call for a ride. Is that right?"

"How'd you know?"

Batman closed his eyes tiredly. He had dealt with night-types for a long time. "Call it a hunch."

"By the way, your green poncho-cape was sort of ruined. I hope you didn't want it back."

"Don't worry about it."

"So what about you?"

"I did set the fire as a diversion."

"How'd you start a fire that fast?"

"I flipped a car and burned it."

"Of course."

"At the camp, I eavesdropped on their headquarters and learned my diversion wasn't successful. They were still after you, so I took extra measures to draw their attention."

"What did you blow up?"

"Just a watchtower."

"Nice, but I don't think it worked. They kept me surrounded the whole time."

He nodded. "The bureaucrat in change mentioned that when I kidnapped her."

"You what?"

"I tried to convince her to let you go. She was surprisingly defiant. She counter-offered with ... unacceptable alternatives."

"What do you mean? What did she offer you?"

"Nothing reasonable. Doesn't matter. Your escape ended the stalemate before you forced me to do something drastic."

"Hold on, what do you mean, 'I forced you'? What did she ask you to do?"

"It's unimportant."

"Call me crazy, but you sound like my life was some sort of burden you were coerced with. You can imagine how a girl might take that the wrong way." She played it off with a hollow chuckle but eyed him carefully. "But that's silly ... right?"

"I didn't mean to imply you were a burden. It was nothing like that."

"Great. Then what did she say?" Catwoman took a two steps forward and stopped beside his shoulder. "I think I'd like to know."

Batman stood motionless. After a moment he produced a small envelope and handed it to her. She looked inside and found twenty-four hundred dollar bills. He spoke coldly, "That concludes our arrangement." He turned to leave.

Catwoman looked up from the payment. "That's it? No words?"

He didn't respond.

She crossed her arms. "I used to think it was funny, people cracking wise about the Big Grumpy Bat, but your act is really starting to wear thin."

He stopped and glanced back at her. It was a dismissal as much as a question.

"I get it. You're not nice. You're not … happy. And you obviously never liked me very much. But after all we've been through …"


"After all we've done, you still treat me like some tagalong you barely tolerate! Like dirt!"

This got a rise out of him. "I never said-"

She got in his face. "I'm not expecting some big show of camaraderie, but are you truly this damaged? I'm not joking, I sincerely want to know: are you so beyond the rest of us that you don't feel empathy? Or any reaction besides your damn grim stoicism? God, you almost died ten times." She gently grasped the glove of his broken hand. "Does anything affect you at all?"

He repressed a twinge and pulled the hand away. "I manage."

"Fine. Numb away the world." She let go. "But you don't fool me. I used to think you had these high walls inside, that you didn't let anything through, but I don't believe that metaphor anymore."

"What are you possibly talking about?"

"It's not walls. The world does get to you. You're not that perfect. No, what you have is a pit, deep as the Grand Canyon. You start to feel something? Oops, better shovel it into the pit. Anything that might hurt you, that might challenge those twisted things you call your convictions, you bury so deeply that it never sees the light of day. And I say fine! Ignore it all. That's your business. But why do you despise me so much?"

"I don-"

"What have I done to offend you? Is your moral code so puritanically hidebound that you're still bitter over some missing jewels? After the fires I pulled you out of, can't you at least pretend to care?"

"You don't know the first-"

"Every marginally nice thing you said, every pleasant gesture was an act, wasn't it? Just enough string to keep me in the game because you needed your little tool."

"Stop!" Batman rose to his imposing height and glared down. "You helped me pursue a killer, and my gratitude is sincere, but I don't justify myself." He paused and dropped in volume. "Not to you."

"Excuse me?"

Batman continued in a level voice. "I promised you a truce. I won't pretend I can redeem you, but as long as beasts use my city to hunt, I'll have bigger concerns than petty larceny. Consider that my best-"

"No," Catwoman shoved her way past him and walked briskly to the door. "You don't get the last word. Not tonight. Keep your self-gratifying platitudes. I'm out of here."


Cities had homeless communities. This was a universal fact, and its recognition was a fine sign of the century's progressive spirit, but what precious few cared to learn was that every homeless community was just that - a community. And in the streets of the East End, Peggy Newton was the closest the local homeless had to a mayor. If an unfortunate soul was newly dispossessed, she would teach them the rules and help them along for a spell. When a dispute arose or someone needed to talk to the cops, she was their mediator and advocate. No one had elected her, and she never asked for the job. As far as Peggy saw it, she was just a friendly neighbor doing a favor from time to time.

One of her neighbors was Catwoman. In the winters, Peggy slept in a certain condemned building in a secluded courtyard that Catwoman often used as a shortcut. They occasionally stopped to chat, trading the sort of useful gossip and observations that each woman was uniquely privileged to know. Tonight, Peggy was relaxing in front of a small fire on her building's stoop when she saw the Leading Lady of Larceny pass by.

Peggy called out. "Hey there, fancy lady. Where'r you up to this night?"

Catwoman was so caught up in her fuming thoughts that being called was a surprise. She chuckled despite herself. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you, Peg."

"Suppose not. Just you look unhappy though. Care to warm y'self? Can't imagine it's too nice in those pajamas."

"Heh, sure." Catwoman took a seat on the crate and held her hands to the fire. After a moment of simple pleasure, she remembered what she was holding and had a spark of inspiration. "Hey, Peggy?"


"Sorry to bring this up, but did you hear about a couple who disappeared around 8th street recently?"

"Mmmmmmm, yes I did hear. Shameful bad news, that. Had everyone scared. It was the, uh, the uh-"

"The Duprees."

"Yes, that's it. What brings them to mind?"

"Well, nothing I suppose. I just had a question."


"You know all the people around here right?"

"That's what they say."

"You know whenever people really need help? You try to help them out, right?"

"I know folks. What'r you getting at?"

"I want you to do me a favor. This winter's tough. Whoever needs a little boost, I want you to pass along a gift. Spread it around." Catwoman handed over a small envelope.

Peggy opened the envelope. "Oh my stars!"

Catwoman smiled and stood up. "Just remember that you didn't get it from me, Peg. Merry Christmas."


After showering and reapplying his dressings, Bruce was determined to catch on work he missed from resting all day. He paced through the dim Manor in no mood to sleep. As the quiet darkness of the early morning made mirrors of the windows, he reached his favorite room of the home, the great Wayne Library (not to be confused with the various Wayne Libraries of the public and university sort). He found a few legal texts that might illuminate his options with what he was tentatively calling the Waller cabal. As he read, a quiet record player in the corner crooned Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, a concerto by Barber, and a symphony by Bantock. Bruce thought it prudent to keep up to date musically. Some pieces were a chore, and some he enjoyed.

When Alfred visited him after a respectful interval, he was writing the recent mission's report with both hands (the wrapped and splinted fist was just the right shape to hold a pen). Usually Bruce used a typewriter, but every so often he tried two pens instead: it was almost as fast as typing once he found his pace, writing different pages simultaneously was wonderful mental exercise, and it keep his off-hand in practice. Bruce was naturally left-handed, but he used his right in the rare cases that he needed to jot down a note in disguise.

Alfred placed a mug of tea in front of him and began to sip his own, an old tradition of theirs.

"Thank you, Alfred."

"My pleasure, sir. If you've reached a spot to pause, I was hoping to hear more of your thoughts that were interrupted early yesterday by Mrs. Molyneux."

Bruce nodded absently, having expected this sooner or later. "Alright. Where was I?"

"If I recall, you expressed dismay that your Catwoman managed to make it home, and before that implied it involved the guilt you felt at some mistake."

Bruce gave an amused eyebrow twitch. Alfred's memory for old conversations was awe-inspiring.

"Yes, that's right. Of course I'm relieved she made it."

"Then what was the concern?"

"I act on principle. Otherwise, I'm the beast my worst slanderers paint me as. Without principles, I'm nothing."

Alfred nodded encouragingly. His young ward liked to sound dispassionate and objective. He had a habit of waxing philosophical when he drifted near any deep emotion. For Alfred, it was as revealing as a blush.

"That makes sense, sir."

"I am my principles, and a part of me worries she can break them."

"How do you mean?"

"It was ... the second time we met, at the painting classroom in September."

"Last September?"

"Over a year ago. I had cornered her. For anyone else, it would have been a forgone conclusion. I would have restrained her and called the authorities, but you have to understand that she was ..."

"She was what?"

"As I stood in front of her, I realized that she was too elusive. Even then I suspected how skilled she was. If I left her alone, no restraint I carried would hold her for long. And if I stayed, the police would have shot me on sight, certainly back in those days. I didn't have the time or the means to carry her to Blackgate myself. I had caught what I couldn't hold."

"A most perplexing dilemma."

"In an instant, I realized the only alternative. It was ..." Bruce paused and looked down at his mug. "I had to hurt her. Just enough. Something minor. I've hurt men and women before, all justified. It wouldn't even be unprovoked. She would fight if I approached. But I wasn't willing to do that Alfred. She beat me without even trying. She won."

"So you fear that you acted with mercy?"

"No, that's not it. It- It changed me. I've second-guessed that night a hundred times. She didn't deserve to walk away. It's crippled me."

"Come now, sir."

"There have been at least a dozen instances since then with other targets when I've held back out of this ... this mistaken notion of gentleness. I can't afford to doubt like that. If I hesitate, someone dies, probably me. Before that moment of weakness, before her, I was decisive. I acted with certainty. Now I never know if I might lose my nerve."

"Are matters really so stark? It's not like you've been avoiding her since then."

"I've been bluffing. When I confront her, it's just to scare her off, hoping one night she makes a mistake so I can arrest her safely." Bruce shrugged. "I've also ruined or scared off her fences and customers. That's worked fairly well."

"Accepting your grievances for a minute, Bruce - though I'm surprised now is the first I've heard of it," Bruce looked away at this mild rebuke and sipped his tea. "The matter sounds settled. You were even willing to work with her. What about her sudden survival has you discomforted?"

Bruce looked at the floor and collected his thoughts. "There was a point last night when I confronted the leader of the Fort's project. She-"


"The leader was woman."

"Of a military operation?"

Bruce nodded that he would share the details later. "This leader is some sort of spymaster. She showed me that Catwoman's life was in jeopardy, then she offered an alternative. She wanted to recruit me."

Alfred frowned. "I see."

"That's when I broke. I almost did it, Alfred. I almost agreed. If Catwoman hadn't escaped at that moment, I would have given it all up to save her. Even joining a band of murderers."

"Surely, you would have found some opportunity to give this woman the slip when the opportunity arose."

Bruce frowned. "I know that now, but that didn't occur to me then. And that's the problem, don't you see? I was ready to sacrifice everything."

"To save a life."

"I've saved many lives, Alfred, and sometimes that means pretending to give up, but I've never actually surrendered, not in my mind. No matter how bleak the circumstances, it was always a longer plan to get away clean. But this time I was truly ready to surrender. I was saved by dumb luck."

"And you feel you surrendered because she was the victim?"

Bruce held his mug against his forehead. "I don't know. I think so."


Bruce closed his eyes, lost in a memory.


He was back to that September night in the classroom, brasher and a few scars lighter. Catwoman was re-hanging the painting in front of him. She knew he was there. Amateurs panicked around him; only the diehard pros took their time.

With a final adjustment, she turned with a smile, "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

He stared back impassively. Their original meeting was brief and chaotic, this was his first close look at her. The Dark Knight was the furthest thing from sentimental, but he was in his own way an artist, a genius of movement and control, and genius in any art recognized beauty.

She planted a jaunty hand on her hip and stepped forward. "Batman, right? I don't think we were properly introduced last time."

A raw corner of his mind whispered that she could have modeled for Vargas. Of course, Bruce Wayne met elegant ladies all the time. He wasn't unappreciative, but static loveliness rarely got under his skin. He only had eyes for motion. Years of self-improvement had honed his appreciation and whetted his passion for grace in movement. That was the acme. That was perfection.

She took another step, arched an eyebrow, "Cat got your tongue?"

There was a quality in ballet called ballon - the appearance of being lightweight and effortless while jumping. The dancer with ballon would float through her motions, never faltering, a master of her form. He wondered if she had been a dancer. He told himself to step forward. He told himself subdue the threat. He waited for his impulses to agree, but for once his demons were silent.

He stepped aside.


Bruce opened his eyes, the memory banished. "I'm not sure. First I let her go and now I lose my cool when she's threatened. I broke a man's arm last night for hurting her, did I mention that? It was a moment of rage. I thought I was beyond that." He flashed a sneer of bitter contempt, "Beyond that weakness."

"Rage was always the millstone 'round your neck, sir. I fear a man's lower nature can rise long after he thinks it's been laid to rest. And you've had far crasser excuses for your sin than protecting a lady."

"It's no excuse. You asked why I've worried? I suppose I have an odd sympathy for her, and that disturbs me. I compromised, Alfred. I gave in."

"Then what will you do, sir?"

"What I always do. I'll try harder tomorrow." He exhaled slowly, grimacing at a soreness in his ribs. "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow."

Alfred recognized the line and continued, "Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death." Alfred gave a wan smile. "You know, Master Bruce, Macbeth was a tragedy."

"Yes." Bruce nodded. "Yes, it was."


Five days later.

Washington D.C.

Amanda Waller never drank. She learned that lesson after an ill-advised boat trip with Hemingway a few years ago. But right now she was awfully tempted to head down to the lobby bar for something high-proof and distilled. The Fremont Hotel was decent enough, but she couldn't wait her new housing in Washington to be arranged. Waller never spent longer than a month at a time in the capital. She liked to manage her projects in person.

She learned back in her chair and stared at the sloppy collection of notes and depositions about the Fort Morrison debacle on her desk . Most were in an open manila folder titled:
*Top Secret*

Department of War Case File #V183: Project Galen

[suspended pending review]

Special Investigator A. Waller

Addendum C – Trespasser Dossier #1

She had to give a report tomorrow in front a panel of senior officials. Waller could count on one hand the number of her operations that ended in an investigative review, at least half as many of anyone else at her level. Her performance wasn't an accident. She couldn't just be good, she had to be beyond reproach.

For the fifth time in an hour, she turned on her tape recorder.

"Another thing I should mention, if a bit unrelated, is that the presence of portable radios was exceptionally useful. I know the Army can't hope to supply every company with one anytime soon, let alone every platoon, but some day small radios will be so commonplace that every squad will carry one. I expect the entire infantry doctrine will have to be rewritten to take advantage of this strategic nimbleness.

"But back to the Bat Man. Nationality: unknown, presumed American given his accent. He speaks English and at least modest Spanish. Age: unknown. Height: six feet and between two and five inches; his costume is deceiving on this point - probably by design. I'm told he weighs just over two hundred pounds, naturally also an estimate. He clearly has an athlete's body. He's white. His eye color is unknown. His hair color is black, unless he dyes the hint of stubble I managed to glimpse. Frankly, that's not a precaution I would put past him. We can safely assume he now has a deep scar along his lower abdomen.

"Above all that, his knowledge is the fascinating factor. Not only is he educated, university-level certainly, he's informed. He sees the big game. Good gracious, that's rare for an operative. Every lesson in the book says that you can't reach his level of field sophistication without backers - a proper government, or at least something respectable like a fruit company. No good Samaritan actually runs around trying to single-handedly enforce their worldview and gets that far. I don't know what to think. We still don't know how he faked that gas attack.

"Officially, our trespasser is a John Doe. He could be lying or mentally ill, but I'm strangely convinced to accept his story, at least for now. Naturally, I looked up this Gotham Bat myth my first day back, borrowing a few assistants to compile every clipping that mentions him. They've been busy as beavers, of course. There's plenty of chaff to sort through and very little wheat when it comes to urban legends, and that tendency seems to run tenfold in Gotham. The twopenny rags are fascinated with their little wonder and mention him monthly, but they also have the journalistic integrity of fever dreams. Meanwhile, to the respectable papers he might as well not exist, just a few hesitant mentions in his early days. This disparity begs the question: is his audacity a ruse so that no authority takes him seriously? It sounds preposterous, but I honestly can't say. I'm starting to think it's almost brilliant. There's no consensus over who he is, who he works for, or even what he is. Half the witnesses think he can fly. Don't get me started on what they think the cape can do.

"After all this, I'm almost morbidly eager to hear the GCPD's opinion. Lord, do I pity the soul who has to manage that case file. Of course, I haven't approached them yet. City cops can be very tribal around Washington operators like myself. It's been challenging enough pulling strings with the Justice Department to stop their case on Project Galen's loose ends. I'll have to find a worthwhile gift or threat before I say hello for something this size. They're supposed to hate the guy, but everyone knows how dirty the force is in Gotham. That's the funny thing about dirty cops, they might be friends with anyone. We'll see.

"Regardless, what I've read confirms what I heard in the past. The Bat Man habitually assaults criminals of every stripe, including the police, usually catching them red-handed. Never known to kill. What's curious is that he hasn't paid attention to the government besides local authorities, and there's been no account of him leaving the city. Perhaps he noticed Project Galen's collection teams, fine, but is this the first time he's followed a trail beyond the city? Why the Fort? Is he escalating or has he already attacked us in the past and we didn't notice? Nothing in the papers contradicts what he claims his motivation was, but this is still the biggest question mark of all as far as our next action.

"For now, he and his accomplice are wanted felons. We're still bickering on what exactly to put on the wanted posters. Some of my peers, and I use that term loosely, are going to call them foreign agents. That entirely contradicts what we know, though admittedly, we know very little. I'm going to recommend domestic anarchists. It's not true, at least not in the sense the brass will interpret, but I think that's the cleanest label we have. As a bonus, if I do manage to turn one or both of them, the paperwork is slightly easier under 'anarchist' than 'spy'. Funny that.

"Speaking of turning them, I'll admit I was impressed. These Bat stories are fancified claptrap, but if even a ounce of them is true, well, that's awfully something. I saw enough in person. The gloves, for instance. I have to mention this in case I forget. His hands and forearms were covered in a heavy glove, either a leather or a very stiff fabric, with a spine of metal points along the outside. Anecdotes from Gotham as well as my subordinate's encounter make it clear that these gloves are designed to catch and ward off blades and other weapons. The notion that anyone would seek to confront a dagger with their empty hands astounds me, but I'm told a few martial experts do specialize in this sort of lunacy, the main vulnerability being cuts to the hands and arms. My subordinate claims that Bat Man is something of a virtuoso, and the Lieutenant isn't one to exaggerate. This, of course, begs the question: why practice so many extra hours for such an obscure skill? Even if he faced blades every day, why not carry a simple parrying weapon of his own? Perhaps the extra challenge or danger is some perverse thrill. He seemed too purposeful to be that kind of thrill-seeker, but I think it's safe to say his psyche isn't predictable by any common model.

"It's a shame our operation at the Fort was breached. Those missing files have me in more hot water than a Turkish bath. I wouldn't be surprised if Hoover sends a dozen extra boys to the local branch to turn over some stones. There would already be a proper dragnet if we didn't think he was hiding in the least governable city in the country. That said, I'd almost call the night a net win for the novelty alone. That's always been my vice, I suppose. I still haven't heard any credible theories on how he entered the Fort in the first place. Imagine sending someone so gifted to go plant a mine on Mussolini's toilet. And he doesn't seem to have any resentment about working on a team. In fact, now that I think about it, it might be worth the effort to find the partner again just for his sake. Won't be easy, but I'm sure there can't be too many ladies who prance around at night, not even in Gotham. Not off a stage, anyway.

"Of course I don't want to sound too cavalier. He's obviously a hostile, and it won't do to underestimate him. Who knows what scores of allies he has? He's lasted this long, after all. Using him is an intriguing idea, but as a matter of practicality someone's probably going to have to stop him sooner or later. A shame. Let's just hope they don't ask me to do it before I can make a deal. I hate to waste good talent."

The End.​
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-14 06:27pm


I do so hope Batman and Catwoman get to work together again...
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2016-09-14 07:57pm

Can't help but feel bad for Catwoman. Batman can be rather insulting, even without meaning to be.
"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes" When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy." - Lincoln.

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-14 08:28pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:Can't help but feel bad for Catwoman. Batman can be rather insulting, even without meaning to be.

Well, he only has to be candid and nice about one conversation a year, so it's not his strong suit.
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby U.P. Cinnabar » 2016-09-14 09:33pm

Stewart M wrote:or at least something respectable like a fruit company.

Like the kind that's been known to prop up a Latin American dictatorship or two.

Excellent work.
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby madd0ct0r » 2016-09-15 04:47pm

I really enjoyed that. Cut lancelot and itd be perfect.
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby LadyTevar » 2016-09-15 05:16pm

Are you going to post the second story here as well? :)

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Feil » 2016-09-16 02:51am

This is really great. I'm only two mini-chapters in, but I'm hooked. The scene-setting in the coffee shop is just beautiful. I can't wait until I have time to read the rest.

Criticism, if you want it:
"Cold Feet" references Judo. It's conceivable that Catwoman might know about it, but Judo won't enter the American consciousness until the postwar occupation of Japan, so it feels out of place. The passage reads just as well without it: "for all she knew, he somehow flipped into both simultaneously."

"Cold Feet" also has a small grammar error: awhile is an adverb meaning for a while. E.g. "Catwoman waits awhile because Batman is taking a while to arrive." Decision 1 should therefore read, "No paintings for a while."

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-16 11:45pm

Feil wrote:This is really great. I'm only two mini-chapters in, but I'm hooked. The scene-setting in the coffee shop is just beautiful. I can't wait until I have time to read the rest.

Criticism, if you want it:
"Cold Feet" references Judo. It's conceivable that Catwoman might know about it, but Judo won't enter the American consciousness until the postwar occupation of Japan, so it feels out of place. The passage reads just as well without it: "for all she knew, he somehow flipped into both simultaneously."

"Cold Feet" also has a small grammar error: awhile is an adverb meaning for a while. E.g. "Catwoman waits awhile because Batman is taking a while to arrive." Decision 1 should therefore read, "No paintings for a while."

I'm glad you've enjoyed it thus far.

I always welcome criticism. It won't do much good in this forum, but I can apply the help to more edit-friendly sites. Thank you for correcting my erroneous adverb.

I respectfully disagree on your point on Judo. It's your right as a reader to feel that something is out of place, but I believe Judo was a niche interest with a large enough presence in 1940 America to qualify as pop culture. Certainly enough that a low-grade martial arts nerd like Catwoman would have seen it (indeed, the line was partly intended to suggest that she has some martial arts experience since it isn't universally known).

Here's a few supporting anecdotes:

1. To quote the Wikipedia page on Mitsuyo Maeda:
In 1879, Ulysses S. Grant ... visited Japan. While in Tokyo, he attended a jujutsu presentation ... At that time, jujutsu was just starting to become known in Europe and the Americas. Excepting literal circus acts, few non-Japanese had much chance of seeing or learning about the art. Even in Japan, judo and jujutsu were not considered separate disciplines at that time. Indeed, it was not until 1925 that there started to be clear differentiation of the names in Japan,[10] and outside Japan, judo and jujutsu were not completely separated until the 1950s.[11]

In 1903, a senior Kodokan instructor named Yamashita Yoshiaki traveled to the United States ... In Washington, DC, Yamashita's students included Theodore Roosevelt and other prominent Americans. At Roosevelt's request, Yamashita also taught judo at the US Naval Academy. Capitalizing on the publicity, the Japanese Legation in the USA asked the Kodokan to send more judo teachers to America, providing continuity to Yamashita's work.

The bolding is mine. Keep in mind that the terms judo and jujustu/jujitsu were used interchangeably in the US. Incidentally, Roosevelt may have been chiefly interested in Judo as a weight-loss program, but that's beside the point.

2. Judo was one of the main sources for the Victorian martial art Bartitsu, popularized (albeit misspelled) by Sherlock Holmes who describes it as "-the Japanese system of wrestling". The Bartitsu school was well-publicized around turn of the century London, and Jiu-Jitsu experts were invited from Japan to teach. Many of the articles would have reached the US. Sherlock Holmes certainly did. The east Asian branch of the New York Baker Street Irregulars (Holmes fan club) was founded in 1948 and called the Baritsu Chapter.

3. There was a Judo demonstration at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

4. There were women's Judo/Jiu-Jitsu videos made in the west before 1940 (admittedly, these examples are still British).

5. There was a book titled American Police Jiu-jitsu published in 1930. In the 30s, military branches and major police agencies (FBI, RCMP, etc.) practiced Jiu-Jitsu/Judo.

6. In the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Jiu-Jitsu was not uncommon for pulp and comic heroes of the late 30s and 40s - stories intended for a mass audience. For example, the Black Cat (no relation to the Marvel character), first published in 1941, had a series of Judo instructions as part of her comic book.


or, this Batman comic from 1940:

and 1941 (I believe)

In short, I think this may be a case of Aluminum Christmas Trees. A few eastern martial arts were globalized much earlier in the 20th century than most people give them credit for.

Regardless, I may yet agree with you that this particular line could be rephrased. I'll think about it.
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-09-17 12:30pm

I haven't commented much thus far, but I have to say I read through the whole story and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Please tell me there will be more.
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Stewart M » 2016-09-17 06:47pm

LadyTevar wrote:Fantastic!
Are you going to post the second story here as well? :)

Elheru Aran wrote:I haven't commented much thus far, but I have to say I read through the whole story and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Please tell me there will be more.

There is more. I suppose I could add it here if that interests people.

If you or anyone would like to show your appreciation, you could add to the Batman 1939 TV Tropes page. I consider my big reward for all the effort of writing. Call it my point of vanity.
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Feil » 2016-09-17 10:10pm

I finally finished! It was a great novella; thank you for posting this here. The hint that Gotham's costumed set might benefit from preternatural good luck on some level that can be predicted and accounted for as a form of superpower is interesting... it seems almost obvious in retrospect, but I don't recall encountering it before in my limited exposure to Batman and company.

On to criticism:

Re: Judo - I stand corrected!

Chapter 6:
"Sometimes he wore was a Bowie knife on his hip" (extra was)
"The only silver lining in this absurd show of force was that he never took munitions from the Fort's stock. evidently he brought his own supply." (missing capitalization)


Chapter 8:
"She sat back and blinked.

'... Wow.'"

(Putting the quote on the same line would make it easier to tell that this is Catwoman talking.)


In a few places, you mention dumpsters. The dumpster (then Dumpster, a proper noun) was introduced in the late 30s, so it's not completely anachronistic, but it didn't become a catch-all for "big trash bin" until considerably later.


Chapter 10:
"That hasn't happened in awhile either." (Should be hadn't. Also, a while.)


Chapter 11:
"the fourth visitor, a heavy-set woman of color." ("Woman of color" didn't enter common use until the 60s or 70s. "Negro woman" would be more appropriate for the era.)

"She casually pumped the lever on her shotgun and walked around the desk." (Pumping the action of a shotgun as a threat display is common in the movies, but stupid in reality, so Waller probably wouldn't do it.)

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2016-09-18 02:58am

Stewart M wrote:There is more. I suppose I could add it here if that interests people.

Yes please. Can never have too much Batman.
"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes" When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy." - Lincoln.

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby LadyTevar » 2016-09-18 02:59am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
Stewart M wrote:There is more. I suppose I could add it here if that interests people.

Yes please. Can never have too much Batman.

YES! Please post the sequel (in another thread)

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-09-18 02:35pm

Feil wrote:Chapter 11:
"the fourth visitor, a heavy-set woman of color." ("Woman of color" didn't enter common use until the 60s or 70s. "Negro woman" would be more appropriate for the era.)

I won't speak for StewartM, but for myself, I would be uncomfortable using 'Negro' except in dialogue when writing. 'Colored' might be more acceptable while still retaining a period flavor.
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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Feil » 2016-09-18 03:10pm

Understandable. If StewartM is worried about offending modern sensibilities, I'd go with a literal description and avoid nomenclature altogether: "woman of African descent," "dark-skinned woman," something like that.... Colored, I believe, had impolite overtones in the 40s.

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Re: Batman 1939: The Dangers of Being Cold

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-09-18 03:24pm

True, though it's the wording that was on segregation signs for quite some time (but then the people who put up those signs weren't likely to care about what the 'colored' people thought). I would honestly find 'colored' less offensive on a personal level than 'Negro' so YMMV, of course.

In dialogue, one would generally attempt to use whatever is appropriate for the speaker, of course. In this specific situation, he might be trying to reflect a 'comic book' or 'TV show' sensibility where you can't use certain words cause it's for the kiddies, don'cha know.
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