Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Tribble » 2017-02-09 11:13pm

I will never look at doves the same way again :D
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby LadyTevar » 2017-02-10 01:01am

Ares always was an odd bird. Supposedly, he's been holding off WWIII because it would depopulate the Earth to the point the gods would die from lack of belief/concept. No conflict/war, no Ares.
Thus we get the Syrian conflict, the Somalian Conflict, ISIS, etc... small battles, small wars, but nothing that will touch off The Big One.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-02-10 08:05am

“Pero cuidado! Ella esta de Idaho!” :D

Stewart, you may feel that the recent chapter had a similar flavor to The Dangers of Being Cold. However, the different characters, and particularly your Wonder Woman, make the similarities rather more subtle than you may have feared.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby FaxModem1 » 2017-02-10 03:10pm

I don't think it's similar. Steve and Diana have a very different dynamic than Bruce and Selina. They're also doing more social infiltration than physical infiltration, which is vastly different storywise.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2017-02-12 11:51pm

LadyTevar wrote:Ares always was an odd bird. Supposedly, he's been holding off WWIII because it would depopulate the Earth to the point the gods would die from lack of belief/concept. No conflict/war, no Ares.
Thus we get the Syrian conflict, the Somalian Conflict, ISIS, etc... small battles, small wars, but nothing that will touch off The Big One.

Who supposes this?

Simon_Jester wrote:Stewart, you may feel that the recent chapter had a similar flavor to The Dangers of Being Cold. However, the different characters, and particularly your Wonder Woman, make the similarities rather more subtle than you may have feared.

FaxModem1 wrote:I don't think it's similar. Steve and Diana have a very different dynamic than Bruce and Selina. They're also doing more social infiltration than physical infiltration, which is vastly different storywise.


Fair enough, but I will suggest the following:

- Male straight man, female comic relief
- Male is experienced in the kind of mission at hand, female is a novice
- Male concerned for danger of pressing ahead, female forces him to go into danger out of impulsiveness
- Male concerned from start that female is unreliable
- Mooks are military
- Mission reveals a conspiracy deeper than originally anticipated (not rare across fiction, admittedly)
- Male eventually captured
- Male injures hand trying to rescue female
- Female escapes under fire with unconventional transportation, leaving male to a dire fate
Author: Batman 1939
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-02-13 12:15am

Yeah, but by that standard Star Wars and The Matrix are the same story because they both have a lot of elements of the Campbellian monomyth.

If you strip out enough details from two works of art you will always, always be able to make them sound similar. That says more about the art of literary analysis than it does about the art of, well... art.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby FaxModem1 » 2017-02-13 12:59am

You'd also be surprised at how many noir stories, in general, have a male and female team working together on a mystery, with the woman being the comic relief in some capacity. It's pretty much a staple of the genre.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2017-02-13 10:31pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Yeah, but by that standard Star Wars and The Matrix are the same story because they both have a lot of elements of the Campbellian monomyth.

If you strip out enough details from two works of art you will always, always be able to make them sound similar. That says more about the art of literary analysis than it does about the art of, well... art.


I guess, though I still feel there are more than a few over-specific overlaps. I realized the other day that something like 5/6 of my cast has had hand injuries. I should call the series Batman: Digital Damage.

FaxModem1 wrote:You'd also be surprised at how many noir stories, in general, have a male and female team working together on a mystery, with the woman being the comic relief in some capacity. It's pretty much a staple of the genre.


Sure, the classic Nick and Nora template (though they were pretty equal in the comedy department in my opinion).

Call it artistic hubris, but I aim to use staples conservatively. ... Not that I succeed.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Tribble » 2017-02-13 10:54pm

Stewart M wrote:I guess, though I still feel there are more than a few over-specific overlaps. I realized the other day that something like 5/6 of my cast has had hand injuries. I should call the series Batman: Digital Damage.


To be fair a lot of it involved hand-to-hand combat so it's kind of expected. :P
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-02-13 11:07pm

Hand injuries are actually a very useful artistic tool and it's not a problem to use them heavily, within reason. Because they immediately provide a reason why an otherwise formidable character can't fight, or can't fight effectively. They're generally a realistic consequence of running around punching things, too- boxers wear gloves to protect their own fists as much as to protect their opponent's bodies, after all.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2017-03-10 11:48pm

Hype time. If you want a story that's like this story but isn't this story, you can find it here: Victory Bonds. Read it. It's good.

Simon_Jester wrote:Hand injuries are actually a very useful artistic tool and it's not a problem to use them heavily, within reason. Because they immediately provide a reason why an otherwise formidable character can't fight, or can't fight effectively. They're generally a realistic consequence of running around punching things, too- boxers wear gloves to protect their own fists as much as to protect their opponent's bodies, after all.


Agreed. They strike a nice balance of a dramatic injury that would credibly damage a person from almost any kind danger without incapacitating them (which leads to plot issues).
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2017-03-18 07:39pm

Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Chapter 18: Falling Action


Diana made it back to the sprawl of Buenos Aries with little difficulty, but the city caused mixed feelings. Unlike the wild lands, she found it impossible to stay invisible on its streets. Anyone could be a scout for the guards and their craven masters, and Diana traveled with the unnerving sense of eyes upon her back. However, each step forward also emboldened her with a feeling of progress. This city’s port represented her best odds at finding passage back to the States, and she was almost there.

Diana’s all-consuming goal was to find Steve, but pursuing him in this enormous country required a different sort of hunter. Her only hope was Amanda Waller. Diana was reluctant to make herself dependent any institution of Man. She was in this world to demonstrate that her people were capable, to offer aid, not receive it. Begging for help was anathema. Diana only considered the option because Amanda was a woman, and surely any nation with the wisdom to elevate a woman to high command wouldn’t take advantage of an ally in distress.

Also, Steve was Amanda’s subordinate. A commander deserved every chance to recover her forces. That was only proper.

It was nearly one in the afternoon when Diana ambled into a café in some dusty neighborhood near the waterfront. By now she had much practice with her amble. It was a stride unknown to the Amazons. Only the tense social jungle of Man’s World could justify such a defiantly casual style of walking. Diana moseyed over to the counter and pantomimed that she wanted a bottle of Coca-Cola. She paid with more proceeds from her stint of unsolicited construction work and found a seat in the corner. Diana popped the cap with her thumb and downed half the bottle in a gulp. After she finished the rest, she took off her headscarf and wiped the sweat from her brow. Diana had found a new traveling outfit many days ago. The boots, brown pants, and white shirt were castoffs she found in a charitable village church, likely from some old farmer, and after a little crude tailoring they almost fit. While it would strain credulity to ever describe Diana as forgettable, at least she no longer looked like the victim of a fancy hurricane or an all-female remake of Ben Hur,

She relaxed in the corner of the little café long after her drink was empty. If anyone was following her, they would have to enter the café to check on her. She might be meeting a partner or slipping out the backdoor, and most stalkers weren’t patient enough to take those risks. It was a nice trick, one of her few. Working at Steve’s side in Washington had taught Diana some rudimentary Man’s World spycraft, which she glumly acknowledged was the only spycraft. The Amazons had no spies; they had no one on which to spy. Until now, anyway. It wasn’t a role Diana was eager to assume, but she would do it and a great deal more if that’s what it took to destroy the Nazis.

But no one entered the café, stalker or otherwise, and eventually Diana ambled out into the afternoon sun. As she walked through a square with a fountain, she saw a man hammering a poster onto the wall of a restaurant. When he moved away, she glanced at it and saw a poor illustration of her face. The text under it read:

Fugitivo Peligroso!​

Nombre
: Elizabeth Byrne

Nacionalidad: Los Estados Unidos (Concretamente de Idaho!!!)

Altura: Muy alto a absurdamente alto

Ojos: Azul

Cabello: Negro

Generosa recompensa por ayuda en arresto! Pregunte en la comisaría más cercana!
El fugitivo también podría tener un caballo. Recompensa adicional por el retorno del caballo.​


Diana didn’t panic. She walked up to the wall and leaned against it, concealing the poster. Whistling, she casually reached behind her back, tore the poster from the wall, balled it up, and stuffed it into her pants pocket. The poster quickly uncrumpled, causing her pocket to balloon. Diana, still whistling, sauntered away. She turned down the next street and found twelve identical posters.

---​

Meanwhile, in Gotham City.

Officers Ned Smith and Renee Montoya were dressed in their Sunday best for a plainclothes surveillance operation in a very nice neighborhood. Doctors, senior accountants, and the better sort of salesmen walked their dogs here. Smith and Montoya wore the finest outfits affordable on a police officer’s salary and looked dressy enough to convince the locals that they were perhaps someone’s sad out-of-town cousins or the crummy sort of salesmen fallen on hard times. They sat on a bench on a small hill in a small park. Down the hill and across a road was a row of townhouses. Smith and Montoya each had a copy of the largest newspaper available open in front of them. Each paper was angled so the officers could peek over the top and spy on the townhouses below.

Officer Montoya groaned. They were only on their second hour, and she had pretended to read the same pages so many times that the words had lost all meaning. “So why’s Gordon think this guy’s dirty?”

Officer Smith, who was idly memorizing the week’s scores for sports leagues he didn’t follow, responded, “Gordon says a friend saw him having lunch with the Roman.”

“What! Falcone?”

Smith hushed her. “Yeah, quiet down. But yeah.”

Montoya whispered back. “Since when does Gordon got friends who go to that sort of joint?”

Smith shrugged. “Who knows? Since when does Gordon got friends?”

“There’s-“

“Besides Bullock.”

“Right…”

They both went silent for a minute.

The surveillance had run fourteen hours a day for half a week now, and most of Gordon’s team had cycled through several times. Smith and Montoya had been busy with other crucial assignments, but Gordon finally tapped them yesterday to take a shift. Manpower was a luxury on the team, especially these days, and the team was growing skeptical at the value of the operation. No one had complained to Gordon yet, but that silence wouldn’t last long.

They trusted their brave leader’s instincts, but the target was just so incredibly boring.

Smith cleared this throat. “I went to see him the other day. Bullock, I mean. But he was asleep. They say he does a lot of that, but he’s, uh, he’s pulling through. That’s something.”

“Yeah.”

“We do have one other thing on this guy. Get this: he’s the Deputy Mayor’s brother-in-law.”

“No way.”

“Gordon found out yesterday.”

“But in this neighborhood? He should a palace somewhere.”

“I’m dead serious.”

“Well, are they close?”

“Hard to say. They haven’t visited each other while we’ve been watching.”

“Do they call?”

“That’s funny. You think Gordon would approve a wiretap on this op? With the Deputy Mayor on the other end? We’re off the reservation as is.”

Montoya shrugged defensively. “It was worth asking.”

“Besides, being related to someone ain’t a crime, and we don’t even got whispers of dirt on the Deputy Mayor anyway. Seems he’s the nice guy in the Mayor’s office.”

“So you mean the fall guy.”

“Sooner or later, I- Hey! Look fast!”

Over the tops of their newspapers, they saw a taxi pull up in front of a particular townhouse. The officers dropped their papers and rushed down the other side of the hill. They spilled into Montoya’s car in an alley near the park and sped around the block, weaving through the sedate, gentrified traffic in her conspicuously un-gentrified lemon.

They turned onto the same road of townhouses as a rear door of the taxi closed.

Smith slapped the dashboard. “Alright! Keep a few cars away.”

Montoya shot back, “You think this is the first time I’ve trailed a car?”

“Is it?”

“Technically, yes.”

“You’re doing fine, just stay calm!”

“You’re the one yelling!”

They followed the taxi for fifteen blocks, nearly losing it several times, and once nearly getting hit by a train. Montoya was exhausted by the time the taxi stopped in front of a parking garage. Smith told her to let him out and circle back in ten minutes. She wanted to say that she would park somewhere discreet so they could go in together, but it occurred to her that no one would have built a parking garage here if street parking was that easy.

Instead, her car slowed to a crawl, and Officer Smith stumbled out. He straightened his hat and watched Montoya drive off, her acceleration closing his door behind him. Smith crossed the street just as a figure from the taxi disappeared through the garage’s pedestrian entrance. Smith crept into the building. He could hear someone climbing the stairs, several flights above. The garage was nearly empty now, so Smith moved slowly to stay quiet. He peeked in every level. Finally, at the top level, he spied the figure shuffling towards a money green Cadillac. Smith crouched and moved inside. The figure walked under a light. It was Walter Brown.

Walter made it to the car as a well-dressed man stepped out of the passenger’s seat to greet him. Smith saw the man and cursed in awe.

Ten minutes later, Smith stood on the curb near the parking garage. Montoya rolled up and Smith jumped in.”

Montoya was all business. “Was it Brown?”

“Yeah, and you’ll never guess who he drove away with.”

“Who?”

“Vinnie Grapa.”

“Who?”

“Geez, you’re fresh. Vikentios ‘Vinnie’ Grapa: bagman for the Nobilos. Ring a bell?”

“I’ve heard of Milos Grapa. Thought he was a bodyguard for Falcone.”

“Different guy. But they’re cousins. No one knows the story there. Anyway, Vinnie Grapa is deep with the Nobilos. Worked his way up from running with the Greeks in the East End. Never a top guy, but he’s been in the game a long time.”

“Okay, if he’s not a top guy, how’d you recognize him?”

“I’d know that mug anywhere. Back in the day I collared him on a two-bit possession of stolen goods charge. The Nobilos hired a whole flock of lawyers to fight it. Probably cost them five times what they would have missed if he just pled down to a couple years in the clink.”

“Did he win the case?”

“Yep. I went in thinking the prosecution would tie it up in a week. It ended up lasting nine months and two appeals. The Nobilos are quiet, but they don’t mess around.”

“What do you think they want with Walter Brown?”

“Who knows? I’ll leave that line of speculation to Sarge. Let’s get something to eat.”

“I know this sandwich shop a few streets north of here.”

“That’s the spirit.”

Smith and Montoya didn’t notice that moments after she picked him up and drove away, one of the cars whose driver managed to find street parking pulled off the curb and made a tight U-turn to follow them. Unlike Montoya, this driver had trailed cars incognito many times. In the passenger seat was a tall blond man with binoculars who had watched the two officers since the start of their shift.

---​

That evening, in Buenos Aries.

Amanda Waller’s advice had been well-informed. The city’s dockyards had many English speakers, as well as speakers of every other language. Diana found her ticket out of the country on her twelfth attempt. Late that evening, she met the tipsy first mate of a Panamanian tramp steamer. He was a dapper Singaporean who introduced himself as Zhang and informed Diana in passable English that they were setting out for Sao Luis, Brazil in the morning and could use an extra hand if she was willing to sleep under the bilge pump. Diana hadn’t understood most of his words, but she understood ‘Brazil’ and ‘morning’, and that was enough. He slipped her a napkin with a scribbled berthing address. She bid him goodnight and rushed to a nearby hotel. She couldn’t afford a room, of course, but she had seen an international phone in the lobby earlier. As before, it was difficult to explain where she wanted the call routed, and the transfers to Amanda Waller were as random as usual. The last operator said Waller had to be fetched from bed and kept Diana on the line for several minutes. Finally the line connected.

“Mm. Hello?”

“Miss Waller, this is Diana Prince.”

“… Wonderful.”

“Thank you, but I must speak fast. I have few pesos left.”

“You found a way out of the country?”

“Yes, I-“

“You’re in Buenos Aries?”

“Uh, yes, and-“

“Boat leaving early?”

“Yes? How did-“

“Cutting it close with that news, Diana. When exactly? First tide?”

“The officer said that, yes.”

“Describe the craft. What does it look like?”

“Err … Panamanian.”

“Length? Color?”

“… I have not seen it.”

The was an audible sigh over the line. “Who exactly did you speak with?”

“He said he was the first mate.”

“And what’s her name?”

“It was a man.”

“No, the ship. What’s the ship called?”

“The Azure.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes, he said it many times.”

“Registered in Panama?”

“Yes.”

“And what are they carrying?”

“Soybeans, I believe.”

“Destination?”

“Brazil.”

“What port?”

“Sao Luis.”

“Buenos Aries to Sao Luis at this time of year? Let’s see. Grain hauler. Small crew. Turnover’s a problem if they’ll pick up any odd drifter.”

“Pick up who?”

“I’d guess your ship’s a ninety-footer. Something old. Yes, that’s fine.”

“What?”

“Well done, Diana. We’ll have a car waiting in Brazil. Now you watch yourself. Sailors are shifty. Don’t trust them.”

“I will watch myself. And I-”

“Good.”

The line went dead. Diana put down the receiver. This hotel was too close to the waterfront for the management to pretend to be refined, but even the scruffiest lobby clerk had standards. Giant dirty farm women could frighten the guests. Diana realized she was attracting stares and made a quick retreat.

It was a warm night outside. The moon was nearly to the top of the sky. Diana yawned. She had walked since daybreak and dearly wished to sleep, but if she curled up to rest in some alley, an informant might see her, or she might sleep late and miss her ship’s departure. These were vexing, but Diana judged herself a capable problem solver, the sort of woman who found straightforward solutions. Here, the straightforward solution was obvious.

---​

Eleven hours later.

Diana’s dreams were interrupted by a sharp poke to her shoulder. Her dreams struggled to rally, but they were finally dissolved by another poke and a loud voice yelling “Oi!” in her ear. Diana rolled over and blinked. A man’s disembodied head was frowning at her, and his free-floating arm was poking her with a mop. This earned her attention. Diana sat up and found that he had a body, but it was mostly out of sight, holding onto a ladder against the roof of the Azure’s pilot house where she had slept. Diana looked around. There was nothing but steel blue ocean in every direction. The pilot house roof was the highest point on the ship save the radio mast so she had an excellent view. The Azure was just over a hundred feet from bow to stern. Her hull was a rusted green metal and her deck was warped wood. A pair of smokestacks belched ugly black smoke which faded into a hazy cone behind the ship. Diana was impressed that the din of old machines and the calls of sea birds hadn’t roused her awake earlier.

The man with the mop asked something in Spanish. Diana shrugged groggily. “No hablo español.” He cursed and poked her again. Diana had half a mind to snatch the mop out of his hands but she worried he might fall off his ladder. Instead, she stood and hopped away off the other side of the roof.

She brushed herself off and stretched her neck. A voice called from behind, “Most unexpected!”

Diana turned. First Mate Zhang was striding toward her followed by two sailors who carried heavy wrenches. Diana suddenly recalled that last night Zhang had been polite and professional but not a bit somber. She hoped that wasn’t going to be a problem.

She nodded. “Hello, sir. It’s Diana.” She gestured awkwardly to herself. “Again.”

Zhang clapped once. “Yes, my favorite kind of stowaway.” The two sailors leaned forward eagerly. “One I invited!”

Diana basked in relief. Zhang dismissed his escorts and led her into the pilot house. There was a hefty man inside reading a map. The stranger had black skin and wore an impressive blue coat. Zhang greeted the man, talking to him in Spanish and glancing meaningfully at Dana several times.

Diana offered a wave. “Hola?”

The man mumbled something and returned to his map. Zhang made a short bow and drew Diana away. He whispered as they left, “And that was our illustrious captain.”

“What is his name?”

“He will not tell us. But that is not important. He approves of you.”

“Oh, good.”

“Diana, can you lift bags of soybeans?”

“Yes.”

“For six hours at a time?”

“Yes.”

“In a small space with little air and no sun?”

“Yes.”

“Splendid! I should have asked that last night, but no matter. There was a mistake at the docks, and the bags were loaded in the wrong crates. You will help us fix this.”

“Okay.”

“I will show you your bilge pump, then lead you to the soybeans.”

“When is breakfast?”

“So sorry, you just missed it. Someone will call you for lunch.”

---​

Falls Church, Virginia.

Admiral Bernard Cornwell’s home was a red brick colonial with a round white portico. The building was, in Amanda Waller’s opinion, a perfect fit for the owner: large, genteel, and more expensive than it was worth. Waller said a silent prayer for the taxpayer before she struck the brass knocker. The door quickly opened.

“Yes?”

Waller briefly believed she was looking at a mirror. The woman in the doorway could have been her twin, though dressed as a maid instead of Waller’s office attire. Waller stared at her doppelganger for a moment then answered, “Amanda Waller, here to see the Admiral.”

The maid nodded, “As you say, ma’am. Jus’ a moment, then.” She retreated into the house and Amanda could hear her call, “Admiral, suh, a Miss Waller for you.” A man called back, “Very good. Show her in.”

The maid returned. “Ma’am, if’in you’d kindly follow me.”

Amanda entered the house and was led through a hallway stuffed with navel art and maritime souvenirs. At the end was a study where the Admiral worked at a long desk. He returned his pen to its stand rose from his chair. “Hello, Amanda.”

“Admiral Cornwell.”

He turned to the maid. “Yes, now Mary, do leave us please. I’ll call should I need your assistance.”

The maid, Mary, curtseyed and left the room. When she was gone, the Admiral’s expression fell to restrained annoyance. “Well?”

Waller folded her arms behind her back. “I owe you an explanation.”

“You’re right about that. You can start with why you’ve been dodging my calls for a week.”

“I only-“

“See, Amanda, you have a reputation for seeing things through discreetly.”

“If-“

“So when I hand over high priority intelligence so you and your little club can run a simple reconnaissance, it’s a big surprise when I hear the subject’s been murdered.”

Waller waited several seconds after he stopped speaking before she answered. “Are you done?”

The Admiral narrowed his eyes but gestured for her to talk.

Waller nodded. “I stayed silent because it would have been fruitless to report back until I had something to report.”

“And do you have something to report?”

“Yes. In short, I sent the wrong team. They failed. That was my error. However, I’ve contained the problem, and my people are tying up loose ends as we speak. Plus, the episode has not proven entirely useless.”

“That’s hardly a report.”

“But I’d like your help moving forward. First, I need to borrow a ship. Then I need to interrogate Carmine Falcone.”

Admiral Cornwell held up his hands. “Hold on there. You better start at the beginning.”

Waller took a seat. “Like you said, this should have been a cakewalk. So I sent a rookie along with a seasoned agent to offer the former some experience.”

“And?”

“I misjudged them both. First, the rookie was a zealot.”

“What do you mean?”

“This girl was a foreigner who I’ve been trying to corral as an asset. Naïve but great potential. I don’t know all the details, but her people have been hit by the Germans, so she’s been carrying a grudge. I thought that would be helpful.”

“Just what country is she from?”

“No idea. Some island. She has names for it, but they don’t exist on any map. She’s one of my special projects, see, so her homeland might be, well, I suppose ‘paranormal’ is my favorite term lately.”

The Admiral grunted sourly.

It was quietly understood at the highest levels of national defense that there were strange things in the universe which most people were better off ignoring. Most famously, Professor Einstein had proven that time and space were connected, and matter could be converted into energy. This was perverse and shattered every intuition, so it was fortunate that almost no one had the brains to comprehend him. Likewise, strange things were best left to trusted authorities with cooler heads, and Amanda Waller had claimed a near monopoly as that authority. She didn’t have much competition. Like atomic fission, a few military leaders were faintly aware that strange things could one day rock the world, but in the meantime, they were happy to let someone else worry about it.

When the Admiral heard that brought one of her ‘special projects’ into this mission, his anger turned to obvious discomfort. He repressed the urge to change the subject. “So the Germans have invaded a fictional nation? Like Oz?”

“Not fictional. Just beyond empirical geography.”

“Of course …”

“As to whether they’ve been invaded, I can’t say. But my rookie certainly thinks so. I had hoped that insult would motivate her to perform.”

“But you fouled up on that assessment.”

“She was a little too motivated. Based on what I gather from her and other sources, our girl shows up and finds Salazar. My pro, who’s supposed to be her chaperone, tells her to play it cool. But what does she do? Catches Salazar in some empty room and grills him. No coordination, no plan, nothing.”

“Your pro doesn’t slap some sense into her?”

Waller coughed on a laugh and suppressed a smile. “No, that wasn’t an option.”

“So your dame tries to beat some secrets out of Salazar then plugs him. But I heard Salazar was shot in public. Did he try to flee?”

“Not the way you’re imagining. It seems their chat was interrupted. Our pair escape, leaving Salazar behind. Somehow, they manage things so he never gets a look at them. Security can’t help him since he can’t tattle on his assailants, so he decides to leave.”

“But your crew got away scot free. Why shoot him?”

“Well, when our girl roughed up Salazar, she heard some choice news. Salazar claimed the Krauts had two spymasters in the Americas, Der Wehrwolf and him.”

Admiral Cornwell looked disappointed then intrigued. “So we had the wrong guy. Der Wehrwolf is still out there.”

“Oh, yes. One more reason why it’s high time we spoke with your man Falcone and discover why a criminal boss in Gotham thinks he knows about the foremost Nazi spy on the continent.”

The Admiral sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Finish your story, Amanda. Then we’ll talk about it.”

Waller nodded primly. “Fine. Mr. Salazar admits to a veritable laundry list of bad behavior. Every sort of sabotage and subversion a man in his position could pull. Our girl thinks about it and decides he’s too much of a threat. She loathes the Reich. Couldn’t let him walk away. Makes an executive decision to set his plans back permanently.”

“And puts a bullet in him.”

“No, actually. My pro pulls the trigger first.”

What? Why?”

“Pity. Chivalry. Love.” Waller shrugged like these possibilities like ice cream flavors. “I don’t know. Maybe all the above. I thought he could stay objective, but clearly I was wrong. He gets arrested. She escapes. Problem is, while their little interview with Salazar was her idea, he does the actual talking since his Spanish is better. Our girl only hears the dirty deeds second-hand. Doesn’t know a whit of the details. If we want real intel; Salazar’s last words, I have to recover my man. Might be the biggest break on their domestic rings we’ve ever found.”

“And I’m sure Jerry wants to hear why he shot their man out of the blue. Let’s pray the Argentines aren’t in on it.”

“Speaking of ‘in on it’, we need Falcone.”

The Admiral stared down and laced his fingers. “Listen, Amanda, I know how reckless this seems. I’m not stupid.”

“I never said you were.”

“Do you know what U-boat crews have called the last year? Rumor is they call it ‘Die Glückliche Zeit’. The Happy Time. There were weeks when we lost half the tonnage we sent to the Brits. That’s countless ships and merchant crews lost when it takes months to replace one. It’s been a nightmare.”

“I’m aware of the situation.”

“They shouldn’t have been able to find our convoys so consistently. There had to be spies in our shipping ports. Gotham, naturally, was the big gorilla in the room. There were even strange fires and missing parts in some of its shipyards. But the FBI said their counterespionage office in town wasn’t picking up anything. They said Gotham was just too big to cover, too unwelcoming. They didn’t have the budget, they said. What could we do?”

“What indeed?”

“We heard that if you wanted to know anything in Gotham, there was this pack of old bootleggers who knew everything there was to know in the city. We talked to them.”

“I’ve heard the story, Admiral.”

“These old boys were smart, Amanda. I hate to admit it but they held all the cards. Some of our eggheads were warning that if our merchant ships didn’t start making it through, the UK would fall in two months. We had to turn things around. And these gangsters could sense we were desperate.”

“Admirals don’t meet with little crooks every day.”

“Guess not. They said they’d heard rumors of foul play that might interest us. The Feds had nothing to arrest them on, so we thought they wanted something sweet. But besides giving a few friends parole, they were willing to share their rumors for free. Just to help against the fascists, they said.”

“But that wasn’t all.”

“They shared all sorts of rumors, sure, but they insisted on one condition: we couldn’t ask how or where they learned what they knew.”

Waller stared at him like he was stupid. “And you agreed to that.”

“Wartime emergency, woman. It was easy enough to verify their intel through our own channels. And no gangster in their right mind would collude with the Axis. Hitler and Mussolini hang their type. They wanted a signed promise from the Justice Department that no consequence from any espionage-related admission could be used against them in court. And they got it.”

“So you’re saying-“

“We can’t interrogate Falcone because that would mean arresting him on suspicions from an espionage-related tip. We can ask him nicely to talk to us, but I suspect he won’t be forthcoming.”

“So he could give you a tip that, say, leads to half the Office of Naval Intelligence being ambushed because he’s playing both sides, and he could walk away whistling Dixie?”

“Look, I still have no proof any of them are dirty. Almost all of these tips have led to arrests or safehouses. We’re talking apart their network across the Eastern Seaboard in a big way. And it can’t be a ruse: U-boat attacks in coastal waters are dropping every month. There are plenty of regular selfish reasons why a criminal would keep his secrets.”

“If you can’t arrest him then follow him. Learn where he gets his data covertly.”

To her surprise, Admiral Cornwell laughed. “Have you been to Gotham?”

“Unfortunately.”

“These puffed-up racketeers are sultans there. They have everything sewed-up the way they like it. You don’t just follow a guy like Falcone around. Any agent we put on the case would be made in a heartbeat, probably by the cops.”

Waller studied him for a long moment. “I could do it.”

“Could you now? I’ve heard good things about your men, Waller, but I don’t think you’ve reckoned with you’re up against.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t have they tracked. It’s too late for that.”

“Meaning?”

“We take him. Question him. He doesn’t even need to know who’s responsible.”

“I hope you’re kidding.”

“I admit my girl put us in a rough place, but if Salazar was credible, my team froze half the Nazi operations in the Americas in one blow. It seems the only source who could possibly point straight to a nerve center like that is the other half of Nazi operations in the Americas. Either Falcone has a mole at the very highest echelon of their spy rings or he’s being controlled by them.”

“That occurred to me, obviously.”

“And he might be special.”

“Special?”

“My kind of special. Paranormal. There’s a lot that’s gone well for him. He knows more than he should. Things he can’t know. And his little whisper somehow set in motion us murdering of a diplomat.”

“That’s weak logic. Sounds to me you’re biased. Or compensating.”

“There’s a lot that isn’t adding up. Call it a hunch.”

“But he’s an American citizen. Outwardly, he’s done no wrong. We can’t justify it.”

“Oh yes we can. Like you said: wartime emergency.”

The Admiral was a man of rules. He folded his arms and his features turned cold. Waller leaned forward and doubled-down. “Do you know the fundamental difference between you and me, Admiral?”

He idly scanned her features. “I suspect I do.”

“No, it’s got nothing to do with how we were born and everything to do with how we were trained.”

“How?”

“You’re a military officer. And in every military, men are commodities.”

“Well, I shan’t describe-“

“Come now, if the President gave you a fleet and orders to attack a fortified harbor, and you knew this would expend a thousand shells and a hundred drums of fuel and a hundred sailors’ lives, what would you do?”

“I would take every precaution-“

“And then?”

“Fulfill my orders.”

“And I’m sure you would mourn the loss of those lives.”

“Naturally.”

“But it wouldn’t stop you. Given a clear mission, you would spend those human lives as quickly as you spend fuel. Maybe quicker if supply lines are desperate.”

“What’s your point, Waller?”

“Suppose one sailor doesn’t play along. How do you treat insubordination? Do you let him go home? Do you sit and chat over coffee, try to convince him through rhetoric?”

“I’m not going to dignify that with an answer.”

“No. You throw him in the brig. You flog him. You shoot him. If there’s a rotten grape in the bunch, you toss it. In fact, it’s even more important to get rid of a man – one bad grape won’t ruin the rest, but a man can spark a mutiny.”

“If you intend to lecture me, you’re gravely mistaken.”

“I came to offer an olive branch and a comparison.”

“What comparison?”

“You have intelligence responsibilities at your rank, Admiral, but you were trained as a combat officer. In combat, you can afford to spend people because they’re conditioned to obey but moreso because they have no place to negotiate. You have all the leverage. But I wasn’t trained as a combat officer. I trained in intelligence. And in intelligence, you don’t have all the leverage. The fate of nations may rest on a single turncoat. You can't trust a turncoat, he isn't inclined to take orders, and you can’t arrest him. The best you can hope is to use influence. If you want something from a spy - and by God, you do - then you must wheedle and flatter and frighten and lie like a rug. All to influence a greedy coward whose defining trait is a criminal lack of loyalty.”

“I am in intelligence, Waller.”

“Your desk is, but is your attitude?”

“Word games now?”

“Like it or not, we have been born into the generation when humanity meets its betters. If an extraordinary boy can run like a cheetah and lift a car, or if he casts illusions with his mind so vivid you’d never know the difference, do you think can you draft him into your wars like any other grunt? What if he says no?”

“… I’d need to influence him.”

“You’d need to wheedle and flatter and frighten and lie like a rug. You need to throw him in a dark room and make him think you’re the only one who can save him. And those aren’t skills you can learn overnight. You study them like you study for a degree. Study for years.”

“And you've studied that degree?”

“I’m the professor.”

---​

Meanwhile, near a small prison deep in the mountains of Argentine Patagonia.

The United States had always leaned isolationist, which was a luxury for nations. However, as an isolationist - not to mention a wishy-washy democracy – America’s peacetime military was seen by peers as a joke, and its intelligence services were considered (when acknowledged at all) to be temporary gangs of amateurs, adventurers, and yahoos.

Still, every batter has his wheelhouse, and if Uncle Sam’s spies could claim to be the authority on one subject, it was mucking around in Latin America. The State Department had dossiers on dozens of officials they deemed ‘open to negotiation’, and if Washington had a question about something happening south of the border, it was a straightforward matter to knock on doors until someone had an answer. Then it was just an issue of price, and while the Americans might be amateurs, no one called them stingy.

As far as doing business went, Argentina’s relationship with the United States was tepid. Its government wanted to trade with both the Axis and the Allies, and its pro-fascist military was threatening to become its government. After the news was published (passing the censorship bureaus) that the killer of a Spanish diplomat was possibly American, Argentine-American relations took a further nosedive (reactions from Spain were also less than positive).

In that environment, it was challenging for Amanda Waller’s agents to find where John Gibbons, aka, Captain Steven Trevor was being held captive. And it proved an absolute non-starter when they tried to arrange his release. Instead she sent a team to take him out: literally if possible, figuratively if necessary. Trevor was a seasoned operative, but the conventional wisdom was simple: if your captors knew their business, breaking a man was just a matter of time.

Four members of the extraction team camped on a cliff overlooking the prison. They wore plain leather jackets. They had watched the site for two days, hoping to find when the prisoners were let out for exercise. Evidently, the prisoners weren’t. Now the team was resigned to ready Plan B: going inside. It would happen that night. Fast. Silent. No trace. If they made it to Trevor without raising alarms, they would spirit him to a waiting aircraft. If the mission went loud, they would neutralize Trevor and leave empty-handed.

Lieutenant William Vickers lay on the cliff edge with a pair of binoculars. He saw a civilian car trace the winding path up to the prison gate. The team had observed a few trucks come and go, but a car was new.

“Hey, Wilson, take a look at this. Got a car.”

Waller’s agents kept their previous rank, leading to situations that would be bizarre in the regular military, like staffing a tiny field outpost with multiple officers. But her team followed a simple rule: Lieutenant Slade Wilson told everyone what to do.

Wilson crawled over with his own binoculars. The camp’s two other occupants followed. Down below, the car was waved into a side lot. Three tall men with conservative suits and briefcases stepped out. All had pale skin and yellow hair.

Vickers asked, “Any idea who these boys are?”

Wilson answered. “Well, how many pasty blond guys over six feet have we seen around here?”

Another agent, Private Floyd Lawton, added, “Foreigners at a place like this? Must be up to no good.”

The three visitors passed through the gatehouse and entered the main detention building. Minutes passed. Then the noise of a long klaxon erupted from the prison. Even away on their cliff, Waller’s agents could hear it clearly, followed by the stinging cracks of gunfire. A side wall of the building crumbled, and the three men rushed through the dust. Two of them dragged a fourth man.

Vickers swore. “Look, that’s Trevor! They’re taking him!”

The fleeing men carried guns and dragged Trevor with surprising ease as they raced to the wall. Bullets from the guard tower spat around them, but it wasn’t clear whether any hit. One of the men leaped and caught the edge of the eighteen-foot wall. He grabbed a handful of barbed wire coils and tugged, ripping off several yards of it at once. His partners fired automatic weapons back toward the new hole in the detention building, pinning down the guards behind the rubble. The man on the wall dropped the yards of loose barbed wire. One of the pair below seized Trevor around the waist with one arm and hopped, catching the hanging wire with his other gloved hand. Incredibly, the man then climbed the wire with one hand and his feet. He passed Trevor like a baton to his partner already sitting atop the wall who leaped over the other side. The third man stopped his suppressing fire and followed. They disappeared.

Wilson quietly sighed.

Vickers whispered, “We sure these guys ain’t ours?”

Wilson answered, “Pretty sure.”

When the escaping men came back into view, they threw Trevor into their car and sped down the mountain road. Several trucks soon raced through the gate after them, but the car had an impressive head start.

Wilson nudged Lawton and pointed down to a bend in the road that passed near their camp.

“Can you stop that car without crashing it?”

Lawton considered for a moment. The road was a maze of tight turns, no shoulders, and steep ridges.

“Probably.”

“Do it.”

Lawton crawled away from the cliff edge and returned with a scoped M1903 Springfield rifle. They waited as the car came into range.

“Firing.”

As the car turned onto a short straightaway, Lawton fired. The car’s rear left tire popped. The car quickly skidded to the edge. Lawton ran the bolt and fired again. The car’s rear right tire popped. The car skidded the other way, back to the center. It gently fishtailed, slowing as its fender kicked up sparks. Lawton ran the bolt and fired once more. This shot missed. Lawton fired again and again. These rounds destroyed the two front tires, gently correcting the car’s course with each impact. Lawton ejected the stripper clip in his rifle and reloaded.

The car rolled to a stop. The three men hurried out, and one carried Trevor along. They didn’t seem panicked. After a brief discussion, they started running up a nearby rocky slope. A line of trucks soon arrived. A force of prison guards poured out. The agents on the cliff could see that many guards only carried revolvers, and even their few rifles would struggle to hit the targets on the slope. The trio would soon be out of sight.

Wilson ordered, “Trip ‘em.”

“I can pop Trevor.”

“No. Stop one of the runners. Leave Trevor and his carrier.”

Private Lawton dubiously steadied his rifle again and fired. The heavy round hit the last escapee in the calf. He stumbled and started to roll back down the steep slope. A cascade of stones and dust followed. The other two escapees paused and looked back. The wounded man struggled against his rapid slide, making an impressive show considering the hole in his leg. The two standing escapees turned back and kept running uphill. They were almost at the top.

Wilson ordered. “And the other.”

Lawton fired. Different leg, same tumble. The final man carrying Trevor didn’t bother stopping now. He reached the crest of the hill and disappeared behind a rock formation. The guards from the trucks were still bounding up the slope. If any noticed that two rifle shots had come from an adjacent cliff, none mentioned it. The first sliding man had stopped after he hit a flat ledge halfway down. He rose to his knees and pulled out a handgun on the guards. It was twelve against one. He went down shooting. The guards didn’t give the second sliding man a chance. He expired before he hit the bottom.

Wilson’s team had already crept away from the cliff. He addressed his men, “Break camp. Radio blue squad to swing around the south face and watch footpaths traveling east for a package on the move. Tell them Dad canceled Capture the Flag. We’re playing Tag.”

---​

Meanwhile, in Gotham City.

Sergeant James Gordon was at his desk reviewing a stack of overtime slips when his door opened.

“Hello Jimmy.”

Gordon looked up and suppressed a flinch. “Flass.”

The tall, blond Detective Arnold Flass casually walked into Gordon’s office like he owned the joint, kicking the door shut behind him. He was the epitome of everything wrong with the GCPD, and he was all smiles. “Long time, ain’t it, Jimmy?”

“That’s Sergeant. What do you want?”

“Not much. Just to be here so I can see you squirm when you finally get what’s been coming to you.”

Gordon eyed Flass the way a jungle guide watches an anaconda. He put down his pen more firmly than usual. “And what do you think I have coming, Flass?”

Flass opened his long camel hair coat and plucked out an envelope. “Don’t worry, most of your crew saw me on the way in. They can’t all be as dumb as they look, so this won’t come as shock.” He tossed the envelope onto Gordon’s desk. “Recognize the stamp?”

Gordon inspected the envelope. “The Major’s office.” That was unsettling. Majors were only three ranks under the Commissioner. Gordon was management now, but he could count his meetings with his major on one hand.

Gordon slit the envelope and pulled out a letter. He read aloud, “Sergeant James Gordon, effective immediately, your Special Vigilante Task Force is-“

Flass interrupted, “’-Hereby disbanded due to attrition of manpower.’ I love that line. Great opener. See, Jimmy, it turns out there’s a little rule that says special units like yours must have a certain minimum number of active officers as a fraction of their original allotment. If you drop below the minimum – say, because some poor souls kicked the bucket or ended up in the hospital or quit - then clearly there’s not enough hands to do the job, and the unit is broken up. The officers return to normal assignments where they might finally do something productive. Make sense?”

Gordon kept his features from trembling. He read the letter slowly. “Are these our new assignments.”

“Yes, end of page three.”

“It says I’ll run Homicide for the river patrol.”

“Good post; you’ve earned it.”

“It would make my commute an hour and a half.”

“That’s rough.”

“It says Clarence will walk a beat in Upper Purdue. Ned will work an evidence warehouse near Downtown. Ernest will liaison with the Petty Crimes Division of the county police. These are all too far from where these officers live.”

“And career dead-ends too. Don’t forget that.”

“Right. And … Hold on … Officer Montoya was given the assignment ‘Eye Candy’, but someone drew a single line across that and scribbled ‘Filing and Reception’ beside it.”

Flass shrugged. “Must have been a typo.”

“And she’ll be with Third Division.”

Flass offered some mock surprise. “Hey, Third Division’s my neck of the woods.”

“I know.”

“Well, at least she’ll know one friendly face.”

“There’s that.”

“I’m impressed, Jimmy. You don’t look too broken up about all this. Awfully high-minded of you.”

“When was that minimum manpower rule established, Flass?”

“Yesterday.”

“I see.” Gordon folded the letter and stood. “I’ll tell my team.” Gordon moved to pass him but stopped. “Oh, one other question, Flass.”

Flass looked down at him with an expression that was almost fond. “Shoot.”

“You dirtbags could’ve pulled a stunt like this since day one. Why now? I’m strong now. Never been stronger. You know you’re going to feel pain over this.”

“We both know the answer there.”

Gordon nodded thoughtfully. “Guess so.”

Flass held his arm out to the door. “You had a good run, Jimmy. Let’s bring this story home. Final scene. Your audience awaits.”

Sergeant Gordon set his jaw, straightened his tie, and opened his door. He called out, “Everyone, gather round. I have an announcement…”

---​

A week later, 90 nautical miles off the coast of Brazil.

In some ways, Diana’s time aboard the Azure was her first normal week since arriving in Man’s World. There was no way to make the ship travel faster, and there was little she could do to prepare while aboard. She had a few simple tasks to complete each day, and the rest of her time was her own. Contrary to Amanda Waller’s warning, the sailors were excellent companions once she proved that she could pull her weight. Her Spanish improved by leaps and bounds, and she learned a great deal about card games and songs and jokes and judging the weather and mixing tattoo ink. The sailors also knew a daunting array of knots and rope tricks, but the Amazons played many binding games, and Diana was usually the teacher on that topic.

But in Diana’s new life, her normal time never lasted long. She was working in the hold one morning when the watch spotted a ship cruising toward them from the northeast. That alone wasn’t remarkable; this was a popular trade route, but the ship had no flags or insignia. First Mate Zhang was at the helm. He found binoculars and examined the mystery vessel for himself. It looked like a tiny warship, perhaps a corvette.

A hail was coming through on the bridge radio. He pressed the speaker. A dull voice said, “-craft identify yourself. Navío, cuál es su identidad? Vaisseau, quelle est votre identité?”

Zhang took the microphone. “This is independent freighter Azure bound for Sao Luis. With whom am I speaking?”

He received no answer. The line was dead. Zhang muttered, “What the devil?”

Then he noticed a white flash in the water off starboard.

The torpedo struck the Azure amidships, nearly tearing the stubby vessel in half. The Azure began to list and take on water. The second torpedo hit its bow, blasting much of that structure off.

A sinking ship was a wild creature, bucking faster than anything its size on land. Even collapsing towers don’t rock and spin and tip the way a ship sinks, and all too soon the Azure slipped beneath the waves.
Author: Batman 1939
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