Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

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Stewart M
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-10-09 01:09am

FaxModem1 wrote:In regards to nations, they like to use a couple reasons. Countries that were created by World War I or the Cold War, or ancient mythical magic or tech powered isolationists. As justifications for Themiscirya and Wakanda, one has access to Greek God protection, the other has access to a metal that warps the laws of physics around them, and is only native to their location, causing their science to progress rather fast. Does this justify either withholding the cure for cancer from the world? Not so much. Latveria was a rather primitive nation until Doctor Doom led a coup backed by robots, then he updated the technology there significantly.


Regarding Themiscirya, I was thinking about their original version wherein the Amazons were expert scientists (see below).

Image

Granted, much is left unexplained, but I don't think the gods are the source of this invention. Somehow, the Amazons already understand electric lighting, protective lens, EM(?) frequencies, and the scientific method. More bizarrely, Diana, who isn't known for her research savvy, brings a man back from the dead with a science ray which she made in five days.

Of course, these *isolated* Amazons are also familiar with America and can read English. I'll leave the implications to your consideration.

If you'll forgive more ranting, I'm curious how access to a reality-warping metal can propel Wakanda to the forefront of the 21st century on its own. Uranium is a reality-warping metal if your understanding of reality is Newtonian, the default for 99% of human history. Even gasoline seems reality-warping if you passed an iron age tribe in the Wright Flier. I'm curious how a natural resource alone compels technical knowledge. I've never heard of that happening with any other resource. Does it mutate their brains?

Ultimatly, Marvel isn't my strong suit, so this is less than a rant, it's an uninformed rant. I'm done.
Author: Batman 1939
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-09 02:22am

Isolated tribes with incredible technology are such a commonplace of pulp literature that it seems likely no one was seriously examining this assumption and saying "wait, literally none of the thousands of isolated tribal societies we've encountered in centuries of exploration had technology beyond the Iron Age." As to why no one examined that assumption... I do not know.

It's fun to play that way, I'll say that much.
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As to the Marvel thing...

If vibranium can be worked easily, using relatively limited technology, it might logically give the Wakandans some specific amazing technologies. At least in areas where having vibranium is a special asset. Sort of like how if uranium weren't so darn hard to refine, and weren't so darn hazardous, one could imagine a small country working in isolation with the world's only uranium deposits having these marvelous power sources and weapons that nobody else can duplicate. On the other hand, that wouldn't make them into medical geniuses, for instance.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby FaxModem1 » 2016-10-09 03:24am

Well, pre-crisis, the Purple healing ray was invented by Diana. Golden Age Wonder Woman was a bit silly though, and rather focused on Diana either getting tied up or tying people up. Post-crisis, the WW villain Baroness Von Gunther ended up on Paradise Island and created the thing. The amazons tinkered with it, modified it(even made it into a superweapon once), but they didn't invent the thing.

Wakanda? I don't know, it's a power fantasy in which a micronation can withhold the cure for cancer from the rest of the world because they're 'superior'. I'm more DC than Marvel as well.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-09 09:51am

FaxModem1 wrote:Well, pre-crisis, the Purple healing ray was invented by Diana. Golden Age Wonder Woman was a bit silly though, and rather focused on Diana either getting tied up or tying people up.
The Amazons (or some of them) being brilliant scientists was, I suspect, a product of Marston's particular brand of feminism. Tangentially related to the "tying people up" thing in some sense, but not the same.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-10-10 12:20pm

The specific case of Wakanda is more that, as they control the world's supply of vibranium, they were able to take the Saudi approach and sell it in exchange for sending their nobility and intellectual class to overseas university, vaguely around WW2 ish or early Cold War period. Then they turned that around, used those newly educated people to set up universities and research institutions within Wakanda itself, and basically worked to uplift their own society, while using their stranglehold on the vibranium supply to maintain their independence.

At least that's one explanation. Another one, I want to say, involves the Inhumans in some fashion. Consistency in comic books, lol?
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-10-10 12:33pm

Ghetto Edit: I could always buy Themyscira because they're basically a society of demigods, and it's not a very great leap to pull the Marvel-esque 'magic and science are the same thing' line there. If they had lightning-zapping copper-clad steampunk tech, that would be kind of weird, but most of their stuff is just... sorta magic.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-10 04:04pm

Well, it's interesting to imagine what a society with an average IQ of, say, 140 might look like. If the average Amazon is smarter than human (although not by the same margin that Wonder Woman is stronger than human), it might help explain things. Although it still wouldn't explain how they physically build tools and 'laboratories' and whatnot.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-10-13 09:34pm

Elheru Aran wrote:The specific case of Wakanda is more that, as they control the world's supply of vibranium, they were able to take the Saudi approach and sell it in exchange for sending their nobility and intellectual class to overseas university, vaguely around WW2 ish or early Cold War period. Then they turned that around, used those newly educated people to set up universities and research institutions within Wakanda itself, and basically worked to uplift their own society, while using their stranglehold on the vibranium supply to maintain their independence.


That's borderline sensible, though I wouldn't call Saudi Arabia the most advanced nation in anything. At least we have, say, Japan and Singapore for models to match the rest of the world. But to then exceed the developed world? Also, it's unusual for an undeveloped, resource-rich country to maintain neutrality so adroitly. Not impossible, but not common.

Simon_Jester wrote:Well, it's interesting to imagine what a society with an average IQ of, say, 140 might look like. If the average Amazon is smarter than human (although not by the same margin that Wonder Woman is stronger than human), it might help explain things.


I'm actually not convinced a society of geniuses would develop much more than other societies. Advancement is the meeting of very specific challenges and very specific resources, and I'd say the Amazons lack both.

Simon_Jester wrote:Although it still wouldn't explain how they physically build tools and 'laboratories' and whatnot.


Exactly. For example, the ancient Greeks were clever enough to invent the steam engine but never built trains or mills. If memory serves, the first utilitarian steam engine was British and was used to pump water out of coal mines. The British needed coal because they were running out traditional energy sources like timber. Coal is very difficult to extract compared to timber or peat, but they were desperate to maintain their huge economy. Conveniently, coal proved a more useful fuel anyway, both to power engines and cast metal, and both of those proved handy to enable more sophisticated steam-powered machines.

Even assuming coal exists where they live, could you imagine the Amazons as coal miners? That's miserable work, no matter how smart you are. What would drive them to such desperation?

Elheru Aran wrote:Ghetto Edit: I could always buy Themyscira because they're basically a society of demigods, and it's not a very great leap to pull the Marvel-esque 'magic and science are the same thing' line there. If they had lightning-zapping copper-clad steampunk tech, that would be kind of weird, but most of their stuff is just... sorta magic.

Meh. Perhaps true, but not very satisfying.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-10-13 09:42pm

Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Chapter 13: Recovery


Only two cars remained in the convoy sent to bring Arturo Bertinelli to Gotham City. The third car was stuck in two feet of water in some wild gully, and the truck had suddenly roared away while the rescue party helped Arturo. It took two big men to break the branch he was handcuffed to, but no one could remove the cuff from his wrist, so they left it hanging. The leader of the convoy was on a tight deadline, so he told Arturo to take a seat in the first car while that seat's guard stayed behind to guide the eventual tow.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. The two cars returned to the highway and cruised homeward at twenty over the limit, assured in advance that no traffic cops would visit their route tonight. The leader grilled Arturo along the way, demanding to know what had just happened. Arturo could only balefully respond, “Batman.” The leader asked what Batman wanted with him, and why he go through the trouble of catching him just to leave him in the woods. Arturo answered that Batman wanted to take him away for motives unknown, but the rescuers caught up too fast, and Batman left him behind to escape. He declined to mention that he and Batman had briefly talked. The leader seemed annoyed but accepted this explanation for the time being since he doubted the existence of the so-called Batman anyway.

They reached the Gotham City limits in the nick of time, pulling into a full service car wash that happened to be built atop the municipal border. The entry parking lot was still in the neighboring county, offering a fig leaf of privacy from the GCPD. The car wash should have been closed, but one of its garage-like booths was open and lit, and a few vehicles were parked. The two cars stopped, and Arturo’s escorts led him to the open booth. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the glare, but the five figures at the entrance quickly resolved into his wife, his three children, and his cousin Frank. Shadows with rifles lurked outside the light. His wife and children looked scared, but they put on a brave face. Frank for his part wasn’t nearly as angry as he might have been alone. His expression mostly glum.

As Arturo approached, Frank stepped forward, glancing oddly at the free-swinging handcuffs but making no comment. Instead, he stared Arturo in the eyes, his gaze cool and sad but unsympathetic, and when he spoke, it was all business.

“A lawyer will see you before your arraignment. You can have,” he studied his watch, “two minutes with your wife, then go through.” He gave Arturo a light slap on the cheek and pointed at him. “You know the rules.”

Frank didn’t wait for a response. He nodded to one the shadows and walked past Arturo into the dim parking lot. Arturo shivered. He features had been haunted all evening, but he looked worse since his brief encounter with Batman. His wife flew towards him, and they fell into each other’s arms. His children scrambled around to join the embrace. The remaining shadows said nothing and kept their distance. After three minutes, a shadow came and led his family away. Arturo walked into the booth and swung the door shut behind him. If he had been younger, even three days younger, he might have dreamed of some escape even now, but he didn’t dream of anything. Now he felt like a puppet. He crossed the short room full of hoses and brushes and opened the other door. The pavement outside was Gotham City. Four grim police officers stood in a line.

An officer told him he was under arrest. He said nothing. That was the first rule.

---​

Two minutes earlier.

Frank Bertinelli removed his hat and slid into the rear seat of the limousine. Beside him sat Carmine Falcone. They were old men and didn't rush to conversation. The pair had known each other a long time: often friends, often rivals, always peers. Falcone gave Bertinelli time to gather his composure and let the world settle. When he finally spoke, it was without preamble.

“We have troubles, Frank.”

“Mmm.”

“Your man out there was bad news, but it was a problem we could contain. You would've taken a hit, an ugly hit, if you'll forgive my saying so, but it wouldn't have knocked you down. But this business?”

“We didn't know that. We still don't.”

“This business though? Shooting in the streets? A mess. This is on me. I overreacted.”

“You made a call, Carmine. And we backed you. That's the job. What we do takes coglioni, no question. And it turned sour. So what?”

“Well, the Department's had half an evening to put the scene together. City Hall won't begin to act on it for another day at least. We have time to organize. Let's strangle the problem in the crib.”

Frank Bertinelli nodded gravely. “The troops that made it back are lying low. Might have them skip town. Luca Passafaro died on the way home. We'll fake a scene and let some out-of-state coroner find him. Maybe Hub City. That just leaves Eddie Pints. Cops plugged the poor man's hand. Bled out on the spot.”

“Any dirt the police can find through Eddie? Any connections?”

“Peh. We already cleared his house, talked to his folks. That's shut tight.”

“Suppose they find something you missed.”

“Well, Maroni knows people who could lose a body at the morgue. Maybe they haven't made Eddie's name yet. Of course, Maroni isn't one to share on the cheap.”

“I've no doubt we could convince him of the necessity, should it come to that. But that's not the real problem, is it?”

Bertinelli grit his teeth and shook his head. “That damned fat slob.”

Falcone nodded gently. “Detective Harvey Bullock. He's in surgery. Word is he's not supposed to make it till dawn. Still, I have it on good authority that the other officers on the scene heard Bullock talking to your man Marco. Called him out by name."

"I know."

"Assuming they find whatever Arturo stashed in that bar, that's a big sign in your direction. If they can use Marco to connect the shooting to your people, even if he hides, that might be a case.”

“I know that. Don't you think I know that?”

“And then there's the Hargraves. That pins us to the wall.”

“I know! Those was supposed to keep this from being an issue! I'm thinking I better melt the five down 'fore they end up as evidence.”

Falcone, who didn't bat an eye at the mention of two men bleeding to death, winced at this. “Those are valuable pieces, Frank.”

“Are they? Are they still? Cause I think this Bullock and his buddies just showed us that the cops don't follow the agreement no more. Maybe they's just popguns now."

"We don't know that."

"Listen, you're the one with so many friends on the force. Are you telling me this guy was completely off the reservation? One hundred percent? Cause if he wasn't, if they don't toss the whole lot of 'em out for this, then bad enough we shot some lawmen, but if he gets any support for standing up to us, institutional-wise, then that's a whole different disaster coming in. That redefines things, see? That flips the chess board.”

“It shouldn't come to that.”

“What have you heard?”

“Nothing from command yet. The rank and file are all noise. None of them were there anyway, so you could have five officers with seven stories of how it went on. Not much of a surprise, really: reliable ears have warned about renegades in the Department for years."

"I know."

"We knew we could never please everyone, but our friends at the top have always shut down any upstarts who makes real moves against us. And hey, they've done an impeccable job of that for, what, ten years? I wouldn't say the board's flipped just yet. We play this right, we make nice, they pin the shootings on some patsy. We might even turn it into a win.”

“You're a real piece of work, Carmine. There's always an angle for you, ain't there? Got to find a win.”

Falcone didn't respond to the comment. “As I understand it, the other cops on this Bullock's team said the fight happened across a street. They say Bullock was the only one who walked close enough to get a decent look at your boys. The rest of this detective's team is new blood, Frank.”

“Maybe that's the problem. This new generation didn't live through the old days. They don't understand the reasons for our status quo.”

“I meant the other officers had never seen your five before. Not in person. And they weren't that close when someone opened fire.”

“Ah! I see what you're saying! The best they got is old mugshots. We tear any eyewitness that takes the stand.”

“But Bullock would know. He already called out Marco, good odds he'd recognize a few others, provided he makes it through the night.”

“There, no problem, then. We take that option off that table.”

“No, Frank, we can't snuff him. Not after all this.”

“Come no now, Carmine. He broke the rules, see? Doesn't get more clear than this.”

“There might be a way to fix our predicament, but we lose whatever bargaining position we have if we kill another cop, at least for the foreseeable future. We keep our hands clean. Let's see if nature does it for us.”

“Right, nature. If you say so. But you better be right.”

There were silent for a time. The driver watched Arturo enter the car wash and slowly brought the limo out of the parking lot. Frank Bertinelli turned and watched some cops argue whether to cuff Arturo above or below his existing cuff. Carmine Falcone glanced around Frank and was puzzled.

“Why does he have that on his arm?”

“The man I sent to bring Arturo in said Arturo claims it was Batman.”

“Batman? Again?”

“Says Batman stole a truck, ran him off the road, and stuck him to a tree with them cuffs. And my man admits that everything about that seems true, at least that someone did it. Can you beat that?”

“How would Batman know where to find him? Or the time and route of their trip?”

“Beats me. I sure have some questions to ask when there aren't ten others pots boiling over.”

“I think we all have some questions to ask. Arturo said Batman had cut a hole in his roof last night, yes?”

“Someone sure did. The repair crew brought me photos today. A few guys who've crossed paths say its a symbol. Arturo said he and the missus wake up to see it cut there in the roof. Scared them half to death, they say. And then this stronzo leaves papers about this kidnapping on Arturo's wall. That's what up and spooked him into calling the Army.”

“Say, if these papers match some that show up at the hearing, we'll know that this Batman has some link to Bullock and maybe others in the prosecution.”

“My thoughts exactly, 'cept what does that do for us? Bat's in the wind and Bullock's on a slab.”

“That can't be his only link. I'm sure he'll show his face again. Or mask, I suppose. He'll be back.”

The attitude of the Gotham's Four Families toward the Batman myth was complicated. In his early days, when Batman hunted lone felons and petty gangs in the back alleys civilization forgot, they had no reason to believe the stories when anything more than excuses and exaggerations. If anything, the Families would have encouraged such a vigilante. They made little to no profit from these independent thugs; in fact, their activity lowered property values. After a few months, the Bat's appearances turned less frequent, but he was seen around fatter and fatter targets. A rumor of a sighting would float up, then a week later, some conman or port official would be arrested, and the charge would stick!

That occasionally caught the Families attention, but none of their sources found anything was amiss save uncommonly determined police work. The GCPD even had a Batman task force, but it was an understaffed, marginalized joke: they clearly didn't believe the guy was a threat. And the Families didn't necessarily see the new attacks as a bad thing, even if they recognized a pattern. The Families had a hand in every corner of the city in one way or another, so any loss usually stung, but it made for good publicity when bad guys went to jail. That put people at ease. And from a Darwinian perspective, each arrest got rid of a bum who wasn't careful enough to protect himself and could be replaced without hassle.

The crucial truth was that the Families had a clear sense of their own kingdoms, and in two long years, Batman had not hurt, had not so much as threatened a core interest on any of their domains. Oh, he would probe the edges. If any of them had bothered to focus, they would have seen him circling like a shark, season after season. He would be stalk a friend of an associate, a minor supplier, players just outside the circumference of their organizations, or at least outside those echelons the bosses could personally supervise. And with each bite, Batman grew a little wiser, a little more connected, a little more feared. He never stayed near one kingdom long enough to become a nuisance, and it could never be proven that he had passed through at all.

His first real assault on a royal castle was his move against Arturo. Now the Families would have to at least confess he was a problem, but for all their insight, they only had a slight advantage over the Joe Public rumor mill in deducing who he was and what his ultimate agenda might be. The Four Families could safely discard at least one major theory, that he was a special enforcer of the Four Families. They also trusted that he was not an officer of the GCPD or state police. The Families' reach wasn't absolute, but it would take an awfully airtight conspiracy to keep the lid on a program like that. Of course, this Batman still coordinated with the police somehow. That was obvious. But it would be difficult to determine exactly how.

Old men had a natural prejudice to believe they'd seen it all. Carmine Falcone knew that he and Frank Bertinelli and the other bosses and their senior planners would try to fit this adversary into a neat little box they understood. They were almost always right. But Falcone had a notion that this might prove a new sort of problem.

---​

Meanwhile.

In the clerk’s room of stately Wayne Manor, Alfred Pennyworth sat at a roll top writing desk. The Wayne corporate empire was much older than the automobile or telephone, so business-mined Wayne men of yesteryear kept a space in their home for part-time clerks and messengers to conduct business remotely. The clerk’s room once employed up to three staff and contained at various times a telegraph switchboard, semaphore flags, and carrier pigeons. These were all long gone, and Alfred was the only hired help remaining on the ancient estate, but he still used the room as his private office. It was an efficient place, well-positioned, never drafty, neither too large nor too cramped. The desks and cabinets were master-crafted antiques, not the shoddy factory imitations American businesses tolerated today, and the light from the windows was second-to-none.

On a more private interest to Alfred, the clerk’s room was one of the few which neither Bruce nor his parents had ever changed. Alfred still recognized it from the day he took the job, and that comforted him. He knew his life must seem quite comfortable already – he had health, freedom, material luxuries, dear friends, and honorable work – but these often failed to bring him peace of mind. He took small comforts where he could, however silly the source. And perhaps it was age talking, but Alfred swore by Saint George that he could sense if a room had been bothered in his lifetime. In the great houses of Europe, entire wings could go a century without alteration, but even the noblest American homes were in constant flux if the family was present. Every generation seemed compelled to rearrange the furniture, pick new curtain lace, change the violets to daffodils, and so on, ad infinitum. Indeed, ad nauseum! And these paled beside the exceptional projects Master Bruce devised.

Alfred was there to read notes on one of Master Bruce’s least exceptional projects: his latest round of nutritional research. Like many great if eccentric minds, Bruce was meticulous about how he treated his body. Since childhood, he had experimented with different foods and vitamins, keeping abreast of the latest studies. In Alfred’s opinion, most were bunk. One might as well measure the proper ratio of meat and bread and vegetable by roulette wheel, since the authorities contradicted each other every season. Perhaps in twenty years, doctors would solve the mysteries of the body and prescribe a perfect diet formula. Perhaps it would come in a pill. Until then, a parade of loons would march out suggestions for raw ram’s blood or ten servings of eggplant.

Bruce had tried and fortunately discarded the most disagreeable diets by mid-adolescence and now focused on fine-tuning conventional fare. Still, the young man continued to keep an ear to what passed for nutritive research and requested unusual dishes every few months so he could test their findings on himself. By longstanding compromise, Alfred only agreed if he accepted the academic sources in question. Alfred suffered no illusions that his critical scrutiny could match Bruce’s brilliance, but Alfred had some schooling in the sciences, and Bruce wasn’t immune to mistakes. For instance, in a pile of tame if likely irrelevant ideas about the effects of dairy temperature on digestion, Alfred found an interview with a college swimming coach in Maine who fed his team nothing but steamed vegetables for a week prior to each meet and just won a regional championship. Alfred was certain the swimmers must have cheated – either on their diet or at their races. Seven days without a hearty meal and they wouldn’t have the vigor to lift a teacup. Bruce had annotated the interview with a proposal to try his own all-vegetable diet on his next “low-intensity” week. Of course, a “low-intensity” week for him still involved hours of jogging and free-climbing. His only true periods of rest followed major injuries, and Alfred would sooner wound Bruce himself then let him recover from an injury on a rabbit’s rations.

Alfred finished reviewing his current paper and was reaching for the next, a treatise on the protein content of mushrooms, when the trauma bell rang. With measured swiftness, Alfred rose, tugged straight the lapels of his evening jacket, and hurried from the room. He was about to break into a run when he felt the dense pistol pressing on his lower spine, and he remembered Master Bruce's cryptic admonition: I have encountered unnatural phenomena. Disregard existing reality framework. Expect every danger.

Alfred frowned and slowed to a brisk walk. In the study, He turned the face on the grandfather clock until he unlocked its secret door, then he descended to the Wayne's ancestral wine cellar. From the wine cellar, he opened another secret door and began the long trek into the Cave.

The Cave's lights were on. Someone was here. Unfortunately, many chambers of the cavern weren’t visible from the stairs, and Batman - if it was Batman - might be waiting in any of them. Alfred reached the floor and called out, “Master Bruce! Are you there Bruce? Bruce!” His voice echoed off the endless crags and crevices. Alfred waited, but there was no answer. There was only the drip drip drip of hidden streams and the squeak of upset bats who didn't enjoy the light or his yelling. Alfred peered into the dim, but none of the layered shadows moved save those of the aforementioned bats. Alfred was a stalwart man, a doctor (of sorts), a soldier (of sorts), a father (of sorts), and above all, British (indubitably). He did not frighten easily. But these echoes did not relieve him.

Then he heard a shuffling. Footsteps? There was a noise of sliding pebbles and bumped furniture. Something fell off a table. Would Bruce be so clumsy? And why wouldn't he answer? Alfred slowly drew the pistol. He estimated where the noise had been and set a path to circle it. He moved as silently as he could. Trembling, Alfred hid behind a stalagmite. Expect every danger. The instruction played again and again in his mind. Disregard existing reality framework. Expect every danger.

Around the rock, there was an alien hissing sound. Alfred stepped out and fired his pistol twice.

When his vision cleared from the flash, he saw Bruce facing him dumbly from a few yards away. Bruce cocked an eyebrow.

Alfred nearly dropped the weapon. “Oh, dear Lord, Master Bruce. What have I done?”

Bruce, still garbed in much of his disheveled suit minus cowl and gloves, looked down to inspect himself. He grasped a handful of cape fabric from between his legs. There was a new hole gently smoking in it. Alfred hurried forward, but Bruce placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, lips turned up in a hint of a grin. His voice came out in a harsh whisper. “I'm glad to see you're finally bad at something.”

Alfred hugged Bruce. “I am so sorry.”

“No. I'm sorry for scaring you, old friend. I've been trying to answer, but I hurt my throat last night. Speaking has been tough all day, and I finally lost my voice hours ago. If I try to yell, it makes a hiss. This is as loud as I get.”

Alfred let go. “Heavens, Bruce. Your outfit's a wreck. You hand is wrapped like a mummy. You have a veritable ring of purple bruises round your neck. You smell rank. Just what has happened to you?” Before Bruce could respond, Alfred pushed him towards the medical station.

Bruce grimaced and held a hand up to stop. “My knee's weak too. The joint locked on the way in. I nearly fell twice getting off the motorcycle.”

Alfred ducked under Bruce's arm. “Then lean here. Steady now. Let's see what bits of you haven't fallen apart.” They made it to the medical bed. “Now why don't you take off that chest-piece, and we'll be on with it.”

“You'll need a crowbar first. The back's dented in. I can't slide it off myself.

Alfred found the tool as Bruce braced himself against a table. When a heave, Alfred slid the bar into a seam in the armor and used all his weight to pry the chest-piece off. After seconds of static effort, the armor split open. Bruce coughed and slumped forward, gulping down air. “Augh. Huh. Hhhh. Hhh. Thank you,” he wheezed. “That metal's been pressing against my lungs. I haven't taken a full breath all day.“

“My word, what caved in the back like that?”

“I confronted a,” Bruce paused, weighing his words, “a being.”

“A being.”

“That looks and feels like a woman.”

Feels, sir?”

“She seemed human, but stronger and faster, and she had a luminescent cord that,” he hesitated, “produced psychoactive effects. It caused disorientation and lowered my inhibitions.”

“Are you saying you were drugged?”

“I would have imagined so, but even if it secreted a topical drug, the cord never touched my skin. Hmm. Perhaps it was some yet-unknown radioactive effect, or ultrasonics, or another exotic matter."

"My word."

"And that wasn't even the most remarkable detail. Her sheer body power was extraordinary. The woman dead-lifted at least half a ton. She made vertical jumps more than twice her height. And she was tough, Alfred. I ignited thermite against her face, and it left a mild burn. Like it was nothing more than a hot coal.”

“I beg your pardon? You did what?”

“In self-defense. She was crushing my throat with her bare hands. I hardly think chivalry applied." Bruce paused, his brow knitted in confusion. "Of course, if she endured that, my earlier strikes shouldn't have left marks at all, which makes even less sense.”

“I suppose that chemical's ignition explains this horrid burn on your hand?” Alfred was busy tending to Bruce's wounds.

“Yes, I had lost my glove at that point. And I haven’t mentioned yet that she dislodged two of my teeth. Just fakes, fortunately."

"I thought I had noticed something."

"When you're finished the more urgent limbs, I'd like you to take a look at them. I took strong antibiotics soon afterward, but my gums are beginning to show inflammation.”

“Tell me you didn't ingest a giant dose of antibiotics all at once again, did you?”

Bruce frowned defensively. “I had been exposed to sewage. It was an emergency decision.”

Alfred sighed. “Naturally. I suppose that's ruined your appetite all day then.”

“I've eaten a little.”

“Accolades. Now, I must reset this finger. This may hurt.”

A burnt finger popped and turned.

Bruce didn't flinch.

Nonetheless, Alfred winced in sympathy. He knew deep down why Bruce tried silly, reckless diets. The boy wasn't yet thirty, but his injuries were adding up. Bruce was getting old. He had always kept records of his exercises, announcing whenever he beat a personal best of any athletic feat. His adolescent days had been a steady march of better numbers, but he hadn't announced a new record in years, not since he started his crusade. It was clear Bruce was desperate to maintain what fitness he still possessed. If a week steamed vegetables offered the faintest promise of delaying the inevitable, he didn't hesitate.

Bruce was still talking, breaking Alfred from his thoughts.“You can see now why I suggested I had found the paranormal. Candidly, I still can't dismiss that. Assuming I didn't hallucinate, this woman overturns entire fields of study: anatomy, organic chemistry, possibly several branches of physics. If she is a product of nature, then we don't know nature."

"Any notion of where she comes from?"

"I have a source who says the government is involved. Though that only answers your question in the immediate sense. If I'm right, either they found or created her, but I can't fathom how. I may have to delay my campaign against syndicated crime to investigate further.”

“Incidentally, how did that go, Bruce?”

“Hard to say, Alfred. I found where Arturo Bertinelli likely kept the location of the Ukrainians and passed it on to the police.”

“Good. And how did that proceed?”

“I don't know. As soon as I passed the information along, my priority was to investigate the woman. We'll see how the cops performed in the morning.”

---​

Hours later. The morning.

The post-surgical recovery ward at Charlotte's Grove Hospital rarely received visitors before noon, but the nurses didn't say a word when the large stranger passed by. They didn't gossip when the doctor on call let the visitor see a patient who was supposed to be resting. They didn't remark how strange it was that the dapper man was looking for the one patient with a guarded room, or that the guards weren't there when the man walked in.

Harvey Bullock was asleep. His chest rose and fell very slowly. Much of his lower face was covered in gauze, patching a new hole that ran clean through his right cheek. There were three patched holes in his abdomen as well, though these couldn't be seen under his loose hospital clothes and blanket. Harvey was very pale, and his features were more gaunt than yesterday, an incongruous sight on such a portly figure.

The visitor, Marco Bertinelli, didn't appreciate these fine points of Harvey's appearance. He merely confirmed that the body was alive then locked the door behind him. Marco bent over and glared at Harvey's gently snoring face. He flicked Harvey's nose. “Hey.”

Harvey didn't respond. Marco recalled the doctor saying something about sedatives. Marco wanted to be here; had begged for it, in fact, but he had a train to catch. He covered Harvey's nose and mouth with one hand and lightly backhanded him a few times with the other. “Harv. Up.”

Harvey briefly stirred, though his eyes only opened to slits before closing again. Marco pulled out a switchblade and held it against the flesh over Harvey's collarbone. You feel that, buddy? I don't need a rapt audience here, but I have to be sure you can hear me in there. Tap your hand three times, or I'm going to cut you.”

A long moment passed. Harvey's left index finger twitched twice. Marco pocketed the knife. “Close enough.” He paced around the bed.

“You are one tough sack 'a fat to kill, you know that? Ha. Sure you know. Look at you, wearing that badge since Noah built his ark, and what'ya got to show for it? Still hustlin' down alleys. Dodgin' bullets. Or not dodgin', I see. Working the next best thing to street patrol. Aren't you supposed to have your feet on your desk in some corner office by now? And yet you've still alive. Hell, you made it four whole years in the Skeleton Crew after you broke my heart with that Manzetti business. Ain't many who could swing that.”

Marco shook his head and chuckled. Then all of a sudden, he turned serious.

“You slug. You sleezebag. You all-singing, all-dancing human dump. What's that? No wisecrack? Is that silence? It took a shot to the face and three to the gut to finally shut you up. Well, that's priceless. Worth every penny, which is saying something. See, those Hargrave rounds ain't cheap, and that's just one of many reasons why my colleagues and I ain't supposed to have to fire them, capisce? Your people and my people, we had an understanding. You wanted to go down the straight and narrow. We said 'fine', provided you didn't step on our toes. Those toes used to feed you, see? But you had to go and make a mess of things.

“Now, it's supposed to work like this: you break the rules, and I make a nice example of you.” He picked up a pillow and fluffed it, as if seeing how it would fit over a face, then put it down and kept pacing. Soon afterward he picked up a syringe, flicked the needle, but returned it to its tray. “Seems to be a lot of dangerous things in a hospital, huh? Ironic. 'Specially when ham at the deli can put up more of a fight than you now. But no, you and your posse have made such a mess of things that they said I can't whack you. You ain't to be touched. I'm just supposed to ruin you and drive you out of town.

“But that's the other funny thing. Your life is so rotten, so miserable, you got nothing left to ruin. That trashcan you call your apartment is a cockroach away from collapsing, and you might be kicked out soon anyway. You don't own anything I could pawn for a dollar. Debts out the kazoo. No wife. No real sweetheart in years. Your friends already pity you. I can't even work you over with a roll of nickels since it'll probably kill you. I mean, I hate you and all, but sheesh.

“So here's the new deal, and I suggest you take it before I'm forced to get creative. Don't say a word about yesterday to anyone. You never saw me. Pretend you got amnesia if you have to. Rest up. As soon as the doctor says you can walk, you leave this hospital. I'll give you one day to pack whatever sad bits are left of your life, then you get out of Gotham and don't ever return.”
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-13 11:05pm

Mm. Sounds like you're wrapping things up... the Mafia know Batman's a threat, but may be able to manage to hush everything downward (unless Bullock is, true to form, stubborn about sticking it out).

Stewart M wrote:I'm actually not convinced a society of geniuses would develop much more than other societies. Advancement is the meeting of very specific challenges and very specific resources, and I'd say the Amazons lack both.
It depends on what you mean by 'develop.' Amazon technology, in addition to being rather variable, can be weird. Like, "invisible plane" weird.

Now, this doesn't work so well in a version of DC with 'grounded' technology like yours (where only explicitly magical stuff breaks from the usual patterns of historical scientific development). Invisible planes

But it's always been interesting to ponder, is there an entirely different trajectory that open-minded intellectuals could use to learn about the world, and develop a technology that is comparable or parallel to our own, but different? For the Amazons this makes a lot of sense (as much as it ever does), because they are very much a world apart. Part of the point is that they are very foreign to "the world of men," not just another island society.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby FaxModem1 » 2016-10-14 03:10am

I'm curious, has Batman invented and made a factory of his own specialized handcuffs, or in this universe, do they not use the universal handcuff key that we did by the 1930s in our universe? Otherwise, the cops could have just taken off Batman's handcuffs with their own handcuff keys.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-14 11:52am

If you are independently wealthy, it would not be too hard to get a professional locksmith to say "here, make these locks for handcuffs that fit this specific key, and not the standard key."

Batman's cuffs have some unusual requirements, because he routinely leaves people in handcuffs as a way of leaving them for the police. Normally, the police don't leave a handcuffed suspect unattended.

So if all police handcuffs have a common key, and the Mafia have had access to corrupt cops and the Gotham economy for decades... Batman can't rule out others duplicating the police handcuff key. Nor can he risk just anyone who happens to have a key to those cuffs being able to escape his cuffs, because he needs them to be able to restrain a criminal for extended periods of time, even unattended.

He may have decided it's much safer to use cuffs that the police can remove (with bolt cutters or whatever) only with unusual effort, and which nobody else can remove at all, unless they happen to have heavy tools and a friend or two to use them immediately at hand.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-10-14 08:30pm

FaxModem1 wrote:I'm curious, has Batman invented and made a factory of his own specialized handcuffs, or in this universe, do they not use the universal handcuff key that we did by the 1930s in our universe? Otherwise, the cops could have just taken off Batman's handcuffs with their own handcuff keys.


I didn’t know that handcuffs in the 30s had a universal key. Do you have sources for this?

Batman is using typical police handcuffs here. The cops do not remove Arturo’s cuff because it might be evidence; a detective may like to see just how it was attached. Also, the cops hate Arturo and want him to be uncomfortable.

Generally, if Batman doesn’t build a tool from scratch, he buys the most generic version available. This way, anything he leaves behind is too common to distinguish him (there are exceptions, like his cameras). He is especially reluctant to carry expensive tools, whether hand-crafted or commissioned. They may not lead to him directly, but they do suggest they he has money and connections.

Simon_Jester wrote:Batman's cuffs have some unusual requirements, because he routinely leaves people in handcuffs as a way of leaving them for the police. Normally, the police don't leave a handcuffed suspect unattended.

So if all police handcuffs have a common key, and the Mafia have had access to corrupt cops and the Gotham economy for decades... Batman can't rule out others duplicating the police handcuff key. Nor can he risk just anyone who happens to have a key to those cuffs being able to escape his cuffs, because he needs them to be able to restrain a criminal for extended periods of time, even unattended.


Not a bad train of thought, but I went a different path.

Batman wasn't trying to keep Arturo stuck permanently but merely have him in one place long enough to interrogate then stay to be found by their pursuers. Batman intended Arturo to be easily freed.

Batman occasionally cuffs criminals and leaves in the classic way, but this is actually a risky strategy for several reasons as you suggested, so he uses it sparingly. The criminals may escape; enemies may find and hurt them; bad weather or some environmental threat may hurt them; it may be too remote a place for the police to find, etc. Batman tries not to rely on it. If he does consider a cuff-and-dash, he’ll perform a basic frisk, then judge how likely the crook is to be hiding a key or nearby friends. The vast majority of criminals won’t have a key since the vast majority of criminals don’t prepare to be caught.

It’s not something he would try on, say, Catwoman. Perhaps he owns specialty cuffs for special situations like her.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-14 09:40pm

Honestly, Catwoman is probably a good enough escape artist that it would be absolutely pointless to even try to restrain her using anything but the most specialist handcuffs. And probably some other restraints.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby FaxModem1 » 2016-10-15 12:29am

Just from practical experience, and we've been using about the same model of handcuffs, with minor variation since about the 1910s, they vary on what the actual year was that it was invented.:


Safety Basement
Companies such as Peerless who showed up with their versions of the swing handcuff in 1914.This was their foray into the cuff arena. Their version was wanting to make the handcuff easier, lighter and quick to snap on someones wrist. This first version was soon fraught with problems such as closing on a wrist but could continue closing on the wrist and potentially squeezing the wrist to dangerous levels. The cuffs had no mechanism to stop them from continuing to close on the wrist. So they improved on that by coming up with the 'double lock cuffs'. These cuffs locked in place to a certain radius and not lock too far, while at the same time locking so that they cannot be removed, hence the name 'double lock'.


http://tihk.co/blogs/news/14874857-peerless-handcuffs-the-modern-standard]Tihl
Take a moment to visualize a modern pair of handcuffs. In your mind’s eye, you likely see a pair of metal ratcheted cuffs attached by a short chain. Peerless Handcuff Company began manufacturing the exact cuffs that you are likely picturing in 1914, and to this day continues to lead the industry in handcuff manufacturing.

Handcuffs were revolutionized in 1912, when inventor George Carney patented the swing cuff design. Swing cuffs feature a freely swinging ratchet arm that allows law enforcement to secure the cuffs with just one hand. This was a game-changer, as officers could now cuff suspects with greatly improved speed, agility, and safety. James Milton Gill quickly purchased the patent and founded the Peerless Handcuff Company, and in 1914 began selling the first design based on Carney’s patent. The quick popularity of the swing cuff led to the obsolescence of most other designs.

Ever since, Peerless has been innovating and improving upon the standard cuff design. Along with a thinner cuff, the recognizable barrel-style key was introduced by Peerless in 1932, becoming the industry standard for universal handcuff keys. By 1978 Peerless had sold 1 million cuffs (6 million, as of 2011).


So, the handcuffs we're used to were introduced in the 1910s, and were all but standard by the 1930s.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-15 01:28am

I will note that a standardized type of handcuff doesn't mean all handcuffs can be opened by the same key everywhere, but it probably DOES mean all Gotham police department cuffs can.

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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-10-15 08:31am

FaxModem1 wrote:Just from practical experience, and we've been using about the same model of handcuffs, with minor variation since about the 1910s, they vary on what the actual year was that it was invented.:

So, the handcuffs we're used to were introduced in the 1910s, and were all but standard by the 1930s.


Fair enough. That does jive with my intuition, but it's nice to have it confirmed.

Simon_Jester wrote:Honestly, Catwoman is probably a good enough escape artist that it would be absolutely pointless to even try to restrain her using anything but the most specialist handcuffs. And probably some other restraints.


Certainly. You may remember from the first story, Batman admits (or rationalizes, depending on your point of view) that he never apprehended Catwoman because that would require:

A) physically carrying her to a police station - which was dangerous for him, or
B) crippling her, since she would struggle to escape even duct tape with two dislocated wrists - which he found sadistic, or
C) trapping her in some unconventional way (inside a bank vault, etc.) - which would require extensive planning and preparation that wasn't justified by her relatively mild threat to society. He's a busy man, and there are murderers around.

And I'm sure he had other ideas that weren't mentioned, each with their own concerns:

D) Sedating her - which is criminally reckless outside of a pulp adventure. He isn't an anesthesiologist, and even they screw up. (Incidentally, the old "knock-on-the-head" or Judo choke have their own problems as sedation techniques; note how the police aren't supposed to use them today. To the best of my research, the medical literature of the day wouldn't have been firmly against choking, and Batman would have performed plenty of them in his martial arts training, but even if the results are safe, the unconsciousness only lasts a few minutes at most, and often only a few seconds.

E) Special custom super restraints - probably his go-to strategy if he decided she ever "went rogue" or at least "went rogue-er". But he would keep this as a last resort due to the earlier-mentioned conspicuousness issue. Also, if they are big and heavy, like a strait-jacket, he might need to plant them on-site ahead of time, which has the same issues as tactic C.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-11-14 11:44pm

Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Chapter 14: Floating in the Tiber


Diana dreamed.

She dreamed that she was walking through a thin forest. The sun was setting, and the air was hot and arid, almost baking. She was surrounded by the fractal branches of ancient cypress trees and by crooked pines standing alone like old sentinels. Her bare calves pushed aside stiff juniper brush. Diana wore a light tunic cut at the knees. It was simple and blue and cinched high with a belt in the Amazonian style. Diana had never worn this tunic, but it felt familiar against her skin, like a composite of old outfits long lost. Likewise, she didn’t recognize these woods, but they resembled enough of home that she could mistake them for any forest of her adolescence.
As Diana walked, she realized she was carrying a fine bow in her left hand and wore a quiver across her back and a knife at her belt. This too seemed natural. The Amazons were hunters, and royalty opened each season. Diana had used this privilege shamelessly, reserving first attempts on prized and elusive game at every opportunity. To the quiet chagrin of other huntresses, a second attempt was rarely necessary.
With this thought, Diana realized that there were two other Amazons following behind her with bows of their own. She didn’t know their faces, but she knew with the certainty of dreams that these were loyal attendants. The Amazons didn’t favor hunting parties, but a princess rarely practiced solitary activities alone.

Night fell, and this night was impossibly quiet. No wind nor crickets disturbed the peace. Diana moved with a muted hunting stride, yet the woods were so silent that her footsteps were still the only noise around and seemed all the louder for it. Her pair of attendants could have been ghosts for all the sound they made.

Diana was entranced by the plodding echo of her own sandals until she heard an animal shriek. In a smooth reflex, she drew and nocked an arrow, taking a knee to scan the treeline. The invisible creature shrieked again. Diana held the bow and arrow together with one hand and used the other to climb onto the fat bough of a cypress which grew out from its trunk as flat as a table. There was another shriek, lower and closer, a noise that she felt in her joints and behind her eyes. Diana tensed towards the place where it sounded, bow ready to draw.

Then a giant bat hit her in the side. It had the wingspan of a condor and weight of a large dog, and Diana had just enough presence of mind to duck when she fell out of the tree. She landed in a tumble, dropping her bow and rolling to her knees. Then the bat was on her, nearly knocking her over again. Diana struggled to seize it, to force it away. She saw in the twilight that it was an ugly beast: black marbles for eyes, a pig's snout, fibrous papery wings, and folds of cartilage in its ladle-sized ears. It hissed, spraying drops of spittle. Its claws raked her hair and face. Then its weight shifted and it was at her neck.

Warm teeth tore at her throat. Diana yelled. She snatched the bat's thin ears and tore its mouth away. The bat shrieked and flapped, battering her arms with its enormous wings. When it was clear, Diana let go with one hand and punched the bat in the mouth. It shuddered. She yelled and punched again, harder. The bat's flapping grew feeble. She let go and it fell, stumbling on the dirt beside her. Diana was free, but she didn't stand. Remaining on her knees, she threw a fierce haymaker at the bat. Right. Left. Right. She socked the giant bat again and again where it lie. Diana paused and reached for her knife.

With a birdlike twitch, the bat leapt skyward, clawing at her again as it flapped by. She dodged the claw but failed to grab it. As it took flight through the trees, Diana snatched up her bow and gave chase. Her attendants followed at a distance, expressionless. Diana hardly noticed. Racing under sagging branches and vaulting roots, she managed to trail the beast, its shape clear in the watery starlight. The bat soon led her through a clearing. Diana adroitly drew another arrow as she ran. Sighting down its shaft, she led the bat's chest by a few degrees and loosed her arrow mid-flap. The arrow sang home. The bat shuddered and fell halfway to the dirt, but it caught itself and kept flying.

Diana had struggled to keep pace before, but now the beast was wounded. With the thrill of a predictor, Diana kicked into the earth and pumped her arms, closing the distance between them. The bat weaved and cut, slipping between tree limbs with inches to spare. It did no good. She waited until it flew through an open gap. In that slim moment, she drew and shot another arrow, piercing its leg.

Now the hunt entered its final act. The bat struggled to stay aloft, flapping ponderously as it bled. Diana shot twice more, hitting the shoulder and flank. The beast fell, landing beyond some bushes. Diana waved her attendants onward and waded in. The bushes grew thick and rank, obscuring the sky. She reached the spot where the bat should have landed. Instead she found a clear puddle on the sidewalk. Diana looked around her and realized that the trees had become lampposts and columns. The saplings were street signs, and the shrubs were mailboxes. Brick towers rose to infinity in every direction, and a gray haze hid the stars.

Diana crouched to inspect the puddle and saw that her reflection was dressed as a prisoner. Indeed, she now wore a loose outfit with fat black and white stripes. Diana also noticed thick metal cuffs on her wrists fastened to the ground with chains, preventing her from standing.
Diana began to panic. She twisted and sensed her two attendants behind her. Only they weren't her attendants. They were men in crisp uniforms, their faces grim and covered in shadow. One unholstered a handgun and placed it against her spine. The steel was cold.
Her lips parted, but she had no time to speak. There was an infinite noise.

---

Diana woke.

She was in bed in her little motel room in Georgetown. The night was temperate, but she wiped a bead of sweat from her temple and struggled to catch her breath. It wouldn't be fair to call her panicked, but she eyed all the corners of the room more quickly than was regal. Without glancing down, she slipped her hand between the mattress and bed frame and pulled out a sharp letter opener.

Thus armed, Diana brushed aside her sheets and crept to her window in her nightgown. Nothing outside but trees. She moved to her door and inched it open. The hallway was empty in both directions. She closed the door.

Diana exhaled through her nose. She sat on her bed, considering her dream. After a minute, Diana stood and placed the letter opener back on the small writing desk in the corner. She went to her closet and opened her luggage. At the bottom under some clothes was a small iron sword. It was a reproduction of what the shopkeeper had called a xiphos, a double-edged sword of Greek antiquity with a blade shorter than her arm formed of gently sloping symmetrical curves. It resembled a common Amazonian sword, and Diana had felt comfortable with it instantly.

Diana shut her luggage and returned to bed. Before she went to sleep, she wedged the little sword between her mattress and bed frame.

---

Bruce woke with a low, racking cough that shook his torso. He winced and sat up, coughing again, harder, spraying drops of blood across his sheets. Wounds always felt worse in the morning, and he had to fight through the spasms of pain until he found his breath.

Bruce looked down at the red flecks on his sheets and grimaced. His bedding used to be silk, then he developed a bad habit of bleeding in his sleep, so he downgraded to fine cotton, and then cheap cotton. Easy to bleach; easy to replace; no wasted time. He didn't mind the rough texture, and it wasn't like he shared the bed with anyone.

Bruce usually started his day with brisk exercise. He had lived with one injury or another for most of his life and knew how to structure his workouts to compensate. He could, for example, curl dumbbells on a twisted ankle or do crunches in an arm cast. But today he woke in a body so comprehensively damaged that any exercise beyond walking with a cane was out of the question.

No surprise there. He had essentially boxed three rounds with a bear. Of course he came out of it more bruise than skin. His mere survival was more a compliment to his armor than anything else: the metal and fiberglass had suffered blows that should have crushed his rib cage or put him in a permanent neck brace. Many strikes near the end would have killed him. But he had escaped under his own power and even summoned the endurance to work the next day. Bruce spent much of his life breaking things, but deep down he had the heart of a craftsmen, and putting together a set of armor that could go three rounds with a bear wasn't too shabby.

Granted, there had been fifty people involved in designing and testing the thing, but he had contributed.

Eventually, Bruce willed himself out of bed and saw a stack of newspapers on the dresser. It was a very large stack of newspapers. Wayne Manor subscribed to several dozen periodicals, but Alfred usually laid out the same four morning dailies in Bruce’s room and let him browse the rest downstairs by his own judgement. Alfred only brought a large stack when it seemed from the headlines alone that they all might be worthwhile.

Bruce picked up a few and thumbed through them. The headlines did not disappoint.

COPS & CROOKS GUN BATTLE LEAVES BODIES IN STREET

BERTINELLI LIEUTENANT ARRESTED. GAOL GREETS GOON.

SLAVE RING BUSTED, CITY PRAISES DETECTIVES

1 GCPD OFFICER DEAD, 2 IN HOSPITAL AFTER SHOOTOUT

ABDUCTEES FOUND! ITALIANS TO BLAME!

BREAKING NEWS: CANADA INTERESTING?

Bruce was an excellent speed-reader and drank the articles like a parched man in a stream, finishing several a minute. Point by point, exaggeration by omission, the story quickly cohered. As he read, his first reaction was sorrow and disgust at the casualties on 85th Street. Bertinelli’s hit squad was obviously guilty, but even a guilty corpse was a tragedy. His grief cast a haze on two facts that would otherwise be highlights of his year: the Ukrainian students were found alive, and Arturo Bertinelli was going to prison for a long time. Arturo was an unrepentant felon with a record of violence stretching decades, but more importantly, he was a caporegime of the Four Families. Now a Family capo was facing changes even their money and reputation couldn’t wash away. Gotham City had been the Families’ indomitable citadel for years, but Batman had knocked the first stone out of their first loathsome tower. He had done it!

And eighteen kids – though they could hardly be kids after their ordeal – would get to enjoy life in the free world.

And at least two men had died.

And the military might be protecting criminals.

Bruce took a meditative breath and tried to marshal his thoughts. He could decide how to mourn or celebrate later. He understood the situation as well as he could. Now he had to organize his problems and make a plan. Bruce gave a slight, determined nod. This was enough to start another coughing fit. A few droplets of blood colored the pile of newspapers.

There was a knock at the door. “Are we dead yet, Master Bruce?”

Bruce wiped his mouth and coughed again. “Not for lack of trying.”

Alfred spoke through the door, “Do you want your breakfast here or do you wish to be helped down the stairs?”

“I’ll be down on my own. Just a minute, Alfred.”

There was a reluctant pause. “Very good, sir.”

Bruce struggled into some clothes, slipped in a dental bridge for the missing teeth, picked up his crutches from the floor, and went to eat.

The powerful August sun turned the windowpanes a glowing white. The morning was growing late. Injuries often forced Bruce to stay home from work, but this rarely caused problems. He was president and chairman of a great corporate empire, and most corporate titans lived at the office, but the stakeholders knew Wayne Enterprises had been quietly managed by a team of senior executives for at least twenty years. The late Thomas Wayne hadn’t even been president, choosing to be a doctor instead and chairing the board with the energy of an absentee landlord.

Granted, everyone could see that Bruce cared for the company in a way his father never had. Folks said that one day he might mature into a worthy successor to the Wayne name. But until then, those empowered executives were in no hurry to give up the reins old Thomas had surrendered. So if Bruce took a day off because his stomach hurt or he was traveling to meet a ‘business prospect’, they didn’t ask many questions.

As he descended the stairs, Bruce felt his knees and spine and ribs protest in misery, his thoughts returned to the Woman. She wasn’t invincible. By all impressions, her body had the typical organs. She needed to breathe and circulate blood. Her large bones and muscles were vastly tougher than a regular woman, even tougher than a regular tractor, but her more superficial features were only moderately unnatural – he could damage her small joints with his own muscles, and the nerves in her eyes, nose, and skin still caused her pain.

Oh yes, and she could still burn.

He would need to mix a lot more thermite. Perhaps he could launch it from a sling or a bow, get the compound to ignite by air resistance. That would be a challenge. Or he could set it off by remote control. That would be much easier. He could put a firebomb anywhere. Under a floor. Inside a doorframe. In a car. In a mattress.

These thoughts distracted him from his pain as he reached the breakfast table. His meal was nearly liquid: apple sauce and porridge and milk. He greeted Alfred and sat to eat. Alfred stared at him oddly.

After a moment, Bruce asked, “Something wrong, Alfred?”

“I wanted to ask a question as your medic.”

“Certainly.”

“Those marks on your neck are contusions from being manually strangled, except I see one that looks like it was from a blow. Did someone punch you in the throat last night?”

“It wasn't a punch; it was an open-handed chop.” Bruce cupped his hand to demonstrate.

“I see. Your lady assailant did that to you?”

“No, I did that to me.”

“You struck yourself in the throat with enough force to leave a mark?”

“Yes,” Bruce answered matter-of-factly.

“Forgive me, but why?”

“To stun my vocal cords. I’ve never tried it before, so I may have overcompensated. Just to be safe”

“Safe.”

“And it worked.”

“Quite.”

“But if I face her or a similar adversary again, they won’t give me a second chance. I need to find another way to manually prevent speech, ideally one that lasts a minute so I can apply it preemptively. It’s a difficult proposition. All the obvious solutions endanger breathing. My best so far is to induce anaphylactic shock.”

Alfred’s mustache turned down in dismay. “Indeed.”

“As I said, there are obvious drawbacks. I’ll think of something eventually.”

“Do you believe a repeat encounter is likely, Master Bruce?”

“Not if I can help it. But I can’t ignore anyone so powerful in league with a major criminal. That’s especially true if she’s with the military. Its only hearsay now, but the implications would make the city’s current troubles seem quaint.”

“In my humble experience, Bruce, governments are a tool that enables good men to perform evil tasks. I’ll travel down to that produce plant today and clean up after you, shall I?”

“Thank you, Alfred. Sorry to push my responsibilities onto you.”

“Neither the first time nor the last Master Bruce. Now, is this connection with that criminal brute the crux of your concern?”

“My greatest concern is that this super-soldier has obviously been kept secret, yet the military was willing to break that secrecy to protect Arturo, who is nothing but a local thug at the end of the day. How is he important to national security? Arturo claimed the Families are protecting Gotham from Axis spies. The military would need to see a tremendous threat to justify a radical measure like deputizing the Families, so why haven’t I noticed? How could I miss a major Axis espionage ring in Gotham?”

“It’s a big city. Have you been looking for spies?”

“No, not directly. I’ll need to start practicing.”

“Alongside your fifty other pursuits? I doubt Ted Williams practices that extensively.”

Bruce raised an eyebrow. “A baseball reference? Alfred, I’m impressed.”

“I would have named a cricketer but an American like you wouldn’t know one.”

“Alfred, I can list every oblast in the Soviet Union alphabetically and by population, I know half the chemical formulas in the Merck Pharmaceutical Catalogue, I can draw a road map of Gotham from memory-”

“And?”

“And you’re right, even I don’t care about cricket.”

Alfred sniffed indignantly and removed Bruce’s dish which wasn’t quite empty yet. “You missed several phone calls while you were out yesterday.”

“Any important?”

“Five social, nine business, two prank. None terribly urgent, but the governor’s niece would like to play tennis with you tomorrow.”

“Charlotte? Hm, that’s a shame, we’ll have to reschedule. Wait, am I dating anyone today?”

“Miss Van Houtte pushed you into that pond last week so I would venture not, Master Bruce.”

“Yes, she was angry because I forgot her name. I knew it started with an ‘N’. Nina? Nancy?”

“Gretchen, sir. Perhaps if she was an oblast in Russia you’d have an easier time.”

“Droll. You know, Sherlock Homes believed that our mind has a limited capacity and we must take care to decide which facts were worth remembering.”

Alfred scoffed as he stacked dishes to carry into the kitchen. “Sherlock Homes was an opium addict who fell down a waterfall. His cognitive theories leave much to be desired.” He added over his shoulder, “Much like your treatment of the fairer sex.”

---

Trent Hucklebone was the chief aide to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. His boss, the honorable senator from the state of Michigan, had other Michiganian duties that precluded him from spending all his time on relationships with foreigners (his distinguished colleague from the state of Gotham was rumored not to have this problem). Indeed, booking a meeting with the senator was a tough prospect even for major Washington players. To sate the demand, his trusted aide Trent often met visitors on his behalf, and it was understood around the Capitol that a promise from Trent Hucklebone was worth at least three-quarters of a promise from the senator himself, and that was priceless.

Trent was a very tall man, and he found Diana Price one of the few women with whom he had ever seen eye to eye. He understood little of what she said, and he agreed with even less, but he didn’t look down on her.

“So, Miss Prince, explain again what precisely you wish the senator to propose at the next Committee hearing?”

“Danna felt she had already explained herself three times, but she knew that her entire mission in Man’s World and all her months of frustration was to reach this opportunity. So she forced herself to maintain her most dignified smile and tried to phrase the same message yet another way.
“I am an ambassador. I come to exchange diplomatic recognition with your Republic of America.”

Trent looked at her blankly and rubbed his temple. “Very well, Ambassador Prince, what nation do you represent?”

“The Sacred Queendom of Themyscira.”

“Uh-huh. And could you tell me where I could find the Sacred Queendom of Themyscira? Anyone?”

Trent looked back and forth between the other two figures in the room, Captain Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller. He had worked with Waller in the past and was here by her request. He didn’t know Trevor, but he knew the type and took him to be one of Waller’s grunts.

Diana kept her smile and eye contact with heroic steadiness as she struggled to answer. “Ah, eehh, I am afraid that is not information I can share, Aide Hucklebone.”

Trent wished she would stop calling him that. “So you can’t point on this globe,” he gestured to a large globe on his desk “where your Themyscirans call home.”

“Amazons.”

“Hmm?”

“My people are the Amazons.”

“Oh, like those Greek myths.”

“No, I have read your myths. Actually-”

Amanda coughed loudly and interrupted, “This is immaterial, don’t you think, Trent? What would it take to recognize her nation, at least on a trial basis? We just want to let her go home to her queen with a nice treaty recognizing mutual respect.”

Diana added, “And the mutual peacekeeping.”

Trent sat forward. “What!”

Amanda chuckled forcefully and patted Diana’s hand, “What the Ambassador here means to say is that at a point in the future, the Amazons might wish to enter a discussion on how they could help us in matters of defense … and how we might reciprocate.”

Diana nodded. “Or at a point in the present.”

Amanda winced but continued to smile. She hadn’t asked Diana much about her homeland or her goals. Diana would share the information in good time, and it wasn’t crucial at the moment. Amanda also suspected that Diana didn’t actually know where her home was. Unless the girl had a superpowered sense of navigation, it was unfathomable that she could return to her hidden island in the Mediterranean Sea or Black Sea or Red Sea or the Atlantic Ocean or wherever it was. Especially if she was indeed the first to leave in centuries. If anything, Steve Trevor might be the only person alive with a decent idea on how to find the place. The boy claimed his memory was patchy due to a crash landing, but Amanda suspected it could return under the right circumstances. For now, the Army merely guaranteed that he left Tunisia on a surveillance mission with enough fuel to reach anywhere from Brussels to Jerusalem and returned over a week later, his body and plane both obvious victims of a crash, its engine running on homebrew kerosene. Amanda had invited him to this meeting to offer Diana moral support; the two kids obviously shared a bond, and Amanda intended to encourage that. It was wise to keep one’s friends close. Having Steve along also provided Amanda with a chance to observe him. She intended to poach the Captain onto her team, and she liked to know who she was dealing with. Lastly, it ensured that neither of them would be around while her men broke into and searched their homes.

---

Bruce rarely suffered consequences from missing work, but he still tried to arrange alibis for his absences. The easiest form of alibi was to see and be seen by at least one guest. Alibi guests were picked for poor vision, poor memory, and ideally narcissism, but they had to move in respectable circles if they had to appear as credible witnesses. All these criteria tended to limit his alibis to the stuffiest elders of the country club set: old politicians, old judges, old pastors, old tycoons and bankers, and especially their old wives.

In fact, Bruce faced a minor scandal last year after word spread that he routinely spent hours alone with wives and widows old enough to be his mother. Society gossip suggested all sorts of Freudian ideas, not helped by the fact that Bruce didn’t have a mother. These ideas were untrue, although Bruce did discover that rich old ladies would chat with an attentive bachelor from a good family about nearly anything, so the visits became great sources of crime-fighting intelligence. The venerable matrons were rarely criminals themselves, but crime and power intersected in countless ways and aristocrats loved their secrets.

Unfortunately, Bruce was obliged to limit these encounters for the sake of propriety, and lately he invited couples. Today it was Elias and Hazel Wellington of Wellington grocers. Bruce met them for iced tea under a tree on Wayne Manor’s south lawn. With the tree and a wide-brimmed hat, Bruce’s features were kept in shadow, and if was much easier to disguise his health if he never rose from his chair. He intended for the Wellingtons to leave after forty-five minutes at the latest. If necessary, Alfred would fake a call from their banker suggesting a problem in their account. Bruce knew the Wellingtons would skip out on an audience with the Pope to investigate a bank error. As for intelligence, the pair offered little but made up for it in noise.

“Darling, I’ve done a lot of disgusting, regrettable things in my time, but you take the cake.”

“Aw, why don’t you do something charitable and fall down a manhole.”

“Charitable? Charitable? I bought you that coffee plantation near Havana last year, and do I even hear a thank you? Do I need to serve you drinks on bended knee?”

“A drink from you? Lemme guess: poison with spit on top.”

“You would know, you lush.”

Bruce did his best to ignore the Wellingtons. He sipped his tea, made neutral comments when one Wellington or the other sought his support, and focused on his real concern. There was something about the Woman protecting Arturo that seemed profound, but he couldn’t decide how. Bruce had inspected Arturo’s life with a fine-toothed comb for months to put a case together. Any project that interested the military surely required substantial time and effort. How could he have missed something so significant? Bruce was sure that Arturo spent his days attending to his few front businesses or organizing deals to rent out his Ukrainian laborers. He simply hadn’t done anything else worth noting. Informing for a counterespionage operation could be a passive-enough task to escape Bruce’s surveillance, but when did danger to one lowly informer justify sending a secret human weapon? Bruce decided he would need to find Admiral Corn-something.

“Thank God poor people are stupid. If the poor were smart enough to realize just how poor they were, they'd kill us.”

“At least we agree on something, woman.”

Bruce wondered where the Woman was today. Despite his paranoia, he trusted now that she couldn’t track him through any paranormal means: his head was still attached to his shoulders. Where had she gone? He knew their conflict had at least a few witnesses when it entered the Meat Pool. Someone had to see her leave, and everyone in two blocks would have smelled her leave. It would get plenty of distance as gossip.
“You just want a wife who’s chained to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.” Hazel Wellington threw her glass at her husband.

He ducked. “That’s a dirty lie. I said I’d buy you shoes.”

“You think just because a wife wants a little freedom to be herself and take some pottery classes and spend the winter in Pensacola, that it’s wrong! That it’s un-American.”

Bruce rubbed his chin. Was the Woman American? He had trusted that any agent of the military operating in America would be American, but did that assumption hold up to scrutiny? Her accent could be faked, he supposed, but Bruce was an expert on pain, and only an extraordinary actor would cry out in a fake language when their face was on fire. He wondered again what that language had been. The closest cousins he recognized were around the Balkans: Greek, Turkish, maybe Russian, though he wasn’t remotely an expert, and the region had plenty of diversity. He worried that even a linguist would have trouble confirming the language with only a few words to piece together.

But wherever she was from, how could she be in in the American military? And why dressed like that? And again, why Arturo? His most interesting project was kidnapping some Ukrainian-

Bruce froze.

“Isn’t that right, Bruce? Buncha harpies the lot of ‘em. Eh, did you hear me, Bruce?”

The most frustrating sort of theory for a detective was a theory that had more holes than a screen door but answered a question that no other theory could.

Immigration officials who met the Ukrainians said they had claimed to be students seeking refuge. This news was supplied by the only Ukrainian translator the port could find on short notice, and the translator even admitted she wasn’t very good. They had no other evidence of who they were or where specifically they came from.

Despite his best efforts, Bruce couldn’t say everything the Ukrainians had done in America, merely that they had been kept hidden and frequently moved. He found few witnesses and almost no paperwork, of course there were gaps in the record.

The Ukrainian language was similar to Russian. Many Ukrainians spoke both. The Soviets had impressive scientists, little contact with the West, few ethical scruples, and were fighting a war for their existence. They had a very good incentive to seek the favor of the US.

That was almost an optimistic scenario. What if it wasn’t the American military? Arturo Bertinelli was cunning, but he wasn’t worldly. Could foreign agents impersonate Army intelligence? Was Arturo their stodge? Their partner? She had used a golden cord to control his actions. Could Arturo be their puppet? What did they want?

Bruce knew he was on a dangerous train of thought. He was speculating based on almost nothing, yet he suddenly felt cold in the pit of his stomach.

---

Diana’s queen mother had granted her broad discretion as ambassador to Man’s World, but Diana was worried that the negotiation was approaching agreements that she wasn’t allowed to make.

Chief Aide Trent Hucklebone was making notes on a legal pad. “So if our diplomatic mission swears to secrecy, can they visit your island or not?”

Diana hadn’t lost her smile or eye contact for many minutes now. She was glad she had the fortitude, otherwise she might look strange. “That may be a challenge, Aide Hucklebone.”

“How?”

“Well, would the visitors be women?”

“Women?”

“Yes, like myself.”

“Darling, I doubt there’s anyone in America like you.”

Amanda Waller looked dryly at him. “Trent.”

He shrugged. “Listen, there might be one or two women at the Foreign Service these days, but I think they’re busy overseas.”

Diana said, “They need not be high minsters. My people would welcome as sisters any women who speak for your leader.”

“Okay… Well, there’s bound to be a clever secretary somewhere in Washington we can scoop up. Or maybe a retired ambassador’s wife. I don’t know about women getting stamped for state secrets, but I guess that’s a question you’re familiar with, Amanda.”

Amanda nodded. “You guess correctly.”

The door behind them opened and a congressional staffer asked for Amanda’s attention outside the room. Amanda made a brief apology and told the others not to commit to anything before she returned. The staffer brought her to the busy Capitol rotunda. Under the Apotheosis of Washington, Amanda found Lieutenant King Faraday – the name a pun from a cruel father, allegedly. Like a remarkable number of Amanda’s operatives, Faraday wasn’t yet forty but sported a full head of white hair. Unlike most of her operatives, Faraday didn’t seem military. His haircut was too expensive, his stance too causal, and he wore his wrinkles handsomely like corporate lawyers and the French. When he had a trench coat and cigarette he looked like the perfect Hollywood spy. Somehow this didn’t prevent him from being a spy.

Faraday led her to the end of a quieter hallway. She looked around and said, “Is your team done?”

“That’s right.”

“Cleaned up?”

“Not a print.”

“Good. Anything.”

“Trevor’s clean, best as we can tell from his office and base housing. Your girl’s another story.”

“No kidding. Did you uncover any armor or a tiara?”

“Sorry, no chest plate, no blue swimsuit, no bracelets, no tiara, no shiny lariat. She must not keep it at home. You should ask Trevor.”

“I’m leaving that card in my deck for now.”

“Suit yourself.”

“Then what did you find?”

“Here.” Faraday pulled a brown envelope out of his jacket, lifted the flap, and shook out a stack of photographs into his hand. “Good thing she lives in a two-bit motel. Took all of ten minutes to turn the room over. Gave us time to develop these.”

Amanda took the photos and held them close to her eyes. “Is that a sword?”

“Yeah, she had a few of those, plus a spear and a shield. There was a receipt in her trash from some antiques joint in Gotham.”

Amanda muttered something and shuffled to the next photo. She shouldn’t have been surprised, but her heart still skipped a beat. “That’s-“

“Given the medieval theme she’s got; I’d guess some kind of throwing knife. It was too sharp to be a paperweight.”

“Faraday, that weapon is from the Batman.”

“The Batman? Wait, that loon who shot up Project Galen last year?”

“He didn’t use a gun.”

“So you’ve seen one of these?”

“Oh yes, with Slade Wilson’s blood of it.”

“He tagged Wilson? That’s rich. I like this guy already. Look, if you turn it a bit, it sort of looks like a bat.”

Amanda frowned “Yes, That’s his symbol.”

“Neat how it’s still aerodynamic though. Well, your girl had a few of these things at her place, some longer than others. But that’s not the fascinating part. Look at the next one.”

Amanda flipped to the next photo. “…Are those teeth?”

“Fakes. Real quality fakes.”

“Interesting.”

“Assuming your girl got her trophies at the same place, I’d say this Batman has a top dentist.”

“Faraday, could we trace these to the owner?”

“Doubt it. It’s not like there’s a national registry on dental plasters to match it to.”

“If the work was even American.”

“Sure. We could make a few guesses if we got a better look at it. Maybe stole it for a few hours and showed it to a dental supplier. The materials and craftsmanship might narrow it some. Plus now you know to look for the guy with these teeth missing.”

“And now I know I’m dealing with a lady who likes to carry teeth around. Beautiful.”

“Look at the next one.”

“Hm. I see a handgun grip with a tube-shaped rock on top. And it looks melted.”

“That doesn’t mean anything to you?”

“No.”

“Shame, my team’s got no clue.”

“Uh-huh. And what’s this last one? A glove.”

“Yeah. A gauntlet, like knights had. This one’s scuffed and dented. Was he wearing that last time?”

“No, not like that.” Amanda felt a flush of excitement. “I imagine this would be difficult to make from scratch, wouldn’t you say?”

Faraday shrugged. “I guess. No clue, honestly.”

“I’d say so. Fake teeth might be untraceable, but how many smiths do you think make armored gloves these days? See if you can find the manufacturer for this.”

“It’d be tough with just a photograph. You want me to pick up the original?”
“Not yet. Call someone in Gotham and have them sweep all the buildings near Diana’s sightings. If he lost one glove, maybe he lost both.”

---

Café Ensoleillée was one of the most exclusive restaurants in the world, and the only one whose prices varied with the cost of helium. The Gotham skyline was famous for its airships, and none was more recognized or beloved than the Ensoleillée, though few residents knew that the airship and its on-board restaurant were owned by the Falcone crime family.

During Prohibition, law enforcement began to target restaurants in the neighborhoods of the major bootlegging gangs – mostly Italian at that point, with some Irish, Jewish, and German outfits also active. The restaurants were ubiquitous gang hangouts and often speakeasies. Gangsters were not a sentimental lot, but many were reluctant to leave their local restaurants, and so many went to jail. The Falcones were more ruthless and did not conduct any dirty business at an Italian restaurant until the 18th Amendment was repealed, as much as it pained them. In fact, they went a step further.

Unlike Italian restaurants, French restaurants suffered no stigma of crime. France had a reputation for civility and high culture. The Falcones realized this and purchased several. Since no other Italian gang would be caught dead owning a French restaurant, these were never once raided. The last and greatest was a speculative venture between Don Carmine Falcone and Mayor Hamilton Hill to send an establishment airborne. Less than two years later, Prohibition was repealed, but the Falcones had discovered that an airship made a fine criminal stronghold regardless of the liquor laws.;

The Ensoleillée only touched its boarding dock on the roof of the Kampff Building for five minutes every two hours. Otherwise, it was utterly out of reach, flying a slow lap around the bay. Its price and prestige meant all but the most distinguished customers had to reserve weeks in advance and could be booted from the list at any time, and this only added to its reputation. No one accused a French restaurant of being gracious. As for any criminal rivals, it was immune to bombs or drive-by shootings until their rivals acquired artillery or fighter planes, which even in Gotham was farfetched.

Incidentally, Carmine Falcone saw the value in staying friendly with the only people in the country who owned field artillery and fighter planes. Café Ensoleillée usually served a packed deck for the early dinner shift, but half the reservations had been canceled at the last minute so a temporary private room could be arranged for a group of VIPs.

First among those P’s was Admiral Bernard Cornwell, commander of Operation Underworld, the military's program to use organized crime for domestic counterintelligence.

Then there was Walter Brown, secret envoy of Gotham City's political elite.

And finally there was Harvey Dent, the youngest Assistant District Attorney in the state of Gotham and voted its most trusted civil servant two years running.

It had been a social feat of Herculean proportions to arrange a meeting between these men with just a morning's notice, and Carmine Falcone was one of the few figures in the country with the clout to pull it off. The Admiral had to be persuaded to fly up from Washington, and Harvey needed a court hearing canceled. Several of the men were strangers to each other, and full introductions were impossible given their respective needs for discretion.

The men had been kept discreetly separate, only seeing each other at the last moment as they were guided into a private dining room where Don Falcone stood the greet them. He was every inch the gracious host.

“Gentlemen, sit, sit, thank you for coming on such sudden notice. Your meal is, of course, complementary. If this is your first time dining here, I promise everything is excellent.” He made a small gesture – all his gestures were small – and a waiter standing just out of earshot raced forward.

The waiter bowed. “Orders, messieurs?”

Admiral Bernard Cornwall studied his menu. “Hmm! I’ll have the, uh, steak tartare, if you please.”

Walter Brown was a regular at the Café and knew his options. “Lobster Thermidor.”

Harvey Dent crossed his arms. “Glass of water. Now what is this about, Mr. Falcone? Your invitation arrived about five minutes after the judge rescheduled my hearing this afternoon.”

The waiter collected the menus, bowed again, and sped away. Carmine Falcone leaned forward and steepled his fingers. “I have a proposal, but I start with an apology. Business agreements are delicate, and when there are many parties, I prefer to meet them individually, so all problems are worked out in a comfortable way and in a discreet way. Such is best, I think.” He made an apologetic shrug. “But time forces my hand. I believe we can all leave this table better than we arrived, but my proposal is ambitious, and ambitious things can seem crass when witnessed suddenly in their fullness. I beg you merely keep an open mind, and consider the best interests of the offices you represent. Will you grant me this courtesy?”

The three guests agreed with varied enthusiasm. It surprised them all that Carmine, who grew up a poor hoodlum in an immigrant neighborhood, could have such an excellent grasp of English. Walter Brown was especially impressed, since he had heard Falcone speak on many occasions, and while the Don had always been articulate, he could swear Falcone’s English was even better than usual lately.

Falcone smiled and began, “Last night, Arturo Bertinelli entered police custody.” He glanced at Admiral Cornwall. “You see, Admiral, Mr. Bertinelli is a local man of business. He’s been accused of keeping a batch of migrants captive.”

The Admiral nodded gravely. “Yes, I, uh, read about him in the papers. Terrible business.”

“How true.” Falcone looked back to his other guests. “Now, Mr. Dent, I am a great follower of the District Attorney’s office.”

Harvey Dent responded with a cool stare. “Really.”

“Very much, and I’m sure you’ll soon be the prosecutor on Mr. Bertinelli’s case.”

This dented Dent’s composure. He stiffened and looked out the window. “I can’t comment on an in-vestigation.”

Falcone smiled like an uncle who knows a child’s Christmas gift. “You’re the most junior assistant dis-trict attorney, and this is a notorious case.
How could they pick you? Is that the sum of your mind right now?”

Dent didn’t answer.

Falcone pushed. “Suppose you get the job.”

Dent said nothing.

Falcone continued, “Arturo is a friend. It’d be a comfort if this case happened to go away.”

Dent was icy before, but this made him angry. He pounded the table. “If you’re trying to influence me to throw the case, then you better think again, Mr. Falcone. Midas himself couldn’t buy this one, the city will back the prosecution to the hilt.”

Walter Brown nodded regretfully.

Falcone didn’t react to this violence. “Nothing like that, Mr. Dent. No, Arturo should face trial and feel the full penalty of the law. When I say the case should go away, I only wish it were tried in a different, how do you say, jurisdiction.”

The fire in Dent cooled, but he remained suspicious. “What jurisdiction?”

“I see from the paper that this crime was made in many places. One of them is Canada.”

Dent was incredulous. “You want him to be tried in Canada?”

“Is this not possible? Would they not punish him fair?”

Dent stared at Falcone, thinking with clenched teeth. “It’s not impossible. But there’s no prerogative to try him in a foreign court when he’s in custody here, the worst changes were committed here, his case is already built here, and most of the witnesses are here.”

“But it’s not impossible.”

“Strictly speaking, no.”

“Are you worried they don’t have enough evidence to convict?”

“I can’t comment on that.”

“I imagine the Canadian court wants their shot at him.”

“I’m sure they’d love it. But we have no reason to extradite Arturo.”

Falcone smiled and again steepled his fingers. “Then perhaps I can provide one.”

Dent scrutinized him for several silent seconds. “If Bertinelli is in Canadian prison, it would be twice as hard to make him testify later against his American criminal associates later. We’d have no leverage.”

“I don’t know what associates you mean.”

“Forget it, Falcone, I’m not doing it.”

“Not freely, perhaps.”

“And what’s that mean?”

Falcone turned to Walter Brown. “The city could compel the District Attorney to make this move, I think.”

Dent glared at both of them. “No way.”

Walter hesitated. “Maybe. But we’d be losing a heck of a lot of good publicity, not to mention folk like the victims might make noise. This is a real honey of a story. I can’t imagine any reason we'd give that up.”

“Then let me imagine for you,” said Falcone. “I understand there is a construction contract for warships that our city is competing for.”

Admiral Cornwell, who was busy cutting a bite of of his just-arrived meal, perked up at this, but Walter answered. “The new destroyer program, yes. We’ve been in talks for years.”

Falcone nodded. “And competition is harsh?”

“There are six other cities bidding on it. Gotham isn’t doing well. We have the facilities and the skilled labor, but with the bump in our cost of living, we can’t compete on price.”

“I suppose if Gotham won this contract, that would be a great boon.”

Dent interjected, “Especially with a stake in the shipyards and steel mills.”

Falcone didn’t react to the barb. Walter answered Falcone’s question, “Winning would be wonderful. Millions in tax revenue. Hundreds employed.” He scratched his ear. “I suppose the mayor’s office might be able to convince the DA to boot a felon over the border if they saw the destroyer deal was in the bag.”

Dent pointed a finger at Walter. “I don’t know who you are, but don’t you dare collaborate with this-.”

Falcone held out a hand. “Gentlemen, please-”

Admiral Cornwell spoke up, “Just what makes you think you can win the contract, Mr. Falcone?”

Falcone answered, “I enjoy two advantages. One, I have some influence with our shipwright’s union. If I call in a favor, the union renegotiates their wages, and Gotham’s bid drops to a more competitive rate.”

Walter looked concerned. “Forgive me, Mr. Falcone, I’m no accountant, but that’s just, I mean, the union has been bargaining hard on this for a long time. I don’t see what you could possibly offer to make it worth their while.”

Falcone stared at him with the lightest touch of rebuke. “Respectfully, Mr. Brown, that’s my problem.”

Walter blanched. “Sure, sure, but even if our bid matches to the rest of the pack, that just gives Gotham the same shot as the other ports, it doesn’t mean we’ll win the contract. The rest is politics.”

Falcone smiled. “And here lies my second advantage. Admiral, I’m told you hold sway with the procurement board. If you said a few words into the right ears, could you decide this contract?”

Admiral Cornwell didn’t equivocate. “Yes.”

Falcone looking him calmly in the eye. “Can I convince you to deicide it in our favor?”

The Admiral studied him back. “I don’t know. Can you?”

Dent scoffed to the air. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this.”

Carmine Falcone paused in thought, then he rose, adjusted the rose in his lapel, straightened a suit sleeve, and strode around the table to stand beside Admiral Cornwell. The Admiral looked up, putting down his knife and fork and crossing his arms. Falcone leaned down and whispered in his ear, “I know where to find der Wehrwolf.”

The Admiral stared ahead, impassive until his mouth slowly fell open. He swallowed and croaked, “Sold.”

There was silence from the rest of the table. Finally, Harvey Dent asked in exasperation, “Why am I even here?”

Falcone looked at him. “In case you felt like protesting our arrangement. Better you get it out of your system early. There are other ADAs, but having your name on the papers will add that extra cherry of credibility.”

“And what are you going to do to make me play along?”

“I’m not going to do anything. But your boss will.”

Dent threw his hands up. “That’s it. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.” He stood, slapping his napkin to the floor. “And I’m leaving.” He marched six steps toward the door then stopped. He turned back. “When does this balloon land?”

Falcone answered, “An hour and a half.”

Dent frowned. “I see.”

Walter Brown talked with his mouth full, “Try the lobster.”

---

Two hours later.

Amanda Waller dialed the phone at her desk. She clutched a telegram that had TOP SECRET stamped in red across it.

“Admiral, it’s Amanda. … Of course I read it; do you think I make social calls? … No, you were right to come to me. Thank you. … Yes, I’ll remember. What’s our source? … Again? … Really? … No, they’re not bad, but do think it’s credible? … Do all the legwork you want; I’m not holding my breath. … And aren’t they supposed to pass this information up as part of your little deal anyway? … Yes, but how would he know it’s a different priority? … Because you could count the number of people cleared on two hands, and none of them are Gotham gangsters. … Then look into it, Admiral. … Yes, we abso-lutely look gift horses in the mouth. … Then do it quietly. … Yes. … Yes. … I understand the urgency. …… A pair? ………… Now that you mention it, I might have just the team.”

---

That evening, Carmine Falcone stood in the spacious master bathroom of his beach home. He turned the brass faucet on his porcelain sink and splashed cool water on his face. His red dinner jacket was unbuttoned and his tie was loose. He faced his reflections in the tri-fold mirror, slapping more water against his cheeks. There was a glass of neat vermouth near the sink, an appetizing amber liquor Carmine favored on evenings when he was in a certain mood. He forced himself not to look at the vermouth. He refused. He was strong. Instead, he splashed more water on his face, looked up at the ceiling, looked forward again. He wouldn’t look at it. He squeezed his eyes tight.

Then in a rush, he snatched the glass, smashed it against the edge of the porcelain, and stabbed the bro-ken base at his throat.

He looked down. His arm had frozen like a seizure, holding the jagged edge of glass a hairsbreadth from his left jugular vein. The shattering had cut open a gash in his hand, and small lines of blood began to drip onto his collar. He felt pain but didn’t twitch. His body was completely still.

There was a slow clap behind him, then he heard an amused voice over his shoulder, “Not bad. I almost didn’t catch you there. Maybe next time, I think.”

Carmine continued to glare at his reflection. He responded in Italian, in a slow and malicious tone that no one had heard him use in years. “One day you’ll make a mistake. Pray you’ll choose to kill me then, or I will bring you such agony that death will be a mercy, and when you beg for it, I’ll feed you your tongue. Then I’ll get creative.”

The voice behind him sounded unconcerned. “Ja. That will be a fun day. But not today, mein freund.” Carmine found himself lowering the broken glass to the counter and washing his hands. “Not today.”

The bathroom door swung opened. It was one of his Carmine’s bodyguards. The big man noticed his boss alone at the sink and the vermouth splashed on the floor. “Forgive me, Don, I heard a noise.”

Carmine Falcone grinned sheepishly, “Guess these old hands aren’t so steady anymore, eh?”

“Right. Well, if everything’s good, I’ll go find a broom.”

Under the water, Carmine ran a thumb across his fresh cut, causing jolts of fresh pain.

“Yes, everything’s good.”
Author: Batman 1939
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Simon_Jester
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-11-15 12:18am

Yay another chapter!

This one seems like it's new, did you only just write it?

Also, I feel very sorry for Harvey Dent.

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LadyTevar
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby LadyTevar » 2016-11-15 01:44am

I feel sorry for Harvey, but I am very curious about Falcone's little visitor.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-11-16 07:47pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Yay another chapter!

This one seems like it's new, did you only just write it?

Also, I feel very sorry for Harvey Dent.


It is new, yes. I'm long finished the pre-existing section of the story. Now it's going up on all sites nearly simultaneously.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby FaxModem1 » 2016-11-16 11:55pm

Rather enjoyable. I'm curious as to how often Bruce seems like an idiotic daydreamer to the rich twits he entertains as he focuses on something more important.

BREAKING NEWS: CANADA INTERESTING?


This made me chuckle.
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Stewart M
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Stewart M » 2016-11-17 09:34pm

FaxModem1 wrote:Rather enjoyable. I'm curious as to how often Bruce seems like an idiotic daydreamer to the rich twits he entertains as he focuses on something more important.


Most of the time, unless he some reason to look competent, which is usually at work. He has a reputation as a decent mind for business.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby FaxModem1 » 2016-11-18 12:30am

Stewart M wrote:
FaxModem1 wrote:Rather enjoyable. I'm curious as to how often Bruce seems like an idiotic daydreamer to the rich twits he entertains as he focuses on something more important.


Most of the time, unless he some reason to look competent, which is usually at work. He has a reputation as a decent mind for business.


That is one thing about Bruce Wayne that I always wondered about. If you play as the idiot millionaire/billionaire playboy for so long, why will aynone trust you to lead a company? Is it only because of Bruce's shares in his father's company that he's taken seriously at all?

That's more to do with Batman in general than your story, though.
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Re: Batman 1939: Swimming in the Styx

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-11-18 04:08am

Being as how he's Batman, he can pull competence out of a hat more or less at will, which I suspect he uses strategically to impress his doubters if and when he needs to.


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