Batman/Resident Evil: The Gotham Protocol
By: Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: Resident Evil™ is a registered product of Capcom Inc./Batman™ is a registered product of DC Comics Inc. Neither of these properties is used here with permission. This original story idea is ©2003 by Christopher W. Blaine.
The moon hung watch over Gotham harbor, but raised no alarm when two figures silently climbed over the side of the cargo freighter Fading Sun. The ship, registered in the Bahamas, but possessing a crew compromised of nearly all Quraci sailors, none of whom were using their real identities. From the captain down to the lowliest boiler room flunky, they all had passports that listed them as coming from a variety of Middle Eastern countries.
Not that being from Qurac meant that you were immediately a criminal. In fact, they were a people with a devastated homeland after a terrorist had set off a nuclear bomb in their country. The problem with many Quraci citizens abroad was that they blamed they rest of the world for what happened to their nation and the more right-wing thinkers were always looking for a way to even the score.
The Fading Sun was a small freighter, 35000 tons with rust in all of the right places. Officially, she was nearly thirty years old, manufactured in Britain originally. There was no record of the upgrades that had been made to her over the years, but of course many ships had some sort of illegal modifications here and there. Even the most honest captain could be bribed at some point to carry something.
So it was that one of the figures, crouched down behind some crates while the other took point, found himself scratching his head. "These damn schematics do not match the configuration," he said silently.
His guardian only nodded. The crouched figure reached up to his eyes and manually adjusted the lenses in the mask covering his youthful face. He had a strong, pronounced jaw line and his skin color showed just a hint of gypsy blood. On the other hand, his companion was red-haired and pale-skinned, as Caucasian as it got. On this boat, the man on point would have no hope of blending in. "They've modified the cargo hold slightly. There should be a hatchway right here leading down but it's been welded over."
"That means access only from the inside," the guardian said.
The other man scanned the deck with his night-vision lenses. There were no guards about, but that was probably normal. Anyone armed would be inside to attract the least amount of attention. He returned the lenses to normal and pulled his companion down.
The man in charge was named Dick Grayson and as a profession, he was a super-hero. His career started before he was ten, when his parents had been murdered. All three had been part of a circus trapeze act, which meant that when Dick was taken in by Bruce Wayne, the mysterious Batman, he was more than ready to meet the physical aspects of a life fighting crime. As Robin, he had been the "better half" as he called it of the Dynamic Do, and for many years he and his mentor had protected Gotham City from the infestation of insanity that seemed to spawn just after World War 2.
He was no longer Robin and he no longer lived in Gotham City. As Nightwing, he patrolled the city of Bludhaven, just down the river from Gotham. He and the Batman simply didn't see eye to eye on many things and while they cared for each other, separation was the best thing for keeping them from fighting.
An orphan just like Dick, Roy Harper was also a super-hero, having been the partner of the original Green Arrow. However, where Dick had dealt with the issues of being a sidekick well enough, Roy had not. Drugs, drifting and finally an illicit affair with a terrorist had been the rough path he had taken to get where he was today. As Arsenal, he was the master of any weapon and as plain Roy, he worked diligently to be a father to his young daughter.
They were friends, good friends in fact, but it had not always been that way. Years earlier, as Robin and Speedy, they had helped form a team called the Teen Titans. Everyone looked to Robin as the natural leader and looked to Roy to be the natural playboy. Both teens had fallen into their expected roles a little too well and it had led to conflict between them. When Roy developed his drug problem, Dick had been less than sympathetic.
Age and maturity had healed the wounds between them and that was why Roy was here in Gotham City tonight. "Tell me again why we're on this big tuna boat?" Roy asked quietly.
Dick sighed. He wanted to shift to "hero-mode" and just get going, but a good leader knew that a well-informed team was an efficient team. "I busted a drug deal going down in Bludhaven last night," he began as he put his palm pilot away. The schematic was useless and they would have to wing it. "In exchange for letting him go, minus his drugs, the dealer gave me the name of someone who was looking for work creating artificial drugs."
"Big deal," Roy said as he peered over the crates. Someone stepped out of a hatch and lit a cigarette. So long as they kept puffing away, he knew exactly where they were.
"So, I figured that if this guy had experience, he might be able to lead me to some other big-name pushers. The guy turns out to be a scientist named Dr. Perot, a French-Canadian who was recruited right out of college to work for a company called Umbrella."
Roy scratched his head. "Yeah, yeah; damn does that name sound familiar."
Dick told him that they had been in many papers recently because of several industrial site accidents and what they called eco-terrorist hits. Dick had already asked Barbara Gordon, the cyber-sleuth also known as Oracle, to look into the company for him. "Well, this doc wouldn't say very much, though I did get him to wet his pants…"
"It's a Canadian thing I hear; it's how they say hello."
Dick ignored the joke. "He told me if I was interested in finding some biological weapons, then I needed to check out this boat."
"Did you turn him over to the feds?"
Dick shook his head. "Not until I check out his story. If he's blowing smoke up my butt, then him and I are going to have a little man-to-man talk."
"Don't you need to find a man to speak with him?" Roy joked. He was constantly letting loose with one-liners.
"I was hoping to use your boyfriend," Dick replied. The smoker went back inside and he picked out his path to another hatch that was leading down. "Let's go."
It was Nightwing that first noticed the cargo containers sitting on the deck. It made sense that some would be strapped to the deck, but these three just didn't feel right. They looked old, old like the ship they sat on and there was even some graffiti spray-painted on one of them. It was some saying from the previous decade. It was almost perfect camouflage.
Arsenal looked the massive containers over. "They go on semi-trucks. They've got refrigeration units on them as well." He pointed to the compressor assembly on the front of one of the containers. "Could be a load of illegal ice cream."
"You don't think my snitch is reliable?"
Arsenal leaned a shoulder against side of one of the containers and pulled out a toothpick to chew on. "Look, any time a man clad in black leather comes crashing through the window wanting information, you can expect to get some sort of answer."
Nightwing only nodded, not wanting to consider that he might have forced Perot to say anything. It was one of the problems with wearing the costume; it was too easy to intimidate a person into saying whatever came to in order to save their own skin. Instead of responding, the young hero examined the door, looking for a way to open it. He couldn't find any. "It's welded shut."
The other hero looked it over and felt around. "Damn straight it is. Who the hell welds a tractor trailer shut?"
"There has to be a way in; probably underneath," Nightwing said. It was a great security system, simply yet able to keep them out. Nightwing had a small cutting torch in his utility belt, but he was willing to bet that the containers were a lot thicker than what they looked.
Arsenal motioned for him to hold still and then proceeded to climb up the side. Raised on a reservation in the southwest United States, Arsenal was a natural climber. He could find a handhold on a soap bubble if he had to. He climbed up and disappeared onto the top of the container. Nightwing put a gloved hand onto the container, but could not feel any vibration other than that of the refrigeration unit's compressor.
As he waited he looked around the vessel, but could not pick out anything of interest. Luckily before boredom affected his senses, Arsenal clambered back down. In his hand was his utility tool, which he was folding up. "All set."
"What did you do?"
"Unhooked the compressor; there's a opening for the ventilation. It's too heavy for me to move without making any noise," Arsenal told him. "Come on up and we'll move it and go in."
Nightwing obediently followed and with a little more effort than his friend, he managed to get to the top. Together, they crept along the top keeping to the shadows. Though the moon was high, the main island of the vessel covered them. So long as there was nobody looking directly down at them, they would probably be okay.
It took nearly fifteen minutes for them to remove the compressor gear quietly and it still required some minor cutting with Nightwing's torch. The refrigeration unit was destroyed and whatever was in the trailer was going to be ruined. Nightwing felt bad about it, especially since he didn't know what they were going to find.
The first thing that they noticed was the smell, or lack of it. Even cold air has a smell, the kind of scent that tells you on an October day that snow was on its way. The hole had little wisps of evaporating ice rising from it and the darkness beyond seemed as cold as space. Arsenal looked at Nightwing. "Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"
Nightwing held up a finger and reached into his utility belt for a small electronic device. It was yellow with a flexible metallic probe. He extended the probe and waved it in the hole, waiting as the screen ran through a series of numbers. Finally, a green light came on and Nightwing visibly relaxed. "No known biological or chemical agents."
"I suppose that's good," Arsenal commented, his face showing he wasn't entirely convinced. "What of there is something we haven't got the ability to identify?"
"At least you have someone to carry on your name, then," Nightwing said as he stuck a leg into the hole. The cold immediately could be felt through his costume. He wasn't wearing his insulated winter gear, as he had not expected to be in that sort of environment. He was a super-hero after all, not a boy scout.
He was inside seconds later, though Arsenal took a little longer since he carried weapons, a crossbow and compound bow tonight. The truth was he could use anything as a weapon if he needed to. There was no light but Nightwing could imagine Arsenal was shivering. His costume was even thinner than the black bodysuit Nightwing sported. Whatever they were going to do, they needed to do it immediately. "See if you can find a light switch."
"In a trailer?"
"Yes, some of them have lights." Immediately, there was a flash as Arsenal ignited a chemical light. It cast an eerie green glow on the two of them. Their breath was forming into clouds that sought freedom out the hole they had entered through.
They were in a compartment that took up approximately one half of the trailer's length and it was filled with workstations and benches. There was also a computer that they immediately went over to, but were disappointed to find only a microphone. "Voice-recognition system I bet; top-of-the-line stuff," Nightwing commented.
Arsenal nodded and went over to the benches and searched the drawers. The only thing he found was a small pad of stationary with the Umbrella logo on it. It was a new pad that appeared to have never been used. There didn't seem to be anything else of value until Arsenal noticed something about the workbench.
Nightwing joined him as he leaned closer with the chemical light. "Something's been written on here, like whoever was working here was bored or something."
Nightwing nodded and cleared his lenses to see if he could make it out. "Gotham Protocol."
"Here's another one that says 'Susan can suck eggs'," Arsenal said with a smile. "I think I'd like to meet Susan."
Nightwing filed the information away for future reference and then turned his attention to the wall that divided the trailer in half. There was a single, massive steel door set in the middle of it. In fact, the wall looked to be double reinforced and that made him curious as to what was on the other side. He stepped closer and noticed that there was some discoloration on the door handle.
"Have you got a black light?" Nightwing asked.
Arsenal shivered and stamped his feet. "Yeah, why? Did you find a velvet painting of Elvis? Crap, Grayson, it's colder than a witch's tit in here!"
Nightwing pulled out a small aerosol container from his belt and sprayed it on the door and all over the wall. He stepped back and stood next to Arsenal. "Put that green light in your pocket and pull out the black light." He refrained from asking why Arsenal even carried one; most likely he did it because he thought the effect was cool.
Arsenal did what he was told and activated the black light. Suddenly, they were faced with what looked like a macabre work of modern art. "I sprayed Luminol on the wall. It reacts with human blood and lets it show up in a black light." Arsenal only nodded and looked as the chemical showed them what could have only been the most violent of deaths.
There was less wall showing than blood and the streaks and splatters were everywhere, though a definite pattern of murder could be seen. The victim had been attacked in a corner, probably backed into it by their assailant. There was evidence of what could only be a throat slash as there were spots of blood from a fine spray up on the ceiling.
The victim had then tried to make it to the door, it appeared as the bloody handprints showed where they had braced against the wall even as they were attacked even more. The death had been painful and both Nightwing and Arsenal found themselves saying small prayers for the soul of the victim. "They tried to clean it up, but it was only cursory. I'd say this trailer will never see the United States again."
"The violence, though, man," Arsenal said, his shivering having stopped with the disbelief he was feeling. This was no way to die. "Goddamn, look at this! Someone was slaughtered here, like a damn cow for hamburgers."
Worse than that, Nightwing thought. His friend was really upset, but he couldn't blame him. Arsenal once worked for a covert government agency called Checkmate and through them went undercover to infiltrate the terrorist organization of Cheshire. During that time, he had no doubt witnessed some brutal treatment of other human beings. It was a time he did not like to think about. "We need to see what's on the other side," Nightwing finally said. Arsenal agreed and threw down the black light, crushing it under his heel. The nightmarish blood spray patterns disappeared and soon there was the familiar green glow of the other light. "I think its warming up in here," he said as he crouched down to eye level with the lock on the door.
Arsenal watched as his friend pulled out his lock pick kit. "Is there anything you don't have inside that utility belt?" he asked.
Nightwing smiled as he set to work on the lock. "I don't have a sweet little daughter," he said, reminding Arsenal of something happier than their situation. "Of course, I do have a small compartment for storing the phone numbers of my female admirers."
"Must be a pretty small damn compartment," Arsenal replied. Then he added salt to the wound. "Of course, you realize that you always end up with my sloppy seconds."
The door opened with a click and there was a small whoosh of air out at them, indicating the other side had been sealed with a positive pressure. The door had been part of a hermetic seal and they had just voiced it. Nightwing immediately reached for his detector and barked at Arsenal to step back and try to find something to cover their entrance hole with. If they had released an agent, then they would have to make sure it didn't reach the harbor.
"Why didn't you think of that before we opened this damn thing?" Arsenal asked.
Nightwing wanted to respond but a sudden odor assaulted his nostrils. He knew the smell, having come across it several times in costume and in uniform as a member of the Bludhaven Police Department. It was the smell of rotting flesh and decaying organs.
It was the smell of death.
Nightwing stumbled back, covering his moth with his hand for fear he would put his evening meal all over the floor. Arsenal caught wind of the smell as well and cursed like a sailor. "Man! It's like we've stepped straight into hell or something."
His friend tried to get back up when there came a shuffling sound from the other compartment. Nightwing got to a crouch and switched to night vision mode just in time to see his worst nightmare come launching out of the doorway. It was a humanoid, perhaps even once having been human, but it had the fury and madness about it like a rabid animal.
Everything was a blur and Nightwing was pushed down by inhuman strength onto his back. The creature was in top of him, though he couldn't get a good look from the way it was batting at him. He put his arms up, his padded uniform taking the brunt of the blows while calling for help at the same time. The raving thing tried to bite Nightwing, but it suddenly jerked as if something heavy had struck it.
The smell was awful, a mixture of rot and fecal matter and Nightwing imagined he was drowning in it. The moment's respite he had been given only seemed to infuriate the creature as it pressed its attack more. He heard the front of his Kevlar-weave uniform rip and some primal instinct told him not to let this creature draw blood.
Again he called for Arsenal and again there was a jerking sensation as something hard struck the thing. Once more it returned to attacking Nightwing with such emotion that all he could do is defend himself. He was unable to reach for any of his weapons for fear of letting his guard down and receiving a skin-penetrating wound.
Then the thing was off of him, lifted bodily by some unseen force. Nightwing wasted no time and rolled away into a crouch, pulling out his battle staves from their pockets and assuming an offensive stance. He looked over and saw that Arsenal had the green chemical light clenched between his teeth and another arrow notched in his compound bow. Slowly, he lowered it, then seemed to think twice and fired off one more arrow.
"Arsenal!" Nightwing cried out, fearing that his friend had overreacted. Super-heroes did not kill their opponents. That was the first rule.
The second rule was don't ever question a professional.
"I put two arrows in that thing and it wouldn't go down," Arsenal told him as he removed the light from his teeth. "Per square inch, I pack more force than Colt 45. My shots went clean through and the thing just got pissed!"
Nightwing nodded and looked to see the creature sprawled against the wall, two arrows sticking out of its head. "Thanks," he said, slightly embarrassed. Then he studied the thing in greater detail.
There was no doubt it had once been human, though the skin had a rough, brown quality from decay. There were whole sections of tissue missing and through the torn rags of clothing it wore, both heroes could see ribs and shriveled organs. No blood poured from any wounds, only a viscous yellow liquid that looked like a cross between spoiled mayonnaise and horse urine.
The smell seemed to have gotten worse and Nightwing guessed that one of the shots had gone through the bowels, releasing pent up gases and mixtures. There was no doubt about it; the creature was a walking zombie. "But it was moving!" Arsenal explained. "It was trying to eat you!"
Nightwing didn't answer, but instead approached the corpse slowly. He held his staves at the ready. If necessary, he would crush the creature's skull because he was sure that it was dead when it attacked him so there would be no breaking of rule number one. "It's wearing the remains of a lab coat," he said, reaching down.
Arsenal notched another arrow. "That thing moves, get out of the way."
Nightwing appreciated the cover and quickly snatched away an identification card hanging from the lab coat. He read it out loud. "Susan Smyth, medical technician, Umbrella Corporation."
"The one that sucks eggs?"
"Looks like you got to meet her," Nightwing said. The body was indeed now a corpse and he pulled out a small camera to get some digital photographs. When he was finished, he stood up and took one final look at the zombie. He couldn't tell it was once female, the breasts having fallen off long before and the blonde hair on the identification card missing. The photograph on the card showed a pretty woman in her mid-forties, probably someone who was mistaken for a much younger woman.
None of that registered when he observed the back of putrid flesh before him.
They made good their escape five minutes later after having looked through the room where Susan Smyth had been housed. It was empty and offered no other clues as to what was actually going on. Once they were safely away and inside Nightwing's car, he fired up his palm pilot again.
It was no ordinary hand-held computer but was instead two generations ahead of anything that could be found on the open market. Developed by a subsidiary of WayneTech, the company owned by Bruce Wayne, the computer was able to transmit from a satellite link and act as a mobile videophone, among other things.
Nightwing put in an anonymous call to the local Coast Guard, informing them of a murder on board the Fading Sun. They had removed Arsenal's arrows before leaving. "Something killed that woman and animated her corpse," Nightwing said as he gunned the engine. The 327 cubic inches of American horsepower roared as they tore out of the dock area and headed towards downtown Gotham City. "She was dead before we got there and somebody has to pay for it."
"What the hell does this have to do with biological weapons?" Arsenal asked as he popped open a cold beer from his personal cooler. Nightwing gave him a sour look. "What? I just killed a damn zombie. I think I deserve a beer."