AN: Thanks to everyone who has commented on the series to date. I really appreciate the FDK, enough that it encouraged me to write this fifth installment for the set. And amazingly enough, this one is with an actual plot included to drive the story forward g . Again, remember that feedback is what feeds the muse of your fanfic authors, so comment often and fulsomely. ;-) Really big thanks to Beth, my beta for being a really great cheerleader and keeping me going even when I was struggling with the idea of actually having a plot ;-)
Disclaimer: I dream, but then – alas – I wake up again.
Description: Matt is moving further into most aspects of his brother's worlds, but unfortunately for Matt the worlds are getting mixed together as well as haunted by the past.
Hazardous Matt-erials and Personal
By Marns AKA Bumpkin
In the searing, stygian dark depths of the earth a figure stirred. He had been trapped in the very center of the planet earth's gravity well for eight long years. A time frame which seemed like ages when endured in such conditions. It did give him lots of time to think though; there wasn't much else he could do. No matter how hard he tried he could not move from the place where he was.
Ian Peek used to be a reporter, a very famous reporter, after he had taken and used an experimental technology called vibrospace from a scientist named Nabuo Taka, head of research and development at Wayne/Powers. At least he had been until Ian had killed him and stole all his notes and prototypes for his vibrospace project.
Vibrospace was a revolutionary idea. It was a method for that allowed one solid object to go through another. Ian had seen the opportunities immediately as a reporter. It was power. The technology would jumpstart his career into high gear. He had to have it and so he took it. Problem was that he should have thought about the side effects of using it, and there were some whammy side effects.
Turns out, his constant use of vibrospace caused his very cells to attune to its frequency and he started to lose his substance even when he wasn't wearing the belt. On the very eve of his greatest expose – the unveiling of Batman's secret identity – he had lost control. The power he had so desperately needed to have was fighting back, and it was winning.
He had called Wayne to ask him for his help after pulling the show minutes before it aired – exposing the Batmen wouldn't have gotten him very far when asking one of them for help – and offered him the only uncut footage from the cave as incentive. Wayne had only smirked mockingly at him and told him "You're losing your head," before turning and walking away. The same anger that had prompted him to attack the older man then, curdled now inside all that used to be Ian Peek. Exercising his rage he struck out, trying to escape the bonds of gravity that held him fast and was astounded to find that he had moved.
Something was different; he could feel that in some way he had changed again. Gone from his nebulous state into a malleable solid form. He had no idea how it had happened and frankly, he didn't care. All that mattered to him was the possibility he was going to finally be able to leave the Earth's core where he had been trapped for so long.
Moving steadily, he passed first through the two layers of the core itself into the mantle. He didn't pause to celebrate; he still had a long way to go. He was still able to move fairly quickly though the liquid rock of the mantle but he had to slow when he came to the actual crust. He found that he was still able to pass though certain elements, like iron and silica, but others stopped him dead as if he had run into a brick wall.
He made several attempts to get through the last barrier holding him back from freedom, threading upwards through compatible minerals in different areas, and each and every time he found he had to retrace his 'steps'. Frustration ate away at him. It was maddening, he was so close to being free of the prison that he had been stuck in for eight long years, but it almost seemed that it wasn't meant to be. Following the underside of the crust, he felt along looking for some way to get out. There had to be one, he just couldn't get this far and be stuck again.
Then he found it, a crack. Yes! Tracing the break in the earth's outer layer to its widest point he began again to move upwards toward liberty. It was a tight squeeze at times, but he made it through and broke out into the open air of a dark night. He climbed out of the hole he had made in the ground and stood in what looked to be a park, relishing the feel of his feet being supported on the solid ground underneath him. It had been so long since he felt so – normal.
Glancing around, he tried to determine where he had finally been able to surface. It looked like he had he had come up in Gotham Park, in the old section near the reservoir that was still called Robinson Park. Interesting. Somehow, while he had been blindly swimming up though all that molten earth, he had managed to horn in on his old stomping grounds. 'Well they do always say that the criminal comes back to the scene of the crime, don't they?' Now why would he have thought of that old adage, he wondered – he wasn't a criminal, he was the victim.
Shaking his head to rid himself of such gloomy thoughts, Peek raised his face trying to catch a bit of a breeze. He couldn't feel anything, but he knew that he had seen the flower-tops nodding so he knew the wind was there. He was solid again so why couldn't he feel the wind? It didn't make any sense – unless, the change he had undergone allowing him to resurface had been more drastic than he had originally thought. He lifted his hands up trying to see in the dark how they might have changed, but he couldn't see anything. Hmm, he looked around – yes, over there – the reservoir was well lit with floodlights and he could use the water as a reflective surface to see himself.
He started to walk towards the reservoir, but found his way was slower than he thought it should be. He kept sinking into the earth like he used to when he tried to walk in freshly fallen snow when he didn't use snowshoes. 'Blasted park people, why do they water the grass so much when it makes the earth so bloody soft?' he thought with some irritation. It seemed to take twice as long as it should have, but he finally made it to the well-lit area around the water's edge.
He lifted his hands for the second time that night and gasped in shock at what he saw – his hands were green! Green and see-thru like some kind of gleaming sculpture made from glass. Not smooth and polished either, but more crystalline in nature and there were very obvious striations where his fingers jointed, as well as at his wrists. He glanced into the water to see his reflection. Even with the lack of colours afforded by such a poor viewing surface he could see that his face and body were the same as his hands, colour, texture and everything. He wasn't human anymore, how was he going to survive now?
He wandered away from the water, not wanting to even catch a glimpse of his altered state, and walked slowly towards the city proper. What was he going to do? He couldn't go back to reporting – he was the story. At the edge of the park his attention was drawn to the glowing public vidscreen.
... And stunning the financial world again is Wayne Enterprises. Headed up by the company's billionaire CEO, Bruce Wayne, stock prices for the company soared as they announced another spectacular breakthrough in ...
'Bruce Wayne', he knew that name... Ah yes, did he know that name – he just hadn't expected to hear it with 'CEO' attached to it or when it wasn't in conjunction with Powers. He'd almost forgotten during the excitement and following despair of his travels back to the surface and in the resulting discoveries. Wayne/Powers was where he had gotten the vibrospace belt from, and Bruce Wayne was the man he had asked for help only to be laughed at for his troubles. All that money, all those resources he had access to due to his vast company and he had ridiculed one man's simple request for aid.
Seems like the old man had finally been able to unload the Powers millstone from around his company's neck and was now raking in the creds, hand over fist it sounded like if the news was anything to go by. It wasn't fair, a man like that shouldn't get that kind of success in life. Because of that cranky old man he had spent eight long years helplessly trapped in total darkness at the earth's core...
Well, maybe Wayne's karma was due for a change. Instead of being lucky he was going to become very un-lucky, Ian Peek would make sure of it. Ian would make sure that old man rued the day he had laughed at an unfortunate reporter who was asking for help – because the reporter was back and ready to destroy him.
It was the end of another day at Hamilton Hill High and Matt McGinnis, ankles and arms crossed, was leaning nonchalantly up against his locker. He was waiting for his girlfriend, Beth Garden, to appear so that he could walk her home before heading to his after school job. It was something that his brother Terry insisted on for some strange reason.
The relaxed pose Matt had adopted against his locker was very reminiscent of the way Terry had often stood in the same school. With the uncanny resemblance between the brothers, it actually made some of the older teachers do double-takes as they thought they were seeing a ghost from the past. Until they realized it was Matt, rather than Terry, they were seeing in the familiar pose.
The tranquil air Matt gave off as he waited for his girlfriend to appear was a carefully constructed sham. He was in fact hyper-aware of everything that was going on around him. His eyes flickered over everything in sight, noticing any and every nuance. His ears were carefully attuned to all the sounds around him as well, so he heard Beth's footsteps approaching his location before he saw her.
He heard when some of their friends joined her as she neared his post and when they began to talk about a subject that only six months ago Matt would have joined in on whole-heartedly. Batman and his latest exploits.
"Hey, you guys hear about the big dust-up at the docks last night?"
"Yeah," Beth said scornfully. Like she would have failed to spot anything 'Bat' related. "You of course mean the one that was all over the vids last night that only a moron could have missed. Batman busted open some kind of smuggling ring and laid the smackdown on a bunch of loser Jokerz they had acting as toughs."
"Smackdown is right! Too bad the news got there so late, they only caught the tail end of what looked like some pretty major butt-kicking on Batman's part."
"The news did get all the arrests that were made by the cops too, we at least got to see all the crooks that Batman beat hauled away."
"Big deal, watching a bunch of cops slap cuffs on the dregs while droning at them about their rights before tossing them into waiting paddy wagons. Drags-ville-city. The brief bit of the fight the news types were able to catch before the cops came, very schway. And to watch the Bat in action, even if it was for such a short time – sweet! That's all I can say."
Matt wanted to groan out loud – very loud – and roll his eyes. There were times that he couldn't believe that he'd been just as much of a vulture over 'Bat' sightings as the rest of his friends still were. Circumstances had changed his outlook on life lately though. After all, even something fantastic can become humdrum when you are exposed to it pretty much constantly for months. What was that saying? 'Familiarity breeds contempt,' or maybe it should be in his case, 'overexposure makes you numb.'
After his momentous discovery, almost a year ago now, about his brother Terry being the guy under the mask, Matt had entered a different world. Not happy with another person being in on the secret at first, Bruce still had, nonetheless, been very impressed with the logical way Matt had managed to piece together his suspicions about his brother's second job. Due to those actions, Matt had been offered two opportunities as a result from Bruce and Terry. Both of which he had jumped at.
One was the diluted version of a 'Robin's' training with the honing of his observation and detective skills. Matt found the training a lot of fun if demanding. It was also something that he was finding really coming in handy for his schoolwork's sake. Since he had been able to keep his grade average up, and in some small ways improve, even with all the extra stuff he was doing nowadays. After the high levels of excellence that Bruce demanded, the public school system was a cakewalk.
The 'Robin' course also covered something that both Terry and Bruce had insisted on even if he wasn't going to take the intellectual side of the training, fighting skills – it was mandatory that he had to learn how to properly defend himself. Especially if he was going to take them up on the second option, their job offer to work for them both as a personal assistant and dogsbody. They had both said that with the amount of secure information he was going to be privy to during the execution of his duties, it was all too likely that he would be considered as easy pickings for those that wanted to try and get that knowledge, any way they could. Hence the compulsory training in how to fight, supervised by Bruce and taught by Terry. He really hated those sessions, between the two of them he always ended up more black-and-blue than the proper pink he was born with.
His friends had finally gotten close enough for them to see him – he had spotted them a while ago – and rushed up to him in a bunch. Aaron, the smallest and most hyper of them all reached him first and said excitedly, "Matt, jeez man – where ya been buddy? It's been forever since you've just hung around with us."
Matt grimaced. Did no-one remember that he had a job now? "I've joined the ranks of the working stiffs, Aaron, remember? If I want to get paid I kinda have to show up and do the work they give me. It sucks, but that's the way it works."
"But man, you work for your brother, not some stranger. I bet he wouldn't ride you too hard if you were late occasionally." Aaron protested sounding very, very young.
Matt gave his immature friend a disgusted look. "You forget, I also work for Bruce Wayne doofus – even if Terry were to cut me some slack, he wouldn't."
Aaron just quietly said, "Oh."
One of the other kids, Vivian, jumped in at that point, trying to diffuse an uncomfortable situation using the time honored practice of changing the subject. "So Matt, you hear about the thing with Batman down at the docks last night?"
Beth buried her face in her boyfriend's chest, groaning, when Aaron spoke up again. Nothing could keep that kid down for long. "Yeah, it was soo cool! The news cameras showed up in time to let us see how Bats kicked some major Jokerz heinie. They were the hired muscle for the smugglers, y'know, which if you ask me was a really dumb idea considering how often Batman totally trounces them."
Vivian jumped in to agree, her eyes sparkling. "I know, those Jokerz are so lame. They should have hired someone like Shriek or Spellbinder if they really wanted to keep their warehouse safe. 'Cept of course that Bats still would have found them and ..."
Aaron and Vivian continued to animatedly debate the pros and cons of who would have been the best guards for the smugglers, and how fast Batman would have found, and then defeated each one they mentioned. Matt was, almost literally, biting his tongue listening to them. They had it all wrong and he couldn't tell them – not without letting on to them that he had a better source for information than the rumors and news that they relied on. For the past and present, as well as for the foreseeable future.
He was definitely beginning to understand some of his brother's stranger habits better these days. Yelling at a vidscreen that was making bad reports could certainly be very cathartic for a person under particular types of strain. It was definitely a much better option than blabbing to a bunch of teenage friends that he had a direct line into Batman's world because his boring businessman brother was, in fact, the hero. 'Like they would believe me even if I did tell them,' Matt thought sardonically with an inward grin. Beth got his attention then, before he was further tempted, with a quick pinch on the butt.
"Ow – Hey! That's my butt missy, thank you very much." Matt grinned at her, taking any possibility of her feeling a sting at his words.
Coyly, Beth smiled back as she looped her arm through the crook of his. "Okay, it's your butt. I solemnly promise never to touch it again." She laughed at his panicked look – she knew that hadn't been what he'd meant. "C'mon you working stiff, time to walk me home and leave these losers to their idiotic theoretical debate in peace." She stuck her tongue out sassily at the two when they broke off in mid-word and turn their affronted faces her way. "What?"
Matt chuckled and steered his girlfriend away from the rest of the group before they got some bright idea, like to gang up on her. He really didn't feel like dealing with a grumpy Beth, not when he much preferred this impish version. Strolling rather than walking the remainder of the way to Beth's house, Matt felt very good as they continued their innuendo-sprinkled banter. She bid him farewell at her door with a kiss that curled his toes and made the trip to Wayne Enterprises pass in a fog.
Peek looked around the old unused steel mill on Gotham's waterfront, assessing it for use as his base while he attacked Wayne and his company. It would do very nicely if it were – in any way – still functional at all.
The large building he had decided to appropriate for his use had been abandoned for over twenty years. Cobwebs shrouded the interior and rust liberally dotted every visible surface that he could see through them. When the main blast furnace had lost integrity, the company that owned the mill had not bothered with fixing it, instead they had upgraded to a new location. Leaving the historical and cavernous building to rot.
It hadn't been left long enough to fall to total wrack and ruin. The place still had a solid roof and walls, which more than served for his needs. It even had a couple of intact offices left which were imminently suited to locking up anyone who just might get too nosey for their own good. Hopefully they would stay empty, he really didn't need that kind of hassle to cope with when he was occupied with making Wayne suffer for his arrogance.
'Yes,' he decided, 'with the small smelter going for me to use as my bed, I'll be very comfortable here.' The fired smelter for a bed because he had discovered in his time above that he preferred to be warm while he rested and after the earth's core, a blanket just wasn't going to cut it.
Surveying the mill one last time, Peek nodded in satisfaction. 'Yes, this will suit me admirably.' There were just a few small finishing touches he needed still... and then it would be truly perfect. He headed down to the beach to collect some sand and a few other things that he felt he might need.
Feeling euphoric and with the awestruck expression still plastered on his face from Beth's parting kiss, Matt walked into Terry's office at Wayne Enterprises. His brother took one look at his face and started to laugh, bringing Matt crashing back down into reality. Matt gave Terry a dirty look.
"Hey, don't bother giving me that look pal. You used to harass Dana and me unmercifully! Payback's a bitch isn't it?"
Wrinkling his nose, Matt had no choice but to accede. He had been a major pest when Terry and Dana were in High School, but that was in the past. He was here now, in the present, to work. "Anyway... you got anything for me?"
Terry shook his head, still chuckling away at his younger brother's expense. "Nah, not really. Just take these papers to Bruce when you head that way. Tell him I'll be there in about fifteen minutes okay?"
"Okay." Matt took the folder his brother was holding out and walked out into the hallway. As he walked along the executive hallway to the CEO's office he was greeted by everyone he passed. 'They treat me like a freaking mascot,' he thought with disgust as he got yet another hair ruffling from some toady of a manager. 'Hello people, you don't ruffle a fifteen-year-old's hair. Idiots.' It was with a heartfelt sigh of relief that he slipped into Bruce's office.
"Thank god for doors that close." He muttered under his breath as he shut the door. He spun around startled when a deep raspy chuckle sounded from the dark corner of the office. "Dammit Bruce! You scared the crap outta me, I didn't see you sitting there."
"I think that was the idea I was going for," the old man rumbled with amusement. "Well, the not being seen part at any rate. I think I can do without anything to do with 'crap' thank you very much." Matt didn't bother to say anything in return – he just rolled his eyes and made a face that spoke volumes by itself.
Matt had been fairly quick to lose his awe of Bruce Wayne when he had gotten to know the man behind all the masks, and it showed. Unlike many grown men, Matt didn't shake in his boots at a harsh word or a glare from the old man. He still had a great deal of respect for Bruce and freely showed it, as well as a certain degree of affection. He knew that his sentiments were the same as his brother's, if not as strong. Terry and the old man had a real bond that had developed over time after all – years rather than bare months.
Bruce's query of, "Is that for me?" accompanied by a pointed gesture at the papers he still held brought Matt back to himself. Blushing, he walked over and placed the folder into the gnarled hand that extended from the depths of the shadows. He couldn't believe how much woolgathering he was doing today.
"Yeah, and Terry said to tell you that he would be here in about fifteen – oh sorry, make that ten minutes now."
Matt could hear the rustle as Bruce flipped through the papers in the dim lighting and then the decisive slap of the folder being shut. "All done?" Matt quipped with a grin as he saw the folder fly across the room to land perfectly on Bruce's desk.
"Yes, it was just a recap of something Terry and I had been discussing – nothing of interest to you." Matt made a face. He wasn't stupid – they could talk about business stuff around him and he wouldn't freak out. Who knows, maybe he might even add something to the discussion, did they ever think of that?
Bruce was amused, but managed to not show it to avoid wounding the young man's ego. Matt reminded him so much of his second 'Robin' and ward Tim Drake, at times that it was uncanny. He had hated when people had underestimated him too. Bruce decided that the fine art of distraction was called for,
"So Matt, looking forward to your training session tonight?"
"That all depends on the teacher," Matt replied. "If it's the one where you actually teach, and only you, then by all means, yes. If it's the one that Terry gets to beat me to a pulp while you direct him in the pretext of teaching me how to fight, then hell no."
Bruce couldn't help himself, he laughed. 'God, he's a sarcastic little bugger.' "Well, seeing as it's your mother's night to work late, you are being 'treated' to both."
Matt groaned theatrically and collapsed into one of Bruce's office chairs, complaining, "Oh man! That sucks. It means that I'm going to be hurting one hundred percent instead of just fifty tomorrow. You're going to turn my brains to slush and Terry doesn't leave enough of me for any potential kidnappers to get by the time he's done."
"Matt, you do know that you're a total drama queen don't you?" Terry had walked in on the tail end of his brother's gripe. Terry had to quickly duck the pillow that Matt winged at his head as he laughed along with Bruce. "Y'know, they are just called throw pillows. It's not really a suggestion on how to use them Matt."
"It's not?" Matt gave his best wide-eyed ingénue look, vacant stare and all. Terry couldn't take it; he picked up the pillow that Matt had thrown at him and whapped Matt in the face with it. "Ack!" Matt said around a mouthful of velour, hamming it up.
"Scram back to my office kiddo, we'll buzz you if we need you." Terry said smiling as Matt peeked over the cushion's top suspiciously. "There's a new vid game on the computer that I want you to take a stab at, okay?"
"New vid game? Alright! Catch you two later." Matt said as he bounded out the door. 'Now this is a job!' he thought with glee as he raced back to his brother's office.