With thanks to Cmar for beta reading this for me! All reviews welcome!Chapter One - Batman – Invasion
The warrior had been dormant for some considerable time. It had lowered its shields to mask its emission signatures. Several small sensors were placed outside the building and its onboard battle computer was planning out hundreds of strategies and possible exits. It was one of the originals and its battle computer, hard coded into prisms of crystal, had tactics and experience honed from over a thousand worlds and a thousand battles.
The sensors were still not showing who the warrior was after but no matter.
He would be along eventually.
The hook was baited.
The trap was set.
The ripples would be sensed through the space-time continuum bringing its prey towards him.
It could wait.
It was one of those days that seemed to Bruce Wayne as if the whole world was against him.
For a start he was deathly tired. The Joker and Batman had been having their deadly game of cat and mouse for over three weeks and the Clown Prince of Crime was still no closer to being caught. Already over a dozen corpses had turned up with their trademark grins showing the manner of their demise.
"I really think you should see a doctor, sir," said Alfred. "Or at the very least a bed. You have been awake for the best of my knowledge for nearly five days; that has to be pushing even your limits."
Bruce ignored him; as he closed his eyes a cloud of white spots danced in front of his vision, his headache was just threatening to explode. He put a hand to his head and groaned.
"Sir, I will not be party to…"
He should never have gone out hunting the previous night; he had already been awake for well over seventy-two hours before that. The signs were all there, he was getting tired and working too hard. The problem was if he got tired in his line of work he stood a good chance of getting dead, or worse, other people getting dead.
His memory drifted back to the previous night. He had tracked the Joker and Harlequin down to St Peter's Church on Harlington Street. The Joker had taken the choir and the vicar hostage. The demented fiend had been dancing all up and down the aisle and he had been trying to force the vicar to marry himself and Harley.
"D-d-d-do you, errmm, J-j-joker take this…"
"You can say clown, I don't mind."
"Clown to be your lawfully wedded husband," said the Vicar getting it completely wrong.
"Oh puddin', you never got me an engagement ring?"
"I'll cut one off one of the choir later; don't worry your pretty painted face about that."
"You say the sweetest things!"
The Batman hid behind a well-carved wall cartouche dedicated to the brave soldiers of Washington who had died defending it against the British. The shadows of the life-size carved soldiers hid the Batman. He had placed a small device on the fuse box in the church earlier.
This was just a matter of timing.
"Does anyone know any reason in law why these two can't be married?"
"There's always a critic!" The lights went out, casting the church into Stygian darkness. "I never invited Bats, did you, Harley?"
"I don't know, puddin', you were in charge of the invitations."
"Gate crashers. Come Harley, let's go to the reception."
Batman slid his green starlight lenses down and could see the church in a sea of green. He could see the Joker and Harley struggling in the darkness to run to the door. The Joker hit his shin a couple of times on the pews to colourful swearing. The choir members were screaming in the unaccustomed darkness.
One of the Joker's men lunged out at the shadowy figure coming at him out of the darkness. It was dark and Batman did not see the knife. The man had painted it black but it was only an inner instinct that made him turn sideways at the last nanosecond, and as such it only scraped harmlessly against the armour on his chest. He pulled the man towards him and knocked him out with an elbow to the chin.
He threw a weighted batarang towards the Joker but his aim was off. He had already been awake for seventy-two hours trying to track him down and he was getting too tired.
It was then he saw the bomb and saw one of the choir was chained to it. Why hadn't he seen it before? He could see the Joker struggling to open the door at the end. "Toodle-oo, Batman! See you at the reception!"
Go after him or defuse the bomb?
There was no choice at all. He crouched next to the bomb.
It was a custom job with a mercury switch with the Joker's trademark clown face daubed on it. A mercury switch consists of a sealed glass tube containing two unconnected electrodes and a small amount of liquid mercury. As long as the liquid metal remains on the opposite end of the tube, the electrodes remain disconnected and no current will flow. Once the tube is moved past a certain angle, however, the mercury will pool between the two electrodes and a connection is made. The result is electricity flowing through a completed circuit and an exploded bomb.
The woman chained to the bomb tried to stand up.
"Don't move," he said huskily. "You'll set off the bomb."
"Aaaaaahh!" She tried to get to her feet.
Batman pushed her harshly down. "I said don't move."
She started crying, sobbing quietly at first, the sobs getting louder with each passing second. Batman pressed a button on his belt and lights blazed out in the church again. The woman whimpered when she saw the masked and demonic looking rescuer.
"Don't move, you'll disturb this." The padlock for the woman's chains had been pushed deep into the bomb itself, stopping him from picking it. If he tried to saw through it with the tools he had with him he could disturb the bomb.
She was stuck there until he defused the bomb or it went off.
She started crying again. Batman concentrated on the bomb. The mercury switch was obvious but there were several trigger wires leading to the bomb itself, some had to be false leads, but which? It seemed to be a parcel of semtex surrounded by bits of rusty metal.
"Everybody else, leave," he said huskily. He could hear behind him the choir and the vicar leaving via the main atrium. They dragged the henchman the Batman had knocked out with them. In the distance he could hear the sound of police sirens approaching.
They would be safe.
The hostage was still crying. He had to take her mind off it. He looked up at her, taking in the salient details about her in an instant. "Tell me about your family. You have two small children, is that right? A boy and a girl?"
She stopped sniffling and looked at him. "That's impossible! How do you know?"
The red wire was copper and the green wire seemed to be a gold filament. Very good quality for this, the question was, were they booby trapped? Of course they were, the only booby here was him.
"Your car keys are for a Ford Focus. There is only one Focus in the parking lot and it has two car seats in it, one pink, one blue."
"Well, if you cheat it's easy. I thought you were being clever. Tell me something that isn't in the car then?"
Two alkali batteries provided the power and there was a small watch battery just under the fuse. Could he break the glass and drain the mercury?
Keep her talking; stop her thinking about the bomb. "Like what then?"
"Errrm, what picture have I got half way up the stairs?"
"Your wedding photo."
"Now I know you're cheating. What's my cat called?"
Batman spared a glance at her. Pink clothes and a pink hat, some black and white Persian cat hairs were on her socks. "Fluffles?" he hazarded.
"Wrong, completely wrong, Mr Detective." She looked very pleased with herself and nearly raised her hands until the Batman shook his head. "Fluffikins. Completely different."
If I can maintain the circuit and cross the wires I should be able to fool the circuit into thinking it is still attached to the bomb and defuse it safely.
"I like this game, let me try it out on you, Mr Batman."
"Okay." Anything to stop her jolting this bomb. He got out a small pair of wire-cutters from his utility belt and stripped the outer covering from one of the wires.
"I think you are a man."
"Right so far." She looked smug at this and tried to clap her hands. Batman grabbed her hands together with a grip like iron. "Don't move!" She started sobbing again. Oh god. "Sorry, carry on."
"You like animals?"
"Well, dressed like a bat and all?"
"Yes." Right, attach this wire round to the other wire.
"You like dressing up?"
He sighed. "Yes." The circuit was complete. It should be fine now. He licked his lips nervously. Or was that what the Joker wanted him to do?
No, he could not afford to double think. Wrong, he could not afford not to double think. He rubbed his hand over his unshaven chin, producing a rasping sound. He produced a small dentist's mirror and looked under the bomb.
There was another small wire and circuit under the bomb.
He was getting tired. Too many sleepless nights under the cowl. He would have no more if he didn't start concentrating.
"Are you a Taurus?"
"Well with the horns and …"
"They are ears." In a few seconds he had isolated the other circuit.
This is it. He snipped the wires surrounding the semtex and took out the bomb and quickly picked the padlocks holding the woman to the bomb.
"Well, have you thought of…" She suddenly realised she was talking to herself and her chains were on the ground next to the disarmed bomb. The wind whistled eerily through the pews as the door flapped on its hinges. A heavily armed policeman peered nervously through the door at her.
"I must insist you sleep, sir."
"Gotham will still be there when you wake, sir; Robin will keep an eye out for him. Please sir? You need to be at your best for the Wayne Foundation Gala ball we are holding tonight. If Bruce Wayne appears tired and exhausted at the time it is known the Joker is running the Batman ragged…"
Bruce Wayne collapsed heavily on the bed. "Wake me if anything happens."
"Of course, sir. Goodnight sir."
Alfred switched off the lights as he crept out of the room. Sometimes Bruce was his own worse enemy.
Bruce slept deeply. His dreams were haunted by clown shapes laughing at him, always out of reach.
"Come over here."
"You'll catch your death sleeping in shop doorways, son. There's a soup kitchen just a block away."
"You might be a weirdo; I ain't going nowhere with you."
The man fumbled in his pocket and brought out a small plastic wallet with an official looking identification. "I'm part of the Gotham Feed the Homeless Group. Come on, it's going to be a cold night; you've got nothing to lose."
The man peered at the identification. "Okay, I could do with a walk anyway. Let me get my stuff. What's your name anyway?"
"I'm Gifford, Crowmarsh Gifford. Founded the Group. Come on, we've got your friends there already."
The man shuffled after him. His feet were wrapped in newspapers against the cold and his face was pinched and red from the cold. "I'm Sam Fulton. You ain't got a ciggy have you? Gasping here."
Gifford gave an easy smile and reached into his pocket for a pack of cigarettes. "There you go, Sam. It's tough out on the streets. You people need all the help you can get."
"You ain't church types are you? With your bleedin' philosophy?"
"That's alright then." He sighed as he breathed in the smoke. He followed Gifford into a building that had the Gotham Feed the Homeless Group sign on the outside.
"We don't need your soul." Gifford gestured for the man to follow him, then he winced and held his head. For a moment, a brief moment, he felt like he was floating in a small capsule, the centre of a complex machine, he couldn't walk, he couldn't even breathe. Then it was over.
Crowmarsh Gifford tried to smile. "Fine, fine. It'll pass. Come on, they'll just be starting to serve soup."
The Boy Wonder was currently surveying the street scene beneath him. A hotdog stand was doing a brisk trade, as was a pickpocket. The rain was coming down in big dollops now, splattering against the side of the building and against Robin.
In a few seconds he had rappelled down the side of the building into a small dark alleyway and was examining his prey.
It was a small thin boy, with greasy blonde hair. He was currently after a young woman's handbag. Robin swiftly threw a line round him and dragged him, kicking and screaming, into the dark alley.
Half a minute later he was hanging upside down from a nearby lamp post with one of Robin's calling cards on him telling the police who he was.
A quiet night, even with the Joker at large.
Robin touched his communicator. "Oracle, it's R, you awake?"
"Any sign of the big J?"
"Nada. I've been monitoring the police band, not much happening. There are a few strange reports I've been getting, however."
"The vagrant population in Gotham has plummeted over the past couple of weeks."
"It's getting colder. They don't migrate, do they?"
She ignored that comment. "There are no new initiatives for rehousing them that I am aware of. No neighbouring cities have reported an increase."
"I'll keep an eye out for anything strange. Robin out."
An eerie groaning sound started from the alleyway, getting louder and louder. Then a pulsing light started, illuminating the entire area. Robin, used to dark, half covered his eyes at this. A blue box gradually appeared in the alleyway, solidifying as he watched.
What the hell?
The noise and lights died down as the object got more distinct.
It had the words 'Police Public Call Box' emblazoned at the top of it. Robin walked up to it and touched it with a gloved hand. He could feel power throbbing through it and the surface, although it looked painted on, was smooth and frictionless.
He could see several shadows through the frosted glass windows on the side and he could hear hands fumble for the door.
Now this must qualify as strange.
On the top floor of Canary Wharf is a clandestine organisation called Torchwood that was formed over one hundred years ago. Its very name was synonymous with one of its greatest targets.
"We've got a positive identification."
The man pointed at a cctv image on one of the screens in front of him. "Just a sec, let me zoom in. There, see? Is that out of place, or is that out of place?"
"In Gotham as well, of all places. Have we any agents there?" She asked more out of hope than anything. Although the organisation had a global remit the agents could only be in places of certain activity and recently that had all been in England.
"Not as yet, but it might be good to try out one of our new agents. Jack?"
A well-dressed rather dapper man stood up from one of the office cubicles. He cracked a cheesy smile to her. "Dear lady?"
"What do you know of Gotham, Captain Jack Harkness?"
"Nasty ugly place, full of nasty ugly sociopaths dressed as flying rodents. Can't get a decent cup of tea, more rats than people and it always rains. And it smells. And that is just what the Gotham Tourist Information Board say."
"Your flight leaves in an hour."
"I'll get my toothbrush!"