Driving home from downtown Gotham, Batman glanced to the side of him where Harry, who had fainted from the news, slept in the passenger seat of the Batmobile.
The Dark Knight of Gotham had to admit that he could have played that scene differently, probably to greater success.
In his eagerness to be loved, he had shown himself to the boy in costume, intent on impressing his only living relative with the majesty and grandeur that was Batman, one of the world's most renowned heroes. So eager for his son's acceptance that he had permitted himself a moment of weakness, in which he had forgotten that so far in Harry's life, he had only been raised by supervillains.
In the crystal clear analytical reasoning that, for that moment, had deserted him, Batman could not fault the boy for his long, agonizing shriek of "NO!!" followed by some blubbering about "That's impossible," and "I'll never join you!"
But Batman would, to his dying day, insist that he had NEVER, at any point, offered that Harry "Join me so we can protect Gotham as father and son!"
That was just too corny, and whatever Batman could be accused of, being corny was not on that list (Oh, he might imagine a BIF! BAF! THWACK! or POW! while beating up his opponents, but that was purely a meditative focus, a psychological tool used to remind him that he too was human, and that he should never allow himself to sink to the level of a villain where human life stopped being meaningful, even precious).
The message of such a statement might be clear, and fully match his intent, he DID want Harry to join him in costume eventually, those words were just the wrong way to put it. There was just something so oddly wrong about that image, that he put it from his mind.
Anyway, after Harry had risen to his feet, he had stumbled back a few steps and fallen into a mulching pit, knocking himself out on a discarded weather vane while dropping into it.
That pit had only been a few feet deep, but it had seemed to Batman that Harry had fallen for miles. Purely subjective, of course. He knew well that emotions could skew perceptions about things, that was why he avoided them as much as possible while in costume.
Nothing could be allowed to distract him from The Mission.
Fortunately, he had managed to grab him before he'd fallen too far. There had been a broken pottery in urn in there, and if he'd been allowed to fall all of the way in he could've cut his hand off!
However, glancing aside at the slumbering face of his boy, the son of his body and the only other living member of the Wayne line, Batman could not find it in him to fault the boy for his startled reaction. Having been brought up, to this point, by villains, naturally he could only see a heroic figure as a threat. That disastrous first impression could and would be remedied. However, for once he experienced a moment of doubt in his own abilities. While Batman was indeed one of the world's premier experts on the criminal psyche, he was an intimidation specialist with emphasis on interrogations and predicting his opponents.
Deprogramming a child was not on his extremely long list of qualifications.
Luckily, he knew those that did hold that among their strengths.
Batman allowed himself to grin smugly.
That was precisely the moment when little 'Harold Wayne' awoke and after a startled glance around disappeared with a 'pop'.
Three Rogues sat together pouring over plans finalizing an upcoming heist.
Already on location in England, they had done significant scouting and final preps were underway. Poison Ivy had offered her two compatriots a choice of either a straight cut of the take, whatever that might be, or a generous amount of cash up front, being honest in both offers that she expected the loot to be so rich that a cut would be the far more lucrative way to go.
Catwoman accepted a cut, while The Riddler wanted cash up front. "Nothing personal," he said. "It's just you know how often us Rogues make mega-plans and wind up polishing bars in Arkham."
"Yes." She did know. It was depressing, really.
"I think," Selina Kyle purred. "That the best factor in this scheme's favor is that Batsy can't even find the place we are to be robbing."
Eddie suddenly sat taller, taking a better grip on his cane, The Riddler declared, "You know what? I'm feeling better about this ploy already. Bring on the goblins, I say!" He used his cane to tip his hat.
The three gave each other wide smiles.
A hand stirred at the bottom of a mulching pit, clutching at the air as the rest of a body rose to tower up in its full angry height.
Grubbing a choice amount of rich and potent animal waste fertilizer out of his face and eyes, Snape stood up glaring at the rim of the pit and spat out in vile hatred. "So, James! You reveal you are alive at last!"
He spat, sneering, as he cleaned the manure out from between his teeth. His ears had been the only parts clear to overhear that conversation. "I have old friends who will want to act on that information before you can reconnect to those who once protected you!"
Sneering, he began to wade out through the muck and accidentally hit himself in the face by stepping on a rake.
After that, he began some demented giggling as he stalked off, feeling the gaping hole where his nose used to be.
Harry arrived at Catwoman's apartment, as it was the closest safe place he knew of. It was his only safe place, aside from the Greenhouse, really, and he didn't feel safe there right now as the Bat Burglar had kidnapped him from there only moments ago!
He picked the lock as Eddie had taught him, and was almost bowled over as another lady came up from behind and stormed right in like he wasn't there.
"Catsy?" Harley Quinn called into the room. "Catsy? Are you home?" The clown dressed woman picked up a newspaper and blew her nose on it. She'd been crying, it seemed. "Catsy? Puddin' tried to kill me again. I know he was only making fun, but it took me nearly an hour to get out of the giant ice cream mixer, and I'm cold from crushing ice blocks. Are you there? Pamela wasn't at her home and I want to talk."
"I don't think she's home," Harry ventured, feeling greatly in need of friendly comfort himself. After all, he's just been kidnapped by Gotham's worst villain!
Well, by his standards anyway, which, it must be admitted, were not the usual ones.
On hearing his voice Harley rotated around, bells jingling on her hat as she did so, seeming to see the little boy for the first time. Almost instantly a wide grin spread out upon her face, as she bent low to talk to him.
"Well, it seems that Batsy could be following one of our examples for once. Did you hear? You haven't been with Ivy for four weeks, yet Batman already has his own child apprentice. It's appalling. Now I'm going to have to steal you away from Pamela so I won't feel all alone on those rooftops when I run into Batsy and his young friend."
She stood up, extending Harry a hand. "Come along. We'll put you in a pair of circus tights, knock over a few candy stores, and bawl all of our troubles away in some sympathetic ear while we go into insulin shock. How's that sound?"
"Like a laugh," Harry inadvertently said the perfect thing as he took her hand, not really understanding all of what she said but not wanting to be along right now, either.
And she was, at least, a friendly face. She kept smiling, right?
"Can we look for my mom? I miss her."
Harley considered it for a second. "Sure, kid. Do you know where she's at?"
Lucius Malfoy looked up from the scroll he had just received and finished reading. "Well, well, well," he mused to himself, posing thoughtfully. "James alive? Oh, that just won't do. No, I have been enjoying my nearly uncontested influence far too much. Perhaps Severus is right, there are certain among our mutual acquaintances who could use this information profitably. Yes..."
He walked along, over to the fireplace, wondering just who he was going to contact for the job of assassinating a nearly amnesiatic James Potter.
Oh. It would be too delicious to waste on any small timer. Let's go all of the way, shall we?
Princess Diana was not one unfamiliar with social calls, however, this one had her feeling decidedly odd as the Batman lurked in the shadows of her room, pacing back and forth in obvious agony of spirit, confessing to her like a man who had a broken soul.
"Diana, I... don't know what to do. My son, he has a... meta-gene."
Struggling somewhat to present an outwardly calm facade, the amazon knew how much this would be tearing the man up inside, and so did her best to be reassuring, "Well, Bruce, I can't say that is entirely unexpected, given who the mother is."
Batman paused at one end of his stalk, forming a trembling fist and raising it to his eye level. Diana was already resolved to say nothing about it and calmly continue to council him while planning for repairing a hole in the wall, when the Caped Crusader suddenly dropped the hand and resumed pacing with a loud, angry swirl of his cape the only noise for another ten powerful strides.
Then he stopped, midway through his route, and turned to face her, and she saw in his eyes a degree of vulnerability she'd never before imagined lying beneath those eyes.
"Diana... I need your help. I... I admit I don't know how to raise a meta-child."
She smiled for him softly, always accepting, warm and even affectionate. It was a part of the healing process for her to be so, nor could she deny this man who had sacrificed so much for so many when he was hurting. She rose to her feet and put a hand over his, raising the gloved appendage to take it between her own as she met his suffering eyes. "Bruce, you raise them like any other, with warm, loving tenderness."
A spark of humor appeared in that vulnerable face behind the mask and she rolled her eyes, acknowledging the point. "Okay, I can see where you may need some help in that department."
When the man spoke, it again surprised her. "Robin and I form a good team, each providing skills and aptitudes the other may be weak on. Our teamwork makes us more effective combined than either of us could be alone. Since this is one of my weaker areas, I was considering acquiring some help."
Wonder Woman froze to the spot, not daring to breathe.
Batman continued to speak, "I was thinking of forming a partnership with a good woman. You know, acquire a specialist in child-rearing, perhaps someone with a meta-gene of her own. Probably on a permanent basis."
At once holding herself casual, while also her emotions feeling somewhat like a wild animal in a trap, Diana switched to Princess voice, "That would have to be something you first consider with the boy's mother. After all, she has a more deeply vested interest in raising him than any other."
"She's a villain," Batman replied dismissively.
Princess Diana took a deep breath and then swallowed, still striving to remain tender as she spoke somewhat formally, "Still, she has first right of refusal. Even if she can be proven unfit, her needs must be considered. After that, if you can provide evidence her influence is hurtful to the boy, then..." she took a very deep breath. "Then you could pursue... other options."
But she found she was speaking to the empty night, with her window curtains blowing in the breeze as the moonlight spotted her carpet silver. Still wearing her nightgown, she got up and closed the window, then went to bed, head full of tumultuous thoughts wondering where all this would end.
And... if she preferred one course over another.
Breaking into Gringotts was almost depressingly easy.
There are guards, and then there are guards. And using MALE dragons was just not any sort of defense at all!
Not against Poison Ivy!
The trio of Rogues split up the job according to their specialties. Catwoman had been their burglar, sneaking in to map all of those underground corridors and locate each of their vaults, numbered and unnumbered, before the raid had happened. She'd also been their expert at detecting and locating guards and other security measures. Then, when it was time for the raid, she rather elegantly took them all out.
Temporary measures only, of course. Catwoman never killed.
Poison Ivy was going to handle the bulk of the robbery, turning those tunnels and catacombs into a veritable underground jungle as vines and guard plants spread about.
The most important key factor to the raid was those pools of water the ugly little metas called 'Thief's Downfall'. The trio had called it 'Thief's Triumph' ever since they'd learned of it on Catwoman's initial probes. That discovery had set all of their plans ahead by MONTHS!
The goblins kept the stuff on hand in humongous subterranean pools that they could then use as waterfalls to cascade over their mine cart tracks and thus frustrate any intruders who relied on magic, as a key property of the magic water was that it washed away all enchantment and magical concealment, basically canceling all active magic (including spells like the Imperious). But while it could suspend items like wands, cloaks or carts from functioning, briefly, they worked again right afterward.
So no permanent harm was done.
Well, you could hardly ask for a better tool to use for breaking into magically guarded vaults - and those goblins kept the supply ready on hand! That was like Fort Knox keeping blocks of C4 right next to their gold vaults!
Henchmen hired by The Riddler used old fire fighting equipment, dropping the pickup hoses into those wonderful pools of water and then spraying the fluid out through hoses onto the doors of those nearly impregnable vaults, then blowing them open with dynamite to get at the contents (sadly, their much more highly favored plastic explosive remedies were out, as the amount of magic down there prohibited all electrical operations - including detonators).
Having blown open a vault, they would then spray down what was inside to cancel all of those tricky security spells, before a conga line of Ivy's plants would then haul out that tremendous bulk of artifacts, jewelry and coin.
Sirius stood nearby to cast drying charms on all of those paintings, scrolls or books being retrieved, and that was that.
The Rogues already had a method for smuggling their ill gotten gains out through unused portions of the muggle underground rail system. Actually, preparing vaults of their own big enough to handle this tremendous rush of ill gotten gains had possibly been the worst part of this whole mission!
Well, that and cataloging it afterward was going to be a true nightmare.
Having Greened the majority of those poor little defenseless guard dragons down there (apparently males had been very popular, but then males were generally more aggressive and territorial), Ivy had a solid defense against goblin reprisals, as her pollen affected them more deeply than the clackers used by their former keepers.
But that was just bait for the trap, truly, as the goblins knew that they had dragons down there and thought they knew their way around them. But cut those lovely beasts free (and there was something majestic about dragons, so Pamela knew Harry would want some as pets. Besides, do you know how valuable trained guard dragons are?!? Most of them were worth more than the contents of many of those vaults!)...
Ah! But to get back to the point. A few rampaging dragons concentrates the attention wonderfully. The Rogues knew they were being noisy. It was sadly impossible to use explosives in large amounts underground without echoes carrying. So they knew before going in they'd be hip deep in guards before their operation was done, and having them concentrate on the now free and Greened dragons... well, it led the poor bankers to think the DRAGONS might be a problem!
While those filthy metas were concentrating on catching or subduing their escaped guard animals they failed to pay adequate attention to the Devils Snare patches Ivy had transplanted for this occasion! And also the... well, you get the idea. Hidden among the dark crags and forgotten pools a veritable jungle of dangerous plants now lay in wait that subdued those goblins quite nicely, thank you very much.
Then, because she was feeling tidy, her vines would then stack the goblins in piles in their own underground city, which now lay under strong pollen clouds so that none of those metas would be waking up until they were long gone.
Oh, and since they were there anyway, they stole all of the goods to be found among the goblin only areas, too, of course. It was just too priceless an opportunity not to!
So they emptied out those quaint little grubby goblin villages, stole all of their priceless treasures, and then had creepers go over their comatose bodies looking for loose change!
A small army of bushes were already escaping from the bank proper carrying bundles of parchment, weighing scales, and inkwells, even fixtures from the lights to the plumbing, while stronger shrubs carried off the furniture!
No, the Rogues didn't imagine they'd be able to do this a second time, so they were going to do a thorough job of it on the first go!
They also emptied out the Ministry's accounts as a matter of course.
In actual fact, Catwoman, Ivy and The Riddler when they broke into Gringotts stole everything not in a totally innocent vault! Then they went back through on Ivy's orders and stole everything from those as well, although this time cataloging those ill gotten gains so that equivalent value could be returned to the victims anonymously.
Because, really, governments and banks are both the worst thieves out there! Far worse than any Rogue. As a matter of course, either one in need of cash would automatically have confiscated whatever valuables they'd left behind, seizing intact vaults on any imagined pretext and possibly putting their own unlucky victims behind bars on some excuse or other to ensure the bank or ministry's illusion of propriety in taking all of their money. Claim they were a criminal and of course you could take all of their goods!
This was not a new thing. It had been done before. Frequently.
So, as a kindness to the innocent, Poison Ivy was going to steal their money too, then find some quiet way to return it to them, possibly in the form of a charity fund or aid society. Whatever it was, it would have to be disguised.
The Riddler was having fun carving all sorts of bizarre clues into the walls as they finished up. His job in this was actually among the most vital, as he was going to be throwing off pursuit. They had convinced him, just this once, to give out false clues that wouldn't lead anywhere!
Oh, and Pamela may have had to Green him a bit to get him to do that, but it was important they never be found! They didn't HAVE a cell in Azkaban bad enough to sentence them to for this! And Dementors could only kiss you once! So, no, none of the Rogues were eager to be caught for this, EVER!
So that just meant they had to cover their tracks.
Eddie was actually having a grand old time placing graffiti on the walls very subtly blaming everything on the Headmaster.
Ah, some days plans just work too well.
Poison Ivy stiffened at the thought. That was usually the point a bat gloved hand rushed out the darkness to strike you in the face. But she relaxed. Catwoman was right. The best part of this whole job was that Batman didn't even know this bank existed. Why...
She tensed again, hearing a VERY familiar sound.
"I know that laugh." Riddler stopped in his rhyming clue about how Albus was all to blame for this in order to look down a tunnel toward the goblin caves.
They all did, but it was on a truly massive scale, only heightened by echoes.
"Hi guys!" Harley Quinn bounced in to make an appearance in full costume. "Harry-kins got kidnapped by Batsy, but got away, and he wanted me to find you so you could cheer him up. Oh, and I saw that you hadn't killed off all of your victims so I dropped a few SmileX canisters to take care of that for you. So! When are you going to be done? Is it soon? Can I help?"
Behind Harley came sounds of the goblin nation perishing as it laughed itself to death. Poison Ivy blanched as she realized she couldn't even BEGIN to counter so much of that deadly gas!
From the sounds of it, either goblins had a LOWER resistance to that poison than normal, or this was an unusually potent batch, too. Meaty thuds began to echo that sounded suspiciously like bodies starting to fall.
Catwoman and Riddler, coming to the same conclusions, suddenly wanted out of there before that noxious stuff spread! Henches hastily dropped their bundles and started to run away toward the exits they'd drilled into those goblin catacombs. Poison Ivy lingered behind as her compatriots fled, pausing to directed her foliage to finish up the jobs they had started.
Although running the pumping machines was a little hard, her initial concept of having flow-through vines spray the water for her hadn't worked at the flowing water canceled out all magic, including her animating powers.
"Won't be long," Pamela told her dearest friend as Harley lingered beside her. "So, what did you to with Harry to keep him safe in the meantime?"
"Hm?" Harley bubbled perkily. "Oh. I left him with Pengy. He had a job that could use a teleporter."
Well, I couldn't just sit back and give you guys nothing!
However, I am exhausted. I finally went and did it, prepared and posted a work for professional opinion. If you want to see it, go to baen dot com, click on the link along the top for Baen's Bar (they'll ask you to log in, but all it takes is an email). That will get you on to their forum. So, if you'll just scroll down to the subject link that says "Baen's Universe Slush" you'll find the place where those making their first try at professional writing with that publishing house are posting their short stories.
Mine is there under the title "Strike Breaker". Please give it a view. I think you'll find it very silly indeed.
And, if I get enough positive feedback there, I'll make the next chapter of Wizard of Gotham my highest writing priority!
Oh, but the comments have to go in a different thread than the actual story, called, showing stellar imagination here, "Baen's Universe Slush Comments", and my entry there is "Strike Breaker Comments." So hard to follow that my brain is already aching from trying. TE HE.