Disclaimer: Don't own Batman
One requirement to being an artist is a picture perfect memory. See something once, never forget it…that's me. My weapons of choice are a plain sketchbook and a pencil. Cheap, easy to transport, and versatile. My victims are the good people of Gotham; one by one succumbing to my favorite art form: portraiture. Of course, the easiest way to get someone to sit for a portrait is to get them talking. But, unfortunately, the most interesting people to talk to, let alone draw, are usually not the wealthiest And even a worthless pre-med school drop out needs to earn a living somehow. Which is how my artistic memory got me a job with the highest company in Gotham.
No top jobs for me, however. I'm stuck at the bottom with no where to go but up…literally. Of all the tens of floors of Wayne Tower, it's fitting that the archives be tucked away in the basement. Because no one remembers archives unless they have to. My position at Wayne Enterprises is about as dead as the enigmatic, billionaire owner himself (which is just speculation, of course).
Not that I hold any resentment for being saddled with such an under-appreciated, under-looked job. In a city like Gotham, sometimes it's best to go ignored. Draw too much attention to yourself, and that attention might become unwanted. The mob has a habit of searching out the best and then hiring or blackmailing those people into working for them. I would rather die than work for the mob, which is saying a lot since I'm probably the most cowardly person you could ever meet.
But I'm safe since an archivist holds no particularly outstanding skills, and an archivist for a gigantic corporation such as Wayne Enterprises gets paid a good deal of money to look after boring reports that no one really wants to deal with unless absolutely necessary. In all the years I've been here, I could count on one hand the number of times the CEO, Earle, has personally come down to request information. Most of the time I'm left to my own devices to research, organize, and store any and all information pertaining to the history of Mr. Wayne's company. The original Mr. Wayne set a strange precedent for his company's archives. One that I'm not sure even Earle is aware of. When I arrived in Gotham city, 6 years ago, recently graduated from undergraduate college, a failure at med school, and desperate, the previous archivist explained to me in full detail just what went into Wayne Tower's expansive basement. It seems that from the start the company felt the history of Gotham itself was just as important as the history of Wayne Enterprises. You would be amazed at the number of books and papers filled with information on, well, everything…and everyone. Heck, even I'm in here. Though it doesn't have much to say about the daughter of a championed doctor who moved across the country at age 15 to go to boarding school and never came back.
The archives do have a lot to say about my father, but I haven't read that.
I suppose most would say archiving was a boring job. But for someone like me with no other experience, and a love of research, it really is a dream come true. But it does get awful lonely sometimes. Which is why, when Applied Sciences was moved underground, literally and figuratively, and Lucius Fox was forced down with it, I found myself welcoming the change of pace.
Personally, I believe Applied Sciences was created with the sole purpose of keeping Mr. Fox quiet. He was greatly against the company going public and remained the one board member who embodied everything Thomas Wayne stood for. To Earle, Mr. Fox was an interference. Looking over the records of the past 7 years, it becomes increasingly apparent to me that Wayne Enterprises is turning more and more into Earle Enterprises. I like to believe that the idealistic Thomas Wayne would never have used his company's fortune to fund the creation of weapons.
But why ask me? I only have the keys, not to mention the knowledge of the labyrinth of filing cabinets, to the most complete, top secret history of Wayne Enterprises and Gotham city. Someday they'll wake up and realize what they've been neglecting.
I'm not sure if I wish for that attention or not.
"Good morning Miss Pearl," a strong, kind hearted voice nudges me out of my reverie. Realizing I was staring blankly at the computer monitor, I hastily get back to work. On my computer I tab over to my day's checklist and check the "five minutes of thinking" box. There goes my break time.
"Good morning, Mr. Fox," I reply, offering one of my rare genuine smiles. I believe there is nothing better than to smile, really smile, at another person. And capturing a true smile in graphite on paper is nearly impossible. I save mine only for the people I respect and admire.
Mr. Fox smiles back and begins to make his way through the maze of shelves. Poor Mr. Fox wasn't even given a division of the archive basement to work in. Instead he was relegated to the lowest storage floor of the tower, only accessible by a elevator in the very back of archives. Earle certainly does a good job of getting people out of the way.
I sigh, thinking about how I at least willingly chose my dead end line of work, and proceed to read through my large stack of daily newspapers. The top one, in large front page headlines, reads "Missing billionaire officially declared dead after 7 years" and underneath " Beloved family butler inherits an astounding fortune". Why couldn't I have chosen to do servant work for a rich man who goes off and disappears?
I create a new document and start typing the main points of the news story into the computer. I also add my own sneaking suspicion (highlighted in a friendly blue so as to separate personal opinion from the widely accepted opinions also known as facts. One of the few new-fangled techniques I thought I'd personally introduce to Wayne archives.) there is more to the story than the newspapers let on. For example, the butler has yet to make any sort of personal statement that Bruce Wayne is in fact dead. And the butler has yet to actually withdraw any of the trust fund money. Add to that the fact that Earle seemed more annoyed than usual the day he found out that the butler inherited everything, and I have a hunch that going public was initially a move to transfer Bruce Wayne's shares to Earle.
I go through the rest of the papers, recording what is useful and discarding what is not, including all the articles claiming the depression has ended. As if all my research on the city's economic situation doesn't say otherwise. Sure, after Thomas and Martha Wayne's death things appeared to get better, but the appearance has nothing to do with reality. Rich people didn't change anything, they just made it look like they did. When I finish with the newspapers I move on to file the large stack of the company's new reports.
Halfway through my day I've checked off two more boxes on my list: "Newspapers" and "Daily reports". I smile in anticipation of my hour lunch break. Snatching my bag from behind the desk I throw it across my shoulder and make my way to the front elevator. Some days Mr. Fox comes upstairs to chat with me during my break, but not today. Today it's the streets of Gotham. I wander through the crowds, taking everything in. As I pull out my sketchbook and pencil, I keep an eye out for someone interesting. I spot someone sitting at a quiet little café; a middle aged woman staring into her coffee with a brooding, worried look. I go in, order a coffee I won't drink, and head outside to the table.
"May I sit here?" I ask, smiling pleasantly.
She looks up warily, glances at the other empty tables, and grudgingly nods. Picking up her coffee, she visibly shifts so as to get as far away from me as possible without actually getting up.
This is a good sign. If people don't want to talk they'll just leave.
"Nice day," I say. She hums in agreement.
"Lynnet Pearl" I add, offering my hand.
"Barbara" she says. We shake hands.
"What do you want?" she asks, sounding tired.
"Can I draw your portrait?" I ask, gesturing to my sketchbook. Barbara stares at me like I'm crazy. I open to a new page to show I'm serious, and she relents.
"Sure I guess," Barbara sighs.
"So what's your story?" I ask conversationally as I settle back and begin to draw.
"How did you end up in Gotham?"
"I don't know," she looks away.
"Everyone has a story" I prompt.
She sighs again, watches me draw, then says, "I guess it started when I married him. The worrying, I mean."
It turns out Barbara is Barbara Gordon, wife of, according to her, the one good cop left in Gotham. She says this resentfully, convinced that being good isn't worth it if it brings danger on those you love. In the course of an hour, I find out more than I ever would have guessed about how hard it is to be the wife of someone willing to sacrifice everything for Gotham. Barbara described countless sleepless nights in which he never comes home, the way he toes the line between acting a member of the corrupt cops or a rat, and the painful realization that all this effort yields very little results. At the end of an hour I have two sketchbook pages full of drawings and scribbles. I thank her for her time and explain to her I'm a freelance artist trying to make it in Gotham city. She smiles at me, a genuine smile, and I am again gratified that another person will be returning to the spot where a strange woman once asked to do a portrait of them, in hopes that they'll find that good listener once more.
But I won't be back again. Too many people, too little time.
I get back to my desk and open my checklist, check "lunch", and start a new document labeled "Barbara Gordon". I scan in my pages and save them to a separate space in the database that is purely electronic files. I've taken the liberty of putting my own personal research into the archives, but I won't go so far as to waste tons of paper for what most people would probably consider useless. Or at least people like Earle would consider useless.
But if anyone wants to know information about the frazzled, overworked lawyer who found himself randomly taking time to answer the bizarre questions of a persistent artist, or a somewhat insane homeless person who was only too willing to tell an interested person all about his theory of the universe, or, say, an average girl named "Lynnet Pearl"…all they have to do is ask.
I check off the box "1 hour talk with stranger".
At the end of my work day, after all the boxes including "1 hour end of day clean up" are checked, I pack up my things to leave. Mr. Fox passes my desk on his way out.
"Goodbye Miss Pearl," he says, "Hope you had a good day"
"I did sir, thank you," I reply, "See you tomorrow"
And he leaves. I'm a little amazed at Mr. Fox's perseverance. He still comes to work, every day, though what work he actually does down there is anyone's guess. In the past year, Applied Sciences has become a department full of mysteries so secret my archive files only hint at them. If I'm ever allowed down there, that will be the first thing I change.
I depart Wayne Tower, stopping for a few minutes to check up on the receptionist, the first entry in my sketchbooks, and board the train for home. Sitting across from me is a shabby man sleeping with his hood up. Bored, I pull out my sketchbook and begin to idly draw his slouched form.
"Please don't do that"
I jerk my head up, surprised to realize he's awake.
"Don't do what?" I ask the hood innocently.
"Don't draw me" He responds. His voice is low and gruff, yet oddly reassuring rather than menacing.
"I'm afraid your mistaken sir," I reply sarcastically, "I was drawing the scenery behind you."
A snort of laughter, "You can't have been…we're moving" he comments.
"Exactly," I confirm, "which is why I was looking up so often. Its quite a challenge to catch a twenty second glimpse of buildings and then sketch from memory."
A gleaming smile appears from beneath the hood. But before I can react to the difference between the brilliant smile and the dirty state of his clothes, he's pulled the hood down and slouched further back.
"Why shouldn't I draw you?" I ask, "It's not doing any harm."
"I'm a wanted criminal, it would give my disguise away," He answers.
It's my turn to smile, "What's your story then wanted criminal?" I ask.
"If I told you, that would defeat the purpose of you not drawing my likeness"
"But talking might make you feel better."
"What are you some kind of therapist?"
"At least I don't go around snapping at innocent people on the train"
"Who are you?" The question is thrown at me as if the man can't believe he's actually having this conversation with an obvious freak like me.
"An artist," I say simply.
"Yes, I think that was made annoyingly clear," He says.
"Then the question is…who are you, sir?" I return.
"One who does not need therapy," he growls with a hint of amusement.
"You brought it up," I say in defense, "Not to worry, your anonymity will be protected. This is my stop" I get up but before I leave I look back at him.
"You shall forever be known as mysterious orange hoodie guy in my sketchbook" I announce haughtily and turn to get off the train.
"Don't forget the baseball cap" He adds. I laugh despite myself as I watch the train pull away.