A/N: I don't know if any of my readers also happen to be Diana Gabaldon fans, but if you are and you've missed the furor of the last couple of weeks, you should know that she doesn't want anyone writing fics based on her works. Fair enough. However, she extends her dislike to all fanfic and made her position quite clear in a couple of blogs which have since been removed. Nothing ever really goes away on the internet, however, so it's still possible to find and read what she wrote, and it's quite insulting to everyone who writes and/or reads fanfic. Actually, it's quite insulting to anyone who thinks.
Is there anybody (besides Ms. Gabaldon) out there who believes that if you simply change all the names the story will be a brand new original story? Oh, if it were only that easy! If you've written the characters right, the Joker will still be the Joker, Arkham Asylum will still be Arkham Asylum, and Gotham City will still be Gotham City.
Obviously I'm preaching to the choir here, but she seems to have ignored the fact that fanfic writers and readers buy books. And that we're internet savvy. And that there are a lot of us. Plus, does fanfic seem to have hurt J.K. Rowling?
Psh. Enough of that.
'Did you get the key card off the body?' Gracie called to mentally from the other end of the hallway. This was just after the guards took both the living and the dead Blackgaters down to level nine.
What key card?
'I'll take that as a "no". This door is locked, that's the prob—Jay, there's another one.'
Another what? Another locked door, another key card—.
'Another goon with a gun. There's a flight of stairs off this hall, and I can hear him talking to the Other Joker.'
Want me to deal with this one, since you obviously don't know your own strength? I strolled down the hall to the bottom of the stairs. Yep, there was someone up there.
'Will you shut the hell up about that already?' Even her mental voice was frazzled, and the fact that I'd got her to swear meant I'd really gotten to her. So I laughed and crept up the stairs. The room, which was only a small grey concrete box, seemed to be a guard post, with banks of surveillance equipment and so on. Plus more stacks of patient files. Was there anywhere in this place that wasn't littered with files? The goon, another ugly, muscle-bound no-brainer, had his back to me, and was talking to Bozo on a walkie-talkie while four big monitors showed the responses.
"No problem, Boss. We're just finishing up here. (Was he ever clueless!) Those Arkham chumps never stood a chance!" Grace came up under my elbow and watched him along with me.
"Good. Now, about those two. You need to set a trap. They must not leave this building! Do you understand?" Bozo glared at him in quadruplicate.
"Uh, yeah. They're as good as dead." The expendable shifted uneasily from foot to foot, balancing his machine gun on his hip. The little light that there was glinted off his shaven head.
"I certainly hope you keep your promises, boy. I would hate to have to go find your family to teach you a lesson—and I can promise you they won't be laughing!"
"Ah-ah—no buts! Just do it!" Bozo grinned. "And have fun. I know I will." The screens went to static, then to the Arkham logo.
I had snuck up behind him, and now I put a knife to his throat. "Gracie, did I, uh, ever tell you I can see the future?"
"You've mentioned it, yes. Why? What do you see now?" she asked, wide-eyed Ah, that was one of the great things about her, her sense of comic timing. She knew how and when to feed me the right lines.
"I see that our friend here is gonna, uh, ease that gun of his down nice and slow—and that you're gonna to take it and that key card I see, uh, clipped to his shirt. Then he's gonna sit down on the floor and not give me any trouble." The thug was smart enough to know what was good for him.
"Very good!" I put my knife away for the moment and clapped twice to applaud him. "Now, to show my ah-ppreciation, I'm gonna show you a magic trick."
"Oh, no. Please, not the pencil trick!" my sassy girl moaned.
"No. How would I do the pencil trick? I haven't got a pencil on me right now. What I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna show you how I can stand on one finger."
Bozo chose that moment to light up the screens again. "Oh." he said sourly. "There you are—what are you doing?"
"Shh! I'm in the middle of something here. I'm gonna need some audience participation here—how about you, sir? Yes, you in the convict's garb. What say you, uh, help me out here? Remember that I'm armed to the teeth and Gracie has your gun."
He nodded. "That's a good murderer. You're smarter than you look—which, uh, can't be hard. I want you to choose the spot where I do my trick. Show me where I'm gonna stand on one finger and one finger on-ly. I don't want anyone saying I cheated."
"Uh—there," he pointed.
"There?" I pointed to the wrong place.
"No. There," He pointed again.
"Are you, uh, sure? Show me exactly," I looked at him questioningly.
"There," he tapped the floor.
I stomped on his finger with both feet, and the bones crunched. He yelled in pain.
"See? I can stand on one finger. I just, uh, never said it would be my finger," I sniggered, and kicked him hard in the jaw, knocking him out. "Act-ually, just the one seems, uh, kinda lopsided. Lemme get the oth-er hand..." I stomped the other index finger as well.
"He won't be pulling any triggers for a while," my wife observed. "Nice work."
"Thank you, sassy girl."
"What are you doing?" Bozo repeated. He'd been babbling all through my trick—how rude!
"Y'know, it's not enough that you aren't paying, uh, attention, but do you have to talk all through the performance?"
"You are beginning to get on my nerves," he groused.
"Just beginning?" Gracie asked. "I'd have thought we were there and back again by now."
"Speaking of, uh, beginnings," I cut him off before he could comment, "how far are we into this little shindig you had planned for Batman?"
"C'mon, you must have some idea. Are we half-way? A quarter of the way?"
"Not that far. You've only just started. These have been the easy ones."
"I should hope so," I retorted, "because if that's the best you've got, that's sad."
"Oh, you have no idea what else is coming," he chuckled evilly.
"You still didn't answer my, uh, question. How far are we? Give me a percent."
"All right—Five percent. Happy now."
"Five percent," I rolled it around on my tongue. "And how many guys did you start out with?"
"About two hundred and fifty," he snapped. "Where are you going with this?"
"Two hundred and fifty," I had to laugh, great whooping guffaws. "Two hundred and fifty. That's funny. Ooh hoo! Let's see, there were seven in the holding cells, and, uh, even if some of them lived, I still shot them and they won't be up and around again tonight, then two in the hallway, I shot them too. That's nine. Then there was Zsasz, that makes ten. Gracie took care of him, and what, uhm, with him seeing zombies and sharks and maybe even zombie sharks all over the place, he's under heavy sedation and wouldn't be much good to you even if he wasn't—."
"Scratch Zsasz," Gracie disagreed. "He doesn't count, because he was already here."
"Okay," I was willing to go with that, "not Zsasz. How many dead thugs were there in Decontamination, sassy girl?"
"Five or six, I think. Call it five," she offered.
"Five and nine make fourteen. Then there were two more in another hallway, that's sixteen, then thefive you, uh, took out indirectly," I added them up.
"Do you have to bring that up again?" she shook her head.
"Yes, I do, 'cause that makes twenty-one, and I slashed up the feet on the three in the hall before I let the guards take them away, twenty-four. Plus this guy in here. He makes twenty-five." I let my grin stretch my scars till they threatened to tear and bleed. "Y'see, Batsy, when he's doing his thing, he only knocks them around a little. Once they come to, they're raring to go again, keen as tabasco and with, uh, twice the bite. That's him, though, and I, uh, wouldn't have him any other way. But that's not us. Especially not me.
"Twenty-five of your guys are dead or out of, uh, commission, and that's ten percent of your crew. You're five percent of the way through the night and already you're ten percent down on numbers. I like them odds. I like them a lot."
Bozo looked startled, and even, maybe, just a little bit afraid. Maybe. He recovered fast, though. "Deadwood. They needed cutting out," he sneered. "Just for that, I'm going to warn the next bunch. You needn't try that key card you've got there, Missy. I already deleted it from the system."
"Warn them or not, it won't make a difference," I predicted. There was another one of those vents in the wall, and I took it off. "After you, Gracie."
A second or five later, she called back mentally, 'It's the lobby with the scanner, the one by the front entrance.'
Great. Join you in a moment. There were three armed expendables lurking around it, but I shot two of them while Gracie startled one into stepping backward off the top of a ladder and breaking his ankle in the process. Bozo sent three more, but it would be boring to tell how all the expendables got expended. That's what they're there for, right? Now he was thirty-one down, and counting. The upshot of it all was that while I cleaned off my knife after the last one, Gracie called to me from the entryway.
"Jay? I've found Boles."
"Good. Save a big piece of him for me."
"There's nothing left of this pie," she returned. "Only an empty crust."
The lift controls had been buggered up and were dead; I had to climb a ladder to get up to the door.
There was Boles, all right, surrounded by dead men, both guards and goons, and with three sets of teeth chattering around him. He was chained to one of those upright gurney things, with an anatomy illustration of the gluteus maximus pinned to his chest (the buttocks or ass for those who don't know any Latin, which I don't but I know that anyway.) Across the picture was written 'Dead End'. He had a big green smile spray painted on his face, and if I was any judge, he'd been killed by someone pinching his nose shut and spraying paint into his mouth until he suffocated or died of paint fumes or both.
"Now this one I approve of," Gracie said.
"Squealers get what they get," I agreed.