The first slogan the community boosters came up with was 'Close enough to Gotham, but not too close.' It was rejected as being just a little too near to the truth. They went with the more homogenized and blander, 'Only A Drive Away, Yet a World Away.' The message was the same; this isn't where those crazy people are.
The message was received and those that could afford it, moved to the quiet suburb.
As you drive down the tree lined streets, passed the immaculately cared for lawns it's easy to forget you're only twenty minutes by expressway from Gotham. That's the intention of the place. It's a gated community designed to look like small town anywhere. Identical driveways lead to identical houses, one after another on every street.
You can always tell what's important to a community by looking at the front of the houses in it. In Gotham Heights, two car garages dominate what you see. There are no front porches. This is a fenced in backyard world.
Keeping with the theme of the area, there are the usual suspects, Pizza Hut, Olive Garden, Red Lobsters, T.G.I Fridays and the rest. A little imitation ethnic feel neatly housed in strip malls with names like 'the Commons.' It's the world of the television commercial come to life. The illusion of clean shiny streets populated by friendly, smiling neighbors.
Bob and Dottie Fulton moved to Gotham Heights from the city. The crime and violence just got too much to take. They used to talk about moving somewhere and starting a family. They dreamed of a place where their kids could play in the yard and not worry about drive-by shootings. They pictured a dog or a cat named Shadow frolicking in the backyard. They saw trips to youth soccer games and snow cones served by volunteers of the Booster Club, the sound of lawn tractors waking them up on Saturday mornings instead of gunfire.
In short they pictured a world that really didn't exist, well, at least not on their incomes. It took several years of scrimping and saving just to come up with a down payment for their house in Gotham Heights. The mortgage was a killer, but they felt like they'd found a safe home.
They made friends in the neighborhood, most of who were in the same situation they were. They all told themselves that it was worth it and they were only slightly overextended. Business would pick up and they'd be able to get out from under the huge financial burden they were all carrying.
They were all just regular people, car salesmen, small business owners, teachers and the like. It seemed like the future was so bright, then the economy took a turn for the worse. Suddenly they owed more than their property was worth on today's market. People weren't buying cars the way they used to and teachers were being laid off.
Everyone was scrambling to stay above water. Desperate times calls for desperate actions.
Bob and Dottie walked up the identical walkway of their neighbor's house and rang the bell. Dottie was carrying a covered dish, as the party tonight was a potluck. The door opened and a big smiling man greeted them.
"Well, we were starting to get worried you weren't going to show!"
Cubby Vinton and his lovely, petite wife LuAnn ushered the two into their home. There were four other couples, the Wingers, the Sawyers, the Burns and the Whites.
"Everybody, Bob and Dottie are finally here,' Cubby announced. "Hey, let me take your coats."
Dottie handed the covered dish to LuAnn and then slipped off her light spring jacket.
"Oh, this looks lovely, I'll just put it with the others,' LuAnn said as she looked at the covered dish. Cubby took their coats as the others came over to greet them.
"My, my, Dottie, have you lost weight,' Cubby asked. "You're lucky I'm a married man, Bob or you'd have competition for this little lady."
Bob and Dottie blushed and laughed nervously.
"Don't believe him, Bob, it never stopped him before,' LuAnn called from the kitchen. This brought more laughter and blushing. Everyone moved into the living room and Cubby played bartender and fixed a pitcher of drinks for everyone. The men stood together talking amongst themselves, as did the women.
"So how are things down at the store, Bob,' Carl White asked.
"Not good, nobody's buying greetings cards and candy right now."
"It's the same down at the dealership,' Ted Burns added. "A whole lot of lookie loos but no buyers."
"It's rough out there,' Cubby agreed. "I never thought I'd see a day when the aluminum siding game was this bad. I mean, hell, the stuff used to practically sell itself!'
"Well, everyone's tightening their belts,' Phil Sawyer offered.
"But now is the time to get in," Cubby replied. "You wouldn't believe the deals I can offer right now, Phil. Aluminum siding is the future!"
"My house is brick, Cubby."
The conversation when on for a while and then LuAnn called to Cubby.
"Since everyone is here, Cubby, why don't we get started,' she suggested. "We can have the potluck dinner afterwards."
'I think I'd forget my pants if she didn't remind me,' he chuckled. "All right, everyone, let's venture down to the Sanctum Supreme as it were. Your outfits are all on the bumper pool table so help yourself."
They all filed down the stairs to the finished basement. Laid out neatly, with their names pinned on them were the ceremonial robes. As they began to put them on, Bob was still a little nervous about all of this.
"Are you sure we should go through with this? It just doesn't feel right, you know?"
"Bob, we've been over this before. In tough economic times like these you got to do everything you can to make it,' Cubby explained. "We've all carved out a life here for ourselves and don't want to lose it. Desperate times call for desperate actions. We all need every edge we can get."
"I know, Cubby, but this, really?"
"Oh, come on, Bob, the goat's already dead,' Phil said. "It's just an offering, a symbolic offering.'
"We all need a little help turning things around, Bob,' Cubby said to him. "That card store isn't going to survive unless you get some help."
"I know,' Bob admitted. "All right, let's get this over with."
"That's the spirit!"
Cubby clapped Bob on the back and moved over to LuAnn. The others lined up in front of them. Cubby put on the satin pointy hat that completed his outfit and nodded to his wife. LuAnn took a small plastic mallet and banged it against a toy cymbal three times.
"Let's get the show on the road folks,' Cubby shouted and then turned towards the converted den.
"Hail Satan! Hail Lord of the Underworld!" he chanted.
"Hail Satan! Hail Lord of the Underworld,' the others repeated. Each raised their ceremonial dagger and headed into the den.
Diana, Princess of Themyscira was not happy. It had been a tumultuous two years since she'd entered the Man's World to be an ambassador for her people. In that time she'd joined the Justice League and fought off too many threats to count and became known world wide as Wonder Woman.
It had been a whirlwind at first, setting up the embassy, trying to get acclimated to the world, but she thought she had managed it quite well. What hadn't gone so smoothly was her private life. She found being out in the world, she felt the same desires and wants as every other person. The biggest surprised, given her heritage, was her interested in men.
She first noticed it with Kal. Looking back on it, she had to admit he made quite the first impression. He was like one of her Gods in mortal form with extraordinary powers. Meeting someone her equal was surprising and alluring in many ways. Unfortunately, she soon learned he'd just started dating Lois Lane.
It was her first taste of defeat in the Man's World.
It had taken time, but she got over her crush and moved on. The two became friends, close friends. He was always ready to help her adjust to the new world around her and they formed a deep bond. He was always someone she could talk to.
It was just in the last year she noticed her feelings for another of her teammates, Batman. They had been dancing around each other, flirting for some time now. At first it was fun and new, but as it continued, Diana found she wanted more. It was then she found out just how mercurial and frustrating Bruce Wayne could be.
He seemed to lead her on, then push her away. He acted like he was interested, but when she pursued it he became cold and distant. His latest excuse in their on again, off again relationship was the most infuriating. It was a variation of another argument he had used before.
They were from two different worlds.
She was an immortal Amazon Princess, endowed by her Gods with extraordinary gifts, while he was just a rich mortal with issues. He had even gone so far as to say he didn't want to be Lois Lane to her Superman. He made it clear they could never work as a couple.
He had basically slammed the door in her face to any possibility of them having a relationship. What made her so angry and unhappy was she couldn't seem to get it through to him; they weren't really that different when you get right down to it. Yes, there would be basic, fundamental issues if they were to try and be together, but if they really cared for each other, they would find a way to work around them just as Kal had with Lois.
He scoffed at this. Diana felt like punching him in the face for it.
Currently they were both sitting in a Justice League meeting. They didn't look at each other or speak. Dinah and Jonn were going over the various topics that confronted them. It was a slow time at the moment and most of it dealt with smaller issues.
"We received a interesting report from New York,' Jonn said. "The police commissioner believes elements of organized crime from Gotham have moved to the Big Apple. He thinks there's going to be a turf war and has asked our help.'
"That sounds more like a job for local authorities than the Justice League," Green Lantern offered.
"Yes, but he believes Meta-humans might be brought into the conflict and would like us to check on this aspect."
"I've heard rumblings along those lines," Batman said. "I think someone needs to do a little undercover work to check it out. Unfortunately, I can't be away from Gotham right now."
"I'm not busy at the moment," Diana offered. "I'd be happy to investigate.'
"I don't think so, Princess,' Batman replied. There was just a hint of a smile as he said this. "Canary, are you free?"
"No, between my duties here and the gang issue in Star city my plate is full,' she said.
"I'm booked too,' Ollie added.
"I'm available,' Diana repeated. If Batman heard this, he didn't acknowledge it.
"Don't we have anyone already on the scene,' he asked.
"No, the heroes that make their residence there are all working on other things,' Jonn replied.
"I said, I'm available,' Diana repeated, a little louder this time.
"Not really your type of job, Princess,' Batman said dismissively. "How about Wildcat or Vigilante?"
"Out west somewhere, not in communications at the moment,' Dinah replied.
"I suppose I could get Question and Huntress to look into it,' Batman mused. "Maybe Dick would take some time off and check it out."
"I said I'd be willing to do this, Batman,' Diana said forcefully.
"No,' he replied. "Let's see if Question and Huntress can get away for this, Jonn. What's next on the agenda, Dinah?"
"Excuse me a moment,' Diana interrupted. "Would you care to explain why you are so against me doing this, Batman?"
Everyone could feel the tension between the two. Zee, Wally and Shayera looked back and forth at Diana and Bruce with bated breath, waiting for the explosion. Bruce turned and addressed Diana in a calm even voice.
"We all have our strengths and weaknesses, Diana. If this were an invasion or a meta-human prison break out, you'd be first on the list. This calls for quieter skills, blending in and going undercover. It's more about observation than smashing things."
'Are you saying I don't have those skills,' Diana demanded.
"No, I'm just saying you and those like you rely too much on your powers to be as effective as someone who doesn't have powers."
"Wait, wait, are you saying that non-metas are better at this kind of thing than metas are,' Wally asked.
"That's what I thought,' Wally replied. "Hey, wait a second, I think you just insulted me!"
"I think he insulted several of us,' Zatanna added.
"I wasn't trying to insult you, just point out facts,' Bruce explained. "We all have special skills and it's only logical that we use them in the most effective way. If this were a magic incident for example, we would send Zatanna and Doctor Fate."
"So you're not insulting us?" Wally looked around, the confusion plain on his face.
"No, Wally, I'm not."
"Why exactly wouldn't I be able to do this, when Question and Huntress would,' Diana asked.
"Come on, Diana, do you really think you could just blend in with these sorts of people? Have you ever done anything undercover in your life?"
Diana stood up, the anger plain on her face. She put her hands on her hips and stared at Bruce.
"Are you saying I couldn't blend in?"
Standing there in her Wonder Woman outfit, even some of the more supportive members had a hard time picturing her blending in anywhere.
"Yes,' Bruce replied. "But if it makes you feel better, so would most of the super powered members of the League."
"Hey! That's not true,' Zee shouted. "We could handle it just as well as you could."
"Hate to agree with the Bats, but he does have a point,' Ollie said. "You super types tend to rely on your powers way too much."
"Jackass,' Zee grumbled.
"Come one, Zatanna, Diana, it's just the way it is,' Bruce explained. "Could either of you go a day without using your powers? It would be like Shayera not flying. It's a simple fact that non-metas don't have powers to fall back on like you do. They have only their normal skills to rely on.'
"Are you suggesting that because you don't have extraordinary powers, that makes you better suited for this sort of assignment, Batman,' Jonn asked.
"Yes. You can mimic normal humans Jonn, but unless you are one, you'll never quite know how they think or will act."
"Oh, please, not your different worlds argument,' Diana groaned.
"The truth is the truth, Diana,' Bruce replied.
'What about Superman,' Jonn offered.
"Yes, good point, Jonn.' Diana immediately jumped on this. "Kal has blended in as well as any one, Bruce. Doesn't he prove you're wrong?"
"No, far from it,' Bruce replied. "I'll admit Clark has done an amazing job at blending in. Most don't even give him a second look in his mild mannered Clark Kent persona, but that's all it is, a persona. Everyday he uses his powers one way or another. It's ingrained in all of you to do it. Wally just naturally runs, Zee naturally uses magic, Jonn naturally uses his gifts, just like you and Clark, Diana."
"It's not your fault,' Ollie added. "It's part of who you are, so you can't just turn them off.'
"What about Dinah,' Zee asked. "She's got that screaming till your ears bleed thing, why isn't she on your list?"
"Thanks Zee.' Dinah sarcastically replied. "It's so nice the way you describe my power. Jeez and you're supposed to be my friend."
"Dinah doesn't use her power everyday, Zee,' Batman pointed out. "For the most part she has to rely on her training and normal fighting skills. Can you honestly say you could go a month without using magic? Could any of you go that long without using your powers?"
"That isn't the point," Diana started to refute his argument, but Bruce cut her off.
"Yes, it is, Princess. The rest of us don't have your powers to fall back on, so we have to make do with the skills we've honed over time. Different worlds, Diana."
"You're wrong, Bruce," Diana fired back at him.
"I guess we'll never know, will we, Princess?'
"You know that sounds like a bet," Wally offered. "Diana doesn't use her powers for a whole month. Who's interested?"
"Come one, Wally, get serious," Bruce scoffed. "That's a suckers bet."
Diana's anger had been rising all through the meeting. She felt insulted by both Bruce's tone and his suggestion.
"I will make the bet, Bruce, unless you're not willing to back up your words," she said. He looked at her and smiled.
"You can't be serious, Diana."
"A whole month without using your powers, no way."
"So is it a bet," Diana asked.
"All right, Princess, I'll bet you," Bruce replied. 'This will be the easiest bet I've ever won."
"Put your money where your mouth is, Batman. I'll leave for New York tonight," Dian confidently said.
"Forget about New York," Bruce offered. "I'll make it even easier and more interesting. There's been some strange reports of odd goings on in Gotham Heights lately, but I haven't checked them out."
"Why," Zee asked.
'Batman doesn't do the suburbs," he matter of factly replied.
'What sort of strange things," Diana asked.
"Mutilated animals, pentagrams, the usual satanic stuff. It might just be teenagers, but someone should look into it. I'll even set you up with an identity and house, Diana, that's how sure I am you'll lose," Bruce explained.
"I will enjoy watching you admit your defeat, Bruce," she fired back.
"Oh, there's one other thing," he said with a smile. "It's a gated community, couples. You'll have to go in undercover with someone as husband and wife."
The smile slipped from Diana's lips just a bit at hearing this detail. Wally and Plastic man had been listening with rapped attention.
"Oh! Oh! Pick me, Diana! Pick me," Wally shouted.
"No! Pick me, Princess!" Plastic man shouted as well.
"No, since Bruce is so sure we super powered heroes can't do this, I will pick Kal. That should prove you completely wrong Bruce."
"Superman, well now that makes it interesting," Shayera whispered to Zee.
"I'd make that bet," Zee replied.
"You want to send a month as husband and wife with Superman? Shocker," Shayera teased.
"So what are the stakes of this bet," Wally asked. "How much?"
"Well, I thought I'd take it easy on Diana, let's say you take my monitoring shifts for two months," Bruce offered.
"I agree, if you win," Diana replied. "If I win, you have to give up being Batman for two weeks. Deal?"
"What? I can't be away from Gotham for two weeks, Princess," Bruce said.
"I didn't say you had to leave Gotham, you just can't wear the outfit, Bruce," Diana countered. She flashed him her sweetest smile. "I thought you were so sure you were going to win?"
Bruce saw the smug smile on her face, as she knew it would kill him not to be out as Batman for two weeks. He rose to the bait.
"Deal, Princess," he replied. "One month in the suburbs without using your powers and you win."
They shook on it, staring each other down the whole time.
The door opened and Superman stepped inside.
"Sorry I'm late, but there was a tanker fire in the Gulf." He offered as he took his seat. "So what did I miss?"