I don't own, nor will I ever likely own, Batman or the Joker. What a silly thing to even think.
Please excuse any errors, as this was written rather hastily while procrastinating. Still got homework to do, so wish me luck.
It was a Tuesday. A relatively dreary Tuesday with an overcast sky and a high of 62, but it was a fairly nice day for Gotham. It wasn't raining, the breezes weren't enough to knock over trash cans, and there were even a few pigeons reckless enough to peck the sidewalks. All-in-all, it was a pleasant day, with all the makings of being free of trouble. As Bruce leaned his head back, he even considered actually going to sleep, rather than just pretending. His economists were playing with his money, but, as there were no exciting deals to be done, they were just putting up charts showing the increases and decreases of the company's value. Some were hoping to impress him, others were old to the game and knew he would 'slumber' through the entirety of the meeting.
As a new guy blathered on about incentives for the workers (to increase productivity), the building shook. Bruce's head snapped forward, all thoughts of an actual nap departing from his mind. The other board members glanced curiously about.
"What was that?" One finally had the sense to ask. As if to respond to him, the building shook again- this time more violently. A few of their coffee mugs jolted and tipped over, spilling the hot liquid over the table and papers. A couple of the men leapt to their feet, letting out exclamations of annoyance.
"What the hell is going on?" A mustached man demanded, a trace edge of fear in his baritone.
"Probably an Earthquake," Another man responded, jittery- a mix of apprehension and coffee. Bruce stood, thoughts immediately running through any non-natural causes that could have been at work. Plenty of people had the ability to cause such movement; it need not simply be shifting tectonic plates. His first thought had been an explosion.
He burst out of the meeting room, to find his secretary hiding under her desk, the way school children were taught to do during a Tornado. How she thought doing so would help on the thirtieth floor of a skyscraper during an Earthquake, Bruce didn't know.
"Sharon," He approached her quickly, and she cautiously removed herself.
"What's going on?" She asked fearfully. He shook his head as he spoke.
"I don't know. Do you have contact with the ground floor?" She perked, as though she hadn't thought of attempting contact. He supposed her first instinct for any emergency was to pop under a desk. She grabbed her phone.
"Front Desk?" She spoke worriedly after she'd dialed, then lit up as a voice replied:
"Yes!" She responded gleefully. "Yes! What happened?"
"We don't know," It answered. "Looks like an Earthquake at the moment. Would Mr. Wayne and the board members like to evacuate in case of violent aftershocks?" Completely in control now, Sharon glanced at Bruce for an answer. He nodded.
"Yes," She replied. A pause. "Hello?" She banged the head of the receiver against the desk, as though that would somehow help. "Hello?" She repeated, louder. No longer in control, she looked as though she were about to bawl. "I lost contact." She told Bruce shakily.
"That's alright," He responded, as he glanced toward the elevator. He didn't know what condition the building was in, or what had occurred, but right now it was imperative that he find himself downstairs. "It's okay."
"What happened?" He turned to see the crew of board members, all looking sick.
"Looks like an Earthquake," He answered.
"Yes, I thought so." It was the man from before, looking now more self-assured than terrified.
"They said we should evacuate." He added. "In case of aftershocks." The men all nodded.
"Yes, yes, absolutely. Those can be dangerous." The man now considered himself an expert on Earthquakes.
"Can I come?" Sharon asked, looking as though she expected to be left behind, to cower beneath her desk.
"Of course." Bruce answered firmly. She looked mildly appeased. The men all bustled to the elevator. Bruce frowned. "Is that safe?"
"Oh, definitely. It was a mild one." The Earthquake-expert explained. Bruce began to protest, but, as the final man (a hefty stockbroker) shuffled aboard, there was a worrying snap. The men immediately began to shove against each other, a desperate attempt at leaving behind their co-workers. Only two prevailed in this attempt (which, of course, had exacerbated things), and turned to watch- half-relieved and half-petrified- as their fellow employees plummeted down. One man had been attempting to scramble onto the main platform, and the four survivors had the unhappy task of hearing his wrist crunch against the metal. Their screams filled the empty space, and it seemed to echo long past its dissipatedness. The only noise was the choked sob of Sharon Tadget as her employers' screams of terror faded.
Bruce was frozen, his arm still out-stretched in his plea for them to remain on the top floor.
"Oh." The Earthquake-expert stammered. "Oh." The building shifted again, and the fourth survivor screamed. His pitch was so high that Tadget covered her ears and began wailing. The Earthquake-Expert had blanched by this point. The High-pitched Economist finally lowered his scream to a series of worried mumbles. Bruce finally shook away the shock of the occurrences, and turned to those few that had survived.
"Try calling the front desk again." His voice was low, and Tadget either didn't hear him, or was too busy weeping to follow his instructions. Deciding that her secretarial duties were now #2 on her list of priorities, Bruce grabbed the phone and went to dial himself. There wasn't even a tone. It was worthless. He marched to the stairs, then looked at the trio of survivors: a hyperventilating secretary, an in-shock man mumbling to himself while glancing fearfully about, and a pale young man who knew little more than charts. It was a rag-tag bunch, and certainly not the type you want to guide through emergencies.
"This way." He said, nodding toward the stairwell. "We have to get downstairs, in case of aftershocks." Deciding to test the water, he nodded at the Earthquake-Expert. "Right?" The man, still pale, nodded quickly.
"Yes, yes." He agreed hurriedly, flip-flopping from his earlier belief. Perhaps he chose whatever was closest as the safest course: he'd been inside the elevator before, so it had been closest. Now the elevator was on the first floor, so the stairs were closer. "Aftershocks- stairs are safer, definitely." This affirmation seemed to calm down Tadget, but the High-pitched Economist seemed a lost cause. He continued to mumble. It sounded as though he were going through his incentives speech again.
Bruce decided to press, and took his arm. Relieved that he didn't resist (as people in shock sometimes tend to do), Bruce guided him toward the stairs, and nodded.
Tadget looked like an owl as she placed her first high heel into the stairwell.
"It's dark." It was. Inside the other room, it hadn't been noticeable. The glass lining the outside walls had pretty much covered up the fact that power had been lost at some point; the stairwell was completely black. Bruce did his best work in the dark, but his unadjusted eyes strained and failed to make out any shapes.
"Aren't we supposed to have emergency lights in here?" He grumbled, more than a little annoyed. Earthquake-Expert nodded.
"Absolutely. Safety regulations, for sure: probably some builders skimping on their work." High-pitched Economist had nothing to say on the matter: he continued to mutter about incentives. Bruce did have an incentive in getting to the ground floor, though it had little to do with mass productivity and sales increases. If they didn't get out soon, who could say if the next aftershock proved more disastrous? If the stairs cracked and buckled beneath them?
Tadget began to cry.
"It's dark." She repeated in a whimper. Bruce frowned at her, unable to see her face. But he could imagine it: her mascara running down, her expression pitifully twisted in fear, her trimmed eyebrows curved up. He could only assume she'd be more comfortable under her desk.
"We'll be okay," He told her, inadvertently taking on the role of assurance that Clark usually filled. He carefully stepped forward, then found the railing. "Come here- slowly. Follow my voice. I've found the railing." Her sobbing came closer, and she finally piped up:
"I've got it."
"Good," He said soothingly. "You next." He was addressing the Earthquake-Expert, but there was no way to explain that. He tried to remember his name, but failed: he was new, and from a much lower level. Despite his best efforts, Bruce just couldn't fill his mind with every employee's name. He had much more important things to remember. He resisted cursing, then felt his way away from the railing. "Stay here," He told Sharon. He shoved open the door, the limited light that came in no help at all. But it did give him a few inches of sight, though it also ruined whatever amount his eyes had adjusted. The Earthquake Expert was fidgeting with his tie. Bruce approached him, the door slamming shut loudly. When Bruce's hand tapped his shoulder, the other man jolted, nearly leaping a foot into the air. He screamed, encouraging Tadget to scream. All the screaming brought High-pitched Economist out of his reverie, and he joined in.
The stairwell was, for a total of a minute, an echoing chamber of unnecessary screaming.
"What happened?" Tadget sobbed.
"I tapped him," Bruce responded, and the scorn was difficult to hide.
"Oh," The Earthquake-Expert managed. "Oh."
"Follow me," Bruce told him. "I'll come back for you," He added gently, placing a comforting hand on the High-pitched Economist's shoulder. He got a mutter about opportunity costs as a response. "Sharon? Let me hear your voice."
"I'm here," She responded, her voice wavering. Bruce followed it, leading along the Earthquake-Expert. He placed his hand on the railing, then returned to re-do the entire task with the High-pitched Economist. Finally, they were all situated at the head of the staircase.
"Now, be careful." Bruce commanded sternly. He remembered something suddenly. "Sharon? Are you wearing your high-heels?"
"Yes," She responded.
"Take them off."
"No!" She moaned, as though this were the greatest insult of the day. "They cost $800!" He pinched the bridge of his nose, almost wishing an Earthquake would come again to kick these people into action, to remind them how dire the situation was.
"Sharon, take them off, or you're fired."
"I'll carry them," She sniffed, and there was the quiet sound of leather straps being pulled, and buckles being unsnapped. "They're off." She told him mournfully.
"Good." He encouraged. "Now, I'm going to walk around you three. Okay? I'll be at the front." When there were no arguments, he gently felt his way around them, until his hand grasped an empty railing. "Good. I'm here." He repeated, knowing that they needed to be kept in the loop. Figuratively, out of the dark. "Take tiny steps. Be careful." He continued down. It was silent for almost five minutes, other than the very quiet mumbling.
"Are we almost down?" Padget asked anxiously.
"To the floor?" He asked incredulously. It would not have surprised him if that was what she meant.
"To the platform," She elaborated. "The stop between the next stairs, and then the next floor. Maybe they have power; maybe they can help." It was unlikely, but it was a goal. He let her have it, and informed her that, no, they weren't at the platform yet.
"Soon." Just as he said it, his foot was unable to take another step. "We're here." He told them, the relief in his voice both evident and sincere.
When they'd finally reached the bottom of the second set of stairs, Tadget let out a sigh of relief. The exit sign was dim, and Bruce was again filled with frustration at the lack of safety precautions. In all honesty, he hadn't given safety precautions too much work, simply because he'd believed them to be adequate. To realize that there were no back-up lights in the stairwell, no adequately-lit exit signs...it was infuriating. He tried not to think about the safety regulations that could- may- have resulted in deaths. On his watch. His hands curled into fists as guilt and anger boiled in his stomach.
"Oh, I bet the power is on!" Tadget crowed as she pushed open the door. Light assailed their eyes, but it was natural. The glass walls revealed unspeakable horror: bodies lined the floor, and the metallic scent of blood assaulted their noses. Tadget's relief melted into utter horror as she whimpered, then, with a soft cry that sounded as though she were going to faint, slumped against the wall. Earthquake-Expert pushed his glasses higher onto his nose, as though their slight fogginess had caused him to see things.
"Oh." He managed. He said little else.
"What the hell happened here?" Bruce growled, inadvertently slipping into a different mindset. The awful accident he'd seen on his floor hadn't brought out Batman, but the mass murder he came upon now certainly did.
"I-I-" Tadget stuttered, before breaking down into tears. She'd even dropped the shoes, and gave no indication that she was going to pick them up again. Earthquake-Expert looked sick to his stomach, and he slumped beside her, staring at the carnage. Only High-pitched Economist didn't seem phased as he gave a normative statement about inflation in relation to Wayne Enterprises stock. Bruce stepped forward, and grabbed a phone from the desk. No dial tone.
"Damn it." He muttered under his breath. He had no idea what was going on: an earthquake(?), mass murder, and the power was completely off. Had it been nighttime- rather than mid-afternoon- they would have been completely screwed. Tadget's face flickered.
"There's a light over there-!" She said unsurely. She was right. A small glimmer came from the floor. Bruce rushed to it, and saw that it was a cell phone. It was hanging open, 9-1 dialed. He frowned down, then quickly dialed in the final 1. It only rang twice.
"Hello, Gotham Police Station, what is your emergency?"
"This is Bruce Wayne," Bruce began, knowing when to drop his name. There was a mild gasp.
"Sir?" She repeated. "Let me get Commissioner Gordon- are you alright? Is there anyone else with you?"
"Three others." He answered, slightly thankful that she seemed to know what was going on. But he wasn't too fond of the fact that she sounded terrified. It only took a moment for the gruff voice of James Gordon to run through.
"Hi, Jim." Bruce answered. "Mind telling me what the heck is going on?"
"You need to get out of there." Gordon told him firmly. "Can you get to the roof? We can send a helicopter."
"We were working our way down-" He began to explain, but the police commissioner cut him off.
"The Joker controls most of the floors. It's a miracle you're alive- we heard you were dead."
"Dead?" Bruce repeated, surprised.
"Joker called it an 'Elevator mishap'. Was he lying?"
"No." Bruce answered, understanding. "Most of the board-members were inside. There are only three others with me."
"Alright." He sounded exhausted. "Can you get to the roof? I'm trying to get- help, but I don't know how soon it will get there." What he meant by 'help' was obvious, and Bruce tried to ignore the dark humor in the situation. He almost wanted to ask, 'How soon will Batman get here?' He resisted the urge.
"The lights are off in the stairwell."
"Joker may be responsible for that, too. We know he shut off the main-power; any generators may have been manually disabled. Is it possible for you to get to the roof? I'll have a helicopter in that area; call when you're up, and we'll ge- -ou out of -ere."
"Jim?" Bruce asked. "Commissioner Gordon?" There was a small beeping noise as the phone flickered off and died. Of course. He turned to his companions. "We need to get to the roof." Tadget moaned.
"It took us twenty minutes to climb down a floor- how are we supposed to get to the roof?" Bruce frowned, allowing a small amount of Batman to seep into his voice.
"If you'd prefer, you can join Joker in the lobby." She blanched, and even the High-pitched Economist seemed to snap from his daze for a moment. Joker had that effect on people. "Come on." He swept past them, assuming they'd follow. They did.
Oh, that wacky Joker.