…And Into The Fire
Now he had to break the bad news to Oracle. Batman activated the earpiece. "Joker's sealed himself off. He has both your father and Marjorie."
"Dad…" her voice cracked.
"Don't worry. I'm going to get them back."
"I know, but still,"
"Oracle, I will get them back. Joker won't win. I won't let him. I need you to keep an eye on Marjorie's tracker. If I find her, I'll find the Commissioner."
"Done deal, I'm setting up the schematics right now and turning on her pulse alert. Give me a moment and I'll update you." She signed off.
Batman had reached the transfer handoff. The elevator was nowhere in sight, the bar-shaped counterweight hung in the center of the open shaft. Something didn't feel right. Batman looked around carefully, trying to find the source. A guard was trying to call it down, muttering angrily. "Stupid, unreliable…" he noticed Batman. "How did Joker get…?"
"Quiet," Batman held up hand. He had noticed a shadow moving towards the counterweight. Quinn landed on it with a loud thump. Batman whipped out a Batarang, aiming it at Quinn.
"Uh, uh, uh, uh! B-man! Mistah J doesn't want you following us just yet." She gripped the steel cable holding up the counterweight and wrapped her legs around it. There was a detonator in her other hand. Quinn pressed the button, Batman prepared for the worst. He could faintly hear a beeping noise followed by a loud BANG! The counterweight shot up like a rocket, Quinn laughing in glee. If the counterweight was going up, then that meant the….
Sure enough the cage came hurtling down. "Get out of the way!" Batman pushed the guard aside and rolled out of the way. The cage hit the edge of the shaft and crumpled apart, now useless.
Quinn's voice came over the P.A. system. "No way you're following us now, B-Man. You're trapped down there until me and Mistah J are ready for yas. Ha! Ha! HA!"
"What the…?" The guard was shaking. His heart rate was elevated. Batman noticed a chair nearby.
"Sit down" he helped the guard over to the chair. "Stay here." Batman said before turning to the shaft. Quinn had never been too bright.
"Bruce, you ok?" Oracle's voice came over the earpiece. "I heard a loud crash over your earpiece."
"Harley Quinn tried to slow me down, dropped an elevator on me." Batman said as he climbed over a bar blocking the way.
"Did it work?" Oracle was no doubt smiling.
"Of course not." Batman chuckled. Marjorie would've come up with a smart-ass comment to retort with. Marjorie…he thought about the image of her lying on the floor, unmoving. It wasn't like her to be helpless, the only time he saw her as such was on the night Scarecrow killed Sam.
There was a chance now that she was…no. He shot his grapple gun high in the air, the high-powered motor pulling him up. He won't think that way. Not tonight. Not when so many people needed him to think clearly.
Gordon needed him. Marjorie needed him. Especially Marjorie.
My eyes opened, everything was blurry. Ow…my head…I groaned as I sat up. There were a couple of good-sized bumps on my head. What was going on? Loud buzzing rang in my ears. The last thing I could remember was walking to the Intensive Treatment lobby. Why was I going there?
There were distant popping sounds in the distance, almost like a movie was playing in the background. It sounds like gunfire. I realized as I rubbed my eyes. What was going on? At least my sight and hearing were getting better. Now if only my thoughts could clear up.
Somebody grabbed the back of my shirt and began pulling me. What the…? I began flailing my arms at whoever had grabbed me. "Let me go!"
"Marjorie! Marjorie! It's me!" Rodriguez's voice came from behind. Was he the one who grabbed me? "You're not helping here!" I turned around and saw him. He wrapped his arm underneath my arms and we began crouching our way down the stairs of the hub and towards the utility corridor. "You got hit on the head by Boles, don't you remember, amiga?"
Boles…that's right. The sonofabitch is getting a pink slip as soon as I get back to my office. Not to mention a one-way ticket to Blackgate…
BANG! A shot rang out next to me. Rodriguez gasped in pain, slumping to the ground. No! I saw Boles there, the barrel of his rifle smoking. My mind immediately cleared and I flew into a rage. "You bastard!" I rushed him, fists flying. Before I could stop, he had the butt of his rifle turned around. It hit my sternum. I fell off, breathless.
Boles was on top of me before I could get up. His rank breath blew in my face. "The bat isn't here to save you. Because I'm going to put you in your place." Boles' large hands gripped my neck and began choking me. Gasping for air, my arms failed wildly. That's when I saw my handgun in his holster. If I could just…
Knee him. The answer came to me. Just knee him and use his distraction to get the gun. I did. Groaning, he took his hands off my neck and on his manhood. I yanked out my handgun. It was light.
The bastard must've unloaded it after stealing it from me in the elevator. No matter. I punched him before getting up. "That's for swiping my gun." I kicked my steel-toed boot into his gut. He curled up in a ball, groaning. "That's for betraying us." I placed my foot on his side so he couldn't roll out of the way. "And this is because you are an insufferable sonofabitch." I pistol-whipped him just above his right ear. It delivered a satisfying smack. He was out cold.
By then, the gunfight had stopped. Quinn and Gordon were nowhere in sight. Bodies of convicts and guards lay everywhere, all dead. Except Rodriguez, groaning next to me. Concern kicked in and I knelt next to him. "Hang on, amigo." I tore part of his shirt off to press against the wound. But I knew his chances weren't good. He had been shot in the torso. "We're getting help."
"Wilde! Are you ok?" North ran down the stairs of the hub, his rifle's safety was locked on. Apparently the three of us were the only ones left alive.
"Help me get him into the utility corridor. Hurry, before more of them show up." I ordered. We helped Rodriguez up, supporting him on our shoulders and half-carried, half-dragged him into the utility corridor.
Only a heavy steel door and an escape hatch accessed the utility corridor. It acted as an emergency bunker in case of breakouts like this and if we needed an escape route. Since the doors weren't on the security system, Joker couldn't override it. And it would take Bane to rip down the door, which fortunately, we didn't have to worry about happening. There was even a landline and radio for help. We'd be safe.
All right. All we've got to do is call the cops for backup and they'll be here in minutes. I was feeling better as we opened the door and got Rodriguez inside. A few bolts later, the door was securely locked.
There wasn't much in the little room, just the phone and radio panel in addition to a small cot, a desk and a metal supply depot. We put Rodriguez on the cot. North got to work treating his injuries and I activated the landline and radio.
My right ear began to buzz. What the? I touched my ear when I felt the earpiece. Oracle's voice began breaking through the static. "Marjorie? Marjorie? Please come in!" The volume blared into my ear.
"Ouch!" I pressed it to respond. "No need to shout Oracle. I'm right here."
"Oh, thank God! Is Dad ok?"
"Wilde, who are you talking to?" North interrupted me, his hand pressing down on Rodriguez's bleeding wound.
"It's a friend, North. What, Oracle? About the Commissioner being ok? No. Or rather, I don't know." I paced, trying to find a place where the static would lessen. The blows to my head must've damaged the earpiece. "We got separated. Where's Batman?"
"He's climbing up the elevator shaft in Intensive."
"Climbing up the…never mind," I shook my head, smiling. Leave it to Batman to use the most unusual and dramatic of entrances. "Always has to take the path less traveled, doesn't he?"
She chuckled. "That's Bruce for you. What's happened?"
I filled Oracle in on the night's events, finishing with "…and to top that all off, Joker's men have broken into the depots and are armed. A couple of guards and I were lucky to get away."
"That's not all he's done." I heard Oracle's fingers clicking over her computer keyboard. "I've been keeping an ear on the police feeds. Joker claims to have placed bombs all over Gotham. Says he'll detonate them if anyone sets foot on Arkham Island. It's being suppressed at the moment, but the story will break anytime."
There was a soft beep before Batman's voice joined us. No doubt he'd been listening in. "He's lying. It's just a diversion to keep people away."
"Are you sure?" I asked. Joker was unpredictable, we knew to expect anything and everything from him.
"I know him." An annoyed Batman said. "I'm almost at the top. Marjorie, stay where you are." He buzzed off before I could ask more.
"Have a nice day." I muttered, taking my hand off the receiver. I walked over to North and Rodriguez. "How're you feeling?"
"Like shit," Rodriguez moaned weakly. He looked at us, I noticed a look of worry in his dulling eyes. "Will you two keep an eye on Maria for me?"
"Don't talk like that." North said, putting his hand on Rodriguez's shoulder. "We'll be out of here soon." They looked at me expectantly.
I sighed. "Joker's threatened to blow up parts of Gotham if anybody sets foot on Arkham." I couldn't look at Rodriguez. I knew that he was going to die and there was nothing we could do for him. I felt helpless, the first time I had felt that way since Sam's death. Not even Batman could save him. He was too far-gone by the time help came. And it was my fault. If I hadn't been so stupid and…
"We're trapped then?" North shook his head. Something came to mind, a memory of the lit up map of the island. Things began clicking into place.
"Maybe not," there just might be hope after all. "Last I checked, the inmates haven't taken control of Arkham East. There's a security hub in the Mansion's basement. I can turn on total lockdown there."
"I thought Joker has full control." Rodriguez coughed. "And for that matter, don't you need two keys to turn them on. One from Sharp and the other from you?"
"That's true, but the Warden keeps a spare key in his office safe. And the hub is on a separate system, a sort of backup." I opened up the supply depot, it was still stocked with what I needed. I put on a bulletproof vest, and a long dark duster. "I'll go through the backdoor by the locker room. It leads to Arkham East. I get there and into the Mansion, I shouldn't have a problem."
By then, I had loaded up on ammunition, grabbed a handful of riot cuffs and a flashlight. "Stay here, this will be home base. Don't let anybody we don't know in."
"Vaya con Dios." Rodriguez nodded. "Good luck."
"Thanks." I headed down the corridor to the locker room.
"What if Batman comes here?" North asked.
I stopped. Part of me wondered if I should contact Batman and tell him my plan…no. I decided while holding my head up. Who needs him? I'm a big girl and can tie my own shoes. I can do this all by myself. After all, I've spent two years here at Arkham. I'm Head of Security and will do my job. And I did it all without him. "Just tell him where I'm going." I continued on my merry way.
Finally. Batman had made it to the top of the shaft. Checking his detective vision, he saw that the coast was clear. But the door leading into the lobby was locked. He'd have to find another way into the lobby then. No problem, he noticed a vent bolted to the wall. It was locked with security bolts so inmates couldn't use them to escape. Not that they gave Batman much trouble.
Within seconds, he had reached the end. It opened into the lobby. Batman gently kicked the vent cover off, moving it quietly off to the side. There was a gargoyle high above, a perfect vantage point. He fired the grapple gun up to it. Fortunately, it was dark by the ceiling. If he kept quiet, nobody would notice him. They'd think it was a shadow until it was too late.
Batman crouched and surveyed the scene. It was a massacre. The dead bodies of guards and inmates lay everywhere. Coagulating blood streaked the walls and floor. Joker was there, surrounded by five heavily armed Blackgate thugs. They were looking down at Boles, who was slowly struggling to his feet. "Frankie, Frankie, Frankie. Did you have fun with Margie?" Joker mockingly asked. No doubt she gave the traitorous guard hell before escaping. Good job, Marjorie, Batman kept a smile to himself. "Although it looks more like she had fun with you." Joker laughed.
"Where'd she go?" Boles growled, wincing in pain. "As soon as I get my hands on her again, I'll…"
"Frankie, Frankie, Frankie. I gave you a simple task. Keep an eye on Margie until the party." Joker's voice was low, dangerously low. This wasn't good. "I thought you could handle it. I mean, how hard is it to keep her from running away?"
"You don't know her, Joker!" Boles began looking around, desperate for an escape. Not that he'd get far, Batman realized.
Joker roughly grabbed the beck of Boles' neck. He wasn't smiling, he was really mad. "And apparently, neither did you." Joker shoved Boles' face into his tacky boutonniere. Batman could only watch as the guard began laughing. It reached a fever pitch before he suddenly stopped laughing. A rigid smile froze his face as his eyes widened. Boles was dead. "Hey, Frankie, has anyone told you that your smile is your worst feature?" Joker threw back his head and cackled.
Batman grimaced. Day after day, night after night, he stops Joker and his fellow degenerates. Only for them to break out of Arkham and do it all over again. Sometimes, he wondered if he should end it all…
"Ok, the dear old Bat is on his way. And the party isn't ready yet. Your job; keep him from leaving until then. Or you'll end up like Boles. Understood?" Frightened, they nodded. Joker skipped off and the convicts spread out. "It should be as easy as pie."
It will be easy, Batman agreed with the Joker. For me. Batman prepared to take them out.
I pushed the heavy steel door open. Cool air blew into my face, smelling of saltwater and rain. I could see the ledge a few yards ahead, cut into the rock wall. The full moon lit up my path, eliminating the need for my flashlight. Easy. I walked over.
Then I saw the rusted fire escape ladder. It was hanging precariously from its rusted bolts in the rock wall. That doesn't look safe, I thought as I stepped closer to it. Might as well try climbing it. I put one foot on the bottom step. It wobbled wildly and creaked loudly. I jumped away. Well, that rules out that route.
Ok, you can figure this out, Marjorie. I scratched my scalp. Come on, sis, I could hear my brother's warm voice in the back of my mind. You've never backed away from a challenge before. This is one you haven't faced before. I smiled, Sam always knew how to encourage me. Even thought he had been dead for two years, I felt him gently pushing me onwards.
The rock wall caught my attention. The surface was jagged and pieces of rock stuck out. It looked ok for climbing. How high was it? Maybe ten, fifteen feet? There you go. I thought proudly as I gripped part of the wall with one hand and braced my foot onto another jagged piece of rock.
It'll be just like when Bruce took you rock climbing on your birthday… I paused, remembering him helping me up a particularly slick part of the pass. A tiny bit of me smiled at the fond memory, but a prick of sadness joined it. His hand had a firm grip, but gentle. And how he smiled when I got up to the top. See, Marjorie, I would never let you fall, he promised before kissing me. That's when I realized that I missed him.
Get your head out of the clouds, Marjorie. I shook my head clear. Get to work and you'll be done before Batman has a chance to get here.
But the sad feeling didn't really leave.
Batman stretched his cape taunt and jumped into a glide. His target was the last convict standing. Using darkness, he had managed to stun and take out the others. He extended his feet out, aiming for the space between the shoulders. There was a satisfying smack as the crony went down. Another punch to the head conked him out.
A door opened. "Hey Batman! Over here!" It was William North, one of the guards on duty. Batman hurried over and into the room. North closed the door behind him.
In the corner, Batman saw a guard lying still. He didn't need to turn on his vision to see that he was dead. "What happened?"
"It was a bloodbath." North said, shaking his head. "Boles came up and said something about Joker's army coming. Two of my guys went up to the front and Boles shot them dead. Rodriguez managed to get Wilde away but Boles got him. We got him in here and did our best but…" North shook his head.
"Did you see the Commissioner?" Batman asked.
"Yes, Quinn dragged him out the entrance moments before the gunfight ended. I have no idea where she could've taken him."
"She went down the corridor to the emergency exit. Said something about turning on total lockdown from the Mansion." North pointed down the hallway.
"Stay here. If you keep the door locked, you shouldn't have trouble." Batman ordered before running off.
I was halfway up the slippery cliff face. Using mostly trial and error, I had managed to get up without falling. I gripped a rock above me and moved my foot up. It slipped. Jesus! I stopped moving; anchoring my foot in the spot I had taken it off of. I breathed deeply, trying to calm down my racing heart. Ok, let's try this again. Again, I found the foothold and put my foot securely. Now for the other foot, one…two…three! I pushed myself up.
My foot lost its grip and I fell. I fell backwards, landing my ass onto the cold and wet rock. The wind got knocked out of me and bright lights danced before my eyes. Damn, that hurt. Wincing, I decided to lie on my back until the waves of pain stopped. I rested my head down and looked straight up at Batman looking down at me. Strangely, he had an amused smile on his face.
"Jesus Christ you scared me!" I grabbed my chest. "Don't do that again." I groaned. "Just how long have you been there?"
"Long enough." He said, holding out his hand. I took it and he pulled me up. I gritted my teeth as my lower body throbbed. "You ok?"
"Only thing bruised is my pride," I tried to convince him by smiling. He didn't react, turning his face neutral. "So what are you doing out here?"
"Looking for Gordon and making sure you get to the Mansion."
"Nice of you to care for me." I moaned. "First time you've done so in like what, two years?" An anger I hadn't felt in a long time began to fester.
"Marjorie…" Batman quietly warned.
I held up my hand to stop him. "You don't want to talk about it, so I won't say any more. Thanks for checking in on me." I turned back to the wall.
"What are you doing?"
"Trying to get to the Mansion on the other side." I said in a snide voice. Not waiting for an answer, I began climbing. In my anger, I didn't pay attention and fell right off. As before, I got up and gripped the wall again.
"You know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?" He said. I could imagine him smirking.
"Yeah, good point…" I said as he began chuckling. I realized what he had said and got mad. "Hey! Ever heard of determination?" I looked back at him. "I think you of all people should know what that is. Or have you been spending too much time with bimbos with the IQs of matchboxes, just like the one you took out shortly after breaking up with me?"
Batman stopped laughing. His face grimaced and I knew I had gone too far. I had forgotten the protective attitude he had to the women he dated. "Bruce…I…I'm sorry." He didn't respond. I grabbed some rocks and began climbing again. Batman gently tapped my arm. A shiver went up my back. Stopping, I looked back at him. "Uh, something's wrong?"
"There's an easier way." Batman flicked his cloak back as he took out his grappling gun. He held out his free hand. Why not? I thought as took it. Batman pulled me close to him and wrapped his arm around my waist. It was a warm and gentle grip. I realized how much I missed it. Hesitantly, I wrapped my arms around his neck. He flinched slightly but said nothing as he aimed the grappling gun to a branch dangling from the entrance of the cave. "Hold on." The gun popped loudly as the hook clenched the branch. We were jerked up, flying fast. I buried my face in his shoulder until we reached the top.
They stopped and he stepped onto the ledge. Batman unhooked the grapple gun and put it back in his belt. Marjorie poked her head out of his arm. It was strange seeing her with short hair. Two years ago, it was shoulder length and wavy. He missed running his fingers through it and rubbing her scalp.
"That was much easier." Marjorie said, slowly letting go. Did she want to keep holding on to him? A small part of him wished she would…he shook it away. Not now. He had work to do. And that was getting Marjorie safely to the Mansion.
The huge building loomed in front of them. A gothic structure against the modern skyscrapers and lights of Gotham, it had a commanding effect on everyone who looked on it. No wonder Arkham decided to turn his ancestral home into an asylum for the criminally insane. It surely forced people to clean up their acts.
"No matter how many times I look at it, it still gives me the creeps." Marjorie commented. "So what's the plan?"
"I get you to the Mansion and help you put this place into lockdown. That is, unless you have a better idea."
"Nope," she groaned quietly. "Get out the grapple gun." Marjorie held out her arms. Batman ignored her as he surveyed the scene in detective mode. He could make out ten figures pacing around. The computer didn't identify them as hostiles. He turned it off. "I'm waiting." Marjorie said impatiently.
Taking a hook out of the center pouch of his utility belt, he wrapped it around Marjorie and hooked it closed. "Whatever you do, don't let go."
She looked at him, her face wide in fear. "Oh no, you're not going to…"
He smirked at her. "Oh yes I am." He stretched out the folds of his cloak. Marjorie wrapped her arms around his neck again. The cloak stiffened and he jumped into a glide. Controlling the glide was little more difficult on account of Marjorie's extra weight. But nothing he couldn't handle.
They flew above two guards at the base of the stairs leading to the Mansion. "Jesus Christ! You scared me Batman." One of the guards exclaimed as the two landed at the front door. Marjorie still held on as Batman released the wire from around her. "Wilde! What the heck are you doing with Batman?"
"He helped me escape Intensive." Marjorie said as she let go. "Is the Mansion secure, Josephs?"
"Yes ma'am. And the Gardens too." The other guard said as he left his position and came over. Batman recognized him from previous visits to Arkham. He was called Brian. "Highly doubt they'll be able to get through. Not on our watch anyway."
Batman doubted it, but was wise enough to stay silent. "Very well. How many of us are left?" Marjorie straightened her back as she spoke to Josephs.
"There's twenty of us altogether here. We haven't heard from Intensive, Medical or the Penitentiary."
She looked at him with warm brown eyes. "Ok, so it's safe for us to presume that we're the only survivors. We should be able to keep Arkham East out of Joker's hands." She was cool and collected; looking at Josephs the same way he did to Nightwing or Robin. The previous Heads of Security didn't have the same air she was showing. Maybe there was a chance Arkham would be secure with Marjorie's as Head of Security. Then again, he didn't raise his hopes.
Still, it was amazing how much two years had changed her. Once a follower during her days as a cop, here she was, being a professional leader. Maybe Arkham was a good thing for her…
The intercom turned on. Joker's voice rang out. "Harley tells me the Batman's car is still parked in front of Intensive. We can't have him up and leave us, now can we? Every thug, murderer, villain and kindergarten teacher who doesn't have party orders should head over and smash it to pieces!"
Marjorie looked at Batman. "Well, hop to it. Hopefully the Commissioner's still with Quinn. We'll be ok here." Batman nodded and turned away to head back to Arkham North. "Batman?" Marjorie added, almost in afterthought. He looked back at her. She swallowed and looked at him gratefully. "Thank you." She meant it. "And good luck."
"You're welcome." He nodded and ran towards the door leading to Arkham North.
With Batman on his way to Arkham North, I turned to the Mansion. "I'm going to turn on total lockdown. Stay here." I ordered Josephs and Brian. I push open the doors just as my cellphone rings. "Now what?" I groaned. Picking it out, I recognized the caller as Dr. Fries. "Dr. Fries, what's wrong?"
"Marjorie, what's going on?" He was whispering, as if he was trying hard not to be heard. "Joker's men have infiltrated Medical. They're armed and rounding up the doctors. Please, help us." He hung up quickly.
Damn it. How could I turn on lockdown? I could send someone to it. No…I needed to put in the password. And after the incident with Boles, I wasn't sure which of them to trust. Dr. Fries and the other doctors needed help. I couldn't leave them. My mind was made up. I had to do something. Turning around, I ran to the doors connecting to Arkham West. "Hey! Where are you going?" Brian yelled after me.
"Change of plans. Medical is under siege. They need help."
"I'm coming with you. After all, 'never leave your partner behind', right?" Brian walked forward. Josephs nodded, also stepping forward. He was coming too. I realized they had a point. The island was too dangerous to cross alone. Especially in Arkham West. I could've been stupid and walked right into trouble. Not the first time I let my emotions take control and acted stupidly. That's how Sam…I refused to think that.
"Ok, come with me, and do as I say. I tell you to run, you run. Got it?"
Josephs saluted. "Yes ma'am."
We began walking quickly to the doors. The intercom came on again. "Ding! D-Ding! Dong! We've got reports of an escaped party pooper running around the island! We know her! We love her! Our dear Margie…not! I don't want her messing up my party. First person who brings me her cold dead carcass will get a shiny and pretty prize!"
Great. I muttered as the great door between East and West opened. First Joker breaks out. Now I've got a price on my head.
This was going to be a long night.
A/N: I know I'm really changing the gameplay around, but it was the only way to get this to work. Please R+R.