The clock struck midnight and I finally put the controller down. My obsession with this game was getting ridiculous. I'd been playing my new Batman: Arkham City game nonstop ever since I bought it. I was totally obsessed with the story line and the characters.
"Belle," I said to myself out loud. "You need a life." I sighed and switched off the Xbox and went to bed.
I was half awake. I could hear people talking but they were muffled, like they were in another room, and everything was bathed in a strange green light. I opened my eyes and looked around.
Oh. Hell. No.
I was on a street. And not a street outside my house. This street was dirty and it was freezing. I looked around for the light source and nearly passed out when I saw it. A green, glowing question mark. I knew what it was. But I also knew that it didn't exist in real life. I reached out to touch it and pulled my hand back when I was shocked.
"L-leave that alone! It's not for you-you-you." Holy crap. I knew that voice. I would know it anywhere. The Riddler! Which means that really is a Riddler Trophy! I shook my head, trying to clear it. This wasn't possible. I was obviously still asleep. So I did the most clichéd thing I could think of; I pinched my arm to wake myself up. Nothing happened. I pinched harder. Other than a bruise, nothing again. Apparently I wasn't waking up anytime soon. I sat on the cold ground wearing the tee shirt and sleep shorts I wore to bed, wondering what I was supposed to do when I heard voices coming closer. Even if it was only a dream, I didn't want to be caught on my own by any of the thugs in here. I ducked behind a wall and waited for them to walk past. I listened carefully and heard nothing so I stepped back out.
Two men were standing there, both over six foot tall and solid.
"Hey! Who're you?" One of them demanded.
"I'm me." I replied, feeling that kind of invincibleness you always feel in a dream.
"How'd you get in here? There ain't no women in here." The other said, looking at me suspiciously.
"I'm just special, I guess." I said. These two seemed like they had the combined IQ of a cucumber.
"Well… Who's side're you on? Joker, Penguin or Two Face?" I thought for a while.
"None. I am my own side." They looked at each other.
"Then we gotta take you to the boss." The first said, and they each grabbed one of my arms and walked me away.
"Who's your boss?"
"Joker. Duh." The other said, gesturing to his clown mask.
"Sure. Sounds fun." I said. The Joker was one of my favourite characters so I wasn't about to pass up a chance to meet him, even in a dream. We walked towards the steel mill, passing landmarks and buildings that looked familiar to me from the game.
We came to the doors where two men were standing guard.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa." One stepped forward, waving his gun about. "Who's this?"
"This is, uh…"
"Belle." I supplied helpfully.
"Yeah. This is Belle. We're takin' her to see Joker." The guard shrugged.
"Go ahead. Not my problem if he shoots you for disturbing him." We went inside and I found myself in the room just underneath the Joker's office.
"Boss! Hey Boss!" One of the thugs shouted up at the closed doors.
"What is it?" A woman opened the doors. Harley Quinn! "Who's she?"
"She's Belle. We found her out on the street. Says she's on nobody's team, so we bought her here." Harley looked me up and down.
"Fine. I'll tell Mistah J." The door slammed shut behind her and the thugs and I waited in silence. Finally the doors flew open again and a rope ladder fell. "Climb up." Harley ordered. So I did. Of course, having all the coordination of limp spaghetti it took me a while. "Hurry up. Mistah J doesn't like to be kept waiting." I sped up a little and finally made it up to the office at the top. Harley grabbed my arm and dragged me in. "This is her, puddin'." She said. I squinted into the gloom and could make out a figure who was coming closer. He stepped into the light. Wow. He looked a lot… creepier than on the game.
"Well well, who do we have here?" He asked.
"I'm Belle." I said. He circled me, looking me up and down.
"And you've come to join my team have you?" He drawled.
"Uh, no. I don't really like the whole turf war thing. People seem to end up dead more often than not. What with the thugs fighting each other and Deadshot and Zsasz on the loose, this place is dangerous enough without joining a gang."
"Oh? And just where did you come from? I'm sure I'd remember seeing you in a place like this." He leered. Harley pouted in the corner.
"I don't know, really. I woke up and I was in the game. Prevailing theory is that I'm dreaming, but I haven't proved it yet." I said.
"Game you say?" The Joker sounded amused. "This is a game to you?"
"Well, yeah. Batman: Arkham City to be exact. I've finished it twice, so I know what happens." This seemed to pique his interest.
"Okay, lets test your little theory. Tell me something about me that happens in your game." I thought for a moment about what to tell him. I believe you can change your own destiny, and that knowing too much about your future can be dangerous. So I stuck with something that would already be in the works.
"I know you're sick, like really sick, and I know about the Clayface version of you." He burst out laughing, looking impressed.
"Well done! Again. Something about Batman this time."
"He's really sick as well. Along with you he has to deal with Penguin, Two face, Deadshot, Zsasz, The Riddler, Mr Freeze and all those thugs." The Joker grinned.
"Well. You know all my plans and secrets, then?" I shrugged and nodded. No need to be modest in a dream. "Then I'll have to fix that. It may be a dream to you, girlie, but it's very real to me!" He lunged at me, a knife suddenly in his hand. I jerked back but felt the blade cut my arm. I looked down. Pain? How was there pain? And blood? And pain? Before I could comprehend the truth, that this wasn't actually a dream, the Joker attacked again. I turned and ran. I leapt out a window, straight down into the icy water. I hid behind a block of ice until Joker and Harley stopped looking for me. Then I turned and swam as fast as I could out to a boat. As far as I knew, no one in the game used the boats, so I figured I was safe. I climbed up and went down into the boat. A surprise was waiting for me. A body sat to one side of the boat. I shuddered but stayed. It was too much of a risk to stay up top.
I looked around. I found a grey woollen blanket and wrapped it around myself, trying to get warm. On a table I found a pile of shipping invoices.
"J Crane…" I read out loud. "Holy crap, that's Scarecrow!"
"Excuse me?" I heard a smooth voice and spun around. Standing before me, looking slightly pissed off, was Jonathan Crane himself.
"Um… Oh crap!" I tried to run past him up the stairs but he reached out and grabbed me, pulling me back down.
"And who might you be?" He asked.
"No one!" I said. "And I'll go back to being no one, and telling no one that I saw you and that you're alive, even though you tell Batman through those coded radio messages, but-" I knew I was rambling. I was almost relieved when he interrupted me.
"I'm sorry?" He said. "How could you know about that?" So I explained the whole 'waking up in my video game' thing to him.
"You're insane." He said when I finished. "You're obviously delusional with narcissistic personality disorder." He smiled cruelly. "And no one will miss you if you disappear."
I knew I was only about thirty seconds from getting a dose of fear gas to the face.
"I'm not crazy!" I screamed desperately. "It's true damn it!"
He cocked his head to the side, ice blue eyes giving me the creepy feeling of having my soul X-rayed.
"Prove it. Prove it and you can live." He smirked.
Oh boy. He thought I was lying, and that he would get to gas me. I was going to get to stick it to Jonathan Crane!
Or maybe not. How the hell was I going to prove to him that I wasn't from here?
"Um, I know you're sending coded radio messages to Batman." I didn't know where to go from there. "That's… all I know." I admitted. I waited nervously to see if it was enough. He stood there silently, staring at me.
Finally he spoke.
"Not good enough." And he shot a spray of fear toxin into my face.
I was ready for it though. I held my breath and ran past him, up and out into the fresh air above. I breathed deeply on the deck, adrenaline pumping. I could hear him chasing after me, so I dived back into the freezing water and swam. I kept moving until I found my way to the GCPD building. I knew there were some good hiding places here, so I ran until I found the grate I was looking for. I pulled it open and slipped down inside it.
How the hell had I woken up in my video game? And how the hell was I going to get home? I needed help; I knew that much. I was not going last very long on my own here. And obviously, there was only one person I could get help from. So I climbed, with much difficulty, on to the roof to wait for a glimpse of the caped crusader. My plan was to wave and yell like a mad woman when I saw him, to try to draw his attention.
I'd only been waiting a few minutes when a black shadow flew past.
"Batman! Hey, Batman! Over here! I need help damn it, come here!" I screamed as loudly as I could. But he paid no attention to me and kept going, getting further away.
"Brilliant. Just freaking fantastic." I complained loudly, sitting on the roof.
"Now what do we have here?" I scrambled up and spun around with as much grace as possible. A man was standing in front of me, leaning slightly on a cane shaped like a question mark. The green clothes and hat and that oh-so recognisable voice, I knew who it was. The Riddler.
"I was minding my own business, setting up a deathly trap for Batman when I hear a terrible noise coming from up here. So I decided to investigate, and what do I find? My next hostage." He grinned evilly, advancing on me. I backed up quickly, avoiding the edge of the roof.
"Hey now. You don't want me. I'm nobody, really. Batman wouldn't care if I live or die." My back hit stone and I realised I had backed up as far as I could go, and the Riddler was still advancing on me. I was so screwed.
"Oh Batman will save anyone. He's not fussy." I had nowhere to run to as he grabbed me. I struggled and tried to free my arms from his grip, but to no avail. He frowned at me, squirming in his grasp. "Come to think of it, who are you? I know I haven't seen you before, and I, the Riddler, know everyone in Arkham City." He said importantly.
We were silent for a moment.
"Belle who?" He demanded when it became apparent I wasn't going to elaborate.
"Belle Never-you-mind." I said, perfectly aware that I was sassing an insane, violent criminal. He frowned.
"I demand you tell me who you are!" He said.
"And I demand you let me go, asshole." I retorted, before slapping my hands over my mouth. Holy crap, I just said that to the Riddler? "I am so sorry! I have no brain to mouth filter, so I always say stuff without thinking." I apologised, knowing it was in vain. His face was contorted in rage, and I felt a slight sting in my arm. I looked down and saw a small syringe being emptied into my bloodstream.
"What the hell… was that…" I tried to ask, but faded out of consciousness before I could get an answer.
I opened my eyes and blinked a few times, blinded by the light. When my eyes had adjusted, I looked around, taking in my surroundings. I was tied to a chair in the middle of a warehouse. It was totally empty and there was a balcony in front of me with a door. I was obviously in one of Riddler's traps for Batman.
"I see you're awake." Riddler's distorted voice came, filling the room. I knew from the game that he wasn't actually here. A screen to my right came to life, showing him. "As you can see, there is no escape. So settle back and get comfortable, my dear, because the only way you're leaving here is if the Batman saves you, and we both know he's going to fail." He laughed. God. He was so arrogant and confident! It annoyed the hell out of me. I shuddered when I remembered that I used to have a crush on him in the game. So much for that.
"Seeing as we have some time before Batman shows up to die, why don't you tell me a little about yourself, Belle Never-you-mind." Riddler said, using the name I gave him somewhat mockingly. "How is it that you came to be locked up in here? Was it theft? Assault? Murder?"
"None of the above." I replied. "I'm not meant to be in here."
"Ah." He said. "A wrongful conviction. But aren't they all?" I shook my head, knowing he was watching me somewhere.
"No, I'm really not meant to be here. I'm real. This place isn't."
"Oh." He said, disappointment in his voice. "Just the ravings of another insane inmate. I thought you may have been different. Shame on me."
"No! I'm serious. This isn't real. Though apparently it's not a dream either, so it must be real." I said, more to myself than to him. "Either way, I'm not from Arkham, or Gotham, or anywhere near here." There was silence for a moment.
"Okay, I'm intrigued. Where are you from, Belle Never-you-mind?" I took a deep breath and told him my story. I'm not sure why I kept telling people, but it seemed important at the time that all the crazy criminals didn't think I was a crazy criminal.
"A video game, you say." Riddler said after I finished my tale. "Interesting. Can you prove it to me? If not, I'll have to assume that you are simply delusional." I chewed my lip for a moment, thinking of what I could say to convince him.
"I know where your hide out is." I said.
"Not possible." Riddler spat quickly. "No one could know." I shrugged.
"I do." I told him where it was. There was silence for a full minute.
"Well." He said. And it was silent again. So I sat there, not exactly comfortable in the knowledge that I had pissed off the Riddler. For like, the tenth time in a few hours. I may be exaggerating, but whatever. Suddenly, a door behind me burst open, making me jump.
"Batman!" I cried out, relieved.
"Not quite." A familiar voice said. Slow, casual footsteps echoed around the large room, coming closer until the speaker was standing in front of me.
"You have got to be kidding me." I said exasperatedly. The Joker stood in front of me, grinning widely.
"Not at all. Don't you know how rude it is to uh, jump out a window when someone's talking to you?" He said, wagging his finger at me.
"I think they skipped that one in etiquette class." I said sardonically.
"Well, now you know. Don't let it happen again." He said, letting out a loud, rasping laugh. "Now, I really need to be going. You know how it is, things to do, Bats to kill. And I need you to come with me." He lent behind me and cut through the ropes around my wrists with one quick slash of his knife. "Let's go." He held out his arm like a gentleman. I eyed it apprehensively.
"Not that I don't appreciate that you untied me, but I think I'll just… go my own way." I said, not thinking for a second that he would let me.
"Or not. Listen girlie, I can't have you running around Arkham City. I don't know if your video game story is true, or how you know what you do, but I do know that it would be bad news for me if Batman got a hold of you and all your knowledge." He smiled, showing a mouth full of yellowing teeth that would make a dentist weep. "So you're coming with me so I can figure out what to do with you." He grabbed my arm and started to drag me to the door, no matter how much I squirmed.
Suddenly, a soft ticking noise filled the room. I looked down at the floor and quickly put two and two together. The floor was electrified, and was about to be turned on. With renewed energy, I yanked my arm out of Joker's grip and sprinted back to my chair and climbed on top of it, just in time. The floor glowed with electricity, just long enough to bring Joker to his knees.
"Professional courtesy, Joker, is not to take someone else's hostage." I spun around and spied Riddler, standing casually on the balcony.
"Ah, Edward. Not to sound childish, but I had her first." I stood on the chair, looking from one criminal to the other. The Riddler and the Joker were fighting over me. I had to stifle a nervous giggle. Focus Belle!
"Maybe, but I have her now. I suggest you leave before the floor becomes… shocking again." The Joker scowled but admitted defeat.
"Fine." He turned and walked back to the door. He paused just before he left and turned back to face me. "See you around girlie." He said and walked out, slamming the door behind him.
I slowly stepped off the chair, my knees shaking a little.
"You can thank me anytime now." I spun around, and saw Riddler standing only a few feet from me. Man, he moves quietly. And quickly. Something to remember, I thought.
"I would, but I'm not sure if you saved me from the worst situation, or saved me for it." He smiled but didn't answer me. "I'll thank you if you let me go?" I offered.
"No deal." He said. "You're staying with me. The Joker, dull as he may be, raised a valid point. It would be extremely inconvenient for you to team up with Batman. You would tell all you know, and that's cheating." There was a huge crash outside the door on the balcony. Riddler swore. I raised my eyebrows. That's not something he does in the game.
"What was that?" I asked.
"Batman." Riddler growled. I nearly jumped for joy. I tried to shout out where we were, but a hand came flying towards me, clamping down on my mouth before I could so much as squeak. "Silence." He pushed me down on to the chair but didn't tie me up. "You move off this chair and you die." He warned before disappearing out the door behind me, closing it just as Batman came through the other one.
"Oh thank God." I sighed. He looked around, assessing the situation. I desperately hoped he was more adept than I was at these. It usually took me two or three… or six tries to beat Riddler. I had a feeling that this time, he only had the one chance. There would be no do-over's.
My worry was totally unnecessary, as it turned out. Batman swooped and glided like a badass, and in no time at all, the floor was turned off and he was walking over to me. I subtly took a few deep breaths, wiped my sweaty palms on my shorts and pushed my hair off my face in some semblance of style. I mean, come on. This was Batman.
"Are you okay?" He asked when he reached me.
"Um, no. I've been looking for you." I said.
"Why?" He asked, looking me up and down, making me feel totally exposed in my tee shirt and sleep shorts. "Who are you? You're not one of the inmates."
"No." I agreed. "I woke up in here. And not to toot my own horn, but I know pretty much everything that's going on. Can we go back to the church or somewhere safe to talk?" He looked at me for a moment without saying anything.
"Fine. Come with me." We walked towards the door but Batman stopped in front of me, causing me to run into his solid back. I rubbed my nose.
"What was that for?"
"I almost forgot to ask. What were the numbers Riddler told you?" He asked. I sighed.
"Oh crap. He didn't."
"He didn't give me any." I kicked at the ground with my toe. "Damn it. That means you won't be able to save the next hostage." I took a deep breath. "Riddler!" I yelled out at the top of my lungs. "We need the radio frequency, or else your little game is over!" There was no response for a moment, and Batman looked at me like I was a lunatic. Then the screen came to life.
"True, true." He said, tapping his chin. "I'll tell you what, Dark Knight." He said, addressing Batman. "You leave the room and I'll give Belle the frequency."
"No deal." I said before Batman could reply. "I'm not an idiot. You'll swoop in and take me." No way in hell was that going to happen. I'd spent enough time scared out of my wits by Riddler. I was sticking to Batman like white on rice. I turned to face the caped crusader. "He wants me away from you because I know where his hideout is. I also know what the Joker is planning, but that's kind of irrelevant right now." The half of his face that I could see looked shocked.
"How do you know this?" He asked.
"Long story. Which I promise to tell, once we get out of here." I turned back to the giant Riddler on screen. "Tell us the radio frequency now, or I'll tell him where you're hiding out." I threatened.
"Tell him." Riddler laughed. "I'll be long gone by the time you get there Batman. And all my hostages will die." He smiled. "Or you could leave the room and I could tell Belle the frequency, and everyone goes home happy."
Not me, I thought. I squeezed my eyes shut tight, like I always did when I was thinking hard. But there was no way around it.
"Go." I said to Batman.
"I can't." He said, like the hero he is. "He'll take you again." I sighed deeply, trying to calm my nerves and steady my voice.
"I know. But if I don't go with him, everyone else he's holding will be killed. Dream, hallucination or whatever this is or not, I can't let other people die just so I live." Damn my conscience. I wanted nothing more than to walk out of there with Batman, safe and alive. "I'll stay and hear the damn radio frequency." I said, loud enough for Riddler to hear.
"Wise decision." Riddler said. "If you would be so kind as to leave for a moment, Dark Knight, you can come and collect Belle in a moment."
"Drop the act Riddler." I said. "We all know I'm about to disappear. Let's just call a spade a spade, hmm?" Yeah, I was acting brave in front of Batman. So sue me, I didn't want him to think I was a wimp. Even if I was. The screen went blank, and I knew Riddler was just waiting for Batman to leave so he could come out from where ever he was hiding.
"Thanks for rescuing me." I said, half smiling. I held out my arms for a hug. Batman didn't move, so I stepped forward and hugged him. "Thanks… Bruce." I breathed into his ear. I said it as quietly as possible. No one wanted Riddler knowing who Batman was. I heard his slight gasp in my ear. "Save me." I pleaded quietly as I pulled away. He looked into my eyes for a moment before walking out. As soon as he closed the door behind him, my knees gave out and I collapsed onto them on the ground. I took great gulping breaths, trying to calm down.
A sob escaped, but I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed my fingernails into my palms, something I did when I was trying not to cry. In case you hadn't guessed, the whole feisty attitude thing is total bravado. I'm the biggest chicken on the planet. So I kneeled on the floor, trying not to totally dissolve into tears until Riddler spoke, uncomfortably close to my ear.
"Did you plan on sitting there all day?" He asked, inches from my face. I jumped and ungracefully crab scuttled away from him. I stood with as much dignity as I could muster and subtly wiped the tears from my face.
"I suppose there's no chance of you just giving me the frequency and letting me go with Batman?" I asked, bravado back in place.
"None at all." Riddler said happily. He dropped a piece of paper on the ground and grabbed my wrist and led me over to a door hidden behind the giant screen. It led into a tiny room, just big enough for Riddler, me a microphone and a computer. "Come out, come out, wherever you are Batman." Riddler said into the microphone. We watched the computer screen, which showed the warehouse.
Batman walked back in and looked around. I had barely had the idea to scream out for him when Riddler looked at me menacingly.
"One sound, and…" His unfinished threat hung in the air. I kept quiet. Batman picked up the paper, took one last look around and left.
"So what's the plan here?" I asked once Batman left. "Are we just going to hang out at your hide out, reading Batman comics?" I asked.
"Batman comics?" Riddler shook his head. "No such thing exists. If it did, I would know." He said, sounding very self important. "No, you are going to tell me everything you know about the Dark Knight, and everyone else in here. If you don't tell me, I will make you. Then, you become disposable. Depending on how helpful you've been, I may kill you, or if you make it difficult, I will give you to the clown. Understand?" He asked, his voice light.
I nodded, my eyes wide. I understood just fine. I understood that I needed to get the hell away from this creep, as soon as possible.
A/N: Hi there! Thanks a bunch for reading. :) If you would be interested in reading more of this story, shoot me a review or a PM or favorite the story, or some how let me know! Chapters will probably never be this long, about half the length of this one.
I actually like reading fics where the main character is an OC who is unexpectedly sucked into the game/movie/book/TV show. Belle is in no way meant to be a Sue! I will keep her as un-Sue like as I can, but haters gonna hate. Thanks again for reading. :)