Author's Note: This is set in the DCAU, sometime after the final season of Justice League Unlimited, and thus happens after most of my previous Justice League fanfics. (Note from April 4th: I've just updated my profile by adding a list of all 16 of those fanfics, arranged according to the "internal chronology.")
Seven conversations in a row will either happen entirely within Wayne Manor (counting the Batcave as part of the Manor), or else will be long-distance chats with someone in the Manor speaking to someone far away. Then there will be an extra scene on Themyscira to wrap a few things up. (Initially, I was going to have the Themysciran bit be a separate short story starring Wonder Woman and her mother, but I reconsidered.)
Seven Conversations from Wayne Manor (Plus One on Themyscira)
First Conversation: Batman and Mr. Terrific
Twenty-two members of the League currently participating in thirteen missions; five supervillains (and a few dozen henchmen) subdued and handed over to local authorities within the past hour; some interstellar news had just arrived suggesting the Thanagarians were finally getting the upper hand over the Gordanians in their ongoing war . . . it was all shaping up to be just another normal shift on monitor duty in the Watch Tower, and then a screen showed a Bat-logo to indicate that the premiere superhero of Gotham City was calling in.
The watch officer (Michael Holt, aka Mr. Terrific) hit a button and answered with a jaunty monosyllable: "Go!"
A grim voice said, "Tell the other founders I won't be at the meeting tonight. In fact, take me off the On-Call roster for a while." Pause. "I'm sick."
Mr. Terrific's left hand reflexively reached for the "General Signal" button, the one that would activate every League communicator at once, before he caught himself. This sounded bad.
From most members of the League, "I'm sick" might mean "I have stomach flu" or "I'm coping with a nasty sunburn" or perhaps "I'm feeling nauseated after getting spun around in circles a few hundred times by a supervillain's tornado." From some of them, it might even mean "I just don't feel like showing up as planned, so I'm inventing an excuse." (Yes, some of Michael Holt's fellow Leaguers were distinctly immature . . . and that didn't necessarily refer to the ones who were still teenagers!)
But coming from Batman, "I'm sick" as an explanation for missing a commitment had to mean something more along the lines of "I already have one foot in the grave and the other foot is resting on a very greasy banana peel."
"How bad is it?" Terrific asked, deciding a few seconds of inquiry wouldn't make that much difference before he hit the panic button.
"Non-contagious, non-fatal," Batman said promptly, then added a less-than-reassuring qualifier: "I think."
Not a germ or a virus, then? How many other types of "sick" were there? Mr. Terrific's agile mind was equal to the challenge; without missing a beat, he asked: "Did someone hit you with a toxin?"
"Karl Hellfern, aka 'Doctor Death.' He was planning to spray my city with a genetically engineered super-allergen which would cause nasty and potentially lethal reactions in just about everyone. Then he would demand millions for the secret antidote."
"And you intervened successfully?"
"Yes, except that he had rigged up a canister of the toxin to a tripwire and it exploded when I opened a closet. I left Hellfern in restraints, grabbed a bottle of antidote, and called it in to the GCPD. Recommended they have the U.S. Army Medical Corps send in a team of chemical/biological-warfare experts to go over the lab with a fine-toothed comb and then destroy it."
"So you don't require any League intervention at the site?"
"No. We can leave it to the specialists."
"So how is the antidote working for you?"
"I wouldn't know . . . I haven't taken it yet."
Mister Terrific took a moment to bite back the scathing remarks he wanted to make, and finally settled for a simple: "Why not?" (He hoped he didn't sound as disapproving as he felt.)
"Wanted to talk to you first." Batman paused, and Mister Terrific began to sense the man's breathing was getting labored. "I have a friend standing by to . . . give me the injection. Between the early symptoms from the . . . allergen . . . and the probable side effects of the active ingredients of the antidote . . . I don't expect to be conscious often enough to matter for . . . at least three days. Probably not fit for duty for . . . a week, estimated."
"We do have state-of-the-art facilities up here in the infirmary."
"I know. When we first built the Watchtower, I . . . made sure it had duplicates of all the medical equipment . . . I keep here in the Batcave."
That was something Michael Holt hadn't known. He said carefully, "So you maintain a miniature state-of-the-art hospital . . . in your own basement . . . just for a rainy day? F. Scott Fitzgerald was right - the rich are different."
"Says the man with four hundred and . . . twenty-nine . . . patents to his name."
"Four hundred and thirty-one. Two more got approved this morning. But I don't think you keep a fulltime medical staff down there along with the equipment. We have doctors and nurses who would take proper care of you."
Labored or not, Batman's voice could still be acerbic. "I don't need an organ transplant, Terrific . . . I need a few days of peace and quiet. That's easier to guarantee . . . down here."
Mr. Terrific thought about the times the Tower had been attacked by the League's enemies, and decided not to argue the point—although Batman probably had his own teammates in mind as more likely to create troublesome noises which reverberated throughout the space station. "All right, let's get back to essentials. You won't be beaming up here tonight, nor any time in the next few days. Is there anything you want us to do differently in your absence? Assign a few members to patrol Gotham, for instance?"
"I think Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl can handle it . . . for a few days. They have before. They know how to contact you . . . if needed."
Then Terrific would have sworn he heard a masculine voice with a British accent in the background saying, "No more delays, sir!" right before the connection went dead. Presumably that had been the "friend" standing by to inject the antidote into Batman's arm.
In the normal course of events, Mr. Terrific would not have mentioned this development to anyone for the next few hours. Since Batman did not require urgent assistance with anything, there was no need to disturb the other six founders' regular activities with the latest news from Gotham. Tonight's meeting would have been soon enough to bring them up to speed as a courtesy.
But some time ago, Princess Diana of Themyscira had made it very clear to Mr. Terrific that she wanted to be apprised soonest of any unpleasant developments relating to the Dark Knight's physical health. (Mr. Terrific conjectured that she'd only inserted the word "physical" into that directive because she realized it was unfair to expect other superheroes to know the difference right away if Batman's psychological condition got any weirder than usual!)
Accordingly, Mr. Terrific selected menu options which would transmit an audio file of the recent conversation straight to the "voice mail" option of Diana's communicator. It wasn't worth interrupting her concentration when she might be in the middle of a fight or something, but he wanted it on record that he had wasted no time in bringing the matter to her attention!
The Dark Knight had given the distinct impression that he simply wanted the rest of the League to leave him alone until he was fit for duty again, but Mr. Terrific suspected the man would just have to learn to endure the terrible misfortune of having at least one concerned friend drop in to see how the invalid was doing . . .
Author's Note: And we're off and running! If there's one thing Batman hates, it's feeling vulnerable. I was originally going to have it be a very nasty contagious disease (an experimental bioweapon from Dr. Death or some other villain), with Batman announcing that he was putting himself in a self-imposed airtight quarantine in the Batcave and only people in Haz-Mat suits would be allowed near him for the next week . . . but I finally decided against it.
P.S. You may not recognize the name of Karl Hellfern, M.D., aka "Doctor Death." He never appeared in the DCAU cartoons, but he is regarded as the first supervillain to ever fight Batman in the Golden Age comics. (They first met in Detective Comics #29, just two months after Bruce Wayne's own debut!) I assume the existence of an analog in the DCAU (or in the version of it which I've been developing in my own fanfics, anyway).