Post by Admin on Dec 19, 2013 17:33:28 GMT -5
You took a step
The world came crashing down on you
And what you feared the most of all happened
Well, now you’ve come to.
Welcome to the world
Welcome to the world at last...
...There’s music like nothing you’ve heard...
If you just let it play
There are glasses to raise in the praise of surviving the day
For life is clearly something that I can’t rehearse
It’s dangerous and beautiful and free as verse...
—Lynn Ahrens, “Welcome to the World”
Author’s Note: This is installment number four of the “Locked-Verse.” Other stories in this AU include, in chronological order, Locked Inside the Facade, Lost to the Night, and The Way Back. Canon-compliant until most of the way through Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Shortly after the Sacrifice arc, events took a rather drastic turn in a different direction.
I guess I could just play it safe
and forget about love, hope and faith,
with my eye on the shore line,
keeping my boat tied and staying home,
ohhh but I’ll never discover new land
by keeping my feet on the sand
No I’d rather set sail
and get carried away by the storm.
—Paul Brandt, “Risk”
Issue #1: “Setting Sail”
Story by Ellen Fleischer
Art by Joey Jarin
Beta Read by Kathy, Debbie, and PJ
Edited by Mark Bowers
Issue #1: “Setting Sail”
Story by Ellen Fleischer
Art by Joey Jarin
Beta Read by Kathy, Debbie, and PJ
Edited by Mark Bowers
Dick had been gone for over an hour, but Bruce still hadn’t moved from his seat in the Cave. He was replaying the events of the last few hours. It had been almost like old times: Tim captured, him and Dick working together to find Joker’s newest hideout, rescue Tim and take down Joker and Harley. For a few hours, at least, it had almost seemed like the last three years hadn’t happened.
Reality had come crashing back, as it always did. It wasn’t like old times. After losing Alfred and Jason, after two years in Arkham, and now, after having spent nearly eight months as an out-patient, this wasn’t old times.
It was ironic. He had spent most of his adult life creating a world where he could anticipate most situations and plan for most outcomes—only to have situations blow up in his face and find himself forced to deal with outcomes he’d never planned for. His secret identity was a thing of the past now, and at the hearing last July, the judge had been clear: if he resumed his vigilante activities while he was under the authority of the Gotham Mental Health Authority, he would be returned to Arkham forthwith. He’d hated it, but he’d been resigned to waiting out the year.
That is, until Joker had captured Tim, threatening to kill him if “the one true Batman” didn’t come looking for him. Bruce let out a long breath. Commissioner Sawyer had once offered to deputize him, so that he’d be freer to act in a situation like that. He’d even gone so far as to discuss the specifics with her, but reconsidered when he’d found out that he would need to carry and use a gun. He had actually been calling her back to tell her that he couldn’t accept those terms, when Joker had issued his ultimatum. And suddenly, the offer he’d seen as a net to snare him had become a lifeline. One night. One chance. He could do everything he needed to get Tim to safety—except wear the suit—but in return, he’d had to agree to go through Police Academy training. And Sawyer wasn’t likely to extend the offer again if he reneged.
Well, he’d taken the lifeline. Now, he had to take the consequences that came with it. He looked at the gun on the table again. Tonight, he’d finally loaded it. It hadn’t been easy. He hated guns with a passion. Recently, he’d come to accept that he feared them too, although he was working on that. At least, when the mission required it, he could work past the fear. Harley pulling a rifle on him earlier tonight hadn’t fazed him. Certainly, he’d never frozen in costume. If anything, he’d relied on the Bat-persona, his rage, and his training to get him through that. He wouldn’t have those resources at the academy.
Bruce frowned. Then he reached for the box of ammunition and deliberately placed one round into the magazine. He turned his attention inward. His heart was beating a bit faster, but it wasn’t the loud thudding in his chest that had afflicted him the first time he’d tried the exercise. His hands felt cold, but they weren’t sweating. He loaded the second round, noting with a pang that it was easier. He winced. Did he really want this to get easier? He set his jaw. Easier, yes; unthinking, no. He never wanted to forget that a slight pressure on the trigger was all it would take to rob a family of a parent, a sibling, a child... No, a bit of reluctance wasn’t a bad thing, so long as it didn’t interfere with his ability to get the job done. So long as nobody died trusting him because his reluctance cost him a few crucial seconds. He closed his eyes, wondering whether Dick had gone through anything similar during his academy days, knowing that he must have.
He took a deep breath and finished loading the magazine. Then he slid it into the Beretta, aimed the gun at the cave wall and held it for a moment, before he lowered his arm and released the magazine. He repeated the exercise another five times, enough to know that his earlier success hadn’t been some sort of fluke; enough to know that he really could do this.
Then he went upstairs to check on Tim.
Raven had done her work well. As he looked down on the sleeping young man, Bruce noted that Tim’s breathing was deep and regular, with no trace of the wheeze he’d shown earlier. Bruce had no doubt that the bruises and broken bones were similarly healed. For an instant, in the dim light that filtered in through the venetian blinds, the youth looked again like the thirteen-year-old boy who had come into his life more than six years earlier.
Bruce smiled. He was free and Tim was alive. If the price he had to pay for those two achievements was having to dance to Sawyer’s tune for awhile, it was worth it. He resolved not to discuss that cost with Tim, though—and he hoped the others would do the same.
He closed the door quietly and headed for the nursery.
Helena was sleeping peacefully, her expression angelic. Bruce was hard-pressed to connect the vision before him now with his memory of the screaming toddler he’d left behind earlier in the evening. Selina had evidently been right: she had settled down once she knew that he’d left—it was only while he was leaving, while there was still a chance that he’d change his mind, that she was prone to tantrums. He reached out to brush a stray dark curl away from her face, but thought better of it. He didn’t want to wake her... much. No. No, Selina would kill him, and he hadn’t just survived Joker and Harley to be murdered by one of his allies.
She was waiting in the hallway when he shut the door silently behind him. “Everything okay?”
Bruce nodded. “How long did it take her to settle down after I left?”
Selina shrugged. “About a minute to stop howling... A little longer to stop sniffling. Pretty typical for a twenty-two-month-old, I’d say.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Bruce said, shaking his head. “Until now, the children I’ve raised have been a bit older when they came into my life.” His eyes flicked to the nursery door for a moment. “Are the terrible twos going to be as... difficult as billed?”
Selina laughed. “Bruce, my dear, I think you’ll find that our daughter is a bit advanced for her age. She’s already in them. And so far, you’re handling them just fine.”
“Right,” Bruce muttered, “If ‘just fine’ means second-guessing myself at every turn, trying to find a balance between accepting her... level of maturity for what it is and testing whether she’s capable of more, getting it wrong more often than ri—“
Smiling, Selina pressed her fingers to his lips. “Bruce... um... that’s called parenthood. Nobody gets it exactly right all the time, but between the two of us, I really think we’re doing a decent job.”
“Trust me.” Her green eyes sparkled as she took his arm and half-pulled, half-steered him away from the nursery door.
“Bruce sounded... good tonight,” Barbara remarked, as Dick walked into her workroom. “Like old times kind of good.”
Dick sat down next to her at the console. “Yeah, but it’s not old times,” he pointed out. “How long ago did you make that coffee?” he asked, gesturing toward the nearly-full carafe on the back counter.
Barbara looked at the time. “Maybe a half-hour ago,” she said slowly. “Maybe more... I don’t know. Try it, and if it’s no good, you can put a fresh pot on; I might be up for a while.” She sighed. “The JSA is fighting off an extra-terrestrial force in Reykjavik, of all places. Don’t those clowns know that everybody who’s anybody invades New York or Metropolis?”
Dick shrugged. “Maybe they’re trying to be trendsetters,” he said, getting up again. He poured a cup of coffee, took a tentative sip, shrugged, and walked back to the console with it. “Bruce is going to have a time of it, you know.”
Barbara frowned. “I saw the deputization order; it looked fine to me. You don’t mean to say he forged it?”
Dick blinked. “You really don’t know...?” He shook his head. “No, you wouldn’t; it’s not like it’s been broadcast all over the internet. No, the order’s legit, but...” He let out a long breath. “You know how Sawyer’s been trying for months to get Bruce onboard?”
As Dick continued to explain, Barbara’s eyes widened. “He’s got to go through the academy training? All of it?”
“If he passes the tests, he doesn’t have to take the courses,” Dick said, “but yeah.”
“So that whole ‘I’m-afraid-of-guns’ confession yesterday...” Barbara said, shaking her head. “He’s going to have to qualify with a firearm, isn’t he?”
“On the plus side,” Dick said, “he was able to load it tonight. That’s more than he could do yesterday.”
“Yeah, but is it going to be enough?”
“I don’t know,” Dick said heavily. “I... I just don’t know.”
Barbara regarded him solemnly for a moment. Then her lips curved in a half-smile, as she leaned over and patted his hand. “Hey,” she said brightly, “this could end up being something positive for him. And if not... it’s just until the hearing, right? That’s less than five months away.”
“Yeah,” Dick agreed, “if he can pass the psych evaluation.”
“Right.” Barbara thought for a moment. “Do you remember the kinds of questions they asked you?”
Dick closed his eyes. “Some of them, but Babs, that’s going back almost five years.” He made a face. “It felt like they grilled me for hours—about the only thing missing was the bright lights.”
“Did the BPD use a lie detector? I know we do here.”
Dick nodded. “That’s another thing; Bruce taught me how to fool one, but with everything else he’s been through recently, I don’t know if his bio-control is up to that.”
Barbara lifted her eyebrows. “Who says it has to be?”
“Seriously, Dick. What happens if he just tells them the truth?”
Dick gave her a horrified expression. “But they’ll...”
“What? Find out he’s Batman? Was Batman. Is Batman... I... You know what I mean. It’s not some deep dark secret anymore, Dick. It’s the reason Maggie wants him in the first place!”
Slowly, Dick smiled. “We’re still going to have to coach him, you know. And probably be prepared to get interviewed ourselves.”
Barbara shrugged with exaggerated nonchalance. “It’s not like I didn’t go through it with you, you know.” She grinned. “We’ll call Daddy in the afternoon. I bet between the three of us, we can put together a pretty good picture of what Bruce is going to be up against.”
It never mattered what time he went to bed. When the sun came up, so did Jim Gordon. Usually, he could still go back to sleep for a bit—when you’d served years, first as a cop and then later as commissioner of police, you learned to take naps when you could and be awake when you had to be. Over the last few weeks, however, something had changed.
He walked over to the computer and nudged the mouse to deactivate the screensaver. He looked at the window open on the screen and smiled.
I wasn’t sure if you’d be on this early, he typed.
The old rooster crowed nearly an hour ago, the reply came back a moment later. Chores don’t do themselves.
Jim smiled. I guess you have your son to thank for returning that rooster. Not to mention the rest of the coop. For a while there, I didn’t think Bruce would ever get the feathers out of the machinery.
There was a pause, while the image of a writing quill appeared in the Skrype window.
Actually, :”>, the rooster is an antique alarm clock on my night table. My day starts before his does. But I’m used to that. How’s your daughter these days, Jim?
Gordon smiled. Thrilled that I finally let her get this program onto my machine. He hesitated. Tone didn’t always come across well in the written word. She thinks you’re a good influence on me. Well, that or she’s hoping for more of those sunflower cookies...
There was a pause. Then the quill began to write again. As it happens, I was planning to do some baking today. Suppose I send a batch your way and you can share them out?
Jim shook his head smiling. Martha, I hope you know I wasn’t hinting at anything. I wouldn’t want you to go to all that trouble.
This time, Martha Kent’s response wasn’t long in coming. Oh, poppycock. The recipe will give me more than I could possibly eat on my own. I’m glad to send them off to folks who will enjoy them.
Jim’s smile widened as he replied. Well, if you’re sure. He hesitated. Her quill was moving again as he added, I can’t help wishing you could bring them in person.
The quill stopped. Then it started again. Planting season, I’m afraid. I have good help, but I still like to keep an eye on things. It would be nice, though, if you could come out here some time. How long until Bruce’s situation gets sorted out?
Jim sighed. Some time in July, as I understand it.
Oh. Well, five months isn’t really that long.
Jim chuckled. He could almost hear her voice saying the words. It won’t be, when we look back on it. Right now, though...
Yes. Well, I suppose I’d best check the hens. You have yourself a good day, Jim. Talk tomorrow?
He smiled. You too, Martha. Later.
He got up from the computer, musing that if things continued this way, between the two of them, Barbara Gordon and Martha Kent might just manage to drag him into the twenty-first century.
Cass was facing her worst opponent ever. Give her Joker. Give her Lady Shiva. Give her David Cain, even. Instead, she sat staring at a blank Word document. She looked at the list of essay topics on the sheet of paper next to the mouse pad.
1. What are the characteristics of a true friend?
2. Do you think boys or girls have it tougher in the world?
3. What kind of animal makes the best pet?
Cass rolled her eyes. These questions were... not exactly stupid, but not smart either. She read on. Then she blinked. That couldn’t be... she must have misread. No, she wasn’t wrong. The next question really was, ‘Should the death penalty be mandatory for people who kill other people?’
Her mouth went dry. She couldn’t answer that! She didn’t have to, though, she realized a moment later. There was going to be a choice of topics for the essay section. She didn’t have to answer this one—not even if it was on the real test.
She looked at the Word document.
The characteristics of a true friend are, she began. She hesitated. Loyalty, she typed after a pause. She closed her eyes. Also they should be kind. They should have, she read it over. This was... boring.
When a person kills, she typed slowly, we say he or she is a murderer. When a court kills, we say they do justice. But a court is still only people and people can make mistakes.
Sometimes, a person can kill by mistake. It is an accident. They do not mean it. But the other person is still dead. The person who killed by mistake should be punished. But killing them does not bring back the person they killed.
Her hands were shaking, she realized. But the thoughts wouldn’t stop coming.
If we say that a person who kills, even by accident, must get the death penalty, what do we do if the people in the court are wrong? If they make a mistake and the wrong person is killed, should we kill the judge or the... she hesitated, trying to remember the right word... jury who had them killed?
On television, when there is a trial, I hear people say that the defendant should get the death penalty. They say he or she should pay. They even say that he or she should die. But they never say kill. They never say that we should kill the defendant. I think because even if a person deserves to die, nobody really wants to be a murderer. Because becoming a murderer kills a part of you too.
If the court gives the death penalty, it makes it easier. Because the judge does not hold the weapon that kills. The person who gives the death penalty is often not in the room with the person getting it. She knew as much from the movies. Because of this distance it is easy to forget that we are taking a life. A life has value. The life of the person who died has value. But the life of the person who killed also does. Maybe some people do deserve to die. I don’t know. But I do know that nobody deserves to become a killer. Our lives have too much value for that.
Cass let out a long breath and hit the ‘print’ button. Tomorrow, she would show this to Doctor Arkham. She hesitated, then reread what she had written. She didn’t think she’d given away anything that would reveal her as Batgirl, but maybe she should show it to Barbara first. Just in case.
“You seem somewhat perturbed, Doctor Cinar,” Commissioner Sawyer remarked.
The police psychiatrist’s frown had deepened as their conversation had progressed. “I don’t understand what you’re trying to pull,” he said flatly. “You know Wayne’s history. He’s aggressive. Violent, even. More worrying, he’s spent two years in Arkham. And you want me to certify him fit for duty so we can stick a gun in his hand and a badge on his shirt?”
“Anger can be managed,” Sawyer pointed out. “Aggression channeled. And he was in Arkham for two years, yes. He’s out now. Frankly, we can use his expertise.”
“Then bring him in as a consultant. Let him teach advanced classes. But fieldwork?”
“Are you refusing to administer the evaluation, Doctor?”
Cinar shook his head. “No, Commissioner,” he said formally. “You want him tested, I’ll test him. But I can tell you right now that I’m not going to rubber-stamp my approval, just because you think he has what it takes. He’s going to have to convince me, first. And let me assure you, Sawyer, that’s going to be no easy matter.”
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