Friday, June 2, 2017

Chapter Ten: This Is Gotham

A Note About the GCPD: Just so no one gets confused, here's what's going on. Every character that is actually a police officer comes from some form of the Batman Mythology. The comics, the movies, and the cartoon TV series' are all fair game. Generally their rank will remain the same as they do in their regular appearances.

A Note About Gotham City: Again, I have to point this out. Nothing's off limits in this story. Comics, movies, TV series, anything. But I will let loose some (not all) of the stuff that will be referenced (as of right now) if readers want to see what whatever's from. So far big ones include: "Batman: The Long Halloween", "Batman: Dark Victory", "Robin: Year One", and "Batman Begins". Once again, readers do NOT have to have an inside knowledge of these books or movies to understand the story. I'm just putting it out there in case anyone's interested.


Chapter Ten: This Is Gotham

The office was mostly empty. No wonder, half the squad was at the bank. Ethan knew, though, that the Commissioner was still up on the roof. His car was still right outside and he'd wait till ol' Bats showed up. Grabbing a coat, Ethan walked up the steps. Gordon's figure stood looking up into the sky. The younger officer slightly wondered why Gordon would do such a thing. After all, they were pretty sure that Batman couldn't actually fly like Metropolis' Man of Steel. Maybe Gordon was caught up in the small sense of hope that they all had when they kept their fingers crossed.

"Why aren't you at the bank, Bennett?" Gordon asked, turning to him, the Bat-signal's light illuminating his face and front.

"Just got off from that Wayne Enterprises thing and Ellen's on her way. She had to stop at home for something and said she'd meet me here." Ethan said.

Gordon nodded and turned back away from Ethan. They never knew which way the Batman would come up to the rooftop, but Gordon always faced the signal. You couldn't even leave a bet like that to chance. The signal was where he looked out to.

"How long have you been waiting?" Ethan asked.

"Fifteen minutes."

"He late?"

"Compared to most times." Gordon answered.

He hated when the man was late. Batman was never late without good reason. Then again, good reason could mean trapped, fighting, or dead. Well, maybe not dead. Gordon just couldn't picture that. It made him fidget and want to grab a pack and start again. But he had quit smoking and Barbara hated it when he did. So he kept his head up and searched the sky. There was a whip of fabric in the wind and Ethan swiftly turned around to see Batman's imposing figure. Like a demon or a vampire. Cool.

Gordon spun around at the sound, "You're here."

"You sound surprised."

"No, you're just normally..." Gordon searched for the right words, "... Here sooner."

"I had to deal with something. What is Freeze threatening?" Batman asked.

While Ethan blinked at hearing that Batman already knew it was Freeze, Gordon continued on the conversation, "He's got the bank inside fortress of ice crystal. The people inside are getting hypothermia and he keeps threatening to kill them off or make it worse."

"What does he want?" Batman asked.

"To walk out with the money. No real reason for it," Gordon answered.

"So there's no real reason why we shouldn't go stop him?"

Gordon and Ethan both spun this time around to see another figure, a brighter one. Gordon turned back to Batman in surprise and then back to Robin.

"I'd say long time no see, but I only saw you a month or so ago?" Gordon remarked, with a questioning in his voice.

"Well I'll say it then, 'long time no see'!" Ethan answered.

"Thanks. It's good to see you too, Bennett, but we'll talk more once we stop Freeze. Want to give me the download?" Robin asked.

Batman couldn't begin to fathom how it was that teenagers could make that sound 'cool', but when an adult used it, they sounded like they were part of some cheesy movie.

Gordon brought him out of his trance, "He's back, so soon?"

Batman sighed, "Yes, temporarily."



"Why only temporarily?" Gordon asked.

While he never liked to meddle with what was mostly Batman's decisions, he couldn't help but draw back on old memories. Ones where Robin had first come in. Ones where Robin had just left. And then the last time he had been here briefly. And now 'Only temporarily'? He hated how Batman could be like a computer sometimes. No emotion could distinguish whether the man was happy or sad about that or even if the man didn't care.

"He's here to help with the homicides. We believe there might be a link to some crimes occurring in Jump City," Batman answered.

So blunt. He glanced over. Robin had grown a bit, hadn't he? When Robin had left, while already incredibly strong, still looked pretty scrawny, even though Gordon guessed, that was probably genetics. But now, he could see that Robin was maturing a bit. His muscles were more prominent and his jaw had jutted out a bit more, the result of his kid face growing out of that stage of life.

"He has to go back to the Titans?" Gordon asked.

"When this is over, he will," Batman told him.

Was that because Batman wanted him to or because Robin wanted to? He hoped it wasn't the former. Ethan finally turned to Gordon and Robin did the same.

"Ready?" Batman asked.

Robin's stance shifted only slightly. But only so slightly. Only Batman saw it, "Yeah."

"We'll be off then," Batman turned his back away. Who knew how long those people would have to be in the hospital now? "Good evening, Commissioner Bennett."

The two vigilantes dived off the roof and into darkness. Ethan let out a laugh, "That kid, he sure is something."

Gordon walked over to Bat-signal where light surrounded the edges of the Bat on top. The light was just so bright, but once it was gone, everything would be engulfed in darkness on the roof. He sighed and turned it off.

"Yeah, he's something," he answered, and they both swiftly went down and out to their cars where Ellen was waiting for them.

Time ticked away.

Resembling the Fortress of Solitude, the bank was encased from the inside. Impossible. Robin scanned around the building and met Batman on the other side.

"There's no way to access it on this side, your's?" he asked.

"Nothing," Batman answered.

"The roof?"


"What about from underneath?" Robin suggested.

Batman used the digital hand held to search above and get the city construction lay outs. There was a way to get in from above, nothing below. It figures, why put a bank underneath a pipe anyway?

"The roof's the only option," Batman announced and Robin sighed.

"That's a trap," He stated. Great. He hated traps. Why did they always have to be traps?

Batman looked over at Robin for a moment and Robin looked back, "Wait a minute... You want to..."

"I'll go into the trap, while he's distracted, free everyone subtly," Batman told him.

"He's ready to flash freeze everybody. There's no way that he wouldn't do the same to you," Robin shot back.

"Freeze likes to talk. He'll keep me awake to let himself talk," Batman responded.

"He took up the talking routine?" Robin asked, an eyebrow raised.

"Sadly," Batman answered, almost regretting the fact. Those talks could be quite boring...

"Fine, let's go," Robin said, as though being resigned to another fate.

They grappled over, reminding Robin of when Speedy would slide from buildings on a rope and bow. Turning on the spikes of his shoes, Robin easily got over the ice crystal before Batman, his youth once again an advantage. There were sirens blaring around them. They could hear Sawyer yelling out at Freeze, hopefully distracting him from Batman and Robin's ascension into the bank.

Batman opened up the vent. It was so small compared to him. Robin nodded over and pointed to himself. Batman shook his head. As the Dark Knight disappeared, Robin could hear the quiet, few sounds of ever so careful movements. He cringed and he knew that Batman must being so as well. The vent was so small. After ten or fifteen seconds, Robin also lowered himself inside. Already, it was extremely cold and, annoyingly slippery. He kept his mouth shut, though. He could only barely make out Batman ahead of him.

But that was enough. At least, it was enough to see Batman stop. He'd choose the first slightly visible but unlikely place to get out. Freeze would expect it. Opening the vent slowly, Batman got out and began to hide in the shadows. Robin held his breath. Hopefully Freeze wouldn't...

"Batman!" No such luck.

Inside the bank, the walls were blue with frost and people shuddered madly. They had to get to a hospital. Batman faced Freeze openly.

"Let them go, Freeze," He ordered.

"Now who are you to be giving orders?" He held up his hands, the big suit of his clunking around.

Batman dodged as Mr. Freeze sent ice crystals hurling out his way. He attempted to get to the hostages, but Freeze soon caught one part of him. The cape. It was always the cape, wasn't it? While it didn't stop him, it certainly slowed Batman down and Freeze eventually hit the man's shoes and began to work his way up. From the waist down, Batman couldn't move.

"That really was very rude of you, you know," Freeze answered.

Batman merely growled. He reached for his belt, but Freeze wouldn't have any of that. Freezing everything except for Batman's head and neck, he got all of Batman's full and undivided attention. And thus Freeze returned the favor and focused on tormenting his captive enemy with obvious delight. All of this plus, he was getting paid to do it. Things couldn't be better than this.

Robin tensed, but knew it was his turn to get out there. As Freeze talked, he crawled away from the already opened vent. It got tighter, but he was okay with that. He could still move. Finally, he found a vent behind a column and ducked out. Quietly, he glanced around, satisfied when he saw Freeze still focused on Batman. Creeping around, he caught site of the first worker. They were half-conscience, but when they saw Robin, their eyes opened wider. He hushed them with a finger to his lips and he slowly cut with a tiny laser their ice encased hands.

He stopped when the layer was so thin, the accountant could break it easily, even in their weakened state. After holding a hand to motion them to wait, Robin continued onward. Freeze kept talking, mouthing up a storm about how he would finally defeat the great Batman. While at the moment, Robin wasn't entirely concerned with how Batman was doing, knowing that Batman's suit was keeping him alive only for a short amount of time. Freeze would willingly entirely freeze Batman.

"And now, after all these years, you'll meet your demise for a stupid bank robbery. This is what will be your downfall," Freeze announced.

Robin could tell Batman was ready to smack Freeze. Now he just had to blast a hole in the doorway. If he could do this without alerting Freeze... He gently tossed the few mini bombs at the door. They clattered on the icy surface. Freeze turned, suddenly surprised.


Robin activated the bombs. They exploded sending smoke and ice everywhere. Robin ran back and began to help the weakest get out first. He could hear the GCPD outside, urging people to get away and getting ready to get the hostages out. Batman immediately increased the heat in his suit and struggled to get out at the first chance he got. When the smoke dispersed, Freeze caught sight of Robin.

"You? You!" He lashed out sending ice crystals his way.

Robin dodged out of the way, but icicles began to litter the ceiling and the floor. Batman broke free within seconds and began an attempt to get Freeze's focus back on him. Meanwhile, Robin continued to help the hostages.

"Get out, go!" He yelled, when he heard the sound of ice crystals thickening.

Turning, he saw Batman fighting Freeze. Running forward, Robin leaped onto Freeze's back and began to pull out cords keeping Mr. Freeze's ice-suit from working, but also earning an alarmed look from Batman.

"No! You little..." Batman caught him off guard with a sharp upper cut to the face and Freeze went down.

Batman glanced at Robin, but Robin refused to look the look. He knew what would come later. But he was distracted when flashbulbs started to pop in his face. He looked over, horrified. No! There were photographers everywhere. Taking pictures. Of Batman and him. Of Batman and Robin. No, no, no! Batman gave them no heed and walked out, grappling away. Robin felt a knot in his stomach churn for the second time that night. Great. He then grappled away as well. It was the end of a very long night and not just for them. In the smoky remains of the townhouse, Slade gazed down at the damage. Trigon had taught him one thing. Devastation was indeed, sometimes necessary.

But fatigue and the needs of the human body could demand so much of one's attention. The next morning, Bruce was in the dining room eating eggs and Alfred's famous hash-browns when Dick came down, furious.

"You know how perfect this is?" He asked, throwing down the newspaper in front of his Guardian.

On the front page in big bold letters it read "DYNAMIC DUO BACK!" and below there was one of the millions of photos that were taken last night.

"The only draw back is that there's no longer that element of surprise, which would have been lost anyway once Freeze got back to Arkham," Bruce said in a rather sarcastic and blunt way.

Dick scrunched up his face, "That's not funny, Bruce. I'm being serious."

"And this conversation doesn't get anything done," Bruce commented.

Dick felt a fury build up, "So I'm not allowed to voice disappointment or annoyance?"

"You mean complain? Well, yes. You were the one who decided to come back here and honestly, you shouldn't be so wrapped up in yourself," Bruce told him, drinking down a glass of juice.

Dick was taken back, but Bruce continued, "Otherwise you would have gotten past page one and seen the devastation done to Mrs. Clara Thompson and her townhouse last night."

Dick took the paper back violently and flipped open to the next page to see the article about the woman. She was a widow and lived alone. But last night, somehow, her house went ablaze and she was lost to the smoking inferno. Dick down and bent his head down. They'd lost another person.

"It proves your theory though," Bruce said, taking that as a positive note, but barely, "These people are using others for distractions."

Dick didn't look up and instead he sat down and waited for Alfred to bring in a dish, "Guess I'm proving a lot to you, aren't I?"

Bruce didn't acknowledge him and Dick was positive that he was right. The man wasn't a fan of how he had worked last night. Tackling Freeze so 'recklessly', yeah, Bruce was really impressed. Alfred brought out his dish and could automatically sense the tension in the room.

"Master Bruce, Fox just called, wants to have a word with you about that security system WayneTech's been working on," Alfred said as he put down a fresh waffle in front of them both.

"Thanks, Alfred," Bruce said, taking another sip.

"Did you sleep well, Master Dick?" Alfred asked, turning his attention to the younger of the two.

"Pretty good, thanks," Dick replied.

"That's good," Alfred answered back and then he turned back to finish his conversation with Bruce. "I told Fox that you'd be down there this afternoon. Why don't you have Dick go along with you? With a project that interesting, it may be useful to show him."

"Show me what?" Dick asked.

"It's a security system that Gotham City's buying to upgrade their file protection for things like social security and permanent records, stuff like that." Bruce said, "You don't have to deal with any Titans business do you?"

"No. They can handle things themselves," Dick said coolly.

Bruce nodded.


There would always be brighter mornings to say the least. Jump City's mornings were always warm. It was like a rule. They couldn't go below forty degrees Fahrenheit. But that also meant that it was always slightly muggy. Raven felt her turtleneck grab at her skin. She hated this. It felt like Trigon's domain. The sun was barely making its presence known. It wasn't yet over the horizon. She was on patrol because she couldn't take the night. Too many nightmares. And thankfully, flying could always ease her worries. It did that to everyone.

At this hour, most people were asleep. But she could feel the emotions of those who were still up. A male in his forties was angry that he had to go to work this early in the morning. A husband was coming home to a worried wife. Some college students were coming back home from a long party. A child was sleeping and dreaming a wonderful, innocent dream. She was knocked from her present state of hypnosis from a sound coming from a dirty alley way.

A trash can got knocked over and she heard the ripping of the trash bags. Yelling. She slowly got down low and landed. She blended herself into the shadows. There didn't seem to be anyone there. There was only light from the slowly coloring sky and a street lamp at the end of the alley perpendicular to the one she herself was in. This didn't bother her. But still, she could have sworn...

Raven gasped as she felt her mouth being covered and her hood being pulled down over her head. Someone kicked her back and she grunted painfully. This certain annoying someone then grabbed her wrists and wrestled them behind her.

"Take me to the tower," He told her roughly.

Raven shook her head and he gripped her wrists tighter, "You owe me, come on!"

Raven eyes widened beneath the hood and she muffled her response. She could get free anytime. But who was this guy? He let go of her wrist and lifted his hand to her face and pulled off the gag. Whipping around, Raven saw the black, red, and white mask facing her. She heard yelling. Something about getting him. She hit the alarm on her communicator and then allowed for the cold encasement trap her.

Within moments, she and Red X dropped to the floor of the main room. Red X, who wasn't used to this, panted and attempted to shake off the bone-chilling sensation, only to find his hands surrounded by Raven's telekinetic energy. Perfect.

"You didn't think I'd just teleport you here to let you run ramped, did you?" Raven asked with an air of satisfaction about her.

"Not really," Red X answered.

Almost as though on cue, the other three Titans raced into the room, all jerked from their beds and still looking thoroughly shaken by the alarm.

"Raven, what the...?" Cyborg started, but at the sight of Red X stopped, "Oh, goody."

"You caught the Red X, friend Raven?" Starfire asked in disbelief.

"Who says I'm caught?" Red X asked indignantly.

Beast Boy snorted, "Dude, you're in a cage. Not like you can really get away."

"All right, so my circumstances are dim. But at least they're better than they are out there," Red X gestured to a window.

They all glanced in the direction of his gesture and then back at him, "All right then, X, we give, what's so bad about 'out there'?"

Red X looked torn between his pride and his will to live, but answered honestly to Cyborg, "Remember the other night? Well, basically, Kitten put the word out that it was all my fault that you were there last night. She's basically going ballistic because I wasn't paying attention to her."

"Don't blame ya," Beast Boy added.

"Well, it doesn't exactly help me now. Someone's put a bounty on my head for it, or rather whoever told you guys about Zenith's," Red X told them, "And you owe me. I need to lay low."

"And you expect us to let you just hang out here in Titan's Tower?" Raven asked in disbelief.

"Would you mind?" Red X asked.

"Forgive us, but yes," Starfire replied, "And Robin would not approve of such a thing."

Perhaps it was because this was the first time that Red X noticed that Robin wasn't present, but he seemed generally happier, "Look, I'll make you a deal, you have anything, anyplace that you can put me on lock down? I don't really care. I'll give you the belt and I'll stay there whenever you guys get bored of playing watchdog, how's that sound?"

The four Titans looked at one another, wondering what on earth they were supposed to do with this guy who was practically begging to be locked up. Raven glanced at him and Red X gave her a very blank but very 'you owe me, be guilty' sort of look as well. She sighed.

"We could put him in the lock-down room. The one that you guys kept me in when Trigon attacked," Raven suggested, "Either way we might just have to send him to jail anyway."

"Raven, what are you doing?" Beast Boy asked, "This creep..."

"Gave us information," She used her telekinesis to take the belt away from it's possessor, "Let him keep the mask and just take him to the room. I'm tired."

With that Raven handed Red X over to Cyborg and slowly walked out of the room. The remaining Titans looked at each other and then at Red X who seemed very pleased with himself. That is, until Cyborg gave him the pep talk.

"You realize what you've gotten yourself into?" He asked.

Red X shrugged, "Two chicks nearby, a safe house, and uh, free pizza?"

At the former, Starfire gave off a resounding 'humph' and stormed off, but Beast Boy could only let his smile broaden wider, "Not really, what you got is Stankball and lots of it."

Red X looked at the two Titans like they were crazy, "What?"

If only he had thought this all the way through. If only, if only, if only. But he didn't and now he was in for who knows what. Come on, what on earth is 'Stankball'? Red X shuddered. He sort of didn't want to know.


Dick sort of just kind of wished that he wasn't riding in the limousine down to WayneTech or was in a suit. Dick hated tuxes. They always grabbed at his throat and the tie wasn't exactly very welcome, either. Not that he'd actually say anything about it. Bruce would call it immature. Or rather, he wouldn't say it, he'd just give one of those oh-so-famous looks. And come to think of it, it was immature for someone his age.

Adjusting himself in his seat, Dick glanced out the window as the limo slowed to a halt. There was still a dull overcast left over from yesterday that just begged to cry. WayneTech was, granted, much cooler than Wayne Tower. There were more practical uses for the building and there were a lot less offices. But of course an office would be their first stop. Bruce got out and led the way into the building, heading on a course that only he would be able to remember because no one but Bruce would waste his time remembering the layout of all of the buildings he owned. But Dick couldn't blame him. Batman had to stop burglaries down here all the time. They really needed to upgrade their...

"Mr. Wayne! Dick!"

Dick finally looked up to see the familiar face of Lucius Fox, "Hi, Mr. Fox."

The man smiled and replied, "Haven't seen you in a while. Do you like that school I recommended?"

"Oh, yeah, it's great, really," Dick said, feigning happiness.

Bruce cleared his throat. He didn't want this to take too long, "Lucius, you said that Project Firewall is functional?"

"Oh, uh, yes," Lucius looked back up at his employer, "We just ran it this morning. Brought in the best hackers and stealth experts. It's full-proof. Care for a demonstration?"

"You know me, Lucius," Bruce answered, as though looking for popcorn for the upcoming show.

"Very well, it's right down the hall," Fox motioned the two and led the way.

Dick's curiosity had already been peaked, "So what's the big deal with this security project?"

"You mean he hasn't told you yet?" Fox asked, looking at Bruce in question.

"Ah, well, I didn't want to bore him with what's going on with work," Bruce quickly answered, yet somehow, that playboy mask stayed tightly in place.

"Oh, uh, in that case, it's a top-notch project. When Gotham's City board saw the proto-types, they instantly took a hand at it. So WayneTech sold them the first set to be installed into all of their files, buildings, and such. It's quiet an advancement. Hopefully it will prevent a couple break outs in places like Arkham, though I don't think that Blackgate will need it..." Lucius trailed off in thought.

"So when you say 'firewall' it acts just like the name, right?" Dick asked, bringing Fox back to the here and now.

"Basically yes," The three of them got to the demonstration room and Fox continued, "It's a wall. Nothing can get in or out after it's set up. So it acts both as a cage and also like a gate. Unless proper license is used, files and high security buildings will be impenetrable."

As they watched the demonstration and it's impressive results, Dick further questioned, "Couldn't that be a bad thing?"

"No, no, it can't be misused unless the codes are given to someone untrustworthy. Even then, there's an override system built in that only WayneTech can dismantle and or use. Like it?" Fox asked.

"Can I get it for my laptop?" Dick asked, "You'd never believe how many dollar-eyed girls have found my email address."

"How many what...?" Bruce started.

Fox, however, laughed, "Unfortunately, I don't think this is the type of software you're looking for, Dick."

Apparently over the sudden revelation, Bruce complimented Fox, "This is outstanding, Lucius. I'll call the Mayor and Commissioner Gordon. They'll be thrilled about it. And you'll email me the stats on Firewall and those other projects?"

"Of course, Mr. Wayne," Lucius answered, "Oh, by the way, Detectives Yin and Bennett commented yesterday that you might want to take into consideration some extra security for this project because of Gotham's interest. Apparently, the Mayor mentioned it to Gordon."

"I'll call around. I might have a cousin who does that sort of thing," Bruce mentioned.

"Wait, you have a cousin?' Dick asked.

"Not sure," Bruce pondered it for a moment, "Ah, well, suppose I'll get it done eventually."

"I'm sure you will Mr. Wayne," Fox told him, "You know the way out, I presume?"

"Yes, thank you, Fox; I really appreciate this," Bruce told the genius and Dick realized how much stress this could possibly remove from Bruce's shoulders, "We'll see you around."

"See ya, Fox!" Dick called as he and Bruce walked away.

"Enjoy your break!" Fox called back.

Fox walked back to his office and began pulling up files to send to Bruce. He had to admit, most would say that Bruce wasn't a fantastic boss, but he did genuinely seem interested in what was going on. And goodness knows, they needed this updated security in Gotham. So much so that the crazy 'freaks', as many would call them, might actually stay in Arkham and Blackgate. So the freaks wouldn't have reason to wait for the little drizzle that would turn into a pounding rain. So the freak wouldn't kill the guards and waltz right out and into the open.

Because it seemed to happen everyday.

It was happening right...


The doors burst open knocking several SWAT members to the ground, unconscious from the impact. The smoke slowly drifted to the sides. There was barely a sound. At least, not until the other SWAT members breathed in the smoke. Someone giggled. Another snickered. Three fell into fits of laughter and more were on the way. They laughed like there was no tomorrow. Like someone had repeated every inside joke they knew and sent them into hysterics. Then they coughed. They couldn't breathe. They tried to stop laughing. But they only stopped when they had passed out and laid on the ground , wide grins plastered onto their faces.

"Aw, why'd you stop?"

Gordon knew this too well. What came next... The insane laughter. The one that laughed as he murdered an entire onslaught of people. As he scalped his best friend. As he robbed a bank and shot his accomplices. He loved to do it so much, he just... had to laugh.

"HAHaHAHahaHaHAHahaHAHahaha!" The Ace of Knaves bounded forward, that insufferable wide grin cemented to his ghastly face, his green hair in a mess of curls and waves, unkempt for so long.

Gordon knew what would happen next, "Joker! You're surrounded, get down on the ground!"

"Surrounded?" Joker asked and he looked around as though playing dumb, "I'm not surrounded, I can just walk over you!"

Gordon didn't want to see what Joker had planned now. The man took out a pair of yo-yos, adjusted them, and began to use them. And by use them, he used them to knock the tranquilizer guns (due to court orders, they couldn't use regular guns on Joker, to many people's dismay) out of the remaining police officers and swing over the cops into the open. How did he even get yo-yos? Gordon looked at Sawyer and Bullock who were both as stunned as he was.

"Sawyer, take a unit out to try to find him! Bullock, get those SWAT members to Gotham General Hospital! They need help fast!" Gordon ordered, "Is anyone at the police station?"

"Flass might be, but Ethan is sir," Yin came forward, "He had to wrap up with the..."

"Call him, tell him to turn Bat-signal on," Gordon interrupted, "I'm not waiting on this one. Flass better not hold him up..."

But it was too late. It almost always was with that one. Joker leaped through the air, using the yo-yos like the mad man that he was. The rain poured down his broken straight jacket.

This was Gotham.

Finally, he landed on a dilapidated outer staircase. Stepping in through a window, the Joker began to make himself at home when his host spoke.

"It took you long enough."

"Oh don't rush me! You know how much I like to get away from it all in Arkham," Joker brushed off, "It's an insane asylum!"

"And a happy hotel! Don't forget that one," Joker added, hanging up the straight jacket on a hook as though it was a normal business coat, "Besides, you know you're happy to see me."

"Don't kid yourself. I'm no happier to see you than you are of me." Came the depressed sort of moan.

"Ah, come on that's..." Joker stopped when his host turned around in his chair.

He was very handsome. Clean cut, nice shave, neat appearance. He was hideous. The skin on his face threatened to peel off instantly and his hair stuck up as though he had been electrocuted and his clothes looked like that out of a freak show that had been washed in mud. Two-Face glared at him.

"Alright, you got me there, but come on Harv', the night is young in Gotham! Plenty to steal and plunder!" Joker exclaimed.

"You're an idiot," Two-Face barked.

"And you're a party-pooper. Doesn't stop me from liking you."

Harvey Dent's eyes narrowed as he reached for a pocket in his jacket, "You don't like me."

Joker smiled, "You're right... I don't!"

He reached out of his pocket and in an instant the two both had loaded guns pointed at each other's heads. How many times had they done this?


"Well how original is this?"

"Not very."

The two maniacs looked across the room to see a third party presence. He hid in the shadows and kept his gaze focused on them, not in the least bit intimidated by the Gotham terrorists. Almost as if in some weird comedy, Joker and Two-Face looked at each other and then quickly turned both their guns at the intruder.

"Come on out, Bats, we won't hurt you," Joker teased.

"How flattering, but I'm not the Batman," Their guest stepped forward into the light, "Honestly though, I could have shot you both. What kind of amateurs are you?"

Two-Face wrinkled his nose at the insult, but Joker just laughed in recognition, "You! The guy from Luthor's gig. What's up? I love your threads. Much better in these lines of work."

"Deathstroke the Terminator?" Harvey asked.

"I go by Slade," He told them, "And I'm conducting some business in Gotham."

"Oh! What kind of business?" There was a blank but interested look on Joker's white face, but Two-Face couldn't help but show his hesitancy.

"I'm not disclosing that information. I just want to make a deal with the two of you," Slade said, striding forward and between the two of them.

"And what can we offer that interests you?" Two Face asked.

"Oh, nothing really, except your... rank in this city," Slade answered, "I need the Batman and his partner alive, for the time being."

"And what makes you think we'll agree to that?" Harvey responded.

"Wait, his partner? That doesn't even fall under our territory! The baby bird's in California!" Joker exclaimed.

Two-Face rolled his eyes, "Forgive him, he hasn't caught up on the latest news."

"What do you...?" Two-Face threw a paper with the Dynamic Duo on the cover at Joker, "Oh... never mind."

Two-Face directed his attention back to Slade. He didn't like this man. He just didn't. Anyone that the Joker took to instantly was someone to be avoided. He'd heard of Deathstroke. And he didn't like everything that he heard. He was like The Demon's Head. If you didn't have all of the information up front, why trust them?

"You never answered my question," Harvey continued.

"Well, it's not really like I'm here to compromise or negotiate," Slade told him, "I'm here to... reason."

"Reason! Ha!" Joker laughed, "Reason doesn't exactly compute with me."

"What's the opposite of you Joker? Sanity? Or insanity with a drive to preserve humanity?" Slade asked.

"Well that's easy!" Joker replied. "The Bat..."

"The Batman, exactly," Slade finished. "So what happens when you kill the opposition?"

Joker's eyes suddenly narrowed, "You... You! Oh, I like you."

"No more Batman. No more games. No more fun," Slade allowed, voicing the realization, "I'm just asking that you not set your sights on Robin. I'm planning a big game, but we need him alive to play it."

Tapping his chin in mock thought, Joker revealed his teeth, "All right, you win, I like games."

Slade smiled underneath his mask. The easy part was done. He had already known that Joker would never kill Batman. He wanted to let the 'game' be on-going. The point of that was just so Joker didn't feel like he was being outdone or his city would fear someone other than himself more. Now for the hard part. Two-Face.

"So you want to keep the Dynamic Duo alive. For what purpose? For what 'game'?" Two-Face questioned.

"Oh no, it's not a game. It's never a game. I just want your word that you'll keep your distance. Just lay low for the next month or two. I'll make it worth your wild," Slade answered.

These two men both had appearances split down the middle. And both understood the duality of knowledge and character. It was a battle of wits. Slade knew that Two-Face could never turn down a bet. He knew that Two-Face was indeed two people, Two-Face and Harvey Dent. He had to play to each of these two people's needs when the timing was right. It was all about timing.

"Sounds like a intriguing bet," Harvey said in good heart, "Let's flip for it. Scarred, I don't have to do anything. Clean, I'll lay low."

Intriguing was not the best word for Two-Face to describe Slade as. More like a question. Repressing a fear that this man may very well act like Riddler, Two-Face took out the scarred lucky double headed quarter. Placing it on his finger, he was about to flip it when Slade interrupted him.

Oh how he loved to pull all of the strings, "Harvey Dent's first real case was the 'Holiday' killer, was it not?"

Two-Face looked up, "What do I care?"

"I'm not flipping for this," Slade announced.

Harvey seethed, "But everyone plays."

"I'm not."

Two-Face's anger finally manifested itself outright. Yeah, he didn't like Slade at all, "Every. One. Plays."

"Not the ones who have figured out the Holiday case. I know who was Holiday, Dent. I know it wasn't just Alberto Falcone or you," Slade stated.

"There was Gilda Dent too."

Two-Face's eyes shot up and Joker laughed insanely, "Oh, this is getting good!"

"You leave my wife out of this," Harvey barked.

"Then stay out of harms way," Slade ordered, "I'm going. If I hear anything, see anything from you two that I don't approve of, there will be no games and Gilda won't get that fair trial."

Joker smiled, "Oh, you know how to play your cards, Slade. Any chance we can play again?"

"Perhaps," Slade answered over his shoulder.

Two-Face looked at the mercenary. There was something that just bothered him. Batman and Robin. Batman AND Robin. Robin. There was something that wasn't right here.

"You're from Jump City, right?" He asked.

Slade barely nodded. Robin had been in Jump City. He could tell something wasn't as it seemed. He wasn't here because of Batman. The two appearances couldn't be coincidence. Was there a... grudge? He couldn't tell.

Harvey continued, "You're playing with the big boys now. Robin and his Titans are mere practice compared to the Dark Knight. Are you nervous?"

Slade let out a low chuckle, "Two-Face, Two-Face, Two-Face. I am the 'big boys'."

With that, Slade walked over to the window and dove off the balcony and into the alley way below. Two-Face went to the window and looked out. Not a trace. There was no denying it, Harvey was a bit confounded by Slade's attitude. But then again, Deathstroke was a force to be reckoned with. Going back inside, Joker was squatting on top of a chair, gleefully balancing on the thing that would surely break soon.

"You have to admit, he's good," Joker commented, the grin distinctly wider than normal and his red and yellow eyes wide in expansion.

Two-Face only sneered at his guest while Slade smiled as he held Gotham in his pocket.

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