Something Old, Something New, Something Barking, Something Blue
The room was dark, small and cramped; she barely had the space to spread her legs from her position on the floor. She sat up, hands going out to test the darkness. The walls were slowly, silently and steadily closing in on her, making the already small enclosure that much smaller. This would not do and she had no intention of being killed in such a manner.
Gloved fingers lightly moving across the walls, she found a doorway’s ridge. Tracing it, her fingers soon examined the lock on the door. There was no handle on the inside and there was no keyhole to let in light. Ear pressed to it, she listened to any sounds from outside – there was no noise. She moved back, recognizing the soft whirring noises within the electrical lock; the lock was breakable.
Backing up as much as she could in the even smaller space, she spun and built up momentum before her elbow hit the locking panel. A second hit and the panel fully broke. Reaching in, she felt around and pulled the wire that Tim had shown her in practice. The door silently slid open and she immediately stepped out, ready to fight.
There had not been anyone to fight, the place was empty. There were other locked door panels similar to the one she’d broken out of. Opening them, she found that the inside walls had fully closed in, nothing and no one left inside. There were finger scratches on some walls, as if those trapped inside had tried to claw their way out. There were signs that some prisoners had been meta human from the burns, scorch marks and other signs of power used to try to escape.
It was seeing the batarang in the wall of a room that gave her pause. Someone she knew had been trapped into the room. She took the batarang out of the wall and held it on her palm. She knew all too well who it belonged to. The room had been locked, with no sign of an escape made; the batarang was on the wrong side of the door. The evidence could not be refuted – the batarang’s owner had not escaped and it was a heartbreaking realization.
It was the sound of a dull and repeated muffled thudding that broke her out of her grieving tears. She got up and started running towards the source of the noise. Someone was still alive within one of the locked rooms. Following the noise, she reached the right door and quickly unlocked the panel. The door slid open and a white furred form instantly came out, the walls inside snapping close.
She knelt down by the exhausted Dog of Steel. ‘Krypto,’ she softly said, stroking the agitated dog over and over to get him calm. Superman’s loyal dog eventually closed his eyes, giving in to sleep. Leaving Krypto, she finished opening the rooms, searching for any other survivors. There weren’t any though she did find two plain gold wedding bands in a room and a photo in another. The photo and rings were pocketed as she moved down, copying the characters engraved outside each door. The characters were incomprehensible to her; none of the characters were the same but they had to be clues as to who’d been taken if they were indeed each individual’s name as she suspected.
Going around, she found no means of escape or could find out how she’d been placed there. There were only four corridors that closed in on itself in a square. There were just the rooms of death and no other doors and she looked hard in case it was hidden. Unable to find anything, she sat down on the floor by the sleeping Krypto. Perhaps Krypto would be able to help them both escape once he’d rested and recovered. She curled up around near Krypto, her jacket used as a pillow and the batarang in reaching distance.
Krypto nudged her awake an indeterminate time later. She sat up, Krypto still nudging her pocket. She took out the two rings from inside it and he mournfully whined, nosing the rings. She studied the rings closer – they were plain and worn but Krypto knew who they belonged to it seemed. Who would Krypto know who was married?
She guessed, ‘Superman’s mother? Is this smaller ring hers?’ He whined further. She tried, ‘Superman’s first girlfriend with red hair? Or is it the reporter? Lois?’ Krypto barked, tail wagging. ‘Lois Lane?’ Again, Krypto barked at the name. She had no idea why Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s rings were here and not with them but it did not bode well. Troubled, she pocketed the rings again and slung her jacket back on, picking the batarang up as she stood up. Limbs shaken out and stretched, she patted Krypto’s head. ‘Smell fresh air and the way out, Krypto,’ she said.
Following Krypto as he sniffed around, she took stock. Her only actual weapon was the single batarang and she did not have her uniform on, wearing her civvies save for her uniform boots and her gloves. She recalled that she’d been about to get dressed for patrol when she had heard an intruder. She’d grabbed her boots, gloves, utility belt and her mask, not having the time to put her uniform on. The utility belt and mask had been taken in the time she’d been unconscious and had woken up in the room.
She paused, looking down. There was a slim silver chain to her left ankle that she hadn’t had before and had just noticed. She was sure that it hadn’t been there before she had fallen asleep. Crouching, she studied the anklet. It was made of extremely fine silver chain links with no clasp, seamlessly soldered on. As soon as she tugged it to attempt to yank it off, at her very touch, the anklet had a matching silver chain appear leading off from it and away from her. She had been chained and shackled in her sleep. As soon as she let go, the chain disappeared, anklet remaining.
A whistle and Krypto came by her side. Anklet touched again, she grasped the reappeared chain and stood up, following it to its source. She was led back to the room she’d broken out of, the chain going up to the ceiling. An experimental tug on the chain and there was very little give.
Perhaps as she had escaped from inside, the room was the only one that hadn’t closed in as the others. She climbed up a corner of two walls until her strong legs and thighs wedged her body up by the ceiling. Krypto hovered up to near her where he watched her with curiosity.
‘Lucky,’ she murmured to him, momentarily envying his gift of flight. Focusing back on the ceiling, she shifted her balance to reach out to explore the spot in the ceiling where the chain led up to. It wasn’t solid under her touch, pliant under her touch. A few yanks and it grew into a hole that let in light and fresh air. Krypto gripped an edge in his jaws and pulled hard, making a hole more than large enough for her to go through. She immediately went up and through.
Lying on her stomach on the floor by the hole, she reached down and helped pull Krypto. Scarcely was he clear when the hole closed up. Wriggling in her arms, Krypto yipped and affectionately licked her face.
She smiled despite herself, hugging Krypto close. ‘I would not have left you behind.’
Rather surprisingly, Krypto and she had appeared out of their imprisoned area next to where Barbara’s old clock tower home used to be. It was nearing dawn as Krypto and she headed for the main Batcave. If she was lucky, she’d be able to get food from Alfred. Just thinking of his food made her stomach rumble with hunger. She’d have access to a spare uniform there, as well as being able to get help in understanding what had happened. She also had to tell someone about what had happened to the owner of the batarang.
Entering her destination with ease, she found it empty. Krypto immediately flew up to the giant dinosaur, baring his teeth at it. Back from getting into her spare uniform, she found him barking at the monitors set up. She frowned as she neared the monitors. Alarms were going off non-stop.
Alarms were blaring from within Gotham and a great deal more from outside of it. It was normal for a few alarms to go off but not so many and all unanswered. Sitting down in front of the monitor, she started to go through the emergency situations by looking at the newest calls coming in by flicking through the live news reports.
‘Metropolis is being invaded by...The Central-Keystone bridge’s structure was compromised earlier by the Flash’s Rogue and emergency services are evacuating....reports are coming in of a takeover in London’s...tornado warning has been issued in...there has been a mass breakout of Arkham Asylum...’
She frowned, turning off the news feeds. These were all situations that were being handled by local emergency services to various levels of effectiveness. However, where were all the costumed heroes? There was no mention of Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern or anyone else. Where were the Justice Society, League, Titans and other teams if not independent acting heroes?
She had a simpler monitor interface tailored for her to use at the batcave. It was very basic as she did not need as many options, programmes and difficult processes as the rest of the family. Checking, she found no sign of anyone else having logged on to their individual systems for at least four days which was extremely unusual. Tim practically lived on the batcave’s linked network, accessing it by his phone or comm if not by his own computers or through his team’s. He was the one who always made time to log on to the system at least once every fourteen hours, no matter what. The records on her monitor showed that he hadn’t accessed anything since almost five days.
It wasn’t just the lack of anyone being registered as having been in the system that was alarming her. There was no sign of anyone having been in the cave, Gotham or anywhere else in that same time frame. There was no sign that her family had gone off the grid to deal with something. If that had been the case and she was not told about it, at least Alfred would have left her a message in case she had the need to get in touch with someone. Even Alfred had gone missing. Thinking of the batarang she had picked up, she was filled with dread and worry over what could have possibly have happened to the others.
She put in her emergency override and gained access to Bruce’s security clearance as a member of the Justice League of America. It took a moment for his programmes to adjust to her easy to use monitor interface. Done, she went through Bruce’s programmes on monitoring superhero activity.
Just like with her family, there were no sightings or signs of activity from anyone in the superhero community. Therefore what had happened was not limited to causing her family to disappear; it was a global and large scale problem that needed addressing. As there wasn’t anyone else, it was up to her. She could not do it on her own but before she could look for help, she needed to at least try to get Gotham to a more stable and calm state from the current chaos and fearful state.
Spare uniform’s boots pulled on, she paused before the trophy cases. Sliding open the glass, she placed the batarang at the foot of the old Robin costume. Glass locked shut behind her, she pulled on her mask. Krypto came to heel immediately as she started to walk out.
It took three and a half gruelling weeks to get law and order back to Gotham as well as round up the city’s villains. She had to work with Gotham’s finest on situations she’d previously have worked with her family on. It took some adjusting to, for both her and Gotham’s police force. She also had Krypto to help her out; Superman’s dog could not find any of the Super family and she didn’t have the heart to make him go and live on his own in the empty Fortress of Solitude with a bunch of androids.
She had worked in the shadows as much as she could but that wasn’t viable after a while. It had been clear for her to see that with none of her family around, the criminals of Gotham were freely running riot. With no member of the Bat family or any other hero to stop them, save for the city’s law enforcement, most villains had turned against each other. Oswald Cobblepot was a prime example, though he only took out competitors if it would help his personal schemes to flourish. Stepping out of the shadows worked to instil as much if not more fear than working as before.
Working in the public though she was, she still kept her mask on. She did not give interviews or ever spoke with the media. An unexpected side effect of working publicly was that the world’s media ran with the news. With the world’s caped heroes all gone, she was the only one publicly known to be left. It inspired hope but she wasn’t sure if she was comfortable with being a source of hope in such a way. She was far too used to working in the shadows, not used to caring what others thought of her. An unwanted side effect of working publicly was that the entire world seemed to look to her for answers. From little things like how to deal with bank thefts from meta villains or the big things like super villains and their criminal plots.
In between getting order back in Gotham, she had to help other places. She had Commissioner Gordon or other police officers try to pass on messages to her from other cities or countries as no one else could get hold of her in any other way. At least the commissioner was better than others about it and let her sit and get some rest, food and drink as he briefed her on things like the Flash’s Rogues causing havoc or Dr Sivana’s giant robots rampaging through Fawcett City.
Killer Croc hauled out of his hidey hole from the city’s sewers by Krypto, he was dropped at her feet. ‘Good boy,’ she complimented Krypto as she finished cuffing Victor Zsasz. Krypto wagged his tail before growling at Killer Croc, teeth bared at him.
Soon enough, the GCPD had arrived to escort the last of the two escapees back to Arkham Asylum. She’d inadvertently made the asylum seriously amp up their security to keep their detainees inside. She was just one person and had made it clear that she had other things to make her priority after every escapee was recaptured. The GCPD and public did not like the idea of personally having to deal with or recapturing escapees from Arkham in the future; they could no longer count on a masked vigilante or hero to step up to the plate to do that for them. It was deemed better that more effort and resources were put into holding the inmates in Arkham than it was to go after them if they escaped.
Whilst not actually full out “heroes” as such, there were a few anti-heroes cropping up. Poison Ivy had taken the arson of a public park in Coast City pretty hard and had declared herself the protector of the city. She did not solely focus on environment related crimes as she had done before and her measures of justice were definitely much harsher than most could stomach. However, the crime rate in Coast City had drastically reduced since Pamela Isley had moved there. Working in Gotham had become slightly easier with Selina Kyle and Harley Quinzel teamed up to keep a semblance of law and order in the city. They would occasionally help her or the city police force out. She couldn’t always count on their help as they preferred to do what they wanted, whenever they wanted; this included robbery sprees and attempts to break Arkham Asylum inmates out.
If nothing else, the disappearance of the world’s heroes had made the world see that they had to be their own heroes.
‘That’s everyone rounded up,’ said James Gordon, next to the switched off bat signal light on the GCPD’s rooftop. She sat on the edge and accepted the bottles of water he handed out to her. As she filled her bag, he asked, ‘What happened to your cape?’
‘Fire,’ she replied. He nodded, looking out east where there was still smoke from a huge fire that had gutted almost six blocks. She closed the bag and slung it across her back, adjusting it until she was satisfied.
‘You can call me if you need help with anything and I’ll do my best to help in any way I can.’
She half smiled at him, ready to fire off a line and leave.‘I will call. Gotham is in good care now but light the signal or call if you need me.’
‘I’m going to pretend I’ve lost your number, so to speak,’ he said with a strained half hearted smile, face more pale, tired and drawn than normal. He looked at the comm she’d passed along to him earlier and pocketed it. ‘You’ll let me know if you...you need to focus on that more.’
‘If I find out what happened to Barbara, you will know,’ she quietly promised him. ‘If I find her, I will send her home.’ He rubbed his tired eyes, hands trembling slightly. She paused as she made to leave. Her voice became gentler as she said, ‘I will do all I can to bring your daughter home if I can do so.’