Ever since he was a young boy toddling at his mother's pointed heels Penguin had wanted to be a sea captain. The host of one extravagant yacht party had even jokingly dubbed him 'assistant captain', hat and all, just for the joy it would give him. Young Oswald had taken his position very seriously and gone around ordering the guests to nautical-sounding but nonsensical tasks. The cruel lie was only exposed when the crew refused to take him to the South Sea Islands to see the parrots.
Now he had a submarine and damnit, he was going to wring every bit of melodrama out of it that he possibly could. The vessel had been christened with an expensive bottle of wine, it had been augmented to represent his unique avian aesthetic, and he'd invited only the classiest criminals to attend its maiden voyage out into the open waters by the Gotham City shoreline.
The latter, Penguin mused as he came out of the hatch onto the conning tower, might have been a mistake.
Catwoman, Riddler, and Joker were sitting in a half-circle facing the dim lights on the shore. All three were wearing broad smiles and dazed expressions. In the center of their gathering was an elegantly constructed, lovingly decorated, and extremely illegitimate water pipe. The owner was quite apparent from the number of grinning comedy masks painted around the base. How Joker had managed to sneak a hookah on board was anyone's guess, but he'd apparently put it to good use. They looked up at him with equally giddy grins as Penguin's look of self-satisfaction turned to broiling irritation.
He let out a loud quack of rage and stamped his umbrella on the metal hull. "What is this? I'm below decks for ten minutes and you've set up an opium den on my precious submarine!"
"It's not opium," said Riddler, affecting an intellectual tone even as his tone wavered up and down the scale. "It's hashish. That's different."
"It was hasish," Joker corrected. He seemed to be weathering the drug better than the others, as his eyes had less of the glazed-over look to them. Penguin suspected it was due to greater experience in it. "I did things to it."
Oh, even better. "Well, what is it now?"
"Dunno. I'm still working on a proper name."
Catwoman's lips parted and let out a languid stream of violet smoke. "Purple Pleasure?" she asked, her voice husky.
"Sounds like a brand of lingerie. Or sorbet." This set a chorus of giggles through the trio. Penguin's widening scowl only made them laugh harder.
He could have ordered a brace of high society ladies, instead. Or models. They might not have been the best criminal conversationalists but at the very least they wouldn't have managed to smuggle drug apparatus aboard. "How did you even get that on here?" Penguin snarled, again stamping his umbrella on the hull.
"A good magician never reveals his secrets, Pengy!" Joker offered him the pipe. His hopeful grin didn't diminish with Penguin's refusal. "Fine, more for me!"
"If one of you falls overboard I will not be throwing a life preserver after you." Apparently this was also hilarious. Riddler took the pipe instead and drew in a long breath, then exhaled rolling wisps of orange.
"It was purple," he said, staring at the smoke. His head tilted to the side. "Before. It was purple. Why is it not purple?"
"Ah, that would be the...the, ah...well, I can't tell you what that is. Personal recipe." The confused expression on his face indicated that Joker couldn't tell himself, either.
Catwoman made a grab for the pipe. "Just keep it coming, Joker, and I won't ask about it. Professionalism is good. Very good." The purr to her voice had gotten deeper.
Penguin sighed. "Catwoman, I would have thought you of all people would be above these childish shenanigans."
Catwoman coughed turquoise and smirked at him. "I'm classy. That doesn't mean I'm boring. You need to relax, Pengy, don't be so uptight."
A silence fell on of the group and they stared for a long minute at the setting sun over the Gotham skyline. Water streaked with orange and pink gently lapped against the sides of the sub. If it wasn't for the drifting blue fumes obscuring his view and the musky, grassy scent of Joker's concoction it might have been very relaxing. Penguin sat down and resignedly rested his head on the handle of his umbrella. A good host indulged his guests. Even when the guests were idiots.
"This is a nice sub," said Riddler abruptly. "We should do something with this sub."
"Stay sober on it?"
"No, no, I mean, we could conquer the city in it."
"Boring!" cried Joker. "The world!"
"It's one submarine, it's not a navy yet."
"We could steal something with it. Something huge."
"At the moment, Catwoman, you're doing a good job of making off with my sanity." At least they were being creatively silly now. Penguin chewed on his cigarette holder and pondered just shoving the lot of them into one of the lifeboats. They could float back to shore on a cloud of dreams.
"I have it!" Catwoman raised a hand, gilded claw pointed first to the sky and then to the mainland. "We'll steal the United World Headquarters and hold the world to ransom!"
This seemed an exquisite idea until Riddler pointed out that the entire building wouldn't fit on the sub. No, not even if they took it apart first.
"We could just steal the diplomats."
"Hostages are smaller. Still hard to put in your pocket."
"We'll just take the short ones." Joker's laugh was a little irritating at the best of times, but the drug had made it even more annoying.
Riddler made a few vague gestures and mimed cupping the city in his hands. "We can shrink them and put them in tiny bottles."
"And then we hold them to ransom for a million dollars."
"All the millions. All the money." There was another fit of colored giggles as they set to obscene plans on what to do with all the millions.
Penguin watched them make their mad plans, his sophisticated brain ticking away. He'd read an article in the Times about a new device for making whiskey that removed the moisture from organic tissue. The journalist had noted, with some confusion, the eccentricity of using such an amazing device on liquor-making rather than dehydrating massive amounts of plant or animal matter and shipping it in bulk before rehydrating it at a later location. There had been some speculation on the potential for dehydrating still-living organisms and then returning them to full functionality with the reintroduction of water. The article had been mentally filed into 'interesting but not useful' in Penguin's brain, but he was starting to rethink its categorization.
Hm. Now what happened if one injected a bit of reality into the situation? Even if the end result was absolute madness (and to be honest absolute madness was the usual end result even without dodgy chemicals involved) it might be entertaining. "And what about Batman and Robin?"
This sent the three into a flurry of panic and Penguin had to quickly reassure them that the Dynamic Duo was not actually here before anyone went overboard.
"I hadn't thought of them," whined Catwoman. "They have a Bat-boat. It's useless. Stupid Batman. Stupid Robin and his stupid amazing legs."
"I have an idea! I have one, I have an idea!" Riddler clapped his hands in joy. He retained his frenetic mannerisms under the effect of Joker's drug, but they came in slow motion. "Hee hee! See, see what we do is we get Batman to follow us. In his boat. But it’s not us, it's a mirage! We fool him!"
This was received with proper ooh and ahh. Penguin sighed. Yes, it was feasible, it just seemed overcomplicated.
"And then we get this shark, follow me here, and we fill the shark full of dynamite. And when they come to the mirage, BOOM!" He screamed the last word, throwing his hands up in the air. "Goodbye, dynamic duo!"
Joker and Catwoman raised their hands as if toasting him, and passed the pipe to Riddler's fluttering hands. He took a long drag, as if to calm himself down from such an effort of brainpower.
"And shark filets! All over the place!" Catwoman licked her lips. "Pengy, get us shark filets. I love well-cooked shark."
"I can't. The, ah, the ship’s cook is out walking her dogfish."
"So she's a mer-maid!" Good grief, Joker, why did Penguin invite you to things. The conversation disintegrated into discussion of mermaids, their potential existence, and their potential use in committing underwater crimes. Penguin quietly slipped back down into the belly of his submarine. He left orders with his first mate Morgan to collect the guests once they inevitably passed out and went to his quarters to do some thinking.
They were right, of course. You couldn't have a submarine and not do something impressive with it.
Even for thieves, nothing came free. The cost of floating on clouds for the evening was waking up feeling like a leaf-choked mud puddle.
Catwoman was the first to stir, eyes fluttering open to stare blankly at the other side of the room. She and Joker were curled up by a tangle of piping, with Joker wearing her headband. His white-gloved fingers lightly rested on her dark fingers and golden claws. On the other side of the room an inverted Riddler had passed out with his feet on the seat of a chair and his back against the floor.
Catwoman gently prodded her companion. "Wake up, Joker."
The clown made a few incoherent grumbles and turned his face against her shoulder. His smeared, sea-splashed whiteface left streaks against her dark costume. "Don't want to. It's the weekend."
Was it? "You’re a criminal. You don't have a day job."
"Even more reason not to get up." He yowled as Catwoman sunk her claws into him and went stumbling to his feet, one hand clutched to his forehead. Looking down, he noted that someone had replaced his shoes with potato chip bags. Definitely a good batch.
The noise drew a groggy groan from Riddler. One of his hands came up and landed on the arm of the chair. He paused, trying to think of some situation-appropriate riddle, and landed on “What did the cabbage farmer say to the real estate agent?"
There was a fine line between riddles and jokes, especially when one was hungover, and Joker managed to provide the proper rebuttal. "I have a headacre. You've got scribbles on you." At some point in the evening Riddler gotten his hands on a marker, rolled up his sleeves and started writing all over himself in a fit of what probably felt like genius at the time. Joker couldn’t quite remember why.
Riddler looked down at his arms, then up at Joker with an air of condescension. "It's not scribbles. It's obviously written in Japanese."
"You can read Japanese?"
"It's not a particularly difficult language to learn, if you're bored enough." Riddler squinted at the wobbly lines going up and down his arms, then twisted one upside down to see if it made more sense from that angle. "Admittedly, it's a little harder when I can't read my own handwriting."
Joker shook off the potato chip bags and went hunting for his shoes. Catwoman attempted to follow him but was yanked back by the belt and forced to the floor again. Someone had tied her whip to one of the pipes.
"We should do this again," she said as she untied herself. "But not very soon."
Riddler mumbled to himself as he tried to tease out the ink marks. "It's definitely a riddle. What is...I think this is long, but it could be elder..."
"If nothing else Penguin didn't seem pleased. He's probably off in his room now sulking like a vulture."
"Do vultures sulk?"
"I don't know. I can’t think.” Catwoman pressed her fingertips to her forehead and tried to gather her thoughts. Last night was a blur, but a fun blur. She wondered if this was how Joker felt all the time. It explained a lot about his behavior.
Riddler let out a triumphant cry. "I have it! What is long and hard and--"
The shriek of a sea captain's whistle sent them cowering against each other, hands over their ears. Joker whimpered his surrender to whatever hellspawned agent of the law had ambushed them. Catwoman just whimpered.
Penguin was standing in the doorway with a manic grin wide enough to make Riddler flinch. The group instinctively leaned away from him, unsure of his intentions. "Up and about, my fine finks! We have work to do, no time to lay about like a bunch of landlubbers!" He twirled his umbrella gleefully and blew the whistle a second time.
“You said there wouldn’t be work,” Joker whined in Catwoman’s ear. Riddler was trying to hide behind her, forehead pressed to her back.
Catwoman raised her head just enough to give Penguin a glare and a hiss. “Why should we get up? What work is there to do?”
Penguin laughed, and somewhere in Stately Wayne Manor Batman felt his ears burning. "Why, my dear Catwoman. We're taking over the world!"