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The Prison in Your Mind

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The sky began to weep in earnest. Fantastic, thought Bruce as he made his way along the drenched yet somehow still bustling city avenue. As he often found himself doing these days, he was once again sacrificing warmth and safety for some sort of relentless pursuit. Honestly, doing Jim Gordon's dirty work for him was becoming a major pain in his ass. He felt bad for thinking it, and he really did want to help the detective. It was just that Bruce had been searching for Jerome long before the GCPD had gotten wind of his breakout. And predictably, Bruce had found Jerome first. That hadn't been an enjoyable evening.

The memory of that encounter was still fresh in his mind. But he didn't want to ponder on that. Maybe, when he had more time and an empty folder to file it into his mind, he'd give the peculiar memory his attention. Now was not the place, and he certainly didn't have the time.

It simply seemed unfair of Jim to demand he leave the case alone, threaten him with legal action if he continued his investigation, and then come to him, expecting his help with the exact same case without question. It was all a bit hypocritical to be honest.

But never mind that, Bruce needed to focus on the task at hand. He could do the typical teenage angst ordeal when his city was safe. He still had yet to flag down a taxi to drive him to his destination. It seemed as though even the drivers wanted to be out of the downpour.

Finally, after chasing taxis for nearly half an hour, one pulled over for the sixteen-year-old. The man driving raised his eyebrows as Bruce Wayne climbed into his backseat, his dark mustache curling upwards with his puzzled expression. Bruce just gave him the address and asked him to drive as quickly as possible. The driver shrugged and pulled away from the curb.

After speeding down the city roads at a speed that wasn't even remotely legal, the scenery eventually shifted from glittering lights and skyscrapers to rural woods and lush greenery. Bruce's destination loomed closer, and despite his outward bravery, the plan Jim had tasked him with made him incredibly nervous.

As the trees grew denser and the rain turned to mist, they arrived at the address that Bruce had specified. He paid the driver, not bothering to ask for change, and turned to take in his surroundings.

He was standing in the center of a hazy clearing. Here, Bruce could see Jim's dark Dodge Diplomat parked off to the side. However, the thing that held his attention was the concrete square building in front of him that was six feet high at most.

So this is where Jeremiah Valeska lives? A bit lacking for a man who's supposedly a brilliant architect and engineer, thought Bruce as he made his way towards the unassuming structure. There was a simple metal door marking the entrance that had a chrome keypad mounted next to it. He had no idea what the passcode could be, so he just rapped his knuckles three times against the door, hoping the noise would alert someone to let him in.

After a minute or so, the door swung cleanly open in front of him, revealing a metal staircase. Bruce glanced behind him nervously, and then descended into what he now realized was a bunker.

"Ah Bruce, there you are. I was worried you'd decided against the plan. Not that I'd hold it against you if had. It's just that we don't have much time." Jim greeted him as he reached the bottom of the stairwell.

"No detective, I just had trouble getting a ride in this weather. Where's Jeremiah?" asked Bruce while surveying the room he was in.

"He went to go run statistics on the probability of this actually succeeding. He's a bit concerned about the outcome. Whether that's concerning his own safety or his brother's, I'm not sure." Jim replied, keeping one finger on his P226 gun.

He's clearly on edge, Bruce noted while peering into the monitors lining the south wall.

"I'd guess that he's worried if he'll come out of this alive. Based on what you told me of their last encounter, he wasn't exactly overjoyed to see Jerome," he inferred.

"You're probably right, but I don't want him deciding that his own neck is too precious. There's a lot to lose tonight if he doesn't come along." Jim said, crossing his arms and looking through one of the doorways leading to the labyrinth surrounding them.

"I wouldn't worry about that detective." said a timid voice, causing Bruce to jump. He turned and saw an exact, albeit nerdier, copy of the teenager who'd haunted his nightmares for so long enter the room from the entrance Jim hadn't been peering into. "I've ran the numbers, and although this excursion certainly won't be pretty, I've decided that the risk is worth the reward. Gotham is my home as much as yours, and I'd rather not see it filled with psychopaths and murderers." He spoke lightly, adjusting his horn-rimmed glasses, as though afraid of any criticism that might come towards his words.

Jim shook Jeremiah's hand saying, "We're glad to have you on board." He gestured to Bruce. "Jeremiah, this is Bruce Wayne. As you know, he's the other hostage that Jerome requested so he'll be following the same procedure as you."

Bruce reached for Jeremiah's pale hand and shook it as well. "It's an honor to meet you Jeremiah. Any man who my father trusted is a man I know I can trust as well."

"Your father was a brilliant and kind-hearted man. I was devastated when he and your mother passed. It's clear, however, that they left a strong heir behind." Although Jeremiah's voice was trembling a bit, his words were comforting to hear, and Bruce was struck with the confusion of how this kind person and Jerome could possibly be brothers. He wanted to ask Jeremiah about Jerome and their childhood, but in the few minutes of knowing him, Bruce had realized that this was a fragile person. Any mention of his past might break him.

He turned to look back at the monitors and accidentally made eye contact again with him. His expression didn't match his nervous mannerisms at all. It was cold and curious. Jeremiah raised an eyebrow as he met Bruce's eyes, clearly asking what he was looking at. Startled, Bruce looked away quickly, staring at the screens in front of him. After a minute or so of him poring over the monitors and Jim studying blueprints of the city, he chanced another glance in Jeremiah's direction. What he saw just puzzled him further. The red-haired man was observing what was going on in front of him like he didn't have a care in the world. In fact, as soon as he wasn't being payed attention to directly, it seemed as though he observed everything going on around him with a clinical and detached eye. He was trailing his fingers thoughtfully over a 3D model of a skyscraper downtown, looking at both Bruce and Jim every now and again, as though gauging their emotions and thoughts.

He made eye contact with Bruce once more and smiled lightly this time, giving him a kind nod of acknowledgment. He was obviously a much better person than his brother. Having came to this conclusion relieved any doubts he'd been having about the man moments ago.

Jim spoke abruptly, causing Bruce to start once more. "Alright, since we've got introductions out of the way, I'll brief you both in the car. We need to move quickly to get back into the center of the city in time for Jerome's demands. Are you ready?" Jim asked, looking intensely into both of their eyes. He was putting all of his faith in them, and Bruce could see it through that one look.

"Yes detective," both him and Jeremiah replied confidently.

"Then let's go put an end to this madness, once and for all."