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Holy Con Men, Batman!

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Title: Holy Con Men, Batman

Length: 39:18

Format: MP3 & Streaming

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[computer error messages, bworp bworp alarms, general chaos]

 

“I thought you said this would be easy,” Parker says, walking across the apartment to Hardison as the screen flashes its fifth ‘emergency detection warning’ in as many seconds.

“It was supposed to be,” Hardison replies [frantic keyboard sounds, continuous sirens]. “They’re a basic fortune five hundred, nothing that merits this level of security.”

“Do they have military contracts?”

“A couple but this isn’t that.” Hardison lets out a low whistle [all the sounds shut down with a resounding thunk of failure]. “I can hack that, this is something else entirely.” The big wallscreen goes red and an electronic voice says [worm incoming]. “Oh that’s bad. That’s very bad.”

Parker leans over his shoulder as he starts typing again [keyboard noises, very fast]. “What now?”

“They’re turning it back on us, someone there is trying to pinpoint our location. Oh you’re good, you are very good.” [keyboard continues faster and louder. Hardison muttering mostly to himself as he works] “Ooh, close one there. That was smooth. No, no again. Think you can beat me with moves like that.”

The apartment door opens and Eliot lets himself in with a bag of leftovers. Parker abandons Hardison instantly for the promise of food. “Did you bring me mozzarella sticks?” she asks.

[in the background, Hardison is still going. “Oh you think you can - not today! You think you’re smart? You ain’t got a chance my man.”]

Elliot drops the bag on the table. “What’s he doing now?”

Parker shrugs. “He’s working the case,” she says. “But apparently one of the investor accounts has more security than he expected and they’re trying to track us down, is there sauce for these?”

[Hardison crowing in the background “Oh yeah, you are going down.”]

Eliot frowns, turning towards the screen. “One of the investor accounts?”

“Yeah,” Parker says through a mouthful of mozzarella. “Apparently Wayne Industries don’t like people in their servers.”

[There is a victory noise, like in a videogame] “Yes!” Hardison crows in triumph. “Oh yes. Who’s the boss, I’m the boss. You thought you could out hacker me, not on your life my good man.”

[still muffled around food] “Did you get in?” Parker asks.

“Well, no.” Hardison admits. “But they didn’t find us either. More of a lose-lose scenario, oh hey did you bring my onion rings?”

Eliot doesn’t answer because he’s too busy staring between them in some hybrid of shocked and appalled. “You two tried to hack Batman?”

Gotham city is two hours drive from Portland with no traffic. Batman tends to be a hometown kind of guy, but he’s stopped by Portland once or twice to break up some of the big gangs. When the trio were putting a stop to the Irish mob’s arms smuggling last year, Batman showed up at the final showdown and there was a tenuous moment where he was doing the ninja thing through the warehouse while they were making a break for it out of the back door and making bets on whether Batman or Eliot would win in a fight or if a fight would even break out.

Hardison thinks Batman’s probably on their side of the chaotic good scale. Eliot thinks a guy who dresses in a giant bat costume is probably more the type to punch first and ask questions later.

Parker spent a week trying on costumes for every animal under the sun but she spends too much time on the grifting side of a con to really get by wearing a mask.

“What do you mean Batman?” Hardison asks, shutting the computer down and coming over to them. “Ain’t nobody hacking Batman. I wouldn’t even know where to start hacking Batman.”

It’s a long standing point of professional frustration. Using a combination of tracking data, facial recognition, body analysis and sleepless nights Hardison has figured out the secret identities for ninety percent of the Justice League. Once, after three months of intense work, Parker and Eliot walked in on him lying on the rug saying, “a pair of glasses. He literally just wears a pair of glasses.” And after Hardison solved the Shazam puzzle Eliot disappeared for a week and came back battered and bruised with the only explanation being, “Beat up the guy who gave them to him. Made sure the kid’s okay. We’ll keep an eye on him.”

But Batman is the big mystery. He’s the world’s greatest detective, after all, which stands to reason he’d also be the world’s most undetectable.

“Bruce Wayne,” Eliot says, as though it is a completely obvious fact. “Batman. Bruce Wayne is Batman.”

There is a moment of silence, and then Parker and Hardison both laugh. “Right,” Hardison says. “Yeah. You almost had me for a second there.”

“Wait,” Parker says. “I know this one. ‘Do the butts match’, right?”

Eliot frowns. “I mean, yes. They do.”

“Nah, man,” Hardison says. “You’re spending too much time on tumblr. Bruce Wayne being Batman is one of those conspiracy theories. Its like the ‘Obama is Batman’ meme except that Obama is more likely.

“What the heck is a tumbler?” Eliot snarls. “I thought this was public knowledge.”

[In the background, Eliot and Hardison continue arguing, but our focus switches to Parker.

H: oh public knowledge. Bruce Wayne, man. Bruce Wayne.

E: he’s totally ripped

H: which we know because he’s posing shirtless on virtually every page of TMZ with virtually every woman in Gotham.

E: It’s a front

H: the man literally does not have the time

E: he’s rich, he’s powerful, he’s intelligent.

H: Rich, yes, because he inherited a nice pile of daddy’s money that no thief has managed to steal yet because he pays too much for his security.

E: yes, because he’s batman]

Parker flicks through her list of notes for the case. Hextron is, on the surface, a paragon of social improvement, conscious environmentalism and moral righteousness. The employees disappearing on the lower levels, the chemicals snaking out into rivers on the other side of the globe, even the three of them didn’t pick up on it until the anonymous tip from a member of R&D who they still can’t pin a name on. 

[when she starts speaking, both guys stop to listen]

“If he was Batman,” she says slowly. “Batman’s a good guy, right?”

[At the same time, Hardison says, “sure” and Eliot says, “No worse than us.”]

She nods. “If we could flip one of these investors to our cause, we could streamline the whole con down. We wouldn’t even need to break in, we could use him as an entry point and bring the company down from there.”

Hardison picks up on her plan first, leaning down to double check her notes as he connects the dots. “We’d need to be certain. If we approach him and he’s not on our side, we could all end up in jail.”

Eliot rolls his eyes. “Really? When have I ever been wrong? Ever.”

[simultaneously: “Montreal.” “Canada.”]

“That time with the cat.”

“That time with the roomba.”

Hardison sighs, “Come on Eliot, there’s a reason for the memes. all you can see under the bodyarmour and the shadows is Batman’s butt.”

“It’s a very distinctive butt!” Eliot objects.

Parker considers this, then shakes her head. “Jail bad. We need proof.”

“He’s only the world’s greatest detective,” Hardison mutters, grabbing an orange soda and heading back to his keyboard. “How hard could it possibly be?”

 

***

 

“Look at this,” Eliot walks up with the tablet, where he has two videos open. “This is copcam footage of Batman beating up some joker goons, and Bruce Wayne knocking out a generic minion at Selina Kyle’s christmas party.”

[We hear some thwacks and moans through grainy speakers.]

“Goon goes out like a light, minion is barely grazed.” Hardison says. “Wayne has his thumb in his fist, even I know you don’t put your thumb in your fist.”

Eliot waves the tablet closer to his face. “Because he’s trying to put us off the scent. Look at the elbow movement.”

“Dude you are grasping at straws now.” Hardison brings something up on screen. “This is a video of Bruce Wayne on his luxury yacht in the Carribean at the same moment as Batman was punching the joker in Times Square.”

“There’s video of me doing commercials in Japan. Videos can be faked!” Eliot flicks through to another tab. “Look at this. This is a graph from a gotham university statistics course mapping times Bruce Wayne goes on vacation with times Batman sustains serious injuries.”

Hardison takes the tablet to look. “This graph is literally titled ‘why correlation is not causation.’ Bruce Wayne has adopted a child, you can’t have a child and be Batman.”

“Robin,” Eliot says.

“No,” Hardison says slowly. “Robin’s an adult.” He looks over at Parker who is reading Spiderman comics upside down on the sofa. “Robin’s an adult, right babe?”

He gets no reply, which isn’t much of a surprise because Parker hasn’t been much help at all since finding out she shares a name with Spiderman. She claims its research, however much Hardison reminds her that spiderman is fictional and the superhero they’re looking for is real.

Eliot raises an eyebrow at him and pitches his voice slightly louder. “Fifty bucks and the Narie diamond says you’re wrong.”

Parker’s comic drops to the ground and she’s instantly alert. “Did someone say diamond?”

 

***

[wind, distant traffic noises, dramatic hero music. We get the introduction in true dark gritty noir style melodrama and Parker just butts in cheery as heck]

The wind whistles over the rooftop, the moon shines down catching on satellites and television antennas. A figure in red with a yellow lined cloak stands on the very edge, one hundred stories above the street below, watching the tiny lights of the cars and the people moving endlessly in patterns.

He’s looking for the break in the chain, the change in the tune, the single thread gone astray. That’s where the entrance to the underworld hides. In the shadows of plain sight, in the missteps -

“Hey,” Parker says from behind him, Robin jolts forward so suddenly that he falls off the roof and she’s momentarily wondering how she’s going to explain that to Hardison, when his fingertips snatch onto the concrete and he flips himself back up in an elegant move that she’s got to practice sometime. He lands in combat stance, and goes directly for her. She’s not much for a fight but she ducks, steps in past him, hooks her foot around his ankle. He doesn’t fall – his reflexes are too sharp for that – but he does hesitate, watching her more warily.

“Cool,” she says, stepping back and pulling out a notebook. “Now can you tell me how old you are, so that I can win a bet with my coworkers?”

Robin turns, taking two running steps towards the edge of the building, his hand going to his utility belt where his fingers pass straight through the space his grappling hook is supposed to occupy.

He stumbles to a half before falling off the edge for the second time in one night, and when he turns back she holds it up in her palm with an almost apologetic shrug.

“Uh,” he says. [totally fake deep voice.] “How did you do that?”

The device is tiny, but she’s seen videos of him leaping between buildings like Spiderman with nothing but this. If she gets out of here with it, she’s totally going to take it apart and see how it works. “Are you fifteen? Twelve? I started when I was twelve.”

Hardison showed her a picture of Dick Grayson in a three piece school uniform. Robin is also a white Caucasian male. They could have the same hair, if Grayson covered it in grease to make it stay flat.

“Wait,” he says, stepping away from the edge of the roof to get a better look at her, while conveniently failing to move his face out of the shadows. [no more fake deep voice, he’s just excited now]  “Holy cat burglar, are you Parker?

Oops. “Nope,” she says. “No. No way. Doesn’t sound like me. Who’s Parker?”

Robin doesn’t even seem to hear her. “You successfully pulled off the white rabbit! You rappelled down the Burg Kalifa with the Lion of Gilgamesh! You stole the Hope diamond!”

“I gave it back!” Parker objects loudly which, again, oops. “I mean she gave it back. Or so I heard. Does Batman have a file on me? Her?” Being investigated by Batman is easily in the top ten list of thief accomplishments. Unfortunately most people who achieve it then also achieve getting caught by Batman which is less than ideal.

Robin waves this off like it’s no big deal at all. “I mean, yeah, but you were raised by Archie Leach . He’s a legend in the circus world.” He pauses to look her up and down. “What are you hunting me for? Are you here to steal something?”

Her gut instinct, as always, is lie lie lie but she’s supposed to be a good guy now, in a chaotic sort of way, which means the two of them are supposed to be on the same side. So, the truth. Or some of it. “Somebody is leaking deadly chemicals into a river in Pakistan and we think Batman can help us stop it.”

Robin frowns, looking past her to her abseiling rig, hooked up to a railing and far bigger and bulkier than this beautiful marvel of engineering in her hand. “And why do you care?” he asks, turning back to her face.

She remembers, belatedly, that Batman probably doesn’t know they’re on the same side. “Because we’re trying to stop it. Me and my team. We’re good guys. Well, bad guys, but we make good good guys. Like a shadowy antihero thing, you should get that.”

He frowns, “And why should I believe you?”

“Because it’s the truth,” she says.

He nods. “That’s exactly what a master criminal trying to con me would say.”

Well, he’s not wrong. They have, in fact, used this con more than once.

[An alarm starts wailing somewhere below, quite quiet in the background for us but enough that we can hear it.]

“Is that for you?” Robin asks.

“Alternative plan,” Parker says. “You tell me how old you are, or I keep your fancy grapple and you’re stuck up on this roof forever.”

He makes a vague noise of assent. “That does sound like a good plan. Except that you’re not the only one here who learned how to pick pockets.” He flashes her a grin under the mask and before she can reach for her belt to find out what’s missing, he’s jumped off the side of the building and her line is pulled taught where he’s somehow unhooked her to attach it to his own belt.

Damn it. “Tell Batman to call us!” she shouts off the edge of the building, but he’s already swinging in through an open window and out of sight, smooth as an acrobat.

[We hear the slamming of a door very close and multiple voices yelling, “This is private property.” “Surrender with your hands up.”]

Parker looks down at the tiny grappling rod in her hand emblazoned with a stylized R. Well, she figures, leaping off the edge and firing it hopefully up towards the concrete. You only live once.

She changes her hair and outfit using one of Sophie’s seemingly infinite drop spots and sits on a bench out front of the building for the rest of the afternoon. But no one in a bright yellow cloak comes out, no alarms go off, aside from the school trip making a disorganized departure, no one draws any attention at all.

He is good.

 

***

“I don’t see why this is so goddamn unrealistic,” Eliot snaps. “You believed all of the other cover stories we found. You believed fucking Billy Batson.”

Hardison waves this off. “That’s, like, hoodoo shit, it could have been anyone. Everyone else made sense. Clark Kent is a mild mannered reporter, Diana Prince is a museum curator. Bruce Wayne is Bruce fucking Wayne. If the super-rich can realise the error of their ways and dedicate their lives to helping people, what are we even here for?”

Parker arrives. [a thud as though of a person dropping in from a skylight and a shiiiing of a fancy grappling cable being retracted.] “So good news: I found Robin. He’s a circus kid. Bad news, his driving license turned out to be a home printed card that says ‘nice try’ so no diamond.”

Eliot points a finger sharply at Hardison. “There. The flying Graysons. I told you.”

Hardison shakes his head. “That ain’t proof. Plenty of people grew up in the circus.”

“Name two. Name two fucking people you know who grew up in the circus.” [and he continues to rant but it fades out to nothing like he’s storming out of the room. There could be footsteps and a slammed door, but just as easily nothing but the fade] “You know what, this is ridiculous. I am one hundred percent sure and there’s you two on a goddamn bear hunt just chasing snipes. Don’t even listen to me, see if I care. You know Nate always….”

“On the plus side… [that shiiiing sound again and then a crack and a thud like expensive masonry falling off the wall] souvenir!”

 

***

“What if we had a bat signal?” Parker asks. She’s lying on her back with her eyes closed idly fidgeting with a practice lock. “And people could, like, set it off when they found irregular accounts or weird instances of fraud and we would leap into action.”

She’s been practicing Robin’s roof-save manoeuvre and she’s got it working, but it definitely looks cooler with the addition of a cape.

“What would it look like?” Eliot says. “A giant lever in the sky?”

[that buh-bing noise computers make when a program finishes running]

Hardison sits up like a rocket. “That’s it.”

“What’s it?” [recorded twice and layered like Parker and Eliot in unison]

“We set off the bat signal. Commisioner Gordon meets Batman all the time. My software can match against a chin, if we can get some video that isn’t completely in darkness.”

“And what happens while you’re filming when he realises we aren’t exactly commisioner Gordon?”

Hardison shrugs. “You can take Batman, right?”

Eliot splutters. “I can take - Oh, sure, it’s not like he was trained by the goddamn league of shadows. I can take Batman, yeah, totally. Love this plan.”

The plan comes together pretty easily from there. Breaking into a high security building, avoiding a precinct full of cops, it’s all stuff they’re old hands at by now and they’re finished barely halfway through dinner service. 

“Can I say it?” Hardison asks, giving Parker his best begging eyes.

It’s the main perk of the role that Nate handed down to her, but Sophie did say that sometimes it’s good to be magnanimous so that others will feel like they owe you later. “Fine. But just this once.”

Hardison beams in a way that suggests he will absolutely be owing her later and shoots two fingerguns at the door. “Let's go steal Batman.”

 

***

[Blowing, teeth chattering] Eliot bounces on his toes on the station roof. “It’s a giant spotlight, how can it be taking you this long to switch the damn thing on?”

[Rooftop noises etc]

Parker is also cold, but she can mostly ignore that since they’re standing next to the real actual bat signal which is somehow still cool, even though she’s now met Robin and reverse engineered his tech. Robin’s cool and all, but Batman has proper comicbooks now that she’s moved on from fiction and into the dark gritty world of what the author’s call biographical comics and Hardison calls RPF. “Do you think Commissioner Gordon would give me an autograph?”

“I think he’d sign your arrest forms if he catches us up here,” Eliot says. “Remind me what the plan is when Bruce shows up and realises we aren’t cops?”

“You said you could take him,” Parker says.

Eliot makes a vaguely animalistic noise of despair. “I want it known that I was joking and if I die it is absolutely your fault.”

Parker rolls her eyes. “Don’t be such a baby, Batman doesn’t kill people. You’ll just be crippled. Or maimed. Or abandoned in an alley and left for dead.”

“Remind me why Nate put you in charge.”

[I have no idea what sound a spotlight makes when it switches on. Maybe some kind of power whir and a thunk? Maybe pigeons squarking and flying away? Idk!]

“Hell yeah age of the geek baby!”

Parker and Eliot flinch back in unison as the light shines blindingly bright up above them. There’s enough low clouds that the bat symbol is clear as day, in sharp lines cut across the sky. It’s unmistakable, which gives them approximately thirty seconds before the cops try to run upstairs and find themselves locked in with all their systems shut down.

This being Gotham, that’ll buy them another couple of minutes max while the officers shoot their way out.

Parker glances around, “How long do you think it’ll take him to-”

[I’m imagining like a whoosh or a whoomp of air. And poof batman is there]

Parker, Eliot and Hardison are looking in three different directions, and somehow he still speaks from behind them. “You aren’t the commissioner.”

That’s the kind of deduction that makes him the world’s greatest detective, she supposes.

[We hear muffled gunshots from downstairs as the cops start shooting their way out.]

“We haven’t got time to talk here,” Parker says. “But we need to talk to you about Wayne Industries.”

His shadowed chin betrays nothing as he looks across the three of them. Hardison with his laptop in one hand, Parker framed by the light and Eliot on his toes ready for a fight. “The top of the Leveson building in five minutes,” he says, then he points a tiny device up at the sky and his cloak flashes and he’s gone.

Eliot rounds on Hardison. “Well?”

“The software’s still analysing, it didn’t have great lighting -”

Eliot throws up his hands in frustration. “He’s the same height, same weight, same build. He’s got the same damn chin and the same posture.”

[Less gunshots, more running footsteps.]

Parker tugs her overalls up and kicks them to do the same as the door to the roof bursts open. “Arreglamos su lampara, todo esta bien aqui. Uhm, your light. No broke. We make good.” She shakes her head. “Chotas gringos.”

Commissioner Gorden pushes ahead of the pack as the bat signal goes out, plunging them into darkness. The cops fumble for their torches but by the time they get them on, the roof is empty.

 

***

In the face of twenty cops, the three of them couldn’t take a dive off the rooftop they had to rely on their fake IDs and Hardison’s well timed fake emergency alert to get them out and into Lucille.

It was a masterclass in conning their way in and up, but they’re still ten minutes late reaching the rooftop, out of breath from climbing fifty flights of stairs and generally flustered. The exit door slams open under Eliot’s shoulder [BLAM] and they fell out on the roof to find no one there. Now they’ve been waiting for ten minutes and despite stealing Hardison’s jacket, Parker still has goosebumps.

“Do you think he left?” Hardison asks.

[batman swooooosh]

“I apologise for the delay.” Again, he’s somehow behind all three of them. There must be a trick to it and Parker narrows her eyes trying to figure out how it’s done. “ Someone couldn’t decide what to do with their hair.”

Robin steps out from behind the cape with a wave. “Hi Parker.”

His hair looks the same as before, but his cape is billowing better and he’s swapped out the fixings on his new grappling hook so that it’ll be harder to lift. She’s probably going to grab it anyway, but at least he tried. “Hi Dick.”

Batman turns on his partner. “You know her?”

“Sure,” Robin says. “It’s Parker. She’s a legend.”

“She’s on the list of top thieves globally. She’s a criminal mastermind. You’re supposed to report anyone on that list if you so much as glimpse them.”

Robin shrugs with a bright grin. “Snitches get stitches, Batman.”

“And that’s reformed,” Parker adds to get his attention. “Reformed criminal mastermind. Now head of Leverage incorporated, you may have heard of us, we’re like the modern day robin hood. Bad guys make the best good guys, etcetera.”

Batman turns, his eyes very slowly fixing on each of them in turn as though his mind is doing the equivalent of one of Hardison’s facial recognition matches. “Alek Hardison,” he says. “Parker.” His eyes move to Eliot and his whole posture shifts. Not excessively, but just a slight shift of weight that she recognises from years of watching Eliot the moment he sees someone he’s not certain he could take in a fight. “And Eliot Spencer.”

Eliot nods. “Bruce Wayne.”

This is the make or break moment, but Batman doesn’t seem too thrown off by it. He considers for a moment, and then says. “I punched that minion at Selena’s benefit.”

“That,” Eliot agrees. “And other things.”

Behind Batman’s back, Robin points and mouths, ‘was it the ass?’ [maybe whisper it? DRAMATICALLY]

Batman turns back to Hardison. “I assume it was you the other day trying to break into Wayne’s servers. That was a neat trick, most people don’t make it out untagged.”

[Hardison makes a sort of meeep sound. Like a holy fucking shit I bested batman kind of sound and his voice stays kinda high pitched.] “Uh, yeah. Thanks. I mean, sorry? I mean,[thud] ow.”

Parker steps forward to draw attention away from Eliot punching Hardison in the arm. “We’re investigating Hextron,” she says. “We have a plan to bring him down but we need access to his accounts. Access which you have.”

Batman turns to her, his whole cowl wrinkling as he frowns. “Hextron have an excellent record and almost perfect approval ratings across the board.”

“Well yeah,” Hardison says, all nerves wiped away by the chance to once again be the smartest guy in the room. “But so does Lex Luthor and I don’t see you endorsing his run for president.” He turns his tablet around to show the screen. “Our mole sent us this three days ago. It all checks out.”

Batman takes the screen, eyes flicking back and forth across the data. It’s not one hundred percent proof, if it was they could leak the story and be done with it, but if there’s even the slightest chance it’s true they have to stop it.

He looks up, directly at her. “Does your team have a base of operations around here?”

They have Lucille, parked outside, but generally Gotham is not their playground. The large companies here tend to find that any unethical practices lose them the market and the whole city just seemed set against them for some reason.

In hindsight, that’s another reason to believe Bruce Wayne is Batman.

He nods, and utters the most beautiful sentence in the English language. “Then we’ll go to the batcave.”



[if there is a song for driving around in the batmobile it can go here. Failing that some classic cartoon batman themesong. Something utterly nostalgic and ridiculous]

“Ah, Maria Zimmer, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The CEO of Hextron jolts, holding out one hand and frantically smoothing her skirt with the other. “Mr Wayne, we weren’t expecting a visit.”

“Oh, I thought I’d see what my dollars are going towards. This is Leanne, my personal assistant and Colin, her personal assistant. Have you got an office they can work out of while we talk?”

[transition]

[echoey with vent noises]

Parker reaches the intersection of the vent and Robin is already there waiting for her. He hands her the radio and the cable that they couldn’t bring in through the front door.

“Got to be quick,” he says. “Eliot’s clearing my exit and I only have a half hour lunch break.”

“When you graduate,” Parker says levering herself over the drop and firing his new grapple line into the wall. “We have a job opening.”

She drops just in time to see him grin and flash her FBI ID badge, the one she keeps in her back pocket for those just-in-case moments.

Well, it was a fair trade.

[transition]

Parker rolls out of the vent, just about missing Hardison’s head and drops the end of the cable into his lap. “Thanks babe,” he says absently, plugging it into his computer. “Who relies on hardwiring anymore? So archaic – right, we are in.”

[transition]

[thwop, bap, bash, bang. Fight scene noises etc.]

“Back alley is clear,” Eliot reports across the comms. “Robin is out.”

Robin ducks behind a bin and re-emerges two seconds later, brushing dust off his school uniform. He returns his earbud to Eliot’s hand and fist-bumps him. “Catch you later. Good luck!”

[transition]

[police sirens going off nearby]

“Obviously I called you as soon as I got wind of it, Commissioner,” Bruce says, sitting on the back of an ambulance with an ice pack to his head. “Such a terrible thing to discover.”

Commissioner Gordon eyes the area, but if he recognises the three harrowed Hextron employees as last night’s floodlight repair team, he doesn’t comment on it. “Sure is lucky Wayne Industries cancelled their involvement in Hextron before any of this went down.”

Bruce gives him a bright, innocent smile. “Just a happy coincidence, I suppose.”

The CEO of Hextron is led past them, struggling in the grip of two officers. “It was him,” she shouts. “Him and his friends.”

“Funny thing about the investments,” Commissioner Gordon continues. “Some of the money seems to have disappeared entirely. I don’t suppose you’d know anything about that.”

[In the background, she’s shouting, “He’s Batman! You hear me? They’re all Batman!”]

“Not a thing,” Bruce says. “But I’m sure it’ll all get where it needs to be in the end.”

 

***

[batcave theme again, or like a tiny snippet of it]

“So,” Batman says, later that night when they’ve got back to the cave via a drug heist and the best pizza joint in town. “You think you can take me on?”

Eliot raises an eyebrow. “Well, I don’t have body armour, arm spikes or a utility belt so it seems a little unfair.”

Batman looks him up and down, then reaches up to pull off the cowl. It’s one thing to know Bruce Wayne is Batman, but it’s still surreal to see his face appear on Batman’s neck. He unclips the body armour, setting it on a manikin clearly held for this purpose. His arm guards go on a table, he’s wearing a white tank top underneath and the padding comes off his legs to leave black motorbike style trousers.

Robin sits down on the ledge beside Parker. He’s lost the mask, but his hair is still too spikey for Dick Grayson. Also he’s made popcorn. “Well, Alfred made it,” he says. “But I brought it to you, so you totally owe me and should teach me how you did that lift on the rooftop.”

Hardison is supposed to be finishing up the bank transfers to get the dirty money into good hands, but he comes to join them on the ledge while his programs run and grabs a handful of popcorn from the bucket, his body pressed warm up against her side in a way she’ll never get used to but has definitely started to enjoy.

“Do you need me to go easy on you to start?” Bruce asks. “I’d hate to leave you crippled. Or Maimed. Or, what was it, in an alley left for dead?”

Eliot cracks his neck from side to side and steps back into stance with a grin. “Bring it on.”

[bah da ba ba baaaaa bah da ba ba baaaa Batmaaaaaan.]