Actions

Work Header

King's Gambit

Chapter Text

Chapter One

 

“You cheated.” Jonathan Crane glared over his hand of cards at Jervis Tetch, who was seated on the other side of the barrel currently being used as a table. Water dripped from leaky pipes overhead and the empty warehouse was lit by a sputtering kerosene lamp that barely illuminated their faces.

“I most certainly did not.” Jervis sounded aggrieved. “How would I cheat in a game of War, anyway?”

“I’m sure you’d find a way.” Jonathan muttered irately, shuffling the cards back into the deck. “You gave me all the low ones on purpose.”

“And exactly how would you expect me to do that? You’re sitting right there, you would have noticed if I manipulated the deck!”

“Oh, shut up, Tetch.” Jonathan rolled his eyes, pulling off the burlap mask he wore and shaking out his tangled hair. “I’m sick of this game anyway.”

“Because you keep losing?” Jervis shot back under his breath. Jonathan threw the cards at him and they flew everywhere, scattering across the oil-stained floor. Jervis glared at him in earnest this time.

“Look what you’ve done, you’ve ruined them. And that was my only deck.”

“Oh, boohoo, how sad.” Jonathan grumbled, not in the mood for an argument. “What’s the point, anyway? We just sit here and play cards until someone from Arkham finds us or Jerome magically returns from the dead?”

Jervis began picking up the cards, his top hat sliding over his eyes. He pushed it up, annoyed. “I’ve been trying to come up with a plan all night. If you hadn’t insisted on playing this stupid game, I could have thought of something by now.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

“So don’t blame me for your boredom.” Jervis sniffed resentfully, smoothing away a spot of grease on one of the cards. “I just need time to figure out what we should do.”

“If Jerome were here, we wouldn’t—”

“Jerome isn’t here.” the man gritted between his teeth, straightening up and slamming the cards back onto the table. “He’s dead. And I doubt we’ll be granted any sort of resurrection, one can’t simply brush off a three-story fall and a fatal gunshot to the abdomen.”

“How do you know what happened?” Jonathan tilted the chair he was sitting on back onto two legs and crossed his arms. Jervis was tempted to kick the chair out from under him.

“I found a copy of autopsy files from this morning. And saw his brother there too, incidentally. Do you remember him?”

Jonathan snorted. “The creepy kid in that bomb shelter-y maze house? I’m surprised he’s still around. I would’ve left Gotham for good if I had his luck.”

“I suppose you never can tell with those Valeskas.” Jervis shook his head sagely. “Who knows, maybe his brother is more like him than meets the eye?”

“Doubt it, last time we saw him he was crying his eyes out on the floor when Jerome killed his girlfriend or whatever. He’ll probably be hightailing it out of this city as soon as he can. That’d be the smart thing to do, at least.”

“I saw he and Bruce Wayne were the ones Jerome held hostage during that whole…escapade.” Jervis continued, lacing his fingers together. “Do you think they know each other?”

“Who knows.” Jonathan shrugged, disinterested. “The point is, Jerome’s gone and I seriously don’t think it matters what his brother’s choosing to do with his life. It’s not like he’s gonna help us out.”

A new voice spoke from behind them, echoing in the drafty warehouse. “Is that something you would be opposed to?”

Jonathan and Jervis started in surprise, spinning around toward the source of the voice and narrowly avoiding knocking over the kerosene lamp and setting fire to the place . They weren’t prepared for what they saw: Jeremiah Valeska, standing quietly behind them, hands clasped behind his back and eyes fixed on them with an unusual sort of intensity. They all stared at one another in turn, no one knowing what to say to break the silence, until finally Jonathan leaned forward, resting his elbows on the makeshift barrel table as he studied the newcomer with a scrutinizing look.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

Jeremiah blinked, reaching up a hand to adjust his glasses. Jonathan noticed his eyes looked strange…had they been that odd faded color when he’d seen Jeremiah in the bunker the other day? Maybe it was just a trick of the light…the rest of him looked perfectly, pristinely normal.

Almost too normal.

“I wanted to speak with you.” Jeremiah shifted back and forth on his feet, the facade of perfection slipping away as uncertainty darted across his face. Jonathan could see instantly that he had no idea what he was doing. Jerome would have made fun of his brother to no end if he could have seen this…

“How did you know where to find us?” Jervis broke in suspiciously, reaching for the pocket watch clipped at his side. Jeremiah looked over at him slowly, his eyes following the movement, and his expression became wary. Jonathan almost laughed…he really was the opposite of Jerome.

It made him miss their former leader a little bit.

But only a bit, because Jerome had been pretty annoying, he admitted to himself.

“I followed you.” Jeremiah replied to Jervis’s question, keeping a cautious eye on the hypnotist’s watch. “From the GCPD.”

“You saw me there?” the man’s voice rose an octave. “And you didn’t tell Gordon?”

“No. I wanted to talk to you. And I wouldn’t be able to do that very well if you were behind bars.”

Jervis sat back, narrowing his eyes at Jeremiah. “Talk? About what?”

The remaining Valeska glanced over his shoulder as if expecting someone else to be listening in. Jonathan chuckled. “What sort of criminals do you take us for? This place is secure.”

He turned back to them, eyes darting from one to the other. “If I was to offer you an opportunity to work together…” He hesitated at those words, testing them out experimentally as if they had been well-rehearsed up until now, “…what would you say?”

“Work together? With you?” Jervis chortled. “Have you decided to follow in your brother’s footsteps after his death?”

A shadow crossed Jeremiah’s face and a flicker of disapproval flashed in those strange pale eyes magnified behind the glasses he wore. “I have no desire whatsoever to imitate Jerome. More of the opposite of what I want.”

Jervis nodded wisely. “Carving your own path, I see. That’s good. It builds character.”

Jeremiah shot him an irritated look. “Would you accept the offer or not?”

“Depends what you mean by working together.” Jonathan decided to act as spokesman since Jervis seemed more interested in analyzing Jeremiah’s personality rather than a business deal. “Maybe start with a little explanation first?”

The redhead shoved his hands into his pockets, scuffing one heel on the ground as he spoke. “What do you need an explanation for, exactly?”

“For starters, why are you talking to us? You realize, based on the last time we saw you, we aren’t on the greatest terms with each other, right?” Jonathan raised an eyebrow, suddenly suspicious. “You didn’t come here for revenge for your friend Jerome shot, did you? Because we’re armed.” He picked up the burlap mask he’d tossed aside before, aiming the fear toxin dispenser at the newcomer. Jervis followed suit, revealing a derringer he kept hidden up his sleeve for times like these.

Jeremiah didn’t flinch, but his expression grew a bit more tense.

“I don’t want revenge,” he began, his voice impressively steady for someone being threatened by two convicted criminal escapees. After what they’d witnessed in the bunker the other day, neither Jonathan nor Jervis had expected such a calm reaction from him. “and I’m not armed, so you have no reason to worry about that.” He disentangled his hands from his pockets, holding them up so they could see he was telling the truth. “I only wanted to know if you’d be interested in my offer.”

“Okay, what’s the offer?” Jonathan asked, curiosity getting the better of him. He really did want to know what this insufferably pretentious copy of Jerome was doing following them around and thinking he could make demands.

Jeremiah lifted his chin, ignoring the sudden dizziness that rushed through his body as it had been doing sometimes when he was nervous or unsure about something…another unpleasant side effect of the toxin, but one he could control easily enough if he needed to. He’d been able to control all the effects so far, even the sporadic laughter that would sometimes catch in his throat without warning, which just went to prove how Jerome had been such an utter failure.

Unlike him.

“I have a plan to make Gotham better.” he said slowly, annoyed at the condescending smiles the other two gave him. “It’s…not a complete plan, not yet, there are still a few things I need to work out…but I have some ideas, and I can promise you that it’ll be something no one in this city will ever forget.”

Jonathan faked a yawn, tossing the fear toxin aside again. “Do you have any idea how many people have said that exact same thing over the years? What makes you any different?”

“Because my plan will work.”

“Strong words coming from a guy who was last seen trying to run away from his brother in his own house because he didn’t think through the plan he’d made.” Jonathan commented drily. Jeremiah’s face flushed.

“Things have changed. Nothing like that will happen again.”

“Of course you would say that, no one ever believes bad things will happen until they do.” Jervis pointed out. Jeremiah glared, clearly frustrated at the reception his visit was getting.

“It’s not a reflection on every other plan I’ve come up with. I’m resourceful, and Gotham could be completely changed if you just let me work with you.”

“That’s another thing.” Jonathan noted. “Why do you want to work with us? We’re clearly not on the same side. We worked for Jerome.”

“Well, he’s dead now.” There was a sudden coldness in Jeremiah’s eyes. “So you can either continue playing children’s games in abandoned warehouses, or you can make some good use of your time.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“I won’t betray you to the police, if that’s what you mean.” Jeremiah said noncommittally. The truth was, he wasn’t sure why he’d gone to these two…he knew they were dangerous criminals, knew that Bruce would probably disapprove of a partnership with them, knew they most likely wouldn’t want to be on his side…but they were powerful in Gotham, they had influence where he didn’t, and Jeremiah didn’t mind blurring the lines of black and white into a little morally obscure but effective grey when it was necessary.

And this was necessary.

It was, if he wanted to finally bring together everything he’d ever wanted. For himself, for Gotham, for Bruce…this was the only way to make things work out. And he was sure Bruce would understand in the end.

When he saw everything Jeremiah had done for him.

“You sure won’t.” Jonathan’s voice broke thought his thoughts. “Consider yourself lucky if you walk out of here alive.”

Jeremiah’s eye twitched. “You don’t have any reason to kill me.”

“I could kill you because I wanted to, simple as that.” Jonathan was beginning to get annoyed. He’d expected Jeremiah to be scared of him, and he’d hoped a death threat or two would send the kid scurrying away back to his underground house for good. This wasn’t the time for some rip-off version of Jerome trying to seize the opportunity of his brother’s death to take control of them. “And trust me, that wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience for you.”

“Why exactly did you decide to work for Jerome?” Jeremiah asked suddenly, catching them off guard. They glanced at each other, not sure what to say at first. Jeremiah watched them carefully, standing perfectly still. Finally, Jervis answered.

“I don’t mind admitting that, if it wasn’t for Jerome, we would still be in Arkham.” He gestured at himself and his companion. “And in return for getting us out of there, we helped him with his plan.”

A flicker of a smile crossed Jeremiah’s face, something almost smug creeping into his expression. “Oh, I see. You think it was Jerome who got you out of the asylum.”

Jonathan scowled at him. “Whatever game you’re playing here, it’s not going to work. So I’d suggest getting out of here before I make you.” He got to his feet, approaching Jeremiah slowly, who tensed but didn’t back away. “Understand?”

“Jerome wasn’t responsible for the Arkham escape.” Jeremiah looked at him impassively, not seeming to care that Jonathan was now donning his burlap gas mask. “All he did was follow orders he didn’t know he was being given.”

“Explain.” Jervis said from behind them, and Jonathan spun around on his heel.

“Really? You want him to explain? I say we kick him out of here and be done with it. This is a waste of time.”

“You don’t have anything better to do.” Jervis pointed out. Jonathan groaned long-sufferingly, then turned back to Jeremiah.

“What did you mean by that?”

The smile on his face was still there, taking on a sly edge. For a moment, Jonathan could see the resemblance so clearly that he thought it was Jerome standing there. “Didn’t you think it was a little too convenient, having everything happen so perfectly before the breakout? The old guards being replaced, Jerome suddenly wanting to leave right away…all a little orchestrated, wasn’t it?”

Jonathan stalked even closer, coming eye to eye with Jeremiah, who gazed at him coldly. But beneath the tough exterior, Jonathan could see a flicker of something in his eyes, something he’d seen in Jerome countless times in the past. It was a spark that burned restlessly, never going out, an insatiable whisper of insanity that Jerome had had no trouble flaunting when he wanted to. Jerome had enjoyed telling everyone he was insane, he used it as an intimidation tactic, and had been almost proud of the fact.

But Jeremiah was hiding that spark in his eyes, suppressing it. Jonathan tilted his head. 

He was, admittedly, intrigued.

“So you’re saying the breakout…” He took off the mask again to get a better look at the last surviving Valeska standing in front of him. “…was planned by someone else?” Jeremiah nodded wordlessly and Jonathan’s eyebrows shot up. “You?”

“Surely you had to be at least a little suspicious of how everything went so smoothly.”

“Are you saying,” Jonathan’s hand shot out and latched onto the lapel of Jeremiah’s coat. The latter froze, but remained staunchly unafraid. “you’re responsible for getting all those people out of Arkham? That was your plan?”

“Well, my original intention was simply for Jerome to escape, but obviously he couldn’t do it without help from his friends.” The last word was derisive, mocking. Jonathan wanted to punch him in the mouth, if he had been the sort to go around punching people. Who did this kid think he was, stalking them to their hideout and then boasting that he had gotten them all out of the asylum? “But yes. By and large, you would never have left Arkham if it wasn’t for me. So if I were you, I’d be grateful.”

“You are dangerously close to getting a taste of this.” Jonathan shoved the mask with the fear toxin dispenser in his face. Jeremiah glanced at it.

“You really think it would affect me? Jerome already left me a little gift of some toxin he created, and clearly it hasn’t done a thing.” He smiled again. Jonathan frowned.

“The laughing gas? You mean he—”

“It doesn’t matter.” Jeremiah cut him off before he could say another word, agitation sparking in his eyes. Jonathan reflected that it was nice to see something other than that cool smugness on his face. Jervis, who had been watching silently, stood up.

“So you were the one who led to all of this happening. And now you want us to work for you.”

“It wouldn’t be difficult. I’ll only need help with getting some…inventions…built. I have to procure the right materials and make sure they’re assembled properly, otherwise the plan won’t work. And since you both seem to have some influence in this city…”

“Inventions for what?” Jonathan cut in.

“I’d prefer to keep the details to myself for now.” Jeremiah said stiffly. “Seeing that I’m not exactly a close acquaintance of yours. And besides, you worked for my brother. I’m fully aware you could plan to double-cross me even if you did accept my offer.”

“Double-crossing’s too much work. But here’s my question.” Jonathan leaned closer. “What happened to you? What made you change?" He looked the redhead up and down. "Was it the laughing gas?”

Jeremiah looked at him contemptuously. “The toxin failed. I’m only doing what I should have done years ago. There’s nothing more to it.”

“Strangely vague.” Jervis commented from behind them. Jeremiah gave him a withering glare.

“If you’re expecting me to be like Jerome, I’m not. We’re completely different, and I suggest you remember that if we work together.”

“First of all,” Jonathan snapped, at his wit’s end, “you had better stop imagining you’re in charge. You came to us to ask for help, not the other way around, and you’re in no position to be making demands. You don’t even know what you’re doing.”

“I know perfectly well—”

“Shut up.” Jonathan did have to admit that he preferred this Valeska over his brother…Jerome had been obnoxiously sure of himself in every situation, and it got a little tiring after a while. It was refreshing to see someone who wasn’t quite as experienced in a life of crime. “I’ll accept the offer, because I’m bored.” And because he wanted a front-row spot to see this kid crash and burn after he tried to make his dreams come true, but there was no point in saying that aloud. “And Jervis will, too.” Jervis looked up, a little displeased that Jonathan was making his decisions for him but not protesting. “We’ll get you the stuff you need for whatever you’re building. But you haven’t told us what we get out of it.”

Jeremiah looked relieved, and Jonathan resisted the urge to roll his eyes again. “Payment. As in, money.”

“I don’t want money.”

“Oh.” He paused, at loss for words for a moment, then drew himself back up, straightening his shoulders. “So what do you want?”

“Okay, look.” Jonathan waved away the question impatiently, hit with a flash of sudden inspiration. “You clearly have no clue what you’re doing.” Jeremiah frowned, about to protest, but he was cut off. “I don’t know if you’re trying to be like Jerome, or whatever, but you’re not going to get far like this. You need someone to help you out. So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll help you, and in exchange, you have to tell me what your plan is. Details and all. It’s the only way you’ll succeed, and I’ll get a chance to know what you’re trying to do.” It was a gamble, he knew. Jeremiah’s plan could just as easily be some inconsequential, half-formed scheme that would amount to nothing, but Jonathan was bored, and if, by some stroke of luck, things did work out, then he would have a share in the power.

And if Jeremiah was telling the truth about the Arkham breakout, there was no denying he had a good head on his shoulders.

“All right…” the redhead said slowly, mulling over the offer. “But if you try to betray me…”

“Save it. You’re not worth it. If you were someone powerful, I’d consider it. But no one knows who you are, and there’s no point in me trying to mess up your plans. That would just be mean. And I’m never mean without a reason.”

Jeremiah gave him a half-smile. “So it’s a deal?” He looked over at Jervis. “You too?”

“Both of us.” Jonathan supplied, holding out the hand that wasn’t grasping his fear toxin mask. “It’s a deal.”

 

+ + + + + + +

 

“He told me it’s a surprise.” Bruce shrugged, catching Selina’s gaze in the mirror’s reflection from where she was hanging upside down over the foot of his bed. “I have no idea what it’s about.”

“Does that not sound kinda weird to you?” she asked, drumming her heels against the bedspread. “I mean, his brother’s gonna be buried tomorrow, you both just had a life-threatening experience where you could’ve been brutally murdered, and now he wants to give you a surprise? The timing’s a little wack, if you ask me.”

“Well, technically, Jerome’s going to the Arkham research lab,” Bruce began.

“Where Indian Hill used to be?” She arched an eyebrow at him.

“Yes, but this is all above-board and legal. And their cryogenic preservation program was called off a little while ago on the grounds of malpractice, so there should be no concerns about any…well, you know, the whole coming-back-to-life thing that happened last time.”

“My point still stands. About this surprise thing.” Selina continued after a pause. “It sounds weird to me.”

“It’s not like there’s anything to worry about.” He joined her on the edge of the bed, and Selina slid down to the floor, sitting on the ground. Bruce looked down at her. “He probably just needs someone to talk to, you know?”

“He has Ecco.” Selina pointed out, her tone growing slightly defensive, and Bruce looked confused.

“Well, yes, but…”

“I just mean this is all you’ve been doing these past few days.” she interrupted, turning away from him. “You won’t stop talking about Jeremiah, and how you’re worried and whatever and how you feel responsible and all that. Maybe you should just leave him alone for once.” A hint of jealousy began creeping into her tone that Bruce didn’t notice or didn’t understand. Selina would never admit she was jealous…it was stupid to be jealous of your own friend, she told herself…but she couldn’t help feeling a little bitter at how preoccupied Bruce had been lately. After all, Jeremiah could take care of himself, or should be able to, and it wasn’t Bruce’s job to look after him.

It was getting more than irritating for Selina to hear the topic being brought up over and over again.

“Sorry.” Bruce said, subdued. “I didn’t realize…”

“Yeah, well, you were.”

“I said sorry.”

“I know.” She stood up, not bothering to look at him. “I’m gonna go now. There’s a lot of stuff I have to do.”

“Selina, you don’t have to leave.” Bruce got up and began to hurry after her. Selina glanced at him over her shoulder and tried to smile, but it felt too stiff and uncertain.

“I told you, I have stuff to do. Have fun with your surprise, whatever it is.”

Bruce watched her disappear around the corner of the hall, then sighed and turned away, hoping she might come back later when she wasn’t mad at him anymore. He hadn’t realized he’d been so preoccupied lately, but he couldn’t help it. That strange sense of foreboding hadn’t lifted yet, and he still felt uneasy, as if something was going to happen but he didn’t know what.

He knew it was irrational…Jerome was gone, and he wouldn’t threaten any of them anymore. They were safe from him forever now. And the GCPD had rounded up most of the escapees—Scarecrow and Jervis Tetch were still at large, according to a recent report, but they hadn’t done anything to warrant police attention yet—and the laughing gas toxin that had been in the blimp was safely confiscated and locked away in a lab for analysis. Bruce himself had offered one of Wayne Enterprises’ labs for storage, and the GCPD had accepted…he knew the toxin was kept under lock and key, where no one could get it without authorization, and there was nothing to worry about.

Absolutely nothing.

But things still didn’t feel right.

 

+ + + + + +

 

“Do you think he’ll like it?” Jeremiah asked nervously, glancing over his shoulder at Ecco, who was tracing one of his mazes onto a large sheet of paper, per his request. She looked up immediately at his words, setting down the pen she was holding.

“Like it?” she repeated incredulously, as if such a question was unthinkable. “Of course he’ll like it! It’s beautiful.”

He got up to look over her shoulder, and Ecco smiled up at him, leaning her head back against his chest. Jeremiah stared down at her blankly, then his gaze drifted to the outline she was drawing. “I’m just worried that maybe he’ll think…” He trailed off, shaking his head. He still hadn’t met with Bruce, not since the day Jerome had died, and had only spoken with him once over the phone. In fact, the only time he’d left the house had been the day before, first to go to the GCPD for the autopsy (but he’d lost his nerve at the last minute and hadn’t gone in…he was too afraid Jim Gordon would think he seemed too different and catch on to what had happened with the toxin, and besides, they didn’t really need him anyway, it was just standard procedure) and then to follow Jervis Tetch to the warehouse. He hadn’t planned on speaking with either Tetch or Jonathan Crane so quickly, although he had kept them on his mental radar, knowing they’d been involved in the Arkham breakout. But the opportunity had risen, almost as if fate had wanted him to find them, and he’d seized the opportunity. Jeremiah really was surprised at how readily they’d accepted his offer, although their skepticism hadn’t gone unnoticed, and began to think that maybe this plan could actually work.

As long as Bruce liked it.

That was what really mattered.

Because all of this…everything he did…Bruce had to like it. He had to see that Jeremiah wasn’t insane (because I’m not, everyone knows that), had to see that this idea really did make sense. And it was best for the both of them.

“When are you going to show it to him?” Ecco asked, and Jeremiah blinked, startled out of his reverie.

“Soon. Tomorrow. He said he’d meet me at the Wayne Enterprises office, and I’ll explain to him how this will all work.” He reached over her shoulder to pick up the paper she’d been drawing the maze on, his pale eyes scanning the outline thoughtfully. “By the way, do you have the overlay for this?”

Ecco nodded eagerly, getting to her feet and digging through a stack of blueprints until she came up with a somewhat crumpled tracing paper, passing it to Jeremiah. “Your own bona-fide map of this lovely little city.”

He gave her a small smile, placing the map of Gotham over the maze drawing. “And the instructions for the generators? Where are those?”

She nodded to the opposite wall, where pages of formulas and equations were pinned up. “All ready for you, boss.”

He made a face at that. “Don’t call me boss. We’re not in a mafia movie.”

“Sorry.”

“I’ve given Crane his instructions to find the pieces I’ll need. His…what does he call it, fear toxin? That should come in handy for him. I doubt he’ll run into trouble.”

“And Mr. Tetch?” she asked.

“Doing his part as well. I imagine it’s quite handy to be a hypnotist. He can get whatever he wants if he’s smart about it.”

You’re the one who's smart.” the assistant didn’t hesitate to say. “It’s your plan.”

He gave her an absent pat on the arm as he brushed past, and Ecco beamed. “Yes, I guess it is. But what really matters—”

“Is that Bruce Wayne likes it.” she finished for him, and Jeremiah sighed.

“Right. Don’t interrupt.”

“Sorry.” she said again, turning back to the maze she was drawing. “So, once you’ve told him, how long do we have to wait until things go boom?” Her eyes traveled to the generator on the table.

He pursed his lips. “I think we could use a better phrase than that. You make it sound so violent. This isn’t an attack, you know. It’s just the way things need to happen.”

“Of course.” She picked up her pen, hunching over the drawing. “But what will you tell everyone else? The rest of the city, I mean? How will they know what you’re doing?”

“I’m still working on that part.” he said slowly, taking off his glasses to rub his hands over his tired eyes. Ecco’s face twisted in concern.

“You okay, Jeremiah? You’ve been looking kinda pale lately.”

He glared at her self-consciously. His change in appearance hadn’t gone unnoticed by him either…when he’d first seen the way his eyes had altered to the silver color they now were, he’d been horrified. It looked so unnatural, so not normal. He was sure Bruce would notice it, and then he would have to explain about the toxin. And he was paler…it was a slow transformation, but inescapable. He’d hoped at least Ecco wouldn’t be compelled to comment on it, but she did anyway.

“I’m fine.” The words came out as a hiss, and she flinched away. “There’s nothing wrong with me, understand? Nothing at all. Nothing has changed.”

She nodded, not looking very convinced, but not willing to argue, either. “Okay.”

“And nothing will change.” He was speaking to himself more than her now. “They’ll all see it. They’ll know I’m not like him.”

“You’re not like Jerome.” she hurried to reassure him, thinking it would make him happy to hear such an affirmation. Jeremiah’s expression only grew darker.

I know I’m not. I’m talking about them. Everyone out there. They’re the ones I have to convince.” He turned to look at the generator, switching it on and watching the blue light turn immediately to red. After a few alterations, he’d found a way to speed up the overloading sequence. It would make things a bit…easier…now that his plans had changed. More efficient.

He was sure Bruce would be proud of his ingenuity.

At least, that was what he hoped.

Ecco stood behind him. “Uh…Jeremiah?” she murmured as the warning light on the top of the generator began to flash. “Is that gonna…”

He flicked the switch back off and the light turned off as the mechanisms inside began to power down. “Detonate? You really think I would let that happen?”

“Well, it looked like—”

“I am perfectly in control.” he interrupted, eyes flashing. “I always am.”

That’s what will convince Bruce that this is a good idea. Once he knows I’m in control, once he realizes that this is the best way…

That has to be enough to persuade him.

It has to.

Otherwise, Jeremiah thought unhappily, it would mean Bruce wasn’t prepared to face the truth.

And that would certainly put a bit of a delay on his plans until he was able to show his friend what he needed to see.

What Jeremiah needed him to see.