Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales: String Theory

String Theory by Chris Dee

43 minutes


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Bruce Wayne watched the woman who had been his lover for years, his enemy for years before that, and his obsession since the moment he’d set eyes on her, the woman who shared his home and his bed and his secrets…  He watched her like a bug under a magnifying glass.

Yes, Selina was Catwoman.  Yes, Catwoman was a thief.  And yes, he himself had said a thief’s mentality is what was needed if they were going to, essentially, ‘steal’ Zatanna’s powers.  But he hadn’t really meant, that is, he never anticipated, nobody could have anticipated—this was just nuts.  He always said that criminal behavior was inherently irrational, but even he never envisioned… this couldn’t be how one went about planning a crime… could it?

She’d gone to the kitchen and piled a plate high with slices of leftover turkey and ham.  Then she’d gone to the morning room and sat there for the better part of an hour—snacking!  She sat at the desk, his mother’s desk, with this curious look on her face.  And after a minute or two, she’d pick up a piece of turkey and nibble.  Then, she’d set down the turkey and look into space again.  Every once in a while, she’d turn her head to the side, like a cat listening.  Once or twice, she held up a finger and twiddled it in the air like she was writing a math problem on an imaginary chalkboard.  She never wrote anything down, she never got up from the chair to walk through a maneuver, take a measurement, or look up a fact.

“This must be killing you,” Clark laughed as he watched Bruce watch a monitor with the security feed from the morning room.  “You finally get to watch and analyze the criminal mind at work, and it’s her, and she’s sitting at your desk eating chicken.”

“It’s my mother’s desk,” Bruce corrected.  “And it’s turkey.  Alfred made it before he left.”

“Ah,” Clark nodded, biting back additional laughter. 

“What now?” Bruce grunted, ignoring Clark’s obvious mirth. “She’s moved on to bonbons?”

Clark scrutinized the screen.  “Butter creams,” he said mildly, delighted he could correct Bruce’s detail just as his friend had done a moment before.

Bruce glared.  “It was a rhetorical question,” he declared flatly, and then went on in a controlled, almost bored tone.  “May I remind you this is a crisis situation.  Your levity is hardly—”

“What do you want from me, Bruce?  Glowering at the screen isn’t going to make this go any faster.”

“Neither will laughing at it.  I’m going up there and talk to her.”

Superman held his tongue until Bruce had left the cave.  Then he saw Selina start as if she had an idea and happily bite into a raspberry cream. 

“Yes, talk to her,” he said finally, though there was no one to hear. “That’s sure to speed things along.”

On his way to the morning room, Bruce passed the chimera of his ancestors Sarah and Marie Wayne, easily recognized from their portraits in the gallery above the Great Hall.  They were sisters, and although the apparition made no sound, he could tell by their manner that they were giggling in a silly girlish fashion. 

“Impossible women,” Bruce grumbled to himself. 

“I hope you’ve got something,” he announced reaching the morning room.  “The temporal distortion in the anomalies is getting worse.”

“You mean the ones in the eighteenth century getups?” Selina noted.  “I saw them.  I think the tall blonde is getting married.”

“She’s not,” Bruce said crisply.  “Her young man is killed in the Battle of Trenton.  She dies an old maid.  It’s the shorter one, the brunette, that married.  You making any progress or not.”

Selina sighed.  “Yes and no.  The way I see it, Zatanna’s magic is like a beautiful necklace, goodsize canary diamonds surrounded by little white ones—worth a fortune but you’d never sell it because it’s just too meow—perfect prize for kitty, get the picture?  But it’s locked in a really, really good vault.”  She paused and took a bite of chocolate, then resumed while carefully chewing.  “Maybe I can find a way in; maybe not.  But if I can, it’s gonna take a while to figure out and a really long time to prep the job—time I haven’t got because this is Gotham and Batman is infuriatingly good at this.  And no happy grunt from you, Jackass.” 

She paused again and popped the rest of the chocolate into her mouth. 

“Badass crimefighter isn’t who you want to be rooting for this time around because, in this case, you’re a crisis spark, and we’re all gonna die if this thing drags out too long.  So, what do we do?”

She paused a third time, but rather than take another chocolate, she set down the box and simply smiled up at him—a coy, confident cat-smile. 

“Glad you asked,” she said brightly.  “Here’s the kicker: Nobody has an exquisite chocker with the most perfect and beautiful canary diamonds ever cut just to keep it locked away in a vault.  We don’t have to hit the vault if we can hit the party she’s going to wear it to.”  She pointed triumphantly towards the study.  “And everybody wears their best jewels when they come to Wayne Manor.”

Bruce massaged his eyebrow wearily.  “I hate this analogy,” he murmured.

“Every 43 minutes, there she is.  It’s just like hitting a party, Bruce, we know exactly where the necklace will be, we know exactly when: pink finhead alien, Hawkman-clock-uppercut, big red robot, Superman-whoosh, and Zatanna! Waving her necklace!  When she does, we grab it.”

Bruce fought down his revulsion at the waves of delight pulsing from Selina.  She was thinking like a criminal and she was reveling in it.  She was glowing, positively glowing.  Her excitement was bad enough, but the ‘we’ made it infinitely worse.  She was including him: we know exactly where she’ll be… when she does, we grab it! 

“And how do you propose to ‘grab’ Zatanna’s magic,” he said finally, trying to keep the sternest growl of bat-disapproval out of his voice and failing even to his own ears. 

In her enthusiasm, Selina didn’t notice.

“How would I know; I’m no magician.  Hey are you hungry? I could make us a couple sandwiches.”

“YOU—” he blurted, then stopped short and continued in a strained but quieter tone. “You’ve been eating all morning.”

She laughed.  “I know.  Plotting makes me hungry.  Although…” she ran a finger excitedly down his arm and exhaled in a deeply suggestive snarl-purr “…might be better ways to feed the high right now.”

Bruce pushed her away gruffly and turned away. 

“You can’t be serious,” he spat in Batman’s hoarsest gravel.

“Hey!” she objected angrily, “Is that all the catnip I get when I’m doing all this trying to keep the damn universe from unfraying, goddamn Luthors and pink sapphires every time I turn around and even alternate Alfred was ready to shut the door in my face?!”

Bruce turned, suddenly ashamed. 

“I—” he said quietly.  “I didn’t realize—You seemed to be doing just fine for catnip.  You seemed to be reveling in it.  I thought that—”

“I like being back on solid ground,” she said frankly. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with cosmic sparks and Berliani monks.  I know where I am with this. I’m good at it.  And I like that I can help.”

They stared directly into each other’s eyes, frozen for a long moment.  Then…

“Let’s go find Jason,” he said brusquely.  “See if he has any ideas how to ‘grab the necklace’ now that we know where and when…” he sighed, as if it pained him to continue her analogy, “…it will be out of the vault.”

Selina sat in the study, slumped into a mass of frustration, self-pity, and feline ire.  Bruce had changed back into costume, and now Batman, Superman, Jason Blood, Hella, and Etrigan circled the room like a squadron of fighter planes on independent flight paths.  She had done her part, it seemed, and now they would formulate a plan.  They would.  The crimefighters, the demonologist, the demon, and the underworld goddess.  When they spoke of Selina, it was as a variable in an equation, and when they included her, it was with a strained cheeriness, the way she called to Whiskers and Nutmeg before taking them to the vet… All except Batman.  Batman didn’t speak to her at all, he didn’t look at her if he could help it, and when he referred to her, his voice took on a cold detachment that sent chills up her spine.

“So it should work?” he asked marking off points on a floorplan of the room.

“It will work,” Jason assured him.  “Erasing Zatanna’s powers from existence is what the simultaneous seeing rituals of at least three Bruce Wayne/Luthor teams was meant to accomplish.  In our world, our Lex Luthor pulled those magicks off course.  Possibly he was destined to engage in a seeing at the same time as his counterparts were, just as you were destined to summon Dr. Leiverman and hold a ritual here at the manor at the same time as your counterparts.  Perhaps all Bruce Waynes and Luthors were led in this direction by the Universe until the desired effect was achieved.  But predestined or not, influenced or not, our Luthor became convinced that this Dr. Light business was his ticket back to power.  He could show the world that metas and aliens were the threat he’s always maintained.  He staged a seeing of his own with Dr. Alchemy, intent on proving there was magic at play in that botched attempt to assassinate Clark Kent and all that followed which led to his removal from office.”  

Jason paused and held up the longest of the jade cylinders confiscated from Luthor. 

“And because Albert Desmond is a scientist at heart and not a classically trained wizard, he never recognized this as a yagi baton.  He inserted it into the seeing fire, pulling the lines of magick from the Wayne seeings out of alignment, bringing them to converge on the wrong string, silencing the wrong one(s), probably at random, and setting off this cosmic instability.  

“So yes, Bruce, it will work.  If Selina can go back and persuade those Bruce Waynes to do what the universe intended in the first place, for them to use magic simultaneously to converge on Zatanna’s powers and zero them out, I see no reason why it shouldn’t work.”

“How do we know the magic wouldn’t be pulled off course all over again?” Superman asked.

Again Jason held up the jade cylinder.  “The yagi baton is like an antenna, magnet, and lightning rod all in one.  It will draw magicks into itself across spectra you can’t even conceive of with a magnetism that transcends the forces of magick itself.  We know where each of these Bruce Waynes will be conducting their ritual, they’ll be at that claw-footed table,” he pointed.  “And we know the precise spot where Zatanna’s magic will manifest at one exact moment.”  He pointed the baton at the spot where she appeared every 43 minutes in the anomaly to freeze Despero and waken the mind-controlled leaguers.

“That’s only one of infinite Zatannas,” Batman pointed out.

Jason shook his head briskly, obviously anticipating the question. 

“It won’t matter.  Wayne Manor is currently a nexus connected to all dimensions; that is why Selina is able to see the cats that link her to this reality whenever she crosses into another.  Magick cast here in this place, now at this time, is able to transcend dimensions and enter into all realities.  If Zatanna is hit with a nullifying counterwave while in this house and already in a state of ‘dimensional leakage’ if you will, I have no doubt it will pass through to all dimensions.  It’s likely that is why, of all the dimensional anomalies, it is this particular scene which keeps repeating.  The seeing rituals took place right there at that table, and in all the infinite realities, that one moment brought Zatanna’s magic closest to the forces meant to dissolve it.

“I hate this,” Selina announced to no one in particular.

Jason Blood reluctantly poured the scented oil out of the little dish suspended by the trio of gold cats.  He replaced the dish over the flame, and Batman just as reluctantly set a countdown clock inside it.

“You’ll have 43 minutes,” he said coldly to Catwoman.

“Yeah, I got that part down,” she noted calmly.

Jason poured the oil from the black cats and cast a glowing ßųŁŁą rħðmbå around the jade batons, then lowered the magic bubble until it came to rest in the glass dish over that second burner.

“Remember, one of the yagi batons for each Bruce Wayne,” he said blandly, “and one for you in that final step.”

“I got that part down too,” she hissed hatefully. 

Jason poured the oil from the third set of cats, and placed the ball of webbed purple glass called a “witch orb” inside of it. 

“Then there’s nothing left to be said,” he remarked flatly.  “The sooner it’s done, the sooner this menace is behind us and we can all proceed with our lives.”

Catwoman nodded and stepped into the transporter.  The churning whirlpool of energy beneath it surged as it usually did when she entered the chamber, and Batman took his place at the controls. 

“Wait,” he blurted suddenly.  He stepped back from the console and jerked his head once, sharply, to the side. 

Squelching a smile, Catwoman stepped patiently out of the transporter and walked calmly to the side where he indicated.  There, he touched her arm and pulled her farther from Jason and the transporter.  When they were what he presumably judged was a safe distance, Selina waited calmly, and at last he spoke.

“If it gets, if you,” he began haltingly.  “Selina, if you get there and it’s too dangerous—There’s a lot of power in that room.  If you don’t think you can do it… then don’t.  We can find another way.”

“You’re really very sweet when you’re overprotective,” she interrupted, smiling.  “But there isn’t another way.  If there was, that’s what we’d be doing.  I’d insist on it.  Think about it, Bruce, if there was any alternative, and I mean any alternative—”

KREEEEEE sounded ominously from the study, echoing down the path from the clock passage, and Selina closed her eyes at the unwanted but inevitable cue to leave.  Batman’s thumb clicked a button automatically, and the clock in the oil burner began counting down.

“43 minutes,” she whispered.

…42:58…

“You don’t have to be the one to go,” Batman insisted.

…42:56…

“Of course I do…”

…42:54…

“…because you can’t say no to me.”

The vortex grew and receded, just as before, and as always, Selina’s first move was to check her hand for a sapphire.  It was gone—but Batman, some Batman, was still there in the cave.  He was squatting before the glowing ßųŁŁą rħðmbå and looked up at her sharply.

“This is your doing?” he growled suspiciously.  “Your ‘dimension hopping’ is using magic?”

“Strictly speaking, it’s Jason Blood’s doing.  But yes, that magic bubble is here for me,” she answered.  “Are you… You’re the Batman I met once before?” she asked gently.  “The one who’d been to alternate timelines because of that trio from the 31st Century?  The one I showed where the burners were—”

“These were the black cats,” he pointed, “The white you said were there, and the gold there.  You ‘left,’ and suddenly this glowing ball appeared right over where you said the burner with black cats was located.  And now you’re back?”

She nodded.

“I’m back. And I’ve come to ask something more, something you’re really not going to like.”

“Will it prevent this annihilation of realities you’re trying to stop?”

“We think so.”

“Then let’s not worry about what I’ll ‘like.’”

She swallowed and nodded again, psyching herself up.

“Jason says Wayne Manor and this cave are connected to all other dimensions and realities.  He says that magic cast in this house will carry through to all others, that’s how the vortex that brought me here works, and that’s why you can see the magic bubble full of pixie sticks.”

“Go on,” he said, voice deep with loathing.

“I told you you wouldn’t like it,” she reminded him.  “I know you hate magic. I can’t imagine how much you hate having it in the house and in the cave.  Believe it or not, it gets worse.”

“Go on,” he repeated, the revulsion growing angrier.

“Right now, the manor and cave are connected to all other worlds—and in one of those worlds, you told me you commanded Zatanna’s magic.”

“You would remember that part,” he growled.

“I need you to aim it at the glowing ball of jade batons and say ‘egrahc dna sucof.

“YOU WANT ME TO CHARGE A MAGIC WAND FOR YOU!” he exploded, waves of hell month fury pouring off him.

Selina fought down the urge to panic and forced the appearance of patient calm as he closed in with a fiery menace she’d never felt from her own Batman.

“I don’t know what you believe as far as God or destiny or the universe having a plan,” she said quietly, “but this could be the reason you went through that whole ordeal with the alternate timelines.  We have to shut off Zatanna’s powers, Bruce.  And you, in this place at this time, can access Zatanna’s powers.  These are magic antennae, basically.  If you tune them for us, tune them to her magic, then we can zero them out just like a sound wave.”

“And I’ve only your word that this is a good thing,” he snapped, turning his back on her.

“Yes.  Just my word.  Maybe if you were closer to your Catwoman, that would be worth more.”

He turned back and studied her intently.  Just like their first meeting, she noticed the gears turning as she’d seen a hundred times in her world, but with a different intensity here, a suspicious urgency that seemed to define this Batman. 

“He told you about Clark,” he said quietly.

“If we had a child, Clark and Lois would be godparents,” she added, just as quietly.

His lips parted slightly—what would have been a full jaw-drop in another man—whatever he’d expected her to say, it wasn’t that.  Another long moment passed, and then his head dipped in a barely perceptible nod.  Selina guessed that he’d made a decision… but then a second passed, then two, then three, and still he said nothing.  She was beginning to fear the answer was no, when he glanced towards the batons and then back at her.

“I don’t even know if I can do it here,” he said finally.

“We’ve got nothing to lose by trying,” she ventured with a half-smile.

He glared hatefully at the glowing ball hovering a few inches off the floor, and Selina watched his eyes darken as the memory of that other life asserted itself.

egrahc dna sucof,” he pronounced in a strangely commanding voice, then his whole manner deflated and he looked at her with tired, dead eyes.  “Now go.”

“I’m sorry,” she said simply.

“Go.”

“Could I kiss your cheek first?”

“No.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to come back when this is over…  I want to thank you.”

“…”

“No one ever does, do they?”

“…”

“Bruce… find your cat.  Please.  Don’t let it end like this.”

“…You’re welcome… Now go.”

…36:20…

The vortex subsided, and Selina saw she was wearing the first alternate-sapphire, the one with a single baguette on each side instead of three, the one where, at first, she hadn’t noticed the difference.  That meant the Batman she saw suspending himself in an iron cross in the gymnasium across the cave was the first Bruce Wayne she’d encountered, the one she’d found in the study poring over his book of runes, a Bruce so similar to her own that she could glide up to him with the naughtiest of grins while his muscles strained to support his bodyweight without a tremor. 

“Don’t mind me,” she teased, running a finger down his abs, “I don’t want to interrupt the workout.”

“AARRRHHHHLLL!” he growled as he pulled his body up out of her reach—and into a momentary handstand—before leaping off the rings into a backflip—and landing defiantly behind her.

“Don’t do that,” he graveled in the deep baritone of a crimefighter who had his workout interrupted against his will, but didn’t really mind.

She turned with a pleasant smile.

“Say Handsome, remember when I talked you out of the whole seeing ritual to peek into my past because it’s really not necessary?”

“Yes,” he answered guardedly.

“Turns out it is necessary,” she announced with that lightly defiant rooftop manner when she’d just burgled an art gallery and wasn’t about to deny, equivocate, or apologize for it.  “You have to do it in the study with Dr. Luthor, just like you originally planned, but you should point this at the ceiling.”

She handed him one of the jade batons matter-of-factly and then waited with calm and cheerful resolve for the monsoon of bat-disapproval.

“What happened to all your guarantees and assurances?  Selina!  You convinced me.  I believed—I thought that—I’ve never been so relieved in my life and now—”

“Easy, big fella,” she jumped in hurriedly.  “This isn’t because I’ve had any second thoughts about what we talked about.  Everything I told you stands.  I know, and now you know, why Zatanna couldn’t have had a thing to do with my decision to stop stealing.  This is about her now, not me.  It’s necessary that you and Dr. Luthor perform that seeing exactly as you originally planned.”

“Do I get a reason for this… unusual request?” he asked, with an almost playful lightness that meant he was willing to do it.  It seemed odd, but she remembered that this Bruce had been so calmed and so relieved once they’d talked it out.  It felt like those first days after he’d taken off the mask, this weight of doubt and distrust had been lifted and in its place came this giddy, loving openness, that sweet honey warmth she’d felt looking into the Water of Avalon right before the spark…

She sighed, uncertain how to answer him.

“Is it okay if we let that be my secret for now?” she asked, in the astonishing position of matching Bruce’s lighthearted trust with a carefree hope she didn’t quite feel. 

“Sure, Kitten.  You’ll tell me when you’re ready.”

…29:50…

Selina regarded the ring’s central pink stone suspiciously.  It was the smallest gem to grace her finger in all these dimensional variations.  The one which was a diamond, not a sapphire.  The one that was an engagement ring, not an “I may never be capable of that kind of vulnerability” ring. 

In a strange way, Selina found it harder dealing with this Batman than any other, even the closed up one brooding and alone in his cave, who had never asked his cat to move in; even the coke-snorting Owlman.  Something about a Bruce who never said “Maybe I just don’t like the words beloved wife and beloved husband…” it unnerved her.  What was said or not said that night at the MoMA?  She and her Batman had embarked on a duel in the Van Gogh room which led to a fight in the main gallery and then to the roof, to a chase down Fifth Avenue, across Restaurant Row, through Clinton, through the Garment District, and led finally back to her “lair” and an unprecedented, primal, visceral, earthshaking sexual encounter between Bat and Cat…

But in this world, it was Bruce and Selina who wound up together that night, who woke up together the next morning.  In this world, “Mrs. Wayne” wasn’t going to be a punchline anymore…

…and in this world, Batman didn’t need a lengthy explanation on her previous visit.  Once he’d accepted her story, that was that.  He had readily agreed to cancel the seeing with Dr. Luthor.  He didn’t need convincing.  She said it was urgent and he trusted her.  Just like that.

He even laughed about Felix Faust and the wand-kabob.  He laughed—not in the cowl at that point, but in the cave and in costume—his mouth opened, kind of curled upward on the ends into an almost-smile, and then this rhythmic puffy-grunt as he said “At least Faust had the sense to hit on the best looking woman in the room.”

And the “pink sapphire” was a diamond engagement ring.

Selina really didn’t know how to deal with this Batman… but there he was, sitting at the workstation just where she’d left him.  Checking the countdown clock resting on that first burner …25:20…  She knew she had no time to lose, so she did exactly what he would do: shoved doubt aside and focused on the task at hand.  She slid a baton from the glowing ßųŁŁą rħðmbå, walked confidently to the workstation, and began massaging Batman’s neck.

“Let me guess,” she said brightly, “You’re updating your Secret Society file with all the new dirt I gave you?”

He grunted—which was reassuring.  Engaged or not, he was more like her Bruce than he wasn’t.

“Have you called Dr. Luthor yet?” she asked.

His typing paused.

“Not yet, but I will,” he graveled.  “I told you I’ll cancel the seeing, Selina.”

“Don’t.  I know I urged you to, but I’ve been thinking.  And even though we both trust my memories now, even though we’re both certain Zatanna didn’t do anything to me, it’s just as important that you don’t cancel something like this just because I ask it.”

“Selina, you said it would be better if I just asked you about the past, and it was.  Why would I go ahead with Dr. Luthor when, as you yourself pointed out, it goes against everything I believe to use forces like that to do something that natural law says we’re not meant to.”

“I wasn’t looking at the big picture.  In terms of knowing about my past, yes, asking me is definitely the way to go.  But I’ve come to feel that, regardless of what you believed your reason was for contacting Dr. Luthor and putting this thing together, there is something bigger at work that neither of us should interfere with.  Let it play out, Bruce, exactly as you planned it.”

He didn’t turn, but he tapped a key, dimming the computer screen before him and scrutinized her reflection in the darkened screen until she met his eyes.

“You said a spark would ignite and there would be very bad consequences,” he reminded her.

… 22:37…

Knowing precious seconds were ticking away, she held his gaze for a long moment before setting the baton on the desk next to his arm.

“It won’t if you keep this with you, and when the time comes, point it to the ceiling.”

… 22:34…

This time when the vortex faded, Selina didn’t need to check her finger.  She knew there would be a pink sapphire resting there, she knew it would be the square emerald cut, the ring Poison Ivy returned to her because she’d apparently asked Ivy to hold the ring while she went on a post-breakup bender.

Selina knew without looking which ring she wore because that was the only “pink sapphire world” where she’d told Bruce about the alternate dimensions.  She’d told him everything, and then he’d come with her to the vortex and patted her hand reassuringly before she left.  He’d quoted Einstein, and he said it wasn’t her job to go dimension-hopping to stop the crisis.  And he was still standing in the very spot as when she left. 

“You played me,” she said bluntly, letting Catwoman’s amused smile soften the fiery accusation in her eyes.  “Einstein.  It was just a way to get rid of me.”

“You figured it out fast,” he noted with a liptwitch.

She didn’t bother to explain that more time had passed for her than for him—or that Batman himself had exposed the trick. 

“So you had a ‘Kitten Protocol,’ after all,” she remarked, a note of sadness undercutting the amusement.  Then she met his eyes with piercing candor. “Did you do it so you could go ahead with the Luthors?”

“Despite all you’ve said about the crisis in your world, all you have is a theory.  There’s no evidence of that here.  And a seeing is the only way I can know if my Selina was altered.”

“Ew!” Selina exclaimed.  “Okay, first, that’s wrong and we’ll get to that part next.  But for now, before we go any further, ‘altered’ is not the word to use, ever.   ‘Spaying’ and ‘fixing’ are also off-limits.  Got that-Grunt-Good.  Now—”

“Impossible woman,” he muttered.

“‘Impossible’ is fine,” she conceded. “Now then, it’s cool to go right ahead with your Luthor hoodoo, but you’ve got to use one of these.”  She squatted down and took one of the jade batons from the ßųŁŁą rħðmbå.  Then she saw Bruce undergo the density shift straight past Batman to the hostile uber-intensity of Psychobat.

“What is that?” he spat, glaring at the glowing bubble he hadn’t noticed when it materialized.

Selina straightened and affixed him with a defiantly smug naughty grin.

“It’s magic in your cave, Handsome.  Consider it payback for the Kitten Protocol.”

“Get rid of it!” he ordered.

“Don’t worry, one way or another, it will be gone soon.  Either because this works and there’s no more crisis… or because it doesn’t and there’s no more anything.” 

“I don’t believe you’re using magic, Selina.  I thought this Zatanna possibility was as bad as it could possibly get, but the thought of you actually conjuring that awful little lightball—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Selina interrupted.  “Stop going for the worst-case-scenario, would you!  What, you’ve got too much unused paranoia on your hands since Joker got chopped up?  Look, Jason Blood made the bubble.  Jason is who we go to for magic expertise in my world.  He’s earned our trust, Bruce, yours and mine.  He says that this is an antenna.  Take it with you to the ritual.  Point it at the ceiling in the northeast corner of the study.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s where Zatanna materializes in the persistent anomaly I told you about.  This was your idea, Bruce.  Burn away the infection so the universe won’t have to.  This is how we do it.  If I’m right, if our theory in my world is right, then the three of you going ahead with your rituals as originally planned but holding these...  These batons will cause the magical forces to converge on the strings controlling Zatanna’s magic, zero them out like they were supposed to in the first place.  And if we’re wrong, then you still get your seeing and can poke into your Catwoman’s past ‘til your heart’s content.  Although personally, I think you’d be better off asking her when she decided to stop stealing and why.  The answer will surprise you.”

She silently held out the baton and Bruce stared at it for a long minute.  Then his eyes flickered up and locked onto hers.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, asking you to leave.”

She shook her head slowly, sympathetically, but in a ‘no’ motion.

“Then pointing this stick at the ceiling should be a breeze.  And then can you go find her, and tell her to come home?  Alfred misses Nutmeg.”

“And I miss you,” he said sincerely.

“Reality is already unraveling, Bruce.  Don’t make me be the one to say ‘clock is ticking, we’ll talk about this later.’”

His lip twitched into a self-deprecating half-smile, and his hand brushed against hers as he took the baton.

“Good luck,” he said simply, turned, and walked briskly from the cave.

… 11:19…

… 11:18…

… 11:17…

… 11:16…

Selina knew the countdown clock wasn’t going to slow or stop to accommodate her anxiety, so she bent and retrieved the last baton from the ßųŁŁą rħðmbå, took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and… 

… 11:15…

… 11:14…

… 11:13…

…opened them again and regarded the baton coldly.

“I look nothing like Harry Potter,” she told it.

… 11:12…

… 11:11…

… 11:10…

The vortex began to gush and heave as if a volcanic force was building within it, and Selina took a last glance around the cave, searching the ceiling instinctively for one last look at a friendly living thing.  One in particular caught her eye, its arms and feet stretched out so the wings actually resembled Batman’s cape.  Usually the cave bats only assumed that position when they were asleep, but this one’s ears were perked—marvelously long and pointy—and she forced a smile.

“I look nothing like Harry Potter,” she repeated—and convinced herself there was some squeak of agreement which her imagination could convert into a grunt.

… 11:01…

… 10:59…

… 10:58…

Okay,” she breathed at last, holding up the yagi baton one last time as the light of the vortex began to bubble and seethe like molten liquid. 

… 10:56…

Okay, you smug…

… 10:54…

…self-righteous…

… 10:53…

…parched…

… 10:52…

…tnuc…

… 10:51…

… 10:50…

… 10:49…

“Now, we throw down.”

… 10:48…

… 10:47…

… 10:46…

To be continued…


 

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