“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps
to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness —
The Gotham art world had never seen anything like it. Museum Row transformed into an open air arcade, like a block party for the glitterati. Giant screens hung at intervals to loom over the crowd 1984-style, but displaying a slide show of the most significantly inspiring works spanning 10,000 years of human history. The effect was a cross between the loggia of an Italian Renaissance palazzo and Times Square. Beneath the screens, the name of the event: A MAN’S REACH was proclaimed on banners that hung from every post and street light, creating a path like the approach to an Asian temple. The path led to an alley between the museums used by the staff for smoke breaks and smaller deliveries that didn’t require the loading dock, and by Catwoman for its proximity to the restoration room.
Remade as a courtyard for the occasion with another giant video screen, banners, and a stage at one end where Bruce Wayne was concluding his remarks for the opening ceremony.
“…said ‘But Bruce, everyone’s used to hearing you talk about Gotham and this whole thing was about Metropolis. And I said ‘Yes, but at least it wasn’t LexCorp.’”
The audience laughed. All but Barry Hobbs, anyway. He turned his back to the stage and appeared to be going for a drink but then walked passed the bar and out of the courtyard. Richard Flay saw him go and good manners whispered that he really should follow, intercept Barry and lead him back to his little circle of board members. Make him feel included. But what would be the point? An ardent Luthor fan, Hobbs didn’t want to be there. Dragging him into a chat with Trip and Sophia would only dampen everyone’s afternoon, which was hardly the goal of ‘good manners.’ It was best, he decided, if he never noticed Barry’s departure.
“Mr. Wayne, do you have time for one more question?” a reporter asked from the crowd.
“I don’t think I answered the last one. Lois has me telling jokes,” Bruce chuckled. “Here’s an answer I don’t think you’re going to like. Someone asked me coming in here today if I didn’t think it was a bad idea to be associating Wayne Tech with this installation when its theme is so old-fashioned and outdated. If it wasn’t foolish to be linking the name of Wayne Tech—”
..:: …forward-thinking and ever focused on building a better tomorrow Wayne Tech, with an event taking its inspiration from a poem published in 1855 and named for an artist who died in 1530… ::…
Selina Kyle stood with Clark Kent and the artist known as Kyray, watching a closed-circuit feed in the curator’s office that was doubling as the event greenroom.
“I’m still not sure why he’s doing this,” Clark murmured in a kind of awe.
“Sure you do,” Selina said softly.
..:: …Before that, it was ‘the City Always Looking Up.’ That was long before Superman arrived on the scene. They were looking up at the first skyscrapers. Buildings are made by people looking up. ::…
Outside the door, the Hudson University student assigned as Kyray’s assistant talked alternately into his headset and his phone, evoking the backstage drama at a rock concert rather than the staid atmosphere of a typical museum do—which scared away onlookers who wandered in from the party and strayed too close to the greenroom door.
..:: … and imagination that built cities like Metropolis isn’t old-fashioned, it’s the life’s blood of progress. It’s the only thing that’s ever gotten things done. ::…
Clark’s eyes were riveted on the screen, and Selina decided she had time for a quick hero-tease.
“Mr. Kent, a lot of Gotham reporters would love the access you’ve been given here. Yet the Daily Planet gets the exclusive, alone in the greenroom with Miss Selina Kyle and the artist Kyray moments before the unveiling. Are you really going to spend it adjusting your glasses and checking your phone?”
“Bruce’s people have already sent a memo with quotes from you both to cover this window, and he has someone live-tweeting for both me and Lois so, even though we’re technically here to cover the event, we don’t have to do anything but sit back and enjoy the show. She’s only out there now because she loves it.”
Selina laughed. Then to fill the silence after a pause she said “I liked her piece on Antwerp.”
“I’ll be sure to tell her.”
“Though I thought she might have overstated the Justice League’s role, just a tad. Major cocaine port in Europe and weapons have always been a big export there, it’s not like anybody had to be psychic to know there was something going on.”
“Oh no, they had very good intel. Without that, there wouldn’t have been a raid.”
“See, that’s what bothers me,” Selina hissed. “That organization has been known to go overboard with their gratitude. Help them once when their backs are to the wall, they think you’re an ally and put you on a list.”
“You’re referring to the time with Prometheus. As I understand it, all Superman did was say thank you. If assumptions were made…”
“Assumptions were made, because he’s Superman. I hope he’ll think twice if he ever has an urge to do it again.”
“Considering he’s Superman, I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening.”
Selina turned to him.
“Having the impulse to say thank you or pausing to consider the consequences before acts on it?”
“I’ll tell Lois how much you liked her piece on Antwerp.”
“Okay,” Selina declared with emphatic change-the-subject zeal. “Well, as you say, you were sent all you need to cover our ‘interview’ so you can sit back and enjoy the show. As soon as Kyray and I go out there, Bruce is free and you get to enjoy it with him. If you’re all set, then I’m going to go check on Kyray. See if he needs oxygen. From here he looks… not the usual green. I’m thinking stage fright.”
“Okay, good luck,” Clark laughed—and Selina promptly swatted him.
“Don’t do that,” she chided playfully. “This may not be a theatre but it’s a green room and that’s a stage we’re about to walk onto. No whistling, no quoting the Scottish play and no wishing good luck. Don’t Smallville high schools have drama clubs that do Man of La Mancha every winter? People are supposed to know these things.”
“Sorry. Break a leg. Or better yet, break a mirror,” Clark said hurriedly, playing along, and Selina moved on.
..:: …inevitable parts of life, a part of being human. What defines us is the way we rise to meet those moments or become lost in anxiety and fear… ::…
“Much like me,” Kyray muttered. “Anxiety and fear; this speech is terrifying,” he said, turning to Selina. “We’ve got to follow this? What did he do, hire Aaron Sorkin? ‘Cause if I knew that was an option, I wouldn’t have blown a month’s rent on the haircut and highlights, you know what I’m saying?”
“Kyle, calm down,” Selina soothed. “You’re the artist; no one is expecting you to give a speech. What you have to say you’re saying through your artwork, and that’s what everyone’s here to see. Bruce is just your opening act.”
“It’s what he has to say. And just between us, everyone in the League will know it. You know that thing he set up with the satellites, linked mirrors to create a beam of concentrated sunlight? It’s that. It’s Bruce’s brain thinking ‘How to help Clark.’”
“First, that’s a parallel only an artist sees. And second, you know Clark can hear you, right?”
Kyle waved a hand dismissively.
“You work at the Watchtower long enough, you don’t worry about that. It’s like privacy on the Internet.”
“Okay, well, that’s a fascinating idea for your next installation, Kyray, but they’re applauding my future husband now. So buck up, get into character and let’s get out there.”
Kyle Rayner rubbed his ring for luck and then declared in a bold voice:
“Do not be the bourgeoisie patron with me, Selina mijn schatje, though I am fond of you, I will become angry. Genius does not wait upon the mob. Color and light do not come when called like a panting spaniel. They will—”
“Bruce is introducing us now,” Selina interrupted softly.
“Then we shall go!” he decreed as he strode grandly towards the door.
..:: Kyray is acknowledged as a key mover and shaker of the generation of conceptual artists, ::.. the monitor declared. ..:: The scale and reach of his creative vision, merging massive amounts of digitally-aggregated data that are the touchstone of the modern age with the romance of epic visual display to create awe-inspiring spectacle borne of the invisible mechanisms that drive the modern world. And now, to introduce the man of the hour, GMA Board Member Selina Kyle…::..
After an introductory word from Selina, Kyray stood center stage next to a large theatrical breaker that seemed to merge its physical casing with holographic projection. He flipped the switch, declaring Tae-Vrroshokh or ‘True Glass’ open.
The word SAVE appeared in five foot letters of brilliant white light, glowing in the middle of the courtyard just over the heads of the crowd. Everyone applauded while those on the perimeter craned their necks to spot the projectors. As they pointed here and there, a second set of letters bounced from the first, spelling out HELPFUL and then CARING, NOBLE and KIND in a path leading from the courtyard to the main thoroughfare beyond. Kyray urged everyone to follow, where the arcade was now a matrix of glowing words pulsing brighter and dimmer. Some large and some small, like the keywords on a blog or the frequency analysis of a Shakespeare play. Words of light streamed from a box on the base of every video screen that, like the hologram-breaker on the stage, seemed to merge a physical apparatus with holographic light display so you couldn’t quite tell where the mechanical thing stopped and the light construct began.
In the center, a light model of a rotating globe gleamed as more terms hovered over its continents… STRONG, GENEROUS, DECENT… One would fade up in green, in blue, in yellow: HELTEN, EROE, HRINA, BAYANI, and then morph into its English equivalent. The more colors and languages came together, the whiter and brighter the translation glowed… HERO… which then morphed into Japanese kanji, into Korean and Yiddish, Urdu and Russian, Chinese and Greek…
In the courtyard, Selina leaned in to Kyle and whispered “The idea might have been his. The execution was yours. And it’s a masterpiece.”
“First and last time I used it to really make art,” Kyle said, pressing the pad of his finger against the ring. “And nobody will ever know.”
“You will,” Selina started to say when she was cut off by a loud squeal. Lois came running up, grabbed Kyle by his jacket collar and kissed him. She released him and then, after a pause, shook her head and kissed him again. When she let go the second time, Kyle stared blankly.
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” he said, turning to Selina.
He wasn’t serious of course, but Selina’s blank stare and the blood draining from her face made him think twice.
“Possibly,” she whispered. Then a muttered “I saw something.”
“Selina, it’s genius, absolute genius,” Lois gushed. “When it’s done here, we’ve got to have it in Metropolis.”
“I saw something,” Selina repeated.
“I know it’s supposed to tour the world first and only hit Metropolis when the movie opens but—”
Selina’s eyes widened, looking at a spot in the distance over Lois’s head.
“Jonathan,” she hissed. She turned to look where he was looking, senses pounding into overdrive to take in everything, stretching out every second and making her body seem to lag as if she was moving in slow-motion, looking to the stage behind them and hearing Lois’s inhale as if before a scream...
Three Months Earlier…
The Commerce Bank of Metropolis, one-time jewel of the LexCorp Financial crown, rebranded as CBMetro after Talia al Ghul tanked the company. The main branch is one of those lovely Old Metropolis buildings that telegraphs half of its security as you walk in off the street. All you have to do is look at the foundation to know where the vault is and to guess it’s an old Lossing Mark II, the kind that had a showy twelve-ton door to impress the rubes and opened onto an inner foyer with the actual bank vault to the left and the safe deposit boxes to the right, each with their own access profiles.
That meant if you didn’t want to be a dreary hacker and get the specs from their insurance policy, you could be a properly active cat burglar and case the place like a grown-up. Going in to rent a box, possibly after a spot of shopping on the Mile or a nice lunch at one of the hotels in the downtown loop, and noting the inner door access… (30-70 seconds for anybody without a Kittlemeier C-box…) The pressure sensitive tiles, triple wired, disabled via keypad… (Average hack time 1 minute, 9.3 seconds; Catwoman’s average 24.3…) Magnetic sensors… (technically unhackable, but a couple of magnetic strips and ten centimeters of aluminum foil will keep the magnetic field intact while I remove the sensor…) And an utterly redundant heat sensor… (Pfft, a nice spritz of dimethicone, dmapa acrylates copolymer, alcohol and quaternary-70—aka hairspray—blocks the effects of a 130-degree hair dryer blasting away for twenty minutes at a shot, makes a wonderful film to shield little ol’ me zipping in and out. Why the hell do they still bother with those things…)
Casing accomplished, there’s a cute little wine bar called Up, Up and Away where a girl might stop to organize her notes over a glass of chardonnay: Average time to crack the actual combination on the Lossing is 6 minutes, 1 second; call it 8 minutes in and out. Cat average is 5 minutes, 12 seconds, but my record is 4 minutes and I’ll bet with that gadget of Bruce’s, I could beat it. That leaves only two cameras covering the vault area, one guard watching after hours. The feed from the inner vault-cam technically goes into a second monitor in the manager’s office, but that’s only on during the day. In other words, the cameras and guard are so inconsequential they can be improvised in-situ and needn’t be part of the plan going in. So… I’m all set to rob the CBMetro after a whopping four hours of research, including lunch, and fifteen minutes prep time.
Like any dog, Krypto dreamed of the things that filled his waking life. He ran and flew with Superman, caught a scent on the wind and changed course to chase it, and he roamed the Fortress of Solitude waiting for his master’s return, moving from the spot where the Man of Steel left to the one where he sometimes returned, and in between, staying alert for intruders. When he found one, he would scare it off with the most vicious of snarls. If it wouldn’t go, he would tear it to shreds with his powerful jaws. Tonight’s dreaming adventure had been one of these, following a strange squeaking noise into the fortress Trophy Room, suspecting the yellow-haired cousin was to blame… when the rich tang of outdoor air rushed past his nostrils and his dream shifted to the flying kind, chasing a flock of geese flying low across a frozen lake…
Superman didn’t slow as he passed over the sleeping dog to the cluster of carved crystal tables and seating that served as the fortress living room. He carried Catwoman by the back of her waistband and deposited her without ceremony face down on the sofa.
“Sit,” he said—in a tone which finally woke Krypto, who immediately came to join the proceedings and yelped with excitement when he saw it was the one visitor he liked best!
“Oh, hell,” Selina said as the blur of dog dashed at her face.
“No, stay,” Clark said while Krypto yipped happily, circling her head. “No,” he repeated when the licking began—her ear, her cheek, her other ear, her neck. “No!” he said again… and again… and a fourth time before the dog relented.
“I will never understand dog people,” Selina muttered while Clark ushered Krypto out, and then she simply glared while he came to join her on the sofa.
“Well?” he asked, the one syllable allowing him to remain safely on the line between concerned friend and caped law enforcement.
“Well,” she shot back. “Isn’t it obvious? I needed to blow off steam. And I didn’t want to risk it in Gotham.”
“No, that is not obvious,” Clark said, teetering towards the friend, albeit a confused one. “How is that obvious? You were robbing a bank.”
“Fine, it wasn’t obvious. Now it should be, because I just said it. ‘I needed to blow off some steam.’ I didn’t want him coming by and jumping into the middle of it. I came here.”
“And by the way, I was not ‘robbing’ a bank, I was entering a bank. Whether I was going to leave with anything is something we will never know now, isn’t it?”
“There are certain assumptions that have to be—”
“You know if I was going to leave with something, it would have been the contents of Box 351, which I rented this afternoon.”
“A watch, silver tiger bracelet with rubies, and a little jade cat. About this big, such a cutie.”
“Selina! If you don’t stop that playful rooftop cat-burglar thing—which you know I can’t deal with—I will let Krypto back in here.”
She pouted. And then… “Okay, I deserved that.”
Clark looked up suspiciously, sensing a trap, but the feline sass had evaporated and the woman now sitting next to him seemed weary.
“No, you’re entitled,” he said. “Given all the time I spent at the Catitat after that movie came out, and all the times you listened to me gripe about it.”
“Hey, you don’t have to wait for them to make a sequel, you know. You can come back at any time. The tiger cubs have gotten so big, and I know the leopards miss you.”
He gave a sad smile, and then asked seriously, “Selina, what’s going on in Gotham? Why do you need to ‘blow off steam?’”
She took a deep breath…
“Do you know what’s involved becoming Mrs. Bruce Wayne?”
Silence was the best response he could come up with, but its inadequacy was instantly apparent and the need to say something manifested in a strained wheeze that sounded like “I-eh-no,” which was worse. Kent Farm hospitality suggested a change of scene, so he offered coffee which bought some time. Thankfully the move to the kitchen was enough of a prompt to get Selina talking again.
“I love him, Clark. And I want to be his wife more than oxygen. So ‘complaining’ about what my life has been since we got back from Rio is sort of… obscene. It’s like if you sat there bitching that flying around so much in direct sunlight was making your cape fade.”
“It isn’t, is it?” he said, worriedly checking over his shoulder.
“Nah, still a healthy Superman Red,” she assured him. Then both smiles faded and he asked:
“Selina, tell me what your life’s been since you got back from Rio.”
Again, she began with a deep breath. Then:
“The meetings start at ten. Most days we’re up at nine and drive into the city, but if patrol went past 4:30 and he wasn’t in bed by five, then we sleep in to 9:30 and take the helicopter. We go to a lawyer’s office, or an accounting firm or a brokerage, or occasionally they come to his office at the tower. And they begin explaining: about the Foundation, that was the easiest since I worked with them on all those NMK projects. Another day it will be Wayne Enterprises, Wayne Tech, Wayne Industries, Wayne Global, and finally Bruce’s personal holdings. Three days ago, we started on the will.”
She swallowed. Clark sat back in the chair, Kryptonian muscle-control providing a mask of compassionate understanding that hid his shock at a topic so far from what he was expecting.
“These meetings go to three o’clock most days,” Selina resumed. “Sometimes later. Then Bruce would say we had an appointment and we’d go to the nearest cave—and he’d tell me the rest of the story, all the Bat-parts they don’t know about. Not just assets like the Batwing and the Batmobiles but the supply chains to buy the jet fuel, the holding companies that own the land outside cities where he keeps a hanger, the coltan mine in Canada and the wolframite in Australia.”
“Did you know the Bat-gadgets are made with conflict-free capacitors? I didn’t. He has his own mines,” Selina said cheerily. “So yeah, I felt like I had to rob a bank tonight. I’ll be fine once I can catch up and process it all, but right now, I just needed to hack a keypad, disable some magnetic sensors, crack a safe and mess with a hero in a cape.”
“I think I can understand that,” Clark said gamely, but then he shook his head. “No, no, I can’t.”
“I thought I knew him, Clark. Even the Foundation where I thought I had the best handle on it, how he really uses it beyond the obvious philanthropy, there’s just so much more going on than I imagined. You know those favelas in Brazil, the shanty towns in and around the cities that had no infrastructure until a few years ago?”
“Yes, Lois did a story on them when the government fixed them up before the World Cup. No water, sanitation, proper housing or police. Ruled by default by the drug lords and the gun. It was terrible, and a lot of it in the hills around the city where they could look right down into the gardens and swimming pools of the rich. But, Selina—”
“Hundreds of thousands of people that don’t officially exist. Invisible people who are desperately poor, unpoliced, etc. etc. Sounds like premium territory for an outfit like Ra’s al Ghul’s doesn’t it?”
“Selina, Bruce already told me that it was you who found the Demon cell in Rio de Janeiro. He said it was that, eh, ‘Gang of Six’ that’s been running things since Ra’s al Ghul is imprisoned in Atlantis.”
“Yes, I got lucky. A boy serving at a place where I took classes had a tattoo under his thumbnail, which is pretty unusual so I noticed it. Happened to be the same symbol Gregorian Falstaff had on a signet ring. So I snooped, I followed, I needed a—”
“Don’t you EVER give me a hard time about comparing you to Lois,” Clark cut in, laughing. “Because that last part sounds very familiar to me.”
“—needed a guide,” she continued firmly. “So I picked up a couple of teenage boys—very easy for someone that looks like me to get unofficial assistance from teenage boys. They could tell I was an American, and as you probably know, in that part of the world the first thing they ask at that point is ‘Where are you from?’ You can answer—”
“One of four things,” Clark nodded. “Gotham, Los Angeles, near Gotham or near Los Angeles.”
“They know Texas now too,” Selina said. “But I went with ‘near Gotham,’ and they all got very excited for this one guy, Lucas, to show me something. Lucas is quite the artist. He ran off and came back with a sheet of paper, a charcoal sketch… of Harley Quinn. Now, they don’t really know who she is, but they follow her on Twitter. These kids in a hilltown that supposedly just got electricity and a single grainy television station a few months ago. They don’t go down to the city like the boy I was following. But they’ve got access to the Internet somewhere.”
“Selina, you may call that luck, but whatever it is, it’s blown Bruce away. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that, but since we’re confiding secrets tonight. The things you’re doing with al Ghul blow him away.”
“I know,” she said with a strange little smile. “He’s admitted he never expected me to play along with his little joke when he won that bet.”
“Well, he’s used to people not getting his sense of humor,” Clark said. “You and I are among the very few who do. He sometimes forgets.”
“But that’s not why I brought up the favelas,” Selina said. “It’s because of this jujitsu master he studied with down there. Bruce has had this man setting up dojos in those slums for years, ‘for the kids.’ Keeps them out of Ra’s clutches-grunt. One of a thousand examples of things that are either completely invisible to the world or else Batman’s agenda is so well camouflaged that it looks like something completely different. It’s mind boggling.”
“I still don’t see how that leads to robbing the bank.”
“I get that. But not robbing the bank.”
“I have a boggled mind. That’s what I do. I assume you juggle meteors or something.”
It was bound to happen. Even with Nigma and Isley having manipulated the Arkham Fast Track for a time, so many rogues captured within days of each other in the final weeks of the Rogue War meant that, eventually, a large block would be released within a similar time span. Hugo Strange, Jonathan Crane, Jervis Tetch, KGBeast, Killer Croc, Roxy Rocket and Firefly all free, with Joker and Tom Blake entering the final phase of the FTRP where, if they completed the therapy modules without incident, they would be released in thirty days. Knowing it was inevitable didn’t make it any less infuriating, and Bruce’s eyes darted angrily between the At-Large list to the panel on the side of his workstation displaying the light map. With so many theme Rogues to consider, there was the usual number of small amber lights proposing locations to include in his patrol. The part that deepened his thoughtful frown into a particularly fierce scowl was that they were all potential targets. He usually had a few suspected lairs, probable fronts or safe houses to check, and at least one person of interest to roust for information. But this, this was the kind of map that made him want to hit things.
He touched six of the amber dots, mapping out a tentative patrol route… but then as he began refining it, he saw extra dots that he was fairly sure hadn’t been there a moment before. He would have included that cluster in the Diamond District, the midtown location made for a more effective pass up the… Sterling Trust? Strange, Crane, Roxy Rocket, who on that list could possibly have triggered the Sterling Trust?
Bruce looked back at the list and his eyes narrowed as he saw it had updated to add a new name: Catwoman.
“That’s impossible,” he said aloud, though there was no one but the bats to hear. He’d deleted that record from the database years ago, how could it… He clicked on the name, opening the underlying file where, instead of the usual photo and stats, a simple line of text read:
Don’t leave without me tonight. Need to talk. Meow.
He shook his head with an exasperated sigh, re-deleted the file, and finished mapping the patrol route. Then he stalked angrily upstairs and found her working out in her suite.
“I wish you wouldn’t hack my workstation,” he announced in Batman’s fiercest gravel.
She grinned as she usually did at a foreboding entrance… “Oh, you found that already?” …then turned and bent, giving him a provocative eyeful of her tush as she exchanged her weights for a stretch band so she could continue her routine and still talk without exertion. “I didn’t think you’d see that until after dinner. I sort of… did a bad thing.”
Bruce did his best not to react to the unprecedented admission coming from Selina Kyle, while Psychobat strolled grimly through the Batcave of his mind, casually tripping every alarm with a rhythmic I-told-you-so wrist-flick. In the real world, Bruce mirrored the action, picking up the stereo remote and turning down the volume on Selina’s workout music while the inner Psychobat sat down at the workstation to access long-mothballed protocols.
“It doesn’t matter what and it doesn’t matter why,” Selina continued with the maddening ingenuousness of long ago rooftops. “What matters is that it led to a tete-a-tete with Clark and I realized… We’re going to need a protocol.”
“How so?” Bruce asked cautiously.
“I said something while we were talking. The Catitat came up and, just casually, I said he didn’t have to wait for them to make a sequel. Then I realized they probably are going to make one and, from the look in his eye, he realized it too. At that second. The thought hadn’t occurred to him and then, bang, there it was. Go me.”
“And you want us to be prepared for a seriously displeased Superman,” Bruce graveled.
“Bruce, what’s wrong with you? I want to be prepared for a seriously upset Clark. It wasn’t ‘Superman’ going up to the Catitat last time. Even if technically he flew and was roughhousing with tigers, that wasn’t any Man of Steel. That was Clark the adorable, the dog person and the dork. And he wasn’t displeased; he was hurting.”
“Selina, I’m not blind and I’m not stupid. I’ve been aware of this situation. They are making a sequel and it’s probably going to be worse. But you’ve come this far on your own, before coming to me for ‘a protocol.’ So go a little farther, think it through. The key to helping Clark is to get to the crux of why this nonsense bothers him.”
“You want to teach me how to write protocols now?” she said flatly. “I tried, Bruce; I don’t have the knack. The best I could come up with on my own was giving Kryptonian names to those cubs he was always playing with. Which is pointless and not going to fix anything, but—”
“It’s a wonderful idea. He would like that.”
“Well don’t get your hopes up. I tried researching Kryptonian names on the Internet and all I came away with was a whopping headache, and then I tried your files and got even more confused.”
“Why not just ask him?” Bruce said with a lip-twitch.
“Oh like it’s not transparent enough that I’m just trying to make him feel better. If I ask him for names for Amaterasu’s cubs, it’s only going to underline why: ‘Big looming movie is going to stick it to you again, Spitcurl. Remember how much you took refuge with those little fuzzballs the last time?’”
“That’s exactly why the gesture will mean something, as will your being the one who makes it. Selina, haven’t you stopped to wonder why a man who took the turn into adulthood as long ago as Clark Kent, not to mention a hero with the powers and accomplishments of Superman, cares about something so utterly meaningless as a movie getting it wrong?”
“We went through this the last time, Bruce. He’s an alien. His very words up at the Catitat: he ‘came here uninvited.’ Luthor’s said it so many times, I’m sure he doesn’t hear it anymore: the alien pestilence keeping humanity down, making us dependent on his world-saving patronage so he can lord it over us and rule like a god, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake wherever he goes, and clubbing baby seals for fun.”
“But… I left out acting as a bright caped birdhouse that attracts every super-powered squirrel and evil butterfly in the galaxy into the garden. It’s a silly image and a dumb, unwieldy metaphor.”
“But?” Bruce repeated. “He’s so used to Luthor’s rhetoric, bad metaphors included, that he doesn’t hear them anymore, but?”
“But he counts on anybody outside of Arkham knowing better. He counts on anybody more in touch with reality than Joker noticing the giant neon sign over Luthor’s head reading: ‘This is all about me. It’s what I would do if I had Superman’s powers and it’s not a pretty picture.’ Hell, he even said it when I…”
She stopped, a sudden shift in her glance that Bruce had only seen a few times and that he knew was as close as Catwoman came to guilt. When she continued, it was with the same tone, from the old rooftops, that always followed that look.
“Bruce, when I saw Clark last night, I actually, um, mentioned what we’ve been doing. The crash course on the financial world of you. And he said virtually the same thing about Luthor, but he was talking about your superpower. He said you’re what we all hope someone with a vast fortune would do with it, and Lex is what we fear. Wayne Enterprises and the Foundation are the ideal, and LexCorp is the nightmare. He said it. And that’s why I’m going to say I’m pretty sure it’s the same with Superman. That’s Clark’s idea of how we all hope someone with his powers would use them. And Lex’s ‘Alien menace’ is what we fear.”
“And the movie?” Bruce asked, arching an eyebrow. “Why can he dismiss all this coming from Luthor where it’s fueled by malice, yet be tortured when it comes from a Hollywood studio that’s only trying to make money?”
“I have no idea,” Selina said, exasperated. “What’s that line from Don Quixote? ‘It isn’t the masses who are to blame for demanding rubbish, but those who aren’t capable of providing them with anything else.’”
Bruce’s lip twitched.
Since Rio, I had taken a certain interest in a particular Brazilian-based jeweler that has two showrooms in Gotham: one for prestige on Fifth Avenue and one in SoHo that actually has paying customers. I like the SoHo location better, so I thought I might use it as a training exercise for Doris. To balance passing on my criminal expertise, I had placed the Fifth Avenue store under my special protection. At least that was the plan. Making my nightly pass over the staff entrance, I was beginning to reconsider. I checked the alarm box in the alley and saw it was a Phoenix 9420, the Fifth Avenue standard. With Tiffany and Cartier right up the street and the Diamond District only a few blocks away, nobody who could disable a Phoenix was ever going to break in here. There was literally a Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Bvlgari and Choppard between here and the nearest Starbucks. Nobody who could disable this alarm would ever bother with so many richer prizes within reach, which meant if I was going to get any crimefighting action out of this deal, I should swap them. Teach Doris on Fifth Avenue and watch over SoHo.
Of course, I did like protecting the Fifth, Park and Madison stores as a whole, and I didn’t relish Doris taking her new-found knowledge out for a spin where I’d be running into Game Theory and Riddler breaking into Faberge.
..:: Catwoman, what’s your location? ::..
It’s like he knows.
“Planning a crime here, this better be important,” I said into the OraCom.
..:: Funny. Where are you? ::..
“I don’t believe that’s any of your business. It’s not Date Night, remember? Not while there’s an At Large list full of people I wave to when I see them at the Iceberg.”
..:: I finished the pass on Rogue targets. I was going to spend a few hours rousting informants.::..
“And you want me to come watch you pummel?”
I’ll admit Batman doing his violent thing is a show, and one I’ve enjoyed watching from time to time. Taking on all comers in a particularly scummy alley, it’s violent jazz. Its meow. But it’s so much sweeter when I have the option to leap in and join the party if I choose, and this would probably be one informant at a time. So I was midway through a refusal when he said that in between locations, we could “work on that other matter.” He meant the protocol for my favorite dog person, and he also said I had given him the answer. What can I say, he knows my brand of catnip. So I gave him my location and he told me where the Batmobile would be parked between informants one and two.
I met him—fresh scuffing on the gauntlets; Pastio hadn’t given up what he knew without a fright—and as soon as I got in the car, I had that prickly tingle down my back, like I’d stepped into a trap.
“I’m not going to like this, am I?” I asked, playing with a claw. “You wanted me in the car, driving out to Brooklyn so I couldn’t storm off. This idea of yours isn’t going to be like Krypton Tales or something, is it?”
“No, nothing like that,” he said—but the lip twitch was not reassuring.
“Whew, because ever since you said I gave you the answer, I’ve been trying to think what I could have possibly suggested that was even close to a—”
“Don Quixote. Your quote was exactly wrong. Clark’s issue isn’t with the insignificant group of people making the movies; it’s the masses creating a market for them. Quoting from Don Quixote, I suddenly saw it very clearly. I know what Clark sees when he looks at that movie’s Superman.”
“The Knight of the Mirrors.”
To be continued...