Every evening between one and two in the
morning the Batcave computers downloaded massive amounts of information from
police blotters, newspapers, corporate and government networks, and then ran
the data through a complex series of filtering and sorting routines designed
to tag the information Batman might require.
It immediately alerted Bruce when a foreign
dignitary reserved the top four floors of the Gotham Imperial Hotel.
It took very little investigation to determine that the dignitary was Ra’s
Al Ghul. Despite Selina’s assertion that the demon was a “flyweight, a
hairdo, and a bush league schmuck” who owed his stature as a world-class
villain to Batman “taking everybody to DefCon4 just because an Al Ghul comes
to town,” Batman did, essentially, take everybody to DefCon4.
He could not deduce what his nemesis was
doing here in person. He had his agents, he had his daughter—he didn’t
need to give up the home field advantage leaving his compound this way. So why did he do it?
One aspect of “DefCon4” was a subroutine
that monitored the closed-captioning on every television station and alerted
him if a broadcast contained certain keywords. At 10:15 in the
morning, the subroutine went haywire, it was almost as if dozens of keywords
were being flagged at the same time.
Punching in a code directing the computer to display the broadcast on the largest view screen, Batman gasped as the larger than life face of Ra’s Al Ghul loomed over the cave.
…on a talk show?
Ra’s was on a talk show. He was talking about some book he was writing—about past lives?
He was… This was… This wasn’t right.
Batman couldn’t help but wonder if some cosmic
justice wasn’t avenging Joker for the episode at the Iceberg Lounge.
Ra’s Al Ghul was IN GOTHAM CITY, appearing on
a WOMEN’S TALK SHOW, promoting A BOOK?
The theories Dick and Tim had put forth about his cooking raced through Bruce’s mind:
“The old man’s brain is caught in his zipper.”
Ubu would never have said such a thing. Ra’s Al Ghul’s former lieutenant-cum-bodyguard had been indoctrinated from birth, raised to serve his master without question or comment.
Draco, the new man, was a disappointment.
He was respectful enough in Ra’s presence, but spoke in an unseemly way with the
captain of the guard, whose room was, of course, bugged.
Making a mental note to have Draco dispatched
when they returned to the compound (for it would not do to dispose of bodies in
the Detective’s city), Ra’s switched on the television and searched for the
appearance he’d taped the previous day with Regis and some other woman. He
could never remember all their names.
Not realizing the 36 in the television listing
corresponded to channel 8 on the actual set, Ra’s naively turned the dial to 36.
He watched the first three hours of SoapNet’s marathon of classic soap
opera storylines, the greatest criminal mind of this
or any generation sitting resolutely through highlights of
“Luke and Laura’s Summer on the Run” as he waited
from whence he planned
patientlyfor his segment with Regis. As the hours passed, he was able to deduce that a secret agent, a ne’er-do-well thief, and a blonde were all searching for a man-made diamond called Ice Princess. The thief and the blonde were obviously lovers, and the whole thing was a disgusting example of decadent Western culture… until the appearance of an enigmatic Greek. The fellow had some kind of secret underground installation from whence he planned—this was intriguing—
from whence he plannedto build a massive weather machine capable of producing
”that could freeze the entire world!
Ra’s watched in fascinated awe as Mikkos Cassadine, with a psychopathic gleam in
his eye, told how he would “force global leaders to yield to my will! The entire
world will live by my rule. I will be in supreme command! ”
was brilliant! It was inspired!
Why was he wasting his time with press agents, publishers, and dogs?
His lieutenants were right! He had lost focus!
He had to escalate his plan to take over the world and FORCE Black Canary
to love him…
GROUPTHINK: or WHEN SMART PEOPLE DO DUMB THINGS
“Two Ns in Kennedy, Bro.”
Tim jumped at the interruption, but was glad
“Dick, hey, you shouldn’t sneak up like that. You’re spending more time
in Gotham than in Bludhaven these days, aren’t you?”
Dick smiled uncomfortably.
“Yeah, I guess. Been seeing a lot of Barb- well anyway, that’s about to change.”
“Not complaining. It’s better when you’re
up, you look like your dog died?
Dick said nothing.
“Di-ick, what’s wrong, Bro?”
Dick said nothing.
“That’s a fine impersonation of
“Never mind. It’s nothing. Things with Barbara took a turn, I guess.”
Tim laughed uncharitably. “Like sands through the hour glass.”
“It’s not funny, Tim.”
Dick sounded unusually upset, considering ‘things with Barbara’ were always
taking one turn or another. “If
you must know I went over to propose, well not propose exactly, but to
lay the groundwork. Sort of set things in motion for her to encourage or—”
“And she didn’t encourage.”
“Never even got that far. She… …Babs
has got a real nasty streak, you ever notice that?”
Tim thought all of the bat family had a bit of
a nasty streak, but he didn’t say so. Instead, he tried to look
sympathetic to make up for the soap opera crack.
“And I didn’t do anything to bring it on,
either,” Dick went on petulantly. “Just standing there, and she flattened me for no reason.”
“You talk to Bruce?”
Tim didn’t want to be rude, but he had a paper to write.
And he didn’t have any advice to offer anyway.
“He’s preoccupied. Ra’s Al Ghul,”
“You catch him on The View?
To Canary. Tweet Tweet
sings the songbird…’”
Dick smiled sadly. Funny as it was, he didn’t feel like poking fun at another aching heart, even Ra’s Al Ghul’s. But he played along.
favorite part was, Speak fair my fair one, oh flaxen-haired goddess of song.”
Tim roared at this. Quotations from the
putrid bilge the Demon crowd considered love poetry would clearly be an in-joke
among the bat-clan for some time.
“It’s like I said, man, Days of Our Lives. Gotham’s become a soap opera.”
“No, for that we’d need spies from the
World Security Bureau running around with plans for weather machines and
diamonds hiding secret formulas.”
It was Tim’s turn to say nothing.
“I watched a little in college.” Dick explained
With Secret formulas?”
“That was before my time actually, but it’s a
very famous story—girl in the student union told me about it—see there
was this big diamond called the Ice Princess that one of the Quartermains used
in a sculpture, and in the base was a secret formula to make this artificial
“ANYWAY,” Tim cut him off with some asperity,
“if Bruce is busy, how about taking your Barbara problems to Selina. She’s a woman.”
“You noticed that too, huh.”
“Go away, let me write my paper. Bother other people.”
As Tim turned back to his computer, the news
alert pinged, and he saw a headline that meteorologist Dan Waynard was missing.
“How about that,” Tim thought as he
continued with his paper, “a missing weatherman. Speak of the devil…”
To be continued…