THE BOOK OF GROUND
Selina glanced over the image on the computer screen, then looked up at Bruce.
“There are times you are downright strange.”
His eyes narrowed critically. She had asked to see the fake Dear John letter that Harley Quinn sent in her effort to break them up. And he showed her.
“Harley wrote it, and it’s supposed to be from you. How am I strange?”
“Harley sent it. But you… scanned it. You made a special file to keep it in. That’s just weird.”
“I didn’t make a file; I had a file. I had to make one when I wrote the original for Jervis to send to Oswald, supposedly to be from Lark. I had to invent a new category. Before this—”
“This is you arguing that you’re not downright strange?”
“Kitten, there is a way of looking at this where it’s all your fault, you know. Before you came along, rogue correspondence was evidence. Dear Johns were for battling trumped up paternity suits. End of discussion. Rogue correspondence, sub-cat Fake Dear John letters NEVER would have come into my life before you.”
“I tell you what,” Selina smiled sweetly, “just as soon as you get to the part you think contradicts the premise that you’re strange, you send up a flare.”
Bruce felt a tug at the corner of his lip, but suppressed it. How she loved teasing him.
“At least there’s a second document in that folder now,” he grimaced without a twitch. “I hate folders with only one piece of paper in them… makes me think I went and misfiled something… waste of hard disk sectors…”
Selina stared. Then she turned her head slightly, a kitten puzzled by a telephone. “You’re putting me on,” she said at last.
“Impossible.” Twitch. “I don’t have a sense of humor.”
She laughed. She had a wonderful laugh. And like any cat, once he took the initiative and started playing with her, she hopped into his lap and began redefining the game.
“Well, now that we’re over courtesy of the tassel twit’s machinations,” she purred, “ever get together with an ex and do it for old times sake?”
“Actually, no. Can’t say that I have.”
Bruce had intended to wait until he had a complete strategy mapped out before informing her of the Fop Initiative. But she was in such a good mood now. It was folly not to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Why, Miss Kyle, are you trying to seduce me?”
The wide-eyed innocent bit. What an impossible woman.
“Yes you,” he grunted before the kiss.
“Who’s seducing who?” she gasped when they came up for air.
He switched off the computer screen with a twitchsmile.
“Not in front of the data?” she asked, giggly.
Perfect. She was in such a good mood. This would be much easier than expected.
OraCom: Channel 1—Nightwing
:: Wing? ::
:: Hey, Gorgeous.::
:: I love you very much. ::
:: Uh oh. ::
:: No, no, no. Schmuck. ::
:: Whew, that’s better. You had me scared there, O. What happened? ::
:: I can’t just say ‘I love you’ and mean it? ::
:: Oh man, somebody’s in it deep. And if it’s not me… ::
:: There he goes, son of great detective, on the case… ::
:: …If it’s not me, it must be B. What’s he done now? ::
There was an audible sigh into the microphone, then a slurping sound.
:: I’m not quite sure. But something went down, he’s checking in every five minutes. ::
:: Checking in? Frequently? On a standard patrol? ::
:: Yeah! Totally bizarre, right? And there’s these weird pauses, like he’s waiting for something. ::
:: Chitchat. ::
:: Huh? ::
:: He wants chitchat. He thinks you know something. It’s an opening for you to relax and make small talk so he can find out. ::
:: ‘Wingy, my love, ninety seconds of silence followed by a grumbly ‘Batman out’ is not making small talk. ::
:: It is with him. Would have thought you knew that by now. So what do you figure happened? ::
:: No idea. Anyway, have you seen the Gotham Post yet? ::
‘Nightwing’s Flavor of the Month.’ I’ve been seen ‘swinging around with
Tarantula.’ Go me! ::
:: You are now single. ::
:: Ha, ha. Look, it’s pretty slow out here tonight. What say I make one more pass for our silver Honda and call it a night? ::
:: Stop for some mint chocolate chip? ::
:: You got it, Beautiful. Nightwing out. ::
:: Batman? ::
:: Here, ‘Wing. ::
:: She hasn’t heard a thing. ::
:: Damn. ::
:: … ::
:: … ::
:: I haven’t either, Bruce. ::
:: … ::
:: … ::
:: Batman out. ::
From his position atop of the Wayne Tower, Batman could look east towards the Phase II construction of those Cromwell condos, halted until a more favorable economy sold off the last units of Phase I. He could look west to the Moxton Building. Old Man Moxton delaying the announcement of the Harriman merger until Luthor’s reelection saber-rattling put defense stocks front and center. And if he jumped to that gargoyle, snagging the pole with the MoMA banner for momentum and swung north, he would see fraternity kids from Hudson University laying traffic cones to force the left lane of car coming off the Beacon Avenue Bridge into their canning gauntlet.
It was all strategy. Some of it sound… and some what you’d expect from witless college kids that think they’re clever. But it was still strategy. It was an attempt to foresee the entire journey before setting out, and planning ahead for what was expected down the path.
Just as the Book of Ground instructed.
The Book of Ground, first section of Go Rin No Sho, the Book of Five Rings, by the greatest samurai sword-fighter Miyamoto Musashi.
Musashi was a samurai who codified what it meant to be a warrior. He was a man who knew the word went beyond mere fighting ability, who knew the samurai must be both an individual combatant and a military commander. Knowing these were branches of the same tree, he set forth the principles of epic warfare and single combat in exactly the same way.
Batman considered Mushashi’s Book of Five Rings a masterful textbook:
If you master the basic principles, when you freely beat one man, you beat any man in the world. The spirit of defeating one man is the same as for ten million… You will be able to beat men in fights, and to win with your eye. You will be able to conquer men with your body, and beat ten men with your spirit.
The Book of Five Rings was not widely studied like Sun Tzu’s Art of War or Machiavelli’s Prince. It did not offer simple maxims easily adapted to modern business or politics. It divided itself into the five elements of Zen philosophy: Ground, Water, Fire, Wind and Void—and quite often the author had to stretch, or outright cheat, to make what he wanted to say fit those prescribed headings.
But for one who took the time to study the book as Batman had, who absorbed its principles and tested them—not just in the context of sword-fighting but in other martial arts, in business case studies, and in daily life, and who found them equally sound wherever they were applied—the Five Rings had much to teach. Batman knew this. It was a tested principle.
As often as he had studied the thin volume, he always found new insights in light of his most recent battles.
And the most fundamental of its teachings is that the Way of Strategy must dominate all aspects of life. Strategy is your first and constant thought. Whatever happens and whatever you do must be weighed against it. “When you have attained the Way of Strategy, there will be not one thing that you cannot understand, and you will see the Way in everything.”
It was a concept Bruce had embraced in living his life as Batman. He ate certain foods at lunch to obtain an energy boost hours later during patrol. When he bought the Porsche, he got a red 944 instead of the black 911 he preferred, because it seemed more the clichéd image of a sports car the idiot-fop would buy.
The camouflage of the Fop had to be restored. She must see that; Selina wasn’t stupid. Bruce Wayne had to be perceived as an idle fool so that no one could suspect he was Batman. Now that he had a permanent girlfriend, the womanizing playboy was gone. He had to dial up other aspects of the act to compensate.
“So you’re buying a Lamborghini, a yacht, and a new plane?” she had asked when he told her.
“Yes,” he graveled.
“And you want to christen all the new toys with a bit of globetrotting.”
“Sounds great! Meow in fact.”
He grunted. And that was that. Until hours later when he was ready for patrol and found Catwoman waiting for him at the Batmobile.
“Hang on a second,” she began without any hint that she’d returned to the earlier conversation. “Are we talking about a real someplace warm and exotic, or ‘Bruce Wayne is in Tahiti’ when you’re really down here defragging your hard drive?”
“Tahiti,” he answered grimly. “I’m not leaving Gotham unprotected for a month or more.”
“And I’m supposed to have gone with you? That means what? I can’t show my face in public? I’m stuck here under house arrest until you decide we’ve imaginary globetrotted enough? No way, Stud. Kitty gotta prowl.”
“So don’t come,” he turned on her, anxious to get out of the cave and begin patrol. “Bruce Wayne is away and you decided to stay here. That might be even better, in fact. Spark some gossip. The Wayne yacht is in St. Thomas and Selina Kyle is still in Gotham, do the math.”
“Effectively making a fool of me in as blatant and public a manner as possible. I don’t think so. Let’s hear Plan B.”
“There is no Plan B. That IS Plan B. Plan A is you come with me like I said in the first place. It’s not like it makes any difference, when we’ll both be here the entire time.”
“The difference is you can still go out at night. I can’t. Fairly common knowledge I’m Catwoman, you know.”
“Selina, you must have laid low before now. After the Manteca affair, there was no sign of you for a month. Where were you then?”
He grunted one of those ‘I rest my
case’ grunts, which Selina correctly interpreted as “See, I’m right but I’m
too big of a man to jump up and down and scream ‘I told you so.’”
“I was in Martha’s Vineyard the REGULAR way, where you put your ass on a plane and actually GO to Martha’s Vineyard!”
“We’ll talk about this when I get back.”
“Nothing to talk about, Handsome. You need to go back to the drawing board on this one. I don’t like being ordered around. I am not hiding out in my own home on your say so, and I am not going to put up with a bunch of imaginary bimbae…”
“Bimbae?” he twitched in spite of himself.
“I mean it, Bruce,” she said seriously, “you need to come up with something else. I thought you had all kinds of alternative plans ready at a moment’s notice once there was an obvious failure like this.”
“An obvious failure? Kitten, just because you don’t like it… The plan is sound. We’re doing it. Come or don’t come. Your choice, I’m not ordering you either way.”
“That is not a choice at all, and you damn well know it.”
“We’ll talk about it when I get back.”
We’ll talk about it when I get back. What he’d said when he asked her to move in in the first place… Blurted it, not asked. It was the Anniversary, and he was emotional. He wanted her to be there for him and didn’t want it to be a conversation… Maybe he hadn’t thought through every consequence beforehand.
The Way of Strategy was supposed to be the first and last consideration at all times.
Could he honestly say he had done this where Selina was concerned? Could he honestly say he had mapped out this journey before setting out?
To be continued…