Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Time out of Place - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Sarah Connor ached all over, and she had picked up a variety of bruises, which the after-workout shower hadn't really addressed. After showering and dressing into her regular clothes, Martin checked to make sure that there was no swelling and that she had a small ice pack for her left shoulder, which had taken one fall a bit hard. He had handed her a glass of ice water, and disdained the various 'energy' drinks available in the well stocked refrigerators.

"You just need some re-hydration, Sarah. You'll get enough to balance your lost sodium and electrolytes with that lunch."

She smiled, having opened the brown bag lunch and taking out a sandwich with some wrapped cookies, and a small container of crackers and peanut butter plus a plastic container of what turned out to be grapefruit juice cut with apple juice. Plus she had a liter bottle of water Martin had provided from stores. She watched as Martin sat down across the table from her with a liter bottle of water and he swallowed three or four large swallows from it.

"Ahh, Gotham City water direct from the hills of Gotham. I'm surprised that its not toxic, but it meets all EPA standards, and that must be a miracle of some sort."

She smiled, it had been difficult to adjust to the somewhat harder water of Gotham City.

"You mean with all the old chemical plants on the mainland side?"

He nodded.

"Just that. Axis Chemicals, Dupont, Stalar Combine, Johnson Municipal, and the old Rock Oil plant really were pretty unregulated back in the day. Dupont, at least, was able to clean their emissions up and somehow stay in business. Axis really went downhill once it stock hit rock bottom and was abandoned back in the 50s, and the fire and explosions there a couple of years ago really have made it a toxic wasteland. Stalar still has one part of the facility open, mostly its old photo unit which it pulled strings on to keep open with Kodak, upstate. Johnson went under a decade ago, and couldn't meet emission standards if it tried. Rock Oil is still chugging along, and got some of its stuff grandfathered into place, which accounts for the sooty smog we sometimes get rolling off the mainland at night. Not that being downwind of New York City is any prize, but at least the air gets pretty well mixed from that direction."

Sarah smiled.

"It beats LA any day! You can at least see the hills if you don't have anything blocking you. But the traffic downtown! When will you ever get a modern freeway in here?"

Martin grunted.

"The cross-town isn't good enough for ya? You should have seen it 8 years back before that went in and most of the truck traffic from the port went through city streets. Now the cross-town and north link keep most of the worst of that out of street traffic. And you can't widen the roads, either... well, not without knocking down half the buildings."

"Are you going on about urban planning *again*, Martin?" came a voice from the door to the lounge.

"Nah, Loren, just comparing notes with the LA native. We have better air and worse traffic, although I bet the latter isn't that much better in LA."

Sarah chuckled.

"Its worse during rush hour, actually. Here its just clogged up most of the time."

The tall, dark haired woman at the entrance to the lounge stepped in and walked over to the table. Martin spoke up.

"Sarah, this is Loren Seifert, our small arms expert and Mistress of the Range when she's on duty alone. Loren, Sarah Connor from XP Division, the lady with the serial killer after her."

Sarah stood up and shook Loren's hand, and realized she was only an inch or two taller than Sarah, but more slightly built which made her seem taller.

"Glad to meet you, Sarah. Well, actually for you it would have been better if this was social or related to a project, I guess. This has got to be playing hell with you."

"It is, Loren, but... after the workout and training with Martin, I'm not as shaken as I was."

Loren smiled and nodded.

"Glad that you got fixed up to do something about it!" She turned to Martin, "And I'll take her off your hands now and get her the quick and dirty lesson of how to point a gun in the right direction."

"No prob, Loren. Sarah, I hope we get a chance to work out some more, you have good instincts, balance and are quick on your feet. A damned sight better than a number of partners I had on the GCPD, let me tell you," he reached out to shake Sarah's hand.

"I hope so too, Martin. This really has calmed my nerves." She let go of his hand and turned to Loren.

"Come with me and we will see what we can do for distraction of your killer. Say, Martin, you got the same layout of the guy I did, right?"

"Tall, dark, armored and nasty? Uh-huh."

"Thought so, just checking. Ok Sarah, come with me and I'll take you down to the range and stock area. Cya later, Martin."

"Catchya, Loren. Take care, Sarah."

"I will Martin, thanks for everything. Really."

Loren led the way out and down the hallway.

"Never handled a gun before in your life, right?" Loren asked.

"Not to fire, no. Helped my father on cleaning his rifles after hunting, but that was when I was a little girl."

Loren nodded.

"Thats ok," she stopped at an elevator and hit the down button, and the door opened immediately. Loren and Sarah stepped in and Loren hit the button for L2.

"I think we will do some basic orientation with a target pistol and then... hmmmm... shotgun will get you used to long arms, and I don't expect you will be doing anything at a long distance."

The elevator door opened and Loren led the way to an armored door. She put in her pass key and palmed the device in the wall and the door clicked open.

"Come on in and welcome to the armament room, small arms. We'll go through the stacks so I can pick out a nice variety of stuff for your range time," she said stepping into the room beyond which had multiple upright locked metal cabinets, gray ones in the interior of the room and red around the sides. Sarah followed her and heard the door click softly closed as she entered.

Loren took a small supply cart and went down the rightmost aisle, finally stopping at cabinet. She then went to the lock, spun the tumbler deftly and opened it, then initialed a small card attached to the locker and flipped over a magnetic sign from CLOSED and red to OPEN and white. The doors opened on five racks of pistols.

"Lets see... Ruger and Browning for starters..." she took out two pistols, one totally black and another dark blue with walnut grips, and placed them on the cart. She closed the doors and went to the red locker opposite and did the same as she had with the first, taking out some small boxes off ammunition that she placed in the cart.

"Hmmmm... hold out your hands, fingers outstretched," she said to Sarah.

Sarah did so and Loren looked at them, then held one hand between thumb and forefinger and gestured for Sarah to put her palms up, which she did. Loren let go of the one hand.

"You can put them down now. Ever play tennis?" she asked.

Sarah smiled.

"No. But some lacrosse in high school."

"Good enough. Should be good for the basic Colt and maybe a .357 revolver," Loren said walking down to the end of the row and opening another cabinet, which had a number of revolvers in it. She picked one out and put it in the cart, and went to the ammo container across from it and took out a box of ammo and put it in the cart. Then she went down to the end of the aisle and up the next one, stopping at a cabinet which had the OPEN sign on it.

"Keith must have been doing some early practice. Figures." she said softly opening the container and looking at racks of pistols, almost all of which appeared to be the same type, just done in a variety of different colors, grips and sizes. Loren looked them over and took a couple to look at them, then placed one on the cart. Then she guided the cart down to the last cabinet in the row and opened that one to an array of all sorts of different pistols.

"Time for something heavy. I hope you will never need anything like this stuff, but if you need it there is no replacement for having one. Lets see... nope, come over here and hold your hands out. I am going to hand you some possibles and I want you to hold each. Keep your trigger finger off the trigger, but let your hand just naturally grasp the pistol and keep it pointed towards the floor."

Sarah stepped up and Loren selected one pistol and handed it to her. It was a light black pistol and Sarah could barely get her fingers around to grasp it. Loren held her hand and gently shifted the pistol and it fit a bit better.

"It's Israeli, pretty nasty and jams once in awhile, but is really quite smooth to fire. Heavy as a brick, though. How does it feel?"

"It is heavy, and is a bit hard to get a good feel of it." Sarah said.

Loren nodded.

"Put it in the cart. Here, try this one."

Sarah was handed a long, sleek chrome pistol, very much like one of the previous ones, just larger.

"That feels nice, easy to hold."

Loren nodded, "Wish the company could figure out how to keep operating. Mr. Wayne doesn't want to buy them up, though. Put it in the cart," which Sarah did.

"Ok, this next is really more of a rifle but made for handgun size. It is heavy, nasty and bucks like freight train. Hold it and see how it feels."

Sarah was surprised at the weight, but grasped the pistol first with one hand, then two.

"That is heavy, and balancing it is a bit hard."

Loren nodded.

"Yeah, its not anything I would call portable, but if you need to shoot an armored car, you would want one. Ok, put that in the cart. Next up the ammo for this lot and then a couple of shotguns, I think good old pump action will do you, keep you with solid slugs and 12 gauge, nothing fancy..."

Sarah Connor started to realize that Loren Seifert was taking this job very seriously. Just like Martin did. Everything in this room had a purpose to it, a time and a place to be used. Only a very skilled person could know what was needed and when, and the way Loren walked, carried herself and examined each weapon made Sarah confident that she knew what she was doing. A long day was getting longer, but better as it went along.

Her good friend and roommate back in LA had been killed.

That killer was coming after her.

Sarah Connor would not be unprepared.

Or alone.

* * *

Bruce Wayne stepped into the small office at the back of the mission after having the older parishioner in charge of the kitchen let Father Jordan knew he was here and hoped to see him for a matter of importance. Mr. Wayne smiled at some of the cooking ranges having the 'Wayne Manufacturing' logo off to the side of the front panel. The older woman came back and led him to the office and he let himself into the combined reading room and office of Father Jordan who was an older, somewhat balding black man who had run the mission for some years now as a personal effort.

"Glad to see you, Bruce! Anne said it was important and that you needed to see me, and I'm just doing some maintenance on the accounts, so I'm glad for the visit."

The two men shook hands, and both were smiling, "Do take a seat, Bruce."

"Thank you Father Jordan," Bruce sat in an old tapestry armchair next to a battered wooden table while Father Jordan sat in one with that had a small pillow for his back.

"Is this about supplies, Bruce? I know we did ask for more to cover recent layoffs at the docks..."

Bruce grinned.

"Not at all, Father, glad to have those supplies sent here. This is a matter involving one of my employees, a recent hire from Los Angeles, and a man who was sent to help her who turned to a Father Casull. The matter may be one of life or death, Father Jordan, and I am putting up $500,000 to Father Casull's mission to come with the man, Kyle, and I would like any help or advice from you, Father Jordan, and will pay a similar amount from my personal accounts to match Wayne Corporation's gift in Los Angeles."

Father Jordan sat back a bit, perplexed.

"That sounds suspiciously like a pay-off, Bruce."

Bruce Wayne grinned then tightened it, looked down at the floor and then at Father Jordan.

"Father Jordan, I need someone to be able to see if Father Casull is not being coerced or naive. Plus, as this would be a matching gift, you two may want to see if there is any coordination you would like to do. I am willing to back a more ambitious project, but want to make sure it is in good hands from the start and has clear direction. But, beyond that, I trust your insight into people and this situation... needs more than I have as it is going across too many things."

Father Jordan leaned forward.

"I did attend and inter-faith retreat, oh, two years ago, and remember a panel on inner city outreach and how to deal with poverty, gangs and crime, plus lax city administration and police enforcement. Father Casull was on that panel, which had a long roundtable discussion after the main presentations. Although I didn't meet him, personally, he was a very straightforward and compassionate man, for all that he had some of the most violent criminals in California come through his door. I am more than willing to help on that, Bruce, no payment necessary."

Bruce nodded and leaned forward to be closer to Father Jordan, and lowered his voice.

"I know that, Father Jordan. It is the story with the man he is bringing, and the events that have taken place in LA and appear to be headed this way that are disturbing. Kyle's story has many fantastical elements, but some are corroborated by Father Casull, some by the media and some by other reports that were not available to either Kyle or Father Casull. So I can't discount a fantastical story offhand, particularly as it involves a serial killer out to kill one of my employees. He has already killed multiple times in that mission."

Father Jordan furrowed his brows together and looked at the floor.

"There may be a little risked involved in helping, Father Jordan, but I can't say that it is zero risk. And the killer will, apparently, stop at nothing to get to my employee. I see that as a risk, and I want to make sure that those accepting it know that I appreciate their help."

Looking up from the floor to Bruce, Father Jordan nodded.

"Bruce I grew up on the streets of Gotham which were rough for their day, but not like today. After converting to the Work under the late Father Williams I was in the Army as a Chaplain, not a Base Chaplain, but a Field Chaplain. So I've seen a lot in service to Christ and my Nation, and to the City of Gotham. I don't shy away from risk, Bruce, you know that."

"And I want you to know I appreciate that and want that work to continue on to help those most in need. The responsibility of Wayne Corporation, in full, for all of its people rests on me, Father Jordan. To do good I must do right by them, from first day to last, that is part of my job. You may not appreciate that the glamor and visible part isn't all too... ahhh... moral and upright... but they are also part of the job. If I can't trust my employees to know that they can lift their share of the weight for me, it will be because I have not done my share for them. I will be arranging things for the donations through Alfred, and I really do want to make a lasting contribution to the city."

Father Jordan smiled deeply and sat back.

"You do, Bruce. Every other corporate headquarters here, from your father's time, has left Gotham City for New York, Boston or overseas. You stick by your father's memory, his aims and do them far better than your father or anyone else around here. So I may have to face a stone, cold killer again? I've done that before."

"If Kyle is right, this one isn't human," Bruce said flatly.

"Not... ok, Bruce, you have whetted my curiosity. Not a demon or ghost or something...?"

Bruce chuckled.

"We should be so lucky. No, Father Jordan, lets just say that its... not amenable to reason or spiritual power."

"Bruce, you do have this knack of enticing people by saying so little. You should have been in the clergy, as I've always told Alfred."

Bruce smiled and stood up.

"No rest for the wicked, Father Jordan. So will you come along and help?"

Father Jordan stood up from the chair, picked up his pillow and took a small bible from the side table.

"I'll tell Anne that I have a lost soul needing to be looked after. She will be able to run the mission, and probably will long after I'm gone."

Bruce nodded and opened the door.

"Lets hope that is many years away. I'll give you the overview as we go back to Wayne Tech. I have a number of interviews on this before we meet up with Father Casull and Kyle, and it will give you a chance to talk with the woman being threatened, Sarah Connor."

"And you're a white knight on top of it! Bruce you are a tough man to figure out."

Bruce smirked.

"Never the white knight, Father Jordan. Somehow my life just hasn't led me there..."

The two men walked out of the room and Father Jordan closed the door.

* * *

"This is Long Sword One, Chicago Central, we will be doing the fast hand-off to Cleveland then New York control centers now, do you copy, over."

"Roger that, Long Sword One this is Chicago Central, we have firm hand-offs on frequency seven five to Cleveland then same to New York. Hey, give the Canadians a big hello from us, would you, over?"

"Copy that, a Chicago Mach shout for our friends to the North. Changing to frequency seven five and will use common if I can't raise anyone, over and out."

"Good flying, Long Sword One, Chicago Central out."

"Cleveland Control this is Long Sword One on flight Wayne One Alpha, we are ten minutes early, any traffic to be aware of, over?"

"We have you at 75,000 Long Sword One and currently alone for ten up and down, clear space until 35,000, over."

"Understood, Cleveland Control, we will be switching over to New York Control as we descend then to Wayne ATC East Test Unit for final approach, over."

"Give our best to Gotham, Long Sword One. Cleveland Control, out."

"Roger that, Long Sword One over and out."

The intercom went off with a click.

"There that ought to keep everyone happy. The Canadians will be toasty complaining about us and not looking North for central control over Lake Ontario. Screw 'em, I wanted a nice, lazy glide path over Ontario and Quebec, but noooo..."

Vivian Rose was obviously too cheerful for someone that had her preferred course of action blocked.

"So how are you holding up Father Casull, Kyle?" Richard asked.

"Well enough, thank you, Richard," said Father Casull, "it was a rough start but that sugar cube obviously steadied my stomach. Dramamine?"

"Nah, just pure carbohydrates," said Vivian, "always does the trick for me when I have a bender before a flight. Dramamine is in the other pocket of the suit, just never use 'em."

Kyle Reese, for all of having done a number of heroic and somewhat foolish things on the battlefield, wasn't prepared for something like this. There were large problems in this mission, but no one had ever checked on flight sickness for him before he left. Or zero-g sickness, come to that.

"I'm doing ok, thanks," said Kyle, "the water and Dramamine helped a lot."

"Yeah, Viv can get away with a sugar cube or chewing gum, but when my stomach starts to go, its gotta be chemicals," said Richard.

"Nudging back a bit on throttles to get the approach path," Vivian said.

The curvature of the Earth slowly started to go up and the nose of the plane went down. What stretched before was some clouds with patches of green and brown, then some blue peeking through to the left. The plane shuddered a bit as a whistling of air could be heard with the engine drone decreasing.

"Now the FAA and USAF like us to be nice and keep the sonic booms at 30,000 or above. That is for populated areas. Say, Dick, you got anything on the forward hi-res radar for Lake Ontario?"

"Checking, Viv. A couple of freighters, some pleasure boats wandering out of Rochester. And... ahh... the Toronto hover commuter looks to be right under the flight path."

"They going to be far enough out?"

"Ten miles of clearance, Viv."

"Cleveland Control this is Long Sword One, we will be switching over to New York Control, starting descent, over."

"On radar, Long Sword One and copy that, go up one for New York Control. Give a screamer to our friends to the North, over and out."

"Yeah, you know it Cleveland, out from you switching to New York up freq one, over and out."

"New York Control, this is Long Sword One on flight plan Wayne One Alpha, performing approach maneuver five, over."

"Long Sword One this is New York Control, we copy. Ah, we don't appear to have clearance for approach five, over."

"Yeah, New York Control, its a reverse of the outward twist and shout three, over."

"Hang a sec, Long Sword One."

Vivian keyed the intercom.

"As if! They can see the approach, know I have clear space and a window and will be through the flight lanes faster than most UFOs."

"They won't like it, Viv. You know how they feel about these things."

"Uh-huh, even when its all clear, in the regs and you tell them, they still excrete a brick."

"Long Sword One this is New York Control, do you copy?"

"New York Control this is Long Sword One, we are getting to the pot time, over."

"Copy that, Long Sword One, you don't want to see my manager... he is screaming into the phone, but as I see it you got clear space and then sub-pattern work and its all regs, so screw it. Go ahead on the screamer and give a few extra nudges from the Empire State, over."

"Roger, one screamer special coming up. Will be switching over to Wayne East ATC by Syracuse, over."

"Copy that, Long Sword One. Give 'em the bat out of hell, New York Control over and out."

"Knocking on it Allen, you know I'm always glad when you got the New York seat. Long Sword One, out."

"Umm... what is the bat out of hell?" asked Kyle.

"I think we are about to find out." said Father Casull who popped another sugar cube.

"All green back there?" Richard asked.

"Yes", said the two passengers.

"All right, now we get to see what dropping a Mach feels like, hang on you two," said Vivian Rose.

The engine on-board started to rumble and the nose of the plane pitched down and to the right. The plane started a slow spiral downwards with the deep blue of Lake Ontario slowly showing up as the nose of the aircraft slowly turned.

"There's the commuter shuttle! Going past 60,000 and dropping fast."

"Roger that, Viv. All surfaces are nominal and rerouting coolant to the wings."

Barely able to lift his hand now that the sumo wrestler had returned, Father Casull could see vapor over the wing surfaces as he switched the screen from side to side then forward again. The spiral turned, slowly, into a corkscrew.

"Passing 50,000 and clear space to ground," Richard said.

"Ok, easing out just slightly."

The nose of the plane started to pull up, a little with each turn down.

"Going past 40,000 and jet is nominal," said Richard.

Father Casull could feel the wings start to 'bite air', he believed the term was. The corkscrew turned to a slowly widening spiral as the plane went down faster.

"Lots of leeway, Viv, but I wouldn't want to be watching this from the shore."

"Yeah, not often you see a glowing white fireball spiraling through the atmosphere. Probably be on one of those UFO programs, just like the test flights in California."

"Yeah, your the most popular UFO around, Viv."

"Damned straight. Wish Mr. Wayne would put the guideds on, but he seems to think that ET liaisons shouldn't start with a bang."

"Out of liner space passing 30,000, dropping fast, Viv."

"Ok, now we have some fun,"

The aircraft suddenly jerked straight and at a slight angle over Lake Ontario and a watercraft with a plume of air billowing spray behind it was seen. Suddenly the flaps opened and the aircraft dropped speed quickly and the watercraft was obscured by a roiling cloud of vapor that had been clinging to the aircraft. The flaps went down again and the aircraft pitched forward and they felt a rumble go through it as it passed above the sound barrier again.

Richard had shifted one wing camera down to see that dissipating cloud of vapor flow down and then over the hovercraft and there was a shudder in the water around it as the sonic boom went over it.

"UFO strike one, pissed Canadians zero," Vivian said, "now time to go back to being nice, just a little."

"By three on the border, Viv, on display,"

A black line showing the Canadian/American border flashed up on screen.

"Coming in at 15,000 and fifteen minutes to touchdown,"

"Gotchya, Dick."

"Long Sword One to Wayne ATC East, do you copy?"

"This is Wayne ATC East, Long Sword One, and good afternoon to you, Viv, over."

"Yeah its looking good, Wayne ATC East, is that you Harry?"

"One in the same, Viv. You know you really bitched up the Canadians, over?"

"Who me? Over."

"No one else is flying the Long Sword, Vivian unless its Richard and he would have done the seaboard, over."

"Uh-huh, I was told ASAP and that doesn't mean a leisure flight over the Atlantic, Harry. Over."

"Nope, international waters are too much fun, I know you, Viv. But the Canucks decided to throw their weight around and you wanted to cut time. Still, what the Wayne Tango Foxtrot were you thinking, Viv? Over."

"Heh. Everyone is going to piss for going strictly by the regs, huh? The Long Sword is a damned good plane and it needs a workout, over."

"Love at first mach, yeah. I've been on one of your pleasure rides, Viv. You know the regs aren't made for something like the Long Sword, over."

"Yeah. Ok what's the final for Wayne ATC East today? Do I get the Palisades or the Meadowlark? Over."

"You are on Meadowlark One. Palisades is full up with the Journeyman so no space for the Long Sword, over."

"Meadowlark in the hills, plotting in. Do we have any locals at ten to fifteen, over?"

"Single heli flight from New York to Albany, coming up at just below that. Freaking Senator or something. On current course you will be three zero miles in front and two thousand above, so just keep it sub-sonic, wouldya Viv? Over."

"Got it, Wayne ATC East, plotted and no pissing off DC today. Touchdown in ten minutes, Harry. Will keep open for final approach, over."

"Ok, Long Sword One. Not much to it, nothing coming in for a few hours, so you are free and clear from the meadow to the hills. Over and out."

"Roger that, Meadowlark One to Hangar Five. Get the coffee brewin. Long Sword One on final, over and out."

The lake disappeared behind them and the rolling hills and low mountains started to appear, the plane shifted a bit to the south and then more so, going over the Hudson River before they went off to the east and slowly shifted over more rolling hills. The plane throttled back, and the flaps went out, then the nose slightly up on the glide path. Airspeed dropped and the viewscreen started to show a thin, black line approaching, then more lines and a few buildings. Soon treetops were visible and airspeed dropped faster as the black line turned into a distant runway that slowly widened as it rushed up at the plane. Final touchdown was done softly, with the barest hint of sound from the deployed landing gear and a rush of the engine reversing throttle and the nose gear settling slowly to the runway. Vivian slowed the aircraft and then guided it to a second runway and towards rolling hills with paths to them. They showed metal doors in the side of the hills save for one that was open, and she guided the craft towards it.

As it came to a stop inside the underground hangar and the engine powered down, the ground crew, consisting of two people, got to work, one putting chocks under the wheels and the other guiding a extendable platform next to the plane. The doors slowly closed and mercury vapor lamps became apparent overhead in the cavernous underground hangar. Vivian and Richard went through final shutdown as the one groundcrewman came up the ladder to start unlatching the canopies, which rose up slowly on their own. Fresher air came into the vehicle and Father Casull was pleased to finally be unhooking himself from the aircraft. The groundcrewman consulted briefly with Vivian then reached over and took a checklist hanging from the side railing of the platform and started checking off items.

"Richard, can you handle the post-flight stuff?" Vivian asked as she slid up and out of the cockpit.

"Sure thing, Viv, you get our guests out to the main building and make sure things are taken care of there. I'll do the after flight check," Richard was also getting out of the cockpit and was consulting with the groundcrewman who was in a dark blue one piece uniform, with a belt and various pieces of equipment hanging from it. The groundcrewman handed the clipboard to Richard and then shifted over to help Kyle from the aircraft, which was a bit of a leg up and down to do.

"Thanks," said Kyle.

"My pleasure, sir," the groundcrewman said as he then went to Father Casull as Richard stepped down the walkway from the ramp to the hangar floor. Vivian also helped Father Casull to get out.

"Bless you both.." he looked at the man's name tag, "..Lionel and Vivian, that wasn't a long flight but it was rather cramped."

"You're very welcome, Father," said the groundrewman and then walked forward to the forward compartment, picked up a checklist from inside the cockpit and looked it over before signing it.

"Glad to, Father Casull. Sorry the in-flight service wasn't so hot, but we aren't set up for tourist work."

"Perfectly understandable, Vivian, and I don't think I could have actually kept any sort of real food down during the flight."

"Yup, know how you feel. So lets get you over to the main building and see who is here to know what happens next. I hate to put you on the connector shuttle to figure it out for yourselves, and if worse comes to worse I'll give Lucius a call and get it from him," Vivian said going down the stairs, making sure that the two men had retrieved their belongings from the plane and then got on a small cart to take them to the main building.

The small golfcart-like vehicle sped them off with Vivian driving out a side delivery loading dock door and out onto a paved road that looped around a large pond with trees and picnic benches around it, that had a few people at them enjoying a lunch in the warm late spring air. The road curved around to the main control tower building which had a two story office site beneath it. As the road branched off in many directions, Vivian steered towards the one going to the building which had a parking lot next to it and a main drop off loop to the main doors. Just beyond it was what appeared to be a rail spur that had some sort of small station at it with a rounded one car vehicle on it. That car was very streamlined and glinted light off of polished aluminum or possibly chrome. Across the side of it was WIST in bold, slanting letters in black taking up a good portion of the side of the vehicle. Vivian steered the vehicle up to the loop going to the main doors and parked the small vehicle just a bit beyond the ramp going to the entrance. As they all got out the WIST vehicle started to hum and move along its tracks going slowly behind the building and building speed.

"Come on in, you two, and I'll drop you off at the VIP lounge while I scare up someone to find out what's going on," she said walking towards the sliding doors that opened into the low brick building. Kyle and Father Casull lifted their luggage and followed her into the building. A receptionist desk was empty and Vivian walked past it and the front stairs that looped up to the floor above, and went to her right and down a hallway. She opened a door that had 'VIP Lounge' in gold letters on its wooden door, the only wooden door that could be seen in the hallway. The room beyond had two tables with high back tapestry chairs to them, a number of lounger chairs with small tables next to them, a sofa by the fireplace and another across from a television inset into a bookcase as a form of entertainment unit. There was a mahogany bar with large mirror behind it, with tall chairs around the bar, plus what appeared to be a kitchen further in and behind the bar. The television set was on and set to a news channel.

"You two make yourselves comfortable here. The bar is open to VIPs, even if there isn't a bartender around, which we seem to be lacking on a constant basis. The alcohol is under lock and key, so that limits things to whatever is in the fridge, the dispensers and the kitchen. Still a glass of soda or ice water might help, as the flight does tend to dry you out," she said heading out the door.

"Thank you, Vivian," said Father Casull.

Kyle nodded and said "Thanks," as he went over to the bar and picked up a glass, found a freezer with ice cubes and dropped them into the glass and then looked at the dispenser arrangement then at a small chart behind the bar. Father Casull took a glass to the kitchen and half-filled it with tap water and came back. Giving up on trying to interpret the sign, Kyle tried several single swallows of different colored beverages before settling on one that was slightly yellowish, bubbling and clear. Father Casull sat down on the plush sofa by the television and Kyle sat on the other side.

"Father Casull, just who are these people? What is all this?" he gestured around with his free hand.

Father Casull sipped his water and smiled.

"It is a bit out of my usual experiences, too, Kyle, but I'll see if I can get you the best of what I know. Which isn't much. All of this is part of Wayne Corporation which is not only a company on its own, but has a number of subsidiaries, off-shoots and other associated firms with it. It was founded by Thomas Wayne after his pre-war investments turned out rather better than he expected. He was a doctor before the war and medic during it, and didn't believe that he should stop his practice, which had a good portion of its work in the poorer areas of Gotham City. His investments left him with sole ownership of some failing companies and he amalgamated those into Wayne Manufacturing and Medical Supplies. He formed a governing board that would see to further investments as Wayne Corporation."

"Tragically, while his only child was still young, he and his wife were gunned down after a movie in downtown Gotham, leaving the 4 year old Bruce Wayne in the custodial care of the Wayne Estate. Thomas and Martha Wayne had left instructions for such an eventuality, and Bruce Wayne followed those while the Estate, took care of daily Wayne Corp. business. Apparently that was run by a trusted friend and family retainer that did what he could for Bruce. Things do become a bit jumbled after that, as Bruce apparently decided to 'see the world' at a young age. Wayne Corp grew far beyond initial holdings, taking over a number of smaller firms and starting up others."

"At some point, I think it was 8 or so years ago, Bruce Wayne re-appeared as a young 'jet setter' and took over the majority of shares from the Estate and started to kick out corrupt executives in it. Bruce Wayne is reclusive when not in the spotlight, and seems to adore the spotlight and the fast life when he is in it. Still, he has a good commitment to ensuring that his father's original ideals are served both for the medical and defense communities. I've seen the amounts he has personally donated to charity, beyond his corporation and its many subsidiaries, and it is a staggering amount. It is not as large as, say, GM or Boeing or General Electric, but has its own niche of capability and commitment that is larger, in proportion than those other companies."

Kyle nodded.

"So a young guy, then?"

"Oh, not even into his thirties, very energetic from what I've read of his activities," said Father Casull.

"That he is," intoned a voice from the doorway. The two men looked to see a dapper older gentleman in the doorway with Vivian behind him.

"Do excuse me, I'm Alfred, the family butler," he said walking in with Vivian behind him. She stepped around him and up to Kyle, who was getting up from the sofa, as was the Priest.

"Kyle this is Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler," Kyle extended his hand and shook the callused hand of the older gentleman, who had a very firm grip.

"It is good to meet you, Kyle,"

Kyle nodded and murmured, "Same here".

Vivian then stood next to Father Casull.

"Father Casull, Alfred Pennyworth," Father Casull shook Alfred's hand as he stood next to Kyle.

"It is good to meet you, Father Casull, I hope the trip was survivable?"

Father Casull chuckled.

"We walked away from it, Mr. Pennyworth."

"Alfred, please. And that is Vivian's description of a good landing, I take it? Any lakes, trees, or other unfortunate happenings this time around?" Alfred asked.

"Ah, well, perhaps a bit of an incident over a lake, yes," said Father Casull.

"It's nothing, Alfred, all by the regulations."

Alfred let go of the Priest's hand and looked at Vivian.

"Buzzing the unsuspecting populace, again? Shall we all be filling out reports to the FAA long past your first 'bad landing'?"

"Nah, bad landings are their own problem, and solve themselves."

"Rather permanently, I expect. Still I'm glad you brought our guests here intact, Vivian."

"My pleasure! Now I'm out to check out the Journeyman, so if you would all excuse me, I'll leave it all to Alfred from here on out," she said smiling and waving as she left the room.

"Good-bye, Miss Rose," said the Priest.

"Bye, Vivian," said Kyle.

As she left she stopped at the door and put two brown bags on the bar, and then waved a final time.

"Now, you two gentlemen must be hungry, or at least need to calm your stomachs. If you would like some sandwiches or soup, I can arrange that, and even a some pizza from the main kitchen. You two really should rest for a bit as Mr. Wayne informed me you will have a meeting with him, Sarah Connor and Lucius Fox, plus a few others."

Alfred stepped behind the bar, took out his keys and started opening cabinets.

"The bar is open, gentlemen. What would you like?"

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