Friday, January 23, 2009

Time out of Place - Chapter 14

Chapter 14

The team members had been filtering into the Executive dining room, which was now closed to all other staff for the evening. Bruce Wayne was one of the last to arrive with Alfred and Fr. Casull and a member of the wait staff took their orders as they were seated. Chef Gerard had shifted his operation to the kitchen, kept on a couple of the day cooks to augment the night staff and ensured that gofers were available to get specialty items from elsewhere in Wayne Corporation's larder.

From the group in the Vault there were samples of armor plating being passed around to show how the rounds worked, a general layout of Sarah's apartment and where various cameras and pick-ups had been located was supplied by Lucius, and Fr. Casull had an initial report from Mr. Smith who was situating himself in the south mid-town area with a friend of Fr. Jordan's. After his order was taken and those of the rest of the staff had finished with their orders, Bruce Wayne stood up.

"First, let me thank all of you for what you have done. It is amazing. When I first came into the leadership of Wayne Industries, I had seen a large number of groups and design teams that had worked in their own areas, often duplicating effort or even at cross-purposes. In six years that has been turned around, completely. I could never have asked Wayne Industries personnel to do what you have done. Only as we are now in Wayne Corporation is something like this possible. I know that every day, day-in and day-out, all of you now work on projects that cross many areas and previous boundaries that were separate and isolated groups. My idea was to increase flexibility, efficiency and spark innovation in the re-organized Wayne Corporation, and I am amazed at how well that has been done. You are all a living testament to how well that can work, and I am pleased and honored to be leading Wayne Corporation and know that its activities are in such good hands."

Bruce Wayne looked around the table and smiled, nodding.

"Secondly, as you know we are now going into the final phases of protecting Sarah Connor. She is putting her life at risk as bait to draw the Terminator out. I expect that will be sometime early in the morning tomorrow, before sunrise. I think we all have that basic analysis of it arriving after 1am and no one can think of any reason it won't try something relatively direct after that. Because of the nature of that risk, only those with experience in that area should be there. As Lucius has more experience in this than I do, he will be the one helping to coordinate and give oversight. No matter how much I want to be there, I would get in the way. I know that many of you have families, friends, loved ones and if you aren't needed for operations this morning and everything else is basically done, I will not see it as cowardice if you go to be with them. If the group protecting Sarah fails, or only partially succeeds, then you will be needed desperately tomorrow. No matter what happens, you will have a place to stay, here and I have already put in bonuses and commendations for each of you. Kyle, I am working on getting you paperwork to... ahhh... confirm citizenship. We do have some contacts on that, which may require stepping over a few bounds, but that is well worth it. You are considered on contract work here, with option for full employee if you want to stay."

Kyle was exhausted, but still stunned.

"Thank you, Mr. Wayne," he said.

"Kyle, you came here to help save us all from a disaster that would put humanity in jeopardy, a bit of documentation sleight-of-hand is well worth it to help pay you back for that risk."

Sarah placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled, and he smiled back, nodding, as she removed her hand.

"That brings us to details. Mostly it depends on you, Loren, and your assessment of the equipment. You are the one who needs to make sure that everyone is supplied tactically and communicates needs to Lucius. Both you and Martin are important on that, and I think it is time you give us some insight into what you are expecting to do tonight."

Bruce Wayne sat down and Loren nodded, and looked around the table.

"Well, we have done good on production of the DU rounds, with just over four good hours in of production of those, while we did tests and narrowed what we needed down to something reasonable for our weapons, that leaves us with a little over 3,000 rounds of it. Everyone should have a .45 with a few magazines of it, and Kyle and Sgt. Rock will be the large users of it with their equipment. After talking with everyone we have it down to the following for the trap at Sarah's apartment: Sarah inside, either Sgt. Rock or Kyle nearby inside in a stairwell, ready to react when it is in the area, then myself and Martin on rooftops to cover 12th or 11th Street, then Kyle or Sgt. Rock in that Byng Way alley in the 12th to 13th side to give us a cross-fire there and drive it towards 11th. That is five of us. Each will have a sidearm that is a .45 with at least three magazines, so call that 150 rounds. Kyle will need at least two of the six pouch bandoleers of stick magazines, plus one, for seven of those for 390 rounds. We have two of the hundred round drums, plus three of the fifty rounds and five more stick mags for Sgt. Rock, for 500 rounds. If we have time to reload Rock's current stuff, then thats... ahh... lemme think... another 520 rounds. Kyle and Rock can argue over who needs what, but Kyle will be in a position of carrying way too much in the way of magazines to start with. I'll look at the backpacks and other things we have and see if I can't do better than the old milsurp we have. Rock probably prefers the sticks, too, but he seems willing to work with the drums. So we have enough rounds for immediate and back-up use, with about a thousand left after that. I think we have some twenty round mags we can use, but I will have to search for those. Martin, want to handle general equipment?"

Martin nodded.

"Sure, Loren. First up is polyweave ballistics armor with plate inserts. Since we are only expecting small arms, they don't need to be the high protection factor ones. Next up is standard comms for combat use, and we have those specialized battery operated earphones and small microphones for that. Also general hearing protection and eye protection, which I know we have a lot of. Sarah will need something that doesn't change her heat signature much or cause her to overheat as we don't want the Terminator to see something out of the ordinary. Lucius is going to be in the Chandler Building, from what he has said, and I really would like to get him body armor and sidearm, also as he will be coordinating between the tactical group, Mr. Smith, the two Fathers, and you, Mr. Wayne. While we can use a common circuit tactically, to get us better information outside of the apartment, we will depend on Lucius. If the Terminator figures that out and kills him, then we are probably not going to survive the night."

Lucius hadn't thought of that, or all the way through, at any rate. And even though he would have the benefit of Bruce's other activities...

"Thank you, Martin. That was an oversight on my part. I'll need some range time this evening to adjust to what you've made."

"No problem, Mr. Fox," said Loren, "glad to have you there."

"Now if it doesn't come to her apartment in the night, we will have to be mobile. Vivian should be rested by then and come by in her private car to pick up Sarah and bring her here. We will need transportation for everyone else, someone to pick up the four of us, or probably, better, is someone coming by on the Crown and Back Streets. I think leaving the van where it is would be best, so Lucius can be at either Crown or Back Street, but I would suggest the Crown Street to get back to Wayne Tower before things happen here. If Vivian could stop off at that donut shop two blocks from here, that will give the Crown Street pick-up a chance to catch up while the Back Street comes here to deploy for coverage. Then we lock down in the Vault and get some rest and reverse the process tomorrow after work. I don't expect to have to do that, but that is what we will have to plan on if it comes down to that."

"Alfred, can you arrange that with the livery staff? The armored limo for the Crown Street pick-up and a standard car for the Back Street, I should think," asked Bruce.

"Yes, Master Bruce, I will do that once we are done here."

Don Carstairs spoke up.

"Martin, if it comes to Gotham and doesn't go after her, then what do we do?"

"You ask the hardest questions, Don. We have plenty enough problems as it is... but if it is here and doesn't come to kill her, that must mean it has either reprogrammed itself or has determined that another target is vital to complete its mission of killing her. I can't think of what that would be as, from what Kyle describes, Terminators are given pretty basic missions."

Kyle nodded, "They are. Even if a target has multiple body guards, it will only seek to eliminate those in the way between itself and the mission objective, and in a straightforward way, once it acquires its target. Then all processing power is used to fulfill that mission, which is why they are so deadly. If its mission is being thwarted it will retreat if it can no longer get to the target or survive to kill the target or leave a delayed device to kill the target. That is a lot of damage to do, to get the idea of retreat as necessary for fulfilling a mission."

Martin nodded.

"So outside of that, some liquids in non-splashing containers, some soft snacks without wrappers, and blankets, rain ponchos, tarps and sandbags for myself and Loren. We did get an hour to sight in our rifles when Keith got in, so now its just a question of getting there and waiting."

"I think we can cover those things," said Bruce Wayne, "and I do understand that if it doesn't come tonight, then we will also need Sgt. Rock on helping to track it down in-town along with Mr. Smith. If it is here two nights without anything happening, then we really will need to re-think what is going on and start forming up teams to try and find it. Personally, I don't like that idea at all, because it will not be acting in any way we can easily determine, and its motives will not be clear. But I think we can worry about that only if it happens. That only leaves it escaping from tonight's trap. Father Casull, what is the latest from Mr. Smith?"

"Ah, thank you, Mr. Wayne. He contacted Father Jordan before I left and he was at a building near Arsenal Street, I think it was, with a friend of Father Jordan's. He is there as a water tower on that building gives him a good view over the immediate environment."

"I know that place," said Martin, "GCPD took out a gang from there six years or so ago, they used the tower for observation. One of the first ever reported sightings of the Batman, I think, was there and the gang that broke up never did go back to its old ways."

"Well, Mr. Smith says that he can get a good view nearly to the hotel district and while it is cold and damp up there, now, if the weather clears he will have a good vantage point. Until then he is bedding down for the night and will expect us to call him around midnight with any updates. He, apparently, went into the Underworld and says that would be a very risky venue to try and track the Terminator if it goes underground."

"It would," said Ken Chapman, "although I hear that many are evacuating them recently. They used to be a haven for criminals and homeless, but many are now leaving them at night. I really have no idea why and no real credence for 'Ghost Trains' and the supernatural."

"They are real enough, Ken," said Anne, "I've heard the 'Ghost Train' at the WIST station a few times at night, and even once during the daytime."

"Something passed us on the tracks last night out near ATC East, too, and it wasn't a standard train," said Fr. Casull, "the engineer said it was the 1010 from Gotham that had derailed back in the 1930's with high loss of life."

"It had low set red eyes, scales and shrieked as it passed us," Kyle said, "leaving behind an odor... like sulfur... and death..."

Ken looked at the two men.

"You actually saw it? The 'Ghost Train of Gotham'?"

"Something, yeah," said Kyle, "can't say it was a train the way it looked, more like a creature on the train tracks."

"It jumped from one set of tracks to the ones parallel to the WIST train, no sparks, no jostling, just smooth motion from one to the other, like nothing I ever saw in my life," said Fr. Casull.

"How fast does the WIST go?" asked Sarah.

"Ah, I believe," said Alfred, "on that stretch of track which we paid to have re-graded, it reaches nearly sixty miles per hour."

"Not much of a shuttle if it didn't get you to and from the downtown to Foundry and ATC area quickly. Really that was very important and worth the rental cost to have that done by one of the larger rail maintenance organizations," Bruce Wayne said, "We could use both tracks, but only put a maintenance car on there every year or so for the other set. If we expand a bit more we can open both up and have a small repair group for the WIST there, instead of Gotham downtown."

"But you've never seen a Ghost Train, have you, Mr. Wayne?", Ken asked.

Bruce considered for a moment, bemused.

"In fact, I have. I really do like having the tracks used for the WIST shuttle. I think it puts the spirits a bit more at rest down there and on the tracks around Gotham," and that was no lie.

Almost every night he saw the vehicle that many knew as the 'Ghost Train of Gotham'. And if the other, more spectral, types wanted to complain, they were free to do so. Still, not all sightings were of the vehicle he knew. About half were now of an unknown type. And if the Ghost Trains wanted to help him... well... that made him proud to work with the Spirits of Gotham City.

"I do know what Mr. Smith is talking about," Martin said, "and the Underworld can be a hell of a place to try and do anything. You get a few blocks of streets, here and there, under the storm sewers, and when a gang sets up shop there it is difficult to root them out, especially if it has an old Gotham Subway Station. The fear started around those, even the few that are above ground, saw homeless and gangs leave them over the last four years or so. I'm not on the force any more, but my friends in it tell me some of the weirdest things seen on crooks and homeless from those areas. The stories you hear from those people can be pretty fantastical, but the ones with claw and other marks on them? And a couple of cops had run-ins they can't explain, either, so I wouldn't say Mr. Smith is even scratching the surface of the Underworld. In theory its a great place for gangs and criminals, but not anymore and almost all of these aren't describing the Batman but Ghost Trains and some of the things in them."

Father Casull nodded.

"Mr. Smith really does seem to know his line of work, Mr. Wayne. He spent an hour or so looking through a camping store catalog and had Father Jordan send someone for some gear. He said it wasn't so much that the store would toss him out... but that he didn't want to be seen getting such things."

"Bruce," Lucius started, "maybe we can have Fr. Casull work some of our Wayne equipment to him? Simple IR and LI goggles we make could help him."

Bruce nodded.

"If you think you can get that to him, Fr. Casull?" he asked.

"Yes, Mr. Wayne, I think that is possible over the next few hours."

"Good, Lucius make sure he gets those before he leaves."

"I will," Lucius said.

"On the Wayne Corporation side, I started having the Journeyman loaded with stores and checked out for fueling. It is now on the rapid ascent rail system in ATC East, which we enlarged and strengthened from the previous Long Sword rails when we started the Journeyman Project. If we do need to get Sarah to safety, then Vivian can do that with Richard or even Michael, although he has only had simulator time. In ten minutes Sarah can be beyond the range of any weapon and have supplies to last a month for three people. If we actually do need permanent disposal of the Terminator, then our smelting facility will is prepared for that job and has a 24 by 7 crew for that now, just in case. They are running small batches of other material through that would normally be done on the day shift, but they know we might have a sudden need for a scrap conversion of... ahh... a 'damaged prototype' that needs to be totally scrapped."

Richard Bennington nodded.

"We have had a few of those of tryouts for components that we didn't want sitting around for various reasons. Mostly specialized electronics, but, still, the smelter does a good job on that," he said.

"I'm also making our stores of polyweave and ballistics plate available in case you fear for your family and loved ones. We can't provide for more than immediate family and close relations, but if any of you feel this could go out of control, then we will let you take them or I will have someone deliver them to your family to help in fitting and adjustments," Bruce said.

"Thank you, Mr. Wayne," Martin said, "I would like that for my family. I still have some people with grudges for my time on the force, and can't afford anything like that for them."

Lucius looked at him, frowning.

"I wish you had let us know that, Martin. We would have been more than happy to provide those to you for your family."

Martin nodded.

"Pride, ya know? But this stuff... no... I have limits as a man and father to my children, and I've played that risk down. But some of those thugs were just in for ten with parole, and I don't like the years going so fast."

"Easily done, Martin," said Bruce Wayne.

"Thank you, sir," said Martin.

Bruce nodded.

"The only other thing from me, and I don't want to hold up dinner any longer, is that I did examine the issue of getting some outside help on this, but had to decide against it beyond close and personal acquaintances. As you know not all of the glamor and high visibility of my position means that I rub shoulders with only the good sorts of people. Frankly, I don't trust other corporate concerns on this, as the opportunity to create something out of a Terminator or its remains is far too high and no other company has demonstrated the ability and restraint necessary for this situation. The worse sorts... well... they don't have industrial power, but I don't like many of their connections. I am not going to make Wayne Corporation go into their debt for this. You are all capable professionals in current and past careers, and have the necessary skills and attitude to carry this through. My aim was never to run the company, but to help it run itself in the best way possible and give it a firm standing for the future, not only in technology, but in ethics and understanding the role of the company. All of you have made me very, very proud and more than a little ashamed at how little I do to have this happen. I know, now, that if all of us do not escape this alive, that Wayne Corporation will continue on for some time in the way I helped to run it and change it. I cannot fear the for the future of the company or those who depend on us seeing how well the people in the company work. Over the next day or so, we will be tested, and even if we fail, we have put those things in place to carry out our commitments and to allow others to succeed after us. I don't think my father could have asked for anything more. Thank you."

It was quiet in the dining hall for a moment.

"Now, Alfred, I think we are ready for dinner. We can talk more about this once it is served, but we all need a good meal before the night truly begins."

* * *

Nikki Costanza hated cold, rainy nights. But they were the best to operate in, even when the wind picked up, and when didn't it do that during a rainstorm in Gotham? The events of the past few years had been formulative in Nikki's life outlook. His papa was a working stiff who died a few years ago due to a heart attack, but had been a damned good plumber and pretty good general mechanic. His mama went to live with his older sister, Mimi, who was the real gem of the family and she had married an office guy at Wayne Corporation and they were in the good life out of the poor neighborhood they grew up in. Nikki had completed his work to get a State Certification as an electrician, but had been taking jobs before that. Because he had needed some help in getting things in order, financially, he had taken to helping out the Petruzzi's and Brancuzzi's who needed real electrical work at their hotels.

When they owned them.

The Petruzzi's had been falling to pieces, lately, and the work he could get from them had gone down. The Brancuzzi's had started hiring more strongmen to protect themselves, and installing more security cameras... for family safety. Nikki had steady work, and got into 'the business' of burglary, too. When he was faced with either joining a corrupt union or working as a free-lancer and sometime small jobber for the Families and Organizations,the choice had been easy: better take-home as a free-lancer, and he could even afford insurance for his wife and two kids that was better than what the Union got. Less graft, too. Even with a year or two, here or there, in jail... parole time... the Families and Organizations respected that and could feed you normal jobs until you were in the clear. Of course they were in bed with the Unions, too, but the Unions knew better than to complain about Mob work going to non-Union members.

So that left Nikki Costanza doing the electrical layout of Faber's Jewelry Store, in mid-south. His brother, Louis, had gotten the tip from a girl who worked there that he was sweethearting that the old man Faber had gotten his order of jewelers grade gold, silver, and semi-precious stones in from Central America via courier and that it was all locked up in his new safe. Louis knew that he and his brother didn't have everything needed to do the job: they needed a specialist to help. Not minding the three-way split, he contacted a girl he had met while doing up the Brancuzzi new operation on 23rd and Sweyn in the hotel district.

Kari was a great girl and she said she was the 11th best burglar in Gotham. She had been hired to do the set-up for the Brancuzzi's so as to keep people like her out, and then Nikki was brought in to go over the plans and then draft his own separate set to augment the first. You couldn't trust a thief, you know?

Actually Kari saw it as a challenge and did a bang-up job and she knew more about modern security systems than he did. When he asked her why she was hired and how she knew she was the 11th best thief in Gotham, she asked him to name the best thief in Gotham.

That was dead simple, wasn't it?

'Catwoman' he said.

'Yeah,' she said, 'now name the second best thief in Gotham...'

He had scratched his head and couldn't think of one, and said so.

She said that was because all the top ten spots had Catwoman in them. Kari was the 11th best thief in Gotham as she didn't go after upper-crust, high class people or museums or the most expensive baubles in town. Kari was a 'working girl' she said, and proud of it. And since the Brancuzzi's had been hit once by Catwoman, they wanted the next best thief around and that put them down to the 11th slot and Kari. Kari didn't want the high class stuff, she said, as it was too hard to fence and got you pennies on the dollar, most of it. Catwoman did good on the basic high price getting her lots of pennies and having a decent fence overseas, but that didn't help Kari any. Kari aimed mid-scale, trade jewels that were worth a decent price you could almost afford and got nearly thirty-five cents on the dollar if not more for it, as it was untraceable, easy to sell and quick to go at a low price.

Nikki had been impressed as he had just been the electrical stop man on heists when he started and only really got into what put bread on the table after his daughter was born. Louis got brought in as he was pretty much not the best of mechanics around but knew how to figure the little things out. After that they spread their needs around when they needed a third, like here at Faber's. Kari would be the one to slip in, get past the last of the physical things that couldn't be done from the outside, and she knew the kind of safe involved and had her own way of tricking it to open. So a couple of days after the shipment arrived found Nikki, Louis and and Kari in the alley between Faber's and the neighboring building. Nikki had spotted the new power system while casing the joint and was easily able to re-wire it for shunting leads and feeds away from it. No security group looked at even most of the cameras all the time, and putting a blackout in the store made it pretty dark to start with and took down the recording equipment inside.

Louis got to work on the basement door at the back of the building, not wanting to leave a trace, he was able to open its manual locks then opened the old coal chute from the inside which served the back of the building, used for storage, and the front which was the basement to Faber's. Kari slid into the coal chute while Nikki made sure there were no calls on the live feeds and his brother put in the rope and pulley for Kari. Within minutes she had been tugging on the line and the first satchel of tiny gold plates was on the way up. It was sweet! With the low-levels terrorized by the Bat and the high levels now reeling from him, that left the working stiff criminals to flourish as the high level needed income and the low levels were getting batched in by the dozen at a hit from the Batman.

The mid-level operators and free-lancers? Oh, yes, that was sweet. The Batman didn't bother with them.

Until now.

Louis didn't even know what hit him, but was face down on the ground with his hands pushed to the ground in less time than he could say 'Jesus, no!', which he didn't say being a god-fearing man and all.

Nikki Costanza reeled away from where he was standing and ran. He hoped the rain would obscure him and let him get away. Three sharp, metal objects protruding from his back brought pain he couldn't believe and he tumbled before he even got to the street, not to speak of the sidewalk. As Nikki tried to crawl away from the store he saw the Batman close the coal chute and pull the wiring Nikki had put in out of the junction box for the store. Metallic clangs were heard around the doors, windows and elsewhere as the shop now served as a trap which it was difficult to escape from. Nikki crawled faster but heard the boots stepping towards him.

Those black, scaled boots with thick soles stood before him and Nikki felt himself lifted off the ground and looked at the fabric that was over something that looked like reptiles scales.

"Its a bad night to be out, Nikki Costanza," it said.

The Batman was warm, all over and the face... something covered it and he couldn't tell if the face was human or just fit into its covering. He was terrified at the easy power it used to lift him and talk.

"Please, don't hurt me," Nikki said.

The deep, red eyes of the Batman looked at Nikki Costanza.

"You have a wife and children, Nikki Constanza. Your life is leading you to ill places. Tonight you can do good and warn all others to stay off the streets in mid-south tonight. Do this and I will not come after you for this, although the police might. Warn others that Death will be on the streets of mid-south and this death will have no mercy for those that get in its way: it will Terminate them. Tell your friends on the street, Nikki, and you will have mercy from me and avoid the Terminator. Do you understand and agree, Nikki?"

Nikki was deeply frightened. The police he could deal with. The Batman?

"Yes!! God have mercy on me!! Yes, I agree to tell the guys of mid-south that its not a night to be out."

He was dropped to the pavement and he felt the batarangs taken from his back, and a cooling salve placed on the wounds.

"Go, Nikki and do good by saving lives tonight. Stint on no one. Do not keep it from those you hate, do not show favorites as the Death that comes does not care. Give it no souls and you will have done good in your life. Run, Nikki..."

Nikki Costanza needed no more urging. He ran, ran hard and went from place to place, operation to operation and told them that the Batman had declared Death on the Streets from a Terminator of lives. The Batman was protecting them.

They saw the fear.

They saw the wounds.

And they heard, soon, the police wanted Nikki from a job stopped by the Batman.

They knew what the Batman could do.

No one doubted him.

He now ruled the night.

And if he could not stop Death on the Streets, no one could.

* * *

Jackson Lee Cane had started out as a gang-banger. It was cool to be with a gang and strut colors and all that shit. His folks didn't like it, but he got more money in a month than his dad got in a year. Three years ago his gang got banged by the Batman. In less than three hours the entire thing fell apart from drug dens to prostitutes to heroin on the streets and marijuana by the kilo. Jackson Lee Cane got his year with probation and went back to the life he had known, but found the gang was gone.

Not just disorganized.


The last of his bros in the hood that were left had hung it up, and the disjointed noses, healing jaws, and loss of attitude told the story. Jackson Lee Cane looked for a leg-up and when the Rinaldi Family moved in and started looking for distributors, and he was more than happy to find they didn't care about what you looked like, just so long as you did the job. And you got a decent cut, too, more than he did as a street-banger, thats for sure. While the Colombian flowed it was gold. Now the gold was nearly gone and he was trying to hook-up with anyone now that the Rinaldi's were going down. The south side of mid-south was becoming a narcotics wasteland and the Bosco organization was making hints that it would island hop to mid-south to supply him. Their cut was way more than the Rinaldi's, and Jackson Lee Cane had thought hard about it until last night.

He saw the mid level guts of the Bosco organization on the morning news at the KK takedown. And the Brancuzzi's. The Rinaldi's weren't going to be getting any Colombian for at least five to ten, time off for good behavior. He worked his few mainland contacts for dope and was trying to hook up with a Trinidad group in the Apple, but so far that was no dice and they had a really weird religion that went with it which turned him off. Those central European bastards had a line to Syrian stuff, but they got hit last night, too. Jackson Lee Cane was a distributor with little to distribute. A seller with little left to sell. The house got raided and he escaped while some Rinaldi's got picked up, and that place had been vacuumed clean, he was sure. He was running out of money and decided that it was every pusher for himself, and he took the last stashes of Colombian he knew about, and hit the streets. He needed a stake to restart.

Of course it was raining, which kept all but the most addicted customers away. Still he worked his old four block territory and left the house territory behind. Even with the winds he had made a couple of sales and had a bit of cash to work with. He didn't like the figure he saw walking towards him. Out of the darkness of the park across the street.

He knew the Batman.

He had changed.

Jackson Lee Cane had been a street tough, a gang-banger and even a kneecapper for awhile, before heading into drugs. The Batman had taken him down with all of two punches three years ago. He did the prison gym and workout shit, still did the workouts and sparring stuff, and could really put a hurt on anyone who crossed him. The Batman was coming to him and Jackson Lee Cane saw how he moved. Jackson knew it would only be one punch, now, if even that. And no one outran the Batman.

He was going to stand his ground.

The Batman walked up to him and faced him.

"Take out the stuff," the Batman said.

Jackson took out the bag that held lots of smaller, sealed bags of Colombian cocaine.

"In the can."

Jackson Lee Cane looked at the cigarette can he had on the corner and put the bag into it.

"You will warn all your contacts that Death walks the streets tonight. It will Terminate the lives of any that get in its way. It cannot be reasoned with. It has no mercy. It doesn't care about gangs, colors, crime or law. It is coming to kill and none must get in its way. Do you understand, Jackson Lee Cane?"

Jackson Lee Cane was no idiot, and nodded.

"Yeah, I hear you. Why should I believe you?"

The Batman looked at him.

"That is the last of your stash, isn't it Jackson?"

He swallowed, hard, his sweat mixing with the raindrops. He saw the rain flow over the Batman, not getting him wet, not touching him.


"Do not look at it Jackson Lee Cane, it will blind you. That is the life you led. Now..." the Batman's hand moved holding something and a small, metal container made a slight 'zip' sound as it fell into the can, "... its over..."

The heat flared out intensely, a burning heat and a harsh bright light that no one could look at. Jackson Lee Cane stepped away from the can. Stepped away from the Batman who stood with the heat steaming water off of him. Stepped away from his life which was now burning on the ground and rain was doing nothing to stop it.

"Warn all you know, Jackson Lee Cane, friend and foe, stint none or I will know and that can will be you next time. I will have no idiots die tonight at the hands of the Death that walks and Terminates life. None. Do you hear me?"

Above the roar of the molten fire that melted the can, the sand at the bottom and vaporized its contents Jackson Lee Cane heard.

"I hear you..." he said shaking.

"Then run for your life and be indoors and off the streets tonight as soon as you can, Jackson Lee Cane. Run from this life if you can, as it will end for you if you do not do as I say."

He felt his clothes starting to smolder and yet the Batman stood there, taking the heat, the light and staring at him with black eyes. He turned and ran as he started to smell smoke from his clothes and didn't dare look back into the blinding light by the Batman.

Jackson Lee Cane thought he had 'upped his game'.

He might have been able to touch the old Batman. But this one was beyond being touched. Never before had he thought about being 'scared straight'. Now he knew what it felt like. And he wouldn't be the only low to mid-level operator on the street who would be warning friends. Not by a long shot.

* * *

Minerva Beaumont ran a good house with clean girls. Always had, always would, with monthly check-ups for the girls and the Johns screened when she could. The Mafia and Organizations were rough, and the girls knew that, and she only took volunteers for those assignments: girls willing to risk a lot to gain a lot. That had been slowing, as a business, however, and the raid at the KK had taken out five of her best girls and two others that served as waitresses. She was in her office in the second room of the house, and felt protected. Her street hookers were starting to be her main income, and she hated that, walking the streets for tricks. She knew. She had been there and done it.

But the high class jobs for the mobs were drying up and fast, they were feeling the pinch and so was she because of that. Escorts were a decent business and the regular businesses offered slow, steady and lower paying jobs. She hated to put some of the older girls on the streets, but they were getting too old for escorts and there wasn't enough niche clientèle for them to service in Gotham to make a living off of it. The amateurs had that for the most part. So she started marketing to the hotels, conventions and other venues that normally didn't get a lot of traffic, and saw a slight uptick there. She was either going to have to downsize or find girls from the amateur venues to go upscale and undercut the amateurs, but the fetish market was notoriously expensive. You didn't want girls who were 'into it' but ones who treated it as a job. Those knew how to keep their cool.

Minerva had always had protection that she hired. Good men who enjoyed the place, her girls and worked for a lower cost and were even kind of nice. Being on the second floor put her in direct contact with the rooms and she was able to respond in case anything went wrong in them. It was still early in the night when she heard something, outside her door. She started to get up as she heard the guards outside the door start to say something and then they were muffled.

Thuds of bodies hitting the ground.

A knock on her door.

She sat back down, terrified as she started to smell... something...

"Come in," she said.

The door opened and a dark figure walked in, cape flowing behind him and his head... was that a mask or...? She had, of course, heard of the Batman, the cause of so many criminal ills. She had wondered if he was real. She had wondered what he looked like. Now she saw and even with light all around him, he carried darkness with him.

"Minerva Beaumont, call in all your girls for the night from the streets in mid-south. It walks as a large, bulky man. But you will feel fear of Death looking at it and it will kill any its way. Your girls are in deadly danger from it in mid-south tonight. It is not a man but Death that will Terminate any who get in its way for any reason. Contact those you know and tell them this and who told you. Their lives are in danger if they approach such a one this night. Will you do this for the girls, Minerva Beaumont?"

By her own estimates she was a brave woman, having faced down thugs, mafioso, gangsters and coming away intact and alive. The Batman spoke in a dark tone and she could smell the flames, metal and death around him. He was not shutting her down. He was not taking her down. He had not threatened her. He was asking her to save her girls... of course she would do that!!

"Yes!! A tall, bulky man thats... scary? Doesn't want to be interfered with?"

"That is it, Minerva Beaumont. You will see it and ask yourself if it is alive. If it is human. If you have those questions the answer is 'No'. Call your girls and those in the business around mid-south. I am warning many this night. Death walks later this night and it is not to be approached."

"I... ok... I'll do that.... but.. why aren't you...?"

As he was turning to leave he looked at Minerva.

"I will not have their deaths on my head while warning is so easily done, Minerva Beaumont. Your operation here will come down, in time, but those who kill and threaten are much worse than you are. Now save the lives of those you care about. For their lives now rest with you, not me."

She looked down to pick up her phone and when she looked up he was gone. Her two guards... they were... embracing on the floor... kissing each other... save she could tell this wasn't amorous... not what they wanted and they could not get out of the embrace or the kiss. Their guns were unloaded on the ground near them. She burst out into laughter, she couldn't help it.

"Warning taken, Batman. I will help," she said to the man who was not there.

The night of the Batman's warning in mid-south had begun.

* * *

"Pay up, Frank, its going north," Vivian said.

She was speeding past the northbound exit outside of Newark.

"I thought it would go for the shortest route, over the north of Manhattan," he said reaching for his wallet, and taking out a ten dollar bill.

"What, and face the mess of interstates, thruways, freeways and the rest that goes from New York City to Bludhaven to Gotham City? Are you nuts? I can't keep track of what is supposed to be repaired, when, and who gets the payoffs and how fast they may or may not do the job, and you know the 'Connector' is still only a quarter done and who knows if it will ever go through? Uh-uh. Any machine seeing that mess of roads on any map will route around it. Go north a few miles and its a direct shot from Tarrytown to Gotham City."

He handed her the ten dollar bill, which she folded up and slid under the top of her driving glove.

"I still don't think its smart to lose it, now," he said.

"Been over that a thousand times, Rock. I can shave fifteen minutes off the north route, take the south into Gotham City, drop you off at Sarah's apartment and get to Wayne Tower before I crash. You went over that with them on the phone... what was it? Harrisburg? I wanna be there but I'm gonna drop like a fly the moment I get out of the car, Frank. I gots a nice penthouse room and get to spread rumors if we survive it, ya know? You are fresher than I am and probably better at what has to go down than the rest of 'em. So give you time to get them straight, the Terminator comes across the North Island and really should stay on the Cross-Town and be super easy to spot if the rain lets up. So we go south, it goes north like any sane being would."

"You still have to get through the roads, Vivian," Frank said.

"Worry about that when I come to it, but I know that snarl, Frank, and which signs are turned the wrong way and point to the wrong things... its a mess... now you get on the phone and give the hour and bit warning. I got some speed traps to avoid..."

Frank Rock picked up the phone and was punching in numbers.

"AP? Its Rock. You got a bit over an hour, its taking the north route, and we are coming in south as planned. Make sure Vivian's room is ready, she is hanging on but needs sleep pretty badly. I've unloaded the magazines and will need fresh and refills when I'm there. Tell Kyle I'm covering the apartment, he gets the alley. I've been through more room-to-room fights in my life than just about anyone I know, and I'll make sure Sarah is covered. Kyle needs to finish it off if it gets away from me. Be in Gotham in about an hour, maybe less. Good-bye, AP."

Vivian flashed a glance at Sgt. Rock.

"Just get out alive, Frank, ok?"

He turned and looked at Vivian as he started pulling out equipment.

"I'll do my job, Vivian. Sarah has to come out alive, and I will make sure of that," he said calmly shifting the old armor piercing rounds into one of the stick magazines he had unloaded. They may be old, but sometimes old worked better, and the drums should serve him well along with the other stick magazines of the new stuff once he got there.

She turned to look back at the road and nodded once.

"You should never have volunteered, Frank," she said.

"That was what my mother told me once I got back from the war. I had a job to do and did it. Same job, it turns out. Its not finished. I'm not leaving it undone."

Vivian hadn't even bothered to try flirting with Sgt. Rock.

She never did with the men she cared about.

* * *

It noted that the Trans-Am was no longer following.

It had spotted that car with its older man and younger woman in Indiana, first at the rest stop and then soon after it had changed vehicles. They took no action towards it. Now they were no longer following it. This was an unknown, and could not be properly assessed. They had done nothing to stop its mission and that was primary. They could not know about it nor its mission. It could not fathom a purpose and put many markers in its analysis system indicating there was no point in further analysis without more data.

There were at least five major roadways to the Gotham City area on the map, and a large number of them had partially completed, proposed and expected completion dates that indicated a high level of indeterminacy in taking that route via major highways. The route to the north took one single highway that was major to North Gotham Island and a direct connector between Islands was also present off of that route and offered access to the area with many hotels. There was little to no traffic at this hour of the night and it sped up to the maximum variance it had noted for posted speeds that did not get one noticed.

It estimated a time to a hotel or motel in Gotham City at one hour.

Time to get a room and secure the vehicle would be thirty minutes.

Time to walk to Sarah Connor's apartment would be less than thirty minutes.

At some point soon after 2:30am Sarah Connor would be terminated and its mission ended.

It could not think past that, nor did it try to do so.

That would be pointless.

As pointless as the mission was.

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