Batman Quest: City of Fear, Issue #6

The city of Gotham has found its way back into the furnace. The cooling rains of last night endured only until midday today, at which point they dried up completely and immediately. Since then, the city has seen a return to its former state. The people are getting restless faster this time around. They won’t have as much patience if subjected to another heat wave.

You are the Batman, and you are responsible for that restless metropolis.

Last night, your investigations led you to a known Falcone stronghold. You had hoped to infiltrate it and speak with Sofia Gigante Falcone, the successor to the Falcone throne after Carmine’s passing, with regards to recent events and her possible involvement in them. Unfortunately, your surveillance of the building showed the very picture of paranoia in action, with every entrance, maintenance hatch and window heavily guarded or booby-trapped. Perhaps in an act of frustrated desperation, you broke in through the skylight.

You let your mind drift over the facts of the case, submerging yourself in yesterday.

There was a sickening lurch in your stomach as the skylight gave way. Swirling clouds of shimmering glass surrounded you as you plummeted downward and impacted powerfully with the floor. A moment of dead silence in the dark, broken only by the crunching glass underfoot. Then suddenly, a door opens, light spilling into the room beyond it. A silhouette of a man stands there, holding some kind of sub-machinegun… Maybe an MP5? Hard to tell in the dark. He’s groping along the wall beside the door frame, looking for something. A light switch.

You reach for a Batarang and hurl it at the guard faster than thinking, but something tips him off. A glint of moonlight reflecting off its surface, perhaps. Whatever it is, it affords him the split second reaction time he needs, and he throws himself back through the door, the Batarang burying itself in the wall with a dull thud. Seconds later, automatic rifle fire is spraying through the doorway, chewing it to bits. Once he’s spent his clip, you hear him hollering for back-up from downstairs. They probably already heard the shots, but he’s not thinking. He’s scared.

You move closer to the door, using furniture as impromptu cover as you do. Peering through the bullet holes, taking care to not expose yourself while doing so, you watch the terrified gunman scrabbling backward along the hall, his rifle forgotten and trailing by its strap. Soon, a door at the end of that hall opens and several men emerge at once. Well, they try to, at least. The goon trying to get away from you is in their way, mewling about the “thing in that room” and begging them to not make him go back in. They’re cursing him, kicking him, trying to get around his bulk. They’re distracted.

You’ll never admit to anyone how much you enjoy this next part.

A flashbang detonation rips what’s left of the door off its hinges and deadens the senses of those beyond it. While their ears are still ringing and their eyes are still blinded by searing white light and pain, you activate a miniaturized EMP you store in your utility belt. The yellowed lightbulb that illuminates the hallway shorts, sparks and bursts, plunging all into darkness. You wait for the frightened, stupid thugs to waste their clips on nothing. They don’t disappoint. Then you’re among them, kicking in knees, targeting nerve clusters with rigid fingers. A few manage strangled cries, but they’re in your world now, and you are in absolute control. It’s over before it can become satisfying. Then it’s just you in the quiet and the dark. It can’t stay that way for long, though–the Falcones’ well of disposable henchmen hasn’t run dry in all the years they’ve been operating here. It won’t happen tonight.

Things have already gotten messy here, but there’s no point in stopping now. This case has circled the drain for too long, and if you let it keep up it’s going to slip away. You move past the incapacitated guards and begin to descend the narrow staircase to the diner. The EMP evidently shut things down here, too. Either that, or someone’s planning a surprise for you. You’d think by now they would know not to give you the advantage of darkness, but thugs learn slowly if at all.

When you reach the ground floor, however, things are not as you would have expected them. The diner is quiet, empty and dark. All tables and chairs have been cleared away, all but one and two, respectively. One side of the table is occupied by an enormous silhouette, leaning forward, sausage fingers interlaced on the tabletop.

“Hello, Batman.” Says a husky, but definitely feminine, voice. “Please. Sit down.” The silhouette gestures to the unoccupied chair.

“Sofia.” You growl, recognizing the woman’s unique body type. “What do you know about the Scarecrow’s plan?”

The silhouette unlaces its fingers and extends both hands palms downward in an appeasing gesture.

“I know why you have come. You will have your chance to ask questions. But first we talk. Things are getting out of hand.”

After you hesitate a moment too long, she gestures insistently at the chair again.

You wave off Falcone’s invitation and begin to pace the diner’s interior, being careful to stay just beyond the ring of light cast by the single overhead lamp.

“Scarecrow. Talk.”

The silhouette’s shoulders rise and fall. Sighing.

“Batman. It was never supposed to be this way. We only wanted to take advantage of the madman’s plans to get a slice for ourselves, you understand. We wanted you distracted, not… Dead.”

“Hnh. And you think that’s what Scarecrow wants?”

Falcone leans back, the harsh angular lines of her face now illuminated by the lamp above. She begins cracking her gargantuan knuckles, apparently thoughtful.

“Well, that’s not the real question here, is it Batman? Of course he wants you dead. We all do.”

You have to give her points for honesty.

“No, the question here is whether or not he’s capable. And, despite his crippling insanity… Batman, I fear he is. Not because I wish you well, but because I am a businesswoman.”

“I fail to see the connection.”

She leans forward now, her fingers splayed on the table.

“As a businesswoman who does business in the city, I would appreciate it if I still had a city to do business IN. And I’d like that city to be Gotham.”

You scan the room as she talks, only half-listening. A lot of this would be the mindless self-indulgence most criminals flaunt when they think they’re revealing something vital to you. They’re usually mistaken, like Sofia is now. You know the Scarecrow harbors a violent, obsessive grudge against you and would do anything to submit you to horrors without number. She catches you with her last comment, though.

“Scarecrow plans to destroy the city? Ambitious.”

“No. He’s going to make it destroy itself.”

You grunt.

“He’s had that idea before. Hasn’t worked out for him so far. He tried to gas the city–“

“I know, I was there. Well, not there. My father had my family and I moved to our property out in the palisades. But I watched it happen on GCN. What I’m trying to tell you, Batman, is that you cannot dismiss this scheme as just another of Crane’s plots. He’s driven, almost inspired. He wants us all dead, and he wants you to be a part of it. If you underestimate him, he’ll get his way.”

As she talks, you see her eyes flit to the right, then center on you again. Response to movement. More thugs coming in the back.

“Thought we were just talking, Falcone.”

She chuckles, the laughter raspy and masculine.

“Like you ‘talked’ to my boys upstairs? You have a history of intimidation, Batman. These men are simply here to ensure my safety.”

“Sofia, I think we know each other well enough to dispense with the myth that your lackeys somehow have the ability to stop me from hurting you if I want to.”

The laughter again. This time it’s laden with menace.

“Fair. Then we can also do away with the fabrication that I need their protection.”

She stands, making use of her physical presence. On a lesser man than you, it might have worked. Sofia Falcone is massive.

“Now. Ask your questions, then get out of my diner.”


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