Batman Quest: Bethlehem Rising, Issue #8

Gotham city is ablaze, figuratively and literally. While the skyrocketing temperatures and consequent fires continue to spread throughout the darkened metropolis, its criminal element runs amok. The low-level thugs and enforcers crowd the relief centers with everyone else, sure, but the die-hards are still out there.

Two-Face-Two, son of Harvey Dent, has taken two hostages in one of the city’s safe havens and is demanding to speak to you and you alone, warning that if any GCPD officer gets too close for his liking, he’ll kill them both.

Max Roboto is taking advantage of the chaos by systematically draining the downtown stock markets of digital currency at an alarming rate. So vast is his consumption that you fear permanent damage to Gotham’s economy has already been done.

William Cobblepot, heir to the Penguin’s throne, is following in his father’s footsteps of greed and thievery by charging exorbitant admission fees for his Iceberg Lounge, which was declared by the city to be a relief center and thus was ordered to open its doors to the public, free of charge. The club is a boil of the corrupt, swelling slowly but surely as unfathomable quantities of money change hands for the promise of an exclusive getaway from the lethal temperatures.

Phosphorus Rex, his murderous rampage throughout the city’s relief centers ended, lies unconscious at your feet. It’s not even midnight.

Decision made, you make a dash for your idling Batcycle, leaping into its armored pod and engaging auto-pilot, giving yourself time for a tactical update from O.R.A.C.L.E.

When first you try to connect to the impenetrable AI, however, a message overrides all processes and flashes before the screen.

“YOU BLEW ME OFF. WHY? WE NEED TO MEET.
-M”

It’s there for a scant few seconds, then vanishes and normal routines reestablish themselves.

O.R.A.C.L.E. is awake, chirping multiple alarms in your ear. You silence them all with a snarl, switching to manual control and gunning the engine down the tight backstreets towards the relief center and Two-Face-Two.

For once, when you pull up, the cops don’t immediately open fire.

Instead, a negotiator in a flak vest steps out from the crowd and crosses the wide berth you’ve been given. She’s fearless, five-foot-nothing and full of fire. She glares up at you with more venom than you’ve seen in some of your most dangerous rogues.

“Let’s get this straight, psychopath. The only reason we’re even doing this dance is so that girl might be saved. We do not endorse or condo–”

“A girl? My intel said two victims.”

The negotiator sighs. “The other one’s a ghost. Homeless, drug-addled, pushing sixty. Even if we saved him, no one would come forward to claim. He’d be back on the street in a few days.”

“Who are you to judge human beings?” You growl angrily.

“Please. The real word doesn’t have time for high morals anymore. Doesn’t have time for you either. You want Two-Face-Two, you got him. He’s in the room at the end of the hall, the one with the SWAT team shadowing it. Can’t miss it.”

You turn to go, eager to be away from such sharp reminders of how sour your father’s legacy has become. Perhaps that is your fault. Perhaps, despite every advantage, you are not quite the son of Batman that you ought to be… The police negotiator calls to you.

“And Batman? If you don’t stop him, I’m sending everything after you.”

You click your tongue.

“I have more ‘everything’ than you do, officer.”

To emphasize your point, you trigger a Ro-bat all-call. In minutes, your entire squadron will be circling this building. You walk past the SWAT team and down the long hallway, abandoned and quiet, to the one door that remains closed.

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