By T.J. Keitt
It was lonely at the top. Lonely, and in fact, very depressing. Harvey Bullock stared out of the window of his office, looking across the East River and at the skyline that distinguished Gotham from any other city in the world. He held in his hand a warm glass of brandy, and pressed between his lips was a half-smoked cigar. His city, he thought. His city.
He wanted it all to be so different. He wanted to make things better. Bullock looked out over his city and his brow furrowed slightly. "I asked for this," he whispered softly to himself. The city was not as beautiful as it once had been to him. It was stark, dirty, and repressive. The city hung around his neck like an weight. He saw the rundown buildings along the west bank, he watched the smoke rising out of Hub City, he quietly listened to the roar of the sirens, and he heard the crack of the automatic weapons being used. It wasn't supposed to be this way.
Bullock stepped away from the window and walked around his desk to the mirror hanging on the far wall. Surrounding it were his awards and citations when he was a member of Gotham's finest. Next to the mirror was a picture of him shaking the hand of Commissioner Gordon. Those were the good old days. He stepped before the mirror and looked at the haggard old man staring back. The old man in the reflection was tired, his face lined and aged, his hair white and thinning, and his eyes red and sagging. Such a stark contrast from the man that had once been.
From behind him, a buzzer went off, and Bullock immediately recognized it to be his intercom. He scurried away from the mirror, holding tightly to the half consumed glass of brandy, and pushed the button allowing the voice on the other end of the intercom to speak.
"Yeah," Bullock's voice emerged raspy and harsh from his parched throat.
"The governor on line one, Mr. Mayor," the secretary's response came rosy and full of life. What were her cares? None. She wasn't responsible for the protection of a city like he was.
Bullock picked up the phone and depressed the button next to the flashing light on the console. "Bullock speaking."
The Governor had begun to make a habit of phoning Bullock to tell him what an eyesore Gotham was. This courtesy call was no different. Gotham was the ACLU's worst nightmare. The crime rate was the highest in the state (3rd in the country), police and thugs shot it out on a nightly basis, and the end of the horror was no where in sight. Since Bullock had taken office, crime had climbed 76%, and the Governor had seen enough. With each phone call, the threats of sending in the National Guard to restore order grew, and the threats of impeachment became more and more serious. The most common question the Governor would ask was where the military hardware came from that was feeding his police force. Bullock would dance around the issue, but the next phone call would require another waltz.
As Bullock hung up the phone, he looked at the picture on his desk of him, Gary Washington, and Harry Stein. A smile cracked on his rugged face and the thoughts of the good old days crept back into his mind. What did they know, he thought. I'm trying to save a city. Back when I was in Checkmate, we got results. That's what I'm trying to do now, damn it, get results!
He slumped into his chair and gulped down the glass of brandy before putting his head on his desk. Beside his head rested a copy of the novel All the King's Men. It was his favorite book, but too often lately, he began to wonder if he was travelling the same road as Willie Stark. It was all so depressing. He just wanted to give up and go home.
The buzzer to the intercom came to life again, bringing Bullock from his self pity. He pressed the button and hissed, "What now?"
"Sorry to disturb you, Mister Bullock," the cheery voice answered back to Bullock's grouchiness, "but Commissioner Montoya is on line one."
Bullock rose to a sitting position and picked up his phone. "Rene?"
"Harvey," the stressed voice replied on the other end, "we've got a serious problem."
Tim Drake stepped out of the elevator followed by the dominating Avery Carter. He had come to Gotham City to seal a multi-million dollar deal with CyberTel for his company, AmeriTech. It had been a long day, and it was only noon. He stifled a yawn and then began to scan the area with his eyes. The top floor of the CyberTel building in Gotham was impressive. It was a fern bar in appearance, with a glass wall over looking the skyline of Gotham City. Fern plants lined the walls, and behind a set of them, was an attractive young secretary. She gave a slight smile to Tim that he returned out of courtesy.
Avery stood next to Tim and landed his hand on the young executive's shoulder. "This way, Mister Drake." Avery made a left turn on his heel and Tim followed him. Behind the two men were Okida, head of CyberTel security, and two other CyberTel security agents dressed in black suits and sunglasses. They had escorted Tim and Avery onto the elevator and were now trailing the two gentlemen down the hall towards the conference room.
This was Tim's first assignment of this caliber, and he began to become a little nervous. He reached a state of awareness that he had not achieved since his days as the Robin Hood of crime fighting. His senses keen and alert, he wanted to be on his toes so not to blow this major deal. The nervous rush he felt, melted away as he began to enter his crystalline state of awareness.
Okida overtook Tim and Avery and opened to black door to the conference room. Tim and Avery passed through and Okida promptly shut the door behind them. Inside the conference room, Tim observed two CyberTel guards dressed in black suits standing in flanking positions to the rear of the chair behind the CyberTel big-wig, Gill Bates.
The conference room was pretty plain, with a few commissioned art pieces hanging on the walls opposite each other. Behind Bates's chair was a large wall comprised of glass that overlooked the river, and in the distance, City Citadel. The table was that of oak, and seated on its opposite sides were six men and women.
Bates was a bespectacled man, about 52 years of age. His hair was graying at the temples, but his natural hair color of brown was still dominant. He was seated with his hands clasped together on the table and looking intensely at Tim with his pale blue eyes. His face was lined and he had crow's feet creasing the sides of his eyes. As Tim walked deeper into the room, he rose and said in his slightly high-pitched voice, "Mr. Drake, I'm glad you could make it. Are you enjoying your stay in Gotham City."
Tim produced a cordial smile and replied, "Yes sir, I am enjoying myself."
"Good, good," was Bates's sincere reply.
Avery crept around Tim and took a seat at the table next to a woman in her mid thirties. As Tim noticed, the CyberTel board of directors were younger people, in their late thirties, early forties, or in the case of Avery Carter, in their late twenties.
Bates smiled and said, "Let me introduce you to the CyberTel board of directors." He looked over at a balding gentlemen who was around 240 lbs., with a graying beard and thin spectacles and said, "This is Glenn Hatcher, President of CyberTel Global Industries." Hatcher nodded slightly to Tim, and he nodded back.
Next to Hatcher was a younger woman, with red hair tied up in a bun. Her face was slightly freckled over the bridge of her nose and she wore a very stern expression that made her slightly unattractive. Bates said, "This is Veronica Richards, Marketing V.P." She nodded and Tim nodded back.
Seated beside Richards was another woman, whose hair was a healthy white. She wore a pair of heavy rimmed glasses and had pretty green eyes. Her thin lips were cracked into a slight grin. Bates said, "This is Amanda Wilson, President of Human Resources."
Adjacent to Wilson was another heavy set man or Asian decent. His hair was streaked with white and his face was lined like Bates. He was looking up at Tim with mild interest and jotting some notes down on a notebook he had before him. Bates said, "This is Henry Woo, our Research and Development honcho."
Across the table, sitting opposite of Glenn Hatcher, was a short, African American man with a heavy mustache and thinning hair. He looked up at Tim with a pair of green eyes and wore a dark grey suit with a bow-tie. Bates said, "This is Paul O'Donnell, head of the Engineering Dept." O'Donnell nodded and Tim returned the jester.
Next to O'Donnell was a bald man with a thin, white mustache. His brow was creased and he had heavy crow's feet next to his eyes. His forehead glistened a little with sweat, and Tim noticed a pair of glasses tucked away in his breast pocket. Bates introduced him as, "This is Phillip Tucker, head of our overseas operations."
Beside Tucker was a woman in her mid-thirties, a little heavy set, with her hands resting on the table. Her blond hair was cut short, ending just above her shoulders. She wore a pair of thin glasses that hid her big, brown eyes. Bates said, "This is Virginia Halloway, President of Customer relations."
Bates finished out his introductions by pointing to Avery Carter and saying, "And I suppose you already know Mister Carter."
Tim nodded and said, "I know you are all busy people, so I will begin right away."
Bates gave a slight grin and said, "Promptness. I like that."
Tim set up his charts and tables and began his little song and dance. His bosses had sent him to CyberTel in order to get them to purchase a processing chip that AmeriTech was going to begin making. The chip was supposed to cut down computer functions of the average PC in startling ways. If Tim could convince CyberTel to buy the chip and put it in their new line of computers, the MR 293, it would revolutionize the computer industry, not to mention, make AmeriTech stoke holders very rich.
As he began to explain AmeriTech's position, Tim began to notice that what had happened that morning did bother him as much. What did he care, anyway? Gotham was not his home anymore. He had a life away from crime-fighting, one that provided for his family and made him happy. The words flowed easily from his mouth as he presented the information for the CyberTel board. As he spoke, he noticed that they were latching on to what he had to say and that he would surely close this deal and be on his way back to Ariana and Joey the next morning. That was the plan, anyway.
As Tim was finishing up, there was a thump beyond the doors that went unnoticed. There came a second thump and then a muffled shout. Tim spun quickly on his heel and looked at the door. His senses were on alert once more, and he felt the blood pumping fast through his veins. From behind him, one of the CyberTel guards began to move towards the double doors, then the other followed.
When they reached the doors, the taller of the two guards put his hand on the knob and began to turn it. There came a flash and a loud bang, followed by the sensation of fly. Tim felt his body float through the air and then crash down heavily on a solid, wooden object. He felt nothing for what seemed to be an eternity. There was no sound, no sight, no feeling whatsoever. He lay there on his back, silently asking himself, "Am I dead?"
Slowly, there was a popping sound that became audible, then there was this piercing sound. As his eyes cleared up, he began to see smoke and then he began to smell something burning. His body began to come to life and he realize that he was lying on the oak table of the conference room. He slid off of it and rested on the floor. Before him were the shattered remains of the double doors and the two CyberTel guards lying there with broken bodies.
A small fire had broken out from the explosion and smoke was filling the conference room. A group of men dressed in purple sports jackets and carrying assault rifles were inside the room firing at the CyberTel board. Beyond the shattered doorframe, Tim say the dead bodies of Terry Okida and three of his men.
Slowly, he worked his way around the side of the table and found himself face-to-face with the body of Henry Woo. Woo lay sprawled under his seat with a bullet hole in his forehead. His eyes were wide open with terror and a small stream of blood trickled from his open lips. Tim crawled over Woo's body and found another dead member of the CyberTel board, Glenn Hatcher. Hatcher was riddled with bullets, and the wounds soaked his white shirt and grey suit jacket with red blood.
Tim scurried from under the table to get away from the two dead bodies that were situated there. He was disoriented from the smoke and the confusion of the gunfire and screams. As he moved, he felt some hidden instincts kick-in. He had kept his body in shape since he stopped being Robin, and the muscles, filled with adrenaline, remembered what to do. One of the gunmen, had just finished shooting Virginia Halloway and her body slumped to the floor dead. Tim's muscles bunched and he felt himself spring into the air, catching the gunman off-guard. There was a swift contact of his shoe to the man's chin and the gunman hit the floor in agony.
The muscles acted again, telling Tim to somersault away from the downed gunman and go for one of the men shooting at who-knows-what. Tim was airborne again and flying at the gunman. His leg was extended and he heard himself screaming like a madman. The foot connected with the gunman's head and he lurched forward, hitting the ground face-first.
Through the shattered door, Tim saw a shadowy figure, holding an old Thompson's machine gun, enter the room. Tim sprang into action to intercept the man before he could join the fracas. He did a couple of Olympic quality hand springs followed by a somersault into a flying kick position. His foot extended, he reached the figure entering the door and caught the figure in the chest.
There came a slight moan and then the man tumbled back into the light. Tim looked and saw the man in the light and his eyes began to widen slightly. Recognition came to his eyes as he saw the chalk white face, emerald hair, and bold red lips. "The Joker," he mumbled.
The Joker, now laying on the floor, looked up and hissed,"You hit me!" A look of both anguish and surprise were on the man's face. This was probably because the Joker had not been attacked since the Batman took his leave of absence. The clown raised the Tommy gun and snarled before depressing the trigger and firing.
Tim flipped out of the way and was once more inside the inferno of gunfire and smoke that
was once the CyberTel board room. He began to run from the wild firing of the Joker when he felt a hot streak of metal cross his brow. Following that was a warm sensation of something stream down his forehead. He stumbled to the ground and raised his hand to his head and gave a quick wipe. When he looked at the red fluid, he knew he had been shot. The wound began to burn and he began to get light headed.
Drake slumped down and began to lay on the floor in a sort of panic. He rolled his head slightly to see a huddled mass next to him. As the smoke cleared a little, he saw that it was Avery Carter. Carter had been shot a few times in the body, but he was still breathing, as far as Tim could tell.
The shock of his injury was kicking in and Tim began to become drowsy. He heard a loud crash and then a shout. There was more intense gunfire followed by a series of thumps and cries. He heard the sound of feet running out of the shattered doors and then heard a woman's voice say, "Check for survivors."
There was the crunch of glass under feet and then, just before he blacked out, he saw a woman leaning over him. She was dressed in a grey costume, with a blue mask that covered her eyes, but left her soft lips and skin exposed. Tim looked down and his eyes caught a glimpse of a yellow Bat on her chest. He stammered as he tried to say, "You...you're..." Batgirl never came out.
The last thing Tim heard before he lost consciousness was, "Oh God, Tim. What have they done to you?"
(To be continued)
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