Dr. Thorne stepped out of Dr. Thompkins and Selina's path. Bruce hadn't expected to see that doctor from Gotham General ever again. He cleared his throat. "About the heli-skiing, Dr. Thorne."
"We're not interested in spilling your secrets, Mr. Wayne. Or Mr. Blake's. But my great-aunt has a point about the danger to your health."
"Which I'm not ignoring."
The little girl who slept with him and Selina last night shoved a plastic chair to the right side of the hospital bed and climbed up on it. She hugged her cloth and plastic doll.
"That's all we can ask." Dr. Thorne closed the door behind him.
Bruce turned to Blake. "What's going on out there? The police didn't stop Bane's Army?"
He leaned against the bed's footboard. "The hardcore believers are on suicide watch since they found out Bane and Tate are dead. The trouble is the Blackgate Boys. They blocked up Washington Tunnel and set up a base in Grant with civilian hostages. Bane raided all munitions in the city and the police used what they had yesterday and the feds don't believe Gordon has control of the city."
Bruce opened his packet of saltine crackers and handed them to the blonde girl. She crunched with a grin. "And you want to supply Gordon from Applied Sciences?"
"There has to be something that they can use and we can keep the loss of life down."
"Probably, but I don't know what all is packed in the cargo containers." Bruce tasted the soup before it grew colder. Canned chicken noodle, Selina must not have told them to skip the chicken.
Blake crossed his arms. "Does Selina know or do we have to go to Fox?"
The way he asked that made Bruce look up. "I thought Fox was hurt, but Selina never had a chance to explain. Is something else wrong?"
"Do you want Fox to know you're alive? Since you weren't keen on us knowing yesterday."
"I went back to the bunker to get to you and Selina." But the fantasy he had of running away from Gotham with Selina was evaporating under reality's harsh glare. "I can't face another opponent like Bane again."
Blake uncrossed his arms. "I'll be the hero Gotham needs, Bruce, but I still need your help."
"Bring the WayneTech tablet from the bunker. We'll find something for Gordon to use." Blake nodded and left. Bruce picked up the soup bowl and drank it before another conversation started. He set it down realizing that he was alone with a little girl.
She stared at the black sutures visible through the worn hospital gown. "Does that hurt, Batman?"
"It hurts a little, but it itches more. And you should call me Bruce when I'm not dressed like Batman."
"Bruce," she repeated. "I'm Stephanie. I got Selina bandages for your ouchie."
"Thank you. Where are your parents?"
Her smile vanished as she shrugged and tightened her arms around the doll. "Selina said I better stay with her while she found them. Do I have to go back to the Evermonds?" Her fingers crept into her mouth.
"If Selina wanted you to stay, you can stay." She relaxed and Bruce looked around the hospital room again. No television or radio or books. "Do they have any more toys around here?"
"I saw books."
"Can you read?" She shook her head. "Go get a book, I'll read it to you."
She handed her doll to him before climbing down and leaving the room. He gritted his teeth. Every other time he had been laid up, information was a screen away. Now he had to wait for Selina and Blake and babysit Stephanie. What was taking Selina so long?
Stephanie brought back four children's books. "Sit here." He patted the left side of the bed. She climbed up the stool, sat cross-legged on the mattress, and hugged her doll again. They read three of the books before she curled around her doll and fell asleep. Bruce leaned back and closed his eyes.
The room door opened. "That's impressive considering what she's been through," Selina said.
Bruce opened his eyes. She had changed into a navy blue sweat suit. She dropped her catsuit into her suitcase between the cots before picking up Stephanie. "You shouldn't be lifting."
"She weighs next to nothing and my center of gravity hasn't shifted yet." She laid the girl on a cot and covered her with a blanket.
"It took a long time," he said as she sat on the hospital bed.
"Nothing's wrong. Leslie combined the first and second trimester check-ups, and you still have to fill out your medical history. She gave me an ultrasound, but she didn't have any photo paper. Not that it matters, because our kid has both our love of cameras and refused to uncurl and show if it's a boy or a girl. I'm about fourteen weeks along, perfectly healthy, and could gain more weight. What did you and Blake decide?"
He pulled her against his left side, so his arm wrapped around her. "The police need more weapons to finish taking back the city. Blake thinks the Applied Sciences equipment can help."
"And you think Blake's wrong?"
"Bruce Wayne can give the police something Batman never used, but Bruce Wayne can't stay dead to do that. And it doesn't matter if Bruce Wayne tries to stay dead because they'll put my child in that cold mansion with only photographs, questions, and responsibility to a city."
"Ignoring your constant referral of yourself in the third person, what do you want?"
"I wanted a normal life for us, and I can't promise it." He tasted the bitterness of having to relinquish it.
She rubbed the wire on his left ring finger. "I half expected to see this off when you got out of surgery."
Did she think that all his promises were worthless now? "I meant what I promised you when I made them."
"You also sped up the time table." He couldn't argue with that. She brushed his hair back from his eyes. "I want to be with you. If that means I have to be Mrs. Bruce Wayne, that's fine. What do you think adaptable means?"
He threaded his left hand with hers.
"However, I draw the line at being the wife of an asinine playboy. Surviving the Occupation has to grow that tabloid fodder up."
"I never cared for the damn playboy either." He leaned closer and she met his lips halfway. "I won't let Gotham hurt you again," he said after their kiss.
"Then it's time to finish the job."
Gordon shook his head. "So everything that could sail sailed off three months ago?"
Stephens leaned against the receptionist's chest-high desk. "The Coast Guard tried to keep their boats on the islands' side of the rivers, but Bane's Army blew them up."
"What didn't blow up. That'll be a shorter list." He pushed aside his notes on all the bad news Gotham still faced. No wonder movies always faded to black after the good guys won.
"I guess I shouldn't tell you what we found at Police Headquarters then."
Someone tapped on the glass wall separating the office from the hall outside with the elevators and made both men look up. John Blake moved to the door. Gordon felt his spirit lift for the first time today. "Got good news for me, son?"
"Maybe. They want a meeting, and I know how you feel about those."
"Let's get it over with then. Stephens, you're in charge here." Gordon followed Blake out of City Hall and into the SUV the younger man had rescued him from the hospital in. "So, how does this work now? Are you taking orders from Catwoman?"
Blake's nose wrinkled. "Don't give her that idea, sir."
"How is she doing?"
"She's tougher than either of us gave her credit of being. And I think she's getting her reward for that."
They drove into a shipping yard in the Sheal Docklands and parked on a lane flanked by C-cans. A little girl sat on top of an oil drum combing the yarn hair of a Cabbage Patch doll. Raised voices drifted out of the open doors of a yellow container. "What part of no strenuous activity doesn't translate for you? If you're that worried about them not getting the job done, I can take the Batpod--"
A man's voice interrupted the woman's. "You are not riding the Batpod again until after the baby's born!"
Blake stopped next to the blonde little girl. "They're still at it?"
"Yeah, but I don't think they're really mad."
"You can't wade into another fight!" the woman's voice yelled out.
"I will to stop you from going into one."
Gordon stepped around Blake and stepped in the C-can's doorway. "How about I arrest you both for vigilantism?"
The couple turned from the stacks of boxes lined up in the container. "You'd do that when we got you presents, Jim?" The woman with long brunette hair said. She must be Catwoman.
Bruce Wayne stretched his hand out as he approached. Gordon clasped it and pulled the younger man into a hug. Bruce stiffened before relaxing and patting Gordon's back. "How bad are you hurt?" Gordon asked.
"He'll heal if he isn't stupid about it," the woman said.
"It's not as bad as it could've been. Internal and external sutures on a stab wound. Selina's appointed herself medical pessimist."
"You weren't getting out of the clinic without one."
Gordon's mustache twitched. "What happens now? We've had twenty-four hours of reporting Batman's dead."
"Batman died saving Gotham from the bomb. Bruce Wayne has crawled out of his panic room to help rebuild." Bruce focused his gaze on Gordon until the Police Commissioner nodded. Bruce relaxed. "Come see what we picked out." Selina climbed onto a taller stack of boxes and held an LED lantern so it shone on the box Bruce opened. "The S.W.A.T. teams still have armor?" he asked.
"Everyone's Kevlar is in fine shape," Gordon said. "What we don't have is bullets."
"If this works as intended, you won't have to worry about bullets." Bruce pulled out a metal canister as long as his forearm. "Bullets have to go somewhere when fired. This generates a force field that repealed them, but I couldn't control where they went so I mothballed it. I changed the polarity so it should attract bullets now."
"You haven't tested it yet, have you?"
Bruce grimaced. "We don't have any bullets either. The first wave better be armored. The escapees are holed up in the apartment building on Hampshire Street?" He put the bullet magnet back in its foam cushion.
Gordon nodded. "The top floor near as we can tell. Two families are hostages."
"Nightwing will go in first and remove the hostages from the equation. Then he can set up the bullet magnet. The police can go in armed with these." Bruce opened the second box at waist-height. Inside nestled three guns the same length as a short-barreled shotgun, but the magazine slid into the stock was the same size as forty-four. "I only have a dozen. They fire these." He poured the contents of a small box into Gordon's hand.
Gordon rolled the forty-four sized bullet between his fingers. The tip felt like a gel capsule and he saw electronic components inside. "What do they do?"
"Taser bullets," Selina said.
"That's a copyrighted name," Bruce said. "Once the shell is broken, the bullet creates an electrical current to create neuromuscular incapacitation."
"Without wires? How do you stop it?"
Bruce pulled out one of the weapons. "All the bullets fired are coded to the gun that fired them." He pointed to a button behind the trigger guard. "Pressing this deactivates all the electroshock bullets it fired."
"And they're immune to your bullet magnet?" Gordon asked.
"The components are plastic. I wish I had more to offer."
Selina snorted. "You forgot to mention using the Tumbler to reopen the tunnel."
"That only works if it hasn't flooded."
Gordon's mustache twitched again. "In that case, do you think it can jump the break in the Adams Bridge?"
"It should." Bruce repacked the gun and the electroshock bullets. "That's the last step after all the escapees have been apprehended. "I'll coordinate--"
"You will not!" Selina left the LED lantern on top her perch as she hopped down.
"Here we go again," Blake said from the doorway.
"Injured or pregnant have no place close to bullets and explosions," Gordon said before their argument continued. "Both of you will stay put in my office until this is over. That's also to best place to take over if the worst case scenario happens. I will get a babysitter to make sure you two stay put if I have to."
Bruce's scowl vanished as he huffed. "You're right. Let's pack up."