Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 3
Montoya climbed the City Hall's stairs and avoided the pre-dawn crush around the elevators as everyone readied themselves for the strike against the Blackgate Boys. She had no idea why the Commissioner wanted to see her before the mission. She wasn't S.W.A.T.
Bruce Wayne's hands were deep into the guts of a radio receiver. Commissioner Gordon hovered over his shoulder. "That should do it." He closed the cover. "We'll be able to hear your radio chatter, though you shouldn't chatter much at the start." He spotted Montoya outside the door and pressed his lips together.
Gordon looked at her. "Officer Montoya, I want you to protect Mr. Wayne's party and help them with anything they need."
Wayne's lips curled in enough annoyance for him and her. "We don't need--"
"Just to keep you on your best behavior," Gordon said with a smile. "And it didn't seem fair to put the burden of that all on Ms. Kyle."
Montoya felt like she had stumbled upon a movie halfway through and missed something already revealed to the audience. Wayne exhaled and lost his annoyance. "How long can I expect to be punished?"
The Commissioner smiled wider before he left the Mayor's Office.
"I didn't hold it against him when he pretended to die," Wayne grumbled before shaking his head at Montoya's wide eyes. "Never mind. We have coffee from MREs. Would you like some, Officer?"
"Yes, thank you." He poured the instant coffee pack into a mug, but the hot water came from the coffee pot carafe. The first sip was appalling. "How can they legally call this coffee?" She swallowed the awful bitter down.
"Desperate times allow desperate labels?" Wayne smiled, a politician's smile that she remembered from interviews he had given nearly a decade ago.
"Who's desperate?" A female voice thick with sleep came from behind the receptionist's desk. A woman with long brunette hair stood up with a stretch.
"Desperate to drink the not-coffee," Wayne explained. "Officer Montoya, Selina Kyle."
Sharp brown eyes appraised her. "Morning. I told you Gordon wasn't kidding about the babysitter."
"The punishment doesn't fit the crime." His smile aimed at Kyle was genuine. "Do you want some?"
"I'm not wasting what caffeine I can have while pregnant on that stuff." Kyle joined them in the lobby of the Mayor's office. "I'll take some water." Wayne ducked into the tiny kitchenette.
Montoya drank more of the coffee substitute as she studied Kyle over the rim. The hair was right, allowing for the sleep tangles. The walk was the same, even though these boot heels were lower than the metal spikes. And she was pregnant.
Wayne handed her a water bottle. His height was right and the cape hid the width of his shoulders. This assignment just shifted from keeping a rich man who donated equipment happy to making sure Batman and Catwoman stayed out of the line of fire. Montoya gulped down another swallow.
The radio on the conference table cackled. Wayne and Kyle both moved closer to it. "Team radio check," the Commissioner's voice said. The four S.W.A.T. teams answered before Nightwing asked when they were showing up in Grant. "Don't get hasty, rookie," Gordon answered. "Convoy move out. Maintain radio silence now."
Wayne walked around the receptionist's desk and stared out the large window in the back wall. Kyle followed him. "Don't tense up too much," she said.
"I don't like sending them out with tech that has barely been tested." The line of vehicle lights moved up Badger Boulevard beyond their reflections. "It would go better with me out there."
"He's got good instincts. He'll be fine. Don't tell him I said that." Kyle bumped his hip with hers, left the receptionist's desk with a toiletries bag, and headed for the restroom.
"Too much talking," a child's voice whined.
Wayne bent down behind the desk. "Sorry, Stephanie, go back to sleep." He left the desk and spoke softer. "It's best to let her sleep. Her nightmares woke her up constantly last night."
"You have a kid?" Montoya did keep her voice low, but none of the rumors about Bruce Wayne mentioned children.
"Nightwing and Catwoman rescued her and brought her to the clinic. The doctors didn't have time to care for a child, so we brought Stephanie with us."
"Rescued her from what?"
"No one's told me that. Selina, what was Stephanie rescued from?"
Kyle with combed hair sat on the couch. "A murdering child molester, how did you miss that?"
"Pain pills, told you I hate them." His glib tone did not match his hard eyes as he sat next to her. "And you told her we'd find her parents?"
"She didn't want to go back to the Evermonds. They gave her to Cly, so I didn't want her to go back to them."
"The Evermonds? They've moved into human trafficking?" Montoya strained the last of the imitation coffee with her teeth.
"They've had run-ins with the police?" Wayne asked.
Both of them focused on her, and she restrained from fidgeting with the mug. "They're above my pay grade, but they deal drugs in the neighborhood I patrol in."
"Charming," Kyle said. "I didn't make the wrong call then." Wayne frowned. "You think I promised too much?" she asked.
"The odds are against us finding her parents, and that's probably what they intended. I'll never understand parents like that."
Montoya ducked into the kitchenette and washed her mug. She didn't think they'd attempt escape, unless the radio started with horrific news. She returned to the lobby and found that the little girl had crawled into Kyle's lap and leaned face-first against her chest.
"Are you hungry?" Kyle wrapped a blanket around Stephanie's back.
"We have ravioli," Wayne said as he dug through a small box on the receptionist's desk.
"Ravioli ain't breakfast," Stephanie said with a yawn.
"The Pop-Tart in the bag says it is."
"You can give me the ravioli," Kyle said.
"So," Montoya began as Wayne opened the MRE. "How did you two survive the past three months?"
"In a panic room I built when I still lived in the city," Wayne answered. "Selina and I were looking for information to take to the SEC when everything started blowing up. Luckily, I had stored some WayneTech experiments there."
"You won't get into trouble for that?"
"Because I'm not the CEO of Wayne Enterprises? I honestly don't know." He passed the heated Pop-Tart to Kyle.
"Hopefully, nobody will be stupid enough to touch that P.R. nightmare," Kyle said.
"You can have the ones who do. I'm afraid my credibility is shot in public relations."
Montoya felt relief that they had already given thought on what to tell people.
Kyle took the ravioli Wayne brought to her. "Soon we have to find an open store and buy some clothes for Stephanie." He nodded as he sat next to her again.
The radio cackled and all the adults focused on it.
Nightwing sat in the doorway to the roof on the neighboring apartment building. He already had the collapsible ladder between the two buildings. Now he waited for the police to get into position.
The footsteps vibrated the stairwell, but they were trying to come up quietly. The Lieutenant in charge huffed when he reached the landing. "What, you don't have the bad guys all tied up for us already?"
"That's not the plan." Nightwing picked up the bullet magnet as he stood. "The plan is sound, so we stick to it." He felt the Lieutenant's eyes on his armored back as he stepped across the ladder. The lockpick gun Selina had provided opened the rooftop door, and he slipped into the dark concrete stairwell. No guard in it as far as he could see or hear.
His surveillance put the Blackgate Boys in the apartments lining Hampshire Street. The only other area with a heavy heat signature was the center apartment looking at Maine Street. He opened the top floor's door and slipped into the shadows. No one stood guard in the hall either.
The next S.W.A.T. team would storm up this stairwell, so the bullet magnet needed to be set up in the stairwell at the other end of the hall. He moved silently. The apartments were quiet. He lodged the stairwell door open and set the metal canister next to the wall inside.
A door down the hall opened. Nightwing froze in a fighting stance, but the footsteps crossed the hall and a fist pounded on a door. "I want that sweet ass so let me in!"
The door creaked opened. "Fine, I need a smoke. Get me when you're done." Footsteps headed toward Nightwing.
The escapee didn't pause as he entered the doorway and walked into Nightwing's fist. Nightwing caught the unconscious felon before he hit the floor and secured his hands behind his back with a zip tie. Nightwing left him on the stairwell landing and moved to the apartment he thought had the hostages.
The door to the hall was unlocked, and he shut and locked it as he heard a body hit the floor in the room ahead. "Get over here or I'm shooting Grandpa!"
A teenage girl shook and grabbed the wall behind her as she stood. An older, dark-skinned woman clutched the smaller children around her and tried to shield their eyes. The older man held his head as he rolled on the floor.
"Come on." The dark-skinned thug gestured with his handgun. "Bitch, I don't have all day."
Nightwing stepped out of the foyer and wrapped one hand around the gun and his other arm around the thug's neck. He spun the felon away from the family. The hand loosened around the gun and Nightwing snatched it away.
The felon yanked Nightwing's arm off and turned. Nightwing punched him with his gun. He hit the floor. Nightwing rolled him over onto his stomach. "Any more guards in here?"
"No," the older woman said.
"More hostages?" Nightwing tightened the zip tie around the thug's wrist.
"They locked Mom in the bathroom because the baby wouldn't stop crying," the teenage girl said.
"Go let them out." Nightwing moved to the old man. "Are you all right, sir?"
"I got a hard head." He sat up. "Who are you?"
"Nightwing. Which way is the fire escape?" One of the young kids let go of the older woman and headed down this apartment's hall. He helped the older man to his feet. "Get to the fire escape and go up."
"Up?" another kid asked.
"The police are waiting to get you to safety." The group reached the teenage girl and a young woman about his age trying to wrap a squirming baby in a towel.
"The police?" The mother almost dropped the towel. "Is it true? Batman dug them out?"
"Yeah, we did. Now come on before bullets start flying." They crowded into a small bedroom where the eight-year-old boy was pulling futilely on the window sash. Nightwing stepped around the smaller children and tugged it open. "Go up," he reminded the kid as he lifted him out the window. The teenage girl climbed out next, followed by the older woman who prayed under her breath. Nightwing lifted the four younger children after them.
The mother reached the window and pushed back. "I can't, I can't."
Nightwing took the baby. "Go on, I've got him."
"No, I can't!"
The older man pushed her to the window. "Get your ass up the fire escape before it gets shot." She climbed out, he followed her, and Nightwing carried the baby up.
The S.W.A.T. team helped the children over the ladder to the neighboring building. Nightwing passed the baby to the Lieutenant. "That's all the hostages. Let me get in place with the bullet magnet."
Nightwing rolled his eyes as he climbed down the fire escape and back through the window. He left the felon tied up on the floor and peered into the hall. Still empty. He crept back to the secondary stairwell. The bullet magnet and the unconscious guard were right where he left them. He crouched next to the metal canister and pressed his ear piece against his ear canal.
"The hostages are removed from the building," the Lieutenant's voice grated over the speaker.
Nightwing turned the dial on, and then activated the microphone clipped to the collar of his armor. "Storm the gates."
"S.W.A.T. two go," Commissioner Gordon said.
Boots pounded into the building and up the other stairs. Shouts filled the apartments and hallway before doors sprung open and guns fired. The bullet magnet's hum increased. Bullets rained against the sheet rock between the stairwell and the apartment.
Screams and bodies hit the floor echoed along with the shooting. Feet ran toward Nightwing's open stairwell door. He stood and kicked the first felon who sprinted through the doorway. He bounced off the outer wall before crumpling to the floor. The felons behind him stopped short.
"Kiss the ground," Nightwing said. "Then everyone knows you surrendered."
The felons dropped to their knees and lifted their hands as the third S.W.A.T. team reached the landing behind Nightwing. The gunfire stopped. He moved aside so the police could cuff the felons and turned off the bullet magnet.
"Building is secured, Commissioner. We're checking for stragglers now."
"Good job, Lieutenant Nguyen. Nightwing?"
"On my way down." He picked up the bullet magnet and headed down the stairs. The officers streaming inside stepped aside as he passed. He had parked the Tumbler two blocks down Maine Street, right where the police were moving the prisoner transport vans and S.W.A.T. trucks from now. Commissioner Gordon waited against it. Nightwing shut off his microphone. "So are you going to let me drive this time?"
"Only because I need to get out." Gordon climbed into the passenger seat while Nightwing stowed the bullet magnet and jumped into the driver's seat.
The Tumbler roared around the corner onto Akron Avenue, right past the GCN news van. But water lapping past the blown apart cars made Nightwing throw on the brakes. "And this is why Gotham can't have nice things."
"The National Guard set up camp at the airport," Gordon said. "Head to Adams Bridge."
"Yes, sir." He turned around, drove up Hampshire, and turned onto Hicks Avenue. Livingston Street was a straight shot to Haley Avenue. Adams Bridge and its missing section loomed straight ahead. The computer screen showed all the calculations for the jump over it. He accepted the calculations and let the computer turn on the rocket boost, so all he had to do was steer. "Hold on."
The acceleration pressed both their heads into the seats. No ice had built up in the center of the bridge. Flames shot out of the back as the front wheels lifted off the pavement. The Tumbler sailed over the frozen North River. The back wheels hit the pavement first and the front wheels jolted down next before the Tumbler surged down the bridge.
Gordon grinned. "You think they saw that?"
Nightwing smirked at the scrambling camouflaged men at the end of the bridge. "Oh that sent a message that Bane's not in charge anymore."
Bruce whirled to face the glass doors, but relaxed when Lieutenant Stephens opened it. "The Commissioner jumped the bridge. GCN is showing it," he said.
"We're working on it, Lieutenant." Montoya set the flat screen television on the conference table next to the radio. Selina pulled the cable wire through the door to the Mayor's inner office and reconnected it.
Stephens frowned. "Wouldn't it be easier just to go in there?"
"The couch is in here," Bruce said before another police officer could question Selina's adamant refusal to spend any time in that office. Montoya let it go; Stephens probably wouldn't. "And it wouldn't fit through the door."
Montoya turned on the television and Stephens didn't question them. Selina sat and tugged Bruce down beside her. Stephanie climbed over the arm rest and balanced on her stomach.
The camera focused on Adams Bridge as the Tumbler jumped over the missing span. "Yes, viewers," Mike Engle's exuberant voice carried over the footage, "Bane is dead and Batman's protégé is taking Commissioner Gordon straight to the federal authorities!"
"I hope no politicos are visiting the feds today," Stephens said with a chuckle. "Jim might be tempted to fire the rockets on that Batmobile again."
"It's got rockets?" Stephanie flopped onto the seat cushion face first. "I want to ride and jump over the bridge!"
"When you grow up and get the job of Police Commissioner, maybe you can." Stephens focused on Bruce. "The S.W.A.T. officers are raving about your Taser bullets."
"I better come up with a catchy, marketable name for them before I get sued. I'm glad they got the job done."
"Everybody's going back to Blackgate and no casualties on either side. Are you staying until Jim gets back?"
"Unless we need to leave," Selina said.
"No rush." Stephens headed to the elevators.
Stephanie rolled over on the couch so she sat upright. "I want a ride now!"
"We'll see after it is finished working," Bruce said. He turned to Selina's smirk. "What?"
"You are so going to be the sucker parent."
He turned back to the television and watched the Tumbler jump without him behind the wheel. "I will never get used to this."
"This is better than the eight years you spent locked up in your mansion. Stop worrying." She dropped her head onto his shoulder.
"It's the federal agents I'm worried about now."
"That they'll take credit? Like to see them try when the whole city knows what happened."
"They can man the brooms and sweep up," Montoya said.
"If that's all they'll do." Bruce didn't want to think of worse scenarios, but his brain loved to always find all the possible ways the situation could deteriorate. Right now, he saw the National Guard coming in, establishing martial law, arresting vigilantes, and terrorizing the populace.
"That is all we will let them do," Montoya declared.
He blinked at the officer almost standing at attention. It wasn't just him and Gordon saving Gotham alone anymore.