The Dark Knight Rises: Part of the Night: The Wayne Legacy

Chapter Thirty-Five

Nightwing stowed the items carefully into the Tumbler before calling Bruce. "You ever have any dealings with Genucore?"

"No, not with it or Genutech. Why?"

"Has Selina?"

"I just dropped Jen off at Hudson U, so I can't ask her. Why?"

"The Riddler dropped off a computer part at the Batsignal tonight. Genucore made it. I don't know if that's the whole clue or if he hid something that you can only see with a computer."

"So that worked. I'll meet you at the Bunker and look at it."

"Right, thanks." Nightwing signed off and turned the Tumbler to the Sheal Docklands. He beat Bruce to the satellite cave under the Wayne Enterprises shipping yard, so he pulled up Genucore in an Internet search while he set the clues on the table. He read how they were a sister company of Genutech and located its office building in the South Point neighborhood on Uptown Island when the lift rumbled up.

Bruce walked into the Bunker. "He wrapped it?"

Nightwing pointed to the bagged ribbon. "And even put a bow on it. Two DNA models and the circuit board inside, no bad poetry."

Bruce pulled on a pair of latex gloves before removing the circuit board from the wrapped box. "It's a motherboard for starters, but Genucore builds them."

"A motherboard runs a computer, right?"

"Right. I'll put together an unconnected system to see what the board does. You want to go to their offices?"

"I'm expecting another death trap, but the Riddler's pointing for me to go there." Nightwing waved at the evidence and the forensic kit Bruce opened. "You're okay with this?"

"We need to catch him and keep him caught. Get going." Bruce focused on the circuit board and didn't look up as the Tumbler left. Nightwing wasn't fooled. As soon as he reached the Genucore building, Bruce would be watching through the goggles.

Genucore rented one small office building in South Point. According to the blueprints on file with the city, this facility manufactured their experimental circuit boards here on three floors in the center of the building. The boards they sold to computer manufactures were built overseas. The rest of the building was dedicated to administrative and marketing for the whole company. No heat signatures registered to the Tumbler's sensors as he circled the building before parking. None of the doors showed the telltale marks Selina and police training told him to look for.

The lockpick gun Selina and Lucius Fox added to the index finger of his right glove unlocked the fire escape door faster than he could with regular lockpicks. Her tool found the alarm code and entered it into the alarm panel.

"Site rep?" Bruce's voice asked in his ear.

"I'm not seeing any signs of a break-in."

"Did you check all the entrances before entering?"

"I checked all the doors. There are no heat signatures inside. But we never found signs of forced entry at the landmarks either." He opened the fire escape door into the lobby and scanned their tasteful choices in decorating. The only things green were the potted plants in the corners of the room and bracketing the reception desk. "Okay, I'm going to their security room for an overview of the building."

"It's the first door on the left behind the reception desk," Bruce said.

Nightwing had memorized the location of the security room on the drive, but bit back his automatic retort. If this gave Bruce an outlet for the threat he felt the Riddler was, Nightwing would accept the help gratefully. The alarm panel tool bypassed the keycard swipe and he slipped into the room with multiple monitors set on a counter.

Each one's screen was subdivided into four views from different cameras on a floor. All the time stamps were current and none of the rooms showed any mazes or anything out of place. "What the hell did he do here?"

"The motherboard is blank," Bruce answered. "Check the executive floor. If the Riddler is interested in corporate espionage, what to take would be up there."

"Right." Nightwing swept the elevator for signs of tampering. Finding none, he rode to the top floor. The door slid open into a reception area with an infrared beam across it directly in front of the elevator doors. "Just one and not a grid? That's not normal security."

"Hold on." He heard Bruce typing on a keyboard. "I'm in their security details. They don't have an infrared grid on the executive floor; it's four floors down in the labs."

"Well, Admiral Ackbar, looks like we've found the Riddler's trap." Nightwing found the receiver of the beam and followed the wire up along the wall. "He put this up in a hurry. He didn't even try to hide the wires at all." The wire led to a bundle of plastic cloth fastened to the acoustic tile ceiling. "Would explosives be that light?"

"Most likely not an explosive, but I recommend triggering it from a distance."

"Right." Nightwing leaped over the beam without disrupting it and crouched a few feet away from the bundle. He tossed the largest Batarang into the beam.

The bundle expanded down and out into a banner. "Wrong turn again, Masked Man" was printed on the white plastic in green and purple letters. "Damn it," he muttered.

"So the real clue is these DNA models," Bruce said. "Maybe he put the polynucleotide spheres together as a code."

And it had to tie back to the drowned man riddle from the poem left on the gate. The Riddler had no reason to give it unless it had something to do with the crime. "The beggar is the sister, Genucore is the sister company of Genutech, matching DNA; he's after Jen!"

"I left her on Hudson's campus. Call her; tell her I'm on my way." Bruce signed off by killing his microphone, but Nightwing didn't notice as he slid the nearest window open and fired the grapple gun.

No green messages on the Tumbler. He used the onboard computer to put the call through to Jen's cell. Her voicemail picked up. "Jen, this is John. I need you to get somewhere safe with a bunch of people around. Bruce is coming to get you. The Riddler's clues point to you. Don't go anywhere alone." The voicemail limit kicked in and he saved the message. "Computer, send text message to same number. Text message: you are in danger from the Riddler. Get somewhere safe. End message."

Bruce would beat him to South Channel Island. The Lamborghini didn't have the armor the Tumbler did to slow it down. Nightwing hoped Bruce would beat the Riddler there too.

Selina stretched and rubbed her lower back. The Braxton Hicks contractions were stronger tonight than they had ever been. Luckily, Stephanie dropped off to sleep so quickly she didn't notice when Selina lost her breath and couldn't finish reading the story. She paced the master bedroom, but it really didn't help. She glanced at the Wayne Manor blueprints and map of the grounds that she had moved up here from the study. Seven generations of Waynes had lived here and no one had drawn an underground map, including Bruce.

Her cell phone rang before she could finish that thought and the caller ID showed Jen's picture. "Study group over and you're on your way home?"

"I'm afraid all the studying in the world won't improve Jennifer's situation any."

She recognized the male voice and forgot about her discomfort as her fury ignited. "You son of a bitch, you said you'd leave us alone!"

"No, Pussycat, I said I'd leave the royalty of Gotham alone," the Riddler said. "That's your husband, little orphan Annie, and you thanks to the holy state of matrimony along with your future offspring. Your sister is not on that list."

She should have seen that. Too late now. "What do you want?"

"You know what I want! Come to your concrete cage, Catwoman. Otherwise Jennifer will become the caged bird who sings. For a while at least." The Riddler hung up and her cell phone made an old-fashioned modem dialing sound before ASCII characters filled the screen. She couldn't make it go to any other screens.

She threw open the bedroom door. "Alfred!" He hadn't changed for bed and reached her as she reached the receiver for the house phone. "See if you can call Bruce." The receiver made the same modem sound.

"There appears to be something wrong with my phone, Missus Selina." He held up the same garbled screen.

"The Riddler's cut off our phones somehow. Get Stephanie, we can't leave her here."

Alfred blocked her path to the master suite. "You cannot face that ruffian, not in your condition."

"He has Jen." His resolve faltered under her quiet tone. "I left her behind once and she almost died. The Riddler has no reason to keep her alive if I abandon her now."

"We can go to the police."

Selina shook her head. "He wants me at Bane's cage. We can't take the chance of him finding out why Bane targeted Bruce. And the police don't need to figure out I am Catwoman. Go get Stephanie."

He ceded the argument and turned to Stephanie's bedroom. Selina went straight to the jewelry safe in the dressing room. The pearls went around her neck and she hoped this tracker worked underground. Next she unlocked the drawer with her Catwoman gear in it. She tightened the mask around her eyes and carried the coiled whip in her hand.

Alfred had Stephanie wrapped in a quilt and carried the sleeping girl propped against his shoulder. "Can we contact Master Wayne or Nightwing through email?"

"Not with our phones."

He nodded. "The tablet I use for shopping lists is powered down in my office. I never used it as a phone."

She darted into the room when they entered the kitchen. The WayneTech tablet sat on the corner of his desk. "We'll turn it on inside city limits. I don't know how the Riddler's messing up the phones but that should help if it's location based." She opened the back door of the Rolls for him, went around the car, and opened her own door.

He laid Stephanie on the back seat and tucked the quilt around her before settling himself behind the steering wheel. "Where to, Mrs. Wayne?"

"O'Brien Street subway station. Hopefully, I can still get in through there." She knew Lucius and Bruce had plans for the space under Wayne Enterprises, but she didn't know if they had started construction work. Damn, going in blind was always a bitch.

Bruce had avoided the major traffic out now that the curfew was lifted and had sped down clear streets well over the posted speed limits. He reduced that by the ten miles-per-hours when he reached Hudson University's campus, though pedestrians shouldn't be walking the campus this late.

He screeched to a halt outside the Business College building and turned off the Aventador before charging up the steps into the building. A lanky young man turned from the vending machine but he wasn't green so Bruce ignored him. The library had the donor's name above its double doors on the right. He pushed inside and scanned the room.

A group at a table near the windows was packing and looked at him, but Jen wasn't with them. None of them wore green, so he dismissed them. A sign labeled Meeting Room A pointed to the rear of the shelf-filled room.

Meeting Room A's door had a glass pane inserted into it and showed the room was dark. He threw open the door and felt for the light switch. The fluorescent lights clicked on one after another with a hum.

Jen's textbook, notebook, and phone were discarded on the floor inside the door. Bruce's anger flared. Jen was an innocent and as helpless as Stephanie, at least Selina could defend herself. He gathered the books and pulled out his own phone. ASCII symbols filled the screen. He checked Jen's. It acted the same way, some kind of virus that disabled the phones.

The Riddler's clues pointed to Jen and Jen was now missing, presumably against her will. The Riddler's next step would be to make his demand to Selina. Since their phones were disabled, he probably made a meeting demand and then sabotaged the phones so she couldn't call for reinforcement. Selina would face the Riddler for Jen's sake and to protect Batman. Hopefully she was also looking for a way to contact him and Nightwing en route, but Bruce felt less sure of that conclusion. She needed backup, but she didn't think she did. He had to protect her.

But where was the meeting? Selina had always been convinced the Riddler wouldn't attack the Manor. He agreed with that assessment. The Riddler would use a location to give himself superiority over Selina psychologically, like the elaborate maze at Willowwood. Where in Gotham would the Riddler find that again for Catwoman?

Bruce started reciting the Riddler's clues as he went back to the Aventador. "In a concrete cage," he muttered as he put the key in the ignition. That was a specific detail. If the Riddler had wanted a detail to contrast with gilded cage, wouldn't iron or steel be a better word choice? But he wanted Selina to realize he knew she was Catwoman. "He found Bane's cage."

The car roared to life and he headed south to Midtown.

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