Blake didn't bother with pleasantries once Gordon answered his cell phone. "I've been to half of Daggett's cement plants and logged locations where they've poured for underground construction."
"Anything strange about the pourings?" Gordon asked.
Blake's sigh drew his hand off the steering wheel briefly. "Honestly, Commissioner," he glanced at the street map covering the passenger seat. All the marks he had made on it still didn't mean anything to him. "I don't know anything about civil engineering."
"But you know about patterns," Gordon insisted. "Keep looking."
"Yes," Blake hung up and turned his unmarked police car to the next cement plant on his list. He parked, flashed his badge at the worker who came to shoo him off the premises, and scanned the area for anything out of the ordinary. He spotted a familiar face and strode across the cement-dust covered yard. "Hey, hey!" The driver paused next to a cement truck and waited for Blake and his coworker. "That was you in front of the Stock Exchange, wasn't it?"
The driver spread out his arms. "When?"
"When? When half the city's cops are trying to pull onto Apple Street and your truck was shutting them out." Blake gestured at the orange and green cement truck they stood beside.
Recognition dawned on the scruffy face under the hard hat. "Oh yeah, you're a cop."
"Detective now, and as a detective, we're not allowed to believe in coincidence." Blake shifted, sensing the man behind him moving. He lunged forward with a knife. Blake shoved the driver aside, sidestepped the blade, and pulled his sidearm.
He shot the man with the knife, but the driver wrapped thick arms around him. Blake couldn't break the hold as he pounded the driver's side with his elbow. The driver's grapple shifted up and squeezed Blake's ribs.
Blake seized his sidearm with both hands and aimed at the cement truck. The shot ricocheted off the metal and hit the burly man in his back.
The driver's arms sprang open as he fell back. Blake crouched over him and grabbed the diver's coveralls. "What were you doin' here? What are you workin' on?" But the driver was beyond answering Blake's shouts.
The adrenaline surge receded, leaving Blake sick. He killed these men. They attacked, he killed, and all he could think was Batman doesn't kill. He threw his sidearm and it skidded across the cement. He took deep breaths as he moved away from the bodies and called the Commissioner. He got voice mail; he felt better confessing to it. "Commissioner, it's Blake. I've got two dead witnesses and a whole lot of questions. Call me when--"
He picked up his sidearm and faced the barrels lined up behind the cement truck. "Wait a minute, four barrels of Polyisobutylene. That looks like motor oil right next to it." The chemistry lesson clicked into place. "Jesus, they're not making cement," he ran to his car. "They're making explosives."
He hung up and grabbed his marked-up map. His read dots formed a ring around Trillium Park and two more blocks on Downtown Island, where most of the Bane sightings had occurred so the operation to flush him out began there. He slammed the car door shut and peeled out of the cement plant.
"Patch me into Foley," he told Dispatch over the radio.
"Foley's overseeing the operation."
"They're heading into a trap!"
"We're seeing literally thousands of police heading into the sewers, Mr. Mayor? Literally thousands--" The voice of GCN reporter Vicky Vale woke Bruce up again. Selina hadn't moved from her perch on the cot and his arm curled around her.
He turned to the television screen and saw Mayor Garcia addressing the reporter. "It's a training exercise, that's all. Now if you'll excuse me," he waved his tickets above his head and Bruce realized he wore a Rogues jacket over his suit and tie. "I've got tickets to watch our boys thrash Rapid City." He grinned and waved at the cameras before moving through the stadium gate.
"Thousands of police heading into the sewers," Selina repeated. "Gordon must be feeling better to make them do that."
The sounds of men moving at the other end of the tunnel had ended hours ago. "Or Bane finally proved he is a real threat." The sportscasters fell silent to let a young boy sing the national anthem. "He wanted us to watch this, why?"
The boy finished singing and the players took position for the first kick. Bruce forced his eyes open even though the drone of the sportscaster repeating everything on the field lulled his senses. The muffled booms and vibrating rocks jarred him awake.
Selina threw herself over his head and chest. He wrapped his arms around her head. Rocks slid into their cage from the back wall with a deafening roar. It finally ended and she looked up. He craned his neck disregarding the pain and saw they had lost two feet of the cage as the back corner closest to the toilet had vanished in the rubble.
He blinked away the concrete dust. The rock slide was as impenetrable as the solid rock wall had been. Screaming didn't help. He looked at Selina.
She wasn't screaming; she looked over the rest of the cage. He turned back to the television set. The football game was still broadcasting. The spectators in the stadium screamed that the green turf was now a smoking brown pit.
"Gotham," Bane's voice called out. The stadium cameras focused on the mask man strolling along the outer edge of the crater. Bane's men covered the audience with their automatic rifles and blocked the exits onto what was left of the field. "Take control." Bane waved his hand for their attention. "Take control of your city."
"My God," Selina said. "Everybody in America will see this."
"This is the instrument of your liberation." Bane gestured at the round sphere on a handcart that four of his men pushed out of the tunnel and onto the field.
Bruce inhaled sharply. "He has the reactor!"
"The one you built?" Her brown eyes stared down at him.
"Yes." He felt tears stinging his eyes. "What did he do to Lucius and Miranda? They were the only ones who knew where it was."
More mercenaries forced a grey-haired man out of the tunnel and onto his knees in front of Bane. "Identify yourself to the world," Bane ordered and held the headset microphone to the man's lips.
"Doctor Leonid Pavel, nuclear physicist," he responded.
"And what is this?" Bane said into the microphone as he pointed to the black and silver sphere without looking at it.
"A fully primed neutron bomb." Pavel took a deep breath. "With a blast radius of six miles."
"And who is capable of disarming such a device?"
"Only you," Bane echoed. "Thank you, good Doctor." Without dropping the headset, Bane twist Pavel's head until his neck snapped. The crowd in the stadium screamed as his body fell to the ground. Bruce clenched his teeth as rage surged at the blatant disregard for human life. Selina's hand wrapped around his.
"Now," Bane continued, "this bomb is armed, this bomb is mobile, and the identity of the trigger man is a mystery. For one of you," he pointed to the crowd in the stadium, "holds the detonator. Now, we came here not as conquerors, but as liberators to return control of this city to the people. And at the first sign of interference from the outside world or of people attempting to flee, this anonymous Gothamite, this unsung hero, will trigger the bomb. For now, martial law is now in effect."
"Like the police will obey him," Selina said.
"Return to your homes," Bane ordered. "Hold your families close and wait. Tomorrow, you claim what is rightfully yours." He dropped the headset next to Pavel's body and strolled off the field.
Bruce squeezed her hand. "The police are trapped down here too," he growled out. Theatricality and deception hid the fact that the reactor was now a time bomb. It was a tactic worthy of Ra's al Ghul. His rage reached himself. "I should have flooded it three years ago. Now the whole city will pay for my hubris."
"Hubris?" Selina asked softly as alarmed newscasters looked for their journalistic calm.
"I thought I could change it so Pavel's technique wouldn't work. When that didn't work, I just hid it." He stared at the footage on the television screen as his anger pulsed with his heartbeat.
Mike Engle parked his car at North 11th and Maine Streets. This wasn't his job. All the producers, hell even Lew Moxon, the president of GCN, made it clear that he was part of the story and therefore a liability to reporting the story. Nobody else in Gotham wanted to hire his infamous face afterwards, but with his severance package and the money from his book deal, Terror With a Smile: The Clown Prince of Crime's Reign of Gotham City, he settled comfortably in North Point.
Today's terrorist activity had nothing to do with that deranged clown. Gotham needed journalists to explain what was going on and once upon a time he had been a journalist before he landed a studio talk show. So he followed the heavy equipment down Akron Avenue when he saw the construction workers carried automatic weapons.
He left his car and walked up the block to Hampshire Street. This gave him a clear view of the ramp down to the Washington Tunnel across the North River. A bulldozer pushed a police car down the ramp. He ducked between two buildings as a camouflage-painted Hummer pushed another car down Hampshire.
He called Summer Gleeson as he crouched against a locked doorway in the alley. "Mike? I don't have time to talk. I have to get back on the air."
"I'm an eyewitness to what these terrorists are doing at the Washington Tunnel."
Summer always was fast, no surprise she was already a studio head. She started barking out orders. The Hummer drove past the alley.
"Mike, this is Scott," the next clear voice Mike heard was one of the producers back from his days at GCN. "We're putting you on the air. Summer's introducing you, go."
Static like he was put on a speakerphone joined Summer's voice. "Mike, tell Gotham what you are seeing."
He crept back to the mouth of the alley. "I'm looking down Hampshire Street at the mouth of the Washington Tunnel. Armed men are using a bulldozer and crane from Daggett Industries to stack vehicles in the mouth of the tunnel. They also have a camouflage Hummer pushing vehicles parked on Hampshire Street to the tunnel."
"Bane's televised speech at Gotham City Stadium said the bomb would be detonated if people left Gotham." Summer's voice warbled slightly over his speaker.
"From here, it looks like he isn't taking a chance that people want to stay." He heard a shout behind him and whirled around. "Up the block, a man has come out of the apartment building. He's yelling and gesturing at the men in the Hummer, pointing at the blue car they're about to push down the street. He's walking around the car now going to the driver's side."
The Hummer's driver leaned his head and arm out the window. The crack echoed down the street and Mike scrambled back into the alley before they saw him beyond the fallen man. "My God, they shot him in the head! He was just taking his car away from them and they shot him!"
"Everyone watching and listening, do not confront these terrorists. Do not--" Summer's voice abruptly cut off.
"You're off the air, Mike," Scott said. "Can you get to the studio? We need you on this."
"What about Moxon? He made it clear with my severance package that I couldn't set foot on GCN property ever again." Mike headed down the alley and ducked behind a dumpster as the Hummer shoved the blue car past.
"Moxon is in Aruba with his mistress. Let him shit a brick to see you on the air. You're safer with a camera. This Bane guy, he wants the world to see what's going on. I'm losing reporters who have families."
"No guilt trip necessary, I'm coming in." He hung up his phone and moved back to his car. The memory hit him hard: the smell of rubber as he tried to breathe, landing flat on his back, and staring up at Batman who pulled that damn clown mask off his head. We need that crazy vigilante now. What happened after the police chase? He shook his head as he climbed into his car. He couldn't worry about Batman, not when he had to use a camera to keep a mad man happy.
Renee Montoya coughed. The world finally stopped exploding. She moved her arms and legs as she pushed off the concrete floor. Other than breathing in enough concrete dust to build a patio, she was fine. Human groans reached her ears. "Kelly? Jensen? Mason? Wilkes?"
"Present." Jensen's voice sounded more high schoolish than it usually did.
"Are you in one piece, Montoya?" Kelly asked in return.
"Yes." She found her hand-held flashlight. The front of the Maglite was flattened. She hit the off switch. They may need the batteries.
The radio hooked to her shoulder crackled. "Mon… hear…. Dispatch … dead!"
"Bullock?" They had left her hefty partner on the surface, not willing to risk him getting stuck in the sewers. Foley handpicked their group to go after the kidnapped Wayne Enterprise executives while the rest of the police searched the tunnels starting at the other end of Gotham. "Bullock, this is Montoya. What's going on?"
"Explosions all over Gotham!" The rest was lost to static.
"Did he say explosions?" Jensen jerked his flashlight around.
"Bring your light over here, Jensen," Kelly ordered. Jensen's light spun away from Montoya and showed Kelly at the crumpled wall spanning the tunnel they had traveled down.
"You're breaking up. Repeat."
"Terrorist attack. Dispatch shot went dead."
Dios mío, Montoya breathed to center herself.
Kelly shone his light past her and she saw a matching wall in pieces ahead of their location. "Mason confirmed dead," Kelly said. Jensen's light focused on a blue clad arm poking out of the rocks. "Wilkes' status unknown."
Montoya repeated that to her partner and explained their trapped status twice. Bullock's final response promised to bring help.
Kelly sat down next to her. "Bullock is as hard-headed as they come, but we can't pin our hopes on a rescue."
"Why not?" Jensen remembered to aim his flashlight at the floor as he joined them.
"They took out emergency dispatch," Montoya answered. She felt cold. "They don't want anyone to have help."
"Turn off your light, Jensen. We may need the batteries later."
Jensen obeyed Kelly's suggestion. Montoya looked up at the smooth concrete ceiling. No manhole cover or storm drain here. She pulled out her copy of the sewer system map and set it on the floor under Kelly's flashlight beam. "We're not in the sewer system."
Kelly leaned closer. "We entered the sewers here." His thick finger tapped the map at the intersection of East 18th Street and Michael Street.
"Right, and then we intersected with this tunnel about fifty feet in and took the drier route toward the Wayne Enterprises building. Where we are isn't marked on the map." She looked up at both their pinched expressions. "I think the terrorists built this and blew it up so no one could follow them."
"Trapping us here because we were following them." Jensen dropped his head into his hands.
"I vote to dig that way." Montoya pointed at the lodged rocks blocking the tunnel ahead. "Bullock won't find help and we can't stay here."
"We still have to find the hostages," Kelly said.
"But if we find a route to the surface, we go up." Jensen swallowed. "I know we had our orders, but the situation's changed with a terrorist attack on the whole city."
"Agreed. Let's start digging."
Blake drove down the streets to reach Foley and the rest of the police force as the explosions ripped it apart from underneath. He swerved around a storm drain spewing smoke and rock. Manhole covers popped off and belched like tiny volcanoes. He wove the car between them and the other cars that stopped driving on this street. He drove through the flames, but something shoved his car up. He slung his arm over his face.
His car flipped, landed on the roof, skidded, and rolled onto its wheels again. It wasn't drive-able but the siren continued to shriek as the rest of the world fell into silence. The car door opened when he pulled the lever. He grabbed the car radio's mike. "Foley?"
"Jesus, Blake! Every cop in the city is down in those tunnels."
Blake's gut iced over as he blinked away the concrete dust and ash. "Not every cop." He grabbed the police car's shotgun. Dispatch screamed over the radio that armed men were forcing their way inside, but he couldn't do anything about that. No telling where Bane had stationed his men or what criminals would do with law and order trapped underground. He spied a black SUV pulled over further up the road. "Sir, are you okay?" The driver barely got an affirmative out before Blake interrupted. "I'm a police officer; I need your car right now." The driver didn't protest, even as Blake yanked him out of the seat.
He turned north at the next intersection and sped up Cherry Street. He cut over to Trillium Street only when he was a block away from the Narrows Bridge. He glanced over at the Narrows, childhood neighborhood of terror now left entirely to Arkham Asylum. He hoped Bane wasn't crazy enough to unleash those crazies. He continued up Moore Avenue to Gotham General Hospital. He honked the horn so dazed people would get out of his way.
Blake pulled the borrowed SUV to a stop at the front doors of the hospital. The panicked ducking from the people in the first waiting room confirmed his worse suspicions. He wasn't the first gunman to run through here today. He shoved a door open with his shoulder and ran up the stairs. The electricity fluctuated too much to trust the elevators. He scanned for the enemy through every open door he passed. Two gunshots interrupted the alarms and the panic of the patients. He stopped clearing the building and pelted for Gordon's room.
He kicked open the door. Two bodies on the floor visible and a warm gun muzzle pressed against the base of his skull, a gun that had just been fired. He swallowed hard.
"Clear the corners, rookie," Gordon chastised. Blake turned to him as he pulled back his Smith & Wesson hand gun. "Get my coat, son."
Blake opened up the wardrobe locker while Gordon guarded the door. "I spotted it too late, sir. Foley couldn't pull anyone out." He found a whole set of fresh clothes and set them on the bed. He guarded the door while Gordon dressed. "I think Bane took out Dispatch too, but I had to switch to a civilian car, so I don't know details."
"GCN didn't share that tidbit. Bane released the audience at the Stadium, well, the ones he didn't blow up. Vicky Vale found out they blew up the mayor and half the city council that were attending the game."
"Damn, how prepared is this bastard?"
Gordon returned to the door. "Check those two thugs and confiscate their weapons."
Blake knelt next to the bodies. Both forgot to put their identification in their wallets, how convenient. He hung their automatic rifles from his shoulder and pocketed their extra clips. "No I.D.s."
Gordon pressed his free hand against his stomach. "Time to retreat and regroup."
They headed out of the hospital. The sun dropped behind the buildings. At least traffic was now nonexistent, but that made their SUV more visible. Blake tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "My apartment's not far. Bane will look for you at yours."
Gordon nodded as he turned the radio onto a news station. They played Bane's speech at the Stadium before cutting to the President's response.
"The people of our greatest city are resilient. They've proven this before, and they will prove it again. We do not negotiate with terrorists, but we do recognize realities. As this situation develops, one thing must be understood above all others, people of Gotham, we have not abandoned you."
"What does that mean?" Blake asked as he drove down the darkened streets. He was glad no one else was ignoring the unlit traffic lights and causing wrecks.
Gordon sighed. "It means we're on our own."
"I can't believe I voted for that guy."
Gordon licked his lips. "I have to get in front of a camera."
"No, sir, they will kill you the moment you show your face."
"Bane says he's giving Gotham back to the people. They need to know I could lead."
"Bane is not gonna let that happen."
"Then he'll show his true colors."
"And you'll be dead," Blake said. Gordon didn't respond.