The Dark Knight Rises: Part of the Night: The One Rule

Chapter Eighteen

Occupation of Gotham City: Day 55

Montoya sat in their camp built between the rock slide and solid rock where the light from the lamp in the cell beyond the rock slide poured through the hole. It gave enough light to read and write by, and she looked at the calendar of days she had scribbled on her ticket pad. They had been underground for over a month and past halfway through a second month. Kelly, Jensen, and she decided after a few days of rest once they reached this spot to dig out the tunnel back to the sewers behind them. Either they'd have a way out from the crazy jailer by the time Batman was well or they would rescue Batman. Catwoman's half-hearted protests noted.

Speaking of, Montoya stood up and listened at the hole in the rock slide. The retching echoed through it. Today made two weeks of puking every day. It wasn't food poisoning because they were all eating the same MREs, and no one else was ill. Especially Batman since Catwoman was sharing with him.

"It's chicken again," Catwoman said as the light vanished from the hole. "I'm wondering if it's a waste of time to ask Barsad if he was Hindu or something before joining Bane's cult." She pushed today's MRE through the hole.

Montoya pulled the plastic bag free. "Are you sure you want to piss him off in your condition?"

"He's been pretty good since our little chat, and I listened to his Dr. Phil rant, and all he brings us to eat is chicken. It deserves an explanation."

"But you're pregnant."

She could hear the other woman blink in surprise. "How did we get there from chicken MREs?" Catwoman asked, trying hard not to let her voice sound plaintive.

"You've been vomiting every day for two weeks. The chicken isn't making anyone else sick." The silence stretched between them, so Montoya offered another volley. "Jensen and Kelly are clearing rocks; they don't know." They worked in two-person teams while the third rested at the camp. They had already moved and reburied Mason's body, but still hadn't found Wilkes. Maybe he got out.

"Can we keep it that way?"

"If that's what you want."

"What I want is pen and paper to write down my complaint letter for my birth control failing so spectacularly. Dear Duramed, thanks for giving me another complication to an already complicated enough relationship or a genetic link with a sick fuck."

Montoya inhaled to quell her own nausea. "You don't know which one is the father?"

"A lifetime of being careful destroyed in twelve hours. Ain't that a great story for a baby scrapbook?"

"Neither one of them have noticed?"

Now the bitterness dropped from Catwoman's voice. "When I see Gordon I'm nominating you for his fast-track to detective program." The humor leeched away. "So far I haven't thrown up in front of Barsad when he drops the food and runs every morning. And Batman hasn't stayed awake long enough to notice."

What else could Montoya do? She had no abortion pills to offer her. Giving her a gun to shoot Barsad had already been rejected. "What's the latest on GCN?"

"They're replaying the plea from Congressman Gilly to release the ill and infirm before winter gets worse. No response from Bane yet."

Montoya snorted. "Bane won't agree to that."

"I'm more impressed that Gilly can actually use the word infirm in a sentence." Catwoman yawned. "Sorry to cut this short, but I need to lie down. If anything breaks, I'll let you know."

"Okay." She listened to Catwoman move away before sitting down and opening the MRE. She ate her share and felt guilty. Catwoman told them Barsad brought two MREs along with water daily and she shared one with Batman. The police officers didn't have to worry about water since they found a busted water pipe on their path here, but what if the baby wasn't getting enough calories to develop?

She shook her head. They had five adult to worry about now. The best way to help the baby would be to get the mother out.

Jensen crawled into the twilight-lit space. "I'm done. Kelly's waiting for you." He slid down the solid rock wall to the concrete floor.

Montoya passed the MRE to him. "Save some for Kelly." Jensen said something that sounded like a yes, so she took the flashlight and headed down their tunnel. She found Kelly shoving a rock against the tunnel wall. "Hey, we agreed this was a two person job. Less chance of getting smashed."

"Tired of waiting on you youngsters." Kelly stretched his back as he stood up. "Both of you should have more energy."

"You know Jensen is putting more time digging than both of us. And I'd rather be safe. I saw that rock climbing movie with James Franco." She turned off her flashlight and set it next to the one they used as a lantern. Then she went to the rock pile blocked the tunnel. One rock jerked loose and she passed it to Kelly.

Kelly hefted it against his chest. "So nothing new with Batman and Catwoman?"

She wasn't sure if it was a feminist sisterhood or just the fact that Catwoman asked her not to share the news that made the lie come out so easily. "Nope, not a thing."

Occupation of Gotham City: Day 66

Blake jiggled the door handle before pulling out the lock-pick set Lieutenant Stephens had given him. He needed more practice with them, but hated how exposed it made him feel even though this basement parking garage shielded him for the bomb convoys and Blackgate Boys. The stairwell door handle depressed under his thumb. He pulled the door open, clicked on his flashlight, and headed up the trash-free stairs.

The roof of this skyscraper was too high and windy to make a useful vantage point. Maybe the top floor? They needed vantage points along this convoy's route and this bank building looked right down at the T-junction where the bomb truck made a turn. He continued up the stairs, planned out the order he needed to see his Irregulars in, thought about which bolt hole would be the closest on that map to crash in; thinking about anything to keep his mind off how many steps he had to go up.

Finally, he opened the last stairwell door. The floor was a marble balcony over the floor below. Groups of people with blankets and sleeping bags had set up their areas around fire barrels in this communal space and stared at the newcomer before screaming and running. Three men about his age rushed him, despite Blake throwing up his hands in surrender. "It's okay!" Blake shouted as they grabbed him. "I'm not here to hurt you. I'm a cop!"

"All the cops are underground!" One man squeezed Blake's left arm.

"He's got a gun," the one on his right who patted through his coat announced.

The yelling drew attention from more people. A brunette woman with confused grey eyes hurried from a branching hallway. "What is going on? Who is this?"

Before anyone answered her, a familiar brown-skinned man's lanky legs brought him around the corner of the balcony. "Detective Blake?"

Blake smirked, "I knew you weren't dead."

The brunette turned to Fox. "You know this man, Lucius?"

"Detective Blake and I had an appointment about Daggett's murder, but then Bane kidnapped us and took the reactor. You can let him go; he won't turn us over to Bane's Army." The men released Blake who tugged his coat back into place. "Detective Blake, this is Miranda Tate, current CEO of Wayne Enterprises."

"Ma'am," Blake nodded at her. "Reactor?"

Fox gestured for him to follow him. "We've got a lot to talk about."

Blake followed the older man into an office around the corner and down another branching hallway, and Miranda Tate shut the door behind them. He glanced at her before turning to Fox. "I guess we should start with why Bane kidnapped you and let you go?"

"Has Bruce been found yet?" Fox leaned against the front of the desk.

"No, if Wayne was in the Dungeon, the news would be all over the city." Fox's shoulders slumped. "Reactor?"

"Wayne Enterprises built a fusion reactor," Miranda's accented voice answered as she moved from the door. "Bane took us hostage to gain control of it and turned it into the bomb."

"A time bomb," Fox added.

Blake perched on the arm of the leather couch. "Because any day now the triggerman may press the button?"

Fox shook his head. "The reactor has two parts. The core's fuel cells degrade once it is removed from the rest of the reactor on top of Dr. Pavel's rigging to turn it into a bomb. In about eighty-four days, the core will explode regardless if the detonator is activated or not."

"And Bane's playing a damn shell game with it?" Blake pointed out the office window. "What the hell? Does Bane know that? He hasn't made any demands. What does he want?"

"You're asking for motives of a madman?" Miranda asked as she stood at the other end of the couch.

"Yes, I'm used to bad people having reasons for the bad things they do," Blake said. "And Bane knows exactly what he's doing, so what is he getting out of this?"

Fox spread his hands. "Bane threatened to kill us if we didn't cooperate and then he let us go to experience the next era of western civilization."

"We took the opportunity to gather up as many of our employees and their families and hide here," Miranda said.

"Good plan. So we need to put the parts of the reactor back together provided we can get it away from Bane." Blake rubbed his hands on his thighs. "Any ideas on how to do that?"

Fox shook his head. "We're just civilians," Miranda said. "We haven't been trained for this sort of thing."

"Then we're all in the same boat," Blake said. "I'll take this info back to the men with higher pay grades. Do your people need anything, food, medicine?"

"No," Miranda answered. "We have supplies."

Blake nodded as he stood. "Be careful out there, son," Fox told him.

"I'm always careful." And Blake was so careful with this information, it was nearly sundown when he reached Conway's store.

Gordon was alone, staring at the city map stretched over the table. Over the past couple of months, it had gotten easier to report to the Commissioner. He was ashamed that it took Lieutenant Stephens tagging along on one of Blake's Irregulars patrols to spell out facts of life eight years ago. Facts Blake didn't know about because he was an angry kid stuck in an orphanage who followed Batman news to escape his pain. And when Stephens was finished with the legal entanglements that Detective Blake hadn't had to deal with yet in his career, he pointed out that Gordon's wife and children left the city because of the Dent Day hoopla, and Gordon hadn't contested the divorce or custody arrangements. Blake hadn't missed that Gordon still wore his wedding ring. That conversation ended with Blake promising to let Dent go, which satisfied Stephens, and vowing to himself not to give Wayne the same self-righteous attitude if he ever saw him again.

He really wanted to see Wayne again, especially after what he just learned. Heck, he'd settle for Kyle. She'd know how to steal the core from under Bane's nose.

Gordon glanced at him and straightened his back. "Pile on the bad news, Blake."

"I might have other news." He slid a stool over to the north side of the table.

Gordon's mustache moved as he grimaced. "A Thanksgiving treat? Gotham's not getting good news this winter and I shudder to think what'll happen for Christmas."

"We won't blow up on Christmas, but Gotham will be ashes for Ash Wednesday."

Gordon's eyes pierced Blake through his dark-framed glasses. "You discovered the triggerman is anti-Catholic?"

"Worse, I found the Wayne Enterprises execs. Turns out Bane's bomb is the core of Wayne's mothballed energy reactor. Since Bane separated it from the rest of the reactor, it will blow up in eighty-four days. But if we reconnect it, then all we have to worry about is the triggerman. That's the good news."

"I mean this as nicely as possible, but you have a wrapped idea of what good news means."

Blake shrugged. Why everyone else thought he was a pessimist when he was such an optimist was the one mystery he couldn't solve. "The hard part will be getting the core away from Bane, but if we get the rest of the force out, we'll match Bane's Army and the Blackgate Boys."

"We need more manpower to break them loose." Gordon's gaze fell on the map where the three bomb trucks' routes were plotted out.

"You really think the Feds will send in the Army to deal with Bane?"

"Terrorism is supposed to be handled by the Feds, and Bane invaded the United States. I think it's time to find out if they're serious with the feelers they've had the delivery men announce." He tapped the map. "A FEMA shipment comes in tomorrow. Foley can make contact." He looked up with a smirk. "Besides, Morrison has no training on nuclear devices. I'm not ashamed to call in an expert."

"Mr. Fox knows the machine."

"We'll send some men over to protect them. Go get some food."

Blake got up with a nod and headed to the back basement room Ms. Conway had turned into a kitchen and a place to sleep.

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