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

Chapter Twenty-Two

Occupation of Gotham City: Day 86

If Miranda Tate was upset he hadn't crawled into bed after her, Blake didn't see any signs of it in the morning. She followed him to Conway's store without asking a bunch of questions. They found Gordon pacing in the basement storeroom. "What's the status?" the Commissioner asked.

"Bane's Army killed the Special Forces soldiers. I got Miranda Tate out." She nodded at the Commissioner. "Don't know who else escaped or who was captured," Blake finished.

"We need to know," Gordon said.

"On it." Blake turned to leave.

"Please, I want to help." Miranda turned imploring eyes between the two men.

Gordon curled an arm around her shoulders and turned her toward the second room. "Welcome on board, Ms. Tate. Let's get you some breakfast and find you something to do."

Blake trotted down the streets. They needed Fox now more than ever. He reached the Dungeon around midmorning. The daily crowd had already gathered for Crane's tribunal. He scanned the armed men loitering with the crowd.

Tony choked his automatic rifle and burrowed his head into his too big coat. Blake stepped up beside him. "We need to talk, Tony."

The teenager leaped into the air as he whirled. The gun barrel poked Blake in the chest. "Do you have a death wish?"

Since Tony's hand wasn't on the trigger, Blake pushed the gun away. "I don't have time for this. Is Fox in there?"

Tony swallowed hard. "They brought about twenty or so Wayne Enterprises people here last night. I told Father Reilly to go check for kids they left behind. But Bane took Fox to City Hall."

"Why?"

"You don't ask Bane why!" The teenager's eyes bulged.

"Yeah, dumb question. Thanks for the info." Blake slid into the crowd and moved away from the Stock Exchange Building. Calster Street was empty as the crowd surged into the building for the show. He stuffed his hands into his coat pockets as he walked.

"Hey you!" was shouted behind him.

Blake stepped onto the sidewalk in front of an alley between two buildings before turning to the stomping feet.

Five men approached with guns slung from their shoulders or tucked in their belts. "What's your hurry?" the one at the head of the pack asked. "Don't wanna watch the rich bastards get what they deserve?"

"Not particularly no." Blake pulled his fists from his pockets.

The larger man stepped up on the sidewalk. "I wonder why. Maybe you belong in the judgment chair."

Blake's right fist knocked the sneer off his rotting teeth. He spun and landed against his closest pals. Blake ran down the alley before the others moved. He twisted through the alleys, but their shouts were always too close. No fire escapes to climb up and lose them. He dodged into the opening on the right and skidded to a stop in front of a brick wall.

"Who are you?" The thug behind him demanded as he cocked his gun.

Blake faced him with his hands raised. The thugs glared at him and missed the figure in black descend into the alley behind them, blocking the exit. The black figure surged forward and so did Blake. He grabbed the rifle and shoved its wielder against the wall. Three punches in rapid succession later and the thug he had dropped before slid down the bricks. Blake let him go and turned to the others. Batman without his cape stood between the fallen bodies. One thug tried to get up. "You missed a spot," Blake called out.

Batman kicked the thug as he stepped past him. "Risky getting that close to the Dungeon."

"You're going to lecture me about risk when you're out in daylight?"

Blake thought he saw a smirk under the cowl, but it was hard to tell with the shadows. Batman turned his back to Blake as he raised a bronze gun. "Climb on." Blake frowned but grabbed Batman's armored shoulders.

The grapple line pulled them to the roof. Blake scrabbled over the parapet and landed in a pile of snow. Batman vaulted over and dropped on his feet next to a gym bag. Blake brushed the snow off before it soaked through his jeans while Batman pulled on black sweat pants and a bulky drab olive coat. The helmet-like cowl went into the bag with the grapple gun and Bruce Wayne threw the bag onto his shoulder. "Gordon expecting you?"

Blake shook his head. "Not soon, and I'd rather bring him better news." Bruce raised his eyebrows. "You want to debrief here?" Blake asked.

"You're right, come on." Bruce led the way across the roof to the building's fire escape down into another alley.

They left Downtown via the Midtown Bridge and passed the Wayne Enterprises building. The guards were no longer posted at the barricades. They headed to the Sheal Docklands that bordered the Queens River. Bruce unlocked an electronic gate on a shipping yard. Blake stared up at the giant crane towering over the cargo containers. Bruce picked up a sign identifying the area as Wayne Enterprises property and headed down the lane of cargo containers. Blake followed him without saying a word.

This silence lasted until the floor of the cargo container Bruce led him inside moved. "And now a trip to a funhouse?"

"Welcome to the bunker," Bruce said as the platform sank even with the floor below.

Blake shut his mouth as he looked over the long underground room. His face cracked with the heat that hit it. A camouflaged Tumbler sat with half its roof off between this elevator and a computer desk. A long concrete slab topped table held a stack of MREs. Sections of the wall on the right tucked up against the ceiling of light panels and showed rooms beyond.

Selina Kyle sat at a machine that looked like a cross between a sewing machine and a pizza oven, and fed black material through it. She powered it down and flipped up her goggles so they resembled cat ears on her head. "Good, you found him. Now we can have lunch." She sauntered around the gym mats on the floor and headed to the table dressed in sweats too big for her.

"What happened to you two?" Blake took the MRE and hoped his question was louder than his growling stomach. "You haven't been here all these months." He opened the packaging. "I found your note in the room at the Carlyle."

"That was meant for Selina," Bruce said.

"And you shouldn't have left me behind either," Selina said. Her face looked thinner since Blake had last seen her. "I know I didn't make a difference following you, but if you had planned with me--"

Bruce leaned across the corner of the table and squeezed her hand. "You made a difference." He kept hold of it while he turned to Blake. "I fought Bane alone and lost."

"Bane cheated," Selina said.

"You didn't see the fight." Bruce squeezed her hand again before opening his MRE. "Bane was stronger, faster, and I was not in my best shape."

"You should've called me," Blake muttered as the heater warmed his beef stew.

Selina's ponytail whipped through the air as she shook her head. "That's true and it still doesn't matter. Bane cheated." She went to the computer desk and held up a tiny metal canister. "While you were out, I remembered where I had seen these: plugged into the back of Bane's mask. So I Googled the chemical name. Turns out it's a general anesthetic that doesn't knock the patient out but its addictive side effects have kept it out of use. It didn't matter how hard you hit Bane, on this stuff, he didn't feel it. So he cheated!" She dropped the canister on the desk and stomped back to her seat.

Blake looked at Bruce, expecting anger over how the previous fight went. Instead a grim smile spread as his hazel eyes gleamed. "You found his weakness," Bruce said.

She stirred her beef stew. "You're going to fight dirty?"

"It won't kill him if his supply is cut off, will it?"

"Nope, he'll probably wish he was dead and then wish it harder after you're done with him." She looked across the table at Blake. "He kept us locked up and we couldn't escape until Bruce was healed."

Blake nodded. "Why didn't Bane just kill you?"

"Had to suffer, watching Gotham tear itself apart first. Who were those outside interlopers hung on the bridge?" Bruce opened his water bottle.

"Special Forces soldiers who snuck in to help us deal with the bomb. Fox had just explained to them how it's going to blow up anyway when Bane's Army broke into the camp. They died before telling Washington anything, and Bane took Fox prisoner again. That's why I was at the Dungeon." Blake looked down at his meal.

"Lucius and Miranda are in the Dungeon?" Bruce asked.

"No. I took Ms. Tate to Gordon this morning. She wants to help. Bane took Fox to City Hall where he and his army have been camping out."

"Hell," Selina said. "And the rest of the people with Fox and Tate?"

"Twenty adults ended up in the Dungeon that worked for Wayne Enterprises, sorry, Bruce. Bane's Army doesn't lock up kids, and my informant told Father Reilly to look for ones that were left. I don't know how many were in the bank or how fast Crane processes the prisoners." He pushed away the empty wrappers.

Selina turned to Bruce who sat at the head of the table. "How badly do we need Fox? You built the damn thing."

"With Lucius' input. If anything happens to me, he's the only one who can stabilize the core. Have you and Gordon found the triggerman?"

"Not even a whispered rumor of a lead."

"So Bane has the trigger and Lucius." Bruce leaned forward on his stool. "But it's possible he's passed the trigger to one of his inner circle. More likely since he knows we've escaped."

"He knows?" She broke her cracker in half.

"The guards are gone from around the Wayne Enterprises building."

She dropped the pieces into her stew bowl and brushed off her hands. "That can work in our favor. Bane will keep Fox alive to use as a hostage against you."

"So how do we get the bomb away from Bane? Once we figure out which truck it's in," Blake said.

"By waging war with Bane," Bruce said. "But first, how do you want to protect Gotham, John, as a police officer or my way?"

"Batman could be anybody," Blake repeated to the man who has said it what seemed like a lifetime ago. "I'm ready to suit up."

Selina stood. "I'm not sewing him a suit; he has to sew his own. Pull up the plans for City Hall for me at some point." She headed back to the machine she had been working at.

Bruce smiled. "You're volunteering?"

"I thought you wanted Fox taken away from Bane without Bane noticing? Baby, that's my skill set." She turned on the machine again.

Blake turned back to Bruce. "I am ready, but Gordon is relying on me. I can't disappear on him."

"That's not necessary." Bruce motioned for Blake to follow him. They stepped inside the last little room off the main one. It was lined with shelves and boxes. Bruce pulled down a box close to the shorter ceiling and handed a Geiger counter to Blake. "You and Gordon are in the best position to find the core. We need to gain control of it as soon as we hit Bane."

"And tell Gordon that Batman's back."

Bruce shook his head. "I want Bane to worry why I haven't been spotted until we get Lucius out. After that, we can give Gordon a plan to work with. Let's set you up with codes so you don't have to climb the fence when you come back, find Selina's blueprints, and plan your training."

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