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

Chapter Twenty-Three

Occupation of Gotham City: Day 88

Selina rolled in the hospital bed and realized the other side was empty and chilled. She sat up. Bruce sat in front of his computer monitors. She slid out of the bed and put on Bruce's black T-shirt with her own yoga pants. Blake had brought their luggage from the Carlyle here yesterday when he reported in. Not that Bruce needed anything with the full wardrobe he had stashed here, but Selina was so grateful to have underwear again, she had hugged the ex-cop and surprised both men. She hoped whatever pulled Bruce out of bed this early wasn't related to that.

He used two pairs of needle nose pliers to bend a short piece of copper wire, and didn't look up as she reached the desk. The side out to the bunker was free from wire sheath he had cut open for the copper so she hopped up and sat on it. "You're up early."

"I couldn't stop thinking about what we said the other night." He put the copper around a thin pipe and pulled the ends closer together.

That was nicer than threatening Blake or fantasizing about fighting Bane. "Because it was a wonderful way to end an escape?" A band of copper wire wrapped around the ring finger of his left hand. Her mouth dried.

"Partly," he admitted with a smile, he held up the copper ring for her inspection. "It's not the nicest I can get for you, but it's the best I can do right now. I will get you a better one after this is done."

She licked her lips. "Are you promising to marry me after we kick Bane out of Gotham?"

"I'm not marrying anyone else after what I promised you."

It had been hard enough to get the truth out about her feelings and now he wanted proof found in a set of rings, a piece of paper, and the approval of everyone who knew them? "I'm not the kind of girl you bring home to meet your mother." Shit! Why did I bring up parents?

Bruce stood and cupped her cheek. "No, you're the kind of girl who follows who she cares about to the bowels of hell." His thumb grazed her skin. "And my mother would have loved that about you." He glanced down at the ring he held. "At least the hell I'm promising now won't lack food and will have a bigger bed."

"Most men would promise heaven on Earth to get a yes."

"I don't like the life I was born into, but it does have its perks and I want to give them to you. Starting with a bigger bed."

"For mind-blowing sex?" Like the rest of the package mattered more. Still she did like shiny wrapping paper. She held out her left hand.

"For mind-blowing sex." He slid the copper around her ring finger and pinched it closed. His hands cradled her head before he swooped closer and kissed her.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and didn't let go when their kiss ended. "Let's use the bed we got and start the honeymoon now."

"We can't. You have to head out soon."

She looked over her shoulder at the computer clock. "Damn it. You should have woken me up earlier."

"I thought you needed to rest. You still look exhausted."

"Well, I better go make myself pretty." She slid off the desk and out of his arms. She had finished the new suit yesterday deflecting Bruce's offers to help after he finished with the Tumbler. She didn't need him asking questions on why the measurements changed between her old suit and this one.

It zipped up smoothly even though the crosshatching of the titanium fiber felt different against her skin. She should have woken up early enough to go through her yoga routine in it. She stepped into her boots and zipped them. Now she'd have to break it in on the job. No pressure.

She combed her hair, ringed her eyes with eyeliner--noting that the circles still hadn't cleared up--and painted her lips with her reddest lipstick. She buckled on her mask and her belt. The belt sat higher on her waist, but not uncomfortable so. She pulled on her gloves.

Bruce watched her saunter out of the bathroom and across the bunker. "Does it meet with your approval, Mr. Wayne?" She stopped in front of his chair.

His dilated pupils bored into her. "Turn it down or you won't get out of here on schedule."

She grinned. "Sorry, you bring it out in me."

"No, you're not." He lifted her back to her seat on the desk, and set an electronic key-fob in her palm. "It's a micro-EMP emitter. Its range is only a few feet, but you don't want to draw attention by making the whole building go dark."

"What in the world did you need one this small for?" She tucked it into a belt pouch.

"Paparazzi cameras, can't spoil the hermit image by letting too many photos get out there." He picked a USB stick off the desk. "You didn't even look in my wallet." Her eyebrows knitted together under her mask. "Back at the Carlyle," he added.

"Of course not, I was hurrying out to save you." She held the stick after he pressed it into her hand. "What is this?"

"Plug it in."

She rolled her eyes at him, twisted, and put it in the port built into the center bottom monitor. The screen went black before a white and blue logo popped up: CleanSlate. Her mouth dropped open as prompt boxes asking for name, birth date, and Social Security number appeared under the logo. "But Daggett said--"

"Daggett went after Rykin Data. I bought the program directly from the programmer after making sure Rykin Data had no proprietary claims." He handed her the wireless keyboard. "What's mine is yours; what's yours is mine."

She gripped the keyboard with one hand and grabbed his head with the other. The colorfast lipstick didn't smear all over him. "You really should have woken me up earlier so I could thank you properly."

He shook the glazed expression off his face. "I won't make that mistake again." She scooted off the desk and turned around to typing Magdalene Kyle's information into the program. He wrapped his arms around her. "Don't get reckless just because Jen's safe."

"Don't ruin the moment by getting all bossy." The program's task bar inched closer to completion, so she rotated in Bruce's arms. "I know this is hard for you--"

His voice deepened closer to his gravel. "You have no idea." He pressed the Tumbler key into her hand. "Stay in blackout mode and park a few blocks away--"

She kissed him again and his hands tugged on her hips. "I've got this. Where's the climbing gear?"

He let her go and picked up a gym bag off the work station over the server. "Will you change your mind about the tracker?"

"Not when I don't know what kind of security features Bane has installed." She smiled at his scowl. "I have to maintain radio silence, but it won't take over two hours."

"I'm coming after you if it takes longer."

"It won't take longer." She took the bag, heavier than she thought the rope would weigh, and strutted to the lift. She smiled at him until she rose out of view. The Tumbler was parked in the lane outside the hidden elevator. She climbed over the new black paint job and settled into the driver's seat.

Blackout mode turned off all running lights and quieted the engine, so the driver had to depend on the instruments even more. Selina was glad she didn't have to worry about other traffic tonight. Her eyes stared at the screen plotting her course between obstacles like parked cars while she gave the controls minor corrections to keep the Tumbler steady.

She parked the massive vehicle in an alley off Aero Street. She crossed the two blocks of rooftops before City Hall, looking out for spaces that would be too difficult for Fox. Nothing alarming until she reached Geneva Street and a span that couldn't be jumped. She dug into the climbing gear bag.

Bruce put a telescopic ladder in the bag. She bit her lip to contain her laughter when she pulled out the explanation for the extra weight. It was matte black with claws on each end to anchor to the buildings, and it stretched over the dark street. She put the bag on her back and crawled over the ladder.

She had found plenty of entrances beside the front door to get inside from the plans. She couldn't tell Bruce which one she would use, which annoyed him to no end. "It all depends on what people on the site are doing. That's great you have knockout darts; I've got my own in a spray bottle." She didn't bother to explain that she considered it a point of pride not to need to knock out her targets. She doubted it could have erased the fear in his eyes. Nothing would except coming back mission accomplished.

She looked down at the four-story Greek Revival building. No one loitered on the snowy street in front of it or on the side she faced. She crouched on the edge of the roof and lowered her goggles over her eyes. No infrared lines popped out of the darkness. Was Bane that confidant no one would challenge him?

Won't he be surprised? She opened up the climbing gear bag again. The rope with anchoring spikes looped over her head and shoulder. Bruce had put in two climbing harnesses. She shook her head as she buckled on one and left the other in the bag.

She hefted the zip line gun out next. She fired the first anchor into the roof access shed of this building. The second anchor hit the corner of City Hall's fourth floor. It had a ledge running under its windows perfect for a stroll. She clipped two handlebars to the wire stretched between the two buildings.

Plan of attack: see what the offices on the top floor were being used before sneaking inside. She'd set the rope as she went since she planned on bringing Fox out the way she went in. She grabbed the second handlebars and pushed off.

She landed on the ledge and loosened the rope loop. The metal bit of the first anchor whirred into the stone. She tied off the rope under the zip line and let it unspool as she moved down the ledge.

The first window was dark. Her night vision settings revealed the room was empty, but had military cots set up around the cubicles. She set another anchor above the window. The rope was out of sight if anyone came into the room.

The next three offices had Bane's men sleeping in them. The fourth on the corner was lit. She flipped up her goggles before peeking in. Lucius Fox sat at a large desk covered in notebooks and papers.

She crouched next to the window, sank the anchor into the stone next to the window, and pulled her glass cutting tools out of her belt. The claws fit over her fingertips as she pulled out the suction latch. She pressed it against the middle of the window.

Fox lifted his head before standing. Selina pressed her index finger against her lips. He nodded and turned off the office's main lights, leaving the desk lamp on.

She ran the claws against the glass seals. The rubber and caulk shredded, and she pushed the pane inside, lowering it down to the carpet. She swung her legs into the office. "Check out time, Mr. Fox," she said in a low voice.

He scooped the papers and notebooks off the desk and pressed them against his shirt. "I was expecting someone else to pick me up." He zipped his jacket closed.

"He lost the coin toss." She returned the glass cutting tools to her belt and unbuckled the climbing harness. "Guards?"

He shook his head as she helped him into the straps. "They have other things to do than stand outside my door."

"Good, got everything?" He nodded and she attached his harness to the rope stretched across the building. "The other offices are occupied; don't touch the windows. I'll take up the rope."

Fox swallowed as he leaned out the window. "Things that were left out of my job description." He pulled himself out onto the ledge.

"If you want, I'll put in a word for you getting a raise." She stood up on the ledge. Fox didn't answer as he inched away with both hands gripping the rope. She waited until he passed the next anchor point before detaching the rope and winding it around her body again.

He stopped at the zip line. "Does it work?" he whispered.

She released the clip and reattached it to the first handlebar. "You invented it." She pressed the recall button on the handlebar.

"I hire someone to test!" he whispered ferociously and tightened his hands on the bar. The pulley whirred and Fox jerked off the ledge.

Selina secured the rope around her body and grabbed her bar. It climbed up the wire against gravity. Fox dropped onto the roof across the street and doubled over. She let go, landed on her feet, and hurried to him. "You okay?"

"We don't have to do that again, do we?"

She patted his back before moving to the zip line anchor. She detached the handlebars, packed them in the bag, pressed the retract button, and stepped back. The wire slacked then spooled into the anchor. Once it was done, she wrenched it off the roof access shed and inserted it into the zip line gun. "Hope you won't have an issue with the ladder." Fox shuddered, but followed her lead.

They didn't have any issues with the ladder or the fire escape, but Fox didn't relax until they buckled themselves into the Tumbler. "What happened to you two?"

"We were taken prisoner and our digs were no where near as nice as yours." She glanced from the screens to his horrified expression.

"I got the room for you and told Bruce...."

"It wasn't your fault. Batman chased after Bane, and I chased after Batman. We escaped four days ago."

"All this time?"

"We survived, Mr. Fox. That's all that matters."

Fox lapsed into silence as they drove back to the bunker. The c-can's doors sprang open as she turned the Tumbler and closed once she drove onto the hidden elevator. Bruce stood in front of the suit cabinet as the Tumbler roared to a stop. Selina grinned as she opened the Tumbler's roof. He moved to Fox's side first and offered a steady hand.

"You picked a hell of a time to go on vacation, Mr. Wayne." Fox accepted Bruce's help off the Tumbler.

"I didn't have a choice," he answered with a shrug. He moved around the vehicle and held out his hand to Selina.

She took it. "How close were you to suiting up?"

He pulled her to his chest when her feet hit the floor. "You had fifteen minutes." His arms tightened around her.

She saw Fox's eyebrows shoot up in surprise then settle back in a smile as she hugged Bruce. "Told you it wouldn't take two hours."

Bruce hummed noncommittally and turned them both to face Fox. The older man had turned to the computer screens showing the reactor information. "Did they hurt you, Lucius?" Bruce kept his arm around her waist.

"Not as of yet. Bane wants to destabilize the core further."

"Why?"

Fox leaned against the computer desk. "Bane said it was because the Special Forces operative snuck into Gotham."

Selina snickered. Bruce and Fox both looked at her. "And he came up with that after we escaped?" She nudged Bruce's hip with hers. "I told you they are terrified of you."

"I hadn't worked on the bomb yet." Fox unzipped his jacket, and set the pile of papers onto the desk. "But Dr. Pavel's notes hint at greater instability than his first paper suggested. Frankly, I'm nervous about them driving it around now."

Bruce let her go and picked up the topmost paper. "Why not just use the trigger?"

"Maybe the whole point was to bait a trap for Batman." Selina shrugged when both men looked at her again. "He knows who you are and how you fight."

"Good thing you went instead."

"So what now?" Fox asked.

"We need to block the trigger and Blake needs a suit," Bruce said.

"They won't use radio or cell. Too much interference. Infrared doesn't have the range. It'll have to be a microburst. Long wave."

Selina looked around the bunker as they opened another storage shelving unit. Bruce had set up the largest air mattress she had ever seen next to the back wall. "You boys have fun; I've earned a nap."

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