Occupation of Gotham City: Day 91
Father Reilly wrapped his sweater tighter around his body as the banging on the front door continued. He winced as his knees popped going down the stairs. Mark ran down them with a baseball bat and passed him. "Mark, go back to bed!"
"You need back up. Somebody coming here this time of night is trouble." The boy reached the thick, front door of the boy's home. "Who is it?"
"They can't hear you through the door. Step back." Father Reilly unlocked the heavy door and pulled it open a crack. Mark pushed himself in front of the priest. A woman in a black, form-fitting suit stood on their doorstep. Something perched on top of her head that resembled cat ears and a black mask circled her eyes. "Can I help you, whoever you are?"
Her red lips smiled. "I'm Catwoman. Batman and the police are moving against Bane at dawn. Detective Blake asked me to get you boys out."
Father Reilly gaped at her. Mark stuck his head further out the door. "That's Batman's bike!" Father Reilly blinked and craned his neck. Sure enough, the motorcycle from the news footage was parked at the curb.
"Come in, please." He pulled Mark back and opened the door wider. She sauntered inside and shut it. "Blake sent you? He's fighting Bane?" He gripped Mark's shoulders.
Catwoman winced. "Blake isn't fighting alone. Batman freed the trapped police."
"Batman's really back?" Mark asked.
"He's really back." She looked at Father Reilly. "We've got a schedule here. Blake wanted me to get a family out of Randall too."
"Yes, yes. Go get dressed, Mark, and wake up the other children."
Mark tore upstairs to the dormitories. Father Reilly moved into the large classroom on this floor and clicked on the lights. Adults sheltering their families here rubbed their eyes as they sat up. He cleared his throat. "We have an evacuation order. Please get you vehicles ready to follow the bus."
"Who authorized an evacuation?" A man asked as he rolled off a cot onto his feet.
"Batman," Catwoman said over Father Reilly's shoulder, "Commissioner Gordon, and me. You're welcome to stay behind, but I will blow a path through the Washington Tunnel, and I recommend getting out before it's plugged up again." The adults stood and shook their children awake.
Father Reilly turned to her. "The children will probably want to see your motorcycle."
"I won't let them out until you get back." She sauntered on her high heels back to the front door.
He ducked into his office for his coat and the bus keys. He heard Mark in the stairwell. "Catwoman, not Batwoman. The ears ain't like Batman's." At least, they were out of bed.
The cold slapped his face when he opened the door to the garage. Snow had piled up against the large doors that swung out to the side street behind St. Swithin's. He thrust his shoulder against the wood and the doors scraped against the concrete and ice. The bus started without any difficulty. Thank God, he had asked Mr. Phillips to check over the engine and the mechanic had happily for being able to stay at the boy's home. He maneuvered the bus around the block. He parked behind the motorcycle with the massive tires and shut off the engine to save gasoline.
The boys and girls--both his original charges and the children whose parents went to the Dungeon--surrounded Catwoman when Father Reilly opened the front door. Rosalie stared down at her feet. "How do you walk on those?"
"Very carefully." Catwoman looked down at Aaron who patted her hip. "Your turn, short stuff."
"Did Santa get my letter? I told him we needed help, and Mark said to tell him to find Batman so I added that. Did Santa find him?"
Catwoman looked over the children's heads at Father Reilly. "Christmas is four," he glanced at his watch, "three days away."
"Santa Claus isn't real," one of the older boys declared.
Aaron's dark face fell. Mark wrapped his arm around the younger boy's thin shoulders. "Just like Catwoman and Batman ain't real, huh?"
Before a fight broke out, Catwoman said, "There was a guy who could've been in the Macy parade around the other night. Batman didn't introduce us."
A murmur carried through the children, but Jason's voice carried over it. "How come Batman took so long?"
Catwoman winced. "It took this long to find a way to stop the bomb from blowing up, and it might not work. That's why we have to leave Gotham today." She glanced up at the other families gathered in the hall. "Okay, we're taking Webb Bridge into Randall where I gotta pick up another family. Then we'll head to the Washington Tunnel. If anybody gets a cell phone signal, call friends and tell them to get out that way."
"What if they try to stop us?" Mrs. Calvin clutched her hands together.
"Leave them to me if that happens. Okay, let's mount up."
"Come on, children. Board the bus." Father Reilly flung the front door open and the children lined up as they headed to the yellow school bus. Catwoman waited next to the motorcycle while the children boarded and the families crammed themselves into their cars parked on the street. Once all the motors were running, she swung her leg over the motorcycle and laid her body along it. The ears on top of her head flipped down and turned into sunglasses over her mask.
The caravan moved quickly, but not as quickly as the motorcycle had driven in the broadcast of the police chase. The sky began to lighten as an orange band surrounded the city, but it glowed strongest over the East River as they crossed Webb Bridge.
Catwoman parked the motorcycle in front of a series of row houses. She ran up the steps and battered the second-story door. After a few minutes of continuous banging, it cracked open. She argued with whoever opened the door, tapped her foot on the doorstep, and then shut the door after an African-American woman carrying a blanket bundle and a child's pink book sack rushed down the steps.
"Make room, children," Father Reilly called out as he opened the door. Aaron and Mark scooted onto seats across the aisle, leaving the seat behind the driver's seat open.
She came up the stairs in a breathless rush. "John Blake really sent her?"
"She has Batman's bike," Mark said.
"She has Batman's bike," Father Reilly repeated as he closed the bus doors. "Father Reilly."
"Yolanda Ross." She collapsed into the open seat and adjusted the blanket bundle, which protested sleepily at the cold. "And my daughter Tara." She glanced down the bus. "No wonder John never brought any family. I always invited you for holidays, but he never said he had this many mouths to feed. Tyler never said anything either."
"Some people have an easier time admitting to being an orphan than others. Don't be too hard on Blake." Father Reilly glanced at her in the bus mirror to watch the seats.
Mrs. Ross pressed her thick lips together before speaking. "Not if we see him again. My husband? We'll see."
Catwoman picked up the pace as the city lightened. There wasn't any traffic to snarl as the caravan sped down Hicks Avenue and turned onto Hampshire Street. She turned the bike perpendicular to the bus and the children crooned with how both wheels rotated side to side. Her hand went up and Father Reilly stopped the bus. Once she was sure the caravan was stopped, she rolled the motorcycle up the block to the tunnel's mouth.
The stack of cars was higher than the roof of the bus, but didn't reach the roof of the tunnel. Bane's Army had strung barb wire in that space to keep anyone from climbing through. Catwoman sat back and swiveled her head. If she heard something, it was too faint to make it past the bus' motor.
She tucked herself against the motorcycle, which rocked back with the blast from the long-barreled guns mounted beside the front wheel. The children yelled as the fireball disintegrated the barrier. The hole was large enough for the bus. She waved for the vehicles to go through. Father Reilly shifted gears and the bus rolled forward.
Mark pushed aside his seatmate and opened the window. "Catwoman! You're not coming with us?"
"I have to help Batman kick Bane's ass!" The motorcycle roared as she peeled out and threaded the machine between the cars behind the bus.
The children cheered. "Hit him for us!" Jason added. The caravan pushed into the tunnel, but the figure in black was already gone from their rearview mirrors.
Montoya held her sidearm up and ready. She was three rows in from the front line, but her view ahead was still clear. Sunlight broke through the clouds and hit the tattered remains of the U.S. flags hanging from the buildings above their heads. Two Hummers with gun turrets bracketed the intersection between the police and City Hall. Armed men shouted from behind the vehicles. Bane's Army is what the reporters had labeled the mob. Montoya sneered at their lack of discipline.
Deputy Commissioner Foley dressed in his parade blues pushed through to the front line. She saw a bald giant strode out of City Hall. His long leather coat swayed in the breeze as he looked over his men and the columns of police officers. The mask buckled over his mouth and nose gave his head a snarling snout. Someone in Bane's Army found a megaphone. "Disperse. Disperse or be fired upon."
"There's only one police in this town," Foley said. Not that the yelling men ahead heard him, but the officers surrounding him hardened their stances. The drivers of the Hummers revved their engines. Foley stepped forward and the officers moved with him.
Bane turned to one of the armed men on the porch with him and waved at them. The gun turret on the left Hummer pointed at them. Montoya remembered her oath from graduation. I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Gotham and that I will oppose the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of this State by force, violence, or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods. I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties of a police officer of the Gotham City police department to the best of my ability. So help me God. They had numbers on their side. Someone would make it through to stop Bane. She prayed it was her.
The Bat swooped from the cross street and fired. The bullets spun the gun turret away from the officers. Mercenaries scrambled out of both vehicles as the Bat's guns shifted and small rockets fired. The Hummer burst into flames. The Bat turned to the one it had flown over and fired on it.
Montoya screamed and the Bat was lifted up by the yells of her fellow officers as they ran forward. Her pumping legs carried her under the flying machine as it moved down the street. They surged around the flaming metal, ignored the bullets, and threw tear gas ahead of them.
The mob of men surged to meet them. The first thug that stopped in front of her never finished raising his automatic rifle. She tackled him. His head hit the pavement and his hands slid off the weapon. She confiscated it and fired at the mercenary who broke a cop's neck. The headshot dropped him.
Arms wrapped around her and heaved back. She dropped her hips. He shifted forward but tightened his arms. She aimed the rifle at his foot and pulled the trigger. One of the bullets hit his foot and he released her with a scream. She spun, punched him in the jaw, and dropped him to the street.
She pulled the weapon up against her shoulder and turned to the next opponent.
Gordon roared the Tumbler down Montgomery Avenue. The bomb truck threw itself into reverse to go back to the E. Eighteenth Street intersection. The rest of the resistance men rolled a city bus out from between the buildings. The bomb truck rocked to a stop as its brakes screeched. Gordon turned the Tumbler sideways and blocked Montgomery Avenue.
Nightwing pried his hands off the passenger seat restraints. "You missed your calling as a stunt driver, Commissioner."
"There's an idea if I ever get to retire." He opened the Tumbler's hatch. Stephens yanked the driver out of the cab while someone else did the same to the mercenary riding shotgun. "Be sure to read them their rights when you lock them in the prisoner transport van."
The men responded affirmatively as they cuffed the men. Bullock rounded the back of the trailer. His big jowls flapped. "Commissioner! It's empty!"
Booms echoed north of them. Nightwing flung himself back in his seat. "Catwoman succeeded at least."
"Regroup on Scott Boulevard!" Gordon shouted before closing the hatch. He gunned the motor and spun out as he turned to go down E Nineteenth Street. "Gotham City is not dying on my watch."
"We've got twenty minutes for the convoy to pass Apple Street on Scott." Nightwing tapped a gloved finger on the dashboard clock.
"Right." He shifted the gears, turned onto Roberts Avenue, and increased the speed.
Nightwing's hands curled around the seat restraint over his shoulders. "I hope Catwoman's sabotage worked. Just in case."
Gordon didn't say anything as the Tumbler crossed the Midtown Bridge. Even without traffic, they would barely reach the spot on time. He didn't want to chase the truck down. What would happen if they had to shoot it to make it stop?
They sped down Moses Boulevard and turned onto Apple Street next to Blackgate Prison. The limited windshield protected his view from the damage done to this block. He slammed on the brakes and stopped the Tumbler in the middle of the Scott Boulevard intersection.
Nightwing hit the button that opened the hatch. They stared down the empty street. Gordon looked north at the deserted other side of the street. They reached this spot with five minutes to spare. The convoy should be on this street!
"Son of a bitch!" Nightwing hit the Tumbler's metal frame. "Where the hell did they divert it to? This was the route they never changed!"
Gordon closed the canopy, and turned the Tumbler down Scott. "We have to find it."