The Warrior, Part 2 of 3
"Who?" Alfred approached him slowly.
"There are legitimate business interests that are making a great deal of money from Gotham's War on Crime, a war that was prompted by the attack on the Gotham Towers."
"Making a reasonable profit by supplying those who defend us against crime is not a crime itself, Master Bruce."
"No," Wayne answered, turning to Alfred. "The real crime wasn't the attack on the Gotham Towers. That attack covered the real crime."
Alfred looked puzzled.
"The fires were started in the Gotham Towers, then somehow spread to Building 7. No fire could bring down three steel-frame skyscrapers all in the same day. The buildings were demolished explosively."
"So they were destroyed with the help of explosives. It's a minor twist on the story, sir."
"The fire was a distraction. While everyone was reacting to the emergency, the computers in the buildings continued running. Someone was pushing stock trades through the unattended computers, then demolished the buildings to cover their tracks. Building 7 was destroyed in part because it housed the agencies that investigate shady stock trades and white collar crime."
"Someone murdered all those people just to cover their stock trades?"
"They were laundering money. And, somebody wanted to have a War on Crime to make more money." Wayne looked back at the photos, the drawing and the statue. "On top of that, someone in the Gotham Bureau of Investigation was preventing Gotham's law enforcement from acting on information that they had, information that might very well have allowed Gotham Police to prevent the attack on the towers. Even now, honest people in the GBI who come forward are fired, silenced by court orders and harassed."
"Indeed, sir," Alfred commented. It was hard to imagine Alfred excited about anything, but he certainly seemed to react a little to that.
"And," Wayne continued, "someone in the mayor's office is obstructing justice and covering the criminals' trail." He turned back to Alfred. "The mayor runs a very secretive city hall, one of the most secretive we've had in decades in Gotham. His announcement that 'Either you're with us or you're with the criminals' in this War on Crime is especially chilling, having the effect of preventing people with important information about problems in Gotham's government from coming forward with it. They run the risk of being labeled an enemy of Gotham: their information might not be acted upon, but pointing out problems in Gotham's government may cause them to be silenced by Gotham's authorities."
"Against this kind of background, it's a race against the clock to find the nuclear weapons that the Mujahideen have hidden somewhere here in Gotham," Alfred added somberly.
There was a long pause as each of them thought about the situation.
Finally, Alfred broke the silence. "You can't protect the world, Master Bruce."
"No, but I can protect this little girl!" Wayne snapped back. Gently, he turned to the little girl. "It's going to be okay," he said softly. Wayne didn't know her language, but hoped she would sense the meaning of what she was being told. He turned back to the master. "You talk so much about 'the skilled warrior'," Wayne said, a mocking tone noticeable in his voice. "You of all people should know, the defense of the weak and innocent is the first duty of any warrior!" He looked back down at the girl. She still looked scared, but he could sense she felt a little more comforted than before. "There must be some place we can take her, an orphanage or something...." Wayne thought aloud.
"Even in Gotham City, where there are many such places, this is a scene which plays itself out all too frequently, Mr. Wayne," the master answered. There was a pause, then the master added, "Besides, it looks like you're not the only one interested in her."
At the master's words, Wayne looked up. The two men from the store, the one who had been standing in the shade and the older one who had been sitting, were walking across the clearing toward them.
Wayne stood up, facing the men, with the little girl behind him. "Tell them they had better not touch her," he told the master in a low voice.
"If you touch those men, you will be spending time in an Asian prison. They're very well-connected...."
"If they touch this girl, they'll be dead!" Wayne shot back. "Tell them!"
The men were walking slowly towards them, as the master leaned over and whispered, "You are here for a test, Mr. Wayne. If you involve yourself with this little girl, you will fail the test, and there will be nothing more I will be able to do for you."
"Any kind of a test that I would fail by trying to help this little girl is a test that is not worth passing, or even taking!" Wayne shot the master an angry glance. "I had a higher opinion of you than this," he added. The two men were getting close now, as the younger man motioned to the girl and said something to the older man. The older man nodded. "Now tell them!" insisted Wayne defiantly.
"Are you sure?" the master asked, as the two men stopped several feet in front of Wayne. "No more training, no more fortune and future in Gotham City, just Bruce Wayne rotting in an Asian prison... because that is what you risk for this little girl. Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Now tell them!" Wayne answered firmly, ready for a fight.
The master said something to the two men in their language. The old man smiled as the younger one said something back. The master answered as he made a motion indicating Bruce Wayne and the girl. Wayne tried to stand a little more firmly and defiantly, as if that were possible. The younger man said something, then the master spoke again. Then the old man said something, and the master nodded and bowed low, as did the younger man that had walked over with the old man. Then the two men bowed to the master, and the master bowed back to them again.
"What did he say?" asked Wayne.
"He said to congratulate you," the master answered. "You passed the test."
Wayne's mouth fell open, as he glanced behind him at the little girl, who was smiling now.
"It is a great honor to present to you the master who taught me so many years ago," the master continued, indicating the old man who now stood before Wayne, bowing. "Bruce Wayne, this is 'The Ancient'."
Wayne looked at Alfred.
"You can battle the Mujahideen," Alfred began, "perhaps even corruption in the mayor's office, but if you battle corrupt elements in the GBI, you will be labeled as 'with the criminals'. Those corrupt elements are, after all, the GBI, and the GBI always gets its man!" Alfred looked at Wayne. "If you battle them, the price could be all of this," Alfred pointed around the Batcave.
"If I don't try to defend Gotham, the price will be my soul."