Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vasilissa the Beauty (Part 1 of 12)

The figure glanced at the clock -- it was after one in the morning.

Dark, non-descript, the vehicle was moving through the cold, windy rain. Its lights on, it looked like a large sports car on the streets of Gotham City, but, at the flip of a switch, the lights could quickly rotate out of view, being replaced by low-observable armor plating. The high-tech exterior of the vehicle diffused and absorbed electromagnetic radiation, shortening the distance from which the vehicle would appear on most radars, and limiting the amount of light that reflected off it. In inclement weather at night, it could nearly disappear, invisible to police radars and other electronic surveillance devices, and visible to the human eye only at surprisingly short range.

"Remember, Bruce, if they can't see you, they don't know you're there," Lucius Fox had been explaining the first time the figure saw the vehicle.

"That's the idea."

"No, you don't understand. If they don't know you're there, people will crash into you. Some kid hot-rodding down an alley, a person on a bicycle... you're a danger to others around you. And you will look suspicious. A parked car that no one sees until they get right up on top of it will attract attention."

"What do you suggest?"

"Use this feature sparingly. Engage it, make a quick turn so people can't see you making the turn, then disengage it. Repeat that process a couple of times until you are sure no one is following you. Then, when you are on a new street, going in a new direction, leave it disengaged, and you are just another sports car again."

"Okay, thanks," the figure had responded.

"By the way, Bruce," Fox continued.


"If you don't mind my asking... just who is it that you think is going to be chasing you?"

The figure paused, and made eye contact with Fox, before turning away, his answer quietly drifting in the air. "Everybody."

Returning to the present, the figure considered the situation he was facing, and the visibility conditions outside. My kind of night, he thought.

"Tell her Bruce Wayne is out of town, but that he is flying back right now. Tell her he is having communications problems, and will call her soon."

"She may be in danger right now, sir," the voice answered through the communications link.

"That's why I'm going over there first, to check things out."

"In that case, it will be a few hours before Bruce Wayne can arrive. May I suggest sending Sasha in the mean time? Sasha has been worried about Bruce Wayne, and if the two of them met there, she would feel better and be less suspicious." The voice paused. "The good doctor would probably feel more comfortable, as well."

"Good idea."

"Should I inform Sasha not to be afraid of bats?" the voice prompted. "Just in case?"

"No, not just yet."

"You will call someone if the need arises, won't you?"


"Even if that means letting Sasha in on the secret?"

"You have my word on it."

"I shall see you when you return, then."

"See you then, Alfred."

The figure switched off the comm link and looked around. He was sure Catwoman would be long gone, but wondered who else might be lurking in the shadows. And, he was determined not to be caught off guard again. Now he had to hurry, too, and be gone again before Sasha arrived.

At the flip of a switch, the Batmobile went into stealth mode, then turned down an alley that ran behind a condominium complex.

Her hand ran across the baseball bat. She had been contemplating buying a handgun, even though they were illegal to own in Gotham City without special permits, which she knew would be difficult to get. For now, she relied on her intelligence, her physical fitness, and a piece of sports equipment which could be a devastating weapon.

She looked again at the card. Deep in thought, she read the verse for the hundredth time:

Blue is the water by which comes the green.
Tall is the lady; she's Gotham's queen.
Under her eyes, the Roman commands,
Fueling the vices of his empire's lands.
For wont of their vices they give freedom away;
High is the price for their habits they pay.
See the green lady, she is a slave,
See her blue knights, they are but knaves.
Powerful is the Roman, this land he does rule;
King takes queen on a knight for a fool.

Wondering what the verse might mean, her thoughts were disturbed by a peculiar noise outside on her balcony. Putting her cellphone in a pocket, she picked up the baseball bat and stepped toward the sliding glass door. From it, she could see nearly all her balcony, and the parts of her balcony that she could not see were a step away from the door; no one was in sight, and that meant that if someone was on her balcony, the person would be far enough away from her door when she opened it to allow her to react.

She had just spoken to Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred, a moment ago. His voice was reassuring, as was the message he delivered. One of Wayne Enterprise's best security people, a young lady named Sasha, who recently had been assigned as Bruce Wayne's body guard, was on her way. She would be there in fifteen or twenty minutes -- and, she was armed. Bruce Wayne himself would be there in a couple of hours.

The spooked feeling she had had earlier in the evening was now gone, as her confidence in herself and in her friends returned and drove it out. Holding the baseball bat up, Dr. Sandra Villanova opened the door and stepped out onto her balcony.

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