It was early morning, but, recovered from the previous night's exhaustive training session, Bruce Wayne was back down in the Batcave.
Doesn't he ever rest, Alfred wondered.
Right behind Alfred, Sasha was coming down the stairs. Glancing back at her, Alfred could tell Sasha was not recovered from her training session. She had a large bruise on her arm, and looked like she needed rest.
Alfred looked back at Wayne, as Sasha came up and stood next to him.
"Aren't you tired, Bruce?" she asked.
Bruce Wayne glanced back at Sasha and Alfred. "Good morning," he answered. "Not really. How are you? Did you sleep well?"
"Yes, but I'm still exhausted, physically." She glanced at Alfred, then stepped closer to the Batcomputer, looking at Bruce Wayne, and looking at his work. "Defeating me like you did is one thing, but then, unarmed, you leveled those three guys in the next fight." Sasha stepped closer yet, studying Wayne. "How did you do that? You weren't tired…" she paused. "Those are three of the best martial artists in the world."
Wayne looked at her. "I studied at a school in Asia."
Sasha looked intently at him. "I've seen the resumes of those three. Two of them taught at schools in Asia, and one of them teaches in a school here in Gotham City. They teach or have taught at the best schools in the world, they've won many competitions – they were armed, they outnumbered you three-to-one, you had just come out of a fight with me – granted, that probably wasn't too difficult for you, but it should have tired you out at least a little – and then you went through those three men like they were nothing. How do you do that?"
Sasha paused for a breath, and Alfred, sensing the direction the conversation was taking, took advantage of the opportunity to speak.
"Master Bruce, I think I shall bring us all some tea. Have you had breakfast, sir?"
Bruce Wayne was looking at Sasha. Glancing toward Alfred, he smiled. "Not yet." He paused. "I am a little hungry, if you are offering to bring something down to the Batcave."
"Breakfast for two then?"
"I was hoping it would be for three. I would like to go over a few things with the two of you while we're eating."
"I shall be delighted to join the two of you, sir."
Alfred turned around, and disappeared up the stairs that led to an exit in Wayne Manor near the kitchen.
Turning to Sasha, Bruce Wayne looked at her, then turned some more, and focused again on the Batcomputer.
"Those men have had the best training money can buy." Wayne paused. "They offer me the best training money can buy," he added, thoughtfully. "The training I received can't be bought. It's not for sale, not at any price."
Sasha considered Wayne's words carefully.
Glancing up and seeing she was puzzled, Wayne continued.
"The instructor I studied with didn't teach me any moves, or anything like that. I had already learned nearly all of that when I was with him."
"What did he teach you then?" Sasha was intrigued.
"He taught me things that transcend the mechanics of fighting."
Ignoring the question, Wayne turned back to the Batcomputer, nodding at an image that was on the screen.
"The mayor's race is now between two candidates. One, Councilman McMullen, is seen as stronger in the 'War on Crime' because of his experience in law enforcement. However, many Gotham residents favor his opponent, Councilman Salama, who is younger, because they want some fresh ideas; McMullen has been in Gotham politics a long time, serving on the city council for two decades now, while Salama hasn't even completed one term on the city council."
Wayne nodded towards another photo.
"Some see Salama as a young upstart, and question his experience. The pundits have suggested that it was a smart move on Salama's part, naming an experienced city council member as his running mate. With Councilman Lidden as vice-mayor, that would compliment Salama's perceived inexperience, although it has been suggested that this may also co-opt the freshness of his ideas."
"What's all of this really about, though?"
"An investigative report tied McMullen to an organized crime cartel that is connected with The Demon. They traffic hard narcotics, guns… they control prostitution, and have been involved in trafficking women for forced prostitution. It is a very violent cartel, and one of the cartel's front organizations has been active in political fund-raising for McMullen."
"So Salama would be better?"
"Not exactly," Wayne answered. Another image came up on another screen on the Batcomputer. "Salama has for many years been a front man for this guy, a billionaire who believes narcotics should be legalized. And," Wayne turned back to the image of Councilman Lidden, "Lidden, too, has been connected to narcotics traffickers who, in turn, are connected to The Demon."
"So the mayor's race is a proxy fight for control of the heroin trade?"
"In part, yes. Of course, many other things are at stake, and many of those other things are legal. But drugs play a big part in this election cycle."
Absorbing it all, Sasha looked at Wayne, then abruptly asked, "So what did this teacher of yours teach you?"
Bruce Wayne turned to Sasha, and looked closely at her.
"I had a chance to meet the instructor who taught my teacher, back when my teacher was young. I didn't catch this instructor's name. In fact, I don't even know if he has one. He was an old man even then, when my teacher was in training." Wayne began the story, and Sasha listened closely. "When the communists took over in that country, decades ago, this instructor was an old man."
"This same guy you met? The guy who taught your teacher?"
"The same guy," Wayne nodded, then continued with his narrative. "The communists had lists of people they were rounding up, and this guy's name must have been on one of their lists. They sent a squad of soldiers into the village one day, and surrounded him. They looked him over closely, then told him to go with them." Wayne paused, reliving the story he had heard, as Sasha listened, imagining it all.
"What happened?" Sasha asked, curiosity overcoming the silence.
"The old man disappeared."
Scowling, Sasha nodded. "In my country, too, many people disappeared because of the communists."
"No," Wayne shook his head. "I mean, they didn't get him, because he disappeared."
Confused, Sasha looked at Bruce Wayne. "Do you mean he got away and hid from them?"
"No, hiding is for children. I mean he disappeared, right before their eyes."
Captivated, Sasha's mouth opened.
"As in 'Now you see him, now you don't,'" Wayne explained.
Turning back to the Batcomputer, Bruce Wayne added, "The communist soldiers were so scared, they never came back to the village."