Friday, October 24, 2008

Remember, Part 1

The figure sat in the shadows, illuminated by the glow from the multifunction displays in front of him.

It was quiet, and behind him, the faintest of noises could just be discerned.

He turned and looked, catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure off behind some equipment.

He smiled. The raccoons could be quite... what was the word he was looking for?

It was now after midnight, and his thoughts drifted back to the events of what was now the previous day.

"Inspector Gordon, good to see you again!" Rachel Dawes greeted the head of Gotham City's interagency task force to bring in Batman.

"Hi, how you doing?" Gordon sounded somewhat tired.

Rachel glanced at her watch; it was almost noon. She knew that often his response could be misunderstood by people, who thought him detached and at times a little gruff. Of course, she knew him a little better than most people. Both Rachel Dawes and Jim Gordon had been friends of Bruce Wayne since Rachel and Bruce were kids, and since Jim Gordon was just a patrolman in the Gotham Police Department. Rachel spent some time with Bruce in the wake of the deaths of Bruce's parents, and Officer Gordon had taken a special interest in young Bruce Wayne; Gordon was the first officer on the scene of the murders, and checked in on young Bruce periodically, especially in the first months after the deaths.

"I'm not sure about the case against this Batman. Witnesses have him killing several people, but the witnesses are themselves thugs from Gotham's underworld. They have long police records, and the most interesting part is that they themselves admit that the people Batman killed were in the midst of committing multiple felonies when Batman killed them. Furthermore, for at least half the counts, the people Batman killed were trying to kill Batman...."

"Justifiable homicide," interrupted Gordon.

"We could get him on weapons charges...." Dawes said tentatively.

"We could get him for speeding, too," interrupted Gordon, "but somehow, considering everything that is going on in Gotham City, I think our attention should be focused elsewhere."

There was a pause, then the elevator door opened.

"Right this way, Jim," Rachel began to address him by his first name. "Bruce is expecting us in the room at the end of the hallway. It has such a wonderful view of Gotham City," she added cheerfully.

Gordon looked at her. Each of them had been there before, having lunch with Bruce Wayne; seldom, though, had they been there together.

"This 'Riddler'," Alfred began, "had to have known something about this impending economic crisis."

Bruce Wayne looked at Alfred.

"He wasn't just helping us understand what had already happened; he was alerting us to what would happen."

Alfred studied the look on Master Bruce's face. There were times when Bruce Wayne kept silent, and it was hard to tell if he heard and understood things, his mind racing ahead in leaps and bounds making connections that Alfred had not yet thought of, or if he was merely daydreaming.

It was late, Alfred thought – Master Bruce had had a long day today, including an important lunch with Inspector Gordon and several others. Perhaps he was just tired.

"Jim Gordon. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Nygma, Miss Callahan."

They shook hands and sat down.

Bruce Wayne looked casually around the table. Edward Nygma, who had been an investigative reporter and had done so much research into the events surrounding the attack on the Gotham Trade Center, together with Linda Callahan, an independent investigative reporter who had been researching corruption in Gotham City's law enforcement community, were sitting down at a table with Inspector Jim Gordon of the Gotham Police Department, and with Assistant Deputy District Attorney Rachel Dawes.

"If you remember your history," Nygma began, "something similar happened in 1873. There had been a boom in railroad construction, which turned out to be a bubble – too much investment in an industry yielding returns that were too long-term. A major Gotham financial institution had been a heavy investor in the Gotham Westward Railway, but when Gotham Westward's stock prices fell, its stock and corporate bonds were no longer worth as much. That financial institution was one of many that found itself in trouble. The stock market went down so far and so fast, that at the end of September and the beginning of October, the Gotham Stock Exchange actually closed for two weeks. Hundreds of businesses failed in Gotham, construction work lagged, there were layoffs, wages were cut...."

Gordon and Dawes were captivated as Nygma explained, tag-teaming with Callahan, the history of economic crises in Gotham City.

Wayne smiled. He knew that Special Agent Nicholas Kyle of the Gotham Bureau of Investigation, who was one of Falcone's key men inside Gotham's law enforcement community, was now an informant reporting to Inspector Gordon. He also knew that Detective Sergeant O'Hara, a very trusted member of Gordon's team, had been interviewing Vasilissa quite extensively – and Vasilissa had extensive knowledge about the inside workings of Gotham's underworld. The pieces of the puzzle were in place; the stage was set for Falcone's empire to come crashing down, and for Aladdin and his Mujahideen then to be dealt a terrible blow from which they would not soon recover.

"The Crisis of 1893 was similar, and in many ways grew out of the 1873 crisis," Linda Callahan picked up. "There had been a 'railroad bubble', similar to the 'tech bubble' that Gotham City experienced in the last decade. Railroads had overbuilt, and in an effort to take over their competitors, they placed themselves in dangerous financial positions. The crisis with the railroads impacted not just investors who held stock and corporate bonds from the railroads, but it also impacted the economy, which was heavily dependent upon rail transport. A credit crunch rippled through the Gotham economy, and there were runs on banks, much like we see today...."

True, Wayne thought – Ra's al Ghul would probably escape. But, based on Wayne's conversations with Talia, daughter of Ra's al Ghul, it seemed she now was leaning away from him. Ra's al Ghul had at first abandoned his other daughter, Nyssa Raatko, to her fate – abducted and raped, she was forced into prostitution in Gotham City, but now, as a high-class call-girl named "Vasilissa", she was giving valuable inside information that would disable the tentacles Ra's al Ghul was using to manipulate Gotham City and steer it on a course to its destruction. Moreover, Nyssa was winning over her half-sister, Talia, driving a wedge between Talia and their father. While he might escape, Ra's al Ghul would take a long time to rebuild his organization in Gotham City, and he would be doing so without some key players that would be hard to replace – including his very own daughter, Talia.

"These financial crises happen periodically. What is different in more modern crises," Nygma explained, as Callahan pulled out files with graphs, statistics and illustrations, "is that, for the past century, Gotham City had a regulatory commission, whose board of governors is supposed to monitor the credit situation in Gotham City's financial circles, identify potential problems, and take action to isolate such problems before they can have a wider effect in Gotham City. Despite this, we continue to have more crises – the financial world develops faster than regulators can keep up with it, and, in any case, there is always a way around regulation."

Linda Callahan nodded. "Legislation is reactive, not proactive," she added. "It will never keep up with new, inventive ways to game the system."

"Exactly," Edward Nygma agreed. "What is interesting, though, are the parallels between the financial activity surrounding the attack on the Gotham Trade Center seven years ago, and the financial activity in the midst of our crisis today."

Gordon and Dawes exchanged glances.

"Law enforcement, especially the Gotham Bureau of Investigation, had general information that an attack was coming, that it would be arson, and so on. Despite this, Gotham authorities issued no warnings about the attack. Later, the mayor said no one had predicted an attack that Tuesday morning, and that statement was accurate only because he qualified it." Linda had them captivated. "Similarly, although many economists commented on the impending crisis we now face, the regulatory commission's board of governors took no effective action to prevent it."

"The causes were different," Nygma picked up. "In one case, it was an arson attack; in the other, a banking bubble. But, the opportunity was the same: chaos in the financial sector, its impact on futures, options, short-selling – competition to be taken over or bankrupted, fortunes to be made. Now, in the case of the attack on the Gotham Trade Center, these graphs show stock trading that occurred before and after the attack. As you look long-term, spectacular profits were made by some who seemed to know, a year or more in advance, what sectors of Gotham's financial world would be impacted, and how – and this is happening again today."

Linda Callahan looked at Inspector Jim Gordon and Assistant Deputy District Attorney Rachel Dawes. They were paying close attention, and seemed very interested as Edward Nygma reviewed the current crisis, drawing parallels to financial moves made at the time of the arson attack on the Gotham Trade Center just seven short years ago. She glanced at Bruce Wayne – he seemed to be off in his own little world.

The only problem, Bruce Wayne thought, was the corruption in Gotham City's elected elite. The mayor and both of the men who wanted to replace him were deep in Falcone's pockets, whether they realized it or not. Gotham City needed an honest mayor. Aladdin wanted to destroy Gotham City, and had the means to do so, but Falcone's tentacles kept Gotham City from dealing with Aladdin. Ra's al Ghul was determined to manipulate Falcone, Aladdin and the mayor's office, so there would be no adequate response to the threat posed by Aladdin; Aladdin would devastate Gotham City with his nuclear weapons, and Ra's al Ghul would disappear back into the underworld, his mission accomplished.

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