“I hate being out in the open sunlight like this…” Batman thought
The Batman crouched on the deck of an all too modern apartment building, binoculars raised to the eyes of his cowl. He didn’t necessarily have to keep watching through them at this particular moment, but he preferred it to the frustrating glare of sunlight he’d have to deal with if he lowered them.
“Bruce probably hates being out in daylight like this” Superman thought
Superman knelt next to and slightly behind the Dark Knight, trying to keep his profile small.
“Is it really taking this long to spot all the hostages?” He asked impatiently.
“Then… why are you still using the binoculars?”
“I’m planning your route.” Said Batman, his gaze still locked on the building he was surveying.
“Right.” Superman said, peeking over his friend’s shoulder to x-ray the building himself. The bank looked more or less the same to him as it had an hour ago, when he’d first surveyed it. Twenty men in ski masks with automatic weapons; twenty hostages with explosive vests. He drew his vision back and glanced again at the dark presence to his right.
“He was right to come to me. Each vest is linked via radio code to a dead man’s switch in the hand of one of the shooters. Each radio code is based on a fractal encryption key. If he’d gone in there unprepared, they’d all be dead. Now I just have to figure out the encryption code…” Batman thought
Reluctantly, Batman lowered the binoculars and turned away, into the shadow of the apartment building, detaching a portable computer and signal mic from his belt. Linking them wirelessly, he turned back around just long enough to position the mic, on its fold out legs, on the edge of the veranda.
“I have the key.”
“Great! I’ll get into position.” Superman said, standing up, preparing to fly off to the predetermined starting point for his run at the bank, before Batman caught him by the wrist.
“Forgetting something?” He stated more than asked, as he held out his left hand, with an earpiece microphone/receiver in his palm.
“Right. Almost forgot. See you in a couple minutes Bruce.” Superman smiled sheepishly, grabbing the earpiece. Without it, they couldn’t complete the mission.
Superman took to the air, taking care to stay out of sight of the bank’s windows as he took up his position, hovering a few feet off the ground, thirty feet from one of the building’s blank walls.
“This situation makes me feel helpless. I can break the sound barrier, I can crush coal into diamonds, but no matter what I thought of, I couldn’t figure out a way to rescue these hostages without losing as many as half of them. This isn’t just about speed or strength. It’s about tactics, strategy; putting the strength and speed to the right use at precisely the right time.” Superman thought
Batman put away the binoculars after verifying that his partner was in position. Unfortunately, he’d have no way to check on their progress after they started the run; his only clue as to whether they’d succeeded would be either a series of explosions, or blessed silence.
“Clark has all this power, it’s not surprising this situation has caught him off guard. Still, he shouldn’t be ashamed he couldn’t find a solution on his own. After all… I’ve run through every plan I know on how I’d deal with this by myself, and I must say; if confronted with this same situation in Gotham… I’d have called him.” Batman thought
“Allright Clark, you know the drill. Work the building from left to right. I’m going to start repeating the codes several seconds before you start to run, due to the time dilation once you start moving as fast as you’ll be moving. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep the delay to a minimum. Good luck.”
“Thanks, Bruce.” Came the reply.
“Ok. First code is 818. Second is 220. Go. Third is…”
At the word ‘Go’, the Man of Steel shot forward, accelerating to 360 miles per hour in precisely half a second. He flew straight through the steel reinforced wall of the bank and into the main lobby; where he slowed to around 200 miles per hour and sped, on foot, to the first hostage and entered the first code into the keypad on the front of their vest. Sprinting at super speed to the next hostage, he pressed the next series of three numbers, and moved on. Batman’s voice came through the earpiece at a distorted crawl, a victim of the time difference between them, as well as the time it took the hyper-wave signal to reach his earpiece. But his friend had calculated it out to the last second, and sped up his voice accordingly, so Superman received the next number at the exact moment he reached the next hostage, even though the person relaying those codes had probably finished speaking the entire sequence a few seconds ago.
“2..3..4. N..e..x..t…7..1..1. N..e..x..t…4..2..5. N..e..x..t…4..8..3. N..e..x..t…5..8..8..”
Superman took a sixteenth of a second, real-time of course, to check the reaction of the hostage takers. They were just now reacting to the sonic boom he’d created just before bursting through the wall. He was making excellent time. Five hostages with their vests disabled, fifteen to go, and Batman’s voice was keeping up with his actions perfectly.
Batman had briefed him on this; the wireless dead-man switches occasionally remodulated their frequencies on an independent, random basis, to keep someone like Batman from hacking them. The chances of one of them remodulating in the 56 seconds this operation took had been small, but they had planned for it anyway, and now Superman took the opportunity to make a quick pass through the entire building and remove the ammunition from all of the thieves’ guns. He’d just deposited the clips in a trash bin on the third floor when Batman’s signal continued.
“9..8..0. A..n..d…2..1..0. N..e..x..t…4..2..5. N..e..x..t…4..8..5…”
Superman returned to the task at hand, shooting a glance at the hostage taker next to his latest objective. The man was now reacting to the exploding section of the wall, debris of which was still falling in slow motion to the floor. He caught himself grinning at the surprised expression on the other man’s face.
“Got to focus, this could still fail. I’m halfway through, but if I get a code wrong, or one of the detonator’s remodulates again, I only have about twenty or thirty seconds ahead of these men. “ Superman thought
Three more hostages and the hostage taker he passed looked as though he was just beginning to catch the glimpse of a red and blue blur speeding through the hole in the wall. Two more, and he caught sight of one of the men on the far side of the room depress the switch. Now it was a race against the radio signal itself…
The sound of an explosion shook Batman from the nervous reverie he’d found himself in after finishing saying the last code. He ran to the rail, shading his eyes against the sun even as his heart fell. He gripped the rail in anger and despair, knowing that somehow, he’d failed.
“One of the codes must have been wrong, or maybe I was off in my calculations, leaving Clark waiting for the final code, a code that would transmit too late to his earpiece. I…” Batman
But then his eyes caught sight of the eruption of debris from the other side of the bank, and he realized that the sound he’d heard hadn’t been an explosion of plastique, but of concrete giving way at an extreme velocity. There flew Superman, taking a celebratory loop in the bright air as he shot towards him.
“We did it!” Batman shouted, slamming his fists into the rail in exclamation. A joyous smile threatened to bunch the cowl’s fabric around his mouth and he caught himself before he made a little hop of celebration.
Superman barreled into his friend, luckily at less than super-speed, giving him a bear hug and whooping in success. When he let go, his friend took a step back and struggled to hide the smile from his face as he got back to business.
“And the thieves?”
“Tied and secured in the bank vault. The bank manager can release them whenever he feels like it. Or when the police arrive, which will probably be sooner.” Said Kal-El.
“Indeed.” Batman replied, once again the calm and stern figure.
“Thank you Bruce. I couldn’t have done it without you.” Clark said, clapping his friend on the shoulder.
“I know.” Batman replied simply, touching a button on his belt that signaled for the BAT to pick him up. It was time to go home, and get out of this sun….