The time is 10:47 PM.
Snow descends from the cool-grey skies in waves, covering Gotham City in an even sheet of white frost. All is quiet tonight, with the sole melodies of the night originating from the citizens of the city. Children wander—singing, playing, and laughing—amidst the freedom of holiday recess, individuals scurry about the streets attempting to perfect various preparations for the holidays, and the elderly reside cozily, fortified by the happiness and comfort provided by family, friends, and neighbours alike. A cheerful time, spent with cheerful people, within a cheerful city. Oh, if only that last bit were true! For this was Gotham: a city that—beneath a pleasantly cheerful exterior—is plagued by the realization of crime, poverty, and dissolution. Could this season—a season of greetings, cheerfulness, and love—rouse a change in the heart of the city, however? Possibly.
The citizens of Gotham have learned that anything is possible and that they—at every viable moment—should expect the unexpected; most particularly, a certain billionaire that resides on the outskirts of the city…
The time is 10:47 PM.
Bruce sits at his computer screen, watching, listening, and hearing. All is quiet across the city. He is alone, down in this complex domain—one of which is built solely upon effort, hardship, and sweat. He gazes upon the trophies—a hanging deck of cards, enormous penny, towering animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex, and much more—and recalls the memories that each one entails. So many failures in this war… and yet numerous triumphs. He crosses his legs, engulfed in thought, when he comes upon the current time.
“Ten forty-seven,” he sighs. One of the worst moments of his life.
After all these years… the sting is still there; the pain is still present. However, that is not to say that the vacant hole left by the absence of his parents has not been mended, in a way. In the years following the Waynes’ demise, many individuals have found themselves an essential part of their son’s life (both of them, to be more specific). Alfred, Leslie, Selina, Dick, Barbara, Tim, Cassandra (as well as Jason, of course—if only he weren’t so damned stubborn presently…)—he loves them all; they are his only family. And yet, in spite of this fact, Bruce sits alone in the Cave—alone in the dark. A lonely soul.
No one is visiting this Christmas. Each and every individual is doing one thing or another; each and every member of the family is occupied. It is solely Bruce and Alfred—just like old times. The former remembers a time in which everyone made preparations, a time in which seeing one another on the holidays was a necessity. Afterall, in this line of work, every moment spent together is most precious. However, as the world around them progressively changed and evolved—at times for the better, other times for worse—the traditions of times past seemed to crawl to an end.
Normally, Bruce paid no mind to this; the holidays would whisk by with the company of his fateful butler and companion. Strangely, however, the older man wished to be entirely solitary in his preparations of this year’s holiday meal. It seems that everyone requires some alone time at one point or another, even Alfred.
Thus, Bruce closes his eyes and slumps steadily into the cushion of his swivel chair, rocking back and forth with the movements of his dangling feet. At this point, he is certain that there will be no need for the Batman tonight.
Suddenly, as if fate had scoffed at the man’s abrupt presumption, a subtle beeping of the computer screen sounds.
Bruce carefully opens his eyelids, peering wearily at the screen before him. He recognizes the sound immediately.
“Gordon,” he exhales, massaging both temples with one exhausted hand. He rises from his chair, gathering the strength to push himself forward, the energy to “get dressed”. First comes the armored bodysuit, next are the boots, followed by the utility belt, subsequently the gloves, thereafter the cape and cowl, and finally—to enhance the appearance—a frightening scowl. “It’s time to go to work.”
With speed matched by no other human alive, the Batman rushes toward the Batmobile and somersaults inside. With both hands braced at the wheel, he sets the necessary augmentations—thrusters, on; batteries, power; turbines, speed—and speeds off in a burst of sparkling, crackling fire. The entire city was in danger and that meant that there was no time to waste…
The time is 11:30 PM.
The night is a blistering cascade of red, blue, and white. Sirens wail as police cars screech across snow-coated roads; the entire downtown district of the city is engulfed in chaos. At the epicenter of the chaos is none-other-than Commissioner Gordon, as well as a platoon of brave men and women that constitute a portion of the Gotham City Police Department. Each and every individual present among the crowd—be it a fierce, brave police officer or cowering, frightened pedestrian—is watching, listening, and waiting; they are waiting for a sign—any sign—and anticipating the impending doom that may soon be brought upon by the situation at hand.
Buzz! Buzz! The pressure of a vibrating walkie-talkie surges through the stringent police commissioner’s body. Without turning his attention from the situation at hand, Gordon reaches into his pant’s pocket, pulls the device from out the inside, and speaks, “Situation progression, Bullock?”
“It ain’t lookin’ too good Commish,” sighs the detective. “Suspect still has all the exits blocked and wired with explosives; did the bomb squad make it here yet?”
“No,” growls Gordon, “this damned blizzard has blocked most of the roads. What about the hostages?”
“They’re alive, but that ain’t saying too much,” replies the other. “One’s bleeding out; he’s got a bullet wound to the leg. Everybody else is safe… as long as that maniac doesn’t take his finger off the trigger. Any word from that pointy-eared freak?”
“He should be on his way.”
Just then, a thundering screech penetrates the hopeless atmosphere as the Batmobile swerves to a stop and the vehicle shifts through the thick tufts of snow that plague the ground below its wheels. The cockpit of the vehicle opens and Batman leaps into the outside world. Everyone turns, watching. Silently. As he moves forward, towards the area of disaster, the ground seems to tremble; the ground seems to shake as his feet meet the snow-ridden ground. Strangely, his movements are swift, though they do not produce any sound. There is no crunching of snow, not toppling of feet as they wade through frost: there is only silence. Before long, the figure comes to a stop alongside the police commissioner. He speaks.
“Gordon. What’s the situation?”
“Our suspect’s name is Bryant Gran,” says Gordon as he passes his masked companion a pair of binoculars. Batman peers through the lenses, surveying the occupied Bills-Kahn Department Store. “According to a member of the department’s faculty, Gran’s usually soft-spoken and well-mannered. Never easy to ire, always eager to help.”
“Any idea what happened to him?”
“A few months ago, he was fired from the department store. Supposedly due to budget cuts.”
“Supposedly?” asks the Batman with a raise of the eyebrow.
“An eyewitness tells us that Bryant claimed that he was fired due to an ongoing conflict with a colleague. After his wife passed back in ’09, Bryant became involved with a fellow co-worker: one Erica Walker—who just so happens to be our leading informant on the situation. Unfortunately for him, Ms. Walker was also involved with another man; said individual happened to be one Jerry Finger, Bryant’s manager.”
“Unfortunate,” interrupts Batman, “though hardly enough of a reason to hold an entire complex under siege.”
“You didn’t let me finish,” states Gordon, voice dripping with annoyance. “Following the termination of his contract at Bills-Kahn, it seems that Bryant was blacklisted by Finger. No one would hire him; the reasons as to why varied, though they were all spurious. Needless to say, Bryant lost everything. His home, his finances…”
“And the situation?”
“It’s complicated,” sighs Gordon, removing his glasses and massaging his temples. “Bryant blockaded all of the building’s exits and rigged them with explosives. I anticipated the bomb squad’s arrival but, as you can see, they were a no-show. I have a sniper stationed at the Dini Towers complex, but Bryant is armed with a trigger. If his finger falls from that button, the building’s gonna blow to hell.”
“What about the roof? Is that rigged as well?”
“No,” Gordon answers, “and we haven’t attempted to infiltrate that area of the complex. He’s too close—would likely notice us scaling the building before we can breach. But I take it that you’re going to try to…” Gordon turns, but there is nobody there; yet, a familiar voice sounds inside his ears. He smiles as he realizes that his “partner” has placed a communicator inside his ear. “Every damn time.”
Silently, Batman lands upon the roof of the department building.
“Gordon,” Batman whispers, “I’m on the roof of the department complex. Have your people at the ready.”
“Affirmative,” responds Gordon.
With a click, Batman disconnects the transmission. He peers inside, watching, listening, and hearing:
“I didn’t have to do this, you know!” screams the manic Bryant. “YOU MADE ME DO THIS! I’VE LOST EVERYTHING BECAUSE OF YOU!”
“Y-you don’t have to d-do this, Bryant,” chokes a seemingly injured Finger. Though… there is something… off about his movements. He doesn’t appear injured at all, as he is moving the “bloody” leg just fine. Is that… coloring…?… And the look in his eyes… it’s not composed of fear but… sorrow?… “I-I’m sorry. For everything.”
“Ha! You’re sorry?!” shouts back the other. “Do you know what you’ve done to me? My home, my savings… my LIFE, all because of a damned misunderstanding. All because of a damned squabble! STUPID, MEANINGLESS SQUABBLE!”
“You… you don’t understand…”
“Understand? UNDERSTAND! All of this… over a woman. A WOMAN! This.. all of this, you.. it’s insane… ha… but, haha, then… again… ’tis the season, isn’t it?…”
Something isn’t right, Bruce thinks. With two blinks of an eye, the Detective Vision inside the cowl bursts to life and the area is shown in a distinguishing blue tone. No… the bombs… they aren’t… God no… He can’t… “GORDON,” barks Batman, “the bombs aren’t rigged! I repeat, they are not rigged. Notify your people immediately! Inform them that they should not take immediate action. I’m going in.”
“Got it,” replies Gordon. “Calling all GCPD Operatives at the site of Bills-Kahn: the complex it not rigged to explode. I repeat: the site is not rigged to explode! I want you to—”
“On it Boss,” chimes in the sniper positioned at Dini Towers, perhaps too expediently. “I’m taking aim now.”
“What? No! NO! I repeat: do not take aim! DO NOT TAKE AIM!” pleads Gordon, but it is too late—his cries fall on deaf ears as the sniper disables his communicator. “Damn it! Batman! We have problem!” The Commissioner rushes from his position at the front of the building, darting with speed extraordinary for a man his age. “The sniper’s taking position! Get him out of there! NOW!”
With no time to spare, Batman shifts his entire weight— 210 pounds, to be exact—onto the glass. CRASH! The weird figure of the night explodes from the ceiling, down, down, to the floors of the department building in a gust of fluttering winter winds. Then, he explodes from the ground into a dash and rushes towards the suicidal soul, barking, “Bryant! GET DOWN!”
He is too late…
The bullet that was intended for Bryant’s chest grazes his shoulder as Batman tackles him to the ground. Subsequently, the remaining operatives of the GCPD—including Commissioner Gordon—explode into the department store, ensuring that no more blood is spilled.
Acting quickly, Batman removes the cloak from around his neck and wraps it around the injured man’s wound. The crippled soul shudders and shakes, trying to squirm from the Batman’s grasp.
“W-why… won’t you just let me die…?” he sobs. “Why do you care if someone like m-me… lives to see another… day…?”
“Because all life is sacred,” answers the Batman, a gentle smile at his lips, “even yours.”
The time is 5:25 AM.
Bruce Wayne is home at last. Night has transformed into dawn and the Batman is no longer needed… at least, for the time being. The situation previously at hand has been successfully defused and Bryant is comfortably recovering at the Gotham Memorial Hospital. They are all close ones… each and every situation brought upon by the madness of Gotham. Perhaps, Bruce thinks to himself, Wayne Enterprises can offer Mr. Gran a job after he recovers. Yes—anything to help a soul in need of assistance.
Wearily, he walks upon the stairs of the Cave, heading upwards: heading into the Manor. He wonders to himself what Alfred has occupied himself with during his absence—after all, he asked for complete and total solarity the night before. Turning the gears of the Grandfather clock, Bruce finds himself puzzled at the melody of noise that he hears coming from behind the object. Exiting the cave, he turns, heading toward the living room, and discovers…
“Well, look who’s here!”
Well. He certainly wasn’t expecting this.
They are all here. Alfred, Dick, Barbara, Tim, Cassandra, Selina, Leslie, and even Jason (something that is most unexpected)—his family is here tonight. Here to share the holiday together.
“Please don’t try to hide it sir,” smirks Alfred, “you weren’t expecting this, were you?”
A smile edges its way across Bruce’s lips. No, he most certainly did not expect this. This was the city of Gotham, after all, and he had forgotten the most important rule of thumb: “Always expect the unexpected”. Perhaps, this day—and the experiences provided with it—served a greater purpose; a purpose not just toward Bruce and his family, but the city itself. Through hope and love… maybe—just maybe—the good can prevail over the darkness that resides in the framework of the city. Gotham was a city—and though it had its share of problems, such as crime and corruption—there were good people here. And that, in and of itself, is a magical thing.