Gotham City, The Narrows
2:20 AMI must be out of my fucking mind.
With the hood up from the pullover from beneath her jacket obscuring her features, Jessica Jones felt a rush of anxiety push her ahead as she vaulted over a fence leading into the back alleyway of the neighborhood. She could hear a police copter in the distance, which was enough of a sign to bail out as it was, but the accompanying sounds of gunfire and broken bones meant that The Bat had already played his hand. Unless Jessica was ready to abandon all
of her remaining moral principles and leave the area, resulting in both his risky effort wasted and an innocent young girl being left to fend for herself in the midst of this horror show, it was too late to back out now. Cursing herself under her breath, Jones ducked for cover as she ran from one house to the next, staying low to the ground and avoiding the radiance of the helicopter's spotlight as it danced between the cracks.
For a brief moment, she peeked around the corner of one of the houses to look at the scene ahead. And with as much fucked up shit that she had been subjected to in her life up to this point, she still could hardly believe what she was seeing. Not only had The Batman lived up to his end of the deal and gotten himself into an all-out fist fight with half of the GCPD in order to cover her approach to the Torres house, he was - to her astonishment - actually doing a fairly good job of holding his own. For as many that swarmed around him, it seemed as though double the number were quick to fall to his quick, brutal, and precise close range attacks. For a psychopath dressed up in a leather halloween costume, Jessica had to admit it to herself. The vigilante could teach her a thing or two about self-defense.
Just as the fight seemed to escalate and more members of SWAT seemed determined to bring Batman down, Jessica took that as her cue to move. So pushing herself off of the brick wall that she had been using for cover, she leaped high into the air and pushed herself even higher - a feat of which would've ordinarily gotten her caught immediately, given that she found herself on the roof of the next house within a span of seconds. Jessica couldn't quite control how well she flew - at least, not like the guy in the t-shirt and the red cape from that other
city, and even he didn't seem to be that good at it - but she could do it well enough for short distances. The important thing was making sure that the helicopter didn't notice her - and they were so fixated on keeping an eye on The Bat, who seemed to be intentionally moving the fight away from the house she needed to get to, that it was becoming almost a non-issue. "Guess crazy still has it's moments."
, Jessica muttered under her breath. "Hope you don't get killed down there, Bats."
The truth was, Jessica really hadn't ever expected him to be real. Gotham had been a vastly different experience from New York in the three months since she had moved, so the city had still offered alot to her in terms of surprises. While the streets of New York tried to represent themselves as mainstream and inviting to tourists who didn't know any different, throwing out alot of flash and distractions to keep people from looking too closely at the city's seedier problems, Gotham practically wore it's destitution on it's sleeve like it were a damn badge of honor. Apart from the financial district, which lowlives like Jessica hardly ever found themselves in, the city was a dirty, rotting mess of muggers, street gangs, and corrupt politicians putting practiced smiles infront of the cameras to keep the commoners at bay. She knew all about the Five Families, the Royal Flush Gang, that awful Arkham Asylum, and even the supposed giant crocodile man that lived in the sewers. Those talking points among her clientele were easy enough to believe.
But one man waging a solitary war on crime? Dressed up like the lovechild between Dracula and The Gray Ghost, no less? Something about it had always seemed so absurd to her. She had a messed up past of her own, and costumes weren't exactly something that Jones was a stranger to ever since acquiring her abilities, but she wouldn't ever be caught dead trying to pick a fight with the mob or the police. Batman did both without hesitation, and he did it by scaring the living shit out of people. That meant that he was either an incredibly brave man and unwilling to let his sense of duty waiver in spite of the odds... or a complete and utter psychopath who probably really thought he was
some kind of supernatural creature who couldn't be killed.
Either way, meeting him tonight had changed Jessica's perspective on how she could possibly hope to keep a low profile in a city like Gotham. If he could manage to survive the night and go back to being a boogeyman, a person of Jessica's capabilities wouldn't have any problems. As long as she kept breaking the arm of every mugger that whistled her way, or more commonly, tried to con her out of booze money. Infact, just knowing that there was someone out there able to toss criminals against the filth-ridden alleyways and do it in a cape and mask made it very clear to her that Gotham's scum hadn't nearly
been everything that they had been talked up to be.
But this was all something to consider for later. Taking a running charge, Jessica propelled herself high into the air once again and landed on the next roof, immediately scurrying behind a chimney to avoid the helicopter's line of sight. The Torres house was just ahead, and all that she had to do was made it across the street without so much as a single person managing to spot her. Something that was easier said-than-done, given that not only had the police swarmed the area below, but there were panicked pedestrians trying to get as far away from the chaos as possible. People were leaving their own homes in droves and speeding off into the night, hoping to avoid the barrage of bullets and explosions that the GCPD's little skirmish with Bat-for-brains had already produced.
Spotting an alleyway below her, Jessica dropped down and hit the pavement with her knee outstretched, creating a spiderweb crack in the concrete. It was dark enough in the alley for her to have pulled that off, and definitely dark enough for her to sneak out of. Pulling her hood down as she placed her hands into her jacket, she took a deep breath and proceeded forward - before stopping dead in her tracks. Closing her eyes and slapping her palm against her forehead, Jessica realized that there was one crucial detail that she had failed to consider. "Goddammit."
, she angrily whispered. "C'mon, Jess. What are you thinking?"
Even though she hadn't quite been aware of her actions while under the influence of that Poison Ivy bitch, if what Batman had told her was even slightly true, there was a good chance that even if she did reach Zoe Lawton, the girl would recognize her as the woman who'd attacked her mom and attempted to kill her. And the last thing that Jessica wanted to do was traumatize the poor girl even further. "Fuck."
, Jessica reiterated, looking at herself in the reflection of a puddle made by the rain. "What to do, what to do..."
A change in appearance was needed. But she didn't have the time or the manueverability to do so.
Unless...Screw it. If it works for him, why shouldn't it work for me?
Removing her dark leather jacket and pullover, Jessica immediately went to work in tearing the item apart as quickly as possible, aided by her considerable strength. Underneath both items, she had been wearing a red New York Knicks t-shirt. The pullover itself was gray. And the jacket was a worn and faded black. Wrapping a piece of the ripped leather around her face so that her eyes and nose were cover, Jessica immediately reached up and began to rip out a pair of eyeholes.
Was this plan ridiculous? Perhaps so. Almost definitely, infact. But for the standard that Gotham had already set for her, Jessica was beginning to doubt that this was any more out of place than anything else. "So..."
Looking back down at her reflection again, now adorned with a leather 'mask', Jessica tilted her head and furrowed her brow. She already looked like a jackass, but it was better than nothing. Though now she'd have to spring for the cash to buy herself a new jacket."I guess this is a thing that's happening."Gotham City, East End
2:25 AM"All units, be advised. Suspect is on the move and heading into Dini Plaza. You are now clear to engage. Repeat, lethal force has been authorized.""Copy that!"
, I hear over the GCPD police scanner. "We are in pursuit, requesting backup!"
Despite being aware that this is cutting it close, I keep focus on the road ahead as the engine evolves from a low hum and turns into an almost animalistic roar that echoes throughout the streets. Gotham becomes little more than a blur of lights and motion as I kick The Batcycle's thrusters into action and propel myself further, accelerating me ahead and placing my trajectory well over 110 miles per hour. Directing myself to the left, I begin to weave in and out of oncoming traffic at a breakneck pace, putting some distance between myself and the pursuing squad cars that gave chase just after I left The Narrows. Through only the fault of my own, the GCPD has been made even more desperate to capture me before the night is through. I attacked those officers too viciously. Assaulted a Police Captain, a Lieutenant, a Sergeant, and SWAT before running. Even if they didn't
already believe that I tried to kill Harvey Dent, as far as the police are concerned, I just outed myself as the most dangerous man in the city. And given how close I was to losing control of my actions back there, I'm beginning to wonder if there's any validity to that.
I hallucinated again. Despite Leslie's best intentions to help me move past these episodes, this was the first time that I ever experienced visualizing my parents while in the field. In the past, I've often quelled Alfred's growing concern over my mental stability by explaining that being Batman is a form of a therapy on it's own. By allowing myself to gradually release pent up frustration and rage against the city's criminals, I even managed to fool myself into thinking that I was on the road to rehabilitation. Tonight's clearly changed all of that. If I can't rely on myself to stay level-headed in high risk situations, then I'm going to have to make changes to how I approach my mission entirely. Perhaps starting with examining, with as little prejudice as possible, whether or not I've taken this crusade entirely too far. After all, I wanted to clean up the streets. Not compound the chaos through my mere existence. "You're gonna want to take a right between Yale and Ostrander Avenue. They're already setting up a barricade three blocks from where you're heading."
And then there's this. The new player in Gotham that, despite the odds, managed to intrude their way into my personal communications network and remotely pilot one of my own vehicles. I hadn't so much as heard of this "Oracle" before tonight, but the individual had somehow managed to hack their way into my private servers in order to intervene in my fight against the GCPD. I feel as though I should feel some
measure of gratitude, but this development's only made me feel more on edge than I already was. I can't be for certain just how much they know, or how thoroughly they checked the data that keeps my technology connected to Waynetech, but this sort of breach could easily compromise my identity. Whether or not Oracle has learned anything is it's own complication, as I now need to put other safeguards in place to prevent this from occuring again. "Who are you? How did you manage to hack into this channel?"
, I demand, angrily peeling onto the directed road. "And how are you tracking my movements?!"
There's a pause before an answer."Uuh... Google Maps."
I stare down with an annoyed glare at the screen that displays the individual's logo. There's a two-way camera installed in that sub-monitor, so there's a good chance that Oracle, whoever they are, saw my reaction to that response. "Sorry. Bad joke. It's, uh, actually alot more complicated than that. Stark Industries put out a sort of real-time imaging app that they sold to the military for a cool sixty million bucks. It works off of drone technology, so I encoded that program onto the surveillance cameras installed aboard the patrol blimps that the police have hovering over Gotham. It does the job as well as can be expected."
Admittedly, a more clever answer than I anticipated. And something of a reassuring one, given that I was afraid that Ace had been hacked aswell. Unknown to the stranger that I'm communicating with, I've been manually having Ace scan my systems to check for the leak and potentially identify the source signal of this person's broadcast. So far, that's produced nothing. So not only is Oracle advanced in the field of computer engineering, they're more than capable of covering their tracks."Alright. Then answer my first question.""I can't. Trust me, it's not for any reason that you're not already accustomed to justifying wearing a mask yourself, but I have to remain anonymous to do what I do. And what I'm trying to do right now is help you from getting caught, in case you haven't noticed."
I narrow my eyes. "But why?"
Hearing the sirens in the distance, I kick it up to 120 and narrowly avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming cab, who makes their displeasure in that known whenever the horn of the car beeps loudly."Other than what I said about being a fan and believing in what you're doing? Because of something that's happened within the GCPD. It concerns Captain Gordon."
As I continue to drive, my attention is piqued at the mention of the Captain. That's oddly specific of a name to just casually throw out, but I suppose it's possible that he's simply one of the more well known officers of the force."See, a few nights ago, I managed to get ahold of video surveillance footage that I think someone on your end was trying to delete before it could be... deleted. It showed you fighting off some guy dressed in red and holding a sniper rifle. Which was super awesome, by the way."
I raise an eyebrow.
How old is
this person?"But regardless. I forwarded that video to Captain Gordon through an anonymous server so that he would know the truth about who tried to kill Harvey Dent. It obviously wasn't you, like the media was saying, and I figured that giving Gordon the evidence to prove it would be enough to exonerate you. But he didn't do... anything with it. Infact, at the press conference that announced you as the suspect in the shooting, he just stood by and let them accuse you. And that worries me."
Clearly not old enough to understand how this city works. I sigh to myself, realizing that this isn't a particularly shocking development. I had hoped that Gordon was on the side of virtue despite his willingness to go after me, since I naively believed that Precinct 27 was a possible exception among the list of precincts bought and paid for by Salvatore Maroni. But if this is the case, they're all the same. Gordon had his chance to tell the truth about my involvement in the shooting, or lack thereof, and he didn't take it. That makes him as corrupt as the rest."The police in Gotham aren't to be trusted. They lie, they take bribes, and act as enforcers for the mob. Gordon's actions align with that mentality, so I'm not terribly surprised."
Unexpectedly, the distorted voice takes on a tone of barely hidden defensiveness."No. I'm sorry, but that's where you're wrong. Gordon isn't like the rest. I... know him better than that. I've seen the merit of his character, and he's done nothing but prove that he believes in the letter of the law. If he's hiding something like this, it can only be because somebody else got to him first. And Gordon isn't easily corrupted, so it must have been someone with more political sway than even the Commissioner."
So there is
a connection between "Oracle" and Gordon. My mind starts to race as to what that connection could be. Couldn't be a mole that he put in place to lower my defenses, given that I saw to it that he was taken out of commission just earlier. Not to mention that the GCPD do not possess the capabilities to hack into The Batcycle. So I'm guessing it's a personal connection. A fellow officer, maybe, who moonlights as a hacker. "Talking to me about any of this isn't exactly without risk. Why so forthcoming?""Because I don't believe you're the monster that the papers make you out to be. And because, I'm hoping, that you'll repay me in helping you tonight by investigating just who got to Gordon in the first place. If his judgement's askew, you're gonna have an even harder time on the streets than you already had. He's the only reason that decent cops in Gotham even exist, at this point."
I'm not sure that I buy into the notion put forth that Captain Gordon holds that level of importance, or is some kind of beacon of morality to his fellow officers, since this is clearly coming from a biased perspective. But the theory that he's being manipulated is something to at least keep in mind, I'll admit, since I don't want to be left unaware of someone other than Maroni pulling strings within the department. "You're gonna want to take a left now, by the way. Three blocks ahead and I can see that they're setting up a pretty, uh, massive blockade on the corner of 45th and Dozier."
Gripping the throttle of the vehicle, I disable the camera to make it known that I don't approve of this. While I do believe if Oracle's intervention hadn't happened that I would have done something terrible back there, this interference in a situation well beyond someone of their age has gone on long enough. Despite taking the given direction as it comes and slowing my acceleration down as The Batcycle displays an engine overheat warning, I manually begin to type in commands for Ace to abandon the scan and focus on locking the intruder out of my servers. "I'll consider it. But I can't make promises. Now I want you to forget that you ever found this channel. If the police consider me dangerous, then that means that I am for as long as they have me in their crosshairs. Trying to help me will only endanger yourself. So if you truly believe in what I'm doing, keep your distance and leave this to people like me.""But...""And for the record?"
As Ace finally shuts down the last of the remaining avenues that Oracle could have used to make their way onto the network, I hit the acceleration once again and activate the reserve supply of coolant fluid that was built into The Batcycle's tank. I've pushed the bike to nearly the absolute limit before, but this is a highly inopportune time to risk a full system shutdown. Especially if I'll need the speed to stay ahead of the cops. "I don't need your help."
Before they can reply, Oracle's voice and logo disappear entirely from my telecommunications. That might have seemed cold, but given the age and maturity on display in their cadence, I had to shut Oracle down before they did something stupid and put us both on the path towards an arrest. Once I get back to The Cave, I'll resume Ace's trace of the digital thumbprint that they left whenever they hacked in and try to figure out who they are in my own time, to further dissuade any such actions in the future. I don't need a partner, and I sure as hell don't want one under the legal drinking age.
Having said that, I did just cut off my only real source of digital clairvoyance to use against the GCPD's tactics. Thinking of how Oracle explained their method of keeping track of the streets, I immediately open the secure channel to Alfred. Thankfully, I shouldn't have any eyes watching what I'm doing, at this point."Alfred. I'm being pursued by police. Gonna need you to do something unorthodox.""Of course, lad. Because everything about what we do is so commonplace."
As I cross onto the next intersection and tear through the streets, I begin to relay the exact method of hacking into the GCPD patrol blimps that Oracle described, so that Alfred can set up a similar method for Ace to feed back to me.
A good idea is a good idea, after all. Gotham City, The Narrows
Zoe Lawton hears someone tapping just outside of her bedroom window. Frightened by her initial ordeal and unsure of whether or not to make her way out of the closet, the young girl nevertheless peeks out from between the doors to see what could possibly be hitting her second story window, given that even she realizes how impossible that seems. To her shock, what she sees is the silhouette of a woman. Something's wrapped around her neck, appearing as though it's some sort of cape, and a dark mask covers the top of the woman's face. But what immediately catches Zoe's eye isn't what the woman is wearing, but how she's appearing - she's floating
outside of the window.
All of the fear fades from the young girl's face as she opens the closet door and meekly walks over to the window to open it. The woman in the mask gives her a reassuring smile, just barely distracting her from the sounds of gunfire and other loud noises that had left Zoe too afraid to even move just a few moments earlier. Whenever the window is lifted, however, those noises seem to have partially stopped. Zoe looks down at the ground, first, to make sure that what she's seeing is real. And it is, as there's nothing holding the woman up. "Hi. You must be Zoe.""How're you doing that?"
, the child asks. "My mommy says that people can't really fly."
Jessica smirks to herself. "Your mom's mostly right. But I'm not like alot of other people. C'mon, I'll show you how I do it. But only if you come with me."
The girl tenses up at that. "N-No. I can't go. A bad woman just hurt mommy, and she needs me to protect her."
Jessica's heart sinks as she hears that, hoping that the mask hides enough of her face to conceal her own reaction.
She doesn't know which part bothers her most. The fact that the girl believes her to be a bad woman, or the fact that the girl thinks it's her job to protect her own mother. In alot of ways, Zoe reminds her of herself at that age. Full of fear but ready to put it aside for the sake of other people."You're very brave for thinking that, Zoe."
, Jessica replies, leaning against the window. "And I know that I'm stranger, and you should never talk to strangers. But this is a special occasion, because I'm gonna let you in on a bit of a secret..."
Even as the words come out of her mouth, Jessica almost regrets saying them. It's very
far removed from how she sees herself. "I'm a superhero."
Zoe's eyes light up at that, as she takes another step forward. "Really?""Really. And I'm here to get you to safety. This is no place for a girl your age."
As Jessica reaches out with her hand, Zoe seems hesitant, still. "But... the bad woman. What if she comes back for mommy?"
Pausing, Jessica gently places a hand on the girl's hand."She won't. I took care of the bad woman. You'll never see her again."
Zoe looks back at the door, worried."You promise?""Cross my heart and hope to die."
Zoe looks back at Jessica and smiles."What's your superhero name?"
Jessica pauses again, unsure of what to say. She immediately thinks of Batman, and of all the other weirdos in costumes that seem to be popping up all over the world. The papers referred to The Bat as 'The Dark Knight' at one point, so Jessica thinks to herself: Why should he get all of the cool nicknames?"Knightress."
Extending her hand again, Jessica smiles."I'm called Knightress. Now come with me and I promise, you'll get to see your mom again in a few days. She has to be taken to the hospital right now, but they're gonna fix her up. I'll make sure of it."
Giving it a moment of thought, Zoe finally reaches out and grabs Jessica's hand for herself.
Within a few moments, the two are airborne and flying away from the scene. It isn't an easy or particularly graceful exit, as Jessica tries to shield Zoe's eyes from the carnage below them as she takes off. But within minutes, the two escape to safety and head into Gotham proper.
And at the end of the day, Jessica thinks to herself, that's all that matters.