"Anything we should be wary of? If Toyman was willing to send drones and manned vehicles after your friends, it's almost certain that he won't be willing to go quietly."
"Let me see," I say, allowing my vision to 'zoom' towards the Stagg Enterprises building as we approach. "He's deployed another two wings of drones. One of them's circling the tower, the other's on an intercept course towards us."
With a grunt of effort, I build up enough concentrated heat to fire a few quick blasts of Heat Vision from my eyes. Where exactly this extra energy I'm feeling came from is a bit of a mystery to me, since barely a minute ago I felt I was on the verge of passing out. I chalk it up to new motivation-- a first kiss from a beautiful woman will do that to you.
One by one, the drones pop and fall out of the sky, and with a final burst, I fry the Stagg transmitter tower. Some poor crew of electricians is going to be spending some very long hours getting it back online, but it's a better option than letting Schott broadcast more signals to wreak havoc.
"I've taken them out, and disabled the transmitter," I tell Batman, "but I doubt that's all Toyman's got in store. There's so much electronic noise going on inside the building that I can't get a good look, but given the way he operates, I'm expecting Schott's got plenty of surprises in store. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if he's wired the whole building to blow. I don't expect a fight, but we should still watch our backs once we're inside."
I circle the building once, and with no drones in sight, Batman glides down and perches on the rooftop. Touching down, he approaches one of the terminals at the base of the transmitter tower, activating what appears to be a small on-board computer built into his suit, and plugs in.
"ACE," he says, I assume giving a voice command, "I'm going to need a full sweep of the building. Any anomalous power signatures, discrepancies in the floor plan, anything and everything that's different from the archived schematics."
"What are you doing?" I ask.
"You're not the only one who can see through walls," he says.
"And you're not worried that Schott might get into your own software while you're plugged into this network?" I say, arms crossed.
"I doubt he's up to the task," he answers, before unplugging from the terminal. "Scan is complete. I'm seeing what look like trip-wires at every major entrance and exit, likely connected to high explosives. Stairwells are blocked off, elevators converted into deadfall traps. The cubicles and server stacks have been re-arranged into labyrinths on each floor, wired to give off a lethal electrical discharge at a wrong turn."
"Hmph," I grunt. "I really don't feel like being electrocuted for a fourth time today."
"I'm also seeing several alterations in the ventilation system," he continues, ignoring my comment. "Made to pump certain rooms full of poisonous gas. I could go on, but you get the point. He's turned the whole building into a funhouse of death. Every route we'd take, there'd be something else ready to kill me, and I'm guessing wear you down until he can finish you off."
I nod, and then crack my knuckles. If I feel bad for the electricians who have to fix the transmitter tower, my heart really goes out to the construction crews who have to fix this.
"Then I suggest we make our own route," I say, jumping up into the air just enough to turn back down and dive through the concrete of the rooftop.
For a few seconds, there's nothing but thunderous crashing and blinding dust as I plow downward through floor after floor, until finally I reach the sub-level where Schott's been hiding.
The doors to his lair are inch-thick reinforced steel. They might as well be tissue paper as I pull them out of the frame. I hear Batman touch down on the ground behind me, having descended with a grappling hook, before we enter the darkened room, the only light coming from the intermittent blinking of masses of computer towers.
"It's over, Schott," I call out, looking for the lunatic hacker. "If you surrender now, we can--"
That's when I see it.
At the far end of the room, surrounded by a wall of blank monitors, is a figure, reclined in a chair, hunched to one side. The body is fat and bloated, the skin a sickly pale green palor. A cloud of flies buzzes around it, and I see traces of rat droppings on the floor, from where they had been gnawing at it before scattering when we came in. A virtual reality headset remains active, still blinking on a head that is slumped over. The closer we get, the more pungent the smell is.
"Great Scott," I whisper to myself.
Winslow Schott has been dead for weeks, maybe months.
Before I can ask the next question out loud, the wall of monitors behind him flicker to life. And I see the ghoulish marionette face I've come to loathe.
I'M SO GLAD YOU'VE COME
TO PLAY WITH ME
I'M SO GLAD YOU'VE COME
TO PLAY WITH ME