clockwork orange

The Epilogue

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Twenty Questions - C2
clockwork orange
insane_science8

A/N: Anyhow, here’s the next chapter. References and their explanations will be listed at the very bottom of the page.

Title: Twenty Questions - Chapter Two
Previous Chapter: Twenty Questions - C1
POV: First person, Riddler
Characters: Riddler, Black Mask, Batman and a whole slew of unfortunate pawns.
Rating: Err...Teen for safety’s sake. There will be blood. And violence. And a bit of harsh language...
Disclaimer: I don’t own DC. I’m just daydreaming...
Spoilers: If you’ve watched Batman Begins and the Dark Knight, you’re good to go. I’m running with the whole “origins” theme Nolan seems to favour. If you know about the comics, that’s great, but I’ll properly introduce anyone I add to the story from the DC universe.
Summary: The rise of a peculiar villain with a thing for riddles, and his subsequent descent into darkness.

Roman Sionis was the son of a wealthy family. Being the sole inheritor of his parents’ multi-million dollar company, Janus Cosmetics, Roman took up the business after their untimely death and decided to take a shot at following in their entrepreneurial footsteps. His journey began with an unpopular face-paint and ended with the creation of a waterproof foundation...

Which turned out to be rather toxic, much to the chagrin of the women who wore it.

Unsuited for the life of business, Roman promptly ran the company into the ground. Aside from the peculiar fire that killed his parents in their exorbitant mansion, the buyout of Janus Cosmetics by one Bruce Wayne was really the only news I had ever heard of Mr. Sionis before our initial meeting. At that time, his failure was the farthest thing from my mind. Wayne Enterprise was at the peak of my interest.

Or it’s CEO, to be more precise.

Despite my absence at the fateful meeting in New York, my findings were still presented to the men and women of Norm’s little assembly. Whether or not I ever planned on doing anything with Brumalium, it would be, forevermore, an incessant little chip on my shoulder. I was just as responsible for its creation as I was for anything it destroyed.

It was for this reason alone that I found out about Lucius Fox and his meddling.

I came to work on Monday to find Dr. Hubert pacing anxiously in the staff room. Her heels clicked sharply against the floor as she turned to face me, hands stuffed in her coat pockets from where she tried to stand inconspicuously beside the lockers. It didn’t really work.

Hubert was easier to read than a book.

“...What is it about Mondays that make them so repugnant?”

“That’s an interesting way of saying hello, Eddie.”

I cleared my throat and twirled the dial on my locker. When it popped opened, I tossed my knapsack inside and pulled out my lab coat. “Alright then—good morning, Amy. Lovely weather we’ve been having, don’t you think?”

She looked at me a little oddly before she lifted a hand to her mouth, chewing on her thumb nail as she weighed the consequences of telling me whatever it was that was on her mind. Eventually, guilt won out. “Mr. Fox paid us a visit this morning.”

“And by ‘us’ you mean Norm?” I asked warily.

“...Mr. Fox didn’t really have an appointment. According to Norm, he gave us a call five minutes before he came in.”

That didn’t necessarily answer my question, but it was difficult to miss how agitated the woman looked. I let it slide. “I’m assuming Norm gave him the grand tour.”

“And a small demonstration with Brumalium,” she admitted quietly. “I think it went rather well...”

Or however well burning a hole through the floor can go, I suppose.

Ever the slattern for funding, it really wasn’t a wonder why Norm decided to show Mr. Fox everything before my arrival. I know money speaks in this world and he would need to whip out the big guns just to impress Wayne Enterprises—preferably when I wasn’t around to stop him.

“And you people wonder why I hate this city...” I muttered. The fact that I had Fox evaluating my work behind my back did not bode well with me, especially since his obvious point of focus was the bane of my existence. Wayne Enterprise was known for being a behemoth in the business world and I didn’t think I could stand the pressure of having it breathing down my neck for the next couple of years or so. Besides, I’m the kind of guy that likes to take action when push comes to shove...

...It is at this point I feel it’s important to say that I had absolutely nothing to do with the subsequent disappearance of several Wayne employees—or the disfiguration of their faces (as was noted in the Gotham Times when their bodies were found).

Though, I had an inkling of who did.

Dr. Hubert started pacing again. The click-click-click of her shoes brought me back from my reverie and I jolted back a step when I found her standing so close. For a moment, she just stared at me...“I thought you hated it because you always get robbed on the metro?”

Oh...there was that too.

~March 14th, 2009~

Despite working at the university, I lived a far cry away from the innocuous hubbub of city life, closer to the Narrows and farther from the comforting giant of the public courthouse. Three Arkham patients had been arrested in the alleyway beside my apartment building following the mass breakout almost four years previous, and the destruction of the elevated railway running through the central water-hub at Wayne Tower eliminated my preferred route of taking the train all the way to work. Once upon a time, I owned a car, a thankless heap of junk which required more maintenance than it was worth (and which I eventually sold), and so for the year it took the city to repair the central line I rode my bike to a farther station.

I’d been mugged twice in that time.

Needless to say, I knew how to take a beating. My father would give me a good thrashing often as a child, sometimes without reason or rhyme. Nevertheless, being assaulted wasn’t a pleasant experience and I’d taken up the habit of carrying a small baseball bat in the knapsack I usually took with me to work. I had successfully scared off one potential mugger in the past and almost clubbed a lab technician in the head near the university station after a frightfully long and weary night at work.

Bat or no bat, the fact that I appeared to be prosaic enough to attract trouble unnerved me to no end. I knew the fact that I wasn’t the least bit physically foreboding (and that I rode a bike halfway to work) pegged me as an easy target for would-be assailants, but their lack of apprehension (—or should that be respect?—) was, by far, worse than any of the beatings I had ever endured.

In retrospect, though, I suppose I never would’ve met the Bat if not for those muggers...

Taking the train in the middle of the night is an experience that is, by far, more terrifying than any group therapy session Arkham has to offer. Nevertheless, I had no one to blame but myself when I lost track of the time and ended up riding the rail home at eleven o’clock in the evening. Muggers or no muggers, it was hardly appropriate for a man to fear the little things that go bump in the night.

Pulling my bike through the sliding doors of the train car, I leaned it against the entrance railing as I slipped off my knapsack, taking a moment to fish around inside for my makeshift club before I hefted it back over my shoulders. I held the bat in my right hand with one of the bike handles, keeping it at the ready, and started off toward the stairs.

The train rattled away behind me, the overhead lights of the walkway dim and fickle in comparison to the electric lamps lining the streets below. I led my bike down the stairwell before I kicked a leg over the seat and started peddling off in the direction of my apartment.

The night was dead. A pink neon sign flickered miserably on the side of a building up ahead, paper and plastic rustling in the gutter as I rode by. The air was thick and oily, compliments of the wonderful world of Gotham and its concoction of pollutants. It made me sick.

I half expected to see a moll wandering the streets. The prostitutes were usually up and roaming the city by now, but all was at ease, a queasy kind of silence that didn’t belong in a city like this...

Just when I thought I was alone, a crippled figure stumbled out from behind a trash can ahead of me, cursing under his breath as he struggled not to fall in front of my bike. Noticing the man at the last moment, I veered off to the right and wobbled awkwardly as I tried not to dip into the alleyway.

Then I was thrown off my bike.

I flew over the handlebars, curling away to the one side when I hit the pavement as my bike crashed down beside me. Lying there for a moment, I listened as my sole weapon rolled away into the darkness, followed by the shuffled steps of another man as he staggered out of the alleyway beside me.

Taking a second to let my head clear, I turned over onto my side to glance at the broken stick jammed into the front wheel of my bike before I tried to get up. My back was sore and my left wrist hurt something awful but I had suffered worse in previous muggings.

The ‘crippled figure’ laughed at my attempt and straightened his back as he and his buddy reached down to hoist me up.

The second I was on my feet, someone’s fist connected with my temple.

Stars flickered across my vision as I fell to my knees. One of the men yanked the knapsack off my back as the other tried to pull me up, something small and hard digging into my ribs from behind as he ordered me not to move. Then I felt a hand slip into one of my pockets in search of my wallet.

As humiliating (and, admittedly, frightening) as it was to be robbed, I was never foolish enough to keep anything of value on me. No cash, no credit cards, no pricy wristwatch—just a faux bat, my photo I.D. and scraps of my lunch. If anything at all, at least I could be satisfied with the knowledge that their witty little trick had been wasted on me.

It was curious, though, that the man now holding my wallet didn’t seem upset when he found it empty.

I turned my head a little to one side and tried to catch a glimpse of his face out of the corner of my eye. Concealed by his hood, he kept his head bent forward and gave me a harsh nudge with his gun to keep me in check. The man kneeling by the contents of my knapsack picked up a sheet of paper decorated with scribbled reactions and gave it the one over before stuffing it back into my bag. They went about their work rather casually.

“Edward Nashton?” the thug behind me asked. He tossed my wallet aside and rested his free hand on my shoulder, fingers curling into the muscle. I winced. “You crazy bastard. Same route, same bike—three fucking hours late. Do you have any idea how long we’ve been waiting for you?”

“...Three hours?” I speculated.

The hand on my shoulder held me steady as he dug the barrel of his gun into my back—and how ironic would it be to die by gunpoint? I spent endless hours every day working with volatile chemicals and a man fat enough to kill me with his thumb. But this was Gotham wasn’t it, a vault of the world’s decay? People didn’t come here to live; they came here to rot and die.

I was brought back from my reverie by another angry nudge and the curious notion that two seemingly petty thieves had been waiting three hours for one man.

“You’re not here for my money,” I said, hazarding a guess. “And since I don’t owe anyone anything, I’m just going to take a shot in the dark and assume you’re working for a fellow that’s looking for something impalpable...?”

“Try revenge,” the second man replied quietly. His voice was lower than his comrades, steadier. He busied himself with stuffing my things back into my knapsack before zipping it up again. Then he lifted his face to look at me.

Beneath the hood, he wore a mask—one of those yellow papierkrattlers worn in German parades. The first thought that popped into my head at the sight of it was the whole fiasco with that Joker fellow a few months back. His men wore masks, cheap, plastic faces to terrorize the people they were robbing...

But he was gone—or so I’d heard—either rotting away in Arkham or six feet underground. In any case, I didn’t think his men were capable of organizing themselves. The Joker had chosen people that were easy to manipulate and dispose of, chumps that followed instructions and couldn’t do much of anything else otherwise. These spooks were working for someone that wasn’t currently singing lullabies in a padded room.

The man that had been rummaging through my bag sounded a little weary. He wasn’t in a rush. If anything, I’d say he looked as though he thought they accomplished what they came here to do.

Papierkrattler sighed heavily behind his mask and tossed my knapsack over beside my bike. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a cell phone.

The man behind me moved a little, clothes rustling as though he was irritated by something. One moment, I could feel his gun digging into my back—the next it was gone, followed shortly by a muffled cry and the sound of metal dropping to the ground.

I spun sharply on my heel—and saw no one. My assailant’s gun lay discarded on the pavement, illuminated by the sickly glow of an overhead streetlamp. I glanced up at the elevated railway and listened as Papierkrattler cocked his gun.

He was interrupted for one reason or another and cried out in surprise a moment after his companion disappeared. This time, I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of my apparent saviour.

I found Papierkrattler facing off against a tall, ominous smudge lurking in the shadows of the alleyway. The criminal lifted his arm to take aim with his gun, but, having it promptly slapped out of his hand, lunged forward instead to throw a messy punch. The move was dodged fluidly and countered with a more substantial hit, black material whipping through the air as his opponent followed through the attack with a roundhouse kick. Papierkrattler fell to his knees gasping, cognisant for only a moment longer before a third hit rendered him unconscious...and then it was done, the terror induced by two armed men shattered by the appearance of man that was rumoured to be fuelled by fear itself.

The Batman.

I didn’t move at first, just stood there and watched as he reached down to grab the cell phone my assailant dropped. It disappeared somewhere in the folds of his cape as he turned to stare at me, almost as though he thought putting it out of sight would put it out of my mind as well.

Then I really looked at him.

The man obviously wasn’t cocky enough to put his identity at risk—his eyes were visible, as was his mouth, but the cowl provided sufficient protection for a man that was wanted dead or alive by criminals and cops alike. Everything else was guarded by layers of armour and cloth, almost to the point where I wondered if he could withstand getting ploughed down by a train...It was a curious thing, though, to see someone as well prepared as him. The GPD had been fortunate enough to see a little extra funding ever since Harvey Dent stepped into the spotlight, but even they couldn’t hope to hold up a light to his gadgetry.

Where, then, did he get the funding?

Or the technology?

...Of course, he could’ve stolen it. After all, the credibility of the Bat had been Gotham’s favourite topic since the death of Harvey Dent.

Though in some ways, I couldn’t believe he was responsible for the man’s curious demise. Not solely, at least. I honestly wasn’t foolish enough to trust the city’s undying faith in the DA (—no man was that good—) so I could only assume that if Batman had indeed killed him, it was only for ‘the greater good’. Harvey had his fair share of enemies and it made for a list of the suspects was nearly a mile long.

Needless to say, I thought the Batman was crazy—or cunning, maybe. Take your pick. Either he was very good in keeping his agenda hidden or he actually believed he could change the city.

A fool’s feat, really...

“I would tell you how grateful I am for the intervention, but that would be stating the obvious. And to be completely honest with you, I think it’s a little peculiar that you’re here of all places.” I waited for him to say something, but he didn’t. “Come on, of all the crimes you could’ve stopped tonight, you stumbled across this one. That isn’t supposed to strike me as odd?”

He knew what I was talking about—the vigilante wasn’t pocketing that phone for a profit.

He was looking for the man that sent those goons tonight.

The man turned a little to one side and glanced at my bike. Then he set his stare directly on me.

“Get out of here.”

I wasn’t quite finished yet—but he was gone before I had a chance to speak. The incessant hiss of his grappling rope faded into the night as he ascended into the shadows of the overhead rail, just another nightmare roaming the streets of Gotham in search of someone new and horrible to torment.

I knew people who still didn’t believe he existed, men and women that were more concerned with making it to work on time in the morning than a supposed myth concocted by the media...

Somehow, I imagined that was what he intended when he chose such a peculiar theme for his costume.

I mean, come on—the Bat-man? It made him sound as though he was some kind of totemic vessel.

But, never one to pass up good advice, I retrieved my bike, plucked the splinters from the front wheel and got back on the proverbial horse. One of the men stirred but I ignored his groan and started booking it down the road. One mugging was more than enough for that night.

In hindsight, though, I probably shouldn’t have darted across the intersection as fast as I did. Slow and easy wins the race, doesn’t it?

Maybe then I wouldn’t have gotten nailed by that police cruiser...

~Present time~

“Wait—that was you?”

I sighed.

Lovell looked as though he couldn’t decide whether now was a good time to be sarcastic or apologetic. Eventually, he opted to say nothing and lifted a hand to his mouth to cover his obvious amusement.

McLoughlin, on the other hand, was a little worried. This was police business, after all. “Bullock told us about that—said some scrawny kid rolled out in front of his cruiser before he turned the corner. He knocked you off your bike, didn’t he?”

“No harm done,” I muttered, even though the man had given me a good scare. The embarrassment far outweighed the pain, anyhow.

My lower back was beginning to protest against my posture, but leaning back against the bars wasn’t necessarily a comfortable position either. Besides, my audience was starting to grow and one of the key elements of any performance was its presentation.

Three new cops had gathered by the door, two sergeants and a trainee. One was leaning against the frame, glancing every now and again into the hall, waiting for an update on the situation as the other two listened in on our conversation. I recognized the woman with the faded black eye from a few weeks ago—now that I thought about it, her nose was a little crooked too. It was no fault of hers, though. One of the False Facer’s snuck in a punch when she’d been trying to cuff him...

That was one thing I’d noticed about Sionis and his men.

They all thought chivalry was dead.

I shifted a little to one side and listened as Lovell tried to muffle his laughter. “If you want, I can stop.”

“No,” one of the sergeants interjected. She frowned a little and crossed her arms. “I want to know about the napalm caps and the...the bomb.”

“And Mr. Fox,” McLoughlin added. “After all, the little incident with him is what landed you in Arkham in the first place.”

It was a sour thought but apparently (as Dr. Knox put it) it was merely the spark that ignited the powder keg. According to the psychiatrists at Arkham, my sanity had been winding down gradually over the years and I would’ve been sent to professional help sooner or later. It was...‘inevitable’.

Their words. Not mine.

“Alright.” I tried to think for a moment, wondering if I could omit anything to save time. After all, I only had until eight o’clock to give them all the details. “I guess I should tell you about the ordeal with Lucius Fox, then...”

[Next chapter:
Twenty Questions - C3 ]

A/N: 1) The idea for Brumalium came up in one of my Organic Chemistry classes. My professor spent an all-nighter in his lab and started contemplating a fanatical assortment of compounds that would cause researchers a world of unneeded stress (if they actually ever existed). In the same sense, Brumalium exists for the sole purpose of giving Eddie a permanent headache.

2) Roman Sionis is, of course, the Black Mask. As creepy as I find his character in the comics, I’m going to stick as close to his origins as humanly possible in this story—after all, he’s the kind of villain I enjoy hating.

3) Totemic vessel: it’s actually a term used in the novel “Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours” by Jim Butcher. It refers to “people...who have chosen to use an animal as a personal totem. Who, in some sense or fashion, draw power from that association”. In any case, Wayne uses his bat-ness to scare the hell out of people, so I thought the term suited him rather well.

(And, because I forgot to add this in the last chapter...)

4) Kord Enterprises was originally run by Ted Kord, the superhero Blue Beetle. It’s not stationed in Gotham though (actually, I’m not quite sure where it is...I always thought Chicago, but I could be wrong)

5) Wayne Chemicals really is a branch of Wayne Enterprises. I’m not messing with you.

 


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I've been waiting ages for this. It's one of the best Nolan-verse stories I've ever read. I'm enjoying this series immensely thusfar.

Wow, that's quite an honor coming from the man himself. *Tips hat*
I thank you. :)

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He's ruled by his curiosity, so I can't ever imagine him shutting up when he's in danger. And I'm glad you think I'm able to pull him off --- he is, without a doubt, my favorite comic book villains. Sadly, it takes me forever to write my updates...*sigh*

PS: Saw your journal, and I think you have lovely drawings. I, unfortunately, can't draw to save my life.

PPS: I also saw the note on "Agent Nigma" --- what on earth have the done to him?!

(Deleted comment)
(Silly me, how did I forget to reply?)

Poke me? Well, yes and no. The third chapter is complete, it's just the long and tedious matter of editing that I have to deal with now. Expect the third chapter soon. And have no illusions---I am thankful for your patience, as undeserving as I am. :)

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