CADMUS Caper: Prelude

March 03, 2017:

Batman and the Martian Manhunter plot a caper.

The Office of John Jones, Private Investigator

A noir detective office frozen seemingly frozen in 1958.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Spoiler

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

EARLIER..

Alfred Pennyworth has retrieved the post.

With fastidious precision, he shifts from one envelope to the next pre-sorting the small stack of letters and mailers into two piles. He pauses suddenly, the corners of his mustache droop as he peers down upon a plain white envelope upon which the single letter capital letter 'B' has been stamped by the typebar of an old Roval typewriter.

It's a sinking feeling. Has the day finally arrived when a member of the Rogue's Gallery is dropping letters at the Wayne Mansion?

When the envelope is opened there is a single business bone colored card its typeface a silian rail.

John JONES
Private Investigator
3512 Randolph Street
Suite 312
Gotham City, NJ 08401

Upon the back the type face reads:
Your appointment is: Friday, Night

Alfred delivers the letter to Bruce, who is just finishing his dinner, and Batman examines it carefully. He flickers the card over, twice, examining the font— then catches Alfred's subtle, fidgeting signs of consternation. Who /did/ deliver this message to -B?!

"A friend, Alfred," Batman says, shaking his head minutely in reassurance. "He's… quirky. But it's not a threat. His version of an invitation. Make sure my calendar is cleared for tomorrow evening? Bruce Wayne has an appointment."

PRESENT TIME: A silver Rolls Royce, a modern make with a vintage look, pulls up onto Randolph Street. It's not the best neighborhood, but it's not a hotbed of crime, straddling the invisible neutral zone between the upscale Commercial District and the seedier elements of Harrison Row. A prime location for a detective's office.

“Maybe take the Rolls up to the private parking up the street," Bruce Wayne tells Alfred as he emerges from the car's back seat. He buttons his suit shut. "I'll call you when I need you." Alfred taps the brim of his visor and the heavy Rolls lumbers off, while Bruce heads up the steps to buzz the ringer for Jones' office. Admitted, he heads upstairs, and without preamble, walks into John's offices.

It's not like you need to knock to alert a telepath you're here.

INTERIOR OFFICE

It was late. The light of the street lamp stuttered off and on like an old Studebaker with a bad transmission.

The half-pint of stale hooch had made the glossy black and whites in the portfolio upon the desk blur together. The dame, Brandy Eaton. The crooner, Guy Davis. A pile of funny money.

The bell upon the entryway sings like a lonely Christmas caroler when the door opens..

WAITING ROOM

"Gale," a surprised and slightly slurred baritone comes from beyond the wooden door beyond the receptionist desk. The sound of wooden chair legs against hardwood and then footsteps. The office door swings open to reveal a middle-aged man of average build dressed in tan suit pants with suspenders.

He blinks away the emerging haze of double vision, "Is it that time, already?" John asks looking to his wrist-watch and giving its face a tap with his finger, "I've got to admit. I thought you might re-schedule on me." He pulls the door open wider and nods to the interior of his office, "The gal's left for the evening but I can brew you some java, if you want."

Jones walks in then and makes his way over to the coat rack where he pulls off his suit coat and shrugs it on. Then he starts to straighten his tie as he makes his way back to the desk, "Pull the door closed," he requests due to the other's proximity to it as he screws the cap back upon the pint and stows it into the top drawer of his desk.

"I've always got time for a friend," Batman says, his voice lapsing into a low, gravelly rasp. "I'll take decaf, if you have it." Batman's aversion to chemicals was fairly well known, and as he walks into the room, he digs in his pocket for a portable acoustic scrambler. It *clicks* on with a low two-tone wine that makes it impossible for any recording devices— or even super-hearing— from picking up on the conversation outside of a six-foot bubble.

He shuts the door firmly and moves to stand opposite J'onn's desk, crossing one leg at the knee and regarding the Manhunter with unreadable blue eyes. Even to a telepath, Batman's features were a murky haze at best, and a blank slate on average.

"I take it this isn't just a social call. Should I have worn my other suit?" he inquires, touching his Armani jacket.

Having stashed the hooch, Jones walks towards the coffee maker. There are two tin coffee cans at its side and he picks up the one that seems dusty and neglected at the far edge. He gives the container a shake as the acoustic scrambler powers up and it replies back with the sound of a few dozen grains bouncing in its otherwise vacant interior.

"Sorry, Bruce," the detective says with apology, "all out of decaf." He sets that can atop the other so that it's in Gale's way tomorrow and maybe she'll replace it.

Then he gives the acoustic scrambler a pointed look and there is an odd shimmer to his eyes as if somehow looking through it before looking at Bruce and giving a casual shrug and then he states..

"Your dress does not concern me," his voice familiar in its low hollow sounds the words somehow evoking images of a distant endless red desert, "I presumed that my presence here would work better for your competing schedules given how inconvenient other location can be in relation to Gotham."

When he moves down it is with arms that hang rigidly at his sides, as if they served no practical purpose to his stride, and he steps to the space next to his desk and turns to regard the other with a blank expression that seems less a blank slate than it does to simply possess no muscular tension.

Except for the subtle movement of whispering lips..

"I believe I have access to enough information to infiltrate CADMUS," his voice is clear almost omni-present despite the minute movements of his mouth, "However, once inside, I do not possess the capacity to prepare the technology appropriate to pierce its digital security - in a timely fashion."

"I require the aid of someone more adept at binary computer systems."

He blinks once, as if deliberate and required to moisten the fragile eyes of his current form, "Prior to exposing them we must secure their files. It is my intent to distribute them to humanity so the full scope of their acts can be judged - not just those pieces which will be selected for public government inquiries. However, such actions would be weighed against the desires of willing conspirators."

Batman makes a mental note to be a bit more literal than normal. Aphorisms weren't J'onnz's strong suit, after all. He perks one brow at the mention of CADMUS. In any other room, the temperature would havee surely dropped— but for J'onn and Batman, two individuals not given to emoting, they might as well be discussing local sports.

"CADMUS is a fairly sophisticated organization," Batman remarks. Not criticism— offering information. "Your abilities might be hampered there. Even anticipated," he muses. "I believe I've potentially located an inside man, so to speak. Someone who could be bribed or coerced into cooperating with us. He's a rank and file member of the CADMUS security team. For the right price, he could be convinced to mitigate some of the security systems for us, or give us an access aroudn it."

'Us'— Batman doesn't dither. J'onn is clearly asking for help, in his own way, and Batman's not one to make him beg for it. " A two man operation is ideal. A third on perimeter would be adviseable, someone who can pull security for us and assist with resources."

The private detective stands still as the Batman speaks the look upon his face akin to that of a man with acute facial paralysis - his flesh and blood simple now attire for J'onn's consciousness.

"I agree," his simple reply brings a feeling of longing, "I believe that Dr. Rao will be able to provide specific information related to the nuanced social structure of the organization. This will provide a point of insertion. Your inside man can deflect the neutral scrutiny of security measures."

"Your blonde protege is trained in counter surveillance but is otherwise an innocuous female without extra-normal capability or notoriety that might otherwise alert external countermeasures. Is this appropriate?"

"Appropriate and well reasoned," Batman says, nodding shortly at J'onn. "Spoiler has a talent for communications work and is developing herself as a mission manager. She is a bit inexpercienced, but…" He lifts one shoulder in a negligent sort of shrug. "We all were, once. This would be a good building mission for her."

It's a mentality not shared by the entire League, the idea of throwing rookies into the mix. Batman never hesitates to call in people for a mission, no matter how difficult it is or how high the stakes. Today's apprentices are tomorrow's allies, after all.

"I've scouted security a few times. They work in three eight-hour shifts, with very little overlap," Batman explains. "Our cover should be to go through the security check-in, posing as guards from the day shift. We can access badges and security cards that way. The guards we replace will be missed within sixteen hours or less, so once we decide to move, we are committed to the operation— or our cover will be blown."

"So three of us. Spoiler on perimeter duty. I'll handle hacking and social engineering. Your tasks will be reconnaissance and intelligence gathering."

The Batman has experienced it many times. That feeling that the mood of the room has been swayed by a poignant argument. This is how the room feels, despite the presence of just one other person who seems to be more marionette than man.

"Agreed," the Martian's deep voice responds with no more enthusiasm than the moment before, "I begin probing Dr. Rao of information. When your inside-man is prepared and your physical form possesses a state of readiness such that the operation can begin then we shall reconvene."

"In the interim I predict that the manor post box will be a poor method of communication. John Jones shall inform Gale Powell that he has a new client who dictates his schedule pursuant to a large lump-sum retainer that I shall arrange to be wired into the business account. Your state of dress will thus continue to be no concern."

"This is my preference," his voice hardens there and John Jone's eyes sudden narrow with specific emphasis, "Your judgement is trusted. The same cannot be said for all whom have access to the League."

"I agree completely," Batman tells J'onn. He takes no umbrage at J'onn's statement. "Compartmentalization is key. I'll generally prepare Spoiler for operations and keep the launch date confidential until we're ready to go."

He pauses. "While we're on the topic of Spoiler— I could use your help," he tells J'onn. "She's had a strong run lately. She's proving herself well. I have some concerns about her sense of perspective, however. I might enlist you to help provide some… 'characters' for a little melodrama I have in mind for her. It should give her a psychological shock to keep her from getting complacent, and you aren't likely to be injured by anything she might try."

The specific emphasis in the Detective's gaze disappears as the seeming paralysis melts away the pointed look.

"Spoiler and the Flash possess a strengthening emotional bond," the Martian states without any sort of drama and clarifies with the statement, "So I am aware of the barriers you face. At least in part."

"Not permanently," the Martian agrees to the statement of injury, "but temporarily and to whatever degree desired - viscous fluid in fleshy tissue without nerve — in order to stage the correct set of psychological conditions. I leave that to your discretion.

"Bonding is one thing. Emotional co-dependence is another," Batman says, his gravelly voice growing a bit wry. "It's an exercise in psychology. You may find it intersting. I'll be in contact."

He offers J'onn a handshake— a rare gesture of respect? Or just Batman helping J'onn 'play the role' of being a human? He's a hard one to read.

"I'll be in touch once we're ready to go. I expect we'll need to move swiftly once the pieces are in play. Until then, J'onn, take care," Batman remarks, before moving to excuse himself.

What happens next is an awkward movement but not awkward in a human way.

John Jones's eyes blink once and when the open he looks at the hand. Then, as if snapped out of hypnosis, his eyes become glassy and he reaches to take Bruce's hand, "Thanks for reaching out to me, Mr. Wayne." He says once again speaking with his easy-going baritone.

"I'll let my gal know that you're our top priority," he releases there and then walks to open the door overtaking Wayne's pace with long deliberate strides, "If you need anything give me a call and I'll be over in two shakes."

Must the Martian compartmentalize so much of itself into the facsimile of a man to feign basic humanity? A mystery worthy of the World's Greatest Detective.

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