Copyright Infringement

May 18, 2017:

Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne find themselves the victims of a brazen robbery at the Gala Ballroom in Gotham.



NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The evening has started out wonderfully, really. Selina Kyle, business owner, cat fancier, and glamorous socialite of Gotham City, is throwing a gala. Specifically, in fact, she's hosting a gala to benefit a refuge for snow leopards. The moneyed swells of Gotham and nearby cities have gathered to rub elbows and show everyone else how generous they are. Ms. Kyle has organized the whole thing, too, and evidently she's a natural-born hostess: the Gotham Grand Hotel's ballroom has been decked out with fresh flowers and a brass band playing the best in music from the 1920s. Dinner was accompanied by a string quartet, but it's time for the dancing now, and several dozen of Gotham's richest (and on occasion, Gotham's most corrupt) have dressed in their best 20s getups to dance the night away.

And Ms. Kyle is, of course, the glittering jewel in the crown. She can do understated when she wants to, but is this the occasion for it? She's wearing a very fine vintage flapper gown covered in shimmering black and silver beads, matching it with opera gloves and a beaded and feathered headdress. Announcements and speeches are over; she's taking a moment now away from the dancing, enjoying a flute of champagne and looking terribly pleased with herself.

The beauty of men's apparel is that tuxedos haven't changed in most of a century. Coat tail lengths might go longer or shorter, the lapel angle shifts— buttons here, maybe different cuffs. But the core is the same, of a midnight blue hue very nearly black, a white collar under high shirt lapels, and a cummerbund barely visible inside the jacket.

And Bruce Wayne wears it as well as anyone else there. He's got a few years on Selina, of course, and he's not the young social buck he once was. Once upon a time, Bruce Wayne would have descended on such a gala event with a coterie of young socialites, and left with an entirely different ensemble.

But, that was before his well-documented case of 'having a family' struck him, and now a few years and a few pounds heavier, he's simply regarded as a long-confirmed bachelor instead of the wayward young thrillseeker.

Not that it doesn't stop a number of women from throwing their daughters— or themselves— at him. Neatly escaping a press of conversation with a deft apology, Bruce slips around the back of the champagne fountain and uses some bushes for cover. He abruptly comes up on Selina, blinking in mild surprise. "Oh, excuse me," he says in an easy, relaxed low tenor. "I didn't mean to sneak up on you. Miss Kyle, isn't it?" he asks, trying to place a name with the face.

And whether he's that kind of confirmed bachelor or simply a man who doesn't like being tied down has been the subject of many an idle morning talkshow, but it certainly doesn't stop the hopeful. Watching matrons nudging their skinny daughters toward Gotham's most eligible bachelor is innocent and cheap entertainment for the sort of woman who really has seen it all. Selina's eyes scan the crowd: he seems to have disappeared; clever man, given what she knows about Allison Weiss's habits. It's not easy to max out her father's credit cards, but hasn't she just managed it?

She doesn't jump when she hears the faintly-familiar voice just over her shoulder; she's half-turning when she hears the rustle of his jacket, and a smile curves her lips when she sets her eyes on him. "Well done," she says. "And you're Mister Wayne, or his stunt double. The Wayne Foundation dinner two months ago; I heard your speech. Giving back to the community." Extending her hand, she crinkles her eyes just a bit at the corners. "If you take just a half-step to your left, you'll be out of the eyeline of anyone under six-two. A word to the wise."

"A word to the wise, eh?" Bruce takes a prudent, sliding step to the left and checks around the shrubbery. Sure enough, she's right, and he flashes a relieved grin. "I don't know about wise, but I'm learning. Get pigeonholed by the Countessa Marriot once, shame on her; twice, shame on me," he says, ruefully.

"But, I'm Mister Wayne to my Board of Directors. Friends call me Bruce," he says, offering her a diplomatic handshake appropriate to the venue. "You've really outdone yourself, Miss Kyle. People are actually enjoying themselves tonight. Most of the time, the only way to lubricate checkbooks is with an open bar," he says, urbanely. "I hope it helps the charity— leopards, right? In … what was it, Pakistan?" he hazards.

"India. Very close." Selina's smile actually increases slightly, or at least grows in honesty. She takes his one hand with both of hers, enveloping it briefly in warm velvet. "And I try to go for quality rather than quantity when it comes to the bottle; most people prefer a small glass of eighty-year-old port to five well-vodka martinis before they get poured into the backs of their cars. Tonight… I have to say, it's been better than I hoped. Knock on wood, there haven't been any major disasters. And for you to say it's been a success is quite the compliment. If anyone's been to more of these things than I have, it's you."

Unless you count the times she came in costume, that is. Luckily, all the gems she's wearing have either been bought or re-set into less familiar settings. No one's going to recognize Aunt Harriet's pearls on her tonight.

"It's a pleasure to really meet you, Bruce. My most charming friends call me Selina," she adds, the corner of her eyebrow quirking up with the same corner of her mouth.

"An appreciation for fine liquor develops with age," Bruce agrees. "I'm sure once you get out of your twenties, you'll develop a taste for something rare, well-aged, and full-flavored." His eyes dance as he squeezes Selina's fingers, briefly returning the gesture of an overlaid handclasp, and lets her gloved fingers slip from his at precisely the socially appropriate moment.

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance as well, Miss Kyle," he remarks. A sly play of words, and difficult to tell if it's sincere, or merely playful self-deprecation. "Formally, that is. We seem to have been circling at opposite ends of the social pool for quite a while now. You've been making quite a splash in the social scene, lately. Are you new to the community, or have I just been attending all the wrong fundraisers?" he inquires, with a chuckle of good humor.

The comment actually brings a warm laugh, enough that Selina's head tips back to let it out. "Bless you, Bruce Wayne. Keep talking like that and I'll invite you to one of my very select Scotch parties. The first rule is that the contents of the bottle must be old enough to legally drink."

To his question, she inclines her head slightly. Her hands, once withdrawn, settle themselves; one on the rim of the fountain, one hanging freely to frame her hip. "I think we've been generally in similar circles now and then, but I'm not always quite so visible. This is, in fact, the first major event I've hosted. There's such a lot to organize, but I wanted to make it…"

She seeks the right word, one hand lifting to move in vague circles. "Classy. For lack of a better word. Less drunken stumbling and fumbling; more likelihood of remembering things tomorrow morning."

Distantly, quite distantly, a pair of double-doors open and close to let in another few people. Through the throng, however, it's not very easy to see exactly who it is.

"It's… not easy," Bruce concedes, reassuringly. "Fundraising, and charity events. There are a lot of moving parts to get right, the invitation list has to be carefully considered— I get a migraine, right here," he says, touching the corner of his left eye, "when my social secretary asks me if it's acceptable to put the Carlito family across the table from the Aston-Baxters, as long as the Michello's aren't within earshot."

"Right here," he says, a bit dramatically, and taps his fingertip against his cheekbone with a low, easy grin. His hands drop to his sdies, hanging there comfortably. "But, if the wise will take a word of advice— get the pledges done while the band is hot and people are dancing the most. Otherwise, alcohol and exhaustion start to set in."

"Speaking of the band," he adds, as they strike up a slow, gliding three-quarter time medley, "I don't suppose I could invite you to dance?" he inquires, holding a palm up in an offer of escort.

Selina actually shudders, inclining her head in evident agreement. "Don't remind me. I actually enjoy keeping track—there's something a little illicit, isn't there, about knowing people's business better than they know it themselves? But it does make invitations and table-settings a challenge. You'd think we were in the pre-Revolution French court."

There's a look of possibly-mock concern on her face as he describes that social migraine, though, and she even reaches up to rest her gloved fingertips delicately on his cheek. "I hope you aren't feeling any of that tension now. A tense partner isn't any fun at all." Her other hand reaches for his as he offers it, catching it with poise and grace. "I'd be delighted. Of course you know how to waltz. And afterward, maybe a breath of fresh air—"

They're no more than half a step onto the dance floor before the lovely moment is rudely interrupted. The new guests appear to be nowhere on the guest list: four men and one woman, and only sort of dressed for the occasion. They're not in 1920s clothes, oh no. They're wearing cat masks. And the woman standing in front…

"The NERVE," Selina hisses.

"The party's JUST getting started, my dears!" trills the ringleader. She's wearing a domino mask, party-store fuzzy cat ears, and a tail pinned to the rear of a dancer's leotard. "We're just here to make things MUCH more festive, aren't we? Our own party was TOTALLY dull, but you know what would brighten it up?"

Hands on her hips, she leans forward as her goon squad pulls out a number of weapons—one gun, one chain, one baton, and one set of brass knuckles.

"All. Your. Loot."

Bruce blinks in surprise as they're interrupted, turning to face the sudden intrusion. He takes a half a step forward, partially putting himself between Selina and the threat, and peeks cautiously through the bushes. His brow furrows heavily when the blunt implements are produced, but his blue eyes go very wide when the gun is brandished at the crowd. "What the—" he grunts in surprise as weapons show up, and his hand closes on Selina's bicep, drawing her back into the bushes and into their coverage. Despite the bit of padding around his midsection, he's got a grip like a vise and he immediately tries to disappear behind the bushes.

"Quick, back this way," he whispers at Selina, pointing behind them. A service door is propped half open, a poorly lit room behind it. A short hallway leading to the kitchen and back passages, most likely, and a convenient exit. "They haven't seen us yet. Let's get out of here, and call the cops!" he says, ducking towards the portal.

She's being dragged almost off her feet before she knows it, but Selina isn't going without a little bit of a fight. "How DARE she?!" she manages before she's out the door. A part of her is a little startled at the grip on Wayne. Apparently the pampered orphan hits the gym more often than she'd ever suspected. There are other things to worry about just at the moment, though, and one of them is her absolute fury at the partycrashers. Catwoman has hit more than one party, it's true, but she steers clear of most charities. The sort that exist to enrich only their patrons are fair game, but she's never robbed the Wayne Foundation. It would be like stealing from the Little League. There are SOME depths that won't find her skimming them.

It strikes her, too, that this must be how Wayne keeps from getting robbed. As often as he's a part of those events, he must be familiar with every back passage in every event venue in Gotham. The thought brings an unwonted smile, and she gives his hand a quick squeeze: "You get to your phone. I'll find the security office. They might be more personally motivated than Gotham P.D. Stay safe; you owe me a dance, after all." Slipping out of his grip, she blows him the briefest kiss over her shoulder before kicking off her shoes and sprinting with a remarkable turn of speed down one of those back passages.

Bruce Wayne is right behind Selina, but the lights go out a second later. "Damn! Blew a fuse. Go! I'll find you!" Bruce says. A glowing light appears, dancing alone in the night, and Bruce starts to talk into the phone, clearly slowly feeling his way down the hallway. "Hello, police?"

But then Selina disappears around the corner, and Bruce Wayne reverses direction, rapidly cutting through the utility corridors, and even in his dress loafers, he moves as silently as the barefoot Miss Kyle.

"Sir?" Alfred asks, over the phone. "Is there a problem?"

"Party crashers, Alfred," Batman says, in a lower register of voice. "Five of them, armed. One of them might be this 'Catwoman' I've been hearing about."

"Ah, I see, sir. Shall I deliver a parcel? Rooftop?"

"Good man."

The line disconnects and Bruce pauses, passing the master electrical box. He picks the padlock with a rake and tension tool hidden in his sleeve, as effortlessly as if he had the actual key, and opens the panel. Four large breakers are flipped 'off' and then he pulls the large red lever marked 'MASTER LIGHTS'.

The Ballroom is plunged into darkness, illuminated only weirdly by green lights from the fire exit signs. Bruce Wayne sprints to the stairwell and starts going not out, but upwards, towards the rooftop overhead. Something heavy crunches into the roof— and on the second floor, Bruce is whipping off his tuxedo jacket and reversing it.

By the time he hits the third floor, Batman's wearing a thin black cowl and mask, and a thin, utterly black cape curls around him. He dashes towards a foot locker attached to a flipping red parachute, and passes his thumb over a scanner. It pops open with a *hiss* of equalizing air.

In mere moments, Batman rises, turning to face the skylight over the ballroom as he locks his utility belt around his hips and tugs his gloves into place.

If one were to film the progress of the two partygoers side by side, their respective journeys would look not that dissimilar. Selina's journey, however, is a little more low-tech than Bruce's. Instead of a butler and a rooftop delivery, her twists and turns take her sprinting through the kitchen, taking off her earrings and necklace and tucking them safely away. The back door takes her to a damp alley, ruining her silk stockings but delivering her to a sleek black motorcycle. It takes seconds to unlock (and un-trap; Selina's no dummy) the saddlebags, and barely a minute in a dark doorway turns the charming socialite into the daring jewel thief and all around no-goodnik Catwoman.

She doesn't go so far as the ballroom's skylight. There are some lovely balconies that look out over the bay, and their French doors lead to the ballroom just the same. Catwoman takes a moment to observe the scene: the sudden blackout is clearly causing confusion, and the candlelight that had been placed around for purposes of ambience instead just casts confusing shadows around the room. The thieves clearly aren't professionals, but they've managed to snatch a few bracelets and rings and such. One of the thugs has even stepped into the dining room to scoop up the hotel's silver. Not wise.

"Make a note to up my donation to the Gala Ballroom this year," Batman mutters subvocally into the microphone attached to his throat. He examines the glass and finds the corner of the pane, then brings his fist back to his ear and punches it once, with the pointed edge of his gauntlet. It explodes into a million tiny shards, raining downwards, and Batman follows the glass.

Light from the moon and candles flitters down, but the massive shadow behind it obscures them more and more as it approaches the ground. The cape on his back flares, arresting his descent abruptly. He lands heavily, dropping to one knee. The whip-crack of his cloak exhausts a dozen nearby candles, casting the room furthur into darkness.

Batman rises from the floor like a living bit of liquid shadow, his cloak utterly obscuring all his features. A chin and the hard slash of thin lips is all that is visible— until the all-white eyes of his cowl open and level on the thieves.

He doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to. Something, an eerie presence of profundly unsettling -wrongness- fills the room. Many people were probably frightened by the robbers, but a familiar scent prickles at the nose of anyone who's been menaced by a wild animal.

Almost everyone in the room starts to smell like -fear-.

There's a sort of fear that everyone gets when they see red and blue lights flashing behind their car. It's a sort of pit-in-the-stomach dread, even when they've probably done nothing wrong. All of a sudden, their mind starts going over all the things they've ever done wrong, afraid they'll be caught out.

This is not that. This is the feeling of the jungle on a black night, the stars and moon hidden by the canopy, and the knowledgewithout being able to pin it to any one sensethat something in the night is stalking you.

The people in the ballroom feel it. The partygoers feel it. The robbers feel it. And when she slips inside, even Selina feels it. She may, however, be the only one in the room who finds it more invigorating than intimidating.

The ersatz Catwomanshe's no more than nineteen or so, and her dime store cat costume looks somehow even sillier and sadder in the company of the Bat's terrifying bulkactually screams, clutching her bag of loot. She doesn't need to take more than one look at Batman to know that she's well out of her league. She does, in that moment, possibly the wisest and most foolish thing she's done all night: she turns and runs, but she doesn't drop the bag of jewelry. The three remaining thugs, meanwhile, move to cover her exit while looking not at all certain that this is a good idea.

"I didn't think he really existed," one hisses.

"That's 'cause you're from Trenton," another mutters. "I told you this was a bad idea."

From the darkness comes the lash of a bullwhip. Catwoman crouches low as she catches the ankle of the fleeing other-Catwoman, who shrieks as the darkness takes her.

Batman explodes into motion. There are people who are quick, and people who are fast, but Batman just operates on an entirely different level. He moves with bewildered acceleration, his cloak literally standing still in his wake long enough that it *snaps* when he's three feet forward.

For Batman, it's a dance that he's choreographed and rehearsed a million times. A curved piece of all-black alloy metal flicks in a vicious, hissing circle, sounding like the wings of a hissing animal as it sails towards the thug with the gun. He's the real threat, here— the one who could do the most harm to the civilians.

Batman rushes at him, aiming the batarang not for where the gun -is-, but where it will be when the thug inevitably aims at him with near-blind panic fire. After all, all he can really make out are the slightly glowing all-white eyes in Batman's hood.

He twiches his head in alert surprise at the sound of a bullship lashing. Catwoman, in all her sinewy, skintight glory, is clearly visible to the Batman.

But she momentarily takes a lower priority in his mind as he moves to engage the two other lowlifes who'd arrived with the faux-Catwoman, a leaping, striking mass of shadow and force that seemingly has no center to it as he launches into fisticuffs.

This is just not the Catwoman-wannabe's night. Nothing is going according to plan. The villains on the news make it look so easy. She does her best to scuffle with Catwoman, but in less than five seconds the rather more experienced catsuited felon has the younger woman pinned, knees on her thighs, hands pinning her wrists to the ground.

"This isn't a game for amateurs, sweetheart," she purrs, a cruel smirk twisting her lips. "But I'll make you a deal. Leave the loot — and those STUPID ears — and if you can outrun him," this with a nod to the much larger figure in the darkness, "you get to stay out of jail tonight. Run along now, kitten."

The sudden flick of one wrist cuts the jewelry bag open, spilling glinting gems across the floor. Considering that discretion is the better part of not getting sliced up or tied up, the sobbing copycat sheds her ears and struggles with the safety pin on her tail as she makes a run for the same door Catwoman came in through.

Meanwhile, the thugs going after Batman are having a bad time. The gun-wielder was first, naturally, and the weapon only barks once — with its bullet burying itself in the crown moulding — before its wielder is shouting and clutching his hand. The two who were left quickly dive in to fighting with the Batman himself. One lashes a chain toward where he supposes the man's feet are, but he can't properly see and he's trying to keep that dread from freezing him utterly. The other swings madly at the darkness, flailing at whatever seems solid.

The final crook — the fellow who went in to steal the silverware — takes one look through the doorway from the dining room to the ballroom and makes a snap decision. He bolts for the nearest set of French doors, possibly forgetting they lead to the dead end of a balcony overlooking the bay.

Batman plays for keeps. When he brings it, he brings it hard. He oversteps the chain so smoothly that the hop just looks like a normal step, and the chain wrecks havoc with the attacker's allies. A boot kicks the gun and sends it sailing smoothly into the distance, underneath a table. As dark as it is in the room, it might as well be on the moon.

He doesn't take overlong in the duel, either, never stopping his momentum even as he plants himself to put every possible ounce of power into a blow. One goes down with a broken jaw and his lights turned off. Batman sidesteps a flailing kick and punches the inside of the man's knee, breaking it with a sickening *crack*. The thug goes down screaming and clutching his leg. The third lunges at Batman, and the Bat ducks, pirouettes smoothly, and grabs the man from behind by the forehead. He hauls him backwards and down savagely into the armored cap of his knee, knocking him out cold with a single blow.

Batman whips his head around to spot the last criminal dashing towards the balcony, and his hand dives towards a grappnel launcher secured to the bronze belt around his hips.

Only one Catwoman left in the room now. The other one seems to have found the same way out that Bruce and Selina took earlier, but the one in the better outfit has paused to appreciate the brutal grace of another night predator. Those thugs thought they could prey on the weak, but they were by no means the strongest creatures in the room. Not for long.

The sound of those cracking bones and screaming comrades elicits another cry of horror, this from the last fool standing. He takes one look at the Bat, sees those expressionless white panels turn his way, and decides that anything is going to be better than dealing with that. Like a stag running from hunters, he tries to dive to safety, but Catwoman is through the doors with almost inhuman grace. Once again, the whip snaps out; once again, it catches its prey by the ankle.

Three sounds follow this. As Catwoman catches his ankle, she leaps up the wall, dragging him behind her as she climbs to the roof on the next floor up. His cries of terror are the first sound, followed by the clinking and clattering of silverware on the floor of the balcony.

The third sound is a woman's low and wicked laughter, distant and muffled as Catwoman achieves the rooftop, her quarry dangling head downward.

Batman aims his grapnel skywards and fires it. There's a *pfft* of the acclerant launching the lightweight device, and the four tines open wide to grap onto anything they can. It imapcts a few inches from the dangling crook's head, skitters across the asphalt, and latches onto a pipe.

With a near-silent *whirr* of greased bearings, Batman flies up to rejoin the night and fairly launches himself into the sky. He lands on the rooftop and whips his cowl around in a circle, already palming a Batarang and priming it to fling at a threat.

But none materializes. The pupil-less eyes in his cowl narrow as he scans the roof, searching for Catwoman, and finding… nothing. Not even a thermal trail to follow.

"It looks like I got a glance at the real Catwoman," Batman tells Alfred, speaking subvocally again. "She's quick. Good with a whip. Might be trouble."

"Women almost always are, sir," Alfred says, dryly. "I take it you've subdued the rascals tonight? I might suggest you doff your jacket and rejoin the party, before someone notices you're missing."

"Yeah. I'll send up a party balloon," Batman says.

Moments later, Batman's more expensive gear is gone skywards on a drone's skyhook, the disposable stuff is shoved into a long-disused vent, and with his tuxedo jacket in hand, Bruce Wayne moves down to rejoin the party.

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