Cat and Bat

May 25, 2017:

Batman chases Catwoman across the rooftops once again.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Past midnight in Gotham, and the city still isn't asleep. Particularly not on the East End: strip clubs and similar establishments line the streets, throwing a multihued glow up the walls and into the sky. All that light just makes the darkness of the rooftops hazy, the shadows somewhat sickly.

For anyone in Gotham paying attention, the neighborhood has seen vigilante activity that doesn't appear to correspond to Batman or any of the Bat-kids. Drug dealers — particularly the suppliers, even those associated with some of the more powerful gangs in the area — have been tied up and robbed. None of them seemed to remember anything about their attacker, and most of the gangs have been presuming the beatings were carried out by some rival gang. They're starting to get a little suspicious, though, now that almost all of them have been hit. Then again, maybe it's Falcone's men, seeing as how none of THEM have apparently gotten hit.

Or maybe it's the lithe figure nestled against a chimney on one of the derelict buildings above Crime Alley. Money in a series of neat piles, drugs shoved unceremoniously into a sack. They're not what Catwoman came for, after all.

*

"Man, that Bat, he don't sleep," one of the men complains. There's a chorus of subvocal hisses, and the fellow next to him backhands the complainer's chest.

"Shit, Russo, don't -say- it," he mutters. The half-dozen men stand in loose assembly outside a meat packing facility. Some obviously work there, from the blood on their clothes, but the others are goons and thugs who have no business at this time of night outside of the plant.

The first fellow, a skinny man with a pockmarked face, winces and rubs his chest. "Ow, the hell you hit me for?"

"Man, you can't -say- B… B-man's name," says a guy stooping on the loading dock, hunkered down in a rice paddy squat. He puffs his cigarette a few times. "He's got, like, mystic powers or shit. Can hear you if you do."

"Bullshit," someone says, and two others squelch him with glares. A low, murmuring nonverbal argument breaks out, but the majority wins.

"Whatever, man. How much longer is this dude gonna be?" inquires Pockmarks, glancing at his phone's screen. "I wanna get back home and watch the game."

"He's here," someone calls, a low-voice down the alley. An old F350 cargo truck rattles down the narrow alley, tailights painting the men in lurid shades of red and yellow as the disguised delivery vehicle slows to a halt. Someone pulls open the doors, revealing a half-dozen crates inside. He opens them to check their contents— little orange pill bottles marked FENTANYL, p. NEW YORK ZOO.

"Okay, get 'em loaded," the ringleader says, making a spinning geture over his head. The crew starts moving with lazy purpose to get the crates of drugs into the meat packing plant.

*

If the ears on her cowl could really hear, they would quirk toward the low-voiced men lurking several stories below. Catwoman pauses, considers, glances toward the money she's piled up so neatly, and turns away from it to peep over the side of the building.

If it had just been a few dealers, she might have left them alone. Sometimes people don't have a lot of choice in what they do for a living. But this… this is something else entirely. It takes some magnification from the lenses in her cowl to confirm what they had, as if she didn't already know. Crates full of bottles of one of the most potent painkillers on the market. China White. The stuff they cut heroin with to make it cheaper and far, far nastier.

The piles of money are stuffed unceremoniously in the small space between the chimney and the ledge of the roof. She's tempted, beyond tempted, to just hop in the driver's seat and take the car speeding off into the night. While that's not entirely off the table, it's not the first thing she does. No, the first thing she does is to pull out a trio of smoke bombs from her belt and lob them at the pavement at the back of the van. She's just a few feet behind them, and with her goggles on, she has a heck of an edge over the man on the ground: she can switch to infrared vision.

*

"Ack!"
"Shit!"
"I can't see!"

The complaints are loud and sulferous, and people stagger around blindly in the immense, thickly billowing smoke. "The van backfired, man!" someone complains. "Shit, where's the fire?"

Most of the men either lurch towards a wall they can balance against, or freeze in place, some crouching slightly. Selina, with her high-tech cowl, has the ultimate advantage over them; she can see, and they cannot. Without the benefit of IR goggles, they can see barely past their flailing arms, and it provides a curious bit of showy pantomime as men waggle their hands around to try and distinguish shadows, smoke, and darkness from themselves.

"Mike! Kill the engine, man, it's on fire!" someone shouts, coughing heavily.

Selina could probably walk right through them, with none being any the wiser.

*

She could just take the van and go. She could take the drugs, scream down the road, put a brick on the gas pedal, and send the van soaring into the bay with a brick on the gas pedal. It wouldn't be hard. It would be fun.

But Selina is… irritated. This part of town is where she was born. It's where she lived. It's her chose neighborhood, and it's gone to the dogs—not that it was ever that great in her lifetime. If this is their distribution center, though, maybe she can get at the higher-ups in the organization. These guys deserve a beating, but it would still be a waste of fist.

So instead of screeching off with the van, she sneaks inside, scolding herself for doing it all the while. The second she's inside, she's hunting for some spot she can climb to in order to observe the rest of the warehouse unseen.

*

The inside of the warehouse has obviously been converted into a drug den. Probably in fits and starts, but after a few months, there's barely a nod towards meat packing anymore. The owner's surely complicit, at this point. There's only so much 'looking away' one can do before realizing an entire meatlocker's been replaced with distillation and pharmaceutical gear.

"Fuck, get those fans going, man," someone from the docks complains. Massive industrial fans start sluggishly churning, expellling the white smoke skywards to dissipate harmlessly. Job's done, though— Catwoman has more than enough time to get inside and look around, and find a cozy nook to hide in.

It's probably not the epicenter of the drug ring. Barely a few hundred square feet. But this is definitely a major distribution hub, and the construction equipment suggests that they're getting ready to expand the production even more. The enterprise is pretty well concealed from the front— a large false wall that cuts it off and makes it seem like the meat lockers are at the very back of the building. It'd be hard for anyone coming in the front door to recognize a few hundred square feet were lopped off the back end.

*

From above, it's easy to see. Building inspectors, though — not that any come to the East End — probably don't crawl around in the rafters to get a better look.

Catwoman crouches in the rafters, considering. She can handle six guys and a meatlocker's worth of drugs. Still, it's not going to be nice smoke that she's making, so she reaches toward one of the larger pockets of her own utility belt. It doesn't take long to cover her nose and mouth with a slim-fitting gas mask. It makes the cowl almost unforgivably warm, but it's better than inhaling burning chemicals.

The only thing to do now is wait and lurk until they've finished unloading. Presumably money will be exchanged at some point; that's always a fun moment. Rob the men or burn the lab? Rob the men or burn the lab… why not both?

*

The drugs are unloaded fairly quickly. Only six small crates, and most of them are easily managed. Several of them are put into a storage area, with an oddly idiosyncratic man with glasses and a clipboard directing that they be put away quite precisely, and the area tidied before the criminals leave. Most of them give him a baleful look… but no one argues the point.

"Okay. Last of it," grunts the ringleader. Clipboard looks around, then nods and heads to the office.

He emerges a few seconds later with a duffel bag full of crumpled, well-worn bills, and hands it off. "A hunnered and thirty large," the skinny fellow says. "Receipt's in the bag. You so much as buy a friggin' cuppa coffee with that, Joey Malone will have your tongue as a bookmark. Got it?" he says, with a heat in his voice that's at odds with his high, nasal tones.

"Yeah, yeah, I got it," the big guy mutters, turning to stow the money.

*

And that's when Catwoman makes her move. Smoke isn't the only thing she has in her possession, after all. With the money man and Clipboard so close to each other, it's the perfect time to drop a couple pellets of knockout gas on them. She stays high enough to avoid the gas itself, but she doesn't bother waiting for the telltale thuds before leaping to the ground. If the gas doesn't take them down, after all, she can do that easily enough herself.

*

"What th-!"

The skinny fellow proves to have a bit better reactions than the delivery man— he leaps away from the smoke like it's a coiling serpent, and makes a beeline towards a gas mask on a nearby countertop. He stumbles and almost collapses against a table, visibly disoriented by the faceful of the narcoleptic.

The driver topples like a felled tree, crashing into a trash can with a tremendous, discordant jangle. This, of course, brings others running into the room, and straight into the cloud of much less friendly smoke. Amidst a fit of coughing and gagging, several go down immediately while a few manage to get clear, albeit with severe disorientation for their troubles. None seem able to do much more than cling to the floor for balance.

*

It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Catwoman ignores the other thugs — though she does kick the duffel bag away from them — and focuses her attention on the skinny man. Grabbing him by the back of his clothes, she shoves him back into the slowly dissipating cloud of gas. Best to do this quickly, she decides; get in, shake things up, get the money, get out. The quickest and easiest way to cause some quick destruction is hit upon in a moment: she lights a pair of small flares, chucking them into the lab and storage areas. It'll take a moment or two — hopefully — before they go off. Long enough for her to get out. Maybe even long enough for them to get out, too.

Snatching up the duffel bag, therefore, she sprints for the doorway, ducking low and unsnapping the bullwhip from her hip. With a lash of leather, she's on her way upward, swinging from a streetlamp toward the roof she came from.

*

Just as Catwoman hits the apex of her jump and starts to curl in for what would surely be a beautiful three-point landing, an object buzzing as spitefully as a little hummingbird flickers near her legs. Thin wire wraps around her calves and the back of one knee and some jerk yanks her feet out from under her just before she gets her balance.

A gunmetal grey boot, with no sole and some partial armoring, scrapes the asphalt not far from Selina's nose. Batman stares down at Catwoman, his all-white eyes unnervingly and unblinking, and that strange, almost animal instinct prickles at the back of the neck when he approaches.

"You've been busy," he says, shortly.

*

Catwoman might be agile and nimble as a gymnast, but anyone can get tripped up when they're least expecting it. She's able to cushion her fall a bit with a duffel bag full of money, at least, and looks up, up, up the boot and the leg and the body to the face draped in shadows. It's something of a cobra pose she's in, only with her arms folded over a hundred thousand dollars. More expensive than the average yoga mat.

"And you took your sweet time. Aren't you supposed to be cracking down on this city? Do I have to do everything around here?" If being bound bothers her (and it does), she doesn't let it show.

*

"Been here thirty minutes," Batman says, in those unreadable tones. "Watching you." His lips thin a little at Catwoman's insoucient repose atop the bag, the woman seemingly completely unbothered by the height differential. Helps to be bendy enough to look up at someone that tall, too.

"Still haven't decided on your motives. Drug dealers are small time compared to burglary. And you're not using a gun, which suggests you don't like going lethal. I'm not fond of vigilantes operating on my territory for the 'fun' of it," he glowers. With his cloak pulled forward, it's difficult to make out much detail about his clothing, as he's mostly concealed from the knees up.

*

It's hard to see the cute little nose wrinkle and the full lips smirk, so Catwoman simply reaches up to take off her gas mask. It's not that Batman isn't known for knocking people out; it's more that she suspects he isn't going to do it to her. Not yet. Tucking it into the pouch it came from, she arches her back a bit further than she needs to, claws stretching to sever the cord around her legs.

"I'm a mystery like that," she replies, her voice low and drawling. "As far as lethal…"

On cue, there's the whoomph of chemicals burning and the shattering of glass from the lab below. Catwoman hitches a shoulder.

"It's optional. If they care about their skins more than they care about their distribution point, they'll probably live."

*

"The ones you didn't knock out, you mean," Batman points out to Catwoman. He waits a beat. "You had rendered a few unconscious. I pulled them out and made sure that the fire department wouldn't find charred bodies when they show up," he tells her.

He glowers at Catwoman with a sudden, sharp shift in his temper that's palpable even through the cowl and featureless eyes. "If I hadn't been here watching, you and I would be having this conversation on the way to Gotham PD. Junkies or not, murder-arson gets their attention."

*

Snorting, Catwoman rolls her eyes, a fairly subtle gesture behind the goggles. She accentuates it with a slight toss of her head. "For a guy who's been known to dangle gangbangers off buildings, you sure care a lot about the lives of a half-dozen dealers and their distributor. What do you do this for, anyway? And why are you following me around the city? I'm sure you have better things to do. Or maybe not?"

With the cord cut, she's still lying on her stomach on the roof a little like someone in the middle of a pushup. Relaxed and poised all at once.

*

"Maybe I don't like the smell of burning carcass," Batman growls. "Maybe I don't like unexplained arson or property damage. Maybe, when you're the one keeping Gotham from rotting in its own cesspool, -you- can decide where to draw the line. Lining up six goons for the cops generally costs a lot less than burning down a crime lab. Rolling fire trucks cost a few hundred dollars per hour to run."

Sure enough the tell-tale shriek of sirens in the distance, clanging and whirring, accompanies the moan of police warning megaphones.

"So it's 'Catwoman', then? That's what they're saying on the street."

*

"'They' aren't notably creative. Or was it you who decided your name was Batman?"

She's on her feet then — suddenly, and without warning, and it's probably not wise to make any sudden moves around this shadowy predator, but she's barely an inch away. Her hands are still at her sides; she's not even reaching for the duffel bag, instead just taking the moment to get herself a little more on Batman's same level. She isn't afraid. It surprises even her, a little.

"Catwoman is fine," she murmurs. "And you know how long it usually takes for the cops to show up on this side of town. Pizza Express shows up faster. But I'm not pretending to be a hero, Batman. Are you? What's your deal, really? You get a kick out of beating up the bad guys and sending them to Stonegate? All you're doing is creating job openings for the next poor sap."

*

Batman almost looks surprised at Catwomans purely feline ease. He doesn't flinch— Batman doesn't flinch— but his weight certainly shifts minutely. Even if it's just a hairsbreadth over his toes for balance.

'Level' might be not quite the right word, with the height difference Batman sports at least five inches on her. Maybe more. It obliges her to rise on her toes to gain that parity, and he looks a little unnerved by her sinuous presence and abrupt disregard for his personal space.

"Heroes and villains do it for the same reason: glory. I do it because it needs to be done," he points out, with a low growl. Weirdly, as she gets near, she'd realize he has no scent. None whatsoever— no leather, no metal, nothing. "Keep knocking them down long enough, sooner or later they get wise."

*

She's not above rising on her toes — she's been a dancer before, and many types of dancer, for that matter, and a cat can look at a king. Her head tilts — again, that feline air, that caution mixed with curiosity, as if she's sniffing the air in the jungle. She isn't as scent-scrubbed as he is: there's a lingering aroma of some scent that goes well with leather, something rich but subtle. Earthy. Something like the smell of the city in the rain.

"You will run out of knuckles before Gotham runs out of desperate men," she murmurs. "You justify it because you think it needs to be done. You do it because you enjoy it. Don't you? The power of running on the high roads no one else can touch unless you allow it. Looking down on the city like you own it. Deciding who to chase and who to let run free. You like reigning in Hell and letting the demons run like cockroaches when the light comes on. Don't you?"

*

Batman shifts his weight forward a step. Not a push. His hands don't even move. But it's a low, sliding step that brings his center of gravity just a hair under Catwoman's, just as she balances on the tips of her toes and starts to lean forward towards him.

In the intervening space, he kicks aside the bag of money and turns his profile to Catwoman, pausing only for a microsecond.

"Make up any story you like, Catwoman," Batman tells the woman, his tone oddly neutral. "I've got a wall at home dedicated to all the gossip rags in Gotham. Maybe someday, some stranger in a mask will walk up and try to psychoanalyze -you-," he says, before taking two steps and reaching out to collect the bag by a strap.

*

"That's funny. I thought he already had."

But rather than let Batman collect the bag, Catwoman feels a flare of temper and lets it loose. She leans out to slash the strap and punts the bag out of reach, high and long, sprinting after it like a soccer player. She might not get terribly far with it, but that doesn't mean she isn't going to try. Once again, that laugh he heard last Dopplering away at the Gotham Grand Hotel: clearly this is fun for her, and maybe it's not anything else. Not yet.

*

Batman grunts in surprise at Catwoman's speed. The bag goes sailing, but instead of whipping his head around he tracks both her— and it— with his peripheral vision. She's moving fast, so he turns in near-pursuit, accelerating with remarkable speed even on the loose rooftop asphalt.

They're neck and neck for long strides— she's even pulling ahead by a few inches— and then Batman swings his boot around and with an expert aim, flicks the toe of his foot against the underside of Catwoman's heel. Just enough to spell disaster for someone sprinting full-out, carelessly.

*

She's running free and long, sprinting… well, yes, somewhat carelessly, making for the narrow space between two buildings. She's almost there when that one little flick knocks her off-balance and she starts to tumble face-first.

She twists midair, though, sinuous, and it's easy to see why she started dressing up like a cat. It's almost too apt. Instead of falling on her face, she rolls and turns, ending up on the toes of one foot, facing her pursuer, holding the duffel bag behind her and leaning forward to offset its weight. The pose is like something out of a strange ballet, and the color is high in her cheeks.

She's smiling. It's impossible to miss. "Come on," she laughs. "You wouldn't do this if you didn't love it. This is where you belong. In the dark, in the shadows. If there were no more shadows in Gotham, where would you go?"

*

"Into the light," Batman says, holding a hand up. Something momentarily flares with a dazzling light in his palm, at Catwoman's face— a thousand candlepower, at least, like an industrial headlight at close range.

He uses the cover of the flashblinder to leap upwards— a spectacular jump, somersaulting over Catwoman with a flicker of his cloak, and turns to snatch the duffel back away from her again.

"And you probably belong in Stonegate," Batman retorts. "Arson, attempted manslaughter, grand theft— and somehow I doubt you're wearing the mask for showmanship."

*

Catwoman lets out a startled gasp — that flash of light, along with the liberation of the duffel, doesn't do anything good for her balance. Rocking forward, she brings her back leg to bear, gripping the edge of the roof with her toes and flipping backward. It takes a lash of that bullwhip to catch hold of the nearest… anything, frankly, jutting out from the opposite roof and strong enough to bear her weight for just long enough.

Luck and skill land her on the rooftop, but she's almost swearing when she does. "That's the bat calling the cat black," she growls. "How many thugs have you landed in the hospital? And how long have YOU been wearing a mask?" She's not leaping for him this time. She walks slowly toward him instead, sinuous, calm. Hardly ruffled. More amused than irked.

*

Batman faces Catwoman with the wind tugging his cloak towards her slightly, curled up in a low crouch atop a heatstack on the edge of the roof. He watches her rolling, hip-swinging stride, but his eyes remain unreadable enigmas, utterly featureless white orbs without sclera or pupil.

But he clearly -watches- her.

"Keep pushing me, and you could be the next one," he suggests. "A free trip to Mercy Medical, then Stonegate, maybe a brief stint at Arkham while the doctors get a look under the cowl."

He stands up, facing Catwoman— and then without so much as a tilt of his head, falls straight backwards off the building. He twists in midair and his cloak flares into a billowing set of batwings that seem to hold him aloft as he glides away— with the duffel bag still in his left hand.

*

Well. A cat can catch a mouse, but not a flying one. He's absolutely cheating.

Catwoman was about to leap after him — surely she could follow him — but when she sees his cape spread out, she takes a step backward. She's not going to be able to follow that, though it would be fun to run her heart out trying.

Does the money matter? Not really. The gangs don't have it anymore; that really was the important part. Batman, fool that he is, will probably give it to the authorities, where it will disappear into the pockets of every corrupt cop in the precinct. If he's halfway sensible, it'll become an anonymous donation to some charity. It was never really about the money.

Not entirely, anyway.

Catwoman laughs when he flies away, laughs and blows a kiss after him. And then she turns and stalks off. If she had a tail, it would be bristling. As it is, she's going to have to figure out how that man can keep such a close eye on her.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License