Mangroves

July 28, 2018:

Batman tracks Poison Ivy into the Slaughter Swamp where she's made her presence known.

Slaughter Swamp

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Most of the people who cross the Mooney Bridge are driving, or otherwise occupied, and don't take the time to look out towards the green moist expanses that are, technically, in Somerset. They have no reason to. Why should they care? Even if they did look, all they'd see is…

Trees.

But there is something anomalous on the eastern edge of what is popularly known as Slaughter Swamp around the point where it is fading into nothing-in-particular; copses of wild land and a momentary ridge that makes the place less than pleasant for developing. The water is getting a little salt in it from the bay, and there are four unusual trees there. Mangroves!

They weren't there in June. Trees, normally, don't work like that. Mangroves also have a nasty tendency to die in freezing conditions.

It isn't a big stretch to figure out who is behind this, all told. Nor is it hard to spot when she comes in, because the trees are widely exposed on the water-facing edge, and a swatch of red hair pops on all kinds of monitoring methods if you're looking.

Poison Ivy balances on the mazelike root of the outermost mangrove, stepping off the series of fallen stones and remnants of ancient dockworks she has used to access this site. One hand rests on the trunk and she asks it, "So, how was your week?" in a wry tone. The moonlight shines bright and clear.

"Maybe red wasn't the way to go," Ivy muses aloud. "But…"

She says nothing for a while after that. UNLESS:

*

Mangroves. That was the clue.

Batman keeps as close an eye on the city that he considers his protective as he can. It requires a lot of patrolling as well as hacking into security systems. It was three weeks ago that he noticed the trees that shouldn't be there. He knows enough about horticulture and biology to pick out the anomaly amongst what he might consider his territory.

The Bat - as many might call Batman - has approached the mangroves carefully. He has swung from branches and leapt and then very carefully made his way closer to the place where Ivy now lounges. It did not take him a lot of time to find Ivy out and therefore he is certainly curious about this angle of why here, why mangroves. It seems too obvious, too out in the open to be a new secret hideaway.

The dark casts the Bat in deep shadows as he stands - the bright moonlight giving him an almost monochrome look. He is practically right in front and above Ivy as she muses amongst her unnaturally grown trees. It becomes most apparent to the woman balancing amongst the roots when he speaks, his voice gravelly, dry.

"But you couldn't help yourself, could you?"

*

Ivy doesn't answer immediately, nor does she look. She reaches down to run the tip of a finger around some knot on the trunk of the mangrove for a lingering second, in what is almost certainly a dominance thing. Not least because she does look up a moment later, expression weary.

"Oh," she says. "You're here." One hand goes on her hip, even as the other breaks contact with the tree trunk. "And as charming as ever."

With a sigh, she turns her head and says, "What do you want," even as she circles around the root structure of this mangrove. As she steps to where their mazelike roots intersect, she trails fingers along foliage. A general overview of the trees from close up would reveal that they are… surviving, if not, exactly, thriving.

*

"A valid assessment," Batman tells Ivy with a raised eyebrow, tone completely dry. It's either a joke or he truly believes that it is a valid assessment that he is charming. Honestly, it could go either way.

After making his entrance in the treeline, he steps forward and jumps down to land on the murky territory between them, cape fluttering and then settling around him as he picks his spot and then stays there.

His eyes take in their surroundings, then Ivy. "You're the one trying to make coastal swamp trees try to thrive in Gotham, Ivy. They're barely surviving. I can't imagine that is pleasant for you."

As for what he wants, there is a bit of a quirked lip. "This was practically a calling card. Was this not an attempt at a trap of some kind? I would have thought the proper question is what do you want."

Ivy keeps walking. The next tree is a black mangrove, and Ivy has to crouch down in order to examine some part of it again. She runs a finger over a similar aperture on /this/ tree, even as she says: "You're right. It's not a lot of fun. Vanity, really. I ought to relocate them if they don't rally by August. But the root structure…"

She rises upwards and looks back towards the Bat with her lips quirked. "Tsk. That's your ego talking; assuming I did all of this for /you/."

Resting a palm on the black mangrove, which /is/ pretty up tall and sturdy, she explains. "What I /wanted/ was to see if I could get a jump on climate change. You should be thanking me. Mangroves growing in Slaughter Swamp would be nothing but good for your precious city," towards which Ivy looks, across the bay.

"But you know what the problem is? Salt. I think they'd last the winter - at least if the river didn't freeze up completely, and /that/ seems like it's out of the picture. But the poor things are just so used to having to deal with salt water that they can't thrive this far into the bay."

She looks over her shoulder. "Are they disturbing your view?"

*

As Ivy moves about the trees, Batman remains where he is, tracking her. "It's not ego. Doing something like this in plain sight? You know someone would figure it out. I'm not the only one in Gotham looking. I never said I thought this was a trap solely for me." Either Batman or one of the other Bat-Family is a likely person to look in on such an anomaly in Gotham territory.

"Climate change takes a lot more than a few trees. Certainly more than mangroves in Gotham." They're not the right trees for the climate. Salt is certainly their problem, but not the least of them.

"What is your ploy here, Ivy? I'm sure it is more than just growing trees. The swamps have no view. You grew these here for a reason."

*

"You've caught me," Ivy says as she moves now towards a red mangrove. "This is my prototype for an operation that will turn the House of Representatives into mangrove trees. Once they've all become plants, I'll get the farm bill passed… to my needs."

That's probably a joke, although you never know.

Ivy has a ghost of a smile on her face afterwards. As she circles round the tree she crouches down again, toes curling on the root she's perching on. "Hm. Not as bad off here… perhaps it's…" She doesn't clarify what, but she can look at Batman from this angle, though one eye is hidden by the tree trunk.

"You're an educated bat," Ivy says. "You're familiar with the prisoner's dilemma? This reminds me of it. How could I possibly convince you of the truth of anything I say?"

"This one's doing better," Ivy continues, about the red one. "Don't you think? The climate is the tricky part, but I selected them from the coolest micro-climates I could find. From there, splicing, choosing the strongest… evolution in action. If they'll survive here, they'd thrive in the Carolinas."

*

Unable to help himself, Batman smirks. The cowl leaves very little for emotion, but mouth quirks are certainly easy to see. "That sounds good for democracy." It certainly sounds like a joke, but the mention of the prisoner's dilemma is met with a shift of expression. He still does not move, even as Ivy skirts around the tree.

"Are you trying to say that we are on the same side?" The tone he uses is still even, it's hard to tell if he's amused by the idea or attempting to know whether she thinks their actions are equal. Moving beyond that, though, he says, "It certainly looks like the tree is surviving. As soon as you're gone, though, they will succumb to the climate."

And, as far as Batman is concerned Poison Ivy will not be around to take care of this tree.

*

"Here? Now? Well," Ivy says, stroking the side of the red tree. "We're not on any side at all. Does this tree have a 'side'? Does the swamp? I assumed you were following some trail, but now I'm wondering if you're just having a slow night."

"Normally I'd be more upset," Ivy continues, eyes turning down to the roots and the swampy soil the mangroves are set into, "but I'm questioning a great many things lately. Now, we've saved the best for last."

"This is the one you ought to be upset with me for," Ivy says, indicating a last tree, this one far enough away from the others that Ivy steps rather daintily into the water, up to knee height, to walk towards it. "Avicennia marina. It's not even approximately local. It takes many forms depending on its environment. And here -"

She runs her thumbnail underneath the leaf of one, then holds out her hand. In the moonlight, tiny salt crystals are visible. "It's even found a way to thrive here in Gotham."

Having said this, Poison Ivy's arms fold, if loosely. "If you want me to confess to something," she continues, "you ought to give me a few more details. If this IS simple boredom - well; at least you had the good sense not to bring cut flowers."

*

Is Batman having a slow night? Does he ever? It's possible, though he tends to look in on things he feels are the most pressing. Unwilling to give up his lead, he tilts his head just slightly, much like the bat he is named for. "Possible. Come in, Ivy," he tells her. "You can get help." It's a entreaty.

As Batman observes the one he should be upset about, he looks at it and studies. He's unsure of why it is he should be upset in Ivy's eyes. It's certainly something to research later, however.

"I'm not asking for a confession. Not yet. This is a warning." As for not bringing cut flowers, he smiles. "I tend to do my research."

*

The air grows chillier as Ivy's faintly amused look crystallizes.

"Help," she says.

"A friend of mine's told me that in order to get 'help,'" and the air quotes are visible, almost, certainly audible, "you have to want it."

Her nose tilts slightly into the air. "'Help,'" she says. "Perhaps I have some rough edges. Who doesn't, in this hellscape man's constructed. This screaming grinding barren stretch of poisoned rocks, this sick parody of cleaning fire and -"

And perhaps the real surprise here is that Ivy stops.

She exhales.

"Besides; it'd be selfish of me."

*

Help.

The air grows colder around them. It's an immediate warning. Batman finally springs into action. Though the air is chillier, Batman finally moves. His actions are fired, quick.

"It's more than that." He is not exactly sure what is happening, but he knows that something is. There is danger, but also the hint of either redemption or capture - at least so he hopes. "There's nothing selfish in needing help." At the very least, he sees nothing wrong with people needing Batman's help. A hand reaches out in the cold. If he can bring in people through talking them down rather than physical combat he is glad to do so.

A hand, however, still rests on his utility belt as he approaches. "You sent up these trees for a reason," he reminds Ivy. "You'd know one of us would come to find you here." There is not just Batman, there is entire retinue of Bats he has trained or sort of trained and he would use something like these Mangroves to temper them, to have them investigate.

"Come with me, we'll find you a place to rest. You'll still be able to grow flowers."

*

Ivy shakes her head slowly.

"You know," she says, "I wish that you didn't have moments than this, because it makes everything else SO much harder," and then she twists round with a balletic effiicency to face Batman dead-on. She doesn't raise her hands in anger; one rests on the trunk of the gray mangrove. "There are so many idiots, hypocrites, self-obsessed maniacs in this city, in this WORLD… But you! You're wrong, but you're not one of them."

Her eyes flick down. The belt! That bag of tricks. "That's true," she murmurs, brow furrowing. "Strange of me, when you put it like that." Her other hand comes to touch her chin, in a momentary tic of thought. Batman speaks further…

And Ivy's eyes flick up to him. She scoffs, or perhaps laughs once.

"Take care of them," she says, taking one step back, two steps back, and

disappearing.

No. There wasn't much of a splash but there's a characteristic ripple in… the… dark, sediment-rich water.

The improbable mangroves have no opinion on the matter. A leaf falls from one of the black ones.

*

The hand on his belt is almost like a fire trigger. As Ivy speaks, he realizes that she will not turn herself in. Ivy will not turn herself in, she will not yield to - what he deems - is common sense. And so as she turns to him and tells him tat he is not a hypocrite, he springs into action.

A batarang careens forward and embeds in the precious wood of one of Ivy's mangroves. Cap and cowl spring forward to try and apprehend the environmentalist before she disappears, but even as he is leaping forward, she is either through the tree or around it. Either way, she is gone. With a grunt of displeasure, he looks around for clues, leaving - for the moment - his calling card embedded into the tree while he searches.

Only when he has exhausted his search does he return. With an exasperated exhale, he yanks the batarang from the trunk. Then, he melts back into foliage. He'll wait here for a little while to see if Ivy returns to the scene of the crime. And then he'll mark it for the others to check in on before returns to other matters of Gotham. However, despite himself, he will still check in on the mangroves every now and then to see how they are faring.

*

The mangroves, as it turns out, are not hostile. If they have seemed spidery and threatening it is an artifact of light and pretense. Several branches have twisted, when Batman was not looking, but they are now simple obstacles - things to demand ducking and weaving.

But they do not walk or live. There are no dead bodies in the soil beneath them… at least, none that Poison Ivy put there.

Ivy never comes back to this particular spot. Over the course of the rest of the year, three out of four of them struggle. The black mangroves drop their leaves before fall; the red one lingers on, and even survives a year, but succumbs the second, despite all that may come.

For some reason, the gray mangrove, though: That one sticks.

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