I don't just do funny, you know.
Anyways, this is Part One of Two, and Part Two is coming soon (I swears to god. Like I know I've done this before, but I actually know what I'm going to write out after this to finish the story [obviously] and I even have parts of it jotted down, it's just that it's late as hell over here and I have stuff to do tomorrow and I'm a weenie, so finishing it tonight [it's morning now...like early morning, not late evening. Shit.] is just not going to happen). But it will happen soon! Maybe even tomorrow! Who knows!
Also DC owns all things, he said begrudgingly since DC is a [REDACTED]
*Oh and big thing here; this plot is only loosely based off one aspect of said episode of Sandbaggers, so (since the story is taking longer than I anticipated), don't feel the need to watch the episode to get an understanding of what's going, since this follows a totally different plot. Like still watch it if you want to see some classic British TV, but otherwise...
Bruce knew that Clark was standing behind him, that he'd been standing behind him for nearly ten minutes. What Bruce had once dismissed as a clumsy aversion to stealth or subtlety had morphed into a recognition that Clark always announced himself out of respect for others—Bruce in particular. This was especially true when the situation called for someone to brave the grim spectre that the Batman had so expertly crafted for himself, and talk to him like a human being.
Batman alternated between appreciating the gesture and being irritated by it, but right now, he couldn't muster the energy to do either. Superman seemed to sense this.
"I'll do it Bruce. It won't make a difference to them if it's you or me."
Bruce didn't respond—didn't even move. The screen in front of him was as blank as his expression and his shoulders were as rigid as a statue's. If he had his way, he'd never have to move or think again—he'd remain in this bubble of unfeeling for the rest of his days where his brain and body refused to work, where the world sped by without him.
Clark hadn't moved either. Bruce could have stayed silent for another ten minutes, and Superman would still have waited patiently for an answer. He was always a good man—he was going above and beyond now, and Bruce knew it.
He just couldn't feel it.
"It has to be me," he finally said.
Superman didn't need anything further explanation. He nodded and sighed, and moved out of the way as Batman rose from his chair, his cape drawn around his shoulders like a black shroud, and started towards the door. The trip to the Watchtower's main meeting room, "The Hall", was only about two minutes at a normal pace. Batman's pace was as reserved as ever, but the trip felt like it took years.
The doors to the Hall parted, and both Batman and Superman stepped inside. It was empty and dark—felt like it was long abandoned despite the entire team having been present in it only a day ago. A computer sat idle near the far corner of the room—Superman followed his friend towards it.
With the press of a single button, Batman was connected to every communicator ever distributed by the JLA. There was a brief tone indicating that the connection was being established, and when it went silent, Batman leaned towards the microphone. Superman stood behind him, as stoic as he could muster, though he started to feel his steely exterior crack and splinter.
"This is a Priority One Update," Batman said. To the hundreds of heroes listening in, it was immediately apparent that something terrible had happened. They had all heard Batman's growl hundreds of times before, but for many of them, this would be the first time they heard the voice of what could only be referred to as 'Bruce Wayne'.
"At 0300 hours this morning, the Watchtower lost contact with Wonder Woman. As of four hours ago, we can confirm—" He paused, and Superman saw the bat-façade fully collapse as his voice dropped to barely above a hush, "—that she was Killed In Action. Oracle will have further details for all of you. Batman out."
He backed away from the control panel, and could think of nothing beyond staring at the floor. Superman, with trepidation, stepped closer, and nearly put out his hand in a symbol of comfort. Nearly—he found that he was on the verge of being overcome with emotions as well, in his own way, and he had vowed to use all of his energies to be there for Bruce. He knew what was going on in Bruce's mind—that every single detail of what had happened earlier that day was being analyzed with the thoroughness of a crime scene.
Then he saw Bruce stagger towards the viewing window, which now framed an earth covered in shadows. And in a silent cry of anguish, he saw Bruce break the bones in his hand as he punched the reinforced glass.
Over, and over, and over…
The Previous Day
"The Hall of Justice": JLA Watchtower
"I'm not sure I understand what the President is asking us to do," Superman said, staring at the figure of Sarge Steel and his half-extinguished cigar. It was a facetious question—he understood perfectly fine what Steel and by extension the President wanted from them, he just didn't like it.
Wonder Woman and Batman flanked him, sitting in their marked chairs at the JLA's circular table while Superman stood, his arms crossed. Neither Batman nor Wonder Woman looked any happier to be having the discussion that was ongoing than he did, though Batman was telegraphing his displeasure especially clearly.
"He's asking us to be his Wetwork lackey's," Batman said, answering for the newly-minted Under Secretary. Steel and Batman stared daggers at each other until the Secretary bothered to respond.
"We're not killing anybody, not if you guys do the kind of job you usually do."
"That doesn't answer the ethical questions," Wonder Woman said. "I thought President Horne was moving away from Luthor's legacy."
Steel sighed and spat his chewed cigar onto the floor. "Prince, you know as well as I do that the President has no say over his legacy—that's for the world to decide."
"It's Wonder Woman," she replied, with a tinge of ice in her voice. "I want to trust you Steel, considering all we've been through in the past. But you've yet to adequately explain why the Justice League is needed." Diana was normally a voice of calm in the Justice League and in the international scene beyond, valuing as always love and compassion over anger and hate—no matter how big or how small—and giving herself fully to the quest to create a world where those often neglected things, and not conflict and misunderstanding, ruled the day.
But even she had her limits, and what Steel was asking for carried with it serious questions.
"I'm asking you to what's necessary. Honestly, all three of you should know that. You've dealt with Tuzik before—you know the kind of hell-on-earth he's capable of even when it's just him and a couple of Biaylan wannabe Storm Troopers."
"So send in the Marines," Batman said. "I'm sure with all the black-ink spending your Department does that you've got more than enough toys for them to take down an entire country."
Steel's demeanor cracked. His fist drove knuckles first into the table as he pointed and snarled at Batman. "I'm not going to even dignify that you vapid ass. We're dealing with a Meta-human threat here."
Wonder Woman rose from her chair. "One that neither the CIA nor MI-6, CSIS, or Mossad can confirm. Direct action is risky enough without the Justice League becoming involved. If we're needed..."
"Pr...Wonder Woman, I wouldn't ask for your help if I didn't think I needed it."
Sensing an explosive situation, Superman stepped behind Wonder Woman and began slowly walking towards Steel, trying his best to appear as calm as possible in order to dial back the hostilities. Steel merely tensed, bracing himself for a fourth front to the argument. In a pre-emptive fit, he snarled in Superman's direction.
"You told President Horne that it was your moral responsibility to do everything in your power to protect the American people, Superman." Steel pointed directly at him. "We have a known international terrorist with known international contacts who might very well possess fully weaponized Meta-human's in some capacity or another. I was there when you gave the President your word, so I'm here now to make you act on it."
What had once been a gesture of peace turned immediately to a rush of anger, as Superman's face turned a shade of red and his teeth became bared.
Steel had very much crossed yet another line.
"I said all people, not just Americans. And I explicitly added that most of the time, the moral thing to do is completely removed from throwing punches."
"And is not acting the moral thing to do Superman?" Steel said, getting his cigar-stained face closer to the Man of Steel's.
"Not without more information! It shouldn't take all three of us to make that clear to you!"
Steel's retort was lost as Batman's attention drifted to Wonder Woman. She was still standing, but her eyes were locked onto his—a silent conversation. And Batman understood it perfectly: Steel wasn't going to let up, nor would the President. And while what they were asking for went far beyond any of their comfort zones, they begrudgingly had a point—if General Tuzik (or whatever moniker he used now) really was in possession of some sort of Meta-human, one he had bent entirely to his will, then he was absolutely a threat, and a grievous at that. One that would likely involve the entire JLA in the future if they didn't act pre-emptively, and most certainly result in thousands of causalities.
She could do reconnaissance, she said silently, scope the situation out, just her and her alone, and report back what she found. With her diplomatic prowess she could easily respond to the Bialyan government should she come into contact with them, even appropriate them to her cause if needed. And she was the most skilled fighter in the JLA—strong and fast and above all smart. If there was indeed a Meta-human threat, she could hold her own, at least until back-up arrived.
She was as knowledgeable in the art of war as she was in peace, and though she may not have had the stealth of Batman, she was blessed as a hunter, and could work quietly from the shadows as long as needed. Wonder Woman was the single most qualified individual in the JLA for this job, and it was a job that, the more Batman's cynical mind mulled over it, likely would have to be done.
But it was dangerous—more so than normal. She'd be alone, behind enemy line, completely blind, and facing off against one of the cruelest and most dangerous madmen out there, official military rank or not. The possibility of something going wrong was higher than he felt comfortable analyzing. He told her as much in his own silent way.
I don't care, she said back.
There was something else he wanted to "say", something that brought the totality of his cynicism to bare. But he said nothing. Now was neither the time nor the place.
Batman sighed, and folded his hands out in front of him. "Wonder Woman will go," he said, and both Superman and Sarge Steel paused from their argument. Superman's mouth was agape and ready to protest, but Steel—after adjusting his lapels and huffing audibly—cut him off.
"'Bout time you saw reason," he said.
Batman gave Wonder Woman a look, and Wonder Woman leaned further over the table. "I'll go," she said. "But I'm merely doing reconnaissance. At least until I can confirm whether or not there's any threat that requires our kind of overwhelming force."
"We have good reason to believe there is," Steel said.
"But we don't," Batman said. "And until we do, that's the offer. Take it or leave it."
Steel didn't hesitate. "I'd be awfully dumb to push this any further. It's fine by me." He turned to Wonder Woman. "I'll let you handle logistics yourself. Helps D.C wash their hands of this completely—not that I think you'd be willing to follow a CIA handler anyways."
Wonder Woman nodded. "Then I'll go prepare my gear." She turned to Superman. "I'll trust you to see him out."
Steel coughed and shook his head. "I'll let myself out thank you very much." He pulled out another cigar, flicked open a lighter he pulled from his breast pocket, and lit the end as he walked towards the room's exit. He stopped just as the doors parted, and turned back to the table with the three heroes standing around it, looking like antiquities myths. "Your country thanks you Wonder Woman," he said. He turned, the glowing ember of his cigar the only source of light in the darkened hall, and disappeared around the corner, a trail of echoing footsteps in his wake. Wonder Woman waited until the doors had shut again to let out a pent up sigh of her own.
Batman sat in his chair, motionless, staring out the viewing window at the orange crest of the sun rising over the edge of the earth. It would be night in Bialya soon—likely a stormy one if he placed the countries location right relative to the swirl of white near the north of Africa. Difficult conditions for a normal human, but for an Amazon with advanced senses, the rain and the thunder and the wind might just provide her with the extra cover she needed to stay safe.
He wanted to curse himself for thinking that—for thinking that the most capable member of the Justice League needed extra protection. But the claws of something insidious had latched themselves onto his gut, and he could feel his paranoia begin to bubble upwards.
Batman stood from his chair just as Wonder Woman approached him. "I'd never trust the CIA, no," she said, "but over watch would be appreciated."
"I'll monitor things from up here," he said. "Try to paint you a clearer picture."
"I leave my safety in your very capable hands," she said, lightly squeezing his shoulder. "I'll get ready and come see you before I deploy. If I'm lucky, we won't have to go over much."
"Understood Princess," he said, and he turned to watch her leave the room—always graceful, always full of energy, and always ready to do as much good as possible. Steel was lucky to have her on his side...
He felt Superman walk up behind him, and turned to meet his concerned stare.
"This is dangerous. Even by our standards."
"If something goes wrong down there—"
"I know, Clark," Batman cut in, his voice rising. "I know…I'm well aware of the possible trap she's walking into."
"It's not even a trap, it's a firing squad. Or at least the spectre of one."
Batman had a list of objections he wanted to make, that he needed to make. But not here. Not with Clark. Superman would be worried enough as is, and for Bruce to share in his discomfort...that would only make things worse. To say nothing of the fact that while he was up in the Watchtower, keeping an eye on Diana's mission, Clark would no doubt be whisked away on some unrelated mission, a mission that needed the Man of Steel to have a clear head.
So Batman bit his tongue...
"If anyone can do this Clark, it's her. I meant it when I say this—she's the most qualified person here for a job like this. It's not even close."
Superman sighed and rubbed at his elbow. It was his turn to stare out the viewing window, and for once the sun did nothing to comfort him. "I get it. But she's our friend first Bruce, and I know you especially—"
It was Batman's turn to place a hand supportively on a shoulder, and as he did he looked Superman directly in the eyes, inviting him to look past the white and into the blue that was Bruce Wayne. Swallowing every ounce of doubt and every murmur of paranoia in one protesting and painful inhale, he said, "I won't let anything happen to her. I promise Clark, on the grave of my parents, I won't let anything happen to her."
End Part One:
I'm a sucker for British television just as much as I am for a well-written thriller; film, television, literature or otherwise. And while Sturgeon's Law reigns supreme (as it does with any literary genre; and yes that includes so-called "literary fiction" as well), there's always something in some medium that makes me smile.
"The Sandbaggers" is one of those things. The "anti-Fleming" in every sense of the word. Remarkable show.
So yeah, this story is based off the Series One finale, "Special Relationship". It inspired me to write something using other characters I don't own. Hope you at least somewhat enjoyed it.
And naturally, Part Two will be coming soon (edit* as will part 3, the finale)