It was at times like these that Bruce found himself at his most introspective. Neither the endlessly winding corridors of his family manor nor the impenetrable sanctuary of his underground fortress could satisfy the conditions for peaceful meditation. Not even the bright lights of Gotham at night, observed from far above the chaos and pollution could grant him the serenity required for a moment’s quiet reflection. There was but one place in the entire world that Bruce could find the peace of mind he so desperately sought, and now as he sank further into his own thoughts, he truly appreciated the city for granting him this fleeting slice of paradise, the only place he was truly happy.
As he drove the palm of his hand into the back side of his assailant’s elbow, a short but no less satisfying crack signalled the last time that the arm would be of any use for some time. The scream that followed was pitiful, angry and telling in more ways than its owner could possibly know. Bruce released his grip on the now limp forearm and primed himself for the next assault. Every sense was peaked and waiting for the slightest hint of aggressive movement.
As the graceful rhythm of combat calmed his frantic brain, Bruce’s thoughts turned to the beautifully hand crafted box that his father once kept on the mantelpiece in the dining room. Bruce was eight years old when Alfred fell sick with a fever. He remembered vividly the joy of being asked to fetch the box from the mantelpiece. Inside were his father’s thermometer and stethoscope, his most coveted possessions. Back then Bruce wanted nothing more than to follow in his father’s footsteps. Thomas Wayne M.D, perhaps the most talented surgeon in all of Gotham and a role model that the whole city admired. Thomas helped people and sought no reward. He could have sat back and coasted off of the millions he had inherited from his own father, but that was not the type of man that he was. Thomas always said that by fixing people, by setting their bones and mending their broken bodies, he was giving them the chance to go out and fix others. To pass on the kindness that he had shown them.
Bruce’s fist shattered the second assailant’s rib cage like glass. The thug wheezed, helplessly sucking air into a punctured lung. Thomas had only lived to 35, Bruce was older than his father had ever been and was certain that he’d broken at least twice as many bones as his father had set. Was he destroying Thomas Wayne’s legacy? Was every shattered femur and torn ligament setting the world back another step? Perhaps Bruce was more of a cynic than his father. The longer he could put these men out of action, the longer it would be until they hurt anyone else. This was not the way that Thomas saw things. There was no special treatment in the operating theatre. Young or old, rich or poor, innocent or guilty, all would receive the same care and attention that Thomas gave to all of his patients. Judgement did not factor into his job, he saved lives, that was it. Bruce’s job was different. He had been tracking a group of sex traffickers from the docks all the way to Stanton. They were good, even the most keen eyed of cops would have passed over their “shipment” without a second thought. Even then, should the police find any one of the 60 hand picked girls that were being smuggled into the country, every one of them had passports, every one of them had the correct work permits and if you were to ask any of them whether they wanted to be there, the answer would be “yes”. After all, when your shipping business is run by Carmine Falcone then legal papers aren’t exactly hard to come by and when each and every girl has a family that they love and want to protect, silence is easy to buy.
In the eyes of the law, these men were innocent. If Thomas were alive today he would set their bones and put them back on the street in no time at all. Bruce’s brow furrowed as he thought on this. A man with a crowbar swung clumsily at his head, missing by a wide margin. In the blink of an eye the crowbar was in Bruce’s hand, another blink and the cold steel was dislocating the man’s jaw, sending him spiralling into the concrete.
If his father had been alive today would they be rivals? Would each be fighting tirelessly to undo the other’s work? Both were men of unshakable moral values, both were dedicated and unrelenting in their goals and both wanted nothing more than to make their city a better place. Bruce launched the crowbar with force into the face of yet another trafficker, this one panicking as he attempted to load an assault rifle. The sharp end of the crowbar found its mark in the man’s eye socket and blood sprayed the floor in front of him. The warehouse fell silent, the time for reflection was over. Bruce’s head was once again filled with noise. Unanswered questions from long forgotten cases, distant police sirens drawing closer to the scene, Alfred’s voice in his ear.
“Sir, if you are quite finished securing the area I would recommend leaving, the officers will take care of the girls from here.”
Bruce released the grapnel gun from his utility belt and aimed for the ceiling when a quiet whimpering sounded from behind him. One of the traffickers was lying on the floor, shivering and pale. Blood sprayed violently from an open wound on his forearm. Bruce lowered his arm and knelt down beside the injured man. The fear in his eyes was all too familiar, not the same fear that Bruce had spent years instilling in the hearts of his enemies but the cold, all encompassing fear of death. Bruce reached once more into his belt and withdrew a small cylindrical tube. Screams echoed off of every surface as flames burst from the nozzle of the tube and seared the wound shut. As the white hot light faded and the screams melted into desperate gasps, Bruce stood once again and withdrew his grapnel gun. Over the sound of screeching tires and blaring sirens pulling up outside, Bruce heard a weakened voice whisper from the direction of the injured man.
Bruce’s grappling hook found purchase in the rafters of the warehouse and his cape fluttered in the breeze as the wooden doors burst open to a sea of police officers with guns at the ready.
“Holy shit, it’s him!”
“PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD!”
Bruce didn’t have to look back to the trafficker, the injured man knew that the Batman’s last few words were meant for him.
“Pass it on.”