Gotham city lay quiet. It had been weeks since the Joker had shown his bright green hair or pale white face. The flu virus going around must have taken him out too.
Alfred pulled the curtains open.
“Good day Master Bruce.”
I grimaced as my eyes adjusted to the daylight cutting through my room. The ornate clock on the mantle said it was already past noon.
“Feeling any better today?” he asked bringing over a tray consisting of hot tea and a package of saltine crackers.
My stomach growled at the sight – a distinct difference from twenty-four hours before. It had been some time since I’d last kept down solid food. I scratched at days of growth now covering my chin. “Much,” I replied. The sound of my voice was strange to my ears. My recent illness must have damaged my vocal cords. I wouldn’t be able to maintain the deep, cold distinct tone I used to render fear into the hearts of my enemies for another day or two.
He pulled out a small scanner and held it up to my forehead. “Indeed. You no longer appear to be contagious. Shall I go over your schedule then?”
“That’s alright, Alfred.” I had only one appointment to keep that afternoon.
“Very good sir.” Leaving the tray behind, Alfred exited the room.
I stepped over to the mantle and pulled on a lever next to the clock. The fireplace spun revealing the entrance to my secret command center. I pulled on my suit. It was looser around the waist and chest than I’d remembered. I wondered how much weight I’d lost over the last few days. I made a mental note to double my efforts in the gym for the next few weeks. I reached for my belt, only to notice it was missing from its usual resting place.
“Computer. Where is my utility belt?”
A woman’s voice programmed to sound like my mother answered. “In the field. Shall I activate the retrieval protocol?”
It began to come back to me. My trusty companion had borrowed the belt along with my spare suit when it became clear that I was in no shape to be out fighting crime so that criminals wouldn’t think the city lay unprotected. He must not have returned home yet. “That’s okay computer. I won’t need it for this mission.”
I pulled on my mask and cowl. The rubber tore open in the back. “Computer – damage assessment.”
“There is a large split in the back. The material must have taken too many hits and exceeded its tensile strength during your last battle with Bane.”
Bane! I cursed to myself. “Is a replacement available?”
“Negative, sir. Your spare is out with the other suit. I will instruct the 3D printer to begin work on another, but it will take several hours for the material to cure.”
I frowned. I didn’t have six hours. I didn’t even have three. I tucked the open rubber ends under my cape. It would have to do.
I looked into the cave’s parking bays. “I assume the Batmobile is in the field too.”
“Affirmative,” replied my ever helpful computer.
I couldn’t drive one of Bruce’s cars. They were too recognizable around town. That left only one option. “Computer, inform Alfred I’ve borrowed his car.”
I verified the address of my destination. Without the Batmobile’s speed, I had even less time to spare.
“Alfred has acknowledged.”
“Thank you computer.”
I turned the key in the ignition, shaking my head at what Alfred considered music as I drove out of the cave and into the city. Beads of sweat formed under my mask and down my back. I realized I must not be as recovered as I thought, but it was too late to turn back now. This appointment was too important to miss.
I pulled up to my destination and walked through the door marked with a single yellow balloon.
A small boy sat inside. Seeing me, his face immediately broke into a smile. My biggest fan.
“Happy Birthday, LT,” I said coming to his side.
The smile slipped from his face. His eyes narrowed. “You’re not the real Batman. That’s just a costume.” He nodded to himself. “I can tell.”
I’d thought my greatest opponents were safely behind bars at Arkham Asylum, but it would turn out even the clown prince of crime had nothing on the keen eyes or unfiltered opinions of this particular six-year-old birthday boy.
For the record, LT didn’t buy any part of this story for a second, but to his credit, the Bat-hero attending his party never once gave up trying.
That being said, some tips for other caped crusaders considering taking on the extremely risky children’s party circuit.
- Drink lots of fluids – that suit gets hot
- Don’t forget your utility belt – you never know when you’ll wish you had a smoke bomb or a grappling hook to get away
- Practice your angry voice – it comes in handy answering questions as well as directing activities
- Don’t forget to shave – the mask will fit much better
- Have fun – Even if you forget all the rest, you’ve still made one kid’s day
And for that last one, we average citizens, thank you.