XXXVI

Five years on from being unceremoniously ousted from the Wayne Enterprises board by a group loyal to his father’s original vision for the company, Detective Bruce Wayne now spends his daylight hours working at the GCPD cleaning up the loose ends that Batman can’t.

By night, Batman’s ongoing dance with Gotham’s colourful underworld has recently become intertwined with the pursuit of a mysterious new vigilante in town, Eko. Seemingly sharing a common enemy, Eko’s motives seem well intentioned, but their methods cross moral lines that have becoming increasingly difficult for Gotham’s heroic trinity to ignore.

As a chronostorm approaches, a deadly shift is about to ripple through the city, bringing with it new threats and allies, the fall of justice, and the rise of a dramatic redistribution of power that will result in the city’s long standing tribal lines of heroes vs villains being blurred, forever changing Gotham’s future … and it’s past.

Vignettes of a Dark Knight universe.

XXXIV

Brief dreams of other places, other faces. The where and when I’d rather be. The things I’d be doing and how I’d be doing them. Routine, constants, the avoidance of change that I see no personal benefit in. The chasing of happiness and the fear of failure that prevents me. I’m asleep, but conscious that I’m letting my brain deep dive into complete nonsense. I force myself to wake up.

Awake again, the darkness, and the previously discovered calm returns. It returns just long enough that when I feel something grab my shoulder I spin around, reeling back in the process. Extremities tingling. The darkness drains away, and muffled sounds trickle in. I stare blankly at the face that’s suddenly appeared behind me.

“The bus route ends here. You need to get off.”

XXII

EMBARGOED – DO NOT PUBLISH

For release 30 January, NOON

INFINITE HORIZONS MISSION PARAMETERS UPDATE

Command operations centre, Tx – A target system, LS25-8/6, containing viable destination planets has been confirmed. The system was initially detected 6 weeks ago during the systematic re-evaluation of existing data by the recently upgraded ‘Planetoid Identification Network’.

The news of the discovery has been transmitted to the crew, and will be received in time for the next routine system check on day 9,500.

In a change from the original mission plan, the full crew will remain in suspension until a yet to be determined time, and the minor course corrections will be left to Atkins while she undertakes the system checks.

We will not be fielding any additional questions at this time.

Ends.

I

He stood in the centre of his 37th floor apartment gazing out at the Japanese city. Surrounded by a small crowd of faceless bodies, he had no idea why or how he had gotten to be there.

What appeared to be a nuclear power plant in the distance was spewing purple lightning into the sky. It was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Something clearly was not right.

The building began to quiver as the light show intensified, slowly but steadily building to a violent shake. The tone and pitch of the buildings rumble suddenly changed, dramatic, like cutting into a harp with a chainsaw.

Floor to ceiling plate glass windows exploded outwards as the ceiling began to crumble. The tower collapsing in on itself, debris enveloping a final pulse of the distant light show. No pain was felt, just darkness.

He awoke in a cold sweat. 3:21am. Wednesday.

XXIII

There is no sound, almost pure nothingness, just a mild ringing in my ears. It has always been there, or at least I think it has, assuming it is there at all and not just a figment of my imagination.

Maybe what I believe is a ringing is actually what silence sounds like. Maybe I’m losing it. Entirely possible.

The lack of sound is one thing. However, wherever I am it’s extremely dark – can’t see the hand in front of my face, dark. The only exception being the dull red glow coming from a digital clock nearby.

It’s 10:47. Let’s assume pm based on the apparent lack of light…

XXXIII

My gaze dips every so often towards the clock, which I have now sat down in front of me. It’s amazing how much slower time moves when you’re actively watching it. Despite only waking up a bit over an hour ago I’m feeling tired, but not a physical tiredness, it’s all mental. A million questions all running through my mind at once. Zero answers to be found.

I can feel my eyes wanting to close, I force them open, my body doing that weird twitching thing where you almost fall asleep and then wake suddenly with a falling feeling. I’m not falling though, I’m still sitting atop the table, leaning against the wall.

Eyelids drop again, I don’t fight it this time…

XXVII

Shuffling slowly towards the clock, the floor is smooth, consistent. Vinyl tiles maybe? Confirms one thing, I’m not at home – nothing but carpet and cold, hard tiles there. Oh how I wish I could feel my carpet underneath me right now.

The clock is sitting atop what feels like a small wooden chest of drawers, there are handles, but they either don’t open anything or they are locked. Locked seems most likely.

Reaching up towards the clock, I feel around for a power cord. Nothing. Must be batteries. I grab it and shake it in the hope that it will somehow magically become brighter. It doesn’t, obviously. Flickers a little but stays disappointingly dull.

XXXI

I’m back to the table that I had awoken on an hour ago, it’s right next to the immovable filing cabinet. My eyes seem to be slowly coming to grips with the light levels, I can’t make out any defined shapes, just patches of dark and patches of not-quite-as-dark.

Using the table to pull myself up, I slowly examine the length of it. There is nothing else on the table. Maybe cleared off before I was put there? Still doesn’t explain why.

Absolute nothing helpful in the room. 12:01. I’m clearly trapped in here, but oddly calm – or at least calmer than one would expect in such a situation. Maybe it’s the idea that I can’t find a way out, so there mustn’t be a way in for anyone or anything else.

XII

Charles, only five-nine, but built like a tree and dressed head-to-toe in black tactical gear.

Handguns holstered on each leg, a small knife strapped to one ankle, and two of the biggest machetes I’d ever seen – one hanging over each shoulder.

Honestly, given the stories I’d heard, I was expecting more guns, but I had a reasonably strong feeling that the machetes weren’t just for decoration.

We hadn’t been told her first name, and none of us were particularly eager – or game – to ask… so ’Charles’ it was, and Charles meant business.

XXV

I haven’t moved since my eyes opened, still in a state of uncertainty due to the surrounding darkness. Scared to move for fear of injury or falling or stepping on something. That’s reasonable, right? No one likes stepping on cockroaches in the night or walking into door frames.

Can’t stay here forever though. Especially since I’m not exactly sure where “here” is. Feeling around carefully, I seem to be on a bench or a table. It’s hard and uncomfortable, I know that much, probably explains why it feels like I’ve been lying here for a week.

Sitting up. I hear what sounds like an elevator.

But woah, really should’ve done that slower. You know that disconcerting sensation of all the blood rushing away from your head as though you’re about to…

XVI

Day 86.

It’s been a little over 12 weeks since we undocked and were flung into the vast blackness of space, we’ve got 2 weeks left until we enter the suspended state that will allow us to carry out the mission.

What’s the mission? Good question. When we left they hadn’t exactly worked that out. They’ve pointed us at a distant star, but it will be years, or decades, until we’re told what we’re looking for. Hence the suspended state.

Once in suspension they’ll wake one of us every 500 days or so for routine systems checks. Sam’s up first, so that should be fun for her, running diagnostics solo while everyone else ’sleeps’.

Until then we’re preparing everything for the journey, most importantly the bio-rings which will become our primary food source – but don’t worry we’ve also got a stack of pre-packed meals just in case something goes wrong.

And failing that we’ll just have to start sacrificing crew members to satisfy our protein needs. Kidding. Or am I.