“A millionaire, eh? Hell, I knew you weren’t a crook like most of us around here, but I never figured you for the upper-crust type.” Mick Rory ran a hand over his bald pate, a big grin on his face. “So, whatcha gonna do? Buy up Isolation?”
“No, not exactly.” Bruce Wayne looked up from where he sat on his cot. “But maybe I can help you out some.”
“Look, Bruce, I’ve heard about you off and on over the years. You’ve always been a real law and order type. I can’t see you–”
“I believe in giving people a second chance. You and Lori, you were willing to risk your lives for those kids. Now, pretty much everyone here has opened their huts, their homes, to take care of them. It’s going to get crowded, and supplies are going to run short. I can help with that when I get back.”
“Speaking of which, how are you going to do that? I can’t get too far with the ‘cat for a while, especially with this storm, and we aren’t exactly on any shipping lines.”
“Vince had the two-way set. Give me a few minutes with that, and I think I can have someone on the way pretty quickly,” said Bruce with a smile.
In the Metropolis offices of the Daily Planet, it was customary for Perry White to meet with his lead reporters and other key staff members at two-thirty in the afternoon. The early edition was put to bed and being run on the massive presses in the basement of the building, and the late edition was waiting to be filled with the last minute stories that typically cropped up between two-o’clock and four-thirty. This afternoon, Clark Kent sat at the far end of the table, paying just enough attention to the meeting to be sure he missed nothing, while most of his attention was focused on the necessary trajectory calculations for averting an impending planetary collision in a neighboring star system. When he felt the ultrasonic vibrations emanating from his belt, he erupted in a fit of coughing.
“Great Caesar’s ghost, Kent! What the blazes is the matter with you?” asked the Planet‘s long-time editor-in-chief.
“Sorry, Perry,” gasped Clark between coughs. “My asthma has been acting up lately. If you’ll just excuse me for a moment…” Clark stood and quickly exited the room.
Moments later, on the roof of the Daily Planet, Superman took to the air even as he spoke via the Justice League of America communicator built into his belt buckle.
“What is it, Atom?”
“Priority Alpha-One, Superman. We’ve had a call through one of the League radio monitoring frequencies from Alaska. All the codes checked out, the voice print checked out — sheesh, he had to break through two of the voice ID systems before he even reached me, since we took him out of the active files. I flagged you because you’re the only one who can be absolutely sure it’s him.”
“You aren’t making sense, Atom. Who are you talking about?”
“Batman. The original one.”
Across the continent, people looked up in wonder as the very sky seemed to explode. Mortal eyes and even most radar systems were unable to catch even a fleeting glimpse of the red and blue figure that rocketed over them at more than twice the speed of sound, zeroing in on the coordinates given him by the Atom from his vantage point 22,300 miles above.
In Isolation, Alaska, the snow was still blowing as Superman touched down before the large quonset hut that served as the dining hall. When he entered, only Bruce and Mick were there, at Bruce’s recommendation.
“Mr. Wayne, the JLA received your emergency request. I’m here to take you home, and may I add, sir, I know there are a lot of people who are going to be happy to find you alive.” As he spoke, as he had done on his approach, Superman was scanning Bruce with his x-ray and microscopic vision, comparing every minute detail against his memories of his longtime friend and teammate.
“See, Mick, it’s one of the perks of being filthy rich. As a financial backer of the JLA, they feel honor-bound to come to my rescue.” Bruce smiled and held out his hand. “I’ll be in touch, Mick.”
“Take care of yourself, Bruce. Been a pleasure working with you.”
With that, Superman wrapped Bruce in his cape, and they left.
Moments later, there was a reunion on the JLA Satellite. Over a dozen members of the League had come based on the Atom’s revelation.
“Rao, Bruce, do you know how hard that was?”
“I thought you were going to crack any second, Clark. But I don’t think Mick caught on that you knew me as anything but the proverbial millionaire philanthropist.”
“Bruce, if anyone tries to tell you about the eulogy I gave, I’m telling you, I’m prepared to deny it all!” Green Arrow grabbed Bruce in a big bear hug. “But damn, buddy, it’s good to have you back!”
The others crowded around, offering their best wishes on Bruce’s return, until Black Canary pointed out the time. “Guys, it’s a little after three in Gotham. Isn’t today the day they were reading Bruce’s will?”
“Great Scott!” Superman grabbed Bruce and headed for the teleporter. “Atom, put us in the Wayne Foundation teleporter. The reading is in Bruce’s office there.”
“Now that we are all here, I believe we can begin.” Lucius Fox pulled a heavy envelope from his briefcase and cut it open with a silver letter-opener. “Now, I helped Bruce in the preparation of this will, as did Alfred, so I am already familiar with some of the provisions in it. We did everything possible to take care of everyone important to Bruce, some of whom could not be here today. However, his overreaching goal, over everything else, was the preservation of the Foundation’s mission.”
Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Alfred Pennyworth, Silver St. Cloud, Barbara Gordon, and her father, Police Commissioner James W. Gordon, all nodded their heads in agreement. As Lucius pulled the papers from the envelope, the office door burst open.
“Hold everything!” said Superman, stepping into the doorway. “I’m sorry for the interruption, folks, but there’s been a new development in Bruce’s death.” He stepped aside to reveal Bruce standing behind him. “A big development,” he concluded with a smile.
By ten o’clock that evening, word had spread around Gotham City about the return of its most famous citizen. Reactions were mixed, from elation to dismay. For some people, his return had more meaning than most.
“It might affect the timetable, but the overall goal remains the same.” Ruby Ryder tapped a well-manicured nail on the glass top of her desk. “We obtained about half of the properties while his wunderkind was in charge, and several of the other ones are tied up in court. His redevelopment project isn’t going forward anytime soon, while we have the riverfront properties sewn up. Thorne tells me the permits will be issued on Monday morning.” There was a pause, then she continued. “Of course, the offices are closed for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and they have a skeleton crew on Friday. Rupert will see if any of his people are in there on Friday, but for now I’m planning on Monday.”
“Selina! Come here!” A young girl stood in the doorway of the kitchen over a small apartment over a flower shop in Miami, Florida.
“What is it, Anna?” Selina Kyle turned away from the stove and came into the living room. The small television showed a familiar face. “News about Bruce again? Won’t they just let him rest in peace?”
“No, it’s more than that! Listen!” Selina did just that, tears coming into her eyes as she realized what had happened.
“So, once again the players change.” A pale hand reached out, and a translucent chessboard flickered into view. A king was touched and transformed into a bishop, which was moved to one side. A new king faded into view with a familiar face. “Miss Morningstar, I am so glad you thought it worthwhile to continue cultivating young Mr. Grayson. You will, of course, go back to work on Mr. Wayne when he returns to his offices.”
“Of course, Mr. Nero.”
“Bruce, I thought you would want to spend the evening at home, after all you’ve been through.”
In Gotham on the Green, Bruce sat overlooking the restaurant’s courtyard with Silver St. Cloud. Even on a busy night, a prime table had been found for them on a moment’s notice. Now, two hours after their arrival, most of the tables in this part of the restaurant were empty as they dallied over amaretto and cheesecake.
“Compared to my normal life, the last four weeks have been something of a vacation. While I couldn’t remember anything about myself and my life, I had a chance to think about the priorities a person should have in their life. Now, I wanted to take the first available opportunity to do something that I had already resolved to do before I left for Alaska.”
At that moment, the lights of the restaurant dimmed. In the courtyard, lights strung in the bare trees provided a soft illumination as Bruce slid out of his chair and dropped to one knee beside Silver. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a golden ring.
“Silver, will you be my wife?”