Four hours after the launch, Bruce Wayne sat at a desk in his hotel suite poring over financial figures when the phone rang. “Mr. Wayne?” asked a voice that he recognized as the concierge. “I know you asked not to be disturbed, but there is a woman here to see you. She has been quite, ahh, persistent.”
“I see, Maurice,” replied Bruce. “Does the lady have a name?” He smiled, anticipating that his fiancé had changed her mind and flown down to join him.
“Kyle, sir. Miss Selina Kyle.”
Bruce stared at the phone for three full seconds before responding. “Send her up, Maurice. And please, send up a bottle of light red wine, preferably a California, and a small Brie with toasted rounds.”
Five minutes later, Bruce opened the door for his visitor. Dressed in a calf-length dress of deep blue silk, her long waves of black hair falling over her shoulders, Selina Kyle swept past him into the room.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Bruce. Silver called and told me you would be here; thought I’d see if you needed company.”
“Umm, company?” murmured Bruce. “You do know that Silver and I are–”
“Engaged? Of course I know. Would you believe she called me that night?” Selina turned back toward Bruce. “She really is a better match for you than I ever could have been.”
“Then why come up here from Miami?”
Selina’s broad smile turned downward. “Honest truth? I told Silver I’m the suspicious sort. I want to be sure that it’s really you. We’ve both seen enough weirdness. I needed to reassure myself–”
The ringing of the phone interrupted her. Selina smiled and nodded toward the phone. Bruce picked it up to hear a panicked project manager on the line. “Mr. Wayne, there’s a problem with the OneVoice satellites.”
“What sort of problem, Jerry?”
“Ten minutes ago, the translation systems came on-line.”
“That’s early, but not necessarily bad.”
“But it overrode the interfaces to the phones systems, ARPANET, Bell Telephone, and the emergency communications systems. The European and Japanese systems as well. And it’s translating everything into random languages!”
“What about the fallbacks? Cut out the new circuitry and return to the original communications pathway.”
“We tried it. Nothing.”
Bruce closed his eyes, visualizing the schematics of the communications system. “Two possibilities: It was either triggered internally with a timer or an altitude sensor, or there was an external signal that triggered it. Check all surveillance records you can get for signs of an external signal. And start checking on all personnel involved with the programming and the production of the microprocessor controllers. I’m going to make some calls.”
“Do it while you can, sir. Signals sadalīšana visus.” Bruce’s left eyebrow went up as he realized he was hearing the man’s words in Latvian before the phone hung up on the other end. He strode across the room and lifted up a metallic briefcase, popping the catches as he placed it on a table.
“I’m sorry to break this up, Selina, but something big has come up.”
“So I gathered.” Selina watched with amusement as he pulled the jointed yellow belt out of the case and removed a small radio set from a compartment. “Not just something for Bruce Wayne, eh?”
“No. OneVoice uses a combination of Kryptonian, Martian, and Thanagarian technology, and something or someone has taken control of it.” He activated the JLA communicator. “B-1 to HQ. Who’s got the monitor?”
“Detta är Stål,” came a response seconds later.
“Swedish. Never figured you for it, Steel,” murmured Bruce without activating the communicator again. “On to Plan B. I don’t suppose you have your working clothes with you?”
“In the car. I hadn’t decided whether I was going to stay here for the night or drive inland to visit the mouse.”
“We’ll take your car to the airport, then, if you don’t mind. Less noticeable.”
“Jinxed your own system, eh?” Selina smiled despite the obvious seriousness of the problem. “I don’t suppose you have a couple of tin cans and some string?”
“Not exactly.” Bruce reached into the case and pulled out a box about the size of a hardbound novel. He carried it out to the suite’s balcony as Selina followed him. He set the box on a table, lifting the top off of it. He lifted up a circuit panel and fixed it onto a small fitting. “I haven’t had time to make this work while I’m moving around, but it should work fine from here.” He looked up at the sky for a moment and adjusted the position of the box. Selina spied a compass attached to the box and noted how Bruce watched the compass as he moved the box.
“Let me guess. Some kind of line-of-sight communications setup?”
“Laser based. The antenna will let me zero in on a beacon from the Justice League satellite; then I can zero in the laser. I adapted this from something we used around Gotham during the invasion in the summer.” Bruce looked up. “My sympathies, Selina. I heard about Dwayne Cooper.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Catwoman: A Very Private Life.]
“Thank you, Bruce. I’ve been tracking down leftover weaponry from the invasion for the past two months.” She glanced down at the communication unit. “Picking up anything?”
“Just a second, and–” There was a tone from a small speaker on the device. He pressed down on a button. “B-1 to HQ. Come in, Steel.”
There was a short hesitation. “Batman? I thought I heard you before–“
“But you couldn’t understand the language. I know. What do you hear from the rest of the League?”
“All communications went haywire about ten minutes ago. Last I heard, Superman and the Martian Manhunter were trying to sort out air traffic in the Metropolis/Gotham/New York corridor, Wonder Woman and the Flash were trying to co-ordinate military communications with the Flash acting as a courier, and Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Red Tornado are working with police in Star City, who were already dealing with a riot when police lost communications. Green Lantern Corps members are spread out on the West Coast — they’re the only ones that I’m still getting anything intelligible from. Atom is here with me — he had the monitor duty shift before me and stuck around to do some research in the lab.”
“The effect might be spreading across the country, or–”
“Wait a second! G.L. uses his ring for communication, not a standard JLA signal device. Maybe their rings are immune.”
“Good thinking, Steel. Get in touch with them; see if some of the members can break away to act as a signal relay system.” Bruce smiled as he imagined the young hero’s look of surprise at the praise. “I need to know if the satellite’s systems recorded any communications signal up to one of the OneVoice satellites within the past few hours. Especially any that did not originate either at Cape Canaveral or at the Houston Space Center.”
“I’m on it. It will take a few minutes to run the query.”
“I’m going to get airborne. As soon as you have something, have one of the Green Lanterns relay it via my signal device. What’s the status on the teleporter?”
“Not good. Atom insisted on trying it with a test load before anyone used it. When we tried to retrieve the load, there was nothing there. I’ve got it locked down.”
“Thank God you did that before anyone tried to use it.” Bruce glanced over at Selina and nodded. “I’m moving out. Batman out.”
As he folded the communication device back into its box, Selina gathered up her purse and bundled up the contents of an untouched lunch tray into a towel. “Well, I don’t need to worry about whether you’re yourself. Alfred’s not around, and you don’t bother to eat. I don’t know what you have on the plane, but you’ll probably need this later.”
Bruce laughed. “I never figured you as a mother hen.” He placed the device back into his briefcase and pocketed his JLA signal device. “Let’s go.”
Bruce was pulling the car into a space next to a small hangar at the airport when his signal device chimed. “Batman here,” he said, switching on the device.
“I think I’ve got something,” said Steel. “The signal to the satellite came from a military installation in Guatemala. We’ve managed to trace it back through seven different relay points around the globe. It looks like the point of origin is in the Himalayas.”
“Latitude and longitude?”
Steel rattled off some coordinates. “You want me to send anyone to help you?”
“No, keep the big guns on rescue operations. I’ve got a pretty good idea who is behind this, and I prefer to handle it myself. I do have an ace in the hole with me.”
“Well, I know it’s not Nightwing, ’cause he, Batwoman, and Robin have been in touch with Superman in Gotham. Whoever it is, I hope they’re good.”
“The best, Steel. Get back to coordinating the troops. If I need help, I’ll let you know. It will take me about eight hours to reach the location. Keep whichever Green Lantern is helping you monitoring this channel, though. Batman out.”
“Why do I have a feeling of déjà vu?” asked Selina as they got out of the car. She opened the trunk and pulled out a garment bag and small suitcase. “Didn’t we make this trip before?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Lazarus Affair,” Batman #332-335 (February, 1981-May, 1981).]
“We did, and that’s why I’m glad you’re along. You’re familiar with how he works, and the types of forces and weaponry that we’re likely to run into.” Bruce pulled his case from the back seat and led the way into the hanger. “Luis, is the plane ready?”
“Si, Mr. Wayne. I did a pre-flight check and put the engines on standby. Fully provisioned, new cabin air filters, and the tower has been alerted that you’ll be taking off as soon as you file your flight plan.” The mechanic, clad in overalls with a WayneTech logo, handed Bruce a clipboard listing the items he had checked. “I should say I sent a someone there with a message. Most flights are grounded because the radio systems aren’t working.”
“Thank you, Luis.” Bruce flipped up the pages till he found a blank sheet and started writing. “Get this to the tower — flight plan and FAA emergency override passcode. I’m working on the radio problem. Once we take off, might as well lock things up here and go home, and send the others home, unless they need help at some of the other hangars. Say hello to Inez for me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wayne. I’ll take care of this myself.” Luis bowed his head toward Selina. “Be careful, and have a safe journey.”
After the mechanic left, Bruce took a quick walk around the plane, noting the condition of the tires, the control surfaces, the air intakes and exhausts, and the exposed intakes of the twin jet engines. “I trust Luis, but–”
“I understand you’ve had trouble with planes lately,” said Selina with a wry grin.
“Well, this inspection wouldn’t have done any good against the bomb on my plane in Alaska.” Bruce led the way up the steps into the plane, waited for Selina to climb aboard, then closed the plane. He took a look around the cabin. “Nothing here that I don’t recognize. Let’s get going.”
Twenty minutes later, the plane was crossing over the Florida coast and heading out over the Atlantic ocean. “We’ll land in Morocco to refuel.” Bruce leaned back in his seat, allowing the plane’s autopilot to take over.
“He’s going to be waiting for us, isn’t he?” asked Selina.
“Probably. Ra’s tends to be prepared for most eventualities.”
In a darkened corridor, a hulking figure walked quietly, staying close to the walls. He glanced back over his shoulder, watching for any sign that he had been followed. He was wary, despite his belief that any of the men and women his master had led would support his current mission. Still, most of them had been chosen because of their willingness to follow their leader, whoever that leader might happen to be. And their current leader would surely order them to kill the big man if he knew what he intended.
He slipped into a small room with rough-hewn stone walls, one of the original rooms of the compound. In a corner of the room sat a dust-covered console. He crouched down and plugged the console into a wall socket. As it slowly came to life, the man known as Ubu considered how he had come to this. Like his father before him, and his father’s father, and their fathers before them for dozens of generations, he had served his master faithfully as a man-at-arms, guard, and companion. There were others, not of his family, pledged to serve and, if necessary, to give their lives for the man known as the Demon’s Head. Now, the master was dead, and Ubu’s loyalty was to that master’s daughter, not to the white-skinned usurper holding her captive. And as he looked through the notebooks of frequencies and call signs that his master had used years ago, he came across the entry that he wanted — the one to contact his master’s most respected foe.
And with fingers swift and sure from years of work for his master, he made the call.