Sunday, February 27, 2005

128. The omniscient narrator

Batman lay on the floor and stared at the desk containing the majority of his costume. His utility belt was there, having been the first item Hugo Strange had removed. If he could just drag himself a few feet, perhaps he could ...

No sooner did he entertain the notion than Strange returned. "You know what's next, don't you?" the doctor asked.

And Batman did indeed: following the pattern of the last several--what? Hours? Days?--it was now time for the gauntlets to come off. The detective heard the jangle of a key; it was the one used to unlock his batcuffs. The cuffs that were currently clasped around his own wrists.

"Another precaution," Strange said as he injected another shot into his captive's arm. "I don't need it at this point, but it never hurts to be careful. Though I should remind you that Mr. Grayson is in my protective care now. If you should attempt anything, he will stop you. And he has been trained to use any means necessary to do that. If, for some reason, you should escape his attack, I will simply kill him. He is, you might say, both prison guard and prisoner."

Strange tossed the cuff key to Dick, who used it to free Batman's hands. Once the batcuffs were gone, the gloves came off. Onto the desk they went.

"Your connections to your old life are growing weaker and weaker, Mr. Wayne," Strange said. "As are you."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

127. Hugo Strange (notebook entry)

Although he is not yet ready to admit it, the patient is gradually beginning, in his own time and in his own way, to understand that, once we dispense with his ego and bravado, he is little more than an object. An object which is now in my possession, to do with as I please, as I have already done with Richard Grayson.

The systematic removal of his costume is proving to be an effective way to help him learn this lesson. For many years he has hidden behind a false identity, pretending to be something other than he really is. As we strip away his illusions, he will come to experience life without disguises. In time, he will acknowledge once and for all who he is and what his true role has always been.

The era of the Bat is coming to an end.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

126. The omniscient narrator


It was all Batman could do to force those two syllables out in a gutteral whisper. The immense effort that simple act took made the hero wonder just what was going on: how much of his weakened state was due to drugs, and how much to power of suggestion? Either way, the situation was not good. Not good at all.

Directly addressing Dick did no good; the younger man simply stared into space like a zombie. What hellish tortures had brought him to this place? What would it take to bring him back?

"So many questions, Batman," a voice said. Somehow--but no, it was impossible!--it was Strange's voice. Could he truly have mastered the art of reading minds?

"All will be revealed in time," Strange said. "For now, though, it is time for you to reveal another part of your secret self."

The madman shifted his attention to Dick Grayson. "Richard, the cape." The younger man again knelt beside Batman, and brought his hands to his mentor's neck, where he unfastened a clasp. Slowly, without any evidence of ill will, he pushed the captive onto the floor.

Batman landed on his stomach with a quiet, slo-mo thud. From this position it was easy for Robin to remove the cape and pull it away. It caught for a moment on Batman's still-cuffed wrists, but with a gentle tug it came loose and joined the rest of the discarded artifacts of the costume on the desktop.

The dazed Batman was still trying to figure out that mind-reading trick. There had to be some kind of secret... Or perhaps it was coincidence, an accidental alignment of the questions racing through Bruce's head and the seeming answers flowing from Hugo Strange's mouth... But how could...

"I see everything," the "doctor" announced. "I know everything. Everything there is to know about you, Bruce Wayne. There are no secrets left." Strange walked over to the helpless man on the floor and stood beside him. All Batman could see was the lunatic towering over him, Strange's shoes level with Bruce's eyes.

The madman squatted next to his captive and ran his hands over Batman's cowl. "We're almost there, aren't we?" he said, stroking the crimefighter's head as if he were a pet. "Almost there."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

125. Hugo Strange (notebook entry)

Batman is learning fast, now that he realizes the degree of control I already hold over him. He knows that Richard Grayson's life is in my hands. He may not want to acknowledge it yet, but he knows his own fate is under my command as well.

I remember the first time I saw him, ten years ago, almost to the day. I had studied him for months before that, as he moved through the online world in search of ... something. A fantasy he could not attain. When I met him face to face I was certain he would acknowledge it was I he had been trying to find. He was magnificent in his uniform, so strong, so self-assured, so ...

So goddammed full of himself. He rejected my advances, accused me of luring him into a meeting under false pretenses. And he left.

That is when the pursuit began in earnest. I studied his every move, learned his behavior inside and out. Spent a decade thinking of little else.

And now the culmination of my research is upon me. It is time at last for him to learn who is in charge. Time to learn his place. Time to give me what I want.

Everything I want.

124. The omniscient narrator

Batman had no choice but to allow the man he called Robin to suck him off, even if Hugo Strange had warned him that an erection might mean his demise. Frozen in place, the Caped Crusader gazed down and watched as Dick Grayson went to work on his shaft.

They had done this before, Batman recalled. But only once, and, like now, it was under duress. Why had they resisted making love under brighter circumstances? Both Bruce and Dick had tried hard to suppress their true desires, but it was clear that they both felt powerfully drawn to each other. True, acting on these impulses would have complicated their working relationship, but that was already a tangle of power imbalances anyway. Besides, when something felt this good, why fight it?

And it did feel good, Bruce was forced to admit to himself. Damn good. He knew he wasn't exactly himself, but the sight of his beloved companion kneeling at his waist and sucking away at his member like his life depended on it (which it probably did) was too good to --

--resist: yes, that's what he must do! There was no telling what would happen should he become aroused--Strange had threatened great pain, the possiblity of death-- he must fight...

... back... No. It was too much work. Far easier to just lie here and give in...

Batman could tell without looking that he was fully erect now. And unquestionably still alive. So Strange had been ... bluffing?

"Congratulations, Batman," Hugo Strange said. "It turns out you can move a muscle, after all. And I have news for you: you can move any muscle in your body that you wish. Try it and see."

With some hesitation, Batman tested the waters by shifting one of his fingers, then a toe. Soon he managed to squirm from side to side, slowly, on the couch which had become his prison, even as Dick Grayson continued to suck his cock.

"You could have done it at any time, my friend," Strange pointed out. You had full use of your limbs all along. You only thought you were paralyzed because I told you so. You see, you are already more compliant than you realized. A very obedient subject, indeed."

Batman thought of lunging for his captor, but soon discovered that his mobility, while greater than he'd thought, was still extremely limited. Better, or at least easier, to lie still and enjoy the sensation of Dick's moist lips.

That pleasure continued a moment or two longer, and then ended abruptly, upon Strange's instructions. The madman beckoned his charge, and Grayson approached him. "Let us show Batman where your allegiances truly lie, Richard." The man in the imitation batsuit wrapped his arms around Hugo Strange and kissed him long and hard, then sank down to his feet, clearly hungry for a taste of Strangeness.

Dear god, Batman thought to himself.

The self-described doctor gently pushed Grayson away. "Not yet, Richard. We have work to do. Watch him. I will be back shortly." Dick turned his attention to Batman, guarding him like a prisoner and seemingly willing to use force should an escape attempt occur.

Strange turned off the lights again and left the room, locking the door from the outside, leaving the two crimefighters alone in his office. Under other circumstances this would have been a brazen step for a villain to take, but Hugo Strange knew he had these two exactly where he wanted them.

123. The omniscient narrator

There was no predictable pattern to Strange's comings and goings. All Batman knew was that, sooner or later, the self-appointed doctor would begin a new round of his nightmarish "treatments," with a blank-looking Dick Grayson in tow.

Escape appeared impossible. Not only was he immobilized by some sort of drug with paralytic capabilities (under normal circumstances he could easily have removed the batcuffs from around his wrists and picked the inevitable lock on the office door), but his mind was whirling and swirling in and out of focus.

Lights on. Strange pointed at Batman's midsection, and Dick wrapped his hands around the elastic band of Bruce's customized, heavily reinforced athletic supporter and eased the undergarment off the man, leaving him naked from the waist down. Batman's cock now lay exposed to the air. It drooped flaccid against his right leg.

"As I have told you, Batman," Strange began, "your friend here has been in my care for a long time. During our sessions, aided by hypnosis and medication, he began to feel comfortable enough to share his every thought, his every desire, with me. He came to understand that full disclosure plays a crucial part in his therapy.

"One of the things he talked about week after week was his feelings for you. He looked to you as a mentor. A father, perhaps, or a trusted older brother. And something more, as well. I believe you know what I mean."

Batman gulped. This was not exactly news to him, but he had been fighting against its implications ever since he had invited Dick Grayson to join him as a partner. Acting on any sort of romantic impulse would surely have had disastrous consequences for their larger mission.

Strange turned to Dick. "Richard, we have discussed your desires for this man for a very long time. We have worked through them. You have moved on. But now I want you to act on them."

Grayson looked puzzled, perhaps frightened.

"Do not worry, Richard," Hugo Strange said in a comforting voice. "You have my permission, this one time. This is a lesson--for you, and for the Batman. I will tell you exactly what to do."

Dick nodded and listened as Strange told him to kneel by the couch. He did what he was told. "Take it in your hand," Strange said. Grayson wrapped his gloved palm around Batman's member. "Work it... slowly ... slowly."

Batman could do nothing but watch mutely while his closest companion began to massage his penis.

"Good boy," Strange continued. "Now... take it in your mouth. Enjoy it. You have dreamed of this moment for months. Now it is here. This will probably be the only time. Savor it, son."

Still acting like an automaton, Dick Grayson applied his lips to his mentor's shaft and slid them up and down its length.

Strange looked at Batman. "This poses a quandry, does it not, Mr. Wayne? Your body is paralyzed, and yet ... what will happen when you become excited? You cannot move a muscle, but suddenly a muscle wants to move on its own. It begs to stiffen... to fill with blood... What will happen, Batman? Will it hurt you? Will the pain destroy you? Or will you experience untold pleasure? You want so badly to be able to enjoy this moment as much as your partner, but ... there are obstacles. The outcome of our experiment is uncertain. What will happen next, Batman? What will happen ... next?"

122. Hugo Strange (notebook entry)

The current phase of treatment is proceeding according to plan. Batman is growing increasingly disoriented, and therefore more open to persuasion and conditioning. Soon he will be containable without physical restraint. The medications I have administered since he admitted himself to my care are magnifying the effects of those he has been receiving for the last two months. His mind and body are now dependent on regular dosages in order to function. This is all for his own good.

The time has come for me to reveal to him more of the effects of my treatment program with Mr. Grayson. The better Batman understands the depth of my powers and the benefits of submission, the easier it will be for him to participate in the program I have in mind for him.

A certain degree of lingering resistance is to be expected, of course. It is a necessary phase in the process.

It will pass.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

121. The omniscient narrator

As the hours crept by, Batman was aware of his sense of reality--so recently regained, back in the Cave--melting away once more.

On those rare moments when he could think with any degree of clarity, it occured to him that Strange must be administering a variety of different drugs, each with some different purpose. And then that thought would leave him, and he'd find himself floating... or swimming... or crumbling. Waves of pain and pleasure crashed against each other, and he took it all in, whether he wanted to or not.

In the darkness, he glanced down at the lower half of his immobilized body: no belt, no boots, no outer briefs. He knew what was coming next.

And it came soon enough: lightswitch on, former (?) partner ordered to pull off the next article of clothing, and then his tights were gone, joining the other items on the desk. Batman was now naked from the waist down, but for a kind of protective undergarment.

Hugo Strange ran his fingers over each article of discarded apparel. "I always admired your costume, Mr. Wayne. The armor of a modern-day knight. But now your quest is coming to an end. It brought you here, to me, and I will take over from this point on.

"I know you are wondering about Richard Grayson here. You have surely already deduced that he has been my patient for a very long time now. He came to me of his own free will, during a troubled time in his life. I was not aware of his connection to you at first. But he began making certain references during his sessions, references which raised my interest. Under hypnosis, he began to reveal more and more.

"I could not believe my good fortune: a path directly to you! You know how long I have followed your career, how badly I have wanted to reach out and help you. And here, without any effort on my part, was the key to your door."

Strange produced a new pill, this one pale blue, and eased it into the masked man's mouth. Another paper cup of water, another labored swallow, and it began its work.

The doctor observed his two patients: one well on the road to recovery, the other just beginning his path.

"I call it good fortune, but there are no accidents. This was destiny. Your destiny, and mine."

120. The omniscient narrator

Whatever drug Hugo Strange was giving him made Batman feel woozy and listless. He knew on some level that it was absolutely imperative for him to escape, but he lacked the energy and focus to plot a strategy. Employing an old technique he'd used countlesss times in similar situations, he began counting tiles on the floor. That activity only made him drowsier after a while, so he modified it and tried multiplication tables based on varying numbers of tiles in rows and columns...

An hour passed, maybe two. Maybe more. It was hard to say in the darkened office. Sometimes he sensed he was alone, sometimes Strange and Dick stood guard over him. Perhaps there were other eyes watching him, too.

And then the light flicked on once more. "Time for another round," Strange announced. "The briefs, Richard."

Grayson approached his mentor and began tugging on his dark outer briefs. He did not make eye contact with Batman as he pulled them down the man's legs and away from the couch. They wound up on the desk with the other discarded items.

"It's very quiet here," Strange said. "Grayson is silent because I have instructed him not to speak. You are silent because you are unable to make a sound. I'm sure you've tried already. Go ahead, though: try it once again."

Batman attempted to talk, not sure whether he was simply following orders or acting on his own accord. The sounds he managed to produce with great effort were more like gutteral whispers than actual language. "W... wh... wha..."

"What's that, Batman?" Strange said. "Can't tell what you're trying to ask. I assume it's somethng like 'Why are you doing this to me?' or 'What have you done to Grayson?' Both very good questions. And, as I say, all things in time.

"Let's take the first one. WHY. A fascinating question, one that each of us must ask ourselves, every day. It's at the heart of my profession, you know. One might ask it of you: why do you live this double life? Why do you dress in these interesting clothes and spend your evenings fighting wrongdoers? To avenge your parents' deaths? To 'make the world a better place'? Or simply because it excites you? Because you have a clothing fetish? Because you desire to be captured and tortured--which is exactly the situation you now find yourself in? Your partner here has given me some excellent insight into your behavior. You are a deeply troubled man, Mr. Wayne. You suffer from serious delusions. You must be grateful that you have finally summoned the courage to seek my help."

Hugo Strange reached into his pocket.This time, he produced not a syringe but a small orange-and-white pill. He snapped his hands and Dick Grayson brought over a paper cup of water. "Swallow this," he told Batman, easing the capsule into the man's throat and following it with a splash of liquid.

The gesture reminded Batman that he was, at this point, incapable of eating or drinking without assistance.

He swallowed with some difficulty and then settled back onto the couch. The lights went out.

And the waiting began again.

Monday, February 21, 2005

119. The omniscient narrator

When Batman woke up, he noticed several things in rapid succession: a throbbing headache, a peculiar numbness throughout his body, and two men standing near him staring at him. One man was Hugo Strange,now wearing a white labcoat over his dress shirt and tie. The other was--horror of horrors!--Dick Grayson, still clad in the attire of The Impostor, minus his mask.

It was impossible to miss the enormous erection jutting out of Grayson's tights.

Batman sensed, too, that his hands were cuffed behind his back, and he tried to reach for his belt, only to discover it had been removed and was now draped across Strange's desk.

"I see you're looking for your utility belt," Strange said. "And I believe you've just found it. Your friend here took it from you, at my command. You can probably tell from the look in his eyes that he is quite open to suggestion at the moment. My suggestion, that is.

"I know you must have a thousand questions. Believe me, there will be time for them all. No, no, don't bother trying to sit up; that odd lack of feeling in your limbs is the effect of a certain drug I've given you. You'll find it's all but impossible to move a muscle now. The batcuffs are mostly for show at this point. They will be removed in time, I assure you. But for now, they are a valuable safeguard."

Batman was taking all this in, wondering like hell how his partner had suddenly become the minion of a top-tier psychopath.

"Richard, the boots, please," Hugo Strange said gently to the younger man, who knelt at Batman's prone body and began to remove the caped crusader's boots, one at a time.

Strange turned his attention to his paralyzed prey. "A lesser villain would have unmasked you by now, perhaps even put you to death. But this day has been so long in coming that I've decided to draw out my pleasure in it as long as I possibly can. Your mask will come off soon enough--but we are both well aware that I already know what I will find underneath it. That victory has already been won. My goal now is to strip away all that remains of your old self... one item at a time. We shall begin with your costume. And we shall work from the bottom up, so that the removal of your mask will be the final stage in this phase of your treatment. Each time we remove an element of your costume, you will learn something more about my plan. And each time that happens--"

Strange produced the syringe again and thrust it into Batman's arm--"You will receive a new dose of medication."

By this time Dick held both of Batman's boots in his hands and presented them to Strange. The villain motioned to the desk, and Dick placed them next to the discarded utility belt.

"You may as well relax and enjoy this, Batman," Strange said to his captive. "After all, you're not going anywhere for a long, long time."

118. Hugo Strange (notebook entry)

The patient who calls himself Batman has finally admitted himself to my care, as I knew he eventually would. It took a fair degree of intervention on my part, no doubt, but now that he has taken the crucial first step of seeking me out for a consultation, I know that the rest will come more easily.

His associate, Richard Grayson, has already--with my help--made some significant strides, but then again he had the good fortune to seek out my services voluntarily,long ago. Through a rigorous combination of medication and in-depth analysis, I have taught him that the strong erotic attachment he once had to Batman is misplaced, and he has begun to transfer those feelings to a more appropriate recipient (namely myself). Grayson has come to understand that his affections were misplaced, and that the way to true happiness lies in obeying my commands.

But this Batman is a far tougher matter. His is a fascinating case, a tale of obsession and delusion. I have studied it for years, and at last I am beginning to make significant headway after extensive preparation. At the moment he is under sedation in my chambers, and when he awakens I will initiate the next phase of treatment in earnest.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

117. The omniscient narrator

"Surprise, surprise," said Hugo Strange, making no effort to disguise his amusement over the sordid chain of events now unfolding. He'd been dreaming of this moment for years, and carefully setting this particular trap for months in order to live the dream at last.

The biggest and most obvious surprise was the fact that he was not the man now lying beneath the Batman wearing a nearly identical outfit.

No, he was dressed in a suit and tie, standing at a safe distance behind the other two men.

"Strange," the stunned Batman blurted, and this time the word referred to far more than just a name. "How did you ... Is he .... How can this be?"

"I know you have a lot of questions," Dr. Strange said as he walked closer to the dumbfounded detective. "All things in time. You must be exhausted right now. Perhaps you could use a little rest." The grinning madman produced a syringe from his coat pocket and jammed it into Batman's upper arm.

The drug it contained took effect immediately, and the caped crusader slumped forward, unconscious.

"Get up," Strange ordered the other man who was still pinned beneath the sleeping superhero. Without a second's hesitation, the man in the Impostor's suit sat up, silently pushing the dead weight of Batman to the side, then rising to his feet.

"Take his belt off, first thing," Strange commanded, and the Impostor knelt down and unbuckled Batman's utility belt. He handed it to the doctor, who located a pair of bat-shaped handcuffs and gave them to the Impostor. The unmasked automaton quickly snapped one cuff around Batman's right wrist, then pulled the detective's left wrist behind his back and fastened the second cuff around it.

"Pick him up and take him to my private chambers," Strange said, and his glassy-eyed servant did as he was told, draping Batman over his shoulder and carrying him to a couch in Strange's lavishly appointed office, then lowering him onto it.

The Impostor stared blankly at the inert masked man for a moment, then stepped away. He studied the room: it was so familiar, so welcoming, so safe. He had spent so many hours in this room that it almost felt like home.

He walked over to a mirror and smiled at the reflection that greeted him there: the strong, chiseled body, the broad shoulders, the confident,handsome face.

The face of Dick Grayson.

Friday, February 18, 2005

116. The omnisicent narrator

"What have you done with Dick Grayson?" Batman demanded. The impostor in the dark suit said nothing. Actually, his actions spoke loud enough.

Wasting no time, he lunged at the Batman and forced the crimefighter backwards onto the ground. The two masked men grappled with each other for several minutes, rolling across the office floor in a single mass.

As they tussled, Batman grew acutely aware of his own vulnerability. The lengthy span since the onset of his illness had left him badly out of shape (at least by his usual standards--though he was still unspeakably more powerful than the average citizen).

Even so, Batman knew he could not afford to be defeated, and after an extended and agonizing battle he subdued his attacker at last. Once he had the upper hand, he pinned the other man to the floor, immobilizing the Impostor by planting the full weight of his body over the man's torso and pressing every available limb firmly into the ground.

"This ends right here, right now, Strange," Batman barked, as he reached for the mask on the Impostor's face and yanked it off.

What he saw beneath the mask struck him with a force more powerful than any blow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

115. The omniscient narrator

Bruce stepped into the tight-fitting uniform he called a "batsuit." It felt painful against his skin, which was still recovering from the poison Dr. Strange had administered to him nearly two months earlier. The effects of Strange's treachery had been powerful enough that the crimefighter had essentially abandoned his career and descended into madness and physical pain. Plunging into a deep depression and prone to fits of wild hallucination, Wayne had not worked out for weeks.

It was risky, then, for him to suit up and head off into the night without proper preparations, but he felt he had no choice. Dick Grayson's life was at stake.

Pulling the cowl over his head as he had done so many times in the past, Bruce Wayne became Batman once more. Within half an hour he was standing at the door of Dr. Gus Tanhoger's downtown office, picking the lock and entering the pitch black lobby. Thoroughly unconcerned about secrecy, he flicked the lightswitch--

--and found himself standing face to face with a man who could almost have been his double. The Impostor, Batman had dubbed this masked menace in a stolen suit who had became quite a nuisance in recent weeks. But now everything was clear; the detective's hunch had been confirmed, and he called the Impostor by his true name.

"Hugo Strange," Batman snarled. "We meet again."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

114. Bruce (offline journal)

Robin has been missing for ten days. I am ashamed to admit I did not even notice his absence for five of them, so deep was I in the delirium of Hugo Strange's poison. Through much effort on Alfred's part, I have gradually come back to my senses, and I am ready to suit up again--despite the remaining traces of disfiguration--and do what must be done.

The missing link came yesterday when, in a moment of distraction while poring over clues, I picked up the business card Dick had placed near my bed at some point when I was at my most vulnerable. It bore the name of a psychologist with whom he has some connection: GUS TANHOGER.

In moments, I realized to my horror that the letters were an anagram for ... HUGO STRANGE.

There is no time to mull over the possibilites. In a moment I must put on the batsuit for the first time in more than a month and head to Tanhoger's office. If my suspicions are correct--and clearly they are--I should find Strange there.

And--dare I say it?--possibly Dick as well.

I only pray he is alright.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

113. Dick

Oh my god--I just looked at what Bruce had written over and over on his pad... That name... How could I have been so stupid? so blind? All this time it was staring me right in the face...