Batman snapped back to the present as Detective Harvey Bullock shambled up to Commissioner Gordon.
“What’s the situation, Harv?” asked Gordon.
“We got a couple of costumed types holed up in the shipping office, Commish. Crazy-Quilt and Signalman. Someone caught them tinkering with some of the harbor control lights.”
“Sounds about right,” said the Batman. “One has a fascination for any kind of signaling device, and the other is obsessed with color. Switch the colored lenses on the traffic control lights, and you have barges colliding, spilled cargo, and chaos.”
Gordon shook his head. “I don’t think most of these guys are even doing it for gain anymore. It’s just a big game to them.”
“Well, say the word, and I turn the game into a shooting gallery, and finish it off,” added Bullock.
“No. No guns.” As usual, the Dark Knight’s opposition to guns mystified the detective. “I’ll take them down. Keep your men out here, just in case.” A rustle of cloth, and the space where Batman had stood was empty.
“What’s with the Bat and guns, Commish?” asked Bullock. “Tough as he is on the crooks, you’d think he would encourage us to take them down.”
“I can’t say for certain, Harvey, but I think it’s something that strikes to the core of his reasons for being the Batman.” Gordon took a couple of slow draws on his pipe, lost in thought. “Spread the word. Nobody goes inside, but if either of those perps comes out on his own, take them down.”
The muffled roar of a motorcycle echoed through the cavern. It took several moments for the cycle to reach the garage area, and by the time it arrived, there was a person waiting.
“Good evening, Master Robin. Did all go well with the New Titans?”
“Just great, Alfred. Halfway around the world, tracking down some nut who thinks a wired hat makes him a god. Damn, if that’s what being a Titan is all about, I’m not sure I want in.” Robin removed his helmet and tossed it to the faithful Wayne family retainer.
“Language, please, Master Jason.” Alfred deftly caught the helmet and hooked the strap over one arm. “From all that Master Dick told me over the years, there is a lot more to it than that. I think so long as Master Bruce encourages it, it behooves you to gain the broader experience the New Titans offer outside of Gotham.”
“That’s what I love about you, Alfred. You always sum things up in a couple of quick words.” Jason Todd grinned as he removed his mask and cape and made his way to a sink. “I gotta do something about this costume. The hair dye just isn’t working out.” He turned on the water, bent over the sink, and started to vigorously scrub his hair. The water quickly turned black, and his natural red started to show through the dye. “Had to touch it up three times today, but now it will take forever to wash out.”
Alfred moved to a locker to hang up the helmet and portions of Robin’s costume. “I have been thinking along the same lines, Master Jason. I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty of making some alterations to one of your costumes.” He reached into another locker, pulled forth a garment bag, and spread its contents out over a work table.
“What’s that?” asked Jason, switching off the water and wrapping his head in a towel. He spied the uniform before him, and his eyes lit up. “Hey, that’s cool! Let me see how it looks!”
Moments later, Robin stepped out from behind a dressing screen and surveyed himself in a mirror. The red vest and green gloves of the costume remained unchanged. In place of the green shorts, full-length green leggings covered the full length of his legs, tucked into black, high-top boots. The short yellow cape was replaced by a longer cape, with a metallic gold inner surface and a non-reflecting black exterior. The cape extended up to a hood that fell loosely over his forehead. Under the hood, a dark green mask covering from mid-forehead down to the bridge of the nose was visible.
“Awesome! Still unmistakably Robin, but all my own!” He gripped one edge of the cape, swirling it around. “Thanks, Alfred!”
“I’m glad you like it, sir.” Alfred’s face bore a pleased smile. “Oh, and this arrived for you, sir. By way of Police Headquarters.” He held out an envelope with no markings except a typewritten line that read, “For the eyes of Robin only.”
Jason pulled the hood and mask off before opening the envelope. He pulled out a photo and a typewritten note. His hands started to shake when he saw the picture.
“Jason? What’s the matter?” asked Alfred.
“I’m telling you, I saw cop cars out there!”
“Yeah, right. With your eyes, it was probably a tow truck. You know you can’t see as well with your optical sensors as you once could with your eyes. Cops never come down here at night. Now shut up and let me get the timing sequence reset for those buoy lights.” The costumed crook known as the Signalman bent over a hastily built control board. “Now that I’ve seen these maps for the shipping lanes, I can set these buoys to guide that shipment of construction material right into our own little private harbor. With all the work they’re doing in Gotham right now, someone will pay big money to get it back!”
“Okay, but I’m going back out to check. Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I can’t tell a cop car from an ambulance. Remember, I see bright, vivid colors better than anything else.” Crazy-Quilt slipped from the room, leaving his partner alone.
Signalman removed one connecting wire from his circuit, then inserted three more. “That should do it. The testing sequence will show up in shades of dark blue that nobody will notice, but crazy eyes, there, can spot them from the top floor of the warehouse with his lenses,” he said to himself, or so he thinks.
“Only if he can see them from the holding area up at the National Guard base.”
“What the–?” gasped Signalman, turning just in time to be struck full in the face by a pair of booted feet swinging down from above. He was flung backward across a desk as Batman descended from the open web ironwork of the ceiling and landed in front of him. The costumed crook reached for a gun-like device at his belt, only to have it swatted away. A fist struck his face, stunning him. He didn’t even try to block the second punch, the one that sent him into unconsciousness.
Batman shook his head. For a two-bit crook with a gimmick who was widely considered the laughingstock of his rogues gallery, Signalman had nevertheless managed to break out of jail more often than any other of his foes recently. Besides the initial prison break in October, he had slipped out of Batwoman’s hands once, only to be caught while out of costume at a Burger King by an off-duty police officer. But not long after he escaped again, only to be caught by Air Wave in Dallas, Texas, of all places. Signalman was thereafter drafted as one of the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency’s teams during the alien invasion in January and even managed to help restore the United Kingdom, which had been shrunken and taken away. (*) But just as that conflict was concluding, the criminal managed to escape once more, despite having had a tracking device implanted beneath his skin by the MHRA. Batman made a mental note to look into the matter. There was a story behind Signalman’s unlikely but frequent escapes. That alone made him more dangerous than he appeared.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Titans West: Where Were You During the Invasion? Chapter 2: Air Wave’s Story and Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors, Chapter 4: World at War.]
“Now for the deranged artist,” said Gotham’s defender.
“She’s alive! Somehow, she survived the Crisis! I’ve got to find her!”
“Find who, Master Jason? Is this about Natalia?”
“Yes! During the Crisis, she was injured. I couldn’t get her to help, but there was a balloon. I put her in the basket, hoping she would get out of the danger area, and that I could track her down as soon as things calmed down. But it just disappeared. (*) Now I know why.” Jason handed the note and picture over to Alfred.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Strange Loves,” Detective Comics #558 (January, 1986).]
The photo showed the woman who had insinuated herself in Jason Todd’s life, becoming a substitute mother to him. She was bruised, battered, and had a poorly tended bandage across her chest, but her eyes were open. Alfred Pennyworth was not a gambling man, but he would be willing to wager that the woman in the picture was, indeed, alive.
The note was short, and to the point:
If you value the life of this woman, you will come to 29°30’N, 45°45’E. You have until the end of April to come and retrieve her before I am no longer able to care for her.
An old friend.
“A most unusual situation, Master Jason.”
“But Bruce will agree to go after her, right?” Jason looked up at the older man, hope clearly evident in his eyes.
“I am sure he will, Master Jason. I will bring this to his attention as soon as he returns. For now, though, I think it best if you get upstairs and get to bed.”