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Dark Choices Part 1

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The hallways were dank and they smelled too clean. Patients wandered the halls for right now; it was still late in the afternoon and dinner would be served in about half an hour. Dr. Eliza Charleston’s heels clicked down the hall as she moved toward her lab and she barely gave a glance to the mental patients, some of them were very violent and did not like being looked in the eye.
She was asked to be a lead researcher at Arkham Asylum-as of yet no research had come her way though-after her labs had been closed at Wayne Enterprises. She had kept her head extremely low when the terrorist known only as “Bane” had taken over the city for five months. They had been the most terrifying months of her life, but now things were starting to go back to normal, even if Gotham’s one hero had sacrificed himself to stop the terrorist. No one really knew what happened to Bane, or if they did they were keeping quiet about it.
Her office was quiet; a dull taupe paint covered the walls. She had two bookshelves filled with research from other doctors, and a two of her own published papers. On the walls were her doctorate degrees; one in medical research, then one in psychology and one in microbiology. No short feat for only being thirty. She grinned proudly at them, and then sat down to go over her notes one more time and then go home.
A knock interrupted her about an hour later. “Come in.”
“Dr. Charleston,” Gabe, the new intern, side-stepped in. “Dr. Werner wanted me to get you. He needs your opinion on a patient’s behavior.”
“I’m not a behavioral doctor. That’s Toshiro’s department. Go get him.” She brushed him off and stuck her nose back in her notes. Gabe was a good kid, but seriously annoying.
“He said it was urgent, and that you would want to go see this patient.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. Dr. Werner was the head doctor at Arkham, and he knew how curious she would be if he used the right words. She grabbed a legal pad and pen to jot notes on. “Let’s go.”

Gabe led her down the corridor to Dr. Werner’s office. His office was darkly colored with mahogany furniture and dark green carpets. He chose to decorate, Eliza didn’t see the point; it was just an office at a place of work. Every doctor had his or her eye on this office, when the doc left or died, everyone would fight for it. Eliza was happy with her research and couldn’t care less about prestige or titles. When they entered Dr. Werner was there waiting. He was a man in his sixties, with a full head of white hair, and bushy grey eyebrows.

“Thank you, Gabe, you can go.” The doctor didn’t look up from his files. The kid slipped out without a sound. “Dr. Charleston, have a seat.” Eliza sat down in one of the overstuffed, high backed, forest green chairs. “I want you to lead up a project.”
She tried to hide the excitement starting to churn. “I would be honored. Who will be working with me?”
“No one.”
“Beg pardon?”
“This is top secret. No one can know about this. This patient is not your typical one here at Arkham.”
“Forgive me sir, but all of the inmates here are beyond criminally insane, have you met the Joker? And honestly the little intern assigned to him, I don’t think she can handle it-”
“The Joker is not the point. Let me show you who you’ll be working on.” He flipped a switch and a secret panel opened in the back of his office. “Your office is the only other one that has one of these. It leads down to the old basement of Arkham; we’ve been keeping that thing down there for almost a year now.”
The smell in here was wet, old, and dead. Eliza wasn’t sure what was going on, but she knew she would face this challenge head on. She loved something new and challenging. When they reached a steal door the doctor pulled out a weird looking key and handed it to Eliza.
“This is strictly yours, even I don’t have one. All you need to know is that we think this guy’s mask is slowly killing him and the gas in it may be hindering his mental health. He has life in prison with no chance of parole. You’re to find a way for him to live without it.”
“So I’m supposed to make this guy healthy, just so he can spend the rest of his life here?”
“Yes.” He walked back up the corridor to his office.
“Okay then.” After five awkward attempts, the weird key finally slid into the lock. “Be smarter than the key Eliza.” The door was heavier than it looked and creaked loudly when Eliza slowly pulled it open.
The white light blinded her at first, but as her eyes adjusted she saw pristine white floors and walls. This lab had clearly never been used; the floors would’ve been scuffed if someone had worked in here and the walls would be an off white. The machines in here were state of the art; they had to be if she was in here working alone. The security pad next to the door indicated that it needed her fingerprint and she complied. It asked for a DNA sample and jabbed her thumb when it was being scanned for the fingerprint.
“B****.” She sucked her thumb. A low groan made her suddenly aware that she was not alone down here. The prisoner was strapped down, in conveniently placed areas because he was stripped naked. The monitors whirred and beeped indicating that he was heavily sedated. The breathing apparatus attached to his head covered his mouth and nose and the entire bottom half of his jaw. The apparatus strapped around his head, which was completely bald. That’s when it occurred to Eliza that it was Bane on the hospital bed. The bastard that had held Gotham in his clutches for five months.
She couldn’t-however much she wanted to-let her hatred dictate her research. Dr. Werner had tasked her with an assignment; she had to get it done. She stepped closer to the bed and put her fingers on his neck checking his pulse for her own notes.
His hand shot straight out of the restraints and on to her neck. The rest of the restraints fell away like they were a spider web. Bane backed her up against a wall, her legs dangling helplessly, her hands grasping desperately at his to free her airways. She then pressed her heels against the wall and pushed forward, knocking Bane backwards and loosening his grip just enough for her to hit his wrist and free herself. She had taken enough self-defense classes to know she could handle herself in a fight, but not very long against the likes of him.
“Where am I?” The breathing apparatus distorted his voice, but she could still hear the slight European accent. Bane came at her again, and this time she delivered a blow to his head. She had seen the tapes, this was not his full strength he was still fuzzy from the sedatives.
“Arkham Asylum, in a free Gotham,” she kicked his gut. “No thanks to you. Stay down.” She kicked his back when he tried to get back up. “I’m here to help you, believe it or not. I’m here to find a way for you to live without your Halloween mask, and live a long and happy life here at Arkham, with no parole.”
He remained silent, but got to his knees and stayed that way. When she handed him a sheet to cover with, he gripped her arm, and whispered “I won’t be here forever.”
“We’ll see.” She jerked her arm out of his grip. “If you cooperate, I’ll make sure you’re treated well enough here. Please sit on the table.”
His huge frame rose slowly and stiffly complied with her orders. He never talked the rest of that first night; his eyes spoke volumes. His grey-blue eyes followed Eliza wherever she went, that’s all he needed to communicate was his eyes; it unnerved her but refused to let him see it.

Over the next seven months, Eliza made progress in finding a way to get rid of the mask, and still keep Bane’s pain at bay. Bane had spoken a handful of words the whole time. It didn’t bother Eliza though, that simply made her work easier. She finally acquired him some clothes to wear, so there were no more embarrassing glances.

“I’ve been is this mask most of my life now,” It startled her whenever he spoke first. “How do you plan to replace it?”

“Your apparatus continuously gives you a pain killer in gas form, you already know this.” She continued to poke and prod at him. “That gas keeps the pain away, yet somehow doesn’t affect your motor skills. Whoever came up with the formula was a genius; however they didn’t factor in the decay, or rather deoxygenating process. This gas is progressively losing oxygen to give to your brain. That explains the lapsing of your memory. Not to mention your years of fighting has piled on, scarring your brain tissue.” She placed the stethoscope on his back over the right lung. “Breathe in. Okay, next lung… That’s weird.”

She stripped off her gloves and pressed her hands to his back one on each lung, telling him to breathe in again.

“Do you feel that Bane?” She asked him, pressing down.

“Am I supposed to?”

She smirked to her herself, but sobered her voice, “I would think so. When you breathe out your left lung, it stutters, like it can’t get everything out. That means it’s weakening. The continued use of that formula is degrading the integrity of your lungs, especially the left one.” As she continued to explain she also jotted notes on her legal pad. “This wouldn’t be too much of a problem except, that the disease, whatever it was, already scarred your lungs. The gas is slowly making it worse. Less oxygen in your bloodstream is putting a strain on everything else.”

“What’s your solution then?”

“I need to sleep on it. If I come up with the wrong one, it could kill you.”

He said quietly, so much that she barely heard it, “Wouldn’t want to miss that triple life sentence.”

She couldn’t stop the giggle that burst from her lips. “Anyway,” she cleared her throat, “Go to your cell. I’ll be back in the morning.”

As with every night he annoyingly took his time getting to the cell. She locked him in and went to clean her materials that she had used that day. She didn’t like to, but she would stay the night in the lab; there was a shower and spare clothes. The bed was comfortable enough and she got plenty of hot water, but it still wasn’t home.

She slept in baggy pants and a Beatles t-shirt. She grabbed a quick glass of wine and sipped it down as she went over her notes of the day. She hadn’t realized that she had noted slower breathing everyday, it was subtle, but it was there. Taking a look again she calculated that if the decay process continued Bane’s left lung would become useless within the year, with his right lung not far behind. If she let them go and say she couldn’t find a way to stop it, he would simply die, relieving the world of the worst kind of criminal. But then, she couldn’t very well go against her oath as a doctor, or simply let someone die slowly and in agony.

As she lay down to go to sleep, her mind began to whirl and she couldn’t quiet it. An idea suddenly dawned on her. Hopping out of bed, she hit the button on the coffee maker and grabbed pen and paper.

“No sleep tonight.”

“I’m telling you, this will work.” Eliza had been up for twenty-four hours straight working on a concept drawing of a mechanical set of lungs to replace Bane’s decaying ones. “Bane, I am your doctor and you have to trust me. This will save your life.”

“For three consecutive life sentences? Gotham was to suffer the ultimate punishment, Ras Al Ghul’s punishment. I am still Gotham’s reckoning, and it will suffer.”

“Yes, yes, I know.” She rolled her eyes. “But guess what, Gotham’s citizens won’t let you do that… again. These new lungs will keep you alive, that’s better than most patients get at Arkham.”

He leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I will be free, but Gotham and all who live there will suffer for it. None are innocent, so none will be spared.”

She leaned back to look in his eyes. “They will never let you out of here. I will do anything to help you have as happy and as long a life as you can, but I will never let them let you out.”

His eyes grinned at her, a sick, twisted grin. “We will see.”

“Your surgery will be in a month. I will be down here to routinely check on you and your lungs, and that will be the only time you are let out of your cell from now on.”

“You will be my ticket out of here.”

“Bullshit.”

The lungs would be comfortable enough; she had secretly called in an old friend from Wayne Enterprises, Mr. Fox, the former CEO. He provided the material, and the special surgical equipment needed. The lungs would be able to deliver the same amount of pain killer gas, without the deoxygenating process. His lungs would provide ample oxygen and pain killer without killing him. The surgery was today. She wanted to save him because she was a doctor and oddly enough had come to care, in a you’re-psychotic-yet-good-looking-and-kind-of-nice sort of way, yet she was dreading it because of what he had done and what he could still potentially do.

“When you come back up, you’ll be able to breathe easier.”

“Let’s get this over with.”

She applied the anesthetic and sedative. After about a minute Bane went unconscious, she began to remove the mask. He had told her ahead of time how to remove it. Underneath was a hard, unyielding face, one that had seen too much strife, and pain beyond imagining. Scars from the mask lined up from where she had just peeled it away and part of his nose was actually missing along with part of his upper lip. Upon closer inspection she noticed that this was on purpose, the disease had rotted his flesh and had needed to be removed. She could fix that with flesh mesh, an old Wayne Enterprise technology.

The surgery went well as to be expected, the machines provided great assistance. He never bled out beyond what was normal. His head and chest was bandaged, his new lungs were breathing in and out perfectly. He was beginning his recovery process, and slowly coming out of the anesthetic haze.

A pounding came at the steel door, completely stopping Eliza in her tracks. She went over to the screen that was wired to a camera on the door at face level. She knew that face. The horrid scars making a gruesome smile that was accented with scarlet paint was in a face that was pale white, with blackened eyes and green hair. Eliza’s heart stopped, why wasn’t the alarm sounding?

“Hello, Dr. Charleston.” The Joker grinned at her through the screen. “I wanted to know if Bane could come out to play. We all wanted to have a night on the town.”

“Yeah!” A high-pitched, New York accent yelled somewhere off camera. “Puddin’ here wants to have some fun tonight, and I thought I’d tell him about the fun fella down here.”

“Harleen Quinzel? What the hell are you doing?” Eliza did the only thing she could; she grabbed a steroid and injected it into Bane jerking him awake.

“Nah, honey. Puddin’ here calls me Harley Quinn. You know, like the clown character Harlequin? I’m his own personal jester.”

“Amazing Harley.” She whispered to Bane, who had just remembered where he was. The lungs were working well enough because he wasn’t groaning in pain. “If you get me out of this alive I will personally write a letter of recommendation saying that you should get parole in 10 years for good behavior. Please.”

Bane must’ve looked at the screen and recognized who it was. “Fine.”

“Knock, knock, here I come.” The Joker held up a switch. “I’m coming in.” The world exploded.



To be continued….



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nebraskafan777 said...
Mar. 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm:
Awesome!  I loved your ideas and the possibilities this presents.  Great story!
 
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