Darnit! With the epic Hellscape that was America last week, I forgot to post this and the Friday editions. So, you’ll get a double-up today and Friday of how to write excitement.
Stay safe out there.
We’re picking up in Chapter Four of my “Armored Underworld” fanfiction with Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, finishing his presentation of a new civil defense robot for Gotham City’s Mayor Hill, Commissioner Gordon, and industrialist Bruce Wayne, a man with a secret of his own.
If I have to tell you that secret, you need to read more comic books or watch a few movies.
Gordon, who sat next to Wayne, nudged the sleeping man. Wayne abruptly woke. “Huh? Sorry,” he began. “Long day, longer last night.”
“I can only imagine,” Hill said, not bothering to hide his disgust for Wayne.
“I don’t have to imagine,” Stark said. “We billionaire industrialist playboys are a rare breed. Maybe if Lex joined the club, he’d take things a bit better.”
I wanted to play up the playboy image in both Stark and Wayne. For Wayne, it’s just an image to hide his identity as Batman.
For Stark, the playboy image is a way of life. He has nothing to hide as the world knows he’s Iron Man. These conflicting points-of-view will clash when the heroes meet.
An aside — I don’t think I make it clear the world knows Tony is Iron Man. I guess I infer, but no one so far gas referred to him as his alter ego or connected the two. All that world-building and I miss that?
“Sorry, Tony,” Wayne said. He looked to the drone onstage. “Interesting piece of machinery. I take it you’ve modified it since the Mark Ones.”
“Yes sir, thanks for asking,” Stark replied. He walked to the Legionnaire. “The Mark One could lift a bit under a ton. We’ve doubled that with the Mark Two, making it better for search and rescue in fire or collapse situations.
“The added strength also went to the legs, making it faster on the ground. It still has its flight capabilities, but instead of jets we’re using anti-grav technology, housed down in the feet.
“For offense, I know you boys love the non-lethal stuff. The Legionnaire is armed with two restraining nets. They can carry an electrical charge, just like a taser. They pop up from the forearms here —” Stark touched the left forearm — “and here” he said, touching the right forearm.
“Up on the shoulders, compartments slide away to reveal cannons. Keeping with the non-lethal, I cooked up some pulse cannons that stun humans and create a targeted electromagnetic pulse for tech targets.
“The operator can fire both cannons at one target or swivel in a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree arc to either side to aim at individual targets. The onboard computer assist can lock on to anything the operator can detect through the sensor array and fire at the operator’s will.”
Stark turned his attention back to the three men.
“That sensor array is a complete surveillance package: standard vision, telescopic vision, night vision, infrared. It can discern a sound a quarter of a mile away, making locating those in distress easier. All that surveillance data is recorded to hard drives back with the operator via the same satellite link that controls the drone itself.
“Those tapes can be used for quality assurance and training future operators.”
All this to set up an eventual confrontation with the drone. Unfortunately, the narrative drove me to pit the Batman villain against Iron Man and vice versa, so the inevitable use of the drone fell short of expectations.
If this were a novel for sale, I’d go back and correct the narrative. But it’s a fanfiction based on my playing the “Mutants and Masterminds” role-playing game. I didn’t feel the need to course-correct.
“Any chance a third party could modify those cannons or anything else?” Wayne asked.
Stark laughed. “They’d have to crack some serious encryption first. Oh! They’d also have to steal one, which is why we’ve also placed a card key lock on the Iron Legionnaires. Without the card —” Stark hit the side of the robot, creating an echo in the hall. “It’s just dead weight.”
And Tony just explained exactly what the villains will do. Famous last words or his cocky ego kicking him in the ass?
“And how much collateral damage did your robots cause in Metropolis, Mr. Stark,” Gordon asked. “Not just on the Intergang case, but in general? Even when used to police minor offenses like graffiti or stealing tires?”
“Some of that collateral damage was due to inconsistencies in control,” Stark replied. “With the Mark One model, we tried running them like remote-controlled Iron Man suits. By that I mean we had a more traditional drone control, dumbed down to run like a video game controller. That didn’t take into consideration impulse lag between operator motion, the sensors, and the drone.
“Also didn’t consider the inability of some people over thirty being able to coordinate all the button mashing. It also lacked total sensory utilization.
“With the Mark Two, we switched to controls that work like a motion capture suit. The operator moves, the drone moves. We also added a virtual reality package that ties into the surveillance package, affording a more immersive feel. Now the operator sees and hears what the drone does.
“I’ve made them so easy to control, any one of your patrolmen can run them.” Stark held up his glass but stopped shy of taking a drink. “Hell. You could have the patrolmen’s kids run the damned things.” Stark threw back more vodka.
“Using existing personnel to run the drones would cut down on the overhead of hiring a team of operators,” Hill mused.
“I would assume there are also costs for maintenance, storage, and the like,” Gordon said.
“If Gotham wants to pay for a set of drones, Stark Enterprises can eat maintenance,” Stark offered. Hill nodded in acknowledgment.
Gordon squirmed in his chair. “I would just prefer not to escalate the already fragile balance in firepower in Gotham,” he said. “As much as I appreciate the vigilante help we have, I can’t ignore the fact that it forces people like the Penguin or Black Mask to up their weaponry.”
Gordon being the concerned civil servant thinking of escalation. Totally stole that from the Christopher Nolan movies.
“At least Stark’s drones would be directly under our control,” Hill added. “Not some fly by night masked men and women we can’t rely on because we don’t know if they’ll show when we need them.”
“Batman and his assistants have always been there,” Gordon cut in.
Setting up the contrast in opinions about Gotham’s masked vigilantes. Even Gordon seems happy to have them but leery of them due to that escalation factor.
“And the Iron Legionnaires will always be there too,” Stark added.
Gordon started to comment, but a look from the Mayor silenced him. Stark had hella respect for Gordon but still took his silence as a point for him.
It also meant he’d earned another sip of martini.
I could have had Bruce and Tony get into really nerdy technical stuff with the drone. Still, in front of Gordon and Hill, this would give some of the ghosts away on Wayne’s ability to be more than a simple worthless playboy.
This was a quick one as the scene itself was fast. I’ll bring you another one Friday to keep things going.
If you want to skip ahead and read all of “Armored Underworld” without me yacking in between, click the link below for that or any of my fanfiction.
See you Friday!
The joys of writing Batgirl and Dick Grayson