The bat signal had been lighting up the sky for about fifteen minutes when Bruce showed up, soaring up the side of the police station at an alarming rate. Once he landed he wasted no time, "Commissioner, what's the emergency?"
"Good morning to you too Batmane. You must watching the skies to have gotten here so quickly."
"That or I have a fast car, and my name is Batman."
Oats seemed to ignore the latter half of his remark, "I have a job for you, consider it a test drive of our little agreement. Earlier today a high profile and notably dangerous pony escaped from the Everfree Asylum."
"And you want me to bring them back in?"
"Exactly, she's already proved more than the hospital guards could handle and the officers that were dispatched to the scene once her proximity alarm went off were outmatched. I've arranged for you to have time to investigate her cell without interference, but we've already picked it clean. I also arranged a meeting for you with the hospital's director, she should be able to clue you in on what kind of pony your dealing with. Here take this," Oats gave over an ID badge labeled Batmane.
Bruce pinned it on his suit begrudgingly, he would have to find some whiteout later to get rid of that extra E. "So what's the name of this escapee?"
"Name is Screwball Rich, wife of the business tycoon who got out of jail a few years back. I used to know her, well, before she completely lost it. I know it might sound strange but try not to hurt her too badly when your bringing her in, not just because a mental patient covered in bruises would raise some uncomfortable questions, but also as a favor. Her husband, Filthy, we haven't spoken much since I locked him up. But we used to be friends, and that has to count for something."
It had been some time since Bruce had heard that name, if ever he could avoid visiting her he did. Ever since that first encounter when he was eight Screwball had always been hostile towards him. But Oats' point was true, Filthy had always held onto the hope that one day his wife would regain her sanity. Even if he dreaded being around her, she was still family even if it was by the loosest definition of the word. "I'll do my best commissioner."
Silver Spoon was just settling in on the couch for some midday tea prepared by Randolph, a look through the paper to see if anything would catch her attention and finally she would end the day pouring over the calendar trying to arrange both Bruce and her own schedules. It was a full time job sometimes, being a socialite. Endless functions to attend, meeting with the heads of different charitable organizations pleading for funding and the gossip.
It was no longer the gossip of fillyhood, innocent and harmless. Nowadays keeping up with every little detail was a mater of life and death. Not literally of course, but socially not knowing could very well give off the aura of non interest and that could very well spell the end.
At the moment Silver was just grateful to be back to the mundane, that scare last night with the searchlight had rattled her cage. When Bruce had returned latter on she could hardly believe it was true, the commissioner had offered him a job. It was good news to be sure, but completely unexpected. By now she was calm enough that the unknown party knocking at the door didn't startle her as it did last night. "Randolph? Would you be a dear and see who it is?"
"Right away mistress," The butler who'd been dutifully standing in the corner walked to the front door. "May I be of assis- Oh mistress, it's mistress Tiara!"
"Di?! Silver peeked her head over the back of the couch to see, standing in the doorway there she was, her childhood friend and Bruce's adoptive sister. Still wearing her piece of namesake costume jewelry that by now was too small for her head and a duffle bag slung across her shoulder. "It is you!" Like a little school filly she jumped over the couch and ran to the door, without a shared word they recited their decade old gesture.
"Bump, bump, sugar lump rump!" Two hoof bumps followed by a dual hipcheck, once it was used as a taunt against their adversaries, now it was almost ceremony to greet each other that way.
"Sorry for dropping in unexpected like this Silver, I got in a training accident and tore a leg muscle. The doctors ordered no exercise and plenty of bed rest for three whole weeks, I was getting sick of Canterlot so I hope you don't mind me crashing here with you two." Upon further inspection Diamond's left hind leg was bandaged, the price one pays for being an Equestria Games hopeful.
"Like you ever need to ask permission to come stay here, this is as much your home as it is mine and Bruce's. Speaking of, come sit with me on the couch, I'll tell you all about how his crusade has been going. Randolph can you take her bag up to her room?" Both mares made their way the lounger, Diamond slowly walking on three of her legs to avoid putting weight on the injured one.
After getting comfortable Silver proceeded to recount the events of the past few nights while sharing some tea. "So what do ponies think about 'The Bat' in Canterlot?"
"Everypony thinks it's just a hoax, although if my brother keeps doing stuff like that warehouse I don't think he'll stay a hoax for long." said Diamond.
"So, I need to know, did you make it?" Silver asked expectantly.
"It's a sure thing now, come next games I'll be representing Ponyville in the High Bar and the Pommel Horse." Sweet satisfaction and pride covered the mare's face, it had been a long journey but it was nearing the satisfying payoff.
"Two events, that's two gold medals you’re going to bring home. I'm so glad that they got rid of that silly rule where an athlete could only perform in one event." Silver commented.
Diamond was nodding in agreement, "Same here, now cities and foreign countries with less competitors have more chances to win. It's just fairer all around." She finished off the remnants of her tea cup and poured some more, "It's hard to believe my career started from that one day at the flag carrying tryouts. If you would have asked me then I thought I'd be where Bruce is, running the family company. Though I doubt I'd have his same pass time."
"Yeah, body armor doesn't really fit your style does it?" A pregnant silence overtook the room, it was clear she had more to say but it was equally clear she was hesitant to say it.
Diamond felt she knew her best friend well enough to guess what that something was, "You know you can't stop him Silver, my brother is too pig headed to back down from the course he's chosen."
"I know that but, I worry. Every night he goes out to fight crime, I don't know if he's going to come back." Much as she tried to avoid it, tears began welling up in her eyes. Diamond pulled herself closer and wrapped her hooves around Silver. "Oh Celestia, I just know one day I'm going to wake up without him by my side."
"Its okay, let it out, I'm listening." she felt uncomfortable, it wasn't often Diamond Tiara was called upon to play the comforter.
"I haven't told you yet because I didn't want to mess up your tryouts but, Bruce has been shot. Twice already, once on the face and when he came back from the warehouse his armor was covered in bullets. It was so bad he had to stop using that chest plate," Diamond's eyes went wide. "I know he's lucky, but nopony's luck lasts forever. Some night he's going to get hurt or stabbed or shot and there'll be nopony to help him."
"Silver look at me, you can't keep worrying like this, it's not healthy. I'm going to have some choice words for Bruce once he gets home believe me. But in the meantime remember Bruce has a lot more than luck on his side, he's been training in every pony, griffon and dragon fighting style for fifteen years. He's by and large the most intelligent stallion I've ever met and it doesn't hurt that he has the funding of a multi-million dollar conglomerate at his hooves making the best equipment money can buy." her logical reassurances were just what Silver Spoon needed to hear.
"*Sniff* Y-Your right Di, I'm just being silly, just a silly little mare."
"You’re not being silly, your being a loving and devoted partner. You don't know how much it means to me to know my brother has somepony like you at his side. I never have to worry at night about if he's throwing his life away with some floozy, I kind of get the feeling if you weren't there he'd be a notorious skirt chaser."
"Actually if I weren't grandfathered in I think Bruce would be having a lot of trouble having a relationship."
"All the more reason I'm happy that you're with him." Diamond patted her on the back as if to say, 'hang in there.' "Where is Bruce anyway? At work I suppose."
Silver shook her head, "No, he got another signal from the commissioner, apparently something has already come up that they need the Batman's help with." Almost on Que the telephone began to ring, "Mind if I get this?"
"It's fine, actually I'm famished from the train ride, any food in the fridge?"
"There should be some leftover pizza in there." Diamond left the room and Silver picked up the receiver, "Hello, this is Silver Spoon."
"Silver I'm glad it's you, not sure if I would want Randolph to hear about it." The voice on the other end of the line was Bruce's, not even using the disguised Batman voice.
Silver covered over the speaker, "Di! It's Bruce, I'm going to put it on speaker phone so you can hear too."
"Thanks Silver!" Diamond shouted from inside the fridge.
"Go ahead Bruce, how did your meeting with commissioner Oats go?"
"The meeting was fine, he had a job that he felt was out of the police's league and wanted me to take on personally. Yesterday an inmate escaped from the Everfree Asylum, I'm driving there now. He wants me to track her down and bring her back into custody." Bruce's mood was not at all what she would have expected, he wasn't excited that he was finally getting to work with the police.
"Is there something wrong Bruce?"
"It's who I'm supposed to be finding that's the problem. You know Diamond's mother right?"
"Sweet Celestia, you don't mean to say-"
"Screwball is running around unsupervised and Luna only knows what she might do. I'm glad Randolph wasn't here to hear about it and I just hope I can bring her back to the asylum before dad and Diamond have to find out." Bruce paused as he waited for a response, unaware of the situation on the other end of the line.
Diamond Tiara had just emerged from the kitchen, with a slice of cold pizza in hoof and a slack jaw. Now she too looked to be on the verge of crying, "Bruce tell me this isn't true!"
There was a sound of tires screeching, "S-Sis! I didn't know you were home."
"Bruce tell me this is some sick joke, please tell me this isn't real." The real pain was evident in her voice.
Bruce took a deep breath, "It's real, Oats said on her way out she hurt several guards, doctors and two police ponies who had arrived on the scene."
"Oh Celestia, oh no." It was as if all the wind had escaped her lungs, leaving a hollow voice in its place.
"Sis I'm going to find her, she still has her tracking bracelet on. Once I get the frequency from the hospital director I'm going to track her down and bring her in." Bruce was firm and authoritative.
"I feel numb Bruce, this isn't how anything was supposed to happen. Mom was supposed to be secure in there, she was supposed to be safe."
"I know, that's part of why I'm going to the asylum, I need to figure out how she escaped."
"Bruce I know mom hates you, but just promise me. Promise me you won’t hurt her, please." That was the second time today somepony had asked Bruce not to hurt Screwball. He had no great desire to do so but it was almost an inevitability.
"I promise Diamond, as far as it depends on me I won’t hurt your mother. I have to hang up now, I'm almost to the asylum." After an exchange of goodbyes the phone was curtly disconnected.
"Di, I- I don't know what to say." Silver had remained quiet throughout the conversation out of respect.
"Just don't say anything. There's nothing you or I can do anyway." said Diamond, brushing off her friend's sympathy.
A bad thought entered into Silver Spoon's head, "Bruce said he hoped you and Filthy wouldn't find out. Does that mean the police haven't informed him yet?"
Diamond's eyes went wide, knots started forming in her stomach, "Oh no, Silver your right! I have to go see dad right now!"
"Go, don't worry about your stuff, Randolph and I will have your room all set up by the time you get back. Take one of the cars in the garage and do what you need to do," Silver gave her the most reassuring smile she could manage.
"Thanks, Silver. You're the best friend a mare could ask for." On her way out the door Diamond set down the slice of pizza, her appetite had left her.
The entire way to Rich Enterprises Diamond was driving at the very least twenty miles above the speed limit and passed through no less than three red lights. Normally she'd be a studious driver, careful to avoid any scandal that would ruin her chances of getting into the Equestria Games. Now however she could care less about safe driving, right now she needed to be in her father's office.
As she pulled into the underground parking lot she was going so fast that she ended up jumping the curb. After hearing the nasty crunch Diamond felt kind of guilty, it was her brother's car she was driving, but she felt he would understand, it was an emergency after all. She jumped into the elevator and tried to remember what floor Filthy had his office on, once she did she was perturbed to find the button was one that required a key to use.
Getting the key was no small task, Diamond had to deal with a rather incompetent mare working at the reception desk first. "What do you mean you don't know who I am?!"
"I'm sorry miss but you’re not on the list of approved visitors for Mr. Rich. I have very explicit instructions not to let anypony not on this list up to his office."
"B#@* your list, I need to talk with my father now! Who's on that thing when I'm not anyway?" Diamond swiped the clipboard from the spectacled mare's hooves against her vocal objections. Right top of the list was Bruce, then some other ponies she knew about from the business world, there were other names on there she didn't recognize like Cavallo. "I may not be on this list but I am your boss' daughter, do you want some proof?"
She fished out of her hoofbag a wallet full of identification papers to allow her into the training facilities, thousands of bits in the newly implemented paper variety and photographs of her when she was a filly getting a piggy back ride from Filthy. On the back was written, 'To daddy's little princess.' A gift he had given her the day his guilty verdict had been handed down, days later Filthy had been sentenced to ten years in prison.
"Is this proof enough?" Diamond asked impatiently.
After looking at the photograph the mare looked genuinely embarrassed. "I'm sorry Miss Tiara, if I had known than I would have let you in immediately. I'll have the security guard by the elevator unlock Mr. Rich's floor for you." She gave a bow in apology.
Diamond wasn't going to let an incompetent like her get off scot free, "If I were you, I'd start packing my things now. Because by the time I'm done talking with my father there will be a new receptionist position open." To add finality to what she was saying she rudely flicked her tail in the mare's face.
One elevator ride later and Diamond was up to her father's office, the door was closed and she could hear him talking over the phone. "Yes, yes I understand. --- I know it's a setback, but maybe you shouldn't send somepony quite as obvious next time. --- No I'm not doubting your decisions Don, I apologize. --- Yes I'll take care of it personally. --- I assure you there's no need for --- You'll have your money by the end of the day. ---" After the last muffled words came from the speaker the line was disconnected, she could hear her father let out an exhausted sigh.
Gently Diamond knocked on the door and entered, "Hi daddy."
"Princess! I didn't know you were in town, were you waiting out there long?"
"Only a couple minutes, I heard you on the phone and didn't want to interrupt. A pushy business partner I take it?"
"Pushy is one way of putting it, cut throat is more like it. But everypony has to be a bit cut throat in the business world." Filthy searched around his cigar box and placed one in his mouth, only stopping once he remembered whose company he was in. "Heh, it's a bad habit I picked up behind bars. So what brings you back to Ponyville so soon?"
"An injury," Filthy's eyes shot open wide. "Nothing serious, just a torn muscle. And before you ask daddy, yes my spot on the Ponyville gymnastics team is locked down."
"That's my girl! I'd better start reserving seats at the stadium, I want every employee of Rich Enterprises to be there rooting for you."
"Not every employee, did you know that receptionist out front had the gall to stop me from coming up here? Apparently I'm not on her list." Diamond was still rather flustered at the whole ordeal.
"Really? That's odd, Selena is usually on top of things like this. I'll have to have a word with her later on."
"Can't you just fire her daddy? For me?" Diamond was fluttering her eyebrows and jutting out her lower lip.
"Princess I can't go firing ponies for no good reason. I may be the boss but I'm not unreasonable, I did place her under strict orders not to let anypony not on the list up here. If anything I should be scolding her for breaking that rule."
"*Gah* Fine." With her petty concerns out of the way Diamond's true reason for coming came back to her. "Daddy?"
"Have the police came to talk with you yet?" At the mention of police she could see a bead of sweat form on his brow.
"No, should they be?"
"Daddy, I just learned, mom escaped from Everfree Asylum."
Silence hung in the air, it was Filthy's worst fears realized. The last time his wife had been running free was over twenty years ago, that was the night she had completely lost her mind. It had been only a few days after Diamond had been born, all of a sudden something changed inside her. Screwball started asking for her father, 'Where's my daddy?' she would ask, her father had been buried in the ground for years at that point.
It only got worse from there, a once intelligent and kind mare became like a vengeful little child, striking out at those around her. "Diamond, I want you to know something. The police will find her, and they'll bring her home safe. And one day we'll find a cure for her."
"Daddy, you've been saying that since I was a filly. You can't honestly believe there is a cure." It hurt her to say those words and it hurt Filthy more to hear them from his daughter. "I know I call her mom but the truth is she never raised me. The only contact I've ever had with her is our monthly visits. Randolph has been more of a parental figure than she ever has."
Sad realization came upon the stallion, "Princess, maybe you're right. I've kept holding on to hope that the doctors could find some way to save her. I sank I don't know how many bits into funding and they haven't made any progress after this long. Once she's back safely, I'll take care of her personally."
"I'm going to do everything I can to help her, if it takes the rest of my life I'm going to save your mother." The middle aged pony said with resolve. His daughter too was moved by his resolve.
"Even if I have to put aside sports, I'll do everything I can to help daddy." Both were filled with hope even though the struggle had only just begun.
Filthy got up out of his desk chair and took a seat beside Diamond, "You know princess? You're just like your mother when I first met her. A promising career ahead of her but more than willing to set it aside to help a silly stallion with wild ideas."
"How did you two meet anyway?" Diamond pried.
"I've never told you?! But it's one of my favorite memories. Well it all started when my father had me working as a clerk at his store, when all of a sudden the most beautiful mare I've ever seen walks up with a cart load of groceries. Normally I'd ask if she found everything she was looking for but I was completely tongue tied. In the end I blurted out the first thing that came to mind, which at the time was, 'my Celestia you are the prettiest creature on this planet. ..."
From outside the high rise Batmite listened in on the conversation, with every fond memory shared he grew more and more upset. He wasn't just toying with some crazy mare, he was playing with a family that had already gone through more than anyone should. He had just wanted to have an adversary for his favorite hero to fight against, nothing more.
Maybe he couldn't do what needed to be done but he knew who could.