It was an odd sensation, walking into the Everfree Asylum for the first time in years. It also didn't help that everypony Bruce past on his way to the director’s office was staring him down like a roadside attraction. He supposed the sight of a black pajama clad pony might have startled the police force already looking for an escaped inmate. But nopony tried to stop him or toss him in a straightjacket, for the moment the badge Oats had gifted him was working.
It didn't take long to find the directer's office, only a few doors down from the reception desk on the first floor. The little brass placard had engraved, 'Director Fluttershy.' After knocking a gentle quite voice invited him inside, "Come in, if you want to that is."
The awkwardness of the situation seemed to double once Bruce stepped into the office, it was a nice place, soft furniture and little furry animals skittering about. Standing in the corner was the room's owner and proprietor of the asylum, one of the six most famous ponies in Equestria, Fluttershy.
"Oh dear, when I spoke with the police commissioner before he had said you valued your privacy, I guess this wasn't what I was expecting." She wasn't half bad looking, a petite Pegasus in her mid-thirties sporting a distinguished pair of reading glasses and a lab coat. "Take a seat if you please Mr. Batmane."
Bruce complied and lay down on the therapy lounger, "Please do not call me that, it's just a misconception. I go by Batman."
"Very well Batman, if you insist." she stifled a giggle. "Before we begin would you mind if I asked some questions of you?" He nodded no so she continued, "Mr. Oats said you are seeking to protect Ponyville, is that correct?"
"Yes that is correct, I've dedicated my life to this city and its ponies."
"I see, and why do you have such a strange outfit? Not that I mind the bat look, I'm quite partial to them myself." Bruce felt like there was a double meaning in that statement but he wasn't sure what it could be.
As for the reasoning behind the bat iconography, that was hard to explain. True, Bruce Wayne had chosen the bat, but that was a completely different Bruce from a completely different world. Suffice it to say he didn't trust her enough to explain the circumstances of how he came to Equestria, odds are she'd have him committed as one of her patients. "It's to strike fear into the criminal masses, they are a superstitious and cowardly lot."
"I see. And why have you decided to set up here in Ponyville? Surely there are other places full of crime that would need your skills." By now she had taken her own seat with clipboard in hoof.
"Ponyville is home, I shouldn't have to explain why anypony would step up to protect their home from these newcomer criminals."
A look of realization hit her, "Ah, so you must be somepony who lived here before Tirek's destruction." Bruce clammed up, how had she pried that from the few words he'd spoken. "Ponyville was just a small village before Tirek burned it to the ground, there was little crime whatsoever. It was only when thousands of refugees from the other destroyed villages started congregating here that crime became an issue."
She was good, Bruce supposed she learned it during her collage years. "I'm curious, why did you change profession miss Fluttershy? You were fairly successful as a veterinarian." He wasn't even trying to mask his living in pre-war Ponyville anymore, it was little known that Fluttershy hadn't become a proper doctor until a few years ago.
"Kindness, or so I'd like to believe anyway. It was unfortunate but the Ponyville general hospital was one of the first structures to burn, along with most of its staff." Her tone was dour and disquiet, "Every day I walked through the refugee camp I would see hundreds of ailing mares, stallions and foals and no doctors to treat them. I felt guilty Mr. Batman, here I was a pegasus who'd dedicated her life to animals when my fellow ponies were dying of easily treatable ailments."
"Twilight's library had been destroyed so there were no medical textbooks to speak of, I had to travel all the way to the Canterlot library by wing. The railroad tracks had been ripped from the ground you'll recall. I spent two weeks in Canterlot reading every medical text book I could get my hooves on and spent every bit I had on medicine to bring back. Everypony called me the lady of kindness but I was just doing what I felt was right."
"After things had settled down and the rebuilding began I began to see ponies suffering from a different kind of trauma, mental. So I did the same, I learned everything I could about mental health. But mostly I sought to be a hearing ear to ponies who found it impossible to reconcile the devastation they faced." Bruce noted that even still Fluttershy was watching him and jotting down notes in between sentences. "I tell you this because that is my purpose in life, to heal the wounded. And the pony who escaped from this facility yesterday may be the most wounded of us all."
"I know she's been out of her mind for many years, I also know she can be dangerous outside of her special enclosure." Bruce said.
"It's not just that, she's been robbed of something special, her family. And the worst part is we have no idea how to treat her, medical scans show her condition is magical in nature, but it's like no magic science knows about. I had a friend once, well at least I like to think he was a friend. He could use a kind of magic he called chaos, it could do almost anything. I wonder if Discord could have healed her?" There was a strange emotion on her face, a mix of sadness and regret.
"If he could help why don't you ask him?" Bruce was vaguely familiar with the name, maybe from Ms. Cheerilee's class?
"Oh believe me, if I could I would. Actually we were trying to solicit his help in tracking Tirek down, that was before he had regained his power. But Discord vanished without a trace, I wonder how many lives could have been spared if he had been there?" By now the tone of the room was downright depressing. "Anyways, enough of my rambling. I've written down the tracking frequency to Screwball's bracelet on this paper. You can also have a look around her cell if you like."
Bruce thanked her and took the frequency, he'd have to use the signal boosters in the Batmobile if he wanted any chance of finding her. First though he had to investigate, there still was the mystery of how she had escaped in the first place. Once he arrived at the room itself it became apparent that no conventional means were used. What once was a steel girder lay on the floor in a viscus puddle.
That raised the question, who would go to all the trouble of smuggling in a device capable of melting steel when the bar could have been easily lifted by two? Bruce looked around for more clues, there was no security camera and the two guards that the police interviewed were at a loss as to what happened. The only other thing he found out of place was one of the asbestos ceiling tiles had two punctures in it of varying sizes.
Before leaving the asylum Bruce took a cursory look around the cell, it was a sad room, made only sadder by the fact that it was only place his father's wife had been for the better part of her adult life. Padded walls and padded floors, devoid of color. There was nothing else to learn from this scene so he departed. On his way out he found a familiar face peering into the window of the Batmobile, Detective Bulrush's plus sized plot in full view.
"What kind of spook is this guy that he can afford a cherry rig like this?" he muttered to himself.
"It's not that hard detective, I bought it with the change from my piggy bank." Bruce casually remarked. For a billionaire like him, the several million bits he'd invested into creating his car was like loose change.
"WHOH! Uh, sorry Batmane. Didn't mean to be snoopin' around your fancy car. I didn't touch nothin' so don't worry." With the pointed ears on Bruce's mask he stood a good ten inches above Bulrush.
"Believe me detective, if you had touched my car I would have known."
"You mean seeing my hoofprints all over and all that?"
Bruce shook his head, "No, this." He pulled out the remote control for the Batmobile and pressed one of the buttons, in a flash the armored shell deployed, encasing the entire vehicle in bulletproof steel. "Don't get any smart ideas about getting inside, those plates move pretty fast. Wouldn't want you to lose a hoof." Bruce said in a passive aggressive manner, he then deactivated the armor and climbed inside. "You can tell your boss I'll have her in custody by the end of the day."
"Is that right hotshot?" Bulrush asked.
"What do you need sir?" responded one of his subordinates investigating the scene.
"Not you Hotshot, I was talking about this hotshot he- What the?" Much to his surprise the car and pony he'd just been talking to had vanished without a sound. "Sneaky little freak."
Screwball was having a rough time in the wilds. Not that she couldn't handle herself, but everything was getting on her nerves. The sun was too bright, there were no ballet dancing bison around and her hoof was bleeding profusely. The tracker which she'd torn off had been designed only to come off with the key, designed anyway. As she held the bloody strap creeping thoughts of doubt did their creeping at the corner of her mind.
Thoughts like, 'Why am I doing this?' and 'Is this even worth hurting myself over?' But always the answer was, 'Daddy.' Daddy had come back for her, Daddy cared for her, Daddy meant everything to her. What was a little bit of pain if it meant she was making her Daddy happy.
Still though, Screwball wondered. What would the nice ponies think about what she was doing? Mr. Suit and Die Tie, they would always be so kind to her whenever they visited, even kinder than Daddy. Was it wrong to think that?
Mr. Suit hadn't been coming for a long time, Die Tie said he was in a place like the dull room, and that he'd be there for a long time. Die Tie would always cry whenever she talked about Mr. Suit. It was a mystery to her, why they came every month. Not that she minded, to the contrary, they were the shining light that got her through the dark times. Screwball recalled Mr. Suit trying to explain once, a very long time ago.
He had used big words that she didn't understand like, marriage and pregnancy, Screwball could never understand what they meant, only that whoever Mr. Suit was he liked her allot. A few months later he started bringing a little lump of pink fluff he called a diamond, he even let her hold it, Mr. Suit kept using the word 'Daughter.' After a while the ball of fluff went away and soon Die Tie started coming to visit her as well.
Die Tie was the best, every time she would come they would play for hours and hours, dress up, piggyback rides, hide and seek. Though that game never lasted too long, there was only her bed to hide under.
There was the third one as well, the one Die Tie called 'brother'. She hated that one, whenever she touched him she could see what he truly was inside, a big hairy screeching bat. For some reason beyond her nopony else could see it and they always tried to stop her when she was doing the right thing, even Die Tie. They did the same after she kept her promise to Scary Crow, even though she tried telling them about what he was doing.
It had been several months since she made the promise, he'd forgotten completely, he didn't expect her to know how to get out of the straightjacket. But Screwball was a good girl, she kept her promises, every last one. When he had his back turned she slipped a hoof out from the restraint, grabbed the foul needle resting on the tray and plunged it deep into the sick b*#@'s left eye. Screwball recalled that memory with fondness, it had been many years that monster had given her that drug with which he lied. Now she had given him a dose of his own medicine right to his frontal lobe.
Remembering his well-earned howls of anguish and madness brought the disturbed mare back to reality, back to the air balloon basket she was sitting in. By now the wound had clotted and the blood on her fur was dried and matted, without hesitation she tossed the tracking device overboard down to the firma bellow.
Sitting across from her was a petrified balloon operator, quivering in his boots. "Please miss, I'm begging you. I'll give you everything I have, all my bits, the balloon, everything! Just please let me go! I have a wife and children, please!"
Screwball looked at the weakling stallion dispassionately, he'd barely put up a struggle before she'd 'acquired his services.' "You know, I appreciate you being so quiet while I was thinking. That was nice of you." She knelt down and picked up the box containing the overly long revolver. "If you had interrupted me I was going to use this gun my daddy gave me to kill you. I don't like getting interrupted, I'm already a filly interrupted."
"Bu-But I didn't, so you'll let me go r-right?" the little pony was practically wetting himself around her.
"Wrong! I could crush your head like a nut, but I won’t because I need you!" Screwball let out a manic laugh, "You still have to fly me there!" With the barrel of the gun she pointed upward, to the floating city of Cloudsdale, more specifically to the weather factory. "It's time to make some chaos!"