Chapter 12

Lucius Fox and Applied Sciences

Bruce got up early the following Saturday. He went into his parents’ room and then into his mother’s purse where he found the cash he needed to catch the train. Wayne Manor was too far south of the city center, so to get to Applied Science’s campus required a train ride downtown and then a transfer to the subway. Alfred had breakfast waiting for him, as per usual: eggs, bacon, and coffee. Bruce ate quickly, hugged Alfred and left. The commute was uneventful. Bruce always liked the train, particularly looking out the window at the passing scenery. The subway was grittier. The cars were heavily graffitied and often chock full of unsavory characters. Wayne Enterprises had, once upon a time, invested heavily in the system. Now it had largely fallen into neglect, though it was still the most comprehensive public transit network in the country. It made the sprawling city just a little less baffling. Applied Sciences itself took up several acres North of Central Park. It was sandwiched between a relatively glitzy shopping district, a poorer area to the North, and a few blocks of run-down factories to the East. He found Lucius waiting for him in the lobby.

“Hello Mr. Wayne,” Lucius said.

“Morning, Lucius.”

Bruce was wearing jeans, a blue parka, and a backpack. He and Lucius regarded each other a moment. Bruce guessed that Lucius might consider this a chance to feel him out, young as he was, to decide whether or not he was worthy of the same kind of respect his father had earned over the years. Bruce didn’t want to disappoint him.

“Well, where should we start?” Lucius asked.

“From the beginning I guess.”

“Yes, I guess so.” Lucius motioned with his hand. “Follow me.

Bruce followed Lucius out of the lobby into a well-lit corridor with doors and windows on both sides. Looking into the rooms they passed Bruce thought they looked like laboratories, with many strange looking cubicles, glass menageries, and intensely lit dirt beds.

“You could say,” Lucius began, “that your father’s company had its fingers in a lot of pies. We have a lucrative partnership with Gotham University. We do infectious disease research, bio-engineering, and foods. You know, rice, wheat, maize breeds that grow more quickly and produce higher yields. Famine reduction. That’s what you’re seeing here.”

There were plenty of lab coat-wearing techies at work. None of them seemed to notice Bruce and Lucius.

“Is this the kind of thing you’re interested in?” Lucius asked.

“Well, I think it’s interesting,” Bruce answered.

“Is there anything in particular  you want to see?”

“I’ll know it when I see it.”

They came to the end of the corridor. Lucius opened a door and the two went outside into the sunlight. Before them was a vast pavement with lanes and cones. It reminded Bruce of an airport’s tarmac. He noticed, on the edge of the tarmac, a line of automobiles that looked like crosses between civilian cars and military tanks.

“I guess I’m too young for these,” Bruce said.

“Come back when you’re sixteen and we’ll talk.”

“This is your Pentagon business isn’t it?”

“That’s right.”

“I’d love to see it all. The stuff you said about superheroes.”

This struck Lucius as unsurprising coming from a teenager, but he kept this observation to himself.

They walked past the tank/cars and approached another warehouse with a closed sheetmetal door. Lucius unlocked a smaller  entryway to the side of this. On the other side he turned on the lights and Bruce’s eyes lit up. There were neatly organized aisles of shelving, coatracks laden with what looked like suits of body armor, and weaponry. Except there were no guns. None anywhere. This was absolutely fine with him.

Lucius stood to the side and watched the boy approach the merchandise. Oddly enough, Lucius’ impression was of someone who knew what he was looking for.

“Is this body armor?” Bruce asked.

“It is. It can stop a bullet, but it was also made for paratroopers to stick a heavy landing.”

“You jump out of planes with these things?”

“You do.”

“Can you make one for me?”

“Well… sure we could”

“I want you to.”

“You do? Why?”

“Because I asked you to. It’s all mine anyway, isn’t it?”

The two stared at each other.

“No rush,” Bruce continued. “I want to be trained how to use it too. I’m doing this project, okay? I’m telling you it’s really important. And it’ll be fun too, okay?”

“Well…”

“Just let me keep looking. I’ll tell you what I want.”

“As long as it’s not dangerous.”

“With the right training it won’t be, right? I know I’m just a kid but I’m responsible for my age, I promise.”

Lucius couldn’t help but laugh.

“What on Earth could the point be?”

“I don’t know why that matters. I’m really responsible for my age. I know why it sounds weird, but it’s a hobby, okay? I want to keep looking, I’ll tell you what else I want.”

“If you say so, Mr. Wayne. I’ll let you browse.”

Bruce continued down the aisle. A few yards later he pointed again and looked at Lucius. What he’d found were pairs of thick gloves fortified with metal and wiring.

“These are close combat enhancements,” Lucius said. “You deliver electric shocks with each landed blow.”

“Yeah, these. Definitely these.”

They continued through the warehouse. Bruce didn’t point to anything else until the end.

“You can fly with these, can’t you?” Bruce asked.

Lucius came to his side. He hadn’t expected so purposeful an appraisal. He didn’t know what to think about it, or what Bruce’s parents would think about it. But Bruce had been right to say it all belonged to him anyway. Lucius couldn’t rightly refuse him.

“Yes, this is flying equipment. It’s a combination of a jetpack and hang glider.”

“It looks so cool. It looks like a cape.”

“You don’t wear it to make a fashion statement.”

“I know. I’m just screwing around. I want to learn how to use it.”

Lucius decided it was no more than a kid looking for a fun way to impress his friends. Except… well, there was probably no point in reading to much into it.

“Okay Bruce, follow me and we’ll get you set up.”

Bruce tailed Lucius out of the warehouse and back into the main building.

“I’m signing up for boxing lessons,” Bruce said, as if thinking out loud. “I’m gonna do that on my own for the electric gloves. But I definitely want to learn how to use the flying equipment.”

“No problem. But be careful, okay? These aren’t toys we’re talking about.”

“I know. I promise I’ll take it all really seriously.”

In Lucius’ office thy mad plans for Bruce to visit Applied Sciences twice a week starting this Wednesday afternoon. Lucius had to admit to himself that he couldn’t quite get a bead on the company’s heir apparent. To be truthful he’d acted like a kid in a candy store. Maybe it was just because learning how to box and fly sounded like fun. What else could it be, after all?

When the two parted it was with a handshake and a shared smile. Bruce, walking quickly down the sidewalk to the subway, was rejoicing that he believed he’d found exactly what he was looking for.

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