Lightest of Nights: A Deck of Minds
Ding! It Begins
Relaying an understanding, that is what Batman hoped to accomplish with his words. Time was of the essence, there was not a second to spare in his mind.
"So essentially the Riddler's ultimate goal isn't something he seeks to obtain, but rather a thrill of a challenge? One in which he hopes to prove his superiority over all involved?"
"In short, yes," Batman confirmed.
Shinichi was now beginning to gain an understanding for the man whom they now faced. "There's something I want to ask you."
".. What is it?"
"Of us all you're the most familiar with the Riddler," Shinichi noted. "Then you must have an idea for where he is right?"
"I don't," Batman responded. "At least not yet. Finding the Riddler's location is part of the game in his eyes."
"While I may not know the exact location, I know he's near." Batman was certain of this. "He'll be watching us all closely."
"One does have to question though."
"The whole plot to get the three of you together, setting up the broadcasts to where he can't immediately be pin pointed, the setup of the explosives even," Shinichi ran down.
"What of it?"
"Just how much time did the Riddler have to put all of this into motion?" Shinich wondered. "How long has he been planning the events leading to this night?"
"I've found myself questioning the same. But that is not something we should ponder on right now."
"You're right," Shinichi agreed. "We need to complete the challenge and find Riddler at all costs."
That very fact was something neither could deny. Without either announcing an end to their discussion, all talk seized. Not a second more the sound of someone approaching from his blind side was heard. As expected it was Kaitou Kid and Detective Mouri.
"The Riddler said he would be contacting us back within ten minutes," Kaitou Kid reminded. "I thought it be wise if we held one last therapy session before that happens."
Kaitou Kid looked him deep in the eyes. "You know this man better than anyone here. Tell us Mr. Batman, what is the Riddler planning to have us do?"
Staring back into his eyes with just as much intent Batman responded. "I don't know."
On the streets below
A pickup truck trailed by, following in its path was a red colored minivan. Several vehicles came and gone. The question was, which one was Edward Nigma traveling in? That was the task Damian now faced, figuring out just that.
"I have to narrow the search down somehow." This would be imperative if he was to find Riddler. "If there's one thing I know about Nigma is that he's bound to drop a riddle about his whereabouts at some point. It's in his blood."
That moment the possibility came to mind. What if Riddler had already sent a secret riddle hinting about where he was? Had Damian missed it?
"Eventually Nigma will make another announcement, and when he does I'll be sure to close the gap."
Jack now paced back and forth a distance away from everyone else in the room. He too had listened in on Riddler's broadcast just minutes prior. Several things circulated through his mind at that time. Above all, he had yet to receive word from other members of the Royal Flush Gang concerning their mission.
"The timing couldn't have been any less convenient. The riddle man and the bat himself," Jack pondered in thought. "What could have possibly been triggered to bring the both of them here to Tokyo, Japan of all places?"
Then there was the fact the Royal Flush Gang had their eyes set on the renowned Kaitou Kid, an interest that was revealed to be shared by the Riddler as well. The circumstances couldn't be any more intriguing in his mind. A ring in his left ear informing him of an incoming call was all it took to scatter his thoughts.
"It's me," said Jack who took the immediate call.
"There has been a change in plans," Queen spoke from the opposite end.
Jack grinned. "Oh, please do share."
Nightwing stood in between two statues overlooking the city as he waited. Placing a hand just above his eyes Nightwing looked into the direction of the sun which was partially covered by a pair of fluffy clouds. He was not used to suiting up this early in the day, but given the circumstances his presence was needed.
The sounds of sirens rang loudly from far below, his eyes tracing every patrol car that traveled by. Given the raise in activity within the last ten minutes there was no doubt that Riddler's announcement had set off a trigger of sorts. Through it all there was one question that resided on his mind since all of this had begun, why? What was the point in intertwining Gotham and Tokyo in on his latest scheme? What was the Riddler hoping to accomplish? There was still so much left unanswered. Unexpectedly his ear communicator began to vibrate.
Nightwing wasted no time in taking the call. "This is your captain speaking," Nightwing conveyed.
"Robin," Nightwing said upon hearing his voice. This came as a surprise. "I take it you were the one to find the Riddler's final communication device?"
"I was not," Damian sourly admitted.
"What?! Someone found it before you?" This was most unexpected. "If you weren't the one who retrieved it, then who?"
"Don't know, don't care."
Nightwing grinned. "If I didn't know any better I'd say you're a little bitter."
"Hmph," grunted Damian. Choosing not to dwell on the topic any further he switched the subject "Listen, there's something important I need to run by you."
"Talk to me."
"I was able to latch onto Nigma's signal for a short time the last time he broadcasted one of his messages. The problem was even when I did I could not maintain the connection."
"What do you mean only for a short time?"
"I have a theory," Damian began. "The reason I wasn't able to maintain connection is because Nigma's on the move. He must be broadcasting from a moving vehicle of some kind."
"Brilliant," remarked Nightwing. "Any leads to what or where that vehicle might be?"
"Not yet," Damian replied. "But that's only part of the reason why I called. I was thinking, what if the signal I've been trying to hone in on is a decoy?"
"What are you trying to say?"
"Father believes Nigma is stationed here in Tokyo somewhere," Damian noted. "But what if that's what Riddler wants us to believe? And in reality he is in-"
"Gotham," Nightwing figured. "So what's your point?"
"The next time Nigma makes one of his little announcements I want you to see if you can pin point a potential signal."
"Gotcha." Nightwing fully understood. "Have you told Batman about any of this?"
"There's no need," Damian replied. "He and I are here, while you're clear across the globe. I can handle things concerning this matter from my end."
"Even so, I think it would be best if we let Batman in on this information as well," argued Nightwing.
"Perhaps. Robin out."
And with that communications were cut. Nightwing gazed down at the roads yet again. With a new knowledge in mind he looked over every passing automobile with a new intent in mind.
"Could it be? Could the Riddler really be here in Gotham somewhere?"
Batman had since rejoined Kaitou Kid and Kogoro near the center of the rooftop. Kid stared into the distance, taking eye of one of the helicopters that patrolled.
"Over seven minutes have passed since the last we heard from our host," Kaitou Kid noted. "It won't be long now."
Batman placed a hand on his chin. "Something doesn't make sense."
Kogoro looked over at him. "What are you talking about?"
"This whole thing, stemming from the beginning when you received that riddle back at your agency. Every riddle leading to this point has had a mirrored or misdirect meaning," Batman ran down.
"I don't follow," Kaitou Kid admitted. "What are you getting at?"
"The subjects for tonight's show are Tokyo and Gotham, both of which are located on opposite sides of the globe. Riddler made it to where two of us are paired with others located in Gotham," Batman explained. "In simple terms, a mirrored collaboration will be needed in the trials to come."
"What's the point you're trying to make?" Kogoro asked.
Batman pointed to the black colored device on his wrist. "The person I am linked to is here in Tokyo as well," Batman reminded.
"You're right," Kaitou Kid realized. "That doesn't exactly fit the mold."
"So what of it?" questioned Kogoro. "Do you think there is more to it? Maybe even some kind of hidden message the Riddler left for us to decode?"
"… Maybe." Batman wasn't completely sure himself.
This was not a coincidence. Batman knew there was a reason why the Riddler had set things up this way. The question was, why? It fell completely out of line with everything else. No more than ten seconds passed before each of their communicators began to produce a sound of static, followed by a voice all too familiar.
"Hello contestants! Sorry to keep you waiting!"
"If it isn't the man of the hour," Kaitou Kid remarked.
"I know you're all so anxious to get started. So why don't I tell you how this is going to work, aye?"
"Let's hear it," Kogoro said.
"This is how it's going to be, so strap those handy listening caps on tightly," Riddler stated. With that he began. "The trio of chosen ones will act as a voice, one which contributes to the actions of their very own extensions."
"And that's supposed to mean what exactly?" questioned Kaitou Kid.
"Another riddle, wonderful," Flash commented from his end.
"Oh, but it's not. I'm being clear as a hawk overseeing the stream of a river," Riddler said in response.
"Well forgive us for not understanding your delivered clarity," Kogoro stated. "Why don't you elaborate for us all?"
"The trio of chosen, Riddler is clearly referring to us," Batman said looking over the two who stood next to him. "We'll act as a voice that will contribute to the actions of our named extensions. The extensions being the three other participants linked to us through our communicators."
"And the detective does it again!" shouted Riddler with glee.
"I don't quite get it," Kaitou Kid admitted. "The whole bit about our voices contributing to the actions of the people we're paired with."
"Allow me," said Riddler who was hoping to bring clarification for all who were uncertain. "Magician, Investigator, and Knight, your roles are simple. For this challenge the three of you will remain on the roof you stand upon now."
This was unexpected. "What's that?"
"It is as I said Kid Thief. You along with the other two who make up the three shepereds will remain where you are," Riddler reiterated. "Each of you will stand in separate corners of that roof. You the magician have been assigned the south corner, investigator the east, while the west corner of that building falls to the knight himself."
"He's still choosing not to address them by name," Shinichi noted in mind. "Is there a reason for that?"
"What about the north corner?" Kogoro asked.
"Why.. what a marvelous question!" Riddler exclaimed. "But one must ask. Does the emptiness of the north corner hold any significance? Or is it nothing more than a flash in the pan?"
The tone in Riddlers voice changed. "Well investigator, that is for you to determine."
"What about the rest of us?" Flash questioned. "So is our role simply doing what we're told by-"
"Slow down Flash," Riddler interrupted. "Relax yourself. I was just about to get to that. Here's how it is going to work. Each of you as a pair will be given a separate challenge. One piece to a larger puzzle."
"Sounds like fun," Kaitou Kid said.
"I noted before Kid thief you and the two standing before you are the shepherds. Which now brings us to the sheep," Riddler said.
"The sheep?" Flash questioned.
"That's right Flash," Riddler said in response. "You along with our two other guest entrants are the sheep."
"Not sure how I feel about that," Nightwing said.
"We're the shepherd, they're the sheep." Kogoro gathered that much. "What's it supposed to mean?"
"Come on. Surely the great detective of Japan can figure that out," Riddler stated.
"Set the shepherd to round up the sheep," Kaitou Kid remarked. "I think I get it Riddler-guy. Like a shepherd rounding up a herd of sheep to wherever they choose, similar will apply here with our communicate mates we've been linked to."
"Perhaps you aren't overrated after all," confirmed Riddler. "Furthermore the sheep also have a say in what happens as well. We'll call it a collaboration of ears and eyes. A challenge cannot be successfully completed without the efforts of both parties involved. However, a sheep may not under any condition act on their own will or hunch without the direct order or approval of the shepherd."
"Loud and clear."
"Now unless any of you have anything additional to inquire, shall we begin?" When no one responded the Riddler continued. "Alright shepherds, I'm going to ask that you all take to your assigned corners."
It was now time. Batman looked to the two standing beside him for a final time. "Remember what we discussed."
Kogoro nodded while Kaitou Kid proceeded to give him the thumbs up. Kaitou Kid quickly made his way to the south corner of the roof, while Kogoro walked toward the east. This left Batman who capped it off by finding position in the west corner. The question now became, what was going to happen next?
Of the three proclaimed shepherds, Kogoro was the first to receive a call.
"Hello investigator, to you as well former sheep wonder," dispatched Riddler. "You two will be the first."
Kogoro clutched his fists while doing his best to hold in all emotion. "Let's hear it. What's the challenge?"
Riddler replied. "What is it to be dark, while also being connected to light? What has a tail, face, and nothing more? Find the grounds that hold the likeness of all sides."
"What? I don't understand."
"Your challenge is set. I will now start the ten minute countdown." Riddler chuckled. "Good luck, Mouri."
Flash now stood in the confines of a narrow ally leaned against a stone wall. He eased forward after hearing the approach of someone who happened to be passing by.
"Little bit early for Halloween wouldn't you say?" a man in a purple colored cap questioned before moving on.
Not long after the civilian's departure, the communicator on Flash's wrist began to ring, the sound of the Riddler's voice was heard soon after.
"Arguably the greatest thief alive and the fastest man alive," Riddler stated. "What a promising combination."
Flash was ready to begin. "So, what do you have in line for us?"
"My heat runs to serve all. My voice can be heard from behind, from below, even from above," the Riddler conveyed. "Who am I?"
"I don't get it," said Kaitou Kid. "What's the challenge?"
"My dear lad, it has been given," Riddler replied. "Your ten minute countdown begins now. May luck come to your stop."
The transmission between the three ended in that moment.
Batman stood with his left foot pinned atop the edge of the building. He waited patiently for the call he knew would soon come. Everything he had learned to this point, every word that Riddler spoke played back in his mind. The ringing tune of the communicator came soon as expected.
"Well, well. Saving the best for last," Riddler said. "Tell me Dark Knight, wouldn't you say this is a great night to finally surcome to the fact that I am better than you in all forms of the imagination?"
"What's the challenge Nigma?" asked Batman getting straight to the point.
"Skipping the tease of a tasty appetizer to move onto the main course," Riddler remarked. "I had not realized you were so desperate to bring about your defeat."
Riddler wanted nothing more than to push him to the edge of brink. When Batman didn't respond Riddler continued. "Very well, here is a map to the location for where your first challenge will begin," said Riddler. "To find me is to pass the hills and bridges. I am a goddess, I am a lord. My beauty mark of 2071 is matched by few. In my heart lies what you seek."
Batman cemented every spoken word.
"Your move, detective," Riddler conveyed. "Oh, and did I mention you only have ten minutes to complete the task? If you fail, kaboom! I get to set off one of those marvelous explosives! Now let the world truly see whom is the best."
Feeling his point had been made Riddler cut off communication. All three challenges were now underway. The only question that remained, would they succeed?
The Streets Below
The search to find the Riddler was now in full force. It wasn't just the occasional patrol car that drove past. Now walking the sidewalks was an increased number of police officers.
"They'll stop at nothing to find him." There was no doubt about that.
The same was felt by Damian who patiently awaited Riddler's next broadcast. There wasn't much he could do until then. Damian looked into the direction of a large screen TV attached to the side of a building. "What's taking you Nigma?"
Not soon after speaking those words the Riddler's face reappeared on many televisions throughout the city.
"Ladies.. gentlemen, the game has now begun!" Riddler announced.
The opportunity had now come. "Now's my chance," Damian said. As he had before, Damian attempted to lock onto the signal being emitted.
"The hour to come will bring not only the greatest tension these two great cities have ever experienced as one, but an unmatched excitement!" Riddler truly believed this in his mind. "Listen on as I bring you live updates on the progress of our contestants."
The hunt was now on, on more fronts than one. Damian began to walk once again as he tried to lock onto the signal once again. His objective was clear. Find the Riddler.
On the rooftop
"What is it to be dark, while also being connected to light? What has a tail, face, and nothing more? Find the grounds that hold the likeness of all sides." Kogoro spoke the riddle given to them word for word. "But what does it mean?"
"It's clearly hinting at a location. Wherever it is, we have less than nine minutes to figure that out," dispatched Nightwing.
"I never did catch your name. Who are you anyway?" Kogoro asked.
"Oh me," Nightwing laughed lightly as he thought of something on the fly. "Detective. Call me Detective Hartwell."
"Just my luck huh? It's fortunate another detective found the communicator linked to my own," Kogoro said. "Who do you work for anyway?"
"Private Eye for the GCPD. But that beside the point," said Nightwing. "Trading information about our employers isn't going to solve the challenge that has been presented to us."
"You're right, my apologies. So tell me, what are your thoughts on the challenge Hartwell-san?"
"There are three separate parts to the riddle," Nightwing noted. "The first thing we need to determine how each are linked together."
"What has a tail, face, and nothing more? That is the center piece of the riddle," Kogoro pointed out. "I believe what is being referred to is two sides to a coin."
"Further reinforcing this; what is it to be dark, while also being connected to light? Yin and Yang, light in the presence of darkness," Kogoro continued. "Two interconnected forces of dualities, same as that of two sides of a coin. Separate, yet as one."
"You live up to your name Sleeping Kogoro," Nightwing complimented.
"So you have heard of me?"
"Find the grounds that hold the likeness of all sides. That's the part of the riddle that is still unanswered," Nightwing said. "I believe this also to be the part hinting at the location we need to find. Given that you're the shepherd and I'm the sheep, I think it's safe to assume the place of interest is somewhere in Gotham."
"If that's the case, we better get started," Kogoro shed an eye over his watch.. "We only have eight minutes left before our given deadline."
Since their challenge had been given to them Flash now ran up and down the streets, trying to pin point anything that could be related to the riddle that had been relayed to them.
"Anything yet?" Kaitou Kid radioed.
"Nothing in particular," replied Flash who zipped past a pickup truck.
"My heat runs to serve all. My voice can be heard from behind, from below, even from above. What am I?" Kaitou Kid said in reference to the riddle. "I don't know about you, but it almost sounds like this riddle is hinting at some kind of entity that is, well.. everywhere."
"That's what it sounds like," agreed Flash who looked from left to right as he continued to run. "But what could it possibly be?"
Flash stopped after reaching a light pole. He placed a hand over his eyes to block out the brightness of the sun as he peered across the road.
"I've circled the entire city five times in all in the past half-minute, I have not a clue as to what the riddle is hinting at," Flash admitted.
"We better figure it out soon," Kaitou Kid said. "Because if we don't, lives will be lost."
That was the frustrating part. "Yes.. I know."
After finding a secluded spot behind a phone booth Conan finally stopped. Holding the voice altering bowtie in hand he proceeded to speak. "Sorry about that, had a run in with a couple who needed directions to the local hair salon. What do you say we crack this thing now?"
"To find me is to pass the hills and bridges. I am a goddess, I am a lord. My beauty mark of 2071 is matched by few. In my heart lies what you seek," Batman ran down. "That is the riddle given to us in full."
"The last line of the riddle holds the least importance to figuring out where the hidden location is," Conan voiced. "In my heart lies what you seek. I believe once we determine the location, that final piece will come into play later in the challenge."
"On the flip side the portion of the riddle that read; 'My beauty mark of 2071 is matched by few', could be the most telling," Batman believed. "Beauty and 2071 being the key components."
Conan couldn't agree anymore. "The question is, what do they represent? Beauty mark.. could it be referring to a land mark considered in high regard?" several possibilities ran through his mind. "Then there is 2071. Is it hinting at a coordinance perhaps? Time even?"
"Riddler also mentioned a goddess, a lord," Batman reminded. "To have an audience with the spoken is to first bypass the hills and bridges. Everything is closely tied together in some coordinated way."
Conan leaned his head against the glass wall of the phone booth as he looked up at the night sky as if to look for an answer he knew would not come. "Whatever it is, we have less than ten minutes to find out. People's lives are depending on us."
The pressure was now on. It was now time to deliver.
To Be Continued