Sep. 17th, 2009 09:50 pm
master_bruce: (Default)


In the first three months of his self-imposed mission, Bruce learns there are three kinds of criminals in this city. The first kind are the most common; people who have no job and no money and no way to feed their kids. They steal to eat and he finds that he has more sympathy with them than he ever thought he would. They're desperate people for the most part, let down by their government and a system that doesn't help them.

The second type are career criminals. These mostly consist of kids who grew up in the families of the first type of crook, disillusioned with life and hooked into street gangs as a means to help support their family. Once within the ranks, they find an identity for themselves and a chance to make a name. It becomes a way of life and as they get deeper into it, the crimes worsen.

Bruce has less sympathy for this type of criminal.

His Chinese is rudimentary at best but one afternoon he notices something outside a school and he manages to ask a young woman (with the help of hand gestures and some miming) why there are so many people hanging around in cars who are quite clearly not parents. Drugs is the answer he was expecting and yes, he gets it in the form of the woman mimicking a needle in her arm. He nods once and turns to look at the waiting dealers when she says something else, something he doesn't understand. He looks back but she seems unwilling to help with sign language this time and just repeats what she said. Bruce looks at her helplessly until she taps him on the arm and points.

There's a group of girls in untidy uniforms leaving the school. One of them is called over by a man in a car with blacked out windows. She smiles and goes to talk to him; this is clearly someone she's met before. Just as clearly, he's trying to cajole her into the vehicle and she's laughing, thinking it's a game and eventually returning safely to her friends. But Bruce sees the look on the man's face as they leave and the way he bends to speak to a colleague in the back of the car. The next time some girls come from the school, the scene is repeated and this time, a girl does get in. She does not laugh or smile, she has no friends nearby to call her over and ask where she's going.

What gets Bruce is the way that underneath the fear on her face, there's a kind of resignation. It's obvious in the way her hand clutches the strap of her schoolbag across her chest as if trying to protect herself, but she doesn't try to argue about her fate for the rest of the day. Or night or next few days, for all Bruce knows. If a child is a prostitute to make money, he's guessing that the folks at home aren't going to be knocking the doors of the police station down to report her gone.

The gangs do what they want, mostly unchecked. It seems ironic to him that all these thousands of miles away from Gotham, nothing is really different. Which brings him to the third type of criminal; the ones who do it for fun.

He sees it the day he comes out of his cheap hostel and cuts through an alleyway, only to discover the mutilated body of a homeless man. No Triad symbols on him to mark this as a gang killing, it's simply gratuitous. He sees it in an abandoned warehouse near the docks, where men go to street fight and show off their martial arts prowess. The bets get larger whenever certain fighters appear because there are fewer willing opponents; when these men fight, they usually don't stop at a mere knockout. They just like the sound of breaking bones.

He sees it when he watches places where men in expensive leather jackets and dark glasses converge, with guns on open display as they protect the leaders entering restaurants, brothels, casinos. The bosses, the untouchables. The people who organise all this and sit back to reap the profits while everyone else suffers.

Night after night, Bruce returns to his filthy bunk and lies awake, muscles aching from the jujitsu he's learning and a day of trying to find ways to eat, wondering how he could come so far only to find things are exactly the same. But what was he expecting? He's not sure.

What he is sure about is that he can't sit back and watch forever. But also, that if he's not smart and just jumps in with two feet, he'll end up dead quicker than a person can blink. He has to remind himself that he's here to learn and that the idea is to go home eventually. He can't change the world when he doesn't even have a name.

There may be three types of criminal but there are many more ways to deal with them. The thing he has to figure out, once he's worked out how to move among them, is what to do afterwards. And already there's a nagging suspicion that that isn't going to be as straightforward as he'd hoped. Here, he's just a lost gweilo and a poor one at that. In Gotham, he's Bruce Wayne; rich, famous and with a past everyone knows...completely hamstrung by his position and the things that are expected of him.

There are nights when this whole thing seems impossible. But every time his thoughts turn defeatist, he hears that voice

(you always fear what you don't understand)

and feels the now instantaneous gorge of rebellion that flares in him at the thought of ever being afraid again. And then it's alright. Then he knows he's doing the right thing.

He just has to be patient.
master_bruce: (Young - Thief/Eating)

The boat stays in dock for only another two hours before it leaves for the South China Seas. The time is spent trying to get the captain to understand that yes, he has money, but no, no passport. No passport, no name. Eventually, the man takes the cash and gets a dirty sailor who smells of oil to take him below.

China. It'll do.

---

He shares a cabin with four sailors who look at him suspiciously for two weeks, discussing between themselves what crimes he's committed to be running away. Bruce doesn't speak Chinese but he gets the drift. It's exactly what he'd think if he were in their position. Or maybe they're not. Maybe they're wondering why he spents six hours a day in a seemingly futile race with himself through the cargo decks, climbing the containers, jumping between them, running endless miles in circles, over and over. When he's not running and jumping and climbing, there are always sit-ups, press-ups, chin-ups, squats, lunges, shadow boxing...

...even he's not sure why. But he can't sit still. At night, when he should be sleeping, he thinks of Chill and the desperate look in his eyes as his father handed him his wallet, dropped it, ("It's fine, it's fine..."), the expression afterwards when his mother lay dead and his father dying, ("Bruce, don't cry..."), the words in the courthouse and the way the man couldn't turn to look at him...did he feel guilty? Did Joe Chill, double murderer, feel bad for what he had done?

                                                                                                                                                                                                 (If I hadn't got scared, they'd still be alive.)

He comes to the conclusion it doesn't matter, as he rises from his bunk and goes to run some more. Because it's not just Chill he's mad at any more. It's the system that released him, the politics that made it necessary, the crime that ruins lives like his. Falcone, for robbing him of his chance to be free.

Bruce doesn't sleep much these days.

---
 
 
He learns some words in Chinese. Then a sentence or two. His cabinmates decide that, for a man who is obviously a murderer or rapist or something, he's not so bad. At least he keeps to himself and doesn't get in the way. As stowaways go, he's not so bad.
 

---

For three weeks, he doesn't think of anything except what happened he night he left. Then practicality asserts itself - what exactly is he doing? This isn't some existential angst borne from an impulsive decision, though it was impulsive...no, this is the methodical thinking of a man who started down a path he has no desire, or ability, to veer from.

So, what is he doing? Falcone was right. People from his world, they never understand. Bruce thought he did and then he discovered he knew nothing. And (why do we fall, Bruce?) what do people do when they know nothing?

They learn.

He'll learn. He'll teach himself and when he can't, he'll get others to do it. He'll discover what makes a criminal, he'll live among them, he'll show Falcone that if you fear what you don't understand, then understanding will bring fearlessness. And then...well, that part he hasn't worked out yet.

But he knows one thing. He won't be Bruce Wayne any more. If he has to go a thousand miles to find someone who doesn't know his name, then he'll go six thousand to not have to have one at all.
 

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Bruce Wayne

July 2015

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