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Buildings zoomed by as the Batmobile raced through the air. The skyscraper steadily grew larger, its promise of death becoming stronger. Batman smiled. It was what he wanted.
Wayne was very worried. Terry was ignoring his calls and heading straight for a crash. This was very irrational behavior for the boy. Wayne knew he had no other choice. He typed some computer keys and accessed the Batmobile emergency override controls.
Batman cried out when the Batmobile suddenly stopped. It just hovered in the air. None of his controls were responsive. He angrily pounded buttons, trying to make them work. Seeing no other option, he wrapped his hands around his throat and started to choke himself.
Wayne watched this latest turn of events on the monitor. There was no time for careful thought, just quick action. From the Batcave, he made the Batmobile suddenly shake back and forth, slamming Terry's head against the seat.
For Terry, it was like he was awakening from a dream. He put his hands back at the controls and stared out the window. He didn't remember coming here. In fact, he didn't remember anything from the past couple of minutes. "What happened?" he asked.
"You were attempting to kill yourself," Wayne said. "Fortunately, I was able to snap you out of it."
Batman was shocked. He tried to work the controls, but they didn't respond.
"I had to take over the Batmobile before you crashed into a building," Wayne informed Terry.
Batman swallowed hard. "I don't remember doing any of it," he said.
"You'd better come back here," Wayne suggested, turning off the override. "I want to run a few tests on you."
Batman turned the Batmobile and headed for the Batcave, his mind swimming with questions.
Terry kept his eyes closed as the scanner swung around his head, examining his brain waves, brain structure, and other tests. The scanner finished and swiveled out of the way. Terry opened his eyes and walked over to the computer, where Wayne was examining the results.
Wayne was silent for a long time, occasionally pushing buttons and rearranging the data. Finally, Terry got impatient. "Aren't you going to tell me what's wrong?" he asked.
Wayne turned and looked at him. "I'll tell you when I find something wrong."
"You mean nothing's out of place?" Terry asked in disbelief.
"Nothing physical," Wayne answered. "Tell me: what was it like?"
"I don't know," Terry said. He walked over to the computer and leaned against it. "I just remember hearing the word 'race,' and then suddenly I'm in a different part of town, hovering in midair. I can't explain it."
"It sounds like hypnosis," Wayne said, "though it's far more advanced than anything I've ever heard of."
"Spellbinder's got to be behind it," Terry said with conviction.
"We can't be too sure," Wayne advised. "Even if he is, we have no way of locating him." Wayne was quiet, playing with the computer data again. He stopped and turned to Terry. "Do you have any idea when you might have been hypnotized?"
Terry thought for a moment. "I don't know," he said with a shrug. "How do you hypnotize someone?"
"For something this advanced, I can't be sure," Wayne said.
"That's a big help," Terry said.
Wayne glared at him. "I'll need to research hypnosis procedures," he said. "However, I don't think too much information was published on the subject."
"I know someone who's an expert at research," Terry said.
Max opened the door a crack to see Terry standing outside. "Terry!" she said, fully opening the door. "What are you doing here?"
"I want to talk about what happened yesterday afternoon," he said.
Max glanced at the clock. "It's three in the morning," she said. "I need my beauty sleep."
"You'd better get used to late nights if you want to become Batman," he said. He changed the subject before she could answer. "Wayne thinks it's hypnosis. Someone, probably Spellbinder, is hypnotizing people so that a word will cause them to act radically."
"Really," said Max. "So what are you telling me for?"
"We need you to research hypnosis techniques," Terry said. "We've got to find out how he's doing it."
"Okay," Max said, "but how can you be sure it is hypnosis? After all, the procedure wasn't exactly reliable. Given the technology available, somebody could do a much better job."
"There's a brain research company that's investigating motivation and behavior. Mind Workings Research, I think they're called. You should check them out."
"Thank you," Terry said. "I think I will."
He started to leave but Max stopped him. "And by the way," she said, "I could get used to late nights."
"Whatever," Terry answered, then walked off.
Batman landed on the roof of the Mind Workings Research building. He wanted to have a quick look around before he had to stop for the night and get ready for school. He used his finger lock pick to open the door and made his way inside.
It was very dark inside. Batman quietly made his way around the halls, being sure not to alert any guards that might be in the building. He passed door after door, all of them darkened and locked for the night. Therefore, Batman was surprised to see light streaming from under a door. Who would be working this early in the morning? he wondered. He walked up against the door and put his finger-mikes against it.
Two people were talking. With a shock, Batman noticed that one of them was Spellbinder. He resisted the urge to burst in, and instead let the conversation play out.
"How close is it to being completed?" Spellbinder asked.
"Not much longer," said the other man. "I've finally found a way to amplify the influence field to the level you desire."
"Good," Spellbinder said. "I want it completed by the end of the day."
"Of course, sir," the man replied. "What shall I work on after I'm done?"
"I'll find something for you to do," Spellbinder said. "That's all I need to know for now. Keep up the good work."
"Yes, sir," the man replied. There was a sound of a vid-phone turning off.
Batman couldn't wait any longer. He kicked down the door and entered the room where a very surprised man was working on some electrical equipment. "What are you doing?" the man asked.
"Where is he?" Batman demanded.
The man pushed his glasses up on his nose. "Where's who?"
"Spellbinder," Batman replied.
"I've never heard of anyone named that."
"You were just talking to him!"
"Oh, him? That was my boss."
Batman was confused. He was sure he had heard Spellbinder talking.
"Now," the man asked, "can you please tell me what business you had crashing in here like that? I have important work to do."
"At four in the morning?"
The man looked puzzled. "I beg your pardon?"
"It's four in the morning," Batman repeated slower.
"You must be confused," the man said. "Would the sun be shining at so early an hour?"
Batman looked out the window at the blackness of night. Something was wrong here. He turned his attention back to the man, who was fiddling with his glasses again. Something strange glinted off of them. Batman snatched the glasses away, to the man's protest. He examined the spectacles and found a computer chip imbedded into the frame.
"Now then," the man said, "what's going on?"
"You've been hoodwinked," Batman replied. "Someone replaced your glasses with these, and I think I know who that someone is."
"Why would someone do such a thing?" the man asked, very flustered. "This is preposterous."
Batman continued looking over the glasses, noting Spellbinder's work woven into them. "He wanted you to do something for him without knowing what you were doing," he asked. "Tell me, what were you working on?"
"A device to plant hypnotic suggestions," he said, then stopped short, as if shocked to hear his own words. "Now why would I make such a thing?"
Batman walked over to the table and examined the machinery lying on it. "You recognize any of this stuff?" he asked Wayne.
"No," he replied. "This isn't my area of expertise."
"I didn't know you had one," Batman said. He turned back to the man. "Do you know what he was going to be using this for?"
He shook his head. "No clue."
Batman frowned. This lead hadn't taken him any closer to Spellbinder. However, he had stopped whatever Spellbinder was doing here. He should probably consider that a success. Nothing else to do, Batman walked over to the window and sailed out into the night.
"I should have gotten more sleep," Terry mumbled. There was a shway party going on at the moment, but he just couldn't muster up any energy to enjoy it.
Dana sat across from him, eyeing the partygoers dancing out on the floor. "What were you doing last night?" she asked.
"Stuff for Mr. Wayne," Terry said.
Dana huffed. "I've should go and tell him to be less hard on you."
Terry groaned. "I don't think that would work."
A laughing figure was making its way toward their table. Terry noticed that it was Greg, a boy who'd dropped out of school a couple of months back. He hadn't been seen around much since then, though Terry had heard wild rumors about stuff happening to him.
Greg walked right up to their table and sat down. "Terry," he said enthusiastically, "how are you doing?"
"Tired," he said. "Where are you up to these days?"
Greg shrugged. "Stuff," he said. "Say, did you hear about that wild race last Tuesday?"
Terry scrunched his forehead in thought. "What race?" he asked.
"You know," Greg said. "That race."
Terry shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't know what you're talking about."
Greg seemed disappointed. "Never mind," he said, and quickly walked away.
Suspicions ran through Terry's mind. Why did he emphasize that word? he wondered. He stood up and watched Greg leave the building. "I'll be back soon," he told Dana, and left to follow Greg.
Greg was hurrying down the street. Terry stayed behind him, keeping to the shadows. They kept moving for several blocks before Greg came to an alley. He gave a few nervous glances around to be sure no one was watching, then ducked inside. Terry came to the opening but didn't enter.
He heard Greg dial a phone and wait for the other person to answer. "It didn't work," he said in hushed tones. "The trigger word had no affect on him." He listened to the response and then turned off the phone and put it away. Terry hid in a shadowed doorway as Greg left the alley, gave another look around to make sure he had been unnoticed, and walked away. Terry watched as he disappeared into the night.
A dark figure soared through the night. He scanned the streets below him, looking for a certain someone. He discovered his target and swooped down to snatch him up.
Greg let out a yell as Batman grabbed his shoulders and lifted him away. "Hey!" he screamed. "What do you think you're doing?"
Batman remained silent until he reached a rooftop and roughly dropped Greg onto it. "Where's Spellbinder?" he asked as he landed nearby and walked menacingly towards Greg.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Greg said, a small quiver in his voice.
Batman grabbed his shirt and lifted him of the ground. He headed towards the edge of the roof and suspended Greg over empty space. "Does this jog your memory?" he asked.
"You wouldn't," Greg said.
Batman just smiled and let go. Greg screamed as he plummeted through the air. Batman shot a batrope that hooked Greg's shirt and pulled him back up. "I might miss next time," he said, glaring into his eyes.
"I don't know where he is," Greg said. "Honest! I just talk to him on my phone."
"How's he hypnotizing people?" Batman asked, giving Greg a shake.
"Th-the Terrain: Xeno game," he answered.
"Good boy," Batman said. He threw Greg down on the rooftop and flew away, leaving Greg shivering where he lay.
The interior of Cheesy Dan's was dark. Batman's footsteps echoed as he walked towards the vid-game. "It makes perfect sense," Batman told Wayne. "The game would give him access into the people's minds and therefore the opportunity to plant hypnotic suggestions."
"And it explains why all the victims were young people," Wayne added.
"Exactly," Batman agreed. He reached the machine and started looking around for anything unusual. He peeked around the back and noticed a strange cord connected to the machine. Red and black spiral patterns decorated it. "This looks good," Batman said.
He followed the cord and found that it ran through a hole in the wall. Outside the building, Batman found a transceiver connected to the strange cord. He took a device from his belt and attached it to the transceiver. "Let's see where he's hiding," Batman said as the device traced the transmission pathways. It finished its work with a beep, and he read the display. Then he launched up to the Batmobile and took off for the location displayed.
He arrived at a small, boarded-up building. The door crashed to the ground as he kicked it open to find a bare room. He made his way across the floor to another door. Another kick broke down this door, and Batman found a room filled with computer equipment. Spellbinder was busy working at a console, ignorant of Batman's entry.
"Spellbinder," Batman shouted, "your game is up. I've found out what you're doing, and-"
He cried out as electricity ran through him. He fell limp to the floor. The last thing he saw was the Spellbinder hologram, still working steadily at its console.
Batman awoke to a pounding headache. He looked around to see metal restraints binding him to the wall in a different room. He groaned. How had he gotten into this one?
A holographic image of Spellbinder appeared. "Ah, Batman," he said, "you're awake."
"I know what you're doing, Spellbinder," Batman said, though it probably didn't sound very threatening in his present position.
"Yes, Batman, you figured it out," Spellbinder said. "The good doctor Wellman was very instrumental in helping me. He has a very high knowledge of the brain's workings, you know. It was easy enough to fool him into working all day yet thinking it was only the afternoon. Had you not interfered, his machine would have transmitted my power over television and given me the ability to have every television viewer under my control. But alas, that plan has failed. You've ruined my fun. I'll have to entertain myself some other way."
The hologram walked right up to Batman and stared into his face. "I have a test for you, Batman. I've had the good fortune to get my hands on a large amount of explosives. They have been placed in such a spot that their detonation would decimate the entire city. I snatched a person off the streets, fitted him with the detonation device, and sent him off with a suggestion placed in his mind. When he hears a certain word, he'll push the button and destroy all of Gotham!"
Spellbinder laughed as Batman realized the full impact of his words. "Why do you think I'm not here in the person?" Spellbinder asked. "I don't want to be caught in the explosion. Who knows, maybe you only have one more minute to live? Kind of scary, isn't it, to know that at any moment you might die."
The restraints opened and Batman fell to the floor. "I hope you do well, Batman," he said. "Just think of all the innocent people that might die if you don't." Then he laughed, and the hologram disappeared.
Batman exited the building and flew up to the roof. His eyes wandered around the city. It seemed larger now with this impossible task set before him. There must be over a million people in the city, and he had to find the one person that would destroy it all. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack, only this was a very big haystack and a very sharp needle.
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