Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Arkham City Post #18: Showdown with Joker at Monarch Theater


Part 17: Protocol 10 In Effect

Before I even had time to process the deaths of Hugo Strange and Ra's al Ghul, my principal antagonist and arch-enemy appeared on a screen in front of me, holding Talia hostage at gunpoint.  He revealed that he was keeping her at the Monarch Theater - who knows if it was just a coincidence, or if he somehow found out my chilling secret and chose that location because of its connection to that fateful night...?  But either way, my objective was clear, and it was a simple matter of dispatching the snipers Joker had placed on various rooftops to cover the theater entrance.

Joker and Talia were on the stage in front of the screen: Talia on her knees, and Joker standing with a gun behind her.  I knew the bastard's trigger finger was too quick to try a Reverse Batarang, so I resolved to calmly listen to what he had to say - which shocked me more than an electrified floor at Arkham Asylum's penitentiary wing: he demanded that I hand over Mr. Freeze's cure!  Why would he need the cure?  He had already taken it and was long on the road to recovery.  When I explained that I didn't have it, that I had gone through all this nonsense to retrieve it from him, Joker looked as shocked as I was... which gave Talia the opportunity to deftly escape and stab him through the back with her sword.

Now in addition to the trauma of seeing three of my most iconic foes die right before my eyes and my confusion about what was going on with the cure, I was puzzled by the question of why Joker didn't even bother to restrain or disarm his hostage before making demands... but then, to my immense relief, Talia produced the cure!  Apparently she had stolen it from Harley Quinn, which explains why I found her tied up in the steel mill.  But did she steal it after Joker had a chance to use it on himself?  Otherwise, how did he look and sound and act so healthy?  Unless...

Then it hit me.  It was something Joker said when we first met at the steel mill, when I was distracted by the decoy in the wheelchair without a pulse: "You fell for the old fake Joker gag..."  This whole business with Joker being cured was just a ruse, a double-blind set up both to confuse me and to flush out the real cure.  And now that the real, still sick Joker knew where the cure was, he had no need for the messenger... so before I had time to adequately warn Talia of the situation, he pulled the trigger from his hiding place in the second deck.  I seethed with rage and sadness as Talia's lifeless form slunk to the ground.  I wanted to ask her why she didn't suspect something when she saw a fully-healthy Joker parading around, since she had stolen the cure before he had a chance to use it... but I decided that wouldn't have been right for the situation.

Before I had time to get into it with the real Joker, the fake Joker suddenly came back to life (I'm sorry to say, but I took something like that in stride, at this point) and grabbed the cure, which had slipped gently from Talia's hand when she fell... but he grabbed it in the most peculiar way: his hand became a mass of fluid matter, and he absorbed it into himself!  That was when I began to realize: the impostor Joker was none other than Basil Karlo, Clayface, who had snuck IN to Arkham City just for the purpose of impersonating the world's greatest crime boss.  But now that the ruse was over, he unleashed the fury of his full power on me, turning the gutted theater into a battleground.

Luckily I had plenty of Freeze grenades on hand, which I could use to temporarily harden Clayface's outer shell, all while dodging his swinging blades, crushing hammers, masses of projectile clay, and his patented rolling-ball attacks.  When I had adequately frozen him, I grabbed Talia's sword, which was still embedded in his clayish mass, and hacked the sucker to bits.  Just as I was about to expose the precious precious cure, Joker pulled his final card from up his sleeve: he detonated explosives placed on the floor, which led us straight into Wonder City and the Lazarus Pit where I originally battled Ra's al Ghul.  Clayface was too injured to re-form himself, so he sent an army of man-sized clay soldiers after me, which I was easily able to keep at bay with Talia's sword while also using grenades to freeze Clayface's main mass until he was subdued enough to grab the cure from his tainted insides.

But Joker wasn't done yet: I don't know what he was planning on doing with the control panel high atop the Lazarus Pit, but I stopped him from doing whatever it was by hurling my sword directly at him, piercing the control box, and causing a massive explosion that at once sent Clayface into a boiling pit of lava and separated Joker from my line of sight.  The first order of business was to drink about half the cure, finally putting that saga to rest... but then Joker hit me with some hardcore philosophy.  As we all know, my one rule is that Batman must never take a life, EVER, not even Joker's, even after all the people of Gotham he's killed and all the drama and heartache he's put me through personally.  Would it be on the same level if I were to simply deny Joker the cure and let him die of Titan poisoning, the result of his own twisted scheme?  Surely the circumstances would allow me to bend the rules this one time.  Plus, nobody would have to know...

Just then, Joker jumped out of the shadows and jammed an icepick into my right shoulder.  Normally this type of thing wouldn't even cause me to bat an eye... but it had been a long night and I was in the middle of some deep conjecturing... so the shock caused me to lose my grip on the cure.  As the vial shattered on the ground, Joker tried to frantically lap up the remains - while I was thankful that my enemies are usually reckless enough to prevent me from having to make any of the real hard character-redefining choices.  But truth be told, I had already decided on a course of action, and told the Joker so before he took his final breath: even after all he's done, I would have saved him...

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