“I’m telling you, Bruce, it’s f****ing bizzare.”
“It’s just some dead bees, Hugh.” Networking events were often dull, even when disguised as “parties” thrown by Gotham’s “elite”. But nothing beat the CEO of Monsanto ranting about dead bees.
“Bruce, you’re not listening to me.” Hugh placed a hand on Bruce’s shoulder and paused to stare him right in the eyes. “Someone dumped a metric ton of dead bees outside my office. A metric ton. We tried to move them, but our workers started breaking out in rashes.”
Now Hugh had Bruce Wayne’s undivided attention.
“What kind of rash?”
“Well, we’re not sure. On the one hand, it looks a lot like a poison ivy rash. On the other hand, the bees tested positive for an absurd amount of glyphosate.”
Bruce raised an eyebrow. “Like someone-poured-Roundup-on-the-bees amount of glyphosate?” he asked. “Or bees-eat-Roundup-and-die amounts of glyphosate?”
Hugh’s face closed off. “Not you too, Bruce. Pesticides help farmers. Period.”
Bruce laughed sharply, “I notice you didn’t answer my question.”
Hugh’s face turned pink. “I didn’t ask.”
The urge to smirk, to grab Hugh by the throat and force him to admit his foolishness was overwhelming, but Bruce resisted. Hugh was looking for a rich, immoral man to share his troubles with. This may come in handy. Besides, the workers didn’t deserve glyphosate rashes. Even if Hugh did.
“How many bees is a metric ton, anyway?”
Hugh ran a hand down his face, “Like 8 million when we counted. It’s a wild amount of bees.”
“Did you go to the police?”
“Did I tell the police someone dumped 8 million bees on our doorstep that may or may not have been poisoned by our pesticide? No, I did not because the press could kill us.” He sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”
A waitress came by with a tray of wine and each man took one.
“I don’t know, Bruce. It could be a one-time thing. I mean, it can’t be easy to collect 8 million bees.”
“It’s easier to just ignore it,” Bruce agreed, his mind already racing ahead to how Batman might be able to resolve the issue.
“If only there was a secret bat signal situation,” Hugh mused, tapping a finger against his glass.
“Hah! Amazing that in the 21st century, the only way to get a hold of this guy is a giant flashlight,” Bruce laughed. He was practiced at the light airy tone necessary to keep up his secret identity.
“I heard rumor that the mayor has a direct line in his office,” Hugh responded. His face broke into a smile and he clasped Bruce on the shoulder. “I know what to do.”
That's how Bruce found himself, latex mask disguising his features, crouched in a tree outside Monsanto’s Gotham headquarters. Hugh had put out an announcement: Monsanto would have a press conference tomorrow-- not two yards from where Bruce hid. The appeal to the bee killer, they hoped, would be too good to pass up. They were right.
Around 2am the air filled with the sound of...what could only be described as a vibrating dirge. A low, lamenting buzz-- equal parts mournful and inhuman. A platform appeared, carrying a load of dead bees, walking on legs of ivy towards the entrance of the building. Behind the platform, then above it, then around it-- a constantly moving swarm of bees, singing their funeral song. This was, by all accounts, an otherworldly funeral. Bruce almost forgot why he was there. But then the woman appeared.
Disheveled red hair pulled back in a single braid, skin tanned dark and leathery from the sun. Thick boots covered in mud and cargo pants bulging with stuffed pockets. From the pockets grew plants. From the rough denim work shirt grew plants. Winding through her hair, around her wrists, stretching out from the top of her boots: plants. She carried a single sign. Black text on yellow poster board. Thick letters in all caps: PESTICIDES KILL BEES.
She walked with the calm confidence of a woman who knows her mind. There was no fear in her stature: only mourning and resolve. Bruce almost hated to interrupt her.
She turned and fixed dark green eyes on him. The deep laugh lines on her face suggested she was in her forties or fifties. “Batman. Come to join me?”
He looked at her carefully. “And why might I join you?”
“Are you a man of the big or the small?” She countered. A tendril of ivy seemed to stretch of its own accord: wrapping from around her hair to reach out mere centimeters from his face.
“Who killed the bees?”
“Monsanto did. Directly or indirectly. Pesticides at large. We lost 40% of our bee colonies this year. This can't continue.”
“Who's we? Who are you working with?”
She laughed. “So unaccustomed to community. We, Batman.” She gestured to him, herself, to the world at large. “All of us are the we. Irresponsible pesticide use will kill us all.”
“I'm sure there are better ways to bring that message to people's attention,” Bruce countered. “You didn't have to poison the workers.”
The woman looked affronted. “I never poisoned anyone!” The ivy shrank closer to her person somehow. She glanced at the platform. “I suppose some poison ivy was used. But really, the bees have gone through so much worse. Any pesticides those workers encountered came from the bees: not me. And if they weren't using protection to handle dead bees, that's on them.”
“Still there's a better way? A better way than standing up for what one believes in wherever people's attention is? How do you think change was made in this world, Batman? Social change comes from making the status quo inconvenient. Painful. It's a tale as old as time. You think they stopped apartheid in South Africa by writing op eds and hoping something would change? We must make ignorance impossible.”
“And you're the best one to carry out this task?”
She clasped her hands together with glee “Oh yes! I am eager to get a lecture against vigilantism from the most public vigilante in town. Tell me-- when the mayor calls on your help: how many peoples’ rights do you infringe to get her what she needs?”
“I promised Hugh I would catch you,” Bruce warned. Their procession had stopped and the ivy was lowering the platform to the ground. The woman-- Ivy? He glanced at the oily leaves. Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy rested her large sign against her hip.
“Are you saying I need to fight you?”
“Are you up for it?”
“I'm not interested in it. But if I must.” She dropped the spread her arms out. Ivy poured out of her sleeves wrapping itself around Bruce's form: holding him down over the suit and hovering millimeters above every inch of exposed skin. He froze. “I don't know for certain,” Poison Ivy said slowly. “But I assume that you have some sort of day job. A day job that would prove quite difficult with a large red welt across your face.”
Bruce froze, his eyes on her.
“I don't think you actually care what I'm doing,” she continued slowly. “I think...if I had approached you first… You'd be on this side of the table with me. But your ego prevents you from walking away.” She laughed. “City folk and their egos.”
He struggled against her hold lightly but any sudden movements and he would almost certainly find his face full of poison ivy.
“I will trade you, Batman,” Poison Ivy smiled. “Your secret identity for this. After all: someone will notice you're missing tomorrow. Or notice the rash. There's not much poison ivy in Gotham.” Her smile widened, “I know I will notice.”
“Perhaps we can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement,” Bruce countered.
The morning of the announcement, Batman assured Hugh that he'd seen nothing the night before. Indeed, the venue looked spotless. But as Hugh began to speak, a torrential rain began to pour. No one there could say for certain. Why it looked like the bees fell from nowhere. If it came from any kind of invisible bat-plane, well, no one could tell. What they did know was that dead bees fell from the sky. And a black and yellow sign walked on two leafy legs up to the podium proudly displaying a message for all to see: “PESTICIDES KILL BEES”
Miles away, in a corner of Gotham untouched by man, a woman with a fiery red braid and muddy work clothes kneaded dough in the kitchen with a smile.