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A Rendesvous with Death

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"This cave is affected too, Alfred," said Batman.

"I'm sorry to hear that, sir," Alfred replied over the comm line. "How bad is it there?"

"Looks like about 80% mortality from my count." The stench of death overpowered even the reek of guano.

"I'll file a report with the appropriate authorities so they can confirm that," Alfred said. "You still have one cave left unaffected, sir."

"For now," Batman whispered, looking down at the dead bat in his hands. Deceptively beautiful, fluffy white threads of fungus framed the nostrils.

"Sir, you must not blame yourself for this," Alfred said.

"This is all my fault." Batman could hear his own voice fraying. His shoulders slumped. He was probably silhouetting himself against the sky, but he didn't care.

"You can't know that, sir," Alfred insisted. "It could be a natural disease."

"Why else would it have started here?  Why bats, of all creatures?" Batman said bitterly. Everything he loved was always taken from him, sooner or later. "This is an attack on me. The bats are just ... " His gloved fingers spread one limp, fragile wing. "... innocent bystanders, caught in the crossfire."

"Is there anything I can do to help, sir?" asked Alfred.

"Donate another ten million dollars to the Coordinated Response Team," said Batman.

"I'll take care of that at once, sir," said Alfred.

"And give me an extra half-hour before you start supper. I need some time to ... clear my head," said Batman.

"Of course. Come home safe, sir," said Alfred, and closed the line.

Batman slipped a knife from his boot and knelt to dig a hole in which he could bury the dead bat.