Taking deep breaths of the naturally-cooled air being circulated continuously by the shifting water and drafts, Bruce Wayne watches as the skin of the minivan buckles, ruptures, the contents exploding outwards in bursts of glass and flame.
There are bodies.
He tries not to count the souls of the dead.
He is too late, he feels months and years too late, and he is unable to do little more than to sit as spectator. He will watch over those bodies, the countless bodies, protect the carrion from the eaters of the dead. This is what they are faced with. People who would pick the personal effects from the hands of those who had only just relinquished their grasp on life.
Who would take a child’s toy from their outstretched arms.
Who would rip the necklace from a mother’s neck.
In the meantime, Bruce is too far away, too late to do more than wait for the vehicle to deliver its precious occupants into the next world.
He is unused to this feeling of helplessness. He has always been able to be there, ahead of time, in the nick of, that split second between success and disaster. And now he knows what it is like to be on the other side of that divide. He knows what it is like to be too late.
He does not appreciate the feeling. He had vowed once to keep it from happening ever again. Bruce wonders what force his words will manifest, what form his resolve will retake.
If ever again.
He watches as veins appear on the glass of the front windshield, tracing, branching, spreading across the smooth surface like some virus replicating in a petri dish. He can see the fine sheen of paint fragments glitter in the bright sunlight like diamond dust. He imagines the horrible pop and crack of the crackled, once perfectly coated metal, the lament of screws and crossbars as it is forced to release its precious contents into the space around it.
Papers. Scraps, receipts. Water bottles, a soda can. A bright pink backpack. The detritus of daily life.
He can’t hear it. But he swears that he can feel it. Through the even pressure in the cave, through the sound of the rushing water, through the miles and tons of rock and earth between him and Gotham, he can feel it. Echoing.
Watching them die. Observing. It’s what he always does now.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. I wasn’t meant to be this way. I wasn’t meant to—
This is not what he wants to do. He is unable to switch off the monitor, to even change the feed.
He is reduced to watching and waiting.
And wondering why.